Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Josh Freese Would Like to Make You An Offer

Josh Freese has a new album coming out. I’d never heard of Josh Freese before tonight, so I can’t say for certain whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I can say this – his marketing campaign is worth paying attention to. It’s not unusual for bands to offer pre-release packages of varying prices - $10 gets you a CD, $20 gets you a CD and shirt, $30 gets you a CD, shirt, and lithograph, etc. – for loyal fans. Freese, who Wikipedia (that fount of rigorously fact-checked knowledge!) says “is a permanent member of A Perfect Circle, The Vandals, and Devo, and was the drummer for Nine Inch Nails from late 2005 until late 2008,” is willing to go the extra mile (or five) for his loyal, and loaded, fans, with several intriguing packages. $7 gets you a difital download, $15 gets you a CD/DVD and digital download, and for $50, Josh will call you on the phone and talk for five minutes about whatever you want. It gets weirder from there...

$250: Go on a lunch date with Josh to PF Changs or The Cheesecake Factory (whatever you're into.)

$500: Meet Josh in Venice, CA and go floating together in a Sensory deprivation tank (filmed and posted on youtube) -Dinner at Sizzler (get your $8.99 Steak and "all you can eat" Shrimp on)

$1,000: Josh washes your car OR does your laundry....or you can wash his car. -Have dinner with Josh aboard the "Queen Mary" in Long Beach, CA -Get drunk and cut each other's hair in the parking lot of the Long Beach courthouse (filmed and posted on youtube of course)

$2,500: Get a private drum lesson with Josh or for all you non-drummers have him give you a back and foot massage (couples welcome) -Pick any 1 member of the Vandals or DEVO (subject to availability) to accompany you and Josh to either the Hollywood Wax Museum or the lunch buffet at the "Spearmint Rhino" -Signed DW snare drum. -Take 3 items of your choice out of his closet (first come, first serve) -Change diapers and make bottles with him for an afternoon (after hitting the strip club)

[Ed. note – I’m assuming he has a baby, because otherwise the diaper implications are deeply unsettling.]

$5,000: Josh writes about a song about you and make available on iTunes. -Co-direct a video with him for the song about you and throw it up on the youtubes. -Josh gives you and a friend a private tour of Disneyland -Get drunk together. If you don't drink we can go to my Dads place and hang out under the "Tuba tree" -Stone from Pearl Jam will send you a letter telling you about his favorite song on "Since 1972"

$10,000: Signed DW snare drum from A Perfect Circle's 2003 tour. -Josh gives you a private drum lesson OR his and hers foot/back massage (couples welcome, discreet parking) -Twiggy from Manson's band and Josh take you and a guest to Roscoe's Chicken n' Waffle in Long Beach for dinner. -Josh takes you and guest to "Club 33" (the super-duper exclusive and private restaurant at Disneyland located above the Pirates Of The Caribbean) and then hit a couple rides afterwards (preferably the Tiki Room, Haunted Mansion and The Tower Of Terror) -At the end of the day at Disneyland drive away in Josh's Volvo station wagon. It's all yours....take it. Just drop him off on your way home though please.

$20,000: A signed drum from the 2008 Nine Inch Nails tour. -Maynard James Keenan, Mark from Devo and Josh take you miniature golfing and then drop you off on the side of the freeway (all filmed and posted on youtube) -Josh gives you a tour of Long Beach. See his first apartment, the coffee shop on 2nd St where his buddy paid Dave Grohl $40 to rip up tile just weeks before joining "Nirvana." See the old Vandals rehearsal spot, the liquor store he got busted using a Fake I.D. at when he was 17 (it was Dave from the Vandals old ID). Go check out Snoop Dogg's high- school. For an extra 50 bucks see where Tom and Adrian from No Doubt live.=2 0For another $25 he'll show ya where Eric from NOFX and Brooks from Bad Religion get their hair cut. -Spend the night aboard the Queen Mary and take the "Ghosts And Legends" tour. (separate spooning.) -Josh writes 2 songs about you and it's made available on iTunes and appears on his next record (you can sing back up on em, clap, play the drums, triangle, whatever....) -Drum lesson OR foot and back massage (once again...couples welcome and discreet parking available) -Pick any 3 items out of Josh's closet.

