Monday, February 25, 2008

random tidbits... (updated)

  • I did not do exceptionally well in this year's Oscar pool (I have had a 100% before and usually score in the 80s and 90s). This year I went 17 of 24 (horrible). While many of the wins were obvious (the 4 No Country awards were obvious), some came so far out of left field, I would guess no one got them right. Who saw Tilda Swinton winning for Michael Clayton? Is so, I hope you won your pool! Most of the technical awards were easy. Do you give it to a techy film critics hated or to a well respected film that was pretty cool technically? That is why Bourne beats Transformers. I usually sweep the minor awards, but did not do so well this year. There was a Holocaust film and an AIDS film (always winning bets), but how do you handicap when there are 3 Docs on the Iraq War? I blew that one. My best pics were Falling Slowly for best song (thank God for the best song winning- that NEVER happens, I guess the Disney pablum split the vote) and There Will Be Blood for Cinematography.
  • I am one of those guys that watches the Oscars for 1 complain about the Oscars. I cannot tell you how much I like to point out to anyone in earshot that yet another injustice is upon us due to the stodgy Academy lacking the alertness or courage to appreciate the art that a plebe like me sees. In fact, one of my favorite bathroom reads of all time is Danny Peary's Alternative Oscars which gives us the real best film, actor, director and actress for each year since 1927. Too bad it was published in 1993 and he has not made a sequel or updated his picks on his website. If, like me, you like to point out Oscar's flaws, look at this great posting on how many deserving people and films have been overlooked over the years (I especially like the defense of Jeff Bridges as one of the greatest actors of our time).
  • I have seen the first bit of information that gives me pause concerning an Obama presidency. According to this article in Slate, Obama is an ENFP on the Meyers-Briggs personality inventory. Why does this concern me? Well, I look at an ENFP every time I look in the mirror and question the ability of anyone like me to lead the free world. Of course, the other personality types don't give me a lot of confidence in those presidential candidates either. Read the article here.
  • For some reason I have read a bunch of books in which Islam is a central theme lately. I can recommend all of them. Last year I read the 2006 Pulitzer Prize winning The Looming Tower Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11), a ridiculously compelling piece of modern history and journalism. If you want to understand the context of 9/11 and what led people to do it, read this book (it is also an indictment of the mistakes by the US Intelligence community). It is not particularly political.
  • If you would like to get into the mind of what makes Islam tick as a religion, as well as understand where it went wrong in the eyes of modernists, read No god but God by frequent Daily Show guest Reza Aslan. In his historical and sociological critique of his own religion (he is an Iranian Shia), Aslan shares that Islam is in the midst of a reformation much like Christianity's 500 years ago (Islam is roughly the same age as Christianity of that era). I would recommend it for lay people, ministers and seminary students (it works on a number of levels). Most readers will find themselves drawn to Muhammad and frustrated by the perversion of his message (it will remind many Christians of our own story).


james said...

Fantastic article by Schaffer.

I went 5 for 5 in the major categories by the way. I have no idea how i pulled Swinton other than I just wanted her to win.

DJ Word said...

what is your 5th major? cinematography? Foreign Film?

kidpositive said...

i just wish they hadn't replayed helen mirren's "I give you the Queen!" moment from last year....I was really hoping to NEVER relive that moment.

i read No god but God, and found it informing for a white westerner like me. but beyond scratching the surface, I don't feel it provided any depth (i'm sure you felt the same way). let me know if you find something on Islam that actually explores some of the "wondrous" parts of it --- is there such thing as Islamic Mysticism? i haven't found anything that is too enlightening about the religion. i respect its roots, and have found the difference between "To Submit" and "To Struggle" to be the main clash in the west interfacing with Islam, but i still haven't been able to tune in to its "genius".

maybe i should try praying 5 times a day...

DJ Word said...

I agree on the book. I found myself liking Islam (and its founder) much more, according to the story of Aslan. I find it fascinating that the story has been driven so far off track.

However, I am not inspired by Islam at all. I do not share his hope that we are the brink of something great happening where the forces of modernity will overcome the forces of fundamentalism.

I hope he is right and know we all would be in a better place if his form of Islam takes hold.

I think he is a very good writer that can make dry history and theological positions flow. The book is much more interesting that most books I have read on the subject and comes from a better perspective that the "Christian" or "western" stuff.

As for Islamic Mysticism, I have met some cool Sufis that remind me of Buddhists or Christian mystics. I think it will always be a small sect, like in Christianity. But, they should get themselves more press. Bahai has its roots in Islam, but is more of a Unitarian Universalistic version of the religion (yes that is a terribly simplistic characterization).

By the way I am reading one of your favorite books- Finding Darwin's God.

james said...

In the 5 majors I was referring to Best & Best Supporting Actor, Best & Best Supporting Actress, and Best Picture.

DJ Word said...

i am surprised you put the acting awards as majors, but not director. you have moved from the light (directing) to the darkside with all of your recent acting gigs.

Amy said...

thanks for the link to the article. i, too, lament the fact that cary grant never received an oscar. (ok, ok, they gave him the honorary one) i could go on an on, but let us just look at 1959, the year of north by northwest in which he was directed by hitchcock (also overlooked by the academy). that year ben hur walked away with best picture, lead actor and director, all deserved, but how about at least nominations for north by northwest in those categories. i mean, jack lemmon got a lead actor nomination for some like it hot that year. really? ok, just one more example that baffles me. in 2001, amelie was up for best cinematography but didn't get it. did the academy SEE amelie?

james said...

Haven't those 5 traditionally always been among the top and before "best director"? I did get that category correct as well however :)