All the President's Men: Consistently good

All the President's Men is the movie Zodiac wanted to be in that it stays interesting. Both involve up-and-coming journalists trying to break on a story no one else will, but while Zodiac has the baby face of Jake Gyllenhaal and too little Robert Downey Jr., All the President's Men has the powerhouse duo of Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman and also, there is a climax and conclusion to the story.

Plot summary:
In the run-up to the 1972 elections, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward covers what seems to be a minor break-in at the Democratic Party National headquarters. He is surprised to find top lawyers already on the defense case, and the discovery of names and addresses of Republican fund organizers on the accused further arouses his suspicions. The editor of the Post is prepared to run with the story and assigns Woodward and Carl Bernstein to it. They find the trail leading higher and higher in the Republican Party, and eventually into the White House itself. (IMDb, because I'm too lazy to do it myself)
Mostly, this movie ended up being more engaging and interesting than I had hoped and I am in love with it. Let's number the reasons why:

1. The pairing of Redford and Hoffman. Redford tends to play a good everyman, kind of straight-laced good guy, and that's what he does here. Hoffman is always a little quirky, and in this film he's just charming--especially with his flowing man-locks.

The combination of these two isn't that of comedic differences, but of seeing two guys with different styles break a story. The relationship is subtle, realistic, and nice to see unfold. They both bring a degree of passion and gumption that make the characters more interesting than just guys doing their job. And seeing Hoffman hit on women make my life, probably because I'm used to his latter body of work where he's an older, go-to guru.

2. The assumption that the audience isn't dumb. While I'm not very well-versed in 70s politics, I remember enough from AP US History to follow along. This wouldn't have been a problem for most Americans in the 1976 when this film came out since it was their context, but the way they brush through names and conclusions assumes the audience can follow along even with the more complex stuff.

3. Shadowy inside source. Literally shadowy. Deep Throat is kind of like a combination of Cancer Man and Mr. X from the X-Files.

Deep Throat in an abandoned parking lot.

4. The cinematography. If this was made today, the film might have had more of a Wally Pfister- never-stop-moving-the-camera-to-create-tension style*, but thank goodness it didn't. More than anything, the placement of a usually stationary camera allowed the very capable actors to create tension. Really, the movie is about a couple young guys trying to break through with a huge story, which involves phone calls, home visits, and library research. Not the most interesting stuff, but with good actors in appropriate camera distances, it gets intense. My favorite camera placements allowed you to see the entire newsroom, and Redford and Hoffman running between desks to talk to each other or their boss. In that shot you get two things by contrast of their surroundings: the fact that they are two guys basically ignored by the rest of the newsroom, and that they are working hard.

5. Along with cinematography, the editing. Besides regular cutting between speakers in a conversation
, the scenes are done in long takes, which again allows the actors to perform and create their own tension. There's something beautiful about seeing actors get to act without their performance spliced up. We can see subtle facial expressions, natural rhythms in conversation, and a bigger sense of realism. I'm a sucker for long takes, and this film delivered.

6. The conclusion (SPOILER: they take down Nixon) is done through watching a typewriter type out the resulting story. We see that people resign are arrested, etc. in much the same way many of the stories that Woodward and Bernstein write are shown to the audience. Full circle in so many ways.

Overall feeling: Good acting, predictable plot, and unobtrusive directing, this movie is pretty good. I had an overwhelming sense of satisfaction at the end of the movie because it was done so well. Just consistently good. Also, did I mention Dustin Hoffman's hair?

*The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Batman Begins--seriously, the camera never just lingers.

Medley of the day: Let's get down edition

I sometimes forget Stevie Wonder was way awesome before the 80s (which kind of killed a lot of artists, and I mostly blame the synthesizer). I just love some kind of funky kind of pop-y R&B.

Anyway, here's Stevie Wonder's longing and honest "Knocks Me Off My Feet":

Now here's some Michael Jackson circa Thriller: "Baby Be Mine". Please enjoy the sweet dance moves.

