1. My Oscar Best Picture Model failed this year for the first time since I developed it. The numbers clearly pointed to Lincoln, based on its other nominations, but Argo obviously pulled off the upset, despite its lack of Best Director nomination putting it in fifth place (in my model) among the nine nominees in terms of likelihood of victory. Apparently, the Academy’s decision to have a larger number of “Best Picture” nominees than “Best Director” nominees no longer means that not having the latter is an absolute death knell come Oscar night. I’m still sticking with my model, though, as I do believe this year’s weird distribution of Oscar trophies and industry indignation on Ben Affleck’s part makes 2013 an anomaly, not a bellwether. I doubt we’ll see another “Best Picture” win without a “Best Director” for many, many years. You can quote me.
2. We watched Argo for the first time last night, and I did not think it was Best Picture-worthy, regardless of what my model and the Academy’s voters thought. The acting was mostly wooden (except for John Goodman and Alan Arkin), and once the intense opening scenes in the U.S. Embassy in Teheran passed, there was never any real suspense about anything, since I knew how the story ended, and I didn’t really care much of about of any of the one-dimensional hostage characters. Affleck, though, tried desperately to artificially generate a sense of suspense with some of the most cliched techniques in the filmmaker’s arsenal: will they answer the phone in time? will the driver get the truck into gear? will the Boeing 747 outrun the Chevy sedan? etc. Honestly, I don’t think Ben and his beard deserved Best Director, Best Actor or Best Film plaudits. I chalk this one up to Hollywood having a fit of self-love, while watching a movie about Hollywood self-love. Bring on the 2014 Awards.
3. I have written before about how much I detest the Weather Channel’s coverage of “extreme” weather, and they outdid themselves again last week with five solid days worth of hysteria building over “Winter Storm Q,” which basically gave Des Moines just a four inch dusting of powder, despite most of the town’s businesses and schools shutting down in advance of this latest “storm of the century.” When I wrote that piece, the Weather Channel had not yet developed its odious campaign of naming winter storms, which adds even more fever to the fire as it seeks to provide cold weather analogs to the National Weather Service’s naming of tropical typhoons. Any credible media outlet who uses these Weather Channel spawned names is a dupe, and should not be taken seriously. So what’s a soul to do when a soul needs just the facts, ma’am, about the weather? Go take advantage of your tax dollars at work, and read the calm and cool presentation available at weather.gov. In the days immediately preceding “Winter Storm Q,” the National Weather Service’s site had pretty much the same forecast, minus all the hysteria making it feel like end of days. It’s weather as news, and weather for grownups. Stop the madness!
4. I am totally a blog snob, if that’s not screamingly obvious, and I am very picky about what I read and (even moreso) what I will link to from my own blogs. So when something exceptional crosses my path, I feel it is important to note here that I have been impressed. That happened this week, when I found Nonprofit With Balls, which is filled with the most well-written, insightful and hilarious writing I’ve read in years, if ever, about my chosen professional sector. Even better, the blogger is an Executive Director, so he doesn’t just understand the industry in generic terms, he understands the specific strain of masochism that leads people like, uh, me to voluntarily lead nonprofit corporations. The blog is filled with finely observed, nuanced observations about how this particular professional lunacy manifests itself in our daily lives, while we earn our daily bread, which we get at the day-old shop. Bookmark this one. Right now. Seriously. No, really . . . seriously. Now. Thank you.
5. For the long-time readers: you know that I title omnibus, multi-topic posts like this one after songs from particular bands’ catalogs. I’ve worked through The Who and Emerson Lake and Palmer and The Bee Gees and Genesis and Frank Zappa and probably a few others that I can’t remember. And now I am starting a new band. Name them.