Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Most Blatant, Awkward and Vile Disregard of MAN LAW...

I de-board the plane.

The last 2 1/2 hours have been quick and extremely productive. I have taken the travel time on Virgin Airlines between Los Angeles and Dallas to begin work on a new short story. As I enter DFW Airport, my mind now shifts to the excitement ahead- the anticipation of surprising my dad with my first trip home on Thanksgiving since 2002 (he previously believed I was taking a trip with friends in the mountains of Yosemite). Upon racing to the baggage claim, I realize it would be wise to answer the call of nature that is resounding in my bladder. Though it is not extremely urgent at the moment, it is quite a drive to our little burg in the country- Athens, TX.

Now I stand in line, waiting for a urinal... or hopefully a stall... to open up so that I may take care of business with some modicum of privacy.

Then I hear it...

Some gentleman at one of the urinals lets fly. Now, it has been known to happen before... if there is any acceptable place to fart in public it is in a restroom. But this is no ordinary wind. No sir, this is borderline atomic, "excuse me sir you should check your undies" gas.

As if this was not enough to make me cringe. The man giggles at himself and proceeds to announce:

"That was me."
As if there was any doubt.

But MAN LAW- which is a time-honored code of gentlemanly conduct for almost every situation, not the least of which is behavior in and around restrooms- dictates that the offender not be regarded by the other occupants of said lavatory.

Then, the unthinkable happens... the Farter, continuing to giggle, turns his head to the left and smiles at the fellow to his right, waits for approval or perhaps a congratulations/high-five, then upon finding none turns to the left and looks for the same.

It is difficult for me to pinpoint the gravity of this situation to the half of the species that do not understand and to whom MAN LAW does not apply. If it is not the Number One Rule in MAN LAW, it is most certainly Number Two:

Never, EVER, under NO circumstances, even under pain of DEATH or castration should you ever attempt any sort of eye contact nor turn one's head more than 10 degrees in either direction at a urinal.

There are reasons for this that exceed time and space. But, trust me, this law is for the best.

Now, this gentlemen just shunned this Law not once but TWICE, whilst GIGGLING. As if this wasn't enough to make every man cry fowl, there was more to come. Our offender had, at the time, occupied the urinal longer than anyone else at the row. Meaning he had gotten there first. Soon the 2 gentlemen of either side of him- whether they were finished or just needed to leave this awkward situation we will never know- flipped, zipped and walked away. Another pair of gentlemen took their places.

Surely, I thought, this fella will be done soon.

He continued to giggle softly at himself, his head rolling around on his shoulders as if he knew the Man Law he had broken and yet was tempted to break it yet again. Then, the next round of gentlemen were also done.

This was not fun, for it was now
My Turn.

Nervously, I approached the urinal. No sooner had I begun to unzip my fly than the man ripped another ass-blast. And we're talking major here... like tuba-esque but with substance to it. The kind that makes you want to vomit, especially if done in a smelly public restroom by a man one does not know.

His laughter was even more hysterical now. The Farter was giggling like a 9 year old school boy in church whose best friend has just popped Mary Margaret's bra strap in the row in front of you. And lo, from the corner of my eye, I see in my peripheral that our Anti-Hero is now looking to me for approval! The NERVE!

In full compliance of MAN LAW Number One (or at least Number Two), I stare straight ahead at the shiny white tiled bathroom wall- refusing to even acknowledge his presence. I strain my bladder to force my bathroom trip to end as quickly as possible, give the required "shake" or two, zip up and bolt for the sink.

The amazing thing is, the Farter has remained at the urinals! He has now outlasted 3 rounds of urinators! Now this is either some really serious peeing, or the man has been faking- this is an offense that is so unthinkable as to not even be named in the MAN LAW, however it MUST be punishable by death. Must be.

As I wash my hands, I thank the Lord that I am free of this man. It is at this moment that I notice him in the mirror behind me. He has finished, his fly is still undone and he is walking behind every man at the sink basin- looking in the mirror not necessarily at us but also not really at himself. Then, past every other many in the restroom who has witnessed his antics and a horrified Nate, he walks out of the bathroom into the terminal.

Not even a drop of water or soap touched his hands.

If I had had lunch, I would have lost it.

Part of me would find comfort if I thought this behavior was confined to this one incident at DFW Airport, but I instinctively know that it is not. I know there are loonies in ever town and every city and that there are people out there who are just plain nasty and unheeding of our most precious laws: the Torah, the Koran, MAN LAW, etc...

I can only hope we one day live in a world where such cherished rules are enthusiastically and religiously observed.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dear People Who Poke On Facebook...

Stop it.

Nate's Verbal Hootenanny

Dear Women on the Roads of Los Angeles

Please cease the practice of fixing your hair/doing your makeup whilst behind the wheel of your car. Effective immediately.

In case you haven't noticed, no one else around you is neglecting their focus on operating their automobile. This is why they are moving... and you are not.

If this Open Letter is not enough to persuade to not suck, then perhaps my highbeams aimed directly at your side and/or rear-view mirrors and a lengthy horn check will help...

Nate's Verbal Hootenanny

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dear AFTRA...

You are a worthless, second-rate organization.

Despite never having benefitted from any services you provide in 5 years of membership, I am forced to turn over a few year's worth of dues to you so I can collect on a paycheck. And I do this with wailing and gnashing of teeth. Please use it wisely before SAG takes you over... um, excuse me, "merges" with you.

But I'm not gonna hold my breath...

Best Wishes,
Nate's Verbal Hootenanny

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"I Wish I Could Do This Forever..."

The words in the title of this post are among the last that Andy Rooney spoke to the world on "60 Minutes" just a few short weeks ago.

They are words that gave me pause. Andy Rooney had... for lack of any better term... a point of view about the world that amazed me. It was so many things at once: poignant, curmudgeonly, charming, hysterical, and wise. Rooney himself even said that he had a way of expressing ideas that made people go "Hey, yeah, he's right" and that made him feel good.

"A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney" always made me think. Not always hard, not always deeply- but that wasn't always the point. He wanted your attention and he knew how to get it- by sharing ideas on topics both minute and grand that made you stop and rethink things (or, on some subjects, form opinions for the very first time). No matter what I was doing during the broadcast of "60 Minutes," I always stopped to listen to Andy. Sometimes he made me laugh and shake my head, sometimes he made me sneer and sometimes he made me just go "Awww, you're old." But he made me think and he made me feel, and in this day of loud, obnoxious 24-hour news networks that have turned journalism from a noble profession into a trashy one, that is a treasure.

One can hope someone else like him will come along, but I doubt it.

If I had known Rooney's "final regular appearance" on "60 Minutes" would actually be his last, I would not have erased it from my TiVo. Instead I would have listened closer to a man who had a wisdom and oddball relevance that meant a lot to this country throughout the years. I would have soaked it up more, because I will certainly miss the few minutes a week he came into my home on Sunday nights.

But I guess that's what YouTube is for.

"I wish I could do this forever..."

I do too, Andy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dear Indie Films...

I love you.

It is you who keeps me from losing my inspiration when I get tired of the endless stream of poorly thought-out romantic comedies, dizzyingly laughable action flicks and dreary/ineffective horror/thrillers being churned out these days.

Bless you from continuing to find new and inventive ways of telling me a unique story. Even if the story itself is not unique, thank you for making the effort to tell it in an uncommon way.

However, I do beg of you one thing...

Please do not forget that it is ok- perhaps even advisable- to actually end the story you're telling. You know, wrap it up. Resolve it. Give us something that doesn't leave us going "Huh?" For the second time in a week, I walked out of a really intriguing independent thriller feeling the need to rush home and see what all the good ol' folks on IMDB were message-board'ing about the ending.

And, listen, when your film is making me resort to the IMDB message boards, we've got a problem.

Martha Marcy May Marlene was the first of these films this week. A really gripping look at the life of a girl who returns to her estranged sister after escaping from a cult, this movie distorts the line between a character's perception of reality and true reality in a really effective and surprisingly non-vague way. The ending, however and without giving anything away, was one that I needed to go home and ponder. Not inherently a bad thing mind you, but I've just given your film between $10 and $20 depending on the theater and 2 hours of my time... I don't always need to spend another 30 minutes deciphering your finale. Despite my borderline psychotic obsession with you, I do indeed have other things to do with my time.

Take Shelter is the other film in question. Now... this one won't appeal to quite as many people. I actually struggled with it myself. It moves rather slowly at first, and the inevitable conclusion seems pretty obvious (or does it?). However, what this movies does have going for it are the crazy strong performances of Michael Shannon (who cranks out engaging performances after engaging performance) and Jessica Chastain (in a very difficult role of devoted yet befuddled housewife who never becomes redundant or annoying). Eventually, the tension that warrants this film's categorization as a "drama/suspense-thriller" picks up and by the end of it one doesn't care what the outcome is going to be- one just wants to get there. Again, however, despite the ending being leaving perhaps very little room for speculation- it still felt vague and too brief. After 2 hours of building to its climax, another 5 minutes would not have ticked me off. Rather the opposite- assuming it was done right.

