Wednesday, December 31, 2008

So, what else was great about 2008?

Well, after looking back a bit, it was not that bad a year.

I will admit there were a few things I wish were the Posting Board Party in L-A. The music was great, but I wish there were more people at the El Rey looking back at what was once an annual Slayer holiday.
Wondercon in San Francisco could also have been better. Sure, we had probably the only appearance of Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny to plug the second X-Files movie. We also had Anne Hathaway 24 hours before the Oscars. The main room though, seemed a bit dingy. There wasn't enough evening events, either, except for the Chinese New Year Parade. I suspect that in 2009, Wondercon will take up the entire Moscone Convention Center, if not by 2010.

Still, there were highlights...

3. Winning fame within the internet

My cheesy blogs helped get me an invitation to be a contributing writer for Whedonopolis, which is big among L-A Buffy/Angel/Firely Whedonverse fans. I was able to get interviews with the cast from Kings, gave an extensive report on Repo! with a Paris Hilton picture, and did one of the first reviews of the second-season premiere of Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. The fact that I got a screener a month before the premiere helped.

Not only that, people are complimenting me for my photos on my Flickr site. My most popular picture was Jennifer Holliday at the inauguration of Governor Schwartzenegger..even if it came from a LED screen. The most popular picture I took in 2008 was me with Felicia Day at Comic-Con. I even contributed a few to some websites.

Then there was a Whedon Haiku contest. I won that one with a haiku remarking on the cost Dr. Horrible paid to be part of the Evil League of Evil. Not bad!

4. Mad Men at the Paley Festival

While entire continents wanted to attend the special panel on the 10th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there was a suitable consolation prize: a panel on Mad Men that still has a strong Whedon influence, namely Christina Hendricks and Vincent Kartheiser. Still, Jon Hamm was the man there, and at least I got his autograph. Considering how he scored big on SNL, I feel more proud.
Besides, Best Buy customers have a DVD of the Buffy panel.

5. Completing My Serenity Autograph Book

This was one of those last-minute things. I decided to attend a CreationCon on Serenity only because my radio station wanted me to take more replacement holidays off after being the go-to guy as holiday fill-in work. So, I had a quick weekend in L-A and got Gina Torres' autograph to complete the set. Too bad heavy fog prevented me from seeing all of her appearance with the fans in Burbank. Summer Glau and Adam Baldwin were also great, too, as they always are. Next November, they're planning to make it a full weekend. Depending on the economy, I may come back.

6. Buy a cookie, see a movie premiere.

I went to Westwood to take pictures of big-time movie stars entering the Westwood Village to see the premiere of Will Farrell's new movie, Semi-Pro. Of course, it's a chance to take pictures of big-time stars. I went to a place to buy some fresh cookies, when someon egave out some Semi-Pro. That meant I had to put the camera away...quickly. While the movie wasn't a big hit, I did get Andy Richter's autograph. I wish I could have done the same for Will Arnett or Woody Harrelson, but I couldn't find them. Farrell was feeling ill that night, but maybe next time.

7. Seeing Imax's Dad

Before Imax was around, the "ultimate" movie experience was Cinerama. Seeing movies in great big screens wowed people back then. Even though I get the big-screen experience going to a Cinemark theater, I always wondered what it would be like to see a movie inside one of the original Cinerama domes. If it was a good movie, that's even better. That's why I decided to see The Spiderwick Chronicles at the Arclight Dome. It was a good kid's movie, and was also the first time someone used a P-A system to introduce the movie.

8. Discovering Bonnie Hunt

Usually an ideal talk-show guest, and creator of sitcoms too unique to last, I was curious how interesting Bonnie Hunt would be as a talk show host. Turns out she's quite good, and is now my go-to visit along with Jimmy Kimmel. Of course, another good reason is that she's the host that provides lunch beforehand.

9. Holding an Oscar

Of course, it's attached to a stand, but getting an idea of how heavy one of those awards are is a nice experience. It's a good idea the Oscar people allows this, and hopefully will do the same next February. So how come the Emmy guys won't do that? Maybe the Grammy people would, because they have that new museum at the Nokia Theater. I should check into that.

10. Being at the Emmy Bleachers

I would have liked to be a seat filler again, but being outside the Nokia was great, too. My only regret was that I should have had extra photo batteries. That way, I would have gotten a few more pictures, including one with Christina Hendricks.

