A quiet weekend -- 08/17/08

We've had a couple of movies from Netflix lying around for a few days, just couldn't seem to find time to watch them. Plus, of course, we actually have been watching some of the Olympics. Not hours and hours of it, but enough here and there to keep us from having time to sit through a movie. We've taken advantage of the multiple channels to find various sports presented without cuts back to the broadcast studio or to pretaped interviews, athlete biographies, or talking head pontifications. Thursday night we watched NBC's Korean channel. I have no idea what the voice-over announcers were saying (since neither of us know even one single word in Korean), but we got to watch events such as women's archery without interruptions. The next day I was at my dentist's office (for repair of a tooth that had a piece break off) and, while waiting for the novacaine to take effect, we were talking about the Olympics. I had to laugh when he told me that he too has been watching the Korean channel and the Mandarin channel.

(Well, besides some Olympics watching here and there, our movie watching time was also restricted because Nancy was attending a week-long seminar for math teachers, five mornings from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m., which cut into the time she had to work on organizing her lesson plans for the fall -- school starts in just a couple of weeks -- students start on Sept. 2nd but Nancy has a full day of faculty meetings on August 28th -- plus she also had reading to do each night for the math seminar. Oh, and one night we had dinner with Eli's family.)

So Friday night we decided to watch one of the two movies -- The Departed or The Last King of Scotland -- and Nancy told me I should pick, so I picked The Departed.

That movie about cops and criminals in Boston had five Oscar nominations and won four of them (Directing, Editing, Writing, and Best Movie) -- Alan Arkan (Little Miss Sunshine) won over Mark Wahlberg for Best Supporting Actor.

I will give you that it had a great cast -- Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Alec Baldwin -- but despite some fine acting, it dragged. It was two and a half hours long -- pure self-indulgence on the part of director Martin Scorsese (I kept thinking of Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America -- two hours and nineteen minutes as cut for general theatrical release in the U.S., but more than three and a half hours long in Leone's original). The Departed could easily have had half an hour edited out and it would have been a tighter and more effective film -- probably would have more dramatic and emotional impact as well.

Well -- as long as I'm doing movie reviews, here are quickie reviews of other movies we watched recently -- The Good Shepherd (which, come to think of it, also had Matt Damon and Alec Baldwin), about the OSS during World War II and the CIA (portrayed mostly during the Kennedy administration), another movie that had many good individual pieces but that also went on and on and on.... The other was The Other Boleyn Girl, set during the reign of Henry VIII with Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn and Scarlett Johansson as her sister Mary -- entertaining historical drama (although don't take it as being an exact depiction because, as usual, some facts were changed for dramatic purposes or because that's the way the book it was in the book upon which the movie was based). For a more recent bit of history, try Charlie Wilson's War, a "true" story about Congressman Charlie Wilson and our support for the mujahadeen in their fight against the Russians in Afghanistan that Nancy and I had watched the week before. Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman are marvelous, the movie is entertaining, and contains a bit of bitter truth to be learned as a lesson at the end. (And, as a bonus, on the DVD you also get to meet the real-life Charlie Wilson and the real-life Joanne Herring.)

And, while I'm talking about movies, here's another thing I put up on Youtube -- some video (and a couple of stills) taken with my digital camera while on a sailboat tour of San Francisco Bay when we were out there in early July. It was a marvelous experience -- the three of us were really glad that we picked this tour with a dozen or so other people on a 48 foot sailboat rather than joining hundreds of tourists on one of those big harbor tour ships. If you are ever there, check these guys out... their sales counter is on the harbor/marina side of Pier 39, on the end of a building as the tourist info office.

This is a fairly short video, less than a minute...

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