Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I know there are two versions of "September Song" here, but that song has been covered by pretty much everyone, and I could only narrow down my favorites to these two!
Monday, September 29, 2008
The New York Times has a terrific article about his life, and contextualized his mark in film with the following:
If Marlon Brando and James Dean defined the defiant American male as a sullen rebel, Paul Newman recreated him as a likable renegade, a strikingly handsome figure of animal high spirits and blue-eyed candor whose magnetism was almost impossible to resist, whether the character was Hud, Cool Hand Luke or Butch Cassidy.
While Newman will be remembered for his extraordinary career in movies, it was his mark in philanthropy and his dedication to his children and his wife of 50 years, Joanne Woodward, which ultimately made the man.
It's an old cliché but it seems like it was coined for him: beautiful on the inside and out. He will be missed.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
"Let It Rock" is super catchy and (almost) makes me feel like I should go for a run. It's exactly the kind of song that could have been the "can't get it out of my head" song of Summer 2008.
Rudolf's first full-length album, In the City, will hit stores Nov. 25. To listen for yourself, click below.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
With backup from piano maestro Henry Butler, Irma Thomas, the Grammy-winning New Orleans native, takes a turn at John Fogerty's ode to hope "River Is Waiting" from her new CD Simply Grand.
Juliana Hatfield's bold guitar playing and shimmery vocals energize a defiant rock song on "The Fact Remains" and "This Lonely Love" from How to Walk Away.
Fronted by vocalist Sarah Dugas, the Canadian Band The Duhks delivers an irresistible lullaby on "Sleepin Is All I Wanna Do" from Fast Paced World.
The queen of folk, Joan Baez, sends chills down my spine with "I Am a Wanderer" from her recent disc Day after Tomorrow.
Nat King Cole's daughter Natalie sings the praises of a good cup of joe, backed by a cool-jazz trio of bass, drums and piano on the single "Coffee Time" from Still Unforgettable.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
To commemorate the 100th episode, they created Mr. Monk's 100th Case, and using a show within a show format, celebrated Adrian Monk, a modern day Sherlock Holmes. San Francisco's defective detective
Thank goodness it all worked! I was afraid I was going to get a clip-laden, down-memory-lane type of show with nothing remotely intriguing. No, the writers were more clever than that.
Yes, there were memories, but there was also a new case and many of Monk's previous adversaries/killers (guest stars) that were revisited in new filmed scenes! Kudos to the Monk team for getting so many stars to return.
Eric McCormack played an unctuous host of a TV crime docudrama series called In Focus. With a haughty "Chris Hanson style" (To Catch a Predator), the In Focus production focused on Monk solving a serial killer case.
This gave the show a great opportunity to remind viewers about the Monk biography, including a really good recap of the death of his wife, Trudy. It wasn't just the telling of her dying in a car bombing, it was that documentary footage, the interviews with Ambrose, Monk's brother (John Turtturo), and Stottlemeyer, about how her death devastated Adrian.
Then, the question asked by Novak of Monk, "Why do you keep going?" With tears in his eyes, Monk answers, "I can't die until I know." The Trudy connection has never been better explained than that.
There was a good balance between the serious stuff -- Trudy -- and the comic -- Monk's quirks, like what he does with his hands and why. It was an easy get when Monk discovered that the photographer was the link to the killings -- his name was on each photo. But it was good that for once the obvious suspect was the killer, but not the "guy."
You had the feeling that Eric McCormack had to be the "guy." His motivation was a little weak (his wife was going to find out he was cheating), as was his pulling a gun in a room filled with cops -- did he really think he was going to shoot his way out of there?
As I mentioned, many of the stars who've appeared on Monk returned for extended cameos, including Howie Mandel and Andy Richter. My favorites were Angela Kinsey, Sarah Silverman and Brooke Adams. Also, you had to love it when Tim Bagley as Harold Krenshaw, Monk's enemy, was interviewed. I think Dr. Bell and all references to Dr. Kroger were left out because of doctor/patient confidentiality. Would a psychologist discuss a patient with a filmmaker? No.
What was missing was Sharona (Bitty Schram). She should have been one of the interviews.
The topper was the finale, with Monk saying he was going to stop detecting because 100 was a good even number to call it quits. Natalie nicely noted that it was actually case 101, forcing Monk to keep going till he reaches 200 -- or so they said. I guess that'll be up to USA and Tony Shalhoub.
