Idol Chatter

Idol Chatter

Simon Says

posted by burb

One benefit of Oscar season–besides finding out which gown designer is totally hot–is the rash of articles about worthy movies that didn’t get nominated. The films that make critics’ woulda-shoulda lists are jewels that are too small, too weird, or too spiritually challenging for a statue. The San Francisco Chronicle’s version this year comes in the form of an interview with Stephen Simon, the erstwhile Hollywood producer (“Smokey and the Bandit”; “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”) who chucked it all to found The Spiritual Cinema Circle, a kind of Netflix of the soul. Besides pumping Cameron Crowe’s critical punching bag “Elizabethtown,” Simon wishes for a world in which Oscars would go to Kevin Costner and Joan Allen for “The Upside of Anger” or Anthony Hopkins in “The World’s Fastest Indian.”

And the Oscar Goes To…

posted by kris rasmussen

Watching the Oscars has always been one of my greatest guilty pleasures. I love everything about the evening, from chuckling with Joan and Melissa as they dish the dirt live on the red carpet to watching weepy celebrities–dressed in clothes that cost more than many of us make in a year–give ridiculously long acceptance speeches. I’ve also won more than one office betting pool by correctly picking all of the winners in all of the major categories. So I am putting my self-proclaimed Oscar savvy on the line by blogging my predictions, as well as my personal picks, so I can be applauded (or ridiculed, if the case warrants) right here at a later date. And don’t forget you can also read about or discuss many of the Oscar-nominated movies over at the Beliefnet Film Awards.

Leading Actor
The nominees: Philip Seymour Hoffman (“Capote”); Terrence Howard (“Hustle & Flow”); Heath Ledger (“Brokeback Mountain”); Joaquin Phoenix (“Walk The Line”); David Strathairn (“Good Night, and Good Luck”)

My analysis: This is one category “Brokeback” is definitely not going to win. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of eccentric author Truman Capote is Hoffman’s best and, perhaps only, chance to win an Oscar. He won this category at the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, which is always a good indicator of who will win on Oscar night. However, this is an extremely competitive category and both Terrence Howard and David Strathairn are well-respected actors who have a chance at pulling off a surprise win.

Who will win: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Who should win: Terrence Howard for giving two completely different yet equally amazing performances (the other one was in “Crash”) last year.

Leading Actress
The nominees: Judi Dench (“Mrs. Henderson Presents”); Felicity Huffman (“Transamerica”);
Keira Knightley (“Pride & Prejudice”); Charlize Theron (“North Country”); Reese Witherspoon (“Walk the Line”)

My analysis: The only questions here are whether enough of the Academy saw “Trasmamerica” to vote for Huffman, and whether the Academy views Huffman as a real feature film actress or simply that lady from “Desparate Housewives” who did an indie film with her husband.

Who will win: Reese Witherspoon, because she is a major movie star whose career is on the rise, and the Academy will want to celebrate that.

Who should win: Reese Witherspoon, but only because this is actually a weak category this year, and I was not a fan of “Transamerica.”

Supporting Actor
The nominees: George Clooney (“Syriana”); Matt Dillon (“Crash”); Paul Giamatti (“Cinderella Man”); Jake Gyllenhaal (“Brokeback Mountain”); William Hurt (“A History of Violence”)

My analysis: This category is another close three-way horse race between Matt Dillon, George Clooney, and Paul Giamatti. Each has won at least one award for their performances during the pre-Oscar award season. Many critics think that since Clooney has three different Oscar nominations, the Academy will be sure to give him at least one award, and this will be the category to do it in.

Who will win: Matt Dillon, because I think Clooney will win an Oscar in a different category, and Dillon played the best anti-hero on screen in years.

Who should win: Paul Giamatti , because he has given so many consistently impressive performances over the last few years, with “Cinderella Man” showcasing his best work ever.

Supporting Actress
The nominees: Amy Adams (“Junebug”); Catherine Keener (“Capote”); Frances McDormand (“North Country”); Rachel Weisz (“The Constant Gardner”); Michelle Williams (“Brokeback Mountain”)

My analysis: While Michelle Williams’s performance in “Brokeback” was truly heart-wrenching, Hollywood doesn’t seem to be ready to give her credit where credit is due just yet. Therefore, the focus has been solely on Rachel Weisz for her performanceas an activist who is murdered in “The Constant Gardner.”

