Posts Tagged ‘Oscars’

Letter From New York 02 23 15 Any shame or guilt?

February 23, 2015

Ah, the joys of the bitter cold. Just as I was headed to Amtrak to catch my train, I received a text message alerting me my train would be at least ninety minutes late and I would thus miss the conference I was scheduled to attend this afternoon in the city.

Thankfully, I can partially make up for it by the fact a good friend is being ousted from his office early today so it can be painted, so we will get together for a late lunch, early cocktail or a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or some combination thereof.

Feeling rather on the low side last night, I ended up sleeping instead of watching the Oscars so my only experience of it was this morning, reading about it online and in the NY Times. The Wrap did a very funny montage of moments from this Awards season, which seems to have gone on forever this year.

And, not unexpectedly, the Oscars are the top story this morning, everyone weighing in on the good and bad moments. I missed them all. I wish I had been able to see in real time Patricia Arquette’s remarks for winning Best Supporting Actress. She addressed gender equality in Hollywood. I must look for the video of it.

As of this moment, the world stage is mostly a retread of yesterday’s news.

The ceasefire in Ukraine has yet to take hold; Germany is very worried. Everyone should be worried.

The families of three young British schoolgirls who appear to have departed for Syria via Istanbul have yet to be found; their families continue to plead with them to return.

Potential Presidential Contender, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, was at the White House last night for a dinner. He took a selfie with his son and posted it. The response wasn’t kind. Governor Walker was accused of looking a bit tipsy, if not as mashed as Johnny Depp was once during this Awards season giving out an Award. Depp had trouble reading from the teleprompter.

The dinner Walker was at with his son, Alex, was for the National Governors Association, jokingly called the National Association of Aspiring Presidents.

US Malls are stepping up their security measures since the Al-Shabaab threat against them, particularly the Mall of America in Minnesota and the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada. The Head of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, has asked all to be extra vigilant.

Of course, the Department of Homeland Security faces defunding this month unless a compromise is reached. Congress is unhappy with President Obama’s Executive Order on Immigration and DHS is caught in the crossfire.

Ah, the joys of politics.

A political figure in Egypt has been sentenced to five years in prison. Alaa Abdel Fattah, a renowned blogger in Egypt, was found guilty of organizing an illegal demonstration and “thuggery,” among other things. He and hundreds of others who have protested have been sent off to prison. This was a retrial for him; the first time he was sentenced to fifteen years. More than twenty others were sentenced along with him, receiving sentences of three to fifteen years.

At the same time, Egyptian President al-Sisi is saying that he would release wrongly detained young men.

Egypt is also calling for a Pan-Arab force to battle terrorist groups, not to invade but to defend.

In an event that is deeply disturbing, chilling and troubling, a suicide bomber in Nigeria killed five, including herself and wounding another forty-six. The bomber was a child, a girl, perhaps as young as seven. It is believed the lovely Boko Haram is behind this event.

As I sit on the train, watching the ice clogged Hudson slide by, I wonder if the poor child had any idea of what she was doing, what was being asked of her, and if the ones within Boko Haram who directed her, had any sense of guilt and shame about what they were doing?

Letter From New York 02 22 15 Happy Oscars Viewing…

February 22, 2015

Unusually, I am starting work on my blog early in the afternoon; usually I wait until the sun has begun set but about that time today I will need to be down at the Hudson Train station to pick up friends who are returning from Baltimore, where they spent the weekend.

The Hudson Train Station is charming in its way. It is the oldest operating train station in the Amtrak system. It looks much the way I imagined it looked in the 1940’s.

Almost a hundred and fifty years ago, the train carrying the body of Lincoln and his son, Willie, back to Illinois, stopped for a few minutes in Hudson, greeted by a tableaux that was described by Edward David Townsend, Commander of the train, as “one of the most weird ever witnessed.” There was a coffin, with a lady in white draped over it, mourning; the station was draped in black and white bunting, with evergreens. At either end of the coffin were a soldier and a sailor. A number of women, also dressed in white, sang dirges. All of this was lit by torchlight. No wonder Townsend thought it weird. [Thank you to The Gossips of Rivertown for the details.]

The town is planning to recreate that weird scene this April 25th, the Sesquicentennial of the event. I can’t wait.

Hopefully, by April, the weather will have warmed. We are still living in the land of snow, ice and cold. Today it is warming up to thirty degrees, only to plunge again in the days ahead with more snow predicted.

What I would not have predicted was turning to the news today to find that Al-Shabaab, the Somali terrorist group, had released a video suggesting there should be attacks against American and Canadian shopping malls, including Mall of America, which is in Bloomington, a suburb of Minneapolis, my home town. Particularly of concern is that the Minneapolis area is home to many refugees from Somalia. Al-Shabaab has been actively recruiting young men from there and some have gone back to Somalia to fight for them.

Perhaps more predictable is that there is still heat in Giuliani’s comment about Obama not loving America. Republican Representative Darrell Issa of California suggests we should thank Giuliani for questioning the President’s love of country. Not unexpectedly, the NY Times has countered with a chronicle of the number of times President Obama has declared his love of country. Giuliani reports he is receiving death threats.

Brian Williams continues to take it on the chin. Today he is being criticized for not giving money to his “cash strapped” high school. I haven’t given money to my high school either. I didn’t like the place very much.

Tonight, of course, are the Oscars. But have you paid attention to last night’s Razzie Awards? They’re given out to Hollywood’s worst. SAVING CHRISTMAS, starring Kirk Cameron won Worst Picture. He won Worst Actor, too. Cameron Diaz won Worst Actress for SEX TAPE and THE OTHER WOMAN. Worst Screen Combo was won by Kirk Cameron and “His Ego.”

I attended the Razzies the year Halle Berry won for Worst Actress for CATWOMAN. She arrived clutching her Oscar and was quite funny. They have grown from a personal party to Hollywood’s anti-Oscars.

Tonight’s Oscars will be interesting. It appears that BIRDMAN and BOYHOOD will be duking it out for Best Picture. Having seen both of them last night, I would be hard pressed to make a choice. Both were excellent, neither of them blockbusters, just very, very good films.

The sun is brilliant today, casting clear dark shadows on the freshly fallen snow. Marcel, the dog I am babysitting, sits asleep at my feet as I write this. Having not eaten yet today, I am going to head down to the Red Dot for a bite before picking up my friends.

Happy Oscar viewing!

Letter From New York 02 18 15 The Francis Effect…

February 19, 2015

As I sit down tonight to write in New York City, a light snow is falling though weather.com does not indicate that it a harbinger of bad things to come. So, after a relatively busy afternoon, I have returned to the little apartment on Riverside to write my blog.

Last night I met my friend Dan Pawlus for a drink at the Warwick Hotel on 54th Street and then I went with him to a screening of “The Francis Effect,” a documentary made by the Canadian Catholic television organization Salt + Light about the Holy Father.

Last year, about this time, I was in Rome to speak on a panel for SIGNIS, the organization of Catholic Communicators. In some breakout conversations, the talk was about “the Francis moment.” This Pope had, in a not too long a period of time, altered the perception of the Roman Catholic Church by much of the world.

The documentary last night chronicles the effect of the moment. It is hard not to admire the man. While he has not changed doctrine, he has changed the tone of the conversation. And that is a very good beginning. He has offered gentleness instead of reproach. In the last twenty years the tone of the church has been strident and reproachful; under Francis it is conciliatory. He has challenged the all-powerful Curia and reformed the reputedly corrupt Vatican Bank.

And he has only been in office for two years. It will be interesting to follow the rest of this man’s Pontificate.

When Dan asked me to the screening of a film about Francis, I asked him if it was about the Francis who was a saint or the Francis who would be a saint?

Until I saw legions of people in New York with black marks on their forehead I had forgotten today is Ash Wednesday.

In a remark that is indicative of the man that is Francis, he told people that this year they should fast on their indifference to their fellow man. A grand comment.

Francis is a saintly man but there are very few of them.

To help combat young men and women from the States going to jihad, Obama held a conference on extremism. The US and countries such as France, the UK, and Belgium are all struggling with young Muslims who are seduced to jihad.

