oscar predictions: 2009

February 23, 2009 at 2:15 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I’ve been a movie nerd as long as i can remember. I subscribed to Premiere magazine throughout my young teens and was a charter subscriber to entertainment weekly. even so, the filmic interests of 14-year-old boys, with only rare exceptions, align with the films the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences tends to select for recognition. As a result, i never paid much attention to the Oscars growing up. Then, in college, when my movie nerd-dom turned into movie snobbery, the outrageous snubs of some of the seminal indie films of the early 90’s turned me firmly against the Oscars.

HOWEVER, in 2001, my friend Dan invited me to watch the Oscars projected on the big screen at one of Portland’s local theater-pubs. My first couple of years on Portland i didn’t have many friends, but kept busy going to 2-3 movies or more a week, so i’d seen most of the nominees, and i had a blast. Just sitting in a theater for four hours, drinking a couple of pitchers of beer, and listening to the crowd, where groups of people would take sides (that first year there was a group that seemed devastated when willem dafoe lost for shadow of the vampire) became an annual tradition. I still didn’t care who won, but it was just a fun night out, and one of the things i miss most about Portland. I tried to put together an Oscar party last year, but none of my friends out here give a shit, or don’t want to stay out late on a Sunday, so the last couple of years have been disappointing.

Going into yesterday, the only best picture nominee i’d seen this year was benjamin button [after fight club and se7en, i’d watch two hours of film stock david fincher had farted on if he put it out (though i suppose that was essentially panic room)], so when i remembered AMC Theaters’ Best Picture Showcase was going on yesterday, i jumped in. $25 for all you can eat popcorn, and five movies in a row from 10:30A-11:30P. I really enjoyed the experience, though it’ll be a while before i ever eat popcorn again, and i would definitely do it again. The theater was full, but not packed, and pretty uniformly white, 20s-30s nerds, which i was worried about because the Kips Bay theater, and sub-$10 movie deals in general tend to attract an element that either doesn’t see films very often or know how to behave in a theater or the elderly who talk, snore, and generally treat the theater like their living room. As evidence of how white bread the crowd was, allow me to submit that by the time the last film started, the theater had run out of Diet Coke.

quick impressions:
Milk – best of the five. i generally don’t care for biopics, if i wanted to believe in a fake version of history i’d be a republican, but i think a combination of gus van sant’s integrity, talent and passion for the project along with the out sized nature of the subject meant that they kept embellishment to a minimum. imdb says they shot in the actual storefront and apartment milk owned and lived in. outstanding acting from everyone, and most over-sentimental at all. though slumdog is the favorite, i think the message of hope and the parallel prop 8 debate might sway the academy
Reader – i just did not get into this movie. i thought it was terrible and i can’t even believe it was produced. the characters are so wooden and lacking in nuance, winslet is just a prop to hang the plot on, with no personality outside, i just didn’t get it.
Benjamin Button – life was too short to sleep through this piece of crap again. but it was beautifully shot, which is why i think the academy will give fincher the win.
Slumdog Millionaire – while it was a little over-precious in parts, i liked the concept and overall it was a fun indie genre film. but not the best movie of the year by any means, and i thought dev patel was actually bad in it, his performance was entirely one note, staring is not an emotion.
Frost/Nixon – i really enjoyed it, but there was way too much conjecture and embellishment for a biopic for my tastes. i suppose criticizing it for being too entertaining is missing the point, but so be it. langella was great, but thought kevin bacon was incredible too.

oh, and wall.e was the best american movie of the year.

My Oscar predictions:
(and i should note these are in no way an endorsement of the academy’s selections but a combination of wishful thinking and pragmatic guesswork to divine the mindset of the academy)

Best Motion Picture of the Year
# Milk (2008/I) – Dan Jinks; Bruce Cohen

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
# Wrestler, The (2008) – Mickey Rourke

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
# Rachel Getting Married (2008) – Anne Hathaway (I)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
# Dark Knight, The (2008) – Heath Ledger

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
# Doubt (2008/I) – Viola Davis (I)

Best Achievement in Directing
# Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The (2008) – David Fincher

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
# WALL·E (2008) – Andrew Stanton (I) (screenplay/story); Jim Reardon (I) (screenplay); Pete Docter (story)

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
# Frost/Nixon (2008) – Peter Morgan (I)

