Month: February 2013

And the Winner Is…

Wow! What a great year for movies. On the eve of the Academy Awards, I’ve seen eight of the nine nominees for Best Picture.  (You can read my earlier posts here, here, and here.)  The only missing nominee?  That would be Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. I saw Tarantino’s Inglourious Bastards with its similar fantasy-laden subject area and over-the-top, almost cartoonish violence a few years back, and I simply decided that Django wasn’t Best Picture quality in my book.  The fact that it is never mentioned in the top five contenders just confirms my decision. But this afternoon, I saw another controversial – but much more substantive – movie, Zero Dark Thirty.   Despite the controversy surrounding the movie, I’m here to say that it works on many levels and deserves the consideration for Best Picture.  Jessica Chastain is a real force, carrying the movie forward with her fine acting. In the end, however, I have to agree with Timothy Egan of the New York Times, who writes about the problems of  Zero Dark Thirty.  The lack …

Amour Enters the Conversation

As we enter the homestretch of the quest to see all the Best Picture nominees, Candice and I are now through seven of the nine pictures…and the plot thickens.  That’s because today we had the opportunity to see the achingly sad yet well crafted French movie Amour. Candice and I had the afternoon free here in Southern California between a swim meet, lunch with Claire, and dinner with Claire’s swim team members, coaches, and parents.  We found that Amour was playing nearby, and took the chance to see this gem of a picture. The movie, about an elderly pair of music teachers and their life together after the wife suffers a stroke, hit so many deep emotions – many of them close to home.  There was less action in the entire movie than what I expect to see in five minutes of Django Unchained, but the emotional depths that are plumed are raw and rich. Emmanuelle Riva is wonderful as Anne, the wife, and well deserving of a Best Actress award this year.  She was …

Fine Fiddling in Southern California

When I signed up for family weekend at Claire’s college, I didn’t go expecting to have my bluegrass itch scratched.  Yes, Claremont has a wonderful Folk Music Center in the heart of the village, but I generally have time for one quick stop to play an instrument or two between all the sessions lined up for the parents. So imagine my surprise when I was reading the events for family weekend, and there – on Friday night – was an evening of “Bluegrass and Old-Time Music” with fiddler Richard Greene. Wow!  Richard Greene is a fiddle god – one of those west coast players who paid his bluegrass dues in Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in the 1960s, yet expanded the genre with the help of David Grisman, Clarence White, and so many others. I’ve been listening to his music since the early 1970s, yet had never seen him live. So with Candice and Ella, one of Claire’s good friends at school who is – who knew it – a bluegrass fan (her already high …

My Personal Preseason

This is my second installment of the things I do to get ready for the baseball season…which is necessary because pitchers and catchers report tomorrow. Why’s he calling me meat?  I’m the one driving a Porsche. Relax, all right? Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls – it’s more democratic. The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self awareness. You just got lesson number one: don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club. You’re gonna have to learn your clichés. You’re gonna have to study them, you’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends. Write this down: “We gotta play it one day at a time.” Man that ball got outta here in a hurry. I mean anything travels that far oughta have a damn stewardess on it, don’t you think? (Nuke) I ain’t pissing nothing away. I got a Porsche already; a 911 with a quadrophonic Blaupunkt. (Crash) Christ, you don’t need a quadrophonic Blaupunkt! What you need is …

To the Movies (an Update)

Alert readers have been waiting for an update on the Browns’ choices for Best Picture of 2013.  Well, wait no longer! For others (who have better things to wait for) this is a follow-up post on our effort for the second year in a row to see all of the films nominated for Best Picture of the Year before the Oscars. We’re now two-thirds of the way home, having just come from a showing of Silver Linings Playbook and having seen Argo last weekend.  These were two very good movies. I don’t think they’ll win Best Picture, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t take home awards in other categories.  Bradley Cooper was excellent in the lead of Playbook, and I think I’m in love with Jennifer Lawrence.  Robert De Niro was – well, he’s Robert De Niro.  (He wasn’t on the screen a minute when Candice – she of the maiden name Colando – turned to me and said, “This is SUCH an Italian family!”) Alan Arkin was also terrific in Argo (but both De …

Hope Springs Eternal

With less than two weeks until pitchers and catchers report (11 days to be exact, but who’s counting?), it seemed like a good time to get into baseball shape…with a visit to the bookshelf. I had picked up Dan Barry’s 2011 book Bottom of the 33rd:  Hope, Redemption, and Baseball’s Longest Game while on a recent trip to Politics and Prose bookstore (home, by the way, of one of the best baseball sections of any bookstore in the Washington area).  I thought it looked like a fun read – a story about the longest game in baseball history. But what I found was much more – a little gem. The game began at 8 p.m. after a 30 minute delay due to faulty lighting on April 18, 1981 – Holy Saturday – and was extended until 4 a.m. on Easter morning, April 19th, when the game was suspended after 32 innings and 8 hours with a 2-2 tie.  Two months later, on June 23rd, the Rochester Red Wings and Pawtucket Red Sox resumed the game …