Sunday, February 27, 2005

Less than seven hours to go before the 77th Annual Academy Awards, so I guess it's time to put in my two cents worth before the Oscars are handed out...

Best Actor:

My choice: Don Cheadle for Hotel Rwanda. He carried this very difficult film and made it the most important picture of the year (if not "best" picture). I've always liked Don Cheadle, but this performance stands out as something everybody must see.

Will probably win: Jamie Foxx seems to be the favorite, but I think there'll be a bit of a backlash against Foxx's ego. My guess is that tonight is Clint Eastwood's night. He's great, and I loved Million Dollar Baby, but he'll get it for being Clint, not for this performance.

Supporting Actor:

My choice: This is where Jamie Foxx should win. Collateral was a very good, if flawed movie, but what tied it together and made it work was the stand-out performance of Jamie Foxx. Without him in that role, the audience would have walked out on Tom Cruise half-way through.

Will probably win: Morgan Freeman seems to be the favorite here. Again, he's always excellent, but I don't think Million Dollar Baby stands out as his best work. I think we could have a surprise win here by any of the other three.

Best Actress:

I'm at a loss because I haven't seen all the nominated pictures, but I think Hilary Swank could easily take Oscar home. Kate Winslet was great in Eternal Sunshine, but she was even better in the non-nominated Finding Neverland.

Supporting Actress:

Can you give somebody an Oscar for doing a bad impression of Katherine Hepburn? If so, Cate Blanchett could win. Personally, I'd vote for the unknown Sophie Okonedo for the incredible Hotel Rwanda.

Art Direction:

Finding Neverland was a beautiful movie, and the Aviator was visually stunning, but I'm voting for the kid's movie: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Beautiful, stunning, and original: this movie will live on as a classic.


The Aviator. What else could it be? Unless the academy just hates Martin Scorsese...

Costume Design:

See Art Direction, above.

Screenplay - Original:

There's some great movies nominated here, but to me, the "original" screenplay category belongs to any movie written by Charlie Kaufman; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Screenplay - Adapted:

Hard to say, because are you voting for the screenplay, or the adoption? In which case, are you qualified to vote if you saw the movie, but didn't read the original source? What the heck, I'll pick Million Dollar Baby for it's use of multiple short stories, using one as the main plot with other stories by the same author serving as background.

Best Director:

Tough, tough choice. I am first an always a Martin Scorsese devotee, but is the Aviator his best ever work? Probably not (besides, Hollywood hates filmmakers who insist on living in New York). Taylor Hackford did a phenomenal job with Ray, but expect the academy to pass him by.

This year's winner will be Clint Eastwood, and I think I might agree with that. Some of the votes will be out of guilt for passing over Mystic River for the big Elf movie last year, but Clint Eastwood is somebody who has who has had to earn the respect of his industry slowly over the years, and is without a doubt doing his best work as a director now.

Best Picture:

Another tough choice. This was, in the end, a very good year for the cinema. All the nominated pictures were excellent, and there were many more that could (should?) be on the list of nominees (Hotel Rwanda for one).

Sideways will not win - or, rather, it should not win. Don't get me wrong; I really enjoyed this surprising little movie. But it's not a Best Picture. Sideways is great, but it's not Annie Hall.

Finding Neverland is the next film I'll eliminate. I found it beautiful and moving, and I'm shocked that the kid who played Peter was not nominated for Supporting Actor, but in such high competition I'm afraid this one will be brushed aside.

The Aviator will also not win, because, as we know, Martin Scorsese couldn't handle living in L.A. and moved back to New York. How dare he make a movie about another Hollywood outsider?

That leaves Ray and Million Dollar Baby. Because of the Foxx ego backlash and the pro Clint movement, Baby could win. But the real Best Picture of 2004 is Ray.


I think this will prove to be the Year Of Clint and Million Dollar Baby. Much of it earned, some of it out of guilt or personal dislike of the other nominees.

The Aviator will go down as the biggest victim of the night, and will be robbed of any glory it should have received.

If there are not at least two African American winners in the performance categories, then there will be no doubt left about Hollywood's latent racism.

Ray will pick up several Oscars (including, hopefully, Best Picture), but not as many as others are predicting.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

A few days ago a story broke in the news in which tapes of G.W. Bush admitting to have smoked pot were released. It did not get as much attention, however, as you would have expected. The media in the rest of the world is having as much fun with it as they can, but in the U.S. it's buried in a longer a story about a friend who betrayed the President by releasing the tapes.

Is this because the marijuana admission is really no big deal? Or is it because the "liberal" media is afraid of being accused of attacking the President? Probably a bit of each. Clinton proved it was no big deal by saying publicly (if stupidly) that he'd tried it. Bush is proving it's no big deal by not denying the authenticity of the tapes.

But it's not entirely true that nobody cares about youthful pot smoking. Bush's conservative base claims that they do. Bush himself has made some fairly harsh comments in the past about illegal drug users. And that's the story that timid press is shying away from; not that W smoked pot, but that he's a hypocrite. Of course, that's not really news either, though - is it?

(Washington Post: Bush Gets Stoned by the World Media)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A major earthquake has struck Iran (see news coverage) with a death toll likely to climb over 300, at least another 1,000 likely to be injured, and entire villages flattened.

Will our government see this as an opportunity to reach out, provide emergency assistance, and open up a diplomatic approach to engaging Iran on the nuclear issue? Or will we ignore the earthquake and continue to rattle the sabers? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, I've got to call the phone company and change my number. Ever since Paris Hilton's phone book was posted online my phone just hasn't stopped ringing!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Hey, kids - I've discovered a great new source of obscene video clips on the web! Wondering where to find scenes of "gratuitous teen sex" or necrophilia? Follow me over to the Parents Television Council.

