Saturday, February 24, 2007
Your Oscar predictions for 2007!!
Well, the Academy Award ceremonies will be upon us in 24 hours, which means it's time for our fifth annual Oscar predictions. We will note that this year, we are wearing black armbands in protest at the brutal discrimination subjected against Salma Hayek in the acting categories. Don't those Academy fools realize that she won Best Nude Scene for 2006 from Mr. Skin for Ask the Dust?! [You'll always have this scene!!--ed. It's not enough. It's never enough.]
OK, same rules as always -- predictions of who will win followed by who should win. Surprisingly, given the move and everything, the wife and I got to see many of the top-nominated films:
Best Supporting Actor:
Eddie Murphy has made a ton of money for Hollowood over 25 years, and proved he can act. Hollywood will reciprocate accordingly -- despite his graceless acceptance speech at the Golden Globes -- because the alternative characters (heroin junkie grandpa, child molester) aren't as appealing.
It's great that Arkin got nominated, but Carrell stole the movie for me. Part of it is that he's playing against his "type" from Anchorman and The 40-Year Old Virgin. Part of it is that, as an academic, I had never seen an actor nail the self-seriousness that we all possess in great quantities better than Carrell.
Best Supporting Actress
Let me preface this by saying I did not see Dreamgirls, but by all accounts Slate's Judy Rosen is correct in asserting that Dreamgirls is "not really a movie, but a song, surrounded by 125 minutes of padding." Plus, Hudson is apparently the sweetest person on the face of the planet. Still, part of me does wonder why this logic did not apply to Queen Latifah's nomination for Chicago.
Adams played Sheila, Ronnie's date in Little Children. She doesn't have a lot of screen time (really, she would win Best Cameo if they had that category and Adams was more famous). I don't want to spoil the movie for the many of you that didn't see it but should rent it on DVD, so can't exactly say why I thought she deserved it. Let's just say that despite the fact that Kate Winslet was astonishingly good in this film, I couldn't stop thinking about the sorrow embedded within Adams' character for days after seeing the film.
My hunch is that if either Venus or Blood Diamond were better movies, Whitaker wouldn't be winning. I still think that DiCaprio has a decent shot at a major upset here. However, Whitaker's acting chops will not be denied.
For me, one of the absudities of Hollywood's value system is that someone who can sing or dance can win an Oscar for one show-stopping number, whereas stars in action films are thought to be tawdry and commercial. Craig was able to take a character and a franchise that defined "cartoonish" and actually make people care about James Bond again. For this, he wasn't even nominated. The really absurd thing is that Craig is not an action star but, by all accounts, a chameleon of an actor. Sorry, Daniel -- if it makes you feel any better, my wife and many of her friends would like to somehow make it up to you.
Look, if you don't think Helen Mirren is going to win, please e-mail me so I can take your money in an Oscar pool.
As for who should win, Mirren was extraordinary -- it's not just the makeup, it's every facial twitch and frown. That sais, Winslet accomplishes the same thing -- she makes us sympathize with a fundamentally unsympathetic character (an adulterer who neglects her child).
C'mon, you know that the Academy is to Martin Scorcese as Lucy is to Charlie Brown kicking the football. My hunch is that Eastwood gets brownie points for directing two superior films in a year and Scorcese gets docked a point for having that rat in the final shot.
Paradoxically, Mirren is so good in The Queen that she's been sucking all the oxygen from the other people that deserve praise. Frears, in particular, managed to pull off an improbable task -- he fit an Oscar-worthy dramatic performance into one of the driest comedy of manners ever made.
Babel is this year's Crash -- on a global scale!! I'm counting on the Academy's guilty liberal conscience to put it over the top. Besides, you know, it aimed high -- which is apparently what matters to Academy voters.
The Queen is the only movie I saw this year that was note-perfect (though Thank You For Smoking came close). Even though, as I said, it's fundamentally a comedy, the characters are never played for broad laughs (well, except Prince Philip). As I said, Mirren's performance has somehow crowded out the attention that it deserves for other reasons, including Michael Sheen's fascinating portrayal of Tony Blair.
Enjoy the show!!
POST-OSCARS UPDATE: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.... hmwa? It's over? Jesus, people, if you're going to read your acceptance speeches, how about outsourcing the thing to someone who can write in a concise and pithy manner? This awards ceremony actually made me nostalgic for the 3-6 Mafia.
[You're just bitter because you didn't do so well in your predictions!--ed. Alas, this is true. My sharpest observation of the evening occurred after Alan Arkin won for best supporting actor, when I said to my lovely wife, "I bet you Eddie Murphy leaves the building in the next five minutes." And he was never seen from again.]
The next class topic: how Woody Woodpecker promotes the Irish
This might be the most bizarre university lecture I have ever seen:Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.
Friday, February 23, 2007
So I've decided that, contrary to my earlier Shermanesque pledges forswearing elected office, I shall run for President in 2008.
Drezner in 2008!!! Drez for Prez!! DREZ FOR PREZ!!! [DREZ FOR PREZ!!!-ed.]
No, wait, I've changed my mind, I don't think I can raise the money.
Think this post is absurd? Consider this Des Moines Register story by Thomas Beaumont:
Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack withdrew as a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination today, saying he could not raise enough money to compete with his nationally known rivals....I haven't seen a presidential run this brief since Jimmy James had to withdraw in 1996.
