I have a new blog for 2012 – Assignment 35.
In honor of the 35th anniversary of my move to Denver, I’ve adopted a random set of assignments which involve the number 35.
See you over at the new place.
Posted in Blogging, Books, City, Culture, Current Events, Denver, General Suz-ness, Good things, Life and death, Movies, Music, Travel, tagged 2012, blog, blogging, books, Denver, Movies, music on January 7, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
Last night I took a friend to dinner and a movie – her pick – in honor of her birthday.
She chose The Visitor based on a friend’s recommendation. Unusually for her, she hadn’t read up on it and had no idea what it was about, and neither did I.
It was marvelous. I’ve tried to explain why I think so, but everything I write looks smarmy and pretentious. It’s about what? Oh, just for instance: the human heart, serendipity, love, kindness, fear, brutal injustice, friendship, and music.
See it if you can. In a theater or when the DVD’s released.
I’m about to download me some Fela Kuti tunes and rock the afternoon away.
Last night I thought I’d take my two currently checked-out Netflix DVDs from the living room to watch on the TV in the bedroom. And couldn’t find them.
Anywhere. Even after I went to bed, realized I was still worrying about where they could be, and got up to rummage around a couple more places. In vain.
The good thing about living in a small-ish condo: there aren’t all that many places to look for a lost item. The bad thing: once you’ve looked all over and not found it, you have to face the strong probability that it’s well and truly lost.
In the case of the DVDs, I suspect that in their mailing envelopes they got swept into a stack of newspapers on the dining room table, and then placed into the recycling box. And duly dumped into our big recycling dumpster.
So I bravely went to Netflix to learn the worst. I can’t get any more DVDs sent to me until I either return those two or fess up and pay for them, and I pay a flat monthly fee no matter how many - or few – DVDs I circulate in a month. Procrastination will just waste more money.
It’s not as bad as I thought. There’s a simple way to report that you’ve lost or damaged a DVD. It costs you $20 (not cheap but not too outrageous – they do have to discourage people from reporting losses just to keep a DVD instead of sending it back).
And the sweet part: if you find it within a year, you can send it in and they will refund the $20.
A $40 reminder that I need to be tidier around the house. It hurts. But I’m glad it wasn’t worse.
I prefer the term “desktop cinema” for this activity, a delightful use of broadband internet. I suppose it’s possible to get that video streamed onto a big TV, but for now I’m happy to watch on my widescreen PC monitor.
Today’s choice: Stolen, a 2005 documentary about the biggest art theft in modern history – still unsolved. In the wee hours of March 18, 1990, as much of Boston was sleeping off – or winding down – St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, men disguised as cops entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and made off with 13 priceless masterworks. Including Vermeer’s “The Concert” and Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.”
Stolen deftly educates in two hours. The common thread is obsession – or at least preoccupation. Scholars are moved to tears recalling the Vermeer, or thinking of the dire selfishness of those who would deprive the world of such art. Novelist Tracy Chevalier saw Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” at 19, has had a poster of it on her wall at home ever since, and wrote the best-selling novel inspired by the painting.
Investigator Harold Smith follows leads down blind alleys in search of the stolen masterpieces. He gets conned, may have gotten close, and although never finding any of the pictures is not discouraged after all of it. Smith had battled skin cancer for fifty years by then and went about wearing a natty suit, a fedora, an eye patch and a prosthetic nose. He was not the easily discouraged type. (He died shortly before the film’s release.)
We learn of the Irish Republican Army connection, and as Smith follows that trail we meet a hyperactive Brit art “locator” and a Scotland Yard fine art squad investigator who works with him from time to time. We get a hint that even the IRA may have some preoccupation (more…)
Just now I watched my first Netflix “instant” movie here on my PC. This could be addictive. Just choose the flick, and there it is, playing along while I sit here working on other things. My monitor’s just big enough to allow me to have the movie playing on one side and a Word document open on the other side. Admittedly they are both a little squinched but it worked just fine today.
I selected Girl 27, a documentary released last year about a 1937 Hollywood rape case which was not merely hushed up, but nearly obliterated from history. A link from the official film website to a “Girl 27″ myspace page (kind of icky in my opinion) leads to this promotional blurb:
HOLLYWOOD 1937 — Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the world’s most prestigious and powerful movie studio, tricks 120 underage chorus girls into attending a stag party for its visiting salesmen. When dancer Patricia Douglas tries to flee, she is brutally raped; defying the studio’s order for silence, Douglas files a landmark lawsuit while M-G-M launches the biggest cover-up in Hollywood history – until six decades later, when author-screenwriter David Stenn stumbles upon the story. Stenn’s decade-long search for the truth leads to Patricia Douglas herself, nearly ninety and still in hiding. Will she go public once again, or will Hollywood’s best suppressed scandal die with her?
