Sun, Dec 31, 2000

: The Lasko Incident

Author: Richard North Patterson

For some reason I’ve never read R.N.P. I guess I confused his books with James Patterson. Anyway, he’s a lawyer and writes political thriller type stuff. I heard a radio interview with him about his new book and thought I’d give him a read. I picked up a bunch of used copies of his books and started this with one, his first. Impressively, he won the Edgar Allen Poe award for Best First Novel in 1979. It’s easy to see why: he’s crafted an excellent mystery here, though not without its flaws.

The plot is convoluted: the main character is a government lawyer assigned to investigate stock manipulation by Lasko, a multi-millionaire tycoon who’s close friends with the President. The lawyer discovers conspiracy, corruption within his own agency, and murder. Unfortunately, while this is revealed in an extremely realistic fashion, it isn’t that exciting. A lot of the book reads like dry court transcripts. It’s like watching C-SPAN. Patterson makes other mistakes: for instance, he introduces characters by the dozens, then brings them back later simply by name (expecting us to remember that Di Pietro is the police sergeant we met once at the beginning of the book). That makes for confusing reading. The main character, the narrator, is also rather too into self-analysis and analysis of everyone he meets: I’m sure Washington is actually like that, with everyone scheming, weighing words and deciding what information to reveal, but it makes for ponderous reading. Such things are fine in two or three places in a novel, or about a select few characters, but we don’t need a psychological profile of every Tom, Dick, and Harry. With all the vague intrigue and mystery, the book didn’t get going until well-past the halfway point, but then I couldn’t put it down. Patterson has a gift for dialogue and intuitive psychological accuracy; even without reading his more recent stuff I can predict he’ll get even better.

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Sat, Dec 30, 2000

: EPL: Sunderland at Arsenal

Fantastic game. It started off without Sunderland. Arsenal’s Vieira headed in a goal in the 5th minute and Sunderland was living by the skin of their teeth as chance after chance almost went in. Finally, when none of the forwards could do it, defender Lee Dixon put in a marvelous strike from distance. In the second half it looked like it was going to be more of the same, but Sunderland began to press, and low and behold it was hero Vieira-turned-goat when his hand ball in the box was called. “Super Kev” Phillips finished off the penalty nicely, and it was just one down for Sunderland. Late in the game when it seemed like Sunderland’s luck was running out, along came Vieira to help out: his fumble of the ball left it open for an unmarked McCann to run on to, and he scored a brilliant goal that had the keeper hoping mad. Final: 2-2, and a valuable away point for Sunderland. Fantastic come-back!

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Fri, Dec 29, 2000

: The Getaway

Director: Sam Peckinpaw

Excellent actioner, with lots of tension and violence. Steve McQueen is awesome as a paroled convict released to do a bank robbery (the parole board was bribed). Of course everything goes wrong, with his friends attempting to do him in, and it’s up to him and his wife (Ali MacGraw) to escape both the bad guys and the cops. I saw the remake a few years ago and though it wasn’t bad, this was way, way better. Why remake such a great film? I’m definitely going to have to check out the original Thomas Crown Affair (also staring McQueen and remade recently).

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: La Liga: Rayo Vallecano at Real Madrid

Both these teams are based in Madrid, but Real Madrid’s a living legend (nearly every player is world famous). They started proving it just nine minutes in on a goal from freshly named European Footballer of the Year Luis Figo when he took a fantastic through-ball from teammate Ivan Helguera and found himself one-on-one with American top goalkeeper Casey Keller. Figo faked out Keller and easily scored. Minutes later, Figo provided the cross and Helguera headed the ball past Keller for goal number two. Keller redeemed himself a bit later with a couple great point-blank saves, but a free kick by Roberto Carlos took help from the post to keep it out. Rayo just really had trouble generating the offense, though late in the half they had a few chances, including a nice free kick attempt. In the second half, things started off rather evenly, with the edge to Madrid, but with 25 to play, Rayo’s Michel put in a great sidefooted volley into the roof of the net, changing the game. But Rayo couldn’t build on their momentum. With 15 minutes left, Raul kicked the ball straight up in the air to evade a diving Keller, then did an unbelievable volley while falling to put the ball into the empty net. Keller managed a good save late in the game, but it wasn’t up to him to score, and failing late, Rayo lost. Final: 3-1 Real Madrid.

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: Cousin Bette

A strange, convoluted mess. It’s a period piece about psychological manipulation in 19th century Paris, sort of a poor man’s Dangerous Liaisons. Cousin Bette is the neglected one of a once-prominent family, and she schemes to find money and love, but her schemes always backfire and don’t turn out the way she intended. Some interesting scenes and situations, but the characters are all unlikable. The acting was also poor, with some making attempts at accents and others not bothering in the slightest (British accents, at least, would been more appropriate than silly American drawls). Elizabeth Shue shows off her negligible singing ability (in addition to other assets), and the luminous Jessica Lange is supposed to be an old hag??? I also found the constant overly bold orchestrated music inappropriate, making every scene into dramatic melodrama.

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Thu, Dec 28, 2000

: EPL: Ipswich Town at Manchester United

Not much of a competition: Man. U., despite being without three of their top players, rolls over Ipswich easily. Both goals came from Norwegian striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and both were brilliant. The first, at 20 minutes in, occurred on a give-and-go with Giggs. Solskjaer received the pass, calmly sidestepped the diving keeper, and kicked the ball into the heart of the goal. The second was even better: just twelve minutes later a gorgeous ball from Beckham (at the center line!), came floating in to Solskjaer in the box. He allowed the ball to land on the inside of his foot, deftly guided it to the ground, and then kicked it past the keeper. Amazing. And this is a player that normally sits on the bench! The second half was a mere formality: Ipswich hardly even threatened. Final: 2-0 Man. U.

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: The Ninth Gate

Mishmash about a book expert hired to authentic a copy of a rare book that’s supposed to hold the key to summoning Satan (and presumably, ultimate power). There are mysterious deaths and strange threats, and in the end, you don’t know much more than at the beginning. Mildly interesting, but doesn’t hold up to its promise.

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: Serie A: Juventus at Roma

A fiercely competitive game, and not boring, though there were no goals. In the end, the teams were evenly matched. Juventus dominated the first half, but Roma was stronger in the second. But neither could penetrate the other’s defense. Final: 0-0.

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: Abducted

Author: Robin Cook

More of a sci-fi novel than a medical thriller, but well done. It’s a cross between Jules Verne’s Voyage to the Center of the Earth and The Abyss. Deep sea divers are sucked into a world underneath the ocean. Impressive from a scientific viewpoint, but the characters are rather stereotypical and the plot routine. But fun for a quick read.

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Wed, Dec 27, 2000

: EPL: Tottenham Hotspur at Southampton

What happened to Tottenham? Against a weak club like Southampton I expected them to dominate, but the reverse was true. Goals came late in the first half: Beattie scored on a great run from the left wing, curling his shot past a diving keeper. Seconds later, his teammate Davis scored to double the lead. In the second half Southampton still dominated, and with the Spurs lackluster performance it was an easy victory for the home team. Final: 2-0 Southampton.

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: EPL: Arsenal at Liverpool

Coming off last week’s win over the Kings of British football, Manchester United, Liverpool was on a tear. The clash of these two traditional powerhouses was everything you’d expect: hard physical play, exemplary skill, and great goals. Gerrard started things off for Liverpool just ten minutes in on a great grass-grazing volley that went through a crowd of players and easily beat the keeper into the corner of the net. In the second half, Arsenal’s Bergkamp managed to force a great save from Liverpool’s keeper, but not long after that a mistake by Arsenal’s keeper allowed superstar Michael Owen to double the lead. Liverpool kept the other team at bay, and then worked a great counter where Smicer put in a ball to Barmby who finished it admirably. If that wasn’t bad enough, Robbie Fowler added more insult with a cheeky goal in the dying seconds. Final: 4-0 Liverpool.

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Tue, Dec 26, 2000

: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Director: Ang Lee

Unquestionably the best movie of the year so far. This is an amazing fantasy, combining the best of Chinese mysticism, folklore, romance, intrigue, and absolutely unbelievable action. The fight scenes will make your jaw drop open in astonishment: the characters dance across rooftops and swordfight while leaping across swaying tree limbs. The story is equally enchanting: a priceless 400-year-old sword has been stolen, and the search for the thief overlaps a quest for an evil murderess. Intertwined are two stories of forbidden love: one by pledge to another, the other by a code of honor. The film is subtitled but after ten minutes or so, you’ll forget to notice: the dialog, action, and story will keep you on the edge of your seat for the duration. A must see film!

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: Xiu Xiu: the Sent Down Girl

Director: Joan Chen

Excellent movie with awesome subtle acting. Well-worth seeing twice so you really understand everything. There’s a lot of metaphor in the scenes and actions (i.e. the “gift” apples, bathing, sewing the tent, etc.). Very deep. The story is based on a program in China that ran from 1967 to 1976 in which Chinese youngsters are sent to remote parts of the country to broaden their skills, but many of these children came back as aliens to their families, and some didn’t come back at all. This is the story of one girl who is sent to a remote area of Tibet where she essentially becomes a prostitute: local officials promise her she can return home in exchange for sexual favors, but they don’t deliver their end of the bargain. Slowly she comes to realize she will never be allowed to go home. Some very strange reasoning from the Western perspective: our system of justice does not allow such things to occur. For instance, in one scene the girl explains she cannot simply run away because she’d be without papers, and there is no life in China without proper identification and work permits and stuff like that. Sounds like Big Brother from 1984. Makes me glad I live in the United States!

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Mon, Dec 25, 2000

: Scary Movie

Director: Keenan Ivory Wayans

A hilarious, outrageous spoof of the Scream-type movies, which is funny in itself, since those are basically parodies of the traditional slasher: we now have a parody of a parody. Laugh-a-minute film is occasionally overly crude, with a few too many gay jokes, but a lot of fun with some terrific “break the film barrier” type humor (my favorite was when the camera guy gets so close to the horror-stricken the lens smashes into her face). A few really brilliant moments like that save this film.

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Sun, Dec 24, 2000

: The Dead Zone

Author: Stephen King (book)

Director: David Cronnenberg

Cool Cronnenberg flick, perfect storyline for his unusual perspective. The story is about a guy who has a car accident and wakes up after a coma with the “gift” of second sight: he can see into people’s futures. The gift comes with undue notoriety and pain (use of the psychic powers is killing him). Fascinating film mostly due to Cronnenberg’s clever direction and Christopher Walken’s dynamic performance.

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: Pump Up the Volume

I haven’t seen this in a few years and it’s surprising how well it holds up. Terrific free speech movie (coincidentally similar to

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: Mission Impossible II

Director: John Woo

Fun actioner with some unique and innovative stunts. The plot meanders like a river and doesn’t make sense if you analyze it, but that’s to be expected. More of a James Bond film than an MI story, but still good.

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: Bullit

Director: Peter Yates

Unusual “realistic” cop story set in San Francisco. I felt the location was overemphasized, as though San Francisco’s like, special, or something, and the story dragged in several places (especially considering the plot’s payoff wasn’t that dramatic). But I was legitimately surprised and impressed by the famous car chase: even decades later it’s exciting, mostly because of the interior car shots with McQueen actually driving (you watch him turn a corner, tires squealing, from inside the car).

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Sat, Dec 23, 2000

: Serie A: Intermilan at Atalanta

Very poor game with few good chances. Both teams were weak, especially Inter. Inter finally did it, however, with a goal from Seedorf in the 65th minute, giving them their first away win of the season (and Atalanta’s first home loss). Seedorf’s goal was impressive: he did a flying tackle that kicked the rebounding ball past the keeper. Atalanta had the best chances throughout the game, but couldn’t quite finish. Final: 1-0 Inter.

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: Sellout: The Inside Story of President Clinton’s Impeachment

Author: David P. Schippers

This is written by the Democratic lawyer who was put in charge of the impeachment investigation. It’s the story of how Democrats voted along party lines and spineless Republicans wouldn’t stand up for principals. “A pox on both your houses!” might be an appropriate phrase. The politicians sold out the Constitution and allowed a sitting president to get away with lying under oath, abuse of power, witness tampering, voter manipulation, illegal campaign contributions, and even rape. If you thought you knew the details behind the impeachment (regardless of which side you were on), you don’t. As this book shows, only a tiny fraction of the evidence was made public. You don’t know anything. Some of the dramatic details unveiled in this book are things like how Clinton crony Janet Reno refused to release critical records so the investigation could proceed, and a witness having all four of her tires slashed and being stalked and threatened if she didn’t sign a false affidavit. Of course it’s tough connecting the President directly with such tactics, but, as the author shows, the coincidence of timing is too strong to be an accident.

This book reveals why I abhor politics: Senators swearing under oath to uphold the Constitution and investigate the President’s crimes thoroughly, and then not a single one went and looked at the evidence! (The author opines that the Senators were afraid to actually see the evidence, because if they did, they would have found it difficult to acquit. By not seeing the evidence, they could pretend the charges were “just about sex.”) Excellent, remarkable book, though very sad. Whatever you thought of impeachment, this book is a must read to anyone concerned with the future of this country. As Schippers pointed out in one of his presentations to Congress, if we don’t convict a sitting president for lying under oath, for whatever the reason, it sets a new legal standard for future presidents — they can get away with a lot more. I, for one, want my politicians accountable for their actions. Disgusting. The whole Senate ought to be impeached.

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: EPL: Aston Villa at Leeds United

This started of well with a lot of action, mostly in Leeds favor, but they couldn’t quite crack the Villains defense. Then Aston Villa found a break late in the half when keeper Robinson failed to completely clear a ball and stubborn defender Southgate put in a nice header. In the second half Leeds put Villa under tremendous pressure, but it wasn’t until the very end of the game they had a terrific chance by Kewell, unfortunately stopped. The Villains scored on the counter immediately after, on a goal by Boateng. Leeds finally broke through in injury time when Woodgate put it in, but it was too little, too late. Final: 2-1 Aston Villa.

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: Quills

Director: Philip Kaufman

Amazing, impressive, and shocking story about the infamous Marquis de Sade. The story has it’s ups and downs and occasionally tries too hard to be shocking, but its a fascinating and unique look at de Sade while he lived in an insane asylum. I really liked the aspect of the story that showed de Sade as an almost compulsive writer, unable to resist the lure of the quill. However, when the film attempts to explore the religious and moral aspects of de Sade’s writing, it is somewhat shallow and trite (and predictable). Terrific (and brave) performances, but this film isn’t for all tastes.

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Fri, Dec 22, 2000

: EPL: Manchester City at Aston Villa

Game was lackluster until the away team went ahead in the 65th minute on a great goal from Haaland. He got an assist from Wanchope who did a clever backheel to split two defenders and give him the ball one-on-one with the keeper. That enlivened the Villains who quickly responded with a glancing header from Dublin that went into the net. Just a minute or so after that, Wanchope headed in David’s James’ poor rebound to put Manchester up a second time! Then Villa’s Hendrie got ejected, so they were down a goal and down a man as well. Things didn’t look good. But a free kick gave Ginola an opportunity and he took it. The kick was headed out of the box and he volleyed it beautifully into the net to equalize the score. That was it for the scoring, but some wonderful, classy goals. Terrific second half. Final: 2-2 draw.

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: Black Mask

Impressive Jet Li action flick. He’s the superhuman product of a secret government genetic project gone awry, so they want to eliminate him. He escapes and hides out as a mild-mannered librarian, but of course gets involved when the police need help. He wears a black mask so people won’t recognize him, but funnily, everyone knows who he is. Plenty of cool action and impressive stunts. Forget the silly plot. Good fun.

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Thu, Dec 21, 2000

: My Dinner With Andre

Director: Louis Malle

This is an incredible, fascinating film. It literally is a man having dinner with a friend and their conversation, but what a conversation! They talk about life and death and reality and dreams and masks and acting and pretending and being alive but dead inside and what it all means. Great stuff. Certainly not boring. Unfortunately, other than the unique presentation, most of the philosophy unearthed is stuff I explored long ago. If I’d seen this in high school it probably would have blown my mind because my own thoughts at that time were running along these same lines. Excellent, especially if you’re into pointless philosophical and existential exploration.

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Wed, Dec 20, 2000

: Worthington Cup: Sunderland at Crystal Palace

One thing that’s interesting about open cups is that teams from different divisions get the chance to compete against each other. Sunderland’s a Premiere League team, while Palace is in the First Division. That didn’t mean the game wasn’t competitive, though. The first half was a bit boring, but the second half kicked off with a goal from Palace. Sunderland’s keeper did a great blunder, kicking the ball straight to a Palace player. He dribbled in alone, drew the keeper away from the goal, and slid the ball to a team who put it into the open net. A shocking mistake! But less than a minute later, Sunderland took control with a terrific series of passes in their opponent’s box. The defender had Sunderland’s player marked, but missed the ball, allowing him a point blank shot (which he scored). You’d have thought Sunderland would gain momentum from that, but it was all Palace, with a series of post shots and near chances. Finally, late in the game, Palace took it with a great goal from Morrison. He dribbled in on the right wing, fooled a defender, and put in a neat slider to the far corner of the net. Nice. Final: 2-1 Crystal Palace, who advance to the semi-finals.

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: The Son of Tarzan

Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs

Amazing, incredible book. No one does plots like Burroughs. There’s just enough foreshadowing you can see where he’s going, but that just makes you anxious to get to the end of the novel so you have that wrap-up ending you crave. Burroughs’ plots aren’t fabricated, but completely character driven: one always feels like the actions of the good and bad guys are real. He’s great at taking fabulous situations and making them believable. In this case we’ve got Tarzan’s son, who grew up in England, completely ignorant of his father’s history. His mother didn’t want him risking his life in Africa. But the boy craves adventure and loves wild animals. Eventually, through a series of circumstances, he ends up leaving home and traveling to Africa, where he lives in the wild as Tarzan did. Many, many years later, after countless adventures, at the end of the book, he’s reunited with his parents. Great stuff. One of Burroughs’ best.

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: The Perfect Storm

Director: Wolfgang Petersen

From the promos, I had no interest in seeing this film. It looked incredibly lame: a bunch of fishermen go out in a boat even though the storm of the century is approaching? How stupid is that? But that’s not what happens: there is no storm when the men leave, but to get home they must return through the storm. If they wait, the 60,000 pounds of swordfish they caught will spoil.

Three-quarters of the way through the film I was saying to myself, “Wow, I like this better than

I’m not the kind of person that demands Hollywood give me a happy ending (I love the unexpected), but I do demand a good story. Stories are NOT reality. Reality is sad, ugly, and imperfect. Stories are crafted — they seem real, but are crafted to guarantee certain emotions. As such they play by certain rules. When an author violates those rules, they violate us, the reader/viewer. This film is horrible in that respect. It reminds me of a short story I had to read in college: Max Apple’s “The Oranging of America.” Absolutely the worst short story I’ve ever read (even though, according to critics, it’s in the top 100 of all time). The story is interesting and fascinating until the very end you find out that absolutely none of it is true or has any basis for reality at all. Essentially, everything you read was pointless. Instead of a traditional essay, I wrote a blistering rebuke of the story for my class response. I didn’t even care what grade I got: I figured I’d probably get an “F” because if the teacher picked the story he must like it. If I remember right, I got a “C”: he didn’t agree with me, but what I wrote was certainly passionate and rational. I absolutely hated the story and I felt the author was a traitor to literature and mankind. (I will never read anything by him again.) This film doesn’t quite raise my ire to that level, but it’s close. I realize that the film is based on a real-life incident and that in real-life the boat did sink and everyone did drown: but that’s not my problem with the film. My problem is that the film was written and directed like an action survival story, the kind where crafty people claw their way back to life with their fingernails and live to tell about it. Sure, maybe one or two of the group don’t make it, and maybe there’s a scar or two, but most live. If this film was supposed to have been a tragedy it needed a completely different feel. Look at Titanic: we knew going in everyone was going to die and that gave extra weight to all their words and actions. When we saw a character talking about his ambitions, we were horrified and sad because we knew he’d never get to realize those dreams. In this movie, there was no warning, no explanation, no healing, no hope. It’s just an incredibly badly written film that had no point of being made except to show off some computerized special effects of giant waves. Sorry to be such a brute if you liked the film, but this one is definitely in my Top 10 Worst Films of 2000 category.

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Tue, Dec 19, 2000

: Five Easy Pieces

I wasn’t at all sure what to expect from this film. All I knew was that it was supposed to be good. Since it had Jack Nicholson in it, I figured it was probably a crime drama like Chinatown. Instead it turned out to be a character study of a bizarre, temperamental ex-musician-turned-odd-jobber who seduces women he treats like crap. Mostly I found it distasteful, though Jack, of course, radiates appeal even when he’s at his worst. The film is similar to As Good As It Gets, in that respect. But there’s no redemption for Jack’s character in this one: he’s a jerk to the end. I did sympathize with his character a bit, and I liked the ending. But I didn’t see anything that great about the film. I give it a firm “okay.”

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: La Liga: Barcelona at Rayo Vallecano

Excellent game! Rayo’s the up-and-comer, in 4th place, while traditional powerhouse Barca’s in fifth. The battle began with Rayo’s potent offense scoring in the fifth minute when Frank de Boer’s mistake at the back allowed Rayo a chance. The cross went in and Bolic finished. But just three minutes later, Barcelona came back on a goal from Gerard. Gerard was brilliant, but it was mostly poor defense by Rayo that allowed him the chance. After that Rayo fell apart and lost confidence. Barca dominated into the second half, finally scoring in 75th minute. And who scored? None other than Frank de Boer, making up for his previous mistake!

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Mon, Dec 18, 2000

: Serie A: Roma at Lazio

Lackluster play by Lazio gave up this game. Technically, it was an own goal, when a defender cleared the ball into a teammate and it rebounded into the goal, but essentially it was that Lazio didn’t play as well as they should have. Final: 1-0 Roma.

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: EPL: West Ham United at Everton

If you watch this game, fast forward until the 70th minute. That’s when stuff starts to happen. Before that it’s just boring, with neither keeper having to do anything. Seventy-five minutes in, however, Everton finally scores with a flick-on header from Cadamartori. A few minutes later, however, the Hammers equalize on a great goal from Kanoute, when his turn in the box gives him some space and he shoots it home. Final: 1-1 draw.

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: EPL: Arsenal at Tottenham Hotspur

Terrific London derby. Spurs got going with a goal from Rebrov 30 minutes in, but Arsenal didn’t start playing until the second half. Then it was nothing but goal action. Spurs had a few good chances to extend their lead, but mostly it was Arsenal trying to equalize. Spurs keeper Sullivan was amazing, stopping at least a half dozen point blank shots. He kept Tottenham in the game. With five minutes to go it was a sure win… not. A momentary lapse in marking allowed bad boy Patrick Vieira — whom I can’t stand and think should be banned from the game of football — to head the ball home. Lame. Final: 1-1 draw.

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: Serie A: Bari at Perugia

Unexpectedly, a very cool game, considering the teams. It started off with one of the best non-goals I have ever seen. Bari’s young keeper made a mistake in positioning and the shot came in near post and he did an incredible flying leap to block it. The rebound was stopped by a defender on the line, and the next shot was stopped by the keeper. The final shot was wide, but it was an amazing 3-second sequence. After that, nothing much happened until the 30th minute when Perugi’s striker was sent off for a stupid red card: he was the only one with a yellow and he did an obvious dive in the box and got his second yellow. But Perugi gained strength from being a man down: in injury time of the first half defender Tedesco was left wide open just outside the box and his shot went through the legs to a defender to score. In the second half, Tedesco amazingly got a second goal very similar to the first. That was followed a minute later by an incredible side volley from Saudati that left Bari stunned. They had a man advantage but were down by three goals! But the game was finished. Bari came back with a goal from Mazzarelli off a great free kick, but there was only ten minutes left to make up two goals. Perugia put the matter beyond doubt in the 88th minute, however, when Tatti’s shot literally trickled into the open goal. Incredible! Final: 4-1 Perugia.

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Sun, Dec 17, 2000

: Argentine Soccer: Estudiantes at Boca Juniors

Not a great game, but significant in that it gave Boca Juniors the Apertura 2000 title. Boca dominated, though not magnificently, with Arce’s goal in the 65th minute. But it was enough as the win, with River Plate’s loss, puts the championship beyond doubt. Boca wins it again! It’s almost becoming routine. ;-)

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Sat, Dec 16, 2000

: Portrait of a Legacy

This was the Christmas special at Peoples Church in Fresno, Calif. (My parents attend Peoples.) It was pretty good, though a bit long at two hours. An original production, it told the story through song and drama of a musicical instrument maker in Scotland. The old man was ready to retire and close his shop; from one corner of the stage he reflects back on his life, from childhood where he first discovered music, through courtship and marriage, childbirth, the death of his wife, his son’s marriage and successes, etc. The cast was huge, with hundreds of choir members (children and teen groups as well as adults) participating in various numbers as well as most roles being portrayed by multiple actors (at various ages in life). Lots of costume changes. Some of the drama was weak (obviously not by professional actors); in places the story really dragged. The music was the highlight, but unfortunately not all the songs really gelled with the story; they felt rather tacked on. A few I really liked, but a couple had lackluster arrangements (“The Little Drummer Boy” was particularly woeful). Overall, interesting and extremely ambitious. I liked the main theme of a hard-working man leaving a legacy to his friends, family, and town (in the story the son, who originally was leaving home, decides to move back after seeing the influence his father had on the townspeople). The production was impressive: a huge set cleverly manipulated to serve multiple purposes, smoke and snow machines, and even a floating angel descending on wires from the ceiling! I found out later the troup was doing three performances a day for four days (2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 7:30 p.m.) — that’s crazy! I salute them.

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Thu, Dec 14, 2000

: Worthington Cup: Fulham at Liverpool

Though Fulham’s an English first division club, I’ve become a fan because they have an American, Eddie Lewis, on their team. Eddie used to play for my local team, the San Jose Earthquakes in MLS, and they are expected to be promoted to the Premiere League next season. But I was disappointed that Eddie was nowhere to be seen in this game. I don’t know why; perhaps he’s out injured. Anyway, this is the type of game you’d expect Liverpool to dominate easily, but Fulham’s been in great form of late, and neither team could penetrate the other’s defense. Sadly, the game went into overtime and Fulham’s impressive play weakened when super substitute and England international Michael Owen scored on the day before his 21st birthday. That was followed by goals from Smicer and Nick Barmby. Final: 3-0 Liverpool (in overtime).

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: Galipoli

Director: Peter Weir

Excellent “war” movie without much war. Instead of focusing on the horrors of war, this film focuses on the characters, allowing us to get to know them for over an hour before they go into battle. The effect is excellent. Instead of numbing our minds to continual images of violence and horror, we relax as young boys play soldier and have fun, only to have the reality of war arrive as vivid and horrid shock. Dramatic, well photographed, interesting, and best of all, minimal war stuff. Really good.

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: Marc’s DVDs

Well, I’ve finally gotten around to doing it. I’ve posted a list of the DVD movies I own. There’s a permanent link at the top of my main news page, so you can check it any time to see if I’ve bought anything new. DVDs have become my new drug: I can’t stop buying them. I have nearly 250 now. Keep in mind I only bought my first DVD player in August 1999! (I technically have three DVD players now, but two of them are DVD ROM drives in my computers, so I don’t know if those count.)

My DVD page is pretty cool: you can view the list by Title, Genre, Director, Marc Rating, etc. I put the whole thing into a custom database I made so I can easily update it as needed. I’ll be adding more categories and information as time passes. For now I just wanted to get the main thing up. Let me know of any suggestions you have to make it better and I’ll try to accommodate you.

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Wed, Dec 13, 2000

: Lair of the White Worm

Author: Book by Bram Stoker, Screenplay by Ken Russell

Director: Ken Russell

After reading the bizarre book, I wanted to see the film, but I wasn’t impressed. Extremely cheesy special effects weaken what could have been a fairly creepy film, and Russell takes a number of liberties with the novel, including setting it in modern times, making the snake bites vampire-like in that they are contagious, and most seriously, not having the woman and the snake as one being (remember, in the book she is the snake, which is the whole point). The first half-hour or so of the film is almost incomprehensible and the film only gets going during the dream sequences and when the snake-woman is on screen. Russell puts forth a number of interesting images, but in the end all you have is a traditional horror film with some provoking dream sequences.

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: EPL: Manchester United at Charlton Athletic

What an incredible game! It’s been a while since I’ve gotten to see the quality of Man. U., so I was excited about this game. But Charlton proved they are in the EPL for a reason. Ten minutes in they scored on a goal from new signing Barlett, in his first full game for the club. For a while it looked like United hadn’t shown up as Charlton nearly went ahead 2-0 on a couple occasions, but was stopped by United’s keeper. Late in the half United started things going with a lot of offensive pressure. Things paid off when Ryan Giggs scored 42 minutes in when he received the ball unmarked at the top of the box and calmly put it away. Less than a minute later, Giggs took a monster shot from the center line. Amazingly, he forced the Charlton keeper, who was off his line, into running backwards attempting to stop the shot. His missed blocking it, but the shot rebounded off the post! But then Solskjaer ran on to the rebound and kicked it into the open goal. Just like that, United was in front. The second half extended United’s lead when Keane finally got his first goal of the season when he became open in the box with the ball at his feet and took advantage of the slow marking. The keeper got a hand to his shot, but couldn’t parry it out of the net. With a two goal lead United fell asleep a bit, and in the 79th minute Barlett scored his second for Charlton. Six minutes later Charlton got the equalizer on a goal from Robinson, and that’s the way she ended: a 3-3 draw. Incredible come-back, incredible goals, incredible game.

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Tue, Dec 12, 2000

: Commentary: Why Al Gore Lost

Why did Al Gore lose Florida? Greed.

You see, Al Gore didn’t want to hand count all the votes. He just wanted to hand count extra ballots (undervotes, the ones missed by the machines) in a few select counties where he thought he had the most to gain. Right there that’s unfair and the U.S. Supreme Court would undoubtedly throw out the results. But even that wasn’t enough for Gore. He saw that just counting the undervotes normally wouldn’t get him enough votes (most undervotes are real undervotes, i.e. people who didn’t vote for President), so he came up with this scheme to count every dimple or microscopic mark on a chad as a vote. To “interpret the will of the people” as it were.

Regardless of which side of the selective hand recounts and dimple debates you find yourself on, the key point is that the issues are controversial and brought the ire of the Republicans (and quite a few fair-minded Americans). That was Gore’s mistake. To actually think he could get away with such one-sided policies is shockingly arrogant. Of course the Republicans would fight him, delay the process, and eventually win. Gore will whine and complain about underhanded tactics or lack of time, but the end result is the same: Bush is the new president.

But just think how things could have been: if Gore had called for a statewide hand recount on Nov. 8 using the established Florida (non-dimple) standard, the Republicans would not have had a leg to protest on. The American people would have rallied around the vice-president, supporting the “count all the votes” concept. Would Gore have won? Who knows? At least with those standards and a statewide recount it would have been fair. But Gore didn’t want fair:he wanted a guaranteed win. He wanted an advantage. But by playing the game the way he did, seeking an unfair advantage, he only generated controversy, opposition, and the resentment of the general public. Very sad, and he deserved to lose on those grounds alone.

(Note: I wrote this last Friday morning, but postponed posting it until tonight after the U. S. Supreme Court’s decision.)

Topic: [/politics]

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: La Liga: Celta Vigo at Real Madrid

Celta Vigo never had a chance. Madrid got their first goal eleven minutes in when Roberto Carlos put in a blistering grounder and Helguera just caught it with the back of his heel to deflect it into the goal. The keeper didn’t even move. Brilliant! The second goal came at the half-hour mark, when Luis Figo (currently the world’s most expensive player) took the ball at mid-field, did a little juggling move to get past his marker, then kept going all the way into the box, where he finished it into the corner of the net. Absolutely breathtaking. But you can’t have a Madrid victory without a Roberto Carlos free kick, can you? Of course not! Fifteen minutes into the second half Carlos’ free kick just blasts past the keeper with so much swerve and power he didn’t even move. And that was from thirty yards out! Amazing. Final: 3-0 Real Madrid wipeout.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: Frequency

Author: Toby Emmerlich

Director: Gregory Hoblit

Where in the world did this movie come from? I’d never even heard of it, but saw the DVD at the rental store and it sounded interesting. It’s an excellent movie. The premise is intriguing: during the aurora borealis (Northern lights) a cop begins playing with his dead father’s old ham radio and picks up a transmission from a guy who turns out to be his father from 30 years earlier! It’s time travel via radio waves. The two begin regular conversations and learn that the father’s actions can change the present. The plot gets more complicated as they prevent the father’s death, then try to stop a serial killer. What’s cool about this is that there is no real time travel, just communication between time periods. Yet a lot can (and does) happen. It’s very clever. The films runs out of gas slightly toward the very end when it descends into an action film, but in general it’s a fascinating and exciting film, with nice special effects. I can’t figure out why I never heard of it, nor why it didn’t do better at the box office. Go rent it!

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Mon, Dec 11, 2000

: EPL: Leeds at Southampton

Leeds have been doing well in the Champions League, but can’t find their form in the English Premiere League. In this game they lost to lowly Southampton when Jamie Beattie scored late in the first half, even though Leeds dominated play. Leeds had just had a shot terrifically tipped over the crossbar by Jones, and on the resulting corner kick, Southampton gained possession and sent the ball long on a counter attack. Beattie, on the wing, got the ball and slipped it past the keeper. Excellent goal. Final: 1-0 Southampton.

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: La Liga: Barcelona at Celta Vigo

This was last week’s Spanish soccer game, and I figured I’d better watch it before this week’s. ;-) A well-fought match, as you might expect, but the smaller team took the lead first, just eight minutes in, on a goal from Catanha. A poor clearance gave the ball back to Edu, coming up on the left wing, who put in a cross to Catanha who simply deflected it into the open net (the keeper had moved to block a possible Edu shot). Then, amazingly, Catanha got another minutes later, when he got some space at the top of the key and slipped the ball past the keeper. But Barca’s not a team you can keep down for long. Eighteen minutes in, Frank DeBoer scores on a header off a Rivaldo corner kick, meaning we’ve got a 2-1 game going. But just minutes later, Catanha got his hat trick (in less than 30 minutes!!!): a huge climbing header. Then we had a breather of 15 minutes with no goals. Late in the first half Barca’s keeper had to go off injured, replaced by an 18-year-old. For most teams, a 3-1 score at the half pretty much means you’re dead, but keep in mind this is Barcelona we’re talking about. In the second half, Barca started their path back on a goal from Kluivert, a header off a free kick, training field stuff that Celta Vigo should have defended. Then good play on the wing by Overmars put in the ball to Rivaldo who passed it to an open Kluivert for an easy tap-in. The 3-3 score was maintained, though Barca had the edge for most of the rest of the game, Celta had their chances towards the very end. And that was it: a dramatic 3-3 draw!

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: EPL: Middlesbrough at Sunderland

What is this, boring soccer weekend? I just couldn’t get up much excitement to watch lackluster Middlesbrough, who sit at the bottom of the Premiere League table. After a back-and-fourth “table tennis” first half, Sunderland finally broke through 54 minutes in on a terrific goal from Michael Gray. A defender’s poor clearance left the ball rolling by itself in the penalty area and Gray ran on from the wing to blast the ball with his left foot, unforgivably beating the keeper at the near post.

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: Serie A: Parma at Juventus

Annoyingly, I got home fifteen minutes late and missed the first — and only — goal. With Juventus ahead, Parma struggled to score, but their form was off, and Juve is famous (or infamous) for protecting a one goal lead. Final: 1-0 Juventus.

