Archives – February, 2011

Vinny’s Oscar Predictions – 2011

Many of you have no idea that I am a world-class film guru. Well, I am, and here are my 2011 Oscar Picks and Predictions:

Best Documentary: Feature

Restrepo – I haven’t seen this one, but I still think it should win. I don’t care if you’re pro-war, or anti-war. Get over yourself. The men fighting at fire base Restrepo didn’t have the luxury of your bougie opinions.

Best Music: Original Score

Hans Zimmer should win for Inception but the Nine-Inch Nails dude will win for The Social Network however undeserved.

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Who really cares, really?

Best Art Direction

The King’s Speech – I don’t know much about art design, but I know what I like, and The King’s Speech is beautiful in every detail.

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Another subject where I’m in the dark technically, but I liked True Grit. I loved the wide-rangey range shots. I’m a sucker for the wide-open west from my travels as a kid. Inception looked great too but it was too techy for awards.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Social Network will win. The book, which I liked, read thin and linear like a screenplay, but since Sorkin is everyone’s favorite quazi-political screenwriter it’s all him.

Best Original Screenplay

The King’s Speech – See a pattern yet? I loved the story of how a little West End play can make it through the gauntlet to become a major motion picture. It reminded me of the little train that c-co-could.

Best Director

Aronofsky should win for Black Swan, but Fincher will win for The Social Network. I didn’t get a vote, but everyone is on Facebook and for some reason that seems to matter.

Best Supporting Actress

No idea on this one. I think Amy Adams could win, she’s kind of hot, and she’s a good solid actor, but I’m afraid the kid, Hailee Steinfeld from True Grit is the sentimental Jody Foster, Tatum O’Neil favorite. By the way, if Hailee does win someone needs to keep poor Dakota Fanning from slitting her damn wrists!

Best Supporting Actor

Everyone is saying this is between Christian Bale and Geoffrey Rush for The Fighter and The King’s Speech respectively, but my pick is Jeremy Renner from The Town. The guy was terrifying as the menacing best pal of Afleck’s lead.

Best Actress

Natalie Portman – But watch-out for Michelle Williams, everyone knows she got screwed not winning for Brokeback Mountain. Rachel Weisz really? I say no.

Best Actor

Colin Firth – He was great in The King’s Speech. I’d like to say it’s rare that I tear up in a movie, but I got misty watching Free Willy. Colin Firth’s performance was heartbreaking, subtle and powerful all at once. This is a must-see.

Best Picture

The winner is … wait for it … The King’s Speech!

I may have tipped my hand earlier, but I loved this movie on every movie loving level. It looked great, it was well shot, well paced, and had really special performances all around. Of course the leads were great, but the drunken-fat-pirate-dude from The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise was an excellent Churchill. A deadly serious role but he somehow lightened every scene he was in. It was nice to see Helena Bonham Carter in a movie without a screwy get-up or any CGI appliances.

The simple story of a guy learning to move forward in life by dealing with that one thing that had held him back. This was no superhero story, nothing miraculous happens, he simply presses on. It was a beautiful story even if he was regular guy with regular problems, but the fact he was British royalty thrust into the limelight during the opening moves of World War II makes it a magnificent story.


Vinny (~~)

Leave a Comment February 25, 2011

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I wrote a piece about my discovery of. and subsequent membership in, the Park Slope Food Coop here in sunny Brooklyn, NYC.

Leave a Comment February 25, 2011

Negril May 2010 – The Kid’s B-Day Trip – 5

I woke up around 8AM, well that’s not really true, it was more like I stopped sleeping sometime around 8AM which for me is way late even on the foggiest of mornings. I’d slept so late that Kris was already showered and had gone down for coffee. I stumbled over to the fridge, groped for a bottle of water, and then over to my bag for a handful of Extra-Strength Excedrin. Even after the entire water bottle I was thirsty.

