« February 2010 | Main | April 2010 »

March 2010 Archives

March 30, 2010

The illusion of subway safety

NYPD Hercules force on the subway

After Monday's terrorist attacks on the Moscow metro, the New York papers reported that the NYPD was stepping up security on our own subway: "Deadly Moscow subway suicide bombing triggers security alert in New York".

Phew! Way to stop those Chechen separatists from attacking us.

While we probably don't need to worry about the Black Widows riding the A C E line, there are real threats on our own subway system: early Sunday morning, two guys were stabbed to death on the No. 2 train over a tossed Duane Reade bag that accidentally hit the killer.

As of today, the killer still hasn't been caught. The Times points out that the Christopher Street station, where the stabber got off the train, doesn't have any security cameras in it. And of the 4,000+ surveillance cameras installed in the subway system after 9/11, about half of them don't work.

The Daily News reports that the Christopher Street station didn't have an agent at the token booth that night, because it was closed last year due to budget cuts. So there's no good description of the killer; the Times says he is "described only as Hispanic."

In other MTA security news, the Daily News reports that the MTA has eliminated the cops stationed at the exit of the Midtown Tunnel and the towers at the Verrazano Bridge on weekends. Instead, the bridge and tunnel will be monitored by, you guessed it, surveillance cameras.

So today we've got cops from the NYPD Hercules unit with M16's riding the 6 train to provide the illusion of security against terrorists in Russia, while the guy who actually stabbed real people on our own subway is still out there.

A couple of great quotes from subway riders questioning yesterday's heavily armed cops:

"I think it's excessive," said Holly Celentang, 26, a rider from Queens. "I feel there should have been a bit more of a thought process before they did this. We can't lose our heads over something that happened in another country and make New York City look like we are at war."

Torey Deprisest, 23, who was vacationing from Ohio, said he was stunned at the show of force.

"I think it's ridiculous," Deprisest said. "The attack happened in a different country and had nothing to do with Americans. I'd be nervous seeing cops with machine guns on the train. It makes people afraid when they don't need to be."

March 29, 2010

When famous people are gay

Ricky Martin's Hall of Fame star

It's getting increasingly difficult to remember which gay celebrities have officially come out and which ones are just biding their time until they have a new album/movie/show to promote.

Today's news that Ricky Martin is a fortunate homosexual man wasn't surprising in itself, though for a minute I thought, didn't this just happen the other day? When we found out someone was gay who we already knew was gay?

Oh, no, that was Sean Hayes (just in time for his new Broadway show!)

It's no one's duty to be a positive role model for their alleged community, but every time we get another Ricky Martin to admit it already, hopefully it gets a little easier for the rest of the closeted people we see on TV and in movies to come out, too.

So, how about it, Anderson?


Hell, Peter O'Toole?

Wait a minute. Ladies first!



How much of the entertainment industry is gay? A lot more than we know about. Ultimately it's no one's business, and you can't get very far by guessing, but I know attitudes and assumptions would change mighty fast if every single gay celebrity (and elected Republican, apparently) came out tomorrow.

March 25, 2010

Roger Ebert's new TV show

Ebert and Siskel on Sneak Previews

This is my favorite picture of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, from back in the old days. It might even be from their first show together, "Sneak Previews", which aired on PBS stations in the 70's before "At the Movies" started.

Shortly after the announcement that the current A.O. Scott/Michael Phillips-hosted "At the Movies" show was getting canceled, Roger Ebert shed some light on the new TV show and "full-tilt new media" enterprise he's got in the works, which will be called "Roger Ebert presents At the Movies".

The most exciting thing about this new show is that it sounds like the show Ebert has always wanted to do. The experience of watching movies has completely changed in the last 10 years. Everyone now has access to the kinds of little, foreign, or independent movies that only people in big cities used to see, through Netflix, Amazon's streaming rentals, on-demand, Red Box kiosks and things like that. Every so often, Siskel and Ebert would devote a significant chunk of their weekly show to a small movie that most of us would never be able to see in the theater, and would be lucky if our local video store got a copy of it.

Back in the early 90's they championed movies like Hoop Dreams and Crumb and Kieslowski's Three Colors series on nationally syndicated TV, which is pretty incredible. They probably did more to raise the profile of independent and foreign film in the US than anybody else.

