Saturday, December 26, 2009

THE HURT LOCKER

THE HURT LOCKER has an awful lot of problems, the least of which is a story that is very simple, predictable, one one-dimensional. All I could think after the film was, "That's it?" followed by "two and a half hours, and I still have no friggin' idea what a hurt locker is."

The characters are all one-dimensional to the point of being caricatures, and the editing is so confusing that it's hard to follow what little plot there is. If this is the best film of the year, then it was a very, very weak year.

The first third or so of the film is very engaging, but the level of redundancy and the lack of character development make it hard to continue caring about them through the length of the film. It also has some pretty big pacing problems, especially in the second half of the film.

Perhaps it's that I actually follow the war news, but there was nothing remotely surprising in this film.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A SERIOUS MENSCH

I liked A SERIOUS MAN quite a bit. It reminded me of other Coen Brothers films, but in a good way, not a derivative way. If you have not seen this film, be forewarned that it is an intellectual film, designed to be discussed, perhaps even argued about afterward. It is not self-contained entertainment for the masses. Although there are moments where I laughed, it is far from a comedy, and most people would find it quite depressing. I also think you must have some knowledge of basic religious ideas, particularly Old Testament, if you want to have an intelligent discussion about the film.

The serious man in the title is basically Job, a man for whom everything goes badly. And not in a funny way. Every time you think something is going to turn around, it only gets worse. It can make the film a highly frustrating experience to watch, yet, like a car wreck, you can't turn away. The characters are very interesting, even though there is no one in the movie that is even remotely sympathetic. Everyone is selfish in their own way, although our hero is the least flawed person in the movie. His biggest flaw is that he is a nebbish who allows the world to happen to him instead of vice versa, which is probably why he ends up in such a hole.

The acting in the film is exceptional. Most of the actors are not film actors; there are only a couple of recognizable faces. Richard Kind is not funny here, but pathetic. Alan Arkin is an apparently greedy and uncaring divorce lawyer. All of the other character actors are unrecognizable, which lends an air of truth to the film.

The eye for detail in art direction is amazing. Although it is never explained when or where the film takes place, the art direction and music place it in the 60s and every detail is very well done. I'm not sure how they found so many houses near each other that have not changed in four decades.

I recommend this film to people who want to think after they see a movie. If that's not you, I think 2012 is still in theaters.

Monday, December 21, 2009

500 DAYS OF SUMMER

500 DAYS OF SUMMER was watchable and occasionally amusing, but overall it was a pretty big letdown after all the hype I had heard. I suspect that 500 days from now I won't even remember if I saw it.

I also suspect that how much you like this film is directly proportional to how much you like Zooey Deschanel. She certainly is cute, but as an actress, I find her pretty one-dimensional, and the screenwriters don't really make much of an attempt to make her character very sympathetic, nor do they make much of an attempt to explain her. At the end of the movie she is still an enigma, which is very unsatisfying to the viewer.

The screenplay, on the whole, struck me as being written by someone who was either very young (like 20) or who has never been a serious relationship. The whole film seemed very juvenile. I hate to say "film-schoolish" because it was better than that, but it is a deeply flawed film with a few brilliant sequences. The two writers went on to do The Pink Panther 2, which I think says an awful lot about them.

I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who will enjoy this, though.

THE COVE

THE COVE is a documentary about the killing of dolphins in Japan for their meat, a practice which is supposed to be illegal, and which provides food that may be poisonous due to the amounts of mercury found in the meat. They do so under the guise of trapping dolphins for trainers.

This is an extremely difficult film to watch. In fact, if 'd had any idea how upset this film would make me, I would not have watched it on an airplane. I'd have watched it in private at home.

Very shortly into the film, they begin playing the theme from the FLIPPER TV series, which I watched as a kid. Music has a way of working itself into the subconscious. I remember very little about the show, except that I really loved it. In fact, I loved it so much, that I was not allowed to watch it until I had had my bath, which my mother (who died 35 years ago) tried to convince me was just like Flipper swimming in the ocean. So just hearing that music brought back a huge rush of memories and the associated emotions to me.

Unfortunately, they quickly explain that the reason that music is in the movie is that the main person in the film so far, who has been speaking out against animal abuse, was the dolphin trainer on the show. He then explains that the animals we see at parks like Sea World are all so stressed out from being in captivity that they are miserable and have numerous physical ailments from the stress. One of the animals who played Flipper was so depressed that she, according to the trainer, committed suicide by consciously choosing to stop breathing.

As someone who loved the show because I love animals, this was very depressing news, and it made me feel particularly guilty for watching it and buying "Flipper" brand shampoo to use in my bath. I know I could never watch it now, knowing that they suffered, and I could never go to Sea World or even the dolphin display at the Mirage.

The end of the film is truly gruesome, as they put a number of hidden cameras into the cove where the slaughter of the dolphins takes place. The sea water looked more like tomato soup as it is filled with the blood of dying dolphins.

I'm sorry that I have to recommend this film – as I mentioned, it is very disturbing, but I think it's important for people to know that this is still going on. An awful lot of people, both here in America and overseas, have lulled themselves into believing that international politics keeps matters like this under control. Unfortunately, it will take a lot to get it to stop.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

DISTRICT 9

DISTRICT 9 is one of the better sci-fi films I've seen in a while, although highly derivative, and marred by a weak, action-film ending.

Only a few minutes into the film I was reminded of ALIEN NATION as the film is about a colony of aliens who must adapt to living on earth. However, these aliens do not integrate quite as well. There are a lot of leaps of faith in the film. (Don't South African authorities know how to track someone using their cell phone signal?) But there are definitely interesting themes touched on in the film, most notably xenophobia. However, it does not all come together in the end.



As the final act begins, the main character human must don a metal suit to fight other humans, which is immediately derivative of ALIENS and ROBOCOP. For a movie that pretends to be intellectual for the first two acts, it does fall apart in the end. In fact, there isn't really even an ending, as the film implies more will happen in three years, almost demanding a sequel.

But it was still an interesting two hours.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

CORALINE

CORALINE is a brilliant, beautiful, fascinating, and moving film adapted from a graphic novel. Just about everything is well done. The cast is very good, the visual design is amazing, and the combination of stop-motion animation and computer graphics is pretty seamless. I highly recommend the film to fans of animation.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Strauss, Mozart, & Beethoven

Julian Kuerti conducted again tonight for the CSO, a follow-up to his performance with Yo-Yo Ma on Wednesday. The choice of pieces was completely pedestrian, and the small size of the crowd confirmed that. The train coming in was crowded because of the light parade (which was terrible) before the concert, but it appears that no one stayed for the show. A better program might have kept people around.

The opening was Richard Strauss's tone poem Don Juan, probably the best piece on the program. It's an orchestral showpiece, especially for the conductor. Unfortunately, Julian Kuerti's tempo changes must have been very hard to follow, as this was one of the sloppier performances I've heard form this orchestra. The horns, however, sounded fantastic, and were worth showing up for.

The horn feature continued with Mozart's Concerto #4, featuring principal horn player Michael Thornton. Aside from his obsession with his spit valve, his performance was very good. But it's not the kind of piece that will be a huge draw, even though the final movement is one of Mozart's most popular pieces.

After a lengthy intermission, the highlight of the evening was Beethoven's Symphony #4. One of his shorter symphonies (which resulted in a very short concert), it certainly has its moments. Kuerti did his best conducting on this piece, and got a very exciting performance out of the orchestra, particularly in the final movement.

I look forward to our next concert on New Year's Eve.

Friday, December 04, 2009

STAR TREK

I avoided seeing STAR TREK for quite a while, as I was of fan of the original and was afraid that I would not like the new version. For the most part, I liked the new film. The first two-thirds of the film are very well written, and has some nice character back-story.

However, I was a little put off by some of the massive changes they made to this alternate telling of the Trek story. There are also a few logic leaps in the middle of the movie that require more suspension of disbelief than should be required. It will be interesting to see where they take things in sequels. The last third of the film is a little weak, and doesn't really wrap up very well. But it was still an enjoyable movie.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Yo-Yo, Ma!

I was lucky enough to get tickets to the Yo-Yo Ma concert tonight with the CSO as part of our subscription. I've heard him play many times on TV and radio, and I own his recordings, but had never heard him play live.

The concert was an all Dvorak program, bizarrely opening with three successive overtures. The first was In Nature’s Realm, the weakest by far, sounding a little too much like the "Morgenstemning" of Grieg's Peer Gynt, except without the catchy melodies. This was followed by the more common Carnival Overture, which is bold and brassy and exciting, and would have been a better opening to the show. The third overture seemed even more superfluous, the Othello Overture, which seemed a little similar to the New World Symphony, which also ended big and brassy. I would rather have heard one overture, and maybe several of the Slavonic Danses to fill out the concert.

The concert was conducted by Julian Kuerti, assistant at the BSO, who was good, but I would much rather have had regular conductor Jeffrey Kahane.

