Sunday, February 27, 2005

Hurrah for Hollywood!

More on my mysterious disappearance tomorrow, but I wanted to get my Oscar picks up prior to this evening's big event! I played the politics and odds on several picks, so we'll see how I fare tomorrow!

Best Picture
The Aviator
Finding Neverland
Million Dollar Baby
Sideways – PTF PICK

Best Actor
Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda
Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator
Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby
Jamie Foxx, Ray – PTF PICK

Best Actress
Annette Bening, Being Julia
Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace
Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake
Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby – PTF PICK
Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Alda, The Aviator
Thomas Haden Church, Sideways – PTF PICK
Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby
Jamie Foxx, Collateral
Clive Owen, Closer

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett, The Aviator – PTF PICK
Laura Linney, Kinsey
Virginia Madsen, Sideways
Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda
Natalie Portman, Closer

Best Director
Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby – PTF PICK
Taylor Hackford, Ray
Mike Leigh, Vera Drake
Alexander Payne, Sideways
Martin Scorsese, The Aviator

Best Original Screenplay
Brad Bird, The Incredibles
Charlie Kaufman, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – PTF PICK
Mike Leigh, Vera Drake
John Logan, The Aviator
Keir Pearson and Terry George, Hotel Rwanda

Best Adapted Screenplay
Paul Haggis, Million Dollar Baby
Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke, Before Sunset
David Magee, Finding Neverland
Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Sideways – PTF PICK
José Rivera, The Motorcycle Diaries

Animated Feature
The Incredibles – PTF PICK
Shark Tale
Shrek 2

Art Direction
The Aviator – PTF PICK
Finding Neverland
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
The Phantom of the Opera
A Very Long Engagement

The Aviator
The Passion of the Christ – PTF PICK
The Phantom of the Opera
A Very Long Engagement

The Aviator – PTF PICK
Finding Neverland
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Documentary Feature
Born Into Brothels – PTF PICK
The Story of the Weeping Camel
Super Size Me
Tupac: Resurrection
Twist of Faith

Documentary Short Subject
Autism is a World
The Children of Leningradsky
Hardwood – PTF PICK
Mighty Times: The Children's March
Sister Rose's Passion

Film Editing
The Aviator
Collateral - PTF PICK
Finding Neverland
Million Dollar Baby

Foreign Language Film
As It Is in Heaven (Sweden)
The Chorus (France)
Downfall (Germany)
The Sea Inside (Spain) – PTF PICK
Yesterday (South Africa)

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events – PTF PICK
The Passion of the Christ
The Sea Inside

Original Score
John Debney, The Passion of the Christ
James Newton Howard, The Village
Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, Finding Neverland - PTF PICK
Thomas Newman, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
John Wiliams, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Original Song
''Accidentally in Love'' from Shrek 2
''Al Otro Lado del Rio'' from The Motorcycle Diaries
''Believe'' from The Polar Express – PTF PICK
''Learn to be Lonely'' from The Phantom of the Opera
''Look to Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)'' from The Chorus

Short Film (Animated)
Birthday Boy
Gopher Broke
Guard Dog – PTF PICK
Lorenzo Ryan

Short Film (Live Action)
Everything in This Country Must
Little Terrorist
7:35 in the Morning
Two Cars, One Night

Sound Editing
The Incredibles
The Polar Express
Spider-Man 2 – PTF PICK

Sound Mixing
The Aviator
The Incredibles
The Polar Express
Spider-Man 2 – PTF PICK

Visual Effects
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
I, Robot – PTF PICK
Spider-Man 2

Posted by FleshPresser at 5:39 PM /

Friday, February 18, 2005

Or Was That A Foot in His Mouth?

First there was Lincoln and Douglas. And now we have Dean and Perle. The newly-minted head of the DNC, Gov. Howard Dean, and the NeoCon Pentagon Hawk Richard Perle were invited to debate as part of the annual forum held by Pacific University to honor Tom McCall, a former Republican governor of Oregon.

First, Dean imposed a media blackout on the event - his first real event as the new Chair. One might think he would want a little visibility for the party coming out of the gate. Well, obviously the party did, as well, and the blackout was lifted a few minutes prior to the debate.

And a good thing, too. Otherwise, who would have been there to cover a protester throwing a shoe at Perle? I, of course, was supposed to be there, covering the event for PTF, but my credentials were revoked at the last minute.

What message was trying to be conveyed by this lone protester in the choice of throwing a shoe specifically? Perhaps he was trying to insinuate that Perle had no sole in his support of the unjust war in Iraq? Perhaps he wanted desperately to symbolize his desire for Perle to hold his tongue? Or maybe he simply wanted to give Perle a taste of what it felt like to be trampled, much like all of those various and sundry rights that have been trampled?

Forgive me, dear reader. It's Friday - the end of a long week - and I just found out that my other web site, has been temporarily suspended, pending a background check. So, I've obviously got a lot on my mind.

