Saturday, February 28, 2004

With about thirty hours to go before the Oscars (which means Joan Rivers' Oscar pre-show should be starting any second now), here are my predictions for the "Big Eight" categories, plus the two music slots and Animated Film.

Most of these are based on little more than gut feelings, so take them for what they're worth:
  • Animated Feature - Finding Nemo
  • Song - "You Will Be My Ain True Love", Cold Mountain
  • Score - Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
  • Adapted Screenplay - Mystic River
  • Original Screenplay - Lost in Translation
  • Supporting Actress - Patricia Clarkson, Pieces of April
  • Supporting Actor - Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai
  • Lead Actress - Charlize Theron, Monster
  • Lead Actor - Bill Murray, Lost in Translation
  • Director - Peter Jackson, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
  • Best Picture - Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Not a lot of daring choices in there, I'll admit. But seeing as the Academy rarely hits us with surprises, I think I'll end up being right on at least eight out of these eleven.

In addition to the three categories listed above, I'm expecting Lord of the Rings to take home six others, for a grand total of nine.

So there you have it. All I've got left to do now is pop some popcorn, enjoy the show, and see how I did.
Posted @ 2:38 PM

Friday, February 27, 2004

So Angel was cancelled a couple weeks back. It's history repeating itself. For the second time, The WB loses interest in a Joss Whedon show just as it gets ready to turn five.

As a television viewer, this saddens me greatly. With The West Wing now Sorkin-less and fluctuating randomly between solid and unwatchable from week to week, Angel has been my undisputed favorite show this year. It's been a great season, with three of the last four episodes being outstanding. The odd man out, "Why We Fight," was merely very, very good.

Naturally, there's a movement afoot to try to save the show, either by convincing The WB to reconsider, or by getting another network (most likely UPN) to pick it up. I'd love to see this happen, but I'm highly doubtful it will. I can't say for sure why. I just have a bad feeling about it. Angel's co-exec producer shares my sentiment.

With that in mind, I've been doing my best to just enjoy Angel while I've got it to watch. I'm also hitting my DVD collections of Whedon's other shows, Buffy and Firefly, pretty hard.

And next year, maybe I'll just end up watching less TV, which wouldn't exactly be the worst thing in the world. But I will miss the weekly exploits of Angel and crew. And no, The WB's new vampire show, Dark Shadows, will not fill that hole in my TiVo Season Pass list.
Posted @ 1:19 PM

Thursday, February 19, 2004

An article in today's New York Times heaps praise on TiVo's peanut-shaped remote, calling it "a textbook blend of complexity and ease of use."

I was thrilled to see this article, as it spurred me to do two long-overdue things:
  1. Bitch about my new TiVo remote
  2. Disagree vehemently with the Times, a paper I'm usually far too deferential towards
My folks, in a characteristically generous bout of Christmas gifting, bestowed a TiVo Series 2 box upon me this past holiday. I love it to death, and in almost every conceivable way it's vastly superior to the first TiVo unit I bought two years ago.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for the remote that controls it.

My original TiVo's remote is a wonderful little gadget. Sleek up front and comfortingly bulbous behind, it fits my hand perfectly, nearly melding with it. Virtually any button I need to hit regularly is well within reach my thumb. Its silver color makes it a snap to find, regardless of where I may lay it down.

The new remote is overdesigned for what I need it to do. I find the peanut shape awkward. If I hold it in the middle, hitting buttons is difficult. If I hold it by the end, the balance is off and half the buttons are completely out of reach. Its black color means it doesn't stand out from the other two remotes I already have laying about.

The design world may gush over the TiVo peanut, but I doubt the typical user is quite so enamored of it. At least this typical user isn't.
Posted @ 1:08 PM

Friday, February 13, 2004

My friend Jody posted a mini-rant on her site yesterday regarding the Bush White House's tactics in addressing the questions about his National Guard service during the Vietnam war. As rants go, I found it pretty "fair and balanced." Read it and judge for yourself.

