Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Roses are red... roses are pink...Roses last longer with water to drink

Who doesn't like roses? They are just one of those things that make everything around them look, well, just look better. Kind of like rose-colored glasses. Huh... look at that. Funny how that works isn't it? Roses, rose-colored glasses. Go figure.

Be that as it may, sometimes you might find that roses in a vase in your home don't keep things looking better as long as you think they should - they get all droopy and brown and all in all, not very inspiring. Sometimes that could be a function of the quality of the roses, but sometimes it could be the processing. Seriously, roses have a process. And, get this, the better the process, the better the roses. You thought it was all just a bed of roses, didn't you? Didn't you?

How to process cut roses so they last:

  1. cut your roses about an inch longer than you want them
  2. in a bowl of water, submerge the stem and with it completely underwater, cut it to the right length
  3. then, keeping the stem under water, pierce the stem about an inch from the end with the point of the scissor, making a hole in the stem
  4. lastly, arrange the roses in your vase
  5. every other day, change the water
Next week - the secret to raising roses from the dead. Really. Really rosie. (I couldn't resist.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Holiday card kudos

Full disclosure: I'm terrible at the holiday routine. I mean, I can light and decorate a mean tree, and my chocolate english toffee is to die for, but the card thing? Waaaay beyond me. Thus, I am beyond grateful to and impressed by my friends, who are probably 14 times as busy as I am since they, every last one of them, has a minimum of 2 kids (hey, come to think of it, my friends may be averaging 2.7 kids and .6 dogs each. Wow. Who knew my friends were so... normal? So far though, they are handily beating that nasty divorce statistic. Keep it up, folks - you give me faith in true love.)

Anyway, back to the grateful and impressed part - each year I get a trove of cards, personally signed (which, I learned from my friend Margi, who knows ALL about these things, is the sign that the recipient is a personal friend - and if there's a handwritten message and signature - well, that's the jackpot of "close, personal friend" - and let me pause right here to thank my close, personal friends for remembering me and including me in their holiday tradition. I love you too.)

But to return to my point - I think I had one. Oh, yes... this post is simply to say thank you and happy holidays to my friends, all my friends - it may not be signed, or even handwritten - but it is distinctly heartfelt. (I even made the little image thing-y all by myself.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Juno and, more better - Diablo

You know that if I, as far removed from high school, Previas, the midwest, and snow as can be, walk out of a movie kinda wishing I were that accidentally pregnant 16 year old... something good was up there on that mythic silver screen. After 90 minutes with Juno I really wished I could be that clever and cool even some of the time, let alone all the time. Mostly, though, after seeing Juno, the movie, what I really wanted was to meet Diablo Cody, screenwriter thereof. Well you know what comes next: thank heavens for the internet. 'Cause, maybe I can't meet her in person, but... aha! she has a blog.

And, sickeningly, she seems to be just as cool on her blog as she came across in her movie. I know, I know, it wasn't her up there -- but they were her words -- and her dialog is up there with some of the best I've heard in a long, long, long time. It doesn't hurt that the fabulous Ellen Page -- if you don't know her, a) imagine that Winona Ryder and Jena Malone had a daughter who was raised by Wendy Wasserstein - that's sort of Ellen Page and b) go rent "Hard Candy" -- spoke about 50% of the dialog, and that the rest rested on the shoulders of hacks like Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner...

It's a real gift to write a movie that is enjoyable and serious, funny and honest, that zings along until the end comes and the audience is left saying, "wait, that's it? There's no more?" After the string of over-promised and under-delivered sea of dross I've been sitting through, this was a golden moment. Magical movie alchemy.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Even your ketchup...