(Fun film fact break: A young Michael Shannon, in his days before great roles in the above-mentioned film and being the only good thing about Revolutionary Road, can be seen as a googly-eyed, love-struck, engaged Wrestlemania fan in one of my favorite films Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. I know you've never noticed it before... and you're welcome.)

Anyway, maybe I'm too picky. I do not mind an ending that leaves something to be desired. However, as in every facet of filmmaking, having an ambiguous ending has to be earned. You have to justify it in such a way that makes the audience go "Yeah... that was the best ending you could have given." And with any small amount of luck, said ambiguous ending should create a debate between viewers. The classic western Shane for example has one such a conclusion: Is Shane dead? Seems obvious but there are still some wistful fans who want to believe he rode off into the sunset and recovered in true Shane fashion.

To make a long story short (too late), keep me guessing but don't confuse me. Unlike adding Tabasco to food, you can go too far in your delivery of artistic uncertainty.

In other words, don't be afraid to show me a little more leg.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Goodbye Silver Spoon

As of this moment, I still consider myself too young to have seen the passing of so many eras:

The AMC 8 Galleria movie theatre closed in the early 2000s and it was, as many of my New Orleans brethren will remember, a staple of pre-teen and teenage life in New Orleans.

My grandmother was forced out of her home- the home I grew up in and in which I felt the most comfortable- in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The end of (and passing of 75% of) "The Golden Girls".

Tonight, I said a sad goodbye to a constant in my life since moving to Los Angeles in 2003: The Silver Spoon Diner/Bar.

I kept Silver Spoon a secret from many of you. Yes, it's true. And there are a few good reasons for that- the most important being that there was a bar at the Silver Spoon. A dive bar. A bar that could not hold many people. A bar that was not supposed to hold many people. A bar that was cozy enough to hold only the people it should: me and my friends who discovered the bar together.

And it was a treasure. One thing that keeps a person from going completely balls-out insane in this City of Angels is finding one's own slice of earth. Whether that slice of earth is one's own apartment or coffee shop or park bench, everybody needs something that they can secretly claim for themselves. Otherwise, they will become lost in this over-caffeinated, hyped-up, self-absorbed concrete jungle.

For me and a small of group of my oldest Los Angeles friends, that place was the Silver Spoon. By day, the Silver Spoon was a greasy-spoon diner often visited for breakfast that was notorious for giving us loyal patrons The Runs. A place where I met some legends like Shelley Winters and Quentin Tarantino and became friends with one of the most down-to-earth and friendliest people I've met since arriving in this fair city: Robert Forrester. By night, it was a diner that had a little-known bar attached to it where you could have The Run of The Place and (mostly) everyone knew your name.

I first walked into the Silver Spoon with my good friends Todd Milliner and Michael Matthews at the age of 22. In that time, I've done quite a bit of growing up here. I've talked things through, I've worked shit out, I've solidified friendships, I've put others to rest and I've made peace with many things in my own life at the bar at The Spoon. I've been funny, I've been sad, I've been creative, I've been angst-y. But every time I heard someone mention "The Spoon", it was hard for me to resist.

I have nothing but good memories of this ridiculously out of place middle-America crappy diner, and I always will.

It's a shame that, as we were all saying tonight, we can't seem to leave well enough alone in this country. When in Scotland last year, I ran across many coffee shops and small stores that couldn't possibly have turned much of a profit. And yet, they'd existed for decades. Why? Because there wasn't an absurdly frantic pursuit of the Almighty Dollar in their country and people were allowed to have their small bookstores and cafes just for the simple pleasure of it.

The Silver Spoon has been purchased.

As of tonight, the bar no longer exists. Within the next day or two, the diner will be completely closed. In its place will be a Sunset Strip-type club that will probably change ownership and concept every 6 months until it ultimately closes down and becomes an empty space.

It is indeed The End of An Era. It's the sad, unfortunate truth of our world- the times, they are a-changin'. Not much gold can stay. Places that develop meanings to people end up being bought out and torn down or sold off and completely changed... and those meanings become nothing more than memories. So maybe the trick is to hold make a bunch of good memories, hold onto them and then do your best to make new ones.

Who knows?

I surely don't.

Goodbye Silver Spoon.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Whipping Post President

Tonight, President Obama's jobs bill is expected to fail in Congress.

You know this bill... this is the bill that Obama persistently took to the airwaves and challenged Congress to pass. "PASS THIS BILL" he said, even childishly leading crowd chants during his addresses.

Whether or not you agree with the tenets of this jobs bill (there is certainly the argument to be made that this is just another stimulus which has already proven to be ineffective), the failure of another Obama effort rings the alarum bell. His ineffectiveness over the last year is hard to ignore. And this time around, not only is every single Republican expected to vote against Obama's Jobs Bill but even some Democrats have jumped ship.

This occurrence is exactly why I am a registered Independent. This is also exactly why I believe the political party system has begun to and will continue to ruin the United State of America. Today, despite having the majority in the Senate and a President from their party in office, the Democrat Party is achieving very little. As a matter of fact, if this were a boxing match the fight probably would have been stopped a few months ago. The Republican Party somehow manages to not only control both houses of Congress but also renders the President completely helpless. Consequently, America is being run by only one viewpoint- and that makes it a dictatorship.
This GOP aggression and Democratic passivity has existed for a while. And based on the events of tonight, it isn't going to change anytime soon.

I'm sad to see Obama become such a disappointment. But, a spade is a spade. I've always refused to be someone who votes for the lesser of 2 evils, and I will not start doing that with my vote in 2012. Either Obama takes a stand or I, for one, will vote for either a 3rd party candidate who I like or no one at all- even at the cost of a vote for said lesser evil.

I also encourage everyone else to consider doing the same. It's about time we stopped settling. It's about time we REALLY begin holding our government accountable for its actions. It's time we let our votes truly speak for us instead of compromising and voting for someone about whom we feel lukewarm.

Let's hold the GOP to those standards- do what's best for the country, or you're not gonna get the Presidency back. Let's also hold Obama to those standards- either fight for us, or you're gone.

It's gotta start sometime...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Touch of (First) Class

It's like you've joined a secret society.

I'm not going to go so far as to say that I don't usually get friendly service on airplane travel. I usually fly Virgin (on longer flights) and Southwest (for trips back home to the South)- 2 airlines that I think- based on my experiences- have earned the right to brag about good service. However, I recently had my first foray into the oft-exalted first class. On a non-stop flight from Los Angeles to New York City and back again, I was given the key to this secret world.

And, you know... it is truly a different dimension folks.

No waiting in check-in lines, hot towels, drinks (in glasses!) at your every beck and call, free cocktails, meals, COOKIES, a personal entertainment with noise-cancelling headphones, seats that recline ALL THE WAY, pillows, thick blankets... and, most importantly, a complete lack of that awful putrid canned-air smell that usually rules the nostrils as soon as one steps onto a plane.

Additionally, the way you are treated is night and day. It is as if the crew is delighted to have you! Perhaps in this difficult, painful economy American Airlines is indeed pleased to actually have First Class Passengers- but one gets the impression that this is the normal treatment of passengers by crew.

A few years back and for reasons I've never completely deciphered, a switch flipped in me. I have flown all my life. As a child of divorced parents who lived in 2 different states for a while, I flew by myself at times at a very young age with nary a care in the world. Takeoff and landing used to feel like a ride. However, somewhere in my early 20s, that changed. Takeoff and landing began to find me white-knuckled and staring breathlessly out of the window... mind racing with the darkest thoughts of the fragility of human life and the hopes that I have just pinned to a metal tube that is now hurtling miles above the earth at 500+ miles per hour. The slightest turbulence sends me, full steam ahead, into the most intense prayer sessions while switching my iPod to the Gospel genre.

On the flight- perhaps empowered by my treatment as a "first class passenger"- I took it upon myself to walk up to 2 female flight attendants on my way to the bathroom. We had been experiencing turbulence. And let it be known that, for me, the longer turbulence persists during a flight the more convinced I become that the wings are slowly ripping off the fuselage and the plane is indeed falling apart. I approached the 2 kind ladies and asked them to hit me with it.

'Be totally honest, I can take it. Does turbulence make you nervous?'

In response I was not only greeted with the most satisfying and calming answer possible ("Not in the slightest. Turbulence is like driving on a bumpy road") but they then used another tactic to make me forget all my troubles:

They informed me that I had won the flight attendants' Cutest Passenger Award.

That's right... if you ever happen to encounter me during a rare instance of "losing it", just remember: tell me I'm hot and all will be forgotten. This is a truth that I actually did not know about myself until this trip to First Class. Ok so maybe I'm a bit egotistical in this regard, but- hey- if giving me statistics that support the idea that flying is a safe way to travel and explaining the harmless physics of turbulence don't comfort me, is it so bad that complimenting my looks is what does the trick?

Everybody's got their something.

