Thursday, December 28, 2006

Why Gerald Ford was President.

With the media overload regarding the death of former President Gerald Ford, it’s good to also remember a certain Lester Matz. Ford, as far as I know, never met Mr. Matz, but the latter profoundly influenced the former President’s life and thus the entire history of the world.

Lester Matz was a building contractor living and working in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland in the 1960s and ‘70s, and as such was forced to pay out kickbacks to local politicians and bureaucrats to get his permits and other paperwork done on time. One of these corrupt pols was one with a future. His name was Spiro T. Agnew.

Agnew was not only corrupt, he was greedy, a county councilman, he started putting the squeeze on Matz and others because the job didn’t pay very well. When he became county executive in 1962, he continued his wicked ways, and one would think that he would have gone on to bigger and better sources of graft when he was elected Governor of Maryland in 1966, he did, but he still was blackmailing his former sources with exposure and collecting the loot, when two years later he was chosen by Richard Nixon to be his running mate in 1968.

One would have thought, with such a large raise in pay, and all those government perks, Vice-President Agnew would have left his former marks alone, at last. But no. he demanded cash as late as the fall of 1972. Giving the VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES envelopes full of cash in the Old Executive Office Building traumatized Matz, and when he heard that federal prosecutors were investigating corruption in Maryland, something that at the time was endemic in the state, he decided to get immunity and tell all.

In the spring of 1973, Spiro Agnew was the front-runner for the 1976 presidential race, and as what he did with and to Lester Matz and others was unknown to all but a very few people. As far as we knew, Spiro Agnew was a creepy Republican shit, but at least he had integrity. As the Watergate scandal grew exponentially people began to prepare themselves mentally for an Agnew presidency. Now I know, that such a thing is almost inconceivable. PRESIDENT AGNEW?!? Ewww. But as the Ervin hearings dominated the television and the existence of the tapes and the fight over them began, such a thing was well within the realm of possibility.

But Lester Matz changed all that. The Agnew/Matz scandal, though unrelated to Watergate, gave the Nixon administration an even sleazier taint than it already had, and Nixon’s "life insurance" was about to expire. From August to October 1973, when Agnew copped a plea and resigned, it looked like that Congress might have to impeach everybody.

Without Lester Matz, Gerald Ford would never have become Vice President, and later President. Things would have been, most likely a lot worse in 1974, and ’75 had he not come clean.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The True meaning of Kwanzaa.

Back in the 1966 a Negro activist (as they were called back then) named Ron Everett, decided to create a holiday. The 1960s was a time of experimentation, and as a black nationalist with Marxist leanings, Everett wanted to start the process of building an all Black paradise by creating a new culture based on a new mythology and alienating African Americans from the common American culture.

He had already had started by the creation of “Ebonics” a formalization of the so-called “Jive” dialect (officially called “African American Vernacular English (AAVE) by linguists), which would instill ethnic pride in speakers and further segregate the Black community from the rest of the nation, the inability to speak standard English, which is necessary to getting a good job, would radicalize Blacks and further the cause of separatism. Around this time, Everett changed his name to Maulana Karenga a little later.

Another way to further the cause of Black separatism was to create a mythical past, where ancient Egypt and medieval Mali were one and the same, a mono-cultural, mono-ethnic paradise which would still be going on if those inferior, evil white monsters hadn’t stolen Black culture, which they had no right to have, and mucked everything up.

True, this myth wasn’t created by Everett, but he publicized it big time, and many people still believe that Alexander the Great destroyed the Great Library of Alexandria eighty years before it was built and Cleopatra VII was a dead ringer for Angela Davis.

The term “Kwanzaa “ is derived from Kiswahili, a language the ancestors of African Americans never spoke, and means “first fruits.” The celebration centers around an imitation of Chanukah, with a type of a menorah called a kinara, which has seven lights instead of eight, and has the innovation of the "Kikombe cha Umoja" or communal chalice, which is shared around.

Each candle represents one of seven principles of Kawaida, which is Kiswahili for “tradition,”what Karenga originally called called Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba - "The seven Principles of Blackness"),

They are (and here I crib from the official website):

* Umoja (oo-MO-jah) Unity stresses the importance of togetherness for the family and the community, which is reflected in the African saying, "I am We," or "I am because We are."

(Unitiy also means that the leadership of the group knows what’s best for the group, and that dissent is unwelcome. In other words: SHUT UP AND DO WHAT YOU’RE TOLD!)

* Kujichagulia (koo-gee-cha-goo-LEE-yah) Self-Determination requires that we define our common interests and make decisions that are in the best interest of our family and community.

(Notice that this is “communal” and not personal. That also means that the leadership of the group knows what’s best for the group, and that dissent is unwelcome. In other words: SHUT UP AND DO WHAT YOU’RE TOLD!)

* Ujima (oo-GEE-mah) Collective Work and Responsibility reminds us of our obligation to the past, present and future, and that we have a role to play in the community, society, and world.

(Notice the term “collective.” That means that also means that the leadership of the group knows this better than we do, and that dissent is unwelcome. In other words: SHUT UP AND DO WHAT YOU’RE TOLD!)

