Archive for February, 2011

BOPMadness Oscar Predictions for 2011

February 27, 2011

BOPMadness Oscar Predictions for 2011

Once again, thank you to everyone who participated!

The BOPMadness ballots are in, and I’m getting our predictions out there before the Oscars, as usual.

I apologize that I can’t put all of the nominees names into this announcement and have it fit very well.  Our congratulations to all of them!

First, here the predictions by category:

category section Movie Probability
Best Picture Big Six Black Swan 62%
Best Picture Big Six The Fighter 68%
Best Picture Big Six Inception 50%
Best Picture Big Six The Kids Are All Right 47%
Best Picture Big Six The King’s Speech 92%
Best Picture Big Six 127 Hours 50%
Best Picture Big Six The Social Network 73%
Best Picture Big Six Toy Story 3 30%
Best Picture Big Six True Grit 47%
Best Picture Big Six Winter’s Bone 32%
Best Actor Big Six Biutiful (Javier Bardem) 50%
Best Actor Big Six True Grit (Jeff Bridges) 40%
Best Actor Big Six The Social Network (Jesse Eisenberg) 67%
Best Actor Big Six The King’s Speech (Colin Firth) 87%
Best Actor Big Six 127 Hours (James Franco) 57%
Best Actress Big Six The Kids Are All Right (Annette Bening) 83%
Best Actress Big Six Rabbit Hole (Nicole Kidman) 30%
Best Actress Big Six Winter’s Bone (Jennifer Lawrence) 57%
Best Actress Big Six Black Swan (Natalie Portman) 90%
Best Actress Big Six Blue Valentine (Michelle Williams) 40%
Supporting Actor Big Six The Fighter (Christian Bale) 77%
Supporting Actor Big Six Winter’s Bone (John Hawkes) 43%
Supporting Actor Big Six The Kids Are All Right (Mark Ruffalo) 60%
Supporting Actor Big Six The Town (Jeremy Renner) 40%
Supporting Actor Big Six The King’s Speech (Geoffrey Rush) 80%
Supporting Actress Big Six The Fighter (Amy Adams) 53%
Supporting Actress Big Six The King’s Speech (Helena Bonham Carter) 50%
Supporting Actress Big Six The Fighter (Melissa Leo) 90%
Supporting Actress Big Six True Grit (Hailee Steinfeld) 67%
Supporting Actress Big Six Animal Kingdom (Jackie Weaver) 40%
Director Big Six Black Swan 67%
Director Big Six The Fighter 43%
Director Big Six The King’s Speech 70%
Director Big Six The Social Network 77%
Director Big Six True Grit 43%
Foreign Language  Film Maven Biutiful 73%
Foreign Language  Film Maven Dogtooth 53%
Foreign Language  Film Maven In a Better World 47%
Foreign Language  Film Maven Incendies 80%
Foreign Language  Film Maven Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi) 47%
Adapted Screenplay Maven 127 Hours 67%
Adapted Screenplay Maven The Social Network 93%
Adapted Screenplay Maven Toy Story 3 50%
Adapted Screenplay Maven True Grit 50%
Adapted Screenplay Maven Winter’s Bone 40%
Original Screenplay Maven Another Year 50%
Original Screenplay Maven The Fighter 53%
Original Screenplay Maven Inception 40%
Original Screenplay Maven The Kids Are All Right 60%
Original Screenplay Maven The King’s Speech 97%
Art Direction Maven Alice in Wonderland 67%
Art Direction Maven Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 67%
Art Direction Maven Inception 50%
Art Direction Maven The King’s Speech 80%
Art Direction Maven True Grit 37%
Cinematography Maven Black Swan 70%
Cinematography Maven Inception 47%
Cinematography Maven The King’s Speech 60%
Cinematography Maven The Social Network 60%
Cinematography Maven True Grit 63%
Sound Mixing Maven Inception 77%
Sound Mixing Maven The King’s Speech 77%
Sound Mixing Maven Salt 40%
Sound Mixing Maven The Social Network 60%
Sound Mixing Maven True Grit 47%
Sound Editing Maven Inception 83%
Sound Editing Maven Toy Story 3 60%
Sound Editing Maven TRON: Legacy 43%
Sound Editing Maven True Grit 67%
Sound Editing Maven Unstoppable 47%
Score Maven How to Train Your Dragon 60%
Score Maven Inception 53%
Score Maven The King’s Speech 87%
Score Maven 127 Hours 40%
Score Maven The Social Network 60%
Song Maven Country Strong (Coming Home) 58%
Song Maven Tangled (I See the Light) 46%
Song Maven 127 Hours (If I Rise) 63%
Song Maven Toy Story 3 (We Belong Together) 83%
Costume Maven Alice in Wonderland 80%
Costume Maven I Am Love 37%
Costume Maven The King’s Speech 80%
Costume Maven The Tempest 50%
Costume Maven True Grit 53%
Documentary Feature Maven Exit Through the Gift Shop 63%
Documentary Feature Maven Gasland 57%
Documentary Feature Maven Inside Job 57%
Documentary Feature Maven Restrepo 73%
Documentary Feature Maven Waste Land 53%
Documentary Short Maven Killing in the Name 70%
Documentary Short Maven Poster Boy 57%
Documentary Short Maven Strangers No More 60%
Documentary Short Maven Sun Come Up 40%
Documentary Short Maven The Warriors of Quigang 73%
Editing Maven Black Swan 53%
Editing Maven The Fighter 53%
Editing Maven The King’s Speech 77%
Editing Maven 127 Hours 53%
Editing Maven The Social Network 63%
Makeup Maven Barney’s Version 56%
Makeup Maven The Way Back 72%
Makeup Maven The Wolfman 72%
Animated Short Maven Day & Night 67%
Animated Short Maven The Gruffalo 77%
Animated Short Maven Let’s Pollute 57%
Animated Short Maven The Lost Thing 57%
Animated Short Maven Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary) 43%
Live Action Short Maven The Confession 60%
Live Action Short Maven The Crush 50%
Live Action Short Maven God of Love 63%
Live Action Short Maven Na Wewe 63%
Live Action Short Maven Wish 143 63%
Visual Effects Maven Alice in Wonderland 77%
Visual Effects Maven Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 77%
Visual Effects Maven Hereafter 33%
Visual Effects Maven Inception 73%
Visual Effects Maven Iron Man 2 40%
Animated Feature Maven How to Train Your Dragon 61%
Animated Feature Maven The Illusionist 56%
Animated Feature Maven Toy Story 3 83%

