Saturday, February 28, 2009

Financial Crisis, simplified

I just heard a fantastic episode of This American Life on NPR that was absolutely the best explanation that I've heard of our current financial crisis. As someone who knows next to nothing about economics or finance, I felt like I really understood what was going on after listening to this show. Unfortunately, it was also extremely alarming, as the "Wizard of Wharton," a business school professor, explains that the last time our cumulative debt equaled GNP, as it did in 2007, was in 1929. "Bad Bank" episode of This American Life. 30 second promo here

Friday, February 27, 2009

Film Editing

Since I've started making fan videos, I've become much more attuned to the intricacies of film editing. I was therefore intrigued by this article in the New York Times which advocated an Oscar for title sequences in movies. Credit Where Credits Are Due As anyone who goes to the movies knows, title sequences can be a significant part of the film-going experience. This article highlights a few notable title sequences from the past (Psycho, The Pink Panther, Dr. Strangelove), and gives awards to this year's films for "Best Achievement in Film Title Design" to the following films: Wall-E, Tropic Thunder, Slumdog Millionaire (ending titles dance sequence), Iron Man, and Mamma Mia!.

Incidentally, Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscar for Best Film Editing. I have to agree that the editing was impressive.

Just for fun, here's that "Jai Ho" dance title sequence from Slumdog Millionaire. I think this is a slight remix, but it's basically it.

Update on "Rent - School Edition"

Last week, I talked about schools not allowing the performance of "Rent - School Edition". The New York Times reported today that one of the schools that had not permitted the production of "Rent" has relented. Show Will Go On: CA School Approves "Rent" The principal of Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, CA, claimed that she had simply wanted to read through the script before approving, and that the drama teacher had not provided her with the script. Since the original New York Times article on the controversy appeared, the principal has read the script and decided the school can go forward with the performance. Yeah!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar ramblings

Why is it that they always present the award for Best Actress before the award for Best Actor, as if Best Actress is less important? This bothers me every year. I wish they'd switch it up from year to year. I liked the way they presented the awards this year, with several past award winners directly addressing nominees.

I liked Sean Penn's acceptance speech. I was happy he included some pro-gay political points.

I was very happy Kate Winslet won Best Actress for "The Reader". It was a fantastic performance.

I wish they had ended the broadcast with a big Bollywood dance number like "Slumdog Millionaire," with all the Slumdog people on stage. That would have been really fun.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Answer to a Question I've Had for a Long Time

What does a Hollywood producer do, exactly? and why do they take home the Oscar for Best Picture? Slate provides the answer.

Random Interesting News

The Good Old Days (or rather, the bad old days) The FBI investigated Jack Valenti in the early 1960's to find out if he was gay. And an editor's note that appeared after the article was published shows that we still have the idea that it's bad to be gay. The Washington Post stated that: A
Feb. 19 Page One article disclosed an FBI investigation into the personal life of the late Jack Valenti, former White House aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson. The piece should have stated more expressly than it did that the investigation produced no evidence that Valenti was gay or had a sexual relationship with a photographer who was mentioned in FBI records but whose name was redacted from those files.

Because it would of course be the worst thing in the world if Valenti were gay. (Actually, technically probably it is libelous to publish a statement that someone is gay when they aren't, so that must be why the Post made this statement, although they go on to say that Valenti's family OK'd the piece and didn't want to publicly comment.)

Valenti appeared frequently on TV, and this is how the Post described him; "When Beltway insider Jack Valenti died two years ago at age 85, he was playing the role of intermediary between Washington and Hollywood as the theatrical, snowy-haired president of the Motion Picture Association of America."


A high school version of "Rent" is not flying in some parts of the country. "Rent," the High School Musical? Not in Some Communities Some school officials and parents object to characters who are gay or have AIDS, as well as some other aspects of the show. In some towns where productions of "Rent" have been canceled, high school students got involved in productions on nearby college campuses. One high school drama teacher described his experience. His principal "had objected to the show because of its treatment of “prostitution and homosexuality.” “When I heard that, I stopped her and looked her in the eye and said, ‘First, there is no prostitution in ‘Rent,’ and second, homosexuality is not wrong,’ ” Mr. Martin said. “She made no comment. It was the most demoralizing, disappointing moment in my career as a teacher.”" The principal disputed Mr. Martin's version of events. One of the producers of the show on Broadway had this to say about the controversies:

“Like it or not, we’re right smack in the middle of an enormous cultural shift right now, and that shift will give way to acceptance of homosexuality and acceptance of gay characters,” said Jeffrey Seller, one of the “Rent” producers, who are also backing a national tour now under way. “But it’s a process, it’s a messy process, and it makes sense to me that we’ll take steps forward and hit a pothole and take a step backward.

“But you know what?” Mr. Seller added. “The kids are going to win. They may not win this month, they may not win this year, but if they want to put on ‘Rent,’ then they are going to have to fight a little bit and stand up to their schools.”


This is hilarious! George Mason University in Fairfax County, Virginia, outside Washington D.C. has selected a drag queen to be it's homecoming queen this year. Work That Tiara, Boy!

photo by Teddy Meyer - Broadside

She looks pretty good, don't you think? Naturally not everyone is happy with this development.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor

From Flight of the Conchords, last night's episode. Absolutely priceless! Watch for the disco ball codpieces. This show consistently makes me laugh out loud.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Preview for Series 3 of Torchwood

Just because.

Fandom Pilgrimage to NY Comic Con

Going on a fandom pilgrimage to the New York Comic Con this weekend. Known to normal people as a comic book convention, these events have morphed into so much more. Branching out from traditional comic books, they now include graphic novels, sci fi and fantasy, with a requisite contingent of attendees dressed as their favorite superhero, scifi, or anime characters. They've become magnets for movie and TV promotion, especially for anything remotely scifi or fantasy-related. One participant describes it as "a marriage between Cannes and Sundance - but with a touch of freak parade". (Fernanda Cohen in Design Arts Daily). I'm going primarily to attend a panel on Torchwood (see sidebar) with cast members and the director of the next series, as well as a couple of other TV panels (e.g. Fringe). I wish I could go to the panel on Dollhouse with Joss Whedon, but it's at the same time as Fringe. We'll see.

PopWatch blog on what not to miss at NY Comic Con

Website for New York Comic Con

ny comic con Photo by tancread on Flickr

NY comic con Photo by Del Far on Flickr

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sherlock Holmes, Man of Action

This movie looks good. Is That You, Sherlock Holmes? (NYTimes) A remake of Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey, Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson, directed by Guy Ritchie. Any movie with those two can't be too bad, and the concept sounds fantastic: Sherlock Holmes as a man of action. It's not coming out until next November, but I can't wait.

Photo: Alex Bailey, Warner Bros Pictures

And here's Jude Law with Mr. Downey:

My Favorite Illustrator

Joost Swarte

Joost Swarte, a Dutch illustrator. Absolutely love his work. I was so excited to see this in today's NY Times Book Review, for a review of T. Coraghessan Boyle's new novel about Frank Lloyd Wright. It shows one of Wright's masterpieces, Falling Water, in western Pennsylvania, which I've been to. My partner and I visited Swarte in his studio in Haarlem, the Netherlands, a few years back, it was like visiting Mecca for us.