Monday, December 29, 2008

The Kreepy Kristol Skull

Bill Kristol is disgusting:
Obama has selected Yale’s Elizabeth Alexander to compose and read a poem. I still remember watching Maya Angelou read “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993 — and thinking that American culture really was in a state of irreversible decline, as she indulged in that multicultural cataloguing of “the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew,/ The African and Native American, the Sioux, / The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,/ The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,/ The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,/ The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.”
Oh yeah, "multicultural cataloguing" is a definitive sign that our culture is in "irreversible decline."

In the same article, he also manages to call the left "intolerant."

The left may be many things - even, as Kristol says, "hysterical," but intolerant? In comparison to the "Jesus Is My Homeboy"/"Barack the Magic Negro" Republican Party? Please.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Warren Peace

Andrew Sullivan on the furor in some quarters over Obama's choice of Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the inauguration:
One thing I'd say in defense of Obama. There were a few times in the campaign when my first reaction was that he had screwed up. In almost every case, he subsequently proved me wrong. And I think we need to take him seriously about a change in tone on these subjects. He's asking a lot from us. That doesn't mean we should not try to reciprocate.
I agree completely. Let's not spare all our energy on this - this is, I promise, part of a larger story that has yet to be written. And, in the end, it will favor gay equality.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rick Warrin'

A lot of supporters of gay marriage and gay civil rights in general are furious that Rick Warren, who has said that gays marrying somehow infringes upon his civil rights, will deliver the invocation at Obama's inauguration next month. This comes on the heels of some gay rights groups believing that Obama didn't do enough (he didn't do anything, actually) to help prevent the passage of Prop 8 and that he is dragging his feet a bit when it comes to implementing a policy agenda that favors gay equality (no timetable on repealing DADT, etc.).

What seems to me to be obvious is that this is a classic case of Obama being Obama, and not letting himself be beholden to any particular group of people. Clearly he is in favor of progress on gay civil rights - civil unions, getting rid of DADT, et. al. - but the choice of Warren to take part in such an important moment in his career and our country's history is clearly a signal that, yeah, he will be the president of even bigots and homophobes as well as the rest of us:
In his short political career, Obama has deftly manipulated political symbols to his advantage, but he's never been one to pay homage to one of the most sacred regulations of identity politics, which is that one must take care of one's own kind before turning outward. His mind operates differently. Obama does believe, as many of his supporters do, that there are uncrossable demarcation lines between the reasonable and the profane. But he doesn't believe that Warren, someone he admires for reaching outside his (Warren's) comfort zone on AIDS, is all that different from himself. Obama is simultaneously capable of admiring Warren while disdaining Warren's oogedy boogedy appraoch to gay relationships and his uninformed response to torture. Warren's views might be hurtful to gays; Obama does not think they are harmful.
While somewhat hard to swallow, this incident should not come as a surprise. Again, it's classic Obama. His whole thing all along has been let's come together, let's embrace each other despite our differences, and he's probably right in that regard. How can we ever get to some kind of working majority or legislative consensus on gay rights without bringing the other side - the ones who are against it - into the tent? This doesn't mean that Obama secretly condones Rick Warren's disgusting views; it's just that he sees farther down the road than, frankly, many of us regular folks do. Obama recognizes the importance of having Warren participate in such a big moment, and figures that maybe he can score some political capital with it and use that capital down the road - say, in 2010, when he decides the time is right to do away with DADT.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ethanol, Shmethanol

If you like ethanol, you'll be pleased. The appointments have some high-profile ethanol opponents worried, while ethanol supporters appear optimistic:

“The worry is if the Cabinet gets too crowded with people who are drunk on ethanol, we won’t have the policy discussions we need,” said Ken Cook, the president of the Environmental Working Group. Cook’s group argues that the massive production of corn-based ethanol has damaged the environment, wasted tax dollars and contributed to high food prices earlier this year.

However, Matt Hartwig, a spokesman for the Renewable Fuels Association, said Obama “has put together the right group of people” to move the country toward the stage where it will be producing ethanol from more than just corn.

“Renewable fuels also play a central role in stimulating the economy and creating green jobs,” said Hartwig, whose organization has floated ethanol-friendly ideas to Obama’s transition team for an upcoming stimulus package. “The team he’s put in place understands that.”
As I've stated previously, I am cautiously optimistic, though less so than I was on November 4th. I just really want Obama to be super-aggressive when it comes to healing our planet and cleaning our environment. His picks don't really signal any kind of massive change, though he himself did on the campaign trail. Like with any Cabinet, the change will have to come from the top. I just hope he's serious about this grave, grave threat to our nation and world.

Merry (Early) Christmas

University of Obama

In its annual Person of the Year segment (which - duh - features Obama), TIME has some very cool long-lost photos of the President-elect during his college years. A must-see.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Where's The Line?

The NYT explores whether or not the Blagojevich Senate seat scandal is really all that different from normal practices of political back-and-forth. It's perfectly legal, and common, for politicians to do things like "Well, I'll vote for your pet project, Bill A, if you vote for my pet project, Bill B. That way we both get one vote closer to passage." That kind of stuff happens all the time. The Blagojevich thing, however, seems to cut deeper. But where?
Ever since the country’s founding, prosecutors, defense lawyers and juries have been trying to define the difference between criminality and political deal-making. They have never established a clear-cut line between the offensive and the illegal, and the hours of wiretapped conversations involving Mr. Blagojevich, filled with crass, profane talk about benefiting from the Senate vacancy, may fall into a legal gray area.
Then there's this interesting quote:
“You have to wonder, How much of this guy’s problem was his language, rather than what he really did?”
Blago seemed so blatant, so open about it - while being wiretapped - that it seemed to cross the line into Unethical Land. Part of politics, though, is trading and favors. Coalitions would never be formed, and bills would never be signed into law, if there weren't some kind of deal-making taking place. So similar things to Blagogate happen pretty frequently.

I won't defend the insanely coiffed governor, but I do find it pretty disheartening that this incident appears to be not so much an isolated occurrence; it's just one of the few that gets caught. Just part of our politics, I guess.

Throw Your Own Shoe At Bush

Oh my god. Click on this link to check out this game right now. You won't regret it.

113-0

That was the vote in the Illinois legislature recommending impeachment proceedings begin against Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

113 yeas, zero nays.

Hey, you gotta admire the consistency!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Impeaches & Cream

That wasn't too hard, was it?

Just like I begged them to last week, the Illinois legislature is forming an impeachment committee that will decide whether or not Gov. Rod Blagojevich will be forcibly removed from office.

Blago's impeachment or resignation, coupled with the standard senatorial appointment by Pat Quinn, his would-be replacement, is the only thing that makes sense for Illinois. The state has no money to pay for a costly special election, and Blago cannot simply be stripped of his appointment power but allowed to stay in office. So this is an encouraging development.

Illinois, though... yikes!

"Issues" Promo: It's Leslie!

Played by yours truly...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Re: The Auto Bailout's Failure

Based on what the Senate Republicans have done here, and the contempt they have shown for the United Autoworkers Union, I hope no working class person ever again votes for a Republican candidate. No matter what crap they spew otherwise, they are not the party of working people, never have been and never will be.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Karger's Take

Is here. Always invaluable. He brings up a point I COMPLETELY overlooked:

Milk! No Best Picture nomination!! And no nomination for anyone other than Sean Penn in the absolute powerhouse Best Actor (Drama) category!!!

I imagine that Josh Brolin, with acclaimed performances in Milk and W., is feeling somewhat disappointed this morning.

He doesn't like the Tom Cruise nomination, because it's at the expense of more deserving guys from dramas, which is probably true, but he WAS very, very good. In a ridiculous-stupid-humor kinda way. But good.