So now that we all have far greater access all kinds of weird, small movies, Ebert's new show can be as far-reaching as he wants, because his audience will be so much more knowledgeable about what's out there. Here's how he describes it: "Not just the One Weekend Wonders, although you gotta have 'em, but indie films, foreign films, documentaries, restored classics, the new Herzog, the new Bahrani, the new Almodovar. What's new on Instant Streaming. What great movies should everyone see? Hey, Paramount just announced $1 million for ten $100,000 movies. Those kinds of films ... Our show will try to reach people who think before they watch a movie, and value their time, and their minds."

So, obviously, it's gonna be on cable. Maybe IFC? Ebert and his wife, Chaz, are producing it, and he says they've chosen their host. I don't think it will be any of the previous "At the Movies" hosts (though there's a decent chance Ben Mankiewicz could be in the running--he did a pretty good job.)

My top choice: Alec Baldwin. Why not? He's already hosting the New York Philharmonic's weekly radio show, hosting "The Essentials" on Saturday nights on TCM, writing for the Huffington Post, guest hosting Studio 360, and hosted the Oscars, and that's on top of "30 Rock". He can handle it. I'm only half kidding.

Ebert himself will be on the show every so often for a Great Movies segment or to report from the film festivals. It should be a fun and thoughtful show, because that's how he seems to approach everything these days. Ebert's reviews have gotten pretty generous lately, but he's still an assiduous reviewer.

Check out his review for Hot Tub Time Machine: three stars, which surprises even him, but he explains why it's better than you would think. And here's what he says about Rob Corddry (probably the biggest reason to see it): "Corddry here achieves a level of comic confidence that seems almost uncanny; Cusack, as co-producer, and Steve Pink, the director (who wrote Cusack's High Fidelity and Grosse Point Blank), must have intuited this gift and been willing to give him free rein."

I'm glad Ebert's got the money and the clout to do the kind of show he wants. It should be great.

March 24, 2010

"Lost" and eternity

Richard Alpert on Lost

Last night's "Lost" ("Ab Aeterno") about Richard Alpert was one of my favorite episodes ever. Nestor Carbonell, the actor who plays Alpert, was so awesome in this episode that he inadvertently made some of the show's less talented actors look weak by comparison. I've been getting a little weary of Kate and Jack lately, largely because those two actors just don't have the chops for the heavy moments. But some of Nestor Carbonell's scenes, where he's shackled in the wrecked ship, or holding his dead wife's face in the lamplight, or begging Jacob for his life, were so good I felt like I was watching a movie instead of TV. When he's on the screen, we're in good hands.

[Note: he can do comedy too. He was fantastic as Batmanuel in the live-action version of "The Tick" in 2001.]

As for the show's thousands of questions that are still mostly unresolved, I'm starting to wonder if the show is heading for more of an emotional resolution than a functional resolution. Especially in terms of the old and new adversarial relationships that have emerged. I could see the series leading toward a big showdown between Jacob and the Man in Black, Ben Linus and Charles Widmore, and Jack and Locke, which I'd be OK with. But even though recent episodes have revealed a lot of mythology and symbols, we're not getting much information about the actual facts of the island and the power struggles of the people on it.

I don't read every "Lost" blog there is, and I'm sure there are all kinds of nuances and clues that I miss every week. But we're only a handful of episodes from the end of the series, and I still don't understand a whole lot of stuff. Like what Widmore wants and if he's on the side of Jacob or the Man in Black, what the real purpose of the DHARMA Initiative was, who built the giant four-toed statue, whether the island is in the Atlantic (as suggested in last night's episode) or the Pacific (as suggested in every other episode) or if it moves around more radically than we thought, what happened to Sayid in the temple pool, why Ben was able to stab Jacob and kill him, or where Desmond is. Or what the deal is with Christian. Plus about one thousand other questions.

It seems like the show is heading toward more of a metaphoric explanation for all of this than a literal explanation. A couple of seasons ago, we found out where the polar bears literally came from (pretty much). But these days, we're more likely to get symbolic references and a lot of mirroring, like the Black Rock and the white rock, and the repetition of the order to kill someone before he says a word. And Jacob's lengthy musings about human nature's propensity for good and evil.

I have a mental list of all the questions I still have about this show, and I bet a lot of those questions are never going to get answered directly. But if we keep getting great episodes like this one, I can live with that.

Plus, I just want to go on the record with this idea: if both Jin and Sun have to be on the island because their mutual last name, Kwon, is written in Jacob's lighthouse and on the cave wall, then how do we know that Jack is the correct Shephard? I know Christian is dead and everything, but Jack has gotten so irritating lately that I'm hoping Daddy Shephard is the one that matters.

