Saturday, March 11, 2006

March Madness

Any of my American readers will know immediately what the above headline means. The readers in the rest of the world, however, are undoubtedly scratching their heads.

"March Madness" is not a mental health issue, it's a phenomenom. Every year, in March, basketball teams from around the U.S. play in the NCAA tournament. It gives university students an excuse to show school pride and celebrate (or cry, as the case may be). For those past university age, it gives them a chance to reminesce about their youth while making gambling a linchpin of office activities through the office pool (when people try to predict who will be champion).

This year, my alma mater, Villanova Univeristy, is heavily favoured to do well and will most likely get a top seed. This is still true, despite having lost last night to my father-in-law's alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh, in the Big East tournament. Which was a bummer, not least of all because he and I had a friendly wager on the game (I now owe him a dinner) and I'll have to hear chants of "Overrated." Personally, I think we got one loss out of the way on the Road to the Final Four.

It is a real mystery to me why a simple tournament of basketball games can become so important, fun and consuming. But it is. When I worked in Chicago, I was in charge of our office NCAA pool and we had loads of people fill out their brackets. Everybody in the office was talking about it-- even people who knew nothing about the teams that were playing. Maybe that's part of the fun. Maybe it's a way to brighten up the tail end of winter. For people like me, who have universities in the tournament, it's also a way to fondly remember my bygone days and to teach my offspring the Villanova Fight Song.

Here in London, March Madness is not quite the same. There's no office pools. There's no CBS (although in a boon to expats everywhere, they're going to broadcast the first two rounds for free on the Internet! Hooray!). I still remember March 1999, my first March living abroad, when had to buy a very expensive copy of USA Today in the Rome airport, and then I filled out the brackets (for my own amusement only) on the floor of the Rome airport while waiting for my flight back to London. This year, thanks again to the wonders of the Internet, I'll be able to participate in a pool and pay my entrance fee via PayPal. So at least I'll be able to join in on the fun a little bit.

I anxiously AND eagerly await Selection Sunday tomorrow to find out where and when Villanova will be playing. Until then, it gives me a chance to make sure my Villanova gear is clean and practice the fight song one more time with the boys.


Monday, March 06, 2006

4:26 a.m.

So after 36 posts, six comments, four and a half hours, three cups of coffee and two chocolate chip cookies that's it for MarathonMum's coverage of the 78th Academy Awards.

If you're reading this on Monday morning, you might want to go back to the beginning of the posts at 12:05 a.m. Or not.

Good night, and good luck. (see what I did there? Wasn't that nice?)

4:22 a.m.

Jack Nicholson is presenting Best Picture. I was wondering why he was there. Man, is he cool.

Crash might win Best Picture, because voters will want to split their vote between that and Brokeback Mountain, which already won Best Director.

See? What did I tell you? (And, no, I didn't go back and edit that before I posted it) There's lots of happy people over in the Crash section of the audience. Matt Dillon still looks cool.

George Clooney looks slightly disappointed, but at least he's going home with something. Don't worry, George, you still rate in my book!

Bummer, they just cut off the producer of Crash. Is that the only person who was cut off tonight?

4:19 a.m.

Tom Hanks seems to have his wild hair (it must be for a movie he's filming) under control. He's presenting Best Director. Maybe Our Man George will win this one!

As expected, Ang Lee wins for Brokeback Mountain. It'll probably win Best Picture now too.

4:17 a.m.

This is my 33rd post of the evening. If anyone wants to question my love of the Oscars, all I'll need to do to respond is show them all of these postings. Man, am I tired.

I think we only have two more awards to go.

The one good thing about the Sky Movies presentation this year is they haven't brought on third-rate British actors you've never heard of (Alan Cummings, take a bow) talk about the Oscars. They've got two movie critics who are actually saying intelligent things, rather than asking Joan Collins to talk about who she would like to win.

4:12 a.m.

Uma Thurman, who looks stunning, is presenting best original screenplay. Will Our Man George win again? I hope so.

No, George doesn't win, but "Crash" does, which also was a great movie.

4:07 a.m.

By my count, we've got the two screenplay awards (adapted and original), best director and best picture to go. I think we're in the final lap.

Dustin Hoffman seems to be cracking himself up. He leads a round of applause for all the losers. Oh, yeah, THAT will make them feel better.

Brokeback Mountain, as predicted, wins best adapted screenplay. I just had a minor panic because my cable went out for 10 seconds. Oh no, it did it again. I hope it holds up for the last 15 minutes. Oh no! Again! Again!

Heath Leger and Michelle Williams look REALLY UNHAPPY in the front row. I don't think the round of applause they just got was enough to salve the deep wound of disappointed.

3:57 a.m.

Jamie Foxx is up. Hooray! This means we're doing Best Actress. I hope Reese Witherspoon wins.

