Posted on Monday, December 1st, 2003
My work takes me to Milwaukee twice annually, and over the years I've tried to tour the Harley-Davidson Plant here, but end up missing out for some reason or another... either they're closed, there's some special event, all the tours are full-up for the day, or whatever. Today, my luck had finally changed, and I ended up getting a tour (my fifth attempt!).
Overall, the tour is an hour well spent, and is really interesting if you are into motorcycles (and probably even if you aren't!). But if you are expecting to completed Hogs rolling off the line, you are bound to be disappointed, because the Milwaukee plant just builds/re-manufactures engines (to see final assembly, you need to visit a finishing plant in either Kansas City, MO or York, PA... which also houses the H-D Museum).
If you are wanting to visit, there are a few things you need to keep in mind: 1) There are only three tours each day, with the last being at 1:00, so get there early. 2) They are not open weekends and, during the winter months, are closed Tuesdays & Thursdays. 3) You must have a government-issued ID on you (such as a driver's license or passport). 4)You must be wearing closed footwear that are not open-toed, open-heeled, or open-sided... they will not permit you to tour if you show up in sandals or something like that. 5) If you ride up on a Harley or a Buell, you get preferred parking right up in front of the factory(!).
Posted on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2003
What is it with f#@%ing idiots that feel the need to drench themselves in after-shave, cologne, perfume, or other such annoying stench? Especially in an enclosed airplane cabin where they stink up the entire plane and make the journey miserable for everybody. Instead of trying to mask the fact that you smell by covering yourself with an even more horrifying aroma, why not take a shower next time?
I think it's a general trend in society where nobody gives a crap about others, and nothing brings out the worst in people than holiday travel. I take one small carry-on knapsack on the plane with me, and yet I'm expected to move it so that somebody who packs their entire f#@%ing wardrobe in huge suitcases has room for their shit. I get to the airport early so that I can be to the gate on time, but have to let idiots who wait until the last minute pass me in the security line. I keep to myself and try hard not to bother or inconvenience others, but that doesn't keep some stupid bitch from cackling and screeching about her miserable life (that nobody but her cares about) in the seat behind me. The list goes on and on.
Sadly, it seems to bet a "me-me-me" society, and people just don't give a crap about annoying others so long as they get their way. Wouldn't it be great if people would bathe, be even a little courteous, and shut the f#@% up already? Travel sucks bad enough
I am so not looking forward to this 11-hour flight.
Posted on Thursday, December 4th, 2003
Since I've spent most of the week working and traveling, coming up with a photo for Theme Thursday has been a bit troublesome, especially given that the theme this week is "wild." I mean, just how wild can it get in the airport during holiday travel? Uhhh... wait a second... perhaps I should have looked around a bit more instead of reading "Noble House" for the tenth time and playing "Final Fantasy Tactics!" Anyway, since this is my first trip to Seoul, something that struck me as a little wild is the huge number of Christian churches here, like this massive property outside my hotel window that is dwarfing the 16-story apartment building next to it:
As I was taking my hugely expensive cab ride into the city last night, I noticed little red crosses floating above the city in surprising numbers... at times I could see up to nine within my sphere of vision. Today I found out that every single one of those is a Christian church, and over a quarter of the population in Korea is of the Christian faith. Given the prevalence of Buddhism in Asia, it's wild that Korea should be so different.
Posted on Thursday, December 4th, 2003
So now I finally know how tough life can be outside the USA:
The above is what I get when I attempt to load up the iTunes Music Store from Korea. Fortunately, I do have a US billing address, so it's all good for me... but what a bummer this must be for a good chunk of foreign Mac users around the globe!
Posted on Friday, December 5th, 2003
The front of the Hard Rock Seoul has the Hard Rock Cafe motto "Love All, Serve All" emblazoned in big letters above the door... but it turns out this is a crock of shit. First of all, they do not open weekdays for lunch... you can only eat there from 5pm until 10:30pm... a pitiful 5-1/2 hour window. Second of all, the cafe seems to regularly close down for "special functions," meaning that even if you happen to get there at 5:00, there is absolutely no guarantee you can get in.
So I show up at 5:00 and of course, there is a "special function" from 7 to closing... luckily I got their early enough to have dinner, right? Wrong! They don't want to open the kitchen for a measly two hours, so all I could do was snap a few photos and then have dinner at TGI-Fridays down the street.
