Friday, February 29, 2008

On Screen: The Underbelly of My Hometown

Long before my DVD viewing last week of 'Gone Baby Gone,' I had listened to the foreign-language audiobook - Swedish, if you must know. Since I think I understood what was happening from only 3/4 of the text, the film was a real treat, giving my mind's images flesh and blood and filling in the gaps. It's a police procedural that's mostly convincing and wanders into some tricky moral territory..

The 5 Parameters!

1. Four Words That Encapsule: 'Mystery-cum-Moral Dilemma'

2. Haikus (5/7/5):

a. 'Boston's seamy side;
child plucked from its vile bowels;
to who knows what fate...'

b. 'Cute gumshoe couple
seeking bimbo's missing child;
if they only knew....

3. Oblique Commentary: a) Casey Affleck is both talented and easy on the eye - his thick Boston accent is very convincing. While listening to the book, I had pictured an older actor, late 30s or early 40s. This film was the directorial debut of Casey's big brother, Ben Affleck, and he appears to direct better than he acts (or writes). b) 'Gone' was actually the fourth book in Lehane's series about South Boston detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro (Affleck and dark-haired Michelle Monaghan, pictured left and below). There's great back story that is, of course, missing from the film. c) Amy Ryan (left, the blonde) well-deserved her Oscar nomination as the missing child's neglectful, ne'er-do-well single mother.

4. Insight: Like other Dennis Lehane books, including Mystic River, 'Gone' is very evocative of its Boston's vast lower-rent regions. In this case, the action is mostly in Dorchester, where my Dad grew up. Most visitors never go near these places, as they are far away from Boston's historic center and charming upscale neighborhoods. These areas have a very particular language and vibe, which Boston-bred Lehane captures very well. This local flavor has been captured well by directors adapting Lehane (Clint Eastwood for 'Mystic River' and Affleck here), as well as Scorsese's 'The Departed' and Gus Van Sandt's 'Good Will Hunting,' the latter script penned by Affleck with Matt Damon.

5. Link: Metacritic Reviews Summary - It got a 72, based on 33 reviews - between B- and B; I agree. Not bad for Ben Affleck's first time behind the lens...

and here's the 'Gone Baby Gone' trailer:

Cartoons du Jour:

this entry's permalink

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Art on the Go: Dominican Office Art

It's a privilege of my travel-intensive job that I get to see the artwork in corporate offices, high-end hotels, and even airport business lounges... Two weeks ago, in the D.R., I enjoyed one company's nativist artwork both at both their corporate headquarters and their thermoelectric plant! Other news: Thomas sees his sentiments reflected, en español, in the cutest missing dog poster I've ever seen

At Acropolis Tower, downtown Santo Domingo:


At the Plant, east of town:


Cartoons du Jour:

That was my vegetable garden...

this entry's permalink

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Quote of the Day: Humphrey Bogart, to someone claiming he couldn't keep up with him: 'What do you want me to do, learn to stutter?'

SOTW: Rhythm of the Saint

This week's Song/Video of the Week is "Jesus Saves, I Spend," a smart but non-humorous musing by St Vincent, a.k.a. Annie Clark, whose show I'm seeing with David on Friday, in two days!

Clark is a singer/songwriter multi-instrumentalist from Texas who was a member of choral symphonic pop outfit Polyphonic Spree until she went solo last year with her delightful "Marry Me" album...

Clark is something of a sui generis.... Her songs are personal, bare, almost acoustic with subtly incisive lyrics...

Sample lyrics:

'While Jesus is saving / I'm spending all my days,
in backgrounds and landscapes, with the languages of saints'

- from 'Jesus Saves, I Spend'

'Sticks and stones have made me smarter,
it's words that cut me under my armor they say'

- from 'Paris is Burning'

Here's the wonderful clip of 'Jesus Saves, I Spend:'

and here's Annie singing 'Marry Me' live at the September 2007 Swerve Festival in Hollywood:

Cartoon du Jour:

this entry's permalink

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Happy Birthday, Deena!

(Song of the Week will appear tomorrow - today belongs to Deena!!) Get ready for a multi-media salute to my baby sister, who's turning 44 today! It's kind of surreal for someone born in the middle of the Beatles invasion... Here's Deena showing off my Indian artwork...
summer 2006 334

Here's clip #1, a classic 70s song my sister really loved, back in the day... It's 'Come Sail Away' by Styx...

Deena's hobby as a child was sneaking up on me while I was reading, pushing me off the bed or chair, and then yelling 'Mommy! Aaron's bothering me!!!' Here's Deena during a 2006 Florida vacation:
summer 2006 149

Deena and I were inseparable companions when our ages were in single digits. One ongoing joke was Deena's refusal to admit that she snuck my camera to take a picture of a certain TV show, to which I present the theme here:

Deena at my Mom's 70th birthday dinner. My sister was a champion swimmer in her early teen years, the star of Prospect Pool in East Meadow, NY...
summer 2006 009

Finally, Dee with her husband Dave on the plane:

Cartoon du Jour:

this entry's permalink

Monday, February 25, 2008

Now hearing speaker #8 out of 12! Endurathon! Had a Colombian Latte on break...

this entry's permalink

Oh, the fresh tropical juices I'm drinking!

this entry's permalink

Morning Has Broken on My Colombian Conference...

