Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Martian bites

Blogging has been a little light recently, due to an inordinate amount of time devoted to turning in my letter of resignation and writing my next job's business plan. It's almost enough work to make me happy with a $35K a year teacher salary - almost.

OK, to be honest, I've had a few other things absorbing my time as well. Work has been heavy with standardized testing, so I didn't have time to pop in a "Bill Nye" video while ignoring my duties for the blog's sake. And at home, I've either had Valentine's Day to prepare for, or a birthday to dread, or ignoring both to keep flying through DVDs of "The Wire," which I've recently become hooked on.

For a minute at a time, I've started various blog posts, only to lose interest or energy well before they were done. Instead of sifting through a flurry have half-thought out posts, though, I figured you would benefit from only a single half-thought out one. Bullet points, baby.

  • And now, ladies and gentlemen, it's time to play our favorite game: "IS! THIS! RACIST!?!" I posed this question on a movie-related blog a few days ago, and other commentators avoided it like a screening of Hannibal Rising. I live in a very diverse section of Atlanta - white, black, Hispanic, Indian and Asian neighborhoods are all nearby. I have a lesbian couple living on one side of me, a black family on the other, and a mixed race white/Brazilian family across the street. We're a happy little rainbow. That said, I regularly drive 20 minutes out of my way to go see a movie. Yes, I go to a white part of town. This has nothing to do with any inherent negative feelings toward other races. This has everything to do with generalizations that are actually true: predominately black audiences will have more loud talking and cell phones ringing; predominately Hispanic audiences will have more babies crying. And I have no bigger pet peeve than theater crowd noise. I've been to over 1,000 movies in my lifetime, and these observations have been proven time and time again. So I ask you, fine readers: Is this racist?
  • Although my predictions were more off-the-mark than usual, I am happy with The Departed being named Best Picture. It's the first Best Picture in awhile I can look at and say, "Man, that was a damn good movie." However, the Academy deserves a cockpunch (and whatever you give women) for not handing Children of Men the award for Best Cinematography. Fine, I've gotten over its absence in the top categories, but even the film's detractors - all two of them not afflicted with at least mild retardation - recognize Emmanuel Lubezki's game-changing work. If you're planning on teaching a film class in 2057, go ahead and put Children of Men on the syllabus.
  • Last week, I watched three films courtesy of Netflix: For Your Consideration, Flags of Our Fathers and Marie Antoinette. Compared to the other two, Sofia Coppola's much-derided Antoinette is an instant classic. However, that's faint praise considering how goddamned boring the first two were. Flags isn't bad, per se - it has some astounding visuals, and decent (if overly familiar) war imagery. It's just capital-D dull, though, which I guess you can expect from a film essentially about a war bonds tour headlined by look-up-whitebread-in-the-dictionary Ryan Phillippe and Jesse Bradford. That could be called, however, especially since the script came from Paul "The Facts of Life" Haggis. It's For Your Consideration that was a shock. Christopher Guest and his usual improvisational cronies took their first stab at a non-mockumentary, and the result was near laughless. It's not just a slight misstep, as some (though not me) feel A Mighty Wind was; it's a neck-breaker.
  • Despite being born in February, it is probably my least favorite month. Cold weather, "Sportscenter" highlights consisting of basketball and hockey, and - well, those two are enough. Just a dreadful time. So it's with a great relief I see March on the calendar for tomorrow. March marks the beginning of the great spring traditions, most of which involve one of my favorite pasttimes: drinking outside on a warm day. St. Patrick's Day, Derby Day, the NFL draft, the Atlanta Steeplechase, Cinqo de Mayo, the new baseball season, the new fantasy baseball season, and the once-hourly countdown to the new Die Hard movie. Fun had by all.
  • Two days until the best non-Die Hard movie of 2007 arrives.
  • In 24 hours, I will be finished with my business plan. Then I will sleep.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Case of the Mondays

Just outside, a bird is incessantly repeating the name of former Atlanta Braves pitcher Chris Reitsma.

"Chrisreitsma, chrisreitsma, chrisreitsma, chrisreitsma ..."

Or maybe it's saying "charisma." Can't tell.

Either way, I should have gotten more sleep last night.

Ah-scar

The Departed wins big. Not what I predicted, but what I wanted - so good show.

Final results: 15 correct, 9 wrong.

