Monday, February 25, 2008

Little Golden Men

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the Academy Awards were last night and you also have probably heard that No Country for Old Men is the single greatest movie ever made. Well, I still haven't seen it and the bits of the Oscars that I did watch were pretty boring, so what gives?

First of all - the clothes. Where were the Bjorks? The Chers? Aside from Diablo Cody (the screenwriter for Juno who I just found out is a woman, I blame 4 years of high school Spanish for my faux pas) whose outfit channeled Bettie Page and Pebbles Flintstone and Tilda Swinton whose one-armed black frock looked like she got it from the Ruth Bader Ginsberg collection for JC Penney - there weren't too many god-awful garments to bash.

Most of the gals played it safe in truly redundant red or black gowns and somewhere the makers of strapless bras are incredibly rich. Also am I the only one who thought Katherine Heigl looked like a dead ringer for Samantha Jones on Sex and the City? The hair, the tan, the smile, the dress, the attitude - I kept waiting for her to drop a c-bomb or for Smith Jerrod to show up.

Now, a few questions for the Academy voters. Where are my American actors at? Oscars for the four acting categories were all nabbed by foreigners... Daniel Day-Lewis (Brit), Tilda Swinton (Scottish), Marion Cotillard (French) and Javier Bardem (Spanish). Come on Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman - step up your game!

And where are my people of color? Last year we gushed over Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Djimon Hounsou, Will Smith, Penelope Cruz, Adriana Barraza, Rinko Kikuchi and Eddie Murphy. A few years back it was Hallie Berry and Denzel Washington finally rectifying years of the Academy failing to acknowledge the contributions of black actors (not to mention Latino or Asian).

In 2008, only one person of color was even nominated for an acting honor - Ruby Dee as Best Supporting Actress in American Gangster. And no women or people of color helmed the Best Picture or were nominated as Best Director.

Sure, every Oscar celebration and the road to that little gold man is different. Sometimes trends emerge as in the case of last year's Spanish invasion and the glut of biopics and news event adaptations that sprouted up in 2006. All I ask is that the Academy start thinking outside the box. Mix it up a little. Take risks. And that goes for the dresses too.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sweet Home California

Memory is a funny thing. Maybe that's why California (and especially Southern California)appears in so many songs - from the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas to Weezer and the Red Hot Chili Peppers - the Golden State has inspired myriad writers of prose and verse.

My own memories of California literally began at birth at Anaheim General Hospital - in the not-so-fabled part of Orange County. Those memories began a new chapter this past weekend with my first trip back to my original home state since I moved to the East Coast in 2002.

As soon as I exited Los Angeles International Airport, I was struck by an early memory of this very futuristic restaurant located at the main terminal. When I was a kid, it made me think of a flying saucer and I used that point of reference to distinguish LAX from other regional airports.

After getting my Prius (gotta have a hybrid in LA!), I slowly crept up the 405 (see, I remembered to say "the" again!) to a friend's house in the Valley. This triggered an entire series of memories for me that continued for my entire vacation. By some strange miracle of near-photographic memory and an uncanny grasp of one of the world's most extensive freeway and surface street systems, I managed to drive for 5 days without the use of a map or GPS. How was it possible? I remembered landmarks, sign posts and the rough locations of friends' homes long since deleted from any address book. It felt oddly natural to coast along Wilshire, Pico, Ventura, I-10 and my favorite street - Sepulveda Boulevard.

Another set of entirely different memories were made as I explored the LA Farmers Market on Saturday morning. If sunshine could have a scent NOT created by the people at Snuggle Fabric Softener, then I smelled it there at the Market. On top of just an overall fresh feeling, there were fruits and vegetables, freshly-brewed coffee, flowers, baked goods and various high-fat breakfast foods.

Finally are all the new memories made with the friends and family I saw. Like I said, it's been 6 years since I made an appearance on the West Coast and this was my first chance to see old buddies from college and my cousins. The scary realization that the conversation between four friends had imperceptably shifted from frat parties and finals to jobs, significant others and home-ownership certainly solidified my sense of my own adulthood and that of my peers.

