Friday, September 30, 2011

My Kids, Because... & Digital Video

So the main point of this video is to post to cute videos of my kids. Shepherd (7 months old) and Linden (3 years, 3 months).

The second point of this post is that when I record my kids, I somehow operate with a personal limit of 30 seconds to 2 minutes, with the knowledge that I'm sharing a little snippet of my family, that could be tailored for a family member or facebook.

Yet, the traditional home movies over the last half-century pre-digital media seemed to be longer. Maybe I have it wrong, but the video's seem like a they are more of a slice of life tour around a house, a zoo, or vacation spot, usually with a parent (Dad) walking around providing commentary of who is videoing, with the people often awkwardly shying away from the camera.

Perhaps digital media has moved away from that level of awkwardness, but beyond that, I'm not sure if one's better or the other...but without further ado, a couple quick videos of my kiddos from the past week.

My 7 month year old son "playing" Piano and my daughter talking about Andy Pachall, TCU's quarterback.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Out of Nowhere, Introducing: Jessica Chastain

Jessica Chastain just might be the biggest new star of 2011.

If you're an early award-season follower, you've known Jessica's name for awhile because her name has shown up for the past couple years as a potential Oscar contender if the film Tree of Life were to come out that year.

So, for the past couple year, this unknown has been on the radar for an unseen role under the hand of a creative director and it's strong cast.

Somehow, whether it's true or not, I have to wonder whether some of that potential Oscar glory put her on the radar for other projects...and when I say other projects, I mean projects that somehow are all being released the fall of 2011.

Prior to 2011, Jessica Chastain's primary credit included star of independent film Jolene (2008).

Tree of Life (May 27, 2011)
The Help (August 10, 2011)
Wild Salome (September 3, 2011 - Venice)
The Debt (September 4, 2011)
Take Shelter (September 30, 2011)
Texas Killing Fields (October 14, 2011)
Coriolanus (Late 2011 award run expected)

And it doesn't dry up there, Chastain is back with more roles in 2012.

With this prolific line up you'd think that it would just take a little nudge to get into an Oscar race, somehow, someway.

And while supporting nominations could show up for Take Shelter, The Help, or Tree of Life, she's not quite a front-runner at this point.

But I have a feeling if you hit up your local independent movie theater, they're showing something with Jessica in it....something.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lion King 3D #1 Two Weeks in A Row? What Does This Mean?

For the second week in a row, the #1 film in America is The Lion King 3D a remastering of the 1994 hit film.

I recently criticized and shared information about the less than stellar payoff of the most recent 3D films. Then as soon as I post The Lion King 3D hits #1 two weeks in a row, a film MANY people probably have sitting at home on their DVD (or VHS shelf) in a 2D home format.

That being said, I have to think that the interest in this product is largely in the fact that the product itself is a quality film, that exceeds competing animated films in may ways. Additionally, it's connecting with an audience who perhaps seeing the film as a child, now have the opportunity to share it with their own young children.

A few days ago, intrigued at the wide range of family-friendly offerings at the box office pondered whether Moneyball or Dolphin Tale would lead at the box office.

Early numbers show The Lion King 3D winning ($22.1 million), with Moneyball behind it at $20.6 million and Dolphin Tale $20.2 million.

That's pretty incredible for September, and I think speaks to the potential that the movie studios have for maintaining viability if they put quality family (used in the widest sense) films in theaters.

What does this Lion King 3D success mean? I hope it means that the animated studios will realize that they need to boost the quality of their offerings and the audience will come.

What I'm afraid this means is that over the next couple years we will be seeing Aladdin 3D, Beauty and The Beast 3D, and The Little Mermaid 3D.

We'll see.

Monday Update: Weekend Actuals Were released and the numbers were slightly different. Lion King (in 3D) $21.9 million; Moneyball $19.5 million; Dolphin Tale $19.1 million.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Unemployment X-Factor

Last month I did a post, So You Think You Can Be The Next Top Accounting Star, that sarcastically probed the limits of reality television and career inspired television.

On my list of "career types" I added "unemployed" as the final item on the list.

And after I wrote it, I thought - you know, a reality show around unemployment didn't seem all that crazy. This month (September 2011) the statistics for August 2011 reported a steady 9.1% unemployment rate.

This percentage doesn't even account for seasonal unemployment, discouraged unemployed not seeking jobs, or underemployment.

With that in mind, a reality show resolving around unemployment could hit close to home for many people.

