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Archive for September, 2010

Earth Too.

‘We’re pretty excited about it,’ admits Steve Vogt, of the University of California, Santa Cruz, a member of the team, in a masterpiece of understatement. ‘I think this is what everyone’s been after for the past 15 years.’” And then some! Apparently, astronomers have discovered the most Earth-like planet yet in Gliese 581g, a relatively short 20 light years away.

[I]t probably has a solid surface just like Earth. Much more important, it sits smack in the middle of the so-called habitable zone, orbiting at just the right distance from the star to let water remain liquid rather than freezing solid or boiling away. As far as we know, that’s a minimum requirement for the presence of life.

Some might remember that Gliese 581c was all the rage two years ago. Apparently, this one — in the same solar system but only just discovered — is even closer to the real deal. (Good thing the NASA authorization just passed…)

Sweet Smell of Success.

“‘I’m telling you, I’m lucky to be me,’ the former Bernie Schwartz told a Buffalo News reporter in 1993. ‘When I was a kid, I wanted to be Tony Curtis, and that’s exactly who I am.’Tony Curtis, 1925-2010. “‘I feel that he’s the great farceur of his generation,’ said former Times movie reviewer Kevin Thomas in 2007…’what I came to respect so profoundly was that Tony always gave his absolute, total best.‘”

A Shadow from the West?

[I]t sure feels like we are being attacked simply because we are a big fat juicy target – not for any wrong doing. We haven’t even been greenlit yet! It feels as if we have a large Aussie cousin kicking sand in our eyes…or to put it another way, opportunists exploiting our film for their own political gain.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire: Still reeling from MGM’s dismal cashflow situation and the departure of Guillermo del Toro, The Hobbit now faces another threat from — according to Peter Jackson, at least —an Australian actor’s union muscling in on Kiwi turf, and potentially sending the Land of Middle-Earth over to Eastern Europe.

The link above is PJ’s account of where things stand. I understand he’s management in this instance, but, speaking as someone who’s very pro-union in general but has had issues with some specific organizing tactics in the past, his summary sounds eminently plausible to me.

Illusion of Fulfillment.

The president told Democrats that making change happen is hard and ‘if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren’t serious in the first place.’” As part of a continuing pattern of late, President Obama tells Rolling Stone that progressives need to stop whining about the way things are going and get happy, because, in what’s become a new talking point, “If you look at the checklist, we’ve already covered about 70 percent [of the 2008 campaign promises.]” (70%?! Uh, can I see this checklist?)

Anyway, this latest weird effusion against the base has already been well-critiqued and well-answered many times. See, for example, Glenn Greenwald and David Dayen: “I’ve never seen a politician run an election with the message ‘Don’t be stupid, quit your bitching and vote for me.’” I would only add two things:

1) As it turns out, the unhappy Dems among us are more likely to vote, so perhaps berating them for not clapping enough is not altogether productive. (Unless, of course, the WH is doing it as a Sistah Souljah bank shot to get independents, on the classic establishment premise that indies love hippie-punching.)

2) I’d love to live in a world where progressive bloggers have the power to move ginormous voting blocs, I really would. But it takes a certain type of top-down, Beltway-obsessive mentality to think that’s what’s going on here. The biggest reason voters are depressed is because the economy is, quite obviously, not doing so well at the moment, and people are feeling the pinch. And, that aside, most Obama voters don’t need blogs to tell them that this administration, on all too many fronts, hasn’t lived up to its promises.

If this White House wants to engage the base (and I really, really hope they do, for reasons personal, professional, and patriotic), then, for Pete’s sake, don’t browbeat and lecture the Left for being disappointed — Try to make them less disappointed! Give them some red meat, respond to their concerns, and, you know, do the things you were elected to do. Why this even has to be said is beyond me.

Not Gonna Take It Anymore.

When you can read an entire column by the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz and never once feel the urge to cut out your own heart with a dull knife, you know that you no longer have the sense of outrage that is essential to reporting from our nation’s capital.” In related news, and via Glenn Greenwald, Harper’s editor Ken Silverstein bids a pithy farewell to his DC beat.

