Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I Already Miss Her

As much as I knew one day my grandmother would die, when it happened this morning I still wasn't ready. To say we were tight would be an understatement. But then again, I'm sure all my cousins would say the same thing. We were lucky in that our grandmother treated us all like we were each the most important person in the world to her. Likewise, that's how I'd like to think I treated her. And it was true; she did mean that much to me. I looked forward to our almost-daily 1 p.m. conversations when I'd be going for lunch, or, when she was in Florida, at 8:30 a.m. when I'd be walking to work. I liked making her laugh, even when I knew she wasn't feeling well. Somehow I knew what would cheer her up. Similarly, she always knew the right thing to say to me.

Bubby — that's what I called her — lived a life full of love, both directed at her and directed from her. She was good for a laugh, good for support, good for a lot of things. She made great chocolate pudding and chocolate chip hamentashen, not to mention a sweet and tasty noodle kugel with coconut on top. Generosity doesn't even begin to describe her wallet or her spirit. She was devoted to her family to the end, and when she passed away this morning, at my aunt's house in New York, with my parents and other relatives around, it was appropriate.

I'll always remember when Bubby asked a standing poster at a movie theater when the next show got out. Or when she tried to share a piece of cake with my grandfather when the three of us were eating at the Hard Rock Cafe in London, but instead dropped it in his lap. When we danced together to "Can't Smile Without You" at my Bar Mitzvah. How we laughed when she told the story of dropping me when I was a baby. The way her tone of voice got more excited when I told her I went on a date (good or bad). How she could tell me I was gaining too much weight in one second, and then encourage me to have dessert in the next. It'll always make me smile knowing that just two days before she passed away, she had gone for a manicure. And I think I can still hear her voice on her answering machine in Florida. Oh, the memories.

I take a lot of comfort in the fact that I got to spend Thanksgiving with Bubby, and that she was healthy (all things considered), in good spirits, and smiling. The fact that when her health really deteriorated, it happened quickly (in just about 48 hours), is truly a blessing. I will keep my memories of Bubby close and always remember our special times and conversations. I know that right now she is with my grandfather smiling, looking down on me, and wishing me all the best.

I already miss you, Bubby.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Christmas Is Coming

Thanksgiving: a weekend that is simultaneously too short and too long. How is that possible?

But anyway, now that we're over that hump, we can start the countdown to Christmas. I've begun the season by finding an MP3 of Jamie Cullum singing "Let It Snow" (thanks to Cullumography.com). You can bet that it will be on A Very Marty Xmas 2006. And this past weekend I purchased both Sufjan Stevens' Songs for Christmas and Aimee Mann's One More Drifter in the Snow. Songs from both albums will definitely make it onto my CD as well. I know I have a hard act to follow after last year's mix, but I'm feeling up to the challenge, and looking forward to choosing songs.

Got any suggestions, or know of songs I've missed in year's past? You can assume my mixes have already dipped into the classics; last year I wrote about a "best of the box" mix that would probably include most of the obvious candidates. So what else should I know about? I'm open to ideas.

And for the record, I will not be changing the name of my mix to A Very Marty Holiday. Unlike the city of Boston, I know what should be called a "Christmas" symbol and what should be a more generic "holiday" symbol. I can't believe that after last year's brouhaha, it seems the whole thing is about to start up all over again. It's just silly, if you ask me.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

What About Bobby?

The show Company begins with Bobby's friends all calling his name. "Bobby," the various couples say, "come on over for dinner." And here's how they sweeten the offer: it'll "just be the three of us." Bobby is 35 years old and single. All his friends are married, and seem capable of only discussing the state of being married, their wedding, their kids, or worse, why Bobby isn't married yet. He is a perpetual third wheel or odd man out, and it's not so much fun anymore for him. Not surprisingly, his friends just don't get it. They think that if Bobby isn't married yet, and doesn't seem to want to get married, there must be something wrong with him. God forbid he just hasn't met the right person yet, or maybe he's just not ready.

Perhaps you can see why Company is a show that hits close to home with me. Though it was written and first performed in the 1970s, the revival now playing on Broadway (which I saw on Saturday night) feels current and relevant, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's almost as if this show is a musical — and better — version of the show What About Brian? I guess Stephen Sondheim really was ahead of his time. (Full disclosure: we wrote about Company in the November issue of Continental.)

