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update, oscars

Well, I didn't get very far on my Oscar Run this year, for a variety of reasons. I only saw two of the five nominees for Best Picture, three Best Actors, two Best Actresses, one Supporting Actor, three Supporting Actresses, one Best Director, and only two in each of the Best Screenplay categories.

Odds are I'll catch up on most of the nominees eventually. I was similarly behind on last year's Oscar noms, but as I type this, I can say that a year later, I've seen all five of the 2002 Best Picture nominees, all five of the 2002 Best Actors, all five of the 2002 Best Actresses, all five 2002 Supporting Actors, all five 2002 supporting Actresses, all five 2002 Best Directors, and all ten 2002 screenplay nominees. So give me a year and I'll have an opinion.

Herewith, then, my 2002 Oscar choices. Chicago was not the best picture of the year, and Gangs of New York had no business being nominated. I love The Hours. Nicolas Cage should have won Best Actor. I had no problem with Nicole Kidman getting Best Actress.

OK, so I'm a year late. How about 2001? I saw all of those movies eventually, too. A Beautiful Mind wasn't any good ... I remember now why I'm not so worried about being late on these movies, the wrong ones always win! 2000? I only saw four of the five, but Gladiator wasn't the best movie in any universe I'm a part of. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned ... how about 1973, the year Robin and I got married? The best picture Oscar that year went to The Sting. Maybe the year I was born ... did they get it right in 1953? At last! From Here to Eternity, which actually is a great movie.

P.S. Guess I should include a health update. It doesn't hurt much to pee anymore ... I'm still afraid to do it, but it's mostly in my mind at this point. My back still gives me some trouble, but ibuprofen has done the job. Meaning my head is clear for my first-ever Oscars in HD!


Thanks to everyone for their good thoughts! This will be short ... over the course of this day I've been given Valium, been anesthetized for a couple of hours, been given lots of morphine, and am now on a combo of Vicodin and a sedative. But the operation was a success. It hurts very very bad when I pee, but that will go away soon, and I have some back pain that will also go away soon, and then we've licked this latest problem.

surgery tomorrow

Might not get around to posting anything tomorrow ... my "get rid of the kidney stone" surgery is scheduled for 10:10 AM, I'll be under general anesthesia for a coupla hours, and while I should be home by mid-afternoon, the combination of Valium, anesthetic, and Vicodin will probably make me too stoopid for blogging. Hopefully I'll be coherent in time for the big Joan of Arcadia/Wire Friday night teevee extravaganza.

Meanwhile, if I die or something, you can use the comment section of this thread to talk about what a great guy I was. I'll start ...

oscar run xiii: pieces of april

Mr. Johnson down the street died last week. I can't say I knew him well at all ... enough to wave a hello to him ... I mostly knew he was one of the neighborhood elders who kept an eye on things. I grew up in a typical suburban neighborhood of the 50s/60s ... think Spielberg ... and my memories are that our neighborhood was full of amiable friendliness. I'm sure there's a lot of nostalgia involved in that, but I also know the Servins next door would have given the proverbial shirt off of their back. I compare my neighborhood today to the one from my childhood ... how can it possibly live up to those memories? Still, we've lived in this house since October of 1987, which is just about as long as I lived in my childhood home.

Pieces of April is a Thanksgiving movie ... and when did "Thanksgiving Movie" become a sub genre? As Thanksgiving movies go, it's pretty good. It meets the Steven Rubio Length Requirement, getting in and out in a miraculous 81 minutes. (It's actually too short ... the final scene, which plays out via photographs, needed to be live-action, and one suspects they just ran out of money.) Patricia Clarkson gets a Supporting Actress nomination for Yet Another Fine Patricia Clarkson performance, and it's a good one, although I think the movie works in part because of the fine ensemble playing, and I don't know that I would single Clarkson out over the rest of the cast. The interaction of Clarkson's family is very believable, the movie does a good job of walking the line between humor and sadness, and Katie Holmes is the next best thing to Amber Tamblyn as the titular Alice, a goth wannabee who actually resembles a taller Avril Lavigne.

The ending of the movie will strike some as ... not a cop-out, exactly, but a tad too pat. And that might be true, but I bought into it. And perhaps this will help explain why.

Yesterday, as I prepared to drive myself to the doctor for my pre-surgery checkup, I found that my car wouldn't start. I had to postpone the checkup and get the car towed to the repair shop. This morning I checked in with Bruce, the repairman ... he said maybe $250, should be ready by Monday. Well, as I was watching Pieces of April (there was about ten minutes to go), Bruce called to tell me he'd fixed it already, had tried a couple of things and one of them worked. And when I went to pick up the car, it was under $100, and when I handed him my credit card he told me his computer was down so he couldn't run the card, so he'd take care of it later, and handed me the keys. And I told him that he may not realize it, but a good and honest mechanic is a great person to know, and I v.much appreciated that he took care of me and my car.

