Thursday, January 30, 2003

25th Hour

I watched Spike Lee's movie 25th Hour last night. I heartily agree with those critics who say that this is Spike Lee's finest work.

The last movie that I saw by Spike Lee was Bamboozled, a satire that had a preachy feel to it. I saw this on DVD. 25th Hour is a simpler story: a man, about to serve a seven-year prison sentence, is living his last day as a free man. He meets with his father, with his friends, with his enemies, with his lover. Despite the somber theme, the movie was oddly touching.

The signature Spike Lee moments are here: the rant to the audience about New York, an actor floating across the scene on a dolly, the nod to New York sports (a New York Yankees cap has a brief role in the film). But Spike also let's the story and the characters bloom in a way that felt very different from Bamboozled. His latest "joint" feels fresh.

I am glad this was my first theater movie of 2003.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Raiders v. Buccaneers

OK. The Oakland Raiders lost the Super Bowl (XXXVII) tonight. Everything I read seemed pointed towards an Oakland victory. So when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers started to pile on the points, I was amazed. In the end, it was a rout: 48-21. I hope Jon Gruden, coach of the Buccaneers, read Bill Belichick's op-ed piece in the New York Times today. Gruden is the youngest coach to win the Super Bowl. Hats off!


For the record, I'm rooting for the Oakland Raiders tonight. (Sorry Ramsey!)

Sunday, January 19, 2003

John M. Fox

John M. Fox's obituary appeared in the New York Times today. He was a founder and president of Minute Maid Corporation. He saw a vacuum technique in Boston at the end of World War II that led to the development of concentrated frozen orange juice. He originally wanted to turn orange juice into a powder.

After Minute Maid was purchased by Coca-Cola in 1960, he became president of United Fruit Company. In his ten years there, he ushered in the branding of the Chiquita Banana, by putting a blue sticker directly on the fruit itself.

In 1970, Mr. Fox became president and chairman of H.P. Hood, a Boston diary products company. He retired in 1978.

Born in Esher, England, he graduated from Colgate University, worked for IBM. He is survived by his wife, a daughter, two sons, a sister, and twenty grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.

He was 90 years old, and resided in Winter Park, Florida.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Best Movies Watched in 2002

In 2002, I watched 33 movies, down from 51 the year before. However, like 2001, I watched only one movie in the theater all year, and that was 8 Mile. This movie caused me to go on a journey of hip-hop music that had me listening to Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, and Puff Daddy. And I'm still not done. I have Missy Elliott and Notorious B.I.G. on the list. 8 Mile was the most influential movie I saw in all of 2002.

But "the best movie" that I watched in 2002 was Sexy Beast. This taut tale of a "retired" criminal being pulled back into the dark life was fueled by Ben Kingsley's electric performance as Don Logan. I was blown away by his ferocity. Even in his quiet scenes, he's an incredible force. Ray Winstone is the other star. He is a big man who played himself "small", expressing his character's fear and inner turmoil perfectly.

In second place, I really really really liked Vanilla Sky. Tom Cruise and director Cameron Crowe team up again to bring to the screen a vivid, cautionary tale about living your dreams. It's scary. It's surprising. It's also beautiful. To characterize this movie as a science fiction jaunt doesn't do it justice.

Some other areas:
  • Best DVD Commentaries: Before Night Falls and Bamboozled.
    Before Night Falls had a super commentary. I could tell that the commentators (the director, the writer, and the lead actor) were "being interviewed", but it was so skillfully done that I wish every commentary was like this. Unlike the usual commentaries in which technical details are bandied about, the track spent time on the themes of the movie, which added the experience of watching the film.

    Bamboozled had a really informative and educational commentary from Spike Lee.

  • Favorite Male Acting: Robert Duvall, The Apostle.

  • Favorite Female Acting: Stacy Edwards, In the Compay of Men and Tilda Swinton, The Deep End

  • Favorite Soundtrack: Bamboozled. Somber. Melancholy.

  • Memorable Quote: Chad, In the Company of Men: "C'mon! Forget her! Let's get a sandwich!"

  • Not So Hot: Casino. Black and White. The Way of the Gun. Mulholland Drive.

Friday, January 10, 2003

Top 100 Sports Books

Sports Illustrated compiled a list of the top 100 sports books of all time. Quite an ambitious list, and one that I devoured eagerly. I have only read 12 of these books, but four of the ones that I have read are in the top ten.

The Boys of Summer, the number two book, has the best passage on the sheer terror of stepping up to the plate, and waiting for a pitch from a professional baseball pitcher. Roger Kahn's voyage with these Brooklyn Dodgers was graceful, marked with a sympathetic ear. During my baseball fever in the early 90s, this was one of my favorites.

I finished A Season on the Brink, the number six book, just last year. The author, John Feinstein, has written many other books, and on a radio show, he admitted that this controversial book about then-Indiana coach Bobby Knight wasn't his best book, but it was the book that put him on the map. An "all-access", "behind closed doors" book, I gained an appreciation for the college basketball sporting life, and the insane dedication required by the coaches, exemplified by Knight himself.

The Game, the number nine book, was recommended to me by Greg Berge, and I've been recommending it ever since to anyone who asks "What is the best book about ice hockey?" Ken Dryden, the author, was the dominant goalie of the 1970s. He played for the Montreal Canadiens. His writing focused not just on the ice, but the role of ice hockey within the Canadian society. The book also has the best passage on "playing" that I have ever read.

Fever Pitch, the number ten book, is the best book about being a fan of sport, as told by a devoted fan of the English soccer team Liverpool. Nick Hornby loves soccer. But this book is more about "love" than "soccer". How do you "love" your team? If you claim to be any sort of sports fan, then this book will speak to the very core of this devotion. It's superb.

Thursday, January 9, 2003

Best Books Read in 2002

My Previous Best Books: 2001.

I read sixteen books last year. My "most difficult" book was The Making of the Atomic Bomb (Richard Rhodes). However, the stand-out book that I read in 2002 was A Map of the World. Jane Hamilton wrote such a moving story about friendships, responsibility, death, and the ambiguity of the married life. It's not a bright (i.e. sunny) book; its imagery is haunting. My favorite book last year was by a woman, and it centered on marriage, so I don't know if a theme is emerging.

New TV

Jenn and I recently bought a new television. I'm in the new millennium now!

Wednesday, January 1, 2003

Resolution 2003

My New Year's Resolution for 2003 is a simple one: watch one movie (in a theater) each month. Modest, yes? We'll see if I can actually do this. Happy new year everyone! In a few days, I'll be posting my favorite books and DVDs from 2002.