Feb 27, 2007


I know. All eight of you had rushed to this site hoping my Oscar blog was up. Well, here's what happened. I sat down prepared to watch Oscar. I had my computer ready, and then it happened. I had been feeling somewhat ill the whole way back from Tennesse. My stomach was hurting really bad. Once I sat down and relaxed, it was like my body let the stresses of the last two weeks go and I crashed. I got very cold, and very disjointed. When eight o'clock rolled around, the last thing I wanted to do was watch the ceremony. So, I waited until Heather got home (9:30pm) and started then. I saw the whole thing, but I didn't feel up to doing a play-by-play job. Instead, here are my thoughts about the show.

- The ratings were 39.1 million - just a smidge over last year. I called it. No one cared abot this year's ceremony or films - and so they didn't watch.

- Almost four hours? Are you joking? Every year they try to cut the speeches shorter and shorter, but they they insist on inserting meaningless bits. They could have left off the 50 Foreign Film video, the Actors playing Writers video, and the Human Sound Effect Symphony (which was cool but pointless). The shadow dancing troupe was okay, and their stuff was short. The other time suckers are the Humanitarian Award and Lifetime Achievement Award. First, some big shot announces the person, then we see a video about that person with the same stuff we just heard, and then we hear the recipient talk about the same stuff. This year they threw in Celine Dion to drag it out more.

- I always find it ironic that the Academy is so unrewarding of comedy, but then relies so heavily on it during the Oscars. The song with Will Ferrell, Jack Black, and John C Reilly was absolutely hillarious. Jerry Seinfeld was incredible in announcing the Best Documentary category. And Ellen, well...

- I laughed much harder at most of Jon Stewart's stuff. EW.com pointed out that Seinfeld was so good, that it looked like an audition for hosting next year. I looked over at Heather while he was on stage and said, "Why hasn't he ever hosted?" Ellen was fine, but her monologue was just like her opening to her show. It wasn't big like the Academy Awards should have - and the song & dance routine was very disappointing. Some of the bits worked, but so did some of Letterman's.

- How did Alan Arkin win over Eddie Murphy? I thought that award was almost cruel. Everyone had been telling Murphy he was going to win for months. He had won everything else. And then out of nowhere, WHAM. Some guy wins for playing a crotchety old man. I saw Arkin's performance and didn't think it was any better than one of a dozen "old guy roles" I have seen. Murphy seemed like they had just been jerking him around. I kind of think they were.

- Happy Feet over Cars? I don't think so. That was just plain stupid. There is no way that should have happened. Cars was one of the ten best films of the year. There is no way that it should have lost. It was bettet in every category of judging - most ground-breaking, better animation, better story, better movie. At that point, I was furious.

- Forest Whitaker has always been a solid actor, with a good nature. But please, don't ever give him a mic again. What the heck was he talking about? I can't even begin to understand.

- First the Red Sox win, then the White Sox win, then Peyton Manning wins, then Martin Scorcese wins. Man, the universe must really hate Cubs fans.

- I was really expecting the show to run a disclaimer at some point, "This broadcast is a paid advertisement for the Democratic National Convention." Or have Al Gore pop up after one segment to say, "I am Al Gore and I approved this message." Good night, nurse. I knew that he was going to win Best Documentary. But the whole Leo & Al Love Fest 07 bit was kind of ridiculous.

- The bit with Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, and Meryl Streep was very very funny. It was crazy to see Streep instantly transform herself in her movie character in the audience with just a stare. She really is a great actress. But if you saw her pre-show interviews, she also appeared to be on some kind of illegal substance -- totally zoned out.

- The pre-show was excrutiating. The four interviewers for ABC made the E! team look brilliant. Speaking of E!, it is funny how badly Joan and Melissa Rivers would get slammed for being so ignorant of stuff - part of the reason E! canned them. Because Ryan Seacrest screwed up everything while talking to the people. He was funny and witty as always, but just as dense.

- When exactly did Mexican cinema go from being a joke to being the toast of the town? It was really interesting to see the trio of Mexican directors (Del Toro, Cuaran, Inaturru) before the show. That was the only insightful interview, when they were likened to Coppola, Spielberg, and Lucas - who then came out later to present Best Director. Well it would have been insightful if the interviewer had not said, "You all remind us of another trio of directors from a few decades back - Coppola, Ford, and Lucas."