At least I know how I'll welcome 2009, but that's another post.

2008: Horrible and Titanic For Me

Everybody's doing a Top Ten list as we say goodbye to 2008. It was a year that had an adequate opening, a nerve-racking middle and a depressing end. It could almost be a horror movie, if not for a bit of hope for the future at the end. Kind of like Battlestar Galactica, or what's happening to Pushing Daisies.

I called this year "horrible" and "titanic" because of the two big events of my life.

1. Dr. Horrible

The first time I heard about this guy was a throw-away comment made by Neil Patrick Harris when he was talking his role as "himself" in Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay:

I’m doing a web short film that Joss Whedon is directing and wrote called DR. HORRIBLE’S SING-A-LONG BLOG. That’s a musical about super villains and crossing my fingers for the next round of Dancing With The Stars. (long pause) No…

Of course, he was kidding....right? That's as silly as creating a show about a girl who can be literally programmed to be anyone, except herself because she doesn't have that ability.
Oh, wait...
Well, as we went into the summer, we learned that this Dr. Horrible thing was real. It's Joss Whedon's way to make something special for the Internet, without the need of a media mega-glob or something. Add unique songs, a Captain with tight pants and a red-headed gal who was last seen with a Guild, and you have.....well....something that just may revolutionize show biz.

Then again, that's putting it mildly: millions of hits on its own website and others, thousands of sales on iTunes, and now the biggest DVD hit of the Christmas shopping season.

As a loyal Whedonista, I was all too happy to lend my support for the project. In fact, I can say Dr. Horrible made me buy a video iPod, and I've never looked back. I was right up front at Comic-Con, willing to see episodes of Eureka and Stargate: Atlantis to wait for the first big-screen showing of Dr. Horrible. The pictures I got from it made it all worth it. Not only that, I got to meet Felicia Day, my first Slayer since meeting Bianca Lawson in Sacramento a few years ago. I was glad that she knew me as one of her MySpace friends, and that's enough. That, and getting my Guild DVD autographed. Too bad I couldn't get closer to Nathan Fillion or Neil Patrick Harris, but I saw history. That's big, and there's always another chance.

2. Cinematic Titanic: The Other DVD Rule-Breaker

Even after Mystery Science Theater 3000 departed from Sci-Fi in 1999, Man still has a basic need to express himself when he realizes he has spent ten bucks to witness a pile of manure made from film...or specifically Fox, Warner Brothers or Universal. Mike Nelson has picked up the slack thanks to The Film Crew, and later Rifftrax (basically the home version of MST that allows him to give recent "films"...even the good ones....the business). Then we hear that Joel Hodgson, who created MST has something new called Cinematic Titanic. He finds his crew from the first season, and adds TV's Frank and Mary Jo Pehl, and recreates the Traditional Method of Riffing. So far, CT has made five DVD's, with a sixth coming in early January. It hasn't been as popular as Dr. Horrible, because it's a niche DVD. This is a mom and pop operation, but it is one that has achieved success and praise.

Like DH, this has touched me in a special way...I finally got to meet Joel, J. Elvis Weinstein (Tom Servo 1.0 and Dr. Ehrhart), Trace Beaulieu (Dr. Forrester) and TV's Frank Coniff in San Jose under a heavy canvas tent that was technically part of the Convention Center. I may have worried Joel because I found a jump suit that fit me. I am hoping I'll get one closer to the official colors, whether it's Joel red or Mike Nelson blue or green.

You know, since Neil Patrick Harris once riffed a movie on Rifftrax, maybe you combine DH with Rifftrax or CT and make something even more glorious. Of course, to make it perfect, you'd have to add Sarah Michelle Gellar, and they all riff on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as in the 1992 movie people usually forget--with some justification, maybe.

After all, who wouldn't want a battle of the mad scientists between Dr. Forrester and Dr. Horrible, which winds up them both of them riffing on the same movie--because Buffy made them.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Benjamin Button: Life Begins at 86

Even though Brad Pitt couldn't overcome his ex-wife's dog movie during the post-Christmas weekend, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is still a very good fable about life, and how it should be lived, even if you're born as a baby with the body of an 86 year old man. Putting Brad Pitt as an old man in a boy's body is a neat technical trick, but it doesn't get in the way of the story, expecially after an hour. Pitt portrays Button as ageless, someone who wants to live what life has to offer, even if his body is doing it backwards.