Today, I've been imagining what that would look like in an "X-Factor" sort of way. What if, people were divided into four categories with coaches like they are in the X-Factor.

Perhaps the coaches could range from a variety of sources, everything from big-time CEOs (Meg Whitman, Phil Knight) to inspirational how-to guys (Stephen Covey, Malcolm Gladwell).

After a series of interviews, the judges can look for people who have that something extra special, and then divide them up in teams by category (maybe gender and age as the x-factor does - I envision a "young college graduates without experience" and a team of "40+ men with experience" or something like that). These groups would then be mentored and developed by the judges, ultimately resulting in some type of prize winner - perhaps an option of jobs, or an incredible job assignment aligned with the contestants abilities.

I don't know exactly how all the details would work out, but I think there's a place for heart strings, competition, and marketing that could be something, strangely inspirational and entertaining.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Moneyball vs. Dolphin Tale

Sometimes, I think September movies end up being "the movies that aren't" in the sense that the films seem like they are full of promise and "award show potential" but then don't have the gusto when they are released.

That being said, I feel like something strange has happened in which after a weekend where a 1994 Disney film was top of the box office (Lion King 3D) that there is room in September for heartfelt and meaningful drama.

I'll be interested to see the weekend box office numbers on Sunday, but I think the two well reviewed films with a lighter bent (Dolphin Tale and Moneyball) have a lot of potential to do well at the box office.

If the bio-pic Moneyball can ride a box office success wave, I think Bennett Miller's film has the potential to ride some waves into award season. Of course, Dolphin Tale is not that type of film, but I think there might be surprised box office enthusiasm.

Other wide releases this weekend include John Singleton's thriller Abduction (staring Taylor Lautner) and the thriller Killer Elite (staring Clive Owens, Jason Stratham, and Robert DeNiro).

And it just seems to me that it's a strong weekend for September. I'd expect Abduction and Killer Elite will disappoint and fade away after this weekend, but I expect Moneyball and Dolphin Tale to stick around in the theaters for awhile and am interested to see which one wins in the box office race.

I'd put my bet on Dolphin Tale.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

You've Got Mail - Pondering My Love For E-mail

I'll be honest. I love e-mail. I don't complain as some people do about the burden of e-mail.

There is a part of me that grieves that e-mail has lost some if it's interpersonal usage over the past 10 years, and there is definitely something about e-mail that makes it a "non-modern communication form."

Some how text messaging seems to be the recent flavor of interpersonal communication, and e-mail seems like communication for the 30 plus crowd - and maybe even older than that.

Otherwise, if you're using technology, you communicate interpersonally through Facebook, blogs, Twitter, or other similar social media systems.

I see this in the work environment as well. Sure e-mails are a common evil at work, but there's a move to try to set up Share Point, Drop Box, notification systems, shared folder systems, and who knows what else.

But the fact of the matter is - I still love e-mail. It's in many ways the most common denominator (unless the crowd is older than 70 or younger than 20).

Some how this dinosaur "app" is still the thing that works the best. And whether you read the e-mail or not, I love it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The 3D "Fad?"

My friend Grete sent me an interesting Slate article the other day, "Who Killed 3-D?
A box-office whodunit"
by Daniel Engber.

The article discusses a trend in which the 3D explosion has essentially been killing itself, with 2D versions bring in more revenue per screen than the 3D version.

Having criticized the 3D experience since it's 2009 explosion, I appreciated this post, including it's outline of the causes (studios, theaters, patron lack of interest).

Do you think we'll see less 3D in 2012? I hope so!

Photo fromt the cited Slate article.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chili & Cinnamon Rolls? Sometimes Less is More...

While traveling for business in Nebraska, I saw the above sign at Runza (a popular Nebraska chain) and posted it on Facebook with the comment: "Sometimes Less is More..."

I received the below facebook comments. The names have been changed.

Ms. Nebraska: Ohhh.....but you've missed the whole deal!!! In Lincoln, there used to be a department store chain called Miller & Paine. They had a bakery and a tearoom. (Mom worked in the bakery and I worked in the tearoom. My sister worked in Customer Service, then China and gift registry, and then was a buyer.) The Miller & Paine cinnamon rolls are infamous!!!! Runza bought the rights to the recipe and now serve them. And then the other deal is that many schools in Nebraska on cold winter/fall days would serve chili with cinnamon rolls for lunch. (Kind of like Texas does beans and cornbread.) Chili and cinnamon rolls is a great combo and a family favorite meal in Nebraska. So Runza Restaurants which are of Nebraska origin are using some Nebraska favorites on their menu. Using the Miller & Paine cinnamon rolls and the chili and cinnamon meal favorite. (So is this more than you wanted to know....LOL)

Teach: where is this, I love Runza!

