Saturday, March 11, 2006

At Last, I am Not Yoda...

I feel as if I have to apologise for this post. I had said in a past post that I don't like posting memes, or as I call them, "quiz thingies," to my blog because I think that it is something of a cop out when it comes to posting something substantial. But it is the day after my birthday, I am tired, and not particularly in the mood for writing. Besides which, I finally took a Star Wars quiz where I did not turn out to be Yoda...

Obi Wan
You are Obi-Wan Kenobi! You are almost as good as
Yoda, but not quite! You are extremly
brilliant and an accomplished fighter, plus
you look good while kicking ass! When you
get older you will be very distinguished

Which Star Wars Character (Episodes 1-6) Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

I have to say that I am very happy that my result turned out to be Obi-Wan Kenobi. Don't get me wrong. Yoda is certainly wiser than Obi-Wan and better with a light sabre as well, but he also tends to be a lot shorter than I am (which says a lot) and has a tendency to speak in platitudes (I don't think I do much of that...). And I can see where I do have a lot in common with Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan tends to be a bit of an idealist. He also seeks to do what he thinks best and tends to be very loyal to those close to him. Of course, I don't think I would do well as a Jedi (this whole thing about love and "the fear of loss..."). And I would like to think that if I were Obi-Wan I wouldn't have had an apprentice go over to the Dark Side. Too, I must admit that rather than either Yoda or Obi-Wan Kenobi, I would want to be Mace Windu. A guy could do worse than being the greatest swordsman in the Galaxy...

Of course, last time I posted quiz thingies to this blog I complained about always being the hero or the religious guy. I guess Obi-Wan is both, as is the following character I would be on the TV show Lost.

You are Locke, perhaps one of the most interesting
characters there is on this show! You are
dark and mysterious and at the same time you
can be happy and out-going. You have many
secrets that you don't like to share. You
fight what you are destined to do.

Which Lost character are you? WITH PICS!!!!!!!
brought to you by Quizilla

I am very happy with this result. Lost is my favourite show airing on network television right now and the only network TV show I watch regularly. Of course, John Locke is my favourite character. He tends to be a bit of a philosopher, although one who is also given to action (remember, he was the one who went to open the Hatch...). He is also a private individual, but one capable of interacting with others fairly well. And, as has been seen in a few flashbacks, Locke is a bit of a romantic. I think the biggest differences between myself and John Locke are that I don't believe in destiny (not quite the way Locke does, anyhow) and I am better looking (at least I still have hair...). Too, I must admit that I would have probably made a play for Kate after being on the island for awhile, which is something I don't think Locke would do (but then I don't guess he has a thing for Evangeline Lilly like I do...).

Even when I take a quiz to see which one of The Monkees I would be, it seems I turn out to be the thinker of the group...

Take the Hey Hey, Which Monkee Are You? Quiz.

I must say that I am happy with the result being Mike Nesmith. I do love all of The Monkees (and in truth, I am probably closer in height to Davy Jones...), but Mike was always my favourite. On the show he was always the one who thought up the plans and outlined a course of action. On the show he was also the most philosophical Monkee (on the episode "The Devil and Peter Tork," it is Mike who summarises Peter's defence against the Devil's case). In real life it was primarily Michael Nesmith who fought to have The Monkees play their own instruments and take control of their musical career. As a writer I can certainly identify with someone who wants control of their own work.

I cannot even really get too far away from the hero/spiritual guy/thinker figure when taking a quiz to determine which character from a certain Monty Python movie I am....

Take the quiz:
Which Holy Grail Character Are You?

Arthur, King of the Britons
Arthur, son of Uther Pendragon, from the castle of Camelot. King of the Britons, defeater of the Saxons, Sovereign of all England!

Quizzes by -- the World's Biggest Yearbook!

Okay, I am not sure that you could say that here are a whole lot of heroic figures or philosophical/spiritrual figures in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but I guess that Arthur is about as close to a hero as the movie comes. As to philosophical/spirtual figures, well, I am guessing that would be Tim the Enchanter. Of course, it seems to me that there aren't a whole lot of heroics or thinking that
necessarily takes place in that movie...LOL.

Of course, it isn't every single time that I take one of these quiz thingies that I turn out to be a hero, a thinker or a religious figure, but then I don't think that there are many of the Warner Brothers cartoon characters who fit any of those categories...

