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February 28, 2005

And the Award for the worst Awards show goes to. . .

How bad was the Academy Awards telecast Sunday night? Bad enough that the cameras caught members of the live audience snoozing including at least one nominee. And it didn't have to be that way. Chris Rock was host, there was some competition in some areas and there were genuine surprises. The basic problem, IMO, is that the Academy Awards are no longer about celebrating the year in movies -- it's a platform for commercials to sell you stuff. In other words, it's not an event -- it's just another TV show.

The problems weren't because of gaffes or mistakes although there's always some of those. No, they planned this snoozer. And some of them were slap yourself in the head "What were they thinking?" kind of groaners. They improved it to death. It was the "new coke" of Academy Award shows.

The set major league sucked. Let's get that out of the way right away. But then there was also the practice of either lining up nominees on stage as if they were on American Idol or doing the whole thing from the audience and the winners never even get on stage! In the name of what -- saving some time? Visual diversity? What it said was "These are the minor awards" and was really insulting. These people worked hard and long in the fields or on the projects that the Academy was supposedly "honoring". Even Chris Rock commented that next year some Awards were going to be given out in the parking lot as part of a drive-thru. You want fries with that Award? Hey, Academy -- either give out those Awards at a separate function like you do with the technical awards or do it right or just eliminate the categories. But stop treating them like the bastard children. Let 'em sit at the grown-up's table if you're going to let them in.

And how about that music? Okay, the songs sucked. They suck almost every year. Having Beyonce' sing three of them didn't help matters. Not that she's a terrible singer but it made for a sameness through the show. It made you scratch your head and ask, "They couldn't get anyone else?"

Yo-Yo Ma is a great artist and having him play might be a great moment. Problem was -- they did the Memorial section with it and people were hesitant about applauding while Ma was playing -- and wasn't that the purpose of the Memorial? To salute those who were gone one last time? Speaking of which -- they gave Johnny Carson a separate memorial but Marlon Brando got maybe 5 seconds. I loved Johnny Carson but who was more important to films -- him or Brando? It underscores the underlying problem about the broadcast -- Carson was an emcee and from TV and that's what the Academy Awards has become -- another TV show.

I love movie soundtracks -- and this year you got maybe a three second snippet while the nominations were named. In the past, they at least had the orchestra play a medley of music from the nominated shows. Not this year. This year, they didn't even play the themes of the movies when there was an award for it. Morgan Freeman walked off after winning his best supporting actor award to the strains of STAR TREK; THE NEXT GENERATION. What the hell?! That and the theme from THE TERMINATOR were the two recurrent themes in the show. WHY?!

How about them film clips. "WHAT film clips?" you might ask and you might well ask. It used to be that for even the small features you'd get a TASTE of what the film was visually about. Many categories got none or had them projected in a mosaic pattern on the floor that made it virtually impossible to see ANYTHING! Add to that the CHOICE of clips made when you had them. Usually they seemed chosen for their brevity -- not because they were especially illuminating about a film, a performance, or the work done. Add to THAT the montage of clips at the start to which I could discern NO pattern or theme. Here's an idea -- wouldn't the start of the show have been better served by an overture of the nominated film scores and/or extended clips from the best films of the year. Remind everyone about what was really cool in the previous year?

And that clock. Some of those getting the awards were so nervous about the clock and rushing so fast that they had no MOMENT. The exceptions were ones like Jamie Foxx who made them LET him take a moment. Granted, there were actors like Hillary Swank who just don't know when to stop thanking people. Here's two ideas -- have someone work with the nominees BEFORE the show to make sure they know what they're going to say and then reserve the clock if they start to ramble.

The show felt disconnected, rushed, and -- oddly enough -- at the same time tedious. It needs a make-over. Get the Fab Five from Queer Eye over here. Let Thom design the set, let Jai work the nominees about what they'll say, let Kyan and Carson do the red carpet bullshit (as a montage -- and let them say what they will) and let Ted. . .do something.

I read somewhere that the Academy is trying to be more hip, more edgy, bring in the younger viewers. Ain't going to happen, folks. The kids are really not interested; they already have the MTV Movie Awards. The Academy Awards should be the Academy Awards -- an event like the Super Bowl.

Stop worrying about the time -- so long as it's under four hours, that's okay. Let it breathe a bit. Let it have some moments. Sunday night was just bad television.

No stars.

Posted by John Ostrander at 07:51 PM | Comments (11)

February 08, 2005


For the release of GrimJack last week, I did a store signing at Dewey's in Madison, NJ. The owner, Dan, sent out a press release and a reporter from the local paper, the DAILY RECORD, did a phone interview and then came out to the shop along with a photographer. Mike Gold also provided them with some art for the article. The reporter told me it would in the paper in the next few days so I started making sure I got it.

On Saturday, it appeared on the freakin' front page along with my smiling face. My first thought was, "Now there's a mug to curdle the cream in your morning coffee." It also conferred a slight celebrity on me that lasted, oh, maybe 36 hours and made me think of the semi-celebrity status of those of us working in comics.