Open Iran thread
Can't really blog right now, but that shouldn't stop you from commenting!
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
The secrets of Sid Meier
The Weekly Standard's Victorino Matus has a cover story on Civilization and its creator, Sid Meier (I have previously documented how Civilization nearly crippled my academic career).
Read the whole thing, but here are two bits of interesting information:
Meier cites the strategy board game Risk as one of his major influences. "Conquer the world. All those cool pieces. You felt like you were king. It gave you a lot of power." What about the game Diplomacy? "You had to have friends to play Diplomacy so that kind of left me out."....UPDATE: Matus provides some more details in this Galley Slaves post.
So what do IR specialists think, redux
Two years ago I blogged about a survey of international relations scholars and their attitudes towards IR theory and U.S. foreign policy.
Dan Nexon summarizes many of the significant findings, impugning the reputation of my home institution in the process.
One finding I found particularly interesting:
Contrary to popular belief, international relations scholars are not doves. Most believe that military force is warranted under the right conditions. Unsurprisingly, given the daily reminder of the challenges of going it alone in Iraq, academics favor using force only when backed by the full weight of the international community. If a military confrontation with North Korea or Iran emerges over nuclear weapons, scholars demonstrate an extreme aversion to unilateral American action. If the U.N. Security Council authorizes force, however, approval for action skyrockets.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
One anti-offshoring advocate changes his mind
Via Greg Mankiw, I find this Andrew Cassel column in the Philadelphia Inquirer pointing out that, around or about three years ago, everyone was freaking out about offshore outsourcing. Yeah, what happened there?
[T]his month marks the third year since the Great Offshoring Scare of 2004.Gee, that sounds familiar....
UPDATE: Whoops!! The original title to this post read "anti-offhoring" rather than "anti-offshoring," which takes the conversation to places I do not want to go.
Your international law links for today
Over at the Council on Foreign Relations web site, Dan Ikenson and Robert E. Lighthizer are debating whether the WTO dispute settlement system is too robust for its own good.
Meanwhile, at the International Economic Law and Policy blog, my colleague Joel Trachtman discusses why Indonesia has decided to sell Baxter HealthCare exclusive access to its avian flu virus samples.
Monday, February 19, 2007
What Pakistan giveth, Pakistan also taketh away
Like everyone else, I found today's New York Times story by Mark Mazzetti and David Rohde very disturbing:
Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once-battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.It should be pointed out that this problem has been around for a couple of months now. Obviously, the Bush administration finds itself in a bind about what to do about Pakistan, as Mazzetti and Rohde document:
The concern about a resurgent Al Qaeda has been the subject of intensive discussion at high levels of the Bush administration, the officials said, and has reignited debate about how to address Pakistan’s role as a haven for militants without undermining the government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president....What's truly depressing about this is that there is evidence that Pakistan has cracked down on other terrorist groups. For example, this Christian Science Monitor story by Anuj Chopra points out that one reason today's train bombings will not derail the south Asian peace process is because India recognizes that Pakistan is cracking down on Kashmiri terrorist groups:
Sunday's bombings may represent a departure from the fragile diplomatic cycle between India and Pakistan that made peace talks between them so vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Unlike the response to the [July 2006] Mumbai bombings, the reaction to the attack on the Samjhauta Express underscored India's new reluctance to point fingers at Pakistani militants. Instead, Indian and Pakistani officials have denounced the act of terrorism and are hewing toward peace in a process that began in 2004.I don't know enough about Pakistan's domestic politics to understand why Musharraf is able to crack down on the Kashmiri groups while he's allowing Al Qaeda groups to fester. I'm sure my readers will enlighten me.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
A post in which I agree with the European Commission
Tobias Buck reports in the Financial Times that the European Commission has decided it wants the rest of the world to look more like Brusels:
Brussels wants the rest of the world to adopt the European Union’s regulations, the European Commission will say this week.The EU deciding to throw around its market weight? This sounds very, very familiar.
You be the ethicist!
Graduate Admissions Committee... is deciding whom to admit.... there is a website on which potential students gossip share information about the departments to which they are applying, and many do so anonymously. However, many such students say enough about themselves that if you are in possession of their file (as graduate admissions committee is) you can identify them with near, and in some cases absolute, certainty. One applicant to said department behaves on the website (under the supposed cloak of anonymity) like… well, very badly, saying malicious things about departments he has visited, raising doubts about whether he is honest and the kind of person it would be reasonable to want other students to deal with, and generally revealing himself to be utterly unpleasant.My take: yes, it's wrong. More precise information (how ironclad is the ID'ing of this applicant? How bad is the behavior?) might make it a tougher call. That said, it sounds like the only difference between this applican't behavior and 99% of all grad students I have known in my day is that this person put these things into print rather than speaking them at a party after several beers.
[So you're saying all grad students are utterly unpleasant?--ed. No, I'm saying that all grad students, like all professors, have a side to their personalities that is best shielded from public view. I think it's safe to assume that this applicant never thought that a GAC, armed with information from the file, would put two and two together on a web site. So what would you do?--ed. Assuming the person was admitted and came, if I were the GAC I'd probably have a closed-door meeting with the person to ascertain the truth, and then put a bit of a scare into him or her. That should be sufficient to deter future printed displays of bad behavior.]
What do you think?