March 22, 2010

"All this euphoria going on"

Obama and Biden and lots of happy staffers

There are lots of photos out there of various Democrats celebrating last night's passage of the health care reform bill in the House. Everything that could possibly be said about health care in this country has already been said over and over for the past year. (I mean, 90 years.) I'm not wild about this particular bill because I don't think it goes nearly far enough in ensuring that everyone gets the health care they need, but what can you do. It's a start.

But after all the anger and fighting and accusations, these photos of happy Democrats are sort of cute. John McCain went on Good Morning America today to grouse about the positive feeling in Washington as a result of the bill's passage, and harumphed that he was repulsed by "all this euphoria going on."

Yeah, you tell 'em, McCain. Support the American people's hatred of euphoria.

Here's Nancy Pelosi with Reps. Steny Hoyer, George Miller, James Clyburn and John Larson:

Happy Democrat representatives

Happy supporters of the bill outside the Capitol last night:

Happy partying Democrat supporters

And Pelosi and Clyburn with lots of happy staffers who have all been working for about three months straight:

Pelosi, Clyburn, and happy staffers

Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. photographing happy supporters with smiley face balloons:

Jesse Jackson and happy supporters

Do you think Dennis Hastert and Trent Lott were raising their hands in the air and beaming so radiantly when the Iraq War Resolution and Bush's tax cuts were passed?

March 19, 2010

The Runaways reviews

The Runaways cast

The first movie of the year that I'm really excited about, The Runaways, comes out today. Let's look at some reviews:

  • A.O. Scott seems to love it in spite of its typical music biopic flaws. Also check out his glowing comment about Dakota Fanning: "Ms. Fanning, who has shown herself a remarkably disciplined and self-aware actress almost since toddlerhood, displays heartbreaking vulnerability as well as frightening poise."
  • Three stars from Roger Ebert, who especially loves Michael Shannon as the Svengali-like producer/manager Kim Fowley. He also ends the review with this cute note: "Many years ago, while I was standing at a luggage carousel at Heathrow Airport, I was approached by a friendly young woman. "I'm Joan Jett," she told me. "I liked Beyond the Valley of the Dolls." Just sayin'."
  • Owen Gleiberman thinks it's OK as long as the girls are rocking on stage, but the dramatic scenes are "glumly episodic." He also wishes Kristen Stewart played Joan Jett with bigger dykey swagger.
  • Michael Phillips says that even if we've seen the stories and these characters before in other rock movies, The Runaways "has an exceptional hangout factor."

March 18, 2010

Hidden tracks

Hidden Track cartoon

A few days ago the Top 13 posted a list of the top 13 hidden tracks from albums through the ages. Since then I've been thinking about the hidden album track. I remember stumbling upon them on CDs like Nine Inch Nails' Broken, Nevermind, and Blur's Modern Life is Rubbish, and it usually happened the same way: I'd put the CD in the stereo, listen to the whole album while simultaneously puttering around the dorm room or flipping through Ray Gun or however else I spent my time in the mid-90s, then when the album seemingly came to an end, I'd just let it sit there in the CD player.

Some time later, music would unexpectedly burst forth from the speakers, always a surprise and sometimes a startling shocker if I'd gotten really engrossed in reading the liner notes or dozed off (this was college, after all.) A hidden track!

I remember my group of friends being so enamored of hidden tracks that when making mixtapes for each other, we would sometimes include unlisted hidden tracks buried somewhere in the middle of one side of the tape, as a little surprise bonus.

I'm not as in touch with new music as I was 15 years ago, but I'm guessing that the hidden track isn't as popular as it was in the 90s, and has maybe become somewhat of a lost art. Hidden tracks probably work best on CDs: though the first hidden track was probably "Her Majesty" at the end of side 2 of Abbey Road, that track is hidden only in the sense that it wasn't listed on the album cover. Vinyl has tighter space limitations, so even if you notice your turntable is still playing after the music ends, there's only so much dead space a record is likely to devote to a surprise hidden track.

The digital display of a CD tells you it's running through dozens of 2-second-long tracks, or that the last track has continued playing for 6 or 7 minutes after the music stopped. But the way I used to listen to music, I usually didn't even notice until after the hidden track unexpectedly started playing.