My sister is an organic maven. No, really. Push the right button and she'll list which fruits and vegetables are more important to buy organic, and why. (I, on the other hand, know that strawberries are high on the "you should really buy organic" list, but that's about it.)
So you can just imagine how well my niece, Eliza, eats. Suffice it to say, very, very well. Okay, that doesn't suffice it to say, so let me go on - she eats so well that I often prefer to eat her food over other choices. Fish sticks, sweet potato fries, spinach pancakes, turkey dogs, mac and cheese, edamame? Yum.
And what is her condiment of choice?
Organic ketchup, of course. Which, I just learned, has three times the amount of lycopene (according to, ongoing preliminary research suggests that lycopene is associated with reduced risk of macular degenerative disease, serum lipid oxidation and cancers of the lung, bladder, cervix and skin) than regular ketchup.
So, go ahead, dip your fries. Your body will thank you.

Fortune favors the fictional...

...or Forbes does, in this case. I don't know about you, but I find something snarkily satisfying about perusing the Forbes list of people rolling in filthy lucre each year.
Comparing Oprah's rank to Tom's (#1 to #8). Seeing how far Johnny Depp has sailed the Black Pearl (to reach #6! That rocks.). Wondering how it's possible that Jessica Simpson ranked higher than Reese Witherspoon (?!). And those are just the celebrities. Looking at the list of truly rich people - have you ever stopped to really think about how much money $56B is? I mean, honestly, $56B? Let me write it out this way: $56,000,000,000. That's nine zeros. (By the way, in case it had slipped your mind, the $56B would be Mr. William Gates III's net worth, thank you very much.)
But today I stumbled across Forbes list of the Fictional 15, complete with rules, guidelines, and a proprietary calculation algorithm. Here they are:

1. Scrooge McDuck
2. Ming The Merciless
3. Richie Rich
4. Mom
5. Jed Clampett
6. C. Montgomery Burns
7. Carter Pewterschmidt
8. Bruce Wayne
9. Thurston Howell III
10. Tony Stark
11. Fake Steve Jobs
12. Gomez Addams
13. Willy Wonka
14. Lucius Malfoy
15. Princess Peach

Don't you just love this?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

New Rule #3

Thanksgiving wasn’t that long ago – but I started fantasizing about my mother’s mulled wine the very next day, and haven't stopped. For some reason, she only makes it once a year, for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s perfect; it’s winy and sweet and spicy and slightly numbing. Here’s my New Rule #3: mulled wine (or cider – I’m an equal opportunity imbiber) should be simmering on the stove from Thanksgiving through January.

Here’s my mother’s recipe - it's fantastic:

Combine and boil together for 10 minutes:
1 Cup Sugar
3 Sticks Cinnamon
½ Cup Water
24 Cloves
3 Lemon slices

Add and heat
2 Cups Pineapple Juice
2 Cups Orange Juice
Juice of 1 Lemon

Add and heat until hot. Do Not Boil.
2 bottles Red Wine
Thin Orange & Lemon slices

It doesn't get better than this, folks, trust me.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The power of too

Eliza lesson #274: You're just right the way you are.
Yesterday, trying to impress upon my niece Eliza the danger of going out into the street on her own, her mom told Eliza that the cars couldn't see her because she was "too little." And Eliza, tears streaming down her face (more because both Mama and Papa had scolded her for going into the street), cried "I'm not too little. I'm very big!"
She's right - she's not too little. She's just the right size.
We could all do to remember that a bit more often - we're just right the way we are.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Can't you just feel the moon shine?

All right, this will (really) not be a surprise to anyone who knows me well, or even a little. I kind of have a thing for Carole King. Not really a small thing either. Kind of a big thing. I mean, I flew with my best friend to Tokyo earlier this month just to see her perform.

So last week, you can only imagine my state of alt when I saw Carole King perform with James Taylor in a venue the size of a shoebox. As my friend Melani put it – a Gillian-dream-come-true night. And it was.

