Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Is it April yet?

I'm just now getting over my loss of the annual Oscar pool. It's those technical categories. They'll get you every time. I thought for sure Children of Men would win for cinematography.

It may or may not be obvious if you've been perusing this blog before but I am a teacher working in the Reno area. I only mention this as a preface to the recent realization that between testing days, spring break, and other required activities I will only have 8 full days of actual teaching in the month of March. A fellow teacher informed me of this in a recent planning session. 6 days gone for testing, 5 days gone for spring break, and a hodgepodge of other things that are requirements for me and/or my students to attend. 8 days. When I was in school I did not get a week off for Spring Break. I'm not complaining. It will be welcome time for catching up on grading and doing more planning for the last two months of the semester (so much for Spring Break being restful - but at least I make lots of money as a teacher...cough...cough). But another six days eaten up by testing? Ouch!

I love standardized tests...I love standardized tests...I love standardized tests...I love standardized tests...I love standardized tests...I love standardized tests...I love standardized tests...I love standardized tests...I love standardized tests....

Sunday, February 25, 2007

OSCAR Time



Ellen Rules!

"Basically, it Stinks" beats out the Wicker Man

Say it ain't so! The best awards of the season were handed out last night. This year's Razzie award for worst pic went to Sharon Stone's latest attempt to revive her career. Stay tuned for more posts on that other award show happening on Sunday night.

It's hard to imagine Wicker Man losing his award.

Need a date for the Oscars?



Oscar.com is making it easy to find someone that matches your style and intests with this quick game. Apparently Gwyneth Paltrow is dumping Chris Martin for the night and going to the shindig with me. Just as long as she doesn't bring the kids...

Note too the other game: "Which Character Are You?"
I guess I'm a noble soul at heart because Atticus Finch came up as my character. Phew, I was afraid it would be Travis Bickle!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Oscar Predictions




For the last 16 years I have been participating in and organizing a friendly Oscar pool with a good friend. I'm proud to say I've won or tied a good 6 or 7 times in that time and been a close second in many years. While we don't include all categories in our pool we do include more than the big 6 (actors, actresses, Best Pic, and Director). The pool has evolved over time to include varying points being awarded depending on the "importance" of the category (a highly debatable term, I know). In recent years the pool has been modified with bonus points awarded to those who make predictions immediately after the nominations are announced thus losing out on all of the Oscar handicapping and punditry that has become an industry unto itself with the proliferation of prediction websites.

All this is to say that I'm posting my predictions in the pool early this year. Make no mistake, I realize that nominations and wins do not indicate actual quality in the Oscar universe. It's just a big high school popularity contest except this one is televised and the participants receive $30,000 gift bags. Actual merit doesn't really enter into my predictions except in the case of some of the technical awards. But I still find it fun to try and put myself in the heads of the collective psyche of the Academy. Silly, yes...it's an addiction of sorts. Though I'm not as far gone as Sasha Stone over at Oscarwatch.

So, without further ado...my picks:

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker
Best Supp. Actor: Alan Arkin (please oh please don't let me hear the words "academy award winner Eddie Murphy)
Best Actress: Helen Mirren
Best Supp. Actress: Jennifer Hudson
Film Editing: Children of Men
Visual Effects: Superman Returns (this movie was not so good but that plane scene was pretty incredible)
Art Direction: Pan's Labyrinth
Cinematography: Children of Men
Animated Feature: Cars
Adapted Screenplay: The Departed
Original Screenplay: Little Miss Sunshine
Director: Martin Scorsese
Picture: The Departed (Babel and LMS both have a shot but I'm going to go with Scorsese)

What are your picks?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Will the Real Ghost Rider please stand up?

Apparently the dreck that is the Ghost Rider movie based on the Marvel comic book is the number one film in the land. Remember when Nic Cage was cool? Remember the charms of Valley Girl? Adaptation? Ok, that's not fair. I'm sure he'll make more good films. Maybe after he wins the Razzie Award next week for his performance in The Wicker Man he'll get a clue.

In lieu of this, I present the Real Ghost Rider. This guy (guys?) is nuts. Click the link above to go to the wiki entry for some backround info.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Wolfpack on the verge...


A really nice write-up about the Wolfpack men's basketball team in the NYTimes. Here's hoping the attention doesn't jinx the pack as we approach March Madness:


Against Difficult Odds, Nevada’s Coach Plans for Success

By PETE THAMEL
RENO, Nev., Feb. 15 — The neon sign hanging over downtown proudly declares, “The Biggest Little City in the World.”

It is a fitting moniker viewed through a college basketball prism. For the past four years, the University of Nevada has been the biggest little college basketball team in the land. The No. 11 Wolf Pack (23-2), who played in the past three N.C.A.A. tournaments, are having a season for the ages. Nevada is the first Western Athletic Conference team to crack the top 10 in a national poll this decade.

How did a program with little tradition and even less of a recruiting base crash college basketball’s aristocracy? Look no further than the coach. He wears tasseled loafers at practice while he watches over a cast of under-recruited overachievers who have grown into a solid, veteran group.