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Sun, Dec 10, 2000

: The Last Debate

Author: Book by Jim Lehrer

Director: John Badham

This movie came out on Showtime a while back but somehow I missed it. Anyway, it turned out to be pretty good. I thought at first it was quite partisan, painting the Democratic candidate as perfect, but that’s resolved in the cool ending. Basically it’s a film about the media and a presidential race. Four journalists essentially sabotage the Republican candidate live on the air during a debate two weeks before the election, revealing scandalous information. This raises all sorts of ethical questions about the media’s role in politics and the power of the media. Eerie, considering the political situation facing the country right now. An interesting aspect of the film is that it uses several dozens real-life journalists and pundits in cameos, the same ones seen on all the news networks during this election crisis. Pretty cool.

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: Pagan Babies

Author: Elmore Leonard

I’d never read an Elmore Leonard novel before, though I’d seen a number of films based on his books, so I was curious to see what he was like. As usual, this book is about confusion between semi-crooks and mobsters and a sum of money everybody is gunning for. It mostly deals with a guy pretending to be a priest, returning from five years in Rwanda, and orchestrating a scam to raise money for African orphans. Parts of this I found distastful, parts just boring, but Leonard does paint interesting and unusual characters. The ending’s pretty good, with the scammers being scammed, but overall the book’s so low-key one doesn’t really feel that much excitement one way or the other. Basically light fun, but nothing significant.

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Sat, Dec 09, 2000

: Serie A: Napoli at Brescia

Two bottom-of-the-league clubs, and the game showed it. While spirited, it was mostly midfield play, and a lot of physical stuff. Diana put Brescia ahead thirty-two minutes in on a great goal where he went wide by himself, received the ball, and scored by pushing the ball past the diving keeper. With thirty minutes left in the game, Pecchia scored for Napoli on a great bomb shot from above the top of the key. That was how it ended, 1-1.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: River’s Edge

A gripping, disturbing film about callous teens and a murder. I saw this many years ago and it hasn’t lost its edge. If I remember right, it was based on a true story. Essentially, one boy murders a girl and his friends don’t really seem bothered by it. Quite revealing about modern society. Some really good moments with Keanu Reaves’ character’s screwed up mother and how she can’t figure out why her kids are so messed up.

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: Serie A: Juventus at Intermilan

This was last Monday’s Italian game that I taped. Amazing game. When you get two of the top teams in Italy clashing, the results can be dramatic. Juventus started things off quickly with a goal from Trezeguet after a series of brilliant passes in the box. Juventus absolutely stunned Inter with another goal just minutes later, when Zidane sent in a bomb off his left foot that keeper Frey couldn’t stop. But Inter fought back just three minutes later with a terrific header from Frenchman Blanc off Recoba’s corner kick. Less than fifteen minutes in and we’ve already got three goals! But then, as always happens in these derbies, controversy. Viera scored a magnificent header leaping about ten feet in the air to do it, but though countless replays showed no fouls of any kind, the ref wouldn’t count the goal. Midway through the second half, Inter finally got their equalizer when Di Bagio’s free kick deflected into the net. That ended it, though both keepers made great saves in injury time. Great game! Final: 2-2 draw.

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Fri, Dec 08, 2000

: UEFA Cup: Olympiakos at Liverpool

The game started off competitive, but soon Liverpool dominated. Finally, in the 28th minute a through-ball to Heskey allowed him to go one-on-one with the keeper and he easily scored. The Greek club fought back, but other than the occasional free kick, didn’t threaten the Liverpool goal much. In the second half, Liverpool started off mostly on the defensive, but then fifteen minutes in Nick Barmby headed toward the enemy goal with the ball at his feet. The keeper came out, pushing Barmby toward the corner. Barmby dribbled past the keeper and put in a shot from a ridiculous angle… and somehow the ball curled, hitting the near post, then bouncing to the inside of the far post and in! After that, the game was in little doubt, though the players on both sides fought hard. Final: 2-0 Liverpool (they advance on aggregate).

Topic: [/soccer]

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: Project A

Director: Jackie Chan

A Jackie Chan “chop suey” action flick. Set in 19th century Hong Kong, this is the convoluted story of navy and police out to stop some pirates. The navy guys hate the cops, and vice versa, and the first half of the film is mostly them fighting each other. The pirates really don’t get involved until the last third or so of the film. It’s basically a rather confusing plot, but who cares? All you watch a film like this for is some cool action, and this has some neat stuff, including a little of Chan’s patented action humor. Not as good as some of his more recent stuff, but above average.

Topic: [/movie]

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: Argentine League: Boca Juniors at Independiente

The action started with a bang when Diego Forlan scored for Independiente off a great cross into the box just six minutes in. Horrors! The mighty Boca behind? How could this be? Well, Boca didn’t just sit still, but they couldn’t score. Then, an odd thing. It must have been hot (remember, it’s summer in Argentina now), because 33 minutes in the ref called a halt to the proceedings so he could get a drink! I’ve never seen that before. The brief break must have helped Palermo, because he soon had a header bounce off the crossbar. Unfortunately, that was to be Boca’s best chance in the first half. Boca missed a point-blank chance in the second half, and just couldn’t seem to score. Then Independiente got a player sent off (second yellow). But the advantage only lasted a few minutes for Boca, because they soon had a player sent off. Apparently that wasn’t enough, so they had another player ejected a couple minutes after that! With only nine players, Boca was really behind, and then Forlan, amazingly, got his second when his shot was not completely stopped by Boca’s keeper Cordoba. With just a minute left in regulation, it was all over: Boca would be handed their first defeat of the season! Good teamwork increased Independiente’s lead in the final seconds when they did a little passing exchange in the box to wrong foot the keeper for an easy tap-in. Final: 3-0 Independiente. Unbelievable!

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Wed, Dec 06, 2000

: Champions League: A.C. Milan at Deportivo

Not a bad game, though a little dull: Deportivo tends to not win by scoring a lot of goals. It certainly was competitive, with chances on both sides. But late in the first half Milan went ahead on a goal by Helveg. He volleyed in a poor clearance off a corner kick, keeping the ball to go under the surprised keeper. In the second half, Deportivo came out kicking and dominated the play by a huge margin — at one point they led on shots 18 to 5 — but they couldn’t score. With just a minute left in regulation, Helveg knocked heads with another player and was taken off the field with blood running everywhere. But Milan held on to win, 1-0.

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Tue, Dec 05, 2000

: Champions League: Leeds United at Lazio

What a terrific clash! Leeds struggled over the weekend in league play, while Lazio triumphed, yet both had problems in their last Champions League games. Who would survive? Well, the first half didn’t tell us, as the teams were about even. Leeds started out dominating, but Lazio took over towards the end of the half. Leeds almost had a goal in injury time, but Lee Bowyer just missed. In the second half it was mostly Leeds. With twenty minutes to go and still no score, manager David O’Leary took a huge chance and put in another striker in place of a defender. Keeper Robinson made the save of the game a few minutes later, stuffing Crespo and keeping Leeds in the game. Then, with ten minutes left, Viduka, who’d been brilliant all game, gave a tremendous backheel flick to youngster Alan Smith, completely baffling two Lazio defenders. Smith, who’d started the play and kept running, picked up Viduka’s pass with a splendid side-footed shot under the keeper to score! It was a goal worthy of the admittance price. It turned out to be historic, too, with Leeds winning in Italy for the first time ever! Final: 1-0 Leeds United. Very cool.

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: The Lair of the White Worm

Author: Bram Stoker

I was curious to read this tale from the guy who wrote Dracula. It turned out to be an interesting, though obviously dated, thriller. I was especially disturbed by the obvious racism (an African character is described as though it’s normal to assume he’s subhuman). The story itself is unusual: it’s about a woman who can transform herself into a giant snake. It’s unfortunately not quite as exciting as it sounds, but has its moments. The most signficant thing I got from the novel is the realization of how different readers are today. Stoker spends most of the novel subtly building up to his premise (you don’t actually find out the woman = worm until very late in the story); I assume that’s because it’s such a fantastic idea that he figured people would have trouble believing it. But today we are so jaded by Hollywood and such that a wild plot like this is like, “Okay, fine, so the woman’s a snake. Big deal.” For me, the premise that a woman is a giant prehistoric snake is not enough of a story; unfortunately, that’s about all there is. I think I’ll check out the movie and see if the special effects help any.

Topic: [/book]

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Mon, Dec 04, 2000

: EPL: Leeds United at Leicster City

I’m not a huge Leicster fan, mostly because they don’t score goals. Well, color me wrong, at least for this game. Seven minutes in Robbie Savage heads in a keeper’s rebound, and ten minutes after that Akinbiyi heads in a second goal. You might have thought that was Leicster’s quota for the month, but then, on a clever free kick play, the ball was crossed instead of driven in, and Taggert leaped up to head the cross past the keeper. Three-zero in less than 30 minutes! In the second half Leeds really pressed, getting numerous corners, but couldn’t score. Then defender Lucas Radebe got sent off with his second yellow, putting Leeds down to ten men. Leeds finally got a goal when Smith’s shot rebounded to Viduka, who had an easy tap-in. After that Leeds had some good chances, including a free kick that hit the post. But it was too much of a lead to overcome: 3-1 Leicster.

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: Serie A: Atalanta at Parma

I hadn’t a chance to see Atalanta, a promoted club this season, and doing incredibly well as the only undefeated club in the Serie A (they are in second place overall). Both teams started off well, with a few nice chances, but it was Frenchman Lamochi who scored first on a pass from fellow Frenchman Michou. After that it was mostly Atalanta in the Parma penalty area, but they couldn’t score. The second half started off with a Parma free kick that almost went in, but an Atalanta defender kicked the keeper’s rebound out of play. A few minutes later Buffon made a great save to preserve Parma’s lead, followed by a series of Parma free kicks that threatened Atalanta but didn’t go in. With less than ten to play, Conceicao put the moves of a defender to free some space and then shot left-footed laser that grazed the inside of the near post. That pretty much did it. Atalanta was impressive, and certainly deserve to be in the Serie A, but Parma proved superior. Final: 2-0 Parma.

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: EPL: Everton at Sunderland

I like both these teams: Sunderland for their fighting underdog spirit and scoring phenom Kevin Philips and Everton because they’re intelligent enough to have an American player, Joe-Max Moore. Unfortunately, Moore sat on the bench for most of the game, and thus Everton dominated. The first half remained nil-nil until last minute, when defender Rae ran onto a rebound and blasted it into the net. In the second half, Sunderland peppered the Everton goal with shots, and finally Philips broke his own goalless streak with a simple tap-in. Moore was put in with 20 minutes left, which was great to see, but still Sunderland dominated. Moore put in a corner kick which was very nearly headed in, and he got a few other good touches, but he didn’t have time to do enough. Final: 2-0 Sunderland.

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Sat, Dec 02, 2000

: Irresistible

Author: Ethan Black

Interesting, though uneven, thriller about New York’s first female serial killer. Perfect for reading while watching the Gore election contest hearing going on today. Parts of the plot depend too much on coincidence — like the fact that the main detective happens to be on the victim list — why? Overall, though, I liked the serial killer’s psychological history, though the story itself seems to depend more on sensationalism than a realistic look at what could be a female serial killer.

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: Gladiator

Director: Ridley Scott

I’d heard really good things about this film, but frankly, I wasn’t impressed. In the first 30 seconds I’d figured out 80% of the plot, and though there were a couple surprises, my predictions were quite accurate. The ending I found anti-climatic and improbable (not to give away the ending, but I didn’t feel Commodus’ character would really do that). That said, this isn’t a bad movie: the dialogue was impressive, and the performances and sets were excellent. But this is not a great film; it’s certainly no Spartacus. The special effects were the kind you don’t notice (like the digitally created Roman Coliseum), which I usually like, but in this case, the film seemed to expect us to be awed by the spectacle, of which I wasn’t. Perhaps I just expected too much, or maybe the big screen theatre presentation is much more dramatic than seeing the widescreen DVD, but I was left with a feeling disappointment and wondering what all the fuss was about.

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Thu, Nov 30, 2000

: Simpatico

Incomprehensible mess about horse racing fraud and blackmail. Told in a mishmash of flashbacks, you keep expecting something eventful to happen, but nothing much does. In the end, you wonder why you bothered.

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Wed, Nov 29, 2000

: The Red Violin

Director: Francois Girard

An incredible, mesmerizing, and remarkable film. I’ll be honest and say I usually don’t like “art” films: even good ones tend to be ponderous and boring. Like brussel sprouts, they may be good for you, but they taste terrible.

This film held me captivated. I couldn’t stop watching, even for tonight’s Star Trek (don’t worry, I recorded it). I doubt it’s because I used to play the violin as a child: I hated practicing and grew to loath the instrument (though I can appreciate it when it’s played well). I must admit, however, the film inspired a curiosity in me: how would I be different if I hadn’t stopped playing?

This film is put together in a masterful fashion: we begin in the present at an auction where the Red Violin is about to go on sale. Then we switch to 17th century Italy where the master craftsman Nicolo Bussotti is making his finest violin in honor of his about-to-born son. Then we follow the violin’s life through 300 years and a half-dozen countries to the present day, at the auction. The film takes us to diverse places: Italy, Germany, England, China, Montreal, New York, each with their own language (subtitled, of course), and each with their own musical style (my favorite was the gypsy music). Periodically, the film switches to Bussotti’s wife, the expectant mother, as her fortune is being told by a tarot card reader, but we see that the future revealed is not hers or her son’s, but the violin’s. We also switch to the auction house. What’s amazing is that the director not only handles these switches with a deftness that brings increased power to the scenes, but he’s clever enough to overlap and vary them slightly, showing us identical scenes from different perspectives. It gives one the feeling that time is an ocean and we’re just drifting through it, hearing bits and glimpses of living history as we float past. The film is never boring: every time you think you know what’s going to happen, the film surprises you with little twists and turns. Gradually the film drifts into a modern forensic detective story as a violin scientist traces the history of the remarkable violin and attempts to verify its authenticity.

This film is as complex and varied as a symphony, with incredible violin music and performances (Pope’s solo is astonishing). It reveals a musician’s love for an instrument, a unique bond only musicians can truly understand. (The scenes with the young orphan, who sleeps with the precious Red Violin beside him, are incredibly touching.) This film encompasses myriad human emotions — grief, joy, wonder, lust, greed, hatred, and sacrifice — all through an inanimate object. By the end of the film, you’ll feel as I do, that the Red Violin is alive, and will outlive us all, and within it will forever live all the people it touched over the centuries.

Topic: [/movie]

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: Champions League: Real Madrid at Leeds United

Great first half, though without goals. Madrid possessed the ball but Leeds had the best chances. In the second half, Leeds continued the pressure, but it was Madrid who broke the deadlock. After a great save by Robinson on Figo’s shot, Hierro’s header beat him on the resulting corner kick. Minutes later, Raul got open alone and scored, leaving Leeds really in the pits. They fought hard, but to no avail. 2-0 Madrid.

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Tue, Nov 28, 2000

: EPL: Bradford City at Middlesbrough

You might think it would be hard for a team to be underdogs to Middlesbrough, considering their terrible form this season, but Bradford City has been doing even worse (only one away goal all season). Both teams are in the relegation zone, with Bradford at the very bottom of the pile. So this game looked like Boro’s chance for a home win, but things went badly from the start. A minute and a half in when Boro didn’t clear the ball well, Windass got it and easily scored. Then, eight minutes later, Carbone scored. Underdogs Bradford were up by two! While Bradford dominated first half play, the second half can be described as a scramble as frantic Middlesbrough struggled for any kind of scrap they could find. They started off well with a goal from Ehiogu just a few minutes in, when Bradford’s keeper made a terrible clear by coming out of his box and knocking the ball right to Ehiogu’s head. After that, however, it looked like Bradford would hold their lead, especially when Middlesbrough had a man sent off. But miraculously, just before the end of regulation, veteran Paul Ince got the ball in the box, dribbled to some open space on the left and put in a low grounder. It bobbled right through Bradford’s keeper’s legs to bring the game to a 2-2 draw. Sadly, that comeback may not be enough to keep Middlesbrough’s manager’s job, but we’ll see.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: Just a Little Harmless Sex

Strange talky movie about couples and infidelity. All talk, no sex. Lame.

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: Worthington Cup: Manchester United vs. Sunderland

Terrific game, though Man. U. didn’t field their full squad. Sunderland played with heart. United’s Dwight Yorke put them ahead in the first half, but in the second half he was sent off for a bad tackle. Sunderland scored minutes into the second half, and with the game tied, the intensity rose. Manchester should have gotten a penalty kick but the ref didn’t call it. The game went into 30 minutes of overtime. Phillips, who was having a great game, though he couldn’t score, was brought down in United’s box for a penalty kick. Phillips scored, and United never recovered. Final: 2-1 Sunderland.

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Mon, Nov 27, 2000

: La Liga: Deportivo at Celta Vigo

The game started off all Deportivo, culminating with a controversial penalty call against Celta Vigo as it looked like the takedown was outside the box. Turu Flores, however, slipped while kicking and sent the ball wide. Celta took over in the second half, at least at first, but failed to convert. Deportivo regained their momentum when Djalminha’s play in the box set up Flores, but he took five minutes to fiddle around with the ball instead of shooting, passing up a terrific chance. Then, with thirteen minutes to go, Djalminha put in a terrific angled kick over the keeper’s head. He cut the ball back to his left foot with his first move, then curled the ball home. Terrific! Final: 1-0 Deportivo.

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: Serie A: Lazio at Parma

Lazio started off in a lackluster fashion, with Parma scoring a great goal by former Lazio player Conceicao ten minutes in. Conceicao was a devil the entire match, running non-stop and pressuring Lazio constantly with great ball handling and clever passes. In the second half, Lazio scored but the goal was controversially called back for offsides: the replay clearly showed the player receiving the ball wasn’t offside, however, the whistle went long before Ravanelli headed in the ball, so that didn’t bother me too much (I hate it when the ref calls back a goal after it was scored). Anyway, Parma played much better than Lazio, possessing the ball and keeping Lazio at bay. Then late in the game Lazio went down a man when a player got a second yellow. In second half injury time, literally with seconds to play, Parma got their second on a goal by Frenchman Lamouchi who got a favorable bounce to beat a defender and still had the calm to put the ball past the keeper. Final: 2-0 Parma, well-deserved.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Sun, Nov 26, 2000

: Serie A: Napoli at A.C. Milan

Nothing much happened initially, though Milan seemed in control, but with just a couple minutes left in the first half, Jose Marie’s header rebounded off the post. On the resulting throw-in, Ambrosini headed the ball in. In the second half Napoli played much better, forcing Abbiati to make a few critical saves, but nothing every penetrated his goal. Final: 1-0 Milan.

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Sat, Nov 25, 2000

: The Cider House Rules

Author: John Irving

Director: Lasse Halstrom

Interesting, well-done period film about a boy who grows up in an orphanage, leaves, and returns to serve as the orphanage doctor. Supposedly controversial because of its pro-abortion views, but I didn’t see much of that: the events in the film are too extreme to be taken as typical abortion situations. Overall, I liked the love story the best. It’s not unusual — boy leaves girl to go to war and while he’s away she has an affair — but I liked the dilemma it presented, and the main character’s innocence. Not a great film — it’s a bit too manipulative (“Oh, aren’t these poor orphans sympathetic!”) — but good.

That said, let me get on my high horse and condemn some of the heavy-handed subtle manipulation of this film. The “cider house rules” of the title turn out to be a list of some inane rules the apple pickers are supposed to follow. The point, heavily made, is to the effect of “those rules weren’t made by people who live here so we don’t have to follow them.” One could look at this as a collery of the old “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before you judge them.” Obviously, this is hinting at the abortion controversy, implying that anti-abortionists don’t “live in the house” and therefore can’t make laws for others (or if they do, abortionists don’t have to follow those laws). Quite illogical, on several fronts; in the end, the “rules” are a very poor metaphor for violating anti-abortion laws. Besides it not making sense, I just found this obvious manipulation distasteful and dangerous (Irving makes the rules so childishly dumb as to be meaningless).

Topic: [/movie]

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: The Grinch

Director: Ron Howard

Very good, though occasionally includes crude, inappropriate jokes (considering its audience). Makeup and special effects were awesome, and Jim Carey did a wonderful job. I liked the way they did the story: it followed the Suess one mostly, but included enough new material to be interesting.

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Fri, Nov 24, 2000

: Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life

Hilarious comedy from the masters of the absurd, this film purports to explain the meaning of existence through a series of sketches. We explore topics such as birth, sex education, middle age, and death. Occasional profundity shows its head (such as the scene where a couple go to a restaurant to order a conversation, not a meal), but occasionally the humor is the more obvious puerile kind. Like most sketch movies, the quality varies. Best of all is the opening short, “The Crimson Assurance,” a terrific Brazil-like film by Terry Gilliam. It opens with a ship of slaves being whipped to work harder, then morphs that into the same old men working at desks as accountants. From there, the men overthrow the suits and put a pirate flag and set forth on the “accountancy” (emphasis on the final syllable). Hilarious and yet quite deep on many levels.

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: Rosemary’s Baby

Author: Roman Polanski (screenplay), Ira Levin (novel)

Director: Roman Polanski

Really well-done thriller without a single special effect! An ordinary young couple move into a new apartment and set about having a family. Gradually the woman comes to believe that her friendly neighbors are witches who want to steal her child. Terrific exercise in paranoia, suspicion, and doubt. Roman cleverly leaves things ambiguous so we wonder if the woman imagined everything or if she really gave birth to Satan’s child. Fascinating example of how to put together a gripping, tension-filled film without any action or graphic effects. Holds up very well over the years.

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: The Green Mile

Author: Frank Darabont (screenplay), Steven King (novel)

Director: Frank Darabont

An even better film than I expected. It was its stereotypicalness that turned me off of it initially (that an Tom Hank’s out-of-placeness as the prison guard), but despite certain predictable plot points, it invites thinking.

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: Black Robe

Author: Brian Moore

Director: Bruce Beresford

Authentic tale of French missionaries in 1634 attempting to convert Native Americans to Christianity. Clearly shows the difference in cultures and lifestyles. For instance, the Indians don’t like the Christian concept of Heaven which is without hunting and killing and sexual relations, and thus conversions are difficult. The missionaries are determined, however, risking and frequently losing their own lives for the cause. The film is violent and savage in places, with majestic and vivid photography. Unfortunately, there isn’t as much story as I desired: the obvious conflicts of human desires versus Godly plan is hinted at but rarely confronted. In the end, we are left with a film with no interpretation or purpose: it means everything and thus means nothing.

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Thu, Nov 23, 2000

: Peeping Tom

Director: Michael Powell

Considered the British version of Psycho, but it’s a very different film, and excellent in its own regard. The significant flaw is that it’s not particularly likeable, mostly because the lead character is not someone we want to relate to (even if we do).

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: The Killer

Author: John Woo

Director: John Woo

John Woo’s best film, an action movie with a conscience. It’s a tale of duality, with the life of a cop mirroring the life of a hired killer who wants to go straight. Throughout the film, they constantly switch white and black hats: he’s hero, no he’s the hero, no he’s the bad guy and the other guy’s the hero. Lots of existential dialogue and more flashbacks than a time-travel pic. Dramatic visuals, more like an opera than a shoot-em-up, with excessive blood and violence that dance across the screen like poetry. Ultimately the film asks the question: who is the killer? The cop kills bad guys while the assassin is hired to kill other criminals, so is he okay? Complex, profound, and thought-provoking, with an action overlay that is exciting and humorous.

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: For Your Eyes Only

One of my favorite James Bond flicks: excellent, dramatic locations; awesome, involved chase sequences; terrific humor; and, of course, the incomparable Carole Bouquet (who has the most amazing long hair) as the Bond Girl. Great fun.

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: Tumbleweeds

Unusual drama of a girl and her mother as they struggle for existence. The mother moves from boyfriend to boyfriend, leaving town after each failed relationship, and the girl grows frustrated by the constant moving. Well-done, with very good performances and strong characters, but it tries a bit too hard to be daring, with “open” mother-daughter conversations on crude topics like farting and having the young girl swear frequently (as though that’s innovative or shocking these days). (The opening scene, where the mother and her boyfriend fight and she and her daughter flee, is filled with foul language that comes across as strangely false, as though either the writer doesn’t know how to swear or just uses swearing as a substitute for characterization.) Still, the characters are real and the story and emotions overall ring true. My only real complaint is the flaw central to the film: the explanation of why the mom always leaves town when a relationship goes bad is weak, leaving the viewer wondering if the mom’s a little weak in the head. (She claims she doesn’t want to run into the old boyfriend, but that’s not enough to justify moving to a different state every four to six months.) If it wasn’t for this flaw the film would be Oscar-caliber, but this makes it fall a little short.

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: Harold and Maude

Author: Colin Higgins

Director: Hal Ashby

My number two favorite film of all time. Amazing, mesmerizing, and hilarious story of a lifeless young “poor little rich boy” who discovers a vivacious 80-year-old woman who teaches him to enjoy existence. Every scene is masterfully orchestrated: not a word of dialogue is excessive, every happening is critical to the plot, every shot is flawlessly composed, and the performances are genuine. This is truly a perfect film. After 30 years it has lost none of its power: perhaps it’s even gained import considering the pointlessness of modern life. This is a film I could watch every month and enjoy more every time.

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: Pitch Black

Terrific sci-fi thriller about a transport vessel that crash lands on an unknown planet. One of the members is a convict being returned to prison, and his escape creates the initial tension. Soon, however, it is discovered that much more dangerous brutes exist on the planet: dinosaur-like creatures (miniature raptors with wings) that consume a person in seconds, like piranha in the Amazon. The creatures, however, are killed by light, which means everyone is safe as the planet has multiple suns and there is no night. That is, until the group realize a once-every-twenty-two year total eclipse is about to occur, plunging the planet into complete darkness. You can imagine the rest.

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Wed, Nov 22, 2000

: Champions League: Deportivo at Paris Saint-Germain

Started off slow, with neither side doing much, but slowly PSG gained momentum and soon dominated. Then, on a weak shot from Algerino, Deportivo’s keeper misjudged the ball and let it slip under him for a PSG lead. In the second half, PSG had several early chances to increase their lead but failed, and Deportivo made them pay with a great volley by Naybet inside the penalty box. Minutes later, Deportivo’s Emerson was taken down in an obvious penalty kick, but the ref didn’t call it. Deportivo had a one-on-one chance moments after that, but the attempt to chip over the keeper failed. It looked like a tie might be the result of the day. But then Deportivo’s Turu Flores, in a brilliant run up the left side, feinted a stop at the edge of the box, then bolted past two defenders to free some space, and slotted the ball home. Both teams had a couple more chances (PSG’s keeper made one great save), but in injury time Deportivo put the matter beyond doubt when Roy Makaay took a great feed to go one-on-one with the keeper and he calmly dribbled around him and kicked the ball into the open net. Final: 3-1 Deportivo!

Topic: [/soccer]

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: The Innovator’s Dilemma

Author: Clayton M. Christensen

Immaculately researched business book exploring answers to the question of why successful well-managed business fail to adapt to innovative technology. The author primarily uses data from the disk drive industry, where, in just over three decades, hundreds of companies rose to power and were defeated by new companies employing the next wave of technology. Why did this happen, over and over again? For instance, all the makers of the 14” drives were killed by the 8” drive makers, and those were killed by the 5.25” manufacturers, and only a few of them survived to make 3.5” drives. Why?

Christensen discovers that lack of managerial or technical skill was not the problem: rather it was the ironic fact that the companies were well-managed that killed them! Let me explain. In successful companies, the entire company, from CEO to managers to the lowest manual laborer, instinctively know to operate in a manner that maximizes profit for the company. Everyone wants to work on projects that will bring in significant growth, so managers approve resources for projects that customers want. The problem is that innovative technologies, while simpler, cheaper, smaller, and more convenient, are initially of limited utility. Their initial markets are small. Being cheaper, they have smaller margins of profit. For example, the first 3.5” disk drives could only hold 10 megabytes while the top 5.25” drives held 100 MB. When successful drive makers went to their customers and said, “Do you want a 10MB drive?” the customers said, “No, we want a 250MB drive!” The smaller drives, while cheaper in total cost, were much more expensive on a cost-per-megabyte basis. The businesses buying storage wanted the cheapest cost-per-megabyte possible. So was there no market for the 3.5” drive? Of course there was! The problem was that the established companies could only look for a market within their existing market. New companies looked for any market, and quickly discovered an emerging market for laptop computers in which the smaller size of the 3.5” drives was an incredible asset and the higher cost per megabyte didn’t matter. The bigger, established companies couldn’t see the laptop market because it was too small for them to consider: for them a successful product sold hundreds of millions of dollars, not a few million. In a sense, this makes sense: emerging markets are not a huge source of profit, especially considering the lower margins on the cheaper products. But eventually, as the innovative technology improves, it pushes the older technology out of the market and takes over: no 5.25” drives are made today, for instance.

The way Christensen explains this process is to divide technology into two types: sustaining and disruptive. Sustaining technology is an improvement that makes an existing product better. Disruptive technology is a simpler version of existing technology that isn’t initially comparable in features, but has the advantage of being simpler and more efficient: in the long run it will take over. Initially it has its own market, but once features and specs improve to be competitive with its larger cousin, it takes over. For example, look at photocopiers: Xerox, long the leader in huge business-oriented monsters, completely missed out on the personal copier market. Obviously, this was good business: why would Xerox, who’s business was tailored to huge customers buying extremely expensive machines want to bother with small sales to individuals? But of course we all know in retrospect that the personal copier market is much, much larger than the big copier market! (Xerox’s mistake meant they came into the personal copier market very late, and thus they are not the leader.) Christensen shows statistical evidence to show that being first in sustaining technology isn’t much of an advantage, but that being first in disruptive technology has tremendous advantages. In hundreds of cases, the makers of the older technology eventually shifted to the disruptive technology, but they were late and slow, and never regained the leadership position they originally had.

Fascinating, excellent, book, with lots of interesting stories and examples. My only criticism is that Christensen tends to repeat himself. For instance, in several places he points out that “successful” businesses are judged by their growth rate, not actual profit. The larger the company, the more new business must be generated. i.e. a $10 million company must earn only $2 million of new business to maintain a 20% growth rate, but the $100 million company needs $20 million and the $10 billion company needs $2 billion! Since there are no emerging markets of $2 billion, a huge company tends to avoid and thus miss emerging markets. This is an excellent point, but I can’t figure out why Christensen needs to repeat it over and over, almost word for word, in different chapters. He does this with other key points as well, and while that might be helpful for busy business execs just browsing through a few key chapters, it makes the book awkward for the ordinary reader. I’d like to see Christensen write a much shorter version of the book suitable for a mass audience: the book’s issues are important for anyone involved in society as they demonstrate how technology infiltrates our everyday lives. Fascinating and highly recommended.

Topic: [/book]

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Mon, Nov 20, 2000

: Dutch: Feyenoord at NEC Nijmegen

I’d never even heard of Nijemegen, so I figured mighty Feyenoord had it in the bag, and I was right. Feyenoord had most of the offense in the early going, and a great cross in the 25th minute was mistakenly knocked in by the Nijemegen defense. Ten minutes later Emerton was left unmarked with the ball. He was a good distance from the goal, but he chipped the keeper perfectly, putting Feyenoord up by two. In the second half, Emerton was awesome: he took the ball at mid-field and ran through the entire defense and single-handedly put the ball into the goal! A bit later, Nijmegen did a little damage control with a header off a corner kick to cut the lead to two. But that was all they could do, so the game finished, as predicted, with Feyenoord easily winning.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: EPL: Ipswich Town at Coventry City

Ipswich, promoted this year, has been leading a charmed life, and is high up the table. Coventry, however, is already fighting relegation. Today the trend continued. After a zero-zero first half in which Coventry dominated, both teams fought with more determination in the second, but neither could score. About the most exciting things to happen was when an Ipswich defender crashed himself into his goalpost making a diving header save and when Coventry hit the woodwork on a free kick. The score was still nothing-nothing when regulation ended, when suddenly, out of nowhere, Ipswich’s Wilnis knocked in a beautiful glancing header to win the game. Soccer’s a crazy, unfair game. Coventry lose at home.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: World Cup Qualifier: Venezuela vs. Ecuador

On the low-end of South American soccer, I didn’t expect much, but was pleasantly surprised. Ecuador took the lead almost immediately with a terrific finish inside the box by youngster Kaviedes: he took a long pass down on his chest and slotted the ball past the keeper on his second touch when the ball dropped to his feet. About twenty minutes later, Ecuador got their second on a long bomb from Wellington Sanchez that the Venezuelan keeper magnificently bobbled. A few much contested free kicks for each side did nothing to change the scoreline, so Ecuador went into the locker room at the half two up. But in the second half, Ecuador’s poor defense let in a pass inside the box and Arango finished it. There were calls for a Venezuelan penalty kick moments later, but the ref didn’t call it. Then Venezuela hit the post, followed by a dangerous free kick opportunity that was blocked by the wall. The game got rough and extremely tense as the clock wound down, but in the end, Ecuador’s slim lead was all they needed. Final: 2-1 Ecuador.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: La Liga: Valencia vs. Alaves

A lackluster first half with no scoring led into a second half with two beauties. Alaves took the lead mid-way through the half, when a clever backheel gave the ball to an open player who put in a great cross which Ivan Alsono put away. As the game swung in Alaves’ favor, they pressured and twice nearly scored again except for terrific saves by Valencia’s keeper. One of these resulted in a quick counter by Valencia and John Carew took a splendid feed from Captain Mendieta and slipped the ball under the keeper to equalize. Final: 1-1.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: Serie A: Roma at Verona

Early on this game looked unpredictable as lowly Verona went up 1-0 on a penalty kick in the fourth minute. But Roma took over after that, with Candela scoring in the 32nd minute on a great curling shot through a crowd of defenders and into the goal, and Totti putting in an easy goal in first half injury time when he was left completely unmarked at the top of the box. The second half was more of the same for poor Verona as Roma dominated. Thirteen minutes in Batistuta scored on a terrific free kick, blasting it through the wall and into the upper corner. Amazing, and worth the price of admission right there. Suddenly, Verona came alive, pressuring Roma with a long period of shots, free kicks, and corners, but they couldn’t actually score. Then, with just minutes left, Batistuta finished them off with another goal, a simple tap-in from a cross just outside of the keeper’s reach. Final: 4-1 Roma.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Sun, Nov 19, 2000

: Whatever It Takes

I have no idea how this movie ended up in my Netflix queue; I disclaim all responsibility. It’s a lame teen Cyrano de Bergerac clone, with no actors you’ve ever heard of, and all the predictability of a Disney movie, but ultimately it’s harmless. But why in the world is there a Director’s Commentary on the DVD? Does anyone really care what this moron director thinks of this silliness?

Topic: [/movie]

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: Agentine: Racing at River Plate

An own goal by Racing in the first half put River up, but that was the only goal either team could manage. Not a terrible game, but it should have been better.

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Sat, Nov 18, 2000

: Serie A: A.C. Milan at Lazio

Boy do I love Italian soccer. They are so passionate they make a 0-0 draw incredibly exciting. This game started off with a bomb, when the home team’s Dino Baggio blasted the ball through the back of the net. Milan fought back and even out-played Lazio at times, but by the end of the first half, Lazio was attacking furiously, pressing their lead. I loved Crespo’s run when he was brought down at the top of the box: he out-dribbled two defenders with some nice moves and had to be fouled to be stopped. In the second half, the stalemate after the first goal continued, but a split second gap between two defenders gave Serie A goal-scoring leader Shevchenko all the opportunity he needed to equalize. The teams battled on with near misses, post hits, and other exciting developments, but ultimately, neither team could hurt the other any further, and the result was a fair 1-1 draw. Excellent game.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: Election Commentary: Counting the Ballots

Let me just say this: the United States Presidential Election should not be decided on a technicality (this ballot is flawed, the voter was confused, or this absentee ballot doesn’t have a postmark) or by a court (supreme or any other).

