Archive | December, 2007

Last Day, First Night

31 Dec

Spent the last afternoon of 2007 wandering around downtown, checking out the pre-First Night activity. It was too warm and sunny out, so the ice sculptures weren’t all fully ready by 3pm. But I managed to get some photos of the ones that were on display. And with that, I close out this blog for 2007. To you and yours, I wish the happiest of Happy New Years. I’ll see you in ’08!

The Good, the Bad, and Superbad

31 Dec

You know it’s been a good year for the movies when you go through the list of films you’ve seen (in my case, 56) and when separating out those you remember fondly, the list is close to 20. So narrowing those down to only 10 is quite a challenge. And yet, I’ve done that — but with one caveat: I still have not seen There Will Be Blood (it’s a 2007 release but it doesn’t open in Boston until Friday), and I’m almost positive that it, too, would have earned a spot on this list. So, this may be a top 11 list come next weekend. [Update 1/5: I’ve now seen There Will Be Blood. The list has been amended accordingly.]

But anyway, so without further ado, here are the 10 [now 11] films I saw in 2007 that brought me the most pleasure:

I laughed harder and more frequently at this film than I did at anything else all year.

Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones give memorable, iconic performances, but the Coen brothers deserve plenty of credit too.

Ben Affleck’s directorial debut gets Boston right, and tells a compelling tale whose conclusion stays with you.

A thunderous, exciting performance by Denzel Washington takes this one over the top.

7. 3:10 TO YUMA
A real man’s man’s movie, this one boasts some great action and acting (by Russell Crowe and Christian Bale).

One of the year’s most overlooked gems. It’s not perfect, but what’s good about this film (e.g. Don Cheadle’s performance) is so good. And Adam Sandler breaks your heart.

Snark perfectly mixed with sweetness in a fantastic screenplay, plus a wonderful lead performance by Ellen Page.

Sure, it’s a preposterous premise, but Ryan Gosling’s heartwarming performance helps turn this film into a really sweet tale of loneliness and love.

Maybe this isn’t the actual third-best movie of the year, but it’s certainly one of the most enjoyable times I’ve had at the movies all year. And it’s one of only two movies on this list that I saw in the theater twice.

An epic movie featuring one of Daniel Day-Lewis’ best performances ever, this film is just brilliant. It must be seen, and on a big screen.

Can’t say enough about how much I love this movie. The music, the acting, the story, the writing … nearly everything about it is perfect. At just under 90 minutes, this is the rare movie you want to be longer. Once is an instant classic, a film of such magic that its effect stays with you for days, months, and (time will tell) years after you see it.

And what about the worst movies? Well, that list was a lot easier to compile. I’d like to think I stay away from the obvious stinkers, but every now and then I do get suckered or disappointed. So here are those films I wish I could say I didn’t see:


This Isn’t Therapy. It’s Real Life.

28 Dec

In The Savages, John and Wendy Savage (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney) have the unenviable task of putting their estranged father (Philip Bosco) in a nursing home. You might think that would make for a depressing movie, and make no mistake, The Savages is no Superbad or anything (despite what the trailer might imply), but writer/director Tamara Jenkins has found a way to turn this ordinary situation that so many must go through into one we can all sympathize with, wringing some genuine laughs from a painful situation. John and Wendy are themselves distant — one lives in New York City and the other up in Buffalo — but when they come together in Arizona to learn what’s become of their father (who was abusive earlier, thus one reason why they’re estranged from him), it’s clear they have a tight bond. These are not terribly happy characters, but they have each other and you get the sense that they are better people when they’re together.

In the lead roles, both Hoffman and Linney make very strong impressions. For Hoffman in particular, it’s his third great performance in one year (the others being Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and Charlie Wilson’s War). The Savages doesn’t really have a plot other than the basic premise of John and Wendy dealing with their dad’s dementia, and after a while I got a little antsy waiting for the film to reach its natural conclusion, but it’s Hoffman and Linney who makes The Savages worth seeing. I’m giving this one a strong B.

Who Am I?

28 Dec

Maybe you heard about it: there was a recent study about people Googling themselves.

I’m one of the 47% who has done just that, and it’s usually pretty amusing what turns up.

But it’s the 53% who have looked up info about me (or rather, who say they have looked up info about someone else) that concerns me. Continue reading

Another Great Clean-Up

27 Dec

One of the nice things about not going away during the week between Christmas and New Year’s is that it gives me a chance to tackle some projects I’ve been wanting to work on for a while.

Monday I went into the office to clean up my desk and get organized. And now I’ve begun tackling my closets here on the homefront.

You may recall that two years ago on New Year’s Day I began the Great Clean-Up of 2006. Things have not gotten to be as bad as they were then, but parts of my apartment surely needed a spruce-up and that included my bedroom closet.

