Archive | December, 2008

Start All Over Again

31 Dec

When it comes to New Year’s songs, many people are fond of “Auld Lang Syne” or “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” But I prefer some of the new stuff, like Dan Wilson’s “What a Year for a New Year” and Jamie Cullum’s “Next Year, Baby.” The latter tune in particular is a favorite (I love how he makes all sorts of resolutions that he knows he’ll never keep), so on this eve of a new year, I thought I’d share it with y’all right here. Enjoy.

The Year of Martin

31 Dec

I can’t believe 2008 is already over, mostly because when I look back on the year, I remember it as being as a great one in the life of Martin Lieberman.

Three big things happened: I bought a condo, my niece was born, and I got a new job. All three were huge, life-changing events.

I mean, my niece being born … yeah. But the condo purchase came after more than six years of living in the same place, and the new job came after more than seven years with the same company.

So I guess there’s very good reason for some of my friends to be calling 2008 “The Year of Martin.” Continue reading

The IKEA Fallacy

30 Dec

We all love IKEA … right? The bright colors, the cheap products, the innovative Swedish design. People make a big deal when a new store opens (myself included), and go nuts waiting for days to be the first one in the door. But I find that the more I go to IKEA, the less exciting it is. Time and time again, I’ve gone to the store, excited to buy things, and I’ve walked out empty handed because when it came down to it, the stuff wasn’t nice enough or worth buying. It’s functional, but it’s not the kind of stuff I need. So it was on Monday, when I made the ill-fated decision again to journey on down to Stoughton and look for (among other things) a TV stand for my new TV. An hour and a half later, I left empty handed. Again. When will I learn that it’s not even worth the trip? Alright, fine. That’s not entirely true. It was worth it if only for the Swedish meatballs. Yum. And I have to say, IKEA makes some very good garlic toast (two pieces for only 50 cents!) and cinnamon buns too. But even though I had nothing better to do, did I really need to drive a half hour out of the city to have (a not-so-healthy) lunch? Probably not. Why am I still powerless after all this time to the charms and tastes of the IKEA experience?

Sorry, Wrong Number

29 Dec

Yesterday, as I was leaving my apartment, I noticed that Yellowbook had dropped off the 2009 phone books.

Do you know how many they left us? Sixteen.

Do you know how many people live in my building? Exactly six.

Any moron with a pair of eyes could see that there are only six mailboxes here, and the phone books are all stacked up right underneath them.

And now it’s a day and a half later, and all 16 are still there, untouched.

So on behalf of my neighbors and the entire earth, I have this to say to the folks at Yellowbook: “Thanks, but no thanks. Next time, save the trees and don’t bother giving us any.”

Mr. Kowalski’s Neighborhood

29 Dec

In Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood plays a grizzled old man named Walt Kowalski.

A Korean War veteran, Walt is one of those Midwestern guys so set in his ways and his beliefs that the slightest deviation sets him off. He’s intolerant of others who aren’t like him, insulting to every race, and he doesn’t have much incentive to change his ways.

He’s Archie Bunker without the laugh track.

To paraphrase someone else’s metaphor, he’s John McCain in a Barack Obama world.

So as you might assume, Walt’s not taking too kindly to the Hmong people who have moved next door (and throughout his neighborhood) and who are disrupting his status quo. Continue reading

Doggone It

27 Dec

Masculinity be damned, I went to see Marley & Me by myself, without any coaxing. And take my word for it when I tell you the movie is more entertaining and engaging than I ever expected it being. Yes, it has some cheeseball elements — like a soundtrack that includes R.E.M.’s “Shiny Happy People” — and it’s a little too long, but while Marley does tug on the heartstrings quite a bit and it does go for a couple of easy laughs, it certainly earns all the emotions. In short, I feel no embarrassment in telling y’all how much I enjoyed it.

Where does the credit for this lie? I give some to screenwriters Scott Frank and Don Roos, whose credits include Out of Sight and The Opposite of Sex. They’ve taken John Grogan’s book, which I haven’t read, and fashioned an earnest screenplay from what I can only assume is a highly sentimental book. Of course, additional credit has to go to director David Frankel, who also helmed the surprisingly enjoyable The Devil Wears Prada. But I think you have to give most of the kudos to Owen Wilson, who gives a charming and very likable performance. Heck, maybe the guy’s growing up. Whatever it is, he’s really great. Jennifer Aniston is also good, but it’s Wilson whose role is the stand-in for the audience and who has to do more heavy lifting, emotionally.