Other points of interest
-- Gillian, Disher's girlfriend is a re-enactor, an actor specializing in shows the re-enact crimes. "She was bludgeoned to death on Dateline," says Randy proudly. Later, when the gun fires and she falls to the ground, it set up a great line: "Sorry, force of habit!"
-- When Natalie warned Stottlemeyer to stop switching over to the basketball game, he snarked at her, "You're not my mother."
-- Loved seeing Kathryn Joosten, "Where's the fiber?" commercial lady and Desperate Housewives' regular (not to mention Mrs. Landingham on The West Wing) as Monk's babysitter from childhood.
-- Monk's TV remote language was great: Picture freezer, picture go fast, picture regular.
-- I liked the Dracula at The Morbid Cafe, the whole idea of that kind of theme restaurant was very funny.
-- Randy's assertion that "If you can name him, you can catch him" about serial killers was typical Disher inanity. The Lipstick Assassin or Mr. Lipstick.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The idea behind any "popcorn" action movie is to provide audiences with a believable, charismatic "hero" and just enough over-the-top fun and action to make up for the lack of depth in its storyline. Some popcorn flicks actually manage to transcend the basic nugget of corn requirements, and are not only able to provide their audience with escapism galore, but a solid story and believable characters to boot (Die Hard is the ultimate example of such a film).
Monday, September 22, 2008
So how did Batman become Batman? Well, this movie basically provided me the lowdown on all of that, as well as all of the background required to understand his transformation from young, rich punk to old, rich punk with a huge chip on his shoulder and a Batsuit in his closet. Add to that, trouble in his city of Gotham by the way of a variety of baddies, and I've got a movie co-starring that Katie Holmes for whom Tom Cruise likes to jump on couches. What ensues is lots of cool bat-shite…!
A dark, edgy, origin-based Batman flick that kicks the asses of the last two Bat-tries, kickstarts the disenfranchised franchise and finally provides me with an actor who is completely believable as both Bruce Wayne and Batman himself, Christian Bale. Batman Begins is great movie in many ways, but didn’t completely blow me away, as it seems to have others, with a small number of nagging bits, nudging me along the way. First, allow me to get the good stuff out of the way.
Based in reality, unlike its predecessors, this film really gave me that sense of a world that might actually be possible, with characters, gadgets and situations, all set in an environment that doesn’t go over-the-top (the little amount of CGI in the film also helped to that effect). That said, that realistic approach actually bothered me a little about halfway through the film, as I was impressed by its ability to keep things realistic, but missing the “fun” aspect from the comics and the first two Bat-flicks. The film’s grandly entertaining finale did make up for some of that though.
The actors in the film were also great across the board, particularly Bale, who I’ve fallen in love with since American Psycho, and who here, continued to embody characters entirely, with a rendition of Bruce Wayne that married his anger, humor and action-man personas idyllically. Tom Wilkinson was also tops as Falcone, as was Michael Caine as Alfred the Butler, adding that required sense of Wayne history and honor to the proceedings.
Bad-guy wise, I have to give the thumbs up to Cillian Murphy, super-creepy as Dr. Crane and the Scarecrow (maybe even more so as Dr. Crane!) with a steely look that would put the fear in anyone. Gary Oldman was good, but I wish he had a little more to do, while Katie Holmes actually wasn’t as bad as I thought she might be, in fact, she was just fine. Unfortunately for her, I thought that her character was too young to play that role, and would have preferred to see an older actress in her place.
Kudos also go out to director Christopher Nolan who was able to nix Joel Schumacher’s disaster Batman scenarios, and present the world with something a lot closer to what we’ve been reading in the comics for years, as well as a great pace, respected thespians, a memorable score, a decent amount of action pieces, and the return of the friggin’ dark knight…with the emphasis on the word “dark”.
That said, I had a bunch of “little problems” with the film, the biggest of which would probably have to be its fight sequences – the hand-to-hand combat stuff – which much like many of the most recent Hollywood flicks, were simply edited too fast, cut too quickly and left way too much to the imagination (Is that his hand? Was that his leg? Was that the baddie kicking him or he kicking the baddie?). For goodness sakes, why don’t directors leave the camera back a ways anymore, so that the audience can actually see the people fighting? Quick-cut-fighting sucks!!
