Monday, June 30, 2008
In 2006 David Strathairn got his Oscar nod for Edward R. Murrow in Good Night and Good Luck. Murrow's reports were influential in bringing down McCarthyism.
In 1985 Sam Waterston got an Oscar nod for playing Sydney Schanberg who received a pulitizer prize for his reporting in Cambodia as portrayed in The Killing Fields.
Yet these are the only three examples of real life journalist characters who have received Academy Award nods. (I suppose one could argue that Phillip Seymore Hoffman's portrayal of Capote could be as a journalist...but really that character was so much more than a journalist if Murrow and Bradlee are the baseline).
Two of the performances that I have been most curious about this upcoming year are the supporting roles of two real life journalist characters who I think have an excellent chance of scoring a supporting nod (as mentioned the other day).
In The Soloist, Robert Downey Jr. plays LA Times reporter Steve Lopez who did a series of expose articles about Nathaniel Ayers, a Schizophrenic street performer (played by Jamie Foxx).
In Frost/Nixon, Michael Sheen plays the part of English television presenter Sir David Frost. In the film Frost/Nixon, Sheen will portray Frost who's post-Watergate interviews with Richard Nixon were very dramatic.
For Robert Downey Jr...
I think playing the role of a journalist, especially in a role like the Soloist, were the journalist is partially there just to tell the story and to provide the skeleton to the plot, can be an overlooked non-interesting performance. For example, think of Kate Winslet's performance in the Life of David Gale. She does good, but the part is really just not that challenging.
Yet I think Downey Jr. has a chance. He's hot off of Iron Man, he's hot off of addiction recovery in the tabloids, and the Soloist definitely has the potential to be one of those films that racks up it's fair share of nods as a default choice.
As for Michael Sheen...
Well for starters he was totally worthy of a nod for his role of Tony Blair in the Queen, and after that performance, I'm sure he will be compelling as David Frost. I also think this film has tremendous potential. And finally, I think the David Frost role is far more in line with the roles that get nominated...imitation roles of someone who there is some context for the role they are imitating.
Could there be a double nods for the journalist contenders? Have I missed any one who's been nominated previously for playing a real life journalist?
Friday, June 27, 2008
"Could Ledger win Oscar?" my friend asked attaching a press review that said Ledger is "a hands-down favorite to win [the Oscar] posthumously."
I told my friend that I agreed, that Ledger had an excellent chance of being nominated. The buzz for his nomination is certainly there, and Oscar does often nominate and award actors after they have died. Whether or not he would win...well it's way to early to tell how the buzz will grow and who else will vie for the award. Obviously there's no guarantee that Heath will even be nominated.
With my friends question in mind, I thought this might be a good time for me to present an early picture of my prediction for best supporting actor nominees, along with some other names to consider.
My End of June Prediction for Best Supporting Actor nominees for a 2008 Performance:
Michael Sheen, Frost/Nixon
Demian Bichir, The Argentine (or Guerrilla)
Robert Downey Jr., The Soloist
Josh Brolin, Milk
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Other potential nominess I see having a chance there:
Jamie Bell, Defiance
Gael Garcia Bernal, Blindness
Paul Bettany, The Young Victoria
James Cromwell, W
Russell Crowe, House of Lies
Jason Butler Harner, The Exchange (formerly the Changeling)
Emile Hirsch, Milk
Phillip Seymore Hoffman, Doubt
Tobey Maguire, Brothers
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road
Leiv Shreiber, Defiance
Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Road
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The first two EPs, Fall and Winter, were not polarly different in tone or mood. Similarly the Spring and Summer EPs flow relatively seamlessly from one to the next, but these two albums have a slightly different tone. Generally they are brighter, cheery, and more jovial. You have a sense of that change right from the start with the first track of Spring called "March (a prelude to Spring)." This short little one man band piece is goofy and then flows into a ballad called "Love Isn't Made." "Love Isn't Made" lyrically is probably most similar to a ballad the Foreman would write for a Switchfoot album with it's lyrics like "So I arrive at the conclusion that love isn't made/ love doesn't sell or pay/ but we buy and sell our love away."
Generally I would say both of the newest EPs have debatable more spiritual messages. One of the strongest songs on the album that grabs be in my first listens is the track "Baptize My Mind" with a bright Samba style and sung exceptionally by Foreman. It's simple message is found in it's repetitive lines and a bridge that sounds like it could have popped out of the central park scene in Enchanted. Foreman sings one line and then the theological background vocals chant with energy, like this: "Both my hands are filled with guilt (be my absolution)/ Both my eyes are blind with filth (be my absolution)."
With more complicated lyrics, but similar music is the very singer-song writer prayer "Your Love is Strong," which plays off many themes from the Lord's prayers.
The other song that really sticks out to me when I listen to these albums is the very forward/critical song "Instead of a Show." In this song Jon Foreman directly criticizes the common and showy worship experience that is filled with the "hypocrisy of your praise," "noisy worship...noisy hymns," and people who shine up there shoes and "sing right along with the band." Jon Foreman sings "I stop up my ears when you're singing." Instead Foreman asks that there be "a flood of justice...a precession of righteous living." Foreman talks about the church and worshipers no longer turning their backs on the homeless and live what they're singing.
Overall it's a great album, and I would totally encourage you to Purchase these EPs our download some of these songs, especially if you are into the singer-songwriter genre. These albums are creative, wonderful to listen to, and filled with poignant lyrics.
My thoughts on the Fall & Winter EP can be found here.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
For those who are new this project was inspired by an attempt to "catch-up" on some 80s films and finding myself very disappointed. With the help of some recommendations and a little perseverance, I've definitely found a few gems...as well as some that can stay in the 80s.
The previous quality 80s post can be accessed through the following links: Part I, Part II, art III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, & Part VII, & Part VIII, Part IX, Part X, Part XI, Part XII, Part XIII, and Part XIV.
Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984)
Directed by Hugh Hudson
Recommended by Oscar (3 nods)
This movie is admittedly odd. And is certainly an interesting follow up to Hudson's Chariots of Fire. For starters, the child, and young male nudity in this film is odd. The apes are odd...especially the disturbing opening scene with the dying baby gorilla. It's intriguing and odd at the same time.
Overall though, I have to admit that it's a convincing Tarzan film, and can't imagine the story being told any more convincingly. But I think Disney captured the magic of the Tarzan story, especially the love story. While Hudson's focus was more on the psychological dilemma of whether socialization was a means to happiness and peace.
The Thing (1982)
Directed by John Carpenter
Recommended by imdb (#20 80s film)
I have no idea how this film ends up so high on the IMDb movie list. This movie reminded me very much of Alien, yet it's intrigue, suspense, and special effects is so much weaker. Kurt Russell does a good job, and it seems like a decent enough film for the genre, but it's so long, with so many non-interesting scenes. Editing, editing, editing...please. Especially with such an annoying film score.
Kurt Russell did a good job. And the only great thing about this film is it's unique and head-scratching ending. But otherwise, this movie is super-80s and is hardly enjoyable if you're watching it for the first time over 25 years later.
The Year of Living Dangerously (1983)
Directed by Peter Weir
Recommended by Oscar (1 win, Linda Hunt, best supporting actress)
If only Peter Weir had a bigger budget and perhaps a screenplay re-write this film would be great. Sometimes the plot of this film, is confusing and hard to follow. The basic story line is Australian novice newspaper man (Mel Gibson) receives a significant amount of help from half-Chinese dwarf (Linda Hunt, playing a male photographer) who gets caught up in a revolution. Susan Sarandon also has a strong supporting role, as love interest and informant.
The character of Billy Kwan is by far the most intriguing aspect of this film. I had no idea while watching that the Asian dwarf Billy was actually a woman from New Jersey. Her voice work and acting totally warrants her Oscar win. For my time I enjoy the Killing Fields better, which seems to have a similar feel, but a much clearer story.
Interestingly, a comic book loving co-worker of mine got into an interesting conversation about who should play the role of this character?
I've only had a few thoughts...and the huge stature, the square jaw, and the goal of finding someone a little younger who could stick around for a franchise...all considerations making it challenging to cast in my mind.
I've only thought of four possibilities...
Mark Whalberg, Adrian Pasdar, Guy Pearce, Viggo Mortensen
Who would you imagine in this position?
I've always loved driving cross-country. One of my favorite jobs was working for my friend Brad as an insurance inspector. My territory was West Texas north of I-20. I think I saw every small town from Monahans to Perryton to Seymour when I had that job. I also think I stayed in every cheap motel in Lubbock, but that story is for another time. The thing I liked the most about that job was the endless driving and seeing different parts of the country. That job also took me to places like Houston, Galveston, and the Fort Worth/Dallas area. I would go 1,800 miles in four days if I could. It was always better doing that sort of trip with someone else because you got to share that adventure with someone. The best shared trip I ever did was down in Houston. Brad and I had to inspect some slum houses in Houston's 9th Ward. As we roll into the place a big black man comes running up to the car screaming "HEY, What are you guys doing here?" Brad calmly explains we are with the insurance company and just have to check out a house or two. He gives us a once over and lets us pass. We get through about five houses before I have to get out of the car and get a house with about seven guys sitting on the porch. Keep in mind when we got to the neighborhood there weren't but three people sitting outside. By the time we got to the last house, every porch had someone on it. So these guys are giving me grief about my WorldCom shirt and I ask if I can get a photo of the house. The guy says, "not my house!" So I ask if I can get a photo of the house next door. He proceeds to explain to me that it's not his house and he doesn't give a [blank] what I do. Needless to say, I got a photo of the house next door and we got out of town. Those inspections had been sent back to brad about seven times because none of his other inspectors would do the house. To this day, I don't know how I got suckered in.
There's always been something fascinating to me about seeing the gradual change driving across America. I love seeing how the landscape changes and talking to different people in different parts of the country. The most dramatic change in scenery I've driven has to be between Lawton and Tulsa. Lawton is in Southwest Oklahoma. The only terrain features are the Wichita Mountains. They are really only used by the boy scouts and artillery units out of Fort Sill. Then Tulsa is in Northeast Oklahoma. It's surrounded by forests and lakes. These two towns are separated by about three hours. The only place I can think of with more diverse terrain is California. You can ski at Bear Mountain and then visit Monterey in the same amount of time. Whether you prefer Oklahoma over California is a matter of taste. I know I never heard my brother-in-law rave about the skiing near Fresno. Then again, the only reason I can think to visit Lawton is to see family.
Most people I know seem to have at least one family vacation road trip story. My favorite growing up is driving to the Grand Canyon. The actual driving to the Grand Canyon from Oklahoma City isn't the interesting part. My sister got lost while we were walking around the National Park. I think it's an understatement to say that my parents freaked out. My sister turned up at the ranger station about an hour later. We learned that she wandered off the path and ended up in a cemetery. It only freaked her out a smidge. I was oblivious to all of this at the time because I was hanging out with the boys in the other family. We didn't know any of this happened until it was all over. There's also the time we drove back from Lake Wister, OK to Oklahoma City. My sister was very sick and started throwing up about an hour into a four hour drive. For some unknown reason, she was sitting behind the driver's seat and always had to climb over me to throwup on the side of the highway. It only occurred to me to swap seats with her after I noticed throwup stains on her side of the car. Isn't it amazing the things we remember? I hope my sister doesn't hate me for telling those stories.
One of my favorite Steinbeck novels is Travels with Charlie. That was his ultimate road trip. The part of the book where he goes back to his old bar in California has always resonated with me. There are so many other great movies about road trips like Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run.
I wonder what will happen to the road trip with $4.00/gallon gas? America can't keep buying gas on its credit card. Then again, do families take long car vacations? Gas may be high, but the invention of the portable DVD player has helped the trip become more bearable.
