Saturday, February 28, 2009

9 Double Best Actor Wins in 2009; 5 Potentials to Make it 10 in 2010?

No male lead has ever won more than 2 best male lead actor nominations. The honor of having won 2 Oscars in the lead acting category is shared among 9 men, most recently as of the 2009 Academy Awards Sean Penn joined this group, winning for Milk and previously winning for Mystic River. The other male leads who share this honor are Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson, and Daniel Day-Lewis.

As I see it looking towards the 2009 season there really seems like only one of these men who stands a chance of winning a 3rd Lead Actor Oscar, and that is Daniel Day-Lewis who will be clearly the lead actor in the anticipated musical Nine. (Day-Lewis' previously wins were for My Left Foot, and recently for There Will Be Blood).

With the record breaking history that would be made with a Daniel Day-Lewis win, I can envision a nomination, but I feel like his previous wins would limit his chances of taking home an Oscar this upcoming year.

The other living "2 Lead Actor Winning Men" do not seem to have the type of roles and projects that could land them a nomination (Sean Penn has a supporting role in The Tree of Life that if the film is successful could lead to a nod, and a win would tie him with Jack Nicholson who has a supporting trophy alongside his lead wins).

While I ceratinly don't think the winner's guaranteed to come from this list of five, but I don't think it's completely out the picture to think that a 10th actor could join this list.

Here are 5 performances from previous winning actors that could potential lead to a second golden statue:

Phillip Seymore Hoffman, The Boat That Rocked
Previous win: Capote, 2005
Hoffman plays The Count (pictured above) in this period comedy about 1960s pirate radio with rogue DJs playing music off boats off the coast of England. The film co-stars Billy Nighy, and features Emma Thompson, January Jones, Kenneth Branagh, Nick Frost and Rhys Ifans.

Denzel Washington, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
Previous win: Training Day, 2001
Denzel Washingotn plays Zachary "Z" Garber, a hijack negotiator who has taken a New York subway train and it's passengers captive requesting a million dollar ransom. This summer blockbuster, is the third film adaptation of the novel with the same name wirtten Morton Freedgood under the name John Godey. The film is directed by action director Tony Scott and co-stars John Travolta along with James Gandolfini and Luis Guzmán.

Russell Crowe, State of Play
Previous win: Gladiator, 2000
Russell Crowe plays journalist Cal McCaffrey in this thriller based on the BBC miniseries. Crowe's becomes involving in investigating the death of a congressman's (Ben Affleck) mistress. Along with Crowe and Affleck, the film also features Helen Mirren, Viola Davis, Jeff Daniels, Jason Bateman, and Rachel McAdams. Michael Clayton director/writer shares writing credits in a film directed by Documentary Oscar winner Kevin MacDonald.

Kevin Spacey, Shrink
Previous win: American Beauty, 1999
Kevin Spacey plays a psychologist to top celebrities, but after a personal tradgedy, he becomes a drug addict and allows his own life to fall to pieces. In this independent film, Spacey's Hollywood clients include Robin Williams, Keke Palmer, Dallas Roberts, Pell James and Gore Vidal.

Nicolas Cage, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Previous win: Leaving Los Vegas, 1995
Nicolas Cage plays a corrupt, drug addict cop in New Orleans in this film directed by German documentarian Werner Herzog. The film will star Val Kilmer as Cage's partner as well as Eva Mendes, Xzibit, Jennifer Coolidge, and Fairuza Balk.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Nine in 2009

The other day I mentioned Samuel L. Jackson's 9 movie film deal with Marvel. In writing out the word "nine" I realized that heading in 2009, I didn't know I could not mention one of 2009's most anticipated films...no, not G.I. Joe or Transformers 2, I'm talking about Nine.

In 1982 Nine was a Tony award success story with 12 nominations, winning 5 awards including best musical.

It's always hard to anticipate how musicals will perform at the box office and with critics, but one of the stage to screen success stories of this past decade was Chicago which went on to win 6 Oscars, including Best Picture and grossing over $170 million in the United States.

Chicago's director Rob Marshall (who also directed Memoirs of a Geisha) is again going to be bringing an award winning musical to the screen with Nine.

Nine is inspired by Federico Fellini's film 8½. In Nine, the plot focuses on Guido Contini, a film director turning 40 has a midlife crisis that leads him into many complicated relationships with women...including his wife, mistress, muse, protege, mother, and producer.

The cast stars Daniel Day-Lewis as the leading man (Guido Contini) surrounded by his many women. Along with Oscar winner Day-Lewis, he will also be around other high profile and Oscar winning and nominated actresses...Marion Cottilard, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz (pictured above with Lewis), Kate Hudson, Fergie, and Sophia Loren.

It's hard to imagine a cast like that will be ignored from the Oscars, and Rob Marshall has proven that his films can earn critical respect as well as fill seats at the theaters.

