Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas ...

Some bits of cheer to add to the holiday celebration of you, Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2006. (No, I don't think I'll ever get over that.)

From last year, SNL's Christmastime for the Jews:

From 1977, the "classic" duet of "Little Drummer Boy" by Bing Crosby and David Bowie (click here for a great Washington Post article about the genesis of the mash-up):

A very cute rendition of "Christmas Don't Be Late" by Alvin and the Chipmunks - only, not so much (and, no, I don't know who these people are):

Finally, for the demented out there, the real story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer:

Merry Christmas, people. See you on the other side!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The last "Harry Potter" novel will be called ...

Harry Potter and the Deathy Hallows.

Oooooo - I'm guessing this one won't be filled with laughs.

Still, it beats J.K. Rawlings' first choice - Harry Potter's Apocalypto.

See what happens when you keep everything to yourself?

Even the nutjobs who run North Korea know enough to set up lines of successions to their absolute nutjob power should they kick off suddently. But nooooooo - apparently that was above Saparmurat Niyazov, the absolute nutjob ruler of the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan. He had been the number-one guy of this Central Asian nation since well before the breakup of the USSR, and after independence in 1991, Niyazov went really nutjob by setting up a cult of personality of the likes that even Stalin, Castro and even Regis would envy. This cat put his face on the money. He had his portrait hung in just about any open space in the country. He named airports, schools, even months of the year and days of the week after himself. And his word was law, and that was that.

And now, for him, that's really that. 'Cause the nutjob is now a dead nutjob, taken out by his heart, which apparently didn't get the memo that Niyazov was the absolute ruler of Turkmenistan. Oh, well. Now the fun really begins, as there will be a lot of would-be nutjobs applying for the job of the top banana. And by "applying," I mean possible gunplay. This is how the best civil wars are created. Or maybe they could just install Borat and be done with it.

(Yeah, I know, Borat is from a differnet -stan. But, really, once you've met one -stan, haven't you met them all?)

Click on the subject line to read more about the death of this particular nutjob.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Taco Bell - blimey!

Just saw a commercial for Taco Bell in which the company's president, Greg Creed, declares the the Centers for Disease Control has given the Mexican fast-food restaurant the all-clear following the E.coli outbreak at several of its East Coast establishments. I don't know what's more disturbing - that some of Taco Bell's burritos may have been guided missiles of bacterial, or that the guy in charge is really a Brit.

Monday, December 18, 2006

How was this a good idea?

A basketball game of the women's college variety was played Monday night in Phoenix between Arizona State and Texas Tech. The home team won 61-45, but not before the contest was stopped with a little over four minutes left to play - on account of rain. That's right, the game was played outside - at Chase Field, the usual home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, to be exact. Oh, by the way, Chase Field has a retractable roof. It just happened to be open this night, and there wasn't any opportunity to close it before the basketball court became too wet to continue.

Somewhere, somehow, the powers that be whom had the bright idea to pull this stunt forgot that, in the winter, the desert can get pretty chilly at night. So cold that several of the players wore long-sleeved shirts underneath their tank top jerseys. When you read the story that's attached to this post, you will read that many of the fans who gathered to watch the Sun Devils and Lady Raiders were bundled up "like (Green Bay) Packers fans at Lambeau Field."

Yeah, nothing like hot chocolate and a touch of pneumonia to go with your women's college basketball.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Everybody sing along!

I am not a singer. I don't even play one on television. But there I was, sitting in one of several studios at a karaoke restaurant in L.A.'s Koreatown neighborhood, about to perform the time-honored Journey power ballad "Don't Stop Believin' " at my friend Tamara's 30th birthday party. What was I thinking, I was, well, thinking to myself.

Tamara is great. She's a writer's assistant for a Top Ten crime drama, and she's also an excellent singer. She's been performing in choirs and a cappella groups since before she was in college. And she loves karaoke. But this was the first time I joined her on one of her musical get-togethers. And I went to the party bound and determined not to sing - even though I had, just in case, practiced in the safety of my shower. But the atmosphere was so addictively cheesy. There we were, Tamara and her boyfriend and her other pals and me, in this sterile room with long couches and the world's largest coffee table. Interspersed on the table were several thick books that were filled with song titles and the corresponding numbers, which were to be punched into the large karaoke machine in a corner of the room. The machine consisted of nine TV screens. The middle one was where the lyrics for the selected songs would be displayed for the performer. The other eight screens were displaying silent images from MTV 2.

Many of the songs were Korean, a few were randomly Vietnamese. But a large section were available in English, even though a few of my favorites were missing. No "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins? And whither "More Than This" by Roxy Music, immortalized in karaoke form by Bill Murray in "Lost in Translation"?

Anyway, the birthday girl took the mic to perform the evening's first song, Jewel's "Foolish Games." The lyrics popped onto the screen, accompanied by images of - Korea pastoral life? (An ongoing theme, I assure you.) And Tamara ... blew the roof off of the joint. (Is it really fun when someone actually can hold a tune at karaoke?) I should have been intimidated. But the atmosphere was intoxicating. And so I decided to throw caution to the wind - besides, if I was going to embarrass myself, might as well do it in front a group of near-total strangers.

My first mistake of the evening was trying to emulate Steve Perry with my first lyric of "Don't Stop Believin' " - I nearly blew my voice off in one moment. But I adjusted myself and finished the song with the requisite amount of early ’80s passion. My score from the machine was good. (Oh, yeah, the machine scored us - very randomly, if you ask me.) And then, later on, I made my second mistake - my second song, "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas. A song that basically says that we're all going to die. Happy birthday, Tamara!

Well, at least it wasn't Sarah Brightman's version. That would have sent the entire party over the cliff.

So for my last number, I went upbeat: Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train." I kind of rocked the house with that one, even though the video of Korean pastoral ducks threw me for a bit of a loop. So, in the end, I did have a lot of fun. In fact, despite my better judgment, I'm considering having my next birthday party at a karaoke bar. Though I may have to convince more than one of my friends to come. I'll take a guess that Tamara will be into it, though.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The San Francisco Film Critics Circle ...

Leave to the San Francisco Film Critics Circle to march to the beat of their own collective drummer in bestowing their 2006 awards. You will see that their top movie of the year is a bit off the beaten path, that Forest Whitaker's winning streak has been ended by a gregarious foreigner (and I don't mean Peter O'Toole) and that the best original screenplay award from the Bay Area critics has gone to a small indie that can best be described as teen noir. But there is some stability - right, Dame Helen? After all, her movie was called The Queen.

(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

San Francisco Film Critics Circle Awards (announced 12-10-06)
Best Picture: Little Children
Best Actor: Sasha Baron Cohen, Borat
Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen
Best Supporting Actor: Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Best Supporting Actress: Adriana Barraza, Babel
Best Director, Paul Greengrass, United 93
Best Original Screenplay: Rian Johnson, Brick
Best Adapted Screenplay: Todd Field, Tom Perrotta, Little Children
Best Foreign Language Film: Pan's Labyrinth
Best Documentary: An Inconvenient Truth

Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose ...

Peter Boyle: 1935-2006

Goodnight, funny man.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The BCFA ... now it gets interesting!

Until now, we've been working with outright winners, one or maybe two names or movie per category. But the Broadcast Film Critics Association changes that paradigm because its Critics' Choice Awards process with actual nominations from which the winners will be announced next month. Because the Academy Awards also come from nominations (see, you learn something new every day), the Critics' Choice has become an important precursor in terms of determining what the ultimate competition will be. Thus Forest Whitaker and Helen Mirren can't just claim even more hardware just yet; they'll have to wait for a few nervous week to find out what's what.

