Tuesday, December 15, 2009

82 days until Oscar Sunday®

As of today, Dec. 15, 2009, we are 10 days away from Christmas and 82 days out from the 82nd Annual Academy Awards. While 82 is not really a momentous milestone number, it seemed appropriate for counting down to next year's ceremony.

News has been coming in at a steady pace over the past month from the Academy and instead of individual posts, here is one hardy helping of all the Oscar news you need.

We left off last month with the 20 Animated Feature contenders, along with Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin being named co-hosts for the telecast. Since then other positions for the telecast have been filled.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Oscar® Update: List for animated contenders announced

A quick Oscar update for you on this Thursday: The Academy announced its shortlist — or rather long list — of films that will vie for the Animated Feature nomination and, on March 7, the Oscar.

The 20 submitted features are:
• “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel”
• “Astro Boy”
• “Battle for Terra”
• “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”
• “Coraline”
• “Disney's A Christmas Carol”
• “The Dolphin – Story of a Dreamer”
• “Fantastic Mr. Fox”
• “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs”
• “Mary and Max”
• “The Missing Lynx”
• “Monsters vs. Aliens”
• “9”
• “Planet 51”
• “Ponyo”
• “The Princess and the Frog”
• “The Secret of Kells”
• “Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure”
• “A Town Called Panic”
• “Up”

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Oscar® Update: Co-hosts named for ceremony

Next year's Oscars has a host! In fact, make that two hosts. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin will serve as co-hosts of the 82nd Academy Awards, Academy President Tom Sherak announced Tuesday.

This comes two weeks after Sherak announced Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman producers of the ceremony. (Good things must come on Tuesdays.)

“We think the team of Steve and Alec are the perfect pair of hosts for the Oscars,” said Shankman and Mechanic, quoted in the press release. “Steve will bring the experience of having hosted the show in the past and Alec will be a completely fresh personality for this event.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Oscar® Update: Producers named for telecast

With less than 150 days out from the 82nd Academy Awards telecast, Academy President Tom Sherak got the ball rolling by naming Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman producers of the ceremony.

This will be the first major Oscar show involvement for both men, Sherak said Tuesday.

Mechanic is the chairman and CEO of Pandemonium Films and the former chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment. Prior to Fox, he served in executive positions at the Walt Disney Company and Paramount. Mechanic’s producer credits include “Coraline” and “Dark Water” (2005).

“The last time I was on the show was as a dancer, and to come back as a producer is such an unbelievable honor,” Shankman was quoted in the press release.

Shankman’s name may sound familiar to musical and choreography buffs. His directorial credits include “Hairspray” (2007) and other projects he's working on include “Rock of Ages,” “Sinbad,” “Bob: The Musical” and “Bye Bye Birdie.” He also has been a judge on "So You Think You Can Dance" since Season 3.

Set your calendars and countdown clocks for Sunday, March 7, 2010, Oscar Sunday. With Shankman on board, here's hoping we'll get more musical moments in March.

Photos courtesy John Shearer/WireImage.com and Todd Wawrychuk / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Olympic host city chosen today

So as you're reading this, a host city may have already been selected. But even if that is the case, here are my thoughts and rankings.

Choosing the host city
Four years ago, on July 6, 2005, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) met in Singapore. My choice — and favorite at the time — Paris lost in the final round to London. Also losing to London: Moscow, New York and Madrid.

To determine a host city, once the final four have been decided, a candidate city must win a majority of the votes. According to IOC rules: "If there is no majority in the first round, the city with the fewest votes drops out of the running, and the members vote again for the remaining candidates. If two or more cities are tied for the lowest number of votes, a run-off election is held between them, with the city gaining the most votes going on to the next round."

For example, in 2005, London triumphed after four rounds with 54 votes from a possible 104 in the final round. So really, a candidate city can win outright but with four cities competing, the odds are slim.

The four competing cities: a pithy analysis
(in order of final presentations)
Pro: Most sponsors of the Olympics are American-based. Could help for revenue. President Obama and Oprah are in Copenhagen rallying support. Much better plan than NYC for 2012 bid.
Con: Money issues. Can Chicago afford the games?

Pro: Very economically conscious and good use of existing structures.
Con: The 2008 Games were in Beijing, which is in the same area as Tokyo. The country's population is not very enthused about the Games coming.

Rio de Janeiro
Pro: Never before have the Games been held in South America. Growing economic power and huge young population.
Con: Rio is already hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the crime rate there is pretty bad.

Pro: Good planning and use of existing structures. Highly supported by population.
Con: London is hosting the 2012 Games. Would the IOC award the Olympic

My thoughts
I want Chicago to win. I'm a Midwest kid and would love to see my favorite event (besides the Oscars) come so close to me. If Chicago does not win, I think Rio would be a good second choice. It's only an hour ahead of the Eastern time zone, which would help put more events "live in prime time." Let's see what happens…

Final report before the vote
The announcement of the Host City for the 2016 Games will be made during a 30-minute ceremony which will begin at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Good luck, Chicago!

Caption: In spirit of the Olympics, here I am outside the Olympic Museum and park in Lausanne, Switzerland

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A final recap of Chautauqua

Alas, my summer in Chautauqua is over. I left the grounds for the season on Sunday. What an amazing season it was. I met some great people, attended some very memorable events and lectures and soaked up the warm summer sun (when it wasn't raining). Here we go… (Click on images throughout for larger versions.)

