Friday, June 30, 2006

Movie / The Devil Wears Prada

Comedy. Meryl Streep plays Miranda Priestly, the dictatorial editor of Runway Magazine (loosely based on Anna Wintour, the legendary editor of Vogue) against Anne Hathaway as her young, lovely, naive, underpaid, and overworked second assistant. The two of them carry the story with supporting cast (ably led by Stanley Tucci and Emily Blunt) and walk-ons by major designers. A must-see for anyone in the fashion or luxury goods industry.

See this same review on IMDB.

I found it highly entertaining, with numerous witty remarks, and the audience laughed with me. Andrea Sachs (Hathaway), a recent journalism graduate, shows up to interview for the personal assistant job having never heard of Ms. Priestly. (Already we are suspending disbelief. How many of you have never heard of Anna Wintour? Pity upon your souls!)

After endless demeaning remarks about her lack of fashion sense, the lovely Miss Hathaway learns to dress in dazzling, costly outfits (a lot of Chanel, and far beyond her pitiful salary). The wardrobe staff and consulting designers must have had fun creating these.

The "devil" moniker seems overdone. Priestly may be demanding, arbitrary, and cruel -- a true boss from hell -- but she is in no sense evil or unethical. She's a real person who does what she believes is right, her corporate maneuvering is relatively genteel, and her closet is bigger than many stores!

This film gets 5 out of 5 on acting, directing, production, and editing. Where it's weak is that the plot is milquetoast, really just a "slice of life" of Andrea's most interesting year, as seen through 23-year old eyes. And I felt the ending was a cop-out, wherein she throws it all away after showing herself to be a great master, on the verge of rapid promotion. Her social network should have supported her.

Rated PG-13, sexual situations, language, a few sexy outfits, a tad of kissing, and a non-fatal car accident.

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2 days later. The LA Times notes that the film's world of fashion is somewhat unrealistic, since what is "in" now are pieces by less known designers.

The NY Times notes that the book is uniformly venomous towards Priestly (Wintour), while the film softens this by deleting/adding material and portraying her more sympathetically. Viewed in this light it seems almost Machiavellian to give the haughty Priestly to one of our greatest living actresses, Meryl Streep, and Andrea to the ingenue Hathaway, who has heretofore lived mainly on her looks. In an interview Hathaway said she felt upstaged, but learned much. This was a fiendishly clever casting decision, and one that must have the real Anna Wintour laughing with appreciation!

My next question is whether Hathaway will develop more depth and maturity behind her bland persona. I hope so, as her career has many years yet to run.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Topic / Won't Get Dooced Again

The June 2006 issue of Corporate Counsel, a magazine for in-house lawyers, had a short piece on corporate policies toward employee blogging.

"Dooced" is a slang term meaning fired for blogging, and no one so dismissed has (yet) been reinstated. Such include folks who discussed office mates in unflattering terms (one woman referred to her boss as "Her Wretchedness") or revealed company secrets. Employees may have a First Amendment right to "free speech," but that does NOT include keeping your job!

Rather than ban blogging, which seems impossible, 14% of companies (so far) have developed "acceptable blogging policies," notably Sun Microsystems, whose new CEO Jonathan Schwartz is a long time blogger. These policies may encourage employees to talk about their work in ways that reach out to customers and the community but lay down rules. Sun's policy states "you may not reveal the recipe for one of our secret sauces."

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Note: I come from an era when any public comment was grounds for termination, so this blog ("Over the Horizon") is limited to critical reviews of public information of a non-controversial nature. Thus if my current or future employers read it, they will find some nice writing samples, but hopefully little else to be concerned about.

My reason for blogging (raison de blog?) is that I love drafting and polishing short essays, which I may revise a dozen times before I'm satisfied, and it seemed a shame not to share them. I have done little to promote it, so it probably goes unnoticed by all but a few friends. (Allegedly 1,000s of blogs are scams created solely to raise a website's search engine rankings.)