Posted by FleshPresser at 2:03 PM /

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Cumming makes a Splash.... so to speak. Posted by Hello

Posted by FleshPresser at 10:09 AM /

A Little Behind The Ears?

Alan Cumming wants to spray his name all over your body. Star of the highly acclaimed Broadway revival of Cabaret, the highly anticipated Reefer Madness, and the highly questionable Son of the Mask, Cumming now has a scent.

I think that's all I can say about it.

Make sure you check out the entire product line. It's not available yet, but it's... errr.... ummm.... cumming soon?

Posted by FleshPresser at 10:01 AM /

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Will This Ford Run?

Although it hasn't been officially announced as of yet, word on The Hill is that Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN) will run for the Senate seat to be vacated by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in 2006.

Frist's Memphis district is largely Democratic, and there is question as to whether or not Ford could win statewide in a red state, even with his Blue Dog Democrat status. Republicans, however, have been using his words lately in their Social Security propaganda. Ford, following the State of the Union Address, stated "the Democrats are going to have to get a better message on Social Security... Our only response cannot be to say, ' No.' " Republicans continuing to use his words may actually enhance Ford's appeal to Republican and swing voters in the state.

Ford took public office in 1996, but vaulted onto the national scene when he delivered the Keynote Address during the 2000 Democratic Convention. While his Republican challengers for the 2006 Senate race are players on a statewide level, Ford will be fundraising on a national level and will have significant support from the DNC.

It remains to be seen if Ford can win this race, but the potential of a Democrat taking the Senate seat once again in Tennessee in exciting, to say the least.

Posted by FleshPresser at 11:11 AM /

The Dean Scene

PTF apologizes for the oversight of commentary about Gov. Howard Dean's recent election win as Chair of the DNC, but I didn't want to jump in too quickly on this one.

Obviously, there are those on the Right who believe a Dean-led DNC will equal a future of painless fundraising and lopsided Republican victories. By making statements like this, they only elevate the stature of the DNC position - c'mon, other than political junkies like you and me, how many people in mainstream America REALLY know anything about Terry McAuliffe?

Those of the progressive, liberal ilk support Dean and his acquisition of the DNC Chairmanship, citing that his ability to organize and fundraise on a grassroots level is exactly what the party needs to energize itself for a win in 2008.

Never let it be said that this FleshPresser disagrees with the need for an energized, motivated, and active grassroots-based Democratic party. But let's look at a couple of facts:

* Gov. Dean's Campaign did raise substantial funds, particularly at a grassroots level, and organized Democrats in a big way. But this was NOT the doing of Gov. Dean himself. Rather, it was the Dean CAMPAIGN that made such effective use of the Internet in consolidating Democratic discontent. If the DNC wanted someone at its helm to make this same magic for the Party as an organization, it should have voted Joe Trippi as it's Chair, and not Dean. Trippi, by the way, believes that Dean will be seduced once again and will break his promise not to run once again in 2008.

* Once "I Have a Scream" was over and done with (how many more times are we going to see THAT now?), and Kerry was knighted as the Candidate Who Could Beat Bush, fundraising in support of Kerry and the Democrats broke all records, leaving Clinton's earlier highwater marks in the dust.

The result? Kerry and the Democrats lost. What's worse is that they lost with money still in their pockets.

* I don't know about you, but particularly during the 2004 Campaign, I was receiving e-mails on a regular, if not daily, basis from the likes of John Kerry, The Democratic Party, MoveOn.Org, George Soros, and a host of other organizing bodies on both a national and local level. Each touted the momentum behind John Kerry and others on a local level and the certainty of a Democratic win, based on the unprecedented level of grassroots organization. Living in a glorious "swing state", I saw this organization in a massive way each and every day as the election drew closer.

The result? Kerry and the Democrats lost. What's worse is that they squandered the powerful momentum of the grassroots, the likes of which hasn't been seen in decades.

By making these points, I am not (intentionally) trying to hold on to that hangover that hit most of us in November and has been lingering ever since.

My point is that both the conservatives and liberals are right, to an extent, about Dean taking over at the DNC. The Republicans will absolutely extract dollars from their base by flashing pictures of Gov. Dean. Democrats will definitely attempt to relocate their backbone as we move ahead.

But Terry McAullife is not the reason Democrats lost. Money was not the reason Democrats lost. Organization was not the reason Democrats lost. Until Democrats put forth a truly powerful candidate again, Democrats will continue to lose. The ideas and the candidates are what's important. It's always been known that without money, a good candidate can lose. What 2004 proved was that even with lots of money, a bad candidate can't win.