Thoughts on the Globe Noms

Still processing all the information:
  1. Big blow for The Dark Knight's chances at building some buzz for a Best Picture nomination. Not like Globe success is a good barometer for the Oscars, but this is a very disappointing haul for them.
  2. Doubt tied for the most nominations with five, but it got shut out of the Best Picture category. It appears that, as predicted, its best case for multiple Oscar noms lies in the acting and writing categories.
  3. I guess the Weinsteins' strategy of nominating Kate Winslet as supporting actress for The Reader (so she doesn't split votes with her lead role in Revolutionary Road) paid off: she got nominated for both, in both categories.
  4. Quite a coup for The Reader, grabbing noms for Picture, Director and Winslet's performance.
  5. Revolutionary Road also, I think, performed slightly above expectations.
  6. Tom Cruise for Tropic Thunder. Nice. He was hilarious.
  7. Ralph Fiennes for The Duchess... that's weird. Even for the Globes.
  8. Perhaps John Patrick Shanley is somewhat vindicated now that he got a nomination for his Doubt screenplay?
  9. I'm somewhat surprised that, judging from its apparent broad support with the HFPA, Cate Blanchett couldn't wrangle a Best Actress nod for Benjamin Button.
  10. Marisa Tomei lives!
I don't really care about the TV nominations, but here's one thought I had:
  1. WHY DOES LOST NEVER GET NOMINATED FOR ANYTHING????????????????????????????

Golden Globe Nominations Announced

And here they are:

BEST MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Frost/Nixon
The Reader
Revolutionary Road
Slumdog Millionaire

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kristin Scott-Thomas, I've Loved You So Long
Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road

BEST MOTION PICTURE – MUSICAL OR COMEDY
Burn After Reading
Happy-Go-Lucky
In Bruges
Mamma Mia!
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – MUSICAL OR COMEDY
Javier Bardem, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Colin Farrell, In Bruges
James Franco, Pineapple Express
Brendan Gleeson, In Bruges
Dustin Hoffman, Last Chance Harvey

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – MUSICAL OR COMEDY
Rebecca Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
Frances McDormand, Burn After Reading
Meryl Streep, Mamma Mia!
Emma Thompson, Last Chance Harvey

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
Tom Cruise, Tropic Thunder
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
Ralph Fiennes, The Duchess
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE

Amy Adams, Doubt
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
Kate Winslet, The Reader

BEST DIRECTOR – MOTION PICTURE

Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Stephen Daldry, The Reader
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Sam Mendes, Revolutionary Road

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Bolt
Kung Fu Panda
WALL-E

BEST SCREENPLAY – MOTION PICTURE
Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
David Hare, The Reader
Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley, Doubt

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – MOTION PICTURE
Alexandre Desplat, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Clint Eastwood, Changeling
James Newton Howard, Defiance
A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
Hans Zimmer, Frost/Nixon

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – MOTION PICTURE
"Down to Earth," WALL-E

"Gran Torino," Gran Torino
"I Thought I Lost You," Bolt
"Once in a Lifetime," Cadillac Records
"The Wrestler," The Wrestler

BEST TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
Dexter
, Showtime
House
, Fox
In Treatment
, HBO
Mad Men
, AMC
True Blood
, HBO

BEST TELEVISION SERIES – COMEDY

30 Rock
, NBC
Californication
, Showtime
Entourage
, HBO
The Office
, NBC
Weeds
, Showtime

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Hugh Laurie, House
Jonathan Rhys Meyers, The Tudors

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA

Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU
January Jones, Mad Men
Anna Paquin, True Blood
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES – MUSICAL OR COMEDY
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Steve Carell, The Office
Kevin Connolly, Entourage
David Duchovny, Californication
Tony Shalhoub, Monk

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES – MUSICAL OR COMEDY
Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?
America Ferrera, Ugly Betty
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Debra Messing, The Starter Wife
Mary Louise-Parker, Weeds

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Eileen Atkins, Cranford
Laura Dern, Recount
Melissa George, In Treatment
Rachel Griffiths, Brothers & Sisters
Dianne Wiest, In Treatment

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
Denis Leary, Recount
Jeremy Piven, Entourage
Blair Underwood, In Treatment
Tom Wilkinson, John Adams

Thoughts on "Slumdog Millionaire"

I finally saw the film tonight, and here's my reaction to it:
  1. I liked it, even though I missed the first half-hour (long story).
  2. Danny Boyle knows what he's doing.
  3. Not surprisingly, the part of Bombay that they show in the movie seems like an AWFUL place to live.
  4. The Taj Mahal sequence was hilarious.
  5. Best Picture? Really? Maybe I should see it again the whole thing through.
What do you guys think?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Awards Preview: "The Reader"

Guys, like just about every other movie, I didn't see The Reader.

This is the 10th out of 10 films I have previewed for awards season, and I actually know nothing about it. Well, I saw the poster today in the movie theater, but other than that... nada.

The only thing I can say about The Reader is that it's possible Kate Winslet's performance takes away possible votes from her performance in Revolutionary Road, leaving her deprived of a nomination. Apparently, however, Weinstein Co. is pushing her as supporting actress for this film, a move which seems kinda silly, since she's the star of the movie.

Sorry for being a half-assed d-bag, but I'm in the process of making a midnight snack. Priorities, people.

Golden Globe Nominations Tomorrow

Brooke Shields, Elizabeth Banks, Terrence Howard and Rainn Wilson will announce the nominations tomorrow morning. Quite an eclectic group!

Rejuvenate Recycling With ReJAVAnate

So, as you know, I want to help fix our environment. In my travels and travails to somehow contribute to this cause, I came across an awesome new product a few days ago: ReJAVAnate reusable bags.

ReJAVAnate takes the burlap from coffee and makes bags out of it. This is great for several reasons. First off, burlap is liable to sit in a landfill for years and years, and this is a great way to recycle it for something useful. Second, the company primarily employs people from a program called The Arc, which is an organization that supports people with disabilities. (Translation: these people wouldn't normally have jobs, and ReJAVAnate is giving them jobs). And finally, of course, this is a WAY better alternative to plastic bags (ew) or even paper bags.

Re-use, re-use, re-use, people. Like I said a few days ago, stop using plastic bags.

Anyway, just wanted to pass the word along. Thought it might make a nice gift for the holidays (if, like me, you don't have a lot of money to spend but want to spent it on something GOOD).

Somewhere, Al Gore is smiling.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Awards Preview: "Australia"

The Golden Compass. The Invasion. The Interpreter. Cold Mountain. Bewitched.

All Nicole Kidman movies that flopped in some way, shape or form. Will Australia be any different?

Well, Oprah liked it. But what the heck does that mean? Dave Karger doesn't think it's a serious contender for any of the major awards. And the movie is practically nowhere to be seen on Buzzmeter, save the Original Screenplay category.

Look guys, I think there is a Nicole Kidman curse (see the list of movies above), so therefore this movie has to tank in some way. And I am on record as saying that Australia will be the Flop of the Year.

I think Karger is on to something when he says that all this movie can reasonably expect is a Screenplay nod and maybe some artsy nominations (like Art Direction and Costumes). Other than that, though, uh-uh.

Maybe the HFPA will feel generous and give it a Best Picture (Drama) nomination. But that'll be it. Bummer, Baz.

Just Impeach the Guy

It's not often in politics that an impeachment acts as a simple solution. But thanks to the master class in bribery blunders given to us by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, we have the rarest of occurrences: an impeachment not only makes sense, it's the easy way out.