As if on cue Kristine bangs on the door, “Are you decent?” “Yeah sure,” I replied. “Good, I need some money, the Orange Juice Lady gave me this.” she said as she walked in holding an overproof rum bottle filled with Millie’s Orange Mango Juice, “It’s really friggin’ good.” she added between swigs. I have no idea what Millie actually charges, but I usually give her 500J and she seems happy with that.

It’s one of the joys of life at The Castle, I’ve mentioned before all the cool neighbors and neighboring restaurants, but it’s more than that. Millie seems to arrive at the perfect moment every time. I don’t think I ever had a “I wonder if Millie is gonna stop by today” thought that I can remember. She just appears when you can really use some fresh squeezed juice or just some fresh fruit. I’d chalk it up to coincidence, but it happens over and over again trip after trip. Let’s face it, she’s an OJ psychic.

It must have been a mixture of Millie’s juice, the cool shower and the Excedrin, but by the time I made my way out into the bright morning yard for the day’s first cuppa I felt totally revived and ready to conquer the day. Our little crew had commandeered about half of the big picnic table under a canopy of braided palm fronds that serves as the social center at The Castle.

This had been Meg and Jay’s fourth or fifth trip to Negril and the second that year. They had gone to The Grand Lido the previous January to attend “Rat Dog Daze,” several days of Deadhead fun in the sun with Bob Weir and friends. After someone has been to Negril several times, especially in a relatively short span of time, it seems that the decompression comes faster and the slide into Jamaica time happens much more quickly.

“We were thinking about Half-Moon Beach for today.” Meg offered. Half Moon Beach is about Meg’s favorite place in the world, and it seemed as good a day as any to venture up there. When The Kid came down to join us Meg filled her in on the wonderfulness that is Half Moon Beach and the collective decision was made. I added that a nice brunch at Selina’s would be the perfect preparatory detour landing us fat and happy on the little crescent beach spot right about noon. It was agreed and we went to our respective rooms to get our beach stuff.

Now I love Negril’s Seven Mile Beach, I have even gotten to know and love Bloody Bay Beach, but for a classic tropical beach experience in the general Negril area, for me it’s Half Moon Beach. About four years earlier I had been in Negril with a girlfriend who wanted to tan her boobies somewhere quiet and uncrowded. It happened to be Easter Sunday and we were having brunch at Selina’s, and it was Selina who suggested Half Moon Beach. That first trip was special. Being Easter Sunday there were several Jamaican families picnicking on the beach. The boob tanning idea went out the window, so she and I spent most of the day in the crystal clear water playing with the local kids. Later that year I was in Negril with Meg and Jay and shared with them my new find. On subsequent trips it’s a spot I rarely miss.

Selina’s is always great. I’ve been going there for years, and on Sundays brunch is tradition. I normally don’t do Big Roy’s Banana Pancakes but I was fearing the onslaught of a mighty hangover merely postponed by juice and analgesics, so I indulged. Jay had the same and I think both ladies ordered the American Breakfast. The food was great; fresh, hot and plentiful, and as always the Bloody Marys lived up to their “Best In Negril” reputation.

The Sunday Brunch Band had gone on break soon after our arrival and came back as we were finishing. Normally coffee and Bloody Marys lead to Red Stripes and an hour or so of lingering and mingling, but Half-Moon was waiting as was our driver. So we said our good-byes and headed north along the beach road.

The only time you ever see Half-Moon Beach crowded is during the twice-weekly Wild Thing anchorage, and I’m sure it gets busy during the season. This time there was a smattering of fellow travelers, and a few more arrived later in the afternoon, but twenty people does not a crowd make. We were lucky enough to take possession of the area near the big Seagrape tree at the water’s edge and proceeded in our revelry.

Sun, sand, ganja and Red Stripe, by mid-afternoon we had retreated to the bar for some snacky food, and another round of beers. Our driver was long gone, but a guy named Sonny had dropped off his fare and was lingering hoping not to deadhead it back to Negril so we cut a deal.

On the was back I talked everyone into a quick stop by Ossie’s Jerk Centre to sample the famous Jerk Pork. Unfortunately there were only two portions left, but really that was enough. We needed beer refills and the couple succulent chunks of porky yummy-ness did a nice job of holding us over till dinner.

