January 25, 2006
The WB and UPN merge to form new fifth network, the CW
On the heels of news that Disney is acquiring Pixar, two of the six networks on the air are disappearing. They will be replaced by a new network, the CW, it was announced in a joint statement from parent companies CBS Corp. and Time Warner Inc. The Tribune Co., which has a minority stake in the WB, will carry the new network on 16 of its stations: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Houston, Miami, Denver, St. Louis, Portland, Indianapolis, San Diego, Hartford, New Orleans and Albany. CBS, which owns UPN through parent Viacom, Station Group television markets will carry the network on stations it has in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Atlanta, Detroit, Tampa, Seattle, Sacramento, Pittsburgh, West Palm Beach, Norfolk, Oklahoma City and Providence. These two companies alone will bring the new network to nearly half the country, including 20 of the top 25 television markets. Both have guaranteed to broadcast the stations line-up for at least a decade. The new network will continue the WB's six-night primetime format, as well as its flagship Saturday morning children's line-up. How the new line-up will shake out remains unclear, though four shows from UPN ("America's Next Top Model", "Everybody Hates Chris", "Girlfriends", "Veronica Mars") and four from the WB ("Smallville", "Gilmore Girls", "Supernatural", "Reba") are mentioned in the press release. WWE's "Smackdown" is also expected to make the transition to the new network. John Maatta, Chief Operating Officer of the WB, will transition to the same title at the new network. Dawn Ostroff, UPN's network president, will be the president of entertainment at the new network. No word on whether David Janollari, current president of the WB, will have a role in the new network. Read the original press release here. What a brave new world this is.
January 02, 2006
Top Ten Films of 2005
Since I cannot claim to have been privy to a definitive sample of the 2005's best films, the following list represents the ten films I saw in 2005, originally release in that year, which I hold in the highest regard as a complete work. I compiled a list of all of the films which met the two aforementioned criteria and kept slotting films in between others films already on the list. Upon completion, these were the ones at the top, in order of quality from absolute best on down.

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More than any other film in 2005, Batman Begins flawlessly summed up everything that filmmaking is about — from the most epic to the most intimate.
An effortless balance of action, story, character, plot, and emotion that never falters from beginning to end. A magnificent achievement, certain to become a classic in years to come.

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An astounding and towering achievement of cinematic magic, Mike Newell's entry in the Harry Potter series is the best yet.
Goblet of Fire takes the familiar cast and characters and integrates them into a living breathing world full of danger, whimsy and wonder.

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A fantasy film that is as earnest and old-fashioned as Goblet of Fire is brash and modern, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is fairy tale storytelling masterfully executed.
This movie has more sincere heart than any other this year; it is a film full completely to the brim with love and sorrow.

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The only think surprising about this compelling sci-fi western is that it isn't placed even higher.
Transitioning the cast of unknowns from my favourite failed TV series, Serenity fires along a mile a minute with action, humour, and gut-wrenching plot twists — the best movie of its type since the original Star Wars.

Review Pending
A total surprise, Bee Season is almost a dissertation on religion in our daily lives  — and a profound, awe-inspiring window into the greater truth behind them.
Part family drama, part radically abstract visual storytelling, it was for me one of the most unconventional and stirring experiences of the year — film-related or otherwise.

Review Pending
A visual masterpiece, Sin City is perhaps more notable for gritty noir storytelling that really, really works.
The nearly constant narration put me inside the heads of the characters like I thought only a novel could, and the characters themselves were flawed, compelling, and even likable at times.

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Who would of thought that a movie so squarely aimed at the preteen girl demographic could be so weighty, so well-realized, or so true?
It is a lighter, less ambitious counterpoint to Rodrigo GarcĂ­a's Nine Lives yet looking back I remember it as the more natural of the two — and the more potent.

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The only truly serious fare on this list, it rose to the top by marrying poetic visuals with rhythmical storytelling.
The cynical political thriller elements are contrasted with an intimate personal story that I found quite optimistic and even uplifting.

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Despite one of the worst first halves in cinema year, the final hour of Revenge of the Sith is so powerful that it raises the whole easily into top ten status.
That it would be tragic and emotional was pretty much certain; that it was so often surprising is really quite astounding.

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Some of the changes were awkward and it took a while to get rolling, but once it did I was emotionally affected deeply and completely — I would recommend keeping a  box of tissues nearby for the entire final arc.
It is loud, it is bold, it is fearless, it is tragic, and above all it is alive. In other words, it is Rent.

