Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sick of Poker

I’m pretty sick, undoubtedly due to torrential rain being poured onto my bare head while participating in the downtown protest/riot, and partially due to lack of sleep associated with magnificent weekend Bashing, the kind I don’t regret. The worst part of it all, without any inkling of suspicion, is the fact that I’ll be absent from another Wednesday night at the Echo Park Poker Tour.
My past glories at Lance’s venue feels centuries behind, like a faded memory that grasps to be acknowledged clearly once last time.
And through the viable illness excuse, as I’ve frequently realized, majority public opinion normally remains on the side of hoping your condition improves. And then there’s Lance, who decides to go Isaiah Washington on me for bailing out yet again.
Non-compliance can sometimes lead to tasteless derogatory comments thrown my way. At least Lance can take comfort knowing that I won’t be taking his hard earned cash tonight.

The flashbacks have been never-ending this evening, with fondness and innate warmth for the tournament replaying in my head. For instance, I recall the night when Roxie made her debut at The Tour, intimidating everyone with her quick calls and the violent bloodshed that followed.
She even got to face off against Poker Guy, striking fear in his conventionally steady demeanor. She was dubbed “The Assassin” by Lance, who was smart enough to dump his cards whenever Roxie chose to play. Out of the 17 players that night, she took out 7. I miss Poker Guy, whose wisdom at reading faces, tells, and cards only make me a better player through experiencing his expertise.
He finds resourceful ways to get under a player’s skin. It never bothers me since I’m immune to his distinguished tactics, the kind that throw amateurs into rounds of bundled inner questioning.
I yearn for the spiteful look Catrina gives me while I’m playfully trying to cheat and see her cards.
I also really long for the sight of Patches, the greatest Lion I’ve ever come to know.
I like the fact Patches never complains or roars. And then there’s Joel, probably the steadiest player of the usual crowd, always making a run for the money and often leaving with at least $50, if not more. He repeatedly makes accurately valuable decisions.
He once got cashed out by Lance and hit pay dirt upstairs with some loose honey. And who can forget Rollo, a man of past shadiness that has enlightened me as to his way, who recently became the object of affection for one of my friends. Maybe she’ll win him, and I’m betting on it.
Aside from missing the poker clan, I miss getting crappy cards when I’m chip leader.
I miss seeing the straights that beat the strong two pair.
Or freakish stuff like the four aces that led to R.J. winning a tournament, which baffled just about everyone.
I guess I really don’t miss the freewheeling R.J., who certainly has it in for me after the atrocious ways I’ve managed to shatter his tournament dreams on numerous occasions. He’s had his wins, but never with my involvement.
R.J. isn’t a huge threat to me, but I’m always afraid when facing off against Skip, and because of his sick track record of luck I’ve generally taken the right route of folding unless I have the nuts.
His moves can be devastating, much like his prosperous closing techniques impulsively exploited on inebriated females. And I definitely miss the arbitrary simpletons filled with foolish hope that come to play only to throw their money away.
The Echo Park Poker Tour always lives up to expectation, sometimes exceeds it, garnering the freshest talent around town, surely there to fill my wallet with indispensable blood monies. Even Wayne has plundered his fair share of booty.
And here I am, droopy eyed with glossy redness, fostering the dreariest of moods with intermittent throat pains and coughing, my only hope coming in the form of an endless “Moonlighting” marathon and Robitussin DM (which hopefully loads me up right). Bruce Willis rules.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Best Films of 2006

Top Ten Best Films 2006

1. “Letters from Iwo Jima”
Quite possibly the best war movie ever made. Some scenes are truly heart-wrenching to watch, and the camera doesn’t pull away from the ugliness of combat. Eastwood makes the enemy of the U.S. sympathetic, proving that we’re all the same regardless of the powers that lead us.
2. “Children of Men”
Another great film from Alfonso Cuarón, who seems to keep on getting better. This is one of those films that will undoubtedly be remembered for years to come. Can be classified as sci-fi/adventure/drama, but the test of time will surely call it a classic.

3. “Casino Royale”
Might be the best Bond film ever made, although my heart still lies with “Dr. No” and “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Daniel Craig knocks it out the park, a few more like this and Sean Connery will be looking over his shoulder. Also features the best Bond girls, my favorite being the villain’s girlfriend.