My wife and I will be on the road for about seven days after being apart for three months. I'm really looking forward to the time we'll get to spend together in the car. The road trip is an adventure we can share together. I have a more details of our road trip on my regular blog, The Stone Report: 2,057 miles of fun.
You can read Adam regularly on the Stone Report.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
I hate to beat a dead horse, especially when RC has mentioned Iron Man in at least 6 different posts, but I need to write something about the movie. I finally just saw it tonight -- just about two months after its release date. I'm a big fan of seeing it late because it usually means the theater is somewhat deserted and the escapism aspect of going to a movie isn't usually ruined for me. Also whenever I see a movie, I always think of my friends RC and Mark. They always find something about the movie that's sitting below the surface. They are the dream audience for the writer, but would be terrible in a focus group. I ended up seeing the movie like RC and Mark this time. I'm not saying I can duplicate their thought process, but I sure can try to imitate it.
Movies reflect good and bad things in our culture. Studios make movies because they make money. Movie making isn't a charity business....most of the time (see Jersey Girl for the exception). This is especially true when the film's budget is around $140 million. Movies reflect our culture because of this money making aspect. People tend to like movies where they can identify with parts of the cast. Now, do people identify with a man who has a robot for a pet and can create his own flying suit in a couple of days? No. However, there are struggles and decisions in Iron Man that people can identify with in their everyday life. This film made me feel good about our culture because not only is it about right and wrong along with good vs. evil, but it's also about a man having a pivot point in his life and changing his life for the better. I was pleased when Iron Man didn't turn out to be the cynical hero who we have to like despite his flaws. As I walked out of the theater I thought about a line from National Treasure 2. Ben Gates is in the escape tunnel with the President. Gates is imploring the President to tell him about the secret book and they have this exchange... (I'll try not to spoil the plot)
President: Even if something like that really did exist, why do you think I would actually just give it to you?After seeing Redbelt and Iron Man, people are ready for the return of the real super hero.
Ben Gates: Because it will probably lead us to the discovery of the greatest Native-American treasure of all time; a huge piece of culture lost. You can give that history back to its descendants. And because you're the President of the United States, sir. Whether by innate character or the oath you took to defend the Constitution or the weight of history that falls upon you, I believe you to be an honorable man, sir.
President: Gates, people don't believe that stuff anymore.
Ben Gates: They want to believe it. (my emphasis)
I found the Military Industrial Complex angle interesting. (Disclaimer: I'm employed by Lockheed Martin and I'm a reservist in the US Army). I didn't like how the villain was the head of a major defense contractor. I also found it a bit disturbing that part of the plot had Stark Industries selling the same technology to our enemies. One thing I did find amusing was the marketing and branding opportunities the fictional Stark Industries, decided to take on every single product no matter who they sold their weapons to. It was a marketing directors dream come true. I found that photo and others on screenrant.com. Also, the Stark Industries logo is a clear ripoff of the Lockheed Martin logo -- Steve Mooradian at negative99.com has a short writeup. I'm sure it was legal, but I don't know if knocking off a real defense contractor's logo and then making them look evil is ethical. Sure Lockheed may be building F-16's for the Pakistanis, but we want to sell some to India too!!! One last thing, is Jeff Bridges trying to look like Bob Stevens, the CEO of Lockheed Martin? I know the hair is different, but I can see a resemblance.
It was also nice to see another movie where the American Soldier isn't the bad guy. There were a ton of Iraq War movies this winter that I didn't see along with the rest of America. This movie wasn't about soldiers, but at least we weren't depicted killing babies.
If you haven't seen Iron Man, go see it.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Linden is one of three names given for a type of English tree, also known as the Tilia or Basewood.
Linden while known most as a type of tree is also the name of cities in Germany, Australia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Switzerland, and the United States. In the US Linden cities can be found in Alabama, Arizona, California, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Linden Lab is also the name of the company that has developed the virtual world second life where they use "the Linden" as currency.
Hal Linden's the golden Globe nominated Actor, Trevor Linden's a hockey player, and Everwijn Johan Maarten van der Linden is the famous rower from the Netherlands.
But when it comes to my world...the most special Linden of all is my daughter who will be born any day (probably tomorrow).
My favorite thing about the name Linden is that it's beautiful, classy, unique, and sounds like a girl who's a lot of fun, nice, caring, and smart.
I also like the way the Linden leaf looks like a heart. She will be loved so much.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
That's what I think when I hear the title for the Joel and Ethan Coen film Burn After Reading scheduled to be released this year.
After my earlier post where I ranked the Coen films in order of my own interest (often different from other readers) I realized there's a lot of Coen love with StrangeCulture readers...probably more love than I have to give.
The film stars Academy and Entertainment Weekly favorites, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and Francis McDormand. (In that group of 5 actors 3 have won Oscars, and together they share 10 nominations).
The premise of the Crime Comedy (Cromedy?...nah!) is that two gym employees get their hand on the memoir of a CIA agent and they try to sell it.
Because Coen films recycle elements of previous films, I'm guessing this was has the feel of Raising Arizona, yet with it's Washing DC location it won't have the same "twang."
I wonder if this film will have any Oscar success...I would anticipate that the Coen's could get some editing and scripting honors, and if I had to guess an acting nomination I think I would see it landing on a supporting player since this is a lighter film...George Clooney as the federal marshall? Malkovitch at the CIA vet? or what about JK Simmons...he's never been nominated...can he outshine these hot actors?
I guess it's really not like inspector gadget at all. Although Inspector Gadget always made a mess of things...just like those "smart guys" in the Coen crime flicks. Of course, they usually don't cast a daughter named Penny with a super watch and a crime solving dog to help them out. But if they did...
Monday, June 16, 2008
The book talks specifically about how American exceptional ism and a private sector who is quick to adapt and attempt to create and over-estimate new opportunities has bread a history of bubbles, that inevitably 'pop.' In Gross' book he specifically looks at the telegraph, the American railroad system, the crash of wall street and the financial new deal, the Internet, Real Estate, and the upcoming bubble...Alternative Energy.
