Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Well, my friends and I are about to embark on a movie marathon day at the AMC 25, sneaking from movie to movie. I'm going to go get myself some sandwiches soon.

You may have seen this already, but here is a holiday video card I made for all my friends. In lieu of gifts. As I'm cheap.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Charlie Wilson's War - Cinematic Sorbet

Bleary eyed I answered the knock at my bedroom door this morning; my roommate Danny asked if I wanted to go see a matinée of Charlie Wilson's War. I did, so I tossed on some real clothes and headed out to the theater.

In short, this movie is excellent. Very well, at times brilliantly, acted, simply and concisely directed and the screenplay is one of the smartest scripts I've seen in a LONG time. Incredibly refreshing after my Hollywood movie outings of the past two weeks, I Am Legend and The Golden Compass, featuring two of the worst screenplays I've seen in a LONG time. Charlie Wilson's War did a good job of cleansing my cinematic palate of the acrid flavor of writing incompetence. I'm not even going to summarize this movie, just go see the damn thing.

As the credit's rolled, I waited in anticipation to see who had directed and written the thing - I really didn't know much about the movie going in except that it had Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts (I was pleasantly surprised to see Philip Seymour Hoffman in the movie as well, nearly stealing the picture except that Hanks is so damn good as well). Mike Nichols name popped up as director; not surprising as he's one of the most underrated directors around I think - a brilliant storyteller in both film AND theater, and that's no easy feat. His production of The Seagull with Meryll Streep in Central Park is still one of the best theatrical experiences I've ever seen - I saw it three times and shot one of my first short films while waiting in line for tickets.

Then came the screenwriter: Aaron Sorkin. Of course. "I should have realized," I thought to myself. The dialogue, the wit, the insight were all trademark Sorkin. For the none of you who have actually read back through my archives on this blog, you'll know that I was a huge fan of Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which was hands down the best and most intelligent show of last season, which died a horrible premature death because it followed Heroes, whose fan base apparently enjoys hearing dialogue so trite and overused the writers of Full House would have cringed, as well as storylines which go absolutely nowhere or get resolved during commercial breaks. So it was really nice to get another taste of the man's writing, especially on the big screen.

The movie was so good, it might even make me read the BOOK. Except that The Wire Season 5 is starting soon...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

30 Days of Bikram Yoga - Day 12

On the 12th Day of Yoga, my yogini gave to me... hyperventilation!

My body is falling apart. Due to an injury, I slipped off the exercise bandwagon for the better part of 2007, so my sudden rediscovered love of pick-up soccer and hiking had been wreaking havoc with my joints, muscles, bones, skin, nails, etc... So on December 9th I restarted my Bikram yoga practice in order to fix myself up.

Now for those of you who don't know, Bikram yoga is "hot" yoga, meaning that it takes place in a heated and humidified room, about 105 degrees and at least 40% humidity, I believe. It's a set series of 26, static postures designed to compress and stretch joints and muscle groups, forcing oxygenation and repair of the tissues. Or something like that, I don't really know, I'm pretty much just making all this up as I go, but what I DO know is that it works for me.

Further, most Bikram studios offer a "30 classes in 30 days" challenge, whereby if you complete 30 classes in a month, you win a t-shirt, a week of free classes, some passes and your name on an Internet plaque somewhere. I decided to embark on this challenge, mainly out of financial consideration; these classes are expensive and I need to get the most bang out of my buck, as well as the free extra week to offset the cost. But also because my knees were on the brink of exploding from the soccer.

So basically I'm doing yoga to support my futbol habit.

Being a room for an hour and a half with hot, sweaty, scantily clad people doesn't hurt either...

Anyway, nothing too exciting to report. Some days are easier than others, and the practice gets easier every day, with the possible exception of a super hardcore class I had on the 11th day that left me gasping for air on the floor of the lobby in a pool of my own sweat a full 5 minutes after class was over.

It's okay... breathe... focus on the half-naked people in Spandex... Ommmmm.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Golden Compass (Spoilers - as if that were possible)

How, as a producer, director, executive or studio screening room projectionist, do you watch this movie and go, "Yeah, that's done... let's go!"

This film is TERRIBLE. And it's a shame because, even though I haven't read the book, it's clear that there's some interesting source material here. It is also equally clear that the director/screenwriter Chris Weitz is a moron. Also, the cinematography, design and overall look of the film is gorgeous and it's just WASTED here.

The scenes are disjointed, trite, have no flow from one scene to another, and little relevance to the overall plot, if you can even figure out what that is supposed to be.

20 minutes into the movie you get a scene between two kids on a roof talking that basically goes like this:

Roger: So, kids have been disappearing.

Lyra: Yes, someone should do something about that.

TWENTY MINUTES IN! Do we see kids being abducted? NO! Maybe you should start with that, instead of a pointless mudball fight? MAYBE if the main adventure of your film is the rescue of missing children, you should show children, I don't know, MISSING.

This piece of schlock is also full of the following kind of nonsense:

A) Sage Person #1 says something wise to Protagonist.
B) Protagonist then uses advice in VERY NEXT SCENE. Not a callback to something in the beginning of the movie, but literally, the next scene they use the advice to solve something. RIDICULOUS.

The film kinda feels like a video game walk-through cheat sheet. The problems aren't really problems because you know all the solutions, so you're just basically watching the video game unfold to admire the graphics and see how it ends.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Blast from my Past -or- My Mother the Hipster

So my mother, out of the blue, forwards me some scans of some old photographs from a long, long time ago. A nice reminder of my mortality and how much better looking I was before puberty and age.

Also, check out my mom's tea saucer glasses, bangs and baseball sleeve top. It's like someone from Williamsburg traveled back in time and accessorized my mother.

It's odd, I have no recollection of where this photograph was taken. The calendar in the background reads September 1983 (I think?), so that makes me 10 years old. But otherwise, I'm clueless. But man, my mom can cook. I have no idea what I'm eating here, but I know it's awesome.

Friday, December 7, 2007

A voice

I normally try not to spam this blog with YouTube videos. I see great videos every day, but if I post every single one of them it defeats the purpose - they'll just get lost in yet another pile of clever videos amongst the 100,000 posted every day. It's pointless.

That said, this young lady Joanna, Festouverture on YouTube, is just an incredible singer and musician. She's only 19 (perhaps 20 by now), but her voice has a rich soulfulness and a purity that belie her years. And while her guitar playing isn't quite virtuoso (yet!), her musical phrasing is wonderfully unique and perfectly accents her amazing singing. She does amazing cover songs and her original songs are really quite good.

According to her Livejournal, she's working with Sony on an album, so I'm by no means "discovering" her here, but I just wanted to help spread the word.

Check her out YouTube channel, and here's a cover she does of "My Favorite Things":

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Small moments of visual freedom.

For the past several months, I've been working temporary administrative jobs at a couple of advertising firms. It's not an industry I'm particularly interested in, except from the creative standpoint - Stanely Kubrick once said that the best filmmaking nowadays is in commercials. Of course, that was during the 90's... actual filmmaking may have caught up a bit. I'm often assigned Powerpoint presentations, or data entry, or... more Powerpoint presentations. Every once in a while I have to do a little video editing or something else above my paygrade, but for the most part it's repetitive, mind-numbing work. I frankly don't mind that - I prefer my day jobs to be as uncreative as possible; why should I waste creative energy on projects that I have no vested interest in beyond a steady paycheck? And as a little aside, it is rather nice to have a steady-ish income again - the past year or so has been rather difficult.

Anyway, at these temp jobs, the days tend to blend together, they all seem the same... except every so often you get a little treat. Whether it's Hanson showing up and playing a lunchtime acoustic set at your office on top of a mall, or getting to watch the World Cup on huge flatscreens in the employee lounge... there actually are little gems to be found in the grey mass that is corporate America.

