Friday, January 30, 2009

Frost/Nixon Movie Review

Frost/Nixon (R) 122 minutes B-
A frosty Nixon talks Watergate and other failures in monumental interviews

Starring Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones, Matthew Macfadyen, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, and Sam Rockwell

This is an interesting and intriguing look at the Frost/Nixon interviews of 1977. The film is well done but missing that extra something that could make it a great flick. Film critic Dana Stevens used terms like "gladiatorial event" and "journalistic rumble in the jungle" to describe these interviews and indeed it was an exercise in strategic journalism... one like I've never seen before.

After the film I seeked out video footage from the original interviews, Ron Howard did a good job of bottling some of the essence and mannerisms from the real life drama. Frost/Nixon is worth seeing but I don't expect it to win this year's best picture Oscar.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Revolutionary Road - Movie Review

Revolutionary Road (R) 119 minutes C+
The Anatomy of a (bad) Marriage

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Michael Shannon, Kathryn Hahn, David Harbour, and Kathy Bates

The film Revolutionary Road is adapted from the Richard Yates novel (which I hear is a relentless and landmark read). The big screen version stars two of the biggest and brightest talents that Hollywood has to offer. But even their star power and the guidance of Sam Mendes (director of the classic American Beauty) wasn't enough to save this film from being a little exasperating.

I liked the film's edgy angst seething under the surface of an All-American 1950's marriage. There are some interesting things being said and real emotions being conveyed. But the film feels a little trite at times and lacked characters that I could really sink my teeth into.

The performances by DiCaprio and Winslet are good, and even though Oscar nominee Michael Shannon was the film's ultimate scene stealer... I'm not so convinced he deserved the Oscar nomination over other worthy performances from 2008 (see- James Franco, Milk & Eddie Marsan, Happy-Go-Lucky to name a few). Revolutionary Road isn't bad, but it's not among the upper echelon of films from 2008.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Cruise Biography & A.C. Newman Gets Guilty

Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography by Andrew Morton A

Yes- I am a Tom Cruise fan... and Eyes Wide Shut is one of my all time favorite films. But I didn't buy this audio book because I thought Andrew Morton was going to shed a positive light on Cruise, nor did I think this book would be particularly factual. But I hoped it would be interesting, entertaining, and provide some insight into my favorite Tom Cruise films.

This unauthorized biography wasn't as tabloid trashy as I was afraid it might be, although Morton does take his share of cheap shots at the Hollywood star; establishing him as a paranoid, controlling, Scientology freak.

But that being said, the book was extremely entertaining! I enjoyed learning more about Cruise's projects and endeavors, especially Eyes Wide Shut. Matter of fact, I was so jazzed after reading about the fervor and hard work that went into EWS that I bought the screen play and novel it was based on (free at

Listen, I can't say that this book made me think any better of Cruise. But it didn't make me think any less of him. Scientology on the other hand is some weird sh*t (no offense), although I did read elsewhere that Morton's claims about the religion are mostly false (I hope so because it sounded kind of cult"ish").

Like many great men, artists, and inspirations - Cruise may be grossly misunderstood, especially the whole couch jumping thing which I think was completely overblown. The guy was in love, and I guess no one has ever done anything crazy in the name of love...

Andrew Morton, you might be a liar or maybe you're not. Either way, you wrote one hell of an entertaining book... at least for someone like me who is willing to consider both sides and is intrigued by Cruise and all his intensity and idiosyncrasies.
First Impression Music Review
A.C. Newman - Get Guilty A

As far as I'm concerned this is the first great album of 2009. More cohesive than his last solo outing 2004's Slow Wonder, Get Guilty feels like a mini triumph from the first track- There Are Maybe Ten Or Twelve.

At first I agreed with Diddlefinger that Guilty doesn't have the "pop" sensibility of Slow Wonder, but upon a second and third listen, I might take Like A Hitman, Let A Dancer, Prophets, and All Of My Days And All Of My Days Off over anything on Slow Wonder (...maybe?).

Diddle, put on Get Guilty, crank that sh*t up and you too will become a believer. It grabbed me right away but for you it might be a slow wonder.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I'd Rather Be With An Animal (a book review)

Philip Roth - The Dying Animal B-

This is my first foray into Philip Roth's writing, and I sense that this novel wasn't an ideal introduction for a Roth newbie like myself. But the subject matter of lust and longing was right up my alley.

There are no words to describe the magnetic pull of a sexual creature like Consuela, and Roth does a good job of (purposely) objectifying her and exposing the idiosyncrasies of his main character, David Kepesh.

I would've liked to have known more about the Carolyn character, but as in real life, certain people come into our lives and disappear without closure. The ending is a little uneven but overall this was a decent read and I wouldn't be opposed to reading more Roth in he future. I can't wait until the film version of this book arrives on DVD.

