Uneven Ellen Can’t Ruin Surprising Oscars

When you’re right, you’re right.  As predicted by this website it ended up being Martin Scorsese’s night.  The long suffering Italian-American master finally snagged the top two prizes at the Academy Awards.  His highly acclaimed blockbuster, The Departed (Richard Roeper’s favourite movie of 2006), was named Best Picture and Scorsese, himself, after many disappointing evenings, finally took home the trophy for Best Director.  The film also won for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing.  It was the biggest winner of the night with 4 Oscars.
 
It was the first time in years that there wasn’t a sure bet for the top film of the year.  (In The Sunday Sun, all four critics selected four different titles to win.)  Many expected either Babel or the summer sleeper Little Miss Sunshine to win the top prize.  After screwing up last year’s Best Picture prediction it was nice to finally get one absolutely dead-on.  Just like Scorsese and company, I had a wonderful night.  For the third, consecutive year, I won the family Oscar pool.  (More on that shortly.)
 
Also unsurprising were the winners for Best Actor and Actress.  The incredibly elegant and good-natured Helen Mirren won for her portrayal of Elizabeth Windsor in The Queen, the sole award for that movie.  Not only did she look beautiful she delivered a nice speech with some funny moments.  Forest Whitaker redeemed himself at the podium (after blowing it big time at the Golden Globes) when he waxed eloquent during his own moment basking in the glory of his victory for playing the infamous Idi Amin in The Last King Of Scotland.  Smartly, he prepared a short, moving tribute to passionate dreamers and was truly grateful for being voted the best.  I was happy to see him win.  He’s been good in movies for so long it was terrific to see him get singled out by the Hollywood elite.
 
Even though she needlessly thanked God (twice), Jennifer Hudson was also a gracious winner taking the Best Supporting Actress prize.  She looked great and seemed completely overwhelmed by all the success she’s accumulated since the Christmas Day release of Dreamgirls.  I liked her speech very much where she singled out her grandmother, also a singer, who never got to enjoy the kind of career the young Hudson is already enjoying.  The only other prize that movie won was for Best Sound Mixing. 
 
In perhaps the most stunning upset of the evening, 73-year-old Alan Arkin, a previous nominee for Best Actor twice in the 1960s, garnered Best Supporting Actor playing the drug addicted patriarch of a dysfunctional family in Little Miss Sunshine.  All I could think about in that moment was how Hollywood must loath Eddie Murphy.  Maybe it was payback for Norbit.  We’ll never know.
 
Also shocking was Melissa Etheridge’s win for Best Original Song, the second year in a row there’s been an upset.  (Remember last year’s winner, It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp?)  Despite having 3 nominations in the category, Dreamgirls was completely shut out.  Etheridge, who looks uncannily like Hillary Clinton these days, won for writing and performing I Need To Wake Up for An Inconvenient Truth.  As expected, that movie took home Best Documentary Feature, and no, Al Gore, the star of the film, didn’t announce his intention to run for the Presidency next year.  However, with an admiring Leonardo DiCaprio by his side earlier in the evening, he proved to be a good sport by starting to make the announcement before being humourously cut off by the orchestra.  He seemed to enjoy host Ellen DeGeneres’ monologue quip about how he really won the 2000 election.
 
Also a surprise was Happy Feet’s triumph in the Best Animated Feature category.  Cars appeared to be the runaway favourite but that conventional wisdom proved to be false.  The other shocker was in the Best Foreign Language Film category.  The expected favourite, Pan’s Labyrinth (which won 3 trophies for Art Direction, Make-Up and Cinematography), was upset by The Lives Of Others, a well reviewed German film.
 
For the third year in a row, I won the family Oscar pool, something no one has been able to achieve previously.  Just like last year, I got 16 out of 24 correct.  This is my 8th victory overall.  It was a close race from the get go with my grandmother leading for much of the evening until the latter stages when I managed to pass her.  She ended up with 14 out of 24, a respectable total.  My mother finished third with 13 out of 24, also pretty good.  But, in one of the most disgraceful performances in the 15-year history of this betting pool, my father only managed to get one category right.  That would be the Best Animated Short Oscar which was awarded to The National Film Board Of Canada for their film, The Danish Poet.  Going against everybody else’s choices proved a disasterous decision.  My father now has two records with regards to this pool.  He has the most correct guesses in a single year (19 out of 24 in 2004) and the lowest amount in a single year (1 for 24 this year).  It’s likely both records will not be broken any time soon.
 
As for the show itself, as anticipated, Ellen DeGeneres was a hit-and-miss host, too safe and edgeless to really cause an impact.  She seemed funnier off the stage doing those impromptu, comic bits with Clint Eastwood (she had her picture taken with him) and Martin Scorsese (she handed him a script that she described “as a cross between Goodfellas and Big Momma’s House:  Goodmommas.”) than she did on.
 
Much funnier were Will Ferrell (he’s always great), Jack Black (ditto) and Oscar nominee John C. Reilly who did a hilarious song about how comedians rarely get their due at The Oscars.  At one point, Black and Ferrell threatened to beat the shit out of some of the nominees like Leonardo DiCaprio (who seemed greatly amused by it all), with the exceptions of Mark Wahlberg (who Farrell conceded was “bad ass” and “very talented”) and Helen Mirren (who seem flattered by the positive attention sent her way).
 
Also good was the 60-second, rapid fire speech by the Motion Picture Academy President who made Scorsese sound like a slow talker by comparison.  It was funny and surprisingly cool.  Great use of visuals during that pre-taped bit.
 
Other observations: 
 
Reese Witherspoon was the best dressed and the hottest looking broad in the Kodak Theatre.  (How and why Ryan Phillippe fucked up this relationship will forever remain a mystery to me.)
 
Philip Seymour Hoffman should comb his hair before being seen in public.
 
Jack Nicholson couldn’t be bothered to stand for the winners of Best Documentary Feature.  He wasn’t the only one but it seemed out of place when practically everyone else did rise to their feet.
 
The original “Three Amigos” – Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg – were loose and funny during their time presenting the Best Director Oscar.  It was a very telling sign when they came out on stage.
 
When Forest Whitaker won for Best Actor, both Leonardo DiCaprio and Ryan Gosling, his fellow nominees, graciously and movingly rose to their feet to applaud his victory.  That was a wonderful moment.  Everybody else should’ve risen, too.
 
Jennifer Hudson had lots of jiggle in her wiggle during her wonderful performance when members of the Dreamgirls cast performed the three nominated songs.  (Her breasts were playfully dancing as she moved.  Me likey.)  Beyonce Knowles, who wasn’t nominated for Best Actress, seemed to force her vocals at times, especially during Listen.  Hudson proved once and for all that she’s the better singer.
 
