Tag Archives: movie

Jiro Dreams Of Sushi (your orders for today)

Your orders for today:

1) Watch this movie trailer.

2) Succumb to your immediate impulse to see the movie. It’s streaming on Netflix.

It’s also available on Amazon, where you can buy the damn thing on DVD or Blu Ray, buy the damn thing as a digital video, or rent the damn thing and stream it. If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, you can watch the damn thing for free.

Just see the damn movie. Because it’s a terrific damn movie. I’ve been burbling about it to every friend I’ve seen for the past week. It’s a beautifully-shot documentary about an 85-year-old sushi master in Tokyo, and his tiny, nine-seat restaurant that has won a rating of three Michelin stars. A three-star Michelin rating means “this restaurant is so good, it’s worth a special trip across the planet.”

And Jiro has won a kind of awestruck respect from chefs and restauranteurs. The reputations of Jiro’s rice merchant and his fish merchant are elevated by virtue of the fact that Jiro regards their wares as acceptable. His apprentices are moved to tears by even a basic acknowledgment of competence, and no wonder: the greatest sushi chef in the world is telling them that their work is good enough to be served in the best sushi restaurant there is.

Like all great documentaries, it revolves around an idea that is universal. There’s nothing flashy or unconventional about Jiro’s sushi. You won’t find Hot Dog Chocolate Chip Pancake Sushi on his restaurant’s menu. His entire reputation was built on doing something as well as any human being probably ever will. And he got there by always, always, always challenging his own work, and seeking higher standards.

Creative people can take this line of thinking to selfish extremes. You can use “perfectionism” as an excuse for abusing the people over whom you have power, and making sure that your authority is absolute and unmistakeable. In truth, it doesn’t really matter weather or not a sofa on a movie set is “coffee brown” or “chocolate brown” but who else on the set has the power to shut down the whole schedule while the decorator scrambles to replace the sofa that Isn’t Up To Standard? Yup…the director. It feels great to shout at people, and make them do things not because they actually need to be done, but because you shouted at them and you’re the boss. That’s why small, weak people do that sort of think a lot. But they claim it’s because they’re “perfectionists.”

Similarly, every word that you write and every brush stroke that you paint and every note you play and record is perfect and beyond reproach…until you declare “OK, it’s done” and put it in front of an audience. And so, creative people often keep telling themselves “Dammit, it’s just not ready” out of fear of rejection. And thus, their work stays hidden, protected from the purifying effects of sunlight. This kind of fear is rational and understandable. But if you keep telling yourself “I won’t show my work to people until it’s perfect,” you’re just making an excuse.

Note that even Jiro doesn’t seek “perfection.” He achieved perfection by always seeking “an improvement over my last.”

“Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” makes me want to create more, and create better. It makes me question my standards, and want to raise the bar higher.

It also makes me want to be less precious about what I do, and be more comfortable with finishing and publishing something I’m not entirely happy with. Letting go of a failure frees you to move on to a new project, which you can attack with fresh knowledge.

It also makes me want to go get sushi. I’m sure even the two chefs at my local independent market take pride in what they do. Just don’t tell Jiro that they only massage the octopus for 30 minutes instead of 45.

Ihnatko Almanac Episode 0030: “Avengers, Part 1”

The latest episode of The Ihnatko Almanac is now online, for your listening and viewing pleasure.

(Please arrange to be looking at something pleasant while listening to the episode, as it’s audio-only.)

This is one of my favorite episodes so far. My BFF John spent the weekend at my house recently and we took the time to talk about the Avengers movie, and comics in general. John’s last name and mine are right next to each other in the alphabet, which meant we were destiny to share homeroom classes together for a crucial six years of our childhoods. We’ve been reading comics and seeing movies together practically since we started reading comics and seeing movies.

I recorded our 90 minute conversation and presenting it as two episodes. I found this conversation just as interesting while I was listening to it in the car as I did when I was actually taking part in it. I’m hoping I can bring John back for another conversation after the new “Batman” movie premieres.

John, incidentally, has an awesome movie blog. For the past three years, he’s been seeing a new movie (to him) every day and posting a review. Check out Honky’s Movie Year and subscribe…it’s one of my favorite blogs on the Internet and I don’t think you need to be his BFF to agree.

Free (good) movie! “Jedi Junkies”

Jedi Junkies for Web.jpg

Watch it while you can: DailyMotion has a 72-minute documentary about Star Wars fandom available for streaming until the 27th. I think that means if you’re watching it at 11:59:59 PM on Wednesday and the segment about the woman who belly dances in a Slave Leia costume is just starting…you’re really going to wish you’d started the movie about five or ten minutes earlier in the evening.

I’ve seen it all the way through. It’s a spiffy flick. It’s very much in the same vein as “Trekkies” — another terrific doc about fandom. “Trekkies” is a better movie; it’s not quite so loving about its subject, and it’s not as “inside.” But if I’d paid to rent “Jedi Junkies” on iTunes, I’d feel as though I’d gotten my $5 worth. Which is awesome, because it’s available for rent for just $2.99.

Those of you who aren’t in that kind of tax bracket are urged to watch the movie on DailyMotion while it’s still up there. The viewing link isĀ on the movie’s official site.