$75,000: Go on tour with Josh for a few days. -Have Josh write, record and release a 5 song EP about you and your life story. -Take home any of his drumsets (only one but you can choose which one.) -Take shrooms and cruise Hollywood in Danny from TOOL's Lamborgini OR play quarters and then hop on the Ouija board for a while. -Josh will join your band for a shows, record, party with groupies, etc.... -If you don't have a band he'll be your personal assistant for a month (4 day work weeks, 10 am to 4 pm) -Take a limo down to Tijuana and he'll show you how it's done (what that means exactly we can't legally get into here) -If you don't live in Southern California (but are a US resident) he'll come to you and be your personal assistant/cabana boy for 2 weeks. -Take a flying trapeze lesson with Josh and Robin from NIN, go back to Robin's place afterwards and his wife will make you raw lasagna.

I don’t know, man...I have always wanted my own personal cabana boy, but $75K is about $74.9K more than I can afford at any given time. Is this the future of self-marketing? Are all artists doomed to become glorified prostitutes in order to finance a creative career in this unfriendly economic climate? Or, in the very least, will we all have to devote at least 70% of our creative energy on figuring out new, wacky ways to promote the stuff we created with the other 30% of our creative energy? I can’t decide if this whole thing is brilliant or insane. I’m leaning towards brilliant, but to be fair I’m a little punchy because it’s 3:30 in the morning and I only got home from work an hour ago, because I’m financing my creative career by working in media, which is at least a clothes-on endeavor.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Five TV Shows That Need An End Date

Hey, remember when Lost first premiered, and it was really, really cool? With the WTF-polar-bear and mysterious monster and “Guys, where are we?” And then it got really confusing and half the characters died and the other half got arrested for DUI and we all kind of got over it? Well eff that, because Lost is back. Sure, it kind of sucks for you if you got into the show because of the specific characters from Season 1, because most of them remain dead and the rest have to share screentime with newer characters of varying quality. But the mysteries are kind of intriguing again, and answers are finally getting doled out at a decent pace. Clearly, setting a specific end date was the best thing that the show has ever done creatively because it has allowed them to focus on a specific story arc and stop, you know, sucking. Which got me thinking, what other shows would benefit from knowing when they’re going to end? Not counting, of course, Two and a Half Men, whose end date should have been somewhere in the same year it premiered.

1. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
This show kind of boxed itself into a corner, because pretty much every episode has to deal with the evil robots gunning for John Connor, and you know John’s gonna be fine because a few years later he’s yelling at some poor schmuck on the set of his next movie. Picking an expiration date will let them work towards tucking all those nasty loose ends into the movie continuity and save us from lame, supposedly nail-biting cliffhangers where we’re supposed to wonder whether this will finally be the episode where the evil robots win. (Hint: it’s not.)

2. How I Met Your Mother
Is she the mother? Wait, no, is she the mother? No, she’s the mother, right? It’s hard to tell whether the writers are teasing us intentionally or stalling for time. Eventually, they’re gonna have to reveal who the mother is, or the title of the show will just be silly. “Kids, let me tell you about the time I impregnated a transient behind a dumpster on Central Park West...” Setting an end date will let everyone breathe easier knowing roughly when the big reveal will come.

3. Gossip Girl
An end date? But we’ve only just met! True, Gossip Girl is only in its second season, and its quality is comparable to its first season – good news if you’re a fan, bad news if you’re not – but it can’t stay like this for long with so much drama and partner-swapping and scheming. They’re about one season away from an incest storyline. It doesn’t help that the kids are in theory going off to college in a season or two. So pick an end date and stick with it, because no one is gonna stick around to watch the adventures of Little J, aka Scrappy-Doo with the crappy ‘do. No one.

4. Heroes
Confession – I stopped watching this show last year. For all I know, they already set an end date, and it was two months ago. But on the off chance they’re still plowing ahead with this dreck, I heartily advise Kring and Co. set a stop date on this sucker and work on making a coherent story that builds into a larger arc, stat. Or, you know, keep hemorrhaging viewers, whatever.