Kristine negotiated a great deal for a Black River trip with Sonny our driver for Monday or Tuesday, so good a deal in fact that I expected not to see him again. He said he’s stop by in the morning to see what we wanted to do. Keeping plans loose was one of my goals for this trip, I didn’t want to feel as if we were working off a checklist all week.

Back at The Castle, we joined the rest of the big picnic table crew and became acquainted with Jim Zeppa and his friend and ex-daughter-in-law Nancy. Jimmy was a character to say the least, an older gentleman from Canada who’s spent his life in the music business. An old-school raconteur who held court every afternoon during our stay. He and Kristine hit it off. His name-dropping of talent large and small alternated as entertainment and background patter, but however received he just kept on going, all the while adding a sweet sentimentality to our week in paradise.

(~~) Vinny

Leave a Comment February 11, 2011

St. John USVI Trip

Just before Thanksgiving I got an email from my sales manager, “Hey Vince, Are you up for an install in the Caribbean around Christmas?” I responded simply, “Sure, I’m game. What’s up?”

Over the next month or so the project began to take shape, but the date was pushed forward with almost every contact with the client. Finally in mid-January we nailed down a February 2nd start date, I wasn’t too confident that the place would be ready in time, but the guy said to be there, and if they weren’t ready it was on him. Who am I to argue? Okay, I argue with clients all the time, but I have a rule to never argue with clients that send me to The Caribbean in February.

January in New York City was the snowiest ever. Really, ever! Though I was hoping for a crippling snowstorm the day of my return, I was getting worried that a snow storm would keep me from leaving on time. In the days before my trip, an ice storm brewing in the mid-west was set to hit on the day I was scheduled to leave. Waking up on Tuesday the 1st, I was happy to see wet rather than snowy sidewalks as climbed into my taxi.

I got to the airport on time, through security, and into the waiting area with over an hour to spare. Waiting to board, my fellow passengers and I were glued to CNN in the gate area as they breathlessly covered the huge storm coming at us from the west. Once on the plane it was obvious that the rain had turned icy.

“Attention Passengers, This is your Captain speaking. We are delayed on take-off due to the weather…” The voice boomed through the American Airlines Boeing 757. Okay here is comes I thought. He didn’t give us much info, and said we’d know more in “a few minutes.” The next thing we heard was that the 9AM take-off was delayed because we needed to get in line for de-icing, which was fairly terrifying, and that our scheduled departure time was now 10:30AM. Upon hearing that and seeing the ice pellets bouncing off the wing outside my window, I feared that plane was not getting off the ground.

As it happened, a de-icing truck actually came out to us, and moved us way up in the conga line. After watching the de-icing procedure, we were informed that our take-off would be at 9:20. Cheers erupted from the hundred or so souls praying to get to the islands, and out of the Big Apple deep freeze.

The flight was uneventful and even with the delay we arrived at Cyrus King Airport in St. Thomas about twenty minutes ahead of schedule.

It was a bit of a process getting from the airport on St Thomas, over to St. John. I would have enjoyed it more if I was on vacation and not traveling for work, but I was very focused on seeing what shape my work site was in. The airport was tiny and my bag took only about a beer to show up on the carousel, in minutes I was in a taxi driven by K9 Joe, a retired police officer who was very proud of his service, and who regaled me with his stories even going as far as handing me a portfolio of photos and press clippings.

We went around a corner and up a hill and boom there was harbor. The view was stunning, no less than six magnificent cruise ships docked about bay, they looked less like a collection of ships than like a city in a future where they build skyscrapers on their sides. There were hundreds of smaller craft filing the spaces between, some massive in their own right, but dwarfed by these leviathans of all-inclusive luxury.

K9-Joe looked with contempt at the scene that had me agog in the passenger seat explaining the traffic would be horrible if we took the coastal route, so we headed up into the hills. He promised he would get me to the Red Hook Ferry Dock in time for the 3PM. Until then I didn’t know there was a 3PM to St. John, but I felt confident K-9 Joe would have me there on time to catch it.