Before this year, I had no desire to see Brad Pitt movies, and not just because he and his wife, Angelina Jolie, are constant gossip fodder. Despite their high-profile life, they are good actors. We just forget it when we heard about their adopted kids and such. If you see Pitt in action, he can put together god work. He was hilarious in Burn After Reading as a dopey gym worker who gets in over his head. In Button, he's also great as someone who lives under unusual circumstances. The fact that he has his "childhood" in an old-folks home helps him transition to adulthood, while turning younger.

Of course, there is always a woman, and her name is Daisy, played by Cate Blanchett. While Button looks wise beyond his years, she enjoys her youth as she works as a dancer. Yet the older she gets, the more interesting she becomes. Before Daisy, Button has an affair with a married woman played by Tilda Swinton. She was more interesting than Blanchett, when she talked about how she wished she could change things she did in the past, while he says it isn't too late. How she deals with something she nearly did as a teenager shows what kind of impression he makes.

The other key woman in Button's life is Queenie, a maid who takes in Button when he's abandoned by his father. Taraji P. Henson is very touching as someone who looks after Button despite his unique condition.

As for the film itself, it's a very interesting fantasy inspired by a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. As far as the Best Picture race goes, Pitt shines best here, but the overall movie doesn't shine enough. So far, Slumdog Millionaire would be my choice for Best Picture, although Wall*E would actually be a close second. That will still get Best Animated Film. As far as the Best Actor race goes, I am still eager to see what Mickey Rourke does in The Wrestler. I have liked the trailer, and the praise he's gotten so far. Whether Oscar voters would actually make him their top choice is another matter. The signs seem to suggest Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon, but we should know more in a couple of weeks.

Now, for the future: I saw two trailers I really hated. One was Bride Wars, whose only purpose is to see Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson turn into UFC fighters because only one of them can get married at a swanky hotel. If Hathaway gets snubbed for Best Actress for Rachel Getting Married, it may be because she made this movie, which may make some voters question her judgement.

It could be worse...she could be in The Proposal, which will be Sandra Bullock's last movie ever because no one will ever hire her again after this "film" bombs next summer. She plays a cruel boss who forces an underling (Ryan Reynolds) to marry her so she's not deported to Canada. Now, the said underling could have waited until she is deported, and not have to do this at all. But it has to be done, or there's no movie...which is a better idea. The trailer shows Bullock at her worst, which means unsuspecting movie goers will have no sympathy for her coming in. I mean, a cruel boss forces some guy to marry her, which leads to them falling in love and getting married for real? I'd rather believe Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz dressed in wedding gowns fighting in the Octagon than this.

I also want to announce my website will get a new look. Let's just say I have made my own version of a very special solar system. You'll see New Year's Day.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Frost/Nixon...Oscar-winning history?

It has been many years since a play that's won the Tony Award for Best Play also won Best Picture as a film. After a little checking, I found out Amadeus was the last to pull off this trick in 1984.

Frost/Nixon didn't get Best Play at the Tonys, but it has a chance to take top honors when the movie honors are given out. It has been a big hit on Broadway and London, thanks to its two stars, Michael Sheen and Frank Langella. It's a recreation of the history-making interviews of Richard Nixon by David Frost. The movie shows this event as a David vs. Goliath struggle, even though at least one person says it wasn't quite like that. Art may imitate life, but not perfectly for the stage or screen. That being said, the story certains on Frost and Nixon, and how they are both hoping this event will revive their careers. Nixon, after resigning the presidency in 1974, is hoping he'll clear his name, or at least clean it up enough to be important in Washington again. Frost, meanwhile, is portrayed as more of a playboy than a serious interviewer. He's hoping this will help his career, too, but he's portrayed as maybe too much like Ryan Seacrest. However, it also shows how much Frost is putting into the project, even trying to sell air time himself after the networks turn him down. I can recall some of the commercials he made when it was syndicated.

The movie is framed with interviews of some of the characters who were behind the scenes, from researcher James Reston Jr (Sam Rockwell), who wanted Nixon humbled for what he had done, to Jack Brennan (Kevin Bacon), one of Nixon's aides.

Over the years, Frank Langella has made the role of Nixon his own. This is certainly true in this movie. He has the voice and mannerisms down cold, only because he's been doing this for so long. However, let's also hear it for Michael Sheen, who also does an incredible job bringing back Frost, the jet-set version. His researchers may not think Frost is taking it seriously, but we see that he does. It's really too bad Sheen isn't getting as much praise as Langella is in this movie, since both were in the original play. It looks like Sheen will be eclipsed again, this time by a president instead of a Queen. Make no mistake, Sheen is great here.