Second, I’ve sorted them by assigned probability…how likely we think each nominee is to win.

category section Movie Probability
Original Screenplay Maven The King’s Speech 97%
Adapted Screenplay Maven The Social Network 93%
Best Picture Big Six The King’s Speech 92%
Best Actress Big Six Black Swan (Natalie Portman) 90%
Supporting Actress Big Six The Fighter (Melissa Leo) 90%
Best Actor Big Six The King’s Speech (Colin Firth) 87%
Score Maven The King’s Speech 87%
Best Actress Big Six The Kids Are All Right (Annette Bening) 83%
Sound Editing Maven Inception 83%
Song Maven Toy Story 3 (We Belong Together) 83%
Animated Feature Maven Toy Story 3 83%
Supporting Actor Big Six The King’s Speech (Geoffrey Rush) 80%
Foreign Language  Film Maven Incendies 80%
Art Direction Maven The King’s Speech 80%
Costume Maven Alice in Wonderland 80%
Costume Maven The King’s Speech 80%
Supporting Actor Big Six The Fighter (Christian Bale) 77%
Director Big Six The Social Network 77%
Sound Mixing Maven Inception 77%
Sound Mixing Maven The King’s Speech 77%
Editing Maven The King’s Speech 77%
Animated Short Maven The Gruffalo 77%
Visual Effects Maven Alice in Wonderland 77%
Visual Effects Maven Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 77%
Best Picture Big Six The Social Network 73%
Foreign Language  Film Maven Biutiful 73%
Documentary Feature Maven Restrepo 73%
Documentary Short Maven The Warriors of Quigang 73%
Visual Effects Maven Inception 73%
Makeup Maven The Way Back 72%
Makeup Maven The Wolfman 72%
Director Big Six The King’s Speech 70%
Cinematography Maven Black Swan 70%
Documentary Short Maven Killing in the Name 70%
Best Picture Big Six The Fighter 68%
Best Actor Big Six The Social Network (Jesse Eisenberg) 67%
Supporting Actress Big Six True Grit (Hailee Steinfeld) 67%
Director Big Six Black Swan 67%
Adapted Screenplay Maven 127 Hours 67%
Art Direction Maven Alice in Wonderland 67%
Art Direction Maven Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 67%
Sound Editing Maven True Grit 67%
Animated Short Maven Day & Night 67%
Cinematography Maven True Grit 63%
Documentary Feature Maven Exit Through the Gift Shop 63%
Editing Maven The Social Network 63%
Live Action Short Maven God of Love 63%
Live Action Short Maven Na Wewe 63%
Live Action Short Maven Wish 143 63%
Song Maven 127 Hours (If I Rise) 63%
Best Picture Big Six Black Swan 62%
Animated Feature Maven How to Train Your Dragon 61%
Supporting Actor Big Six The Kids Are All Right (Mark Ruffalo) 60%
Original Screenplay Maven The Kids Are All Right 60%
Cinematography Maven The King’s Speech 60%
Cinematography Maven The Social Network 60%
Sound Mixing Maven The Social Network 60%
Sound Editing Maven Toy Story 3 60%
Score Maven How to Train Your Dragon 60%
Score Maven The Social Network 60%
Documentary Short Maven Strangers No More 60%
Live Action Short Maven The Confession 60%
Song Maven Country Strong (Coming Home) 58%
Best Actor Big Six 127 Hours (James Franco) 57%
Best Actress Big Six Winter’s Bone (Jennifer Lawrence) 57%
Documentary Feature Maven Gasland 57%
Documentary Feature Maven Inside Job 57%
Documentary Short Maven Poster Boy 57%
Animated Short Maven Let’s Pollute 57%
Animated Short Maven The Lost Thing 57%
Makeup Maven Barney’s Version 56%
Animated Feature Maven The Illusionist 56%
Supporting Actress Big Six The Fighter (Amy Adams) 53%
Foreign Language  Film Maven Dogtooth 53%
Original Screenplay Maven The Fighter 53%
Score Maven Inception 53%
Costume Maven True Grit 53%
Documentary Feature Maven Waste Land 53%
Editing Maven Black Swan 53%
Editing Maven The Fighter 53%
Editing Maven 127 Hours 53%
Best Picture Big Six Inception 50%
Best Picture Big Six 127 Hours 50%
Best Actor Big Six Biutiful (Javier Bardem) 50%
Supporting Actress Big Six The King’s Speech (Helena Bonham Carter) 50%
Adapted Screenplay Maven Toy Story 3 50%
Adapted Screenplay Maven True Grit 50%
Original Screenplay Maven Another Year 50%
Art Direction Maven Inception 50%
Costume Maven The Tempest 50%
Live Action Short Maven The Crush 50%
Best Picture Big Six The Kids Are All Right 47%
Best Picture Big Six True Grit 47%
Foreign Language  Film Maven In a Better World 47%
Foreign Language  Film Maven Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi) 47%
Cinematography Maven Inception 47%
Sound Mixing Maven True Grit 47%
Sound Editing Maven Unstoppable 47%
Song Maven Tangled (I See the Light) 46%
Supporting Actor Big Six Winter’s Bone (John Hawkes) 43%
Director Big Six The Fighter 43%
Director Big Six True Grit 43%
Sound Editing Maven TRON: Legacy 43%
Animated Short Maven Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary) 43%
Best Actor Big Six True Grit (Jeff Bridges) 40%
Best Actress Big Six Blue Valentine (Michelle Williams) 40%
Supporting Actor Big Six The Town (Jeremy Renner) 40%
Supporting Actress Big Six Animal Kingdom (Jackie Weaver) 40%
Adapted Screenplay Maven Winter’s Bone 40%
Original Screenplay Maven Inception 40%
Sound Mixing Maven Salt 40%
Score Maven 127 Hours 40%
Documentary Short Maven Sun Come Up 40%
Visual Effects Maven Iron Man 2 40%
Art Direction Maven True Grit 37%
Costume Maven I Am Love 37%
Visual Effects Maven Hereafter 33%
Best Picture Big Six Winter’s Bone 32%
Best Picture Big Six Toy Story 3 30%
Best Actress Big Six Rabbit Hole (Nicole Kidman) 30%

Interestingly, as a group, we are most sure about the screenwriting categories…that doesn’t usually happen.  We predict a big night for The King’s Speech (no surprise there, probably), but don’t have much love for True Grit.

Our least likely wins?  Tied at 30% are Nicole Kidman for Best Actress for Rabbit Hole, and Toy Story 3 for Best Picture (although we think the latter very likely to get Best Animated Feature (83%).

I’ll check back in with the results…

See you in the movies!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog

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The Week Ahead: February 28 – March 6 2010

February 27, 2011

The Week Ahead: February 28 – March 6 2010

For more information on upcoming (and historical) movies, TV shows, books, conventions, paranormal happenings, and pretty much anything that interests me, see the ever-growing Measured Circle Pop Culture Timeline.

Movies

New TV

  • Adventure Time at 8:00 PM on Cartoon Network (Monday)
  • Chuck at 8:00 PM on NBC (Monday)
  • House at 8:00 PM on Fox (Monday)
  • Mad at 8:15 PM on Cartoon Network (Monday)
  • Regular Show at 8:30 on Cartoon Network (Monday)
  • Being Human at 9:00 PM on Syfy (Monday)
  • Cake Boss at 9:00 PM on The Learning Channel (Monday)
  • The Cape at 9:00 PM on NBC (Monday)
  • Castle (2nd part of a two-parter) at 10:00 PM on ABC (Monday)
  • Shatner’s Raw Nerve (Kevin Nealon) at 10:00 PM on Bio (Monday)
  • Shatner’s Raw Nerve (Scott Bakula…two Star Trek captains) at 10:30 P on Bio (Monday)
  • American Idol at 8:00 PM on Fox (Tuesday)
  • Jump City (parkour) at 8:00 PM on G4  (Tuesday)
  • No Ordinary Family (Lucy Lawless and Tricia Helfer co-star) at 8:00 PM on ABC  (Tuesday)
  • V at 9:00 PM on ABC  (Tuesday)
  • Tosh.0 at 10:00 PM on Comedy Central  (Tuesday)
  • American Idol at 8:00 PM on Fox (Wednesday)
  • Survivor at 8:00 PM on CBS (Wednesday)
  • Ghost Hunters (Pennsylvania) at 9:00 PM on Syfy (Wednesday)
  • Being Erica at 11:00 PM on SOAPnet (Wednesday)
  • Archer at 10:00 PM on FX (Thursday)
  • Smallville at 8:00 PM on the CW (Friday)
  • Fish Hooks at 8:30 PM on the Disney Channel (Friday)
  • Star Wars: the Clone Wars at 9:00 PM on The Cartoon Network
  • Beast Hunter (Man Ape of Sumatra) at 9:00 PM on NatGeo (series debut) (Friday)
  • Nightmare of the Amazon (the Mapinguari) at 9:30 PM on NatGeo (Friday)
  • Phineas and Ferb at 9:00 PM on the Disney Channel (Friday)
  • Supernatural at 9:00 PM on the CW (Friday)
  • Merlin at 10:00 PM on Syfy (Friday)
  • Onion News Network at 10:00 PM on IFC (Friday)
  • Being Human (the British version) at 9:00 PM on BBC America (Saturday)
  • The Amazing Race at 8:00 PM on CBS (Saturday)
  • The Simpsons at 8:00 PM on Fox (Sunday)
  • Cake Boss at 9:00 PM on The Learning Channel (Sunday)
  • Family Guy at 9:00 PM on Fox (Sunday)

Cons

Cons are short for “conventions”, when people who rarely leave the house get together…just kidding, of course, they can be great fun.  For details, I recommend Fanboy’s Convention List.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Ion Hobana reported dead

February 23, 2011

Ion Hobana reported dead

Ion Hobana was one of Romania’s leading science fiction writers, but I associate him more with the mid-1970s book, UFO’s from Behind the Iron Curtain.