And for Whitaker especially, a treacherous future may await, for there, in the Best Actor category, has emerged for the first time the name of Peter O'Toole. He's up for his performance in an obscure comedy/drama called Venus, and this is critical because O'Toole, for all of his legendary acting roles (and seven Best Actor nominations from the Academy Awards) has never won a competitive Oscar. You may remember that he received an Oscar for lifetime achievement in 2003, but was extremely reluctant to do so because he felt that he still had a chance to pick up a "real" one in him. Well, here we go. Regardless of how good O'Toole is in Venus, the possibility that the Irish actor, who is 74 and has been in shaky health for the better part of 30 years (he's missing a pancreas and a hunk of stomach), could finally take home an Academy Award on his own merits is strong. But it may be nuts to Whitaker and his own breathtaking work as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.

Well, that's OK, 'cause Forest will still get to take home the cool Oscar goodie basket - oh, never mind.

Broadcast Film Critics Association Critics' Choice Awards (nominations announced 12-12-06)
Best Picture
Blood Diamond
The Departed
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Children
Little Miss Sunshine
Notes on a Scandal
The Queen
United 93

Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed
(Two Leos? Which one will have the hotter date?)
Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
Peter O'Toole, Venus
Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Best Actress
Penelope Cruz, Volver
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet, Little Children

Best Supporting Actor
Ben Affleck, Hollywoodland
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Adam Beach, Flags of Our Fathers
Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Jack Nicholson, The Departed

Best Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza, Babel
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel
Catherine O'Hara, For Your Consideration
Emma Thompson, Stranger than Fiction

Best Director
Bill Condon, Dreamgirls
Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
Stephen Frears, The Queen
Paul Greengrass, United 93
Martin Scorsese, The Departed

Best Acting Ensemble
The Departed
Little Miss Sunshine
A Prairie Home Companion

Best Writer
Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine
Guillermo Arriaga, Babel
Todd Field, Tom Perrotta, Little Children
Zach Helm, Stranger Than Fiction
William Monahan, The Departed
Peter Morgan, The Queen

Best Animated Feature
Flushed Away
Happy Feet
Monster House
Over The Hedge

Best Young Actor
Cameron Bright, Thank You For Smoking
Joseph Cross, Running With Scissors
Paul Dano, Little Miss Sunshine
Freddie Highmore, A Good Year
Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness

Best Young Actress
Ivana Baquero, Pan's Labyrinth
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
Shareeka Epps, Half Nelson
Dakota Fanning, Charlotte's Web
Keke Palmer, Akeelah and the Bee

Best Comedy Movie
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
The Devil Wears Prada
For Your Consideration
Little Miss Sunshine
Thank You For Smoking

Best Family Film (live action)
Akeelah and the Bee
Charlotte's Web
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Best Picture Made for Television
Elizabeth I
The Librarian
Nightmares and Dreamscapes
The Ron Clark Story
When the Levees Broke

Best Documentary Feature
An Inconvenient Truth
Shut Up and Sing
This Film Is Not Yet Rated
Who Killed the Electric Car

Best Foreign Language Film
Days of Glory
Letters From Iwo Jima
Pan's Labyrinth

Best Song
"I Need To Wake Up", Melissa Etheridge, An Inconvenient Truth
"Listen", Beyonce, Dreamgirls
"My Little Girl", Tim McGraw, Flicka
"The Neighbor", Dixie Chicks, Shut Up and Sing
"Never Gonna Break My Faith", Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Bobby
"Ordinary Miracle", Sarah McLachlan, Charlotte's Web

Best Soundtrack
Happy Feet
Marie Antoinette

Best Composer
Phillip Glass, The Illusionist
Clint Mansell, The Fountain
Thomas Newman, The Good German
Gustavo Santaolalla, Babel
Howard Shore, The Departed
Hans Zimmer, The Da Vinci Code

And she is telling you ...