But think about listening to an album as mp3's on your computer or on an iPod. The hidden track makes no sense in a digital music collection. You'd see that odd-looking "16:37" length of a song right there on your screen, or those extra, unnamed 38 tracks between the last two songs. It would be obvious. And imagine how irritating it would be if an extra long song with a hidden track at the end of it came up on shuffle. You'd probably try to edit out the dead air and split the songs into two separate tracks.

The thrill of the hidden track has faded.

Here's Wikipedia's entry on hidden tracks and their varieties, as well as a very lengthy list of examples.

A few of my favorite hidden tracks: "Postscript" at the end of the Pet Shop Boys' Very, the track at the end of the 1977 album by Ash, and that great untitled song at the end of R.E.M.'s Green album, which might not really be hidden, but it's unlisted on the album cover. Also "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" by Lauryn Hill, the raging, feedback-y "Endless, Nameless" by Nirvana, and, of course, "Bitches Ain't Shit" on Dre's The Chronic, which are all included on the Top 13 list.

What hidden tracks do you like?

March 15, 2010

Don't wear your Granite State gear to Gatwick

Live Free or Die t-shirt

London's Gatwick airport recently apologized to a traveler who had been stopped while going through security and asked to turn his t-shirt inside out before proceeding through. The security worker said some airlines might find the shirt "a bit threatening" because of its small printed slogan: "Freedom or die".

While the grammar of that statement is a little shaky (wouldn't it be "freedom or death"?) a t-shirt slogan isn't exactly the greatest security risk airports face. The man in the shirt, Lloyd Berks, said of his outfit choice, "It is turquoise and white, it is just a design t-shirt, it is not gothic or in your face."

Nothing like some of the more overtly gothic t-shirts one can buy in New Hampshire-themed retailers, that proudly display the popular though sort of politically flamboyant state motto, "Live Free or Die".

The Red Sox-inspired shirt in the photo above, sold as a "Dead Sox shirt" online, is probably whimsical and hilarious in New Hampshire. British airport security might not get the baseball/guns/libertarianism visual joke, though--they'll just see a gun freak in a terrorist shirt.

March 12, 2010

Public money double standard

Boys and Girls Clubs vs. Lockheed Martin

Today we heard that a group of Senators in the Finance Committee (all Republicans, btw) are concerned about the total compensation that the CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs Roxanne Spillett receives, which when you add up her salary, benefits, bonus, and payments into her retirement fund, is almost $1 million. The Senate is considering renewing a grant to Boys & Girls Clubs of $425 million over five years, but until the organization answers questions about the CEO's salary and their high travel budget, these Senators say they're not making any grant.

You probably know that Boys & Girls Clubs of America runs local centers for kids in cities all over the country. They do mentoring and after-school education programs for kids, mostly in poor neighborhoods. Their annual budget is over $100 million, and in 2007 they were the 7th biggest nonprofit organization in the country.

The Senators are concerned that this million dollar compensation for a CEO is too high, because she is the CEO of a charitable organization that receives public funds for about 40% of its budget.

This makes me want to spit. I don't necessarily think the CEO of a nonprofit should make $1 million a year (Roxanne Spillett's actual salary is $360,000) and I bet that the Clubs' staff who work directly with youth probably get unfairly low pay, like almost everyone in the nonprofit sector does. But this congressional scrutiny is based on an unspoken assumption that people who work for nonprofits should not be well compensated for their work. Like the sense of well-being they get from helping people should be adequate justification for a meager salary. Especially when some of that salary is paid for with public funds.

This is crap. Let's look at another big recipient of public support: Lockheed Martin. Lockheed is the world's largest defense contractor, and 85% of its income comes from the US government, i.e. public money.

Last year, Lockheed's CEO Robert Stevens' salary actually fell by 10%, due to government spending cutbacks and everything that was happening with the economy. So that reduced his compensation to $20 million. TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS. 85% of which is paid for by US taxpayers.

Lockheed is a much larger organization than Boys & Girls Clubs; it had $43 billion in revenue last year. The Washington Post said some people saw Lockheed's top salaries as "insensitive" during last year's financial crises.

When our government gets suspicious of generous executive compensation and questions travel budgets and benefits packages, and they go after the $1 million compensation of the head of one of the largest nonprofits in the country that helps 4.8 million kids a year, but don't think twice about the $20 million salary of the head of a weapons manufacturer that US taxpayers are funding, it drives me up the wall.

