Working on Plan B

From the Associated Press:

The Oscars people are working on a Plan B. If the writers strike is still on and the Oscars don’t get a waiver, the show will be filled with film clips, history and someout-of-the ordinary concepts. The president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Sid Ganis, says they’re planning two Oscar shows: “The show we would love to do and” and “a show that we would prefer not to do.” Either way, the Academy Awards show will go on as scheduled February 24th because Ganis says they “have an obligation to the art form to present the Oscars.”

Meantime an academy spokeswoman says they’ve “made contact” with the Writers Guild of America. In past years, presenters were announced one-by-one before or shortly after the nominations, but not one has been named so far.


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Writers strike or not, Wolfgang Puck is ordering mounds of food for the Governors Ball that comes right after the Oscars ceremony. As he has in past years, he’s planning on a party for 1,500 people in a ballroom in the same complex as the Kodak Theatre. Puck is buying 3,500 pounds of wild Alaskan salmon, 1,200 pounds of spiny lobster, 550 pounds of American Kobe beef, 100 pounds of goat cheese, 4,800 pounds of asparagus, 75 Pounds of shiitake mushrooms and lots and lots more food. Whatever is left over goes to Angel Harvest, which distributes the food to agencies that feed the poor and homeless.

In Case You Missed It……

If for some reason you missed President Bush’s last State of the Union address Monday night, here is a handy cliff note version I’ve created. 

 “Madame Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress….” 

Economic concerns… relief… 

Clap, clap, clap. 

Refinance mortgages…. 

Clap, clap, clap. 

Quality health care…better education… 

Clap, clap, clap. 

Energy security…secure borders… 

Clap, clap, clap. 

Free Iraq…troop drawdown… 

“…a more hopeful region and a safer America.”   

Very long applause. “Elvis” leaves the building.  

Most fascinating speech eeeevvvveerrrrrrr.

And is it me or is it when every time the president (whoever it is at the time) does his ‘union’ speech, it becomes the longest night in history. Doesn’t it seem like it goes on and on and on?  

Sundancing Near You!


By Tom Charity
Special to CNN

 PARK CITY, Utah (CNN) — “Film Takes Place” was the obligatory meaningless slogan for this year’s Sundance Film Festival. In the logo, the word “place” was artfully wrapped in the center of what looked like a lollipop — or was it a stop sign?


“Sugar” follows the fortunes of a young baseball hopeful (Algenis Perez Soto) from the Dominican Republic.
The place in question would be Park City, the small Utah ski town that has played host to what may be America’s premier film festival for more than a quarter of a century.

Why the so-called independent sector has settled in this cold, snowy place with middling screening facilities — rather than, say, Palm Springs, California — has more to do with circumstance than masochism.

But for all the grumbling, the sometimes grotesque contradictions between showcasing low-budget work and high-end sponsors’ swag — and let’s not forget the routinely uninspiring movies — Sundance continues to grow and prosper.

This year the word on the street was that the writers strike would fuel a buying spree as distributors looked to shore up supply (and more simply, because studio executives had nothing better to do). With a couple of days to go, that shopping splurge hasn’t materialized, and with the exception of “Hamlet 2” — a comedy starring Steve Coogan that sold to Focus Features for $10 million — the handful of deals that have been announced have been relatively modest in scale. Folks, there is a recession on.

Anyone looking for the next “Little Miss Sunshine” or “Juno” would have their work cut out for them. Christopher Bell’s whip-smart, funny and refreshingly honest “Bigger, Stronger, Faster” was the only documentary I saw with breakout commercial prospects (though Chris Waitt’s confessional “A Complete History of My Sexual Failures” cries out for a Judd Apatow-sponsored remake).

Even Morgan Spurlock’s “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?” met with a collective yawn as the “Super Size Me” provocateur succumbed to trite “people are people” homilies in his quixotic pursuit of world peace.

Probably the best of the quirky coming-of-age comedies that seem to have become the default mode for so many young American moviemakers was Jonathan Levine’s second film, “The Wackness,” in which Josh Peck trades marijuana for consultations with Ben Kingsley’s entertainingly unorthodox psychiatrist. Levine puts a new twist on first love and adolescent alienation, but the film’s central romance between the boy and shrink is both unacknowledged and unbelievable.

Kingsley also popped up (this time with an Eastern European accent) in Brad Anderson’s “Transsiberian,” a well-crafted riff on classic train thrillers such as “Murder on the Orient Express” and “The Lady Vanishes.” Emily Mortimer gives a striking performance as the wife of a good man who loses her moral compass on the long journey between Beijing and Moscow. (Woody Harrelson is the spouse, a Christian aid worker.) Anderson’s movie ultimately goes off the rails, but for two-thirds of its running time, it’s a compelling and provocative ride.

The two standouts in the dramatic competition took a markedly different approach, stripping away hand-me-down generic elements to immerse us in direct experience.

In “Sugar,” the “Half Nelson” team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck simply follow the fortunes of a young Dominican Republic baseball hopeful (Algenis Perez Soto) as he visits the States to try out for the fictional Kansas City Knights. This is an unusual sports movie that focuses on the progress of the player but pays virtually no attention to the team. For Sugar, his form is the be-all and end-all — if he fails to make the cut, it’s back to a life of poverty and struggle. Unless, of course, there’s a third way.

“Ballast” is even more pared down. Set in the Mississippi Delta, Lance Hammer’s subtle, rigorous debut examines the impact of a storekeeper’s suicide on his twin brother, estranged wife and son (all played by nonprofessionals). Shot in winter, in the handheld, naturalistic style of European filmmakers such as Ken Loach and the Dardenne brothers, “Ballast” is a tone poem that resonates with sadness, isolation and despair but ultimately reaches out toward a note of hope and compassion.

In these films, at any rate, place really does make a difference — and not just as a tourist background, as in Martin McDonagh’s flip, slick, Tarantino-esque festival opener, “In Bruges.” In “Ballast” and “Sugar,” situation determines who these people are, how they interact and what it is that enables them to endure. It’s just these insights into other people and other places that continue to make Sundance worth the trip.

Some of these films may make their way to a theater near you, so here are five Sundance films to look out for:

1. “Ballast”
Spare, subtle, evocative tone poem set in the desolation of the Mississippi Delta in midwinter.

2. “Bigger, Stronger, Faster”
Are steroids really a cheaters’ drug, or are they as American as Rocky Balboa? Dedicated gym rat Chris Bell weighs the evidence.

3. “Sugar”
A Dominican with a mean spike curve gets his shot at living the dream in the latest from the “Half Nelson” team.

4. “Savage Grace”
Julianne Moore gives a richly nuanced performance as a well-married social climber who unconsciously begets her own undoing.

5. “Megane (Glasses)”
Sweet relief: a contemplative comedy from Japan about the bliss of nothingness.

And here are three to avoid:

1. “What Just Happened?”
Barry Levinson’s insider Hollywood satire, based on producer Art Linson’s book, is a lame, limp and indulgent exercise in self-serving cynicism.


2. “Incendiary”
A misfire from “Bridget Jones’s Diary” director Sharon Maguire, mixing terror fears with chick-lit romance.

3. “Henry Poole Is Here”
In which Luke Wilson struggles to accept the miracle in his own backyard.

Writers, studios said to be closer

From the Los Angeles Times:

The two sides have narrowed the gap on issues between them, sources say.
By Richard Verrier and Claudia Eller, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
6:21 PM PST, January 28, 2008
Hollywood’s striking writers and major studios have moved closer to bridging their sharp divide after a week of talks, raising hopes that a new contract is within reach.The parties have narrowed the gap between them in some key areas, including how much writers should earn when films and TV shows are sold online, according to people close to the situation who insisted on anonymity because talks are confidential.

The discussions could still derail, as they did in early December, these people cautioned. The parties remain apart over how much writers should be paid when their shows are streamed online and union jurisdiction over original content created for the Internet. Moreover, relations between the two sides have been marred by mutual distrust and near loathing as positions hardened in both camps.

Nonetheless, there is guarded optimism on both sides that the outlines of a deal could be reached as early as this week, paving the way for formal negotiations.

Writers and studios alike face enormous pressure to cement an accord that would end the three-month-old strike that has cost thousands of workers their jobs and the Los Angeles economy about $1.6 billion by one estimate. If the work stoppage continues, it will upset program development for next season and spoil the Academy Awards show Feb. 24.

Talks revived last week after studios negotiated a contract with directors in quick order. The directors won terms that were superior to those offered in the writers’ previous round of negotiations.

A number of top writers, including several members of the Writers Guild of America’s negotiating committee, have viewed the directors pact as a flawed but workable model for their own agreement. They have strongly conveyed that message to guild leaders David Young and Patric M. Verrone.

Citing a “press blackout,” representatives of the Writers Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, declined to comment.

The guild’s board of directors, which ultimately has to approve any contract, met Monday to discuss the status of negotiations. One main area of concern is a flat residual payment of $1,200 that studios gave directors for streaming their shows in the first year.

Writers fear that such a rate could one day give networks greater incentive to rerun shows online where residuals would be a fraction of what producers currently are required to pay.

For example, writers currently earn about $20,000 when a one-hour drama is rerun on the network.

Additionally, writers have specific issues that need to be addressed that are unique to their craft. Chief among them is securing so-called separated rights to their projects, which guarantee writers additional payments and credit when their work migrates from one medium to another, such as a web show that spawns a TV pilot.

Talks are expected to resume today.

Keep the Comments a Coming!

I want to thank everyone for reading my blog. I didn’t expect such a great response so far!

But I’m having a problem with the comments you guys send me –

Sometimes when they end up in spam, I de-spam them (hoping it will be sent to another page) and they disappear. I’d like to post some, but don’t know what to do.

Do any of you know how to resolve this? Can you help me?

I appreciate the positive comments! Thank you!

Screen Actors Guild Winners

From the Associated Press:

Here’s the list of winners of the 14th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.   


Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, “There Will Be Blood.”  

Actress: Julie Christie, “Away From Her.”  

Supporting actor: Javier Bardem, “No Country for Old Men.”  

Supporting actress: Ruby Dee, “American Gangster.”  

Cast: “No Country for Old Men.”  

Stunt ensemble: “The Bourne Ultimatum.”  



Actor in a movie or miniseries: Kevin Kline, “As You Like It.”  

Actress in a movie or miniseries: Queen Latifah, “Life Support.”  

Actor in a drama series: James Gandolfini, “The Sopranos.”  

Actress in a drama series: Edie Falco, “The Sopranos.”  

Actor in a comedy series: Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock.”  

Actress in a comedy series: Tina Fey, “30 Rock.”  

Drama series cast: “The Sopranos.”  

Comedy series cast: “The Office.”  

Stunt ensemble: “24.”  


Lifetime Achievement: Charles Durning

Two Different Kinds of People

While at Sundance I started to realize there are several different types of people in this world – more specifically, upon more pondering, two types of people:

  • those full of self-pity versus those who invest tirelessly in charity
  • those who live on continuous diets versus those who indulge in delicious offerings
  • teachers versus students
  • savers versus spenders
  • those who get it versus those who don’t
  • those who complain about current situations versus those who see means to an end
  • those who live for each moment versus those who dread the tick-tock of a death countdown clock
  • those who become an adult versus those who remain stagnant in childhood
  • those who carelessly throw away life versus those who endanger themselves to protect life
  • those who label Starbucks as genius versus those who see it as the downfall to modern civilization
  • innovators and trailblazers versus criminals and thugs
  • those who get the joke the first time versus those who need it explained to them
  • those who live by the ten commandments versus those who them as a guideline
  • those who accept challenges versus those who whine about opportunity
  • those who smile with their eyes versus those who lie through their teeth
  • shallow and closeted versus cosmopolitan and sage
  • those who hold out for perfection versus those who realize we’re all human
  • those who challenge the mind versus those who remain ignorant
  • those who believe in destiny versus those who live in the moment
  • those who prompt change versus those who embrace change
  • those who gain knowledge through books versus those who get it through life experience
  • those who listen rather than hear
  • those who shun from recognition versus those who lead wedding toasts
  • those who drink Coke versus Pepsi
  • those who drive Ford versus Chevy
  • those who live sheltered lives versus those who grow up on the streets
  • those who live righteously versus those who thrive on despair
  • those who read instruction manuals versus those who let others do the work for them
  • those who value friendship versus those who breed incest and infidelity  

So which one are you?