28 February 2011

Gladiator’s 10-year Oscar Anniversary

Are you still not entertained? Is that not why you are here?

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

Now that all that Oscar business is over and done with for another year, I thought about doing a wrap-up post. However, I think all I had to say I drooled out last night on my live-blog. Which was sort of frantic; I don’t know if I’ll do it so extensively next year. It depends on how interested I am in the nominees.

But now I turn my thoughts and my blog space over to Oscars past—specifically, of a decade past. It was ten years ago that Ridley Scott’s Roman epic Gladiator picked up five Oscars, including Best Picture. (It lost Best Director to Steven Sorderbergh for Traffic, which is amazing considering that Sorderbergh was competing with himself in that category for Erin Brockovich.)

I’ve dedicated my whole post today to looking back over Gladiator and seeing if it’s one of those Oscar winners that has held up, or if it’s Shakespeare in Love and The Greatest Show on Earth. My recent Blu-ray purchase of it has helped me crystalize my perception ten years later.

27 February 2011

83rd Academy Awards Live Blog

For the first time in the history of my blog here at RyanHarveyWriter, I will be engaging in that strange activity known as “Live Blogging.” I’ll provide updates and snarky observations during the 83rd Academy Awards Ceremony. Newest remarks at the top of the list. I hope the evening has a few surprises in it—will there be an upset in the Big Eight?—but for the most part I predict a mostly routine round of the granting of golden statues.

My picks for the night are listed here (the Big Eight) and here (everything else).

In quick summary, I got 13 of 22 right, killed by those four categories that kill everyone each year. Surprise wins for Social Network in some categories, but the Big Eight went exactly as planned with the exception of Hooper nudging out Fincher for the Best Director win. I guess Fincher’s own apathy about the awards worked against him. It did seem at an earlier point that The King’s Speech was losing ground. It definitely didn’t sweep, and only picked up a few statues. Inception makes away with a load of technical awards, but should have gotten Best Score. Natalie Portman gives the best speech and is the most deserving winner, but Bale was also a blast. Melissa Leo becomes joke of the night, and will be known as the foul-mouthed lady who stole from the cute teenager who acted across from Jeff Bridges.

Rogert Ebert has called this the worst Oscar telecast he’s seen—and he has seen a few. I guess I’ve seen worse, if only because those were Awards where films I hated were getting wins. But the “young/hip” experiment? Dead, gone. If you’re going to go young, you give the fourteen-year-old girl the award. Sorry to keep harping on this, but that award bothers me—even if I expected it.

Anyway, enjoy my backwards comments:

25 February 2011

83rd Academy Award Picks, Part II

Welcome back to my 83rd Oscar predictions and concurrent “Ryanverse” picks. Here, in Part Secundus, (click here for Part Primus) I’ll deal with what most viewers consider “the other awards,” i.e. anything outside the Big Eight of Picture, Director, the four Acting awards, and the two Screenplay awards.

I’m a film fan to the core, and love all aspects of moviemaking. I am especially interested in many of the technical parts of film, so don’t get me started on a discussions of aspect ratios and the history of widescreen processes. These awards mean as much to me as the Big Eight—except the Academy is often dismissive in voting on them, simply loading them with the nominees from the other categories. I usually feel a sense of disappointment approaching them, so this post won’t deal with these categories in as much depth. (And readers aren’t as interested in then, anyway. I understand why, although I don’t agree.)

So here is a quick look at “everything else.” (I won’t list the full nominees for each category, so please refer to this Wikipedia page for the rundown.)

24 February 2011

My Picks for the 83rd Academy Awards

It’s Oscar Time this Sunday, and I’ll be performing a first for my blog: a real-time commentary post. Just hit refresh to see more annoying observations.

But before that: Predictions! Part I! (Go here for Part II)

For the first time in a few years, I have seen most of the films nominated in the major categories before the actual ceremony. Usually, I catch up with a few of the stragglers as they come out on video in the two months afterwards. This year, the only Best Picture nominee out of the ten that I haven’t seen is 127 Hours. With this good stock of actual visual and aural evidence stored in my brain, I feel a bit more confident in providing you my view of who I think will achieved Statueness this Sunday, and who would achieve it in the “Ryan-verse.”

Keep in mind, I have no attachment to getting any of these right. I won’t win an award or an office pool for the most correct guesses, and have no intention of swaggering over wins. If I’m wrong, I’ll admit it and analyze why the results were different. (And if they were different in favor of Ryanverse, yes, I’ll swagger a bit.)

Also, as much as I would love to go over every category, for the sake of brevity I will stay with the Big Eight. (The snubbing of the score to TRON: Legacy has soured me on a category I would normally visit.)

23 February 2011

Writers of the Future, Vol. XXVII: All the Writers

So . . . we have an anthology! And an award ceremony date!

With the release of the three winners of the fourth quarter of the Twenty-Seventh Writer’s of the Future Contest, all twelve writers are now in place. Here are the twelve writers whose winning stories will appear in this year’s anthology (Vol. XXVII), listed in alphabetical order. I’ve included the story titles where I know them.

