The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

I’ll say up front that [i]The Curious Case of Benjamin Button[/i] is a bit long, and flawed in places … but, wow. What a movie. Rarely have I walked out of the theater thinking I’ve seen something truly special. This is one of those times.

Quite surprisingly (at least to me), [i]The Curious Case of Benjamin Button[/i] has a real magical quality that I didn’t expect. The plot is certainly unusual–Benjamin is born and old man and gets progressively younger–even if it’s more just a journeI’ll say up front that [i]The Curious Case of Benjamin Button[/i] is a bit long, and flawed in places … but, wow. What a movie. Rarely have I walked out of the theater thinking I’ve seen something truly special. This is one of those times.

Quite surprisingly (at least to me), [i]The Curious Case of Benjamin Button[/i] has a real magical quality that I didn’t expect. The plot is certainly unusual–Benjamin is born and old man and gets progressively younger–even if it’s more just a journey of his strange life than having a true story arc.

It’s a visually dazzling movie and a tale that really makes you think about your life and what it means to go through it both alone and connecting with others in all sorts of strange and unexpected ways. To watch Brad as Benjamin Button start off as this really old man–small and shriveled–and get younger and more energetic, is really a remarkable bit of film-making.

I understand the complaints from those who don’t quite "get" this movie–it won’t be for everyone–but if you want a movie-going experience that will stay with you long after it’s over, see this movie. It’s one you won’t forget.

Is Slumdog Millionaire a Great Movie?

So the big question of the day is: Is [i]Slumdog Millionaire[/i] a great movie?

For me, yes. And no.

First, [i]Slumdog Millionaire[/i] is not the movie I thought it would be. You hear all this buzz about it being a "feel good movie," but that gives a really false impression. [i]Slumdog Millionaire[/i] is a crafty, gritty movie about tormented children surviving the harsh slums of Mumbai. It’s more a crime movie–told in flashbacks–than anything else. It also happens to havSo the big question of the day is: Is [i]Slumdog Millionaire[/i] a great movie?

For me, yes. And no.

First, [i]Slumdog Millionaire[/i] is not the movie I thought it would be. You hear all this buzz about it being a "feel good movie," but that gives a really false impression. [i]Slumdog Millionaire[/i] is a crafty, gritty movie about tormented children surviving the harsh slums of Mumbai. It’s more a crime movie–told in flashbacks–than anything else. It also happens to have a cheesy love-story ending, which is where the "feel good" part comes in.

At about two hours, there’s a lot to love about this movie. There’s a really interesting–and surprising tale here–with great music, visuals, performances and pacing. And for most of this movie, I would say it’s great. But the ending really fell flat for me. There’s a fairly intricate plot that has the characters deeply entrenched in the plot, which almost all of a sudden wraps up too easily and too neatly, with several plot holes that just don’t quite add up, which I thought undermined the overall movie.

Should you see [i]Slumdog Millionaire[/i]? Absolutely. It’s great in a lot of ways. And if you can overlook the trite ending, you’ll think this is a great movie in its entirety. But even if you don’t, it’s a special movie that’s certainly worth your time and attention.

Frost/Nixon

I’ll say up front that I’m generally not a big fan of Ron Howard movies (although I loved [i]Parenthood[/i]), but I definitely enjoyed [i]Frost/Nixon[/i]. It was really interesting to get the inside play on how Richard Nixon took himself down, and how unlikely it seemed that it would happen the way it did. The movie gives a real feeling of the times (so people tell me who remember them), and the face-off between reporter David Frost and the ex-president were riveting at times.

Yet while I I’ll say up front that I’m generally not a big fan of Ron Howard movies (although I loved [i]Parenthood[/i]), but I definitely enjoyed [i]Frost/Nixon[/i]. It was really interesting to get the inside play on how Richard Nixon took himself down, and how unlikely it seemed that it would happen the way it did. The movie gives a real feeling of the times (so people tell me who remember them), and the face-off between reporter David Frost and the ex-president were riveting at times.