Gross' thesis is that after the bubble burst, the infrastructure that is left behind paves the way for long lasting and important businesses the opportunity to truly profit from the waste of the bubble. For example, fiber optic cables of the 90s lead to many unprofitable businesses who spent tons of money on laying cable and competing with prices. As those companies folded, the cables remained and paved the way for our current cable infrastructure.
I will admit that there is nothing new or genius in this book, but for someone who normally doesn't read economic history style books, this is a great one, because it's funny, accessible, and super-easy to read (got to love those journalist!).
I thought I'd share a favorite quote, one where Gross tries to explain why American have an innate tendency towards entrepreneurship as well as referencing West Side Story at the same time:
"Clearly, the way in which American rush headlong into investment bubbles, process their failure, and get started on the next one is exceptional...over the centuries, immigrants constituted a self-selecting group of people with short attention spans, tendencies toward enthusiasm, an inflated sense of their own capabilities, and a high level of resiliency--all crucial character traits for entrepreneurs. Who else would get on a leaky boat to endure the passage across the Atlantic for an unknown future? This argument is what I call the Officer Krupke theory of economic growth: we're not deprived on account of we're depraved." -- Gross' Pop!, page 20.My favorite chapter in the book was the one where Gross analyzed the fall of the real estate market (which is interestingly very accurate, for a 2007 book that hasn't even seen what 2008 has seen so far).
Similarly interesting is that this 2007 book joked about hybrid vehicles becoming more popular when gas got up to the price of $3.50 or $4.00 ("think what will happen when the Chinese and Indians really start to drive?")
I thought it was a good book, with a positive long-term prospect to weaker economics times, and a good and entertaining intro primer on American Economic History.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Welcome to the Dads in Media Blog-a-thon. (Previously announced here)
Over the next four days I encourage you to participate in the blog-a-thon celebrating the centennial of Father's Day, Fatherhood, and Media through your participation.
Here's how to participate.
I encourage anyone and everyone to write a post on anything relating to the topic of Dads in Media. This could be Father roles in Film, Music, Television, Literature, Art, Comics, or anything in between. Talk about one father in particular, talk about a career, a time period, or a concept. The field's wide open. Upon posting e-mail me or let me know in the comments so I can include it in the collection of post found her on StrangeCulture.
Read the post that are in this collection. The role and purpose of this blog-a-thon is diverse. Part of it's reflection, part of it's honoring, part of its thinking. Parenthood and fatherhood is one of the earliest institutions of all time. What is our culture and media saying about it.
As you read over the post, I encourage you to comment, interact, and dialogue about what others are saying. Let this post be the hub of the conversation, not the end.
Tell others in your real life and in your virtual life about this blog-a-thon. The more participants the broader the conversation.
So with this in mind and as post begin to role in over the next couple days...I present the first contributions. I look forward to seeing your thoughts, reflections, and creative juices at work.
- Fox: FROM "PARIS, TEXAS" TO "PRETTY IN PINK" : THE REDEMPTIVE FATHERHOOD OF HARRY DEAN STANTON
- RC: A Fictional Father to Admire: Atticus Finch
- Crackers and Cheese: No Matter What Kind of Pickle: Mac MacGuff from Juno
- Jose: Father, Interrupted
- Divers and Sundry: Life is Beautiful
- Scott Roche: Dad's In Media - DIM?
- Kestor Smith: The "Good TV Dads" Are Really Buffoons
- RC: Jack Bauer: an All-American Hero, NOT an All-American Dad
- Carl: 50s and 60s TV Dads vs Today's Dan Conner & Dr. Perry Cox
- Burbanked: Seven movie characters who might have benefited from things my dad likes to say.
- Adam: Dad's in Media: Indiana Jones
- Chris: TV Dads: Ward Cleaver and Dr. Huxtable
- gee bobg: There Is No End Zone
Ah, look at that lovely picture from the first season of 24, including it's season one star father Jack Bauer with his daughter Kim Bauer.
The other day I mentioned what an incredible father Atticus Finch is, he's a likeable hero (maybe not to everyone in Maycomb County) and he's a great Dad at the same time.
My wife and I love the television real-time drama 24 (only on DVD, never life on television), partially because it has it's own brand of intensity, complexity, return characters, and there's is something very admirable about the rebellious patriot that is...Jack Bauer.
But when it comes to his father skills...he has one great fatherly trait and then a slew of strikes against him.
His great trait (which is not to be undervalued) is his priority of physically protecting his family. Now, there's no need here to go into to many plot details, but if the bad guy wants to find a bargaining chip or find an escape, there's one sure fire way to get Jack Bauer to break rank and assignment, and that kidnap or threaten his daughter. Jack desperately wants to see his family protected.
The problem...Jack is unwilling and unable to make premeditated decisions to protect his family.
Granted, Jack is just a TV character, but to me there is a strong message in the Jack Bauer story. Kim Bauer is most involved in the first season, but her role, although changing has significance in many of the seasons to follow. Unfortunately, because of Jack's earliest decisions he makes, particularly in his career and role with CTU (Counter-Terrorism Unit) he places Kim and their relationship in danger.
In the pre-story before season 1 even takes place, Kim Bauer is an unruly, rebellious teenager, who is able to take advantage of her parents marital struggles to achieve her own short-term gains.
As things progress through the seasons there are many reasons for Kim to harbor resentment against her father...which she definitely does.
I think that the analogy can be all too prevalent in many situations today. Sure most people don't have a father who's fighting terrorist across the globe, but there are certainly father's who will do anything for the kids and family in a crisis, but don't make good decisions for their kids and family pre-crisis. Particularly in the way they handle the marriage relationship and their professional life.
