Monday, August 30, 2010


Finally got around to seeing the moody film A SINGLE MAN. I can see why some people did not like it; the film has almost no plot or action in it, yet I found it involving. It's a beautiful film, with rich, gorgeous cinematography and art direction, and a very nice score. There's a nice use of color in the film.

The acting is quite good and everyone is well cast. However, the last third of the film seems to meander a bit aimlessly even though the plot and action finally pick up. The ending is very unsatisfying; I almost wish nothing had happened at the end instead of trying to give a it a finale that seems meaningless.

Nonetheless, worth a viewing.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

After watching the excellent documentary THEY CAME TO PLAY, directed by Romanian filmmaker Alex Rotaru, I decided it was time to catch up on Romanian filmmaking by watching 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. I had heard a lot of great things about the film, and I had loved the previous two Romanian films I had seen, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and 12:08 East of Bucharest (previously reviewed on my blog).

Alas, 4 Months is nowhere near as good as either of those films. There is very little character development n the film; so little in fact that the film feels improvised, and not in a good, in a way that makes the film ramble pointlessly between scenes.

I did appreciate the cinematic choice of shooting almost every scene in one long continuous take. For a film about time, this seems like an appropriate choice. The problem is that it is very difficult to care about anyone in the film.


The woman who is pregnant is not the through-character, but you would think that you would care about a young woman desperately in need of an abortion. But there is no attempt to make her sympathetic, in fact, she continually lies throughout the film and digs her own hole deeper and deeper. And there is never an explanation of backstory. Where is the father? Were they unable to get contraception? Why has she chosen abortion?

The main character, her friend, is slightly more sympathetic in that she is at least trying to help, but she makes some terrible choices, and ends up making her own life miserable as a result. I don't have a problem with a movie being a downer. Mr. Lazarescu is perhaps the most depressing film I've ever seen. The difference is that I cared about the characters in that film. In this one, they make annoying choices that create their own problems. It's hard to care about them.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rockies Beat Dodgers 5-3

A little on the warm side, but otherwise another gorgeous night at Coors for the Rockies, with a 5-3 victory over the Dodgers. The Rockies are still a long shot in the wild card hunt, but they are clearly trying hard. Tonight they played quite well. Chacin went 7 strong innings and gave up one run. The other two runs were from Street, who came into the 9th in a non-save but gave up the runs.

Helton and CarGo each hit home runs. Cargo also got a triple. The crowd was of 45,000 was strong, especially when booing Manny. It was almost like being in Boston again (towards the end).

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I have previously written about my musical mentor, Herb Pomeroy, in my blog, most notably here. Herb surprised me by being a fan of amateur sports. He had that in common with my father, who loved high school sports more than anything. Herb conducted the band I was in at MIT in addition to being a full-time faculty member at Berklee College of music (where I also studied with him). He remarked more than once that although he loved teaching at Berklee, in some ways he enjoyed conducting the MIT band more, because the musicians there were doing it solely for the love of the music.

I thought of this many times while watching the outstanding documentary THEY CAME TO PLAY. The film is about the Van Cliburn competition; no, not the famous one, the Amateur Competition for people over 35 years old. Anyone who has had a professional music career is ineligible for the competition. Many of the competitors are people who gave up music early in life, only to return to it later. Many of them also have excelled in other fields from medicine to business to professional sports.

I must admit that I am biased about this film. The director, Alex Rotaru, was a student of mine over a decade ago at USC, where he took my film music class. I'd like to think that class had some influence on his appreciation for music.

The film is a bit similar to Jeff Blitz's brilliant documentary SPELLBOUND about a spelling competition. Any competition-based doc is bound to be compared to that film, but it is indeed a compliment. THEY CAME TO PLAY is most similar in that it really focusses quite well on the characters - and I mean, it, they really are CHARACTERS in the movie. There are competitors from all over the world, all walks of life, men and women, all races. They will make you laugh and care about them.

The film is extremely well-edited and structured. It is well shot (although the projection I saw looked like a DVD and not HD resolution). In fact the only criticisms I would have are completely technical, things like mike noise were intrusive in the interviews. Otherwise the film is very involving and moving. The audience I was with (maybe 20 people at the screening) laughed in all the right places, and applauded several times for performances. It is quite a film.

If you are at all a fan of classical music, this film will speak to you. The sheer joy of loving music shines through this film at every moment. You will be moved by these people and their love of playing. Please look for screenings, buy the DVD when it is released, or watch for the film on TV, it's likely to end up on PBS or some other venue.

You can get more info here:


Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Based on a number of comments I read on Facebook, I decided to watch the Korean film MOTHER on BluRay. The film is the story of a mother's love for her son, and how she will do anything to protect him. The son in the story is a mentally-challenged young man who has been accused of murdering a young girl. The mother is forced to become a detective to find out who killed her.