4. “V for Vendetta”
I absolutely loved this movie, with the unflinching political messages it bring forth with modern day relevance, combined with the best performance of Natalie Portman’s career. The voice of Hugo Weaving as V brings a simple mask to life, which is all the more remarkable.

5. “The Queen”
I’ll never forget how my girlfriend and I felt when we learned of Diana’s death, and this movie brings a completely different perspective to the forefront, that of Queen Elizabeth II. Helen Mirren will win an Oscar for this, and Stephen Frears shows enough restraint as director to let all the performances shine.

6. “Dreamgirls”
I was very skeptical going in, mostly because of the Beyoncé factor, but she didn’t need to really act in this one since the great songs had me tapping my feet. I liked it a lot better than "Chicago." I also smiled a lot watching this, and the scenes of drama are filled with power. Who is Jennifer Hudson?

7. “The Departed”
This could be the best remake ever. Courtesy of the brilliant Martin Scorsese, he’s able to weave a complicated storyline seamlessly while getting the best performances out of a staggering all-star cast. I still think “Infernal Affairs” is a superior film to this, but "The Departed" does remain one of the best films of the year.

8. “Volver”
Pedro Almodóvar is one of my favorite filmmakers, and this is yet another one of his little masterpieces. Penelope Cruz is superb whenever she does films for her native Spain as opposed to her scattershot American films, and this ghost story is elevated by the wonderful cast, especially Carmen Maura as the dead mother that lurks.

9. “Inland Empire”
Many people I know, especially Steven, hate David Lynch. This is his weirdest film since “Eraserhead” (his first feature), and I’m not sure exactly what happens in it. But Laura Dern turns in a brave performance, the DV cinematography is haunting, and there’s images throughout that I’ll never forget.
10. “The Descent”
Best horror movie in a long, long time. I’ve never felt so claustrophobic and uncomfortable in a theater in my entire life. Good plot, high quality scares run amok, and throw in female empowerment/vulnerability that hasn’t been showcased like this in a long time. Hard movie to watch, but ultimately very rewarding.

The Very Long List of Honorable Mentions

“Apocalypto” best anti-Semite director, better than Leni Reifenstahl
“Blood Diamond” see you at DeBeers
“Borat” too funny, great social commentary
“Cache” best suicide of the year
“Cars” I go crazy for Pixar flicks
“Hard Candy” sucks to be a child molester
“Idiocracy” Fox dropped the ball by dumping this
“Inside Man” Denzel and Clive Owen, need I say more?
“Lady Vengeance” nice follow-up to the brilliant “Oldboy”
“Last King of Scotland” see the documentary “General Idi Amin Dada”
“Lemming” the French still make great thrillers
“Little Children” sucks to be a sex offender
“Little Miss Sunshine” second funniest film of the year
“Marie Antionette” loved this movie and the soundtrack
“Pan’s Labyrinth” might be over-hyped, but still enthralling to watch
“Thank You for Smoking” some biting satire with a great message
“The Devil Wears Prada” Meryl Streep can do no wrong in my eyes
“The Prestige” cannot wait until “The Dark Knight”
“The Proposition” the Aussie western is one of the best on years
“United 93” much better than “World Trade Center”

The Worst of the Year

“Basic Instinct 2” garbage
“Little Man” stupid
“Lucky Number Slevin” why?
“Mission Impossible 3” Tom Cruise
“Saw 3” painful
“Silent Hill” video game
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” nonsense

Other Achievements

Best Actor: Ken Watanabe, "Letters from Iwo Jima"
Best Actress: Laura Dern, "Inland Empire"
Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, "Children of Men"
Best Foreign Language Film: "Volver"
Best Cinematography: "Children of Men"
Best Score: "Pan’s Labyrinth"
Best Animated: "Cars"
Best Costume Design: "Marie Antoinette"
Best Make-Up: "Apocalypto"
Best Art Direction: "Dreamgirls"
Best Special Effects: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Activism is Alive

