31 October 2005

Halloween Week in NYC

Hello from New York City,

It's day four of my seven day trip, which means my vacation is
officially half over; but, the best is yet to come. Tonight we are
going to Red Bamboo for dinner - an all vegetarian restaurant with
some of the best grub ever to grace this ex-omnivore's tofu hole.

Honestly folks, the fake meat here is so realistic even my meat-eating pals were impressed to find out the "marinated meat medallions" were 100% wheat gluten. Make all the soilent green jokes you want, until Mike Wallace does an expose, I am Red Bamboo devotee. Max, Alley, I don't know which of you found this place, but, you have my eternal thanks.

Tomorrow is a double-whammy of hipster goodness. We got tickets to
see The Daily Show AND we're going to the NYC West Village Halloween Parade.

"You're going to a parade? I thought you hated parades."

That's right, I do hate parades, but that's because most parades hate
me back. First of all there's the pre-parade. When I lived in
downtown Portland, this meant closed streets, restricted bridges,
barricades where there should be parking spaces, and hordes of
suburbanites duct-taping lawn chairs to the sidewalk. Note - it is
not possible to duct tape anything to a sidewalk. During the parade
itself, every minivan and SUV is called from the suburbs into the city
center like ants to a dropped lollipop.

Adding to the congestion are the parade-goers who, after stowing their vehicle in a parking lot, immediately forget about the other cars on the road. Minds preoccupied with the state of their lawn chairs, they cross against the light snarling and glaring at the cars who are legally trying to cross the intersection.

When the parade finally gets going there's the obvious irritations including: noise, horse poop, groups no one cares about (Battleground Chamber of Commerce, I'm looking at you) and general lack of overall purpose. In the aftermath, there's nothing but coffee cups, fast food wrappers, confetti, and other bits of trash that clutter the streets and cause small birds to choke to death.

On a larger scale, parades are one of the worst forms of advertising
disguised as something that is beneficial for society. To enter a
float in The (Pasadena) Rose Parade a company must pay over $300,000 annually and sign a contract for several years. In return, the Rose Parade people promise millions of "impressions" on American families.

Here's why The NYC Halloween Parade is the homemade sock puppet to The Rose Parade's Joe Camel:

* The parade is run by a non-profit group

* The increase in tourism brings millions of dollars to community businesses

* Anyone can be in it. Neither a float nor a costume is required, but
some kind of decorative Halloween element is encouraged. I hear many
people choose to make giant puppets.

* When the parade was televised for the first time, it was on the
sci-fi channel and was hosted by Susan Sarandon.

* It's listed as "one of the 100 things to do before you die"
(alongside the Iditarod, Bastille Day in France and Australia's Nude
Surfing Championships).

Though the parade has its share of corporate sponsors, trash-creating
attendees and traffic snarls, I think its heart is in the right place.
Though I won't be dressing up to attend the parade, I'm hoping I'll
see some great costumes that will provide inspiration for next year.
I hope everyone has a fun and safe Halloween this year - and I'd love
to hear if you're dressing up or doing any extra-special tricking or

11 October 2005

The power of editing

I wouldn't call myself a fan of reality TV, but every now and then I'll flip past something I can't not watch. It's short lived, and usually ends in my saying, "I'd never eat that just to be on tv."

I did watch an episode of Morgan Spurlock's show which I liked, but, it was obvious that certain parts had been edited to heighten the drama. It got me thinking about how powerful editing can be. It's just like taking someone's words out of context, but instead it's someone's actions.

Throw a little music in there and you end up with this:


West Side Virus

(If the Shining link doesn't work, go to www.ps260.com/molly/ and click "SHINING FINAL.mov).

02 October 2005

Into the Blue

Into the Blue vs. The Deep

I'm going to cut right to the chase.

If you want to spend two hours looking at Jessica Alba in a teeny bikini and close-ups of Paul Walker's abs, go see Into the Blue this weekend; you won’t be disappointed. This movie has eye candy by the gallon. But if you’re curious about this recent adaptation of The Deep, keep sailin’, there ain’t no treasure to be found in these waters.

Where The Deep was a bonafide thriller, Into the Blue is really just an action movie sprinkled with some suspenseful scenes and a big helping of T & A. Innuendos about the film’s "scenery" and "booty" aside, the only thing that keeps Into the Blue from being a total flop is its gorgeous underwater cinematography.

Into the Blue is loosely based on the 1977 Nick Nolte film The Deep (also starring Jaqueline Bisset). The premise for both films is basically the same: a treasure hunting couple discovers a shipwreck off the coast of Bermuda. Unfortunately, the divers also discover a second wreck – one that’s full of illegal drugs. The divers must keep the location of both ships a secret while they search for an artifact that will allow them to stake a claim to the older wreck – a claim that could be worth millions. But the divers aren’t the only ones who know about the wreck loaded with hundreds of thousands of dollars in narcotics. The local drug lords soon learn about the find and make life difficult for our heroes.

Where The Deep uses Haitian voodoo, eel attacks,* and a collapsing shipwreck to ratchet up the tension throughout the film, Into the Blue doesn’t have much intensity until the very end. If the entire film was as good as the last fifteen minutes, Into the Blue could have been a huge hit. Instead, genuinely interesting underwater sequences are interspersed with mediocre topside scenes of the four main characters bickering or, in the case of Paul Walker, flexing.