Just a hunch, but I have a feeling Nine a significant role in the 2009 film scene.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Samuel L Jackson & His 9 Movie Film Deal

Samuel L Jackson is far from my favorite actor. I have liked him in some films...I bet you have too, but I think Samuel L Jackson will do any film that is offered to him...usually the more ridiculous the better.

In the 1990s alone Samuel L. Jackson had 52 acting credits within 10 years. Clearly not the most selective actor in Hollywood.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Jackson has signed a nine film deal with Marvel that includes a performance as Nick Fury in Iron Man 2, Captain America, Thor, The Avengers, and any sequels associated with these films.

Jackson will play Nick Fury, the leader of the S.H.I.E.L.D., a character who regularly appears in Marvel comics, recruited by Tony Stark and becomes a multiple issue Marvel staple. In the Ultimate Nick Fury, Fury becomes recreated as an African-American modeled off of Samuel L. Jackson..hence the excitement Jackson and Nick Fury fans will have at these deals.

For the rest of us, we can hope that these 9 projects keep Jackson busy enough to keep him out of movies were he doesn't belong (like the Red Violin, which Jackson was the most disappointing performer, and hardly deserves the cover credit he usually receives for this film). Personally, I think this is a good place to keep Jackson busy.

Related Post: Samuel L. Jackson's: Best and Worst

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama's Joint Session Speech (or What Would Glen Holland Do?)

I'm not really sure why, but when I was listening to President Obama give his speech to the joint session of the house and the senate tonight, I had a lot of various thoughts, but one of them was of Richard Dreyfuss from Mr. Holland's Opus.

I can hardly think of a more influential and inspirational film teacher to ever be portrayed on film.

Tonight president Obama made some strong statements about hopes for better education at all levels, including America having the highest percentage of college graduates by 2020...with the addition of more students completing high school.

I'm certainly not sure how this goal is going to be realized, but to be honest, I am glad to hear this as a priority.

With the current trend towards bailouts, government ownership of industry, and socialistic tendencies it's easy to understand how that discourage innovation, risk, and creativity. In fact, any time business executives were mentioned, they were often criticized for risk and reckless behavior.

As someone who greatly value of giving, generosity, and caring I am moved by the Miami banker, Leonard Abess Jr., who gave $60 million of his own money to over 400 bank employees (current and former).

Yet he is the only one executive who is praised in Obama's speech.

Isn't Leonard Abess really the most reckless banker of them all. A man who is willing to take risk?

Similarly, anyone who starts a business or tries to grow a business is usually taking a risk, and the bigger the risk, the bigger the possiblity of success...or the bigger the possibility of failure.

As mentioned, I think Glen Holland in Mr. Holland's Opus is an exceptional teacher, and the type of teacher that Barack Obama's grand speech would really change the world in the way Obama lays out.

But at the same time Glen Holland takes risk. In fact, he doesn't even want to teach for much of the film, and if Principal Jacobs (Olympia Dukakis) was placed in a position of evaluating Holland's teaching performance based on a government evaluation, I think Principal Jacobs would be challenged to reward Holland and his performance.

Yet, at the same time by the end of the film Mr. Holland's teaching really ends up radically transforming the lives of individuals, largely because he is dedicated to his subject matter (music) and because he takes reckless risk in the lives of his students.

While Obama criticizes the reckless businesses, I think that if recklessness and risk got us in to our current crisis, I think recklessness and risk is what will get the United States out of these problems.

I think that people and families in tough spots today really have the opportunity to be the same people to get the world out of the financial crisis...and that's by staying dedicated to their greatest interest and with dedication and risk be the person that makes it a success.

I've mentioned some of these ideas last summer in the post Lemons from Lemonades. In the book Pop! Why Bubbles Are Great for the Economy, Danie Gross writes:

"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.

I truly believe America needs not to criticize the profit-seeking entrepreneur or the risk takers with a hope of something different. Instead, I hope we can allow the American enthusiasm towards the new, unknown, and the possible to thrive.

Richard Dryfuss might have had the best resume as Glen Holland in Mr. Holland's Opus, but he was innovative, brave, and risky, and in that true change, expected and unexpected really occured.

Please government, please let us be risky, brave, and even reckless at times.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

First Thoughts on the 81st Academy Awards

1. I make no claims to be an all-star predictor. I'm far more interested in scoping out potential nominees then I am predicting the final winner. This year I scored 14 correct guesses...partially stunted by my stubborn dedication to keep Benjamin Button in the predicted Best Picture slot, but even going with front-runner Slumdog would have only given me 15. This is still better then my previous performance, so I suppose that's something.

2. When it comes to predictions, expect to see predictions made by my mom next year. This year I watched the show with my parents, and I gave my mom and dad a ballot 30 minutes before the award show began. My mom guessed 19 of the 24 categories right, only missing odd-ball fields of Documentary Short, Foreign Language (which I think everyone missed), Animated short, live action short, and animated film. WOW! I can hardly believe the consistent level of perfection. I am infinitely humbled.