Best Achievement in Cinematography
# Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The (2008) – Claudio Miranda (II)


my year at the movies 2008

January 5, 2009 at 12:12 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Since 2007, I have kept track of each movie I see over the year, along with assorted details of the screening. In 2008, I saw 118 movies (up 32 from 2007). 46 were in the theater, almost half, 57, were at home (a significant rise over last year’s 23 (27%), influenced by the purchase, in January, of a television and digital cable dvr), and 14 at work (i now work in television and have directv and a dvd player at my desk). I would estimate I spent about $360 going to the theater in 2008 (roughly equivalent to what I spent in 2007). Of the films I saw in the theater, I paid full price for 27, saw 12 matinees, snuck into 4 and saw 3 at the Tribeca Film Festival. The most significant difference between 2007 and 2008 is in advance screenings, where I saw only one this year, compared to 8 in 2007 — steady employment likely being a factor there. I saw 17 films opening weekend, and almost of third of the films I saw were repeat viewings (likely influenced, again, by cable).

Of the 46 films I watched in the theater, 78% I went to alone, though the matinees (AMC only charges $6 for movies before noon on Sat/Sun, and Kips Bay is a 10 minute walk from home) account for a third of that. On July 23rd, for some reason, I watched four unconnected movies at home. I watched only 10 movies on DVD, but 7 on the internet. I watched I [heart] Huckabees twice (IFC plays it a lot), and I saw The Big Lebowski about four times, but it is not counted in the list, because it is so re-watchable.


My favorite movie I saw in 2008 was a norwegian film, reprise. it’s about two friends who each submit manuscripts, how their success and setbacks influence them, but it’s also about talent, and growing out of youthful ambition, missed opportunities and self-doubt. It was funny and sad and elegiac, had great music, was solidly photographed and excellently acted. It’s not for everyone, but it struck a chord with me. The trailer isn’t the best sell for the movie, but it would honestly be hard for me to cut together something that represents the whole of what it is.

The best new-to-me movie I saw this year, (and I really don’t watch many foreign films, it just happened this way), was a 2004 german film called the edukators about these two guys who break into rich people’s houses and move their stuff around, leaving ominous notes. And then there’s a girl and then a love triangle, and things spin out from there. But again, it’s about holding on to youthful ideals and how one mistake in judgment can completely unbalance a life. It starts out kind of obvious, but the characters are tested through the course of the film, and its interesting to see where they are by the end. The trailer is not recommended.

The best documentary I saw this year was loudquietloud: a pixies documentary, because they are all completely themselves and you realize they are all completely nuts, except for joey santiago (the other guitar player), who is the most normal guy in the world.

Other movies that have stuck with me this year were: The Wrestler, Dark Knight (might have been the best, but it was overlong and underwritten, too epic for itself, and the growl?), wall.e, Tell No One, Control, and There Will Be Blood. The worst movie-going experience I had this year was Hamlet 2, which i’d been looking forward to because I really like Steve Coogan , and it was an early screening with a Q&A with him, but the guy sitting next to me must have been a shill because he laughed loudly and conspicuously at every line or double-take which could possibly have been considered a joke. It didn’t seem very funny to begin with, but that douchebag ruined for me. Other awful movies this year: Babylon AD, Star Wars: Clone Wars, X-Files II. Biggest disappointments of the year: Be Kind Rewind, Jumper (loved the book), Leatherheads, Choke, Tropic Thunder, Religulous, The CC of B. Button.

view the full list with ODC-level coding on my google spreadsheet


October 18, 2008 at 6:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

while it doesn’t really hang together well as an independent narrative, it is more than a string of reenactments. except for a few sarcastic music cues, more even-handed than one might have expected. certainly not essential viewing, but worthwhile if you’re a political junkie. everyone is great, but thandie newton does an amazing condi. ::: B+

salmon janet evening

October 14, 2008 at 12:56 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

so it goes without saying the most delicious way to prepare fresh salmon is on a grill, preferably with smoking wood chips, ideally bubbling away in some lemon juice, butter and dill. However, in the city, it is only a privileged few with a balcony or roof enough for a grill who may enjoy grilled salmon at home. i grilled a lot in portland, even when i was only cooking for myself, but since moving to nyc, the only time i get to grill is when i’m back in michigan, or, more recently, when i invite myself out to my friend liza’s place in red hook. i’ve tried pan frying salmon, but i’ve never hit the right combination of sear and flavor that really made it worth the effort. until now. adapting a recipe from the williams-sonoma website, it worked really well.

