Thursday, January 22, 2009

2009 Academy Award Nominations

The Dark Knight didn’t make the cut in the “big” Academy Award categories…save for the totally expected (and deserved) Best Supporting Actor nod for the late Heath Ledger…and neither did Clint Eastwood (I haven’t seen Gran Torino but a lot of critical buzz seemed to have it anointed to pick up Best Picture, Actor, and Director nominations) but Brad Pitt and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button scored big with 13 nominations.

Joining Benjamin Button in the Best Picture sweepstakes are Frost/Nixon (featuring Best Actor nominee Frank Langella), Milk (with Best Actor nominee Sean Penn), The Reader (starring Best Actress contender Kate Winslett), and the little-engine-that-could Slumdog Millionaire. The directors for these five films…David Fincher, Ron Howard, Gus Van Sant, Stephen Daldry, and Danny Boyle…are vying for Best Director honors.

Star power should be in abundance at the Oscar ceremony as the four acting categories features the likes of Meryl Streep (her 15th nomination for her role in Doubt), Angelina Jolie (Changeling), Robert Downey, Jr. (Tropic Thunder), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt), Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), and this movie season’s comeback kid Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) and his co-star Oscar winner Marisa Tomei.

Bruce Springsteen won the Best Song category at the Golden Globes with his song from The Wrestler but he failed to pick up an Academy Award nomination in a Best Original Song category that, for some reason, features only three candidates: “Down to Earth” from Wall-E and two songs from Slumdog.

Pixar’s charming Wall-E seems to be the one to beat in the Best Animated Feature category that also features Bolt and Kung Fu Panda.

As none of the Best Picture nominees are real blockbusters I would guess that the ratings for the Academy Awards broadcast (on Sunday February 22nd) won’t be significantly reversing the downward trend they’ve been on of late…but hey I’ll be watching :-)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

American Idol 2009

(Cue Seacrest) : “This…is American Idol!”

And so it begins again. The first episode of Idol ’09 was a bit less exploitive than the freak show weeks usually are. Yes, there were still a parade of untalented…or, occasionally, marginally talented…folks who seem to only want a few moments on television (no matter how foolish they look.)…but the judges seemed less snarky than they have been in previous seasons.

The new judge…songwriter Kara DioGuardi…seemed to fit right in…especially during the staged dustup with the marginally talented, enormously self-satisfied woman who auditioned in a bikini (is she really what passes for “sexy” these days? Man, I’m way out of touch… :-)

Randy Jackson had less aging hipster banter (though I fully expect that it will return in full force as the season progresses), Simon Cowell only seemed to be dishing out half-hearted jibes (ibid.), and Paula Abdul was, for the most part, lucid and sane (kudos to her…though I’m not expecting that to last either.)

Idol has made some cosmetic changes…the fourth judge, lopping off one of the freak show weeks, expanding the Hollywood portion (which will actually be in Hollywood…rather than Pasadena…this year), bringing back the wild card round (without which Clay Aiken wouldn’t have been a contender back in the second season)…but it promises to still be the Idol that we’ve, for better or for worse, come to know.

Me, I’m probably going to skip most of the rest of the freak show/audition rounds (tonight and for the next two Wednesdays PBS is showing an intriguing 6-hour documentary on comedy...Make 'em Laugh: The Funny Business of America... that sounds MUCH more interesting than watching deluded wannabe stars butchering Stevie Wonder and Mariah Carey songs) and check back in when they get to Hollywood.