Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Reach of Project Natal


“So have you seen the Natal?” friend Number One asked.

“Nope.” I said, “Although it sounds familiar.”

“WHAT!” said friend Number Two. “You have GOT to see the trailers.”

“Trailers?” I asked.

“YOU haven’t seen the trailers?” said friend Number One. “You’ve got to see the trailers.”

“Yes,” said friend Number Two, “You’ve got to see the trailers.”

So I saw the trailers. You should see the trailers too. I will give the links in a few moments but prepare yourselves, Gentle Readers, although what you are about to see is for a “video game system” what you are truly about to see is the future. Really. I don’t shill for Microsoft / X-box (although if you are out there Microsoft / X-box, I wouldn’t mind shilling for you… forgive me. I digress). I do not have any stake other than sharing with you what I believe is the dawn of a new era in computer electronic human interface.

The first trailer is cute it shows some of the possibilities of this interface with gaming and with social networking. It can be found here: http://www.xbox.com/en-US/live/projectnatal/.

The second trailer hints at what could become something so much… more. It can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYPh6qo03gA.

With facial, body and voice recognition Project Natal changes the playing field. A few years ago when the Nintendo Wii came out Sony and Microsoft had been spending their time developing systems with graphics reproduction processors and digital sound – which are important things IF you are a gamer. Nintendo, on the other hand, invested in revolution. With their wireless motion controllers and nun chucks they made it possible for even non-gamers to play video games. It was a simple idea that shook the whole industry and made Nintendo the lead dog of the video game console dog team. Your grandmother may not want to be on your “Call of Duty” strike team but she absolutely loves to bowl with you on the Wii. And just why is that? It is because it is accessible. It is familiar. Nintendo did not have to have the best processing because they had the best interface. That was a historic step. Initially the other companies called the Wii a fad (just like 30 years ago people called video games ‘a fad’). But year after year with the Wii at the top of the heap the other companies decided to develop their own Wii type interfaces. Sony practically copied the Wii Remote (which has not been released yet) and Microsoft developed the Natal. The difference between the two is that the Sony controller is a retread and the Natal is the forward motion of not only gaming but of computer interfacing itself. It surpasses the Wii and, for lack of a better phrase, is the next step in whatever the future may hold.

Enter the X-box Natal. With the Natal now your X-box knows who you are. It recognizes you. It knows the sound of your voice. It tailors itself to fit your needs. This opens up gaming, storytelling and participatory theater to a completely new level. Don’t believe me? Here is some guy named Spielberg to give his two cents concerning the Natal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_3X8TY32f0.

Now let’s consider the future. Can you imagine what the first social interactions or Facebook / Natal interfaces would be? Hundreds of millions of people out there all with their own avatars ready, willing and able to communicate in ways not even dreamed of with a mouse and a keyboard. How about the Windows Natal Browser? I kid you not; this is the shape of things to come. One does not have to be The Amazing Kreskin to see what the future may be here – what it will be here. Can you imagine what a Natal Enabled Classroom would look like? How about Natal Enabled medical records or business presentations? A Natal PowerPoint is not beyond the realm of possibility – it is the same company.

With all of the benefits that such an interface would deliver what concerns me are some of the potential detriments. There will be people who are going to get so enraptured with all the virtual worlds inside the Natal that the real one would fade in comparison. There will be those who like there lives more inside the Natal than on the outside. There are friends inside there. They understand. They cater to one’s needs, wants and desires. Sure they are relating to programs within an electronic construct but if the shoe fits… For these souls Natal Anonymous chapters would open up. I can already hear the empty talking heads on the morning news programs – “Technology, how much is too much?” The answer to that lies only in the boundaries of human imagination. The simple fact of the matter is once the genie is out of the bottle the world has moved on. There is no going back – nor should there be. However; for every step forward, throughout history mind you, there are those who are willing and able to take three steps back. There were people who said that horseless carriages would never last; that man would never fly. There were those who said that man would never walk on the moon. There were some who said average everyday people would never need anything like a personal computer. There were those who said video games were just a fad. You get the idea. This technology is here and it will be here to stay. Users will have to adapt and the Natal makes adaptation such an easy feat. Those that don't will be left behind.

“If this is the real deal, what about addiction?”

