Sunday, February 27, 2011


There were good and great moments, and there were bad and embarrassing moments. But I'm not going to say anything snarky about tonight's show, because I'm sick and tired of those who would consider themselves intellectuals and/or social arbiters talking about how awful the show was. To those people, I say it's time to lighten up and have some fun in your lives. Believe it or not, what happens in the three or so hours on the Oscar telecast does not have a big impact on the course of human history. It doesn't mean that we care less about what's happening in Libya or Egypt or Wisconsin or __________ (fill in the blank). Lighten up, folks. And if you can't, then with all due respect please skip the show. It really ain't worth it.

I won the family pool, even though I went with "Social Network" instead of "King's Speech" for the two biggies - Film and Best Director. I think the former is the better film, but liked the latter a lot, so it doesn't really matter. All of the acting awards were entirely predictable, so all of the contests came down to the rest of the categories - and there was enough of a mix there to make things unpredictable and entertaining.

And no, James Franco and Anne Hathaway weren't the best hosts in the history of the program - that distinction will forever remain with Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, and Billy Crystal - but they weren't awful, and the opening montage was absolutely brilliant. I wish they hadn't done the Kirk Douglas thing, but other than that, it wasn't bad. And good, bad or indifferent, it really means nothing in the scheme of it - so if and when you read the pundits tomorrow saying that the show is the sign of the decline of western civilization or some such nonsense, it's OK to say "get a life" - it's only a show.

UPDATE: My, I do seem to have been a little testy last night when I wrote this - not sure where all of that was coming from. I've toned the piece down a bit. And I should make a distinction between legitimate criticism of the show, of which there has been plenty, and the pieces that use the Oscars as one more reason to criticize Hollywood and liberals, for their own political purposes.

7-Song Perfect Playlist - Special Jack Gallagher Edition

Last night, we went to see a show by Jack Gallagher called “The Joke’s On Me…Again.” Gallagher, a Sacramento-based comedian, playwright, and author, should be familiar to anyone who has ever flown in and out of Sacramento International Airport, because that’s his voice you hear on the PA system warning you - in amusing and clever ways – to do things like watch your luggage at all times and be careful about where you park. He’s done stand-up on both the Johnny Carson and Jay Leno versions of “The Tonight Show,” and the Conan O’Brien version of “Late Night.” He may not be a household word across the country, but he’s probably one of the most recognizable faces in Sacramento.

I can’t say that I know him well, but I do know him. I work with his wife Jean, and during the nearly six years that we’ve been colleagues, we’ve discovered that our tastes in music are remarkably similar. We also share that trait among music aficionados of wanting to own every great song that’s ever been recorded. She looks out for me (introducing me, for example, to Drive-By Truckers, The Avett Brothers, and The Low Anthem), and I try to look out for her (I’m way behind on this score, but I did tell her about the newest Bryan Ferry album, so that counts for something).

The show he did last night can best be described as a man telling the story of his life through the music that he’s listened to over the years. For someone who doesn’t make his living as a singer, Gallagher has a strong voice, and the musicians in his backing band – including Dick Bright, and members of the Rubinoos – were just great.

But for a show like this, it all comes down to song selection, and on that score Gallagher gets an A+. Now, some will be tempted to say that I’m saying that just because we appear to have almost identical tastes in music. To that I say: well, yeah. We both have great taste in music – anyone whose list of favorites includes Warren Zevon and Elvis Costello is a winner in my book. But there was more, much more – Jackson Browne, The Standells, The Turtles, Mott the Hoople, and many others, including one classic example of the kind of glorious AM trash that has always held a soft spot in my heart.

So in honor of a great show, a special edition of the 7-Song Perfect Playlist – all songs performed last night by Jack and the band.

“Dirty Water,” The Standells

“Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes),” Edison Lighthouse

“White Rabbit,” Jefferson Airplane

“Mother’s Little Helper,” Rolling Stones

“All The Young Dudes,” Mott the Hoople

“Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” Warren Zevon

“What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?”, Elvis Costello

And Jack…if you’d asked who wrote that last one? I’ll bet not too many people would have gotten that one.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oscar Predictions!

I can't say that I have a ton of confidence in these picks, but I'm sticking with them.