Other small bits that bugged me included Batman’s voice when he was Batman, versus his voice as Bruce Wayne. In theory, I was actually very much for this idea, as it makes more sense to change your voice when you’re in a friggin’ Batsuit, but every time Bale spoke in that voice, I just thought it sounded goofy and forced.
I also didn’t like how they ended things with the Scarecrow (that’s the best that you could come up with?), thought the design of the Arkham Asylum was boring as heck, appreciated the scenes with the “Tumbler”, but still missed the Batmobile (which really can’t be replaced by an all-terrain vehicle – sorry!) and didn’t like the handful of one-liners one bit.
Last paragraph aside, I really did enjoy the movie overall, with its awesome look, its brilliant story, providing me with a great sense of why this dude decided to don Batman, and the charismatic performance by Bale, and creepiness from Wilkinson and Murphy, providing the film with just that right amount of evil. Gotham City was also wickedly designed, and the film’s subway conclusion was a breathtaking ride.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
I was introduced to Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) as she is fired from yet another governess position and shuffles her way to the agency that has found her each of her ill-fated jobs. When the stern agency woman refuses to find Miss Pettigrew more work, she grows desperate, having no money and no home. She swipes the business card of a client in need of a social secretary: the American cabaret singer Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams). She arrives at the sprawling London flat to Delysia frantically trying to get rid of one man before another man comes home. Immediately Miss Pettigrew proves herself a helpful ally, smoothly navigating Guinevere's potentially disastrous dealings with the several men in her life. In this way, the title of the film seems like it could be Miss Pettigrew Saves the Day, but things get a little bit more complex than just this.
In the arrangement the women swiftly fall into, everyone wins: Miss Pettigrew helps to sort out Delysia's complicated personal matters and gently shows her what's most important in life. Miss Pettigrew herself obtains both a sense of self-worth and a glimpse into the dashing, glamorous life of the wealthy. She is also introduced to a handsome lingerie-maker her own age who, despite the nubile young women around him, finds himself drawn to Miss Pettigrew's maturity and honest nature.
The pairing of the two women, however, is what makes this film pure satisfaction to watch. The humble, gentle Miss Pettigrew on her own might be a somewhat one-note character without the wriggly, shimmery Delysia Lafosse. Yet, lest Delysia's silliness get to be a bit too much, there are many sobering references to the imminent war, often revealing the great divide between Guinevere and Delysia's generations. Guinevere wearily recalls the previous war while Delysia is distracted by mannequins wearing gas masks in a store window — not because of the gas masks, mind you, but the "hideous" cap sleeves on the mannequins' dresses.
The entirety of the action takes place in one day, which makes for one incredibly eventful 24-hour span. But such is life with Delysia Lafosse, played with that wide-eyed beauty and energy that I'm starting to expect from Amy Adams. I predict some people will grow tired of Adams' endless chattiness and blithe innocence but I'm perfectly happy to sit back and watch her light up the screen with her sparkling presence. She is a natural-born entertainer, of the old-fashioned, all-smiles, song-and-dance variety. In this way, she slips easily into the role of an aspiring actress in 1939, and I willingly give her all my attention.
There's a lot going on in this film. Lessons on true love and compromising one dream to attain another. The theme that a woman can do anything if she puts her mind to it. The incredibly refreshing message that love knows no age. The whole, "be yourself and love will find you" thing. And yet it never feels overwrought or cheese-filled. It may be a lot at once, but I loved it all.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
None of those questions were answered in this two-hour series premiere, althouth Zack's fate was briefly mentioned. What I did get was a trip to Londontown by Temperance and Seeley (hence, the British slang), and some significant relationship changes amongst the Squints. So, grab a pint, some fish n' chips, and your favorite duck, and let's begin.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Lucky for us, it's hard to say no to Gibbard, so Lewis has rolled out the second track from the new album. "The Next Messiah" is a lot of things I'm not used to hearing from Lewis. For one, it's just a lot of song – more than eight minutes, in fact, with several long jam sessions interspersed between the singing. It's bluesy at times, funky at others, and there's a cool shift just after the five-minute mark, when the male backing vocals really kick in and Lewis's voice gets a lot more raw and desperate. On my initial listen, I like the track, but I think it will come alive a lot more in live shows, when the band can really let loose and just rock.