Anyway, tempting though it might be to write a long, analytical review, I'll hold off and just say Raul Esparza (Bobby) is great, and I also liked Angel Desai (Marta), who sings "Another Hundred People;" Heather Laws (Amy), who sings "Getting Married Today;" and Leenya Rideout (Jenny). The simple yet elegant "set" and basic black costume design makes for a classy night of theater. And like with Sweeney Todd last year, John Doyle's gimmick of having the actors also serve as the orchestra works quite well, especially with the not-so-subtle symbolism of Bobby being the only character without an instrument to play.

I first saw Company in a high school production nearly 15 years ago, and over the years it has become more relevant to me. Consequently, I consider it an all-time favorite show. This new production only strengthened that distinction. If you're in New York, I highly recommend it.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Just Call Me the Movie Nazi ...

When I went to see Happy Feet the other day, it reminded me of my idea that movie theaters should reserve one screening each day of new animated movies for adults only. I'm not saying kids can't see the movie, I'm just saying let there be one screening every day where kids — admittedly, the movies' target audience — aren't getting up at inopportune times, aren't laughing at the "wrong" places, aren't being restless and aren't talking, and where the parents don't show up with their brood right as the movie starts (after the trailers) and aren't rushing out as soon as the movie is over (before the credits have even started).

I know all animated movies don't have all-ages appeal, but for many (like Happy Feet, or the Toy Story or Shrek movies) the film works on more levels than just its animation, so I think this would be a fair arrangement. Parents could bring their children to every other screening but this one (and we all know that animated movies are shorter than average movies, so there are more screenings available), and it would be at a more adult-friendly time, like 7 p.m., so the no-kids policy shouldn't be much of an issue. (No trailers for stupid kids movies would probably be asking too much, I'd imagine, so I'll hold off on that one.)

If you think my idea is ridiculous, consider that many movie theaters have mom- and kid-friendly screenings of new movies, where the mothers can feel free to bring their children, and are permitted to nurse them during the movie. These are held at convenient, daytime hours, when "normal" moviegoers aren't likely to have a problem with such things. And then, of course, there are movie theaters where ushers actually ush, and will keep chatty patrons quiet or will kick out disruptive folks. (Imagine that.) So I don't think what I'm saying here is so out of line.

I might be willing to pay extra for this screening (not much more than two or three dollars, though), and I would even extend my suggestion to a screening of movies for "more sophisticated" audiences — ones who don't talk during the show, who don't mind a formal check to make sure their cell phones are off, who show better manners and common courtesy for their fellow moviegoers, and who treat the movie as more than just a way to spend two hours. This kind of thing is common in L.A. and New York (some theaters even have reserved seating). Why can't it be common in Boston and around the country?

Who's with me?


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanks ...

I have a lot to be thankful for this year — including Sam LaGrassa’s, my new brother-in-law, daily phone calls from L.A. at 4 p.m., movies like The Departed and Borat, a good job that I enjoy more now than I did a year ago, my Bubby, good friends, the blogger who posted MP3s from the upcoming movie Dreamgirls, weekly must-see TV in the form of Grey's Anatomy and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, the Oreo Surprise cookies from Paradise Bakery in the Pru, and so much more — but as it's Thanksgiving, I just wanted to say thanks to all my readers, because while I'd keep writing this blog even if you weren't reading, it's more fun knowing you're enjoying what I write. So, I hope you'll keep coming back. Thanks for your support, and happy Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

C'Mon, Get Happy

Cross March of the Penguins with Moulin Rouge and you get Happy Feet, a movie that's not as good as either one, but still has its pleasures. The story of Mumbles, a penguin who doesn't fit in with the other penguins because he can't sing, and instead of waddling he tap dances. Like in Moulin Rouge, the characters burst out in song anachronistically — they sing everything from Queen's "Somebody to Love" to Frank Sinatra's "My Way," with a Beach Boys tune, a Prince song, and others thrown in for good measure — and for a while, this is kinda fun to watch. Eventually, though, Happy Feet turns from a cute little penguin movie to an environmental call for action and the last 10 minutes or so don't make much sense (all things considered). Still, even though the movie doesn't reach the zany heights that the trailer promised, it's hard to deny that Happy Feet isn't one of the coolest looking movies of the year. The snowy landscapes, the penguins dancing — it's all rendered in very life-like fashion, in bright colors and with plenty of sweeping wide shots so you can take it all in. I've been looking forward to this movie for quite some time, and while the movie didn't quite live up to my expectations, it was an enjoyable 90 minutes. So for that, I'll give Happy Feet a B.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Poor Bobby

Robert Kennedy was a great man, and likely would have been a great president. Alas, when he was shot on June 5, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, shortly after winning the California primary, the world lost one of its great hopes for leadership. This is the message Bobby is trying to put across (not that I disagree with it), in a film meant to pay tribute to all that was lost on that tragic June day.

