Category Archives: Oscars


Who’s going to win the big awards? I have no idea, of course, but I’ll hazard some guesses anyway, based on how watching the Oscars for decades has informed my opinions.

Best Supporting Actor:
*Matt Damon-‘Invictus’
Woody Harrelson-‘The Messenger’
Christopher Plummer-‘The Last Station’
Stanley Tucci-‘The Lovely Bones’
Christoph Waltz -‘Inglorious Basterds’
Who will win: Waltz. There’s always someone who the general public has never heard of who wins one of the supporting nods. Don’t think it’ll be Plummer, whose movie got only a so-so 68% positive in Rotten Tomatoes; on the other hand, he’s old (80), and the Academy likes old, plus it’s his first nomination. Could be Tucci, but I think that some of those Academy voters just aren’t going to watch his performance because of the subject matter.
Who I want to win: Tucci, who’s just an actor who shows great range.

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz-‘Nine’
*Vera Farmiga-‘Up in the Air’
Maggie Gyllenhaal-‘Crazy Heart’
*Anna Kendrick-‘Up in the Air’
Who will win: Mo’nique. Academy loves to reward those who play against type. Bonus that she’s a minority, and Cruz got one recently.
Who I want to win: Farmiga, who lives in Ulster County, NY where I lived for a time. So I’m a homer; so what?

Best Animated Feature Film
‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’
*’The Princess and the Frog’
‘The Secret of Kells’
What will win: Up. I mean it was a nominee for Best Picture.
What I want to win: The Princess & the Frog. While I LOVED the wordless beginning of Up more than I could have imagined, I liked the Disney flick more throughout.

Best Original Screenplay
Mark Boal ‘The Hurt Locker’
Quentin Tarantino ‘Inglourious Basterds’
Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman ‘The Messenger’
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen ‘A Serious Man’
*Peter Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy ‘Up’
Who will win: Boal. I’m expecting a Hurt Locker avalanche.
Who I want to win: Boal, though it wouldn’t bother me if the Coens ot Tarantino got it.

Best Adapted Screenplay
*Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell ‘District 9’
*Nick Hornby ‘An Education’
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche ‘In the Loop’
Geoffrey Fletcher ‘Precious’
*Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner ‘Up in the Air’
Who will win: Reitman/Turner. This is Reitman’s consolation prize for losing for Best Picture and Best Director, an Oscar tradition.
Who I want to win: Reitman/Turner.

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges ‘Crazy Heart’
*George Clooney ‘Up in the Air’
*Colin Firth ‘A Single Man’
*Morgan Freeman’Invictus’
*Jeremy Renner ‘The Hurt Locker’
Who will win: Jeff Bridges, who’s been nominated four times without a win, and won the Golden Globe.
Who I want to win: Bridges or Clooney

Best Actress
*Sandra Bullock ‘The Blind Side’
*Helen Mirren ‘The Last Station’
*Carey Mulligan ‘An Education’
Gabourey Sidibe ‘Precious’
* Meryl Streep – Julie & Julia as Julia Child
Who will win: Streep. The pundits are making this a contest between Streep and Bullock. Streep, whose been nominated 16 times, and won twice (but not since 1982!) has been beaten by perceived stronger performances. The competition this year includes two novices (Mulligan, Sidibe), Mirren’s appearance in a so-so film, and a certain backlash against Bullock’s film. If not this year for Meryl, when?
Who I want to win: STREEP

Best Director
Kathryn Bigelow ‘The Hurt Locker’
James Cameron ‘Avatar’
Lee Daniels ‘Precious’
*Jason Reitman ‘Up in the Air’
Quentin Tarantino ‘Inglourious Basterds’
Who will win: Bigelow. I mean, a well-received film, directed by a woman, and not on what’s considered a “women’s film”. Perhaps her biggest booster is one of her competitors, her ex-husband Cameron.
Who I want to win: Bigelow.

Best Picture
*’The Blind Side’
*’District 9′
*’An Education’
‘The Hurt Locker’
‘Inglourious Basterds’
‘A Serious Man’
*’Up in the Air’
What will win: The Hurt Locker. In a five-movie race under the “first-to-the-post” rules, this is Avatar’s, almost for certain. But I keep hearing that while Avatar is a technological achievement, its story’s weak.
What I want to win: Up In The Air, which I think in the future will be seen as emblematic of its time.

So what are your picks, for who WILL win, and who you WANT to win?
Links to your blogpost describing same would be fine.


Things I Love on the Internet

* A new blog on the Oscars and Instant Runoff Voting — Here’s a post about the new voting system for Best Picture, written by the Chair of FairVote Board of Directors, Krist Novoselic.
* The last new Johnny Cash album, American VI: Ain’t No Grave is being released on February 23, during what would have been his birthday week. Am buying, sound unheard, if I don’t get for my birthday.
* Brian from Coverville turned me on to Deanne Iovan’s mission, inspired by Julie & Julia, as well as the 09/09/09 Beatles’ releases, of covering The Beatles’ White Album, track by track, putting out a new song every nine days. She just put out Julia, which is at the end of side two. (Side 2? Hey, I grew up with the vinyl version of this album.)
* 500 cartoons on life in biology research.
* The Business Librarians listserv helped me answer a question this week. Apparently the doohickey on the tops to plastic containers, where the grated cheese comes out, one side being a shaker while the other side you can use a teaspoon to dish it out, is called a spice lid or a dispensing closure.
* Valentine’s Day/Census tie-in campaign with a selection of electronic postcards in Spanish and English.
* New CPR on YouTube: Continuous Chest Compression CPR – Mayo Clinic Presentation, sent to me by a nurse friend of mine, who thinks it’s terrific.
* A recent study outlines the health benefits of having more sex. CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen has the details.
* My medical reimbursement company, only this week, has FINALLY decided to accept e-mailed PDFs, GIFs, etc. as well as mailing and faxes. This is particularly helpful since our fax at work does not seem to work. (When someone announced “Fax is dead!””, they weren’t kidding.)
* Found several places: The Muppets: Beaker’s Ballad – the Internet is SO mean.
* Thom Wade points to Hey! It’s That Guy!? It’s a page “dedicated to the character actors collectively known as ‘That Guy’.” Simon Oakland was one of the first ones I knerw by name as a kid.
* Betty White for host of SNL. My only problem is the notion that it’s a resurgence; she never really left.
* Arthur@AmeriNZ found a video response to the Google Super Bowl ad done from a gay man’s POV.
* An old friend accidentally pushed some button that sent an email to EVERY address in her e-address book, which allowed us to reconnect. I’ve had a child and she’s had two since we last communicated.
*Local school catches Olympic fever. “Events have included ring toss, rock climbing, hockey, boggle, hang man, reading comprehension, and math facts.” I’ll pick math facts.
* The 9th Annual Underground Railroad History Conference, Friday, February 26 at 8:30am through Sunday, February 28 at 2:00pm at Russell Sage College, Troy, NY, where I’ll be one of many presenting on that Saturday. Register now!


So Now The Oscar Season Begins

Being a movie fan, I try to see as many of the nominated films as possible before Oscar night, which this year is back in the month of March, where it belongs. March 7, to be precise, which happens to be my birthday.

I am shocked, really, that, in what I consider a paucity of movie viewing on my part, I managed to see six of the ten nominees for Best Picture, and at the cinema:


*“The Blind Side”
*“District 9″
*“An Education”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
*“A Serious Man”
*“Up in the Air”
Of course, I haven’t seen the behemoth that is Avatar yet, and I was accused of losing my geek cred this week. I didn’t know I HAD geek cred; in any case, I’ll probably see it in the next four weeks. Precious I actually had a chance to see, but passed, in favor of The Blind Side; I’ll still try to see it. But the two war movies will be harder to come by.
I’m really curious how the instant runoff voting will affect this race. A lot of early backlash against Avatar.

Best Direction
“Avatar” — James Cameron
“The Hurt Locker” — Kathryn Bigelow
“Inglourious Basterds” — Quentin Tarantino
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” — Lee Daniels
*Up in the Air” — Jason Reitman
If there had only been five nominations for Best Picture, would these have been the five? We’ll never know, but, based on the other nominations, I tend to think so.
Right now, I’m guessing The Hurt Locker for both Best Pic and Director. Bigelow vs. ex-husband Cameron? A Hollywood dream.

Actor in a Leading Role
Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”
*George Clooney in “Up in the Air”
*Colin Firth in “A Single Man”
Morgan Freeman in “Invictus”
Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”
Crazy Heart just started playing here, so I can see that, but Invictus is gone. Will it be available on DVD this month? Doubtful.

Actress in a Leading Role
*Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”
Helen Mirren in “The Last Station”
*Carey Mulligan in “An Education”
Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
*Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia”
I had to ask about The Last Station, which I totally missed hearing about. Turns out, it won’t make it to Albany’s Spectrum Theatre until February 26. Still have a chance.

Actor in a Supporting Role
Matt Damon in “Invictus”
Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger”
Christopher Plummer in “The Last Station”
Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones”
Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”
Just wasn’t up for seeing The Lovely Bones. But The Messenger is playing currently.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Penélope Cruz in “Nine”
*Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air”
Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart”
*Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air”
Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
Nine is leaving Thursday; wanted to see for Cruz and Sophia Loren, but ain’t gonna happen soon.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
*“District 9” — Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
*“An Education” — Screenplay by Nick Hornby
“In the Loop” — Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” — Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
*“Up in the Air” — Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner
Totally forgot about In The Loop. Did that play here?

Writing (Original Screenplay)
“The Hurt Locker” — Written by Mark Boal
“Inglourious Basterds” — Written by Quentin Tarantino
“The Messenger” — Written by Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman
*“A Serious Man” — Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
*“Up” — Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy
Love the fact that the animated story got a nod.

Animated Feature Film
“Fantastic Mr. Fox”
*“The Princess and the Frog”
“The Secret of Kells”
Logic would suggest Up should win here and lose in the Best Picture. But it could theoretically get shut out of both.

Art Direction
“Avatar” — Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Kim Sinclair
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” — Art Direction: Dave Warren and Anastasia Masaro; Set Decoration: Caroline Smith
“Nine” — Art Direction: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
“Sherlock Holmes” — Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
“The Young Victoria” — Art Direction: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Maggie Gray
I’m less concerned about seeing the movies for the techie awards; a good thing, too.

“Avatar” — Mauro Fiore
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” — Bruno Delbonnel
“The Hurt Locker” — Barry Ackroyd
“Inglourious Basterds” — Robert Richardson
“The White Ribbon” — Christian Berger

Costume Design
“Bright Star” — Janet Patterson
“Coco before Chanel” — Catherine Leterrier
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” — Monique Prudhomme
“Nine” — Colleen Atwood
“The Young Victoria” — Sandy Powell

Documentary (Feature)
“Burma VJ”
“The Cove”
“Food, Inc.”
“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers”
“Which Way Home”
Will the popular Food, Inc. win, or will the Academy work hard to avoid the popular, as they’ve done in the past? My wife DID see Food, Inc. and recommends it.

Documentary (Short Subject)
“China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province”
“The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner”
“The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant”
“Music by Prudence”
“Rabbit à la Berlin”

Film Editing
“Avatar” — Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron
*“District 9” — Julian Clarke
“The Hurt Locker” — Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
“Inglourious Basterds” — Sally Menke
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” — Joe Klotz

Foreign Language Film
“Ajami” — Israel
“El Secreto de Sus Ojos” — Argentina
“The Milk of Sorrow” — Peru
“Un Prophète” — France
“The White Ribbon” — Germany
The White Ribbon comes to Albany February 19.

“Il Divo” — Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano
“Star Trek” — Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow

The Young Victoria” — Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore

Music (Original Score)
“Avatar” — James Horner
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” — Alexandre Desplat
“The Hurt Locker” — Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
“Sherlock Holmes” — Hans Zimmer
*“Up” — Michael Giacchino

Music (Original Song)
*“Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog” Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
*“Down in New Orleans” from “The Princess and the Frog” Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
“Loin de Paname” from “Paris 36” Music by Reinhardt Wagner Lyric by Frank Thomas
“Take It All” from “Nine” Music and Lyric by Maury Yeston
“The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)” from “Crazy Heart” Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett
Of the two, I’d pick Almost There; more anthemic.

Short Film (Animated)
“French Roast” Fabrice O. Joubert
“Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty” Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell
“The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)” Javier Recio Gracia
“Logorama” Nicolas Schmerkin
“A Matter of Loaf and Death” Nick Park

Short Film (Live Action)
“The Door” — Juanita Wilson and James Flynn
“Instead of Abracadabra” — Patrik Eklund and Mathias Fjellström
“Kavi” — Gregg Helvey
“Miracle Fish” — Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey
“The New Tenants” — Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson

Sound Editing
“Avatar” — Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
“The Hurt Locker” — Paul N.J. Ottosson
“Inglourious Basterds” — Wylie Stateman
“Star Trek” — Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin
*“Up” — Michael Silvers and Tom Myers

Sound Mixing
“Avatar” — Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson
“The Hurt Locker” — Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett
“Inglourious Basterds” — Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti and Mark Ulano
“Star Trek” — Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson and Peter J. Devlin
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” — Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers and Geoffrey Patterson
Thank goodness Transformers was nominated for SOMETHING, he smirked.

Visual Effects
“Avatar” — Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones
*“District 9” — Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken
“Star Trek” — Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton

So, the realistic goal is to see Avatar, Crazy Heart, and when it comes out, The Last Station by March 7. Maybe The Messenger, Precious (if it’s around) and anything I can find out on DVD.


O is for Oscar

I have been fascinated by the Academy Awards, a/k/a the Oscars, for a very long time. As a kid, I’d watch the stars that I’d heard about for years, even though I had not seen much of, or ANY of their work. It was a great thrill.

But the person in those days I was most fascinated with in the 1960s was Edith Head, the costume designer, who won eight awards. I liked her name and I especially loved the glasses. Though The Incredibles director Brad Bird has not confirmed it, it seemed immediately obvious that Edna E. Mode, the supergroup’s costumer, was a parody of Ms. Head. (And that the new CBS-TV show NCIS: Los Angeles’ Henrietta ‘Hetty’ Lange, played by Linda Hunt, is doing Edna Mode.)

Eventually, I got to see more of the movies. There was a time when I became a film affectionado. I would particularly make an effort to see the movies that had been nominated in the major categories: Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, Original Screenplay and Adapted Screenplay. This meant going to the cinema a lot in December, January and February. Since I’ve never been a cold-weather fan, this suited me quite well. The Presidents Day/Washington’s Birthday weekend of 1998, I saw five films in three days; four of them had been nominated for the 1997 awards: L.A. Confidential (Kim Basinger won for supporting actress; Curtis Hanson, with Brian Helgeland, won for adapted screenplay, lost for director; also lost for picture) and Mrs. Brown (Judi Dench lost for lead actress) on Saturday; Afterglow (Julie Christie lost for lead actress) plus some whimsical French film on Sunday, and The Apostle (Robert Duvall lost for leads actor) on Monday. In fact, the only performance in the major categories I DIDN’T see was Peter Fonda, who lost for best actor in Ulee’s Gold; in fact, I STILL haven’t seen it.

In the pre-Internet days, on the day of the announcement of the nominees, the great challenge was trying to find a radio station with good reception that was broadcasting the information live at 8:37 a.m. Eastern Time, 5:37 a.m. Pacific Time, write down all the information and kibbitz about the choices and the omissions. Now, of course, I can just go online, but a bit of the magic is lost.

This century, I watch far fewer movies. Seeing films on DVD, in my opinion, is a lesser experience which I do only as a last resort, such as when a film is no longer in theaters and I REALLY MUST see it before Oscar night. And these days, I don’t even stay up for the awards but rather record them to watch over the next evening or three. Yet I still watch, because some part of the young boy who was dazzled by the magic of Hollywood still exists.

I is for Instant Runoff Voting

Elections in most of the United States are dominated by one of, or if one is lucky, by the two major political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. People often complain about the Tweedledee/Tweedledum nature of voting, having to select the “lesser of two evils”, or, as is almost as likely as not, decline from voting at all.

Ever since I heard about Instant Runoff Voting would be a solution to a multitude of problems in the American system. Here’s how IRV works:

Voters rank candidates in order of choice: 1, 2, 3 and so on. It takes a majority to win. If a majority of voters rank a candidate first, that candidate is elected. If not, the last place candidate is defeated, just as in a runoff election, and all ballots are counted again, but this time each ballot cast for the defeated candidate counts for the next ranked candidate listed on the ballot. The process of eliminating the last place candidate and recounting the ballots continues until one candidate receives a majority of the vote. With modern voting equipment, all of the counting and recounting takes place rapidly and automatically.

IRV acts like a series of runoff elections in which one candidate is eliminated each election. Each time a candidate is eliminated, all voters get to choose among the remaining candidates. This continues until one candidate receives a majority of the vote.

In most places in the US, a candidate is awarded a seat and wins the most votes in an electoral area; a majority vote is not required to win. Thus the winner in a race with more than two candidates may not represent the majority of the people.

Let’s take three mythical candidates and call them, Bush, Gore and Nader. Say that a goodly number of voters are inclined to vote for Nader but see in the polls that he’s trailing the other two. His supporters might well reluctantly vote for one of the other two, or not bother voting. Nader ends up with say 6% of the vote, with Bush and Gore each with 47% each; which ever one ekes out a victory will not be supported by a majority of the voters.

But let’s say IRV were in place. Perhaps Bush and Gore garner 40% each and Nader 20%, most likely of a higher number of actual voters, because the citizens are not afraid that their initial vote has been “wasted”. The Nader vote will be distributed among those who picked Bush or Gore as their second pick. If 11% picked Bush and 9% picked Gore, then Bush would win.

This also addresses the issue of those places, such as the state of Louisiana, that require a runoff election when neither candidate reaches the majority threshold. A runoff is expensive, and ironically usually brings out a smaller number of voters. IRV will eliminate the need of having a second go-round at all.

There are places in the US that already use IRV or some variation, but it appears more popular elsewhere in the world.

One element proponents here seem to make a point of NOT stressing is the possibility that the system is more likely to generate a third-party winner. Using the old example, lets say it’s Bush 35%, Nader 35% and Gore 30%; it would then be Gore’s votes that would be split between the remaining two candidates. I think proponents don’t want to scare the guardians of the status quo.

Something that excites me as an Oscar buff is the fact that in the past month the Motion Picture Academy has adopted Instant Runoff Voting for the Best Picture balloting. It was used “by the Academy in Best Picture voting before 1945, which was the last time ten pictures were nominated…The nominee with the fewest votes is eliminated, and ballots cast for that film are moved to voter’s next choice among the remaining films. The process continues until one film has more than half the votes and is declared Best Picture of the Year…

“Earlier this year, the Academy announced that it would expand the Best Picture category from five to 10 nominees. Given that the nomination threshold will now be about a tenth of the vote, keeping the ‘first-past-the-post’ voting system where voters can indicate a preference for just one choice would theoretically allow a film to take home the Oscar despite being potentially disliked by 89%. With IRV in place, the Best Picture winner is sure to be preferred by a large share of Academy members.”

Let’s say that Oscar voters, confusing box office success with quality, nominate Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen for best picture. Under the old system, 11% of the voters could determine that it was the finest film of 2009, even if 89% thought it was dreck. With IRV in place, more of a consensus will be reached within the Academy.

Yawn – here now the news

I have found a lot of the details of the recent news less than riveting.

The Sanford sex scandal: more hypocrisy from someone who chastised others (in his case, Bill Clinton, among others.) Another sobbing confession; comparing himself to King David was a nice touch though. In fact, the only real issue for me is possible is him being “out of pocket” for a week. Don’t know South Carolina law, but it’s the disappearing that seems to be the real issue. And I can’t help but think that if he HAD notified his staff and the lieutenant governor he was away, the sex part might not have come out at all.

The blow-by-blow of the joke we (not laughingly) call the New York State Senate doesn’t interest me any more. I just want them to grow up and gt back to work. Last week, I asked my wife if she had heard the big news. She said, “You mean how a senator insulted the governor?” I said, “No, that Michael Jackson died.” Don’t even care which senator said what to whom. i DO think that the governor, David Paterson, is looking more..gubernatorial in all of this, though.

And speaking of Michael Jackson, we’ve now gotten into the silly season, and most of what has happened since about Monday, I’ve caught the headlines, but am actively not reading the stories. A couple things I noticed though. Last Friday’s ABC News, which dedicated the majority of the show to Michael, played snippets of songs by the J5 and MJ; they described the first song as “One More Chance-1970” when it was “I Want You Back”. It would have been an understandable error on Thursday as a breaking story on Thursday, but sloppy on Friday. At least two podcasts identified “Ebony and Ivory” as by Paul McCartney and MJ, when it was by Macca and Stevie Wonder. The good news is that a couple of folks – wish I could remember who – who noted that Off the Wall was Revolver to Thriller’s Sgt. Pepper; less well-known but the better album.

Should Bernie Madoff gotten 150 years? Of course not. He should have gotten 99 years, and with good behavior would be out of prison before he hit 120. But seriously, it doesn’t much matter to me.

Oscars are going to have 10 best picture nominees? Whatever. There were double-digit numbers of nominees in several categories in the late 1930s (and I don’t care enough to even look it up!) I do recall that 1939, one of the best years in cinema, had a huge number of nominees. I wonder, though, that by dumping some of the non-competitive awards, it will change the character of the show. And would the nomination of, say, The Dark Knight and WALL-E (probably) in the Best Picture mix have changed the outcome last year? Unknowable, of course.

I’m watching Bill Moyers on PBS tonight, but even after that shot of Christianity in the liberal tradition, I’m convinced most people will still believe that when they hear the words “Christian in America”, they’ll assume, in the words of local pastor Jo Page: “anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-socialized medicine, pro-gun rights, pro-creationism, pro-abstinence and literalist when it comes to reading the Bible.”

Is Shia Labouef dating Megan Fox? Surely, I don’t care, but am surprised to note that I actually know who they are. (I saw the movie “Holes” and I read other blogs.)

I do care that Karl Malden died, but he’s been out of the public eye so long – one appearance on the West Wing in 2000, nothing else since 1993 – that most people thought the 97-year-old had passed away years ago. I did watch The Streets of San Francisco regularly, but save for On The Waterfront, I’m not sure I ever saw him on film. And he never convinced me to buy American Express travelers’ checks.


Tell me one interesting or weird fact about yourself, for each letter in your given name

Lorna in Wonderland, who came by my blog a few weeks ago, did this, so what the heck.

R…I had long thought that ROGER was just a random name that worked in my father’s ROG (Roger Owen Green) motif. However, when my sisters were recently sorting out some papers at my mother’s house, there were references in my late father’s handwriting to a Roger that clearly predated me. He’s unknown to my mother. Could he have been a childhood friend, an army buddy? Inquiring minds are frustrated that the trail is so cold.

O…I’ve watched at least some portion of the OSCARS very year as long as I can remember. Increasingly, it’s not to find out who won – I generally don’t even watch them in real time anymore, but what they say, how they say it, and how they look. In the early days of my current job, we used to try to tune the radio to the CBS television affiliate at 8:37 Eastern time one winter morning to catch the Oscar nominations; this was before one could just wait for it to show up on the Internet.

G…I’ve had GLASSES as long as I can remember. One time in junior high, I had to give some report using the outline written on the blackboard in the back of the room. The problem was I couldn’t READ the blackboard in the back because I had broken, or possibly lost, my glasses. So I used binoculars. Everyone laughed, but I didn’t know what else to do.

E…In almost every unfamiliar building I enter, I look early for the EXIT sign, in case of an emergency. I think that is why I volunteer to be the fire marshal for my office, even though I’ll be the last one to the exit.

R…The only reason I ever wanted to be Roman Catholic is that they had ROSARY beads, and they seemed cool. At a church study last Advent, I actually made some quasi-rosary beads, and the device I used to remind me of a pair of Bible verses I remember from my childhood,
Galatians 5:22-23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is
against such there is no law.


OSCAR Questions

Oscar night has been for me a must-watch for decades. This year, I’m actually in better shape seeing movies than I was last year at this time.

The obvious questions about which I’d love for you to opine:
Who will win?
Who do you WANT to win?
* indicates films I’ve actually seen

*Richard Jenkins-THE VISITOR
*Frank Langella-FROST/NIXON
*Sean Penn-MILK
Mickey Rourke-THE WRESTLER
Will win: Rourke. Oscar loves the comeback. Langella, though, would not be a shock.
Want to win: Jenkins, who nobody knows until they see him. “Oh, THAT guy.”