I'm taking advantage of what's left of my Christmas/Boxing Day weekend to take in as many movies as I can. I plan to see Benjamin Button with Brad Pitt, who has proven he is a real actor, and The Reader, which hopefully will finally help Kate Winslet strike Oscar gold in February. What really frustrates me is that The Wrestler, with Mickey Rourke, still hasn't reached Sacramento. It is expected to get here in three weeks or so. Until then, I'm not making my choice for Best Actor yet. I may be influenced by the Golden Globes, because they'll be shown before The Wrestler gets here. Still, it looks like Langella may have an edge over Rourke for Best Actor, only because I really doubt members of the Academy would reward a wrestling picture. I may have a better idea when the SAG Awards arrive at the end of January.

For the record, there is a movie that's a possible Oscar contender that started out as a winner of Best Play at the Tonys. It's Doubt.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Hidden Sequel

By now, evil visions of evil, along with the usual sugarplums, have been dancing around the heads of Whedonistas since their copies of the Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog DVD arrived from Amazon this week. The classic tale of a villain and the girl he dreams about may not be typical Yuletide fare, but the fact that it exists at all may be a miracle in its own right.

Not only that, it comes with its own built-in sequel called "Commentary: the Musical." It's not enough to invent an Internet musical, but to also add a spin to the classic commentary track where the actors, writers, director and such talk about how they came up with this scene or that scene. No one every tried to set this typical DVD extra to music...until now.

Once you hear "Commentary," though, you get the idea the play is not the thing. It's really about how getting such a project off the ground and into our computers can be a pain, but a pain worth suffering. They also admit a commentary set to music is a cheesy gimmick...

Moments like these sell DVD's
We need to sell more
We've only sold four
(yeah, four per minute!)

So is the idea of DH itself: An Internet musical is a wacky idea that's zany! Where did it come from? (Nathan Fillion: It came from pain!)

This is followed by a song that summarizes the Writer's Strike from last year. This basically led to the creation of Dr. Horrible. The song is so peppy, SAG members may be inspired to strike for better wages, too. Too bad some don't want to strike because the economy's becoming one big hellmouth. The unsung bit players make their own song so someone sings about them, while Felicia Day refuses to talk about the "process", but will sing about it and squeeze in a plug about her web sitcom. Through all of this, the songs have nothing to do with the images of Dr. Horrible...until Nathan has his song of how he's "Better than Neil". It's no accident it comes just as Captain Hammer makes his first appearance..or is it?

Zach Whedon, brother of Joss, then comes in with a sexy rap that's cooler than Jay-Z, or Kanye West. Then, Simon Helberg, who played Moist, DH's sidekick, sings the song that would have been in the musical if there was time. Let's just say, there should have been a director's cut with Moist. After Nathan sings about Ninja Ropes, and whether Ninjas can survive in space, the "unsung" bit players sing again about how important they believe they are. Then, Maurissa Tancharoen, one of the musical geniuses behind DH, sings about why she didn't get the part of Penny...which leads into a commentary of why there's few Asians on TV and movies.

Even Joss gets into the act about what commentaries do, and that takes an interesting turn. Soon, Neil Patrick Harris is all alone, and takes musically takes advantage of that...until it's too much. The song actually reminded people of "Rose's Turn", the finale from Gypsy. However, the gang reunites for the finale, which sums up the real purpose of a commentary that's so legendary, the guys from Cinematic Titanic may be left in awe...

Hope you had fun
'Cause now we're done
You've listened to every word
Seeing it through
Makes each of you
A huge f**king nerd

But you're unfazed by the maze of crazed malaise
The lazy phrasing betrays how well this pays
So here's a toast to who suffered most
While we coasted through this

This is followed by a guy who sings with a lisp, but is also one of the "unsung" cast members. He'll be known as the guy who sings through the closing credits.

Of course, if you want the traditional commentary where the cast and crew talk about boring stuff about scenes and music and how it all came together, the DVD has that, too. I haven't gotten to that, but I will maybe before I toast the New Year. I still need some time to see the traditional Christmas fare, even if I have to cheat and see them through the weekend.

