Saturday, March 31, 2007

Health Update

Thanks to everyone who asked about my health. It started with a very bad throat infection. With my health history, I have to be very aggressive at treating infections. When the infection appeared to spread to my lip, it seemed very similar to a potentially life-threatening staph infection that I had contracting in the hospital, so I ended up being on several medications at the same time. Unfortunately, it appears that I had either an allergic response to one or more of the medications, and the infection appeared to get much worse. We have now modified my medications and I am rapidly recovering.

Friday, March 30, 2007


Nomar returned to the team tonight after leaving Mamma Mia at the hospital, and the lineup looked an awful lot like what it's expected to be on opening day a week from Monday, with Jason Schmidt pitching. Only Rafael Furcal was missing.

The Dodgers pounded out 5 runs in the first inning off of one of the best pitchers in baseball, Erwin Santana of the Angels.

The Dodgers looked excellent tonight.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dodgers 2007

I stopped by Dodger Stadium for the exhibition game tonight.

Parking is now $15. It pays to get here early and park on the street. Parking is now Disney-style; they tell you where to park. Otherwise there are no noticeable improvements. The lot still needs new asphalt and painted lines. There are two large Dodger store tents in the lot now.

There are two new outfield scoreboards on the outfield walls that are full-color and replace the old ones.

I saw no improvements to the Reserve level. The bathrooms are the same. Food looks the same, although they've added corn dogs and caesar salads. I think prices are the same although I didn't check too carefully. There's a new large beer for $10.

The game itself was weak. The Dodgers looked like scrubs, with poor pitching, and weak defense. Brady Clarke hit into a triple play in his first at-bat as a Dodger.

Of course, it's only spring training. For three more days.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


As I predicted, Chris Sligh is going home. Also in the bottom three was my least favorite, Philferatu, and Haley, who is only around because she's attractive.

Although Gina had a good week, I would expect her to go soon. Jordon also may be in trouble soon.

According to, Sanjay is #4 again. He's been either #3 or #4 every week on their site (although there was one week he was in the show's bottom 3 early on). I think he will probably make it to the top 6 or even 5, but after that he's out.


I'm still sick. I've seen four different doctors and I'm on seven different prescriptions and no one knows what's wrong. This is worrisome because of my previous medical history, which you can read about here.

So I'm canceling today's office hours and revising the rest of the week around various doctor appointments.

Thursday: 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Friday: 12 Noon - 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Gwen Stefani came off as a nice, normal person on the show. I've seen her live at the Grammys a couple of times, and she has a fantastic voice.

Here are my thoughts from the show:

Lakisha: Nice up-tempo groove. Not much vocal range exhibited, but still probably the #2 voice on the show.

Chris Sligh: Really sounded eerily like Sting at the beginning, then went downhill fast into the land of bad karaoke. Could be in danger.

Gina Glocksen: Best performance she's given yet, has nothing to worry about this week.

Sanjay: Well, at least HE is having fun.

Haley: Off pitch quite a but, including the end, and an otherwise forgettable performance.

Philferatu: Also sounding somewhat like Sting, one of his better performances, although I still can't stand him. I'm surprised the judges didn't point out how unoriginal his singing was, then complained that Jordan was a copycat.

Melinda: She's the first pro to walk on the stage tonight.

Blake: Boring performance of a forgettable song, but he's not in trouble. He could have used a lot more dynamic range when he got to the hook.

Jordan: She doesn't have the range to do Gwen's song, you have to have a full voice at the bottom and top register. She looked a little silly with her chubby legs in the schoolgirl outfit tryin' to shake it. I was surprised the judges' comments were so positive. I don't think she's in trouble.

Chris Richardson: Weak voice for a song that needs a big one; he sounded nervous, but again, I don't think he's in trouble.

I think it may be Sligh's time to return to his family.


STILL WE BELIEVE: The Boston Red Sox Movie is a documentary about the infamous 2003 Red Sox pennant chase. It seems like just yesterday, but there have been three seasons since, including the greatest comeback in sports history to win the pennant and then the World series (almost as an afterthought). Three years later, a WS win, and it's STILL painful to watch this film. I think only a Red Sox fan could really understand it. There's one fan who is the ultimate cynic from literally the first day of the season; at every single game he talks about how they are going to blow it. There are two typical Boston chick fans who go to several games, including a drive to Chicago for a Cubs game, only to get rained out three times. It's an accidental metaphor for how Red Sox fans feel all the time.

Needless to say, as a lifelong Red Sox fan, I followed that season very closely. My wife and I went down to a couple of games in Anaheim. When the Divisional series game 4 ended, I picked up the phone and got a flight to Oakland to see game 5. My wife couldn't go, so I sat in the stands surrounded by strangers, many of whom were Red Sox fans. Even when the game was over, the Red Sox fans just couldn't believe they had pulled it off.

The movie spends too much time on the early season, and rushes through the post-season when so much happened. There's no way to feel anything but letdown at the end of the film. But for Red Sox fans, it's a must-see.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


LAGE RAHO MUNNA BHAI is an Indian film sent to me by a reader to view after my mediocre reviews of RANG DI BASANTI and the "Canadian" Indian film WATER.

This movie is a Musical Comedy, and a sequel, apparently (I haven't seen the previous film). It's essentially an Indian version of Cyrano de Bergerac, with Cyrano in this case being a "nice guy" thug, and his tutor being the ghost of Mahatma Ghandi. The object of his affection is a radio talk show host; he has to pretend to be a professor and expert on Gandhi to get to her heart. From there, various hijinks ensue.

It's a pretty thin plot, worthy of an episode of I LOVE LUCY, but like most Indian films, it is stretched out to over two and a half hours. Some typical musical numbers keep it moving, but the story bogs down in the second act quite a bit.

The lead actor, Sanjay Dutt, is apparently very popular in India, but he does not have the charisma to pull off the role. He's also at about twice the age of the lead actress, Diya Mirza, who is not only young but beautiful. Of course in the US, films typically have older men with younger women (Cate Blanchett is supposed to be the love interest in the next INDIANA JONES film), but Dutt is neither thin nor handsome, and it's hard to see what these two see in each other.

The film certainly has its heart in the right place, and does well to the spirit of Ghandi by reminding younger viewers of his preachings, way of life, and accomplishments for Indian society. I often think in America how wonderful things were in the 60s with people like M.L. King and the Kennedys moving us forward with social change, and how it seems to have been forgotten by many. Apparently in India, they feel that people have forgotten Ghandi as well.

All in all, the film is an enjoyable diversion, but it's certainly not Oscar material. RANG DI BASANTI had the broad historical scope that is more likely to be an Oscar contender, and this year both PAN'S LABYRINTH and THE LIVES OF OTHERS (DAS LEBEN DER ANDEREN) were vastly superior Foreign-Language films.

Friday, March 23, 2007


I know I said I'd be skipping movie reviews for a while, but being sick and having nothing to do, I watched a Tivo suggestion that ties in with my earlier INFAMOUS review, IN COLD BLOOD.

It was strange seeing a 40 year-old film about the subject. So much has changed stylistically that it's impossible for the film to NOT seem dated at times. Yet it still has many brilliant things about it. If I had watched BLOOD first, I might not have noticed some of its problems.

So much of the subject matter had to be softened in 1967 that it feels incomplete. Capote himself is removed from the narrative and replaced with another journalist whose acting style is more '50s machismo-film noir melodrama than the more modern realistic style of much of the film. In fact, the director shot for as much realism as possible. He not only chose to shoot locations instead of soundstages, he used the actual house of the murders, and photos of the real family as props.

Robert Blake is excellent. The script is pretty good and the direction superb. Quincy Jones' dissonant jazzy score is great at times, but when underscoring the family's early scenes, it's much too saccharine and a throw-back to an earlier film style.

The real star of the movie is Conrad Hall's amazing cinematography. Every shot could be a page in a photography textbook, and the "happy accident" of the rain shadows appearing as tears in Blake's final monologue is one of the most memorable images in film history.

Highly recommended if you haven't seen it; follow that up with a screening of CAPOTE, then INFAMOUS.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Not a shock; Stephanie had been weak a few weeks in a row now, and it finally caught up with her. Among the women, Haley and Gina were definitely worse than her, but lived up to their song choices better. Phil and Sanjay were also worse.

Chris Richardson was not among the worst this weak, but his weaknesses are catching up with him.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


A strange mix tonight of talented people doing poorly, and less-talented people doing better than expected.

Haley sang much better than expected. I think she'll last another week. (Especially in that outfit!) Chris Richardson was surprisingly good. Much better than he ever has been.

Stephanie lacked confidence and did not seem happy to be singing. She's in danger. By talent alone, she should be in the final 6, but this song didn't show it. Blake is standing up very well. He may make it to the final 6 and may even be the best male singer.

Lakisha was weak in her Shirley Bassey impression, even though she's one of the two best singers on the show. I don't think she's in danger though. Philferatu was better than usual but still weak enough that he may be in danger.

Jordan was very good. Sanjaya was awful, but the crowd reaction showed why he will be around for a while. Gina Glocksen was better than expected but could also be in trouble eventually.

Chris Sligh looked like he was having fun but didn't really bring much to the song. Melinda totally rocks. She's in another league.

The real star of the night was the little girl who cried the whole time (link requires registration). I'd love to know what's going on inside her head. And will they have her on next week? Will she try out some day, and be the next American Idol?

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Today was the last day of a well-needed Spring Break. USC celebrated with their men's basketball team advancing to the "Sweet 16" round of March Madness by upsetting Texas. They next play top-seeded North Carolina on Friday.

Spring Training continues for MLB. I have gone to Spring Training several times in the last few years to see the Angels in Phoenix. For a number of reasons, I was unable, and frankly uninterested, in doing so this year. I liked the Angels team that won the World Series a few years ago but have stopped following them closely as they let a lot those players go. Although they have a potentially good starting rotation this year, I don't think they will win their division.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, look to be one of the best teams in baseball. As we start the season in two weeks I'll be posting a lot more about baseball.

I have now caught up on my movie viewing of last year's films. By my count, I saw just shy of 100 feature films, seeing the vast majority of them between October and February. That's pretty intense, so when awards season wraps up, I generally lay off films for a while. If I get a chance, I'll try to do a year-end wrap-up of what I've seen.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


WORDPLAY is a good documentary about crossword puzzles and the people that do them. It's a little like SPELLBOUND, but other than that, it's a well-made and very interesting film. There are lots of great interviews with puzzle fans from Jon Stewart to Bill Clinton.



I was right in predicting Brandon to go home.

I was wrong about Sanjay-jay, he was in the bottom three. Hard to believe, unless AI somehow managed to block calls from India.


Brandon is in trouble. He's been singing like a backup singer since he got on the show, and was forgettable tonight. I think he's gone.

Several of the singers were much better tonight than last week, including Nosferatu, Gina Glockenspiel, and Haley, but most appeared very nervous on the big stage.

Monday, March 12, 2007


THE GROUND TRUTH is a pretty good documentary about the current war in Iraq. It consists mostly of interviews with veterans from the war, many of whom are either physically injured, quite badly, or have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It's still amazing to me that the mainstream media are not covering the true amount of damage the war is causing.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


It's tough to make a movie about a serial killer that was never caught. ZODIAC is a surprisingly good film about it, at least for the first 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Alas, in the last ten minutes, they try to solve the crime... in title cards... and then admit that DNA evidence has disproved their resolution. Meaning that at the end of the film, you're left feeling unresolved.

The rest of the film in intriguing, although the film's makeup is so bad it's distracting. The cast is excellent, and the script is very good until the final third, when it starts to border on being a parody of itself.

Wait for video.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Two people who are going home do not deserve it, at least not yet.

Sundance has been all over the map, and his last song choice was weak, but he was not the worst male singer. Sanjaya is still around and is probably embarrassed by it. Nosferatu is much worse.

Sabrina was voted off when there were two white girls worse than her, Gina, and particularly Haley.

But there's still 12 weeks left.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


The guys were so weak last night, there was nothing worth writing about. All the women are better than the men. I'm not as much a Sanjay hater as most, I really feel sorry for the kid, who is so far out of his league, but will continue to stay as long as Indian-Americans continue to vote for him.

Beat Box Blake is talented and might make it to the top few. Richardson was much worse this weak and is in danger.

Nosferatu should be going home. Jared was forgettable as well. Sligh is safe, as is Sundance.

The top 5 women will probably all be black.

Barbarella may finally be going home after her awful performance tonight, but unfortunately she still has followers. Haley was completely forgettable and should head home.

Gina is OK for now but needs to show more stylistic range to make it past next week.

Melinda has total star talent. I think Stephanie does as well, although she'll probably only make it to the top 4.


BORAT is a documentary about anti-Semitism in America.

It's interesting to see a film long after the buzz has died down. Borat lives up to the hype. Cohen is a brilliant actor, although I suspect there was more scripted material and more actors in the movie than they want us to know. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The DVD has some excellent outtakes, most notably the most brilliantly minimalist cheese comedy of all time.

Jay Roach, who produced the film, was a semester or two ahead of me at USC. We ended up working on some low-budget material together shortly after graduating. I'm very happy for his success. He's a genuinely nice guy.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Why We're Better than NYU

Well, Nobody's Perfect

Teacher: Who remembers Some Like It Hot?

Student: Isn't that the one where in the end they're all on a boat and it blows up?

