Where's Marshall?

The Oscars lost some of their luster this year, given the context of war. I wasn't fired up enough to throw a party, and if I had missed them it wouldn't have been a great loss. You won't hear me say that often--I live for the show. Still, Steve Martin set a proper tone by poking fun of the sacrifice of the stars in his opening monologue ("The red carpet ceremony was cancelled this year. That'll show them."). What else are the movie stars going to do, anyway? No other major entertainers are canceling their regularly scheduled events, so why blame movie stars for holding their annual backslap?
Anyway, it was an excuse to visit Jason's new pad. I wanted to wear a prosthetic nose to his party, inspired by the success of Nicole Kidman and her schnozz in The Hours, but ran out of time.
Happily, there were a few signs that Hollywood has some good taste:

  • The excellent Spirited Away won best animated feature over a mediocre set of competition (Lilo & Stitch, Cimarron: Spirit of the Stallion, Treasure Planet, Ice Age), despite rumors that Ice Age would triumph due to its box office. Basically, any animated film that came out besides The Wild Thornberrys Movie got a nomination for best animated feature last year. Thanfully the one nominee worthy of an Oscar took it home.

  • Eminem and two other people I've never heard of won in the category of best song for "Lose Yourself." Whatever your opinions on Eminem, that was definitely the best song of the group. Besides, Daniel Day-Lewis prepared for his role as the Butcher in Gangs of New York by listening to that Eminem tune, among others. Inspired by Day-Lewis' subsequent performance in that movie, I've adopted the same regimen in the gym. It's working. I feel like kicking Leonardo Dicrapio's scrawny butt. Why didn't Eminem perform? Was he not invited? There aren't any expletives in "Lose Yourself." That was a missed moment.

  • Chris Cooper took home the best supporting actor Oscar for his comical transformation in the otherwise inconsistent Adaptation.

  • Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers captured a well-deserved best visual effects award. Gollum is more emotive than Brendan Fraser, who introduced The Two Towers as a best picture nominee.

On the other hand, the show handed out its usual dose of injustice:

  • Daniel Day-Lewis was robbed in the most competitive category of the night, Best Actor. Hopefully this loss won't drive him back into cobblerhood. Still, it wasn't a total loss. Adrien Brody planting a long, wet, sloppy, back-bender of a kiss on Halle Berry? Brilliant, a page right out of Colin Farrell's playbook. If I was Eric Benet I would have run on stage and kicked that scrawny Brody's ass. Thank god this wasn't the year Roberto Benigni won for best actor--the sight of Pinocchio jumping Halle would have been ugly.

  • Chicago for best picture? Years from now we'll all wonder why and how this light, fluffy music video won a best picture award. At least Renee Zellwegger didn't win a best actress award. I'm sorry, I love Renee as much as the next guy, and she put forth a more than credible effort, but she wasn't right for that role.

  • Peter Jackson and The Two Towers didn't get any consideration in any major category, despite being superior to Chicago in so many ways. The Oscars continued bias against sci-fi and fantasy movies is more than a blind spot. It's a prejudice similar to racism; call it genrism.

A few other notes:

  • Steve Martin is a good host. His zany, intellectual humor allows him to zing a whole range of subjects without making it too personal, and though he seemed to tone it down given the war, he should receive a return invitation next year. His best quip? "It was so sweet backstage. The Teamsters are helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his limo."

  • Did you watch the commercials? Whoa! That isn't like any J.C. Penney's I've ever visited. "It's all inside" indeed.

  • Michael Moore somehow manages to come off as a redneck even though he isn't one. He could use a speech coach. The anti-war movement probably would prefer a more eloquent and dignified spokesperson.

  • Catherine Zeta-Jones (it's pronounced "zee-tah") annoys me to no end. Zeta rhymes with diva.

  • A retracting mike to cut off speeches that run long! Brilliant. I notice it doesn't seem to function when movie stars are on stage, only when crew members, like the visual effects guys, show up.

If Jack Nicholson and Harvey Weinstein faced off a la Count Dooku and Yoda, who would win?

