Tuesday, January 31, 2006

2005 Oscar Nominations

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 1
The Oscar Nominations are in. I'm sure in the coming days and weeks I'll come up with something to say about the major categories (which means that this is the last time you'll see most of these categories listed or discussed here). I haven't seen nearly as many movies this past year as I have in most years so a lot will be flat out conjecture.

That said, I'm happy for Amy Adams picking up that nomination for Junebug. Local girl makes good. I'm very happy that Crash was nominated for Best Picture and even grabbed an acting nod. An excellent movie. Go Philip Seymour Hoffman, great actor getting a lead role.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
78th Annual Academy Awards Nominations


BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR
BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
CAPOTE
CRASH
GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK.
MUNICH

ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING
BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN - Ang Lee
CAPOTE - Bennett Miller
CRASH - Paul Haggis
GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK - George Clooney
MUNICH - Steven Spielberg

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Philip Seymour Hoffman - CAPOTE
Terrence Howard - HUSTLE & FLOW
Heath Ledger - BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
Joaquin Phoenix - WALK THE LINE
David Strathairn - GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
George Clooney - SYRIANA
Matt Dillon - CRASH
Paul Giamatti - CINDERELLA MAN
Jake Gyllenhaal - BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
William Hurt - A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Judi Dench - MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS
Felicity Huffman - TRANSAMERICA
Keira Knightley - PRIDE & PREJUDICE
Charlize Theron - NORTH COUNTRY
Reese Witherspoon - WALK THE LINE

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Amy Adams - JUNEBUG
Catherine Keener - CAPOTE
Frances McDormand - NORTH COUNTRY
Rachel Weisz - THE CONSTANT GARDENER
Michelle Williams - BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM OF THE YEAR
HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE
TIM BURTON'S CORPSE BRIDE
WALLACE & GROMIT IN THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT

ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION
GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK.
HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE
KING KONG
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA
PRIDE & PREJUDICE

ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY
BATMAN BEGINS
BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK.
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA
THE NEW WORLD

ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN
CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA
MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS
PRIDE & PREJUDICE
WALK THE LINE

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
DARWIN'S NIGHTMARE
ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM
MARCH OF THE PENGUINS
MURDERBALL
STREET FIGHT

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
THE DEATH OF KEVIN CARTER: CASUALTY OF THE BANG BANG CLUB
GOD SLEEPS IN RWANDA
THE MUSHROOM CLUB
A NOTE OF TRIUMPH: THE GOLDEN AGE OF NORMAN CORWIN

ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING
CINDERELLA MAN
THE CONSTANT GARDENER
CRASH
MUNICH
WALK THE LINE

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM OF THE YEAR
DON'T TELL
JOYEUX NOèL
PARADISE NOW
SOPHIE SCHOLL - THE FINAL DAYS
TSOTSI

ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
CINDERELLA MAN
STAR WARS: EPISODE III REVENGE OF THE SITH

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES
(ORIGINAL SCORE)

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
THE CONSTANT GARDENER
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA
MUNICH
PRIDE & PREJUDICE

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES
(ORIGINAL SONG)

"In the Deep" - CRASH
"It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" - HUSTLE & FLOW
"Travelin' Thru" - TRANSAMERICA

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
BADGERED
THE MOON AND THE SON: AN IMAGINED CONVERSATION
THE MYSTERIOUS GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORATIONS OF JASPER MORELLO
9
ONE MAN BAND

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
AUSREISSER (THE RUNAWAY)
CASHBACK
THE LAST FARM
OUR TIME IS UP
SIX SHOOTER

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING
KING KONG
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA
WAR OF THE WORLDS

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
KING KONG
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA
WALK THE LINE
WAR OF THE WORLDS

ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
KING KONG
WAR OF THE WORLDS

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
CAPOTE
THE CONSTANT GARDENER
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
MUNICH

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
CRASH
GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK.
MATCH POINT
THE SQUID AND THE WHALE
SYRIANA

Monday, January 30, 2006

tyranosaurus?

Monday, January 30, 2006 0
It is something when you're watching a movie (Predator) and you realize that the man who just called himself a sexual tyranosaurus rex will later become the governor of your state.

Ugh.

Amy Adams

Imagine my surprise when I find out last night that my wife knows (or knew) Amy Adams, the actress who has been getting incredible buzz and award nominations for her role in Junebug. Amy Adams (who has also done a guest role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer during Season 5) acted at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre for a while and I guess that is where Sandy knew her.