* Ujamaa (oo-JAH-mah) Cooperative economics emphasizes our collective economic strength and encourages us to meet common needs through mutual support.

(Cooperative economics is good old Soviet-style state planning. Only the leadership of the group…you get the picture)

* Nia (NEE-yah) Purpose encourages us to look within ourselves and to set personal goals that are beneficial to the community.

(This principle is different from the others in that it challenges the individual “to think for themselves” as how to fulfill the commands of the leadership of the group.)

* Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah) Creativity makes use of our creative energies to build and maintain a strong and vibrant community.

(this actually is the only one which is actually good)

• Imani (ee-MAH-nee) Faith focuses on honoring the best of our traditions, draws upon the best in ourselves, and helps us strive for a higher level of life for humankind, by affirming our self-worth and confidence in our ability to succeed and triumph in righteous struggle.

(Faith means trust in the leadership of the group, who know all. Etc, etc. and so forth)

Despite a completely BS premise, Kwanzaa has become very popular because you get presents and ceremonial is always good. The US post office has issued stamps to commemorate the holiday, and people spend millions every year on gifts and decorations.

At least Festus admits it’s bogus.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Today is the Winter solstace!

There are four north poles. Yeah, that's right, four. The first is the axial pole, around which the planet spins once a day. The second is the magnetic poll, which is why compases work, and the third is...the other magnetic pole,called the North Geomagnetic Pole, which is similar but different because of the fourth called the South Atlantic Anomaly, which is the beginnings of a thousand year long flipping of the earth's magnetic field. (there are only two south poles, BTW)

I mention this because all three north poles are moving. Keeping the SAA, out of the picture for the moment, the North Magnetic Pole is headed for Eastern Siberia and the North Axial pole is doing it's 26,000 year circle around itself, called the precession of the equinoxes. One complete period of this precession is called a Great Sidereal Year. At the moment, we are in the middle of the "Age of Pices"(the "Age of Aquarius"doesn't start for another six hundred years).

What this means is that the north axial pole is facing away from the Sun when we reach perihelion, the closest point in our orbit. What's an interesting coincidence, is that the perihelion is always somewhere around January the first. In other words, Pope Gregory XIV, didn't know that the New Year on his new calender had anything to do with an actual natural event.

This year, it's on fourth, and thus, we can continue to celebrate the New year 2007 for the better part of a week.

It's all the sweeter with a Democratic congress coming in. So stay warm and be cool....

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Chappy Channukka!

Today is the sixth day of Hanukkah (or Chanukah), the Jewish festival of lights, The term is Hebrew for “rededication” and refers to the cleansing of the second Jewish temple by the Hasmoneans in 165 BCE. Since the 25th Day of the month of Kislev in the Jewish lunar calendar varies on the secular one anywhere between mid November and late December (I distinctly remember it being in January one year, but I could be wrong), it is frequently considered a cheap imitation of Christmas, but it isn’t.

To find the true meaning of the holiday, we have to go back to 336 BCE, when Alexander III of Macedon, also known as Alexander the Great, took power after the assassination of his father Phillip II. Now the Macedonians were Albanians with Greece envy, and before his death, Phillip had conquered Greece, and Alexander, who had been taught by, among others, the famous Aristotle, was pure Hellenic in attitude, and very much wanted to get revenge on the Persians for the invasion of a century and a quarter before [an interesting side note, Macedonia was a Persian ally during the Persian wars].

So in 334, he decided to conquer Persia, defeating Darius III at Battle of Issus the next year. He turned south and east, passing through Judea on the way to Egypt. Thus the autonomous province came under Greek rule.

Alexander passed through Judea again on his way though Babylonia (Iraq) to what is now Iran, and he basically let the Jews alone as long as they paid their taxes. So things remained as Alexander got all the way to India, died [he was poisoned], and his top generals went to war with each other to inherit the empire.

Between 323 and 300, the Jews sat on the sidelines as the Macedonians duked it out with each other, and a quasi-stable situation developed. The Antigonids, had Europe, the Selucids had most of Asia, and the Ptolomies had Egypt, Cyprus, Judea and Syria.

For the Jews, this was fine. The first three Ptolomies were rather good for everyone involved. The fourth wasn’t so hot. He was a corrupt, inbred moron who the Selucids thought was ripe for the picking. It wasn’t so easy, but they finally managed to wrest Judea from the Ptolomies at the Battle of Panium (198 BC). The king at the time, Antiochus III, died in 187 and was succeeded by his son Selucius IV, who lost a war with Rome, and was soon overthrown by his unstable brother, Antiochus IV Epheminies, which roughly means “ the nutjob”, in 175.

