Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Remind You of Anyone?

Remember the movie Election? I loved it. With the tone of the current democratic primary races I can't help be reminded of it. Apparently I'm not alone. My sister sent this. Enjoy the clip!

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Monday, January 28, 2008

I Didn't Get It

Scott and I are making the rounds of seeing all the Oscar contenders for this year. Yesterday we saw Michael Clayton. So I've now seen four of the five films nominated for Best Picture. I still have yet to see There Will Be Blood, which Scott saw on his own with a friend, so he's one up on me. I'm looking forward to seeing Daniel Day Lewis' critically acclaimed performance, although I am not looking forward to sitting in a movie theatre for three hours. But that's a rant for another post.

This post's rant is on the "brilliance" of No Country for Old Men. I did not enjoy this film. I can appreciate the fine performances of the actors, I can appreciate the direction and cinematography. But this film left me totally flat. First, there was the violence. I have a problem with a lot of gratuitous violence. You know how some people find musicals unrealistic? That's how I feel about movies with sequences of seemingly inconsequential violence. It takes me right out of the film. I find people breaking into song a lot easier to swallow than someone who can take out an entire town with an oozie and walk away from it both legally and psychologically unscathed.* I find myself unable to suspend my disbelief.

Next there was the acting. Wonderful performances all around, I will admit. But I maintain the actor who gave the most impressive performance in the film was Tommy Lee Jones, who played a man who is doing his best to stop this chain of violent events but finds at his age and stage in his career he is impotent. Hence the title, No Country for Old Men. He is the old man in question here, yet he is relegated to something of a minor character. But during what screen time he does get, we get to watch a man who was once at the top of his career come to terms with his inability to stop the killing all around him. This character takes a journey of self discovery and Jones brilliantly crafts this character's evolution throughout the film.

Josh Brolin gave a good performance, too, but I found myself not really invested in his character. I didn't feel there was enough exposition on who this guy was and why we should be interested in following the greed and desperation of someone who is foolish enough to walk away with a suitcase full of money from an obviously ugly crime scene where something went gruesomely wrong and THEN goes back to revisit that scene. Yet we are taken on every minute of his cat and mouse chase against a ruthless, inhuman killing machine. Which brings me to Javier Bardem.

By all accounts, this is the supporting performance of the year. As Josh Brolin quipped at last night's SAG awards "This is Javier Bardem's 497th award." Yes, he was good. Very good in fact. But frankly, this was an easy character to play. He is a heartless, sociopathic killer who fears no consequence because he has no conscience. There is no obstacle here. Playing sociopaths is easy--you can justify anything. What is difficult is playing a character who has to kill that many people and actually thinks about it, has an inner conflict, weighs the consequences and does it anyway. But then Hollywood rarely looks beyond the surface of these things.

When I've voiced my opinion on this film to friends I always get the same answer "But that's the Cohn brothers, their films are always like that." Really? I don't remember Fargo or Raising Arizona having such, flat two-dimensional characters. But this film is being heralded by everyone as "brilliant" so obviously I missed something. If you "got" this film, fill me in in the comments section. After last night's SAG awards this film is poised to take Best Picture at the Oscars and I want to be able to discuss it like I know what I'm talking about. Any insights are greatly appreciated. Thanks.

* Interestingly, Sweeney Todd had both ruthless killing and musical numbers and I loved that, although it was completely overlooked by the Academy.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

See You in the Funny Papers II

I found this over at Scott-O-Rama whose astute observations never fail to impress me. Once again, it's funny because it's true! Or should I say it's SAD because it's true. Click on image to enlarge.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In Memoriam

Suzanne Pleshette, one TV land's most beloved actresses, died this week.  Probably best known for her role as Emily Hartley on the Bob Newhart show, her pairing opposite Newhart was the stuff of TV legend.  She was the consumate "straight man" to Newhart's signature dry wit and her character, Emily, was a model for contemporary women of the 1970s:  smart, independant, professional and able to match her husband wit for wit.  She would reprise this role in the now famous final episode of Newhart when the entire series was revealed to be the dream of Bob Hartley, the character Newhart originated opposite Pleshette in the '70s.

She began her career on Broadway in the late 50s and made television appearances on some of the best series of the day including Playhouse 90 and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  She was later cast again by Hitchcock in his classic The Birds in which she played school teacher Annie Hayworth.  A television mainstay through the 80s and 90s, Pleshette's final role was as Karen Walker's mother on Will and Grace.  