Earlier today, Illinois's senior (and lone remaining) senator, Dick Durbin, called on the state legislature to change state law so as to create a special election to determine who will take Barack Obama's seat on Capitol Hill. Right now, Blago still has the power to appoint whomever he wants. And he won't resign. So the thinking is, Illinois will just change the law, the people will decide who replaces Obama, and we'll all move on, right?

One little problem: the COST. Illinois is a state with a $2 billion deficit, and it's estimated that a special election would cost roughly $50 million. The state itself wouldn't pay for the special election (that honor falls to the counties themselves), but still: $50 million is an enormous amount of money. How happy will Illinois taxpayers be after their governor not only tried to sell one of their U.S. Senate seats, but cost them $50 million in the process?

Instead of reconvening on Monday to change state law, the Illinois legislature should reconvene to bring up articles of impeachment against Blagojevich. It's not like it would take very long to come up with a list of impeachable offenses - and they're not even in session right now anyway. Yes, there would be a trial. Yes, impeaching a sitting governor is slightly more complicated than "well, what you did was illegal, in fact it was REALLY illegal, so out you go." But the evidence incriminating Blago is overwhelming, and, considering the governor's approval rating is somewhere between the single- or low double-digits, it seems politically suicidal for any Illinois legislator to not vote for impeachment.

An impeachment trial would theoretically take time - but so would organizing a special election. And an impeachment trial wouldn't cost $50 million. But the other benefit of moving to impeach Blagojevich - besides saving the money - would be that maybe, just maybe, it would compel him to resign. He may not want to now, but if he's going to be impeached anyway, he might be forced to pull a Nixon and save the little face he has left by leaving. Then the lieutenant governor would assume the top role in Springfield and appoint Illinois's next U.S. senator. Problem solved, piggy bank in tact (minus that $2 billion hole).

It's an unprecedented game of political musical chairs - no matter what they decide to do. Let's just hope Illinois gives this guy what he deserves and save its beleaguered taxpayers $50 million in the process.

Wanna Buy a Senate Seat?

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested this morning for conspiring to give away President-elect Obama's vacant Senate seat in exchange for gifts for him and his wife.

Blago apparently also planned on filling the seat himself if he didn't get an offer he liked.

Yeah, I'm sure that would have gone over really well with the people of Illinois, where has literally like a 5% approval rating or something.

Were he to take the seat himself (guess that's off the table now), Blago thought being a senator could help him remake his image in preparation for a - get this - presidential campaign in 2016.

Hmmm... something tells me that the Oval Office is permanently out of reach for Mr. Blagojevich. Just a guess, though.

Awards Preview: "Revolutionary Road"

Kate Winslet. Leonardo DiCaprio. Sam Mendes? Is there any way Revolutionary Road won't get at least a few nominations?

More importantly, will this finally be the year that Kate Winslet - five nominations and zero wins - finally wins an Oscar? Gold Derby thinks so.

Keep in mind that Winslet may get her votes split between her role in this film and her starring performance in The Reader, another movie generating some buzz.

Guys, I'm tired. And I'm having trouble linking to people who have actually seen this movie. So I'm just going to throw this out there:

FEARLESS PREDICTION:
Kate Winslet will finally win an Oscar, and she will win it for this movie.

Brendan agrees with me on this.

And since this write-up is so short, take a look at the Revolutionary Road trailer. It seems like it's a 50's version of American Beauty. That can only be a good thing, right? I mean, I'll see it. Eventually.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Awards Preview: "Wall-E" (cont.)

TIME Magazine has Wall-E in the top spot of its Top 10 movies of the year.

:)

(Hat tip: Brendan)

The Definition of Insanity...

...is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Erick Erickson thinks that, if you want to help restore the Bush name, you should support a Bush election to the Senate from Florida:
For conservatives who are tired of Bushes, the Bushes got into power with a lot of your support. You don’t fix your mistake by running from it. Fix your mistake by fixing it — embrace Jeb Bush and help redeem the image of a party largely hurt by its connection to the wrong Bush. Supporting Jeb Bush does, in fact, help rebuild the brand, and it does so in sharp to his brother.
Jeb Bush may very well become an effective United States Senator from Florida. But short of a subsequent run for the presidency and/or an ascension to a Ted Kennedy-like role in the Senate, nothing Jeb does will in any way atone for or "fix" what his brother did.

The notion that we could somehow repair the damage George W. Bush has done by electing his brother to national office is absurd. And who cares about the Bush "brand?" Oh, boo hoo, the Bush name is tainted now, and that shan't be so, so let's elect Jeb to the Senate. Yeah... thanks, but I'll pass.

Gold Star Winner: December 8, 2008

Jon Stewart
Host, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart has been on fire lately, and he wins a long-overdue Gold Star in appreciation of his consistently excellent work, and for this Bush-bashing gem in particular:

"Do we really have to build this guy a library? I mean, can't we just get him an arcade-slash-go-cart course? I know he'd like it more."

How right he is. Mazel tov!

The Transition Soap Opera

From the geniuses at Slate:

Written In The Stars

Take a look at the astrological signs of all the U.S. presidents.

Barack Obama is a Leo. If you're even a little bit familiar with the Zodiac, you'll know that makes, like, the most sense ever. Leos are usually bold, assertive, ambitious and born leaders.

I am a Cancer, as is - SIGH - George W. Bush. And Gerald Ford. And Calvin Coolidge. And John Quincy Adams. We didn't luck out too well in the White House, did we?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Oscar Snub: Peter O'Toole (cont.)

Why he should have won for The Lion in Winter in 1968:

Oscar Snub: Peter O'Toole

Welcome to OSCAR SNUBS, the latest feature here at The Danifesto. In this series, I'll profile people and pictures that have been notoriously snubbed by the Academy. Some have only one infamous snub, while other, like this week's "honoree," have been repeatedly passed over for an Oscar. This feature will continue every Sunday until February 15, which just so happens to be the week before the Oscars themselves. Enjoy!

Some things in life never change, no matter how much one may try. Seasons will always change. Birds will always fly. The sky is blue. The earth is round. Survivor, after all these seasons, is a popular TV show.

And Peter O'Toole, no matter what he does, regardless of the film for which he is nominated, will always lose at Oscar time. Always.

Peter O'Toole is one of the giants of cinema. Period. His first major role was as the titular character in David Lean's 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia, a Best Picture winner. His prolific career has spanned decades, on stage and screen, in classical and non-classical works, opposite famous and not-so-famous co-stars. Equipped the bluest eyes the world has ever seen, he has bewitched audiences with his talents for nearly half a century.

Yet, with all his fame and fortune, one thing has notoriously alluded him: an Oscar.

Eight times has Peter O'Toole been nominated for an Academy Award: for Lawrence of Arabia, for Becket, for The Lion in Winter, for Goodbye, Mr. Chips, for The Ruling Class, for The Stunt Man, for My Favorite Year, for Venus. Each time, he has lost - first to Gregory Peck, then to Rex Harrison, then to Cliff Robertson, then to John Wayne, then to Marlon Brando, then to Robert DeNiro, then to Ben Kingsley, then to Forest Whitaker. Eight nominations. Over 42 years. Nothing to show for it.

Peter O'Toole's futility at the Oscars ranks as one of the all-time greatest Oscar snubs. He's lost to screen legends (Peck, Wayne, Brando, DeNiro), he's lost to guys giving the performances of their careers (Whitaker and Kingsley, who is now probably a legend but wasn't in 1982), he's lost to a guy who talked when he could have been singing (Harrison) and he's lost to a guy who ended up being practically kicked out of Hollywood for a time (Robertson). He's lost when his film swept the other top awards (Lawrence of Arabia), he's lost when his co-star has won (Katharine Hepburn, The Lion in Winter), he even lost at the age of 74, theoretically the perfect time to finally give him his due (Venus).