Pan-Seared-and-Poached Salmon

1/2 tsp. salt
2 salmon fillets, each about 1/3 lb. and 1/2 inch thick, skinless
freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp dill
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. water

Sprinkle the salt in a wide, heavy fry pan and place over medium-high heat until nearly smoking. Add the salmon fillets and sear for 2 minutes on one side. Turn and sear for 1 minute on the other side, making sure to shake the pan so any salt left in the pan coats the raw side of the salmon. Season with the pepper. Reduce the heat to low, then pour in the white wine, lemon juice and dill. Cover and cook until the juices are nearly absorbed and the fish is halfway cooked, about 3 minutes. If you’ve forgotten to turn the heat down when you put the wine in, it’s probably done by now. Uncover and pour in the water. Re-cover and cook just until the fish flakes easily with a fork, about 3 minutes more. If the the pan juices will have been absorbed or if you want more sauce, add more lemon and water, turn heat to high, let them boil down until syrupy, maybe add milk, cream or butter if you want a white sauce. Pour the pan juices evenly over the fish and serve.

it was the best pan-seared salmon i’ve ever made. a combination of searing and poaching, gave it a nice crust and perfect moisture. i wish i’d taken a picture too, because it looked amazing. kind of like this:

where have you been?

October 5, 2008 at 3:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

so i read the article in the times a few weeks ago about facebook, twitter and kids these days and it made me want to give these things a shot. i’ve been reading about twitter for months now, but i never really understood what it did, only that people complained about it being down all the time. and i had signed up for a facebook account about six months ago to stalk exes, but quickly dropped it when i realized the only useful application of a social networking site, finding out more about people without them realizing you’re there, is completely unavailable in facebook. in the hopes that peer pressure would keep up interest, i talked my brother and sister-in-law into signing up for twitter with me. and while i haven’t twittered every day (unlike courtney, who’s averaging about three a day, and was born to twitter), i frankly forgot all about blogging on this site. i also linked my “tweets” to my facebook status updates, and despite having a basic profile for six months where i got maybe total three friend requests, all of a sudden, i got 20 requests in a day. but most of them are people from high school who i’m not certain i would have friended when i was in high school. so i’ve made up some rules:

1. people i’ve spoken with in the last two years.
2. people i know or used to know that live in the same city as me.
3. people i’ve had sex with.

so anyway, now i’m back on the blog. but also twitter. and i’ve got a face page. still not updating the other blog though. or the other other blog.

infinite blindness of the eagle eye

October 5, 2008 at 1:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

i was really excited about seeing blindness this weekend. i’m a bit of a sucker for dystopian thrillers and with the quality work spanish directors have been putting out, i was looking forward to this year’s children of men. i had even strenuously avoided all the commercials and reviews, closing my eyes and humming whenever they came on, so i wanted to see it as soon as possible to avoid catching any spoilers. so despite staying out in queens until 2 last night, i made it to the 10:40am matinee at kips bay this morning (movies at amc theaters are only $6 before noon on weekends).

[SPOLIERS] it was not good. it wasn’t terrible, but it focused much of its running time on probably the least interesting part of a global blindness pandemic, the breakdown of society in a quarantine filled with early victims. the events in the last half-hour seemed like a meatier opportunity for larger messages, but were probably too expensive for them to do much with. apparently the book divides its time more evenly between the two parts, and the movie certainly could have used less quarantine. the director did use an interesting style for the camerawork in blurring scenes out of focus, allowing the camera to drift or for actors to move into empty frames. and all of the blind action was convincing, the actors must have all been well-bruised from banging into things by the end of the shoot.

so anyway, i decided amc owed me another movie for my disappointment, and i’ve been interested in seeing eagle eye. first of all, because i’m slightly fascinated by shia lebouf. i can’t think of anything he’s been in where his cute-but-nerdy-trying-to-be-cool-but-failing-adorably-and-taking-too-much shtick improved the film, he makes me feel old though, i feel like he’s a movie star for a younger generation, and that kids today see something that i just don’t get. that he’s a reflection of some zeitgeist that i’m no longer in touch with. blah blah blah, i also want to say that he’s the patrick swayze of this generation, in that he’s someone that people outside a certain generational split have no appreciation for. the alaogy falls apart in that swayze had an obvious talent for the dance, whereas shia has demonstrated no such unique abilities. oh and second of all, i hadn’t planned on ever seeing disturbia, but i caught it on hbo and couldn’t turn it off. though that may have been partially due to the way the director and costume designers fucked sarah roemer with the camera. and eagle eye is also displacing dark knight in many imax theaters (at least for a couple of months) and i was curious to see how it measured up.