As for future travel, it's going to be hard for me to go back to the dreaded cabin next time I fly. Comfort will most certainly decrease, service will not have that gleam-in-the-eye/glad-to-have-ya attitude and cocktails won't be free. I won't be able to acquire the miraculous noise-cancelling headphones unless I get a 2nd mortgage. The 3 hours of sleep I caught on my return flight in a fully reclined seat with blanketed comfort will only be a treasured memory.

However, it's best that one gets to experience the High Life every now and then. Keeps the dreams fresh. Ensures that one remembers that there are still goals to be attained, still mountains to climb and still peaks to be reached. Now when I'm putting in the hard hours, I have one more conquest to add to my life's checklist.

You will be mine again, First Class. Oh yes, you will be mine again.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

One Hand In The Air for The Big City

New York City.

There's a reason they write about it the way they do. There's a reason why there have been so many great songs and movies and books written about the metropolis (whilst Los Angelenos have to settle for Randy Newman's forgettable attempt at praising their city with "I Love LA" and Steve Martin's thumb-in-the-eye film LA Story).

New York City is a place that is not just visited, it is not just experienced... it is felt. NYC has an attitude, a personality, and a character that makes being there a fulfilling experience. It is a life not lived in most of the United States. It is certainly a far cry from Los Angeles- a city so spread out that the word neighborhood only has at best a 1/10th of the meaning it has in NYC.

I love NYC. And every time I go there, I feel like I learn some things. I returned yesterday from a quick weekend jaunt to wrap filming on an upcoming episode of CSI: NY. Allow me to share with you a few things NYC helped me to realize this time around:

- First Class really is the only way to travel. Granted this isn't necessarily a NYC-taught lesson, but imagine if my first First Class experience had been on a 45 minute flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco... ugh.

- I'm not really a big talker in cabs, car services, etc... Sometimes it's nice just to enjoy the ride. However, if you take a chance on good conversation with someone enthusiastic about the city they love, that love is passed on and you begin to feel it too.

- No matter how old it gets or how many buildings pass it by as the Tallest In The World, The Empire State Building is a thing of beauty. Having a view of it from your hotel room is incredible. Turning off all the lights in your room as you prepare for your bed and staring at the NYC skyline highlighted by the Empire State Building is orgasmic.

- Central Park is everything you want it to be. And quite often, even more.

- Some people never change. Many times that can be a good thing. But when change was the goal, time has just been

- What? What's that? You love architecture too?! Oh well, then by all means... GO TO NYC!
- When in Rome, do what the Romans do. When in New York, make sure to get a slice of pizza.

- The Riverside Church of New York is such an
amazingly grand and yet somehow foreboding building that my imagination convinced me that if I were to sneak into it, climb the tower and its long spires, the part of me that loves a good conspiracy and mystery would be rewarded by some hidden room at the top with a centuries-old secret locked inside of it.

- New York makes me want to move there... and then the temperature drops.

- Adam Wilson is one hell of a good man. If I ever stop making time to see him when I'm in his city, I will deserve the title of World's Biggest Asshole.

- Subways are not that big of a mystery. And if you look like you know what you're doing, you won't look as much like a visitor.

Ah yes, NYC...
no place like it.

Can't wait to go back.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Another Season, Another Reason... for being nauseous

I love government.

Let me rephrase that, I love what government is SUPPOSED to be. Tearing myself away from my original Political Science major to my eventual Theatre major in college was tough- necessary, but tough. Poli Sci classes were always fun for me, always engaging and rarely missed. I was also good at it.

Law and government are in my blood. I have many lawyers in my family and my grandmother worked in the New Orleans court system for so long she knew just about everyone there is to know in Louisiana politics.

"The West Wing" resonated with me from start to, well, the final season. That show correctly struck a chord with the idealistic and loyal American in me who wants this country to be what it always has had the ability to be.

Yes, it's safe to say: I love government.

However, the state of the union as it exists is disgusting. There is no two ways about it. Our President has shown himself to be a man with a very delicate backbone. Our House of Congress, ruled by the opposing party, has shown their complete unwillingness to negotiate for the sake of our country (though who can blame them when your President just lies down and caves to your every demand). We are at a constant political deadlock and the result has been our economy being sucked further and further down the toilet, as well as the (questionable) downgrading of our world credit rating by one of the three international credit companies.

A political conversation in today's world:
GOP: "Major cut in spending, no new taxes."
Sean Hannity: "Way to go Mr Speaker!"
Democrats: "Cut spending as a last resort, raise the taxes on the rich."
Rush Limbaugh: "Are you joking? What about all the (something racist)?!"
President: "Cut SOME spending, raise the tax rate on the rich so that they're paying their fair share. Pleeeeeeease Mr Boehner?"
GOP: No.
President: Pretty please?
Limbaugh: Pussy.
GOP: No.
Hannity and Limbaugh: Obama, the Socialist, just can't get anything done! What kind of a president is this? He's a radical Muslim socialist who wants to send your parents and grandparents to death panels and drive this country into debt with a Socialist health care plan, that's what he is!
GOP: Oh by the way, move your State Of The Union address this week- it's interefering with Bass Masters on ESPN.
President: Ok John! We're still friends, right?

Meanwhile, the stock market drops 4oo points in one day and the entire year's worth of gains for most investors are lost in one single market session.

Each Republican Debate is like reading the New York Times comic strips on Sunday morning... and yet, I'm not completely convinced Obama is worth re-electing. I've always believed we deserve better than the lesser of two evils- and 2012 is no different. So, how am I going to vote?

Is there any Republican who is trustworthy and not completely bat-shit insane? Is Obama ever going to grow a set of balls and actually lead this country?

I guess we just have to stay tuned and find out... if I have the stomach to continue watching/listening/enduring our current political climate for 13 1/2 more months.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hell Is...

Listening to LA Theatreworks's broadcast of Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest on loop... over and over and over again.

Nothing worse than listening to a bunch of smarmy British folk sitting around a drawing room being boring.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Eisegesis (n): is the process of misinterpreting a text in such a way that it introduces one's own ideas, reading into the text.

A man wakes up in a dark cell with no memory of how he got there or why he's being imprisoned. As two strangers relentlessly interrogate him, he is forced to memories that begin to explain what he may have done. How can mere thought be harmful?

I would like to formally invite all you Hootenanny-ers out there to my first Los Angeles play since the inception of this blog. :-) Eisegesis is part of The Blank Theatre Company's hugely successful 19th Annual Young Playwrights Festival. Eisegesis, like all plays in the YPF, was penned by a playwright under the age of 20- but it asks some surprisingly intriguing questions and touches on some very deep subject matter. What drew me to this play was the amount of suspense that layers this story...and the revelation at the end that sometimes searching for answers is just as dangerous as finding the answers.

We run from
Thursday, June 9- Sunday June 12.
All performances are at 8 pm, except for Sunday the 12th- which is at 2pm.
The Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood, CA.

Visit for more information and to purchase tickets.
I'd love to see my beloved Hootenanny'ers there, ya'll!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Come Dare The Friendly Skies...

Think about it.

You're sitting in a metal tube
hurtling through the air at an average of 500 mph
somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 feet up
(roughly between 7 and 8 miles)...

Sounds like a dare doesn't it?

Last week, somewhere between Los Angeles and New Orleans and sometime after hearing of the giant hole that had ripped in the fuselage of one of Southwest Airline's fleet of Boeing 737-300s a few days before, I saw the image to the left whilst in the air:

Funny, no?

Kinda made me wish that the email that was sent to me the previous day from Southwest proudly informing me that I was on a Wi-Fi flight for a small fee of $5 had instead guaranteed me (or at least acknowledged the recent events) that my plane would not crack in two while hurtling through time and space.

You see, it's not quite so bad when you're up in the air and the sun is shining and everything is so smooth you start to forget that you are on a plane. No, no...the times that trouble me are when the turbulence begins to shake you like an older brother who has just found his younger sister's new Barbie doll and the dark clouds swirl in around your plane or that the Captain comes on the PA and says things like "Ladies and gentleman, uh, the Flight Attendants are going to serve you your in-flight drinks now but as the flight deteriorates we're going to have them sit down." (This has happened. Thank you, Alfy)


I don't care how calmly you say that, you just told me that the flight that I am on is "deteriorating"!!! And you're not even offering me a parachute so that I can decide whether or not I choose to stay and take my chances or whether I'd like to hurl my ass out of Door #2.

The numbers say that I am unreasonable to be afraid of flying. Especially when I have absolutely no fear of driving in cars, which is statistically more dangerous. But the thought of something going wrong and having 35,000 feet to consider that I am plummeting to certain death always somehow creeps into my head and makes my palms start to sweat.

Usually, cranking up my iPod to my Gospel section helps. At least I'll go out listenin' to hymns about the baby Jesus.

Though something recently gave me pause. I usually fly alone. On my latest business trip (which happened to be in my hometown of good ol' New Orleans), I flew with my good friend and boss, Aaron Fox- aka Alfy. With my friend by my side, I noticed my fears were pretty much completely absent. I got a bit tense on take-off, but they subsided almost as quickly as they came.