The highlight of the evening was of course the Cello Concerto as performed by Yo-Yo Ma. During the intermission, I wondered how much life he could breathe into a piece that he had probably played at least 1000 times. He quickly put my fears to rest as he leaped fully into the piece in the opening bars. He is an amazing performer, and very exciting to watch. Unlike some other soloists, he is clearly very happy to be there, and listens carefully to every other instrument in the orchestra. If there was any criticism, it would be that the dark color of his instrument did not carry well in the hall over the orchestra.

As good as the concerto was, his unaccompanied Bach encore was much more moving. I didn't recognize the piece, buti t was very beautiful and he played with a broad emotional range. Well worth the ticket price.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

UP

I'm a little late seeing the film UP. Every time I see a Pixar film, I keep thinking, how much longer can they keep doing it? They've been on a roll since TOY STORY and haven't faltered yet.

There's a lot of good in this film, especially the first 15 minute opening, which is basically a film unto itself. Ed Asner was brilliant casting. The story is great, although I was a little caught off guard by the new characters introduced in the second act. But they quickly grew on me. I was also very impressed with the score by Michael Giacchino. He's showing a lot of talent and range.

If there's anyone out there who still hasn't seen it, I highly recommend it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

CSO

The Colorado Symphony had a nice concert tonight of classic fare, unfortunately to a nearly empty hall. I suspect this was the result of several factors, including the holidays this week, several other shows playing tonight, and a somewhat lackluster lineup on the program.

The show opened with one of Beethoven's earlier, lesser known works, the Overture to his ballet Prometheus. It's a nice opening, but certainly not a draw.

The second piece on the program was the Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss. It's always a bad sign when the soloist apologies before the performance, giving the excuse of a head cold. Soprano soloist Christine Brewer was actually okay in tone quality, but her enunciation and German pronunciation were weak.

By far, the highlight of the evening was a rousing performance of Brahms' First Symphony, appropriately called "Beethoven's Tenth." He often mentioned that he had to follow a giant, but this is a giant work itself, and Denver is lucky to have a wonderful conductor like Jeffrey Kahane. It was a very moving performance.

We still have three more concerts before the end of the year, and I ook forward to each of them!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

LARS AND THE REAL GIRL

LARS AND THE REAL GIRL is a great little film from 2007 that was overlooked in may ways, although it was nominated for an Oscars for screenplay by Nancy Oliver and a Golden Globe for lead actor Ryan Gosling. It did not do well at the box office. And who would have thought that a movie about a guy falling in love with a blowup sex doll would be one of the best love stories I've seen in years! It's a very sweet movie. I'm surprised it did not get a lot more word of mouth business.

The entire cast is fantastic. There are a lot of great, layered performances from everyone in the film. The script is very good as well. It's tough to believe the whole town would play along with his delusion, but the script and performances quickly make you forget that. The characters are wonderful. There's also an interesting subtext as to what determines reality. Bianca, the doll, is not real, even though the whole town pretends that she is, yet none of the other characters in the movie are any more real to us than the blowup doll. Yet we still care for her. And everyone else.

I highly recommend this weird little film.

Friday, November 13, 2009

HOW THE BEATLES ROCKED THE KREMLIN

HOW THE BEATLES ROCKED THE KREMLIN is a nice documentary from the BBC and WNET about the influence of the Beatles in the old Soviet Union. At first it sounds rather ludicrous that the Beatles might be even partially responsible for the fall of the Iron Curtain, but the filmmakers make a very good case for Western Rock music being a subversive influence on the Russian youth, much like American Jazz had been during WWII.

This is definitely worth a viewing for students of the social impact of music.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut)

I've only watched two episodes of Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut), but this is quickly on its way to becoming a favorite documentary. The first episode alone is full of interview and archival material that I've never seen before, and is well worth the hour spent watching it on IFC. It also confirms a number of my suspicions about the indiviuals, including the fact that Terry Gilliam is probably the second luckiest man in the world (after Ringo Starr) for being in the right place at the right time even though he is completely talentless. Unlike Ringo, though, his ego is completely insane and out of touch with reality. Otherwise, a very enjoyable viewing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

RACH-TOBER CONTINUES - RACH ON!

Olga Kern completed her cycle of Rachmaninoff works with the Colorado Symphony tonight, with the Concert #2, the most popular of his works. The concert opened with two choral pieces, one movement of the Vespers, which was gorgeous a capella chorus. This was followed by The Bells, a work based on Poe's poem. Not quite as good as the other lesser-known works we heard (we were also at last week's performance), but entertaining nonetheless. The soprano and bass solos were very good, but the tenor expressed almost no emotion while singing. He also could not be heard over the orchestra.

The highlight of the evening, of course, was Miss Kern, who wore a flashy yellow dress, and hammered away at the Rach 2 like it was written for her. Perhaps if there is a criticism to be made tonight, the piece could have used a lighter touch in some places, although her playing in the third movement was gorgeous. One of the light moments in the second movement was ruined by an idiot audience member's cell phone ringing. There was audible disgust in response throughout the rest of the audience.

Miss Kern was very gracious after her standing ovation, and spoke quite niceley to the crowd, or "her public" as she called us in her thick accent. She then played a lovely duet with conductor Jefferey Kahane, playing it twice through, with the two of them switching positions at the piano for the repeat. They made a lovely pair.

I believe all of these concerts were sold out. I wish more of the concerts had decent audiences, this is a stunningly good orchestra, and they deserve more local support.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Olga Kern: Rach Star!

Russian pianist Olga Kern won the Van Cliburn competition playing Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto, and we were lucky enough to hear her play it last night with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra to a sold-out house (a rarity in Denver). She will be doing a rare feat in Denver, playing all five of Rachmaninoff's works for piano and orchestra over a nine day period as part of a festival dedicated to the composer. Next weekend we will hear the 2nd Piano Concerto as well.

Her performance of the 3rd opened last night's program. Serge Rachmaninoff's pieces are notoriously difficult, not only because of the technical demands on the player, but because at six and a half feet tall, his hands were large enough to play full chords covering an octave and a half with each hand. Kern does not publicize her height, but she is very tall (almost comical standing next to the wonderful conductor Jeffrey Kahane) and clearly had no problem with the technical aspects of the piece. She was quite stunning on stage, wearing a dress that made her look like a mermaid. The audience adored her, and rightfully so, as she played both fluidly and beautifully.

The second half opened with a piece I had never heard, the Isle of the Dead. Kahane has a knack for discovering underplayed pieces. This was a really beautiful work based on a simple ostinato in 5/8 time, played with dark Bernard Herrmann-like orchestration, and building to a wonderful climax at the end. Like several of Rachmaninoffs works, it incorporates the Dies Irae many times, and to great effect.

The evening ended with one of Rachmaninoff's most popular works, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. She played it with both beauty and humor. It's always a great joy to see musicians enjoying themselves when they perform, and both she and conductor Kahane bring intense joy to their music.

I can hardly wait for next week!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rockies Lose Again

The Rockies were eliminated from post-season play tonight, even though they had a 2-run lead going into the 9th. For the second night in a row, Street took the loss and Lidge got the save. Eyre also had a hold both nights.

It was a strange game. Both tonight and last night, the Rockies did as much to lose as they did to win. It's hard to imagine how the team will do next year. They will lose some players and will need to make decisions on others. Unfortunately the team owners have never invested heavily in making the team win.

Rockies Lose to Phillies

I've been to numerous baseball playoff games and other sold-out games in several cities, including Los Angeles, Anaheim, Oakland, San Diego and Boston. I was even at the all-time attendance record game when the Dodgers played the Red Sox at the Coliseum to a crowd of 115,000. Coors Field has by far the worst line management of any ballpark I have ever been to.

We took a shuttle bus to the game. One would think they would time these buses to get you to the game on time, but apparently they forgot to take into account the fact that a Broncos game would be ending as the bus left. We still arrived at the park about 40 minutes before first pitch, but at the gate where the bus lets you off - right field - there wasn't even a line, it was just a huge block of people all merging together.

My wife & I decided to walk to the home plate gate, which I knew, based on previous experience, had many more entrances and moved more efficiently. Unfortunately Blake Street was so crowded with people we only got as far as the first base gate before it became impassable. We merged into one of the lines there as we had no choice. Forty minutes later, the game began with at least hundreds of people waiting to get in, and probably thousands at all gates. They were not a happy crowd. If this were a less patient city - Boston or NY for example - there would have been violence. Amazingly, only two gates at the first base entrance were open even though there were about eight. Why? Didn't they know the game was sold out?About ten minutes before game time they opened two more, and about ten minutes after the game started they opened one more. They knew 50,000 people were coming, and they knew the bus schedule; what were they thinking???

