Thursday, January 29, 2009

He Looks Familiar: Irrfan Khan

The other night, my wife and I are watching The Namesake (2006) with my mother. The movie is a beautiful story the chronicles the life of an Indian family that comes over to the United States and stars Irrfan Khan, Tabu and Kal Penn ("House").

My mom comments after the movie how the character played by Irrfan Khan looks familiar to her.

I joke, "maybe he was in Slumdog Millionaire," knowing she had recently seen the movie and also knowing that like most Americans (myself included) probably has limited exposure to Indian actors and actresses.

By the time my wife and I came home, I had an e-mail from my mom...yes, Irrfan Khan was in Slumdog Millionaire. It was somewhat comical because when I said it was just joking.

In Slumdog Millionaire Khan played the well executed role of the Police Inspector who is charged with questioning Jamal (Dev Patel.)
And it was from there, that I realized I too recognized Irrfan Khan and could place him in other English language films namely The Darjeeling Limited and the film A Mighty Heart.

Khan has an extensive Hindi language filmography that developed in the 1990s forward. Only rarely does the filmography dip into the English language. Titles of roles, like that in Slumdog and A Mighty Heart, seem to frequently carry titles like Inspector or Captain.

Now that I have identified Irrfan Khan as an actor (and one of the cast members who has just landed a SAG award as a member of the award winning ensemble), I'm interested to see how Khan's filmography develops and if we'll see him in any prominent roles in future English language films.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thriller - The Musical?

"Directed by John Landis, 'Thriller' is a complicated, baroque video with relatively few close-ups and so many zombies that it can be hard to tell what's going on. Watching it on a small screen is like taking in Spartacus on an iPhone." -- From Neda Ulaby's NPR story Shrinking Music Videos: More Thrills, Less 'Thriller'

Have you heard the news yet...Michael Jackson has sold the rights to the Nederlander Organization to make a Broadway Production of 'Thriller.'

The Nederlander Organization is an important organization to the Broadway world for their ownership and production assistance in various productions since it was founded in 1912. They've had a respectable role in producing and booking such shows as Wicked, Hairspray, Rent, The Lion King, Chicago, and Sunset Boulevard...to name a few.

Now, they're interested in 'Thriller.'

Honestly, I'm surprised Jerry Bruckheimer didn't think of it first.

Released in 1982 Michael Jackson's Thriller album became a year after it was released the top selling album of all time, and it remains the best selling album today.

The song 'Thriller' was actually the last of the seven singles released from the album. Earlier singles included 'The Girl is Mine,' 'Billie Jean,' 'Beat It,' 'Wanna Be Startin' Something,' 'Human Nature,' 'P.Y.T.,' and finally 'Thriller.'

The release of 'Thriller' as a single occured well over a year after the 1982 CD was released. Shortly after the popular music video premiered on MTV in December of 1983.

The album version of 'Thriller' was just under 6 minutes long, but the full music video version directed by John Landis last almost 14 minutes.

The very successful music video, I'm sure you remember tells the story of a Michael Jackson proposing to his girlfriend (Ola Rey) in the forest and then confessing that he is a werewolf...but then you realize it's really just a movie in a theater, where Michael Jackson and his girlfriend are watching the story. Jackson's girlfriend gets scared, rushes out of the theater, but then they find themselves in a grave yard where Michael Jackson starts dancing with Zombies. And the poor girl friend gets chased around a grave yard and abandoned house, before waking up and realizing it was all a dream...and Michael asks her "What's the problem?" and reveals scary werewolf eyes.

Initial Thoughts on Thriller as a Musical
I commend the Nederlander Organization for trying to capture some 80s pop-culture in hope of perhaps picking up more theater patrons.

I imagine the success of Mamma Mia! is surely in part an inspiration

I wonder if other Zombie/Vampire film success stories, including this Twilight might also inspire this?

Does interest in this project show that people have forgotten how weird and creepy Michael Jackson was in Martin Bashir's documentary "Living With Michael Jackson" from 2003.