Which made me regard the notion that my fear really is more about dying alone. Or rather, dying around a bunch of strangers to whom I have no real connection. The idea of having time to contemplate my impending doom while having no one to hold onto, to turn to, to rely on at least to give me some comfort is perhaps what truly frightens me. When you think about it, it's a pretty understandable fear: the fear that in your final moments you're all alone and that is all you are going to know for the rest of your life. This is a pretty dark and lonesome fear, but it is a common one. It is a fear that certainly colors many of the decision we make- both large and small- on a daily basis.

But we keep flying.
That's the world we live in.
That's the risk we have to take if we're going to get out in this world and live a little.
Throughout history, the human spirit has shown that it naturally resists fear and the threat of conquer from internal and external forces- hence the success of stories like Rocky and The Fighter and even Stephen King's novels The Shining and Dolores Claiborne.
We ignore these fears, and we push ever forward to live our life on our own individual terms.

So pay no attention to the turbulence, forget the lighting a few hundred yards away, don't think about the fact that you can see daylight through the roof- just crank up your Mahalia Jackson a bit louder...

and relax.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Call me Nostradamus...

Perhaps you will recall this post from a while back...

Well, seems somebody out there in the Science World heard ol' Nate spouting his little gold nuggets of truth and decided to do some hypothesizing and gesticulatin' and see if there was anything to it.

I give you...

I ain't the kinda guy that says "I toldya so", but...

Stay tuned for more soon-to-be-proven scientific predictions!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hell Is...

In my estimation, Hell must be driving behind an endless chain of Los Angeles Buses and Prius drivers on Santa Monica Boulevard between the Wilshire intersection and La Cienega Boulevard from 7 am-6pm on a rainy day.

Buses, I get.
They're big, they're slow, they have to stop for people every 10 feet.

But Prius drivers are one of the greatest mysteries of our universe. Neither science nor religion will ever be able to explain why Prius drivers lose their ability to function on a rational level once they buy this car. I am convinced Prius owners sign away not a part of their soul but rather a large part of their brain in order to own said vehicle. It takes every ounce of self-control that I have not to run through every environmentally-friendly yet small Prius with my gas-guzzling, yet large and imposing Jeep Wrangler as I drive behind them.

I'm an optimist. And as such, I must believe that one day operating an automobile on this planet will be logical. Hopefully in my lifetime...

Speaking of which... where are the flying cars I was promised in Back To The Future Part 2?

Friday, March 4, 2011

An Open Letter to Thieves in My Neighborhood

Dear Miserable Failure, aka The Guy Who Broke Into My Car Last Night:

I know why you chose my vehicle.

I drive a 2003 Jeep Wrangler Ragtop whose windows over the past year and a half have flown off due to, I suspect, faulty design. Wranglers, by design, are already among the easiest cars to break into. Take away 50% of the windows that protect the car from the elements and desperate vagrant, crack-whores like yourself and I suppose I cannot blame you too much for choosing my vehicle.

But, you see...I'm smarter than you are.

True, I don't know you, but by the simple virtue that you risked being caught and prosecuted to break into a car with virtually no security thinking that you would find some magic treasure that could thrust you back into the sophisticated social and professional pipelines of a decent and upstanding society (but most likely only to sustain you until your next fix), I know you are not a man of superior intellect.

What kind of fool would leave anything of value in a vehicle that offers no protection to said objects?

And what did you end up getting, sir (what a stretch to call you that)? You took my parking change. You took what probably amounted to $3.25 and in the process you did not shake my sense of security in either my neighborhood or my surroundings. You did not do anything but start out my ultimately productive and satisfying day with a bit of annoyance and make me decide to no longer carry my change in my car.

In that light, you did me a favor. And with that in mind, I thank you. Your actions stirred in me an interest in creating a self-designed replacement security system for the windows I have lost, a la MacGyver- the plans of which have already been sketched out I might add. Additionally, I made that $3.25 back on the write-off I will get next year from the Government half way into my drive to work and 15 minutes after I discovered your sad attempt at stealing from me.

So, really sir...what did you accomplish? Did that $3.25 get you anything besides a Coke? Did throwing all the papers I have in my glove box all over the place earn you anything except wasted time? Do you somehow feel better about your deluded, sad self? Was all that trouble and risk worth it?

After all, even if I don't erect my self-designed security system anytime soon and I leave my Jeep exposed to the elements and trash like yourself, do you truly believe from this point forth that I will even carry the $3.25 you took?

No sir.

So, do yourself a favor. Don't risk it next time. And stay the hell away from my car.

An Intelligent, Employed, Upstanding Member of Society With a Future

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Is That Bill Shakespeare Over There?

So recently, I was listening to the reading of a play. Now, this play has been produced before. And one would assume it has been edited and re-edited. I had to share with all you faithful Hootenanny patrons something I ran across in the script.

The following appears 3/4 of the way through the story. The 4 main characters are the only ones on stage and all have not only been introduced at this point but present throughout and crucial to the play's action.

In the middle of the dialogue, the Speaker is ranting and raving and listing faults of the other characters when the stage directions direct the Main Character:

Blah...blah...blah, emphatic dialogue (Pointing specifically to someone) blah blah blah....

Gotta love good writing.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The (Misguided) Choice(s) Of A New (Fat) Generation

You're sitting at lunch.
You order a Coke.
You get a look of judgement from the people you're with... who, while clicking their tongues, order Diet Cokes.

A fair judgement? With all the reports that have been made public over the years of the health issues associated with non-diet carbonated beverages, maybe it is.

But amuse me for a moment, observe further into your lunching experience. Count the number of Diet Cokes your colleagues/friends/family members order the next time you take your weekly trip to the Olive Garden or Crustacean or wherever the hell you go with whomever the hell you choose to dine. Just watch. It has been my experience that these self-deputized bastions of Moral Beverage Order drinking their "healthier" Diet Cokes order an exponentially greater number of refills than do the people drinking the regular version.

On average, I will order 1 refill. Maybe 2. While dining recently, I noticed 3 Diet Coke drinkers at my table who all ordered 3 REFILLS A PIECE! I'm serious. And it wasn't just this group of people, either. I've noticed this trend in A LOT of Diet Coke-imbibing friends of mine. They scarf them down like a fat chick with a bucket of tater tots.

Now, perhaps these consumers are just not privy to the recent news that Diet Coke is just as bad for you, if not MORE SO, in different ways. Regular Coke could lead to bad teeth, obesity and if consumed at a steady enough pace along with a perfect storm of poor diet+rare exercise+genetic pre-disposition, diabetes. Diet Coke, however, contains an artifical sweetener called Aspartame...which has been known to cause CANCER in lab rats. Additionally, my cousin- who used to down 6-8 Diet Sprites a day- began having seizures. His doctor told him throughout the course of a treatment to which he was not responding to stop drinking the Diet Sprites. Once he did, the seizures stopped. Now, there is of course the possibility that this is a medical coincidence. But, it does give one pause, no?

Oh, and by the way, if I'm drinking 2 Cokes and you're drinking 4 Diet're not really any different than me, are you? You're sort of canceling out the whole "Diet" notion.

It's that whole Placebo idea. Yeah, you know...the one that posits: "If it says Diet on the front it must have zero calories, no sugar and no carbs" and it sort of liberates the consumer to drink as much as he/she/it wants. I mean, that IS the logic, right?

Well, I'm sorry to wake you from your judgmental, naive slumber- but if you're drinking 4 glasses of anything that has a brown ain't on a diet, sweetheart.

So, go ahead...judge me if you want. But I jog 4 to 5 times a week, regularly compete in tennis and dodgeball and I hike. So, my 5-6 Cokes a week is NOTHING compared to your 3-4 Diet Cokes a day.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Cold Weather"...a movie review

Cold Weather
Written/Directed by Aaron Katz.

It's funny... bigger really does not always mean better.

In this era of "packaged" movies, of studio executives' widely-held belief that movies are successful when they adhere to a formula (Star+Explosions+Sex, or Tween Star+Dumbed-Down-Family-Friendly-Plot, or Star+Star+Star+Funny Supporting Star), movies seem to be less and less satisfying. As an avid movie lover who is also pretty easy to please, I have noticed a widening differential in my love-it/hate-it ratio when I leave theaters. More and more often, movies that, on paper, should NOT fail (a la Tim Burton directing Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter in "Alice In Wonderland") somehow have been failing more and more often. And even if your staunch Hollywood insider would vow that this and other movies are not economic failures, I counter by saying that the amount of money these stories COULD have made if they had not been f'ed up by today's sad studio standards would have been exponentially better.

Where does one turn in these times? Well, why not the films that are not obligated to follow such ridiculous formulas? Why not turn to movies that are made because people have stories to tell and love what they do? Among others that have previously been mentioned on Nate's Verbal Hootenanny, I enjoy the movies released at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in West Hollywood. They specialize in bringing independent and foreign films to Los Angeles, as well as hosting special events and film festivals.