Jack Bauer didn't protect his family by engaging in an affair with Nina Myers. By letting another woman in, one of his work associates, it created a devastating schism. Jack also willingly chose a dangerous career that put himself and his family in grave risk. His job provided for family needs, but failed to provide family stability. Jack also chose a time demanding career that often kept him away from home, not just for 24-hours at a time, but sometimes much longer, whether undercover on assignment, or kidnapped by foreign governments.
Jack might be an All-American Hero, but he's hardly an All-American Dad.
There’s a lot to like about television and a lot not to like. Some of the “to like” includes the informative and persuasive as well as the humorous and entertaining. Some of the “not to like” includes reality television, oversexed and vapid teens, and the rise of “infotainment.” But my personal beef over the past decade has been a theme in prime time sitcoms that I call “the father as emasculated man-child.”
There was a time when father knew best. A time when the Beav knew exactly who to turn to in a crisis. A time when a father could be funny without also being an ass. These dads could be more sensitive and substantive or gruff with a soft underbelly. Dads like Cliff Huxtable and Charles Ingalls and Dan Conner and Jack Arnold. Dads with faults, but dads you could love and admire.
Of course, there have always been dads who were never meant to reflect “real life.” Dads like Homer Simpson and Frank Costanza make us laugh because they aren’t like our dads (and probably make us laugh a little less if they are). Those dads don’t bother me. No one watches The Family Guy and thinks it is someone’s take on what family should be.
The dads I’m talking about are the ones we’re supposed to accept as what dads probably are. The fourth child in a three-child family. The guy who is destined to make a mistake. The dad whose catchphrase might as well be, “I’m sorry.”
"Marriage is like a tense, unfunny version of Everybody Loves Raymond, only it doesn't last 22 minutes. It lasts forever." This is Paul Rudd’s take on marriage in the recent film Knocked Up. I not only disagree with Rudd’s take on marriage, I also disagree with his take on Everybody Loves Raymond. While marriage can be challenging and exciting and funny and complicated, Everybody Loves Raymond is none of those things. It’s mostly just unfunny and tense. And it feels like it lasts forever.
Let me sum up the plot of every episode of Everybody Loves Raymond (spoiler alert!). Ray Barone is everydad, he has a nice average house and a beautiful wife and 3 kids. He is what we are meant to think of when we think of “dad.” At some point Ray will say or do something stupid (perhaps multiple times) and spend the rest of the episode paying the price. His beautiful wife will nag him and scold him and generally condescend to him, but will eventually forgive him because he is, after all, a buffoon.
But Ray isn’t alone. If anything, Tim Taylor started it in the early nineties. Or maybe Patrick Dempsey as Frank Lambert on Step By Step. Maybe it happened when Danny Tanner’s daughter drove a car through the kitchen wall and all he did was pat her head and smile. It was like someone was out to expose a popular misconception…father does NOT know best and his best moments are when he lets his family walk all over him.
Actually, I know how the problem started. It started by not giving mothers their due. We made them fawning, helpless second fiddles to dads who always had the answers. And we are paying the price with dads who can’t tie their own shoelaces without someone there to help.
My favorite family shows have always featured couples that struggled together with life and love and marriage and family. Shows like The Wonder Years and The Cosby Show (before Denise moved back home with “Rudy Two”) and Rosanne (before the lottery) showed us parents who, while flawed, worked together as equals in order to do the hard work of raising kids. Dad might take some ribbing from mom, but in a way that always heightened their affection instead of diminishing it.
I’m not trying to get us back to some 50’s ideal that was, frankly, a tad too black and white. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t see dad will all his quirks and marriage with all its problems. I am asking that we stop churning out show after show about dads who are “loveable” by being inept and moms who are “capable” by being nagging shrews. Behind all of Rosanne’s aggression there was always love, but Debra Barone’s calmer correction plays as mean and petty. Every time she says, “Ra-ay” I want to shove a pair of scissors into my ears.
Here’s my request. Somebody make a sitcom that celebrates dads and moms as complex characters and not as laughable caricatures. Somebody write us a dad that everybody can love.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Atticus Finch is the amazing hero in Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird . This character alive in Lee's pages, came even more to life in Gregory Peck's 1962 Academy Award winning performance.
Most Father's in film who have a heroic role, usually are also riddled with personal demons or are fake and down right annoying.
Yet, Atticus Finch is none of these things...Atticus' flaws are all those "positive" flaws that people say are their weaknesses in an interview setting "I'm too caring, too just, too ethical."
While Atticus is a fictional politician from fictional Maycome, Alabama, he's also very real in my heart and mind. As a widower who's wife died of a heart attack, you know that he loved his wife, and you have no doubt he loves his two kids Jem and (Jean Louise) Scout.
Atticus treats everyone with such great respect, whether it's the other town's folk, the people they discriminate, his maid, his children, and everyone in between.
As a lawyer who takes on the case for Tom Robinson, a black man who is accused of raping a White woman in the 1930s the towns folk are so hateful towards Atticus and his family. Yet at the same time, there is no better example of a ethical person who takes a stand, yet in such a peaceable way. Atticus is led by both his heart and his mind, in such perfect balance.
One of the things that is important to me as a Father is that I would teach our soon-to-be-born daughter to develop principals and values by which she can make decisions in life based upon. I feel like it is important to live out my own life in such a way as well. I know our daughter will be watching me and my wife, our interactions with one another, within our family, and in our world, to develop her own outlook and perspective. If only I could do that in a way such as Atticus Finch.
And while Atticus is ethical, judicial, and courageous, I also respect him as a Father because he also seems to strive to protect the innocence of his two children. Although he cannot completely shield them from the Tom Robinson trial, he does try to protect them from over exposure to the thoughts and philosophies of the world around them and instead seems to want nothing more than his kids be children who are not ignorant of the world, but who still have the opportunity to grow up on their own. It's not about forcing behavior, he doesn't try to shape Scout into playing with dolls and having tea parties, but instead doesn't want her to grow up quicker than she has to. Finch's efforts to keep Jem and Scout from seeing the Tom Robinson court case is an example of this (even though the kids do see it).