Oh, and this was the coldest game in post-season history. The temp dropped from 35 to 28 during the course of the four-hour game. We got in at the bottom of the first, only because the game was being badly pitched and moving slowly. Because of the lack of queue management, we actually got in much faster than many people who should have been in front of us, but the lines all kept merging. Many people cut directly to the front of the line and it was almost impossible to stop them without starting a riot.

My wife & I spent most of the game in one of the bars. We have excellent seats right behind home plate, but on the top level, where the wind chill would have been unbearable, so we decided to walk around the field level where it was warmer. (Coors is one of the few parks where you can go to the field level without a ticket on that level). We actually went to the bar early enough that we got a good table; an inning later and the place was wall-to-wall frigid people.

Game time was 8PM for us, which made it a 10PM start for Philly fans. This is the result of MLB giving all post-season games to the same TV network (TBS) and letting them decide start times based on potential audiences. This game was rescheduled because of the snow and cold from the previous day. MLB should have made the delay announcement sooner - they knew the weather forecast Friday - and the should have rescheduled this to an afternoon game, when the sun was out and the temperature a lot warmer. It also would have made it a reasonable start for Phillies fans. You would think they would want the last game of the day to be the west coast game, so Angelenos would have their game in prime time, but instead we got a game with frigid fans and Philly night-owls.

The game itself was a mess. Granted, it's tough to pitch in 30 degree weather, but this was one of the worst-pitched games I've ever seen. The two teams went through 13 pitchers in a game that lasted over four hours, ending after midnight for us and at 2:15 AM for Philly fans.

The Rockies are the only team that was made it to a game four in the divisional series this year (all the others were swept). Now they are a loss away from elimination. Let's hope they can pull it together today and extend the series. Jimenez pitched well in game one, but lost in the late innings. I hope he does better today.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

ROCKIES IN 11

Tonight was the 13th Rockies game I attended this year, rounding out my mini-plan, and it was a lucky 13, in the 11th inning anyway. The Rockies took a 5-2 lead into the 9th, only to see Huston Street blow the save against the Brewers. Jason Marquis had his troubles early on, loading the bases in two innings, but managed to make it through 6 innings with only 2 runs given up. With Atlanta losing, this broadens their lead to 3 games in wild card race.

Chris Ianetta was the hero in the 11th, hitting a walk-off pinch-hit homer.

The crowd was for a playoff run game at 39,000, but was quite loud at times.

I hope to see more games in post-season!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

It's been a while since I recorded ACROSS THE UNIVERSE on my DVR, and even longer since it came out, so I'm way behind on reviewing this, but it's pretty much a complete mess. I love Julie Taymor, especially TITUS and FRIDA (maybe she should stick to five-letter titles), but this is a misfire.

One could argue that this should have been easy with all the Beatles music, but the truth is that Beatles covers are very hard to pull off, and this movie supports that. A much bigger problem than the music is the story itself, which is maudlin and portentous. The dialogue scenes are so bad, it's like they cut the dialogue scenes out of a porno and stuck them in here. The musical sequences are better, but the best ones happen in the second half of the film, long after I had lost interest in anything going on.

Early on the visual design is not very creative, but again it gets better later on. Perhaps the most inspired sequence turns "I Want You" into an army recruiting song with robot-like automatons dancing in army uniforms.

I can't recommend this.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Thiele Mandolin Concerto

A few days ago I went to an open rehearsal of the Colorado Symphony for their performance of the new Chris Thiele Mandolin Concerto. I was going to write a review based on the rehearsal, but decided to wait in case I went to a performance over the weekend. I'm glad I waited, and I'm glad I went to the performance, as it was much better than the rehearsal.

I do have a bit of a problem with the whole concept, though. The mandolin is an incredibly intimate instrument, and a large orchestra in a large hall, especially Boettcher, seems like a match made in hell. It certainly seemed that way in rehearsal. You could only hear the highest, sharpest notes on the soloist, and almost everything else was lost. The orchestra seemed to overpower, even without brass. It seemed that a chamber piece would be more appropriate, performed in a smaller hall. And, based on comments I heard about Thursday's performance, the problem was still there.

Tonight sounded different, although my seats were in a different place. I has high on the side, directly in front of the side-facing speakers. It seems like they solved the problem by over-amplifying the mandolin to the point where it was very unnatural. However, the piece itself, except for the over-orchestration, was fascinating. The composer/performer is essentially untrained as a composer, and played his instrument for a decade before learning to read music. He's a very popular bluegrass musician who took a big chance writing this piece.

He's also a marvelous performer, very engaging on stage, and an absolute virtuoso on the instrument. He's the kind of person who was meant to be on stage, he's an absolute natural who makes the virtuosic look simple.

The piece was essentially atonal, and very complex, not at all what you would expect based on his background. He also did three encores, one by Bach, one with fiddle, and one with piano (presumably Kahane playing, but they performed under our seats, so we couldn't see).

This was a long concert, perhaps the longest I've been to at the hall. For me it started with a backstage tour for some of my students, which was fascinating, as they are recording the concert in surround for their archives.

The concert itself began with a big piece, the Aaron Copland piece Suite from Billy the Kid. Copland is one of my favorite composers, but I do not know this piece that well. The rehearsal had some problems with the percussion section staying together, but tonight's performance went very well (although from our seats, the timpani and brass were very muddy).

One has to wonder about the programming of the night. In addition to being a very long concert (plus encores), it seems that such a big work would have been better later in the program. The second half opened with a nice piece by the orchestra's principal percussionist, William Hill's Four Moments Musical. This seems like it would have been a better opener for the concert; in addition to being a fanfare (literally) it is brief, features brass and percussion, and would have made a nice transition into the Copland. I liked this piece a lot, especially the third movement, featuring a beautiful melody for trombone, and the rhythmic nature of the second and fourth movements.

The first half concluded with the Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue in the original small orchestration for jazz band. To me, this was the highlight of the evening. Last year I raved about Kahane's performance of the Concerto in F, and this year I was just as happy to hear another of my favorite composer's pieces performed. This is the first time I've heard this version live. It was very interesting. I'd love to hear someone do a new orchestration for contemporary jazz band - there are a few dated elements in this version (banjo that is inaudible) but otherwise it's more interesting that the more famous orchestral version. Kahane's playing was a tiny bit sloppier on the runs than I expected - he sounded better in rehearsal, technically. And the piano was very bright where we were sitting, probably due to the necessary amplification in the hall. Kahane is a phenomenal interpreter; it was exciting to hear someone play sections of this piece differently than anyone else (although some tempi did seem rushed).

The clarinetist was amazing, and Kahane very graciously invited him to encore in the Preludes, re-arranged for clarinet and piano. I've always liked these pieces, and the idea to put them on clarinet was quite brilliant.

Overall it was a great concert, although long. But I sure got my money's worth!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Colorado Symphony Orchestra

Tonight was opening weekend for the Colorado Symphony Orchestra's 2009 season; the (sadly) final season under conductor Jeffrey Kahane.

It was an excellent and sizable concert. It opened with the John Adams minimalist piece, A Short Trip in a Fast Machine. The piece is now over 20 years old, but still feels fairly new, although it is perhaps the most overplayed minimalist piece. I'm not a huge fan of the movement, and I really dislike Philip Glass. Like John Cage, his music is more interesting to talk about than it is to listen to. Glass's biggest weakness is his lack of orchestration skills, kind of the opposite of Bernard Herrmann, one of my favorite composers, who could be described as minimalist, but was a brilliant orchestrator.

I remember hearing the Adams piece on the radio 20 years ago without knowing what it was and thought "That's the best piece I've heard by Philip Glass." I was not completely surprised to find out it was someone else. I remember thinking that the orchestration was much better than Glass.

Tonight it was interesting to hear it live. I was a little surprised that the orchestration was not as good as I remembered. Last year I wrote about a new piece that sounded too much like this one and that it overused the orchestra. Adams definitely overwrites here; seeing it live I realized there were sections that the entire string section was playing but all I could hear were the horns. I also noticed a contrabassoon playing that was completely inaudible at any point in the piece. Nonetheless, it is an entertaining and brief way to open the season. And the orchestra, as always, sounded wonderful.

This was followed by Ingrid Fliter's performance of the Schumann A Minor Piano Concerto. Schumann is not my favorite composer of the era, but this is certainly his most popular piece. Fliter gave an excellent performance of the piece. She was even better in her solo encore of a Chopin Waltz. The rubato showed off her interpretation skills, yet she played it faster than I've ever heard, even putting Pollini to shame.

However, the highlight of the evening was the second half, two pieces by Respighi. The first was a Denver premiere, the Brazilian Impressions. I had never heard this piece; as the title implies, it is quite impressionistic, and unlike the other more famous Respighi pieces. Parts of it reminded me of Gershwin's Cuban Overture, others reminded me of Debussy. It was a wonderful find.

The finale was the Pines of Rome, with Kahane joking about how overplayed the piece is. The orchestra played the showpiece exceptionally well, especially the ending, with the percussion and brass sounding as good as I have ever heard the piece.

