Poll: 2012 Oscar Nominations


The 2012 Oscar Nominations for the 84th Academy Awards were announced earlier this week. Here are the nominees for Best Picture, with links to their official websites, are:

Here are two polls: (A) Which film do you think will win the award for Best Picture? and (B) which film do you think should win the award for Best Picture? You can add detail in support of your answer in the comment box for this post.

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Wistful for Whist


A leather Whist marker produced by the English...

Image via Wikipedia

My grandparents used to play a card game called Canasta. They hosted Canasta parties one night a week. As a kid, I enjoyed being at their house, with all their friends, and substituting in for someone who needed a partner.

I never knew anyone else who played the game. And I haven’t played Canasta since those days when I was eight or ten years old. It was kind of strange that the only card game I really knew was a game no one else had even heard of.

Of course, I eventually learned other card games. But one game I’ve never played and have never known others to play is the game of Whist. I first heard of Whist reading a biography of my favorite American President, Theodore Roosevelt. He played Whist. Knowing him, I’m convinced it must be a card game worth playing. So, though I’ve never played, I am sort of “wistful for Whist.”

A little Googling reveals that there are Whist games for play on the internet, and software versions of the game. I’d like to know whether any of my readers:

  1. have heard of Whist;
  2. have played Whist;
  3. like the game of Whist;
  4. have a favorite card game other than Whist;
  5. have played Whist online;
  6. have played a software version of Whist;
  7. have played Canasta.

Ranking Three Summer 2010 Action Movies


First Place: Knight and Day

Second Place: SALT

Third Place: The Expendables

Knight and Day are a romantic duo. Salt is a solo maverick. The Expendables? They’re a team . . . sorta. Neither Knight and Day nor The Expendables is serious; but Knight and Day is funny, and The Expendables isn’t. Knight and Day entertains on many levels, and has something for most audiences. The Expendables entertains on pretty much one frequency—violent action peppered with salty language.

Salt is less memorable weeks after seeing it, but engaging at the time. There are real surprises that swing this movie into the range of genuine suspense.

There is one salvageable line in The Expendables: “I’m Buddha; he’s Pest.” Sylvester Stallone is a smart guy, and he could have (should have) written and directed a better movie than this. The abiding question for audiences will be, “How old can you be and still do action figures?”

Most important prop in:

My choice of best actor for these three movies may surprise: Mickey O’Rourke, in . . . The Expendables. And it’s not because I’m a big O’Rourke fan. I’d have to confess to being more of an Angelina Jolie fan, though Cameron Diaz is pretty endearing opposite Tom Cruz. And Tom Cruz is the funniest he’s been, without stepping out of character, in Knight and Day.

Women can stay home from The Expendables, unless they really want to see what grown—and old—men look like playing the good bad guys against the odds. I will say that I’d rank The Expendables over Ghost Rider, which somehow comes to mind for comparison purposes. Go figure. The Expendables is more of a contemporary version of Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch. ‘Nuff said?

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?


I discovered the music of Larry Norman through a friend in 1979. I never made it to a concert, but I’ve listened to his music for 30 years. And I’ve introduced others along the way. (I play his song “The Outlaw” in my course on Christian apologetics.)

Today I came across an interview he did with a magazine called The Wittenberg Door, published in 1976.

In the interview, Larry talks about the Jesus Movement, “Jesus Rock,” Christian music, signing autographs, being a celebrity, and having heroes. There’s a lot there for Christians to chew on today. I’m not a musician, but my world, what you might call the “Christian knowledge industry,” has its own problems with integrity.

Larry’s perspective applies at all levels of Christian engagement with culture. I encourage thoughtful consideration of what he had to say in 1976.

Note: The title of this post comes from Larry Norman’s song “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?”

The Official Larry Norman Web Site

Great Games for Movie Fiends


I teach a university level course on Faith, Film, and Philosophy and I’ve discovered a couple of movie-related games that are pretty entertaining. They can be played through or used as just part of an evening of entertainment. I’ve used them in my course to keep things interesting, light hearted, and engaging for the students. Read more of this post

Heads Up Film Fans for Christmas Deals at Amazon


Because of the film commentary often posted here, I know many readers have an interest in film. So here’s something you might like to know. Now until December 22, Amazon is offering deep discounts on movie and TV DVDs and Blu-ray. Click here if you want to go directly to their Christmas discount pages. Boxed sets are especially well-priced.