Courts should make rules about how an election can be run, or determine if there was fraud or a violation of those rules, but they should not be deciding who wins the election.

I write this on Saturday, long before any decision has been made in this matter, and I am growing irritated by this process. The longer this continues the more it polarizes the country. The hand counting of ballots is an example of something that will tear this country apart: frankly I don’t believe the Democrats who say there is no fraud or flaw in the process, and I don’t believe the Republicans who imply that Democratic counters with long fingernails are surreptitiously punching Gore holes in ballots. Both are extreme views. But the hand counts open us up to that and turn this election into a partisan battle. What the Gore camp has never proven is that there is any reason for hand counting millions of ballots. For hand counts to be needed, the Gore camp must prove that there is bias in the machine count. Just because the machines rejected some ballots does not invalidate the election: there’s no evidence to show that the machine didn’t reject just as many Bush ballots as Gore ballots. That’s the whole point of machines. They may be wrong, they may even be wrong on a lot of ballots, but those errors average out in favor of all the parties. Unless Gore wants to argue that Gore voters are dumber than Bush voters and thus more likely to fill out ballots in such a way as to confuse the machines, there is no reason to suspect that a statewide hand recount would produce any different result than the machine count (barring any mischief, of course). Sure, the exact numbers might be different, but overall, the results would be the same.

So, you say, if Bush will win anyway, why not go ahead and do a statewide manual recount? Four reasons:

1) A manual recount will take a very long time. Currently it looks like it will take until after Thanksgiving to finish the counts already in progress, and that’s for just 1.7 million votes. Most likely those counts aren’t valid anyway, since every precinct is applying its own rules to the counting process, and without consistent standards, a court will throw out the results. That could mean it would take into next year just to count the ballots, not even getting into the dozens of lawsuits that are guaranteed to follow.

2) A manual recount is incredibly messy. We’re just seeing the tip of iceberg so far. Both parties have lots of lawyers and are going to go to extraordinary lengths to press their cases, and with the hand count process so complicated, irregular, and full of human error, it could literally take months or even years to figure out the mess. For instance, though the counting process is monitored by a Democrat and a Republican, on questionable ballots — the only ones that matter — the arbiter is the local canvassing board, which in Democrat counties, is made up of a majority of Democrats (and presumably the reverse in Republican counties). Both sides have a lot to lose in the hand count process, but Gore, of course, has no other option (he has already lost on the machine count).

3) It’s against the law. Now I know to most lawyers laws are just technicalities, but they do matter. There are rules to this game. Florida law says a party must request a hand count within 72 hours of the election. That time has long past and while Gore requested hand counts in certain Democratic counties, Bush did not. Accepting the results of hand counts in just the Gore counties would be patently unfair and America would not stand for that. The hue and cry would drown out the voice of any court in the nation that tried to support that crazy idea. If Gore wants “every vote to count” it must literally be every vote: Republican as well as Democratic. Sure, the Florida Supreme Court could determine that a statewide hand recount is necessary, but that’s more time, more complexity, and more expense for Florida. A statewide recount would be almost as complicated as a new election! Frankly, my feeling is that if hand recounts are ordered, that means that they must be more accurate than machine counts, and therefore, every state in the country must recount all their votes by hand. After all, we must count every vote. I am serious: why is Florida the only state that gets special attention? Doesn’t my vote in California count? New Mexico was won by less than 500 votes. A number of other states were also narrow victories. If Florida gets a hand recount, every state should do the same. It’s only fair. In fact, all future elections should be decided by hand counting: I mean, if we can’t trust machines with this election, why should we trust them in future elections? (Note: A nationwide hand recount, of course, would require a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, not the Florida Supreme Court, which only has jurisdiction in Florida.) I say this only so the Florida Supreme court understands the seriousness of their decision: they could be writing election law for the new century.

4) There is no need for a manual recount (we have the results already). In short, Bush won. He won on election night. He won on the recount. He won after the absentee ballots came in. Enough. Let’s be done with it. Half of American didn’t vote at all, and of the half that did, they were evenly split between the two parties. That means America will accept either of these men as President. All we need is a good reason. If Gore cannot prove that there was any fraud or bias in the machine count, then he has lost. That has to be the standard on which the Florida Supreme Court decides whether or not to accept the hand recounted ballots. Gore needs to just pack up and bow out gracefully, and begin planning his 2004 campaign.

Let me conclude by saying that America will not tolerate this indecision much longer. It’s divisive, irritating, and insulting to our Constitution, our Founding Fathers, and every American who loves this country. I had hoped this mess would be over this weekend and I was distressed to find out it was not. The Florida Supreme Court has no business in this case, unless it is to simply uphold the law and rule that the hand counts were without cause and will not be included in the final tally. I pray that is what will happen, and quickly, because if it does not, we are going to see a long, technical, and extremely partisan legal battle, regardless of whatever the votes say. Remember, the longer this goes on, the more reluctant each candidate is going to be to bow out, especially if it goes on long enough to damage the person’s political career: he might see this as his only chance to be President and risk everything. If you thought Iran-Contra or the Clarence Thomas hearings or Bill Clinton’s impeachment were bad, you haven’t seen nothing yet. This is getting ugly, really ugly, and we’ve only seen the eyebrow of the monster.

Topic: [/politics]

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: EPL: Sunderland at Newcastle United

Newcastle’s Gary Speed missed a good chance twenty seconds in, but three minutes later he put in the rebound of his own header while lying on the ground in front of Sunderland’s goal. Sunderland had their own try ten minutes in, but it was brilliantly saved by keeper Given, who backpeddled to touch the ball over the crossbar. Sunderland seemed out of it by the end of the first half, but in the second they woke up with a great header goal by Hutchison. Not long after that Sunderland went up a goal when Niall Quinn put in a fantastic header. Sunderland’s momentum was lost, however, when hero Quinn’s takedown in the box resulted in a penalty kick for Newcastle. Striker Alan Shearer stepped up for the guaranteed goal — but Sunderland keeper Sorenson with his save of season blocked the shot! What a great game! Final: 2-1 underdogs Sunderland, putting them in ninth place, just behind Newcastle.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: Girl

Excellent small independent film about a high school senior finding herself. Dominque Swain (Lolita) plays an intellectual girl who has no identity — she doesn’t know what she wants in life. Everyone around her seems to her to be totally in control of who they are: pretty, talented, focused, etc. Then she becomes obsessed with a local rock star; the irony of such a smart mooning over a silly boy is entertaining, but as her character grows she slowly realizes that not only are others just as lost as she is, but that she isn’t as much of a nobody as she thought. Very well done. My favorite thing was Swain’s narration: she constantly says one thing in her narration and something completely different in real life, making for profundity and hilarity. (For instance, in one scene, coming home late, she waves to her parents and jovially narrates, “Hi! I’m not a virgin any more!” but then actually says, “Hi!”)

Topic: [/movie]

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: Dutch: FC Ultrecht at Roda JC

A fairly even first half, though Roda dominated and had several point blank shots that missed (including a miss on an open net that was scandalous). I thought the second half was going to be more of the same, but ten minutes in Ultrecht’s terrible defense left Lawal alone in the box. He took a nice pass and put it away. A beautiful play, but really poor marking by Ultrecht. Ultrecht fought back, getting some free kick opportunities, and then on a corner kick a player centered the ball with an overhead kick which Dombi nicely headed into the goal. The even battle continued until seven minutes left when Van Der Luer’s free kick bounced off a man on the wall to deflect into the goal. Ultrecht had their chance with seconds left, but their shot went into the side netting. That was it: 2-1 Roda.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Fri, Nov 17, 2000

: The Skulls

Interesting concept; it’s about a young man being accepted into a collegiate an elite secret society. Suddenly he’s given cash, a fancy car, and he college tuition is paid for. But then he discovers the society is a trap: once in, there’s no getting out. He’ll owe members favors for the rest of his life. Overall, the movie’s a bit pretentious, mistaking a slow pace and thoughtful looks for philosophical depth, and it tends to be predictable and nothing much happens. I still liked it for concept alone, but it’s only an okay film.

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Thu, Nov 16, 2000

: Romeo Must Die

Okay action flick with some nice scenes, but the writer seemed to think obtuse meant profound. In the end, rather predictable, but watchable, if you like Kung Fu action movies.

Topic: [/movie]

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Wed, Nov 15, 2000

: EPL: Derby County at Arsenal

The second place team against the worst place team: who will win? Yeah, right, like it’s even a contest. Well, it was. Derby was the stronger team at the start, but mostly they defended while the Gunners struggled to put together plays. In the end, neither team could defeat the other: a classic nil-nil draw. Bah humbug.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: World Cup Qualifier: U.S.A. at Barbados

Whew! This was a critical game for the United States: a loss and they miss going to the World Cup in 2002. They easily beat Barbados 7-0 at home, but in an away game, anything can happen. As if to prove that point, it started out poorly for the U.S., with the horrible, choppy, wet field creating havoc. The ball rolled awkwardly, passes missed their targets, and erratic bounces threatened an accidental goal. Barbados had a few chances, but the game really didn’t get going until about a half hour in, when Meola’s save ricocheted off a teammate to nearly rebound into his goal but hit the post. Mathis had a great chance for the U.S., but the wet ball didn’t allow a clean hit and struck the post. Late in the second half, with a mere half hour to go, the situation started looking nerve-wracking for the United States. Shots went wide or were saved, and Barbados looked dangerous on the occasional counter-attack. Then came the play of the game, when Joe-Max Moore brilliantly dribbled the ball up the endline and put back a nice center to Mathis who barely had to move to knock the ball into the goal. Things were dicey for a few minutes as I worried the Americans would relax too much, but then Eric Stewart was given an hour of time at the top of the box to line up his shot: his blast nearly punctured a hole in the far side netting. After that, the game really went to the United States. On a fantastic through-ball from Mathis, Cobi Jones darted in behind the Barbados defense and slipped the ball under Stout, their keeper. Then, in injury time, Ante Razov got a nice pass in the box and finished it easily. Final: 4-0 United States. The U.S. advances to the next round of qualifying (which continues through November 2001) where the top three teams (out of the United States, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago, and either Guatemala or Costa Rica, depending on the outcome of their playoff game) will go to the World Cup finals in 2002.

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Tue, Nov 14, 2000

: EPL: Middlesborough at Manchester United

The first part of the game was all Manchester, with shot after shot after shot. But nothing went in, and then in the thirty-second minute, Christian Karembou received the ball unmarked in the box and put in an awkward chip over United’s keeper and fellow Frenchman, Bartez, for a terrific goal (his first in the Premiership). Manchester looked out of sorts after that, but in the second half they peppered the Middlesborough goal with shots — but none went in. Just as it was starting to seem like Manchester was out of it, an opportunistic Nicky Butt scored. Just minutes later, Dwight Yorke’s point blank shot rebounded and Teddy Sherringham pounced on it to put United up 2-1. Once again, Man. U. comes back — they just can’t be defeated.

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: Dutch: De Graafschap at Ajax

The Brazilian Wamberto got things going for Ajax in the sixth minute on a great through-ball that put him one-on-one with the keeper, and he didn’t miss his chance. Then Viscaal put in an amazing blast from the top of the arc to equalize in the 32nd minute. You’d have thought the stronger Ajax would have won easily, but it took a lot of work for them to move ahead. de Graafschap gave up a series of free kicks and corner kicks that culminated in a penalty kick for Ajax, which Chivu put away. Then Ajax took over, with a great goal by Van Der Gun on a ball played over the top of the defense. Van Der Gun got his second moments later on a blast inside the box. That was it: 4-1 Ajax, in a well-deserved win.

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Mon, Nov 13, 2000

: La Liga: Real Zaragoza vs. Deportivo

Things were pretty routine in the first half until Diego Tristan put in a beauty late in the half. He received the ball at the far side of the penalty box and put in an elegant angled ball that easily beat the keeper. After the goal the game became a lot more competitive. About fifteen minutes into the second half, Tristan got his second on a long distance bomber that was gorgeous to watch. Zaragoza played well, but they couldn’t come back from two down. Final: 2-0 Deportivo.

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: Serie A: Regina at Roma

Poor little Regina just couldn’t get it going in the first half, which was completely dominated by Roma. Roma’s only goal, however, came from a penalty kick by Totti. In the second half, Roma started off with Delvechio missing a keeperless net from eight yards out. Then Regina got their first shot on goal — and it went in! Bogdani put in a tremendous header from distance that went right at the base of the post where the keeper couldn’t get down fast enough. For fifteen minutes Regina looked like a real team, then Montella put in a great volley in the box on a feed from Totti. For a while it looked like Regina might make a second comeback, but it was not to be. Roma, while they won, should have done much better against such weak opposition. Final: 2-1 Roma.

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Sun, Nov 12, 2000

: Sara Groves Concert#2

A year later, Sara Groves is back on her California tour, promoting her new album (Conversations) and her new baby, 11-week-old Kirby. As usual, she was excellent, blending entertaining and meaningful stories in between her excellent, moving songs. For example, she had the place rolling with her embarrassing stories of birds pooping on her (which happened four times in her life, once during a first date)! The story brought the audience close to her, however, and then she quickly turned the humor into seriousness by relating how embarrassing moments tend to happen when you’re trying to please other people, not God. That led into her song about “You face God alone,” reminding us that we aren’t validated by the people we try to impress, but by our relationship with God. Excellent. Download one of her songs from her website and give it a listen!

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: Argentine: Rosario Central at Boca Juniors

Wild game with tons of goals. I missed the first half hour, when Delgado scored, but in the second half it was crazy. Caceres tied the score a few minutes in, but twenty minutes later Palermo took an excellent feed from Schelotto and slid the ball under the keeper. Boca’s joy was only temporary when Diaz put a header in the other goal. After some real battling, Boca went ahead of a Schelotto penalty kick. It seemed like it wasn’t to be Rosario’s day. But with seconds left in regulation, Caceres got his second goal on another header. Final: 3-3! Crazy!

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Sat, Nov 11, 2000

: Serie A: Lazio at Juventus

Two of my favorite Italian teams clash and it was terrific! Juventus had the better play over all, but Lazio did what was needed to come away with a point. The first goal was scored by defender Igor Tudor, on a header off a corner kick. The ball went over Veron’s head (he was on the goal line) and hit the underside of the crossbar and went in. A few minutes later, Salas put in a great knuckling shot from distance. Even with the rain and everything, it should have been an easy stop for keeper Edwin Van der Sar as it was right at him, but he let the ball slip under his elbow for an easy equalizer. That was all the goals the game netted, but it was still a good game, with lots of chances, a couple redeeming saves for Van der Sar, and some quality attacking play on both sides. Juventus deserved the win, but they didn’t get it.

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: Total Recall

Author: Based on story by Philip K. Dick

I felt like an action flick and this DVD suited my mood perfectly. It’s a classic: excellent science fiction story, good action, and nice plot twists. Not nearly as violent as I remembered, but every well done. The plot is about a guy who chooses to have a memory implant of a vacation to Mars (cheaper than the real thing), but the process awakens real memories of Mars. It turns out he’s a secret agent and everything about his life (family, wife, job, etc.) is nothing but a memory implant. It gets crazier from there. Based on the classic Philip K. Dick story (author of the book Bladerunner was based on), it’s a terrific trip of wondering what is real and what is not (central themes of much of Dick’s work).

The first time I saw this film was a real head trip: the whole time I kept thinking I’d seen it before, though I knew I hadn’t. It wasn’t until the very end that I figured out I’d read Dick’s short story as a child and the similarities were driving me insane. The overwhelming sense of deja vue I was suffering was literally making me nauseous. What this did, however, was immerse me into the film at a deeper level: I was the main character, trying to find my mind (and reality). Really, really cool.

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: EPL: Charlton Athletic at Ipswich Town

The clash of two promoted clubs (both were in the second division last season) proved to be a determined battle. For the first 80 minutes nothing much happened as the teams just scraped and struggled, but finally Ipswich came to life with a goal by Matt Holland (his first in the Premiereship), and a few minutes later Stewart did a terrific juggling act in the box to maneuver the ball into shooting position, scoring off a deflection. Final: 2-0 Ipswich.

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Fri, Nov 10, 2000

: Charlie’s Angels

Director: McG

The original title of this movie was “Three Adorable Babes So We Don’t Need a Coherent Plot” (the title was rejected by focus groups who didn’t know what “coherent” meant). This is the kind of film I usually hate, as the plot is so nonsensical as to be worse than insulting, but this time is works. The angels are having so much fun and looking so cute doing it, you can’t help but join in. Everyone knows their dialog is corny, and the director rushes through critical plot elements so quickly it seems even he’s embarrassed to dwell on their stupidity, and the result is that you relax and just have some mindless fun. It’s pure eye candy. There really are four angels, not three, as Cameron Diaz’s butt gets enough screen time for a credit of its own. The director, obviously of MTV-influence, puts the film together like a series of music videos. The fight sequences are too

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: Videodrome

Author: David Cronenberg

Director: David Cronenberg

I love the bizarre and absurd, but this film didn’t quite work for me. It has lots of Cronenberg’s typical themes: the merging of biology and technology, reality vs. unreality, sexual horror, etc. The “plot” is about a TV producer who discovers a pirate feed of violent torture and decides it is what his on-the-edge cable station needs. Turns out “videodrome” is an electronic infection embedded in the signal, and the guy (wonderfully played by the always excellent James Woods) begins to hallucinate. Soon he (and us) can’t tell what is real and what is a dream. From there the plot descends into an uncomfortable mess of corporate bad guys, betrayal, assassination, and death.

As usual, Cronenberg is saying some profound things about society and how we are slaves to technology. For instance, his idea of the “Cathode Ray Mission” is brilliant: a place where the homeless can come watch TV for free (since TV is more important than food or shelter). But in much of the film Cronenberg’s ideas are just too convoluted to be of much use to anyone, and his violent, horror-filled presentation will turn off a lot of people. Overall, this is a fascinating work on the merging of television and the mind and one of Cronenberg’s best films, but it’s not the kind of film you can just sit down and enjoy: it’s more like something that attacks you. As Woods’ character says about a video in the film, “Watch out. It bites.”

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: Election Delay (Commentary)

Okay, I’ve just got to say something about this silly election. First, understand that I’m a disenfranchised voter. I’m one of the twenty million who voted for Perot, after all. Some might say I was crazy to vote for Perot, but before that, I’d never bothered to vote (though I was eligible). So Perot got me motivated. This election shows exactly why so few Americans bother to vote: it’s all partisan politics.

Now, a day or so ago, I was ready to say, “Flip a coin and get it over with!” After all, with the vote being 50-50 (and forget that nonsense about Gore winning the popular vote; the votes aren’t all in, and his lead is so slim as to be statistically nil), the country really doesn’t care which one gets put in. But then Gore began this dangerous, arrogant business of legally challenging the result, which has the potential of tearing the country in part. It could literally lead to riots and violence (look at the sit-ins and demonstrations in Florida, which right now are peaceful). People on both sides think they are morally right and that’s dangerous. So now, with Gore pulling this kind of legal maneuvering, I say, pull the plug on Gore and give the White House to Bush. (It’s not going to make any difference anyway, as there’s no mandate.)

Then last night MSNBC played a clip from Rush Limbaugh’s radio program. To demonstrate what a creep Gore is, Rush pointed out class by talking about how Missouri Senator and former Govenor John Ashcroft had reacted to “losing to a dead guy.”

First Ashcroft congratulated the people of Missouri for their compassion, then said he lost “because I simply didn’t get enough votes,” and he called Mel’s wife and told her sincerely, “I hope this win will ease the pain of your loss at least a tiny bit.” Then he refused any legal challenges to his loss (there are many who said he had grounds to overturn the result) and said he wouldn’t support anyone else making any legal challenge.

Contrast that to Gore, who’s going to keep the country in limbo for a few weeks while he desperately digs into graveyards for votes, stirring up the country and antagonizing the whole repub/demo thing. The hand-counting of ballets sounds extremely subjective: the counters are allowed to guess at the person’s intention

Enough! The votes are in, call the election, and move the country forward.

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Thu, Nov 09, 2000

: UEFA Cup: Liverpool at Slovan Liberec

Liverpool has been lackluster in the UEFA Cup to say the least. They inched by Liberec 1-0 at home so they had a slight lead coming in, but we really needed to see them perform well to have confidence for the future. Things started off poorly right off when Liberec scored with a glancing header off a corner kick. It looked like everything was going against the English club. But then, on a cross from a free kick, Nicky Barmby put in his own header in almost a duplicate of the Liberec goal. In the second half, things were mediocre until late when Liverpool came to life with a goal from Heskey. Clearly in control, 20-year-old hero and international superstar Michael Owen was put in the game with less than ten minutes to play. He’s been out injured and there were questions regarding his form. But within thirty seconds of coming on, on his first touch, he dribbled the ball at the top of the box past several defenders and put in a beauty that the keeper, while he got a touch to it, failed to stop! Brilliant! Liberec answered moments later with their own “Owen,” as substitute Breda put in a wonderful arching shot from outside the penalty area with his first touch, but that left the score 3-2 Liverpool, meaning that they advance to the next round. Finally, some life at Liverpool. Great to see Owen back. He’s awesome.

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Wed, Nov 08, 2000

: Election Results

Wow, what a hilarious turn of circumstance! Last night when I went to bed Bush was President-Elect. Today he’s not, and we won’t officially know until tomorrow. Plus, Gore could win the popular vote while Bush wins the White House. Only in America.

Okay, I’ve got to vent a bit. If I hear another idiot talking head say that this election proves that “every vote counts” I am going to scream! This election proves the exact opposite. My vote didn’t count squat. If I lived in Florida, yes, my vote might have made a difference, but not in California. Enough of the Electoral College, folks! It’s out dated, insane, and incredibly lame. It’s time for one vote = one vote. No wonder so few people vote in the country. Not only is registration an incredible hassle (I’m still voting in a city I haven’t live in for seven years, because that’s where they have me registered, and whenever it’s election time it’s always too late for me to change it), but our vote doesn’t count anyway! I want to be able to vote on the Internet! I want my vote to count! I want to start my own country!

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: Champions League: Leeds United at A.C. Milan

After a last-minute tie against Barcelona, Leeds was in the position where they had to get something from this game: at least a draw to advance to the second round of the competition. Milan was already guaranteed to go through, so they had little to play for except for pride. The game started off poorly for Leeds when a very questionable handball penalty was called against them. Milan’s top striker Shevchenko stepped up… and hit the post! Leeds was still alive. The game was even after that, with Leeds getting very few chances, and Milan frighteningly close on occasion. Then, as we entered first half injury time, Leeds got a corner kick. Matteo headed the ball toward the near post and it beat the keeper! Leeds was ahead! In the second half, Milan stepped up the offense, with Shevchenko desperately trying to redeem himself, but it was Serginho who broke Leeds with a goal late in the game. After that, it was nail-biting time as Leeds tried to possess the ball and Milan occasionally went forward, but basically the game was over, both sides satisfied with a 1-1 draw. Milan wins the group, Leeds advance in second place, and “poor” Barcelona is knocked out!

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Tue, Nov 07, 2000

: Shivers

Author: David Cronenberg

Director: David Cronenberg

Nice little thriller from the master of the bizarre, Cronenberg. This was his first film, but even it shows the touches of a genius. As typical of Cronenberg, the plot is absurd to the point of silliness — humans in a high-rise complex are infected by a parasite that makes them seek sexual pleasure — but Cronenberg directs the film with a seriousness that makes it believable. Some nice chills and bit of gore, but mostly fun. Watching the hero run from a sex-crazed crowd is hilarious — he’s running because they want to have sex with him, not hurt him (though sex will infect him with the parasite). Not quite as much profundity as I would have liked, but more than your average horror flick (interesting that this was made in a pre-AIDS era). Recommended for Cronenberg fans.

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Mon, Nov 06, 2000

: La Liga: Deportivo at Villarreal

Last year’s champs Deportivo got things going with a quirky goal from Djalminha. A fantastic through-ball was sent ahead of him toward the keeper and he just managed a touch to detour it around the keeper. Unfortunately, he’d hit it too hard to catch it and it seemed like it was going wide. But at the last moment it banged the post and spun in! EPSN2 lost the signal toward the end of the half and after a break they came back to reveal Villarreal had tied the score on a shot from Victor. The replay revealed it was an amazing strike from just outside the box. In the second half it was all Villarreal, who outplayed Deportivo, but like often happens in soccer, it was Deportivo who scored. Substitute Pandiani beat the offside trap and pushed the ball through the legs of the keeper! Villarreal were deflated for a while, but kept fighting, and with less than ten minutes left, Victor scored his second with a shot from outside the top corner of the box, low and past the keeper. It looked for certain we were heading for a 2-2 draw. But in injury time, Moises ran onto a desperate cross that was going just in front of the goal, and he scarcely had to touch it to put it in. The giant was toppled and the crowd went mad! Final: 3-2 Villarreal.

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: EPL: Arsenal at Middlesbrough

With Middlesbrough in such lowly form, how would they fare against powerhouse Arsenal? They did not start off well: in the 23rd minute keeper Crossley violently took down Lundberg in the box and not only gave Arsenal a penalty kick but was ejected! Substitute keeper Beresford was quickly put in to face the penalty, but Frenchman Henry easily scored. Beresford did well, making several excellent saves late in the half, but with Middlesbrough down to ten men, it didn’t look good for the home side. But Middlesbrough came back determined and played well. Arsenal sat back except for a few counters, including some impressive play by Henry (he played provider several times, and hit the post once). Other than a few shining moments, however, the game was weak, as Arsenal played defense (in a game they should have won by a large margin) and ten-man Middlesbrough struggled for any kind of quality offense. Final: 1-0 Arsenal.

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: EPL: West Ham at Derby County

These two are near the bottom of the table and I didn’t expect much, though the battle was fiercely contested. Neither team could score in the first half, though both had chances. Derby had the possession in the second half, but couldn’t do anything with it, and West Ham’s big money players failed to break the Derby defense. Lame. Final: 0-0.

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: Dutch: Ajax at Willem II

Willem dominated in the early part of the game, but Ajax struck in the 11th minute. Machlas’ low grounder was going wide of the goal, but it was just outside of the keeper’s reacher. Brazilian winger Wamberto ran onto it and amazingly put it in from the end line, just over the diving keeper’s fingers. After that, except for the occasional counter-attack, Willem was on their heels as Ajax pressed forward. In the second half, Willem really tried, and had the superior play, but couldn’t capitalize. They had numerous chances, but either the shots went wild or Ajax’s Grimm made the key stop (he had several nice saves). And that was it: 1-0 Ajax, for their first win on the road this season.

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: Serie A: Roma at Brescia

Brescia hasn’t won a game all season, so one was surprised, to say the least, when they led at the half! Candela started things off for Roma in the 13th minute, but nine minutes later Bisoli leveled things for the smaller club. A penalty kick at the 45 minute mark put Brescia ahead going into the half, but the second half was all Roma as they pressed and Brescia tried to play defense. Brescia’s keeper made a spectacular double-save early on, but then Batistuta scored off a long shot that bounced to him off the post. He did the same thing again eighteen minutes later when Cafu’s shot hit the post and felt right at his feet. Then, in injury time, Batigoal got a terrific feed from Delvechio and put it away sweetly. Final: 4-2 Roma!

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Sun, Nov 05, 2000

: Serie A: Bologna at Lazio

Bologna’s been doing very well this season, but this game showed they’re still not in the class of a club like Lazio. Early in the game Salas made a great run up the side, amazingly dribbling past about four defenders (nutmegging the last one). Once in the box he delivered an angled cross back toward the top of the box where my favorite Czeck Nedved ran on to it and put it away (the keeper was marking Salas on the near side). In the second half, it was Crespo, taking a nice through-ball and doing just enough to get it past the keeper. Good game, but all Lazio: 2-0.

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: Dutch: Twente Enschede at PSV Eindhoven

Once again, the big club dominates, with PSV scoring by Ramzi ten minutes in. In the second half Twente hit the post and the rebound turned into a great counter in which Twente’s keeper had to make a terrific save. But in minute 66 a poor clearance from Twente on a corner kick and the Finn Kolkka made a great trap for his first touch, and scored with the second. That was all the scoring, though the game had some good action, injuries, and yellow cards. Final: 2-0 PSV.

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Fri, Nov 03, 2000

: Serie A: Roma at Intermilan

A big mid-week match for these two top clubs, I expected a battle and got it. After some Roma domination early on, Inter got a boost with the first goal. New signing Turkish genius Sukur misplaced his shot to give Roma’s keeper a save, but what did he do on the resulting corner kick? Head the ball into the net, of course! In the second half, Roma torn into the Inter defense again and again, but nothing they did resulted in a goal. Then, with about twenty minutes left, a fantastic turn-and-shoot move from Recoba put Inter up 2-0, and that was all that it took to sent Roma home with their heads hanging.

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Thu, Nov 02, 2000

: Dutch: Vitesse Arbgen at PSV Einhoven

Two good teams clash with passion and vigor. PSV started things off with a terrific goal from Finn Kolkka in the 10th minute — he dribbled through the heart of the defense and put in a cracker shot that went through the legs of a defender and beat the keeper. Vitesse struggled hard, but could do nothing, and finally in the 90th minute PSV scored another. A shot was saved amazingly by the Vitesse keeper, but the rebound went to the dreaded Kolkka, who finished it with class and finesse. Final: 2-0 PSV.

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: Worthington Cup: Chelsea vs. Liverpool

Terrific game! Incredible, skilled soccer on both sides. Lots of 10-12 touch passing combinations leading to offensive play. It was the best I’ve seen Liverpool play in a long time. Liverpool started things off with a goal from the left side from Murphy, who put across a grounder from a tight angle that managed to go between the defenders running on and beating the keeper at the far post. Chelsea didn’t answer until late in the half with a easy goal from the tiny Italian Zola (one of my favorite players). Combination play and a run up the left side left Zola alone in the box, and a perfect cross meant he got a chance to head it into the goal standing about two feet from the goal line! Zola doesn’t miss chances like that. In the second half the good play continued, but the defenses of both teams played just as good. Late in the game things got a bit chippy, especially when the game went into overtime (where we saw a flurry of yellow cards). But it was Robbie Fowler who put in the winner: he received the ball with his right foot, knocking it down to his left, and one-timed a low straight-as-an-arrow shot just inside the post. And that was it! Chelsea’s knocked out of the Worthington Cup, Liverpool goes on, 2-1.

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Wed, Nov 01, 2000

: Seminar: Guy Kawasaki’s Rules For Revolutionaries

This evening I went to Lighthouse Venture Forum’s premiere event at Peachwoods restaurant, with special speaker Guy Kawaksaki (former Apple Fellow, CEO of garage.com, and author of Rules for Revolutionaries, The Macintosh Way, and other classic books). The place was filled with nearly 200 people, many of them CEOs of local companies such as Aladdin Systems, Thuridion, Tartan Technologies, and many others; I recognized a number of SVP’s printing customers. Guy’s presentation was amazing. He has such a flare for speaking, so relaxed and comfortable and witty he makes you feel the same. Nearly every sentence out of his mouth was a clever phrase, designed for you to remember (such as “Eat like a bird, poop like an elephant” — his way of saving absorb information and spread it around, not just in your own company, but in your entire industry). He actually gave several presentations (each about 15 minutes), and he had a question-and-answer follow-up. Full of excellent tips on entrepreneurship, business development, and securing venture capital funding, he had the crowd laughing at his great stories and hilarious examples of business stupidity (including making fun of both Microsoft and Apple, calling “Apple Marketing” an oxymoron, and saying, “If Apple had licensed the Mac OS in 1987 the desktop market would be 95% Mac and 5% Linux.”). Guy managed to offend most of the audience in one way or another, making Santa Cruz, women, men, guys with goatees who drive German cars and wear Armani, and other groups the butt of his jokes. It was hilarious, considering the CEO of Thuridion, founding member of the conference, drives a German car and has a goatee! (Even better was Guy’s attack on Herman Miller chairs: he declared that if a start-up buys Aeron chairs they are guaranteed to fail. In fact, he’s banned them at garage.com. I was at the Thuridion table, where the CEO was turning purple: everyone at Thuridion has an Aeron chair!) Note that Guy handled all this very well — when he realized the event’s sponsor had Aeron chairs he tried to use a different chair in his example, but finally gave up and picked on Herman Miller anyway. It was all in fun, but made a serious point about not wasting money just for the impression money creates. If you ever get the chance to hear Guy speak, take it. You’ll remember it for the rest of your life!

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: EPL: Newcastle at West Ham

I’d already heard the result of this game (which was played on Saturday, but aired today), so I wasn’t too excited. I don’t know why Fox Sports World decided to air this game, as it wasn’t great. There was a few moments of spirited battle, with Given making a great one-handed save in the first half, and Newcastle having some chances in the second. West Ham’s young Joe Cole was terrific, really creating some opportunities in the second half, but then he was injured and had to leave the game. West Ham finally managed a goal by Frenchman Kunoute in the 76th minute — he received a terrific through-pass from a teammate and he took the shot first time, essentially continuing the motion of the through-pass, beating Given. Very well done, but that was it. West Ham, 1-0.

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Tue, Oct 31, 2000

: Dutch: Ajax at PSV Eindhoven

These are the two biggest clubs in Holland. The battle started off with a lot of battling, but about fifteen minutes in a mistake put Ajax’s Machlas in good position and he chipped it over the keeper, who was helplessly off his line. Ajax got a second minutes later, but it was called back for offside. The game got very physical late in the half as PSV really pressed forward, but they couldn’t score. The scrapiest continued in the second half, but it was all the way to the 78th minute before PSV could equalize on a penalty kick (which Ajax keeper Grimes almost saved). Seconds later, Machlas could have put Ajax ahead again, but his shot went inches wide of the post. In a strange play toward the end of the game when PSV could have gone ahead, a PSV player got hit in the back of the head with the ball and was knocked out cold! I’ve never seen that before. He was fine after a couple minutes, but it was strange. Final: 1-1.

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: Dutch: Feyenoord at Utrecht

A top- versus bottom-of-the-table clash, Feyenoord was expected to dominate, but a terrific dribbling play got Utrecht the first goal by Dombi. Feyenoord really pressed after that, getting some opportune free kicks and corners, but failed to convert. But in the second half, Feyenoord came out kicking. African player Kalou did an amazing thing: in the penalty area he received the ball at his foot by a throw in, somehow muscled off the defender on his back, turned, and put in a low shot that went past two defenders and the keeper! Amazing goal, almost put in by sheer will alone. Kalou almost got another in the 64th minute, but hit it into the side netting. For the final twenty minutes, Utrecht put on some impressive, determined pressure, all heart, but it was for naught. Final: 1-1.

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: Worthington Cup: Blackburn vs. West Ham

After all the setup that this clash would prove to be competitive (West Ham has been knocked out of the Worthington Cup by a lower-division club five times in the last eight years), West Ham dominated. After an uneventful first half, Davor Sukor scored in the 67th minute on West Ham’s first corner kick of the game. That opened the game a bit, but when Man of the Match Paulo Di Canio was brought down in the box in the 83rd minute, you knew Blackburn was dead. Di Canio’s first shot scored, but the ref made him retake it for some reason. The second kick was blocked, but the rebound went right to Di Canio and he didn’t miss. And that’s the way she ended, 2-0 West Ham.