Those were my quick opinions. Hopefully this year of movies will be different. I am excited about a lot of the films - this summer looks absolutely insane. My prediction is that 2007 will be the biggest box office year ever - by far. I think we may see four $300 million films, with a chance that some or all of those could bump over $400 million. Maybe the Oscars will be able to gain some relevance again on the heels of what should be a huge box office year. Of course, that will require them involve some movies people watched.

Feb 25, 2007


YAY! It is the Super Bowl of Movies. It is Oscar night, and I surprisingly got back from Chattanooga three hours early. Soooo, I actually get to live blog the Oscars tonight. The one catch is that when my family gets home from Jacksonville, I will pause the show. But I still am going to do my best to live blog.

Also, you can check my Rotten Tomatoes site and find TWO NEW MOVIE REVIEWS. That's right - two whole movies (Ghost Rider and The Prestige). But, when you read them there is a surprise as to why I was able to fit both films into a short time period. So don't miss it.

Check back in later for the Oscar Blog!

Feb 18, 2007

And the Nominees Are . . . Lame

I know that all of you faithful readers have been anticipating my take on the Oscar nominees. In fact, I have been asked that very same question more than two times in the last month. Well, you don't have to wait any longer. I am putting this up today, because one week from today is the actual ceremony. I will be doing a running diary of the show, but a little delayed because I'll be on my way back from Chattanooga that day.

ABC is stressing right now. You know why? They are worried about how badly the Oscar telecast is going to do in the ratings next week. The Oscars used to be one of the most watched shows of the year - if not the most watched. But it has been losing viewers like crazy. Last year, 38.8 million people watched the show. In 2005, 41.8 million watched it. 2004 had 43.5 million viewers. In 2003, 33.1 million tuned in. 2002 there were 41.8 million. Before that, the lowest had been 37.2 and 37.8 million in 1986 and 1987. The highest ever was 1998, when 55 million watched Titanic sail off with a boatload of gold men. The telecast continues to change hosts, limit speeches, have more coverage of the dresses (preferably the ones with little coverage), and build more ornate set designs. But the number continue to drop like crazy.

Want my suggestion? How about having some nominations that the average movie watcher gives a darn about? I'm not saying that the awful Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Eyeshadow should have gotten nominations. But come on? I did a study of the Oscar nominations since 1998 - taking a look at the Big Six categories. That would be Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. I did some averages - looking at each category and the overall averages. Here's what I found.

Last year - the horrible rated show - the overall average for films in those 30 nomination slots was a whopping $40.2 million. Keep in mind, that was after the Oscar telecast when the movies got bumps in box office. The average for best picture was $49. Not a single picture made $100 million. The year before? Overall average $43.5 million; best picture $80.3 million. Maybe that explains the ratings drop? Yeah, I think so. These films being nominated have not been seen by most average Americans - like the ones watching the Oscarcast. Look at the big viewer years - there are films that people cared about -- Lord of the Rings, Titanic, Saving Private Ryan.

So this year? Well, what do you think? These numbers were as of the nominations - so they have probably changed a little. The overall average is $43.7 million. The Best Picture nominees average just under $49 million. Only one film in the Best Picture race (The Departed) made over $100 million. Only three more films nominated at all in the Big Six made $100 million (Dreamgirls - barely, Pursuit of Happyness, and Devil Wears Prada). Instead, we have a bunch of wimpy independent films that have box office numbers like the only people watching them were voters.

It is ridiculous. Letters from Iwo Jima had sold $2.6 million in tickets and is up for Best Picture and Best Director. $2.6 million? That is like 260,000 people. Are you kidding me? The best picture all year only drew 260,000 people? If it was really the best, wouldn't more people want to see it? Honestly, I never even saw that it came to Orlando - not to any theater I frequent. How could anyone in good conscience vote for a movie that made less in its whole run than a big movie can make on the midnight shows the night before release? I don't think that all of the movies have to be huge money makers - but there needs to be some kind of popular response. t

The other categories are not much better. Peter O'Toole's acting job in Venus was so amazing that it sold $1 million in tickets. Ryan Gosling's in Half Nelson was almost four times more inspiring as it brought in $3.8 million. Who watches a film if it only makes a million dollars? All told FIVE FILMS with nominations in the Big Six made under $10 MILLION. Give me a break. I can somewhat understand that some of the acting nominees may not have huge box office. Can you really hold Forrest Whitaker responsible for the fact that no one wants to see Last King of Scotland? For years, the acting nominees will honor supreme efforts - even if no one sees that film. In the last ten year, seven times the average of the nominees in one acting category was below $40 million. This year accounts for two of those. Of the six categories, all averaged less than $50 million except Supporting Actor. Last year was virtually the same story (4 of 6 under 50 mil).