*Josh Brolin-MILK
Robert Downey Jr.-TROPIC THUNDER
*Philip Seymour Hoffman-DOUBT
Will win: Ledger. The fact that DK was not picked for best picture practically assures it.
Want to win: Downey, because he had a good year with Iron Man, which I saw and enjoyed. But I’m not begrudging the late Ledger.

Angelina Jolie-CHANGELING
*Meryl Streep-DOUBT
Kate Winslet-THE READER
Will win: I can make the case for Hathaway, who’s expanded from the Princess Diaries/Devil Wears Prada mode; yeah, she did in Brokeback Mountain, too, but didn’t get the recognition. Or for Streep, who’s won twice, but not in a quarter century. Guess I’ll pick Winslet, because she’s never won, though oft nominated, and she had a good year with Revolutionary Road and this. (Although, when I went to see Slumdog, my wife was asking about Revolutionary Road and the couple in front of us told us it was three hours of whining, a complaint I’d heard before.)
Want to win: Leo, who was on one of my favorite TV shows, Homicide, and who lives in upstate New York. Yes, I can be parochial.

*Amy Adams- DOUBT
*Viola Davis-DOUBT
Will win: Henson. The movie has the most nominations and it needs a win. Also, Oscar wants to honor a black or foreign performer (England and Australia evidently are not foreign enough) – could be Cruz, but Davis’ part was too short (Judi Densch in Shakespeare in Love notwithstanding). Finally, Oscar always wants to pluck someone out of obscurity, and if you look at supporting actress winners over the years, it’s littered with “Who’s she?”
Want to win: Cruz, who lit up the screen.

Best Animated Feature
Oh, please. I’m just annoyed that something like Waltzing with Bashir wasn’t also nominated to give the most deserving Wall-E some semblance of a challenge.

Best Director
Will win: Slumdog Millionaire
“Oh, Danny Boyle,
The Oscar trophy’s call-all-lin'”
Want to win: Gus van Sant’s Milk, though Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon would be OK, too.
I’m SO relieved the directing and best picture nominees lined up so I don’t have to hear about the best picture nominee sans director, “What, did it direct itself?” again.

Will win: It’s SLUMDOG-mania!
Want to win: Frost/Nixon, though Milk wouldn’t displease me.

Adapted Screenplay:
Will win: Slumdog Millionaire. I had a faint inkling for an upset, but it has passed.
Want to win: Frost/Nixon

Original Screenplay:
Will win: Milk. The only best picture nominee on the list, which will get shut out of other major categories.
Want to win: Frozen River, which my wife DID see, but I didn’t, when I got sick on the back end of a botched separated movie date.


Oscar-Worthy Movies I've Seen: 1938

Man, I was going to do this once a month, but haven’t done it since November and last July before that:

“YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU”, “The Adventures of Robin Hood”, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”, “Boys Town”, “The Citadel”, “Four Daughters”, “Grand Illusion”, “Jezebel”, “Pygmalion”, “Test Pilot”
SPENCER TRACY in “Boys Town”, Charles Boyer in “Algiers”, James Cagney in “Angels With Dirty Faces”, Robert Donat in “The Citadel”, Leslie Howard in “Pygmalion”
BETTE DAVIS in “Jezebel”, Fay Bainter in “White Banners”, Wendy Hiller in “Pygmalion”, Norma Shearer in “Marie Antoinette”, Margaret Sullavan in “Three Comrades”
Supporting Actor:
WALTER BRENNAN in “Kentucky”, John Garfield in “Four Daughters”, Gene Lockhart in “Algiers”, Robert Morley in “Marie Antoinette”, Basil Rathbone in “If I Were King”
Supporting Actress:
FAY BAINTER in “Jezebel”, Beulah Bondi in “Of Human Hearts”, Billie Burke in “Merrily We Live”, Spring Byington in “You Can’t Take it With You”, Miliza Korjus in “The Great Waltz”
FRANK CAPRA for “You Can’t Take It With You”, Michael Curtiz for “Angels With Dirty Faces”, Michael Curtiz for “Four Daughters”, Norman Taurog for “Boys Town”, King Vidor for “The Citadel”

I know I’ve seen Boys Town, fairly sure I saw Angels with Dirty Faces, and may have seen You Can’t Take It with You. Either don’t remember or not loving any of them that much. The Adventures of Robin Hood, though, I recall liking and it was generally thought that Errol Flynn should have gotten nominated.