Dame Judi Dench looks really nervous. Hooray again! Matthew Macfayden is up (briefly). He's just lovely. They say Felicity Huffman is really good in her movie, too. Reese Witherspoon looks really nervous too.

Yeah! Reese wins! Her dress really is beautiful. How long is it going to take her to thank Joaquin Phoenix? Oh, finally she did it.
And she gave a good speech (and didn't thank her agent, accountant or lawyer, either).

So no big surprises yet, and no big movie sweep either. I don't think we have long to go. So I might get two and a half hours of sleep tonight, if I'm lucky.

3:54 a.m.

Scientologist John Travolta is awarding the Best Cinematography Oscar.

Scientology: the "religion" that won't allow a woman to speak during childbirth. You've got to be kidding. Oh, wait, that's right. I'm talking about Scientology.

3:40 a.m.

Best Foreign Language Film winner gives a good speech and seems genuinely thrilled.

Oh no. Another black dress. This one is worn by the star of "Memoirs of a Geisha" whose name I don't even want to attempt. Why is she, of all people, wearing black? She wore a beautiful bright yellow dress to the Golden Globes (I think, or it might have been the Baftas). People: Black is Boring! I just saw her shimmering sequined skirt, but black is still boring.

"Crash" just won something. I did like that movie quite a lot. Oh, it's the film editing award. This clown just thanked his assistant. A classic listing acceptance. But they let him get it all in.

Ooh. Hilary Swank. Another boring black dress, though it's better than the one she wore last year. She doesn't look as sad as she did at the Golden Globes.

But crucially, she's presenting an award I actually care about: Best Actor. I predict Phillip Seymour Hoffman, even though I haven't yet seen Capote. I hope he wins because (again) he's one of those rare actors who elevates whatever movie he's in. He's just fantastic, full stop.

Heath Ledger has a mustache! What's that about? Joaquin Phoenix should probably win if Hoffman doesn't. He was INCREDIBLE in "Walk the Line" and he does all his own singing too.

Yeah! Phillip Seymour Hoffman wins! Kudos to Joaquin Phoenix, though, who looks genuinely happy for Hoffman. What an actor. Maybe he should win a special Oscar for Best Loser.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman should win a SECOND Oscar for best acceptance speech, given the heartfelt thanks he gave to his mother (a win for moms everywhere) AND being able to mention the NCAA tourny in the same speech. Now that's talent!

3:36 a.m.

Will Smith is talking about "Hundreds of Millions of People Watching Around the World." Who's up in Great Britain besides me and about four other people? It's the middle of the night, for goodness sake. I think the "hundreds of millions" is a classic use of Oscar hyperbole.

3:31 a.m.

The Man of the Night, George Clooney, introduces the "I See Dead People", I mean, those esteemed Academy members who have passed, montage. George is the ONLY person who could possibly make this interesting. At least it perked me up a bit.

I've often wondered, though, if family members gauge the clapping to figure out who's the most popular dead person, I mean, esteemed Academy members who have passed, featured. I wonder who will be the last person? Oh, it looks like Richard Pryor. That's nice.

3:27 a.m.

Jennifer Garner almost fell! Now that would have been funny, and would have helped to wake me up. She's looking great, post baby. She's presenting the Sound Editing Award. Yawn. Literally.

3:18 a.m.

I just switched over to E! because this is getting pretty boring. They're doing a Celebrity Goof Up Roundup. Did you know that Geena Davis once had a sitcom? Neither did I.

Back to the Oscars. This has got to be a first: the name of this Oscar-nominated song is, "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp." It looks to me like Jamie Foxx is singing, and there's more strange dancing, but no burning car. Bring back the burning car!

Terrence Howard, nominated for Best Actor, had a really sweet white rose corsage on before, but he's taken it off. Who told him to take it off? I liked it.

No way. The Pimp song won. The Crash lady seems pretty sad about that, but Queen Latifah is happy abou it. I'm pretty sure that IS Jamie Foxx. No, wait, they just showed Jamie Foxx in the audience, so it's not him.

Jon Stewart is beside himself. He doesn't know what to say. Though he does point out that the winners were the most excited people there.

3:14 a.m.

I think I just saw whats-her-name from Will and Grace. Debra Messing, that's it. What's she doing at the Oscars? Talk about punching above your weight.

Thanks to my No. 1 fan, Noel, who seems to be the only person reading this blog tonight. Thanks for the support!

3:06 a.m.

Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep present the Honorary Oscar to Robert Altman. I'm thinking that of the fillers we've got left, we only have the Roll Call of Those That Have Gone Before (i.e. actors who died this year). Then we'll finally have all the good awards to do. Maybe we'll get to see our man George again!

Robert Altman, no doubt, is a great director. He's getting savaged by the London theatre critics at the moment, though, for the new play, "Resurrection Blues", which was the last play that Arthur Miller wrote. Apparently the play is awful. But Robert Altman has made some really good movies. He just plugged the play, but I don't think that's going to help ticket sales.

