All Things Chicken named Best Score at WilliFest

Sept. 27 will be the awards ceremony in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but they emailed to notify me of the win. Of course, it’s really Ben Wise, the composer’s win even though I submitted it. Nonetheless because I was so intimately involved in the score’s creation, I feel very proud. If one would call Ben the parent to the scoreWilliFest small, then I’m the grandparent.

Listen to it here: http://www.allthingschickenthemovie.com/trailer-and-score/

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Twinkie Update

So, I recently wrote a little paean about the totally artificial snack cake that brought the word Twinkie into the lexicon. But quasi-good things often have a dark heart alas.

The corporate main stream media has been presenting the Hostess bankruptcy as being precipitated by a union strike in reaction to management demands for wage and pension give-backs amongst other things, essentially parroting the headline from Hostess’ own website: “HOSTESS BRANDS TO WIND DOWN COMPANY AFTER BCTGM UNION STRIKE CRIPPLES OPERATIONS”. And it’s not just Fox News leading the story with this spin.

This is the Google search headline for CNN: “Hostess Brands closing for good due to bakers strike – Nov. 16, 2012 money.cnn.com/2012/11/16/news/companies/hostess-closing/ 2 days ago – Hostess, maker of Twinkies, Wonder Bread and Ding Dongs, says strike by bakers forcing its closing. … Hostess filed for bankruptcy in January, its second trip to bankruptcy court since 2004. …. 2012 Cable News Network.” In fairness, once you click on the link, the actually story doesn’t use that headline but nonetheless, the first paragraph of the story is similarly worded.

Likewise, NBC has a story with this headline: “Twinkies Maker Hostess Going Out of Business, CEO Blames Union Strike “It’s over. This is it,” Gregory Rayburn tells “Today.”
Sunday, Nov 18, 2012 | Updated 4:21 PM CST”

I should note that I’m fairly passionate about the vilification of work and unions as opposed to the so called great good of the “job creators” and capital of the corporate kind. (I think small business people generally practice capitalism in a different manner than corporations so this rant is not about them – after all, they usually work side by side with the people they hire, and small business people don’t get golden parachutes whether or not they make good business decisions – their capital is actually at risk.)

So, I love reading correctives to our corporate mainstream media when I found out the inconvenient truth that Hostess had raised 4 of its top four executives compensation by up to 80% just a few months ago, even though the company had already filed for bankruptcy prior to that pay raise. Granted after that public relations gaffe, the then CEO left (with a nice package) and the 4 top officers took both a real and highly symbolic pay cut to $1, but they also guaranteed themselves a return to their full 6 or 7 figure salaries by January 1st.

So M.S.M., it’s all the fault of the guys making $20 bucks an hour for not believing that the company didn’t have enough money to honor the contracts they had previously negotiated with the union??? I WONDER WHY these baker and drivers were so distrustful of management? I f’ing hate hypocrisy and greed…that means the media as much as Hostess exec’s.

Here are 2 links (one of which cross links to an earlier CNN story for those that don’t trust non-traditional journalists) that back up my assertions here: http://americablog.com/2012/11/hostess-twinkie-ceo-salary.html and http://www.examiner.com/article/the-real-reasons-hostess-went-bankrupt

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Thoughts on Popeye and a review of the Bond film “Skyfall”

Saw the latest Bond movie, a really superior popcorn movie with great stunts. Solid performances, creative staging by director Sam Mendes to re-invent the familiar, exotic locations, high quality tech elements and a well written, intelligent script are some of the reasons for this creative success.

It puts one foot in the Bond past (e.g. the Aston Martin gets a big cameo amongst many nods to previous iconic Bond tropes and gadgets), while modernizing technology, attitudes toward woman (a bit) and even “stooping” so screenplay 101 to do a little character development… the only quibble was that the wit was not as pervasive as some previous 007 entries instead replaced with a melancholia about getting old and changing times. “Skyfall” actually threatened to be deep on occasion but fortunately something goofily over-the-top intruded and brought the film back into the realm of escapist fun.

