Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Review: Doubt

I find it ironic that in this, the happiest of seasons, it is hard to find a fun movie. By that I mean something beyond the silly insanity of Jim Carrey or Adam Sadler. or an animated "family" film. A movie that will amuse and touch you.

When looking at the listings, there is a preponderance of "serious" films. I realize that studios release these films right before the end of December, not for the box office business but to allow them to be considered for Academy Awards. So if you are a film buff, this is bonanza time. If you're a lover of movies, but not an NPR listener, it can be difficult to muster excitement for a trip to the multiplex.

Of all the serious, Oscar-buzz-worthy films out there right now, one I was most interested in seeing was "Doubt." Featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep, I knew this would be an acting tour-de-force, two incredible talents squaring off. And I wasn't disappointed in the result.

The story is this: in 1964, a hip priest is accused of "inappropriate" behavior with an altar boy, the accuser being the principal of the Catholic grade school. Sister Aloysius is convinced Father Flynn is guilty, and molds the "evidence" to make her case. Their confrontations are incredible - and you leave the theater full of doubts yourself. It could appear that he's guilty, and yet...

As I said, the acting is superb. Both lead actors are worthy of Oscar consideration - as is Amy Adams, the young nun who brings the initial charges. I went to Catholic school for my first three years, and Adams perfectly captures those innocent young nuns thrown into the classroom. My own teachers couldn't have been more than 19 or 20, fresh off the boat from Ireland. No wonder they often relied upon corporal punishment to control us - they had no other examples than the bitter older nuns - like Streep's Sister Aloysius.

I love the contrast that's shown between the lives of the priests and nuns. The priests sit around the rectory, being served a steak dinner and sucking down scotch, while the nuns are eating 3rd rate beef with a glass of milk. The women have no power - when the sisters have their suspicions about Father Flynn, they have no one to turn to - they require a sympathetic male to champion their cause. Personally, I think this kind of hypocrisy is why you see so few nuns these days!

I really enjoyed this film - I wasn't depressed or upset, as I suspected I might be. The director/writer perfectly captures those crazy pre-Vatican II days - when it became obvious that the Church need to make changes, even if it irked some of the older conservative elements. It's amazing to see the layered habits the nuns wore, which I remember so distinctly. Or to see how priests and nuns were nearly forbidden to mingle.

Fantastic performances, a serious thought-provoking story.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

King Tut visits Atlanta

Today I took advantage of a beautiful day off to drive down to Atlanta with friends. Our objective was to visit the King Tut exhibit at the Atlanta Civic Center - and it seemed like everyone in the greater metro area had the same idea! It was incredibly crowded - even with our 11am timed entrance, we didn't get in until 11:30!

The exhibit is only visiting four US cities: Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco and Indianapolis. The exhibit itself consists pretty much of "smaller" objects from the famous tomb - many small statues and jewelry. There were a few "significant" pieces - Tut's bed, several huge statues, and several pieces that had never traveled outside Egypt before. A lot of the exhibit focuses on the Pharaohs and their lives, especially those who pre-date Tut.

I really enjoyed the exhibit. Some of the jewelry was exquisite (they had tiny wrists, judging by the bracelets) - including some HUGE earrings! It was interesting to see photos of the tomb itself posted next to the real artifacts depicted in the photos. Only one cat, though - a cat sarcophagus.

Of course, the gift shop yielded a lot of laughs - incredibly overpriced, tacky souvenirs. Like:


I hadn't realized that they played baseball back on the banks of the Nile! It reminded me of the Steve Martin parody, "King Tut"

"He gave his life for tourism"

On the way home, we stopped at Trader Joe's and I am now well-stocked with Two Buck Chuck!

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

No news news

Photo by Kelly

A niblet of good news today, via RBI Magazine:
RBI Magazine has learned from multiple news sources that the Red Sox have begun negotiations with last year’s Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek.
There was a piece on SportsDesk this morning about the available catching. The market is small, and old. The average age was in the mid-30s. So perhaps both parties here would be wise to revisit their negotiations - if Tek would agree to a shorter term contract, it might be worthwhile to keep him around for a year or two. He's incredibly valuable to our pitching staff, which I think outweighs his fading offensive power. Not to mention the immense benefit of having him mentor some of our young catchers.

And in other good news: Only four days until the MLB Network debuts! Imagine: 24 hours a day of ALL baseball. I discovered yesterday that it will be broadcast on DirecTV on Channel 213!! On opening night at 7pm:
1956 World Series Game 5 Brooklyn Dodgers @ NY Yankees featuring Don Larsen's Perfect Game. Stay Tuned Following the Conclusion of the Game for a Sit-Down Interview with Batterymates Don Larsen and Yogi Berra
I am really excited about this! No more having to sit thru endless minutes of hockey and football reports on the sports channels, hoping for some crumb of Red Sox news. Yeah!

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Love Actually - reexamined

I always think of Love Actually as a Christmas movie, although it doesn't necessarily have a Christmas theme. It's set around the holidays, so I think that makes it a Christmas film!

I watched Love, Actually again tonight - I was just in the mood for a light, romantic comedy, and this film doesn't disappoint. Written and directed by Richard Curtis (who was also responsible for another of my favorite films. Four Weddings and a Funeral), it covers several overlapping stories: the Prime Minister and his housekeeper, the best man in love with the bride, the two porn film body doubles, the widower and his lovelorn son, the husband distracted by his secretary, the assistant with a case of unrequited love and her mentally challenged brother. Curtis does a masterful job of interweaving and overlapping the stories in a very subtle fashion, and coaxes many, many lovely performances from his cast.

Although I adore Alan Richman, his subplot bores me. As does Laura Linney and her crazy brother. However, I'm charmed by Liam Neeson (the widower) and his quest to help his stepson find love. I adore Colin Firth as the broken hearted writer who falls for his Portuguese housekeeper. Hugh Grant...well, Hugh Grant is love! He plays the Prime Minister who becomes enamored with a member of his household staff. The scene of him dancing around #10 Downing Street to the Pointer's Sister's Jump is comedic gold!

Very underrated on its release, this has become one of my favorite romantic films.

Oh, and how could I forget Bill Nighy as the burned out rock star? This was my first glimpse of Nighy, who is becoming one of my favorite British character actors!

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from Beth and Agatha


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

No disappointment here

July 30, 2008. RS vs. Angels. This dude went 0-for-3, with two Ks.

So, we've had 24 hours to digest the news that Mark Teixeira is not going to the Red Sox, Angels or Nationals. He is, in fact, going to be a New York Yankee. What a shock, that a Scott Boras client would sell his soul to the highest bidder - and then claim that he's dreamed his whole life of playing for said team.

But, you know, I feel no disappointment, no sense of disillusionment. Yes, Teixeira is a good, good player. Yes, he would have helped the Red Sox. And yet, I can't see locking in ANY player for eight years. We saw what can happen at the end of those long term contracts (hello, Manny Ramirez). Yes, this makes the Yankees a favorite in the AL East in 2009. And they may win it all next year - but there will be plenty who will say they merely bought the title.

It does make me sad for Major League Baseball. Despite the outcome for my team, the Tampa Bay Rays were the story of the year in baseball - the small market team who beat the big guns in the AL East. It gave hope to all those teams - the Pirates, the Royals, the Orioles - hope that by building on their farm teams, that by carefully using draft picks, by biding their time, ANY team can triumph. The Yankees pulling out Daddy Steinbrenner's checkbook once again seems to make a mockery of that hope. And that's bad for baseball.

My hope? An epic fail. Would I love to see the Yanks open the season 0-20? Hell, yes. Would I love to see the fans who are paying $2500 for a seat in the New Yankee Stadium booing their own team? Hell, yes. Would I love to see Teixeira booed at home? Hell, yes.

And selfishly? I'm so glad that the #25 will still be worn by Mike Lowell.

Now, Theo, go find us a catcher!

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Amazing Grace

Thanks to my friend Susan for the heads-up on this one. Il Divo was on Regis this morning and sang "Amazing Grace." Although I missed it, I caught it on YouTube - and it is a wonderful version. Definitely get you in the holiday spirit! (And they're not too bad to look at either)


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Is it a "Wonderful Life"?

Earlier this week, the New York Times ran an article by Wendell Jamieson about the Frank Capra classic "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946). Jamieson argues that this "uplifting" classic is anything but:
“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife. It is also a nightmare account of an endless home renovation.

I was somewhat stunned by this assessment. Admittedly, I haven't watched the film in its entirety in years. So I sat down tonight and watched it again, trying to pay attention to some of the points in Jamieson's article. My thoughts...

First, I am struck by what a masterful actor Jimmy Stewart was. From the moment we see the adult George Bailey, you can feel the undercurrent of rage and disappointment building in him. He has so many dreams as a young man, none of which he realizes. Forget the Congo - I don't think he even gets to New York City. While his friends and his brother go off and pursue their dreams, George shoulders the responsibility of living out his father's dream - that he run the family Building & Loan. You see the rage in small touches - a brief look, his face dropping as his dreams of escape are once again crushed. In the alternative world revealed to him by the angel Clarence, he is bordering on a mental meltdown - and his wild-eyed looks perfectly capture George's crazed state.

Second, I have to echo Jamieson's contention that the alternative Bedford Falls - now called Pottersville - looks like a much more fun place to live. Main Street is lined with casinos, bars, restaurants, exotic dance clubs...while the only entertainment on Main Street in Bedford Falls is a movie theater showing "The Bells of St. Mary's"!

Third, it ticks me off that in the alternative world, Mary never marries. Clarence reveals to George that "she's an old maid" and "is just closing the library now." So, instead of having to put up with the angry and depressed George Bailey for years, Mary instead is doomed to a life as a librarian. Grrrr.

Finally, the ending still makes me bawl! When brother Harry proposes a toast to George at the end ("the richest man in Bedford Falls"), I still lose it. The film's lovely message - Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives, and when he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he? - still touches me.

Jamieson isn't the only one to see the darker parts of the story. Here's a great blog entry about the film, and has some great little tidbits. I didn't know that Dorothy Parker and Dalton Trumbo worked on the screenplay; that this was the first post-war film for both Stewart and Capra; or that upon its release, it was labeled "subversive" by the FBI.

It's been interesting to revisit this old Christmas favorite, to watch it again with adult eyes. It did make me a little sad - especially watching George's frustrations build over the years and feeling so bad for him that he never seems to get what he wants. But I guess you could argue that George DOES get exactly what he wants - he just never realizes it until he nearly loses it all. A great holiday message after all: to be thankful for our friends, family, and the many gifts and blessings we have. And to appreciate them before they disappear.


Friday, December 19, 2008

My new idol

I admit: I've harbored a secret crush on Sox owner John W. Henry for a while. I know that he's a total nerd - a stats man. But that ability with numbers has been partly responsible for the Red Sox becoming a winning franchise. He's a disciple of Bill James and the whole "Moneyball" thing - and those theories have been a cornerstone in building the RS dynasty.

Last night, the ultimate nerd faced down the biggest ego in baseball. The Red Sox' big three - Lucchino, Epstein and Henry - flew to Texas to meet with Mark Teixeira and his agent, that spawn of the devil, Scott Boras. Reportedly, the Sox brass arrived with the anticipation of shaking hands and signing an agreement with our proposed First Baseman. Instead, sources say Boras told the RS that Teixiera had another offer for much more.

Baseball fans know this is a Standard Operating Procedure for Boras. He always has a mystery team on hand, ready to offer much more more money or more years. (Check out WEEI's Fake News take on this subject!) But it looks like Mr Henry has decided to call Boras' bluff. He said that the Sox are no longer interested in "Mr Teixeira."

So, is there a better offer? Some are reporting another offer over $20 million from what the Sox offered. Is that real? Is Boras blowing smoke?

Who cares?? We don't need Teixeira - yes, he would be icing on the cake. But with a healthy squad next year - including a healthy Mikey at 3rd - we don't NEED Teixeiera. Nor do we need any more of Boras' bs

At this point, I might have a hard time cheering for Teixeira in a RS uniform. Especially if we have some lower cost, more team-oriented choices (Youk and Lowell)

Excuse me for a moment: Screw Boras and screw Teixeira.

/end of rant

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Legacy in the Senate?

(Photo: Chitose Suzuki/AP Wide World)

I grew up in a typical New England, Irish-Catholic family. Six kids, grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup on Fridays, and two pictures on the wall. One of Jesus Christ, the other of John F. Kennedy.

My dad idolized JFK. They were the same age, both grew up in Massachusetts (albeit on opposite ends of the financial spectrum), both were in the Navy in the South Pacific during WWII. I think my dad saw what could have been in JFK. So, my admiration for the Kennedys was instilled in utero.

I have always particularly admired Caroline Kennedy. So much like her mother, she's lived through a host of family tragedies, yet she has handled herself with grace and serenity. And still remains down to earth - the mother of three, she's quietly worked to raise funds for New York City public schools. When called upon, she's used her family name to support her favorite cause or favorite candidate - one of the key moments in this past presidential campaign was her throwing her support behind Obama.

Now, it seems she's interested in filling the soon to be vacant post of US Senator from New York - taking over when Hilary Clinton becomes Secretary of State. Senator Clinton's people are (understandably) unenthused about Kennedy - they feel she betrayed their candidate. But I like the idea of another Kennedy in the Senate - and a Kennedy of my generation. There's a certain symmetry to the choice - this is the seat her uncle Robert Kennedy once held, and we wouldn't lose a woman in the Senate. Her chief rival is Andrew Cuomo, ex-husband of her cousin Kerry Kennedy, and a candidate with a great deal of public service experience. Either choice would do the state proud.

But I sentimentally lean towards Kennedy!

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ho Ho Ho

I finally put up my Christmas tree yesterday - this is probably the latest I've ever done it. With Thanksgiving coming so late, and a full plate of other stuff to do - well, Christmas just seems to have crept up on me this year. A friend even suggested I skip the tree this year - but no way! I love getting out all the ornaments - I've been collecting them for years, and each seems to hold a wonderful memory. Like the one above - Santa knows that's my wish EVERY year!

And this one is, of course, especially important:

It's held the place of honor at the top of the tree for two years now. I had hoped to add a similar one this year - but, oh well, the 2009 season is getting close!


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ka-ching goes the Yankee Cash Register

Probably more on this later, but briefly... The Yankees have apparently agreed to an other whopper contract. They're about to sign AJ Burnett to a 5 year deal, which will pay him $16.5 million per year. That means they have committed $243 million to two pitchers this week alone. It also means the Yanks will have the three top paid pitchers in the game: $23 million per year for CC Sabathia; $16.5 million to Burnett; and $15 million per year to Mariano Rivera.

Yes, they'll be tough this year. But what about next year and the year after and the year after...Because they've locked this guys in for many, many years: CC for 7 years, AJ for five. To me, that's the real question mark.

Life in the AL East just got even more interesting....

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Friday, December 12, 2008

The New Old Uniforms

Little did I know when I attended the Red Sox - Padres game in June of 2007, that I would be present for a franchise-changing event. You see, the night of June 22nd was Retro 80s night. It was a real hoot - the Padres wore those hideous orange polyester unis from those dark days, Adding:
and they even doctored the player photos for the Jumbotron:
The Sox players wore retro uniforms as well, although the road version. You can see Ortiz (who was manning first that night) and Pedroia in photo at the top. I thought they were actually quite cool and, IIRC, Kelly and I got a kick out of the fact that the player names were omitted - just as they were back in the day. Edit to add:

Now, I say this was a "franchise changing" event because of an announcement made officially at Game On last night - the introduction of new road jerseys. From the official press release:
Team ownership and management were first inspired for the uniform changes during a “turn back the clock” game against the Padres on June 22, 2007, in which the team sported gray road uniforms from the early 1980s. It was a traditional look that prompted management to call Major League Baseball with a request to design new uniforms that would reflect the heritage of the long-standing franchise.
So, here are three Red Sox legends - Terry Francona, Jim Rice and Jerry Remy - modeling the new look:

AP Photo

I like them! Very clean, classic. And I've always been fond of the "hanging Sox" logo - I've already got a few pieces of clothing and hats that feature it. I know this probably a big marketing ploy - the timing, just in time for Christmas shopping, says it all. But a little change is good!

Now, I've just got to send a new email to Santa....