Wifey: [Ms. Nebraska], I can't say that your explanation makes this combo sound any better... :-) [Teach], he is in Nebraska for work

Editor: Wow. I saw a sign for mocha beef sandwiches the other day. I am assuming these are separate things, but even still...

Ms. Nebraska: [RC] and [Wifey], you need to try it. You will like it. Cinnamon is a good companion to chili. Also....most midwesterners do not do a "hot" chili like Texas. This is a little milder and the flavors go very well together. Cinnamon is often used in desserts for mexican or southwestern spicy dishes. Be brave!!! :)

Ms. Nebraska: You have been challenged!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Parenthood - Season 3

Parenthood Season 3 airs today on NBC.

While there are certain things I expect will be true about this upcoming season (Julia's jealousness supressed over Kristina & Adam's baby -- even though Kristina & Adam and the two kids are stressed out about the change), I am hopeful for some surprises.

Not the types of surprises that are soap opera worthy (like we saw in the Season 2 finale with baby announcements, accidents, etc.) but the type of subtle surprises that somehow you find yourself referencing and talking about...the surprises about things that are strangely relatable.

There's something magical in a series that capture four siblings each raising their kids slightly differently, but supporting each other (generally) through the entire process.

I know over it's first two season this TV show has been on the rocks due to some lower ratings, but it's survived, and there is something I very much enjoy about watching this show on a Tuesday evening with my wife. It's a pause for us to laugh, relate, and occasionally get a little wet in the eyes over something touching...and there is often something touching.

So - here's Season 3. I look forward to watching the premier tonight with my wife.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Expecting Confussion Over The Oscar Nomination Count

Understanding how the Oscar nominees are selected can sometimes be a math problem that's more complicated then understanding the electoral college.

But, I imagine the general non-obsessed film fan is comfortable with the idea of people submitting nominees and somehow nominees are spit out the other end.

In the past couple years, the Oscars have tinkered with the best picture nominations moving it from 5 nominees to 10 (as we saw in the 1930s). It seemed that the objective was to make the Oscar nominees more accessible, with a wider diversity of films, although they must have felt something with their equation was broken and unworthy films were slipping in during weak film years.

This year's rule allows there to be any number of nominations between 5 and 10. In order for their to be more than 5 nominees, the additional films need to have at least 5% of the votes in the number one spot.

So, should this scenario happen come Oscar morning we could have six best picture nominees, maybe seven, eight, nine - or even ten. Although thinking about 10 films hitting the list based on this criteria seems unlikely, but of course, it's hard to know what the vote splits really look like.

So, I'm not sure what to think about the rule change, but in the pre-Academy Award ritual of predicting nominees it's hard to know how to predict nominees, or what people will expect...should we talk about six nominees, seven? Or stick to 5 with alternates in the wings?

It probably doesn't matter - but I expect people asking the beginning of 2012, "why is there seven nominees (or whatever number we see)."

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Psych, The Mentalist, Unforgettable

My wife and I love the TV show Psych, shown on the USA network. Psych, entering it's 6th season, is about a goofy slacker and his uptight friend who run a fake psychic detective agency, based on the ability of one guy's ability (the goofy slacker, played by James Roday) to remember and catch intricate details with his photographic memory and personal astuteness.

After Psych came on, another show about someone with such abilities, CBS' The Mentalist came on the scene. I've only watched the first couple episodes of the The Mentalist but having watched the Psych cannon to date, found the show similar, but not engaging in the same way.

I'm sure some would say comparing Psych to The Mentalist is like comparing apples to bananas (or as Psych regularly motifs a pineapple, perhaps it'd be comparing the Psych pineapple to The Mentalist smiley face graffiti). But the comparison in these two crime shows must be made, even from the standpoint that Simon Baker, The Mentalist, previously pretended to be a psychic before entering the police force (also in California, also as a consultant).

So, apparently there is room for two detectives with unique memory skills, as both shows continue to air this year, as part of 2011's crime film line-up.

