Turkey, Please, and Hold the Mistletoe

It's nearly Thanksgiving, and that means that, wherever you may be, you've almost certainly heard someone complaining about the Christmas decorations which are already everywhere. They'll probably rant about the ever-increasing commercialization of the holiday perverting the Christmas spirit. Well, it's my turn to complain, but not for that reason. For me it's much simpler: I want to enjoy the coming holiday before I get to the next one.

In Huntington Beach, on the corner of Warner and Beach, there is a tall office building. Every year during the holiday season, a huge Christmas tree-shaped light arrangement is put on the roof. You can see it from literally miles around. My wife, of course, loves Christmas and can't wait to see that tree every year. This year it went up on October 30th. That's right, I said October. It's not enough that Thanksgiving is pre-empted, now we have to bulldoze right over Halloween as well.

Thanksgiving is a big deal in my family. It's a holiday I look forward to all year; it's my mom's favorite of them all. I think it has something to do with our love of food. Whatever the reason, Thanksgiving is a special time for me, a time for family and close friends, for tradition, for warm feelings and the satisfaction of an uncomfortably full stomach.

And why shouldn't Thanksgiving be a holiday for all Americans? It's not a religious holiday, and so it has none of the same controversy that Christmas does. No, it is a holiday for all Americans. It is a time for us all to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for, a time to be with those you love and who love you, and, aside from all of the rest, a time to eat.

So come on and give Thanksgiving a chance! Leave your Christmas decorations down until Friday and have a happy Turkey Day!


This weekend, Juliette dragged me to this movie. I wouldn't say that I was quite kicking and screaming, but just about. So I'm sure you can guess my impression of the film before I saw it. Here's my impression afterwards: not as dumb as I expected. Actually, the script was pretty tight and it could have been quite a good movie. Tragically, the people in charge of this one decided to cast Will Ferrell as the lead, utterly ruining an otherwise good story. Why they would cast a guy whose performances are always so desperate for attention and so devoid of heart is beyond me. I did actually enjoy almost all of the time when Ferrell wasn't on screen. Unfortunately, that wasn't much.

Viewed: 11/14/2003 | Released: 11/6/2003 | Score: C

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The Matrix Revolutions

The second installment of this trilogy left a lot of people confused and unsatisfied. The concluding film certainly has some ambiguous moments, but far fewer than the second, and it does a good job of wrapping up the series. Don't worry if you don't understand everything on your first viewing--I don't--because you don't have to fully comprehend every nuance of the story in order to appreciate it. On one level, it's a story about good people in a terrible situation, and how they get through it. And even if you never look any deeper than that, it's still a good series. But the opportunity to look deeper is there, for anyone who wants to, so if you're the type to watch a movie ten times trying to figure everything out, I suspect analysis will not weaken this one.

Viewed: 11/7/2003 | Released: 10/26/2003 | Score: A

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Love Actually

I caught a sneak preview this weekend of what is likely this season's hit romantic comedy. And it was both funny and touching. Some of the voiceover was a little cheesy, there were some serious continuity problems, and the various storylines weren't woven together quite as skillfully as I would have liked, but I still enjoyed the movie very much and found myself very emotionally involved with the characters. Anyone who liked Richard Curtis' previous films should like this one as well.

Viewed: 10/31/2003 | Released: 11/5/2003 | Score: B

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Kill Bill: Vol. 1

I had a really hard time deciding whether to give this one three stars or four. On the one hand, I thought it was a good movie, with many interesting aspects. On the other hand, the near-ubiquitous violence was a little unsettling. But I'll give it four, because I think that it was a very good movie. It's clear that Tarantino was drawing from Japan's anime tradition--in fact, part of the movie is animated--so the inclusion of violence that is over the top even for a Tarantino film makes a certain amount of sense. What I think is one of Tarantino's true gifts is what he does with music. The soundtracks of his films are always really interesting. Anyway, it was an interesting visual experience with intriguing characters and amazing music. I'd say that it was a perfect example of its genre (whatever that is), except that I've never particularly cared for Uma Thurman.

