Friday, March 26, 2010

Jim Marshall. whose camera framed our image of rock, is dead

Jim Marshall, one of the great rock & roll photographers, died Wednesday in a New York City hotel of unknown causes. He was 74.

He and photographer Timothy White have a new book "Match Prints."

As you can see from the above photos of Janis Joplin backstage (1968) and Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar at Monterey (1967) he had unlimited access in the early days of rock & roll. His photos framed our image of rock. And with his camera he often caught the reality (such that it is) behind the public image.

The causes of his death will probably be known in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Oscars: 2010 - thoughts and predictions

Tonight (ABC, 8:30 PM) The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will hand out its annual awards (Oscars) in 24 categories covering most aspects of filmmaking.

Well, we've finally seen the last (An Education and The Blind Side) of the 10 nominated films. It seems that according to most reports it's a race between Hurt Locker and Avatar. I think of the 10 nominated films (and that's really all this is about, there are many other worthwhile films that are ignored each year) Avatar is my favorite and The Hurt Locker is probably my least favorite. Why? Avatar, beneath all the 3D, futuristic effects, and blue-skinned natives, is really a contemporary version of the genocide against the indigenous people of this continent in order to steal their land and resources. A mysterious corporation is after the richest deposit of the potentially earth-saving (and profit making) mineral Unobtainium (note the name) located on Pandora. They, of course, enlist the assistance of the U.S. armed forces to once again destroy the native Na'vi population. Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose. It also raises questions about the environment and the power of the physically challenged - the leading male character is a paraplegic, except when he's on Pandora. (Lost fans note John Locke on the island and off).

In contrast to this, The Hurt Locker seems to me to reinforce all the stereotypes of the bomb-crazy Iraqis. In contraast, only the American characters are fully developed, the Iraqis are just bomb-throwing props. This doesn't seem to me to be the basis of a great anti-war film. I know there are others who disagree.

A few words about the other films. I really liked Precious and The Blind Side because they demonstrate, in very different ways, that it isn't the color of one's skin that determines one's potential, but the circumstances in which a child grows up. I prefer Precious mostly because, in addition to some incredible acting, the person who turns Precious' life around is a teacher of color (Alicia Keys) and not another white superhero. But even in the more typical white savior film The Blind Side it still shows how it's the situation one is in that determines so much (rich white people do better in this society than poor Black people). Isn't that surprise? Perhaps if we were to equalize the starting position of the contestants, the race wouldn't be so one sided.

A quick word about Up in the Air and An Education. I liked both of them and would recommend them to anyone who hasn't seen them. I know in many ways they are very different and George Clooney isn't a 17-year-old woman, but at their core, they are very much alike. Two other thoughts: District 9 and Avatar are very similar in their politics and I don't know what sense Inglorious Basterds makes except to fulfill a Quentin Tarantino's fantasy. I suspect that the only reason why A Serious Man (or Job 2009) and Up have been included was to fill out the required 10 films.

A few other comments:

I really want to see Jeff Bridges win for best actor. I know it's a career award, but it was one hell of a performance.

I'm not at all convinced about Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) - the best actress favorite. I don't think her work touches what Gabourey Sidibe did in Precious and I've been told, since I haven't seen it, Meryl Streep's cover of Julia Child (Julie & Julia). I also liked watching Carey Mulligan get an education in more ways than one and Helen Mirren as Madame Tolstoy (yes, that Tolstoy), but I'd watch Helen Mirren do anything.

Christoph Waltz (The Hurt Locker) seems to be the odds on favorite for Best Supporting Actor and I don't really have any objection, except to say Matt Damon was wonderful in Invictus.

As for Best Supporting Actress I think, like everyone else, that it should go to Mo'Nique in Precious. But if there were a silver Oscar it should go to Crazy Heart's Maggie Gyllenhaal. She was really wonderul as always.

One other race to pay close attention to is Best Director. It seems that, even if Avatar beats The Hurt Locker for Best Picture, the voters may divide Picture and Director and give the director award to Hurt Locker's Kathryn Bigelow. If she wins it will be the most important award of the evening, because she will be the first woman to ever be so honored and it's about damn time.

That's about it, except to say that the award for Best Costume Design better go to The Young Victoria or the Academy will hear from both Ann and me.

The new Doctor Who (2010)

So you want to see the first glimpse (and that's all it is) of the new (2010) version of Doctor Who. Well here is what I've found.
His new companion, Amy Pond, is played by Karen Gillan.