Monday, December 31, 2012

Funniest film of 2012: This is 40 by Judd Apatow

We saw five films this last week: The Guilt Trip (Barbra Streisand/Seth Rogan), Parental Guidance (Billy Crystal/Bette Midler/Marisa Tomei/Tom Everett Scott), Argo (Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Tate Donovan, Victor Garber, Chris Messina, Bryan Cranston and Alan Arkin), and finally, the funniest movie in 2012 (IMHO), This is 40, (Paul Rudd/Leslie Mann/Melissa McCarthy/Albert Brooks/John Lithgow/Megan Fox/Jason Segel/Chris O'Dowd).

The film was produced, written, directed by Judd Apatow, of Bridesmaids (producer), Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, among many successful movies.

I think this film was remarkable on many levels. First, the script. Even though it chronicles of a white privileged couple in LA with very priveledged lives, compared to the ruinous world most of live in, I still found the film to be something I could relate to (even though I'm now 50) and very erudite.

This film is so funny because of the talents of the two leads (as well as Apatow's
script and direction). Paul Rudd (the most under-lauded actor on the planet in my opinion and a total hottie) and Leslie Mann. This was perfect casting because both actors have consummate comedic timing and a great onscreen chemistry. They carry this movie with a cast of supporting brilliant actors.

The movie is the story of Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Mann) who are celebrating their 40th birthdays in the same week. They have two daughters (brilliantly acted by Appatow's daughters) and a number of mounting adult problems all very timely whether you are poor or previously rich: debt, flagging careers, serious in-law challenges, mortgage payments in arrears, amongst many others. The movie shows both the strength of the marriage but also the weaknesses of the marriage, which by the movie's end almost breaks them up.

I must say that there were moments that I was in gut-wrenching tears laughing. There are so many brilliant bon mots:

Question: "What's the difference between a gay man's beard and a straight man's beard. Answer: "The smell."

I HOWL just writing this.

There have been many funny films this year. Perhaps the one that I think truly is a close second to This Is 40 was the brilliant Bernie (Jack Black/Shirley MacLaine) which is a faux documentary film that uses real-life people from the original story and incorporates actors who play the leads (Black and McLaine and Matthew McConaughey who hails from the state of Texas). Perhaps, I appreciated the humor even more so because I am a former Texan. Anyone from Texas can enjoy the film, though. Although sometimes Texans lack the ability to have any sense of humor about themselves and their beloved state.

Besides Jack Black who has an amazing singing voice and La McClaine, this movie succeeds and is most humorous because of the real-life town of Carthage, Texas characters who are interviewed. Most them are also stars of the movie because of their unique Texan eccentricities. My favorite line is:

"Anyone in town would 'ave shot 'er for five dollars."
I simply adore this character.

Go see This Is 40. And rent Bernie.

Another honorable mention in comedy was TED. I can't believe that I enjoyed this film because it has so much scatological, straight boy humor, which I normally find repulsive. But I truly laughed throughout the movie.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

ARGO with Ben Affleck: one of this year's best films

I went to see Argo this week. It is at this point the best film I've seen this year, however, I have yet to have see some of the other front-runner, like Lincoln or Les Miserables.

This film is not the type of film I usually go to or enjoy, because these films can be very intense and nerve-wracking. I don't mind sadness, I don't mind dark or esoteric films. I want to be transported out of my own dreary existence when I watch a movie.But being nervous isn't my idea of an alternative state. Thus, I typically shun testosterone films.

But Argo is just so damned good, in every way that I have to rave about it (good script, good directing, good performances, good casting, fascinating and riveting story) because it transcended my usual dislike for "thrillers". I hate to even use that term because it really is so much more than the typical thriller. So much more and so much better.
If you didn't already know it, the movie was produced by (along with George Clooney), directed by, and stars Ben Affleck. It is a complete virtosity of multi-tasking and talent.

The movie also includes an all-star cast including: John Goodman, Tate Donovan, Victor Garber, Chris Messina, Bryan Cranston and the most ubiquitous actor of the year, Alan Arkin.

The movie is loosely based on the true story about six staff members who escape the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979 when the compound was stormed by Iranians and the 54 staff members were taken and held hostage for 444 days. These lucky staff members who escaped capture were working in the embassy's visa applications offices which opened directly onto a street. They were able to escape easily, unlike the hostages who were in more remote locations on the embassy compound. They find refuge at the Canadian Ambassador to Iran's private residence.

Ben Affleck portrays Tony Mendes the CIA agent who was assigned to devise and execute the harrowing responsibility of rescuing the six staff member from the Canadian Ambassador's residence and then getting them out of the country. This story is so extraordinary.