5. Big Love
This would be a preemptive strike, because I feel like this season is the best one the show has had to date. But are you really able to keep track of all the Juniper Creek crazies? There’s a ton of them floating around, most just kind of doing their own thing while Bill builds his harem. This show needs to end with a bang, and that means laying the seeds now for an awesome finale two or three seasons, max, from now. Because, like Gossip Girl, Big Love is one tequila away from an incest storyline, and believe me, the therapy needed after that kind of thing is expensive.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

2009 Oscars Liveblog

8:12 - I think Taraji P. Henson's dress is my favorite so far. Tim Gunn is a much better pre-show host than Ryan Seacrest and Ben Lyons.

8:30 - What's up with the music? Lawrence of Arabia theme in big band-style? Terrible. Oh, Hugh Jackman looks dashing. Here's the opening bit. Oh, no, no recession jokes, please. Oscars = escapism, the ultimate form of in fact. I can worry about the economy again tomorrow.

8:38 - Okay, that was pretty good, actually, Hugh Jackman acting out all the movies. Anne Hathaway was wonderful as well. Hugh to Mickey Rourke: "We're on an 8-second delay, but if you win we're switching to a 20-second delay."

8:45 - Fifteen minutes in and they really haven't given out an award yet? I mean, seriously?

8:47 - Performance by an actress in a supporting role: Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” Saw that one coming. Wouldn't have been my choice, I suspect this is more one of those wins actors get because of their general respect in the community as opposed to the specific performance.

8:54 - Oh snap, did Tina Fey and Steve Martin just make a Scientology joke? Ha! Awesome.

8:56 - Original screenplay: “Milk” Saw that one coming, too. Eh. I mean, whatever, I would rather see this award go to a wholly original story rather than a biopic. But I'm digging Justin Lance Black's speech.

9:01 - Adapted screenplay: “Slumdog Millionaire” Oh hell yes. Well deserved. Oh my, Simon Beaufoy just thanked "Dev and Latika"...Latika being the character played by Freida Pinto. Awkward.

9:07 - Best animated feature film of the year: “WALL-E” Also awkward, Jennifer Aniston trying to do the Wall-E voice when announcing. Another well-deserved win. Not unexpected in the least, though.

9:09 - Best animated short film: “La Maison en Petits Cubes” Hey, first surprise of the night! I thought Presto was a lock. Wow, that may be my new favorite Oscar speech ever...halting English capped off with "Domo arigato Mr. Roboto."

9:15 - Sarah Jessica Parker and Daniel Craig presenting together? That's random.

9:17 - Achievement in art direction: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

9:20 - Achievement in costume design: “The Duchess” Oh, awesome! The costumes for that film were gorgeous, so that makes me happy.

9:23 - Achievement in makeup: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” Aww, he thanked New Orleans.

9:25 - Robert Pattinson and Amanda Seyfried presenting together! Too cute. "2008 in Romance" = most ridiculous montage ever? Seriously.

9:32 - Ha, Joaquin Phoenix joke. Natalie Portman to Ben Stiller-as-Joaquin: "You look like you work at a Hassidic meth lab." Achievement in cinematography: “Slumdog Millionaire”

9:41 - Commercial for "The Soloist" - so looking forward to that film. But it said it's coming out April 24, wasn't it supposed to be in March? Did it get delayed again?

9:45 - "2008 in Comedy" - I think I spoke too soon when I said "2008 in Romance" was the most ridiculous montage ever. What is this shit? Are these bits the "big secret surprises" the Oscar producers were hinting at for this year?

9:47 - Best live action short film: “Spielzeugland (Toyland)”

9:56 - As cute as Amanda Seyfried is all Marlena Deitriched up, I am so over montages both movie and musical. This needed to be a tight minute and a half, not a bloated five minutes. Oh, god, my beloved Baz Luhrmann was responsible for that dreck? Ouch.

