Tuesday, January 30, 2007

El Diablo! The mark of the devil?

OK, this has to a sign of something - click on the subject line to read and see the story of the chicken in Colombia that was born with the feet of a duck.

I'm guessing this is one bird that won't end up in the fryer anytime soon. Though his career as a YouTube icon probably is set.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Barbaro (2003-2007)

News has just broken that Barbaro has been euthanized after suffering serious complications from the broken leg the Kentucky Derby winner sustained in last year's Preakness Stakes. There are those who scratch their heads about why so much time and money was invested to save the life of a horse, especially when almost any other horse would have been put down on the spot the moment the seriousness of his injury had been confirmed. And, yeah, there were millions in stud fees involved with the decision to keep Barbaro alive. But this horse was also a a member of Roy and Gretchen Jackson's family. And he was also a graceful and talented athlete. I have heard how grown men cried when they watched Secretariat win the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown in crushing fashion in 1973, and I know a lot of people wept when that great horse passed on in 1989. I'm guessing more than a few tears will be shed today as word of Barbaro's ultimate fate spreads.

Fly balls ...

• Apparently the oldest person in the world, 115-year-old Emiliano Mercado Del Toro of Puerto Rico, has passed away. Say, you never notice how often the designated oldest person in the world dies? Boy, that's not a title I'd want. Seems to have a curse on it.

• There's been much talk about which athlete, Tiger Woods or Roger Federer, had the more dominating performance this past weekend. Tiger won his seventh PGA tour event in a row, the second-longest streak in history, while Federer won the Australian Open while not losing a single set, the first time that's happened at a Grand Slam event in 27 years. But my vote is for the other 2007 Aussie Open champion, Serena Williams, who came into the tournament unseeded and out of shape and proceeded to mow through the field, including a devastating 6-1, 6-2 defeat of the current No. 1 player, Maria Sharapova. It was Williams' first Grand Slam victory in two years, and easily her most inspirational. If this is any indication of what's to follow for the rest of the year, Serena may be the women's tennis equivalent of Helen Mirren - where the other players may be better suited staying home than showing up for the abuse.

• Speaking of Dame Helen, the above scenario is exactly what happened last night at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Mirren picked up yet another best actress (or "female actor," as the SAGs accurately call the category) for her superb work as Elizabeth II in The Queen. That was no surprise, obviously. What was a bit shocking was that Mirren was the only nominee in her category to show up. Meryl Streep had an excuse - a previously scheduled event where she was giving an environmental award to, ironically enough, Prince Charles - but whither Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench or Kate Winslet. Expect most or all of them to appear at the Academy Awards to watch Dame Helen take home the big one (after all, it is the Academy Awards), but their absence last night is just further proof at how complete Mirren's triumph has been this Oscar season. Indeed, in an era of Oscar locks (Jamie Foxx, Charlize Theron, Steven Spielberg), Mirren is the lockiest lock of them all.

• If you haven't seen the trailers for 300, the latest movie to use green-screen effects to bring one of Frank Miller's graphic novel creations to full life - what the hell's your problem? If these clips are any indication, this will be the first true blockbuster of 2007 and will put Sin City to shame - and I adore Sin City. Go here and prepare to be dazzled. God, I'm praying for a new trailer during the Super Bowl.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Bear vs. Colt?

In case you happen to be one of that species of being that lives under a very, very, very large rock, you know that the Super Bowl will be played exactly one week from today between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears. This is a tremendously big deal across the country, as it always is, as the Super Bowl has become more than just a championship football game, but also an increasingly valid excuse for more and more people to go wacky, at least for a week or two. And now, thanks to the Internet, there's even more ways for those of us with an exhuberance of spirit, or at least a lot of free time on their hands, to show off. Which explains the existence of Bear Vs. Colt.

Yes, it's exactly what it looks like - a battle royale between a guy in a bear suit and a guy in a colt suit. If I understand the premise correctly - and who knows if I am - they will have one fight a day until the game itself. What's more, you will observe that both Bear and Colt have their own MySpace page where you can wash yourself with even more Bear and Colt goodness!

I don't know - makes you wish they were playing the damn game tomorrow, doesn't it?

Click on the subject line to see the videos, if you really have to.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Oscar has spoken, Part I

The nominations for the 79th annual Academy Awards are in. Commence with the fancy headlines!

Dearly Departed!
Babel On!
Reign of The Queen!
Let the Sunshine In!
Dreamgirls Nightmare!