OscarBlog 2010: The Pause Of Inference

12:31:54 AM
Taking a bit of a break before editing some of this and adding my final comments. As in, drinking another Dr. Pepper and enjoying the episode of “Amazing Race” that I missed.

(Am also, incidentally, tweaking the script that powers this liveblog. It’s worth taking a few minutes to wring the Suck out of it; I intend to use this script in future events. Push the button, Frank…)

12:02:29 AM
Onward to Best Actress. Again, it’s a great opportunity to get me to decide to see five movies that I might have missed. Alas, when looking for reasons to see a movie, “The lead actress’ radiance extends not just from her beauty, which can be seen in every shot, but from her soul, which she shares with everyone she meets” falls somewhere behind “There are ‘splosions. Big ones. Lots.”

I’m not sure, but I think all of the women associated with “Precious” at the Oscars are all wearing blue tonight.

(I actually don’t mind Oprah’s praise of the young lead, as opposed to the older, more established actors. What a wonderful moment. It comes across a little better than using a huge worldwide audience to tell a multimillionaire international celebrity that he’s very, very handsome.)

Sean Penn presents the award. Looking a little awkward, which is refreshing for a celebrity presenter.

Oscar goes to Sandra Bullock. Hmm. I bet that means something. I wonder if it isn’t at least partly an acknowledgment of her phenomenal achievements as a producer. I know, I know…I haven’t seen the movie so I shouldn’t even offer any comments. But jeez, it seemed like such an ordinary movie. I’ve seen about ten minutes of her performance, and there was just nothing about it that grabbed me or seemed like it could grab voters.

In the sort of meaningless analysis that could earn you a six-figure salary if you apply the same logic towards your advice to tech investors, you can reverse-engineer the nominations and note that none of the five movies were what you would call “big.” “Precious” was well-liked, but not widely seen. The other nominees are way more famous than their movies, with the exception of Carey Mulligan, who is probably just as unknown as “An Education.”

Streisand reads the nominees for Best Director. She looks…very surgically-alert.

Kathryn Bigelow wins for “Hurt Locker,” a very well-earned win made even bigger from the presence of A-list nominees with incredible movies of their own.

Tom Hanks hands out Best Picture to “Hurt Locker.” I love how the lead actors are just as drunk with happiness (standing in the background with their arms around each other) as the producers.

11:38:10 PM
Time for Best Actor. This will be a repeat of last year’s presentation style, in which each actor has “Happy Birthday” sung to him while he squirms in his seat. I don’t like this new scheme. It should be about the performance and not the person. So now we’ve heard Michelle Pfeiffer tell Jeff Bridges how cool he is. What a great family man. He has a wonderful marriage. “He’s an amazing human being,” she says, channeling Sammy Davis Junior at the Jerry Lewis Telethon.

Sweet. But what does this have to do with “Crazy Heart”? George Clooney is dreamy. What a humanitarian. Dreamy (second time).

Good lord. It’s like being at a big wedding and every member of the wedding party wants to say something about the bride or the groom.

The OscarCast has a real objective: get people out there to see movies and buy movies and rent them on pay-per-view. I’d love to see extended scenes from each of these nominated performances in place of these testimonials.

No, I amend my earlier statement. It’s not like someone singing “Happy Birthday” and it’s not like a wedding speech. It’s like that speech near the end of the movie where the speaker keeps getting more and more worked up, until he finally cocks the pistol he’s been holding on the guy and says “…and now, it’s time to die!

I think it has to be Jeff Bridges. No, George Clooney. No…

(No, not to die: to win the Oscar.)

And it’s Jeff Bridges, as I had so confidently predicted. He might be on his way to becoming the new Gene Hackman. The sort of actor who turns out so many great performances that it seems cheap to praise him for any one of them; you have to think of his work as the larger vocation. Clooney is having that same kind of career. But he has a certain celebrity that rises above his work. He might one day be thought of as the Tom Hanks of his generation instead.

Oh. Right, good point…

11:21:27 PM
Quentin Tarantino and Pedro Almodovar present Best Foreign Language Film. Quentin probably is in the worst outfit of the evening: he looks like Dan Ackroyd of 2010 trying to wear one of his Jake Blues costumes from 1979.

Winner (wrong tie) gets a good joke in: “I’d like to thank the Academy for not considering Na’vi to be a foreign language.”

Kathy Bates looking great, presenting the reel for “Avatar.” James Cameron is wearing a perfect tuxedo. Meaning: he’s not wearing a bowtie, but holy ****, man, his movie has made more than two billion dollars so far. That’s how well your movie has to do before I’ll give you a mulligan on incorrect formalwear.

11:15:07 PM
Matt Damon (in perfect tux) presents Best Documentary. This category is a win-win for everyone who had a doc that qualified for a nomination. If you don’t get nominated, you can honk on and on about how the subject matter was such a hot potato that the Academy didn’t have the guts to touch it, which is precisely why you felt this movie had to be made…etc.

If you get nominated, don’t worry: you still have a four in five chance of being able to go on the Oprah show to complain about how your brand of heroism is rarely appreciated by the powers that be, etc.

(Okay, obviously I’m just trying to be funny. But some documentary makers push that button a little too hard.)