But here’s an odd reaction I had during the opening action scene where civilian health and life are treated in a typically cavalier manner as the British agents chase the bad guy: I kept thinking about Popeye. When I was a kid, I watched Popeye cartoons on TV just because that’s what was on – but I disliked Popeye. I have a distinct memory of Popeye rescuing Olive Oil, who was tied to some train tracks, by punching the train, causing it to crunch into itself. I didn’t say to myself, “Thank god, Olive Oil was rescued.” No, I said, “There were people on that train and Popeye just killed them.” That was how my brain already worked at 5 years old.

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review of “ANNA KARENINA”, directed by Joe Wright

I saw “Anna Karenina” last night with a Q&A by the director Joe Wright and D.P. Seamus McGarvey. It’s a directorial and below the line tour de force. That’s not to say that the acting isn’t good to excellent – it is. But the concept (clearly a lemonade out of lemons budgetary decision) involves creating the artifice of the action mostly happening in a theatre. The movie is intensely choreographed, both literally in the dances (and one sex scene is staged as a kind of dance) and in the actors every day – yet stylized – movements, all in relation to an often moving camera. For example, scenes shift locations by moving a few feet and changing a jacket. A simple action used to transform space, which is very much a theatre convention. Thus, the way the action has been staged / filmed captures much of the magic inherent in both mediums. The effect is often surreal and disorienting, then the frame refocuses into more standard film realism and we’re brought back into the comfort of “reality”.

Wright has created an odd amalgam of Brecht and Russian Romanticism as we get pulled out and sucked back in continuously, in its own kind of dance (kudos to the editing). I think if you have a great love of the theatre, you will be fascinated and will overall quite like the film, but if you don’t, then then there’s a greater chance you will be feeling a bit cold and dissatisfied by this film. I quite liked it myself.

But this methodology works because it’s more than a clever trick to avoid the expense of shooting on location in Russia. It thematically underlines the artificiality of the rules the aristocracy lived by and provides enormous contrast to the literal breath of fresh air for the Leven major subplot which is filmed all on location, often in the fields. (The Leven story is essentially Tolstoy’s fictionalized autobiography.)

The breaking of the 4th wall may have given me a different emotional experience than one where I would have been fully enveloped in a suspension of disbelief, but it is a valid emotional experience nonetheless. It takes a bit more work on one as an audience member, but is very rewarding in a rather unique way.

As I have said nothing of the script, I should note that Tom Stoppard had done an excellent adaptation of a rather long novel with a parade of characters with long, unfamiliar names with both a minimum of confusion and a great deal of emotional impact. The writing effectively captures the parameters of the story, the feel of Imperial Russia and the spirit of Tolstoy. Without the grounding of the script and what it gives the actors to work with, this dance of real and artificial that Wright and his team have some impressively created never would have been possible.

Again the acting is quite fine, from leads to minor characters. The score (much of it composed to the script, before filming thus making all of that choreography possible) and all of the technical elements are stunning, but a special mention must go to the sound design which constantly created an impact especially in scenes staged in the “theatre” (p.s. not a real theatre but a theatre facsimile constructed on a sound stage in England which is just one more layer of the artificial here…). No, I take that back, the sound of the scythe cutting wheat was as important as any in the drawing rooms of the aristocracy.

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Hostess Snacks Going Out of Business Today

I hate to admit it but I have a soft spot for Twinkies.

When I first went to New York City to study theatre at NYU, I regularly went to a mediocre deli on Broadway and Waverly Place, where I often would buy some very bad coffee to go. Now it must be understood that while there were some fine Italian pastry shops that served good cappuccino in the Village, this was B.S.E. (i.e. Before the great Starbucks Expansion and the ensuing decent to very good coffee boom of it and its rivals). Thus this java had the taste of what one would imagine what edible gasoline and milk would taste like. This was true New York deli coffee served in those famous blue and white coffee cups with ancient Greek icons encircling the cup. If there were sizes to order, they were small, medium or large, not grande or venti… a “regular coffee” was milk with sugar; a “dark coffee” was a little bit of milk. I ordered a “light coffee, no sugar.” It was immensely important to specify the “no sugar” – otherwise the default was 2 heaping, overflowing teaspoons of sucrose. I have never been one to add sugar to hide the bitterness of the bean, but instead crave something sweet to contrast that bitterness.