Guillermo Del Toro, the director of Pan’s Labyrinth, looks like a Mexican Bubbles.
 
Celine Dion looked the best she’s ever looked.  She finally gained some weight and had a decent head of hair, for once.  I think she’s a great character and one of the more sincere performers out there.  I like her eccentric moments, too.
 
Gwyneth Paltrow also looked beautiful.  She, too, looks better with a little more weight on her.
 
Tom Hanks got off a funny, impromptu quip backstage just before a commercial break.  It was appropriately goofy.  People forget that this highly respected dramatic actor is extremely funny when he wants to be.
 
Finally, how about that really cool dance troupe that contorted their bodies into cool objects like the gun from The Departed, the poster image from Snakes On A Plane and the high heel from The Devil Wears Prada, among others?  They were simply amazing.
 
Here’s the complete list of winners:
 
BEST PICTURE – THE DEPARTED
 
BEST DIRECTOR – Martin Scorsese (THE DEPARTED)
 
BEST ACTOR – Forest Whitaker (THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND)
 
BEST ACTRESS – Helen Mirren (THE QUEEN)
 
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Alan Arkin (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE)
 
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Jennifer Hudson (DREAMGIRLS)
 
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – HAPPY FEET
 
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
 
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – THE LIVES OF OTHERS (Germany)
 
BEST ORIGINAL SONG – I Need To Wake Up (AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH)
 
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – BABEL
 
BEST ART DIRECTION – PAN’S LABYRINTH
 
BEST MAKE-UP – PAN’S LABYRINTH
 
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – PAN’S LABYRINTH
 
BEST FILM EDITING – THE DEPARTED
 
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
 
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – THE DEPARTED
 
BEST SOUND MIXING – DREAMGIRLS
 
BEST SOUND EFFECTS EDITING – LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
 
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST
 
BEST COSTUME DESIGN – MARIE ANTOINETTE
 
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – WEST BANK STORY
 
BEST ANIMATED SHORT – THE DANISH POET
 
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – THE BLOOD OF YINGZHOU DISTRICT
 
 
Special Oscars
 
JEAN HERSHOLT AWARD – Sherry Lansing
 
HONOURARY OSCAR – Film Composer Ennio Morricone
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 26, 2007
2:38 a.m.
Advertisements
Published in: on February 26, 2007 at 2:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Blog Clean-Up Update And Explaining The New Category Policy

You may have noticed some recent changes to this website.  An explanation about that is long overdue, so here goes.
 
When The Writings Of Dennis Earl began very much in earnest just over a year ago it was firmly established as a work in progress.  For some unknown reason, it was decided that every blog entry would end with far too many returns.  The result:  a huge, gaping, empty space at the end of all these early entries.  Eventually, it became clear how to properly present these pieces.  I am happy to announce that every single piece of writing on this site looks the way it should.  The era of "extra space" is over.
 
If you’ve ever dipped into the growing archives here you’ve probably noticed some alarming things.  Sentences crashing into each other; bizarre, unexplainable fonts; paragraphs erroneously glued together.  Well, the good news is that after several days of going over every single piece on this website everything has been corrected, well, as much as can be corrected. 
 
Why were all these things happening?  I’m not quite sure.  It was extraordinarily frustrating to see and after a while, I couldn’t be lazy about it anymore.  It just had to be fixed.  With the website’s readership growing every week it made absolutely no sense to leave things as is.  Thankfully, when you now check out the older pieces there won’t be any problems.  The presentation has improved immensely.
 
And that brings me to the last thing:  blog categories.  Windows Live Spaces allows you to compartmentalize your thoughts in appropriate areas.  For a while now, I’ve been obsessing about where to put all of my writings.  I had been noticing over the last, several months that poor choices were being made.  This last week, while I was fixing the presentation of a number of entries, I made some necessary changes with regards to the categories.
 
You may have noticed that the Entertainment, Books and Music sections have disappeared from the category list.  Let’s start with Entertainment.  That’s a Windows Live creation.  For me, it’s too generic and broad to use anymore.  Instead, I’ve decided to split up the numerous types of entertainment into separate, distinct categories. 
 
I’ve established a TV category which will now contain reviews of shows, opinions and Television-related news, where appropriate.  The recent piece on TV Critic Bill Brioux’s return to writing (he’s freelancing with The Canadian Press) and his short film, Puck Soup (which is competing in the On The Lot competition), is rightly filed in this section.
 
Besides the long-established Movie Reviews section I’ve added a separate Movies area.  This is where you’ll find pieces like "Are Director’s Cuts Necessary?" and "Why Widescreen Is Better Than Full Screen".  Essentially, it’s where you can access movie-related entries that don’t involve proper film criticism.
 
Also new is the Academy Awards section.  Anything related to this long-running annual tradition, whether we’re talking about predictions, the yearly broadcast or even the history of the awards themselves, will go here.
 
After much contemplation the Books section has been dropped in favour of a new category called Newspapers, Books & Magazines.  This is where you’ll find my rave review of the Kurt Cobain biography, Heavier Than Heaven, my two-part series on juicy quotes from the defunct Inside Hollywood magazine and Torstar Wants You.  Opinion, news and history is the focus here.
 
The most popular material on this website, without question, is the growing list of articles and opinions about Sun Media.  Since naming the company one of last year’s Losers Of The Year, lots of interesting developments have been noted here.  Pieces like "Bill Brioux Responds" and "Why Sun Media Must Divorce Quebecor Or Die" are easily some of the most accessed entries on the subject.  I decided to put all that material in one section.  It’s called, appropriately enough, Sun Media/Sun TV.  Whenever something is addressed regarding this company, this is where it will be filed.
 
Finally, an explanation is needed for the removal of the Music section.  I’ve decided to separate my music articles into two new and distinct categories:  the self-explanatory Music Reviews (mostly opinions on CDs old and new) and the equally straightforward Music History.  I was hoping to add another music-related section for Iggy Pop but unfortunately, I can’t add any more new categories.  So, my brief 25th Anniversary assessment of the Lust For Life album is in the Reviews section and Induct Iggy – Twice is ready to be accessed in the History area.  More Iggy stuff is in the works but I have no idea when it will be ready for posting.
 
All the other categories – Poetry, Fiction, Website Announcements, Games, Computers And Internet, Sports (including Pro Wrestling) and Personal History – are unaffected by the recent renovations, with one notable exception.
 
The Commentary area will now focus exclusively on politics and any entertainment-related opinions (like "Lindsay Lohan’s Real Problem") that don’t quite fit in the other categories.  A number of pieces from this section have been reposted under different category names.  That’s why it’s a much smaller section now.  I hope this won’t be an inconvenience for returning readers already accustomed to the way things used to be.  As I said, these changes were long overdue and now that they’ve been completed, I can get back to writing new material.
 