Best Picture: The Social Network
Best Director: David Fincher for The Social Network
Best Actor: Colin Firth for The King's Speech
Best Actress: Natalie Portman for Black Swan
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale for The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo for The Fighter
Best Original Screenplay: The King's Speech: David Seidler
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network: Aaron Sorkin
Best Animated Feature Film: Toy Story 3
Best Foreign Language Film: Biutiful (Mexico)
Cinematography: Inception: Wally Pfister
Editing: The Social Network: Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall
Art Direction: The King's Speech: Eve Stewart, Judy Farr
Costume Design: The King's Speech: Jenny Beavan
Best Makeup: The Wolfman: Rick Baker, Dave Elsey
Original Score: The Social Network: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
Original Song: "We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3: Randy Newman
Best Sound Mixing: Inception: Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo, Ed Novick
Best Sound Editing: Inception: Richard King
Best Visual Effects: Inception: Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley, Pete Bebb, Paul J. Franklin
Best Documentary Feature: Inside Job: Charles Ferguson, Audrey Marrs
Best Documentary Short: Killing in the Name: Nominees TBD
Best Animated Short: The Gruffalo: Jakob Schuh, Max Lang
Best Live Action Short: The Crush: Michael Creagh

Friday, February 25, 2011

American Top 40 Flashback - Nancy Sinatra

I'm not even sure how to categorize this song - sure, it's on the cheesy side; but it's also damn entertaining. And while no one could hope to come close to her old man, Nancy's voice was nothing to sneeze at.

"These Boots Are Made For Walkin'," the #1 song this week in 1966.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In the category of dumb things to think about...

Every now and then, I notice that I've lost a Facebook friend. It's not as if I obsess about the nunber of Facebook friends I have, but it's hard not to notice that number right there, prominent on your profile. One day it's x, the next day it's x-1.

I can never figure out who it was that dropped me, but I do wonder sometimes about the motivation. Did I post or say something in my status that offended someone? Did someone suddenly think "you know, I never really liked that guy, I don't know why I'm his Facebook friend"?

It's a mystery, no doubt. Not one that will keep me up at night, but a mystery nonetheless.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mr. Washington

"The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.

For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid."

- Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island (1790)

"Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope, that my Country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest."

- Farewell Address

Monday, February 21, 2011

Good Stuff

A few things percolating in my head at the moment, but while we wait for those to come to fruition, some recommendations:

The Iranian Film Blogathon over at Sheila O'Malley's site. Even if you've never seen an Iranian film (and I freely admit that I have not), this is worthwhile reading.

Ken Levine has a special guest Presidential blogger in honor of the day.

Michael J. Totten has re-posted the chronicle of his trip to Libya a few years back. A must read for anyone interested in freedom and liberty.

Trying to follow what's been going on in Wisconsin? Ann Althouse has been on site and reporting.

And of course, no set of recommended links would be complete without at least one from Joe Posnanski. Today, Joe talks about what a drag it is getting old.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

My First John Wayne Movie

A nice piece by Jason Bellamy on his site "The Cooler" about "Chisum," which was the first John Wayne movie I ever saw. It's not a movie that gets compared to the Wayne classics made by John Ford and Howard Hawks, but I remember liking it quite a bit when I saw it as an impressionable 10-year old. And I definitely remember that last scene, which Bellamy describes very well.

Check it out.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


There are some movies that, given their subject matter, I’m disposed to like regardless of the quality of the execution. “Secretariat” is such a movie, although I’m glad to say that the execution did not disappoint. And in this case, I liked it a lot.

Sometimes you live through a golden age, and you don’t even realize it until enough years have passed to lend perspective. Such is the case with Triple Crown racing. Those of us horse racing fans who grew up in the 1970s may not have realized it at the time, but we were seeing the golden age of thoroughbred racing.

From 1969 through 1979, there was only one year when there was not a legitimate threat to win the Triple Crown. In ’69 you had Majestic Prince, and he didn’t even win Horse of the Year honors – that went to Arts and Letters who conquered the Prince at the Belmont to dash his Triple Crown dreams. In 1971 there was Canonero II, the South American horse who came out of nowhere to shock the world and take the first two legs – alas, he was undone by a leg injury in the Belmont, and limped home 4th. In ’72 there was Riva Ridge, undone only by a sloppy track at Pimlico that he couldn’t handle. In ’75 there was Foolish Pleasure, in ’76 Bold Forbes, and ’79 Spectacular Bid – all great horses that threatened, but fell just short of, the ultimate goal in racing.