Who will win: Rachel Weisz, because she has won every other award this season, and it is a way for the Academy to recognize what a good film “The Constant Gardner” was.

Who should win: Amy Adams , because “Junebug” deserves some kind of nod from Oscar and her performance was touching and hilarious at the same time.

Best Picture
The nominees: “Brokeback Mountain”; “Capote”; “Crash”; “Good Night, and Good Luck”; “Munich”

Who will win: “Brokeback Mountain,” partially because it will get shut out in the acting categories and partly because Hollywood loves to make “statements.”

Who should win: If you have been reading my entries here at Idol Chatter at all, you already know that I think “Crash” is by far the best movie of last year, and I am still rooting for it to pull an upset win.

“Lost”: Locke’s Own Private God

posted by

One definition of mysticism is “a belief in the existence of realities beyond perceptual or intellectual apprehension.” That’s a pretty heady term to apply to a TV show–but “Lost” isn’t an ordinary show. The series begins with a plane crashing en route from Sydney to Los Angeles, stranding 42 surviving passengers on a tropical island. However, it becomes immediately clear that something is unusual on the island: A monster eats the plane’s pilot, polar bears appear out of nowhere, and people who already live on the island (“The Others”) begin kidnapping passengers.

The character John Locke (yes, named after that John Locke) has established himself as the island mystic. Locke, a Christian before the crash, has now started to believe in the island as his god. The main cause of this change was Locke’s miraculous healing: Wheelchair-bound when he boarded the plane, he was suddenly able to walk after the crash. So far, there has been no explanation for why–or how–Locke was healed, and Locke gives the island all the credit. The island has enabled Locke to reinvent himself and start his life over. He may not know the island’s motivation for curing him, but he suspects that the island has some greater purpose for him that will be revealed later. That faith propels him onward.

When supernatural things start happening, Locke argues that there are some things beyond human comprehension–and that the island is making decisions for itself. Locke is one of the only “lostaways” to have seen the monster; instead of being scared or trying to kill it, his only response was to call it “beautiful.” He recognizes the monster as being part of the island’s master plan, another clue in the larger puzzle he is working toward solving.

When his protégé, Boone, dies in a freak accident, Locke lashes out at the island, crying out “I did everything you asked me to do!” Clearly, Locke believes that he and the island have a bond of some sort, and that he knows what the island wants. When telling the others about the death, Locke refers to it as “a sacrifice.”

Locke’s survival skills make him an early leader, and his island-religion is the motivation behind his choices. Although he and Jack–the man of science–are opposites, they aren’t rivals. Even when they disagree, they work together. The flaw with Locke’s mysticism is that he thinks he is the only one who understands what the island wants. It’s as if the island is his own private god, which he doesn’t want to share for fear someone else might benefit more than him. Mysticism is about identifying a greater unity, something that Locke is utterly failing to do. If he really does have insight into the strange things happening on the island, I’m sure the others would benefit from hearing about it.

Locke’s interference in the lives of other characters is often paternalistic. He insists that he knows what is best for someone else, even when his motivation is questionable. Positioning himself as a mystic might turn out to be a way of covering up a secret agenda. Maybe it isn’t the island he thinks is a god; it’s himself.

Time to Pray on ’24’

posted by doug howe

At this point in Season Five of “24,” The president of the United States has been brought to a place of asking his chief of staff to pray with him. The chief of staff balks, saying “This is a personal matter.”

“Please, just… please,” says the president, as they then both take a knee.

But while President Logan was praying, I couldn’t help but wonder why it is that our culture is so accepting of prayers in times of last resort, but not prayers as a first offense and primary resource toward whichever challenges we’re facing personally, professionally, or nationally? And if we’ll pray after a crisis hits, why not pray as a regular practice, applying the biblical principles upon which our nation was founded?

It’s as if “crisis” makes prayer authentic, but “peace time” makes prayer a violation of church and state. This week’s script on “24” was either art imitating life or life imitating, well, something less than art.

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