#25 Behind the Candelabra (2013)

I don’t know a whole lot about Liberace other than this off-handed statement in an episode of South Park many years ago (I didn’t need to link to this, but I love seeing the Alabama Man bit). In fact the first time I saw a promo for this movie I thought it was about Siegfried and Roy. In any event there was something unusually captivating about it so I had to watch.

Behind the Candelabra is the story of the relationship between Liberace (Michael Douglas) and a young man named Scott Thorson (Matt Damon). Scott was an animal trainer working on movie sets in Hollywood when he was invited by friend Bob Black to Las Vegas to see Liberace perform. After being introduced to him backstage after the show, Liberace invites the two over to his home for the weekend. When Liberace tells Scott about one of his dog’s blindness, Scott figures he can get the medicine that would relieve it and ship it over to him. Instead Liberace offers Scott an opportunity to be his assistant to primarily look after his animals as well as look after him.

The two begin a sexual relationship and Liberace takes Scott in to live with him. It doesn’t take long for Scott to realize that his sexuality isn’t the only thing that Liberace keeps hidden from the public. He sees him in his natural state, an unfit man that needs an elaborate wig to cover his naked scalp. Shortly after this encounter, he’s introduced to his plastic surgeon Dr. Startz (Rob Lowe) to get Scott on a regimen that would essentially transform him into a younger version of Liberace. Scott starts abusing the pills Dr. Startz prescribes as well as cocaine and becomes upset by Liberace’s recklessness visiting porn shops and his desire to have an open relationship. Scott seeks to end this relationship and walk away with some cash and just as easily as he came into Liberace’s estate, another young man is ready to take his place. Years later, Scott immersed back in the real world receives a call from Liberace to inform him that he’s not well and wishes to see him one last time.

The film depicts the life of a relationship between these two men in what is implied to have been a cycle for Liberace. The way this man dealt with his closeted homosexuality seems unfit especially for how lavishly he appears on stage and in public. Any time someone accused him of being gay he sued them and even in an official book depicted in the film he professed his love for a likely manufactured female figure. No matter, this made for some amazing performances from Douglas and Damon working very well together. Rob Lowe provided some unintentional comic relief and really pushed the film along once he got involved. I think Scott’s reaction to Liberace’s performance 10 minutes into the movie provides a great summary:

“It’s funny that this crowd would like something this gay.”

Like It.

-Mikhail

California Swoon in June, Summer Streaking

The All-Star Break has come which is a great time for an update. After being swept by Oakland, the last leg of the road trip took us to Anaheim where I lost a pair before returning home to face the other LA team. The Dodgers take both games to make me 1-10 against California teams so far! A set against Tampa Bay sets off a great offensive stretch outscoring them 44-8 in a four game series. I sweep the the next pair of series against Texas and Baltimore to end the month of June.

Going into a four game set in Minnesota to start July, I’m riding a ten game win streak while the Twins have dropped ten in a row. I beat them in a romp 10-2 and the next game they jump on me for a 5-0 lead enroute to a 5-6 loss for me on a play at the plate. We split the series and I head back to The Bronx to close out the first half. After dropping the first game against Baltimore, I start another tear winning 9 straight going into the break. Now in complete control of the AL East with a 60-36 record leading second place Toronto by 7 games.

I have Canó and Granderson vying for the triple crown with Canó hitting .411 and tied for the HR lead with Grandy at 49 who leads the league in RBI with 100. It made for an interesting Home Run Derby where the two totaled almost 100 homers with Canó taking the silver trophy and the Chevy. The All-Star Game was a doozy after NL takes a 3-0 going into the fifth inning. I get 1 off a Jose Reyes solo shot. Then in the ninth with two outs a sequence of hit, stolen base, hit, stolen base, hit ties the game at 3 with Youkilis up to bat with two runners on. He takes the first pitch deep to top off a 5-run inning leading to an AL victory of 6-4.

With a commanding division lead and home field advantage in the World Series secured for the AL, I look to continue my dominance in July and fight for the best record in baseball.