That’s the latest.  Back with more postings soon.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, February 25, 2007
4:15 p.m.
Published in: on February 25, 2007 at 4:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bill Brioux On The Lot?

American broadcasters have searched high and low for the next great singer, the next top model, and even the next great boxing champion.  Now, they’re looking for the next big filmmaker.  Mark Burnett, the executive producer of Survivor & The Amazing Race, and Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg are the Hollywood bigwigs putting their considerable muscle behind On The Lot.  You may have seen a promo for the show on CTV.  (You know, the one with that guy on the cellphone walking through a set?  They’ve already aired it many times.  You can’t miss it.)
 
Combining elements of Survivor, American Idol and Project Greenlight, the premise, according to thelot.com, the show’s official website, is this:  16 finalists, all budding Hitchcocks from around the world (who’ve yet to be officially selected, by the way), will each create short movies from a different genre each week.  Like Idol, their work will be scrutinized by a small group of judges (movie exec, critic, rotating selection of mostly directors) as well as the home audience.  Ultimately, the weekly votes from the public will determine who goes on and who goes home.  The winner receives a development deal with Dreamworks Studios.  Yeah, there’s no promise of an actual directing gig unlike HBO’s Greenlight where viewers witnessed an unknown moviemaker attempting to make his first independent movie after beating out 10,000 other hopefuls.
 
The deadline to enter this competition was February 16th so if you still wanted to participate, unfortunately, you’ve missed your chance. However, if you check out the official website you can see all the accepted entries from contestants who are currently in the running.  All you need is the latest version of Adobe Flash Player (#9 is the latest one but the movies will play on #8) and a decent Internet connection (thelot.com recommends broadband “with at least 500” or more “Kbps for the best viewing experience”).  If you also have Windows 2000 or higher (the site recommends the new Vista or the slightly older XP), load times should be quick and playback should be smooth.
 
But if you’re like me and possess an older, slower computer with a dial-up connection, grab a snack and make some coffee.  You’ll be waiting a while.  Instead of putting up with the starts and stops of a slow-loading entry, wait until the whole thing loads.  Then, you can watch a film as many times as you like without annoying interruptions for “buffering”.
 
The vast majority of contestants are unknown to the public-at-large with one very notable exception.
 
A few hours ago, I received an unusual message from a familiar Canadian.  I was directed to check out a short film this person had playing on thelot.com.  Curious, I had to see it.
 
Who sent the message?  Would you believe Bill Brioux?
 
It’s true.  The former Toronto Sun TV Critic is one of the many who’ve entered shorts in this competition.  Despite landing another job with The Canadian Press (he’s thankfully back on the TV beat submitting weekly columns), he’s got a lot of idle time.  Just for fun, he submitted a silent film he made in his early 20s with his University Of Toronto pals way back in 1980. 
 
It’s called Puck Soup (a goof on the old Marx Brothers’ film, Duck Soup) and it’s basically two hockey players – one a Toronto Make BeLeaf, the other a Chicago Black Hawk – competing for what looks like a bowling trophy.  Bill was the director, co-writer and cameraman.  (He also has a small role playing a Make BeLeaf goalie.  Like Raycroft, he stinks at the shoot-out.  However, he does manage a quick, hilarious Groucho Marx impression during the opening titles.  I’m happy to report that alarming moustache isn’t real.)  There are four areas of competition:  shooting, fighting, scoring and goal scoring.  The entire movie was filmed in the Central Arena in Etobicoke, Ontario.  (To screen Bill’s entry, click here.)
 
There’s no dialogue, just some sound effects and a musical accompaniment that Bill added after digitizing the original footage he shot on an old Bolex 16mm camera.  (For the new sound, he used software made by Pinnacle Systems.) 
 
The film runs a little over 4 minutes and is preceded by a new intro Bill taped in the basement of his Toronto home.  (His teenage daughter, Katie, shot the 43-second opening.  This was a last-minute rule change, by the way.  Originally, intros were not necessary.)  Pay close attention to the book he’s holding at the start.  It’s Mark Burnett’s “Jump In! Even If You Don’t Know How To Swim” which he promptly throws away.  Why did Bill do that?  “I goofed on Burnett’s book in the intro just because I had a copy and thought it would make somebody laugh.”  (I wondered if that bit helped get his film accepted.)
 
Just before he throws to the movie, he walks over to a giant Three Stooges prop.  Where did that come from?
 
“The Three Stooges prop used to stand behind my desk at work at The Sun.  It was one of the few things I brought [home] with me.  It was given to a former Sun editor and I grabbed it at an in-house auction.”
 
So far, Puck Soup has been screened about 130 times and every posted comment has been surprisingly positive.  (“[P]eople seem to like hockey and comedy and the silent comedy antics are at least different from the usual art house submissions.”)  So, why did Bill, a respected TV writer who, believe it or not, once beat Oscar-nominee Atom Egoyan at the 1982 CBC Telefest competition with another comedy called Varsity Blues, jump into this?
 
“I submitted the film thinking I could at least write about how films were submitted from Canada when the time came to report on On The Lot (which launches on CTV and Fox in May).”  (Once the program begins airing, there will be two episodes airing every week.  A competition show and an elimination show, not unlike the latter stages of Idol.)
 
Bill hopes his film will survive at least to the next round.  He noted that “the more traffic and the more hits and positive reviews I can generate…the better my chances are of sneaking into another round.  It is all in fun and I do have too much time on my hands right now, so, what the hell.”
 
According to the FAQ of thelot.com, Bill and all the other filmmakers will find out at the end of this month, just a matter of days (not counting possible delays) whether or not they’ve made it to the next phase of the contest.  To make up your own mind about Puck Soup, click here.  To make a comment about Bill’s film, you need to be a member of The Lot’s “Community”.  No worries.  Joining is free.
 
If you want to read Bill’s recent work for The Canadian Press, check out the following links:
 
 
 
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, February 24, 2007
2:10 a.m.
 
UPDATE:  The Toronto Sun Family Blog has more on Bill.  Click here to read the entertaining story.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, February 24, 2007
12:30 p.m.
Published in: on February 24, 2007 at 2:16 am  Leave a Comment  

The Cave

Real cave diving has got to be way more interesting than this.  Surely, there’s more to it than checking the reliability of equipment and endless swimming.  Surely, interesting people get involved in these risky expeditions.  Surely, they find some cool stuff never before discovered by man.  Surely, these professionals never have to worry about vanquishing generic monsters with wings.
 
Sadly, the profession is given an unflattering image in The Cave, a dreadfully boring and unscary creature feature that came and went two summers ago.  When you learn how poorly this film performed with audiences and critics, it gives you hope for the future.
 