Finally, I'll leave you with one of my favorite Marvin Gaye songs. The beat to "Come Get to This" is infectious. Plus, this is from Soul Train. That suit/knit hat combo is fantastic:


Fighting Evil by Moonlight: In remembrance of Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon was not my favorite character--she was too flighty--but her love story rocked.

I'll admit. I loved Sailor Moon as a kid*. My BFF at the time watched it, so of course I started watching it, too. I think it all started one sleepover when we woke up ridiculously early (like you always do at a sleepover), made some Eggo waffles, and watched some Sailor Moon.

Sailor Venus was the coolest and the most badass. She was vigilante before the group even formed.

I watched it on USA Network at 8 or 8:30 every morning the following summer. I even got my sister to watch it too, because that 's what family does: watch each other's TV shows. I also managed to watch it before school when my mom would drop me off at a neighbor's house on her way to work. It was on either right before or right after The Facts of Life and Gargoyles (other great shows). Another great aspect of my fandom was downloading and saving a ton of Sailor Moon pictures on our computer. This was when household internet was still sketchy and slow, but I would spend hours going through web rings, searching for the best pictures, mostly of the core 5 Sailors (Moon, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus) and Tuxedo Mask.

Sailor Mars was never my favorite, but she was fiery. (Yeah, that was a pun on her powers).

I haven't watched it in years, but going through the wikipedia page tells me it was way more involved than I remember.

But let's break down what I remember and loved about the show:
  • Girl evil-fighting squad. Girl power anyone?
Total tomboy. Totally likeable. Totally tough. Not really memorable.

  • Each Sailor was given a different planet name, and, as we all know, space is awesome.
  • The transformations scenes, though illogical, totally pretty.
  • Secret identities = comedy gold!
  • Secret identities = romantic obstacle gold!
Tuxedo Mask. Greatest. Identity. Ever. Plus he was a cute cartoon character. Mmm, Darien.
  • Teen angst!
  • School uniforms and short short skirts.
  • Anime--the one show that I watched that was anime, and it was pretty.
Sailor Mercury was my favorite. She was the bookworm, but was a totally sassy superhero. Plus, I think I have her haircut now. Just less blue. And less poofy.

Anyway, I miss this show. It was girly, and fun, and fantastic. I mostly watched the first season (which, according to Wikipedia is 46 episodes long!) before the daughter from the future and the other planets show up, and destiny and past lives are discovered. But I have beautiful memories of the early days of Sailor Moon, when it was all good old fashioned teenage fun. 4th Grade was awesome.

*It's probably been 10 years since I've watched the show, so I think I legitimately call it "when I was a kid".


So You Think You Can Dance Team Shakedown:

So, I've decided to change up my team by replacing Mark with Chelsie. Chelsie is consistently great, and while I think Kherington was the reason Mark didn't do that great last week, Mark also lacks some technique. Chelsie just kills it every week. Also, Will and Katee are great--even more so together. So excited for tomorrow night!

I'm sorry Mark. I still love you.


Ladies and Gentlemen, the Evolution of Robin Thicke

I have 2 new roommates as of Friday. They kicked me out of my old room because they wanted to live together, and heaven knows I don't want to live with them either. They're 18, first time on their own girls who listen to "Love in This Club" and Rihanna and all that other music that sounds exactly like alike that I have no interest in knowing.

My point is this. I have to reach a happy place in some way, and my new source of happiness is Robin Thicke. I discovered Mr. Thicke on Pandora on my John Legend stations (kind of sucked--which is why I now have a Robin Thicke station instead. Pandora is magic). He's kind of like a less douchey Justin Timberlake, although just as white. On a whim a bought the Deluxe Edition of his second album The Evolution of Robin Thicke because I liked a couple songs that I'd heard, and for the most part, it's awesome.

At some points kind of Motown/Marvin Gaye, sometimes kind of Ne-yo/Chris Brown/new-school R&B. Basically, it's some great pop music with some fabulous inspiration. Plus, Thicke doesn't overuse his falsetto**, which is necessary for me not to hate him as much as JT***.