-Mikhail

#24 Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)

Here’s a movie that I would have never seen if it weren’t for Netflix instant streaming. No, this wasn’t recommended viewing (directly at least). I finally got around to watching the cult early 90s TV drama Twin Peaks, which ends rather abruptly after it was pulled by ABC due to a sharp decline in ratings in season 2. I can understand the decision as it took me 3 months to get through 30 episodes, mind you I’ve watched the combined 100+ hours of The Wire and Breaking Bad in about as much time (I’ve seen Breaking Bad twice in its entirety by the way). Anyway, here’s what got us to this point.

The show starts with the discovery of a young woman’s body wrapped in plastic washed up on the side of a river. Identified as Laura Palmer, the town of Twin Peaks, WA is aghast when it learns that a murder could happen in this small logging town. The investigation drew the interest of the FBI so agent Dale Cooper is sent in to check it out. The show mainly follows Cooper’s investigation of the town and its strange population. The shaken community is revealed to be pretty into cocaine and adultery, which were Laura Palmer’s main afflictions that oddly didn’t have a whole lot to do with her murder. They find out Laura’s killer was her own father possessed by a demon spirit named BOB halfway through season 2. This reveal turned viewers away and the rest of the season turned to the story of a new killer targeting Cooper, other younggirlsyadayada…

The season 2 finale is a huge cliffhanger where Cooper appears possessed by BOB and leaving the series unresolved. So David Lynch decides to instead release a series of movies with the first being Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me serving to set up the story of the series. It starts with the investigation of the murder of another young woman Teresa Banks a year before the events in Twin Peaks. Cooper although not originally involved in this, figures that this won’t be the last time he strikes. Then the rest of the movie follows Laura Palmer in the week leading up to her death. She goes to school, does coke, hooks up with her secret lover, does coke, delivers meals on wheels, coke, hangs out with her boyfriend while he gets some more coke, has visions of being raped by her father, coke, prostitutes, coke, and finally killed.

Laura Palmer appeared to be this mysterious, tortured soul living a fast life. But when you see it on screen, the mystique of Laura Palmer seems lost. Though Sheryl Lee’s performance is wonderful, there’s just something odd about seeing Laura Palmer alive. Since she’s the focus of the film, we spend a lot less time with the other zany characters of Twin Peaks and many prominent characters like the Hornes and the law enforcement of the town don’t even appear at all. This film doesn’t really give the series a conclusion, but Cooper being possessed by BOB would not have been a promising situation for the town.

Meh.

-Mikhail

 

The First 67 Games

I wish I had thought of this sooner, but the events of a recent game compelled me to start writing about the progression of my franchise mode in MLB 13: The Show. First, let’s get down to some backstory and I’ll fill you in on the progress to this point.

The first baseball game I ever played was Roger Clemens MVP Baseball, which was borrowed from my brother’s friend, on my Super Nintendo. There were no licenses other than that of the Rocket (pre-steroid allegations), so we played with a bunch of nobodies and Clemens as the ace of the Boston Crabs. Things changed upon moving to 3D when we got Major League Baseball featuring Ken Griffey Jr. for Nintendo 64. It remains the only game where I fervently traded for all the 10 rated power hitters at each positioned and watched as I ran up the score on my brother (might be the only time I scored 20 runs in any game as well).

As the next generation of consoles came along and we sided with the PlayStation and after a few years of All-Star Baseball, we made the switch to Sega’s World Series Baseball 2K3. What made the decision so easy then was the inclusion of ESPN’s presentation (yes believe it, there was a time I didn’t completely loathe them) making it feel as if we were watching the games on TV. Features and graphics wise it was okay, but they innovated on the presentation side in the following years including cheering and jeering fans, great soundtracks, and other stadium effects. By 2K8 they made all the major movements driven by use of the seldom (in sports games) used right stick, which made things more shall we say…dynamic. They never really perfected it, but it was great element to be honest. After 2K10, they really stopped trying and they literally came out with the same (buggier) game every year.

I had not really engaged in a baseball game again until roughly a month ago, after I finished Bioshock: Infinite. As it was my first full week of unemployment I decided baseball would occupy it still even when the Yankees weren’t playing. To the surprise of my brother (who’d already been playing The Show since 2011), I was quickly several games past him in my franchise mode by the end of the week. They had recently adapted the right analog stick for many of the functions on the field (at least you were able to switch between that and the buttons if you preferred) so it wasn’t too hard to make the switch.