The movie opens in the mid-70s.  A small group of unidentified men trespass a restricted area of Romania’s Carpathian Mountains in order to explore a particular cave.  We have no clue what exactly they’re looking for (some kind of valuable antique?) but they end up getting caved in and we never hear from them again.
 
30 years later, a bland, ragtag group of professional divers are recruited for an important mission.  They’ve been assigned the unenviable task of exploring that exact same cave in Romania.  Why?  The movie, incredibly, doesn’t exactly come right out and say it.  But if you read the plot synopsis on the back of the DVD jewel case, you’ll learn that it’s all about finding a new ecosystem.  Sounds good but the screenwriters are so disinterested with this idea that it’s barely explained to the audience in the movie.  They’re also completely bored with the idea of actually developing the characters.  With the exception of one of the scientists (played by the always fetching Lena Headey who had more to work with in Mrs. Dalloway), none of the performers register.
 
Cole Hauser plays Jack, the head diver.  His younger brother, Tyler (Eddie Cibrian), doesn’t always follow his rules like coming up to the surface when he calls "time".  (What a badass.)  Also along for the uneventful ride are Morris Chestnut, who phones in his performance, and lovely Piper Perabo, playing the obligatory jockette character.  Everybody looks like they never want to be in water ever again.
 
As the expedition progresses, there’s a snag.  A first scout, Briggs (Rick Ravanello), is sent in to check things out.  After swimming for about two and a half miles, he transmits a live report via fiber optic technology in a dry area of the vast cave but the cable is mysteriously cut during his temporary broadcast which motivates the rest of the divers to find him and make the necessary repairs.
 
After they arrive, they run into more problems.  Odd chirping noises reverberate throughout the cave.  They’re not alone.  Soon, members of the team either get bit or are snatched out of thin air by something we can’t quite make out.  In fact, one of the biggest frustrations of this movie is how poorly photographed it is.  It’s very hard to follow the action at times.  The constant quick cutting during the "horrific" moments add to the disorientation and not in a good way.  Also not helpful is the complete lack of suspense.  There’s absolutely no reason to care what happens.
 
Jack slowly starts to change after being bit by some cheap looking special effect.  The result:  his hearing improves but his acting doesn’t.  Just like in Alien, the team is being stalked by enormous creatures with Baba Booey-like teeth who exist solely because of cross-breeding.  Lena Headey’s character helpfully informs us that this has occurred because parasites need to find a way to survive in this cave, so they chomp on any living thing hoping to extend its golden years transforming the host into something more powerful and adaptable.  Or something like that.
 
The Cave is a disaster.  It’s terribly unoriginal.  (Besides ripping off the Alien franchise, they even steal from Predator.)  It’s extremely uninteresting.  The few attempts at humour are pitiful and the ending is completely ridiculous.  Without giving anything away, the filmmakers end on an unresolved note.  Hopefully, that collective sound of indifference they heard two years ago will convince them to abandon the idea of making a follow-up.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, February 22, 2007
1:47 a.m.
Published in: on February 22, 2007 at 1:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Sun Media’s New “Point Of View” Policy

Readers of The Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Calgary Sun, Edmonton Sun, Winnipeg Sun and The London Free Press were in for a real surprise this past Tuesday.  Instead of seeing the latest Editorial in its opinion sections, there was an announcement by National Comment Editor, Paul Berton.  In a piece entitled “New look editorials a sign of the times”, Berton announced the end of an era.  There would be no more unsigned Editorials in any of the Sun Media papers, effective immediately.  Instead, there would be “Points Of View” which would be signed so that readers would know who was representing the newspaper’s position on any given day.  (To read the entire article, click here.)
 
John Cosway of The Toronto Sun Family Blog was not pleased with the change.  On Valentine’s Day, the day after Berton’s article was published, he posted an entry on the subject.  He offered a number of interesting, rhetorical questions.  Among them:
 
“…isn’t a signed editorial just another opinion piece best suited for the op-ed page or in columns found throughout the newspaper?”
 
“Will Toronto Sun editorials no longer speak on behalf of the newspaper at election time, or as a united voice on major issues in the community?”
 
“Will an individual editorial writer at the pro-Conservative Toronto Sun be allowed to endorse an NDP candidate running in a provincial or federal election?  Or will individual editorial writers be restricted to comment that reflects only the opinion of the newspaper’s owners?”
 
“Do the majority of Toronto Sun readers want editorials that focus on community events in Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, Winnipeg etc.?”
 
Personally, I’ve never been a fan of unsigned editorials or editorials in general.  While I understand and respect John’s views on this (and there are others who wholeheartedly agree), The Toronto Sun Editorial Board has always driven me nuts.  They’ve twice endorsed for President a man who thinks there are 30 days in February.  Their comment on The Abu Ghraib scandal?  “…what’s done is done.”  They’ve yet to reconsider their misguided pro-war positions regarding Afghanistan and Iraq.  They criticized John Kerry’s “botched joke”, falsely noting that he was criticizing the American military in Iraq, when he was really trying to slam President Bush.  (Seriously, why would a veteran of The Vietnam War go out of his way to mock his fellow soldiers?)  They made a big deal out of the non-story that was Whitewater, even though there was never any evidence of wrongdoing.  (If my memory is good, The Clintons were exonerated no less than 5 times.)  And on and on and on.
 
To me, editorials represent groupthink.  I prefer individual opinions.  In the last 6 years, an Eric Margolis column has proved to be more prescient and credible than numerous Toronto Sun Editorials.
 
That being said, Quebecor’s decision to stop publishing unsigned Editorials and replace them with signed “Points Of View” is puzzling.  If all they wanted to do was establish a reversal of longstanding policy, why did they lose the “Editorial” description altogether?  Using the phrase “Point Of View” implies an individual opinion, not the position of the newspaper.  While I’ve never understood the idea of a small group of people representing the views of an entire publication that employs hundreds, at least when I see an unsigned editorial there is an awareness of unified opinion representative of a newspaper’s editorial board.  That has been lost forever, thanks to Quebecor’s sudden change of policy.
 
Furthermore, Quebecer appears to be disinterested in embracing local editorial content.  For instance, this February 17 Editorial – “It’s time to stamp out Canada Post”, written by Edmonton Sun Comment Page Editor, Mike Jenkinson – appeared in all The Sun papers and The London Free Press that same day.  While this hasn’t happened every day since the policy change, how long will it be before local editorial views become obsolete?  Or are we going to see a mix of national editorials that will appear in all the Sun Media dailies on some days and local editorials exclusive to specific markets on others?
 
One thing is for certain.  Fiercely loyal readers and Sun employees are slowly losing their local newspapers.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, February 18, 2007
2:38 p.m.
Published in: on February 18, 2007 at 2:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Progress Report

With the first anniversary of The Writings Of Dennis Earl just around the corner, it’s time to check on its progress.
 
