Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Burn After Reading - A Movie Review

This is how we felt at the end of Burn After Reading.  But we laughed even harder - nearly fell off the chair.

We've been fans of the Coen Brothers who have a penchant for writing bizarre, off-kilter comedies about ordinary numnuts, noodniks and knuckleheads who turn to crime.  The would-be criminals do not succeed.  But Joel and Ethan do.  

Rather than talk about the plot - you can read about that in Rotten Tomatoes or Roger Ebert's column - we're more intrigued with style.  The Coens start with the style of a screwball comedy with sharp-witted dialogue, irony, and well-developed characters.  Even the bit-players are caricatures with exaggerated personality traits.  I don't think we are meant to identify with these characters, or to derive insight into human nature from them.  I think we are just meant to enjoy their quirkiness.

Burn After Reading seems to complete the trilogy of George Clooney as goofball.  He's suckered his buddy Brad Pitt into being a dim-wit too.  Who knew Brad Pitt was such a versatile actor? It's a long way from A River Runs Through It or Legends of the Fall to the slow-witted personal trainer at the Hardbodies gym.

About Coen Brothers films...A friend asked us how we liked their 1996 movie Fargo.  We said we loved it.  You betcha.  What he meant to ask was "Will I like it?"  The answer would have been no.  His tastes ran more towards mainstream movies not quirky little comedies.  So, be forewarned - this is a typical Coen Brothers extravaganza.  Only you know whether that means you will walk away holding your sides from laughter or with a deer-in-the-headlights dazed look.

Other Coen Brothers movies:
Blood Simple (1984)
Raising Arizona (1987)
Miller's Crossing (1990)
Fargo (1996)
Big Lebowski (1998)
O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000)
The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
No Country For Old Men (2007)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Raise Your Glasses...

In Four Weddings and a Funeral, Hugh Grant's character is a sweet and lovable bumbling bloke who awkwardly delivers a toast at a wedding.  This has inspired many a best man to think he too can bumble through the toast and that everyone will laugh on cue.  Well...not really. Hugh Grant was a well-rehearsed actor, speaking from a well-honed script, to a room full of actors who were paid to laugh on cue.

We've filmed and edited a fair number of toasts in our time.  Since we see each toast many times while editing it we have a unique viewpoint.  We thought we'd pass along some observations about some toasts that stand above the rest.

The best toasts come from the heart. This takes real courage.  These toasts are full of truth and sometimes give voice to thoughts and feelings that have never been spoken.  We remember a father telling his son for the first time in his life that he was proud of his accomplishments. We've seen one brother tell his brother the groom that he was grateful for all the times the groom fought off the grade school bullies, that he had always looked up to the groom and only wished he could be half the man his brother was.  And we've seen grooms eloquently express their respect, gratitude and love for their brides.  There's nothing quite as endearing as a man declaring his love for his wife in front of a room full of family and friends.

The best toasts are well prepared and well rehearsed.  No one, not even a professional public speaker, can reliably deliver a great speech extemporaneously.  When the toaster is familiar with what he is going to say, he can say it with ease, in a relaxed way, often with humor.   The consequence of poor preparation is rambling--how boring!  

The best toasts are brief.  It is much harder to be succinct, but the reward is often a more powerful message.

The best toasts focus on the bride and groom, not the toaster.

The best toasts wish the couple well.

The best toasts have humor in good taste.

The best toasts come from people who are sober.  Being tipsy can make you think everything you say is funny even though no one else does.

Grooms ask "Do I have to give a toast?"  It's not required, but it is gracious.  
"What do I need to say?"  Three things, in your own words:
1.  Thank you all for coming.  We appreciate the effort it took for you to be with us.  You have contributed to our joy on this day.
2.  My wife and I would like to thank our family and friends for everything they have done for us.  But most of all, we'd like to thank our parents for giving us such perfect role models for how to nurture a long and happy marriage, and love each other every day.
3.  A personal message to your bride:  Thank you for making me the happiest man in the world today.  There is no one else on earth with whom I would rather spend the rest of my life. Would you all please raise your glasses to toast my beautiful bride.