However it was quite the struggle at the start. In April I managed to escape the pit after a 1-7 start and finish 14-14 in a difficult opening to the season where the Yankees (yes of course I use the Yankees and I wouldn’t have it any other way) play 28 games over a stretch of 29 days that spills over to May 1. May started with another 5 game losing streak including a sweep by Oakland at home, which is then matched by 5 straight Ws to Colorado and Kansas City on the road. I continued to struggle in The Bronx as I would drop four of six games in the coming homestand as I continued my attempt to climb over the .500 mark.

The final two weeks of May were kind, as I swept an 8 game road trip against Baltimore and Tampa Bay, a home and home against the Mets and the opener to a series against the Red Sox finishing the month with an 11 game win streak to get me to the much more respectable mark of 32-23 on the season. June got off a bit shaky, dropping the next two to Boston, but I quickly recovered sweeping the Indians to end the homestand and would win 6 of the next 7 as I started a West coast swing in Seattle.

Now the cause of this documentation, another sweep at the hands of the Oakland Athletics. The first game was easy going until the 6th, when the A’s score two to get the game to 4-3. Next inning they take the lead 5-4 to which I answer back in the 8th to tie at 5. In the 9th on the first pitch, reliable David Robertson serves up a walk-off homer to the pinch-hitting Chris Young. Game 2 was a disaster giving CC his worst start of the season giving up 6 runs in 5 laboring innings in a 9-4 loss. Game 3 was another with a bleak start as Kuroda gives up 6 in 6 innings. Then Logan in relief serves up 5 more in the 7th with Joba having to get the last out for him. In the 8th I muster up a rally with 7 runs to get it to 11-9 and then tie it the following inning. Robertson already in the game, gets two quick outs in the 9th before giving up another walk-off HR.

So I stand at 38-29 with 95 games to go, tied atop the AL East with the Blue Jays. I’m first in most offensive categories with a team batting average of .329 thanks to Canó batting .370, have nearly 50 more HRs than the second best team with Granderson at 33 for the year, and I’m recovering from a major league fourth worst staff ERA of 4.23 from some really high scoring games early on. I’ll update these when I complete a month or when something odd happens, but it’s turning out better than expected so far.

-Mikhail

#23 Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

Between August 2006 and May 2007, my freshman year of college, I couldn’t possibly tabulate the number of times I watched this movie. I can fairly say that many of my fellow undergraduate class of 2010 could not have gotten through four years “studies” (some possibly were delayed a semester or two) without a few nights a week with a copy of this movie playing on someone’s PlayStation 2.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is a comedy starring Will Ferrell as the titular popular veteran news anchor in the city of San Diego. While he’s become somewhat of an ambassador to the city, he has aspirations of leaving the local desk for that dream gig in network news. However his career goals don’t match his need to party with his prospering news team (the amazing support ensemble of Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, and David Koechner) and having every woman line up behind him (mustn’t forget his most trusted companion his dog Baxter). Then comes the lovely Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) new to town getting hit on by the man that would later turn out to be her soon to be coworker.

After a scintillating evening involving jazz flute, Ron and Veronica have become lovers which Ron decides to publicize at the end of the following evening’s newscast. The next day, Ron hits a motorcyclist riding down the highway with a burrito and during the confrontation he punts Baxter off a bridge. Now having a freakout due to the lost of his pup, he’s alerted that Veronica is going to anchor the newscast with Ron nowhere near the studio. Ron is furious that anyone other than himself has taken the seat behind the desk, let alone his lover. The downward spiral continues when a teleprompter prank turns Burgundy into the most hated man in San Diego. With Channel 4 News thriving with Ms. Corningstone, Ron is in shambles and drinking himself into lactic oblivion.

When it comes time to report the city’s biggest story, the zoo panda going into labor, Veronica becomes news herself as she is tossed into a bear pit. Reluctantly Ed Harken has to bring Ron Burgundy back to the air and he saves his lady and reports the story that gets him to the big stage.

