Buffalo '66

March 13th, 2007

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0118789/

Buffalo '66C.I.A. agent, Billy Brown brings his wife home to meet his absurdly dysfunctional family. Only Billy's not really in the C.I.A., and his "wife," Layla is actually a young tap dancer he just kidnapped to impress his ridiculous and unloving parents. In reality, Billy's whole life is an empty lie. He's fresh out of prison and now on a deadly mission to hunt down and kill the Buffalo Bills kicker whose botched field goal he believes ruined his life. However, Billy's new hostage may ruin everything. Their crazy attachment blossoms into a desperate and oddly beautiful romance that may or may not be a sweet enough substitute for revenge. Vincent Gallo composed and performed the original music and also wrote, directed and stars in the film that The New York Times calls a "deadpan original."

This was a very strange movie which featured Vincent Gallo as Billy Brown. He is released from jail as the movie opens and then we go on a pretty wild ride as he kidnaps a girl who he needs to pose as his wife when he goes to visit his mother before his later plans to find the Buffalo Bills kicker and shoot him. Billy has no direction and he plans to take no responsibility for what happens after this night, until the woman he kidnapped says that she has fallen in love with him. I know what you are thinking, but no, this was not a Disney movie.

In my research on the film, many people seem to focus their reviews on how well Gallo captured the essence of life in Buffalo. I have never been to Buffalo, so I will have to find some other angle.

My story is a strange one. I came by this movie through a conversation that went something like this:

"...What about Mickey Rourke, do you like him?"
"Well, I can't say that I have seen him in much that I remember. I thought he was good in Sin City."
"Wow. Come on, he's great. Ummm...have you ever seen Buffalo '66?"
"No."
"Do it."

And so I did. And as The Bookie, Mickey Rourke has about 60 seconds of on-screen time. And while I agree that he was awesome for that one minute, I will have to find yet another angle.

I guess my focus will be on Vincent Gallo, which is mildly appropriate since he wrote, directed, starred in and composed (at least some of) the music for this movie. I thought he was brilliant in this role as he was held captive inside such a tormented mind. There were some incredibly deeply rooted problems from Billy's past to which were became privy one-by-one. At each confrontation with his parents a short flash-back clip is inserted to show us what happened and essentially how neglected Billy went as a child (I really enjoyed how this was done). He yells at everyone because that is the only way he saw his parents interact, with each other or with him. At the beginning of the movie Billy is a hollow soul full of anger and slowly over the course of the movie the perfect depth is added to his character. And while it doesn't make for the most heart-warming love story, it was somewhat endearing to see that Billy kidnapped the only person who may be crazier than he is.

We are given no indication about who Layla is; she was forcefully removed from her tap dancing class against her will by a man with whom she falls in love over a very short period of time. From what we know all they have is each other, but maybe that is enough for them to be happy.

Buffalo '66 is a movie I recommend, but not to everyone. If you are a student of film, either professionally or recreationally, I believe there was some impressive writing, organization and direction. This is also the type of movie I would recommend to my brother, but add the caveat that perhaps he should watch it one night when his wife has something else to do. There is very little harsh language, but there is a very negative cloud that hangs over this movie making it not attractive the optimists in the audience.

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The 48oz Club

March 12th, 2007

"Shula's Steak House formed the 48oz. Club in 1989 to honor the true beef lovers of America. The induction into this steak lovers club consists of finishing 48 ounces of the best beef money can buy - The SHULA CUT."

The 48oz Club

March 12th, 2007
Layer CakeXXXX: My name? If you knew that, you'd be as clever as me.

Pure Drivel - Steve Martin

March 9th, 2007

Pure Drivel by Steve MartinSteve Martin's talent has always defied definition: a seasoned actor, a razor-sharp screenwriter, an acclaimed playwright, and, of course, the ingenious comedian who turned King Tut into a national craze. In this widely praised collection of humerous riffs, Martin shows he is a master of the written word.

From a wildley imaginative meditation on who Lolita would be at age fifty, to a send-up of the warning labels on medicine bottles, these pieces, many of which first appeared in The New Yorker, hilariously and intelligently skewer the topics at hand.

This is truly one of the most delightful books I have ever read. In a very uncharacteristic move, I have made a mental note to hang on to this book so I can go back to it periodically. Martin's writing is just plain funny. I am a tough customer when it comes to humor, but this book had me laughing out loud. Not that it was ever in question, but in this book you begin to see just how intelligent Steve Martin is. Some of the comedy I am sure was over my head, but there was plenty that was not. (Sometimes such intelligent writing may be a pitfall when it might make the book funny to a smaller number of people.)

Steve Martin writes with witty prose in a manner that is comfortable to read and easy to understand. Like many avid readers, I too have that hope in the back of my mind that one day I will be a published author so that I may tease the emotions of readers similar to how I like mine teased. I have read books before which I have visualized myself emulating in my own writing, but before this book I had never felt so strongly an appreciation for the author. This, for the most part, is how I wish I could write.

Pure Drivel is a series of short stories, which I normally avoid because I have had a few bad experiences. I had no problems and I have nothing bad to say about this book. I loved it and have had multiple conversations about it with a friend to whom I lent it. She loved it, too. The book is very light reading when you are in the mood for something quick and minimally involved. The writing is complex and the ideas are abstract, but that should not contradict the previous sentence. I am not ashamed to admit how embarrassingly out loud I laughed at this book.

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March 8th, 2007
Thomas Harris - Hannibal Rising - 24Every person is worth your time... If at first appearance a person seems dull, then look harder, look into him.

Buddy

March 7th, 2007

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0371589/

BuddyKristoffer and Geir are as close as two friends can be. They live together, work together and get in trouble together and Kristoffer catches every highlight and many lowlights on his camcorder, which he never leaves behind. By accident he loses a few tapes from his bag and they end up in the hands of a local television station that decides to give them their own show. The premise is that they live their lives as usual and film things that happen as usual and the network would air some of the footage. It was all simple enough. And their lives were simple enough...at first. Fame, new women, old women and a paranoid roommate teach these two young men that maybe it is time to grow up a little.

This was a fun, but frustrating, Norse film about young people and their inter-personal relationships. I have seen my fair share of foreign films, but I have to guess this is my first from that part of the world. I would have never found it but for the power of recommendation. Buddy was suggested first as a "you might like this if you liked The Rage in Placid Lake." I did like The Rage in Placid Lake...and I did like Buddy.

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March 7th, 2007
BatmanThe Joker: Tell me something, my friend. You ever dance with the devil by the pale moonlight?

Half Nelson

March 6th, 2007

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0468489/

Half NelsonDan Dunne (Ryan Gosling) is a young inner-city junior high school teacher whose ideals wither and die in the face of reality. Day after day in his shabby Brooklyn classroom, he somehow finds the energy to inspire his 13 and 14-year-olds to examine everything from civil rights to the Civil War with a new enthusiasm. Rejecting the standard curriculum in favor of an edgier approach, Dan teaches his students how change works -- on both a historical and personal scale -- and how to think for themselves.

Though Dan is brilliant, dynamic, and in control in the classroom, he spends his time outside school on the edge of consciousness. His disappointments and disillusionment have led to a serious drug habit. He juggles his hangovers and his homework, keeping his lives separated, until one of his troubled students, Drey (Shareeka Epps), catches him getting high after school.

From this awkward beginning, Dan and Drey stumble into an unexpected friendship. Despite the differences in their ages and situations, they are both at an important intersection. Depending on which way they turn -- and which choices they make -- their lives will change

Feel free to include me with those who probably would not have ever heard of this movie let alone seen it had Ryan Gosling not received the Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role. So that is why I saw it and that comes with the expectation that the movie will be bad but the performance will be good. As the movie started I felt the exact opposite. The scenes were short and his character was yet undeveloped, but the plot pulled me in; I was very interested in where it would lead. As the movie progressed, the movie did a great job adding depth to Gosling though the plot went in a strange direction.

The adult language intensifies towards the end of the film, but the real reason to be wary of Half Nelson is the vivid drug-use scenes. Mr. Dunne's extracuricular chemical dependency is very important to his character and the movie and the creators did not shy away from it. This is not a child-friendly movie and while even I was uncomfortable a few times, I really liked it.

I think Ryan Gosling has really put himself on the acting map. This performance and obviously the nomination should really give him the opportunity to establish himself as one of the best young talents in the business. I would love to see him sustain this level of performance.

Half Nelson is not for everyone. There is drug abuse and abusive language. Ryan Gosling was deserving of his nomination, and you may become familiar with the name Shareeka Epps after her performance as well. I was hooked early by the story though I had to sort my thoughts out at the end before I realized how much I liked the movie. It had some impressive artistic merit and many good things to take away from it.

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March 2nd, 2007
Nick Hornby - About A Boy - 268He'd rather be an idiot again. He'd had his whole life set up so that nobody's problem was his problem, and now everybody's problem was his problem, and he had no solutions for any of them.

2007 Michael L. Printz Award Winner

March 1st, 2007
Michael L. Printz Award

The Michael L. Printz Award is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. It is named for a Topeka, Kansas school librarian who was a long-time active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association. The award is sponsored by Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association.

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