The Chautauquan Daily
Let's face it. Without the Daily, I would not have been in Chautauqua for the summer. Matt, the editor, and Ray, the production manager, made my time there in CHQ fantastic and gave me the creative freedom to come up with some wonderful front pages (seen above).

Where else would one of my photos run as a skybox photo on the front page? As you can see in the photo below, we were treated to a wonderful display of nature's power Sunday, August 9. My friends and I commented that it seemed like aliens had arrived to Earth, "War of the Worlds" style. Or better yet, the clouds were throwing a huge disco party and we, the spectators, were invited.
Matt enjoyed the photos so much, he wanted to run one in the paper. Take a look at all of the photos here.

Working at the Daily gave us interns a great inside look at Chautauqua Institution. From the very beginning we got to chat with Tom Becker, president, and other higher-ups. We had access to them, which was pretty awesome.

Another great experience was meeting former Daily reporter Nancy Gibbs, now editor at large for TIME magazine. She began at the Daily to make her summers more interesting, she told us when she stopped by July 27. She called it "fantastic training for every number of things."

10:45 Lecture
The Amphitheater is the place to be weekday mornings at 10:45. The lecture platform is what Chautauqua is known for. Over the course of the nine-week season, we heard from visionaries like NASA's Kobie Boykins and Daniel Pink, author of "A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future." Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel saw a packed Amp of more than 5,500 attendees to his lecture. Actors Matthew Modine and Beth Grant brought very different, yet comparable experiences to the stage.

Great entertainment
After work, evening programming provided us interns with great opportunities to see theatre, opera and a slew of other options. We enjoyed Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra performances and ballet on multiple occasions. During special engagements we saw Cirque Sublime, Jason Alexander (who did not go over too well with the family crowd), an ABBA tribute band, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, historian David McCullough, among many, many others.

Overall, despite the sometimes cold and dreary weather, my summer spent in Chautauqua was a memorable one that I will not soon forget thanks to great friends and colleagues, intellectually stimulating lectures and some very entertaining events — "Mamma Mia!" Thanks for following my adventures in Chautauqua, N.Y.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My choral experience in Chautauqua

When I attended the first Morning Worship service at the Amphitheater, I heard the Chautauqua Choir perform and knew I wanted to participate at least once this summer.

The stars aligned last week and I knew it was my chance to sing with the 140-member group. The reason why I hadn't sung in the choir earlier in the season is, in part, because these people put in a large chunk of time into this group. Two out of three rehearsals are a requisite for singing on Sundays. Each rehearsal lasts from 6:00 to 7:45 p.m., every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I work on Thursday nights and Sunday mornings so it can be hard to get away for rehearsal and performance.

I decided, with the approval of my editor, to sing the choir. I attended all three rehearsals so that I would, quite literally, never miss a note. I was the youngest in the choir — in fact one of the only people under 30. But that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy myself.

It brought me back to singing with the choir at St. Stephen's in Toledo, Ohio. The warm hearts, kind faces and mellifluous music-making brought me back to my childhood. Looking up at my grandparents sing in church, there was purpose and a community of singers. A choir with a purpose. Praising with God-given talent.

And that's what I did on Sunday. Under the direction of the incomparable Jared Jacobsen, director of the choir and organist, we sang "The Testament of Freedom" with words by Thomas Jefferson and "Come Let Us Sing a Song of Joy" by Giovanni Gabrieli. This was a light menu for breakfast.

In the evening, we sang more during the Sacred Song Service. My favorite was "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," arranged by Mack Wilberg, music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I also enjoyed singing a cappella "There Is a Balm in Gilead," linking arms and swaying with my neighbor.

It was a wonderful day of singing — and designing at the Daily. When I got home, suffice it to say I slept very well after four days of singing and interning.

Photos courtesy the Daily's Jordan Schnee

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Oscar® Update: New Academy president named

Remember the name Tom Sherak. As of Tuesday night, August 18th, Sherak is the newly elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, voted by the organization's Board of Governors.

Sherak becomes the 33rd president of the Academy, known for its annual presentation of its golden Oscar statuettes. He is also beginning his seventh year as a governor representing the Executives Branch — members of the Academy represent 15 general areas. He served as treasurer of the Academy during the past year. He will served a one-year term, after which time the board will vote again.

According to the Academy:
"Sherak, a marketing, distribution and production executive with more than four decades in the motion picture industry, is currently a consultant for Marvel Studios.

Previously, Sherak was a partner at Revolution Studios where he oversaw the release of more than 40 films including “Black Hawk Down,” “Anger Management,” “Rent” and “Across the Universe.”

So what does the president of the Academy do? According to Variety: "The president chairs board meetings, has a hand in Oscar-related activities (including securing the Oscarcast producer), is a member of all Academy committees and sits in on as many meetings as time allows as the panels deal with various Acad functions (the library, scholarships, film preservation, et al.)"

Allow me a moment to be vain…

I guess now I will need to get Sherak's autograph. Last year, while a bleacher fan on the red carpet for the Academy Awards, I received the John Hancock of Sid Ganis, the now past Academy president, serving from 2005 until now.
Here is Ganis, in the middle, during final preparations at the 80th Annual Academy Awards.