Take the quiz:
Which Warner Brothers Cartoon Character are You? (pics)

You are Marvin the Martian!
'Where's the KA-BOOM? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering KA-BOOM!'
You're the testy little extra-terrestrial who has a keen desire to blow up the Earth with the Illudium Pew-36 Explosive Space Modulator.

a quiz by catz-eyes

Quizzes by -- the World's Biggest Yearbook!

I have to say that Marvin the Martian has always been my favourite Looney Toons character. He is absolutely hilarious. Of course, I don't think I have much in common with him. I do have a bit of a temper and I am not that tall (not as short as Marvin, granted...), but that's where the similarities end. I have little desire to blow up the earth, conquer the earth, or exterminate humanity. But then, given the other choices, I probably am closest to Marvin out of all the Looney Toons characters. I really haven't much in common with any of them (which might actually be a good thing...).

In the next quiz I have to say that the result somewhat disturbs me, but then given the series of books and movies I am talking about, it isn't surprising.

You scored as Severus Snape. You have a very dark exterior, which makes others automatically form negative opinions on you. But those who have truly gotten to know you know that you're an astounding person that has been through certain life-altering events that make you so unique. You never wear your feelings on your sleeve, making you very secretive. You can be unfair because you hold strong grudges and may love revenge a little too much. You're mysterious and even somewhat misunderstood. But that's why you're such an interesting person.

Severus Snape


Luna Lovegood


Hermione Granger


Sirius Black


Albus Dumbledore


Bellatrix Lestrange


Harry Potter


Lord Voldemort


Ron Weasley


Neville Longbottom


Remus Lupin


Oliver Wood


Percy Weasley


Draco Malfoy


Harry Potter Character Combatibility Test
created with

To tell the truth, I really don't have too much in common with any of the characters from the Harry Potter series. The fact is, I probably do have more in common with Snape than any other character. We both tend to be very private and don't tend to be too emotive. But then there are some big differences. People do not automatically make negative judgements about me (in fact, at my jobs I am one of the few people who is universally liked). I also don't think I would be quite so unfair and so hard on Harry. Of course, I have to question the other results. Luna Lovegood? Hermione? I really don't think I have much in common with either of them (well, beyond loyalty to one's friends). If I am like any other Harry Potter character at all, I would think it would probably be Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, or even Dumbledore.

Finally, I would thought it would be fun to see what classic novel I would belong in...

I believe you belong in Pride and Prejudice; a
world of satire and true love. A world where
everything is crystal clear to the reader,
and yet where new things seem to be happening
all the time. You belong in a world where
your free-thought puts you above the silly
masses, and where bright eyes and
intelligence are enough to attract the
arrogant millionaire/prejudiced young woman
of your choice.

Which Classic Novel do You Belong In?
brought to you by Quizilla

Somehow this is not surprising. I have always loved Jane Austen's novels. In fact, Emma is one of my favourite books of all time. And I must admit that I have always thought that late 18th Century, early 19th Century England would be an interesting time and place to live--at least if it was like a Jane Austen novel. I like to think that I am a bit of a free thinker who tends to go his own way, a lot like Austen's characters. I guess I shouldn't point out that many of Austen's novels centre on the quest for love, although it is always the young women who give into the emotion without any forethought who come to a sad end (unlike some of her contemporaries, such as Byron, Austen was not part of the Romantic Movement). Sadly, I only wish I had the bright eyes and intelligence enough to attract the young woman of my choice (not that choice plays much of a role in affairs of the heart, in my humble opinion...). LOL.

I am not sure that there are many conclusions I can draw from this batch of quiz thingies. It seems as if with this set I am still always coming out as heroic, spiritual, thinking figures, with a dash of the romantic thrown in. I really don't know if that is how I am in real life. I certainly do suspect I have my fair share of faults. I think I do fall short of being Obi-Wan Kenobi or John Locke by a long shot. But it is definitely how I would like to be.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Not So Happy Birthday

Well, today is my birthday, although I really can't say it is a happy one for me. I am doing well. I am making more money than I have in years at two jobs I both like (well, most of the time, anyway...). I own my own house and I have food to eat. Okay, I haven't published the Great American Novel yet, but then as a writer at least I can say that I have been published (which is more than many would be writers can say). Still, there is a point at which many men reach in their lives when they want something more than money, jobs they don't hate, and even artistic satisfaction. I reached that point long ago. The problem is that circumstances have seen fit that I might never attain "that something more." And, sadly, that "something more" is more important to me even than being a highly successful writer. There are more important things in life than being the next Stephen King. Or even the next Orson Scott Card.