Adams has a very good chance at picking up an Oscar nomination tomorrow as Best Supporting Actress.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Mad Ship

Friday, January 27, 2006 0
Somehow "The Liveship Traders" just got better. Robin Hobb, the author of the "Farseer" trilogy and "Ship of Magic", has written a book that builds upon the story began in "Ship of Magic" and expands it far enough that already I have to consider "The Liveship Traders" be superior to the excellent "Farseer" trilogy. How did she do this? Robin Hobb simply turned the entire world of the Traders and Bingtown on its head.

When we last left our characters at the end of "Ship of Magic" we saw Kyle Havan, his son Wintrow, and the Liveship Vivacia taken captive by the pirate Captain Kennit. Kennit had been striving to capture a Liveship so that he could rid the waters of slave traders (Havan, on his first voyage on Vivacia after his father in law Trader Vestrit died, is trading in slaves). A Liveship is a sentient ship and one that is bound to her owners family, but if tamed would be the best ship on the water. Althea, the daughter of Trader Vestrit, is sailing back to Bingtown on another Liveship after having quite a hard time proving that she could be a sailor. She had expected to inherit Vivacia from her father and her brother in law, Kyle Havan, told her that the only way she would ever get the ship was to prove herself a sailor. Brashen Trell, the former first mate of the Vivacia and disinherited son of a Trader family, is sailing on a pirate ship himself as it is the only berth he could get. The Vestrit family is low on fortune and struggling to make the payments for the Vivacia and is counting on the money Kyle would bring back from the slave trade. Except that he hasn't returned yet.

This previous paragraph helps to bring the storyline up to the beginning of "Mad Ships", although it is a much abbreviated version of what happened in "Ship of Destiny" and robs the story of all of its craft and does not do justice to it. "Mad Ship" takes everything further and in a whole new direction. Brashen Trell returns to Bingtown with news that the Vivacia is captured. Althea also returns and learns of this and helps her family, with the assistance of Brashen and a mysterious woman named Amber to rescue the Vivacia. This is one third of the story. The next third of the story revolves around the Vestrit family, in particular the youngest daughter Malta. Malta is being courted by a young man named Reyn from the Rain Wilds Trader family who holds the lease of the Vivacia. Malta starts the novel wanting nothing more than to live a lavish lifestyle and to be introduced into society and feels held back by her family's impending poverty. But as the novel progresses Malta begins to learn what it is to rely on her family and her responsibility. She still has flights of fancy, but not to the extent as before and she becomes much more responsible. The final third of "Mad Ship" deals with Captain Kennit and Wintrow. Wintrow is the eldest (living) son of Kyle Havan and Keffira Vestrit and was studying to be a priest of Sa. But when Kyle's heir died he was called back unwilling to resume his place in the family and by the time of this novel Kyle took his own son a slave, branded his face, and was disgusted by Wintrow. But Wintrow is the only one with Vestrit blood aboard the Vivacia and this bond is vitally important...except that Wintrow's rejection of this life has caused the Vivacia to be able to be wooed by Captain Kennit into piracy. It is interesting that the character of Captain Kennit initially appeared to be one of the villains of the story is coming out a hero in "Mad Ship". Whether or not this holds is another question, but he is feeling like an anti-hero as he wants to improve the lives of those in the Pirate Isles and end slavery...but he is a pirate himself with all that entails.

To reveal too much of where "Mad Ship" takes the story would lessen the joy in discovering it. The pace of the story still moves at a gradual but insistent pace, but the story is rich in detail and Hobb builds this world with great skill. Even though it is part of the same world of the "Farseer" trilogy, "The Liveship Traders" takes place in a completely different part of the world and while the Six Duchies are referred to as is the Red Ships War it is only a reference to set this story on a chronology. Suffice it to say that what Robin Hobb reveals about the nature of Liveships and also about the serpents which keep getting a prologue and a few "interlude" chapters changes everything about how I view the story. Not to mention that Hobb has completely altered the lives of Bingtown and the characters irrevocably.

Midway through this novel I was very much wrapped up in the story Robin Hobb was telling and by the end I was in turn impressed, wanting to cheer (Althea), and shocked by the revelations. I knew Hobb was a good writer and have enjoyed the four previous books of hers I have read, but "Mad Ship" is a cut above those. I am truly excited to finish of the trilogy with "Ship of Magic" and as I said in the first paragraph I believe this series to be better than her excellent "Farseer" trilogy.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Jennifer Knapp's website back online

Thursday, January 26, 2006 1
After years of hiatus JenniferKnapp.com is back online! For me this is exciting news as it accompanies the release of a live album titled...well...Live.

The website is nothing like her old website which was more devoted to her and her work than a single album. But when Knapp left her management company (which she co-founded) Alabaster Arts her website died a slow death. Her message board had alreaday been transfered over to Alabaster Arts and then was pulled (and all of the Alabaster boards were later pulled). This killed a pretty decent community of fans and Christians and while the board has resurfaced on a fan site it wasn't the same.