That sweetness was Twinkies.

Obviously, if I could get a good pastry or a decent bagel, I would, but at this deli nothing surpassed the packaged yellow sponge cake filled with “creme” in taste bud goodness.

I heard on the radio (KPCC) that of the 36 ingredients only two are plant or animal based: there is only a smidgen of flour and 1/500th of an egg per Twinkie. So, they may get hard but they will never rot. I’m very tempted to buy one and save it for a future time when I’m in the need for hygenerated nostalgia.

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When “reform” is just “change” or “re-structuring” or “privatization” but not “reform”

Not surprisingly, I can be very sensitive to language, and how language can manipulate. This is most nakedly apparently in our political advertising a.k.a. propaganda a.k.a. the way politicians speak every day. That may sound rather cynical but it’s really quite a fact that conservative think tanks issue Talking Points daily and just a superficial gander at any one day’s quotes from the Republican noise machine is just how choral that noise is, i.e. they all say the same thing. Democrats are more likely to show some surface independence but also try their damnedest to be as “effective” in communicating as the Republicans. Note that President Obama’s office recently created a kerfuffle by telling reporters that quotes would only be given to those that agree to verification of those quotes, i.e. editing of those quotes.

So, one of my biggest peeves is how Republicans, usually, take advantage of the word “reform”. Typically they use the word “reform” in conjunction with ending something by privatizing it. Ideologically, this fulfills their dictum that private companies always do things better than government (whether it matches facts or not) and secondarily results in contributions to their political war chests from the companies that would benefit / profit from such a privatization.

Privatization as a word, however, is not automatically popular with people who hold pragmatic ideas about particular government programs. That’s why, Bush – at the very height of his power – suffered his first major setback when he tried to privatize Social Security because average people suddenly became motivated to protect something they depend on. (On a tangential note: the administrative costs for Social Security are the lowest, thus the most efficient, of any investment fund including index funds… so much for government inefficiency.)

Thus, we hear the word “reform” used over and over again by Republican marketing. Social Security reform. Medicare reform. And so on.

Since they’re trying to sell something, I’m may be annoyed by the incorrect use of the word, but I accept it from a free speech point of view. BUT I become completely infuriated by the press, rather lazily accepting and repeating propagandistic language instead of challenging its premises. Obviously this is symptomatic of the modern corporate press overall failure of its adversarial, watch dog role that was actually enshrined in our Constitution but it’s exactly in these details, that one can press the Press to be more Press-like, i.e. actually adhere to the standards of true objectivity (not he said she said type of false equivalencies).

I wrote the following letter on NPR’s website after New Yorker political reporter Ryan Lizza was interviewed by Teri Gross on Fresh Air regarding his article on the power and background of Rep. Paul Ryan (and Lizza is one of the better journalists in the business yet even he gets sloppy and falls into lazy reporter verbal group-think… in the actual article, he was much more precise and accurate):

“While Mr. Lizza seems to be a careful journalist, I do have to take serious issue of language – in fact something that infuriates me – with how he began the interview regarding Rep. Ryan’s proposals on what Lizza called “Medicare reform”. The incorrect use of the word “reform”, a word commonly used as a propaganda strategy, which the press blithely goes along with either out of group think or actual ideological sympathy. (In this case, I’m guessing it’s more group think.) Reform by definition predicates that something is broken and needs fixing. And secondly, reform carries an automatic positive connotation. Reform brings benefits. Reform is good. So of course, it makes sense Rep. Ryan and other Republicans would label something as “reform” that actually ends Medicare. As to the first aspect of the word reform, it is also highly arguable that Medicare is broken. It’s expensive. But it mostly works very well at getting seniors medical care. So Lizza, so as not to be a party to propaganda and adhere to the journalistic idea of objectivity should have used the neutral word “change” or “re-structuring”. Language matters and has immense power. Mr. Lizza is a good writer; he should know that and correct himself for the future.”

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The Jokes NOT on you, Steve Almond – a response to his critique of Jon Steward and Stephen Colbert

In “The Baffler”, Steve Almond wrote a long, critique of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert… he makes a lot of good points, but instead of staying on track, he meanders. Almond should hope for at best to influence Stewart to be a little more hard-hitting (let’s face it, why would Jon mess too much with success???), and especially to make Jon’s audience more aware of Jon’s failings as a cultural/media/political comic. Jon will change if his audience changes. (His critique of Colbert is so wrongheaded and so completely lacks an understanding of the power of irony that it forms another black hole in his argument.)

This is the letter I wrote to the editor about this essay:

This essay shoots itself in the foot over and over. It bemoans the fact the Daily Show and Colbert are mostly entertainment and wants them to be different. To be a massively rated Lenny Bruce hour or something. Because? Why? Is there something inherent in either man that is aching to rip-off their Clark Kent populism for a more rarified comic Super Man (i.e. in the eyes of the essayist, the brave, confronting, angry male comic.)

Does one bemoan an orange for not being an apple? Or to be fruitful in the metaphor, does one bemoan an orange for not being a cherimoya? One is common and fairly cheap. One is rare and expensive. There is reason why people eat oranges every day.

The essayist misses the point that first and foremost that they – but Stewart in particular – are replacements for the mild political humor of the Tonight Show and its progeny (Letterman, etc.). It’s all the same audience that used to watch Carson which then split off into Leno/Letterman camps and has no now splintered further in the Cable / Internet age.

If you add up all of the people watching one of these incarnations of the Tonight Show, it would roughly be that same number of people. Instead of lamenting what Stewart and Colbert aren’t, he should be lamenting that population ism’t like the essayist: smart, angry and uncompromising about those in power.

Even though I actually seem to agree with Almond’s politics, I’m being harsh with him because he deserves it. He’s like the son who’s angry with his father for not being the man he thought his father was. It’s Almond’s expectations that are at fault here, not the father for being human.
That’s not to say that the media critic / humorist Jon Stewart doesn’t deserve to critiqued as well. And here Almond is correct to point out Stewart plays false equivalencies between the right and left… he commits the same sin of “balance” in the name of civility that the main stream media does in the name of “fairness”. After all, many times, facts dictate that one doesn’t have to be fair, e.g. Creationism should not be given equal time with evolutionary theory because is one is religious thought and one is well-tested scientific thought. So taking Stewart to task for this and being a shill for whoever his guest is, are all well and good.

But Almond goes off the rails when it becomes a daddy plea of why are you what I want you to be. The critique of Stewart’s failing should always be directed to his audience. That the audience must always look at Jon with the same jaundiced eye that Jon looks at Fox News pundits. Jon is not god, but a fallible entertainer.

Almond further weakens his critique by seeming to miss just how much of a satirist that Colbert is… that irony is a potent critical weapon… that one doesn’t have to directly confront power to confront power… in other words, the essayist just doesn’t get Colbert. It’s utterly unsurprising that he ignores Colbert’s very Super Pac potent theatrics. It was quite simply the best critique and criticism of the effects of the Citizen’s United Supreme Court ruling on the political system yet leveled.

Again this is Almond’s own failing as a critic. He seems to (A) only appreciate direct, in your face, comedy, and (B) not realize that other forms of humor are both funny, viable (beyond their initial satirical role models) and an effective means of puncturing those in power.

Furthermore, Almond’s examples of the opposite of Stewart/Colbert were very weak. He was right on when he cited a deceased comic that I frankly have never heard of but from the quotes seems to have been a very funny man with a very strong, confrontational political critique of the political system. But note, that mean remained an outsider and never gained a mass following.