10:05 - What a motley crew of presenters. Alan Alda, Cuba Gooding Jr, Christopher Walken, Joel Grey? Man, this just reminds me that Robert Downey Jr. so would have won for best actor had The Soloist not been bumped to '09. Performance by an actor in a supporting role: Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight” Like it was ever gonna go any other way. Well done. Whoah, close ups on Brad Pitt and Adrien Brody with teary eyes during Heath's dad's speech. Wow, RDJ, too. Heath's sister is talking, Angelina's crying. Wow.

10:15 - Bill Maher presenting documentary: "Thank you very much, everyone's crying and now I have to go on." Best documentary feature: “Man on Wire” Oh god that dude just did a coin trick, then balanced his Oscar on his chin.

10:18 - Best documentary short subject: “Smile Pinki”

10:28 - Achievement in visual effects: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” Would have been nice to see Iron Man get some love, but for all of Benjamin Button's flaws, I have to admit the visuals were amazing.

10:29 - Achievement in sound editing: “The Dark Knight” Hm. I think Wall-E still deserved it more.

10:30 - The smaller prizes are almost dispatched of, meaning the night can finally start heating up. Achievement in sound mixing: “Slumdog Millionaire” What, you thought Wanted was gonna get it? Oh wow, I think this guy is gonna have a panic attack right here on stage. Cut to Jennifer Aniston and a very douchey looking John Mayer...what is up with that creepy thin mustache? Ew.

10:35 - Achievement in film editing: “Slumdog Millionaire” What a haul for the underDog so far! Thought Button would get it, happy to be wrong.

10:37 - What in the...are they really playing out to commercial using Aimee Mann's "Momentum"? Random! I mean, awesome, I love that song, it's giving me flashbacks to 2002 when I was way into Aimee Mann, and sure, it's a movie song (from the Magnolia soundtrack), but still...random!

10:42 - Oh, hey, it's the In Memorium segment...wait, Jerry Lewis isn't dead yet? Oh. Nevermind. Wow, I am going to hell for saying this, but Jerry looks terrible. I feel like he and Dick Clark are on this horrible race to the grave. Speaking of unnecessarily morbid observations, over at DHD, Nikki Finke has declared: "The show has been on for 2 hours now. I've officially lost the will to live."

10:54 - Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score): “Slumdog Millionaire”

10:56 - Still weird Springsteen didn't get a nod for Wrestler for best song. Wait, what the shit is this - are they really performing the Wall-E song as a mashup of gospel and Bollywood? What? What in the hell? Oh cripes. What now, they're mashup up Jai Ho and Down to Earth? Oh god this is making my ears bleed. That was a hotass mess.

11:01 - Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song): “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar Gotta admit that song is catchy.

11:07 - I love Freida Pinto's dress. Best foreign language film of the year: “Departures”

11:11 - Queen Latifah singing "I'll Be Seeing You" over the In Memoriam montage is so, so very wrong.

11:19 - Here we go, time for the heavy hardware. Wow, Reese Witherspoon's dress is looks kind of like Kate Winslet's, but ugly.

11:21 - That is some crazy loud applause for all the nominees. Achievement in directing: “Slumdog Millionaire” Hell yeah. Hope this isn't one of those nights where one movie (Slumdog) gets everything but something else (Milk?) gets the big prize, that would make me sad.

11:29 - Performance by an actress in a leading role: Kate Winslet in “The Reader” YES!!!!! YES!!!!!!!! YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

11:35 - What a lovely speech by a lovely actress. Unbelievable. She looked lovely, from her chic coiffed hair to her sparkly bracelet to her unusual and stunning dress.

11:43 - Wait, I love Adrian Brody, but why of all things is he talking about Google? And hey, random, Robert Pattinson and Tina Fey are sitting behind Mickey Rourke. Performance by an actor in a leading role: Sean Penn in “Milk” Holy shit check that out, it's the only real surprise of the night. Eh, I wasn't impressed by his performance, plus I was looking forward to a weirdo Rourke speech. Penn says: "You commie-loving homo sons of guns." "I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me...often."

11:49 - Here we go...

