Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas and the Blizzard

It's great news that the Holiday season is over. I don't want to give you an impression that I detest the festivities that are associated with the end of the year, but I am glad that the irritating TV commercials and the excruciating Xmas songs are about a year away from us. I do like, however, the camaraderie and the familial occasions the Holiday seasons bring. This year I spent the Christmas with my girlfriend's family in Alabama and it was great fun - good food, good beer, fantastic weather, and a chance to spend some quality time with my girlfriend. Sadly, I won't be able to see my parents this year for the New Year's because I have to work.

I had been waiting for this vacation for quite some time and I was very excited the last few days preceding the trip. However, the Mother Nature played a nasty part in the proceedings and made sure that my outbound trip was as difficult as can be. As you know, the Northwest suffered its worst winter storm in over a hundred years. About ten days prior to my departure, the storm came and the city shut down immediately. These kind of storms are a rare occasion, apparently, and the city is not prepared for it. The temperatures remained low and it continued to snow on and off for a week. Needless to say, the roads were covered in ice and with drivers unable to manouever their Subarus.

Then I found out that there was another big system expected in the area for the weekend of the Sunday I was to leave. The storm came and everything shut down once again - flights were cancelled, roads were closed ... utter chaos. My flight was cancelled - no surprise there - but I managed to find a seat on a flight leaving on Monday. All in all I was to lose only way day. Not too bad, right?

Well, it continued to snow on Sunday night and there was a foot of snow on the roads around the Portland area. A friend I am staying with was going to give me a ride, but the car didn't even make it out of the driveway. So, I picked up my bag and started walking to the bus stop. I had a good 4-5 hours before my flight. Severely underdressed, I walked on the road covered with snow almost up to my knees with my luggage. I was waiting at the bus stop when a lady told me that the buses were taking the snow route. We walked together to the main road. In about 10-15 minutes the bus arrived. I was actually relieved.

The bus was going about 10 mph, passing by cars and other buses stuck on side streets of this part of Portland, which is very hilly. As we were halfway to downtown, the chains broke. Great. Luckily, though, there was another bus behind us. This new bus dropped me off at the intersection with the lightrail that would take me to the airport. When I got there, a representative from the transportation authority of the city told me that the line going to the airport wasn't working. I was to take the only train that's working up to a certain point, then take the shuttle. So far, so good.

I waited in the cold, with tens of other people, for an hour and a half  for the packed train to come. We all squeezed in like sardines. As the train stopped at various stops, you could see the disappointed faces of the passengers waiting on the platform when they saw the packed train. All in all, it took about 30-45 minutes to the station where the shuttle buses were waiting.

I got off - with the majority of the passengers - and proceeded to the rather long line for the bus. It was colder in this part of town. I estimated that I would get on the second bus. Two buses came and stopped about 10 yards from us. A lady from the City got on and started talking to the driver. Here we are, freezing our backsides numb, and they are talking away. that wasn't the worst part though. When their little chit-chat was over, the bus started moving and drove to the end of the line thinking it was the front. You can only imagine what happened then - people shouting, obscenities flying about, Yours Truly running across the tracks, snow up to his knees ... I can't really describe how I felt, but it wasn't pretty. Besides, by this point, I had lost feeling in my feet.

Anyway, after another hour or so, two more buses came and I managed to climb my way over people to get on the second one. I was running late - only half an hour before departure - but  I knew my flight was delayed. When I got to the airport, I learned that my flight was cancelled. Great. As the check-in lady was trying to put me on another flight, news came that they reinstated my original flight. Good news. However, there was no timeline. I didn't care. I just wanted to get out of Portland. I was going to miss my connection to Mobile. She told me that all the other flights to Mobile and surrounding airports were fully booked - I might get stuck in Houston for a couple of days. I still wanted to go.

There were two more delayed flights to Houston before mine and the first one departed a few minutes after I got through security. Then they started boarding the second flight. On the departures boards, my flight was listed as "delayed indefinitely". So, I went to the Powell's bookstore at the airport - very poor - and when I came back with Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" - horrible - I saw that the line by the gate was small but the flight was still there. I decided to try my luck again for my connecting flight. When I approached the gate I saw that it was the same lady from before. She took a look at my boarding pass and told me to get on this flight and sit wherever I wanted. What?! Lo and behold, I got on the plane and picked a random seat - they wouldn't let me sit in First Class - and off we went. I couldn't believe my luck, especially when I found out next day that all the flights out of Portland after ours were cancelled.

We arrived at Houston and went straight to the customer service desk. There was a long line and I waited a good two hours before talking to an agent. Actually, things went very smoothly and he confirmed for the first flight to Mobile next morning. He also told me that, because my flight out of Portland was cancelled, my return flight was automatically cancelled too. I had no idea. He sorted that out too. I went to a very dirty and dilapidated hotel at the airport and slept for five hours before waking up next morning for my flight. Needless to say, that flight was delayed too.

I got in to Mobile around noon. My drama wasn't over though ... they lost my bag. Luckily, it was coming on the next flight.

It was a bad flying experience, though I am aware that mine wasn't as bad as some other people's. It was worth it, though - when I saw my girl, everything vanished.

Peace.

Monday, December 15, 2008

In the Secret World of Neal Stephenson

For the last couple of weeks or so, I have been traversing the truly science-fiction world of Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. Describing the plot of this mammoth book is a futile attempt for a meager blogger like Yours Truly ... but I'll try anyway. It is set in two different periods: World War II and the late '90s. In the WW2 parts, which occupy the bulk of the narrative, we have three main threads of stories: a Math genius, is drafted into the military, and is assigned to break the secret codes of the Germans and then the Japanese; a Midwestern marine sergeant is sent all over the globe for stupefyingly mysterious missions; and a Japanese Judo fighter given the task to dig a vault in the jungles of Philippines. In the present-day story a start-up IT company is about to strike a deal that would enable them to build a data haven in the fictional kingdom of Kinakuta and control the data transactions in the South East Asia.

It is an audacious book and more often than not you begin to wonder if it is at all going anywhere. I have roughly a hundred pages left to go and I continue asking myself the same question, even though a lot of the connections have been made between the storylines. This was also evident in Stephenson's latest book, Anathem, but I have a feeling that Cryptonomicon will not leave me with a sense of void once I'm done with it. In fact, this rather chaotic undertaking is mystifyingly beautiful and elegant. It is a laudable achievement of Stephenson that at no point in this 1100-plus-pages novel I found myself bored or distracted. In fact, I sort of wish it wouldn't end. Oh, well. I think I will go and finish it off tonight ...


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Back to the Lists

The end is nigh, my brethren, because we are back with the Top 10 albums of the year. This year I will skip the movie list, because I haven't been doing so well on my current movies - and neither have the filmmakers. So, without further ado, I present you with the following list of my Top 10 albums of 2008.



1- Watershed by Opeth
Oh, yeah, after multiple listens I can safely declare without any hesitation that the latest by the Swedish band is the best album released in 2008. Like its predecessor, this album has a million brilliant ideas, yet it manages to be anything but convoluted. It will take a few more months to see if this is actually even better than Ghost Reveries (2006). Best song: "Hessian Peel"

2- Death Magnetic by Metallica
I was considering making this the album of the year, but I realized that there was a little bit of a hype on my part that got me a little carried away. However, if Opeth had released their album in another year, Death Magnetic would have been a shoo-in. Best song: "Broken, Beat & Scarred"



3- A Sense of Purpose by In Flames
Despite the fanboy backlash against their new sound, the second best Swedish album of the year is a collection of ferocious, infectious, and brilliant tracks. Yes, it sounds even more polished than Come Clarity (2006), but after giving it a couple of spins, it is endlessly rewarding. Best song: "Alias"




4- The Formation of Damnation by Testament
Let's get this statement out of the way first: Testament were/are the most underrated thrash metal band of all time. Fact. This is a comeback album unlike Death Magnetic in the sense that this is definitely a back-to-roots effort - it could have easily come out in mid-80s. Best song: "More Than Meets the Eye"




5- Nil Recurring by Porcupine Tree
More of a companion piece to last year's Fear of a Blank Planet, this 4-song mini-album manages to be more cohesive and affecting than the said album. With "Normal" - itself a companion to the song "Sentimental" - Steve Wilson and his company released, in my opinion, the best song of the year. Listen and weep. Best song: "Normal"



6- Rock and Awe by Young Heart Attack
Here comes my fanboy attack: it is a lot slower and more polished than their debut. However, there is no denying the quality of the songwriting on offer here. The vocals are somewhat subdued, but now in a world without Wolfmother, we desperately need this band. Best song: "Munki"




7- Twilight of the Thunder God by Amon Amarth
Continuing with my Swedish obsession, this true-to-blood Viking metal band is coming up with a better album every other year. Could it be another Opeth incident? How they manage to be catchy and this heavy without resorting to DragonForce cheese is an amazing feat in itself. Best song: "Twilight of the Thunder God"




