Saturday, December 20, 2008

On Vacation

Phew, at last! The time of the year I love most. Nope, not Christmas but . . . holiday break! As a creature of habit, I was quite upset the year I graduated from college and realized that, in the real world, there is no such thing as winter recess!

What, after almost 2 decades of being conditioned to expect a nice reprieve at the end of the year, you expect me to actually come to work now? Surely you jest?

And so, as soon as I had seniority to accumulate enough days, I put aside two weeks worth every year in order to enjoy the holidays properly and work-free! Yesterday was my last day of the year, and as it so happens it was also a day for more snow. Yay! And we got quite a nasty one. The above picture was taken from the window at my office, overlooking St. Paul's across the street (one of the oldest churches in the city). As you can see, we got a good coating of the white stuff. Which always makes me happy. And there's more on the way in the coming days before Xmas. Hooray!

Due to the inclement weather, my company let us leave at noon to beat the hazardous conditions on the road. As I take the subway home, I had no road conditions to worry about, so Lisa and I took in a few movies. I saw The Punisher as I waited for Lisa to get out of work. It was a terrible movie, made worse by the fact that they made Montreal stand in for New York. At least, I think that was Montreal. Montreal is good for a few things, but standing in for NYC is not one of them. If they absolutely have to use a Canadian city to double as my hometown, I prefer Toronto. But maybe that's just me.

Anyway, Punisher was good in terms of the action and actually, you know, sticking closer to the comics (especially the Garth Ennis MAX line) than the horrible previous movie a few years back did. But it was still a brutal mess. The poor acting and uninvolving storyline detracted hugely, but the brooding atmosphere and take-no-prisoners, balls to the wall, firefights made up for it a little bit. I rate it a 5/10.

Lisa and I went to see the latest Will Smith flick, Seven Pounds, afterwards. I swear to god I figured out the entire plotline within the first 50 minutes of this 2-hour tear-jerker. At least, it was a tear-jerker for everyone else who apparently didn't see the obvious clues that were being thrown about at the beginning. But, while the impact of the big reveal at the end was robbed for me, the emotional impact was still there at least. I actually thought it was a very good film, especially thanks to the outstanding performances by Will Smith and Rosario Dawson. Dawson in particular was mesmerizing to watch. She can make me pancakes any day of the week, yessir! I give it an 8/10 rating.

We had dinner at our favorite Chinese place in that part of town (near Hell's Kitchen) called Ollies. I asked the waiter where the bathroom was in Mandarin and he damned near tripped over himself smiling before telling me. I almost never bust out the Chinese when at a restaurant, because most of the time the waitstaff are Cantonese or, more recently, Fujianese, and I end up being greeted by confused stares. But at this place almost everyone speaks Mandarin. Which is nice. Hearing it around me almost feels like home, which is funny since I'm not actually Chinese. I guess it reminds me of college, which after 4 years really did feel like home.

Afterwards, we walked back to the theater and watched the final movie of the day, Gran Torino starring Clint Eastwood. Wow, what a great movie! I loved, loved, LOVED it!!! It was so superbly written and acted. Clint served triple duty as director, actor, and producer. And once again he pulls out an Oscar-worthy performance on all counts. He even sings the closing song during the credits. Was not my cup of tea (the song), but kudos to him for having the balls to do it. The story itself is about an old Korean-war vet living out his retirement in solitude with his dog, Betsy. His neighborhood is quietly being taken over my Hmong refugees, and the old man begrudgingly forms a relationship with the teenage brother and sister living next door. It's sort of like a reverse Karate Kid story, but with no karate. The old white handy man who takes in a displaced Asian kid who cannot defend himself against the local gangs. He has the kid fix up the odds and ends around his and the neighbors' houses, and in return he serves as a sort of father figure to the young man. Aww. In all seriousness, go see this! I don't think it's in wide-release just yet, but when it is . . . SEE IT!!!

I give it a 9/10.

We got back to the Bronx at midnight (subway ran just fine) and it was still snowing! I took this pic on the walk through the park so you can see how much snow actually fell. Sorry for the motion blurriness. Guess I was walking faster than I realized.

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