Antiochus started out his reign by invading Egypt, and to the surprise of everyone, he actually managed to conquer the country. For a while, he let a couple of young Ptolomies by kings-in-name, but they revolted when Antiochus went back to Syria, so he came back in 171 and had himself crowned Pharaoh. Meanwhile, the Ptolomy brothers asked Rome for help, and the republic sent an army led by General Gaius Popillius Laenas, who told him that he must immediately withdraw from Egypt and Cyprus. Antiochus said he would discuss it with his council, whereupon the envoy drew a line round him in the sand, and said, "Think about it here." The implication was that, were he to step out of the circle without having first undertaken to withdraw, he would be at war with Rome. Antiochus agreed to withdraw.

Our villain was in an understandably fowl mood, and there was trouble with the Jews. He had forced out the high Cohen a couple of years before, and replaced him with an apostate named Jason. Jason was actually somewhat popular, as Greek culture was actually cooler than Jewish. The more anti-Hellenistic faction argued, and in the name of cultural unity, Antiochus decided to ban Judaism and have a uniformly Hellenistic kingdom. Jason was kicked out, by the antihellinists, Antiochus appointed a new high Cohen and then ordered a statue of Zeus put up in the Holy of holies.

The religious party, led by Mattathias the Hasmonean, started a full scale revolt, which under his son Judah the Maccabee (Aramaic for Hammer), drove the Greeks out of Jeruselem in 165 and later all of Judea, It was a great victory and Jewish independence was assured for at least a century.

In other words, Chanukah is a Jewish "Fourth of July" and a most Zionist holiday. The lights come from a legend which was first mentioned in the Talmud. With the fall of the Hasmoneans and the failure of the revolts against the Romans, the so-called miracle was emphisised and the military victory downplayed, especially since the Hasmonean dynasty wasn't all that great, especially in it's later days.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


20th Century Fox, 99mins, PG

Directed by
Stefen Fangmeier

Yes, the book that this was based on was written by a fifteen year old kid named , and his parents published it themselves before it was taken up by a real publisher. Apparently, the book was struck a nerve among a certain age group, otherwise they wouldn't have adapted it. Be that as it may, this is no way a great movie.

According to the prologue, Dragons and their riders kept the peace for thousands of years until an evil bastard by the name of Galbatorix (John Malkovich) took over the works and now dragons are extinct. However, there is one egg, and the heroic (and blonde) princess Arya (Sienna Guillory) has stolen it from his badness, who has sent his evil minion Durza the shade (Robert Carlyle) to get it back. She uses her magic to send it to our hero Eragon (Edward Speleers), a simple (blonde) farm boy with lousy aim [okay, the magic flash might have something to do with it.] Something a fifteen year old kid who's read too much hard fantasy might have thought up.

All the clichés are there. The fact that he's an orphan, his meeting up with Brom (Jeremy Irons), the village idiot, who just happens to be the last of the dragon riders of old. The names of the species of villains come right out of LotR, “the Sword of Shanara”, and every other book with the word “elf” somewhere in it. The only original thing about this paint-by-numbers epic is getting Rachel Weisz to be the voice of Saphira the Dragon, although they could have spent an extra five grand or so to move her lips. The telepathic gag is not only old, but lazy. So's the plotting, but then it was written by a fifteen year old kid, and most of them don't know any better. So of course, it's one big cliché. Young Christopher Paolini, who wrote the novel and it's two sequels may have a future ahead of him, but hopefully he's going to do something original from here one out.

If you want pseudo-medieval battles with fairys and elves, go take Lord of the Rings out off the shelf and let this one slip by. Yeech.

Charlotte's Web
Paramount Pictures, 97mins, G

Directed by
Gary Winick

You have to be careful with classics. They're so easy to muck up. E. B. White's “Charlotte's Web” is a classic if there ever was, right up there with “Huckleberry Finn” and “Winnie the Pooh.” In order to get it right, you have to stay faithful to original source, and even moreso, you have to respect it. The first movie version did this to some extent (Hanna Barbera), but the production values weren't really that good. Which makes this one of the great remakes of all time. This was White's most intelligent children's book, and Gary Winick makes sure that the intelligence remains.

Sam Shepard's voice introduces us to a slightly updated version of “Our Town” or Lake Wobigon, a place where everyone is nice and nothing much happens, and Fern(Dakota Fanning) watching her father (Kevin Anderson) midwife the birth of a litter of pigs, the runt of which, Wilbur(voice of Dominic Scott Kay), is about to get the axe when Fern saves him and he gets transferred, eventually to Fern's uncle Homer's(Gary Basaraba) farm across the way. Here we meet a bunch of refugees from “Babe” with what has to be one of the most prestigious voice casts of any animated or quasi-animated film ever. Okay, John Cleese, Julia Roberts and Steve Buscemi have done quite a bit of voicework in the past, but Robert REDFORD? Kathy Bates? Wow!

Yeah, Roberts is great as Charlotte and Buscemi is always brilliant, and as a CGI enhanced funny animal flick its just fine, but what's surprising are the adults. You have Fern's mom(Essie Davis) consulting with her doctor(Beau Bridges) about her kid's bizarre attraction to the animals in the barn, and you have to remember that the “X-files” angle, and the reaction of normal adults to the messages in the spiderweb.

This is the definitive version. If you have kids, take them to it now, and by the DVD in six months and hope no one else tries to do another version ever again, and thus ruin it for future generations.