Yeah, that's right, the very same Parents Television Council that's responsible for turning Janet Jackson's tit into a rallying cry to turn our country back over to G-d. These uptight, pro-censorship, so-called "guardians" of the airwaves have a page on their site called "Worst of the Week Clips Gallery" where you can find all sorts of offensive materials.

You don't have to actually watch TV to be offended and complain to the FCC - All you have to do is check the web site of your favorite pressure group, and they'll show you the clips and give you the link to complain direct to the FCC, all without the bother of watching the programs.

Complaining about what other people are watching on TV and providing a download of the sexiest clips on a web site accessible by children - Am I the only one who finds these things offensive? Am I the only one who sees all sorts of hypocrisy and a bit of creeping fascism in all this?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

It's been a while since I've dropped in a movie review here, but yesterday we finally saw Martin Scorsese's The Aviator. An incredible movie about a major American figure of the twentieth century. A tribute that is worthy of the man it depicts; Howard Hughes.

First, a bias confession: I love Martin Scorsese and consider him to be one of the greatest directors of all time. I've not, however, always been a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio - I'm one of the few people who hated his big boat movie - but he's excellent here.

Interesting choices were made, primarily in showing the development of Hughes' OCD and mental disability as a lifelong struggle. In truth, I believe that there's still some controversy over whether Hughes' eccentricities were innate from childhood, or the result of brain damage from his many accidents (depicted brilliantly here).

If we want to wax symbolic here, and try to find greater meaning where it may not exist, we could call The Aviator the story of America in the twentieth century. Great promise and great innovation brought on by determined, but troubled, genius, and brought down by darker side of that same genius. It's most prominent features were the birth of mass entertainment, advances in technology, and superiority in war, all tied together through a love of spectacle that in turn threatens our own desire for privacy and quietude. Okay, enough of that bullshit.

As to the choice to end the picture with some twenty years of Hughes' life story left untold, I have to accept that. While the last chapters of the story would have been interesting, they've already been covered in lurid detail, and they add nothing to the story of Hughes' breakthroughs in the field of aviation.

Also interesting; the use of color and tinting - sometimes subtle, sometimes almost disturbing, but always helping us get into the mind of Howard Hughes and elicit our sympathy for this very difficult man. Yes, this film shows all of Hughes' blemishes that earned him a reputation as a tyrant and an emotionless beast, but it managed to do so in a loving way that demonstrated the full range of who he was.

Some Howard Hughes rentals for your further enjoyment:
  • The Carpetbaggers (1964) - A not-so-nice depiction of Hughes as an evil tyrant. Based on the Harold Robbins novel, this is a fun soap opera about a "fictional" industrialist millionaire who directs movies, builds airplanes, and destroys the lives of beautiful starlets. Not to be taken as history, but just to provide a balance to The Aviator.
  • Melvin and Howard (1980) - The true (?) story of Melvin Dumar, who once picked up a dazed hitchhiker claiming to be Howard Hughes in the Nevada desert and helped him out. On Hughes' death, one of the many wills that were found named Melvin as beneficiary for his kindness, although the Hughes estate made certain he would never collect. A great American story, and a great early film from Jonathan Demme, starring Paul Le Mat as Melvin and Jason Robards as Howard.
  • The Outlaw (1943) - Hughes' own classic western for which he turned his Cal Tech taught engineering skills to designing the push-up bra for star Jane Russell. As Leonardo DiCaprio (as Hughes) says in The Aviator, "Who doesn't like tits?"

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Intifada Over? - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ended a meeting in Egypt announcing an end to all military and violent actions against each other. Whether militants on either side will cooperate, or spoil this chance for peace, remains to be seen.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who summoned the two leaders and has been a key mediator, said, "The challenges today are large and deep, but the mission is not impossible. If the road is long, we today took the first step." Egypt and Jordan will each resume diplomatic relations with Israel.

As with so many things lately, I will do my best to hold cynicism aside and hope and pray that this is the start of a two-state solution that will bring peace back to the Holy Land.

Source: ABC News

Also - Ever follow a link to a news site and then find out you need to register with the site to read the story? Ever a little reluctant to give out your personal information and email address to each site? Check out - They've got anonymous usernames and passwords for most of the major sites that you may borrow.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

I've just posted a new article at Suite101: "Rejoicing in Democracy", in which I take a look at the recent Iraqi elections and see if there's any lessons there to be applied here in the U.S.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Just in case you needed more proof that the current administration has no sense of morality and is leading this nation directly into Hell, here's a collection of current headlines:

* Rumsfeld actually felt a twinge of conscience and tried to resign twice when the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal broke, but was refused by the Commander in Chief. (ABC News)

* Meanwhile, the legal mind responsible for defending the use of torture and called the Geneva Conventions "quaint" is our new Attorney General. (SF Chronicle)

* Of course, all this has nothing to do with a General making a speech in San Diego in which he says it's "a lot of fun to shoot people." (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette)

* It's not all bad, of course: New Secretary of State Condi Rice says attacking Iran is not currently on the agenda, and she's never lied to us before. (Reuters)

Should I be allowed to point out the idiocy being committed on my behalf by my government?

* A survey of 100,000 High School kids says, "No!" The First amendment goes too far. (Chicago Sun Times)

Note to self: Remember to buy more whisky today. (BevMo)

Twitter Feed