Posted by FleshPresser at 10:20 AM /

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Fabulousness

Chances are good that if you're reading Pressing the Flesh at this early point, it's due to the kind words of Gabriel Shanks, the man who has inspired me politically, culturally, and artistically. He also inspired the creation of PTF (as well as the acronym - he may be the first to actually refer to our lil corner of the blogosphere as PTF - a hell of a lot better than PTL, I presume), and was one of the original founders of Funkopolis.

Sooooo, if you haven't already done so, Stop. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. That is, until you've checked in at Modern Fabulosity and had yourself counted as one of The Fabulous Ones.

Posted by FleshPresser at 6:25 PM /

New York State of Mind, Part Deux

In addition to the show in Central Park, my wife and I were presented with the final two tickets for a Preview performance of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels on Broadway - yes, it's another show based on a popular film. As a theatre artist focused primarily on the creation of new and original work, I can't say that there wasn't a certain side of me that felt a bit dirty about going to see the show - one only has to mention theatrical nightmares like Footloose or Saturday Night Fever to make me scream and run away. My wife, however, is a big musical theatre fan (not my favorite genre, by a longshot), and so I try to find opportunities that she will enjoy, but that I stand a chance at enjoying, as well.

And so we were seduced into going to see the show.

My guilty confession is that I fully enjoyed this production, and would encourage others to check it out, as well. In addition to capturing the fun of the movie on which it is based, the show is infused with a silly, tongue-in-cheek quality that constantly winks to the audience, without going too far overboard. What results is a show that is not terribly innovative or earth-shattering, but simply entirely enjoyable. And while I'd like nothing to break the air of artistic snobbery that I tend to carry around with me, the fact is that Norbert Leo Butz and Joanna Gleason are worth the price of admission alone. Sheri Rene Scott is wonderful (Norbert and Sheri last worked with each other on The Last Five Years off-Broadway), and her entrance to the show is one of the funnier moments I've experienced.

Speaking of the price, it was announced that upon the opening of the show (March 3rd), lottery tickets will be available for each performance - $26.25 for front-row seats. The best thing I can say about the show is that this cast truly appears to be enjoying itself, and for a price like that, I guarantee that you will be swept up in their fun with no regrets.

After the show, head to the Stage Door and maybe you can Press some Flesh with John Lithgow or Norbert, as well! :)

p.s. - now that I've cracked my snobbery, I might as well admit that I'm looking forward to Spamalot, as well. If nothing else, it's one of the better Broadway websites I've seen in a while! :)

Posted by FleshPresser at 1:31 PM /

New York State of Mind

As a prelude to Valentine's Day, my wife and I spent this past weekend in New York - a spontaneous gap in our schedules allowed for the getaway, and while Pressing The Flesh examines Flesh Pressing in all its various forms, that's as far as I'll go about that.

As the opportunity presented itself out of the blue, we happened to have several other opportunities present themselves as well... one of the truly magical elements of being in NYC on any given day - you're never really sure what's going to be around the corner.

This was the weekend that Christo and Jeanne-Claude unfurled their 7500 fabric-adorned gates throughout Central Park, doing their part to make orange the new black. This is an event that cannot truly be fully explained or described, as it becomes something different from each new and unique vantage point in the Park. It also asks, or even requires that the individual interact with it in some way. The installation, regardless of how one feels about it, pro or con, cannot be ignored.

The saffron drapes, billowing against a crystal blue sky and a backdrop of bare trees and remnant snow on the ground seemed to beckon Spring to come forth a bit quicker. Or, conversely, it could be viewed as a man-made attempt to screw with Nature and the simplistic beauty of Central Park. It's all wholly in the eye of the beholder.

As for myself, the most interesting element was the spark of conversation. While The Gates in and of themselves are remarkable, they create a catalyst for people to talk about the definition of art, their feelings about Central Park, and to spontaneously interact with those around them. I suppose it would be possible to walk the entire length of The Gates and to try and take it all in as a whole, but most will have an experience with only a portion of the installation.

An image that excited me was that of people attempting to record the event somehow. My wife climbed up on the rocks at one point to take a photo of an area around the skating rink. It was in observing here that I noticed the frame of her camera recorded several other people doing the same thing.

So, you have The Gates themselves. Then you have someone with a videocamera capturing images. Beyond that, someone holds a cellphone with a camera, capturing the image of The Gates and the videocamera. Pan back a bit further, and you have a tripod with a professional camera capturing the videocamera, the cellphone and The Gates. And there's my wife, with her disposable camera, capturing all of the above.

The experience was wonderful and quite trippy. I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to visit Central Park in the next two weeks - Central Park is always a wonderful people-watching experience, but it will be exponentially so for the remaining days of February. And in the end, February is a month that always tends to seem unusually cruel (so close to the beginning of spring, and yet so far away - will winter never end!?!) - The Gates generate both heat and warmth in a month known for it's cold.

Posted by FleshPresser at 12:38 PM /

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Reality Show Dropouts

So, since when do reality show dropouts mimic celebrity deaths and come in threes?

First, there was Verna on The Apprentice, the hot show on NBC, who cracked under the pressure of The Donald. On her personal website she states, "Whether you agree with me or not, there comes a time in life when you come to a crossroads. You are faced to make a decision as to which direction to go. ... In reality, everything is not necessarily as it seems. If you think you can do a better job, and you beat out the million or so other people to make it on, I wish you much luck and much success."

Pressure indeed. Had she never SEEN "The Apprentice"?

Next, Marlea Stroman shocked us all by becoming the first contestant to drop out of Fox's American Idol. In a recent radio interview, she said "... this is no joke and there is a lot of pressure, and there are cut throat people, and it's really not a welcoming environment..."

We're seeing a common thread here. You knew what you were getting into, didn't you?

So, it shouldn't come as any surprise when the announcement was made yesterday that U.S. Senator Mark Dayton would not be seeking re-election to that other struggling reality show over on C-SPAN, Senate Democrats. During the Rice Confirmation episode, he stated "...I really don't like being lied to.... Repeatedly, flagrantly, intentionally."

C'mon Senator... you knew what you were signing up for.

I guess we should have seen this coming when the October Surprise episode aired last fall, showing the zany senator fleeing Washington, D.C. and closing his offices under the Threat of a Terrorist Attack Challenge.

Of course, there are plenty of contestants lined up to take the place of Sen. Dayton, with the smart money betting on a match-up between former senator Rod Grams, who lost to Dayton in 2000, and U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum tagging in for the Dems.

Man... reality. Who can beat it?

Posted by FleshPresser at 10:03 AM /

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Et tu, Corey? Pressing the Flesh isn't always political. Sometimes it's not very pretty. And sometimes it takes years and years of mulling it over, in addition to a multitude of abysmal career choices, to even remember it. Just ask Corey... Posted by Hello

Posted by FleshPresser at 2:33 PM /

Let the Liberal Flesh-Fest begin!

So, now that Dean remains as the only candidate for the DNC Chair, our attention falls to the pack of potentials lining up for the 2008 Democratic Nomination.

Didn't we just do this???

With only 1,364 Capmaign days left, everyone assumes Hillary will run this time, but some of the other names being thrown about are truly worth the gossip. Will the party support Kerry giving it a second go, should God give him the green light? And if Kerry runs, how will that affect Edward's assumed run? What about Gore coming back for political rebirth? Seventeen years after a "borrowed speech" essentially ended his run, will Biden throw his hat back in? Does Barbara Boxer's recent high profile merit a second look? Others like Richardson, and a particularly interesting possibility in Russ Feingold, make only this clear - as the Democrats continue to search in the wildreness for their identity, Dean may be the only prominent Dem NOT running in 2008.

Posted by FleshPresser at 11:30 AM /

Buddy, Can You Spare A....

So, the President is now unemcumbered by those nasty thoughts of re-election, and can now feel free to submit a fiscally sound budget, without pandering to his constituents, right? Well, not quite.

While both Democrats and Republicans are essentially labeling the Budget as D.O.A., you shouldn't take their word for it. Take a look for yourself.

If it's a bit overwhelming, maybe we could advocate to scrape a few dollars up from somewhere and charge OMB with producing a document that's a little easier for most Americans to digest? Currently, members of Congress have huge staffs dedicated to tracking the flow of money, and even they can't follow it all. What chance do you and I have?

In the meantime, here are some analyists who have taken a preliminary stab.

Posted by FleshPresser at 10:43 AM /

Just When You Thought It Was Safe....

...well, OK. You haven't really thought it was safe for quite a long time. I understand. But just what IS the strategy behind elevating Bush's puppetmeister to an official policy-wielding position within the Administration? Didn't Rove have more power as the clandestine shadow figure in the background? The President speaks of Rove's "...willingness to continue to serve my Administration...." As if he would be moving on to bigger and better things?

It just keeps getting scarier and scarier.

Posted by FleshPresser at 9:50 AM /

Feeling Secure?

If you don't fully understand how President Bush's plans to "save" Social Security works, never fear - neither does he. On part of his roadshow to sell the plan to America, he said the following:
THE PRESIDENT: Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered.

And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to what has been promised.

Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.

Okay, better? I'll keep working on it. (Laughter.)

But, it's OK, because he's got a mandate to do this, right?

Posted by FleshPresser at 9:41 AM /

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

PRESSING THE FLESH will focus on the intersection between politics and pop culture; between reality and the completely absurd; between those moments where the skin cells connect on any number of levels. I Thought our current President smooching up on his favorite Democratic senator (trying to get himself a little Social Security in the embrace, no doubt) was as good a place as any to begin... and so we're off! Let the pressing commence!Posted by Hello

Posted by FleshPresser at 10:18 PM /