And then there were the Triple Crown winners – remarkably, three in the span of five short years, when the world had not seen one since 1948, and has not seen one since. In 1977 there was the great black colt Seattle Slew, who was rarely threatened in his brilliant 3-year old campaign and made the whole thing look like a walk in the park. There was Affirmed, ridden by the legendary Steve Cauthen, who in 1978 won each Triple Crown race by shrinking margins over the almost equally great Alydar, a great colt whose only misfortune was to be born in the same year as the larger, just slightly stronger Affirmed. Their duel in the 1978 Belmont, with the two great horses battling nose-to-nose over from the top of the stretch – and the last race called by the great Chick Anderson before his untimely death – remains one of the great Triple Crown races of all time.

And then there was Secretariat.

In one’s lifetime, there can be but a handful of athletes who cross the line from excellence to legendary status – athletes who transcend their sport, and become a part of their time…our time. In my lifetime, I’d argue that there have been only five such athletes – Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods…and Secretariat.

Unless you lived through it, it is hard to imagine the excitement generated by Secretariat in the spring of 1973. It was what I would call the beginning of the cynical age in America. Our President was Richard Nixon, who on his best day was hardly what one would call an inspiring figure and who was about to become engulfed in a scandal that, a little more than a year later, would claim his presidency. The Vietnam War had – for the United States – come to an end, and the bitter aftertaste was still there. It may sound hackneyed to say it, but I really think that people were looking for heroes, and Secretariat fit the bill perfectly. He was a horse with personality – a horse who seemed to know exactly how special he was, a horse who played to the camera, a horse who demonstrated what one might call that unique American blend of confidence, just bordering on arrogance, all conducted with a wink of the eye and a smile on the face.

There can be arguments about whether Secretariat was the greatest racehorse of all time, but there can be no arguments about this – when he was on his game, as he was during those three Triple Crown races held over a period of five weeks in the spring of 1973, he was simply not beatable. And there can be no argument that his performance in the Belmont Stakes – one of the great, awe-inspiring performances in the history of any sport – was the greatest race ever run by a thoroughbred. I’ve watched it dozens of times, and still get chills at that point where – just entering the top of the stretch – Secretariat is remarkably running faster than he has for over a mile, and Chick Anderson exclaims, “he is moving like a tremendous machine!” It is one of the great sports calls of our time, and any time.

So. With material like that, all one really has to do is get out of the way, and tell the story. And “Secretariat” accomplishes that quite well. Fortunately, the horse was also surrounded during his lifetime by interesting and colorful people, including owner Penny Chenery (played by Diane Lane), trainer Lucien Lauren (a great turn by John Malkovich), the groom Eddie Sweat, and others like Bull Hancock (Fred Dalton Thompson) and his son Seth. The film does a good job of establishing Chenery as a determined and steadfast woman – determined to show her brother, her husband, and the horsemen around her that she is up to the task of running a horse farm, and steadfast in her belief that with Secretariat she has a horse that will be remembered for the ages.

Diane Lane is really good in the role. I’ve liked her since 1979’s “A Little Romance,” George Roy Hill’s under-appreciated romantic comedy about two young teenagers who decide that their first kiss should be under the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. Even at that early age she struck me as entirely natural, and nothing in the years since has changed my estimation of her. She doesn’t get the publicity or the showy roles of some other actresses, but she never disappoints. Malkovich is great as the quirky Lauren, and the rest of the outstanding cast (which also includes the two Dylans, Baker and Walsh, and James Cromwell) are entirely believable in their roles.

But of course, the real star is Secretariat himself, and the film does a great job of capturing the excitement and the drama of what those of us who were lucky enough to be around in that memorable spring of 1973 lived through.

So if you want to feel good about things, if only for a moment, watch “Secretariat.” I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Friday, February 18, 2011

American Top 40 Flashback - Average White Band

I'm not sure if this is one of the first precursors of disco on AM radio, or one of the last gasps of 70s R&B on AM radio. In the end, it doesn't really matter - it's one of the great radio songs of all time, as well as one that spawned a thousand prom dance cover bands.

