January 30, 2005

Snow Monster

Snow Monster

Lucy and I encountered this snow-yeti when we were out walking Saturday morning.

Posted by Wayne at 11:27 PM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2005

The Last Detail

Gilda Radner has a bit part in this film. I noticed her because she was playing a Nichiren Shoshu member.

I had seen bits of this before, and became very interested because of the scene where the three sailors, one of whom is an 18-year-old kid condemned to eight years in the brig, stumble upon a Nichiren Shoshu meeting.

I used to be a Nichiren Shoshu member quite a while back. It hasn't been long enough yet, but at least it wasn't recent. I can tell you that the actors certainly chant properly, and the altars are set up correctly. Whoever produced this knew what they were talking about regarding Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist practice. I think they share my attitude because the film seems to poke fun at it, and the kid starts chanting but does not get what he's chanting for. Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo (the chant) has a curious, but non-essential role in this story. The writer or whoever put it in apparently has an axe to grind.

I was startled when I saw Gilda giving an experience at the meeting. The members are displayed (appropriately too) as happy idiots.

Anyway...

I decided to get my digression out of the way first. This is a very good film even if you don't have a clue about chanting. Maybe you'll like it better if you don't.

Jack Nicholson really shows his stuff here. By 1973 he'd been in several flicks and this portrayal earned him what was already his third Oscar nomination (he lost to Jack Lemmon [Save the Tiger]). But the acting of Randy Quaid, who plays Meadows, the young sailor who got caught stealing, really makes this film. You never quite know what to make of Meadows. Is he just an idiot? Is he not so dumb, but just deprived of an upbringing that taught him any values?

You have to feel sorry for Meadows, and the sailors charged with taking him to jail certainly do. They do everything they can to show him a good time before he gets locked away. The story is really simple, which I appreciate. It doesn't get too deep into the motivations of Buddusky (Nicholson) and his mate Mule (Otis Young). They are simple men who like a good beer and a bar fight if it finds them.

There are no startling plot twists or revelations about any of the characters in The Last Detail. These two Navy guys take a theif to navy-jail and you witness the adventures they have on the way. The movie tagline, which is a quote from Buddusky, says it all: "No *#@!!* Navy's going to give some poor **!!@* kid eight years in the #@!* brig without me taking him out for the time of his *#@!!* life."

According to the movie trivia on IMDB, John Travolta was up for the part of Meadows right up until the last minute, losing out to Quaid.

I saw this on Flix.

Posted by Wayne at 04:54 PM | Comments (0)

Snow Day

Snow Day

We had a nice snow last night. When we were out on a walk we saw these two building a snowman.

Posted by Wayne at 03:12 PM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2005

Dig!

Anton Newcombe is insane. This is the basic point of Dig! Anton is also probably a genius, and you get enough samples of his music to think this is true. But in this documentary you see enough of his insanity, that you decide that you'll take your chances with other geniuses, thank you. Anton fronts a band called The Brian Jonestown Massacre. "Massacre" is a good word, given how his performances tended to come off. The only times this documentary shows Anton on stage, he's usually trying to beat the shit out a band member, or is swinging his mikestand at somebody in the crowd.

The boy has issues.

Single mom. Alcoholic father. Who committed suicide on Anton's birthday.

Oh yeah, there's this other band in the movie. The lead singer, Courtney Taylor- Taylor, narrates the doc. The Dandy Warhols.

This film is quite special. It's a roughly seven year chronicle of the two bands and the paths they took to get where they went. The divurgent paths and how they twist off in different directions is fascinating.

The Dandy's play music that is not challenging. Basic nice new wavey preppy pop stuff. And they are pretty sane in their approach. They don't have an easy go of it, but experience a remarkable popularity in Europe and wind up having a pretty good time.

Brian Jonestown Massacre, which goes as Anton Newcombe goes, conversely winds up basically in the gutter. In watching the film you don't doubt that Anton is far more talented than Courtney, but you also have no problem understanding why they are in their respective positions. Anton writes great songs, when he's not leaving toothmarks in the thigh of his bassplayer.