One of my worst tallies ever. I'm sure I'm not alone on that one.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Overlong, overwrought, obnoxious Oscar

The 79th annual Academy Awards are on Sunday, and I can't stop myself from caring. It's really annoying.

The most egregious example of the Academy's boorish ineptitude happened only last year, when the simplistic Down's Syndrome-of-a-film Crash won Best Picture. And the last 10 years are riddled with Best Pictures there are not only unworthy, they're actually pretty bad films: American Beauty, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Chicago, and Million Dollar Baby. (No, Stanicek the White, I did not include The Return of the King on this list, even though I would have voted City of God that year).

Still, I care.

As usual, the best films of the year - Children of Men and Apocalypto - aren't even nominated, and the Academy has gone and recognized a truly mediocre effort in its main category (National Lampoon's Vaca ... er, I mean Little Miss Sunshine).

Still, I care.

Roberto Benigni and Three-Six Mafia have more Oscars than Martin Scorsese.

Still, I care.

Apparently nothing can stop me from writing a seriously overlong post about the whole retarded affair.

Gone are the days, though, when I saw every movie before the pomp and circumsized showed up on the red carpet. In my time as a paid movie critic, the free screenings kept me well prepared. These days I have to rely on my sporadic theater excursions and the wonders of Netflix. Thus, I have put an asterisk next to the titles I have seen. I thought it only fair when dispensing the following keen analysis.

Best Picture
Babel
The Departed *
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine *
The Queen *

The Departed is too violent, Letters From Iwo Jima is too subtitled, Little Miss Sunshine is too light, The Queen is too British, and Babel is too unloved. That's what each film's detractors have to say, and there's a good point had by all. That leads to the most wide-open Best Picture race in awhile, and I would only be really surprised if The Queen's name was called out on Sunday night. The Academy's M.O. is pretty easy to understand, though, and when there's doubt, go for the socially conscious, easy-to-swallow, can't-we-all-just-get-along drama.

Will win: Babel

Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond
Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson *
Peter O'Toole, Venus
Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

When DiCaprio was recognized for Blood Diamond and not The Departed, this race got a lot easier to call.

Will win: Whitaker

Best Actress
Penelope Cruz, Volver
Judi Dench, Notes of a Scandal
Helen Mirren, The Queen *
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada *
Kate Winslet, Little Children

I just loved Streep in Prada - the film was a bit sugary and dumb at times, but she was capital-P Perfect. The same can be said for Mirren, though, and she'll have the golden boy to prove it.

Will win: Mirren

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine *
Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls *
Mark Wahlberg, The Departed *

I haven't seen Little Children yet, but my vote would go to Haley for purely sentimental reasons. This is the best story of the night, folks - I mean, it's the original Kelly Leak! Check him out here in the official Oscar nominee photo - he's the short bald-headed dude up top, right there in the middle, grinning from ear-to-ear. I mean, it's Kelly Leak! Alas, he won't win - but neither will favorite Eddie Murphy. This is Alan Arkin's third nomination, he's never won, and he didn't star in Norbit. Translation ...

Will win: Arkin

Best Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza, Babel
Cate Blanchett, Notes of a Scandal
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine *
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls *
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

Dreamgirls began its Oscar campaign nearly a year ago, with a much-publicized screening of a large chunk for the press (of the film, not Hudson). Well, things haven't gone exactly as planned, with a lack of nominations in most of the major categories. Hudson, though, will become the first "American Idol" contestant to win the Academy Award, after Justin Guarini was unfairly ignored for From Justin to Kelly.

Will win: Hudson

Best Director
Clint Eastwood, Letters From Iwo Jima
Stephen Frears, The Queen *
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel
Paul Greengrass, United 93 *
Martin Scorsese, The Departed *

And the winner is - Alfonso Cuaron! Oh right, he wasn't even freaking nominated for Children of Men, the best directed movie in nearly a decade. So it's Scorsese's. Move on.

Will win: Scorsese

Best Original Screenplay
Babel
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine *
Pan's Labyrinth *
The Queen *

Another one of Oscar's quirks: whenever there's an heralded, successful indie that won't win Best Picture, it will almost always take Best Screenplay. See: The Crying Game, Howard's End, The Piano, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, Sense and Sensibility, Fargo, Sling Blade, Gods and Monsters, Gosford Park, Sideways, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ... You get the picture.