Another hard call. So many heavy topics this year. I worry about this category becoming so politicized. It’s sometimes hard to separate an award given for a great film from an award given in sympathy for the cause it publicizes.

It goes to “The Cove,” whose imagery was almost as shocking as the concept of Fisher Stevens winning an Academy Award.

Tyler Perry presents Tyler Perry Introducing Tyler Perry’s “The nominees for Best Film Editing”, starring Tyler Perry. A Tyler Perry production.

(Still: very nice tuxedo.)

Oscar goes to the editors of “Hurt Locker.” Nice tux, Chris.

I think this indicates that “Hurt Locker” will win Best Picture.

Keanu Reeves introduces the “Hurt Locker” reel. I hate to admit the real reason why this movie first grabbed my attention: because years ago, Jeremy Renner was featured in an A&E reality series called “The It Factor,” which followed a bunch of as-yet unknown actors through weeks and months of auditions and under-employment.

I think Renner was a ringer on this show. When the series started, his breakout movie (“Dahmer”) was about to be released. When it ended, he’d taken a lead role in an A-list action movie (“S.W.A.T.”).

11:00:29 PM
Jennifer Lopez and Sam Worthington (in another Blues Brothers costume).

Women standing in silhouette. Oh, no: I sense a dance number coming. Best Score nominees “Featuring The Legion: the legion of extraordinary dancers.”

If these dancers’ roles were all written by Alan Moore, this could be interesting. Otherwise…no thanks.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s an interpretive dance inspired by “The Hurt Locker.” Big hand, please, for “Oscarcast producer who’s still on coke.” No, let’s really hear it for him. Let’s bring him on ou…eh? Oh, he’s in the bathroom. Still, a BIG hand, please…

Again, I think about the lifetime honorees (including Lauren Bacall, for the love of God) who were only allowed to stand up and then sit down, and the Best Original Songs we didn’t get to hear, and the nominees who were cut off before they could speak. All to make room…for this.

And now, to celebrate the score for “Up,” it’s a guy doing a robot dance. Let’s bring him out again! The producer who has all of his big ideas while high on coke! C’mon…!

“Up” wins. Jeez, I really should see that movie. I’ll watch it early in the morning, on a sunny day, when I know I’m going to do something fun in the early afternoon.

Michael Giacchino is wearing a very smart tixedo jacket — superb — and the right shirt but the wrong tie. BOWTIES, gentlemen. If you can’t figure out how to tie one, have your Dad stand behind you in front of the mirror and do it for you, all right?

Best Visual Effects, presented by Gerard Butler and Bradley Cooper (turned out in impeccable formalwear). A very hot category this year. I want it to be Avatar. I think the most challenging achievement was from the folks behind “Star Trek.” They actually managed to burn thirty years of horrifyingly bad effects from my mind within the first three minutes of the film.

Lots of folks take the stage. A very nice speech from the ringleader.

Jason Bateman (flawless tux victory) presents “Up In The Air,” also known as “No, not the cartoon about the old guy with the balloons.” I’ve been doing that all year.

10:46:00 PM
Sandra Bullock presents the Cinematography nominees in a dress designed to blind the paparazzi with their own reflected flash-fire.

I’m shocked that they’re not showing clips or even stills. THIS IS A VISUAL AWARD, you idiots!

“Avatar” wins. Well-done, though I’m getting sick of telling these people that proper men’s formalwear includes a bowtie.

Back to my original annoyance: IT’S A VISUAL AWARD!!! You’re rewarding the cinematographer’s ability to shoot beautiful photographs. It would have killed you to show some stills?

Demi Moore reminds me that in female Oscar fashion, this is a year of very subdued colors. I’m not interested in women’s fashions…so if a guy like me is noticing, wow, that’s overdone. There’s got to be a happy medium between “Lady Gaga” and “Meryl Streep in ‘Doubt’.”

James Taylor playing the Moody Music to back the montage of those people who’ve died, died.

Swayze leads the pack.

Oh, for God’s sake. Montage starts with the honoree’s name in white, superimposed on a white background. I’m sure the families of (unreadable), (couldn’t make it out), and (who knows?) were really touched.

I do like this part of the show. You rarely get a chance to associate these sometimes anonymous people with those movies that you love.

Karl Malden — past honcho of the Academy — gets the coveted final spot. Though I should point out that being in the People We’ve Lost montage is one of those honors that few are in a hurry to collect.

You didn’t see this, but there was a commercial for a local furniture chain on my version of the telecast. What is it about local furniture stores that empower them to make commercials that are almost professional but not quite? I think it’s because the company is successful enough to afford professional production gear, but they’re still small-time enough in attitude that they’ll still always produce them in-house.

10:35:31 PM
Back from commercial with a bit of pre-taped comedy from Steve and Alec that probably wasn’t worth it.

The kid from the werewolf pic comes out to present a tribute to horror movies, wearing a proper tuxedo. See? Is that so hard?

Here we see the tremendous leaps forward the Oscarcast has made since I started watching it, back in the 80’s. When I was a kid, instead of a montage of some of the best clips from the scariest movies, we’d be seeing a dance number choreographed by Debbie Allen.

(Which admittedly was even more horrifying, in its own way.)

Zak Efron and Anna Kendrick are presenting Best Sound Editing. Zak is wearing his Blues Brothers costume and only had the taste to take off his hat and sunglasses before taking the stage.

Morgan Freeman narrates a breakdown of what the nominees do. Which is nice, but I’m not sure they really explained the difference between this category and Best Sound Mixing. As a rule of thumb, I think it’s the difference between “painting a picture with sound” and “how well the nominee steers the audience’s ‘focus’ through the sound picture,” but it’s hard for an Oscars handicapper to listen with the same ears as a professional.

“Hurt Locker” wins. Lots of crash, boom, bang in that one.

(Tuxedo: nonregulation collar and tie. But for a nonregulation tux, it was a nice set of threads.)

Hmm. “Sound Mixing” gets a rushed read-through. “Hurt Locker” wins again.

Okay, so the little mini-tutorial was about sound in general. I still think there ought to be a little explanation.

Off to the Sci-Tech Awards. Usually an opportunity for the presenter to make an incredibly lame and slightly offensive joke about how these winners are all nerds and not a part of real showbiz.

And they’ve been even further demoted: they get a “graduation picture” on the telecast. Not even a few clips from the awards dinner. Note, though, that most of these “nerds” are in proper formal attire.

…Unlike John Travolta, in the third “Ninja Tuxedo” of the evening. Presenting the clip reel for “Basterds.”

I really hope “Besterds” wins. Which is not to say it’s my favorite of the 192 nominees — my favorite would probably be “Kid In Dorm Room Scores 100% On ‘Run To The Hills’ on Expert Mode in ‘Rock Band’,” which quickly swept from a 340,000-hit YouTube video into an Oscar nomination, under the new rules — but it’s a movie made by a guy who likes to make movies, for the benefit of people who love to watch them.

Teaser for the new version of “V.” Another one of those science fiction dramas where every third sentence in the pitch to the network was “…and all the women are SUPER-hot!” I’ll pass, thank you.

10:16:08 PM
Siguorney Weaver, presenting Best Art Direction. Looking like a million damned dollars.

Many big fantasy movies on the list this year. Another one where I have to wonder how the nominations are affected by digital technology. “Avatar” wins — and really, it kind of had to; all of those ideas had to come out of the art directors’ heads — but on some level would voters think “So? It was all Photoshop. Everything in “Sexy Aliens With Flamethrowers” was a cut-and-paste job. I was more impressed by the art director on ‘Frumpy Old Hens’. She had to find or build every piece of set decoration in that fabulous Regency-era mansion.”

Four men on the stage with excellent speeches. It gets back to what I was talking about earlier: you so rarely get to see a live, unscripted moment of sincere emotion on television. We’re seeing one of the landmark moments of these men’s lives. We’re seeing the roots of the story they’ll be telling every family member, friend, and co-worker over and over again for the next three months.

Here are Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin…and ugh, they’ve changed out of their bowties and into neckties. Point deductions.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Tom Ford are presenting Best Costume Design. He is in a proper tuxedo and a very natty white rose in the lapel. I am so impressed that I hit the TiVO button to rewind and catch his actual name. Originally I had “…er…Squinty McGee” and in retrospect I acknowledge that this was a bit disrespectable.

I never know what to make of Best Costume. It’s similar to my problem with the Makeup categories. What are the voters looking for? Hard labor? Fantasy? Accuracy? Degree of difficulty?

A Victorian costume drama — literally; a biopic of Queen Victoria in her Hot years — wins.

(Was Victoria ever Hot?)

(Has anybody any even wondered if Queen Victoria was ever Hot?)

Sandy Powell kicks things off even worse than Mo’Nique: “I already have two of these…”

Oh, dear. I think she meant for that to sound like “…but this one is still as special as the others, because…” Alas, that’s not how it came out.

Here’s the iPad commercial again. I am looking at these images with razor focus. I have noted at least three differences between the software shown in January (and in Apple’s online promos) and the software I see here. But I’ll need to double-check.

Just enough time to run to the kitchen for a Dr. Pepper. Maybe a nice little bit of cheese? Yes, there’s some lovely brie down there, I think.

10:05:49 PM
Best Adapted Screenplay. “Up In The Air,” right? Or will “Precious” get the “Because I love this movie and I want it to get a major award, but I don’t think it’ll win Best Picture” vote?

(“Precious” is another movie I haven’t seen because of its content. Potentially devastating stuff. You might need to take three or four hours afterward just to remind yourself that the world is a lovely place with lovely things in it.)

Jake Gyllenhaal is in a proper tuxedo…well done.

And it’s “Precious,” won by a screenwriter who is quite overwhelmed himself by the honor. This must have taken a lot out of him. Don’t you dare play him off the stage and cut his mic.

Queen Latifa comes to present a recap of “The Governors Awards” dinner. AKA, “You’ve spent an entire lifetime making so many significant contributions to our art form that we are eager and grateful to present you with our highest honor…but you’re kind of old and ugly now. So you’ll understand if we don’t let you speak freely during the Oscar telecast.”

Is the whole dinner presentation available online? It must be. There’s just no excuse. Shoving these presentations to the minor-leagues is forgiveable, maybe, if the trade-off is that these people get to speak at length instead of just dialing it down into a minute or two.

Robin Williams, wearing another Ninja Tux. Black shirts are not acceptable, gentlemen.