In the 1970s, we thought that the Soviet Union might be doing significant research on UFOs and paranormal topics.  It was possible they were ahead of us in this, and that was a concern.  I remember reading this…it seemed to show that UFOs were being reported in Russia and other Soviet bloc countries…but I also remember thinking that they weren’t reported in the same way.

Did that mean the reports were strictly cultural artefacts, or was it simply the different perspectives on a real phenomenon?

Hobana’s short science fiction story Night Broadcast appeared in English in The Penguin World Omnibus of Science Fiction, and A Kind of Space appeared in English in Twenty Houses of the Zodiac.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Flash! Amazon gives free video viewing to Prime members

February 22, 2011

Flash! Amazon gives free video viewing to Prime members

There’s been a lot of talk about Amazon shark-circling the Netflix market.

Today (and this had been leaked before), Amazon announces that members of their Prime service can stream thousands of videos (movies and TV shows) for free.

Amazon press release

What is Prime?

You pay $79 a year for expedited shipping at no additional cost (usually).  It’s a package deal for your shipping for physical objects.

Amazon also gives Prime for free to students and “Moms”, but they are not affected by this new deal…they don’t get it.

What happens is that Prime members can now watch movies and TV in a manner similar to Netflix’s instant service.  You can watch it on a computer, or, with the appropriate equipment, your TV.  I have a Roku I use for Netflix.  It already had Amazon Unbox (their video service) on it, but I honestly never use it…because I don’t want to pay per movie/episode.

If I was a Prime member, though, I could watch a lot of movies and TV for free. 

Does that mean I would drop Netflix? 

I’d have to look at it.  My intuition is no, because I do still get DVDs from them (although I watch a lot more streaming).

The question would be content…what is available.

Looking at the list…well, hopefully, this will grow quickly.  I didn’t see much that was recent in TV, for example.  There were sixty TV science fiction selections.  While each one tends to be a series (rather than a single episode), only a handful of series were represented.  There was a lot of Doctor Who, both new and old, Highlander…but no Star Trek or Lost or Twilight Zone.

How do you find them?  I’ll make it easy by giving you links, but you can go to the Amazon Instant Video part and click on Prime Eligible on your left side, just like you can do with physical products.

Free Prime TV

Free Prime movies 

For people who already have Prime, this will be a “woo-hoo!”  For those who don’t, will it push them into getting it?  Maybe.  Will it cause a problem for Netflix?  Umm…I’d say a minimal impact for now, but if the library grows it coud.  Might Amazon offer an “all-you-can-eat” package like this for non-Prime members?  Possible…they really like people to become Prime members (you buy a lot more products and it’s much easier for them to manage a once-a-year payment than a once-a-purchase payment), but there still could be a market. 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Bufo’s Oscar Prediction Madness 2011

February 21, 2011

Bufo’s Oscar Prediction Madness 2011

For more than twenty years, I’ve been doing an Oscar prediction contest.  If you are interested in playing, comment this post and I’ll send you the spreadsheet and the instructions.  I’ll keep your post private: I will get your e-mail address, but I won’t publish it on the blog.

The more people we get, the more accurate we tend to be.  I’ll put out the group’s predictions before the Oscars are announced on February 27th.

Important note: there is no fee to play the real game, and we only play for that most valuable of human possessions…bragging rights. 

 This year, for the first time, I am going to put out my predictions publicly before I do any of the group number crunching.

Am I likely to be right?

I have a pretty good track record on the “Maven Categories”, and an okay one on the “Big Six” (the four acting categories, Director, and Picture).

I’m not feeling very good about my predictions this year, though.  I may have seen too many of the movies.  Since the goal is to predict what the Academy says, it’s better to be unprejudiced by having seen the actual movies, in my opinion.

Well, here goes. 

Best Picture

I’m going with The King’s Speech.  It’s gotten the most nominations, which is often a plus.  It’s also more traditional for the Academy.  My second guess would be The Social Network.

Best Actor

My pick is Colin Firth.  The role is an historical figure with a significant challenge…a double plus.  The quality of the performance matters too, of course.  Jesse Eisenberg would be my second choice…but he is a somewhat unlikable character, and that doesn’t help.

Best Actress

The buzz here is to pick Natalie Portman, but I’m going with Annette Bening.  I think Portman was very well-directed and cast, and did an admirable job.  But there was no reason for Bening to do as good a job as she did…it’s not as flashy a part, but she made it more than it was.  I’ll go with Portman second.

Supporting Actor

Geoffrey Rush for me on this one.  He was good, and he’ll be buoyed by the other successes of The King’s Speech.  I did think Christian Bale was great in The Fighter, but his personal travails will make it harder for his peers to want to publicly recognize him in front of such a huge audience.  I don’t know that they really think Bale cares as much about what they think…that can be a factor.

Supporting Actress

This can always be a tricky category.  I’m going to go with Melissa Leo.  I’m not entirely comfortable with that, but I think The Fighter will get something.  Why not Amy Adams?  I’m picking her second, but I think the role will be seen as less…worthy.  Again, it’s a question of doing more with less.

Director

I’m going with Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech, even though David Fincher will be seen by many as having pulled off a more complicated feat.

