Thursday, November 30, 2006

Apples and Architecture in Alsace...

...are a good enough blog post when I'm feeling lazy. Thomas pointed out that I should consider cleaning my lens occasionally to make my photos less blurry. I'm working on it...

this entry's permalink

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hag Purim

I guess that's a Jewish inside joke, that's hebrew for 'Holiday of Purim' and english for 'Purim Hag.' Either way, I saw "For Your Consideration" on Saturday and you may consider me disappointed. Christopher Guest's previous work made my stomach hurt from laughing and tears roll down my cheek - "Best In Show," "Waiting for Guffman," all undying classics. Not this time - good jokes abound, but they're more hit and miss, the targets seem easier, and the jokes, more obvious. I'd give it 2 1/2 stars, maybe 2 3/4 if you're Jewish and can capture the nuances of sentimentalizing Purim, a holiday as serious for Jews as Arbor Day. I miss the 'mockumentary' format, too, which distributed screen time more evenly among this very talented ensemble - Eugene Levy, for example, was sorely underused. One major positive is Catherine O'Hara (pictured center), who's given sufficient space to build a magnificent character: Marilyn Hack, for 30 years a dedicated but unknown actress, converted by one rumor of an Oscar nomination into a cheesy, plastic, media whore. It would be odd if this crew's worst movie generated its first and only Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. And it wouldn't be the first time this award went to someone who played a lead actress losing an Academy Award - that feat was pulled off by Maggie Smith in Neil Simon's "California Suite," way back in 1978.

this entry's permalink

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

God Save Her An Oscar©®

Two weeks ago I saw "The Queen," in which Helen Mirren literally disappears into the skin of Elizabeth II of England. My gut feeling is that Mirren is quite deservedly the front-runner for the Oscar (though as of Nov 24, the day I write this, I haven't yet seen her competition). This film is a masterpiece of wit, insight, and brevity, and the performances crackle with authenticity. It's a non-guilty-pleasure peek into a rarified and anachronistic world it's hard to be curious about. It really takes you there - from the monarchy's lush Scottish retreat, Balmoral, to the flower-covered Buckingham Palace to Tony Blair's 'situation room.' The Queen's pas-de-deux with Blair as he tries to save her from her own cluelessness is priceless, and the actors playing Blair and his outspoken, bemused wife are equally excellent.

Check out Metacritic's "The Queen" page, with summaries of - and links to - reviews by the finest critics in the nation, with numericized 'scores' to help you measure 'relative value'....

this entry's permalink

Monday, November 27, 2006

Novel Intelligence

I know, seems like I'm saying every movie I saw over the weekend is the best movie of the year (Not! I'll trash 'For Your Consideration' very shortly) - but, 'tis the season. Must say, though, that 'Little Children' bowled me over in a very different way than the grand scope and global themes of the brilliant 'Babel,' by instead offering the very cinematic equivalent of a very intelligent and gripping novel. This is all the more heaven-sent in that printed fiction, alas, is not a pleasure I can indulge at length. Todd Field's new film, a quantum leap from the much-admired if spare 'In the Bedroom,' offers a full plate of plot, illustrating why a novel often makes a better movie than a short story (but not always; think Brokeback Mountain). Set deep in affluent suburbia, the film follows the budding relationship of two intelligent adults (pictured left)who've found themselves in unfulfilling marriages and playing full-time parent for lack of a career - Kate Winslet in yet another indelible role and theater-singer-actor-hunk Patrick Wilson further stretching his range (he starred 'Full Monty' on Broadway and was the closeted Mormon guy in the 'Angels of America' film). Jennifer Connelly also looks very new as Wilson's distant wife. In the background the neighborhood is deeply disturbed by a sex offender that's moved in with his mother upon completing his prison term, posing the fine line between protecting children and persecuting reformed convicts - no easy conclusions are reached, or should be.

this entry's permalink

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Globe Probe

Morocco, Mexico, and Japan on a string... I saw the superb "Babel" yesterday afternoon, in which director Alejandro González Iñárritu sets the bar of his own game ever higher, again interweaving several unusual and gripping stories and indelible performances, but this time with global scope and political as well as personal under-currents. "Babel", while vaster than his earlier films "21 Grams" and "Amores Perros," is miraculously undiluted by its epic size and its cacophony of tongues and cultures. Briefly, the stories concern a shaken American couple (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) touring Morocco involved in an accidental shooting mistaken for terrorism, a poor Morocco goat-herding family whose children are implicated in the shooting, a Los Angeles live-in nanny (Adriana Barraza, pictured left) who reluctantly takes her charges (Pitt and Blanchett's children) south of the border for a family wedding with unexpected results, and an affluent, Japanese deaf-mute teenager (Rinko Kikuchi, pictured below) who's having trouble dealing with her incipient womanhood.

"Babel" fully engages you with meandering but gripping storylines - sharp contrast here to the high-adrenaline and precision plotting of its equally brilliant Oscar rival, "The Departed." I'd be surprised if "Babel" didn't get Best Picture and Best Director nominations - probably also Original Screenplay. Also award-worthy are two follow-ups to Brokeback Mountain: the affecting soundtrack by Gustavo Santaollala and the stunning cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto. The ensemble cast is superb, notably Cate Blanchett, a career-peak turn by Brad Pitt, and impressive work by Japanese teenager Rinko Kikuchi. Not to be missed. Note to Mom: neither "Babel" nor "21 Grams" contains anything unwatchable like the dog-fighting scenes in "Amores Perros."

this entry's permalink

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Almond Dove Bar

That's how a hearing-impaired person I know refers to Pedro Almodovar, whose latest film, "Volver," I saw yesterday afternoon. "Volver" - literally, 'to return', shows his talent aging like fine wine, adding subtle new flavors and textures to the palate. Almodovar and I go back as far as 1989 and my stay in Argentina when that country was crumbling under the weigth of hyperinflation and hopelessness. "In times like these we need to laugh," trumpeted one movie ad. It was actually refering to "The Naked Gun." : - ) But Almodovar had made a louder splash with "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," which hit such a nerve - and earned so much money - that three previous Almodovar films were also released - the only time any director ever had four simultaneous big hits in Argentina (and perhaps anywhere else).

17 years and 9 films later, "Volver" brings the quirkiness, improbable plot twists, brightly colored sets and nostalgic Latin music that have always been Almodovar's strengths. But like his last few films, the characters are more richly nuanced and less campy. These nervous but resilient women face down life, family, sex, and mortality. And this time "Breakdown" ignenue Carmen Maura (at left, under the bed) is the grandma - gloriously wrinkled, pudgy, and wistful, and Penelope Cruz (in poster, above) is her older daughter - both are award-worthy performances. Not to be missed...

this entry's permalink

Friday, November 24, 2006

Eyes Glued to Dark Screen

"The Departed" is a riveting, edge-of-your-seat game of cat-and-mouse, and is probably this year's Best Picture Oscar Winner and Martin Scorsese's finest achievement. Scorsese has crafted the ultimate crime drama, a battle of wits, bullets, and cellular phones between an undercover cop planted with the mob by the police (Leonardo DiCaprio), and a corrupt cop planted with the police by the mob (Matt Damon), with Jack Nicholson deftly reinvented as the mob kingpin, and Martin Sheen as the head undercover cop.

This story is so tightly plotted and directed you'll regret getting up to pee, no matter how fast you run (as I did, three times in two hours and forty minutes. Damn those supersize diet sodas!). Methinks that Mr. Scorsese will finally be holding the gold statuette on his sixth try. Ironically, his last two tries, 'Gangs of New York' and 'Aviator,' were conscious Oscar bait, lavish period productions, while 'The Departed' focuses on what Scorsese does best, while taking it to a new level. I personally found several of his classics brilliant but hard to watch - 'Mean Streets,' 'Taxi Driver,' and 'King of Comedy' come to mind. This movie is very hard not to watch. Expect many nominations, particularly DiCaprio and Nicholson, possibly Martin Sheen as well. Probably not Matt Damon, who was fine but not exceptional. I haven't seen the competition, but so far my money's on 'Departed' for Best Picture and Best Director...

Check out Metacritic's "The Departed" page, with summaries of - and links to - reviews by the finest critics in the nation, with numericized 'scores' to help you measure 'relative value'....

this entry's permalink

At The Movies With Aaron

Here I am, three days off, not a soul in town in sunny but chilly New York, and no plans, work, or responsibilities. An excellent moment to take in the fine harvest of quality movies that arrives this time of year, ahead of awards season. My goal: 3 days, 6 in-theater movies. I shall record my impressions here. Stay tuned.

