Wednesday, January 28, 2009



I enjoyed tonight's episode of "Lost" much more than the Season Premiere. For a moment there I thought we were even going to see the ELUSIVE smoke monster! I love everything to do with Richard and his permanently eye lined eyes. He seems to keep the show a bit grounded amidst all of the crazy side-stories and new characters. He is like a beacon, a lighthouse that makes us feel as if yes, we are back on our old island. The island of the others, and polar bears, and strange 70's instructional videos. Not this NEW island with all these brand new people who act like they own the place. While Kate and Jack and Hurley and Sayid, all the best people, are stuck back in L.A. wearing normal, non-tight and non-sweaty clothing and bathing and shaving and stuff. Its just a lot to deal with after all of these years. So its nice to know that Richard is there. He's our constant. Funny side note, if you google Richard Alpert you find out that there is a very real person who has this same name who worked alongside the likes of Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg. He now calls himself Ram Dass. Coincidence?


Time for another everyday, affordable wine review. Tonight its the 2007 "Le Jaja de Jau," a Syrah that hails from the Pays d'Oc region of Southwestern France. This wine and I go way back, I've been drinking it for years and it is consistently decent. It is also, consistently around $10, which is pretty impressive given the way most wines have been creeping up in price. This is not a heavy Syrah at all, it is light and juicy. On the nose you get some grapey fruit with an underlying earthiness. The palate continues on with purple berries mixed in with a bit of black pepper. The finish is nice, with light tannins and a lingering bit of fruit. Great for a party or a barbecue where there are a lot of different foods being served. A wonderful bottle for the price if you can find it!

-by the way, this is our new rating system, I think
it's pretty self-explanatory.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009


With the Oscars right around the corner we are doing our best to see ALL of
the nominated movies within the next few weeks. Today we saw "Happy Go Lucky," a whimsical comedy about a single 30 year old woman in London who refuses to grow up and be serious. The lead role is wonderfully portrayed by Sally Hawkins, who keeps the character bubbly and funny without ever stepping into the realm of the annoying. Hawkins recently won the Golden Globe for this role and the film is up for Best Screenplay at the Oscars. The story itself defies any sort of textbook movie formula. It is more of a loving portrait of a child-like woman and her friends, following them through their normal day-to-day activities. Their is no real jeopardy, nor any real obstacles to overcome. The drama in the movie deals with Poppy's relationship with her curmudgeonly driving instructor, Scott. Poppy, in her ernest and sweet ways, seems to think she can win anybody over and tries her darndest with him, both failing and succeeding in the end. There are some great laughs in Happy Go Lucky as well as several really tender moments. Even the most minor characters in the film are masterfully drawn, making the film a beautiful look into the lives of some ordinary folks living in London. It is nothing short of delightful.


Monday, January 26, 2009


1. Che is clearly a Steven Soderbergh film. It has all his visual hallmarks: the rugged, yet incredibly artful hand-held camerawork. The use of multiple perspectives in the same sequence or shot, the contrasting color palette to represent different places, times or states of mind… In a way it is a kind of apotheosis of technique that started in a nascent way with sex, lies and videotape but really became manifest in Out of Sight, a movie that is criminally under-remembered.

2. Two shots in particular leapt out to me. One involves the derailing of a train and a wild dog. It had the immediacy and fluid movement of Lubezki’s work in Children of Men and is destined to become a classic textbook-worthy sequence. The second captures the moment of Che’s death in a personal, subjective manner that beautifully realizes such a personal subjective portrait of the man. In a quiet way, it was groundbreaking and spiritually profound.

3. Part 2 has an elegiac quality that gains pitch as the little disasters of the campaign accrue to their tragic consequences. The tension of watching everything go wrong is almost unbearable, considering the giant heroism Che and many of the Cubans continue to display in the face of losing odds. The final gunfight has an electric quality, a la Fuller’s The Big Red One, that seems to totally nail the surreal reality of guerrilla warfare. And the denouement, or final act, has a beatific poignancy that is transcendent. But the film doesn’t stand alone in the same way as, say, Godfather II.

4. The whole style of the project—which I offer to those who don’t “get” it—is evident during a stirring action sequence in the Cuban jungle that is scored not to triumphal Hollywood orchestral schmaltz but to period-appropriate 1950s-era Afro-Cuban jazz.

