Saturday, June 26, 2010


TROPIC THUNDER has moments of brilliance when making fun of Hollywood. A handful of quotes:

"I don't read the script, the script reads me."

"A nutless monkey could do your job."

"Everybody knows you never go full retard."

"It's Hollywood, man! Everyone turns gay at some point!"

But this movie takes itself way too seriously. At two and a half hours long, which is a good hour too long for the material. It devolves into more of an action film than a comedy in the last act. It's a beautifully shot by John Toll, but who cares, it's a comedy. They could have shot it on a soundstage and the jokes would have been just as funny. Seems like an awful lot of money went to waste here.

The performances are great, especially Tom Cruise, who earned his own spinoff movie. However, the Oscar nomination for Robert Downey Jr. was wildly misplaced. He's funny, but there's not much real acting here, just a lot of funny lines from a guy in blackface.

Still, for people in the industry, it's a must-see.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rockies win Major Comeback against Red Sox!

One of the most exciting baseball games I've been to, and certainly the most exciting Rockies game, it was a pleasure to see two great pitchers in one game, yet the outcome was not at all what was expected. Jimenez was apparently sick and gave up 6 runs in less than six innings or work, a rarity for him on both counts, and ballooning his ERA to a whopping 1.60. Hopefully he will get well soon.

Lackey pitched well for the Red Sox and also hit a ground rule double and a lucky single. But the game really started in the late innings. It was great to see Houston Street return to the mound, his first appearance of the season.

Normally I root for my hometown Sox, but the Rockies have not lived up to potential so far and really needed a win badly. And to win in such a great fashion, with two home runs off closer Jonathan Papelbon in the bottom of the 9th, was a much needed shot in the arm for the team. The first home run from Ian Stewart went 438 feet into the upper deck of the outfield. The latter home run was a Jason Giambi 2-run walk-off that went 418 feet. The crowd went absolutely ballistic, as though they had just won the world series. I'm pretty sure this is the only late-inning, come-from-behind win the Rockies have had all season, and seeing the team literally jumping for joy was a great change. Let's hope this signals a big change for the team. De la Rosa is not that far from a return to the rotation, but with Tulo out for six weeks with a broken hand, the team could have acted like the season was over.

Clearly, it's not.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rockies Beat Red Sox, 2-1

It was quite a night for baseball at Coors Field with Jon Lester pitching for the Red Sox and Chacin pitching for the Rockies. It was a very tight game with no score until the 5th when the Rox pulled in a run off of Todd Helton, with Nelson getting scoring after his first major-league hit.

Chacin pitched himself out of a bases-loaded mess in the 3rd then turned around to pitch well into the 7th. Lefty reliever Joe Beimel came in to a bases-loaded situation in the 7th but got David Ortiz to ground out. Rockies scored a second run late in the game for 2-1 victory over one of the hottest teams in baseball. Lester pitched well but took the loss giving up an earned run in 6 innings of pitching.

It was a gorgeous night to be at a game, and a great game it was, in front of 48,000 fans, many of them Red Sox fans.

Tomorrow night I'll be at a pitching match for the ages, Boston ace John Lackey, versus the best pitcher in the NL, Ubaldo Jimenez. I can't wait!

Sunday, June 20, 2010


When we moved here, there was a wireless network called "Boats 'n Hoes," which led me to look up the term, taking me to the music video from this film on YouTube. I thought it was pretty funny, and I like Will Ferrell, so I and added this to the Netflix cue.

Well, the movie is nowhere near as good as that video. In fact the video is better in the video than it is in the movie. I think I laughed out loud twice watching the movie. One of those laughs was at a fart. Which tells you the level of humor in the film. There were a lot of missed opportunities here. A great cast helped make it more watchable though.

I can't recommend this.

Sunday, June 13, 2010



is the best made really bad movie in a long time. It reminds me of an M. Night Shyamalan, where everything is really interesting for most of the film until you find out the ending. The first two hours are really great. Very well shot, great score, great sound design, and then suddenly you find out that everything you have watched so far is complete bullshit. There's an inherent problem with a story that undoes everything you have believed and invested your emotions in for two hours. To completely undo the setup is really a slap in the face of the audience.

To make matters worse, there's another half-hour of the film left after this turnabout. I'd be willing to forgive many people for this filmic mistake, but Scorcese is a living genius of cinema, he really should have known better. In my head, I had written about a dozen better endings for the film by the time we get to the most obvious film school endings - IT WAS ALL A DREAM (or fantasy) - kicks the audience in the nuts.

I suppose this is worth watching for the technical work, but don't get your hopes up. Maybe you won't be as let down as I was.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


KING CORN is not a great film. It covers much of the same territory as FOOD, INC., but without the flair. It misses a bunch of opportunities. It does not explain why America had the knee-jerk reaction of deregulating the corn industry, nor does it take advantage of an interview with Earl Butz, who was the one who allowed the expansion. But it does remind the viewer of just how messed up the American diet is, and how the government has essentially forced it on us.

Where are all the Republicans who want big government to go away? Why aren't they complaining that government intervention has ruined the American diet? They could easily remove government incentives. Or if they are afraid of killing the farming industry, they could slowly transition those incentives over to healthier vegetable and fruit crops. Even soybeans would be better for us than corn, which was never intended to be a major part of our diet, especially in the current version.

See it and weep.

Monday, June 07, 2010


It is always sad writing about the final symphony concert of the season, but this year it is particularly sad, as it is the last concert with Jeffrey Kahane as principal conductor. For a conductor of petite stature, he leaves some awfully big shoes to fill, at a time when the Colorado Symphony is going through some severe difficulties.

