Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Oscar Nomination Thoughts

Well, it's kind of an interesting Oscar year. While last year was generally a weak movie year, there were some fine movies out.

The biggest Oscar omissions for me were Constant Gardener and History of Violence. Both were strong, fascinating movies, in a genre ("thriller") that I normally don't much like. While I'm happy for Rachel Weisz, Ralph Feinnes gave a brilliant performance in Constant Gardener. I've always had mixed feelings about David Cronenberg as a director, but History of Violence was such a well-constructed movie, I was hoping it would get a little more notice. Both Maria Bello and Viggo Mortensen were incredible. Keira Knightley probably got an Oscar nomination for being a better actress than people expected in Pride and Prejudice, but as far as I'm concerned, she took Maria Bello's spot. William Hurt, who gave a small and over-the-top performance, did get a supporting actor nomination for History of Violence.

I adored four of the "top movies" of last year - Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck and Walk the Line.

This will probably be a "catchup" year - Ang Lee has been owed a directing Oscar for a while and will probably win for the fine Brokeback Mountain. Brokeback is a painful, austere little movie, and Lee has shown himself to be the master of fine photography with repressed characters.

I'd like to see Reese Witherspoon win for actress as she really energized Walk the Line. Amazing to think she didn't believe she could sing and had to be convinced by director James Mangold that she should. I liked Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line, but I do think Philip Seymour Hoffman deserves the award for Capote. Nothing against Heath Ledger, but he seems so laconic in real life that he's really not too far divorced from Ennis.

George Clooney will probably wind up winning for Best Supporting Actor because he got so many other nominations and is very unlikely to win for screenplay or direction. Supporting Actress category is tricky. I liked Michelle Williams in Brokeback Mountain, but Catherine Keener plays so far against type as Harper Lee in Capote that I'd like to see her win.

The biggest "surprise" nomination for me was for Woody Allen's Match Point script. It was a good script but not a great script; his Crimes and Misdemoners was a much better interpretation of many of the same themes.

Monday, January 23, 2006

William Tenn Event - Saturday, January 28, 7:30pm, 937 Liberty Ave

Benefit for the Production of a Documentary Film on William Tenn
Malacandra Productions

An evening to benefit production
of the documentary film
William Tenn: a Writer's Life

The story of a legendary American social satirist
and icon of science fiction's golden age.

Performances will include:

A live reading by
Pittsburgh's own
William Tenn

A reading of
Tenn's short masterwork
"Bernie the Faust"
by members of
The Parallax Second Players

January 28th, 2006

Reception: 7:30 PM
meet William Tenn (Phil Klass)
refreshments will be served
Performance and reading: 8:00 PM

937 Liberty Avenue, downtown Pittsburgh

Admission: $15

Reservations: (412) 281- 8723 Ext. 24

Malacandra Productions presents
"William Tenn: a Writer's Life" written and directed by David Brody
produced by David Brody, Laurie D. T. Mann and John Regis

Complete flyer

Sunday, January 08, 2006

More Red State Family Values - Censoring Brokeback Mountain at a Utah Multiplex

I'd really like to see Brokeback Mountain, a movie that has yet to reach Pittsburgh for some reason or another. Interestingly, it's hit states like Utah before it hit Western Pennsylvania.

Well, it hit parts of Utah, except for at least one suburb of Salt Lake City. Y'seen the ever-alert manager of the Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons in Sandy, Utah decided at the last possible minute to not play the movie. This was after he signed a contract saying that he would play it.

Naturally, this marketing whiz did not say why he chose to not play an award-winning movie. While he had no comment, AP/CNN quoted a local activist group:

Gayle Ruzicka, president of the conservative Utah Eagle Forum, said not showing the film set an example for the people of Utah.

"I just think (pulling the show) tells the young people especially that maybe there is something wrong with this show," she said.

Well, it's good to know that the Utah Eagle Forum claims to know "wrong."

Let's take a moment and observe what Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons does deem acceptable to play this weekend shall we?

  • Casanova

  • Cheaper by the Dozen 2

  • D├ęsolation magnifique: Marcher sur la Lune

  • Fun With Dick & Jane

  • Grandma's Boy

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

  • Hostel

  • King Kong

  • Memoirs of a Geisha

  • Munich

  • Rumor Has It...

  • Syriana

  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

  • The Family Stone

  • The Magic of Flight

  • The Producers

  • The Ringer

(This movie listings are according to IMDB Showtimes.)

So this theater will readily censor a well-made, unconventional love story. But it will not hesitate to make a buck from a movie that glorifies torture and murder (Hostel) or a movie where a heterosexual leaps from woman to woman (Casanova), or a movie where, some people claim, every gay character is portrayed as a preening stereotype (The Producers), or a movie that, some people claim, promotes Satanism because it involves magic (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).

Now there are some red state family values for you!

In a online message board from the Salt Lake City area, a few people have reported that Brokeback Mountain is doing well in the other cinemas that it's playing in. And this movie, still not playing nationally, has broken into the top ten moneymakers for the weekend.

And the most popular movie in the country? Well, this weekend it was Hostel, a movie that's basically a slaughterfest. And that's a more acceptable movie for teens to see than Brokeback Mountain? What's wrong with this picture?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

New Job, New Nephew and Applesauce Gingerbread

OK, so this is something of a mix of things!

This has been an interesting week. I started a new job with a very small company on Monday. It has flexible hours, something like 30-35 hours a week, but it's an interesting place, and, frankly, I'd rather work 30 hours a week than 40.

On top of starting a new job, I've been sick and wound up leaving work earlier than expected yesterday. I've had a very persistant sinus infection for the last five weeks, and finally went to the doctor this week to get antibiotics.

Jim's brother Bill and his wife Heather had a baby boy on Wednesday night. He was over eight pounds and his name is Cameron Anthony Mann. So now Leslie has three first cousins, after many, many years of having no first cousins.

I'm running Confluence program this year, and we had a useful meeting today. We had more than three people at our house for the first time in ages, so we served them lunch. I made applesauce gingerbread for Christmas a few weeks back, and froze a pan of it for today's meeting. It's from the Joy of Cooking with a slight modification - I tripled the amount of ginger and doubled the amount of cinnamon. I added about a half cup of raisins and, I think I also added a little nutmeg. This recipe is even good for you! Christina particularly enjoyed it, so I promised to blog it for her.

Preheat oven to 325.
1 cup of applesauce

Remove from heat and stir in:
1/2 cup molasses
1 tsp baking soda

The mixture will foam and bubble vigorously.
Cool slightly. Sift together:
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt

In a large bowl, beat on high speed until
thick and pale yellow, 3-4 minutes:
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar

Gradually beat in
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Fold in flour mixture in three parts,
alternating with the applesauce in two parts.
Scrape the batter into a 9" x 9" pan. Bake until
a toothpick inserted into the center comes
out clean, 40-45 minutes. Let cool in the
pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Slide a thin
knife around the cake to detach it from the
pan. Invert the cake, let cool right side
up on the rack.