8- Bedlam in Goliath by The Mars Volta
Perhaps their most down-to-Earth album. This time the infusion of rock and jazz is not as traditionally progressive sounding as before, but the album is still a rocking good listen overall. However it lacks a killer tune. Hence its lower position. Best song: "Ilyena"




9- Folklore & Superstition by Black Stone Cherry
Another solid effort by the Kentucky rockers. It has the energy and production value to be comparable to any great Rock'n'Roll album of the last decade. What lacks, though, is a song that defines the album. Best song: "Reverend Wrinkle"





10- ObZen by Meshuggah
What's with all the Swedes? I can assure you that the Swedish Recording Artists Industry (if such a thing exists) is not paying me for this list! If you're looking for insanely talented musicians with a sick sense of song arrangements, look no further. Also, if you really like your drumming, then this is definitely for you too. Best song: "Bleed"



And the rest:

Inflikted by Cavalera Conspiracy
Slania by Eluveitie
Hymns in the Key of 666 by Hellsongs
XV by King's X
Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace by The Offspring

Peace.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"Color of Magic" by Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic (Discworld, Book 1) The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett


My review


rating: 2 of 5 stars
Discworld is a truly "magical" setting and Pratchett created one of the most intense and wacky worlds. However, the episodic structure belittles the premise and the characters roam from one perilous conflict to another rather easily. The sense of danger / doom is relegated to a mere nothing.


View all my reviews.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hold on a sec!

I just realized this: "Times of Trouble" from Temple of the Dog and "Rotten Apple" of Alice In Chains share the same riff. A little bit of research revealed that Alice In Chains' song came a good three years after. I am not insinuating that Jerry Cantrell and co. nicked the riff, but it is a little uncanny.

Peace.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Yet Another Awesome Playlist

"Austral Spectrum" by Alchemist
"We Die Young" by Alice In Chains
"Twilight of the Thunder God" by Amon Amarth
"Sweet Emotion" by The Answer
"Blind Man" by Black Stone Cherry
"Joan Crawford" by Blue Oyster Cult
"Riot Act" by Exodus
"King for a Day" by Faith No More
"Guardian" by Fates Warning
"Seasons in the Abyss" by Hellsongs
"Psycho" by Kosmos
"Get It on" by T-Rex
"Inertiatic Esp" by The Mars Volta
"Seabeast" by Mastodon
"Broken, Beat & Scarred" by Metallica
"A-Hole" by Mother Superior
"Nutbush City Limits" by Nashville Pussy
"Mota" by The Offspring
"Face of Melinda" by Opeth
"Prelude to Descent" by Paradise Lost
"Sentimental" by Porcupine Tree
"My Enemy" by Skid Row
"Jesus Christ Pose" by Soundgarden
"Serenade" by Steve Miller Band
"Cold Winter Nights" by Stratovarius
"Times of Trouble" by Temple Of The Dog
"More Than Meets the Eye" by Testament
"Teaser" by Tommy Bolin
"Schism" by Tool
"The Answer" by Warrior Soul

Peace.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Reverse Sacrifice

Last night I attended the second night of the Northwest Film Festival, organized at the Northwest Film Center in Portland, Oregon. The night's screenings involved a collection of shorts handpicked by the judges from local filmmakers (Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, BC). Needless to say it was a mixed bag of oddities, impenetrable tosh, and run-of-the-mill squares.

Two films, however, grabbed my attention: Jamie Marie Waelchli's excruciating Little Pleasures and Vincent Caldoni's brilliant The Rifle Workbook. The former consists of Waelchli stuffing as many gums as possible into her mouth until she pukes (multiple times) and her cheeks enlarge to contain the elastic sugary mass. It is a heavy-handed metaphor for a society where we subject ourselves an overload of puny pleasures, instead of experiences that are rewarding for a longer period of time. The film - experiment, if you will - reaches a point where it ceases to be funny (as was evidenced by the ending laughter from the audience three quarters of the way) and becomes painful to watch. A ridiculously simple premise and execution, but very effective.

The Rifle Workbook, on the other hand, showcases the talents of Caldoni as a future superstar movie director. Using a soundtrack by Explosions in the Sky, the film takes place in a wooded area where an angel oversees a strange ritual where the locals place their most precious belongings (mirror, knife, hair, whiskey, etc.) in a case. The angel then burns the case and from the ashes comes out ... It is a fantastic little film - music video, if you will.

Both films were shown in the middle of the schedule, so they overshadowed everything that came before and/or after them. Interestingly, though, both films were satisfyingly unconventional, yet accessible. Just like short films should be.

Friday, November 7, 2008

"Anathem" by Neal Stephenson

Here is my review of Stephenson's latest book, Anathem as posted goodreads.com.

Anathem Anathem by Neal Stephenson


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
Despite its grand ambitions and occasional bursts of genius, it falls short of its promise. Stephenson's linguistic prowess is undeniable, but his prose is far from poetic or emotionally gratifying. However, it is one of the more interesting and challenging science fiction, or "speculative fiction", books I have read and would recommend to anybody searching for something slightly out of the ordinary. Prior knowledge of the Long Now Project isn't essential - the book is only marginally connected to it - but adds to the experience.


View all my reviews.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Goodbye to Massachusetts

I posted this blog somewhere else by mistake. Oops...

It has been a little over three and a half years since I arrived in Beantown with no definite game plan for the long run. I had signed up for the summer school to get some film classes in order to find out if the whole scene was right for me. My original plan was to travel around the world for a year with the money I had in the bank (a few years' worth of savings and what I got for my 2001 Ford Fiesta 1.6L 5-speed manual). However, after a couple of weeks in Boston, I decided to stay here. I enrolled - miraculously - in graduate school and the rest is history (I can't escape cliches nowadays).

My three and a half years (with 3 months break in the City of Angels) has been full of ups and downs. Here's the lowdown:

Ups:
- Regan - love of my life and the most gorgeous girl in the world.
- Friends - mostly through BU I met some amazing people that are now my lifelong friends.
- Accent - my new British-American-Turkish hybrid of an accent is apparently a hit.
- US of A - there are so many places to see and things to do here, I love it.

Downs:
- My car - how can a car break down this frequently?
- Personal issues that I don't want to divulge - those close to me know what they are.
- Job situation - unless you're an accountant or have a medical training, Boston is devoid of job opportunities.

Now I'm heading out to Oregon - a place I fell in love with two St. Patrick's Days ago. A new beginning. I'm sad to say goodbye to Boston, but at the same time I am very relieved to be out of this place. Who knows when I will be here next - not for a long time. I hope life treats me a little better out there, because I'm running out of options.

Anyway, this is getting pretty morbid. This is my last blog from the East Coast. Next blog will be written in Pacific time.

Peace.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

NFL Logos Going Right

I may not be the first one, but the other day I notices something as I was trying to look for a worthy addition to my otherwise abysmal fantasy football team. With the exception of one team, all the NFL team logos face or point to the right - excluding, of course, the "stationary" ones - letters and symmetrical symbols. Here's a list of the ones "charging", if you will, to the right:

- Ravens' raven
- Browns' helmet
- Texans' bull
- Jaguars' jaguar
- Titans' fireball
- Bills' buffalo
- Free Willy on Dolphins'
- Patriots' minuteman
- Broncos' bronco
- Chiefs' arrow
- Lions' lion
- Vikings' James Hetfield
- Falcons' falcon
- Panthers' panther
- Buccaeneers' flag
- Redskins' Native American
- Cardinals' cardinal
- Seahawks' ... seahawk
- And, last but not least (pun totally intended), Rams' ram

Only Eagles' eagle is facing left.

I don't know if it was a deliberate attempt by Philly to come up with a logo that defies the "Western logic" or the rest of the NFL. What I mean by "Western logic" is that languages written with a Latin-based alphabet are written from left to right (duh...), so it is natural for children growing up learning these languages as mother tongue to "think" from left to right too (Lacan's language-based psychoanalysis). Let's give a cinematic example: in Kubrick's film The Killing (1955), all the characters enter the scene from left to right. Kubrick later said that it was deliberate. I might be completely off the mark here, but I remember reading a quote by David Lean along the same lines.

Anyway, back to football. What is strange about the NFL logos isn't the fact that they face right, but that one team - by pure coincidence or pure rebellion - has a logo facing the other way.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

Peace.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Goodbye, Mr. Wright...

The music world has lost one of its most talented and elusive players. Rick Wright, Pink Floyd's legendary keyboard player, has passed away after battling with cancer. It is sad news indeed, as not only was he immensely gifted as a songwriter, but he was also a master of his instrument. Players such as Jon Lord, Keith Emerson, and Rick Wakeman are "superstars" in terms of rock keyboards for their showmanship and technical expertise. Wright, on the other hand, was more subtle. Take a listen to Floyd's "Echoes" or any song from Dark Side of the Moon (1973).