--Cinema Studies class, NYU

via Overheard in New York, Mar 4, 2007

What it takes to be great

What it takes to be great


WHY WE FIGHT is a doc about the Iraq war, against the background of how the country has gone to war since WWII (The Big One).

The movie won a jury prize at Sundance last year, and was nominated for IDA and WGA awards. It's heart is in the right place, but the film lacks structure and plays more like propaganda than a true documentary. He makes some good points, but the film's subject is scattered back and forth. It tries to bite off more than can be fit in a 100 minute doc; in fact, a 13-part series could have covered it much better, especially if they found more balanced interview subjects. He relies primarily on about half a dozen subjects. With the exception of Gore Vidal and John McCain, the rest are people I've never heard of and don't know how to interpret their comments. He does not establish a reason to trust these people.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


MARIE ANTOINETTE may have won the Oscar for costume, but otherwise it's a complete crapfest. It's almost impossible to begin to describe the oh-so-many things wrong with it. Even before the first frame of picture, we hear contemporary music. OK, if you want to contemporize a historical film, fine, but go all-out. Half of the film uses Rameau as score, yet we get Bow Wow Wow as source music? Doesn't make much sense.

Kirstin Dunst and Jason Schwartzman are terribly cast. Two American actors playing French, acting in English with American accents, yet Judy Davis has a British accent, and when they see a play it's in French. Huh?

Anyway, nothing in the movie works. The first 15 minutes of the film are the world's longest cab ride. In film school we'd call this "movement through space," which isn't exactly the most interesting thing in the world to watch. This pretty much establishes the pacing for the entire film. By the end, we don't see any of the French revolution, as the filmmakers apparently shot their wad on costumes, food porn, and pop songs.

Save yourself the trouble. Rent LOST IN TRANSLATION again instead.

Friday, March 02, 2007


I have revised this post somewhat because there are some readers who misunderstood my intentions. These are my own personal thoughts on an issue that has come up in the sound community since the Oscars. They are NOT the opinions of any of the organizations I am involved with. They are based on my own personal observations.

I know Michael Minkler pretty well. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Cinema Audio Society with me. (We are not personal friends.) He's also Past President of that organization and has received their Career Achievement Award. He's won three Oscars (for BLACK HAWK DOWN, CHICAGO, and DREAMGIRLS) and has been nominated 10 times. He won his first CAS Award this year for DREAMGIRLS and was very gracious about it. Mike is a very nice guy, with an extremely dry sense of humor.

I do not know Kevin O'Connell at all personally, so I will not attempt to make any judgements on his personality, but his reputation precedes him. Kevin has been nominated for the Oscar 19 times and never won.

I've never been a huge fan of the Oscar sound awards. The nominations are done by members of the peer group, but the final balloting is done by the general membership, and over 20% of the members are actors. Sound editors & mixers are actually the fourth-largest group, but only about 7 percent. Actors, producers and studio execs total more than a third of the Academy. As a result, a lot of people who do not know much about sound end up voting in the sound categories, so the most deserving nomination may not win. This means that a movie with obvious sound work, like a musical, may be likely to win. That's not to belittle Mike's work on CHICAGO or DREAMGIRLS, I know for a fact that they were both intensely difficult mixes. DREAMGIRLS was delivered to the dub stage with over 300 tracks per reel.

I think the CAS Awards are probably more representative of the best work, since only sound mixers vote on the award. (You'll notice that this year DREAMGIRLS won that as well, but last year, WALK THE LINE won over CHICAGO.) Kevin has been nominated for the CAS Award 11 times and never won. (He is not a member of the organization.)

Kevin has had the unfortunate luck to be nominated for a string of films by Jerry Bruckheimer, whose films are generally known for being LOUD and not necessarily good. That's not a reflection on Kevin personally, it's just an observation that the types of films that he has been nominated for are not the type most Academy members are likely to vote for. We're all a product of what we work on, and most of us have virtually no control over that.

It's also interesting to note that the Bruckheimer film BLACK HAWK DOWN happened to be mixed by Mike instead of Kevin (and went on to win the Oscar), so you can imagine why there might a friendly (or maybe not so friendly) rivalry between the (probably) two highest-paid mixers in Hollywood.

Kevin was nominated this year for APOCALYPTO. I happen to know that there are a lot of people in Hollywood who flat out refused to see that movie simply because of some comments made by the director of the film. Of course, if people don't see the film, they are a lot less likely to vote for it! Is that fair to his work? Of course not. The film did sound fantastic.

I can assure you that Mike was kidding when he made his comments about Kevin backstage at the Oscar press room.

