Sunday, March 2, 2014

Howard ranks the Oscar nominees

The Oscars are Sunday night in L.A., where the red carpet will be soggy from torrential rains, and here is my annual ranking of the Best Picture nominees, based totally on my likes and quirks, with some amateur consideration of my humble impressions of excellent movie-making:

1)   The Wolf of Wall Street.  A wild Martin Scorcese film of greed and excess.  Because of its 500+ F-bombs and insane sexism, it has practically no chance of being named Best Picture, but, of the 9 nominated pictures, it is the Best -- the most well-done and entertaining -- anyway.  I want to see it again.
2)   American Hustle.  A fast-moving comedic story of corruption and scandal.  Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are perfect together.  This could win.
3)   Dallas Buyers Club.  Matthew McConaughey is practically unrecognizable but is also amazing as the AIDS victim who won't give up.
4)   Nebraska.   My first three picks are frenetic in pace, and Nebraska is the opposite, slow as molasses, but I loved the story, and the film nails the slow-moving feel of some of the small towns on the Great Plains.
5)   Gravity.   This film, especially if you see it in 3D, feels sort of like an IMax production without a lot of plot, but it's fun seeing all those objects, including Sandra Bullock, floating around in outer space.
6)   Philomena.   This is a fascinating true story about a woman, played by Judi Dench, searching for the son she sort-of gave up many years ago.  If you're a fan of nuns, you'd feel uncomfortable with this film.
7)   12 Years A Slave.  This is the odds-on bet to win Best Picture, but I personally found it poorly structured and overly punitive.
8)   Captain Phillips.  Of the nine nominees for Best Picture, this picture was the first to be released and the last one that I saw.  Tom Hanks is the best he has been in a while as the captain kidnapped by Somali pirates, and, as an action/suspense pic, it's pretty good, just not a Best Picture.
9)   Her.  How is it possible that this stupid movie was nominated for Best Picture, yet the real Best Picture of the year -- Inside Llewyn Davis, the latest Coen Brothers film -- was not??

My other picks:
Best Actor:  Hmmm, that's tough.  1)  Bruce Dern for Nebraska; 2)  Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club, or 3)  Leonardo Decaprio for Wolf of Wall Street.  Any of them deserve it.
Best Actress:  Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine.  No contest.
Best Director:  Martin Scorcese, of course, for Wolf of Wall Street.
Best Supporting Actor:  Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club.
Best Supporting Actress:  Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine.  But June Squibb in Nebraska is terrific too.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

LAS to ORD to MSP

Ok, changing planes at Chicago O'Hare airport, heading back to Siberia.  But what a great break.  I wish everybody in Minnesota could get away for three days in warm temperatures and no snow.

Monday, February 24, 2014

by the time we got to phoenix

I misnamed yesterday's post.  Instead of MSP to LAS, it should have been MSP to PHX to LAS, because we had to change plans in Phoenix, Arizona.

In my usual free-ranging guilt while we were taking off from Minneapolis, I was questioning the decision to go to Vegas when there is so much work at the office and a house move coming up shortly, but by the time we got to Phoenix, where the temperatures were in the 70s, I was over that.  By the time we reached Las Vegas, I was saying "Minneapolis who?"

Sunday, February 23, 2014

MSP to LAS

A brief reprieve from a punishing winter.... into the desert, the escape from reality.  Back Wednesday.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

tristan & somebody

Oh there it is, I had to look it up again -- the name of the play that we went to see the other night at the Guthrie Theater -- Tristan & Yseult -- but when I Wikipedia it, Yseult comes up as Iseult or Isolde -- that's what happens when 12th Century legends evolve, names change forms.  This 21st-century variation of the story included clown-like hijinks, eclectic but good music, and general silliness wrapped around a story of kings and battles (physical and emotional) taking place in old Cornwall.

Next at the Guthrie -- Shakespeare's Othello.  I plan on reading it before then if I can and then having my friend Naomi explain it to me on the way to the theater.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

we ask for so little

Me, yesterday, to a stranger in the elevator:  "It's 40 degrees outside."

The stranger:  "AWESOME, MAN!!"

Monday, February 17, 2014

the miserable people across the hall

Okay, I might be the problem.  Jon and Tom tell me that I like everybody, which to them means that I have no "standards."  And it's true that I try to be friendly to everyone, even strangers on the street.  Who knows?  They might be angels (Hebrews 13:2)!

But here is the other extreme:  a few months ago, the county opened an office on the other side of the elevators from our offices, and there just seems to be something wrong with the people who work there:  they are absolutely the unfriendliest people I have ever encountered.  Not only will they not say even a token "Hello" when they pass us in the hall, they won't even make eye contact or acknowledge our presence.

