Monday, February 26, 2007

Dreamy Disappointment

Near the end of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader learns that Luke Skywalker, his son, has a twin sister. After acknowledging that Obi Wan Kenobi was wise to hide her from the Dark Lord of the Sith, Vader utters the line, "now his failure is complete." The same can be said of the marketing strategy behind the hit film "Dreamgirls."

I am a big movie fan, but watching the Academy Awards is not a "must do" annual item on my calendar. I watch when I'm truly interested in some of the nominees. This was one of those years. "Dreamgirls" was one of the must-see films on my list last year and I was so excited to see it as the Christmas holiday season approached. Then we learned that the marketing blitz promoting a Christmas Day premier, was only for a limited number of cities, not nationwide. I've already opined on that subject, so I won't rehash. But since then, much has been reported about the strategy and how it was designed to do for "Dreamgirls" what a similar strategy did for the film version of another Broadway stage production, "Chicago." That film ended up earning several nominations, including a best supporting actress nod for Queen Latifah, and winning the best picture award.

"Dreamgirls" was the most nominated film going into last night's Oscars ceremony with eight nods. An unlikely clean sweep would have produced six statues since three of the nominations were in one category, Best Original Song. The film ended up winning just two awards. The marketing strategy failed, miserably.

It was a wonderful night for newcomer Jennifer Hudson. The former American Idol finalist, who finished seventh to Fantasia Barrino in the show's third season, walked away with the best supporting actress Oscar for her performance as Effie White. The win caps off a great award season who Hudson who also won the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards, among many others. Her dream came true last night. Co-star and fellow nominee Eddie Murphy's dream did not. Murphy was upset by Alan Arkin who won the best supporting actor award for his performance in "Little Miss Sunshine." I haven't seen that film, but I found it interesting that his character was described as a foul-mouthed grandfather with a taste for heroin. Eddie Murphy's character in "Dreamgirls" could be described as a foul-mouthed R&B performer with a taste for heroin. He played the role well and deserved his nomination, even the win. Between Arkin and Murphy, since both played heroin junkies, I guess the Academy voters decided the older white one should win out over the younger black one. Oh, Good Evening!

The only other award "Dreamgirls" garnered was for sound mixing. All three nominated original songs lost out to a tune Melissa Etheridge penned for former Vice President Al Gore's Oscar winning documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth." The costume award went to "Marie Antoinette." It seems that award always goes to some "Antoinette" type film leaving me with the thought that the voters are wearing horse blinders when they consider their choices. They only see 18th century style, anything newer be damned. "Dreamgirls" also lost the art direction award.

So, let's review: The "brilliant" marketing strategy which called for telling America the film would premier on Christmas Day, only to have it not show up in most cities until mid-January did not produce an opening weekend box office victory; did not produce any weekend box office victories; did not produce an Academy Award nomination for best picture or best director (considered shocking by most critics); did not produce wins for best supporting actor, best original song, best art direction or best costume design. Remind me not to hire that marketing team.

Oh, Good Evening!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Toyota Who?

The 49th Daytona 500 is in the books and what a way to kick off the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series season. I'm not a huge NASCAR fan, but I enjoy auto racing and when you can watch in crystal clear high definition with Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, it's exhilarating. Rarely do I watch an entire race but I did this afternoon because I wanted to see how the newest automaker to join the NASCAR circuit, Japan-based Toyota, would fare in its debut.

There has been a great deal talk about Toyota joining NASCAR, most of it negative. Before this season, only the U. S. domestic automakers- General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler- fielded cars on the good old boy NASCAR circuit. Now, here come the Japanese with their top-selling Camry to join Chevy's Monte Carlo, Ford's Fusion and Dodge's Charger. Die hard fans have been smoking mad, apparently wanting their favorite sport to remain all American. Were they scared that Toyota would come on the scene and start winning races the way the company has won customers in this country? Toyota is poised to become the number two automaker in the world behind General Motors this year and it could overtake GM shortly after that, but a track record of superior quality and ever improving consumer sales don't guarantee success on the race track.

Judging by the unofficial results of today's Daytona 500 race, Toyota will have to work hard to make an impression on the circuit. Daytona belonged to GM on this day. Half of the Top 10 finishers, including the first four, were driving Chevys. Dodge had three cars in the Top 10 followed by Ford with two. The top finishing Toyota, driven by Dale Jarrett, was 23rd.

Looks like Toyota wasn't the Godzilla some folks feared. But the NASCAR purists shouldn't get too full of themselves just yet. This was just the first race and I'm sure Toyota will eventually take its first checkered flag on the circuit. Since stock cars are all supposed to meet the same specs and operate to a universal standard- emphasis on the word "supposed" since several teams got caught cheating in the week leading up to Daytona- there really shouldn't be anything to worry about except performance. And on this Sunday, the good ole boys reigned supreme.

Oh, Good Evening!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Frozen Tundra

I just returned from a week in Madison, Wisconsin where I travelled with two co-workers to attend a training class for the new computer system we will use in our newsroom. February is NOT the best time to be in Wisconsin if you don't like the cold. (As if you need me to tell you that!)

My plane landed in Columbia just after 9:30 PM on Friday. All I can say is I have never been so happy to return to 25 degree conditions. It was -8 degrees my last night in Madison!