Two weeks ago, here in Chautauqua, I got the autograph of Ganis' predecessor, Frank Pierson, who served 2001-2005.
Here is my friend and I pictured with Pierson after his lecture at Chautauqua Institution.

So I'd like to wish Sherak good luck. Pierson and Ganis, along with other former Academy presidents, have set the bar very high. I hope he will continue bringing the Academy into the 21st Century.

Other voting news:
Actors Branch governor Tom Hanks was elected first vice president; Producers Branch governor Kathleen Kennedy and Writers Branch governor Phil Robinson were elected to vice presidents posts; Producers Branch governor Hawk Koch was elected treasurer; and Short Films and Feature Animation Branch governor John Lasseter was elected secretary. Ganis, representing the Public Relations Branch, will serve as immediate past president.

The Academy normally announces the news the morning following the board meet, however, in the age of Twitter, execs decided it made more sense to send out the news right away, according to Variety.

Headshot of Sherak by Todd Wawrychuk / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

We're (almost) halfway there

Wednesday marks my halfway point here in Chautauqua, N.Y. It's been a quick journey to this point, which I can attribute to great friends, amazing events and a beautiful campus at work.
Pictured above is the Chautauqua Belle coming into port to pick up more passengers. I'm enjoying a day off of work on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon.
I hope to write more in the days to come, an update of my journey so far. I also plan to upload beaucoup photos from my adventures in Chautauqua on Facebook. Until then, go outside and enjoy the cool summer breeze and soak up the warm rays of sun.

Monday, July 20, 2009

My review: ‘Half-Blood Prince’

The latest film in the series following a bespectacled – and now angst-ridden – teenager, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is good. I desperately want to write amazing, awesome and stupendous, but the David Yates-directed film does not quite measure up to those descriptors. And it does not top “Prisoner of Azkaban” or “Order of the Phoenix.” But this review is not all doom and gloom. “Half-Blood Prince” has many redeeming qualities. I saw the movie twice at sold out shows because I enjoyed it so much.

First among the redeeming qualities are the special effects, which are breathtaking from the opening to final scene. The Death Eaters are brilliantly portrayed as menacing, black clouds of smoke traveling to their next victim. The Pensieve seamlessly and exquisitely transports Harry and Hogwarts head Dumbledore to memories from long ago. Quidditch returns for some good fun. And the exterior shots of Hogwarts befuddle me because they are so enchanting.

Probably the best quality of the film is cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel’s impeccable vision. His composition of the frame and the camera angles make watching this film delightful and fun. Delbonnel, who brought his great eye to “Amélie,” is new to this installment of the franchise. His job is made a little easier by production designer Stuart Craig, who has stunningly created the magical world detailed in J.K. Rowling’s series.

The final technical aspect of the film, and the others I have always loved, is the music. Nicholas Hooper outdoes himself again, after creating a brilliant score for “Order of the Phoenix.” I am a traditionalist and will always love what John Williams brought to the movies, particularly “Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Prisoner of Azkaban,” but Hooper does not forget those accomplishments and is influenced by Williams. “Hedwig’s Theme” is sprinkled in songs “Opening” and “Ginny”; you can hear another William-composed piece, “Quidditch Match,” in “Ron’s Victory” and “Of Love & War.” One of the best pieces of the soundtrack is “In Noctem,” written with a choir singing in Latin to the mellifluous yet haunting melody. I could write an entire review of the stunning soundtrack, but I will try to stay focused.

Yates, along with screenwriter Steve Kloves, lead viewers on a fastidious journey through Harry’s magical world. But what I loved about the book seemed to be missing from the movie. The Harry-Dumbledore relationship, along with the Harry and Half-Blood Prince relationship, was somewhat lacking. The teen angst melodrama overwhelmed me at times. I think Kloves might have infused the screenplay with a bit too much love; including, but not limited to, Lavender’s neurosis. But editors worked their magic well in regards to the love charades. Seeing the film a second time helped me solidify this standpoint: I might not have been a big fan of the screenplay overall, but the editors worked very well within its reigns.


Finally, a point of contention that put me on the fence with “Half-Blood Prince” is the ending. Dumbledore's death left sitting semi-complacent from the momentous murder. I should have been bawling like when I read that chapter in Rowling’s book – but I was not. There should have been an “ah ha!” moment at the end where I would anticipate the next film. But there was not. There is a meager feeling of the battle and journey set up for the next film. The final two films in the series will be taken from the same book: “Deathly Hallows.” The first movie comes out at the end of 2010 and the last in the summer of 2011. It was not the way I wanted to leave the theater. The emotionally detached scene in the astronomy tower with Harry, Hermione and Ron was slightly painful and slow. It seemed like the editors ran out of steam and just cut together something quick, unlike the rest of the meticulously edited film. It made me want to leave the theater without watching the credits, which everyone knows I love. (Don’t worry, I sat through them all…)


Overall, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is a testament to extraordinary creator and genius J.K. Rowling, who has brilliantly delineated Harry’s magical world. The creative team and ineffably gifted cast keep the magic going and transport viewers, albeit with a few missteps, to an unparalleled experience for two hours and 33 minutes. My grade: B+.

