30 January 2008

Willie Nelson - "Moment of Forever"

Moment of Forever
Willie Nelson
Original release date: 29 January 2008
CD list price: $13.98

Moment of Forever was produced by Kenny Chesney, and before the groans start, it should be noted that the album is easily the most enjoyable work Willie Nelson has done since 2005's Countryman.  Chesney has a penchant for reflective songs, and in Willie's capable hands they work extremely well, whether they be the Randy Newman penned "Louisiana" (re-contextualized as an angry look at the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina and the federal government's handling of it) or Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody," the choices are generally thought provocative.  Of course, no Willie album would be complete without some humor, and Moment of Forever features two amusing diversions: "You Don't Think I'm Funny Anymore" (an outtake of which appears as a hidden bonus track at the end of the album) and Big & Rich's "The Bob Song," with guest vocal by Big Kenny.

For fans who actually like Kenny Chesney, "Worry B Gone" is a duet between artist and producer.  It won't surprise any fans of Chesney, what with it's "off to the islands to get away from it all" theme, yet somehow it feels as natural for Willie to sing the song as it does for Chesney.  Perhaps that's because of Willie's well-established anti-stress lifestyle, or perhaps it's because of Countryman that an island-flavored tune is perfectly welcome on an album by one of the greatest living Outlaw legend.Will Moment of Forever, with its "Gravedigger" cover, be canonized with Johnny Cash's American IV: The Man Comes Around or Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose?  Probably not, but it's an enjoyable album that manages to do something Willie hasn't done in a while: surprise the listener throughout the album.

Note: I received this CD free as member of the Lost Highway Street Team.

28 January 2008

Shelby Lynne - "Just a Little Lovin'"

Just a Little Lovin'
Shelby Lynne
Original release date: 29 January 2008
CD list price: $13.98

Subtitled, "Inspired by Dusty Springfield," Just a Little Lovin' is hands-down the smoothest, most relaxing album of the year.  The titular opening song, "Just a Little Lovin'," immediately separates this album from similar ones in that it sets the listener's mind in the morning, rather than the evening.  Other mood-setting albums are designed with the notion of helping get a couple into bed; Shelby Lynne assumes you've made it that far already, and she's there to help narrate the day after.  All our days would be happier, she lets us know, if they started with just a little lovin'.

Lynne's vocals are perfectly suited for an album of this nature, though she forsook her normally casual style of singing for more precise enunciation.  This can be a little jarring at times, a little like listening to Diana Krall, but it's easy enough to get past that and get lost in the comforting sound of her voice and the inviting arrangements of these songs.  For some reason, despite being an album of songs pertaining to waking up in love, the photograph of Lynne that adorns the cover has her pouting.  (On second thought, the reason is apparent, and...kudos to whoever came up with that idea.)

Normally, this is the kind of album that should be heard with a bottle of wine; by the time she sings "I Only Want to Be with You" (track 4), even champagne seems in order.  Then she follows that two songs later with "Breakfast in Bed," reinforcing the theme of being in love in the morning, and orange juice and scrambled eggs somehow seem a bit sexy.

Note: I received this CD free as a member of the Lost Highway Street Team.

24 January 2008

2008 Grammy’s: Field 19, Category 79

It's a category most people aren't even aware exists. It's a category whose award presentation is never done on TV. And in 2008, it's a category that may well decide the fate of the entire planet. It's Field 19, Category 79: "Best Spoken Word Album." I noted in an earlier Grammy's post that the competitors are two former presidents, a presidential hopeful, an actor who has played at least one president and a presidential hopeful, and Maya Angelou.

Since that original post, the novelty of this one category has captured my fascination and so I have researched the field and the candidates to make a researched prediction. Yes, I'm aware that people who actually follow the Grammy's care about other fields and categories like "Album of the Year," but for analysis like that, you've got Rolling Stone. Ten to one says they don't say a word about Field 19, which is why I have to do it.