The Pursuit of Happyness

Directed by
Gabriele Muccino

There are two reasons to go to movies: one is for entertainment and the other information. Hopefully, you get both. Unfortunately, this is neither. Which is more the pity as everyone does a really good job all around.

The year is 1981. Christopher(Will Smith) and Linda Gardner (Thandie Newton) live with their son Christopher, Jr (Jaden Smith) in one of the less fortunate sections of San Francisco. They invested all their money in a medical device that no one really wants. She works in a laundry doing double shifts as he tries to sell the gadget to doctors and hospitals in the area with little or no success. The bills are beginning to pile up, and Linda is beginning to crack. There is really no hope here, until he sees a sign saying that the Dean Witter brokerage saying that there's an competitive internship program, so he begins to hound the executive in charge(Brian Howe), until he gets an in, unfortunately, he's got those pesky financial problems, the internship is unpaid, which first forces his wife to leave him, then to move further and further down the financial ladder, until he and Chris, Jr have no place to sleep except a public toilet and homeless shelters.

Filmmakers Gabriele Muccino and Steven Conrad have figured out what some critics like: serious melodramas about nice people in pain. This is all about that. We see our Job [Sissyphus, whatever] trying to get that rock out of that hole again and again and again, with little or no success. He gets the internship, but everything else gets worse and worse. While this is based on a true story, the happy ending seems tacked on. Even the comic bits with the medical gadget being stolen, isn't that funny, which brings us to the question: Do we really want to see Will Smith suffer for over an hour and a half? Not really…and what of information?

There isn't any. The film recreates a time gone by extremely well, but so what? “The Pursuit of Happyness” just isn't worth the bucks or time.


Written and Directed
By Bill Condon

The oft-threatened return of the movie musical makes good this year with an adaptation of Tom Eyen and Michael Bennett's famous fictionalized history of the Supremes. It's nice that somebody finally got it right [okay, Rob Marshall's “Chicago” got it right too, but that doesn't explain everything else].

One of the reasons that this works is that it's operatic. There's very little spoken dialogue, and everything else is sung. This makes the numbers blend seamlessly from one to the other and that makes the highlights even better.

It's 1962, and Effervescent teenagers Effie White (Jennifer Hudson), Deena Jones (Beyoncé Knowles) and Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose) are late for their debut at that big Detroit talent show. They lose, but are noticed by car salesman/talent agent Curtis Taylor, Jr.(Jamie Foxx), who immediately gets them a gig singing backup with James "Thunder" Early(Eddie Murphy) and from there it's straight to the top. Well not exactly straight…

There are the complications: Effie is a bit of a diva, Curtis is basically a stock villain, who throws people away like wet Kleenex while treating the rest like puppets. Yes, folks, it's a melodrama with two dimensional characters. However, most of the great musicals from the 1930s and '40s did too, and it was the music and dancing which saved them. This is the case here, as well.

For instance, Effie's showstopper "And I am Telling You I'm Not Going." Is the bomb. Hudson blows everyone away, and that includes Beyoncé, a very difficult feat indeed. The acting is excellent thoughout. Foxx and Murphy give the performances of a lifetime, the four members of the group are smart and sexy and sing their own stuff, and as minor characters Sharon Leal, as the fourth “Dream”, Danny Glover as Eddy Murphy's first manger, and Keith Robinson as Effie's songwriter brother hold their own very nicely, and oh yeah, John Lithgow has a brief cameo which is a real hoot.

This is worth full price.

The Good German

Directed by
Steven Soderbergh

You have to say this for Steven Soderbergh, he isn't afraid to try stuff. Each and every film he's done [with the exception of the “Ocean's 11” films], has been starkly different than anything else he's done. Different isn't necessarily good, nor is it necessarily bad, but in recent years, and that's excepting “Ocean's 12,” he's not done all that well as compared to the glory years bracketing the millennium.

To say that is an improvement over his previous film is not really saying anything, as “Bubble” was truly horrid, However, the question is this better than, or on par with most of Soderbergh's other recent work, and that's a more difficult question.

This time Soderbergh is doing a film noir, and he wants it to have a truly retro feel. Thus he tries to replicate the technique of the times, and this, to some extent does give it that 1940s feel. It's the rest of the film which is a little off.

One problem is its structure. This is a three act picture in which each act has a different narrator. The first is Corporal Tully (Tobey Maguire), a driver and bigwig in the black market. His “day job” is to chauffeur “New Republic” correspondent and honorary captain Jake Geismar (George Clooney) around town while he's covering the Potsdam conference between Stalin, Truman and Churchill. As an act of friendship, he introduces Geismar to his girlfriend Lena Brandt(Cate Blanchett), a local hooker who, before the war, was screwing Geismar himself, and just as this triangle is getting set up, about twenty minutes into the film, Tully is about to offer Lena's husband Emil(Christian Oliver) to Soviet General Sikorsky (Ravil Isyanov), when he's relieved of his narration duties and life offstage only to be found next to palace where the confrence is being held by none other than our old pal Geismar, who then becomes the narrator.