So, after taking everything out — all my pants, shirts, sweaters, shoes, etc. — and going through it to see what was old (i.e.: anything with a Structure label) or dirty or what I had too much of (hello, blue shirts), I have plenty of “new” clothes I had forgotten about and a much cleaner, more organized closet.

Sure, I could have gotten rid of more clothes than I did, but I’m just too much of a packrat; that said, I expect I’ll continue to get rid of some shirts as I try them on and realize they don’t fit all that well anymore.

Next I’ll tackle the linen closet and my overflowing CD collection (I went to Target today and bought a container for under-the-bed storage).

And this is good news for other people, not just me. For example, the Big Brother Big Sister Foundation is going to get a large donation — five garbage bags full of shoes, sweaters, shirts and pants.

And the cleaners is going to get my business.

And if I ever do move (and hopefully I will sometime in 2008), the movers will have less to take over to the new place for me.

But of course, I’m the real winner here because I’m enjoying my week off from work and taking care of some good stuff that’s making me feel really productive.

I’m going to say it again: It’s so nice to spend a vacation at home, where I can do my own thing and relax and just catch up with life, and work on things like this that I never seem to get to during the rest of the year.

(That’s all. No great drama or discoveries to report on.)

Christmas Time for This Jew

24 Dec

Tonight’s Christmas Eve. Maybe you’ve heard me mention it once or twice. People always seem to wonder what I’ll be up to the next day and a half since, at least officially, I don’t celebrate the holiday. Well, there’s the traditional movie and Chinese food, of course. But for a more thorough answer, here’s the great song Darlene Love sang on Saturday Night Live two years ago. If you’re not Jewish and do celebrate Christmas, allow me to wish you and yours all the best. But for all my fellow members of the tribe, if you’ve never seen this video before, it’s really great. Enjoy!

And by the way, if you’re one of those who like “the classics,” here’s another …

What Fun It Is to Buy and Buy

23 Dec

Who says it’s hard to be a Jew on Christmas? The truth is, what fun it is. There’s no pressure to buy last minute gifts, no wrapping, no tree to trim, no big meals to prep … just a lot of festivity to take part in. To wit: I spent part of yesterday and some of today at the malls (Cambridgeside and Arsenal), braving the crowds and taking advantage of some great discounts at Old Navy and other stores. Parking was difficult, but for some reason I have a great deal of patience and skill when it comes to finding a spot, so it wasn’t impossible. I kept my bags close by so as to avoid any trouble. And when all was said and done, I spent about $100 on a ton of clothes and almost felt guilty for not buying more. Here’s one example of the folly of holiday shopping: Old Navy is selling boxer shorts 3 for $12. But if you buy them in a pre-selected gift box, three boxers are only $10.80. And it’s fun, when the salesperson asks if you want gift boxes, to tell her “No thanks. It’s all for me.” I even tried a gingerbread donut at Dunkin’ Donuts. Even more fun than all that is walking from store to store, listening to the holiday tunes. U2’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” in one place. Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” in another. It’s a good time. How sad it is that just like that, on Wednesday it’ll all be over. So I’m of the school of thought that says you should enjoy the season and make the most of it while you can. Especially since Hanukkah, with its nine days and all, is long over. And my wardrobe is better off for it.

A Tale of Two Photos

23 Dec

It struck me the other day how similar these two photos are, and yet how utterly different the films they’re from — Dreamgirls and Sweeney Todd — are. Perhaps the only thing these two photos have in common is that they both capture killer performances of very different kinds. What a difference a year makes.

But It Is a Classic

22 Dec

Jeeeez. A whole article about Christmas CDs and not one mention of A Very Marty Xmas 2007 being an instant classic. That doesn’t seem right.

Attend This Tale of Sweeney Todd

22 Dec

How excited was I to see Sweeney Todd?

Well, as I’ve previously stated, it’s one of my favorite musicals of all time, and I had high hopes based on the trailer.

And now, having seen the film, I’m happy to say I was not disappointed.

Sweeney Todd tells the story of Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp), a wrongly imprisoned barber who returns to London having rechristened himself Sweeney Todd. He’s hellbent on having his revenge against the judge who took his wife and child away from him. But when Sweeney decides not to stop at just the judge, and that “they all deserve to die,” he hatches a plan with Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), his downstairs neighbor, to grind up the bodies and turn them into meat pies.

Soon the city population is a fraction of what it once was, and Mrs. Lovett is making the most popular pies in London.

The film is directed by Mr. Macabre himself, Tim Burton, so needless to say, it’s a very dark film and there’s a lot of blood.

And yes, if you missed it above, this is a musical. But it’s safe to say you’ve never seen a musical quite like this. Continue reading

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