Anyhow, perhaps because it is my birthday, I haven't much to write about today. What news has caught my attention has been technology related. I suppose that is natural, given how much has changed when I was born. When I was a real little kid, we still had a phone on a party line. Now there are cell phones, portable email devices, so on and so forth. Indeed, like everyone else I have heard about Microsoft's new Ultramobile PC, originally codenamed Origami. It featuresa a 7 inch screen and weighs 2 1/2 pounds. For its operating system it uses a full version of Windows XP and supports hook ups for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless. It has a 60 gig hard drive (that's bigger than my old computer's hard drive...).Microsoft is hoping to have it out by April. It'll run about $600 to $1000. Microsoft's goal is to create a new class of PCs for people who are always on the run. They are also hoping the Ultramobile PC will compete with the IPod.

I must say I find the concept of the Ultramobile PC (gods, I did prefer the name "Origami....") interesting, although I can't say that I would want to buy one. I can't see being so desperate to check my Gmail that I'd take a PC with me on trips...

In other news, Research in Motion Ltd., the company that makes the Blackberry (the little, portable email devices) has bought Ascendent Systems, a company that makes software for connecting cell phones to a PBX (short for Private Branch Exchange--that's a private telephone switch that provides switching for such places as school campuses and corporate offices). Research in Motion Ltd. and Ascendent Systems will combine their software later in the year. This will allow for things like call tranfer, spontaneous teleconferencing, and ringing at the same time at several different locations.

Anyhow, I suppose technology keeps progressing. I rather suspect that at one point an individual's primary PC might cease to be his or her desktop and instead will be a portable device that can serve as both a cell phone and a computer. It is not like today's cell phones can't already surf the net, among other things. What's more, I have to wonder how far off that day really is.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Gordon Parks R.I.P.

Gordon Parks, one of the few renaissance men of the 20th Century, has passed on. He was a photographer, a novelist, and a filmmaker. He died Tuesday at age 93.

Parks was born on November 30, 1912 in Fort Scott, Kansas. He dropped out of school and worked various jobs before finally getting a job with the Farm Security Administration (FSA), one of the New Deal programmes dedicated to helping the agriculture industry. He was the first African American to work there. It was while he was with the FSA that he started taking photographs, chronicling the travils of African Americans of the era. By the late Forties he started taking photographs for Life Magazine--the first African American man to do so. Among his photo essays were ones centred on the life of African American families in the Deep South and the beginnings of the civil rights movement.

Parks later started writing as well. He started with photography manuals, but would go onto write essays, poetry, novels, and even a ballet. His book The Learning Tree, based on his early life, was published in 1963. He alsoe expanded into film. His first movie was a short documentary called Flavio, based on one of his photo essays for Life about a boy in Rio De Janeiro dying of astma and malnutrition. He would direct his first feature, The Learning Tree (based on his novel), in 1969. He became the first African American to direct a movie for a major motion picture studio.

It was in 1971 that Parks would direct the film that would make him most famous. Shaft introduced the world to the first major African American hero of a movie and started the film movement known as Blaxploitation. Parks would only direct a few more films--Shaft's Big Score, Supercops, and Leadbelly.

I have to say that I have always admired Parks. I must regrettably say that I haven't read any of his books, but I have seen all of his films. The Learning Tree and Shaft still number among my favourite movies. And like many people, I have seen his photographs. His talent was proof that sometimes a picture can say more than words.

In my humble opinion Gordon Parks was a most remarkable man. There are great photographers. There are great writers. There are great filmmakers. There are very few men who can claim all three. What is more, through his photographs and writings Parks made the rest of America aware of the plight of African Americans in the Forties, Fifties, and Sixties. In many respects his photography was pivotal to the Civil Rights movement. As a director he made only a few films, but they were superior to those of many more prolific directors. The Learning Tree was one of the first serious films to focus on the lives of poor African Americans, while Shaft was one of the first films in which an African American was portrayed neither as a buffoon or a family servant. Parks was in many respects an innovator and in many other ways revolutionary for his time. I don't think his contributions to American pop culture and American society can be easily overestimated.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

The Music of The Monkees

Tomorrow is Micky Dolenz's birthday. My birthday is two days later (although I should point out that I was born several years after Mr. Dolenz...). In a way this is fitting, given the impact The Monkees had on my early life. As a kid, when The Monkees came on television, I simply would not move from the TV set. My parents simply could not rouse me to go anywhere or to do anything else. I have written about the TV show on this blog, but I have never written much about their music. In a way this is a huge oversight on my part, as in the earliest years of my life (keep in mind I was only three when The Monkees debuted), The Monkees were my favourite band besides The Beatles.