shia lebouf is a great actor

anyway, eagle eye didn’t start for another hour, but nick and norah’s infinite playlist started in 30 minutes, so i snuck into that. and it was alright. setting aside for now the debate of whether michael cera’s shtick is getting old, since moving to new york, i’ve developed a soft spot for films set in the city, recognizing locations and streets. i did pretty good in devil wears prada and even the new york scenes in the last bourne film. nick and norah was really easy to recognize because it takes place almost entirely in les/east village. i haven’t liked kat dennings in either of the things i’ve seen her in [she was one of my least favorite parts of 40-year-old virgin (of which, incidentally, there are many)], but she did great in this, if her character was more than a little underwritten, arguably qualifying as a manic pixie dreamgirl. at any rate it was a cute, light, teen comedy that i’m glad i didn’t spend $12 on.

so by the time i got out of N’n’NIP, another screening of eagle eye was starting, and i figured why not? so i walked into that, and it was completely ridiculous. please, dear reader, never see it. i don’t know if i was dizzy from having marathoned three such colossally different narratives, or if the story really made no sense. but any time you’re weaving a tale of identical twins, harmonically activated crystal explosives, the state of the union and sentient AIs, i kept expecting nicolas cage to pop up. it seems like exactly the sort of thing he’d be in these days.

i do double features all the time, especially now that movies usually cost $12, but i haven’t pulled a triple-feature in years. It’s kind of self-defeating… you generally pay to see what you want to see first, but by the time you get through the other two you’ve forgotten about the first. and all that sitting can be rough, but there’s a lot coming out in the next couple of weeks i want to see (religulous, dubya, rachel getting married, city of ember, let the right one in), so i’m glad i got these out of the way.

so just to remind you all, i do keep track of every movies i’ve seen in 2008

come on!

September 17, 2008 at 12:52 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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does this hat really look that ridiculous? i don’t normally wear hats, i have a huge head and i think hats normally do look weird on me, but i tried this one on last week, and i liked it. i didn’t take a shower this morning, so i wore the hat to work and all day people kept commenting on it. to the point where i’m pretty sure it looked ridiculous.

then again, people don’t normally wear hats in my office. and i normally wear a collared shirt (though i am certainly not required to). i suppose maybe that’s where it came from.

there is this ad agency on the second floor of my building, and everybody hates them. partially because they only go one floor up, and partially because they uniformly look like shallow, young, designery assholes. i nicknamed them “deucebags” and you can totally tell even before they hit the button who they are. i would guess i am 8 for 10 in picking deucebags. those guys would wear hats all day at work.

i’m giving myself a pass though. the weather finally turned, summer is over. we’re back into sweater weather and i could not be happier.

i’ve kissed mermaids, rode the el nino

September 12, 2008 at 1:06 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments


September 6, 2008 at 7:19 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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i didn’t really have any plans for friday night. I knew i was going to go out saturday night and I organized a small bbq sunday, so i didn’t want to spend too much money. I’d been thinking lately about my new year’s resolutions, among them to spend more time in chinatown, (at least enough to know my way around efficiently and to tour visitors); and to go to a Staten Island Yankees game. well, friday was the last regular season SI Yanks game, it was sold out and i couldn’t find any tickets on craigslist. So i decided i’d go down to chinatown, find a seafood market and buy some shrimp. i’d walked through chinatown last weekend, and noticed that some of the seafood markets were super cheap, but i didn’t have the wherewithal to pick anything up then. i did a little researchy-poo online, found a couple of places well-recommended on chowhound and went down to check them out. the first place, tan my my, had about half their fish already packed away for the night. it was also right off canal on mulberry, and i’m always suspect of places so close to canal, it’s so touristy i feel like they’ve got to be cutting some corners to make the rent. and then when i turned around and was waiting for the light, i saw a peach fall off a sidewalk fruit stand, roll in the street halfway down the block, one of the vendors walked over, picked up the peach, and put it right back in the pile. for my readers unfamiliar with the streets of chinatown, they are disgusting. i probably wouldn’t pick up money if i dropped it in the streets of chinatown. anyway, i headed on up to hong keung, the better-reviewed market at grand and bowery. it was great. they had a vegetable market outside and then inside there was a meat market on one side and a seafood market on the other side. the meat market, unsurprisingly, had packages of just about every disembodied part of a chicken or duck available.