OK, that last one may not be entirely fair, considering that Dreamgirls in fact leads all motion pictures with eight nominations, including the favorites in the supporting actor and actress categories. But it's also a fact that most people, myself included, had the Motown-motivated musical as a sure lock to be one of the final five films up for the best picture Oscar. In fact, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the folks in charge of all of this chaos, admitted that this is the first time in the history of the Oscars that the film with the most nominations didn't land in the best picture race.

What happened? Apparently Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima happened. The Japanese-language companion piece to his other World War II epic, Flags of Our Fathers, ended up being the better movie, and the Academy, which has been drinking the Eastwood Kool-Aid for more than a decade, took the opportunity to honor the former Dirty Harry for his bold vision of war. But one movie had to go, and thus Beyoncé has one less reason to get all dolled up on Feb. 25. (Of course, someone is going to have to sing some of the three new Dreamgirls tunes that received best original song nods, so maybe Ms. Knowles may want to show up at the Kodak Theater anyway, lest Ann Reinking be called to take her place. And God knows we don't want that.)

The absence of Dreamgirls from the best picture category is one of the few glitches in my attempt to correctly predict the major Oscar nominees. What had been very unstable had solidified in recent weeks, making my job and that of other prognosticators a little bit easier. As a result - and at the risk of tooting my own horn - of the 20 acting nominees, I nailed 18.5 of them. (I missed Djimon Hounsou and had Leonardo DiCaprio getting nominated for the wrong movie.) Still, as Dreamgirls shows, the Academy Awards are never 100 percent predictable. Thank God, perhaps, because if they were so formulaic, the ratings would really be in the toilet. Indeed, while the annual bemoaning about the lack of popular blockbusters among the major nominees and the subsequent predictions that this will damage the ratings of the Oscar broadcast has already begun, there are others who say that the fact that the best picture race is totally up in the air will only add suspense - and, thus, eyeballs - to the occasion. And if that doesn't help, there's always Ellen DeGeneres dancing her ass off. Hey, it beats Debbie Allen.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Leonardo DiCaprio in “Blood Diamond” (Warner Bros.)
Ryan Gosling in “Half Nelson” (THINKFilm)
Peter O’Toole in “Venus” (Miramax, Filmfour and UK Council)
Will Smith in “The Pursuit of Happyness” (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Forest Whitaker in “The Last King of Scotland” (Fox Searchlight)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Alan Arkin in “Little Miss Sunshine” (Fox Searchlight)
Jackie Earle Haley in “Little Children” (New Line)
Djimon Hounsou in “Blood Diamond” (Warner Bros.)
Eddie Murphy in “Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
Mark Wahlberg in “The Departed” (Warner Bros.)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Penélope Cruz in “Volver” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Judi Dench in “Notes on a Scandal” (Fox Searchlight)
Helen Mirren in “The Queen” (Miramax, Pathé and Granada)
Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” (20th Century Fox)
Kate Winslet in “Little Children” (New Line)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Adriana Barraza in “Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage)
Cate Blanchett in “Notes on a Scandal” (Fox Searchlight)
Abigail Breslin in “Little Miss Sunshine” (Fox Searchlight)
Jennifer Hudson in “Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
Rinko Kikuchi in “Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage)

Achievement in directing
“Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage) Alejandro González Iñárritu
“The Departed” (Warner Bros.) Martin Scorsese
“Letters from Iwo Jima” (Warner Bros.) Clint Eastwood
“The Queen” (Miramax, Pathé and Granada) Stephen Frears
“United 93” (Universal and StudioCanal) Paul Greengrass

(Only three out of five here, though one of those is a faux pas on my part for forgetting that Stephen Frears directed The Queen. Don't know if that reflects positively or negatively on his skills.)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
“I Need to Wake Up” from “An Inconvenient Truth” (Paramount Classics and Participant Productions)
Music and Lyric by Melissa Etheridge
“Listen” from “Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
Music by Henry Krieger and Scott Cutler
Lyric by Anne Preven
“Love You I Do” from “Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
Music by Henry Krieger
Lyric by Siedah Garrett
“Our Town” from “Cars” (Buena Vista)
Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
“Patience” from “Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
Music by Henry Krieger
Lyric by Willie Reale

Best documentary feature
“Deliver Us from Evil” (Lionsgate)
A Disarming Films Production
Amy Berg and Frank Donner

“An Inconvenient Truth” (Paramount Classics and Participant Productions)
A Lawrence Bender/Laurie David Production
Davis Guggenheim

“Iraq in Fragments” (Typecast Releasing)
A Typecast Pictures/Daylight Factory Production
James Longley and John Sinno