This would have been a much better film with less of David Stenn in it front and center, but even his name-dropping ego trip couldn’t completely sidetrack the main story here. Clips from films of the era are interwoven with the narrative to add literal punch to a story that is powerfully sad and disturbing. Even the children of a key witness who changed his story in court discuss that onscreen here.
We also hear briefly from Judy Lewis. She is Loretta Young’s daughter, the subject of another big Hollywood cover-up. She was allegedly adopted by the single movie star, but in fact was Young’s illegitimate child, fathered by Clark Gable. Apparently it was one of the best-known open secrets in town at the time, but the press all played along with the official story. The kid inherited her dad’s trademark large ears, so her mom kept her in bonnets and scarves until she was 6 when she had surgery to pin them back.
Netflix has just lifted its limits on how many movies a month I can watch instantly.
Oh, dear. If they offer exercise videos on this plan, I’m out of excuses for not working out, do you think?
In George Clooney’s excellent new film, Michael Clayton, I don’t recall seeing the main characters dining. They plot, scheme, react, go nuts, negotiate, manipulate, argue, fret, and work around the clock. They even sit down at a restaurant table. But we don’t see them consuming food. With one exception, food only appears with the minor characters. It’s one of the subtle ironies in this story turning on a lawsuit against a giant agribusiness corporation – a behemoth player in production of the nation’s food supply.
These people live in an alternate universe: the corporate stratosphere populated by CEOs and their legal eagles. The lawyers are in-house corporate counsel and the “outside” top-flight law firms. They probably live on coffee and catered meals in the office, room service on the road, nice dinners out – and none of that is given a minute’s attention in this film. They have bigger things to think about.
Mostly, they are about adjusting the truth. The film’s tagline – “the truth can be adjusted” - refers in part to the work of Michael Clayton, a lawyer who’s “of counsel” to the Wall Street powerhouse law firm in the film. (more…)
I have a hard time believing it when I’m sick. You know, that I’m really sick.
Oh, I never was one to show up for work with a 102 degree fever or a blinding headache, or during the worst days of a bad respiratory infection.
But even when the evidence of my senses is well into the “preponderance” area – even clear past “beyond a reasonable doubt” – I usually have this idea that I can’t be, like, really sick. Even after I’ve taken the indicated or prescribed drugs, checked with my doctor’s office, crawled into bed or plopped myself down on the living room sofa to wait for this too to pass. I believe it’s really some kind of mental funk or moral failure. Yeah, I know. But still.
Today I’m not running a serious fever, but I feel lousy. I didn’t sleep much last night, finally gave up trying, plopped down in the living room and watched my latest DVD from Netflix, Mrs. Henderson Presents. It ended a little before dawn, and I found the memorial service for Princess Diana – already in progress – being aired live on BBC America. I was stunned when it was rudely interrupted by a commercial for some kind of hot tub, but luckily I found that MSNBC was airing the service without such disgusting nonsense. I wouldn’t have gotten up early to watch the service, but I’m glad I got to see it.
During the final hymns I hopped off the love seat, had coffee, cereal, and ibuprofen, and read the morning paper. Not believing I’m really sick. Then finally went to bed and slept all morning. Now at 1 p.m., I’m up again, and wandering around the house with a headache. And things I need to do.
Because it’s not like I’m sick or anything.
More about Mrs. Henderson below the fold. (more…)
HT to Bizzy for blogging this. Which reminded me of the email I got the other day from the Denver Film Society inviting me to watch Live Earth in big-screen comfort on Saturday. I checked the DFS website and didn’t see any reference to it, and looked again at the email, which doesn’t say that the invitation is limited to DFS members. Hmm.
The email says the show is free, and you’ll get free popcorn and reduced prices on soft drinks, if you bring your own “eco-responsible reusable popcorn bowl” and glass, respectively. More from the press release/email is below the fold.
I hate to stand in lines for movies, but I’ll be lining up to see the remake of the cult movie Hairspray on the day it’s released here. I hope that’s on July 20, which is the movie’s official release date, and not later.
John Travolta (above, left) plays Edna. I can’t wait!
Last Thursday afternoon I made it to another bargain matinée movie. This time it was Jindabyne, the complex and engrossing Australian film that I had a chance to watch on the Qantas flight from LAX to Melbourne last month.
I’m glad I didn’t try to watch it on the teensy-squeensy video screen on the seatback in front of me on the 747. That wouldn’t have done justice to the many outdoor wide shots. Oh yes, that Australian landscape.
Loved it. The landscape and the film, in wide-screen splendor.
I’m gradually reentering my real life after coming home from that long vacation trip. Today after a haircut from Mitch the Wizard of Color and Cut, I went downtown to the City office building – for the first time since I retired. To a retirement party, and then upstairs to see some former colleagues.