Though Into the Blue wasn’t a boring film, there was a lot of unrealized potential – especially considering the source material. If the characters had been a little smarter, or a little more charismatic, it would have made a huge difference. Walker’s Jared was too much of a generic everyman, and his sweet-as-pie girlfriend Sam (played by Ms. Alba) would have been completely dull if not played by one of the hottest actresses in film today. The couple just didn’t embody what you’d expect young treasure hunters to be like. The supporting characters, Bryce and Amanda, were one notch on the tolerable side of annoying, and it was difficult to believe that the Jared character was a longtime friend of the arrogant, untrustworthy Bryce.

The good news is, almost half the film takes place underwater. Director John Stockwell (Blue Crush) must have known to play to his strengths: a great underwater film crew and a group of very good-looking actors. I’ve been diving in some of the top destinations and the footage in Into the Blue blew me away. It’s very difficult to capture the magic of diving. Bubbles always get in the way, fish zip in and out of the frame, or everything just ends up a washed-out shade of blue. I also have to give credit to the cast for their underwater performances. Though stunt doubles were used for certain sequences, Alba and Walker did a lot of the work themselves. Alba was a certified diver prior to the film and appears in many of the shark dives, while Walker worked his way up to a three minute breath hold at seventy feet. Also worth mentioning – Into the Blue was filmed during the winter with water temperatures hovering in the low 70’s. At this temperature, you’d find most divers in 3mm or even 5mm wetsuits, but the actors did most of their scenes in naught but a swimsuit.

Something else I liked about Into the Blue, as compared to The Deep, was how the characters showed respect for the ocean environment. In 1977, blowing up part of the reef (or an artificial reef such as a wreck) was no big deal. Likewise, eels and sharks were portrayed as a threat and something that was expendable. Into the Blue takes the time to explain that not all sharks are dangerous and, for the most part, shows responsible diving behavior.

Into the Blue was supposed to be released as a summer blockbuster. Rumor has it that the film was pushed back due to Sony’s buy out of MGM.* * With a simplistic plot that relies mostly on its underwater action scenes and hard-bodied cast to hold the audience’s interest, the summer season is really where Into the Blue belongs. As remakes go, Into the Blue is in the same boat with Dawn of the Dead and City of Angels - the basic premise of the film is the same, but too much of the original film has been changed to warrant a fair comparison.

For two hours of entertainment, it’s not bad. Or you could put your $10 toward a vacation and some scuba lessons and can enjoy the Into the Blue experience first hand (annoying friends not included).

*If you’re a trained diver, you know such attacks are absurd, but, to a landlubber it’s scary.

** Supposedly Into the Blue was pushed back because Columbia Pictures (owned by Sony) already had a scuba movie slated for summer 2005 - The Cave. This film was laughably bad. When I saw it, the power went out in the theater about an hour into the film and the audience cheered.

five weeks straight in the O.C.

Hello all,

Not to much to report from the O.C. these days. My travelling schedule has more or less wound down for the year, and I'm really looking forward to the month of October being (mostly) easy-going weekends at home. Of course, five weeks straight in the O.C. will probably make me nuts, so, we've got a trip to New York planned for the end of the month (phew).

The weather here has finally cooled off from high temps reaching nearly 100 degrees, to afternoons that level out in the mid-80's with occasional Santa Ana winds. You've probably heard about the fires in L.A., but not to worry, the fires are nearly 100 miles away from me. Here's a helpful analogy. Orange County is to Los Angeles as Salem is to Portland - complete with cultural vacuum! We get the L.A. local news on TV and that's about the extent of L.A.'s influence on this place. In fact, I can drive about 10 miles and pick up San Diego radio stations.

"So," you ask, "You're not travelling, your house isn't on fire, how do you pass the time?"

I am happy to report that I've been seeing a lot of movies recently. After one of the worst summer movie seasons in recent memory, there's finally some interesting stuff to see (Corpse Bride, Mirrormask, Wallace & Gromit, Everything is Illuminated, etc). Also, in a strange merging of worlds, my boss has been working with MGM/Sony on a promotion for the new Jessica Alba film, Into the Blue.

To most people, Into the Blue is just another summer action flick that didn't make the cut. Glenn Holmes, longtime head projectionist at the KOIN Cinemas once referred to the period from late August through October as "tax-write off season." This time of year is just a nebulous post-blockbuster, pre-Oscar time that often becomes the dumping ground for films that didn't test well or films the studios just aren't sure about. It doesn't say much for Into the Blue. . .

To the scuba industry, Into the Blue is (we hope) a much-needed shot in the arm for our somewhat stagnant numbers. The industry isn't in decline, but it's not growing either. 9/11, numerous hurricanes, and a sluggish economy have put the breaks on thirty years of steady growth. In addition, scuba doesn't have the young heros it used to - Mike Nelson (of Sea Hunt) and Jacques Cousteau aren't the icons they once were. Though we don't like to admit it, the average die-hard scuba geek is typically a male between the ages of 40 and 50 who listens to too much Jimmy Buffet. Meanwhile, other water sports such as surfing and wakeboarding are seeing tremendous growth thanks to gens X and Y.

Will Into the Blue be the gravy train we're hoping for? It's too early to tell.