Let me know what you thought of the film by commenting to this post
Photo credits: Review logo by me; others photos and poster courtesy Warner Bros.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Hoping for a "sunny day"

Sesame Workshop CEO Gary Knell was on the grounds today for the morning lecture, during which Muppet Rosita interrupted and had a very adorable conversation with Knell. 

Take a look:

I'll have more on the first official week of Chautauqua Institution and all the goings-on here later today.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

New photos from Chautauqua

I have some new photos I've posted on Facebook, from Chautauqua.

Click here to view them.

A recap of week two coming tomorrow.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Oscar® Update: Best Picture category announcement

Outgoing Academy President Sid Ganis made a surprise announcement Wednesday morning in Beverly Hills, Calif. As most media outlets reported, the number of nominees for the Best Picture category will be doubled to 10 at the 82nd Academy Awards, which will be presented on March 7, 2010.

At the beginning of the press conference, Ganis said, "This morning's event is about the Academy Awards, but it may not be exactly what you think it is.

“We'll be casting our net wider and in casting that net wider who knows what will turn up,” he said, adding that a documentary, animated or foreign language film could be included in the larger field.

"And what do you know, maybe even a comedy in that group of 10," Ganis added sardonically.

The reason for the change is somewhat retrospective and retroactive.

For nine years there were 10 nominees; the 16th Academy Awards (1943) was the last year to include a field of that size; “Casablanca” was named Best Picture. In 1931/32, there were eight nominees and in 1934 and 1935 there were 12 nominees, according to the press release.

Another possibility for the announcement may be "intense lobbying by the major studios," according to blogger Nikki Finke, and maybe a little enmity from the general public by disregarding well-made films such as "The Dark Knight" for Best Picture nomination.

“I would not be telling you the truth if I said the words ‘Dark Knight’ did not come up" during the nominations discussion, Ganis said during the press conference.

Roger Ebert noted on his Web site, however, that an increase in the number of nominees doesn't exactly mean a ticket to the Academy Awards for mainstream blockbusters.

"As the number of Academy voters has grown, they have been increasingly willing to step outside the mainstream," Ebert said. "While this would mean a highly-regarded hit like 'The Dark Knight' would almost certainly be nominated, but the new 'Transformers' film, which could become this year's biggest blockbuster, would have no chance even if the category grew to 20 films. Taste does remain a factor."

David Carr, Oscar blogger and aficionado for The New York Times, discussed a great angle of the story that I hadn't quite considered.

"The clear winner is the academy," Carr said. "At a time when many believe that the academy’s taste had become too rarified for its own good, the move to broaden and democratize the signal category of the industry’s signal event puts the Oscars right back in the news and perhaps in the middle of American moviegoing conversation."

As I reported earlier this year, ratings for the ceremony have hit record lows. Having bigger and more mainstream movies attached to the ceremony may drive more viewers to the small screen. Or not.

We'll have to wait and see what the true outcome of this announcement is when Oscar nominations are announced Feb. 2, 2010, and after next year's ceremony airs on ABC Sunday, March 7, 2010.

View the press conference on YouTube.

On a side note: Here is a cool time-lapse video I found of the 81st Academy Awards setup at the Kodak:

Photo of Sid Ganis from the press conference: Todd Wawrychuk / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Week one in Chautauqua

Looking out the window of the tour, I thought to myself, "Where am I? What is this place?" That was last Tuesday afternoon, June 16th. Today, I'm still asking that same question to myself - if only to a smaller extent.

I am spending the summer as a design editor at the Chautauqua Institution's daily newspaper, the Chautauquan Daily. I'll be here at this utopia-like place until the end of August. That may answer the first question I asked myself, but there's still the second...

Trying to describe the Institution is very hard. Over dinner Tuesday night, Institution president Tom Becker gave us a better idea of the place. It's like chocolate in that it's incomparable to anything else, he said.

For me, Chautauqua is like many things: a resort, a summer home or lake house, a small college town, Disney World and, in a sense, Monaco.

On Monday, resident archivist and historian Jon Schmitz stopped by the newsroom and helped describe the Institution anecdotally. If you were to describe an elephant to someone, you might say its trunk is like a snake or its leg is like a tree trunk, he said. Everyone who comes to Chautauqua experiences a different aspect and defines the place intrinsically by that experience.

In future weeks, I hope to to show and describe what I'm doing here as a way to indirectly describe this place to you.

Now, I will recap my first week here in Chautauqua, New York - a quick drive north of Jamestown, New York, and an hour east of Erie, Pa.

The drive
I left Tuesday morning, June 16th with my friend and colleague at the paper, Gail. It took us approximately four hours to get to the Institution. The drive was not too long and, thankfully, not as boring as driving from Toledo to Chicago. (Cleveland helped break up what could have been a monotonous road trip.)

The Cottage
After arriving, Gail and I split and went off to our separate cottages before the staff meeting in the afternoon. My living quarters for the summer is Aqua Casa #2, a quaint little house on Hidden Valley Road. I share a bedroom - freshman year dorm style - with Kent student Justin. My other cottage-mates include Tony, a summer tennis instructor for the Institution, and Jordan, the assistant editor for the Chautauquan Daily.

