Archive for March, 2010


sheriff

What it means: the law-enforcement officer of a county or other civil subdivision of a state; (formerly) an important civil officer in an English shire

The term is a contraction of shire reeve, which referred to the overseer of workers and tenants in an English shire (equivalent to a county); a kind of steward representing the crown. The shire reeve pretty much had ultimate authority and often was extremely powerful.  The same, of course, was true of early sheriffs in the American Old West. In the UK today, the position is either honorary (and unpaid) or has morphed into the High Court enforcement officer, while in the States the sheriff remains the highest law office in a county, with varied authority divisions between this office and those of other law enforcement agencies.

Why I chose it:  My combined interests in medieval history and in Westerns, along with love of interesting etymology, make this a natural addition to the (recently much neglected) category of words for thought. 

 
 

A Trio of Pulse-Quickeners

Here’s a look at three randomly assembled flicks, though what they have in common is that they are meant to thrill. Think of it as a buy-two-get-one-free “thrill me” deal. I got to see all three this weekend: The Crazies (2010), Legion (2010), and Whiteout (2009). Each has its exhilarating moments, to be sure … but do these sustain each movie as a whole?

The Crazies

This remake of a 1973 George Romero movie of the same name starts out promisingly. The plot develops quickly, from one alleged drunk shot on a baseball field to another loon setting his house on fire—with his wife and son inside—and soon we’re looking at a full-blown epidemic. But all too soon it becomes muddled and disconnected. Are the bad guys the zombie-like maniacs that our heroes were trying to get away from, or are the real villains the government stooges trying to contain what they caused? There are some interesting scenes, but mostly the film is pretty predictable. I felt like I’d seen it before, and I don’t just mean the Romero version. It’s just very similar to many Romero films and plenty of other contagion and zombie movies.

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Post-Oscars Wrap-up

First and foremost, congrats to all the winners!

Yesterday I wrote that it was unlikely for any film but Avatar to win Best Picture. I’m so glad I was wrong! It was heartening to see that the Academy’s voters considered commercial success (which Avatar continues to enjoy in abundance) separately from what makes a great, award-worthy film.

The Hurt Locker Cleans Up

Who would have thunk it? Avatar and The Hurt Locker both went into the show with nine nominations, and The Hurt Locker walked away with six Oscars, while the highest-grossing movie in history, Avatar, only received three.  Everyone was blown away as the excellent but “small” film The Hurt Locker ended up top dog. Kathryn Bigelow received the best director Oscar, Mark Boal got the award for original screenplay, and the film snagged film editing, sound editing, and sound mixing.

No one turned a camera on the former King of the World (James Cameron) so we could see his reaction as his ex-wife and talented better half gave an acceptance speech that focused on supporting our troops and others in uniform rather than on herself.  *big smile*

Disappointments

Well, Sandra Bullock did end up with the best actress award. As I mentioned, I’m a big fan of hers and love watching her silly movies. But I completely disagree that her performance was better than those of her fellow nominees. She probably said it best in her speech when she joked, “… did I just wear you down?” That must have been it.  But congratulations anyway, Sandy, and enjoy the ride.

Even more maddening was that chunk-o-rama Up winning best animated feature. Besides the way the characters are drawn, none of them is truly likeable. It’s a mystery to me why this film was so praised, and all I can think of is that it had the best PR somehow.  No idea.  I’m stumped here.

My biggest disappointment by far, though, is that District 9, one of my favorite movies of the year, won nothing at all. Hey, at least this off-the-beaten-path film was recognized by several nominations … and I have a DVD copy I can watch anytime!

On with the Show

To my surprise and chagrin, the hosting team of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin was not as funny as I’d hoped.  There were moments when they made me laugh out loud, but fewer than I’d anticipated. 

The other weird turn on the show was Tom Hanks coming out at the end to announce, rather abruptly and without further fanfare, that the best picture winner was The Hurt Locker.  The show was a bit over on time, as it typically is, but it just seemed strangely hurried to me.

What was marvelous was Neil Patrick Harris’s opening number!  Now, that’s entertianment! And, as a friend wrote to me, who knew he could sing and dance like that?  Otherwise, pretty boring and uneventful ceremony.  Come on, people … at least make it fun to watch.

Over and out!

Z

And the Winner Is…

It’s Academy Awards day.  Guess you know what this movie freak will be watching this evening. 

Stephen King, in his Entertainment Weekly column, made the excellent point that it’s the films we movie-lovers like to watch, not the goofy award shows—and I agree.  But for me, the spectacle of the Oscars has been a long-time institution connected to the film industry, and for good or ill, decisions made here about the year’s best influence upcoming projects, careers, and theater runs for months and years to come. So, like King, I’ll be watching with some snacks on tap, and I won’t be falling asleep before the end!

Everyone and his second cousin makes Oscar-winner predictions, so it feels rather silly to add to that melee, but I promised I would chime in, even though I have waited until the last minute to do so.  I don’t really want to predict as much as offer a few comments and some sincere hopes—most of which are not news to those who have talked to me over the past couple of months.

Best Picture

The commercial favorite is, of course, Avatar, and I do think chances are very good that this entertaining and technically advanced film will win.  I won’t be heartbroken (or surprised) if it does win, as it is wildly entertaining and groundbreaking in some ways for its effects.  However, it doesn’t have the depth of story that I’d like to see triumph.  What does? My personal favorite is District 9 for overall storyline and performances plus its genius combination of genres, and eye-popping action and effects on a small budget. People have argued that it won’t win because it’s a science-fiction movie … so, what is Avatar?

I’d also be quite pleased if The Hurt Locker took home the Best Picture statuette. It is deserving for its amazing performances, flawless pacing, fantastic cinematography, and more. The subject matter may be a bit narrow for the top prize, though many are hoping that if the film can’t take Best Picture, Kathryn Bigelow will snag Best Director (I’d love for that to happen especially if Avatar gets Best Pic!).

I’ve watched all three of these movies twice now, and I can say unequivocally that one of them should win. Any other choice from the ridiculous ten-strong category will be a travesty.

Actors

Unfortunately, I have not seen some of the films that feature the Best Actor nominees, so I’m all good with frontrunner Jeff Bridges winning.  I also haven’t seen some of the Best Actress performances, but I pray and hope that a serious actor like Helen Mirren or Meryl Streep takes it.  I like Sandra Bullock, especially in fun movies, but she is just not of the same caliber as many of the nominees. Neither are the films in which she appears, including this year’s The Blind Side. I’ve always said I’m no film snob, but I’m feeling like a bit of one in this case. Nonetheless, I will be sorely disappointed if the Razzies winner (or rather, loser) also takes home and Oscar.

Other Categories

There are not many categories this year that I feel very strongly about, so it will just be fun to watch who and what wins. There’s one exception, though.  For Animated Feature, I’m fervently hoping that Up, which I failed to see why everyone liked so much, doesn’t win.  My favorite of those animated films I’ve seen is Coraline (hooray, Neil Gaiman!), but I fear it may be too dark to prevail in its category.

Well, that’s it for me. Everyone have fun at your Oscar parties, or watching in the comfort of your easy chair, of ignoring the festivities altogether.  I’ll be back in a day or two with some reflections after the fact.

Cheers!

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