I think.

You see, Bobby is instead a rather pointless film about what was happening at the hotel the day Kennedy was shot. And in dramatizing that story, and showing the various people milling around, the film loses sight of its apparent purpose and instead becomes an ensemble piece about all these random, unrelated people, and not the man itself. In fact, perhaps writer/director Emilio Estevez should have called his movie Ambassador because it's more a tribute to the hotel than the man. But even that's not very good. Really, he's made a bit of a mess with so many actors doing ther best to deliver Very Important Speeches and give Very Important Performances. And it's just too cluttered to have much impact (one need look no further than Ashton Kutcher's distracting, ill-fitting performance for proof).

Not that some in the ensemble don't acquit themselves well. Sharon Stone, for one, gives a nice, understated performance. Freddy Rodriguez and Martin Sheen also do good work. And Anthony Hopkins and Laurence Fishburne imbue the film with gravitas, even if their roles are complete cliches. But Kutcher, Lindsay Lohan, Demi Moore, and others make Bobby feel like a very special, very serious, political episode of The Love Boat, or something silly like that.

I wish Bobby was actually about Bobby, and about how much he meant to people and how much we lost when we lost him. There's evidence in a few scenes that Estevez might have done a nice job on that film if that was the direction he took. But things don't always go as planned, and that's why I have to give Bobby a C.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Not Award-Worthy

What a let-down. For Your Consideration had all the makings of a great Hollywood self-parody, but it falls a bit short of that. In fact, it's safe to say that many of the film's best laughs can be seen in the trailer. Granted, the scenes from Home for Purim, the film these characters are working on, are pretty funny. And Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Parker Posey, and Catherine O'Hara are all really good. But the trademark Christopher Guest, et al hilarity is replaced by sadness and disappointment here (and there's an actual plot, miniscule though it may be), and that prevents the film from reaching the comic heights of A Mighty Wind and other films they've done. Wait for this one to show up on DVD. Oh well. I give For Your Consideration a B-.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Not Ready to Make Nice

When Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks told the crowd at a 2003 concert in London that she was ashamed President Bush was from Texas, little did she know the firestorm she would create and the effect that off-hand remark would have on the group's career. The consequences are documented in Shut Up and Sing, a film that allows viewers to see how the Chicks didn't whither under the criticism, and how instead, all the negativity directed toward them made the group stronger.

Shut Up & Sing doesn't appear to have any purpose or agenda other than to show how the Chicks' concerts, radio play, and next album were affected by Maines' joke. Sure, that in itself gives the film a point-of-view, and Maines' unapologetic nature is refreshing to see, given that most of what is fed to the public by actors, singers, etc. is usually meant to be politically correct and audience-pleasing. When country radio turns its back on the Chicks, Maines basically says, "screw 'em." And when George Bush mocks the Chicks in an interview by saying they shouldn't have their feelings hurt, she calls him a "dumb fuck." But without the hindsight commentary present in many other documentaries, which would provide insight into what was happening, this allows the viewer to just go along for the ride and be a fly on the wall during the fallout.

It's clear that the Chicks didn't buckle under the pressure, and with songs on their latest CD including "Not Ready to Make Nice," we know they're not backing down from what Maines said. And the film makes clear that while she is the vocal center of the trio, garnering most of the attention, the group's other two members (Martie Maguire and Emily Robison) stand by her 100 percent. The Dixie Chicks are a partnership, a sisterhood, and a group to be respected for the way they handled themselves under the circumstances.

It's safe to say Shut Up & Sing won't be liked by those who don't already like the group, or by those who support George Bush, but it's an enjoyable look behind-the-scenes at just one group that was caught in the crosshairs of the political cultural wars of the last four years. I give it a B+.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Royale with No Cheese

Believe it or not, of all the movies I've seen over the years, I've never seen a James Bond movie. So perhaps it's appropriate that the first one I did see was Casino Royale, which ostensibly reboots the franchise as if the other films had never happened. Here we see a still-raw Bond's first kills (which earned him double-oh status), how he won his first Aston Martin car in a poker game, and how he learned not to trust anyone. Thankfully, the film doesn't play like an origin story or make such things cute; rather, these elements are simply part of the story at hand, and only have significance because we (or rather, longtime Bond fans) know what they mean to the character. And further, there's no Q, no silly double entendres, no cool gadgets, and really, very little of the conventional Bond "stuff." So I guess it's fair to say that Casino Royale isn't much of a Bond movie at all. I mean, when asked if he wants his martini shaken or stirred, Bond simply replies, "Do I look like I care?" And further, it's hard to believe that this Bond is the same one that was played by Pierce Brosnan, et al.

