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PCR #193. (Vol. 4, No. 49) This edition is for the week of December 1--7, 2003.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello, gang! A few notes and the first movie awards of the season have been announced. Shall we begin?

The History of Aviation in Florida, Part Three: World War Two and the Nifty Fifties
 by Will Moriaty
"The Last Samurai"
 by Mike Smith
TV commercial Hall of Shame....Matrix Reloaded Again....Big Country Ultimate Collection
 by Vinnie Blesi
Superman: The Kansas Sighting....Permanent Job
 by John Lewis
The Passion of Christ....Things I Didn't Know, But Maybe I Should Have....Slush Pile/Tampa ComicCon
 by Brandon Jones
Post-Thanksgiving message....Famous Monsters Trademark News....Happy Birthday, Forry
 by Matt Drinnenberg
Jesus And Other Jews....OK, But How Do You Explain Madonna?....Congrats....Passing On....And The Winner Is....Nice Try, Jack....NEW MOVIES
 by Mike Smith
Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review
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Too much has been made of the supposed anti-Semitism being portrayed in Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ. History is history. The Romans crucified the man at the insistence of the high priests of the Temple. That any Jewish leader would think that the film would cause an outbreak of "Jew Hating" is ridiculous. Two other points: 1. Gibson screened the film for the Reverend Billy Graham, who gave the film his rousing approval. Reverend Graham did not feel the film portrayed any one group of people as "the bad guys." 2. I do wonder how violent this film will be. I did see The Gospel of John, and did find myself cringing at the various punishments Jesus received. "Gospel" is rated PG-13 and was actually an enjoyable film, though a little long at almost three hours.

Did you know there was such a thing as "foreign language syndrome?" Neither did I. But Sarasota, Florida resident Judi Roberts does now. Four years ago, she suffered a stroke. When she regained her ability to speak, she sounded like Audrey Hepburn at the beginning of My Fair Lady! Finding herself calling elevators "lifts" and speaking in a strong Cockney accent, Roberts is the 20th person diagnosed with this syndrome since 1919. Pretty weird.

To newlyweds Bridget Fonda and Danny Elfman, both of whose work has been off screen lately. Elfman's next film score will be for next week's Big Fish. He is currently working on Spider-Man 2 and will do the music for Tim Burton's Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. To my knowledge, Fonda has nothing coming soon.

Screenwriter Edmund Hartmann, who wrote for such comedy greats as Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis and The Three Stooges, died at his home last week. He was 92. Among his films: In Society, The Paleface, The Caddy and The Shakiest Gun In the West.

The National Board of Review has announced the winners of its annual awards. They are:

BEST PICTURE: Mystic River
BEST DIRECTOR: Edward Zwick, The Last Samurai
BEST ACTOR: Sean Penn, Mystic River and 21 Grams
BEST ACTRESS: Diane Keaton, Something's Gotta Give
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Alec Baldwin, The Cooler
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Patricia Clarkson, Pieces of April and The Station Agent.

The top 10 films of the year:

1. Mystic River
2. The Last Samurai
3. The Station Agent
4. 21 Grams
5. House of Sand and Fog
6. Lost in Translation
7. Cold Mountain
8. In America
9. Seabiscuit
10. Master and Commander

OK, where is LOTR: Return of the King?

Well, a pat on the back for anti-film-pirate, Jack Valenti. In spite of the efforts of the MPAA to deny screeners to film critics and award voters, this week in London, police confiscated over 25,000 bootleg DVDs of the latest films, including Brother Bear and The Cat In the Hat. Most surprising is that the above films have not even opened in England yet. Hmmmmm, guess that leaves us critics off the hook.

Readers, I was just forwarded an email regarding the ban on screeners for critics. It reads, as follows:

In a victory for independent film producers, a federal judge Friday blocked an industry ban on sending advance copies of films to some movie awards voters. Large movie studios had claimed the ban was critical to stop the explosion of movie piracy. But the smaller houses said it limited awards voters' exposure to their movies - hurting their chances for bigger box-office receipts.

U.S. District Judge Michael B. Mukasey sided with the independent producers, granting a temporary restraining order against the ban, which is enforced by the Motion Picture Association of America.

The judge agreed with the smaller studios that because they didn't have the large advertisement money the major studios have that it was unfair to ban the release of screeners so that the smaller films have a chance to be seen.

Way to go, your honor! --Mike Smith

With less then a month until Christmas, Hollywood is starting to deliver it's holiday gifts to your local cinema. Some, like the third chapter of "The Lord of the Rings," will be just what we wanted. Others, like the upcoming "Honey," look like coal in our stockings. Here is a list of what to look forward to in the next six weeks, along with my thoughts on their Oscar chances. Please know that the dates listed could change at the whims of the film companies.

December 3
Television's "Dark Angel," Jessica Alba, stars as a hopeful music video choreographer who turns her efforts to a local inner city kids center. Also starring Mekhi Phifer and Lil' Romeo. What is it with everyone going by "Lil'?" Is it too hard to cross those T's? Oscar hopes: Steven Segal has a better chance.

December 5
The Last Samurai:
Tom Cruise stars in an epic from the director of "Glory" and "Legends of the Fall." A Union army hero during the Civil War, Cruise is hired by the Japanese to train their army to fight against the ancestral samurai warriors. Oscar hopes: (2) time cinematography winner John Toll paints a beautiful canvas, so he's a possibility. Also, Ken Watanabe turns in a star making performance as the leader of the group Cruise reluctantly embraces.

December 12
Big Fish:
Director Tim Burton has done everything from "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" to "Batman" to "Sleepy Hollow" to the recent "Planet of the Apes." Here he tells the story of a dying father relating his lives adventures to his son. Starring Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Danny DeVito and Ewan McGregor. Oscar hopes: Look out for multiple nominee Finney, who has never won. Director Burton knows how to get a great performance out of his actors. Ask Martin Landau.

Love Don't Cost A Thing: Remember 1987s "Can't Buy Me Love?" Unfortunately, so do I. This is a remake of that film with Nick Cannon playing the Patrick Dempsey role of a young, unpopular high school student who pays the most popular girl in school to pretend to be his girlfriend for a month. Oscar hopes: Only if they pay someone.

Something's Gotta Give: Christmas comes early in this romantic comedy written and directed by Nancy Meyers ("What Women Want," "Father of the Bride"). Jack Nicholson stars as an older man who only dates younger women (not too much of a stretch for Jack I'm going to think). However, he becomes attracted to his new loves' mother. Also starring Diane Keaton, Amanda Peete and Keanu Reeves. Oscar hopes: With 12 nominations and 3 Oscars, NEVER count Jack out.

Stuck On You: A pair of grown Siamese twins find fame in Hollywood. Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear star. The latest offering from Peter and Bobby Farrelly, who did "There's Something About Mary," also stars Cher and Seymour Cassel. Oscar hopes: Until they come up with a comedy category no way.

Elephant: Winner of the Best Film and Best Director awards at the Cannes Film Festival, Gus Van Sant's mostly improvised take on the Columbine massacre is either great or terrible, depending on who you talk to. Oscar hopes: Van Sant earned a directing nomination for "Good Will Hunting," so he's got the talent.

December 17
The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King:
THE most anticipated film of the season, the final film in what has become one of the most popular series of films in history. Director Peter Jackson has promised he's saved the best for last, and all signs point to him telling the truth. If you're like me, you'll be covering your eyes during the giant spider battle! Stars Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellan and Christopher Lee. Oscar hopes: With 19 nominations and 6 wins for the previous two films, this is the film to beat. Look for director Jackson to be rewarded, deservedly so, for what he has created from Tolkein's work.

December 19
Mona Lisa Smile:
Julia Roberts teaches at an all woman college in the early 1950s. Among her students: Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Think of it as a female "Dead Poet's Society." Oscar hopes: Roberts, who actually pulled a nomination out of "Pretty Woman," is her usual big hair, big smile self. However, I wouldn't overlook any of her young charges.

In America: Director Jim Sheridan tells the story of a young Irish couple trying to make it, with their two young daughters, in Manhattan. Oscar hopes: Sheridan has been nominated for "My Left Foot" and "In the Name of the Father" in the past, and he has drawn winning performances out of his actors.

The Cooler: Ever go to the boats and get on a winning streak, only to start losing once some guy sits next to you? If so, then you've met the Cooler. William H. Macy stars as a man who's so unlucky that the casino pays him to bring his bad luck to others. Alec Baldwin costars as the casino owner. Oscar hopes: Macy is an academy favorite and will probably get nominated this year for his work in "Seabiscuit." Baldwin is still waiting for the nomination he should have gotten for "Glengary Glen Ross."

December 25
Cheaper By the Dozen:
Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt star in this update of the popular film from the 1950s. The 12 kids include Hilary Duff, Piper Perabo and "Smallville's" Tom Welling. Oscar hopes: Hard to believe, but Martin has never been nominated, even though his work in "All of Me" and "Roxanne" was worthy. Look for Steve to keep the streak alive here.

Cold Mountain: Nicole Kidman stars as the wife of a Civil War soldier waiting for her husband to return home. Jude Law plays the husband. Oscar hopes: Kidman won Best Actress last year and Law has been nominated before. Director Anthony Minghella won a few years ago for "The English Patient."

Peter Pan: A live-action version of the classic story. Jeremy Sumpter stars as Peter, with Jason Isaacs (the bad guy from "The Patriot") earning two paychecks as Captain Hook and Mr. Darling. Oscar hopes: the special-effects look marvelous.

Paycheck: Director John Woo directs Ben Affleck in this futuristic tale about memory erasure. Oscar hopes: Like the ads like to tell you, the film stars "Academy Award Winner Ben Affleck." They don't tell you he won the award for his writing. Besides, Affleck can use the publicity.

December 26
House of Sand and Fog:
Oscar winners Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly star in this adaptation of Andre Dubus III best seller. Connelly's house is mistakenly taken and sold to Kingsley, resulting in an emotional rollercoaster ride. Oscar hopes: Duh!

21 Grams: A trio of strangers find themselves pulled together in a series of bizarre twists. The title refers to the supposed weight the human body loses when we die, possibly the weight of your soul. Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benecio Del Toro star. Oscar hopes: With this cast? Heck yeah! Penn could be battling himself for his work in "Mystic River."

January 1
Calendar Girls:
A group of matronly British women decide that this years annual fund raising calendar will feature the ladies of the group naked. Hey, it's all for a good cause. Helen Mirren and Julie Walters head the cast. Oscar hopes: Both ladies have been nominated before. And I'd pay to watch Helen Mirren read the phone book. Especially if she was naked!

January 7
Chasing Liberty:
I can't remember when a movie was made that showcased the President's daughter. I'm sure we won't see another one for years. Mandy Moore stars as the first daughter who, while in Europe, steals away from her Secret Service protectors and runs off with a man she just met. Mark Harmon plays her presidential dad. Oscar hopes: About as likely as another "President's Daughter" movie showing up any time soon.

January 9
First Daughter:
GABBA WA??? Katie Holmes stars as........can this be right..........the president's daughter?? Boy, don't you feel foolish! This one runs off WITH her protective Secret Service agent after they fall in love. Who'd a thunk? Oscar hopes: I'd say "when hell froze over," but after my "Chasing Liberty" faux pas, who knows anymore?

Well, that's it. Have a great week. See ya.

"Mike's Rant" is ©2003 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 ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.