This I Believe QUESTION

In her sermon last Sunday, our co-pastor made reference to This I Believe, an NPR show based on a radio show from the 1950s hosted by Edward R. Murrow.

I listed 10 here and thought I’d list 10 more.

You may list your five or 10 or 100 in the comments section or on your own blog; if the latter, please leave a link in the comments section:

Most people worry way too much about what other people think and do.

Mark Twain was right: It IS better to remain silent and appear ignorant than to speak up and remove any doubt.

Smokers do often feel oppressed in the U.S.; I don’t care. (Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in our society.)

JEOPARDY! is not improved by letting people play more than five games in a row.

My life would suck without music.

Television (radio, et al.) is not inherently bad; it’s how it’s used.

Race may be just a social construct, but still matters in the United States (and I imagine, in other parts of the world).

Italian is beautiful to listen to, even though I don’t speak or understand it.

Smart is sexy.

Most people who say “let’s move on” are NOT the aggrieved party.

Oh, and one more:
Individuals should not hide behind a corporate shield when wrongdoing occurs; e.g., someone from the Peanut Corporation of America should face manslaughter charges, at least.

ROG

February Ramblin’

So much going on, and so little time:

COMICS
AdAge has a 3-minute daily video. The topic on February 20: Could Kindle put the KABOOM on Comic Books? (February 26 discusses the Tropicana packaging debacle.)
But not all is bad in comic book land. Marvel, bucking economic trends, actually set a revenue record for 2008.

Comic book blogger Mark Evanier linked to a CBS tribute, which I found oddly moving. I think it’s because when I grew up in Binghamton, NY, there was only one VHF station, WNBF, Channel 12, so it was the Andy Griffiths and Lucille Balls I’d be watching the most.

OBAMA, POLITICS
Too much snark: Even Gov. Bobby Jindal, whom I suppose I should note was the first Indian-American to give the Republican response to a president’s speech, began with an encomium to the first black president. (Wasn’t Bobby great in “Slumdog Millionaire”?). As though I needed more proof that this woman (blonde, initials AC) is an idiot.

But this was a weird story: Poll Results: Obama, Jesus and Martin Luther King Top List of America’s “Heroes”. “When The Harris Poll asked a crosssection of adult Americans to say whom they admire enough to call their heroes, President Barack Obama was mentioned most often, followed by Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King. Others in the top ten, in descending order, were Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Abraham Lincoln, John McCain, John F. Kennedy, Chesley Sullenberger and Mother Teresa. These heroes were named spontaneously. Those surveyed were not shown or read a list of people to choose from. The Harris Poll was conducted online among a sample of 2,634 U.S. adults (aged 18 and over) by Harris Interactive between January 12 and 19, 2009.” I can’t explain why I find this a bit disturbing.

Another story I find puzzling is Will trade: One black Democrat for one Mormon Republican. “Congress appears to be on the verge of granting D.C. actual voting representation in the House. The Senate is expected to pass legislation Thursday or Friday that would expand the House to 437 members, adding one seat for the District and one seat for Utah, where officials say the 2000 Census would have yielded an extra seat if overseas Mormon missionaries had been counted.” Problematic for a couple reasons: 1) two more members of Congress (plus staffs)? Actually, there is a delegaste from DC, so it’d be really one more, but still. 2) I find myserlf in the strict constructionist camp, but I think fair representation for DC, long overdue, will require a Constitutional amendment.

I find that performers on the left who spout political opinions are often more criticize than those on the right, such as Chuck Norris and Ted Nugent, in my experience.

MARIJUANA
Comparing public support for legalizing marijuana to the approval ratings for Rush Limbaugh and various Republican Party leaders, the conservatives lose.
So does this mean we should start legalizing and taxing pot, as some are trying to do in L.A.?

RACE
That chimp cartoon debacle probably would have bothered me more if it hadn’t been in the New York Post. It is just what I expect from the New York Post. What does unsettle me is not the chimp reference per se as much as the DEAD chimp reference.

Eric Holder: America ‘a Nation of Cowards’ on Racial Matters. Arguably true. But will saying that initiate useful discussion? I have my doubts.

BLAME

Time magazine did a story about 25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis, which is well and good; they all seem to have taken advice from Ayn Rand – selfishness over altruism. But Joe Queenan in the February 14 Wall Street Journal wonders about the national obsession “over the missteps of public figures like Alex Rodriguez” and Michael Phelps with “the American people [working] themselves into such a sustained, unmediated level of fury at once-revered public figures.”

