Sunday, December 21, 2003

Finally, Return of the King

We went to see Trilogy Tuesday last week, seeing two extended edition LOTR movies followed by the premiere of ROTK.

Line for Trilogy Tuesday in Pittsburgh, About 10:15 am

Line for Trilogy Tuesday in Pittsburgh

There were already about 200 people in line before we got there, so we wound up on the floor but in the center. While, at first we hated the seats, they turned out to be fortuitous. Before the movie started, we realized the folks sitting in front of us were people we'd known back in college, from the old Western Pennsylvania Science Fiction Association (WPSFA)

Lori and Tom Lane

Lori and Tom Lane

It was neat to catch up with them after all this time.

Back to the movies, the extended editions both looked phenomenal on the big screen.

The Audience Just Before The Return of the King

The Audience Just Before The Return of the King (remember, just about everyone in there had been in the theater for over 10 hours...)

But, after a long day of movie watching, my brain was completely fried by the time ROTK finally started at just after 10. While the movie looked absolutely phenomenal, I was having a terrible time related to the characters. And the movie seemed structurally very off. So I got a little snarky in my online comments on the movie.


I did go see the movie again at a time when I'd had a little more sleep and hadn't been watching movies all day. That made an enormous difference. Instead of focusing on the problems (which exist but are fairly small by comparison), I got even more caught up by the sheer audaciousness of the undertaking. Minis Tirith is one of the most remarkable combinations of set/bigature/special effect that I have ever seen. The Nazgul attacking Minis Tirith have a huge "gosh wow" factor, reminiscent of the asteroid sequence from The Empire Strikes Back or the scene of the Mother Ship flying over Devil's Tower in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We have been watching a classic unfold over the last two years.

Despite the spectacle, the human story is rarely overshadowed. The whole cast (except for John Noble as Denethor, but the problems with Denethor weren't all his fault) give one of the finest ensemble performances ever. Ian McKellan, Billy Boyd, Viggo Mortenson, Sean Astin and Elijah Wood deserve special commendation as "first among equals," but no one really steals the show. The movies would not have worked had the casting not been as perfect as the special effects.
It's instructive to go back into the casting archives in TheOneRing.Net and the casting discussions in AintItCoolNews to read some of the jaw-dropping rumors that went around. Keanu Reeves as Aragorn? Uma Thurman as Eowyn? The mind boggles.

There are a few continuity and editing problems in the movie. The whole Pyre of Denethor sequence is just badly handled, and the cuts between Eowyn and the Witch King confrontation and the arrival of Aragorn and company are very distracting. And the endings could have been shortened slightly. Still, the movies are just a phenomenal achievement, and I'm delighted that Peter Jackson et. al. have pulled it off.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Political Compass

This is all Neil Gaiman's fault. He said he found the politics self-test at the Political Compass site fascinating. I must say, he was right. Here are the results of my test:

Laurie Mann's Political Compas Ranking

It's fairly close; while I do distrust government (particularly my own these days), I distrust business and other institutions more. I do seem to lean more to the left every time I take one of these tests..

I'm Going to the Oscars!....Well, Almost...

Before I became a Hugo or Nebula fan, I was (and am) an Oscar fan. Despite the fact I have wildly mixed feelings about popular awards (don't get me started on Oscar failures, like Titanic or The Last Emporer), I have been a devoted follower of Oscar politics and the awards for many years. I can't completely blame my Dad on this, but he bought a copy of a book that had photos from Oscar winners when it was first published in the mid-'60s. I almost memorized that book; whenever I saw that an Oscar-winner was to be on TV, I made a point of watching it.

I thought going to Hollywood at Oscar time would be a way cool thing. But I'm just a movie fan - would it be worth it?

About two years ago, I heard that Lord of the Rings fans threw themselves an Oscar party. In Hollywood. What a way cool idea. So, being an ardent Tolkein and Jackson fan, I started hanging out more frequently on The One Ring.Net, where I adopted the pseudo-Tolkeinish name of "JRandomRohirrim." Due to being both early and persistent, I got tickets to Trilogy Tuesday (just two days away now!) and to the TORN Oscar Party! The TORN Oscar Party sold out about 15 minutes after the tickets went on sale, so I know how lucky I was to buy tickets for my co-worker Laura and me.

So over the next ten weeks, I'll get to do two very movie fannish and geeky things with Lord of the Rings fans. I already have a fabulous dress for the Oscar party (I wore it last year to the Nebulas and will probably bring it to Worldcon next year) and plan to take loads of photos while I'm there. Even if Return of the King doesn't win every Oscar it deserves (it already has a clear lock on Best Special Effects), it'll be really neat to share Oscar night with 700 psyched LOTR fen. And the site of this Oscar party is about two blocks from the Kodak Theater, where the Oscars will be held - close enough for an early Sunday morning stroll and some more pictures.

Who knows, maybe I'll even meet Sean Astin and Sala Baker again!

ConJose Hugo Acceptors:  Sala Baker, Jeff Walker and Sean Asint

Sunday, November 09, 2003

People As Political Props

(Permanent link to this essay)

People frequently use other people as props. This is most common in families - think of the way most parents dress up and show off their kids. This is a fairly innocent use of people as props. It does no harm to the child to dress the cute six month old baby as a Halloween pumpkin, and, meanwhile, the parents get "Oooh isn't she cute?" from their friends and neighbors. This can become more malevolent over time - did little Jon Benet Ramsey really enjoy being made up, gowned, and paraded at baby beauty pagents? We'll never know.