A day in the life

Today was a balanced day, and representative of most my days back here in Seattle while on sabbatical.
Morning: Up at 8am. Breakfast of cereal. Read from Atonement for about forty-five minutes. Spent half hour on phone with travel agent, cycling through permutations of a South America trip which would last a month starting next weekend. Managed to get the cost down several notches, and it's looking like a near-reality.
Next I popped in the DVD of Hero, rented from Scarecrow Video, the coolest video store in the world. I couldn't wait for the copy I ordered to show up.
Hero was somewhat of a disappointment, given the talent involved. Gorgeous cinematography, attractive leads, solid soundtrack, but the movie suffers from a gravity of acting that borders on grim melodrama. The movie lacks passion. Yimou inserts one too many shots of water dripping in slow motion, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung have little romantic chemistry (I thought Chow-Yun Fat and Michelle Yoh had the same problem in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and the martial arts is of the flying, choreographed dance variety rather than the hyper-realistic, forceful hand-to-hand combat of a move like Fist of Legend. While some of that imagery is gorgous, as when Jet Li and Tony Leung bounce off of the surface of a lake as if it is rubber, it's so ethereal and choreographed as to be symbolic, like a Chinese Opera dance, and without physical impact. When people are stabbed they don't even bleed. I recognize some of these as symptoms of Asian martial arts dramas in general, so perhaps my distaste is a cultural preference.
The colors and cinematography of Christopher Doyle deserve special recognition, though. Stunning.
Next I met Kate for lunch downtown. It's healthy to see at least one other human being everyday. Unfortunately, Salumi was closed (Armandino Batali's Italian shop Salumi is my favorite eatery in all of Seattle, offering incredibly tasty and affordable cured meats, but its hours are terrible) so we grabbed some Creole cuisine in Pioneer Square. I laid off of the Tabasco sauce, however.
Last week Jodie took me to Dixie's BBQ on the Eastside where I encountered The Man. There is actually a man, Gene Porter, who owns the place, and then there's The Man, the hot sauce which Porter encourages you to slather on your BBQ. Well, I've had a bit of that sauce before, but for some reason Porter spooned a more than healthy dose of The Man on my ribs. That is the hottest of hot sauces I've ever sampled, and it led to a coughing fit that lasted four days. I think one of those peppers lodged in my esophagus and burned a hole through it. No more hot stuff for me for a while.
Anyway, back to today. After lunch I dropped off a roll of slide film at Ivey Imaging and picked up some negatives. I also stopped at Glazer's and bought a remote cord for my Nikon, since I seem to have lost my last one (argh!). I shot some tripod long-exposure shots at Jason's last night, but given that I didn't have a remote cord on me I'm not optimistic that they'll turn out sharp. Gotta have one, though they aren't cheap given their size.
Then I headed home, and, since it wasn't raining, I jumped on my bike and headed for Mercer Island. Last week I jumped on a scale at the gym and screamed in horror. The number that came up was the largest I'd ever encountered. Many grueling sessions at the gym ensued, and the extra weight is especially brutal on the bike. Getting around Mercer is as painful as it's ever been, and today was no exception. Went counter-clockwise and then clockwise back for roughly a 30 mile ride. Felt like I was pulling an open parachute the whole way. The only consolation is that sore, achy feeling in my legs. Love that feeling.
Back home for a shower, then off to Ivey to pick up my slides. Ah, a few winning shots of Sadie Sutton in that batch. Will post a few tomorrow if I get the time.
Then I headed off to Pacific Place to see about using a free movie voucher I received for earning a gazillion Moviewatcher credits. But nothing there interested me, so I spent the next several hours in Barnes and Noble "library", perusing travel books and photography magazines. Digital photography and Photoshop magazines are my current vice, but since I'm not working I just read them in the store and jot down any useful tips in my notebook.
And then back home to cook some dinner and scan some slides with the TV on in the background.

Adam Osborne dead

Adam Osborne, inventor of the portable computer, passed away at the age of 64. The first computer I ever used was my dad's Osborne-1 with its miniscule, monochrome screen. I'd write papers using Wordstar and then print them out on a daisywheel printer. Ah, happy memories.
That monitor was ridiculous, though. 5 inches!?!


John Hollinger is right. Tracy McGrady should be MVP this year. Check out the current PER ratings. This whole bias against players with teams with lousy records is ridiculous. Penalizing players for being on lousy teams is some arbitrary rule that sportswriters made up and has nothing to do with "most valuable." Michael Jordan played for years without any supporting cast. You mean to tell me he wasn't the most valuable player every one of those years?

Go Paul

Paul Shaffer was the guest host for David Letterman tonight. Funny monologue! Good writers over there.
On the late finish of the Oscars for East coasters: "I had as much trouble staying up as Queen Latifah's dress."
On the new Monica Lewinsky reality show on Fox: "Every week a different guy gets voted off her."
On Michael Moore's speech at the Oscars: "To give you an idea how unpopular Michael Moore was, after giving his speech he showed up just ten minutes later in the dead person's montage."