The joke has always been “I want to be Carole when I grow up” – not that I wanted to be a songwriter or singer (a good thing, considering I can’t carry a note in bucket) – what I wanted to be was as thoroughly immersed in my talent, as astoundingly generous with it, and having as much fun as she always seems to be. And did she, and he, ever have fun back where they’d performed together 30 some odd years before (“evidently,” quipped JT, claiming not to remember much of that time period at all). 

Did you know that James calls Carole “baby grand?” Or that he heard, and remembers hearing despite earlier confessions, Carole sing “You’ve Got a Friend” right there in the Troubadour and asking her if he could put it on his album? “You did a good job with it,” she told him last week with a wink, RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. 

In my mind, I’m going to Carole King – can’t you just see the sunshine?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

This shouldn't be as funny as it is

Because we all have just so much time on our hands, especially at this time of year, I thought I'd share with you my latest time-filler-upper.
OfficeMax, in their infinite wisdom (okay, really, I have no idea why, how or who at OfficeMax came up with this - but hats off to them - it's addictive), has come up with a little holiday widget that in no way, shape or form should turn out to be as hilarious as it does. But it does.
If you have family, friends, pets, tots, toddlers or teens - and pictures thereof - don't skip this.
Trust me. I wouldn't steer you astray. This is one widget that's worth your time... spare or not.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

All things come to those who wait

I have always wanted one of those cool lift thing-a-ma-jiigs at the end of my bed, that open up and send a television rising up as though by magic. I've seen them in magazines and on some tv shows over the years, most always in the homes of the rich and famous - emphasis on rich.

Well, it seems that as go flat screen TV prices (down, down, down), so too go hydraulic TV lift prices (who knew?). Just the other day, meandering through one of my favorite stores, Inner Living by Shannon Michelle, I stumbled upon a sleek, tall, espresso chest - a cross between a buffet and a dresser. I loved it right away.

But then! Oh, my friends, but then! I saw an odd rectangular cut-out section in the top, and, like Glinda the Good Witch, the top lifted and a steel post rose slowly, dare I say majestically, from the top of the chest. I looked around to see a staff-member with a remote control in her hand and a little grin on her face. "That's where the TV goes" she said.

Of course that's where the TV goes.

Now, granted, this little number costs more than your average buffet or media cabinet from a barn, a barrel or a, ahem, hardware store - but not all that much. Really. It's from the Thomas O'Brien collection by Hickory Chair - and let me tell you, Hickory Chair, well, it ain't your grand-pappy's furniture company.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Ghost Rider - not ghostly enough

All I can say is (well, okay, not all, since I'm clearly about to say more, but...) this movie was lucky to get a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes!

Let's get one thing clear first - I love good brain candy, and Nic Cage has been in some great brain candy (Con Air? Face/Off? National Treasure - ok, not great, but pretty darn fun).

And let me add something else... I'm more than happy with super-hero movies where you've got folks flying around, disappearing, stretching, bouncing bullets, etc. That said, there are some rules - really. Think about it - the best 'supernatural' films create a reality that offers you some logic, some explication that, albeit requiring a leap of faith, carries you from your reality to the film's reality, which you can then inhabit and in which you can believe. And the key to this? Rules folks... sorry, but there you have it.

First rule? The backstory... and this rule is actually pretty easy, there has to be one. Yeah. That's it. Not too tough. Unless there isn't.

    Superman - born on a planet that destroyed itself and, in a last-ditch effort by his parents to save him, ends up on the third rock.
    Spiderman - didn't anyone tell him to beware those pesky biting spiders in cutting-edge laboratories?
    X-Men - global warming, animal species disappearing at a rapid rate, is it any surprise the human genome is mutating like this?
    Batman - ain't it amazing what tragedy, trauma, trust funds and triceps to die for can accomplish?

Why am I rehashing all of this? Well, I don't know the Ghost Rider comics, or the story therefrom - and, sadly, after seeing the movie, I still don't. You should not walk out of a super-hero movie without knowing how and/or why that superhero came to be. Actually, let me rephrase, you shouldn't have to sit through an entire movie without knowing how or why.

Second rule: whatever the backstory is in the comic books, you have tell it, and hopefully tell it well, in the movie.

On top of that ignominious disregard for basic comic book protocol, Nic Cage phones it in (and really, how could he do anything else, since his face seemed not just botoxed, but actually ironed smooth), Eva Mendes does a creditable imitation of a block of wood, and a blow-dried Peter Fonda looms periodically, presumably with malicious intent, in a long, flapping coat.

You get the idea - there's just nothing here. Sad to say, this movie is a big, fat pass.

Of all the potteries, in all the towns, in all the world...

Preconceptions can really trip you up. I spent the weekend in a small town in southern Ireland - Shanagarry, to be precise - and I wasn't expecting much other than to see my friend Karen and the cooking school she's attending. After all, this was Ireland, and a small coastal town in Ireland at that.

I was expecting green, and rain, and the world's most wonderful accent. I was not expecting a fabulous pottery and artisan gallery tucked away behind a church and across the street from the Goalpost pub. The Stephen Pearce pottery and gallery has distinct local roots in Shanagarry and County Cork and "proudly participates in preserving the heritage, culture and environment" of same.

I was expecting to meet some of the nicest people on earth, to drive on the wrong side of the road, to eat some artery-clogging-but-worth-it butter and cheese. I was not expecting to wander into a store that could just as easily be on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Santa Monica or Prince St. in New York.

So, it just shows to go you - as my mother would say - great design, interesting accessories, beautiful things can, and will, be found just about anywhere, if you keep your eyes open and your biases closed.

And because the world is, after all, a global village, Stephen Pearce will happily ship anywhere in it. To ship to the United States, they charge 30% of the total value of the order. Did I mention the gorgeous personalized mugs they make? Karen bought one for each of her housemates - I'm hoping she posts a picture of them on her blog... I'll keep you posted.

And, yes, Ireland is still gorgeously green, it did indeed rain, the people there are still the nicest on earth - and their accent still melts my brain every time. If you haven't been to the Emerald Isle, go, by all means, go!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Change a lampshade, change your life

Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, BUT... I do believe that small changes make big differences.

A new lampshade (or a whole new lamp) next to your sofa or on your night table can brighten up the room and bring a smile to your face every time you turn it on.

Ivory shades are great, don't get me wrong - they're versatile, classic, boring, neutral, safe, boring, easy... well, you get the point.
A colorful lampshade (like this one from Slip) is a great way to bring some color, some pattern, some oomph, into a room - without an enormous investment. You could say it's interior design for the commitment shy.

On the other hand, if you're married to that ivory shade, think about a great new lamp base. Tracy Glover makes beautiful hand-blown glass lamps - complete with, yup, you guessed it, a range (bestill your heart) of beige, ecru and taupe shades.

If you're ready for a small change to make a big difference - shed a little light and brighten your room and your day.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Well, maybe not so simple

Just when I finish extolling the pleasures of my favorite classic cocktail, the Champagne Cocktail, what happens? Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, I find the one whose bartender doesn't know how to make one.

It started well enough, I ordered my cocktail, the bartender nodded. I returned to my conversation. When I looked back a few moments later, I saw the bartender pouring my cocktail out of a shaker into my glass.
Hmmmm, I thought, that's interesting; I've never had my Champagne shaken before, but I'm willing to try something new.
Then she handed me my pale, pink, rather cloudy drink. Cloudy? Hmmmm. I took a sip. Sweet, fruity. Fruity?
What's in this? I asked.
Raspberry puree.
Raspberry puree? I repeated. I asked for a Champagne Cocktail.
That's right - Champagne and raspberry puree.
How about Champagne, a cube of sugar and some bitters? I asked.
Bitters? What kind of liqueur is that?

At that point, friends, I surrendered. I drank my Champagne 'cocktail' - not a Mimosa, not a Bellini, and definitely not a Champagne Cocktail - quietly, and when I was done, I asked for a Perfect Manhattan, straight up. But that's a story for another day...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

it's the simple things, after all

I have a new addiction... it's relatively harmless, as part of its charm is the limitation of just one. Not that one couldn't have more than one - but, somehow, that would defeat the purpose.

I have discovered the perfect aperitif - the Champagne Cocktail. Deceptively simple (a bit of sugar, a dash of bitters, Champagne, and perhaps a twist of lemon if you're feeling festive), this cocktail lends the start of any evening an air of festivity, while not shouting "let's celebrate!" at the top of its lungs.

Sitting easily at the bar, sipping slowly on this slightly sweet, slightly bitter, slightly fizzy drink - you just know it's going to be good night. The cocktail can be followed up nicely by another, more "serious" cocktail, if that's the direction to which you are inclined, or just as easily by a good meal and good wine.

Try drinking just one, it's the perfect way to put any evening in a good mood.

Monday, February 19, 2007

We are the music makers

I was visiting one of my best friends over the weekend, and while we were sitting in the dining room sipping coffee (that she roasted herself!) and catching up, a little glimmer caught my eye. I looked up to see one of my favorite quotes "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams" (courtesy the fabulous Willy Wonka) floating perfectly above the bay window in mellow silver.

Fantastic! I said. Easy! she said. Go to - any quote, any size, pick your color, pick your font and poof! Easy to put up - easy to remove. Seriously, you can just peel it off when making music and dreaming dreams is no longer your thing (or when your lease is up and you need to leave those bare white walls as white and as bare as when you moved in).

If coming up with your own words seems a bit daunting, the site offers quite the collection of cool quotations, designs and more to put on your walls, your refrigerator, even chalkboards. This is a great thing.

It seems only fitting then that one of my favorite quotes (I've even printed it on my business cards) is
"Invention is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple." (Also courtesy the inimitable Mr. Wonka.) Check out this wall graffiti and put a little butterscotch ripple in your home.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

For goodness sake

If you forget everything else you learn tonight, remember this word: "ginjo" - or so spake John Gauntner, sake guru, last night. "Ginjo," that would be Japanese for premium sake (actually, make that 'super-premium sake' - which, if you really want to know, makes up only 6% of all sake produced). John is the sake guy. No really, he is. And he really knows his stuff.

I signed up for this class thinking: I like sake, but I never have any idea what I'm ordering or why and wouldn't it be nice to have a clue? In 2 hours, John gave me more than a clue - for instance, according to John, 90% of the time sake is "fairly priced" - meaning that 90% of the time you are going to get what you pay for. As I know, unfortunately all too well, this is decidedly not the case when choosing wine.

And what about this? Sake is made from rice. Yeah, yeah, you knew that. Did you know that the rice has to be milled before the sake can be brewed - and that the more grain that is milled (ground away), the more expensive the sake will be? And, even though all sake is made from rice, there are really two kinds of premium sake - those made from rice and ONLY rice, and those made with distilled alcohol. And, the rice-only sakes are called Junmai. And, whether a sake is Junmai or not is relatively immaterial to selecting a sake - so that's one word I can jettison when attempting to make sense of a sake list.

Sake comes in grades (based on, you guessed it, how much rice is milled away). The words I did learn and remember are the different grades (John has a great and simple chart of all this):

  • Daiginjo -- generally the top of the food chain in sake )at least 50% and as much as 65% of the rice is milled away)
  • Ginjo -- one step below Daiginjo
  • Junmai-shu and Honjozo-shu -- the bottom of the premium sake food chain
  • Tokubetsu -- a special type of Junmai-shu... that I really liked, especially Suigei ("Drunken Whale")
There are 1600 sake brewers in Japan - somewhat overwhelming when you can't even read the label. But, on the flip side, find a few you like (John's not-lists are a good start) - and chances are you'll like their sake in every grade.