Affleck delivers a performance that is as masterful and nuanced, similar to George Clooney's performance in last year's The Descendants. Affleck certainly deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Actor and Best Director and the film will most assuredly be nominated for Best Picture, at the very least (although I suspect Affleck will be nominated only for Best Director). It currently has four Golden Globe nominations (Best Picture - Drama, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Arkin).

This is such an entertaining and intelligent film. Don't miss it. I also should say that another of my favorite movies this year, surprisingly, was Skyfall. Two non-chick flick favorites in one year for me....that's unprecedented.

Oh, and "Argo Fuck Yourself" (see the's utterly charming in this movie the use of my favorite work "fuck").  Best line of the decade!

As an aside, I should mention how fantastically good-looking Affleck is in this film. He has a shirtless scene which displays what is one of the best hairy chests in Hollywood (and under seen), in my opinion. He is simply magnificent looking in this movie, especially his full, dark beard. He is complete eye-candy every moment he is on screen, despite that his character smokes (which true for the time--I did the same thing in the late 70s). Sorry for gushing. But he deserves it.

Affleck in his younger days. Age has definitely been kind to him.

Watch the trailer below

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


A construction company yesterday revealed plans to build the world's tallest skyscraper, called Sky City, which will stand 2,749ft tall and have a phenomenal 220 floors. This half-mile high superstructure will be 32ft taller than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai - the current tallest building - and is expected to cost almost half as much.

Sky City will be Changsha in southeast China and is being designed by Chinese-based Broad Group. It will house 17,400 people and also boast hotels, hospitals, schools and office space with occupants using 104 high-speed lifts to get around.

What's even more amazing is that it will only take three months to construct will mean nine of the 10 tallest skyscrapers in the world are in Asia. This astonishing pace of construction, which will see five stories go up a day, is the result of a revolutionary method of prefabricated buildings where blocks are built off site and slotted together to save time.

Despite concerns about its structural rigidity, Broad Group says the half-mile high building will be able to withstand a magnitude 9.0 earthquake. They've also tested their method of prefabrication having built last year 30-storey tower in 15 days.

Article by Damien Gayle, Daily Mail. Click here to read

Photos copyright of Broads/

Monday, November 19, 2012

THE SESSIONS: a magnificent new movie

The Bug and I went yesterday to the Cinémas Palme D'Or here in Palm Desert to see The Sessions, starring John Hawkes, the brilliant Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Rhea Pearlman and Adam Arkin, to name just a few.
This was truly a remarkable film in almost every way. I had some vague idea of the story because I had seen the trailers. But it is really one of the most tender and beautiful films I've seen in many years.
The film is based upon an article titled "On Seeing A Sex Surrogate" which written by Mark O'Brien published in The Sun magazine in the 90's.Sun Magazine (suggestion: see the movie first then read the fantastic article).
Mark O'Brien was just a boy when polio left him almost completely paralyzed from the below the neck. He overcame his disability and went on to complete his bachelor's degree in English at University of California at Berkeley and went on to join the Graduate School of Journalism at Berkley. He became a writer and a poet.
Mr. O'Brien spent most of his life surviving in an iron lung. He was able to live in his own home, but required a team of paid caretakers to ensure his survival in every way.
The article he wrote in The Sun spoke to his deep-seated feelings of shame about his sexuality. This shame seems to have been created from a family who was very puritanical in its views regarding sexuality, as well as his own physical deformities. Because of his sexual shame, he remained a virgin throughout his very professional and and social life.
The film begins with O'Brien's (played brilliantly by Hawke) who in his late 30's begins to explore his latent sexuality. He enlists a new priest at his local church as a sounding board and ultimately a dear friend (played equally brilliantly by Macy). O'Brien struggles with his issues but bravely confronts them and eventually researches and finds a professional sexual surrogate (Helen Hunt).
I don't want to spoil this film with the plot that happens after this. This was more information than I had when I saw it and it was a perfect wonderful movie, even though I was rather naive going in.
This movie is simply the most beautiful, tender film I have seen in a very long time. Hawkes, as O'Brien, delivers a performance of such virtuosity and at the same time such poignancy. By the end of the film, I found the character of O'Brien utterly a beautiful, erotic and perfect sexual man. The actor brings a full gamut of emotions from his shame, to his fear of sex, to his shame in having sex, to his eventual success in such a beautiful way, despite the fact that he essential only has one physical attribute to use as an actor: his face and voice. And he is simply gorgeous.
Macy, in the role of the sweet priest who supports O'Brien through his struggles with his Catholicism and shame of sexuality, is perfect as well.
Perhaps the film's success on every level can be credited to Helen Hunt. I can't imagine any other actress on the planet who would have the human integrity and honesty that it takes to play her character, Cheryl, the sexual surrogate. Few actress ever appear on film in multiple full frontal nudity scenes. But Hunt does so in The Sessions, in the most simple, elegant and proud way. She was simply gorgeous. But, at no moment was I uncomfortable, nor did I feel the actress was. She brings a professionalism to the part that I suppose must be synonymous to the way real sexual surrogates do when working.
I cannot say enough positive things about this film, particularly the performances of Hawkes and Hunt and every other actor in the ensemble.. It is a flawless movie.