Let’s just get one thing clear, though, and this is where your SPOILER WARNING will come in. The trailer and the ads for Marley are selling it as a laugh-a-minute cutesy movie about a family and their dog. Don’t be fooled. You should know full well that the ending of this movie is very very sad. I don’t mind telling you I was crying a bit, and might have shed more tears if I didn’t work so hard to hold them in. I’m sure you can guess why it’s sad, and I can say I’ve had first-hand experience with a dog of my own (that’s Doc down below) meeting the same kind of fate, so that had something to do with my reaction. Thankfully, Frankel and co. do not overdo these parts. It’s all very real and honest, not cloying. You’ll be hard-pressed not to get caught up in the moment too, no matter how tough your exterior. Just be ready.

Yeah, call Marley & Me a real holiday surprise. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll run the gamut of emotions. And you’ll be recommending this one to your friends, like I am doing right now. I’m giving Marley a strong B.

Be Quiet … Or Else

26 Dec

According to Philly.com, a guy in Philadelphia shot another man yesterday when he wouldn’t stop talking during a screening of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The movie’s not so good, so I’ll bet this made it a lot more exciting.

But seriously, folks, I think this kind of thing is pretty sad. Yes, talking during a movie — or sending text messages, or failing to turn off your cell phone, etc. — is a pretty big offense, but if it was me (and I don’t have any tolerance for this kind of thing), and it was that unbearable, I’d probably have walked out or something to get an usher, so the talker would be removed. (Actually, probably not. I would have stayed in my seat, not enjoyed the movie, and then gone home to passive-aggressively blog about it.)

I mean, I went to see Marley & Me this afternoon in Chestnut Hill and the audience there was pretty annoying, with folks getting up to go to the bathroom seemingly every five minutes. But it’s not like I stood up in the middle of the theater and yelled out, “HOLD IT IN, PEOPLE!! I’M TRYING TO WATCH A MOVIE HERE!!” (I was tempted — ha ha ha — but I didn’t do it.) Sometimes I guess you just have to know how much you can stand. You don’t get out a gun and shoot someone, though. Sigh.

(Thanks to Jeffrey Wells for the tip on this story.)

Wasted Time

26 Dec

I thought about beginning this review at the end, with my grade, and working backwards from there … but that would imply that I liked The Curious Case of Benjamin Button more than I actually did and that it deserved such effort on my part. Instead, this film, based on a quirky and very short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald (one that I have actually read), is definitely one of the bigger disappointments of the year for me. And I really wanted to like it. Oh well.

It’s worth noting right at the start that the story and the movie have only one commonality: They both tell the tale of a man who is born old and grows younger. Other than that, they’re very different. The original story is funny and odd and, well, it’s short. The movie is very long (2:45), it takes itself way too seriously, and it’s almost too straight-forward. The movie is so conventional that it even employs one of the worst movie clichés out there: it’s told looking back as one of the characters lies on her death bed (during Hurricane Katrina). The whole thing is nearly devoid of humor — save for a random gag about a guy who was hit by lightning seven times — and feels like an “Oscar movie.” While I don’t fault the film’s creators (including writer Eric Roth and director David Fincher) for embellishing the source material and making Benjamin Button a grander and more romantic story (Cate Blanchett’s character is a totally new addition, for example, as is the fact that Benjamin is raised in a retirement home and not by his own father), they’ve overdone it, making the film feel totally bloated.

The effect of having Brad Pitt’s head on other people’s bodies in the early scenes works well, but when it’s all Pitt, he’s less exciting. It feels as if the role is entirely physical (as opposed to emotional) and that we’re supposed to take his handsomeness as “acting.” In addition, much of the dialogue is spoken in that slowed-down style that makes it overly dramatic, and, well, I could probably go on as long as the movie did with things that frustrated me. If I could live my life in reverse, I’d probably choose to see a different movie before I went to see this one. I’m giving Benjamin Button a very unfortunate C–.

It’s Like Santa’s Been Here

25 Dec

There’s nothing quite like waking up early on Christmas morning and finding Santa’s been there to drop off all kinds of presents under the tree. At least, that’s what my non-Jewish friends tell me. Santa — that bastard — has never once shimmied down my chimney and brought me any presents. But that doesn’t mean I can’t spread some holiday — well, maybe not cheer exactly, but it’s new and it’s Christmas morning, so why not? This is U2’s brand-spanking-new cover of Greg Lake’s “Father Christmas.” To download the track, you’ll have to go to (RED)WIRE, but for now, enjoy the video. Merry Christmas!

"The Best Thing About the Holidays"

24 Dec

I couldn’t agree more with David Letterman. As my non-Jewish friends get ready to celebrate Christmas, I present for your viewing and listening enjoyment Darlene Love singing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on last night’s Late Show. This is my all-time favorite Christmas song, and once again (and after a one-year absence) Darlene just blows it out of the water.

Merry Christmas, everybody!