In the grand scale bell curve of progress you will find on either side of that curve people who will utilize a new technology (or anything for that matter) too much or too little. If you like cars or motorcycles you are a “Gear Head”. If you like computers and what makes them run you are a “Tech Head”. If you like either of these pastimes too much and it monopolizes your time where you are constantly thinking about (insert addiction here) then you may have a problem (of course you may also have a clear career path too). For the vast majority on this future bell curve it will be a tool; a new way to communicate. And just as with anything there will be those who are better at new technologies than others and there will be those who will eternally have their digital clocks blinking 12:00 AM.

As for having an addiction? “My name is Evil Chicken and I have (or will have) a Natal problem.” There. I’ve said it. I’ve taken the first step to recovery.

We have looked at the good and the bad of the Natal; now let’s look at the ugly. Facial and Voice recognition, tens of millions of users worldwide – each with their own personal identification and profiles that they update themselves? All cataloged in one place! Right now, I kid you not, there are think tanks and organizations (governmental and otherwise) filled with people wringing their hands and stroking their pencil thin mustaches who are overcome with joy with frenzied looks in their eyes at the prospect of having all of that information at their fingertips. The information that they have is yours. Big Brother now is no longer just watching you. No. Now he is playing volleyball with you in your living room. He is able to sit in on each and every video chat that you have with your cousin in Seattle or your wife back home in Jersey or your doctor’s office. He is able to see what sites you go to and what you buy online. Whatever the camera’s eye sees or the electronic ear hears someone, somewhere can see it too. Money may make the world go round but information? Information is power. Power is the drug that fuels the engines of despotism, tyranny and repression.

“Oh come on, Evil Chicken. You are being paranoid. That could never happen.”

No? Not to sound too much like a conspiracy theorist please consider the case of the school in Lower Merion Township in Pennsylvania and how they were activating the web cams on student’s computers to “track missing laptops”. Read ‘em and weep: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/02/school-district-halts-webcam-surveillance/.

This is only a small abuse of power. I am not even going to discuss the HUGE abuses of power that the big fish could perpetrate in this equation. Do a search on Google and the NSA who have been recently working together. I am going to hazard a guess and say that Google will be one or the options for search engines on future models of the Natal. “Don’t be evil” was nice while it lasted – however long that was. Now imagine that it is your turn to be reviewed or audited as for your habits of what you do online or, in the near future, on the Natal Network. We voluntarily give out so much of our information and our personal freedoms so willingly all in the names of entertainment and security. Perhaps it will be something as "innocuous" as selling your demographic info to advertising agencies? Perhaps the monitoring will be chalked up to "national security" or "finding terrorists". Whatever the case YOU will be watched. You will be told it is for your own good. Only history will hold the answer to if the clandestine monitoring / spying was worth the price of identity.

Please forgive me… "Who watches the watchmen" is only a part of this equation. This is still about the Natal, which has the power of becoming an amazing new tool for the ages. As with any tool it is only as good as the craftsman who is using it. The same can be said for the craftsman’s intentions. Whether you believe Microsoft can deliver on the Natal or not it will be in stores for Christmas 2010.

I’ll be camping out for one. I believe that for the future the Good will be worth the Bad and that the Ugly have always been with us – they just have better tools now.

I’ll see you in line.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Blu-Ray Dossier 6.0


We’ve got a lot of ground to cover this time out. That Snowpocalypse II had me watching movies on Blu-ray at an amazing rate. Speaking of rates; I rate films on a two tier, 5 Star system based on story first and jaw dropping Blu-ray quality second. This means that a really awful movie could have a really great Blu-ray score. Conversely, that same movie would score pretty low on the whole “Story” portion of my rating system and, I do not say this lightly, Story makes the world go round. All right. That’s that. Let’s get down to business…

Grindhouse – Death Proof: 4 Stars / 4 Stars. It is no great secret, I love Quinton Tarantino and this was his half of the Grindhouse double feature that he and Robert Rodriguez put together a couple of years ago. It is not for everyone. There is a lot of language and violence but Tarantino uses both as tools for his storytelling. It is not for kids or the faint of heart. It is for people who loved the old style, seventies movie house cinema. If that was your bag then Grindhouse Death Proof is for you. I love the scratches and intentional skipping that simulates the changing of the reels on the projector. Watching this is like watching a slice of history. Also, Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike is something to see. Tarantino and Rodriguez are fans and it shows.