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

More odds and ends

  • I was thinking this morning that five years ago, if someone had mentioned the Winter Meetings to me, I would have assumed they were talking about the MidWinter Meetings of the American Library Association.
  • A poster on SoSH says
Buster Olney on Sportscenter:"The Red Sox have checked around to see if there's a landing spot for Lowell and the answer is yes."
That makes me sad. I know that Teixeira will be a powerful addition to our lineup. I know it's smart for Theo to put out statements like that to keep the other teams guessing. But I'd really miss Lowell. It's funny how he's become my favorite player of late - I just like the way he plays the game. Tough, all out, with his whole heart. And reading his book made me really respect him as a person, as well. Yes, Youk can play 3rd - and will throw his whole bearded self into making himself the best third baseman in the game. But it will hurt to see Mikey in another uniform.
  • Speaking of uniforms, the Sox will announce at 6pm today some changes to their unis. Rumor has it that it will involve a new away uniform, as well as an alternative cap. Interesting.
  • I have eaten too many cookies today. The parents gave us all 3 dozen Christmas cookies. Both yum and yuck, if you know what I mean.
  • Golden Globe nominees announced today. How can "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" be nominated when it's not being released until December 25th? Or "Doubt," which isn't coming out until January? I hope they've seen an advance viewing, and just aren't judging by who the stars are or what the advance buzz is.
  • This past weekend, Netflix sent me a BBC miniseries called "State of Play." It was broadcast in 2003, and is now being made into a feature film with Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck. I can't imagine that the film could improve on the original: it is outstanding! I was on the edge of my seat the whole 6 hours. It's a thriller. A young researcher for an MP apparently throws herself under a train. It soon becomes clear that she was sleeping with the MP, whose life starts to unravel during the ensuing scandal. A journalist - who happens to be the former campaign manager for said MP - starts sniffing around, and soon uncovers an ever widening circle of corruption.
The cast is awesome. Bill Nighy is the newspaper editor - smarmy and yet focused on finding the answers. He has some great toss-off lines - which you know he delivers just right. David Morrissey plays the MP - you feel so sorry for him, and yet... My favorite, without a doubt, is John Simm as the reporter - sympathetic and unsympathetic in turns - just right the blend.

If you're looking for a great thriller, check this out. But be prepared to lose a large of chunk of time, because you won't be able to turn it off.

  • And finally, if you need some inspiration to get you through until the weekend, look no further than this (thanks to Josh Blue for the link)

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Where are the days going?

  • I can't believe that Christmas is only 2 1/2 weeks away! Where has 2008 gone??
  • And yet, the off-season is going by pretty quickly, which is good. The Baseball MidWinter Meetings are taking place this week in Las Vegas, which means Baseball season is coming soon! It was so awesome to rush home from work today, turn on ESPN2 and see "Baseball Tonight." I was so excited, I didn't even care that John Kruk was on there. I was so excited to read some reports from Vegas online today, I didn't even care that Joe Morgan was interviewed. I didn't even mind seeing Scott Boras at Maddox' retirement press conference.
  • Okay, I lied. I did hate to see Boras. That will never change.
  • I suddenly remembered this cool website today: Christmas 101. It's got links to all of the Christmas classics - Rudolph, Grinch, Madagascar Penguins - even the infamous Star Wars Christmas Special! Very Cool.
  • Speaking of cool, I discovered an incredible thing about my DirecTV today. I read about a special coming on Ovation tonight - "Yo-Yo Ma and Friends: Songs of Joy and Peace." I just ordered the CD on Amazon - it's the fantastic cellist's Christmas album - so was interested to see the special. But I was afraid I'd forget by the time I got home from work! So I looked up the schedule online on the DTV site - and noticed a button that said "Record to Receiver." Hmm. I clicked it - and voila! It was programmed onto my home dvr. So you can set up recordings remotely. Is that cool or what??

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

The end of the Big Three?

Back in the day - the 90s, that is! - this was arguably the best 1-2-3 pitching rotation in baseball. John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux helped the Atlanta Braves hit the playoffs year after year - and win the 95 World Series. They were an incredible team - highly competitive with each other on and off the field, and good friends.

Baseball being the business it is, they ended up going on to other teams - Glavine to the Mets, Maddox finishing this year with the Dodgers. And 2008 was a rough year on the three now-aging hurlers - neither Smoltz nor Glavine were able to finish out the year due to injury, although neither has "retired" as yet.

On Monday, however, Maddox will announce his retirement at the Mid-Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. He'll end his career one victory ahead of Clemens (yeah!), and seems like a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. Which could bring about an interesting scenario: if Glavine and Smoltz follow suit and retire, all three would become eligible at the same time for the Hall. How incredibly awesome would it be to see these three standing together on the stage in Cooperstown, accepting membership in that august institution?

If there is any sense of karma, any sense of history, any justice among the baseball writers, this should happen in five years!

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Friday, December 05, 2008

For my Christmas list?

Well, yes, you can get ANYTHING on eBay. For example, you can bid on the above item. They are described as "2008 John Farrell Game Worn Spandex.