Or think of the way some older men acquire younger girlfriends or trophy wives. The way some women live through their husbands and children. There are times when people use other people for their own needs rather than letting others stand on their own.

But, increasingly, people use others as political props. The "props" tend to be people who cannot stand on their own. It tends to be done most often to women who are unable to speak for themselves. Twenty-five years ago, it was Karen Ann Quinlan. And, today, it's Terri Schiavo.

Terri Schiavo is being used. She became brain dead in 1990. Brain scans show that the portion of her brain that governs consciousness has been nonexistent for years. It is a sick parody to photograph a brain dead person with an autonomic reflex to light and then treat her as if she was conscious. She is being anthropomorphized the way a person talks to a dog and asks "Oh, does Fido want a dog bicuit?" when the dog barks.

When people are so quick to jump up and down and talk about honoring the dignity of the individual, they have robbed Terri Schiavo of any "dignity" she may have had. What happened to Terri Schiavo is extemely sad, but no one can bring her back. She'll never talk to her family, get out of bed or do anything. She's being moved around like a puppet, and her family ought to be ashamed of themselves. People are using Terri to reflect their needs. Their need for her to be alive. She may be still breathing, but she isn't really alive.

People die, and it is fascinating to me that people who say they believe in religious teachings seem the most determined to force physical existence long after the brain had died. Terri died in 1990. It's a sad view, but a realistic view. All the tube feeding in the world isn't going to bring her back.

Some day, I don't want to be a breathing husk in a hospital bed. I signed an organ donor card in 1978 and have discussed living will issues with my husband. Today, even though I'm middled aged and in reasonable health, I am filling out a lengthy living will. I absolutely do not want to exist indefinitely in a kind of "Nazgul" state - neither living nor dead. If I'm seriously injured, sure, use the heroic mesures if I have a chance, but don't keep the feeding tube going years after all real chances have gone.

I hope that any disabled people who may be reading this essay aren't reading this essay as an anti-disabled people piece. If you are reading this piece, you are conscious, you are capable of reading and comprehending the world around you. After Christopher Reeve was so tragically injured back in 1995, he was understandably devastated by his condition. But his wife Dana turned to him and said, "You're still you." That acceptance made a huge difference to his acceptance of himself after his accident. He understood precisely what happened to him. Terri Shiavo is incapable of understanding what has happened to her.

Terri Shiavo isn't the person who collapsed in 1990. To make Terri a symbol of all disabled people is just wrong. Simplistic and wrong in every way. To keep Terri breathing does not celebrate or honor life. It means that people cannot comprehend the difference between living and breathing. I don't want to be in a state where I'm merely breathing. And I would hope all adults would make the same point by thinking about and signing a Living Will and giving a trusted friend or family member a durable power of attorney.

Technical Information on Brain Death

Saturday, November 08, 2003

A First Time for Everything...

I was at an early evening party in Pittsburgh tonight. It was cold but fairly clear, and a number of us put our coats on and went out on the patio to watch the moon.

I'm 46 years old, and this is the first total lunar eclipse I remember seeing. I've seen a few total solar eclipses in Massachusetts, and one partial solar here in Pittsburgh in '93. But lunar eclipses have often been at 3 in the morning or on cloudy nights, so I always missed them.

A lunar eclipse is subtle. Since they come after dark, the ambient light doesn't change. But the dark purple shadow swallowing the moon is quite striking.

I'm glad it was clear over Pittsburgh tonight, but I regret not having my camera handy.

I had a second "first time" this evening - I went to my first tailgate party tonight. I work at a college, and college students work in my office. They were planning a tailgate party for today, before the early evening Pitt vs. Virginia Tech game. Having never been to a tailgate party, I asked if I could come along. They said sure. So Jim and I went, donated beer, ate burgers and shrimp shishkebob, and had a good time before going on to yet another party.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Another Wedding!

Another wedding, another driving trip to Massachusetts (some ten hours away):

Trask Family at Terry and Jessica Trask's Wedding, October 18, 2003

From the left, Rachel with her fiance Jeff Trask (brother of the groom), Jeff Cranston (best man), Ruth and Bill Trask (parents of the groom), Jessica and Terry Trask, Leah Bradford (daughter of the bride), Carrie Trask, Laurie Mann (sisters of the groom), Leslie Mann (niece of the groom) and Jim Mann (brother-in-law of the groom).

This wedding also went very well (see entry from early September 2003 on Jim's brother's wedding). Jessica is a hospice nurse and Terry is an ECO specialist for Network Engines. They met in a college class back in 1995, when Leah was a baby, so Terry has been her virtual Dad ever since. They got married in the same church Jim and I got married in back in 1977:

Trask and Mann Families at Jim and Laurie Mann's Wedding, May 22, 1977

Sunday, September 28, 2003


Around getting caught up with some Noreascon 4 stuff this weekend, we went to the movies twice. We saw Under the Tuscan Sun (a mostly charming movie for adults!) and Secondhand Lions (a mostly fun flick). With Tuscan Sun, we saw a bunch of previews for adult comedies, including Mike Newell's ensemble piece Love, Actually and the new Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson movie. And, of course, with Secondhand Lions, we saw the trailer for Return of the King


I knew what to expect. We'd already bought the first DVD of The Two Towers even though we'll buy the extended edition the day it comes out. So I'd seen the little "pre-trailer" for ROTK on that last month. I'd downloaded online video people had captured of the trailer on Japanese TV the other day, and even that looked impressive.