Knapp has pretty much disappeared herself after touring in support of The Way I Am. She may have been burned out from touring and recording and the expectations of a musical artist, let alone a "Christian" artist. So she was out of the music scene and nobody has really heard from her since. I'm sure family and friends have, but finding info online has been rather difficult. Rumors abound, not all of them pleasant.

Still, any release of Knapp's work, even if it isn't new material, is a good thing. Now I just have to scrounge up the money for this as well as her last album "The Collection" which was stolen out of my car a few years ago.

I hope she comes back as she is my favorite musician and her music has actually impacted my life. No other artist can I say that about.

Bambi II

What story is there left to tell exactly? Why does the 1942 Disney classic “Bambi” need a sequel? Truly, no sequel is needed since “Bambi” is a true classic and is one of the great animated movies in film history. At the end of “Bambi” Bambi himself was grown and found a mate and was to raise his own family. The same for Flower and Thumper. When I first heard of “Bambi II” I assumed that somehow this would be the same exact story that we had in the first movie, except that it would be about Bambi raising his son and the new fawn would go on adventures. What else would the sequel be about?

Quite a bit, apparently. “Bambi II” is not quite a sequel as it is “Bambi 1.5”. In between Bambi (Alex Gould) being a young fawn after his mother’s death and him growing up at the end of the first movie there is all sorts of adventure and growing up and finding a mate that really wasn’t covered in “Bambi”. That’s what “Bambi II” is: a sequel to the first part of “Bambi” and a prequel to the ending.

Here Bambi is raised by his father, The Great Prince (voice of Patrick Stewart). Bambi misses his mother very much and his father only knows how to be the solitary ruler of the forest. The Great Prince is disappointed in Bambi and Bambi wants desperately to earn his approval. But the first part of the movie is very lighthearted all the same and features some romping and adventure with Bambi, Thumper, and Flower. Bambi has a rival fawn, a slightly older deer who has started to grow antlers and is named Ronald.

The animation here is very reminiscent of the original film and stands up quite well in comparison. “Bambi II” seems to be drawn in a more classical style compared to much of the CG animation being done these days.

I suppose “Bambi II” is very much your typical coming of age movie with struggles for acceptance, and the eventual growth (we know just where the story has to go because it ties into the end of “Bambi”), but it is surprisingly good. I expected a junky direct to video sequel with no amount of fun or interest involved (for an example, see “Kronk’s New Groove”…or better yet: don’t), but I was wrong. This is a cute, fun family movie. Clocking it at only 73 minutes, this is a movie that is better than it has a right to be and one that does not ruin memories of the original. The original may not have needed a sequel, but the sequel measures up as well as it possibly could be.

The DVD is a little bit light on special features, but this should not be too surprising on a straight to video release. There are two games “Thumper’s Hurry and Scurry” and “Disney’s Sketch Pad” Thumper’s game has you navigate through the forest to find Thumper. This game could get frustrating for the littlest ones. “Disney’s Sketch Pad” has one of the Disney animators giving a lesson on how to draw Thumper and advice to young artists who might want to get into animation. Inserting the DVD into a DVD-ROM on a computer gives you the chance to print out pages of the animation to compare to while you try to draw thumper. It’s a nice little lesson.

There is also a documentary called “The Legacy Continues” which is about, as one might imagine, the continuing legacy of “Bambi” and how this sequel comes about. The final bonus feature is a trivia track which runs through the movie.

I can only hope that if Disney does more needless sequels (and we know they will), that this is the bar the filmmakers will shoot for because it is one of the best needless sequel I’ve seen from Disney.

*sigh* Alias

*Sigh*

After 15 episodes in Season Three of Alias, TNT pulls the plug. I've been recording the show every day at 3:00pm and working my way through the season and hoped I could finish the show off like I did with The X-Files. And then it is pulled mid-season. I was checking out the TNT website this morning and it seems that TNT will be airing Alias overnights starting on Feb 8.

Now on one hand this is a great idea because as with the X-Files a couple nights a week we get 5 episodes at a time and it was pretty easy to work through the entire run of the series (I watched Seasons 4-9 of X-Files on TNT). But what is going to stink about this move of Alias is that TNT is likely to start over from Season 1 and I'll have to wait a couple of months for Alias to even catch up to Season 3, let alone episode 16. I guess that'll let me catch up on everything on my DVR and keep cranking through Angel (which is also on overnights on TNT for a couple episodes).