The cottage next to ours houses four females interns from the paper. It's nice to be close to more interns and hang out together after work. In the one week we've been here, our two cottages have hosted a party, had puzzle nights (something for which I am responsible and the reason why I'm known as the "puzzle master") and have thrown a frisbee around in our big yard before the bats came out to play. A cool tidbit: bats are the unofficial mascots of the area.

One amenity our cottages do not provide: Internet. Also, for the time being, our cable is not on. It has been rough for us city people, but we have adapted.

View Chautauqua, New York in a larger map

The Institution
Chautauqua comes alive during the summer, having a density higher than Manhattan - something we learned on our tour last Tuesday. The season begins this Saturday and I should see an antithetic change once people begin arriving. What is the semi-empty campus now should be a bustling, much-to-do Institution this weekend. Beaucoup events keep our reporters very busy. But more on the newspaper to come.

Each season, there are approximately 2,100 events and 150,000 visitors, according to the fact sheet I was given in the newsroom. This summertime mecca was founded in 1874 by Lewis Miller (an Akron, Ohio, inventor and manufacturer) and John Heyl Vincent (a Methodist minister and later bishop) as a training camp for Sunday school teachers.

Since then, the program has expanded not just on the grounds but around the world with the movement itself. The term "chautauqua" can be found in the dictionary to mean: "any similar assembly, esp. one of a number meeting in a circuit of communities" (source).

There are four pillars to the Institution's summer program: arts, education, religion and recreation. This can be seen through the schedule of events, called "the grid."

The events I am looking forward to are as follows (hopefully I can attend them!):
Sesame Street Live
• Lecture by Gary Knell, president and CEO of Sesame Workshop
• Lecture by Kobie Boykins, NASA engineer of the Mars Expedition Rovers Programs
• Play: "The Glass Menagerie"
• Lecture by Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize winner, author of "Night" and Holocaust survivor
Jason Alexander, who played George Costanza on "Seinfeld"
• An Evening with Ken Burns

There are many, many more events. These are a few. At the beginning of each week, I will highlight the events to watch.

The Daily
First published on Thursday, June 15, 1876, the daily newspaper of the Chautauqua Institution is the official record for everything that happens. Initially called the Chautauqua Assembly Daily Herald, its now the Chautauquan Daily (a title which evolved in the first 30 years of the paper). The Chautauquan Daily title emerged in 1906 to provide uniformity among other publications, according to research by the Daily's own archive reporter George Cooper.

"The newsroom has been a newswriting and reporting training camp for well-known journalists such as investigative reporter Ida Tarbell and current Time magazine editor-at-large Nancy Gibbs," according to the Daily official Web site.

This season, there are approximately 24 interns (that I can count) that are in college or that have, like me, recently graduated. It is very neat to have such a young and new staff making up a majority of the paper. There are also returners from the area; one is returning for her 16th season.

I am part of a four-member design team. On Thursday, we'll start designing and laying out our first issue, which comes out on Saturday. The paper is a daily broadsheet. The Saturday and Sunday issues are combined into a weekend edition, which is published on Saturday mornings.

It's now time to get to work. We have a paper coming out on Saturday!

More info and photos to come throughout the summer. Follow my journey here and on Twitter.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Road to Chautauqua

Left my home in Toledo for a cottage along Chautauqua Lake in western New York. It's a four-hour drive - essentially like driving to Chicago.

What waits for me there is a design internship at the Institution's daily newspaper. I'll give you the details some time tomorrow. Off to New York I go until the end of August!

Friday, June 05, 2009

'Talent' update: Voting Percentages

As promised in Monday's post, here are the percentage breakdown figures for the public voting on the "Britain's Got Talent" finale, in order of highest percentage:
Act % of vote in SF Diversity 24.9% Susan Boyle 20.2%
Julian Smith 16.4% Stavros Flatley 16.3%
Aidan Davis 6.5%
Hollie Steel 3.9%
Shaheen Jafargholi 3.8%
Flawless 3.6%
Shaun Smith 3.4%
2 Grand 1%

It looks like Susan Boyle did not lose by too much. Doing a simple calculation, based on the reported approximately 4 million votes, Diversity received around 996,000 votes; Ms. Boyle received around 808,000 - a difference of 188,000 votes. The difference between Julian Smith and Stavros Flatley, however, is VERY CLOSE: approximately 4,000 votes, according to my estimates.

Well, that's it from me and "Britain's Got Talent." I wonder how the producers will top this amazing season next year... Remember, "America's Got Talent" premieres Tuesday, June 23 on NBC.

Image: Screen grab of finale

Monday, June 01, 2009

What a season for 'Talent'!

Saturday evening was full of "Talent" for all of Britain. And it appears the country was all tuning in to find out which act would walk away 100,000 pounds (approx. $159,000) richer and get a spot to perform for Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Variety Performance show in December.

A remarkably large 19.19 million viewers tuned in to the finale, making it the most successful TV show in the country for five years, according to the show's official Web site. More than 71 percent of people with a TV on had it tuned to "Talent."

Granted, 19.19 million viewers seems average compared to the American standard. The final night of "American Idol" garnered more than 23 million viewers (source), which was considered low. Of course, one must also consider the size of the United Kingdom, which has a population more than five times smaller than the United States (source).

