Posted in Film

Thank you, Marc Shaiman

I love movie soundtracks. I love to be gobsmacked by music. Today, I was gobsmacked by the film score for Mary Poppins Returns by Marc Shaiman. So I wrote him a letter:

Dear Mr. Shaiman,

Thank God I ended up working late tonight, because driving home I heard you on the radio—on Jim Svejda’s show on KUSC. I thoroughly enjoyed your conversation with Jim. I’m about the same age as you are and have a similar veneration of the original Mary Poppins film and score. It was a delight to hear about your love of the older film, and an even bigger delight to hear about your time with Richard Sherman. What comes first? The idea comes first! Brilliant.

I made the mistake of watching Trump’s press conference today before I got out of bed. I was so disgusted that I literally could not get out of bed until 1:00 pm. I could barely drive to work, but music helped me recover on the way there (specifically “Outstanding” by the Gap Band). So it was a perfect bookend to drive home and hear some of your wonderful score for Mary Poppins Returns (I haven’t seen the film yet). I now feel like I have a recover-from-Trump soundtrack. I plan to listen to the whole album many times this weekend so that I have it in my head to carry with me forever. To remind me that one asshole in the White House will not ultimately prevail despite his power and hatred and racism—and what appears to be his success at wreaking havoc on our nation. No. Love will prevail—eventually and ultimately.

“The Place Where Lost Things Go” is especially meaningful to me because I am a military brat. As a kid, I moved a lot and also lived overseas. Like all military kids, I had and then lost a lot of friends along the way. Facebook has helped quite a few of us reconnect, but we still have some ‘lost’ people. Your song at once recognizes that loss and gives me hope for dear friends that I still miss. Thank you for that.

My deepest gratitude to you, Mr. Shaiman. You deserve the Oscar and if you don’t win, know that you have my undying pity. But know that if you do win, I’ll be jumping up and down and screaming and ugly-crying tears of joy. You’ve made me one happy shiksa tonight. Blessings to you and Lou.

Much love and Peace,



Posted in Film

Woody, Again

Went to see Midnight in Paris, which is a lovely profiterole of a film. I liked it, but then I generally like Woody Allen.  Some of the traditional Woody Allen themes are present:

-Can a man be in love two women at the same time?

-Shoulda/woulda/coulda: At least one character deals with a “what if” question.  As in: “What if I had stayed in Paris instead of leaving?”

-The writer struggles, but then gets positive feedback (just like Dianne Wiest’s Holly in Hannah and Her Sisters)

-The past was probably a better place to be, except they didn’t have antibiotics.

This is not an exhaustive list, nor is this a proper movie review.  I want to pose a question to those of you who have seen the film.

*SPOILER ALERT*  Quit reading now if you haven’t seen the film and plan to do so.

My contention is that Gil, in love with Adriana, should have stayed with her.  I know he has a realization that no matter what period of history he’s in, even if it’s his favorite one with his idols, he will eventually be discontented.  Alright then, if that’s the case, at least stay with the woman you love.  Even if it’s her favorite time in the past and not hers. If you love her, you’ll do that.

Instead, Gil mentions antibiotics, leaves his love and returns to his present.  His romantic ideal is trumped by the marvels of modern medicine.  He ends up bumping into (again, like the end of Hannah and Her Sisters) the woman who works at the antique shop.  She’s cute, but she’s no Marion Cottillard in La Belle Époque.

But that’s Woody for you.  He’s smart enough to know that if you’re going to make a romantic movie, end it at the beginning of the relationship. Because we all know that there’s only one way to go after that initial pinnacle of attraction and delight.

Photo courtesy of

PS  No one in the theatre laughed louder than I did when Gil said he’s from Pasadena.

Posted in Film

El Secreto de sus Ojos

It’s not often that one can give a film two-thumbs-and one-whole-heart-up, but I can with this one (four-chamber, wholeheartedly).  The film is El secreto de sus ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes), winner of the 2010 Academy Award for Best Foreign film.  Link to IMDB page here.

Photo credit: Sony

The strengths and vagaries of human passion, memory, and nagging yet persistent intuition form the core of the story.  Rarely does a film capture so well the “it’s complicated” aspect of the human heart.  You needn’t clutch your hanky for the entire ride—there are some great laughs along the way.  Do have your hankie at the ready at the conclusion of the film (or tell me why you didn’t need it).

Don’t—I repeat, don’t—miss the tracking shot that begins in the air above the soccer stadium.

El secreto de sus ojos was directed by Juan Jose Campanella (IMDB page here).  He also directed the Season 6, Episode 19 episode of the television show House, which premieres tonight (3 May 2010).  A portion of the episode was filmed at Pasadena’s own Church of the Angels (Petrea’s photos of the church here).  The church should be quite recognizable in the first few minutes of the show.

I acted as Church of the Angels site rep on the House shoot, and I met Mr. Campanella.  I was not familiar with this film (or his others) at the time I met him.  Had I been, I would have gushed my appreciation (embarrassed and embarrassing fussing and gushing, I’m sure).  Instead, we shook hands, our eyes met, and I had the sense I was meeting A Good Guy.

More on El secreto de sus ojos below:

LA Times review by Betsey Sharkey.

Review by Peter Canavese from Palo Alto Online.

A divergent opinion from The Village Voice, which calls the film “ridiculous.”