No other actor has been nominated as many times without winning. The Academy tried to rectify this in 2002, when they bestowed upon O'Toole the "I've Never Won A Real One So I'm Getting This Instead" Award, also known as an Honorary Oscar. O'Toole, to his credit, showed up at the ceremony - he originally thought he might not - and gave a gracious acceptance speech. But that's been it for him so far, and, at the age of 76, one would presume there's not a real good chance of a competitive win coming any time soon.

So I kick off Oscar Snub Season with a tip of my hat to the great Peter O'Toole, one of my favorite actors, and one of the world's most treasured acting legends. Pete, you may not have an Oscar, but all is not lost, for you now have an award from us, and no one can ever take that away from you.

Congratulations?

Awards Preview: "Doubt" and "Frost/Nixon"

Since I took the day off from awards previews yesterday, I'm back and better than ever today with a double whammy of a post. Today I preview Doubt and Frost/Nixon, the two Broadway adaptations in this year's race.

From the buzz, it looks like Frost/Nixon is in a much better position to scoop up the bigger awards, though it seems like Meryl Streep, who stars in Doubt, will probably get nominated for Best Actress (stop me if you've heard this before).

david's take:
FROST / NIXON is functional, and probably could not have been anything less given the source material. howard makes no strides to elevate it or take full advantage of the cinema's unique narrative offerings, and the whole thing is entirely forgettable. 2 acting nods all but guaranteed, with pic, director, and screenplay likely in the bag as well.

DOUBT is a sliver of what it could have been. busts out of the gate strong but never finds any true footing. the last scene is a real deal-breaker. most likely to be the token film extolled for its performances but omitted from the big 3 categories. and the academy's presentation order be damned, the screenplay awards far outweigh the actor / actress categories as far as importance in my estimation.
As usual, I haven't seen these movies (I'm POOR!!!). But a word of caution regarding Doubt, which I took of notice of as soon as I learned they were making a movie version: John Patrick Shanley himself directed it. Shanley is a brilliant playwright - a BRILLIANT playwright - but that's just it: he's a playwright. His only other foray into film direction was Joe Versus the Volcano.

This is not to say that this film was doomed from the start, but stage-to-screen adaptations are tricky enough, and in my opinion it's generally better to have a more experienced movie-maker at the helm. Just look at what's happened to some recent musicals that have made the jump to the big screen (Mamma Mia, The Producers). Yes, those are musicals, but the same criteria applies.

For the record, Dave Karger has Frost/Nixon third and Doubt fifth on his list of the top eight Best Picture contenders, which strikes me as about correct, except I think it's weird to have Doubt listed above The Dark Knight (#7). I do not get the feeling that Sister Aloysius has a better chance than Batman at Best Picture.

Karger is spot-on, however, in his analysis of Frost/Nixon's best bets:
Best Picture
It's got prestige, relevance, assured direction, and fantastic acting. The negative New York Times review stings, but most critics are loving it.

Best Director, Ron Howard
As soon as voters see his name on the credits, they'll know it'll be a confidently-directed film. Can he score his first nomination since winning for A Beautiful Mind seven years ago?

Best Actor, Frank Langella
Along with Sean Penn, Mickey Rourke, and Clint Eastwood, Langella—who's never been nominated for an Oscar—seems to have a slot sewn up.

So you wait long enough and Richard Nixon comes out on top... kinda. As for Doubt, Karger thinks is "still a contender for all the big prizes." I disagree.

In the end, I'd bet on at least a Best Picture and Best Actor nomination for Frost/Nixon, and Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress (Viola Davis) nominations for Doubt. I really don't expect wins for either film in the big BIG categories, though Viola Davis - who's getting rave reviews - has an interesting shot. Not the front-runner, but an interesting shot.

Senator Chris Matthews? PSYCH!

It looks like he's staying at MSNBC.

Good. I want to watch him be grumpy to his guests for years to come, and I have also been very skeptical of his chances to win a Senate race in Pennsylvania, despite what the local Democratic leaders may have thought.

Though, at this moment in time, there is still a chance that the Senate, in a few years' time, could include Al Franken, Chris Matthews, JFK's daughter and Jesse Jackson's son. And maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger will even run in two years.

I feel like I'm on crazy pays!

Burning for Bush (The Other One)

Peter Robinson reeeeeeeeeeeeeally wants Jeb Bush to run for Senate in Florida:

The first day he walked into the chamber, Bush would already possess a more impressive record of accomplishment--not talk, accomplishment--than all but a few of his new colleagues. For that matter, his record would compare favorably with those of Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and nearly everyone else in Washington, including President Barack Obama.

I get the swipe at Obama, as well as the one at Hillary. But, if you think about it, it's not really fair to compare governors to senators. Seriously. And excuse me but, even if you want to play that little game, how many governors (or former governors) across America have records that compare favorably with Joe Biden?

Um, gee, let me think: no one. The guy's been in the Senate for 35 freaking years, and has built up a resume colored primarily with achievements in foreign policy, not to mention other goodies like the crime bill, as well as an election to the vice presidency. This is not to take anything away from Jeb Bush, who is LEAGUES ahead of his nitwit older brother, but seriously - there's no point in comparing apples to oranges.

"Senator Jeb Bush" would be okay with me if he promised to:
  1. change his last name, and
  2. promise never ever to run for president, and
  3. prohibit George W. from leaving the state of Texas.
Other than that, I think the federal government in this country has had enough of the Bush family for at least a generation. Let George P. run for something in 20 or 30 years. Until then, we're done.

We Are The Music Makers, And We Are The Dreamers Of Dreams

Obama wants to invite musicians and scientists and hold poetry readings at the White House:
"Historically, what has always brought us through hard times is that national character, that sense of optimism, that willingness to look forward, that sense that better days are ahead. I think that our art and our culture, our science--you know, that's the essence of what makes America special, and we want to project that as much as possible in the White House."

Thanks, But No Thanks

As President-elect Obama has been appointing various people to Cabinet positions, the media has gone after the opinions of the people in the Bush administration that are about to be replaced.

Why? It allows these people, like Condi Rice and others, to offer an "informed" opinion of the new team, as if they've done such a bang-up job that, oh yeah, it's really worth it to hear them guage who is or isn't going to do a good job.

Condi Rice, queen of the "well, none of this has been MY fault!" crowd of Bush administration officials, offers her validation of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Great. It's like a vegan recommending filet mignon: DOES. NOT. COMPUTE.

As you know, I'm a big believer in the belief that everyone is allowed to speak his or her mind, even if they're a political appointee of George W. Bush. I'm just wondering why the media is trying to delude us into thinking that anything people like Condi say has, at this point, any merit whatsoever.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

XOX-NO!

The CW is thinking about making a spin-off for Gossip Girl.

Who would it be about? You can't break up the five main characters (Blair, Serena, Dan, Chuck and Nate). I suppose you could make it about Jenny or Vanessa, but... really?

It would certainly be something different, I guess. A show centered around Jenny or Vanessa would be very "'poor' girl from Brooklyn trying to make her way to the top," which is different from Gossip Girl, which is "really really rich young people doing stuff in New York." Also, note that I use the word "poor" in quotes, especially applied to Jenny, who is supposed to be poor but lives with her rock star dad in a gorgeous loft in Williamsburg.

A spin-off around Jenny would seem to make the most sense, but I ask again... really?