11:51 - It's kind of neat how they're interspersing complimentary older movie clips with the current nominees. it's the first "fancy" "new" think they've tried that actually makes sense.

11:53 - Best motion picture of the year: “Slumdog Millionaire” !!!!!!! Proof of a just god.

So we come to the end. An Oscars with very few surprises, to be sure, but I'll take a predictable Oscars where something like Slumdog sweeps over a surprising Oscars where dreck like Crash wins. Here's hoping next year combines unpredictability with deserving wins. Watchmen, anyone?

Best Films of 2008: My Picks

In a few hours, the Academy will crown their pick for the best film of 2008. And while I agree with some of their nominees (Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon, The Reader), it seems like most of my favorite films didn’t even make the shortlist. Which isn’t surprising since my taste runs slightly off the main stream. So here are my favorite films of 2008.

#10: The Wrestler
Honestly, I was on the fence with this movie, but the ending is what pushed it into a favorite for me. Had it ended any other way, it would have been an overly sentimental piece of schmaltz. But the end is just perfect.

#9: Rachel Getting Married
Like The Wrestler, this movie to me is like the cinematic equivalent of a short story. Small but powerful.

#8: Repo! The Genetic Opera
There’s something about this I just love, tuneful and anarchic. Go rent the DVD now if you haven’t already seen it.

#7: Australia
This one got drubbed by the critics but I don’t care, it’s sweeping and romantic and lovely.

#6: Funny Games
Another movie that didn’t get the credit it deserved, an unsettling mix of A Clockwork Orange and The Strangers.

#5: Frost/Nixon
Michael Sheen and Frank Langella are wonderful in this. I feel like every wannabe journo should put this DVD next to their copy of All the President’s Men by Woodward and Bernstein.

#4: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
This Romanian film is very savvy in what it shows and what it doesn’t show. The most harrowing parts take place off screen, but that absence makes the horror more sharply felt. This is an important film, worth hunting down on DVD.

#3: Iron Man
The hell with The Dark Knight, this was the best superhero film of the year.

#2: Slumdog Millionaire
Sweet and sharp, a feel-good movie that isn’t afraid to kick you in the teeth a few times before giving you a happy ending.

#1: Cloverfield
This movie is not just my favorite of 2008, it’s one of my Top 5 of all time. Cloverfield doesn’t reinvent any wheels, just takes the wheels and makes them awesome.

Films that just missed my Top 10: The Reader, Blindness, Tropic Thunder, Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, Charlie Bartlett, Wall-E, The Air I Breathe

And, to spread the love to my favorite movie genre, my Top 10 Horror Movies of 2008 are: Cloverfield, Funny Games, Repo! The Genetic Opera, Diary of the Dead, One Missed Call, Quarantine, Splinter, Mirrors, The Strangers, and The Eye

Okay, enough pre-show festivities. Tune back in at 8:30 for the Oscars liveblog!

2009 Oscar Predictions

Here are my predictions for the 2009 Oscars:

Performance by an actor in a leading role

Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor”
Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon”
Sean Penn in “Milk”
Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler”

Should Win: Frank Langella’s turn as Nixon was pitch perfect, sympathetic and intriguing.
Will Win: Mickey Rourke is pretty much a lock….Sean Penn could win in an upset but smart money is on Mickey.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Josh Brolin in “Milk”
Robert Downey Jr. in “Tropic Thunder”
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Doubt”
Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”
Michael Shannon in “Revolutionary Road”

Should Win: Michael Shannon’s live-wire Revolutionary Road performance was mesmerizing, one of the best on-screen performances I’ve seen in a while.
Will Win: Heath Ledger

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Anne Hathaway in “Rachel Getting Married”
Angelina Jolie in “Changeling”
Melissa Leo in “Frozen River”
Meryl Streep in “Doubt”
Kate Winslet in “The Reader”

Should Win: Kate Winslet. Anne Hathaway’s turn in Rachel was great, but this is Kate’s year.
Will Win: Kate Winslet

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Amy Adams in “Doubt”
Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Viola Davis in “Doubt”
Taraji P. Henson in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler”

Should Win: Viola Davis
Will Win: This is tough...I see this going to either Marisa or Penélope. I think I’ll go with Penélope Cruz.