11. The Family Stone
12. Upside of Anger
13. 40 Year-Old Virgin
14. Corpse Bride
15. Nine Lives
16. War of the Worlds
17. The Island
18. Good Night, and Good Luck.
19. Four Brothers
20. Wedding Crashers
21. Jarhead
22. Saw II
23. The Brothers Grimm
24. The Ringer
25. Kicking and Screaming
26. The Longest Yard
27. A History of Violence

Worst Films of 2005
Review Pending
Robert DeNiro is a legend and Dakota Fanning is perhaps the sharpest up-and-comer there is. So how is it that this half-baked horror film could fizzle this much?
Blame utterly pedestrian direction match with what just might be the laziest and most poorly written screenplay of the year.

Review Pending
It's one the great setups for character-based comedy: the domestic life of a mortal man and his spell-casting witch of a wife. Unfortunately, that's not this film.
Kidman and Ferrell have surprising chemistry in a film that utterly fails to live up to a speck of the promise that might entail.

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Top notch cast, with an articulately written and plotted screenplay. I think it's these elements that make me despise this film all the more.
Almost certainly the most depressing film of the year, it is a dark comedy about shallow people that left me out in the cold.

Review Pending
Far and away the worst movie of the year, it runs neck in neck with Ron Howard's Grinch update as the most empty and soulless movie I've ever seen.
I laughed constantly but I didn't feel good leaving the theatre. I saw the film for free and I still feel like it cost me too much.


October 02, 2005
David Lynch Speaks on Filmmaking, Life, and Conciousness-Based Education
From the highest, steepest balcony of the epicly grandiose and overwrought Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston, I had the privilege of hearing David Lynch speak. He was here in support of his new foundation "For Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace", which aims to raise seven billion dollars to be put towards using transcendental meditation to restructure the very way society functions. He was joined by Dr. John Hagelin PhD, best known for his appearance in What the #$*! Do We Know!?.
The discussion of what they believe and the scientific basis for it was strange and surreal. At one point, a Dr. Fred Travis was brought on stage. He gave a Powerpoint presentation on the brain and then Shane, a student who has been meditating since he was five, was brought on stage. He sat in a chair and what hooked up to Travis' setup, which monitored brain activity. As the presentation continued, the brain activity was charted over the projector onto the massive screen behind. When he went into meditation, the different readings came into sync with each other and slowly worked their way into super high levels of activity. I'm still not entirely sure to make of it all, stuff which seemed so utterly ludicrous and yet was presented in such a thorough and comprehensive manner that I was forced to pay the proceedings some attention.
Before all of that was covered in the main presentation, however, Lynch had requested a Q&A session with the audience to make confronting the massive audience less formidable. Not part of his fan base, I knew the man by reputation only. The person who came to the podium had a face somewhere between Sean Bean and Dustin Hoffman, and a head of hair that can be described only as uniquely his own. He addressed the audience with a reedy voice with a slight nasally quality, his fingers twinkling through the air when he jabbed his hand in the air to drive home a point. Low-key and personable, he will linger as one of the stranger people I have encountered.
During this question-and-answer period, he spoke at some length about his film career. When asked about Dune he left open the possibility of doing another "big spectacle" picture, but thought it would be unlikely because studios are less willing to give up final cut on those pictures. But he noted that this is slowly changing as DV (digital video) brings the cost of filmmaking down. Someone asked about "the baby" in Eraserhead, which Lynch refused to say a word about. In compensation, he allowed the student to ask another question. Someone else asked about his policy for sharing a script with his actors. Noting in today's environment production secrets show up on the internet as a matter of course, he prefers to work with the actors to fill in the context for their respective roles rather than just handing out the script. Another person asked about his direction code words. "More wind means more mystery," he told us, noting that these code words are tools he uses to overcome his difficulties with talking. Rehearsals are also key, a necessity "to get each person that's helping you to go down the same track."
He made clear his views of filmmaking as a precarious and fragile thing, noting about editing a scene at one point that "you go by intuition and you realize that one or two more frames and it brakes it."
He made clear his allegiance for digital filmaking, telling us he fell in love with DV while working of content for his website. "It's much freedom, you have a forty minute take" instead of a twelve minute take, he declared. He doesn't think he'll ever work on film again, noting "it's a dinosaur."
He views his involvement with transcendental meditation as essential. "It's a great thing for [a] filmmaker," he declared early on. He wrapped things up with a simple statement of how he views life: "I really love film and I love catching ideas ... each day gets better and better."
Freelance Film Critic Albany, NY Boston, MA Contact me

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