I hate when they do that. It throws you off and makes you waste precious time trying to readjust, which is a bit difficult, as the plot begins to thicken as fast as a frosting in a blender: You have Lieutenant Schaeffer (Dave Power) trying to find Nazi war criminals, Colonel Muller (Beau Bridges) trying to protect some of them in order to start up the cold war and space programs, and various other figures at odds with each other. Lena doesn't help very much until she takes up narration duties for the final few scenes, which ends up like Casablanca, and I don't mean in a good way.

All and all, while the acting is more than professional, the film itself is kind of on the sloppy side, and this sloppiness makes the entire work a bit off kilter, which hurts the whole production. It also doesn't look authentic.

Stick with the videos of the real thing, and wait for “Ocean's 13.”

Home of the Brave

Directed by
Irwin Winkler

The better part of a lifetime ago, there was a great movie called “The Best Years of Our Lives,” which was about GIs returning from the second world war and how they coped with the transition back to their previous lives and the effect on the loved ones they came back to. Updating this premise has been done for a number of wars since then, with varying results. This is not one of the better ones.

First off, there's a semi-gratuitous battle scene. It's the present day, and the platoon we're going to follow is informed that they're going home. However, before then, they have to go on one last mission: deliver badly needed supplies to somewhere that needs it.

But the bad guys (or are they the good guys?) are waiting to blow our guys up, and the mission is foiled. There's lots of blood and gore, which is fine if was a regular war movie where you could get into the action, but this isn't.

This is about people in pain. Vanessa Price(Jessica Biel) has gotten her hand blown off, and is having trouble getting past the physical limitations of her new situation. Jamal Atkins (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) is having trouble with the Veterans administration, who won't let him have the therapy he needs or even schedule a doctor's appointment; Tommy Yates (Brian Presley) has lost his best friend(Chad Michael Murray), in battle and when he gets home, he can't really connect with his father(Vyto Ruginis), who's a bit of an ass, of the friend's significant other(Christina Ricci) and Dr, Will Marsh (Samuel L. Jackson) has to reintegrate with a family(Victoria Rowell as his wife, Sam Jones III as his son, and some little girl as his daughter) that no longer really understands him.

The problem with the film is, while Winkler and writer Mark Friedman try, we can't really understand either. The characters generally just mope about, and with the exception of Vanessa, none of them actually TRY to reintegrate themselves. The acting is okay, but not good enough to make things actually engaging. The characters are flat, and by the end, one doesn't care that much as to what's going on. This is not something to waste an afternoon with. Pass it by.

The Secret Life of Words

Written and directed
by Isabel Coixet

One of the reasons that some people prefer foreign films to Hollywood movies are that the latter are much deeper than the former. For instance, this thing is very, very deep. So deep in fact that getting the bends is a distinct possibility.

Hanna (Sarah Polley), is a mysterious young woman working in a factory somewhere in Britain. She does her job very well, but she doesn't socialize too much, and the union and her co-workers convince her boss(Reg Wilson) to force her to take a vacation.

So where does she go? Northern Ireland in the late fall, where it is cold and depressing. While there she hears some fellow talking to another guy on the phone discussing a third fellow named Josef (Tim Robbins), who was badly burned in a flash fire at an offshore oil rig in the North Sea. Since Hanna was once a nurse, she goes up to the guy and volunteers. Yes, this is a dream vacation.

So for the next hour and a bit, we are treated to dialogue. Hanna has conversations with the bouncy Spanish cook Simon (Javier Camara), who's the only person who isn't morbidly depressed, the captain of the rig, Dimitri (Sverre Anker Ousdal), who is only there for the money and isn't very happy ever, the crew's ecologist Martin (Daniel Mays) who thinks he could save the world, and a couple of bisexuals who barely play a role. Then there's Josef.

This is more a filmed play than a real movie. Sure there's the sweeping vistas of the oil rig taken from a helicopter, but most of the film takes place in Josef's sickroom, where the two protagonists talk about life, philosophy and why they are the way they are.

This is Polley's picture and hers alone. She gets the accent right, and manages to go from an emotional automaton to a real-live girl without skipping a beat, and her scene where she reveals her past is quite moving. For those fans of deep, foreign films, this is something to see. You don't even have to read the subtitles.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

the Color Coded Golden globe predections

Haven't Seen
Will win

No way in Hell.


"The Departed"
"Little Children"
"The Queen"

Penelope Cruz - "Volver"
Judi Dench - "Notes on a Scandal"
Maggie Gyllenhaal - "Sherrybaby"
Helen Mirren - "The Queen"
Kate Winslet - "Little Children"

Leonardo DiCaprio - "Blood Diamond"
Leonardo DiCaprio* - "The Departed"
Peter O'Toole - "Venus"
Will Smith - "The Pursuit of Happyness"
Forest Whitaker - "The Last King of Scotland"

*Leo may cancel himself out.

"Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"
"The Devil Wears Prada"
"Little Miss SUnshine"
"Thank You For Smoking"

Annette Bening - "Running with Scissors"
Toni Collette - "Little Miss Sunshine"
Beyonce Knowles - "Dreamgirls"
Meryl Streep - "The Devil Wears Prada"
Renee Zellweger - "Miss Potter"

Sasha Baron Cohen - "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"
Johnny Depp - "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"
Aaron Eckhart - "Thank You for Smoking"
Chiwetel Ejiofor - "Kinky Boots"
Will Farrell - "Stranger Than Fiction"

"Letters from Iwo Jima"
"The Lives of Others"
"Pan's Labyrinth"

"Happy Feet"
"Monster House"


Adriana Barraza - "Babel"
Kate Blanchett - "Notes on a Scandal"
Emily Blunt - "The Devil Wears Prada"
Jennifer Hudson - "Dreamgirls"
Rinko Kikuchi - "Babel"

Ben Affleck - "Hollywoodland"
Jack Nicholson - "The Departed"
Eddie Murphy - "Dreamgirls"
Brad Pitt - "Babel"
Mark Wahlberg - "The Departed"

Clint Eastwood - "Flags of Our Fathers"
Clint Eastwood - "Letters from Iwo Jima"
Stephen Freers - "The Queen"
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu - "Babel"
Martin Scorcese - "The Departed"

"Little Children"
"Notes on a Scandal"
"The Departed"
"The Queen"

"The Painted Veil"
"The Fountain"
"The Da Vinci Code"

"A Father's Way - "Pursuit of Happyness"
"Listen" - "Dreamgirls"
"Never Gonna Break My Faith" - "Bobby"
"The Song of the Heart" - "Happy Feet"
"Try Not to Remember" - "Home of the Brave"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Color commentary on the LA film critics awards

The awards season has begun. My color coded comments:

Haven't seen.

2006 Los Angeles Critics Association winners:

Picture: "Letters From Iwo Jima"
Runner-up: "The Queen"

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

Actor: Sacha Baron Cohen, "Borat" and Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland" (tie) (both good, but not good enough)

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

Supporting actor: Michael Sheen, "The Queen"[he was very good, but not great]
Runner-up: Sergi Lopez, "Pan's Labyrinth"

Supporting actress: Luminita Gheorghiu, "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu"
Runner-up: Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls" (she should have gotten the award)

Screenplay: Peter Morgan, "The Queen" (it was good, but not the best)
Runner-up: Michael Arndt, "Little Miss Sunshine" (This was a ripoff of "Nat. Lampoon's Vactation")

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

Production design: Eugenio Caballero, "Pan's Labyrinth" (while this was a much better movie, Arnofsky's "the Fountain" was better)
Runner-up: Jim Clay and Geoffrey Kirkland, "Children of Men"

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

Foreign-language film: "The Lives of Others"
Runner-up: "Volver" (The best foreign films were "13 Tzametti" and "The Host", but neither is going to get anything)

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

Animation: "Happy Feet"
Runner-up: "Cars"

Douglas Edwards experimental/independent film/video award: "Old Joy" (Kelly Reichardt) and "In Between Days" (So Yong Kim) ("Old Joy" sucked.)

New generation award: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris (directors) and Michael Arndt (screenwriter), "Little Miss Sunshine" (A derivitive film which was nice but not great).

Career achievement award (previously announced): Robert Mulligan (?)

The Golden Satellite award nominees.

The color code: Will Win
Should Win
Yeah, they should have been nominated
Shame on YOU GS people!

Penelope Cruz -- "Volver" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Helen Mirren -- "The Queen" (Miramax)
Judi Dench -- "Notes on a Scandal" (Searchlight)
Gretchen Mol -- "The Notorious Bettie Page" (HBO)
Maggie Gyllenhaal -- "Sherrybaby" (IFC)
Kate Winslet -- "Little Children" (New Line)

Derek Luke -- "Catch a Fire" (Focus)
Joshua Jackson -- "Aurora Borealis" (Regent)
Forrest Whitaker -- "The Last King of Scotland" (Fox Searchlight)
Ryan Gosling -- "Half Nelson" (ThinkFilm)
Patrick Wilson -- "Little Children" (New Line)
Leonardo DiCaprio -- "Blood Diamond" (Warner Bros)

Julie Walters -- "Driving Lessons" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Annette Bening -- "Running with Scissors" (Sony Pictures Entertainment)
Meryl Streep -- "The Devil Wears Prada" (20th Century Fox)
Toni Collette -- "Little Miss Sunshine" (Fox Searchlight)
Jodie Whitaker -- "Venus" (Miramax)
Beyonce Knowles -- "Dreamgirls" (Dreamworks/Paramount)

Joseph Cross -- "Running with Scissors" (Sony Pictures Entertainment)
Aaron Eckhart -- "Thank You for Smoking" (Fox Searchlight)
Sasha Baron Cohen -- "Borat" (20th Century Fox)
Peter O'Toole -- "Venus" (Miramax)
Will Ferrell -- "Stranger than Fiction" (Sony Pictures Entertainment)

AFI's top

'Borat,' 'Dreamgirls,' 'Little Miss Sunshine' named as best

The films, in alphabetical order, include "Babel," "Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan," "The Devil Wears Prada," "Dreamgirls," "Half Nelson," "Happy Feet," "Inside Man," "Letters From Iwo Jima," "Little Miss Sunshine" and "United 93."