Yet while I did really like [i]Frost/Nixon[/i], there wasn’t a lot of there, there. I was definitely into the movie while I was watching it, but it didn’t stay with me for very long after it was over. Essentially it’s just a two-man play, on the screen, about an interview between two very different men–and extremely unlikely adversaries. The performances are terrific and it is a fun movie, and even more so if you like history.

[i]Frost/Nixon[/i] is getting a lot of Oscar Buzz, some of it deserved (for the acting). I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s "movie of the year" calibre, but it is a thumbs up for sure.

Russ’s Top 10 Movies of 2008 (Upated 2.16.09)

Every year I go through the same debate with myself: the best movies vs. my favorite movies. Well, it took me a little longer to see all the movies on the list, but now that I’m caught up, here is my list for my top 10 [i]favorite[/i] movies of 2008.

[b]10. The Incredible Hulk[/b]: I know I’m going to get a lot of grief about this one. The last act was a dud, but otherwise I really enjoyed this movie. Hulk went smash. I had fun. Not in the same class as the top comic book movies, but for a Every year I go through the same debate with myself: the best movies vs. my favorite movies. Well, it took me a little longer to see all the movies on the list, but now that I’m caught up, here is my list for my top 10 [i]favorite[/i] movies of 2008.

[b]10. The Incredible Hulk[/b]: I know I’m going to get a lot of grief about this one. The last act was a dud, but otherwise I really enjoyed this movie. Hulk went smash. I had fun. Not in the same class as the top comic book movies, but for a two-hour check your brain at the door movie, it was good by me.

[b]9. Gran Torino[/b]: There’s not a lot of plot there. Cranky old man’s wife dies. He hates the new neighbors, but they win him over. The movie has heart, although it runs a bit long a slow in places. But the true pleasure is watching Clint Eastwood in a role he should have been nominated for. His performance makes the movie work.

[b]8. Slumdog Millionaire:[/b] This is a great movie for the first two-thirds before the final act falls apart with a silly Hollywood ending. Dazzling and surprising, I was really sucked in. Slumdog deserves a lot of the hype it’s getting. But that ending …

[b]7. The Bank Job:[/b] This biopic about the true story of the biggest bank robbery ever is fun from beginning to end. The characters were glossed over, but I was in all the way. This is one crime movie I’ll be coming back to. Why David Statham isn’t a bigger star is beyond me. His day is coming.

[b]6. Forgetting Sarah Marshall[/b]: My favorite flat-out comedy of the year. Good laughs all the way through, and it holds up on repeat viewings.

[b]5. Frost/Nixon:[/b] The retelling of the David Frost/Richard Nixon interviews is compelling, but nobody’s showing up for the movie itself. It’s the one-on-one between Frost and Nixon we all wanted to see. Those moments do not disappoint. There’s not a lot of story there for a thorough movie, although it does a nice job of capturing the feeling of the times. Just watch the performances. Worth it.

[b]4. Milk:[/b] By the time you get to the end it’s really quite remarkable what Harvey Milk accomplished as the first openly gay politician in America. It took a little while for me to get into it, but the performances are good across the board, and the tension builds throughout.

[b]3. Iron Man[/b]: Robert Downey Jr. absolutely sells this movie. Probably the most charismatic superhero performance ever. Iron Man is fun, fun, fun. It could have used a few more strong actors to fill it out, but Iron Man is one of the top comic movies to come out. I’m so in for Iron Man 2.

[b]2. The Dark Knight[/b]: What truly surprised me was the scope. The Dark Knight wasn’t so much a Batman movie as a crime movie that Batman happened to be. Heath Ledger deserves all the praise he got for his performance as the Joker–one we’ll never forget. The Dark Knight was dark and thrilling, although it ran long and flat in places. But it was so ambitious–a modern day retelling of Elliot Ness and Al Capone–that it upped the level of what comic movies were and showed us what they can be.