My Colombian conference has begun - 12 speakers! from Economy Ministry (currently presenting as I write this...), City of Bogota, and by 8 different large Colombia corporations from all key sectors!

I could live-blog this if I so chose...

This hotel, Casa Medina (pictured), is just beautiful, like an old brick mansion - Bogota, nearly two miles high, is cool, not tropical, and brick construction abounds.

this entry's permalink

If I Could See Bogotá

What would I see? This panoramic city view from Mt. Monserrate?
Bogota - Panorama
I'm in Colombia hosting a marathon all-day conference with 10 different presenters, followed by a long client dinner.. (ps check out Thomas today - amazing pictures of carnaval in Wally Why CHOO, Argentina.) I arrived late yesterday, and I am leaving early tomorrow. So this will be my third trip to Colombia without seeing Colombia.

So I set this post up in advance to show myself - and you all - what one could do with a free day to explore this city's wonders.. I feel a pinch of regret, but not enough to change to a 7am Sunday flight... : - ) Let's go... Bogotá awaits us!

Above: Intersection of Old Avenue and New Boulevard: The Santamaria Tower, a Bullfighting Stadium, and a Planetarium...

Bogotá vital statistics: founded 1538, metro area population 7-8 million (20% of Colombia), third-higest major world city at 9,300 feet (its motto: '2,600 meters closer to the stars), origin of name: indigenous word for 'planted field'...

Below: Teatro Colon in the Historic District, National Congress

Bogotá's #1 attraction is its Gold Museum - at left are some of its highlights....

The closest I've come to knowing Colombia is living in Jackson Heights for 15 years, and having some very good Colombian friends...

Bogotá is a model of urban planning, and its jewel is the Transmilenio rapid bus system, pictured below... Transmilenio, where glass waiting booths open directly on to the glass doors of the bus, is based on the Curitiba, Brazil model amply chronicled here by my pal Thomas.

Cartoon du Jour:

this entry's permalink

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Food Journey: The Wizard of Cornwall Bridge

As an 'appetizer' to the food, facts & figures of my business trip to Colombia - fly down today, conference tomorrow, fly back Tuesday. It's a 2,493 mile journey, about the same distance as my family in Phoenix. It'll be my 113th foreign trip, 3rd to Colombia, 37th to South America, and 67th to Latin America.

Like a Ming Dynasty monarch did I eat when I visited the Wiskes two weeks ago, as Paul Wiske dazzled with his kitchen wizardry! Some highlights for your pleasure:

This hearty, piquant thick-noodled meat and dumpling soup was the perfect lunch on a cold, snowy mountain day..

Good food rises from good ingredients...

The main event: sumptuous, tangy, slightly spicy duck, grilled to perfection, served in a circle of savory sauteed shrimp...

Paul's secret weapon - an outdoor grill fired up on the porch, in the arctic air, and smoked with hickory chips...

And here's the master chef in his kitchen:

The duck/shrimp centerpiece was complemented by spicy Chinese vegetables....

and brown rice with minced greens....We finished off the evening with fresh orange wedges...

Cartoon du Jour:

this entry's permalink

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Aaron Look

That's what Andres used to exclaim when he noticed the white stuff through the window. Yesterday was an 'Aaron Look' morning - in this case, filtered by my screen window... Good thing it happened yesterday and not tomorrow, or my Colombian Conference would be all presenters and no audience...

Huddled shivering in an icy doorway, making small talk with my Chinese periodontist... The receptionist had suggested arriving early, so I did... So did Dr. Ziar... without his keys... Here's the view from where I work - no screens needed, as the windows are of the non-opening persuasion...

this entry's permalink

What Was In The Cakes?

Three delicious cakes from Dean & DeLuca were served at the 3-Cake Birthday party I threw Feb 2 for myself, Sunil, and David. Several people have asked what those scrumptious creations were made of. Today, I reveal that to you!

On the left, the 'Almond Apricot Cake' is an almond cake lightly kissed with Grand Marnier, with apricot preserves, white chocolate butter cream on the sides, and a ring of honey toasted almonds on top. In the middle, the 'Busy Bee Cake' is a made of bittersweet chocolate mousse covered with marzipan and more bittersweet chocolate. Finally, on the right, the 'Queen D' cake has layers of hazelnut cake brushed with a hint of kahlua, and filled with mocha butter cream, raspberry preserves, and yet more bittersweet chocolate.
And here we are, cutting the aforementioned cakes...