Minor trivia - AWB's drummer, Steve Ferrone, is now the drummer for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

Average White Band, "Pick Up The Pieces" - the #1 song in the country this week in 1975.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


It's probably fair to say that this movie was a flop, by any way you might define the term. Released on Christmas Day 2009, it was obviously designed to be a "Big Oscar Contender," but it fell far short of that goal. With direction by Rob Marshall ("Chicago") and production by the Weinsteins, I'm sure the studio thought it had a big hit on its hands. It didn't turn out that way.

Having said all that, I liked it. Daniel Day-Lewis gives a typically intense performance, and even though the intensity might feel a little out of place in what essentially is an erotic musical, it's also magnetic. He's not much of a singer or a dancer, but it doesn't really matter. He may not have looks, but he's got charisma, and he's entirely believable as a somewhat debauched Italian film director.

And then of course you have the beautiful women and their production numbers - the numbers are staged very well, and not surprisingly the women are beautiful. You've got Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Kate Hudson, Fergie, even Sophia Loren. They all acquit themselves well, though Cotillard is probably the most effective.

The movie reminded me a lot of Bob Fosse's "All That Jazz," and even though it's not in that league, it's close enough to merit a viewing. Not a classic, but not bad at all.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Grammy Awards and Dylan

Most of the critics seem to agree that this year's Grammy Awards show was the best in recent (or even distant) memory, and I'd have to agree. I thought the evening got off to a mixed start with the Aretha Franklin tribute, but after that there were a lot of winners, from Cee-Lo Green to Bruno Mars to Miranda Lambert to (especially) Arcade Fire.

But for me, the highlight of the night was Bob Dylan, ably augmented by Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers. A lot of people seem to have hated Dylan, including some whose taste I admire a great deal, but to me Dylan's performance was just great - growling, unexpected, and entirely entertaining. For me, if you didn't enjoy that, then you just don't get Bob Dylan.

Monday, February 14, 2011

7-Song Perfect Playlist #3: Valentine's Day

A special edition, in honor of the occasion.

“Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”

“You Send Me”

“Valentine’s Day”

“Baby Love”

“Romeo and Juliet”

“Swept Away”

“Love’s Holiday”

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cinderella Story

Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac... It's in the hole! It's in the hole! It's in the hole!

- Carl Spackler (Bill Murray), Caddyshack

OK, so it wasn't the Masters, but the Pebble Beach Pro-Am is no slouch. And Bill Murray is now the Pro-Am champion, having partnered with tournament champion D.A. Points.

No matter how you cut it, it's a great story. Murray has played the clown for years at Pebble Beach, and some people have criticized him for it. Well, to hell with those people. This tournament is about fun, and the man can play, even when he's making fun of everything around him.

And just ask D.A. Points - hardly a household name - what effect Murray had on his game today.

Friday, February 11, 2011

American Top 40 Flashback - "You"re No Good"

One thing is for certain - this has one of the oddest introductions I've ever seen.

Odd trivia - for Christmas in 1974, I got a really nice clock radio. On the first day of school after the holidays, the song that came on when the alarm went off was this one. Now, don't ask me how the hell I remember that; I just do!

This was Linda Ronstadt at her best, and may have been her best song. "You're No Good," the #1 song in the country this week in 1975.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

7-Song Perfect Playlist #2: The Vagaries of Love

With just a few days to go before Valentine’s Day, I think it might be time for another 7-Song Perfect Playlist. One demonstrating, perhaps, the vagaries of love.

“You Better Come Home,” Petula Clark

“Mighty Love,” The Spinners

“You Are Everything,” The Stylistics

“Are You There With Another Girl?,” Dionne Warwick

“Rent,” Pet Shop Boys

“I Died So I Could Haunt You,” Stars

“1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” Richard Thompson

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


The game is dead; long live the games.

So today comes the news that "Guitar Hero" is no more. I never played the game myself - well, that's not entirely true; I think I tried it once and sucked big time. But sons #1 and #2 played it incessantly for a while, and for a while it was not uncommon to hear dueling axes at full volume coming from the family room. And if anyone needed proof that it was a bonafide cultural phenomenon, all you had to do was show them the memorable "South Park" episode that resulted from the game.

But with one down, two have returned from the dead, with the news that "Oregon Trail" and "Where In the World is Carmen Sandiego?" have been resurrected on Facebook. We played a lot of Carmen Sandiego when the kids were young, but "Oregon Trail" is the first computer game I ever played. In the Summer of 1980, the school district where my dad worked decided they didn't want to leave their brand spanking new Apple II Computers in an empty office during summer vacation, so he was allowed to bring one home for a few weeks. The graphics of the game left a lot to be desired - basically, they were stick figures - but it was a lot more enjoyable than the PC version that was introduced about 15 years ago - that thing was always crashing, and was so damned hard that it was next to impossible to make it to Oregon without losing half of your crew to dysentery.