I also looked at the ELE applicants who made the DVD. My faves were Mr. Terrible with his witty song, and L'Enfant Terrible because she's from San Francisco and is really cute. I looked at some of the "Dishonorable Mentions" on YouTube, and whoever said DIE-Ronic and The Cutinator were shafted may have had a point. The Top Ten usually had two advantages: good special effects or good songwriting skills. That helped Mr. Terrible get right to the top, and The Reverend is a logical choice for Crank Yankers if they ever revive that show.

Now, if I wanted to get into the Evil League of Evil, I'd be an "evil" guy whose crimes avenge other acts that are even worse. I would be the Couch Potato, and unleash his wrath against terrible programming decisions. I would build a 50 foot pie filled with coal, and launch it at the ABC offices in Burbank, while yelling, "Merry Christmas from the Pie Hole, you @#!!&&%%$ dickweeds!!"

Yes, I watch Pushing Daisies, even if ABC denies it exists. Any questions?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hey! See a clip of the Dollhouse Pilot

It's from Entertainment Weekly, and you see how Echo loses her mind, or at least any trace of what she did, while some guy claims he's a humanitarian. Whether you believe him is another matter.
Anyway, since this clip can't be embedded in various blogs yet, just click here.

'Twas the weekend before Christmas...

Was it three years ago, during the best convention I ever attended?
If so, you'd be surprised how much hair I've lost from the top.

When my radio station wondered why I had so many replacement holidays, they soon found out I was the go-to guy to fill in during the holidays. I had thought it would be different this year, with the possibility of two five-day weekends this week and next.

Then I found out the weekend overnight guy is spending the week out of town, and can't fill in for me for Christmas Eve and Day. So, it will be another typical Christmas for me...except I take the swing shift on Christmas, and I get Christmas Eve off to reduce my unused vacation time to 10 days. That's the maximum allowed by my bosses to roll over to the new year. It would, of course, mean I'll have nearly two months of unused vacation time to start the new year, but I'll use more of it because they insist on it this time. For example, it means a four-day Wondercon weekend in late February, because I have a million replacement holidays I have to use.

I will still get a five-day weekend for New Year's, including New Year's Eve. So, at least I will welcome 2009 somewhat loaded but still able to stagger home.

I've also spent a lot of time burning DVD's of shows requested by Bill, my Canadian game show fan who doesn't get Game Show Network. The network has had some holiday marathons of the old classics, from Family Feud to Card Sharks, Wheel of Fortune to Super Password. What struck me was a block of four shows from Body Language, a 1980's version of Pantomime Quiz with a dash of Password mixed in. Robert Morse was one of the guests, and you'd be surprised how young he looked compared to how he looks now on Mad Men. I did see him at the Paley Center Fest last March, and he looked good. Lucille Ball was also on the show, and she didn't exactly look her best here because the show is so physical. You might say this is No Game Show For Old Icons. You should see her in Password instead. At least thanks to this DVD exchange, I'll get the whole set of Trailer Park Boys, and a liberal sampling of other Canadian sitcoms. I just wonder what to ask for next.

It is hard to believe tha tsuch an exciting, and eventually difficult, year is almost done. I have to really think about what I did, and also make sure it did happen during 2008. All I know is meeting Joel Hodgson, Mike Nelson, Felicia Day, Harold and Kumar and Dr. Horrible were definitely part of my year. After that, I'll have to pause a bit.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I have my certainty about "Doubt"

As part of my effort to burn off as many vacation days as I could so that I don't lose them, I went over to San Francisco to see how festive the downtown area looks during the holiday season. This picture says it all....

Then, I went to the multiplex at the San Francisco Center to see a movie that won't be in Sacramento until after Christmas. I chose Doubt, which seems to be a front-runner for glory at next year's Academy Awards. I can say the cast brought its "A" game in this story about suspicion, jealousy, righteousness, and faith at a Catholic high school in the Bronx in 1964. The school's principal, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), is very strict, and unforgiving of anyone who doesn't follow her example. Such secular things like the Bossa Nova or Frosty the Snowman have no place in her school.
She suspects the local priest, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffmann), of an inappropriate relationship with Donald Muller, the only Aftican-American student there. The suspicions start, however, because of something Sister James (Amy Adams), a younger nun who teaches history, thinks she sees something wrong.