This week's diamond-in-the-rough was Cold Weather. Written and directed by Aaron Katz, CW is a quirky story about a chronic underachiever, Doug, who happens to have only one mostly unfulfilled talent: detective work. This movie is a slow burn- perhaps the first 25% is exposition and character introduction at a snail's pace. For most, this would be torture- BUT, Katz keeps this initial quarter of the movie interesting, lighthearted and surprisingly fun if not also charmingly odd.

Then, BAM, before you know it, Katz whirls you into a small scale Sherlock Holmes-esque thriller(ish). The work of lead actors Cris Lankenau (Doug) and Triest Kelly Dunn (his sister Gina), as well as Katz, stands out. You've seen it before- brother and sister get into trouble and try to save the day. Because Katz invested us so much in the innocence of these characters at the beginning, the tension mounts as Doug and Gina become increasingly entangled in the search for Rachel, Doug's missing ex-girlfriend. Indeed, as the search becomes more and more dangerous, one gets the dreaded impression that these kids are way in over their head. One can almost see the proverbial shit fly towards the fan. Aided by a simple score, this movie picks up steam and becomes quite the effective thriller while still maintaining its quirky humor. Reminiscent of Fargo in some respects, many of the best films of any genre (be they thrillers, horror, or sci-fi flicks) are the stories that are more about people than just the plot.

If I had one criticism, it would be that I am not very happy with the abrupt ending. Too many movies seem to be employing this tactic lately, and I believe the only way to make an abrupt ending work is when The All-Important Viewer absolutely needs it to stop just so he/she can breathe. In CW, I got the impression that Katz felt he had accomplished his mission and simply called it a day, when in fact I would have liked to see just about 3-5 minutes more of resolution for those left standing at this film's conclusion.

All in all, Cold Weather manages to be an amusing and welcome break from the same ol' crap that we are being spoon fed these days (oh, I'm sorry, you LIKED No Strings Attached?). If you're in the mood for an offbeat, quirky, character-driven mystery, Cold Weather should make you happy.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The First Annual Hootenanny Awards, Part Trois

Greetings Cine-philes!

Why must I divide movie awards into 3 sections, you may ask? Well, to be quite frank...I don't think the current system of awarding movies is sufficient. There HAVE to be 10 Best Picture Nominees now, despite the fact that last year, for example, I couldn't name you 5 I thought to be worthy.

Star Trek? Come on now...

So, I break this down in the ways I see fit. As you may have seen, I like to discuss movies that most likely will not be discussed in any awards- and I like to give my opinions on movies that are being discussed and are, sometimes, overrated.


The Stinkies

The Did. Not. Bother. Awards-quite simply, these are movies that I did not even bother with.

1) ALICE IN WONDERLAND: This is a movie I really wanted to see. Depp as The Mad Hatter?! Yes please. But, I began hearing what I'd feared from the trailers confirmed by friends: Tim Burton has somewhat lost his ability to deliver anything but amusing visuals. I hope he finds his way back.

2) REPO MEN: Maybe this doesn't deserve a DNB Award...I actually didn't know it had been release. What happened to you, Jude Law?


4) THE LOSERS: I would have traded seeing Jonah Hex to see this, but it wouldn't really have made a difference. My life would have been equally wasted.

5) IRON MAN 2: Not many people can make lightning strike twice. And, hey, I was right in my suspicions about Transformers 2, so why bother with this...?

6) MACGRUBER: Really wanted to see. Was sorry to hear there were a total of 3 noncommital laughs to be had in this flick.

7) SHREK 4EVER AFTER: Never really got into the Shrek craze. And, from what I hear, neither did anyone else this time around.

8) SEX AND THE CITY 2: Never really got into the SATC craze. And from what I hear, there were a lot of disappointed women and gays this time around.

9) PRINCE OF PERSIA: SANDS OF TIME: Sexy people and action are not enough to make a good movie. I'm sorry, Hollywood, you still have to make it a movie worth seeing.

10) A-TEAM: Meh.

11) KNIGHT AND DAY: I mean, what more can I say? I just didn't care about this movie.

12) TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE: Have not ever, will not ever.

13) WALL ST 2...: It's sad that even Oliver Stone is fucking movies up these days.

14) THE TOURIST: If Angelina does not stop making that ridiculous sultry face, I'm going to vomit all over her foreign children.

15) LITTLE FOCKERS: Oh great! Ben Stiller AND children in a movie...what more could I possibly ask for?!?!

16) LIFE AS WE KNOW IT: Josh Duhamel, check. Katherine Heigl, check. Lack of any sort of care/concern/excitement to pay money to see them do anything on screen, check.

17) THE KARATE KID: quite possibly the most offensive re-make to surface in a loooooong time. All the studio had to do was NOT fuck up and this movie would have gone through the roof. Guess that's too much to ask...

The Final Categories

I present to you the most prestigious (or most embarassing) of the Hootenanny Awards- the Best/Worst of 2010!

The Gimme A Break Awards, presented to the Worst movies of 2010.

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE: Should have, would have, could have... But a puzzingly unfunny movie for the most part.

GROWN UPS: Occasionally funny, but only because I was stuck on an airplane.

THE WOLF MAN: Enough said.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2: As if the first one wasn't a terrible enough film with that incredibly bad awful ending, this one managed to stretch out the terrible-ness out for an entire 2 hours! Thanks a lot guys!

SHUTTER ISLAND: I know, I know, I KNOW...a lot of you suckers fell for this movie. Do yourselves a favor, read the book. See what the movie SHOULD have been.

THE WINNER: JONAH HEX--- as I mentioned before, ranks in the top 5 of worst movies I have ever seen. And I am including those awful movies they should to show on USA network's "USA Up All Night, hosted by Gilbert Godfried/Rhonda Sheer". It makes one wonder how a movie in that kind of shape can be allowed to see the light of day...

The Goodies

The Not American But Who Cares It's A Damn Fine Movie Award- also known in some circles as the Best Foreign Language Film.

EL SECRETO DE SUS OJOS (THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES)- ok, ok,'s technically a movie from 2009, but I saw this in 2010. And, it may be redundant to name the winner of the Foreign Language Oscar as earner of the Hootenanny. If you see this movie, you will completely understand why I would do so. This is a fine example of a film that pulls off, quite perfectly, 3 different genres at once: drama, romance, mystery. A feat that is often rarely executed well, this movie A retired detective searching for a purpose begins to write a novel about the one case that has haunted him and his colleagues for years. That is the simple summary. Ultimately, this story is about's about trying to correct the mistakes or missed opportunities of the past and moving on. The acting is wonderful, the pacing is wonderful and the cinematography is gorgeous. Pay attention, need to make more movies like this.

The Thank God For This Movie Award- this Hootenanny is gleefully presented to the movies that helped make 2010 a year not completely lost on cinema. I did not get to see every good movie, I admit. Consequently, some movies that were great this past year will not make the list. I apologize for that. But hopefully you will find some solace in agreeing with me on most, if not all, of the following.


it's nice to be surprised here and there. Even if only by a small thriller.

intentionally, refreshingly and unapologetically BAD. :-)

Everything kids movies ought to be...and yet still able to fulfill the adults who watch it (and make them cry).

stupid, ridiculous, childish, immature, pathetic, socially worthless...maybe. Funny as hell? Absolutely.

Ben Affleck managed to be really good in front of the camera...and yet, he proves again that his greatest talent lies behind it. Renner's great, but Affleck's direction is the standout of this "Heat"-esque heist film.

hyped for a reason. Give yourself the opportunity to see it.

When I heard they were making a movie about Facebook- even though it was Sorkin and Fincher- I had no idea how that could work. Well, bravo...they did it.

in the tradition of Rocky, this movie had a lot of heart. Didn't expect too much from this movie, but was given a lot in return.

Aronofsky is a genius. Such a creepy, moody, theatrical and yet sad story...but told so well it didn't hurt to watch as much as Requiem For A Dream.

Re-making this John Wayne classic seemed sacrilegious at first. Then, I found out it was starring Jeff Bridges. And Matt Damon. And was written and directed by The Coen Brothers. And then I relaxed. And all was right with the world...especially Bridges' performance.

Families have problems. We've all heard the story before. So it's always nice when a movie or a book or what have you manages to give us a fresh look at the troubled-family idea. Benning, Moore, Ruffalo...all really strong performances too.

solid acting and cut-to-the-chase storyline and directing make this one of the most honest and simplest stories of the year. Also, the world that was created/portrayed was one of the finest of the year. Take note, Tim Burton- story does not have to be sacrificed for atmosphere.