On Friday, the Dreamgirls juggernaut to the Academy Awards, which already has had a good pre-game thanks to several critics' awards and nominations, will begin in earnest when the movie version of the hit Broadway musical hits theaters in New York City and Los Angeles, leading up to its wide release at Christmas. The hype machine already had created tons of precious Oscar buzz that's surrounding not only the film as a whole, but especially former American Idol finalist Jennifer Hudson, who is considered a near-lock for a Best Supporting Actress nomination (at least) for her performance as the strong-voiced Effie, whose unceremonious ejection from the Supremes-like girl group at the heard of Dreamgirls leads to her performing the show's signature tune, "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going." It should be a triumphant moment for fans of the musical who celebrate it not only as sheer entertainment, but also for its place in the history of African Americans in entertainment. But behind the joy is another story, that of the original Effie, Jennifer Holliday. She sang that song more than a quarter century ago when Dreamgirls debuted on Broadway, a performance that brought houses down night after night and won her a Tony. But Holliday's road has been hard since then, and the renewed interest in Dreamgirls, instead of giving her a new burst of adoration, has instead opened additional wounds for the performer - mainly because, according to Holliday, the filmmakers and the studios (Dreamworks and Paramount) have all but ignored her contribution to the original Dreamgirls legacy.

Click on the subject line to read the Los Angeles Times article about Holliday, the movie and why she's feeling particularly pained at what could have been a glorious time for her. You will notice, if you read the story, that the studios have no comment about what guided their apparently dis of Holliday at this crucial time. One would hope they would do the right thing by her at some point, though a cameo in the movie would have been nice. One should also note that it's bad PR like this - real or otherwise - that has damaged or outright sunk more than one Oscar campaign in the past. Just ask Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson, among others. Considering how great this movie apparently is - I'll see it for myself this weekend - it would be a shame if unfortunately behavior against the entire production's biggest star screwed things up for everyone involved, then and now.

P.S. If you want a taste of Holliday's talents, play the video below to hear her perform "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going." I saw her do this number in person several years ago, but almost 20 years after Dreamgirls, and it put goosebumps on my goosebumps.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The New York Film Critics Circle ...

They've been around since 1935, and their current ranks include Rex Reed, Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly, Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal and Peter Travers of Rolling Stone. They're the New York Film Critics Circle, and they voted this morning on what they thought were the best films of 2006. These are their choices. There's one doozy among them - see if you can pick it out.

New York Film Critics Circle Awards (announced 12-11-06)
Best Picture: United 93
Best Actor, Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Best Actress, Helen Mirren, The Queen
Best Supporting Actor, Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Yes, that Jackie Earle Haley, late of The Bad News Bears (the Walter Matthau version) and Breaking Away (the film and the resulting TV series). Turns out that after he grew up, he left the acting world but not entertainment, segueing into producing and directing television commercials. Only recently has he returned to acting; he played a sex offender opposite Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connelly in Little Children. What we call this, boys and girls, is a feel-good story - child actor returns to make good. The Academy eats that stuff up.)
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Best Screenplay, Peter Morgan, The Queen
Best Foreign Film: Army of Shadows
Best Non-Fiction Film: Deliver Us from Evil
Best Animated Film: Happy Feet
Best Cinematography: Guillermo Navarro, Pan's Labyrinth
Best First Film: Ryan Fleck, Half Nelson

At this point, you may ask, is this Mirren/Whitaker juggernaut starting to get boring? To which I would respond, why don't you ask the two of them about that?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Boston Society of Film Critics ...

The Boston Society of Film Critics was formed in 1981. They also name their runners-up in the categories they judge.

Boston Society of Film Critics Awards (announced 12-10-2006)
Best Picture: The Departed (of course, it's just a coincidence that the film takes place in Boston - even if it was filmed in New York City)
Runner-up: United 93 (another connection - three of the four doomed flights on 9/11 originated in Boston. Of course, Flight 93 started in Newark so ... forget everything I just said)

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Runner-up: Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson

Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen
Runner-up: Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal (hey, two dames - cool!)