Hallows, Four, Speeches, Grit, and Sky.

In the trailer bin of late:

  • Death comes to Hogwarts, and young Master Potter must beat it back one final time — but not before moping across the English countryside for two hours — in the full trailer for David Yates’ first installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, with the usual gang (and Bill Nighy) in tow. Not a big fan of the 7th book, but let’s face it, we’re all pot-committed at this point.

  • I was a Teenage Alien? No, it’s the teaser for D.J. Caruso’s I am Number Four, with Alex Pettyfer, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron, Kevin Durand and Timothy Olyphant. Mr. Seth Bullock notwithstanding, that bland, Twilight-y cast and the February release date suggests to me this is eminently missable.

  • King George isn’t mad, per se. But he does suffer from a rather serious stammer in the trailer for Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech, with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Jennifer Ehle, and Guy Pearce. The trailer looks a bit too inspirational-true-story! and Oscar-baitish to me, but word of mouth on this has been g-g-g-g…well, ok, very good.

  • And, saving the best for last, a young girl — younger even than Kim Darby — (Hailee Steinfeld) enlists the services of one Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) for an Old West mission of vengeance in the first trailer for the Coens’ remake of True Grit, also with Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper. You know how I am about the Coens. I’ll be there.

  • Update: One more for the pile: Independence Day meets Cloverfield in the trailer for the Straus brothers’ Skyline, with Donald Faison, Eric Balfour, David Zayas, Scottie Thompson, and Brittany Daniel. Eh, the FX look rather impressive, if nothing else.

The Editor, the Director, & the Survivor.

A sad trifecta of passings in Hollywood over the past few days:

She had the ability to see the point of a scene and to see the bigger picture simultaneously…I learned a lot from Sally. She just loved editing and loved working with Quentin. They had a truly unique relationship.Sally Menke, long-time editor to Quentin Tarantino, 1953-2010.

I think he’s up there with Sidney Lumet and several others who really understand acting and know how to get the best out of a performer,” he said. “And I think he, as opposed to a lot of directors who have theatrical origins, had a real cinematic sense. There’s nothing stagy about ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ or ‘Little Big Man.’Arthur Penn, veteran director, 1922-2010.

[M]ostly she played what Stuart later dismissed as ‘stupid parts with nothing to do’ — ‘girl reporter, girl detective, girl nurse’ — and ‘it became increasingly evident to me I wasn’t going to get to be a big star like Katharine Hepburn and Loretta Young…[But in 1997] ‘I knew the role I had wanted and waited for all these many years had arrived! I could taste the role of Old Rose!‘” Gloria Stuart, ingenue-turned-Rose,1910-2010.

Ya happy now, b**ch?

‘I confess to a feeling that I can only describe as a vague sense of shame,’ says Simon…’It was exacerbated when I went online and looked at the people who’d gotten fellowships in the past…I definitely felt a little sheepish after looking at the list.‘”

Take that, Pulitzer people. Wire mastermind David Simon, among others, receives a MacArthur Genius Fellowship. “His first reaction was to deflect the money (paid quarterly for five years) to charity, but the foundation urged him to take time to absorb the news.” Hey, money ain’t go no owners…only spenders. [Full list of winners.]

The Bill Paid at Last.

The policy of reducing Germany to servitude for a generation, of degrading the lives of millions of human beings, and of depriving a whole nation of happiness should be abhorrent and detestable — abhorrent and detestable, even if it were possible, even if it enriched ourselves, even if it did not sow the decay of the whole civilised life of Europe…[N]ations are not authorised, by religion or by natural morals, to visit on the children of their enemies the misdoings of parents or of rulers.” — John Maynard Keynes

Ninety-one years after the terms were first agreed to, Germany makes its last WWI reparations payment this weekend. “Hatred of the settlement agreed at Versailles, France, which crippled Germany as it tried to shape itself into a democracy following defeat in the war, was of significant importance in propelling the Nazis to power.

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