Yesterday I spent a lovely Thanksgiving out in Central Jersey at my friend Gene's, with about 20 guys from my gay outdoors group.

this entry's permalink

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

this entry's permalink

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Ciudad del Carmen felt more industrial than tropical - only the weather reminded me where I was. And, occasionally, the decor.. Here's the hotel I stayed at, decorated in stucco, pastel, hacienda style.

Murals graced the hotel's reception area.

From my view onto an inner courtyard, dark clouds signal an oncoming tropical storm.

this entry's permalink

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A biker navigating flooded streets in Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico - taken from a taxi, as I endured an hour of heavy traffic coming back from a meeting.

Mexican asleep in back of pick-up truck in Mexico City, Mexico

this entry's permalink

Monday, November 20, 2006


Last week on Mexico's Atlantic coast, I was out by all the deep-water oil rigs but the only guided tour I got was of a single passenger vessel...

this entry's permalink

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Signs of the Times

At the gate of a shipyard, we are warned: Careful, The Dogs Bite

In that same shipyard, a rusty barrel advertises its cotnents: Toxic Refuse.
Refuse Toxic Refuse. That's a complete sentence. Think about it.

Lisbon Contraception

this entry's permalink

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Anchors Aweigh...

... has literally become anchors away. Many modern vessels have replaced anchors with computerized, satellite-based direct positioning, which keeps the boat within certain parameters, automatically correcting if it veers out of bounds.. Here's a relic of former days:

Approaching Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico by air affords lovely views of tidal marshland:

Lisbon Afternoon

this entry's permalink

Friday, November 17, 2006

Wednesday night's dinner at La Red (the Fishnet), a local seafood place, was a banquet (pictured below) of ceviche (cold marinated seafood), giant shrimp, broiled fish with spicy tamarind sauce, and other delights.. I washed it down with two cups of red wine and a piña colada. Here I am with colleagues:

Lisbon Tiled Wall

this entry's permalink

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Storm clouds are gathering over Ciudad del Carmen....

Yesterday, though, was sunshine-drenched. Here's a fishing boat languishing in the 99F heat...

this entry's permalink
Relaxing seafood dinner in the humid night sky here in the midst of oil rigs, this followed a long, productive, but sleep-deprived day of meetings for yours truly. Abundant sun yesterday has given way to forboding tropical storm clouds. But when the old 8pm plane to Mexico City hauls off tonight, I'm going to be on it...

Lisbon Market

this entry's permalink

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Arrived at 7:15am in Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche, Mexico,(aerial view below) this morning after a sleep-deficient overnight in Mexico City that required me to rise at 4am from the tomb of Morpheus. It's hot here, looking out on the Gulf of Mexico and a thousand oil rigs. Understand our dinner boat has a front-row view of petroleum platforms. More on that later. I've got my camera.

More Lisbon

this entry's permalink

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Trip 101?

I'm supposed to travel to Mexico tonight for what would be foreign trip #101, business trip #65, Latin American trip #56, and Mexico trip #24. Mexico is easily my most-visited foreign country, even though I live nearly 3,000 miles from the border. All but one of my Mexico trips were for business, the exception being taking my Mom to remote Rocky Point (Puerto Peñasco), the 'Arizona riviera', way back in December 2004. Trouble is, I'm feeling rather sick, with swollen glands and such. Problem is, the trip may not be postpone-able...

Lisbon At Dusk

this entry's permalink

Monday, November 13, 2006


Kudos to the Massachusetts State Legislature, for procedurally killing the 'citizen's drive' to repeal gay marriage. If civil rights had needed to be voted on in the South, African-Americans might still be drinking at separate fountains and riding on the back of the bus....

this entry's permalink

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Quote of the Day:
"You know, they say that marriage is reserved for only a man and a woman... I of all people know that simply does not work." - Elizabeth Taylor

this entry's permalink

Saturday, November 11, 2006

That Obscure Object Of Desire.... or.... Aaron gets out his Hall Hat©®

this entry's permalink

Friday, November 10, 2006

Xmas Came Early

Another intense work week, with the lovely, surreal triumph of the Democrats like a Fourth of July fireworks display in the background, against the azure night sky... I normally avoid politics in this space, but it's hard to avoid being celebratory, and the cartoons are easy posts in a busy week... But the weekend is here, and I hope to branch out into the cultural sphere. A business trip to Mexico looms on the horizon, and a visit to my aunt in the powderkeg that ISreal may also be in the offing. Stay tuned....

this entry's permalink

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?