Best Supporting Actor: Mark Wahlberg, The Departed
Runners-up: (tie) Michael Sheen, The Queen; Alec Baldwin, The Departed, Running with Scissors and The Good Shepherd

Best Supporting Actress: Shareeka Epps, Half Nelson
Runner-up: Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada (interesting, as many have Streep getting nominated for the Best Actress Oscar)

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Runner-up: Paul Greengrass, United 93

Best Ensemble Cast: United 93
Runner-up: The Departed

Best Screenplay: William Monahan, The Departed
Runner-up: Peter Morgan, The Queen

Best Foreign Language Film: Pan's Labyrinth
Runner-up: Volver

Best Documentary: (tie) Deliver Us From Evil; Shut Up and Sing
Runner-up: 51 Birch Street

Best New Filmmaker: Ryan Fleck, Half Nelson
Runner-up: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, Little Miss Sunshine

Best Cinematography: Guillermo Navarro, Pan's Labyrinth
Runners-up: (tie) Stuart Dryburgh, The Painted Veil; Xiaoding Zhao, Curse of the Golden Flower

At this rate, Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker may want to start figuring out what they're going to wear to the Kodak Theater on Feb. 25. Hopefully Dame Helen won't forget her shoes this time.

Los Angeles Film Critics Association ...

There are many film critics groups across North America. In recent years, they have proliferated like mice in a particularly choice piece of Gouda. But in the beginning, or at least not too long ago, there were four: The National Board of Review, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics. Even today, they are still the Big Four from which many good things flow. The NBR spoke on Wednesday. Today it was the guys from the vortex, L.A., who voiced their opinions.

The LAFCA started in 1975. Today there are about 45 members or so, including Leonard Maltin, Kenneth Turan and David Ansen. They're big cheeses, by the way, to continue the mouse metaphor. Unlike some of the other critics' groups, the LAFCA hedges its bets by announcing the second-place winners. Gutsy or playing it safe? You be the judge.

Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards (announced 12-10-2006)
Best Picture: Letters from Iwo Jima
Runner-up: The Queen

Best Actor: (tie) Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland; Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat (!!!!)

Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen
Runner-up: Penelope Cruz, Volver

Best Supporting Actor: Michael Sheen, The Queen
Runner-up: Sergi Lopez, Pan's Labyrinth

Best Supporting Actress: Luminita Gheorghiu, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (she and the film are Romanian, in case you were wondering. I sure was.)
Runner-up: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Best Director: Paul Greengrass, United 93
Runner-up: Clint Eastwood, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima

Best Screenplay: Peter Morgan, The Queen
Runner-up: Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, Children of Men
Runner-up: Tom Stern, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima

Best Production Design: Eugenio Caballero, Pan's Labyrinth
Runner-up: Jim Clay and Geoffrey Kirkland, Children of Men

Best Music: Alexandre Desplat, The Queen and The Painted Veil
Runner-up: Thomas Newman, The Good German and Little Children

Best Foreign-language film: The Lives of Others
Runner-up: Volver

Best Documentary/non-fiction film: An Inconvenient Truth
Runner-up: Darwin's Nightmare

Best Animation Feature: Happy Feet
Runner-up: Cars

Douglas Edwards Experimental/Independent Film/Video award: Old Joy (Kelly Reichardt) and In Between Days (So Yong Kim)

New Generation Award: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris (directors) and Michael Arndt (screenwriter), Little Miss Sunshine

The presence of Cohen as the co-winner of Best Actor is very interesting. Does this elevate him to true Oscar bait? Probably not, though it probably does guarantee him a place at the Golden Globe table for best actor in a comedy or musical. (It also begs the question, if he did land an invite to the Academy Awards, would he show up as Cohen or as Borat? Seeing how many people think the ceremony is a big bore, maybe the latter would be better for ratings.)