Angel is actually an interesting case because even though they air Angel 5 times a week at 6:00 am, they also air two episodes a night twice a week at 2 and 3 in the morn...but at different parts of the series. Like the weekly episodes are back on Season 1, but the overnight airings are on Season 3 (which is good, because that is where I'm at). It just makes it confusing a little because I can't just record every episode of Angel.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Book of Daniel cancelled

Wednesday, January 25, 2006 2
I gave the show an episode (the two hour premiere) and part of a second and I just lost interest.

Four episodes in, the show is cancelled. I may not have liked the show that much, but at least give it a chance to build an audience. It's on friday nights, it's not exactly taking up prime real estate.

Shoot, give it to saturday nights and let it pick up some viewers there.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Movies I Anticipate: January - August 2005

Tuesday, January 24, 2006 2
Bubble (1/27 limited): Steven Soderbergh's smaller movies may be something of a mess, but so far the man's name on a movie is still enough to pique my interest.

Final Destination 3 (2/10): Okay, so even if I was going to the theatre on a regular basis there would be no way I'd pay money to see this. But this is definite rental as I was highly entertained by the first two Final Destination movies. There is no question that these are dumb movies. But...they're fun....for me.

Firewall (2/10): Harrison Ford is back in some sort of a thriller where he is a securities specialist but has to rob his own bank to pay the ransom for his kidnapped family. But I dig that Virginia Madsen is getting roles in real movies (hopefully in real good movies) after "Sideways", and Paul Bettany has been entertaining me recently. Theatre? Probably not. Rental? Most definitely.

Date Movie (2/17): Why are the only movies that look like they may entertain me also movies that are very likely to be incredibly stupid? Maybe I should drop "Bubble" from this list for having the potential to be too highbrow. Anyway, this is a movie styled like the "Scary Movie" franchise only it spoof romantic comedies and stars Willow....er, I mean Alyson Hannigan. Sorry. Oh, and Eddie Griffin plays her father. Now that I like!

Tsotsi (2/24 limited): Finally, a movie that might actually be good! The IMDB lists the plot as "six days in the violent life of a Johannesburg gang leader" and the film is drawing comparisons to "City of God", which is a good thing.

Ask the Dust (3/10 limited): Had I even heard of this movie before deciding to look up the forthcoming movies? Absolutely not. Why am I listing it? Because it was written and directed by Robert Towne and I'm hoping he can do something like "Chinatown" again. That's all.

V for Vendetta (3/17): Starring Natalie Portman and based on a graphic novel from Alan Moore this is the first movie of the year that I am truly willing to pay to see in the theatre. A freedom fighter named V (Hugo Weaving) fights against a totalitarian society using terrorist methods. He recruits Portman as an ally.

Thank You for Smoking (3/17 limited): I've heard good buzz about the movie and it is directed by the son of Ivan Reitman. That's about all I know. Stars Aaron Eckhart and Maria Bello.

Inside Man (3/24): Directed by Spike Lee. Stars Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, and Jodie Foster. Does it really matter what the movie is actually about?

Lucky You (4/7): Directed by Curtis Hanson. Something to do with gambling, Eric Bana, and Drew Barrymore. But check out the first sentence. That's enough to go see the movie.

Scary Movie 4 (4/14): I have no class.

Art School Confidential (4/28 limited): Terry Zwigoff (Bad Santa) did such a good job with Ghost World that I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. The source material here is another comic by Daniel Clowes.

The Da Vinci Code (5/19): The book has been getting severely bashed after apparently trying to outsell the Bible as well as discredit it...and for sucking. At least that's what others think. I actually liked the book. It was fun to play with the conspiracy and the clues and be taken on a ride. Tom Hanks stars and Ron Howard directs. Audrey Tautou gets a supporting role. Here's hoping.

X-Men 3 (5/26): I'm strangely less excited about this one than I used to be...but that's because director and Overlord Bryan Singer jumped ship to do the new Superman movie. Who stepped in? Brett Ratner (Rush Hour). Well, at least it isn't McG. Don't screw it up, Brett.

Cars (6/9). Pixar.

Superman Returns (6/30): I'll be straight up honest here (like I lie the rest of the time). I don't care a whit for Superman. Doesn't do much for me. Never read the Superman comics, don't watch Smallville, watched a little Lois and Clark back in the day. Dean Cain ain't in this one, is he? So why is it on my list? Because the director and Overlord Bryan Singer left X-Men to do this. It better be good or I'll really be pissed he left X-Men for this.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (7/7): The first one was surprisingly good and fun. Why not this one?

Lady in the Water (7/21): M Night Shyamalan is about to run out of chances after "The Village", but he'll get another one. Stars Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard, so....here's hoping it doesn't suck.

The Visiting (8/11): Nicole Kidman learns of an alien epidemic and that her son may play a roll in stopping it. Directed by a guy who made a really good German movie a couple years back about Hitler (Downfall), this seems to be right up my alley.