Yet, CBS is adding another show that just sounds so very similar, called Unforgettable. This time there's no fake psychic, but a unique condition, hyperthymesia, a condition/syndrome/skill that allows an individual to have a unique ability to capture all autobiographical information including all the details of an event they have experienced (such as the day of the week a day fell on).

And maybe, I'm misjudging the show, perhaps there is more to it? The source material for this show is a little different. It actually comes from the short story "The Rememberer" by J. Robert Lennon's who story can be found in the short story collect Who Can Save Us Now?: Brand-New Superheroes and Their Amazing (Short) Stories. And if there is anything that intrigues me about the show, it is the title of the compilation from which it's found.

Beyond that, it seems like same-old, same-old (and maybe I'm wrong), but if I were to guess, it would seem that this new series (staring Poppy Montgomery as New York Detective Carrie Wells, alongside Dylan Walsh and Michael Gaston) won't be one of the Fall TV heroes.

(Although, perhaps I'm underestimating the fandom that might follow Poppy from a 7 season run on another CBS show, Without a Trace.)

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Robin Williams - Will You Come Back?

Every so often I do a post about Robin Williams, an actor who was incredible and had many of my favorite roles in the 1980s & 90s.

But in the 2000's his roles were less than flattering, causing me to declare Williams the most disappointing actor of the previous decade.

Pre-2000, his roles, while often comical, seemed to deal with important themes, particularly life change. But post-2000 it just wasn't happening... not the comedy...not the message.

And while I'm sure Robin Williams stage role in "Bengal Tiger At The Baghdad Zoo," is intriguing, I'm interested in seeing Robin Williams play another intriguing one-of-kind screen role.

Yet, it's not in the cards for this decade, yet...with no film credits in 2010 and only Happy Feet 2 in 2011, he's not off to a good start.

In 2012 Robin Williams will be in the ensemble comedy The Wedding (with Katherine Heigl, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Amanda Seyfried, Susan Sarandon, Topher Grace, and Ben Barnes).

So, basically...Robin Williams isn't on the up and up path yet. Which is too bad.

Monday, September 05, 2011

My 2011 Worst of Summer ("Vomit Inducing Films") Revisited

I'm a firm believer that you shouldn't make bold predictions without following up on them. I try to do that here on the blog as appropriate.

At the beginning of May I did my annual "Vomit Inducing Summer Movie List." This list contains films that I personally have no or limited interest in and think will fall flat on their face (or should). This does has a mixture of artistic, pop culture, and blockbuster hits and every year I usually have one surprise success story that makes the list.

As to be expected, the wildly successful Harry Potter & The Death Hollows (Part 2) was a box office and critical success puts it high on the list - but it's inclusion on my list was just due to my disinterest in the franchise more than anything else.

But the real success story that warrants eating a little humble pie is the critical success and popular Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Even when I saw previews I thought this looked horrible, but "the people" spoke otherwise.

Below is a list of the films I identified as my vomit inducing films broken down by their current domestic box office gross as well as their rotten tomatoes fresh rating (in both cases, higher is better).

Domestic Box Office
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2 - $375.4 million*
Rise of the Planet of the Apes -$162.4 million*
Bad Teacher - $98.8 million*
Friends with Benefits - $55.2 million
Jumping the Broom - $37.2 million
The Change-Up - $35.9 million
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D -$31.0 million*
Priest 3D - $29.1 million
Monte Carlo - $22.9 million
Conan The Barbarian - $20.1 million*
Apollo 18 - $10.7 million* [only 1 weekend so far]
Beginners - $5.7 million*
The Art of Getting By - $1.4 million
35 & Ticking - $.1 million
A Little Help - $0.09 million
Haunted 3D - $0 (no domestic release)

Rotten Tomatoes Fresh Rating
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2 - 97%
Beginners - 83%
Rise of the Planet of the Apes - 82%
Friends with Benefits - 73%
Jumping the Broom - 53%
Bad Teacher - 45%
A Little Help - 45%
Monte Carlo - 40%
Conan The Barbarian - 23%
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D -23%
The Change-Up - 22%
The Art of Getting By - 18%
Priest 3D - 17%
Apollo 18 - 17%
35 & Ticking - no rating (limited release, with a September DVD release)
Haunted 3D - no rating (limited release in India only)

*Still open in some theaters, domestic box office figures should be expected to increase to some degree.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

David Cronenberg - Will This Director Finally Be Invited To Join The Club?