Kahane chose his own program for his departure, starting with the Mozart Piano Concerto #27. I can only imagine that this piece has some special significance to Kahane, because from the listener's perspective, it is one of the more forgettable concerti. Nonetheless it was a nice reminder of what a well-balanced musician Kahane is, performing the solos and conducting beautifully throughout. He is a very sensitive performer and that will truly be missed.

On any other day, programming Mahler's Fifth would be a peculiar choice after a Mozart concerto, but somehow here is seemed the perfect choice. It's an orchestral showpiece, and its success lies in the hands of a competent conductor. I know this piece intimately, as I was a trumpet player for many years, and this is THE trumpet piece from Mahler. However, I had never heard it played live before, and it is a wondrous thing. The orchestration is amazing. It's a huge orchestra, with lots of doubling instruments, and a huge brass and percussion section. The brass sounded magnificent (although the orchestra did cheat a bit by adding an extra trumpet and horn to split some of the harder parts).

This was a fairly long concert, but no one left. And for a Sunday matinee, it was a fairly full audience. After the spectacular finish, Kahane got a stand ovation that lasted for almost ten minutes without a break. It is truly sad to see him go. The orchestra has not yet announced a replacement, intending to use rotating conductors for the next year.

The orchestra is going through a difficult time. The players agreed to a large pay and benefits cut in order to keep this season intact. They are operating under a new president, who has hired a new publicity company. They had planned on building a new hall with matching funds from the city, but donations have dropped drastically with the economy and those plans have been scrapped.

Earlier this year they invited donors to a media event touting their new publicity. This was a complete bust. Kahane did not speak, and there was not a note of music played, not even recorded music. Instead there was a lame PowerPoint presentation about "branding," a term that should only be used behind closed doors and not to your customers. I knew immediately that the orchestra was in big trouble. This was a complete mess.

The trouble got a lot worse when they sent out renewal forms to subscribers. They made a number of changes without telling anyone. Perhaps the most egregious decision was to halt subscription sales in the cheapest seats. Perhaps this will save them money in the long run by allowing them to lay off the ushers in those sections, but to do this to subscribers with no explanation or even notification was very thoughtless.

They also stopped the "build your own series" subscriptions, which is what we had. Between my commitments and my wife's commitments, we were never able to choose any of the existing subscription packages. In a sneaky move, they allowed us to keep our "package," but did not bother pointing out that we no longer got the subscriber discount. (It was now the same cost as buying tickets at the door, about a 25% price increase.) Fortunately I noticed this, and changed our subscription, but in order to do it, I had to cut our number of concerts by more than 50%. Obviously this only hurts the orchestra, but this is their fault for the changes they made.

In another nincompoop move, they did not list the prices for packages on the renewal forms, so they had to call every single subscriber who sent in a renewal form. The week the forms were sent out, it was impossible to get through to them, and it took over a month for them to get back to me. This does not instill a lot of confidence in their future.

There has been a flurry of letters to the Denver Post about these negative changes. I'm glad they are getting lots of negative publicity about this, they were bonehead moves at a time when they need great leadership. The smartest thing that they could possibly do is fire the new publicity company, reinstate the subscription packages that they canceled, and send a letter of apology to all donors and subscribers. Anything short of that is an insult to their supporters.

When I moved from Boston to Los Angeles, it took me a while to get used to the LA Philharmonic. I was in Boston when the BSO was under Ozawa and they were one of the great orchestras of the world. But being involved in music through the film industry, I got the opportunity to work with many of the studio musicians in Los Angeles, and I began to realize that they were world class musicians as well. And when they moved to Salonen, and now Dudamel, the LA Phil became one of the best orchestras in the world.

So when I moved to Denver, I feared that I would be let down by the CSO. I was quite wrong, this group is as good as any orchestra I've ever heard, but clearly Kahane has a lot to do with that. Especially with the departure of Jeffrety Kahane, I fear for the future of the orchestra. I can only hope that they overcome these difficulties to keep their high level of musicianship.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Tech Night at Pops

Attending my anniversary class at MIT comes with a nice perk, the entire Symphony Hall is booked for a private concert with the Boston Pops, exclusively for MIT alumni.

It has been quite a while since I was at the hall. When I was a student, I remember thinking what a huge hall it is. Now that I've seen more concert venues, I realize just how small it is. We were seated very close, too close really, so the orchestra was seated higher than us, but even at that angle I was reminded of why the BSO sounds so good. A big part of it is the sound of the hall, both swimming with a rich reverb and very dark in color (much darker than any other American hall I can think of). It makes the strings sound fantastic.

The concert was long, and heavy on the pops part. It started with a nice reading of Ruslan & Ludmilla (Glinka), followed by a favorite piece of Arthur Fiedler, Leroy Anderson's "The Typewriter," complete with sound effects. I think only people old enough to remember Fiedler appreciated that piece. And there were plenty of those, the "redcoats" filled the audience, meaning they were their with their 50th+ reunion class. There were people there from the 70th reunion!

Then they went into three feature pieces for one of the violinists playing "Skylark," "Sweet Georgia Brown" (hard to hear without imagining Meadowlark Lemon spinning a basketball on his finger), and "Dark Eyes" (the Russian folk song). This was only moderately interesting. The best jazz player on the stage was the guitarist, not the featured solist.

After intermission, the orchestra played MIT's theme song as a sing-along, then introduced an 18 year-old undergraduate, Sarah Rumbley, from MIT to perform Mendelssohn's first Piano Concerto. Mendlessohn was only about three years older than that when he wrote the piece. It's not his best work, but her performance was beautiful, particularly in the slow movement, and at no point did you feel like you were listening to an electrical engineer sidelining. She's a pro.

The final third of the program honored another former conductor of the pops, John Williams, with three of his favorite works, and concluded with a sing-along to the Beatles Rock Band (the game had been designed by two MIT grads). It was actually quite fun.

All in all, a great evening!