Another thing: Lockheed Martin is a publicly traded company. That means most of the shareholders' income essentially comes from US taxpayers, too. Apparently our government thinks it's OK for shareholders and executives to get rich using the public's money, but only if those people are making weapons. Not if they're helping kids.

Roxanne Spillett, I bet you earn every penny.

March 10, 2010

Lost surprises

Mario Van Peebles directing Lost

I don't know which was the bigger surprise on last night's "Lost": finding out who Ben is talking to on his doorstep, or seeing the "Directed by Mario Van Peebles" credit that flashed up on the screen at the same time (full episode here).

The last I'd heard of Mario, he was directing and starring in a homage to his father Melvin's seminal 1971 blaxploitation movie Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, called, naturally Baadasssss! It was, and I mean this with all sincerity, badass.

Since then, he's directed a few episodes of "Law & Order" and now has a small role on "Damages". I don't think he's really made a movie since Baadasssss! (that's 5 s's) in 2003, but he has somehow gotten to direct three feature-length movies that are in production right now, including:

Plus a BET documentary about black male role models called "Bring Your A Game" with Spike Lee and Ice Cube. And an episode of "Lost".

Mario Van Peebles, I don't know how you do it. Either he's got the world's best agent, he works really cheap, or the entertainment industry thinks back on New Jack City with overpowering fondness.

March 8, 2010

Oscars night, with special Who'dat?™: Oscars flashback edition

Kathryn Bigelow winning Best Director Oscar

What I can't figure out about the Oscars is how a show that moves along from award to award so briskly and cuts off speeches at 45 seconds still feels like an interminable bore, punctuated by some funny Baldwin/Martin banter. There were a mere 3 montages, no performances of Best Song nominees, and there wasn't even an Irving G. Thalberg award this year!

Still, when we got to the last two awards and the show was already a half-hour overtime, suddenly it went from slow-motion to high gear and it was all over in about 3 minutes. Hurt Locker's in, Avatar's out, and Kathryn Bigelow gave two sincere but sort of bland speeches, thanking the military twice (and also Hazmat teams! Weird.) I'd like to think that she won Best Director on the basis of her movie and not because of some feel-good self-congratulatory tokenism on the part of the Academy, but either way, she accepted it like a cool, collected pro (and thankfully avoided all "this award is so much bigger than me" claims, and crying.) Here's the clip.

Anyway, the other interesting moment was the teen star reunion in honor of John Hughes. Look at the round-spectacled guy who looks sort of like one third of John Goodman with a goatee. Even after the announcer read all their names as they came out on stage, I had no idea who this guy was.


You can make your guess and click on the photo to see if you're right. Or you can just read Wonkette's first headline this morning.

Though I certainly didn't know it, Judd Nelson has kept working steadily since the 80's, mostly small roles in movies I've never heard of. And New Jack City. Later this year, he'll star in a movie called Mayor Cupcake, in which he plays the husband of a small-town baker played by fellow Hughes teen star Lea Thompson.

The weirdest part of the night was the dance montage of the Best Score nominees, with guys in cardigans breakdancing to The Hurt Locker.

My favorite moments: The Hurt Locker actors picking each other up and screaming when they won Best Picture, T Bone Burnett's sunglasses and suit, the horror montage, and the AmEx Members Project ad with Geoffrey Canada talking about Harlem Children's Zone, which was more inspiring than just about any of the award-winning movie clips.

You can watch all the acceptance speeches at the Oscars site.

March 3, 2010

Oscars predictions

Christoph Waltz

It's another Oscars year where everybody already knows who's going to win a lot of the major awards. Some of these are great picks, and some we'll think about years from now and wonder how the Academy could have made such weird choices that now make no sense (Sandra Bullock really needs an Oscar?)

We've gone through the nominees and make our predictions about who's going to get the award, like always. These are our guesses about who will win, not necessarily who should win. My grand unified theory about how these things get decided is that Academy members vote for their friends, and they love to feel good about themselves.

Put your own picks in the comments and display your nuanced understanding of how Hollywood insiders operate! If you're going to keep score at home and not just swear futilely at Sean Penn and Miley Cyrus as they announce winners, here's a printable ballot with all the nominees.