Viewed: 10/30/2003 | Released: 10/9/2003 | Score: A

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Intolerable Cruelty

I should begin by saying that I love the Coen brothers, but if you don't like their other works, you probably won't like this one. And not without reason; the Coen brothers' quirky style is often seen as too much head and not enough heart--the movies can drown in their own cleverness. But I get such a kick out of their films. An adequate comedy will make me smile. A good comedy will make me chuckle under my breath. But very few movies actually make me laugh out loud, and this one did. Clooney's performance was wonderfully quirky, very reminiscent of his work in O Brother, Where Art Thou? and more than good enough to offset Catherine Zeta-Jones' typically shallow portrayal. But what I love most about these films are the bizarre, ridiculous moments, and this film had ones right up there with the dream sequence in The Big Lebowski.

Viewed: 10/11/2003 | Released: 9/29/2003 | Score: A

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Lost in Translation

In a surprising turn of events, Bill Murray decided to ditch his usual "sincere insincerity" style of comedy and make a serious movie. And, perhaps even more surprising, it works. Murray gave an honest, understated performance and managed a believable relationship and good chemistry with co-star Scarlett Johansson. Even more intriguing was the almost schizoid portrayal of Japan, at times manically modern, technological and fast-paced, other times with the tranquil serenity that underlies ancient tradition. So why only two stars? For one thing, the movie was very slow, and while that was necessary due to the way the story was structured, it still dragged. Also, I just didn't understand what the film was trying to say, if anything. So, a good performance but not necessarily a great movie.

Viewed: 10/9/2003 | Released: 8/28/2003 | Score: C

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The Rundown

I have been in the mood to see a movie with explosions in it for some time now. This movie certainly satisfied that craving. I had a lot of fun watching it. Not only was there plenty of action, but the Rock had a surprisingly good sense of humor. There were only a few problems I had with the movie. First, I found some of the editing a little distracting, if still cool to look at. And I also wish that they would either have given us more backstory on the Rock's character or else not have brought it up so much.

Viewed: 10/3/2003 | Released: 9/21/2003 | Score: B

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School of Rock

I like Jack Black, and this is definitely his best movie since High Fidelity. Not only was he hilarious, but neither he nor the director forgot that the story had a heart. And, of course, the kids were really fun to watch, as well as being amazingly talented musicians. One thing: some teachers and/or parents may not love this movie. Even though it does have some good messages in it, the core of rebellion and disdain for academics inherent in the film might put them off.

Viewed: 10/23/2003 | Released: 10/2/2003 | Score: B

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Support Your Local Arts

This past weekend I went and saw a community theater production for the first time in years. The play was Picnic, by William Inge, and the venue was the Huntington Beach Playhouse. This play has a special place in my heart because one of the first scene studies I ever did was from this play (I was Alan, and my best friend was Hal).

I had quite a nice time. The production did suffer from many of the problems that community productions often do, but it was still fun to see. It reminded me of the days when I was more involved with the theater. I made a lot of friends in my high school theater department. I met my future wife in one of those high school productions. And in college some of my fondest memories involve acting in or directing plays.

It was nice to see that one of the actors was a high school student. Participation in the arts can be just as important in building a child's identity as sports or other extracurriculars. Theater helped me become more outgoing and shaped many of my experiences later in life. It remains a strong part of who I am, even though I don't have much time these days to be involved in shows.

And community arts aren't just for the artists. There is always plenty of room, and need, for volunteers to help bring off any community arts program, whether it be theater, music, or visual arts. So you're not a musician? Maybe your local choir needs help working their sound system. Not good with electronics? Maybe you could help paint sets for your community theater. No technical skills? Help raise funds for an art show or work the box office at a performance. Trust me, there's a way you can help.

But maybe you just don't have the time to commit your weekends to volunteer work. I bet you still have time to go see a show. And you're probably bored with television anyway! Not a big fan of the arts? You might be surprised. So you don't get Picasso. Go check out the photography expo at your local junior college. Or maybe you don't like classical music. Why not try the Latin music festival? Trust me, there's something for everyone. And not only can you alleviate your boredom and take in a little culture, but by buying that ticket you are helping support a vital part of your community.

Whether you're an artist, a volunteer, or even a patron, there's a place in your local arts for you. Well, what are you waiting for?