Washington DC Area Film Critics Association ...

Film Critics in Washington D.C.? Yeah, there are a few. And what do you know - they give out awards as well!

Interesting choice for their top film - but maybe not that surprising, considering the area ...

Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards (announced 12-10-06)
Best Film: United 93
Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen
Best Supporting Actor: Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Best Original Screenplay: Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine
Best Adapted Screenplay: Jason Reitman, Thank You for Smoking
Best Animated Feature: Happy Feet
Best Documentary: An Inconvenient Truth
Best Foreign Language Film: Pan's Labyrinth
Best Ensemble: Little Miss Sunshine
Best Breakthrough Performance: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Best Art Direction: Marie-Antoinette

New York Film Critics Online ...

New York Film Critics Online ...

One of the newer critics groups, the NYFCO consists of less than 30 members.

New York Film Critics Online Awards (announced 12-10-2006)
Best Picture: The Queen
Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen
Best Supporting Actor: Michael Sheen, The Queen
Best Supporting Actress: (tie) Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls; Catherine O'Hara, For Your Consideration
Best Director: Stephen Frears, The Queen
Best Screenplay: Peter Morgan, The Queen
Best Ensemble Cast: Little Miss Sunshine
Best Breakthrough Performer: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Best Debut as Director: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, Little Miss Sunshine
Documentary Feature: An Inconvenient Truth
Animated Feature: Happy Feet
Foreign Language Picture: Pan's Laybrinth
Cinematography: Dick Pope, The Illusionist
Musical Score: Philip Glass, The Illusionist
Humanitarian Award: Deepa Mehta (Water) "for taking risks to create films about the difficulties of social change in India, especially as it effects women."

Top 10 Films (alphabetical)
The Fountain
Inland Empire
Little Children
Little Miss Sunshine
Pan's Labyrinth
The Queen
Thank You for Smoking

The National Board of Review ...

The first film group to release its 2006 winners, as has been tradition, is the National Board of Review. The NBR was founded in 1909 in New York City - not to honor the best and brightest of the film world, but rather to protest the mayor's decision to revoke the licenses of several cinemas for the sake of "the morals of community" or something like that. The awards-giving didn't start until 1929; today about 150 people, including some who aren't professional critics, make up their ranks.

National Board of Review (announced 12-06-2006)
Best Film: Letters from Iwo Jima
Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen
Best Supporting Actor: Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
Best Supporing Actress: Catherine O'Hara, For Your Consideration
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Best Adapted Screenplay: Ron Nyswaner, The Painted Veil
Best Original Screenplay: Zack Helm, Stranger Than Fiction
Best Documentary: An Inconvenient Truth
Best Animated Feature: Cars
Best Acting by an Ensemble: The Departed
Best Breakthrough Performance, Male: Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
Best Breakthrough Performance, Female: (tie) Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls, Rinko Kikuchi, Babel
Best Directorial Debut: Jason Reitman, Thank You for Smoking
Career Achievement Award: Eli Wallach
Billy Wilder Award for Excellence in Directing: Jonathan Demme
William K. Everson Award for Film History: Donald Krim
Career Achievement in Producing; Irwin Winkler
The Bvlgari Award for NBR Freedom of Expression: Water and World Trade Center

The NBR also likes lists - they have lists for the best films of the year and more:
Top Ten Films
Letters from Iwo Jima
and (in alphabetical order)
Blood Diamond
The Departed
The Devil Wears Prada
Flags of Our Fathers
The History Boys
Little Miss Sunshine
Notes on a Scandal
The Painted Veil

Top Five Foreign Films
and (in alphabetical order)
Curse of the Golden Flower
Days of Glory
Pan's Labyrinth

Top Five Documentaries
An Inconvenient Truth
and (in alphabetical order)
51 Birch Street
Iraq in Fragments
Shut Up & Sing