It was an exciting start to the season, and I look forward to our next concert!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

KARAJAN, or "Beauty, as I See It"

I finally got around to something I Tivoed a few weeks ago, an episode of Great Performances about the great conductor Herbert von Karajan. I was surprised at the end to see that it was directed by a man I had worked with on the underrated TV version of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS a couple of years ago, Robert Dornhelm. (He had also directed the excellent CBS miniseries on Anne Frank.)

This was a very good examination of von Karajan as a conductor. Parts of it are almost comical in that he takes himself so seriously, but he really was one of the truly great conductors of the 20th century. If you are a fan of orchestral music, it's worth hunting this down and watching it. They did gloss over some of the issues in his life that were important; including barely mentioning his membership in the Nazi party. They did not mention his involvement in popularizing the compact disc, and they barely mentioned the orchestra's problems when he tried to hire a female clarinetist in the group.

But it is still very interesting.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Rockies Win Again

The Rockies won again today, beating the Reds 3-1. Jason Marquis put in a stellar performance, going 7.1 innings and giving up only 4 hits and 1 run. He struck out 7. The Reds could not get their offense going until Marquis tired in the 8th, coming back to the mound having thrown 105 pitches.

The Rockies offense fared better, with Young getting 2 hits, including a home run. The crowd was small at 23,000, but sounded much bigger.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

ROCKIES BEAT D'BACKS

New Rockies starter Jose Contreras, in his first game as a Rockie, looked like the man who helped the White Sox win the World Series a couple of years ago, with the Rox winning 4-1. This not only keeps the Wild Card lead over the Giants, it helps tremendously to plug a hole in the rotation left by the injured Aaron Cook. The top of the batting order was productive, with CarGo getting a leadoff homer in the 1st, Seth Smith getting 3 hits and an RBI including his homer, and Todd Helton getting 2 RBI.


The crowd of 39,000 enjoyed the beautiful evening.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Erich Kunzel


You can read his obituary at the Washington Post by clicking above.

Kunzel may not have been the best conductor in the world, but he did introduce regular performances of film music to the concert hall, and helped popularize the music through recordings and tours. He will be missed.

We saw him last year conducting music from STAR TREK. You can read that review here.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Rockies Beat Mets

The Rockies got a badly needed win tonight against the Mets, winning 8-3 and breaking a 5-game losing streak that had them tied with the Giants for the wild card. With the Giants losing, they regain the WC slot.

De la Rosa threw a lot of balls, and gave up 2 runs in the first, but held it together well enough to go 6 innings and give up only those two runs.

Gonzalez and Helton batted homers to give the Rox a big lead. The Rockies also got two runs forced in with bases-loaded walks in separate innings, including Jason Giambi's first at-bat as a Rockie.

Two more games against the Metropolitans.

AES New York

Mix Magazine is giving free exhibits passes ($50 value) to AES New York by clicking here:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

THE NINE LIVES OF MARION BARRY

THE NINE LIVES OF MARION BARRY is an HBO documentary about the former mayor of Washington DC. He's a fascinating character, and as such, it is an interesting viewing. Barry was repeatedly elected mayor, even after being convicted of drug use and having multiple affairs.

The film itself has problems. Although it was released this year, most of the recent footage is from 2004, when he was elected to the City Council. Shortly after that, he failed another drug test, yet was re-elected yet again. Very recently he had a charge against him from a woman who claimed he was stalking her. Most of the negatives of his career are glossed over, or left out completely, but those were the things that made him interesting. His lengthy tax problems are never mentioned in the film. Neither are most of his health problems, including a kidney transplant. It seems like they ran out of time or money to complete the film and just released it as is.

However, still an interesting watch.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

ROCKIES BEAT... DODGERS!

Once again, it was not a pretty win. Hammel pitched quite well, 7 innings and only 2 runs, and Colorado took a 4-2 lead into the 9th, when the bullpen fell apart. Beimel gave up a hit but got the out, and then Bettancourt gave up two runs to tie it.

The tenth was another improbable win for the Rox, after their 14-inning game last night. A walk, a bunt by injured Car-Go, with an error, an intentional walk to Helton, and a single by Tulo to win the game. It was a nice team effort, and representative of the team's hard work to get where they are, only 2 games behind the Dodgers, and at 18 games over .500, they have their best record ever at this point.

Tomorrow, Wolf vs. Fogg. Wolf is having a great year, and Fogg is doing well as a reliever, forced to start in the place of injured Aaron Cook.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

ROCKIES BEAT GIANTS

It wasn't a pretty game. Rockies starter Jorge de la Rosa gave up 6 runs in the first 4 innings, but a 7-run 6th inning put the Rockies on top. Then Rockies relievers gave up another 5 runs in the last two innings, forcing Jim Tracy to bring in his closer to finish what had been an 8-run lead for the Rockies.

Nonetheless, we'll take the win, keeping the Rockies in the Wild Card spot. The next week is likely to be a tough one for the Rockies. They have two more games against the Giants here in Denver, including today's game against boy-wonder Lincecum, then they play 3 against the Dodgers, then go on the road to SF for 3 more against the Giants. The Rockies took a big loss Friday when starter Aaron Cook left the game injured. The Rockies do not have on off day until September 17th; their first day off in a full month. This means someone will have to step up out of the bullpen. If Adam Eaton can return to form, he is probably their best bet.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

TREKKIES 2

A little late on this review as well, it was released 2 years ago.

Ten years ago the first TREKKIES movie was a pleasant surprise as a documentary about STAR TREK fans. (Although many real fans prefer to call themselves Trekkers, but that's another matter, which they do discuss in the sequel.)

I expected that there would not be much new or interesting in a sequel as they had covered it pretty thoroughly in the first film. I was wrong, to an extent, as this time they went to conventions in many other countries, proving that Trek fans are the same pathetic losers on every continent. Seriously, there isn't anyone from any country who looks remotely normal. I consider myself a fan of the original series and TNG, but I would never dress like one of them or go to a convention. I just don't care that much. It's fine for people who do, but it does seem an odd coincidence that every person you see at one of these conventions is someone who, if they sat next to you on the subway, you would get up and move to another seat.

There were nice follow-ups on a couple of characters from the first film, including the woman who was on the Whitewater jury and insisted on wearing her costume to the trail (and her work). I did notice a resmblence between the Arkansas juror and the character on Reno 911 played by Kerry Kenny, and wondered whether she based the character's look on her.

There are some very nice moments in the film, especially when they get the fans to talk about their charity work, which they consider part of their fandom. But the film runs a little long and definitely feels repetitive by the time they get into talking about Trek-themed fan bands.

Probably worth watching for fans of Star Trek, but not for most people.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

CHINA'S UNNATURAL DISASTER

Well, I thought last night's documentary about 9/11 was depressing... try sitting through one on the collapse of Chinese elementary schools in an earthquake due to shoddy workmanship.

This is a really interesting and very well made document of the parent's march to the local government capital to complain that they were not responding to their requests for an investigation. It's very painful to watch the parents all dealing with the recent deaths of their children. By nature, most of them were only children, as the government heavily taxes families with multiple children.

The show is short at 38 minutes, but very strong nonetheless.

Monday, August 10, 2009

102 MINUTES

102 Minutes That Changed America is an excellent documentary that aired on the History Channel earlier this year. It's about the first 102 minutes after the first plane hit the World Trade Center. It unfolds in real time, not unlike the show 24, and is almost all home video footage, most of which has not been seen before.

It's very difficult to watch. I remember the day like it was yesterday. Although I was in LA, it was a very stressful day, as my wife was with her family in DC, and for much of the day it was unknown what was happening, with at least one plane still unaccounted for, and rumors that there were still several more missing.

Perhaps the most difficult part of watching is the fact that we, the viewers, know what is going to happen, yet it takes more than an hour for the first building to collapse. It's very frustrating watching the people do things that will eventually result in their deaths, and there's nothing we can do about. These are real people, real men jumping from the buildings, real firemen thinking that if they enter the building they can save lives, even though most of them will die in the collapse of the buildings.

There were several people who were tangentially related to me that died that day. Two of the flights took off form my hometown of Boston, 2 were destined for Los Angeles, where I was living at the time, and one crashed in DC, where my wife and her family were. Eight years later, it still hurts.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

TED WILLIAMS

HBO recently ran a new documentary about Ted Williams. He's a fascinating figure historically to baseball fans like myself, especially Red Sox fans, but I had assumed before watching it that it would be a rehash of old material. I was wrong, they shot a lot of new interview footage for the film, including a lot of Boston sportswriters, and several players, including my father's good friend Johnny Pesky.

Overall I'd say it's worth watching for fans, but if you are as big a fan as I am, you probably won't learn anything new. His daughter is interviewed but sheds no new light on his life and death, which is a bit of a shame. Also it seems the film overlooks a number of negative incidents in his career.