Still, Casino Royale is generally a pretty cool movie. Daniel Craig makes a great hero, and the camera clearly loves him. (You may remember him from Munich.) Craig oozes cool confidence, and even at (or especially at) times like when he's rising up from the ocean after a swim, you can't take your eyes off him or his icy blue eyes. Particularly great is the scene when Bond puts on his tuxedo and admires himself in the mirror. And Craig is ready for action. There's a really great chase/fight sequence early on that takes place at a construction site that gets the film off to a good pace and sets the tone for how far Bond will go to get the job done.

But I wouldn't say Casino Royale was the best movie I'd seen in a while. Down the stretch, for example, the wheels come off a bit. Just when you think it's over — when the plot essentially stops — it keeps laboring to another conclusion. Twenty minutes later, that's when it ends.

Overall, however, I would recommend Casino Royale. I don't think it's a must see, but it's good fun. I give it a strong B.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

All Dried Up

Folks, I've got nothing. Seriously. It's not like the last time I said that. This time I am without a topic. The well is dry. I don't want to bore you with a rant about the class of 7 or 8-year-olds who were riding the T with me this morning and were screaming and generally driving me crazy on my commute into work, or the mismatched couple who were standing right in front of me making out for most of the trip. And I don't want to tell you how much I love the TV show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip because I don't think you want to read another review or posting about my TV watching habits. And I was pretty sure you'd have little sympathy that my day off from work on Monday was all washed out by the rain — or that People passed me over again for the title of Sexiest Man Alive.

So you tell me: What would you like me to write about? Give me a good topic, and I'll reward you with a good posting. Deal? The comments field is open. No password necessary. (Tho I ask that if you write a comment you give me your name. Thanks.)

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Not a Comedy. Not Quite a Tragedy

Stranger than Fiction is a fine, pleasant movie. I wasn't blown away, but I wasn't bored either. It's good, but I would see other current releases first. I'm giving it a B (for very brief review).


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mostly Magical

The Prestige is one of those movies with a hyped-up ending that doesn't live up to the hype. And that, I suppose, is "the prestige" of this review. Otherwise, as far as the movie itself is concerned, "the pledge" and "the turn" are quite good (and overall, it's much more enjoyable than that other magic movie, The Illusionist). Director Christopher Nolan (who wrote the screenplay with his brother, Jonathan — just like they did for Memento) keeps the story moving, with some decent twists and turns, and building to what should be an exciting climax. Both Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, as rival magicians, are good, as are Michael Caine and Scarlett Johansson. (And of course, Bale, Caine, and Nolan all worked together on Batman Begins, while Jackman and Johansson were both in Scoop.) I suppose what ultimately kills The Prestige is the fact that it's a movie about figuring out the "magic" behind the tricks. And when the secret is either predictable or not terribly interesting — or both — then you wish the illusionist had just stuck to the trick and not shown the reveal. I'm giving this movie a B+ for "the pledge" and "the turn," but a B- for "the prestige" — an average grade of a B.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Origami and Other Amusements

Some fun video for your weekend, care of The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson:

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Words for Wednesday

A Good Day to Be a Democrat: I find it a fun coincidence that right as the Democrats were washing the Republicans out of power, Mother Nature decided to sprinkle some rain and wash away the whole thing. It’s metaphorical, in a really obvious way. Personally, y’all know how I feel about being woken up early, and if George Bush was really gracious in defeat, he wouldn’t have been calling people to tell them as much at 7:15 a.m. this morning.

Vicious Circle: Many nights, as I’m walking home from work around 8 p.m., I ponder the eternal question: Am I working late because I have nothing to do, or do I have nothing to do because I am working late? And then, last night, I found more fuel for my fire. I left work around 6:15 to go vote, and when I got home, I had nothing to do but watch the returns come in on MSNBC. I tried to watch some of the shows I’ve recorded in the past week, but to be honest, week-old What About Brian? or Six Degrees, or even the Chevy Chase episode of Law & Order, just had no appeal. I guess the whole thing only served to remind me that I need a new hobby or two.

Losing Lost: Tonight is the last episode — new or otherwise — of Lost until February. Which means that IsLostARepeat.com will be stuck on “Yes” for a while, I’m guessing. Either way, just when it was getting good, now it’s being taken away. That sucks.

Still There for Me: Check out what I just found, still on the web from September 2003.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What a Surprise?

Here's the thing I don't get about engaged couples: When you give them a gift and they say, "Oh, you shouldn't have!"

Let's be honest about this. Aside from love and commitment and all that crap, getting engaged is an excuse to get gifts. You know they're coming. Hell, that's why you register, isn't it? Registering after getting engaged is nothing more than a public request for people to buy you stuff. You make a list of all the things you want — dishes, bedding, appliances, silver, etc. — and then all your friends and family have to do is go to the specific stores, print out your list, and buy you something off that list. There's not a whole lot of thought involved on the part of the gift-giver because the couple has basically spelled it all out for you, with the implication that God forbid you get them anything not on the registry. The whole thing is a formality of the engagement process/celebration. And I know many engaged couples check their registries all the time just to see which items have been purchased.

So yeah, I don't get it when you give an engaged couple a gift and they seem surprised by the gesture. There's no need to fake it. Just say "thank you."

Monday, November 06, 2006

Getting the Call

My mind's all made up about who I'm voting for tomorrow, but let me just say that the only thing that may make me change my mind is if the supporters of a certain Democratic gubernatorial candidate keep calling me before 9am. Thursday, when I was on a day off from work, I was awakened at 8:30 with a reminder to vote. I got another one when I was away over the weekend (thank you, caller ID), and this morning, in the worst offense yet, I got a recorded message from Chobee Hoy herself that shut off after ten seconds and never finished. I can only assume that she was also calling to remind me to get out and vote. It's bad enough that I'm getting these calls so early — and I get it that they want to reach people before they leave for work — but getting a bulk, impersonal, recorded campaign phone call before 9am is just not cool.

A Town That Won't Let You Down

Alright, I didn't just put my blog on hiatus these past few days, I put myself on hiatus and headed out to visit my friend Andrew in Chicago. Suffice it to say, a good time was had by all.

It's been two years since I was last in Chicago, and in that time much has changed. For example, whereas two years ago Andrew didn't know much about the city, now he still doesn't know much about Chicago — but he could fake it convincingly by giving me a whole dissertation about the grid system and how easy it is to navigate around. (ha ha) But more importantly, Andrew's engaged, so one of the biggest reasons I went out there was to meet his fiancee, Rachel.

It was a packed weekend: I got in Thursday night and we went to dinner at Shine Morida; Friday I was on my own and walked all the way down Clark to Michigan Ave., where I went to the Hancock Observatory, did some shopping, and visited Millenium Park; at night we brought in dinner from Bacino's and saw a show at Second City; Saturday, Andrew and I had brunch at Stella's, then went to the Field Museum; at night we met up with some of Rachel and Andrew's friends and had dinner at Las Tablas, then Andrew and I went to Rosa's Lounge, a great blues club where Jimmy Johnson was performing; Sunday, we had brunch at Panes, and then I headed home.

That's not really all we did, but something tells me you would be less than impressed if I told you we also watched five — yes, five — episodes of Grey's Anatomy now that Andrew and Rachel are hooked on the show and are catching up with the season two DVD set. And you probably would have little sympathy for me if I told you I did a lot of walking around in the cold (40 degrees or so) since it was apparently just as cold back in Boston. And it's a funny story, but the fact that we tried but could not get into Buddy Guy's Legends doesn't add much to the overall recap. I also figure you don't care that Chicago's WLIT was already playing Christmas music 24/7 and that it made me smile.

But all told, it was a great weekend. It was nice to see different parts of the city than those I saw last time, and it was nice to see that Andrew's found himself a great fiancee. And of course, I took a lot more pictures than the ones you see here; if you want to see the rest, just follow this link.

Ah, Chicago. It's my kind of town.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

I've Got Nothing

I was going to write something about how Quizno's sandwiches just aren't as good as they used to be, and then I was going to lament how the fluctuations of the weather may be making me sick, and then I was going to celebrate how the end of Halloween marked the beginning of the Christmas season ... but then I realized all these things were sorta lame. As it turns out, I don't have anything all that interesting to write about right now, and rather than continue with these short celeb-related items, I'm just going to go on a brief hiatus until Monday. Come back then, when I should have something really fun and worthwhile to say. In the meantime, go see Borat. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

People ... People Who Throw Sodas

Is there anything funnier than seeing someone throw a beverage at Barbra Streisand? Perhaps the only thing would be seeing this person hit her with the soda. Ha!