To hear the song for yourself, click below:
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Here was an episode that epitomized what I like about The Closer. This was an excellent mystery. It was complicated and drew you into the chase. Like Brenda, I was wondering how it was done, why and by whom. Of course, it didn't seem like it was going to be a heavy duty episode, not when the opening was all about Willie Ray and Clay's unexpected visit. That damn RV has brought Brenda's parents cross-country, even with gas at $4 a gallon!
Don't get me wrong, I like Barry Corbin and Frances Sternhagen. They're great actors, but the roles are so broadly drawn. The show uses them for comic relief, even though they can do drama brilliantly. The scenes at the film studio were too jokey to me, especially in light of the heinous crime scene that Brenda was investigating.
The murder reminded me of the O.J. Simpson case. It looked like Ryan -- an actor with anger management issues -- was the murderer. He lied and had a history of beating his wife. The sight of him with the gym bag and then those black gloves were all vaguely reminiscent of O.J. Of course, since he was the prime suspect, I never thought that he was the killer. Too obvious.
I noticed that when Brenda's light bulb went off, noticing the script pages. When the squad approached Kelly's home, the mood shifted dramatically. The big close ups on the actors' eyes, the shot of Brenda reaching out her hand, was very effective. Still, the jarring moment when Kelly's spouse grabbed her from behind and threatened to kill her was intense. It captured the terror of a violent domestic attack. It was interesting to note in that scene that Sanchez froze. As Brenda mentioned earlier in the show, he is still not all there because of his brother's death.
Finally, I loved Pope's apology. Ryan, the narcissistic actor, didn't deserve a sincere apology. He wasn't interested in his wife's death, just how it affected him. He didn't shed a tear for Rachel. He had lied and been completely uncooperative. I'm all for the police admitting when they're wrong and apologizing to a wrongly accused person, but this character deserved to be disrespected.
Other points of interest
Was the TV show Trauma Unit supposed to be NBC's ER? That would make sense because Warners is one of the only lots where I think you can still take a tour. It was good to give Momma and Daddy something to do. Willie Ray's get up reminded me of a Democratic convention delegate, minus the Obama-Biden buttons!
How on earth does Brenda stay so thin? Did you see that breakfast? The junk food? I want her metabolism.
I like that Sanchez isn't recovered. He should be grieving and struggling with crime scenes after losing his brother Oscar.
The L.A. Times continues to be a big political thorn in Priority Homicide's side. Ramos has an ax to grind with Brenda's unit. Look for the upcoming episodes to deal with his story getting published.
Pope and Taylor have come to not only admire Brenda, but they're protective of her. You could see that in Will from the start, but Taylor's come a long way in terms of how he feels about Chief Johnson.
It was wonderful that Brenda finally stood up to Daddy, thanks to some coaching by Fritzie, and probably the after-effects of the case. I was all for her telling him to stop with all the wedding talk. Even better was Fritz turning the tables on Brenda and demanding that she get ready to set a date for January or February 2009.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I've always loved Prison Break. I still do. I'm four seasons deep now and I've fully accepted the fact that this show is constantly reinventing itself and as a result, the level of ridiculousness that I as a viewer need to be willing to eat is absurd. I'm not sure if I laughed louder when T-Bag adopted a cannibalistic lifestyle or Linc called the new guy Roland a douche. Oh right... and Sara is alive. So don't act surprised by the picture. But I knew that anyway. FOX didn't even try to keep that one a secret.
Picking up three weeks after Michael and his merry band of fugitives busted out of Sona, he's hot on the trail of Whistler, Gretchen, and Mahone all in an effort to get revenge for Sara's death. Needless to say, it was painful to watch all this play out as I knew she was alive and breathing. When Michael finally did meet up with her near the end of the first episode, it was quite possibly one of the flattest and most anti-climactic reunions in TV history. I'll get back to this though.
In those three weeks, a lot happened. Linc settled down to a nice life with Sofia and LJ in Panama. Sona burned to the ground and T-Bag, Sucre, and Bellick all escaped. And Pad Man (or as Gretchen calls him, "The General") really started knocking some heads around at The Company.
Then, in classic Prison Break fashion, everyone broke the law inside of five minutes of each other, and ended up in the same room with the show's newest addition, Homeland Security Agent Don Self (Michael Rapaport). Do what he wants and you're all free - finally. Sounds like a pretty good deal.
