Archive | November, 2007

In the Spirit

28 Nov

Perhaps the best thing about Thanksgiving coming so early this year is that it means the Christmas season is that much longer. And how much fun is it to walk into stores and see so much activity and color, and hear Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (one of my all-time favorite holiday tunes) or other songs on the radio, and just generally see people in good moods? It happens every year at this time and it’s so brief that I enjoy it that much more.

Of course, the other benefit to the longer season is that it gives me more time to work on A Very Marty Xmas 2007, which, believe it or not, is just about finished (yes, already). In hindsight, last year’s mix wasn’t the most festive-sounding one, so I’m going more old school this year with an emphasis on jolly-ness. I don’t want to ruin any surprises about the CD’s contents, but I thought I would post briefly about my brand new favorite tune, which ironically (given what I’ve just written) is the Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York.” Yes, I know this is not a new song (Todd actually tried to get me into it two years ago), but it’s one I’ve really only discovered in the past couple weeks, thanks largely to KT Tunstall’s great cover on her new holiday CD (available exclusively at Target). This is not the happiest of holiday tunes, and the lyrics most definitely aren’t the most festive (“Happy Christmas your arse, I pray God it’s our last”), but believe me when I say that this is one classic that deserves to be heard. Kirsty MacColl’s voice and the Irish melody are just beautiful, and they disguise such a sad song with a whimsical sound. If you’re having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit, click here and listen for yourself.

Swing and a Miss

28 Nov

It’s hard to believe it’s been only one month since the Red Sox won the World Series. In some ways it feels like much longer, and in others it’s like only yesterday. So of course, in an effort to hold on to those good ole days, I made sure to go right out and pick up my copy of the World Series Highlights DVD on Tuesday (on sale for just $11.88 at Newbury Comics), and I watched it soon after I got home.

The film starts out with a great montage of Sox clips, showing the boys having fun — all while the Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” plays, of course. It’s an opening that makes you smile and sets the scene for what should be an equally great film. If only the rest was as good. While the 2004 Highlights DVD was a fantastic recap of the year — from Spring Training on — told entirely from the Sox perspective, this one is exactly as marketed: a recap of the World Series, and it’s told from both sides. It takes just 10 minutes to get through the entire Red Sox season, from Opening Day to the end of the ALCS, and in moving so quickly, there’s very little flavor and very little of what was so memorable about the season. There’s no mention at all of Clay Buchholz or his no-hitter, nothing about Schilling’s one-hitter, no recap of the hype that greeted Dice-K, very little about the back-to-back-to-back-to-back homer game against the Yankees, nothing about the Mother’s Day Miracle, no Ellsbury, no Wakefield … nothing. And then there’s an equally quick summary of the Rockies’ road to the Series. And then we’re at Game One, after only 24 minutes. (In the 2004 film, it took a half hour just to recap the Sox season, with almost nothing on St. Louis.)

Major League Baseball would have you believe that this was a closer series than it was, because it’s presented as such. Never mind that the Sox swept the Rockies and won comfortably in two of the four games. It’s all very businesslike and by-the-book. While there are talking head interviews and soundbites from Pap and Mikey Lowell and Jacoby Ellsbury and Curt Schilling and Theo and others, they’re all pretty staid and without character, simply recapping the games and not sharing much emotion or personality. Sure, this season didn’t have the same drama that 2004 did, but it was definitely more exciting than this. Even Matt Damon, who narrates the film, seems bored by the whole thing. Clearly, MLB Productions, in an effort to make the film appealing to Rockies fans, neutered a lot of the pro-Sox slant and tried to make this as fair a film as possible. Rockies players and personnel are as plentiful as Sox folks. And in making it all so balanced, they’ve produced an ultimately disappointing one-hour-and-10-minute highlights reel that, for a Sox fan, doesn’t really recapture the glory of being World Series Champions. What a bummer.

Perhaps the best parts of the DVD are the extra features, including my favorite one, a recap of the night the Sox won the AL East. You get the last two outs at Fenway courtesy of NESN, then the last out in Baltimore (plus Millar’s strikeout) from the actual broadcast in Baltimore, and a bit of Papelbon et al dancing on the field. I wish there was more of that kind of stuff, the dancing and all, on the actual film. After all, this DVD should be a celebration of and a tribute to the World Series Champs, right? But it’s good to have at least some of the coverage in the bonus section. And I’ll always have my memories of the actual games, and the actual season. Those are things this DVD could never document as well anyway.

