Saturday, October 29, 2005

Thin Red Line - 1998

Let me start by saying something nice about this movie. It's beautifully shot and the score is very nice. Thus concludes the compliments. The listed time for this movie is just under three hours. In reality, the movie seems to last forever. And not in a timeless way but more of a "What day is this and how long have I been stuck in here" kind of way.
Thin Red Line tells the story of the taking of Guadalcanal. If it was taken by the Army Corps of bull session philosophers and not by actual soldiers. The men seem taken with trying to figure out what life is all about and why go through all of this dirty war business. They're also driven by a lieutenant colonel (Nick Nolte) who seems driven to promotion through a bloody frontal assault. In the tradition of well regarded Hollywood war movies, Nolte's character is insane and can only command through bullying.
The cast is deep and performances are solid, but the movie itself is very weak. Much of the movie is told through voiceovers where it's very difficult to tell who is speaking. Flashbacks abound and it's difficult to keep each characters story in order. And, worst of all, the movie doesn't go anywhere.
This movie deserved nominations for cinematography and music. The best picture overvalued it greatly. A bad movie.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Champs!

Day after thoughts

It hits me out of the blue at different times today: World Champion White Sox. Driving down the street and it hits me again. Sitting at work and there it is again. And this grin is pretty firmly in place. Nineteen years is a long time, but it was very much worth it.
Spent the last few innings of the game last night pacing back and forth and throwing off waves of tension. The FP Gal won't miss that one little bit, I can tell you. The cats either. They'd get settled into place and I'd start yelling. Everyone in the house (and maybe the neighbors) are glad this is done.
The White Sox run last night was in typical manufactured fashion. A single. A bunt attempt (failed). Moving the runner over on a groundout. And a seeing-eye single up the middle to score him. The Sox relief pitching was also (sadly) typical. Lots of opponents on base. Kept there only by superior defense. Uribe's two defensive plays in the ninth last night were both amazing. Diving into the fans behind third base to catch a pop-up. And going to the second base side of the mound to get a slow roller and get the runner at first. Typical top-notch defense.
When the out was called, I didn't know how to react. A high pitched yell and then some jumping around finally happened. Then the FP Gal shared my happiness with a kiss. My sister called immeadiatly and we shared a quick few minutes. Then a glass of brandy. And for the first time in my life I kind of wanted a cigar. (Good thing I hadn't thought of that earlier in the day when I could have gotten one.)
I watched some of the celebration in Chicago but I felt strangely detached. Loving a team from far away has it's downsides. Long distance relationships are never easy. Everyone at work was pulling for the Sox because they know how much I love them. Living in 'Twin's Territory' that meant alot to me. Everyone was very happy for me.
How do I feel right now? This might be a slight case of euphoria. Ask me in a few weeks and I might have a handle on it. Oh and I ordered this one.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

World Series Champs!

Yep, all 14 innings

But I had to be careful not to wake the FP Gal. At 1250a. The game went even longer, but Geoff Blum's homer in the top of the 14th was the backbreaker. In his first ever postseason at-bat. Truly amazing story.
But that's one of the charms of postseason baseball. Every October has a dozen or so amazing stories. Close calls, records and unexpected heroism fuel these stories. The baseball playoffs are (IMHO) the best sports tournament.
Couple of other things to say about Game 3. If the Astros want the roof open, leave it open. Unless weather interferes or something. (Last night's weather in Houston was in the 60's and it looked pretty brutal. Fans were in their winter gear. Seriously.) MLB's policy is that they have the final say on the roof during the World Series. I really wish they'd explain their policy more fully. That might quiet the people who were using it as an excuse for losing. A full 24 hours before they started the game.
And speaking of complaints and conspiracies, the close calls in Game 3 went the Astros' way. Not complaining about it. Close calls can go either way. Some teams take advantage, some teams stand around and pout (yes, I'm looking at you, Angels). I'd love for every game to be called perfectly, but that's a foolish dream. Human error is part of the game.
Specifically, the home run/double that went Houston's way was almost impossible to call. It hit about two feet to the double side of a yellow line in center left. You'd have to station an ump next to the centerfielder to see that accuratly. I really, really enjoy Minutemaid Park, but their outfield homerun 'line' could use some help.

Mostly, I feel great. This feels very unreal. World Series champs? Still having trouble getting my mind around that.

I bet it'd feel pretty good.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

For the FP Gal

This one. This one. This one. And I'm hoping for another style to come available later in the week.

Monday, October 24, 2005

1997 in review

Good Will Hunting
As Good as it Gets
LA Confidential
Full Monty
Titanic

Three great movies and two OK ones. 'As Good as it Gets' won the most acting awards, but had serious flaws. 'Full Monty' was good but very light. It was nice for both of them be nominated, but they're not really in the same league as the others.
'Good Will Hunting', 'LA Confidential' and 'Titanic' were all great but in different ways. 'Hunting' is probably the most feel good and down to earth. 'LA' has the most complex and involved plot. 'Titanic' had the most sheer impact of story. 'Titanic' won the Oscar and I can't really disagree. A pretty good year for movies.

Titanic - 1997

I'll assume anyone reading this post has seen this movie, so I'll skip the synopsis. And if you haven't seen it, you probably should. I mean, it's part of our cultural heritage, so what's your problem?
Firstly, I'm a sucker for love stories. And I fell for this one. There's nothing quite like young love. Fierce, idealistic and uncompromising. The idea of a penniless artist and a beautiful society girl falling for each other isn't new, but it is quite effective here. DiCaprio and Winslett are very cute together. And they're both better actors than they are given credit for. (The FP Gal thinks DiCaprio looks like Steve Buscemi. I thought she might be the only woman in the world to think so, but one of the ladies at work agrees. I don't see it all.)
This is a great movie. The combination love story/action flick/disaster movie works very well. The early story is interesting as you watch the lovers come together. The stage is set well with the enormous ship. And knowing that it's going to sink brings a deadline. The first time I saw it, morbid thoughts about who would make it and who wouldn't kept creeping into my mind. Once the iceberg hits, the action part begins. Watery escape sequences interchange with shocking scenes of the ship sinking. It holds your interest.
Does it hold up over time? I think so. The key to understanding the general feeling to this movie is to remember how successful it was. It was enormous. It was record breaking. It topped the box office charts for seemingly ever. And it created a backlash. Critics dismissed it's popularity as being fueled by teenage girls with crushes on Leo. It became a symbol of low (American) culture. It was criticized for mixing disaster with a love story.
The most interesting angle on this movie is the intention of director James Cameron. He wanted to make a movie that highlighted class distinction. The Titanic was used as a metaphor for overbearing invincible wealth and the folly and fragility of same. I wonder if he was disappointed that almost no one cared about this part of his story. Class distinctions were simply much more important in 1912 than in 1997. The idea of being locked into societal position by birth is as alien today as it was commonplace then. At most people shook their heads over how bad things were then.
But a funny thing happened while Cameron was telling this story. He went out and made one of the most expensive movies in history. And, even worse, made a pile of money out of it. And Hollywood turned against him. Ironic, no?
The other wonderful thing about this film is the music. Haunting and lovely. It was capable of bringing tears to people even out of context. True story, when this movie came out I was working at a B&N in Colorado Springs. They sold out of the soundtrack by midafternoon of opening day. Two months later, you still had to be on a waiting list to get it. Very good stuff.

We love laundry

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Please, let there be another mouse! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Vikings beat Packers

Something dangerous has been happening in the Twin Cities over the past couple of weeks. Oh, no one's life is in danger (though fairly serious charges might still be filed). I'm speaking of the danger that the Vikings were in of losing their fan base.
In 1998, the Vikes turned this town into a football town. Minnesota has been crazy about the Vikings before, but the combination of a Twins team going nowhere and a second tier basketball team (sorry KG) made the 15-1 Vikes easy to love. Just take a moment and remember that team. They didn't just win games, they blew the opponents off of the field. Rookie Randy Moss set the league on fire with a neverbefore seen combination of speed and size. The image of Randall Cunningham's slingshot deepball is pure poetry.
They broke our hearts (of course) but we still loved them. Not even the 2000 Championship game spoiled them for us. Finishing 5-11 two years in a row was tough, but the corner seemed about to be turned. A good start and subsequent collapse in 2003 also took a bite out of our love but wasn't it just another chapter of Viking disappointment. When the same thing happened in 2004 it hurt again. But...beating the Packers in the playoffs makes up for a lot of hard times.
The offseason saw Moss leave and the arrival of a slate of new defenders. Hope was high. ESPN picked the Vikes to win the Superbowl. And then the season started. This team wasn't good. They weren't bad. They were cover-your-eyes awful. Culpepper couldn't keep from turning the ball over. The offensive line couldn't protect. The receivers were invisible. The running game was feeble. The defense couldn't catch their breath. Or stop the run. Or stop the pass. The best player on the team was the punter. Seriously.
And then came the 'Love Boat'. Players who were bad on the field were depraved off of it. The orginization was embarrased. The coach looked like he'd lost control of the team. 1-15 seemed like a realistic possibility. Empathy set in hard. Facing their biggest rivals, no one talked about the game. Another embarrasing defeat looked likely. All of the good will from 1998 seemed just about gone.
And then the game started. And that embarrasing defeat started to happen. Farve looked unbeatable. The offense couldn't get on track. The Vikes were down 17-0 at the half. And then a funny thing happened. Suddenly, some first downs went our way. And some incompletions for Green Bay. And some scoring for the Vikes. And (amazingly) a Viking lead occured. A small 20-17 lead, to be sure. And with just enough time for Green Bay to go downfield and score again. Which they did, tieing the game with a field goal.
The script for the year would have Culpepper throw another INT, probably a tipped ball. But...fate saw it differently. The Vikes lined up for a 56 yard FG and hit it. And maybe saved the season. If they can play like they did in the second half of the game, they can win some more games. Their division is weak and the hole isn't too big yet.
Will it be enough to make people care again? Get back to .500 and we'll talk. But I suspect they can. And I suspect the apathy will disappear.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

World Series of Misfit Toys

Probably the most striking thing about the White Sox and Astros is the combined record of futility. This is the Astro's 44th season and their first World Series. The White Sox have been there before but not since 1959. A full fourteen years before I was born. Nearly half a century. I guess it's obvious why Chicago is excited.
Just wanted to put something down in pixels before the Series so I could point back and gloat. Or be horribly wrong and be on record. Postseason baseball is almost like a series of coinflips. The teams are so good that it's not a surprise when any of them win. Some years pitching wins. Other years hitting wins. And some years games are decided by close calls and close plays.
Who knows what will win it this year? Both of these teams are very similar. Good defense and pitching. Average to poor offense. Both teams feel like no one gave them any chance to be here.
I'll pick with my heart: White Sox in six. They'll do just enough to win a few games. And they'll get just enough breaks. And there might be a big homerun in there too.

GO GO SOX!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

World Series!

I don't even know what to say. This feels unbelievable. As in, is this really happening? I love this team!
I've been following along with some other Sox fans here. What makes this extra special is that Ozzie Guillen was my favorite player while growing up. To see him manage my team to the World Series is nothing short of incredible.

Bring on the NL!

Viknigs!

Thought I should say something about the Vikings little pleasure cruise on Lake Minnetonka. Who amongst us hasn't had some friends out on the boat and had an orgy break out? Hmmm, almost certainly everyone who reads this blog (and the author!). Can't say I'm really surprised at their behavior. Being a serious sports fan in today's world means rooting for some bad people. The combination of insane money, fame and receiving constant special treatment doesn't really go far to building character. We should almost celebrate the exceptions for turning out ok.
What happens from here? The answer lies with what really happened. So far we've allegations and protestations of innocence. If the cruise was just a case of men with strippers getting lap dances, probably not much happens. If 'sex acts' were happening, the story takes a darker turn. We also don't know which players were doing what. Part of the story line is that there were two boats and the bad stuff was only happening on one of them. Until this is all sorted out, I don't know how any kind of meaningful punishment can be given.
What happens in the meantime? From a strictly sports related standpoint, I can't think of a worse thing to happen during a bye week than to have a scandal possibly effecting large numbers of the players. Think that might have hurt their concentration? I think it just might. The flip side of the coin is that the team could pull together and lose themselves in the football work. Take out their frustrations on the field and blow the Bears off of the field today.
I don't see it. My guess is that the Bears blow out the Vikes today. And we get one loss closer to getting a good coach.
In personal news, I've traded Culpepper away from my fantasy team. If he turns the ball over, he'll only hurt the real team now. If (hostile sports universe theory) this means that he now turns it around, all the better. For those picking games, I've picked up Eli Manning. Expect the Giants to nosedive.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Call

A piece of baseball history happend on Wednesday night. Video here. The critical play of the White Sox/Angels game was an umpire decision. Description found here.
Just thought I'd offer some thoughts of my own. First, let me say that I thought the umpire blew the call. It appears to me that Paul caught the ball to complete the strikeout. Others have differing opinions. The play was close and the umpire is in a particularly bad spot to make that call. Reports are that the 3rd base umpire didn't see it clearly either. Which shouldn't be a surprise. Any play that is disputed during frame by frame replays would be tough for someone 90 feet away.
The real problem is what happened next. The umpire's 'mechanic' had a sideways motion that apparently means 'no contact'. He also has a fist pump that means both 'strike' and 'out'. He used the fist pump and mass confusion occured. But...the replay shows that Paul rolls the ball back towards the mound before the fist pump. And most of the Angels position players move when Paul reacts. Clearly, Paul thought he'd caught the ball and the inning was over. But...the umpire never called the runner out. AJ had been behind the plate all night listening to the umpire. He reacted differently. Quite the heads up play.
So, if you think the ump blew the call, the situation has given the White Sox an extra out. With one runner on first and two outs. If the Angels can get one last out, the game goes on to the 10th. Bad calls happen in baseball. Earlier in the game, the Sox had a runner doubled off of second in a call I thought was horrible. With perfect umpiring, maybe that run scores. The human element is part of the game.
In any case, I'll take it.

"Who doesn't love a sunbeam?" or "Roll me back into the surf!"  Posted by Picasa

Full Monty - 1997

This is a good light movie. The movie centers on a group of men who are out of work and hopeless. The steel industry that drove their economy has gone away. Prospects for a new job are few and far between and below their dignity.

Enter the Chippendales. When a group of male strippers plays the local club, the men get the idea of raising money by become strippers themselves. They figure that if women will go crazy over those other men, they'll go even crazier over them. Then reality sets in. As they audition for a full set of dancers, they realize what a sorry lot they are. But each one has good reasons why they must go forward and they eventually do.

This movie does a very good job of giving each man a different motivation and story. One does it for child support. One to recover money that his wife has been spending. The most compelling is a self described 'fat bastard' who does it to feel like a desireable man again.

A good movie. I remember comparing it with 'Waking Ned Devine' and thinking that it came off second best. I still feel that way. Not nearly at the same level as the rest of the competition.

LA Confidential - 1997

This is a very complex well done story. Set in LA of the 50's, it's basically a gritty police drama. The movie follows three very different cops, Kevin Spacey, Guy Pierce and Russell Crow.

Spacey is part of the LAPD/Hollywood overlap. He works as a consultant to a TV show. The fame and the bright lights are very important to him. Pierce is a climber, looking for ways to burnish his career. He's an intellectual type who is constantly told to take off his glasses so as not to project the wrong image. Crow is perhaps the most interesting of the three. He's a brutal man who believes that being a cop sometimes means breaking the rules about police brutality. The first scene with him shows that he's deeply concerned about violence towards women. He knows that he's not the brainy type but he strongly believes that his type of effort is needed to maintain law and justice.

All three are very good actors and they each do very well in very different roles. Other notables in the film include Danny Devito as a tabloid publisher and James Cromwell as the police captain. Also should mention Kim Bassinger who won an Oscar for her role in this film. She plays a high priced hooker who has been 'cut' (surgically altered) to look like a hollywood actress. Her role is utterly forgettable. This might be the least deserving acting Oscar of any of the movies I've seen.

The plot is fairly complex, with lots of twists along the way. About twenty minutes in I asked the FP Gal is she remembered the storyline and we both had to admit that we didn't. It's a very well made movie. In fact, I'll put it into the 'great' category.

Light posting

Sorry about that. Expect a flood this weekend. I've gots stuff to say.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

White Sox win ALDS

Couldn't get time off of work to watch the game yesterday, so I followed it online. Very frustrating as I was watching two different sites and hitting 'refresh' constantly. But also very exciting. The White Sox went into Fenway and beat the best offensive team in the AL 5-3. For the series they outscored them 24-9. This gave their first playoff series victory since they won the World Series in 1917. Yep, 1917. A mere 56 years before I was born.
Not used to playoff victories and ultimatly believe they'll kill me somehow. But for the time being, I love this. I'll take it.
After last night's game, the Angels are up against the Yankees 2 games to 1. Not sure who I'd prefer to play against. Guess I'm cheering that series goes five games. If I had to pick, I'd rather play the Yankees. We've seen what the White Sox do against poor pitching. I'd rather see some more of it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

White Sox 2, Red Sox 0

Hard to believe that my team is up two games to none in this series. This is completely new territory for me. Feels pretty good.

Morning drama

Mouse in the house this morning. Great fun! All ended well as it was rescued and released into the backyard. (Pictures below.)

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Mighty hunter Posted by Picasa

Vikings problem

After the Vikings first loss, I gave a few thoughts on what went wrong. Later, I realized the obvious problem, it's Bush's fault. Just for laughs, of course. I thought that the play of a football team would somehow be beyond even Bush's powerful reach.
The ability to bring every problem in the world to W's feet is becoming more and more bizarre. The term Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) is being bandied around on the right to try and describe what's going on. Overreaction? This letter was in the Strib today. I'll reprint the whole thing, because I don't think they archive these for long.

The curse of the Bush

Coincidence or curse? Vikings fans, you be the judge.

On Oct. 29, 2004, Minnesota Vikings had a 5-1 record. Head Coach Mike Tice was on top of the world, feeling confident, virile; no one could touch him.

That day in Minneapolis he introduced President Bush and presented him with a personalized Vikings jersey with the number 1 on the back.

Since then, the Vikings have gone 4-10.

Coincidence or curse? Vikings fans, you be the judge.

K. John Bradley, Minneapolis.

Look, I know that Clinton drove the right crazy, but we never, never, never blamed him for football loses. The Vikings problems start with a horrible coach. And Tice's problems are big enough to overshadow whatever else is wrong. Until he's gone, it's hard to tell what else needs to be done.
And if anyone reading this has BDS, get a grip, please.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

As Good as it Gets - 1997

This movie is filled with good acting, a few memorable lines and a weak story.
Jack Nicholson plays an OCD writer. Which means Jack playing Jack, but with some quirks. Like only using new soap bars and never stepping on cracks. He's about the meanest person alive. Racist and homophobic and just plain ugly to people.
Greg Kinnear plays his neighbor, a gay painter with a little dog. Unable to stand confrontation and trusting to a fault. His agent picks up a model off of a street corner for him to paint. The models friends break into rob him and end up beating him savagely.
Helen Hunt has the other sizeable role in the film. She plays a waitress with a sick boy. She's also the only person that can control Jack. When she misses work to tend to her boy, Jack hires a doctor to look after him so she can go back to work.
When Kinnear is beaten up, Jack looks after his dog. And falls in love with it. In fact the dog gives him some humanity by falling in love back. When Kinnear heals enough to return, the dog creates a bond between them. The combination of dog and doctor opens Jack up and makes him connect with other people.
The turning point of the movie comes when Jack is talked into driving Kinnear down to Baltimore to ask his parents for money. Jack insists that Hunt come with and our three protagonists all come together. Jack (finally) moves to spark a relationship with Hunt and gets some traction before screwing it up with his mouth. The rest unfolds and there's your movie.
Some good acting in this movie, but seriously flawed, too. Nicholson really doesn't act here. He's just himself. And Hunt works very hard. Maybe too hard as I wasn't even a little convinced that she was really a waitress. She comes off as harsh instead of strong. Kinnear really does the best job. He comes off as earnest and innocent.
The biggest flaw is the love story. I never believed that Hunt could fall for Nicholson. Even worse, I never believed that Nicholson actually fell for Hunt. That's kind of hard for a love story to overcome.
This movie is OK at best.

MLB Playoffs

Just wanted to get a few words in before the game starts. I won't be surprised by any outcome of the upcoming all Sox games. I can see the White Sox superior pitching and defense will winning out, probably in four games. But my years of being a cursed sports fan (22 with the Vikings, 19 with the White Sox) have me prepared for being swept.
The last time we were in the playoffs was in 2000. The White Sox finished with the top record in the AL and promptly lost three straight to Seattle. Their starting pitching had a horrible rash of injuries. It wasn't pretty. This time around the starting pitching is very good. The only injury concerns are with the closer, Hermanson. The offense is average and that's a concern.
Who wins? I don't know.

Play ball!

UPDATE: Ok, I didn't expect the Sox to put a five-spot in the first. But I'll take it.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Love this story

about Frank Thomas. He's been mislabeled a problem in the clubhouse and this should show how much he cares about his teamates and vice versa.