This is movie is very frank when it comes to sexuality. The interesting thing was that even though I was seeing the film with my 78 year old mother sitting next to me, I never felt uncomfortable (I think she felt the same way).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bali Hotel where 30 elephants are STAFF members

I will travel to this hotel just for the accommodations and the pachyderm help on staff.

This a hotel that incorporates elephants as part of your stay in every aspect of your visit. It is also a luxury spa experience located in the historic historic village of Taro, Bali, Indonesia.

Elephant Safari Park & Lodge

Jalan Elephant Park Taro, Taro Village, Tegallalang, Ubud Bali 80561, Indonesia

Lodge: Tel +62 361 8988888 Fax +62 361 898888

Sales Office : Tel +62 361 721480

Fax +62 361 721481


Reservation: online booking

Click here for their website

Thursday, November 1, 2012

AN Elephant who can SPEAK

Photo below: Current Biology, Stoeger et al. Koshik, an elephant at the Everland Zoo in South Korea, can speak Korean aloud. Here Ashley Stoeger and Daniel Mietchen record his vocalizations.

"A zoo elephant in South Korea can speak Korean out loud, researchers say. The pachyderm is capable of saying "hello," "good," "no," "sit down" and "lie down" — all by using its trunk to do the work of lips in a process scientists don’t fully understand. The elephant likely does not understand the actual meaning of what he says, researchers said.

Past reports have suggested both African and Asian elephants were capable of vocal mimicry like parrots."

From Today

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Andrew McCarthy's WONDERFUL book The Longest Way Home

Just finished Andrew McCarthy's, the former Brat Packer's, memoirs which was just published. It is titled The Longest Way Home. This is a self-styled as a memoir. Quite frankly much more than that.

It reminded me in many ways of Bruce Chatwin's travel books (and not just because of the Patagonia connection). This publication is a book about travel. And, similarly, as in Chatwin's works, it also a book about how the travel experience impacted writer's emotional life. I want to clarify that I wish not to diminish in any way (or praise) of McCarthy's book with this reference to Chatwin. But they have achieved an similar achievement (McCarthy's book and Chatwin's ouevre). Perhaps McCarthy has never read Chatwin? But he still channels equal intelligence.

I was especially impressed with McCarthy's spare writing style regarding the travel aspects. McCarthy's ability to analyze his emotional life as influenced by his travels around the world makes this book excellent. The travel aspects would have had me mesmerized but it is the relationship to the travels to his own life that makes this book truly genius.

While it was self-titled a memoir, it is probably more a travelogue. I say that for those fanaticists who'd like to argue (and that is the way of life a blog writer).

Although it is not a comprehensive biography of McCarthy's life it does intersperse important aspects of his life including his first marriage and his time as a BRAT PACK movie star, among others.

The essence of the book is about the transformation of a young boy. He was transformed by travel. The travel first came through the theater. And after that the travel was afforded by his career as a "brat pack" movie star. He then overcomes his addiction ot alchohol and drugs. And the marries his first wife and has a son

Throughout tall of these changes McCarthey changes.

I discovered this book by watching Piers Morgan on CNN (whom I detest). He was interviewing Andrew. I was so compelled with the actor/director/writer, so I ordered the book. I think that I was hooked by the author me during the interview, particularly his observation that American's fear of travel is a downfall. I've always found every moment I travel always make me more alive and aware. Smarter. Z better human.

Most Americans just want to stay in the comfort zone. I connected with McCarthey's claim that traveling was a noble experience.

This book is a peon to travel and the author's spiritual and emotional growth as a result. McCarthy somehow came to find himself in a deeper and more meaningful way only because of his global travels. He is also a man of many talents. In addition to being a successful actor and television and play director, he has spent much of his adult life traveling as a professional travel writer for National Geographic and other periodicals.

This book chronicles a series of trips to Patagonia, the Amazon, Costa Rica, Vienna, Baltimore and Mt. Kilimanjaro, among other. These all lead up to his marriage to his second wife in Ireland.

Andrew's ability to overcome his hesitence to a his second marriage was achieved only by these arduous, lonely journeys that he tells about us in his spare riveting way in this book. Through his solitude travels he finds a way to embrace a future of being a husband, father, son-in-law, and friend in ways he couldn't before his lifelong journey.

I think what I took away from his story: by facing his basest /fearsissues he found much more profound issues that he couldn't have understand had he not traveled the world.