Still, the footage is great, both archival and new, so it gets a "worth watching" for baseball fans.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

KNOCKED UP

OK, I'm 2 years late to the party on this review, but hey, we just got HBO. It's tough seeing a movie so long after all the hype; it can't possibly live up to it. And it didn't.

First off, I was shocked that Seth Rogan is such a terrible, terrible, terrible actor. He's funny, and I suspect that he ad libbed many of the funniest lines of the film, but it was real tough watching a film with a lead actor who is the this unsympathetic.

Katherine Heigl, on the other hand, shocked me by being such a good actress. I had no trouble believing her in a fairly complex role. The script however, needed a lot of editing in terms of tone and structure, and 2:15 is QUITE long for a goofy comedy. The film took itself MUCH too seriously and in the end that only made it tougher to watch.

I do like Judd Apatow, but this movie makes me glad I didn't spend money on his new "serious" film. He should stick to what he knows best: comedy. And maybe watch SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS again before he decides to bite off more than he should chew.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Aspen Chamber Symphony


Last night we were lucky enough to see a great concert here in Aspen. The orchestra here is made up of students from the high-profile summer school hare where many of the world's best music students spend their summers. Principal chairs in the orchestra are taken by the teachers.

The venue is called a "tent," but it's not at all what I expected. As part of an AES group, we got a nice backstage tour (photos to follow in a few days). It's a permanent building now, with an outstanding stage and backstage area. The acoustics are excellent.

The roof is indeed a tent, and the back walls are open for people who want to sit on the lawn for free. This allows in some exterior sound, most noticeably crows in the Britten, and kids yelling, and some airplanes landing at the nearby airport towards the end of the Mendelssohn.

The orchestra sounded excellent for the most part, especially the strings, which was great for Britten's Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge, a wonderful piece I had only heard a few times before. Conductor James Conlon gave an excellent introduction that taught me about the piece and made me notice some things (especially humor in the piece) that I had never heard before. He did an excellent job conducting, and the strings sounded great, even though some of them looked like they were still in grade school! (Side note, I noticed for the first time a section where the violins are strumming like banjos, which I had seen earlier this year on Gershwin's Piano Concerto.)

The second piece was really the best of the evening, an expanded orchestra joined soloist Lise de la Salle on the Prokofiev Piano Concerto #1, a somewhat brief but extremely challenging piece that at times sounds like Charles Ives. The soloist was really outstanding, and the orchestra played wonderfully. Probably my only negative comment about the acoustics was that the piano sounded a bit muddy and might have benefited from some sound reinforcement. Backstage we had spoken to the audio crew, who said they normally avoid any reinforcement unless absolutely necessary. If they were doing any on the piano, I didn't notice it.

After intermission the orchestra returned for the Mendelssohn Scottish Symphony, leaping backwards from the two 20th-century pieces of the first half, and guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser. This was the weakest performance of the night, strangely, for music that should in theory be easier. However, the conductor took a blindingly fast tempo on the scherzo, and the young clarinetist and horn players simply could not keep up. Otherwise, they played well, particularly in the finale.

I am very, very impressed with music in Colorado.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

HOUSE BUNNY (and DirecTV)

I thought I had a 2-year contract with Comcast Triple Play, which was very cost-effective, but our 1-year contract ran out and they raised the price 50%. This gave me the perfect opportunity to switch to DirecTV, which is a zillion times better than Comcast. We get twice as many HD channels, and every baseball game in HD on MLB Extra Innings, and the picture quality is far, far superior. Plus we get 3 months free of HBO, so we get to catch up on movies I never would have paid to see.

This includes THE HOUSE BUNNY, which is a cute and funny comedy. There are quite a few talented actresses in the film who create nice characters (and a few crappy actors who are forgettable). Nice music choices as well. Probably worth a rental.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rockies Beat Giants


It was a rainy night, but that did not seem to bother Rockies pitcher JorgeDe la Rosa, who pitched a gem of a game tonight! 7.1 innings, 7 hits, only 2 runs, which is a good sign from a pitcher who has lacked confidence in the past.

Troy Tulowitski had an excellent game as well, getting 3 hits and 5 RBI, 3 of them off his homer.

The team looks good, firing on all cylinders, and maintaining their wild card berth.

Moving Pictures: Sean Hood - Melancholy Baby

Moving Pictures: Sean Hood - Melancholy Baby

Nice article about film sound by a former student!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sunday, July 12, 2009

BRÜNO

BRÜNO is a very funny but very raunchy movie. In many ways, it's funnier than BORAT, which I enjoyed tremendously, and there are some similarities, but there are a lot of differences as well. This film is about a gay main character, and the sexual content of the film is very strong. I'm not at all a prude, but I was shocked that the film did not get an NC-17 rating. The film is smart in that it puts a lot of offensive material right up front, so that anyone offended will leave right away. (In fact, BRÜNO gets its first laugh in the Universal logo, before the film begins.) There is a pretty explicit music montage near the opening with Brüno and his boyfriend engaging in various forms of anal sex for several minutes. Then there is an entire scene dedicated to a close-up of a semi-erect penis being swung around while dancing. Granted, it is very, very funny, but that has to limit the potential audience of the film.

Also limiting the audience is the amount of gay material, which I imagine may offend some gay men as it plays off of stereotypes. In reality, the film is very supportive of gays. Like Borat, even though the film is a comedy, there is a somewhat depressing undertone to the film. Both films use the technique of placing the character in the real world with real people. In this film, the gay character visits two different religious men to get cured of his homosexuality, as well as going on a hunting trip with three clearly homophobic men. Much of the humor comes from the real-world men realizing that Brüno is gay. We often laugh at uncomfortable scenes, and this movie taps into that.

Interestingly, the most squirm-inducing scene is a visit to (what appears to be) a real "swingers" party, where Brüno stands inches away from group sex and watches. It's strangely uncomfortable, even after watching all of the previously mentioned sex scenes. The film does do a good job - perhaps even better than Borat - of mixing the real-world scenes with scenes that have been scripted and use actors. It's much harder in this film to see the difference and tell where reality ends and the movie begins.

I recommend the film, but only if you have a strong stomach for sexual content. This is definitely not for kids!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Rockies win Again

It may only be against the Nationals, but it was nice to see the Rockies win again tonight. Hammel gave up 4 runs, but the bullpen did well, with Embree getting the win by getting only one out on a pickoff (without throwing a pitch!), and Street getting the save. The loss goes to Julian Tavarez. It helped that the Nat's committed 3 errors in the game.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Saturday, July 04, 2009

D'backs Beat Rockies

Aaron Cook had a great game going, going 5 strong innings, and with the team winning 4-3 into the 8th. But a 6-run 8th by the Arizona Diamondbacks could not be overcome even with a sellout crowd of 49,000 on Independence Day. The Rockies ultimately lost 11-7.

However, since the departure of Clint Hurdle, the team is doing extremely well and still has a good shot at the wild card. To do that though, they will have to pass the Giants by continuing to win games. They have a good home schedule until the All-Star break, so it's possible.

Gateway Scores: Alien

This is a nice web site for film music professionals. Scott is a very talented music editor who has written several nice columns for them.


Gateway Scores: Alien

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

NOVA: Musical Minds

NOVA: Musical Minds is a great doc about how the mind perceives music. It's based on Oliver Sachs new study Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. Sachs is the author of Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook is Wife for a Hat. This show is an analysis of four separate cases, one autistic man who can play the piano by ear, another man with Tourette's who plays drums as therapy, a third woman who cannot hear music as music, and finally a man who was struck by lightning who began to play the piano. If you are at all interested in how the brain perceives music, I highly recommend this.

You can watch the episode online here:

NOVA: Musical Minds

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Unpaid Internships Illegal

Interesting blog post about the status of unpaid internships, which are now the de facto way to get a foot in the door in the entertainment industry.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rockies Make it 10 Straight!

The Colorado Rockies have quietly leaped from last in the NL West to 3rd by winning 10 consecutive games. Along the way, they did some remarkable things, including a sweep of the Cardinals in St. Louis. In addition, they are now 12 -4 under new manager Jim Tracy.

Jason Marquis pitched very well tonight and would have had the win had Manny Corpas not blown the save in the 8th. In the strange world of baseball stats, Corpas ends up with the win as the Rockies broke the tie in the bottom of that inning. Huston Street pulled off another save in the 9th.

This was not the Rockies at their best, but a win is a win, and well-needed. By the way, the team in second place in their division is San Fransisco. The Rockies are only a few games behind them. The Dodgers are the runaway leaders in the division, so the Rockies most likely hope for post-season would be as the wild card. What team is the wild card right now?

San Fransisco. However, it's a long season ahead to hope that the Rockies continue their incredible run. But I will be watching. The game was delayed 42 minutes due to a sudden thunderstorm that passed through. Announced attendance of 31,000 seemed quite high compared to those at the park.