It was huge fun to visit with them. I felt not a twinge of regret to no longer hold that building access badge, and therefore to have to go through the security scanner as a member of the public. Not even a sadness to no longer be on the inside. I am moving forward. I will not turn back.
Finally, I went to a bargain matinée movie: Waitress. Which I selected based only on the small ad, knowing nothing more about it. After all, I’ve missed at least four consecutive Fridays reading our local newspapers’ movie reviews. Great pick, if I say so myself. A little gem with romance, comedy and fresh true characters. Marvelous cast, impeccable performances.
At home afterward, I researched the movie online before writing this blog entry. I was stunned to learn that Adrienne Shelly, who wrote and directed the film and acted in a supporting role, was murdered on November 1, 2006. She was 40 years old and survived by her husband and young child. A tragic waste of a life, a horrible loss for a family.
I didn’t need or want this reminder that we have to grab life while we have it, that we are not promised tomorrow.
My inner child is a pretty happy camper this month. Having convinced me it was time to retire – I swear she wrote that notice of retirement letter to my boss – she’s sleeping late and eating lots of treats and reading lots of fun books. And going to movies. Way more movies than has been the norm in my so-called adult life.
Day before yesterday my inner biker chick picked the flick: Wild Hogs. Certifiable Princess had recommended it, and we weren’t disappointed. It was a complete hoot, with a fun plot, lots of nice loud action, and so much eye candy of the male variety onscreen that it was easy to watch. Sweeet. The theater I saw it in – Colorado Cinemas’ Cherry Creek Stadium 8 – leaves much to be desired. Explanation below the fold.
Are you psyched to see the epic wonder called “300″?
Let [me] save you some cash. Do the following…
Get the movie Gladiator for real cheap at like…WalMart, in their $2.99 DVD bin. Throw it on the ol’ DVD player. Get a bucket of popcorn and a kid with acne to throw it at you while trying to watch the movie. Next, get a musclehead who hasn’t spent more than one night away from his Bowflex to come over. Have this same man get really greasy and make him throw steak knives around (more…)
It’s a crazy old world. Here in the USA so many of us are frequent shoppers, filling our dwellings past the bursting point with our stuff – and then paying rent on offsite storage units for the excess. And all the while the average American household is carrying thousands of dollars in consumer debt. For all that stuff. Most of which we could live without.
This afternoon I saw the documentary film Maxed Out:
Maxed Out takes viewers on a journey deep inside the American style of debt, where things seem fine as long as the minimum monthly payment arrives on time. With coverage that spans from small American towns all the way to the White House, the film shows how the modern financial industry really works, explains the true definition of “preferred customer” and tells us why the poor are getting poorer while the rich keep getting richer. Hilarious, shocking and incisive, Maxed Out paints a picture of a national nightmare which is all too real for most of us.”
It’s good. Very good. I think every high school and college student should be required to see it. It wouldn’t hurt for most adults to view it too. I plan to buy the DVD if/when it’s released. I also intend to buy the companion book. Ann Hornaday’s review in the Denver Post and Washington Post appears below the fold.
Yes, I did retire. As of March 1. I’ve been busy for the past ten days even without a job: a homeowners’ association project, personal business, and [bless their hearts!] colleagues, friends and family have variously celebrated my retirement transition with parties and dinners and event tickets and lunch invitations. I also have a sinus infection; I think the prescribed antibiotics are finally turning the tide – although yesterday I wasn’t even up to leaving the house.
I’ve had time to go to the movies. I’ve seen some excellent films: The Lives of Others, mentioned here. The Departed. This afternoon I saw Breach, the dramatization of the final weeks of the FBI’s work to capture its own mega-traitor agent Robert Hanssen.
On the list of possibles for this week: Happy Feet, Babel, and The Pursuit of Happyness, which are all at the nearby bargain movie theater ($1.25 before 6 pm; $1.75 after; all shows $.50 on Tuesdays). I’d like to see Dreamgirls but I may have waited too long; there are only a couple of places it’s showing, neither conveniently located, and both with late evening show times only.
The other day I saw the movie that won the Oscar for best foreign language film, and I’m glad I did. The Lives of Others is worth the price of admission and the effort of reading subtitles. This review in the Baltimore Sun explains why.
The film is set in 1984 East Germany. It’s a socialist country, as yet untouched by the winds of glasnost, where the Stasi – the state secret police – keep tabs on everybody and keep special watch on persons of interest. Comprehensive audio and video surveillance, even a big surreptitious mail-opening operation. It was chilling to watch the movie’s stark illustration of that system, and to think of what life would be like for regular people like me in a situation like that.
Then yesterday we read this story in the news:
WASHINGTON- The nation’s top two law enforcement officials acknowledged Friday the FBI broke the law to secretly pry out personal information about Americans.