5. Most of the casting was impeccable. It was particularly nice to see Catalina Sandino Moreno given another nice, nuanced role. But Matt Damon’s cameo in Part 2 totally blew. At that moment as the events were spiraling downward, his brief presence took us completely out of the movie.

6. Che is myth-making of a high order. It is photo-journalism as hagiography and in its way, grandly reminiscent of those 60’s/70s biopics like Becket, A Man For All Seasons, and Mary, Queen of Scots that elevated their subjects through careful, humane storytelling and awesome acting into the realm of the sublime.

7. As we said in a previous post, there’s no good reason why Che isn’t among the finalists for Best Picture of the year. It is deserving on so many levels, it’s sick. Benicio del Toro’s performance is easily among the most captivating and layered of the year. In the craft categories—directing, editing, cinematography, music, etc—what work was significantly better? To me, the fact that pictures such as Che, The Dark Knight, and The Fall (adapted screenplay, costumes, cinematography, at the least…) were shut out of the Oscars, demonstrates the wrong-headed attitude that motion picture craft is not as important as social message. Doesn’t that hypocritical stance seem to undermine the whole industry? For whatever reason, the Academy of Motion Pictures has become the official arbiter of intellectual content rather than a recognizer of spectacular film achievement, which is sad.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


We are fresh out of seeing "Che" in its entirety, back to back at the Landmark Theatre in L.A. ( which is by the way an awesome movie theatre) and we are both somewhat in shock. For one because it is a long, intense film which shows you the rise and fall of this enigmatic, mythological revolutionary turned hipster t-shirt logo favorite. But, also because it did not receive a single Oscar nomination. Not one. Not even "Best Costumes," or "Sound Editing," it was completely shut out. Benicio del Toro deserves at the very least a nod for his performance in this epic. He masterfully portrays this character and blends so into the persona of Che, that I did a double take when searching for images for this post and I was confronted with a photo of the actual Che Guevara. The film is shown in two parts, the first "The Argentine," tracks Che as he aids Fidel Castro in their fight to take over Cuba. This part of the film is really well done. As we cut from pre-revolution Che in Mexico, to post-revolution Che in New York City and to mid-revolution Che in the jungles of Cuba, we get a nice, rounded portrait of this fascinating man. The second part of the film, "The Guerrilla," while interesting and certainly intense, plays more like a documentary about a political uprising gone awry. Soderbergh does a great job of portraying the imminent danger and terror of fighting a losing guerrilla war. The suspense is real, and the cinematography wonderful, but the second film doesn't stand on its own the way the first one does. Watched together, "Che" is an entertaining and inspiring film. You leave not feeling as if you know everything about Che Guevera and his struggles, but with more curiosity than you ever had about the man. You want to find a book to fill in the gaps in his history, discover more about his motivation, and the aftermath of his demise. Which to me, is the most you could ask for an historical biopic to do, leave you wanting to learn more.

Friday, January 23, 2009


A little bit about me, I used to be in the wine business. For over three years my job was to choose the wines for a popular little wine shop in Brooklyn. We didn't carry very expensive wines, mostly bottles that were under $20. I then honed what was to me the most coveted skill I learned in my adult life, the ability to find really good, yet inexpensive wine. I used this skill in my second wine job, with my customers and for my own drinking pleasure. And then, I got out of the business. I was faced with the biggest challenge of my wine career; now I had to find wine to drink at regular stores and pay (shudders) retail prices. And on top of it all, I am now poor. Gone are the days of paying cost for expensive bottles, gone are the days of drinking $15 bottles every night. Now, I would have to drink like normal people. Buy my wine at grocery stores and even, (gasp) Trader Joe's. I was forced to come to terms with my palate, to try and make it forget the last few years, all that it had learned about what good wine was supposed to taste like. I needed to revert back to the girl that drank jug wine in college, or cheap boxed wine while living in Africa. I needed to find the joy in the simple, cheap bottles. However being me, I still have my standards. So whenever possible, I will try to post reviews of inexpensive wines that I have drunk that are worth buying. Our latest VINE-YL post has a great one. This one, Trader Joe's 2007 Captain's Catch was surprisingly good, I actually remember being sad when the last few drops were poured into someone else's glass. Derek bought it for the label, and we popped it open with a couple of friends. One of them even exclaimed, "Wow, this is from Trader Joe's? But it's so buttery and smooth." It was smooth and had nice dark, rich fruit but wasn't overly sweet which is always an issue with your cheaper bottles. It was incredibly drinkable, everyone agreed. All and all worth the $6. A perfect party red.