Monday, June 08, 2009

MemorySuppliers.com

I ordered a RAM upgrade today and after placing the order received the following offer. I have not used this vendor before, nor have I received the product, so I cannot vouch for them yet, but this seems like a good idea. I chose them as a vendor because their website was fast at finding the right RAM, and the price was low (with free shipping). I will update this post after the order is received and again after the RAM is installed.

"We have a special money saving offer for you today: If you would like to receive a $15.00 credit back on your credit card for this order, simply post a link to MemorySuppliers.com on your website, blog, personal profile page (i.e. myspace) with a short one or two line description of our website and products. When finished, email us the web address where the link is posted and we will give you a $15.00 credit back on to your credit card. We do require the link to be posted for 90 days or more."

6/15 Update: RAM has arrived via standard mail on time. I will not get a chance to install it for a few days.

6/18 Update: RAM installed in iMac. Took about a minute. Works fine. I have not installed the RAM in my MacBook yet, but will update again when I do so (which may not be for a while).

6/20 Update: RAM installed in MacBook. Works fine. iMac is still fine. Overall, excellent experience.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Mahler's 2nd

It was quite a night at the symphony tonight, with Jeffrey Kahane choosing to finish the season with the Mahler 2nd Symphony, the "Resurrection." Disclaimer, Mahler is far from my favorite composer. The 4th Symphony is tolerable as it is brief and light-hearted, and I like the trumpet call in the 5th (I was a trumpet player), but most of the time that I am forced to listen to Mahler, I feel like I am serving penance. He takes himself far too seriously, and the orchestration is always far, far over the top. There was a good turnout for the finale tonight, but I still suspect the number of people onstage rivaled the number of people in the audience.

However, I did learn a lot listening to this in person. The climactic moments were very moving. And looking at it from a historical point of view, he did push the envelope in almost every in terms of harmony, tonality, form, scope, instrumentation, and orchestration. And the vocal solos are amazing. The evening really belonged to mezzo Sasha Cooke, who has an absolutely stunning voice. I was in the fifth row tonight, about 30 feet from her when she was singing, and I felt like I was getting a private performance in my living room. Janice Chandler Eteme, soprano, was good also. And as usual Kahane's conducting was exceptional.

It would not have been the piece I would have picked to end a season, but it worked. The audience loved it, and it does make me look forward to September.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Garrick Ohlsson plays Brahms

The penultimate concert of the season was one of the best for the Colorado Symphony, with Jeffrey Kahane returning to conduct. The concert opened with a contemporary piece by Pierre Jalbert, In Aeternam. Without a doubt, the best of the "new" works they played this year. The piece is dedicated to the niece of the composer, who was stillborn. Although in three movements, the piece does a nice job of moving through the seven stages of grief. If I have any criticism, it would be that Jalbert is clearly influenced by film composers, which from me is no criticism at all. The first movement seemed to hinge on the interval of a major 7th, and frequently reminded me of Bernard Herrmann. The second movement was very exciting and clearly played the anger of dealing with death. I had to remind myself of this fact, as it sounded a lot like some of Williams' more dissonant action music from the Indiana Jones movies.

Kahane then introduced the Sibelius Symphony #3, explaining that it had never been performed by the orchestra before. Now we know why. It's a very slight piece, and those expecting a rousing chorus of Finlandia will be sadly let down. The piece did have some nice moments though.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the evening was the Second Piano Concerto of Johannes Brahms as performed by Garrick Ohlsson. Ohlsson seemed a very jolly sort walking out to the stage, and took control quickly with a powerful performance of the first movement. I'd never seen this piece live before and it's clearly a very challenging piece for the pianist, full of rapidly moving block chords. Ohlsson seemed a little uneven in the first movement. Also the sound of the piano was off; I did not feel the low end like I had in previous concerts.

The second movement (scherzo) was much better, wonderfully performed by all involved. Each movement seemed to get better, with the beautiful third movement showing the other end of Ohlsson's spectrum. A delicate performance by both him and the cello soloist.

The fourth movement (one of the few concerti in four movements) was exciting and played flawlessly. Perhaps the only thing better was the encore, a great performance of the C# Waltz by Chopin. I don't know how he did it, but he made every statement of the theme unique with a different tempo, getting faster each time, yet ending with a beautifully introspective ending.

I look forward to next week's performance of the Mahler 2nd Symphony. A dark piece to end the season with, but it should be interesting!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Nuggets Lose Badly (and Rockies Update)


Both teams looked tired in the first quarter, but by the middle of the 2nd, the Nuggets were running on fumes, as though they had not rested in days. The second half belonged completely to Los Angeles. To be honest, that's what I had expected from the whole series. Although the Nuggets are good, they are not an amazing team filled with incredible talent. But after winning in Los Angeles, and with their losses all close ones, they lulled their fans into the belief that if they win their home game, they would then go to Los Angeles for a game seven.

It wasn't meant to be. If you look at only the numbers, Denver did not play that much worse than LA, but if you watched the game, virtually every shot for LA was a quick and easy one (even their foul shots, where they went 100%), and the number of missed shots for Denver was embarrassing. It was fun while it lasted, and I think everyone has high hopes for next year.

The Rockies, on the other hand, are doing so badly (only two years after going to the World Series) that they fired their longtime manager Clint Hurdle and promoted bench coach Jim Tracy. Tracy managed the Dodgers and knows the division well. He is a good choice to succeed Hurdle in that he is, like Hurdle, an excellent clubhouse manager who is well-liked by the players. Tracy is very much a by-the-book manager, almost to a fault. He rarely takes chances. Some might say this is a little too much like Hurdle.

After leaving the Dodgers, Tracy went to Pittsburgh, where he floundered along with the team. Only time will tell if this will be a repeat of that.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

CAS "Meet the Winners" Event

UPDATE:

The Cinema Audio Society Quarterly magazine has posted their most recent issue here, which includes a nice article on the event, as well as some photos.


Although the turnout was small, the Cinema Audio Society's "Meet the Winners" event was of exceptionally high caliber. Indian winner Resul Pookutty, CAS attended via Skype and answered questions about his work on SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. He told a great story about after winning the Oscar, arriving at Mumbai airport at 3AM and being carried around the airport by the people there, much like the end of the movie!

Ian Tapp, CAS then attended via iChat and discussed the re-recording mix for the same film. He showed a great clip from the beginning of the movie that combined subjective and realistic sound design.

Board member Bob Brownow, CAS talked about his excellent work on the documentary series DEADLIEST CATCH, and how difficult it is to be a one-man sound crew with no production sound mixers!

Kerry Brown, CAS and Kevin Dippold discussed their work on SMASHING PUMPKINS IF ALL GOES WRONG, a combination documentary and concert DVD. I was quite surprised to find out that it was mixed on a Neve Portico with no automation. It must have been quite a challenge!

There were a lot of important people present in the audience, including Stacy Sher (producer of PULP FICTION), Billy Corgan (of the band SMASHING PUMPKINS), several former presidents of the CAS (including Gary Bourgeois, who asked many questions, and Richard Lightstone), and many board members of the organization. We also attracted a few students even though it was spring break, and a number of members of other organizations including the Audio Engineering.

The final guests were Mike Minkler, CAS (also a former president of the organiztion) and Bob Beemer, CAS, (a newly-elected board memeber) who discussed their excellent work on JOHN ADAMS. It was a surpise to find out the show had nearly 900 tracks for the first episode.

It was very gratifying to see that after the event was over, almost everyone in the audience stayed to talk to the the winners and USC engineer Chris Cain led a tour of some of USC's new facilities. I think this shows that all the hard work was worthwhile.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Nuggets Win!


Being raised in Boston, it's quite natural for me to hate the Lakers. Tonight was my first trip to the Pepsi Center and I was very lucky to have gotten a ticket on center court for a playoff game. It's a nice stadium. It was a good game, with Denver in control almost throughout. Amazingly, they played great defense against Kobe and the rest of the Lakers, much better than two nights ago. They were also excellent on rebounds, which to me seems to be a lost art in the NBA.

Perhaps the best part of this is that it means there will be a game 6 on Friday, here in Denver, after Wedndesday's game in LA. The Nuggets will have to win a game in LA if they want to go to the finals, so let's hope the win Wendesday!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A.I. Final Results SPOILER

Needless to say, big-ass SPOILER here:


Texting tweens voted 100 million times, meaning the man who deserved to win did not. The show itself was pretty good, with the return of Norman Gentle, Bikini Girl (who ruined herself with bad implants), and Tatiana, not to mention appearances by Queen Latifa, Santana, Kiss and Queen (and a few others not worth watching, like Rod Stewart, who can no longer sing). But it was disappointing and surprising that the long-shot pulled it off. He's a nice guy, but not that talented. Nonethless, I'm sure Adam will have a big career ahead of him.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A.I Finals

Adam Lambert, slam dunk. All 3 songs far better. Kris Allen is a nice guy, but way out of his league.