Foreign Language Film

Another tough category.   I’m going with Incendies from Canada, because of the Middle East story line.  I think events there will push movies having to do with the region forward.  My second choice is Biutiful from Mexico, on the idea that, if Javier Bardem isn’t going to get Best Actor, the movie can still be rewarded.

Adapted Screenplay

I think this is The Social Network walking away.  Aaron Sorkin is respected…and it’s not competing with The King’s Speech in this category.  My second choice?  Winter’s Bone.

Original Screenplay

I’m going with The King’s Speech again on this one.  I’m putting The Kids Are All Right second.

Art Direction

Alice in Wonderland is flashy enough to get my second place pick, but I’m going with The King’s Speech again.  There was a lot of amazing period set dressing in this movie.

Cinematography

The Best Picture tends to win Cinematography, so back to The King’s Speech.  My second choice is a chance for True Grit to get something…you could walk out of that moving humming the cinematography.  😉

Sound Mixing

I think this is a chance for Inception to pick up an Oscar.   I’m putting True Grit second here.

Sound Editing

I’m matching Sound Mixing on this one, so Inception, then True Grit.

Score

It would be nice to see Trent Reznor (and Atticus Ross) win this for The Social Network, but I’m going to put them behind Alexandre Desplat for The King’s Speech.

Song

I’m going with Randy Newman from Toy Story 3 here.  My second choice is If I Rise from 127 Hours.

Costume

Period costumes trump costume costumes, so back to The King’s Speech.  Second place, I’m going with The Tempest, although Alice in Wonderland is a temptation (Colleen Atwood has a great track record).

Documentary Feature

I’m picking Restrepo first…it sounds like an Oscar-winning name.  😉  Second, I’ve gone with Waste Land.

Documentary Short

The Warriors of Quigang also has that Oscar ring to it…and it’s about China and pollution.  My second choice is Poster Girl…with an Iraq War tie-in.

Editing

Again, this tends to contribute or at least be associated with Best Picture, so it’s back to The King’s Speech.  My second choice is The Social Network, which had a complicated chronology.

Makeup

Rick Baker and The Wolfman?  A match made in Heaven.  I’m going with The Way Back second.

Animated Short

I’m picking The Lost Thing…it’s a real standout, looking different and having a story.  Day & Night does sound like a traditional Oscar pick, though, so that’s second.

Live Action Short

Na Wewe is my pick…it’s got that Important Theme vibe.  My second choice is Wish 143…but I’m not feeling at all sure.

Visual Effects

I actually didn’t like the effects in Inception that much, but that’s the buzz, which can affect this category, so I’m picking that.  My second choice is Alice in Wonderland: I wasn’t crazy about the movie, but the effects were great.  If The Social Network was nominated, it would have my heart…but it’s not.

Animated Feature

The Illusionist could upset, and I do have it ranked second.  However, I have to go with Toy Story 3 here.

There you go!  Now you’ll be able to see later how I did.

Remember, if you’d like to play the traditional Bufo’s Oscar Prediction Madness, and help our accuracy, just comment this post and let me know.  Group entries are fine.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

The Week Ahead: February 21 – February 27

February 21, 2011

The Week Ahead: February 21 – February 27 2011

For more information on upcoming (and historical) movies, TV shows, books, conventions, paranormal happenings, and pretty much anything that interests me, see the ever-growing Measured Circle Pop Culture Timeline.

Movies

Drive Angry

Okay, here’s the pitch: “It’s Ghost Rider…on twice as many wheels…in 3D!”  😉  Nicolas Cage plays a father who breaks out of H*ll to rescue his grandchild from being sacrificed by a cult.

Director Patrick Lussier does know horror, but doesn’t have a blockbuster history:

  • My Bloody Valentine (2009): dogro $51m
  • The Eye (the Jessica Alba version) (2008): $31m
  • Red Eye (2005) $57m
  • Cursed (2005); $19m

Does having Nicolas Cage improve the box office?

Not really, recently.

3D helps, though…costs more to see it.

I think this could break $40m, but I don’t see it getting to $80m.  It could be beaten this weekend by the comedy Hall Pass, and is likely to get crushed the following weekend by Johnny Depp in Rango, Beastly, The Adjustment Bureau…and the next weekend also looks big for the potential audience for this (Red Riding Hood, Battle: Los Angeles). 

I’m going to go with under $40m.

