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Now in our eleventh calendar year!

PCR #518 (Vol. 11, No. 9). This edition is for the week of February 22--28, 2010.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello gang! Oscars one week away so my predictions are below. And just what the World Wide Web needs...another movie web site! Shall we begin?

MOVIE REVIEW
"Cop Out"  by Mike Smith
RETRORAMA
Series Retrospective: Matt Helm  by ED Tucker
THE AUDIO PHILES
February's Album of the Month : Yeasayer--Odd Blood  by Terence Nuzum
FANGRRL
The Top 30 Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror Actresses, #5  by Lisa Scherer
THE ASIAN APERTURE
Mainland Dundee  by Jason Fetters
LAMPIN' @ THE 6TH BOROUGH
Anyone Else Find This Hilarious?  by John Miller
MIKE'S RANT
Trumpets Please! .... Passing On .... Movie News .... If I Picked The Oscars (and I Do) .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf  by Mike Smith

TRUMPETS PLEASE!
As teased last week, it gives me great pleasure to announce that on March 5, 2010 a new movie-exclusive web site will be launched.

MovieMikes.com, which is a partnership between myself and my friend Michael Gencarelli, hence the clever name! PCR readers may remember the moving tribute Mike, a HUGE Pink Floyd fan, did to Syd Barret after his passing. The site will carry some of the same stuff I do here (reviews, interviews, etc) but will give us a place to post breaking news a little quicker as well as trailers, posters and other media.

Though the official launch date is March 5, we have been "up" for the past couple weeks, working out bugs and getting the site to look like we want it to. I urge you to give it a look

http://moviemikes.com/

and pass along any comments, good or bad.

Hope to see you there!

PASSING ON
When you're hundreds of miles away from your family, you tend to gravitate more to friends. I was already divorced and living alone when I went to work for JF Theatres in Baltimore. My district manager, Merle Bailiff, was a very important influence on my life. As the years went by and JF was bought by Loews, I grew close not only to Merle but to his wife, Deanna, and their daughter. I was saddened this week to hear that Deanna had passed away on Tuesday after a long battle with cancer. She was a great person who always had a smile everytime I saw her and though I haven't seen her in many years I will miss her.

Also sad to hear of the death of Andrew Koenig, who died this week of an apparent suicide. He was 41. Though I never met Andrew I have had the great opportunity to know his father, Walter, since 1996, serving as an assistant when he came to town as a guest of conventions a friend of mine put on in the midwest. My sincere condolences go out to Walter and his wife, Judy.

MOVIE NEWS
During spring training of 1973, two New York Yankees pulled off an amazing trade. Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich, pitchers whose families had been the best of friends since 1969, announced that they had not only switched wives, but families. Each one took the other ones' spouse, two kids and dog (the Peterson's poodle for the Kekich's terrier). The trade did not go well for both couples. While Kekich and Marilyn Peterson went their seperate ways after a few months, following their respective divorces Peterson married Susanne Kekich. They had four more children and are still together. Now word comes that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, ironically both loyal Boston Red Sox fans, will star in the film "The Trade," which documents the events. Not sure if Ben and Matt, who won an Oscar for their "Good Will Hunting" script, would write the screenplay, but Affleck is said to be interested in directing.

Both Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz have agreed to make cameos in the upcoming "A-Team" movie. No word on whether Mr. T will do the same.

IF I PICKED THE OSCARS (AND I DO)
Next Sunday, March 7 (my dads 77th birtday), Hollywood will reward it's best and brightest at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards.
Here is my list of who should win, who will win and why. The nominees:

BEST PICTURE

"Avatar," "The Blind Side," "District 9," "An Education," "The Hurt Locker," "Inglourious Basterds," "Precious," "A Serious Man," "Up" and "Up in the Air."

