Thursday, December 23, 2010

[INSERT HOLIDAY PUN HERE]



Let's face it. It's Christmas Eve Eve, and at this point there isn't a single seasonal play on words that hasn't already been repeatedly written, tweeted, Facebook'd, or drunkenly shouted in your circle of friends. So I'm not even gonna try! Carrie may not have taken the holidays off from puns, but I'm gonna.


I'm waiting here at LAX, ready for my annual red eye flight back to MA this evening! It's something of a holiday tradition for me, albeit one that I wish more than anything I could stop repeating year after year. But it gets me home, and that's really all that matters. It'll be a whirlwind trip this year - especially with my Los Angeles flight's current delay. Looks like I'll spending the day in Cleveland tomorrow, and not getting in to Longmeadow until 5pm. It's frustrating, but I guess this is the sort of thing that happens during the season.


Incidentally, I'm also without a proper smartphone until Monday (a technological disaster that most certainly has not been worth blogging about) - so if you don't see many updates from me on Twitter and Facebook, that's why. By next week though, I'll be rockin' my T-Mobile G2 with Google (4G speed! Android 2.2!).

So until then - Merry Christmas, gang! Enjoy the parties, the presents and the pretty. Hopefully the snow won't be out of control in New England and I'll make it out unscathed. Be safe, have fun, get nog'd!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

ANYWHERE BUT HERE

I have considered myself to be a fan of Sofia Coppola's work. I've always found that she approaches filmmaking from a unique perspective. Which is why I think the most frustrating aspect of her 2010 offering Somewhere is the massive amount of goodwill for her that I have lost since watching it. And all of this over what? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Somewhere tells the story - if you can call it that - of Johnny (Stephen Dorff), a thoroughly affected yet successful actor living in Hollywood's nirvana-like Chateau Marmont. The film is also ostensibly about his daughter Cleo (Dakota Fanning's sister Elle, a girl who possesses the unique quality of being able to emote believably even less than her big sis). She lives with her mom, but through a series of unrelated events WHERE NOTHING HAPPENS, she winds up in his care. Sometimes at the hotel, sometimes in Italy, sometimes in Vegas, never because any of it means anything.

While there are so many crimes at work here - seemingly not having an editor, to start - I'm almost livid with Ms. Coppola for having the opportunity to set a film in one of the most beautiful, secluded properties in Los Angeles, and completely squandering it. "Wow, Sofia! Rich Hollywood types throw wild parties and have anonymous sex?" She should work for 20/20 next with all these exposés. Not only is it not shocking, but it's garnering no sympathy.

And while the scenery is always more or less stunning, every scene lasts 5 minutes longer than it needs to. The camera simply remains motionless on one shot, regardless of whether anything is happening or if anyone is even in it. But by this same token, the scenes co-starring Stephen Dorff's new body felt suspiciously scant.

Speaking of The Dorff, there's a reason I haven't really talked too much about the film's performances: there isn't much to say. The script had to be less than 50 pages long, and I've no doubt it's filled mostly with stage directions. The non-talky parts of The Virgin Suicides worked, because we were hypnotized by Air's exquisite soundtrack set to the dreamlike 70s suburban visuals of Coppola's directorial debut.

She fails yet again in Somewhere, however, by choosing Phoenix as her musical collaborators and giving them one song in the entire film. The uncomfortable silence in its place does nothing to deepen the emotional impact, because - say it with me now - nothing is actually happening. At one point Cleo bursts into tears, and I had to wonder if the camera had caught the young actress in a real-life breakdown ("Please, just let me act! PLEASE!!"). And when Stephen Dorff's acting ability is being put to waste, you know there's a serious problem.

About seven and a half hours into this movie, I got the distinct impression that Sofia Coppola must have experienced considerable deterioration of her brain in the four years between her most recent films. When you can make Marie Antoinette look as action-packed as Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen by comparison, I honestly don't know what could have happened to you. Beyond pretentious, artistic masturbation, rubbish.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

TARDIS FOR THE PARTY


I'm waving the white flag. Consider this blog post my official surrender. It's been a long, arduous battle, but I can now admit that I am not the victor - England is. I'm officially a
Doctor Who fan.

The words are even difficult to type, since I spent so
long fighting it. First, by simply refusing to watch it. Then I tried, but found it to be a) too British, and b) too cheesy. Then after all of Series 5 had aired - and a vast number of friends were still infatuated - I decided to give it one more go.

It's definitely worth noting that I really only did so after being utterly mind-nailed by Torchwood: Children of Earth, and wanting to fill in some gaps in show mythology. My Twin, Bananas Foster, had e-mailed a list of essential episodes to watch from Series 1 through 4...and I started.

I won't lie to y'all - I skipped Series 1 completely. I know there's a lot of Rose-building going on, but I quite honestly didn't have the time to waste on becoming emotionally invested in Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor - knowing full well that he would be replaced by David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor starting in Series 2. I wanted to get to the goods.

I had watched most of "The Christmas Invasion" earlier in the year (curious to know how they handled the actor transition), so I began my new journey to the center of the BBC with "The Girl in the Fireplace". Holy. Effing. Balls. In less than 10 minutes I not only cared about the Doctor, but also his relationship with Rose, her relationship with Mickey, and that striking 18th century gal living behind a fireplace on a spaceship. And that's a lot to care about so quickly.

The sad end to that episode was a perfect window into the Doctor's character. I understood it all, immediately. After I watched "Rise of the Cybermen" and "The Age of Steel", it was time for the two-part finale, "Army of Ghosts" and "Doomsday". Seeing the Torchwood Institute, after only having heard it mentioned in T:CoE was...interesting. My god, all those people were so heinous. I'm especially looking at you, Yvonne. What a dumb bitch.

Despite having known that Rose's story would end with Series 2, the tragic ending of "Doomsday" really cemented the deal for me. She was so desperate to live an exciting life with the Doctor, instead of the white trash (euro trash?) existence she had on Earth. But they were pulled into 2 different dimensions. Typical. And the Doctor hearted her, too! Absolutely brutal.

Here I am, about to begin Series 3. I've watched a total of 6 episodes of
Doctor Who, and I'm hooked. I never, ever thought this would happen. But it's a tribute to the showrunners Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat, who took a series that technically would have been entering its 27th season and made it smart, funny, and emotionally resonant for new audiences. And what's not to love about alterna-history involving alien retcons throughout mankind's existence?

I salute you, BBC. Now not only do I have a few seasons of Doctor Who to catch up on, but I also have Torchwood: The New World (the American continuation of Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper's adventures) that will be airing on Starz next year. With the writing talents of Jane Espenson, of Buffy/Battlestar Galactica/Caprica fame, no less!

So yeah, I'm definitely looking forward to my future of time and space travel with The Doctor. Yes, you were all right. TARDIS OUT!

Monday, December 13, 2010

NOT JUST A RED HERRING



Nowadays, we hear through the internet that a board game is getting turned into a movie...and we groan. But in 1985, a star-studded film was released that changed everything! Okay, that's actually not true. People groaned even back then. But a mainstream loss was a "cult" win, and today we can all celebrate the 25th Anniversary of a true comedic masterpiece, Clue!

I've been a fan of Clue since well before I really even fully understood it. It was a favorite in my home growing up, and I remember loving it so much that I even held a tape recorder up to the TV speaker so I could get the opening credits music on cassette. These were the characters I wanted to spend time with in my youth. These scandalous, goofy, sassy, outrageous and accident-prone group of people - Wadsworth (Tim Curry), Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn), Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull), Miss Scarlet (Leslie Ann Warren), Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd), Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan), Mr. Green (Michael McKean) and Yvette (a now-unrecognizable Collen Camp).


Flames...on the side of my face...breathing...heaving breaths...

Directed by Jonathan Lynn and co-written by John Landis, the film's humor is rapid-fire, and every remark and slapstick gag is placed in the capable hands of this stellar cast. Clue was also my very first introduction to the late/great Madeline Kahn, who turns in a performance so unforgettable that I can to this day quote it all. Although now that I think about it, I can pretty much quote the whole movie from start to finish.



Long before I knew what Communism, Socialism, Houses of Ill Fame or Nuclear Physics were, I knew that I wanted to be a butler like Wadsworth, a sexpot like Miss Scarlet, dignified like Professor Plum and larger than life like Mrs. Peacock. As an adult, it's a rare thing to watch a movie you were obsessed with as a child...and have it be even better. Now of course I know what a red herring is, have actually been blackmailed myself, and maybe even have some "double negatives" I'd rather not share.

The truth is that Clue has always been a part of my life. It's always had a home in my collection (VHS, DVD...hey, where's our Blu-ray edition?!), so it goes without saying that it's in my top 5 favorite movies of all time. So let's all sing a round of "For She's A Jolly Good Fellow" in honor of Clue's 25th anniversary. It's a true classic - and anyone that disagrees? Well, there might just be a lead pipe, candlestick, rope, dagger, revolver or wrench with their name on it. A pseudonym, of course...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

HAUL OUT THE HOLLY


Auntie Mame was right, we need a little Christmas. Tomorrow begins what another classic carol teaches us are the 12 days of Christmas! (Does anyone else think that old school Christians could have lifted that whole concept from the Jews? Just saying, it sounds a little suspicious.)

The photo above is my tiny office fiber optic nerd-mas tree, which I purchased about four years ago from the 99 Cents Store. This year I've decorated it with Dark Phoenix, Domo, Woodstock, Prince Phillip and an Imperial Guard - in keeping with how much of a dork I am.


Angelenos have to work much harder for the Christmas spirit, given that we don't have the scenic benefit/overwhelming nightmare of snow. So I've been decorating the apartment, blasting my holiday playlist and savoring the over-the-top lighting displays around town (see above, The Grove). Hell, even The Abbey had a tree-lighting ceremony this year!

I think there's something very special about a California Christmas, especially coming from New England. Today for example, it's 85 degrees and sunny. But y'know what woke me up this morning? A few people on the street below singing Christmas carols. It was only for a moment, but it was magical.



Holiday television has also been firing on all cylinders, this year. The heartfelt and hilarious "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" on Community was done entirely in stop-motion claymation, and is sure to become a holiday classic for years to come. 30 Rock made up for a pretty lackluster season so far with "Christmas Attack Zone", which saw the return/reunion of Jack's mother Colleen (Elaine Stritch) and father Milton (Alan Alda).

And despite lacking any sense of character development or continuity most weeks, Glee delivered a sweet - albeit "very special" - episode that featured some traditional song choices, Brittany still believing in Santa, and Sue in green-face as The Grinch. Not to mention this number, which brings me endless amounts of joy:


So raise your glass of egg nog! Here's to the start of the 12 Days of Christmas. I hope none of you receive any pregnant geese this year. Or farm animals in general, really. But leaping lords? That's another story.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

COMMERCIAL SUCCESS



It's always fun to find evidence of actors before they "make it big". In this particular case, I like to call it "before they were close to being famous". Yep, it turns out that even the gang from 90210 had to make a living before The CW came calling. Above you'll find Michael Steger, who plays everyone's favorite self-righteous Persian, Navid Shirazi.

Now let's take a look at Mr. Steger, when his boyish good looks were used to sell gift cards at gas station convenience stores:

What's amusing is that this kiosk is still on display at the Mobil station across from the Beverly Center. And considering I've seen him shopping not too far from there, I really have to wonder if Steger ever stops to fill up his tank, goes inside for a pack of gum, and sees...himself.

Oh, Navid...you'll never be the hottest guy on BevNiner - not with Teddy and Liam around - but you're still a handsome fellow. And everyone likes gift cards, right?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

BEANTOWN HEYDAY


I'll always have a soft spot for my original home of Boston. It's a city so rich with history in many ways, but one thing that always pulls at my heart strings is the architecture. Of course, being learned in the arts of commerce and retail, I have an undying love for the classic department stores of yesteryear. There's no place like Boston to experience this at its finest - or at least, that used to be the case.

When I was visiting briefly over Thanksgiving weekend, my Dad and I ventured to Downtown Crossing. I had memories of holiday store windows, and wanted to see what still remained. I was devastated at what we found.



But first, a little history. Filene's flagship store opened in 1912, and by 1929 it occupied the entire city block around Washington, Summer, Hawley and Franklin streets. The cavernous subterranean floor would become home to the bargain-priced "Filene's Basement". Eventually a subway stop was built underneath the building, feeding thousands of shoppers directly into the Boston landmark.


The massive store (which also served as Filene's headquarters) was shuttered in 2005, after parent company Federated Department Stores acquired its competitor, May Department Stores. While many Filene's simply received a name change to Macy's, the monument at Downtown Crossing had the disadvantage of being located directly across from a Macy's already.

Although the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, this protected only the ornate facade. The interior was completely gutted, leaving only the shell of one of the country's oldest, most beautiful department stores.

While a New York developer announced a $700 million project for the space, money soon ran dry...and the grand plans for the former Filene's building - including a hotel, restaurant, condos and plentiful retail space - have come to a complete standstill.

