SANTA MONICA, Ca. -- "The Artist," a nearly silent film, made most of the noise here Saturday at the Independent Sprit Awards, wining for best picture, best actor, best director and its cinematography. It was the latest in a series of good omens for the surprise hit, which seems headed for victory at the Academy Awards on Sunday night.
CNN missed a golden opportunity by deciding not to sponsor the final Super Tuesday debate with the GOP Presidential candidates. It reportedly made that decision after being informed that both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum had decided to withdraw from the debate, and Ron Paul was feeling iffy. After an unprecedented 20-plus debates already this election season, Santorum and Romney (who are friends offstage) had privately decided that the debate would serve only the purposes of Newt Gingrich.
I have seen the new 3D version of "Titanic" and, as with the original 1997 version, I found it a magnificent motion picture. The hour or more after the ship hits the iceberg remains spellbinding. The material leading up to that point is a combination of documentary footage from the ocean floor, romantic melodrama, and narration by a centenarian named Rose. The production brings to life the opulence of the great iron ship. Its passengers are a cross section of way of life that would be ended forever by the First World War. In a way, the iceberg represented the 20th century.
It doesn't take a crystal ball to see that this year's Academy Awards will amount to a shootout between "Hugo," with 11 nominations, and "The Artist," with 10. Fittingly, they are two movies inspired by love of movie history, the first about the inventor of the cinema, the second about the transition from silent films to talkies.
For me the best news produced by the Florida primary was Newt Gingrich's vow to take his fight all the way to the floor of this year's Republican convention. It has been way too long since a national political convention was more than a coronation stage-managed by public relations experts.
Of course, no one is really robbed of an Academy Award nomination. It's a gift; not a right. The balloting procedure is conducted honestly and reflects a collective opinion, which was demonstrated this year when the Academy voters had the curiosity to seek out Demian Bichir for best actor for his deeply convincing performance as a Mexican gardener in Los Angeles in "A Better Life." He wasn't on my mental list of possible candidates, but when I heard the name, I thought, "Of course! Good thinking!"
For an hour before bedtime every night for a week, I've watched an episode of "Downton Abbey." Last night the Earl of Grantham interrupted a garden party to announce the beginning of World War I, and I pulled up short. I was watching the first season via Netflix Instant, and inattentively failed to notice there were only seven episodes. I naturally expected ten.
Do you expect "The Tree of Life" to be nominated as one of the best films of 2011? When I saw it last spring I certainly did. I assumed it was a done deal. If you'd told me then that "The Artist," a black and white silent film, was stirring up enthusiasm at Cannes, I would have said it sounded like something I really wanted to see.
Yesterday I read this in an article in the British Guardian newspaper:
"Twelve of the last 13 people condemned to death in Harris County, Texas were black. After Texas itself, Harris County is the national leader in its number of executions.
"Over one third of Texas's 305 death row inmates - and half of the state's 121 black death row prisoners - are from Harris County.
Those who opened their eyes when I did are closing them now. Word reached me on New Year's Eve of two friends, one who has died, another who has returned home from hospital for palliative care. The first memories that come into my mind is of them laughing. I believe anyone who knew them would say the same thing. In my exploring years, when I was young and healthy and life was still ahead, they were stars in my sky, who had always been alive and would always be alive, because that is how we must act if we are to live at all.