What's the point of all of this? The Oscars are becoming a boring event because they insist on honoring films that no one cares about. The world of movies has become split into categories. There are the popular, high-grossing films with little critical interest or recognition. There are the small, low-grossing films with high critical interest and recognition, and low public interest. Then there are the mid-range films no one really cares about. Very rarely does a movie crash out the category it belongs in. The Lord of the Rings series was so good the critics could not ignore it, so it got nominations (but very few awards, if you really look at it). The Departed, A Beautiful Mind, and Seabiscuit are a few critical darlings that somehow got a lot of money. But the general rule is that films that are popular are not going to get nominated. For example, Batman Begins was an extraordinary film. Most people put it on their Top Ten list. But it was not going to get any big nominations. Are you honestly going to tell me that it was not as good as Capote? How would you even know? No one saw it. And another film that year that got shafted in the Best Picture category was Walk the Line.

Think about over the years some of these films that got passed over because they were big money films. The Matrix in 1999 - it was better than three of the Best Picture nominees. LOTR got shafted on the first two films and wasn't rewarded until the last one in the trilogy. What about Daniel Craig this year for the new Bond film? Matt Damon for The Good Shepherd? Unless it has that "indie" feel - or if it has one of the major Oscar sweethearts (Meryl Streep, Judi Densch, Cate Blanchett, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, Jack Nicholson, Tom Hanks) it is not getting a chance. Even I have gotten bored with the whole Oscar process - and I love movies so much. I know that nothing I've ever seen will get nominations. This year, I had only seen two of the nominated films. So, what do I care who won? I bet that opinion is going to be echoed all over the nation next Sunday.

You want predictions? Here are my predictions.
Best Picture: Babel
Best Director: Martin Scorcese for The Departed
Best Actor: Forest Whitaker for Last King of Scotland
Best Actress: Helen Mirren for The Queen
Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy for Dreamgirls
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls
Best Animated Film: Cars
Oscar Neilsen number: 35.7 million - First place for the week (barely over American Idol

Feb 16, 2007

A Big Steaming Scoop of TV

I have been so busy that I haven't even been able to try to post lately. There have been several different things I wanted to post about, though. All of them have to do with TV, so I am just going to condense them into one huge delicious serving of TV prattle.

I wanted to do a live blog for the Grammys. But I completely forgot that it was even on the air until it had started. We went to a small group for our new church (oh yeah, we found a church - woo hoo - check it out here) and when we got back the show had already started. From what I read, I didn't miss much. I hate the Dixie Chicks, so I wouldn't have enjoyed the huge party everyone threw for them. I've lost a lot of interest in the Grammys. Most of the awards are given away before the show itself - and the whole things just feel bloated and out of date. Speaking of out of date....

I do plan on doing my second annual Running Oscar Blog this year. I still have not posted my much-anticipated scathing Oscar Nominee Reaction yet. That WILL happen, and you WILL be stunned - perhaps even moved to action. Speaking of action....

The other day, I was talking about the show Heroes. I made the statement, "It is better than Lost." At that point, Lost had not returned from its lenthy hiatus. I think both of them are great shows, but Heroes does something that Lost had forgotten how to do - provide answers. Every week, Heroes leaves us with mysteries and head-scratchers that contribute to the long-term existence of the series. But there is also a lot of payoff each week. It is kind of like a comic book (funny, that). Each issue has a lot of payoff and action, but also leaves bigger unanswered questions. Lost had gotten to the point where there was very little payoff each week - just more mysteries.