Will win: Little Miss Sunshine

Best Adapted Screenplay
Borat *
Children of Men *
The Departed *
Little Children
Notes on a Scandal

The Departed had the best lines, and that's all it will take this year.

Will win: The Departed

Art Direction
Dreamgirls *
The Good Shepherd
Pan's Labyrinth
*
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest *
The Prestige *

"Art Direction" are basically fancy words for "Set Design." While some of the best single images came out of Pan's Labyrinth, the glitz of Dreamgirls will be hard to overcome. Hell, even its the credits are dedicated to highlighting this work.

Will win: Dreamgirls

Cinematography
The Black Dahlia
Children of Men
*
The Illusionist *
Pan's Labyrinth *
The Prestige *

Whether you love Children of Men or simply really, really, really, really, really like it (those are the only two possible reactions, obviously), the cinematography - or rather, lighting and camera work - was astounding. And though I clearly suckle on the teat of this film, I don't think I'm biased in thinking it will emerge victorious.

Will win: Children of Men

Costume Design
Curse of the Golden Flower
The Devil Wears Prada
*
Dreamgirls *
Marie Antoinette *
The Queen *

I'm trying to remember some eye-catching garb from The Queen, and it's not a'comin'. I mean, this is nice and all, but couldn't you just pick one of those up at Loehmanns? Marie Antoinette probably should win, but remember, the film also has to be "respected" even to win in the so-called technical categories.

Will win: Dreamgirls

Documentary Feature
Deliver Us From Evil
An Inconvenient Truth
Iraq in Fragments
Jesus Camp
My Country, My Country

Liberal Hollywood + Al Gore + global warming = duh. I love how some are eagerly anticipating Gore's acceptance speech, when in reality he won't win anything. Aside from appearing onscreen, Gore has no credit on the film. The award will instead go to director David Guggenheim.

Will win: An Inconvenient Truth

Documentary Short
The Blood of Yingzhou District
Recycled Life
Rehearsing a Dream
Two Hands


Here's the secret in prognosticating these smaller awards, even if you've never heard of them. 1) Pick the one about the Holocaust. 2) If there isn't one about the Holocaust, go for the one about the inspiring crippled guy who is sitting in the audience.

Will win: Two Hands

Film Editing
Babel
Blood Diamond
Children of Men
*
The Departed *
United 93 *

For something like 70 years, the Best Picture winner has at least been nominated for Film Editing, and most of the time won it. That's your little hint if you're picking Little Miss Sunshine, Letters From Iwo Jima or The Queen to win the big prize.

Will win: Babel

Foreign Language Film
After the Wedding
Days of Glory (Indigenes)
The Lives of Others
Pan's Labyrinth
*
Water

The tea leaves say it's between The Lives of Others and Pan's Labyrinth. Go with the one a lot of people have seen.

Will win: Pan's Labyrinth

Makeup
Apocalypto *
Click *
Pan's Labyrinth *

Don't ask me why, but I saw Click - and I remember thinking how godawful the makeup was for such a big-budget feature. Shows what I know, I guess. Anyway, ain't nobody voting for Click, and ain't nobody voting for Mel. Do the math.

Will win: Pan's Labyrinth

Music (Score)
Babel
The Good German
Notes on a Scandal

Pan's Labyrinth *
The Queen *

How long has it been since we've had a really, really good score? I mean, I haven't thought "I need to own that" in years.

Will win: The Queen

Music (Song)
"I Need To Wake Up," An Inconvenient Truth
"Listen," Dreamgirls *
"Love You I Do," Dreamgirls *
"Our Town," Cars *
"Patience," Dreamgirls *

Fuck Randy Newman. I mean, fuck Randy Newman. He's written the same goddamn song for 30 years, and keeps getting nominated for fucking Oscars. I fucking hate that guy. So hear me say this only once: "Thank God An Inconvenient Truth will win."

Will win: An Inconvenient Truth

Short Film (Animated)
The Danish Poet
Lifted
The Little Matchgirl
Maestro
No Time For Nuts


No Holocaust, no cripples - but we do have Scrat. "No Time For Nuts" is based around the Ice Age squirrel, and the Oscar is a nice way to thank those guys for the hundreds of millions they've pulled in to the industry.

