Archive for February, 2009

Melanie Pruit’s Look at the Oscars

February 24, 2009

Musea is proud to repost the Oscar analysis of last nights festivities by Melanie Pruit. It’s become an annual event. Here goes:

MP:

Wow! I wrote a lot. I hope I got all this right. I apologize in advance for any factual glitches or typos. I work fast and don’t have the luxury of a skilled proofreader or fact checker. : ) Wow! I don’t know what makes me happier, Sean Penn winning his second Oscar, this time for playing slain activist Harvey Milk, or Kate Winslet winning her first. I think maybe I’m just a wee bit happier for Penn. I’ve been watching, and, you know, loving the Oscars for decades, and I’ve cheered many a victory, but I was astonished by my own spontaneous, resoundingly loud “whoop” for joy last night when Penn was announced the winner. I confess, I was never full-throttle when Penn won his first Oscar for Mystic River. I certainly didn’t begrudge his win, and, of course, I respected the “integrity” of the film, but I still had problems with the film, overall and I thought his performance in particular got its power from one or two strong scenes rather than a uniformly sustained portrayal, though I PREDICTED his win. 🙂 I think Milk is a much better–and much more important–film, and a much better showcase for Penn’s incredible talent. It’s nice to see he has a lighter side. Good for him. Also, a win for Penn is especially pleasing to me because it means Mickey Rourke lost. I think Rourke’s alleged comeback in The Wrestler is a fluke, much ado about nothing that has more to do with timing (that is, finding a role that seems tailor made to his persona–and vice-versa). And I think The Wrestler, while not incompetent (and blessed with the saving grace of Marisa Tomei’s performance) is just a resoundingly “okay” film…nothing to write home about, certainly nothing to be held as the standard for years to come. Also, I think Rourke’s interview with Baba Wawa shows that he’s still the same disagreeable jerk that he’s always been. I mean, there is something to be said for being true to yourself, so I don’t want to come down too hard on the guy, but at the same time, I feel like both Penn, and even Best Supporting Actor also-ran Robert Downey Jr. show, clearly, that it’s possible to both grow-up and still be who you are, you just have to temper it with a little discretion, a little grace, and a sense of humor, which Penn showed he clearly had in his acceptance speech, but Rourke? His quip to Babs that “You can’t eat it (the Oscar), you can’t f*** it, and it won’t get you into heaven,” showed me a man who didn’t really appreciate the second chance he’s been given–some may disagree…and, to clarify, I understand the point Rourke was trying to make, but I think he could have been a little more elegant in his expression. The Oscars are a big deal…show a little respect (not only for the awards, but for the viewers at home). Okay, next? Kate Winslet, whose dress, btw, looked like more of deep bluish-gray on the red carpet, but more charcoal onstage. (The dress, from the House of Yves St. Laurent, as I recall, was draped in black lace and Kate’s sculpted chin length do was a perfect complement.) What? Oh yeah. I’m ecstatic for Kate. I’ve been a fan ever since she did in Heavenly Creatures back in 1994, on up through Sense & Sensibility and Titanic, natch, as well as Little Children (a film which I thought succeeded for reasons that have almost nothing to do with Winslet, per se), and, of course Revolutionary Road and The Reader. I mean, I think her career is just phenomenal, and while I really and truly wish the award had come for RR (which is easily one of the five or six most amazing performances I think I’ve ever seen), I’m okay with her winning for The Reader. She’s quite good in a difficult role (after all who wants to play a Nazi, especially one with some of the issues her character’s saddled with). And, of course, I understand that gimmicks like a German accent and getting to age several decades onscreen make the role very attractive to Oscar voters–so be it. I also want to say the fact that Winslet boasts as many nominations as she does at her relatively young age (33) is evidence not only of her considerable talent–and, yes, it certainly helps that she was a teen when she started acting professionally–but I think it also shows what unerring good sense she has when it comes to picking scripts. Some actors just have no idea, and, as a result, their careers just randomly plod along, but Winslet has standards..she truly knows what works best for her. Oh, and how adorable was it that Winslet’s dad whistled to her from the audience. What a great Oscar moment! Still, as much as I like Winslet, I think I would have been equally happy with a win for Meryl Streep in Doubt. I know Streep already has two Oscars, so it’s hard to fill bad for her, but I think she’s done her best work since she last won (1982’s Sophie’s Choice), so I think it would be cool for her to win all over again, since she’s now one of the biggest stars on the planet. And I oh-so-loved Doubt, which earned a staggering 4 acting noms in three categories. Okay, the first award of the evening went to Vicky Christina Barcelona’s Penelope Cruz, and good for her because she’s sensational in the movie, and I especially like that hers is truly a supporting role. Her character doesn’t even appear until something close to the half-way mark, but once onscreen, she’s riveting. And, love him, or hate him, Cruz’s win, as she nicely pointed out in her acceptance speech is yet another testament to writer-director Woody Allen’s dedication to writing strong roles for women–even when those roles are…a little neurotic, they’re still great showcases for talent. And, of course, Allen also has a talent for matching the right actress with the right role (since he often writes parts with specific performers in mind). Frankly, I’m still amazed that Allen wasn’t nominated for the VCB screenplay, but I digress. Cruz now joins Diane Keaton, Diane Weist (a double winner), and Mira Sorvino as women who’ve won Oscars for Allen films. I apologize if I left anyone out. Newsflash, btw: I just read that Allen has struck a deal with Slumdog’s Freida Pinto to appear in his next film. See? Smart guy…smart girl. That said, my heart aches for Viola Davis, who looked amazing in her gold pleated gown with plunging neckline. Just as with Winslet and Streep, I would have been happy with Davis. She was as excellent in her own way as Cruz was in hers. It’s exciting to me that in the race, as well as Best Actress and Best Actor, picking a winner was hardly a “no-brainer.” In a sea of generally outstanding talent, voters had to make some difficult choices, which makes the victory even more meaningful. Cruz’s dress was vintage Balmain,btw, I think, sixty years old. Also, while I liked the idea of the award being presented by five former winners (Eva Marie Saint, Goldie Hawn, Angelica Huston, Whoopi Goldberg and Tilda Swinton), I thought the pacing of the bit was laborious—and helped set the stage for a very long evening. Plus, I’d rather see clips of the nominated performances rather than hear testimonials. At any rate, Tilda Swinton looked fabulously glam—and much improved over last year. For those keeping score, the five previous winners who presented Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter, 1978), Joel Grey (Cabaret, 1972), Cuba Gooding Jr.(Jerry Maguire, 1996), Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda, 1988), and Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine, 2006)…and, yes, Arkin flubbed Philip Seymour Hoffman: Seymour Philip Hoffman 🙂 Best Actor: Robert De Niro(Raging Bull, 1980), Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs, 1991), Ben Kingsley (Gandhi,1982), Adrien Brody (The Pianist, 2002), and Michael Douglas (Wall Street, 1987); also, it was hardly appropriate to me–even if I agreed, which I did, and do–for Douglas to rhapsodize about Frank Langella’s definitive, singular, portrayal of Nixon while sharing the stage with Hopkins, who was also nominated for playing Nixon. I mean,understand the intent, but Douglas gushed to the point of insensitivity. Best Actress: Sophia Loren (Two Women, 1961), Marion Cotillard (La Vien Rose, 2007), Halle Berry (Monsters Ball, 2001), Shirley MacLaine (Terms of Endearment, 1983), Nicole Kidman (The Hours, 2002). I’ll give Sophia Loren her due for still looking like a knockout, but Cotillard stole the show to me in her gorgeous, sparkly, black strapless ballgown. Great bit with Tina Fey and Steve Martin preparing to present the Screenplay awards. Dustin Lance Black was actually my second choice, after the imaginative WALL-E, but I’m thrilled for the Academy’s recognition of Milk. My quirk in this category is that I don’t consider screenplays based on true stories as wholly original, but that’s just me—and Black’s acceptance speech was heartfelt and moving. Here again, teaming Fey and Martin was genius, but the pacing of the presentation was deadly. Winning Best Animated Feature was a great victory for WALL-E director Andrew Stanton, but I think it’s a shame that such an incredible movie had to be relegated to the animation ghetto in order to get an Oscar; WALL-E should have been nominated for Best Picture. I liked the guy who won for Best Live Action Short (“Toyland”), especially when he talked about how far West Germany seemed from East Germany, where he grew up—and how much farther it was to get to Hollywood. Of course, the late Heath Ledger won Best Supporting Actor for The Drak Knight—and how amazing his family was there to accept the award in his memory, and on behalf of his daughter, Matilda. This is only the second time a competitive Oscar has been awarded to an actor posthumously; the first time was Peter Finch, who won Best Actor for 1976’s Network. Do I agree with Oscar’s choice? No, not really. Sorry, but I must be honest. However, what can I do about it? Well, I’ll you what I can do: I can hope that actors like Josh Brolin, Robert Downey Jr. and Michael Shannon continue to do excellent work and receive future Oscar nominations. I can also hope that I never have to look at Philip Seymour Hoffman sitting in the auditorim of the Oscars with his head stuffed into a sock (or, as Michael declared, a pair of girls’ underwear). I understand, Seymour, the fun of wearing a hat, especially a beret…if that’s what that was, but could you once come to the Oscars and not look like a slob? Okay, so Slumdog was the evening’s big winner,awards in 8 categories including Best Picture and Director. Also Best Song, but I defy anyone to either remember the name of the winning song, or to even hum a few bars, a year from now. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see Slumdog Millionaire as a straight across the board slamdunk. Oh sure, it’s got lot of flash in the cinematography and editing departments, but to me it’s not nearly as hip and edgy as its flashier elements would suggest. What I see is melodrama that’s pure melodrama–and by that I mean pure Dickens–repackaged for an audience suffering from attention deficit disorder. What I find especially distasteful is the way the movie trots out a variety of human rights abuses (torture, and human trafficking, to name two), then tosses all that aside for a feel-good ending that equates money with happiness. And then, that Bollywood style dance number at the end is just bizarre–and even appropriate to my mind (well executed, but still bizarrely inappropriate). Full confession: I’ll admit that I am perhaps biased as a Human Rights Education minor. I don’t want to seem humour impaired, or, worse, heartless, because I know I have a heart, and human rights issues are serious stuff to me, not an excuse for Hollywood to feel good about itself in that “international” way. That whole “the little film that could” schtick is just that–a marketing hook, a gimmick. Most of what passes for “indie” film these days is still controlled by a few big conglomerates–and there was nothing, nothing at all, “little” about Slumdog’s Oscar marketing campaign in the trade mags (and their web counterparts). I don’t think most people have any idea how much money the studios sink into these campaigns…if they did, it would change their perceptions of things like “little films” that can. That said, I’ll acknowledge that there is germ of truth about Slumdog’s “little film that could status” in that the movie’s original distributor bailed, and the film was almost demoted to “straight to home-video status,” so, yes, it is cool that the movie found an audience and such critical acceptance. That said, however, I think it’s that the story, the movie’s struggle to see the commercial light of day, that won 8 Oscars last night–not what was actually on the screen. Also, even though I’m not a fan of Slumdog, or Danny Boyle for that matter, I admire him for going out of his way to thank the film’s choreographer who was inexplicably not included in the film’s closing credits. To the surprise of almost no one, the most nominated film of the year, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, won lots of technical awards, including Best Art Direction, Makeup, and Visual Effects; a nice fit. The only Best Picture contender to not win a single award was Frost/Nixon, which is not that surprising since it’s also the one nominee to struggle to find an audience. It’s a good movie, but I sense the timing must not be right. I think people like it, or admire it, but they don’t love it…which is why it hasn’t generated “must-see” word-of-mouth status. I like the idea of Eddie Murphy, who famously remade Jerry Lewis’s The Nutty Professor, walk out onstage to the strains of “The Entertainer” to present Lewis with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Honestly, I was more moved by Lewis’s acceptance than almost anything else during the evening–including the win by Ledger. I mean, considering all his health problems over the past few years, he looked pretty good (the last time I saw him—I missed the most recent MD telethon—he was hugely bloated from steroids), and Lewis was surprisingly humble. On the other hand, not to discount all the time and hard work Lewis has devoted to MD—and the all the good that has come as a result—but to honor Lewis for his humanitarian efforts, rather than his film work, sends a mixed signal. That said, I know Lewis is capable of being a loose cannon, so maybe we should just move on. Lewis, I believe, walked on and off the stage to the strains of “Smile.” Nice. So, the actual telecast. I liked the idea of Hugh Jackman hosting, but I still give the show a mixed review, overall. As noted, the pacing was deadly at times, and I thought Jackman was strangely absent too much of the time, I mean, especially since he was to be the host to rejuvenate the show from the stale formula of having stand-up comics hosting. And that opening number with Anne Hathaway, to me, was just a more souped version of the opening medly parody that Billy Crystal used to do. How is that different? And, tell me, really, was anyone out there really thinking all the Oscars needed to be more relevant to today’s awards-shy younger crowd was a musical number in which Hugh Jackman and Beyonce Knowles serenaded each other with “You’re the One that I Want,” from Grease—a movie that came out thirty years ago? On the other hand, I actually like the concept of taking the audience through the various stages of movie production starting with the writer—setting the stage for the screenplay awards—and then onto the preproduction stage—Best Art Direction, Costumes, and Makeup—and so on. And, okay,I laughed at the bit with Natalie Portman, gorgeous in fuchsia, onstage with Ben Stiller doing his best impersonation of Joaquin—Burn-out—Phoenix presenting Best Cinematography. Oh, and ooh-lah-lah to Frieda Pinto for her sparkly midnight blue number. Oh yeah, about that Best Foreign Language Film award, which Pinto presented with Liam Neeson. Going into the race, there was a lot of excitement about Israel’s Waltz with Bashir, but the film, an animated—possibly rotoscoped documentary, might have confounded Oscar voters. Okay, on the subject of Pinto, who was glam and who was not? This is some of what I liked, besides what I’ve already mentioned: I loved, loved, loved the beautiful red gown worn by Megan Mylan (?) the winner for Best Documentary Short; Meryl Streep – fabulous unswept do and a knockout gray gown; Alicia Keyes in fuchsia (though the heavy frosted eye shadow was a bit distracting; Melissa Leo looking about 1000 times more glam than her desperate character in Frozen River. I loved Angelina Jolie’s black sweetheart ballgown which she brilliantly set off with THE emerald drop earrings. (Btw, Jolie was superb in The Changeling..it’s out on video soon…I remind you of this because I think Jolie’s celebrity sometimes overshadows her talent.) Diane Lane was also stunning in basic black. Oh, and Marisa Tomei’s dress, with seemingly thousands of pleats was super…it looked like something recent Project Runwat winner Leanne Marshall might have designed. Reese Witherspoon and Queen Latifah both wore brilliantly blue gowns, but in both cases, the dresses were unnecessarily uncomplicated by black bows and/or sashes. I mean, great color and all, but why all the fuss? I also did not think Jessica Biel’s white satin toga style gown was not especially flattering. Still, kudos to Queen Latifah for her heartfelt version of “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and even though I wasn’t wowed by any of the nominated songs, per se, I loved the energy of the big production number in which they were spotlighted. Okay, two things about this year’s actual telecast. First, over the past few weeks (really months and years), there have been concerns raised about the Oscar’s declining ratings. One of the most frequently mentioned suggestions to repair the show’s reputation is to pare down the number of awards handed out during the actual telecast and instead amp up the show’s star-appeal. This latest approach has already been adapted by the Grammys and The Emmys (and the Emmys are subject to more trimming according to recent reports). In other words, some of the less flashy awards would be handed out in a pre-televised ceremony with the acceptances edited into a montage and painless folded back into the regular ceremony. The reasoning is that no one really cares who wins Best Sound Effects Editing or Best Documentary Short. Well, you know what? I care, and I’m sure the people nominated for those awards care. I actually watch awards shows to see awards being handed out—not celebrities indulging themselves in half-baked song and dance numbers or inane montages that have nothing to do with the current crop of nominated films. I pride myself on understanding, fully, that movies are a collaborative effort, and that they don’t get made in a vacuum. Winning an Oscar is just as important to the sound guy as it is to Angelina Jolie—or whoever. It takes the little people behind the scenes to make a movie as much as it does the stars. After all, who do you think works tirelessly to make the onscreen talent look and sound good? That’s one reason the theme of this year’s show was so appealing to me–so people could see IT ALL MATTERS. I also think it’s important for all us fans to remember that we’re the outsiders. The Academy is a private organization, and in order for the awards to continue to have value, we need to realize that we are privileged to watch what is basically an industry event that just happens to be a TV show—NOT, a TV show that just happens to be an industry event. I also want to point out the slide in ratings more or less continues in spite of the fact that the Oscars have undergone lots of changes over the past decade that were supposed to reverse the trend. For most of my life, the Oscars were generally held the last Monday of each March—sometimes the date was moved to April to accommodate the Easter holidays or, possibly the Olympics (or, okay, the Reagan shooting); the show typically started at 8:00, central standard, and lasted, oh, until 11:00, 11:30, maybe later. The last Oscar ceremony that aired on a Monday in late March was the 1998 (98) ceremony in which Titanic, the top grossing movie of all time, swept the awards, taking home 11 out of 14 possible Oscars, including Best Picture and Director. That was also, easily, one of the highest Oscar rated telecasts ever. Since then, the awards have moved from Monday to Sunday, had the starting time bumped up by a half-hour, and even had the date moved up by a month, all of which was supposed to improve ratings performance. So what happened? My fear is that all the tinkering with the Oscars is going to have, as they say in Orwellian doublespeak, a reverse-positive effect. I can remember when the Miss America pageant was a big huge deal—a ratings bonanza—but the show’s producers eventually ran it into the ground by trying to make it be something other than what it was—and now Miss America airs on basic cable, reduced to a cultural afterthought. I have a feeling the Oscars will soon go the way of Miss America unless the producers get the show back on track. I understand the move from Monday to Sunday because it cuts down on traffic congestion, but the move from March to February was supposed to cut down on the hard-sell trade campaigns—and make the awards more competitive in the ratings so they don’t seem like the caboose on a train fronted by the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Award. Some early good news is that the overnight ratings indicate Jackman, and the overhaul, helped generate a ratings spike. The real-story won’t be known until tomorrow, maybe Wednesday. Thanks for your consideration,