But the moment he approvingly named South Park and Bill Maher as corporate exceptions to the Stewart/Colbert his argument falls apart. In the first place, “South Park”, minute for minute, is essentially non-political and to praise it for the rare exceptions that it took on the powerful but also universally reviled cult /Church of Scientology is no different than when Stewart took on Republican Senators about 9/11 responders. In other words, corporate financed entertainment will have its momentary exceptions to its usual soft confrontation with power technique, but the leopard can’t drop its spots without becoming another kind of cat.

Ditto for Bill Maher. I distinctly recall how Maher became far more jingoistic immediately following his debacle with ABC corporate sponsors. The “brave” Maher” went out of his way in his next show to correct his bonafides. And let’s not forget, the man has always been a sexist. He’s learned how to protect himself… just have such a mash-up of contradictory opinions left, right and middle that you can hide under the mantle of undefinable and respected maverick . So, if you want to damn Stewart and Colbert for not being pure enough, don’t evoke someone like Maher who is even more of a corporate entertainer and a narcissistic opportunist on top of that.

Finally, Mr. Almond should remember that sometimes a cigar is a just a cigar. And enjoy the laugh. And after that, I’ll be happy to follow his example of leading the charge on the barricades… oh, I’m sorry, he isn’t a well-known liberal activist anymore than Stewart is. He’s just a cultural critic like his fallen idol.

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The Cure for the Common Cold… (not literally of course, this is about theatre – what else?)

Recently, I read a story, dated February 22, 2012, in the UK Guardian that had the headline “Female playwrights still face sexism – it’s time we admitted it” in which the first line “Research shows that theatres are prejudiced against female playwrights. What can be done about it?” Here’s the link to the full article.

I have a problem with sweeping generalizations like this because it’s very hard to parse out what’s sexism (and any other “ism” e.g. agism) in decision making and really just how things get done in theatre. The lack of nuance in this article utterly annoys me.

I’ve repeatedly been frustrated myself re: getting produced, and theoretically I have very good credentials, yet I’m a man and it’s done nothing special for me. That’s because the truth is that personal – direct and indirect – connections are the driving factor first and foremost in play production. (Do a survey of literary managers and artistic directors and ask them this question: when was the last time you produced something blindly submitted through the mail by anybody male or female and the answer, I’m 99% certain based on the words of a couple dozen theatre producers I’ve heard answer this question, will be none or very few.)

Since many (assumedly most) of the ultimate decision makers (i.e. the artistic directors) are men, the sexism could be a by-product, not a motivating factor, of who’s in their personal orbit. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t also conscious or unconscious sexism in the decision process as well – but quantifying that is the hard part.

On the other hand, because theatre people, in my experience at least, do tend to be socially-conscious and politically progressive, they do attempt to deliberately diversify. Thus there are specific awards, contests, grants etc. and informally season slots, for women and various minorities. This is both good and bad. It’s good because it does guarantee at least some access and visibility to people who may never have had any. The bad part is that the “black play” or the “woman play” becomes a mark to check off, as in okay, we’ve done our black/woman/Latino/Asian play for the season so the other slots are for the people the A.D. knows or is familiar with and/or thinks his/her audience is familiar with and/or will relate to. (It’s in the latter assumptions regarding the economic viability of a particular play choice that the dreaded “isms” that everyone consciously deplores can often come into play in a decision, as in “my audience won’t come see that play about so and so / by so and so”. To make matters more complicated, sometimes these assumptions of an audience’s prejudice may actually be correct. I’ve heard Artistic Directors talk about the long term education of their audiences regarding style and/or content, i.e. what they couldn’t do in season 1 of their tenure, they could do in season 7.)

How much of this is self-fulfilling prophecy? Even if only partially a real problem (what an audience will accept) for an artistic director, as frustrated and depressed as I can be about my own career stasis, I sympathize with the difficult position these leaders are in during such hard economic times: too much risk and the theatre folds; not enough risk and the audience slowly withers away from boredom.