Two films that were shut out altogether by Oscar: Bringing Up Baby (Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant), which I saw so long ago that I can’t recall it much; and Alfred Hitchock’s the Lady Vanishes, which I don’t believe I’ve seen.


We talk movies a lot in our office. One person was wondering whether a non-American was likely to win Oscars. As we pursued the question further, it became clear that “non-American” has really come to mean having English as their native language. People from the UK, Australia, New Zealand and especially Canada (unless they are French-Canadians) are considered “Americans” by the movie-going public, we suggested. This year’s nominees:

Performance by an actor in a leading role
George Clooney in “Michael Clayton” – US
Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood” – England
Johnny Depp in “Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” – US
Tommy Lee Jones in “In the Valley of Elah” – US
Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises” – US
The English guy will win.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” – US
Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men” – Spain
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War” – US
Hal Holbrook in “Into the Wild” – US
Tom Wilkinson in “Michael Clayton” – England
This is even more interesting; the guy who was born in the Canary Islands will win.

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” – Australia
Julie Christie in “Away from Her” – England (born in India)
Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose” – France
Laura Linney in “The Savages” – US
Ellen Page in “Juno” – Canada
Only one American in the field, and she’s unlikely to win; the Englishwoman or the Frenchwoman.

Cate Blanchett in “I’m Not There” – Australia
Ruby Dee in “American Gangster” – US
Saoirse Ronan in “Atonement” – US
Amy Ryan in “Gone Baby Gone” – US
Tilda Swinton in “Michael Clayton” – England
Could be the only American to win an acting Oscar tonight, unless the Australian takes it and shuts out the US completely. (Entertainment Weekly suggests it’ll be the Englishwoman.)

Let’s look at the awards for the previous 7 years, just the winners:

2001 (74th)
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE* Denzel Washington — Training Day – US
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Jim Broadbent — Iris – England
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE* Halle Berry — Monster’s Ball – US
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Jennifer Connelly — A Beautiful Mind – US

2002 (75th)
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE* Adrien Brody — The Pianist – US
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Chris Cooper — Adaptation – US
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE* Nicole Kidman — The Hours – Australia (born in Hawaii)
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Catherine Zeta-Jones — Chicago – Wales

2003 (76th)
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE* Sean Penn — Mystic River – US
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Tim Robbins — Mystic River – US
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE* Charlize Theron — Monster – South Africa
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Renée Zellweger — Cold Mountain – US

2004 (77th)
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Morgan Freeman — Million Dollar Baby – US
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE* Hilary Swank — Million Dollar Baby – US
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Cate Blanchett — The Aviator – Australia

2005 (78th)
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE* Philip Seymour Hoffman — Capote – US
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* George Clooney — Syriana – US
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE* Reese Witherspoon — Walk the Line – US
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Rachel Weisz — The Constant Gardener – England

2006 (79th)
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE* Forest Whitaker — The Last King of Scotland – US
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Alan Arkin — Little Miss Sunshine – US
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE* Helen Mirren — The Queen – England
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Jennifer Hudson — Dreamgirls – US

Every year, a non-American has won, albeit one whose native language was likely English.
I’m not going to change my picks from three weeks ago, though, in fact, I picked Julie Christie rather than Marion Cotillard in a contest. I would not be shocked, though, if the heavyweight vote splits between No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, movies filmed so close to each other that I read in Entertainment Weekly that an oil rig fire filmed for Blood interfered with a shot for No Country. This would allow Juno, the movie that, at midweek, had twice the box office of No Country, its nearest Oscar competitor, to win. Not saying it’ll happen; I’m just saying that it wouldn’t be the upset that Atonement or Michael Clayton winning would be.

And since the Academy will have all the glitz, in honor of my friend Uthaclena’s 55th birthday, I’ll be watching. Probably not tonight, though; that’s what timeshifting’s all about. I don’t watch the Oscars to see who wins; I watch them to see HOW they win.