But is she right, and does it matter? Not to Sister Aloysius, who is determined to prove Father Flynn has done something wrong. She thinks she has her true faith on her side, and that is enough. Father Flynn, who is more progressive, insists he hasn't done anything wrong. Still, there are a few things, like the fact Donald was found with papal wine on his breath after visiting Father Flynn in his office. There's also the fact Flynn has been in three parishes in five years. That must mean something....

The performances by Streep, Adams, and Hoffman really make this movie go. The scene where Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn have their first confrontation in her office is a great example of how she tries to control the situation. They play off each other while Sister James is stuck in the middle. Adams is heartbreaking as the young nun who may wonder what she has started. It's been mentioned Natalie Portman was considered as Sister James, but declined. Adams, who was a sensation as Giselle in Enchanted last year, makes this role her own, as she's able to hold her own with Hoffman and Streep.

The movie also points out how different the male and female worlds within the Catholic Church, and how that may be a factor in Sister Aloysius' suspicions. The nuns, most of them elderly, eat quietly in their plain lifestyle. When we see Father Flynn have his dinner, it's with other priests, and it's loud and boisterous. It's also made clear that while Sister Aloysius is the principal, Father Flynn is the boss.

Another scene that will really break your heart involves Viola Davis as Donald's mom, Mrs. Mullar. While they discuss what Father Flynn may or may not have done, Mrs. Muller is more concerned that her son stay in the school. Just look at Viola's emotion and concern on her face, and you can see it's real. Just hear her response to Sister Aloysius' suspicions, and it will stun you. Viola's performance in that one scene has many predicting an Oscar for her. While some people may say her appearance is too brief, tell that to Beatrice Straight or Judi Dench, who have won Oscars with a brief yet effective appearance.

When I was at the theater, I heard a few people laugh at some of Streep's lines. I was a bit surprised, but I think it shows Sister Aloysius can be funny, and an very dry way, but they were quiet when she had her final battle. I think Streep has a good chance of getting her third Oscar. This actress has had some year, from this role to singing ABBA in Mamma Mia! (which my mom will get for Christmas this year). My grandparents may have had Katharine Hepburn, but my generation would say Streep is in that league, and more.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Oliver Twist Lives in Mumbai

Most of us know about a "rags to riches story"...someone who comes from the lowest rung of the social ladder climbs to the top through faith, hard work, and luck. It happens all the time in the U-S and even England.

But India...not so much. When someone is born at a certain level of the social ladder, climbing to the top isn't expected to happen.

Consider Jamal. He's on the verge of winning the top prize in the Indian verson of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. How could be do it?

A. He cheated
B. He's lucky
C. He's a genius
D. It is written

That's how Slumdog Millionaire begins, with Jamal being interrogated by the cops in such a rough matter, people may think they're actually seeing Rendition. They think the right answer is "A", because slumdogs aren't supposed to be so smart. Well, Jamal got his education through the School of Hard Knocks, and got a Ph.D. The movie jumps from his appaearance on the show, the police asking him how he got those questions right, and his life overall.

When we meet him and his brother Salim, they're a couple of mischevious kids who do what they can to survive. They are orphaned after their mom is killed by rioters. From then on, they are on their own. They are soon joined by a scappy girl named Latika, who would soon be part of their lives for some time. What they do for money and food isn't exactly legal, but it's all they have. When they are found by an "orphanage" which is really run by an Indian version of Fagan, Jamal narrowly escapes being a blind beggar. Circumstances split the two brothers and Latika, as they try to find their place in the world. As we see Jamal's story, we understand he's had an unusual education. So unusual, in fact, even the cops are skeptical, but they stay for the end.

Throughout the movie, Jamal is always looked upon as a slumdog, or even lower. His so-called betters, gangsters, cops or the pompous game show host (especially the host...keep an eye on how he deals with Jamal), push him around. Jamal learns to survive, even with help from Salim after he hooks up with a gangster who's in the middle of India's redevelopment.

A few things: Dev Patel was great as the adult Jamal, but the younger versions of Jamal, Salim and Latika are also very compelling. In fact, Latika was more interesting as a kid rather than an adult. While a tough life helped Jamal get strong, it may have worn down Latika too much. Also, the questions Jamal has to answer for the higher awards are a bit tricky, but even I could have answered the last one. The big climax is also a bit contrived, but it still worked. This is Bollywood made for American movie fans, right down to the traditional dance number.