He wants to take down The Company - something they can all agree on. The first step is stealing Scylla - the encrypted files that contain all of The Company's dirty secrets. Which brings me back to the beginning and what Whistler, Gretchen, and Mahone were all doing. That got botched up and Pad Man's newest errand boy Wyatt popped -- wait for it -- Gretchen and Whistler. Two series regulars dead just like that. So imagine my surprise at the end when we found out that Wyatt actually kept Gretchen alive. No! Not on this show! So help me... if Whistler shows up next week with his brains tucked back into his forehead...
That won't happen, Whistler has to be dead - which leaves open a ton of questions. First off, if he and Mahone were indeed working against Gretchen (remember, he and Mahone had that meeting in the bar at the end of the last season), then why did Whistler hand off his one copy of the Scylla card to Stuart, who's clearly working with Pad Man? Or is Stuart actually one of the good guys and he too is just trying to take down The Company? That whole connection was extremely ambiguous. Because if he is one of the good guys, then why would Self have enlisted Scofield and Co. to steal from him? Back and forth, back and forth. I should know better by now.
Self's plan has me worried though. The obvious question? Aren't there better people to pull off something like this? I'm thinking yes but that doesn't really matter. Stealing one Scylla memory card would have been OK, but then Sara made the Odyssey connection and realized that there are five more pieces to go. See what I mean by reinvention on this show? From fugitives to spies.
I had no idea people could heal that quickly from extensive full upper body laser tattoo removal!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
A lot of the characters in the Mad Men universe had moments of self-reflection: Don at the end of the episode, after another intense encounter with Bobbie, gazing at himself in the mirror; Pete taking a good look at himself in his own mirror after a night with a model. Meanwhile, Peggy's professional journey still captivates me, as she continues to face challenges as an up-and-coming woman at the office.
Peggy Olson: Peggy has been getting left out of a lot of business meetings and gatherings inside and outside the office. I really loved how this episode captured what must have been the most difficult part of breaking glass ceilings as a woman in business back then (and maybe now?) with the impromptu decisions being made at strip clubs and other men's hangouts. In the end, Peggy decides that if she can't beat them she'll have to join them, dresses herself up, and heads to the strip club with the gang and the bra client. But ew — when she sat on her client's lap and he said "Tell me what you want for Christmas," I nearly threw up.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
The mummy part of the story started out well. The setup, from Carter's "Eureka had a queen?" to Wilding's warning of a curse, right on through to Sebastian Marx (or Paco Lopez if you prefer) being a giant tool, was all very entertaining. It started to get a little convenient when the swarm left the hazmat tent at the B&B and stayed together to the point that every last one of them was lured into the Cafe Diem freezer by Lexi's yoga hits. I forgive the convenience though, because I always like it when Carter's common sense and reasoning trumps the big brains at GD.
While it was a little by the numbers as a main story, it's worth pointing out that the whole thing looked great. The tomb set, the hieroglyphs, and even the swarm were all very well done. I also liked that they continued with the new, self aware Carter. I was unsure about the addition of Lexi when I heard she was coming, but it's working out rather nicely. The opening scene was very cute. It's still obvious that Carter is working at being a better brother to her, but it also shows that he's starting to get what the benefits of that are.
The Allison story leaves me a little torn. I never really felt like they sold the Allison/Stark romance, which is a big part of why I was so sure that the marriage would never happen. Because of that, I have trouble getting too drawn in by the aftermath. It was ok. The newly complicated Allison/Carter dynamic is intriguing, but the logic diamond hologram didn't do a lot for me. I was disturbed by the loss of Stark, but not from that angle. I'm actually going to miss the Carter/Stark relationship much more than Allison/Stark.
Eva's big plan remains a mystery, but there was some more incremental development. Apparently Henry has had time to look over that pardon and realize that he's not beholden to her, so he's not so game to be involved if he's going to be left in the dark. That came as something of a surprise. I assumed he'd stay as involved as he could in order to gain information. By stepping back from the mysterious "hotel", he left the door open for Zane. The way he is falling in with her scheme tracks well with what I saw earlier in the season.
