Friday, February 2, 2007

Links in the chain

I have been really busy at work so I haven't had much time to post. Yeah right. I just haven't had anything to say. However, other people have been doing great work, so instead of contributing I thought I would just point out their fine work (the mix-tape artist theory)

1. Walter Chaw absolutely destroys Diane Keaton and Because I Said So. The money quote:
"The best that can be said about this early contender for the worst film of 2007 is that it's properly keystone'd by Diane Keaton, who, between this and The Family Stone, cements her position as the most smug, insufferable, unwatchable persona in a long and tumescent line of such personae. She embodies the absolute worst of every single stereotype of the domineering mother: dotty, ditzy, Luddite, sexless/oversexed, cruel, racist, otherwise intolerant, and above all hysterical. Throw her psychotic mommy dearest from The Other Sister into the stew and it's hard to find a more stalwart movie monster in the last ten years than Keaton, who's gone from a charming neurotic to a cobwebbed, cell-phone-wielding vagina dentata."

No one writes a flamethrowing review like Chaw (observe his reviews of Failure to Launch, "Grey's Anatomy" and Lady in the Water), but this was a new high, or low, or whatever. 2. Fresh off the staggering break-even success of the over hyped Snakes on a Plane, Samuel L. Jackson's decided to be in one of the wildest movies I have ever heard of, Black Snake Moan. I beg you to watch that trailer. I have seen it five times and I still can't believe it.

The plot (as seen from the trailer) in one sentence: Samuel L. in a dirty wife beater and balding afro with a mutton chops beard, chains a half-naked, beaten up and emaciated Christina Ricci to his house in order to "cure her of her wickedness." Wow, I will be there the first weekend it opens, before it gets pulled because of mass protests from the NAACP, NOW, 700 Club and the KKK. (hat tip: The House Next Door)

3. ESPN vs. Deadspin. ESPN is a shell of its former self. Once it was hip and irreverent, now it Disney approved faux-cool with big budgets. Once it was the go to site for sports commentary and information, but now, most of the of the columns on have moved behind the pay curtain and what remains is Bill Simmons (who I like as a pop-culture writer, but he has a severe limitation as a sports talking head, namely, he doesn't know anything about sports) and worthless stuff like Scoop Jackson (who is a terrible writer and somewhat racist to boot). To make matters worse, the Internet at large and the blogsphere in particular has exploded with great sports content. Specialty sites, like, offer a lot more bang for the buck and team centric sites, like my beloved, are free and offer 100 times more content about the teams you actually care about. meanwhile is like, except it focuses on sports, not celebrities. It posts all relevant, and not so relevant, news, with funny commentary and user comments. The people who comment there are both hilarious and very, very inappropriate (see the comments on the day Barbaro died or when T.O. supposedly attempted suicide) .

So the worldwide leader decided to start allow comments under its articles and immediately has to start deleting the comments from all the people at Deadspin- which included things about the Sports gal (Mrs. Simmons), Barbaro, parodies of the Sports Guy, criticisms of Bill's squeaky voice, and lots of discussion about ESPN firing black journalists like Jason Whitlock and Harold Reynolds, but not Sean Salisbury. It was obviously a bad idea to let the unwashed masses have a voice, and since deleting the comments looks bad, I am guessing this innovation will go the way of the ESPN cellphone (which lost hundreds of millions of dollars). The Sports Guy is probably getting picked on for being unbelievably successful, as much as for actually sucking. Deadspin follows the story here and here.
UPDATE: Bill's new column is getting the same treatment. I love that they are using references from last night's "Office." See, that is good topical humor ESPN! Why don't you use quotes like that on home run calls?
4. Postsecret. When I saw this, but I was blown away. People send postcards with their secrets written on them to this guy in Georgia and he posts them on his webpage. People then write emails to him and he posts the interesting responses under the postcards. The stuff is so personal and moving that you get a charge out of reading it. It is just a few words, but you really feel like you are inside their skin for a moment. My only complaint is that he doesn't have an archive, so you can only see the most recent secrets. However, he posts new secrets every Sunday, so this is good Monday reading.

5. The House Next Door's tribute to Molly Ivins. One of the best liberal voices in print passed away this week and Matt Zoller Seitz posts several of his favorite articles and quotes. My favorite: "The poor man who is currently our president has reached such a point of befuddlement that he thinks stem cell research is the same as taking human lives, but that 40,000 dead Iraqi civilians are progress toward democracy."
A very nice tribute, that thread also discusses Black Snake Moan, so it is a regular daily double.

Have a great weekend, Go Colts, even though I am kind of rooting for the Bears so I can participate in my first riot!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Hidden Advertisements

I recently bought a new cellphone and I was surprised to find out that all of the games on it were demos that included links to buy the full versions of the game. Further, if you play the games for a short period of time, they stop working and just direct you to the purchase screen. However, the games can not be deleted either. This has very little effect on my life, but I find it annoying that I can't play the games and I can't delete them. I purchased the phone, but I have to endure inconvenient advertisements. As a frequent text messager, my phone's memory often fills up and getting rid of five java-based games would make room for a lot of texts.