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: The Murders in the Rue Morgue

Author: Edgar Allan Poe

This is a short story, not a book, so one might wonder why I write about it; but it’s a remarkable story, one I’ve never before read, and it’s made quite an impression upon me. Poe begins with a lecture on the difference between mere intelligence and the analytical mind. What I liked about this was how he reveals the flaw inherent to the game of chess (proficiency is merely indicative of a strong memory more than any analytical skill). Chess has always puzzled me because skill at it is considered a sign of intelligence, yet I’ve found it to be more tedious than challenging. Poe has confirmed what I always thought! The actual story of the murders is a fascinating story of detection, with a brilliant (and completely logical) conclusion. The trick is the same as how magicians fool audiences — with distraction. The murders are so brutal and horrible they confuse you, causing your mind to go into the wrong direction. Fascinating. (I am pleased to report I figured out the solution long before the end of the story, but I must admit I had an unfair advantage: my mind was still filled with images from the book I just finished.)

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: Jungle Tales of Tarzan

Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs

Terrific book of short Tarzan stories. The stories are not necessarily related, though they are chronological in order. They mostly deal with a very young Tarzan, still more ape than man, and his learning about the world. I love that sort of thing. (As a child I regularly read a French comic book series about a prehistoric man who traveled the world, meeting various peoples, having adventures, and always learning new things, such as swimming, fire, blowguns, glass, etc. I still have a couple of those books and they’re awesome.)

Anyway, in this book there’s lots of humor, action, and Burroughs does an incredible job of making us understand the savage mind and point of view. There is even some profundity: for instance, the story where Tarzan searches for God. God is a foreign concept to him, but he reads about it in the books left by his parents, and so searches for God, inquiring the wise old apes, the witch-doctor of the native village, and even asks the moon. Burroughs’ revelation of how Tarzan discovers God is clever: Tarzan discovers mercy and refrains from killing a helpless man. He cannot figure out what stayed his hand, but finally figures it must be God, because only God could be stronger than Tarzan. Neatly done (and probably a healthier concept of God than most people’s).

A central theme in all of Burroughs’ Tarzan stories is the conflict/differences between savagery and civilization, and he deftly brings that out in these stories, including one where he switches between the lives of two Lord Greystokes: the imposture in England and the savage in the African jungles, showing how each hunts, dines, and sleeps. The humor and irony is terrific: the “civilized” man shoots hundreds of harmless birds with a rifle as beaters drive the birds into the air, while the “savage” hunts with his bare hands and wits, and kills only what he needs to eat. In the end, it is the savage who sleeps peacefully, while the civilized man is up with pains from eating too much lobster and drinking too much wine. Hilarious!

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Mon, Oct 30, 2000

: International Friendly: U.S.A. vs. Mexico

This game was on live last week on pay-per-view, but Fox Sports World aired it tonight for free. Nearly 60,000 at the L.A. Coliseum showed up, most cheering for Mexico. Terrific match, full of youngsters getting their chance on the full national team. Just like at the Olympics, it was Josh Wolff and Landon Donovan who stepped up when it mattered most. Defense held solid, with Mexico hardly getting a quality shot the entire game. In the second half Donovan started the play with a pass out to Mathis who led away several defenders and then passed it back. Donovan broke toward goal, dribbled around the keeper, and slotted the ball home. Wolff’s goal late in the half was similar, taking a nice pass from Donovan and sliding the ball under the keeper to bounce it off the near post. For Donovan, he couldn’t have had a better International debut! Things are looking good the United States and that critical game against Barbados in World Cup qualifying. Final: 2-0 U.S.!

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: Restless Spirits

Cool little Canadian film about a 12-year-old girl recovering from the death of her pilot father a few years earlier. Her brother won’t talk and she and her mother fight constantly. They move to their grandmother’s in Newfoundland, where the girl meets some ghosts. The ghosts turn out to be two French pilots who’d flown from France in 1928 attempting to beat Lindberg at crossing the Atlantic, but crashed in Newfoundland. The trick is that the ghosts don’t know they’re ghosts, or that it’s 70 years later. Every time the fog comes in, they relive the crash again. Anyway, helping the lost pilots helps the girl cope with the loss of her father. Sounds a lot like a Hallmark movie-of-the-week thing, but very well written, with realism, logic, and sly humor. The girl is terrific.

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: EPL: Southampton at Manchester United

What can one say about Man. United? They haven’t lost in 35 Premiere League matches and aren’t about to do so to lowly Southampton. Goalkeeper Jones gifted United the first goal ten minutes in when he bobbled Cole’s top-of-the arc blast. Then Teddy Sheringham put in a nice chip in first half injury time to put Man. U. further ahead. Five minutes into the second half the champs stole the ball and broke away and a deft combination of passes left Sheringham wide open with the ball at his feet. That was his 100th Premiereship goal! Minutes after that, Cole received the ball in the box but his first touch only stopped the ball… and Sheringham ran up and put it in for the hat trick! With twenty minutes left, Gigg’s shot hit woodwork, as did Beckham’s free kick a few minutes after that. Beckham’s corner a moment later, however, did the magic: Scoles flicked it onward with his head, and Cole headed into the net for his second of the day. The scariest thing? What did Sir Alex Ferguson do next but take off the two scorers, Sheringham and Cole, and put in Yorke and Solskjaer! Imagine having that kind of firepower in reserve on the bench. Southampton must have really felt deflated seeing that. But though there were some nice chances on both sides (including an incredible near-net blast from Yorke that was stopped by Jones), that was it for the scoring. Final: 5-0 Manchester United.

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Sun, Oct 29, 2000

: U-571

WWII action flick. Impressive special effects and performances, with a cool story: a group of American submariners board a disabled German sub in order to steal an Enigma coding machine, but during the mission their own sub is destroyed, so they’re forced to try and repair and use the German sub. Exciting with non-stop action. The DVD is fantastic with surround sound — I loved hearing the creak of submarine metal straining echoing all around me, and feeling the room shake every time a depth charge exploded. The DVD has plenty of extras, like director’s commentary and about a dozen short documentaries.

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: Martin

Author: George Romero

Director: George Romero

Story about a 17-year-old vampire. Unusual, well-done, but slow-moving, and for some reason, not really my taste. I found it rather boring.

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: Crash

Author: David Cronenberg, Book by J.C. Ballard

Director: David Cronenberg

Yuppies get their sexual kicks from car crashes. Unusual premise, yes, but I expected the film to explain it. It didn’t. I guess you can’t really explain sexual arousal, but by the end of the film I was so disconnected with the characters I didn’t care if they lived or died. They were just weird (and not a good weird — more like sick). What kind of moron runs his girlfriend off the road so she crashes just so he can get off on it? An interesting sidenote: book author Ballard also wrote Empire of the Sun, which was made into the Spielberg’s award-winning film. Maybe the book worked, but the film didn’t. Unusual for Cronenberg, who usually does so well explaining the bizarre.

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: Sisters

Director: Brian DePalma

Basically an hommage to Hitchcock. It’s well-done, but tends to feel like a remake even though it’s new material. The plot’s a complex mess about separated siamese twin sisters and murder. A woman reporter witnesses a murder (shades of Rear Window), but has trouble proving it. Ending is pretty cool, which includes reporter being placed in an insane asylum where everything she says is just proof that she’s belongs there.

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: Braveheart

Author: Randall Wallace

Director: Mel Gibson

Amazing, impressive movie. I’d never got around to watching this, but I rented the DVD. Quite worth it for the widescreen picture alone. Fascinating story of Scotsman hero William Wallace, who kicked the English out of Scotland in the 13th Century. Incredible battle scenes, but most impressive was the well-told epic story — even the complex politics of the era was understandable. Wallace himself remains somewhat single-dimensional (everything relates to his career as a war leader), and I found his dalliance with the Princess of Wales difficult to believe, but overall an inspiring story.

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Sat, Oct 28, 2000

: EPL: Tottenham at Chelsea

According to Chelsea, they are “guaranteed six points every season as long as Tottenham’s in the same league.” Apparently, Tottenham has a long history of losing to Chelsea, and this day proved no different. Tottenham started things off with some decent offense, forcing Chelsea keeper De Hoy to make some key saves. But then a hand ball in the box gave Chelsea a penalty kick, and Hasselbaink put it away cleanly. Near the end of the half, Chelsea added another. Dennis Wise got free on the left and put in a nice cross which Hasselbaink headed to Zola, who headed it into the net. The game after that was routine. Chelsea gave up nothing and Tottenham did nothing but run around the field aimlessly. At the very end, Hasselbaink got another goal with a low-driven long-range curver. Final 3-0, Chelsea. Poor Tottenham.

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: Meet the Parents

Director: Jay Roach

Excellent movie! Just the perfect mix of realism and exaggeration. The plot’s simple: Ben Stiller plays a young man ready to marry his girlfriend, only first he must meet her parents. The parents are cautiously welcoming, but everything goes hilariously wrong. What I liked was that no one goes out of their way to make Stiller feel uncomfortable; what happens is a matter of clumsiness, bad luck, and Stiller’s own push to appear the perfect son-in-law. Classic example: in a “friendly” water volleyball match, Stiller’s team is criticizing his repeated mistakes. Finally Stiller has had enough. He rears up and hammers home a terrific spike — and gives his girlfriend’s sister a facial, on the eve of her wedding. Suddenly everyone’s acting like Stiller’s a serial killer. You feel tremendous sympathy for poor Stiller — no one does the hapless-but-likable victim better. Hilarious, well-acted, well-written. A bit silly in places, but doesn’t really hurt the film overall.

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Fri, Oct 27, 2000

: Reindeer Games

Waste of talent. Strong cast disappoints because of lame script. This is an example of a movie where someone says, “Hey, this plot is too simple — let’s muck it up a bit.” The result is a qualified mess. The plot sounds like it could be good. Two guys in prison are about to get out. One is going to meet his penpal girlfriend for the first time. Instead, he gets stabbed in a prison riot and the other guy pretends to be him and meets the girl for him. Turns out, her brother read their letters and knows the guy worked a certain casino and wants him to help them rob the place. So now the pretender’s in an awkward spot, right? He doesn’t know anything about the casino, but he’s being forced to assist in a robbery. Well, it goes downhill from there, as no one is what they seem. By the end of the movie, nothing surprises you, and you don’t care about any of the characters. The ending is so lame and convoluted that it ruins any momentum the rest of the movie had (which wasn’t much). Disappointing.

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: Final Destination

Not a bad film. A horror flick about a kid on a class trip to Europe, with a premonition that the plane he’s on is going to explode. He panics, and in the ruckus that ensues, he and a few friends are kicked off the plane. Seconds after take-off, the plane does explode, killing everyone. But it seems that Death doesn’t like being cheated: one by one, the survivors are dying. What’s cool are the Rube Goldberg-like death traps the victims experience. You’re never quite sure when or how death is going to happen. For instance, in one sequence, the surviving teacher fills a cracked mug with an alcoholic drink. The liquids drips across the floor as she moves around the house, then into the back of a computer monitor, where it causes a fire. Suddenly the monitor explodes, and a shard of glass catches the woman in the throat. She’s staggers around bleeding profusely, and slips on the spilled liquid. You assume she’d dead. But no, not yet. She crawls to the kitchen and reaches for a towel she earlier threw on the counter. As she pulls the towel, she knocks over a wooden knife rack and a butcher knife falls and stabs her right in the mid-section. She’s dead, right? Oh no, not yet! First we have to have a fire (from the exploded monitor) that streaks across the floor, following the trail of alcoholic liquid. That fire goes to the gas stove, and yes, eventually the entire house explodes. She’s dead. Finally. Hilarious, if you’re into that sort of thing. Not a profound movie by any means, but still somewhat suspenseful and interesting. Lots of macabre humor and quirky twists.

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Thu, Oct 26, 2000

: The Bicentennial Man

As a fan of Isaac Asimov’s robot stories since I was a child, I really, really wanted to like this film, despite the negative press. Sadly, the critics were correct: this is a terrible movie. The story is simple and wonderful (I had to read it in my college literature class): a unique robot spends his life attempting to become more and more human, with his ultimate quest being that he can officially be considered a man. He does this, in the end, on his 200th birthday, by allowing himself to become mortal, the ultimate human characteristic.

The early robot portions of the film, while terrific examples of Hollywood special effects, are corny, badly written and acted, and filled with inappropriate humor (such as the robot learning about the “birds and the bees,” how to swear, and how to tell dirty jokes). It’s awkward and lame. Once Robin Williams (the robot) becomes more human-like, the film is better, with the occasional touching moment. But during the whole film you feel manipulated; it’s very obvious where you’re supposed to be sad, sympathetic, or happy. Gone is all the surprise and gentle touches of the original Asimov story. Let me give you one example. In the original short story, the family likes the robot from the start (though they initially don’t see it as human). In one scene, the little girl give the robot a piece of wood and orders him to carve her an ornament. He’s never done such a thing, but he’s governed by the Three Laws of Robotics and thus must obey any human order. The object is beautiful, and shows imagination. His owner is amazed — it seems their robot is creative, an artist! In the movie, however, the family distrusts the robot. This creates an awkward, uncomfortable tone for the first part of the movie. The little girl (terribly acted by the “Pepsi girl” from all those dumb TV commericals) has a crystal horse which the robot accidentally breaks, and so she tells him she hates him (very unconvincingly, I might add). The robot then carves her a replacement horse, and then she loves him. (There’s a “poignant” scene later in the film, when the little girl is a dying old woman, and we see she’s clutching the ancient wooden horse in death. Oh dear. Start up the heart-stirring music, please.) The differences between the two versions are subtle, but significant. One shows us the Robotic Laws in action, cleverly implying that the girl is, in a sense, responsible for kickstarting the robot’s creativity. (She essentially ordered him to be creative, so he was.) In the other, we have bratty kids and a clumsy robot, and shameless, obvious manipulation of emotion. It’s stupid and melodramatic, and as a result we actually feel less emotion with the second version than the first (unless we count revulsion to all the saccharine).

The film got better in the final third. The romance angle, not in the original story, was not bad, though it could have used another scene or two for more depth. The courtroom scenes where the robot fights for freedom and humanity, were okay, but could have been more powerful, like they were in the short story. For instance, in one scene in the short story, the robot explains his desire for freedom like this: “I should think any creature capable of understanding the concept of freedom and desiring freedom, is capable of being free.” In the movie, his quest for freedom is incomprehensible. In another sequence, the legal manipulations to get the court to declare him a human being take decades. One clever part of the process is his law firm takes a lawsuit all the way to the World Court, declaring that a human with an artificial heart should not have to pay debts because he’s not human any more. Of course they lose, which is exactly what they want: they want a precedent that shows that non-human organs do not make a human non-human (thus the robot, which has some non-human organs, is not necessarily not human on those grounds). This stuff is a little complicated, but intelligent and realistic: the film dumbs this all down to single “climactic” courtroom scenes and the story suffers.

But the final straw that totally ruined the film was the ending. My jaw dropped in disbelief at this one. The fundamental part of all Asimov’s robot stories is the Three Laws of Robotics. The First Law is that a robot may not harm a human being (or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm). The Second Law is that a robot must always obey a human, unless it conflicts with the first law. The Third Law is one of self-preservation (as long as it doesn’t conflict with the first two laws). These laws are critically important, for they govern all robotic behavior. There’s even a science called robopsychology which deals with psychological aspects of these laws upon robots. (For instance, would a robot allow you to smoke a cigarette? What about letting you eat a potato chip?) So what do they do in this film? They explain the Three Laws at the start of the film, then never use them. Dumb. But the dumbest? At the very end of the film, when the Bicentennial Man dies, his ancient wife asks the nurse to “unplug” her, which the nurse does. Then it is revealed that the “nurse” is a robot! Yeah, right! No way a robot would be able to take a human off of life support! Impossible. A colossal mistake, even for Hollywood. Disgusting, revolting, and the ruin of a classic science fiction story. I wish this film had never been made, so it could have been done right at some point, by someone who loves and understands Asimov’s robots, not some Disneyesque 1950’s-style vision of what robots might be in the 21st century.

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: UEFA Cup: Slovan Liberec at Liverpool

For an unknown reason, Liverpool seems to want to make their UEFA Cup games as boring as possible. This one was all routine midfield play, with neither keeper having to do any work. Liverpool was more offensive than the Ukrainian team, but that doesn’t mean much. In the end though (the very end), Liverpool came out ahead with a goal in the 87th minute. A tiny lapse in Liberec’s defense and Heskey put in a dropped ball a few feet in front of the net. 1-0 Liverpool.

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Wed, Oct 25, 2000

: Champions League: FC Shakhtar at Lazio

Excellent game. Started off slow, with Lazio missing lots of chances and Shak keeper Yiriv Virt (great name, eh?) making a number of excellent shots. Shak got on the board late in the first half with a terrific angled shot by Vorobyey from twenty-some yards out. In the second half Lopez almost immediately put in a goal for Lazio, and that started the rout. Six minutes later Favali did a great move, nutmegging a defender, running around him to catch up with the ball, and putting it between the keeper and a defender to go 2-1. Just a minute or so after that, Veron added to the score with a fantastic free kick from the side that seemed to defy gravity. Picture this: he’s on the right side of the penalty area. The ball goes around the three man wall on the right, so you’d expect it to continue the same curl and go away from the goal and into the center of the penalty area. Instead, it goes into the goal! Crazy! Shakhtar got some chances after that, but in the 68th minute Claudio Lopez got another. On a clearance from a Shakhtar corner, Lopez received the ball all my himself at the halfway line. He ran, alone, with the ball, all the way to the penalty area, dribbled it to the side, allowing Virt to dive and miss, and Lopez calmly put the ball into the empty net. Lopez got his hat trick in injury time, putting the matter well beyond doubt. Final: 5-1 Lazio.

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: EPL: Leeds United at Manchester United

This was a taped game from this weekend, but it proved Leeds substitute keeper Robinson was no fluke in yesterday’s Champions League match against Barcelona, as he did the same in this game, make a number of terrific saves. But it wasn’t enough, as Yorke put one in late in the first half, and David Beckham’s specialty, the free kick, proved too much early in the second half. Late in the game even Robinson’s teammates turned against him, with Jones accidentally putting the ball in his own net. Final: 3-0 Manchester United.

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Tue, Oct 24, 2000

: La Liga: Real Madrid at Barcelona

What a huge game! You haven’t lived until you’ve seen soccer played on the grand stage, one of the big English, Italian, Spanish, or South American derbies. This game is one of the biggest: the two best teams in Spain, perennial rivals Madrid and Barca. Real hasn’t won in Barcelona since 1983 (though they have the edge in the series overall), so this was going to be a tough match. More drama for this season: this summer Barcelona’s best player, Portuguese playmaker Luis Figo, turned traitor and transferred to the hated Real Madrid. Imagine having 80,000+ fans booing every time you touch the ball — that’s what Figo got (and cheers whenever he made a mistake). In pouring rain, the fans were mad with passion (and color-coordinated in Barca’s colors). Absolutely amazing. Incredible soccer skill, unbelievable goal-keeping, and lots of hard, physical challenges. Real Madrid were off their game, while Barca, who’ve been slow in the league this season, got off to roaring start with a Luis Enrique header goal off a Rivaldo free kick in the 27th minute. (Enrique, ironically, transferred from Real Madrid years ago and still gets booed when in Madrid.) The game was a fair battle until late, when Madrid seemed to be getting things together and putting up some impressive attacks. Then, on a delicious counter-attack, Barcelona had three players take a crack on goal. Rivaldo took the first shot, brilliantly blocked by Madrid’s young keeper. Alfonso tried to head in the rebound, but his knock hit the post, only to drop the ball at Simao’s feet, and he calmly put it away. That was all Barca needed. Final: 2-0 Barcelona.

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: Champions League: Barcelona at Leeds United

Incredible game. In the first match between these two, Barca whomped Leeds 4-0 and everyone expected the little club to die off quickly. This time around, their positions have reversed: with a win, Leeds would advance and Barcelona, incredibly, would be eliminated from the Champions League. No team has suffered more from injuries than Leeds, with half their team out. And with 20 members under age 25, Leeds is by far the youngest team in Champions League competition.

The game started off well for the smaller club. In the fifth minute, Lee Bowyer’s cross was miscalculated by Barca’s keeper and went straight into the net! After that, Leeds really turned on the offense, but Barca’s defense held and they got their own fifteen minutes or so of offense. In the second half, it was all Barcelona. Leeds attacked only a couple times, and then only on break-away counters. Amazingly, though it seemed like Barca would surely score, they didn’t. Leeds second-best keeper (Nigel Martin is out for six weeks on injury), 20-year-old Robinson came up huge, making at least a half-dozen world-class saves. Time drifted on and Barca attacked and attacked, but Leeds kept clearing the ball away. Could they hold out? The huge crowd booed when the ref put up 4 minutes of extra time, but Leeds held on, though they’d only made one substitution and all their players (many just back from injury and not fully fit) were exhausted. Two minutes past, then three. Still the one goal held. With less than a minute left, Barcelona made another run toward the Leeds goal. Lee Bowyer, exhausted, slipped and missed a tackle, which allowed a Barcelona player to put a cross into the box. Desperately Cocu headed the ball but it struck the post. As Leeds scrambled to recover, the rebound went to the dreaded foot of Rivaldo, who didn’t miss his point-blank chance. With just thirty seconds to the win, Leeds had missed their chance! Final: 1-1. The tie mathematically keeps Barcelona alive, but Leeds can advance with a tie or win in their next match against A.C. Milan, or a Barcelona loss.

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Mon, Oct 23, 2000

: EPL: Manchester City at Southampton

With these two lowly sides, you’d figure the game would be even, but Southampton forgot to show up. Man. City’s Dickov scored in the 38th minute on a breakaway, and they easily held the lead until the final minutes when it looked like Southampton might trouble them. But some great defending kept the Saints at bay, and in injury time, Tiatto put the matter beyond doubt with a terrific finish on a counter-attack. Final: 2-0 Man. City.

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: Serie A: Lazio at Verona

You’d think last year’s champs Lazio would handle Verona easily, but the first half was nil-nil, though not without some impressive goal-keeping from Verona. Then young Romanian star Mutu crossed the ball in front of the Lazio net and a defender knocked it in! Fifteen minutes later, Mutu scored on his own, striking from an awkward angle and beating a defender and the keeper. Lazio had their own obvious chance on the penalty kick in the final minutes, but missed. Final: 2-0 Verona, and well-deserved.

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Sun, Oct 22, 2000

: In the Company of Men

Author: Neil LaButte

Director: Neil LaButte

Incredible, powerful, disturbing film. This is an unadulterated look at evil, up close, and it’s designed to make you squirm. The plot is simple: a couple MBA-types, on a six-week business trip, pledge to take revenge on women as payment for all their own messed up relationships. They decide they’ll find a shy, lonely, unnoticeable woman, and each romance her for the next six weeks, and then, when she thinks she’s falling in love one or both of them, they’ll dump her like yesterday’s fish and laugh in her face. Bizarre concept, yes, but brilliantly executed. Author LaButte goes the extra mile to make us really realize what slimeballs these two guys are: the woman they toy with is deaf. Because she can’t speak clearly, one guy calls her “retard mouth” behind her back. That’s the kind of stuff you face in this movie. Tough, yes, but powerful and profound.

What’s deeply ironic to me is that if Neil hadn’t made the woman deaf, if she’d been a regular woman, perhaps not very attractive but not handicapped, would we have felt such a degree of disgust for these men? Is our outrage so intense because the woman is disabled, and thus a more sympathetic victim, or are we outraged out of principle? In other words, do we care about the person inside, regardless of the shell (flawed or intact)? If we saw this happening, like we do all the time around us (i.e. we know our co-worker’s cheating on his wife but we shrug it off), would we be as upset? Food for thought, lots of food for thought. Definitely one of the best films I’ve ever seen. Even more amazing, LaButte made this for $25,000, I have no idea how: it looks like a million dollar movie. Acting, sound, photography — everything is top notch. Impressive.

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: Argentine Soccer: Velez Sarsfield at Boca Juniors

With Boca well ahead in the standings, this game just meant further distancing from their opponents. Boca started off brilliantly as usual, bouncing the ball off the inside of the near post in the fifth minute, freezing the “world’s greatest goalkeeper” Chilavert as he thought the shot was going wide. Chilavert almost brought Velez back a few minutes later on a wonderful free kick (he’s one of the few goalkeepers in the world who’s an offensive threat). Velez had a goal called back for offside in the 21st minute, and hit the post a few minutes after that. But after all that offense, Velez had nothing to show for it at the end of the half. Starting the second half, just seconds in, Riquelme gave the ball a clever, soft touch, completely beating Velez’s defense, and rolling the ball into the back of the net. If that wasn’t enough to destroy Velez, Riquelme did it again eight minutes later, putting a slider under Chilavert. But seconds after that, Velez countered with Husain’s great finish. With one goal, Velez worked hard and had some chances, but couldn’t score. Then, in a bizarre twist, the two teams best players crashed into each other in an accidental clash, and the idiot referee handed out red cards to both Palermo and Chilavert! I always say, as a referee, if you aren’t sure what happened, the best thing to do is nothing. In this case the referee assumed something untoward had happened (clearly not, as seen on the replays) and ruined what had been a terrific game to that point. Lame. Give the ref a red card! Final: 3-1 Boca Juniors.

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: EPL: Leicster City at Liverpool

Great battle between the fourth and fifth placed teams. Gobs of terrific “sure” goals impossibly blocked by Leicster. It looked like it was heading for a nil-nil draw, but then former Leicster strike Emil Heskey beat Leicster keeper Tim Flowers to the ball, literally kicking it out from under the keeper to score. Leicster hardly had a shot on goal the whole game, and that’s how it finished, 1-0 Liverpool.

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: Picnic at Hanging Rock

Director: Peter Weir

Unusual Australian film based on the true story of a group of schoolgirls in 1900 who go on a picnic and several of them mysteriously vanish. Searchers and bloodhounds find no trace of the girls. Were they murdered? Did all of them fall down a hole at the same time (if only one or two fell down, surely the others would have gone for help)? Very strange. Languidly paced, with haunting pan flute music by Zamfir, the film builds a lot of suspense and is quite fascinating, but goes nowhere. In the end, the girls are never found, and to this day no one knows what happened. I hate mysteries like that. No wonder I prefer fiction — it’s much less messy than real life.

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: Dutch: Heerenveen at Feyenoord

Feyenoord got things off to a roaring start with several excellent chances in the first few minutes that culminated in a terrific curving strike from seventeen-year-old Brazilian phenom Leonardo. Heerenveen had only a few chances the entire match, and none of them really threatened, while Feyenoord continued to dominate with near misses and blocked shots. In the second half they scored again, with most of the work being done by Leonardo, but the scrapes being picked up by a teammate, who put the ball in the net. Final: 2-0 Feyenoord.

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Sat, Oct 21, 2000

: The Breed

Author: David Cronenberg

Director: David Cronenberg

Weird story of a psychologically damaged woman who produces a brood of deformed offspring which do her unconscious bidding (similar to the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet in that emotions cause action). Of course, we don’t know that until the very end. Most of the movie deals with the treatment of pyschological trauma. That’s very interesting, but it doesn’t connect with the brood at all, giving us two very different films in one, which doesn’t work. And all the psycho-babble stuff, while interesting, is pointless as the woman has a physiological problem. No explanation is given about the woman’s ability to produce the brood, but I liked the ominous ending where it looks like her daughter is going to inherit her ability (which she apparently inherited from her mother).

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: U.S. Open Cup Final — Chicago Fire vs. Miami Fusion

After battling all season long to be the two teams left in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (the oldest soccer tournament in the U.S., founded in 1914), Chicago and Miami deserved to be here. With great chances at both ends in the first half, the Fire finally managed to sneak one in the final seconds on a terrific break by Razov and Stoitchkov, where Razov unselfishly passed up his chance to score by giving it to the wide-open Bulgarian. In the second half one expected Miami to come out fighting, but it was all Chicago, culminating in a penalty kick call. It was up to Razov to score but Nick Romando, Miami’s little goalkeeper, blocked the shot, keeping Miami in the game. He made another terrific save a few minutes later. It seemed like nothing Chicago could do would increase the score — and so Miami’s Marshall cleverly put the ball in his own net to save them the trouble. With just minutes left and two goals down, it seemed impossible for Miami to come back, but in a frenetic goal mouth scramble they managed to snag a late goal. Seconds later, however, the final whistle was blown and Chicago, for the second time in their short history, had won the U.S. Open Cup (and $100,000 in prize money). Final: 2-1 Chicago.

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: Serie A: Juventus at A.C. Milan

After a goalless first half it looked like this derby might be a lackluster 1-0 game. But Milan, after being dominated in the first half, came out with fire in their belly and possessed the ball and attacked non-stop for fifteen minutes. That run was capped by Ambrosini’s header in the 60th minute, and one minute later Shevchenko scored off a great Boban cross. Suddenly, in the span of a minute and a half, Juventus was down by two goals! But Juventus is infamous for being a team that doesn’t give up. A quarter of an hour later, just minutes after being put in the game, French striker Trezeguet (who scored the winner in France’s Euro 2000 win this summer) headed the ball into the back of the net. It still looked like Juventus was heading for a defeat, however, as the game entered injury time. Then, one minute in, making the coach look like a genius, substitute Antonio Conte scored a fantastic cross-court shot that just missed the keeper’s outstretched fingers. And that was the way it finished, 2-2.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: Re-Animator

Another one of IFC’s horror classics, and this one is pretty good. Based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, this is about a genius medical student who invents a way to “re-animate” the dead — though they mostly turn out to be violent zombie-like creatures. Done with a nice touch of humor, but it’s the goriest film I’ve ever seen — really disgusting, especially the final 15 minutes, set in the hospital morgue, and filled with dozens of horrible corpses brought back to life. Not really scary, just ugly. Though Mischief and Mayhem loved the noisy cat-killing scene. ;-) And I can’t fail to mention the repetitive music which gets really annoying as it’s a blatant rip-off of Bernard Hermann’s classic Psycho score, and totally inappropriate (this is not a psychological thriller). The music during the opening credits had some humor to it, which was ideal.

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Fri, Oct 20, 2000

: Shanghai Noon

Terrific Jackie Chan film, full of his characteristic humor and great action. This is described on the DVD as an “Eastern Western,” which is exactly what it is. It’s a period piece, which surprised me (I remembered very little from the trailers, only that critics had liked it). It’s totally cool. Set in the old West, it deals with a Chan as an Imperial Guard sent to America to rescue the Emperor’s kidnapped daughter. He meets up with an inept bandit (wonderfully played by Owen Wilson) and the two become uncooperative partners. Hilarious, witty, beautifully photographed (the Nevada landscapes are breathtaking), and filled with Chan’s amazing stunts. And I can’t fail to mention Ally McBeal’s Lucy Liu as the princess — she was perfect.

Topic: [/movie]

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: Dutch: Roda at Ajax

Only my second Dutch League game, I’m still adjusting. I find my interest level low going in, but once the game gets going, I can get into it. I suppose that’s just normal. I don’t know the teams or the players, so everything’s foreign. I was interested in this game because Amsterdam’s Ajax is so famous (pronounced “aye-axe”, btw), but their star has been fading lately and they’re in 9th spot this season. But they came out big against Roda, scoring at the mid-way point and again on a clear penalty kick late in the first half. In the second half the game got fun as Roda became desperate and Ajax just toyed with them, easily scoring two more times. Roda managed to scramble one goal back, and then got a stumbler in the final seconds. Final: 4-2 Ajax.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: Rabid

Author: David Cronenberg

Director: David Cronenberg

Unusual horror film about a woman who undergoes major surgery with skin grafts and in recovery discovers a mouth has formed in her armpit! The mouth must eat: i.e. suck blood from people. Her victims become infected with a rabies-like disease that has them foaming at the mouth in blood lust themselves — and anyone they bite is also infected. If prevented from sucking blood, the victims fall into a coma and die within a day. Within a week half of Montreal is infected, and martial law is declared by the mayor. Policemen shoot rabid people on sight. Meanwhile, the woman is going around infecting people, oblivious to the chaos she is causing. Very well-done, realistic, but lacks depth. The story never goes back to explain the woman’s armpit mouth and we’re left with a strange feeling of “why?” Favorite moment: when one of the cops, shooting a rabid man in a mall, accidentally shoots Santa Claus! Delightfully sick (and a touch profound).

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Thu, Oct 19, 2000

: EPL: Newcastle at Middlesborough

Once again, Middlesborough lives up to their name with a lackluster performance. I doubt they threatened the Newcastle goal more than once or twice the whole game. Okay, so they did get a little goal at the very end, when the ball literally trickled over the line, but that was ten seconds before the final whistle. Newcastle dominated, with a goal from Alan Shearer in the first half. (The defense left him alone with the ball, in the penalty area. Smart.) Two more goals in second finished the game nicely. Final 3-1, Newcastle.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: The Last House on the Left

Author: Wes Craven

Director: Wes Craven

What’s the purpose of this film? I don’t know. It’s supposed to be chilling or edgy or innovative or something, but it’s just dumb. The film looks and sounds amateurish, and there are obvious editing mistakes. Craven uses techniques like rapid camera movement, odd cuts, and close ups of unusual cropping to generate “excitement,” but all it does is bewilder the viewer, as you can barely tell what’s going on. The main bad guys are all so much alike it’s difficult to tell who’s who, and the language and style are all so early seventies they’re difficult to understand. The plot is just pointless: a group of prison escapees rape and murder two girls and are then murdered by one of the girl’s parents. Fun. No, just dumb. Theoretically you ought to root for the parents as they take their revenge, but everyone in the whole film is so ugly, evil, and disgusting that you really just don’t care about anyone. Very strange, distasteful, and vile film. Nothing really that shocking about the violence, though it is violent. Might have been mildly impressive at the time of release, but now it’s dated and junk.

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Wed, Oct 18, 2000

: EPL: Manchester United at Leicster City

The two teams at the top of the table clash, but Man. U. quickly proves that they deserve to be on top. Two goals from Sherringham (the second on a counter after a terrible Leicster corner kick that passed the ball straight to a United player) put Manchester well in control, and Solskjaer added a neat one of his own in the final few to really dig the knife in. Final: 3-0 United.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: Champions League: Barcelona at A.C. Milan

WOW! What an incredible game. The UEFA Champions League is my favorite (only the top couple of teams in each country compete) and this game shows why. Barcelona lost their last two UCL games (they won their first) to put them at the bottom of their group, and so they really needed a big game. The game started off with a great free kick goal from last year’s world Player of the Year Rivaldo kicking the ball under the wall as they leaped up. Minutes later, while Barca was in confusion after Cocu and Petite clashed heads and were carted off, leaving the team playing with just nine men, Milan’s Albertini scored from a half mile away (at least it seemed like it). Unbelievably, Albertini scored a second — only his sixth goal in league and international play — on a free kick. Just minutes later, Rivaldo was brought down at Milan’s end of the field to give Barca a free kick at almost the exact spot where Rivaldo scored his first goal. This time the wall didn’t jump and Rivaldo put the ball high, just curling it under the crossbar and in! If that wasn’t enough for one half, Milan busted back with a shot from Bierhoff that was blocked by Milan’s keeper, only to the see rebound blasted in by a charging Jose Maria (three goals for Spain in the Sydney Olympics). Like I said, wow. Five goals in one half. Could the second be any better? Of course not. Both teams slowed down in the second half, with Milan defending their lead. Finally Rivaldo broke through with a terrific diving header to complete his hat trick and tie the score, and that’s how the game finished, 3-all.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Tue, Oct 17, 2000

: La Liga: Deportivo at Real Madrid

The first goal came early in the game, and while Raul got the credit, it should have gone to Figo. He made a long run up the right wing, dribbled through some defenders to get in deep near the corner of the goal, and sent back a sharp cross between two defenders. The cross hit a surprised Raul’s knee and bounced off into the goal before Raul could even react! Real Madrid got another in the waning seconds of the first half on a penalty kick. Deportivo attacked in the second half, but it seemed like they never even got a shot on goal the whole game. Rather lackluster on their part. Madrid got a late header to finish the game 3-0.