As of right now, this website has accumulated 5920 hits.  (A month ago, there were over 4000 hits.  Already, the number 6000 is on the horizon.  This is a wonderful sign.)  There have been 2 posted comments and a number of personal, email messages, most of which have been sent by people who are or used to be professional journalists.  (I even heard from the manager of Chocolate Bunnies From Hell.  Yep, they still exist.)  A number of former and current Sun Media columnists have gotten in touch with me to sound off on my Toronto Sun pieces.  Thankfully, most of the feedback has been positive, with a couple of notable exceptions.  All in all, something remarkable has happened to this website.  It’s being read by more and more people.  The most frightening realization?  Sun staffers visit this site often.  Pretty amazing.
 
I haven’t been able to sell a book yet but certain entries on the list have been clicked 15 times.  What will it take to convince readers to purchase one of the titles?  I still don’t know.  More books should be added soon.
 
Getting back to The Toronto Sun for a second, there’s been a change with regards to categorization.  All of my blog entries are organized under particular titles:  Movie Reviews, Website Announcements, Personal History, etc.  A lot of the Sun Media and Sun TV coverage has normally been filed under Commentary.  Not any more.  If you look at my list of categories, you’ll notice a new entry:  Sun Media/Sun TV.  From now on, whenever I write about Quebecor and its Sun properties, those entries will be filed under Sun Media/Sun TV.  Unfortunately, not everything Sun-related can be seen there.  In instances where I talk about a variety of subjects of which The Sun is but one area of discussion, you’ll likely find those kinds of entries in the Commentary section.  (The Loser Of The Year mention of Sun Media is a good example of that.)  In the future, I hope to stick with one topic at a time.  That way, the filing process will be easier.
 
I’ve been thinking about making other category-related changes.  Certain pieces have been misfiled under the wrong categories.  Thankfully, I’m only talking about a small number of writings.  At some point, those particular pieces will be reposted with the right category name.  There are a couple of commentaries related to a couple of Toronto Sun columnists that can be currently accessed in the Commentary section of this website.  I’m thinking about moving them over to Sun Media/Sun TV so all that stuff can be filed in one place.
 
Sticking with the Blog for a minute, if you’ve ever poured into the archives here you may have noticed some weird things.  Some of the older pieces have too many returns at the end.  Others look a little squished.  Plus, my signature sign-off (name, location, date, time) isn’t always separated from the text, something that’s been happening in a lot of entries.  I’ve been slowly trying to resolve these issues and will continue to do so until everything looks ok.  I’m not expecting perfection but presentation means everything and I want my writing to be showcased properly.
 
In my last website update, I laid out what I hoped to accomplish in the short term.  I’ve since pitched a couple of entertainment-related story ideas to The Hamilton Spectator that haven’t attracted much interest.  (I’m going to try again shortly.)  I’ve been slowly going through my old, unpublished book of movie reviews and have been able to rework a couple of pieces already for this site.  (Expect more on here as we head into the spring.)  And I managed to put together my Oscar predictions for this year’s ceremony.  I ended up not writing as much as I thought I would.  Regardless, I hope to win my family pool again.  I’m hoping for a 3-peat.
 
The site will continue to feature a mix of old and new material covering various subjects.  I invite you to return often because one visit isn’t nearly enough.  There’s just so much writing for you to enjoy you’ll want to return again and again.  And more pieces are being added all the time.
 
Thanks again for stopping by.  More postings are coming soon.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, February 18, 2007
1:58 a.m.
Published in: on February 18, 2007 at 2:01 am  Leave a Comment  

The Silence Of The Lambs

This movie is now officially 16 years old.  It opened on a Thursday, February 14th, 1991 and was one of the most talked about films that year.  Gene Siskel famously panned it.  In 1992, it became the third film to win the 5 major prizes at The Academy Awards – Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Adapted Screenplay and Director.  (It Happened One Night and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest were the others.)  Since its blockbuster release it has seeped into the consciousness of popular culture the world over.  It has spawned a sequel, a remake and a recent prequel.
 
The first time I saw The Silence Of The Lambs was in the summer of 1991, not too long after I read the original novel.  (Incredibly, it was still being exhibited in cinemas across North America.)  It was very late at night in an American hotel room.  The film was available on a pay-per-view basis, only a month before its home video debut.  My mom was going to watch it with me but she dozed off.  She woke up wondering when the movie was going to start.  By that point, it had just ended.  (We were in The States for some dance competition.  She was a teacher and she had some students competing in The Showstoppers event down in South Carolina.)  My family eventually screened it when they rented it later in the year.  I believe I watched it with them.
 
As I mentioned in my previous posting, this was the last film I wrote about for my unseen collection of reviews entitled The Movie Critic: Book One.  Why did I stop?  Several reasons:  The Student Council debacle, the pressure to do well in my last year of high school and general depression.  Like the review of Batman Returns, this assessment of Lambs has never seen the light of day.
 
I’ve seen the film at least 4 times since 1991.  One of my oldest friends screened the movie at his house either in 1992 or 1993 but it was an awful experience.  (This was my third time seeing it.)  I remember there were these two yappy broads who wouldn’t shut up while the movie was playing.  They had to be told to shut their collective cakeholes which, thankfully, they did.  Unfortunately, once someone starts going on and on during a screening I get all George Costanza inside and get very annoyed.  I can’t enjoy a movie unless I can hear myself think all the way through.
 
The last time I screened the movie had to be in March 1993, which inspired this review.  Like Batman Returns, it required a massive rewrite.
 
I never understood why they made more Hannibal Lecter movies.  With the exception of Manhunter, which was the first movie in this franchise, and Hannibal Rising, both of which I’ve not yet screened, the follow-ups to The Silence Of The Lambs have been very disappointing.  Speaking of Hannibal Rising, why would you ever make a movie like that without the participation of Anthony Hopkins?  Talk about foolhardy.
 
I’m disappointed that I didn’t single out the great Ted Levine.  He plays the real villain in the film and it’s quite the performance.  It’s hard to believe that this is the same actor who plays San Francisco Police Captain Leland Stottlemeyer on the hilarious crime series, Monk.  These two performances prove that this guy has got amazing range. 
 
One last thing.  One of my old high school pals loved this movie, particularly the Anthony Hopkins performance.  On more than one occasion, he loved to recite his favourite line from the film.  Remember that scene where Lecter meets Senator Ruth Martin, the mother of the kidnapped Catherine?  My pal loved saying Lecter’s killer bit at the end:  “Oh, and Senator, just one more thing:  love your suit.”.
 
 
the silence of the lambs
Restricted
118 minutes, 1991
Starring:
Jodie Foster — Clarice Starling
Anthony Hopkins — Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter   
Scott Glenn — Jack Crawford
Ted Levine — Jame Gumb  
Anthony Heald — Dr. Chilton         
Kasi Lemmons — Ardelia Mapp      
Produced by Edward Saxon, Kenneth Utt and Ron Bosman
Screenplay by Ted Tally
Music by Howard Shore
Directed by Jonathan Demme
 
In Jonathan Demme’s The Silence Of The Lambs, we learn about the ongoing pursuit of Buffalo Bill, a mysterious murderer who has already shot and killed five obese women and scraped the skin off each of their humongous backs.  Why is he doing this?  Only Bill knows for sure.
 
But another notorious serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (the outstanding Anthony Hopkins), might know as well.  He knew Bill’s dead lover, Benjamin Raspail.  The former shrink lost his way when he developed an unhealthy taste for human flesh.  He’s safely tucked away in a glass cage in a mental institution where his depraved imagination can run wild without scarring any more victims.
 
The hero of this story is FBI trainee, Clarice Starling (an Oscar-winning performance by Jodie Foster).  She is an intelligent and courageous woman who hopes to work in the behavioural science division after graduation where the files of serial killers are accessible.  Despite her strong qualities, she sometimes struggles during her training.  She’s a rookie about to get in over her head with the Buffalo Bill case.
 
One day during her outdoor training she is asked to speak with Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn), the head agent at behavioural science.  (They have a history together.  Starling once bashed one of Crawford’s opinions but was rewarded with an A-.  Despite being smart she still has a long way to go before completing her training.)  Crawford explains to her that the division is creating several psychological profiles on many of its apprehended subjects.  This will help the agents greatly when they are searching for new serial killers such as the elusive Buffalo Bill.  He requests that Starling interrogate one such killer who, unlike the others in custody, has been reluctant to fill out a questionnaire.
 
Yes, it’s Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the formerly reknowned Baltimore psychiatrist who was caught devouring his patients, the naughty bugger.  Reluctantly, Starling accepts the difficult task and heads out to the insane asylum.
 
Their first meeting feels nervous and awkward without hitting any false notes.  Lecter is coy, calm, collected and in control.  He doesn’t get worked up over this encounter because he likes Clarice and he knows how to play her.  She flashes her fake FBI badge to his face but Lecter isn’t stupid.  He knows she’s still in training.  He interacts with her in a kind manner until she brings up the questionnaire.  Then, he gives her a hard time hoping to break her but Starling, despite her inexperience, is no shrinking violet.  Still, the matter remains unresolved.
 
Then, she tries to leave the place with her dignity.  Fat chance of that happening.  Emboding discouragement as she walks away, she is soon startled when a fellow inmate, Multiple Miggs, flings his love juice right into her face.  Lecter calls her back to him and from that point on, Starling relies on this strange, devious monster for information that may very well help capture another merciless murderer.
 
An interesting twist occurs when the killer snatches the chubby daughter of a very concerned U.S. Senator (Brooke Smith).  The helpless, young woman is just what Bill has been looking for.  When we learn why he does what he does, it’s absolutely creepy.
 
The Silence Of The Lambs is a terrific, realistic thriller skillfully directed by Oscar-winner Jonathan Demme.  The ending is especially impressive with its clever use of technology and old-fashioned suspense.  Anthony Hopkins deservedly earned his Best Actor Oscar even though he’s only in the movie for about 20 minutes.  He makes the most of his limited screen time by masterfully underplaying the fascinating Hannibal Lecter.  A lesser actor would’ve hammed it up big time.  Hopkins finds the humanity in this horrible, horrible man.  Oscar-winning screenwriter Ted Tally (who adapted the story from Thomas Harris’ equally entertaining novel) supplies him with some wonderful dialogue.  It’s a special, iconic performance.
 
I also enjoyed Jodie Foster’s work, especially her character’s Southern drawl.  We care about her and worry about her in scene after scene.  Is taking on Lecter and Bill too much for her?  Can she really overcome her training difficulties to become the new pride of the Bureau?  It’s a very good performance delivered by one of the best actresses working in the movies today.  Also, there’s a lot more going on with her than we realize.  When Lecter brings up a painful childhood memory of hers it’s clear she has never gotten over that dark period of her life.
 
And how about Anthony Heald who is witty and creepy as Dr. Chilton?  He is also fun to watch playing an unlikeable physician at the insane asylum whose past blunders come back to haunt him.
 
The musical score by Howard Shore works really well, especially the selection used during the end titles.  He does a wonderful job capturing the predominant mood of fear.
 
The movie is genuinely scary without relying on old tricks.  Sometimes, I wonder if it could’ve been even more horrific.  We’ll never know.  None-the-less, that’s a minor, overly picky quibble.  This is a terrific film.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
11:57 p.m.
Published in: on February 14, 2007 at 11:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Batman Returns

I once had this idea for a book.  Inspired by Roger Ebert’s Video Home Companion releases I thought about doing my own compendium of film reviews.  The unreleased collection was entitled The Movie Critic: Book One.  (I used to refer to myself as "The Movie Critic" in print reviews for my high school publications.)
 
The project got underway in June 1992, a month after I was elected Student Council President.  Instead of preparing myself for the upcoming school year (one of my many regrets), movies took over my life.  I was determined to be a better writer and critic, and proceeded to screen numerous movies in theatres and on videotape for the next 9 months.
 
The idea behind every critique was to start writing and not stop until a draft was completed.  The result was total stream-of-consciousness.  The words just poured out.  It was an excellent exercise to practise writing as if I were under the gun and to speed up the composing process.  It was a way to take the inner critic out of the equation.
 
Immediately after screening a film, I would think about writing the review.  I kept track of every movie’s running time and made a point to memorize the names of specific actors and characters.  (This was done because no notes were taken during screenings.)  Then, I would sit down and just write, write, write.  There was no stopping to correct anything whether the errors were factual or grammatical.  I just kept going until I finished.  Then, I moved on to the next movie. 
 
I wrote 152 reviews like that, which filled almost 500 pages, before giving up.  They have never been seen by a different pair of eyes until now.
 
The Silence Of The Lambs was the subject of the final film review in March 1993.  Batman Returns, one of the big hits of 1992, was the subject of the opening review.
 
At some point, it was decided that these pieces should be combed over very closely for the purpose of settling on final drafts.  Ultimately, because of chronic laziness, I only managed to finish off two such reviews.  Batman Returns was one of them.
 
I re-read the review for the first time in quite a while and realized that it needed a re-write, which I’ve just completed.  During this period of writing, there was too much emphasis on play-by-play plot descriptions, the opening scenes in particular.  They’ve been cut down a bit for the sake of its online debut.  Also, I screwed up the last name of The Penguin’s alter-ego.  It’s Cobblepot, not Gobblepot as I had it originally.  The correction appears in this Internet version.
 
Also excised are some confusing criticisms that don’t make a lot of sense.  But much of the original assessment of this movie has been kept intact.  I’ve beefed up the writing quite a bit, though, in order to make it sing better.  If you saw the original piece you would realize how much punching up it truly required.
 
When you read the review you’ll note my disappointment with Christopher Walken’s character, Max Shreck.  First of all, the character is named after the actor who played the villain in Nosferatu, the first Dracula movie.  Secondly, he pales in comparison to The Penguin and Catwoman, two flamboyant and fascinating characters that I never got tired of seeing on-screen.  (In the original review, I argued that Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer deserved Oscar nominations for their work.  They were snubbed.  I’ve dropped those references to make the review appear less dated.)  Walken had the thankless task of being the least interesting villain of the three.
 
Looking back, I understand why Shreck was a part of the film.  He represents a father figure of sorts for the rejected Penguin.  If I were to re-screen the film today, perhaps I would be less harsh to Walken’s performance now that I’m older.  Despite that, I stand by what I felt back in 1992.  Consider it a time capsuled view of that character and how Walken portrayed him.
 
 
B A T M A N   R E T U R N S
Adult Accompaniment
126 minutes, 1992
Starring:
Michael Keaton — Bruce Wayne/Batman
         Danny Devito — Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin
Michelle Pfeiffer — Selina Kyle/Catwoman
Christopher Walken — Max Shreck                      
       Pat Hingle — Commissioner Gordon
                      Paul Ruebens — Tucker Cobblepot (Oswald’s Father)
Produced by Denise Di Novi & Tim Burton
Screenplay by Daniel Waters
Music by Danny Elfman
Directed by Tim Burton
 
When a comic book adaptation, like Batman, makes an incredibly obscene amount of money at the box office it is practically tradition to make a sequel which will generate an even greater response from faithful moviegoers.  A-ha!  But Batman Returns is not simply a cynical attempt to reap the benefits of its predecessor.  This is a flamboyant, funny and stylish piece of work from former animator-turned-movie-director, Tim Burton.  His other credits include the charming and moving Edward Scissorhands and, of course, the earlier Batman movie from 1989.  These are not conventional movies.  But then again, Burton is not a conventional filmmaker.  His sharp vision helps make Batman Returns an engaging sequel.
 
The movie opens with an establishing shot of an exquisitely architectured residence named The Cobblepot Mansion.  We are taken inside where we witness a young woman in the throes of natural childbirth.  After the successful delivery of her young son, she screams.  Never a good sign.
 
In the next scene, she is standing by the window with her husband (Paul Ruebens).  They both look utterly depressed.  Never a good sign.
 
The next thing we know, they’ve placed their child in a box with a big hole in it which is then covered with a blanket, an unspeakable, unconscionable act by two parents who are the embodiment of unnecessary cruelty.  But they’re not finished yet.  Not too long afterwards, they saunter outside with the box placed in a stroller.  When no one is in sight, they throw the box overboard until it eventually floats in the sewers where a small group of penguins discover it.  (Cue the nifty opening title sequence which features Danny Elfman’s memorable score.)
 
33 years later, we inhabit a dark and gloomy Gotham City, a place on the verge of more tyranny.  We meet Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer), a shy and forgetful "Executive Assistant" who works for millionaire textile factory owner, Max Shreck (Christopher Walken).  During a brainstorming sequence Selena tries to pitch an idea she thinks is worthwhile but Max shuts her down like a bankrupt steel factory.  Their working relationship, needless to say, is very cold.
 
Max is, unfortunately, a standard, uninteresting villain.  He only cares about his son, Chip, who never really serves a purpose in the movie except for being human bait.  The abundantly grey-haired tycoon is ruthless and coldhearted toward his employees, but how can he possibly compete with the likes of The Penguin and Catwoman?  Exactly.  Comic book movies require colourful villains.  Shreck just doesn’t fit the bill.
 
The main storyline involves Max convincing the orphaned Penguin to run for mayor.  Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle share a mutual attraction which is further complicated by their battles as Batman and Catwoman, respectively.  I liked their chemistry.
 
Daniel Waters wrote the screenplay for this movie and he comes up with a lot of funny, intelligent lines.  He is well aware that adults love Batman just as much as kids.  As a result, cheeky double entendres abound.
 
This is one of the best looking features I’ve seen in a long time.  And with the exception of Christopher Walken, the performances are exceptional.  Michelle Pfeiffer is marvellous playing a supervillain who uses her sexuality quite effectively in action scenes.  Love the form-fitting costume, too.  And how about Danny DeVito as The Penguin?  He’s hilarious and creepy, a true character in every sense of the word.  I love how he actually looks like a short, stocky penguin.  Michael Keaton, in a subtle and quiet fashion, underplays both Bruce Wayne, the orphaned millionaire, and Batman, his alter-ego, with complete conviction.
 
I would’ve preferred learning more about The Penguin’s vicious parents – we are never told how or why they died – and the story does get slightly predictable in places.  (It’s pretty clear who’s going to be victorious at the conclusion.)  But there is enough entertainment value here to recommend the movie.  The film is more ambitious than its predecessor and succeeds for the most part.  Batman Returns is definitely worth 2 hours and 6 minutes of your precious time.
 
Until next time, this is The Movie Critic saying, "Good-bye" and I hope you enjoy your next trip to the cinema.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, Feburary 14, 2007
7:48 p.m. 
Published in: on February 14, 2007 at 8:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sun TV Union Seeks Governmental Assistance, Quebecor Seeks Sun TV Market Expansion

It’s time to update a story that’s been closely followed by this website since late last year.  The embattled workers at Sun TV, the floundering Toronto station now in its fifth year of existence, have been trying in vain to reach an agreement with Quebecor, the French-Canadian conglomerate that purchased the station from CHUM in 2005.  Since the CMG successfully convinced staff to unionize, the goal has been to secure a collective bargaining agreement.  Here we are 13 months later and Quebecor still refuses to sit down at the negotiating table to settle this matter once and for all.
 
The final union update of 2006, with regards to Sun TV, was posted in mid-November on The Canadian Media Guild website.  (Click here to get caught up on the history.)  But after two months of silence, there have been a couple of new postings.
 
On January 15th, the union presented a set of “detailed” proposals to the station’s managers in order to, once again, re-ignite the negotiating process.  Realizing that they need to apply more pressure to the company in order to get things resolved, the union has “requested, more than a year after bargaining began, that the federal Labour Minister appoint a conciliator to help the two sides” reach “a deal”.
 