The phone companies no doubt replaced the old standard games with these because the money is in the services and not the phone itself (which sells for a loss). But as a consumer, I feel this is the equivalent of buying a car and having a mannequin wearing clothes I would like to wear in the backseat. I can't wear the clothes and I can't use that part of the seat. Ironically, if I bought the full versions of these games, I would be able to delete them.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Oscar Cheat Sheet

The grand-daddy of all award shows is almost upon us and putting aside for the moment the question of validity, I want to look at who will win. This is a first order look at the Oscars, what is, not what should be. Hopefully this will help you win your office pool (unless you are in my office, in which case, shoo).

Actors are the largest group in the academy and since they have their own awards (which are mind-numbly-ing boring and self-serving to watch), I wanted to see how well the SAG awards predict the four acting categories and best picture.

Here is a list going back three years.
Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote. - also won Oscar
Actress: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line. - also won Oscar
Supporting actor: Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man. - didn't win Oscar
Supporting actress: Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener. - also won Oscar
Ensemble cast: Crash. - also won Oscar

Actor: Jamie Foxx, Ray - also won Oscar
Actress: Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby - also won Oscar
Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby - also won Oscar
Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, The Aviator - also won Oscar
Ensemble cast: Sideways - didn't win Oscar

Actor: Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl - didn't win Oscar
Actress: Charlize Theron, Monster - also won Oscar
Supporting Actor: Tim Robbins, Mystic River - also won Oscar
Supporting Actress: Renee Zellweger, Cold Mountain - also won Oscar
Ensemble cast: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - also won Oscar

Over the past 3 years the SAG awards have been 80% right (over the three years before that they were 33% right though). The three mistakes, George Clooney won Best Supporting Actor in 2005 (for Syriana), Million Dollar Baby won Best Picture in 2004, and Sean Penn won Best Actor in 2003 (for Mystic River), all have explanations. Clooney was nominated for Best Director in 2005 and this was his consolation prize. Sideways didn't win any other acting awards at the SAG, while Million Dollar Baby won two and like Johnny Depp- and Sasha Baron Cohen- found out, never bet on comedies to win Oscar Gold (Johnny lost again the next year for the dull Finding Neverland, which showed that it is okay to get serious, but not boring).

In short, the SAG awards are pretty excellent predictors and so I pick:
Best Actress: Helen Mirren - The Queen
Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy - Dreamgirls (this is my weakest pick)
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson - Dreamgirls
Best Picture: The Departed

The Departed wins instead of Little Miss Sunshine, because the again, Oscar doesn't go comedic, the SAG Awards are 80% right, so I needed to change one, and this feels like Marty's year.

Now for the directing and writing Awards. The Oscars are a psychological web of intrigue. You try and guess how people vote, but the winners affect each other. Some awards trigger other wins for the same movie, while other awards are indications that there aren't going to be anymore wins for that movie. So, assuming I am right about the first five here are my guesses for the rest.

Best Directing is going to The Departed. The Best Picture needs to pick up a few other major categories and The Departed was largely snubbed in the acting categories (the good performances are being punished for Jack's scenery chewing). Plus, its Marty's turn.
Little Miss Sunshine is going to get the Sideways/Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Best Original Screenplay red ribbon, for being the movie that the voters wished they could have voted for.

Best Adapted Screenplay is one the most wide open category of the night. It is probably safe to discount Little Children and Notes on a Scandal, but the other three all make compelling cases. Borat was a box office hit and was generally snubbed elsewhere. The Departed is a Best Picture favorite and its screenplay was a knockout (best dialogue in recent memory). Children of Men (my favorite movie of the year) and was snubbed in above, but still managed three nominations, with this as the biggest one. Hollywood loves success and the movie of the year has to win something so: Borat.

Some other picks, briefly:
Best Cinematography: Children of Man, though it might win in editing instead.
Best Editing: I would give it to Children of Man, but I think it will go to Babel, which has to win something, but not Best Picture.
Best Art Direction: Dream Girls.
Best Costume Design: Marie Antoinette, the period piece always wins best costume.
Best Animated Feature: Happy Feet, but any of these could win.
Best Foreign Language Film: Pan's Labyrinth. Much deserved, hopefully Guillermo del Toro curses during his speech.
Best Documentary: Either Iraq in Fragments or An Inconvenient Truth. I am hoping for an Al Gore speech, so An Inconvenient Truth.

To Recap:
Best Picture: The Departed
Best Actor: Forest Whitaker
Best Actress: Helen Mirren
Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson
Best Direction: The Departed
Best Orginal Screenplay: Little Miss Sunshine
Best Adapted Screenplay: Borat
Best Cinematography: Children of Men
Best Editing: Children of Man
Best Art Direction: Dreamgirls
Best Costume Design: Marie Antoinette
Best Animated Feature: Happy Feet
Best Foreign Language Film: Pan's Labyrinth
Best Documentary: An Inconvenient Truth

*I didn't pick any thing in the Musical categories because I don't have a clue. I didn't see Dream Girls and that seems like a lock to win something or another.