I also think Finch's advise, perspective, and values are so wise and relevant to his children's development, and I only wish that I too might pass on such palatable truth.
With that I present famous Atticus Finch lines:
- "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
- "The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."
- "Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It's knowing you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do."
- "When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness sake. But don't make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion faster than adults, and evasion simply muddles 'em."
- "Bad language is a stage all children go through, and it dies with time when they learn they're not attracting attention with it."
- "Best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open."
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
For those who are new this project was inspired by an attempt to "catch-up" on some 80s films and finding myself very disappointed. With the help of some recommendations and a little perseverance, I've definitely found a few gems...as well as some that can stay in the 80s.The previous quality 80s post can be accessed through the following links: Part I, Part II, art III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, & Part VII, & Part VIII, Part IX, Part X, Part XI, Part XII, and Part XIII.
Ordinary People (1980)
Directed by Robert Redford
Recommended by Oscar (nominated for 6 Oscars, won 4, including Best Picture), crackers and cheese, and ehome.
I liked this film, and I imagine that the film had much more of a punch when it was first released. In a way it reminded me of many of the themes in American Beauty, particularly the effort to make sure things looked good on the outside, while everything was falling apart on the inside, and that the home was the only place where all the messes collided. Timothy Hutton really does do a phenomenal job in this role, as does the rest of the cast as well. There are very few "contemporary" family dramas that are capable of packing an emotional or challenging punch without seeming like a Lifetime or Hallmark movie. You can really see how Ordinary People influenced later movies.
Mary Tyler Moore's character is incredibly disturbing, and the father portrayal of Donald Sutherland is certainly very powerful. It's incredible how all these characters carry the film.
Things Change (1988)
Directed by David Mamet
Recommended by no one.
This movie was so delightful. No one things was so astounding to make it a treasured classic, yet at the same time it's wacky play-like turns of events and coincidences make it so enjoyable. With the "plans-gone-wrong" theme, a strong sense of place, and William H. Macy's role as the blond haired Limo Driver it seemed like a toned-down Coen brothers picture. It didn't mater to me that Joe Mantegna acting was characteristically uninspiring, because somehow it matched the tone of the film.
Since no one recommended this film to me, I recommend it to you. It's a fun story of a an old shoe shine man (Don Ameche) who is going to take the fall for a crime he didn't commit, and when not-so-impressive Gangster (Joe Mantegna) decides to do the man a favor and take him to Lake Tahoe instead of holding him in a hotel room for the weekend. The events that follow get blown out of proportion. Watch it, let me know what you think.
Atlantic City (1980)
Directed by Louis Malle
Recommended by Oscar (5 nominations, including Best Picture)
Blah! This film is intriguing, that is for certain. Screenwriter John Guare does a great job of throwing you into the story full of unique and interesting characters from Atlantic City, but not quite knowing how they all fit together.
Yet the problem with this film is that as the intriguing roles, performed by talented performers unroll, the characters each end up being as unattractive as the dilapidated Atlantic City itself. Burt Lancaster and Susan Surandon certainly do a great job in their roles. Yet every character in this film is empty, shallow, selfish, and frankly unreedeming. The movie's story doesn't end with a huge finale, or satisfying tie-up, rather it just ends making you feel unsatisfied. It's worthy of a film discussion, but not necessarily casual entertainment. It is definitely not one of my favorites I have watched thus far.
Monday, June 09, 2008
A unique attempt to unite the church, and various Christian believers is going on this June with something called One Prayer.
Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch.tv announced earlier this year a vision for many churches to come together through a sermon series called One Prayer where various churches and preachers would preach sermons on the topic of "If you could have one prayer for the church what would at be?" The idea is that the pastor of their own church preaches one message, while video preaching is used to teach the other three messages.
Through many partnerships with other churches, such as Fellowship Church of Dallas, Texas and NewSpring Church in South Carolina. The word began to spread, and last Sunday over 1300 churches with attendance numbers over half a million began the One Prayer series, either with a sermon by their own pastor or video preaching from other participating pastors.
This past weekend I had the chance to participate in one of these services, and it was really neat to know how many different churches were participating with us. In fact below is a video that shows the list of churches involved.
One Prayer Churches from LifeChurch.tv on Vimeo.
It's incredible, if you think of how hard it is to get organizations to work together, let alone Churches.
On the third week of the series, each of these churches is going to take a special offering with the hopes of planting 500 churches in the Sudan, China, India, and Cambodia! That's pretty incredible to.
I would encourage you if you're interested to think about checking out OnePrayer.com which has a daily blog as well as more information about the project.
What are your thoughts?
Below are some thoughts I found in the blog-o-sphere. What's most exciting to me is seeing people from all different churches, in various geographic locations, different church cultures and denominations talking about the same church experience.
- BlackGlasses talks about major technology issues, and yet people still encountering God.
- Chuck Bridges prays that the Church would be relevant.
- Leonce at Zao Community things this is "the beginning of such initiatives in my generation to see the church rise and stand together"
- RadiantFirst talks about OnePrayer as examples of how online communities are changing and adapting bigger purposes.
- daveingland is pretty excited about OnePrayer as they used the series to launch their new church in Sacramento, CA.
- Pastor Martin Hunchinson of Community of Joy talks about the Lord Making us Peacemakers, which to him is active and even includes recycling and eating tomatoes.
- Ed Young shares a little of excitement after week 1 and sharing and seeing people come to Christ.
- Chazzdaddy a Ohio Pastor takes the OnePrayer concept local hoping to involve churches in his area to do a combined service this July.
- Callie at Elevation church looks like she had a rough Sunday, but is also supercharged by the unstoppability of God when believers come together.
- Sean spoke at his church in Knoxville about God making the church authentic and will have Steven Furtik from Elevation teaching next week (oh, look, that's Kelly's church above)
- Matt Ames with a passion for unity of the Body of Christ prays that God will answer this prayers.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
So, with Blood Simple & Raising Arizona finally under my belt...I'd like to present...