The thing that really annoyed me was that ESPN2 aired this game at midnight Monday night instead of their usual daytime slot, meaning I didn’t watch this until Tuesday night. And of course they promoted Tuesday’s daytime Champions League match during the game, meaning I didn’t know about the game until after it aired, and couldn’t record it. These sports stations make it so difficult to figure out when soccer’s on you’d think they didn’t want viewers!

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: Presidential Debate

I really hate politics. I hate the bickering, the divisiveness, the arrogance, and the dishonesty. Generally, when I bother to vote, I vote for “None of the Above.” That said, I have lot of political opinions (especially in regards to government reform). I tend toward the abolition of all government. I hate big brother. So I haven’t paid much attention to the presidential race. I don’t like Bush and I can’t stand Gore. Nader’s too much of an unknown, and no one is even in the running. I missed the earlier debates, but tuned to most of this one. Here’s what I thought.

Gore initially surprised me with his knowledge of facts and figures. Whereas Bush was very general, “This is going to cost a ton of money,” Gore was specific: “This will cost 53% more than 1% of the top tax bracket.” Of course I have no way of knowing if anything he said was accurate (I found out later that some was not), but it sounded impressive. But my initial warming toward Gore (which surprised me) quickly evaporated as Gore abused the debate rules. He continuously ignored calls for time and kept right on speaking, and near the end of the debate actually disobeyed Lehr’s command to not rebut and instead answer a different question, going off on a long rebutal. When he finally got around to the question, Lehr canceled it, saying “We’re moving on,” but he never gave Bush a chance to rebut Gore’s unauthorized rebut! (BTW, I thought Lehr was biased toward Gore, a moron, and a complete wimp. You could see him there waving his hand and stammering “T-t-time, Mr. Vice President,” but he never once cut Gore off, though he cut Bush off several times.) In short, Gore was a jerk, while Bush handled himself with dignity. My estimation of Bush (which had been pretty low, considering his father), rose considerably.

What I don’t like about politics came out early in the debate. Why did Bush refuse to answer Gore’s accusation about non supporting the Dingle-whatever bill (something with patient rights the Demos support and the Repubs don’t)? Bush kept ignoring the question, even though Gore pushed it several times. Either Bush supports the bill, in which case he should say so, or he doesn’t, so he should tell us why, or he’s never heard of the bill, and he should say that. Just ignoring it was dumb. There were lots of games like that. For instance, Gore seemed to have trouble understanding English. Bush said he supported “affirmative access,” not quotas (he explained affirmative access is a Texas program for encouraging ethnic diversity in schools and business). Gore said he wasn’t for quotas either, but he supported affirmative action (he didn’t say what that was). Bush came back saying “If affirmative action is not quotas, then I’m for it.” Then Gore pushed again (violating the debate rules by asking a direct question, not part of a rebuttal), “Well, do you support affirmative action?” Huh? These guys were agreeing and yet they were still arguing! Grrrr. Stupid, stupid. And what was the deal with numbers? Numbers should be easy to compare, right? One’s bigger or smaller, it’s simple! So why did they get into a silly “My plan’s cheaper, yours is more expensive,” “No, my plan’s cheaper, yours is more expensive!” It was like hearing two-year-olds argue!

The final straw for me was regarding taxes. I’m a tax hater, so I like Bush’s tax cut plan. Gore did a whole thing about how Bush’s plan is going to give tons back to the wealthiest 1% of America. Bush explained, “Everyone, wealthy or poor, is going to get a tax cut. You can’t give everyone a tax cut and not not give the wealthy a tax cut.” Makes sense to me. Sounds fair, too. I have nothing against the wealthy. I hope to be one of them someday. Why shouldn’t they get a break like anyone else? What’s the point of being wealthy if the government just takes more of it away? But Gore’s counter really struck me as being so Washington I wanted to barf. He just repeated himself, saying “See! I told you so! Tax cuts to the wealthy!” What a moron.

When it came to education — an issue I see as being one of the most important — I could not support Al Gore. When a tiny private school, with 100th of the funds per student as a public school, can do a better job educating, it tells me that money isn’t the problem. The problem is bureaucracy. Gore wants to increase that bureaucracy by expanding the school system. Some of his ideas were good: I support standards and accountability, but Bush had a good point when he said that there were no consequences for bad schools. Bush claimed he wanted schools to be local, saying programs like vouchers should be up to the individual states. I can’t support Bush on that. If there’s one thing that should be standardized across the country it is schools. As someone who went to a different school for nearly every grade level, I had a “Swiss cheese” education, where different schools taught me the same thing and neglected other (mostly this was true in history and geography, where schools typically alternated between teaching national and international and I got one of the twice and none of the other). Anyway, I feel very strongly that schools need standards, teachers should be tested, and schools should all be the same, whether you go to school in Colorado, Connecticut, or California. One idea I think should be implemented: if I was President, I’d pass a law that says “No non-teaching personnel at a public school can make more money than the lowest paid teacher.” Bingo. Wouldn’t that solve a LOT of problems in our schools?

Conclusion: I hadn’t planned to vote for Bush, but after seeing him in the debate, I think I could. That doesn’t mean I will, but I could. I do know that I wouldn’t vote for Gore if you paid me: his arrogance, politicizing attitude is exactly what turns me off to politics. While I don’t agree with Bush on many issues, he seemed like a reasonable man. With Gore I felt he’d shove laws down my throat whether I liked them or not (which is exactly why I don’t like government).

Topic: [/politics]

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: Cat Tip of the Day: Keep Off

Here’s my latest tip for cat lovers. Have a problem keeping your cat off your kitchen table or other non-kitty places? I bought a little battery-operated motion detector alarm at Radio Shack ($25) which is awesome. I leave it on pointed at the coffee table at night. Now when one of my cats jumps onto the table, the alarm chimes, and the cat runs and hides. They don’t like loud sounds. The first night I tried this the alarm went off twice, but the second night only once. I think my cats are getting the message. I figure a week with it on the coffee table will cure them of that bad habit, then it’s on to the kitchen counter!

Topic: [/cats]

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Mon, Oct 16, 2000

: Serie A: A.C. Milan at Bologna

This was one of those rare, odd games that was terrific only because of something that happened at the very end. Basically, the game was fairly routine. Bologna started things off with a goal in the first half, while Milan’s defense seemed confused, but Milan answered with better play and a goal in the second half. Then the real game began and there was about 15 minutes of terrific action, but ultimately it looked like a 1-1 draw was to be the outcome. But four-and-a-half minutes into injury time, with just seconds left, Bologna’s veteran defender Piacentini got open at the top of the key, wheeled, and scored on a terrific blast into the far corner. It was a magnificent strike, leaving the keeper helpless. Any forward would have been delighted by such a goal, but it was all the sweeter for Piacentini, as that was just his fourth goal in sixteen years of play! Bologna wins, 2-1. Awesome.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: EPL: Aston Villa at Arsenal

A rather boring match; the Gunners struggled, though they managed a few decent shots, but the Villians didn’t even show up. Thierry Henry finally scored a terrific through-the-legs-of-the-defender goal, but that was all the action in the action.

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Sun, Oct 15, 2000

: Argentine Soccer: Boca Juniors at River Plate

This game is known as the “Superclassico,” as these two teams are the best and biggest in Argentina and have been rivals for over 100 years (they’ve played each other 166 times and each won about sixty and drawn the rest)! In Buenos Aires in front of 80,000 screaming fanatics, the two met. For Boca, a win would mean a significant lead in the tournament (they are in first place), while for second place River Plate, a win would help them gain on their arch-rivals. At first, as is typical in a Superclassico, the match was choppy, with hard fouls making it difficult to establish any kind of consistent play. River seemed to be doing the best, when out of nowhere, a simple cross into the box was met by a leaping Martin Palermo who headed into the far corner past a diving goalkeeper. Boca was ahead in the fourteenth minute. After that, Boca dominated (especially Riquelme and Serna), while River couldn’t do much more than foul. Then in the dying minutes of the first half, River nearly scored, stopped only by a terrific save by Cordoba, Boca’s keeper. Coming into the second half, Boca seemed to sit on the laurels, and fourteen minutes in River equalized on a terrific counter-attack. After that, play was frenetic, more like a ping-pong match, with chances at both ends. Keepers made saves, there were yellow cards galore, and finally, even though River’s Ortega was sent off with a second yellow, the game finished an appropriate tie, 1-1.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: Dutch: Sparta Rottenberg vs. Feyenoord

Fox Sports World is now carrying the Dutch league (I sure hope this does not mean the demise of them airing German soccer, one of my favorites). The Dutch league isn’t quite as respected as other European leagues, but it’s a good league, especially for such a small country. I’ve wished many times the league was broadcast here in the U.S. It’s going to take me time to learn about all the teams and players and figure out what’s going on. Feyenoord started this off with a penalty kick goal in the first half, but underdog Sparta quickly came back with their own terrific goal with five minutes left. After half time, the score stayed the same until late in the game when suddenly Feyenoord came alive with two goals within five minutes, and then put in another right at the end to really stamp their authority on the game. Final: 4-1, Feyenoord.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: The Night of the Living Dead

Author: George Romero

Director: George Romero

Fascinating film. Not especially scary or gory, but an interesting story. I liked the odd mix of characters. I hadn’t realized that the “living dead” thing was a national crisis (I figured it was a local phenomena); that broadened the scope of the victims’ plight. One touch that was really profound is that few of the main characters are killed by zombies — instead, it is human stupidity and greed that kills them. Very cool. I also loved the way Romero went to still shots at the very end. Just like a documentary, with grainy photos that strongly resembled a lynching.

I still liked really dumb.

Incredible the way a silly zombie film can make so many complex statements about existence, survival, human society, relationships, human nature in a crisis situation, civil rights and racism, and much, much more. It’s now easy for me to see how someone could write a dissertation on these films. There’s a lot of power in them.

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: MLS Cup 2000: Chicago vs. Kansas City

Amazing game. Chicago came in with the best offense in the league against K.C.’s best defense. Who would win? Chicago started things off with potent offense, but couldn’t quite stick the ball in the back of the net. Then K.C., on a sudden counter, put themselves ahead ten minutes in! Chicago wasn’t the least bit worried, however, and they set up camp in K.C.’s penalty area and took shot after shot. But none of them went in. In the second half it was more of the same. Chicago brought in more offensive players off the bench, giving K.C. a few opportunities for counter-attacks, but neither team’s defense would give in. K.C. keeper and league MPV Tony Meola blocked shot after shot, and even Chicago’s Thorton had to make a couple good saves. Every two minutes you just knew Chicago had finally scored, only to see the ball somehow miss the target or be stopped. It was maddening. But soccer’s not a game about possession: whoever scores the most goals wins. And this time that was Kansas City, 1-0! So for only the third time in MLS history, the league has another first time winner. (The others were D.C. and Chicago.) It’s a great sign that the league is maturing and producing more than just one or two championship caliber teams. The level of soccer in this game was incredibly impressive: on both defensive and offensive skills, both teams were excellent, and I think the world would do well to notice that Major League Soccer has arrived. (Don’t feel too sorry for the Fire: they still have an Open Cup championship to fight for, against the Miami Fusion.)

Topic: [/soccer]

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Sat, Oct 14, 2000

: Serie A: Napoli at Intermilan

Newly promoted side Napoli failed against Juventus, but thought they had a chance against a struggling Intermilan. They were wrong. With a new coach (Lippi was fired after they lost the first game of the season; ouch), Inter came out ready to play. Thirty minutes in it was 2-0 in favor of Inter. Then, in first half stoppage time, defender (and World Cup champion) Laurent Blanc found himself one-on-one with Napoli’s keeper. Though the keeper had come up big twice against Seedorf, Blanc made him look foolish by calmly passing the ball around him then running onto it for a tap in. It was a classy goal finished with all the composure of a top striker! In second half Napoli managed to get one back, but it was too little, too late. Final: 3-0 Intermilan.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: Dawn of the Dead

Author: George Romero

Director: George Romero

I’d never seen any of the Dead series, and while I figured they were good, I assumed they were typical horror flicks. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Tomorrow night IFC airs the original The Night of the Living Dead, and I can’t wait. This is the sequel and it’s amazing. I can truly say this is one of the best films I have ever seen. It’s a genre film, no question, but it breaks out of its genre in ways that you wouldn’t believe possible without seeing it.

The plot is simple: the world is overrun by zombies (the living dead), who must eat human flesh to survive. Zombies are incredibly stupid, but tenacious — they won’t take no for an answer and just keep coming and coming (unless you shoot them in the head). Attempting to escape this nightmare is a small group of looters who have a helicopter but minimal gasoline. They land on the roof of a deserted mall: deserted of people that is, but filled with zombies. With a whole mall for the looting, the escapees decide benefits of staying outweigh the risks of the zombies. Here is where the film shines. The killing of zombies is relentless and gory throughout the film, but it is the mall scenes, where zombie life is a dull mimicry of real life, that director Romero plays with our minds. At times the zombies are ghoulish and evil, then pitiful, then heroic, then tragic, then mindless automatons. Within this satiric parody of life we see ourselves. It is a dangerous, uncomfortable vision.

This film asks all sorts of profound questions about the meaning of life. For instance, the zombies have life. Or do they? And our struggling heroes, secure in their mall fortress with everything they could ever need, face boredom: are they alive? Wow, profound, thought-provoking film. I never dreamed horror could be so intelligent (especially about mindless zombies).

Warning: this film is incredibly gory and violent, but the violence is almost comical. Romero is a master: he treats us with a series of violent images to desensitize us, then shocks us with a shot of humanity. Most unusual for a horror film. The movement of the zombies is a dance, elegantly choreographed, and like the tragedy inherent in string puppets who have no soul, is hopelessly sad.

Topic: [/movie]

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: The Hills Have Eyes

Author: Wes Craven

Director: Wes Craven

I taped this from IFC last night. Not bad, certainly exciting and well done, but not particularly scary. More of a survival story than a horror story. It has a typical plot: family gets stranded in the desert unaware they are being watched by a bizarre family of mutant cannibals that want to eat them. As the family gets picked off one-by-one, it’s up to the last remaining members to survive. Decent characterization, but doesn’t have the shock of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

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Fri, Oct 13, 2000

: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

In honor of the date, I guess, the Independent Film Channel has a weekend of classic horror movies. I’d never seen this one, but decided to watch it. I’m not really a fan of the slasher genre (except for the satiric or parodic); I generally find “horror” movies more funny than scary. This film, I must admit, was scary. I watched part of an IFC documentary on horror films later and director John Landis’ comment about Chainsaw got it right. To paraphrase: “With a director like Hitchcock, you’re in suspense knowing there’s a master in control. With Chainsaw, you’re quickly aware there’s a maniac in control and you don’t know what to think. Anything can happen.” The cold brutality of the killings was startling. Without the gore and endless fake scares so typical of most slasher films, the deaths are truly unnerving. For instance, in one scene the bad guy (Leatherface) calmly picks up the screaming girl and sticks her on a meat hook. She’s dangling there for several minutes, helpless, screaming horribly, while he goes about the business of using a chainsaw to cut up her boyfriend. Nice. The climactic finale is almost a black comedy: watching the ancient grandfather feebly attempting to club the screaming girl and repeatedly dropping the hammer is maddening. You want to scream, “Hurry up and kill her and get it over with!” until you realize what you are thinking, and then you feel guilty. Not an easy movie to watch; it’s truly disturbing, and even after all these years is still easily a breakthrough film. Remarkable.

Topic: [/movie]

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: Argentina vs. Uruguay (World Cup Qualifier)

Terrific game, as could be expected. Argentina dominated the first half, with Gallardo scoring a terrific through-the-legs-of-the-hapless-defender goal, followed by an ignored Batistuta, left alone at the top of the box with the ball at his feet. (Message to Uruguay: don’t do that. “Batigol” will make you pay.) Uruguay came back five minutes into the second half with a gift goal from Argentina’s terrible defending. After that the game became very rough and physical (and Uruguay’s coach stupidly took out Recoba, their best player), but neither team could anything else and so it finished Argentina 2, Uruguay 1.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: England vs. Finland (World Cup Qualifier)

After losing to Germany at home last weekend, England’s head coach resigned and the team desperately needed a win against Finland. Finland, however, played with considerable brilliance, but not quite enough break down England’s defense. A decent game, though no goals. 0-0 final.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Thu, Oct 12, 2000

: Dreamscape

Cool early-80’s flick about a scientific experiment to allow psychics to enter into the dreams of another person. Of course the big bad evil government gets involved and tries to use the technique as a weapon. Fun, with an all-star cast (even those with minor roles are famous today, like “Norm” from Cheers). I rewatched it with the DVD commentary, which was excellent (older films tend to have better commentary as time and distance give better perspective).

Topic: [/movie]

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Wed, Oct 11, 2000

: U.S.A. vs. Costa Rica (World Cup Qualifier)

With Costa Rica in first place and the U.S. in second in our group, this was an important home game for the U.S., though we were missing a number of top players (Reyna, Pope, McBride, Lewis, etc.) and coach Bruce Arena was suspended. Costa Rica was openly playing for a tie, defending with numbers and threatening on fast-paced counter-attacks. The U.S. pressed and played well most of the time, including some terrific chances that were only stopped by the Costa Rican goalkeeper. The U.S. was occasionally weak on defense, and a couple of times it looked like the U.S. would go down a goal. But neither team wilted and the game finished nil-nil. A tie isn’t terrible for the U.S. — if we tie or win in Barbados next month we qualify to the next round (remember, we beat them 7-0 here at home). But it’s a bit of an ominous sign that we should struggle so early in World Cup qualifying — the games are only going to get tougher.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Tue, Oct 10, 2000

: Stir of Echoes

Author: Book by Richard Matheson

I had no idea until the opening credits that this film was based on a novel by one of my favorite Twilight Zone writers, Richard Metheson. The film is somewhat similar to the The Sixth Sense, but lower-key and not quite as scary. Still very interesting and well-done. I like “small” suspense/horror films like this: the big budget ones usually try too hard.

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Mon, Oct 09, 2000

: Jakob the Liar

Sappy, overly sentimental Oscar bid full of teary-eyed people making lame speeches in bad accents. Some parts were interesting, and there were a few excellent touches, but overall the film fell sadly flat. A feeble Shindler’s List wannabe.

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: Best Laid Plans

Really cool little film about money-making schemes going all wrong. Neatly directed, with some cool plot twists. I’ve seen other films that wanted to be this one. Written by the same guy who wrote Ravenous.

Topic: [/movie]

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Sun, Oct 08, 2000

: The Hurricane

Excellent film about the black boxer jailed for murders he didn’t commit. Seemed a bit heavy-handed as though just begging for an Oscar, but an excellent story. My favorite aspect was the young boy discovering life via reading his first book, the auto-biography of “Hurricane” Carter.

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Sat, Oct 07, 2000

: My Dog Skip

Author: Book by Willie Morris

Wonderful, wonderful film about a boy and his love for his dog. Similar to my favorite book Where the Red Fern Grows (though it’s not as epic). (Note that the film version of Where the Red Fern Grows was absolutely terrible; the worst film adaptation I’ve ever seen.) This could easily have tumbled into sentimentality, but the filmmakers do a good job of keeping things real. If you can watch this without watery eyes, you’ve got no soul.

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Fri, Oct 06, 2000

: MLS Playoff: New York at Chicago (Game 3)

With each team winning one of the series, the drama was set: whoever won this game, would go to the “superbowl” — MLS Cup 2000 final, on Oct. 15 (on ABC). Chicago had home field advantage and everything seemed to be going their way. They got a fluke goal in the fourth minute, followed by one of the best goals of the year from Stoitchkov, where instead of crossing, he blasted it just under the crossbar (placing it with the perfect amount of height so that NY keeper Mike Ammann couldn’t reach it and making it dip after passing Ammann to go under the bar). With a 2-0 lead, it seemed Chicago had it made. But a minute later, Valencia stole a goal at the other end. Then, four minutes after that, Valencia scored a second! With the score tied 2-2 at the half, it was anybody’s game. The second half was the keeper’s game, with both making good saves, but the most of the offense for both sides was muted. Finally, with just a couple minutes to go, Ante Razov got in behind New York’s defense and ran in alone on Ammann. Ammann had saved a shot in a similar circumstance before, but this time Razov put it away, and Chicago’s in the final.

What a great game! Earlier I’d thought Chicago-New York sounded like a dream final, but unfortunately the way the playoffs are structured, those teams cancel each other out and there’s no way they can both make it. Still, even though it wasn’t the final, it was great to see these teams battle it out over three games. New York’s had an amazing turnaround, and they’ve got to be proud of themselves for such an incredible season (worst to nearly first).

Topic: [/soccer]

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: The Grey King

Author: Susan Cooper

One of the better of the “Dark is Rising” series. This book continues the tale of eleven-year-old Will Stanton, who’s really an “Old One” (a magical being), fighting for the Light. A bit of a compromise between fantasy and reality, this book blends the two together nicely, just like Greenwitch (my favorite). Excellent characterization, drama, and suspense, though once again the Light wins almost without having to do anything (my chief criticism of the series). Not as cerebral as The Dark is Rising, it still might be a bit advanced for children. I know for certain that Welsh is a language I am not going to learn any time soon!

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: MLS Playoff: L.A. at K.C. (Game 3)

With L.A. winning game 2, Kansas City was desperate for a win. If they win, they push the series into a 20-minute sudden death “mini-game” in which the victor advances and the loser goes home. All L.A. needed was a draw to advance to the final. Unfortunately, L.A. played like it. Cobi Jones rarely made an entry into the penalty area — it was all Hernandez, by himself. The game was scoreless until a good run by Chris Henderson resulting in a penalty kick for K.C. The resulting conversion was enough to win the game and go into the sudden death mini-game. Whoever scored would win. L.A. still didn’t seem interested in doing much more than sending Hernandez in alone, while K.C. attacked and attacked. L.A. managed one weak shot on goal that was deflected, and then a dreadful mistake at the back let in “Danish Dynamite” Miklos Molnar alone against Kevin Hartman. He calmly dribbled around the keeper and chipped it into the net, and Kansas City is going to the final for the first time ever!

So the final is set: Kansas City versus Chicago, Oct. 15, 2000, televised on ABC.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Thu, Oct 05, 2000

: American Psycho

I’d been interested in this movie since I heard they were going to film it, but the critics were somewhat correct: it’s a rathe empty film that doesn’t quite live up to its satirical premise. It is somewhat intelligent and has a few good points, but emphasizes the 80’s far too much (as though we’re more sophisticated in the 90’s or 00’s). I liked the way the film became surreal as the main character became more and more irrational, and I really liked the ambiguous ending. Not really shocking, except in a couple brief moments (most of the violence is off-screen — we see blood spattering and such). I’m going to have to read the novel and see if it’s better or worse. Great 80’s soundtrack.

Topic: [/movie]

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Wed, Oct 04, 2000

: The Dreamlife of Angels

Weird French movie. Not weird because anything usual happens, but because it’s just a movie of filmed life, which is rather boring. The “story” is about a young woman with no money arriving at a strange town and finding work, a place to live, makes friends, etc. Rather pedestrian, though it tries hard to be a bit profound in places (I didn’t fall for it, though -;). At least the French, like everything else, was fairly routine and understandable. Unfortunately, subtitles of languages I can understand drive me nuts because they are so inaccurate: why can’t movie people get good translators? Overall, an okay film, but rather long, and nothing much happens until the very, very end (and then it was something I expected at about the one hour mark).

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Tue, Oct 03, 2000

: MLS Playoffs: Kansas City at L.A.

L.A. took control 15 minutes in as their relentless pressure opened up a chance for Cobi Jones’s goal, but fifteen minutes after that Matt McKeon’s 30-yard bomb nearly blasted a hole in the back of the L.A. net. The game remained scoreless, though exciting, until overtime, when suddenly an asleep L.A. awoke just two minutes in and scored the golden goal that could send L.A. to the final: if they can tie or win in K.C. this Friday. Danny Califf’s late goal was similar to the one he scored in the Olympics (he just returned and was put in as a sub in this game).

Topic: [/soccer]

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: La Liga: Barcelona at Deportiva

Last season’s first-time Spanish league winners Deportivo doesn’t have the respect and reputation of Barcelona, but here they outplayed their opponent in the season’s first head-to-head clash. After a lackluster first half, a lucky deflection on a free kick went into the goal, and later Deportivo took advantage of a breakdown at the back to penetrate and score again. Barcelona looked dazed. Final: 2-0.

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Mon, Oct 02, 2000

: Serie A: Bologna at Roma

Roma begins their campaign with their new signing Gabriel “Batigoal” Batistuta, but it was Totti who scored the first goal on an aggressive header (while being double marked) in the dying seconds of first half stoppage time. Batigoal did some great work himself to force an own goal in the second half, but he didn’t get credit for the score. Final: 2-0 Roma.

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: EPL: Liverpool at Chelsea

With their new coach, Chelsea came out looking for their first win since the first game of the season. They got it, and in spectacular fashion. Their first goal was a gift from Liverpool’s keeper Westerveld, who punched the ball, not clear, but into his own net! A minute later, however, Haisselbank made it clear that Chelsea deserved the lead by finishing a fantastic passing sequence in which he put the ball in the upper ninety with one superb touch. Liverpool could do very little, though Owen did come alive once and force a terrific save from Chelsea’s De Hoey. In the second half, all doubt as to the result was gone when spectacular newcomer Gudjohnsen finished an opening like a pro, dribbling around Westerveld and coolly slotting the ball into the open net. Final: 3-0 Chelsea, and well deserved.

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Sun, Oct 01, 2000

: The Bachelor

Light romance about a guy who’s so bad at proposing his girlfriend turns him down; then his grandfather dies and leaves him $100 million, but only on the condition that he gets married by his 30th birthday, which happens to be the next day. A few good lines, occasional biting satire, but generally silly and predictable, and not even that romantic. Harmless.

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: Argentinian: San Lorenzo vs. Velez Sarsfield

Velez is one of my favorite Argentinian teams, simply because their goalkeeper, Chilavert, is so cool. In this game he started them off with a goal in just the second minute, when his free kick was blocked by the keeper but a teammate put the rebound away. Then San Lorezno’s keeper was red-carded, so they played down a man. Unfortunately, Velez never took advantage, so the game went down to the wire. With just minutes left, San Lorenzo peppered Chilavert with shots, but self-acclaimed “best goalkeeper in the world” proved his merit and stopped them all (including a couple jaw-droppers). Great game!

Topic: [/soccer]

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: Serie A: Juventus at Napoli

Finally, the Serie A is back! I love Italian soccer, though defense-minded Juventus isn’t my favorite team. They’ve been struggling in pre-season play, however, and promoted club Napoli went ahead with a goal towards the end of the first half. Juventus seemed to be struggling, but in the second half, Napoli was overconfident and didn’t attack, and soon Juve tied things up. Napoli fell apart then, and Juventus moved ahead with a goal by Del Piero, and the game finished 2-1 Juventus.

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: Olympics Commentary

A word about the Olympic coverage. I’m a big Olympics fan, but I don’t remember watching much of Atlanta. This year, despite the lame delayed coverage and NBC’s ceaseless interruptions for commercials, I’ve watched a great deal more than usual. Why? It’s simple: for the first time, they showed Olympic soccer. At Atlanta, they didn’t televise any, mens or womens. As I watched Olympic soccer, I became more interested in the Olympics in general, and I ended up watching other events. NBC or whoever broadcasts the Olympics ought to remember that: part of what makes the Olympics interesting is the variety of sports, especially sports we don’t regularly get to see. I was really hoping I’d get to see table tennis coverage, but sadly none of that was shown. Many other events received on minimal coverage (such as highlight packages). Hopefully by the next Olympics we’ll be able to pick and choose the events we want to see on the Internet, and not have to rely upon an unreliable network.

Now, as to the coverage itself, it was pretty bad. In the past I enjoyed the bios of athletes and documentaries on the area, but that was because the event was live and there were delays and waiting periods. But this time, knowning the event had already happened 18 hours earlier, there was no excuse. The filler material was only thrown in to artificially increase the drama and milk the event for more commercials. Last night I recorded five hours of Olympic coverage and watched it in less than an hour by fast forwarding through all the nonsense. That’s insane.

Finally, a comment on the Internet. NBC doesn’t have a clue. They ceaseless promoted their lame website throughout the Olympics, but if you went to the website, what did you see? The final results before the action was televised! Now that’s just sheer stupidity. No wonder the ratings have been horrible.

Topic: [/television]

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: Mad Max

Director: George Miller

For some reason I’d never seen this film, the first of the series. Terrific! Much smaller and better than the sequels, this has fast action and good shoot-em-up style, but with some thoughtful story-telling. Max is a cop who’s out for revenge after hoodlums murder his wife and child. Similar to Mel Gibson’s recent Payback, but not as clever.

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Sat, Sep 30, 2000

: Olympic Men: Spain vs. Cameroon (Gold Medal Match)

Incredible game, one of the best ever. Cameroon came in as the underdog to skillful Spain (the best team in the tournament, IMNSHO), and proved it quickly by giving up a free kick just outside the box less than two minutes in. Spain scored, and then just a minute later, were awarded a penalty kick on Jose Marie’s take down in the box. But Cameroon’s terrific 16-year-old keeper stopped the shot! Spain finally got another goal seconds before the half and went into the locker room safely up 2-0. But African teams are exciting to watch because they are so unpredictable, and a different Cameroon team came out. Within seconds they’d had a shot on goal, and push after push soon brought them their first goal (a lucky deflection off a Spanish player). More perseverance brought them a second, tying the score. Then Spain’s Gabri was red-carded for a bad foul and had to play with 10 men. Everything was going Cameroon’s way. With just seconds left in the game, Spain’s best player, Jose Marie, fell down in the box in an obvious dive and received his second yellow to be kicked out of the game! We go into overtime with Cameroon up two men (an odd coincidence, since Cameroon beat Brazil in overtime while down to nine men themselves).

In the first 10 minutes of overtime Cameroon put an incredible 5 or 6 point-blank shots on goal, only to by stopped by Spain’s quick keeper. Amazing turnaround for a game that started with Spain as the heavy favorite. But Spain played overtime intelligently — wasting time and slowing things down. Cameroon’s 120th minute goal should have counted, but a blind linesman called it offside and so it didn’t count. Spain got what they wanted: for the first time, an Olympic gold medal match would be decided by penalty kicks. Like most, I’d have given the edge to Spain on PKs, but Cameroon kicked coolly and calmly like pros. When Spain’s third kicker missed, it was all in Cameroon’s lap, and Wome’s finish put it beyond doubt: Cameroon beats Spain on PKs, 5-4, and wins the gold medal! It’s Cameroon’s first Olympic gold medal.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: EPL: Tottenham at Leeds

Terrific game! A slow first half put Spurs up by one on Rebrov’s goal, but spunky Leeds came out in the second half and in the span of one minute Australian Mark Viduka put in two goals! Then prodigy Alan Smith put in two, followed by Rebrov’s second. The last ten minutes were especially hairy for Leeds as they fought to maintain a 4-3 lead, but they did it. What a game with six goals in second half!

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: Fight Club

Like most people, I had the impression this was a story about an underground fight club. I’d put off renting a number of times, simply because I wasn’t sure I wanted to see that, though I’d heard it was a good film. Surprisingly, it’s barely about fighting at all. I mean, yes, there’s fighting and lots of blood, but the film is really about existential angst. The main character (the narrator, played by Edward Norton), is caught in the rat race and hates it, and then he meets a guy named Tyler who’s everything he’s not. Tyler’s an anarchist, preaching against the ownership of anything, the kind of guy who’d tell his boss to jump in a lake (or something like that ;-). Together they form something called Fight Club: a secret club where ordinary people can bash each other’s brains out. There’s no money in it — it’s just for the experience, and the pain makes you feel alive. Good so far, right? But then, gradually, the story goes a different direction as Tyler forms his own army, Fight Clubs spring up all over the country, and soon Tyler is the head of a terrorist organization ready to spread anarchy across the country. The strange ending doesn’t take away the power of this film, but brings up more questions than it answers. A bit uneven, and the surprise “twist” isn’t that much a surprise, and though it makes sense, it feels gimmicky, like the movie-makers are toying with us. Fascinating, surprisingly deep. I’ll have to watch it again sometime to see what I really think — I wasn’t expecting anything intelligent and it caught me off guard.

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: MLS Playoff: Chicago at N.Y. (Game 2)

Losing the first game 3-0, New York was in a must-not-lose situation. For inspiration, they brought back injured All-Star keeper Mike Ammann, who’s been out with terrible injuries (broken ribs, punctured lung) since his August 16 collision with league-leading scorer Mamadou Diallo. Ammann was supposed to be out for the season, but he was ready to play. His teammates responded with a terrific goal by Mark Chung late in the first half. He got two chances: the first blast was blocked by his own teammate, but the rebound went right to his foot and he put it away with a second powerful blast. In the second half, things were tighter, and though New York poured it on initially, and Chicago came back with chances of their own, the two keepers kept the score the same. Finally, after missing or having his shots saved, “El Tran” Valencia was able to increase the Metrostars lead and finish off the Fire. Who goes to the MLS Cup final on Oct. 15 will therefore be decided in the third game next Friday in Chicago.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Fri, Sep 29, 2000

: Olympic Men: U.S.A. vs. Chile (Bronze Medal Match)

The U.S. actually played for maybe 20 minutes in this game, and they had Chile nervous. But the rest of the time they simply defended and passed the ball around until a bad pass gave the ball away. Danny Califf’s poor decision to tackle a Chilean player in the box gave away a penalty in the second half, and it was downhill from there. As often happens, a goal disheartens one team and enlivens the other, and with just minutes to go, Chile scored a second, and the American dream of a soccer medal was gone. A terrific tournament for the U.S.; fourth place is still fourth best, and on an international stage, playing the world’s game, that’s awesome. The U.S. just needs more experience. We played best when players like Josh Wolff or Connor Casey went one-on-one dribbling right through an opponent’s defense, but too many times they missed the final shot the work brought them. The players need to take a lot more shots. Shots build confidence and make the other team falter (even misses). The U.S. often just passed the ball around (or tried) in the other team’s penalty area. Shoot! That’s the secret to scoring.

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: Greenwitch

Author: Susan Cooper

Book Three of the “Dark is Rising” sequence. This is the best so far. The first, Over Sea, Under Stone, was modern and practical, with minimal fantasy. The second, The Dark is Rising, is almost completely fantasy, abstract and mystical like a dream. This book joins the two, bringing the characters of each together, and completes the story of the first novel. Excellent, with the perfect mix of fantasy and reality, while presenting a unique and interesting adventure.

Topic: [/book]

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: MLS Playoff: L.A. at K.C. (Game 1)

Take two great goalkeepers, and teams with the best offenses and defenses in the league, and you’ve got a scoreless draw. But that doesn’t mean the game wasn’t interesting. It wasn’t great, but there were plenty of chances, and Hartman (L.A.) made eight saves. This draw means there will definitely be three games in the series; game two is in L.A. on Tuesday.

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Thu, Sep 28, 2000

: UEFA Cup: R. Bucharest vs. Liverpool (2nd Leg)

One word: booooring. Zero-zero games can be so dull sometimes, especially when nothing else happens in the game. Liverpool goes through based on their weak 1-0 away victory, but without any momentum.