  • David D’Amico, “Vector Victoria”
  • Brennan Harvey, “The Truth from a Lie of Convenience”
  • Ryan Harvey, “An Acolyte of Black Spires”
  • Van Aaron Hughes, “The Dualist”
  • Patty Jansen
  • Richard Johnson
  • Keffy R. M. Kehrli
  • Geir Lanesskog
  • Jeffrey Lyman
  • Ben Mann
  • Patrick O’Sullivan
  • Adam Perin

The global distribution on this one is rather interesting—heavy emphasis on Australia (three winners) and the U.S. West Coast (five winners, two from Seattle, the rest from California).

But, for proximity to the Award Ceremony and the Workshop, I have that locked up. A fifteen-minute drive. Four people get international trips. I have Hollywood traffic.

The awards ceremony will be held on May 15 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (same place as last year). I’ll provide online streaming data for you all when the time comes so you can watch the ceremony and hear me give a silly speech.

21 February 2011

The Last Unicorn on Blu-ray

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

One of my earliest posts on this blog dealt with this issue, but with the Blu-ray release today, it seems like the appropriate time to bring the affair up again.

Today is the street date for the Blu-ray release of The Last Unicorn, the 1982 Rankin/Bass-ITC Entertainment animated film version of Peter S. Beagle’s classic fantasy 1968 novel, for which Beagle also wrote the screenplay. After a poor-quality DVD release in 2004, which came from inadequate masters and was presented pan & scan, Lionsgate Entertainment released an excellent two-disc DVD in 2007 as a 25th Anniversary Edition. Now that version is making the leap to 1080 lines of resolution for the new generation of Hi-Def presentation.

But, if you plan on purchasing either the new Blu-ray disc (which includes a DVD copy) or the still available two-disc DVD, please buy them through Conlan Press, the company owned by Connor Cochran, Peter Beagle’s business manager.

14 February 2011

Movie review: The Eagle (2011)

The Eagle (2011)
Directed by Kevin Macdonald. Starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong, Tahar Rahim.

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

Less than a year after Centurion was released theatrically on a small number screens, along comes another historical adventure film telling the tale of the vanished Ninth Legion. Except The Eagle got released on many screens. In a just and fair movie world, the situation would be the opposite. But anybody who has every griped about the Academy Awards knows that we live in no such world. (And by the way . . . no Best Score nomination for Daft Punk’s work on TRON Legacy?)

The Eagle is the opposite of Neil Marshall’s incredibly energetic, almost gonzo Centurion. Marshall’s film uses a great cast to flesh out its characters and themes of survival and duty while keeping an insane and glorious momentum. At every turn, Centurion does its damndest to keep audience’s adrenaline high. The Eagle, given greater dramatic space for characters between battle scenes, sketches out complete blanks for protagonists, contains no sense of the Roman frontier, and features poorly shot and edited battle scenes that emit out not single nanowatt of excitement. (Oh, I’ll be generous. Not a single microwatt of excitement.) No wonder Focus Features unceremoniously dumped this film out in early February, during Valentine’s Day weekend, up against a kid’s CGI animated movie and romantic comedy starring Adam Sandler. The Eagle is totally disposable.

08 February 2011

Penny Gadget: Nerd-empowerment role-model

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

I wonder if elementary school children today have as inspiring a model on animated television shows as I did when I was ten years old. My hero was Penny Gadget from the syndicated series Inspector Gadget.

Why? Because somebody my age, armed with a computer (a proto-laptop disguised as a book) and an amazing wristwatch (able to fire lasers and tracers and whatever else the plot needed) was stopping a massive global criminal enterprise on a weekly basis while the adults around her achieved nothing except looking like buffoons.

01 February 2011

Farewell to a Master: John Barry (1933–2011)

I lost one of my major influences, one of my musical idols, on Sunday evening when English film composer John Barry died of a heart attack at age seventy-seven in his home in Oyster Bay, New York.

Barry became one of the foremost film composers in the world starting in the 1960s. After a short career in popular music as a trumpeter, Barry emerged as a film muscian who could bridge the gap between the older orchestral style with the newer interest in popular music. His earliest scores, starting with Beat Girl (1960), were pop and jazz pieces. But in 1962, he exploded with two foundational scores: From Russia with Love, the first Bond score for which he had composer credit (he had done arrangements and much uncredited work on Dr. No), and Zulu, a score that showed his ability with epic sweep and classical styles. These two themes would dominate his career. In 1964, his score to Goldfinger turned his music into a worldwide sensation, and the “Bond Sound” became attached to Barry forever. Today, all Bond music lives in his shadow. When he departed the series after The Living Daylights, a great era concluded. Although offered the other Bond movies, Barry turned them all down, feeling the emphasis on action made it no longer interesting to score them. And . . . he definitely had a point. The Bond movies have never had the same level of power since Barry’s run. His contribution to the character as a global phenomenon is immeasurable. I don’t give a damn about producer Cubby Broccoli. I give a damn about John Barry. He brought as much to 007 as Sean Connery, Ken Adam, and Terence Fisher. Perhaps brought more, since he stayed with the character longer.