Here are a few more interesting facts from the show's site:
• That many people haven't watched the same show since England played Portugal - and lost - in the semi finals of footy tournament Euro 2004.
• Thought to be the highest ever peak audience for a reality show on British TV
• Almost 15.5 million people sat on their sofa for two hours earlier in the evening to watch all 10 acts perform
• A peak of 18.02 million (75% viewing share) were all watching at 8:10 p.m.
More than four million votes were registered
The official Web site will publish voting percentages per act on Monday

Thanks to the show's recently made global celebrity Susan Boyle, by now most of you reading this blog post, know that she was not crowned winner of "Britain's Got Talent" season three; she was runner-up to dance group Diversity.

Saturday night's finale kicked off at 6:45 p.m. (again, trying not to compare this to American TV) with performances by all 10 finalists, listed below in alphabetical order:

2 Grand, Aidan Davis, Diversity, Flawless, Hollie Steele, Julian Smith, Shaheen Jafargholi, Shaun Smith, Stavros Flatley, Susan Boyle

After the audition round when Susan Boyle emerged as a global gem, I began watching various auditions. Only at the end of last week, when the finalists were announced, did I basically go nuts over the show and watched the two videos associated with each of the finalists (their auditions and semi-final performances).

When Saturday night's finale aired across the pond, I was ready. For a five-minute recap of the finale, visit the official Web site.

Here are my favorites from the evening, in order of most-liked...

• Shaheen Jafargholi, 12-year-old singer:

• Diversity, winning high-energy dance troupe:

• Susan Boyle, 48-year-old globally-known singer from a small Scottish village:

• Aidan Davis, 11-year-old dancer:

• Stavros Flatley, bizarre father-son comedy/dance duo:

• Julian Smith, soprano saxophonist:

Susan Boyle sang "I Dreamed a Dream" again in the finals. The Scottish singer was the first runner-up. "The best people won," she said. "They are very entertaining lads. I wish you all the best."

Third place went to soprano saxophonist Julian Smith.

"As for the finale itself, words almost (only almost, mind...) fail me," said judge Piers Morgan on his blog for the show. "It was one of the most stunning events I can ever remember." Read his full comments here.

I am pretty jealous of NBC News' Meredith Vieira, who was in the audience for the finale! She also interviewed Morgan on TODAY Friday morning (before the finale):

You can easily view the entire season, including all 10 finale performances and the results on the show's YouTube channel. Exclusive videos can be found on the official Web site for "Britain's Got Talent."

For a nice summary of the finalists, read TV Guide's assessment.

Here is the recap from NBC News' Jim Maceda, reporting from London on Saturday night's "Nightly News":

Image courtesy: http://talent.itv.com/.

Friday, May 08, 2009

‘Idol’ hopeful in Milwaukee today

"American Idol" hopeful Danny Gokey is now in the top three. While I was not excited to see Allison Iraheta go Wednesday night, I was excited by the fact that the final three are visiting their hometowns today, Friday, May 8th.

The powerhouse singer that is Gokey is thankfully from Milwaukee and will be stopping by the "sexiest city in the world" for a quick visit — and my college town will be on TV next week! Sounds awesome to me... Plus, he giving a free concert!!!

Here is his schedule, thanks to my friend Rincey (subject to change):

7 a.m.: Danny arrives at the WITI Fox 6 studios for TV interviews, 9001 N. Green Bay Road, Brown Deer.

11:15 a.m.: Danny makes a visit to the AT&T store (9078 N. Green Bay Road).

3-4:30 p.m.: Scheduled short stops at Milwaukee downtown area landmarks: the bronze Fonz, the Harley-Davidson Museum the Milwaukee Art Museum and Discovery World.

4:15 p.m.: Main gates to Summerfest open.

4:30 p.m.: Short car parade to the Summerfest concert venue from Michigan and Jackson down to Chicago and east on Chicago entering the main gate at Summerfest. The parade (and mini-concert) will also feature four Green Bay Packers players (Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Nick Barnett and Ruvell Martin).

Note: all people who attend Danny’s mini-concert at Summerfest will receive a FREE Summerfest weekday admission ticket as they depart the grounds after the concert!

5:15-6 p.m.: Mini-concert at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse starring Danny Gokey with special guests.

6 p.m.: Motorcade leaves concert for Miller Park. People are invited to line the Wisconsin Avenue route as the motorcade heads to Miller Park.

6:40 p.m.: Danny throws out first pitch and sings the National Anthem before Brewers-Cubs game.

(Source: Visit Milwaukee)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Final Oscar post of the season: Looking ahead

Yesterday, the Academy announced key dates for next year's Academy Awards, the 82nd annual. Set your calendars...

ABC will televise the 82nd Annual Academy Awards from the Kodak Theatre on Sunday, March 7, 2010, Academy President Sid Ganis announced yesterday.