Best animated feature film of the year

“Kung Fu Panda”

Should Win: WALL-E
Will Win: WALL-E

Achievement in art direction

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“The Duchess”
“Revolutionary Road”

Should Win: Revolutionary Road
Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Achievement in cinematography

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“The Reader”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Should Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire

Achievement in costume design

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Duchess”
“Revolutionary Road”

Should Win: The Duchess
Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Achievement in directing

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Reader”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Should Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire

Best documentary feature

“The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)”
“Encounters at the End of the World”
“The Garden”
“Man on Wire”
“Trouble the Water”

Should Win: n/a, haven’t seen any of them myself.
Will Win: Man on Wire seems to be favored.

Best documentary short subject

“The Conscience of Nhem En”
“The Final Inch”
“Smile Pinki”
“The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306”

Should Win: n/a, haven’t seen any of them myself.
Will Win: The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306

Achievement in film editing

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Should Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best foreign language film of the year

“The Baader Meinhof Complex”
“The Class”
“Waltz with Bashir”

Should Win: n/a, haven’t seen any of them myself.
Will Win: Waltz with Bashir

Achievement in makeup

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“Hellboy II: The Golden Army”

Should Win: Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Will Win: The Dark Knight

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Should Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

“Down to Earth” from “WALL-E” (Walt Disney), Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, Lyric by Peter Gabriel
“Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar
“O Saya” from “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Music and Lyric by A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam

Should Win: Jai Ho
Will Win: Jai Ho

Best animated short film

“La Maison en Petits Cubes”
“Lavatory - Lovestory”
“This Way Up”

Should Win: Presto
Will Win: Presto

Best live action short film

“Auf der Strecke (On the Line)”
“Manon on the Asphalt”
“New Boy”
“The Pig”
“Spielzeugland (Toyland)”

Should Win: n/a
Will Win: “The Pig”

Achievement in sound editing

“The Dark Knight”
“Iron Man”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Should Win: WALL-E
Will Win: Iron Man might get this as the consolation prize for getting shut out of everything else.

Achievement in sound mixing

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Should Win: WALL-E
Will Win: WALL-E

Achievement in visual effects

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“Iron Man”

Should Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, though Iron Man might get it in an upset.

Adapted screenplay

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Reader”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Should Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire

Original screenplay

“Frozen River”
“In Bruges”

Should Win: Frozen River
Will Win: Milk

Best motion picture of the year

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Reader”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Should Win: Slumdog Millionaire, hands down, though Frost/Nixon is a close favorite
Will Win: I feel like this is Slumdog’s award to lose.

You can find reviews of most of the nominated movies here. Check back later for a live Oscar blog, and my own picks for the best movies of 2008.

Edit: 11:58pm - now that the winners are in, here's my tally:
I correctly predicted: Performance by an actress in a supporting role: Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”, Original screenplay: “Milk”, Adapted screenplay: “Slumdog Millionaire”, Best animated feature film of the year: “WALL-E”, Achievement in art direction: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, Achievement in cinematography: “Slumdog Millionaire”, Performance by an actor in a supporting role: Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”, Best documentary feature: “Man on Wire”, Achievement in visual effects: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score): “Slumdog Millionaire”, Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song): “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar, Achievement in directing: “Slumdog Millionaire”, Performance by an actress in a leading role: Kate Winslet in “The Reader”, Best motion picture of the year: “Slumdog Millionaire”

I incorrectly predicted: Best animated short film, Achievement in costume design, Achievement in makeup, Best live action short film, Best documentary short subject, Achievement in sound editing, Achievement in sound mixing, Achievement in film editing, Best foreign language film of the year, Performance by an actor in a leading role

So that's 14 right and 10 wrong.

Movies: The Reader and The Visitor

Okay, did a last bit of Oscar catching up this weekend and caught The Reader and The Visitor, so now I’m officially awards ready.

