Christmas 2005 (2)

Posted in A-Christmas-Carol, Film, King-Kong, Syriana, The-Family-Stone on December 24th 2005 by Randy Reichardt

.: Just finished watching the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol, also known Scrooge. It is the version starring Alistair Sim, and is considered by many to be the classic and definitive version of Dickens’ novel, which has been made into screen versions many times over. A search of “a christmas carol” on IMDb returns 48 versions of the story. Sim’s performance never fails to move me, and this time it left me in tears by the end of the film.

.: After repeatedly stating that I would spend time over Christmas cleaning my house, I finally walked the walk today, spending three hours dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning the master bedroom, as well as purging my closets and dresser drawers of enough clothes to fill six green garbage bags, which will be donated to Goodwill sometime tomorrow. Next: the upstairs bathroom.

.: Saw The Family Stone, King Kong, and Syriana this week.

.: Tomorrow is Christmas Eve (or now, I suppose, since it’s 1205 hrs MST 24 Dec 2005.) I’m fortunate to have friends with whom I will spend Christmas Eve, and then Christmas Day, enjoying their company along with good food, drink, song and merriment. Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, and if you don’t celebrate Christmas, all the best to you just the same! 🙂

Mixed Bag Special

Posted in Comedy, Film, Technology, Television on October 25th 2005 by Randy Reichardt

.: Last week, Stephen Colbert, the brilliant and consistently funniest “reporter” on The Daily Show, debuted on Comedy Central with his own show, The Colbert Report (pronounced coal-BEAR re-PORE). Of course, this being Canada, we don’t get the show yet, if ever, so thanks to the miracle of bittorrent technology, I have watched the first four episodes. The show, which is produced by, among others, Colbert and Jon Stewart, is hilarious. Bringing Out the Absurdity of the News by Allesandra Stanley, in the 25 Oct 2005 NYTimes, captures the essence of the show. Excerpt:

And some of the best material on Mr. Stewart and Mr. Colbert’s shows lies in their sadistic use of snippets from real newscasts and political speeches. On Thursday, Mr. Colbert showed a montage of alarmed reports about the avian flu epidemic on CNN, C-Span and MSNBC, then showed a more upbeat Fox News headline: “Bird is the word on the street. Why the avian flu could send stocks soaring.”

Mr. Colbert praised Fox News for always finding something positive in bad news, be it about the Bush administration or the nation. “Every global pandemic has a silver lining,” he said approvingly. “Remember, the Medici made their money investing in the bubonic plague. A lot of people did. Until the boil burst.”

.:In addition to sending me the link to the NYTimes story, Mike Hall also forwarded this CNET story, Tempted by blogs, spam becomes ‘splog’. Apparently, splog is the new word to describe blog spam.

Google’s Blogger blog-creation tool and BlogSpot hosting service, together the most popular free blogging service on the Web, fell victim this past weekend to the biggest “splog” attack yet–an assault that led to clogged RSS readers and overflowing in-boxes, and that may have manipulated search engine rankings. Bottom line: The scope of the attack, and the sophisticated automation used to accomplish it, mark a turning point for splogging, a problem experts say has been building for some time. It’s not yet clear what Google and others can do to stop the nuisance.

I wasn’t aware of this attack, and as far as I can tell, neither this site or STLQ were victims of this moronic episode.

.: I have 172 feeds in my Bloglines account at the moment, which is beyond absurd. I can’t don’t keep up with 99% of it, but every so often it’s fun to cruise through the feeds and see what’s out there. It seems a little early for movie awards season, but The Movie Blog reports that Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, has earned the Hollywood Movie of the Year award for 2005. The award is one of many given at the annual Hollywood Film Festival, which ended yesterday.

.: Futurists Pick Top Tech Trends comes from Wired News. The trends forecast to happen include simplicity, mobile socialization, the end of the combustion engine, the green movement expansion, and an 2006 IT revolution.

.: I am not into video games of any sort, generally. I tend to default to games like solitaire, spider solitaire, miniputt, and the like. Science writer Clive Thompson writes on his site, Collision Detection, about a game called Poom, in which a ball drops from above, and the player moves a grid of tiles below so that the ball will bounce back up; some of the tiles, of course, are missing. When the ball hits a tile and bounces, the grid below will change. The key is to watch the shadow of the ball as it falls back to the grid. Addictive indeed.

600 Choice Words for the Chatterers

Posted in Film on May 25th 2005 by Randy Reichardt

:: As an avid moviegoer, and someone who used to do this occasionally myself many decades past, I can relate quite easily to this timely essay by Peter Mehlman. Mehlman attended a showing of Crash, the brilliant new movie by Paul Haggis, and had the unfortunate luck to sit within earshot of a couple who talked through the entire movie. Read 600 Choice Words for the Chatterers, and weep for all who have lived through such an experience. Sure, maybe he could have switched seats, but maybe not, either.