Top Independent Films
(in alphabetical order)
Akeelah and the Bee
Catch a Fire
Copying Beethoven
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
Half Nelson
The Illusionist
Lonesome Jim
10 Items or Less
Thank You for Smoking

So what does this mean? Helen Mirren's superb performance as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen may be the one lock at this year's Academy Awards, and Forest Whitaker was also getting a lot of Oscar buzz from his work as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. The big surprise of the NBR, though, may have been Letters of Iwo Jima as best film. This was the film Clint Eastwood made right after he directed Flags of Our Fathers, which was the first movie he did about Iwo Jima - specifically, about the men who raised the U.S. flag in the iconic photo from that battle. Letters is the Iwo Jima story told from the point of view of the Japanese; it's not fair to call it an afterthought, but he did get the idea to do it while preparing to direct Flags. Its success at the NBR instantly elevates it into Oscar consideration and could create a not-unpleasant dilemma for Eastwood. After all, the only thing better than having one Oscar-worthy film is to have two in the same year.

Welcome, all my friends, to the show that never ends ...

Well, actually, this show will be over next February 25 when Ellen DeGeneres takes to the stage of the Kodak Theater to get the 79th Annual Academy Awards underway. But the show began in full force this week when the film critics of the continent began dispersing their accolades to the movies and performances they felt were the best of 2006. Until the Oscar nominations are announced in the wee hours of January 23, it is these small groups of learned, (hopefully) informed folk who will set the tone for what may - or may not - be forthcoming from the Academy members. Some have compared the situation to the college football season, when a few polls and a computer determine which two teams will play for the still-mythical national championship, everything else be damned

This period can be both exhilarating and infuriating for true-blue movie buffs. It's fun and fascinating to see how a movie or an actor can take complete control of their category, especially if said movie or individual is a popular choice. At the same time, if a great performance seemingly is ignored, it can be pull-your-hair-out time. And then there is the knowledge that whatever the critics do or say could be shunned by the big boys themselves. Remember a few years ago when Sideways was out and everybody pointed to the work of Paul Giamatti as the sad-sack, borderline alcoholic schoolteacher who nearly lost Virginia Madsen. It would be the year of Jamie Foxx, who so kicked ass as Ray Charles in Ray. Foxx was the consensus choice for Best Actor, but Giamatti was nearly as much of a lock to be nominated. He even beat Foxx out for a couple of critics awards. But on the day the Oscar nods were announced, Giamatti was nowhere to be found, even as the movie and co-stars Madsen and Thomas Haden Church were recognized.

Who will get snubbed by the Academy this time around? We're far away from finding that out. But it's not too early to see what may be in store. This blog, having nothing better to do with its time (at least until spring training or the death of Castro) will keep track of the critics' awards, as well as other pivotal indicators such as the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, as the Oscar approach. You know, for kids.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Just call her ... Curly?

How did she do that?

(In other circles, the better question would be why, but this is the world of pop music, after all.)

Fiji me? Fiji you! (Updated)

Breaking news that the democratically elected government of the Pacific island nation of Fiji has been toppled by the military in a bloodless coup. For those of you keeping score about Fijian politics, this is the fourth coup in 20 years, which has to be some sort of record on a par with Elizabeth Taylor's eight marriages. Though La Liz has had a lot more time to screw up her love life. I wonder how she would do as the head of state of Fiji.

The article about the coup can be accessed by clicking on the subject headline above, but what I love is the rationale for this latest shakeup. The head of the coup, one Commander Frank Bainimarama (obviously it's going to be a cruel, cruel summer over there), says that he is annoyed at the deposed government for being soft on the group who was behind the last coup six years ago. Remember that, Frank - no bitching from you if you get nailed to the wall for this adventure!

UPDATE: Oh, crap - just read a story about how the upcoming season of Survivor is being filmed on Fiji's second-largest island at this very moment. But no worries - E! Online reports that there's been no disruption of the show's production. So far, only the deposed prime minister has ended up on Exile Island.

