Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Mystery of Who Shot JR Finally Solved!

(Not really)

I spent last week in Dallas, celebrating Thanksgiving with my wonderful wife's wonderful family, and at the same time managed to probably watch more movies and do more reading that I typically do in a couple months. So, I thought I'd do a quick run-down of what I saw and read... and what I thought of it.

A couple weeks a go, at a function with my coworkers, Copywriter Dan™ introduced me to a magazine called Stop Smiling: The Magazine for High-Minded Lowlifes.

After leafing through a few of his issues, I was intrigued enough that I picked up one for the flight to Dallas. And, while I might need to pick a few more issues before I pass my final verdict, I have to say it might be my New Favorite Magazine of All-Time™. The issue I brought with me was dedicated entirely to interviews (each issue has a theme),including Tom Waits, RZA, Cat Power, Questlove, Joan Didion, Feist, Sparklehorse, and a dozen others. The whole issue was fascinating, and I literally ended up reading it cover to cover.

Burning a few hours at my wife's mom's house, we threw in her copy of Under the Tuscan Sun. The movie was in one word: charming. Though at times obnoxiously so. I'm pretty sure that the version of Italy depicted in the movie only exists in the minds of Rick Steve's fans who have never actually traveled themselves. But still, it was harmless and (as I said) charming. It was a light and easy way to pass a couple hours.

We also made a trip to the Modern Art Museum in Forth Worth. The museum itself is an elegant and impressive structure, with a visually amazing pool surrounding the back side of it. And, in addition, we got to take in the lush and creative photography of Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Sugimoto's oversized black and white photos depict ethereal seascapes, glowing cinemas and wax recreations of historic royalty. His work is both intellectually compelling and visually hypnotic. I highly recommend checking it out, if it ever shows in your area.

I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the new Denzel Washington movie, Deja Vu. I'm not a fan of Tony Scott as a director, and I didn't know anything about the movie going in. The first 30 minutes or so had me rolling my eyes at the storyline: Denzel investigating the terrorist bombing of a ferry loaded with children and off-duty soldiers in the city of (are you ready for this) New Orleans. But, after that initial clunky first third, the movie switches gears and becomes a surprisingly creative time-travel movie. I'd recommend the movie for no other reason than the unique car chase sequence that occurs about halfway through it. It's a set up so unique that I can literally say I haven't ever seen anything like it.

I also got to see the new James Bond movie, Casino Royale too. Or at least I got to see most of it, since we missed the first 15 minutes or so (which apparently features the movies best action sequence). Still, even having missed the intro, I have to say that I thought it was one of the strongest Bond flicks ever. And, Daniel Craig is now probably my second favorite Bond, second only to Sean Connery. It's not just an excellent Bond film, it’s also a solid spy film on its own. And, thanks to it, I'm currently obsessing over all things James Bond.

In addition to Stop Smiling, I finished reading Jennifer Government by Max Barry. A friend of mine had recommended it to me after reading my NaNoWriMo novel from a couple years ago. When I saw that one of the main characters names was "Hack" I was prepared for a bunch of eye-rolling, cyber-punk clich├ęs but I have to admit I was very pleasantly surprised. Barry weaves an intricate tale about a half dozen different individuals living a near future run by all-powerful, mega-corporations. And he manages it to do it with enough color, humor and action that the story never takes itself overly seriously or gets bogged down in any high minded self-righteousness. Instead, it’s a literal page turner and a very fun read.

Finally, I also saw Helen Mirrem in the Queen. After all the gun fights and explosions from Deja Vu and Casino Royale, the understated nature of the Queen was a breath of fresh air. And, it also helped that the true life story was compelling, and that pretty much every actor and actress delivered an excellent performance.

So, yeah, I read a lot and watched a lot. Luckily, pretty much all of it was great. Unfortunately, I have to return to work and reality tomorrow.

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