“What they did is certainly wrong, but it isn’t in any way unprecedented, or for that matter, unexpected. It’s not off the charts…No public misdeed is too insignificant to earn our limitless fascination. Actor Joaquin Phoenix caused a stir this week following his appearance on the “Late Show with David Letterman.” His principal offenses: chewing gum and maintaining a generally unresponsive demeanor throughout what proved to be a very painful, unproductive interview… And thus ensued a heated debate about whether Mr. Phoenix was acting, on drugs or just spaced out. Meanwhile, in a nearby solar system, the stock market dropped another 400 points…”

“In light of the fact that we are facing one of the worst economic environments since the Great Depression, and are still in the throes of a global war against faceless, stateless terrorists, Michael Phelps can probably be forgiven for thinking that he could get away with taking a hit off that bong. And Jessica Simpson can probably be forgiven for scarfing down a few Twinkies.”

“What accounts for the shock…? For one, we the public think that we know these people because we see them all the time on TV. Because of this, they root us in the here and now in a way run-of-the-mill white-collar villains do not. They have violated an old-fashioned code of morality that we can all understand in a way we cannot understand a $50 billion Ponzi scheme or the fact that Iceland has put out a ‘Closed for Business’ sign.”

“From the therapeutic perspective, this is vastly superior to ranting about the latest depredations of Wall Street. No matter how much we froth and foam, none of us can lay a glove on imperious figures like John Thain or the haughty fat cats who run the auto industry or the inept regulators who let Mr. Madoff run wild in the first place. These folks all look the same, they all talk the same and the man in the street would have trouble picking any of them out of a police lineup. We don’t really know them and we never will.”

“It’s the human scale of their malfeasance that makes them such inviting targets.” (Mentioned in the headline, though not the article, Octomom.) “Ronald Reagan proved a long time ago that while it was impossible to get the public all riled up because the federal government was throwing away billions of dollars on this or that program, you could get them to blow their stacks by recounting a dubious anecdote about some conscienceless welfare queen on the south side of Chicago who was jobbing the public out of a few grand. This was partly because it was possible to put a human face on the welfare cheater, even if the story was vastly exaggerated, whereas the federal bureaucracy would forever remain vague and amorphous. But it was also because a few thousand bucks here and there was a number the average person could wrap his head around. Unlike, say, $700 billion.”

ROG

February Ramblin'

So much going on, and so little time:

COMICS
AdAge has a 3-minute daily video. The topic on February 20: Could Kindle put the KABOOM on Comic Books? (February 26 discusses the Tropicana packaging debacle.)
But not all is bad in comic book land. Marvel, bucking economic trends, actually set a revenue record for 2008.

Comic book blogger Mark Evanier linked to a CBS tribute, which I found oddly moving. I think it’s because when I grew up in Binghamton, NY, there was only one VHF station, WNBF, Channel 12, so it was the Andy Griffiths and Lucille Balls I’d be watching the most.

OBAMA, POLITICS
Too much snark: Even Gov. Bobby Jindal, whom I suppose I should note was the first Indian-American to give the Republican response to a president’s speech, began with an encomium to the first black president. (Wasn’t Bobby great in “Slumdog Millionaire”?). As though I needed more proof that this woman (blonde, initials AC) is an idiot.

But this was a weird story: Poll Results: Obama, Jesus and Martin Luther King Top List of America’s “Heroes”. “When The Harris Poll asked a crosssection of adult Americans to say whom they admire enough to call their heroes, President Barack Obama was mentioned most often, followed by Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King. Others in the top ten, in descending order, were Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Abraham Lincoln, John McCain, John F. Kennedy, Chesley Sullenberger and Mother Teresa. These heroes were named spontaneously. Those surveyed were not shown or read a list of people to choose from. The Harris Poll was conducted online among a sample of 2,634 U.S. adults (aged 18 and over) by Harris Interactive between January 12 and 19, 2009.” I can’t explain why I find this a bit disturbing.

Another story I find puzzling is Will trade: One black Democrat for one Mormon Republican. “Congress appears to be on the verge of granting D.C. actual voting representation in the House. The Senate is expected to pass legislation Thursday or Friday that would expand the House to 437 members, adding one seat for the District and one seat for Utah, where officials say the 2000 Census would have yielded an extra seat if overseas Mormon missionaries had been counted.” Problematic for a couple reasons: 1) two more members of Congress (plus staffs)? Actually, there is a delegaste from DC, so it’d be really one more, but still. 2) I find myserlf in the strict constructionist camp, but I think fair representation for DC, long overdue, will require a Constitutional amendment.

