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Monday, Feb 27, 2012
For all its talk about contemporary attitude and change, last night's Oscars were more about the past, not the future.

The Artist, a black and white silent movie enveloped in old Hollywood mythos, won Best Picture (the first to do so since Wings at the original Academy ceremony back in 1929). 17 time nominee Meryl Streep pulled the upset of the evening, walking away with the Best Actress statue that many believed was destined for Viola Davis. Christopher Plummer became the oldest man ever to win the coveted award (though there are arguments over the status of Charlie Chaplin and his honorary acknowledgement) and Woody Allen, who earned his first Oscar way back in 1978, took home another (his fourth) for Midnight in Paris. If it weren’t for newcomers Octavia Spencer (Best Supporting), Michel Hazanavicius (Best Director) and Jean Dujardin (Best Actor), the 84th Annual Academy Awards would have played like a complete flashback to Tinseltown’s past - even stalwart host Billy Crystal was there to guide it all.


There were other symbols that the movie industry isn’t completely and utterly lost, however. Alexander Payne and his script collaborators Nat Faxon and Jim Rash were acknowledged for their work on The Descendants, while Gore Verbinski and his delightful cartoon satire on the spaghetti western, Rango, took home the Best Animated Feature award. Flight of the Concords’ Bret McKenzie and the Muppets bested a tune from Rio to win Best Song, while Hugo‘s creative invention walked away a five time winner. Still, after the fiasco of the last few months, with original show producer Brett Ratner resigning over some homophobic comments (and taking his buddy and original host Eddie Murphy with him) and the questions over numbers and nods (Only two tunes were nominated? Only nine films???), Oscar needed a night like this. Sure, they still look out of touch, but at least tradition wasn’t trumped…at least, not totally.


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Wednesday, Jul 20, 2011
Grading the upcoming Comic-Con, from who's in attendance to who decided to stay behind...

It’s that time again, folks. On Wednesday night, the year’s biggest pop culture event, Comic-Con International in San Diego, gets started for another four days of movies, TV, video games, anime, and yes, comic books. The run-up to this year’s convention has been marked by technical difficulties in selling tickets and controversy over big movie studios not bothering to attend this year.


Comic-Con’s ticket-selling snafus were mostly under the radar, unless you were one of the thousands of people attempting to buy a pass for the convention. Unless you were lucky enough to attend Comic-Con 2010 and bought a ticket for this year’s convention at that show, you were probably involved in the nightmare of Comic-Con 2011’s online ticket purchasing nightmare. The convention’s ticket-selling partner, TicketLeap, crashed repeatedly, forcing the online purchasing date to be rescheduled multiple times before finally selling out all available tickets in minutes. While Comic-Con’s attendance has been capped at approximately 125,000 people for the past several years, demand for the tickets keeps going up. To be fair, those tickets would’ve sold out quickly anyway, but the delays pushed the demand to a boiling point that left many fans feeling screwed over.


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Monday, Feb 28, 2011
Once again, the Oscars argued for their irrelevance, becoming the film fan version of voter apathy.

Oscar had a chance last night, and the naked gold statue blew it. Blew it big time. It had a chance to redeem itself, to stop playing final flaccid groan-inducer to an entire month of preprogrammed “excitement”. Whenever anyone questions why the Academy Awards are more or less irrelevant to the entire nu-media film process, the one salient sad fact is never mentioned: like every election, the polling (i.e., the various other award shows) and the prognosticating (even some ten-year-old swat on FOX News had an opinion on the winners) makes the actually process pointless. It’s the viewer version of voter apathy.


Would we have been reeling had something like 127 Hours had walked away with the Best Picture award? Absolutely - but it’s the reason ‘why’ that’s more important. The choice would have been fine (it’s a damn good movie), but when the tide has been rolling one way for six weeks, watching it suddenly shift consensus current in that way would be a wonder to behold. Of course, when it does happen, the results can be even more ridiculous than before—right, Saving Private Ryan?


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Tuesday, Feb 8, 2011
A lot of production, distribution, and marketing companies spent a lot of time and a lot of money to air ads for movies that are six months away. Which ones will make them a lot of money instead of costing exactly that?

By now I’m sure everyone has analyzed and re-analyzed every Super Bowl commercial a few dozen times with friends, family, and that crazy internet blogger who somehow didn’t like the Darth Vader Volkswagon ad. Soon, the ads that aren’t re-aired a hundred thousand times during normal programming will drift out of your memory and into YouTube infamy. Some ads, though, need to be remembered. Some marketers count on it, and may not know if their $3 million clip was worth it til May, June, or July.


Movie previews are those of a different breed. They pop up on Super Bowl Sunday to alert you of their existence and provide enough brief, flashy images to stick in your brain for months and months. Some do it better than others. Some don’t have to try. Some are a giant waste of cash. Most are for people who won’t think too hard about them, but you are clearly not one of those people. Neither am I, so let’s dig in and debate which spots proved worthy of their hefty price tags and which won’t ever see that money again.


Key:
1 – This movie will gross less than it cost to air the ad, and it’s because of this horrid spot.
5 – Meh. It won’t help, but it probably didn’t hurt it either.
10 – I didn’t want to see it before, but I darn sure do now! Wow!


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Tuesday, Feb 1, 2011
We don’t sort art, it sorts us. Which piece of art tops the list says less about the quality of the art than who made the list.

Oscar Nominations came out last week, raising their usual mixture of fawning and foul-crying. The naysayers make their case for deserving artists who were ignored. The faithful nod their heads, waiting anxiously for the list of the lucky ones to be handed down. Meanwhile, the artists themselves seem ashamed about the whole dirty business. What do these shiny statuettes really signify?


The process of handing out awards seems rigged by a lack of veracity inherent to its own nature. Awards are decided by committee, through discussion. Except consideration of quality presents diminishing returns when taken up with immediate concerns. The usefulness of qualitative criteria tends to have an inverse relation to the immediate use one is putting to it. Or in other words, if discussion happens “for its own sake, outside time” then good things come, but if there is a definite needfulness attached to the criteria by which one judges, then that needfulness rules over all. (Even the most useful things were once just ideas being tinkered over in a workshop; we didn’t know we needed them until someone told us we did.) As the anointed ones of a given cultural moment make lists of nominees, which inevitably giving way to canon, discussion ends and a spirit of competition antithetical to the creative spirit sets in. And cool heads have never prevailed in a room-full of artists and multi-millionaires.


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