[b]1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button[/b]: I know this movie isn’t for everyone, and get why those don’t like it were disappointed. But for me, this was one of the greatest movie-going experiences I’ve had in years. Benjamin Button has a magical quality that really surprised me. It transported me. Watching Brad Pitt start off as this tiny old man, and then get younger–and wiser–was something to see. I didn’t totally buy the love story at the center, but this movie so dazzled me that I couldn’t stop talking about after it was over.

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2009/01/14 06:07

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2009/02/16 19:01

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2009/02/16 19:02

Russ’s Top 10 TV Shows of 2008 (Updated 1.13.09)

It’s always fun to take a look back at the year in TV, and this one had a lot of quality shows in the top 5, which it made it hard to choose between them. Honestly, I could (and did) change my mind a dozen times over, depending on what I’m in the mood to watch that day. But below are my top 10 favorite shows from 2008:

[b]1. Mad Men[/b] – Bleak as all get out, but I just can’t turn away. The characters are so layered, so full of pain and angst, that it’s almost hard to believe they’re not rIt’s always fun to take a look back at the year in TV, and this one had a lot of quality shows in the top 5, which it made it hard to choose between them. Honestly, I could (and did) change my mind a dozen times over, depending on what I’m in the mood to watch that day. But below are my top 10 favorite shows from 2008:

[b]1. Mad Men[/b] – Bleak as all get out, but I just can’t turn away. The characters are so layered, so full of pain and angst, that it’s almost hard to believe they’re not real. Other shows are more fun, but none are better.

[b]2. The Wire [/b]- The only shame is that this brilliant show–maybe the best ever–has run it’s course. Season 5 didn’t quite hit the ultimate high-water mark of the season before it, but that’s only because the mark was that high. Not just a great crime show, but a great, great show of any kind. The series came to its close with some shocking conclusions and characters–and a city–you will simply never forget.

[b]3. Lost [/b]- Talk about a comeback. It had a few off moments, but I can rarely remember having this much fun watching TV, and can’t wait for Season 5 to start. It’s a wild, outrageous sci/fi fantasy romp that you have to just jump in and go with the ride.

[b]4. Battlestar Galactica [/b]- Space sagas can be difficult to maintain, but I can watch this show forever. Horrible to believe it’s coming to an end this season, but if the final episodes are as good as the ones that have come before it, it’ll be one for the ages. Another brilliant show coming to its conclusion.

[b]5. The Office[/b] – Cringe-inducing laughter. Addictive, hilarious.

[b]6. Dexter[/b] – I’m a little late to the party on this one, but it’s such a bizarrely addictive show I can’t believe it took me so long to find it. CSI/blood splatter guy by day, serial killer by night. Who only kills really, really bad people. I’m so in.

[b]7. Entourage[/b] – Not nearly the thrill a minute it show it used to be, but it’s still entertaining. This most recent season started slow, then got better and better as it went along. The finale was almost great, but then fell a little flat at the end. I’m still in, but it’s not the champ of it’s earliest seasons.

[b]8. In Treatment[/b] – It’s an unusual set-up: one episode a night, each night, for nine straight weeks, for 45 episodes total. A remake of an Israeli show, In Treatment follows Gabriel Byrne as a shrink who treats four patients on their regular night each week, and then sees his own shrink for his weekly session. Totally addictive, very intense. It’s love it or hate it. You have to invest in the whole series for the final payoff. Worth it.

[b]9. The Shield[/b] – Again, I’m way late to the party on this one, but it’s a gritty cop show that’s powerful and shocking. I’m only at the beginning of the series (I know it just wrapped), but I’m psyched to see where it takes me.

[b]10. Life[/b] – Not real high on the believability scale, even for a cop show, but the characters are likeable and the mythology of the show still keeps me wanting to know more. Slipped a bit for me this season, but I’m hoping it’ll straighten out.

Biggest Disappointments:

[b]Heroes[/b] – went from a fun, promising popcorn show with fun characters into one of the most unwatchable shows on TV. What the heck happened?