Consider that, since 2003, Grammy voters in this category have awarded entries by three Democrats (all of whom are nominees this year) and Al Franken, for his Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. Grammy voters were clearly influenced by their strong liberal leanings when they awarded the Dixie Chicks four Grammy's in 2006. In many respects, this year's Grammy's could amount to a second primary election for the state of California. More on that later. Here are the nominees, along with impressions of their chances:

Alan Alda, Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself
Alan Alda has six Emmy Awards, but to date no Grammy. Alda's Things is more than a continuation of his memoirs; it is a collection of reflections from a man of considerable experience trying to gain perspective on his life and the world around him. Subjects of aging, births of children and September 11 are themes that should resonate easily with listeners. Grammy voters may find his message more accessible, and that could give his '06 Emmy for The West Wing some help standing up to the five Emmy's on his mantle from M*A*S*H.

Maya Angelou, Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer
Angelou has the strongest track record with the Grammy's of the five nominees, having won thrice already. Her wins include The Pulse of Morning (1993), Phenominal Woman (1995) and A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002). Interestingly enough, Celebrations includes "The Pulse of Morning," the poem Angelou composed for, and read during, President Bill Clinton's first inauguration in 1993. Angelou's subjects are more similar to Alan Alda's than to the rest of the nominees, but her different medium may be the key to her collecting her fourth Grammy award.

Jimmy Carter, Sunday Morning in Plains: Bringing Peace to a Changing World
President Carter is the defending champion of Category 79, for Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis. The fact that he has won so recently could cut either way; some voters will feel he's on a roll and give him another nod, while others will consider his '06 trophy a reason to eliminate him from the pack. Grammy voters like to let their politics be known, and it's difficult to imagine them not awarding this to either our potential next president or our potential first-ever First Gentleman.

Bill Clinton, Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World
The other president in the running, Bill Clinton has already won two Grammy Awards. His abridged reading of his autobiography, My Life, won in 2004. President Clinton also won the year before in the Childrens categor as a participant in the Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf with Mikhail Gorbachev and Sophia Loren the year before. Like Carter, Clinton's subject material is one in which he is established as an authority, working through his Clinton Foundation since leaving office. Hillary Clinton's name may be absent on the Grammy ballot, but voters may consider expressing their support for her candidacy by awarding Mr. Clinton his third Grammy.

Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream
Senator Obama's previous work, Dreams from My Father, won him his first Grammy in 2005. I'm not sure how Audacity qualified for this year's Grammy awards, since its publication date was November 6, 2007 (September 30 is the cutoff date). The fact that Senator Obama is running for the highest office in the country may encourage Grammy voters to endorse his candidacy by giving him the nod for Best Spoken Album; then again, they may feel they've heard this speech by Obama too many times and reserve their vote for the ballot booth in November and award the Grammy to someone else.

Final prediction: Senator Barack Obama wins his second Grammy award. Grammy voters who favor Hillary Clinton over Obama may be inclined to vote for her by proxy by casting their vote for Bill, but the fact that Obama's name is on both their ballots gives him the edge. Besides, they included him despite having been published after their eligibility period anyway; if they went to all that trouble to get him into the final round, then there's enough support to get him a trophy.

21 January 2008

Dr. King’s Birthday (Observed)

Once a year, kids get out of school on a Monday in January and that seems to be the extent of interest many young people have in the observation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. Is it their fault that Dr. King's message of brotherhood and peace doesn't register more strongly with them? Or is it that, in their world, they've either grown up in a relatively peaceful time or that they consider such an ideal obselete? It's almost a paradox, but this generation of kids coming up today have had the best of the best while living in a world in which Americans fear terrorists; the closest thing to the civil rights movement, with its sporadic rioting and intense demonstrating, is the gay rights movement.

Yet, somehow, the gay community's fight for legal equality lacks the resonance with mainstream America that the movement for minority (chiefly African-American) rights held. Is it because people of all races have homophobia, or is it because those pursuing legal equality today have not resorted to the same high profile methods favored by their 60s predecessors? Some will read this and become irritated or even angered by the very mention of the gay rights movement in a blog about Dr. King and the civil rights movement. While we know that Dr. King was not, himself, a proponent of gay rights (he was once blackmailed with the threat of a rumor that he was gay), his message of brotherhood, peace and tolerance must be universal in order to have validity. The women's suffrage movement, the civil rights movement and now the gay rights movement are all part of an overarching march toward true equality. Without equal recognition of the validity of people of all backgrounds, we can never form the chorus Dr. King envisioned singing that old African spiritual.