Hey! He noticed that “Governor’s Ball” had potential for a double-entendre! I am highly amused and amazed that such a thing had never occurred to me before.

I recently heard an interview with Eddie Izzard in which he said something about being a comic. The interviewer asked him why he’s a standup comedian who doesn’t do any comedy roles in film. Eddie said something eloquent about how there’s a point at which you need to keep control of your own direction, and part of that responsibility includes drawing a partition between your comedy persona and your true personality. Otherwise, you get trapped in your comic persona 24/7. I immediately thought of Robin Williams.

Best Supporting Actress is won by Mo’Nique. Her opening “It can be about the performance and not the politics” comment elicits a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot reaction from me. She has, what, 40 seconds up there? And straight off the top, she said that the only way that other nominees could have won would have been for the wrong reasons. Or at least that’s how it sounds. It’s in the same category as the time Vanessa Redgrave won and said “Thanks for not giving in to the Zionist hoodlums who made all those threats” or somesuch. Again, translate this as “There’s only one reason why I could possibly have not won this, obviously…”

Colin Firth, in a real tuxedo, presenting the reel for “An Education.” Another “Every movie gets nominated for Best Picture this year” nominee. I’ve often failed to see all of the Best Picture nominees but there’s never been a nominee that I’ve never even heard of before.

Yes, I intensely dislike the expansion of the field to 10 nominees. It’s such an obvious and cheap stab at widening the audience for the telecast. It also erases part of what makes the Oscars so interesting. Of course there are always several great movies that don’t get nominations. Don’t you enjoy being surprised at the results?

More to the point: five nominations means that there’s little room for “…and just to round out my list of nominations, how about” type of movies.

9:47:44 PM
Two presenters for the Short Films category. Both women are thinking “Why the hell did I OK a long, long gown and high, high heels? If I fall on these stairs, I never have to worry about ever falling down on any staircase ever again. Not because they’ll never let me on the Oscars ever again, but because I will be in a wheelchair for life or quite simply be killed.” The words “don’ttripdon’ttripdon’ttrip” actually appeared on the closed-captioning.

(I don’t have the captioning turned on but I think that’s a safe guess.)

Nice little short film about short films. But I always have a little hesitation about this sort of presentation. They just spent a few minutes allowing some famous and established directors to talk about short films. Why not give that screen time to the actual short-subject filmmakers and their work?

Best Animated Short. Oh, it’s so hard NOT to love a Wallace & Gromit cartoon. But “Logorama” was so clever. I can’t be upset.

Ach. Once again, they play the Nutzo Wacky Cartoon movie music as the short’s producer takes the stage. Last year, I saw a program of nominated films and three of them would have absolutely devastated you and wrung you out, emotionally. Masterful stories with epic, heartbreaking drama. I just think the music doesn’t show respect for the medium.

(Winner’s tuxedo: non-regulation necktie. And what would your Mom have done if she had been sitting next to you when your name was called? She would have hurriedly buttoned the top button of your shirt. C’mon, man.)

I didn’t see Music By Prudence or any of the other Best Short Documentary nominees. The redhead rushes the stage and steps all over the guy who was handed the Oscar. And clearly she won’t shut up until they’re played off. Not a good show…they should have coordinated before they got in the limo tonight.

Best Live Action Short. I wonder if the whole nature of this field has changed. Now, there’s really no barrier to making and distributing this kind of movie. The Oscar used to be so much more important to the success of the people working in the short subject game, I think. It’s still one hell of an honor. It’s just that YouTube can potentially deliver your work to a mass audience and gets you to the next place you want to go as a filmmaker.

Oscar goes to another movie I haven’t seen. “The New Tenants” is won buy one older man in an impeccable tuxedo, and another one who looks a little like the opera director at the end of “A Night At The Opera,” after he’s been forced to take to the stage in Groucho Marx’ waistcoat.

Yes, of course: they guy in the bad tux talked so much that the Proper Tux guy got shut out: the mike is turned off before he can even lean in. Bad form.

Ben Stiller in the “Avatar” makeup. They should probably have given this whole idea a miss. Way too predictable. Everyone watching was expecting this to happen at some time. There’s just no way to do it. Maybe have Bob Newhart (star of “Catch-22”) come out in the makeup, and introduce the category as though nothing’s odd?

(On top of everything else: Stiller is wearing a “Ninja tux” — black on black in black.)

Ugh. And he’s going on and on and on. The bit was over two seconds after we saw you. Just let it go.

Best Makeup. A hard one to predict. Star Trek has some of the most dramatic (and signature) makeup, but is this the sort of work that the voters respect? Do they prefer invisible subtlety?


Cool, “Star Trek” wins. Well-earned. It’s not just about producing makeup that looks lifelike, but making complicated appliances that actors can actually act through.

Three people on stage. I think they’re doing the “official spokesperson” model of acceptance speeches, which is the way to go.

Tuxedoes: neither is a proper tux. But the guy wearing the Kangol cap can at least be given points for getting out a “Happy Anniversary, baby!” before losing the mic.

(Assuming it’s his wedding anniversary, and not the anniversary of the time they beat that train conductor to death in Attleboro, Mass.)

