Monthly Archives: October 2007

“The Orphanage”

Though it doesn’t come out here until sometime late in December, in the interest of all things spooky and Halloween-ish, I wanted to share with you my thoughts on one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen — and I’ve seen plenty o’ scary flicks in my day — the Spanish-language thriller, “El Orfanto” (The Orphanage).

“The Orphanage” screenshot!

Produced by “Pan’s Labyrinth” director, Guillermo Del Toro and masterfully directed by Spanish music video director Juan Antonio Bayona, the film is, hands down, one of the best movies we’ve seen this season. And not only is it a fantastic movie, but it is also absolutely horrifying.

OK, I know what you’re thinking: “Tom thinks everything is scary.” And, well…I do. But this movie really is terrifying! I actually screamed out loud (at a screening!) twice. Christine was mortified, but so scared herself that I don’t think she really noticed.

Though the visuals here are just as lush and creepy as anything you’d encounter in “Pan’s Labyrinth”, the real star of “The Orphanage” are the sound effects. Reminiscent of the truly spooky soundtrack in Robert Wise’s similarly-claustrophobic “The Haunting” (1963), the strange creaks and moans of the orphanage itself are positively spine-tingling.

Yes, I said spine-tingling with a straight face, and that’s because they are!

“The Orphanage” screenshot II!

We were so unnerved by the soundtrack that we were both literally squirming in our seats. Seriously, I haven’t heard sound-editing like this since those kick-ass canon balls blasted through the hull of the ship in “Master and Commander”. And they won an Oscar for those!

Without giving too much away, “The Orphanage” is about a husband and wife (the super hot Belén “The Sea Inside” Rueda) who move with their young son into an abandoned orphanage in a remote seaside village in Spain. Abandoned orphanages? Remote seaside villages? Subtitles? Scary enough on their own, right? Well, just wait, because as you can imagine, it’s all downhill from there.

So, mark you calendars — “The Orphanage” opens in limited release on December 28th — brush up on your Spanish, and girder your loins, because this art house thriller will scare the living crap out of you!

Oh yeah, and Happy Halloween!

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Christine’s Creepy Cupcakes!

Hey everybody, Farmer’s Daughter (aka Christine) here. Before I begin my first post, let me explain something about my new user name. Our friend Justin, who used to be impressed if I boiled water correctly, began calling me farmer’s daughter every time I did anything remotely domestic. And since Yeti9000 was taken, I guess the name kind of stuck.

Most of you know how much I love to bake, so when I heard they were having a Scary Dessert contest at the LAPL Halloween party on Saturday, my heart started to race. I was immediately full of ideas and couldn’t wait to start baking.

Farmer’s Daughter mummy & monster cupcakes!

I decided on cupcakes (I know, shocking!) and looked to an old issue of Martha Stewart’s Kids magazine for inspiration. I decided to do mummies with a yellow cake and monsters with chocolate (both baked from scratch of course!), using a cream cheese frosting.

Although next time, I would probably use a butter cream frosting because it holds its shape way better than cream cheese.

Close-up on my mummy cupcakes!

The mummies were VERY time consuming, so as you can see, I only made six of those, and the rest were monsters with green frosting.

Unfortunately, we were running late (no surprise there, except that it was my fault this time!). So by the time we got to the party, they had already judged the desserts. My friend Dora, one of the young adult librarians and the head judge, was nice enough to give me an honorable mention. Thanks, Dora!

But had we gotten there earlier, I’m sure my cupcakes definitely would have made at least 2nd place, probably 1st if they tasted them too! I’m sorry, but some of those deserts were seriously lacking, although the first and third place entries were pretty cool looking.

First place cupcakes @ the LAPL Halloween Party!

The 3-D first place cupcakes are shown above, but the real gross-out star of the contest was the kitty litter cake (served with a litter scoop from an actual litter box, below) which took third place.

Yuck, I don’t know how anyone could eat that!

Second place kitty litter cake @ LAPL Halloween Party!

My cupcakes proved pretty popular though and I was happy to notice that they were the only one’s completely gone at the end of the night. So, yeah!

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Porter Wagoner (1927-2007)

After a long battle with lung cancer, pioneering country music legend and Nudie-suit-rocking bad ass, Porter Wagoner died Sunday in Nashville, TN at the age of 80. Recently celebrating his 50th year with the Grand Ole Opry, Wagoner kept a pretty full performing schedule right up till the end.

Porter Wagoner onstage!

This past summer alone he performed dozens of times at the Opry — we’re still kicking ourselves for having missed him onstage with Loretta Lynn the day before we arrived in Nashville, urgh! — played to a sold-out crowd at Silverlake’s swinging Safari Sam’s (where we managed to miss him AGAIN!) and even opened for his longtime fans, the White Stripes, at Madison Sqaure Garden! Wow! Not bad for a sick old dude.