But seeing it all on the big screen was just terrific.

I've been hanging out some at over the last year, the place where LOTR fans hang out. Today, they linked to a brilliant TTT review-parody - the DVD as reviewed by Gollum and Smeagol. Go read it - amazingly enough, it seems to have been written by just your average journalist for a newspaper down in Chattanooga.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

A Wedding!

Jim and I were up in Massachusetts attending Jim's brother Bill's wedding:

(from left) Laurie, Leslie, Jim, Bill, Heather, Bill and John Mann
(from left) Laurie, Leslie, Jim, Bill, Heather, Bill and John Mann

Bill is a chef down in Florida and Heather is in food/restaurant equipment sales. Jim's family keeps marrying women who were raised in Massachusetts!

The wedding was held at St. Stanislaus' in Chicopee, MA and the reception was held at the Sheraton Springfield (home of several Boskones in the late '80s and early '90s). The food was excellent!

I was hoping to drop by the Big E for a while on Saturday morning, but wound up way too busy (and, besides, it threatened to rain all day). The drive home, once we were out of the rain in Connecticut and New York, was uneventful.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Back from Torcon!

I had a much better time than I expected to at Torcon. Due to work and way too much traveling the rest of the fall, we arrived Thursday afternoon and left the following Thursday morning. So we missed any early excitement and set-up, but were around for teardown and recovery.

I'm working on getting my pictures online (there's a start at

I had a very weird summer. Due to chronic insomnia, I've been moving slowly, getting upset and being generally unable to multitask. Thus, one of the first things I pretty much stopped doing for a while was blogging (as in writing - I've still been reading a few blogs every day). I hope to start doing a little bit of blog-writing in and around all the stuff I have to do over the next year for N4. I've also been trying assorted things for my insomnia (getting a new bed, trying assorted meds) and finally found a combination that seems to be working. So if I looked out-of-sorts at Torcon, except for being tired I was in a good mood for the vast majority of the week. Insomnia makes my eyes look like I'm much older than I really am (as you could probably tell from the main page of my blog for the last 2 1/2 months).

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Leslie Has Graduated!


She wound up with her Associate's degree from
ITT Tech in Computer Technology - Hardware.

Monday, June 16, 2003


It's worse, and I have Confluence and bunches of other things to worry about...

Anyway, to briefly amuse myself, I took the "What SF/Fantasy Character Are You?" test. I somehow managed to score as:

I'm probably too emotional, but what the hell...

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Wednesday, June 11, 2003


Well, I got my cholesterol retest results today.
In three months, my total cholesterol went from 253 to 215,
and triglycerides went from 270 to 181. I celebrated by having my first onion rings in three months (OK, I know that's wrong, but at least I walked there...)

We had a nice time up in Boston, attending an N4 planning meeting. There's now an Irish pub about three blocks from the convention center.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Walk to Rivendell - Eowyn's Challenge

I may not have noted it here, but I had a check-up in March that included the report that I have really high cholesterol. How high? Don't ask - really bad all the way around, especially the triglycerides. So my doctor said I could go right on a cholesterol-lowering drug, or I could try the diet and exercise route for a while. I thought I'd go the diet and exercise route.

During the first six weeks, I ate extremely well (lots more fruit than usual), went to the gym pretty regularly and walked about 1.5 miles per day (I'm walking to the trolley now rather than take the bus that stops down the block). I lost about 12 pounds.

In mid-late April, I developed a nasty sinus infection and started to slack off. I walked every day, and avoided things like candy and cheese (these are some of my favorite foods and they can really add to your triglycerides).

In May, assorted stressful things happened and I started showing signs of yet another episode of gastritis/irritable bowel. I started eating ginger snaps and mint chocolate ice cream, both of which are very soothing during periods of stress, but not good for dieting. Also, we had company, ate out a lot and went to many family parties. Despite all these things, I managed to loose about 2 pounds, and the stomach problems pretty much went away.

This week, I found kind of a cute online support system for people trying to loose weight. It's called "Walk to Rivendell." Some folks have broken down the LOTR books and estimated that it's something like 485 miles from Hobbiton to Rivendell. We want to see if we can walk that many miles between March and mid-December (the opening of Return of the King). I estimate I've walked about 125 miles since mid-March, meaning I've walked the distance between Hobbiton and the Great East Road (near Bree).