In this series of directors, David Cronenberg is one who is certainly more prolific then many. In a review of Cronenberg's filmography there are plenty of films that are easily "not the Oscar type."

That being said, Cronenberg's originality and style seems to in this past decade begun to approach the style of the "type of film" that gets nominated. Even the super-heavy themed films have the right type of critical buzz to at least suggest the possibility of Oscar attention.

Yet, Cronenberg with many titles (directing and writing) to his name has never received an Oscar nomination.

Here's Cronenberg's feature length film history and where it fell on the Oscar radar (if at all):

  • Eastern Promises (2007) [1 Oscar nomination, Lead Actor - Viggo Mortensen]

  • A History Of Violence (2005) [2 Oscar nominations, Supporting Actor - William Hurt; Adapted Screenplay]

  • Spider (2002)

  • eXistenZ (1999)

  • Crash (1996)

  • M. Butterfly (1993)

  • Naked Lunch (1991)

  • Dead Ringers (1988)

  • The Fly (1986) [1 Oscar Win, Best Make-up]

  • The Dead Zone (1983)

  • Videodrome (1983)

  • Scanners (1981)

  • The Brood (1979)

  • Fast Company (1979)

  • Rage {or Rabid} (1977)

  • They Came From Within {or Shivers} (1975)

  • Crimes of the Future (1970)

  • Stereo (1969)
Will David Cronenberg be invited to "join the club" the director club with an Oscar nomination for directing A Dangerous Method, set for a 2011 release?

Recent efforts have picked up acting kudos and certainly various award buzz through the critical season, but the films weren't quite on the Oscar's radar when it came to wider recognition.

That being said, A Dangerous Method as a period biopic is a little bit different, and if it hits the right chord acting nominations could certainly be expected and Cronenberg could be brought along.

Although A Dangerous Method seems like it will struggle to be a box office buster, so I'd have to think that more traditional nominees, with more traditional Oscar films will break in. Although Cronenberg could certainly bust through.

Previous directors in this series who have joined the club:

- David Fincher (post from 2008, since then has received two director Oscar nods)

- Darren Aronofsky (post from 2008, Aronofsky was nominated in 2011 for Black Swan)
- Cameron Crowe (2011 post)

Previous directors in this series who still have not joined the club:

- Cristopher Nolan (post from 2008, since then two more nods, but not for directing)

- Edward Zwick (post from 2008, and additional 2010 post, still no additional nominations)

Friday, September 02, 2011

Crimson, Maroon, Scarlet - Is There Something about those Red College Football Teams?

I've had this sense over the past couple years that it simply seems like schools with "red" as their dominant school color (read: I consider black, gray, silver, cream, and white non-dominant) seem to always dominate the top 10 spots in the college football rankings.

Perhaps a later post would warrant whether there are more college schools with red-family colors, but I look at a weekend line-up and the schools with red colors seem to dominate the rankings.

And I say "red" with the knowledge that many schools distinguish their brand of red (scarlet, maroon, crimson, etc.) but there's part of me that wants to track this years NCAA college football schools by color.

According to the AP pre-season poll here are the top 25 schools and their dominant colors. 14 of the top 25 schools have a dominant color in the red-family.

1. Oklahoma (Crimson & Cream)
2. Alabama (Crimson & White)
3. Oregon (Green & Yellow)
4. LSU (Purple & Gold)
5. Boise State (Orange & Dark Blue)
6. Florida State (Garnet & Gold)
7. Stanford (Cardinal Red & White)
8. Texas A&M (Maroon & White)
9. Oklahoma State (Orange & Black)
10. Nebraska (Scarlet & Cream)
11. Wisconsin (Cardinal & White)
12. South Carolina (Garnet & Black)
13. Virginia Tech (Chicago Maroon & Burnt Orange)
14. TCU (Purple & White)
15. Arkansas (Cardinal Red & White)
16. Notre Dame (Gold & Blue)
17. Michigan State (Green & White)
18. Ohio State (Scarlet & Gray)
19. Georgia (Red & Black)
20. Mississippi State (Maroon & White)
21. Missouri (Black & Gold)
22. Florida (Orange & Blue)
23. Auburn (Burnt Orange & Navy Blue)
24. West Virginia (Old Gold & Blue)
25. USC (USC Cardinal & USC Gold)

Doesn't 14 out of 25 (56%) of the top ranked college football teams having a red-themed school color seem like a high count?