I find that performers on the left who spout political opinions are often more criticize than those on the right, such as Chuck Norris and Ted Nugent, in my experience.

MARIJUANA
Comparing public support for legalizing marijuana to the approval ratings for Rush Limbaugh and various Republican Party leaders, the conservatives lose.
So does this mean we should start legalizing and taxing pot, as some are trying to do in L.A.?

RACE
That chimp cartoon debacle probably would have bothered me more if it hadn’t been in the New York Post. It is just what I expect from the New York Post. What does unsettle me is not the chimp reference per se as much as the DEAD chimp reference.

Eric Holder: America ‘a Nation of Cowards’ on Racial Matters. Arguably true. But will saying that initiate useful discussion? I have my doubts.

BLAME

Time magazine did a story about 25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis, which is well and good; they all seem to have taken advice from Ayn Rand – selfishness over altruism. But Joe Queenan in the February 14 Wall Street Journal wonders about the national obsession “over the missteps of public figures like Alex Rodriguez” and Michael Phelps with “the American people [working] themselves into such a sustained, unmediated level of fury at once-revered public figures.”

“What they did is certainly wrong, but it isn’t in any way unprecedented, or for that matter, unexpected. It’s not off the charts…No public misdeed is too insignificant to earn our limitless fascination. Actor Joaquin Phoenix caused a stir this week following his appearance on the “Late Show with David Letterman.” His principal offenses: chewing gum and maintaining a generally unresponsive demeanor throughout what proved to be a very painful, unproductive interview… And thus ensued a heated debate about whether Mr. Phoenix was acting, on drugs or just spaced out. Meanwhile, in a nearby solar system, the stock market dropped another 400 points…”

“In light of the fact that we are facing one of the worst economic environments since the Great Depression, and are still in the throes of a global war against faceless, stateless terrorists, Michael Phelps can probably be forgiven for thinking that he could get away with taking a hit off that bong. And Jessica Simpson can probably be forgiven for scarfing down a few Twinkies.”

“What accounts for the shock…? For one, we the public think that we know these people because we see them all the time on TV. Because of this, they root us in the here and now in a way run-of-the-mill white-collar villains do not. They have violated an old-fashioned code of morality that we can all understand in a way we cannot understand a $50 billion Ponzi scheme or the fact that Iceland has put out a ‘Closed for Business’ sign.”

“From the therapeutic perspective, this is vastly superior to ranting about the latest depredations of Wall Street. No matter how much we froth and foam, none of us can lay a glove on imperious figures like John Thain or the haughty fat cats who run the auto industry or the inept regulators who let Mr. Madoff run wild in the first place. These folks all look the same, they all talk the same and the man in the street would have trouble picking any of them out of a police lineup. We don’t really know them and we never will.”

“It’s the human scale of their malfeasance that makes them such inviting targets.” (Mentioned in the headline, though not the article, Octomom.) “Ronald Reagan proved a long time ago that while it was impossible to get the public all riled up because the federal government was throwing away billions of dollars on this or that program, you could get them to blow their stacks by recounting a dubious anecdote about some conscienceless welfare queen on the south side of Chicago who was jobbing the public out of a few grand. This was partly because it was possible to put a human face on the welfare cheater, even if the story was vastly exaggerated, whereas the federal bureaucracy would forever remain vague and amorphous. But it was also because a few thousand bucks here and t
here was a number the average person could wrap his head around. Unlike, say, $700 billion.”

ROG

The Lydster, Part 59: Miss Independence


My great joy recently has been the fact that Lydia wants to dress herself lately. She’s had the means before but not the inclination, leaving it up to Daddy to put her clothes on. She HAS, for some time, picked out her clothing, and I must say that she generally does a pretty good job coordinating her outfit, a skill she must have learned from her mother, not me. In fact, the only times I’ve ever vetoed her selection is if it is going to be too warm or, more recently, not warm enough.

I’m also pleased that she hads deigned to pick the top pair of underwear in her drawer rather than rumaging around to find underpants that match her outer outfit. After all, people are not going to SEE her undergarments, are they?

This is not to say that she doesn’t need help with some things. When her clothes are washed inside out and remain that way when they go to the drawer, she needs assistance. And some buttons are still tricky.