Snakes on a Plane (8/18): You thought we'd be getting by without this movie on the list. I don't care what it is about (actually, the title kind of gives it away), Sam Jackson in a movie with this title? I'm there!


And that covers the movies from today through August. Did I miss something? Sure. Will some movies get pushed back? Sure. Will I see all of these in the theatre? Doubt it. Will the limited release movies get released in a theatre near me? Doubt it. Do I just enjoy making lists and asking questions? Yep.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Step Into Liquid

Sunday, January 22, 2006 0
Watched the first half hour of Step Into Liquid, a surfing documentary and I realized that I don't care. I've been getting that recently. For a sport that doesn't do much for me to begin, I've seen Riding Giants and I'm not seeing anything new or fascinating here that sells me on the movie. So, I turned it off, deleted the recording from my DVR and watched another episode of Angel.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

13

Saturday, January 21, 2006 1
Entertainment Weekly reports in the January 20 issue that Steven Soderbergh has a script for Ocean's Thirteen and hopes to start shooting this year.

The first one was good fun, the second one was less good fun but still kind of silly, but a third?

Friday, January 20, 2006

critics are calling Glory Road....

Friday, January 20, 2006 1
glorious.

Ugh. Oh, really?

That's what the radio ad for Glory Road claimed. Honestly, if I wrote the advertising for that movie, I'd be embarrassed that this is the best I could come up with.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

review copy

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 1
Got my review copy of Bambi II yesterday. Suppose I should watch it now.

Monday, January 16, 2006

the smirk

Monday, January 16, 2006 0

"Don't you know I'm in a movie called Snakes on a Plane?
Shoot! I did Pulp Fiction and now Snakes on a muthaf***in Plane?" - Sam Jackson

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Rocky VI picture

Saturday, January 14, 2006 0
Oh dear. I guess they really are going ahead with making Rocky 6. I kind of didn't believe it, but here is a production picture. Source

Friday, January 13, 2006

Black Eye Gallery

Friday, January 13, 2006 0
I don't know squat about science or space exploration, but I am fascinated by pictures of far away galaxies and other space phenomenon. Must be part of my interest/love of science fiction and fantasy.

This is the Black Eye Galaxy, photo courtesy of NASA and CNN.com

Best of Books: 2005

Not all of the books I am going to list were published in 2005, but these are the best books I read this past year. For very different reasons, I thought each was fantastic.

1. The Complete Peanuts 1953-1954 - Charles M Schulz
2. Men and Cartoons - Jonathan Lethem
3. Stalking the Divine - Kristin Ohlson
4. Stiff - Mary Roach
5. Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi
6. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
7. Traveling Mercies - Anne Lamott
8. Moneyball - Michael Lewis
9. Staying the Course - Dick Beardsley
10. The Patron Saint of Liars - Ann Patchett
11. Ilium - Dan Simmons
12. The Complete Peanuts 1955-1956 - Charles M Schulz
13. Blink - Malcom Gladwell
14. Gardens of the Moon - Steven Erikson
15. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J. K. Rowling
16. This Man's Army - Andrew Exum
17. On Beauty - Zadie Smith
18. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold - John LeCarre
19. Taft - Ann Patchett
20. Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman
21. Blue Like Jazz - Donald Miller
22. All Rivers Flow to the Sea - Alison McGhee
23. Running With the Demon - Terry Brooks

I would especially like to point out The Kite Runner, All Rivers Flow to the Sea, the two Ann Patchett books, and Stalking the Divine.

For the sake of reference:
Best of Books: 2004
Best of Books: 2003
Best of Books: 2002
Best of Books: 2001
Best of Books: 2000

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Roger Ebert praises "Crash"

Thursday, January 12, 2006 1
With several critics naming Crash as their Worst Movie of the Year, film critic Roger Ebert wrote an essay defending the film and noting that in his view Crash is the best movie of the year.

A passage from this essay that I rather liked was Ebert showing what one critic did not like about the movie and turning it on its head by responding about what the scene really was saying.

Foundas is too cool for the room. He is so wise, knowing and cynical that he can see through "Crash" and indulge in self-congratulatory superiority because he didn't fall for it. Referring to the wife who distrusts the locksmith, he writes: "when Sandra Bullock's pampered Brentwood housewife accuses a Mexican-American locksmith of copying her keys for illicit purposes, Haggis doesn't condemn her reprehensible behavior so much as he sympathizes with it."

This is a misreading of the film, but look at it more closely: Bullock is "pampered" and a "housewife," yet Haggis "sympathizes" with her behavior. Does he? No; I would say he empathizes with it, which is another thing altogether. She has just been carjacked at gunpoint and is hysterical. If Foundas were carjacked at gunpoint, would he rise to the occasion with measured detachment and sardonic wit? I wouldn't. Who will cast the first stone? And notice that the Mexican-American locksmith (Michael Pena) remains so invisible to Foundas that the actor is not named and Foundas has not noticed that the scene also empathizes with him.

