Thursday, December 29, 2005

Playing by the rules

The Wall Street Journal had a story the other day about a conservative advocacy group known as Move America Forward which pretty much serves the same function on the right that does on the left.

That would be fine and all, except there is one big difference between the two organizations. While is a registered political action committee that must disclose its donors and their contributions for public scrutiny, Move America Forward pretends to be a non-partisan, non-profit group and thus gives its donors not only anonymity, but also the right to deduct their donations from their taxes. In other words, the rest of us taxpayers are being forced to subsidize the right-wing group, while the liberal group has to scrape along under the strict reporting requirements for PACs.

Needless to say, this is not fair. But it is also not surprising that the so-called “conservative” group would lie and cheat while the liberal group plays by the rules. They are just following the example set by the current Republican administration.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Limbo in limbo

Interesting story in the NYTimes today - Vatican Considers Consigning Limbo to Oblivion

Limbo, that netherworld of unbaptized babies, worthy pagans and even a few Muslims, is very much on the way out...
This month, 30 top theologians from around the world met at the Vatican to discuss, among other quandaries, the problem of what happens to babies who die without baptism.

Frankly, I think such a move is long overdue. It is nothing short of cruel for the church to tell a mother who just lost a baby that her infant is going anywhere other than to be with God. But I can also see why they have been hesitant to do so up until now.

How can you convince people that they have to be baptized without the fear of hellfire and damnation? If you make an exception for babies, how far does that exception go? At what age can they declare that a child has been consigned to hell for not being cleansed of its “original sin” ? Such a quandry!

The idea of sending innocent babies to hell has always been hard for most people to stomach. But sending them to limbo isn’t much better. So what will they do now? Admit that the church doesn’t have the official rulebook from God that says who does and doesn’t get into Heaven? That’ll be the day!

So I will be interested to see what these Vatican theologians come up with. My guess is that they will take the same stance as doctors dealing with terminal diseases. They will highly recommend baptism for babies, but won’t make any guarantees that it is the final arbiter of salvation.

Bring back Star Trek (and Buffy)

A survey of British TV viewers shows Star Trek as the most missed show on TV today.

It topped a poll of more than 1,000 viewers commissioned by UK interactive TV firm Home Media Networks. Here are the top 10 most missed programs from the survey:

1. Star Trek
2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
3. Friends
4. Fawlty Towers
5. Blake's 7
6. The X-Files
7. Babylon 5
8. Stargate
9. Seinfeld
10. The A-Team

Blockbuster consumption

Like lemmings we all tend to run with the crowd and watch essentially the same movies every year. In looking at the blockbuster movies of years past (films that earned more than $100 million in domestic gross reciepts), I’m struck by how many of them I have seen either in the theater, on video or on TV.
Since 1990, the year I more or less got out of college, there have been 264 blockbusters. Not counting this year, the total is 247. Of those, I have seen all but 59 for about a 75 percent rate of blockbuster consumption.

The films I have not seen, with a few notable exceptions, are ones that I am likely never going to watch because they have no particular appeal for me. Here is the list (* marks movies I still intend to watch someday).

1990 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Dick Tracy
1991 - Beauty and the Beast*
1993 - Indecent Proposal
1994 - The Flintstones
1996 - 101 Dalmations (live action); Scream
1997 - George of the Jungle; Scream 2
1998 - The Rugrats Movie
1999 - Big Daddy; The Blair Witch Project; American Beauty; Analyze This; The General’s Daughter; American Pie
2000 - The Perfect Storm; Meet the Parents; Scary Movie; Traffic; The Nutty Professor II; Big Momma’s House; Remember the Titans
2001 - Hannibal; American Pie 2; The Fast and the Furious; Black Hawk Down*
2002 - Austin Powers Goldmember; Scooby Doo; XXX; The Santa Clause 2; The Ring; Mr. Deeds; Road to Perdition*
2003 - Bruce Almighty; Elf; Cheaper By the Dozen; Bad Boys II; Anger Management; Bringing Down the House; 2 Fast, 2 Furious; Something’s Gotta Give; SWAT; Spy Kids 3-D; Scary Movie 3; American Wedding; Daddy Day Care; The Cat in the Hat; Charlie’s Angels 2
2004 - The Passion of the Christ*; Meet the Fockers; The Day After Tomorrow; The Polar Express*; Ocean’s Twelve; 50 First Dates; Dodge Ball; The Village; The Grudge; Million Dollar Baby*

As for the 2005 blockbusters so far, I can already say that I have little interest in seeing Wedding Crashers; Mr. and Mrs. Smith; The Longest Yard; The Pacifier and 40 Year Old Virgin.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Box office blues

2005 has been a bad year for the movie industry. Lots of stories have been written on the topic, but I think this chart I compiled from the invaluable Box Office Mojo Web site helps make the point pretty clear. The figure on the right is the number of movies that broke the $100 million barrier in domestic box office revenues for that year (not counting foreign box office and video/DVD sales).

2005 - 17
2004 - 24
2003 - 29
2002 - 24
2001 - 20
2000 - 22
1999 - 21
1998 - 18
1997 - 16
1996 - 15
1995 - 10
1994 - 12
1993 - 8
1992 - 11
1991 - 8
1990 - 9

As you can see, 2003 was a peak year so far. But 2005 could be the worst peformer of the decade. In fact, you have to go back to 1997 to find a year that had fewer mega-blockbusters. Of course, the year is not over and there is a chance that a few more 2005 releases could cross the finish line at some future date (Walk the Line is a possibility). But there just aren’t that many more potential blockbusters on the movie industry’s bench this year.

I think one of the problems for Hollywood is that I have stopped going to movies these past few years. My movie watching for this year has been so limited that I don’t even need to update the list I made on Sept. 13 of 2005 films I’ve seen so far this year.

I didn’t realize until now how much Hollywood depends on me, but the evidence is clear. Since the birth of my first child in mid-2003, they have been on a precipitous slide downward. I’m not sure what to tell them. Perhaps if they put daycare centers at the cineplex’s it would lure more of us new parents back into the fold. But whatever they do, they need to do it quick. Now with the birth of my second child last month, I will likely be absent from the local matinees for several more years to come.