Sunday, December 31, 2006


I've spent New Year's Eve a lot of different ways. I've been to huge parties in LA, to clubs, to the Shark Club in Las Vegas, and spent it with family or friends. I think the first NYE that I remember is spending it watching the Sugar bowl in 1973 with my father and seeing Notre Dame beat Alabama 24-23 in a fantastic game. It's too bad there's not a bowl game on any more, it was a nice way to spend the evening, and a very fond memory of my father. In fact, I think this was the first college football game I watched with him that I really enjoyed.

About fifteen years ago I got sick on NYE and decided to stay home and watch TV. (Nick at Night had a "best episodes" countdown, ending with "Chuckles the Clown" episode of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW). It turned out to be one of the best NYE's I'd had to that point. Getting older, I've realized that spending the night out is not a good time. There are too many drunks on the road, and the parties are lame. It's no fun waking up New Year's Day hungover. It's supposed to be a holiday.

So once I got married, I was relieved that I didn't have to worry about NYE plans any more. Now, my wife and I get some takeout (this year from Jerry's) and watch a movie on DVD.

This year we watched the Wim Wenders film LAND OF PLENTY. I really liked it. And coincidentally, it ties in with the New Year's theme of world peace. The film is a two-character study of a young girl returning from an apparent lengthy kibbutz to try to track down her uncle, who turns out to be a Vietnam vet who is obsessed with national security post-911. Michelle Williams is excellent, much better than in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN.

The film is very slow getting started and certainly has its weaknesses, mostly in the first act. John Diehl's performance is particularly weak in the opening, which makes the whole film flawed. Robert DeNiro immediately jumps to mind for the Bickle-like part; Diehl also resembles Dean Stockwell, who probably would have better in the part.

The film explores a lot of American themes, including 911. As Williams' character says, we should listen for the voices of the people who died on 911; undoubtedly, they would not want more deaths as a result.

New Year's Day is traditionally a day for reflection on world peace. For me, this is the most important part of the day. Not the liquor, not the parties, not the food, not the football. Today, we are a country at war, a war that has gone on too long for us to be able to pull out of peacefully. The most that we can hope for is as peaceful an end as soon as possible.

If you go out for NYE, please do not drink and drive, and drive carefully and defensively. And please join me in my prayer for peace.

Weekend Football Wrapup

The Pats beat the Titans by a wide margin (I'm not sure why they weren't picked). Next Sunday the Pats will play the Jets in New England in the first round of the playoffs.

Buffalo could not handle the Ravens defense and only scored 7 points. They finish the season under .500, but better than initially predicted and ending the season against some tough opponents.

Tomorrow I will be at the Rose Bowl. Oddsmakers are split, some predicting USC by a point, others predicting Michigan by a point. It should be a great game. I have high hopes for the Trojans.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Weekend Sports

I'm not that big of a basketball fan, but when unranked USC upset #14 Washington two days ago, I decided to watch this afternoon's game against Washington State. It was a tough game... USC was ahead by 11 early in the second half, but ended up losing 58-55.

Tomorrow, the Pats play the Titans, with Tennessee favored by 3. I'll pick New England by 3. Buffalo plays Baltimore, who are favored by 9. I think Buffalo will beat the spread.

Monday I should be at the Rose Bowl!


DREAMGIRLS is a very weak film. I went in wanting to like it, but it just doesn't stand up. The story is slow and predictable, full of cliches, and characters are all one-dimensional. The entire movie is very claustrophobic, all taking place on various stages and never existing in the real world (even though the film sets itself up as an historical epic by trying to incorporate visual icons of the era, albeit in a very clumsy fashion). Performances are better than the movie deserves. Beyonce is much better than might be expected. Newcomer Jennifer Hudson is a standout, but someone needs to tell her there is more to singing than yelling. The music is pretty weak; I don't think there's single memorable melody in the show, and the songs are non-stop. I don't remember one dialogue scene in the film. The effect of all this is very draining, and not in a good way. In the climax of the film all I could think was "Does this song EVER end???" The film starts feeling long about two-thirds of the way through.

It's a shame, as movie musicals are making a comeback, that we have such a conservative and old-fashioned attempt at filmmaking when movies like MOULIN ROUGE clearly show that taking chances is worthwhile.

Friday, December 29, 2006


Nominated for two Spirit Awards, FRIENDS WITH MONEY is a total "chick flick" about four female friends (and their husbands, who strangely are credited far beneath the women, even though several have parts just as large). It's an interesting and well-written film, but I'm not sure it's awards-worthy. Definitely worth watching, though.