In these tough financial times I think it is important for those of us who love to travel to appreciate the small journeys we can take within our own country, state or even city. Plane tickets are expensive, the dollar is still weak and sometime these little trips can be just as exciting as jetting off to a foreign locale. Road trips are awesome, for example. We just got back from one through The Four Corners and it was absolutely amazing. For those of us that live in larger cities such as New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles, I recommend a little day trip to your local ethnic neighborhoods. Some are better and bigger than others, in L.A. Little Armenia seems to span only a few blocks, but then one could get truly lost in the sprawling metropolis that makes up Koreatown. Chinatowns are always nice. What better way to take a little break from the norm then heading off for a bit of dim sum and a stroll through the shops and emporiums with their jars of indistinguishable but apparently edible spherical brown things, or their myriad of dried sea creatures or barrels of roots of every shape and size. Who among us couldn't while away the afternoon trying to figure out what, "Bird's Nest Drink with Jelly Bits," is, or what the medicinal value of, "Horny Goat Weed Tea," could possibly be. For around $30 you can return home feeling like you've been in the very bosom of China. I'm as optimistic for the future as the next guy, but until I've pulled myself back up to the old not-great-but-decent-salaried-world-traveler-with-a-lot-of-room-left-on-her-credit-cards, that I once was, it's nice to know that there are cheaper and easier options.


So, some of you may not know that this site is actually a spin-off from our first site, There we focus on one incredibly important and noble cause: the pairing of good wine with good music. That site has been up for a few months now and we decided it was time to expand. We wanted to keep intact and in its truest form, but we also wanted to branch out and discuss other topics like live music, movies, travel and booze that is good for day to day drinking, but not necessarily good enough to be paired with a Nina Simone record. So, we started the vine-yl blog. Now, our mother site has become even more awesome with the addition of a store in cahoots with Amazon. There you can buy the records we review in vinyl or mp3 form as well as turntables and other accessories. Just click on the image above to check it out.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I can't say that I am particularly invested in the Oscars this year as I haven't really seen most of the movies yet. I think they made some good choices, like Sean Penn and Anne Hathaway and of course Heath Ledger. But, I would like to take a moment to address "Wall-E." Certainly one of the most f-ing phenomenal movies of the year, but nobody really talked about it. My 4 year old nephew walked out which just shows what horrible taste in cinema he has. And now, for the second time this award season, the biggest insult of all, it is placed in the same category as "Kung Fu Panda" and "Bolt." "Bolt." I didn't see it, but a dog movie starring Miley Cirus and John Travolta is not something you could ever get me to see, unless maybe it had Nazis or zombies in it. And, while I also didn't see Kung Fu Panda, and I have nothing against the genre of "lazy anthropomorphic panda noodle-shop worker fulfills prophecy to become Kung Fu master," I do feel that its a bit played out. So really, all I have to say is that if "Wall-E" does not win the Oscar in this category then the Oscars will forever lose all of their credibility and no one should ever watch them ever again. Seriously. The Golden Globes did the same thing, but were smart enough to give the globe to Wall-E. Let's hope for the same outcome with the Oscars.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009


What the dharma was that? Is it just me? I have been a huge "Lost," fan for years, even enduring the lengthy hiatuses (hiatusi?), the introduction of a myriad of less and less compelling characters and new story lines without any sort of explanation for things that were brought up even as far back as Season One. And yes, I am referring to the smoke monster. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt this season, but I've got to say I'm a bit leery after watching the season premiere. I was worried when Ben turned the giant pirate ship looking wheel thingy that moved the island in last year's finale and rightfully so. It was nice to see a cameo by Ana Lucia but I have to say that the highlight for me was when the annoying complainer guy on the beach took a flaming arrow to the chest. Now that's good television.




We were lucky enough to attend the screening of "Sex, Lies and Videotape," at Sundance this week, one of the hottest tickets in town we were told. We waited in line for waitlist tickets 2 and a half hours before the screening, got our numbers, then came back and waited in line again, only to be offered "hard tickets" as they call them, at the last minute. A man peeked his head through the door and flashed a pair of tickets at Derek and I, then numbers 2 and 3 in the line. The single woman in front of us "number 1," told us to go ahead and grab them, and we did... Well tried, at least. A Sundance official jumped between us, "I can't have you selling tickets here, its against policy. You can give them away, but you can't sell them." The man shrugged and turned around, "I was just trying to help someone out," he said as he headed up the stairs towards the ticket holders line. The official then turned to me, which I assumed meant I was about to be scolded for behavior unbecoming a "number 2" waitlister. "You can follow him out, you know." It took me a while to realize what that meant. I was not being ejected for improper behavior, I was being told to follow the guy out of the room to illegally purchase the tickets. I ran. The buzz had been that this was the hardest show to get into. We had heard in the waitlist line that the word was no waitlisters would get in. There were too many industry folk, "pass-holders," and press attending this one.
We thankfully grabbed our tickets and headed in. To our surprise, the theater was empty. We easily sat in the second row, center and looked around the room, incredulous. Where was everyone? We were shocked even further when waitlister "number 68," strolled in and sat down next to us.
What happened, we later found out, was that the paparazzi taking photos of Soderbergh with Andie Macdowell in front of the theater had caused a roadblock which kept many people from entering the theater. Regardless of the attendance we were in for a treat. We watched a copy of the 20 year old Sundance phenomena offered up by Soderbergh himself. The movie held up, though I must admit I don't really remember seeing it before. The performances were great, the dialogue amazing, especially when compared with the crap that has passed for movie dialogue over the last couple of years. After the film we were treated to a wonderful Q & A with Soderbergh, Macdowell, Peter Gallagher and Laura San Giacomo. It felt like we were in on their reunion, witnessing something truly, very special. It was definitely the highlight of our Sundance experience and made for a great finale to our stay.


I was lucky enough to see a few documentaries at Sundance that I really enjoyed. One was "Old Partner," a story about an old korean farmer and his 40 year old, dying ox by director Chung-Ryoul Lee. Another was "Tyson," an incredibly candid and heartbreaking look into the life of Mike Tyson by director James Toback. Mike Tyson used to work out at my gym and I remember being frightened the first time I noticed him on the treadmill next to me, within biting distance. I felt the same when I saw the first images of his tattooed face at the beginning of this film. However, one couldn't help but fall a little in love with the brutally honest and self-aware man that Tyson portrayed in the film. He was funny too, making the audience erupt with laughter several times during the screening. There was all of the Mike Tyson we've seen in the media for years, the champ, his excess, his lisping use of many multi-syllabled GRE words. When he showed up for the Q & A in a tux the endearment continued. He said he was humbled and that he was happy we enjoyed the film and we could tell that he really meant it. I'll even admit that I teared up a bit when he spoke. While the way that the film was shot and edited left a bit to be desired, Toback would have had a hard time making this story less compelling. "Tyson," is an open apology to the public, an honest explanation with no excuses. You can't help but applaud a film about a man who has been feared and misunderstood for decades that makes you want to hug him on the way out of the theater.



While driving back to L.A. from Tennessee last week, we took a few detours. One of these little adventures took us to Sundance. We were offered a place to crash by some buddies as well as all the tickets for screenings they couldn't attend due to conflicts, skiing or desperate need for sleep. We had enough luck and connections to make it into some pretty fun parties and even the ridiculously difficult to get into, "Myspace Cafe," complete with free albeit rather tardy food and Paris Hilton in her little bunny cap. The weather and surroundings were beautiful. The friends we crashed with couldn't have been more fun and generous. At the parties the free drinks flowed, which made it easier to forget the severe ego beating you were forced to endure trying to get inside. The hangovers were easily cured by a few trips to the Brita Hydration Station for a free Nalgene bottle filled with filtered water. And, most importantly, the movies were actually really, really good. All in all, it was awesome.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Vine-yl, The Blog

Okay, so I think we're ready to launch this next part of our site, The Vine-yl Blog, an addendum to Here we will be posting more often and covering topics including booze and music, but also bars, movies and whatever else strikes our fancy. I would start right now, but we are at Sundance, the culmination of a 5 week long hiatus from Los Angeles. So, look forward to a summary of our first experience at Sundance as well as a few stories from the road. We'll be back in L.A. tomorrow.