New TV

  • Adventure Time at 8:00 PM on Cartoon Network (Monday)
  • Chuck at 8:00 PM on NBC (Monday)
  • House at 8:00 PM on Fox (Monday)
  • World’s Deadliest Towns (Killer Elephants) at 8:00 PM on Animal Planet (Monday)
  • Mad (So You Think You Can Teach Your Dragon to Dance; Yo Gagga Gagga) at 8:15 PM on Cartoon Network
  • Regular Show at 8:30 PM on Cartoon Network (Monday)
  • Being Human at 9:00 PM on Syfy (Monday)
  • Cake Boss at 9:00 PM on TLC (Monday)
  • The Cape at 9:00 PM on NBC (Monday)
  • World’s Deadliest Towns at 9:00 PM on Animal Planet (Monday)
  • Castle (Adrian Pasdar guests: Rob Bowman directs this two party) at 10:00 PM on ABC (Monday)
  • Shatner’s Raw Nerve (Kevin Pollak…think he’ll do his Captain Kirk impression?) at 10:00 PM on Bio (Monday)
  • World’s Deadliest Towns (tigers) at 10:00 PM on Animal Planet (Monday)
  • Shatner’s Raw Nerve (Carl Reiner) at 10:30 PM on Bio (Monday)
  • Glee at 8:00 PM on Fox (Tuesday)
  • Jump City (parkour competition show) at 8:00 PM on G4 (Tuesday)
  • No Ordinary Family at 8:00 PM on ABC (Tuesday)
  • V at 9:00 PM on ABC (Tuesday)
  • Tosh.0 at 10:00 PM on Comedy Central (Tuesday)
  • American Idol at 8:00 PM on Fox (Wednesday)
  • Nova: Science Now: What’s the Next Big Thing? (one of them is social robots) at 8:00 PM on PBS (Wednesday)
  • America’s Next Top Model (16th season debut) at 8:00 PM on the CW (Wednesday)
  • Survivor at 8:00 PM on CBS (Wednesday)
  • Ghost Hunters (7th season debut) at 9:00 PM on Syfy (Wednesday)
  • Face Off at 10:00 PM on Syfy (Wednesday)
  • Being Erica at 11:00 PM on Soapnet (Wednesday)
  • American Idol (top 20 are announced) at 8:00 PM on Fox (Thursday)
  • The Big Bang Theory (Levar Burton guests) at 8:00 PM on CBS (Thursday)
  • Vampire Diaries at 8:00 PM on the CW (Thursday)
  • Nikita at 9:00 PM on the CW (Thursday)
  • Archer at 10:00 PM on FX (Thursday)
  • The Mentalist at 10:00 PM on CBS (Thursday)
  • Eagleheart at 11:59 on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim (Thursday)
  • Smallville at 8:00 PM on the CW (Friday)
  • Fish Hooks at 8:30 PM on Cartoon Network (Friday)
  • Fringe at 9:00 PM on Fox (Friday)
  • Supernatural at 9:00 PM on the CW (Friday)
  • Merlin at 10:00 PM on Syfy (Friday)
  • Onion News Network at 10:00 PM on IFC (Friday)
  • Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (season finale) at 10:00 PM on Starz(Friday)
  • Camelot (series debut: the King Arthur story 10-part miniseries with Joseph Fiennes as Merlin and Eva Green as Morgana)  at 11:00 PM on Starz (Friday)
  • Area 51 (Jason Connery directs Bruce Boxleitner) at 9:00 PM on Syfy (Saturday)
  • Being Human (original British version) at 9:00 PM on BBC America (Saturday)
  • Oscar Red Carpet at 7:00 PM on ABC (Sunday)
  • The Amazing Race at 8:00 PM on CBS (Sunday)
  • The Oscars at 8:30 PM on ABC (Sunday)
  • Robot Chicken at 11:45 PM on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim (Sunday)

Presidents’ Day TV marathons

It’s a bit to me that TV marathons are even still a thing, since you can watch marathons whenever you want using streaming Netflix (yes, many people do that on a TV), but they still are.  Still, one of the biggest tweaks I’d want for Netflix is the ability to tell it to “play all episodes”.  It’s awkward having to select each one.  I’m going to count more than two episodes in a row, but this may not be comprehensive.

  • American Chopper on the Discovery Channel (starting at 9:00 AM)
  • Gold Rush: Alaska on the Discovery Channel (starting at 1:00 PM)
  • Supernatural on TNT (starting at 9:00 AM)
  • NCIS on USA (starting at 6:00 AM)
  • Teen Mom 2 (starting at 11:00 AM)
  • My Super Sweet Sixteen (starting at 3:00 PM)
  • Basketball Wives on VH1 (starting at 1:00 PM)
  • Top Chef on Bravo (starting at 6:00 AM)
  • Tabatha’s Salon Takeover on Bravo (starting at 4:00 PM)
  • DC Cupcakes on TLC (starting at 6:00 AM)
  • Fabulous Cakes on TLC (starting at 9:00 AM)
  • Cake Boss on TLC (starting at 3:00 PM)
  • Operation Wild on Animal Planet (starting at 1:00 PM)
  • World’s Deadliest Towns on Animal Planet (starting at 8:00 PM)
  • Pretty Little Liars on ABC Family (starting at 1:00 PM)
  • SpongeBob SquarePants on Nickelodeon (starting at 3:00 PM)
  • iCarly on Nickelodeon (starting at 5:00 PM)
  • American Greed on CNBC (starting at 11:00 AM)
  • A variety of programming on US Presidents on the History Channel (starting at 8:00 AM)
  • Kourtney and Kim Take New York on E (starting at 3:00 PM)
  • Sex and the City on E (starting at 5:00 PM)
  • Most Daring on TruTV (starting at 9:00 AM)
  • Hot Pursuit on TruTV (starting at 3:00 PM)
  • Cash and Cari on HGTV (starting at 2:00 PM)
  • Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman on the Travel Channel (starting at 11:00 AM)
  • Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on the Travel Cannel (starting at 4:00 PM)
  • The Bad Girls Club on Oxygen (starting at 6:00 AM)
  • Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on CMTV (starting at 12:00 PM)
  • Deadliest Journeys on Current (starting at 10:00 AM)
  • American History TV on CSPAN 2 (starting Sunday?)
  • G.I. Joe Renegades on Hub (starting at 12:00 PM)
  • Family Game Night on Hub (starting at 3:00 PM)
  • The Fairly OddParents on NickToon (starting at 7:30 AM)
  • MTV Jams on MTV (starting on Sunday?)
  • Martin on MTV2 (staring at 9:00 AM)
  • Jersey Shore on MTV2 (starting at 12:00 PM)
  • My Life is a Zoo on National Geographic Wild (starting at 5:00 AM)
  • Dog Whisperer on National Geographic Wild (starting at 10:00 AM)
  • Blue Collar Dogs on National Geographic Wild (starting at 5:00 PM)
  • The Tudors on BBC America (starting at 11:00 AM)
  • Top Gear on BBC America (starting at 5:00 PM)
  • Clean House on Style (starting at 3:00 AM)
  • UFOS Over Earth on Green (starting at 9:00 AM)
  • Sweat Equity on DIY (starting at 11:00 AM)
  • True Jackson, VP on TeenNICK (starting at 5:00 AM)
  • Dr. G Medical Examiner on DFH (starting at 9:00 AM)
  • Disappeared on ID (starting at 6:00 AM)
  • Sister, Sister on CTRC (starting at 5:00 AM)
  • Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman on GMC (starting at 7:00 AM)
  • Murder, She Wrote on Hallmark (starting at 5:00 AM)
  • Downsized on WE (starting at 7:00 AM)

