Objectivist Conference (OCON) 2010

In anticipation of this summer’s Objectivist Conference (OCON) in Las Vegas, I talked with Marc Petock of Richmond, Virginia-based Tridium about OCON’s venue, the upscale Red Rock Resort. Marc was moderator at Tridium’s annual Niagara Summit, which was held at the Red Rock a couple of weeks ago. He described the property’s conference capacity as absolutely outstanding in every way. The Niagara Summit had registered 725 attendees, according to Petock, but unexpectedly had to accommodate another 200 enrolled guests and he said that while the resort couldn’t get everyone a room at the Red Rock, the staff were exceptional in meeting the increased staffing, dining and service demands. He also told me that wifi capability (free to guests) is reliable, the breakfast bagels are fresh, and he highly recommends the Red Rock’s food court, dubbed the Feast Buffet, which includes pizza, sushi, Chinese, Mexican, and Italian cuisines. Marc said that, while conference guests did report sluggish service at the coffee shop, the overall experience was good enough that Tridium is seriously considering a return engagement for next year’s Niagara Summit. More on OCON 2010 here and my comments on OCON 2008 in Newport Beach, California, are posted here.

Screen Shot: Robin Hood

Robin Hood It’s official: I am impressed by three movies in a row, each opening this weekend. Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett star in director Ridley Scott’s take on the Robin Hood legend, simply titled Robin Hood. Read my review here.

Screen Shot: Just Wright

Just WrightFox Searchlight’s Just Wright is a star vehicle for Queen Latifah (Chicago) and the affable actress makes the most of it, playing a wider range of emotions than usual and having fun an in old-fashioned motion picture that, like Hollywood’s Golden Age movies, breezily mixes drama and comedy. The sports-themed story is a love triangle. Latifah, one of Hollywood’s brightest stars, is ugly duckling Leslie Wright, a physical therapist pushing past 30, driving a beater, and tired of being treated like one of the boys. Her dad (expressive James Pickens, Jr.) understands and loves his daughter, but her mother (Pam Grier) is as warm and maternal as an NBA groupie. Speaking of which, she has to compete with her godsister, a tramp played by attractive Paula Patton (better in Precious), whose goal is to manipulate a man into marriage. The man whom she designates, played by an actor known as Common, is a professional athlete and we all know what that means. But this player’s no player, in fact, he’s a gentleman, a civilized man, and Common’s performance is one of the most impressive in pictures this year. He is matched by the sensual and easygoing Queen Latifah, who is developing roles (and movies) such as this and is always a treat to watch on screen. Their chemistry is amazing and, thankfully, director Sanaa Hamri doesn’t always go for the joke. Watching the full-figured gal match up against the golddigger for a man who may actually be worth pursuing is surprisingly entertaining. Cashing in means dodging everything but the kitchen sink (nice to see Phylicia Rashad as Common’s tough-minded mother) but the payoff really scores.

Movie Review: Letters to Juliet

Letters to JulietThe refreshing Letters to Juliet features beautiful vistas of the Italian countryside, sunflowers and happy endings. Starring Amanda Seyfried (Dear John, Mamma Mia!) as a young fiancee on vacation with her entrepreneurial-minded intended in Verona, city of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the picture is a thoroughly charming boy-meets-girl tale of an unlikely duo. Seyfried plays a fact-checker at the New Yorker who aims to be a writer. While traveling in Italy with her workaholic fiance, her writing ability leads to an opportunity to tag along with an old woman (Vanessa Redgrave) and her grandson (Christopher Egan) in search of Granny’s long-lost flame. The not-so-unexpected happens and leads to some lovely moments and interludes. Letters to Juliet is light fare done well. Egan is perfect as a brash young realist and Seyfried, who resembles Goldie Hawn, relaxes into her role and doesn’t try too hard as she usually does. Redgrave has never been better. Spinning the distant memory of an affair from the summer of 1957 into serious choices, her grandmother offers wisdom to her young companions. Predictable and sappy, peppered with scenes of starry nights, bubbles and simple, restful stops along the way, these Letters are worth getting lost in.

Undateable

What makes a man undateable? This is the question that drives a silly, ridiculous book by two women. Most of the material in Undateable: 311 Things Guys Do That Guarantee They Won’t Be Dating or Having Sex is skimpy, stupid or beside the point and some of it’s downright offensive to all men. But I have to admit that this photo-laden trade paperback is hilarious in spots and fun to flip through as the summer dating season approaches. For authors Ellen Rakieten and Anne Coyle, transgressions include being “overly cologned”, having “tighty whities” (which they dub “just plain creepy” without explanation) and wearing what they call “stupid t-shirts” with emblazoned messages such as “Addicted to Porn”, “FBI (Female Body Inspector)” and “I Am the Big Dog Dad.” The photos of men behaving badly are often funnier than the copy, which is often lame, cliched or too taste-specific. Still, some of this stuff is a hoot. For example, the ladies consider the multicolored, swirly “Cosby sweaters” a toxic asset: “don one of the woollen tragedies and it’s a lock no woman will come near your pudding pop.” In an entry on What Not to Be dubbed “Bitter Boy,” next to an image of a surly looking man with his arms crossed at the chest, they write: “Bitter Boy isn’t so much a look as it is a mind-set. First off, let’s just get this out of the way: Bitter Boy has personally never done anything wrong. Ever. It’s the rest of us who are f***ing everything up and making his life a living hell.” Other no-no’s include the Mandanna, air guitar, Soprano-speak, jogging in place at the stoplight and, of course, the mullet (though this doesn’t appear to apply to lesbians). The funniest bits pertain to men’s personal appearance choices. And you thought only men judge the opposite sex by their looks. (Villard, $15, 192 pages).