Nomination reel for “A Serious Man.” I don’t think this can win Best Picture. The other day I was thinking about what this movie represents in the Coens’ careers. It marks the point at which they are officially in the business of making movies that interest them. Where they’ve definitely won the ability to shoot any script they want, so long as it comes in under a certain spreadsheet-proven budget.

This movie is significant because it absolutely defies easy marketing or description. I can’t tell you what it’s about, except that it was dazzling and profound. But how does a studio sell a film like that? We can roll our eyes at the business of moviemaking, but unless someone can put this brilliant movie into a 30-second presentation that pulls me in, I’ll probably never see it.

The Coens went on my “the name is all I need” list a long time ago. But I wonder if I would have gone to see it based only on the trailer.

9:27:05 PM
Is it my imagination, or did Alec Baldwin look a little…grim…while introducing Tina Fey and Robert Downey Jr.? There was some sort of expression on his face as he turned from the camera, as though his subconscious said “Okay, you don’t have to be Mr. Happy Host any more. Go on backstage.”

Hmm. Took a minute before it became obvious to me that they’re doing a fake “Writers and actors are often at loggerheads” bit as opposed to a “two entertainers are trying to get through a lame comedy thing” bit.

Best Original Screenplay. I can’t pick from these. Three of these screenplays are my favorite. I can’t imagine a script I like better than “Basterds” or “Serious Man” but I’d be happy to see anybody win.

See? “Hurt Locker” wins and I’m happy.

(Mark Boal: slight point deduction on the tuxedo. Proper tie, but comically-exagerrated collar. Remember, people, tuxedoes are about the compulsories, not the freestyle part of the fashion competition.)

Could Robert Downey keep the gum out of his mouth for the five minutes he was on stage?

Matthew Broderick and Molly Ringwald can only mean: John Hughes tribute. A worthy subject for an “away from the memorial montage” tribute. His screenplays were remarkable. I was the age of his characters when his movies came out. If you’re not my age, it’s tough to fully appreciate how good these flicks are. I think in many ways, a movie like “Ferris Bueller” or “Breakfast Club” has the same resonance for me as “La Dolce Vita” has to Roger Ebert.

Netflix “Don’t You Forget About Me,” (available on DVD or via instant play) a documentary about JH’s work. The framing conceit (plucky filmmakers pile into a van and try to get an interview with the reclusive Hughes) is…forgettable, but they fill the movie with lots of interviews with filmmakers and actors, each of whom has something interesting to say.

Former castmembers gather on stage. You forget how well-cast his movies were…they were full of good young actors who’d ultimately become good adult actors.

Lovely: acknowledging the family in the audience. Let them see how well-loved JH was and is. 59 is way too soon to go. Academy Awards producers: you’re invited to cut parts of the telecast to keep making room for things like THAT.

Reel for “UP.” The most heartbreaking opening ten minutes of the 2009 season. I’ve heard enough about it that I still haven’t actually seen the movie…I have it on Blu-Ray and it’s been there on top of the player for months. But I’m kind of not ready, yet. I’m just waiting for a day when I can afford to be moody and depressed for hours afterward. I’ll get to it.

9:07:43 PM
Cameron Diaz and Steve Carrell talk about Best Animated Feature.

Cool, they’re “interviewing” the castmembers. I love things like these…I’m fascinated by the problem it presents to the filmmakers. It took them years to make their animated features, but they suddenly need to create out 30 seconds of finished, HD animation in practically NO TIME. And can you get the voice actors back?

It’s worth mentioning that two of these features were stop-motion. I don’t even want to think about the pressure on the makers of “Coraline.” They used an interesting technique where they “animated” all of Coraline’s facial expressions and rendered them on a 3D printer. So in addition to moving the model between frames, they also needed to swap out faces. Did they still have the full palette of faces on hand, or did they need to re-build them all? I’m really keen to hear about what the last month of these filmmakers’ lives were like.

In any event, it’s great to see new “Coraline” performance.

Have we seen Neil Gaiman’s tux and Amanda Palmer’s dress? I love how at the Golden Globes, NG was only identified as “…and guest,” which is the sort of thing that will happen when your date is wearing a nigh-seethru dress, I suppose.

“Up” wins. Pete Doctor, on a nonregulation tuxedo. But a simple error: point deduction on the neckwear but otherwise a classy number. As was he and his speech. How do they maintain their elan and composure? He used limited time efficiently, thanked graciously, acknowledged his team, and left with a smile. I’d probably try to do a flip like Cuba Gooding and one-armed pushups like Jack Palance, and crash like James Dean.

Best Original Song. This category always irks me. It’s never about “what songs was most important to the movie and was the most imrpessive achievement as a movie song? Instead, it generally an extension of the Grammys.

I am also, might I say, sick and bloody tired of the same undermelody that Randy Newman throws into nearly all of his movie tunes. Away from the theater, he’s a fantastic composer. It sometimes seems like he regards his movie work as some sort of corporate gig.

It really has to go to “Crazy Heart.” Of all the nominated songs, “The Weary Kind” was the most important to its movie.

I don’t know why they’ve stopped having artists play their songs during the telecast. Isn’t this the great opportunity to have top-drawer musical acts out there entertaining people?