If you have questions, want to learn a little something, or are just a tad curious about sake - John Gauntner's site is a great place to start.

Oh, and the other thing he said to remember? Drink what you like - don't worry about the grade. Now don't you wish your parents had told you the same thing growing up?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

BIN to heaven

A wine bar with serious wine, that doesn't take itself seriously? A restaurant with unbelievable food, without unbelievable prices? Am I dreaming?

Nope - I'm eating at Bin 8945, over in West Hollywood on Santa Monica Blvd. Perched on a stool at the bar, letting David, the owner, pick out a bottle of red and a menu to match, I couldn't be happier. We ask for a good value, an earthy red - and after a few short minutes of reflection, David snaps closed the list and announces he knows exactly what he's giving us.

He sets two large round goblets in front of us and uncorks a bottle of 2001 Paternoster "Synthesi" from Italy. I've never heard of it, and neither has my dining partner, who knows his wine. David pours us each a glass and we take a sniff. Wow. We take a taste. Now we're talking.

David walks away to take care of another table and, as I breathe in the berries and the leather, I think to myself - this guy's going to forget more about wine than I'm ever going to know. And he's wearing jeans and a funky t-shirt. He's waxing poetic about his Play Station 3. That's the kind of guy I want picking my wine.

He's got the resume (Guy Savoy in Paris, Le Cirque and Aquavit in New York, and Aubergine in Newport Beach), but surely didn't bring the attitude. He loves good wine, but is the first - in fact was the first when I was there - to say, dude, it's just wine, it's not going to change your life.

I'm already happy, and then he introduces the chef, Mike, whom David's kidnapped from Ford's Filling Station. (According to David, he dressed for the occasion in black and with hood, stuck his finger in Ben's back and said, your chef or your life. Happily for all, Ben's still breathing.) And the two of them proceed to discuss what combination of dishes and flavors will best complement the wine...

Out comes a procession of dishes, a rare tuna burger topped with a quail egg (which we don't break fast enough for David, do me a favor? he asks. Break that egg into the burger - it will make all the difference. We do and it does.) Monkfish on a heavenly puree of root vegetables. Pork cheeks glazed in chocolate. Each pairing with the wine differently and perfectly. David capped the dinner with a sherry and a persimmon dessert cake.

All in all, I could only ask that more restaurants took a page from David's book. The place, the people, the wine, the food... I can't wait to go back.

Well, auto-text this!

My thoughts on the essential auto-text entries for every girl:

Huh? -- short and sweet, this can be used to respond to texts that are too dumb, too suggestive or too cryptic. And without prejudice. Pretty good for 3 letters.

Done and done -- quick and slightly smart-ass. Perfect text form.

Thanks! You rock! -- my personal favorite, this can be used to respond to almost anything. Let the other side figure out if you're being sincere or sarcastic.

What can I say? -- this, too, covers a lot of ground

Ummm, oops? -- when you need to say you're sorry, but you're not quite sure you mean it.

Perfect -- simple, to-the-point, one word. Perfect.

Wish I could -- the covers-all-bases slide out response. Would that it were so easy in real life.
Wish I could - another time? -- when you want to leave the door open.

Thank you -- Just because we live in the digital age, doesn't mean we shouldn't still make our grandmothers proud.
and, Thank you. I had a great time
or even, Thank you. My turn next time

And please ban, delete, obliterate these from existence:

Miss u
- need I say more?

Luv u
- this is worse than Miss u

c u 2moro/2nite/l8r
- ok, unless ur(!) 15 years old, this is downright unacceptable. Auto-text is your chance not to sound like a teenager, an idiot, or pathetic.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

This is a movie - not a film!

Ask, and you shall receive. And I received a good movie – message and all.

Blood Diamond is a long movie, no question (it clocks in at 2 hours, 18 minutes); but – the true sign of a good movie – I never once looked at my watch. Similar to Titanic, Blood Diamond sets a small, personal tale inside a big, almost un-fathomable story – and both stories are the better for the pairing.

The intertwined stories of the journalist, Danny Archer (played by that veteran of epic movies, Leonardo DiCaprio) and the father, Solomon Vandi (played by the mesmerizing Djimon Hounsou) play out against a heartbreaking depiction of civil war, oppression and child soldiery (I’m not sure that’s a word – but if child labor and child slavery are, child soldiery should be too. On further thought, it would be a much better world if none of those three phrases existed).

Blood Diamond isn’t always easy to watch, but it is impossible to look away from. The chemistry between DiCaprio and Hounsou drives the plot forward relentlessly, and it is a good plot – maybe a bit farfetched, maybe a bit convenient, but gripping nonetheless. And it does serve the film-makers’ purpose of elucidating the terrible, terrible plight of a country torn apart in every which way.

The internal strife of civil war and hopeless politics battling the external pressure of the unceasing demands of the industries feeding our (yes, our) consumer and consumption-centric society is nothing less than heart-breaking. The transformation of young boys – soccer-playing, normal boys – into numb, mindless shooting machines is horrific. The image of the boys, toting guns nearly as long as they are tall, striding through the grass, shooting into a village - remorseless and uncaring - is indelible.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, there is nothing good about war, about killing. In this story, as in every story, I'm sure there are a dozen sides to be told - and Blood Diamond, the movie, tells only one. But it's a pretty awful one at that - and I'd be hard-pressed to imagine another side to it that would provide a good reason for slaughtering so many people.

Monday, February 05, 2007

It's a bleak, bleak, bleak world

Is it just me, or does everyone get a little weary come the end of the year, when we're bombarded with movies that are "worthwhile," "meaningful," "serious?" Not necessarily a bad thing, mind you - but, this year in particular, it seems as though the filmmakers (and I use the word "film" advisedly) feel as though the very fact of their message gives them license to forgo some movie-making basics (and, yes, I used the word "movie" advisedly too).

There's no question that movies can have a message, that they can teach and enlighten as well as entertain and delight. And that some movies, by the nature of their message, will be less 'delightful' than others. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't be good movies. Want to see a great movie, and get a pretty eye-opening look into anti-Semitism? Check out "A Gentleman's Agreement." How about an example of a little movie, tight and beautifully acted, that also gives you a good look at the merciless drug trade and the victims of its mechanics? Take a gander at "Maria Full of Grace."

Where was it written in 2006 that a movie couldn't be serious, couldn't communicate a Message, unless it was well over 2 hours long? "Babel" - 2 hours, 23 minutes. "The Departed" - 2 hours, 31 minutes. "The Good Shepherd" - 2 hours, 40 minutes. "Flags of our Fathers" - 2 hours, 12 minutes. Now, some really entertaining, good movies have also been long - "Titanic" is the first one that comes to mind. But to keep my attention for well over 2 hours - something pretty compelling better be on-screen. And, I’ve got to tell you, most of this year’s ‘films’ – those serious celluloid syllogisms – don’t live up to that. I could probably have seen at least one, if not two, more movies in the time I wasted with the extraneous or too-long scenes.

Which doesn’t help the January/February race to see them all before the you-know-whats. Now I’m stuck seeing one bleak, grim, dreary movie after another. One after the other, I saw The Departed, Babel, and Children of Men. That's enough to make anyone sink into a pit of despair. Later that same week, for kicks and giggles, I went to see Notes on a Scandal, which really cheered me up.

I am still working up the gumption to see the rest of the contenders: Flags of our Fathers -- WWII and our defense industry's soulless marketing machine at work; Letters from Iwo Jima -- the suicidal stand of Japanese soldiers and their wholesale massacre; Volver -- murder, incest and ghosts; Little Children -- adultery and betrayal; The Good Shepherd -- bleak depiction of the cold war and the sale of souls to fight it.

I'll keep you posted.