Key dates:
  • Tuesday, December 1, 2009: Official Screen Credits forms due
  • Monday, December 28, 2009: Nominations ballots mailed
  • Saturday, January 23, 2010: Nominations polls close 5 p.m. PT
  • Tuesday, February 2, 2010: Nominations announced 5:30 a.m. PT, Samuel Goldwyn Theater
  • Wednesday, February 10, 2010: Final ballots mailed
  • Monday, February 15, 2010: Nominees Luncheon
  • Saturday, February 20, 2010: Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards presentation
  • Tuesday, March 2, 2010: Final polls close 5 p.m. PT
  • Sunday, March 7, 2010: 82nd Annual Academy Awards presentation

The blog will return to normal next week.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A look at the Tribune

I found this Web site called Issuu, a place to put your documents and display them in Flash format. Here is a look at Tuesday's edition of The Marquette Tribune:

I laid out the news section and designed the MUSG Primary Election coverage page.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Oscar ratings up, but not excellent

As I discussed in a post Thursday, Oscar ceremony ratings hit an all-time low last year. So this year, getting above 32 million viewers didn't seem like a huge challenge.

The challenge I hoped the new producers, along with a Hugh Jackman-hosted ceremony, would meet was the 46.2 million threshold, putting the ceremony in the Top 10 for best rated telecasts. Alas, it was an uphill battle. With no "Dark Knight" Best Picture nominations, viewers and film goers were not happy with the snub.

And the results are...

"Ratings for this year's Academy Awards improved substantially over last year and are the highest for any TV show (sports excluded) in two years," according to Zap2It.com.

ABC says an average of 36.3 million people watched the 81st annual Oscars on Sunday, making it the most-watched entertainment program of the season and bigger than any other entertainment program since the 2007 Oscars' 40.17 million viewers.

The adults 18-49 rating was up, too, rising from 10.7 in 2008 to 12.1 this year. All the other key demos improved too -- even men under 35.

The artilce reminds us that the numbers are based on "time zone-adjusted" fast national ratings that take into account the live nationwide broadcast. What they don't take into account is the last 25 to 30 minutes of the broadcast.

The situation: Nielsen marks the end time of a program as the time of the last national commercial break. For the Oscar telecast, that came at 11:25 p.m. ET Sunday. Unfortunately, the show ended a couple minutes before midnight ET. That last half-hour featured the big awards, where we assume more people watched (I know someone for example who started watched at this point). During this time, Kate Winslet in "The Reader" won the award for best actress, Sean Penn in "Milk" for best actor and "Slumdog Millionaire" for best picture.

"It's not unreasonable to expect there might have been an uptick in viewers," says writer Rick Porter in the article. "We just don't know if that happened based on the figures we have now."

Even if there was an "uptick," the ratings would not have beat my dream of Top 10 ceremonies. This is ratings-wise of course. Sunday's awards were also only the fourth since 1988 to fall short of 40 million viewers (last year, 2006 and 2003 are the others).

The ceremony itself, however, was one of the best I've seen in a long time. Oprah Winfrey agrees with me.

"I've been watching since I was 10 years old, and I think that was the best Academy Awards I have ever seen," Oprah said yesterday on a special edition of her show from the Kodak. "So classy, so respectful."

I'm going through all of the photos and will post some good ones tomorrow.

Ceremony Photo: ©A.M.P.A.S.®

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My official predictions and winners (updated!)

As the show starts, here are my predictions (and winners):
I got 19/24 correct. Tied for the lead in my pool.

Best Picture
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Director
Danny Boyle

Best Actor
Sean Penn

Best actress
Kate Winslet

Best Supporting Actor
Heath Ledger

Best Supporting Actress
Taraji P. Henson X Penélope Cruz

Best Original Screenplay

Best Adapted Screenplay
Simon Beaufoy for “Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Foreign-Language Film
“Waltz With Bashir” X "Departures"

Best Animated Feature

Best Original Song
“Jai Ho”

Best Musical Score
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Art Direction
Donald Burft, Victor Zolfo for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

Best Cinematography
Anthony Dod Mantle for “Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Costume Design
“The Duchess”

Best Film Editing
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Makeup
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

Best Sound Editing
“The Dark Knight”

Best Sound Mixing
“The Dark Knight” X "Slumdog Millionaire"

Best Visual Effects
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

Best Animated Short Film
“Presto” X "La Maison en Petits Cubes"

Best Documentary Short Subject
“The Witness” X "Smiles Pinki"

Best Live Action Short Film

Best Documentary Feature
“Man on Wire”

Saturday, February 21, 2009

View all the Best Picture nominees

On Saturday, I will not be blogging too much. Why? I will be at the movie for - wait for it - 14 HOURS! Yes, tomorrow, as I've done in the past, will be devoted to seeing all five Best Picture nominees - “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), “Frost/Nixon” (Universal), “Milk” (Focus Features), “The Reader” (The Weinstein Company) and “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight).

AMC Theatres offers this quite amazing opportunity to see all the nominees back-to-back in a special package. It's $30 - or $25 for rewards members - and includes all five movies, large popcorn, unlimited pop and a cool collectible pass so you can leave the theater between showings and walk around. Here is the schedule:
# Milk 10:30 a.m.
# The Reader 1:05 p.m.
# The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 3:45 p.m.
# Slumdog Millionaire 7:15 p.m.
# Frost/Nixon 9:45 p.m.
Entertainment Weekly named the Best Picture Showcase No. 1 on its "Must List" for this week.