I'm not sure I'll be tempted to play either of those on Facebook, but if they decide to release a Facebook version of "Roller Coaster Tycoon," then I'm in trouble.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Halftime Show

Being snarky about the Super Bowl halftime show is fast on its way to becoming a national pastime that threatens to overtake the game itself. The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones...they all sucked!, scream the culture critics.

The Black Eyed Peas and special guests Slash and Usher are the latest to fall victim to those who seem to have mistaken the halftime show for something that is supposed to be great art. Hey's halftime of a football game. What were you expecting? The Who Live at Leeds? Springsteen at Winterland 1978? The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl?

All I know is what I saw from the stands, and as halftime shows go, it was pretty damn entertaining. Yes, a lot of it was silly spectacle. But as ways to pass the time before the second half kickoff go, it wasn't bad at all. And unlike what people heard on TV (apparently), the sound was just fine.

And besides...there was a time when halftime featured "Up With People." Remember that, folks? Is that what you want to go back to?

Monday, February 07, 2011

Obligatory Photo of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

Random Super Bowl Thoughts

First of all, it was great - overwhelmingly positive. There's a lot of cynicism out there about the Super Bowl and I suppose that a lot of it is deserved - especially with things like the ticket debacle yesterday, and Christina Aguilera mangling the National Anthem. And let's be clear - even if she had remembered the words, that was a horrible, horrible version of the song. Marvin Gaye was a great enough artist to get away with "reinventing" the National Anthem. Christina Aguilera is not.

A lot gets written about how this is not a game for real football fans. On the one hand, I can understand that - the cost of the game, the cost of getting to the game, and the cost of staying somewhere at the game are probably prohibitive for most fans. But on the other hand, you could probably say the same thing about any team's regular season games - you can either afford season tickets (assuming you could even get access to them) or you can't. I'm not sure that says much about your value and/or worth as a "football fan."

What I can say with certainty is that there were a lot of "real football fans" at the game yesterday. I don't know how loud it gets in Cowboys Stadium when the Cowboys are playing, but it got really loud yesterday, and given that the crowd was roughly 50/50 Packers/Steelers fans, that meant it was loud just about all of the time.

Random randomness:

- The process to get people into the stadium was poorly handled at best. I understand the need for security and I understand that it takes a lot of time to move 100,000 people anywhere, but still - this was not well done. The NFL could learn some lessons from the line-masters at Disney on how to move a lot of people quickly from one place to another.

- They have cocktail waitresses at Cowboys Stadium, in what appeared to be every part of the stadium. And the seats are very comfortable, and the sight lines, as advertised, are just terrific.

- Unless you know exactly where you are going, it's pretty damn hard to find your seats. And there was a marked shortage of people to help in this regard.

- The NFL Tailgate Party comes perilously close to sensory overload. You've got a band on the main stage, you've got bands on auxiliary stages, and you've got DJs playing songs at excruciatingly high volume - and I like loud music.

- It doesn't matter how many football games you watch on TV...there are some things that you will never learn unless you attend a game in person. For example, I had no idea that Troy Polamalu played so deep on so many plays. I mean, we're talking 30 yards off the ball deep. But he was the defensive player of the year, so you can't really criticize him for it. Although he wasn't much of a factor last night.

- I predicted 27-24 Packers and Craig predicted 35-24; we both declared victory. And how about that Aaron Rodgers MVP prediction? Sure, it may seem obvious now...but only when you know the outcome.

- At one point, the big screen showed Jason Garrett deep in conversation with Jesse Jackson. I'd love to know what they were talking about.

- The biggest non game-related cheers of the night probably came when President Bush was shown on the screen. The biggest boos were definitely for Cameron Diaz feeding Alex Rodriguez. My loudest boos were reserved for Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore.

- That Rashard Mendenhall fumble at the beginning of the 4th quarter? Right before that play, I said to Craig, "Man, we desperately need a turnover right now." Voila! That little Darth Vader kid in the VW commercial has nothing on me!