There was a striking article in the NY Times today about a young man from Cairo, middle class, educated in private schools, who had abandoned his family and friends and gone off to Syria. He tweeted a picture of himself with a beheaded man. His family is devastated. He got lost somewhere in the tumult that has been Egypt the last three years.

We have medieval values being practiced by men with good weapons. In grisly rumors, IS has been accused by Iraq’s UN Ambassador of killing people to harvest their organs, then to re-sell them on the organ black market. It is a revenue generating operation reportedly.

In Ukraine, the Ukrainian government suffered a defeat today when its forces abandoned Debaltseve, the major rail hub between the rebel areas. They attempted to put a good face on it but there is no good face to a major defeat.

President al-Sisi of Egypt is pressing for international intervention in Libya. He has a problem in the Sinai with insurgents who are aligning themselves with IS [ISIS or ISIL]. He thinks the Sinai insurgents are getting some help from IS in Libya. Libya and Egypt have asked the UN to lift the arms embargo so they can better fight IS.

The snow is still falling lightly. I am getting tired and think I will retreat to bed and read Time Magazine and The Week [my favorite weekly] and drift off to the land of Nod.

A new version of Cinderella is out soon. The Oscars will be this weekend.

And I am prepping for a trip to India. I have been invited to go to the Indian Institute of Technology in Rourkee to speak about American media. I must sort out the intricacies of getting a visa now.

Letter From New York March 14, 2010

March 15, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

It’s been more than my usual week between letters – I am going through one of those preposterously busy periods one goes through once in a while. Working with Odyssey Networks, I am helping them launch a mobile channel and that is consuming a good piece of my life – and will for the next couple of months. Friday afternoon, I said to someone that yesterday was Monday and now today is Friday and I need for it to be only Tuesday. It’s going that quickly.

But even if life is going that quickly, things do keep happening that aren’t directly related to launching a mobile channel. A week ago, we all gathered around the electronic fireplace and watched the Oscars, which, it turned out, were the most watched Academy Awards in five years. Maybe it worked to nominate ten films for Best Picture, the first time that’s been done since 1943.

I have a rule now when watching Awards programs. I suspend my critic persona and just surrender to the experience. These Oscars, like many, if not most, were excoriated by those who did not suspend their critical selves. From the choice of hosts, to sets, to musical numbers, the critics were savage. I didn’t care – I was just along for the ride; it made the experience much easier. I didn’t have to work. It was what it was.

The surprise was that HURT LOCKER won Best Picture over AVATAR, which was what the smart money was betting on – well, may be not so smart after all but it was AVATAR that I thought would be walking out with the gold statue.

While the world was Oscar titillated, other things were going on. The rancor went on in Congress about Health Care and Obama is pushing for an up or down vote, which means following procedures that are supposed to prevent the opportunity for filibuster. Reconciliation is part of the process though there doesn’t seem to be much reconciling going on with Republicans. Whether it actually happens remains to be seen. Seems a number of Democrats aren’t all that sold on reform and may not follow the party line. Regardless of what is going on with Health Care Reform, one gets the impression that Congress is so dysfunctional it needs group therapy. Polls are indicating indignation with Congress.
In an effort to turn indignation away from him, Tiger Woods did a carefully orchestrated apology. The jury is out on whether it was sincere or not. Some thought so, many didn’t. As I said, the jury is out…

And the jury is still out on Toyota, which has gone from corporate paragon to corporate pariah – well, that’s too strong a word but the glitter is tarnished. While its leaders apologized to Congress, issues continued to plague its vehicles and doubts abounded as to whether the recalls were fixing the issues. One poor man had a scary ride down a freeway with his Prius just last week – he slowed down by nosing up to the rear end of a police cruiser. Three Toyotas were involved in curious accidents in Connecticut. Not good for confidence building.

Speaking of confidence, and going full circle, theatre owners are feeling good – theatre attendance has been up during the recession and it’s been a boffo year at the box office for films. Theatre owners are expanding and working to make going to the movies a true escapist experience with restaurants and bars on premises, ever bigger seats while we are being wowed by 3D. ALICE IN WONDERLAND rules the box office again this weekend.

Preposterously busy or not, I still have a few minutes to notice the world…