How in the world are they going to stretch out this story into a full length musical? Will they include other Jackson songs, or right new ones?

Director John Landis has already sued Jackson over royalties associated with the video, will this tie things up or stop the musical from even happening?

Vincent Price's role and voice work seems to have added so much to the original music video, will they use his previous recorded voice work or will they cast the role of Vincent Price?

Speaking of casting, who will play Michael Jackson?

Can a Broadway musical version of Thriller win any Tony awards?

I have mixed feelings between thinking this is totally weird and also thinking 'why not' at the same time.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Adaptations & Best Picture Nominations: Trend Revisited

In the 10 year period between 1997 and 2006 only 32% of Oscar Best Picture nominees came from films adapted from novels, and only 20% of winning films. By mid-2007 I had begun writing off the book-adaptation as a viable best picture front-runner, especially as the 2005 & 2006 ceremonies had no best picture nominees that came from adapted fiction.

2007 Fiction-based Films: Best Picture Nominees
Despite the lack of fiction-love by the academy in the 2 previous years, last years 2008 ceremony was a little different with 3 of the 5 nominees coming from adapted fiction.


(The other two nominated films Michael Clayton and Juno were written directly for screen, bucking a previous trend of historical films making the final cut, as all 5 nominees were pure fiction)

2008 Fiction-based Films: Best Picture Nominees
2009's nominated films similarly had 3 of the 5 nominations coming from adapted fiction
...and then 2 historical/biography films (Milk, and Frost/Nixon).

This changes the stats, with now, 40% of best picture nominees over the past 10 year being adapted from fiction.

And the trend over the past two years is even higher than that figure.

2009 Fiction-based Films
As 2008's film season is wrapping up, it makes us curious as to what books we might want to include on our reading list as we look to potential best picture nominees for 2009 films that come from adapted fiction sources. I've tried my best to create a complete list of books that have film adaptations scheduled or in pre-production for 2009.

Anyone willing to predict, which, if any, of these based-on-fiction films will be apart of Award season a year from now?

Which one's are you going to track down and read before they hit the theater?

Are then any I'm forgetting?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Actress Race Curve Ball - The SAG Awards

Originally, I was hoping to have my friend Grete share some of her experiences from tonight's SAG awards.
The past two years Grete and her husband Jon have had the chance to be SAG Award seat fillers. Alas, there hopes of spending time with Tina Fey and the Slumdog Millionaire crew didn't happen as they had to tend to some medical needs instead.

Even though I wasn't there, thought I would share what I think is the greatest curve ball of this years acting race, and how the SAG awards completely created the drama and intrigue for Oscar night.

As previously discussed, there has been some issues of "category fraud" in the campaigning for Kate Winslet, as the studios hoped to Winslet would receive double nods for both The Reader and Revolutionary Road in the supporting acting category (The Reader) and lead category (Revolutionary Road). Many of the award shows, like the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guilds were effected by this campaigning, while other awards did not. The BAFTAs rules allowed for Winslet to compete against herself and have two lead nominations, and more interestingly, the Oscar votes ended up placing Winslet only in the lead category, but for the film the Reader, not Revolutionary Road.

The result is tonight SAG awards in the actress races are a completely off-kilter precursor. Kate Winslet won the supporting actress SAG award for The Reader tonight. Yet her competition, especially Penelope Cruz, by most assessments, or Amy Adams or Viola Davis can still hold on to hope of winning the the top prize come the Academy Awards because Kate Winslet is not in their competition at all.

Similarly, in the lead race Meryl Streep won tonight for Doubt, but when it comes Oscar night, she is competing against the other SAG award winning actress who won in the supporting category.

We don't know if the Screen Actors Guild would have chosen Winslet's Reader performance or Streep's Doubt performance because they weren't in competition with each other.

What a fun curve ball in these races, as the precursors don't quite give us all the necessary clues to tell us which way the wind is blowing.

[Tonight's other film winners Sean Penn (Milk) & Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight) appear to be likely Oscar winners.]

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bruce Springsteen's Newest CD - Working On A Dream

Bruce Springsteen and the rest of the crew of the Wrestler were probably somewhat surprised, especially after the Golden Globe win, that Springsteen's song "The Wrestler" from The Wrestler failed to get an Academy award nomination in the limited-nominee best song category. (Although Mickey Rourke and previous winner Marisa Tomei both picked up acting nods)

Many people had assumed that this song was a shoe-in, not just for the nomination but for the win as well.

For those of you who are Bruce Springsteen or huge fans of Darren Aronofsky's film The Wrestler, a great way to show your love is purchasing Bruce Springsteen's newest CD "Working on a Dream"which comes out on January 27th, 2009.

Bruce Springsteen's been making music for over 30 years, and I've listened to Springsteen's newest CD this week. This is 24th album, this album again reunites Springsteen's classic rock vocals with the E Street Band.

My overwhelming reaction to this CD is general awe and very impressed with the variety, vocal sounds, and overall quality in the album.

Probably the most unique and worth talking about album on the CD is his first track Outlaw Pete which has a very unique sound, and tells the wild west ballade, with an eight minute run time. As Rolling Stones stated..."It’s safe to assume Springsteen will not be performing “Outlaw Pete” at this year’s Super Bowl halftime show."

Outlaw's Pete is a track that has really grown on me, and certainly is not exaust it's eight-minute run time. In fact, my favorite part of the song is about 6 minutes in when the tone and story changes to begins being directed at the love of a Navajo girl cries out, of course Springsteen singing her lament of "Can You Hear Me?"

Beyond this song and a few others most the songs are generally generic. But the fact of the matter is something about the familiarity of Springsteen's voice and sound lends itself to sound like a classic song that has always existed, and perhaps the reason that lyrics like "When the cold wind blows" and "darling we can stop this train" sound like perhaps they were lines Springsteen originally created.

In fact, my favorite track on this CD is buried towards the end at track 10 of 13 with the song "Kingdom of Days." This song is certainly not absent of cliche's, in fact it's loaded with them, but again this song, although a new song just released for the first time with this album, sounds like it's been apart of the American music scene for decades.

Beyond "Outlaw Pete" the other most notably unique tracks on this album is the song "Good Eye" which has a very Southern Blues sound that sounds like it somehow missed the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack and the song "Queen of the Supermarket."

"Queen of the Supermarket" sounds like it should be a song on the TV show Scrubs, or if just a little bit odder, even on a Weird Al Yankovic album. The song truly is about a crush on a supermarket clerk, and the song contains a slew of odd song lines like "A dream awaits in aisle number two" and "With my shopping cart I move through the heart Of a sea of fools." To top it all off, the song ends with the cadence of a grocery store check-out beep repeating into the distance.

Overall, "Working on a Dream" is simply a pleasant CD with some great tracks, including the bonus track of "The Wrestler." There might be a few songs that don't make the concert line ups or top 40 stations. And if you pay too much attention to the lyrics you might in time get annoyed by songs like "Surprise, Surprise" which is essentially the first Birthday song I've heard on an album in awhile.

You may see Springsteen at this years Academy Awards, but you will see him at the Super Bowl, and you will see his newest album proudly displayed in stores.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Further Thoughts on the Academy Award Nominations

"We interrupt our morning news to present the Oscar nominations"..."oh I haven't seen any of those movies, except for Tropic Thunder. Hooray for Robert Downey Jr."

Sandwiched between the Oscar nominations I had to listen to the morning news casters on a local station talked about how the only movies they watched was Tropic Thunder, and how the weather man wished he had the chance to see Quantum of Solace, but hadn't yet. Lovely.

As promised and surely expected...some further thoughts on the Oscar nominations.