It is worth noting that while I've only seen some twenty 2005 movies so far , Crash still easily holds the #1 position on my list and it will take something special to knock it off that spot.

orion nebula

A beautiful picture of the Orion Nebula taken by the Hubble Telescope. Source

I like Buena Vista Home Entertainment

BVHE has offered me another pre-release review copy to write up a review on Amazon. This time I'm getting Bambi II. I know, not a movie which truly cried out for a sequel, but a free movie is a free movie.

DVDs I've received in the past from BVHE include:
King Arthur
Ice Princess (better than I expected)
Sin City: Deluxe Extended Edition
Kronk's New Groove

and now
Bambi II.

Who knows, it might even be good.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Stone of Farewell

Wednesday, January 11, 2006 0
"Stone of Farewell" is the second volume in Tad Williams "Memory, Sorrow, Thorn" high fantasy trilogy which began with "The Dragonbone Chair". This novel is not quite as long as "The Dragonbone Chair", but it still weighs in at a hefty 570 pages in trade paperback. This middle volume continues the story of Simon, now called Simon Snowlock by some, and of his quest to bring the sword "Thorn" to the exiled Prince Josua to aid him in his fight against his brother, the King of Osten Ard. King Elias and his advisor Pyrates are being aided and corrupted by a great evil coming down from the frozen north and a thought long dead Sithi King is coming to bring destruction to the land while Elias ruins his own kingdom. Prince Josua has to find a way to fight his brother, who has a strong grip over Osten Ard and he knows that fighting Elias means at some point fighting the Storm King from the north. The true darkness that is facing Osten Ard is the Storm King and not Elias but few know the truth.

Like "The Dragonbone Chair", this book offers the reader a good deal of detail and proceeds at a leisurely pace. Critics of the book may call it a plodding pace, but I think that is a matter of perspective. While Simon does go on a long journey and goes some place very few humans have ever been, it almost does not seem as if he really gets anywhere...that his portion of the story just sort of stumbles along. Prince Josua has a much greater journey.

The level of detail and the overall storyline is vast and we are starting to get closer to an ending since there is only one book left. But there still seems so much more to do that I find it hard to understand how Williams can end this in a single book...except that the single book is as long as Books 1 and 2 combined. I am enjoying reading "Memory, Sorrow, Thorn", so the pacing does not bother me, but at times I wonder that it has taken Tad Williams 1100 pages to tell this story so far when it could probably be have shortened by a good 400 pages and nobody would have noticed. It's just a thought.

The bottom line is that to read "Stone of Farewell" the reader must have first finished "The Dragonbone Chair". There is enough back detail to fill the reader in, but much would be lost without having read the first book. Is this book good? Yes. Is this book better than the first book? Also, yes. It is a fairly big time investment and there are better books, but this is a worthwhile trip to Osten Ard and the world of Tad Williams.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Spy Kids and...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006 0
I watched Spy Kids tonight. Cute movie from the guy who did Sin City (well, did Spy Kids first...well El Mariachi first, you know what I'm saying). So, it's cute. Parents are kidnapped and the kids learn the parents are really super spies and save the day. Like I said, cute. Kind of fun. Pleasant. I enjoyed the movie, but I won't be rushing out to watch Spy Kids 2 or 3. I think I'm good for the rest of the series, thank you very much.

I've also read the first two chapters of Gene Wolfe's The Shadow of the Torturer, which is the first volume in his Book of the New Sun series which is said to be one of the greats of science fiction - fantasy. I'm sure I've heard a bit about the overall story before, but to be honest I can't remember, which is good because it means that I'm going into the story absolutely fresh. I can't even read the dust jacket because the book description is covered up with interlibrary loan stuff.

Meanwhile, I still suffer through The Age of Innocence. Pulizter. Classic. I know. But it's those damn rich people.

And Emma is a comedy of manners...but I don't really care of Jane Austen, either.

The Producers

How exactly do you make a movie musical based on a theatrical musical based on a movie about making a musical? Very carefully. Susan Stohman directs this adaption of the Broadway musical which she also directed and she retains some of the major cast from the Broadway show. Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane return as Leo Bloom and Max Bialystock, an accountant and a once famous but now failed producer seeking to strike it rich by making the biggest flop in Broadway history. Bialystock and Bloom hook up when Bloom is sent to do Bialystock's books and sees how it would be possible to actually make more money from a failed production than from a hit.