Jean-Pierre Blackburn, the current federal government’s Labour Minister, did the union one better.  He appointed two conciliators to handle this dispute.  According to the latest CMG posting, dated January 29th, Blackburn appointed Sheri King and Carol Wall who “will help the two sides set out a reasonable bargaining schedule and join the talks.” 
 
Furthermore, “The Guild hopes to reach a deal with Sun TV management by the scheduled end of the conciliators’ appointment, which is March 27, 2007.”  As of now, that’s a grand total of 41 days before the deadline, and it begs the following question:  is it enough time to reach a deal that will satisfy both parties? 
 
 
 
Meanwhile, according to a recent Financial Post item, Quebecor “is seeking permission to expand its coverage” of Sun TV “to include Ottawa and London, Ont[ario], two of the most lucrative markets in the province.”  The company is hoping to persuade the CRTC to allow the creation of two new transmitters so that the station can broadcast reruns of Danger Bay and King Of Kensington in those cities.  The move is a desperate attempt on their part to try to boost the station’s sagging fortunes. 
 
According to the February 10th article by Post writer John Greenwood, Sun TV is pushing for this change for two reasons.  One, because “the additional broadcast range would help it become more competitive for national advertising revenues.”  (Really?  Are the citizens of our nation’s capital and the home of Oscar winner Paul Haggis just dying to get caught up on Here’s Lucy?)  And two, because viewers in those cities “would gain access to additional Canadian programming”.  (Is it possible to overdose on all those episodes of Beachcombers?  Any takers?)
 
Maybe the station will reverse its downward spiral and create an avalanche of support, if The CRTC approves its proposals.  Then again, if viewers in Toronto and Hamilton aren’t interested in checking out hot, new shows like Chico And The Man & Leave It To Beaver, why would Ottawa and London be any different?
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
12:32 a.m.
Published in: on February 14, 2007 at 12:36 am  Leave a Comment  

Some Thoughts On The Boring Grammy Awards

Now I know why they call it “The Grannies”.
 
The 49th Annual Grammy Awards proved to be a strong contender for dullest award show of all time.  Although there were some bright spots (a few, notable live performances, some deserving winners), for the most part, it was Snooze-a-palooza.  (Did we really need all those slow songs?  Did Mary J. Blige really believe God is a member of the voting academy?)  All night long, there was very little excitement or suspense.
 
While it was nice to see The Police rework their classic Roxanne, that was the only song they played.  That being said, their performance was an excellent advertisement for their upcoming reunion tour.  But will they stick it out long enough to write and record new material?  Here’s hoping.
 
I also enjoyed The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Snow (Hey Oh) (even though I would’ve rather heard Dani California), Christina Aguilera’s impassioned tribute to James Brown (she made It’s A Man’s World her own), The Dixie Chicks’ Not Ready To Make Nice (lead singer Natalie Maines belted it like she meant it), and Gnarls Barkley’s oddly effective reworking of their catchy hit, Crazy, with lead singer, Cee-Lo, looking like a cross between a commercial airline pilot and Idi Amin.
 
And how about that Robin Troup?  The beautiful, young vocalist was the lucky winner of an unusual American Idol-type contest.  Beating two other beautiful, young singers, she got quite the showcase teaming up with Justin Timberlake on Ain’t No Sunshine and My Love.  It was a surprisingly effective presentation.  I doubt we’ll ever hear from her again. 
 
And I can’t forget one other engaging musical moment.  During his annual Grammy address, The President of the Academy, Neil Portnow, introduced a 15-year-old violinist and a 17-year-old pianist who quickly proceeded to remind everyone that live music can be still be exciting.  They made the professionals look like disinterested amateurs.  To be fair, though, the sound quality was abysmal.  I heard a lot of bleeding in those microphones.  Disgraceful.
 
As for the awards themselves, it was nice to see all those wins for The Dixie Chicks.  I didn’t mention this on the site before the ceremony but I felt that they would do well in the main categories.  They ended up winning 5 Grammys:  Best Country Album, Song Of The Year, Record Of The Year and Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal (all for the great Not Ready To Make Nice) and Album Of The Year for Taking The Long Way.  I would’ve preferred seeing The Red Hot Chili Peppers take the last award of the evening but sentiment was running high for the long-suffering Dixies.  And isn’t about time America apologizes to them for the shoddy way they’ve been treated over the last 4 years?  It’s long overdue.
 
Thankfully, The Chilis didn’t go home empty-handed.  Right after their performance, they were awarded Best Rock Album for the excellent Stadium Arcadium.  During the non-televised ceremony that preceded the needlessly long 3 and a half hour broadcast, the quartet also snagged Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal (for Dani California) and Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package for the above-mentioned double album.
 
Other big winners included Carrie Underwood who won Best New Artist (the first American Idol winner to do so) and Best Female Country Vocal Performance for Jesus, Take The Wheel (That song also won Best Country Song for songwriters Brett James, Hillary Lindsey and Gordie Sampson.), Justin Timberlake who won for Best Dance Recording (Sexy Back) and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (My Love with T.I.), and Gnarls Barkley who took home gold phonographs for Best Urban/Alternative Performance (Crazy) and Best Alternative Music Album (St. Elsewhere).
 
For me, the biggest disappointment was the absense of Iggy Pop and The Stooges.  With a new record coming out in a month’s time, wouldn’t it have been awesome to have them play at the Grammys?  It would’ve served as a timely reminder that the Academy has never given this guy his just desserts.  He’ll have to hope for a lifetime achievement award.  Maybe he’ll be alive when they give him one.  If they give him one.
 
Also disappointing was the lack of respect for performers who didn’t even get nominated despite producing some terrific work last year.  Where were the nominations for Placebo, Morrissey and The Strokes?  What more can they do to get recognition from their peers?  Iggy Pop isn’t the only one who gets routinely snubbed.
 
Perhaps the biggest problem with this year’s presentation was the fact that even my parents thought the show was an enormous bore.  Mom was constantly dozing off and Dad went to bed earlier than usual.  Not good.  One deadly dull musical act was followed by another deadly dull musical act (minus the previously mentioned exceptions).  Despite some isolated moments of humour (Common and Kenye West, Natalie’s Nelson impersonation, Ludacris sarcastically giving a shout-out to Bill O’Reilly and Oprah Winfrey) none of the speeches registered (No one had the balls to say, “Suck on that, bitch!”  Very sad.) and as a result, the show never had any momentum to sustain true interest.  Furthermore, the good performers were on stage less than the bad ones.
 
You know you’re in trouble when the most outrageous moment of the night was that bizarre piece of jewelry on Will.i.am’s right ear.  Bring back the cursing and the show crashers and the nudity and the consistently exciting performances.  Anything to re-adrenalize this once entertaining awards show.
 
For a complete list of winners, click here.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 12, 2007
2:03 a.m.
Published in: on February 12, 2007 at 2:11 am  Leave a Comment