After a whirlwind drive along the spine of St. Thomas, I paid Joe and bought my ferry ticket as the 3PM to St. John beginning to board. It was a sturdy craft, but it lacked any kind of island charm, if it was in Jamaica it would be green, yellow and black with Bob Marley classics blasting throughout.

Still in partial work mode, I made a few calls back home to check on my guys to make sure things were going smoothly, they weren’t but I was sixteen hundred miles away, and I could only give moral support. I tried to relax and take in the delightful island views.

Arriving at St. John I found a taxi to take me to my hotel. The driver said it was “Just up the hill,” and he wasn’t kidding because it was only about a quarter mile up the road. I had been worried because I didn’t know where the work site was, or how far it was from my hotel, or if any of the cell numbers I had would work. Luckily, my fears were allayed as we cleared the boat dock area, The Crab was just around the first curve about halfway between my hotel and the beach dock.

Entering “The Inn At Tamarind Court” one walks into the restaurant area and the actual hotel is to the left. I went to the office and attractive brunette behind the desk smiled and said, “You must be VIncent!” “Yes I am, but please call me Vinny.” I replied in my charming way. She handed me the key, and in minutes I was exploring my room. Now the rooms at The Tamarind are basic, and well, they’re basic, but I’m not too picky as long as they are clean which my room was. It kind of reminded me of my first minutes at The Negril Yoga Center back in 2004, which I was reminiscing about as I unpacked.

I didn’t waste much time, I threw on a pair of shorts, brushed my teeth, stepped into my flip-flops and off I went. I hit the open-air bar and met Amy the Bartender who sold me a $3 Red Stripe, and gave me the lay of the land in Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI.

After a couple or three, I was wobbly enough to take a walk about the neighborhood. I went down to The Crab to find a construction site, which at first scared the hell out of me until I ran into the Chef whom I’d known from their places in New York, and he said they were still on schedule. His confidence caused me to take a second look and I saw that under a layer of construction dust, saw horses, scattered tools, the place wasn’t really too far away.

At this point in a restaurant opening the will and focus of the owner to kick a little butt and hold fast to the schedule makes all the difference. Nothing will force the various contractors to get the job done in the dwindling time allotted than the promise of serving guests i9n three days. The two young brothers who own and act as the operations team for this successful little chain fit the bill, and the next morning the pace of everything seemed to quicken.

From my site visit I walked down towards the boat docks where there seemed to be a lot of bars and shops and the like. Along the water I sat at The Beach Bar for another Red Stripe, but didn’t stay. It was too nice, I was looking for some more interesting places.

I found myself across the street at Larry’s Landing which seemed like a townie bar, and not surprisingly I met several locals. Being a part of the US (sort of) the Virgin Islands attract people that don’t fit so neatly into normal society, and then there are the twenty-somethings not ready to take on the pressures of real life after college. One girl explained it like this: “Well after college, the economy went to shit, so everybody was like, stay in school and get your masters, but I don’t know what I want to do, right? So I was like, stay in Michigan and wait tables or wait tables in paradise? No brainer, duh?” I couldn’t argue.

I went back to The Tamarind for dinner sometime after dark, and there about a dozen people in the open-air bar and restaurant. Amy introduced me around to the mix of locals and fellow guests. By the time I was done with dinner I was clinking beer bottles and buying rounds for the convivial group of misfits. I felt right at home.

At that point it kind of hit me, drunkenly heading up to my room with fresh Red Stripe in my hand, I looked back at the motley crew which I had just been a part of, yeah I wasn’t too thrilled with my room at The Tamarind, pretty old, needing remodel – reminded I need to call the kitchen remodeling contractors too, but I REALLY like the kind of people these places attract. For me vacations are as much about people along the way than about the scenery of the location.

It was a Negril moment. Not fancy, but people who demand fancy can annoy the shit out of me in a dozen different ways. I like this place.

(~~) Vinny

1 Comment February 10, 2011

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Stay Where You Are And Then Leave
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