Jack Bauer’s Creators, We Need You—Mid-season Ruminations on 24


24-philosphyIf you’re a 24 fan and you haven’t yet seen tonight’s episode, you better save this post for later. It might reveal more than you want to know, which is ironic, given what I’m about to say.

This has been a remarkably engaging season, given the challenge its writers have faced to be fresh and unpredictable. Even more so given some other challenges it has set for itself. Some of these have to do with the writing, some have to do with the marketing.

The writing. Is the FBI really as inept as it’s portrayed here? Tactical differences between Jack Bauer and FBI personnel have made sense. Larry fits the stereotype. His objectivity is fogged by his interest in an admittedly attractive agent who’s working a little too closely with Bauer, but he hangs in there pretty well. His capacity for rage hints that he’s not altogether unlike Bauer, whom he so patently loathes. Tonight, though, I think the script may have dropped a couple of points on the credibility score. Larry’s real life counterpart wouldn’t have been so clumsy about tightening the net on FBI infiltrators . . . would he? Wouldn’t that seedy-looking Shawn—or Sean—chap have been a possible? You would think. But not Larry. At least not soon enough. Even for the FBI. I hope.

Next, Rosa’s death. This was predictable. How it would happen wasn’t. That was a good story thread. We’ve known of innocent, uncomplicated civilians acting with valor at personal risk to thwart terrorism. Rosa’s desperate attack on the driver, causing a fatal accident, is believable. Remember 9/11? But is she the completely sympathetic character she needs to be for us, the viewers, to relate vitally to the angst played out so elaborately by agent what’s-her-name (the one who looks like she could be Jaclyn Smith redivivus, . . . or Jaclyn Smith’s daughter)? The pretty and gritty agent’s sentiments are realistic enough. But what do they do to advance the plot? Isn’t it a little smarmy?

Finally, why the silly stock antics by Tony when he appears on the steps next to Jack at the end of tonight’s episode? He steps down, removes his shades, and tells Jack that “it’s not over.” Once he’s satisfied that he’s nearly convinced Jack, he dons the glasses and says, “I need you, Jack.” Very original.

Point being—the writers are much too clever to settle for these derivatives. The sensational TV series still works for me. I’ll be tuning in next week. But something’s crept in here that has nothing to do with exhausting the storyline potential of the show.

The marketing. Here I’m talking about the way the series is played up by the show’s engineers between episodes. Tonight we were told to expect, before the episode began, that this hour would provide some significant closure. This was risky. And it worked, I think. There was closure, which is unusual for the series. But it didn’t ruin the effect. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen often. But it was refreshing to experience it on this segment. Did it have to be pre-announced? I think it may have been constructive, since most of us probably watched with wariness about that prospect, and thus experienced a heightened sense of tension.

So what’s the problem? After watching a fully riveting episode, the producers think we have to be told virtually everything that will happen next week to get us to come back. I don’t care what happens in the next episode—I know they revealed too much at the conclusion of tonight’s show. It’s anticlimactic—unless you have short-term memory loss, in which case you probably aren’t sure what’s going on from one week to the next and aren’t tuning in for that reason.

It’s been rumored, maybe for marketing effect, that the writers work inside the series close to the release of each episode, not knowing all that much about where they’re headed from episode to episode. Their spectacular series 24 is more believable than that. But let’s pretend there’s still time for tinkering. I have a selfish request—ligthen up on the shibboleths and can the forecasting. Your program has attracted an intelligent audience. They’re your core. Don’t let them down.

In case you couldn’t resist reading this post before seeing tonight’s episode, awaiting playback on your Tivo, here’s my advice: stop watching immediately after Tony walks away toward Constitution and First. I think you’ll enjoy the next week’s installment more than I will.

Note: Evidence of my enthusiasm for 24 can be found in my chapter in the book 24 and Philosophy.

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