[b]Grey’s Anatomy[/b] – This was never more than pretty people looking good and doing fun, ridiculous things we just loved to watch. A pure guilty pleasure. Now, it’s almost in the realm of stupidest. Show. Ever.

[b]Life on Mars[/b] – I’m not saying this a bad show; its OK. It’s just that, for the hype and the premise, I wanted more. Too cheesy when it doesnt’ need to be.

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2009/01/13 11:18

#$@! Gmail Screwed Me! – Part II

A funny thing happened after my last gmail debacle.

Remember how I wrote that gmail kinda screwed me by eating my draft? Well … (picture me pulling a Rodney Dangerfield, slightly embarrassed, pulling on my collar) … it kinda worked out for me. Don’t get me wrong, the draft is still gone. But once I sat down to recreate the draft I found that the newer version I wrote was actually better than the old one. I wound up digging deeper, adding layers, and ultimately creating a richer interplaA funny thing happened after my last gmail debacle.

Remember how I wrote that gmail kinda screwed me by eating my draft? Well … (picture me pulling a Rodney Dangerfield, slightly embarrassed, pulling on my collar) … it kinda worked out for me. Don’t get me wrong, the draft is still gone. But once I sat down to recreate the draft I found that the newer version I wrote was actually better than the old one. I wound up digging deeper, adding layers, and ultimately creating a richer interplay between two characters.

I know, I know, I know …

Where I think I did right by myself was not getting all bent out of shape about losing the file and storming off to sulk. I’m not saying I wasn’t upset–I was; trust me (or read my blog!)–but I got back right back to it, and let the lost draft go. Focusing on what I needed to do–rather than on what I’d lost–helped me recover, and quickly. And that led to something better still.

I guess that seems to be true for me on a lot of levels. I’m not in any way immune to all of the annoyances of daily life. Not by a long shot (I can hear you laughing at me all the way from over here!). But I find that the more I focus on what I need to do, rather than on my setbacks, I tend to have better outcomes more often and with fewer bumps along the way. Which isn’t to say my life is in any way smooth sailing–it so isn’t–but as my hero Zig Ziglar says: if we do the things we need to do, when we need to do them, the day will come when we can do the things we want to do, when we want to do them.

Anyhoo, my point (before I got off on one of my philosophical rants), is that gmail can’t screw with me!!!!!

Take that gmail!

Seriously, though, this episode was just another reminder to me that, both as a writer and a guy just trying to make his way in the world, that setbacks can actually be opportunities in disguise, if I just give myself a chance to look at it that way. It’s often easier for me to say than to do, but the more I do it, the easier it gets. If only just a little.

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2009/01/11 19:40

#$@! – Gmail Screwed Me!

Generally speaking I find gmail a really good email service. It’s fast, free, easy to access and very reliable. Except that yesterday it really, really screwed me. Hard.

For the last week I’ve been working on a section of my second novel, [i]Crossline[/i], making tweaks and flushing it out. It’s not a major scene, but it has some nuance I wanted in there, and it’s been fun to write. The way I normally write is to just sit at my desk–like I am now–and plug away in Microsoft word. I save thGenerally speaking I find gmail a really good email service. It’s fast, free, easy to access and very reliable. Except that yesterday it really, really screwed me. Hard.

For the last week I’ve been working on a section of my second novel, [i]Crossline[/i], making tweaks and flushing it out. It’s not a major scene, but it has some nuance I wanted in there, and it’s been fun to write. The way I normally write is to just sit at my desk–like I am now–and plug away in Microsoft word. I save the file throughout the writing process, so I’m never worried that I’ll lose it. Still, I back up my files regularly.

But what I also do is work on sections of my book in gmail, and save it as a draft. This is useful if I’m going to be on the road, at a friend’s house, with family, on a business trip, and I want to keep work on the same file without having to transport it via a flash drive. I’ll work on the file in gmail, save the draft, and never fill in the email send destination, so even if I accidentally hit send, it won’t go anywhere. But after a while, even if I’m not finished with whatever I’m working on, I’ll email it to myself so I have it permanently in my inbox, and then cut and paste it into a new email, call it version 2, and save it as a new draft.