I suppose this means that the Hard Rock Seoul's actual motto is "Love All, Serve You Only if We Can't Whore Out the Restaurant for a Special Event." Given that Hard Rock Cafes are destinations sought out by tourists, collectors, and the like, I find it incredibly stupid that they should be allowed to close down the entire restaurant like this. When you are granted a license for a HRC franchise, you should be required to maintain consistent operating hours... if you want to host private functions, then build a separate room that can be closed off for that purpose (like most other cafes do).
So, while Seoul appears to have a nice cafe and would seem to have a friendly staff, I still think that it sucks ass because of the lame hours of operation that are not actually guaranteed to be hours of operation. When I come back to Seoul, I wonder if I'll even bother to try again?
Posted on Friday, December 5th, 2003
The traffic in Seoul is bad. I mean, really bad. It's so heinously bad that it can take hours to get from one side of the city to the other. Because of this sad fact, you can't just hop in your car to run something across town... it would take the entire day.
Enter motorcycle couriers! The city is packed with motorcycles (most of them a brand called "Daelim" that I've never heard of before), each with a large rack on the back for hauling cargo...
That alone would not be shocking, but the fact that they will pile the thing 10-feet and higher is pretty scary...
I tried to get a photo of this ridiculous load a guy was hauling through my taxi window (sorry it's a bit blurry). These couriers drive like high-speed maniacs anywhere they can (including sidewalks), but you can see that the guy (and his bike) is dwarfed by stacks and stacks of foam. I hope a gust of wind doesn't catch that and blow the motorcycle over!
The good news is that I found a cool Harley-Davidson shop here in Seoul. It's a pretty class act, and well worth a stop if you find yourself headed toward the North side of the city...
Posted on Friday, December 5th, 2003
A friend was kind enough to take me to a traditional Buddhist/Vegetarian restaurant in Insa-Dong today (which is kind of a touristy area, thanks to the huge number of souvenirs and traditional Korean antique shops and restaurants). As a vegetarian, my eating options are fairly limited at home, so I was pleasantly surprised at the 16 courses that were served in no less than 25 bowls! As the goodies started to pile up, I was beginning to wonder if I would have a place for my soup bowl and plate...
Garlic, which is a staple of Korean cooking was present (nobody uses garlic like the Koreans!), but my favorite dishes were those with a kind of spicy chile paste, which kind of reminded me of enchilada sauce, but not exactly. I definitely have to see if I can find some of this stuff... perhaps in Seattle... when I get back, as I think it would be an amazing addition to any kind of fried or steamed vegetables (and sticky rice, of course).
Posted on Saturday, December 6th, 2003
On the Korean Airlines Limousine Bus to Incheon International, I was thumbing through their magazine when I ran across an ad featuring George Clooney whoring himself out for whiskey. This is quite common in Japan (as the excellent film "Lost in Translation" fictionalizes), but I was a bit surprised to find that same practice here in Korea. I can only guess that George was offered some serious bank to do the spot, and figured "what the hell, nobody I care about is going to see it."
The funny thing about it is the catch-phrase, conveniently written in English: "Good whiskey needs no bush." I have no clue what this means. I doubt it would be some kind of pun against President Bush, but you never know. Perhaps Clooney is just letting us in on his preference in ladies' grooming habits?
Posted on Saturday, December 6th, 2003
Maybe its because I've been here a number of times before, or perhaps I was Japanese in a past life or something... because every time I come back to Tokyo, I feel very much at home. Within minutes of arriving at my regular hotel in Akasaka, I was running off to see what's new in the area.
The first thing I noticed while on the limousine bus ride in from Narita, was that there is a BMW Motorcycle dealership just around the corner from Tameike-Sanno station (exit 9), so that was my first stop. It's a nicely appointed shop with a good selection of models (including a blue version of my beautiful F650-GS!), and about a dozen bikes in stock. Due to the insane Tokyo traffic, motorcycles are everywhere, and it's nice to know that pricey BMW motorcycles can make a home here given the massive number of Japanese bikes on the street.
Next I'm off to the very, very cool Apple Store Tokyo. Surprisingly, this store is not located in Akihabara, which is the electronics and computer district. It is instead located in Ginza, which is the high-fashion district. This makes it very clear that Apple is positioning Macs and iPods here not as electronic gizmos, but as fashion accessories that compliment your lifestyle. Given the high cost of real estate in the Ginza, I shudder to think how expensive this store must have been.