It's a shame that we will never get to see Pink Floyd in all its glory anymore - Syd Barrett, the founding member, also recently passed away. But, they left us a catalogue that deserves the epithet "unique" more than any other.

P.S. "Echoes" is playing in the background right now and it's killing me. What a song.

Peace.

Monday, September 8, 2008

And another Awesome Playlist!

There are some overlaps from the previous one, but also some new additions and long-forgotten gems:

Coming Home by Alter Bridge
Threshold by Audrey Horne
What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse by The Black Dahlia Murder
Falling off the Edge of the World by Black Sabbath
Reverend Wrinkle by Black Stone Cherry
Porno Star by Buckcherry
The Doom of All Fires by Cavalera Conspiracy
I Don't Want to Know (If You Don't Want Me) by The Donnas
Piranha by Exodus
Doomsday for the Deceiver by Flotsam & Jetsam
Executioner's Day by Heaven's Basement
The Mirror's Truth by In Flames
Rocket Ship by King's X
Ilyena by The Mars Volta
Bladecatcher by Mastodon
Bleed by Meshuggah
Bleeding Me by Metallica
Issizligin Ortasinda by Mogollar
While Your Lips Are Still Red by Nightwish
Stuff Is Messed up by The Offspring
Hessian Peel by Opeth
Shesmovedon by Porcupine Tree
My Global Mind by Queensryche
Morphine Child by Savatage
Sepulnation by Sepultura
Sacrifice for the Slaughter God by Skeletonwitch
Practice What You Preach by Testament
Jump for Joy by Warrior Soul
Living for the Weekend by Willie Stradlin
Alien Angel by 3

Peace

No More Perfection!!!

Great. You wait for six months to prove everyone that Patriots may not have been the perfect team, but the best team in the country and what happens? Tom Brady - they should have cast him instead of Brandon Routh in Superman Returns (2006) - gets injured within the first five minutes after tossing a awesome pass. He's out for the season and a return to glory for the Pats looks a lot harder now. The pass was intercepted, by the way.

Losing Brady should not be wholly detrimental to Patriots, because (read the first paragraph again) they want to prove themselves to be the best team. Unfortunately, Brady's input is so huge that his loss undermines any title hope the team, the pundits, the fans, and the players had. They are now a strong contender for a play-off spot - quite probably seeded - but I can't see them progressing any further. Matt Cassell should be an able replacement, but he won't reach the numbers Brady put on board last season. I hope he does and I end up eating my words. But, he won't. Brady's loss also means lesser numbers from Moss and Welker (and there goes my fantasy team). All in all, Patriots will finish the season with a handful of less games won than last year.

On the bright side, it was a stellar first week: Favre vs. Pennington (I wish they had mics inside the helmets of both); Panthers' last second touchdown (thank you San Diego defence); Falcons finally winning a game. And tonight we'll see if Rodgers can shut the Packers' fans boos as he sizes up Petersen and the Vikings. It's going to be good...

Peace.

Monday, July 28, 2008

SFTD: "Fire" by Bruce Dickinson

Today I am starting a new thread of blogs in which I will write briefly about a random song on my iTunes.

"Fire" by Bruce Dickinson

Taken from the album that the Siren released during his time away from Iron Maiden, "Fire" is one of the more surprising songs from the much-maligned Balls to Picasso (1994). It is a mid-tempo slow-burner that has a riff reminiscent of a Judas Priest song circa British Steel (1980). The chorus has a slightly funky hook to it that makes it sound a little more "American". Roy Z comes up with a very Steve Morse-inspired solo in the middle, before the song fades away in a rather unsatisfactory fashion. Not a highlight from a patchy album, but not a stinker either.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The New Awesome Playlist

What follows is my new Awesome Playlist (30 songs that I find myself listening to most these days):

(in alphabetical order)

- Coming Home by Alter Bridge
- Indians by Anthrax
- Ain't Enough by Army Of Anyone
- Wide Awake by Audioslave
- Threshold by Audrey Horne
- Sailin' on by Bad Brains
- Wanderlust by Baroness
- Remedy by The Black Crowes
- Sinful Love by Blue Oyster Cult
- The Doom of All Fires by Cavalera Conspiracy
- Mercury by Clutch
- Elembivos by Eluveitie
- Bonded by Blood by Exodus
- Executioner's Day by Heaven's Basement
- The Mirror's Truth by In Flames
- Revelations by Judas Priest
- Rocket Ship by King's X
- The Spirit by Magnum
- Trust by Megadeth
- Ronnie by Metallica
- Double Nature by Mustasch
- Stuff Is Messed up by The Offspring
- Burden by Opeth
- First It Giveth by Queens Of The Stone Age
- Morphine Child by Savatage
- Practice What You Preach by Testament
- Alien Angel by 3
- Wings of Time by Tyr
- Wild Child by W.A.S.P.
- Jump for Joy by Warrior Soul

Shaking the hands of the Truth

It has been a long time since I graced this pages with utterances that are utterly useless. Needless to say it has been a fruitless few weeks with nothing much to write home (or on this blog, for that matter) about. However, today's chance spotting and immediate handshaking deserve a little mention.

As I was innocently trying to figure out whether the new James Patterson book is even worth putting up on the shelf, I pass by this dude who was much taller than me, wearing an Oakland Athletics cap. Then a very supporting-character-in-a-romantic-comedy happened and I stopped in my tracks and literally retraced my steps. Holy fucking shit. Could he be? No way, right? But he is. It's Paul Pierce. The MVP of the Finals. The Man. The Truth.

Throwing away the shit that was in my hands and pushing away little children trying to grab the newly-arrived Horse webkinz, I made my way towards the man I have admired all these years, from late night rebroadcast games on Sky Sports in England to Channel 52 here in Boston. But, I had to be sure.

Gurur: "Dude. You're Paul Pierce, right?"
The Truth: "Call me Champ"

He walks away, I stand there wide-eyed... Awesome.

Last but not least, a moment of Zen. I have mentioned this to none other than Mr. Wheeler Maidrand Crowley today: 3 months in L.A. and the most famous person I've seen is Tony Shalhoub (great actor, by the way) and 3 weeks working at a bookstore at Logan Airport and I have already spotted Counting Crows and Paul Pierce. Go figure.

Peace.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Top Directors...according to me

Hello Brethren,

Some of my friends know about my film database (a list of all the films I have ever seen, with cast information, "star review", etc.) and about a year ago I added a new feature to the database, which has seen more versions than Windows. The said new feature is a countdown of my favourite directors. Here's how I compiled it:

I used the Bayesian estimate - the system used for imdb ratings - whereby I assigned the following minimums: I must have seen at least 3 films by any given director and the arithmetic mean of those films has to be at least 3 (based on a star review system out of 5).

Needless to say, the list ended up having more surprises than I can handle (one of which is that, apparently, I think Kevin Costner is a better director than Steven Spielberg). However, I always find it interesting to browse through the list and be in awe of my stupefying ratings. Hindsight is the worst enemy of a review, so sometimes I look back on some films and begin wondering what I was on (probably Diet Coke at the time). But I made sure that I don't change the ratings - that would be cheating. Another disclaimer would be that having at least 3 films means some directors, such as the aforementioned Speilberg and one Martin Scorsese, end up having low weighted scores, because - let's face it - there is always a The Lost World - Jurassic Park for every Schindler's List, or The Aviator for every Taxi Driver.

Before I dabble on even longer, I shall give you the top 30 and the weighted averages next to them. Enjoy:

For the tie scores the arithmetic mean has the priority. In the case of all parameters being equal, alphabetical order has the priority.

1- Joel & Ethan Coen - 4.07
- Stanley Kubrick
3- Akira Kurosawa - 4.05
4- Billy Wilder - 4.02
5- Pedro Almodovar - 3.97
6- Darren Aronofsky - 3.92
7- Krzysztow Kieslowski - 3.91
- Sergio Leone
- Lars Von Trier
10- Alfred Hitchcock - 3.84
11- David Lynch - 3.81
12- Francis Ford Coppola - 3.8
- David Lean
- Sam Peckinpah
- Charlie Chaplin
- Michael Haneke
- Rob Reiner
18- Alfonso Cuaron - 3.72
- Frank Darabont
- Lasse Hallstrom
- John Schlesinger
- Zhang Yimou
23- James Cameron - 3.71
- Hayao Miyazaki
25- Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu - 3.67
- Robert Altman
- Michael Mann
28- Alejandro Amenabar - 3.63
- Spike Lee
- Richard Linklater
- Sidney Lumet
- Roman Polanski
- Peter Weir

Another interesting tidbit would be the number of films I have seen by the directors. This explains - to a certain extent - the ommission of some of the "big" names from this Top 30 (the more the number of films, the more of a chance to have stinkers). Here's the list of the directors with the most number of films I have seen:

This list is drawn from the pool of directors that fulfill the above requirements for minimum number of films and the minimum arithmetic score of 3.