Works really well.

Until …

So I’m plugging away yesterday after about a week’s worth of work, and I’ve got the scene very close to being finished. I was really happy with it. And then … poof. Now, maybe I hit some crazy key strokes that signalled the discard option, but I don’t think so, but all of sudden my screen had a spaz attack of some sort–[i]blllll-bzzzt[/i]–and my draft was gone.

Gone.

Not in the sent folder. Not in my inbox. Wasn’t in the drafts folder and it wasn’t in the trash. It was gone. Just flat out gone.

#$@!!!!!!

I searched around in the help section, but no luck. A week’s worth of work down the drain. Luckily, I was able to recreate about 70 percent of what I lost, but second versions are never the same.

If you’ve got any theories as to what happened, I’d love to hear them, but otherwise this is one case where gmail–good, ole reliable gmail–just stuck it to me.

Did the First 2009 Work Day Totally Rock? Well …

It was one of those questions on everybody’s mind: what will the first day back to work–the first day of 2009–be like?

I would love to say that, according to my plan, my day started off really well. Sure. I’d love to say that. If only it were true.

Wanting to get off to a good start, I got in early–around 7:40 a.m.–and went through my emails, had my morning muffin, got caught up. So far so good. I’m thinking: [i]See? 2009 is better already. Looking good, looking good, looking gooIt was one of those questions on everybody’s mind: what will the first day back to work–the first day of 2009–be like?

I would love to say that, according to my plan, my day started off really well. Sure. I’d love to say that. If only it were true.

Wanting to get off to a good start, I got in early–around 7:40 a.m.–and went through my emails, had my morning muffin, got caught up. So far so good. I’m thinking: [i]See? 2009 is better already. Looking good, looking good, looking good[/i].

And then the phone rang.

At 8:30 I got the call. It was from someone I worked with on a small project, but one, by all accounts, went fairly well, given the limitations we were under at the time. And then he went on, for about ten consecutive minutes, to complain about how it didn’t [i]totally[/i] work out the way he wanted, and even though there wasn’t anything I could do for him at this point–what was done was done–he kept going on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on. If he told me once he told me five times. I told him that I heard him. I heard him clearly, and what did he want to see happen at this point?

Apparently, to tell me again. So he did. Twice.

After I told him yet again that I heard what he was saying, and that I understood, he said, "well, apparently not," and then went on to bitch about it some more.

[i]Serenity now! Serenity now![/i]

On a positive note, my day was busy but pretty productive otherwise, so maybe I was just getting that first one out of the way right off.

But it was one helluva way to start the new year.

Ba Humbug – Rogue Movie Goers Tell Me to Drop Dead

I’ve been off from the work the better part of the last two weeks, and with that time I’ve been trying to get some extra sleep, work on my book, see friends and family, see a few movies, and spread some holiday cheer. Well … I’ve been mostly successful.

Yesterday I went to the movies with my sister, Alison, to see [i]Gran Torino[/i]. We went to the theater at 60th Street and 3rd Ave. in Manhattan, which I realized immediately upon showing up that I had made a mistake. I saw a movie there I’ve been off from the work the better part of the last two weeks, and with that time I’ve been trying to get some extra sleep, work on my book, see friends and family, see a few movies, and spread some holiday cheer. Well … I’ve been mostly successful.

Yesterday I went to the movies with my sister, Alison, to see [i]Gran Torino[/i]. We went to the theater at 60th Street and 3rd Ave. in Manhattan, which I realized immediately upon showing up that I had made a mistake. I saw a movie there last year, and hated the environment (old seats, dirty, poorly run, small screens), but forgot. But, we were already there, so what are you gonna do?

Our fun began before we even made our way inside. It was Friday, Jan. 2, so several people were off from work, and we had to wait outside on line to get a ticket. No big deal, except that there was a light snow, and Alison had an umbrella out to keep her dry. She accidentally bumped someone with the edge of the umbrella, which she apologized for, and moved away. The elder gentleman behind us kept explaining that there was no reason for her to have the umbrella, as we were partially under the awning, but Alison wanted the umbrella. So that was that. The guy behind us was not happy.