Yes! It goes to T-Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham (T-Bone not in a tux, Ryan in a proper tux). Isn’t it great to see (at times) highly improbable people up there getting nominations and awards? When Catharine O’Hara and Eugene Levy were in SCTV, did they ever think in a million years that they’d be playing and singing a song, in character, in front of one of the world’s largest live entertainment audiences, in nomination for one of the most prestigious awards in all of entertainment?

District 9’s nomination reel plays. Another movie that would never have made the cut if there were only 5 nominees. But for different reasons: the Academy never would have been that creative. Definitely a worthy nominee and a worthy winner.

8:53:33 PM
I think Neil Patrick Harris is angling to replace Martin Short when the position becomes vacant. On top of that, I’m starting to experience Neil Patrick Harris Awards Show Fatigue. I started off at “Hey! I had no idea that he was such a great entertainer” and spent too little time in “Another great turn by Neil Patrick Harris on an awards show” and am now in that place where I simply acknowledge that he seems to be on stage singing to celebrities. It doesn’t really penetrate.

Nice opening number but crimeny, we have a host to introduce the hosts? And THIS is why they didn’t have time to honor the lifetime awards recipients in the actual show?

Our real hosts take the stage. Note that they are both wearing proper formal attire. I think this is about the last time we’ll see men in real tuxedoes this evening.

I’m sorry in advance for honking on about the menswear. But I insist that in men’s formalwear, you’re scored on the compulsories and suffer point deductions for freestyling. A tuxedo consists of a black jacket, black pants, white shirt with a full collar, and a bowtie. It should be impeccably tailored. The Oscars isn’t a place to show off how “cool” you are, or how much of a rebel that your publicists says you should tell people you are, or any such nonsense. You’ll just look foolish.

I’m also not a fan of the trend of substituting a cravat for a bowtie. It just doesn’t scream “formal attire.” Instead it says “Blues Brothers impersonator working at one of the Universal Studios theme parks.”

Hmm. The standup routine isn’t working. Steve and Alec aren’t really playing off of each other…they’re just taking turns reading jokes.

I keep thinking the guy sitting next to Streep is the dude who played the restaurant critic on “Frasier.”

Wow, it’s tough to make a solid joke about “Precious” but Steve’s “She and I both played people who were born a poor black child” delivered.

I wonder how long we’ll have to wait to see Steve Martin in a loincloth and blue body paint? At the 1998 Spirit Awards it was in the middle of the second hour.

Yeah, I’m definitely getting a “National sales conference in which the company’s director of marketing and the VP of Sales get together to work up a little skit to kick things off” vibe from these two guys. They’re not really working together in any fashion and between gags, there’s an almost audible “(okay, next joke)” on their lips.

Penelope Cruz presents Best Supporting Actor. Always the best award to present and receive: the first award of the evening, well before the director of the show starts feeling the pressure and you can really drone on and on.

Bloody hell: they’re playing a really long clip for each nominee. Again I wonder why they made such severe cuts to other parts of the show to make room for this stuff. I really want to see spontaneous, truthful moments played out on live TV. I do love seeing these performances. But at the start of the show I worry about what they had to cut from the show to make room for them.

Whoof. So we end the package with the child molester clip and the Nazi clip?

Yup, Waltz wins for “Basterds.” Wearing a proper tuxedo.

The Supporting awards are always the most fun of the bunch because almost anything can happen. I think this was a “Great signature supporting role, and an actor who might never get another chance at a role like this” award.

Aw, look at his hands shake as he’s led off the stage. Classy speech. It’s probably just now sinking in that “Holy ****, I won an Oscar!!!”

Best Picture reel for “The Blind Side.” Would this movie have had ANY chance whatsoever if the Academy hadn’t adopted their new “Any talkie released in 2009 gets nominated for an Oscar” policy. It’s your basic “Thank God for white people!” plot, isn’t it?

iPad commercial! Oh, man. This is TOTALLY going to get freeze-framed and analyzed all night tonight.

8:31:51 PM
And we’re off!
4:51:31 PM
Well, I’ll be damned! It worked great, first try.

All righty, then! I’m off to dinner. See you back here sometime around 8-ish.

4:47:48 PM
My apologies to the folks who look forward to my obsessive-compulsive annual Oscar predictions. Alas, in the past two weeks I’ve been fixated on a different obsession entirely: the handmade design and construction of more than a half a dozen movie-accurate ballgowns, so that each of my seven cats can appear at my Oscar party dressed as a different Disney princess. I would have had time to do the Predictions as well but good heavens! I don’t know why Miss Twistyfur was in such a squinchy mood. Getting her measured and fitted for her Ariel mermaid tail took, like, a million trips to the craft store and the emergency room!

Well, it was worth it. Everything has to be perfect for this party. I can’t wait to see the look on my other 13 cats’ faces when my seven little Princesses make their appearance!!!! ZOMG!!!!!!!!! :) :) :) :) :)!!!!!!!!!!!

So the predictions aren’t happening. The OscarBlog will go on as scheduled, though. In fact, I’m working on another little craft project as I write this: a liveblog AppleScript for MarsEdit. I could LiveTweet it or commit each of my pithy comments to a different blog post, but a flood of individual posts tends to annoy people. Traditionally, I prefer to accomplish that effect through my actual writing.