Cat cuteness!

Because nothing says "awww" like a cat eating mashed potatoes off of somebody's finger!

This is Winston (the cat, not the owner of the finger). He's the co-star of his own blog if you want to see him taking part in more kitty antics.

Somewhere, Will Ferrell sheds a single tear with pride ...

What the Mississippi State University's Famous Maroon Band needs is ... even more cowbell!

Enjoy, and be humbled:

She's a gypsy, the Cookie Queen!

As I have pointed out on this blog before, my friend Beth is a Renaissance woman. Writer, editor, singer, raconteur - Beth may not be able to do everything, but she's pretty damn close. And another part of her skill set is her prowess around the kitchen, particular in matters of baking. Bread, brownies, cakes and cookies - she can pretty much do it all when it comes to a hot oven. And she'll probably hit me for saying all of this stuff about her - but I don't care. Besides, there's a reason for this tooting of her horn, so to speak. Because now we can add to her abilities the art of multitasking.

Beth's main blog already is bookmarked on the right-hand side of my little parcel of cyberspace (--------->). But now she has a new blog with a singular focus on her baking experiences. It's called The Cookie Queen's English , a clever name based on the fact that "The Cookie Queen" already was taken by another person on the Blogger system. But that's OK, as you can get the idea from the title that Beth's second blog will be about cookies - the art thereof, and also other topics related to baking. You can read about her decision to go in this direction here, and I plan to bookmark her new site in the very near future. Feel free to probe her mind about cookies or breads or other such matters. And tell her who sent ya, 'cause any traffic I can drive to The Cookie Queen's English probably strengthens my chance of getting a new batch of brownies from her.

Drunk baby!

There are so many things wrong with this story, it makes you reflect on the line from the film Parenthood when Keanu Reeves' dippy-but-profound character reflects on how you need a license to drive a car or own a dog or even go fishing, but how any dumb schmo can have a kid and become a parent. Ponder that, true believer, as you read the following news story that comes from the Colorado Springs area:

A 2-month-old girl brought to Memorial Hospital on Sunday with a blood-alcohol level equivalent to four times the legal driving limit for an adult was reportedly given formula mixed with vodka instead of water by mistake.

The baby was in good condition Monday after being taken to the hospital by her parents about 3:30 a.m. Sunday.

The baby’s parents did not return a phone call from The Gazette, but a family member told the newspaper the incident was an “accident” tied to an “unfortunate chain of events.” She would not elaborate and did not want to be identified.

The baby’s mother, however, told KKTV she mixed

a 3-ounce formula bottle for her daughter, not knowing the liquid in a water bottle was vodka, according to the station’s Web site. Sarah Smith, 19, told the station the accident happened Saturday night when the baby’s father went into a store to get diapers and she and the baby — who became fussy — waited in the car. She then made the baby a bottle.

Yeah, apparently the vodka was already in the car. And do I have to point out that the baby is not the only underage person described in this article.

Allow me to alter the paraphrasing of the movie quote above: Anybody can have a baby, but not all of them are parents.

Click on the headline to read the rest of the article, if you must.

Friday, December 01, 2006

One decade down ...

It was on this date 10 years ago that I moved from the frigid climes of Chicago to sunny Southern California. It was a transfer and promotion within my company of the time, but for a young entertainment journalist full of verve and promise, it was a tremendously big deal. And how has that move worked out for you, you may ask? Not so bad. A decade later, I am still writing, I am a published author (Snakes!), and I have a small but loyal and loving circle of friends both here and there, including pals back in Chicago whom I care the world about. Plus it's going to be 70 degrees here today while the Windy City currently is under a foot of snow and expecting zero degree temps in a few days! Score!

Here's hoping the next 10 years are even better. A best-seller and a Cubs World Series Championship would be nice.