It's actually kind of fun. I go to conventions or store signings and I am Somebody. I leave the Con or the store, take off my name tag, and the general public has no idea of who I am and couldn't care less. And that is ALSO very cool. I get to have a private life, unlike real celebrities.

Please understand -- I'm not putting the comic book fan down in any way. I'm a fan as well and anytime I get to meet some of MY heroes, I get horribly tongue-tied. I had to get Julie Schwartz, who I knew somewhat, to introduce me to Jack Kirby at a Con because I just COULDN'T walk up to him myself and do it, despite the fact that Jack was one of the most approachable people in comics. I'm also somewhat surprised that people actually want to meet me. I know they're sincere and I'm flattered but puzzled. The fact that I have fans actually does surprise me. The fact that I should have a weblog and anyone CARES what I think enough to read it amazes me. I keep forgetting I've been writing for awhile. I'm very pleased I have fans but it does surprise me. Just the way I am.

And it is a nice ego-boost. I've got to admit that. Knowing people are reading and LIKING what I do -- that makes me feel so good. And the fact I still have some privacy is also very cool. So I like my semi-celebrity status.

And I'm just shallow enough to admit it.

All the best

-- John

Posted by John Ostrander at 11:43 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 07, 2005

Attention Chicken Little: about the sky. . .

Our president is off and at it again, using the same techniques as before for pretty much the same reasons as before. He uses half-truths and outright lies to try and scare the voters and then jam his solution through whose real political agenda is different than what is stated. Having worked SO well last time with foreign policy (aka the Iraq War) he's now using it for the domestic side of his agenda -- and the target this time is Social Security. When his solution is shown to be a boondoggle, I suppose he could blame "bad intel" again except, if it passes, by the time it's full impact is felt, Bush will be long gone from office.

Bush tries to convince us the sky is falling so we'll get scared and do what he wants. Remember in the Chicken Little story who it was that told Chicken Little the sky was falling and why they did that. In this case, we're told that the system is going to go bankrupt, flat broke, and that the best way toi fix it (although he is supposedly open to ALL ideas) is for private accounts to be opened to you can "own" your retirement..

Wrong, lies, and misleading on all counts. The system ISN'T going to go broke; it will be underfunded by a certain date but that can actually be easily fixed without revising the system. Which is what private accounts do. You would be investing and social security isn't an investment -- it's a federal INSURANCE program. The rate of return is low but guaranteed; to get a higher rate of return, you must be willing to take risk. The risk is that you can lose your investment or not get the return you expected.

If you go to private investment accounts for retirement, the government, under Bush's plan, will monitor and control which type of investments you can make. To BETTER Social Security, over the length of investment you would have to do better than 3% growth annually AFTER adjhusting for inflation. And, when time comes to retire, you TURN OVER the account to the Feds who then give you an annuity out of it so you don't spend it all at once.Because they don't trust you to spend it wisely.

Plus the plan adds about two TRILLION to the national debt in making the changeover in order to cover lost of revenue for those now over 55 when the younger folks pull money out of Social Security for these investment accounts. That's two trillion ON TOP of the rest of the massive deficit Bush has gifted us with.

And the real reason on the political agenda? It's not just to generate lots of commissions for the Bush's buddies in the banks and on Wall Street although they're ahppy to do that; after all, you need to feather your own nest for when you're out of office, don't you? The neo-cons and the right wingers in this administration represent people who HATE Social Security. It offends them. So they want to create a situation where, eventually, it will be financially impossible to continue it.

Would it be smart to evaluate Social Security and see if it's well funded and take steps to fix it if its not? Of course. That's prudent. But it's also been one of the few truly succesful federal programs over its length of years. It's being mucked with primarily because of political theolgy.

And we're a bunch of damned fools if we let them do it.

Posted by John Ostrander at 10:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 06, 2005

NJ loves GJ

This has been a good week for GrimJack here in the wilds of New Jersey. I did a signing at Dewey's in Madison on Wednesady, the day that the book came out, and the owner, Dan, set up an article on it with the Morris County DAILY RECORD. The reporter, who did an excellent job, interviewed me over the phone at length the night before and came to the shop along with a photog. Long and short, the article came out Saturday, on the FRONT PAGE, with a big photo of me and Gaunt above the fold. Talk about your slow news day. Actually startled me; I was picking up the paper to see if I was in it to find myself looking at myself. Boy, that could curdle folk's morning coffee!

We also were in the New Jersey Star-Ledger as the pick fhis week in the comic book section of their "Signal2Noise" section which is also very cool. And i'm hearing word that we're selling out in a lot of places.

Yes, I AM a happy camper this wekk!

Posted by John Ostrander at 08:26 PM | TrackBack

February 05, 2005

Testing testing. . .

Is this thing ON?

Am I pointed in the right direction?

testing, testing. . .one. . .two. . .

I am NOT a technophobe, I'm a Crusty Old Fart and I've never done this before so please be gentle, And patient.

I'll actually be posting some things I feel like saying and some of them may be about GrimJack but a lot probably won't be. I'll be here at the website as often as I can. I'm going to try to look in at least once a day.

Right now, I just want to see if I've done this right and if I actually have blogged.

Gawd, that sounds weird.

-- John

Posted by John Ostrander at 04:16 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack