Thursday, February 14, 2013

Inspiring Love

The stars shine bright upon your eyes
Inspiring love shall truly rise
Leave behind the cares and ravage
Inspiring love is truly savage
Violated family places torn asunder
Inspiring love relies on plunders
Fondles and cuddles lead to stroking
Inspiring love can lead to poking
Take the prize and hold it tight
Inspiring love is worth a fight
Affections dribbling into devotion
Inspiring love pushes emotions
The way you always make me laugh
Inspiring love is what we have
Enchanted, attached, adoring and flamed
Inspiring love is all to blame!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Best Films of 2012

So many good ones, better late than never...

Top Twenty Best Films of 2012

1. "Amour"
Michael Haneke’s movie of aging and love as a horror story was disturbing and strangely uplifting.  His movies are always like a punch to the gut and divisive, and this one is no different.  That aside, this is a masterpiece.  I really hope Emmanuelle Riva wins the Oscar for Best Actress, especially since Jean-Louis Trintignant got snubbed. 

2. "Django Unchained"
Quentin Tarantino knocked it out the park again.  The rise of a surely doomed slave, with the help of the incomparable Christoph Waltz, was a real crowd pleaser on every level, unabashed in its take on slavery and racism.  Has he made a bad movie yet?

3. "Silver Linings Playbook"
Funny and moving with great performances all around.  It’s an unfortunately named movie that initially scared me away, but with David O. Russell at the helm, I trusted his skills as a filmmaker.  The payoff was poetic, making it the feel-good movie of the year.  Where has Chris Tucker been all my life?

4. "Killer Joe"
I like movies where I can’t figure out if laughing makes me a psychologically damaged human being.  Possibly my favorite Matthew McConaughey movie of all time, as a lead, since I loved him as Wooderson in "Dazed and Confused."  Raw and unsettling, Gina Gershon gives a brave performance as stereotypical white trash, and the scene that earned this great film the dreaded NC-17 rating is disturbingly hilarious.

5. "Holy Motors"
By far the strangest movie I’ve seen in quite some time, courtesy of Leos Carax.  Following Oscar around for a day at work was surreal and runs the gamut as far as emotions go.  He's a banker, a beggar, a motion capture performer, a crazed kidnapper, a father, an accordionist, a killer, a dying old man and more during the course of one day.  Heck of a job.  Eerie, depraved, and wildly imaginative, Denis Lavant is a tour-de-force.

6. "Moonrise Kingdom"
Wes Anderson’s style can sometimes bog down the material, but it doesn’t get in the way here.  Poignant and ambitious, Anderson captures the innocence of childhood in ways few would even try to attempt.  He still has the magic touch.

7. "Zero Dark Thirty"
The hunt for Osama Bin Laden had many twists and turns, and Katherine Bigelow made another notable film about the so-called "War on Terror."  Provocative and absorbing, this controversial movie is only controversial because bigwigs in Washington hate the results of waterboarding.  Jessica Chastain is proving to be one of our best working actresses.

8. "Looper"
One of the best time travel movies, Rian Johnson continues to impress.  Boldly conceived, allegedly with a little help from Shane Carruth ("Primer"), the movie avoids what could’ve been an exercise in confusion.  One guy leaving the theater said he needed to see it again to understand it all.  He probably wasn’t very smart.  Pierce Gagnon steals every scene he’s in.

9. "The Raid: Redemption"
Non-stop action has never been so fluid, brutal and beautiful.  Iko Uwais fights his way to the top of a building with the unforgettable Mad Dog waiting.  This genuine roller-coaster ride is one of the best action movies I’ve ever seen on the big screen, and it truly redefines the language of cinema.

10. "The Dark Knight Rises"
Fitting and satisfying conclusion to the Batman trilogy.  Epic in scope, with Tom Hardy as a formidable foe and Catwoman as formidable foil, I found this chapter in the trilogy to be a rigorous journey fraught with Christopher Nolan’s unflinching love of the Batman character. Special shout out to my boy Cillian Murphy, "Death by exile!"

11. "The Master"
Many of my friends didn’t like it, but they just didn’t get it.  I did.  Paul Thomas Anderson makes thought-provoking films without easy answers, and I hope he continues to do so.  Standout performances abound as usual, and it made me want to start a cult.  Like Tarantino, he hasn’t made a bad movie yet, so yes, I also liked "Punch-Drunk Love," which is Adam’s Sandler’s best work.