My Personal Ranking of Joel & Ethan Coen Projects
1. Fargo (1996)
2. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
3. Blood Simple (1984)
4. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
5. The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
6. No Country For Old Men (2007)
7. Barton Fink (1991)
8. Raising Arizona (1987)
9. The Big Lebowski (1998)
10. Miller's Crossing (1990)
11. The Ladykillers (2004)
What's your list? How's it differ for you?
Saturday, June 07, 2008
A couple days later I hear people saying they liked it, but being forced to justify their like for it.
And so, with mixed reviews I didn't rush out to see it, even though I had caught up on the original three films and had been posting about this film in the early-early blogging days in a post called Geriatric Jones about Harrison Ford crusading for Indy 4 to come out in '07.
And last night, catching a late showing of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, we left both feeling very entertained.
I felt like Lucas & Spielberg both did an exceptional job creating a seamless plot that acknowledged the time gap in the characters ages and creating a cultural context of time passing as well. I thought the film easily matched the other 80s-Indiana's in tone, style, look, and dialogue.
And surprisingly Shia LeBeouf didn't annoy me as I expected he would and played an excellent greaser...and I wouldn't mind him returning for an Indiana Jones V. Even if the Indiana Jones V had him as the main character while Harrison Ford took a back seat supporting role...I know, where's the purest?
Cate Blanchett's amazing. Karen Allen isn't Cate Blanchett, but who cares. And Jim Brodbent as Dean Stanforth was a perfect casting match.
John Williams still has the skills for a project like this and I certainly won't complain if he gets an Academy Award nod for his score, as he did with his other three Indy-scores.
It's a whole lot of fun, and very popcorn worthy -- just like a good summer movie should be.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Tuvia Bielski was born in 1906, the olderst of four brothers. The Bielski family was a family of Jewish farmers who lived in Stankievichy (present day Belarus) . There four brothers, Tuvia, Alexander (Zus), Asael, and Aron, lived in an area at the beginning of WWII that was under Soviet Control.
In June 1941 when the German's launched the Operation Barbarossa campaign against the Soviet's, they made the city of Navahrudak a Jewish ghetto, where the Bielski family was sent.
In December of 1941 the Bielski brother's parents were killed and the brothers along with 13 others retreated to the forest to create a Jewish resistance combat group led by Tuvia. Men were sent into the ghettos to bring them to Bielski forest camp, which eventually numbered over 1000 men, women, and children. In the forest they made their own city structure including places of worship. The people in the camp primarily lived in underground dugouts.
Tuvia's had a Zionist youth movement background and was dedicated to saving people from death, more than killing Nazis.
By 1943 the Nazis were aware of Tuvia Bielski and offered a reward for his capture. As the war progressed the Jewish Partisans began to also work with Soviet Partisans with Tuvia's brother "Zus" also taking leadership within the group.
The resistance group disbanded in 1944 when Belarus was liberated. At this time the 1230 Bielski partisans emerged from the forest.
Asael Bielski went on to fight with the Soviet Army, and died in 1945. Zus and Aron went to the United States, while Tuvia went to Poland and then emigrated to Palestine in 1945.
Tuvia died in 1987.
The story of the Bielski brothers is the dedicated topic of two books: The Bielski Brothers by Peter Duffy and Defiance: The Bielski Partisans by Nechama Tec, as well as a 2006 History Channel special The Bielski Brothers: Jerusalem In The Woods.
The film not only stars Daniel Craig as Tuvia, but also features Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, and George MacKay as the other three brothers. Edward Zwick and Clayton Foreman have written the screenplay based on Nechama Tec text.
I would expect to see some technical recognition from the crew of this film, but what about Craig?
Will Daniel Craig get some critical claim or his first Oscar nomination/win for his portrayal of this Real (Reel) Person?
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
The book is written by Anya Kamenetz, a journalist who received her undergraduate degree from Yale in 2002.
Her book is far more of a journalistic expose than an economics or financial text. While it is filled with a variety of statistics, much of the pathos is carried through interviews that Anya has conducted with a variety of young people 18 to 30-somethings.
The book covers a lot of economics/political/social territory of some of the principal differences in our current age as opposed to previous generations, specifically addressing national youth issues like college loans, credit card debt, low wage and temporary employment, jobs without benefits, social security, medicare, caring for boomer parents in retirement, medical expenses, and changing family decisions based on financial security.
While some people are likely to find errors or differences in opinions about some of Kamenetz's conclusions, I think this is an important book and a worthwhile read. Kamenetz strives to be balanced, pushing for both government action and personal decision making, but it does have a more liberal political leaning.
Yet as I read this book and read the varies interviews and discussions I see a reality that is facing the world around me, and the newest generation entering the workforce.
It is certainly clear that the older generation have a strong lobbying and voting voice in Washington DC, and as I follow this current and upcoming election there really is a lack of true discussion of issues that effect the economy and future for the youngest working generation.
There is definitely room for some policy decisions to be made. Personally I'd love to see the government take some action and create some political moves in terms of availability of student loans and tuition prices. I would be interested in seeing more discussion about the move for businesses to hire temporary contract labor without benefits, and the rise to permatempts. I would be interested in credit card companies have greater restrictions to offering high credit limits to students without steady income. I would like to see businesses required to at least pay minimum wage rates to interns, as opposed to getting free labor that is not open to those without parents or credit cards backing the bill for students who can't afford the entry-cost into the labor market. And I would even be willing to see the retirement age increase sooner than later, if it meant a better social safety net and longevity to the social security system.
I might share some more personal thoughts on these issues, but to begin with, I recommend you get your hands on this book, it's a quick read...you can even buy a used copy on amazon for a penny (click here to purchase). Also author Anya Kamenetz has her own blog called the Narrow Bridge which might be worth following as well.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
For those who are new this project was inspired by an attempt to "catch-up" on some 80s films and finding myself very disappointed. With the help of some recommendations and a little perseverance, I've definitely found a few gems...as well as some that can stay in the 80s.