But Wagoner’s flashy tenacity is what made him who he was. Never one to stay down for long, he recovered from some pretty dark times — the devastating artistic split with his protege, Dolly Parton, the loss of his show, bankruptcy, and near total Nashville obscurity in the late-1980’s — with a gritty, old-school country style that was all his own.

Like Johnny Cash before him, Porter Wagoner didn’t bitch and moan when things got rough, he simply wrote a cool, bleak-ass song about it. Yee-haw!

We discovered Wagoner’s music when we got really into Dolly (her classic “I Will Always Love You” was written for him after their bitter split in the 1970’s) and have remained fans ever since.

Porter, Mel Tillis & Dolly on the set of The Porter Wagoner Show!

Speaking of Dolly, she and Porter reconciled their differences — she felt he used her songwriting talents to further his own career and kept her from pursuing one of her own while on his show, which, he probably did — years ago, and have remained good friends. According to several sources, she visited him just a few days ago in the hospital to say goodbye. Very sweet.

I could go on and on, but probably the best way to truly appreciate the genius of Porter Wagoner is to listen to his music for yourself. His final CD, this year’s Marty-Stuart-produced masterpiece, “Wagonmaster” is fantastic and a fitting final tribute to Wagoner’s true grit brand of country.

And though all of his many duets with Dolly are amazing, our favorite is the twangy, banjo-strumming classic, “Please, don’t stop loving me”. Trust me, even non-country fans will dig this song!

A young Porter Wagoner in Nashville!

To read more about the life and legend of Porter Wagoner, check out the LA Times obituary at: “Porter Wagoner, 80; Star of Grand Ole Opry” or the rocking video clips posted on the Grand Ole Opry’s website at: Opry News.

Say howdy to the rest of the folks up in “Hillbilly Heaven” for us, Porter. We’ll miss ya.

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Halloween on Dagobah!

Saturday night, Christine and I attended a massive LAPL (Los Angeles Public Library) Halloween party at the Central Library in downtown L.A..

Although technically not city employees, Christine and her staff (who work for the Library Foundation) usually crash these shindigs since her store is located inside the Central Branch.

Christine as Master Yoda!

And what a party it was! Not nearly as crowded as the LAPL’s annual Christmas bash, the turnout of costumed Library staffers (from every branch in L.A. county!) was still pretty damn spectacular. But most impressive of all was Christine’s hand-made Master Yoda costume!

Working without a pattern (s0mething she hates!) Christine crafted her headpiece and ears from one of my old Yoda-colored sweatshirts.

Christine in full-on Yoda mode!

Using pipe cleaners and batting to fill the ears, she then knit them onto a simple white headband ($3.99 @ Target!) tucked under the headpiece and pulled the ears through two small slits in the fabric.

Aside from the make-up (two shades of green for $4.99 a piece @ the rocking Cinema Secrets nearby) and the dark cloak underneath (which is a monk costume we bought at Party America for $14.99) everything else Christine wore was handmade, including her awesome, full-length Jedi cloak!

Yoda waits for no man!

It took kind of a YEAR to make, but as you can see, the results are, in the words of Lord Vadar himself: “Most impressive.”

In keeping with the “Star Wars” theme, I wore the super styling Anakin Skywalker costume Christine made me (once again, from scratch!) for Halloween 2005.

Yoda & Anakin!

Sadly, we didn’t win any awards in the costume contest — a Simpsons family in cheesy store-bought masks won first place! Huh? — we were pretty stoked with the way our handmade duds turned out and had a Jedi-tastic time at the party.

And though our filmic counterparts never actually battled one another onscreen, our Yoda and Anakin did manage to squeeze in a kick-ass “Duel of the Fates” on the steps outside the Getty Gallery.

Yoda & Anakin duel to the death!

But the best part of all was when Christine started quoting Yoda (accurately and in Yoda-speak!) on the car ride home, wow, what can I say…I never loved that little green-faced woman more!

The Force will be with her…always.

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“Twin Peaks”/”My So-Called Life”

After more than a decade of cruel indifference, the DVD Gods have finally answered our prayers with the complete-series release Tuesday of not one, but two of our favorite TV shows of all time: “Twin Peaks” and “My So-Called Life”!

These ABC classics weren’t just super cool, award-winning shows with some of the finest writing and acting ever to grace a small screen, but for many of us, these shows totally defined our viewing habits for huge chunks of the 1990’s. Well, actually just three seasons…combined, but it felt like longer.

Laura Palmer “Wrapped in plastic!”

In our pre-Tivo college days, we would actually plan our Saturday night partying around “Twin Peaks”. Seriously, I remember more than one drunken brawl coming to a crashing halt at 10 o’clock so we would all sit and watch TV for an hour. Geeky? Sure. But trust me, even the non-fans watched the show with us in stunned silence. Yes, it was that good.