The Magritte exhibit at LACMA is worth visiting. However, half of the pieces are NOT by Magritte, but by people who were influenced by him, and much of that material is weak and unoriginal.

Magritte's art is pretty simple, which is probably why it is so popular. The average person can look at it and see something. If anything, it is at times TOO simple. He himself said that you should not try to read symbolism into his paintings, nor were they motivated by dreams. When you knock those two ideas out of the equation, there's not much left.

There were an awful lot of people at the exhibit. I had assumed the museum would be as dead as everything else during the holidays, when everyone leaves town, and the people who are here are mostly tourists heading to Disneyland. Alas, apparently every other intellectual and faux intellectual left behind had the same idea and went this afternoon. As is typical at LAMCA, the layout did not help. There were quite a few places where people tended to pile up, and many pieces were almost impossible to see without walking in front of a bunch of other people.

Usually I highly recommend getting the audio tours. Not only are they informative, but they force you to slow down your pace and appreciate the artworks. However, not in this case: Don't buy the audio tour. There was very little information of any kind that was not already present in the exhibit's written descriptions, and the artists interviewed did not have a lot to say.

A few of the other artists' works were interesting. Gober's two pieces, the foot and the torso, were probably the most interesting. Regardless of the flaws of the exhibit, it's definitely worth seeing.


THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA is an entertaining film with a standout performance by Meryl Streep, who is not in the movie much, and even when she is, she does almost nothing... and still steals every scene she is in.

The rest of the movie leaves a lot to be desired. Anne Hathaway is weak as the through-character and is blown out of every scene Streep is in. The plotline consists of one predictable cliche after another. Stanley Tucci is also good but underutilized. Simon Baker is laughably miscast as the romantic lead. In his first scene, he looks like he just got an eyebrow transplant from Andy Rooney.

The movie is not as funny as I had hoped... although I think the fact that Streep's character reminds me too much of many people I have worked for in the film business. The audience as a whole did seem to laugh a lot more than I did.

Yet it is worth watching for Streep, who will almost certainly get nominated for her performance.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Woody Allen's new film SCOOP has barely registered on the radar this awards season, and with good reason. I have to wonder what happened to the Woody Allen who wrote ANNIE HALL. I'm not even sure what mood SCOOP was supposed to be. Woody's character is apparently meant to be funny, but only elicits a few smiles. Yet the plot of the film is about a serial killer on the loose in London.

Unlike CRIMES & MISDEMEANORS, which examines the psychology of a murderer while still being funny, or even MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, which is occasionally funny, this film has no depth and little humor. The writing is terrible. All of the characters are weak and one-dimensional. Scartlett Johansson, who is usually worth watching as an actress, is outright terrible here; it's as though there were no director on the film. Hugh Jackman is passable until the final act, then becomes a cliche at the hands of Allen's writing.

Worst of all are the plot machinations necessary to give Woody screen time with Johannson. It's clear the movie was written only to put the two of them together after her appearance in MATCH POINT, which was overrated. It got good reviews for a mundane melodrama. Johansson's performance in that film was better until the third act, when the character change made it a soap opera for her.

It's such a shame that Woody can't bring a good script to the screen again.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


I saw LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE for the second time tonight on the plane, and it stood up much, much better than I expected, so I'm revising my earlier review here.

Monday, December 25, 2006

49 UP

One of my Christmas presents (from my wish list) was Michael Apted's British documentary 49 UP.

This may very well be the most important documentary film series ever made. It started with 7 UP, interviewing a group of seven year-olds in 1963, with follow-up films every seven years, so you get to see a group of people age naturally. If you haven't seen them, you should. They are the ultimate reality series. I had watched the box set of the first six films last year, all on consecutive nights, and waiting eagerly to see the latest film. Since I'm teaching documentary in the spring semester, I thought I'd write a bit about it.

Apted fully admits that in the first three or four films he tried to prove that class distinctions guided your entire path in life. He also clearly tried to predict the future in several cases. One of the most fascinating things in the series is the fact that almost none of the subjects followed the route in life that you would have expected.

As documentaries, they are problematic. They are clearly made in the filmmaker's point of view. Almost all of the films consist of sit-down interviews to camera, hearing the filmmaker's voice, but never seeing him. I've always been a cinema verité kind of guy, having learned filmmaking first from Ricky Leacock. So I instinctively question anyone who takes such a strong point of view in a documentary. It's no longer a document (or truth in cinema) when you do that, it's propaganda.

There have been several instances of the Heisenberg principal (observer effects observee) in the series. The filmmakers chose to construct visits that would not have happened otherwise for several of the characters. Two characters who should have never even met ended up being roommates. Some of the subjects have confronted Apted both on-camera and off about not being presented in a proper fashion and the subjectivity of his choices. Several have refused to be interviewed in later films, and one will not allow Apted to interview him but allows another person to do so.