Monday, September 15, 2008


What is beauty?  Wikipedia says it is a characteristic of a person, place, object or idea that provides an experience of pleasure.  Often beauty is open to interpretation -- "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."  Many have written about it, trying to capture its elusive nature.

"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it."

"In every man's heart there is a secret nerve that answers to the vibrations of beauty."
---Christopher Morley

"When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other."

Everyone enjoys seeing beauty, however we define it.  Of course the flowers, cake, venue and scenery at a wedding are all very beautiful.  But the greatest beauty we see at weddings is the image of the bride reflected in the eyes of the groom.  And sometimes we even catch a glimpse of beauty as the father of the bride looks adoringly at the mother of the bride as though it was their own wedding.

For the less romantic,  the sensations of love and beauty can be explained in terms of chemistry.  During the first stages of falling in love, phenylethylamine can be triggered by a meeting of the eyes or a touch of the hands resulting in sweaty palms and shaky knees. Chocolate is known to have very high levels of this chemical.  Maybe this is the stuff of which love potions are made.  

After infatuation subsides, endorphins take over.  This is what makes a relationship warm, dependable, calm, stable.  This is what makes you yearn for someone when they are away.  This is one reason why people stay married.

It's not surprising that we seek endorphins wherever they may be -- they just feel so good. That's why "All the world loves a lover."  Because their endorphins are spilling out and we are the beneficiaries.

So, what has inspired me to wax poetic about beauty?  Loyal readers may have noticed our blog is a little more beautiful.  My good and talented friend Stacie Tamaki, the wonderful web designer of Girl Goes Geek redesigned the blog and brought a little more beauty to the world. Thank you so much Stacie!

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Who among us couldn't do with a little more calm and relaxation in their lives?  

While researching how to eat healthier, I came across several articles about the benefits of green tea.  I was intrigued enough to start searching for the green tea with the best nutrients.  But on the way, I found that selecting, preparing and enjoying green tea had another benefit - restful mind and relaxation.

There is an optimal way to prepare each tea.  The cup should be warmed, the water should be a certain temperature, the leaves should be steeped for only a few minutes.  I thought this would be a lot of trouble, but I find it is relaxing to take a break in the day, turn my attention to nourishing myself with anti-oxidants and relaxing my mind by enjoying the aroma, the texture and the taste.  

Green teas are a lot like fine wines.  Certain growing regions have a well-deserved reputation for producing the finest teas, there are subtle variations depending upon soil and weather conditions, and the expensive 'reserves' are substantially better than an every day 'red table wine'.

My good friend Stacie knows I'm interested in green tea, so she surprised me with the gift of a canister of Ryokucha from Samovar Tea Lounge.  When she brought it over, we brewed up a pot and shared some time together. What a beautiful green color!  As with wines, there are adjectives that describe green tea.  Some that came to mind for this green tea were grassy, smooth, sweet.  And, all the sweeter because I had a friend to share it with.

If you are cold, tea will warm you.
If you are too heated, it will cool you.
If you are depressed, it will cheer you.
If your are excited, it will calm you.
---William Gladstone

Monday, September 01, 2008


I feel the need for speed.  

That's how our nephew Nick must feel.  He is among the top 100 cyclists in the country in his age group and was invited to participate in the U.S. National Cycling Championships in Los Angeles last month.  We were thrilled to be there to see him, his team, and all the racers compete.

Here's a 90-sec piece describing how it felt to be a spectator.  First there was the anticipation at the start, then there were 30 grueling laps.  The riders flew by in a matter of seconds, and then there were long stretches of time when you were waiting for them to come around again. And then there was the excitement at the finish as the peleton tried to catch the leaders.