Of course, they forgot "Superman Returns" and shouldn't have included "Babel" and "Half Nelson" (the latter sucked big time) "Letters from Iwo Jima" I haven't seen yet.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Golden Satellite award nominees.

The awards season has begun, and this is as good a place as any to start....
(analysis later)

Penelope Cruz -- "Volver" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Helen Mirren -- "The Queen" (Miramax) yes
Judi Dench -- "Notes on a Scandal" (Searchlight)
Gretchen Mol -- "The Notorious Bettie Page" (HBO)
Maggie Gyllenhaal -- "Sherrybaby" (IFC)
Kate Winslet -- "Little Children" (New Line)

Derek Luke -- "Catch a Fire" (Focus)
Joshua Jackson -- "Aurora Borealis" (Regent)
Forrest Whitaker -- "The Last King of Scotland" (Fox Searchlight)
Ryan Gosling -- "Half Nelson" (ThinkFilm)
Patrick Wilson -- "Little Children" (New Line)
Leonardo DiCaprio -- "Blood Diamond" (Warner Bros)

Julie Walters -- "Driving Lessons" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Annette Bening -- "Running with Scissors" (Sony Pictures Entertainment)
Meryl Streep -- "The Devil Wears Prada" (20th Century Fox)
Toni Collette -- "Little Miss Sunshine" (Fox Searchlight)
Jodie Whitaker -- "Venus" (Miramax)
Beyonce Knowles -- "Dreamgirls" (Dreamworks/Paramount)

Joseph Cross -- "Running with Scissors" (Sony Pictures Entertainment)
Aaron Eckhart -- "Thank You for Smoking" (Fox Searchlight)
Sasha Baron Cohen -- "Borat" (20th Century Fox)
Peter O'Toole -- "Venus" (Miramax)
Will Ferrell -- "Stranger than Fiction" (Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Abigail Breslin -- "Little Miss Sunshine" (Fox Searchlight)
Lily Tomlin -- "Prairie Home Companion" (New Line)
Blythe Danner -- "The Last Kiss" (Dreamworks)
Rinko Kikuchi -- "Babel" (Paramount/Vantage)
Cate Blanchett -- "Notes on a Scandal" (Fox Searchlight)
Jennifer Hudson -- "Dreamgirls" (Dreamworks/Paramount)

Donald Sutherland -- "Aurora Borealis" (Regent)
Adam Beach -- "Flags of our Fathers" (Dreamworks)
Leonardo DiCaprio -- "The Departed" (Warner Bros)
Alan Arkin -- "Little Miss Sunshine" (Fox Searchlight)
Brad Pitt -- "Babel" (Paramount/Vantage)
Jack Nicholson -- "The Departed" (Warner Bros)

"Half Nelson" (ThinkFilm)
"The Departed" (Warner Bros)
"The Queen" (Miramax)
"The Last King of Scotland" (Fox Searchlight)
"Babel" (Paramount/Vantage)
"Little Children" (New Line)

"Little Miss Sunshine" (Fox Searchlight)
"Thank You for Smoking" (Fox Searchlight)
"The Devil Wears Prada" (20th Century Fox)
"Stranger than Fiction" (Sony/Columbia)
"Venus" (Miramax)
"Dreamgirls" (Dreamworks/Paramount)

"The Lives of Others" (Germany - Sony Pictures Classics)
"Volver" (Spain - Sony Pictures Classics)
"Changing Times" (France - Koch Lorber Films)
"Water" (Canada - Fox Searchlight)
"Syrian Bride" (Israel - Koch Lorber Films)
"Apocalypto" (Mexico - Icon Entertainment International)

"Cars" (Disney/Pixar)
"Ice Age 2: The Meltdown" (20th Century Fox)
"Happy Feet" (Warner Bros)
"Flushed Away" (Dreamworks)
"Pan's Labyrinth" (Picturehouse)

"Deliver Us from Evil" (Lions Gate)
"Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple" (Firelight Media/PBS)
"An Inconvenient Truth" (Paramount/Vantage)
"The US vs. John Lennon" (Lions Gate)
"Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man" (Lions Gate)
"The War Tapes" (Senart Films)

Martin Scorsese -- "The Departed" (Warner Bros)
Clint Eastwood -- "Flags of Our Fathers" (Dreamworks/Warner Bros)
Pedro Almodovar -- "Volver" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Stephen Frears -- "The Queen" (Miramax)
Alejandro González Iñárritu -- "Babel" (Paramount/Vantage)
Bill Condon -- "Dreamgirls" (Dreamworks/Paramount)