(Man, am I ever rusty.  Took gadgillion hours to do this post, and not because of the links.  Can’t get photos out of my phone due to its CDMA/GSM duality—according to Verizon tech support anyway—“Junior” at Verizon blamed the SIM card.  So I sent the photo (above) from my phone to The Scout’s phone, then had to sign onto his Verizon account (resetting the password in the process of course because I couldn’t find the Post-It with the relevant info even though it was right here by the keyboard 3 months ago).  Then I didn’t want to sound like a film reviewer (but how could I?  I’m not one anyway) – and then I felt them.  I felt the cliches creeping up.  And they do, they do – those cliches rattle around in my head like Marley’s chains.  Still, I didn’t want to do the blogger’s statement of repose: “Insert superlatives about film here.”  Then I discover an interview with the director, so I have to listen to that.  Then the phone rings, so I never finish the interview.  Then I check in with Facebook (thus applying the Hoover directly to the clock).  Now, really, Really, REally I must get on with this day!)

Posted in Film, Issues

Movie Review: The Visitor

The Visitor – It was good. I recommend it. Really, I should be working right now and can’t possibly provide a decent movie review. Oh, alright, here’s a mini-synopsis: A widower-college professor attends a conference in New York City and finds a couple (Tarek and Zainab) living in his pied-a-terre. The couple thinks they have legitimately rented the apartment from “Ivan” but they’ve been swindled. Walter (the college professor) becomes involved in their lives more closely when Tarek is picked up by the police.

Walter is played by Richard Jenkins. He’s one of those guys that you’ve seen in MANY movies, but you don’t know his name. He does a terrific job in this picture.

Proud to be from DeKalb, Illinois.

The Tarek character is played by…

…hunka-hunka-burnin’-actor Haaz Sleiman.

But I digress. I like a movie that both tells a good story and points out some stuff that I don’t know. The Tarek character is a legitimate political refugee, but he ends up in an immigration detention center. I did know that the US has detention centers spread around the country, and I had heard that conditions there are more like Guantanamo than regular prison. But I didn’t know that at least one of them is “hidden in plain view” as a warehouse in Queens. Detainees are packed in and there is no recreation yard, just a room with the roof cut out. There is no excuse for mistreating people in detention. Ever.

Then in this morning’s news (via LA Observed):

Riot at Lancaster immigration center

Sheriff’s deputies used tear gas to put down a riot that broke out Tuesday afternoon and involved 400 or so detainees at the Mira Loma immigration detention center in Lancaster, today’s L.A. Daily Journal reports. From the story by Sandra Hernandez:

“We are still searching for injured,” said Sheriff’s Deputy Lt. Chris Walker. “We don’t know how many detainees were injured.” The riot broke out shortly after 1 p.m. “We are still investigating,” he said, adding it was unclear how the melee started. However, detainees who spoke with the Daily Journal said the riot broke out after a guard allegedly allowed some gang members into barracks.One person said several barracks were involved in the clash, and detainees were running for safety.

Here’s the link to the rest of the article.

Extra credit reading:

Immigration Detention Centers Under the Microscope

via Boing Boing in ’06 – Halliburton to Build Immigration Detention Centers in US

via World War 4 Report – Kids Sue Texas Immigration Center Over Abuse posted 4/11/2008

Posted in Around Town, Film


Dear People of Pasadena and everyone else in the greater LA area,

I know you want to rush right out and see Michael Moore’s new film SiCKO, but wait. Please wait.

Please wait until Tuesday, July 10 at 5:00 p.m. There’s going to be a special screening of SiCKO at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 to benefit the Community Health Alliance of Pasadena (CHAP). For those who aren’t familiar with it, CHAP is a nonprofit medical and dental clinic in Northwest Pasadena that provides low cost, high-quality health care.

The suggested donation for tickets is $10, and after the screening there is going to be a panel discussion about the state of health care in California next door at Vroman’s Bookstore (or as my brother calls it, The Five Romans).

Here’s how to get tickets:

Call Ellen Johnson at 626-398-6300 ext. 21. If you get the machine, press *8 and then you can enter the extension number. She’ll take your info, and you can pick up the tickets at the theatre.

Only $10 suggested donation, people! Hope to see you there!

Here’s CHAP’s waiting room, taken by The Scout (site in progress). If you look closely, you can see his reflection.

CHAP Waiting Room

CHAP Waiting Room 2

Posted in Cool Stuff, Film, Let's Get Visual, Uncategorized

Vlogs: Project Pedal

I haven’t been a consumer of vlogs (video blogs). Until today. I found Project Pedal’s Episode Four. It is so fantastic I watched it three times. Reminded me of the storytelling style of Fight Club but this guy isn’t crazy. The whole project is completely mind-blowing and inspirational, and I’m so glad I stumbled across it.

Project Pedal is about deciding to do something really hard, “something you know you have a good chance of failing at, but doing it anyways…and slowly but surely, proving yourself wrong.”

So go here and watch Episode Four, and then here to see the rough cut of the pilot opening. Project Pedal’s blog is here. You can watch and vote for Episode One here. And there’s even a Project Pedal Myspace page.

How I stumble upon this fantastic thing? Well, first I went to Metroblogging LA and told myself that under no circumstances should I go to a garage sale. I need to purge, not add. Then I went to Mickipedia because I thought the name was so cute, and because the Metroblog post about her mentioned “superstar” and “gun” and guns scare the bejezzus out of me. So I watched Micki the superstar vlogger shooting a gun, then saw her link to Project Pedal.

I don’t know why I need to include the details of my surfing, but I do. Thanks for bearing with me.