keung hong

they had about eight varieties of shrimp (some with the heads still on), all kinds of fish on ice, live fish swimming underneath the displays and about 4 lobster tanks in the back. most people were buying whole fish and having the guys there fillet it. the most expensive shrimp were $9, the lobster was around $8. i bought a pound of 21 count sea tiger shrimp for just less than $7. these are shrimp that would cost $13/lb or more in any supermarket around me. i’m almost embarrassed at how giddy i was to actually go into one of those crazy chinatown markets, find what i wanted and walk out happy. after that i walked down to pathmark because i was in the neighborhood but it was ridiculously overcrowded, so i caught the 15 and went home.

once home, i prepared the shrimp in my grandfather’s traditional way:

Grandpa’s Shrimp
1 lb of shrimp, with shells
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp mustard powder
¼ cup dry sherry
Dash salt
Dash pepper
1/2 tsp. dry parsley
Dash paprika
Lemon juice
1 T Butter

1. Get a bowl, a plate, a medium frying pan and a sieve. rinse off the shrimp and put them in the plate. clean the shrimp, putting the shells and tails in the frying pan and the shrimp in the bowl.

2. add the butter to the pan with the shells and put over medium-high heat. once the butter melts, toss the shells and fry until they a brown, roasty and aromatic but certainly not burned.
3. reduce heat to medium, add the sherry and let the alcohol burn off, add ½ cup water, lemon juice, mustard powder, dry parsley paprika, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cook the shrimp shells in skillet until the broth is reduced to a few tbsp.
4. while the broth is reducing, devein the shrimp by taking a knife with serrated and slicing a 1/16 deep inch down the middle of the back of the shrimp. Some will have a thin vein filled with black goo, remove this, put the shrimp in the sieve and wipe blade on a paper towel. some shrimp will not have a visible vein, particularly higher-quality farm-raised shrimp are starved a few days before harvest to eliminate waste, they should still be split as this will ensure even cooking and more attractive texture and appearance. rinse the shrimp and put them back on the plate.

5. Place the bowl under the sieve in the sink, scrape the pan clean of the shells and broth and using a rubber scraper, press the shells and toss to get as much broth from them as you can. using as little water as possible, rinse the shells over the bowl to get still more broth. discard the shells.
6. return the broth to the pan and return the pan to medium heat reduce until thick, syrupy, about 1/4 inch left in pan. if you reduce it too much, simply add more water.

7. lay shrimp in the broth, in batches if necessary, and cook lightly on each side, just until edges are pink – DO NOT OVERCOOK. it’s been my experience, they are done before you think they are done. remove to clean serving bowl. continue reducing broth until very thick and pour over the shrimp. Best prepared a day ahead, will keep in fridge for 3-4 days.
8. our traditional accompaniment is a sauce of one part ketchup, one part mayonnaise and a couple of dashes of worcestershire sauce along with saltines.

i’ve been eating these shrimp about every two weeks lately, it is a time-consuming recipe but the results are very impressive. the recipe works best with the more you make. the thing is, at the prices in GRIPS, and the preportioned packages you get, it gets expensive. and yes, I know i can buy the flash frozen packages at Trader Joes, but they rarely have the 21 count at the TJs near me, and i’m not very good at thawing things.

i’ll take some pictures the next time i make them. which will be soon.

…aaand i’m back.

August 23, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

hello friends, family and stalkers, sorry i’ve been out for so long, it’s been a crazy year. i got a job that i love, my roommate died, i got kicked out of the apartment, lost 10 pounds, found a new apartment, bought my first television (37″ LCD), gained 20 pounds, surprised my brother in columbus on his 30th birthday, dated a girl 10 years younger than me, bought my first video game console (ps3), found a racquetball partner who promptly moved to china, visited montreal and deflowered my passport, went to my grandmother’s funeral, and got a raise at my job that i love.

so… it’s been a hell of a year. it certainly would have been nice to have had a record of my thoughts in that time. i have meant to pick this blog up again many times, but i simply never did. that i do now has nothing to do with the (near) anniversary of the last time i posted here, but i have honestly been a little bored with my life lately. so if i’m going to do nothing, then i have time to write. but i also believe that writing regularly will get me out and doing things.

anyway. it’s good to be back.

i will also return to updating my link blog, quarterempty.com. so check that out.

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