They just don't seem to make 'em like this anymore. 2 great actors playing extremely well off each other...and not a single explosion, or tit, or TMZ-favorite to be found anywhere near this production. Further proof that good movies should be made more often.

ok, ok...bear with me. The best movie of 2010??? Well, yes...being a truly unique story goes a long way these days. This movie may not be the wisest movie we've ever seen, and it may not have been the most well-acted of the year...BUT it certainly was a thought-provoking, head-spinning, well-done tale by all involved. It's been a really long time since I've walked out of the movie theater feeling drunk, but Inception gave me a whole hell of a lot to think about. Not to mention, it also provided a lot to appreciate. As my good friend Will pointed out today, Inception was one of the few truly original, unadapted scripts that was produced last year. Again, I say...if you just give people a little more credit, you can have a HIT that also happens to be a truly good movie.

And finally...
I'd like to recognize 2 theaters in the Los Angeles area for special Hootenanny Awards. It seems over the last 15 years, the theater experience has grown larger and more complex with each new multiplex constructed. With that, however, so have the prices. And with the competition that the movie-go'ing experience now entails, a little of the magic of going to the movies has been lost. I'd like to tip my hat to the following:

The Saddest Theater Loss
This year, the Beverly Fairfax Theater was closed and will most likely never re-open. It has existed in Los Angeles since the 1920's and was, according to an article I read, one of the first theaters in Los Angeles wired for sound. Sure, it wasn't the most luxurious of theaters over the last couple of years...but the art-deco style of the theater was most more pleasant than the bland cookie-cutter designs and garish advertisements that overwhelm moviegoers in multiplexes these days. Additionally, the BFT showed Indie films and 2nd run showings at very cheap prices ($5) matinees and ($8 at night). Not to mention, the BFT produced a very popular and kitschy Midnight Friday Series...showing movies as fun and iconic as The Goonies and Labrynth to classics like Casablanca and Psycho- movies most of never had the chance or most likely will have the chance to see in theaters. The BFT, sadly, has become the latest victim to a lack of management creativity and the power of the pursuit of the Almighty Dollar.

Best Theater in Los Angeles
While the Beverly Fairfax Theater has sadly gone away and smaller theaters in Westwood and other parts of the city await their inevitable fate of becoming fast food joints or doctor's offices, the New Beverly Cinema continues to defy all the rules of this fast-paced, consumer-driven city of LA. Bringing to the community classic, iconic movies or movies that have developed into cult classics or ones that are just plain fun, the "New Bev" runs on the love of cinema. Not to mention, the management of the New Bev also happens to be quite skilled at bringing in cast members, directors, editors and others associated with many of their films for Q&A's. And it is for these reasons, combined with their clever taste in movies, that they continue to be succesful. Drive by the New Bev on a Friday or Saturday night- or even sometimes during the week- you will see lines to get in on the good ol' plain fun that is happening inside. And, as fortune would have it, this theater's future was pulled from uncertainty by one of the greatest movie-lovers around, Quentin Tarantino. It really does warm my heart to hear that someone would put their money where their mouth is and help a business which exists only to entertain and provide enjoyment to the community. I wish the New Bev many more years of success!

Oh, and check 'em out at if you have a second. You'll probably see something you like playing soon... :-)

Well, kiddos...that's it.
I wish you all many hours of enjoyable movie watching in 2011.

See ya 'round the theater.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The First Annual Hootenanny Awards, Part Deux

Welcome back you lovely lovers of celluloid magic!

A few days ago, Nate's Verbal Hootenanny unveiled Part 1 of The First Annual Hootenanny Awards designed to honor the Best/Worst/Crappiest in Film. And I know you have all been waiting with baited breath to see PART DEUX...soooo here it is!

The Stinkies

The Most Disappointing Awards- these awards are presented to films that were extremely anticipated by me or enough people whose opinions I respect that I looked forward to them....and then turned out to be big steaming piles of horse excrement.

1) THE WOLF MAN: If you saw it, I feel for you. If you did't see it, don't. What an awful and lazy attempt at modernizing a classic horror movie. It's almost as if Universal didn't even respect their own movie enough to re-do it well... Oh, and don't're going to see this movie again on another Hootenanny Awards list that will be brought to you soon.

2) THE BOOK OF ELI: Yawn. That's all I can say. Yawn. Another prime example of Hollywood having a great premise based on very popular material and yet still managing to mess it up. It's a sad state of affairs, my friends.

3) JONAH HEX: Well, my friend Will doesn't work for DC Comics anymore so I can be completely honest when I say: Jonah Hex miiiiiiight be one of the worst things I have ever seen. I mean, I love movies and I love going to movies. Which means I've seen a lot of garbage in my life...but this ranks right up there at the top. I can't even recall the last time I've seen something that I couldn't pull one, single positive thing from. I wanted out of the theater and I want that 2 hours of my life back. Plus, swiftly kicking whoever was responsible for allowing that movie to go theaters in the condition it was in would be nice.

4) RED: In the 80s, this would have been pulled off well. Hell, even in the 90s this would have been pulled off well. But's as if someone handed the studios a gold nugget and instead of cashing it in and getting its full value, Hollywood decided to scratch its name into it and stomp on it and crush it until its potential was lost. Now, granted, this movie has its charms. Malkovich is brilliant. And Helen Mirren/Brian Cox are wonderful towards the end. But, this movie should have been SO much funnier. Just a disappointing result, that's all.

5) TRON:LEGACY: Admit it...the only good things about this movie were the score and the effects.

6) MACHETE: Great trailer in "Grindhouse", great director, great potential. Robert Rodriguez unfortunately seemed to get too excited about his "Fuck Arizona" campaign he ran with Danny Trejo as Machete and weighed his movie down with a message that, frankly, I'm sick of hearing about.

7) A NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST: Ok, first have to understand you're dealing with a man for whom the Elm St series was a rite of passage in his family. My cousin used to torture me by making me watch all of these videos...until I man-ed up and began to love them myself. Now, they are much more nostalgic and kitschy than scary, but they are still good fun. I was VERY excited for this remake...and walked out of the theater wanting to find Wes Craven, shake him and scream: "HOW COULD YOU LET THIS HAPPEN?" Apologies to my friend Dave at New Line Cinema...I know you're good at what you do, buddy, but I just have to be honest when it comes to this movie.

The Goodies

1) THE CRAZIES: Already discussed in Part 1... This movie will never win any awards, but it was definetely a fun 2 hours in the theater.

2) PREDATORS: Seeing as how there hasn't been a good movie involving a Predator since the 80s, I didn't have much hope for this film. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the unique-ness of this film...from the first body falling out of the sky all the way through the ending. Not a bad bet if you're looking for a fun movie to rent (does anyone do anything but Netflix anymore?)

3) PIRANHA 3-D: SUCH a breath of fresh air... a movie that promises you shlock and gore and tits and ACTUALLY DELIVERS. I leaned over to my friend Ryan at the very start of one scene and said with giddy excitement "Oh my god...this is going to turn into a bloodbath!" And, boy howdy, was I right! Such a ridiculous movie in all the right ways!

Individual Categories
If I had my way, this is a glimpse of how the Oscars would go down.

Ok, so I know everyone is ga-ga over Christian Bale. And deservedly so. He was brilliant. But, the performance I could not get my mind off of after I saw it was Rush's performance in "The King's Speech." Rush was so subtle and charming- his was a role that almost felt like a throwback to the charm of actors like Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. He was wonderful.

At once a hysterical charicature and deeply layered person, Leo's loud-mouthed mother in "The Fighter" walked a fine line between being despicable and extremely sympathetic. Kudos also go to actor Jack McGee as Wahlberg and Bale's father...for some reason, he has flown under the radar. His was also a big contributor to the heart of this film.

*Kudos also to Barbara Hershey in"Black Swan"'s nice to see someone do a really great job in a role that is easy to mess up after being away for long.*

BEST ACTOR: Colin Firth, with a big ol' respectful nod to Ryan Gosling
If you've seen "The King's Speech", you know why Firth is wholeheartedly deserving of this Hootenanny. A shy, somewhat embarassed but ultimately capable and worthy successor of the Throne, ya just can't help but be in love with this guy. Especially when he is so snobbily horrified by Rush's demand that he say the word "Fuck" as part of his speech therapy. Firth and Rush were certainly the best on-screen duo this year.

You know my thoughts on "Blue Valentine", but if you want to see a gifted actor doing real, raw, honest, committed work, watch Gosling in this movie. He creates a very specific character while being completely honest and drowning himself in the tragedy of this character. And as wonderful as Michelle Williams is, nominating her without him is like jelly without peanut butter. Epic Fail. Sorry, Eisenberg, you took a spot that doesn't belong to you.

BEST ACTRESS: Jennifer Lawrence
This was an extremely competitive category for me. There were some amazing performance this year by female leads. I mean, Catherine Heigl in "Life As We Know It" COME ON!!! ;-)Ultimately, though, the Hootenanny Award must go to Jennifer Lawrence in "Winter's Bone". Lawrence, who can't be any older than 23, turns in such true and simple performance that you just cannot take your eyes off of her- not even for a moment. And, as the lead of the movie, THAT is doing your job.