This leads me to one of the following explanations for their obvious misery:
--  They all desperately hate their jobs (and it's likely that many county employees do hate their jobs but can't leave because the benefits are good).
--  They hate each other.
--  They've been ordered to never mingle with non-county employees.  But why?

Don't get me wrong.  The phoniness of "Minnesota nice" can be pretty irritating too, but I at least don't take that personally.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

the messy in-between

The remodeling of the new house continues at what seems like a snail's pace and is at a stage of looking like nothing, or at least nothing livable.  Meanwhile we sit in our condo and wait and sort of wish we could move some stuff, but no rooms in the new place are finished enough to move anything into.

the future living room
the future family room

Friday, February 14, 2014

the crashes

It's funny, watching the Olympics, how, with all the sleek beauty of the winter sports on display, what gets replayed over and over are the screw-ups -- the crashes and falls, broken bones, the tears of disappointment, and Bob Costas's eye problems.

It sorta reminds me of watching a NASCAR race, where the only moments that get replayed are the crashes.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

spamming for jesus

As a technologically-challenged blogger, I've always been impressed that Google can screen and block spammers from having their "comments" show up on my posts.  Occasionally, one gets by them and I have to go in and delete a rogue comment, which, if I didn't do that, the comment would be inviting you to click on a link to a site perhaps dangerous or just plain sleazy.

The one that got by them yesterday was a Jesus spam -- a long, preachy bit of earnest silliness that included even the Ethiopian eunuch and would lead a gullible reader to another blog site (that probably asks for money at some point).  Spam evangelism -- has this replaced the loudmouth would-be preacher on a downtown soapbox?  Or how about this? -- Recently I saw a guy with Bible verses tattooed all over his arms.  Is he thinking that inking his body will inspire lost souls?

"LOL!"
Here is one of my favorites of 21st-Century evangelistic lunacy:  The Facebook friend who quotes the theoretical words of Jesus in the Book of Matthew: "But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven," and then strongly suggests that if you don't "share" the post affirming that you love the heck out of Jesus right there on Facebook ("and 97% of my friends won't"), he will deny you in heaven and you are doomed for eternity.  I guess that non-Facebookers are off the hook on that one, at least.

Monday, February 10, 2014

'tonight' won't be just any night

It was partly because it came on right after the Olympics opening ceremony (which I watched part of), but the last Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show set a ratings record for that show, and next week Jimmy Fallon moves on to become the new host of The Tonight Show.  Jimmy Fallon seems like such a nice guy and is extremely talented -- he was just on too late for someone likes me who falls asleep in front of the TV way too often -- so I'm a little excited that he'll be in that earlier time slot.  Plus, he moves the show back to New York, where it belongs.

And I gotta say, the Olympics sure look good in HD.

Friday, February 7, 2014

the word is that sochi sucks


It could be that the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia has had the worst advance publicity of any Olympics, except for maybe the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.  Hotel accommodations are somewhere between non-existent and horrifying, the slopes and other venues are dangerous, athletes are getting hurt... and then there is the repressive Putin administration hosting it all.

So it will be interesting to see whether people tune in to watch or not.  As frigid as this winter has been in much of the U.S., will viewers want to see more snow and ice?

The replay of the opening ceremonies is on TV tonight -- hmmm, whether to watch, or might there be a better offer?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

glued to ed sullivan

It was fifty years ago this week....

The Ed Sullivan Show was on CBS for many years, but, for baby boomers of a certain age, it was that one Sunday night in early February of 1964 that will be remembered most.  It was just two months after the assassination of President Kennedy, and it was a winter of gloom.... until word got out that a British pop group named the Beatles was going to be invading the U.S., and we would finally get to see them with our non-comprehending parents in glorious black and white on, of all places, The Ed Sullivan Show.

There was nobody who didn't watch.  There was nobody who wasn't talking about the show in school the next day -- the songs, the haircuts, which one is your favorite Beatle? --  and music would never be the same.  You know the rest of the story.  It all happened fast and seems like only, well, Yesterday.


P.S.  John was always my favorite Beatle.

Monday, February 3, 2014

they missed the thin air of mile-high stadium

Maybe they had trouble adjusting to the relatively thick, normal air of East Rutherford, New Jersey, but, whatever the reason, the favored Denver Broncos choked on something and lost Super Bowl XLVIII big-time yesterday to the Seattle Seahawks, 43-8.  Jerry and I, rooting for Seattle, enjoyed the blowout.  People who just wanted to "see a good game" didn't.

Best commercial, in my opinion:  Doritos.