Obviously Losing

Location: Los Angeles, California

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Google Documentary

Interesting look at the company and its services.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Over 1 Million Dominoes

Sunday, November 26, 2006

One Great Weekend, Two Great Football Games

I was in NYC over Thanksgiving Weekend seeing my brothers. I always enjoy New York and its bustle, and it was wonderful to visit with family and eat a lot of good food.

For some bizarre reason, JetBlue doesn't receive ABC, so on the flight home I had to continually check ESPN News for updates on the USC-Notre Dame game. It was an odd and unsatisfying way to watch the game, but suffice to say, I was extremely happy with the score.

And when I got home, I opened up the newspaper and discovered that the Santa Margarita Eagles football team beat Mission Viejo HS in their first ever match-up. Take that Bob Johnson.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

RIP Robert Altman

Robert Altman, one of the great American directors, the man behind MASH, Nashville, The Player, Short Cuts, and Gosford Park, has died at the age of 81. Just this year he received an Honorary Academy Award -- his first Oscar -- and did he ever deserve it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Guillemots - Sao Paolo

The best song of the year... performed live on a massive scale.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Borat - You Be My Wife

The following is Borat's love song to Pamela Anderson, which he performed live on Conan.

I think it is quite possibly the television highlight of the year.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Jean-Luc Godard famously said that the best way to criticize a movie is to make another movie. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Babel takes every element of Paul Haggis' Crash and accomplishes it with more insight, dignity, and grace.

I particularly like what my friend/fellow critic Steve Snart said regarding the two films: "The characters in Babel are living and breathing entities whose actions are driven by psychological motivations. They are not just walking stereotypes used to grease plot mechanics like last year’s major multi-character opera, Crash."

But enough Crash-bashing, which, mind you, was still a good film. Babel, on the other hand, is a dizzying masterstroke. It's filled with numerous little moments that hit you in the gut - not because the beat is emotionally wrenching, but because it captures a specific sensation of life that is rarely portrayed on the screen with such clarity. Moments like enjoying the force of the wind against your body, or reliving one's vanishing childhood on an abandoned playground set.

And despite all these precious microscopic moments of beauty, Babel is definitely a big-picture movie - a film that encompasses four countries, six languages (plus sign language), and a plethora of characters. Unlike Crash, it doesn't wear its thesis on its sleeve. Part of the reason is that Babel is about more than one thing. On the surface, it's about misdirected terrorism charges, immigration politics, teenage sexual angst, etc. But underneath, it also investigates the barriers between people - national, class, language, ideological, sex - and how one hasty decision (or is it fate?) can catapult the status quo into chaos.

The performances here are exemplary all around; but, as everyone else has been saying, the finest acting comes from Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi. These misguided women will break your heart. Barraza takes what could have been a stereotyped role of the Mexican nanny, and she breathes an astonishing amount of soul into it in a short period of time. Kikuchi, playing a deaf-mute Japanese teen, bears all (figuratively and literally) as her character descends into an abyss of sexual desperation.

And to round off this review quickly, Babel is visually and aurally stunning. Inarritu cunningly plays with the sound (often to establish Kukuchi's point-of-view), and the multi-narrative editing blends these four stories together in a remarkably coherent fashion.

My only complaint is that one does have to overcome the fact that these characters do make some incredibly poor choices. One of these poor choices occurs at the Mexico-U.S. border. Yet, when this scene happened, I wasn't thinking, "Oh no, that's contrived." I was thinking, "Stupid Gael Garcia Bernal... what are you doing?" Babel had sucked me in, and it's still floating around in my head.

Rating: **** (out of ****)

Only David Lynch, Only in L.A.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

House + Senate = Yes!

Thank God the Democrats won both the House and the Senate. These last few years have been truly shameful. Let's hope our nation starts to make a little bit of sense now.

And here's Stephen Colbert with the call:

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

"Borat" deserves to enter the small group of elite comedies that includes films such as "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," "The Producers," "This is Spinal Tap," "Dr. Strangelove," "Some Like It Hot," and "Best in Show."

It's one of those rare comedies that doesn't merely include laughs, but includes laughs lined up one right after another - a stream of side-splitting offensive humor that leaves a permanent smile on your face.

Unlike "Da Ali G Show," the film "Borat" contains a storyline, and as a result, some scenes are staged. Nearly all of these staged scenes work, and some of them are even flat-out brilliant, but Sacha Baron Cohen is at his best when he's involved in completely improvised situations.

I dare not reveal any of the jokes here. "Borat" is going to be a huge word-of-mouth success. I've been a fan of Cohen since 2003, and there's a tendency for people to feel like they've lost something precious when a cult favorite becomes a mainstream sensation.

But I feel no loss here. The more people who witness the comic mastermind that is Cohen, the better. He has made one of the best films of the year.

Rating: **** (out of ****)

Stranger Than Fiction

Marc Forster's "Stranger Than Fiction" is light, fluffy fun that thinks it's more clever than it really is. Written by first-timer Zach Helm, the movie is a bag of hits and misses:


- Will Ferrell works perfectly in the role. He is likable, doesn't overact, and is able to garner real sympathy from the audience.
- The idea is a clever one, and the first 30 minutes of the movie are especially enjoyable because they let us essentially enjoy what it would be like to discover you had your own personal narrator.
- The film is visually clever, with special effects reminiscent of the IKEA scene in "Fight Club" that efficiently communicate Ferrell's OCD state-of-mind.


- Maggie Gyllenhaal's character is wrong for Will's character, and I'm not talking about the 10 year age difference. Her character comes off as an impatient bitch - a woman that Will shouldn't be wasting his time with. And this romantic subplot doesn't really add anything to the film's story arc anyway, so why is it here?
- If you think about the story's concept for one minute, you quickly realize there are gaping plot holes, especially in regards to Emma Thompson's author character. I don't want to enter spoiler territory, but Helm basically decides to ignore all of the inconsistencies he sets up in his universe. A better writer would have solved them.
- An overly sappy ending

Rating: *** (out of ****)
Opens Nov. 10

Flags of Our Fathers

Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers" shows, as did "Mystic River" and "Million Dollar Baby," the director's inability to trust his audience's intelligence. This war epic, which is filmed with the utmost professionalism and respect, is severely hampered by a narration that directly instructs the audience what to feel.

Furthermore, the film tries to survive an awfully awkward structure that flashes back and forth between three different time periods. It works for awhile, but eventually this narrative device becomes tiresome, and the point Eastwood is trying to drive home is repeated over and over.

Additionally, we become aware that the third time period - a present day setting in which an actor playing author James Bradley interviews these war veterans as old men - could have been completely axed.

Still, the combat scenes are filmed with impressive technical mastery (some shots taken from a pilot's pov are particularly memorable), and it's refreshing to have a war film that considers the effects of that war back home (albeit without any of the insight of a film like "The Best Years of Our Lives").

I look forward to Eastwood's follow-up film, "Letters from Iwo Jima." He has intriguing material here. And Paul Haggis, who co-wrote the overwrought script for "Flags," wasn't involved in the writing of "Letters," so there's still hope that the film might have some degree of human dimensionality.

Rating: **1/2 (out of ****)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Friday's Box-Office Results

1. Borat - $9.1 million (837 screens) - avg. $10,812/screen
2. Santa Clause 3 - $5.2 million (3,458 screens) - avg. $1,504/screen

The "Borat" phenomenon has begun... enjoy the ride.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess

I doubt I'll have a Nintendo Wii anytime soon, but one can dream...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Being Sick Sucks

Sorry about the lack of posts lately, but I've been uber sick with a nasty cold/bronchitis virus.