1- Steven Spielberg - 20
2- Martin Scorsese - 13
3- Joel & Ethan Coen - 12
- Stanley Kubrick
5- Pedro Almodovar - 11
6- Woody Allen - 10
- Robert Zemeckis
8- Tim Burton - 9
- Mike Nichols
10- Akira Kurosawa - 8
- David Cronenberg

What this shows is that, in my humble opinion and filmic experience, the Coens, Kubrick, Almodovar, and Kurosawa have always been consistently good (considering their placements in the first chart). Yet, I want to stress that these lists mean nothing, as the pool of films contain under 1300 titles. In the coming years, once I marathon my way through Bergman, Antonioni, Herzog, Lang, Bunuel, or numerous other "greats", then the list will have some meaning. I can safely assume, though, that the Coens will overtake Kubrick (until No Country, Kubrick was number one, with Coens second by only a tiny margin). Who knows? Maybe Burn After Reading will end up being another Coens masterpiece.

Peace.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Opeth's New Observation

I will write a proper review for this album here and here later on, but I just want to say that the new album (or observation, as they like to call them) is absolutely, mind-numbingly, annoyingly good. Watershed will be remembered as a metal classic for years to come.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rob Schneider is from the Dark Side...

...according to imdbPRO STARmeter, he is number 666. Spooky, huh? Maybe he sold his soul to the devil and the Zohan movie will actually be funny.

Peace.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cannes 2008

The Cannes Festival is well and truly under way - actually it has been for a while. For a good coverage of the proceedings, I would urge you all to check out this. I, on the other hand, would like to tell you the films that I can't wait to see once they are released on this side of the pond:

Le Silence de Lorna: the new film from the Dardenne Brothers (winners from two years ago) sounds pretty interesting, especially the rising interest in the Balkan countries in the last couple of years.

Changeling: Clint is always reliable and this sounds like something juicy. Well, hoping that Angelina Jolie decides to act for once.

Waltz with Bashir: this Israeli animation looks like it could be this year's Persepolis with an edge.

Two Lovers: let's just hope that Joaquin Phoenix once again picks good films.

Synecdoche, New York: this smells of brilliant from the get-go - Kaufman, Keener, and PS Hoffman.

Blindness: just saw the trailer the other day and if the film is half as captivating as Saramago's book, then this could be a contender for the film of the year.

Linha de Passe: I'm hoping that Salles returns to the Central Station (1998) days and delivers another stunning film.

Che: I have been waiting for this for years and whatever it is, it should be amazing. Here is what Peter Bradshaw had to say about it.

Leonera: it has a similar theme to what I am working on right now and I'm curious as to how it will turn out.

Palermo Shooting: anything by WimWenders deserves my utmost attention and admiration.

It looks like we will have some great stuff on the way. I can't wait.

Peace

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Recent Viewings

I have been very lazy lately about the blogs, so I apologize to you, my modest number of somehow devoted readers, and I will give you a stupid list of the movies I watched recently. Why? Because I'm lazy. So, from the latest backwards, here are the last twenty films I saw:



- The Passenger (1975): Antonioni's thriller is a masterclass in filmmaking. Every frame and snippet of sound is a meticulous work of beauty.


- Charlie Wilson's War (2007): It is a decent effort, but somehow I was unsure about the tone and the slight ambiguity at the end seemed rather cowardly.


- The Savages (2007): Absolutely fantastic performances by the two leads, but this suffers from the same tonal issues.


- Reservation Road (2007): There is not much new here in terms of content - it is a glorified Lifetime movie.


- Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007): Lumet's slightly uncompromising street attitude is all evident here, but it is too aware of itself to be edgy.


- Bug (2007): Definitely an interesting film and the source material shows itself clearly - it is a play shot through a camera.


- In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Movie (2007): I couldn't resist and watched an Uwe Boll film and I regret every second of it.

- Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007): The first dud from the Apatow Laugh Factory, this is nothing but an SNL skit gone horribly long.

- Eat Drink Man Woman (1994): A deeply moving, palate-caressing, and poignant soap from Ang Lee, which also ticks many boxes on the humour level.

- Lions for Lambs (2007): Robert Redford's rather bland, but well-acted, Iraq-war-themed movie lacks focus and depth.

- Alexander: The Director's Cut (2004): There is so much potential wasted away in this epic that it is painful to watch without thinking what it could, and should, have been.

- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007): It is an impressive-looking horror-musical, but it doesn't give room for any of its characters to shine from the claret-colored gloss.

- Mean Creek (2004): A tense and gripping drama with great performances and characters. It hits a huge roadblock in the third act, but still ends with a satisfying finale.

- Wristcutters: A True Story (2007): A premise as goofy and genius as a Charlie Kaufman story, but unfortunately handled in a very complacent manner.

- House of Sand (2005): This Brazilian mini-epic boasts another magnificent turn from Fernanda Montenegro, but its episodic structure belittles its ambitions.

- Once (2007): One of the best movies from last year, it is honest, moving, uplifting, and has the best soundtrack this side of Garden State (2004).

- Sin City (2005): It looks amazing and has an incredible cast ... but it is irredeemably boring and hasn't got one convincing or memorable performance from its stars.

- Driving Lessons (2006): In this PC version of the brilliant Harold and Maude (1971) Julie Walters gives one of the best performances of her career ... and that's pretty amazing.

- The Kite Runner (2007): By cramming every little part of the book and thus exposing some of its limitations, it is hurried and awkward.

- The Legend of the Black Scorpion (2006): A great-looking version of Hamlet that lacks an actual story beyond the premise.

So, folks, here they are. As you can see I haven't paid a visit to the theaters for a long time, because there hasn't been anything that I was dying to see in the last couple of months or so. And, sadly, that is unlikely to change in the coming weeks. They spoiled us late last year and now we want more quality films. I'm curious how this year will compare to 2007.

Peace.


Friday, April 4, 2008

Peter Bradshaw's 'Funny Games" Review

Here is what Peter Bradshaw had to say about Michael Haneke's own re-shoot of Funny Games (2008). For those who haven't seen the 1997 original, it is one of the single most horrifying filmic experiences of my life - and that's a compliment. I can safely claim that Funny Games (1997) is my favourite horror film I have seen yet. The re-shoot (it is a shot-by-shot replica, the only difference being a single line about a cell phone) has some issues with acting - though good they all are, it reminds you how important the acting was in the first place. I would recommend everybody to try to watch the 1997 one first and if you still have the stomach watch the 2008 film. Haneke is a genius in manipulating audience and this is further proof of that.

Peace.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Small Rant: The Return

A case in point for my previous blog. Feel free to vomit or smash something in rage.

Peace.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Small Rant

Is it me or is it completely inexcusable for the celebrities selling their baby pictures to gossip magazines? I personally would hate to find out that my parents used my pictures to make a couple of more millions. You can say that the money could be used for the kids' future, but come on...we're talking about people who have a few million stacked somewhere that they don't deserve. Their kids won't grow up to need that money. I think it is a travesty and it should be abolished altogether.

Peace.

P.S. While we're at it, why don't we get rid of Nancy Grace too?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Little Bit of Everything

There were three things that caught my attention in the last two days and I would like to share them with you:

1- Last night Boston Celtics snapped the 22-game winning streak (second longest in the NBA history) of Houston Rockets with a defensive display we have come to expect from Pierce and co. As a Celtics fan, I was jubilant and wanted to hug the imaginary person watching the game with me late last night. However, the more interesting news came after the game. As usual, the sideline reporter pulled aside a player from the winning team for a live interview. The TNT reporter picked the inimitable Kevin Garnett. After asking him tired old questions about how well Celtics played and Garnett's equally tired old replies, the reporter asked the player about his former employer's (Timberwolves owner...name I can't remember) comments that Garnett "tanked" at the end of last season. Garnett, first smiled, then said that he is Boston player now and that's all he cares about. Then he dropped the bomb: "I don't know why you bring this up right now". Thank you, Kevin, because seeing the reporter understanding that he has screwed up and making him eat his words on national TV was priceless. Who cares what the Timberwolves owner said? What is important is that Celtics managed to stop the streak and Garnett just wants to celebrate it. Do you have to bring that up? What were you expecting Garnett to say? "Fuck him" on national TV? Kevin Garnett proved himself that not only he is one of the best forwards the league has ever seen, but also one of the smartest.

