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The thriller occupies the same territory as countless science fiction movies about deadly invasions and high-tech conspiracies, but has been made with intelligence and an…

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles

It is perfectly cast and soundly constructed, and all else flows naturally. Steve Martin and John Candy don't play characters; they embody themselves.

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Bracing for a gala full of low-wattage drainage

I almost forgot, but I would like to thank the Writers Guild of America for the best Golden Globes ever. I didn't watch the press conference, but I heard there were some awards and that maybe some people who could afford it had some parties somewhere, even at their own homes. Perfect!

I was reminded of this by an article in today's New York Times about the Grammy Awards headlined "Music World Braces for a Low-Wattage Grammy Night." This caught my attention because it seems odd that so much bracing would be necessary for so little wattage. High wattage, maybe. Considerable bracing might be in line if you were preparing to stick your wet fingers in a light socket. But low wattage? Like the little electrostatic shock you get when you pet a cat and then touch a doorknob? Not really worth a significant brace.

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Anyway, the article says:

As the Writers Guild maintained on Monday that it was unlikely to grant a request from Grammy producers for an interim agreement that would allow writers and other unionized Hollywood personnel to take part in the show, talent managers, label executives and even record shops worried over prospects of a gala drained of major stars, particularly musicians who are also members of the Screen Actors Guild, which has lined up with the writers.

Lackluster turnout by the stars, executives say, could embarrass the industry and waste a much-needed opportunity to publicize artists and gin up sales. (Even if there’s an agreement, one much-nominated star, the British soul singer Amy Winehouse, might not appear because of visa troubles.)

First, I liked how they worked that Amy Winehouse parenthetical in there, but I wish they'd mentioned some other stars who might not be there because, say, they're in rehab or jail or under house arrest. Or just too high to call a cab.

I also really like the phrase "a gala drained of major stars," which I hope can be reused many times in the coming weeks. Especially if my fellow writers consider my proposal: Instead of negotiating with the Grammys (Grammies?) and the Oscars about strike exemption agreements, how about -- even once the whole digital media residuals thing is settled -- agreeing to a different kind of exemption, like not writing for any awards shows? Just try it and see what it's like. It might even restore some small lustre, or at least lend an illusion of integrity, to the honors themselves.

Also this week: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences "Phase I committee" announced its "shortlist" for the 2007 Foreign Language Film category. Among the 63 films under consideration, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" and "Persepolis," despite the international acclaim they've received in Cannes and elsewhere, were not among the "top nine" picked for a possible Oscar nomination.

Perhaps the members of the Academy's elite selection committee were really trying to focus attention on other, lesser-known films that had not already received awards recognition or publicity.

That must be it.

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