Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Riding the Bike

 As I've noted before, I love my bikes.  I was out riding today (Across the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles if anyone cares.)  when I was passed by a whole bunch of guys on fixies.  Most of them were on the standard, metal frame conversion jobs, but one guy was riding a converted Cervelo.  Now, it might be possible to find a Cervelo frame, on sale,  under $2,000, but not a full bike.  Too, the guy riding it was taller than me but he was on a smaller bike.  He was also wearing those basketball type shorts and an old ratty tee shirt.

Maybe this was a guy with far more money than sense, but the average cyclist, willing to put down all that money for a top of the line bike isn't going to convert it to a fixed gear, he's not going to buy a frame that's way too small for him, and he's probably going to wear the whole Lycra thing.  That bike was almost certainly stolen.  I've got to say, I see converted fixies that may not have been stolen by the person riding it, but were clearly taken by someone, often enough to wonder why Lo-jack doesn't make some more profit with a bike tracker.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Last Minute Oscar Predictions

I admit it, I should have put this up a week ago.  The fact is, I've been very lazy with the whole political/cultural blogging thing.  It's not that I haven't had anything to rant about, it's that I've become some deadened by what's going on, that I'm kind of just rolling over and letting the numb pass.  Problem is, it's not passing.  Still, I'm a huge movie buff and even though I find the Oscars exasperating and the actual show to be a major bore....well, movie buffs love the Oscars.  So here goes, my annual Oscar prediction post.

Like last year, I'll be listing three names or titles.  The first will be my prediction of who will actually win.  The second, who I would award from among the nominees.  And finally, who I would chose from all the movies I've seen.  As noted in the past, I work in the film industry, and as I've also noted,  most of  us who work in film don't make enough money to see manymovies.  This year hasn't been too bad.  I've seen all the best picture nominees except Life of Pi, all the directors except Ang Li, and all the acting nods except Helen Hunt in The Sessions.  So here goes.

Best Supporting Actress.  1. Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables.  2. Amy Adams for The Master.  3. Amy Adams for The Master.  Hey, I might have meant the Clint Eastwood movie she was in, but then I didn't see that one.  Nothing against Hathaway,but the nice voice, weight loss and and the filmed head shave doesn't alter the fact that she was only on screen for about four minutes.  Adams as the hard as steel, manipulative wife of cult founder Lancaster Dodd in The Master really stood out for me.  I was also impressed by Jacki Weaver in Silver Linings Playbook.  It's hard to play the less flashy roll and still hold a moral center in a complex film.

Best Supporting Actor.  1. Robert De Nero in Silver Linings Playbook.  2. Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master.  3. Samuel. L. Jackson in Django Unchained.   This is the one category that doesn't have a real, clear cut favorite.  De Nero will win because he hasn't won an Oscar in thirty years.  I know that's a silly reason, but I've seen some of the ads aimed at voters and it's the same approach used last year for Meryl Streep and The Iron Lady. ( A dreadful movie.)  I was hard pressed to find a preference from among the nominees.  Hoffman and Waltz could just as easily been nominated as leads, which gives them a bit of a leg up.  In the end, I chose Hoffman because I loved The Master more than Django.  Which brings us to the actor I would have given the Oscar to if he had been nominated.  Samuel L. Jackson's turn as Stephan, the house slave, who lives by manipulating those around him, by playing one side against the other in a fight for survival in a harsh and brutal situation, created  an incredibly complex character that a lesser actor couldn't have accomplished.  Jackson's best, and that's saying a lot.  Why hasn't Sam won one of these things before?

Best Actress.  1. Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook.  2. Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook.  3. Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook.  I hope no one out there thought I meant Hunger Games, though after seeing SLP, I wouldn't mind seeing her in, well anything.  There is only one person in this category that I would nix and that's Naomi Watts in The Impossible.  Other than that, I wouldn't be unhappy with any winner.  This is also a category that could have the big upset.  If it happens it will be Emmanuelle Riva for Amour.  Great movie. Depressing, but a great movie nevertheless.

Best Actor.  1. Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln.  2. Joaquin Phoenix for The Master.  3. Joaquin Phoenix for The Master.  Yes, I know.....Day-Lewis, English actor, aren't they all wonderful, yada, yada, yada.  Hey, no knock on the man, but it's Phoenix in a land slide for me.  His performance as a man desperate for any real human connection and his complete inability to make that connection just blew me away.  I don't often say this about a performance because it's kind of on the pretentious side, but we're moving into one for the ages, Shakespearean, and all those other, over the top superlatives that actors like to use.  Watch his body as well as listening to his words.  Always stiff and posed in odd angles.  Just great.  As far as Day-Lewis goes, quite frankly, I thought it a bit wooden.   Or more aptly, marble like, as in more statue than human being.

Best Director.  1.Steven Spielberg for Lincoln.  2. Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild.  3. Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master.  I've always had mixed feelings about Spielberg.  Quite frankly I think he's at his best when making slight movies.  Jaws was a great horror film and the much derided War of the Worlds was pretty good science fiction.  It's the serious Spielberg that's less interesting.  In ads for the film, Spielberg let's us know that he didn't want to make a movie about the great man but about the human.  He didn't succeed.  As far as Zeitlin, the only reason I chose him over David O. Russell for SLP or Michael Haneke is because he made a wonderful movie with a whole lot less resources, including an amateur cast.  And again I go to The Master.  Let's put it this way, I don't think anyone's going to be surprised about the next category.

Best Picture.  1. Argo  2. Django Unchained.  3. The Master.  Argo will win because the directors branch of the Academy snubbed Ben Afleck and the actors branch is offended.  It's a really good movie, but for me the three films that stood out, among the nominees, were Django Unchained, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Silver Linings Playbook.  Throw in Amour, and there are five really good choices this year.  As already noted I didn't see Life of Pi, so no recommendation there, and as far as the others go, Zero Dark Thirty could have been trimmed to Zero Dark Twenty, Lincoln, as I've already noted was too reverential, and Les's not a great musical, it's a bad opera.  It's The Master that was the great film of the year.  Writer, director Paul Thomas Anderson came up with a film about the universal human need for acceptance as seen through the eyes of one of the great misfits of film history.  In the end, Anderson had the courage to cast Freddie adrift, a man forever alone.

The democracy of time list.  The American writer Edward Abbey, near the end of his life, gave an interview in which he was asked for his assessment of where he stood in American literature.  Abbey confessed that he viewed himself as a major writer.  When reminded that the critics disagreed, he said that the critics didn't make that decision.  It was the democracy of time that sorted out the great from the also ran.  Here is my list of films I saw last year that will, in my opinion, do well with the democracy of time.  The Master, Looper, Skyfall, Amour, Argo, Django Unchained, Haywire, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Silver Linings Playbook, Flight and Moonrise Kingdom.  I'm sure there are others, but like I said, I work in the movies, that means I can't afford to go to the movies.