Cons

Cons are short for “conventions”, when people who rarely leave the house get together…just kidding, of course, they can be great fun.  For details, I recommend Fanboy’s Convention List.

  • Con-Dor 18, science fiction and fantasy (guests include authors Gregory Benford, David Brin, Larry Niven, and Vernor Vinge), San Diego
  • MystiCon, guests include David Gerrold and Brinke Stevens, Roanoke, VA

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Watson on Jeopardy: Round 3

February 17, 2011

Watson on Jeopardy: Round 3

“I FOR ONE WELCOME OUR NEW COMPUTER OVERLORDS”
–Ken Jennings
added to his Final Jeopardy answer
competing against IBM’s Watson
Jeopardy, February 16 2011

If the goal was to show that a computer could understand human language and retrieve the correct answers to questions as well as humans can…mission accomplished.

Watson, the IBM computer system, easily beat Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, two of Jeopardy’s greatest.

Yes, it was closer in this second game.  It even looked like the outcome was in doubt a few times.

The final score on the second day?

Ken: $18,200, Brad: $21,600, Watson $41,413

The two game totals?

Brad: $21,600, Ken: $24,000, Watson: $77,147

We got some very interesting insight into how Watson thinks.

Amusingly, he did relatively poorly on a category called “ALSO ON YOUR COMPUTER KEYS”.  Each answer was a key on a computer keyboard.  Of course, Watson may not have much familiarity with computer keyboards…it’s not like he types.  😉 

For example, there was this question (technically, an answer):

“In 1939’s Cartoon “The Pointer”, this guy got a new, more pear-shaped body & pupils were added to his eyes.”

You might not know…but knowing it was in the Magical Mouse-tery Tour category would give a good guess.

Watson got it right, and was quite sure he was right.  His top three choices:

  • Mickey 91%
  • Hercules 10%
  • Family Guy 3%

Okay, so these could all be cartoons…but what made Hercules more than three times more likely than Family Guy?  I assume “guy” and “cartoon” connected those.  But I do think Watson must have been considering the category in making his selection. 

What’s next for Watson?

Medicine.

IBM is going to work with Nuance (the company that makes DragonNaturally Speaking and Vocalizer, the voice of Amazon’s Kindle 3) , Columbia University School of Medicine, and the University of Maryland School of Medicine to prepare Watson to serve as a research assistant for doctors.

IBM press release 

Doctors have an incredible amount information made available to them through medical journals.  That information, though, is typically narrative.  While there certainly may be graphs and tables, it’s the story that’s told that matters.

Watson can read all those journals very quickly…read and understand them.

Watson won’t decide on a patient’s medical care, but will retrieve information to help the doctor (and other medical staff) to make a decision.

I guess it’s good Watson won’t be directing the treatment (after all, he thought Toronto was a possible answer as a US city, although he really wasn’t sure).  I just clicked on the link for the press kit on Watson, and got this:

“Our apologies…

The page you requested cannot be displayed”

🙂

For more information on Watson and Jeopardy, you might find this book interesting:

Final Jeopardy

Speaking of technology, here’s one of the remarkable things.  The second game was played yesterday…and it is discussed in the e-book I bought for my Kindle today.  That doesn’t mean it was written since yesterday…it’s possible the author got to see it being played.  But with traditional publishing, they would either have had to wait until after the game to publish the book, or published it and then some sort of supplement (people wouldn’t have wanted to buy the full book twice).  With e-publishing, it becomes possible to publish a partial book ahead of time…and then update it for your purchasers.

Watson playing Jeopardy (and winning) is an important milestone.  I always used to tell people that in the near future, everybody would know everything (or at least have access to everything).  However, I would say, they wouldn’t be able to tell what was important…that’s why I, as an educator, would be safe in my job.

Now, however, I’m less sure about that, at least in many circumstances.  Asking a person a question and getting an answer may become like watching a power-lifting competition.  It’s cool to see people performing beyond the abilities of the average person…but deep down, you know it isn’t really practical…a machine can do it better.  😉

Just kidding…I don’t just answer questions, I provide insight.  That could come in a sense, though.  If ten thousand people had previously asked the same question, and the answer were recorded, a Watson-level computer could scan all of those answers in seconds, find the common answers, and even evaluate the questioner’s response to the answer.

That may be the key…not to have a computer come up with new ideas, but to be able to have them retrieve the ideas humans have already developed…and judge which ones are considered “best” by respondents.