Some album highlights:

"Got 2 Be Down"--A kind of duet with Faith Evans which really sounds like Marvin Gaye. Delicious.

"I Need Love"--Starts out with a sexy Al Green squeal and only gets better from there. This would definitely make it on the next Body + Soul compilation.

"Can You Believe"--Some great piano R&B.

"Lonely World"--Think "Man in the Mirror", but without feeling guilty about a broken bottle top.

"Lost Without U"--Sounds exactly like the montage music on Flight of the Conchords (the last 20 seconds). Adorable!

Album warning: Sometimes terrible sexual analogies appear in the lyrics. Also, the songs featuring Lil Wayne are terrible.

Overall: Poptastic! Drowns out the sound of bad hip-hop!

*His father is Alan Thicke of Growing Pains. And yes, I did watch a ton of Growing Pains in middle school.
**We all remember the "Cry Me a River" high-pitched disasterbacle of 2002.
***Also, not claiming you embody an adjective and are bringing it back.


I love Neil Patrick Harris

Neil Patrick Harris has quickly become the most adorable and hilarious of actors in my opinion. I first saw his work on Doogie Howser while waiting for my piano lesson to start. For some reason my sister and I took lessons from two different teachers, which involved some crazy dropping off situations meaning I got there early, while my lesson started a little late*. The point is, I got some prime early 90s TV in during the time I was dropped off to my actual lesson. Frankly, I don't remember much of the show, but I can say I watched it.

My love has blossomed over viewing the three seasons of How I Met Your Mother. And now, Joss Whedon has presented us with more great NPH action in "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog". It's a limited time, free, internet miniseries that features singing, low budget effects, and all the charm you can handle. If you're thinking WTF? sing-along blog? Read the "master plan" section, but I promise it doesn't make much more sense. Just know, that it makes Neil even more adorable and you should watch it:

*Don't they always?!


Goal: Become a legit Led Zeppelin Fan: Led Zeppelin II

In case you missed it, here's my take on Led Zeppelin I.

Today's album in review: Led Zeppelin II

1. "Whole Lotta Love"-- A pretty awesome, gritty rock song. Gets way trippy in the middle, but wins you back in the end by going back to sweet guitar riffs. Robert Plant's vocals are insane and so hard core. Just great.

2. "What Is and What Should Never Be"--This song exemplifies my favorite type of Zeppelin song: mellow verse, rockin' chorus. Some nice distorted guitar solos, but what really wins me over is the bass line in this song. It gives it an overwhelming sense of chill.

3. "The Lemon Song"--Kind of Jimi Hendrix meets Blues Brothers*. Not my favorite, but has enough ridiculous double entendres to keep my entertained.

4. "Thank You"--This is one of my favorite Zeppelin songs. I love the organ so much. Almost as much as I love heavy rock bands going for a ballad. This song has both, so it's a win-win situation. It's a mellow, driving around sort of song.

5. "Heartbreaker"--Emo kids, take note. This is how you get back at your ex-woman--rock her out of your life with heavily distorted guitar riffs.

6. "Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)"--Probably the closest to a pop song as you're going to get this album. I mean that in the sense that the song is way fun to sing along to. Sample fun lyric: "Alimony, alimony payin' your bills/ livin', lovin', she's just a woman!"**

7. "Ramble On"--A perfect rock song, a perfect driving around song: acoustic verse, light electric guitar killer bass line bridge, rocking chorus. Other great features: harmonizing guitar solo and references to Lord of the Rings. I say any time is a good time to sing about Gollum and Mordor.

8. "Moby Dick"--One of the catchiest guitar riffs I've ever heard featuring some cowbell. The only down fall is that the bulk of the song is drum solo, which gets a little bit old, but then the guitar and bass come back in.

