Before I launch into this week's diatribes, I want to wish everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving. I hope this finds you and yours well.
This has been one of the crappiest years on record for me, so it comes as a challenge trying to find things to be thankful about, but there are a few things. After two major projects tanked disastrously and my health went to sh*t, somewhere around the beginning of Fall things started to brighten...slightly. The website is still doing pretty well, I managed to get some great press, and Tampa managed to stay out of all the hurricane's way. For those things I am grateful.
Nationally, we're still mired in Iraq with no end in sight. Capital Hill has been ablaze with mounting dissent about the war, and nasty in-fighting has resulted (Murtha vs Schmidt comes to mind). Scandal is rampant (CIA leak, etc. etc.). Gas prices that were out of control have rolled back....for now. It took parading Big Oil before Congress and a threat of windfall profits tax for that to happen, though.
In Tampa, a school teacher, Debra Lafave, convicted of having sex with one of her students (has there been any other year when that's being reported as regularly as this year?) was sentenced only to three years of community control. Reason? "She's too pretty to go to prison," according to her lawyer who won the motion. Outrage? You bet!
As of this writing, the jury hasn't yet decided the fate of Joseph Smith who raped and killed 11-year-old Carlie Brucia. He will either be sent to prison for life or executed.
The Vatican just announced they are discriminating against known homosexual priests(!) saying they will not be allowed to minister. Exceptions are made for those who have been "recovered"(!) for more than three years.
New Orleans is still recovering from Katrina and the rebuilding is going very slowly---apparently there are still communication breakdowns hampering the efforts.
THE FUTURE FOR ME
On a personal note, the health problems that landed me in the hospital in August are slooooowly relinquising their control over me, and I'm back to walking with a cane, at least temporarily. This is why some issues of PCR have seemed a little lean recently---my whole energy is consumed in pain management. My recovery is predicted to accelerate, but then again, it was before.
Although it seems like there's lots of bad news this week (hell, this year), our mission at PCR has never been more important. I'm working on some design modifications to the homepage I'm quite excited about, and you can look forward to a more multi-media-intensive experience when you visit in 2006!
WAL-MART DOCTOR'S VISIT?
In Couch Potato, PCR #290, Vinnie Blesi sarcastically mentioned getting health care at Wal-Mart. Unfortuantely, it is no joke and is really happening.
A dark day for health care, my friends.
MIKE SMITH'S HOLIDAY FILM PREVIEW by Michael A. Smith
The holidays are upon us and soon the air will be filled with the smells of turkey roasting and ham baking. And, as is always the case, Hollywood wants us to experience the smells of popcorn popping as well, holding out some of their best films as year end presents for faithful film goers. Here is a list of the films to watch for between now and New Years day. Some synopsis information courtesy of the Internet Movie Data Base. Please note that the release date given my change at the whim of the film companies.
ALREADY IN THEATRES
"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" - the fourth film in the very popular series takes Harry and his friends through a series of changes, both physical and emotional. Much darker then earlier films but still quite entertaining.
OSCAR CHANCES: The special effects and the incredible Patrick Doyle/John Williams musical score should be shoo ins come nomination time.
"Walk the Line" - based on the early career of the late, great Johnny Cash, from his youth in Arkansas to his marriage to his soul mate, June Carter. Excellent performances and attention to period detail make this a crowd pleasure.
OSCAR CHANCES: Stars Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are guaranteed locks. The film may follow last year's Best Picture nominee, "Ray," into the ring for the big prize.
"RENT" - the film version of Jonathon Larson's hit Broadway musical, this is basically a retelling of the classic Puccini opera, "La Boheme." With most of the original cast back for the film, it is a rousing look into the lives of struggling artists, who must not only battle to pay the rent but with the devastating ravages of AIDS as well. The stage version was winner of the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Obie Award, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, four Tony Awards and three Drama Desk awards.
OSCAR CHANCES: Could follow "Chicago" with nominations as Best Picture and Best Director for Chris Columbus. The performances all top notch all around, but if I were looking for standouts I'd give Supporting nods to Jesse L. Martin, Anthony Rapp and Idina Menzel.
"Syriana" - George Clooney stars in this political thriller as a CIA agent who discovers a connection between our government's foreign policy, the oil industry and terrorism while in the Persian Gulf.
OSCAR CHANCES: Writer/Director Stephen Gaghan won an Oscar for his script of "Traffic," so it's possible he could be recognized here. Clooney always gives a good performance, as does co-stars Matt Damon and Chris Cooper, who won the Supporting award two years ago for "Adaptation."
"Yours, Mine and Ours" - Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo star in this remake of the 1968 Henry Fonda/Lucille Ball classic about a widowed man and woman getting married and forming an instant family with 18 children.
OSCAR CHANCES: None that I see.
"Aeon Flux" - What began as a short animated series on MTV a decade ago is now a major motion picture starring Oscar winners Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand. The plot, in a nutshell, Aeon Flux is a mysterious and amoral secret agent from the country of Monica. And she looks good in latex.
OSCAR CHANCES: Na da, though Theron and McDormand could both be nominated for their work earlier this year in "North Country."
"TransAmerica" - Felicity Huffman stars as Bree, a pre-operative male-to-female transsexual who learns he has fathered a son who is now a runaway hustling in New York.
OSCAR CHANCES: Huffman, who won an Emmy earlier this year for her work on "Desperate Housewives," is getting lots of buzz as a possible Best Actress nominee.
"Brokeback Mountain" - Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger star in this Western about two men, one a ranch hand, the other a rodeo cowboy, whose friendship grows into a lifetime love they cannot totally embrace or deny.