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart" (Amy) Jeff Bridges is by far the best part of this movie--he's pretty much irresistible and everybody loves him. This is the Academy's feel-good award this year. Clooney already has an Oscar, and Colin Firth will hopefully be back another year. (Cushie) I think Jeremy Renner is the dark horse here, but Bridges will win.
George Clooney in "Up in the Air"
Colin Firth in "A Single Man"
Morgan Freeman in "Invictus"
Jeremy Renner in "The Hurt Locker"

Best Supporting Actor
Matt Damon in "Invictus"
Woody Harrelson in "The Messenger"
Christopher Plummer in "The Last Station"
Stanley Tucci in "The Lovely Bones"
Christoph Waltz in "Inglourious Basterds" (Amy) He's the obvious choice, and deserves to win, but there are other great nominees in this category. Too bad Christopher Plummer got his first nomination ever (!) this year, since he has no chance of winning. I guess that's what Lifetime Achievement awards are for. (Cushie) Matt Damon is probably the other one with a chance here, because he did a good job with a hard accent, but I think this might be the Basterds' only award.

Best Actress
Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side" (Amy) I want to believe Meryl Streep's going to get it. Do you realize Streep has not won an Oscar since 1983? It's time for another one, but she's not going to get it. Sandra Bullock is the weakest nominee of an otherwise great category. (Cushie) I think this is Sandra Bullock's year, unfortunately. I would prefer any of the other four.
Helen Mirren in "The Last Station"
Carey Mulligan in "An Education"
Gabourey Sidibe in "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"
Meryl Streep in "Julie & Julia"

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz in "Nine"
Vera Farmiga in "Up in the Air"
Maggie Gyllenhaal in "Crazy Heart"
Anna Kendrick in "Up in the Air"
Mo'Nique in "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" (Amy) There is no question. It's kind of a cardboard caricature of a role, but she did a great job with it. (Cushie) Vera Farmiga should get the "if I wasn't against Mo'Nique I would win" award.

Best Animated Feature Film
"Fantastic Mr. Fox"
"The Princess and the Frog"
"The Secret of Kells"
"Up" (Amy) I love this movie. (Cushie)

Art Direction
"Avatar" (Amy) This is the kind of category Avatar really deserves to win. Note it did not get a screenwriting nomination. (Cushie) I am actually OK with Avatar winning this.
"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"
"Sherlock Holmes"
"The Young Victoria"

"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"
"The Hurt Locker" (Amy) The steady, unflinching camera was one of the best parts of the movie (Cushie)
"Inglourious Basterds"
"The White Ribbon"

Costume Design
"Bright Star"
"Coco before Chanel"
"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"
"Nine" (Amy) Can this award specifically be for Penelope Cruz's cardiac-arrest-inducing underwear costume from her big dance number? It's more likely a more obvious period piece will win, I just can't tell which one.
"The Young Victoria" (Cushie). The Academy loves period costumes, and it has a few choices here.

"The Hurt Locker" (Amy) This is it! The Academy won't be able to resist Making Movie History. I'm psyched. And will retreat into scowling hatred for the whole world if James Cameron wins. (Cushie) Time for a Lady Director!
"Inglourious Basterds"
"Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"
"Up in the Air"

Best Documentary
"Burma VJ"
"The Cove" (Amy) I want Food, Inc. to win, but people seem to be into this one. Didn't concern for dolphins go out of vogue sometime in the early 90's, though?
"Food, Inc." (Cushie) Every single Academy member only shops at Whole Foods and feeds their beautiful child only the best in organic baby food.
"The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers"
"Which Way Home"

Best Documentary Short
"China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province"
"The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner"
"The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant" (Amy) Hollywood wants to appear concerned about the struggles of regular Americans, right before going to Elton John's afterparty at the Sunset Tower. (Cushie) Although I would not be surprised if they chose the China movie.
"Music by Prudence"
"Rabbit à la Berlin"

"District 9"
"The Hurt Locker" (Amy)(Cushie)
"Inglourious Basterds"
"Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"

Best Foreign Language Film
"El Secreto de Sus Ojos"
"The Milk of Sorrow"
"Un Prophète"
"The White Ribbon"(Amy) Maybe too dark? Well, none of these are exactly feel-good, so I'm going with the one that's gotten the most attention.(Cushie)

"Il Divo"
"Star Trek" (Amy)
"The Young Victoria" (Cushie)

Original Score
"Avatar" (Cushie). Yuck.
"Fantastic Mr. Fox"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Sherlock Holmes"
"Up" (Amy)

Original Song
"Almost There" from "The Princess and the Frog"
"Down in New Orleans" from "The Princess and the Frog"
"Loin de Paname" from "Paris 36"
"Take It All" from "Nine"
"The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)" from "Crazy Heart" (Amy) The songs from this movie still pop into my head all the time. (Cushie) This is actually a great song.

Best Picture
"Avatar" (Amy) I guess? It will win because of its total industry domination, but not much else.
"The Blind Side"
"District 9"
"An Education"
"The Hurt Locker" (Cushie) Please please please!
"Inglourious Basterds"
"Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"
"A Serious Man"
"Up in the Air"

Best Animated Short
"French Roast"
"Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty"
"The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)"
"A Matter of Loaf and Death" by Nick Park (Amy) Only because it's Nick Park. (Cushie)

Best Short Film
"The Door"
"Instead of Abracadabra"
"Miracle Fish" (Cushie) No idea. I like the name of this.
"The New Tenants" (Amy)

Sound Editing
"Avatar" (Cushie)
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"Star Trek" (Amy)

Sound Mixing
"Avatar" (Cushie)
"The Hurt Locker" (Amy) Hedging my bets, here.
"Inglourious Basterds"
"Star Trek"
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"

Visual Effects
"Avatar" (Amy) It really deserves this one. Watching this movie was a transporting experience. (Cushie)
"District 9"
"Star Trek"

Adapted Screenplay
"District 9"
"An Education"
"In the Loop"
"Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"
"Up in the Air" (Amy) People like this screenplay, I guess. I thought it was sloppy and non-credible, and I hope Nick Hornby gets it for An Education, but I don't think he will. (Cushie) I agree although I would love to see Hornby or Armando Iannucci.

Original Screenplay
"The Hurt Locker" (Cushie) Although I also think A Serious Man is a good contender.
"Inglourious Basterds" (Amy) Maybe he'll win this one again! Another really strong category. I'd be happy if any of these win, except maybe The Messenger.
"The Messenger"
"A Serious Man"

March 1, 2010

Scorsese: Style, yes! Substance, who cares?

Scorsese and Leo on the set of Shuttler Island

Sometimes, Martin Scorsese makes cinematic masterpieces that will be watched and remembered forever. And sometimes he makes overly long meandering movies that have their good points and look great, but run out of steam by the end. In the first category you've got Goodfellas and Raging Bull and, probably, The Departed. In the second category you've got movies like Casino, where the best thing about the movie might be Robert DeNiro's suits.

I forget sometimes that not every Scorsese movie is a winner, but watching Shutter Island last night served as a great reminder. "Oh, right," I thought. "I'd almost forgotten about the 15 years I spent watching Gangs of New York."

If you think about Shutter Island as a pulpy, melodramatic B-movie, it actually comes out OK. The first third of the movie is tense and atmospheric, and the dark mysteries about the mental institution "foh the criminally in-SANE," as we've all heard Leo stress over and over in the trailer, are creepy and interesting. The movie loses steam in the last 45 minutes, and the payoff at the end is really unsatisfying, but there sure are some beautiful shots and gorgeous, color-drenched sets, and all kinds of lurid images of horror-movie carnage. When the blood flows it's a rich cherry red, and Ben Kingsley's sitting room is all velvet upholstery you could do the breaststroke in and sparkling crystal whisky decanters. And I'm gonna be honest: there are worse ways you could spend your time than watching Mark Ruffalo in a 50's suit and fedora, raising those eyebrows and looking gorgeously Ruffalicious.

Actually, considering his competition, you could argue that Shutter Island is the best of the movies adapted from Dennis Lehane novels. The other ones are Clint Eastwood's Mystic River, which was drab and flat except when it was shrill and hysterical, and Gone Baby Gone by Ben Affleck (I know!), which was pretty good but dragged in the third act. Actually, all of his adapted movies seem to start strong and then sputter to a ending that I stopped caring about half an hour ago.

At least Scorsese knows how to do style when the substance is lacking. For an excellent example of this that's a lot more fun than Shutter Island, there's the long-form commercial he did for Freixenet a couple of years ago. It's set up like a documentary about Scorsese filming some newly discovered pages from a Hitchcock script, and he's really hilarious in it.

Yeah, he sure does lots of ads, but at least they're funny. The AmEx ads (especially the one hour photo one) and the AT&T ad that runs in movie theaters about shutting off your cellphone ("You don't even call him daddy. To you, he's Frank. That's how detached you are") are my favorites. Scorsese sells out better than anyone.

About March 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Amy's Robot in March 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2010 is the previous archive.

April 2010 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.35