This is an extraordinarily well made film on every level. The cinematography is gorgeous, and perfectly suited to the film's story. There's a lot about the film that feels Hitchcockian as well. There's not much score, but what's there is very effective.

The acting is outstanding. The woman who plays the mother covers a very full range of emotions, and the young man is very convincing as well, without becoming the typical Hollywood cliche of mentally challenged (Rain Man, Forest Gump).

I highly recommend this film.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

20,000 Served!

Thursday was the 4th Anniversary of my starting this blog. A week ago today, a reader in France who looked at my post about the Wilhelm Scream became the 20,000th person to visit. I never thought that would happen. But it has, just before I return to school tomorrow for meetings, with classes starting a week from tomorrow.

I hope I haven't bored the crap out of too many of you.The map above shows the location of the last 100 visitors. Looks like a well-rounded group.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rockies Lose in Extra Innings

I did not want to spoil it, but before tonight, I had been to 9 Rockies games in the regular season and they won them all. In fact, if you add the two pre-season games, I was undefeated in 11 games (although one ended in a tie).

It had to happen eventually, but I did not expect it tonight. The Rockies played fairly well, with a huge home run by Todd Helton and two fantastic outfield assists from CarGo. And three errors from the Brewers. They should have won.

But they did not. Mostly due to a poor outing by Huston Street in the tenth, who had difficulty getting the outs. He took the 5-4 loss.

At this point it looks extremely unlikely that the Rockies will go to post season. There are just too many teams fighting it out fot the wild card who are above them right now. It's too bad, they should have been a much better team this year.

It was, nonetheless, a gorgeous night for a game. 39,000 fans agreed.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Ever since I saw Siskel & Ebert review FITZCARRALDO and BURDEN OF DREAMS (the documentary about the making of the film), they have been on my list of films to see. It took 20 years, but I finally fulfilled that, after seeing an episode of BOONDOCKS featuring Herzog as himself reminded me. Since then, there is a third film I had added to that list, Mein liebster Feind, Herzog's documentary about star Klaus Kinski after he died.

Unfortunately neither of the first two films had aged well. Fitzcarrado is much too long and takes itself way too seriously. The script is very weak. Although the characters are inherently interesting because they are all crazy, they all lack any range or development and are one-dimensional. The plot is very predictable except for the ending which makes no sense at all and is completely illogical and unbelievable. Kinski is a great actor but chews the scenery in several scenes, including the ending. I'd really like to see the aborted film with Jason Robards and Mick Jagger. Robards looks much more believable.

Burden (directed by Les Blank) is interesting in that it shows the making of the film, but Herzog comes off terribly, monologizing to the camera about insanely unrelated issues. He directs like a tyrant, and when he finally does one smart thing in the film (shooting with a mock-up instead of a real boat) he declares it cannot be good because the actors are not "real." You almost hope the film fails after seeing this doc.

Herzog redeems himself with age in Fiend. He doesn't even look like the same person. He seems to have gained a sense of humor, and freely discusses his plot to kill Kinski. Some of the footage in this film is from Burden; one must wonder why it wasn't in that film, it's better than anything in it. It shows the real Kinski, going crazy over craft services. Of the three films, this is by far the most watchable, but only if you have seen enough films by the two stars, Kinski and Herzog.

All three are worth watching, by Fiend is by far the best of the three.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, the sequel to the Swedish film THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is a vastly inferior film to the original. Stuck in the middle of a trilogy, it has all the problems of a sequel plus the problems of the prequel to the finale.

Although there are some nice plot ideas, there is almost no character or character development in the film. It's hard to talk about any of this without giving away surprises (that aren't very surprising) but suffice it to say that none of the character relationships are fleshed out, and in fact some of them make no sense.

There is an unfortunate influence of American films, in terms of both the generic score and the absurd obligatory car chase in the middle of the film (with only ancillary characters included). I'm sure some of this comes from the book. Another problem is that the two major characters are never in the same scene until the end of the film. In the first film, they rewrote the book to give them reasons to be together. In this one, there are large leaps in plot that make no sense.

The first half hour of the film has no structure and is needlessly repetitive of the first film. The last half hour is cliched, predictable and anti-climactic, while still feeling like there is no ending. There are clearly deliberate loose ends to give them something to do in the final film.

I haven't read the books, but I've been told that book two was by far the worst and book three by far the best, so it's probably worth seeing for the finale. But not worth seeing on the big screen.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Please watch this hilarious video from the director of THE HEBREW HAMMER. I would love to take credit for the sound effects, but all I did was mix it. Don't forget to vote FUNNY after you watch it! To vote, click on the FUNNY OR DIE logo on the bottom, or watch it directly on their page with the link below the video.