OSCAR CHANCES: Gyllenhaal is already getting award attention for "Jarhead," so another great performance certainly can't hurt his chances. Director Ang Lee was a nominee for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and screenwriter Larry McMurtry, whose novels include "Lonesome Dove" and "Terms of Endearment," was a nominee for his adaptation of his book, "The Last Picture Show."
"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" - Big screen adaptation of the classic C.S. Lewis adventure series about four children who travel through a magical wardrobe, arriving in a land ruled by a lion who wants to overthrow a witch who is keeping the world in perpetual winter.
OSCAR CHANCES: The animals shown in the coming attraction are incredibly rendered. Should be recognized for it's visual effects.
"Memoirs of a Geisha" - Oscar nominated director Rob Marshall, who steered "Chicago" to the Best Picture award, switches gears in bringing to the screen Arthur Golden's best selling novel about a fishing village girl who grows up to become one of Japan's most celebrated geisha.
OSCAR CHANCES: Good for both Marshall and the film. Though Marshall took some flack from the Japanese community by casting Chinese actresses Ziyi Zhang and Michelle Yeoh in Japanese roles, both are getting positive notices. John Williams, with five Oscars and over 40 nominations to his credit, turned down the chance to score "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (though his themes are still heard) so that he could compose the music for this film.
"King Kong" - Where does the proverbial 800 pound gorilla sit? Anywhere he wants to on the release schedule. Director Peter Jackson follows his award winning "Lord of the Rings" trilogy with a remake of the film that inspired him to be a filmmaker. Jack Black, Naomi Watts and Oscar winner Adrien Brody star in this faithful adaptation.
OSCAR CHANCES: With the last "Rings" film still fresh in the Academy's mind, "Kong" could earn multiple nominations, most notably visual effects. Andy Serkis, who played the evil Gollum in the "Rings" films, is credited for his work in creating the actions and movements of Kong. The 1976 remake won the visual effects award causing many members of that branch of the academy to resign when it was discovered that 90% of "Kong" was makeup artist Rick Baker in a suit.
"The Family Stone" - Christmas themed comedy about a woman, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, meeting the offbeat family of her fiancee. Also stars Craig T. Nelson, Diane Keaton and Dermot Mulroney.
OSCAR CHANCES: Nope.
"The Producers" - The original film, starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, earned writer/director Mel Brooks an Oscar. Turned into a musical, it won more Tony Awards then any other show in history. Now it's a movie again. Like "Rent," the film stars most of the original Broadway cast, most notably Tony winner Nathan Lane and fellow nominee Matthew Broderick. Will Ferrell and Uma Thurman join the cast in a story about two Broadway producers who scheme to make money by staging a sure fire flop, only to have it become the hit of the season.
OSCAR CHANCES: Like "Rent," this film could become another "Chicago" and bring home a bushel of nominations. Depending on the competition, Broderick could follow in Gene Wilder's footsteps and snag a Supporting Actor nod.
"Cheaper by the Dozen 2" - Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt return with their 12 kids in a tale that takes the family on vacation where they clash with another large family fathered by Eugene Levy.
OSCAR CHANCES: About as many as the first film got...0.
"Fun with Dick and Jane" - Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni star in this remake of the 1977 George Segal/Jane Fonda comedy about a suburban couple that rob banks to help pay the bills.
OSCAR CHANCES: Without Ed McMahon, who co-starred in the original, not a chance.
"Munich" - Director Steven Spielberg returns to serious mode with this drama about Mossad agents who hunted down the Palestinian terrorists that killed the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games. Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush stars alongside Eric Bana and the new James Bond, Daniel Craig.
OSCAR CHANCES: As the most successful director in the history of film, almost everything Spielberg does has a chance. Like his Oscar winning "Schindler's List," Spielberg waited until he felt he was able to do this story justice. Picture and director nominations should be forthcoming.
"The Ringer" - "Jackass" star Johnny Knoxville plays a man who tries to win money by pretending to be disabled and entering the Special Olympics, only to find that the other competitors beat him handily. Not sure how it will entertain for 90 minutes but the story made for a very funny episode of "South Park" last year.
OSCAR CHANCES: Only the one for bad taste.
"Match Point" - Woody Allen gets serious with this dramatic thriller about a married woman having an affair with a married man.
OSCAR CHANCES: The Woodman has been nominated 20 times for an Oscar and has three statues on his mantle already. Look for a nod for the script and, given his success with directing actresses to Oscars (Diane Keaton, Diane Wiest, Mira Sorvino) possibly one for Scarlett Johansson, who was robbed of one for "Lost in Translation."
"The New World" - In 1978, director Terrence Malick made the under appreciated film, "Days of Heaven." It took him 20 years for his next, "The Thin Red Line." Thankfully, he only made us wait 7 years for this one, the story of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas in 1607. Colin Farrell and Q'Orianka Kilcher star.
OSCAR CHANCES: Because of his reclusive nature (this is only his fifth film in an almost 40 year career) , Malick is worshipped as a god among fellow filmmakers. "The Thin Red Line" earned Malick Oscar nods for directing and writing, though I must admit I was lost the minute Jim Caviezel started talking about "the fish in the trees."
"Rumor Has It" - Jennifer Anniston stars as a young woman who learns that her grandmother may have been the real life inspiration for "The Graduate." Also starring Kevin Costner, Shirley MacLaine and Mena Suvari.
OSCAR CHANCES: MacLaine is having a great year, with this film following her work in "In Her Shoes." If this film gets anything in the form of a nomination, I hope it's for director Rob Reiner, who has been passed over far too many times.