3. I appreciated the tone of the ceremony. I thought Hugh Jackman did an appropriate job, his intro was funny, his presentation was classy. I think this was a good direction for the award show. I also thought Anne Hathaway as Nixon was great, and the not-to-out-of-control classy feeling was nice. Plus, the random number that went along with The Reader was a highlight!

4. Speaking of Anne Hathaway, she was very elegant, and didn't look like she was twelve. Even though she didn't go home with a trophy, I really think she was one of the big winners of the night. Not just her style or her inclusion in the introduction, but Shirley MacLaine's speech about Anne Hathaway was beautiful, and you could tell that MacLaine's speech about Anne, really touched her heart, and validated her. It was surely touching.

5. I loved the way that the had the five previous winners present the five nominees in the acting categories. Some of the mini-speeches were better than others, but over all I thought it was a great way to present some of these most high profile awards.

6. My wife loved the Swarski crystal stage, I have to say, I think I did too.

7. For all the classiness, I did not appreciate the two bitter award presentations...which included Jack Black's animated film award which assumed that Pixar would always win over Dreamworks, and Bill Maher's documentary award presentation which also complained about how his documentary Religulous was not nominated. This was not classy.

8. As far as the stage presentation went, I loved the way the stage was designed to look like a "back stage" for a portion for some of the technical awards as the presenters took the film audience through the movie process. Yet, what I didn't like was the way they had the one large screen with lots of side screens that often made it hard to see what was being featured on the big screen. Especially during the In Memory portion of the evening, the bizarre camera angles, coupled with the wide shots of Queen Latifa made it hard to see the names of those who were being featured.

9. Jack Nicholson. Was he there? I appreciated that they didn't show clips of him laughing every scene, but I don't know if they ever showed a shot of him. Perhaps as a non-nominee and non-presenter, perhaps he didn't get an invite this year.

10. Over 2 years in early 2007 I asked "Will Kate Ever Find Gold?" and then a couple months later, I began to think that perhaps the literary Revolutionary Road role might do the trick...but who would have guessed in 2007 that it would be The Reader that would give Kate Winslet her Gold Oscar statuette. Congrats Kate. I'm glad your life won't be the film version of soap-star Susan Lucci.

11. I think in the long-term people will be pleased with the win for Slumdog Millionaire. In the bizarre best picture montage that Steven Spielberg presented, the various best picture nominated films were spliced together with previous winners that had similar themes or moments. Each of the nominated films had tons of other films that could easily be referenced with other best picture nominees, but there really was such a limited pallet of Oscar nominated films to draw from. This is a good thing. For all the backlash out there, I had no problem coming up with 10 reasons I loved Slumdog Millionaire.

12. I was clearly happy High School Musical 3 did not receive any original song nominations, but I clearly felt like I saw Zac Efron on stage far too much. In addition to being a part of the musical song number, he also co-presented with Alicia Keyes as though he were a validated singer. Plus, I thought it was funny that Keyes had a deeper voice than Efron. I have to admit, I was sad not see M.I.A. on stage during the musical numbers tonight.

13. Speaking of the musical numbers...why did John Legend perform the Wall-E song, and why the Slumdog/Legend duet. It was horrible. Where was Peter Gabriel?

14. In the foreign film category...where did the win for the Japanese film come from?...did voters get confused and think they were voting on the Japanese version of "The Departed," because if they do, they have the sequence of events out of order. It seemed like the race was all about "Waltz with Bashir" and a potential surprise with "The Class." I haven't seen the winning film, but I hope Okurbito is good. At least the winning speech was short.

15. What was up with Angelina Jolie's green jewelry. America's Favorite Couple certainly looked very classy, but the big emerald ring and earrings were certainly distracting. It has to be disappointing for Brad Pitt and Jolie to go home this evening. I'm sure they'd didn't expect to win, but the letdown has to be tough, especially in a double dose.

16. I don't feel like there's any one tux or dress I feel compelled to eww-and-aww over. It's not really my style to do so. Rather, it's more likely for me to make fun of something completely hideous, but even there, I felt like the outfits fit the tone of the evening and were generally classy and nice.

17. When Will Smith was presenting, he was able to show an entire car chase montage. I think it was supposed to be about sound effects, but it was really showing how many car chases were in films this year. From the Dark Knight to Speed Racer to Indiana Jones there were tons of car scenes. It was incredible to see them back to back...why in the world are we so fascinated with action scenes in cars?

18. Danny Boyle seems like such a great guy. In every award speech and interview he just seems so sincere. I'm glad he won the director prize for his work in Slumdog. His apology for excluding the choreographer's credit simply seemed so sincere. It'll be very interesting to see how Boyle follows up Slumdog Millionaire.

19. Hugh Jackman's joke about range in the opening was pretty funny, his exclusion as a contender because he was an Australian, playing an Australian, in a movie called Australia was great. But every time they showed Mickey Rourke sitting in his seat it also made me think of this concept. The way Mickey Rourke carries himself at all these award shows really makes me wonder if his character in the Wrestler shows much range for Rourke. He looks pretty rough and tumble...if I were him I'd take the Iron Man 2 gig and hope for a continued strong career, because it's hard to say what roles could come his way. I doubt he has the range of other actors like Sean Penn and Russell Crowe, and I would have a hard time thinking we'll see him as a nominee again.

20. Here's to the 82nd Academy Awards, I'm really hoping for greater films and performances in 2009. And to the studios out there...please, consider releasing some of your best films before December.

Oscar Winner Predictions (or Meryl Streep's Bad Dream)

Meryl Streep's Nightmare

Last night, Meryl Streep could hardly sleep. Her and her husband (Don Gummer) had a late dinner in their New York home. After a cup of tea, she tried to go to sleep, but all she could do was toss and turn. She had a dream that she was at the Academy Awards, and as the award for best actress was announced, she heard her name, but on the way up to the stage she could her murmur's off her receiving her third Oscar...over twenty-five years after she won her second for Sophie's choice.

But then the heel on Streep's Louis Vatton shoe broke and then Daniel Day-Lewis, announcing the award let out a wicked laugh that only he could do and he announced to the audience that it was all a joke, and that Kate Winslet was really the winner. At which point Kate Winslet runs up the stage stairs with a pathetically embarrassing speech saying "I didn't think this day would ever come," upon which she bashed every best actress winner she has lost to (Mira Sorvino, Helen Hunt, Jennifer Connelly, Hilary Swank, & Helen Mirren).


Meryl Streep then realized her ankle was broken and the paramedics didn't want to come because they thought they would ruin Kate Winslet's long awaited moment.

With that, here are my Predictions for tonight's Oscar ceremony!


Here are my predictions, my best picture prediction is not the front-runner Slumdog because I feel forced to stick to my pre-Oscar nom prediction and because Dokata & Steve are voting for Button.

Best Picture: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Actor: Sean Penn, Milk
Best Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Best Original Screenplay: Wall-E
Best Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Editing: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Art Direction: Revolutionary Road
Best Costume Design: The Duchess
Best Make-up: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Original Score: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Original Song: Down To Earth, Wall-E
Best Achievement in Sound: Wall-E
Best Sound Editing: The Dark Knight
Best Visual Effects: The Dark Knight
Best Animated Feature: Wall-E
Best Foreign Film: Waltz With Bashir, Israel
Best Documentary: Man on Wire
Best Documentary, short subject: The Final Inch
Best Short Film, live action: New Boy
Best Short Film, animated: Presto

After two years in a row of getting 13 out of 24 correct...I'm hoping for better this year (I usually do about 75% on the top awards, it's the other one's that bring me down...but I can't resist guessing on even the shorts subject films, even though I have limited knowledge and think the award is generally an irrelevant part of the award show.)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Predicting Best Picture Votes From Meryl Streep, Steven Spielberg & Dakota Fanning

When it comes to Oscar award voting, I like to try to get into the heads of those who are voting. This includes those in the technical branches, art branches, of course the actors and directors.

For some reason, I always try to think who Judi Dench is voting for, but this year decided to mix it up with three other Academy voters.

Meryl Streep:

I remember hearing a Nightline interview with Meryl Streep earlier this year where she complained that three of the five best picture nominated films didn't even have a female lead actress. In fact, Meryl seemed very perterbed at this. It doesn't sound like she'll be voting for Milk, Frost/Nixon, or Slumdog Millionaire.

This leads me to think that Meryl Streep is leaving herself with only the choice of decided between The Reader and the Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Meryl seems like she would like to see roles where serious women, take on serious roles, and as a show of good faith for the competition between herself and Kate Winslet, she is going to be routing for The Reader to win best picutre. The film seems much more in line with films that Meryl herself choses, and I have a feeling she knows that if the reader was made in the 80s she'd have been considered for the lead role.

Meryl's predicted vote: The Reader (2nd choice: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

Steven Spielberg:

I always remember how Steven Spielberg marched out of the theater when he saw the Oscar nominated film Life Is Beautiful because he didn't like how it handled the issues of the holocaust in comedic fashion.

Obviously, we know Steven's not only serious, but don't joke about WWII.

I think this might lead him to consider The Reader as a potential nominated film, but some how in my heart, I think Spielberg is drawn to something much bigger this year. I think Steven doesn't know exactly how he feels about Slumdog Millionaire, while he's cordial about the film when people ask him about it, I imagine he's a little off put by it's popularity.

I think Spielberg instead is torn between Ron Howard's Frost/Nixon or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I imagine that Spielberg has a good relationship with Benjamin Button screenwriter Eric Roth (who also wrote Spielberg's script for Munich). I think Spielberg will opt to vote for Benjamin Button hoping to upset Slumdog Millionaire, and then vote for his friend Ron Howard for director.

Steven's predicted vote: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2nd choice: Frost/Nixon)

Dakota Fanning:

Dakota Fanning was made a member of the academy voting body in 2006 at the age of 12, the youngest ever member.

Since Fanning, now only 14 would only be permitted to see the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, as it's rated PG-13 and all the other 4 nominated films are rated R, I'd be tempted to guess this is her choice...especially since I can't see her getting too excited about historical films like Frost/Nixon, The Reader, or Milk.

Not only is Benjamin Button the only non-R rated film it also stars her sister Elle. Surely that is all the bump this film needs to receive Dakota's vote.

Yet, if Fanning had seen all 5 films, I think she might be drawn towards Slumdog Millionaire, somehow I think she might easily have a thing for Dev Patel from Slumdog.

At the same time, as a 14 year girl, I could see Dakota Fanning prone to want to support not only her sister, but also her friends...even if she hasn't seen the film...and because of that, I could see her voting for Milk. I imagine that after Dakota Fanning worked with Sean Penn in I Am Sam, they developed a close bond, and that Fanning might even feel inspired and trained by Sean Penn...thus leading her to vote for the film Milk in hopes to support her friend Sean. Although, the film is probably hardly the type of film a 14 year old girl would normally vote for.

Dakota's predicted vote: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2nd choice: Slumdog Millionaire)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Box Office, Oscar & 2008: If Oscar Nominees Came From Top Box Office Films, and A Hope For The Future


I must say, I'm excited for this year's academy awards. I wonder how many people will watch them, I can only imagine ratings will be down, and that hardly will be a news-worthy store because I suppose people expect it.

There's not a lot of "audience passion" when it comes to this years Academy Awards, or even many of the films that have been released. I am certainly not saying that there hasn't been quality films, but as I've pointed out before on StrangeCulture, this year, there has been reason for audiences to lack passion.

But I wanted to take this time, as I have previously to reflect on who would be nominated for an Oscar if the box office determined winners. Because animated films don't score acting noms the nominees in the lead categories would be something like...

Best Actor:
Christian Bale, Dark Knight; Robert Downey Jr, Iron Man; Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; Will Smith, Hancock; Robert Patinson, Twillight.

Best Actress:
Kristin Stewart, Twillight; Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and The City; Meryl Streep, Mamma Mia!; Jennifer Aniston, Marley and Me; Angelina Jolie, Wanted.

To be honest, I think there races would be interesting...who would win?

I think it's interesting of these 10 nominees, 3 of them are actually nominated this year...just for different performances. And to be honest, when it comes to Oscar nominations it really is clear box office draw is something that is considered. Smaller names like Melissa Leo have to work harder to get nominated when competing with names like Jolie, Winslet, Hathaway, and Streep.
But it's also pretty clear that this years top box office winners are comic book films and fantasy.

At the time when I'm writing this only 2 of the 5 Oscar nominees for best picture have even broken the top 100 films...in the United States, Benjamin Button is in 19th place for 2008 films with a respectable $122 million gross, and Slumdog Millionaire is in at number 33 with an $88 million gross...which is all the more impressive with it's $15 million dollar budget.

At this point, all the other best picture nominees sit below the quarter million mark.

By no means, box office should not be a determining factor is "best pictureness," If that were the case I'd be saying movies like Semi-Pro, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and Get Smart should be given more consideration.

All the same, if no one sees the nominated films, the Academy Awards become less interesting and less relevant.

I'm not saying that the general movie going public is in the wrong for supporting this fantastical high-energy, action packed, imaginative films...often with lots of make-up, special effects, and costumes.

Nor am I saying that the arts and critical community is wrong for supporting films with powerful stories, performances, about meaningful moments and experiences.

In end, to me it's not about people choosing different entertainment, or voting groups voting different, instead it's a hope that there would be more films that entice both audiences. I think in essence that's what is behind the success story of Slumdog Millionaire, and in many ways I would like to see that success multiplied in the form of multiple films, so that some of the best performances of the year can come from the most popular movies, not because people rushed to the art films or the Academy caved...no...I am wishing for better films that can capture both audiences.

Above superhero trio from eonline.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Spielberg's Lincoln, the delay, and Who Should Play Andrew Johnson?

In 2006, I got very excited about the idea of Steven Spielberg directing a Lincoln biopic, and immediately began anticipating this film upon knowing Liam Neeson would be playing the part of Lincoln.

I immediately began speculating who would play the part of part of John Wilkes Booth, although, I was uncertain, and still am, uncertain, as to exactly what part of Lincoln's life is featured in this biopic, although I would find it hard to believe Lincoln assassination wouldn't be covered, especially with Spielberg as director.

The response I received to my question was great. Leading guesses included Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Kline, Johnny Depp, Adrian Brody, Jude Law.

Yet, all these speculation was in 2006 and here it is President's day 2009 and we have no resolve to this question of who should play Booth, and what exactly is going on with this project. Neeson is going to be geriatric before this project gets under way at this rate, and Michael Cera, Joshua Jackson or Zac Efron will be old enough to play the part by the time production gets under way.

I've wondered if with the high interest in this 2008 political campaigns, and the way that Democratic Obama tried to tie himself to Republican Lincoln, along with Lincoln's Bicentennial just less than a week ago, if Spielberg either missed the boat of getting in on something really big, or if perhaps people would have been "Lincolned-Out" and it's just as well the project is delayed.

So in honor of President's Day, I thought I would ask "who should play the part of President Lincoln successor, President Andrew Johnson?"

Andrew Johnson is a unique president because his party line status is so bizarre. Vice President of a Republican president, he's from the South and detached himself from either party, a member of the National Union party and the Democratic party for various parts of his political career.

As Lincoln's vice president for just over a year, and then a President for less than 11 months, he's certainly one of the least respected presidents in American history, being the first president to ever be impeached.

Depending on how the story is told, he could easily have a significant supporting role in Spielberg's film.

And in fact, as I think about Andrew Johnson's short presidency, I think his story would make for a fascinating story on it's own.

Who would you cast to play the part of America's 17th president, President Andrew Johnson?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Road - A Recommended Read Before it's Film Release Later this Year

I've wanted to for awhile, but only recently got my hands on 2007's Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Road, written by Cormac McCarthy (who written other notable books including No Country for Old Men and All the Pretty Horses).

The Road is one of the many books to have film adaptation coming out in 2009. With the popularity and many accolades this book has received (invluding the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Oprah Book club book, National Book Critics Circle finalist) I really wanted to read this book before I saw the Joe Hillcoat film adaptation.

In fact, in reading this book, I'm very curious how the film adaptation will turn out.

I've read a few summary's of this book and most critics refer to it as a post-apocalyptic story. Whether it's post-apocalyptic or not, I feel like McCarthy leaves up for the readers, but the story begins years following some sort of world catastrophe that leaves the world basically destroyed and full of death.

The story follows two characters, simply, the man and the boy, who happen to be father and son, wandering the road for sheer survival looking for food and shelter, and fleeing harm.

What I liked about this book is that it isolates the father and son relationship, and tells a unique story, of a father who's anything but weak, but for the sake of his son is also gentle and caring within the ability of his masculine character. The way in which the man passes on wisdom, instruction, and skills to his son is really powerful.

This story is about a lot of things, and goes far beyond just being a narrative, and in fact, I feel like Cormac McCarthy spends much of his time creating this post-disaster world. And while I have a picture of this world in my own head of this gray-desolate-death filled world, I imagine that my mental picture easily could differ from others.

The transition of this story to film will certainly impact the way that people read and picture what is shown in this book, especially if this film is met with any sort of popular response.

It is largely because of these unique characteristics that I'm really glad that I read The Road, and would highly recommend it as a pre-reading assignment prior to this films release later this year.

As I side note, this book's style and nameless characters reminded me of one of my favorite books, one I would highly recommend called I Am the Clay by Chaim Potok. Potok's book uses the same devices of an unnamed small cast of characters (the man, the woman, and the boy), and although takes place during the Korean war, still has that same gray-stark setting. Also a recommended read.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Will Blockbuster Survive in 2009? Should it?

I read an article the other day that listed 15 companies that might not survive 2009. On the list, in addition to Claire, Rite Aid, Krispy Kreme, Landry's Restaurants, Sbarro's and Six Flags was Blockbuster.

Seeing Blockbuster on the list was not a surprise...it's probably not a surprise to you.
I remember life Pre-Blockbuster when my family would go get videos from the local store in the grocery store strip center.

Of course, Blockbuster, despite having higher prices then the the grocery store rental area or the local video rental store suddenly made it so these stores closed and were boarded up, and turned into nail salons, Subways, and Curves.

But one of the great things about Blockbuster was despite the higher prices they had selection of both older titles and deep stacks of the brand new stuff as well. And because they were conveniently sprinkled everywhere it's were people went...often with no movie in mind, just to browse and "make it a blockbuster night"TM.

But of course, a lot has changed since the first blockbuster opened in Brooklyn, in an era where people took their broken VCR's to VCR repair shops. Now Blockbuster is headquartered in Dallas, Texas with thousands of stores in the US, as well as internationally.

Honestly, I'm not surprised that Blockbuster might be mentioned as a store to disappear. Honestly, it's hard to imagine a world with out Blockbuster, and there are simply not enough Chinese buffet style restaurants to fill out the empty store's we'd see.

But, I don't meet many Blockbuster Inc. enthusiast. People complain about their prices, they always have...but especially with other options like DVR technology, Cable services, $1 Red Box Rentals, Online viewing, Netflix, libraries, and illegal downloads and bootlegs...there are simply more affordable options.

But it's not only price. I think Blockbuster's past ten years have been spotted with confusing and changing rental policies, late fees, and special rental programs that come and go.

My wife has long thought Blockbuster would disappear because of all the money they wasted on receipt paper, often complaining about how much wasted money and trash they were creating with way too much receipt for a single rental.

But there's also a part of me that wonders if Blockbuster were to disappear would it only encourage a lack of options for those who are casual movie goers. Suddenly movie choices will increasingly be limited for many to what's available at the grocery store Red Box, or what's available on TV...clearly giving people only the chance to watch new releases and random old films like Beverly Hills Cop 2.

Not that many people rent the overpriced Blockbuster Favorites, and it's not even that the selection is amazing, but it's sad to think that there would be a void of video rental stores and options...but with out having a Netflix account or a good library system, many viewers will be limited.

I rarely frequent Blockbuster, but it's nice to know if I want something that's newer, and I want it now, that there's a respectable chance that they will have in stocks.

Do you think Blockbuster will survive 2009? Do you think that it should?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wonderful Sacrifice: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

(Note: This post will contain major spoilers about the movie Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. I imagine that none of the spoilers are totally surprising...but I don't want any cranky comments below about how I ruined the movie for you...I will be discussing the ending)I'm not exactly sure how I feel about the movie Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. It's one of those movie's that's content is somewhat unsettling. I'm sure for some it isn't at all...but the way the plot largely revolves around sex and alcohol with minors certainly disturbed some of my sensitivities.

That being said, there is a lot of things that various people have found in this film that enchants them, but for me it's the final moment, when they make a sacrifice, giving up something they love for something they love even more.

Nick & Norah leave the rooftop concert when they finally have the chance to there favorite band "Where's Fluffy?" Yet even though the band is something they both love, they are perfectly content to miss the dream concert.

The last lines of the film are some of the best last lines to any film. They're going down the elevator and Norah says "Are you sad that we missed it?" and Nick says "We didn't miss it. This is it."

I think one of the biggest things I've learned about love in my life is echoed in this final scene.

We live in a self-consumed society that praises individual goals, hopes, and dreams. And yet, in love, I think we often abandon our previous desires. This is not martyrdom, but it's wonderful sacrifice...almost a surprising exchange.

I know my own interest and dreams have adapted as I fall more in love with my wife and daughter every day. Any previous unactualized hope or dream is often not a fatal loss, but rather something willingly abandoned in favor of something so much better.

"Are you sad that we missed it?"
"We didn't miss it, this is it."

Friday, February 06, 2009

Warning: M.I.A. may cause Seizures, may win Grammy's, may win Oscar

When I say M.I.A. I'm not refering to missing in action, it's Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam.

M.I.A. is a most known as a singer/musician, but she is also a graphic designer, clothing designer, photographer, music video directors, and record label founder (N.E.E.T.).

Maya Arulpragasam was born in London but is of Tamil (people from Sri Lanka) descent. In fact, her family returned to Sri Lanka shortly after M.I.A. was born, as her father returned as a founding member of the Eelem Revolutionary Organization of Students (EROS), one of the militant groups that has been involved in the fighting in this region.

Maya/M.I.A.'s family (with the exception of her father) left Sri Lanka as the violence escalated and went to live in India for a time before returning to London where her siblings and mother lived as refugees, here M.I.A. learned English.

Now a New Yorker, M.I.A.'s life has continued to be anything but ordinary, and only recently has she found herself gaining a sense of notoriety...most recently with Grammy Nominations and an Academy Award.

If you follow the music scene, you may recognize the name...but if you follow the movie scene, you make think I'm crazy.

I've been listening to the music of M.I.A. the past couple weeks and her sound is absolutely bizarre. It's a strange mix of world sounds, rap, techno, dance, and lyrically different music.

M.I.A.'s first album, Arular, was released worldwide in 2005 (The title of her album references Probably the biggest thing I have noticed, especially in listening to songs off this album is the way that the rap/dance music draws on not only the sounds of other culture's but the slang of other cultures. For example, the song "Bucky Done Gun" uses British-slang "Bucky" for Gun, the song samples horn riff's from Bill Conti's Rocky song "Gonna Fly Now," and it's lyrics, beat, and instrumentation make it like nothing else.

In 2007 M.I.A. released her second album, Kala, named after her mother. The songs were written while M.I.A. was traveling the world with U.S. visa problems. But this album was cited as one of the best of 2007 by such publications as Rolling Stones.

Grammy Nominations

The Grammys systems of award nominations and winners is sometimes hard to understand, and so even though this album came out in 2007, two of the songs from this album are up for Grammys. M.I.A. is nominated for Record of The Year with the song "Paper Planes" and Rap song of the year with "Swagga Like Us."

Will she win, who knows? But she seems to have a respectable chance of taking home a prize.

With the Grammy's multiple awards and nominating systems it's not completely surprising that M.I.A. received a nomination. With her uncatagorizable style, it seems like in future years who knows what categories she might slip into, assuming she continues to gain notoriety.

The Oscar Nod

The Grammy is not that surprising, but a year ago, no one could have ever predicted that M.I.A. would ever get an Oscar nomination. But in the best original song category, two of the thee nominees come from Slumdog Millionaire (the third nominee is from Wall-E).