“Jesus Camp” (Magnolia Pictures)
A Loki Films Production
Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady

“My Country, My Country” (Zeitgeist Films)
A Praxis Films Production
Laura Poitras and Jocelyn Glatzer

Best animated feature film of the year
“Cars” (Buena Vista)
John Lasseter

“Happy Feet” (Warner Bros.)
George Miller

“Monster House” (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Gil Kenan

Best foreign language film of the year
“After the Wedding” A Zentropa Entertainments 16 Production

“Days of Glory (Indigènes)” A Tessalit Production

“The Lives of Others” A Wiedemann & Berg Production

“Pan’s Labyrinth” A Tequila Gang/Esperanto Filmoj/Estudios Picasso Production

“Water” A Hamilton-Mehta Production

Best motion picture of the year
“Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage)
An Anonymous Content/Zeta Film/Central Films Production
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Jon Kilik and Steve Golin, Producers

“The Departed” (Warner Bros.)
A Warner Bros. Pictures Production
Nominees to be determined

“Letters from Iwo Jima” (Warner Bros.)
A DreamWorks Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures Production
Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and Robert Lorenz, Producers

“Little Miss Sunshine” (Fox Searchlight)
A Big Beach/Bona Fide Production
Nominees to be determined

“The Queen” (Miramax, Pathé and Granada)
A Granada Production
Andy Harries, Christine Langan and Tracey Seaward, Producers

Place your bets, kids! Who do you have?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Pick the Oscars!

Less than 24 hours from now, Salma Hayek will sashay across the stage at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences headquarters in Beverly Hills - and, after the gathered masses pick their tongues off of the floor, she will help announce this years batch of Oscar nominations. At this point, only a very few humans know who those lucky few will be. But that doesn't mean that the rest of us can't guess. For the past several years, I've been sending my Oscar prediction to a select few friends so they can point and laugh at how far off I am. This year, I figure, why not share my ineptitude with the rest of the universe. Thus spake Dave.

5:30 a.m. L.A. time is when we will know for sure. I'll mix the bloody Marys - though I won't be having one myself.

Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Jack Nicholson, The Departed
Mark Wahlberg, The Departed

Wild Card: Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond; Michael Sheen, The Queen

Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza, Babel
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

Wild Card: Catherine O'Hara, For Your Consideration

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed
Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
Peter O'Toole, Venus
Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Wild Card: Sasha Baron Cohen, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

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

Wild Card: Beyonce Knowles, Dreamgirls

Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Bill Condon, Dreamgirls
Guillermo del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth
Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
Paul Greengrass, United 93

Wild Card: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Babel; Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, Little Miss Sunshine

The Departed
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

Wild Card: Letters from Iwo Jima; United 93

Monday, January 08, 2007

Dropping the ball ...

There I was, playing up the fact that I was going to keep all three of you abreast of how the major Oscar precursors were going, and then I drop the ball after just a few days. I think I may have a mild case of ADD, or maybe I just bore easy. But either way, I'm going to endeavor to catch up in the coming days so you're up to date with the Academy Awards race - which, by the way, has been renamed the Helen Mirren Invitational in honor of the one absolute lock of this year's Oscar contest, if you want to call the best actress competition a "contest." I call it "over."

It's a gas?

"Breaking news" from CNN:

Gas-like odor permeates Manhattan

NEW YORK (AP) -- Authorities were investigating the source of a mysterious gas-like odor Monday that stretched across a large part of Manhattan, including Rockefeller Center.

My question: So how is this unusual from any typical Monday morning in Manhattan?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The lights on every college campus in the Western World should dim tonight ...

... and not just because of the weekly kegger. Word from Tokyo that Momofuku Ando has died at age 96. The name, as colorfully as it rolls off the tongue ("Hey Momo, how's it hanging?"), likely means nothing to most of you two readers. But if you went to college or university and ever was in need of a quick, hot snack during a study break - or just got really famished after that third joint - then you have benefited from Mr. Ando's genius. Because he was the guy who invented the instant Ramen noodles that have satisfied many a undergraduate's appetite through the years. This guy even has a museum dedicated to his contribution to society and sodium overdoses.

So the next time you rip open a package of chicken-flavored Top Ramen, think of Mr. Ando as you fire up the microwave. You may owe your diploma to Momo.

Click the subject line to read up on Mr. Ando's culinary contribution.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Man of the Hour ...

