Monthly archives: February 2007
Deleted Scenes from Last Week's The Office
Fifteen minutes in, this is my favorite episode of Heroes. I'm loving the exchanges between Parkman and Claire.
I have never thought Heroes to be on the level of Lost at its peak - even today, I still look forward to the latter much more - but i have to say that Heroes rarely disappoints, except for that Ali Larter tripe of a plotline.
Boy, does Eric Roberts look like hell, though.
The 2007 Screen Jam Oscar Pool
Please join me in participating in the Screen Jam Oscar Pool.
Just to make things more interesting or different, I've decided to give some of the categories extra weight.
4 points: Picture
3 points: Lead and supporting actor and actress, director, adapted and original screenplay, animated feature, documentary feature, foreign language film
2 points: Art direction, cinematography, costume design, film editing, makeup, original score, original song, sound editing, sound mixing, visual effects
1 point: Documentary short, animated and live-action short film
Tiebreaker: Time of day that the telecast ends in Los Angeles.
I'll post my picks before the kudocast, as we say at Variety, begins. The only time I ever won an Oscar pool was shortly after my kids were born and I had seen next to none of the films, so I'm not counting on my recent viewing experience to help me.
Will there be a prize for the winner? If I can think of something appropriate ... otherwise, just enter for the fun of it.
Thursday Night Open Chat
Wednesday Night Open Chat
Grace Is the Word
At dinner the other day, I was telling a friend about a screening of a good movie I had just come from, called Amazing Grace. His response was, "If it's good, why is it coming out now?"
The question was completely valid. Oscar season focuses on movies that come out at the end of the year, and anything that comes out before early fall carries a potential stigma of not being among the best. That doesn't mean a good studio campaign can't make up the difference see "Crash" or "Little Miss Sunshine" in recent history but certainly many of us have been conditioned not to expect anything masterful in February.
While it probably won't contend for Best Picture honors, Amazing Grace is good, and its February 23 release has more to do with marking the 200th anniversary of a central plot point in its story, Britain's abolition of the slave trade, than any quality qualms. (Here's a Variety review that essentially dovetails with my feelings about the film.) That being said, it certainly would be nice if there could be more spreading of the film wealth throughout the year, rather than overwhelming us in the winter.
Fine performances are turned in by a cast including Ioan Gruffudd, Benedict Cumberbatch (what a great name), Michael Gambon and Albert Finney, who plays the repentant slave ship captain who penned the words of the renowned spiritual from which the movie takes its name.
Favorite Films of 2006
Okay, first, the system:
It has never sat right with me when individuals say they are rating the "best" films. Film evaluation is inherently subjective, and what we're really doing when we call out the best movie is calling out our favorite movie.
So about a decade ago, I came up with a system to rate my favorite films, with the prime goal being to acknowledge that subjectivity. I rate the films in three categories, each of which I think are weighted appropriately:
Just to give you a quick idea of how this works, here are the scores of my favorite films of all time.
The Misfits: Ambition 5, Quality 9.5, Resonance 13, Total 27.5
Both are great movies in my mind, with Casablanca being objectively better and The Misfits being the most powerful to me emotionally. Now, there probably aren't 10 people in the world who would consider these films equals, but that's the whole point, isn't it? This system helps us rank our favorites without trying to say that they're definitively the best.
And, for comparison, down near the bottom of the scale ...
The Bad News Bears Go To Japan: Ambition 1.5, Quality 2, Resonance 2, Total 5.5.
During my single days, I rated nearly 600 films using this system before it fell by the wayside. But I decided to hurriedly resurrect it to knock out the films I saw that were released in 2006. You'll see that list below.
Two last quick points: I wouldn't get caught up in single-point distinctions - those don't amount to a significant difference between films. In fact, each time I look at the list, I feel like tinkering with some of the grades.
The other thing is that in the past, an average film totaled about 16 points, which means that I did pretty well in what I saw this year. I honestly didn't feel that I saw a truly awful movie from 2006.
Now, without further ado, here's the list:
Films that I've discussed previously on Screen Jam are linked. For those that aren't, here are some brief comments:
What Will CNN Say When Don Meredith Passes?
The 11th headline down ... I wouldn't have gone that route.
For that matter, the placement under No. 10 is a little humiliating. And I'm just going to have to give No. 9 the benefit of the doubt.
Next on Screen Jam: Viewers Who Choose To Watch Commercials
" ...even when people watch recorded shows later, many are not fast-forwarding through the ads. On average, Nielsen found, DVR owners watch 40 percent of commercials that they could skip over perhaps because they like ads, don't mind them or simply can't be bothered."
It does make sense to me that people will watch an ad right at the beginning or end of a series of commercials, because you can be captured at the moment you're starting or stopping your fast-forwarding. But I'm surprised many people would actively choose ad-viewing.
Thursday Night Open Chat
Lost in Space(-Time Continuum)
I know some people don't like it when Lost spends too much time off the island, but I groove on it.
The Ride of the Season
A stunning episode of Friday Night Lights tonight, literally putting me on the edge of the couch. Just some quick thoughts:
College Kids Love Their Stories
From Rick Kissell of Variety:
Nielsen has taken its ratings game to college campuses for the first time, and the early results are good news for young-skewing programs.
It's not surprising that primetime shows with young auds like "Grey's Anatomy" and "Gilmore Girls" have seen their ratings spike up, but a few daytime soap operas have also been big beneficiaries. ...
* * *
Wednesday night TV chat welcome ...
If He Were British, He Could Be 'Sir Weird Al'
I was and am a Weird Al Yankovic fan only in passing, but when people started talking about him in the comments of Dodger Thoughts, it make me smile and think about my two favorite songs of his: "King of Suede" (sung to "King of Pain") and "The Rye or the Kaiser" (sung to "Eye of the Tiger").
Millman Hits Rock Bottom
As someone who has been rooting for Andy Millman and sympathetic to his plight, it was sad to learn Sunday night that he has gotten the fate he deserves.
I had started to come to believe that the Man was keeping Andy down. Turns out, the Man is Andy himself. After becoming willing to surrender himself to play the witless office manager of When the Whistle Blows, which at least was a pragmatic choice, he could not commit to playing a gay man in the play directed by the very literal Ian McKellen. Andy let peer pressure drive him out of character, certifying, at least at his point in his career, that he is not really an actor.
Emasculating him creatively, Extras has taken Andy to the depths in a sort of fascinating way. He can't just blame the BBC or his moronic agent it's clearly on him and his lack of backbone. Sure, it'd be nice for Andy if he had just the slightest bit of competent support to rescue him, like Michael Scott does in The Office, but there's work to do on his own.
As sad as Andy's descent has been, I'm sorry that there is only one episode re-maining in the series this season. I am looking forward to seeing him get back on his feet a little bit, if that's allowed.
So, The Last King of Scotland won Best British Film at the British Academy Film Awards over The Queen, but The Queen won best film over The Last King of Scotland. Neat, huh?
Meanwhile, The Departed and Little Miss Sunshine took film honors at the Writers Guild Awards. On the TV end, The Sopranos and The Office were the big cheeses.
Coming out later this year, We Own the Night is the third film by my cousin, writer-director James Gray, following Little Odessa and The Yards to complete a New York-based trilogy of sorts. We Own the Night stars Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall and Eva Mendes.
James showed a not-quite-polished cut of the movie to friends and family this past week, and I have to say, I'm really excited for him. The film is taut, tense, intense. It might look like a simple genre film at first - one brother's a cop, the other operates on the fringe of the law - but it is sharply plotted with nuanced relationships among the characters and great performances, including some from unknowns.
And while this wasn't important to me personally, I think this is his most marketable film. Little Odessa, in particular, was a pretty straight tragedy - elegaic in many ways and heartbreaking - but even with Tim Roth in a strong lead performance, not as easy to promote. We Own the Night, I hope, will get more attention.
In the Writing Groove
In a strange confluence of events, four articles I wrote or co-wrote for Variety were posted in the same afternoon:
The network that once publicly thanked a higher power for Fridays almost seems to be dreading the end of the work week now.Cast hunt sends out global S.O.S.
Several Oscar contenders cast their movies in far-flung places, a trend that might lead you to believe Hollywood has developed a go-to blueprint for such challenges.
First-times mix it up with vets (Co-written with Alex Belth)
It's safe to say that Ben Sliney, national operations manager at the Federal Aviation Administration, did not seek out the role of Ben Sliney, national operations manager in "United 93."WGA Screen Laurel honoree: Robert Benton
Writers are known as wordsmiths, imagined as devourers of literature, but well into his adulthood, WGA Screen Laurel honoree Robert Benton was anything but.
Another Open Chat?
I get all these ideas of topics to write about and store them. And then a week goes by and I look back and say, "Wow, that's a lot of ideas that ... I didn't write about."
Anyway, while I fix the hitch in my get-along, enjoy tonight's viewing.
Wednesday Open Chat
I've already enjoyed tonight's Lost, so for once I'm ahead of the curve. Feel free to chat about that or anything else ...
Here's Brian Lowry's preview at Variety. (By the way, in case you didn't know Variety has knocked down its pay wall.)
For those Zeljko Ivanek fans out there, when you watch Lost, tell me if he looks gaunt to you.
Haley Busts His Move
It was just one moment from an Academy Award-nominated performance, shot in a rather pedestrian living-room set, but it was a high-wire act for Jackie Earle Haley.
Small Spoilers Warning
It's Thursday Night, So That Must Mean ...
... chat time!
Where Hill Street Blues is kingand Lady Luck is queen
by Jon Weisman
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.