Mp

__________________

Tom Hendricks (editor of the 16 year old zine Musea)

Video for -100 Favorite Best Music from Myspace and Youtube

February 22, 2009

Musea E-mail Club #462 Future of Books

February 18, 2009

There’s a fairly new gizmo called Kindle that is an electronic book from Amazon. I was reading about the Kindle 2, the second version coming out, and it got me thinking about the future of books.  But more than that the future of mass produced books, music, magazine, zines, blogs, websites, etc.

The Kindle is a very expensive gadget that allows people to download books or some newspapers, from Amazon. It’s like itunes, but for books. It’s not very attractive, it costs too much, it does too little, etc. But it may pave the way for new ways to think of books and much more.

I love books, and I will treasure my library and the better libraries throughout the world.  They should be preserved and added to, as new great books are printed. I support libraries and museums for all the arts.  But most of what is published need not be printed in book form in massive amounts. The excess is too often trashed anyway. That is incredibly wasteful. There is room for reading without publishing and printing. And there is a way to do it that allows more people access to more. Here is my suggestion.

Sooner or later there will be a  reasonably priced book size device that will be connected to the internet.*  It’ll do the works. It’ll be a library plus in an electronic book.

But there are major differences from the Kindle idea we have now. First of all the internet will be like a huge jukebox of content – a jukebox that is always open. You would never have to store info on your device or ‘book’ – because it is stored online. Your ‘book’ would access a book or songs as you needed it. And delete to make room for something new. 

With the advance in technology that is sure to come, we should be able to, not download – that’ll be passe, but instead immediately read not only books, but our favorite daily papers or weekly magazines with photos, all zines and indie publications, hear music , view TV shows, see films, etc.

How would you pay for that? There are many options. I would suggest that major groups of media and art companies, could have a yearly fee to access all the content they have: OR micro fees, a percentage of a penny, for what content you access no matter where on the web you find it; OR though I personally DESPISE THE IDEA MYSELF – free if you allow the material to have ads; OR some version of all three; OR something else no one has thought of yet.

Also content that is basic information, or in the public domain, could be offered free by government subsidy, or private charities.

And of course there should be safeguards  so that no one power can control the information or delete art or information that should be saved.

Now imagine what you could do on a day to day basis with such a device. You could read your morning paper, your favorite zine or small press publication, a weekly news magazine or monthly  fashion, or hobby magazine, or a novel – all with illustrations, photos and art; or you could listen to your favorite new or classic tunes; or watch a TV show, or the latest film; or access information and research libraries or the internet.

Now that’s what we should aim for in the future – fair compensation for content,  and openness of information to all in the world, not just a wealthy few.

Comments?

*I’ve written about this idea many Museas ago. And the end line had this idea. At some point you could probably miniaturize all this into a pair of glasses with two screens in the lenses ( with 3 D too). Stay tuned!

Musea Art Contest 2/16/09

February 16, 2009

The answer to, and winner (if any) for, our last contest question of:

LOOOOVE the Beatles. So here’s a Sgt. Pepper Cover Question. Who is the person pictured the most on the cover (3 times!). Clue – it’s not one of the Beatles.

IS Shirley Temple. She’s twice on the front row and the doll on the chair.

We had no eligible winner. Seems y’all are NOT “Getting Better”!

I don’t dumb down, so please wise up.

Now on to a new Q.: Win a copy of my NEW cd CALLED ‘30′! – (first anti-band CD) or my NEWER cd CALLED ‘NEXT” or my NEWEST cd CALLED ‘THIRDS” (May ‘07) or my NOW RELEASED cd CALLED ‘FOUR-TH’ Hunkasaurus.com (has them all plus videos and more) if you are the first to e-mail me at THIS NEW ADDRESS: tom-hendricks@att.net with the correct answer to this art question*

Name the best selling jazz recording of all time.

Good luck puzzlers!

Readers, IF you like these puzzles and would like to resend them to friends, post them on any newsgroup, or any website, please do so. The more the merrier! For tons of past quizzes go to, the musea website at musea.us or the Musea blog at musea.wordpress.com And don’t forget the music/videos at hunkasaurus.com

SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING NEW!!!

Tom Hendricks (editor of the 16 year old zine Musea) http://www.Musea.us (named as one of the best ZINES by UTNE magazine) http://www.Hunkasaurus.com ( Music -4 full CD’s of free Post-Bands Music) http://www.Musea.wordpress.com (Blog for Musea) http://www.Myspace.com/Musead (New Friends welcome)

Musea Extra – Zinewiki is Back!

February 14, 2009

Readers, Zinewiki the online encyclopedia of zines is back.It was created in July of 2006 to document the thousands of zines made.

In the summer of 2008 the website was down. At that time it had about 2,400 articles on zines. Now its back and under the wing of Zine World the zine review zine.

I encourage all to visit the site for the first time, or revisit the site again. Learn about the world of zines and add your zine histories.

For more info see wikipedia’s entry for Zine Wiki and Zine World

http://zinewiki.com/

Tom Hendricks (editor of the 16 year old zine Musea) http://www.Musea.us (named as one of the best ZINES by UTNE magazine) http://www.Hunkasaurus.com ( Music -4 full CD’s of free Post-Bands Music) http://www.Musea.wordpress.com (Blog for Musea) http://www.Myspace.com/Musead (New Friends welcome)


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