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: Olympic Women: U.S.A. vs. Norway (Gold Medal Match)

I sure hope you saw this match, because it was one of the best soccer games I’ve ever seen, men or women. Started off slow, with Norway sitting back and only attacking once in the first half. The U.S. totally dominated, though they only got one goal. Then on Norway’s one push, they scored to tie the game going into the half. In the second half it was all Norway, at least at first. They really began to play and had the U.S. on their heels. Finally the U.S. began to fight back and it looked good for the U.S., but then Norway got a bit lucky with a good bounce and scored to put the ahead — the U.S. was now down a goal for the first time in the entire tournament. The U.S. fought harder and harder, but time was running out. It looked like the gold medal was Norway’s for sure. Two minutes of stoppage time was added as regulation ran out, and the U.S. was desperate. They fought back for possession of the ball and made one last dramatic drive toward Norway’s goal. With less than 30 seconds left, a run up the right flank offered the opportunity for a last cross into the box. But the only was there was tiny Tiffeny Milbrett, a 5’1” mouse among the Norwegian trees. Somehow she skied about the others and got her head to the ball. With less than 15 seconds to go, the U.S. tied the game to send it into overtime!

Incredible, but sadly, that’s all the U.S. had left. A few more attempts in overtime, but then a missed clearance and Norway’s substitute with the fresh legs took advantage and drove the ball under the U.S. goalkeeper. Norway wins the gold medal, 3-2. An awesome game, valiantly fought on both sides, and the closeness of the battle just goes to show how little difference there is between gold and silver. The U.S. should have won based on their play, but that’s the irony of soccer: it’s not about who plays better, but who scores the most, and in this case, Norway came through while the United States missed chances, and that’s the way it ended.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: EPL: Manchester United vs. Chelsea

Poor Chelsea’s been struggling this season, while Man U’s been of their usual form. This first game with Chelsea’s new manager (a.k.a. coach here in the U.S.) was an extremely important game and Chelsea came out with all guns blazing. Paul Scholes scored United, then Haisslebank’s terrific blast from the outer corner of the box tied the score at one. United came back quickly with Sherringham’s goal, and then Beckham’s tap-in seemed to seal the deal for Manchester. Chelsea didn’t give up and a goal from Flo just before halftime meant they were only down by one going into the second half. The battle slowed a bit as defenses keep things clean, but a terrific cross by Graeme Lesaux gave the ball to Zola, who’s weak trap pushed it to a wide-open Flo who nailed it home. Final? A well-deserved 3-3 tie that doesn’t tarnish Man U’s unbeated streak but gives Chelsea a much needed boost.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Wed, Sep 27, 2000

: Scream 3

Excellent, hilarious, and a worthy conclusion to the horror parody series. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the first couple Screams, so I’m sure there was humor and references I missed, but this one was the best of the three (though the first had originality going for it). The plot uses one of my favorite tongue-in-cheek techniques of having a movie within a movie: the story of the murders in the original movie has been turned into a series of slasher films, and it is during the filming of Stab 3 that we find our heroes being threatened yet again. There are hilarious confrontations between the characters and the actors portraying them in the film, and jabs at Hollywood, the horror genre, and at the Scream franchise. A lot of fun.

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Tue, Sep 26, 2000

: Olympic Men: Chile vs. Cameroon

The winner of this game takes on Spain for the Gold, while the U.S. plays the loser for the Bronze. Chile totally dominated for 90% of the game, missing chance after point blank chance. They finally scored late in the second half… well, Cameroon scored for them, with an own goal. But the goal didn’t dispirit Cameroon, who quickly came back with a surprise goal of their own. With Chile confused by the sudden change in the game, Cameroon pushed hard and in the 90th minute were awarded a penalty. It looked like a good call at first, but on replay seemed questionable. But that meant Cameroon finished 2-1 and the U.S. gets to play a talented and no doubt very upset and determined Chile for the Bronze. I don’t hold out much hope for the U.S., but you never know. If they play up to their potential and if Chile doesn’t really want a lowly Bronze medal, the U.S. could take it, but I suspect they are too tired. Remember, they’ve already done better than any U.S. soccer team ever, and these are young kids without a lot of experience. They’d love some sort of tribute to bring home, but just being in the semi-finals is an incredible feat, especially considering the international talent on the field. (Some of the internationals playing for Spain, Chile, etc. command transfer fees in the $20-$25 million dollar range, and many of the youngsters play for huge European clubs, so these are world class players the U.S. is competing against.)

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: Olympic Men: U.S.A. vs. Spain

Lackluster game in which the U.S. only showed flashes of their true capability; most likely they were exhausted, both emotionally and physically. Five intense matches in twelve days in five cities is a lot to ask of anyone (and one of those matches went 120 minutes). The U.S. started off disorganized and slow, and went down two goals early. When coach Clive Charles put in two substitutions, the game improved considerably, and the U.S. was able to draw a goal back via a penalty kick. (I don’t know why Clive didn’t start the game with subs Donovan and Victorine — and he unfortunately took out Albright instead of moving him up front.) The U.S. should have capitalized on the Spain’s defensive play in the second half, but couldn’t, and with just minutes left Spain scored again, dooming the U.S. Final score: 3-1 Spain. That means the U.S. plays for the Bronze on Friday.

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Mon, Sep 25, 2000

: EPL: Southhampton at Bradford City

Oooh, a low scoring affair of two bottom-of-the-table teams! Boring! I guess you really have to be a fan of one of these teams to get into a game like this, but I just couldn’t. Some lower teams (like Charlton) I really enjoy, but this game was lame. Final: 1-0 Southhampton.

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: The Dark is Rising

Author: Susan Cooper

Book two of the “Dark is Rising” sequence. A very different book from the first. Didn’t seem at all geared towards children, though the main character is a boy who discovers on his eleventh birthday he has special magic powers. Unfortunately, those powers come with tremendous responsibility, and he’s not at all happy with the situation: it’s more of a curse than a blessing. Excellently written, but dark, abstract, and full of mystery and odd philosophical and theological explanations. The boy saves the world, but I never quite understood the how or why (the only time he does something creative, he’s “inspired” by a voice inside him; otherwise everything seems to happen to him). For most of the book you aren’t really sure what is happening. There’s time travel, strange magic, mysterious things, evil everywhere, etc. Towards the end of the book we’re treated with long-winded explanations of everything, but it’s more like reading a textbook on magical history instead of an adventure story. The ending isn’t as satisfying as it should be. In short, this is a well-written and thought-provoking book for adults, but the child in me wanted a lot more fun.

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Sun, Sep 24, 2000

: Olympic Women: U.S.A. vs. Brazil

Boring, disappointing game. The U.S. was flat and hardly had a shot on goal the whole night. Their one goal was questionable, as it looked like Tiffeny Milbret fouled the Brazilian keeper to give Mia Hamm a shot at an open net, but nothing was called and the game finished 1-0 with the Americans advancing. Best move of the game was an incredible late second half save by the American keeper to keep Brazil out.

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: MLS Playoff: Colorado at Kansas City (Game 3)

With K.C. having the best defense in the league and only needing a draw, and considering the two teams only had one goal in the previous two playoff games (K.C. won the first 1-0 and the last was 0-0), I figured this would be a low scoring game. K.C. seemed on track scoring early, and Colorado had no offense at all. Coming into the second half Colorado still had a chance, but then K.C. scored two goals to make 3-0! The Rapids battled on, however, almost immediately getting a goal back by Paul Bravo with a terrific turn and shoot at the top of the box, but with only a few minutes left it didn’t look like the Rapids could do. In the final minute their pressure paid off with a penalty call, but there wasn’t time for anything else and the game finished 3-2, with Kansas City advancing to play Los Angeles in the semifinals.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: Welcome to the Dollhouse

Terrific film. I’d wanted to see it long ago, but never got around to it, but as it’s by the writer/director of the quirky film not turn into a swan at the end. Brutally honest and occasionally viscious. My favorite scene? It’s the dinner scene where the mom is trying to get the girl to say that she loves the (bratty) little sister and the girl’s refusing. So the mom says, “Then you can just stay at the table until you tell you sister you love her!” You can imagine what happens. Forced love. I love it!

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: EPL: Arsenal vs. Ipswich

Powerhouse Arsenal just really seemed to struggle while Ipswich played excellently. However, though Ipswich got a great goal early, they missed several great chances later, and sure enough, Arsenal managed to sneak one past the keeper late in the game for a 1-1 final.

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Sat, Sep 23, 2000

: Olympic Men: U.S.A. vs. Japan

Talk about an exciting game! The U.S. spurned a couple early chances, then Japan took the lead with an awkward bouncing header and missed an open net just before halftime. U.S.A. got back in it with a goal from Josh Wolff, but Japan immediately game back with another goal to go ahead. Near the very end of the game, as the U.S. pushed and pushed and pushed, Wolff was pulled down in the back and the U.S. was awarded a penalty kick. With the converted PK, the score was tied and went into “Golden Goal” overtime (sudden death). With terrific chances at both ends, both keepers made fantastic saves to keep their team in the game. The U.S. dominated play, but the Japanese were very dangerous on the counter-attack. Somehow the U.S. survived and the game went to a penalty kick shootout. Each team got five kicks, and Japan’s best player, Nakata, missed his shot! All five U.S. players made their PKs, and the U.S. advances to the semi-finals with strong hopes of a medal!

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Fri, Sep 22, 2000

: MLS Playoff: New England at Chicago (Game 3)

Usually playoff games are low scoring affairs, and sometimes there’s even suspense. I’d been rooting for underdog New England, but seventeen minutes in it was 3-0 Chicago. They never could catch up (though they had a few chances), and Chicago, with Stoitchkof of a tear, finished things off 6-0 to set and tie and bunch of playoff records. Wow!

Topic: [/soccer]

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Thu, Sep 21, 2000

: MLS Playoff: Tampa Bay at L.A. (Game 2)

L.A. just whooped on Tampa. Though L.A. had only managed four goals in their last three games, they came up with FIVE goals in this one. Tampa’s Mamadou Diallo had two goals, but it wasn’t enough and they are eliminated from the playoff picture.

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: Soccer News

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed I’m now reporting soccer games I watch, as well as movies and books. I do a fair amount of the latter, depending on my schedule, but I’ve always got time for soccer. In fact, I watch so much I can’t always keep it straight myself, so this is a good way to keep a record of it.

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Wed, Sep 20, 2000

: Olympic Women: U.S.A. vs. Nigeria

Though Nigeria did get a goal to make things interesting, the U.S. was firmly in control, making this a fairly routine 3-1 victory. Things will become much more competitive now. Surprisingly, powerhouse China was eliminated and does not advance to the semifinals.

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Tue, Sep 19, 2000

: MLS Playoff: Chicago at New England (Game 2)

What a day for soccer! First the U.S. Olympic team makes history, and then the playoffs really get going when New England makes a dramatic come-back to beat Chicago and force a third game in the series. New England looked a much better team than Chicago, dominating possession and chances, and only a mistake at the back letting Chicago snag a goal in the 80th minute. Defender Maricio Wright answered back for the Revolution, scoring a terrific header in the 85th minute. (Wright had an own goal in game one, so this was a great consolation.) You can tell by how passionately the players are playing that it’s playoff season!

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: Olympic Men: U.S.A. vs. Kuwait

With a must-win to advance, the U.S. started out slowly, with amateur Connor Casey once again missing obvious chances. When he was replaced by Landon Donnovan in the 31st minute and Albright was moved to forward, the U.S. took the game to Kuwait, finishing with a dramatic 3-1 win that not only meant the U.S. advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in history, but the U.S. won the group! (Winning the group is important, because group winners play second place teams from another group in the quarterfinals. Likewise, coming in second means you have to play a group winner.)

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Mon, Sep 18, 2000

: EPL: Arsenal vs. Coventry City

Arsenal had control most of the game and towards the end it looked like an easy 2-0 victory, but then a great free kick goal from Moroccan Hadji made the game 2-1 and the last ten minutes were a frantic fight. Hall had a terrific post shot in the last seconds that could have tied the score, but it wasn’t Coventry’s day. Hadji’s goal marked the first time in five seasons Coventry scored on Arsenal’s home field.

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Sun, Sep 17, 2000

: Drive Me Crazy

Teen movie about… well, about teens. I never could quite figure out the plot, as it seemed to change throughout the film (loosely it’s “good girl bribes bad boy to be her date and they fall in love for real”). Quite derivative in every way. More or less harmless, though. Not half as good as an Eighties classic like Can’t Buy Me Love (which it superficially resembles).

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: Olympic Women: U.S. vs. China

Good game, though the U.S. struggled at times. China played very well. 1-1 was the final score, though the U.S. could have won on a missed penalty kick (which was justice as it was a questionable call anyway). The U.S. needs at least a win or a draw against Nigeria to advance.

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: Magnolia

Author: Paul Thomas Anderson

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

One of the more successful episodic films I’ve seen, this movie blends the stories of multiple semi-related characters into one. Starts off excellently, but unfortunately, the build-up is for naught, as the film peters out without much of an ending (or explanation or revelation). Very long, but I didn’t really notice as the characters and situations were interesting, especially the bits about the “quiz kid” boy being forced to compete on the game show to win his dad money. Excellent subtle performances. Only thing that felt odd was the excessive profanity — every character seemed obsessed with using the F-word as many times as possible in every sentence. Do real people talk that way? I didn’t think so until I watched the behind-the-scenes “diary” on the DVD (very good, btw), and it showed that writer/director Anderson talks just like that. I guess he’s a genius. Whatever.

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Sat, Sep 16, 2000

: EPL: Charlton vs. Tottenham Hotspur

I like to root for the underdogs, so I was delighted that Charlton won, 1-0, but the game itself wasn’t that great, though the goal was excellent.

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: Olympic Men: U.S. vs. Cameroon

Wonderful, though frustrating, game. The U.S. had gobs of dead-on chances but couldn’t finish. The only non-professional player on the U.S. team, Connor Casey, missed several sitters, alone with the keeper, but hopefully he’ll learn from his experiences. (Amazing that the U.S. can now field a team of under 21-year-olds and only have one that doesn’t play professionally!) While the game was exciting, the only goals came from penalties. Final: U.S. 1, Cameroon 1. With Cameroon winning their first game, and with Kuwait (the other team in the U.S.’s group) winning their second, the U.S. faces a must-win against Kuwait to advance. (Since Kuwait is currently in second with the U.S. in third, a win against them guarantees the U.S. moving forward in the tournament.)

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Fri, Sep 15, 2000

: Over Sea, Under Stone

Author: Susan Cooper

First book in the “Dark is Rising Sequence.” I’d never heard of this series until recently, when it was compared favorably to the Harry Potter books. These were written in the sixties and seventies, and deal with children and the legend of King Arthur (as near as I can figure without having read them yet). This book has children discovering a map that leads them to the Holy Grail. A bit light, but interesting and well-written. I’ve started the second book and it is even better, so I think this is going to be a good series. There are five books in all.

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: MLS Playoff: New England at Chicago (Game 1)

Excellent, action-filled game, but NE really suffered when rookie defender Rusty Pierce went down with an injury and the team had to reshuffle into a more defensive posture. Final: NE 1, Chicago 2.

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: MLS Playoff: Dallas at NY (Game 1)

Good game, with away team Dallas going up early, but NY came back to make it a game, and won in the last seconds of overtime with a goal by “El Trane” Valencia. Final: NY 2, Dallas 1. Dallas missed a penalty kick that should have won it for them.

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Thu, Sep 14, 2000

: UEFA Cup: Liverpool vs. Rapid Bucharest (1st leg)

I only got to see the last half, but the goal had already been scored by Liverpool’s Nick Barmby, and what I saw was rather boring and defensive. Liverpool missed a few good chances and should have won by more. Bucharest fans booed their own team most of the second half.

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: Olympic Women: U.S. vs. Norway

U.S. 2, Norway 0. Great start from U.S. They totally dominated and didn’t give Norway a chance. Chances for gold medal look much better, considering Norway and China are in the same group as the U.S.

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: MLS Playoff: L.A. vs. Tampa Bay (Game 1)

1-0, L.A. Galaxy. Slow, defensive-oriented game with a penalty as the only goal. Mamadou Diallo was marked out of the game and missed his one or two chances. First of “best of three” series doesn’t leave Tampa out of it, but getting a win in L.A. is going to be a challenge.

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Wed, Sep 13, 2000

: U.S. Open Cup Semifinal: Miami v. NY

Wow, what an exciting game! U.S. Open Cup games this year have all gone to the wire, but it seemed like Miami was out for vengeance after missing the playoffs as they came back after the 1-1 tie at the half to quickly go up 3-1. Then New York got a late goal and pummelled the Miami goal for the last ten minutes, but couldn’t quite make it a win. So the underdog Miami goes to their first U.S. Open Cup final. They’ll face Chicago (which beat L.A. with an overtime goal from sub Josh Wolf). Final score: 3-2 Miami.

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: Olympic Men: U.S. vs. Czech Republic

Great start for the U.S. Men’s team; they dominated the game and should have won, but nerves and fatigue meant they gave up some goals they shouldn’t and didn’t pick up a winner in the second half. A 2-2 draw, it gives the U.S. a point in the standings, an excellent start from a game the U.S. expected to lose.

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Tue, Sep 12, 2000

: The Beach

Interesting, if somewhat boring film. Reminded me a little too much of Lord of the Flies, but it’s not as deep. In a nutshell, that’s what I found most annoying about the film: it is pretentious, acting as though it’s about profound existential issues, yet it’s really just about anarchy and pleasure-seeking. I also couldn’t figure out what was so special about the beach. There are millions of deserted, beautiful beaches all over the world. What’s the big deal about this one (other than it’s a big secret)? Lamely executed concept, though an interesting premise. Main character goes looney toward the end, which I didn’t get at all.

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: X-Men

Excellent action-adventure, based on the Marvel comic. I love comic book adaptations when they are done seriously, and this one is. Comics are a fantasy medium, and thus work best when presented in an ultra-realistic fashion as the fantasy elements are less dismissable (and silly). While the story’s not too deep, it does involve the interesting concept of discrimination against mutants, and there was even some decent acting. Two thumbs up.

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Sun, Sep 10, 2000

: Happiness

Bizarre, quirky film that deals with extreme subjects (like pedophilia) in a loosely satricial fashion. The whole point is summarized in the title, as in, the search for (Happiness) and what it all means. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t really uncover anything too revealing, though the presentation is unique, and it has fun poking fun at society’s trivialities. Some great characters and great moments, but falls a little short of a great film. Sample moment: fat slob loser geek with crush on beautiful neighbor (a successful writer with too many boyfriends and no painful life experiences) finally meet after his anonymous phone sex calls have got her extremely interested, and after a long, awkward silence, she finally says, “You’re not my type.” and that’s that. Realistic. Best moment? When the fat neighbor with crush on fat slob loser geek finally go on a date and the unexpected happens. Hilarious!

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Fri, Sep 08, 2000

: A Talk With Hitchcock

Excellent DVD interview with Hitch, the greatest director of all time. This interview is apparently from a 1960-something TV Canadian TV show, and it included lots of great stuff from Hitch. He tells his vision of film in the year 3000 (we’ll all just go and be hynoptized into living the film we experience), and reveals insights into modern debates like the issue over film violence. (Hitch claims no connection, and when asked about a serial killer who had watched a Hitchcock movie just before his third murder, Hitch said, “I wonder what he watched before his second murder?” He dismissed the whole thing and said that the killer was just as likely to have just drunk a glass of milk before his killing.) Classic Hitchcock, great video.

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Thu, Sep 07, 2000

: Captain for Life and Other Temporary Assignments

Author: John Harkes

On a soccer kick, I ordered this book at the same time as

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Mon, Sep 04, 2000

: Erin Brockovich

Wow, a Julia Roberts movie I like! Actually, I don’t not like Julia Roberts, but usually she’s rather too much of a presence is her movies for the movie to be very good. But I really liked this one. The character was very different from previous Julia Roberts’ characters, and I liked the story. (For once, there was no controversy in the tale of a lawsuit against big business: the big business admitted within their own memos that the problem existed and that it was time to cover it up. So no wacko environmentalist versus reasonable person debates here.)

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: Pele

Author: Pele

Terrific auto-biography of the greatest soccer player the world has ever known. I figured the book would be mostly about soccer, but I was wrong. Turns out the book is a fascinating account of a man’s childhood, his longings and dreams, his struggles into adulthood, and the challenges of being a legend in his own time. Very well written, the book is profound in an elegant, simple manner, similar to the way Pele played soccer. Highly recommended for everyone.

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: New Desk!

I spent Labor Day weekend destroying my office and putting it back together again. This was a massive project. With such a small room and so little storage space I first had to go through my storage boxes and consolidate and throw junk away. Once I’d made room, I was able to begin constructing my new IKEA desk, though with hardly any floor space putting it together in such cramped quarters was quite the adventure. Still, I made it, and my new office is amazing. I finally have space! Where before I literally couldn’t turn around without knocking something over, I now have a four by twelve foot clear area for walking around. Plus, my new desk not only has room for all my equipment, but tons of extra room for future stuff and/or books and other accessories. Incredible!

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Sun, Sep 03, 2000

: Victory

Director: John Huston

Interesting concept: prisoners of war during WWII are challenged into a soccer match against Germany, and use it as a way to escape. There isn’t that much soccer, at least until the finale, though the passion of the players is obvious. Pele himself stars as one of the prisoners, and of course he plays great in the final game. Okay, nothing great or brilliant, and Sylvester Stalone as the goalkeeper is a rather odd selection, but not a bad film, at least if you’re a soccer fan.

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Tue, Aug 29, 2000

: The Wild Bunch

Cool, violent, strange Western. It’s strange because it’s so different from other movies. It’s basically about bad guys — really bad, evil, despicable guys — do a tiny bit of good in the end. Fascinating, exciting, and excellently directed. Hard for me to judge today as the film’s a classic that has affected so many film-makers since, but it’s obvious it was ahead of its time.

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Sat, Aug 26, 2000

: Ikea

I went to Ikea today. Amazing store. They sell furniture and other things for the home. It’s like a massive Costco except selling nothing but reasonably-priced home furnishings. Definitely an experience. I got a desk — really it’s their “IVAR” storage system — but as it’s configurable in to about a million variations, I was able to design a wall unit that will hold two complete computer systems, two printers, computer accessories, and much else. My current desk setup has never been optimal, being made up of a half-dozen pieces kludged together, and the maze of cords, contraptions, and awkwardness in the very small amount of space I have has made organization impossible. I’ve looked at many furniture stores for a decent desk, but either they’re big and wide and with no vertical dimension, or if they do have a tall hutch (maximizing space) it’s not big enough for my large screen monitors. The IVAR system looks to be the dream. We’ll see how it works out!

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Mon, Aug 14, 2000

: Android

Older scifi film with Klaus Kinski and his android on a space station and some escaped convicts who arrive to threaten them. Mildly interesting, technically ridiculous, and silly special effects by today’s standards. Nice twist at the end, though.

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Sun, Aug 13, 2000

: Running Mates

Interesting TNT production with big stars like Tom Selleck. Fun, good cast, a little predictable, and a touch anti-conservative (why can’t these things be apolitical?). Not going to change your life, but well written.

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Sat, Aug 12, 2000

: SJ vs. Tampa Bay

I went to watch the San Jose Earthquakes take on the Tampa Bay Muntiny today. This was the first soccer game — first sporting event of any kind actually — I’ve seen in person (i.e non-televised). I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I was intimated by all the crowds, but it turns out I had a great time and the crowd was a big part of it: you really get caught up in the momentum of the crowd’s excitement at a game. I’m certainly going to go to more of these. I also — and this was really cool — got MLS leading scorer Mamadou Diallo’s autograph, and had a brief (very brief) chat with him!

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Fri, Aug 11, 2000

: The Muse

Silly fun, somewhat superfluous tale of a script writer who’s career is on the skids but is revived by a mysterious woman who’s supposed to be a “Muse.” Okay, but I couldn’t figure out why, whenever someone said “She’s a muse!” people instantly associated her with the muses of Greek myth. My first association would be have that it’s some sort of jargon or new age term. Weird blend of comedy and the supernatural.

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Tue, Aug 08, 2000

: Jury Duty

Had to go to jury duty today. Out of 90 people set to be selected for a trial, I was the last one picked… number 86. Fortunately, the lawyers ran out of premptory exemptions just as I got there, so the two alternates were chosen and I and a few others were sent home. Missed it by that much. Crazy process. I find it hard to believe that anyone convicted is actually innocent (I can easily believe that people not convicted could be guilty).

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Mon, Aug 07, 2000

: Sleepy Hollow

Director: Tim Burton

Odd film, but not in a good way. Started off well, and I disagree with the critics who thought the performances were poor: what was wrong with this movie was all in the script. It’s got a great setup: you’ve got Johnny Depp’s character (Ichabod Crane) who’s supposed to be an 18th century “scientific” detective who comes in direct conflict with the supernatural elements of the Headless Horseman. Sounds like the makings of a great battle between reason and the supernatural, right? But after all the setup, the film does nothing with that! After a slight doubt or two Ichabod immediately accepts that these are supernatural events (witchcraft) but obviously controlled by a human, and he sets out to discover which human. Huh? What’s scientific or reasonable about that??? From there it just gets worse, including the ending, where he concludes that his new girlfriend is the murderer, only belatedly realizing he was wrong, and then she isn’t even upset that he thought she was evil! Bizarre, unfinished, with impressive, gory effects, and some painfully obvious techniques like not showing a single bit of sunlight until the last frame of the film.

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Sun, Aug 06, 2000

: Topsy Turvy

Director: Mike Leigh

Fascinating look at the lives of 19th century opera writers Gilbert and Sullivan and how they wrote their greatest work, The Mikado. A bit dreary in some places (you need to be in the right mood for a serious period piece), but hilariously funny in others. Lots of surprisingly good opera. I especially liked the way the film fleshed out all the supporting characters, bringing us into the lives of the actors, choreographers, etc. It was a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how stage actors really lived. Also interesting: the DVD includes background on Gilbert and Sullivan (you should read it before watching the film), including the amazing detail that Gilbert introduced the concept of “directing” upon the world — prior to him, there were no directors.

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Sat, Aug 05, 2000

: Species

Above average sci-fi thriller starts off well with odd group assigned to find and retrieve government’s missing alien, but eventually denigrates into standard monster flick.

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Fri, Aug 04, 2000

: The Whole Nine Yards

Okay, rather low-budget affair (oddly with big stars like Bruce Willis, etc.), and several silly plots about a dentist getting involved into the complexities of the mob and a contract killer who’s his next door neighbor.

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Mon, Jul 31, 2000

: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Author: J.K. Rowling

I finally got some time to finish this. Excellent, excellent book. Best of the series, though they are all very good. I was most impressed at how Rowling reinvents the series with each sequel, including enough familiar elements we’re all comfortable with it, but with plenty of new stuff to delight us all over again. For instance, in the first three books a major part of the story was the annual Quidditch tournament. By the third book I was getting pretty tired of reading about Quidditch matches. But in this book the Quidditch tournament is canceled in favor of something else (I’ll let you read to find out what) — brilliant. And once again, Rowling surprises us with the twisting ending. Another change: this book ends with an ominous opening for plenty of sequels. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I can see that she’s set herself up for major changes in the wizardy world.

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Sat, Jul 29, 2000

: Galaxy Quest (rewatch)

I watched

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Tue, Jul 25, 2000

: The Monster (El Monstre)

A huge fan of Roberto Benini’s Life, and a touch crude in places (it’s about a guy mistaken for a notorious sex-killer, where all the “innocent” situations he gets himself into are perceived as perverted and bizarre by the police), but funny and filled with charm and wacky physical humor.

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Sun, Jul 23, 2000

: Site Change

I’ve made a number of changes in how I create this site and that’s enabled me to rearrange the material available here. (I wrote my own database program that exports the necessary HTML.) Now you will find the Past News sorted by month or alphabetical listing, and there’s even a complete listing of everything I’ve posted here. I’ve set this up to make it easier to maintain, especially over the long term, which should make me update it more frequently and allow you to find what interests you. Hope you like it! Be sure to let me know if you experience any problems or broken links.

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: Caddyshack

After watching Tiger Woods complete the Grand Slam this morning, I had to watch a golf movie, right? Pretty dumb fun, but Rodney Dangerfield was great as obnoxious wealthy golfer.

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Fri, Jul 21, 2000

: Terminal

Author: Robin Cook

So so Cook thriller, with an obnoxious lead character you want to punch yourself, a chapter that’s ninety percent incomprehensible medical terms, and a plot that’s ridiculously obvious (I figured it out reading the back cover blurb) but “held” to the end to build suspense. Can’t really think much to recommend it, other than it’s still better than wasting a few hours watching TV.

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Mon, Jul 17, 2000

: The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc

Director: Luc Besson

This film astonished me. I’d expected something terrible, based on the vicious remarks of the critics, but this film wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I liked it. It’s not a great film, but even the somewhat miscast Milla Jovovich is likable as Joan. I wasn’t impressed with the overdone dream sequences (which are strangely unexciting and listless) or the elaborate but boring battle scenes, but by the story. The line between faith and insanity is a narrow one, and every religious person has at one time or another questioned their faith, asking the same questions Joan asks herself in this film. How many of us could face a panel of learned judges and defend our faith? The power of the story of Joan comes from her mystery: was she really a messenger from God? Insane? Self-deluded? Asking those questions of Joan tests our own faith, and forces us to answer the same questions about ourself.

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Sun, Jul 16, 2000

: American Beauty

Excellent film. Not as brilliantly original as some said (it rehashes themes from many other works, including Death of a Salesman), nor especially scandalous, but well done and well directed. The ending was predictable, and there wasn’t as much depth as could have been included, but I liked the characters (especially Ricky) and the structure of the story. The casting of the much talked about Mena Suvari was a mistake, as she’s unique-looking and her character’s supposed to be pretty, but not extraordinary. Thus her character’s revelation at the end fell flat, like when you see a beauty complaining about how ugly she is. I also didn’t like the one-dimensional portrait of Ricky’s father, a stereotypical gay-hater (Please, Hollywood, can’t we come up with an original idea?), but overall it’s worth seeing.

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Fri, Jul 14, 2000

: Eye of the Beholder

What in the world is this about? I still don’t know. Guy chases serial killer girlfriend, but we don’t know why. Is he in love with her? I guess, but why? She’s a serial killer! Not exactly uninteresting film, but pointless. And the ending just ends, with no resolution or anything. Lame. As usual, Ashley Judd is fun, but they could have trimmed out all the scenes she wasn’t in and the movie would have made just as much sense.

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Wed, Jul 12, 2000

: Vacation 2000 (ending)

I’m back from vacation (today’s the first time I’ve had to catch my breath) and I’ve posted some cool pictures from my trip!

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Sat, Jul 08, 2000

: Dogma

This film tries too hard to be too many things and fails at all of them. It’s not particularly clever, not a great satire, and not especially profound. It does bring up some unusual religious issues, but with so much material to work with, I expected much more. It’s basically a much weaker version of Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens (I expect that film to be terrific). Seems writer/director Kevin Smith either didn’t have much to say or shied away from real controversy. The only thing even faintly controversial about this one is Smith’s typical overuse of profanity, this time coming from the mouths of angels and religious people (which comes across as more silly than satirical).

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Fri, Jul 07, 2000

: Mighty Aphrodite

Hilarious, surrealistic, somewhat profound, and occasionally crude Woody Allen film. Terrific performance by Mira Sorvino.

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Thu, Jul 06, 2000

: Casablanca

Another one of those “I’ll see it someday” films. This happened to be the someday, and it was well worth the wait. I was expecting a routine mellodramatic romance along the lines of the supposedly great Gone With the Wind and discovered several surprises: 1) the main plot was WWII intrigue, not romance; 2) the romance was mostly handled in flashback, which minimized it’s focus; and 3) plenty of witty humor, which modernized the movie considerably. Terrific film, with dozens of familiar lines. The romance angle was minimal, which I preferred, as the driving plot was much more interesting and that made the romance more significant.

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: Chasing Amy

Of course I saw the Kevin Smith films in the wrong order, but I did remember I liked this one the best; on reviewing, it has all of the brash wit and intellectual wordplay of Clerks but with an actual plot. The conclusion is weak, but you don’t really mind as you don’t expect Kevin to actually answer the large questions he proposes.

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: Rebecca

An absolute masterpiece. In retrospect there’s minimal plot — a shy newly-wed finds her new life haunted by the memory of her husband’s beautiful late wife, Rebecca — but Hitchcock paints such vivid, sympathetic characters that we’re on seat’s edge until the dramatic finale.

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: The Tin Drum

Bizarre German film about a three-year-old boy who sees the absurdity of adulthood and decides to stop growing. Set during WWII, this is not a film that could ever be made in America, especially considering the child-adult sexual themes. The Tin Drum primarily deals with the infantilism of adults as seen through the eyes of an overly mature boy, but touches on dozens of other profound themes and has some of the most visually striking images I’ve ever seen. Best scene? My favorite is where the boy sneaks into a Nazi rally and begins playing his toy drum and gradually turns the dull march into a rousing tune and soon has everyone waltzing to Blue Danube!

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Wed, Jul 05, 2000

: Seven Samurai

Interesting film about a tiny village hiring some Samurai warriors to protect them from a bandit army. Obviously a classic, but a touch overlong from a Western perspective. (In many ways I actually preferred the Western remake [The Magnificent Seven] mostly because it was easier to understand, though the American film obviously was just a mere action flick.) Definitely a film to see multiple times as there’s plenty of depth.

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Tue, Jul 04, 2000

: Toxin

An above average Robin Cook novel. Preachy against the meat industry, and tries to be disgusting in places, but surprisingly moving in characterization. The weak ending deteriorates into a traditional thriller that clashes with the emotional aspects of the first half of the book.

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Mon, Jul 03, 2000

: The Limey

Unusual film presentation of a revenge story, excellently directed, but a little weak on meaning.

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: The Sixth Sense

Even better the second time around. Amazing performances, and this time I was really impressed with the direction. There were many places the suspense was heightened by excellent camera-placement decisions. This is a film that most dismiss as a mere gimmick, but the reason it works is because the film is excellently written with profound characters. My favorite is the way the little boy didn’t want to tell his secret to his mother — the person he was closest to in the whole world — because it would change the way she looked at him. Meanwhile the mother is in agony because her son won’t even tell her what’s wrong. What a fantastic dilemma! Profound and heart-wrenching.

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Sun, Jul 02, 2000

: An American in Paris

Rather pointless musical, though full of excellent performances. None of the songs were memorable, though overall the music wasn’t bad. I just couldn’t figure out what all the dancing had to do with the nearly non-existent plot.

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Sat, Jul 01, 2000

: License to Kill

Excellent Bond adventure, one of my favorites because the plot is different from the regular Bond cliche. Darker than normal, but with plenty of cool Bond action.

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Fri, Jun 30, 2000

: Vacation 2000 (starting)

Vacation started today! I drove 750 miles to my grandfather’s retirement home on the beautiful Oregon coast where I’ll be spending the next nine days. Far too short, of course.

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: Fletch

Funnier and more serious than I remembered, this movie actually had a decent plot/mystery. Very cool. Chevy Chase at his best.

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Sat, Jun 24, 2000

: The Brethren

Author: John Grisham

Strangely predictable tale (very much like Grisham’s The Runaway Jury in that respect). Two days before reading this I watched an episode of Law and Order which featured prison inmates pulling the exact same scam as those in this book. It’s an interesting idea, but difficult to sustain for a whole novel, especially when there’s little else going on. But at least a Grisham book doesn’t take more than an hour to read.