So Friday I have another blood test, and I'll get the results next week. I'll find out if my triglycerides are headed in the right direction, or if I'll need to take a cholesterol-lowering drug. In any case, I'm working to keep my activity level up and my food intake down. [[(2015: Well, I did need to go on Lipitor. After a few years of walking here and there, I started walking pretty seriously in 2012 and have walked over 2,500 miles since then. Still fat though, but at least my back feels a whole lot better)]]

Thursday, May 29, 2003

A Really Neat Test

I love those online quizzes, and read about a doozy over on It's something of The Ultimate Geek Test. I scored a 37.47, which made me a Major Geek. I sent them some suggested questions, particularly since those of us who still use DOS daily aren't give enough Geek points for that. I also submitted one in honor of a long-time aquaintance:

Played poker with Bill Gates

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Fiction Writing Fictio

I've been fighting writers block (or not) for most of my adult life. I've been writing fiction since I was a child. I collected a bunch of rejection slips from various editors over the '70s, so I stopped writing. I "relapsed" into writing a little in the late '80s and early '90s, got a few more rejection slips, but sold one story, "Muse of Fire," to Midnight Zoo, a semi-prozine, back in 1993.

And then, I pretty much stopped writing fiction. When I returned to college a few years ago, I finished my English Writing degree, and was lucky enough to have one really good English teacher (Chuck Kinder) at the end of my senior year. He was very supportive. But, when I was unemployed after college and had lots of time to write, I really didn't write all that much. I submitted my best story to Asimov's, but it seems to have gotten lost in the slush pile because I never heard back.

A few weeks ago, in the midst of lots of stress, I found myself thinking of a mainstream story I'd started during my return to college. I've been working on it pretty steadily, and while it's going off in some directions I hadn't planned, I'm still writing. I seem to do my best work on the bus - I actually outlined the rest of the novel over the last two days, and have written about 10,000 words over the last month. I seem to be doing my best writing when I have no time left to be writing!

Then, today, I found a story I'd written about 10 years ago, a companion piece to "Muse of Fire," has just been accepted by Triangulation, a little fiction journal edited for our local SF club. Diane Turnshek says she has rejected a number of stories, and is really pleased with the ones she's accepted.

So I guess it's time to dust off that other story and resubmit it to Asimov's...

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Thoughts on the Lord of the Rings Adaptation

I've been thinking about writing this for a couple of months, and finally finished it today.

I posted a link to this essay on TheOneRing's movie board, and it launched quite a vigorous discussion.

Speaking of flicks, we saw X2 today. It was pretty good, though the editing was a little loose and the screenplay could probably have benefitted from having fewer characters and a little more focus. The opening sequence in the White House is quite phenomenal.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

A Letter to the Editor that Wasn't Published

Back in early March, Jim wrote a very good letter to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on the history of US-France relations. Unfortunately, at about the same time, the PG wound up printing a very similar letter with even more historical tidbits. However, since Jim's was still a good letter, here it is:


Our Congress has done a number of silly things over the years, but some of their actions in the last week have been so childish that they make many of us feel ashamed of them. Changing the name of French Fries and French Toast in the cafeteria to Freedom Fries/Toast was a childish waste of time (especially given all the important things they should be addressing).

And the latest move by one representative to pay to bring home the remains of WWII soldiers is both silly and insulting. The claim that, by not agreeing with us on this issue, the French somehow don't appreciate the sacrifices of our soldiers in WWII makes no sense. It also seems to imply that those of us in this country who don't agree with President's Iraq policy somehow don't appreciate the actions of our soldiers in WWII. This is absolute nonsense. This is a different war, with different circumstances, and supporting one doesn't mean that you have to somehow support the other. Nor do other countries -- including allies -- have to agree with us on every issue. Despite Mr. Bush's statements, those who aren't for us in every issue aren't somehow enemies (and can in fact still be friends)

Also, all those folks who are jumping on France over this issue need be reminded that, while France owes us a debt of gratitude for what we did for them in WWI and WWII, we owe them a debt of gratitude for our very independence. Without France's backing, we'd have never broken free from Britain in the Revolutionary War. (Yet of course 10 years later, when a new French government was involved in a very different war, we (wisely and rightly) did not back them and did not go to war at their side.)

(Jim Mann, early March 2003)

Santorum Says...

The folk(s) over at uggabugga (thanks to Leslie Turek for linking to that one!) found even more unbelievable quotes from my (gulp) senator Rick Santorum

I wish I had the time to track Rick's gaffes. Unfortunately, I don't. But if anyone else has seen anything particularly vile (which should be pretty easy given his 10+ years of making public statements) that Rick has said in public, send it along and I'll link to it here.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

A Letter to the Log Cabin Republicans

[[When I get on a roll...]]

Dear folks,

I cannot comprehend a greater oxymoron in this day than "gay" and "Republican." I'm naturally something of a contrarian, but this is too much, even for me!

I used to vote more often for Republican candidates than Democratic candidates, but cannot bring myself to vote Republican anymore.

Why, just this week, one of the leading Republican senators equated incest and homosexuality (something I wrote both to him and to our local paper ( to disagree with vehemently).

And, apparently today, our government's representative at the UN will abstain from voting in favor of not discriminating on basis of sexual orientation.

Gay rights issues, on a federal level, will continue to fail so long as Bush and friends are in power.

I have a lot of respect for Log Cabin Republicans, but you're fighting a loosing battle for the forseeable future. Help the rest of us "out" the Republicans next year so we can all have a saner federal government!

Laurie D. T. Mann

A Letter to the Post-Gazette

I adapted the letter I wrote to Santorum, and it was
published in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

A Letter to Rick Santorum

Yes, he's (gulp) my senator. In fact, he grew up about three miles from where I live now, a fact that does not surprise me at all, given the regressive politics of many people in Mount Lebanon.