So with that, I need to catch some sleep and get ready to sit all day and watch movies. Sounds like heaven, right?

Friday, February 20, 2009

mtvU names Red Carpet Correspondent

And the award goes to...

Faheem Ahmed and Anish Patel from Rice University. The team has been selected as the Grand Prize winners for the first-ever “Oscar Correspondent Contest,” a joint promotion by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and mtvU. Their coverage will be posted on www.Oscars.mtvU.com the week of February 23.

Congrats! I'll try to get an interview with them and post it this weekend.

Photo: Faheem Ahmed (left) and Anish Patel from Rice University have earned a spot on the red carpet and will also have access to the backstage press rooms and the Governors Ball. Photo: Darren Decker / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Oscar logo for Sunday

If you are like me, you stay up late at night and wonder what this year's Oscar ceremony graphics would look like. Well, even if you are even close to that description, I've found a picture, thanks to the Academy, of what looks like this year's logo and artwork.

I mentioned in a post earlier this week that the theme for this year's show was going to be "a rich, deep blue."

Other notes:
  • The Academy and mtvU will be announcing the Red Carpet correspondent at noon PST / 3 p.m. EST. So I'll keep you posted on the lucky team of students chosen to stand on the red carpet and interview celebs.

    The finalists will be on ET tonight, according to one of the teams.

    Also, I interviewed a very happy finalist, Megan Telles, Wednesday night and am playing to chat with the other two teams. Those interviews will be posted here this weekend.

  • I am currently editing my OSCAR® SPECIAL for my talk show and will let everyone know when it's online.

  • More prep work is being made outside the Kodak. Here are two photos:
LEFT: The red carpet is unrolled outside the Kodak Theatre Wednesday. By Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S. RIGHT: Just outside the Kodak, an Oscar waits to greet the stars come Sunday. By Darren Decker / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Can this Sunday's show reverse a downward trend?

Recent ratings for the Academy Awards have been - to say the least - abysmal, a downward trend of bad to worse.

Ratings for last year's ceremony were the lowest ever, according to Nielsen figures, and down nearly 20 percent from the year before. ABC’s showing of the 80th Annual Academy Awards attracted 32 million viewers. The broadcast lasted from 8:30 to 11:38 p.m. ET (Source). The 2003 ceremony was Oscar's previous low, with 33 million viewers (Source).

An average of 39.9 million people watched the 79th annual Academy Awards two years ago, an improvement of one million viewers from the year before but still down from the '04 and '05 shows. "The Departed" took home the Best Picture Oscar. Ellen DeGeneres hosted; the show ran about three hours and 50 minutes -- the longest Oscarcast since the 2002 show, which stretched to more than four hours (Source).

According to a study by Nielsen Preview, Academy Awards viewership correlates directly with the box office draw of the best picture nominees and the popularity of the host:
During the 2004 Academy Awards (hosted by Billy Crystal), there was a 28% increase in households tuning in. This was the year that “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” was nominated (and won) best picture. A blockbuster hit, generating over $350M in revenues, the movie’s broad appeal translated to a strong ratings boost to nearly all demographics. ... The highest rating for women 18-24 was in 2007 - the year Ellen Degeneres hosted. Ellen’s appeal with women also buoyed ratings (which had fallen in prior years) among women 35-55+.

Nielsen, on its Web site, listed the most-watched Oscar broadcasts since 1974. I've posted five here, all of which aired on ABC. Look at the site for the Top 10.

1 3/23/98 Titanic 55.2
2 4/11/83 Gandhi 53.2
3 4/14/80 Kramer vs. Kramer 49.0
4 4/3/78 Annie Hall 48.5
5 4/3/78 Forrest Gump 48.3
The ceremony would need more than 46.2 million viewers to break into the Top 10. The most recent year to do that was March 26, 2000. We'll have to wait and see what the number will be. Let's hope for more than 32 millon at this point.

A preview of my talk show

Tomorrow evening, my talk show's annual Oscar® Special airs on my Web site, http://jmolnar.net/chat. We filmed the episode on Valentine's Day and our panelists had some great commentary to share.

Here is the preview:

Side note: Voting ends tomorrow evening for mtvU's Red Carpet Correspondent contest. Vote here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New details on set; hi-res images obtained

Poking around the Web this morning, I stumbled across the official press release (and even high resolution images!) by the Rockwell Group about the set for Sunday's ceremony, which I discussed yesterday in a post (see here).

Some more details I learned:
  • David Rockwell is the first architect to design an Oscar set

  • Designed to "create an atmosphere of an elegant party rather than a formal gathering"

  • Twelve "transforming sets" depicted throughout the night

  • Peninsula part of stage ("thrust stage") will have four steps between the sage and seating level in order to bring presenters closer to audience

  • Stage floor will be "an abstract floral pattern referencing the curve of the thrust stage"

Here are the images I found (click for larger view):
Above and to the right is the picture used on the cover of Sunday's New York Times Arts&Leisure cover. 

Above is a picture I have not seen anywhere else; it depicts eight different settings for the stage, including semi-schematics for how screens, curtains, etc. fly in from the wings and rafters. Looks a little bland to me, but we'll see the real thing come Sunday.

Any thoughts on the set, or any other Oscar news? Leave me a comment.