Until last week. I guess Lost heard all those comparisons and decided to punch the doubters in the mouth. The last two episodes have been as good as anything in Season One. I had honestly forgotten just how good Lost used to be - before it started to buckle under the weight of its own hype. When Lost is at its best, it is the best show on television - the best acting, best writing, best spookiness. Last week's episode was amazing - and it featured the most brilliant additions to the cast (Elizabeth Mitchell, Michael Emerson, MC Gainey). This week, Lost was back to the old-school Season One mind twisters. The ending of the episode leaves you reeling, trying to figure out what just happened. And it wasn't one of those "let's throw some twisty junk in here at the end so we can hype the last five minutes." The whole show was twisty and turny and crazy - and it built on each other until the last five minutes ties it all together into a monstrous "What the heck?" moment. And it featured the other great addition to the cast (Henry Ian Cusick). So I take back my comment. Speaking of taking back comments....

So, it finally happened. Ever since that Ameche guy came out as the first gay former basketball player who never mattered when he played, even when he played for Orlando, the media has been waiting for someone to trip up. They have been trotting past, present, and future players past the microphone, hoping SOMEONE would say something inflamatory. I was listening to the Dan Patrick Show on ESPN radio the other day and he had Rip Hamilton from the Pistons on. Patrick based was baiting Hamilton into making a comment. Rip said he would be okay to play with a gay player, as long as the player played well and contributed. Dan kept pushing, saying, "Come on, it wouldn't bother you? Not even a little bit?" It was ridiculous.

So, Dan LeBatard (fills in for Tony Kornheiser on PTI all the time) has a radio show down in Miami, and he drags retired Tim Hardaway in front of the mic. Hardaway was always outspoken while a player, so he was a good pick. And BAM, he goes and makes all these comments about how he hates gays and doesn't think they should be allowed in the NBA or America. LeBatard acts all horrified and says, "That's awfully homophobic and discriminatory." Hardaway keeps going. Now it is huge news. The NBA has banned Hardaway from any All-Star Game activities. Commissioner David Stern has disavowed the comments. I'm sure this will even come up when Hardaway's Hall of Fame candidacy comes up. "He was a great player, but he hates gay people."

And then Hardaway apologized, just like Isaiah Washington before him. And I'm sure that Hardaway will now meet with major gay groups and go to therapy also. That's what I don't get. Hardaway obviously feels this way - why is he now acting like he doesn't? No one believes that he was misquoted or anything. They all know that he is just trying to repair his image. The other thing is, do you honestly think he is the only one who feels this way? Get real. Out of all those athletes, the only homophobic one is a retired guy? No, he was the only one stupid enough to be honest about it. I've been around athletes before, and they are the most homophobic people out there (well second to church people). And you want me to believe that all of these sportswriters who are acting so offended by the comments are all above reproach in THEIR opinions? Sure, some of them I believe are not like Hardaway. But I bet there is a huge chunk that feel exactly the same way. I think about our local sports stations, and I severely doubt that the guys on there are perfectly accepting of gays - but they will trash Hardaway to no end over those comments. The more that media influences sports, the more that players have to be just as worried about their public image as their skills. It won't be long until we hear the pre-draft assessments of players go like this, "He's got tremendous upside. He's long and has a huge wingspan. He can shoot from the perimeter and has great court vision. He also is quite composed in interviews and looks good on a poster. He cut his cornrows to be more appealing to White America. And he has never said anything stupid on tape. High first round media potential." Speaking of potential...

I could make an argument that American Idol is the best show on television. I may even do that at some point. There is no denying that it is wildly popular. I think part of the trick is that it is always changing gears and shifting. The first part is the audition - which is almost like a variety show with tons of comedy. They it shifts to Hollywood for the first round of cuts and the Round of 24. This is dramatic, like a reality show - with some audience participation. The last part is the Round of 12 with the Finalists. This is the week-by-week eviction like Survivor. Plus the show is fun and you get to hear music. And it is insanely clean. There is no cursing or sex. The worst that pops up is if one of the contestants wear an immodest outfit - but they are off the screen in a few minutes, so no big deal.

This year is is going to be more exciting that ever. There is not one person who jumps out in front like Ruben or Clay or Kelly did. But there are a lot of engaging people. There also is a ton of diversity this year - more than ever. Two of the front runners are overweight singers with incredible personalities. Seven of the 24 are African-American, one is Asian, one is half Filipino/half Portugese, two are Hispanic, one is Indian. Half of the group is from a minority group - which is cool because they all bring different takes on the music. The Indian guy sounds like Stevie Wonder. One of the contestants' dad played in the NFL, another's dad was a popular musician in the 50s. I can't wait for the real competition and singing that starts this week. Good stuff.