Then, midway through the second season, “Twin Peaks” well, peaked, with one of the darkest, scariest scenes in network TV history, the murder of Laura Palmer’s look-alike cousin, Maddie. Graphic, profoundly disturbing and truly shattering in it’s implications for everyone in town, the murder also revealed once and for all the identity of Laura Palmer’s killer.

For the one or two of you out there who didn’t watch, I won’t spoil it for you by giving away the name of the killer, but needless to say, that episode remains one of the finest things David Lynch has ever directed. And being hard-core Lynch fans from way back, that’s saying a lot in our book!

Unfortunately, the subsequent episodes in season two took a turn for the worse, quickly nose-diving into sad self-parody, (you hear that “Heroes”?) and the show died a couple months later at the bottom of the ratings heap.

The DVD has tons of cool extras and also includes — for the first time on these shores — the racier foreign version of the two-hour pilot. So, I say buy it for the first season and a half, devour all the extras, then skip past the Diane-Keaton-directed (I know…’nuff said!) second half of season two to re-watch that creepy-ass series finale with Heather Graham and that spooky giant: “Where’s Annie? Where’s Annie?’ Yikes, that still scares me!

“My So-Called Life” DVD set!

Capturing the tail end of the waning grunge movement, “My So-Called Life” had a much shorter run and never really hit it as big (ratings-wise) as “Twin Peaks” but nevertheless remains one of the best, most heartfelt TV shows of all time.

Beautifully written by co-creator Winnie Holzman — who I have met and totally embarrassed myself in front of with my lavish praise of her “wordsmithery”, at least twice — the show is painfully honest in it’s depictions of teen angst.

But our favorite episodes were those where the problems that Angela (Claire Danes, who should have stayed on TV since her movies suck ass) and her friends faced at school mirrored those of her parents (a superb Tom Irwin and Bess Armstrong). Subtle, honest and truly nuanced stuff. Amazing!

Unlike the shabby, extra-free DVD release a few years back (sorry James!), this set comes loaded with commentaries, new interviews with the cast and creators, and a booklet whose contents reduced one L.A. Times reviewer to tears. Wow! I can’t wait to read that!

But weepy extras or not, the heart of the show remains that incredible voice over. Claire Danes didn’t just read those lines, she WAS Angela Chase and for one brief, shiny season, so were we…

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Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker!

Earlier this year we dog-sat one weekend for our vacationing friends, fellow Burbank-dwellers Nic and Dan. And even though the unfettered access to their washer and dryer and premium cable channels — we caught up on “Entourage”,”Big Love” and finally watched the May-December soft-core classic “White Palace” in its entirety! — was payment enough, they recently gave us another, even cooler gift…the Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker!

Our new Red Hot Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker!

Available exclusively in the U.K. and Ireland “at all good cookshops, department stores and variety stores”, the Flavour Shaker is the patented invention of our favorite MALE English chef, Jamie Oliver. Since Nic is English, she had her mum (thanks, mum!) pick one up for us at Sainsbury’s (which sounds kind of like the Whole Foods of England).

Since we’ve hungrily eyed the Flavour Shaker at Amazon UK a few times over the years, you can imagine our excitement when Nic presented Christine with the super cool red (it’s called “Red Hot”) Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker. Nic joked that we are probably the first people in America to have one. I don’t know if that’s true, but I’d bet money we’re the only folks in Burbank with a Red Hot Flavour Shaker! Who-hoo!

And as you can see from the picture below, even our new kitty Nigella — named for Jamie’s uptown rival, our favorite FEMALE English chef, Nigella Lawson — appreciates Jamie’s Flavour Shaker. Wow!

Even Nigella likes Jamie’s Flavour Shaker!

Though we haven’t actually used it yet, the directions are quite simple. Plop in your whole and hard ingredients (cloves, seeds, garlic, etc.) and drop in the included ceramic ball. Screw the two halves of the shaker together and shake it vigorously or as Jamie would say “give it a right good bashing”. Once everything is ground to your liking, add the dry ingredients (cumin, paprika, tumeric, etc.) and give it another shake.

The last step is to add any liquid ingredients (oils, creams, whatever) shake it hard and then scoop out the mixture with the trademarked Flavour Shaker Spoon (also included). Wow, not only is it really cool looking, but it’s also a breeze to use or, as Mr. Oliver would say: “Easy peasy!”

Thanks again to Nic and Dan for the awesome gift. Can’t wait to use it! For more information (including a funny “how to” video) or to purchase a Flavour Shaker of your very own, check out Jamie’s super cool Flavour Shaker site at: http://www.flavourshaker.co.uk/default.aspx

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WGA Strike Authorization Vote

Late Friday night, the Writers Guild of America voted overwhelmingly to approve a strike authorization vote. In a stunning blow to the AMPTP (the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers — basically the major studios and networks) a whopping 90.3% of the 5, 507 WGA votes cast (in a record turnout, by the way!) were in favor of authorizing a strike. By any standard, that is a pretty major majority!

