23 January 2007

Oscar Predictions

I am going to attempt to pull a Stephen Colbert and progonsticate about the Oscars. He nailed it last year like he had inside information. Lets see if I can do the same. My picks are going to be based on how predictable I think the Academy is, not entirely on what I think should win.

Best Picture:
Babel is out. No chance. Too small, and too little seen. I mean who is talking about it? Plus the critics aren't in love with it. And it too, too obviously wants to be this years crash. Nobody likes a copycat. At least not one that is so cravenly obvious.
The Queen? Its British so it is a strong contender. The Academy loves brit cinema. I do too. But nope.
Little Miss Sunshine? This is obscure and quirky enough to slip past the heavyweights. But they did overlook completely The Royal Tenenbaums which was easily the biggest mistake of 2001. A travesty!
Letters from Iwo Jima Its Eastwood. Sometimes it seems like if he makes a serious movie the man just collects his Oscar. And this is by all accounts a beautiful movie. Clint is the heavy favorite.
The Departed. The Academy has been kicking Marty in the nuts for years. They just seem to get off on screwing him over. This was my favorite movie of the year, but i'm picking it because I think this is they year for Marty. The Academy has heard alot in the media about how they have screwed Scorcese. I seriously think he could have done Ghostbusters 3 and gotten the gold man.

Best Director?
This goes to Marty as well. Its his year. Though Eastwood is always dangerous.

Best Actor in a leading role?
Peter O'Toole for Venus. He has never recieved one, and I am guessing sweet roles like this are going to be thin on the ground for him. So it goes to O'Toole. THough...Forrest Whitaker has a shot. Ryan Gosling too. The Academy loves villians and very, very flawed protaganists.

Actress in a Leading role?
My guess is this will be a shoot out reminiscent of the The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, between Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, and Meryl Streep. Distinguished, and utterly professional.

Actor in supporting role?
This is between Alan Arkin and Djimon Hounsou. Eddie Murphy and Mark Walberg may be shockingly good actors, but nobody takes them seriously enough. And who the hell has heard of Jackie Earle Haley? Arkin has been brilliant for years so I think he has to be the heavy favorite.

Best Actress in a supporting role?
THe academy could easily give the Oscar to Abigail Breslin. But the naked golden guy is probably going to Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls.

Best Original Screenplay?
Eastwood, Haggis for Letters from Iwo Jima.

Best Screenplay based on previous work:
The Departed seems strong here. Its got the buzz but who knows.
I think that covers the major league.

22 January 2007

John Safran taking the Scientologists to task.

This will make a lot more sense if you know a bit about Scientology. In any event it makes fun of the completely wrong Scientology cosmology. L. Ron Hubbard and his weird cult take a beating yet again. This is a good thing.

14 January 2007

Kosen Judo Vol.1

Here is an old Judo clip that is almost a mirror image of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I think it Kimura is in it. Word of warning, it is all in Japanese, but the grappling, now that is international..

02 January 2007

The Constitution

Recently there was a huge hoopla over Keith Ellison, the new Democratic representative of Minnesota, and his decision to attend his swearing-in ceremony with his Q’uran instead of the Bible. Ellison’s critics claim he will be swearing on the Muslim holy book instead of the Bible. This betrays a bit of confusion on their part, but we’ll get back to that in just a bit. The contention this has created would almost be comical if people didn't take their ancient literature so seriously. This illustrates, rather pointedly, that the liberal bromide of religious tolerance, as well as the possibility of mutual equanimity among the religious are utter myths. Moreover it lays bare the distracting effects of injecting religion into our political discourse. Any substitive discussions about the politics of Keith Ellison were lost in the noise of the pious. If all the news broadcasts on this subject are indicative of the general public’s attitude, then the U.S. is not a land of religious tolerance.
Not even in the slightest.
Sean Hannity, well known conservative talk show host, equated Ellison’s choice with using Mein Kamph, Hitler’s witty tome. Sean Hannity wasn’t being orginal either. He swiped the line from Dennis Praeger, a fellow conservative talk radio host. Both Hannity and Praeger fear something called the “Islamicization of America.” These selfless defenders of the homeland are not alone. In addition to the echo chamber that is conservative talk radio, they are joined by Virgil Goode, Republican congressman of Virginia. It was his fiery letter condemning the actions of representative Ellison that got the miniature Crusade going. “The Ten Commandments and ‘In God We Trust,’ are on the wall of my office” he says in a letter to his constituents that also advocates doing away with the diversity of visas being issued for fear of “having many more Muslims in the United States.” Never mind about the huddled masses yearning to be free.
All of this has brought me to the conclusion that we really ought to remove all religious reference from our government institutions. Period. I don't care if they have historical worth. I don't care if the God referenced is a benign interpretation so far removed from that of the earnest faith it is barely even a religious reference. Military Chaplains? Bye, bye. Engraved
biblical quotes? So long! The phrase, In God We Trust? Please take them all away. I yearn to see the superior (and former, est. 1776) national motto, E Pluribus Unum which means "out of many, one," on our money and in the hearts of our citizenry again. Unity is our own undiscovered country. It ought to be our goal, not the trite Cold War silliness that we find on every bit of coinage we have.
God, exit stage left (or right, or center). You'll find the Smithsonian much more to your liking. Its more reverent of history and your usage there will be much less cynical. Speaking of cynical, here is a curious fact. The congressional swearing in ceremony does not involve the Bible or any other holy book. Nor has it ever. Politicians just raise their right hands. It is only later and in front of cameras that they pose with a copy of the Bible. The difference this time is that someone wants his photo-op with a different holy book. Thus the holy hoopla that Sean Hannity, Dennis Praeger, Representative Goode, and others started was always spurious.
Yes, yes put all these monuments to our Iron Age sensibilities in a museum. This is where they belong. The fawning, ridiculous piety of our political leaders is strapping us all to an ox-drawn cart back to the first century. I don't know about you, but I actually like the idea of a bridge to the future.
That being said, I do like the oath of office. But why is it not enough to affirm a commitment to duty on something that is actually germane to the day to day, year to year, century to century business of governance, as they do when they swear to uphold the Constitution. It is only later that these holy books get cynically trotted out. The whole silly controversy has in fact been manufactured by pundits and politicians on both sides of the aisle by turning their religions, or at least those of their constituents, into PR stunts. Perhaps I am being unfair to Goode and Ellison who don’t seem to be using religion as a stunt. But that doesn’t improve the situation. It just ensures that they will be unable to have any kind of meaningful dialogue. Maybe it is time to stop wearing faith like a badge for one’s constituents or some benighted sense of duty to a deity and start talking about issues as if we live in the 21st century.
Forget the Bible, the Q'uran, the Iliad, the Tanahk, the Da Vinci Code, the doctrines of Hinduism, the book of Mormon, Dianetics and Beoulf. A politician's personal theological beliefs should only minimally inform their duties in the governance of our country. On, or to what, then, should our public servants swear? They should simply continue to swear to uphold Constitution of the United States.
Clearly a person's religious faith will have an effect on how they approach issues. It is just as clear that a politician would not be expected to give up faith or church in their private time. Any citizen of any race, religion or creed should be allowed to run for office.. That much has been, and remains clear.
What has not been clear is that the drives and desires of the faithful should not trump the Constitution. It has not been clear in Washington – for too long – that it is the constitution that comprises the backbone of our great system of government.
Not God.