Apparently no matter how old your movie is, until it's shown theatrically in the United States it hasn't lost it's Oscar shelf life. I mention this because "The Hurt Locker" was actually nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards in 2009! Only after it was released on DVD in Brazil in early 2010 that good word of mouth earned it a few film festival showings stateside and, finally, a run in US movie theatres in June. What a difference a year makes. "The Hurt Locker" finds itself the front runner for several awards this year, including the big one, Best Picture. After many years of popular films being shut out of the Best Picture race the academy doubled the number of film nominees to ten, mostly in hopes that a few popular films would bring in television viewers. The television show ratings had been sinking faster then the Titanic, which is ironic because the year "Titanic" won 11 Oscars, the telecast had one of it's highest ratings. For the next six years, a few "blockbusters" earned Best Picture nominations ("Saving Private Ryan," "The Sixth Sense," "Gladiator" and the three "Lord of the Rings" films. Of those, only "Gladiator" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" took home the top prize. In the five years following, the majority of Best Picture nominees were films that did very little at the box office. Not that they weren't great films. Most of them were. But many movie fans, myself included, wondered why it seemed so hard for a great popular film to get a nomination.

The battle came to a head last year when "The Dark Knight" was shut out of the Best Picture race. Sure, it had made a ton of money. But it also averaged a 94% rating among the nations film critics (I gave it four stars, my highest rating). Upset by the uproar, and another night of poor ratings, the academy announced that this year there would be ten slots in the Best Picture race. And while it was good to see films that probably wouldn't have had a chance placed in the race ("District 9" and "The Blind Side" among them), once again the voters ignored another blockbuster that earned a 94% rating, the J.J. Abrams reboot of "Star Trek." So while you're scratching your head and muttering to yourself "An Education?...A Serious Man?" let's talk about the two films that will battle to the end.

In one corner, you have "The Hurt Locker." A good movie. Not great mind you, but good. How good? Think back to 1999 when the Academy gave Best Picture not to "Saving Private Ryan" but to "Shakespeare in Love." Or 2006 when "Crash" took the award over "Brokeback Mountain." In the other corner, you have "Avatar," the most successful movie of all time (though technically, if you adjust for inflation, "Gone With The Wind" would be number one. "Avatar" would be somewhere in the low twenties) and the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Technically the film was brilliant. But to this moviegoer, "Avatar" could be a Na'vi word meaning "my butt is sore." After all of the oohing and ahhing at all of the bells and whistles that make up "Avatar" I sat back and waited for a story that never came. To me it was a pretty remake of "Aliens" with Giovanni Ribisi playing the Paul Reiser role. But the largest group of voters in the academy is the actors branch. And I don't see them putting their vote behind a computer generated future. And with this fact in mind, I declare "The Hurt Locker" will win Best Picture.

BEST DIRECTOR

Kathryn Bigelow - "The Hurt Locker," James Cameron - "Avatar," Lee Daniels - "Precious," Jason Reitman - "Up in the Air" and Quentin Tarantino - "Inglourious Basterds"

Again, a two person race, one that has a little more intrigue because the two in question used to be husband and wife: Bigelow and Cameron. Earlier this year Bigelow became the fifth woman EVER to be nominated for the Director's Guild of America award for best director. In late February she made history when she became the first woman EVER to win. Only six times in the past has the winner of the DGA award not gone on to win the Oscar (in 1969, Anthony Harvey won for "The Lion In Winter" while the Oscar went to Carol Reed for "Oliver!"; 1973 the DGA chose Francis Ford Coppola for "The Godfather" while the academy chose Bob Fosse for "Cabaret"; 1986 saw the DGA go to Steven Spielberg for "The Color Purple" while the Oscar went home with Sydney Pollack for "Out of Africa"; 1996, the DGA went to Ron Howard for "Apollo 13 - the Oscar to Mel Gibson for "Braveheart"; 2001 the DGA was awarded to Ang Lee for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" while the Oscar was presented to Steven Soderbergh for "Traffic"; 2003 "Chicago's" Rob Marshall won the DGA while the academy honored Roman Polanski for "The Pianist." I should also point out that neither Spielberg or Howard were nominated for the directing Oscar the years they won the DGA). As I said earlier, "Avatar" is technically brilliant, and I look for the film to win many of the technical awards. Which means Kathryn Bigelow makes history Oscar night when she wins the Best Director prize.

