The ONLY Oscar Blogger, who lives in walking distance to the Kodak Theater!

Friday, August 28, 2009

California - Five Years Later

Editor's Note: I had this ready to post on August 17, 2009 (five year anniversary), but I recently moved. I still have a very shaky internet connection and simply haven't posted this due to time constraints. I'm sorry, but I can't blog from Starbucks. It's too distracting. Anyway, here is this post, 11 days late...

Five years ago today, I was on a plane. It was the first time I was flying somewhere with only a one way ticket. Yes, I headed to California to attend college on this very day five years ago. It has become one of the defining days of my life. A fitting end to one chapter and a beginning to another. My life would really never be the same after August 17, 2004.

So much has changed in five years. Some good. Some bad. I lost friends. I made friends. I had triumphs. I had failures. That's life I guess. Still, I don't regret anything. It's still the best decision I have ever made. In retrospect, one that was not easy to do. Leaving one coast for another is a bold move. If in life, you're defined by the bold moves you take, then I would to take as many as possible. It's just how I want to live.

Believe me, I have done some things in the last five years that has probably made people scratch their heads. Hell, I'm going back to school to become a guidance counselor. Would have never believed that if you told me that five years ago.

I have a vision for the future that I mostly keep to myself. I have a plan and if it works out, then I think it will be the ultimate path to happiness. The plan is to balance my career as an independent producer with my career in education. In the grand scheme of things, it makes sense. Trust me.

I'm thankful I've met some great people out here. People I actually consider true friends. Didn't have too many of those back in Peabody, so it's refreshing to know I have people here in LA, who I genuinely call a friend.

I also am grateful that I have such strong support from all my family back home. When things have been rough, they have been there for me. They set the bar so high that the chances of me being that way with my kids and grandkids will not be an easy task.

While "The Dream" constantly evolves and changes through the days, months, and years since I first left five years ago, I still haven't given up. The Dream is whatever you want it to be. That's what is so great about it and that's why I still have hope that it's not over. It's never over until you're dead and buried.

Here I am, five years later and in a couple weeks I begin grad school. Possibly a new chapter in my life. I have absolutely no idea what to expect, but part of me likes that. To quote a line from Risky Business, "Sometimes you gotta say, what the fuck and make your move."

I'm not sure what the next five years holds, but, "What the fuck. I'm ready to make my move."

Keep dreaming, my readers, keep dreaming...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

McCartney at Fenway Videos

These two videos I shot with my sister's digital 8.1 megapixel camera. A little blurry and shaky, but the audio came out well. Enjoy!

McCartney Leaves His Mark on the Green Monster

In the movie, The Sandlot, Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez has a dream with the Babe who simply tells him, "Heroes get remembered, but legends never die." Less than 24 hours after seeing the former Beatle live for the fourth time, I thought this quote was appropriate for a concert just held in a ballpark. And, not just any ballpark, but Fenway Park.

It's hard for me to give an unbiased opinion on Paul McCartney. I love The Beatles. Before last night, I've seen Paul three times before and I know what to expect. I know he's going to blow you away. Still, it continues to amaze me. The guy is 67, right? Or at least the "first" Paul was before he was killed in a car crash in 1966. Maybe, a "replacement" Paul did take over and is much younger. There's no way this man is 67 and still one of the best, if not the best live performer alive today.

All kidding aside, Paul once again gave me my money's worth. He plays 33 songs for two and a half hours. He takes you on this magical ride and to a place that is unseen. He makes you forget about your worries. He makes you feel good about yourself. You dance and you cry. It's a mixed bag of emotions. You get a taste of The Beatles, Wings, and even recent material. You even get his witty chatter in between songs.

Save for the Amoeba show (which was an entirely different experience), Paul always plays the hits. With his concert staples from "I Saw Her Standing There" to "Yesterday" to "Hey Jude" to "Live and Let Die" to "Band on the Run", there's no stopping him from blowing down the house. His rendition of "Live and Let Die" at Fenway was Macca at his very best. All I could say when it was over was simply, "Wow!" I was speechless.

His tribute to his late songwriting partner and bandmate, John Lennon, has also recently become a highlight in his shows. All four times I've seen him, he has played it and it is always filled with such emotion. Every word out of his mouth during that song he means. You can just see it on his face. John will always be my favorite Beatle and I always choke up a little. Last night was no different.

Starting with "Mrs. Vanderbilt", I thought the show really started to pick up. Once he played "Band on the Run" last night, he literally went to another level that very few performers can go to. It was that special. You really have to be there to fully appreciate it in all its glory.

His band, which was been with him now for most of this decade, were also firing on all cylinders. They just have it down so well and really hold their own even though they're sharing the stage with a Beatle.  Rusty Anderson, Brian Ray, Paul "Wix" Wickens, and Abe Laboriel Jr. need to be given props for their amazing work.

Where does this Fenway Park rank for me? I still have to say it's the second best concert I've ever seen. I don't think anything will ever top Paul McCartney at Amoeba in 2007. I camped out for that show and less than 1000 people supposedly were there. Smaller set list and shorter show, but it was so intimate. I hold that night very close to my heart.

Still, last night at Fenway was amazing. I loved that he played "A Day in the Life" with "Give Peace a Chance". It was such a smoothless transition. The "Foxy Lady" tribute to Jimi Hendrix was a reminder that Paul can really jam. "Hey Jude" is always the most fun sing-along you'll ever participate in. I could probably say something about every song on the playlist if I really wanted to, but for the sake of this post, I'm going to stop.