I have much appreciation for Dr. King and his work; indeed, I owe a good deal of my identity as a liberal to his legacy. He stood tall in a turbulant time, and somehow managed to marshall an army to fight for what was right while resisting the urge to incite violence. He took a lot of heat for not being more militant, but he had a true vision of not only what was right, but the right way to fight for it. And yet, there are so many other significant contributors to the civil rights movement whose names erode a little bit more each year as Dr. King's name and legacy become more ensconced in our canon of great Americans.

Malcolm X and Rosa Parks are two names that continue to resonate, but many have forgotten the work of Senator/Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (in many ways, Dr. King's forbear in the movement, though far more flambouyant). Today, it's not that big of a deal for Beyonce to go multi-platinum with an album, but few recall the way Josephine Baker confronted racism with dignity during the Harlem Renaissance. Jackie Robinson has been immortalized by Major League Baseball, his number 42 retired throughout both leagues; but what of Muhammad Ali, whom many younger people know only as a boxer and not as a man who set white supremacists into an uproar by defeating one white opponent after another? And if the legacy of "The Greatest" can be distilled into just boxing, what of boxer Jack Johnson, who to this day has yet to receive the pardon he rightly deserves?

In 2008, as we progress through our presidential primary season, Dr. King would no doubt find it remarkable that an African-American, Barack Obama, has a strong chance of emerging as the Democratic nominee for the presidency. And he would no doubt find it satisfying that Senator Obama's chief competition comes from Senator Hillary Clinton, a woman who has worked prominently over the years on behalf of African-Americans and issues relevant to their communities. It was postulated in an episode of The Boondocks that, were he alive today, Dr. King and his grand style of oratory would find no audience in today's soundbite-happy media. I agree his style is incompatible with the MTV-based format of the American media of today, but I disagree that he would not have found an audience. Perhaps he would have adapted, being as dynamic and charismatic as he was, and found a way to sell his message in thirty seconds. Of his entire "I Have a Dream" speech, the only part with which most Americans are familiar is the part wherein he describes a vision of unity; if the entire speech had just been that one part, he would have gotten through to many.

Beyond the confidence I have in Dr. King's ability to reach an audience, though, is the stronger reason I have for disagreeing with Boondocks's premise. The message Dr. King had was one of peace, of brotherhood, of equality, of fighting for what is right, of standing together to confront what is wrong. For Dr. King, it was a dream, but one he fought hard to bring closer to reality. Dr. King may have been the one to describe the dream, but he was far from the only one to have it. That dream exists in people across the world, even in people who have never heard of Dr. King's legacy. It existed before him and it will always exist, because it is ingrained in our values as a free people. We should not forget those who have given of themselves to realize the dream, certainly, but we should also never forget that the dream has not yet been realized. There is still much work to be done, and on this day of all others, I pause to reflect on how much work has already been done and how far we've come. Tomorrow, I will resume focusing on how much work there is yet to be done.

18 January 2008

Film: "Cloverfield"

Directed by Matt Reeves
Written by Drew Goddard
Starring: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David
Theatrical Release Date: 18 January 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Violence, Terror and Disturbing Images)

This film is destined to become a cult favorite.  It's Blair Witch meets Godzilla, with a dash of Open Water thrown in for good measure.  Aside from the camerawork (all done handheld), the only real resemblance to Blair Witch is that the film's protagonists spend the majority of the film not really knowing what's going on.  Unlike those characters, who freaked out over every little setback along the way, Cloverfield's heroes are surprisingly able to roll with the punches.  Maybe it's because they're post-September 11th New Yorkers; maybe because being in Manhattan during a seige affects one's psychology differently than being lost in the woods.  In any event, having endured the frequent screaming of Blair Witch, I appreciated Cloverfield's folks keeping it together for most of the film.

In a lot of respects, Cloverfield made me think of Steven Speilberg's recent War of the Worlds remake, and even Jaws.  Like those two films, the antagonist of Cloverfield is seen only sparingly throughout; it is largely represented by the destruction it causes.  In War, Spielberg consciously avoided the destruction of well known landmarks, and followed the entire invasion strictly from the main characters' perspective.  Essentially, they felt Independence Day had already done all that and it was time to focus on what it might be like to actually live through something like that.  In that capacity, Cloverfield succeeds extremely well; we as an audience only see and know what they see and know.  Consequently, as they attempt to cross Manhattan, the audience builds suspense along with the characters, wondering whether things are getting safer or about to come completely undone.