Her main complaint was that President Bush and his spokespeople seem, in her opinion, to be acting like six-year-olds trying to hide something behind their backs. She also observed the hypocrisy of an administration which brought us the invasive Patriot Act being dodgy about the facts of the President's past. Not exactly knee-jerk, bed-wetting Lefty stuff.

So I was more than a little surprised to see comments from two of her regular readers complaining about the post. One was dismayed that politics had entered into her blog at all, and announced that she would not be back. The other was sorry to see Jody engaging in "liberal rant crap."

Are folks so easily offended that they can't swallow a little substance with their diversions? Are we now so skittish as a people that we bail out at the first sign of a viewpoint with which we don't agree? If the two folks in question had challenged Jody on the substance of her post, that would be different. In my opinion, there's nothing better in this world than a free, frank, and respectful exchange of ideas. And in that same vein, there's nothing more annoying than people loudly bitching as they plug up their ears and leave the room.

There's very little in this world that I see in black and white terms. This is one of those things. If you disagree with an opinion, challenge it respectfully and stick to the facts of the case. If you don't want to do that, feel free to leave. But don't slam the door on your way out.
Posted @ 1:02 PM

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Back before Christmas, I took a quick weekend trip to Sweet Home Chicago.

(Before I go any further, let me just make an apology to my friends and relatives in Cook County. Sorry I didn't let you know I was there. The whole thing was somewhat last-minute, and my schedule was packed. Mea culpa, and I will let y'all know the next time I come through.)

While I was out there I got to see a preview performance of the latest Second City revue, "Doors Open On The Right." It was my fifth or sixth trip to the cradle of improv, and this show easily matched or exceeded the ones I'd seen there previously. The Windy City Media Group's review pretty accurately reflects my sentiments.

While I waited for the show to begin that night, I was musing over the huge number of Second City alums that have gone on to great careers, and especially how many of them had ended up doing stints on Saturday Night Live. Realizing there was a better than even chance that one of the performers I was about to see would one day end up on SNL, I decided to try and guess which member of the troupe was most likely to make the trip from 1616 North Wells to 30 Rock.

Even before intermission, I had my pick. Liz Cackowski shone brightest among a stellar cast, radiating an ineffable something that drew my eye to her each time she was on stage. She particularly wowed me in one skit as a clueless, rich, drunk suburbanite breezing her way through a tax consultation. I made a note of her name, assured that someday Lorne Michaels would be offering her a job.

I have to admit, I didn't expect "someday" to be two months later.

Word came down the wires today that Ms. Cackowski has been hired as a writer for SNL, and according to the Trib's story on her new gig, she is expected to perform as well.

Break a leg, Liz! Know that you start your SNL odyssey with a fan in your corner before you ever appear onscreen.
Posted @ 1:37 PM

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

I'm hitting a wall on updating again and the usual suspect, my compulsion to say Important Things, seems to be the culprit. I'm going to try the cure which has worked in the past, which is to bind and gag my inner editor, write about any silly old thing as it comes to me, and damn the relevance.

First up on that list: I'm headed to a convention this weekend. I'll be attending Farpoint 2004 with my old roomie, Hutch. We'll be soaking up the atmosphere and seeing if we can get a pick-up poker game going. And just to make things interesting, we're going to try to convince Bill Mumy, Tim Russ and/or Peter David to join us for a few hands. If we can pull it off, we'll have a nice game of Celebrity Poker Challenge, sci-fi style!
Posted @ 1:35 PM

Monday, February 02, 2004

Figures. The one time I opt to completely ignore the Super Bowl halftime show (as opposed to my usual riffing of it), something noteworthy happens.

To be clear though, it's only noteworthy if we stretch the definition of that word to "an event that works 12 year old boys and the easily shocked into a lather."

More importantly, it was a great game. The defensive chess match wore a little thin by the middle of the second quarter, but once the scoring started, it was a worthy capstone to a solid NFL season.

With a bit of wistfulness I say goodbye to football, and eagerly await its return in seven months. As the Pats and their fans bask in the glory, the rest of us start to dream of next year. To quote my favorite ad of the night, "As of tomorrow, we're all undefeated again."
Posted @ 7:11 AM


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