BEST DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofsky.
The fact that that grumpy ol' Academy did not even nominate Christopher Nolan for the year's most unique, inventine film ("Inception") is beyond absurd. Not only should he be nominated, I feel he deserves at least a share of the win- seeing as how any movie that can be so different and so unique and still be SO entertaining and gripping from one end to the other falls into the category of "well-directed". Oh...and also, anyone who can keep Leo DiCaprio from doing his usual screaming and pouting routine in a movie has real talent.

Aronofsky, by the same token, somehow made a movie out of a ballet. In this day in age, who would have ever thought that was possible? A big, huge, theatrical, almost-operatic undertaking- "Black Swan" was, at its core, really just a big look at a woman with severe emotional problems. The tragedy of Portman's character was also the heart of the movie...she was sympathetic despite being bat-shit nuts. Any movie that can succesfully keep you in the dark as to what is happening without over-manipulating you is worth an applause to the writer and director. Hence Darren A, it is with great, giddy pride that I bestow upon you and Christopher Nolan a Hootenanny apiece for your great work this year.

There it is, kiddos...
Part Deux.

Coming Soon: The final, big categories in the First Hootenanny Awards include "Best of 2010", "Worst of 2010" and the exciting category of "Did. Not. Bother" which I rip on movies I haven't even seen!!! :-)

Stay tuned film fans!

Monday, January 31, 2011

The First Annual Hootenanny Awards, Part 1

Greetings you lovely lovers of celluloid magic!!!

Nate's Verbal Hootenanny is proud to present to you the FIRST EVER
HOOTENANNY AWARDS....dedicated to honor the Best (and Worst) in Film of 2010!

Here's the deal...I love movies. Always have, always will. As a matter of fact, I love movies and acting so much I've subjected to myself to the ShitFest that is being an actor in LA for over 7 years now. haha...just kidding. Slightly.

As a lover of film, I like to see artists/films get rewarded for their work. I also think it's just as important to point out the RAMPANT amount of CRAP that is being produced these days.

Sooooo...without further adue:

The Stinkies

The "Meh" Category- films that just didn't do it for me, despite having potential/setting expectations high/what everyone else thought.

1) DATE NIGHT: with 2 of the funniest people in the country and a premise that would have worked in the 80s, there's no reason why this movie should not have been funnier.

2) GET HIM TO THE GREEK: just a ridiculous mess of a turd of a movie. Jonah...whatever his name is...belongs in that Michael Cera group of actors who have a shtick and not much else. Oh, and Russell Brand is...well, stupid. I don't mind vulgarity, but seriously...grow up.

3) DINNER FOR SHMUCKS: again, Steve Carrell=funny. It's a simple formula. Not to mention you add in a gem of a premise and WHY DID THIS MOVIE SUCK SO BAD???

4) HARRY POTTER AND THE blah blah blah: First Harry Potter movie I didn't like. I mean you can't hate a Harry Potter movie, so I didn't. I get that it's supposed to be dark and broody...but the Brits even managed to make magic boring this time around.

The Goodies:

Cheap Fun Awards- movies that will never be called great (or maybe even good) for the most part, but were worth the price of the ticket and were fun anyway. This is an honor which cannot be said for many movies today, unfortunately.

1) THE CRAZIES*- A fun, simple thriller that they managed not to mess up. Well played, sir.

2) PIRANHA 3-D*- if you haven't seen this movie, you're missing out on one of the most fun experiences of 2010. Never taking itself seriously, this movie is a hoot. A HOOT, I tell ya!!! None of you will be able to top my experience of seeing this with 15 friends in a theater in Edinburgh, Scotland after about 20 mimosas and "some other kinds of influence" while being glared at by lots of Scots that were angry with our extremely vocal reactions to this film's absuridity...but you'll enjoy it nonetheless. :-)

3) DEVIL- ok, I think this movie turned people off because M Knight Shyamalan was attached. And for that I cannot blame you. However...this movie- with a plot that is almost impossible to pull off perfectly- did a really good job of being a moody, creepy, Twilight Zone-esque tale.

4) ROBIN HOOD- a well-made action flick. Plain and simple.

5) GREASE SING-ALONG- Don't want to do it. And you know it.

6) THE LAST EXORCISM- despite an abomination of an ending, this film was effectively creepy and suspenseful. A nicely developed character played by the actor who played Prof Lasky on "Saved By The Bell: The College Years". The scariest thing about this film might be that he has not aged since that show was on, what...15 years ago?

7) JACKASS 3-D- shut you f*ing mouth. It was genuinely funny...though I almost vomited on a number of occasions. Here's the thing, though...someone somewhere is going to do a study on these guys and find out that they hold the key somewhere in the recesses of their brains that explain WHY guys do stupid shit.

Special Categories:

The Ouch Award
BLUE VALENTINE- A lot of people put this movie on their Best lists. And if you're talking about performances, absolutely. Michelle Williams has scored a well-deserved Oscar nomination. Ryan Gosling was unforgivably snubbed. More on that later... My problem with Blue Valentine is that I just couldn't take it. When watching a movie that is painful, it'd be nice to think that the characters at least have a CHANCE at being happy. That infuses the pain of what you're watching with hope...which makes the pain bearable. However, the main characters in BV NEVER, EVER seem to have a chance of making it. The few times they seem to be pulling it back together, they fuck it up. The result is a movie that, despite being made by a group of very talented individuals, feels like a 2 Hour Punch In The Stomach. I might never watch that movie again- solely because it hurts too much. Consequently, I cannot call this one of the Best of The Year.

The "I Mean...?" Award
BURLESQUE- I don't know what else to say about this movie other than "What the fuck?" It was enjoyable...but maybe that had to do with the alcohol I was consuming at the time. It was funny...but maybe that was the lesbians in the row behind me who kept hissing at Kristen Bell on-screen. It was scary...but maybe that was Cher's face. And then there was Christina Aquilera's voice- amazing as always. Which prompted my grandmother to call me and ask "Who is this girl in Burlesque?! She should be a HUGE star! She sings like Ethel Merman!!!" Gotta love my Nanna...

That's it for now, kiddos. Enjoy it...
more Hootenanny Awards to come in Part 2!!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Inevitable Loss Of Zen (A Short Story)

Our Hero ends his day at the office.

On a typical day, his exodus from His fancy Beverly Hills highrise consists of slipping in his headphones, bounding out of the office and entering the elevator without making eye contact with a single person- be they boss, assistant or janitor. Yes, it is usually a frenzied escape worthy of an Olympic sport...especially on a Friday.

But not today. No is Hump Day.

And not a thing in the world will shake Our Hero's calm today. The smile has been present to some extent or another all day- even during His boss's sudden and nonsensical shit-fit right after lunch. You see, like the myth of the rainbow, Hump Day has a Pot o' Gold waiting at the end of it: the weekly pick-up basketball game. A chance to release, to blow off mid-week steam, to create, to compete and to exercise a set of skills He possessed that are genuinely appreciated by those that play with Him.

With this in mind, Our Hero glides calmly to his car. He climbs behind the wheel of his beloved Jeep Wrangler and connects his iPod to his radio and finds a radio station with the least static to broadcast his own personal radio broadcast. Immediately, He dials his iPod to Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen The Rain"...a marriage of classic rock music taste with modern technology that almost doesn't make sense and yet makes perfect sense all in the same instant. As He winds down 12 dizzying circular levels of his parking structure and turns left onto the Beverly Hills Street that we'll just call Annoyance Avenue and towards His pickup game, Our Hero continues to grin- life is beautiful.

The Evil Spirit that is The Los Angeles Commute will never allow that belief to stand.

He turns left and, for the first time in months, catches the insanely long red light on the corner.

Funny, He thinks.

Sometime before New Year's Eve, the light turns green. And as He takes his foot off the brake, He sees that a homeless man has shuffled into the crosswalk in front of Him. Unable to go without risking collision with this frail human body, He reapplies his foot to the brake.

As if his brake and the horn of the car behind Him were linked: "Woooonnnnnnnnkkkk"- a bright black BMW (yes, it's possible) shouts at Him at the behest of its operator. Obviously not seeing the homeless man, the horn operator continues until Our Hero is finally cleared and can move forward.

Our Hero breathes. It's Hump Day...don't pay him any attention.

As if some spell has been cast, He manages to catch every single light for the next 2 miles on Typical St.

Our Hero continues to breathe and even begins rolling his neck and cracking his knuckles to maintain his stronghold on the happy place He's in. He turns The Who a bit louder.

After a while, the curse wears off and He catches 4 green lights in a row- a minor miracle in LA. But...the Spirit still has plans. No sooner has Our Hero left the zone of Persistent Red Lights than the 2 lane road narrows to one due to construction.

His knuckles clench. He knows this is not good.

And, indeed, it is not. He spends the next 33.75 minutes in the same spot. Unbelievably, He manages to be stuck in front of the only 2 people in the 13 block traffic jam that are under the false impression that car horns and the occasional call from their car windows "Come on, move it asshole!" somehow actually makes traffic move.

Suddenly, not even Pink Floyd can keep the tension at bay. His back muscles tighten again and his face gets hot.