The Hangover: 4 Stars / 4 Stars. This is a comedy and it is wrong on a lot of levels. It also happens to be flat out hilarious. The story revolves around four guys in Las Vegas during a bachelor party. They wake up and do not remember a thing. They notice that the soon to be groom is missing and have to reconstruct the previous night in order to get the betrothed to the church on time. You will laugh at this movie and, just like the guys in this movie, you may hate yourself in the morning for doing so but you will laugh. The Blu-ray of the strip at night caught my attention.

Labyrinth: 3.5 Stars / 3 Stars. I saw this with my three daughters and, since they were the target audience even after all these years since the release date, the three of them loved it. What can I say, it’s Muppets, it’s Bowie as the Goblin King and it’s a performance from a young Jennifer Connelly. There are worse ways to pass an afternoon.

Reign of Fire: 1 Star / 2 Stars. Don’t rent this. It is not worth your money or your time. It is a shame when good actors get trapped in bad projects. This is a bad project. The helicopter flight over what may or may not be the Cliffs of Dover earns it a 2 star Blu-ray factor but with a 1 Star check in the Story column… just find another picture to see.

The Hurt Locker: 5 Stars / 4.5 Stars. This is a brilliant film directed by Karen Bigelow; that follows an EOD (Explosive Ordinance Detonation) team in Iraq. “The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug” – Chris Hedges. I had not seen this before my Oscar blog (http://evilchickenscratch.blogspot.com/2010/02/82nd-academy-awards.html). If I had the blog may have read differently. This film deserves ANY and ALL awards that it garnishes. The three lead actors are unbelievable. The characterization is flawless. Not to give too much away but some of the most powerful moments in a powerful film are when Sgt. James (Jeremy Renner) is home with his family and back in civilian life at least while on leave. Picking out a box of cereal proves more impossible than defusing a roadside IED. There is a moment when he is alone with his barely a toddler son and tells him that when you are young there is so much that you love but when you get to be his age there are only two… No. “One thing” that you may love. For Sgt. James that one thing is the adrenalin high of combat and doing his job on the EOD Team in Iraq. Do not miss this film.

The Wizard of Oz: 5 Stars / 4 Stars. Timeless. I explained to my three daughters that when I was a kid that this move only was shown on network television once a year and each and every year it was a treat; something special. This film is over 70 years old and I’m happy to report it is still something special. It is now in 1080p. What I loved best was watching my youngest daughter’s socks get blown off when it switches between black & white to beautiful Technicolor. The magic still works. It looks beautiful in Blu-ray. This just might find it’s way into our collection.

Star Wars the Clone Wars: 3.5 Stars / 4 Stars. Just when I think I’m out George Lucas keeps pulling me back in. This premise and concept are the “Star Wars” movies that Lucas may have been shooting for with the prequel trilogy (although “Episode III” had some great stuff going for it). This is computer animated Star Wars and, dare I say, some of the special effect battles are better than those found in the original trilogy (which BTW is sacred to me). This was much better than I expected and it has fostered an interest in me to seek out the “Clone Wars” series on DVD to rent. What do you know? Star Wars is still cool.

That’s all I’ve got for now, Gentle Reader. Until next time, I’ll see you online at Blockbuster!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Your Chance to Get Away From it ALL

Now here is a contest that could prove interesting: http://ow.ly/15GAF. All you have to do to win $10,000 is to disappear for a month’s time.

“Oh I could do that.”

Really, Gentle Reader? Disappearing is not all that easy in the second decade of the 21st century. “I think I’ll grab a cup of coffee and a magazine.” BOOM you just used your ATM card – you can be found. “Maybe I’ll rent a car and hit the open road.” BAM you just used your credit card and now you’ve made a paper trail. “Maybe I’ll just lay low at a friend’s house.” ZAP did I mention that there would be people looking for you? “Well, I’ll just drive my car north, south, east or west.” WHAM you have a license plate and an EZ Pass do you think you are not being monitored? …Oh the quest for 10 Gees in this day and age is not that easy after all.

That being said, I think I could do it. Evan Ratliff managed to make it for 25 days without being detected (http://www.wired.com/vanish/). Not for nuthin’ but I think that I could do better. I believe that if one is dedicated to living off the grid for a month’s time; that one could become 10 K richer.

“Off the grid?” Yeah, that’s what I said; you’ve got to go Gilligan’s Island – no phone, no light, no motorcar – not a single luxury. Or, you could hide in plain sight. Perhaps you would have help; perhaps you wouldn’t – HOWEVER it plays out it would make a GREAT story.

Perhaps I’m diluting myself but I could do that. What I would miss the most would be my family. BUT after Daddy won the 10 Grand we would all be going on a Disney Cruise; and that, Gentle Reader, is quality time.

So do you have the wherewithal to pull this off? Can you take a month off from your job and your responsibilities? Can you pass the background check? Could you effectively disappear?

This is your chance to find out.

NOTE: I found a cool picture of a magician on stage doing his thing but it disappeared. Hmm...

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Blu-Ray Dossier 5.0


As I write this, Gentle Reader, there is snow on the ground. No that does not really say it right at all please let me try once again… As I writer this there is SNOW on the ground (2 feet plus).

Yeah, that’s better.

Now I ask you, when is a better time for a movie marathon then one is snowed in? That being said, that’s what I’ve been up to (in between shoveling that is). Welcome to the latest edition of The Blu-Ray Dossier. This is the fifth in an ongoing quest to find the best Blu-ray movies and rate them on a 5 star scale for both story and jaw dropping Blu-ray picture quality. That being said here is what I saw…

Kill Bill Volume I: 4.5 Stars / 4 Stars. Who working in the cinema today is making such consistently great movies as Mr. Quentin Tarantino? He is having too much fun. This is a story of a woman, a man and a cabal of assassins and, oh yes, it is about revenge. Uma Thurman is Quentin’s muse for a reason – she is electric as “The Bride”. The dialogue and the storytelling is what sets this apart from other such fare. Who else would put in an anime flashback into the history of an assassin or use brilliantly choreographed over the top cartoon violence during the battle of the Bride vs. the Crazy 88s? This is a love letter to the 70s kung-fu movies from days of yore and I lapped it up.

The Road Warrior: 4.5 Stars / 3.5 Stars. I remember begging my father to take me to see this on the big screen when it first came to the shores of America. I have loved this movie ever since. After the first film, “Mad Max”, Max’s humanity was put on hold. In “The Road Warrior” Max finds his humanity again. This film set the bar for car chases and all things Armageddon related on celluloid, in the world of video games (see Fallout 3) and in popular culture. The Blu-ray was acceptable but it didn’t have the slack jawed beauty that I look for these days. It’s a good transfer – my jaw just didn’t drop.

Kill Bill Volume II: 4.5 Stars / 4 Stars. Did I mention that this is probably one on David Carradine’s finest performances? Did I happen to say that the music in a Tarantino film is simply spot on the money and that it almost becomes a character itself? Did I mention that the Five Point Exploding Heart Technique of Pai Mai’s is very hard to master or that I want a Hattori Hanz┼Ź sword? Sorry… I probably forgot. BTW, did I mention that Quentin Tarantino is a genius?

John Carpenter’s The Thing: 4.5 Stars / 4 Stars. This is one of John Carpenter’s finest films and a favorite of mine ever since it came out in 1982. This is one of those rare occasions where the remake is better than the original – and, yes, I loved the original too. The Thing copies DNA. If it were to make its way to civilization humanity is doomed. Trust, isolation and sacrifice are at the core of this film – well that and some of the best special effects that could be mustered in the early eighties. Kurt Russell and John Carpenter were able to capture some amazing things (pardon the pun) on film and their collaborations are some of my all time favorite films. If you have not seen it yet you should give it a try… especially if you happen to be snowed in.

Zombieland: 4.5 Stars / 4 Stars. This is a fun movie – bottom line. It is a zombie movie (although technically they are not zombies) and there is gore but all that gives way to the story, the characterizations and the humor. This is a great cast that includes Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee the zombie survivalist in search of a Twinkie and Jesse Eisenberg as Columbus who provides the narrative of their adventures. Columbus also has a running list of “Rules” that would prove beneficial when the zombie uprising happens in 2012 including; “Number 1: Cardio”, “Number 2: Double Tap” and “Number 32: Enjoy the Little Things”. You will have a good time with this movie.

The Shining: 5 Stars / 4.5 Stars. Although Stephen King does not like this version of his story Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film is, as the film’s poster says, “A Masterpiece of Modern Horror”. There is a lot going on with this film and it does not answer all the questions that it asks which is a bit of shining brilliance. Is the Overlook Hotel simply haunted or are certain souls destine to return there over and over and over again? What’s going on in room 237 and is Lloyd really that great a bartender? Who or what was Tony – Danny’s protector, another piece of his psyche or something else? The cast really sells this story. Jack Nicholson is at his finest as Jack Torrance, Shelly Duval as his wife Wendy is perfect and Danny Lloyd as Danny performed way beyond his years. This is one of the greats of psychological horror, which is magnified in the Blu-ray format. The trip to the Overlook Hotel never looked so good. Snow plays heavily into the story and I can’t think of a better film to have in your Blu-ray player if you happen to be snowed in for the weekend. “HERE’S JOHNNY!”