Dark Knight
8 Noms for The Dark Knight and no Best Picture nod...that seems almost unheard of! A Similar thing happened to They Shoot Horses which received 9 nods. No film wants to be that type of statistic. (At least The Dark Knight can also point to Wall-E this year as well which also received 6 nods, with no best pic nod as well)

No Catagory Fraud
I complained previously about category fraud with Kate Winslet in The Reader and Dev Patel in Slumdog Millionaire being campaigned as supporting nods...perhaps today's nominations could bring an end to it. No immediate observations of category fraud in today's nominations.

Meryl's 15th
I decided Amy Adams and Meryl Steep deserved their pictures up at the top of this post. Congrats Amy Adams! And even Meryl Streep now has been awarded her 15th Acting nod. I thought she might get it last year, but this year is certainly the year for nomination 15.

Winslet vs. Streep?
It'll be a tough lead actress race. Streep and Winslet seem like they're going head to head. Will Winslet win an Oscar? Sure, no double nomination as expected, but it can't hurt to have all your eggs in one basket, and that one basket to be a Holocaust period piece.

Clint Eastwood
The love affair with Clint Eastwood appears to be diminishing. Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima all have had love this decade...but Gran Torino did not receive a single nomination, while surprisingly Changeling received 3 nomination (Cinematography, Art Direction and Lead Actor for Angelina Jolie).

Sally Hawkins
More interesting in the snub category is Sally Hawkins. I bet she's a little sad today. Hawkins has one all the big prizes award season including best actress with Los Angeles Film Critics, New York Film Critics, and other critic awards, and even the Golden Globe in the comedy/musical catagory. But Hawkin's failed to make the cut for this award ceremony. In fact, Mike Leigh's loan nomination for best original screenplay pits his film up against Wall-E, Milk, Frozen River, and In Burges. Other than that Happy-Go-Lucky's stars were probably not so happy today.

Song Category
A less than discussed category is the Song category...I'm still a little sad that only 3 got in and that they didn't give the category much intrigue. The Golden Globe's 5 picks were interesting with Springstein, Jamie Cullum, Clint Eastwood, Miley Cyrus all in the running. The song race just became much less interesting. I am very surprised that "The Wrestler," by Bruce Springstein (the Golden Globe winner) failed to make the cut. Instead it's two songs from Slumdog Millionaire and Down To Earth from Wall-E.

Best Picture Winner
I still hold to my original prediction that Benjamin Button will win Best Picture...but it's hard to tell, the Slumdog love is high, but the strong showing for Benjamin Button surely shows that the Academy is impressed.

Stephen Daldry
I mentioned it this morning, but it's still amazing...Stephen Daldry certainly seems like the new favorite Academy child...3 films, 3 best director nominations...that's crazy...Billy Elliot, the Hours, and The Reader. How can you not keep an eye of Daldry.

Directors Club
This fall I did a director post on whether certain director's would get invited to the club...perhaps it's time to say...welcome David Fincher. (Sorry Darren Aronofsky. Sorry Christopher Nolan. Sorry Edward Zwick.) (Note: this is Danny Boyle's first director nom...so a welcome to Danny Boyle as well)

Analysis of My Predictions
As for my Oscar predictions...I feel I did alright...72% correct. A lot of 4 out of 5 right, with only 1 perfect category--adapted screenplay. I had a few more perfect categories last year...but some uncertainty into prediction day, really makes it more exciting.

Best Picture (4/5), Best Director (4/5), Best Actor (4/5), Best Actress (3/5, although Winslet down for wrong movie), Supporting Actor (4/5), Supporting Actress (4/5), Animated film (2/3), Original Screenplay (3/5), Adapted Screenplay (5/5), Cinematography (4/5), Art Direction (3/5), Editing (4/5), Visual Effects (2/3), Costume Design (3/5), Make-up (2/3), Original Score (4/5), Original Song (2/3..although I picked 5), Sound Mixing (3/5), Sound Editing (3/5), Documentary (3/5), Foreign Film (2/5).

Oscar Nomination Morning

Oscar Nom Morning

I love Oscar nomination morning. Because I have to go to work, this morning I'm sitting on the coach with my wife while she's feeding our baby girl. Because various moves over the past couple years I have had to adjust my Oscar morning routine to various time zones...but watching the award nominations announced is a favorite ritual. Today, I'm doing it with my infant daughter and wife. What a treat!

Good Morning Sid Ganis and Forest Whitaker. First Thoughts.

The nominations begin their announcements, and only some minor surprises...Michael Shannon over Dev Patel in the supporting category.

All 4 Doubt performances receive nods.

We don't hear Kate Winslet's name in the supporting race (as soon as I heard Amy Adams I didn't think I'd hear Trajni P Henson's...but no double nod for Winslet).

But Winslet's lead actress nod is for the Reader which certainly makes this years best actress race (Hathaway, Jolie, Melissa Leo, Streep, Winslet) a very competitive race.

When I heard Bolt got an animation nod, I knew there was no Waltz with Bashir animated nod.

Of course there will be excitement in the press about Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie BOTH receiving nominations (Benjamin Button, Changeling)

But when the alphabetical announcements of Best Picture was most surprising when Dark Knight got passed over...at that moment, the only film I could see jumping on the list based off the mornings previous nods was that The Reader would be nominated, especially since Stephen Daldry got nominated for Best Director.

Stephen Daldry is now 3 for 3 with the Oscars. I don't know if that's ever been done before...with nominations for his 3 feature length films: Billy Elliot, The Hours, and now The Reader.

Finally, no Dark Knight love like I might have expected. We'll see once the full list are released what films receive the most noms, and how these films fared in other categories.

Looking at the Nods Closer - The One's Not Announced Live

The first thing I checked out was to check the song category to make sure High School Musical 3 didn't get a song nod. And the fact was that only 3 songs were selected for best original song. "Down to Earth" from Wall-E and 2 Songs from Slumdog Millionaire, "Jai Ho" and "O Saya."

Wow, "Wanted" got a couple nominations in the sound editing and mixing categories. And Australia got at least one nod in the costume category.
And everytime I look at a list The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is included.

Total Nods as I count Them

13 Nominations for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
10 Nominations for Slumdog Millionaire (2 in the song category)
8 Nominations for The Dark Knight
8 Nominations for Milk
6 Nominations for Wall-E
5 Nominations for Frost/Nixon
5 Nominations for Doubt
4 Nominations for The Reader
I will follow up on my own predictions shortly.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Dark Knight & Oscar Predicitions for the 81st Annual Academy Awards

I chose to put a picture of Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gyllenhaal from the Dark Knight to introduce this post because when Oscar nominations are announced Thursday morning, although I do not expect to hear there names, I do expect to hear the Dark Knight named as one of the most nominated films, and that it will be receive a best picture nomination.

I think the general public will be surprised, largely because it's...well, a super hero movie, and no super hero movie has ever been nominated for much outside of the technical categories, and certainly not best picture.

But in the same way The Lord of the Rings series was different from your traditional fantasy series, The Dark Knight has been similarly embraced, and has transcended traditional expectations of the genre.

Also, most people are not aware of how well embraced The Dark Knight has been with many of the critics groups and guilds...having received nominations not just everywhere for Heath Ledger, but also nominations for the film with the Writer's Guild, Chicago Film Critics, American Cinema Editors, Cinema Audio Society, Costume Designers Guild, Directors Guild of America, Producers Guild, and best ensemble nomination with The Screen Actors Guild.

With that...here are my predictions for this years Oscar nominees.

Best Picture
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Frost/Nixon
Milk
Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher, Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Christopher Nolan, Dark Knight
Gus Van Sant, Milk

Best Actor
Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
Richard Jenkins, The Vistor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
Mery Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married

Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
Phillip Seymore Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, Doubt
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Best Animated Film:
Kung Fu Panda
WALL•E
Waltz with Bashir

Original Screenplay: Happy-Go-Lucky, Milk, Rachel Getting Married, Wall-E, Vickey Christina Barcelona

Adapted Screenplay: Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Doubt, Frost/Nixon, Slumdog Millionaire

Cinematography: Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Dark Knight, The Reader, Revolutionary Road, Slumdog Millionaire

Art Direction: Changeling, Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Dark Knight, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire

Editing: Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire

Best Visual Effects: Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Iron Man

Best Costume Design: Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, The Duchess, Revolutionary Road, Slumdog Millionaire

Best Make-up: Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Tropic Thunder

Best Original Score: Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Defiance, Slumdog Millionaire, Wall-E

Best Original Song: "I Thought I Lost You" from Bolt, "Jaiho" from Slumdog Millionaire, "Trouble the Water" from Trouble the Water, "Down To Earth" from Wall-E, "The Wrestler" from The Wrestler

Best Sound Mixing: Dark Knight, Iron Man, Slumdog Millionaire, Quantum of Solace, Wall-E

Best Sound Editing: Dark Knight, Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Iron Man, Quantum of Solace, Wall-E

Best Documentary: Enounters at the End of the World, I.O.U.S.A., Man on Wire, They Killed Sister Dorothy Didn't They, Trouble the Water

Best Foreign Film: Canada, France, Israel, Sweden, Turkey

3 or more Nods, according to my predictions: From my count that makes a prediction of 12 nods for the Dark Knight, 11 nods for Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 11 nods for Slumdog Millionaire, 6 nods for Wall-E, 5 nods for Doubt, 5 nods for Frost/Nixon, 5 nods for Milk, 3 nods for The Reader, 3 nods for Revolutionary Road, 3 nods for The Wrestler

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I Am A Horrible Person: Saying "No" To Girl Scouts & Their Cookies, Too

If chocolate chip cookies are cookies made with chocolate chips and peanut butter cookies are cookies made with peanut butter, then what are Girl Scout cookies made of?

As a new homeowner, I am placed in the unique position for the first time of having a chubby elementary school girl come to my door pushing cookies. I said no. My wife, had she answered the door, surely would have said yes because she's a much nicer person then me, and she is a former Girl Scout who wouldn't mind getting a box of Thin Mints.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-Girl Scout. I'm not even necessarily anti-Girl Scout Cookies...but I think that the Girl Scout Cookie machine is crazy.

In the United States there are regulations limiting employment to those under the age of 16, largely to protect against labor abuse. Similarly, there are laws that require minimum wages and taxes to be paid in association with wages.

When Girl Scouts began selling their first cookies almost 100 years ago, it is my understanding that it was like a well-organized bake sale, with little girls working with their moms to raise money for their troops and organizations.

Today, the Girl Scout Cookie machine is out of control. Cookies sell for $4 a box, but only 40 to 60 cents per box goes to the actual Girl Scout troop. Beyond that about 50% of the purchase price goes to the Girl Scout organization, and the rest goes to the cookie manufacturers.

First off, that's a lot of money and profits going to the Girl Scouts organization earned on the backs of little girls going door to door selling cookies, and their parents pushing and coercing co-workers to buy cookies.

Second, for such a small percentage of the profits to go to the individual Girl Scout Troop, it almost makes you wonder why so many Girl Scouts and Girl Scout parents feel so compelled and motivated to make sure every person on their street and in their office is receiving 5 boxes of Tagalongs, Thin Mints, and Carmel Delights/Samoas.

Third, at $4 a box, the Girl Scouts and the Girl Scout Cookie makers are really ripping people off. The cookies are more expensive then comparable brands...especially for the quantity of cookies you are receiving. And especially if you consider the fact that these cookies are sold with the majority of marketing and labor expensive being absorbed by volunteer children and mothers. These cookies aren't competing on the shelves of local supermarkets and stores, so they don't require the same type of sales. And they also aren't even in production year 'round. So there is significant profits for everyone involved, the least amount of profit going to the individual Girl Scouts and troops.

Fourth, for all this hard work, Girl Scouts are getting the lame prizes that are associated with any youth fundraising activity. Cheap stuffed animals, ribbons, trinkets, and the general garbage that is essentially worthless. All for hours of standing at booths in front of grocery stores and fairs, going door to door, and asking their parents to pass the sign up sheet around their offices.

Again, I'm not critical of the girl who came to my door. Good for her and for her dedication to her organization and her go-get-'em attitude that puts her in the awkward position of ringing my doorbell to get a pre-order for rip-off cookies.

In every town and city across America, there is a girl that is succeeding and breaking cookie sale records. The above picture is of a girl named Samantha Longenecker from Portage, Michigan who is a record breaker 3 years in a row in her area, one year selling 2,000 cookies. Or what about Jasmine Osborn of Marshall, Missouri selling a 1,000 boxes. Or on even a grander scale, the 2008 record holder Jennifer Sharp from Dearborn Michigan who sold 17,328 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies.

Last year the cookies were $3.50 a box, so that means Jennifer Sharp alone sold over $61,000 dollars in cookies. This is by no means a small operation.

I think that these girls are inspirations for their hard-edged dedication to sales, and that these girls should be snatched up to work for any number of sales and marketing driven businesses, and deserve significant compensation for having such an important American capitalistic skill.

Yet it's sad to think how these school-age girls are breaking their backs, putting themselves in dangerous situations by ringing the doorbells of strangers and parading around town selling cookies, when the majority of the fundraiser goes to serve the Girls Scouts of the USA organization (GSUSA), surely providing the funds necessary to provide hefty salaries for their staff.

I'm sure the Girls Scouts upper leadership is pushing those Girl Scout Cookie sales harder then anyone else, because they know that's where their paycheck comes from. Do GSUSA leadership like CEO Kathy Cloninger, Executive Vice President Norma I. Barquet, CFO Florence Corsello (who surely tracks those cookie sales very closely), Senior VP Of Funds Development Delphia York Duckens (also watching those cookie sales), Chief Marketing Officer Laurel J. Richie, or any of the rest of the staff feel sorry for these girls who are dedicating so much time and energy to selling cookies for the sole purpose of bolstering exec paychecks, earning a cookie patch for their uniform and a lame prize?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

StrangeCulture's 3rd Blogaversary!

I found this picture of an amazing cake online at the website for a NJ company called The Pink Cake Box and knew it had to be the virtual cake to celebrate my 3rd blogaversary...the first at the link strangecultureblog.com.

It's been a unique experience to be a blogger this year as my mostly-film & culture blog has at times become more serious this year. Maybe it's the result of my own life changes of becoming a dad, maybe it's the writer's strike and a year were the bulk of the film season was mediocre, or maybe that some things in news, the economy, and so forth we more interesting and deserved coverage.

The biggest "events" on strangeculture in my 3rd year were my Dads-in-Media Blog-a-thon which I thought was a great success...occurring just days before the birth of my wife and I's daughter, Linden.

During this year, my wife & I have also taken on new jobs, in a new state, purchased a home and had a handful of other meaningful adventures.

But that didn't take away from exploring some interesting things, both current and hold.

I greatly appreciate the many suggestions and high level of interaction in my 80s movie viewing experiment that began with the question "Where then any good non-quirky 80s movies?" And resulted in a very extensive 16-part series of 80s film viewing. (View the whole series covering all 48 80s films here).

I again enjoyed creating the Real (Reel) people series this year, although this years list was far less extensive then 2007, but I certainly am looking for to the 2009 edition in the next couple months.

A handful of favorite post from my 3rd year of StrangeCulture Blog included:
Thank you to all of you for reading, commenting, searching, suggesting, and sharing your thoughts every day!

Here's to year StrangeCulture and the start of year 4!