Here's a letter I wrote to him today:

If you can't comprehend the difference between consensual sex between adults and incest, many other Americans can. Hopefully, they will remember that the next time you are up for re-election. I know I will, and deeply resent your intrusion into American's bedrooms. I continue to be deeply ashamed of your "representation" of Pennsylvania. Your attitudes epitomize the old slogan "Pennsylvania has Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in the middle."

Your views are much more in touch with the religious leadership of progressive countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran. Have you considered moving?

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Oops, They Got Me!

Ohhhh, the indignity of it all!

Just today at work, I complained to co-workers that no one has any good April Fools Day jokes anymore. The Pitt News had a so-so April Fools Day issue. There was nothing particularly funny on the Web. Mebbe it was the war - no one seemed to think anything was funny.

At the end of a long day, I popped over to The One Ring, the LOTR Movie fan Web, and my jaw just dropped when I read this.

I dashed into my friend Laura's office. "We have to postpone our trip out to California next year - Return of the King is being delayed until next May!"

We commiserated for a few minutes - we're both dying to see ROTK, and had decided to go to the annual Oscar party throws. But not now - not if ROTK can't even be up for any Oscars.

"This movie's not out yet, and I'm already tired of hearing about it," grumbled my boss, as she passed by Laura's office. She's a very dear person in most respects, with this one little blind spot.

I forwarded this lamentable news to my husband and daughter, then looked at the press release again. Something about the date caught my eye...

I clicked on a link in the story and found that, yes, I'd been had!

Friday, March 21, 2003

Oscar 2003 Predictions and Commentary

OK, for the second time in 34 years, I'm missing part of the Oscars on Sunday. Thank goodness for recorders! But, it will be weird to walk in late (for the second year in a row).

I've seen most of the major movies, will note what I haven't seen and will go ahead with my predictions anyway. For the last few years, I've been hedging my bets with a "will win (WW)" and "should win (SW)."

I'm an avid LOTR fan, though I liked Fellowship a little more than Two Towers, TTT is still a wonderful flick. And it did get somewhat robbed already - it did have the best score, costuming, cinemetography, and make-up of last year. However, in their "infinite wisdom," Oscar people who apparently didn't see both movies decided that these categories were "too similar" to LOTR. I'm not convinced that Peter Jackson himself was robbed, however, at least not for this year.

The acting categories have been quite strong over the last few years. There's only one mild embarassment in the bunch.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Adrien Brody in THE PIANIST (Focus Features)
Nicolas Cage in ADAPTATION (Sony Pictures Releasing)
(SW) Michael Caine in THE QUIET AMERICAN (Miramax and Intermedia)
(WW) Daniel Day-Lewis in GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax)
Jack Nicholson in ABOUT SCHMIDT (New Line)

I haven't seen The Pianist, but I suspect I might be giving Adrien Brody a "may win" if I had. Cage's performance was the one "mild embarassment" - Adaptation is a wildly erratic flick and Cage's performance is part of the problem. Nicholson's performance in About Schmidt was certainly different but it bordered on posturing rather than performing. Michael Caine's performance in The Quiet American was quite extraordinary and very moving. Few people have seen this movie, which was supposed to have been released in the fall of '01 but was held back as it was perceived as being "anti-patriotic." The Americans, then as, unfortunately, right now, were not "the good guys." I would like to see Caine win, but it will probably be Daniel Day-Lewis for his bravura performance in the flawed Gangs of New York.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
(WON,WW) Chris Cooper in ADAPTATION (Sony Pictures Releasing)
(SW)Ed Harris in THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax)
Paul Newman in ROAD TO PERDITION (DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox)
John C. Reilly in CHICAGO (Miramax)
Christopher Walken in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (DreamWorks)

I avoid ties, but, gee, this is a really tough category. Anyone could win here and I'd be happy (kind of like last year when Broadbent won). Reilly was the Broadbent of this year, giving very good performances in several different movies. Newman and Walken were also wonderful. But Cooper and Harris both went well beyond wonderful. Harris's performance was heartbreaking and Cooper's was just plain hysterical. (As much as I would like to have seen Viggo Mortensen in this category, he was probably not quite up to the rest of the supporting actors.)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Salma Hayek in FRIDA (Miramax)
Nicole Kidman in THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax)
Diane Lane in UNFAITHFUL (20th Century Fox)
Julianne Moore in FAR FROM HEAVEN (Focus Features)
(SW, WW) Renée Zellweger in CHICAGO (Miramax)

Another tough, tough category. I've gone back and forth on the
issue "should Nicole win best actress for a supporting role?"
because she absolutely should have walked away with that Oscar.
Her Virginia Woolf was magnificent. I didn't see Diane Lane,
but have the impression she was good. Julianne Moore was subtly
different in her two '50s housewife roles. Salma Hayek was quite
good in Frida. But I have to go with Renee because she's grown
so much as an actress over the last few years and was perfect
in Chicago.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
(SW,WW) Kathy Bates in ABOUT SCHMIDT (New Line)
Julianne Moore in THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax)
Queen Latifah in CHICAGO (Miramax)
Meryl Streep in ADAPTATION (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Catherine Zeta-Jones in CHICAGO (Miramax)

Another tough category, but I'd give the edge to Bates
(and not just because of the hot tub scene).

Best animated feature film of the year
ICE AGE (20th Century Fox) Chris Wedge
(WW) LILO & STITCH (Buena Vista) Chris Sanders
SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON (DreamWorks) Jeffrey Katzenberg
(SW) SPIRITED AWAY (Buena Vista) Hayao Miyazaki
TREASURE PLANET (Buena Vista) Ron Clements

Sprited Away is the best animated feature I've ever seen. If there
was any justice, it would win. But Disney has gone out of its way
to not distribute this flick, and probably isn't promoting for an
Osacar, either. Lilo & Stitch, while fun, wasn't special.
Ditto Ice Age. Treasure Planet stole ruthlessly from the
artist Dean Morrissey without giving him any credit (yes, even
worse than Lucas stole from Jim Gurney for some of the
Alderan city scenes). And Spirit looked dumb. So while
Spirited Away deserves to win, it probably won't.
(on the other hand, I said the same about Halle Berry
and Denzel Washington last year and I was wrong, so maybe...)

Achievement in costume design
CHICAGO (Miramax) Colleen Atwood
FRIDA (Miramax) Julie Weiss
(SW,WW) GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Sandy Powell
THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax) Ann Roth
THE PIANIST (Focus Features) Anna Sheppard

Achievement in art direction
CHICAGO (Miramax) Art Direction: John Myhre
Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
FRIDA (Miramax) Art Direction: Felipe Fernandez del Paso
Set Decoration: Hania Robledo
(WW)GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Art Direction: Dante Ferretti
Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
(SW)THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (New Line) Art Direction: Grant Major
Set Decoration: Dan Hennah and Alan Lee
ROAD TO PERDITION (DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox) Art Direction: Dennis Gassner
Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

These are the two Oscars that Gangs could legitimately win, and
it probably will. Frida has a slight chance because it becomes
very operatic in design in places. But TTT continues with its
fascinating world building, and ought to win the art direction award.

Achievement in cinematography
(WW) CHICAGO (Miramax) Dion Beebe
(SW)FAR FROM HEAVEN (Focus Features) Edward Lachman
GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Michael Ballhaus
THE PIANIST (Focus Features) Pawel Edelman
ROAD TO PERDITION (DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox) Conrad L. Hall

The photography in Far From Heaven was an amazing tribute to the
Technicolor domestic flicks of the '50s and early '60s. However,
I suspect Chicago will sweep a bunch of tech and major awards,
and this may be one of them.

Achievement in directing
(SW, WW) CHICAGO (Miramax) Rob Marshall
GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Martin Scorsese
THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax) Stephen Daldry
THE PIANIST (Focus Features) Roman Polanski
TALK TO HER (Sony Pictures Classics) Pedro Almodóvar

Yes, Scorsese is owed. But he keeps getting overwhelmed by
a lucky first-timer. Rob Marshall probably can't loose. Gangs
is too flawed, the Hours and the Pianist too dark and Almodovar
too non-English. Marshall may be the only lock, though I sometimes
wonder if Polanski might win for the career he almost had.

Best documentary feature
(SW, WW) BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE (United Artists and Alliance Atlantis)
A Salter Street Films/VIF 2/Dog Eat Dog Films Production
Michael Moore and Michael Donovan
DAUGHTER FROM DANANG (Balcony Releasing in association with Cowboy Pictures)
An Interfaze Educational Production
Gail Dolgin and Vincente Franco
PRISONER OF PARADISE (Alliance Atlantis)
A Média Vérité/Café Production
Malcolm Clarke and Stuart Sender
A Blitz/Welch Production
Jeffrey Blitz and Sean Welch
WINGED MIGRATION (Sony Pictures Classics)
A Galatée Films/France 2 Cinéma/France 3 Cinéma/Les Productions de la Guéville/Bac Films/Pandora Film/Les Productions JMH/Wanda Vision/Eyescreen Production
Jacques Perrin

Michael Moore will probably win...

Achievement in film editing
(WW) CHICAGO (Miramax) Martin Walsh
GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Thelma Schoonmaker
THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax) Peter Boyle
THE PIANIST (Focus Features) Hervé de Luze

The extraordinary thing about TTT is how well-constructed it is.
I hate war movies, and nearly 1/3rd of the movie is one long battle
scene that I can't take my eyes off of. But Chicago will probably win.

Achievement in makeup
FRIDA (Miramax) John Jackson and Beatrice De Alba
THE TIME MACHINE (DreamWorks and Warner Bros.) John M. Elliott, Jr. and Barbara Lorenz

No Award. The make-up in Time Machine sucked and while it was
certainly good in Frida, it was too subtle to be particularly

Oh, right, these are the Oscars. Give something to Frida!

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (DreamWorks) John Williams
FAR FROM HEAVEN (Focus Features) Elmer Bernstein
FRIDA (Miramax) Elliot Goldenthal
(SW, WW) THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax) Philip Glass
ROAD TO PERDITION (DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox) Thomas Newman

The nominated music was pretty unmemorable last year, but since Howard
Shore wasn't nominated, probably Philip Glass should win for
his interesting score.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
Burn It Blue from FRIDA (Miramax)
Music by Elliot Goldenthal
Lyric by Julie Taymor
Father and Daughter from THE WILD THORNBERRYS MOVIE (Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies)
Music and Lyric by Paul Simon
The Hands That Built America from GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax)
Music and Lyric by Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen
(SW, WW) I Move On from CHICAGO (Miramax)
Music by John Kander
Lyric by Fred Ebb
Lose Yourself from 8 MILE (Universal)
Music by Eminem, Jeff Bass and Luis Resto
Lyric by Eminem

This one is pretty much of a no-brainer.

Best motion picture of the year
(WW)CHICAGO (Miramax)
A Producer Circle Co., Zadan/Meron Production
Martin Richards, Producer
An Alberto Grimaldi Production
Alberto Grimaldi and Harvey Weinstein, Producers
(SW)THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax)
A Scott Rudin/Robert Fox Production
Scott Rudin and Robert Fox, Producers
A New Line Cinema and Wingnut Films Production
Barrie M. Osborne, Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson, Producers
THE PIANIST (Focus Features)
An R.P. Productions, Heritage Films, Studio Babelsberg, Runtime LTD. Production
Roman Polanski, Robert Benmussa and Alain Sarde, Producers

I'm nothing if not a realist. I liked Chicago, it was fun,
well-cast and it was great to see a real musical on the big screen
again (I don't think Moulin Rouge quite counted). But The Hours
was a very well-cast, well directed and it would be nice if it
got some notice.

Achievement in sound
CHICAGO (Miramax) Michael Minkler, Dominick Tavella and David Lee
GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Tom Fleischman, Eugene Gearty and Ivan Sharrock
(SW,WW) THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (New Line) Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges and Hammond Peek
ROAD TO PERDITION (DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox) Scott Millan, Bob Beemer and John Patrick Pritchett
SPIDER-MAN (Sony Pictures Releasing) Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Ed Novick

Achievement in sound editing
(SW, WW) THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (New Line) Ethan Van der Ryn and Michael Hopkins
MINORITY REPORT (20th Century Fox and DreamWorks) Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom
ROAD TO PERDITION (DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox) Scott A. Hecker

Achievement in visual effects
(SW,WW) THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (New Line) Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook and Alex Funke
SPIDER-MAN (Sony Pictures Releasing) John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara and John Frazier
STAR WARS EPISODE II ATTACK OF THE CLONES (20th Century Fox) Rob Coleman, Pablo Helman, John Knoll and Ben Snow

If Gollum was the only effect in the movie, it still should win.

Adapted screenplay
ABOUT A BOY (Universal) Screenplay by Peter Hedges and Chris Weitz & Paul Weitz
ADAPTATION (Sony Pictures Releasing) Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman
CHICAGO (Miramax) Screenplay by Bill Condon
(SW,WW) THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax) Screenplay by David Hare
THE PIANIST (Focus Features) Screenplay by Ronald Harwood

This may go to Chicago, but...
Adaptation was certainly interesting, but it was just such a departure
from The Orchid Thief that it really isn't much of a adaptation.

Original screenplay
(SW,WW) FAR FROM HEAVEN (Focus Features) Written by Todd Haynes
GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Screenplay by Jay Cocks and Steve Zaillian and Kenneth Lonergan
Story by Jay Cocks
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING (IFC/Gold Circle Films) Written by Nia Vardalos
TALK TO HER (Sony Pictures Classics) Written by Pedro Almodóvar
Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN (IFC Films) Written by Carlos Cuarón and Alfonso Cuarón

I enjoyed My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it was a fun movie, but seeing it
nominated just because it made a pile of money unexpectedly was silly.
But Far from Heaven was an interesting, adult movie, and I hope it wins.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Dune, Dune and Dune

I read the books back in '75, saw the first movie in '84, but didn't see the Sci Fi Channel miniseries remake until just now.

The books have the strength of being quite original (for their time), the Lynch version has the strength of a generally better cast and better overall design, but the miniseries has a better sense of scope. The main weakness in the miniseries is that Jessica and Paul look too close in age; there is this awkward chemistry between them you didn't get from Kyle McLaughlin and Francesca Annis 20 years ago. Oh, and those funny hats so many of the characters (especially the Bene Gesseret) wear.

While 2 1/2 hours was probably too short for the Dune movie in 1984, 6 hours seems too long for the miniseries. Irulan, for example, was better as a background character in the book and the Lynch version than almost a lead character in the miniseries.

I look forward to seeing the Children of Dune miniseries though. I rather like Dune Messiah (a book generally disliked), a book that will be part of the next miniseries. I'm intrigued that Alice Krige (aka the Borg Queen) will play the Lady Jessica, along with Susan Sarandon as Wensicia.

Thank goodness for PVR as both Six Feet Under (my favorite show) will be on against Children of Dune on Sunday, along with the very interesting-looking Normal on HBO. [sigh]

Monday, February 17, 2003

Greetings from Snowkone!

Yes, Boskone happened in Boston for the first time since 1987. There were either one or two fire alarms, but the hotel didn't take them personally... ;-> The con went pretty well, and Sharon Sbarsky now holds the record of running the world's longest Boskone.