In this film he finally questions all the subjects about their participation in the films. It's interesting as NONE of them admit to enjoying it. Yet... they still do it. Some of them talk about the importance of the series, yet one points out that it's more like Big Brother (the reality show) than a truly socially siginificant experiment. I think the truth is somewhere in between. It's impossible to watch these films without becoming involved with the subjects, yet at the same time, I could say that about American Idol. However, there is a much greater depth to these series simply because of the amount of time spent on the subjects.

I'm not going to waste your time writing much about the subjects; I'll let you watch the films and do that for yourself. But I did want to mention one moment: it's worth watching the whole series just to hear Neil's comments about a butterfly in the sun at the end of the film. In addition to being a wonderful observation on the nature of life and happiness, it's the perfect metaphor for the film. The same way the scientist can examine the butterfly and appreciate its beauty, but never truly understand its thoughts, the filmmaker also examines his subjects through the lens, but will never be able to comprehend their inner workings.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

NFL Wrapup

The Bills lost a tight back-and-forth contest with the Titans, 30-29. It was an exciting game, with seven lead changes. This kills any playoff hopes for the Bills.

The Pats beat the Jaguars 24-21, meaning that they have clinched their fourth straight division title.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

NFL Sunday Preview

Buffalo is favored over Tennessee by 5 points. I'll give the Bills at least a field goal and probably a touchdown over the Titans. The Bills have been on a roll, and know they need to win every game to keep playoff chances alive.

Jacksonville is favored by 3 over New England. I'll pick the Pats by a field goal.

Friday, December 22, 2006


AMERICAN GUN is a passable but not great movie about gun ownership in America, with excellent performances by Forest Whitaker, Marcia Gay Harden, Chris Marquette and Tony Goldwyn. Unfortunately the script does not live up to the performances. The movie intercuts the stories of several people who were all changed by a Columbine-like incident at their town's high school. This is a concept rife with ideas, but the screenplay never capitalizes on them. The first act is very slow, with weak dialogue. The second act is very predictable, and so little happens in the third act that the ending pretty much amounts to nothing. I'm surprised that this got an Independent Spirit Award for Best Picture.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Man in the Plastic BUBBLE

I admire Steven Soderbergh for a number of things. He is able to direct movies with George Clooney and Julia Roberts, and win an Oscar and thank no one in his acceptance speech, except to smartly point out that the people who contributed to the film know who they are. And he can then leap onto medium budget films like THE GOOD GERMAN, down to micro-budget art films.

However, I can not admire him for his film BUBBLE, which was desperately released simultaneously in theaters, on DVD and on the Internet, in an apparent attempt to sell as many copies as possible before people found out what the film is. The film barely has plot. Three people work at a doll factory. More than halfway through the film, one of them ends up murdered. Shot on video on a micro-budget, using real people instead of actors, improvising dialogue, the film runs a scant 74 minutes, but feels three times as long.

There is virtually nothing good to say about the film. It's well shot (by Soderbergh, under a pseudonym; apparently embarrassed to put his name on it any more than necessary*). The decision to shoot in a doll factory provides for a great location. (The trailer, which shows only dolls and has no dialogue is far more interesting than the film.) Some of the actors come off well. The police detective is convincing (because he is one in real life). The two female leads are interesting. The male lead is not. The most convincing performance I've ever seen by a two year-old is in the movie, played by the lead actress's daughter.

But the movie really has the feel of a junior high school science experiment and not a work of art. I'm sure the titular bubble is supposed to refer to the metaphorical bubbles the characters all live in. But it appears that it really refers to the bubble around Soderbergh. This film makes him appear to be so far removed from the real lives of normal people, this is what he thinks life must be like if you don't live in Hollywood. NO ONE has a life this boring. These poor "actors" are so awkward on the camera, they mumble in fear on every line. Real people express emotion when they are accused of murder, or when they find out someone close to them has died. It's sad that filmmakers don't realize this. It's like they have never lived real lives.

The technical quality of the film is lower than many student films. Although shot well, the sound is terrible. The actors mumble and it sounds like they used one mike mounted across the room to record them all. The music sounds like they gave a twelve year-old PA an extra trip to craft services in exchange for recording his first guitar lesson; even a 310 student could make better music edits, and a high school student could play more chords. Make-up ranges from non-existent to way too much.

I think people often forget that Experimental Films are just that: experiments. And as any good scientist will tell you, the vast majority of experiments are complete failures. It's the few successes that make all the vain attempts worthwhile. I'll forgive Soderbergh for this mess because he's given us so much worthwhile as a director and producer.

*It's a joke. I know he always DPs his own material. But it bothers me for several reasons. First off, he takes a paycheck away from another crew member. Secondly, he himself admits he'd get better work from another DP. Finally, it puts a technological buffer between himself and his actors... he'd be better off looking directly them, especially when they are not real actors, they need the direct support. It's a very bad habit.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I've been a fan of the radio show A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION for many years.

Unfortunately, in adapting his radio show to the screen, Keillor and director Robert Altman pretty much gutted everything I liked and replaced it with hokey country music, making the film much more like NASHVILLE (which I didn't like) than COMPANION.

There are many, many musical sequences that go on much, much too long. (Why is Lindsey Lohan singing???) The radio show was a variety show that featured eclectic styles of music including traditional jazz. The only jazz in the movie is over the end credits. The rest of the music is all country. In SHUT UP AND SING, I could tolerate the small doses necessary to explain the documentary, but in this film, it all seems out of place.

The thing I liked best about the radio show is Keillor's writing, very much in the style of American humorists and observationalists Will Rogers, James Thurber, Mark Twain, or Jean Shepherd. Unfortunately, there is NONE of Keillor's story-telling in the movie. Apparently, rearing that he has a face for radio, they made his on-screen involvement minimal.

The radio show uses certain set pieces like the 50s-style detective show-within-the-show, Guy Noir. Unfortunately, they bring this character to life and stick him on the stage with the real actors, who are even more real now as we see them backstage (mostly being boring). Kevin Kline does his darndest as Noir, but the character just doesn't work outside his universe.

Even worse, they create an angel (literally) for Virginia Madsen to play. At least Guy Noir gets a few chuckles; the angel takes itself so seriously it actually removes comedy from scenes that are apparently intended to be funny.

It's too bad this had to be the last film from the man who gave us MASH, and probably the only film from Keillor.

CAS Quarterly

I am happy to announce the new issue of the Cinema Audio Society's Quarterly magazine is now available for download here

This includes my article on "What's New in Pro Tools 7.2?" (released just in time for the 7.3 upgrade!).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


ROAD TO GUANTANAMO is a strange and unsettling film about three British students who were detained in Afghanistan and eventually sent to the American prison at Guantanamo Bay.

The first half-hour of the film is extremely confusing. They do not explain the conceit of the film directly to the audience, which adds to the confusion. The film is shot in sections. There are interviews with the actual detainees who speak directly to camera. The rest of the footage is dramatic recreations, shot on DV in a documentary style, occasionally intercut with real news footage, and sometimes with fake news-style voiceover. Especially since they never explain this, it is extremely confusing as you try to figure out what is going on. In addition, there are flashbacks, time ellipses, and the real people intercut with actors who don't look like them, so you can't tell who is whom.

However, the message of the film is a moving one. The events that occurred are frightening and inexcusable. It is simply impossible to watch this film without feeling outrage. It's worth watching just to see a small taste of the horrors that our own government is committing.

Strangely, the detainee interviews do not show this outrage. I'm not sure whether they have suppressed it, are in denial, or if they are past that stage. It's a very bizarre film, and I am very suspect of the faux-documentary approach, but it is moving.

Football Wrapup

Due to my dyslexia, I misread the standings. This entry is now corrected:

All I can say is... WOW!

Buffalo shutout Miami 21-0. This reminds me of Dick Jauron's 2001 season with Chicago, when they surprised everyone with a wild card spot, and Jauron won AP Coach of the Year.

There are now four teams tied for the two AFC wild card spots: the Jets, Jaguars, Cincinnati, and Denver. Four more teams are next, with 7-7 records, Tennessee, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh tied with Buffalo.

With only 3 weeks left, the Bills will need some good luck to move on. Not only will they need to win all their games, including one with Baltimore, they need all of those other teams to lose at least one game. But it could still happen.

New England beat Houston by a whopping 40-7.

Things are starting to get interesting!

Bond is Back!

CASINO ROYALE was the first James Bond book written by Ian Fleming. It has twice been put on the screen, once in an American TV version with "Jim" Bond, worth watching only for Peter Lorre's version of Le Chiffre. Then it was the bastardized 60s comedy, worth watching only for Peter Sellers and Woody Allen's cameo. (And Burt Bacharach's campy score.)

Bond returns to the screen after an absence in a version designed to recall the spirit of the early Connery films and the books. There's a lot to like in this film. Daniel Craig is excellent. Much of the plot has been lifted straight from the book, and it works great. The action sequences are good, but are not over the top like so many of the recent films.