Let me say......I agree with McCarthy's belief about travel: that it transforms you. But I wouldn't want to face an anaconda or boa constrictor. I wouldn't mind seeing Patagonia. I would love to go to Africa. I've been to Costa Rica. I've done Baltimore. I don't think I'll suffer the final "day of hell" that he experiences on Mount Kilmanjaro.

But I'm so blessed to have had experienced these moments thanks to Andrew McCarthy's talents.

Isn't he simply gorgeous. He has aged, beautifully! Good for you Mr. McCarthy.

I literally enjoyed every single moment of this book. While he was always appealing to me as an actor, he seems much more sensuous, appealing, intelligent and distinguished in this artistic work. His accomplishments are really impressive as an (artist) actor, director and writer. Don't miss this book.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Astonishing virtual choir of 2,000 featuring Eric Whitacre

This is an astonishing video which features two virtual videos of people from around the world singing and compiled into a choral work, composed by the gorgeous Eric Whitacre. It is astonishing.

And Mr. Whitacre is awfully easy on the eyes too. Really. I mean who needs Brad Pitt.

photo from by Sibielusblog DANIEL SPREADBURY on AUGUST 4, 2009

Thursday, October 18, 2012

NOW that's TALL

These pictures were taken by German photographer Bjoern Lauen, who went up to the top of another building to capture the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world's tallest building, in the central business district at sunrise. Mr Lauen, who has lived in Dubai since 2005, added: 'It is a bit of a challenge for motorists on Dubai's roads and a rare natural spectacle for the very early riser.

'During those few moments before, Downtown Dubai, with Burj covered under a blanket of white.

Standing at more than 828 metres (2,716.5 feet) and more than 160 stories, the Burj Khalifa is also the tallest free-standing building. That's 1,000 feet taller than the second tallest structure in the world, Shanghai World Financial Center which equates to almost a doubling of height.

Now that is my kind of tall. Taller, further, faster, more beautiful, more efficient. That is what human beauty and spirit should be. Unfortunately, how much of all the underbelly, the truly repugnant aspects of the species of man were substantially used to create this one item of exquisite perfectness and beauty. Was it worth it? I say yes and yet I'm also ashamed of how much harm we do to our world.

National News and Pictures

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A MUST see movie: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I recently saw this amazing brilliant, heartbreaking and yet uplifting film. This is truly a must see.

Starring Logan Lerman (The Three Musketeers 2011), Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame playing the Hermoine Granger character from 2001-2011) and Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin-2011, these three actors truly propel this film to a higher level of excellence.

The film is essentially about being an outsider in high school. And about bullying. It's also about some kids who embrace their differences and find camaraderie of fellow wallflowers.

The hero of the film is Charlie (Logan Lerman) who is a 15 year old freshman who is entering high school for the first time. Charlie has had more than his share of tragedies. I won't spoil anything but to say that Charlie has been recently hospitalized for a mental issue.

As he suffers the indignities and horrors of high school that are inflicted by the idiot popular people he eventually meets and is befriended by seniors Sam (Watson) and Patrick (Miller) who make being a "wallflower" cool.

This movie is rather amazing in many ways. But perhaps the most significant ways are the intuitive script/story and the three main leads. Watson shines in her performance, showing that she has graduated to her master's in acting after her 10 year stint in the Harry Potter series. She is truly luminescent at times. A beautiful muse who casts a spell on Charlie (Lerman).

Her step-brother, Patrick, are sophisticated wallflowers. They immediately befriend him but after learning some of his story they truly take him in under their wings.

Lerman and Watson are absolutely the soul of this movie as is Miller. They are the perfect realization of these characters and the director has made a movie that Stephen Chobsky (novel, screenplay, directing) makes transcendent. The film encompasses so many contemporary issues: bullying, homosexuality, first love, alienation. But it does so in such a compassionate and thoughtful way that I was literally sobbing out loud in the theater at both the uplifting and sad parts, equally.

In addition this film has an ensemble cast which is absolutely wonderful including: Paul Rudd, Joan Cusack, Dylan McDermott (among many others).

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of the script and the movie is the astonishing ending. I'm not sure that everyone will catch to what the story is going to tell a few minutes before the end, but it's startling either way. I started having a suspicion but I was still astonished at the end.

This film should be nominated for Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor (Lerman), Best Actor (Watson....because she has fucking earned a nomination) and Miller as Best Supporting Actor (although his screen time is about equal to Emma's but Lerman truly carries the movie).

Take a box of Kleenex. I was in "floods" as the Mitford Sisters used to say.

Bravo. I'm going to re-see this film this week.

FALL: the most beautiful season of the year

Photos copyright AP and from Daily News

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

New FLAME Towers in Baku

Designed by US architect Barry Hughes of HOK architectural firm.

The Flame Towers project which was just completed is comprised of three residential towers, the tallest tower, Tower 1, is 620ft. At night the towers are lit truly illuminating their "flame" form.

From CNN: