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Sandra Bullock Steals the Show

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 11:53 pm - March 7, 2010.
Filed under: Movies/Film & TV

Where do I start?  What a wonderful touching speech.  And that she started out by a acknowledging her fellow nominees.

The way she spoke tonight shows why I–and so many others–were pulling for her.

The Dude Wins!

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 11:33 pm - March 7, 2010.
Filed under: Movies/Film & TV


Now, this is one great speech–totally spontaneous.  Loved the way he honored his parents.

And how he honors his wife–and daughters.

How bad was that dance number at the Oscars?

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 11:12 pm - March 7, 2010.
Filed under: Movies/Film & TV

Nikki Finke nails it:

This dumbass dance number replaced having singers warble their songs. Blame Adam Shankman, who’s a choreographer and judge on So You Think You Can Dance. Please, don’t let him or Bill Mechanic EVER produce the Oscars again. The ghost of Alan Carr would have been better.

Steve Martin’s had a few good lines, but the show has been, well, kind of boring with a few nice speeches.

Those gifted, but underappreciated, actors

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 1:45 pm - March 7, 2010.
Filed under: Movies/Film & TV

(Sometime last fall, I penned, well, technically pencilled, a reflection on acting.  Recalling, as I wrote my Oscar Reflections piece, that I had never typed it up, I decided to do so on a day when people are thinking about movies and acting.)

I often pick as favorite actors those whose brilliance in minor roles rarely (if ever) leads to popular acclaim.  Well before her Oscar for The Queen, I had been a fan of Helen Mirren, largely because of her brilliant, subtle performance in Gosford Park.  Fortunately, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences acknowledged her for that achievement with an Oscar nomination.

But, other performances which I appreciate often don’t get such acclaim.

Just this past week (that is, the week I wrote this reflection), I bought a DVD collection at Barnes & Noble because it was on sale and because several of the films featured three such actors, Ciarán Hinds in “Ivanhoe” and Jane Eyre, Jonathan Firth and Nigel Hawthorne in Victoria & Albert.

I first took note of Hinds in Titanic Town, later appreciated his performances in There Will Be Blood and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.  And then there was his Julius Cæsar in “Rome”.  Of all the actors I have seen play the celebrated Roman, Hinds least looked the part, yet most captured the essence of the complex tyrant, ruthless in politics and battles, magnanimous to his defeated adversaries, convinced he alone could save Rome.

I had first seen Firth in the 1994 BBC adaptation of “Middlemarch” were he captured the essence of Fred Vincy, the spoiled son of a prosperous 19th century merchant, a young man who most needed discipline and guidance.  We hear more about Firth’s gifted older brother Colin.  But, the younger Firth is no less a talented than his Oscar-nominated (for A Single Man) brother.  It’s just that he has excelled in less high profile productions.

Such men remind  me of another favorite of small-scale productions, Tobias Menzies whose turn as Brutus in the first season of Rome absolutely floored me.  He well captured the conflicted Roman aristocrat, particularly at the moment of Cæsar’s assassination in which he was a reluctant participant.

And finally, let me include an actress of yore, the late Gladys George whose turn as the aging chanteuse/barkeep is the real standout in the Cagney/Bogart gangster film, The Roaring Twenties.   (more…)

Movies: One means of storytelling for our era

In Roger Simon’s piece on the Oscars (quoted in my previous post), that Oscar-nominated screenwriter observes, “human beings that we are, we desire, maybe even need, entertainment. It’s worth remembering that some of Hollywood’s finest hours were during the Depression.”  I agree.  (Read the whole thing for his reflection on what happens to neighborhoods around Hollywood Boulevard during Oscar week).

I would take that one step further–as human beings, we need stories.  They seem to serve no practical purpose, but in every culture of which are aware, our fellows told stories as a means to define their particular culture, transmit sacred knowledge and entertain.  Jesus himself was a great story-teller.  The first two books of Moses and much of the last three consist of a number of stories, over whose meaning wise men have wrestled for millennia.

What we call myths are really just the sacred stories of other cultures.  They help us define our relation to our fellows and to the cosmos as well as helping even understand our nature as human beings.  No wonder movies still have such a cultural impact.  They are just our era’s means of doing what our forebears have done as far back as we can tell.  Telling stories.  To be sure, with all the new media today, movies are just one means among many.

That perhaps makes our culture particularly unique–so many means to tell stories.  But, yet, we still tell them.

Oscar Reflections 2010

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 12:36 pm - March 7, 2010.
Filed under: Movies/Film & TV

I am less interested in the Oscars this year than in any previous year since I moved to Tinseltown.  Most years, I would try to see all the nominees for Best Picture as well as those films whose directors and leading and supporting actors got nods.  This year, I might have seen all the Best Picture nominees had the Academy not decided to up the number of nominees to 10 (perhaps so as to include two pictures with the adverb/preposition, “up,” in the title).

(I agree with Roger Simon on the expansion of the number of nominees:  “It’s kind of like movie business ‘grade inflation.’ And like most ‘grade inflation,’ it waters down the results.“)

Given that I’ve only seen two of the movies with best acting nods (Crazy Heart and The Hurt Locker), three with best actress (Julie & Julia, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire and The Blind Side), one for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Inglourious Basterds), two for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Crazy Heart and Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire), perhaps I am not the best guy to comment on all this.

Of all the performances I’ve seen, any of the performers could honorably take home the Oscar.  I’ll be pulling for Sandra Bullock, largely because, among this talented group, she is the eldest who has not yet taken home a statuette.  And, well, because I like her.  I saw Crazy Heart this weekend and absolutely loved Jeff Bridges‘ performance, but then I always love him, so I’m pulling for “The Dude.”

Maggie Gyllenhaal was, as always, wonderful and particularly charming, but, well, I’m pulling for Mo’Nique.  She spent the entirety of Prccious, well, almost the entirety, playing an unloving bitch, a domineering mother who couldn’t show the least bit of maternal affection for her daughter, then, in the penultimate scene, reveals the vulnerable human being behind the bitch.  It is a heart-rendering scene and well played, very well, played.   (more…)

How will gay groups react when perpetrator of anti-gay hate crime is neither a Republican nor an evangelical?

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 2:26 am - March 7, 2010.
Filed under: Gay Politics,Islamic War on Gays

In writing about a story in the San Francisco Chronicle about three Muslim men charged with “firing a BB rifle at the face of a man they believed was gay,” our reader Jenny asks, “when will gay activist groups actually start being activist in aid of saving lives by ending the mass immigration of anti-everyone Muslims?

Now, I certainly wouldn’t go as far as her, but she raises an interesting issue:  will gay groups cover this with the same degree of frenzied fervor they would if the three men were evangelical Christians?

But, then again, while some evangelical Christians say some pretty hateful things about homosexuals, they don’t go around videotaping themselves firing BB guns at gay men.

Leaning Toward Meg, Part III

Via a link on Instapundit, I found my way to an editorial Meg Whitman penned for the Orange County Register where the former eBay CEO outlined her plan for fixing the mess in which the once-Golden State finds itself (well, it didn’t quite find itself there–politicians put her there).  The Republican gubernatorial candidate clearly recognizes that the public employee pension program is a drain on state resources (i.e., taxpayer dollars):

On pension reform, we need to align public employee retirement benefits to those available in the private sector. New state workers should receive a 401(k)-style defined-contribution plan. For most existing state workers, we need to increase the retirement age from 55 to 65, require longer vesting periods, and ask them to contribute more to their retirement benefits.

Emphasis added. She’s right on the money here.  With even the mainstream media reporting how much compensated federal government employees are than their counterparts in the private sector, it’s clear our elected officials must look at cutting salaries and benefits of those working for the government.  And not just at the federal level.

Let’s hope Whitman is also willing to take on the public employee unions and perhaps move to limit the amount they may skim off the salaries of employees while preventing them from donating to political candidates and lobbying public officials, you know, that conflict of interest thing.

And at the federal and state level (at least here in California), we need an across-the-board salary cut for all public employees, say a 5% cut of income earned over the state’s median income and 10% on income earned above twice that median.

While Whitman has not yet gone as far as I believe we should go, she does appear to be headed in the right direction.  One more reason, I may be less undecided in this race than I make myself out to be.

We’re moving up in the world!

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 1:21 am - March 7, 2010.
Filed under: Blogging

When Dan Riehl mentioned Wikio ratings, noting that his blog is on the up and up (and well it should be), I decided to check to see how we were doing.  Well, we’re inching up in the world, now at 78!

Last month, we were 81; I’m just plum pleased that a conservative blog which identifies itself as a gay blog is even in the top 100 political blogs.