Tuesday, November 30, 2010

BuboBlog Reviews 'The Deathly Hallows: Part 1'

(One of the nice things about our family's exile in Santa Cruz is the baby sitting provided by Elliot's grandparents, also known as "Boma" and "Baba" — his highly corrupted version of their names. That allowed us to see "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" on Saturday night.)

You may have heard this movie has a slower pace than the other installments, and it's true. Ah, but what a relief. I've complained before that the previous movies feel like a highlight reel: There's so much material crammed into them, it's hard to tell if you're watching a story or just seeing plot points checked off. (Though this was really more a problem with the first five films than the sixth.)

Breaking up the last book into two films gives director David Yates the luxury of taking his time. (He also directs the final sequel.) The characters can sit and talk, have long walks, get lost and find themselves. But the slowness has a downside, which I think would be more evident to someone who never read the books: It spotlights the arbitrary and seemingly random machinations of J.K. Rowling's story.

Every problem is solved by some quirk or deus ex machina: An elf appears, a magical object exhibits some new power, or a patronus limns the way. The uninitiated must just spend the film in a perpetual state of "WTF?" For those familiar with the story, you're willing to accept the most absurd nonsense because it is written — it's in the book. The Harry Potter series inspires a biblical reverence, and in fairness, its stories are far less random than much of the bible. (Imagine if I wrote a screenplay based on Lot. I'm pretty sure the producer would make me change the part where Lot's daughters get him drunk so they can sleep with him.)

I can only speculate because I've never gone into a Harry Potter film "cold" (without reading the source material). I have known nonreaders who love the series, so I guess it works on that level. And the latest movie can't have made $219 million in the U.S. alone by appealing exclusively to fans of the books.

There is plenty to look at. The visual effects are as good as ever (Nagini still doesn't quite seem real to me, but they're getting close). I particularly liked the way they rendered the fable of the Deathly Hallows as an animated sequence — really beautiful and creepy.

Yates also did a good job playing up the irony of the trial scene in the Ministry of Magic, where a woman is hunted and tried for not being a witch. Are you listening, Christine O'Donnell?

You'll be sad to see that the broken-wand scene — the subtext of which was illuminated in this blog back in 2007 — is truncated in the film. What a missed opportunity! And yet, the sexual tension between Harry and Hermione is perhaps overdramatized in another scene. During a fantasy sequence, they're shown embracing in the nude (well, there's a lot of fog so you can't really tell). This elicited laughter from an otherwise-reserved Santa Cruz Regal Cinemas 9 audience.

Ron (played by Rupert Grint) continues to get less attractive, following the opposite trajectory of Emma Watson's Hermione. And yet, we all know they'll wind up together in the end. Perhaps that's the film's greatest implausibility.

BuboBlog Rating: 3 asterisks (out of 4).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Welcome to the Jungle

Elliot enjoys using his Colorforms-style decal set.

Unfortunately, the end result could really only be described as a massive clusterf--k.

I respect his artistic choices, but even animals need personal space — especially if you're a swallow-tailed bee-eater with your beak crammed into a giraffe's crotch.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ferrari, Santa Cruz-Style

I guess this is as close as anyone's going to get in this economy.

I'm most impressed that it's spelled correctly.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Itinerant San Franciscan: Week Two

Help! I think I'm stalking my old neighborhood.

This week I stayed in a hotel on Hallam Street, the alleyway behind Langton Street. That gave me a great view of my old life. It feels kind of creepy — like Langton Street broke up with me and now I'm lurking in a hotel watching it through a venetian blind.

I will say, this hotel is a pretty great deal. It's $47 a night (less than the Renoir). The room is perfectly adequate, and Hallam Street has pretty much zero drama (unlike Seventh and Market). The price works out to about $1,400 a month — cheaper than a lot of studio apartments in this part of town.

The awkward part is I've had to use my old bus stop to get to work, which means I run into the old neighbors. "Uh, didn't you move?" they say.

I feel like the 23-year-old guy who still goes to high-school parties.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Seeing Double Again (This Time in 3-D)

As I've discussed before, Hollywood has a habit of simultaneously releasing two movies on the same topic ("Volcano" and "Dante's Peak," "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon," "The Truman Show" and "Ed TV.")

Maybe studios have gotten better at avoiding this pitfall, because I can't think of too many recent examples. "The Illusionist" and "The Prestige" was a doozy, but that was four years ago.

Now I'm wondering if "Megamind" and "Despicable Me" fit the bill.

They're both about bald supervillains with troubled upbringings and henchmen called Minions. They both learn to become good after finding people they care about. Then they ultimately have to defeat a truly evil foe. (Not to mention the fact that the movies are both 3-D animated films.)

Also, the main characters were both voiced by actors from "Anchorman." And Kevin Bacon wasn't in either movie. [You can stop now. -ed.]

UPDATE: I forgot about another more recent example than "The Illusionist"/"The Prestige."

"Paul Blart: Mall Cop" and "Observe and Report" (both in 2009) were about as close as ideas get (even if the execution was different). I even blogged about it here. Maybe studios aren't getting any better at this.