Unlike WarCloverfield's creators saw fit to trash the Statue of Liberty (as seen in the trailer) and the Brooklyn Bridge.  The Statue of Liberty was, I suspect, a casualty more with the trailer in mind than the actual film.  The bridge, on the other hand, fed quite logically into the story, as it cut off an obvious means of escape for our heroes.  In a lot of ways, while watching, one can't help but think how much cooler this story would have been as a video game than as a film; practically each scene plays out like a game level, with its own objective and challenges. As for the characters themselves, given that the entire thing occurs in abridged real time, they may not be the most developed characters in cinematic history, but they do become believable and identifiable to the audience.  Rob, Hud, Lilly and Mega--mada--whatever her name was, generally make decisions that make sense throughout the film.  There's not a lot of forced plot points that hinge on a character getting a wild hair, other than Rob's insistance to cross Manhattan to save his could've-been-girlfriend Beth and his friends deciding to accompany him.  Still, given the state of mind one might have if a large creature were, in fact, destroying everything, it's plausible you might take off on such an effort and your distraught friends might go with you.

The only real problem is the camerawork.  A guy who's never really handled a camera before is unlikely to commit himself to documenting the entire ordeal, but we'll suspend that disbelief.  From a storytelling perspective, though, it is entirely unreasonable that Hud would continue to shoot as he does for many of the film's important show-the-audience moments.  It might have been better had they simply resorted to a third-person perspective for some of those moments; as an audience we still wouldn't have been privy to anything more than we would have had Hud continued shooting, but it would have 1) shown that Hud was more than an absurdly dedicated amateur documentarian and 2) given the audience a momentary respite from the herky-jerky camerawork.  Granted, such a moment might have reminded the audience they were watching just a film and not an actual documentary, but I think the fact that some kind of spider-like Godzilla creature is destroying Manhattan is enough of a reminder.

In the end, Cloverfield is a film that should probably be seen, but likely only once.  You have to decide for yourself whether you want to subject yourself to the big-screen treatment or wait for the DVD where the film's camerawork won't be quite as overwhelming.  Depending on what bonus features accompany the film in its DVD release, it may actually be preferrable to watch it when you can also get insight from the creators as to what they were trying to create and why they did or did not do something.  For most films, that kind of stuff is just for film geeks (such as myself), but I sincerely believe that, if they do it right, Cloverfield is one of those rare instances where that kind of thing can really complement the film.

17 January 2008

The Mixed Messages of HDTV

So, in a decision influenced by the HDTV manufacturers, the FCC decreed that come February next year, analog TV's will be paperweights (unless they're connected to something that receives a digital signal, such as a cable box, satellite receiver or HD antenna converter tuner thingie). Oh, sure, there's something about using those broadcast frequencies to improve emergency responders and security, blah, blah, blah. Like the FOP lobbyists have devoted their resources to clearing up frequencies for communication. Anyway, the TV manufacturers decided that all HDTV's would be widescreen.

Now, this move to widescreen favors three things: movies, newer TV shows and video games. Except, of course, that somehow or other, the studios continue to crank out full screen and widescreen versions of major releases. Why? Well, simply put, statistics say up to half of all American homes (or more) don't have even one HDTV, meaning that most people don't have their DVD player hooked up to a widescreen TV. Even in homes that have one HDTV, most other rooms that have a TV still have an old school 4:3 TV. I know ours is no different; the upstairs TV and the one in our bedroom are old ones, but the Philips HDTV is our primary TV.

Here's the problem with studios continuing to crank out full screen (or pan & scan, if you prefer) versions of titles on DVD: they discourage the masses from adapting to the 21st century. It's not a major change, like accepting that there are gay people in the country who want to get married to one another. It's a simple change. Granted, it's not necessarily an inexpensive change, but HDTV's have come down considerably just in the last few years, and will continue to do so. Besides, if you didn't use Christmas as an excuse to buy one (and God knows Best Buy and Circuit City did everything in their power to get you to do it), then how about that tax refund you're about to get? That $500 you're getting back just for having procreated pays the bulk of a new HDTV.