And, after all, artistic directors are making decisions about a season from a variety of motivations that mix in art, commerce and personal history in a complex manner. So to really get at the “why” of these decisions and therefore the “how” of fixing it would need to take into account more variables than what is presented in the above article. Now that’s a hornet’s nest of complexity to just figure out the management side of this imbalanced gender equation.

On the creative side, here’s a simple variable not quantified in the above – how many playwrights are women and how many are men? The article assumes more men submit plays but exactly how many more? To throw a wrench in figuring out this number, does one even try to figure out if all who claim themselves to be writers can be labeled “professional”? What makes a professional in a profession where most writers get “paid” not with money but with “exposure” that they “should” feel grateful they’re getting? That leaves separating the serious writer from the amateurish one by quantifying quality – a notoriously difficult thing to quantify.

(Maybe the problem is even worse than the writer implies – maybe there are more amateurish men filling up the script piles of world’s literary offices – I don’t mean that to be snarky – I was a script reader once. Most scripts are pretty awful, so I really don’t know since I didn’t differentiate the bad ones by gender at the time. Maybe there really are more bad male writers than female ones. Who knows! There’s just lots of assumptions and guesses.)

So, to study this gender imbalance correctly would take a lot of time and money. As theatre is an industry where there isn’t a lot of money to be made, comparatively, to other businesses – realistically, a nice complex, well-designed sociological study isn’t going to happen.

Metaphorically, is a cigar just a cigar here, or is it really something else? Personally, I’d love to see a theatre world, as well as a whole wide world, based solely on merit and quality rather than inheritance, connections and luck, but I’ve lived too long in this world to know that it’s inherently unfair.

So, do nothing?

Let’s remember one other thing, in the few places where plays are actually occasionally selected from reader recommendations, these play readers are low paid freelancers (often paid by the script, which only encourages reading something quickly without care), or are unpaid interns (often young and inexperienced college freshman), or of course unpaid volunteers in the smallest companies. Moreover, often it’s only a single reader’s opinion that is tallied before a year’s worth of writing work is assigned the rejecton form letter.

So, if one really is most concerned about quality as opposed to any particular quota, the first place is to change is to make sure the reading committees are experienced, relatively well-paid and are actually decision makers.

And in this new, utopian system, absolutely, set it up as a gender / race / age / sexual-orientation blind-selection system. That’s the way many orchestras hold auditions (where a curtain blocks off the player from the listeners). Unfortunately, that’s not the way plays (or movie scripts) are selected for production, or ever will be.

What I’m saying that there is no magic bullet for this problem, in the same way there is no magic pill to get rid of the common cold. You can relieve a few symptoms, but mostly it’s about following certain common sense procedures and slowly things get better. If your polemic has holes in it, then the whole argument can be rejected – even when a portion of it may be very, very right. Build a real case – don’t just make assumptions. And until you can prove actual intent, rather than say, “you’re being sexist” – it might be more effective, to ask, “Do you think you’re making any assumptions here that have to do with who this playwright is or is not, rather than the play itself?”

In the long run, the most effective change will come slowly if people are self-aware and question themselves – not just in picking a play for a season but in everything they do in life.

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A Few Initial Thoughts About Some Very Good (or much more than that, or at the least very worthy) Films

There are so many film that I have missed this past year that seem like they are very worthy of seeing, while concurrently a fair number of the ones I did see (usually because they were a free Industry screening) qualify at best as only momentary entertainment without the resonances that truly make a film great art. (As one of my favorite lines of poetry puts it “Only in the beauty created by others is there consolation.” – Adam Zagajewski). Some like many of the documentaries, like “Pina”, are actually just getting their commercial releases and others, like “Incendies” are available on DVD.

But I make the above point as a qualifier for when I make the statement “one of my favorite films” or “one of the best films” of the year, i.e. I’m not a professional reviewer and have neither the time nor the money to see everything.

First my taste always puts top value on films that depict human beings with the complexity that human beings exhibit in real life, i.e. some combination of positive and negative traits with a mix of consistencies and contradictions within each character’s make-up. Plots are derived from character and flow organically. The engine of the story is the standard propeller in drama: conflict. Someone wants something and somebody/something gets in the way. Complications ensue. I most love stories that are dramas with humor, or comedies with drama.