The Reader is a fantastic film. As Hanna Schmitz, Kate Winslet gives a phenomenal, nuanced performance that has well earned her an Oscar nomination and hopefully a win later tonight. But credit should also be given to David Kross and Ralph Fiennes for their portrayals of Michael Berg young and old. The film is largely single-minded, sticking close to the narrative of Michael and Hanna as they reconcile their own pasts and passions, but the narrow focus allows for great exploration of the larger historical issues of the Holocaust. This is a beautiful, complicated film that offers no easy answers, a film that will stay with you long after you’ve left the theatre.

Then there’s The Visitor. I see now why Richard Jenkins was nominated for his performance as a recent widower trying to reconnect with life, though I’m not sure his performance was quite strong enough to win. The Visitor is a sweet little indie drama that also wrestles with difficult questions – not as difficult as The Reader, mind, but immigration debates are certainly timely at the moment. The Visitor follows the standard indie template where lessons are learned and everyone walks away a little sadder but wiser. It’s worth seeing but not a must see by any means.

And now I’m finally ready to make my Oscar predictions. The show is shaping up to be interesting if the pre-show chatter is any indication – at this very moment E! is forcing all of their employees to do the Bollywood dance number from Slumdog Millionaire...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Goodnight, Sweet Carrot-Topped Prince

Last night marked the end of an era – the last Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Oh, sure, soon enough you’ll be able to catch Conebone in Jay Leno’s old spot, but you’re fooling yourself if you think it’s going to be anything like the old Conan we knew and loved.

I admit, I have strayed. I recently shifted my fealty from Conan to Craig Ferguson. But I spent most of my high school years watching Conan, Andy, the PimpBot, Masturbating Bear, and the rest of the Late Night crew. I even remember playing hooky from school to catch tapings a few times. And while I found the show a little toothless in recent years – to be honest, it was never the same for me after Andy Richter left – I’m still sad that the era is over.

So how was the last show anyway? Pretty good, as it turns out. Andy dropped by, and Conan made some sappy speeches but also kept the funny going with a hilarious bit on people who play 1800s-style baseball. It was a great send-off for a scrappy little show. And now, you can watch Jimmy Fallon in Conan’s old spot. Or, you know, just watch Craig Ferguson dammit.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Movies: Friday the 13th

As you might have guessed, I take horror movies pretty seriously. I grew up watching the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street series and all the other cheesy 80s slashers like Sleepaway Camp and Slumber Party Massacre. While nowadays I prefer psychological/supernatural horror flicks and zombie flicks, cheesy slashers will always hold a special place in my heart. Which is why I was apprehensive when I heard Michael Bay was re-making Friday the 13th. I wasn’t big into Transformers when I was a kid – my 80s baby memories are more defined by My Little Pony and She-Ra – so I wasn’t devastated the way some of my guy friends were by his hulking, messy crapheap of a movie adaptation. But Friday the 13th is something you just don’t mess with as far as I’m concerned. My friends and I even took a road trip one dark night to the Boy Scout camp that served as the filming location for the first movie. Which is why I’m relieved to say that the new Friday the 13th not only assuaged all my fears – it wildly exceeded all of my expectations.

Part reboot, part sequel, Friday the 13th dives right into the hack-and-slash terror with little preamble, which is exactly what you need for a movie like this. One group of unlucky campers is served up and sliced before the opening credits, after which a second set of campers rolls in and, well, you can guess what happens next.

This movie doesn’t reinvent the slasher wheel, it just freshens it up. Jason still plods along, dispatching pretty young things left and right. But there are several improvements on the 80s model. Director Marcus Nispel keeps the action tight with few narrative lags, and even when you know a kill is coming up, he keeps the tension going. And writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift have delivered a crackling screenplay, filled with hilarious and true-feeling dialogue that will finally allow you to watch a slasher flick and cringe only at the copious amounts of blood, not the corny conversation. It’s well-acted, too. Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, and Amanda Righetti do a good job of carrying the movie, while Aaron Yoo and Arlen Escarpeta provide some great moments of comic relief.