So there you have it. That’s what’s been buttering my popcorn lately. What have you been watching and has it been on Blu-ray? I really cannot recommend the format more highly.

Until next time, save my space in line at Blockbuster!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Pentagon Working on Breeding Immortal Synthetic Organisms


So when does our technology outpace our humanity? Philosophers have struggled with the question for millennia. We have wrestled with the concept in books and films – trying to make sense of all of the giant leaps ahead all the while trying to keep a handle on our own place in the universe.

“What are you talking about, Evil Chicken?”

I’m talking about how the lines of fiction (some would say science fiction although that term truly does not adequately fit the context of most technological arguments anymore) and reality. Case in point, the Pentagon is, as the following article from Wired (although you can read this story anywhere), “looking to breed immortal, “synthetic organisms” with a molecular ‘kill-switch’” for those ‘just in case’ moments when one’s own creation gets out of hand.

“Come on…”

Nope, I’m not making this up; read Katie Drummond’s article for yourself here: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/02/pentagon-looks-to-breed-immortal-synthetic-organisms-molecular-kill-switch-included/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wired%2Findex+%28Wired%3A+Index+3+%28Top+Stories+2%29%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

In the film “Blade Runner” humans created bio-engineered synthetic organisms that had a kill switch built into their DNA that only gave them a 5-year life span. The Nexus 6 line looked human and as new models came out with improved biometrics and implanted memories it became next to impossible to distinguish between the “Replicants” (synthetic organisms) and the humans.

The pentagon wants an immortal warrior who can sustain amazing damage but can still function on the battlefield. When Skynet started rolling Terminators off the assembly lines to wipe out the rest of the human blight in the Terminator movies they found that the best killers were the ones hidden under living, bio-engineered skin.

DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is the research and development arm of the United States Department of Defense. This is a prestigious think tank that, according to my favorite second brain Wikipedia, is working on the Synthetic organisms. Check out this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DARPA#Projects and scroll down for a list of past projects and active projects which include XOS Exoskeletons (like the high end ones used in “AVATAR” and “Aliens”), High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense Systems, Remote Controlled Insects (for spying and such) and making Combat Zones that See (where everything that moves in a given area is tracked). DARPA sounds like an interesting place to work. Now if anything goes wrong with these immortal synthetic organisms (causing a Zombie uprising or other such shenanigans) it’s all right; there’s a molecular “kill switch” – I’m sure that nothing could ever go wrong with that.

There is no such thing as science fiction anymore, Gentle Reader. Hold onto your hats. The future is now.

“History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man.” – Blue Oyster Cult, Godzilla

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The 82nd Academy Awards


Oh you 8.something pound little statue. You little golden idol of, voted by members of the Film Academy, of self-adulation. Oscar… I see you have returned. I knew that you would be back. Here is what you are bringing this year as per Harry Knowles: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/43846. (I got the data for this blog from Harry’s site. I could have gotten it from somewhere else but I didn’t.)

To pick who goes home with the little golden guy one must think like the Academy. That is NOT to say that the best picture in any given category goes home with Oscar; no. It means that one must channel and consider to think how the Academy thinks to truly pick who is gonna win. The last few years I have beat Oscar in the big categories in a blow-by-blow match of fisticuffs. All right, you little 8.something pound golden idol – let’s do this… let’s dance.

Best Picture:

UP
INGLORIOUS BASTERDS
AVATAR
DISTRICT 9
AN EDUCATION
THE HURT LOCKER
PRECIOUS
A SERIOUS MAN
THE BLIND SIDE
UP IN THE AIR

Now, let me just say there are some GREAT films in this category. Seriously. The announcements came in the day before yesterday and for the first time since “Casablanca” was in the theaters there are TEN, yep that’s right, TEN possible entries in the “Best Picture” category. This should open things up for a more, dare I say, fair and balanced campaign and selection. I hope that it works. I should also say that I have not seen all of the pictures in this category. Still, putting oneself into the mindset of the Academy one can make a postulation; who should win vs. who will win. I would love to see “Up” take it. It won’t because the Academy will view it as an “animated film” (which it is also listed as a nominee) and write it off. Meanwhile, “Up” is one of the finest films EVER made about the grief process. Heartfelt and touching, “Up” should win. That being said I’d be happy as a clam if “Inglorious Basterds” or “District 9” or “Avatar” won as well. The Academy will either go with “The Hurt Locker” or “Up In the Air”. …And the winner is… “The Hurt Locker”.

