October 30, 2007
Blue Cross gives you a chance to contribute

  • We took out the 31' Hunter this weekend - it is the "Sun Flare." Apart from some initial embarassing gear shift issues the experience was panic-free and wonderful. It costs a little more but then you can keep it out longer. The charter company also sent an email later, thanking me. SERVICE, people. SERVICE - it's all I want.

  • I have a bill here for $850, from the man that anesthetized me for my appendectomy. It's not one of those "invoices" or "statements," it's a bill. So I call Blue Cross / Blue Shield - they allow that during MOST medical procedures, you'd choose your doctor, but certainly not your anesthesiologist, although yes they agree that since this was an emergency, neither, and they indicated the computer has no way of knowing if a procedure is emergency or not, and this particular vendor has no contract with them, and, they will resubmit this claim at the covered rate, which is 80%, and by the way while they are looking, it appears the hospital claimed I was there for one extra day than I was, so can I contact them about that because they're not covering that, and I knew this wasn't going to be easy but my head is spinning and by the way this is a human being telling me this stuff, not an Empire-designed torture bot. An actual human talks this way. And I'm just thinking, if I hadn't called, if I was some addled senior just writing checks and clicking on ad banners, I probably would have sent Pacwest Anesthesia $850, I wouldn't even have called.

    Some cinema:

  • Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. I was enamored of this Steve Martin flick when it made the rounds on cable even though I couldn't quite understand at first how they were sampling the film noirs. Now that I see it again I think the bends and absurd turns they subject the plot to in order to incorporate Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Ray Milland, of course Bogey, Veronica Lake, etc., are HILARIOUS. A prison scene with Martin posing as Jimmy Cagney's mother is hysterical. You have to see it to understand how that comes about - and also why Rigby Rearden has a phobia about... CLEANING WOMEN.

  • Darjeeling Express. On the Wes Anderson scale, somewhere between "Life Aquatic" and "Tenenbaums" - but even though the movie meanders a bit on its way across India, these guys - Owen Wilson, Schwartzman, Brody and of course Anderson himself - are apparently so sweet-natured that I'd rather follow one of their laminated itineraries than take a more direct journey with lots of other guys. I think you ought to see it.

  • E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. What I noticed this time is basically what I caught last time: how amazing Henry Thomas was, and I wonder why he doesn't work more. Also, E.T. is still the best mechanical effect in the history of the movies. It even feels weird calling him a "mechanical effect" because I don't want to hurt his feelings. I can't believe that someone knew that such a misshapen creature would come across so sweetly.

    This time I had the privilege to watch it in the company of a little girl in our family. She was mostly non-verbal during her visit with us but as the credits rolled on "E.T." she looked at me and said, "Good ending."

    Posted by Chris at 2:55 PM
  • October 25, 2007
    I'm cheating on this site

    ... with another site, Facebook. It seems to be like MySpace, with about 80% less retardation. I also put these mini-reviews there:

    Lust, Caution. This was gorgeous but about a half hour too long. Regardless of how the short story is structured, the flashback method wasn't needed. In fact it would have been better to see Wong Chia Chi grow from a schoolgirl into a spy without any glance at the future.

    Tang Wei is fantastic - but for a movie that featured a pretty girl in a lot of naked scenes, it's Tony Leung's performance that made the biggest impression. And he does not even have the majority of scenes. I've seen him be soulful, I've seen him be charming, but I've never seen him exude the complicated menace he does here.

    Probably for big Ang Lee fans only, but after his last few movies, that should be a lot of people.

    Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters. Probably for fans only, but then that's true of the whole series, and maybe all of Adult Swim. I was in the low part of my ATHF Interest Sine Wave when I saw this (It was Video-On-Demanded one night out of boredom), and it took me right up to the top again. Like The Simpsons Movie, it is a mega-episode, not some transcendent movie like Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, but I recommend for the VOD crowd.

    3:10 to Yuma. Westerns are like musicals, I feel like I should see them and support a genre gamely trying to resurrect itself when they come around. Sometimes you get something wretched like "The Proposition" but sometimes you get "Unforgiven."

    3:10 is a very good movie for actors like Christian Bale and Logan Lerman (Bale's son in the movie), but Russell Crowe and Gretchen Mol seemed to be in a slightly different acting mode that detracts from the show. Bale seems willing, for instance, to make his teeth look authentically bad for the period, while Crowe and Mol seem like they are between projects of interest to them.

    Well, that's not fair to Crowe. He is a fantastic actor, but here he's allowed to portray a gentleman outlaw when what is needed is something harder and more brutal. We've seen him do this before, but it's not on display here. He gets his hands bloody only once, and when he says he's not a nice guy, it's not believable - he's compelling and likeable. There is a pivotal action sequence at the end that is just not believable; nor is a scene where Crowe's bad guy is allowed to dine with Bale's family.

    Also: I think Peter Fonda has moved into a status of elder actor statesmen where I don't want to see him killed or brutalized.

    Then there is Ben Foster. He excels at being relentlessly creepy - perhaps too much. A good director would throw him some comedy to make sure he comes off like a human, not a complete alien.

    30 Days of Night. Another great example of Foster bringing on way too much of the creepy. Not that his part in this movie - some sort of Cajun variation on Renfield - SHOULDN'T be creepy, it's just... all we ever see from him. Do he and Brad Dourif and Crispin Glover just hang out in all-night diners and glower?

    I have not yet read the graphic novel, but I like a vampire movie that makes the brave choice not to have their undead be sexy goth superheroes. The vampire erotica sub-sub-genre is so tired, and this was a fresh take. These vampires were predatory creatures that had some glimmer of humanity, but not much.

    Maybe I'll understand the omissions better when I read the book, but the movie felt like it was missing key scenes in the action. One minute there is a tense bit of cat-and-mouse between the heroes and vampires, the next we are in the midst of a full-out attack (in a well-done helicopter shot of Main Street) by the vampires. A few characters disappear offscreen and are barely noted in passing. Not sure if several connecting scenes were left on the editing room floor or in the writer's word processor, but it was disorienting.

    If the story involves a group of characters hiding in a claustrophobic setting for a period, I think the drama and dialogue needs to be tight and perfect - it should play almost like theatre. Some chances are missed there. Unlike some others, I think Hartnett was a fine lead for this sort of thing - and casting Danny Huston as the head vampire was inspired.

    The movie is not perfect but as a major horror fan I was grateful for what it accomplished.

    Hilarity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQd0ELH7SNI

    Posted by Chris at 10:36 AM
    October 24, 2007
    Updated fire map...

    For as long as it works...


    Posted by Chris at 10:31 AM
    October 22, 2007

    Sometime around Saturday night the state I lived in sort of spontaneously combusted. The one closest to us is the Malibu Canyon Fire - but that's miles and miles away and I can't even see any smoke from it over here in unfashionable West L.A.:

    View Larger Map

    I got a call from Mom at 7:30 AM Sunday asking if we were OK. That was the first I heard of it. I'm not sure how long Google's interactive fire map will be around, but it's the only source I've seen for where and how contained they all are; for that matter I'm not sure how long the items referenced on the map will be around either.

    Posted by Chris at 8:17 PM
    October 19, 2007
    The Agency of Failure

    Someone help me out - is there any agency in existence that is as much of a failure as the TSA? Maybe FEMA?

    To walk through security at any American airport is like walking through an interactive history of their screw-ups. Take your shoes off - remember when we let that guy on with a shoe bomb? Put all your liquids in a small ziploc - remember that time we let those guys come on and start mixing chemicals? No lighters, knitting needles, no nail-files or clippers - remember that time we let those guys on an FBI watch-list fly, and started World War III?

    And instead of people getting fired, they just heap the problem back on the passengers with absurd and useless security theatre.

    As suspected, not only is everything they do just an annoying waste of time, it's also mostly worthless:

    Most fake bombs missed by screeners

    I think it's a safe bet that this latest revelation will be celebrated by adding yet another angle to the stately kabuki through security.

    Posted by Chris at 12:15 PM
    October 18, 2007
    The Precious Paradigm

    Here's where I am in the process now: The screenplay is like Tony Soprano and I am Dr. Melfi, at the point where she's given up on him. I know now my patient is just a sociopath that can never be helped. I am sure it has killed people, and I've personally witnessed it defacing my waiting-room magazines by tearing out articles. I'm only continuing out of professional pride.

    I turn to guru Syd Field's books so that I can study up on the precious Screenplay Paradigm, the three-act diagram that is sort of mercenary but actually helps to focus things a bit. Syd, it doesn't help to read of Act II Mid-Points that they occur "in the Middle of Act II, about page 60, and it is an incident, episode, or event that breaks Act II down into two basic units of dramatic action; the First Half of Act I, and the Second Half of Act II. And it is the Mid-Point that connects these two parts of Act II. It is a link in the chain of dramatic action."

    Syd, this geometrical definition of where the Mid-Point comes couldn't be more general and vague. Add a few thees and thous and you could get work with the Old Testament, if it were still hiring. Examples. EXAMPLES. I need examples. I could use a whole book of examples. And stop using Witness.

    It does not bode well that about 1/3rd of the way through draft 3 I want only to completely begin again, only I don't because I'm so damn sick of it.

    Posted by Chris at 4:54 PM
    I wish I were Nip n' Tuck!

    Could anyone be MORE glamorous than Nip n' Tuck, striding into Los Angeles in their new ads? Who's sexier than Nip n' Tuck looking down at an erotic naked angel who - ouch! - needs her wings sewn back on? Answer: No one.

    These guys are so cool they are like THREE Fonzies. No need to get change for the jukebox, Nip n' Tuck will just hit it with their sexy fists. I see these ads and I think: It's going to be sexy parties all the time when Nip n' Tuck get here! Right after Lauren Hutton tells them (twice in the ad I saw) How It Is in This Town.

    Not sure that I mentioned it, but I had another boat test. The boat is in the same "class" as the one we were taking out, although two feet longer (It's a Hunter 31'), and - most importantly - at a whole different sailing club. So I had to find out if my boat skilz would transfer into the real world, away from the one place I'd learned and rented. And apparently they do - although thank God the instructor didn't count off for the way I Forrest Gumped my way through figuring out the electrical system.

    Here's a game you can play online for free, if you're tired of getting things done and reading and meeting people: http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/404612

    Posted by Chris at 4:39 PM