Those of you who know me know that I harbor a not-secret crush on the Red Sox' pitching coach, John Farrell. He is one of my favorite subjects to photograph. Sigh.

But, I mean, seriously. What would I do with these?? Wear them around the house? (eww) Sleep with them like a teddy bear? Have them framed in a shadow box along with an assortment of photos I've taken of him? And it raises the question: who DOES buy something like this? Last year, there were many pairs of undies and socks worn by the 2007 World Champion team members. And they sold, at some pretty high prices.

Just another side to fandom, I guess


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Well, of course!

I probably could have predicted this without taking the test:
Your rainbow is strongly shaded yellow.

What is says about you: You are a joyful person. You appreciate optimism. You're good at getting people to like you.

Find the colors of your rainbow at


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

We'll still have Pedie

Yeah, finally some news off the hot stove. The Sox and Dustin Pedroia agreed to a six year contract extension today! Yeah! A smart move by both sides.
"My first thought about the whole thing was I play for the best team in the major leagues," Pedroia said. "Who wouldn't want to play for the Boston Red Sox? We're going to have an opportunity to win every single year. The fans are the best, the city embraces their team. So why not? It fits."
It sure does!
Here's some video:

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Your life in 6 words

There's a recent bestseller called Not Quite What I Was Planning, edited by Smith Magazine. It's premise is this: sum up your life in just six words. USA Today's Craig Wilson has a great column today, with excepts from the book.

Some of my favorite examples (via Wilson's column and the Amazon review):

  • Alone at home, cat on lap.
  • Cheese is the essence of life.
  • I was a Michael Jackson impersonator.
  • I wrote it all down somewhere.
  • I colored outside the lines.

Can you do it? Can you sum up your whole life in just six words? How about:

Red Sox win World Series. Twice.

Okay, guess I've got to work a little harder on this! But try it!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Review: Australia

Let me get this out of the way immediately. The "sexiest man alive"? Hell, yes. As far as I'm concerned, Hugh Jackman should start spelling his first name "H-O-T"

Hot's - er, Hugh's - new film is called "Australia." It's Baz Luhrmann's epic tale of Australia in the late 1930 - early 40s. A prim Englishwoman, Lady Sarah Ashley, travels to Australia, specifically to the remote Northern Territory, to find her husband, who has been trying to run a cattle station called Faraway Downs. She arrives to find him dead, murdered under suspicious circumstances. To see his dream through, she ends up helping drove a herd of cattle to Darwin for sale to the Army. The cattle drive is led by "the Drover," (Jackman), an itinerant cattleman with tons of charisma. Of course, they fall in love while trying to avoid the villainous Neil Fletcher. The story continues through the early days of WWII, with Darwin's bombing by the Japanese. Throw in the story of the "Stolen Generation," the generations of young Aboriginal children stolen from their parents by the government, which was attempting to breed the "blackness" out of them -- well, now you can understand why the movie is nearly three hours long!

Luhrmann has developed a very distinctive style. At times he's over the top - lots of sweeping long shots, quirky little details, sometimes almost cartoon-like additives, tight close-ups on his leads' faces, and a fantastic musical score. Although that style is perfect for films like "Simply Ballroom" or "Moulin Rouge," I'm not sure if it really works in an epic like "Australia" is meant to be.

And yet, I must admit to pulling many kleenex out during the film. It is an epic story - and I'm a lover of epics. It is at times "Gone With the Wind," "From Here to Eternity," and "The Cowboys." If nothing else, it's clear that Luhrmann also loves the epic - and loves his native land. The land itself could be a co-star, so lovingly and breathtakingly depicted.

So, do I recommend it? Yes! Even though it was nearly three hours long, I only glanced at my watch twice - and made it through without one bathroom trip!! (Be sure to abstain from food and drink for at least an hour beforehand) Jackman and Kidman were terrific - and terrific together. The young actor who narrates and plays Nulla, Brandon Walters, is also good - he has the most beautiful, expressive eyes. And Luhrmann must have hired every Aussie character actor available - Jack Thompson, Bryan Brown, even David Gulpilil (who I'll always remember from the first Aussie film I ever saw, "Walkabout.")

So, resign yourself to the fact that this film will be your entire afternoon or evening, go light on the snacks beforehand, get the kleenex ready - and enjoy! A perfect film for a cold, rainy winter's afternoon.

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