Quantum of OMG Best Song Ever

I haven't seen Quantum of Solace yet (because I haven't seen anything), but this song is amazing:

Bye Bye, Biden

Mike Allen reports:
BLOCKBUSTER-- Coming in Sunday's LAS VEGAS SUN, By Lisa Mascaro/Washington Bureau -- BIDEN TO BE BARRED FROM SENATE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS MEETINGS AS PART OF REID EFFORT TO RESTORE CHECKS AND BALANCES: 'The new Congress will reassert its constitutional independence from the White House by barring the vice president from joining in internal Senate deliberations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in an interview with The Sun. The move is intended to restore checks and balances to a system that tilted heavily toward the White House in the Bush presidency. By giving Vice President Dick Cheney regular access to Senate Republican caucuses, at times with White House advisers in tow, party unity became more important to many Republicans than upholding their responsibilities to provide legislative oversight of the executive, experts say. Asked if Vice-President Joe Biden will be allowed to attend Senate Democratic caucus meetings, Reid said: 'Absolutely not.' Must credit Las Vegas Sun. Full story 2 a.m. Sunday at http://www.lasvegassun.com/
Well that's a good sign, isn't it?

It will be interesting to see how Vice President Biden, who actually will have almost no authority granted to him by the Constitution, fits into the Obama White House equation. Biden's a foreign policy heavyweight, but he'll be part of a team of other foreign policy heavyweights - Hillary, Bob Gates, etc. I do expect him to be Obama's wise(-cracking) old sage, offering advice for a wide range of issues. Biden himself even promised that, for every major decision, he will "be in the room." But I'm glad that room won't be where the Senate Democratic Caucus meets.

Good rule of thumb for Biden: whatever Dick Cheney did, yeeeahhh... you pretty much just wanna do, like, the EXACT OPPOSITE of that.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Awards Preview: "Milk" (cont.)

Brendan thinks Milk will win Best Director for Gus Van Sant, as well as Best Original Screenplay.

I think Screenplay is a safe bet, but Van Sant would a real pushing of the envelope, in my view.

Of course, I STILL HAVEN'T SEEN ANYTHING BECAUSE I AM POOR AND HAVE NO MONEY TO SPEND ON MOVIES so it's hard to make an informed opinion. :(

Anyone who wants to donate to the Danifesto Give-Me-Money-So-I-Can-Watch-Movies-And-Stop-Half-Assing-My-Awards-Previews fund, inquire within.

Awards Preview: "Milk"

Three years after the disaster known as "Brokeback Mountain loses to Crash," and in the wake of Prop 8 hysteria, comes a movie about Harvey Milk, this nation's first openly gay elected official (in any high-ranking, meaningful office).

The movie has generated strong buzz thus far for its acting performances (Sean Penn, Josh Brolin; wish James Franco got some too), as well as its writing.

But what about the movie itself? Can it win - or even get nominated for - Best Picture?

As one might expect, the problem with a movie like this is that it's going to be labeled "the gay movie." That makes it instantly less attractive to the old, stuffy Academy giving it any kudos (again, remember what happened to Brokeback Mountain). It's the same thing with "black movies," "chick flicks," or anything else. There are certain types of films that are branded as some kind of "other" stereotype that instantly places them outside of the mainstream. So let me just say right off the bat that I think Milk's Oscar chances are dubious because of this.

Reaction to the movie also seems to be split. Andrew Sullivan loved it:
The movie's brilliance is not that it begins and ends with his death as a reflection on the first and last things; it is that it begins and ends with Milk's love for another human being as well. This reach for intimacy - always vulnerable, always intimate, never safe - endures past movements and rallies and elections. These manifestations of the political are the meaLinkns to that merely human end.
While david called it - and this is the best phrase I have EVER heard - "one big gay pile of underwhelming"...
MILK is one big gay pile of underwhelming. sean penn plays the eponymous role as if he were (i am) Sam but liked boys rather than the beatles. that being said, his performance is predictably strong but his nomination will be a result of penn sinking his teeth into a joyful role more than anything else. anyhoo, for a film about such an unconventional and downright revolutionary man, milk is just too bland to really curry any true favor (though reparations for the brokeback mountain losing to crash fiasco might up milk's stock). gus van sant's biopic is rife with absolutely fascinating characters, almost all of which are consistently ignored in favor of redundant stock footage and a cursory and second-rate overview of milk's political achievements, all of which were more indelibly covered in rob epstein's doc "the life and times of harvey milk." van sant's work shines whenever the always-intimidating josh brolin is onscreen and the film threatens to become an intriguing study of a socio-political dichotomy as personified by two riveting individuals but... no. cut to captain of the d-bag brigade, emie hirsch, whining about something or the tragic figure of a crippled gay teenager calling milk directly only at times that impossibly compliment the narrative... ick.
Of the movies we have previewed thus far, I'd say that Benjamin Button remains the only lock for a nomination, while Slumdog Millionaire looks to be this year's best bet to fill the Indie Film Representative Slot in the Best Picture race (taking its place next to Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, Sideways, Lost in Translation, etc.). I still think that the unprecedented uniqueness of circumstances surrounding The Dark Knight will be enough to score a Best Picture nod. That leaves two spots.

As much as I wish it weren't the case, I highly doubt WALL-E's ability to get nominated for Best Picture. I also refuse to believe that Australia will get nominated because I am on the record having stated that it's this year's Mega-Flop. Doubt? Frost/Nixon? I suppose. But I feel like only one Broadway-to-the-big-screen picture at a time can get nominated for the big prize. Maybe they both can do it, and that fills it out. Maybe, maybe not.

So what about Milk? God, I don't know. On one hand, like david says, the Academy might feel it necessary to atone for Brokeback Mountain. There is also the incredible backlash in California and elsewhere to the passage of Prop 8. Oscar loves to make a political statement (or likes to think it's making a political statement). So that bodes well for Milk. But I still just don't know.

This one is really hard to gauge. I feel pretty confident in predicting that it won't win Best Picture, but less confident in predicting that it won't even get nominated. It's got as good of a chance as any movies that's not Slumdog Millionaire or Benjamin Button. But it being what it is - THE GAY MOVIE!!!!!!!!!!!!! - just throws a wrench into the whole damn thing.

It's 50/50. Your guess is as good as mine.

Four Years From Now

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Awards Preview: "Wall-E"

It started with the "Central Services" music.

Some of you will get that reference (Brendan and david at the very least... LoquaciousMuse, are you familiar with the Brazil soundtrack?*), and if you do, odds are you'll know why I loved Wall-E before I even saw the movie in its entirety.

I'm a big fan of quasi-fantasy movies - in other words, movies that are fictional, and a stretch of one's imagination, but still entirely within the realm of possibility. This, I suppose, is why I always liked Deep Impact, The Truman Show and TV shows like Weeds. Obviously an apocalyptic comet is not hurtling towards earth, but it could be at some point. Obviously no man has ever grown up as the unknowing star of his own reality show, but he could be. Obviously no suburban mom is a pot dealer, or most aren't, but at some point, certainly in this economy, she could be.

My point is that Wall-E struck a chord with me from the very beginning. It's computer-animated, it takes place 800 years in the future and is, at its core, a love story between two robots, but it's feasible. One can imagine Earth getting so cluttered with trash that human beings are forced to leave. One can imagine human beings getting so fat that they just zip around all day on scooters while tuned to an endless TV screen that accompanies them everywhere. One can imagine humanity's meals consisting of an endless barrage of Slurpee-like soft drinks. One can imagine a robot that can think. One can imagine a computer running a sophisticated ship, or plane, or automobile. One can imagine when a grown man - the captain of an enormous space cruiser - has no idea what the sea is. Or dancing. Or farming.

So Wall-E fits into my personal "within the realm of possibility" folder. On top of that, it deals with the very urgent issue of the environment, and how we need to (no pun intended) clean up our act. It is against this topical, very relevant backdrop that, oh by the way, a funny, heartwarming, endearing love story is told between a clumsy-yet-cute robot named Wall-E and a prickly-yet-peach-hearted robot named Eve.