Nicolas Cage + Hell = Box-Office Success?

I was at the Metreon seeing "Megamind" (not bad, by the way — BuboBlog Rating: 3 asterisks out of 4) when I came across this trio of posters.

Two posters featured Nicolas Cage movies with a hell-themed tagline. The other depicted the amount of popcorn it would take for these movies to be palatable.

"All Hell Breaks Loose"

"This January Raise Some Hell"

Cage is currently filming "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance," in which he battles the devil. It would be a real missed opportunity not to use another hell tagline.

Maybe "Fight like hell"?

That's almost too easy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ouch, That Hurts

Because of our unconventional housing situation, I've been spending a lot less time with Elliot than I would like.

So it was especially heartbreaking to hear the following story.

Kelly was singing "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" to Elliot. After running through many of the regular animals (cows, pigs, chickens), she asked if there were any additional animals he wanted to hear from.

He replied, "Dada."

Kelly then asked, "And what sound do Dadas make?"

Elliot thought about it and said, "Bye-bye."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Is This Really a Valid Excuse?

This elevator permit expired more than five years ago.

But it's okay because, as you can see at the top, "San Francisco is over 3 years behind schedule."

Oh wait, that still leaves two years.

Well, whatever.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Itinerant San Franciscan: Week One

This is my first week of homelessness, and I want to thank all the friends who have offered places to stay. Beware, I may come calling sometime soon.

But since we don’t have a mortgage payment this month (and lower child-care costs, since Elliot and Kelly are in Santa Cruz), I’m currently LIVING LARGE in a hotel. Look at me, I’m Eloise.

It's not exactly the Plaza, though. My residence for this week: the Renoir Hotel at Market and McAllister ($60 a night).

This is one of those great old Tenderloin hotels where you could easily see a Dashiell Hammett character staying.

Any moment I expect a shapely blonde to knock on the door and ask for help with a botched jewelry heist.

I also plan to have some kind of tussle with the hotel dick.

Check out these 1909-vintage windows. Should I really be allowed to open the window so wide on the seventh floor? This is a Conor Clapton accident waiting to happen.

I suspect that most people staying here are a bit put off by the surrounding neighborhood. There’s a strip club across the street (the one that was considered a park by the Walk Score site) and lots of drugged-out mumblers perambulating around the block. Fortunately, I know that the neighborhood’s bark is a lot worse than its bite.

The worst hassle so far is having to wait behind two meth heads in line at the Donut World. (Just choose something, damn it!) I’m guessing Dashiell Hammett never had this problem.

Goodnight Langton Street, Goodnight Moon

It’s official: We handed over the keys to our house today. With heavy hearts, our family is walking away from Langton Street — an area that’s definitely up-and-coming. I’m sad that I won’t get to see it up-and-come any longer.

We cleared out all our furniture and other things on Saturday, and had them put into storage. We were concerned that this would disturb Elliot; this is the only home he’s ever known. But when he saw the empty house, he squealed with glee as he ran around the rooms. One thing about 2-year-olds — they live in the moment.

I went out to the balcony with him one last time and watched the sun set over SoMa.

Then we looked into the sky and saw a very bright room. Elliot, who remains obsessed with the moon, was thrilled.

It was a nice way to say goodbye.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Only Unstoppable Thing...Was Their Passion

I like the photo illustration the Chronicle did for its review of "Unstoppable," an action movie about a runaway train.

With Chris Pine's face superimposed in the background and Denzel Washington staring morosely into the distance, it looks like a movie about forbidden love.

We're Just Like You...But We're Homeless

I have a sad announcement to make: We're moving out.

The looming arrival of a new baby has made our condo increasingly impractical. We love this place, but it has a quirky layout consisting mostly of stairs. Also, only one room has a door.

Having two kids in a two-bedroom apartment isn't necessarily a big problem. But here, the newborn would be in our bedroom, while Elliot would be four flights of stairs away, possibly pushing the furniture out the window.

So we made the difficult decision to put our place on the market, even if it meant leaving the best-watched neighborhood in the city. As it turns out, it sold fairly quickly — a little too quickly.

Now we have to move out tomorrow and have nowhere to go. I believe Crystal Waters summed up our situation best.

Don't worry, we'll make it work. Kelly and Elliot will go stay in Santa Cruz, while I couch-surf in the city and look for a laborer bunkhouse in Chinatown. I hope to send for my family when I get settled.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Watch Out Now

The Roman poet Juvenal famously asked, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" — or, "Who will watch the watchers?"

I don't know the answer to that, but I can tell you who watches the 100 block of Langton Street. The best neighborhood watch group in San Francisco, that's who!

We just found out that our neighbors' organization was named "Best Neighborhood Watch Group of 2010" by Neighborhood Empowerment Network. There's going to be a ceremony at City Hall and everything. In other words, we are WATCHING THE CRAP OUT OF THIS NEIGHBORHOOD, folks.