The only possible way Adam could lose is if America is too homophobic to vote for him.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Thibaudet and Ravel

It was interesting hearing Jean-Yves Thibaudet play the Concerto in G by Maurice Ravel this evening, only a week after hearing Gershwin's Concerto in F played in the same hall by Jeffrey Kahane (for that review, click here). When I first started listening to orchestral music in my late teens, I was a jazz fan becoming a classical fan, and these were obvious pieces to smooth the transition. Somehow I had assumed that the Ravel piece had been written first and that it had influenced Gershwin, who was younger and starting his own orchestral career after writing showtunes. However, in the years since I had learned that my assumption was wrong and that it was the other way around. Ravel had been visiting the US and heard Gershwin's piece, and decided to write his own concerto with many similarities, not the least of which is the bluesy treatment of melody.

Hearing them both live and in such close proximity in the same hall, I am becoming increasingly convinced the Gershwin's work is much better than I had previously thought. It is, for the most part, the more interesting of the two, with the exception of the second movement, which is a bit too simple. On the contrary, the second movement of the Ravel is the best movement, and in many ways the least jazzy.

It was also interesting tonight seeing one of the few large crowds at the hall, clearly having turned out for the soloist, who was quite good, but seeing a small turnout for Kahane, who was exceptional.

Originally Ravel had written the piece as a divertissement, retitling it as a concerto later. The program tonight opened with another light piece, Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, which, for a light piece, is one of the all-time greats. As Steve Ledbetter's concert notes point out, there is hardly any development in the piece, yet it still stands a almost perfectly constructed. The orchestra performed it almost perfectly, with a correctly small Mozart-sized orchestra.

The program finished with one of Beethoven's weakest symphonies, #2, although quite nicely performed under guest conductor James Gaffigan.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A.I Finals

Well, I'm glad I didn't guess last night, I would never have predicted Kris in the finals. I'm kinda glad, his guitar ballad last night was one of the best performances in the season, and he's been getting better each week. I also like the kid.

I think he's no match for Adam, though.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A.I. Final 3

American Idol is down to the final 3. Adam Lambert is great as always. After that, it's a toss-up. I don't like either Kris Allen or Danny Gokey. I think Kris sang better than Danny the last two weeks, but Kris's performace style is pretty forgettable.

I'm not going to make a guess between the two of them.

Rockies Beat Astros

Winning two games in a row, the Rockies have leaped up to 3rd place in the division, even though they are still 5 games under .500 early in the season.

Ubaldo Jiminez finally got the win he deserves, pitching 7 innings and giving up only 1 run and winning 12-1. The team needed a big win, and Brad Hawpe was on fire with 4 hits and 5 RBIs. Ian Stewart had 2 homers, one a grand slam, giving him 5 RBI.

It was a gorgeous night to be at a game at Coors.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Rockies Lose Pitchers' Battle to Marlins

You can't blame Jorge de la Rosa for the Rockies recent problems. He went 8 full innings yesterday, allowing only 2 earned runs and 4 hits, and striking out 12. His ERA is now under 4 and he's had quality starts three times, yet is record is 0-3.

The Rockies scored one paltry run. And allowed another Marlins run on an error. Offensive problems are plaguing them. Tulowitski is batting only .223, Atkins .218, Stewart .197, and Iannetta .209. It's depressing to see the kids doing so poorly, as they are the future of the team.

One has to wonder why they are doing so poorly at home. They have lost 3 out of their last 4 home games, and 5 out of 8 overall. If there were ever a home field advantage, one would think Coors would be it.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

AMERICAN COMPOSERS

The Colorado Symphony permorms a concert of American music this weekend, opening with Samuel Barber's Overture to The School for Scandal, a rather simple piece for the modern era. The orchestra played it fine last night, although guest conductor Larry Rachleff seemed to have problems indicating clear tempo changes all night long. He also seemed to force the tempos into the slightly-uncomfortable range.

This problem was much more obvious in the Gershwin Concerto in F, which is a very difficult piece for the pianist in a number of ways. In addition to requiring virtuoso playing chops, it also requires the player to understand the swing rhythm, which is usually anathema to Classical musicians. Exacerbating the issue last night was the fact that the scheduled soloist was replaced at the last moment by usual conductor Jeffery Kahane, who clearly could have used some more practice time at the lightning tempi that Rachlef chose. Nonetheless, Kahane is an excellent choice for the piece, he is an extremely well-rounded musician who understands the complex needs of the piece. It was a highlight of the evening. I had never seen this piece live before, and I had no idea how difficult the piano part was. It was also a reminder of what a brilliant musician Gershwin was, and what a terrible tragedy that he died so young, unable to continue development. One can only imagine what Gershwin might have given us if he had lived a full life.

Kahane followed the performance with a solo encore, a beautiful and moving version of "America," reminding the audience what an ugly national anthem we have.

The weakest part of the night was a new piece by minimalist composer Jennifer Higdon, Loco. Dedicated to trains, the title was a more accurate description of her orchestration, which was constantly over the top. It's always a flaw of student composers that if they have an orchestra of 100, they feel they need to write for all 100 all the time or they are blowing their opportunity. In addition, it bore an astounding resemblance to one of the most popular contemporary orchestral pieces, John Adams' Short Ride in a Fast Machine, which the orchestra just announced it will be playing next year.

Unquestionably the highlight of the evening was the performance of the suite from West Side Story. It's hard to believe this piece is over 50 years old now. The orchestra played brilliantly. I've never heard 100 people swing as well as they did on "Cool." Like the Gershwin piece, hearing this reminded me how brilliant Bernstein was. The music may be disguised as popular American theater songs, but in addition to his incredible gift for melody ("Maria" may be the most beautiful song ever written, and in the same musical is "Somewhere."), Bernstein managed to sneak just about every imaginable modern technique into this work. Modality, polytonality, changing time signatures, jazz, Latin-American music ("Mambo!"); and yet it remains a coherent whole even in suite form. Perhaps the only thing the suite lacks is a full statement of "Maria," which is performed only vocally in the musical. The only weakness of the night was the conductor's unclear tempi, which ruined an otherwise outstanding performance.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED

ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED is an excellent and fascinating documentary about one of cinema's most notorious directors.

Polanski's life is so tragic and complex, if it were fictional, you wouldn't believe it. At the age of three, he was on a train to Auschwitz with his mother, and she tossed him out the floor of the moving train to save his life. While his mother continued on to her death, he followed the tracks for miles back to town.

Years later he was leading a fairy-tale life in Los Angeles as a successful film director, married to a gorgeous Hollywood actress, when she was slaughtered by the Manson family.

Only a few years after that, he was arrested for having sex with a 13-year old girl.

The case is stunning in its abuse of the legal system. There are a bizarre umber of similarities with the Simspon criminal murder case, with an equally inept, star-struck judge who manipulated the system for his glory and ignored any ethical commitment to enforcing the law.

The film is very well made, and interviews all of the major subjects, including the vicitm of the "rape," who forgave him years ago.

Polanski is still a fugitive from America, even after winning Best Director for The Pianist.

I highly recommend this film, which aired in the US in HBO.

A.I. Down to 3

American Idol voted off one of the final four tonight. I had hoped it would be Danny Okey Dokey Karaoke Gokey, after his worst performance of the season, or maybe Kris Allen, who is probably the overall weakest of the remainders, but it was Allison Iraheta tonight. She would not have won, and at 17, she has a huge career ahead of her anyway.

Next week it will be interesting to see what happens.

Expanded Biography & Musical Background

I have significantly expanded my bio, including my musical background, for anyone who is interested. 

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A.I. Top 4

Rock week on American Idol was not kind to the idols, particularly favorite Danny Okey Dokey Karaoke Gokey. He sounded like a high school shop teacher who get his hand stuck in a buzz saw.

Adam Lambert killed, as usual. Allison Iraheta was not great, but as Simon pointed out, her duet with Adam may have saved her.

Kris Allen was forgettable and has long overstayed his welcome. He should probably be the one to go home, although Danny was so bad that if you judge only tonight he may go. However, Allison has been in the bottom 3 so many times it seems like she may be next.

Other than Adam staying, the only other certainty is that new judge Kara DioGuardi was dressed like Pinky Tuscadero for no apparent reason. (Did she think it was '50s week?) She's really starting to grate on me. She says nothing original and frequently confuses the contestants. I hope she does not return next year.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

AI RESULTS

The only surprise tonight was that Adam was in the bottom three. That, and that Natalie Cole looked as good as she did.

Otherwise, see you next week.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

AI RAT PACK

Rat Pack week on AMERICAN IDOL, much to my surprise, brought out the best of several idols, and the worst from Matt Giraud, who has already been voted off the island once. No question he will be the bottom (although the judges liked him; even Simon).

Jamie Foxx actually turned out to be a good coach. Allison probably would have been better with an up-tempo song like "That's Life," but did surprisingly well. Adam Lambert showed off his technical chops and campiness at the same time. Right now I think he's the guy to beat, with Danny Gokey closely behind in popularity, although I think he's not so great.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dodgers beat Rockies at Coors

It's hard for me to root against the Dodgers after holding season tickets for several years, and especially this year as so many of the kids I watched move up from the minors are maturing into excellent ballplayers.

Both teams had pitching problems tonight, with Jimenez allowing 4 runs before I was even settled into my seat at the stadium (had to watch the Red Sox take a commanding lead before I entered), even though I was only 2 outs into the game. It's hard to overcome that.

But MacDonald allowed 3 runs in the third, and the game remained close until the end, yet the Rockies never took a lead or even tied the game.

Manny looked terrible, striking out 3 times.

Otherwise much was to be expected.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

AI: Results

I didn't actually see the results show, but I have to wonder if the judges regret keeping Matt in last week's show. I think they assumed he would get voted off this week, and he wasn't even in the bottom three.

Allison was, and has been there numerous times. Next week's show theme is the Rat Pack, and I can't imagine her pulling it off, so she's likely to be dumped, putting Matt in the top 4, where he certainly has no place being.

Strangely I think Anoop would have done well in the Rat Pack week.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

AI: Disco

American Idol had its worst night in ages tonight. Rather than simply have fun with some Kool & the Gang or KC & the Sunshine Band, the Idols decided that they wanted to re-invent disco, something that did not need to be done. One of the few people who sang a straight-ahead disco song, and who sang it well, was roundly booed by the judges. I don't get why they suddenly took a dislike to Lil, unless something happened off camera that I don't know about. Either that or they figured that dissing her so badly would unite the audience to vote for her and save her. She ceratainly does not deserve to go home yet.

Matt Giraud does. He gave a pathetic performance tonight that was perhaps the worst karaoke the show has seen in a long time. They should not have saved him last week; they may have needed it for tonight, because Allison sang her heart out yet is currently on the bottom at DialIdol and may be one of the two to go home, along with Matt.

The judges raved about Adam, whom I usually like, but his performance lacked emotion and was forgettable. So was Kris Allen, and he has probably overstayed his welcome as well.

That leave Anoop and Danny. I'm not a huge Danny fan, but he still is worth keeping on the show, and Anoop has also overstayed his welcome.

Tough to predict at this point who will make it past next week.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

AI: Save

I correctly predicted Matt would be voted off, but I did not think he would be saved (nor was he worth it). He'll be voted off again next week, in disco week, which could be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tarantino: Vocal Coach???

Quentin Tarantino might be able to make a good mix tape, but that does not make him a good vocal coach. Unfortunately, American Idol feels otherwise. I'm not at all a fan of Anoop, but Q's comments to him were comically inappropriate, and thankfully he ignored them.

Although the theme tonight was movie songs, it seems like they were limited to rock song from the last 15 years or so (except for "The Rose" and "Born to be Wild"), which meant a lot of crappy songs. Bryan Adams, Aremegeddon, etc. Songs no one in their right mind would pick. One thing that they do not explain on the show is that although they do give choices to the contestants, they are from a very short list of songs. Since the songs are being used on TV, they have to get synch rights from the publishers, who in some cases are the artists, and the rights have to be affordable. In addition, the show's producers want them to pick songs that will go over with contemporary audiences as they sell the performances on iTunes.

Unquestionably, the best artist on the show is Adam. He picked the best song, "Born to be Wild," and did the best cover, making it contemporary (with drum loops and samples) yet hard-edged at the same time. He's far more mature than any of the other contestants, and phenomenally talented. He has a huge career ahead of him.

After him, it's somewhat of a tossup for the next few slots. I like Allison a lot, but she's so young, she has a lot of developing to do. Her song choice tonight was terrible. But her singing is great. Her history on the show is not great, she's repeatedly been in the bottom 3.

Until the last three rounds, I would have said Lil Rounds should be up there in the top 3, but has has faltered several weeks in a row, especially tonight, where she was very pitchy. I've always hated that song ("The Rose") and she did not do it very well.

Danny "Karaoke" Gokey is, stylistically, not at all my favorite, but he's at least consistent and will probably make it to the top 2 or 3. Anoop is weak and should probably be in the bottom 3, but did well tonight and may avoid it.

Kris gave his best performance yet, but ultimately he's one of the weaker performers and I expect him to be in the bottom 2 with Matt, who is ultimately the most forgettable singer left. I think he'll be the one to go, or at least should be.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Opening Day at Coors Field!


The Rockies had an excellent opening day, scoring 10 runs off 14 hits. Cole Hamels debut with the World Champion Phillies was ruined by giving up 7 runs in less than 4 innings. Marquis, on the other hand, pitched quite well for the Rockies, going a full 7 innings and allowing only 2 runs. Seems like a smart pickup for the Rocks. Marquis also had 2 hits, and an RBI in addition to his sac bunt. Not bad for a pitcher!

Atkins made his first hit of the year count as a 2-run homer. It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a ballgame, and it was a pleasure to watch the Rockies get their 3rd win of the season!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

AI 8 Results

America got it wrong, Scott should have stuck around for about another two weeks, and even worse, Lil was in the bottom three when she should be near the top.

Kris or Anoop should have gone home, or even Matt. But I think Scott chose poorly last night. VoteForTheWorst.com proved its irrelevance again, they couldn't even make up the 30,000 vote difference to keep him alive, and I wish they had. But in the end, he would have gone home soon.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

AI 8

I pad American Idol by 3 minutes and still we missed most of Adam Lambert's performance, as well as the recap, which is usually a good way to judge voting as it is the last thing people see and the first they will remember. I'm going to guess that Adam did well as always.

VoteForTheWorst.com has tastelessly picked Scott as their next victim. What, he's blind, so let's pick on him? There are at least 3 other singers worse than him.

The bottom 3 should be Anoop (although better this week, he's a weak singer), Matt, and Kris. The judges really like Matt because he looks like Justin Timberlake, and they think he's marketable, but he's a terrible singer and I predict he will have no career regardless of how far he makes it in the competition. Kris was completely forgettable this week which is usually the kiss of death so I think he'll be gone.

I don't like Danny, but he's still safe as well. Lil had a terribly off week on a song she should have killed with, but she's safe. Allison finally seems to be getting her props from the voters (according to DialIdol.com anyway). If Lil regains her form, I think she, Allison and Adam would be the top three, although the judges and the crowd really love Danny "Okey Dokey" Gokey.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

15,000 Views!

Someone from Baltimore who viewed my post There Will Be Crap was the 15,000th person to visit my blog since it began in August 2006, which isn't bad for two and a half years. I find this pretty amazing. I post almost nothing of interest, even to me. Yet for some reason people seem to want to read this stuff. So I guess I'll keep doing it. 

I am aware that I have cut down my postings significantly. I've been trying to be more selective about what I post. It doesn't seem to have hurt my hits. BTW, the average length of visit is under a second, so I guess I shouldn't get too swollen of a head. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

AI: Top 9

Predicted Bottom 3:

Anoop
Megan
Matt

Of the 3, Matt is the worst and most forgettable, but DialIdol has Megan at the bottom. She's a bit of a one-trick pony and should be voted off soon. They also have Allison in the bottom 3; I'm not sure why, she's a phenomenal singer, especially for a 16 year-old.

Top 3 aren't announced, but I would think they are
Adam
Lil
Danny

And based on tonight's performance, I'd put them in that order. Scott would follow them.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Windy City

In one of the strangest games I've ever seen, the Cubs lost to the Giants on a very cold and extremely windy night in Scottsdale.

It was so windy that not only did pitchers have trouble finding the strike zone, but every ball hit into the air was like Russian roulette as to where it would land. At one point a foul ball clearly headed for the outfield turned around in mid air and landed behind the catcher.

As a result, the game was suspended at the 7th inning stretch as it seemed almost pointless to continue. Driving home from the game felt treacherous.

Barry Zito pitched amazingly well considering the circumstances, going 5 innings and giving up only 3 runs. Marshal did even better for the Cubs; it was the relief pitchers who gave up the losing runs.

Milton Bradly hit the only home run of the game, and even that ball floated for a while before going out over right field.

This finished my spring break/spring training trip. Next baseball is April 10th, opening day.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Angels beat Indians

The Angels played their full starting lineup today; a rarity in spring ball. Adenhart pitched 6 strong innings, giving up only 1 earned run and 5 hits.

Cleveland did not look as good. Two costly errors piled up te runs for the Angels, plus 4 home runs gave the Angels an easy victory. Lewis only made it through 3 innings for the Indians, giving up 8 hits, 5 runs, and 2 walks. Betancourt, Kobayashi, Mujica and Perez did much better in relief but the damage had been done.

This is my 6th game in 6 days. Tonight will make 7 games in 6 days. This is a record for me, and hopefully will hold me the two weeks until opening day!