When I think of great love stories, I think of Casablanca. I think of The Apartment. Yeah, I think of Titanic. And now I think of Wall-E.

I loved Wall-E. I cried when I saw it for the first time. It was my favorite film of the year. And besides my personal attachment to it, it is yet another in a long line of brilliant Disney/Pixar computer-animated features (Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo). It is a lock to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, and - seeing how this is a kooky year, awards-wise - it would be unwise to write it off totally from the Best Picture race.

Oh, who am I kidding. The Academy won't nominate it for Best Picture. They can't, can they?

I suppose there's always a chance. Who knows? Seabiscuit made it in, and that was a love story between a horse and a redheaded version of Tobey Maguire. I'll take Wall-E and Eve anyday. And Jeff Garlin's voice, too.

P.S. I have decided to forgo my usual samplings of experts' opinions from around the web because I just needed to gush about my love for Wall-E. Regular awards previews will resume tomorrow.

*Disclaimer: I haven't seen Brazil, but I know that song, and loooove it, obviously.

Obama '08 or [Insert Issue Here] '08?

There is a debate going on about why young people - people my age, your age, our age (early 20's a.k.a. YOUNG) - voted in 2008. Was it because of the magnetic attraction of Barack Obama, or because of the specific substantive issues at stake in the campaign?

Erica Williams believes that much of the credit for young voter turnout simply goes to the fact that Obama was on the ticket:
Who are we kidding? Many people voted because of Obama. Deal with it. I think one of the main failures of youth vote advocates this election season was in the shallowness and transparency of our messaging. The message that “young people voted on the issues” never broke through to mainstream media because it frankly wasn’t true. It was a message set up to support our organizational missions and demand legitimacy and credibility not just for our constituency, but mostly for our own work. And I understand that. But there is a difference between saying that young people care about the issues – that is true – and that young people voted because they care about the issues – not true. You can care about issues and stay your butt home on the first Tuesday in November, particularly in our communities (young, black, latino, disenfranchised). Because guess what? Young people have always cared about not having clean air to breathe, or money in their pockets, or their loved ones at war. And while yes, the past 8 years have brought us to a boiling point, logic would not tell our communities that voting is the solution. Obama is what made them channel their frustration about the issues onto the ballot. And denying that reality is going to make tomorrow a cold blast of water when we go back to our newly registered voters and find out that they actually know very little about “the issues” or how those issues will really be changed.
Man, I'm really torn on this one. There is a part of me that agrees with the premise that it was generally Obama, and not "Man, you know, this economy sucks and we NEED Obama's policy proposals" that led voters 18-29 to vote Democratic 2-to-1. I think Erica is on to something when she says that a lot of the appeal was Obama being Obama. He served as a unique blank slate on which Americans, particularly young people, could project their frustrations. I do take issue, however, with just one part of what Erica says:
Because guess what? Young people have always cared about not having clean air to breathe, or money in their pockets, or their loved ones at war.
[Emphasis mine.] Obviously, people care about clean air and money in pockets and not losing loved ones at war. Those are pretty much basic wants of human life - meaning, it shouldn't be considered a luxury to have or require those things. The thing is that eight years of George W. Bush have turned things that used to be basic guarantees of American life for most people (clean air, a stable economy, peace) into relatively rare commodities. We have a president who doesn't believe in global warming, has destroyed our economy and killed thousands of Americans with his war. So we have "always cared" about these things, sure, but only in the past two elections have they become debatable issues on which one chooses to vote.

While I think the general point that Erica is making - that most people voted for Obama because he's OBAMA, the Hope/Change/Unity guy, and not necessarily because he aligned perfectly with them in terms of policy - is valid, I don't think dismissing clean air, money and the war as things we young people would be caring about anyway is correct. They didn't use to be votable issues, and now they are, so I think it's valid to say that, yeah, maybe people of our generation actually were voting for issues like those, and chose to vote for Obama on those reasons - rather than vote for Obama based on his cool brand and pop culture appeal, and it's just convenient that he turned out to be against the war and in favor of renewable energy.

Michael Connery is thinking more along those lines:
The media may have lampooned the Obama campaign's celebrity power, but it's not like all these contacts, and all of Obama's stump appearances, amounted to nothing more than a call to "vote for me because I'm awesome." There was a little more substance than that, even if we junkies craved even more substance than was offered. Expecting more than that, I think, is unreasonable. The percentage of voters - among all age groups - who cast their ballots based on the minutia of policy are so small as to be an insignificant portion of the electorate. Using such a standard as a talking point to the media is, I think foolhardy (if in fact that was the message some orgs tried to send), but to rate the quality of youth involvement or the effectiveness of youth organizations on the policy knowledge of the electorate seems unfair.
I think, if anything, the Bush years have made policy wonks out of more young Americans than ever - or at least in a generation. An electorate that used to snooze through general elections has now woken up, and it's no surprise they voted for Obama in huge numbers. Much of it had to do with the cool "O" logo, the Facebook and iPhone applications, the XBox advertising, the celebrity endorsements and the canon of YouTube classics, but some of it undoubtedly had to do with the fact that George W. Bush has turned a lot of young people into Democrats - and not just as a knee-jerk reaction to the Republican disaster of the past eight years. I think, as people come of age during turbulent times such as these, it's natural to become more engaged because things really start hitting close to home - in the form of a dirty power plant nearby, a mortgage foreclosure or the death of a loved one in Iraq.

In the end, a lot of it was about Obama. But a lot of it was about issues, too. Obama just happened to be right on most of them.

Just Checking In

I just wanted everyone to know that, even if I don't respond to your comment(s) and/or email(s) directly on the site, that I read each and every one of them and take every opinion, observation and piece of feedback into consideration. Thank you for reading, and keep the conversation going.

ALSO: I believe I may have somewhat slandered david in my "Benjamin Button." He did NOT "hate" The Dark Knight. He is not as enamored with it as, say, Ms. LoquaciousMuse. That's okay. That's why God made chocolate and vanilla. And, you know, "hate" is a strong word. So it doesn't fit in this context.

But it's still gonna be nominated for Best Picture - at least at the Golden Globes. Then again, I could videotape myself humming "Row Row Row Your Boat" and probably score a nod for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy) at the Globes. Oh, the Hollywood Foreign Press......

TEASER: Check back later this evening as I will post the latest Awards Preview, and this time we're going with the film that was, without a doubt, my favorite film of the year thus far...

Senator Jeb Bush?

DISCLAIMER: I realize as I type this that I've had a lot of "Senator [Insert Name Here]?" posts lately. Sorry about that, although you've gotta love my consistency.

A great deal of fuss has been made over speculation that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (yes, the brother of you-know-who) will run for the Sunshine State's open Senate seat in 2010. The conventional wisdom is that the Republicans would obviously just hand him the nomination and he'd be the odds-on favorite to win the seat in the general election.

Am I missing something here? Matt Stoller apparently isn't:
This track record has been compounded by the weirdness of Florida, which is Alabama in the north of the state, Cuba and New York in the south of the state, and the exurbs in the I-4 corridor in the Disney middle. Jeb's conservative politics play well in the north of the state, and have been pretty irrelevant elsewhere. Should he run for Senate, Jeb Bush will have an entirely different experience. If his opponent is Alex Sink, my guess is that he's going to have a really tough time. Sink is a wonderful and highly respected former banker who is now the state's chief financial officer. She's a very very strong opponent, and Bush's background as a semi-corrupt businessman who participated in a scheme to, get this, sell water pumps in Nigeria, will emerge.
Jeb served two terms as governor in Florida and is still very popular there. But there's something else at play here: has anyone caught his last name? This is how it's spelled:

B U S H

...as in, "I share genetic material with the guy who's currently in the Oval Office. Yes, him. The least popular president... um, ever, basically."