Coincidentally, Scott and I have been DVRing The Bob Newhart Show reruns lately on American Life TV and rediscovering the brilliance of the series.  Suzanne Pleshette died of respiratory failure following a bout with lung cancer.  She was 70.
New York and Hollywood were shocked by the news that actor Heath Ledger was found dead today in a SoHo apartment.  Originally from Perth, Australia, Ledger came to Hollywood and was poised to become heart-throb material after appearing in such teen-flicks as "10 Things I Hate About You".  But rather than become a pretty-boy studio product, Ledger was particular about the roles he chose and went on to appear in such notable films as The Patriot and Monsters Ball among others.

It was his breakout role as Ennis Del Mar in 2005's Brokeback Mountain that garnered him an Oscar nomination and made him one of the promising young actors to watch.  This role also endeared him to the gay community because of his honest portrayal of a man emotionally paralyzed by his feelings until he meets and falls in love with Jack Twist, the man with whom he would have an ongoing affair for years.  Instead of fearing the career fallout often associated with playing gay roles, Ledger jumped at the chance.  In an interview at the time he described the role as "the most...complex and internal character I've been just hadn't been put to screen before....I'd be crazy to turn it down." 

Ledger's final role is as The Joker in the latest Batman installment, The Dark Knight, to be released later this year.  The facts surrounding his death are still under investigation although alleged drugs and a possible accidental overdose have been mentioned.  Heath Ledger was 28.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Godfather

Tomorrow I will be a godfather for the third time. I am godfather to all three of my nieces: Katie, Charlotte and now Julia. It’s a testament to my sisters’ attitudes about spiritualism and religion that they should choose the gay uncle to act as the spiritual guardian to their daughters. This, despite the fact that these baptisms mark their entrance into the Catholic church, which, of course, is morally opposed to homosexuality. The church’s attitude about this, the role of women, birth control and the like, understandably cause many Catholics much consternation. But not me.

I am what Pope John Paul II once negatively described as a "Cafeteria Catholic". Guilty as charged. I take what I want from the religion and leave the rest. What else is one to do with a religion that is so out of touch with the modern world, modern relationships and questions of modern morality? Fortunately, many of these conflicts were not part of my experience as a Catholic. I do not have a lot of the negative associations with the church that many other Catholics have. I went to public school, so I have no memories of yard stick-wielding nuns in the classroom. I was fortunate enough never to have been taken advantage by any of those child abusing priests and although I understand the church’s official position on gays, I don’t ever remember hearing one word about it from the pulpit in our church growing up.

My memories of church are mostly good. My mother was active in our church and converted to Catholicism as an adult, so therefore had a more mature, spiritual understanding of the religion. (My father, on the other hand, was taught to believe that if he bit the Communion host, Jesus would feel it. But that’s life in old Italy for you.) We always went to church as a family and were encouraged to participate. I was an altar boy. I loved it–the pomp and circumstance. I took lighting the candles very seriously. Father Al, who was obviously gay, was in charge of the altar boys. But there was no hanky-panky going on, believe me. He lived for Christmas midnight mass and, like me, loved to sing. My CCD teachers were my friends’ mothers. I still remember Mrs. Calabria explaining how evolution and the story of creation could co-exist (it was a non-issue). I remember food drives for the poor at Thanksgiving time and buying gifts for under privileged children at Christmas time. I remember CYO dance marathons with my friends to raise money for soup kitchens and other charities. I remember singing in church and feeling like what I had to offer was important to the celebration. Most of all, I remember being part of a community.

So, as an adult, I reconcile my role as Godfather in a church that theoretically rejects me as one to protect these girls from the insanity of an archaic, patriarchal, dinosaur of a religion and the sometimes damaging messages it can send, which, somehow, I was spared myself. I’ll make sure that they know that spirituality and one’s relationship with God are very personal things. That they are beautiful and special in God’s eyes. That their gifts and talents are valuable blessings. That no matter what, their family will always love them. That charity, compassion, kindness, patience and love are what Christ taught, not judgement or hate. And hopefully, with a little help from above, I’ll be able to set a good example.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

See You in the Funny Papers

It's funny because it's true! Thanks to Andy for sending this. (Click on image to enlarge.)


Sunday, January 13, 2008

What European City Do You Belong In?

Oh, why not? These things are fun. I'm posting this mostly because I like the way it turned out for me. I belong in Milan. Must be my Italian roots. Click the link below and find out where you belong.

You Belong in Milan

Stylish and sophisticated, you want to enjoy a truly European life - away from tourists!

Milan fits you perfectly. Great shopping, high quality food, lots of culture... with very little hype.

What European City Do You Belong In?


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Google Goodies

Someone in Milwaukee found my blog by Google searching "Leathermen Opera".
That sounds about right.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

No Duh...

Well, surprise, surprise! Mike Bloomberg FINALLY admits he is considering a run for president as an independent candidate. It seems a West Side stadium, a bid for the Olympics and congestion pricing were not boondoggles enough to chase in one administration, but now we will be subjected to another billionaire who fancies himself presidential material. He has lied repeatedly for months about his presidential aspirations while quietly collecting poll data in all 50 states. (One wonders why this is the only blatant lie politicians are allowed to get away with, but I digress.) The final announcement as to whether the mayor will sh*t or get off the pot will be made once all the polling data is complete. I can hardly wait.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think Bloomberg is a bad mayor. I just wish he would be happy with the legacy he's carved out for himself: The Nanny State Mayor. No trans-fats for me, Mike!


Monday, January 07, 2008

Hitting Bottom

Over the weekend a race to see who could hit bottom faster ensued between pop-star Britney Spears and pop-psychologist Phil McGraw. After Spears' three hour custody standoff with police which landed her in the back of an ambulance headed to the psyche ward under the influence of an unknown substance, close on her heels was Dr. Phil chasing that ambulance all the way to Cedar Sinai Hospital.

Dr. Phil visited Spears for one hour as she was being released from the hospital and came up with a profoundly obvious diagnosis saying "she is in dire need of both medical and psychological intervention." It took him an hour to come up with this. I, myself, drew this conclusion from watching the 15 seconds of footage of Spears in the back of the ambulance that was played ad nauseum over the weekend. McGraw also added that he is "very concerned" for Spears.

Yet despite his concern, Dr. Phil planned on doing a show to exploit the pop-star's problems for his popular daytime show. Thankfully, someone with real concern for Spears talked him into cancelling show, which he did saying
"Because the Spears situation is too intense at this time, and out of consideration to the family, I have made the decision not to move forward with the taping at this particular time. "
Gee, that's big of ya, Phil.


Saturday, January 05, 2008


Despite my busy schedule this week the goings on in Iowa did not escape me. It's exciting! For the first time in decades we have an embarrassment of riches among the Democratic candidates. And more than that, Iowans turned out to caucus for Democrats over Republicans two to one. Quite surprisingly (or not, depending on your perspective) Barack Obama walked away with a comfortable lead among the Democratic contenders and in an upset of quiet victory Edwards came in second over much touted one-time front runner Hillary Clinton.

This has set off an email exchange in our family of mostly Obama and Edwards supporters as to who the best candidate is. (No one seems to be all that enthusiastic about Hillary, but if she got the nomination everyone of us would vote for her.) My brother (who has his 3 year-old son chanting "O-BAMA" in the car on the way to pre-school) and mother are staunch members of the "coalition for change" in support of Barack's visionary hope for the future citing his victory speech the other night as one of the most inspirational since Bobby Kennedy. As for the argument that he is all rhetoric and no substance, they point to his book "The Audacity of Hope" which outlines his positions on all the major political issues of the day.

Two of my sisters are in the Edwards camp pointing out his steadfast perseverance in continuing to talk about issues that no one else seems to discuss, namely the plight of the poor, the selling out of our government to big business and the disappearance of the middle class. Also the fact that no matter how well he does in the race he seems to get the least amount of media coverage has not escaped them. (No one seems to be talking about his second place finish, but rather, Hillary's shocking third place finish.)

The funny thing about our family is despite our debating, we're all essentially on the same side. One friend who spent a Thanksgiving dinner with us during which a heated political discussion ensued noted "they all argue with each other but they all agree on everything!"

So where do I stand among the three Democratic hopefuls? Undecided. Truth be told I'm probably leaning more toward Edwards at this point, (and mourn the loss of Biden from the race whom I have always admired) but find much about Obama promising and admirable. As for Hillary, I love my senator and would be proud if she became our president, but there is something about her that makes me think she'd sell me down the river the first chance she got if it was politically advantageous to her. I don't know--maybe it's "Don't ask, don't tell" that's left a bad taste in my mouth. But the difference this year is that I'm trying to decide on the best of three extremely smart, qualified, electable candidates rather than the lesser of all evils. Can't wait to see what happens in New Hampshire.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Why I Watch HGTV

For the carpenters, of course! (And I'm not talking about the '70s pop sensation.) Okay, I know it's a lame post, but it's a busy week for me so I thought I'd throw you some eye candy. Enjoy.

Below are Carter Oosterhouse of Carter Can, Eric Stromer of Over Your Head and newcomer Steve Hanneman of Hammer Heads (Formerly of Designed to Sell)