This morning, to the surprise of absolutely no one, flights out of Boston were cancelled due to the closure of airports due to the Presidents Day Blizzard. At about 9am, it finally started to snow here. Then, after more than 12 hours, we had more than a foot of snow in downtown Boston.

This has turned Boskone into Snowkone, since there are about 50 of us at the Sheraton who couldn't leave Boston today. We have a con suite (Sharon's room), a flyer (in progress), possible badges, a day-long program in the bar, et.c. We might have some photos as Del Cotter, John Lorenz and Bill Jensen all had cameras.

Monday, February 03, 2003

New Line Cinema - What Were They Thinking?

I've been to see The Two Towers four times (so far). It's a glorious movie, but in order to see the movie, you have to see way too many bad trailers. This tendency to preload potentially popular movies with bad trailers is so bad that audiences have been known to start yelling at the screen after a few minutes (in fact, Jim reported a full half hour of commercials and trailers before the premiere showing of The Two Towers).

What were they thinking? How can the same company with the vision to bankroll Peter Jackson's dream to the tune of nearly 1/3rd of a billion dollars (and still make money at it), be the same company to make:

Final Destination 2

When Harry Met Lloyd (Dumb vs. Dumber II)

A Man Apart (the next Vin Diesel flick)

And I thought they were also responsible for the outrageously stupid concept movie, The Core (since I've been subjected to this preview every time I've gone to see The Two Towers), but it turns out that Paramount is to blame for what looks to be the most ludicrous waste of a studio's money since Battlefield Earth.

Now it turns out that New Line Cinema did produce one other recently-released and fairly well-reviewed movie, namely About Schmidt. But it seems like everything else New Line is at all involved with (except for The Lord of the Rings movies) are pointless concept movies aimed at 14-year-old boys. Yes, I know they buy the most tickets, but if the huge success of the LOTR movies shows anything it's that kids will pay to see films with a thoughtful story and good acting.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

Bad Day...

I always remember where I was when I hear really awful news.

I was watching TV a January night in the '60s when the news broke in with a special report that three astronauts had died in a fire during a training mission.

I was returning from a quick post office trip at lunch that January day in 1986, when a man on the radio said "The Challenger seems to have exploded."

I was walking into work a brilliant late summer morning, went into the vending machine area to get a soda, and a total stranger said to me, "Oh, it's a terrible day, a plane hit the World Trade Center."

I was watching Comedy Central this morning, laughing at Bill Murray in Scrooged when I just happen to check SFF Net newsgroups on my laptop. Adam Troy Castro titled a bleak message at 9:34 in sff.discuss.obituaries with "Not Again"

Terrorism, I thought. Oh shit.

Then I read the message.

"It's beginning to look like we've lost the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia..."

Shit! I grabbed the channel changer and immediately switched to NBC. And cried for about 10 minutes.

I have been a huge fan of spaceflight. I don't remember the Shepard or Grissom flights, but Glenn flew just after my fifth birthday and I remember that vividly. Space travel is an act of supreme confidence in the future - it meant we were living in the future.

I find any death related to the space program to be doubly-heartbreaking. It's sad when any person dies in the course of their work; but every death related to space travel seems to drive a nail in the coffin of NASA.

Life has risks. I just hope we don't mothball the program for another two and a half years due to this tragedy. Astronauts know that it's risky. Most Americans know that it's risky. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be done.

If everyone was so risk-averse, we'd still be little monkeys living on a beach in Africa.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

Weird Movie Connections

I've been sick since getting home. The cold I picked up over Christmas seems to have slid into being the flu (aches, exhaustion), so I stayed home from work on Friday. I'm actually starting to feel a little better today.

Anyway, when I get sick, I tend to watch movies, as my concentration isn't generally good enough to read books. I'm not sure if this makes any sense or not, but as I was watching Witness yesterday, I found some weird connections between it and the Lord of the Rings movies.

True, there's the obvious connection - Viggo is in both. He plays Moses Hochleitner, Daniel's (Alexander Gudonov) brother. He has few lines (except for part of the "horse with one ball" story after the funeral and "hello" at the beginning of the barn-raising), is always smiling and wears a very light blue shirt. If you want to spot him, you see him most of all in the barn-raising sequence - he's the first person Daniel introduces to John Book.

Now that's a tad tenuous, so there are more odd little connections. There's little Lukas Haas, a fine actor a few years older than Elijah Wood. The sensative little boy roles Lukas got in the early-mid '80s, Elijah got in the early '90s. They even look quite a bit alike. If you check out a current picture of him in IMDB, you'll see that Lukas still has a hobbit-like face.

If some visionary director had made LOTR in the '80s, you can see Harrison Ford would have been a natural for Strider. Luckily, this didn't happen; while I like Harrison, and while he's a pretty good actor, I'm not sure he would have been up to it.

Finally, there's the "stranger in a strange land" theme, which is pretty obvious in both films.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Happy New Year!

We had a very happy holiday, enjoyed the east coast snowstorm since it hit after we were at my parents, and managed to get home in the New Year's rainstorm before the ice storm we keep hearing is coming.

I hope to start posting in the blog a little more; I've started to learn about RSS, so expect to see some changes here soon.