2:56 a.m.

Jake Gyllenhaal is presenting. He sure does look sad. I think he thought he would win. Poor kid. And now he has to give out an award. At least he'll get to hold one, for a minute at least.

Now would be a good time to talk about the time I saw Jake in a play in London's West End. He was with Darth Vadar/Mr. Sienna Miller Hayden Christensen and Oscar winner Anna Panquin. Jake was very good. Earlier tonight, the Sci-Fi Channel was showing his very first movie, "October Sky," which is a great film. If you haven't seen it, you should.

This appears to be the third set (or possibly the fourth, I've lost count) of self-congratulatory film clips. Again, what's with all the montages? Jon Stewart just said, "We're out of film clips." I think I believe him.

2:46 a.m.

This is my 20th post of the night. In one night I've managed to boost my Blogger posts. I know I haven't done much lately, MarathonMum fans, but I'm making up for it tonight. It's just that Blogging isn't a big priority when you're trying to sell your flat and move to a new house. I won't bore you with the sad details, but the whole process has been a trial, to say the least. However, we have a tentative date to move next Tuesday, but we'll see. We've had two other moving dates, too, and we're still here.

As a result of the potential house move, I haven't done much running, either. There was even a 10K at Greenwich Park today that I missed. I'll do it next year for sure.

Back to the Oscars: Sky Movies One actually cut away in the middle of the Original Score performance by Itzak Perleman. This brings up an important note: I know that I am misspelling some of these names and I'm very sorry. I'm just too tired and lazy to look them all up.

Brokeback Mountaint finally won something, for the score, which I did like.

The interesting thing about the acceptance speeches is how they're starting up the music as soon as the winner starts talking. Is that some sort of subliminal strategy to get them to wind it up quicker? I think it's working.

2:44 a.m.

Salma Hayak is presenting. I LOVE her dress. It might be my favorite of the night. Though I'm not sure if anyone cares.

2:38 a.m.

More self congratulatory film clips. Again, if they want to make this program shorter, they can cut this sort of stuff out. (Though I'm always happy to see Peter Finch say, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.")

Now it's the president of the Academy. Yawn. Please be quick. But this is his moment in the sun, and I don't think he's going to give up easily. I wonder if I could just take a short nap and wake up when this is over? Probably not. I'm really starting to flag.

2:33 a.m.

Sandra Bullock is presenting. I'm still not sure about the pregnancy rumor. The pockets make me suspicious, but maybe it's a comfort thing. I suspect that if I had to wear a big fancy gown like that, I'd probably like to have some pockets so I'd have something to do with my hands. I like her dress very much, though I wish it were a different colour.

2:21 a.m.

It's official: I definitely DO NOT like Charlize Theron's dress. Yuck. What was she (or more likely, her stylist) thinking?

She's presenting Best Documentary. I hope the Penguins win. They do! Hooray!! That was a great film. Just ask Nicholas.They all bring stuffed penguins up on the stage with them. Nicholas would like that, too. So, at last count, our two sons have seen two of the Oscar winners this year.

Now Jennifer Lopez comes up. I like her dress. I wasn't sure about the colour, at first, but now I think it's much better than boring black. Someone made the point on one of the pregame shows that she always makes an impact at the Oscars.

Now the singer for the "Crash" song is performing. Is it safe that they would have a burning car on the stage? I think that's a Health and Safety problem. It's a good song, but I can't keep my eyes off the fire or the dancers who are nearby. Is it fake fire? I think the fire was superfluous, not to mention unsafe. What happens if it goes out of control and George Clooney is at risk?

Now they're breaking for commercial. Presumably so they can put out the fire. Time for more coffee.

2:13 a.m.

This is bad. Legend Lauren Bacall is either having telepromter problems or a senior moment, but she seems to be struggling. Mightily. I'm not sure what she is introducing, but I do think it's one of those filler moments that makes this award show run for 17 hours. If they wanted to shorten the show, they could just cut out this stupid stuff and just give out the Golden Men.

This is boring. I'm starting to wane, slightly. Perhaps I should go get some more coffee.

I still have no idea what she was talking about.

They just did a funny bit with fake commercials for women campaigning to win Best Actress. I thought it was funny, but I'm not sure Reese Witherspoon did.

2:02 a.m.

Morgan Freeman is on. We must be about to award the Supporting Actress category. Yes, I'm right! I hope Rachel Weisz wins, though Catherine Keenar is one of those actresses who's good in everything. Even the 40-Year-Old Virgin. Michelle Williams looks really nervous, but I don't think she's going to win.

Hooray! Rachel wins. And she looks beautiful, even heavily pregnant. Oh no, it's one of those listing acceptance speeches. Not listing, as in moving side to side, but listing, as in name everyone involved in the movie. Again, kudos, for not thanking her agent, accountant or lawyer.