A few years ago, our street was strewn with trash and graffiti. But since our group started meeting, we have: (1.) gotten trash collectors to change their pickup time so as to reduce the buildup of garbage (2.) restored our mural (3.) held the street's first block party and (4.) planted trees.

The accolades are much deserved. And I plan to gloat the next time we encounter our arch rivals: the 300 block of Minna Street. What a bunch of chumps.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Muni and Children: What's the Etiquette?

As anyone who's ridden Muni knows, the front seats are reserved for senior citizens and persons with disabilities. But there's no mention of people carrying small children.

Pregnant women are given preference, but that's because they could qualify under the "persons with disabilities" category. Small kids seem like a gray area.

Whenever I get onto a crowded bus with Elliot, several people usually offer their seats to me. I'm definitely grateful for that — especially because I'm not sure they need to. I mean, Elliot's old enough to stand on his own two feet (even if he risks getting crushed during the usual exodus at Third Street).

I also wonder if people are cutting me a wider berth because I look like a bumbling dad. If so, I don't need your charity, people!

So the question is: Should small children get dibs on the front seats? And if so, how do they fit into the hierarchy? For instance, do they trump a fairly spry 70-year-old?

UPDATE: You can now follow this debate on the Muni Diaries site.

The consensus seems to be that kids lose their privileges as soon as they can ride the pole. (I'm not sure what kind of message that sends.)

Sunday, November 07, 2010

It Says 'Fur Real'...But Not Really, Right?

Considering the panda's endangered-species status — along with the broader stigma of any kind of fur product — it seems odd to market this toy as "Fur Real."

It was pretty soft, though.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Jerry Brown Time Machine: Then and Now

When Jerry Brown was elected governor this week, he set a record for the longest period of time between terms of office.

To get a sense for how long it's been since his last go-round, consider what the world was like when Jerry Brown first took office in January 1975.

Riding Muni cost 25 cents.

Forty-one percent of televisions sold that year were black-and-white. Remote controls were extremely rare and relied on ultrasonic frequencies, rather than infrared.

Apple and Microsoft didn't exist.

The 49ers had never won a Super Bowl, or even a conference championship.

Muhammad Ali was heavyweight champion of the world.

The No. 1 song was Elton John's cover of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." (It got bumped the following week by Barry Manilow's "Mandy.")

"Jaws" and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" were released later in the year, becoming two of the highest-grossing pictures.

The highest-rated TV show was "All in the Family."

California had about 22 million residents, compared with roughly 38 million today. About 215 million people lived in the United States (now it's almost 311 million).

Dmitri Shostakovich, Thornton Wilder, Howlin' Wolf, Agatha Christie, Vladimir Nabokov, Groucho Marx, Maria Callas, Charlie Chaplin and Elvis Presley were still living.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was preparing to compete in the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding championship. He went on to win a sixth consecutive title that year (Lou Ferrigno was a finalist).

Barack Obama (then known as Barry) was attending middle school in Hawaii.

Jerry Brown was 36.

I had barely started walking; my wife wasn't born.

UPDATE: I thought of a couple more good ones.

In 1975, the California budget was $10.3 billion. The latest state budget, which passed last month, was $86.6 billion.

Though touch-tone phones debuted in the 1960s, rotary dials were still far more common in 1975.

The March of Progress?

It used to be that I would get my Muni Fast Pass in the mail every month from WageWorks. I would open the envelope, study that month's color choices and discuss with Kelly whether the hues were pleasing. Then I would put it in my wallet and ride transit all month — no problems.

Now they're phasing out Fast Passes. So I've been mailed a WageWorks credit card that I have to activate, as well as a Clipper pass that also needs to be activated. Then I have to get money from one to the other. And if I use the Internet to transfer the funds, it takes three business days to process. (Isn't the Internet supposed to be instantaneous?)

Maybe I've officially become an old man, but this innovation seems less convenient. I miss my Fast Pass!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Unintended Billboard Mashup

When you go down Eighth Street from Market, you see a billboard on either side of the street.

Occasionally they coordinate the billboards to create one advertising message. That's what Kaiser Permanente set out to do with these ads.

Unfortunately, they replaced the left billboard without replacing the right one.

So then it read: "Nowhere is safe...not unlike the place she came from."

Well, that's a terrible message!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

It's an Orange World Tonight

Congratulations to the Giants on winning their first World Series in San Francisco. The city's 52-year drought is over.

On the way home from work I stopped by the Civic Center, where a huge crowd had gathered to watch a live telecast of the game. When Edgar Renteria hit the game-winning home run, the roar was as loud as at any ballpark.

I'm not sure these signs were necessary, especially since no one harbored much ill will toward the Rangers (especially near the end). Way to keep it classy, KMEL.

When I got home, I tried to impart the thrill of the victory to Elliot. I wasn't very successful, though he was excited to see all the helicopters in the sky and hear all the honking. Apparently he thinks the post-game rioting is the best part (is he a Raiders fan?).

UPDATE: I came across this video of the moment of victory from a YouTube user called Jimmy Bondo. (I set the video to start right before the final out of the game.)

It's kind of trippy, but mainly because the camera he used wasn't very good.