"Sex isn't just friction and shallow fun. Sex is also the revenge on death."
- Philip Roth, The Dying Animal

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sundance 2009

RW and I just wrapped up another Sundance film festival experience. This year was less cold, less people, and less hoopla (f*ckin economy!), but there was plenty of star power walking around the streets of Salt Lake and Park City Utah. Below is who we spotted and what films, television shows, or books you might know them from.

Chris Rock (and wife) - New Jack City, I Think I love My Wife, Boomerang
Kristen Stewart - Twilight, Into the Wild, Panic Room
J.K Simmons - Burn After Reading, Juno
Ron Jeremy - FILF: Fathers I'd Like to F*ck, One-Eyed Monster
Robert Townsend - Hollywood Shuffle, The Five Heartbeats
Beth Lisick - (Author) Everybody Into the Pool, Helping Me Help Myself
Ricardo Chavira - Desperate Housewives
Gina Torres - I Think I love My Wife, Dirty Sexy Money, Eli Stone

The films we saw...

Humpday - A
A great (buddy movie) about two best friends who consider having (gay) sex on film in an effort to create good art and prove to each other that their truly "free spirts".

Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy - A
A must see documentary about black comedy and the African American experience through laughter.

Don't Let Me Drown - C+
A good film but nothing I haven't seen before.

Everything Strange and New - A
An effective meditation on relationships and marriage from a man's point of view. Loved it!

Lunch Break - F
Horrible, if this can make it into Sundance... I too can one day have a film at Sundance.

Exit - F
So horrible we walked out...

The Reporter - B+
A documentary that gave me insight on what it takes to be a good journalist.

Helen - B-
This film will depress the hell out of a lot of people, so naturally I liked it.

Keith Reynolds Can't Make it Tonight - A
A short film from the United Kingdom... bloody brilliant!

Other notable moments

We enjoyed an excellent dinner at Benihana (we'd never been there before), it was the best meal I had during our stay!

We bought books at The Kings English (an Independent Bookstore) and drank a sh*tload of tea at the Beehive Tearoom.

We had a yummy breakfast at the hotel (Hotel Monaco) and the staff was super friendly!

We saw lots of celebrities...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

First Impression Music Review

Ben Folds - Way to Normal B

As I get older and more critical of the music I choose to buy, certain artists are not worth the risk or my time any more. Sometimes their music just doesn't reach me, bands sell their souls or I've simply outgrown the artist (or they've out grown me).

Ben Folds is an artist I still like, still admire and still feel is relevant, although sometimes his music walks the line between witty and goofy.

As a whole, Way to Normal grabbed me right away. Some of the songs feel a litte too playful (Errant Dog), but most of these tracks are a nice blend of humor and sadness (Free Coffee and Cologne).

Monday, January 12, 2009

It's all about the films - Sundancing 2009

Photo courtesy of

Below is the line-up of films we're slated to see this year.

The Reporter

Don't Let Me Drown
Everything Strange and New
No Impact Man
Lunch Break/Exit
Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Wrestler - Movie Review

The Wrestler (R) 109 minutes B+
A humanistic homage to a one trick pony

Starring Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood

Have you ever seen a one trick pony in the field so happy and free?
If you've ever seen a one trick pony then you've seen me.

Those are lyrics from Bruce Springsteen's The Wrestler, the song and the film has been stuck in my head since I saw it yesterday. The Wrestler is one of those films that might not strike you as great when you get up and leave the movie theater, but it stays on your mind and marinates in your thoughts until you realize it's a damn good film!

It sounds cliche to say that all of us have a little Randy "The Ram" Robinson in our hearts- a loneliness, an emptiness, and a desire to experience intimate and true love. But certainly we all can relate (at one time or another) to this study of isolation and emotional longing. Most of us would be lucky if we had one thing we loved as much as Randy "The Ram" loved wrestling. But when that one thing is all you have it's easy not to care about anything else.

This entire film has the vibe of a Springsteen song- a fallen hero, a beautiful stripper, drinking, a blue collar struggle to make ends meet, and a daughter that hates her father. Some might say it's depressing, but this is a slice of Americana that audiences need to experience.

These things that have comforted me, I drive away
This place that is my home I cannot stay
My only faith's in the broken bones and bruises I display.
(The Wrestler, lyrics by Bruce Springsteen)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I was craving potato soup

I tried a new soup recipe last weekend... Of course I took some liberties and added my own flair (like using spicy turkey sausage, adding grilled chicken and omitting the celery), but this is a pretty easy and tasty dish.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Reader - Movie Review

The Reader (R) 123 minutes A-
Reading is sexy!