Bialystock and Bloom search for the worst play ever written, the worst director and the worst actors. The play they come across is titled "Springtime for Hitler" and it is a celebration of the Third Reich. Their assumption is that not only will this show close in a single day, the show might not make it to intermission. There is something to offend absolutely everyone.

This is the story of Mel Brooks' original film, the musical, and now the movie adaption of the musical. It worked and was funny with Gene Wilder and I've seen the show in the Twin Cities, and it worked as a musical. Does it work as a movie musical? Yes it does, but it plays very theatrically. Very. Acting that veers over the top by both Broderick and Lane that had my wife and I looking at each other in the theatre asking if this is for real would probably play very differently with live actors on the stage. And yet even the moments of absurdity still work and the bottom line is that the movie is fun and it is funny.

The entire movie/story is an exercise in absurdity what with the attempt to put on the worst play ever and make money out of the deal. There are sequences that come to mind such as the "unhappy" musical number by the accountants, and everything with the German writer of "Springtime for Hitler". This former Nazi is played by Will Ferrell, an actor whom I have not always appreciated, but who turns in what I consider the scene stealing role of the film as I laughed the most with Ferrell on screen and especially his Nazi saluting pigeons.

The theatricality of the film is something that a viewer will either able to accept and enjoy the movie, or it will be a big turn off. I was able to work with it and enjoy the movie even as it played like a theatre musical on stage (at times with the pause at the end of a musical number). Strohman plays this to great effect, however, and it becomes part of the charm of the movie. By no means is "The Producers" perfect (though there was a man in the audience who apparently thought this was the funniest thing he had ever seen), but it is very well made. The only thing that truly threw me was Uma Thurman as Oola. I kept hearing her slip out of her accent, but my wife did not notice this at all. I would have loved to have seen the woman who won a Tony Award for playing this same role with Broderick and Lane on Broadway. I'm not quite sure why she had to be replaced. But this is only a small bit of irksomeness in a good movie.

As this was the first movie I had been able to see in theatres in months and I had a fantastic time, and I think that is something a movie should deliver: enjoyment. "The Producers" certainly did this well.

Grade: B

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Mal Reynolds is back and other television goodies

Thursday, January 05, 2006 0
I was home from work on Tuesday so instead of doing a lot of reading like I had expected to do, I ended up watching seven or eight episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now I only have 2.5 episodes to go until I finish Season 7 and the series. Kind of sad. I really like what Joss Whedon is doing with the potential Slayers, though I wonder how it can get wrapped up in 2 episodes (three, I suppose, if I count the one I had to stop this morning so I can earn money to pay rent). The odd thing is that before really started going through the seasons I had seen a few episodes from this season, so I had seen the Scoobie/Potential mutiny, knew about Xander's eye, and know that Angel pops up near the end and there is some sort of Champion. But I hadn't finished it all and I knew little about who Caleb was. Captain Mal Reynolds from Firefly is back and is apparently whupping up Sunnydale in general and Buffy in particular. Mal Reynolds is, of course, the actor Nathan Fillion who got the role of Caleb after Firefly was cancelled. Interesting character this preacher man. Would love to find out why he has this super strength. Right up there with Willow and the Gnarl is Caleb and Xander. That was a bit queasy.

I don't suppose Jewel Staite got a guest shot on Buffy in the last two episodes? Adam Baldwin? Summer Glau?

Before that scene, though, an episode or two prior, Xander had a great episode ending scene with Dawn after Dawn had accepted that she isn't a Potential and Xander was telling her that Buffy and the others would never know what it is like to be on the outside to not have the strength and that Xander gets to see what nobody else does because nobody is watching him. Great scene. Of course, then the "one who sees everything" gets some serious trauma, but that's the way of it.

In other news, Alias, 24, and Angel are finally catching up to me. Alias has begun Season 3 on TNT so I've begun that season, A&E is airing Season 2 of 24, and TNT is getting to Season 3 of Angel...so I'll get the chance to catch up on these shows, too. It's about time because while the library has a lot of movies, they are light on TV on DVD. I've seen one episode each of Alias and 24 and these are going to be great seasons. 24 especially. Wow!

Now if I didn't lose Bravo when we switched to the Dish Network, I'd be able to get the West Wing.

Next week is when Lost finally returns, My Name is Earl begins again tonight, Commander in Chief is next week and this Friday is the debut of The Book of Daniel. Not sure about this one, but it has potential (as do many shows). There is a wise cracking Jesus, and that's all I know. The Sci-Fi Channel has some show coming either in the next two months or in the Summer that looked interesting from the preview but I don't remember what it is. As long as it is better than The Triangle, we'll be okay. That one kind of sucked and stuff.