Finally, the traffic inches bit-by-bit past the construction zone. In Los Angeles, inching is good. Forward progress is a saving grace in both traffic and football.

The road opens at long last...

But only long enough for Our Hero to pick the right lane. Of course he had to pick that lane. Why? Because He always seemed to pick the spot on the extremely rare open road behind the Ol' Bitty on the road who- despite never having Open Road in Los Angeles- drives as though she's drinking in the scenery in the countryside on a nice Sunday morning in Spring. And today was no exception. He was stuck.

He flipped his blinker to move to the opposite lane. This move seemed to offend most people- for everyone in the opposite lane (grateful for their newfound construction zone-free road) began to speed up and past him. Finally sensing his chance in between 2 well-spaced cars, Our Hero begins a dash into the lane...just as the rear car applies his gas pedal and horn with impressive synchronization. As if that were not clear enough that Our Hero wasn't welcome in this lane, Douchebag Driver #7 shouts from his window while passing:

"Don't cut me off DICKHEAD!!!"

Our Hero's place of calm is almost a memory his middle finger shoots up and out of his window. And, yet, that does nothing to get him to his game faster.

Focus, he commands himself. I'm almost late! If I'm late, they'll fill my spot with someone else at the park.


He decides Typical St is not going to be any nicer to him. So, it's time to brave the maze of side streets and residential neighborhoods that will eventually wind him up to his park.

As soon as he turns off Typical, the satisfying sounds of classic 70s-era rock suddenly give way to staticy, annoying Mariachi noise. No, he thinks. No! Come back! This is the clearest station I've ever found in Los Angeles!!!

He tries to pause his iPod while also finding a suitable station with no static or background noise which usually consisted of some foreign DJ screaming into the microphone/Baptist minister who was catching the Holy Spirit and drowning out Our Hero's beloved iPod music.

Mission: failed. In a full-on rage now, Our Hero snaps off the radio and slams on the gas pedal. Neighborhood be damned...I'm getting out of this piece of shit car and to my game in time.

Funny how things change, no?

With perhaps 10 blocks and 3 minutes to go, Our Hero dashes down Needlessly Curving Lane. He's making good time. Things are going to work. And then...

He hits a pothole. A pothole that must have been the beginnings of a major disaster-area-sized- sinkhole placed by God himself. Never in Our Hero's memory could he recall levitating in his seat while driving...but it happened after hitting this pothole. Change flew out of his change tray, the remnants of this morning's coffee spilled all over him and his messenger bag fell off the passenger seat- spilling papers and pens all over the floor of his Jeep.

Suddenly, there was a rattling coming from underneath his car. A rattling that anyone who knows cars knows can't be a good thing. Not at all. And most likely, it's a very-expensive-ruin-your-week-and-weekend-getaway-plans-not-good-thing. His face reddens, his blood boils, his hair stands up on end, his stomach tightens and he wants to snap his steering wheel in half. Until he summons all remaining strength to say:

Never mind that shit.
Almost there.
Just get there.

There it is! He can see it! The lights of the park. He applies even more pressure to the gas!

And look! From the street, He can even see The Holy Grail of Parking Spots. He NEVER gets that spot! Maybe it's not such a bad day after all!

Without slowing down, he plows into the parking lot. Victory, he exclaims.

It would have been hard to see The Dark Grey Lexus even if he'd been looking. Especially in the fading light... Indeed, Our Hero didn't truly see it until his front bumper was halfway through the car.

After the shock of the airbag deploying in his face wore off and he realized he was alive, Our Hero had only one choice:

He screamed a scream louder than any scream He'd screamed before. A deep, gutteral, soul-cleansing, and vocal chord-ripping scream that ultimately accomplished nothing except the most minute bit of stress relief.

Before getting out of His car to approach the oncoming onslaught of anger, passive aggression and insurance info exchange with the owner of The Dark Grey Lexus, the last thing He noticed was his clock:


3 minutes late to His game.

They probably had His spot filled 5 minutes ago...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Noogie's Time To Shine

So, I walked into (insert friendly neighborhood book conglomerate here) about a month ago. I had decided to treat myself to a night of walking around and finding three books to read over the next month or so for pleasure reading and know, stimulate the ol' imagination.

Apparently, that sorta thing is good for us actors or whatever...

Long story short, one book that really just jumped right off the shelves at me was a little novel called "Noogie's Time To Shine" by Jim Knipfel. Interesting title, no? Moreover, the cover art consists of a black and white of Edward G. Robinson looking as if he just got his hand caught in Al Capone's Cookie Jar.

Based on the fun title and image, I read the synopsis. The book billed itself as a lovable loser/everyday Joe Shmoe (Noogie) with an obsession for movies (specifically ol' gangster films) who pulls a Bonnie and Clyde, knocks off his company and lives his dream by going "on the lam." Immediately I get images of some ol' hefty shmuck barrelling down the highway, belly laughing hysterically, $100 bills flying out the window, his cat Dillinger clinging to the van's seats for dear life while the coppers attempt to stop him with a hailstorm of bullets. I buy it.

As it turns out, the first half of the book (aptly entitled Part One) is a very charming character study that evolves into Noogie's heist plot- which is in itself a charming storyline as Noogie never fully understands the gravity of what he is doing and is just searching for a change.

However, Part Two (DON'T READ AHEAD IF YOU PLAN ON READING THIS BOOK) - which follows a 16 page "Intermission" that is to a degree very confusing and doesn't really seem to lead anywhere- finds Noogie dead!

Dead. Yes, that's right.

And by quite possibly the MOST anticlimactic death I can imagine. The latter half of the novel completely changes perspective- the antagonist becoming a very unlikeable detective solving both Noogie's death and crime. No, wait...solving is not the right word- BECAUSE WE NEVER FIND OUT WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED TO HIM! The title character who we've all kind of fallen in love with and are rooting for has shown up dead and we don't even get the chance to "witness" it. It's certainly not a heroic death- which would be acceptable if there was tension leading up to. If the death was EARNED, which it was not.

So, not only was this novel NOT about the Regular-Joe-Turning-Butch-And-Sundance or even a heroic tragedy like "Dog Day Afternoon", it didn't even finish the story that it promised- of Noogie living out his dream of being in his own movie.

I was, in a word, heartbroken. Noogie was a GREAT character. It's one thing for him to die. Heck, in my own writings I often give my characters the axe...or I at least place them in a situation where the prospects are dim. Sometimes there are just WAY too many happy endings in the world of fiction. But ol' Jim Knipfel kinda gave us all the shaft by making him alive one chapter and then, with a turn of the page to the next, he's dead. Out of the story. 86ed. Done. Nixed. The victim in a sudden and unexciting murder investigation.

I guess my disappointment comes mainly from the potential this story had; the expectations set by the title, the cover art and the synopsis were SO high- and yet no unreasonably so. I really just want to find Jim Knipfel and ask him if I can write an alternate ending to his story, one in which maybe Noogie still doesn't live, but he at least gets The Ending his character would have wanted. A comically heroic end worthy of Cagney or Robinson. After all, who says the hero has to live? But, at least send him off with some fuckin' class!

Anyway, I needed to share this. Maybe to get me motivated enough so that I can imagine my own ending to this story. Maybe in the hopes that someone else has read this rather obscure book and can grieve with me. Or maybe so I can own my disappointment and move on to my next literary adventure.

RIP Noogie.
"Here's lookin' at you, kid."

The Gym I Go To Makes Me Want To Do Naughty Things To People

It's kinda sad when you think about it.

One goes to the gym to work on himself. To train, to sculpt one's physique, to improve one's overall health and peace of mind. While it is not necessary, the work one does at a gym is most effective if concentration on the task at hand is acheived.

That's the idea anyway...

I was at the gym today. Upon entering I was very excited to be there, to get in a good, focused work out. And no sooner had I entered this gym than I found myself walking behind and below the most gorgeous ass my eyes have seen in a while. Now, this ass was completely at eye level to me. And it was marvelous.

Suddenly, my gym experience, while ultimately still accomplishing my goal, became periodically about all the freakin eye candy! They were out in droves! Of both sexes- so a little treat for everyone I guess you could say. I don't consider myself one of those embarassingly out of place older folks who walk around the locker room naked (you know the type...the kind of people whose motives you immediately question because they're standing there in their birthday suits and yet the towel draped over their shoulder could be just as easily wrapped around their pale-as-the-driven-snow, wrinkly white asses), but looking back on today, I wonder if I am how they got their start: innocently coming to the gym to work out and being increasingly more and more distracted by all the dirty thoughts racing through their heads about the bodies and faces around them.

I had to take a cold shower when I got home. Seriously.

I mean, it is summer after all...summer usually finds me- shall we say friskier- than the rest of the year. Heat, I believe they call it. And my imagination kinda parties like it's 1999.

To all my friends: don't let me become a pervert.
I maybe have 4 years left that this story is humorous before it becomes creepy.
Thank you, that will be all.
(From an earlier blog entry on Myspace 8/5/08)