Thursday, December 31, 2009

Images 2009

Some photos I took this year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Up in the Air: Best Movie of the Year

Finally a movie for adults showing adults facing adult issues. No CGI. No blue creatures. No vampires. It's been quite a while since I've seen a movie like this one. Based on a novel, this is the story of a man who basically travels 300 days of the year, traveling from city to city laying off people at different companies. This is a movie that deals with various subjects and does so intelligently. It deals with relationships, with the fear of commitment, with expecting too much from relationships. It also deals with a current issue, how people everywhere are losing their jobs. It is a funny movie sometimes, it is sad too. There is not a single false moment in it. And just when you think the movie may be going corny on us, it throws us a curve that a director like Francois Truffaut would have loved.

I can't say enough god things about this movie. BTW, I was the oldest person in the auditorium watching this movie. All the young people seemed to be going to see "Avatar". Kind of sad. Because this movie could teach them a thing or two about life , love and happiness.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sherlock Holmes before he was an action hero

Now that the most famous detective in the world has been turned into Jason Bourne, it's great that TCM is having a Sherlock Homes film festival. It is a good chance to see how the movies have traditionally portrayed the character. I have seen a couple of the Basil Rathbone ones. They are fun to watch, even though Dr. Watson is portrayed too much like a bumbling fool, something that goes against the Watson of the Conan Doyle novels. But Basil Rathbone is indeed great as the great detective. He is brainy, smart, cool and clever. I love his portrayal, especially his voice.

TCM also showed The Hound of the Baskervilles with Holmes being portrayed by Peter Cushing and he does a excellent job. Cushing was a really underrated actor, stuck with the label of being an actor of horror movies.This movie shows he could have been more.

Of course, the best Holmes was not in the movies, but on tv. Jeremy Brett's portrayal in the British Granada Tv series is indeed the definite one. His Holmes is eccentric, strange and brilliant. When I read the novels, and I do once in a while, I read them with Brett's portrayal in mind.

Will I watch the new movie? I won't. I refuse to see Holmes for the ADD generation. I just can't.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Remembering Brittany

When the other day I read about actress Brittany Murphy's death, I must admit I wasn't sure who she was. I thought she was one of those Disney created actresses Hannah Montana and Mylie Cyrus. Then I heard people talking about how she has begun her career in the movie "Clueless" and then I remembered who she was. I saw "Clueless" during a really rainy day in Miami. The theater complex next to the hotel was full of not so promising movies, but I had read a couple of good reviews about "Clueless" and I decided to see it. The movie is actually quite entertaining. It was set to make a movie star out of Alicia Silverstone. But there was an actress in it that projected such niceness, vulnerability and honesty that she won me over in a minute. I somehow wished the movie would have been about her. And now I realize it was Brittany Murphy. She steals the movie in every scene she's in. She was that good. She really was.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Last Days of Disco.

I had no idea that this movie was any good until I read about it in Mike Clark's USA Today column. I ordered it form Netflix and I'm glad I did. This is a well, written, impeccably acted movie about a group of young professionals during the early 1980's , their love lives and how disco shaped their social lives. It is an adult movie that treats characters in an intelligent way. I was spacially impressed with the acting of the two lead actresses: Chloe Sevigny (a sort of crush of mine and someone I admire for her gutsy role choices) and Kate Beckinsale (which has never been an actress I like).

The movie does something films rarely do today; it shows the relationships between men and women and says intelligent says about it. There is a scene in which one character talks about how "The Lady and the Tramp"'s whole point is to teach little girls to fall in love with jerks. It is a funny scene that speaks volumes and is better written and executed than similar dialogue in Tarantino's movies. Don't let the disco on the title fool you. this is not "Thank God it's Friday".

The movie was written and directed by Whit Stillman in 1998. And he hasn't made a movie since. The fact that he hasn't says a lot about the state of movies today. Highly recommended.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Athlete as a jerk: "Downhill Racer"

All movies about sports feature the athlete as a dreamer, a driven person, almost a religious figure. So it's so refreshing to see a movie that features an athlete as a vain, shallow person. Which is probably closer to reality in the case of 90% of athletes. Just looks at all the sports figures in the news today.

The movie stars Robert Redford as an Olympic hopeful from a small town in Colorado who is trying to win a gold medal in the Olympics. He cares nothing about his team, his coach. There is no dream of hearing the Star Spangled Banner when he wins. He's in it for the money and for the chance to go to bed with as many women as possible.

The skiing sequences are amazing, especially considering that in the 1960's cameras were not as as small as today. They are all thrilling, even for someone who is not a skiing fan.

I loved this movie. Rent it today.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Avatar scares me

I have zero interest in watching "Avatar". But I will probably go to the Metro theater to see it simply because everyone will be talking about it. All the hype about "the future of movies" is kind of scary. Because if the future of cinema is overblown 3D movies aimed at 14 year olds, well, then movies are over for me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ABBA is rock n' roll!

If there was any doubt that pop culture is heading to hell, it is now clear it is. ABBA has been elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Under what definition of rock does ABBA fall? And this is not the only weird selection. Last year they elected Madonna, who may be talented and created some interesting music, but it was certainly not rock n' roll. Oh, and reggae singer Jimmy Cliff is in this year too. Bubble Gum. Dance Music. Reggae. I don't get it.