When I arrived, the store was jam-packed... apparently Japan doesn't have the fire codes we have in the States! The first floor is computers, the second is digital lifestyle apps and the Genius Bar, the third is a cool presentation theater, the fourth is software and accessories with an internet Bar, and the fifth is a training center (which you can only see if you pay for one of Apple's hands-on classes). All the floors are connected via two nifty glass elevators at the back of the store, for which there was quite a line-up to access.
In the above shot, you can see how the huge rotating Apple sign at the top makes the building stand out, even when you're down the street. Compared to some of the key stores in the US (like L.A.'s Galleria and New York's Soho stores), this is not a very big property. But for Japan, it's monster-sized, and easily one of the most impressive shopping experiences in the entire city. The wide-open spaces and minimalist decor is almost unheard of in space-impaired Tokyo, but since every available square foot is packed with people, I suppose it's probably a good thing. I really, really hope that the store's instant popularity translates into brisk sales, because this is a flagship Apple Store that deserves every success.
Posted on Sunday, December 7th, 2003
The Japanese have this astounding ability to orchestrate nature into spaces that are beautiful in their simplicity and elegance. After a fine Japanese dinner with friends at the Four Seasons at Chinzan-so, we walked the gardens to see the leaves turning on the Japanese maples there.
The park here is famous for weddings (there are eight scheduled for today!), and the Four Seasons has a number of "wedding consultants" running at full capacity with young brides-to-be planning extravagant ceremonies for cringing grooms-to-be (who wisely say nothing except "yes," "yes," and "yes")... the dollar total escalating with every minute. I certainly hope that the money spent is truly for a "once in a lifetime event!"
Posted on Sunday, December 7th, 2003
The Hard Rock Uyeno-Eki is located in the JR Eki (Japan Rail train station) building of Ueno. It is easily one of the smallest HRC properties I have ever seen, with very limited seating... I just ate at the bar so I could avoid the line for a table. Like all cafes in Japan, the service is impeccable, which cannot be easy given the cramped quarters that the staff has to operate in. The merch shop, while also quite small, seems huge when compared to the size of the actual restaurant. The atmosphere is a bit subdued, which is the norm for Japanese properties, but you can tell the staff is having a good time and working hard to keep the energy level up.
While not quite on the same level as the first Tokyo property in Roppongi, Uyeno-Eki is well worth a visit... especially given how easy the rail and subway lines make it to navigate through Tokyo. I suggest having dinner in Roppongi, then heading over to Uyeno-Eki for dessert (since they don't have veggie burgers there).
Posted on Monday, December 8th, 2003
After 2-1/2 hours on the speedy Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Osaka, I met up with Kimono-san at the new Hard Rock Cafe Osaka Universal Studios (quite a mouthful!). It's a rather impressive dual-level property directly opposite the main entrance to the park. Though smaller in size, I do like it better than the HRC Universal in California, as it seems to have a bit more personality.
After a great lunch, we headed to the new cafe in downtown Osaka. It has been a very long time since I had been to the first cafe here, so I can't really say if this new one is any better than the original. I can say that it's a great addition to the chain. Kimono-san tells me that the building used to be a bank. And, sure enough, you can see in the back of the cafe where the bank vault used to be. As an homage to its origins, they've put some bars at the "vault bar" entrance, which is a clever touch.
As usual for Japanese cafes, the service is perfect and the staff works very hard to make sure you have the best possible visit. When I got back to Tokyo, I decided to make it a "Hard Rock Day" by going to the Roppongi cafe for dinner (which was also excellent).
Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2003
Just a couple Japan-oriented questions I received:
Is it possible to visit Japan if you don't speak Japanese? Absolutely. It's a little more difficult than visiting non-English-speaking European countries (because they don't use the Roman alphabet in "real" Japan writing), but certainly possible. In major cities any important signage is written in both English and Japanese, so all you really need is a good guidebook and you are good to go. Many locals (especially younger people) in larger cities can speak some English... particularly those working in hotels, restaurants and the like. Just prepare yourself to be patient and very observant (subway and train stations can be very confusing!), and you should be fine. Even so, I always recommend learning some basic conversation phrases, which will make your trip a bit easier (and more fun!).
