Last week I received my 2016 Yelp Elite badge, my fourth in a row. As I’ve written before (here and here), I wear my badge proudly and love all of the perks I’ve received. From free event/concert tickets to awesome parties, Yelp takes care of its most dedicated users. My wife and I have enjoyed some terrific date nights, compliments of Yelp.
Although I’d used the site for years without actually writing a review or posting a photo, this changed in 2013 when I took the Yelp 100 Challenge, which is an unofficial challenge to write 100 reviews in a year. That year I reached my goal and also became a part of the Yelp Elite squad.
As I became a Yelp power user, not only did I get to go to fun and complimentary events, but I also made some new friends along the way. That alone makes it worth the time and effort it takes to write 100 reviews in 365 days.
I committed to writing 100 Yelp reviews this year and I’m lagging. I’ve been focusing on board gaming as well as posting a bunch of stuff on my Star Wars blog, so my Yelping has fallen behind schedule.
I’ve got a bunch of half-finished Yelp reviews, so I’ll try to finish my 100th by the end of the year. Actually, I’ll do that by the end of the year. Do or do not … well, you know.
Rocky is back on Netflix, so I watched it before bed last night. The movie holds up well after nearly 40(!) years, mainly because Sylvester Stallone was born to play Rocky. The slurred speech peppered with “yo’s,” the physicality of the training montages, the surprising amount of emotion in his scenes with Adrian: even with a few of the hammier bits, it’s still a terrific performance and Stallone carries the film.
I’ll save the movie’s inherent racism discussion for others. There’s a reason why the film still resonates with movie fans: everybody loves the underdog. Rocky is the classic underdog making his way through the streets of Philadelphia (admit it, you’re hearing the theme song now).
Whether he’s collecting money at the shipyard or running through the open-air market, the film captures the grittiness of the city, much like The French Connection did with New York. I loved the little scene where Rocky and Gazzo meet at Pat’s King of Steaks; I’ve been there and, yes, there is a plaque at the exact spot where the scene was filmed.
One thing that always bugs me, though, is the final showdown with Apollo (kudos to Carl Weathers; he absolutely steals every scene that he’s in). It’s hilarious that both boxers show up in the ring without their gloves on, only to have them magically appear right before they fight. A bonehead mistake, no doubt.
Still, I loved the ending because by then it’s not about who wins or loses, it’s about Rocky’s love for Adrian. Corny? Yes. And the movie also seems slower than I recalled, but Rocky is such a likable galoot that it’s easy to look past the film’s foibles.
I finally watched Life Itself, the documentary about Pulitzer-Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert. It’s an excellent movie that tells Ebert’s life story and captures his final days as he succumbs to thyroid cancer.
Like so many others, I enjoyed the Siskel and Ebert movie review shows, but it was his writing that made me an Ebert fan. Before IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, I would consult Ebert’s movie guide for reviews and synopses. His guide was more than that, though; there were interviews with directors, longer essays on film-related topics, and in-depth looks at certain aspects of the movies themselves.
Years later I picked up a used copy of his Alone in the Dark, then read whatever Ebert book was on the local library’s shelves. What impressed me over the years was that throughout his writing, whether it was in one of his many books, newspaper columns, or blog posts, Ebert remained passionate about film. I respected the fact that as his blog grew in reach, he began recruiting other reviewers from around the world to review movies. He was strong with his opinions, but he gave a platform to others.
Most of all, I appreciated how honest he was with his reviews and his life. There are a few details that weren’t sugarcoated in Life Itself (for example, his drinking problem, or the images of him after his numerous surgeries) and I’m sure he liked how it was handled: honestly.
Our masks for the Black and White Masquerade Ball.
Last night my wife and I attended the Black and White Masquerade Ball, a Yelp Elite event hosted by Yelp’s Los Angeles (East) Community Manager Katie B. and her staff, along with the the Vertigo Event Venue and other sponsors. I’ve been fortunate to have attended some great Yelp parties for the Elite members of the website and this was another spectacular soiree. I’ve talked about my love of Yelp before (here and here) and I’m happy to be a part of its amazing online community.
Speaking of Yelp, a friend just told me that my review of the Gondola Company of Newport was highlighted in the Yelp Orange County Destination: Date Night. I remember that gondola ride like it was yesterday: my wife and I were newlyweds when we rode the gondola around Newport Beach. It was one of those perfect summer evenings, mellow and relaxing, the waves lapping up against the gondola as we sipped red wine and chatted, secret conversations lost in the sea air as the sun set behind us.
I had mixed feelings about watching Annie Hall. I’m not a Woody Allen fan; the whole neurotic New Yorker schtick does nothing for me. Of course, his relationship with Soon-Yi doesn’t exactly endear me to him, either.
Still, I tried to keep an open mind about Annie Hall. Early on, it was all Woody and his neuroses; my eyes rolling in my head, looking at my watch. I was surprised at how often he broke the fourth wall; Frank Underwood would be proud. Allen’s character is a comedian and the film follows his exploits in love and his various relationships. There are a lot of clever lines and insights throughout the movie, but at times I felt like I was watching a stand-up act in the guise of a dramedy: people don’t actually talk like this, do they?
Fortunately, before I found myself questioning my cinematic quest, Diane Keaton shows up. She’s the perfect foil for Allen’s character; young, cute, and charming. Scenes appear to brighten up when she’s in them, offsetting the morose and miserable Allen. After watching and re-watching her in the Godfather series, I’d forgotten that she was more than the wife of Michael Corleone. Thanks to her role as Annie Hall (supposedly based on her true self), the film is bearable, even to a non-Woody-Allen-fan as myself.
Overall, I enjoyed Annie Hall. I loved the scenes of late ’70s New York and Los Angeles (Fatburger and Tail o’ the Pup!) and the cameos (Paul Simon, Jeff Goldblum, Carol Kane, Shelley Duvall, and Christopher Walken). For the most part it’s entertaining, if a bit grating at times, due to Allen’s presence. Not sure I’d include it in my Top 100 list, but I can see why it’s well-regarded. Just not by me.