Will win: No Time For Nuts

Short Film (Live Action)
Binta and the Great Idea
One Too Many
Helmer & Son
The Saviour
West Bank Story

No Holocaust again? Don't these guys understand is all you have to do is point some black-and-white film at an old man saying "Holocaust, holocaust, holocaust" over and over while drooling in a damn bucket or something, and Oscar is yours? Hell, forget I said anything. Where's that camera?

Will win: West Bank Story

Sound Editing
Apocalypto *
Blood Diamond
Flags of Our Fathers
*
Letters From Iwo Jima
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
*

Nobody votes for Mel, but everybody votes for Clint. And the word is out: vote Iwo Jima instead of Flags.

Will win: Letters From Iwo Jima

Sound Mixing
Apocalypto *
Blood Diamond
Dreamgirls *
Flags Of Our Fathers *
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest *

And what movie relied on sound more than any other?

Will win: Dreamgirls

Visual Effects
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest *
Poseidon *
Superman Returns *

Ok, this is the last thing I'll say about Children of Men , but it's an absolute crime that film isn't listed here. It's effects just weren't "showy" enough to register - but there are more visual tricks in that film than you or I will ever be able to pick out. But hey, Bill Nighy's Davy Jones was a darn fine creation.

Will win: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Best Animated Film
Cars *
Happy Feet
Monster House *

Cars has the Pixar pedigree, Monster House has the most entertainment value - but Happy Feet has the nice pro-environment message. The message wins (or did you actually think An Inconvenient Truth was the best documentary of the year?).

Will win: Happy Feet

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Inconvenient

C'mon, admit it - this is sorta funny.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Mass ass

I've always had a classic love-hate relationship with the city of Boston.

It's love in the sense that I really enjoy visiting, seeing its history, walking its rivers, partaking of its restaurants and bars, and relishing the regional eccentricities.

It's hate in the sense that I fucking loathe everybody who lives there, especially anyone associated with its shitass, whoremouthed, dickspit sports teams.

Well, last week I relished the brouhaha that erupted over some "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" Lite Brite-like billboards being mistaken for terrorists' bombs, and the city then practically shutting down for a day. High comedy.

My hate for Boston has heightened, though, in the days since. I won't go into it all - you've heard it already - but city officials refused to admit any wrongdoing or overreaction, and demanded payment from parent company Turner for all of its costs.

Turner, perhaps seeing the publicity angle but more likely just being pussies, forked over $2 million. Absurd, especially seeing these devices didn't even look like bombs, and were placed in nine other cities nationwide without a single problem.

So Turner paid because of Boston's inane demands, and I was disappointed. Whatever. However, today I've gone beyond disappointed to pissed: Cartoon Network general manager Jim Samples has resigned over the incident.

If anybody deserved to lose their jobs, it's certain Boston officials who acted like Sean Hayes forced to play heavyweight division lesbian rugby.

Turner showed no institutional pride and grabbed its ankles, all because of some whiny northerners. And in a culture far too eager to demand somebody's job, it seems they did just that. So boo to Turner - if "Aqua Teen" weren't so damn good, you'd be losing a viewer.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Even a better weight loss program than TrimSpa



Model/actress Anna Nicole Smith, 39, is dead.

Out of respect, I will wait a full 10 seconds before continuing with this post.

10,...
9,...
8,...
7,..

Oh, fuck it. Benjamin C. and Sarah G. can offically mourn with a tiny smile on their faces - they had Ms. Smith in the 2007 dead pool.

See, who knew death could be this much fun?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Birthday boy

My birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, and The Girl is freaking out.

See, she blew the pants off of Christmas, buying me everything I'd even mentioned wanting in our six months together.

I got The Jersey.

I got The Books.

I got The Butt Guard.

She done good - real good. Expectations were blow'D the f up. Or Hiroshim'D, as her people say.

Now it's just two months later, though, and she has no idea what else to buy. Her Good Idea Load was blown in December, and it hasn't refilled just yet. And quite honestly, I've tried to think of something but have failed.

So now it's your job, M.A.I. readers. Help her out, and fill the comments section with any birthday present ideas. Of course, I told her she is really the only thing I want.

Wearing this, of course.

Not a bit short of brilliant

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Dumb and dumber

I am no longer a Republican. I am greatly disappointed with the presidency of George W. Bush. I am looking forward to the changing of the 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. guard in 2008.

However, as fed up as I am with the so-called conservatives in power, there is a reason I will never be able to support Democrats. Here is Hillary Clinton, late last week:

"The Democrats know what needs to be done. Again, we're working trying to try push this agenda forward. The other day the oil companies reported the highest profits in the history of the world. I want to take those profits and I want to put them into a strategic energy fund that will begin to fund alternative, smart energy; alternatives and technology that will begin to actually move us toward the direction of independence."

If Hillary Clinton becomes president, it will be the Executive Branch's view that government should be able to "take" the profits of private companies and spend them as it sees fit.

Another cut-and-paste, this time from Dictionary.com:

so·cial·ism [soh-shuh-liz-uhm]
–noun
1. a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

Unless the nominee is Giuliani - and he continues to eschew bowing to the religious right - I doubt I'll be voting Republican in 2008. You can be damn sure, though, that the box I check will not have a "D" next to it.

(Yes, I tried to get a link that wasn't Fox News for the Clinton quote - it just turns out they were the only mainstream media organization I could find to run such an amazing quote.)

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Dead Pool update



After one month, the official 2007 Dead Pool standings are as follows:

Doug T. - 1
Everybody else - 0

Apparently Doug knows his NASCAR, and correctly called the death of Benny Parsons (above).

Also, I'm led to wonder if Mark A. read this morning's news and thought, "Dammit!"

Friday, February 02, 2007

Reversal of fortune

"As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age."

- Time Magazine, "Another Ice Age," June 24, 1974

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Martians attacking smaller cities, like maybe Evansville or Terre Haute

Random morsels:
  • I don't think it's any secret I want The Departed to win the Best Picture Oscar. It's a flawed film, and not the year's or Martin Scorsese's best by a city mile - but it's a more exciting, effective film than the Academy-deemed competition. And even though it's the favorite in Vegas (yep, they do Oscar odds), I still think Babel or - more likely - Little Miss Sunshine will take the trophy. Tell me this, though: did the directors of either of those films pull off something as clever as this?

  • By now, you've heard of the "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" signs practically shutting down Boston yesterday. As an Atlantan (where the show is produced), a long-time fan, and a neighbor to a castmember, all I have to say it "Bravo!" I love it when Boston looks bad - especially at the hands of southerners - and Beantown absolutely flipped out over a bunch of Lite Brites. I mean, this has to be one of my favorite news photos ever - it's like Elian Gonzalez, but even funnier.

  • Ultra-liberal newspaper columnist Molly Ivins has died. I rarely agreed with her viewpoints, but I had the opportunity to have a nice, brief chat with her a few years ago. On an Alaskan train, no less. She was very friendly toward her nosy, journalism-minded neighbor, and I appreciated it. R.I.P.

  • A couple of weeks ago, a local prop warehouse decided to have a huge sale to get rid of some old junk. Amid the heaps, I discovered a sign which had been used in the immortal Atlanta-filmed classic Robocop III. I paid a grand total of $6, and turned to eBay to possibly recoup my investment. If only I were this good at the stock market.

  • I said it over on P&S, but it bears (snicker) repeating here: rooting for Chicago on Sunday is like rooting for the rest of Tony Dungy's kids to commit suicide.

  • I usually avoid reality television, but The Girl and I have been completely enthralled by Bravo's "Top Chef." Spoiler warning if you haven't seen the finale ... one more warning, and then it's spoilerrific territory ... OK. What the hell? Ilan was a whiny little bitch, a dime-a-dozen wanna-be hipster with his square glasses and sniveling complaints about anything that doesn't dare go his way. I know Marcel wasn't the most likable guy in the world, but he clearly showed more creativity and style, and was an least an engaging personality. So yes, Ilan's win pissed me off a lot more than it should have. And yes part II, I promise The Girl is actually a girl.

  • If you're looking for a Netflix rental that will unexpectedly blow you the F away: All That Jazz. Thank me later. And yes, I again promise The Girl is actually a girl.

  • By the time I get home today, I should have HD service for my flatscreen, a TiVO-like digital video recorder, and Comcast's On Demand service - all for the first time. Obviously, I'm excited to get home. I can't wait to see "My Super Sweet 16" in high-def. I mean, uh, "24."

  • John Mayer is dating Jessica Simpson. Who are you more disappointed in? If you know me, you certainly know my answer.