Sunday, February 22, 2009

Nate Silver's Oscar Picks

As I stated in an earlier post, I'm not going to make predications (only commentary) on the winners of this year's Academy Awards but I thought that this video might be fun to take a look at. Keith Olbermann interviewed Nate Silver who has used logistical regression to correctly predict the outcome of the World Series and the 2008 election and now applied it to the Oscar show.

Once again, this is who Nate Silver thinks will win. It does not reflect who should win (or should have been nominated).

Fahrenheit 451 on the WSU Campus

The film Fahrenheit 451 will be screened on the Winona State University campus as a part of the annual Celebration of the Book.

The screening will be held Wednesday, February 25th at 7pm in Science Laboratory Center room 120 on the WSU campus.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

No Oscar Predications on Sounds of Cinema

In years past I have often made predictions or at least gone through the nominees for the annual Academy Awards ceremony. I will not be doing that this year for a variety of reasons.

First, I suck at predicting these things. I've only been right about half the time and the times I have been right have been due to obvious winners in a given category or just dumb luck. I really don't spend time analyzing these things but really anyone who claims that they can tell you who is going to win is full of it. So, given that my input is rather worthless and my insight is blind, that seems like a good enough reason to hold my tongue.

But there is a second reason, one that is just as important but one that the Academy might not like: the Oscars just don't matter very much any more.

The Oscars --and for that matter the Grammys, the Emmys, and most other award shows--are victims of the Information Age. In the past, the only times we could see our favorite movie stars were in their films or in the occasional newspaper or magazine article. Today we are inundated with images of our favorite celebrities, or at least the ones that the mass media has decided should be our favorites. Logging onto the web, I can flip through image galleries of movie stars at award ceremonies and premieres, behind the scenes stills, and leaked sex tapes. In this media saturated environment, the novelty of gathering all the biggest stars together for one show does not have the same luster.

Another outgrowth of the Internet is the democratization of opinion. With websites, blogs, and other online features, anyone can chip in their two cents on a celebrity's outfit or give their own top ten list of best and worst films of the year. Of course, not everyone's opinion is worth listening to, but the fact is that the democratization of media robs the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (among others) of their privilege status as the arbiters of cinematic excellence.

Aside from the change in mass media, there is also a perception problem facing the Oscars. First is the glamour. Compare the stuffy formal style of the Academy Award's production and the tuxes and million dollar dresses worn by the nominees to the casual outfits worn by attendants at an MTV awards show. While MTV's awards have even less clout than the Oscars, there is a hipness to MTV's show that lends it some degree of street credibility.

And who wins at an MTV awards show? Often the winners are films that made a lot of money but more importantly they are films that are popular with the viewers. And this is the other half of the Oscar's perception problem. In pursuit of awards, Hollywood studios have designed their release schedules around the award shows, opening films in New York and Los Angeles but nowhere in between. In many cases, especially this year, those of us living in middle America cannot get to see the films nominated for best picture without driving two and a half hours through a snow storm to get to a theater. It is an alienating release strategy that makes the Oscars even more meaningless to the viewers.

So next Sunday's show will have no run down of the Oscar nominees or predictions of the winners. I may, however, comment upon who actually did go home with a statuette either on the air or through the blog. Because, let's face it, I have an opinion and I'm not afraid to share it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sounds of Cinema Rescheduled for Mankato

Sounds of Cinema's 2009 Valentine's Day episode (number 227) has been rescheduled to air on 89.7 KMSU FM on Monday, February 16th at 1 PM.

Slate Article on Joaquin Phoenix

I don't usually like to comment upon celebrity gossip--I view Sounds of Cinema as above that kind of TMZ trash--but I wanted to share this article on Joaquin Phoenix's recent behavior because I think the author has nailed exacly what we are seeing.

There are multiple theories as to what Phoenix's public decompensation is all about. (He announced in October that he was giving up acting for good to pursue a career as a musician and has since had one disastrous live show in which he rapped inaudibly and fell off the stage.) He could be spiraling down into alcohol or drug addiction—the actor has done a stint in rehab in the past. He could be mentally ill. Or the whole thing could be an elaborate hoax, staged with the help of his friend and brother-in-law Casey Affleck, who's planning to direct a documentary that's ostensibly about Phoenix's transition from acting to rapping but will (according to theory No. 3) turn out to be the chronicle of an Andy Kaufman-style piece of performance art.

Watching Two Lovers is the best argument for the validity of the prank theory. There's just no way an actor capable of this level of precision and attention to detail can be simultaneously spiraling down some funky mental rabbit hole. (Is there?) The Joaquin Phoenix of Two Lovers is at the top of his game, going places he's never gone before as a performer, and the passion with which he throws himself into playing the lumbering, insecure, vulnerable Leonard Kraditor suggests that it's entirely plausible that the bushy-haired mumbler on Letterman's couch is just another finely calibrated invention.

To put make a comparison, here is Andy Kaufman with Jerry Lawler on David Letterman talking about Kaufman's wrestling injury and the feud between them. We now know this to have been an entire setup, as dramatized in the film Man on the Moon staring Jim Carrey as Kaufman.

And here is Phoenix's interview with Letterman:

Sounds of Cinema Not Heard in Mankato

Sounds of Cinema has been preempted on 89.7 KMSU FM today because of a special trivia show being simulcast on KMSU and KVSC in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Sounds of Cinema can still be heard on 89.5 KQAL FM at 4pm today.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

REMINDER: Post-9/11 Lecture Wednesday, Feb. 11

On Wednesday, February 11th, 2009 I will be presenting a lecture as a part of the Antheneum Series at Winona State University's Krueger Library. Presentations in the series are held on the second floor of the library and are free and open to the public.

The presentation is titled "From Michael Moore to Batman: A Survey of Post 9-11 Cinema" and I will examine how filmmakers, primarily those working in Hollywood, have dealt with the attack and its aftermath either explicitly or thematically in a wide variety of genres, from documentaries to historical dramas to comic book adaptations.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Video Marketing for "He's Just Not That Into You"

Just in time for Black Saturday . . . er, Valentine's Day, the film He's Just Not That Into You is coming out this Friday. Based on the trailer, the film looks promising, similar to last year's Definitely, Maybe.

In an effort to boost male attendance (or make the men more complacent as their wives and girlfriends drag them to see it) some of the male stars of the film have put out this video which I think is a good marketing move: