Published on: March 11, 2011
I’ve been going to Las Vegas for years, probably a couple of dozen times if you add up all the trips.
Last weekend, was different, though. I was going to Vegas for a speech, but because my 21-year-old son was on break from his final semester of college, I invited him to join me. He’s always been intrigued by gambling, is a pretty fair card and poker player, and always wanted to go to Vegas. Better with me than with someone else, I figured. Besides, he’s good company.
Now, you have to understand something. As many times as I’ve been to Las Vegas, my experiences have been pretty mundane. I don’t gamble, aside from a few bucks put into the slots from time to time, and I’ve never won anything. And because I’m usually working on MNB, I don’t spend a lot of time enjoying the nightlife. Mostly, I like the restaurants, which have improved vastly over the years.
With my son, however, things were a little different.
We walked up and down the strip, checking out the different casinos, letting him soak it all in. It was fun. And then, he stepped up to the roulette table and put down $20 on a few of his favorite numbers. And won $145. Then played a little blackjack, and was up to $200 in winnings.
A little while later, we were strolling through a different casino. We were approached by two slightly drunk, self-described "22 year old naughty girls from California" who wanted to party with us. We politely declined, and I resisted the urge to ask them if their parents knew where they were and what they were doing. I knew where my son was and what he was doing, and that was good enough for me.
Tell you what made me proud of my son.
After he won the $145 playing roulette, he gave the guy running the table a $5 chip, like he’d done it a thousand times before. Which was just so cool.
And then, when we went out for dinner at Mesa Grill one night, he dove into the Blue Corn Pancake with Barbecued Duck and Habanero Chile-Star Anise Sauce, as well as the Lamb Shank Posole served with Red Wine-Red Chile Broth, Cabbage Hominy and Cotija. I almost wanted to cry - it seems like yesterday that he was just a little kid with a finicky palate. And now, he was a man, trying different foods, absorbing different experiences, and just soaking it all in and handling it well.
Made me feel good.The Adjustment Bureau
is a curious film, sort of like “The Twilight Zone” meets Inception
. Based on a Philip K. Dick story and written and directed by George Nolfi, who worked on the screenplays of both The Bourne Ultimatum
(good) and Ocean’s Twelve
(not so good), Adjustment
is essentially about the power of free will vs. the inevitability of predestination. The story concerns an up-and-coming New York politician named David Morris, played with ease and appeal by Matt Damon, who apparently has great things ahead of him. However, he meets a young woman, played by Emily Blunt, who threatens to derail those achievements, and he connects to her in a way that he simply cannot let go.
The problem is, he wasn’t supposed to meet her. It was an event that was supposed to be prevented by a group of “adjusters” who keep humanity on track. (They’re sort of like angels cross bred with insurance agents.) When they try to put things right again, Damon’s character sees behind the curtain, which sets up the core struggle of the film. Should he accept their version of how the future should play out? Ot should he endeavor to exercise the free will that they say he doesn’t really have?
Nolfi has a light enough touch to make The Adjustment Bureau
work, and he is aided by a terrific cast. Damon continues to be some of the best work on the screen today, and Blunt makes you fall in love with her the moment you see her. Anthony Mackie, John Slattery and Terence Stamp play adjusters on a sliding scale from compassionate to menacing. And New York City looks as beautiful as you can imagine, becoming a character in the script as it unfolds.
I’m not sure that The Adjustment Bureau
is entirely successful; movies about angels interfering in real life can be problematic. (Warren Beatty’s Heaven Can Wait
is the best of the lot.) But The Adjustment Bureau
is diverting and thoughtful, two qualities not always found in Hollywood movies.
The other movie I saw last week was Blue Valentine
, which features a couple of extraordinary performances by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a couple seen at both the beginning and end of their relationship, moving from being enticement to despair as they move from being young to almost middle-aged.
That said, I found Blue Valentine
, as directed by Derek Cianfrance, to be awfully depressing. It’s almost hard to watch in certain spots - not so much because of the sex scenes, which can be pretty raw, but the emotional nakedness of the actors and characters. Blue Valentine
has a lot to recommend in it, but I’m not sure I would.
However, it did make me want to delve into my DVD collection to watch a movie about marriage that I haven't seen for years - Shoot The Moon
, with Albert Finney and Diane Keaton. I remember loving that movie, despite the fact that it made me question whether I even wanted to get married. So it goes to the top of the stack, but one of those rainy spring nights when there is nothing else to do.
By the way, you know another reason why I love the MNB audience so much? It’s because I can throw in a reference to Mr. Creosote while writing a commentary, and I get back all sorts of Monty Python reflections and “little thin mint” jokes. You folks are the best.
My wine of the week: the 2008 “1583” Albarino de Fefinanes, a Spanish wine that is ripe and silky and perfect with a spicy seafood-and-pasta dish I made the other night. Enjoy!
That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.