2- This morning I caught the last minute of an interview with Dick Cheney (I think it was on GMA, but it could have been on CNN...doesn't matter). The chyron read that Cheney thought the war on Iraq was a success. No news there. Just then the interviewer mentioned the opinion polls and said that a certain proportion of the population (again I can't remember the exact number, but it was a rather sizable one) believes that it's not worth fighting there. What followed was unbelievable and I had to verify with my girlfriend if I heard him right. This is what Cheney said verbatim: "So what?". Insert your comments here...

3- Remember last year when the news that two of cinema's greatest masters died within a week of each other and how empty we all felt and ordered their back catalogues from Netflix? For the philistines out there I'm talking about Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni. This year, sad news from the same front came hours apart. Anthony Minghella and Arthur C. Clarke passed away yesterday. You can argue back and forth about Minghella's position in cinema history with respect to those of Bergman or Anotnioni, but the point is the film industry lost one of its most consistent and intelligent filmmakers. As for Clarke, he was the last great science fiction author. I can't wait to re-visit 2001: A Space Odyssey and Minghella's "trio": The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Cold Mountain again.

Peace.

Friday, March 14, 2008

I Smell Magic Dollars

Read this and weep. Just when I thought we were done with the magical soap opera, we will have to endure the thing twice over...again...Are we trying to make J.k Rowling richer than Oprah?

Peace.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Peter Bradshaw on Zombie Flicks

It's not a "Peter-Bradshaw-One-Star-Review", but it is up there with some of his better ones. Here is what he thought about George A. Romero's new zombie outing, Diary of the Dead (2008). I didn't really want to see it before the review, now I'm a little curious. I think it's time to stop making zombie flicks, just like we stopped making romantic comedies starring Hugh Grant.

Also, am I the only person who thinks Romero is one of the most overrated directors ever? I mean, just because his films have obvious political undertones doesn't mean he is a 'genius'. He single-handedly glorified and exploited a genre, that's all. Anyhoo, it's probably the only thing remotely worth watching in theaters right now.

Peace.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Best of the 21st Century

It seems I have a knack for lists that are bound to change after I make them. The following is no exception. Inspired by a list that I frequently visit, I present you my favorite films from our very young century. Although technically speaking there is an ambiguity as to whether the year 2000 was the beginning of the century or not, but that should be a topic to be discussed perhaps later on these very pages. For simplicity's sake, the films that have been released in the 'noughties' are included here. And, as always, this list could change at any moment without due notice...

My Favorite Films of the 21st Century:

1- MULHOLLAND DR. (David Lynch, 2001): I don't think many people would argue with this one. It is the mind-fuck that can only come from the genius mind of David Lynch. I can never forget my experience of watching this in an old, large, and empty theater in Buenos Aires...by myself. Definitely the most frightening movie-going experience of my life.

2- NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2007): I stand by what I said before, this is the best movie of the last few years and the only reason why it doesn't hold the top spot is because the Coens' film is an excellence in convention despite some of the unconventional decisions they've made.

3- TALK TO HER (Pedro Almodovar, 2002): Viva Pedro! This is the film where the auteur really asserts himself and comes up with a mature film that is brimming with originality and energy - an energy that should come from a young director that has something to say to the wide world.

4- ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (Michel Gondry, 2004): Charlie Kaufman was the JJ Abrams of screenwriting (great premise and start, but gets bored and abandons the thing towards the end) until this oddity. Science fiction? Romantic comedy? Drama? Horror? All?

5- THE FOUNTAIN (Darren Aronofsky, 2006): A flop it might have been on various fronts, but the feeling it leaves me with every time I see it is the closest to a sweet melancholy than any film I can think of recently. And despite what Dr. Cox thinks, Hugh Jackman is amazing here.

6- CHILDREN OF MEN (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006): A captivating story? Check. Convincing performances? Check. Brilliant cinematography? Check. Music? Check. Cuts that last 15 minutes through mind-boggling action set-pieces? Check. Check, check...It ticks all the boxes, it is almost ridiculous...

7- SPIRITED AWAY (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001): It doesn't matter how much Disney tries to ruin Miyazaki's masterpieces by adding excruciatingly annoying voice-overs, his amazing hand-drawn animation manages to escape the manacles of Hollywood. Oh, and the story should be taught at Screenwriting 101.

8- CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (Ang Lee, 2000): It was this wushu that made the genre famous in the mainstream - and deservedly so. By mixing ludicrously graceful martial arts and a western melodramatic storyline (add to that some of the most beautiful images ever captured on camera), Ang Lee, perhaps inadvertently, created his masterpiece.

9- THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD (Andrew Dominik, 2007): It was Javier Bardem and his hair that swept the awards (deservedly so), but it was Casey Affleck's performance that was the star of 2007 (at least for me). His awkward mannerisms, pale complexion, and that childish voice makes him a lot more terrifying than Anton Chigurh. Add to that Roger Deakins' best work behind the camera and a great score by the inimitable Nick Cave, and you have a bona fide Western. Brad Pitt ain't bad, either.

10- THERE WILL BE BLOOD (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007): The truth is, without Daniel Day-Lewis, the film is not that amazing, but his performance makes it an irresistible watch. Johnny Greenwood (criminally overlooked at all the awards) comes up with an unorthodox soundtrack that stayed with me for a long time. And, yes, you can't take your eyes off of Day-Lewis.

11- Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)
12- Pirates of the Caribbean : The Curse of the Black Pearl (Gore Verbinski, 2003)
13- The Hours (Stephen Daldry, 2003)
14- Garden State (Zach Braff, 2004)
15- Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
16- Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
17- The Motorcycle Diaries (Walter Salles, 2004)
18- The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
19- In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
20- Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000)

Bubbling under:
- O Brother Where Art Thou? (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2000)
- Das Experiment (Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2001)
- Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

TV Ratings and Box-Office

I have just read an article on BBC's website about the last weekend's Academy Awards ceremony and it's pretty darn interesting.

Apparently last Sunday's broadcast drew the lowest audience figures (32 million), even lower than the 2003 ceremony which came days after the Iraq invasion. What is also interesting is the fact that the fricking American Idol - otherwise known as the dumbest show on TV - draws 30 million every week. I mean, are we that stupid? I can't fathom how asinine our culture has become that we are obsessed with a program that thrives on insult and "reality"? We must be really cut off from our imaginative side here, because a "reality show" now takes over and becomes the symbol of our cultural psyche. Really scary...

On another note, the same article also points out the box-office numbers for the nominated films: only Juno broke the $100 million mark, whereas the Best Motion Picture of the Year, No Country for Old Men, only returned $64 million. The conclusion drawn by the article is that, because the nominated movies - critically acclaimed all may be - weren't popular enough to garner record-breaking ratings. The 1998 ceremony, where Titanic swept the board, had the highest rating - that is, since the ratings began.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Another shuffling of iTunes

Well, I'm bored right now...so I will do another iTunes shuffling and let you glimpse into my musical reality:

One of These Days by Pink Floyd
Learning to Live by Dream Theater
Diadems by Megadeth
After Dark by Blue Oyster Cult
I Thought I Knew It All by Megadeth
Piedra y camino by Juan Carlos Baglietto
Go Let It out! by Oasis
Little Queen by Heart
Afraid by Motley Crue
Freedom by Stratovarius
Shame on the Night by Solitude Aeternus
Wheels of Fire by Manowar
Nectar by Opeth
I'll Wait by Van Halen
When the Levee Breaks by W.A.S.P.
The Siren by Nightwish
The Call of Ktulu by Metallica
Blessed Be the Dead by Megadeth
Behind My Camel by Primus
Tall Latte by Devin Townsend
Drawing Flies by Soundgarden
The Baying of the Hounds by Opeth
Gravel Road by Clutch (my favourite song right now)
Signs of Chaos by Testament
Fight Hate by Md.45
The Flowers of Guatemala by R.E.M.
Stupid Girl by Neil Young
Achilles, Agony, and Ecstasy in Eight Parts by Manowar
Breed by Nirvana
10's by Pantera

This is definitely a lot heavier than the previous shuffle...

Peace

How did I do?

A few weeks ago, I posted my predictions for this year's Academy Awards. There have been some alterations here and there. I think I did pretty well this year - having said that this year has been quite interesting. We all knew it was going to be between No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, but up until the last handful of awards, neither film asserted its dominance. It was very open and despite the somewhat predictability of some of the categories, most of the awards were up for grabs. And that certainly made it a more interesting, if a little less glitzy, night compared to the last few years.

So, without further ado, here are my predictions and the winners:

BEST MOTION PICTURE:
Gurur: No Country for Old Men
Academy: No Country for Old Men

It was a two-horse race, but it seemed inevitable that the Coens would go home with the big prize.

BEST ACTOR:
Gurur: Daniel Day-Lewis
Academy: Daniel Day-Lewis

Like last year's Best Actress category, we all knew this as soon as we first got a glimpse of Daniel Plainview in that silver mine.