Anybody remotely interested in the music industry, and who is unafraid of its nasty side, should watch this. There are parts of this that will make you want to jump out the window, but overall it's great.

Posted by Wayne at 06:33 PM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2005

Fortune Cookie Fortune

Fortune Cookie Fortune

Posted by Wayne at 10:55 PM | Comments (1)

January 25, 2005

Sidewalk & Awnings

Sidewalk & Awnings

Posted by Wayne at 07:25 PM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2005

Glengarry Glen Ross

Lobo Theater, Albuquerque NM. I first saw this film on the big screen there, must've been 1992 since that's when the film came out. At the time this was my first experience with David Mamet's writing, his characteristic intense dialogs, and usually flaky endings.

Seeing it again last night on IFC was interesting in that my impression was almost exactly that of the first time I saw it. I still think the film is very compelling with hotly intense dialogs, but a pretty flaky ending. Not to mention some very over-the-top great acting performances. Jack Lemmon's is the best in my opinion. Pacino kind of out-Pacinoed himself here I thought. Al's best scene was where he very artistically drew the prospect in at the bar. You didn't even know that's what he was doing until he pulled out the brochure for the land.

The other guys in the film do very well with their characters. Arkin, Spacey, Ed Harris. I hate to admit it because I don't like him, but Alec Baldwin's opening soliloquy scene is pretty good too.

What makes this one of Mamet's better works, is the fact that there are no women in the story. He's been condemned as a chauvinist, which he probably is, but these criticisms come from the fact that he just doesn't write about female characters very well. He sees them in a rather limited way. But I digress.

For those who are unfamiliar: This is the story of a real estate office, the pressure these men are under to sell land, and what they will resort to, to get that sale, and/or keep that sale.

(I wonder how much Mamet actually researched how sales groups like this one work. I don't think they are limited to little address cards filled out by people who might or might not be interested.)

Glengarry Glen Ross is mainly composed of a series of one-on-ones between various pairings of the salesmen. Harris' speeches are quite intense since he is so pissed off about not getting the good leads. What I said about Pacino's performance notwithstanding, there is another wonderful interplay between him and Jack Lemmon and their play off of a mark who is trying to kick out on a deal. A rare opportunity to see these two great actors in the same scene.

This drama shows that the salesmen are not just money-motivated. Pride and the spirit of competition play perhaps larger roles in their motivation. Each salesman is his own story. If anything, there are too many good characters here. There really isn't room for them all. I wanted more about Alan Arkin's guy, and especially Kevin Spacey's office manager. What was behind his inadequacies? How come he wasn't out selling?

Here are some interesting facts regarding this movie, found at IMDB:

  • The word "fuck" and its derivatives are uttered 138 times.
  • The word "shit" and its derivatives are uttered 50 times.
  • Co-star Jack Lemmon said the cast was the greatest acting ensemble he had ever been part of.

Posted by Wayne at 01:30 PM | Comments (0)

January 18, 2005

Gold Leaf

Gold Leaf

This is actually a left over Christmas image from a card. I took it from across the room with my zoom. [hey that rhymes]

Posted by Wayne at 10:52 PM | Comments (0)

January 17, 2005

Strange

Strange

Isn't there something wrong with this picture?

Posted by Wayne at 09:13 PM | Comments (1)

January 16, 2005

Grass in Ice

Grass in Ice

You have to look closely to see what this picture actually is. If you look at the surface of the ice in the previous photo you will see this. The grass is frozen in the ice.

Posted by Wayne at 07:59 PM | Comments (0)

park ice pond

park ice pond

This park is actually the same as this one and where I found this. Apparently when it gets cold enough the city fills that depression with water and itfreezes up nicely. Our high the last couple of days has been about 14°F.

Posted by Wayne at 01:11 AM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2005

Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson

This is a picture of a picture taken at a local restaurant.