The previous quality 80s post can be accessed through the following links: Part I, Part II, art III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, & Part VII, & Part VIII, Part IX, Part X, Part XI, and Part XII.
Blood Simple (1984)
Directed by Joel Coen (& Ethan Coen...uncredited)
Recommended by Will & jeremy
The film that helped the Coen brothers begin there film cultism, and I finally watched it for the first time. It's so interesting to see this first film because it's so interesting to see so many of the same themes and same actors continue to play off each other again and again...as if they're often still tweaking this original film. I thought John Getz and Dan Hedeya are great in this film, and even more than a compelling story, it's such a compelling looking film with each scene and shot tweaked for the most unique visual effects. I'm never really sure what I think of the Coen brothers in the grand scope of cinema, but I can't help but keep on coming back and seeing what they do. My favorite scenes in this film are definitely the one pictured in the image I have chosen. The drawn out death/burial scene of Marty (Hedeya) by Ray (Getz) is stunning, particularly the sound and editing choices.
The Verdict (1982)
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Recommended by Oscar (5 nominations, 0 wins)
Obviously we live in a post-John Grisham, Law & Order world. But there is something that continues to be intriguing about the courtroom drama...and maybe it's just that justice is placed into the hands of a few people, 12 Jury members, a couple lawyers and witness or two. It's the intrigue of corruption and manipulation mixed with the desire to see justice played out. This film centers on a malpractice case handed over to a down-and-out ambulance chasing lawyer (Paul Newman). Honestly David Mamet's script seems to draw out something that doesn't need to be drawn out...especially in the first half of the film before it gets to the courtroom stage. But once things get going in Act II it's not only enjoyable, but it's great courtroom fun. It actually reminded me some of Michael Clayton.
Tender Mercies (1983)
Directed by Bruce Beresford
Recommended by Oscar (won best actor and best original screenplay, 3 additional nominations)
For starters...I'm starting to think that 1983 was a horrible year for film. I've been generally disappointed. After Places in the Heart and Coal Miner's Daughter, I thought I would love this, but it's completely painful to watch. I blame much of it's painfulness on Horton Foote's Oscar winning screenplay. I honestly don't know how it won? On top of that Tess Harper and her screen-son (Allan Hubbard) have some of the most amateurly delivered dialogue I have ever seen on film. It's horrible. Much of it's the writing, but these two are horrible, and make Robert Duvall look even more amazing as an actor because they stumble so badly.
The only thing redeeming about this film is some of it's film themes, which Horton Foote does do a decent job of putting into the film, and the country music from the film is integrated well into the film and is nicely performed, whether by Betty Buckley or Robert Duvall. But this is an absolutely disappointing and painful film to watch 25 years after it's release.
Sunday, June 01, 2008
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Queen Victoria was born May 24, 1819 the one and only child of her 50 year old father the Duke of Kent (4th of 5 sons) and his widow-wife Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. She was named Alexandrina Victoria, and called Drina within the family. Not everyone was in favor of this name choice.
At the time of her birth she was the fifth in line to the throne, and George III was on the throne. Her father died less than a year after she was born. King George III died 6 days later. Victoria's childless uncle George IV took the throne. When he died in 1830, his next oldest brother Fredrick had also died. The third son of King George III, William IV took the throne. (William IV had many illegitimate children, but no royal heir, thus Victoria was heir to the throne).
Shortly after turning 18, William IV died and Victoria became Queen of the United Kingdom upon which she became the longest reigning British monarch. Her coronation took place June 28, 1838. (Hanover did not allow women to be on the throne so Ernest Augustus became king of Hanover). Because of her young age Victoria relied very much in her first years on Lord Melbourne, the Whig Parties Prime Minister.
Queen Victoria married her first cousin Prince Albert in February of 1940. Albert was not only the Queen's love interest, but also became her principal political advisor, dramatically decreasing Lord Melbourne's influence.
She had her first of 9 children in 1940, during this time there were two assassination attempts on her life by the young male Edward Oxford (later attempts where made by John Francis, John William Bean, William Hamilton, Robert Pate, as well as the Irish Jubilee assassination attempt in her 50th year of reign).
Prince Albert died in 1961 of poor sanitary conditions at Windsor castle. From this point forward Queen Victoria always wore black as a statement of mourning and was often referred to as the Widow of Windsor and became much more reserved from the public eye. There is much speculation and unclarity about the relationship and potentially secret marriage that Queen Victoria later had with her manservant John Brown.
Under Queen Victoria, relationships were formed with Ireland, a country she loved. She also had colonial influence, including becoming the Empress of India in 1876. She also helped in the transition of the constitutional monarchy that has defined much of the system we see today. More symbolic, and less political the middle class could relate with Victoria who removed much of the negative stigma of sexual, political, violent, and financial scandal previously associated with the crown. The time period the Victorian Period is named after the period of her long reign as queen.
Queen Victoria died in January 1901 of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 81. Per her request was buried in a white dress with her wedding veil and also per her request the people of Britain wore bright colors, namely white and purple as a way of honoring her death. She was succeeded as King of the United Kingdom and Emperor of India by her son Edward VII.
The Young Victoria
The film, The Young Victoria, focused on the early years of Queen Victoria's reign, and features the up and comer Emily Blunt (Devil Wear's Prada) as the young Queen. The role of Prince Albert is played by Rupert Friend (Mr. Wickham in Pride & Predjudice). The film also features Academy Award winner Jim Brodbent as King William, Paul Battany as Lord Melbourne, two time Oscar nominee Miranda Richardson as the Dutchess of Kent.
Sometimes, a period piece is just what Oscar is looking for. Will Emily Blunt get some critical attention, and perhaps even an Oscar win for her portrayl of this Real (Reel) Person?