Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Movies of 2008

Sorry for the lack of a blog last week. I tried very hard to get my memories of working at the Hollywood record store, Vinyl Fetish, finished and put up on this site. But the last couple of weeks have been difficult to say the least. After paying $750 to fix a skylight in our kitchen roof that our ex-handyman put in badly, the rains came and it still leaked all over the house, ruining some records and books I had in shelves in the leaky room. It turns out that the new air conditioner we had installed on our roof ($9000) was installed badly. The idiots who installed it didn’t replace the old pan that held the thing up. It’s rusted and full of holes and the rain just pours in. The air conditioner guy refuses to take any blame and we’re looking into small claims court. In the meantime, it’s going to take another $1600 to fix the roof and we just don’t have that money now. I’m trying to get our insurance to pay for part of it, but that doesn’t look good. I think they’ll pay for water damage, which is minimal, but not for roof repairs. So for now, we just have to deal with water everywhere in our kitchen and guest bedroom every time it rains. Towels and pans will hopefully keep it at bay.

A little over a month ago, Skip got in a bad accident and totaled our primary car. He was okay, although quite a bit banged up and bruised. We got a nice insurance settlement for that and used a good chunk of the money to fix up our second car. After pumping several thousand into that, I thought it was good to go. Then last week I was raising the driver’s side window when it just jammed halfway up. Of course, the next day the rains came, but at least I had time to put plastic all over the window so it didn’t leak. Our mechanic fixed it and that cost us another $400. The problem is that the gears operating the window are now made of plastic and they wear out after a few years. They used to be made of metal, but things just aren’t designed to last anymore like they used to be. It’s a big scam, but the auto manufacturers seem to be paying for things like that now. Or they will be soon, hopefully, if the government doesn’t bail out their incompetency, greed and dishonesty.

We also have our upcoming trip to Italy in less than a week and a half and we absolutely refuse to cancel that, although we cutting it back greatly. We are still going to take a day trip to Naples, but planned trips to Venice and Pisa are now off due to finances. Making plans for this trip have taken up a good portion of my time as well.

When we get back, I’m going to have to start selling everything we own to try to make ends meet, including many collectables and personal items I got from my years on the road that I don’t really want to part with. As it stands now, it looks like we may run out of cash by summertime. So I hope Obama’s stimulus and homebuyers relief packages start working fast, or I may be writing future blogs from a cardboard box on a street corner in downtown LA.

I got too tangled up in all this crap to be able to concentrate on my writing. I hope you’ll forgive me. This will be the last blog until late March, when I return from Italy and get caught up with everything that will back up on me in my absence. I have a lot of things I want to write about, including those Vinyl Fetish days, a two-part record company blog starring all the bands I’ve managed, a story about the late Stiv Bators and many more road stories from the Thin White Rope days. You’ll get all of those in late spring or early summer.

But now it’s time for my yearly Oscar discussion. You all take care of yourselves and I’ll think about you while touring the ruins in Pompeii and eating amazing pizza with a glass of wonderful wine.


It’s time to talk movies again since the Academy Awards are airing on television this weekend. I saw a lot of movies this year and still managed to miss many I wanted to see. As usual, I thought there were many more good movies than bad, at least in the choices I picked to see. Most of the movies listed below I reviewed after I saw them, so I’m going to leave minimal comments about them here. If you’re curious, look them up on, where you’ll get comments, plots and a whole lot more.

The movies I absolutely loved:

Everlasting Moments,
Kung Fu Panda,
Patrik 1.5 (which hasn’t even been released in this country yet.),
Slumdog Millionaire,
The Baader-Meinhoff Complex,
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,
The Dark Knight,
The Reader,
The Visitor,
The Wrestler,
Waltz With Bashir

The movies I liked a lot:

Bottle Shock,
Burn After Reading,
Che parts One & Two,
Forgetting Sarah Marshall,
Frozen River,
Gran Torino,
Hancock ,
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army,
In Bruges,
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,
Iron Man,
I've Loved You So Long,
Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D,
Last Chance Harvey,
Love Songs,
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,
Mamma Mia,
Paranoid Park,
Quantum of Solace,
Rachel Getting Married,
Savage Grace,
Sex and the City,
The Duchess,
The Incredible Hulk,
The Killing of John Lennon,
Vicky Cristina Barcelona,
Young People Fucking

The movies I thought were just okay:

Get Smart,
Horton Hears A Who,
Pineapple Express,
Speed Racer,
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,
Tropic Thunder

The movies that disappointed me:

Cassandra's Dream,
Flight of the Red Balloon,
Revolutionary Road,
The X-Files: I Want To Believe

And the movies I absolutely hated:

The Day the Earth Stood Still,
The Happening,
The Spirit

I saw these documentaries and loved them:

Encounters at the End of the World,
Man on Wire,
My Winnipeg,
Patti Smith: Dream of Life,
The Wrecking Crew

I saw these documentaries and liked them a lot:

Of All the Things,
The Polymath or the Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany Gentleman,
The Universe of Keith Haring,
Until The Light Takes Us,
You Weren't There

And I saw these two films in unfinished form and although I enjoyed them, I never felt the urge to see the completed films:

Flash of Genius (unfinished),
Ghost Town (unfinished)

As for the Oscars, here’s how I would vote. If I didn’t list a category, it’s because I have no preference for a winner in that one. I managed to see every major release this year, although I did miss some movies in the Foreign Film, Documentary and Shorts categories. I also missed “Defiance”, which was up for Original Score, so in this case I’m not going to comment on that one, especially since I liked all four of the other scores.


Best Picture: I loved all five pictures up, but for me “Slumdog Millionaire” was easily the best movie I saw all year. While it had moments that were hard to watch due to violence or just plain grossness, it still left me happy and loving life by the end of it. It was a wonderful film.

Actor: Again, all five actors in this category did amazing jobs. But my vote goes to the extraordinary job Sean Penn did in “Milk”. I won’t be too upset if either Richard Jenkins (The Visitor) or Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) wins though.

Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker in “The Dark Knight” was easily the best acting job in this category and I think he would have been nominated even if he was still alive.

Actress: Yet again, there were five very strong performances in this category. I think Kate Winslet will win it for “The Reader”, but I’m secretly wishing for Anne Hathaway to win for her amazing portrayal in “Rachel Getting Married”.

Supporting Actress: I would have liked to have seen Rosemarie DeWitt get nominated for “Rachel Getting Married”, but in her absence, I think Marisa Tomei once again proved she really can act in “The Wrestler”. I wouldn’t be too upset if either Viola Davis (Doubt) or Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) wins it though.

Director: All were strong in this category and I would have liked to see Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight) get a nomination. But Danny Boyle’s joyous work on “Slumdog Millionaire” should win it for him.

Documentary Feature: I only saw two of these movies, “Man on Wire” and “Encounters at the End of the World”. “Man on Wire” was absolutely amazing and should win this.

Animated Feature: I loved all three movies in this category, but “Wall-E” was extra special and will hopefully win.

Foreign Language: I only saw two of the movies in this category, “The Baader-Meinhoff Complex” and “Waltz with Bashir” and I loved them both. But I think “The Baader-Meinhoff Complex” was the better film and my vote goes to that. I have to say though that “Everlasting Moments” was the best foreign film I saw all year and it should have at least been nominated. (I’ve been meaning to see “The Class” and just haven’t been able to find the time. I’ll get to it eventually, but not in time for the Oscar ceremony.)

Original Screenplay: I found “Happy-Go-Lucky” to be extremely irritating and I don’t even think the screenplay should have been nominated. Of the other four, I think that Martin McDonagh’s witty “In Bruges” should win, although I won’t be upset if either Dustin Lance Black (Milk) or Andrew Staton & Jim Reardon (Wall-E) wins it.

Adapted Screenplay: I loved Peter Morgan’s script for “Frost/Nixon” and the way it was adapted for the movie. David Hare (The Reader) and Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) are up there as well, though, so any of them can win and make me happy.

Cinematography: All five films were stunning to look at, but “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” just took my breath away.

Art Direction: Again, all five were beautiful to look at, but “Changeling” really transported me to the past and I think that should win.

Original Song: This is rare year where I actually like all three songs nominated. But “Jai Ho” (Slumdog Millionaire) closed the movie in such an infectiously joyous way that my vote has to go to that.


And that’s that. I’ll be watching the Awards and I’ll see how much the Academy agrees with me. In the meantime, I’m going to start on this year’s movies. I’ve seen “Coraline” in 3D and when I return from Italy, I’m really looking forward to “Watchmen”, one of the greatest graphic novels I’ve ever read. I hope the film does it justice.


I’d also like to make a quick mention of a few shows I saw this last week.

Thanks to my friend Gary, I was able to see the band Sparks ( & make their triumphant LA return. They opened the evening with a complete live rendition of their newest album, “Exotic Creatures of the Deep” and it was glorious. I think the album is easily one of the best albums of last year and the live version was even better. Then the band came back and did the complete “Kimono My House”, the album that launched their stardom both here and in the UK. It was an amazing evening that I would have missed if it wasn’t for Gary, so I will be forever grateful.

I also saw “Lovelace: A Rock Opera” ( with music by Charlotte Caffey (the Go-Gos) and Anna Waronker (That Dog). I wasn’t sure what to make of this musical telling of porno star Linda Lovelace’s life, but it turned out to be a great time. The music was fun, without cheapening the woman’s story. Hopefully it will go on to better things in the future. It’s a hit here in Los Angeles, but deserves a much bigger audience.

And I finally got around to seeing “Coraline” in 3D ( and absolutely loved it. (Director Henry Selick also gave us such classics as “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “James and the Giant Peach”.) It’s dreamlike and absolutely frightening, so very young kids should be kept away. But to tell the truth, I would have loved it when I was a kid, even through my tears of terror. It’s not just a beautiful job of animation; it’s a beautiful movie period. It’s already on my top pick list for 2009.


I talk to you in three or four weeks.


  1. Yeah, The Wrecking Crew doc was a trip. I was really bummed it did not get nominated .

  2. I don't think it was ever officially released except maybe on DVD. So a lot of people who could have and should have seen it didn't really get the chance.