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Thu, Jun 15, 2000

: The Mary Kay Letourneau Story

This was a made-for-USA movie I missed the first time around. I rarely pay attention to scandals, but this story was interesting, mostly because Mary didn’t think she’d done anything wrong as the sex had been consensual. Oddly, she was treated as a rapist, which shows us the silliness of our judicial system. Well done TV movie, with good (if lurid) performances from the boy, Penelope Ann Miller (who played Mary), and the boy’s mother (who was the best).

Topic: [/movie]

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Wed, Jun 14, 2000

: Battlefield Earth

Very entertaining, though 400 pages too long. Hubbard seems too full of himself to see the preposterousness of his premise (like library books and nuclear bombs would survive 1,000 years of decay). Still, it’s all good fun as long as you don’t take it seriously. Very much a pulp novel. Hubbard is obviously good at plotting (he’s just not much of scifi writer). I was especially impressed with the way he tied all the loose ends together via the characters’ psychology. In other words, the plot came from the characters, not from an arbitrary need to force the action in a certain direction. Example: the evil alien, Terl, is a conniving schemer who’s own paranoia and distrust for his fellow aliens help cause his downfall. So even though some things seemed to work out ideally for the humans, it wasn’t a coincidence — it was caused by the greed and hubris of the aliens.

Topic: [/book]

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Mon, Jun 12, 2000

: Swingers

Rather boring film about slackers. At least, I think that’s what it was about. Only notable scene was when main character did the bit with the answering machine.

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Wed, Jun 07, 2000

: Girl Interrupted

Really good film. Seemed like it should be talky and boring, but kept my interest. Ironic in that most of the film was good in that it showed there were no pat answers, then it tried to rush in some pat answers for a stilted conclusion. Still, decent overall. I liked it.

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Thu, Jun 01, 2000

: Twin Falls Idaho

Very cool film. I was expecting something David Lynchish, or perhaps a black comedy, but it’s really a fairly normal story about identical Siamese twins and their relationship and the way people treat them. Excellent.

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Wed, May 31, 2000

: Being John Malkovich

Amazing movie. Bizarre and surreal, with a lot of depth. Weak ending, and doesn’t completely live up to its early promise, but well worth the viewing.

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Tue, May 30, 2000

: End of Days

Schwartzenegger shoot-em-up is all special effects (very impressive ones) but a silly plot that’s part “The Devil’s Advocate” and part two dozen other movies. Pretty ridiculous, and Arnold’s character does nothing heroic but constantly get beat up until the very end. Watch it for the special effects.

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Mon, May 29, 2000

: Slaughterhouse Five

Excellent, very impressive. Hilarious and poignant. Never read the book (it didn’t sound funny) but will now. Kurt V’s great.

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: Forces of Nature

Light, mildly interesting. Unexpected ending I liked. Sandra Bullock’s charm almost carries the movie but somehow it still falls flat.

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Sun, May 28, 2000

: On the Beach

Made for Showtime remake about the world after nuclear distruction. A bit disconnected in places, and seemingly pointless today (nuclear annihilation is not the threat it used to be), but interesting, and a bit moving (and sad) at the end.

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Fri, May 26, 2000

: Goodfellas

Not as good as I was expecting; predictable and rather ordinary Mob movie, but with good performances. (Disclaimer: I don’t like Mob movies.)

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Thu, May 25, 2000

: Mission Impossible II

Excellent action flick, 100x better than the original. The plot is simple and performances are decent, but this doesn’t try to pretend to be anything but a shoot-em-up. If you don’t like action, forget it. (For some reason these movies have none of the psychological manipulation aspect of the TV show, which is what I liked best, but this one is fun and stylishly done.)

Topic: [/movie]

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Sat, May 20, 2000

: Site Update: Change in News

I’ve been just too busy to update the site properly, so I’m going to forget (for now) the Amazon links and some of the other info on the stuff I read or watch. Reviews will mostly be short, one-line reviews (thumbs up/down). But I’ll still update this list — I find it fascinating for myself even if no one else cares.

Topic: [/zweb]

Link

Fri, May 19, 2000

: Instinct

Slow, surprisingly boring, and ultimately unsatisfying. Pop psych hokum dialog. Not worth the rental.

Topic: [/movie]

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Tue, May 16, 2000

: Mickey Blue Eyes

Very cool light comedy, mixed with serious gangster stuff; a bit tedious and too serious at times, and the finale’s way over the top. Favorite moment: The “THE THE END” title at the end (you have to see the film to get the joke).

Topic: [/movie]

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Sat, May 13, 2000

: Dog Day Afternoon

Intense. Great performances. Subject matter not unusual by today’s standard, but must have been dramatic in the 70’s. Like the sudden ending. Overall, however, a bit empty. Homo angle questionable.

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Fri, May 12, 2000

: Rated X

This was a Showtime movie about the two brothers who redefined the pornography industry with the film Behind the Green Door. Interesting biopic, but predictable (except for the ending).

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Mon, May 08, 2000

: Event: Z-Write Released!

I’ve been watching few movies and reading few books lately because I’ve been working hard on my software program, Z-Write. It’s finally out! It’s an innovative word processor for creative writers: it lets you create multiple files within the same file — great for keeping together all the zillions of notes associated with a project. Microsoft Word is doomed! ;-)

Topic: [/technology/programming]

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Sat, May 06, 2000

: Event: Bob Jones Retires

I traveled up to Oregon to my old high school to wish my speech teacher, Bob Jones, a happy retirement. It was great to see some of my old high school friends and the stories and photographs brought back lots of happy memories.

Topic: [/travel]

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Tue, May 02, 2000

: Clay Pigeons

Rather bizarre crime drama about a guy being falsely accused of being a serial killer. Fun.

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Sat, Apr 29, 2000

: Fantasia 2000

The movie itself had great animation, but ran a bit long at 80 minutes. I loved the IMAX theatre, however. A screen five stories tall and 70 feet wide combined with a 12,000 watt sound system gets my attention every time.

Topic: [/movie]

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Thu, Apr 27, 2000

: Analyze This

Not bad, though a little slow at times, and not consistently funny (and sometimes not funny at all). Predictable. I love Billy Crystal, though.

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Sun, Apr 23, 2000

: Dune

Gets better every time I see it. Incredible visuals and amazingly compact story for such an epic novel. It’s so compact I can see how on first viewing you think it left out tons from the book, but it really didn’t. Might be confusing to people who haven’t read the book — watch it more than once to understand all the nuances. A classic.

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: The Abyss

This was the extended DVD Special Edition — with like an hour of extra footage (as if the original wasn’t long enough). Still excellent, though most of the extra footage toward the middle wasn’t noticeable (you’d never know if the booklet didn’t tell you). But the ending was dramatically different — I liked it much better (I always thought the original had a bizarre ending), though James Cameron’s anti-war preaching (in all his films) gets a little tiresome. (As if there are people who are pro-war?)

Topic: [/movie]

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Sat, Apr 22, 2000

: Muriel’s Wedding

What an incredible movie! Funny, serious, bizarre — it’s got everything. Hilarious and wacky, with a surprisingly profound side. Terrific performances. A must see!

Topic: [/movie]

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Fri, Apr 21, 2000

: Arlington Road

Neat movie with a wonderful (non-Hollywood) ending. It’s about a guy who thinks his neighbor is a terrorist but no one believes him. A little preachy, but worth it.

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Wed, Apr 19, 2000

: Urban Legend

Fun, campy horror flick. Great if you like the genre (horror mix with humor).

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Tue, Apr 18, 2000

: To Kill a Mockingbird

One of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Amazing. I’ve started the book (I’m on page 2 now ;-). I thought this was about racism or something, and while I knew it was good, I wasn’t enthusiastic about having such a heavy subject pounded over my head. But instead this turned out to be about a six-year-old tomboy and her experiences growing up and how she sees the world. Amazing. (Sure, racism is hinted at. Her father is a lawyer and defending a black man accused of raping a white woman. But you see this from the perspective of the little girl who doesn’t really understand any of that, and it’s quite profound and different. I wish I’d read this 20 years ago.)

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Fri, Apr 14, 2000

: Hurlyburly

Bizarre, talky movie. Well done, but the dialog’s obviously from a play — it’s much to dense for a film. You’d have to see this one several times to keep up with it. I found the characters difficult to comprehend. On the one hand they’re pretty dumb (their lives are crap), but then they turn around and spout profound philosophy. Bizarre but interesting. DVD commentary from the play’s author, David Rabe, helps a lot.

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: Ravenous

Neat little horror flick. It’s about people who learn to eat humans and find they can’t stop. It’s got a rather serious, ominous tone, then goes campy. A bit of a mix, but fun. Sets and period costumes and performances are great.

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Thu, Apr 13, 2000

: The Rage: Carrie 2

Lame. Not even 1% of the original. Got lots of reading down while watching.

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: Election

Funny film, easy to confuse with Rushmore, but ultimately too light. Fun, but not great.

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: Playing God

I can see why this failed. Rather distasteful, confusing, and ultimately uninteresting. Supposedly we’re supposed to feel compassion for a doctor who’s lost his license being forced to work for a criminal, but who really cares?

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: The Deer Hunter

Very different film from what I expected. I almost turned if off during the 45-minute wedding sequence, but stuck with it. Then suddenly we’re in Vietnam, and things were surprisingly interesting (I’m not a war movie fan). The ending and the character stuff and performances were tops. I don’t know that I need to this again, however. Maybe just fast forward through the slow parts.

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Wed, Apr 12, 2000

: Kiss the Girls (film)

I wanted to see this again after reading the book recently, and it’s better on second viewing. I didn’t like it that much the first time — I thought it was confusing and a bit trivial. There are parts of the book that are much better, but the ending of the film is far better than the book’s lame ending. Not bad, but just trimmed and sanitized too much compared to the book.

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Sun, Apr 09, 2000

: Varsity Blues

Okay film; interesting American sports psychology. I liked the conflict between the mean coach and players, but ultimately it does nothing with the criticism.

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Fri, Apr 07, 2000

: Big Daddy

Very funny silly film, like most of Adam Sandler’s stuff. Goes for the cheesy, easy jokes sometimes, and it’s a bit crude in places (especially inappropriate for such a young kid), but overall a good flick.

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Tue, Apr 04, 2000

: Eyes Wide Shut

Author: ? (novel), ?, and Stanley Kubrick

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Not at all what I expected. The reviews and advertising didn’t really explain this. It was much lower key than I expected, and the celebrated stars, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman didn’t even have very many scenes together. Tom was surprisingly good, though his ability to express subtle emotion consists mostly of a direct, intense stare: interpret from it what you will. Kidman was great, especially in a few key scenes, but she felt like a minor character. The story itself wasn’t bad; a bit bizarre, a bit hokey, a bit dull. There was a childish overemphasis on sexuality: overpronunciation of the word “naked” or the f-word, like ten-year-olds giggling over their first look at a dirty magazine. Overall I got the impression that the people that made the film seemed to think they had something remarkable on their hands but were too close to the work to realize it was nothing but an ordinary tale of a husband and wife squabbling. Throughout I kept thinking, “What I am missing?” because it felt like things were supposed to be important and yet they weren’t. Maybe in a year or two this will have more import; we’ll see.

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Sun, Apr 02, 2000

: The Battleship Potemkin

This is one of those films you always hear about but have never seen. I’m glad I did. It’s a little slow, and the silent movie stuff gets hokey and old after a while, but certain portions of the drama are absolutely as contemporary as anything you’ve ever seen. The classic “baby carriage” scene was a bit of a let down — I’ve seen so many remakes and mockeries that it wasn’t as poweful as it should have been. Overall, an amazing film; astonishing that it was made in 1925!

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: The Man in the Iron Mask

I thought this was supposed to be a lame modernization of a classic novel, one of those films where they cast a lot of big name stars and the whole thing stinks. It turned out to be a serious, well-done movie. The writing was good, most of the acting was spot on (the casting was excellent), and the story terrific. But there were portions that confused me, either because I don’t know that much about the characters or their time period; I found certain scenes to be rather staged and overdramatic as a result. (Like the ending, where the bad guys suddenly change sides. Their motivation was not well explained.) Cool flick. Might get old on a second viewing (once you know the plot); have to wait and see.

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Sat, Apr 01, 2000

: Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Author: James Cameron and William Wisher

Director: James Cameron

I got this on DVD and had to watch it to test out my 5.1 surround sound system. Just as good as always, and the sound really puts this one over the top. One of the best films of all time.

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Fri, Mar 31, 2000

: An Ideal Husband

Very cool film. Witty Oscar Wilde lines fly fast and furious — you’ll want to keep the rewind button handy and/or watch this one several times. The plot’s a little crazy and confusing, but everyone’s having so much fun being mildly evil that the whole thing’s a delight irregardless. They just don’t write comedies like this any more.

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Wed, Mar 29, 2000

: Runaway Bride

Predictable romantic comedy. Not bad, but I didn’t like the way it trivialized marriage. Ironic since (of course) the leads marry in the end.

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Tue, Mar 28, 2000

: The 13th Warrior

I actually liked this, though the ending fell flat. It’s based on Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead, which is one of my favorite books (and one of his best). It’s essentially a retelling of Beowulf, but from the perspective of an Arab visiting the Norsemen. The film’s impressive in action and photography, but the story’s slight. The ending fades in so gradually you’re suprised. “Is that it?” you ask. In these blockbuster days we’re used to much more dramatic conclusions. The best parts of the book (and film) are the ones that emphasize the cultural differences between the characters. Unfortunately, the film shows little of that, leaving us only with a weak action story. Watch it for the scenery and elaborate sets.

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Mon, Mar 27, 2000

: Kiss the Girls

Author: James Patterson

I saw the film a while back and it confused me enough I wanted to read the book. The book’s typical annoying Patterson, pretentious and overly dramatic. But a few of the scenes are good, and some of the characters are well done. The casting in the film had always bothered me, but reading the book, I realized it was dead on. As to the “sensational” plot, it was overdone and forced. Can’t he write about anything but psychotic killers? My understanding is that genuine psychotics are rare, but he makes it seem like every one of us has one for a neighbor. It gets old after a while, especially with no explanation. Not a badly written book, but one that promises more than it delivers. At least it reads fast. That’s one thing I do like about Patterson’s stuff.

Topic: [/book]

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Sat, Mar 25, 2000

: Gorgeous

Bizarre movie that’s not quite a love story, but not a true Jackie Chan action vehicle either. Action sequences are few but extended, and very well done. Female lead is amazing — truly a star, especially for such a young girl. She showed terrific range. Slightly long and slow in places, but worth checking out if your looking for something unusual.

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: Twin Dragons

Fun Jackie Chan flick with him playing twins. Lots of slapstick and identity confusion. Pace is bewildering. Above average.

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Fri, Mar 24, 2000

: EdTV

Not as fun as fun or intelligent as The Truman Show, this was okay, but nothing remarkable.

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: Tea With Mussolini

Cool movie. Light, low-key story about old women living in Italy before and during WWII. Not as emotionally compelling as Life is Beautiful, but the characters were original and well-done.

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Thu, Mar 23, 2000

: A Better Tomorrow 2

Author: John Woo (story)

Director: John Woo

Stylish action flick picks up where the previous film left off, resurrecting Chow Yun-Fat’s character as a twin brother. Well done, though overly complicated by a plot that gets forgotten in the ending’s huge shoot-em-up. Some remarkable images and acting, including some poignant moments and a bizarre sequence in which one character goes catatonic for an extended period. Not quite up to the original, but worth it for Woo fans.

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Sun, Mar 19, 2000

: Pushing Tin

Author: Darcy Frey and Glen Charles

Director: Mike Newell

Not quite what I expected; more character-driven, less action and comedy. But still fun. Essentially this film is about control over your life, as the characters are air traffic controllers who have to be in constant control. Slow in a few places, the story drifts a bit in the middle, but ultimately winds up being satisfying. Good performances.

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: Blindsight

Author: Robin Cook

Once again, another “thriller” where you’ve figured out the plot by page 50 but Cook keeps you in “suspense” until the last page. If you’ve got a mobster who’s blinded by acid and needs a cornea transplant, and suddenly ordinary people all over New York City are being killed by hit men, does it take a doctor to figure out what’s going on? Apparently so. In the meantime you’ve got hundreds of pages of corny dialogue and artificial arguing (can’t have the main characters getting along; gotta keep that tension up) to muddle through. It would have made a fine short story.

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: Deep Blue Sea

Author: Duncan Kennedy, Donna Powers, and Dave Powers

Director: Renny Harlin

Cool little Jaws-like action romp. Scientists genetically enhance some sharks, making them smarter, and then all hell breaks loose. Fun, actually scary in a few places, with some amazingly realistic special effects. (Don’t watch this if you’re squeamish about seeing people being eaten.) Obviously not ground-breaking like Jaws, this is still well-done and a lot of fun. There are enough surprises and twists that even jaded action fans might find it cool.

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Sat, Mar 18, 2000

: At First Sight

Author: Oliver Sacks (story) and Steve Levitt

Director: Irwin Winkler

An excellent movie. It’s gimmicky — a man blind since childhood is given the chance to see — but what I liked was the way the characters were done. Many complex questions were raised: Is seeing that important? Do we see with our eyes or our hearts? (And which is more accurate?) What are our motivations when dealing with the disabled? Mira Sorvino’s character, thinking she’s acting out of love, persuades Val Kilmer to have the eye operation. But he’s been blind for so long, seeing is frightening and unnerving for him. It turns his life upside down. When he was blind, he understood his role in life. But as a seeing person, he no longer knows who he is. Fascinating. Good performances by Kilmer and Sorvino, but especially remarkable was Kelly McGillis (Top Gun) as Kilmer’s sister. She displayed amazing subtlty as the caretaker — overprotective of her brother and neglecting her own life.

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: Merlin

Author: Edward Khmara (story) and David Stevens

Director: Steve Barron

I missed this mini-series on TV (I think I recorded it, but who knows), so I rented the DVD. Not bad. Impressive (but flashy) direction and special effects. (The director used lots of gimmicky transitions, both for exotic effect and to speed scenes. My favorite was a shot where a woman in white is lying on a bed and we see a tiny black dot moving on her chest. As the camera pans left, the dot grows, and suddenly we see it’s a tiny man on a miniature horse. Suddenly everything becomes clear, the woman fades away, and the horse is riding across the white sand of a desert. I replayed it several times. Amazing.) The film itself tries to pack a little too much into one story. It’s like a soap opera, or a Greek myth, with Gods and mortals screwing each other over right and left (literally and figuratively). It’s cool seeing all the big stars, and many, like Sam Neil (as Merlin) and Miranda Richardson (as evil Queen Mab) are excellent. Overall, it’s big, flashy, and there isn’t much depth. Fun, but nothing permanent. Odd religious conflict inserted. Historically accurate, but poorly done.

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Thu, Mar 16, 2000

: Broadband

I’ve got broadband! Yes, I finally succumbed to this Internet thing and subscribed to DSL. Now I can access the Internet 35 times faster than before. What an amazing difference! Highly recommmended. (And not costly, considering I was already paying extra for a second phone line anyway.)

Topic: [/technology]

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Wed, Mar 15, 2000

: Bowfinger

Author: Steve Martin

Director: Frank Oz

Light spoof of wannabe filmmakers making a film with the world biggest action star, only he doesn’t realize he’s in a movie! Doesn’t quite hit a home run; a few concepts fall short of their potential, and the comedy isn’t laugh-a-minute. But it gets better with repeated viewings. This is the kind of movie that would be hilarious after midnight.

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Sun, Mar 12, 2000

: The Haunting

Author: Shirley Jackson (novel) and David Self

Director: Jan de Bont

Nice idea — a group of insomniacs stay at a haunted house as part of what they think is a sleep study (but really is a fear study) — but it soon drops into a derivative ghost story. Impressive special effects, especially the amazing house. It’s sad — the film could have been so much better. For instance, I loved the concept that the insomniacs are so unstable that all the “ghost” effects are just their sleep-deprived imaginings. The director could have used that to better effect, making us, the audience, wonder if what we see is real or fake. Unfortunately, we are treated to exotic special effects right off the bat, making us realize that these “ghosts” are real — there’s no suspense or ambiguity. The conclusion’s a gimmicky, far-fetched twist, and the overly complicated “ghost story” is interesting but ultimately unfilling. I never did figure out how the heroine suceeded. I didn’t really care either. Not the least bit scary, this film is a good “might have been.” Worth seeing only if you like the stars or want to see some cool special effects.

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Thu, Mar 09, 2000

: Clerks

Author: Kevin Smith

Director: Kevin Smith

I’ve seen several of Smith’s more recent films, but Clerks is definitely superior. The dialog is wittier, the events more natural and realistic. It’s believable that convenience store clerks would argue about the meaning of life — after all, meaninglessness is all around them. Extremely impressive for a first film. Makes some of Kevin’s bigger budget, glossier movies seem rather limpid in comparison.

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Tue, Mar 07, 2000

: Practical Magic

Author: Alice Hoffman (novel) and Robin Swicord

Director: Griffin Dunne

Odd film that doesn’t know what it is. Is it a love story? A thriller? A mystery? A fantasy? I expected the latter, but instead was treated to a bizarre mix of all of the above. Basically two sisters, both witches, are suspected of killing the one’s evil boyfriend, and face investigation into their lives by a snoopy police detective. The film’s supposed to be “enlightening” about the effects of discrimination (ordinary townspeople are critical of magic) — the sister witches just want to be normal — but I find the TV show Bewitched did that much more effectively thirty years ago. This was heavyhanded and silly.

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Sun, Mar 05, 2000

: Vital Signs

Author: Robin Cook

This was a disappointment after the last Cook book I read. Concept-wise it isn’t bad (woman doctor struggles through artificial insemination treatments and discovers discrepancies that no one will answer), but it’s 75 pages too long. Cook does well making ordinary people do extra-ordinary things in a believable manner (and without coincidence and excessive luck), but in this case all that detail makes for a slow, monotonous read. (Essentially the main character travels to several countries attempting to solve the medical mystery, and at each country she starts over.) But the fatal flaw for me was the way Cook killed off the lead’s best friend and she continues right on as though nothing’s happened. She doesn’t even grieve! Frankly, I almost put the book down at that point, but the mystery kept me interested. Unfortunately, the mystery turned out to be exactly what I thought it was on page 50, only it wasn’t revealed until page 300. I hate it when authors think their plot is so great they must keep it a secret until the last page: throughout the book they reveal so little it barely keeps the story moving, and ultimately the conclusion’s anti-climatic. Then you just wonder why you wasted the time reading it. Skip this one.

Topic: [/book]

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Sat, Mar 04, 2000

: The Astronaut’s Wife

Author: Rand Ravich

Director: Rand Ravich

Bizarre film about an astronaut that goes out of contact with NASA for two minutes while on a mission — and comes back a different person. I never could figure out what a big deal being out of contact for two minutes was: the film has NASA rushing to get the wife immediately and is all in a panic. What’s the big deal? Doesn’t that happen all the time up in space? They should have explained the significance of that better. Anyway, it starts out well, and the relationship between Depp and Theron is explored, but soon it drops into a standard “space aliens ate my husband” film. The ending is kinda cool, with both expected and unexpected twists. Watch it for the stars, not the story.

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Tue, Feb 29, 2000

: Blazing Saddles

Author: Andrew Bergman and Mel Brooks

Director: Mel Brooks

I’m not the greatest Mel Brooks fan, though I’d like to be. His sense of humor is the kind I like, but his films tend to fall flat. I’d never seen Blazing Saddles before, but I can see why it’s considered one of his best. It’s definitely funnier than his other films I’ve seen, though much of the humor is either too subtle or too outrageous to be “comfortable” humor. I enjoyed the film, but didn’t laugh much just because it was too weird. Watching parts of it again, I can see that this is a film that gets funnier with every viewing: I found myself laughing out loud when Cleavon Little holds himself up at gunpoint (too difficult to explain — you have to see it). (The first time through I just couldn’t believe the townpeople were so dumb.) Cool flick. What impressed me the most was how current it was — it could have been released a few years ago. Amazing for a seventies’ film.

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Sun, Feb 27, 2000

: Notting Hill

Author: Richard Curtis

Director: Roger Michell

Sweet romantic comedy about the conflicts in a romance between a movie star and a nobody. Nicely done, and occasionally even heartwarming, but basically too light to be significant. Julie Roberts tried hard, but never got beyond being a pretty face, and one can’t help but be amazed that such a charming Hugh Grant could be single! The most interesting thing for me was the “coincidence” that Netflix just happened to deliver the DVD to me right after I finished reading the Natalie Wood biography (Netflix rentals are delivered by mail, so you must order several days in advance). Since that book is so revealing about the difference between the famous and not famous, I found the film more intriguing than I normally might have.

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: The Storm of the Summer

Author: Rod Serling

Director: Robert Wise

A remarkable little film (a Showtime original) with a brilliant performance by Peter Falk (“Columbo”) as a grumpy, Jewish delicatessen owner who’s stuck with a kid from Harlem visiting as part of a “fresh air” program for inner-city youths. It’s predictable: obviously the kid melts the old man’s bitter heart and the old man brings wisdom to the kid, but it’s extremely well-written. Set in 1969, it touches on issues of war, death, and racism. It’s occasionally bitter, often funny, and sometimes poignant. There are some great lines. In one, Falk says about his loser nephew, “He’s got the mouth of a whale and the brains of a sardine.” In another, Falk lectures the boy on racism, defending why he didn’t fight back when attacked: “That’s the worst thing about prejudice: it turns the hated into haters themselves. Line up the two sides and you can’t tell the difference.”

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: Concert: Weird Al Yankovic, “Touring with Scissors”

What a terrific concert! Weird Al is so often dismissed as nothing more than a parasitic comedian, living off the art of others, but he is really an incredibly talented musician and consummate entertainer. He pulled out all the stops in his live show, incorporating a light show, smoke, bubble, and snow effects, costumes, and video clips. The video stuff was hilarious, including clips from “Al TV,” mock celebrity interviews, music videos, parody commercials (my favorite was an ad for a nature-horror film called “60 Percent Chance of Rain”), and twisted 1950-style public service films educating us on things like personal hygiene (with practical advice like “Wash your hands every five minutes” and “Visit your dentist every day”). Between the one or two minute video segments Al would change costumes, wearing the same outfits used in his classic videos (i.e. dressed in hospital scrubs for “Like a Surgeon,” in black with a beard for “Amish Paradise,” and in his fat suit for “I’m Fat”). He did a ton of songs (over two hours worth), including recent stuff from Running With Scissors and classics like Dare to Be Stupid. There were classic moments, like when Al’s piano player interrupted his monologue to go off on a wild impromptu (and very cool) keyboard solo, and Al, waiting until the man finished, calmly pulls out a gun and shoots the man! The audience was having a blast: most knew all the lyrics, even little children. I don’t any performer than spans generations like Al: there were toddlers to grandparents! (It’s also a clean show the whole family can safely enjoy.) Al goes across all music genres, from rap to country, and he not only mimics singing styles to perfection, he mimics dance moves, costumes, and gestures. Absolutely amazing. He’s a genius. (Who else do you know who can sing and dance with one foot behind their head?)

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: Harmful Intent

Author: Robin Cook

Excellent medical/legal thriller, with an anesthesiologist, wrongly convicted of malpractice and second-degree murder, jumping bail to prove his innocence. Intelligent, well-drawn characters, believably paced (no superheroes here), with lots of medical detail, action, and suspense. I couldn’t put it down (I started it on Saturday). The ending was a little suspicious (lawyers were at the heart the conspiracy), but it’s such a feel-good conclusion you don’t care.

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Sat, Feb 26, 2000

: Natalie: A Memoir by Her Sister

Author: Lana Wood

Amazing book. I fell in love with Natalie Wood years ago when I first saw her in a film, and I remember being crushed when I learned she was dead (she drown in 1981). Other than her films, I knew little about her, and my searching for a biography went unanswered (they are all out of print). I ordered this one from Barnes and Noble’s website, which has a terrific out-of-print section. This book is as much about Lana as it is Natalie, and at first that bothered me (who cares about the sister!) but gradually I grew to love Lana too. The early section, about their childhood, is the most poignant, as despite the significant age differences, the two were remarkably close. As they grew older, however, rifts developed, often with years going by with them barely speaking. Tragic, especially as Lana seemed to exist solely as a reflection of her sister, and when Natalie wouldn’t acknowledge her, it struck me as horribly cruel. It’s a sad book, thought provoking and challenging. It makes me question my own desires for wealth and/or fame, and it raises many questions in regards to the meaning and purpose and use of talent. Though the book is obviously written from Lana’s point of view, it’s extremely well-done (I don’t know if she had help) and the perspective is so balanced it comes across as very truthful. Natalie is revealed a star practically from birth, who was both naive and remarkably adult. For instance, she never had any training as an actress, and while that shows in some of her films, in others her performances are nothing short of startling. In an event that reveals much about star life, Natalie, in her twenties, once flew to New York by herself (no manager) and called her sister to tell how she’d gone shopping and actually written a check (her first). She apparently never had much understanding of money (though her advisors invested it well and she was very wealthy when she died), and I got the impression that she didn’t help her sister financially more out of ignorance of what it was like to be poor than spite. The differences between the famous and the not famous are revealed in many striking details, and the stories of encounters with big stars (for instance, Lana’s tryst with Sean Connery) are fascinating, though gossipy. Natalie was a tragic figure: while successful, popular, and beautiful, she was obsessed with her appearance (i.e. worried about not looking good), frustrated in love (almost all her marriages ended in divorce), and spent most of her life in therapy (she even turned down the lead role in Bonnie and Clyde because it required location shooting in Texas and she’d be away from her therapist for two months). The wages of fame, I guess. I can see where being a star and having to be “on” constantly (always with the clever phrase, beautiful look, etc.) would be a huge burden.

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: The Corruptor

Author: Robert Pucci

Director: James Foley

Interesting, convoluted film. It tries to defy stereotypes by making almost all the characters gray, but only succeeds in creating a plot that’s nearly unintelligible. You’ve got corrupt cops and corrupt cops who are really Internal Affair agents, and villains who are snitches and villains who are playing the cops. There’s some good action, and Chow Yun-Fat is amazing as usual, but ultimately it’s just another action film.

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Fri, Feb 25, 2000

: Summer of Sam

Author: Victor Colicchio and Michael Imperioli

Director: Spike Lee

I wasn’t sure if this was a thriller or what, but it turned out to be a what. The “Son of Sam” killings in New York in the 1970’s are the backdrop for the lives of a number of distasteful and unlikable characters (some played by big stars). I found the mystery over the killer much more interesting than the lives of these pathetic characters. While there were attempts to make them human and likable, they didn’t completely succeed, leaving us uneasy no matter what happens to them (good or bad). The ending’s predictable, and the whole thing’s about an hour too long. Some of the relationships in the film are completely incomprehensible. This is a good rough draft a movie — a couple more rewrites and it might have had something.

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Wed, Feb 23, 2000

: Lake Placid

Author: David E. Kelley

Director: Steve Miner

Prior to viewing, I didn’t know what to make of this horror flick about a giant crocodile, written by the king of TV comedy, David Kelley. Was it supposed to be scary? Funny? An intentionally bad movie? It turns out it’s a quirky comedy with some action and a lot of cool special effects. It’s a horror film that mocks itself, while at the same time being a somewhat intelligent horror film. Unlike Scream, it’s not a spoof, and the humor is sly and devilish, and comes more from the odd characters than jazzy one-liners. The special effects rival Jurassic Park in quality, though there are less of them. Very cool flick.

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Tue, Feb 22, 2000

: The Burning Hills

Author: Louis L’Amour (novel) and Irving Wallace

Director: Stuart Heisler

This is a western about a Mexican girl helping a cowboy escape some bad dudes. Natalie Wood’s miscast as the girl, and though she’s not terrible, she looks like she’s in pain having to pretend to be something she’s physically not. The accent’s piled on as thickly as her dark make-up. Though there are a few scenes of romantic humor where Natalie shines, overall the movie is slow and rather boring compared to modern shoot-em-ups.

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Sun, Feb 20, 2000

: Ever After

Author: Susannah Grant and Andy Tennant

Director: Andy Tennant

I was pleasantly surprised by how well this movie was done. It’s the familiar Cinderella story, but told realistically, without the Fairy Godmother and magic, reducing it to a love story between a commoner and a prince. Decent performances (even from Drew Barrymore), and the dialogue was surprisingly intelligent and witty. Nothing too deep or complex, but above average.

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Sat, Feb 19, 2000

: October Sky

Author: Homer H. Hickam Jr. (book) and Lewis Colick

Director: Joe Johnston

This is one of those predictable but well-done films. A boy struggles to escape the drudgery of a coal-mining town by entering a science fair competition with his rocketry experiments. You know exactly what’s going to happen but the performances are so perfect (especially Chris Cooper as the father) that you fall for it away. Excellent.

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Fri, Feb 18, 2000

: Wing Commander

Author: Chris Roberts (II) (story) and Kevin Droney

Director: Chris Roberts

Being bored during action sequences doesn’t bode well for a film. Essentially Top Gun in outer space, this thing’s totally predictable. I love sci-fi and thought it looked interesting, but I got a lot of reading done during this movie.

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: The Pillow Book

Author: Peter Greenberg

Director: Peter Greenberg

From Soderbergh’s visually conservative approach to sex we jump to Greenberg’s almost pornographic visuals. But this film isn’t about cheap thrills. I’m honestly not sure exactly what it’s about — it jumps all around, touching on eroticism, literature, sexual identity, the meaning of life, death, calligraphy, beauty, ugliness. It’s the story of a Japanese girl whose writer father painted stories on her face when she was a child, and now as an adult she seeks out lovers to paint beautiful words on her body. Her problem is that the good artists are poor lovers and the good lovers are poor artists. Later, the woman begins to write on her lovers, and realizes her dream of becoming a published author. Oddly, she “submits” her work to the publisher on the body of her lovers. I found it puzzling that one could write a whole book on the flesh of a person, but I guess these are poetry-type books (and since each character is a word, oriental languages are more compact than Western ones). Even more bizarre, the publisher doesn’t seem to find this unusual presentation strange. The film’s title is what we would call a diary or a journal, though with an Eastern slant: most of the writings are Confuscious-like phrases or “lists” (i.e. “Things that make the heart pound.”). Interesting, but not exactly enlightening. (My favorite were the fun ones like “A hand cannot write on itself,” written, of course, on the fingers of one hand.) My knowledge of Eastern culture is minimal, so I’m sure I’m missing a great deal of the film’s message. It’s a complex movie: Greenberg frequently uses overlapping video sequences so several events or perspectives are happening simultaneously. It’s a powerful technique and beautifully done (in one scene he has everything in monotone except for the little girl’s face in the mirror is in full color). Another thing I liked: the multitude of languages. There’s English, French, Chinese, and Japanese mixed almost indiscriminately throughout the film. It’s delightful. (The music’s also similarly multi-cultural.) Overall, however, this is a bizarre, unsettling film: beautiful, exotic, and untouchable. (One other note: the DVD of this film is not widescreen and has zero extra features. Pretty much just VHS on a disc. Lame.)

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Thu, Feb 17, 2000

: Sex, Lies, and Videotape

Author: Steven Soderbergh

Director: Steven Soderbergh

I hadn’t seen this for years so it was cool to rent the DVD and see it again. What surprised me was how current the movie still is, and the amazing performance by James Spader. He’s incredible in this film — such subtle acting is extremely rare. The director’s commentary on the DVD is pretty cool — Soderbergh birdwalks all over the place, touching on his favorite films and scenes and occasionally commenting on “Sex, Lies.” Seeing his perspective ten years after his directorial debuts is educational. As to the film itself, it was more impressive now than ever: the story’s not especially unusual (an extramarital affair), but the perspective is different. Most impressive was how Soderbergh makes us feel like we’re watching the extremely sexual, and yet there’s no nudity or direct sexual activity — it really is just sex talk.

