Saturday, September 24, 2011


The Flick: Moneyball

The Peeps: Well, Brad Pitt, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, Nick Searcy, Arliss Howard, etc.

The Dealio: The-mostly, I'm sure- true story of the GM of the Oakland A's, Billy Beane, and his quest to prove that great baseball can be found at a discount. After watching how the deal is made behind the scenes- with an unknown quantity of Peter Brand, Pitt's Beane decides to follow that self-same UQ by taking on the newbie, a recent Yale econ grad, as the person most likely to turn this team around. And, maybe, just maybe, turn baseball on its ear.

The Grading Session: 4.951 pengies out of 5. No demerits here for the soundtrack, but hellfire, this was a long movie. Coulda, shoulda, woulda benefited from a taddy bit of editing. Not every word is as sacrosanct as every other one. Y'know? But, all in all, I must say, this is a must-see. I loved the worn-in, baseball glove weariness of Pitt's face, the naturalness of his relationship with Hill's eager-to-succeed, yet tentative about his skills Brand, and the intrigue of what goes on behind closed doors. I am always appreciative of behind-the-scenes scenes. From the fencing training in The Duellists, to the on-the-spot workshop on customising a suit in The Tailor Of Panama, it is always a jolt of adrenalin to see behind the mystical curtain. C'mon. You know what I mean: what the ordinary person doesn't get to see. The VIP Isn't that what we all crave? I know I do.

Notable Quotables: 'These are baseball players. Just tell them up-front what is happening.' Also this: 'So, you and Google Boy sit there making decisions about this team, while I have 29 years experience, and that's...what? nothing?' Lastly this one: 'It's like the Island of Lost Toys. They are largely unknown guys who have something that the American public may not want to see. But they can win games. And they are in your price range.'

Lessons Learned: Wow. So many. First of all, for America's fave sport, there sure is a lot we never get to see. And, maybe that's for the best. I am not sure we are ready to look beyond the smoke and mirrors. And this: always bothered me that players of a sport got way more bank than those protecting our lives and our futures- like police, firemen, military. Baseball is a sport. A great sport, but it is a sport, when all is said and done. Why the huge pay-bump for these folk? Why do we think this is okay? The fact that fielding a team- a winning team- for a tenth of the standard operating cost is not only possible, but practical, in this economy. And this is something the leaders in the arena of sports need to fully and rapturously embrace. Hey! Attention baseball player shoppers! Start now.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Our Idiot Brother

The Flick: Our Idiot Brother

The Peeps: Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks, Emily Mortimer, Steve Coogan, Rashida Jones, Shirley Knight, Adam Scott, Hugh Dancy, etc.

The Dealio: Rudd plays Ned, the idiot brother of the title. His three sisters: smug, shrill, self-righteous and bigger idiots than Ned, feel a sense of amused botheration when(ever) Ned gets himself into a bind. When he sells dope to a cop who is 'having a really bad week and needs something to help lighten things up', Ned goes to jail, losing his job, his woman and- most heartbreakingly-his doggage. The rest of the movie is about how Ned manages to cut to the heart of every sitch as it crops up, while his sisters, operating from a position of possessing every advantage- manage to mess up their lives, their jobs and their relationships by the numbers. Pity poor Jones, stuck in an underdeveloped, thankless role, who persists in bringing her A game to a D level championship. Ditto Knight, who in movie after movie shows real star power and the ability to rise above the material. She rules as the voice of the no nonsense, but easy-love Mom, who, none the less, cuts to the chase every time and winds up winning the day. Will Ned succeed in finally getting the respect a nature boy who can not tell a lie (No, I mean it. He really. can. not.) rightly has earned? Whaddaya think?

The Grading Session: 4.01 pengies out of 5. There is a good heart at the core of this film. It just doesn't belong to any of the smug, shrewish women who sit in judgement of their brother. If persistent stereotypes annoy the living crap out of you- this is not the flick for you. Try Starman instead: a much better film and vintage Jeff Bridges to boot. Or, no. Wait: The Big Lebowski. Yeah. Either of those for the naif innocent persisting in a world gone horribly brutal thaang.

Notable Quotables: "Do you think these remelted candles are sellable?" "Did you know that he has to strip to interview her? That's how shy she is."

Lessons Learned: Dogs know with whom they belong. If you want unconditional love, it's either a newborn or a dog. Or a newborn dog. Also this: sometimes people so totally do not deserve the benefit of the doubt.


The Flick: Drive

The Peeps: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks, etc.

The Dealio: Ryan Gosling is the (unnamed) Driver. See? Getting all QT up in here already. By day , he is alternately a cipher of a stunt driver/auto mechanic. But he doth also moonlight as the wheel man on various adventures, most of which occur under cover of dark. His brass tacks line is 'I give you 5 minutes. During that time, I am 100% yours. One minute in either direction, and I am out of there. I don't carry a gun, I drive.' So, there you have the set-up.
Then he runs into a neighbor (Mulligan's Irene) and her impossibly adorable son- whose dad is in jail. And don't you know, just as things start perking along, Irene's ex is released from the lock-up to return home and pick up where he left off. Of course, he is chastened and trying hard to do the right thing, but you know this state of grace is flat out not gonna endure. In order to protect his fam, he is drawn back into the life, and winds up dragging Gosling's Driver right along with. Naturally, it is a fool-proof gig, and naturally, things go south with all due dispatch once the Driver signs on. There follows an incredible amount of high-grade violence, without the nuance and commitment to character development- nor the compulsory drawing of the viewer in, to take sides with our anointed heroes. Here's a tip for ya: if we just don't give a brass farthing for anyone involved, least of all the main character, this simply isn't going to pan out for us. If you had told me, at the start of the movie, that I would care about the outcome for Jules and Vincent in Pulp Fiction, I would have thought you were nuts. But, of course, I did. And I was not alone in experiencing this bond. Drive...not so much.

The Grading Session: 3.51 pengies out of 5. Please see above for the reasons behind the grade. BTW- Brooks was a real revelation as the duty bad hat. Check out the new career vector on him!

Notable Quotables: " get to clean up after me." 'Sorry. My hands are a little dirty.' "Mine, too." Both from Brooks. See? What'd I tell you?

Lessons Learned: Well, for starters- don't mess with Brooks; he proves that you really don't have to shout to be heard and feared. A simple, poisonous purr will get the job done just as well. Maybe better. Next: you never really get to back away from poor lifestyle choices when you think you have learned your lesson and are intent on putting the past behind you. Lastly: if something is a sure thing, it really, really isn't. And if the gig is fool-proof, ditto.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Exit Through The Gift Shop

The Flick: Exit Through The Gift Shop (Non-fiction)

The Peeps: Banksy, Thierry Guetta, Rhys Ifans (narrator) et al.

The Dealio: When Thierry Guetta, a shopkeeper and self-confessed photo-addict, becomes enthralled with the graffiti world in France, and then in the US and the UK, all sorts of mayhem results. Eventually, the self-proclaimed, but untested Guetta becomes something in the nature of an underground phenom himself. Suddenly, he is the director of a studio which mass-produces 'works of subversive art'. He has a sold-out show, which nets him tons of lettuce and notoriety. Where will he venture next?

The Grading Session: 3.79 pengies out of 5. Although fairly short, the film became repetitious. But you should definitely call it up, if you have a weekend with time on your hands and an excruciating need to be entertained and transported out of yourself. This is an intriguing and involving commentary on the world of underground art.

Notable Quotables: "So, the lesson for me was 'never try to help someone out with a quote.'"

Lessons Learned: Sometimes it is possible to simply stumble into success. Otherwise, it is probably worth your while to look into a thing before you leap. Or invest. What strikes you as innovative and unique, may just have been reproduced en masse in a storage loft. Does it make it any less art? No. But, with art, as with many other things, you should probably only invest in what you love.


The Flick: Contagion

The Peeps: Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, John Hawkes, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, etc.

The Dealio: In the beginning, Paltrow's Beth is cheating on her husband(Damon). She is travelling to Hong Kong on business and 'picks up' with an ex. She is already exhibiting symptoms of some sort of flu-like thaang- coughing, runny eyes and achiness- which she dismisses as jet lag. And then the bods start to pile up: people going about their daily lives- peeps who, on the surface, have nothing to do with each other- are dropping over, then dropping dead. And so it goes. Wot's the dealio?! In a race to discover what all these clusters have to do with each other, scientists- Cotillard, Fishburne and Winslet, as well as Law's journalist/blogger- begin to look into the background of those who were the first to bite the dust. And, what do we discover? Nothing simple, that's fer shur.

The Grading Session: 4.1 pengies out of 5. Too much left unresolved, too much creepiness, too ambitious, without living up to the potential of what seemed to me like a lesser Crichton tale.

Notable Quotables: 'But, we're not sick! We're healthy!' "So, we're sorry, but she didn't make it. Despite our best efforts." 'OK. So, when can I talk to her?'

Lessons Learned: Here's the biggie: WASH YOUR HANDS. Also this: it's OK to feel paranoid, if everyone around you is kicking the bucket. For further advice, please see lessons learned, #1.

Dawn Patrol

The Book: Dawn Patrol

The Writer: Don Winslow

The Dealio: 'Boone' Daniels- ex-cop, surfer since before he was born (really), sometime PI and all-around wise-ass is the lead in this ensemble book, the first in what I hope is a long- and very rapidly multiplying- series. Why? Well, for starters, it is set in Pacific Beach, my second home, and the first place I lived when I moved to SD. Along the way to solving the mystery and getting the bad guys where and what they deserve and belong, there are wonderful insights into SD history, sociology, geographic snobbery and, of course, surfing. I am more than halfway through the second- and so far, last- in the series and cannot wait for several things to happen: #1- more books. #2-get those books made into flicks. A worthy hero in the mold of such not-quite-comfortable-within-trad-cop-shops folks as Kinsey Milhone, Spenser and Elvis Cole, these are detective stories for those who like a little knowledge and fun with their mysteries. Aaaaand, he lives at Crystal Pier, one of our fave stay-cation locales. Choice.

The Grading Session: 4.988 pengies out of 5. A smidgeon off the sides and back for the recommendation of Jeff's for the ultimate burg- which turned out to be the ultimate let-down. But only a smidge, since everyone has their own hallmark for the best burger evah. Your mileage may differ.

Lessons Learned: Everything tastes better in a tortilla(this is one with which I happen to heartily agree). Also this: never, never, NEVER turn your back on the ocean.