In addition to the energized end credits song "Jai Ho," the song "O Saya" was also nominated. "O Saya" is written by Slumdog composer A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam (M.I.A.). M.I.A. is also the performer in this piece.

M.I.A.'s nomination doesn't come for lack of competition, I'm sure many people were surprised that their favorite song didn't get nominated (Gran Torino, The Wrestler, Once In A Lifetime, I Thought I Lost You, etc.).

You never know who the Academy will honor in this category (remember, "It's Hard out There For A Pimp" by Three 6 Mafia from Hustle & Flow or when Eminem won with "Lose Yourself" from 8 Mile). So I'd certainly think M.I.A. is not out of the race, and could potentially be an Oscar winner.

I have a feeling, even beyond the Oscar nomination, she is surely enjoying the success of the Slumdog Millionaire Soundtrack which is one of the first albums released on M.I.A.'s N.E.E.T. label. This album also features her Grammy nominated song "Paper Planes."

Seizures

If you don't believe M.I.A. might cause seizures, check out her website, listen to her music, and check out her clothing line. She certainly should carry a warning label cautioning those with Epilepsy.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Protectionism Built in to the Stimulus Bill: What We Can Learn From Ferris Bueller

"In 1930s, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, in an effort to alleviate the effects of the... Anyone? Anyone?... the Great Depression, passed the... Anyone? Anyone? The tariff bill? The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act? Which, anyone? Raised or lowered?... raised tariffs, in an effort to collect more revenue for the federal government. Did it work? Anyone? Anyone know the effects? It did not work, and the United States sank deeper into the Great Depression." - Ben Stein as the economics teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Conservatives and Liberals throughout American history have made various efforts to protect American business interest using economics tools, like taxes, tariffs, and quotas.
Maybe they were doing it to keep campaign promises, maybe it was xenophobic, maybe it was to protect unions, or maybe it was to pick up votes for upcoming elections.
But under most circumstances, any form of protectionism is typically deemed, with perspective, to have been detrimental to creating economic growth.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of the way these stimulus bills are crafted as they pass back and forth between the senate and the house getting bigger and longer with more local and national special interest and agendas getting added with every line and minute the bill remains unsigned.

Despite the fact that American citizens are going to take on an incredible debt burden, I think one of the biggest long term effects of this legislation will be the way protectionism could get built into the bill.

It's a tricky subject, because I understand and even appreciate the mindset of the bill that might require all materials that are part of the capital spending to be American made.

I think the idea makes sense, in the fact that it's American tax payer dollars being spent to create American jobs and spur on the economy.

The biggest problem that American efforts at protections could spur other countries to develop protectionist policies that could deter beneficial and favorable trade arrangements. Why waste American dollars on products that we cannot make efficiently, when another company in another country makes a better more affordable product. Similarly, it would be unfortunate to see quality American products not to have an opportunity to compete in the world economy due to counter-protectionist policies.

Related to this, as America is involved in many battle fronts and is trying to encourage democratic development, the policies of protectionism have a better chance of damaging new and frail democracies, that in turn could create long term strain on international relations.

It is natural to have a knee jerk reaction to want to see policies that encourage domestic commerce over international commerce. Just as Republicans pushed for policies of protection during the Great Depression with great failure, I hope in our current economic times, protectionist policies are limited. Instead, I'd prefer efforts are put in place to help American companies compete in the global marketplace with quality low cost products.

Give people, worldwide, a reason to buy American.

Monday, February 02, 2009

3D: Whoop-di-dee

Did you were the3D glasses during the halftime commercial for Monsters vs. Aliens, Sobe, and Chuck?

I didn't, and it wasn't because I didn't know about it, or because I didn't know where to find glasses, or any other reason.

No, it's because I don't care.

I think I have a deep underlying bias to 3D.

I think that the novelty of 3D is only so impressive to a point, and after you've experienced the flying monkey in your face, the laser beam shooting along side your head, and the explosive debris headed towards you, the novelty is gone.

In fact, it becomes anticipatable. You see a jar of bugs, and someone opening it...brace yourself for the bugs to fly towards you.

Unfortunately, it seems that with digital technology 3D is easier than ever, and so more and more films are available in a 3D format.

A handful of co-workers (with bad film taste) found themselves getting excited about seeing the recently released film My Bloody Valentine. These people were excited about the movie because it was in 3D, but found themselves in theaters with non-3D versions.

Their
"reviews" and "assessment" of the film was that it was horrible, BUT if they had seen it in 3D it would have been much better.

Much better? NO. I think 3D will always be a gimmick, and as long as you have to wear glasses, and stories are built around "what can pop out a you" the stories are not elevated by this device.

I'm not opposed to the third dimension, but when it comes to film and television it's a one trick pony.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Trivia: Name The Actors and What They Have in Common

How about a little trivia?

Name the following two actors and what they have in common.

(Congrats to Aaron for naming the Actors and their connection...his answers in the comment section.)


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