I'll admit it - in my old age, I've become a softy. Heck, I've been known to cry while watching soup commercials. And, occasionally, I'll tear up watching a news story about something simple act of kindness or inspirational feat. One of the last times I wept for that reason was watching that autistic kid score 20 points in the high school basketball game last year. And then there was Thursday night, when I finally watched the CBS News item about Wesley Autrey, a 50-year-old construction worker and Vietnam vet who on Jan. 2 risked his life to save a teenager that he didn't know. When the young man had a seizure in on a New York subway platform and fell onto the tracks and into the path of an approaching train, Autrey - whose two young daughters were with him - jumped onto the tracks and covered the boy with his own body as the train sped over them with only a couple inches of clearance between safety and a very close haircut.

Naturally Autrey is being showered with praise and attention from all corners. His story has gone international Donald Trump has given him $10,000, and he's also received a free trip to Disney World, a medal from the city of New York and, naturally, a years' worth of free subway rides. David Letterman had him on his show tonight; Ellen DeGeneres' turn comes next week. Geez, even Howard Stern gave this guy props with little sense of sarcasm. And through it all, Autrey insists that he is not a hero, that he was just doing what was right. He didn't do it for the gifts he's received, wasn't even thinking about any of that when he went to protect young film student Cameron Hollopeter from certain death. Cameron's father, by the way, vehemently disagrees with Autrey about the hero part. (Oh, and that's the part of the story when I really lost it.)

Damn, I'm crying again.

CBS News, via YouTube

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

He scores, he scores!

Who needs Rocky Balboa when we have Ian Johnson. The Boise State running back certainly has the gift of timing. Not only did he score the winning two-point conversion on a fantastically performed "Statue of Liberty" trick play to lead the undefeated Broncos to a instant classic, 43-42 overtime victory over Oklahoma in in last night's Fiesta Bowl, but minutes later, in front of God and the nation, an exuberant Johnson got down on bended knee and popped the question to his girlfriend, Boise State cheerleader Chrissy Popadics.

Now, I'm not the biggest fan of the public marriage proposal, mostly for the pressure it puts on the proposee. I mean, what are you supposed to say when the spotlight is on you like that? Say no? But in this case, it was such a purely joyous moment (Johnson had the ring in his hotel room and was not planning to ask Popadics at the game itself) that you couldn't help but smile or cry or both at the sight. Add the fact that Johnson was laid up only several weeks earlier with broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung, and the circle is complete. Cue the triumphant music, guys, and wish the happy couple a full life in the land of potatoes.

Click the subject line for the whole story. Click below for the winning play.

Saddam takes one more with him ...

Or, alternatively, the first candidate for the 2007 Darwin Award.

But, seriously, what?

A young boy who tried to copy hanging scenes from the
execution video of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein died in central
Pakistan, said police on Monday.

Mubashar Ali, 9, hanged himself, while re-enacting Hussein's hanging
with the help of elder sister, 10, after tying a rope to a ceiling fan
and his neck in his home in Rahim Yar Khan district on Sunday, said a
local police official.

The father of the deceased boy said that his children had been
watching the video of Saddam Hussein's execution on television and
attempted to imitate the hanging as other family members thought they
were playing in another room.

"My wife and sister rushed to rescue Mubashar when children cried for
help from the adjoining room, but he died due to hanging," said
Alamgir Paracha, father of Mubashar.

Police said that the death was accidental and a case of parental

"It was an accident which happened due to carelessness of parents,"
said district police chief Sultan Ahmad.

Images of the fallen Iraqi dictator with a strap around his neck,
surrounded by executioners in balaclavas, were repeatedly telecast by
Pakistani television channels at the weekend.

Commentators and the media across Europe had expressed shock and
unease on Sunday at graphic television pictures showing the last
moments of Hussein just before his execution.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Looks like we made it ...

... to yet another year, though we lost James Brown, Gerald Ford and some guy named Saddam during the transition from 2006 to 2007. (Remember when the last week of the year was also the slowest in terms of news? Well, not so much this time around.) The news today was filled with numerous local reports about the first babies to be born after the calendars was changed. They all looked cute in their 2007 sashes and all, but trust me - most of them were royally pissed after having been in their warm cocoon of free food and no diapers for nine months. But at least a lot of them will be getting free "baby bundles" or whatever the various businesses and newspapers that sponsor these prizes for the first ones out of the mommy wagon are calling them. Goodies awaiting the newbies include gift cards and gift certificates galore, as well as everything from sippy cups to, in one case, two chicken strip baskets from Dairy Queen. (Er, I'm guessing that's not for the baby.)

But careful, kids. If the IRS is going after the gift baskets for the Oscar and Emmy nominees, what makes you think they're going to leave your little pink butts alone?