BEST ACTRESS:
Gurur: Marion Cotillard / Julie Christie
Academy: Marion Cotillard

A disclaimer here: on the ballot I filled out yesterday, I picked Julie Christie as opposed to what I posted here. I should have stuck to my guns.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Gurur: Javier Bardem
Academy: Javier Bardem

Another shoe-in, but it's great to see him finally getting the recognition he deserves.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Gurur: Cate Blanchett / Tilda Swinton
Academy: Tilda Swinton

Again on the ballot yesterday I had a change of hearts and this time it paid off!

DIRECTOR:
Gurur: The Coens
Academy: The Coens

Finally...and thank you all for "letting them play in [their] corner of the sandbox."

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
Gurur: The Coens
Academy: The Coens

Come on, who else?

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
Gurur: Diablo Cody
Academy: Diablo Cody

I think I speak for everybody else here...she should have taken her clothes off to make the night a little more interesting.

CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Gurur: Roger Deakins for ...Jesse James...
Academy: Robert Elswit for There Will Be Blood

Roger Deakins is nominated for two and goes home empty-handed...again...Blood would have been my other pick, though...

EDITING:
Gurur: Bourne
Academy: Bourne

A movie that 'lives' on editing, it was a little obvious, don't you think?

ART DIRECTION:
Gurur: Atonement
Academy: Sweeney Todd...

I haven't seen the latest Burton / Depp oddity, so I can't make comments here...

ORIGINAL SCORE:
Gurur: Atonement
Academy: Atonement

It was simply brilliant and you know it.

So, it turns out I did pretty well. And barring some last minute adjustments, I could have been a contender, don't you think?

Peace

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Excellent banter

I have been reading (for a very long time, it seems) Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy. I am stuck in the third installment - The Amber Spyglass (not because I feel intellectually challenged by it, nor because I'm not entertained by it, but solely because of a lack of time).

As I was looking up some information on the 'Net about the books and the author, I came across this interview between Pullman and a Canadian film-critic, Peter Chattaway. It is an excellent and honest interview between two people with fundamentally opposing views on religion.

The core of the discussion appears halfway through the exchange, where Pullman tells Chattaway that the biggest sin of them all is to attribute all the good deeds and virtues to a religious belief, and vice to everything else.

This is an issue that bothers me most concerning the religious doctrine - it appears that religion, or faith, has the monopoly over a fundamental goodness and that those that do not belong to or are not affiliated to a certain belief system possess evil. Belonging to a church or a sect does not beget virtue. At the same time, not having any religious and/or spiritual affiliation does not beget virtue either. Goodness and evil should not be under control of a belief system, but should be embedded in one's consciousness.

The end is nigh...

The time to give away those dildo-shaped golden statuettes to people who mostly deserve them is upon us. I have dabbled in some precognition over the Oscar winners before. And there have been some changes as I got to see more of the nominated films. And then some more...So I won't go into a summary of my predictions- there are quite a few of them around. Just Google something and voila...

I want to dedicate this space for a couple of things that I stumbled on while perusing the cyber reality that I wish I was living in.

It turns out, Diablo Cody - the stripper-turned-the-next-big-screenwriter-in-Hollywood - will be wearing shoes that are worth - just wait - $1 million. I know that she doesn't own them, but it puts a lot into perspective when you think about how the writers went on strike for Internet returns...just mind-boggling. I think we might be living in a time where the writer is the new star (nothing wrong with that, by the way - but something is definitely wrong with $1 million shoes no matter who you are). Some more research also brings forth an interesting figure: the estimated budget for Juno (2007) was $7.5 million.

There are a gazillion film sites on the Internet - we all know the usual stuff. My favorite film site -not a database, but a features and reviews site - belongs to The Guardian newspaper. Not only you can find there my favorite film critic - Peter Bradshaw - but also a lot of features on anything and anyone around the world of cinema. They have an excellent retrospective on articles related to the upcoming Oscars. Worth checking out.

We will see whether his will be the year of No Country for Old Men or There Will Be Blood. You know which one I'm rooting for, but either way this has been a very good year for film.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Once again...

It happened again. Another campaign for European glory ended in a defeat. And this time with a heavy one. It is law now that when Galatasaray are to lose in Europe, they lose heavily...against teams that they should beat. It's also interesting how we manage to lose all the important games with seemingly crushing defeats. How we'll come back up from this is beyond me - it was an abysmal performance. I think we cemented the notion, which we vehemently denied over the last five years or so, that we are no longer a potent team...we have become what we feared most: we are what Fenerbahce used to be all these years. Shame...

Peace

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Strike is Over!!!!!

Four months of painful negotiations, terrible TV listings, incessant honkings outside the studios, and a horde of (mostly) talented people looking for jobs...and finally the WGA vs. Producers feud is over.

We can only hope for better TV shows and better films for 2009.

Peace.

iPod kaput

Yes, folks...it finally happened...again. My beloved iPod succumbed to its demise and now looks at me with that sad face icon with the exclamation mark plastered next to it...taunting me...

You know men have cars as their extensions, I had my iPod...and now I feel very inadequate indeed...

A sad day in my universe. What am I going to listen to in my car? Or when working out?

When my first iPod was broken, Deep Purple's "Stormbringer" was playing. I cringe every time that song comes on. This time it was "Skeletons of Society" by Slayer. And I like both songs!!!

Peace.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Changes for an Oscar Prediction

Having just seen La Vie en Rose, I feel compelled to change my prediction for the Best Actress category from Ellen Page for Juno to Marion Cotillard. She is simply magnificent. The movie is just a one-woman-show with not much to say about Edith Piaf other than superficial and melodramatic periods of her life, but the center-piece of the movie is breathtaking. It restores your faith in great acting.

I will be watching Away From Her later today - Julie Christie (one of the most beautiful women in the world) is a heavy favourite to win the Academy Award. We'll see if my prediction will change, but even Christie might have difficulty in doing that. And if Cotillard is stripped from this award, it will be a terrible shame. But, then again, I love Julie Christie...

Peace.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Imperfection

It finally came to be true and the invincible, perfect, awesome, amazing, incredible Patriots were brought down to their knees in a performance that was so mediocre, one wonders how this team managed to come all this way without losing a single game.

This is not a damning indictment on how bad the Patriots were, nor is it a counter-argument to the Perfection epithet. I believe that Patriots deserved all the accolades awarded to them for the whole season. They were (are) the perfect team and they have only played one bad game - and it happens to be the one that counts.

I personally dislike the play-off system that is employed in American sports. True, in world football there is also a play-off system, but that is due to time restrictions. Play-offs are good for the media - it generates more buzz and, in most cases, it is quite good fun. However, the 'fun' part isn't on the field. More often than not, every play-off situation benefits from the pre-game and post-game analysis. This is because the teams participating in the post-season are very similar in terms of quality, so you are more likely to get a 'dull' game. What is interesting is the drama surrounding the situation.

Now, can anybody say that Patriots were the second best team of the season? Or that the Colts just made it to Top 8? No. The league system rewards the better teams, play-offs reward the teams that play better on that very particular day. I don't want to take anything away from the Giants - they were the superior team last night and they have been on a very good run over the last few weeks. Kudos to them that they beat the best team in the country.

I think play-offs are a farce and unfair. Sports is played on the field and Patriots were outplayed by Giants, but the best team of the 2007-08 season were the Patriots. Unfortunately, the record-books won't ever show that.

As for the Patriots players, good job, lads. You played better than anybody and you deserved to win the championship, but your one mediocre game happened to be on the Super Bowl day...

Friday, February 1, 2008

'Lost' Season 4 Premiere

After months of waiting, hypothesising, and endless speculation about its fate, the most amazing TV show on air is back...with a bang.

As with many aficionados, I bought the Season 3 on DVD and marathon my way through it. Although I had seen all the episodes before, it never hurts to re-experience them. When the third season was airing, I thought it was slower and, frankly, rather boring. How wrong was I?

Season Three is probably the most satisfying ever since the Pilot episode. Full of twists, Michael
Emerson, and the first sex between the castaways.

Expectations were high for this season and I have to admit I had my reservations. Would it be a repeat of last season, where the first few episodes were miles away in terms of pacing from the end of Season Two?

Well, folks, they start where they left off. The curveball they throw in the beginning is the best revelation they have come up with yet - I nearly fell off my chair! Then the events on the Island!

I don't want to give away too much, but I can say that the Others will play an important part, but it will be even more difficult to distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys now.

Lost is back. And our lives will once again have a meaning.

Peace

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Couple of Changes for the Oscar Nominations

As with the Top 10 films of the year, I am compelled to make a few changes to my Oscar nominations, as There Will Be Blood was more impressive than I thought it would be.

So, here are the categories that PT Anderson's new film has been nominated, followed by my original prediction and if there is any change:

BEST ACTOR:
Prediction: Daniel Day-Lewis
New Prediction: Daniel Day-Lewis

It was evident from the teasers and trailers that this would be Day-Lewis' year again. And with all the commendations given to him so far, his win was sealed from the get-go.