12. "Headhunters"
One of the best thrillers of the year.  Stealing art can be a messy business, and it thoroughly proves that you should be careful who you steal from.  Thrilling and suspenseful, it was gripping from beginning to end.

13. "Argo"
Would’ve finished higher if I didn’t already know how the film concluded, this remarkable true story is the kind of movie Hollywood loves, because Hollywood loves fawning over itself.  Affleck has directed three great movies, which makes me very excited about what he does next.

14. "End of Watch"
Came out of nowhere for me, the trailers garnering little interest in my psyche.  One of the best gritty cop movies in years, I found it to be unexpectedly affecting once the high-octane shenanigans simmered.  A haunting piece of work.

15. "Life of Pi"
Might’ve been in the top ten had I seen it in 3D.  Gorgeous imagery and the best performance by a Tiger ever, which is an impressive feat.  Spiritually uplifting and memorable, it certainly deserves to win every technical award at the Oscars.

16. "Robot and Frank"
Frank Langella can do no wrong (I’m still trying to forget about “Eddie”).  This heartwarming story of an old man given a robot to help him with everyday living is a winner.  Teaching his helpful robot the art of thievery, now that makes this movie edgy.

17. "Smashed"
I saw a lot of myself in this movie.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives one of the best performances of the year as a struggling alcoholic surrounded by bad influences, namely her husband.  Her journey from lush to sober could’ve been a Lifetime movie of the week, but proved to be much more than that.

18. "Chronicle"
Getting superpowers can mess with your mind, and the three teenagers that acquire them in a mysterious cave go off the deep end.  Might be the best “found footage” movie to date and will have you on the edge of your seat.

19. "Bernie"
Not the biggest Jack Black fan, but he’s rather playful in this hilarious and somewhat unsettling true story of Bernie Tiede, a guy everyone liked that became a murderer.  Matthew McConaughey gives a great supporting turn as a cop baffled by the support behind Bernie.  Rich and original, it’s an instant classic!

20. "Klown"
Messed up, disgusting, hysterical.  The Dutch have never made perverse behavior so riotously enjoyable.  Fun for the whole family.

The Very Long List of Honorable Mentions
"21 Jump Street" Not what I expected, and Ice Cube drops a boatload of F-bombs
"Arbitrage" Richard Gere is so bad, yet you root for him to get away with it
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" Lyrical and visionary, with Quvenzhane Wallis as the best discovery of the year
"Brave" Not the best Pixar flick, but I liked it nonetheless
"Chicken With Plums" A quality overlooked gem from the filmmakers of “Persepolis”
"Damsels in Distress" Whit Stillman’s clever dialogue alone made me enjoy it
"Dredd" Extreme gore, violence, warped humor, loved it
"Flight" Some excellent alcoholism and cocaine use
"Frankenweenie" Made me love Tim Burton again after "Dark Shadows"
"Get the Gringo" Mel still has it
"God Bless America" Rather relevant considering all the gun violence headlines, and it’s directed by Bobcat Goldthwait (!)
"Goon" Most people watch hockey for the fighting, eh?
"Hope Springs" Actors like Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones can boost mediocre material
"Jiro Dreams of Sushi" Allegedly it’s worth flying to Japan to eat at Sukiyabashi Jiro, and I’m ready to board that plane
"Killing Them Softly" I have a thing for hitmen
"No" A nice little history lesson about the demise of the Pinochet regime in Chile
"Oslo, August 31st" Some people can’t escape their nature
"Pitch Perfect" The last movie I expected to like; Fat Amy rules
"Rust and Bone" Can Marion Cotillard do any wrong?
"Safety Not Guaranteed" Independent cinema thrives in another quality time travel movie
"Seven Psychopaths" Great cast, great script, and Tom Waits with bunny rabbits
"Skyfall" A nice recovery after that “Quantum of Solace” debacle
"Ted" Made this list simply because it featured the elusive Sam Jones
"The Ambassador" Fantastic documentary about being a diplomat in the corrupt Central African Republic.. I thought dude was gonna get whacked
"The Avengers" A miracle that it actually worked, and Loki is a great villain once again
"The Cabin in the Woods" Absolutely loved the last 20 minutes of mayhem
"The Gatekeepers" This exploration of the Shin Bet was interesting
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" Absolutely loved the high frame rate 3D
"The Hunger Games" I was entertained by Elizabeth Banks' attire
"The Hunter" Sad movie, and Willem Dafoe rarely disappoints
"The Impossible" Move over Jamie Lee Curtis, Naomi Watts is the new scream queen
"The Kid with a Bike" Why can’t they make movies like this here in the states?
"West of Memphis" The justice system failed but recovered, rather late, in the end