I like your funny stories about annoying American tourists. Anything happen to you this time?I usually find such stories to be more sad than humorous, but yes. On my very first day I was waiting for the subway when two gai-jin (foreign, and most probably American) guys in their mid-40's came up to me to ask directions... for some reason, I am an absolute magnet for lost and confused anglo-tourists. After helping them out, a Japanese man walked by with a surgical mask on. Almost immediately, while the Japanese man was still within earshot, one of the idiots has to say "WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN?" to which idiot #2 responds "HEY-HO SILVER AWAY!" Usually, I find it easier to just ignore stupid shit like this but, since I had just helped them out, I felt I could respond. I explained that the gentleman was sick with a flu or a cold, and he is wearing the mask as a courtesy to others so he doesn't infect them with his germs. Unlike in America, where people can barely be bothered to cover their mouths when they cough, the Japanese are much more courteous. As expected, my explanation had no effect, because idiot #1 was compelled to say "ARE YOU SURE? I THINK TONTO MUST BE AROUND HERE SOMEWHERE! HA HA HA!!" Sigh. Why do I even bother. Since Japan is not a very big tourist destination, I'd have to guess that these morons were here on business. With a redneck attitude like that, you aren't going to get very far, assholes.
If you think Americans are so stupid why don't you get the f#@% out! Don't tempt me. It's not that I think all Americans are stupid, I just feel that far too many have extremely narrow world-views that reflect poorly on us in the global community... particularly when I see how badly we can behave when visiting foreign countries. How hard can it be to take a few hours or so to read up on the customs and culture of the place you are visiting so that you don't offend anyone? It's just common courtesy, but you would be absolutely shocked at how few of us actually make the effort when traveling abroad.
And lastly: Is Japan as expensive as everybody says? Uh... yes. Very. The US dollar is pathetically week right now and Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities on earth (probably tied with Stockholm for the most expensive city?). I always end up spending quite a lot more than I planned when visiting Japan.
Posted on Friday, December 12th, 2003
1. Do you enjoy the cold weather and snow for the holidays? Hell no. You can't ride a motorcycle in the snow and I couldn't give a crap about the holidays.
2. What is your ideal holiday celebration? Getting drunk at a strip club. How, where, with whom would you celebrate to make things perfect? A strip club in Maui with Elizabeth Hurley and a bottle of Jägermeister would be good.
3. Do you do have any holiday traditions? No. Well, dinner at grandma's house.
4. Do you do anything to help the needy? Sometimes.
5. What one gift would you like for yourself? World peace. And I'm not kidding about that.
Posted on Monday, December 15th, 2003
Nothing quite like showing up in Minneapolis for some bone-chilling weather. I want to stay in my hotel bed, but it's off to work I go...
Posted on Tuesday, December 16th, 2003
After a l-o-n-g four hour drive out of New Orleans, I finally reached "Philadelphia, Mississippi" which is listed as the home of the "Hard Rock Beach Club in Choctaw" on the official Hard Rock web site. As it turns out, this is not quite true. The property is not in Philadelphia, but part of the ever-growing Pearl River Casino Resort on the nearby Choctaw Indian Reservation (or are they "Native American Reservations" now, to be PC?). If you don't know where you are going, there are no signs to really help you out, and not much to lead you to it. Since it was dark and there were no signs, I got a bit lost, but eventually found the Beach Club Cafe on Highway 16 (though I took the photo below the next morning)...
While not even close to the magical extravagance of the Bali Hotel & Beach Club, this is still a pretty cool property. There's a heated pool for year-round enjoyment, a sandy volleyball court, and a really great tiki-themed cafe with a staff that was psyched to have visitors during the slow off-season. Is it worth a four-hour drive? I'm not so sure... certainly it could be if you wanted to gamble at the reservation casino or play at the water park. On its own, however, it could use a Hard Rock Hotel, Hard Rock Casino, or some other Hard Rock-type venue to make it truly worth the trip.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, the Hard Rock Beach Club Choctaw was closed in January 2005.
Posted on Wednesday, December 17th, 2003
One of my favorite cities on earth, New Orleans is one of those places that never leaves your blood once you've experienced it. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the atmosphere... it's all intoxicating. And if you want something really intoxicating, there's always Bourbon Street. Of course the first place I have to visit is Cafe Du Monde for some hot chocolate and beignets, but then it's off to the market to see all the clever crap that we tourists can't live without...
I rarely get the time to take a vacation, but you could do a lot worse than spending it in The Big Easy!
Posted on Thursday, December 18th, 2003
Thanks to "Gone with the Wind" and numerous other glamorizations of plantation living in print and film, most people have this lovely mint-julep tainted vision of the Old South in their heads... filled with stately mansions like this one called "Oak Alley:"
Truth be told, it's a lovely home, and they have it fully decked out for the holidays.
But then you run across a shocking document recreation like this posted out back...
... and you are instantly able to put everything into perspective. Something about seeing a monetary value put on a human life that kind of destroys any beauty you might otherwise find in the surroundings.