But the pacing in the third act is very weak. The love scenes are interminable, and by the time the end comes, it's hard to care.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Dodger Update

I haven't written much about the Dodgers since Drew opted out. That's not because nothing has happened. The Dodgers have made a lot of deals in the last few weeks.

They re-signed Nomar to a two-year contract. This allows them more options in the infield. If Betemit stays at third and Nomar at first, James Loney will have more time to develop. Or, Nomar could move to third when they feel Loney is ready to move up.

They signed Juan Pierre to a large contract. Although he may not be worth the money, this gives the Dodgers stability in the outfield, especially with Drew's departure. They also signed Luis Gonzales to a one-year contract. I'm not a huge fan of him as a person, but they needed the boost in the outfield.

Randy Wolf, lefty starter, gave the Dodgers a hometown discount and moved over from the Phillies, as did his catcher, Mike Lieberthal. This allowed the Dodgers to cut loose Toby Hall, who was never happy here.

Takashi Saito was signed as closer again in a fair deal. He deserves it. Unfortunately, Eric Gagne turned down a deal to return for as much as $10M for the year, even after he promised the Dodgers a hometown discount, and he has gone to Texas. Eric was one of the reasons I started watching the Dodgers. He will be sorely missed, but it's doubtful he will ever return to form after three surgeries.

With the signing of Jason Schmidt, the Dodgers have the problem of too many starters. Jason will be the new #1 starter, with Lowe, Penny, Wolf, Billingsley, Kuo, Tomko and Hendrickson all vying for the remaining four spots in the rotation. Many people think that this gives the Dodgers the option to deal Penny, especially for another slugger. Penny was inconsistent in the second half of the season, as well as problematic in the clubhouse.

They did not resign Maddux. I'll always remember the fantastic games I watched him pitch at Dodger stadium, but he's getting old and can't give the Dodgers the innings they need from a starter.

I think after last year's post-season, the Dodger are a little paranoid about lefties. They have definitely loaded up on lefty pitchers. They also re-signed Joe Beimel, even after his disaster that may have cost the Dodgers a post-season win (or two) when he cut his hand drinking in a bar after curfew, then lied about it. Apparently he apologized to the team and all is forgiven.

This looks to be an absolutely fantastic team. The Dodgers' one weakness now is the lack of a true slugger. We may not be able to fix that until the season begins. But with plenty of starters to trade, they may be able to pull of a deal at some point.

Season ticket prices have gone up, in my section, 25%. Still, it's a lot cheaper than Red Sox tickets (or Angels tickets, for that matter). I'm looking forward to this season!

Weekend Football

Buffalo is favored over the Miami Dolphins by a point. It should be a close game, but I'll take the Bills by a field goal.

New England is favored over Houston by 11 points, which they should easily do.

Friday, December 15, 2006


LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA is a good film, and certainly a better film than Eastwood's other Iwo Jima film, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, but it's hardly the best film of the year. Once again, the battle scenes and sound design are very good (again with minimal use of music). The performances are excellent, and the story is good but a little simple.

However, the timeline and geography of the battle are very confusing as presented in the film. I know they are in tunnels most of the time, so it's tough to imply time and location, but the editing implies the battle took place overnight (it took a month) and that the characters walk a few hundred feet when they are in fact traversing the island.

It was interesting seeing this the day after the I saw the French/Algerian/Moroccan film DAYS OF GLORY. They are very similar films in many ways, although different countries and different continents, they are both foreign-language films about decisive battles in WWII. (And they could end up against each other in the Oscar foreign-language category.) Given that comparison, DAYS was the much better film, with better story and characters.

Foreign Film Double Feature

Today I saw back-to-back screenings of two foreign films submitted for the Oscar.

The first was Z odzysku (RETRIEVAL) , the Polish entry. It's a typically dark Polish film, about a young man who is desperate enough for work to take a job as "security" for a local gangster. Although the film has some good moments, it's mostly melodrama that does not play as original.

The second film was much better. Indigènes (DAYS OF GLORY, a terrible title translation) is the true story of the Muslim Algerians & Moroccans who fought to defend France in World War II. This is the rare example of a film that gets better as it goes along, with the third act being the strongest part. The cast is good, particularly Jamel Debbouze, who was the goofy shop boy in AMELIE. I didn't realize until seeing this film that he is Moroccan, and he is in real life handicapped with a bad hand which he injured as a boy playing on train tracks when a train came by. This one is worth seeing.

Both films sounded very good, especially Indigènes, and benefit from the European style of minimal use of music.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Guillermo del Toro's new Spanish-language film is a bizarre, grotesque and violent children's fantasy, very much in vein of the grim Grimm's tales. It's a complex story about a young girl who meets a fairy and faun who allow her to enter a fantasy world (albeit it a very dark one), intertwining Franco's Spain as the backdrop by having the young girl's mother remarrying a violent and abusive Captain in the army. What's most surprising is that the gore comes from the facist, and not the demons.

I like movies that allow me to see a world I've never seen before. This film certainly does that. However, it's not a film I could recommend to many people. It certainly was not intended for children, and even at the screening I was at, adults walked out during the violent scenes. (Although it's not much worse than Goodfellas, and certainly nothing like Saw.) But if you don't mind the violence, this is a good film.

Burbank Chorale

Saturday night I will be performing with the Burbank Chorale at this concert of Christmas music. The two John Rutter pieces are amazing.

The Burbank Chorale's holiday concert has the theme "Echoes of Joy," which takes on multiple meanings for the event on Dec. 16 and 17 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Glendale.

The featured pieces are "Gloria" and "Cantus" by contemporary British composer John Rutter, said director Mikhail Shtangrud.

"We have this great space now at St. Mark's Church and it has beautiful acoustics," he said. "It truly lends itself to a concert with brass instruments."

In searching for music, the director discovered Rutter's pieces, he said.

"Both are for choir and brass ensemble and will sound spectacular at St. Mark's," he said.

It's a thrill for the choir to be introducing these works to the audience, said Kyrian Corona. "The audience is familiar with his Christmas carols, but these are really his signature pieces," Corona said.

The concert will open with Giovanni Gabrieli's (1557-1612) "In Ecclesiis," (Latin for "In the Congregation") scored for eight-part choir, brass ensemble and organ, Shtangrud said. "St. Mark's rich acoustical properties and opposing choir galleries, each with its own organ, inspired the composers who wrote music for its services to emphasize the resulting echo effect, scoring antiphonal music for various combinations of singers and instrumentalists," he said.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


One of the pleasure of being in a film guild is the ability to see free movie screenings; not only Hollywood blockbusters, but also foreign films, independents, and documentaries. Tonight I saw the Indian film RANG DI BASANTI. Unfortunately, it was not very good.

The film is about a British woman who goes to India to shoot the story of Indian revolutionaries as told through her grandfather's eyes. The actress, unfortunately, is not very good, and looks way too much like Calista Flockhart, who I can't stand. The story also imposes a bizarre narrative structure that intercuts the movie-within-the-movie (which is interesting) with the story of the slacker college students who will act the parts (which is not interesting).

Not only is the structure weak, but the pacing is terrible. There are seemingly endless music montages which are completely out of tone with the rest of the film (although they would fit in a Bollywood musical), and at three hours, by the time you get to the third act, the film has become predictable, yet it also changes tone so drastically it's very hard to believe.

It's a shame; with the right first and second act, the ending might have been meaningful and moving, but as it stands, it's unsatisfying melodrama.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Weekend Sports

The Patriots were stunned by the Dolphins, who shut them out (for the first time since 1972!), 21-0.

The Bills stunned the Jets, 31-13.

One of the few perks of teaching is that former students occasionally remember you and do something nice. One of my former students took me to the Lakers-Spurs game tonight, which turned out to be a fantastic game, with the Lakers winning 106-99. The Spurs are considered the best team in basketball, and going into the game it was unsure if Kobe would play due to a twisted ankle. Play, he did, scoring 34 points against the best defense in the league. The Spurs played well and had the lead through most of the game, using a great passing game to confuse the Lakers, and the Spurs manage to get twelve 3-point shots. Officials seemed to have it in for the Lakers, but they somehow made up for it.

It's interesting to note how quiet the Laker fans are. Fans are MUCH noiser at a Clipper game. Even the Dodgers get more from the crowd. Very strange.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

NFL Today

The Pats are playing the Dolphins and are behind 3-0 at the end of the first. The Pats are favored by a field goal.

Buffalo plays the Jets later, with the Jets favored by 5. Should be a close game.


BLOOD DIAMOND is a pretty good film that should have been great. Its biggest problem is pacing; the film is too long by at least 30 minutes, all in the middle. It's very plot-heavy and could have been more effective with a better writer. The film is also very violent, with many on-screen deaths. At some point, you have to mentally turn off the violence and think "it's only a movie." A better film could have done a lot more with a lot less.

Leo is pretty good, although his accent seems to drift through three continents in the first three scenes, but he has the most well-defined character of the bunch. Jennifer Connelly proves that she is not only beautiful but is politically correct as well, and does as well as possible with a predictable character.

Djimon Hounsou tries his darndest but his character is so one-dimensional (angrily defiant) that he does not seem real. It doesn't help that there are far too many coincidences in the film for it to be believable, either.