One Year Later

27 Nov

Depending on whether you’re a literal person or not, today is the one-year anniversary of my grandmother’s death. Actually, the anniversary is November 28, but it happened on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, so I’m choosing to remember her on the blog today. To say that the week of her death was hard is an understatement, and here it is a year later, and while my emotions are certainly more in check than they were then, not a day goes by when I don’t think of her. ‘Bubby’ is still one of the names in my cell phone, and I can’t even count the number of times I’ve scrolled through looking for someone to call and have stopped on her name, considered hitting “call,” and then realized no one would answer. Truth be told, from time to time I still reach for the phone to call her as I walk to the T in the morning and then stop myself. I just miss the conversations we had, the laughs we shared, the good things I could tell her, and the way she made me smile even on bad days. As nice as it was to spend Thanksgiving this year with most of my cousins and my aunts and uncle (the first time so many of us had been together since the week of the funeral), Bubby was missed. I miss her a lot and think of her often. Maybe that’s because I have her picture right above my computer screen at work, and there are pictures of her in my bedroom and living room at home. But I don’t need to see her picture in front of me or find her name on my cell phone to have her on my mind. I just need to remember the good times, and there were plenty of them. It’s one year later, and it’s still hard, but I’ll try to smile today because Bubby wouldn’t want me to be sad. I just miss her so much.

Like a Complete Unknown

26 Nov

“I’m just a songwriter,” one of the six — count ’em, six — Bob Dylan stand-ins says during I’m Not There. Well, forgive me for calling this character a liar, but as the film makes clear, Bob Dylan isn’t just anything. Todd Haynes’ portrait of the man born Robert Zimmerman paints him as a poet, an actor, a troubador, a misunderstood genius, an ahead-of-his-time songwriter, a lost man, etc. Bob Dylan is many things to many people, and to say that I’m Not There doesn’t give a definitive answer about the man isn’t to say it misses the boat. Rather, in celebrating many aspects of Dylan, it reaches near-great status.

Eschewing the conventional bio-pic format of, say, Walk the Line — or really, any musician movie with a plot — I’m Not There casts six different types of actors as characters who each symbolize one aspect of the Bob Dylan legend. To wit: one is played by a young black child (Marcus Carl Franklin) and another by a woman (Cate Blanchett). Others are played by Richard Gere and Heath Ledger, Christian Bale and newcomer Ben Whishaw. Writer/Director Haynes uses different film stocks and directing styles for each segment, and jumps between them, creating a collage rather than a narrative explanation of how Dylan got to where he is. Dates are mentioned, but really, with the exception of the Jude Quinn section, they could be happening anytime. And it’s worth noting that while Cate Blanchett is as good as you’ve heard, all the acting in this movie is good. Blanchett just has the nice luxury of having the most showy of all the performances.

I wish I knew more about Bob Dylan, so I could catch on to more of the references than I did. I suspect that while I think I’m Not There is a good movie, I don’t even realize how good it is. But on the surface level that I can appreciate it, I’m Not There is a fascinating film, unlike anything I’ve seen in a long, long time. It’s definitely enjoyable and worth seeing, whether you’re a Dylan fan or not. I’m giving I’m Not There an A–.

Welcome Home

25 Nov

Nothing kills a nice, long, enjoyable holiday weekend like getting stuck in traffic on the way home.

So I’m happy to report that I made it back from White Plains, NY, to Boston in — get this — less than three hours. I left the diner at exactly 10:30 a.m., and when I looked at my cell phone when I reached the top of the escalator at Shaw’s, it was only 1:29. Amazing stuff. Continue reading

Thanks!

22 Nov

Every year on Thanksgiving, I like to take a few minutes and post a list of some of the things I’m thankful for.

This year, that list includes, in no particular order, the Red Sox winning the World Series and re-signing Mike Lowell (and not signing A-Rod), Sam Lagrassa’s roast beef sandwiches, my future niece/nephew, a few days off from work, Boston Beanstock Coffee Company’s French vanilla muffin tops (same as Red Barn in Faneuil Hall!!), great movies like Once, good friends, Amy Winehouse’s album Back to Black, Trani, the TV show Brothers & Sisters, “you and yours,” Hype Machine, the entire Twin Peaks series on DVD, the Bean, and, of course, you. This blog would be nothing without my loyal readers — or, I mean, it’d still be here, but it wouldn’t be as much fun to write. Continue reading

A Swell Evening

22 Nov

Longtime readers of this blog know how much I loved the movie Once when I saw it this past summer.

So when my friend Nina tipped me off that the film’s stars, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, were coming to Boston to do a concert to promote their album, The Swell Season, I didn’t hesitate to get tickets.

And I’m happy to report that while the concert on Wednesday night didn’t recreate the same sense of euphoria that the movie did, it was still a damn good night of music that only makes me love the movie more. Continue reading