You can watch his comments at the Oscar web site. After the lame commercial plays, stop playback, then click on "Sound Mixing."

The interview is over seven minutes long. The response to the particular question is over a minute long and all three mixers speak (it's the last question so you have to watch the whole thing). Mike is clearly VERY uncomfortable answering the question. It seems as if he is somewhat peeved at what he perceives as Kevin trying to get the "sympathy vote." However, it also seems clear that he is SMILING and therefore joking when he says Kevin should find a new line of work.

Sound mixers aren't generally in the spotlight, and with his dry delivery, it's clear the press misunderstood his intentions. You'll notice, by the way, that the mainstream media have not picked up this story (although VARIETY ran the one-line quote out of context, with little hoopla, and HOLLYWOOD REPORTER also mentioned it briefly).

Kevin himself responded briefly to an LA TIMES reporter. He remained professional at what must be an extremely difficult time for him.

Kevin's mixing partner responded to a post on another web site. He is clearly upset.

Was there an uncomfortable undertone of truth in Mike's comments? Possibly. Imagine you just won the Oscar, the highest accolade in your field, and the reporters' questions are not about you, your work, your talent, or even the film you worked on, but instead are on the person who lost. This underscores the fact that Kevin has gotten far more press for losing 19 times than Mike has gotten for winning 3. (Run a Google search if you don't believe me. Kevin has over 150,000 hits, Michael gets about 34,000.)

Kevin was interviewed on the BBC only a few days before the Oscars, and he spoke about his mother and how she got him out of working as a fireman and into film sound. It's possible Mike was referring to this interview, and jokingly recommending that if he's interested in awards, maybe he should go back to being a fireman.

Of course, none of this justifies his comment, whether it was a joke or not. It was a bad time and place to slip up, but it seems to me as if the entire incident has been blown out of proportion.

Also imagine this, your mother is in the hospital battling a lengthy illness, and you chose to go to the Oscars, even though you've already lost 18 times, instead of staying at the hospital. She died later that night. Needless to say, this has been a stressful week for Kevin as well, and that may be part of the reaction. My condolences to him and his family.

In many ways, the worst part of all of this for the sound community is that sound is always the least-respected area in the awards, and now it looks like sound mixers are just bickering children. Shame on the media for even covering this, and especially for taking one line out of context.

I received the following e-mail forwarded to me this evening:

Gentlemen, Friends, and Colleagues,

A very unfortunate situation has developed because of my stupid answers to some inappropriate questions. I did not seek this spotlight-the press did, as they have in the past. It was wrong of them to ask the questions, and wrong, wrong, wrong of me to answer them the way that I did.

I apologize to all of you for creating a messy situation, and exposing the appearance of any dissension among our ranks.

The press has been asking me questions about Kevin since 2002. They continue to hound me with the same questions again and again, and this time I lost control, using bad choices of words and bitter sarcasm. The Award should be about the work---period. It is always my concern to preserve the Oscar's significance to the filmmaking community and its international audience. My thoughts got away from me at an emotional time, and that I regret.

My response to the last question was off the cuff sarcasm meant as humor. However it seems that it has caused even greater reaction.shock. I wanted to end the questioning and those words came out. Not funny. I am very sorry. The time and place was wrong for any of it.

Adding sentiment to this unfortunate situation has of course been the sorrowful passing of Skippy O'Connell. My sincere condolences go out to the entire O'Connell family.

I have been in communication with Kevin directly, and I wish the best for him in the future. I am sure that he will receive his due recognition on that same stage very soon, and I will be the first to congratulate him.

In my career, I'm sure that I have accidentally hurt people, but I've never intentionally sought to do harm. I ask forgiveness from them. I have given shots and taken some, but I don't believe that at any time, true malice was the objective.

I appreciate you sharing your personal thoughts with me, as I always have. I now thank you for allowing me to share mine with you.

Respect to all,

Michael Minkler

Kevin tastefully responded to it here.

A good thread about this subject has been started on the Digidesign User Conference.

I have also added a few responses in the "Comments" link directly below.


My predictions were surprisingly accurate.

The Twindian San-jay-jay needs to be released soon, if only for his mental health.

Antonella has the support of VoteForTheWorst, which means she will survive, although she doesn't need it. Being a skank is its own reward.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


The girls are still a lot better than the guys, and the black girls are still all the best.

Alaina is bland and in trouble. If not this week, then next. Antonella is still terrible, but since she's a skank, she may survive.

Glocken's spiel may keep her on. Haley is forgettable.

Leslie Hunt is in trouble.