Archive | November, 2009

What the Cuss?

30 Nov

It’s pretty clear early on that Fantastic Mr. Fox is going to be a very special movie.

It’s during the first scene, when Mr. Fox (George Clooney) and his wife, Felicity (Meryl Streep), raid a chicken farm to the sounds of the Beach Boys, that you get your initial taste of director Wes Anderson’s vision.

The characters, with their overly long legs, run and jump, pop up here and there, and speak intelligently, like adults — unlike the characters in most kid-oriented movies.

Yes, the director of such films as Rushmore (one of my all-time faves) and The Darjeeling Limited has not made a typical children’s animated film. Continue reading

More to Be Thankful For

29 Nov

I was remiss on Wednesday when I posted my list of the things I’m thankful for this year because I left off my sister and brother-in-law, Mitzi and Jason. This weekend they gave me a couple more reasons why they should have been on the list. Continue reading

Three Years Later

28 Nov

I don’t really know what to say today, but I wanted to at least acknowledge that it’s the third anniversary of the day my Bubby passed away. Jeez. Three years. It still feels like yesterday. It’s no lie to say that I still think of Bubby every day, due in large part, I guess, to the fact that I keep a picture of her at my desk at work and right next to my couch at home. Not that I need the reminders, of course. And until recently, when I got a new cell phone, her number would always come up when I scrolled through the Bs. It was like I didn’t want to let her go.

My Bubby was a very special lady, and we were very tight (as I’d imagine all my cousins would say about themselves and her). Every day, either at 8 a.m. as I walked to the train or at 1 p.m. when I went to lunch, I’d call her and we’d talk and laugh. I miss those daily chats. The last couple years of her life, every time I’d leave her, I made sure to give her a big hug and kiss, because I never knew when it would be my last chance to do so, and I was very aware of that fact. When she passed away, I had just seen her days earlier, on Thanksgiving, and we had spoken on the phone not even 24 hours before she left us.

Days like today, as much as I take comfort in the fact that Bubby never doubted how much I loved her, and as much as I made an effort to make sure I said a proper farewell, I long for one more chance. What I wouldn’t give to give Bubby one more hug. To talk with her on the phone one more time. To tell her how much I love her. Oh well.

I really miss my Bubby, and today, on the third anniversary of her death, I wanted to you all to know that.

Time to Say Thanks

25 Nov

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, so I thought I’d continue my tradition of posting a list of some of the things I’m thankful for this year: Continue reading

A Rave for Radin

23 Nov

I hadn’t really heard of Joshua Radin before my friend Fidge asked me a couple weeks ago if I’d be interested in going with her to his concert at the House of Blues here in Boston. I said yes, and I’ll admit that after listening to his two albums, and finding his music pleasant but maybe a little too low key for my tastes, I didn’t really have high hopes for the show. But I have to say, Radin’s an awfully talented and engaging live performer and I really did enjoy the concert. Sure, he started the show by singing the one song I knew best, “Brand New Day,” but his voice and lyrics really impressed me and kept me entertained for the entire 90-minute set.

Maybe you’ve heard of Radin because his song “Today” was Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s wedding song. His music has also been featured on Grey’s Anatomy and Scrubs, and on the soundtrack for the movie The Last Kiss (most likely because he’s Zach Braff’s good buddy). Radin’s music is similar to that of Jeremy Fisher or Josh Kelley, which is to say it’s chick-friendly, guitar-strumming, sensitive-guy singer/songwriter tuneage, with a sound not unlike modern-day Simon & Garfunkel. It’s “whisper rock,” the kind of music you can “put your babies and dogs asleep to,” as Radin himself described it on Sunday night. Yes, it’s mostly mellow stuff, the kind you might hear in a coffee shop on any given night, but in Radin’s case, it’s quite good … if you like that sort of thing. (And for the record — no pun intended — his most recent release is called Simple Times.)