All of my deathless commentary will appear right here in this blog post. Just hit the Refresh button occasionally. The newest comments will be at the top of the page.

I don’t know if the whole script actually works yet. I’ve tested everything but the crucial “Automatically update the blog post” part of the script. This here will be the first live-fire exercise of the whole script. If all goes well, then the only thing I’ll need to do after this is throw together a few bits of CSS to style these posts up nicely.

Okay. Push the button, Frank…

First Flight: Final Cut Express (part 1)

iMovie has been acting all passive-agressive on me recently. Take my most recent video, for example. All was skittles and beer for the first half of the project, and then iMovie decided “I bet if I make all of the clips Andy’s carefully built so far vanish, forcing him to repeatedly redraw the window before he can continue to make edits, he’ll eventually get frustrated and knock off for the night. And then I can play Warcraft until tomorrow morning.”

Many of you folks have jobs. I’m sure you recognize this sort of attitude in your co-workers.

It sort of nudged me to finally move on to Final Cut Express. I do try not to request software or hardware from a manufacturer unless I have a specific review or column in mind, but the Final Cut family is indeed an important creative tool and I suppose as an internationally-beloved technology pundit, I have a certain responsibility to have a nonzero level of knowledge about the app.

It arrived Wednesday. I installed it Thursday. And today…I’m taking it for its first test drive. I’ll be making notes as I try to edit a little three-minute video.

Okay. I’ve launched and I’m already confused. iMovie ’08 (and its predecessors) had a user interface that made its workflow plain to the ignorant observer. I see lots of windows and buttons and sliders and scrubbers and viewers and now I’m so confused that I don’t know whether I want to vote for Obama or Captain Kirk in next purple’s football election.

Staring at it for five minutes didn’t help.

Neither did randomly pushing buttons.

Okay. This isn’t a slam against Final Cut. This app is not promoted or sold as consumer software. It’s sold as prtofessional software. On that basis, it’s not unreasonable that they expect the user to do some larnin’ before doing any editin’.

I open the PDF manual in Preview and start reading. Okay. I’m understanding this.

Retire to the TV room to read some more. Start watching “The Office” on DVR. Get bored with reading. Google for “Final Cut Tutorial” and immediately encounter Apple’s online videos.

MAR-velous. Exactly what I wanted to see. I get to look over someone’s shoulder as they import clips and cut something together. I still have to learn, but now I see the path ahead of me. I watch ’em all, splitting my attention between the TV and the nice, middle-class-sounding man in the computer.

Back at it. Okay, I’m going to import my video files (MP4s, copied to my hard drive from the Mino HD and the Zi6) using Final Cut’s “Log And Transfer” tool.

The tutorial made it look so easy. The tool shows you all of your video clips. One by one, you can import or reject them, select the in and out points (where you want the clip to start and end in your project), describe the clips, etc.).

Awesome…but it doesn’t want to open any of the Quicktimes I have on my hard drive. No matter what I drag or how I point to something. Hmph. I gather that this tool only works with a camera connected via USB or Firewire. I suppose there’s some sort of logical reason why I can’t use it to process a folder full of MP4s but dammit, from here it seems like a silly and arbitrary distinction.

Okey-doke. I’ll just use “Import Files” from the “File” menu. Cool, it works just as it does in iMovie.

And the tutorial gave me the lay of the land. Viewer on the left is the element that I’m working with at the moment; it’s a video clip, so I can use the viewer to look at the video, decide where the clip should start and end, etc. Viewer on the right is the “live feed,” so to speak. It shows me how my various edits and choices are affecting the final product.

Which is a nice step forward from iMovie. Gives you a distinction between the final product and the elements that make up the final product. In iMovie there’s never a sense of “I’m not ready to build my movie yet but I just want to prepare some of the footage I shot so it’s all clear in my head when I sit down again tomorrow.”

Before I edit, I must organize. I create a separate “bin” in the project window for the clips from each camera.

I also add the intro voice-over I recorded in Quicktime Pro. I love QTP for tasks like this. It’s fast, it’s simple, it stays out of your way, it doesn’t hog system resources.

Oh. Final Cut has a built-in voice-over tool. Ah. Well, maybe I’ll try that later. I’ve got the QTP version just the way I like it. Waste not, want not.

I open the tool just to get a look at it. Hmm. I wish it didn’t drop a window over the viewer that was the exact same style and dimensions. I click the “close” button and am relieved to find that the viewer was right behind it all the time. In situations like this though I worry that the app used the old window as a container and now I’ll have to figure out how to re-open it and put it back where it was.

Whoops, I haven’t had breakfast yet and my stomach is growling. But I want to play a little bit more. I double-click the first video file. It opens in the viewer. I use the same simple controls I use in Quicktime Pro: I watch the video play and tap the “i” key (“in”) to mark the point where I’d like the clip to start. Tap “o” (“out”) to mark the end.

Huh? I’m having a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment: the audio is slightly out of sync. I open the same clip in QT Pro. Nope, it’s in sync. Huh, again? Final Cut wants my attention: it’s saying it can’t auto-save the project until I save it.

I thought I already had. Okay, fine, save it…huh? Now it’s created a second tab in my clips browser with the same name as what I saved the project under the first time…!

Okay, screw this. Breakfast. More later.