Except in animation and to some degree also pre-1970’s movies where I’m more forgiving, I’m alienated by sentimentality in a movie. I always define this as “unearned emotion” – cheap, easy ways of pushing an audiences’ emotional levers… fast forwards to an audiences’ subconscious that avoid the messy reality of a character journey in order to get to that emotional place (for both the character, and the audience). A fairly innocuous example of sentimentality, is the frequent shots of cute animals in “We Bought a Zoo”. As the locale is a zoo, there is justification obviously, but these cut aways didn’t always have much to do with the story or character development but rather seem to be inserted for that general “aaaaaahhh” feeling most of us get from puppies and kittens. (Another example, less of sentimentality per se, but an easy manipulation of emotion – in this case fear and anticipation – would be in the same movie, the sudden breaking of the lock to the lion cage right when the zoo is getting inspected by the state… let’s call that one, convenient, and I’d be quite surprised if that actually happened in the memoir the film was based on, and wasn’t manufactured by the screenwriter.)

As points of comparison, some relatively recent films that are favorites are “Sideways”, “The Visitor”, “Sweet Land”, “The Last Station” and “500 Days of Summer”… obviously indie heavy. That said, I utterly enjoy fun, escapist and genre (except horror) films too – “Raiders of the Lost Ark” being one of my all time favorites for instance. I’m also a huge fan of film noir, screwball comedies and other black & white film classics.

So, it shouldn’t be surprising that “Win Win” – the indie comedy drama written/directed by Tom McCarthy and starring Paul Giamatti and the ever amazing Amy Ryan – is my absolute, very favorite film of the year. (Note, I haven’t seen “Beginners” yet, which I’m told by friends that I would like quite a bit.)

The surprise to me, at least, is that “The Help” would be on my current top ten list. I resisted seeing this film when it opened. The commercials and trailers screamed, “yuck”, that looks so sentimental.” The major reviews cemented this where they only praised the acting, in particular Viola Davis, and often criticized current flavor of the year Emma Stone (whom, by the way, I had already noticed as standing out in a mediocre comedy called “The Rocker” from 2008).

But as awards season is upon us, I felt I should see the movie that did get various acting and writing major nominations from the guilds: well just as trailers can make a bad movie look good, they can be very reductive concerning character-driven films that have more nuance than is initially apparent. More on this in a future blog post…. (i.e. TO BE CONTINUED)

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2nd Day of the Year and oh, it’s so Depressing….

I’m linking here to an Alternet published piece: 7 of the Nastiest Scams, Rip-Offs and Tricks From Wall Street Crooks

Honestly, as a warning, it’s too depressing to read the whole thing… basically a summary of the Wall Street created financial crisis… I could have posted this to Facebook but I didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news amongst my 500 or so Facebook friends on this 2nd day of the year. I’m always posting these kind of things, and frankly, I know people just want to get by and not be burdened. Life is already so hard. I get that. So, I’ll post it here for those voluntarily coming to my own site.

The depressing thing is not just that there are immoral, greedy people in Wall Street cooking up scams, it’s that it shows not only how bought off the Congresses and Presidents (as in all, no matter the party) but the very institutional, regulatory bodies like the SEC have been co-opted too.

Yes, I can vote for some no chance in hell of winning 3rd party as a protest, but won’t some mythical 3rd party that displaces the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum of rotating Republican and Democratic politicians (excepting such true rarities with integrity like Dennis Kucinich) be like the line in the Who song… “meet the new boss, the same as the old boss”, as long as the Supreme Court blessed 100 year old dictum of money equaling speech remain in effect?

Really in the face of such hopelessness, it makes sense that the 50% percent or so of the people in the world who are mostly decent and honest would rather be distracted by the pretty floats of the Rose Parade or so other ritualized extravaganza. After all, I have it on in the background while I write this post.

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