A vast mass of passionate protesters were gathering in downtown Los Angeles to march against the war in Iraq on Saturday morning, so I infiltrated the ranks to observe the massive rally first hand.
Many of the people were very nice, peace loving protesters wanting their voices to be heard on the often silent national stage. Too many complainers sit around hoping for change instead of actually going out to call for it, so respect was instantly earned. A lot of kids were there to experience the assemblage, with one in particular rather interested in the John Edwards pamphlets handed out.
Another sleepily enjoyed dad carrying her around the boisterous bonanza of activists on display.
Then there were the handful of individuals across the street, the pitiful ones protesting the protest, a really pathetic showing reminiscent of bottom-feeders grasping blindly for any attention. We were the ones getting all the notice, with helicopters hovering and news cameras snapping and recording the event nonstop.
But the cake taken for “Most Ridiculous Nutjobs” goes to the sparce Dennis Kucinich followers/maniacs, who regardless of your political opinion would quickly judge and deem you shameful for just about anything.
They were truly bonkers, probably dropped onto their heads at birth by already insane parents. These ignorant fools should be locked up with key thrown away. I held my usually sharp tongue back, instead deciding to listen intently to what nonsensical idiots sounds like. The volunteers were definitely not helping the Congressman’s cause.
Scores of protesters were pissed to see that Hillary Clinton was represented, since she’s a staunch advocate for the Iraq debacle, and her disciples seemed out of place at the demonstration.
Didn’t bother me all that much, although I think she’s nothing more than woman scorned. I’ll never vote for woman scorned. Can anyone of sound mind trust a woman that trusts a husband that cheats, the kind that blatantly does, his trousers always evidently unzipped?Besides the point of trust, which always seems to be a silly factor when we normally elect distrustful officials to public office, the John Edwards supporters were easily the nicest, most positive of the presidential volunteer push.
Admittedly I like him the best of the Democrat crop, even went to see him speak once in Culver City. I felt sorry for the way he went down in flames as the running mate of the repugnant John Kerry. It was probably one of the worst campaigns I’ve seen in my lifetime, although the Howard Dean meltdown in Iowa is in a category all its own.
As a self-proclaimed political junkie, I steered clear from exemplifying a forceful opinion on matters, instead trying to blend in with the crowd, take in their energy, appreciating the fiery determination many carried so outwardly.
The habitually excitable Los Angeles Police Department closely watched our protest, undoubtedly looking for any excuse to bust out the Billy clubs and start senselessly beating innocent citizens.
Their worldwide reputation for brutality precedes them, with Rodney King as living proof, even though he’s an irredeemable crackhead junkie. This guy agreed.
Besides the few Kucinich losers and freaks, people equipped with deafening bullhorns were the ones my ears feared the most, blasting propaganda loudly over the already lively crowd. Chanting was commonplace. “1,2,3,4, we don’t want your damn war!”
President George W. Bush Bashers were everywhere, proving that there’s no shortage of hatred for the man leading our country.
In my opinion, he might be the worst figurehead this country has ever seen, the bounds of which haven’t been tested, for only time will reasonably judge his accomplishments and failures. Maybe we don’t realize how good of a job he’s done, that we’re just focused on today more than the future. My profoundly documented experience suggests otherwise, so I seriously doubt it.
I also wondered aloud if ICE could’ve done an immigration sweep during the protest.
I commented during the march that many of my favorite restaurants in the USA would probably close if every illegal immigrant were deported.
I also came to the realization, probably since this was my first big protest attended of any sort, that these events can be a painless excuse to revisit scary Halloween outfits.
The guy above terrified just about everyone, the kind of loon that appears in nightmares and chases you down dark alleyways wailing and crying like a banshee. He’d sporadically run up to random people and swipe his staff angrily at them.
I wisely chose to stay behind him. And you can never forget the wide array of street musicians making their presence known.
I very much enjoyed the colorful characters sprinkled throughout the event, very compelling, like seeing funny people with bizarre hair styles.
The rain began to pour near the end of the march, so seeing searing speeches from the likes of Cindy Sheehan, Ron Kovic (loved "Born on the 4th of July," Oliver Stone's best film in my humble opinion), and Jim Lafferty (who?) played second fiddle to walking all the way back to my car for shelter. I’ll never forget this experience, and I need to find more cool causes to be a part of.