But could it be Best Picture material come Oscar time? I think it could make the final cut, and would be a strong candidate for Adapted Screenplay or Best Director. It just depends on what's coming next, and there are a lot of good candidates. I am looking forward to seeing Doubt next week in San Francisco, followed by Frost/Nixon, Benjamin Button and The Wrestler. It will be a good time to go to the big screen.

Friday, December 12, 2008

ABC to Pushing Daisies: Bah Humbug!

This week, I spent a lot of time looking for Christmas bargains, sure-fire eBay entries including that Joker action figure from Batman: The Dark Knight that was so hard to find last summer, and items for another holiday dinner.

I also caught up with Pushing Daisies, which ABC cancelled by forgetting it was part of the Wednesday night line-up. They won't let you forget Lost, but they want to convince us a show about a baker who solves crimes by reviving the dead victims by touching them is too dumb to exist.

OK, how will they explain this....

What's giving the show more bite is Chuck's regrettable decision to let her dead dad, Charles, live after Ned revived him. This stemmed from the arrival of Dwight Dixon, who was a suspicious sort with eyes for Aunt Vivian. "Aunt" Lily (who is Charlotte's mom but that wasn't revealed until a year ago) wanted to to eliminate Dwight, but that was taken care Ned. See, he can only revive people for 60 seconds. At 61, someone else has to die. Dwight apparently was about to shoot Ned and Chuck at her dad's grave...until the dead dad lived beyond 60 seconds. Thus, no more Dwight. That's bad news for Vivian, who's lonely again, but were his affections real? We'll never know, thanks to some jerk TV network!

Charles is now the zombie dad Chuck always wanted...except for the zombie part. He's also as much of a jerk as an ABC executive. He's not too happy Ned is with Chuck, since Ned accidentally killed him because he wasn't clear on how the magic touch really worked. Zombie Charles may have a point, but in his condition, is it really worth it? Also, what was his relationship with Lily before, well, it produced Chuck? Was he cheating on his wife, and if so, does this mean the first death was payback? If he wasn't married at the time....well, that would be trickier.

Well, Zombie Charles doesn't see it that way. Now that he's undead, he's not going to be cooped up like his daughter became after the first death. If she won't join him in adventures, he'll do so alone....taking off in the night in Ned's car.

Now, this could mean he'll blab about how he's the walking dead...and why...and who's responsible. That is bad news for Ned, and really bizarre to those who aren't aware of it, like the aunts and Olive Snook, Ned's waitress who apparently hasn't gotten over him after all.

What started as a cheerful fairly tale has veered into a Grimm Fairy Tale, and I mean the uncut version told to kids nearly 200 years ago before 20th century parents edited the scary parts out. It's what would happen if Hans Christain Anderson wrote a Tale from the Crypt.

How in the world will the show wrap thing up in four weeks, and will we see the "conclusion" before or after Lost? Or at all?

In honor of ABC Scrooging an interesting show, I paraphrase a classic Christmas song about a green guy who doesn't like Christmas...

You're a mean one, ABC
Pies and Daisies, you should need
Your attitude is so Mickey Mouse
Treating the show like one big weed, ABC-eee
You're just Fox TV--with extra Simon Cowell

I like that pie man, ABC.
His undead gal pal, no longer gone
The gruff P-I, those loopy aunts,
And that pocket-sized blonde, ABC--eee
You're going to dump them for ....According to Jim???

Don't blame the show, ABC
You say the ratings just weren't there.
Maybe you have helped it out
By telling people it's on the air, ABC--eee
You cancelled Pushing Daisies...through selective amnesia

Scrooge is charge of ABC
All it has are Dance and Lost.
And assorted Desperate Housewives.
Is it really worth the cost, ABC--eee?
Or will things get so bad, you'll be wishing for...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's a Merry Schwartzenegger Christmas

I thought I would share some of the pictures I took at the Christmas Tree lighting at the State Capitol in Sacramento. The first ones are a little girl named Michaela Tritch who was the lucky girl who turned on the lights, followed by the full effect...

If you'd like to see the other pictures, along with some others in my Blogger Album, just visit here.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tis The Oscar season, too

December is considered part of the holiday season, but not just for Christmas or New Year's Day.

It's also the season for finding the best movies and acting from 2008. It's never too early to predict the winners of the 2009 Academy Awards, and some possible winners are being chosen.