Monday, January 02, 2006

catching up

Monday, January 02, 2006 0
I've been a bit slow on the review side and I'm not sure I'll get to the reviews I'm behind on, so as a quick refresher here's what I finished recently.

One Pulitzer Prize Winning Novels
1. His Family - Ernest Poole

I have a goal on 43 Things to read all the Pulitzer Prize Winning novels. Here's my start (though I've already read a few in my day). His Family was the first novel ever to win the award for fiction and it is decent enough. My big problem, and this may be a recurring theme, is I don't like rich people. In general, fiction about the "cultural and societal elites" bugs the hell out of me. I'm not interested in their struggles and their lives. That said, this one engaged me about half the time. Thus far I'm about 30 pages into Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence and I'm trying hard to lower my hate quotient.

I've also finished The Regime by Jerry Jenkins, Tributes I & II by Dave Meltzer and Tyrant's Test by Michael Kube McDowell.

The Regime suffers from being written by Jerry Jenkins (let's forget about Tim LaHaye, he just provides the Biblical stuff and doesn't actually write the book. I think of him as the glorified researcher who was lucky enough to get his name on the cover of the book). Honestly, I've read every Left Behind book and at this point I'm questioning why. The Regime is the second of the three "prequel" novels that bring the reader up to speed as to what the main characters of the LB series were doing before God started messing with the world and taking his people. But...it never was necessary to tell this story. I get that the books sold a butt load of copies and maybe moved people to Christ, but it's just not necessary. Who cried out for a novel about Nicolae before the Rapture? Who cares about Rayford before the Rapture? I don't. Yet I keep reading. I'm confused as to why. The writing stinks (would you believe there is a writing class offered at the back of the book?) and the power of the LB series was in seeing God move in the world and how impactful this could be and the pace of the story. But here we're dragging to the beginning and while The Regime is better than The Rising, this isn't really complimentary.

And I'll still probably read the last damn book in the series. I've already read 14, why stop now?

The two Tributes books features columns by wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer on professional wrestlers who have passed away. So, there are stories on Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Andre the Giant, Freddie Blassie, Curt Hennig, Hawk, Brian Pillman, Rick Rude, and others. Big John Studd. Miss Elizabeth. Guys (and gal) who I grew up watching, and also those who passed away before my time and who weren't wrestling when I was watching in the 80's and early 90's. It's nostalgia and interesting for the wrestling fan. Some of these guys still had a career ahead of them, others were too injured to compete, others died naturally at an old age, and others used too many drugs and steroids in their day that time caught up with them.

Tyrant's Test is the third book of the Black Fleet Crisis trilogy in the Star Wars universe. Decent enough, I enjoyed the trilogy more than I expected. I'm finally getting close to being able to start the New Jedi Order Trilogy and finishing up the adult Star Wars novels. Then I can just read the new ones published and not have this big huge list of unreads (and so I can work even more towards my big huge list of other unreads).

Movies.
Finished the following:
Open Water
It Happened One Night
Broadway Melody
Seven Up
Seven Plus 7
School of Rock
Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior

Seven Up and Seven Plus 7 are two parts of the Up Series, which is a series of British documentaries following the same group of 14 children from age 7 and revisiting them every 7 years to see how their lives have changed. It started in 1964. Honestly, I love the premise, but I had a hard time understanding everything that was said (subtitles would have worked wonders) and also I had a difficult time figuring out who the kids were and what made them different from each other. So it's just a bunch of kids talking. But I'll have to reserve 21 Up, which should be interesting because now the little ankle biters are becoming adults.

Broadway Melody and It Happened One Night are two early Oscar Winners for Best Picture (as I seek to watch all those, too). Broadway Melody did very little for me and was nothing special. It Happened One Night was quite a bit better with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, both of whom were quite good. It was a comedy, too, which is interesting since now only big epics and dramas win Best Picture. Good stuff with the Gable pic.

Open Water was good, not terribly scary (though I'm sure watchiing it in a dark room would change things). The ending was incredibly effective, though, and haunting.

Didn't care for School of Rock. Joan Cusack needs to punch Jack Black and then Sarah Silverman can do her nasty comedy routine complete with singing body parts. I'd be pissed if I were the parents paying all that money for an expensive school and the kids not learning anything for a month or more? Nope, not going to do it. It's a sign I'm getting old, that this sort of thing bugs me.

What did I love? Ong Bak. The movie is utterly dumb and action filled and I loved it. Quick story: the head of a small village's buddha statue is robbed. There is a drought. They send this young man who is honorable and martially talented. He goes, tries to find the buddha head, gets into a bunch of fights, into a fight club, whups on everybody with amazing fighting skill and no wire fu, and wins the day. But it is just a lot of fun and amazing to watch. Mindless entertainment, great stuff.
 
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