Oh, Good Evening!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Soggy Super Bowl

Super Bowl XLI is in the books. Congratulations to the Colts for winning their first Super Bowl title in 36 years and the first since the franchise moved to Indianapolis from Baltimore. Tony Dungy is the first African American head coach to hold the Vince Lombardi Trophy in victory. Quarterback Peyton Manning wins MVP honors and the Cadillac of his choice.

Here are some random thoughts about the game and the week leading up to the game:

  • South Florida had pretty good weather through Saturday providing a great backdrop for the NFL Network, ESPN, and HBO Sports, not to mention all the folks just hanging out on South Beach every day and night.

  • Football purists probably love the fact that SB XLI was played outdoors, despite the driving downpour in South Florida on Sunday night. I am not among that group. With the championship at stake and the tremendous financial investment of the league, the host city, and sponsors galore, Super Bowls should be played in the very best of conditions. Granted, this is the first time rain has fallen on an outdoor Super Bowl, last night's conditions were a bummer. Slippery footballs affecting play; rain drop spotted television camera lenses affecting my view. Not good. Of course, I think every game should be played in the best of conditions. I love indoor stadiums because, not only can you play regardless of the weather, but fans can truly enjoy the experience they've shelled out hundreds of dollars to attend. I love attending games in outdoor stadiums but the temperature needs to be above 70 degrees and the forecast should not include rain. Had i paid $600 and up for a ticket to SB XLI-- and let's face it, many of the 74,000+ fans in Dolphins Stadium on Sunday night paid MUCH more than that-- there is no way I would want to sit in a driving rain. To all the folks who think Super Bowls should only be played in Miami, Tampa, New Orleans, Phoenix, and San Diego, I say if it's okay to play the title game outside in drenching rain in South Florida, it's okay to play indoors in cities like Detroit, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Indianapolis and St. Louis.

  • Don't you have to be a fairly smart person to run a professional sports league or own a team? Don't you have to be fairly intelligent to work as the lead announcer for a network covering the biggest and most widely watched sporting event on the planet? It rained, off and on, all day long in South Florida on Sunday. Did it not occur to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Colts owner Jim Irsay, and CBS announcer Jim Nantz that it would be a good idea to bring a raincoat with them to the stadium? Did they not look stupid standing out there for the trophy presentation dressed in their custom made suits getting drenched? How smart is that?

  • Prince rocked the house! That halftime show was HOTT! I'm talking the best in YEARS! The stage was great! The pyrotechnics were great! The song list was great! And how about the bonus performance we got on Thursday when, instead of answering a bunch questions nobody would care about, Prince did a mini concert for the media in attendance and everyone watching on the NFL Network? Can the NFL book him for halftime every year?

  • In the Super Bowl's 41 year history, Billy Joel is the only singer to perform the national anthem at two games. Super Bowl XLI and Super Bowl XXIII in 1989, also held in South Florida.

  • I love Cirque du Soliel but that pre-game show they produced didn't work for me.

  • Jim Nantz and Phil Simms were BORING. I hope CBS Sports finds a different team to do the game in 2010.

Oh, Good Evening!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Super Bowl MMMCXXI

The first Sunday in February is about more than just communion in church. After many wake up and go hear Rev. Whomever deliver an insightful sermon and then honor the Last Supper of Jesus Christ, rabid NFL fans will return home and prepare the last football supper of the 2006 season.

It's hard to believe a whole year has passed since I was all fired up about Super Bowl XL in my hometown, the Winter Wonderland of Detroit. Super Bowl XLI takes place Sunday in the Tropical Paradise of South Florida. I am very much looking forward to seeing the contest between the AFC Champion Indianapolis Colts and the NFC Champion Chicago Bears. There are so many stories to watch unfold:
  • Colts QB Peyton Manning finally making it to the big game-- Can he win it?
  • Bears QB Rex Grossman, dubbed the worst quarterback ever to play in the Super Bowl-- Can he prove his critics wrong?
  • Can the Colts defense contain the Bears running game?
  • Can the Bears defense contain the Colts passing game?

The list goes on and on. But no storyline is more significant to me than this: Who will be the first African American head coach to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy above his head when the game ends-- Chicago's Lovie Smith or Indy's Tony Dungy? They are both such great coaches and even greater men, it's a shame one of them has to lose the game. But they have both already won in the skill and character department and I hope this opens the door to more talented coaches of color in the NFL, other professional leagues, and at the collegiate level.

All of that aside-- my greatest anticipation about Sunday's game is the halftime show. After the disappointment of hearing that the Rolling Stones had been booked for last year's show in Detroit-- that performance was truly a mess-- I have been bouncing around with sheer delight over the signing of Prince to play this year's show. He is, by far, my favorite music artist of all time. I have most of his CDs, a few DVDs, and I have seen him in concert three times having never been disappointed by a performance. This could be the best Super Bowl halftime show since Diana Ross was the featured performer at Super Bowl XXX in 1996. Check out the commercial promoting the show and Let's Go Crazy at Super Bowl MMMCXXI! That's 3121 for the Roman numeral challenged.

Oh, Good Evening!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Winter Wonderland

As you can see in this photo, my day is not off to a good start. When I see more snow falling in Columbia, South Carolina than I saw on a recent trip to Detroit, Michigan in the dead of winter, something is very wrong!

Okay. It's not that bad. But, everyone who knows me knows I hate snow. So, seeing the white stuff on my front lawn and the hood of my HUMMER is a bummer. Big, fat, HUGE flakes!! Luckily, it won't stick.

Oh, Good Evening!