André Téchiné, Laurent Guyot, Pascal Bonitzer -- "Changing Times (Koch Lorber)
Elena Soarez, Luiz Carlos Barreto, Andrucha Waddington -- "House of Sand" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Guillermo Arriaga, Alejandro González Iñárritu -- "Babel" (Paramount/Vantage)
Pedro Almodovar -- "Volver" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Peter Morgan -- "The Queen" (Miramax)
Paul Laverty -- "The Wind that Shakes the Barley" (IFC)

William Broyles, Jr.; Paul Haggis -- "Flags of Our Fathers" (Dreamworks/Warner Bros)
Jason Reitman -- "Thank You for Smoking" (Fox Searchlight)
William Monahan, Siu Fai Mak, Felix Chong -- "The Departed" (Warner Bros)
Todd Field, Tom Perrotta -- "Little Children" (New Line)
Garrison Keillor -- "A Prairie Home Companion" (New Line)
Bill Condon -- "Dreamgirls" (Dreamworks/Paramount)

Gabriel Yared -- "The Lives of Others" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Clint Eastwood -- "Flags of Our Fathers" (Dreamworks/Warner Bros)
Philip Glass -- "Notes on a Scandal" (Fox Searchlight)
Nathan Johnson -- "Brick" (Focus)
Hans Zimmer -- "Da Vinci Code" (Columbia)
Gustavo Santolalla -- "Babel" (Paramount/Vantage)

"Upside Down" -- Jack Johnson, "Curious George" (Imagine/Universal)
"You Know My Name" -- Chris Cornell, "Casino Royale" (MGM/Sony)
"Love You I Do" -- Henry Krieger, Siedah Garrett, "Dreamgirls" (Dreamworks/Paramount)
"Never Let Go" -- Bryan Adams, Trevor Rabin, Eliot Kennedy, "The Guardian" (Disney)
"Listen" -- Henry Krieger, Anne Previn, Scott Cutler, Beyoncé Knowles, "Dreamgirls" (Dreamworks/Paramount)
"Till the End of Time" -- Nick Urata, Devotchka, "Little Miss Sunshine" (Fox Searchlight)

Ricardo Della Rosa -- "House of Sand" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Tom Stern -- "Flags of Our Fathers" (Dreamworks/Warner Bros)
Vilmos Zsigmond -- "The Black Dahlia" (Universal)
Philippe Lesourd -- "A Good Year" (Fox 2000)
Dante Spinotti -- "X-Men: The Last Stand" (20th Century Hotel)
Matthew Libatique -- "The Fountain" (Warner Bros)
Zhao Xiaoding -- "Curse of the Golden Flower" (Sony Pictures Classics)

Michael Owens, Matthew Butler, Bryan Grill, Steven Riley -- "Flags of Our Fathers" (Dreamworks/Warner Bros)
John Knoll -- "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (Disney)
John Bruno -- "X-Men: The Last Stand" (20th Century Fox)
Dan Glass -- "V for Vendetta" (Warner Bros)
Jeremy Dawson, Daniel Schrecker -- "The Fountain" (Warner Bros)
Everett Burrell, Edward Irastorza -- "Pan's Labyrinth" (Picturehouse)
Kevin Ahern -- "The Da Vinci Code" (Columbia/Sony)

Mark Helfrich, Mark Goldblatt -- "X-Men: The Last Stand" (20th Century Fox)
Joel Cox -- "Flags of Our Fathers" (Dreamworks/Warner Bros)
Stephen Mirrione, Douglas Crise -- "Babel" (Paramount Vantage)
William Goldenberg -- "Miami Vice" (Universal)
Virginia Katz -- "Dreamgirls" (Dreamworks/Paramount)

Steve Maslow, DM Hemphill, John A. Larsen, Rick Klein -- "X-Men: The Last Stand" (20th Century Fox)
Alan Robert Murray, Bub Asman, Walt Martin, John Reitz, Dave Campbell, Gregg Rudloff -- "Flags of Our Fathers" (Warner Bros/Dreamworks)
José Garcia, Jon Taylor, Chris Minkler, Martin Hernandez -- "Babel" (Paramount/Vantage)
Willie Burton, Michael Minkler, Bob Beemer, Richard E. Yawn -- "Dreamgirls" (DreamworksParamount)
Chic Ciccolini III, Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell -- "The Da Vinci Code" (Columbia/Sony)

K.K. Barrett -- "Marie Antoinette" (Columbia)
Henry Bumstead, Jack G. Taylor Jr., Richard Goddard -- "Flags of Our Fathers" (Warner Bros)
John Myhre, Tomas Voth, Nancy Haigh -- "Dreamgirls" (Dreamworks/Paramount)
Eugenio Caballero -- "Pan's Labyrinth" (Picturehouse)
Owen Paterson, Marco Bittner Rosser, Sarah Horton, Sebastian T. Krawinkel, Stephen Gessler -- "V for Vendetta" (Warner Bros)

Milena Canonero -- "Marie Antoinette" (Columbia)
Jenny Beavan -- "The Black Dahlia" (Universal)
Yee Chung Man -- "Curse of the Golden Flower" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Sharen Davis -- "Dreamgirls" (Dreamworks/Paramount)
Patricia Field -- "The Devil Wears Prada" (20th Century Fox)