Previous blogaversary post: 1st Blogaversary & 2nd Blogaversary.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The BAFTAs - Catagory Fraud Made Right

I thought Dev Patel did a great job in his role in Slumdog Millionaire. And as Slumdog Millionaire picked up more steam, people started thinking about how Slumdog could fit into the acting categories. The most logical choice was Dev Patel who plays the oldest of three actors who play the part of Jamal Malick.

While Dev Patel is the lead, Dev's name isn't quite as big as the other "standard" names we're used to seeing at the Oscars...film veterans and regulars who make magazine covers. Oscar is very protective of it's lead actor categories and so this years Acting front runners Sean Penn, Frank Langella, Brad Pitt, Mickey Rourke, Clint Eastwood, Leonardo DiCaprio, Richard Jenkins, and so forth.

So we see category fraud in the inclusion of Dev Patel as a supporting actor contender in this years film award competitions.

(Side note: In reality, Heath Ledger is probably also the lead actor in the Dark Knight, but again, the high praise he has received might not be so high in the lead category, so how about a little catagory fraud there as well. Surly Ledger's role is in many ways far more of a lead then Christian Bales...I would say Ledger, Bale, and Aaron Eckhart are all co-leads in Batman.)

Another huge area of category fraud this year is with Kate Winslet. An actor cannot receive a nomination at the Oscars for two films. For the Oscars, in these races you are voting on the person not the role. For example, Leonardo DiCaprio was lead in both the Departed and the Blood Diamond a couple years back and he could only get nominated for one film.

This distinction is unique to the acting races. In other categories you are voting on the film, not the person, and so in recent years Steven Soderbergh has received double nominations in the directing category, for example, or Roger Deakins in the cinematography category.

As a result of these rules, Kate Winslet's lead role in The Reader has been pushed as a supporting role...this eliminates the campaigns of The Reader and Revolutionary Road clashing, and instead they can both have their cake, and at least when it comes to the globes...they can eat there cake too.

I was very pleased today to see the nominations for the BAFTAs (British Academy of Film and Television Arts), because the British Academy, which does allow for multiple nominations of actors in the same catagory, corrected some catagory fraud issues.

If you peruse the list you will see Kate Winslet receiving two Best Lead Actress nominations (does that make her the double best!) with nominations for The Reader and Revolutionary Road.

Dev Patel is also listed, for the first time this award season in the lead catagory, and of course...moving people around like this makes the list a little different looking with new room made for new actors and actresses...which is fun...I was excited to see Freida Pinto get a nod for her work in Slumdog Millionaire.

Here's a list of the main catagories...you will also notice a double nod for Brad Pitt, but in different catagories.

In all catagories, Slumdog Millionaire and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button picked up 11 nods, and The Dark Knight picked up 9 (but no best film nod).

BEST FILM
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Frost/Nixon
Milk
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM
Hunger
In Bruges
Mamma Mia!
Man on Wire
Slumdog Millionaire

DIRECTOR
Changeling – Clint Eastwood
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – David Fincher
Frost/Nixon – Ron Howard
The Reader – Stephen Daldry
Slumdog Millionaire – Danny Boyle

LEADING ACTOR
Frank Langella – Frost/Nixon
Dev Patel – Slumdog Millionaire
Sean Penn – Milk
Brad Pitt – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler

LEADING ACTRESS
Angelina Jolie – Changeling
Kristin Scott Thomas – I’ve Loved You So Long
Meryl Streep – Doubt
Kate Winslet – The Reader
Kate Winslet – Revolutionary Road Road

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Robert Downey Jr. – Tropic Thunder
Bredan Gleeson – In Bruges
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Doubt
Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
Brad Pitt – Burn After Reading

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams – Doubt
Pen̩lope Cruz РVicky Cristina Barcelona
Freida Pinto – Slumdog Millionaire
Tilda Swinton – Burn After Reading
Marisa Tomei – The Wrestler

Image above of Dev Patel and Freida Pinto at Tribeca in Nov 2008 was taken from daylife.
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