Boston's Mayor Menino continues to put pressure on the developer to sell so that work can begin again, but who knows when that might actually happen. Until that day, citizens of Beantown are left with only the extravagant skeleton of Filene's...and memories of Christmases gone by, in my case.

Monday, December 6, 2010

MIX-N-MASH MONDAYS: 12.06.10



I've got something really special for y'all today! I've been sitting on this one for a couple weeks, and I just can't wait any longer. Disposable Culture is back, and he's concocted one of the most unique, totes awesome remixes I've heard in a while.

The source track being remixed is an Italian pop song from 1972, with the lyrics made up of pure gibberish. But composer Adriano Celentano manages to transcend that silly ol' thing we call language, and creates an extremely catchy dance tune. Disposable Culture turned me on to the original, and less than a few days later, his own take on "Prisencolinensinainciusol" arrived in my inbox:


Prisencolinensinainciusol (Disposable Culture Remix)
Adriano Celentano
Download Now

And if you'd like to take a peek into what goes on in my brain at any given moment, check out this video of a live performance for Italian TV in the 70s. I can't get enough!



On a related note - if anyone is interested in staging this number full-scale, please let me know. I'll find a warehouse space. Happy Monday!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

THANK THE MAKER



While the classic quote may say that "...it all started with a mouse", the fact is that it really all started with a man. That man was Walt Disney, and he was born on this day in 1901. It is because of his unique vision and dreams that the world as we know it would forever be changed, so on what would have been his 109th birthday I'd like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation.


From the movies I love - starting with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first ever full-length animated feature - to the theme parks that never fail to inspire the magic in my heart, Walt built a vast empire from the ground up in 1923. And while The Walt Disney Company may look considerably different from when he was the big cheese, the goal remains the same: to entertain the world.


So thank you, Walter Elias Disney. Thank you for being a pioneer of film, themed entertainment, technological innovation, and quite simply...magic. Your legacy lives on not only in the vacation destinations in 4 countries around the globe, but in the men, women and children you've inspired - and continue to inspire - to this day. My ear hat is off to you!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

AND SO WE MET AGAIN



Here I am, seven days after the culmination of my big cross-country adventure, and I'm still riding a nostalgia high. Or that could be the cold medicine...no matter! Rail to the Reunion 2010 was an overwhelming success, and an adventure that I'll never forget.

There's so much anticipation and build to a class reunion. How - if at all - have these people changed? A fair share of my graduating class was made up of people I'd been going to school with since kindergarten, so these are folks that I had known for a pretty big chunk of my life growing up. Only now, we would come together as (gulp) adults.

High school for me was very much a two-part experience. In my freshman and sophomore years, I was "goth". There was of course a certain amount of ridicule that went along with that, despite the fact that I was the same friendly, energetic fellow I am today. In my junior and senior years, I ditched the all-black wardrobe in favor of outlandish clothing and a near-blinding array of color pallets. By the end of high school I was friends (or at least friendly) with just about everyone.


Bringin' it to the dance floor. I don't know if the reunion was ready.

10 years later, we all came together at the Mahogany Room of the Sheraton in Springfield, MA. Only now...we had the benefit of an open bar. I'll never understand how people can have dry reunions. While mine was awkward for a little while towards the beginning, the power of booze definitely loosened people up. People tend to gravitate towards their old cliques as things get started, but as the night went on it was time to mix, mingle and dance! I was voted 'Class Dancer' upon graduation, and you better believe I planned on keeping that title alive a decade later.

Despite the fact that some people are now married and have kids, what struck me as very odd was how everyone seemed to look...the same. How does that even work? Of course some people only get more attractive with age, and crushes you thought were a thing of the past suddenly pop back up to say hello. Le sigh...some things never change!



I had the good fortune of having a hotel room upstairs, and boy did that come in handy. Not only because I had been hanging out with Southern Comfort, Absolut, Chardonnay, Stella Artois and Kamikaze all night, but more importantly...AFTER PARTY. I was joined by 20-25 of my former classmates, and it was quite an odd assortment for sure. But guess what? High school is over, and it really didn't matter. Were there hookups? Not in the traditional sense. But my eyes did spy some locked lips - before security came to shut us down, that is.

So in the end, I got to play host to a party with some awesome people. And we got busted by the hotel "police". Validation: I haz it. A fitting end to a 10 year remembrance of "the best years of our lives". And that old adage rings true - the more things change, the more they stay the same. Until next time, Longmeadow High Class of 2000...