Florida's blue right now, it's been red for a while before that, though its Republican governor is pretty much moderate (also probably gay). That makes Florida purple. Can a Bush still win in a purple state, even a popular Bush whose first name isn't George?

I don't know. All I know is, John McCain used to be the most popular politician in America and he lost the modern battlegrounds of not just Florida, but Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and New Hampshire, not to mention usually Republican states like Colorado and Nevada, and that's before we even talk about always Republican states like Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia (!!!!!).

Obviously, Senate and presidential races are very different, and in 2010 George W. will have been out of power for over a year and a half. But I just don't see the toxicity of the Bush "brand" (like anyone would buy such a thing) dissipating within the near future. Is 2010 too soon? At this stage, I'd bet that it is.

However, there is a George P. Bush (Jeb's son) who is wealthy, smart, well-connected, good-looking and part-Hispanic (his mom's side), so maybe, I dunno, 2024? If the Bushes can wait that long?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Awards Preview: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

For those of you confused by the curiously long title, this is the movie where Brad Pitt is born as an old guy and gradually gets younger. In other words, it could actually be called The Curious Case of Plastic Surgery in Modern Hollywood.

Ba-zing! Whatever its title, the film is undoubtedly the odds-on favorite right now to win Best Picture. Don't believe me? Just ask Buzzmeter.

Why is it winning the Oscar race so far? According to Dave Karger, because it's a weepie:
Button is an Oscar movie with a capital O, with jaw-dropping production values, a soaring romance, and terrific performances, particularly from supporting-actress candidate Taraji P. Henson as Benjamin's de facto mother. Even if Brad Pitt doesn't make it into the tough Best Actor race (the likes of Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio may squeeze him out), I still can see Button racking up as many as 11 nominations, which could very well be the highest tally for any film this year. Once the film opens on Christmas day, I guarantee we'll all be talking about one thing: whether or not Benjamin Button made you sob.
Titanic, Schindler's List, Driving Miss Daisy, Ordinary People, American Beauty, The English Patient, On the Waterfront, The Apartment... all of these movies won Best Picture, and they're all weepies. Well, you weep during all of them, if you're human.

Being a weepie is generally the best way to score an Oscar nomination for Best Picture (once again, Atonement, I am looking in your direction), the same way making yourself ugly is a good way to get an Oscar nod for Best Actress (Hilary Swank, Nicole Kidman).

So what does the rest of our panel of experts think? Here's david:
BENJAMIN BUTTON is gonna make a splash of some kind come its xmas release. the film is in line with fincher's zodiac in its stately, matter-of-fact pace and tone. a gentle, cumulatively devastating film about (a) life that almost entirely circumvents peaks and valleys, it's astonishing cg and digital dreamscapes make it play like an elegy for a life not yet lived. it features some of the most practical and seamless effects work of any film ever (EVER), and i'll be more than a little offended if something a bit splashier steals the tech awards. film's unforced grace is not going to work to its advantage come february, so my initial guess is that it'll dominate the nominations (expect it to garner the most of any film with nods across the board from make-up to maybe even actor and of course picture), but perhaps fall short of the podium. SEE IT.
This coming from the guy who, yes, hated The Dark Knight (cue protest from LoquaciousMuse). Oh, and speaking of LoquaciousMuse:
Benjamin Button leaves the audience oddly emotionally detatched in what should be a tearjerker.
Okay. So the movie is either:
  1. A tearjerker.
  2. Supposed to be a tearjerker.
Well, I got news for you, sports fans (or movie fans? It's just an expression). Whether or not Benjamin Button actually makes you cry, the point that it's supposed to is going to be enough, and probably more than enough. The last time a movie that was supposed to be a weepie but wasn't got shunned for a Best Picture nod was 2003 with Cold Mountain, and that was just a mess.

I don't know if this movie can win the big award, as that would make it two years in a row of two really-long-titled movies winning Best Picture (after No Country For Old Men last year). At any rate, Cate Blanchett better start trying on dresses, and Brad needs to fit Maddox, Pax and Knox for tuxedos. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button will be nominated for Oscars, lots of them, and right now is the odds-on-favorite to win the big prize. Not bad for a silly title.

Scenes From "The West Wing"

"Let Bartlet Be Bartlet."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Awards Preview: "The Dark Knight" (cont.)

Brendan of Hey Brendan! has a neat thought:
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight (accepted by Michelle Williams on behalf of her ex-husband.)
That would certainly be an Oscar moment-to-remember, wouldn't it?

Awards Preview: "The Dark Knight"

The Dark Knight is, without a doubt, the most popular film of the year so far. In fact, it's currently the second highest grossing film of all time (and when it's re-released this winter, it'll probably pass Titanic for #1 on the list).

Fuck all that. Can it win an Oscar? Fuck THAT. Can it even get nominated?

My gut instinct is yes. I think it can. It can certainly count on a slew of nods in the technical categories, and the late, great Heath Ledger looks to be a look for at least a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

But how about the only one that really, really matters: Best Picture?

Well, Buzzmeter's got it at #4, which I take to be a very good sign that the hoopla over the summer is actually very real. david at All Things Fangirl (guy?) is not so optimistic:
...as far as the big race is concerned, you can all just go ahead and forget about the DARK KNIGHT.
Okay. Dave Karger, for one, thinks that Obama winning the presidential election actually helps The Dark Knight's chances:
Usually I'm not the kind of guy who thinks that outside events have too much influence on the Oscar race. I generally think it's about the movies, more or less in a vacuum. But I do think that this week's election-day results may have a profound effect on the Best Picture chances of two films. For starters, there's The Dark Knight. I thought the sequence involving the two ferries (in which a group of commuters and a group of convicts have the power to blow up each others' boats but don't) was a bit too reality-show-ish for my taste. But I know most viewers loved it. Either way, that part of the film speaks to the innate goodness of human behavior. And let's remember that Oscar ballots are due next January 12, just a week before Barack Obama is inaugurated. It's safe to say most Hollywood types will also see that event as an example of innate human goodness. All of this only helps The Dark Knight's chances, don't you think?
The problem with The Dark Knight, of course, is simple: It's THE DARK KNIGHT. It's not your "typical" Oscar movie - even though "typical" Oscar movies frequently suck (Atonement, I'm looking at you). In fact, Karger today started a mini-maelstrom of sorts by asking this question:
will voters really check off a popcorn movie?
Zing! To which the revered movie/geek/pop culture expert (seriously, check this girl's blog out) LoquaciousMuse responds:
I understand that for some people, the Dark Knight hype got the better of them..well...I sort of understand...in that way that I'll pretend I understand if you want...but so far, it's hands down the best picture I've seen so far this year. To insult my taste and the taste of millions of others just doesn't seem right to me. The whole reason this movie made as much money as it did, beyond your average comic book movie's total, and why it's getting Best Picture talk in the first place is because it ISN'T just a popcorn movie. It reinvented and elevated the superhero genre to a whole new level and to demean that accomplishment and ignore its quality is condescending at best. Those who are at this moment considering nominating Dark Knight are doing so because it's a great god damn movie and won't change their minds last second, "Bradley Effect" style. Those academy members who won't be nominating Dark Knight? They were never entertaining the thought in the first place.