This is the type of film that's perfect for DVD as you can get away with not paying attention the whole time.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

310 Congratulations!

Congratulations again on the outstanding work! It all looked and sounded great on the big screen.

See you next semester!

Friday, December 08, 2006


THE LIVES OF OTHERS is the German Oscar entry for foreign language feature. It's a remarkable film, set in 1985 East Berlin before the fall of the wall. The story centers on a wiretapper who is assigned to track a writer suspected of being a dissident. The story conjures up many parallels to THE CONVERSATION, the wonderful and dark film by Coppola, although at times it's practically the opposite of that film. LIVES is a great example of the Heisenberg principal, where the observer cannot help but become involved in the lives of his subjects. The acting is top-notch, and the characters are all complex; the good guys aren't really that great, and the bad guys sometimes show more humanity than their counterparts. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Excellent Work!

Excellent work on all the 310 mixes today!

See you Saturday at 3:00 PM in Norris!

Saturday 310 Screening at 3:00 PM

I have just been informed that my previous e-mails had the wrong time for the screening Saturday. We are at 3:00 PM.


Contrary to the sequels, ROCKY is an excellent film. I think most people forget how well written and well acted it is, confusing it with the later films. It's a low-budget independent film written by Stallone, who gives an amazing performance. He also went out on a limb to star in it; turning down offers to sell the script for a higher price, he attached himself to star. (*See comments below for link to article questioning the validity of this story.)

I have secretly had high hopes for the each sequel. ROCKY II was a virtual remake with higher production values and a happier ending. III continues the downhill trend with Mr. T added to the mix. ROCKY IV featured Dolph Lundgren, former MIT Ph.D. candidate, a sequel of silly proportions.

By the time V rolled around, I stopped watching. Supposedly Stallone wanted to kill off the Rocky character in a street fight, but the studio forced him to reshoot the ending.

With Stallone writing and directing ROCKY BALBOA (dropping the Roman numerals from the title), I had somehow hoped that the film would return to the tone of the original.

I'm happy to say that in many respects the film does succeed at returning to the low-budget, character-driven style of the first film. Unfortunately, a film is only as good as its ending, and this one is quite weak.

Stallone looks terrible. He has always had a disability; he was deformed at birth and has partial paralysis of his face. This accounts for both his speech impediment and his inability to move the left side of his face. Add to that the plastic surgery he's had, and he's starting to look a little too much like a clown with a face painted on. In one respect, this almost works; it does look at times like he is an old boxer who has had reconstructive surgery. But throughout most of the film, his style of shooting everything in closeups only sabotages his own face.

Bill Conti returns to score the film and writes some beautiful music, but the quality is much too saccharine for the film, and draws attention to the manipulative nature of the film.

Age is definitely a plot of the film. He spends the first act revisiting all of the locations from the first film (literally). There are elements of brilliance at times, and Stallone definitely gives the best performance he's done since ROCKY, but there are way too many allusions to the first film. The film gets bogged down trying to justify putting a 60 year-old back in the ring. The fact that they spend so much time on it only draws attention to the absurdity of the idea of Stallone fighting a heavyweight champ who is 25 year younger.

However, even at 60, Stallone's physique looks better than mine ever did.

The final fight starts out promisingly, with the first two rounds being very dramatic. Furthermore, the editorial style of the fight is much more like an experimental film than a narrative, and for that I admire him. Unfortunately, the ending is pat and predictable, and ultimately makes the entire film feel pointless. One has to wonder if a studio stepped in again to clean up an ending they were afraid of.


There was a lot I liked about this film. In fact, for the first hour or so, I actually felt like a kid again; the action scenes were excellent. There were some wise decisions, like resurrecting Marlon Brando and using John William's brilliant themes. The casting of Kevin Spacey was great, and the comic homages were nice touches.

But in the last half, the film suddenly takes itself much too seriously, and the pacing dropped to be too slow. Why don't filmmakers understand that movies were meant to be 90-120 minutes? Anything over that, and you'd better be friggin' brilliant. There's nothing worse than a guest who overstays his welcome.

The casting was also a problem. For a movie about Superman, he isn't in the film very much, and Brandon Routh doesn't get much of a chance to act (which may very well have been by design). He looks an awful lot like Christopher Reeve; perhaps too much. Kate Bosworth was outright terrible as Lois Lane, and looked awful as a brunette. James Marsden was even worse as her mate. Even Parker Posey, whom I normally like, seemed miscast and looked out of place. Eva Marie Saint looked like she was playing Superman's great-grandmother, but it was still great to see her on the big screen again.