You don’t have to be a Friday the 13th fanatic to enjoy the movie, it gives newcomers a quick nutshell summary close to the beginning, but if you are a fan of the older movies you’ll be pleased to spot several references to the first few installments. You know, the good ones, before Jason went to Manhattan and Hell and faced off against Freddie. If you’re only going to see one remake of an 80s slasher film this month, Friday the 13th is definitely the hands-down winner over My Bloody Valentine.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Awards Season: BAFTA 2009

So awards show season rolls on, and no, I’m not talking about the Grammys, because come on – Coldplay? Seriously? Viva La Vida is such crap. This awesome Obama/Christian Bale mashup is so much better than anything that’s been nominated for a Grammy this year. No, I’m talking about the BAFTAs, the British version of the Academy Awards.

I didn’t watch the whole thing – I spend about eight hours a day watching television at my job, which means I don’t have the attention span to watch much at home. I haven’t even made it through the premier of Lost, fercrapsakes. But the parts of the BAFTAs I did catch made me happy. Namely, Slumdog Millionaire sweeping the hell out of the night. That movie deserves every award heaped upon it and more.

Mickey Rourke won for The Wrestler, and this time he didn’t thank his dogs. Will this give him the Oscar edge? Sean Penn snagged the SAG, but Rourke got the Globe and the BAFTA. I still think it’s the category to watch, it could go to Richard Jenkins or Frank Langella in an upset. But at this point, smart money does point towards Rourke. You can see the rest of the BAFTA winners here.

All this awards madness does remind me what a wasteland the beginning of the year is for movies. Sure, next week we get the Michael Bay Friday the 13th, which may be terribly awesome or awesomely terrible. But what else? Even if I had enough free time to go to the movies right now, there’s not much I’d want to see. Confessions of a Shopaholic looks harmless enough, but it’s gonna tank because no one wants to see a generic romcom about overspending and credit card crises in this economy. And He’s Just Not That Into You has a stellar cast, but there are too many characters to balance screentime that I can’t imagine it’s that coherent a film. So if Watchmen doesn’t keep its March 6th release date, then I don’t foresee anything aside from Friday the 13th and The Reader dragging me out to the theatre any time soon.

But hey, if you’re feeling left out of the awards buzz because you didn’t see any of the nominated films, and if you have an ass of steel and can sit for twelve straight hours, then AMC theatres will give you the chance to see the five Best Picture nominees all in one day. Five movies for $30 is a pretty good deal, though your post-marathon chiropractic co-pay might null out the savings.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Not Going Gentle Into That Good Broadcasting Night

My favorite shows have a tendency to die early deaths. Some linger in the limbo of unresolved cliffhangers (Popular, Dark Angel), some get resolution in other forms of media (Angel’s comic book continuation, Firefly’s big screen outing Serenity, the upcoming Dead Like Me straight-to-DVD movie), and some are given the chance to write a satisfying finale episode before they’re yanked off the air (Birds of Prey, The O.C.). Almost all of them, however, get cancelled before they get to tell all the stories they wanted to. So if one of my favorite shows gets a miracle new lease on life via another network, I should be happy, right? So why can I barely bring myself to watch Scrubs in its final season on ABC?

It’s not just being too lazy to switch my Tivo from the NBC version to the ABC version. I did watch two of the first episodes this season. At least I think I did. They had the little ABC watermark on the bottom right so I assumed they were new, but I couldn’t help feeling like I’d seen the episodes before. After eight years watching these characters, I have to admit I’ve kind of grown tired of J.D. and Turk being manchildren, Elliot being a neurotic mess, Dr. Cox’s funny, angry rants. Every joke hit the same beat we’ve seen over and over, and the overarching moral “lesson” wasn’t fresh either. It’s become the kind of diluted, hacky tripe I’ve come to expect from sitcoms gone long in the tooth like Two and a Half Men, the difference being Two and a Half Men was never funny, while Scrubs, in my opinion, was pretty sharp in its first few seasons. There’s definitely something to be said about making a graceful exit. Those shows cut down in their prime will live fondly on in my memory, while Scrubs – which I once loved quite a bit – now feels like a houseguest who has overstayed his welcome.