I know this annoys some people, but I simply love when he just raises his bass in the air to massive applause. He knows he's the best and I can't disagree. To go back to that quote from The Sandlot, Paul is a legend. A living legend, so I advise everyone to enjoy it while it lasts. They'll never be another Paul McCartney.

Set List for Paul McCartney at Fenway Park, August 5, 2009

1. Drive My Car
2. Jet
3. Only Mama Knows
4. Flaming Pie
5. Got To Get You Into My Life
6. Let Me Roll It / Foxy Lady
7. Highway
8. The Long and Winding Road
9. My Love
10. Blackbird
11. Here Today
12. Dance Tonight
13. Calico Skies
14. Mrs Vanderbilt
15. Eleanor Rigby
16. Sing the Changes
17. Band on the Run
18. Back In The USSR
19. I'm Down
20. Something
21. I've Got a Feeling (extended jam)
22. Paperback Writer
23. A Day in the Life / Give Peace A Chance
24. Let It Be
25. Live and Let Die
26. Hey Jude

27. Day Tripper
28. Lady Madonna
29. I Saw Her Standing There

Encore 2:
30. Yesterday
31. Helter Skelter
32. Get Back
33. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) / The End

*All photos taken by Mike Cersosimo.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Oscar Update: Summer Edition

Can I be honest? It's too early to be doing this. I have only seen a handful of films and I'm not that confident in anything at this stage. To put it in prospective, this time last year, Slumdog Millionaire was being talked about going direct-to-video. Basically, no one knows anything at this point. Many of the serious contenders have not even been screened publicly yet.

Still, I am going to do a Best Picture chart for now. Don't expect other major categories until late August/early September. To make this easier on me, I'm also going to list everything in alphabetical order.

I will say that the early buzz seems to be between Rob Marshall's musical with Daniel Day-Lewis and a plethora of females (Marion Cottilard, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, etc.) and Clint Eastwood's film about Nelson Mandela with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. Of course, I'm talking about Nine and Invictus respectively.

Right now, I just feel like Nine has the edge. The musical does worry me, but Chicago won this seven years ago, so the Academy is willing to give the top prize to one. Though, as always Clint scares me and Invictus should put up a damn good fight.

I still am a believer of Avatar. I feel like this film will either go all the way or completely be a disappointment. Either way, it should be highly anticipated. I am confident it will make at least the final ten.

Another film with potential is Precious. I saw the trailer for the first time the other day and was really moved by it. It feels like a film the Academy has been liking the last few years. It did well at Sundance and I could definitely see it get nominated and maybe contend.

Pixar should finally get its Best Picture nominee. Doesn't have the same triumphant feeling to it when ten films are nominated, but Up should be a nominee.

Best Picture winner: Nine

Nominees (in alphabetical order):
The Hurt Locker
The Lovely Bones
Public Enemies
Shutter Island
Up in the Air

On the Bubble:
An Education
Julie & Julia
The Road
Where the Wild Things Are

Sunday, August 2, 2009

John Lennon: The New York City Years

In May, Yoko Ono along with Jim Henke put together an exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex in New York City. It was called "John Lennon: The New York City Years". Many of the items were never before seen by the public. Turning it into a must-see for Beatle fans and admirers of Lennon.

Knowing that I was spending a good portion of the summer in Mass, I decided that I needed to go see the exhibit. Last week, my Dad and I went to New York City. It was well worth the admission price to the museum. Actually, the museum itself is really cool. They have plenty of amazing memorabilia from all musical genres and eras. Though, the highlight was clearly the Lennon exhibit.

For all the criticism that Yoko receives, she sometimes doesn't get enough praise for the good things she has done with Lennon's legacy. This is a classic example. It's an extremely powerful and emotional look at the man's life in New York.

There's guitars that he played during his last concert appearance on November 28, 1974 with Elton John at Madison Square Garden. There's also one from the John Sinclair Freedom Raly. There's even a Steinway piano that was in his bedroom, which was one of my favorite items. John was a chain smoker and if you look on the top of the piano, you can see cigarette burns from him leaving the cigarettes. I thought that was a nice touch and was just another reminder of how much of an everyday man he was.

There was also clothing. The now famous "New York City" t-shirt that he wore during a Bob Gruen photo shoot was displayed. The shirt was actually dirty with stains. It was almost as if Yoko hadn't washed it since his death. Then, there was the army jacket that John purchased at a surplus store in the Upper West Side, which was wore frequently by him. The jacket was from the Korean War, had the rank of Sergeant, and the name read Reinhardt. I wonder what ever happened to that guy?

The rest of the exhibit contained music videos playing throughout with handwritten lyrics, drawings, and newspaper clippings. Even his green card was displayed. It along with letters of support from the likes of Dick Clark, served as a reminder of the battle he fought to stay in the United States.

Though it technically was before he lived in New York, it was amazing to think that the handwritten lyrics to "Imagine" were written on small New York Hilton Hotel note paper. A song that began a worldwide anthem for peace was first scribbled on such a small piece of paper. How ironic in a lot of ways?

The most controversial item in the exhibit was none other than a brown bag. It was dated 12/11/80. It contained the bloody clothes of John Lennon. At first I didn't really know if I supported this, but after being there I realized why it was done. Yoko said she wanted to make a statement. To paraphrase her, a man who was so huge turned into just a brown bag full of clothes. In a lot of ways, it epitomizes John Lennon. It's blunt and sends a clear and direct message on murder. Standing there, it's hard not to shed a tear and take a moment to remember what an extraordinary life this man lived.

(As of January 2009)