Radin’s show Sunday night was like an episode of VH1’s Storytellers: The stage had little on it other than Radin and his 4-man band (and some lamps), and before each song, Radin explained its backstory. The HoB’s excellent, sharp sound system — and an audience that barely made a peep during the songs — allowed us to hear every word clearly. While he didn’t sing “Only You” (another song I’d heard before — probably because it’s a cover of the Yaz song), he did play others that I look forward to getting to know better, such as “I’d Rather Be with You,” “No Envy No Fear,” and “You Got Growing Up to Do.” He also got some yayas out by singing some more uptempo songs from his soon-to-be-recorded third album, which should be out sometime next year. And then he closed the show with a great cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright),” during which he was joined by openers the Kin and the Watson Twins.

I always enjoy finding a “new” artist that I can add to my iPhone playlist. Radin’s concert was a pleasant surprise, and his music will certainly get a few more “spins” from me.

She Just Wants to Be Loved

18 Nov

If you’re anything like me, then chances are good you’ve not seen many movies like Precious. Oh, you may think you’ve seen one too many movies about underprivileged young people from bad homes who deal with multiple hardships but who find the strength to persevere despite all the odds being stacked against them, but I’ll bet those movies didn’t move you like Precious moved me. Believe the hype; this is one great film.

In Precious, Gabourey Sidibe stars as the title character, 16-year-old Claireece Precious Jones, who lives with her abusive mother (played by the comedienne Mo’Nique) and is pregnant (for the second time) with a child fathered by her own father. To say life is hard is an understatement; at one point, Precious says she wishes she were dead, and that it wouldn’t be much of a change for her because she’s already used to being so far down and looking up at the world. When she’s thrown out of her school, Precious enrolls at an alternative education center, where her teacher (played by the beautiful Paula Patton) and classmates show her the love and guidance she’s never had, and help put Precious on the road to redemption.

The film is marked by some super performances: Sidibe, in her film debut, gives a heartbreakingly natural performance of such subtlety that you’ll think she’s not acting at all. Mariah Carey, as a social worker, is impressive and real and nearly unrecognizable. Lenny Kravitz, as a nurse, is charming and great. Patton is more than just a pretty face; she shows depth and feeling, and turns the saintly role into something more well-rounded.

And Mo’Nique … What can one say about this performance? Mo’Nique’s character is perhaps the purest definition of evil that we’ll see on screen this year. She’s one of the worst on-screen mothers of all time. And Mo’Nique is so good in this role that it’s hard to believe she makes a living telling jokes. It’s a career-changing performance, and it will leave you in awe. Near the end, both Mo’Nique and Sidibe get the chance to deliver devastating lines of dialogue that will have you tearing up. Bring your tissues to this one, my friends. Even the hardest hearts will be affected by what they see on screen.

Adapted from the 1996 novel Push by Sapphire, Precious was written by Geoffrey Fletcher and directed by Lee Daniels, and it is a raw and unflinching portrait of a young girl with very little going right for her. Yes, there’s hope to be found, but there isn’t a sappy happy ending here where everyone smiles and the music swells. Precious is hard to watch and it isn’t pretty, but it’s well worth seeing. I’m giving the movie an A–.

Does John Mayer Read Martin’s Musings?

16 Nov

It’s always an exciting thing when a highly anticipated album leaks ahead of its official release date (at least it is for me. I can’t say the same for the artist). Such was the case with John Mayer’s Battle Studies, which I downloaded a week ago and have been listening to almost nonstop ever since. How great is it when an artist you like releases an album that’s worth the wait? (This is the second time in a week or so that it’s happened for me.) From the opening track, the U2-esque “Heartbreak Warfare” to the closer, “Friends, Lovers, or Nothing,” Battle Studies is a keeper. Sure, traces of John’s on again/off again relationship with Jennifer Aniston are all over this one (or at least, that’s what a tabloid reader would assume), but they do say heartbreak is the impetus for the best art, right?

Anyway, as much as I like so many of the tracks on Battle Studies (a shout-out to the Taylor Swift collabo “Half of My Heart,” as well as “Edge of Desire” and first single “Who Says”), my favorite one is the track called “Perfectly Lonely.” Listening to it, I feel like John took my recent blog post about how “content” I am with being single, and just set it to music — with an upbeat melody, too. He perfectly captured the underlying denial that’s inherent in a post like that. Have a listen for yourself and see if you don’t see the similarities in tone. Or, just read some of the lyrics here:

“…Nothing to do, nowhere to be
A simple little kind of free.
Nothing to do, no one but me
And that’s all I need.

I’m perfectly lonely
I’m perfectly lonely
I’m perfectly lonely, yeah
‘Cause I don’t belong to anyone
And nobody belongs to me.

I see my friends around from time to time
When their ladies let them slip away.
And when they ask me how I’m doing with mine
This is always what I say:

Nothing to do, nowhere to be
A simple little kind of free.
Nothing to do, no one to be
Is it really hard to see

Why I’m perfectly lonely
I’m perfectly lonely
I’m perfectly lonely, yeah
‘Cause I don’t belong to anyone
And nobody belongs to me.

And this is not to say,
There’ll never come a day
I’ll take my chances and start again.
[ … ]

That’s the way (3x)
That I want it.”

Yeah, that’s my new personal theme song. No wonder it’s the track I’ve played the most times thus far.

Battle Studies officially drops tomorrow. Pick yourself up a copy and see which track speaks most directly to you.

Lloyd Dobler Saves the Day!

11 Nov

Instead of a formal review of 2012, allow me to be totally obvious and cheesy and cliched, and to sum up my feelings by quoting R.E.M.: “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”

Basically, there’s a lot of cool special effects, a lot of preposterous plot points, plenty of close calls, Danny Glover as the President (not getting too old for this sh*t, apparently), all the expected cheeseball lines of dialogue (“I thought we’d have more time,” etc.), stubborn government officials, a good-hearted scientist, a rich jerk who doesn’t make it to the end of the movie, and a lot more cool special effects. Continue reading

Train Kept on Rolling

10 Nov

They may be derided as “middle of the road,” but Train is still one of my favorite bands.

They put out consistently good music, and frontman Pat Monahan is one of the more charismatic and enjoyable guys to watch.

He also has an awesome voice.

Monday, at the House of Blues here in Boston, Pat was nursing a cold, but he still sounded great as the band played its latest gig to support Save Me, San Francisco, its latest release. Continue reading

A Toast to the Friendly Toast

9 Nov

You might think from its kitchy, retro décor that the Friendly Toast is just some too-hip restaurant that’s almost too cool for its Cambridge locale. But after my first visit on Sunday, I can safely say this much: don’t judge a book solely by its cover.

The Friendly Toast is one of those perfect brunch places. It’s homey, intimate, local, and fun, and the food is pretty darned terrific too. But better than that is this aspect of the menu: A few of the items can be ordered a la carte. How many times have I gone places like Johnny’s Luncheonette and bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t order a little of this and a little of that? At the Friendly Toast, you can do just that. In fact, that’s just what I did on Sunday: I ordered one piece of French Toast (on the cinnamon raisin bread) to go with my waffle. The waffle was actually a late decision. I almost ordered one pancake instead. Anyway, both were yummy. Amy, who went with me, ordered the King Cakes and said they, too, were good.

The Friendly Toast has only been in Cambridge (near the Kendall Square movie theater) for about six months, but it’s got quite a following (no doubt partly due to its other location up in Portsmouth, NH). At 11 a.m., we were quoted an hour to an hour and a half wait. But then we saw two seats open up at the bar and we sat right down. It was worth it.

I’m always looking for good, “new to me” brunch places that make basic brunch food well — none of that chi chi frou frou fancy schmancy stuff that masquerades as “brunch” — and I have found a winner in the Friendly Toast. Can’t wait to go back.

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