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Wed, Feb 16, 2000

: Homegrown

Author: Stephen Gyllenhaal (story) and Nicholas Kazan

Director: Stephen Gyllenhaal

Slow comedy about “America’s number one cash crop” (i.e. marijuana). Fun performances from notable stars, but the humor falls flat. Rather violent (almost an action picture in places), and main characters are too moronic for us to really care what happens to them.

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Tue, Feb 15, 2000

: Bottle Rocket

Author: Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson

Director: Wes Anderson

Strange little movie. Interesting and fun in places, though low-key and modest (like most independent films). It’s about some slacker friends trying to become successful thieves and figure out life in the process. What was strange was the complete lack of morality displayed — there never was the slightest hint of guilt or remorse for their crimes. It was like the director thought stealing was funny and not wrong. Other than that, an okay picture.

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Mon, Feb 14, 2000

: The Joy of Pi

Author: David Blatner

Essentially this is a little book of trivia about the most famous mathematical symbol. Unfortunately, unless you’re a mathematician (I’m decidedly not), the really interesting stuff’s incomprehensible. Blatner does nothing to explain basic math concepts (anyone remember what a factorial is?) and the result is complete gibberish. The history is mildly interesting, but the critical (the reason I read the book) question of what good is pi (i.e. “Why do we need it? What use does it serve?”) is never answered! (The closest he gets is one sidebar which explains how to compute your hat size using pi. Great, so thousands of people have spent decades of their lives trying to get a more accurate hat measurement!) Essentially this is a pointless book: there’s not enough real math to interest mathematicians and there’s too much for the layman. If you would like to read poems about pi and trivial things like that the sequence “123456789” first appears at the 523,551,502nd digit past the decimal point, go for it. Otherwise the most interesting thing is the book is that it prints (in microtype throughout the book) the first one million digits of pi.

Topic: [/book]

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: Vector

Author: Robin Cook

Interesting, surprisingly well-written novel. I think I’m a Cook fan, unnerving as that may be. There’s nothing deep here, but the characters are well-defined and believable, and the action’s good. The novel runs a bit long (I was saying “Get on with it!” in a few places), but close attention isn’t required. (Excellent for reading during “Who Wants to be a Millionaire!”) The plot is bioterrorism: a Russian immigrant has created some weapons-grade anthrax and plans to release it in New York City. What I usually hate about books like this is that you know the good guys will catch the bad guys before the toxin’s released and save the world. Sure, you don’t know the how and the when, but the bad thing will never happen. Well, I won’t spoil the ending of this book, but that isn’t what happens here! Brilliant ending.

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Sun, Feb 13, 2000

: Crumb

Director: Terry Zwigoff

This is a documentary on the bizarre artist and cartoonist Robert Crumb. I rented it primarily because it was produced by David Lynch and I’m a huge Lynch fan. I thought I’d never heard of Crumb before the film, but seeing his artwork I realized I was somewhat familiar with his style and some of his more famous works. Crumb’s art is distinctive and unique, and above all, controversial. He mixes biting humor, social commentary, and pornography. His drawings of women are exaggerated to absurdity, essentially mocking the male obsession with sex while at the same time gratifying it. The film interviews Crumb and various members of his family, including his two brothers. The Crumb family is the ultimate in dysfunctionality, with Charles living at home with his mother and taking anti-depressants and Max begging on the streets of San Francisco and spending hours every day on a bed of nails. Their lives are so pathetic they will surely improve your perspective of your own. But the frightening thing is how intelligent and creative these two are: both are artists, like Robert, and both show tremendous talent. Also like Robert they are obviously misfits, but while he found a place in the world, they did not. Who was it who said the difference between genius and insanity is a hairline? This documentary showed it to be true. While this film is incredibly disturbing (to the point of nausea), it’s also an amazing, honest portrait of the link between insanity and creativity. If you are interested in creative endeavours or the creation process, I highly recommend seeing this film. It will open your eyes and make you ponder.

In closing, here’s an example of a cartoon that epitomizes Crumb: there’s a depressed man with an absurdly huge nose (we’re talking two feet here). Behind him is a naked woman on a bed. Her entire face is sunken in… in a similar bulbous shape to the man’s tremendous proboscis! (Yes, it is sick and twisted… and hilariously funny. And profound when you think about it.)

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Sat, Feb 12, 2000

: Mystery Men

Author: Bob Burden (comic book series by Dark Horse) and Neil Cuthbert (screenplay)

Director: Kinka Usher

I realized something while watching this: a humorous premise does not make a humorous movie. Too many gimmick films rely on their wacky premise to get laughs and don’t put in enough humor in script to make it funny. This thing sounded great but falls flat: there’s nothing funny beyond the initial concept of a some inept wannabe superheroes.

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: Very Bad Things

Author: Peter Berg

Director: Peter Berg

I love black comedies, but this one’s a little too raw (i.e. several characters are plainly evil) to completely work. I loved the poetic justice ending, however. The story’s somewhat predictable as one by one a group of five friends kill each other off, but the actual methods of everyone dying are well done. Semi-accidental deaths are difficult to pull off believably, but these worked.

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Thu, Feb 10, 2000

: Guarding Tess

Author: Hugh Wilson and Peter Torokvei

Director: Hugh Wilson

This film was incredibly disappointing. It wasn’t the least bit funny, nor were any of the characters sympathetic. Shirley Maclaine’s character was supposed to be annoying and she was, but even when she wasn’t supposed to be annoying she was. And Nicolas Cage was such a doormat I wanted to punch him myself! I frankly wished they’d all drop off a cliff and leave me in peace. The ending was muddled and confusing — I couldn’t even tell if the kidnapping was real or staged or what was going on. I’ve never heard the phrase “Yes, Ma’am” more times in my entire life — and I hope to never hear it again!

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: The Spanish Prisoner

Author: David Mamet

Director: David Mamet

This is a slow-moving, mesmerizing account of con artists pulling a scam. It’s intelligently done, though overly complicated, and the ending is contrived. Still, I was glad it ended happily, as this is one of those movies were tons of bad stuff happens to the innocent, sympathetic lead, and if it had ended badly it would have been a horrible movie. What most intrigued me was the pace — slow and intriguing. I never did understand the title line. It refers to a con of a sort, but I couldn’t figure out what it had to do with anything.

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Wed, Feb 09, 2000

: Tomorrow Never Dies

Author: Bruce Feirstein

Director: Roger Spottiswoode

Not quite as flat as I remember in the theatre, this Bond film nevertheless fails to deliver. It’s hard to point to any single flaw: the remote control car chase is weak, the motorcycle stunt goes on way too long, the villain isn’t particularly scary, the plot (a media baron tries to start a war between England and China to give his new 24/7 news network something to broadcast) is ridiculous (even for a Bond movie), the line gags are so obvious as to literally gag you, and the women aren’t really around (Teri Hatcher dies right away and Michelle Yeoh’s character made a great foil for Bond, but she’s too buff to be romantic). It’s a strange film where nothing works. I never thought I’d find a Bond film boring, but here’s the one.

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: Entrapment

Author: Ronald Bass (story) and Michael Hertzberg

Director: Jon Amiel

This was supposed to be a disappointing movie, but I got exactly what I expected: basically Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones looking gorgeous and committing cool high-tech robberies. Sure, it’s not deep, and plot was swiss cheese, but it was fun and completely harmless.

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Tue, Feb 08, 2000

: Run Lola Run

Author: Tom Tykwer

Director: Tom Tykwer

This is a fascinating film from Germany. It works on many levels, but because of its MTV-like style and pace, plus it’s unusual “plot,” it’s difficult to follow on the first viewing. At first I thought it simplistic, but it actually is quite deep — it’s just that the glossy style makes you think it’s a silly music video. Essentially the movie’s about a girl who must get 100,000 marks ($60,000) to her boyfriend in twenty minutes or he’ll be killed. The twenty minute race to find the money and get it to her boyfriend is repeated three times, each with a different outcome (generated by slight changes in initial decisions). It’s a fascinating premise, and as well done as it could be — but ultimately it seems gimmicky and of course it can’t escape that it feels like a movie, not real life. Still, there were many very cool effects. One of my favorites was the “fast forwards,” where Lola bumps into a character and with a series of photographic snapshots we see that character’s entire future in a few seconds: meeting a woman, falling in love, marriage, a baby, a whole family, etc. This only happens a few times in the film so it doesn’t get old; it’s very cool. The DVD is worth watching as it has a director’s commentary which is surprisingly good. One annoyance: the dubbed English and English subtitles use completely different translations. Why do films do this? Really dumb. I guess it was never an issue before DVDs as with video you either get the dubbed or the subtitled version, but I’ve seen it on several DVDs and it’s incredibly irritating. (I like subtitles as they make it easier to follow the story.)

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Sat, Feb 05, 2000

: Fahrenheit 451

Author: Ray Bradbury (novel), Jean-Louis Richard, and Francois Truffaut

Director: Francois Truffaut

Interesting, if a little odd, adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel. Odd because the lead speaks with a heavy foreign accent which bothered me throughout the film, yet there’s no inference that his character is supposed to be a foreigner. Good overall, though a touch overly dramatic in places, and slow in others. It felt dated, and the “futuristic” sets were incredibly corny.

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Fri, Feb 04, 2000

: American Pie

Author: Adam Herz

Director: Paul Weitz

All the reviews I’d heard of this comedy about teen life concentrated on how raunchy it was; I was pleasantly surprised that it actually has some depth, intelligence, and even a sweet love story. That said, it brings out all the extremes of high school life, mostly dealing with various forms of embarrassment, especially sexual. I suspect adults would find it shocking, but kids would just say it’s normal life. Certainly better than Animal House, often used as a comparison film. (I’ve never understood the attraction of that movie; I thought it was lame and pointless.)

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: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

Author: Trey Callaway

Director: Danny Cannon

The plot: Every five minutes Jennifer Love Hewitt puts on a sexy new outfit and becomes terrified, seeing dead bodies or having a nightmare about a guy in a rain slicker with a hook for a hand. Most of the time these are lame fake scares (incredibly lame because it’s easy to tell the fake from the real because the real ones happen without warning while the fake ones include about three or four minutes of “tension” buildup). I don’t remember the original being this bad — it’s amazing what Hollywood can do to ruin a sequel.

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Thu, Feb 03, 2000

: Life is Beautiful

Author: Vincenzo Cerami and Roberto Benigni

Director: Roberto Benigni

All I can say is if you haven’t seen this film, go see it right now! This is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It’s ten times better than Schindler’s List, mostly because it’s bearable, and not literal. Instead of showing us the horrors of the Holocaust directly, it uses comedy and misdirection to lighten the mood. The effect of this is to emphasize the horrors even more powerfully because we’re so emotionally open and involved with the characters. An example? The main character’s son, earlier in the film, is revealed to hate taking a bath, and hide in a cabinet to escape such a trial. Later, in the concentration camp, the boy doesn’t go with the other children into the gas showers because he thinks it’s a normal shower! What powerful irony; sweet yet heart-wrenching. The film is packed with dozens of wonderful examples of bittersweet humor like that. My favorite aspect of the film? Probably the brilliance of the writing, which I thought was superb. I especially like the way nothing was wasted: every event was reused a way which was imaginative and touching. An example? Benini’s waiter character befriending a visiting doctor, who later shows up as the concentration camp doctor (there are many better ones, like the classic scene with the key). Another cool thing: I discovered I can almost understand Italian!

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Sun, Jan 30, 2000

: Waking Ned Devine

Author: Kirk Jones (III)

Director: Kirk Jones (III)

I knew very little about this film going in… what a delight! Go out and rent it right now! This is set in a tiny village in Ireland, where someone in the village has one the lottery, but whoever it was won’t admit it. Villagers go out of their way being nice to their neighbors, wondering if he or she’s the winner. It’s finally discovered that the winner is Ned Devine, a 66-year-old man, but the shock of winning has killed him! He’s found dead in front of his television, the winning ticket in his hand. Soon the whole village has entered into a conspiracy to pretend that Ned’s still alive and claim the 7 million pounds. Hilarious, and the characters are so real and wonderful, you wish your own town was so homey. Favorite moment? When the little boy asks the priest if he’s met Jesus. The priest says, “Not exactly,” then presses the boy to see if he’s possibly interested in joining the priesthood. The boy says, “I don’t think so. I couldn’t work for someone I’ve never met and for no pay!”

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: Escape From Alcatraz

Author: Campbell Bruce (I) (novel) and Richard Tuggle

Director: Don Siegel

I’d never seen this; it was pretty much like the title says: Clint Eastwood’s put in Alcatraz and escapes. Still, the specifics of the escape were interesting, and like most prison escapes, it’s amazing the amount of effort that goes into the attempt. (I remember visiting the dungeons of castles in Europe when I was little; one of the most amazing things I saw was a hole in a rock wall dug with part of a spoon by a convict. It had taken years and years, scraping and scraping, and yet the man had only gotten a few feet into the eight foot thick wall! Truly that’s got to be the most frightening thing about incarceration.)

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: Blast From the Past

Author: Bill Kelly (II)

Director: Hugh Wilson

In this movie a couple holes up in their fallout shelter in 1962 thinking nuclear war has happened, and their son grows up entirely underground only to emerge in 1997, completely cluelss as to modern life. I was expecting a silly, rather lame film, but this turned out to be quite charming. It was surprisingly accurate in terms of scientific detail (i.e. one scene shows the dad pulling a live fish from a tank, which makes sense, since you couldn’t live exclusively on canned goods for 35 years), and it was quite fun. It’s obviously light, and could have used a bit more satiric bite (e.g. making more fun of modern day life), but well done. A nice feel-good movie.

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Sat, Jan 29, 2000

: Simply Irresistible

Author: Judith Roberts (II) and Elisabeth Robinson

Director: Mark Tarlov

Film classes now have a new film to use as the ultimate example of bad filmmaking. Like all really bad movies, this is tragic: almost all the jokes fall flat, the editing is listless, and there’s a strange sitcom feel to the directing and sets. The plot is illogical and bizarrely paced — events jump around chaotically, and many mysteries are never explained. Even the special effects, usually a given in today’s film market, are feeble (even by TV standards). I wanted to like this: Sarah Michelle Geller is a favorite, and I liked the concept of magical foods that act as a love potion, but just about nothing in this film works. Truly a hideous mishmash. Worth watching only for the movie-making educational aspects.

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: 200 Cigarettes

Author: Shana Larsen

Director: Risa Bramon Garcia

One of the better episodic films I’ve seen, but still a bit choppy and non-linear. The “plot” is about a number of unrelated people all gathering for a New Year’s Eve party in 1981. Parts were quite funny, others tragic. Ultimately we don’t really care for most of the (unlikable) characters so the whole thing’s kind of a wash. Some of the irony was sweet, though, and there were a few legitimately classic moments.

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: Freeway

Author: Matthew Bright

Director: Matthew Bright

I saw this a few years ago, but wanted to see it again after seeing lead Reese Witherspoon so recently in Pleasantville. She’s really a terrific actress, and this role gives her plenty of opportunity to show off her range. She does a great job making us like her loser teen character. The film’s a loose (very loose) adaptation of “Little Red Riding Hood” going off to Grandma’s. In this story Reese’s parents are hauled off to jail, and rather than be put back into foster care, she runs off to find her Grandma. On the way she’s picked up by a serial killer (a wonderfully evil Kiefer Sutherland). This film is not a children’s tale: it’s ultra-realistic, with hardcore violence, prison fights, gunshots, and plenty of blood. (Don’t watch it if seeing Brooke Shields’ brains splattered on a bathroom wall squicks you). Still, it’s funny in a twisted fashion, and the characters are realistic and believable.

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Fri, Jan 28, 2000

: You’ve Got Mail

Author: Miklos Laszlo (play), Samson Raphaelson (original film), Nora Ephron, and Delia Ephron

Director: Nora Ephron

I didn’t want to like this; though I like Tom Hanks and I’m huge Meg Ryan fan, I figured this was nothing more than a rehash of Sleepless In Seattle except on AOL. The e-mail aspect of things didn’t excite me (though I’m into technology) because I figured the film (like 99.9% of movies) would get it all wrong. I was pleasantly surprised. Meg was incredible, Hanks impressive, and the technology angle was barely visible (though I did like the subtle [and never mentioned] touch that businessman Hanks used a boring Windows PC and Meg a cool Apple Macintosh PowerBook — the screen shots were real, not faked). The writing was deft, and though I knew I was being manipulated and resisted until almost the end, I finally caved in. I guess I’m just a sap for this kind of stuff. Ultimately, the movie was so well done I watched the director’s commentary track! (Which was surprisingly good, I might add. Very interesting, both from technical and writing viewpoints. It helped that director Nora co-wrote the script — I’ve listened to director-only commentary tracks and they aren’t always insightful into the soul of the project.)

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Thu, Jan 27, 2000

: Pleasantville

Author: Gary Ross

Director: Gary Ross

This is the film about two modern-day kids being transported into the black-and-white world a 1950’s sitcom and slowly infecting that world with modern free thinking, thereby colorizing it. I watched this for the first time on DVD; my impression of the film changed considerably when I watched the commentary tracks (the DVD has two, one by the director, and one by Randy Newman, composer of the movie’s score). My initial impression was that Gary Ross doesn’t know the difference between reality and television — he seems to think he’s being clever satirizing a 1950’s sitcom world (as if a 1950’s sitcome isn’t a satire in itself). Ross treats Pleasantville (the fiction TV series and town) as though it’s real, and by mocking the archaic values of that world he can emphasis the superiority of today’s open-minded world. Listening to the comentary, however, I realized there’s a generation gap at work: I didn’t live in the Fifties (or even the Sixties); what I know of the Fifties I know from television shows exactly like Pleasantville. The television of the Fifties is so hokey that I never dreamed that the world was ever really like that. Ross, however, makes it sound as though that world really did exist. If that’s the case (I’m not convinced), then that changes how I feel about the film, because that world does sound repressive, and I agree with the film’s “let’s overthrow Eden” conclusion (though Ross goes to the extreme of throwing out the baby with the bathwater). If the real-life Fifties weren’t like that, then the movie’s nothing more than a cheap gag trying to sound profound (since it’s illogical to draw conclusions while comparing apples and oranges).

That said, this is a film worth seeing. I was surprised at the depth of the film — and I wondered why I’d never heard anyone discuss that aspect. Reviews and comments from fans always talked about the impressive special effects and unusual premise. But the movie’s quite complex, with themes of sexual liberation, racism, feminism, existentialism, and anti-Communism. Draw your own conclusions as this is a movie that forces you to think. There were aspects I really liked — such as the “No Coloreds” signs popping up when half the town residents were black-and-white and the other half Technicolor — and aspects I profoundly didn’t like, such as the sitcom Mom discovering her independence via an extra-marital affair. Overall I liked the movie’s final moment, which basically said that we shouldn’t hold our lives up to the expectations of others (such as assuming that our dream should be the “American Dream” of a husband and wife, 2.1 kids, a dog, and a house with a white picket fence).

The theme of Pleasantville has been done before, and better, in films like David Lynch’s far more disturbing Blue Velvet. This is a gimmick film; well done, but ultimately it can’t escape the limitations of its premise.

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Wed, Jan 26, 2000

: Drop Dead Gorgeous

Author: Lona Williams

Director: Michael Patrick Jann

In what country do they show these movies? This was a cool movie, but I don’t remember ever seeing it on theatre marquees. I liked this a lot. It was a satire of beauty pageants, set in a tiny town in Minnesota (with everyone speaking with Fargo accents). It was clever, though not brilliant, with good performances. Like all satires, uneven, but occasionally hilarious. All-in-all a pleasant little comedy (dark in places, but I love black comedy).

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Mon, Jan 24, 2000

: Notify Service

Sorry updates have been so infrequent of late; I had a bout of the flu, and with the European winter break over, there’s been gobs of soccer to watch. (With several tournaments going on, like the African Nations Cup, there are one or two games on every night this week! After not watching soccer for a month, I’m going to O.D.!) Putting down my thoughts on each movie or book doesn’t take that much time, but adding all the Amazon.com links and comfirming movie director and author data with the Internet Movie Database takes some effort.

Because of my irregular updating, I’m adding a new service. You can now subscribe to a mailing list where I will send you an e-mail whenever the page changes. This shouldn’t be more than once per week (and possibly less often than that). To subscribe, simply send any message to notify-on@designwrite.com. To unsubscribe, send a message to notify-off@designwrite.com. That’s it!

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Sat, Jan 22, 2000

: The Gods Must Be Crazy

Author: Jamie Ulys

Director: Jamie Ulys

Accidentally started watching this and couldn’t stop. Definitely in my Top Ten of greatest movies of all time. I was surprised at how much I’d forgotten; I’ve seen the sequel several times in recent years, but apparently it’s been a long time since the original. Favorite moment? The part about how modern man has refused to adapt himself to his environment and instead adapted his environment to himself, and as a result we’ve got to spend half a lifetime going to school just to learn how to cope with that complex, self-created environment. The African Bushmen, on the other hand, have no concept of possessions, and no needs for anything: whatever they need is right around them. A classic; hilarious and thought-provoking.

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: Jack Frost

Author: Mkar Steven Johnson and Steven Bloom

Director: Troy Miller

Cute live action “Frosty the Snowman” fantasy, but a little too saccharine for my tastes. Had some actual touching moments between the Mom and the kid, but those tended to be drowned out by frequent crass and obvious humor. I watched it because I was curious about the special effects, and they weren’t bad, but once you’ve seen one snowsurfing snowman, you’ve seen them all.

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Fri, Jan 21, 2000

: Ghost in the Shell

Author: Kazunori Ito

Director: Mamoru Oshii

I’ve never seen any Japanese anime, but this caught my eye at the video store and I rented the DVD. Supposedly a classic, I discovered the critics were correct: I watched it again on Sunday! Stop thinking of Saturday morning cartoons — this is what I would call “live action animation.” It’s realistic in every category: wonderful artwork, dramatic camerawork, thoughtful characters, and an amazing story. It’s got action and violence (it’s definitely not a kid’s film) combined with a fascinating science fiction story. The term “ghost” is analogous to the soul — in this future world people are part computer (cyborgs), and your ghost refers to the part of yourself that is human. So the debate begins: what makes a human human? With enough electronic parts is a human a machine? With enough data could a computer be considered human? Fascinating.

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Thu, Jan 20, 2000

: The Thomas Crown Affair

Author: Alan Trustman (story) and Leslie Dixon

Director: John McTiernan

Fun romp with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo as an wealthy art thief and an insurance investigator tracking him down. Starts out a little slow — Russo and Brosnan have some sort of instant link I found more mysterious than realistic, but later, once we really believe that Russo has fallen for the thief, it becomes fascinating: does Brosnan really love her or is he just stringing her along? Ultimately the movie, like Brosnan’s character, is too much in control for you to really care about these characters (or believe for a moment that something bad will happen to them), but it’s a nice ride. I haven’t seen the original, but now I’m going to watch for it.

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Wed, Jan 19, 2000

: Patch Adams

Author: Dr. Hunter Adams (book) and Maureen Mylander

Director: Tom Shadyac

I hadn’t heard good things about this, so I was prepared to be disappointed, but I loved it! It’s a somewhat predictable story (the summary of “doctor believes humor is the best medicine” summarizes it well) and the lead character does fall to easily into a Robin Williams caricature, but the fact that it’s based on a true story, and the way the doctor rails against the medical system and the arrogance of doctors struck home with me. My favorite moment? When student doctor Patch is doing rounds with one of his teachers who says, “Bed 6 needs blood work,” pauses to blush, then corrects himself with “Mrs. Edwards needs blood work.” Little things like the name of the patient, obviously trivial to busy a doctor with a head full of vital, life-saving information, do make a difference.

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Tue, Jan 18, 2000

: Celebrity

Author: Woody Allen

Director: Woody Allen

Amusing, lightweight comedy. It’s different, perhaps the most successful working of an episodic film I’ve seen. Nice use of real-life celebrities in various low-key roles. Kenneth Branagh does a good Woody Allen imitation, but I think I would have preferred Woody in the role — Branagh’s too good looking for his bad luck to be believable. Overall, not up Woody’s usual intellectual standard (it never really makes the statement I expect), but then that might make it more approachable for non-Woody fans.

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Sat, Jan 15, 2000

: The Witches

Author: Roald Dahl (book) and Allen Scott II

Director: Nicolas Roeg

I hadn’t seen this movie in years, but saw it was on the Disney channel the other night and recorded it. It’s a superior kids movie, about a plot by witches to change all the children in England into mice. The special effects are a bit theatrical (lots of colored smoke) but fun, and the talking mice are really cool. Somewhat similar in humor to the Harry Potter books (except in this case magic and witches are evil). Overall, fun for kids, though its realistic and serious (i.e. non-cartoon) portrayal of witches could be scary for youngsters.

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Fri, Jan 14, 2000

: Whirligigs

Author: O’Henry

It’s a sad truth that the short story market is suffering. Novels still sell, but few people read short stories any more. It’s been a while since I’ve read a collection, but I’m definitely putting some on my shopping list: reading these was a terrific experience. They are short enough you can read one in ten to thirty minutes, yet they manage to envelope you in a world of their own. O’Henry writes with such verve and wit you just cannot help but smile through the reading, and so his many characters are inspired. This books contains dozens of classics. There are tragicomedies, fateful romances, stories of ill-fated robberies, Westerns, pursuits, and hilarious parodies. So many of these tales have made permanent marks on my psyche it’s hard to know where to begin. A few things stand out: 1) O’Henry’s ability to stamp a character with just a few phrases of description, yet keep the character from being a stereotype; 2) the elegance of O’Henry’s prose, humorous almost without effort, and as ingenious as a riddle; and 3) the marvel of outrageous, clever plots that stem entirely from the characters and come across as natural and believable. An example of the latter? One story deals with star-crossed lovers. He’s on the run for murder, hiding out in an anonymous South American town. He thinks she’ll never marry him if she knows he killed a man in a bar fight. But when she confesses she’s on the run for poisoning her abusive husband, they declare they are made for each other and agree to marry. Immediately after, however, a ship from the States arrives with the man the lover had supposedly killed — he’s not a murderer after all! He rushes off to tell his fiance that the wedding’s off, only to discover she’s read a months-old newspaper account that her husband didn’t die from the poisoning, and she’s left for America!

Here’s an example of O’Henry style and wit:

“He wore his hat in such a position that people followed him about to see him take it off, convinced that it must be hung upon a peg driven into the back of his head.”

(Note: The Amazon.com link above doesn’t link to this book, but a similar one of O’Henry short stories; this book is apparently out of print. The version I read is in DOC format for the Palm PDA. The download is free!)

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Thu, Jan 13, 2000

: Inspector Gadget

Author: Andy Heyward (creator) and Jean Chalopin

Director: David Kellogg

If anyone would like this movie, it should be me, as I’m a huge fan of the cartoon. But while the movie felt like a cartoon, it didn’t feel like an Inspector Gadget cartoon. What made the original great was that Gadget never realized it when his gadgets saved him or injured the bad guys — he just kept going along in his own little world, accidentally setting off gadgets and saving the world. Like Inspector Cloussou, Gadget was always the irrepressible optimist and that made him likable, even if he was a terrible detective. The movie has some impressive special effects (though one aerial sequence has some horribly amateurish green screen work) and it’s ultimately harmless. I was also impressed that the movie didn’t include a lot of the vulgar, adult-oriented humor that seems to pervade most kid-oriented movies of recent days (Austin Powers and Wild Wild West come to mind).

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Wed, Jan 12, 2000

: Teaching Mrs. Tingle

Author: Kevin Williamson

Director: Kevin Williamson

From the creator of Scream and the TV show Dawson’s Creek comes this black comedy, which isn’t very dark or very funny. However, I still liked it, mostly because of the psychological manipulations of the evil Mrs. Tingle. She was a potentially fascinating character. Unfortunately, the contrived ending strips her of all realism, leaving us with another mindless movie villain. I don’t know much about the background of this film, but I suspect studio manipulation toned down what was once a much darker script (the original title was Killing Mrs. Tingle). It’s a shame, because it’s an interesting concept with a lot of potential.

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Tue, Jan 11, 2000

: Book signing

This evening I went to a local book store for a book signing for Tom Alibrandi’s just published Hate Is My Neighbor, his non-fiction account of his time battling white supremecy in Idaho. He gave a short talk, explaining that the heart of the neo-nazi movement is in Idaho, and that the first hate crime law in the United States was passed in Idaho as part of an effort to fight the white supremecy movement there. Some of the tales he told were chilling: since there aren’t enough minorities in Idaho, groups were actually kidnapping blacks from Los Angeles and bringing them to Idaho to hunt them down “like a turkey shoot,” commented Tom. But the story’s also one of hope: he told how ordinary people would rally in support of human rights, including one woman, who after every meeting, would receive a telephone call from someone saying, “We know where you were. We know what time you came home. We can kill you any time we like.” Yet this woman continued to faithfully attend the meetings! Tom’s book is receiving rave reviews, and I’m anxious to read my copy. As soon as I do, of course, I’ll post something here. Caveat: Tom and I are personal friends, as he heads the writing group I’m a part of (were currently on hiatus).

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Sun, Jan 09, 2000

: Good Omens

Author: Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

My favorite director, Terry Gilliam, just signed to make this book into a movie, so I had to read it. (I’m a Neil Gaiman fan, so I was already interested.) This book is described on the cover as a comedy about the apocalypse, which is apt. I was a bit nervous when I started reading about angels and religious issues, but then I discovered that the book makes fun of God and the Devil equally (always appropriate in my line of thinking). The “plot” runs along the lines of an angel and a demon who conspire together to sabotage the apocalypse (because they live living on earth and don’t want to see it destroyed). The writing is hilarious and witty, but begins to drag about halfway through. One can only take so much wit. The pace should have accelerated toward the end, but didn’t, leaving me struggling to finish the book. Still, it’s funny with no sacred cows, and it’s certainly innovative and interesting, if a bit of a one-joke premise. There’s some classic humor, like the running gag that (because of a demon’s work) cassette tapes left in an automobile for longer than two weeks automatically turn into a “Best of Queen” album. Another joke I liked was that one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, Famine, is the one responsible for nouvelle cousine and the “famished” trend for fashion models.

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: Les Diaboliques

Author: Pierre Boileau (novel) and Henri-Georges Clouzot

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

I’d seen the Sharon Stone remake, and though I liked it, I found it confusing. The original is much easier to understand (even in French!), and the leisurely pace more appropriate for the story. I’m interesting in seeing the remake again, just for comparison purposes, but this original is definitely a classic. It reminds me a lot of The Sixth Sense, in that you need to watch the movie again once you’ve seen the twist ending. This is the film Hitchcock wanted to do, but Clouzot got the rights to it first.

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: Unforgiven

Author: David Web Peoples

Director: Clint Eastwood

This film is the best western of all time. It’s got action, humor, and realistic characters, yet it’s one of the most profound movies I know. It raises so many questions about morality, life and death, killing and living. Unlike most westerns, all the characters are gray — there are no guys in black or white hats to make the decisions or do the thinking for you.

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Sat, Jan 08, 2000

: Clockwatchers

Author: Jill Sprecher and Karen Sprecher

Director: Jill Sprecher

TV Guide called this a comedy, which I find strange, as it’s not supposed to be funny. It’s amusing, but not laugh-out-loud. It was interesting. It’s about four young women who work one rung below the bottom one on the corporate ladder: they are temps. The film pokes fun at office politics and the corporate battle to get noticed. It’s a light movie, not a biting satire like you might expect. Enjoyable. What I liked best was the casting: the four workers have distinct but believable personalities — no glamor roles here.

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: Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes

Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs (novel) and Robert Towne

Director: Hugh Hudson

As a huge ERB fan, I’ve wanted to see this movie for years. Of course I was hesitant, as I’ve been disappointed at all Tarzan adoptations so far. This one’s supposed to be the truest, but I wasn’t that impressed. Yes, it was better from a technical perspective (but even there there were minor mistakes like Tarzan, learning to speak, muttering “razor” perfectly on the first try). Mostly this movie suffered from two faults: it was boring; there was essentially no “Tarzan action” like you’d expect, and it had a serious misinterpretation of Burroughs. In ERB’s books, Tarzan, a.k.a. Lord Greystoke, was as comfortable in a suit as in a loincloth — the whole point was he could live in either world (but chose to live in the wild). He simply was a superior man all around. In this movie, however, they made Tarzan out to be a wildman who could never be comfortable in society. Essentially that was the central conflict of the film, so I can see why they did that, but that was not ERB’s intent for the character. The key to Tarzan for me (and how I relate to him) is that he is not truly a part of either civilization or the wild. He is something of both worlds but does not belong to either. He is man, not ape, yet he lives with apes. He is man, and lives with men, yet he is not man. When he is with men he feels the calling of the wild. When he is in the wild, he feels the calling of civilization (not strongly, but it is there). That, for me, was the genius of ERB. Tarzan was ultimate alien. That’s how I relate to him. Growing up in West Africa and the United States, I never felt a part of either world: I was a tourist in either location. So you can see that I was disappointed by this adaptation, which took out what I consider the most important part of Tarzan’s character! (The elimination of this aspect of Tarzan also eliminated the reason for Tarzan to leave the wild and explore his history in the first place. The film gives no clear reason as to what motivates Tarzan to the jungle.)

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Fri, Jan 07, 2000

: Man on the Moon

Author: Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski

Director: Milos Forman

Recommendation: learn something about Andy Kaufmann before you see this movie; you’ll enjoy it more. I watched an Andy biography prior to seeing the movie and I’m really glad I did. Andy was a complex man — by the time the movie explains enough of him to make sense to you, the film’s nearly over. That said, this is an great film. Carrey’s performance is fantastic — he not only does Andy, but all of Andy’s alter-egos (Andy was a man of a thousand faces). I never watched Taxi or really even heard of Andy before this movie, but I can tell he was a performer I would have liked. He basically enjoyed fooling people by pretending to be things he wasn’t. He was the ultimate “boy who cried wolf.” The film plays up the ironies inherent with such a character, showing us how the tabloid newspapers refused to run stories of Andy having cancer, when he really did, because they didn’t want to be fooled by another Andy prank. This movie is a real mind-trip into the head of Andy Kaufmann. He’s such a fascinating man I’m going to keep an eye out for him; I’d like to see more.

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Sun, Jan 02, 2000

: Hard Target

Author: Chuck Pfarrer

Director: John Woo

Woo’s American movie debut. I’d never seen it before, but it’s a superior action flick despite staring Jean-Claude Van Damme (I like him, but his movies are usually routine). The plot’s a familiar variation of “The Most Dangerous Game” (hunters hunting humans, in this case homeless veterans), but the action’s cool and stylistic.

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Sat, Jan 01, 2000

: American History X

Author: David McKenna

Director: Tony Kaye

Was this movie ever in the theatres? I don’t remember hearing anything about it, but it certainly deserves more recognition. It’s a violent, sad, thoughtful look at the white supremacy movement in America. I especially liked the way it showed the grayness of evil, but toward the end the movie got a bit obvious and predictable. (I didn’t like the way the main character’s dad was suddenly revealed as a closet racist and that, of course, explained the son’s behavior. It was trite and poorly done.) Overall, awesome acting (Edward Norton got a well-deserved Oscar nomination) and excellent direction. Thought-provoking (without being preachy) on a subject you didn’t think you needed to know about.

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