Of course, The Monkees have always been a source of controvery in the music world. On the one hand, while the TV show received critical acclaim (even winning Emmys)--despite its low ratings, the group has in the past been lambasted by music critics-- despite the success of their records. The reason for the music critics' scorn has always been fairly obvious. The Monkees were clearly a "manufacured group," four young men hired for a television show. For many rock critics this somehow made the "Pre-Fab Four" inferior to groups that came together "naturally" or "by accident." What these critics miss is that they were hardly the first "manufactured" rock performers. Fifties teen idol Fabian Forte was largely the creation of Bob Marcucci and Peter de Angelis, a team of record executives and songwriters, who controlled nearly every aspect of his career. Similarly, the British instrumental group, The Tornadoes, had been formed by studio engineer Don Meek by placing an ad in a London trade paper in 1962. Their hit "Telstar" went to number one in 1962. Barry Gordon, the head of Motown, exercised such control over the careers and images of its artists that they might as well have been hired hands. That The Monkees were brought together to perform on a TV series then should not play a role in determining the quality of their music.

Of course, another source of controvery has always been the fact that on their early records The Monkees did not play their own music. Many critcs have always been eager to point this out, ignoring the fact that this was pretty much standard procedure for the recording industry in the Sixties. Even The Beach Boys did not play their own instruments on many of their early songs. Sadly, the fact that The Monkees were not allowed to play their own instruments on their early recordings has led to a commonly held fallacy--that The Monkees could not play their own instruments! Mike Nesmith had already recorded albums under the psuedonym "Mike Blessing"--in fact, he wrote the song "Different Drum" (later a hit for the Stone Ponies) before he was even a Monkee! Like Nesmith, Peter Tork also had an extensive musical background. His entire family were highly trained in music. In fact, prior to The Monkees, Tork was the member of a folk group, The Phoenix Singers. And while Micky Dolenz was best known as an actor (the son of character actor George Dolenz had been on the Fifites series Circus Boy and guest starred on many shows), he did know how to play guitar. In fact, he was a member of a group known as The Missing Links prior to joining The Monkees. Only Davy Jones did not have considerable experience with musical instruments prior to being cast on The Monkees, although he did have a lot of experience singing. He was the Artful Dodger in the Broadway version of Oliver!. He even released his own solo album in 1965 (which appeared in the first season episode "The Monkees at the Movies").

As music recorded for the TV show was meant to be released on records from the very beginning, music impresario Don Kirschner was hired as the series' music supervisor. It was Kirschner who decided that The Monkees would not play on their own records, deciding instead to use top flight studio musicans. This chaffed some of The Monkees, in particular Mike Nesmith who had dreams of a music career (composing and performing his own songs). It would ultimatley lead to a confrontation between Kirschner and The Monkees which would result in the band being allowed to play their own music and an agreement which was struck wherein The Monkees would recieve some control over what was releasead. When Kirschner violated this agreement (releasing the single "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You"/"She Hangs Out" without The Monkees' consent), he was fired.

An argument can be made that Kirschner did hurt The Monkees' career in not allowing them to play their own instruments--they probably would have been taken more seriously had they been allowed to do so. That having been said, Kirschner did help The Monkees' career in recruiting top flight songwriters to compose their songs. Indeed, in the early days the only Monkee whose songs were recorded by the group was Michael Nesmith. Of course, when most people think of "The Monkees sound," they probably think of songs written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (who were brought onto the project by Monkees producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, not Kirschner). They wrote "The Monkees Theme," their first big hit ("Last Train to Clarksvile"), and four of the 12 songs on their first album (a fifth was co-written by Tommy Boyce with some one other than Bobby Hart). Ultimately, I believe about five of The Monkees' hit singles were composed by Boyce and Hart (I'm not real sure about that number--I'd have to get a hold of a list of their Billboard hits to know for certain). Outside of songs written by The Monkees themselves (namely, Mike Nesmith), I've always thought the best Monkees songs were written by Boyce and Hart. In fact, my favourite Monkees song is "She (which a roommate of mine once described as the world's most depressing song)." "Valleri" also numbers among my favourites as well. Boyce and Hart provided The Monkees with a distinctly American sound, yet one that still drew on the guitar work and harmonies of the British Invasion. In some respects, their work could be argued to be an early prototype for Power Pop. Boyce and Hart did have a career of their own, recording their own albums and singles. They even guest starred on both I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched. Sadly, they would produce only one hit of their own, "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonite."

As to the other composers who wrote for The Monkees, they were among the best in business. The writing team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin, responisble for such hits as "The Locomotion" and "Chains," contributed many songs to The Monkees, even after the group gained control of their own recording careers. They wrote "Pleasant Valley Sunday (which went to #7 on the Billboard charts in 1967)," "Star Collector," and they also contributed "Porpoise Song" to the movie Head. Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil were another experienced song writing team who produced hits for The Monkees. Together they'd produced such classics as "I Love How You Love Me" and "Walking in the Rain." For The Monkees they wrote "Words" and "Love is Only Sleeping," among other songs. The Monkees also gave a boost to young songwriters early in their career. Neil Diamond wrote some of his first hits for The Monkees. He wrote their biggest hit, "I'm a Believer" as well as the songs "A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You" and "Look Out Here Comes Tomorrow." Harry Nillson's first big success came when The Monkees recorded "Cuddly Toy."

Of course, eventually The Monkees would write their own songs. And quite frankly, in my humble opinion, their songs measure up to those of the established song writers. Indeed, I honestly believe that Mike Nesmith, the only Monkee who composed any songs for their earliest recordings, wrote the best Monkees songs besides Boyce and Hart. Indeed, a list of Nesmith's Monkees songs would include "Sweet Young Thing," "The Kind of Girl I Could Love," "Tapioca Tundra," and "Circle Sky." The other Monkees did not write as much as Mike, but they did make their own contributions. Among my favourite Monkees songs number "Randy Scouse Git" by Micky Dolenz, "For Pete's Sake," co-written by Peter Tork, and "Can You Dig It (from the movie Head)" also written by Peter Tork. I must point out that when The Monkees got control of their own recording career, their music became bolder. They started handling subjects beyond love songs. Mike Nesmith's song "Daily Nightly" was written about the Sunset Strip riots of 1966. "Zor and Zam," written by Bill and John Chadwick, was a protest against war. The Monkees were also not afraid to experiment musically. The first use of a Moog syntesizer on a commercial pop album were on the songs "Daily Nightly" and "Star Collector" from the album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd.

Sadly, following the cancellation of the TV show, The Monkees' popularity as a band declined sharply. It is hard to say why this was. Perhaps the TV show, as low rated as it was, played a bigger role in promoting The Monkees' music than one would have thought. It could be that with the show cancelled, many of their fans simply thought that The Monkees had broken up. That the TV show may have had a major role in their musical success could be indicated by the fact that their last album to do well on the charts was The Birds, The Bees, and The Monkees, released in April while the show was still on the air. Eventually, The Monkees would slowly disband. Peter Tork left the group in April 1969. Later that same year Mike Nesmith would do the same. Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz recorded one last album, Changes, released in May 1970.

At any rate, like the TV show, the music of The Monkees would not be forgotten. They would make various comebacks and hold various reunions. Their songs would continue to be played on the radio. Run DMC covered the Mike Nesmith song "Mary, Mary," while Smash Mouth remade "I'm a Believer." Regardless of what rock crtics thought at the time (what many rock critics still think...), regardless of the fact that their musical career in the Sixties evaporated with the show's cancellation, The Monkees' music has been remembered. I have a feeling it won't soon be forgotten.