Still, it's worth a rental for the action scenes. Also, this is one of the best sounding films I've heard this year.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Revised Quiz Scores

Revised grades with corrected Quiz 14 scores are posted.

242 Quiz Error

There was a massive computer error on the final quiz and about 14 grades registered as zero instead of a grade. I'll post the corrected versions tomorrow afternoon.

Monday, December 04, 2006

310 Reminder!

Tomorrow afternoon is the last chance for me to see your films before the day of sound lock. If you wish to see me, please book an Avid station and MAKE AN APPOINTMENT VIA E-MAIL.

Please show your film to your mixer if you have not done so already.



Thurs 12/07 5:00 PM FINAL MIXES

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Football Wrapup

New England beat Detroit by 7.

Buffalo went into halftime trailing San Diego 17-0, but the Bills managed to score 21 in the second half. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, as they still lost to the Chargers 24-21.

USC will play Michigan in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


It's hard to see a movie after all the hype and still have it live up to expectations. CARS does not manage to pull it off. I spent most of the first act asking "Where are the people? Who made these cars? How do they reproduce?"

Unlike TOY STORY, where the toys are real in our world but come to life, this is some bizarre parallel universe where there's a California and an I-40 and a Route 66, but no people, or other lifeforms that aren't cars.

Of course, I wouldn't have wasted a moment of time thinking about this if the movie worked. It doesn't. The two main characters are very, very weak. Lightning has literally no back-story coming in to the film. The female lead is even weaker. And the casting on both parts hurts the film. I like Owen Wilson, but not his voice, and he does not bring much to this film. Even more hurtful is Bonnie Hunt, totally miscast as a hot Porsche. Her voice is whiny and outright annoying in the film. The two-hour running time also overstays its welcome.

The minor characters all work. Paul Newman, Cheech Marin, George Carlin and Tony Shalhoub are all good in supporting, albeit simple roles.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Football Weekend

There's a good chance I will be at the USC-UCLA game tomorrow. This is only my second game of the season. I was at the season opener at the Coliseum, and, it's my first visit to the Rose Bowl.

USC is favored by a scant 13 points. Considering that last year they won by 40+, and this year UCLA is probably a worse team, I expect a runaway.

The only other close-to-interesting game tomorrow is #4 Florida & #8 Arkansas. If, gods forbid, USC loses, and Florida wins, they could be in contention for the title.

On Sunday, Buffalo continues their difficult schedule, this time with San Diego. Odds are on SD by only 6. I expect a tough game for Buffalo.

New England is predicted 13 over Detroit, which sounds about right, but I'd still bet on the Pats.

242 Final Grades

Final grades have been posted on my office door. They include all extra credit assignments and scaling.

PLEASE STOP BY AND CHECK YOUR GRADE. If you think there is an error, contact the SA Jonathan IMMEDIATELY. Grade sheets will be turned in next week. Any errors that are not corrected by then will not be fixable until next semester.

The class average on the final quiz was dismal. Almost half the class skipped the quiz entirely and got a zero. For most people, this score was dropped as the lowest.

With scaling and the extra credit assignments, the class average ended at a B+. This group had the widest grade range I've ever had, from A to D+. Several people had near-perfect scores throughout the semester, and a few people missed numerous quizzes. Only one person had a grade low enough to have to repeat the class (D+). Three people are in the C range, which means they need to do well enough in their other cinema classes to keep their average at a B- or better to avoid repeating. Everyone else (48 out of 52 students) had a grade of B- or higher.

Good work, and good luck next semester!

Al Gore's Head

I saw INCONVENIENT TRUTH again tonight. My wife had not seen it yet, and Al Gore was speaking afterwards. My previous comments on the film still stand after seeing it a second time.

However, one thing did change. Seeing Al speak in person, he is completely different from the person we saw campaigning in 2000. He's extremely intelligent, and very warm, funny, self-deprecating, and witty. In fact, someone asked about it afterwards, and he said the two things I had been thinking.

First, he has changed. Change is necessary, and unavoidable, and a sign of intelligence. We learn from our mistakes. Unlike certain other presidents who can't admit they made mistakes, Al can.

Secondly, the media stinks. The representation of Al in the media was thoroughly inaccurate. I'm always amazed at coverage of events I've attended, even something as simple as a baseball game. They never get it right. They show a few fleeting seconds and purport that reflects the events. It doesn't. Even a 290 student could cut thirty seconds of film to look like the exact opposite of its intention.

I don't think Al will ever be in elected politics again, but he's doing the country a tremendous service by continuing to show this film and his presentation. If the new Democratic congress chooses to accept the Kyoto accord, it will have been worth it.