BEST ART DIRECTION:
Prediction: Atonement
New Prediction: Atonement

I am sticking to my guns with this one, because Atonement was the best-looking film of the year by a mile.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Prediction: The Assassination of Jesse James...
New prediction: The Assassination of Jesse James...

If this year isn't the year of Roger Deakins, then the Academy needs a huge rehashing process to do.

BEST DIRECTOR:
Prediction: The Coens
New Prediction: The Coens

No comment necessary here.

EDITING:
Prediction: The Bourne Ultimatum
New prediction: There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Good Storytelling...for shizzle.

BEST MOTION PICTURE:
Prediction: No Country
New Prediction: No Country

There Will Be Blood suffers from outstanding acting to shine as a film on its own.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
Prediction: No Country
New Prediction: No Country

I'm sticking to my guns again for this one.

So, there has only been one change. I was absolutely sure that it would sweep the Original Score award, but to my chagrin it's not nominated. Surely, one of the biggest omissions in this category...perhaps the biggest. Shame.

Peace.

Rethinking the Top 10

Perhaps I was too hasty when I submitted my Top 10 movies to the public (the modest crowd that they are), because this is the second time I am pushing a new movie into the list. If the move titles had any feelings, I would be the hate-mail recipient of some quite formidable titles. However, fortunately I am dealing with inanimate non-living and non-existing objects - I'm not going to go into a Barthesian discussion here about the significance and existence of names.

Here is a new Top 10 list for you, as Yours Truly finally saw There Will Be Blood yesterday:

1- No Country for Old Men
2- The Lives of Others
3- The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
4- There Will Be Blood
5- Gone Baby Gone
6- Knocked up
7- Feast of Love
8- Sunshine
9- Atonement
10- Eastern Promises

If you want to compare the previous lists, you can check here and here.

There will be a review soon up on my other blog (cinewise.blogspot.com). Make sure you check it out within the next few days.

Peace.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Pure Reason Revolution

I am constantly reminded by my iPod that I possess an incredible album by a British band called Pure Reason Revolution. Their debut album, The Dark Third is full of LSD-inspired, haze-inducing, catchy-as-fuck prog epics unheard of ever since Roger Waters decided to run Pink Floyd like Robert Mugabe runs Zimbabwe.

Their sound is also reminiscent of The Beach Boys, but fortunately they try to do something different in each song instead of not fixing the-thing-that-ain't-broke.

I can't wait for their new album and I hope to see them out here on the East Coast very soon, because they are, right now, occupying the coveted spot of the-band-I-have-to-see-that-still-exists-today. And, I think they will be there until Zeppelin decides to tour, or something.

Peace.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Top 10 Albums re-vamp

Like I said, those Top 10 lists are flexible. In fact, this has just come to my attention. While doing some research, as you do, I found out that the one Moonsorrow album I have, Viides Luku - Havietty was actually released in 2007.

For those of you not familiar with Moonsorrow, they are a Finnish metal band that incorporate black metal with extreme prog doodling. As a result, you have an album with two songs. The shorter one is just over 26 minutes long. It is an insane album - no crazy prog stuff I have comes even close to these songs. They are absolutely amazing. Hence, without further ado, I present you my revised Top 10 Albums of 2007:

1- Raising Sand by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
2- The End Is Begun by 3
3- Black Stone Cherry by Black Stone Cherry
4- Hello Master by Priestess
5- From Beale Street to Oblivion by Clutch
6- Dark Passion Play by Nightwish
7- Viides Luku - Havietty by Moonsorrow
8- III: Over the Under by Down
9- United Abominations by Megadeth
10- Send Away the Tigers by Manic Street Preachers

I feel sorry for Porcupine Tree's Fear of a Dark Planet, but a late run by these Finns is unavoidable. Also for statistical reasons, there are two bands from Finland on this list. The other is NIghtwish. Those crazy Finns...they are pretty good drivers, too. What's up with that?

Peace

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

80th Academy Award Nominees

And here it is...quite probably the most exciting time in moviedom is nigh. This morning, the Academy (whoever they are) announced the nominees for the upcoming ceremony. Now, there is a key question here: will there be a ceremony?

I'm not a fan of the red carpet shenanigans of the celebrities and their new hot dresses. However, the Golden Globes showed that without the ceremony, the awards are useless. Absolutely obsolete. The only use for them is to print them on the DVD covers to pump up the sales for the "critically acclaimed fare".

Without further ado, let me give you my humble analysis of this year's nominees:

BEST ACTOR:
- George Clooney for Michael Clayton - a shoe-in nomination, but I don't think the movie, or the performance actually, was memorable enough to win.

- Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood - whenever he is nominated, he is the favourite - deservedly. The Academy still owes him for Gangs of New York. Regardless, he is a god among acting talent.

- Johnny Depp for Sweeney Todd - Oh, Johnny...who doesn't love you? But, I still feel he had a better chance for Pirates.

- Tommy Lee Jones for In the Valley of Elah - I haven't seen the film, but I'm pretty sure he did a great job. However...who saw the movie in the first place?

- Viggo Mortensen for Eastern Promises - the fight scene in the bathhouse is deserving the nomination alone, but it feels like a caricature role.

And the winner is...Daniel Day-Lewis

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

- Casey Affleck for The Assassination of Jesse James - for me this was the performance of the year. And any other year, it would have been the clear favourite. But...

- Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men- ...as usual, Mr. Bardem steals the show. One of the scariest characters ever put on film.

- Philip Seymour Hoffman for Charlie Wilson's War - perhaps the movie is too light for Oscar, but Hoffman always delivers.

- Hal Holbrook for Into the Wild - just hoping that the Academy gives the award to the person who deserved it this year and not make amends to clear up old omissions...

- Tom Wilkinson for Michael Clayton - good performance, but again, not that memorable.

And the winner is...Javier Bardem

BEST ACTRESS

- Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth II - she should have won for the first one. This feels a little bit of a stretch to me.

- Julie Christie for Away From Her - the momentum from the Globes should carry her to the finish line.

- Marion Cotillard for La Vie en Rose - a role tailor-made for Academy, but her downfall could be that the Academy might favor an American, or better-said, an English-speaker.

- Laura Linney for The Savages - has she been not good at anything?

- Ellen Page for Juno - the best thing in the movie. She might be too young to win, but I wouldn't be surprised.

And the winner is...Ellen Page

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

- Cate Blanchett for I'm Not There- a woman playing a guy? An icon? The only thing against her is that she won this award before.

- Ruby Dee for American Gangster - a filler nomination.

- Saoirse Ronan for Atonement - I thought Keira Knightley's performance was far more moving, but she did a good job.

- Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone - one of the two revelations from the movie (the other is Ben).

- Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton - another amazing performance. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't have enough buzz.

And the winner is...Cate Blanchett

BEST ART DIRECTION

- American Gangster - it was Harlem, all right. But it wasn't anything special,

- Atonement - looked and felt amazing. Without extreme theatricality, it replicates the time perfectly.

- The Golden Compass - Pullman's world is hard to bring onto the screen, but they did a good job of it.

- Sweeney Todd - haven't seen it yet, but Burton's films always looked stunning.

- There Will Be Blood - a strange choice, maybe, but a very strong contender.

And the winner is...Atonement

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

- The Assassination of Jesse James... - the sepia colors, the scenery, the look...absolutely fantastic.

- Atonement - some very clever camerawork and the interior shots are great too.

- The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - haven't seen it yet, but if the trailers are anything to go by, then this could be the dark horse.

- No Country for Old Men - when was the last time a Coens movie didn't look great? Can't remember? Because there isn't one.

- There Will Be Blood - I think Day-Lewis' performance takes all the attention away from the camera.

And the winner is...The Assassination of Jesse James

BEST DIRECTING

- Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - perhaps a surprise win in the Globes, but it looks like a real contender.

- Jason Reitman for Juno - well, clearly the thing that struck with this was Ellen Page. Not a director's movie. I'm sure Ang Lee is cringing somewhere...

- Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton - it looks good but a tad too slow and pretentious.

- Joel & Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men - it's their year, for sure.

- P.T. Anderson for There Will Be Blood - every film student's favourite film director, but will the Academy like him as much.

And the winner is...are...the Coens

EDITING

- The Bourne Ultimatum - the only thing going for it was the editing, but it might be a little too hectic for the older members.

- The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - again, judging from the trailer, it might just go home with the trophy.

- Into the Wild - haven't seen this one too, so I have no comments...

- No Country for Old Men - the Coens have always been very meticulous, and this is no exception.

- There Will Be Blood - again, too strong a performance for the movie to shine elsewhere.