And then Imaayu and Shyrrl showed up at my door with a copy of the program from Mr. Johnson's funeral, which was today. Imaayu said it was a nice service, and we talked for a bit about Mr. Johnson, a decent man and my neighbor. And my family and friends know that I often talk about how I wished I lived in a fancy hotel, with room service and no yard to worry about and all the modern conveniences, oh, how I love to stay in hotels, I don't care that they are impersonal, they are clean and people take care of you and then they leave you alone. But there are no Mr. Johnsons in the hotel, no Imaayus or Shyrrls, no Laurelles or Robs, no A's fan who works on his car or lady across the street who fills her home with black Santy Clauses for xmas, no frat boys on the corner, no bipolar guys who think Ron Dellums is their father. Nope, you need a neighborhood to get that, and even I am not so blind or alienated that I can't appreciate what my neighborhood has to offer.

So here's to Mr. Johnson. And here's to the ending of Pieces of April, which after all wasn't any less believable than having a bad day with broken-down cars and trips to the doctor that turned into a day where a dependable mechanic and gracious visits from neighbors made a grey day in February seem a little like Thanksgiving. A good Thanksgiving.

Seven on a scale of ten.

lon in the hall

I've spent almost my entire life in the Bay Area. I grew up in Antioch, about 45 miles from San Francisco. I spent a year in Capitola, which was little farther from the City (75 miles or so). I lived in Indiana for a year, and that's a long ways away. Then back to Antioch, and finally Berkeley, where we've lived for most of the past three decades.

My point is that I don't have a very good feel for what life is like in other parts of the country, or the world for that matter. What I can tell you is what it's like to live in the Bay Area. And, if you are a sport fans in the Bay Area, or even if you've just lived here over the years, you likely have heard the voice of Lon Simmons.

Lon (for that's his name, none of us would ever think to call him "Simmons") was the voice of the baseball Giants for 25 years, the voice of the baseball A's for 15 years, and the voice of the football 49ers for 20+ years. He was known for his sense of humor, full of bad puns, able to turn the most boring contests into must-hear radio. I imagine there'll be quite a few tributes like this one to Lon over the next several months, now that he's made it into baseball's Hall of Fame. Most of us will recall a particular joke, as if that gets to the essence of the man. (Here's mine: he once said, and of course I'm paraphrasing, for all I know this is apocryphal, he once said "The x-rays came back negative. Aren't ALL x-rays negative?")

I brought up all that stuff about being a Bay Area Guy because I don't know if Lon Simmons is unique. I assume that every area has its beloved sportscasters. Baseball especially lends itself to this kind of affection ... a baseball season lasts 162 games over six months, each game a few hours long, and the voices we hear season after season work their way into our hearts in unfathomable fashion. It takes a certain, specific talent to be that intimate with a large audience for such a long period of time. And, like I say, perhaps other areas have their Lon Simmons, so I don't know if Lon deserves this highest of accolades.

I can tell you this: the Bay Area has been blessed for pretty much my entire life with exceptional sports announcers. Bill King, master of three sports, and the greatest basketball play-by-play man I ever heard; nationally-known stars like Jon Miller and Ted Robinson (and don't forget Al Michaels, who spent some time doing Giants game before he became famous for "Do you believe in miracles?"); local legends like Hank Greenwald, and Kruk-and-Kuip; budding legends like Greg Papa (another three-sport man whose best sport was basketball); solid talents like Ken Korach. Even our lesser guys have their moments: Joe Starkey's "The Play" is unforgettable. And let's not forget Lon's mentor, Russ "The Giants Win the Pennant!" Hodges, already in the Hall of Fame.

Is Lon Simmons "better" than all of those other guys? I don't know. By the time he hit his 70s, he was having a harder time keeping up with action on the field, but he never lost his wit, and the Bay Area never fell out of love with him. He had the voice, of course ... those low tones that could be so soothing in the background. Ultimately, it's a combination of things: longetivity, humor, the baritone, the modesty. In all of these, Lon Simmons was the perfect person to spend time with over the decades. And he was a great play-caller in his day, too ... young folks who didn't know him back in the day should know that. For all his mellow coolness, Lon was the best at the proper application of excitement, whether it be an exciting 49er touchdown (I often worried that Lon was going to have an on-air heart attack during his Niner days) or the inevitable "Way back, WAY back, TELL IT GOODBYE!" that is as much a part of Bay Area tradition as sourdough bread or Everett and Jones BBQ.

So here's my thanks, Lon, for more than 40 years of pleasurable days and nights together.