Posted by Wayne at 10:14 AM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2005

Fortune

Fortune

Posted by Wayne at 11:55 PM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2005

Tracks

Tracks

Taken out of context, I liked these tracks from a parking lot, taken on Sunday after the ice/snow storm.

Posted by Wayne at 11:14 PM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2005

Shoe Print

Shoe Print

An obviously valuable role of photography, is capturing temporal images -- images that won't be there in a few minutes or a few hours, or a few centuries.

Posted by Wayne at 11:47 PM | Comments (1)

Sunflower Ice

Sunflower Ice

These flowers obviously aren't real. They look cool with icicles hanging on them though. My wife planted them outside our door when we moved here last summer.

Posted by Wayne at 10:21 PM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2005

Under Suspicion

Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman have dual starring roles in this film, and they are the Executive Producers. So if I understand the latter position correctly, the two actors jointly financed this film. If true, it's really only a side note, because the film is quite good. If they intended to give themselves a vehicle to showcase their talents, then they pulled it off well. Their project is another mindbugger film, but in much more subtle ways than the film dicussed previously.

Under Suspicion is certainly not a high budget spectacular. Filming in Puerto Rico probably doesn't cost that much, and the production is beautifully sparse enough, that this script could be produced as a stage play with a few minor alterations. In fact, it would be a good one if you had two actors the calibur of Freeman and Hackman. If you appreciate the acting of either, or especially if you like both, you need to experience this film. The beauty of Monica Belucci doesn't hurt either.

Morgan is a cop, and Gene is the main suspect. So naturally their interplay is intense. They go at it like two chess grandmasters. From the outset Gene looks guilty as hell of killing two pubescent girls. The complication is that he is a very prominent lawyer in San Juan (the movie takes place in Puerto Rico too). He's part of one of the most glamorous couples on the island, married to a beauty about 25 years younger than he. And her role in the drama is much more than that of an ornament.

IFC, Sundance, Flix, sometimes I get tired of trying to keep track of what's on all these movie channels. But finding something like this on IFC late on a Saturday night really justifies the expense. I had never heard of Under Suspicion, and loved discovering it. Check it out if you get the chance.

Posted by Wayne at 07:14 PM | Comments (12)

More Ice Baby

More Ice Baby

Our ice is starting to melt today, at least where the sun is shining on it. These 'cicles are hanging on the side of the house that won't see sun until sometime in May or June.

Posted by Wayne at 04:14 PM | Comments (0)

January 08, 2005

The Usual Suspects

Mindscrew movies (I am seriously trying to avoid using the f word on this blog) tend to wear me down, but this one is brilliant. A great script by Michael McQuarrie, and great acting by Kevin Spacey make this a memorable story.

Mindscrew movies are hard to write about, at least if you donít want to spoil the story for those who havenít seen it. Generally I tend to write more for those who have seen the film that I happen to be interpretting. And I think this is appropriate since my readers all seem to come from internet searches (I had over 500 visitors this past week, and 98% of them came via some search). I would expect that those folks who are searching on a film would more often be fans of the film who have seen it, rather than someone who hasn't. But I digress.

Most of the characters get mindhozed in this one, and the characters are not all plotting to mindream one character. And they are not all conspiring to mindbang the viewer either. I wonít say what does happen.

Anyway, for an overview, five criminals find themselves in the same police station, in the same lineup for a witness. They find themselves in the same holding cell too, and they hatch a plan to make some serious cash. One job leads to another, and to LA.

If you havenít seen The Usual Suspects, but you have heard of Keyser Soze, this is where it came from. My experience was this. I had heard the weird name but didnít know its origin.

Fans of The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon will get a great rise out of this story. It occurs to me now that Pynchonís work certainly mustíve had an influence here.

Just to further wet your appetite, everybody -- Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del Toro, Kevin Pollack Ė dies. Everybody except Verbal, Spaceyís character. And he makes a deal for immunity. But Chazz Palminteri, is a Customs agent who ainít letting him go that easy.