WGA Unity Rally, September 2006

Now, despite the doom and gloom headlines that have been bouncing around the internet and newspapers all week long, this does NOT mean that the WGA will go on strike. It simply means that we (the members of the WGA) have authorized our leaders to strike when and if they deem it necessary anytime after our contract with the AMPTP expires on October 31st.

But more importantly, what this vote does is it tells the AMPTP that we are totally unified in our support not only for our leaders (led by our recently-re-elected president, Patric Verrone — a writer for “The Simpsons” and “Futurama” and a total bad-ass negotiator!) but for the very reasonable demands we are making from the multi-national conglomerates that basically run the industry nowadays. It’s simple really, pay us a decent wage for the reuse of our work in every format and platform available (webisodes, cell phone ringtones, whatever) or we’ll walk.

The way it usually works is that every three years the WGA and the AMPTP hammer out an agreement called the MBA: Minimum Basic Agreement. The MBA sets up minimum pay schedules for every kind of writing you can imagine (news, radio, TV, film) and generally the minimums go up a little bit each time we negotiate. But this time the negotiations are totally different, and a big reason for that is the internet.

The total explosion of internet broadcasting and the subsequent re-playing (for free!) of WGA written material online since the last MBA was ratified has been almost startling, so the WGA in partnership with our brothers and sisters at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Directors Guild (DGA) have decided that now is the time to address the issue of actually getting paid when our shows run (or re-run) on the internet.

WGA Unity Rally for “America’s Next Top Model”, September 2006

We’re not asking for zillions of dollars here, just a simple pay schedule that we can all agree to — similar, but hopefully better, than the one’s already in place for DVD and cable — that will pay us residuals (and contribute to our health and benefits plan) any time our work is rebroadcast on the internet. The AMPTP, however, refuses to even discuss the issue and is urging all three guilds to allow them to study the issue of internet profitability for the next three years and revisit the issue at the next MBA discussions in 2010.

Yes, you heard me right, the networks and studios want to study the issue of internet profitability. The studios claim that they don’t make any money off the internet yet. Well, excuse my French, but what a load of crap!

Anyone who’s ever viewed an episode of “Alias” or “Lost” (or whatever show you dig) online knows that you cannot fast forward through the ads embedded in the online version of the show. Yes, ads. And unless the network is running those ads for Sprint (or whoever) for free, then, by golly, they’re making some money off the internet. To paraphrase Edward G. Robinson: “Where’s your Moses now, AMPTP?” I mean, come on, for them to cry poor to us about the internet (while touting it as their highest growth sector to their investors!) is just plain shitty.

The main reason the WGA is so pissed off is that back in the mid-80’s when home video was just starting out, the AMPTP asked us to give them a break on residuals. They claimed they didn’t know where this new format was going (and in reality, who did back then?) and that if we took a greatly reduced rate of pay for home video residuals, they would revisit the issue once this whole VCR thing took off. So, we agreed to take four cents a tape. Four cents! And then, guess what happened, VCRs and movies on tape (and later, DVD) exploded and the AMPTP said that since we already had a deal in place, they would not revisit the issue again. Hello, lie much?

So, basically, the WGA got screwed big time back in the day and swore that if something like that ever came up again, they’d fight harder for a fair deal — something we wouldn’t end up regretting 20 years down the road — and now, that time is here…

WGA Unity Rally @ The Grove, September 2006

The internet is changing every second so even if you did a three year study now, by the time it was completed, it would be totally outdated. I mean, come on, play fair here guys. I think the most galling thing I heard at a recent WGA pre-vote meeting is that the guys who make the plastic for DVD boxes get nine cents a disc. More than twice what we get, and without us they wouldn’t need to make the damn box to begin with! Crazy!

Anyway, there are a number of other issues (increasing the payment for cable and “netlets” like the CW, WGA health and benefits coverage for animation and reality show writers, etc.) on the table as well, but for me, the most pressing of them all is the internet. And if the AMPTP can’t suck it up and offer us a better deal, then I have a very strong feeling I’m gonna be hitting the streets with mis hermanos come November 1st. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want a strike, no one does, but if it comes to that, I really think — and judging by the outcome of the strike authorization vote, I am not alone — that this is the right time and the right reason to take a stand.

I know I probably sound like Norma Rae standing on a chair with a “Union” sign, but I just wanted to fill you in on what’s happening down here before the streets of Burbank start running red with the blood of the AMPTP infidels!

Of course, that would be movie blood…not real blood. Unless I get like, a paper cut from one of the picket signs or something. Anyway, que viva la WGA!

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