BEST ACTOR

Jeff Bridges - "Crazy Heart," George Clooney - "Up in the Air," Colin Firth - "A Single Man," Morgan Freeman - "Invictus" and Jeremy Renner - "The Hurt Locker"

Early betting would have put their money on Clooney, who is steadily building a career comparable to Cary Grant and Warren Beatty. Then came country singer Bad Blake. As portrayed by Jeff Bridges, Bad truly lives up to his name. Renner will reap the rewards of a break out role. Firth recently won the British Academy Award against pretty much the same group, but that was England. Freeman already has an Oscar. This is Bridge's fifth Oscar nomination and it's high time the man got his due. The winner here is Jeff Bridges.

BEST ACTRESS

Sandra Bullock - "The Blind Side," Helen Mirren - "The Last Station," Carey Mulligan - "An Education," Gabourey Sidibe - "Precious" and Meryl Streep - "Julie and Julia"

Sixteen. That is how many Academy Award nominations Meryl Streep has earned. That's more then Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole combined. She has lost more times then Jack Nicholson has been nominated. She has also won twice, her last win coming in 1983. She inhabits her role of Julia Childs to the point where you believe it really is the late television chef on screen. That's acting. To me the only one standing in her way is Bullock. She has pretty much swept the pre-Oscar awards for "The Blind Side," which earned her Oscar nomination number one. In her professional acting debut Sidibe shows she may be back in this category soon. Like Firth, Mulligan also won the British Oscar against the same group of nominees. But again, that's England. Mirren won two years ago for "The Queen," which leaves Mary Louise and Sandra Annette. Though my brain tells me Bullock is going to win, I have to give my vote to Streep, who I think is often SO good that her peers take her for granted. I won't be disappointed either way but I'm giving the Oscar to Meryl Streep.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Matt Damon - "Invictus," Woody Harrelson - "The Messenger," Christopher Plummer - "The Last Station," Stanley Tucci - "The Lovely Bones" and "Christoph Waltz - "Inglourious Basterds"

It's amazing the things you learn at Oscar time. This year I learned that, at age 82, Christopher Plummer is the oldest man ever nominated for an acting Academy Award, tying Hal Holbrook. He is only behind 87 year old Gloria Stuart ("Titanic") and 83 year old Ruby Dee ("American Gangster") in terms of age. What shocked me is that, despite a distinguished film career that spans more than five decades, this is his first nomination. This is Damon and Harrelson's second acting nomination, and first in this category. Great performances all. But two actors did indelible work this: Tucci and Waltz. Surprisingly Tucci earned the only nomination to come out of "The Lovely Bones." A surprise to me, anyway, who chose the film as the best of 2009. In a year where he was also memorable as Paul Childs in "Julie and Julia," Tucci turned in a bravura performance that hung in the memory long after the film ended. Waltz, who had enjoyed a successful career in film and television in his native Germany, announced his presence early last year when he won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival. Since then he has won almost every award he's been nominated for for his performance at the ruthless Nazi "Jew hunter" in "Inglourious Basterds." And since you never mess with a winning streak, I'm picking Waltz to win this award.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Penelope Cruz - "Nine," Maggie Gyllenhaal - "Crazy Heart," Vera Farmiga - "Up in the Air," Anna Kendrick- "Up in the Air" and Mo'Nique - "Precious"

Cruz has the distinction of being the only reigning champ(she won this award last year)to be nominated this year. And though she was excellent in the under-performing "Nine," I don't see a repeat victory here. Of all of my pre-nomination choices, Gyllenhaal was the actress I overlooked, and shame on me because she really does give an outstanding performance in "Crazy Heart." And, as they often always do, Farmiga and Kendrick will cancel each other out, vote wise. Which leaves Mo'Nique. The comdediene and BET talk show host has maintained a pretty normal life since her nomination, refusing to take part in the campaigning that becomes part of a nominees life. But her performance as the abusive mother of a neglected daughter is the stuff awards were made for. Like Christoph Waltz she's already won almost every award in this category. Guess who I'm picking? If you said Mo'Nique, you win! (hope she does too)

THE REST

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY - "The Hurt Locker"

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY - "Up in the Air"

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE - "Up"

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM - "The White Ribbon"

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE - "The Cove"

BEST EDITING - "The Hurt Locker"

BEST ART DIRECTION - "Avatar" Sure, most of it is computer generated, but it's beautiful.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY - "The Hurt Locker"

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE - "Up"

BEST ORIGINAL SONG - this category is so messed up I could write another article on it. I'm still trying to figure out which member of the song writing branch called Bruce Springsteen last year and told him he didn't know how to write a song. Luckily Ryan Bingham and T. Bone Burnett do. That song is "The Weary Kind" from "Crazy Heart."

BEST COSTUME DESIGN - "The Young Victoria"

BEST MAKEUP - "Star Trek"

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS - "Avatar"

BEST SOUND EDITING - "Avatar"

BEST SOUND EDITING - "Avatar"

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT - "Kavi"

BEST ANIMATED SHORT - Nick Park's "A Matter of Loaf and Death"

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT - "The Last Truck"









THE PICTURE DISC CRAZE ARRIVES!


Album:
Tails of The Monkees - The Monkees

Soundtrack:
The Story of "Star Wars" - The Actual Dialogue, Sound Effects and Music From The Film

Ah, the things record companies did to draw buyers in. First came colored vinyl, most notably the bright blue album that signified Elvis Presley's last album while he was still alive, "Moody Blue." Other tricks included "laser etchings" on the discs ("Paradise Theatre" by Styx and the "Superman II" soundtrack are two popular examples). But no fad seemed as popular as the Picture Disc...your favorite group emblazoned on the vinyl for you to watch go round and round on your turntable. "Look...the Monkees are heading to Mr. Peabody's WABAC machine!"

Though a majority of the picture discs were legitimate releases, I've found that the best ones are, for want of a better word, bootlegs. Or, if authorized, stuff the major companies didn't want to spend the money to release. "Tails of the Monkees" is such an album. Released in 1983, it's two sides contain intersperced events: One is the Monkees live in concert; the other consists of a segment of an Armed Forces Radio Show titled "The In Sound" that featured the band. Among the hits featured during the concert: "Last Train To Clarksville," "I Wanna Be Free," "I'm A Believer" and "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You." Also included is the band's version of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Harts "I Wonder What She's Doin' Tonight" and, in what I can only assume was a nod to the season, the holiday classic "White Christmas." Sadly there is no date given, for either the concert or the radio show. I did find a great site that devotes itself to The Monkees bootlegs. If you're a fan, please give it a look:

http://www.monkees101.com/bootfaq.html



"The Story of Star Wars" was an ingenious way for fans of the film to bring the movie home long before there was Blockbuster Video. Basically a recorded version of the movie (which as a kid was what I would do...taking my handy cassette recorder and a 120 minute tape into the theatre and recording the film so I could listen to it later). Even though "The Story of Star Wars" popularized this format, the practice had been done decades before, especially with Broadway shows and Hollywood musicals. In fact, the recently highlighted soundtrack album from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" was very much a precursor to this type of record. And though you could play a picture disc like a regular album, it wasn't recommended to do it a lot. In fact, most of them carried the following warning on the rear of the cover: NOTICE: If played excessively the sound quality of this limited edition collectors' item may not equal the original album previously released in a jacket bearing different artwork." You've been warned!

Some other picture discs on my shelf (clockwise from the bottom): Neil Diamond's "Hot August Night," "Footloose" soundtrack, Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits, "E.T." and Timeless (rare Beatles cuts)


FYI: the Manilow album is Matts. He left it at my house one day. Honestly. What? Oh, now it's ok to admit you're a Barry Manilow Fan? Then it's MINE! Mine I tell you!

Well, have a great week. Hope to see you around MovieMikes.com. Feel free to send in your Oscar choices. It's always a popular event. Have a great week. See ya!



"Mike's Rant" is ©2010 by Michael A. Smith.  Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.