And the winner is...The Bourne Ultimatum

FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Unfortunately for me, I haven't seen any of these films yet. I blame the time I spent in Los Angeles.

ORIGINAL SCORE

- Atonement - the use of typewriters as percussion was genius and it added another layer of tension to the film.

- The Kite Runner - haven't seen this one either, but I read a lot about how good it is.

- Michael Clayton - I can't even remember the music...

- Ratatouille - too much Pixar brass gives me a headache.

- 3:10 to Yuma - westerns always do well in music, so this could be a contender.

And the winner is...Atonement

BEST MOTION PICTURE

- Atonement - the inconsistency in the second half will be the downfall of this otherwise shoe-in-genre film.

- Juno - too light and indie to win, but even the nomination is as good as a win. And the cliche...this year's Little Miss Sunshine

- Michael Clayton - it was too long ago for the members to even remember it. It wasn't that good anyway.

- No Country for Old Men - if this doesn't win...well...I will do something else with my life.

- There Will Be Blood - perhaps too dark to win.

And the winner is...No Country for Old Men

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

- Christopher Hampton for Atonement - a beautiful script with sharp dialogue, but the shift in second half is a little awkward.

- Sarah Polley fort Away From Her - a filler nomination.

- Ronald Harwood for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - when it comes to scripts, the Academy has a soft spot for the foreign films, so it wouldn't be a huge surprise.

- Joel & Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men - it might be a little too faithful to the novel, but the Coens use some of their magic too.

- Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood - not a screenwriting movie.

And the winner is...are..the Coens.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

- Diablo Cody for Juno - this will win, but it doesn't take enough risks. Then again, that's perfect for the Academy.

- Nancy Oliver for Lars and the Real Girl - I'm pretty sure the premise is a lot more interesting than the end result.

- Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton - serious subject matter could be working in its favour.

- Brad Bird, Ian Pinkava, Jim Capobianco for Ratatouille - the animated scripts are, unfortunately, bound to the animation...so, I'm not sure this is good enough

- Tamara Jenkins for The Savages - I'm not sure if anybody has seen this yet...

And the winner is...Juno

So here it is folks. These are only some of the nominees...the ones I care about anyway. So, we'll see in four weeks whether I did good or not. Then again, my picks might change as I watch the other nominated films.

So until then...

Peace

Monday, January 21, 2008

Assorted Top 10s on the 'Net

Like I said before, there's no way escaping the Top 10s and this will be no exception. While I was measuring the waves of the Internet, I came across a few Top 10 films of the year. And I thought I might share them with you.

First off, let's start with the World's Most Respected Film Critique...me:
1- No Country for Old Men
2- The Lives of Others
3- The Assassination of Jesse James...
4- Gone Baby Gone
5- Knocked up
6- Feast of Love
7- Sunshine
8- Atonement
9- Eastern Promises
10- Hot Fuzz

Rotten Tomatoes gives an interesting list, where Ratatouille comes up as number one. Although I'm not a huge Pixar fan, I can't say I enjoyed it too much. That said, it's better than a couple of the films they put on Top 10: Hairspray and Zodiac. I have nothing against the latter, but...come on...Cute doesn't mean good. Then again, I had Feast of Love on my list...

Top Ten Reviews features a more-or-less consensus list, as it is compiled from various reviews across the board. Ratatouille once again comes up as the leader. The one rather interesting entry is the Korean monster flick, The Host. I had some issues with the tone of the film. In fact, I am stuck with writing a review for it. Watch this space.

Richard Corliss (Time), meanwhile, compiles this list, where the top two slots are the same as Yours Truly. However, he puts a reissue, Charles Burnett's classic Killer of Sheep. I'm not sure if it should be eligible. As far as a naturalist approach goes, the film has few peers, but its merits end there. Oh, and his list also features Beowulf...

Roger Ebert compiled a very unremarkable list (very much like mine, actually...). He puts Juno in number one. Even though I enjoyed watching it, one thing stuck with me throughout: could it have been less predictable had it taken some risks?

On that note, I will give the list of one of my friends. Here's the Top 10 list of Wheeler Maidrand Crowley:
1- Juno
2- Gone Baby Gone
3- No Country for Old Men
4- Superbad
5- The Bourne Ultimatum
6- The Lookout
7- The Assassination of Jesse James...
8- Knocked up
9- Southland Tales
10- Grindhouse

I have seen nearly half of these films with him, so I'm not surprised at their inclusion. But, dude...The Lookout? Really?

And finally, a little bit of research on my part from the imdb. From their list of films between the years 2000 and 2009, these are the Top 10 of the year:

1- There Will Be Blood
2- No Country for Old Men
3- Juno
4- Ratatouille
5- The Bourne Ultimatum
6- Sweeney Todd...
7- American Gangster (What?! - ed.)
8- 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
9- The Man from Earth
10-3:10 to Yuma

The people spoke.

Peace.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Top 10 Films Re-Boot

You might remember my Top 10 films of the year blog about a week ago. There I mentioned that any 2007 film that I would see is likely to creep up into the list.



Today I was flabbergasted by "The Lives of Others" and I wanted to put it in its deserving spot of No. 2 (sorry, "No Country..." still rocks). However, some Internet searching reveals that (actually imdb) the said film was first released in 2006. The catch is it was released in festivals and what-not. It entered the American and British markets in 2007. In other words, even though it was originally released in 2006, there was no way for me to legally watch it then.



So, here is the updated Top 10 films of 2007:


1- No Country for Old Men (Dir: Joel & Ethan Coen)

2- The Lives of Others (Dir: Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck)

3- The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Dir: Andrew Dominik)

4- Gone Baby Gone (Dir: Ben Affleck)

5- Knocked up (Dir: Judd Apatow)

6- Feast of Love (Dir: Robert Benton)

7- Sunshine (Dir: Danny Boyle)

8- Atonement (Dir: Joe Wright)

9- Eastern Promises (Dir: David Cronenberg)

10- Hot Fuzz (Dir: Edgar Wright)


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

W.A.S.P.

As per usual, I was perusing the Holy Land of cyberspace with my iTunes on (don't worry, this is not another iTunes-related blog) and a song that I haven't played for a long time came on: Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the Rue Morgue) by the almost-inimitable monsters of shock-rock W.A.S.P..

There seems to be a reason why this band never got the notoriety they deserved. Yes, they were following in the footsteps of Alice Cooper; they were not as campy and catchy as Twisted Sister (but, my God, they are so much better); and they weren't as controversial as the God of Fuck, Mr. Marilyn 'look-I'm-so-clever-I should-be-a-philosopher' Manson.

W.A.S.P. had the chops to compete the best of them and for some unknown reason they are not mentioned when there is a stupid thing that a teenager does somewhere. Where are you, people? I mean we are talking about a band whose lead singer (with the awesome name of Blackie Lawless) sharpening the knife he attaches to his crotch on stage! He climbs on to his microphone, which is essentially a motorcycle handlebar with a myriad of skulls and chains! And, with the exception of Mr. Furnier, he can write songs. Take a listen to Animal (Fuck Like a Beast), L.O.V.E. Machine, The Idol, The Headless Children, or the absolutely amazing I Wanna Be Somebody. In fact I dare anybody not to feel pumped up and ready to smash something after listening to the latter song.

Actually, and I am contradicting myself wildly here, I was very surprised at the number of people that showed up to their gig in Nottingham Rock City a few years back. But then again, a lot of people show up for any band that comes to Rock City.

I dedicate this day to W.A.S.P. and their amazing repertoire. What was I going to say? Oh yeah, and I am going to be somebody today!

Peace.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

iTunes Survey

It seems like I can't get enough of this. But I promise this is the last one of its kind. This is by false45th. Here were my results:

How many songs: 7063

Sort by Song:
First song: "A Tout le Monde" by Megadeth
Last song: "10001110101" by Clutch

Sort by Time:
Shortest song: "Interlude #1" by Warrant (0:10)
Longest song: "Jddstd Syntynyt" by Moonsorrow (30:10)
[technically speaking it should be "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" by Dream Theater (41:17), but iTunes somehow divides the song into 8 parts]

Sort by Artist:
First artist: AC/DC
Last artist: 311

Sort by Album:
First album: "Abandon" by Deep Purple
Last album: "5150" by Van Halen

Top 3 Most Played Songs:
1- "Jolene" by The White Stripes (53 times)
2- "Supermassive Black Hole" by Muse (40 times)
3- "Stand by Me" by Ben E. King (37 times)
"Redneck" by Lamb Of God (37 times)

First Song that Comes up on Shuffle:
"Halo of Flies" by Alice Cooper

Search...:
"sex" - 23
"death" - 93
"love" - 393
"you" - 620

Number of Songs Starting with "I", "I'm", "I'll", "I've", "I'd" - 153

Songs with the Most Different Versions:
I don't have more than two versions of any song and there are too many to name here.

Peace