Fascinating times ahead…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Flash! FNL’s Adrianne Palicki cast as David Kelley’s Wonder Woman

February 17, 2011

Flash! FNL’s Adrianne Palicki cast as David Kelley’s
Wonder Woman

 Look, Lynda Carter is Wonder Woman, okay?

I always figured that’s how she was introduced “Lynda Diana Wonder Woman Prince Carter”.  😉

But the iconic superhero, who has had relatively few screen appearances (compared to her DC stablemates, Superman and Batman), is coming back to series TV under the guidance of David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, Boston Legal).

A lot of actors have been interested in the role, but according to this

EW article

the part has gone to Adrianne Palicki, probably best known as Tyra Collette on Friday Night Lights.

She does have geek cred, having played Jessica Moore on Supernatural, Kara (Supergirl) on Smallville, the movie Legion, and having done several voices on Robot Chicken (among other things).

Honestly, I don’t have a very good feeling about this series.  They seem to really want to make a point that it won’t be campy, but please, don’t make it dour.  Wonder Woman is light, a fantasy…I mean, an invisible jet?   Magic lasso?  Playing bullets and bracelets?  It doesn’t have to be a satire, of course, but it should be fun.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Watson on Jeopardy: Round 2

February 16, 2011

Watson on Jeopardy: Round 2

“Don’t let the pod door hit you in the butt on the way out, Ken.”

No, IBM’s computer system didn’t actually reference 2001’s HAL 9000 on yesterday’s exhibition match on Jeopardy against two of the quiz show’s greatest human players.

But I think it would get the joke.

This is really extraordinary to watch.  It’s a computer really understanding human language.  That’s been one of the barriers that many people thought was still years (if not decades) away.  Rosie, the robot maid on the Jetsons, was able to give out advice in a bit of a wisecracking way.  Jane could talk to her the same way she could talk to her teenager Judy…maybe even more easily.

It’s easy to miss how important and groundbreaking this is.  We’ve all seen computers in movies that could carry on a conversation, and it may be hard to realize this is really happening.

Language has always been one of the things that we human owned.  We’ve tried to get some other animals to get it: sign language with chimps and gorillas, dogs who can bark “I love you.”

But this is different.

It’s not that Watson is coming up with new ideas…that is probably still ours for a while.

However, Watson is able to retrieve ideas.

To quote author John A. Keel:

“To H*ll with the answer!  What’s the question?”

That’s from memory, so it may not be exactly right…but it’s been key on the show.  Phrase the question properly, let Google search the web, and you are likely to get an answer to most of the questions on the show.

But the questions (well, answers, technically)  aren’t written in a way to make it easy for a computer. 

Watson clearly usually gets what the question implies, not just what it says.

This will, if it can be done on a commercial level, really change the way we interact with knowledge.

A doctor will be able to say, “What was that treatment that male doctor did with the elderly patient for alopecia?  It was somewhere in Asia, and used some kind of herbal extract,” and a computer will be able to answer that.

You’ll be able to ask a website things like, “There’s this new book by a celebrity that’s been pretty controverial…it had something to with game show in the 1980s,” and the computer will be able to tell you what it is.

The first round was a tie between Watson and Brad Rutter, with Jennings considerably behind.

The second round was a slaughter. 

Spoiler alert!  Watson ended up with $35,734, Brad was $10,400, and Ken had $4,800.

It also seemed like we started to see some more “personality” from Watson.  He said something like, “Let’s finish off the category.”  He made really odd bets…his final Jeopardy bet was $947…causing Alex Trebek to comment, “Oh. you sneak.”  He also really wasn’t sure on the final answer, so he did one of my pet peeves…put a bunch of question marks at the end (I call people who do that “serial puncs”).  He was also wrong…but won very handily (can you win “handily” if you don’t have hands?).

In tonight’s final show of the series, they will play a whole game.  Unfortunately for Ken, the scores from the first game and this second game will be added together…that’s going to make it an uphill climb.

However, if Watson delivers another brain-kicking like he did last night, it won’t make much difference.

Have you noticed I’ve started referring to Watson as he instead of it?  😉

While this is huge, it still isn’t the test I’ve always said we’ve needed…a computer that can play Password…are you listening, IBM?

Or maybe I should be suggesting it to Watson…  😉

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Kenneth Mars reported dead

February 16, 2011

Kenneth Mars reported dead

Absurd.  Silly.  Not for everybody.  “You won’t get it.”  “You’ll love it.”

There is a mischievous and smart kind of humor.  Geeks get it.  If you happen to end up in a relationship with someone who is…a bit more mainstream, you know what I mean.  At first, you might invite your Significant Other to watch your old VHS tapes (or something online).  You get polite attention, while you think you are seeing genius.  After a while, you start hiding it…not because your SO doesn’t want you watching it, but because…um…it just isn’t a shared experience.  It’s almost like porn…you might never talk about it or even admit it exists…but there’s an unspoken understanding.  😉

You know, shows like:

  • The Producers
  • Uncle Croc’s Block
  • Fernwood Tonight
  • The Duck Factory
  • Darkwing Duck
  • Young Frankenstein

What do they all have in common?

Kenneth Mars.

Yes, he sometimes played it straighter…he was the marshall in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, for example.

But playing cowboy is not how Kenneth Mars will be remembered.  It will be for silly accents…goofy looks…cartoon voices…making people laugh.

It’s TaleSpin, Fievel’s American Tails, King Triton on The Little Mermaid TV series.

Inspector Kemp, we salute you.

Kenneth Mars as Franz Liebkind in the original movie The Producers (video)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.


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