The character interplay is great in this film. Spacey goes one-on-one a lot with Chazz, and Byrne, who plays a nasty ex-cop bad guy who is also possibly in love, unless heís minddiddling Verbal.

The Usual Suspects demands a rewatch. Or a first watch if you havenít seen it yet.

Posted by Wayne at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2005

Ice Ice Baby II

Ice Ice Baby II

I took this one today after the sun came out. So much ice is tough on young thin trees. We hope it survives to spring.

Posted by Wayne at 09:22 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2005

Ice Ice Baby

Ice Ice Baby

My wife Lucy took this one. We've had a lot of ice the last couple of days, along with some snow earlier this afternoon.

Posted by Wayne at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

Bull Durham

Sunday night I managed to cross another semi-classic off my "to watch" list. Seeing a baseball movie at or near the end of the football season seemed somehow ironically appropriate.

I've heard about this film for years, and it did not disappoint. I loved the simplicity of the story, having seen several "epics" in recent weeks.

Crash is Kevin Costner, the 12 year minor league catcher semi-star who is signed to the Durham Bulls to catch for Nuke, who is Tim Robbins. Nuke is a brash young bonus baby pitcher and Crash is supposed to train him for the big leagues, or "The Show" as the characters in this story never fail to refer to it.

This little detail did not escape me and it reflects on the truth of this movie. These guys are playing in a little stadium for maybe a thousand fans on a good day, but they are playing a game they love. Nuke loves the attention too but he still loves to pitch. Crash is the guy who is driven by his love of the game. He sure isn't driven by his paycheck. Nuke has received his bonus so he drives a porche.

You have to love Crash, because he sacrifices himself for the sake of the game. He doesn't have a great attitude toward his assignment to begin with, but he picks it up and does it very naturally. Tutoring Nuke is like breathing to him, not only because it's natural, but because he has to do it. Baseball is such a part of Crash's being that he couldn't refuse to help Nuke if he had to.

And I haven't even mentioned Annie yet. She is Susan Sarandon.

Now if you want to talk about someone who sacrifices herself for the sake of the game...

And Annie doesn't even get to play. Not baseball at least. Although she does take some batting practice with Crash in one scene.

Annie's character represents the real soul of the game, because she is the quintessential dedicated fan. She speaks of the "church of baseball." Baseball has taught her more about life than any other church or spiritual practice has. Yes, we all know that baseball is not for the players -- baseball is for the fans.

And the truest of baseball fans are those who attend those minor league games. They don't need to see Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens. They just want to see someone -- any hungry young ballplayer -- slide into homeplate just barely beating the throw from right field.

My wife and I went to see the triple A team from Albuquerque play many times (though that situation doesn't really compare to the Durham Bulls portrayed in this film -- we paid major league prices for our beers and hot dogs) and we observed how it was fun to see the young guys who are hungry just to get an at bat. Those guys are always playing for their careers so even if the score is 11-2 in the bottom of the ninth, the hitter and the pitcher are both bearing down, giving it their best shot.

Ah, but back to "The Show." Nuke and Crash and Annie always refer to major league baseball as "The Show." The best 21 days of Crash's life were those he spent with the parent club once. "The Show" is like the holy grail for most of the guys on the team -- something to dream about but something they will probably never see. They know it's only a show though. And I think the writer, Ron Shelton, wanted to make that point. We love it, but it's still only a show. Annie will continue to learn about life, Nuke will make a lot of money, and Crash will spend the rest of his life as a coach or a manager, but it's just a game. Throwing, hitting and catching a ball to entertain those willing to pay the admission price. And none of them have any delusions that it is anything else.

Posted by Wayne at 12:06 AM | Comments (3)

January 04, 2005

The Salty Iguana

The Salty Iguana

Such is the name of this restaurant. That lizard cutout is actually a glass window into the lobby, in case it appears to be a mirror. If you notice there are little iguana characters in the murals. All the walls all over this place have iguanas cartooned up to look they are in human situations. In the bar the murals have an iguana Wilt Chamberlain and an iguana Gale Sayers among others. Makes for a great distraction while you are waiting for your iguana burrito.