I guess these selections are a symptom of rock's falling popularity. So the Rock N' Roll Museum figured that adding people from different genres would attract more people. That's fine, but please change the name of the museum to something like the "Pop Music Museum".

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


This morning I did some Christmas shopping. I went to the mall early when it was not so crowded and basically did most of my shopping in 3 hours. A friend of mine suggested I do my Christmas shopping online. But I told her it wasn't the same. Online shopping works for most everything else, but not for Holiday shopping. I like the ritual of having a list, going to the mall. I enjoy hearing the Christmas muzak at Macy's. I like seeing the little kids in line to get a photo with Santa or waiting for the fake snow machine to start.

And I am touched by these small things not because I am a believer in the Christmas story. I guess it's a more that the ritual reminds me of the passing of time, of the ending of a year. It is also in a way, the time of the year that is really unique. The music is different, the look and the decoration of the city, too. You turn on the tv and Charlie Brown and Rudolph are there or some choir singing carols is once again on PBS. Even the food we eat is different. So I am willing to put up with all the cheesiness of the season because it does give me small pleasures. And as one gets older, one realizes that the small pleasures are what life is all about.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Summing Up

As we are approaching the end of this year, I wanted to make a list of cool things about 2009 in my life. They are in no particular order.

1. Getting my career back on track. After five years at a retail agency, being fired from there and spending 8 months forgotten by the industry, I was lucky enough to find a job where I am able to do good work AND get home by 6:30pm.

2. The trip to England and Scotland. Walking on Penny Lane in Liverpool was the equivalent of a Muslim visiting Mecca. And Edinburgh was amazing, the kind of city you want to visit again.

3. The trip to Canada. A truly beautiful place. And in spite of all the snide jokes about it, Niagara Falls is impressive. Loved Quebec City and the food in Toronto and Ottawa.

4. NYC. It was great to hang out with E. and seeing "Hair". And of course, the philosophical talks after a couple of glasses of wine are always great. And the fact that An. was also in NYC with her husband made the trip really cool. Loved walking around the city with Ch. and taking photos around Washington Square.

5. Photography. I have taken photography as a hobby and I think I am getting pretty good at it. A couple of photographers I know have told me I have a great sense of composition and that my photos are interesting. Photography has become a way of doing creative work apart from my job.

6. Class reunion. Well, it sucked. When I went in the party, I wanted to get out of felt as awful and strange as, well, high school. BUT I did get to see JE, a good friend I had not seen for 30 years. It was really special to see him, away from the actual reunion party, and have a couple of beers and talk about life.

7. Books. This year, reading has supplanted movie watching as a pastime. And I have read so many good books this year.

Of course, there are the things that are not something new this year. They are small things that are not so small. The lunches with An. The telephone calls with E.. The dinners with J.. Talking with my mother about old movies. The lunches with Na. and Li The Saturday lunches with my father and my sister. And many, many other things. And....the fact that I revived my blog....I am really proud of that.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


When I was a boy the local channel 11 was broke so they ran really weird movies, the cheapest they could find, I guess.
Well, one night I saw this movie about bikers who find out that if they commit suicide, they can come back as undead bikers and terrorize the world for eternity. This all due to some witches who worship frogs. I can't begin to describe the weirdness here.
In a way it is an awful movie, but one has to admire a movie which combines bikers, zombies, women in miniskirts, and bad 60's music. And did I mention that the bikers kill babies at supermarkets? And that George Sanders, the Hollywood star who had made "Dorian Gray" in the 1940's, committed suicide after doing this movie?

TCM showed this movie as part of it's late night Underground series. And I must thank them. After a week of hard work, this is the sort of nonsense I really needed.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

one year

A year ago my career was basically over. I was in theory, a freelancer, but in reality I was a has been. Nobody would call me for a job and I ended up writing letters for a Medicare supplement company. Nor exactly the coda I wanted for my advertising career. Then while sitting at a Starbucks browsing the Internet and drinking coffee I got a call from an old workmate. He was forming a new creative group and was wondering whether I was interested. Well, I was.

A year later, I have just completed a new campaign. Some of the ads have drawn praise from peers, something I had not received for many years. The other day when they were shown at the agency, people laughed and applauded. And looking at them I realize, dammit, they are pretty good. So here I am one year to the day when I was sitting in that Starbucks, brooding about where my career was headed. Little did I realize it was eventually heading back up. Funny how life is.

Friday, December 11, 2009

the other night

Wednesday night I had a shoot during the night in a store in one of the worst parts of town. It is a crime ridden area full of drug related crime. I have no idea why we ended up shooting there. Well, I know really. The agency was putting a lot of pressure on the production company to shoot quickly and this was the only place they found. Anyway, while leaving the shoot after midnight, i had to drive through a lonely, dark section of the city. The only cars around had tinted glasses and were driving slow, for god knows what reason. They were the scariest five minutes in my life in a long time. And I felt so alone, so vulnerable. And as usually happens, every traffic light was red. I finally reached the expressway and felt ok. I turned on the cd player and listened to some music, Holiday music actually. As I listened to a choir singing "Oh Christmas Tree" I felt such relief. I got home, undressed, grabbed a book and read. I read without concentrating on what I was reading. All I was thinking was, I'm home.