Once you have your HDTV, you'll discover that those full screen DVD's you shelled out for look odd; you'll also discover that widescreen versions look much better, and, as the debate has raged for a decade now, you'll actually get to see the entirety of what was shot. I was once a full screen holdout, myself, until a coworker of mine pointed out that in the full screen version of that movie where Antonia Banderas pulls out a gun in each hand and shoots a guy standing on either side of him, you don't actually see either of the guys; just Antonio. In the widescreen version, though, you see two guys take a bullet simultaneously, and if that's not enough to convince you to join the rest of us in this new millennium, I don't know what else to say.

It goes beyond the studios, though, trying to milk the 4:3 TV owners until they're compelled into abandoning their outdated preference. Consider that one out of every four or five DVD's sold in the world is sold by Wal-Mart. Ever shopped for a DVD at Wal-Mart? (Of course you have, that's how come that statistic is so high.) Ever try finding the widescreen version of something that didn't come out this week? It's impossible. Why? Simple. Wal-Mart orders both versions upon a title's initial release, but only restocks whichever sold the best. Since the average Wal-Mart shopper is, stereotypically speaking, lacking in the artistic appreciation that the widescreen crowd has, it comes as no surprise that the full screen versions outsell the widescreen versions of films at the world's largest retailer.

Conversely, of course finding a full screen version of a film at, say, Best Buy, Borders or Circuit City can be like finding a virgin in a maternity ward. These are places where the average consumer is much more artistry savvy and therefore the stores can forego the pandering that Wal-Mart does. It's not entirely Wal-Mart's fault; from an economics perspective, it makes perfect sense. If the studios are going to continue to produce a version favored by their consumers, it's their job to make it available.

The problem, though, is that Wal-Mart's high sales statistics are proof enough that the majority of DVD consumers have built their libraries from titles bought at their store. In some areas, it may not be unreasonable to suspect that the entirety of a family's DVD library was bought at a Wal-Mart, or at least the overwhelming majority of it. There are two important, negative consequences of this full screen pandering.

The first is that the pro-widescreen segment of the population is forced to either purchase their DVD from Wal-Mart during the title's first week of release or to buy somewhere other than in their local Wal-Mart store. Of course, it goes without saying that anyone looking for anything other than a mainstream release has no use for Wal-Mart in the first place. This, however, pales next to the principal consequence of the full screen favoritism, which is that a large segment of the population, which is likely uninformed of the forthcoming changes in TV broacasting, will be unprepared for February, 2009.

Sure, you can get a voucher for up to $40 toward an HD tuner adapter for your analog TV from the FCC. You just have to go to ffc.gov to get it, and to do that you had to have been aware of the change in the first place. This is the biggest revolution in TV technology since color supplanted black & white. Could you imagine a TV series still broadcasting in black & white several years after color TV's hit the market?It goes beyond the TV set, though. Seventy percent of movie studios have signed agreements to distribute Blu-ray Disc versions of their high definition titles exclusively, leaving only thirty percent of the market in league with HD-DVD. By the time the FCC requirements are met next year, HD-DVD may be sitting beside Beta in an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Technology. Netflix and LG are producing a new console through which you will be able to watch rented titles from their online library straight onto your TV; the capability is also being incorporated into forthcoming cable and satellite receivers. By February, 2009, even owning a DVD player may be superfluous for some segments of the population. And yet, studios and Wal-Mart will have done little to move the majority of Americans into the 21st century.

For the record, I actually opposed the FCC's intervention in the first place and condemned it as government acting as a strongman for the TV manufacturers to ensure their products would have a market. But, you know what? They did it anyway and once a decision like this has been made the only thing left to do about it is accept it and adapt. That's why I'm so frustrated that the studios who produce full screen DVD's and Wal-Mart, who sells them, have retarded that adaptation process.

I realized after I posted this blog that I missed two key culprits in my critique of the actors involved in the HDTV transition debacle: television studios and television networks. Studios include the companies that produce commercials, because they, too, are broadcast across your TV (HD or other). Cheers to Conan O'Brien because while he may have put his Late Night back on air without an agreement with the writers (an ordeal not to be gone into in this blog), he was among the first (if not the first) of the late night shows to go to a widescreen format.