Simply put, Anchorman is possibly one of the most quoted movies ever and can be credited as a launchpad for the careers of many. True Story: sophomore year, a friend of mine and I partnered up for class presentation for a Spanish class where he interviewed me (posing as Dominican artist Arambilet) as newly adapted Spanish speaker Señor Ron Burgundy. We inserted our favorite exclamations such as “¡Gran Odin’s cuervo!” and “dulce salmonete de Lincoln” (Great Odin’s raven! and Sweet Lincoln’s mullet respectively). Anchorman also initiated the idea to me that people that do the news actually hangout together outside of the studio. Good to know as a viewer of NY1 that is certainly a likely depiction.

Like It.

-Mikhail

#22 The Room (2003)

Before the review I have to address the goings on in my life. As I mentioned I visited New Orleans last month, but literally hours before I was scheduled to take off I was relieved from my job. That’s right, I’ve joined the 7.6% of the unemployed work force. A terrible feeling has left me to deal with an uncomfortable amount of free time which I’ve mainly spent playing MLB 13 The Show and sending out resumes. Coupled with the 2012-2013 television season winding down and the start of the baseball season and NBA playoffs, I haven’t had much time to dedicate to watching (let alone writing about) movies. Perhaps I can get back on this to just create a rhythm for my week, something to occupy my time in a sort of productive way. Anyway, on to the good stuff and this one is a doozy.

The Room is a 2003 drama (later recategorized as a black comedy, but we’ll get to that) about a well-off man named Johnny and the relationship between his fiance Lisa and his best friend Mark. It’s made apparent that Johnny is a loving, nurturing successful man as he works a well paying job at some financial institution, has passionate sex with the love of his life, and is able to care for his friends and neighbors. However all goes awry when at work they decide to not promote him for the great work he does.

Lisa realizes that she’s no longer in love with Johnny and decides to pursue relations with Mark. While Mark is reluctant at first as they are best friends, the pair exclusively enacts on their newfound partnership in Johnny’s own home. While Johnny had grown suspicious when overhearing a conversation between Lisa and her mother Claudette, it completely boiled over at his surprise birthday party when best friends Johnny and Mark fight over Mark’s dancing so close with Lisa. After the party Johnny locks himself in the bathroom pissed off at Lisa and then decides to playback the conversation Lisa has with his best friend Mark as they planned to meet up later that night. After she storms off, Johnny realizing his life is in shambles wrecks his home and ends his life.

Quite a lot more than that happens over the course of the film, but it doesn’t matter much. This movie is flat out terrible. The dialogue is dreadful and that isn’t even considering that most of the lines were clearly dubbed over in post. The poor job done by whoever was in charge of chromakey for scenes on the rooftop. The excessive use of establishing shots of San Francisco when the film nearly entirely takes place in its titular location. While the main story is pretty straightforward there are many subplots (and characters for that matter) that are completely abandoned including the enigma that is Denny and his drug problems with Chris-R and Claudette’s breast cancer. Just embarrassing for those involved.

Hate it.

-Mikh

Wait. No. Hold on.

I’ve mistakenly forgot to mention that I went to a screening of The Room, in fact for the fourth time. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is absolutely terrible. Student films from NYU couldn’t be this bad even if they tried. The popular phrase “so bad it’s good” doesn’t come close to describing the experience of seeing this in the presence of people admiring its horridness. Tommy Wiseau, writer, executive producer, director, and star of the film proudly tours this movie around now that it has achieved its cult following however playing it off as it was his intent to feature it in this manner.

Attendees come with an arsenal of plastic spoons to be chucked toward the screen when they appear on screen inexplicably framed on a side table in the room where the majority of the film takes place. Some dress as their favorite characters as they run to the front of the theater to enact the scenes as they occur. When Denny breaks out the football, you better be ready to receive the pass coming from across the aisle in the near dark. Often through the showing many are quick to interject with their own quips as the events unfurl in front of them or cheer the cameraman on a great pan of the Golden Gate Bridge. The entire group waits to belt out the signature line “YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!”

If you’re so fortunate to have a theater that has monthly screenings, do yourself a favor and attend (though I highly recommend watching it on your own or with a friend at home to familiarize yourself with some scenes).

Like It.

-Mikhail