Even if it's just a glimpse of the sunset over Jersey through the only window within 100 feet of your desk.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Do I need a blog gimmick?

I wonder if I need some sort of blog gimmick? Something like daily pictures of food molding on the counter, or analyzing how bad Heroes is; an acquaintance just started a clever blog called "Semi-Circular Vegan," consisting of different vegan dishes that she makes in her "As Seen on TV" half-circle sandwhich making machine. Something like that.

I was just wondering about this because I realize that, while I keep fairly busy, I repeat myself a fair bit, and really, how often do people want to read about dumpster diving or pick-up soccer. Or as this weekend had it, lack of pick-up soccer. Only 3 other people showed up to the snowy, permafrosted field on Sunday (first snowfall!). The rest of the members... wusses. We passed the ball around a bit and then played soccer-ball four square before giving up and going for hot chocolate and lattes at a nearby cafe.

The thing is, I already am trying to start another gimmicky blog called "Bachelor on a Budget" just to keep track of all the cool cheap/free activities and deals I find that make poor, single life bearable in the city. So having another themed blog would be kinda redundant. Though really, having two blogs period is redundant anyway. Like, where do I write about the live karaoke I did last Thursday - here or on BudgetBachelor? Do I copy the post? Meh... I'm having Internet angst from 2002.

What I should really start doing is just start Vlogging all this so I can appease my 2 fans on YouTube with more consistent video uploads. And then promptly lose them when they realize how incredibly boring I am.

Speaking of dumpster diving, I went on another outing with the Freegan.info crowd and got a nice little haul. There were tons of perfectly good food leftover from last week's Thanksgiving overstocking being tossed out, in clean, clear garbage bags. It's really no different from just tossing them in a regular shopping bag. Check out the haul.

Towards the end I was interviewed by MTV3 from Germany or Sweden or something. One thing they asked was how I respond to the stigma of eating "dirty" rescued food. I said that anyone who's ever worked in a New York City restaurant knows that there's no such thing as "clean" food.

I don't necessarily agree with the politics of the Freegan group - I don't think capitalism is evil. It just needs very rigid social controls, and that's where we run into problems. (And by problems, I mean Republicans and Libertarians. Put down the Ayn Rand, kids, it's FICTION - corporations aren't PEOPLE.)

But the Freegans' point regarding the wastefulness of our consumer-driven society? Dead-on. We definitely need to improve the efficiency of our food chain and distribution. No one should be starving here. It's ridiculous - the local food banks are reporting a horrible year, having to dip into their emergency funds, and LOOK at all this stuff that's getting tossed. Madness.

Here's a quick recap of what just I pulled - meaning there was at least 10 times as much stuff, not to mention what we had to leave behind. And this is what is thrown out every night. From just two grocery stores and one bagel shop.

  • 4 1-lb bags of new potatoes
  • 3 bottles Stonyfield Farm organic yogurt drink
  • 5 boxes of Weight Watchers Santa Fe Style Rice and Beans
  • 3 Bell Peppers
  • 1 Bunch of mint
  • 1 3-lb bag of Soup Greens (turnips, dill, carrots, onions, parsley, radish)
  • 1 dozen organic eggs
  • 3 8-oz tubs of triple-creme cream cheese ($8 each)
  • 1 8-oz tub of Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 1 pre-wrapped ham and provolone sandwich, sealed.
  • 1 box blueberry muffin tops
  • 2 rolls of blueberry muffin dough
  • 1 1lb package of string cheese
  • 1-lb of mushrooms
  • 2 summer squash
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 package deli sliced turkey
  • 1 loaf artisan bread
  • Half dozen bagels
  • 3 bananas
My menus will be:
  • Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Vegetable Stew
  • Triple-Creme Blueberry Cheese Cake
  • Banana Nut Bread
  • Lunches for the week