9. "Bring it On Home"--The song sounds like what the title is: harmonica, blues chord progression. Then it randomly rocks out in the middle--12 bonus points!***

Overall assessment: Probably the most listenable Led Zeppelin album, by which I mean I can just sit down and listen to the album without skipping any songs. With the exception of "The Lemon Song", the songs are fairly short and pretty accessible. Well done sophomore effort, Led Zeppelin. Well done.

*My knowledge of blues is limited to occasionally hearing my dad's collection of Keb Mo, BB King, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Forgive me.

**Exclamation point added. It's just so fun to sing.

***Note: I'm not actually scoring the albums. But this musical surprise is awesome.


Goal: Become a legit Led Zeppelin Fan: Led Zeppelin I

Now that my internet actually works (I was desperate for stuff to do for a couple days), I'd like to introduce a series about my Led Zeppelin fanhood. So far I've bought Led Zeppelin's first four album which are, predictably, pretty great. Since I've bought all of them used, I think most of them are from the original Compact Disc release in the early 90s which includes directions on how to care for a CD = Awesome.

Today's album in review: Led Zeppelin I.

Note: I'm no music critic/reviewer, and since Zeppelin history/folklore is so immense, I'm just going to share what I think of the album song by song, accuracy in assessment and other people's opinions be damned.

1. "Good Times Bad Times"--As one of the shortest songs on the album, it's a little more accessible than some of the other songs--especially since my taste runs on the side of smart, clean pop over other styles. It's a pretty straight forward, bluesy rock song with an addictive chorus and short guitar solos. Robert Plant has the perfect amount of whininess at the end of the song, and I mean that in a good way.

2. "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You"--This song is epic (in a "Stairway to Heaven" sort of way). Starting acoustic, it slowly changes into a breakdown as Plant continues to sing about how he's gonna leave his girl. The pattern continues until it's slow and quiet end. It's definitely a Zeppelin song to chill to.

3. "You Shook Me"--Led Zeppelin at its bluesiest. Unfortunately, I tend to like my blues diluted (think John Mayer), so something this consistent in style and tempo gets old pretty fast, especially since it's over 6 minutes long. But you got to love that they can pull off so much soul and incorporate so much organ and harmonica.

4. "Dazed and Confused"--Slow and full of some sweet guitar riffs, this song is pretty awesome. Plant's vocals really sell the song, although the groaning in the psychedelic middle of the song is just weird after a while. It picks up after a while into a pretty epic rock out (thanks Jimmy!). Overall, a song that's cool, but not that fun to listen to after a while (did I mention this one is 6:27 long?)

5. "Your Time is Gonna Come"--I love the organ in rock and it is featured heavily in this song. John Paul Jones has some serious organ chops; the beginning sounds classical. This is another shorter and friendlier song, complete with a sing along chorus (with heavy vibrato organ). A mellow, perfect rock song.

6. "Black Mountain Side"--"Your Time is Gonna Come" bleeds into this short musical interlude, which is one of my favorite songs on the album. The percussion feels ethnic and earthy (I'll shout out to John Bonham here since I gave every else a shout out) and matches the guitar's bluegrassy/sitar-y sound (it's an awesome blend). Very pretty.

7. "Communicatino Breakdown"--This is a hard and fast rock song (like 2 and a half minutes). It's a lot of fun.

8. "I Can't Quit You Baby"--Another slow, bluesy song. This one is shorter and sexier, and for me, a lot more interesting than "You Shook Me". I love Page's guitar solos and Plant's wailing vocals on this song because they seem more intimate and passionate, less paint by the numbers blues.

9. "How Many More Times"--Very guitar riffy, although gets into the same psychadelic/really long solo territory that "Dazed and Confused" gets into (this song is over 8 minutes long!). I like the middle section of this song more. Overall, I like the more upbeat tempo, bass heavy riffs of "How Many More Times" more than "Dazed".

Overall assessment: I like it. Definitely an album heavy on the blues. I doesn't feature my favorite Zeppelin songs, but indicates where the band would be going musically in the future.