Best Actor:

Jeff Bridges, CRAZY HEART
George Clooney, UP IN THE AIR
Colin Firth, A SINGLE MAN
Morgan Freeman, INVICTUS
Jeremy Renner, THE HURT LOCKER

Good actors, good performances. …And the Oscar goes to… Morgan Freeman for “Invictus”!

Best Supporting Actor:

Matt Damon, INVICTUS
Woody Harrelson, THE MESSENGER (and ZOMBIELAND ahem)
Christopher Plummer, THE LAST STATION
Stanley Tucci, THE LOVELY BONES
Christoph Waltz, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

…And the winner is… Christoph Waltz for “Inglorious Basterds”! If Mr. Waltz does not walk away with that little golden icon then there is something completely and utterly wrong with the entire institution; so much so, I dare say, that THIS would be the last blog entry I’ll ever contest between Oscar and myself that I ever document. I feel that strongly.

Best Actress:

Sandra Bullock, THE BLIND SIDE
Helen Mirren, THE LAST STATION
Carey Mulligan, AN EDUCATION
Gabourey Sidibe, PRECIOUS
Meryl Streep, JULIE & JULIA

It’s getting tougher… Streep has her share of Oscar gold and it may be time for the Academy to try to show that they are in touch with the common, ordinary movie attendee. Hmm… And the winner is… Sandra Bullock for “The Blind Side”.

Best Supporting Actress:

Penelope Cruz, NINE
Vera Farmiga, UP IN THE AIR
Maggie Gyllenhaal, CRAZY HEART
Anna Kendrick, UP IN THE AIR
Mo'Nique, PRECIOUS

Tough. My, my, my… let’s see here… And the winner is… Maggie Gyllenhaal for “Crazy Heart”.

Best Director:

AVATAR, James Cameron
THE HURT LOCKER, Kathryn Bigelow
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, Quentin Tarantino
PRECIOUS, Lee Daniels
UP IN THE AIR, Jason Reitman

I would love to see Quentin Tarantino walk away with the Oscar for the tour de force that is “Inglourious Basterds”. He won’t. Instead it is going to be between Cameron and Bigelow, which is interesting since the pair of the use to be married. I’m pretty sure these circumstances don’t happen too often – even for Hollywood. …And the winner is… Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker”.

Best Visual Effects:

AVATAR, Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham & Andrew R Jones
DISTRICT 9, Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros & Matt Aitken
STAR TREK, Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh & Burt Dalton

…And the winner is… “AVATAR”. If it does not then something is terribly awry in Mudville. This film completely raised the bar for all films to come. Seriously.

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay):

DISTRICT 9, Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell
AN EDUCATION, Nick Hornby
IN THE LOOP, Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci & Tony Roche
PRECIOUS, Geoffrey Fletcher
UP IN THE AIR, Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner

I would love to see “District 9” take the honors but they won’t. …And the winner is: “Up in the Air”. It’s just how the Academy thinks.

Best Writing (Original Screenplay):

THE HURT LOCKER, Mark Boal
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, Quentin Tarantino
THE MESSENGER, Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman
A SERIOUS MAN, Joel & Ethan Coen
UP, Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter. Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy

“Up” is pure brilliance but I would LOVE to see “Inglorious Basterds” win this category. Quentin Tarantino has a knack for writing some of the best dialogue in the business along with some of the finest storytelling around today. It should go to him. It won’t. The Academy will tell themselves that he has already won for “Pulp Fiction” and they will give the Oscar to… “The Hurt Locker”.

So there it is; 9 of my favorite categories. Let’s see who breaks even Oscar or Evil Chicken. If Oscar gets more than yours truly in these categories then he has won. I win if the converse is true. Also, I am dead serious about Christoph Waltz winning the Best Supporting Actor category. If he does not win, quite frankly, then the Oscars are just not worth covering on this blog anymore. His performance is that good.

And that, Gentle Reader, “That’s a BINGO!” (go rent “Inglorious Basterds”).