Posted on Friday, December 19th, 2003
New Orleans has many amazing things to offer, but the tree-lined streets and beautiful houses in the Garden District are pretty hard to beat. It's here that you'll find a great example of something uniquely New Orleans... the crypts in Lafayette Cemetery. Since the water table is so low (just 12-inches in the older days), there was no way to bury a coffin without it popping right back up the next time a heavy rain hits. So, to accommodate the problem, they have above-ground burials in really cool family crypts:
But the garden district is famous for its classic houses, and you can see a lot of them here... one of the best is owned by novelist Anne Rice (of Interview with a Vampire fame):
Also in the Garden District is one of my favorite zoos in the world... the Audubon Zoo. It's not only really huge, it's one of the more "animal friendly" in that they painstakingly re-create a natural environment to make the animals feel more at home. This silver fox has a great set-up with a den and space to run around and everything:
And, given Audubon's bird infatuation, there's some pretty cool bird exhibits as well. One of the critters that caught my eye this time around was this fuzzy little thing whose name I cannot remember:
Posted on Friday, December 19th, 2003
4. List your five favorite board and/or card games. Canasta. Sequence. Cosmic Encounter. Auction. Mille Bornes.
5. List your five favorite computer and/or game system games. Final Fantasy Tactics. Warlords III. Mario Diablo II. WarCraft III. StarCraft.
Posted on Saturday, December 20th, 2003
Today I happen to be in New Orleans on the occasion of the two-hundred year anniversary of one of the most lucrative land deals of all time... the Louisiana Purchase. It was from this event that Napoleon got the money he needed to finance his wars, while the United States got enough land to double its size (at a fire-sale price of just 15 million dollars!).
To celebrate to occasion, a historical reenactment of the event was held in Jackson Square in front of the St. Louis Cathedral... just 4 blocks from my hotel room. It was a fairly boring ordeal, so I didn't bother to stick around, but it was a pretty landmark day to be in the Big Easy. The Hard Rock here even came out with a limited edition pin for the event:
Times like this make me think about how changed the world might be from what we know if history had been just a little different. What if Napoleon was able to come up with some other way to raise the money he needed and didn't have to sell Louisiana Territory? Or what if it had been sold to some other country? That's history for you.
Posted on Monday, December 22nd, 2003
One of my long-time favorite comic books, Mike Mignola's Hellboy, is finally getting a movie treatment by none-other than Guillermo del Toro (who crafted the amazing film "The Devil's Backbone"). Hellboy is the story of a demon who gets drawn to earth at the height of World War II and grows up to be the world's foremost paranormal investigator. The Hellboy comics are filled with all the things that makes comics worth reading, and are a real treat to look at thanks to Mignola's gothic art stylings.
It's going to be interesting to see how del Toro manages to translate such a visually distinctive work to the big screen, but then I see promotional images from the Hellboy movie site, and it looks encouraging:
There's Abe Sapien, Hellboy, and Liz Sherman... right out of the comics and come to life! How cool is that? For even more Hellboy coolness, you can also view the movie trailer from Apple. I can hardly wait until April 2nd!
Posted on Wednesday, December 24th, 2003
It would seem my home state is under siege due to a possible occurrence of mad cow disease in the outskirts of Yakima (a city under two hours away from me)... you can read about it in an article at Wired. The scary thing about the disease is that if you eat infected nerves or other tissues, you can end up getting the disease yourself, which rots holes in your brain. Not a very nice way to go.
Which brings me yet again to a question I've pondered over the last decade... why in the hell to people continue to eat meat?
Commercial beef is a horrid substance that is filled with steroids and other crap that nobody should be consuming. It is risky food because, in addition to mad cow disease, it can also infect you with salmonella and E. coli... cause heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer... and make you fat. The cattle industry is astoundingly harsh on the environment, raping topsoil to produce feed, polluting waters with toxic cow waste, and consuming energy and resources at an alarming rate. So not only is beef one of the worst, most unhealthy substances you can eat, the industry is also destroying the planet to create it.
The funny thing is that meat is probably one of the most expensive foods in existence. It is only government subsidizing of the beef industry that keeps a Big Mac from costing you $35. Ironically, this means our government is spending huge sums of money to put its citizens at risk by making healthier alternatives to meat products (like soy burgers) be more expensive to purchase when they are far less expensive to produce. What kind of stupid shit is this? Shouldn't it be the other way around? Maybe when more and more people finally wise up and stop eating meat, the money wasted on the meat industry can be put into organic fruit and vegetable production so our country can afford to eat healthy foods again.