One of them will be Milk, a great bio-pic honoring the life of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk. As I was seeing this, I remembered where I was 30 years ago when Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated. I was a sophomore at Santa Clara University seeing Dianne Feinstein tell the stunned press what had just happened. Let's just say the toughest part of seeing that movie is seeing that tragic day all over again.

Otherwise, it's an excellent movie that shows how a guy from New York went west for a new start, and wound up making history as a pioneer for gay rights. The movie is framed around Milk recounting his life on cassette, making an audio last will in case he is assassinated. Sean Penn does a great job portraying Milk as a guy who wanted to be respected at a time when homosexuality was considered a disease and worse. What surprised me is how he had very tender romantic scenes with James Franco, who plays his lover, Scott Smith. It may be tow men kissing, but it still love. I also liked Emile Hirsch as Cleve Jones, who becomes one of Milk's top advisers. Josh Brolin is also good as Dan White, a fellow supervisor who will cross paths with Milk many times.

Much of the movie also looks at how gay rights were being threatened nationwide. It culminates with the 1978 election where voters considered Proposition 6, which would have banned gay people from being teachers. With the recent controversy over anti-gay marriage ordinances, especially Proposition 8, this is bound to strike a chord with movie goers.

Milk is in limited release, but should be added to hundreds of screens next week. I'm also looking forward to Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon, The Wrestler and Doubt. Since I have four movie passes, it's only right I use them to see them. At least for now, the Best Actor race could be between a wrestler, a street teen, two historic figures and a suspected priest. That will be one interesting choice to make. Once the Golden Globe and SAG Awards are done, the choice may be easier...or it won't be. We'll soon find out.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Captain Hammer becomes Jessica Fletcher..or maybe David Addison

It doesn't make up for its blasphemous treatment of Pushing Daisies, but at least ABC is getting that guy with the tight pants, Nathan Fillion, back on the air.

The Futon Critic announced ABC will put Castle in the old Boston Legal time slot of Mondays at 10 PM next March. If nothing else, it's one way to get people away from CSI: Miami...but might have tough competition from Medium if NBC gets that show back to replace My Own Worst Enemy.

Practically everyone is not aware of this, but I have reviewed the three-minute trailer/summary of the pilot for Whedonopolis. The article includes a link to the three-minute trailer/summary of the pilot. I still say the best change the producers can make for the show is improve the relationship between Castle and the cop who doesn't like it when he helps her...yet everyone else likes the idea. Add some more details about Castle, like maybe a connection with law enforcement in his family or something, and you have something. It's got to be more than a retread of Murder, She Wrote and Moonlighting...especially since it's both.

You know, WonderCon takes place a week before this show begins, and there's that fanatical Browncoat audience who'd like to see Nathan hammer those bad guys. Maybe the organizers should get him back for a third visit.

Access Dollhouse, part three

The conclusion of the interview with Joss and Eliza

Access Dollhouse, part 2

more with Joss and Eliza

Access Dollhouse, part one

Intervew with Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku

This is RIFFING!!

I finally tried out one of the Rifftrax commentaries targeting a popular movie, rather than a bad one. I watched the DVD to 300 while the Rifftrax crew, led by Mike Nelson, give their two cents worth. At the 2007 Comic-Con, I met Mike at the Rifftrax booth just after I learned the movie was going to be shown next door at Petco Park. I jokingly asked Mike if was going to be there to try out his riffs. He didn't answer me, but it would have been a great way to sell more tracks.

The way it works is that you're advised by Mike and his minions, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett, when to start the mp3. Their mascot, Disembodio, will sometime repeat a line from the movie to help the listener resynch. This is really helpful when you have to stop the move and iPod for something. The site also offers a special player that lets you see the DVD and hear the commentary in synch to the movie if you're seeing it on your computer. I prefer the TV and iPod combo myself.

Anyway, here's some of the choice riffs that one can expect from the 300 Rifftrax...

Rosie O'Donnell is visiting Sparta?

Leonidas: THIS IS SPARTA!: Woops. I didn't know you were that close to our killing pit.

Xerxes' emissary comes to warn the Spartans: Fabio Jr. is going to set him straight

Gorgo's last words to Leonidas: Spartan, come back with your shield (it makes a great fruit bowl) or on it.

When Leonidas sees Xerxes for the first time: It's like Mr. Clean is on his way to the Mardi Gras.

For a longer example, try this from YouTube:

Imagine what they'll do to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I'll try that next week.