Posted by Wayne at 11:07 PM | Comments (1)

January 02, 2005

King Arthur

Clive Owen and Nicholas Cage must have the same mother. Every time I look at Clive, at least in this picture, I think I'm looking at Nick. Clive makes a better King Arthur than Cage would have been though -- in fact Mr. Owen is pretty darned good as the legendary leader.

Overall you could certainly say this movie is flawed, and you may have used stronger terms than that if you did see it, but my wife and I agreed that it was worth the watch. I found it compelling enough due largely to the untraditional take on the legend. Antoine Fuqua used an actual historical figure, on whom King Arthur may have been based.

In this version of the roundtable armor-wearers (and there is a round table) Arthur and his boys; Galahad, Lancelot, Tristan, etc. are actually Sarmatian knights, Polacks from eastern Europe. Their warriorness was so good that the Romans, when they pillaged there, let them live -- so they could indenture them of course. And bind them they did, sending the knights to an island that at the time was an outpost of the Roman Empire, known as Britain. All they say in this film is Britain so I guess it wasn't Great yet.

The warriors in this story are not the usual "knights in shining armor." These boys are a little dirty, and the armor is tarnished. But man can they fight. Excalibur is not a magical sword in this story, but just one wielded well by a man who knows how to use it.

When proscribed into service to the Pope, they were told that after 15 years, if they were good boys, they would be freed and they could go back to Sarmatia. This story picks up at that very time, and the knights are giddy at the prospect of what they might do after release. Ah, but of course there are complications. Rome is deciding that Britain isn't so great so they're withdrawing their occupation. However there is some Roman aristocrat and his son in the north, where coincidentally Saxon invaders are working their way south, who needs to be brought home. Since Arthur's men are handy, and handy with their swords, they get drafted into doing one last big favor for the Vatican -- and if they refuse they can cross Europe as hunted fugitives instead of heroes.

The Saxons are a snarling lot, and Cerdic their king is a strong character here. He looks like Leon Russell with all his long blond hair. Cerdic's son has a braided beard but his head is nearly shaved. Indeed, everybody on both sides is either a hippy or a skinhead.

I knew that King Arthur did not do well at the box office, and I didn't see it tearing it up with great reviews, but I was a little stunned to see that it got a very paltry 32% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This film is not great but it's better than that.

The final battle scene is pretty drawn out and the knights aren't that distinct from each other, except for Bors. He's a roughrider if ever there was one. A stark difference in this take from the original is best expressed by this reviewer quoted on RT: "'The untold true story that inspired the legend' -- you know, the version in which ... Guinevere is a half-naked post-feminist warrior hottie." -- Rob Blackwelder, SPLICEDWIRE

Kieran Knightly is way hot as the pagan version of Guinevere.

If you read this blog you remember that my wife set out to get this on Christmas Eve and didn't find it. When we took Hero back we were looking for something else and I found out that Lucy had been looking for "Arthur" rather than King Arthur, and came to Hero before finding what she was truly looking for, which was in the very next rack.

A weird aspect here, is that Antoine Fugua is black. And from viewing the accompanying documentary material, he is the only black guy remotely involved with this film. I have to wonder how he felt during production. He did a good job of directing. He did Training Day if you're wondering about his history, and from the info on the disk, got some notoriety from a video he did for Coolio.

The production of King Arthur was surely fueled by the success of the Lord of the Rings films. The swords and the battle scenes are quite similar. If you really have a jones for another such adventure, this film might defer your withdrawal for an evening, but that's all.

Posted by Wayne at 02:02 PM | Comments (3)

January 01, 2005

Moving Art

Moving Art

This thing gets constantly shape-shifted by the wind.

Posted by Wayne at 08:07 PM | Comments (0)