However, if you are seeking tightly written, bite-sized, timely, literate, casual, congeneal, and/or insightful writing, it is hoped that you will find "Over the Horizon" a satisfactory resource.

Movie / The Lake House

If you loved Just Like Heaven you'll surely like The Lake House, since the two films have a lot in common. Boy (an architect, Keanu Reeve) meets girl (a doctor, Sandra Bullock) and they fall in love, but remain separated by a supernatural problem that needs to be resolved.

In this case they meet by exchanging notes through a mailbox, except they are disconnected in time by two years. She is living in 2006, in his future, while he is still living in 2004, in her past. Each has a less than suitable girl/boyfriend, and longs for true love with the other.

The Lake House is a romance novel, not a comedy since it has few jokes, but the drama level is mild, as the tension is mainly them trying to resolve their "long distance" love affair, plus him trying to reconcile with his "difficult" father, a famous architect and builder of the unique house on the lake. Reeve and Bullock are a suitable match and give a convincing performance of being in love.

A nice example of how a fairly simple script can be produced with a couple of likeable stars to create a satisfying, successful film without a lot of special effects. Once the "conceit" of the time transporting letter box is established, the script never deviates from that idea, which generates a sufficient plot depth -- for about a 90 minute film, which at 116 seems overlong.

(It might have been nice if Reeve's departed mother were shown to have a hand in the magic, but she stays out of the action. Also they could have cleaned up in the stock market, with her telling him which stocks to buy and sell, but neither of them thinks of this.)

Rated PG. No drugs or sex, other than some passionate kissing at the end, when they are united in real life. There are some mild hospital scenes, and someone is killed in a car accident, but these events are not dwelt upon.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Movie / An Inconvenient Truth

Documentary. Highly recommended (5 stars). Somewhat of an intellectual horror movie. Rated PG for mild thematic elements.

Someone spent several million dollars to produce a film version of Al Gore's global warming powerpoint talk, with him giving it in front of a variety of audiences, with high-tech large-screen animated graphics. "Hi, my name is Al Gore, and I used to be the next President of the United States."

If you have been reading consistently about global warming, there will be little new information, but it is nicely formatted, and presents a good portrait of the new Al Gore, more mature now after the hard knocks, touching briefly on various points in his autobiography. Could be positioned as a campaign video, if he decided to run again.

If sea level rises 20 feet, an optimistic estimate, it will inundate land that is currently home to 100 million people, creating a huge refugee crisis. Also perhaps 1/4 of the world's people depend on melt-water from Himalayan glaciers for their drinking water, and when that source goes away will face an acute water crisis.

The Earth's atmosphere is thin and light, like a coat of paint on a basketball, so it is possible for us to influence it. The data show a steady upward march of CO2 levels since the Industrial Revolution, with detailed records since 1957. CO2 exceeds the 360,000 year high recorded in the Antarctic ice, and is poised to zoom off the scale.

Polar ice reflects ~90% of the light that strikes it, whereas open sea water absorbs ~90% of the light's energy, so once the big ice caps melt they are not going to re-freeze anytime soon. There have been reports of polar bears drowning, because they cannot find any ice after swimming 60 miles.

The US is by far the worst offender, producing ~33% of the world's total greenhouse gas, more than Latin America, Africa, and Asia combined. Our average fuel economy remains stuck at ~20 mpg, whereas in China they are shooting for 50.

Not one peer-reviewed study has quesitoned the premise that global warming is happening, whereas 53% of articles in the general media express doubt, thus leading to confusion among the public.

Climate change will make the world a less liveable place, with more droughts, more big storms, more mosquitos bearing diseases, and a major loss of inhabited land along the coasts, 1/4 of Florida, and food-producing land in the delta regions and Holland -- BUT -- the worst of it still decades away, so who cares? It might still be possible to turn the tide, by adopting practices to curtail CO2 production, however it needs to be done immediately, and foremost in the US.