Wednesday, March 26, 2003

This site is one of the funniest things I've seen lately. If you like the Department of Homeland Security, and being scared out of your mind, you'll get a kick out of this.

Monday, March 24, 2003

I've had far too much caffeine and sugar to be able to sleep anytime soon, so I might as well post my Oscar commentary now instead of tomorrow.

I watched the show with a large group of friends, something I haven't done in years. It was definitely the wildest Oscar ceremony I've ever seen, with the war dominating the thoughts, if not the words and actions, of most of the nominees.

Chris Cooper, winning Best Supporting Actor, got the first Iraq comment in at 8:58 (for those who had that time in the pool). I'm glad he won, though I thought the award would go to Christopher Walken instead.

I was surprised by Catherine Zeta-Jones winning for Chicago; I thought Meryl Streep had that award locked up.

I haven't seen Bowling for Columbine, but I'm glad Michael Moore won for it. However, the Academy had to know that by giving him the Oscar, they'd be opening up the podium for just the sort of acceptance speech/diatribe that he gave tonight. I heard more cheers than boos, but either way, it was too much. But it was quite the "Wow!" moment at our party. I'm sure that Gil Cates (the Oscar show producer) will make sure Moore's never invited back.

I cheered for Adrien Brody's winning Best Actor for The Pianist; it was an exceptional performance that completely deserved the Oscar. Daniel Day-Lewis and Jack Nicholson were amazing as well, but Brody went beyond either of them, adopting an accent, learning the piano, and starving himself for months. His speech was by far the best of the night. Aside from the sentiments he expressed extemporaneously, I'm always impressed when a winner can get Bill "Stick Man" Conti to stop the orchestra. And when else would he ever get the chance to make out with Halle Berry?

Nicole Kidman winning Best Actress wasn't much of a surprise. Despite what the press may have said, I think this was her year, much like 2001 was Julia Roberts' year, when she won for Erin Brockovich. I enjoyed her speech as well. Does anyone else think that her divorce from Tom Cruise was the best thing that could have happened to her career?

When the time came for the Oscar for Best Song, we all had the same question: what happened to the fifth song? Eminem had already said that he wouldn't show up at the awards to perform his song, but I assumed that someone else would step up, or that at least they'd show some form of a video of it. So it was unexpected when his song won. And who was the guy who accepted the Oscar? Apparently someone who knows Eminem well enough to call him "Marshall." Someone at our party pointed out that it will be hard for Eminem to say that the establishment doesn't like him. He's won Grammys and now an Oscar. They like you, Marshall, they really, really like you.

Roman Polanski winning Best Director had to be the shocker of the evening. I thought that the award would go to Martin Scorsese if it didn't go to Rob Marshall. Shows what I know. Again, The Pianist was a fantastic movie, and I certainly think Polanski deserved it, but it was a surprise to hear his name. Too bad that he couldn't be there to accept in person.

Finally, Chicago won Best Picture, so despite the twists and turns of the evening, all is right with the entertainment world tonight. The best picture of 2002 won the award it completely deserved. On a personal note, while I doubt I will win my Oscar pool at work, I did pick Adrien Brody to win, and I correctly guessed that the Best Picture winner would win six Oscars total.

I'd get into a fashion review, but there were no standout bad choices that I can remember right now, so the heck with that. I'll leave that for tomorrow's morning shows.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Liz is out of town again this weekend, visiting a friend in Atlanta, so once again I'm on my own for entertainment. I had to be up at 5 AM this morning for a test of my office's disaster recovery plan, so after that was all over I slept until 1 PM. After I got up, I sat around the apartment for a while, watching the NCAAs, then decided I had to ge out for a while. I had hoped to avoid all the war protests in my neighborhood, but I had no such luck. There were hundreds of protesters literally right outside my doorstep. I saw a large group of police in riot gear hustling two protesters down Macdougal Street; the crowd rumor was that they were burning the American flag. After that, I headed uptown and spent some time browsing in Best Buy and Barnes and Noble. On the way home two hours later, I saw more riot squad police jogging down 8th Street, as the helicopters continued to hover overhead. Checking NY1 News' web site, I read that the police are still encountering trouble dispersing the crowd. It's a beautiful day but I'm glad I decided to come home when I did. I'd hate to get arrested just for trying to get into my apartment.

Witnessing all of this makes me think about my opinion on the war. I'm still opposed to it, but not enough to take to the streets and shout about it. I support the protesters' right to assemble and demonstrate against the war; it's the right to this sort of protest that we're supposedly fighting to provide to the Iraqi people. As an American, I also support our troops and the job they're doing over there. I don't think we should have started this war, or even provoked it by our military buildup and strong-arming in the UN, but now that we've started shooting, we need to finish it as quickly as possible. I'm scared of the threat of terrorist reprisals, but I'm reminding myself that the September 11 attacks were not in response to any direct actions by the US, but in response to our way of life. Another attack could come because of the war, or could come even if we hadn't invaded Iraq. I don't think that there will necessarily be a connection between the two (though if there is another attack, the press and the government may try to influence popular opinion one way or the other).

My Final Four picks are Pitt, Maryland, Wake Forest, and Arizona, with Wake losing to the Wildcats in the final. I'm not sure how I came to these conclusions, but they made sense at the time. I've lost several Sweet 16 teams from my bracket already, including the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a piss-poor effort against Butler last night. I enjoyed watching the game with other State fans at a bar uptown, but the game just sucked. There's always next year, of course. And my team, Georgetown, is still in the NIT, so I've got that going for me. How long is it until football season?

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

So we're going to war in a few days. I'm tired of all the media discussion and the arguments of the various governments. I just hope it's over quickly with as little loss of life as possible. The nation is back on orange alert, so I made sure we had plenty of food and water. That's all I'm prepared to do in case of terrorist attack. Sealing our apartment with duct tape and plastic is virtually impossible, so I'm rolling the dice that any mischief that happens is conventional (and that it happens far away from me.)

I've watched some great movies lately. Last week we rented The Count of Monte Cristo which was one hell of a fun time. This movie has everything: a great story, good performances, swordplay, political intrigue, and lots of cleavage. It's the ultimate revenge fantasy played out in fantastic fashion. Liz didn't think much of the movie, but I liked it enough that I'm tempted to buy it. It's that good.

I just finished watching Children of Dune on the Sci-Fi Network. I enjoyed the network's production of Dune from 2000, but thought that the sets looked a little too fake and not up to the epic standards of the novel, or even the David Lynch version of the story. This new film, of the second and third books in Frank Herbert's saga, outdoes the original movie in production values, acting, and story. I didn't mind the changes to the story (the children are 17 instead of 10 years old, Wensicia is older than her sister Irulan, who was the first born in the novels, no metallic eyes for Duncan Idaho) and I thought that the screenwriter stayed close to the spirit of the novels, similar to the way Peter Jackson has stayed true to the spirit of the Lord of the Rings. Speaking of which, the director even cribbed some details from the end of Fellowship of the Ring at the end of Children, with slo-mo camera work for a main character's death, with dramatic music playing as another character brutally stabs an assassin. And Susan Sarandon tries hard, but her Wensicia comes across as more evil than I remember from the book. And my final complaint is that I only had a clue what was going on because I've read the books several times. Without that, I'd have been completely lost. Even so, I'm still not clear as to why Leto thinks the "Golden Path" is the only way out of the imperial crisis of the story, and the movie didn't help explain it at all. I hope they make a movie of God Emperor of Dune, but I'm not sure the world is ready for a fifteen-foot worm with a human face. And the last two novels are extremely sexual, so those might be even harder to adapt. Still, they've done excellent work so far, and I'm sure future endeavors will be well done and well received.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

I really enjoyed the three-day Novell class. Starting class at 8 AM wasn't much fun, but it also wasn't as bad as I thought it was. The course material was interesting enough that I didn't even notice the time. I took my laptop with me, and Novell was kind enough to provide a wireless network with Internet access for those who were inclined to use it, so I was able to keep up with work e-mail while following the class. Instead of the usual desktop PCs and monitors for class work, Novell provided four laptops per two-student group instead (and mine made five on my table). I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to not have to share my work area with another student so I didn't get bogged down on the lab work in conversation with a partner. I offered to talk to myself instead, but no one thought it was a good idea. Anyway, I'd definitely recommend the advanced, intensive Novell classes to someone else who was a real Novell geek like myself. I don't think someone who works with Novell products only part of the time would enjoy this type of class as much.

So it's back to the regular grind tomorrow. Ehh, I had a good run.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

I've got three days of intensive Novell NetWare 6 training starting tomorrow, so I might not be able to post much until Friday. (Not that it would be something new....) I hear bad things about these classes: they're extremely long (8 AM to 5 PM), breaks are infrequent, and during such breaks you are strongly urged to do lab work, and there's no Internet access. However, no one who's gone to these classes from my office has been a Novell guru, so I'm hoping to get the definitive experience here. If I don't get anything out of this class, I'm not about to recommend it or any like it to my co-workers. For the same price, I could be taking a five-day class counting toward my certification, and I'm sure that will factor into my impressions of this class.

On Saturday night, I accompanied Liz to a Tori Amos concert at Radio City Music Hall. I say "accompanied" because the music of Tori Amos is not something I would normally choose to listen to of my own accord. I'm familiar with some of her songs, but I'm definitely not a fan. My wife is, though, so I went with her to the concert. I was not alone: the audience consisted of groups of women and couples of women and their sensitive male significant others. I thought I saw a sympathetic look on the faces of some of the guys, as we recognized our collective predicament. Most of us would have preferred to be at any other event, but we were doing our coupled duty by being there. As far as I can tell, it was a good concert. The audience was most appreciative of Ms. Amos' performance, and she responded with two encores. Unfortunately, since it's not my kind of music, and the hall was warm, and I was digesting a large meal, I found myself dozing off during the show. That's quite a thing to consider, falling asleep at a rock concert. Now I need to find a concert or sporting event to which I can drag Liz, so she can return the favor.

Monday, March 03, 2003

It was Phil's Big Weekend At The Movies.

Since Liz was out of town, my entertainment options were limited. I won't go to restaurants or bars by myself, and I don't relish the idea of spending all my evenings at home with the cats, so that left me with the movies as a relatively cheap way to pass the time. Unintentionally, I went to the same multiplex three days in a row, and while it wasn't all bad, I don't want to be a regular at the AMC Empire in Times Square. So I won't be going back there for a few weeks. Anyway, here are my reviews of the two new movies I saw, and a few comments on the movie that I saw for the third time.

Friday night: Frida, starring Oscar nominee Salma Hayek --

Frida was better than I expected from the reviews. Hayek and Alfred Molina are excellent as the leads, and the director does a great job integrating Kahlo's artwork into the movie. I don't feel like I have the complete picture of Kahlo's life after seeing this movie, but I've got a decent idea. Hayek's Oscar nod for this role is well deserved, but even though the Academy tends to like roles where the actor has an affliction or handicap, she's not going to beat Nicole Kidman.

Saturday night: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers --

I'm a geek, so I had to see this film one more time in the theater. The orcs still lose the battle of Helm's Deep if you see it more than once, and I didn't see anything new this time around. But I did notice more of the film's emotion than on the previous two viewings. The theater got a little dusty when Theoden visited his son's grave. I think that Arwen's departure from Rivendell can be seen ambiguously; we're led to believe that she's leaving Middle-earth, but I think we'll find out in Return of the King that she's defied her father and gone to Gondor instead. Since that book ends with their marriage, unless there's a radical departure from Tolkien's story, she's got to end up there anyway. Besides, she has to bring Aragorn his sword (I'm still upset that they didn't give him a re-forged Narsil before the Fellowship left Rivendell). Also, at one point in TTT, Aragorn embraces Arwen and caresses her ears with his fingers. I mentioned this to Jess, and she suggested that he has a fetish. Finally, at one point in TTT when Gollum is screaming and howling, I wanted to turn to someone else and say, in my best Graham Chapman voice, "What an eccentric performance!" But no one I knew was there to hear my witty remarks.

Sunday afternoon: The Pianist, starring Oscar nominee Adrien Brody --

I've seen several movies about the Holocaust, and I knew I wasn't ever going to be in the mood to see another one. And for the first half of this movie, I questioned my need to see any of the events depicted. We know that the Germans are going to humiliate the Jews in the streets. Then they're going to start shooting them randomly. And now they're loading them onto trains for Treblinka. Having seen all of these things in Schindler's List and other movies I saw back in Sunday school (yes, Jews have Sunday school, at least in my community growing up), I knew exactly what was going to happen before it showed up on the screen. But then the movie takes a different turn, as the lead character avoids Treblinka and ends up hiding out in a series of apartments in Warsaw, watching through window cracks events like the ghetto uprising and the eventual defeat of the Germans. Adrien Brody is fantastic as the pianist who goes from playing on the radio to combing through bombed-out buildings for scraps of food. His performance is every bit as good as Daniel Day-Lewis' in Gangs of New York or Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt. But I think an Oscar for him would be an upset; Day-Lewis is the clear favorite here.

I'll write an Oscar picks entry in a few weeks. Clearly that's something much on my mind at this time of the year, and unusually enough I've had the chance to see most of the nominated films and roles of 2002. Liz and I aren't doing our usual Oscar picks bet this year, so I need some way to express my views on the nominees. Damn, I'm excited about writing that one.