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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Oscar films

Oscar statuettes
Photo credit: Noel Y.C. on Flickr
The Oscars are going to be televised tonight and my wife and I have been busy watching nominated films and acting performances since the beginning of the year. Regular readers may recall that I didn't actually see any of the films nominated for best picture during the 2012 calendar year. Until 2013, I didn't see any of the nominated acting performances either.

During 2012, I did see "Skyfall," which was nominated for a handful of technical or musical awards and "The Avengers," which received one such nomination. "Moonrise Kingdom," the best 2012 film I watched during the eligibility year, received a well-deserved writing nomination.

In any case, based on my 2013 efforts to see the 2012 contenders, I'm going to rank-order the films and acting performances. Obviously, this is my completely subjective perspective -- and not an ideal way to think about art. Plus, I can only rank the performances I watched. That is a big limit since I failed to see four of the Oscar-nominated Best Picture nominees and missed "The Master" when it was in town (it comes out on DVD this week).

Note that these are not my predictions about winners in each category. Go to Intrade if you want predictions.  Spoiler Alert: "Argo" is a strong favorite ("Lincoln" was a heavy favorite until "Argo" started winning awards), along with Daniel Day-Lewis and Steven Spielberg for their contributions, plus Louisville's Jennifer Lawrence.

Update: Shaded yellow indicates additions after the Oscars (and the original blog posting).

Best Picture

Argo **
Zero Dark Thirty  (post-Oscar viewing, March) **
Django Unchained **
Lincoln **
Life of Pi (post-Oscar viewing, May)
Silver Linings Playbook  **
Beasts of the Southern Wild

Actor

Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) (post-Oscar viewing, May)
Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)

Actress

Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Actor in a Supporting Role

Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
Robert DeNiro (Silver Linings Playbook)
Alan Arkin (Argo)
Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)

Actress in a Supporting Role

Helen Hunt (The Sessions) (post-Oscar viewing in May)
Sally Field (Lincoln)
Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)
Amy Adams (The Master)

Directing

Ang Li (Life of Pi)
David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)


** I saw these films in the theater.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Life on Russian Roads

Did you see last night's episode of "The Daily Show"? This segment was one of the most hilarious ever:



"Tank!"

The "Benny Hill" video/audio tribute near the end is definitely worth the wait.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Billy Beane

Billy Beane I trekked across the state border tonight to see Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane speak at Indiana University Southeast. Beane had been invited to deliver the keynote address for the annual Sanders Speaker Series.

The format was interview style rather than lecture. Local writer and academic Marty Rosen (yes, Neal (if you ever read this space anymore), that Marty Rosen) sat next to Beane on stage and asked engaging questions for about an hour -- and then they opened it up to audience members.

Beane proved to be an entertaining and intelligent guest for this sort of event.

The questions were diverse, triggering Beane to reveal his favorite baseball films of all time (Pride of the Yankees, The Natural and Field of Dreams -- Beane is a self-described baseball romantic, at least as  a fan), his most memorable trading experiences as GM (the 1999 mid-season trades), his appreciation for Baseball Prospectus and their former employee Nate Silver, the influence of the 1993 Phillies offense on his baseball thinking, and the background story for this unusual convergence of thinkers. 

One member of the audience asked Beane what kind of statistical metrics teams were using "behind the scenes" that fans didn't know about. He replied by referencing an old SNL skit that he has likely noted on many similar occasions (paraphrasing). A reporter at a press briefing asks a U.S. military general: "Sir, what would be the one piece of information that would be most dangerous for the Iraqis to know?" 

Good stuff.

By the way, Beane pointed out that 2013 is the 10th anniversary of Moneyball. Devoted blog readers may remember my own take on Beane's early years.


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Saturday, February 09, 2013

Sorry, Wrong Number?

Just in case anyone has the wrong idea about the role of the U.S. military in global politics, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta offered a simple reminder last week. From ABC News:
"The United States military is not and should not be a global 911 service capable of arriving on the scene within minutes to every possible contingency around the world," Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Put differently, don't call us, we'll call you.

This comment from Panetta reminded me of a similar one made by Bill Clinton's first Secretary of Defense, William Perry:

I've said before, and I will say it again, the U.S. Army is an Army. It is not a Salvation Army. We're not in the business of providing humanitarian relief.
I quoted a similar statement from Perry back in 2004. However, I also noted that when Perry offered this pithy turn of phrase, he typically outlined circumstances when the U.S. military could provide humanitarian assistance.

When do we decide it is important to do that? What are the exceptional cases?
First of all it has to be a catastrophe of large proportions. That was true two years ago, during this cholera thing -- 5,000 people a day were dying. It appears to be true today in the refugee problem in Rwanda and Zaire. Secondly it has to be something where the United States military forces have something unique that they can provide. Two years ago we were the only organization that had the combination of airlift, water purification equipment and engineers that could get in and solve that problem in time. So we did. And finally, it has to be an operation which is acceptably low risk, and in which we have an exit strategy.

All of those have applied to operations where we send forces to assist in humanitarian operations. Those are the criteria that we would be applying to any humanitarian operation which we get involved in Africa.
Presumably, the Obama administration would agree with this, by and large.


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Friday, February 01, 2013

Out of Print

As I noted about a year ago, advertisers have spent the past decade or so abandoning print media in favor of the internet. The data from 2012 suggest the trend is worsening -- mostly to the benefit of Google:
A new study from Statista has revealed that Google (GOOG) is making more advertising revenue than the entire U.S. print media combined. The Internet giant has raked in slightly more than $20 billion in ad revenue in the first six months of 2012, while the U.S. print media industry has generated just less than $20 billion as a whole.

“Google, a company founded just 14 years ago, makes more money from advertising than an industry that has been around for more than a hundred years,” Statista notes.
Here's what the trend looks like in a graph:


Back in 2000, I believe my household subscribed to at least 10 different magazines. However, No Depression folded nearly five years ago. The American Prospect was a biweekly, became a monthly (published 10 times per year), and is now a (thick) bimonthly. Most other magazines we receive have dropped the total number of issues published per year or reduced their content. Utne Reader jacked up subscription prices to a level that made each bimonthly issue cost about $6. We dropped it.


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