But for the most part, it’s “Daddy, go away! I can dress myself!” And that’s fine with me; actually gives me a chance to check my e-0mail in the morning.
***
She has had a tough week, though. On Monday, she fell on the ice in front of our own house. The snow had melted, and it tends to gravitate to the sidewalk. Then it got cold and the water turned to black ice. She didn’t cry, but she was sore.

Then last night, she did cry after falling off the stool she uses to brush her teeth. Coincidentally, I had to use ice to tend to her almost-immediately visible bruise.

Careful, Lydia.

ROG

F is for Fire

As I was growing up, I spent a great deal of time at my grandma’s house, as she lived just a half dozen blocks from my house in Binghamton, NY and as close to my elementary school as my own house, so I’d often have lunch there. She had a coal stove and one my jobs was to to go down to the basement and shovel up a couple pails of coal to keep the fires burning.

After my grandmother moved south, and I stayed in her house in the winter of 1975, I realized how inept I was at keeping the fires going on my own. Obviously, I was doing something wrong, and the flames went out. So it’s February, it’s bitterly cold, I have a mountain of covers on and I’m using a space heater. A quilt comes off the bed and catches fire. Fortunately something woke me up, perhaps the acrid smell, but possibly some psychic connection to my mother who SWEARS she woke up in Charlotte, NC at that very time to warn me; I don’t dismiss it out of hand.

When I was about nine, there was a massive fire on my grandma’s one-block street, Maple Street. An apartment complex called the Rogers Block, four wooden structures as I recall, all caught fire and were utterly destroyed. I don’t believe anyone was hurt, but naturally, many lives were disrupted. It took a while for the area to be razed, and for months, I’d walk by from across the street and smell that very distinct post-fire odor.

Every year, at Midwinter’s, there’s a bonfire where one can throw pieces of paper representing things to get rid of from the previous year, although one year, we threw in the chair of one of our founding members of the tribe, who had died the year before. Indeed, the fire that represents me on this blog comes from a photo of a Midwinter’s wax magick burst.

Totally coincidentally, this week, my daughter had me read a book called A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams, which is about a family who lost everything in a fire, got some stuff from their neighbors, but who were saving up for a nice plush chair to put into the new apartment. It’s a Caldecott winner, and I’d recommend it.

My sister lives in southern California, not in a traditionally fire-prone area, yet a couple years ago, she could see the flames in her neighborhood. She was fortunately spared, but many were not. The photo above I believe she took.

I recall that there was this young woman on JEOPARDY! in the college tournament a few years back who had experienced a fire and was pleased that she was able to start over; Alex Trebek looked at her as though she were crazy, but at some level, I understood her point.

The dichotomy about fire fascinates me: useful tool, destructive force. Even theologically, that comes up, the notion of hellfire

vs. the idea of being “on fire for the Lord”. Today is Ash Wednesday and it is with the remnants of fire with which some Christians will be marked.

Anyway, here’s one of my favorite fire songs, by the OHIO PLAYERS:

ROG

Fat Tuesday


Today is Mardi Gras and that, of course, reminds me of New Orleans and the whole “should Nawlins survive?” conversation.

Specifically, I was thinking about a recent podcast called The KunstlerCast, “a weekly audio program about the tragic comedy of suburban sprawl,” featuring James Howard Kunstler, author of The Geography of Nowhere and The Long Emergency, among others. It was the distinguished Alan David Doane, who said such kind things about me recently, who turned me on to Kunstler.

In episode #52, Duncan Crary, the host/producer of the Kunstlercast, was wondering, and this is a broad paraphrase: Isn’t New Orleans culturally cool enough to try to save? And I think there’s a part of me that shares that viewpoint. Kunstler, for his part, indicated that the city may survive in a smaller form, although, with global warming, who knows?

I suppose the argument that it’s under sea level, so it is foolish to save it would resonate more with me if people weren’t also rebuilding in fire zones in California, flood zones further up the Mississippi and other places that have been destroyed more than once. A friend got hit by two Florida hurricanes in one year a few seasons back. I’m still convinced that some earthquake is going to carry half of California into the ocean.

But let’s fret about that another time:
Mardi Gras 1941 and 1954 and 2006, just after Katrina.
Take Me to the Mardi Gras
jamming with the Meters

ROG

the Trilogy Meter


Since I’m still in the movie mode, here is a film trilogy thing from Dan Meth, via SamuraiFrog and Jaquandor:

Star Wars
The original Star Wars is one of my favorite films. Empire Strikes Back is nearly up there. Return of the Jedi is a bit disappointing, mostly because the Ewoks irritated me; Tribbles, but not as cute. As for the prequels, not only did I bhate Jar Jar Binks, but, far worse, I was bored by all of the political yak for good chunks of the movie.; so, I never saw the rest of that trilogy.

Indiana Jones
Raiders of the Lost Ark I loved. Temple of Doom, for whatever reason, never grabbed me the same way, and I thought it was gratutiously gross to boot; it practically created the PG-13 rating. The Last Crusade I liked almost as much as the first film, because of the humor and the great Harrison Ford-Sean Connery riffs, but also because of that whole theological angle of walking out into nothingness bit. adventure movie. Never saw the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The Matrix
I saw the first movie on commercial TV; I was unimpressed, and never saw the others. Probably didn’t give it a fair shake. So never saw the others.

Star Trek
I’ve seldom been as bored with a movie as I was with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I don’t know if it was the pacing or what, but these characters, who I liked a lot, were making me restless in my seat. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the best Star Trek film I’ve seen, and it was probably helped in the minds of the fans by its improvement over its predecessor. The problem with Star Trek III is that even though big stuff happens, it feels transitional, like the middle part of a trilogy; toss out the first, largely unrelated movie, it really is. As for the others, I saw Star Trek IV with my mother; she was quite confused not having seen III, though she enjoyed it well enough. I liked it considerably more, for which I credit my San Francisco obsession. Star Trek V was awful, just awful. I’ve not seen a Star Trek movie since, though I would.

Superman
The original’s iconic, yet I’ve never seen the sequels, except pieces of III on TV.

Jurassic Park
saw the first one well enough, but never cared to see the sequels.

X-Men
Never saw the first movie. My wife and I were in a hotel in Maryland on New Years’ Eve, coming back to Albany from North Carolina when I flipped on the TV and saw most of X2. It wasn’t bad, but seemed terribly busy. My wife, who is not a comic book collector, was totally confused.

Spider-Man
I liked the first film quite a bit, though it felt flat occasionally. The second film, though, I loved; possibly my favorite superhero movie, though Iron Man was pretty nifty. Haven’t seen the third yet.

The Lord of the Rings
It’s just not my genre. I tried, and failed, to read the books. I saw the first movie, thought it was fine, but never saw the latter two parts. Yeah, I know: sacrilege.

Mad Max
Seems that I’d catch one of these on TV, but never knew at the time which one it was. Probably should actually watch.

Jaws
This came out at a time tin my life that I just wasn’t going to see movies that might be gory. I have never seen Jaws, let alone its sequels. I will, someday, see the original, at least.

Back to the Future
I was very fond of the original. The second movie just felt both dark and like the middle part of a trilogy and doesn’t stand on its own. I musty admit that the third movie, with the okld West theme, I thought was a hoot, and I’d end up watching big chunks of it when it used to show up on TNT every other day.

Die Hard
Another movie series where I’d catch it on TV but didn’t know which episode it was. Looked like fun.

Blade
Never saw.

Planet of the Apes
I managed to see all five Apes movies in one day. NOT recommended. The original Planet of the Apes is a great film; I totally bought into it. Beneath was a lesser effort, but I actually enjoyed Escape. Conquest was stupid and Battle was an unrelenting bore.

The Godfather
This was one of the films (along with Catch-22 and A Clockwork Orange) that got me to swear off gory movies from 1973-1980. No doubt, the original was one of the finest films ever made. But I wasn’t going to see II or III.

Rocky
Rocky, which I saw with my mother, is a great film; I think it got slapped down because it won the Oscar against showier fare. I rather liked Rocky II, which comes close to equaling the first one. But III to V, awful to more awful. Never saw Rocky Balboa.

The Terminator
Yet another series I’ve only seen on commercial TV, and caught by flicking stations. Seemed that I would like at least the first two films, based on what I’ve seen.

Rambo
Never saw. Never really wanted to see.

Batman
Batman, the first one with Michael Keaton, I liked well enough, though sometimes it felt as though Jack (Nicholson) was doing Jack. Batman Begins, though I know I saw it, for some reason didn’t stick to the brain; I do recall that it seemed a bit campy, and I never got back into watching Batman movies – though I WOULD have seen Batman Begins (2005) had I been going to the movies. As for Dark Knight…wait until tomorrow.

Alien
The first film was excellent. But didn’t need to see the sequels.

The Mr. Frog and Jaquandor suggested other trilogies:

Lethal Weapon, Karate Kid
Other one I saw only on TV and couldn’t tell you which episodes I actually saw. Know I saw the end of KK1, and at least parts of three different LWs.

Omen, Scream
Didn’t see at all.

ROG

VIDEO REVIEW: The Visitor


When The Visitor was released in April 2008, I made a mental note to go see it. It was, after all, director “Tom McCarthy’s follow-up to his award winning directorial debut The Station Agent.” And I loved The Station Agent. As it turned out, I never did see it in theaters. But recently, I cajoled my friend The Hoffinator to put it in her Netflix queue and then let me see it before it got returned. (I have my own Netflix account, but I had The Dark Knight 12 days unwatched.) I watched it Thursday morning at 5 a.m.

Richard Jenkins, best known for being, if I was told correctly, the first to die in the HBO TV show Six Feet Under, plays Walter, a widower without much going on. A professor at a Connecticut college who’s allegedly writing a book, presenting papers for which his contribution is minimal and teaching his one class by rote.

As I thought back on the movie, there’s a Paul Simon lyric which seemed to encapsulate Walter’s persona:
I’ve just been fakin’ it,
I’m not really makin’ it.
This feeling of fakin’ it–
I still haven’t shaken it.

It is while he’s in New York City to present a paper that he visits his seldom-used apartment, only to find that is already occupied. This turns out to be transformative in Walter’s life. Frankly, I don’t want to tell too much more except that the djembe, an African drum, plays a role. In fact, after I watched the movie, I saw the trailer, and I felt that it gave away too much of the plot elements.

Later, I watched the deleted scenes and totally agree with their excisions. Another extra: info on the djembe.

I still haven’t seen Frozen River, The Reader, The Wrestler or Benjamin Button, among others. But of the 2008 films I DID see so far, The Visitor was my favorite.

ROG

OSCAR Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BEST PICTURE
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
*FROST/NIXON
*MILK
THE READER
*SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
Will win: It’s SLUMDOG-mania!
Want to win: Frost/Nixon, though Milk wouldn’t displease me.

Adapted Screenplay:
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
*DOUBT
*FROST/NIXON
THE READER
*SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
Will win: Slumdog Millionaire. I had a faint inkling for an upset, but it has passed.
Want to win: Frost/Nixon

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

ROG

MOVIE REVIEW: Slumdog Millionaire


In keeping with my Washington’s Birthday tradition, I went with my wife to see a movie. I chose Slumdog Millionaire to watch with her because I knew in advance that it would more…intense than she might have thought. As I was discussing on Twitter this week, it was rated R for a reason.

How on earth does a poor young man fare so well on India’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”? He must be cheating! But how? The police use “extraordinary” means to find out, only to discover that there’s an explanation for it all, based on an extremely difficult childhood.

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly said: “Slumdog Millionaire is nothing if not an enjoyably far-fetched piece of rags-to-riches wish fulfillment. It’s like the Bollywood version of a Capra fable sprayed with colorful drops of dark-side-of-the-Third-World squalor.” Well, maybe. I know the producers didn’t bill it as such, but as a friend of mine put it, “it took a long time for this ‘feel good’ movie to feel good.”

I think part of the problem was that it took three actors each to play the three main characters and I didn’t always buy the transition from one to the next. One either buys into the sheer level of coincidence or one does not. I guess I never fully engaged enough to buy in. So the “happy ending” seemed less joyous than it should have been; I didn’t feel the payoff. Whether this is a function of the low-key acting styles, especially of Dev Patel, the last lead male, or what, I’m not sure.

This is not that I did not enjoy elements of it. The outhouse scene was memorable. Having had to go to the bathroom while taping a television quiz show, albeit in the United States, I was intrigued by another particular scene. Frankly, I was a bit of a sucker for that original run of Millionaire hosted by Regis Philbin, so I enjoyed the game section on that level. The smelling of a $100 bill will stay with me. The stuff at the Taj Mahal, though, I swear I’ve seen before in some movie or TV show.

My friend David savaged the movie, noting that it was not even the best film made in India last year. He may very well be right, but for the Hollywood community, it’s irrelevant. Hollywood is not savvy to Bollywood cinema.

Ultimately, when I see a movie, I’m ready and willing to suspend my belief that it’s just cimnema and surrender to it; just didn’t happen for me. I didn’t hate the film, and I’m not unhappy that I saw it, but I can’t imagine wanting to see it again.
***
Remembering Gene Siskel by Roger Ebert. Recommended highly.

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