I stand firmly by the belief that in the end Dark Knight will pull out a Best Pic nod. If it doesn't, it's due to that faction of the academy that will always point their noses down on superhero films, no matter how great they are. But look at this years contenders - Slumdog Millionaire is pretty good, Frost/Nixon, you know, gets the job done and from what I hear (and will be able to confirm soon) Milk is more of an accomplishment for telling the story it tells rather than an achievement in filmmaking and Benjamin Button leaves the audience oddly emotionally detatched in what should be a tearjerker. All four times I saw Dark Knight, I did laugh, I did cry, I marveled at the gorgeous IMAX sequences, I noticed new things, was affected by new things, I was always impressed with the performances and was consistently left itching for the continuation of this story. Some say the film is too didactic, but one element of the superhero genre that should always be maintained is the moral lesson, the grand themes of right and wrong and the epic battle of good versus evil. It's why the genre was created and why it's not going anywhere.
Okay, soooo... here's what we can conclude:
  1. Everybody liked The Dark Knight.
  2. Because everybody liked The Dark Knight, its Oscar chances are iffy.
  3. None of this actually makes any sense.
Christopher Nolan made a film that has become one of the biggest hits ever, thanks to a perfect storm of factors surrounding its release: it was a sequel to an extremely popular film, it fits into a well-established and revered pop culture franchise, it was impeccably well-made and well-acted and, it must be said, transcended the normal world of fandom with the tragic, internationally-reported death of Heath Ledger, who happened to give a performance that was bound to be hailed as visionary and legendary anyway.

There's never before been a movie to which all that has happened. So, even though The Dark Knight may be *gasp* a popcorn movie in the end, it is at an almost Titanic- or Star Wars-like level in terms of pop culture phenomena. Both of those films - popcorn movies - got boatloads of Oscar nominations, and Titanic, of course, won Best Picture. The Dark Knight might not win anything (big) come Oscar night, but I do expect it to be nominated, if for no other reason than it is one of those rare, once-or-twice-in-a-generation pop culture EVENTS that, by nature, throw all rules of normalcy out the window anyway. The Dark Knight has, as LoquaciousMuse says, rewritten the superhero genre. It's poised to rewrite Oscar history as well.

Aw, Shucks

Bill Clinton is nixing the idea of him replacing Hillary in the Senate.

As I wrote last night, I thought the idea of "Senator Bill Clinton" was intriguing and potentially beneficial to both Clintonistas and Obamans alike. I still continue to think that, and must confess a bit of disappointment that it doesn't appear like it will happen.

It was always a long shot, but a boy can dream, can't he?

So who will Hillary's replacement be? Caroline Kennedy, maybe? Andrew Cuomo? Rosie O'Donnell? I hear she's out of a job.

Stop Using Plastic Bags!

This falls into the "duh" category of easy things one can do to help the environment, but seriously: stop using plastic bags. Or if you're going to keep using them, then please recycle them:
  1. Switch to reusable shopping bags. Reusable shopping bags made from renewable materials conserve resources by replacing paper and plastic bags. Reusable bags are convenient and come in a variety of sizes, styles and materials. When not in use, some reusable bags can be rolled or folded small enough to fit easily into a pocket.

  2. Recycle your plastic bags. If you do end up using plastic bags now and then, be sure to recycle them. Many grocery stores now collect plastic bags for recycling. If yours doesn't, check with your community recycling program to learn how to recycle plastic bags in your area.
It's really easy to do this, obviously. And I'm guilty of it as well. But according to the guy who wrote that post, Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags a year. 100 billion! Imagine how much good we could do if we just cut that in half - and how easy it would be to do it.

The Mormons' "Perfect Storm"

A respected historian says that, since the passage of Proposition 8, the Mormon Church is facing a PR nightmare, the likes of which it has never seen before.

Remember that the LDS Church poured millions of dollars into an effort to help pass Prop 8.



(Hat tip: Sheldon Rampton)

Spirit Award Nominees Announced

View the list here. I guess Slumdog Millionaire wasn't eligible for nomination, because it didn't get nominated for anything.

I'm puzzled by the fact that the Spirit Awards announced their nominees today, December 2nd, when the awards aren't held until February 21st (the day before the Oscars), almost three months from now. The Oscars, by comparison, announce their nominees on January 22nd.

Mel Martinez Not Running In 2010

The Republican junior senator from Florida, still in his first term, will return to the private sector. Martinez was briefly chair of the RNC and was one of those ho-hum Republican candidates swept into power by the 9/11 Republican wave of 2002-2004 (think John Sununu, Liddy Dole et. al.).

Florida has a moderate Republican governor who may or may not be gay, a Democratic U.S. senator and just voted Democratic for president for the first time since 2000... er, 1996.

Martinez's exit will set up a big battle for the heart and soul of Florida for the next half-decade or decade or so. The Democrats are going to go after this seat hard, and for good reason:
Martinez was one of the most vulnerable senators up for reelection in 2010, with multiple polls showing him with approval ratings well under 50 percent and with weak reelect numbers.

A November Quinnipiac poll showed a 38 percent plurality of Florida voters believe Martinez doesn’t deserve another term, while only 36 percent believe he should be reelected. Against an unnamed Democratic opponent, Martinez trails by 4 points, 40 percent to 36 percent.
It's two years away, so no need to get one's hopes up. But based off the success at the presidential level in 2008, Florida Democrats should be feeling pretty confident about their chances, especially now that Martinez is gone.

He Said He'd Do It All Along

I know that I've had some periodic queasiness over the non-liberalness of Obama's appointees thus far, and others in the blogosphere have as well. It's important to keep in mind, though, that the divergence in policy and world views between Obama and his more hawkish Cabinet is not a broken promise of some kind, and should not come as a surprise:
Some liberals might have cringed yesterday seeing Obama unveil a national security team consisting of Hillary Clinton (who voted in favor of the Iraq war), Bob Gates (Bush's current Defense secretary), and Jim Jones (who is close to McCain). The truth is, however, that the president-elect is simply following through on a promise about changing the tone and creating a bipartisan atmosphere in Washington. Yes, Obama opposed the war in Iraq and probably owed his victory in the Iowa caucuses to that fact. But outside Iraq, he never pandered to the left as much as they thought he did; the left simply heard what they wanted in Obama. Some examples that come to mind: his reversal on FISA, his support for merit pay for teachers, and his championing of faith-based services.
If you look at Obama's appointees, coupled with the Lieberman situation, it does seem like he is thus far following through on his promise to be bipartisan president for all, and someone who just leaves the old Washington bullshit at the door ("No Drama Obama"). That's music to my ears after eight years of Bush, Cheney and Rove, who played politics with everything - including our soldiers' lives.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Oh, By The Way...

...we're officially in a recession, in case you hadn't noticed.

So on December 1, 2008, the National Bureau of Economic Research declared that we have been in a recession since December 2007:
The announcement means that the downturn is already one year old. That is longer than the average length of 10.5 months for recessions since World War II. The current record for the longest recession over the last half-century is 16 months, which was reached in both the downturns of 1973-74 and 1980-81.
So we're already in worse shape than we've been in at least 35 years, and there's no end in sight, either.

Incidentally, I didn't even know that we had a National Bureau of Economic Research, but as long as we do, how about they research these things as well:
  • Why does the bailout money seem to not be having any effect?
  • Why are the credit markets still frozen?
  • Is a multi-trillion dollar stimulus package (like the one Obama is proposing) really going to help us get out of this rut?
  • Should we let Detroit go bankrupt?
  • When is this going to end?
The scary thing is that I feel like I hear these questions all the time on the news - but I never hear any answers. Now, a lot of the questions asked on the news are very dumb questions indeed, but still - with all the back-and-forth incessant parroting of the mainstream media, you'd think that by this point someone somewhere would have somehow come up with some kind of sensible plan to get us out of this mess.

I'm an economics newbie, if not an economics know-nothing (which is probably closer to the truth), yet even I can tell that it seems like for this mess, there are no quick fixes or easy answers.

Oscar season is arriving just in time, my friends.