Starring Ralph Fiennes, Kate Winslet, David Kross, Lena Olin, Bruno Gan, and Alexandra Maria Lara

"Technically", I know it's wrong for a woman in her mid 30's to seduce a 15 year old boy, and I know it's especially wrong if that woman turns out to be a Nazi. But The Reader is the best love story I have seen all year (2008)!

Michael Berg was only 15 (David Kross) but I found myself jealous of his pure and innocent love (even if it was one-sided), and it's hard to fault Hanna (Kate Winslet), the quiet seductress whose eyes are cold as steel and whose lips are as inviting as ice cream on a summer's day.

I don't know who is more naive here, the boy or the woman? But it doesn't matter, all that matters is the two of them and how they feel when their together. So when we fast-forward to 1995 and Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes) is now a successful Berlin attorney, it's no surprise that Hanna (who has been out of his life for a very very long time) is still in his head and in his heart.

Who knows if love like this truly exists, but David Cross (young Michael) and Ralph Fiennes (older Michael) made me believe for 123 minutes.

The film is based on the Bernhard Schlink's bestselling novel (an Oprah book club pick).

Friday, January 2, 2009

Best Music of 2008... yeah!

It's that time! My annual "best of" music list... my favorite albums from 2008

10. The Purple Tape CD - Lisa Loeb
Sometimes favorite doesn't always mean best. Skinny Can't Dance reissued this back in January 2008 (with a bonus interview disc). She's one of my biggest all time celebrity crushes, I love the acoustic guitar, the voice, and yes... the cutesy lyrics. Guilty as charged.

9. Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings - Counting Crows
I admit this is not their best but it does provide a few gems.

8. For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver
Quiet, emotional and a great story behind the music.

7. Viva La Vida & Prospekt's March EP - Coldplay
Viva La Vida is a very fashionable pick but I am amazed how well this album works as a whole. I'd rather listen to the entire album than individual songs. The EP is a nice accompaniment.

6. Third - Portishead
This is totally mood music... it's good to have Beth Gibbons and company back in the mix.

5. Stay Positive - The Hold Steady
I don't understand how Diddlefinger can be sick of these guys? This is a dashing follow up to Boys and Girls in America.

4. The Slip - NIN
Trent slips in another great album - pure genius.

3. Heartbreaks and 808s - Kanye West
It took a few listens but this is his best album to date.

2. Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! - Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
I'm not your favorite lover- Cave & the Bad Seeds deliver more news from nowhere.

1. Dear Science - TV on the Radio
Black rock is back! The best concert I saw all year and a great album!

Beck - Modern Guilt = good album, feels light, bouncy and summery
Cassandra Wilson - Loverly = a pleasant album
My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges = a total mixed bag... a head scratcher
Tracy Chapman - Our Bright Future = growing on me more and more
Darius Rucker - Learn to Live = a couple good songs
Juliana Hatfield - How to Walk Away = a pretty good album, didn't listen to it enough
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals - Cardinology = didn't listen to it enough
Amy Ray - Didn't it Feel Kinder = A little inconsistent, but better than expected
Matthew Sweet - Sunshine Lies = still growing on me
Erykah Badu - New Amerykah = never grabbed me like I hoped it would, some nice moments though
The Cure - 4:13 Dream = I love these guys, just missed the top 10
Kathleen Edwards - Asking for Flowers = I was a little disappointed at first, but it's actually pretty good.
REM - Accelerate = I like the pensive and introspective albums. This one rocks, and barely missed my top 10.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Movie Review

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (PG-13) 159 minutes B-
Living, loving and leaving ass backwards

Starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Julia Ormond, Jason Flemyng, Elias Koteas, and Tilda Swinton

There is a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding this film but I predict that it will not win an Oscar for Best Picture (although it will probably be nominated). This film is 159 minutes long and it felt 159 minutes long. That's not to say it was a bad film because it's not. It's entertaining, original (written by F. Scott Fitzgerald), and at times, endearing.

Brad Pitt gives a very solid performance as Benjamin Button and by the end of the film he totally wins me over. Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton are delightful as always, and Taraji Henson was good despite her character having limited range and depth.

The story is framed by Daisy (Cate Blanchett), as she clings to life in a New Orleans hospital. Daisy recounts the events (the who, what, when, where, and how) through dairy entries read by her daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond). It seems that Ormond could have been utilized more effectively in another role or not at all. I hated this part of the film; the dying mother telling her daughter this amazing story as she struggles for breathe. I was totally annoyed by this ploy, not to mention that it aided in drawing out the film for 159 minutes.

By the end I understood/accepted why they framed the story this way (even though it drips with sappy melodrama), and that aside, I was generally entertained by this sad and odd coming of age story. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is worth seeing on the big screen, just be sure to take a potty break before the film begins.