My best guess is that it also points to what will eventually be Eva's downfall. Zane has certainly been shown to be one with questionable ethics and morals on occasion, but Eureka has given him a chance to straighten things out. When the dust settles, he'll be on the Carter side of the inevitable showdown, much to Eva's detriment. I'm not sure how the cryptex combination lock fits in with the other clues, but the description on the page Eva had ends with "...successful entry of all the coordinates...deactivating the security system." Perhaps this is what gets her into the underground areas I saw earlier?
My favorite nutty science of the night: "Had to use a superconductor to generate a massive anti-gravitational field. It's protected by a thermoplastic multifilament polymer." "Air bags."
The title of Marx's book was the same as the episode, "Show Me The Mummy." Nice touch.
A memorial hallway? Even with a koi pond, it's still a hallway. I expected more for Stark.
Stark is dead... for now.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
I don't know about you, but there were some heart-stopping, high drama moments for me in this episode. Pressure continues to build within the Draper marriage as Don's lies keep piling up, Pete is a tool to his wife as usual, and there's some exciting news for Joan!
Don Draper: Once again Don succumbs to Bobbie's charms, and after getting thoroughly wasted he gets behind the wheel of his car for a late night tryst by the sea. As he guzzled hard alcohol while driving I thought, "I know they smoked while pregnant and stuff but surely they understood the hazards of drinking and driving?" And, of course, that's the moment when Don and Bobbie get into a terrible accident. Oh! But before all that they bump into Rachel Menken (yay! She's back!), who is now Mrs. Katz. Her husband seems a little less exciting than Don but likely not as much of a d-bag. There's a lot of clean up after the big wreck, including some more lying to Betty who is angry that Don didn't call her after his accident. Of course, he dismisses this argument from his spouse by calling her hysterical and telling her to help him get dressed.
Peggy Olson: I learned a lot about Peggy this week via flashbacks, including a diagnosis by the doctors in the mental institute: "psychoneurotic disorder" a.k.a. "refusing to admit she had a baby." Then I found out that Don visited her in the hospital and offered some eerie words of advice to poor, confused Peggy, like "Get out of here and move forward," and "This never happened. It will shock you how much of it never happened." This scene gave me chills all over; the way Jon Hamm delivers these lines is extraordinary. Later, Bobbie gives Peggy some constructive advice on how to get that corner office: stop being so deferential toward Don and start acting like his equal. Thus, Peggy asks Don to repay her for his bail, and when he hands her money, she calls him by his first name instead of her usual "Mr. Draper." The playing field has been leveled a little bit (both Peggy and Don now know destructive secrets about each other), and Peggy is learning how to leverage that.
Some more thoughts:
Did anyone else notice that Peggy's sister is hugely pregnant when she visits Peggy in the hospital? What do you think that's about? She could be pretending to be pregnant as a cover for Peggy, or perhaps the little boy we've been seeing this whole season is actually Peggy's sister's.
Friday, September 12, 2008
His life began growing up in Tanzania where his Minnesota-born parents moved him at a very young age to be Lutheran missionaries and teachers. There he learned to live in, and be accepting of, a culture much different than that he experienced in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. It was that tolerance and his acquired love of climbing that led him to the start of his humanitarian efforts.
In 1993, a failed effort to scale K2 found Mortenson being brought down the mountainside, broken and battered, and nursed back to health by the people of an impoverished village in Pakistan's Karakoram Himalaya. After gaining the strength to get up and about, he found the girls of the village writing "lessons" in the dirt with sticks in an attempt to educate themselves. In gratitude for all they had done for him, he made them an impulsive promise of building them a school so their daughters could obtain a proper education. He went back to his home in Berkeley, CA, sold all his belongings and headed back to fulfill his promise.
In living among the people of the region that gave birth to the Taliban and sanctuary to Al Qaeda, Mortenson realized that the only way to fight the ignorance and poverty of its people was to educate their sons and daughters. He believed that providing girls and boys with a balanced, non-extremist education would make them much less vulnerable to the extremist madrassas.
Today, Mortenson is the director of the Central Asia Institute and has built fifty-five schools serving Pakistan and Afghanistan's poorest communities.