The Dark Side – Why We Need to Give a Sith

Posted in Film, On The Road on May 19th 2005 by Randy Reichardt

:: Stevie Ray and I saw Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith this afternoon. I had tickets for the 6:45 pm show, and we arrived early, around 4:15, assuming long lineups would be in order. It was the opposite: small lines had formed for some of the later shows, but no line for the 6:45 show had started. As we prepared to wait in line for two hours, a colleague and her family walked by, and said they had exchanged their tickets for the 4:45 pm show, which was in Theatre 1 (the biggest of 16 theatres at South Edmonton Common). We decided to do the same, quickly swapped our tickets, and entered Theatre 1, and found two great seats in the top row.

This was a bit of an event for us; when Stevie (a good friend’s daughter) was 8, I took her to see The Phantom Menace, and when she was 11, The Attack of the Clones. We had a blast, and really enjoyed the movie. It’s easily the best of the first three episodes, with space ship and light sabre battles like nothing seen before. The history and background of the characters is explained, and we learn how Luke and Leia become separated to live on different planets, how Anakin morphs into Darth Vader, why Yoda ends up on Dagobah, and more. The dreaded Jar Jar Binks appears in two scenes with no lines, and C-3PO’s role is also reduced. Most of the dialogue remains true to the bad space opera of the other five episodes, but the performances do compensate for it. Ewan McGregor is solid, Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman have matured into their roles, but it’s Ian McDiarmid as Darth Sidious/Chancellor Palpatine who chews up the screen and steals most of his scenes from the other actors. I’m surprised that he hasn’t appeared in more movies. The other scene stealer is Yoda – what more can I say? I also found it easier to accept Samuel L Jackson as Mace Windu – in the previous two films, I couldn’t separate the actor from the character. This time, I bought it – his character’s presence is much more convincing, and he has one great light sabre duel as well.

Besides the release of the last Star Wars ever (or is it?), Canada’s government barely survived a confidence vote today (it was a 152-152 tie), with the Speaker having to cast the deciding vote in favour of the governing Liberal Party. A defeat would have resulted in another federal election, less that a year after the 2004 vote.

This morning, my clothes dryer gave indications that it wants to move on and meet its maker. So after SWIII, I dropped by Sears Home and ordered a Kenmore washer and dryer on sale for $940 or so, with tax. Both will be delivered next Friday with the sofa I purchased in April. Yes, I am still zen with the debt load.

Tomorrow I’m off to Lethbridge, and to Sunburst MT on Saturday for my friend Sharon’s son’s high school grad ceremony, and then back to Lethbridge on Sat night, returning home to Edmonton on Monday. Twelve days later, it’s off to Toronto for SLA.

This news release from Westjet is very cool:

WestJet (TSX:WJA), Bell ExpressVu (TSX:BC.PR.A) and LiveTV (NASDAQ:JBLU) today announced that all 39 of WestJet’s Boeing Next-Generation 737-700 aircraft are now equipped with live satellite television. WestJet is the first and only airline in Canada to offer an in-flight TV service that can be individually controlled by each guest from the comfort of their own seat.

WestJet’s complimentary satellite TV service offers a selection of up to 24 television channels from Bell ExpressVu in every seatback on all of WestJet’s 737-700 aircraft, including news, sports, music, children’s and leisure programming. The real-time in-flight experience features individual adjustable seatback screens, personal headphones and an armrest control to change TV channels, brightness and volume levels.

I wonder how long, if at all, it will take Air Canada to follow suit. All the more reason to fly on WestJet. As fate would have it, my flight to and from Toronto in June is on AC.

I am so tired…

Saturday

Posted in Film, Friends on March 20th 2005 by Randy Reichardt

:: Saw William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice on Saturday night. Film versions of Shakespeare plays are usually a bit beyond me, primarily because I haven’t studied the plays, and get lost in the dialogue. Of the few film versions of his plays that I’ve seen, this was the most enjoyable, with great performances from all cast members. The problem I have in any film version of a Shakespeare play is twofold: trying to hear what the characters are saying while simultaneously attempting to process it, or put another way, translate Shakespeare English into the way we speak now. Two factors always work against me: the sound system in the theatre is never top-notch, and the lines delivered by the actors are often done so in the midst of extraneous noise, like music, laughter, or shouting, and the actors’ enunciations are not consistent, nor is the volume used to deliver their lines. Now it’s time to read The Merchant of Venice For Dummies Official Teacher’s Giude, so I can better understand what I saw this evening.

:: Friday night after work I spent three hours with a new friend, and had a lovely time, visiting with her and sharing stories about work, music, ambition, and other things, and testing with my new digital camera on each other. A wonderful way to start the weekend.

:: Today I continued work to purge “stuff” from my house. It will take long hours to do this. In between this lengthy project, renovations are being planned. The carpet on the main floor on my home will be replaced with laminate flooring, with the living room walls being painted beforehand. Friends have said they will help, and I will graciously accept it when provided. I’m also fighting off a minor but quite annoying chest cold. I am tentatively planning a two-day trip to Lethbridge for the Easter weekend.

Favorite Films of 2004

Posted in Film on February 27th 2005 by Randy Reichardt

:: As posted to Blogcritics.com: By my count, I watched 115 films in 2004, but to compile a list of favorites, I’m restricting my choices to films which are eligible for the Academy Award, so will include films I’ve seen in 2005 which were released in 2004. It is not possible to compile a Ten Best List unless you are a full-time film critic. As such, I call my choices favorites, rather than the best of the year, and include twelve on my final list. In alphabetical order:

  • The Aviator: a sweeping, expansive epic, not Scorese’s best, but a remarkable achievement nonetheless. Was Di Caprio the right choice to play Hughes? Perhaps not – he still looks too young for the role, but I found his performance more believeable as the film progressed. Cate Blanchett steals every scene she’s in.
  • The Bourne Supremacy: A rock-solid sequel to The Bourne Identity, Matt Damon creates (again) the most unlikely action anti-hero of the year. Easily the best white knuckle ride of the summer.
  • Collateral: Tom Cruise in his best role since The Minority Report, Jamie Foxx in one of many star turns of the year. Another piece of Michael Mann’s eye candy night vision of Los Angeles.
  • Fahrenheit 9/11: Compelling and frightening at times, serving to remind the world how screwed up life in America is under the Bush regime. Would have been better if Michael Moore had edited out his theatrics on Capitol Hill.
  • Finding Neverland: Johnny Depp disappears into another role, adding to his resume another brilliant performance. Freddie Highmore as Peter Llewelyn deserved an Oscar nomination, but only so many can be given out per year. A touching story of JM Barrie’s relationship with the Llewelyn family, at the expense of the one with his wife. Great to see Julie Christie on screen again.
  • Hotel Rwanda: Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo anchor a strong supporting cast in the story of a man who saved hundreds of Tutsis from being macheted to death in Rwanda in 1994. Cheadle brings humanity and courage to his character, Paul Rusesabagina, whose role in saving so many lives reminds one of Oscar Schindler. But whereas Schindler had power to allow him to do what he did, Rusesabagina needed to be a politician, peacemaker, and saviour at the same time, while hiding his fear for his family and those he housed in his hotel. Nick Nolte deserves mention for his role as the helpless UN commander, so obviously modeled after the real one, Canadian General Romo Dallaire.
  • House of Flying Daggers: Makes the list because of the breathtaking cinematography and special effects. Not as satisfying as Hero, the film is still amazing to look at, pure pleasure for the eyes. A love story that ultimately ends in tragedy, featuring remarkable martial arts scenes, especially in the bamboo forest.
  • Million Dollar Baby: Clint Eastwood acted in, directed, produced, and wrote the music – not bad at all. A boxing movie that takes an unexpected turn, Eastwood and Hilary Swank excel in their respective roles, as does Morgan Freeman, who makes it look all too easy. Controversial to some, thought-provoking for sure.
  • Napoleon Dynamite: An alt-indie weirdo of a picture, worth the price of admission just to see him dance on stage. Anyone who walked out during the credits missed another 10-15 minutes of the movie afterwards.
  • Team America: World Police: Rude, obscene, ruthless, disgusting, and easily the gut-busting funniest movie I’ve seen in years. I cannot remember the last time I laughed so much and so hard in a movie theatre.
  • Vera Drake: Brit stage actress Imelda Staunton in the performance of the year as a gentle, loving, working-class woman in post-WWII England. With brilliant supporting performances all around, director Mike Leigh recreates the suffocating, shell-shocked atmosphere of that time in a movie about a controversial subject that never feels preachy.
  • The Woodsman: Kevin Bacon in the performance of his career, sadly overlooked in the Oscars, in a film about a convict just released from prison, trying to establish his life on the outside. But his crime was horrific, and once revealed, we are left to decide if his character deserves sympathy and a second chance. Mos Def and (real life wife) Kyra Sedgwick deliver strong supporting performances.

Runners-up: Before Sunset, The Clearing, Closer, Code 46, The Corporation, Garden State, Good Bye, Lenin!, The Incredibles, Kinsey, The Machinist, Man on Fire, Maria Full of Grace, Open Water, P.S., Primer, Ray, Shrek 2, Sideways, Super Size Me, Touching the Void.

Films I didn’t see which might have made the list: Bad Education, Being Julia, Dogville, The Door in the Floor, Friday Night Lights, I’m Not Scared, The Mother, The Motorcycle Diaries, The Sea Inside, A Very Long Engagement, William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice,

I (Still) Don’t Get It: The Saddest Music in the World.

2004 Great Disappointments: The Stepford Wives, Troy, The Village.

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