Monday, March 6, 2006

The 78th Annual Academy Awards

Okay, let's face it. The Academy Awards don't always nominate what is truly the best picture of any given year for the Best Picture award. As a case in point, the movie that won the award for Best Picture of 1933 was Calvacade, a film that has long since been forgotten by all but film historians and trivia buffs. Of what were truly the two best movies of that year, 42nd Street was nominated for best picture, but did not win. King Kong, regarded as one of the greatest films of all time alongside 42nd Street, was not even nominated! This year was no different. Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong was in my mind absolutely the best picture of the year, yet it was not nominated for Best Picture (superior even to the original), Best Actress (for Naomi Watts), and a number of other awards that it should have won. I find this a bit ironic as it was the only film from 2005 that the Academy saw fit to feature in their montage of epic films! At least King Kong did better than Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, another one of the best films from 2005. It was nominated for only one award (for makeup). It should have been nominated for Best Picture as well.

Anyhow, enough of my diatribe on the Academy snubbing Peter Jackson this year, I suppose I should address the Awards themselves. I must say that I am happy that King Kong at least managed to win three of the four awards for which it was nominated. It won for Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing. It did not win the award for Art Direction, which rightfully went to Memoirs of a Geisha. I must say that they did a good job of recreating 19th century Japan.

As to the other awards, I must say that I was a bit unhappy to see Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit take the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. I am a huge Wallace and Gromit fan. They are the best thing to happen in animated shorts in a long time. But in my humble opinion the best animated feature of the year is The Corpse Bride. This is a delightful bit of black comedy from the mind of Tim Burton, with some truly striking visuals and great music. Anyhow, I suppose I should mention that out of the three Best Animated Feature nominees this year, none of them were computer animated. The Corpse Bride and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit are both stop motion animation, while Howl's Moving Castle was cel animation. So much for CGI overwhelming traditional animation techniques...

While I'm talking about The Corpse Bride, I must question why none of its songs (all of which were written by Oingo Boingo veteran Danny Elfman) were nominated in the Best Song category? Personally, I think both "According to Plan" and "Tears to Shed" deserved to be nominated. They were certainly better than the songs which were nominated, all of which I hated (although I must admit that Three 6 Mafia certainly know how to accept an Oscar).

I must say that I am happy to see they awareded Robert Altman a Lifetime Achievement Award. Altman is one of my favourite directors of all time. Indeed, I honestly believe he should have won more Oscars than he has in his career. I was also happy to see George Clooney receive the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Syriana. That having been said, I do wish his film Good Night and Good Luck (which he directed and co-wrote) would have picked up more awards. I think it should have won Best Original Screenplay and David Straitharn should have won the Best Actor award as Edward R. Murrow in the film. Here I should point out that I don't have any real objections to Philip Seymour Hoffman winning for Capote. He was impressive as well, but not as impressive as Straitharn in my mind.

As to the other awards, it seems to me that there were some real surprises. I thought for certain that Felicity Huffman would win the Best Actress award for Transamerica. I was rather surprised that Reese Witherspoon won for playing June Carter in Walk the Line. I was happy she did win, however, as she did do a very good job in the part. The biggest surprise for me, however, came when Crash won the award for Best Picture. For literally months it seems like Brokeback Mountain was considered the odds on favourite to win the award. When Ang Lee won the Best Director award, I thought for certain that Brokeback Mountain would take the Best Picture award as well. Well, it turns out I was wrong. I can't say I am unhappy that Crash won. Really, if it was up to me, King Kong would have won the wasn't even nominated. *grumble*

As to the ceremony itself, it seemed to moved more briskly than many Oscar ceremonies have in the past. I was shocked when I looked at the clock and realised it was over by 10:30 PM CST! I also thought the opening clip, in which previous hosts turned down this year's job, was hilarious. I think Jon Stewart was an acceptable host (despite what some critics have said). Some of his jokes fell flat (okay, a lot of his jokes fell flat...), but he was also very funny at times. My favourite moments came with spoof commercials in which various actresses campaigned for the Best Actress award. I thought the one for Keira Knightley ("Acting While Beautiful") was brilliant. Of course, the funniest people on the whole show were Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep, who did a marvelous impression of a Robert Altman film while presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to the director. For anyone familiar with Altman's movies, which always feature overlapping dialogue, half finished sentences, and interruptions to the dialogue, I imagine this was absolutely hilarious. If I do have one complaint about this year's Oscars, it is that they should have had Kate Beckinsale as one of the presenters. Every awards ceremony should have Kate Beckinsale as a presenter....

Anyhow, it seems to me that in some respects this year's Oscars differed little from any other year. Some of the odds on favourites won in their categories. There were some surprises. And what was the best film of the year wasn't even nominated for Best Picture...

Good night and good luck, everyone.