I'll be back with more soon - hopefully I'll get the Oscar stuff posted. We have State Student Conference this weekend and a conference in Tennessee next week. Defender is speaking at both, so I am trying desperately to get everything finished. See you all soon.

Feb 5, 2007

NOW Manning Won the Big One

Just a few quick thoughts....

1) I have been so busy writing and doing freelance that I have had to neglect the blog. Hopefully I can remedy that. I wanted to do a SAG/Golden Globes running diary, but ended up missing both shows. And I still haven't gotten to rant about the Oscar nominees. Don't worry - that WILL be coming. I have been saving it special just for you.

2) Peyton Manning finally won the Super Bowl. Now everyone can stop picking on him and hurting his feelings by comparing him to Dan Marino. I watched the game, and Peyton did a great job. I don't think he deserved the MVP, but there was no way that the press wasn't going to give it to him. I think the Indy running backs needed to share it. But, no one cares what I think. The more I read about Manning, the more I like him. But, after 12 years of loathing him (as a player - not as a person, well maybe) I don't think I will ever buy his jersey. I do admire the Colts organization, and like they way they do business. Kind of surprise for a team who back in the 1980s were seen as a bunch of jerks and sneaks for bolting Baltimore.

3) Tony Dungy - you just aren't going to find a better man. I am not going to say you won't find a better coach, or better black coach, or better football guy. You are not going to find a better MAN. Period. His comments on the podium were all you needed to know about him.

4) The commercials were HORRIBLE. I didn't see anything that could be seen as a true "Super Bowl" commerical. I like the FedEx Moon Office one, the Blockbuster "click the mouse" one, the Nationwide "K-Fed" one, the Bud Light "Rock Paper Scissors" one, and the Heart Association one. But none of those had that epic quality of Super Bowl commercials. I think that is more proof that advertisers are leaving that medium. The only commercial that really stood out was the David Letterman/Oprah Winfrey one. That did more in 10 seconds than most could do a half hour. We laughed our tails off. "Don't talk with your mouth full, sweetie."

5) This is the first year in about 15 years that I have not watched the Super Bowl with a big group of people. That felt very weird. It is just that kind of event. Without the group, it just felt like a game.

6) Of course, the Colts never could have pulled it off without their secreat weapon - Rex Grossman. As I have said for years, for such a good college football program, UF sure puts out lousy pro QBs. He even looks like he has no clue what is going on.

7) Those tornadoes that tore through Central Florida - scary stuff. We've been through a lot of scary stuff weather-wise down here in the last few years. Riding out Charley will go down as one of the most terrifying things I ever went through. But this one.... I didn't even know there was anything going on. I woke up at 3am and heard rain, but that was all. When I woke up and found out, it scared me worse - we felt like we had just cheated death or something. I think what made it so devastating was that it happened at night. No one knew how bad it was until the morning. I woke up to 14 auto-emails about tornado warnings, followed by looking online at the pictures. I was like, "What the heck just happened? What did we just get away with?" I hate hurricanes, but tornadoes scary the goody out of me.

8) On the flip side of the weather, the local news did a bang-up job with their Team Coverage of the recent cold snap. You know, I wish I was kidding about this. But they actually did a county-by-county synopsis of "just how cold it is going to get" during the 11pm news. They also hyped this "event" for four hours. You know how cold it got? 38. Yup. I could just imagine how that all went.

9) One other Super Bowl note. It was funny to hear everyone trash Jacksonville for their hosting a couple years back and talk up Miami. At least Jax was put together somewhat. We were down in Miami a couple weeks ago and the whole place looks like it is the opening moments of a Sim City game - cranes everywhere, half done building, roads not completed. So, now the backlash has begun. All the press people have been griping about Miami traffic, crime, sordid night life, construction. That's South Florida - that's the way it has always been - and how it will always be. Did they forget this from their jaunt to Miami a few years ago? Jeez.

10) Lost returns this Wednesday. I can't wait.

Well, I guess that's all for now. I WILL be posting my Oscar thoughts before the ceremony. And I hope to do a running diary for that. I think doing a running diary of the Grammys would be fun, too. So, we'll see. Have a lovely day.