Once we found our seats, the people around us just had that aggressive talky way about them that said to me, [i]this could be a long movie[/i]. To avoid any conlficts, we moved up several rows so that we could all enjoy ourselves in peace. We didn’t complain or say a word to anyone, we just moved up, quietly and politely. The people in our row made some snarky comments about our moving anyway.

I think you can see where this day is heading.

By the time the movie started, the theater was packed, and mostly with that Baby Boomer/Seniors crowd, I suppose not surprising given that [i]Gran Torino[/i] is about a craggly old Clint Eastwood complaining about his neighbors.

During the movie itself–which was okay–I thought things were pretty much fine. We had the two seats closest to the wall, about half way down, out of harms’ way. No problem with anyone around us, no excessive chatter, so maybe my fears were misplaced. But about 2/3 into the movie my sister got a text message, and when she opened her phone, the light came up, and the woman behind her immediately dug her finger into Alison’s shoulder–[i]poke, poke, poke[/i]–and insist she shut the phone. Fair enough, but there’s a polite way to [i]ask[/i] and a nasty way to [i]demand.[/i] I wasn’t aware of this at the time, but apparently things were brewing.

When the movie ended, Alison and I sat there for two or three minutes as the credits rolled. Finally, it was time to go. So I stood up to put on my jacket, which apparently was a big mistake. The older couple behind us told me to get out of the way, I was blocking the credits. Yep. Their words. [i]You’re blocking the credits[/i]. Unaware that putting on my jacket was some sort of crime, I looked at the guy, trying to remain calm, not letting him get to me. Then he gets nasty. [i]Get the hell out of the way! [/i]Meanwhile, the theater is almost empty at this point. Trying to hold back as much as I can–but struggling–I give him and his wife a salute (not the finger, just a regular salute), and tell them to have a nice evening. The guy’s buddy–another Baby Boomer on the wrong side of 65–told me to drop dead.

Seriously. His words were [i]drop dead[/i].

I’m still baffled at all this, and on my way out told him that he’d gotten cranky in his old age (pretty mild considering what I wanted to say). This guy’s wife then told me I was rude and stupid and should grow a brain.

So much for spreading holiday cheer. I swear I left the house in a good mood; I wasn’t looking for anything except a nice day at the movies with my sister. I guess next time I should think twice.

How Did I Spend New Year’s? Watching Looney Tunes

For New Year’s Eve Liz’s cousin and her 7-year-old son, Alex, came in from Houston for a short visit. We had a good time, eating fresh baked chocolate chip cookies and watching Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. (If that’s not what New Year’s Eve is all about, then what is?).

But what really tickled me pink was that this morning, New Year’s Day, everybody still groggy, we sat around the TV watching something that took me back: Looney Tunes.

We watched a few with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fud. For New Year’s Eve Liz’s cousin and her 7-year-old son, Alex, came in from Houston for a short visit. We had a good time, eating fresh baked chocolate chip cookies and watching Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. (If that’s not what New Year’s Eve is all about, then what is?).

But what really tickled me pink was that this morning, New Year’s Day, everybody still groggy, we sat around the TV watching something that took me back: Looney Tunes.

We watched a few with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fud. One with Foghorn Leghorn. And these cartoon, the ones I grew up watching, still completely hold up. I was laughing, Liz was laughing. Alex was laughing. We had fun. So even though these cartoons were made before any of us were born, Bugs Bunny and the gang stand the test of time. They’re classic, with that two-fold quality: the goofy sight gags and the goofy adult humor. The combination worked then, and it works now.

Looney Tunes is the perfect example of that old saying: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I’ve been watching Looney Tunes cartoons for as far back as I can remember. The same will hold true for the rest of my days. And there will be a smile on my face because of it.

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2009/01/14 06:05

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2009/01/14 06:05

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