In reading Three Cups of Tea, I was completely riveted from the beginning. Mortenson has climbed mountains, been taken hostage by terrorists, was led into Mother Teresa's death room to pay his respects, and has personally spearheaded a move towards peace between warring factions. He is a truly amazing man with a truly amazing story. I highly recommend this book; it will both educate and entertain.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I actually came into this one knowing nothing about the story. Because of that, the "sudden death" at the beginning of the episode caught me completely off guard. Seeing Sanchez at home, working on his Moto Guzzi, I expected I was finally getting a little peek at the man away from work. And, I suppose that's what I did get. It just wasn't what I thought I would be seeing.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Most hilarious, however, is this brief BBC News video about the championships in which a droll newscaster explains that in air guitar, "Long hair is optional, but jumping around and feverishly finger-picking at an imaginary guitar is not. Headbanging is in, but make sure your headband is secure. You don't have to get undressed, but the crowds seem to like it."
To watch the winning air guitar performances by our very own Hot Lixx, click below.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Into the Wild chronicles the journey taken by Christopher McCandless. He was a young man who, upon graduating from Emory College in 1990, rebelled against his family and what he felt was a capitalist, materialistic society. He chose to remove himself from society, lest he be caught up in it and have his life spoiled by it. To that end, he donates his life savings to charity, drives his car as far west as it will go, burns his money and identification, and heads off into the wilderness.
Along the way, with Alaska as his goal, there is a succession of individuals who float in and out of his life, each leaving an indelible mark on the young man. Among them are a couple of hippies living life out of an RV (Catherine Keener, Brian Dierker), a wheat farmer (Vince Vaughn), a couple of Danish vacationers, a teenage singer (Kristen Stewart), and a kindly old man (Hal Holbrook).
The most notable is Hal Holbrook's Ron Franz, who stands out the most. The elderly war vet sees something in the young man. During the short time they spend together he comes to look on McCandless as the son he never had. It is the most emotionally touching and involving sequence of the film. Holbrook truly left a mark on the journey.
To its credit, the film is very well made. It takes its time to get from point A to point B. It has a nice, meandering pace that allowed me to linger on some of the beauty that the country has to offer. It is different than your standard Hollywood fare, which is always about how fast we can get to the next plot point or set piece.
The performances are also quite good. Emile Hirsch does a good job of portraying the idealistic young man. I do not, exactly, buy him as the saintly, driven person portrayed here. I get the feeling that Penn has, at least slightly, idealized him and what he believes he stood for. However, that is to take nothing away from what Hirsch was able to do. As for the supporting roles, I already mentioned Hal Holbrook's impact, but he is not the only one to have a moment of clarity. Brian Dierker as the hippie Rainey has considerable presence as one of McCandless' benefactors. Even Vince Vaughn has a memorable turn as a happy-go-lucky man who takes a liking to the traveler.
Eddie Vedder's collaborations provide some good music, athough, it is not the same Vedder I remember from the early Pearl Jam days. The music is quite fitting to the tone and pace of the film.
For all the good that Into the Wild has to offer, I am sure you are wondering why I don't like it. Well, it has to do with Christopher McCandless himself. I mean no disrespect for the dead. I am sorry about what happened to him, but the thing of it is that it did not have to happen. I get the feeling that his desire to flee materialistic society and rebel against his family were just a smokescreen covering up some mental problems. There are other ways to rebel rather than heading off, unprepared (no matter how many books he had, he was not prepared for what was to come), into the wilds of the north.
I have to believe that there was a better way for him to deal with his society issues, with his father problems, and whatever else he felt, or thinks he felt, about society. Instead, he chose a rather selfish route that eventually led to his death and irreparable pain for his family. I liken him to Timothy Treadwell, another man who was not prepared for what he was getting himself into, likely suffered from mental problems, and eventually paid for his actions with his life.
Bottom line. It is a nicely crafted film, however it seeks to make a statement about society that rings hollow and canonizes a young man who went about his revolution the wrong way. Do I have the answer? No. He would probably see me as part of the "problem." Be that as it may, he went off into the wild, ill prepared to handle what was there and eventually paid the ultimate price.
Friday, September 5, 2008
A gorgeous-looking movie featuring a fascinating lead character who likes to pull the wool over people’s eyes by amazing them with feats of magic, disappearance, guesswork and yes, you guessed it…illusions. I guess you could call this guy the David Copperfield or David Blaine of his day, only unlike Blane, he actually performs magic and doesn’t just cage himself in ice for a few days and call it magic.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Boy, I do loves me a Groundhog Day episode! No, I don't mean an episode of a show where they pull a helpless groundhog out of its hole in the cold of winter just to "predict" what's coming up in the next six weeks. I'm talking an episode that features some sort of time loop where a character or characters relive a particular day over and over again. As they go along they learn from the mistakes they made in previous loops. Eventually, through some way that usually isn't understandable, the time loop is closed and things move forward. It's been done on past shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation and The X-Files.
Until the very end only Jack knew that something was wrong. It was hard to watch him struggle to let everyone else in the town know what the hell was going on. And, when he did tell them, they didn't believe him. I mean, what did he know about the mechanics of time! Sadly, it was too late for a number of people when everyone realized what was going on.
Before I conclude, a few odds and ends:
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
After nearly eleven hours (give or take) of Mary's frustration with her mother and sister, it all came to a head. This was an episode heavy on the drama, and he did a great job balancing the FBI investigation, Marshall and Stan's efforts to save Mary's career, and the family dynamics. From the first scene between the Shannons, there was no question that this was not going to be a warm and fuzzy examination of their feelings. Mary dropped the hammer when she told Jinx and Brandi how much trouble they were in.
Kudos to Mary McCormack. She looked like hell for most of the show, which was completely appropriate after what she'd been through. Her performance was excellent. It was hard to feel sorry for Brandi. She was crying and moaning like she was the victim when she created the entire disaster. Mary had every right to be furious with her sister. Brandi's reckless actions endangered all of them.
Jinx's revelation -- that Mary was not her father's favorite -- was cruel beyond belief. I loved it when Mary was able to trump her with the letters. Also, considering the fact that Mary's such a savvy character, it would have been incredulous if she'd thought she was her father's favorite based only on her wacky mother's stories. It made sense that Mary had proof of his feelings. Of course, next season is going to have to get in to where Mr. Shannon is. I wouldn't be stunned to find out that he's in WITSEC and Mary's his handler.
The back story about Biscuit, the teddy bear, was sweet. I could really relate, too, because those flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz gave me nightmares when I was a kid, too. It was also nice and appropo that Raph was the person to remind Mary that Brandi's family and she needs Mary's help.
Were you worried that Mary was going to be found with the suitcase of meth? I was. Then I thought she must have had a plan or something because just as she told Brandi when she wanted to make a run for it, the FBI would stop her before the car was down the street. Instead, Mary, Jinx and Brandi were all shocked to see towels in the suitcase instead of drugs. The final shot of Raph taking batting practice in a baseball stadium, with the grounds crew putting white chalk down the foul lines, was the perfect button on the season. The smile on his face was not in reaction to his swing (which was awful), it was because he knew what was really lining the field. Raph turned out to be smarter than all three Shannons put together. He's also a really good guy.
In Plain Sight is now officially over for 2008. I'm anxious to see where they take the show in 2009. I'm even curious about Mary's annoying family, which is something I thought I would never feel when the series began.
Other points of interest:
Great line. "I'm the hall monitor in this family and nobody likes the hall monitor."
I've wanted to like Lesley Ann Warren, but I just don't. She's all wrong for this role. She's too hysterical...all the time.
Dad's letter to Mary was perfect. I mean, considering the fact that he was abandoning her, the sentiments were great.
Spanky wouldn't drink a Diet Coke but he'd eat powdered sugar donuts? I guess he got that Michael Phelps body from proper eating habits.
Mary's description of the taste of blood was graphic and pretty gross. "A sickening, sweet smell. I don't think it's ever going to go away." All the booze in the world wasn't going to erase that taste.
The authorities have the right to rip up someone's home with a search warrant. They have the right, but it's really disgusting that they can do so much damage and just walk away. And, yes, they do it all the time.
As I said last time, Stan finally has proved himself. Marshall also was the real brains, figuring out that Rebecca's kid was Spanky's because of the RH factor. Love that Marshall.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Betty Draper: Poor Betty is clearly feeling trapped, and conflicted about this life that she thinks is supposed to make her happy. The scenes between Don and Betty are unsettling. Earlier episodes this season hinted at her sexual dissatisfaction with Don, testing the waters elsewhere to feel attractive and sexy. She has a lot of anger pent up, and her outbursts signal that she's becoming discontent and overwhelmed by raising their children, feeling like she's stuck at home all day and "outnumbered" by the kids.