Follow the link for the full story.

Exquisite Short Film

This animated short film is so elegant I couldn't help but share it. I haven't verified this but I was told it won the Oscar in that category in 2000.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What makes me happier?

That Barack has decided to grace our state with a visit (unfortunately in Las Vegas)
























OR

an FBI probe of Jim Gibbons?


It's a tough call but since I'm not feeling as cynical about politics today I'll go with the Presidential candidate's visit and not Nevada's latest "embarrassment" [apologies to Myrna at Renodiscontent.com].

More information on the Obama visit and how to get tix.
Tickets are free and available at the following locations:

Nevada Democratic Party Headquarters
1210 S. Valley View Road, Suite 114, Las Vegas, NV 89102
Today, Friday and Saturday, from 9AM to 5PM

AFL-CIO Headquarters
1701 Whitney Mesa Drive, Henderson, NV 89014
Today and Friday, from 9AM to 5PM

Information Booth at UNLV Student Union
4505 S. Maryland Pkwy., Las Vegas, NV 89154
Today and Friday, from 8AM to 7 PM

Or, they can be downloaded here: http://action.barackobama.com/page/s/vegas.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

New Rule-NO TALKING ANIMALS!

If ever someone needed to understand the old adage, "just because you can do something doesn't mean you should," it's the current crop of PR firms creating commercials with talking animals to sell products. CGI can be a wonderful thing and I know "talking" animals in commercials have been around awhile. Yet it seems like practically every other commerical anymore features some 4 legged critters chatting each other up, making cars wreck, or "spilling the beans" over some secret recipe. This just creeps me out! Anybody else feel this way?

With apologies to George Orwell, the new rule should be:

4 legs good - 4 legged talking animals bad!

The problem with living in Reno




Something about these three articles flashing across my laptop this morning struck me as perfectly capturing the main problems with Reno. Don't get me wrong, in the past 9 years I've come to truly love our fair city for its improved downtown and the outdoor recreation that is so readily available. This past decade has seen Reno go from a wannabe blue-light special version of Vegas to something that actually is starting to feel like a college town with the cultural amenities that come with it.

Take your pick between Meth use, lack of respect for the history of the city, or protecting wildlife vs. development:

http://www.jacksonholestartrib.com/articles/2007/02/11/news/regional/d8a3943dc83f31b68725727d006b89af.txt

http://news.rgj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070211/NEWS04/702110371/1002



http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/nevada/2007/feb/10/021010582.html

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Oscars-Part II: Ghost Dog

Forest Whitakers performance in the Last King of Scotland is almost surely going to earn him an Oscar. After years of interesting supporting roles (and some headscratching gigs as the host of the "outer limits"...or was it the NEW Twilight Zone?) in movies like the Crying Game, Panic Room, Goodmorning Vietnam, he is getting his due. I even liked him in the ridiculous sapfest, "Phenomena." But by far my favorite role of his is as "Ghost Dog" in Jim Jarmusch's film of the same name. So much of what Whitaker does is internal in his roles that it was fun to seem him as a hitman. Check out one of the more interesting "hits" you'll find on film.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Oscar Time! - The first in a series of entries on this year's Academy Award season


Later this month when Helen Mirren wins the Best Actress award that has eluded her it will be because of a long line of great roles. The greatest of which has got to be the Prime Suspect series aired on PBS. I've recently gone bact to rewatch this series and can't help but marvel at how good it is. My favorites are probably the 2nd and 3rd season (look for David Thewlis in season 3!). Season 1 has a small role played by Ralph Fiennes (his first role?). Anyway, if you have not caught the Prime Suspect series rent or buy them now.



Let me also, in the interest of full disclosure, admit that I first fell in love with Ms. Mirren in the film Excalibur where whe played the evil (or is it "misunderstood") Morgana Le Fay.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Super Sunday




Rumor has it that there was some game on today. But it was too nice to spend the day inside. So I wandered up to the new Somerset subdivision and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Who knew there were so many houses up there? Wow!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

“The Sun Still Shines”


Of late I’ve been reading about Sophie Scholl, a member of the German Resistance (called the White Rose) during World War II. Never heard of her? Not surprising. The best chance you have of knowing anything about her would be if you saw the recent film, Sophie Scholl, the Final Days. This Oscar-nominated film is based in part on transcripts discovered in the 1990s in East Germany. It tells the tragic story of the arrest, interrogation, and execution by guillotine of three members of the White Rose for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets in Munich in 1942.


The courage displayed by Sophie, her brother Hans, and Christopher Probst, is a rare thing in any age. But I can hardly imagine standing up to the hateful thugs in the Third Reich the way these three did. Most striking were the tirades by Nazi officials against the resistance members for “betraying our soldiers” by daring to question the Nazi regime. The White Rose also spoke out against the “deportation” of Jews.

"The Sun Still Shines" is a reference to Sophie Scholl's final words before being beheaded.