Even though I missed wiggling my toes in the sand along Venice Beach, touring the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (foiled again!) and grabbing some tasty Hungarian pastries at Schwartz's - I hope that it won't take another 6 years until I get back to California.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Chocolate and Loathing in Your Own Living Room

Valentines Day - it plagues all of us equally, so why not celebrate in a more egalitarian fashion? As a society and even more disproportionately as members of the female gender, we glorify and celebrate February 14 to the utmost degree. We buy presents, lingerie, chocolates, flowers, etc. but only for one designated person in our lives. And if we happen to be at a point in our lives without a significant (or moderately insignificant but nonetheless cute) other when Valentines Day rolls around, we generally suffer through feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

But why throw the baby out with rose-petal infused bathwater? Why shit on love as a construct simply because we are not in the throes of romantic love at this specific moment?

I say rather than indulge in a chocolatized pity party, we should get a little more open-minded about love. Why beat ourselves up because the only person who got us a Valentines Day gift is a parent or a sibling?

Personally, I got a great V-Day gift of sugar free brownie bites express shipped from Phoenix today from my dad that I was totally stoked about. Why? Because my dad knows I am trying to be conscientious about my eating and got me sugar free treats instead of the more fat and sugar-laden option. That definitely shows love in my book.

Valentines Day should be a reminder and a wake-up call to all kinds of love. So give a little card or candy hearts to a co-worker. Take a friend for a coffee date. Call your mother. Who cares if it doesn't come covered in whipped cream and with a guarantee of an orgasm? Love has many forms and there ain't enough of it in this world - so get out there and show someone some love.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Stormin' Mormon - Believe the Hype

Hey everyone, my friend Phil Villarreal wrote this great book, Stormin' Mormon. It's due out in March and is currently available on Amazon for preorders. I read a manuscript of this book and it's hilarious!

Here's the synopsis:Full-time talk radio host and part-time con-artist Saul Cruz and free-wheeling college student Jerusha Goodman have fallen hard for one another. Problem is, both are tied down in uninspiring relationships to kind but dull people. Since neither is the cheating type, and the thought of dumping their lovestruck sig-o's cold seems too cruel to fathom, Saul and Jerusha formulate a scam that will allow them to be together. They'll pretend to be Mormon, suddenly foregoing sex, wine, coffee and R-rated movies, with the goal to irritate their partners away.

The switch is easy for Saul, an agnostic, as well as Jerusha, a Jack Mormon who has drifted from the flock, to the chagrin of her nagging mother. Will the ruse be enough to drive away Shannon, Saul's doting, baby-talking ex-cheerleader girlfriend and Jared, Jerusha's live-in blue-collar beau? The answer lies in Stormin' Mormon, a romantic comedy that's a religious experience.

This is the Amazon link: You can also read Phil's blog by clicking on his name above OR by checking out his movie reviews in the Arizona Daily Star - the best morning newspaper in Tucson, AZ. Support my fellow Wildcat, support independent publishers and support a really funny book!

Monday, February 4, 2008

I'm Super Duper - Thanks for Asking

Any day I can work a reference to Big Gay Al into this blog is a good day. On that note, here's some reflections on the impending insanity that will be streamed into our collective radios, televisions, newspapers and world wide webs starting tomorrow.

It's nearly 9 p.m. on the night before the primary and while I'm pretty sure I know who I'm voting for, I'm not entirely convinced it's the best option. This seemingly broad field of candidates has rapidly narrowed into only two choices per party within the span of 5 weeks. How does that revelation not disenfranchise people more than hanging chads?

Media saturation has gone around the bend and it's only February. The scary and dirty tactics have only just begun and the 24-hour news cycle simply makes it worse. Imagined exchange... News anchor: "We're all out of substantive coverage on important policy issues and Britney just hasn't done anything stupid this week. What are we gonna do? Producer: "Just do another story about how Hilary cried again!" If this sounds strangely like that Simpsons episode where Homer is tempted by Mindy the attractive nuclear engineer, then you spend too much time with me.

I'm very excited that the Democratic Party's designated nominee for president could be black, or a woman. I might actually witness something presidential and historic in my lifetime that I'm not totally embarassed by!

People of my generation do seem to be moving toward a greater sense of political awareness and involvement these days, which I guess is encouraging. Either that, or I'm just getting older and my generation is rapidly inching away from collegiate apathy and toward (gasp!) adult-like caring.

So there you have it - a random hodgepodge of my mixed emotions, interest and hopes as the Garden State plunges into the 2008 Primary. And while I have the floor - let me say that tomorrow I will also look forward to the Giants' triumphant journey through the Canyon of Heroes as the champions of Super Bowl XLII!!!