- I'll deal with this in greater detail in a separate post, but I really enjoyed the halftime show - and from the sound of it, so did the entire stadium. And, folks? It's a halftime show. It's not supposed to be great or high art. Methinks it is time for many to get off their high horses.

Sunday, February 06, 2011


Second quarter action...the Packers are about to score a touchdown.

An amazing, amazing experience...much more to come.

The Official Super Bowl Prediction

Straight from the blog's Dallas Super Bowl headquarters:

I've been going back and forth on this one for quite a while now. I think the game is going to come down to Aaron Rodgers, and his ability to avoid the Steelers' pass rush.

I think he can do it.

Therefore, I'm picking the Packers in a tight game, 27-24, with Rodgers as the MVP.

We'll see how it goes!

Friday, February 04, 2011

American Top 40 Flashback - "Open Your Heart"

I admit it - I am an unabashed and unashamed Madonna fan. Her last couple of albums have left a lot to be desired, but when she was hot, she was smoking.

This may be my all-time favorite song of hers, and it holds special meaning because we used it prominently at our wedding reception - February 21, 1987.

"Open Your Heart," Madonna - the #1 song on this date in 1987.

The Best Commercial Ever?

There are only two words to describe this - the second one is "awesome," and the first one starts with an F.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A Kiss To Seal Our Fate Tonight

There have been a lot of great performances of this song over the years. I've written a lot about the legendary 1978 version, but there was also the great version on the 1999-2000 tour, as well as this one - recorded in an empty theater in late 2009, and included on the "The Promise" box set. When Bruce tears into at the end and the rest of the band watches and waits for their cues...well, that's pretty awesome.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Netflix Reviews: Flags of our Fathers, Appaloosa

And away we go – the first Netflix overview of 2011!

Flags of our Fathers (2006, dir. Clint Eastwood). This is a good movie, but not as strong as “Letters from Iwo Jima,” its companion piece (also directed by Eastwood). It differs markedly from the latter film, in that it takes the American point of view, and alternates between scenes depicting the carnage on the island and scenes telling the story of what happened to the flag-raising soldiers after the war. Both are very interesting stories, but for reasons I can’t quite pinpoint, when they’re melded together, the whole feels like less than the sum of its parts. Still, it's worth seeing, if only for the history of the flag-raising.

Appaloosa (2008, dir. Ed Harris). I have to confess that I don’t remember hearing anything about this movie when it came out. If it played in our town, I sure missed it. It’s a very good Western, one that contains many of the requisite classic Western elements: evil cattle baron, mysterious lawman who probably has some skeletons in his closet, trusted deputy, damsel in distress, dusty town…you name it, “Appaloosa” has it. But it all works very well, primarily due to the strength of the leads, Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen. Their relationship feels real, and there is a funny, ongoing joke in the movie where Harris can never remember what word it is that he’s searching for to complete a sentence, and Mortensen helpfully provides it. Jeremy Irons is a bit hammy as the evil cattle rancher (I couldn’t get the image of Scar out of my head), but the fact that he is in the movie says something about the quality of the cast. And Renee Zellwegger manages not to be too annoying, which I suppose is all one could have hoped for. All in all, an entertaining mix.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Perfect Playlists

I don’t listen to the radio a lot these days, but getting in the car this morning it happened to be tuned to 94.7, a station which holds a commercial-free day every time they add another 1,000 fans on Facebook. Commercial-free is always a good thing, but better yet, they devote the day to “7-Song Perfect Playlists,” provided (and introduced) by their listeners.

It’s a very simple concept – but brilliant at the same time. It’s brilliant because the perfect playlist does not exist, but on the other hand, an infinite number of perfect playlists exist. And from the ones I heard in my drive to and from work, it was obvious that the fans had put a lot of thought into their playlists. Even the ones with songs I had not heard before worked very well, and just from listening to those seven songs, you felt as if you could tell a lot about the musical taste of the listener. So yes, they were perfect.

It’s a great idea – sort of like a musical Haiku – so I think I’ll do one every now and then.

Perfect Playlist #1:

“Lightning Crashes,” Live

“Listening Wind,” Peter Gabriel

“Lonesome Tears,” Beck

“Alicia Ross,” Kathleen Edwards

"Rain," Patty Griffin

“Horses in My Dreams,” PJ Harvey

“My Body Is A Cage,” Arcade Fire