Are you ready to free your mind, take the red pill, and enter The Meatrix?
Posted on Thursday, December 25th, 2003
I don't celebrate Christmas so, for me at least, it's just a day I don't have to go to work. It would be too easy to just lay around watching television, so instead I'm working on a complete overhaul of my Hard Rock Cafe web site... DaveCafe... while watching TV. And that's when I discover the "new" meaning of Christmas: exploitation.
ABC is currently running a "Christmas Parade at DisneyWorld" special. Masquerading as entertainment, this program is actually a two-hour advertisement for all things Disney (which happens to be the parent company of ABC television). There sits Regis and Kelly whoring out Disney "Magic Gathering" vacations and the many wondrous things that await you at DisneyWorld... having "guests" fill you in on how much better their lives are because of a Disney vacation at a Disney resort with Disney entertainment.
It's all a complete load of crap, of course. As anybody who has been to Disneyland or Disney World recently can tell you, the parks look like shit. Paint is peeling off the walls, buildings are busted and falling apart. All the new rides are cheap-ass snore-fests like boring old roller coasters and off-the-shelf entertainment no better than what you can find at a local carnival. For example: what's the last "E-Ticket" ride to hit Disneyland? The Indiana Jones Adventure in 1995!! And it's only gone downhill from there. Under the moronic "leadership" of Michael Eisner, Disney is no longer interested in creating unique and engaging entertainment. they only care about the quick buck... exactly the type of thing that Walt Disney was fighting when he created Disneyland in the first place.
So, to Disney and so many others, Christmas is just a weak-ass excuse to promote their lame shit. The very definition of exploitation. I saw more Christmas spirit in Japan where they don't even celebrate the holiday. Hey, wait a minute... Bewitched is on! I wonder what that crazy Larry Tate is up to now?
Posted on Friday, December 26th, 2003
1. What was your biggest accomplishment this year? Surviving it.
2. What was your biggest disappointment? Having to cancel plans for a trip to Australia yet again.
3. What do you hope the new year brings? Peace.
4. Will you be making any New Year's resolutions? No. If yes, what will they be? If I were into making resolutions, it would probably have something to do with finishing my book.
5. What are your plans for New Year's Eve? To party with some friends.
Posted on Sunday, December 28th, 2003
When I travel, I take along my faithful iBook because it's small, rugged, and has great wireless range. When I get back home, I immediately switch back to my PowerBook G4 because it's easier to work on the bigger screen and the faster processor comes in handy for graphics work. Anyway, I was transferring some files off my iBook this morning and ran across an entry I made about The Last Samurai that didn't get posted...
I wasn't planning on seeing The Last Samurai because I am just not a big Tom Cruise fan. He never seems to stop being Tom Cruise and get lost in the part he's playing, which kind of destroys the immersive experience of watching a movie for me. But when I was in Japan last week I kept seeing these beautiful posters for the film that didn't feature Tom Cruise at all. Then I started seeing these stunning commercials on beautiful high-definition Japanese television that got me thinking that this film might transcend Tom Cruise and actually be worth watching. So when I got back to the States, I managed to catch it in Minneapolis and was really glad I did.
The Last Samurai is not only one of the best films of 2003, it is quite possibly one of the best films ever.
I am rarely emotionally affected by a film... I can count on one hand the films that have moved me to the verge of tears (sappy love stories and hokey dramas just don't do it for me). Given that, you can imagine my complete shock that this would become one of them. And I am still trying to figure out just how that happened. Yes, the film is beautiful... the cinematography is breathtaking and I would gladly sit through 3 hours of it with not a single actor in the frame. Yes, the score is a wonder... the music in the film is a presence that will haunt you long after you leave the theater. Yes, the story is captivating... the Samurai's efforts to preserve a way of life that had existed for centuries is good material. Yes, the acting is top-notch... if Ken Watanabe isn't nominated for an Oscar for his brilliant performance, then the award is as irrelevant as I had thought. And yes... Tom Cruise gives the best performance of his career (unlike many, I thought his work in Born on the 4th of July was self-indulgent and overly-acted). I can only guess that it is all these factors in concert that makes the movie so compelling.
So do yourself a favor and see Tha Last Samurai as soon as you can in a really good theater. It will absolutely not be the same experience if you wait for the DVD. And don't forget to visit the official web site. There's also a pretty good book from the movie available.