Cartoons du Jour

this entry's permalink

Friday, February 22, 2008

On Screen: Michael Clayton and The Expectations Factor

I was slow in getting to 'Michael Clayton,' which I saw last Friday at the 70s-imbued Quad Theater on W 13th. I assumed the premise was 'burnt-out sleazy lawyer tries to redeem self,' and this didn't draw me in. I was wrong, and in any case a good movie transcends its premises. Others approached Michael Clayton expecting a breathless thriller on par with 'Bourne Identity,' and left disappointed. Don't get me wrong - there is high suspense and twists, and it keeps your mind working. But there's also character study, and subtle treatment of corporate ethics and morality.

1. Four Words That Encapsule: "Gripping, Acting-Driven, Timely Suspense"

2. Haiku (5/7/5):
a. 'Fixer tries to fix
laywer gone crazy, missing,
enemies in wait'

b. 'Bummed-out clean up man;
lawyer pal gone round the bend;
who plots their demise?'

3. Oblique Commentary: I don't see enough of Tilda Swinton. She thoroughly won me over with two unforgettable performances. First, as the gender-and-century hopping title character of 1993's Virginia Wolff adaptation 'Orlando.' Then came 2001's 'The Deep End,' as the valiant mother trying to protect her family, especially her gay son, from blackmail and ruin, out by Lake Tahoe.

4. Insight: The film is well-directed by Tony Gilroy, but essentially driven by the virtuoso acting of Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, and yes, dammit, George Clooney, too... Tom and Tilda accomplish this feat without much back story, as the film is focused on Clooney's title character. All the bit players are pitch-perfect, from Sydney Pollack's umpteenth slightly-sleazy establishment cynic to the youngster adeptly playing Clooney's school-age son as he shuffles between his divorced parents with ennui beyond his years. 'Clayton' uses the highly effective device of showing ten mintues of intriguing developments, and then jumping back 'four days earlier,' only to revisit the ten minutes through a very different prism toward the film's end.

5. Link:
Metacritic review summary - 82 average of 36 reviews - this is an 'A-' denoting critical acclaim. I concur. As does the Academy, judging by the film's six nominations, including three for acting. I expect 'Clayton' to go home empty-handed on Sunday, out-gunned by even stronger competition...

And here's the Michael Clayton trailer - it doesn't begin to convey the nuances of the plot or the ingenious structure... It also shows too much, in my opinion, but you won't know that unless you've seen it, so maybe not...

Cartoon du Jour:

this entry's permalink

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Adios Nonino

We'll miss you! (fans of high-altitude cinema, page down...)

The 35,000 Foot Critic: Intense Lives Captured

Heavy snow caused a 5 hour delay of my return trip from Santo Domingo; thank heavens I had a pair of long, memorable movies on DVD. These were "The Apostle" and "The People vs Larry Flynt." Both films are driven by intense acting and unusual but uniquely American subjects. Here are my mini-reviews.

"The Apostle (1997)"

Four Words That Encapsule: "Rooftop Raiser Seeks Redemption"

Haiku (5/7/5):

"Holy roller lost
burns to help folks, heal himself,
'til the net descends"

Again, a truly great film transcends its subject, and gets you over your gut feeling of 'I don't want to see a film about (boxing, nazis, the mafia, country singers, fill in the blank). I've always found evangelism strange and somewhat scary - the world view being reduced to seeing Jesus as one's own personal savior.

'The Apostle' is about such people, but it's thankfully not a biopic or anything predictable - it's about a man on the run, racing against time, trying to find his bearings again in the only universe that's ever made him feel alive.

The faces and voices of these people burn their reality into your consciousness.

And yet it's in some ways a very subtle, small film.

Robert Duvall is a wonder, doing some of the finest work of his career. And yes, that's Farrah Fawcett in a small role as his ex-wife....

And here's a clip from "The Apostle:

"The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)"

Four Words That Encapsule: "Pornographer's Challenging Free Expressions"

Haikus (5/7/5):

1. "Hustler's low down sex
spread us wide like a sewer,
that dreaded mirror"

2. "Envelope pusher,
patron animal, vile saint,
stands for our fredom"

3. "Althea, smut muse;
Larry, shot, his lover drowned
dead legs, fierce spirit"

'Larry Flynt' sticks closely to biopic conventions, even if its porn king subject is anything but conventional. The film has its flaws, but Woody Harrelson as actor bats this one out of the park. The story is fascinating, the courtroom scenes, compelling, often hilarious, and probably verbatim.

The film may well present Flynt as far too attractive and appealing and idealize his relationship with his wife Althea as soulmate and muse. It shows Flynt and Althea as difficult, troubled, somewhat twisted, but surprisingly sweet. Flynt's relationship with his civil-liberties lawyer, deftly played by Edward Norton, is also somewhat larger than life.

Courtney Love makes an indelible impression as Althea, and can certainly act, but she's a 90s or 00s woman in vocabulary and body language, a post-feminist who seems too effortlessly comfortable in her relationship and in her own skin given her background and the era. Her descent into drug use through tragedy and loss is realistic, and may well echo her own real-life survival as the wife and widow of Kurt Cobain.

This post is awfully long for a pair of 'mini-reviews.' : - ) Guess there was a lot to say...

And here's a clip from "Larry Flynt:"

Cartoons du Jour:

this entry's permalink

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