 Other Achievements

Best Actor:  Denis Lavant, "Holy Motors"
Best Actress:  Emmanuelle Riva, "Amour"
Best Supporting Actor:  Christoph Walz, "Django Unchained"
Best Supporting Actress:  Amy Adams, "The Master"
Best Director:  Quentin Tarantino, "Django Unchained"
Best Screenplay:  Rian Johnson, "Looper"
Best Foreign Language Film:  "Amour"
Best Documentary:  "Jiro Dreams of Sushi"
Best Cinematography:  "Life of Pi"
Best Score:  "Life of Pi"
Best Animated:  "Frankenweenie"
Best Costume Design:  "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Best Make-Up:  "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Best Art Direction:  "Life of Pi"
Best Special Effects:  (tie) "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"/ "The Avengers"

The Worst Movies of the Year

"Lincoln": ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ… This year’s "A Dangerous Method."  I like history lessons that don’t beat you over the head with redundancy.  Daniel Day-Lewis is one of my favorite actors, and he’s good in this, but it’s so damn boring.  Glad I didn’t see it in a theater, simply because they don’t supply plush pillows.  For once, Steven Spielberg managed to leave me without any standout imagery.

"Les Miserables": Russell Crowe was grossly miscast as Javert.  Often falls prey to being unintentionally funny, although Hugh Jackman and Anne Hattheway do some good work.  I loved the stage play, and I found the movie to be very disappointing.  My girlfriend and I were laughing while people around us were crying.  Does that make us good critics or heartless?

"Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie": After finding some praise for this abysmal “film” from a few friends of mine, I will be re-evaluating my relationship with them, as well as Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jeff Goldblum, John C. Reilly and everybody involved with this stinky garbage.

"Dark Shadows": Ouch.  At least the Alice Cooper bit was hilarious. 
"Total Recall": Another unnecessary remake that removes everything that made the Schwarzenegger movie so much fun.  Brian Cranston sleepwalks through his version of Cohaagen, and Kate Beckinsale’s constant sneer may become something of legend.  Inane and tedious.

"The Odd Life of Timothy Green": So bad, and beyond that, truly insulting.  Check your brain at the door for this stunningly sappy catastrophe starring Jennifer Garner.  I would’ve rather watched “Elektra” again.

"That’s My Boy": Another unconscionable work from Happy Madison, and a justifiable bomb to boot.  Sophomoric and unwitty, at least Peter Dante had a funny line at the end, but I’m gravely biased in that case.

"Red Hook Summer": Spike Lee’s movie started OK before grandly going off the rails with a revelation about a main character presented in a really distasteful scene.  The disclosure made me cringe, and apparently I wasn’t the only one.  Clint Eastwood still makes better movies.

"Red Lights": A pedestrian thriller that’s just plain dumb.  Featuring Robert DeNiro gleefully hamming it up, his performance only detracts from the ridiculously ludicrous dual plot twists at the end.

"Resident Evil: Retribution": They’ll keep churning out this rubbish until people stop paying to see it.  Of course, it debuted at #1 in the U.S. box office and made over $221 million worldwide, which says a lot.  I saw it for free, but Catalina and I will never get that 90 minutes back.  Sienna Guillory gives arguably the worst performance of the year.

"One for the Money": Unwatchable.  Katherine Heigl cannot be a lead actress.  On second thought, maybe she should just go away.

"John Carter"/"Battleship"/"Savages":  What a fruitful year for Taylor Kitsch.  Like Sucker Punch before these turkeys, watching all that money burn on the screen is at once grandiose and sickening.  All three movies are unimaginative at best, and I just didn’t care about any of the characters, especially Blake Lively in "Savages."  Hope Kitsch has better luck with “Lone Survivors."

"Casa de mi Padre": Even some people I know who speak Spanish didn’t like it.  So amateurish and irredeemably dumb.  What were Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna thinking?

"Cloud Atlas": What a bloated mess.  I think the Wachowski’s and Tom Tykwer should take a long break from allegedly doing dangerous drugs.  This movie took cookie-cutter editing to the extreme, and while some of the images were striking, everything else about this movie sucked.

"Cosmopolis": Truly saddens me that David Cronenberg has made this list for the second straight year.  A truly pointless movie, and dare I say dull, with none of Cronenberg’s signature flourishes.  Cardboard characters never lead to a good movie.  Nice try Edward Cullen, he’s lucky I didn’t happen to catch “Breaking Dawn 2.”

 And the Worst Movie of the Year is:

"Sparkle": Yikes, Whitney Houston’s swan song is an utter disaster.  The acting by American Idol’s Jordin Sparks, as Sparkle, was predictably atrocious.  The story is a lot like Dreamgirls without any of the polish or showstoppers, and the cliched plot devices used to elevate the material fell dead flat.  I’ll never get those miserable two long hours back.  I’m still apologizing to Catalina for taking her to this debacle:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Yellow Polka Dot Umbrella: Ellas and Fellas

I miss warm summer nights in Southern California, but there’s nothing I miss more than the Twilight Concert Series at the Santa Monica pier with the "Ellas and Fellas" crew underneath the fabled yellow polka dot umbrella.
Often mentioned in Santa Monica’s local publications, membership has grown significantly due to stringent qualification methods.
Rainy days like today in L.A. make me reflect back upon maybe the greatest summer ever.  This past summer was elevated to rather boisterous levels, and it was due, in large part, because I found the yellow polka dot umbrella planted in the sand.
Brittney started the trend, and what began as a small gathering blossomed into something much more devious and twisted in nature.
She created "Ellas and Fellas" after buying a yellow polka umbrella at Costco 5 years ago.  The umbrella became the best meeting place by the pier since it was easy to find, even in a sea of darkness.  Brittney then met Lance.
I’ve also found that blurry photos sometimes make the most sense dependent on the subject.  That day, Brittney and Lance purportedly bonded over yummy cookies.  The two big groups combined to the fabled flag corner, a bonus being that mutual friends were discovered between the two.  Weekly themes began two years ago, and it’s turned into an event with almost 500 people ready to play.
Heavy lures easily convinced me that the best course would be surrounding myself with these really fun people.  They were more fun any groups I knew, without a doubt, leaving little to compare to the others, like one drab circle whose primary focus is beer pong and going to Q’s every night.  With Brittney and Lance, that monotony was out of sight.
My friend Wilma Fingerdoo often secures the chosen area before the followers begin trickling in.
Always have to watch out for her.  Wilma is very shrewd when it comes to heightening the intoxication of revelers.
She’s good friends with Brittney and rabble-rouser visibly equipped with a potent picnic basket of goodies, among her many hidden treasures.  She's also a master of disguise.
  The first one I went to was the polka dots/stripes/plaid theme.
I got there early.
The first time bordered on amazing.  Of course, I came prepared.
The first after party I attended was at Le Merigot.
Apparently we were being too loud, so that spot got black-listed.  The following week was the cowboys and Indians theme. I spent most of the day hanging out with Catalina Kennedy as Pocahontas.
The red, green, yellow theme stirred many controversies. Red meant you’re taken, green meant you were ready to be sexually harassed, and yellow meant.. not really sure what yellow meant, maybe?
Due to the supernatural forces that permeate the proceedings consistently, some of us got there early to lower inhibitions.
There were a fair amount of yellows.
I like the contrast when there's one of each.
I remarkably performed some maverick magic and took a hike with Jaydene's trusty scepter.
I fled into the real world, balking at Ozumo temptation and sneaking my way off the beach.  I had to ward off the greens.  Fifteen dollars later I'm at Bru Haus on Wilshire, the renegade that doesn't go to Q's, nor Cabo.  I immediately zeroed in on Willie Chestnutt.
Guy in orange was on his smart phone for over five minutes while surrounded by lovely women.
Maybe he's acting like he's been there before.
I put odds on he's phoning his male friends, which is a bad move.  Amoral males can steal your deals right from under your nose.
Not sure how his method turned out since I got a little bit touchy later on; I mean, it was Brentwood after all.
The sudden feeling of "if I stay any longer something regrettable will happen" came over me.  I pulled cord before embarrassing myself further.
A week of recovery soothes the soul.  I attacked the reggae theme with extreme amibition, but it lacked proper participation due to intermittent spells of rain.
I was excited that The Mighty Diamonds were to perform that night, but they backed out at the last minute.  All was not lost though, representation was proud among my favorites.
On that unfortunate occasion I left early for a birthday and shelter, and outside that realm, I was clearly giving mixed signals.
Another week the theme was annoying neon.
Lance decided to ridicule me with some of his Jack Daniels brilliance.
Lance likes being the center of attention, and it tends to be rewarding under most circumstances.
Gorgeous days like that need not ever be taken for granted.
Camilla Bashed with us that night, which meant Ozumo was to follow.
Ozumo is the restaurant bar my adventurous side savors the most.  Plus they have arguably the best bathrooms in the county.
The pictures from that night were mostly deleted to protect everyone.  Pajama theme for the Haim show was more my speed.  Since I normally sleep in the buff, I wore my trusty robe for ultimate comfort and to protect innocent eyes.
Not all eyes are particularly innocent. When least expected Wilma may peer out from surprising places.
And yes, my robe is snugly to the touch.
I like being touched.
The unforgettable mustache and wig theme was uglier than normal.
I went with the real thing, while some utilized creativity.
I was surprised that Catalina would even want to associate with me.
I wouldn’t blame her, disgusting behavior ran rampant throughout the beer soaked night.
Lance wasn't exactly helping things.
I know Ariyana was really charmed Lance's advances.  Mardi Gras theme night was also colorful.
The white theme was angelic on the surface.
A ragtag collection of blurred memories come attached to every single one of the group photo sessions corralled by Lance.
To avoid confusion, he's not Lance Cannon, with whom I recently experienced watching “The Room” staring Tommy Wiseau.
He gives such a moving, deeply affecting performance, as does the actress with the weird neck contractions.  Lance Cannon justly beat a pinata afterwards.
Staying on track, becoming friends with the “Ellas and Fellas” led to me getting to know Lance better.
Without that, we would’ve never come across Lindsey.
Rare it is to instantly hit it off and qualify an Ella within minutes.
Lance and Lindsey are best buddies now.
Her effervescence and ease of confidence made her a perfect addition to the clan.
Another draw in going to the Thursday concerts is the possibility of bumping into Bashers you know.  I bumped into Bobby Farlow at the first one.
Wayne Maxwell joined me on two occasions, both vaguely memorable.
The pictures helped fill in the blanks of the white theme party, many of which were alarming.
I think I went to Ozumo that night.
Skip Jurgeonsenn blew by in a whirlwind of angst one night, a random blast from the past.
With poker night recollections in full swing, seemed no coincidence that The Hat even made an appearance.
I must give him credit; he busted out a mean ditty on his kazoo over a terrible band.
He unsuccessfully tried to avoid me weeks later with this cameo.
As Captain Chad once said, "Having this much fun may lead to excess spillage."
The cause of that foul was an errant hug from a dilapidated lush.  Despite the sensorial barrage of overflowing glory, the "Toga Under The Sea" theme capped off a tremendous season.
Best Coast was on stage that evening and gave a great performance, the best of the season.  Helped that we looked better than anyone on the beach.
The night crossed into the surreal.  Time began moving slow.  I got my bearings with the help of Catalina.
Yet before I knew it, the season was coming to a close.  As is tradition, the coup de grace is sighting Camilla on the beach.
Only one outcome from that, the post-party at Ozumo.  Oh Ozumo, how thee loves me so much as to ride the brink of hatred.  I don’t remember taking this picture.
Or this one.  Looks like fun.
Definitely don’t recall this ever happening.  Who's that dude?
Really, those two, they went?
I know I'm overbashing when lewd gestures begin to fly.
But throughout the alleged trials, travails and tribulations of the concert series, no one judges, except maybe Ariyana.
Party poopers are nowhere to be seen with the "Ellas and Fellas."  They need not apply.  And really, in the end, all that really matters is Catalina still likes me.