Many primetime series are now produced in widescreen, which is good, but many others are not. I understand that the cost of widescreen cameras is higher than the traditional 4:3 cameras employed by shows with smaller budgets. I can appreciate the difficulty of documentarians, especially those who go out into nature, of employing such technology. But every new show and commercial that air in full screen format give that much more credence to the average viewer that his reluctance to accept widescreen is validated. Were HDTV's produced in 4:3 format, the widescreen debate would not be coupled with the HDTV issue; unfortunately, since there are no 4:3 HDTV's, everything that has been produced for broadcast since the FCC ruling went into effect has been counterproductive.

It is almost ironic that, given the nature of this issue, television networks (charged with selecting TV programming) have the least measure of guilt in this debacle. Why? Simply put, they can only air what has been produced. A lot of the programming consists of syndicated re-runs, and those shows may have been produced before terms like "widescreen" and "HD" existed. Out of five live action Star Trek TV series (or six overall series, if you want to include the animated series), only one (Enterprise) was produced in widescreen. Obviously, Star Trek re-runs, even in times when interest in the franchise as a whole is down, are good TV filler because they're guaranteed an audience. Maybe it won't be C.S.I.-sized, but it'll be there.

However, the networks ought not be given a free pass entirely. They could exert influence and demand that newer produced materials be in widescreen, which many have done, but that may not be the best way to handle the situation. Instead, where the networks have failed miserably is in their sports coverage and the broadcast airing of motion pictures. ESPN's HD broadcasts are in widescreen. So why aren't ESPN's regular channel broadcasts? If you can shoot a ballgame in widescreen for HD, then you can also do it in non-HD digitial. One of the most compelling arguments for both the widescreen format and HDTV is sports programming. Once you've seen a ball hit up the infield and you could see the shortstop and the third baseman respond, the debate is over.

Then there are the movies. It wasn't until USA aired Collateral Damage over the weekend in widescreen that I realized how few network broadcasts of movies are in the proper format. This is where the networks earn their greatest share of the blame for this issue, because people may choose not to spend their money on a widescreen DVD, given a choice of full screen. But if networks had been airing movies on TV in widescreen for the last several years (and it's been at least ten years since widescreen home video emerged as a viewing format option with the tail end of the VHS era), viewers would have had the last few years to acclimate. They might have started to notice things in movies they've seen repeatedly that they never noticed before, and that's what the widescreen debate needed all along.

10 January 2008

Top 20 Grossing Films of 2007

Whoa, doggie!  I'm perusing the list of the highest grossing films of 2007 and, to my astonishment, I've seen fourteen of the top twenty!  Furthermore, I've even seen a few more that didn't place as highly, meaning I actually averaged over a movie a month last year.  Once upon a time, I averaged nearly four a month, but those days are long over.  Here is the list, with an asterisk (*) beside those I saw theatrically and two (**) beside those I saw on DVD:
  1. Spider-Man 3**
  2. Shrek the Third*
  3. Transformers*
  4. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End*
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  6. The Bourne Ultimatum
  7. 300*
  8. Ratatouille*
  9. The Simpsons Movie*
  10. Wild Hogs
  11. Knocked Up*
  12. Rush Hour 3
  13. Live Free or Die Hard
  14. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer**
  15. American Gangster**
  16. Bee Movie*
  17. Superbad*
  18. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry*
  19. Hairspray
  20. Blades of Glory*
Interestingly, for those who care to know, 2007's paying audience fit a Chosen Adventurer Cinescope Personality Type.  Of the top seven films, only Shrek the Third does not carry the label.

I also saw Epic Movie and Black Snake Moan, among 2007 releases.  And, not that they count, but since I'm on the subject, I attended a midnight screening of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and a once-in-a-lifetime showing of Goldfinger at Fort Knox.  Had it not been for Goldfinger, the most thrilling movie-going experience of 2007 for me would have been hearing Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime again.  As great as that was for a geek like me, though, it's hard to compete with the surrealism of sitting outside at night, watching Goldfinger literally across the street from the gold depository.  As a James Bond fan, I've missed out on all the other really cool, exciting 007 events mostly because they either occurred before I was into Bond (or, for that matter, born) or they were held somewhere other than Kentucky or a reasonable distance therefrom.  Thank you, once again, to the Alamo Roadshow for bringing 007 to the Bluegrass State.