2 a.m.

Now they're talking about the Technical Awards ceremony. Now I can see who Rachel McAdams is. I had never heard of her until she recently refused to be photographed naked by Annie Liebowitz for the cover of Vanity Fair.

"I'm glad I could be a part of it," McAdams said, speaking of the Technical Awards show, NOT the Vanity Fair shoot.

1:56 a.m.

Best Makeup Award. Kudos to the presentation, Will Ferrell and Steve Carrell are very funny.

Narnia wins. Saw that one, too, though my enjoyment of it was somewhat marred by the fact I had two young boys climbing all over me in fear through most of it.

1:46 a.m.

Just had time to make some coffee and have another chocolate chip cookie.

I missed some categories, but nothing major. They're doing Animated Short Feature.

Now here comes Jennifer Aniston. She's doing Best Costume. I wonder if she made the Academy promise that the Pitt-Jolie juggernaut would not be in attendance before she said she'd present? I've actually seen the majority of nominees in this picture, except for Memoirs of a Geisha and Mrs. Henderson Presents. Memoirs wins. I liked the book, but I'm not sure I'd like to see the movie. Maybe on DVD.

1:38 a.m.

Everybody seemed to like Dolly Parton, she's getting a rousing round of applause. You've got to bet, though, that they're all talking about her horrible suit she wore once she gets off the stage.

Now, REALLY, I'm going to make some coffee.

1:31 a.m.

Reese Witherspoon is presenting for Best Animated Feature! The one category where I know all of the nominees. I'm keeping my fingers firmly crossed for Wallace and Gromit. They're the best! This is the first time, in a couple of years, that I haven't actaully seen all of the nominees, but I'm still sure Wallace and Gromit will be the best.

I like Reese's dress. It's beautiful.

Yeah! Wallace and Gromit win. Nick Park and his co-director seem to be wearing VERY LARGE Paul Smith bow-ties, and they brought little ones along for their Oscars. Very funny. Poor Peter Sallis, the voice of Wallace, is ALL THE WAY in the back. Though I notice that Helena Bonham Carter is just one row ahead of them, so maybe it was the Animated neighborhood of the audience.

1:25 a.m.

Ben Stiller is doing something strange in a lime green jumpsuit. Why won't they ever let that nice man wear a tuxedo to this show? He always seems to wearing something odd.

It's the visual effects award. Yawn. King Kong wins. NOW I can FINALLY make some coffee.

1:16 a.m.

The first award of the night: Best Supporting Actor. Nicole Kidman is giving out the award. It'd be nice if she could give it to her friend, George. Why didn't the actress who won Best Supporting Actress last year giving out the award? Who was that? A quick check while they show the clips....

No time.

Yeah! George wins. "OK, so I'm not the winning director," is the first thing he says. Oh, so funny. He seems to talking off the cuff, but doing it very well. I'll give him extra points if he doesn't thank his agent or accountant. And he doesn't! Good for him. Now THAT was a great speech. Well done, George!

Poor Matt Dillon and Jake Gyllenhaal look REALLY disappointed they didn't win. Maybe it won't be a Brokeback Mountain juggernaut afterall.

Now I've got time to answer my previous question: Cate Blanchett won Best Supporting Actress last year. Why couldn't they bring her in? (I remember the other three acting awards from last year, though: Hillary Swank, actress; Jamie Foxx, actor; and Morgan Freeman, supporting actor. (Note to self: I still need to see "Ray.")

1 a.m.

Ooh. It's starting. Hooray!

It's some sort of CGI compilation of all sorts of movie clips. I bet Jon Stewart, a William and Mary alum just like Mr. MarathonMum, is really nervous right about now.

That introduction was hilarious. How lucky is John Stewart to be in bed with George Clooney? I was wondering what he would do without a desk for his monologue, and now I know: he's going to stand behind a podium.

Charlize Theron has something growing on her shoulder. Has anyone told her that?

Kiera Knightly is sitting next to Jack Nicholson. Is he dating her now? I like her dress, though. It's Vera Wang, apparently. In case you're wondering, Vera Wang is who I'll wear when I go to the Oscars. Someday.

Matt Dillon is looking great. He was good in Crash, too, though I haven't picked him to win. I think my man George will be the one to beat in that category. We saw Syriana on Saturday and he was pretty good, though I think Matt Dillon was better. But I think George will win in acting because he probably won't win in any of his other categories. But only time will tell.

I feel for Jon Stewart. His monologue doesn't seem to be going so well.

12:46 a.m.

Now might be the time to make coffee. There's nothing on either channel. Mariella Fostrup is yammering on Sky Movies. Yes, I know, American fans, you have NO IDEA who she is. Welcome to Sky Movies coverage: When the most marginal of British stars sit down to talk about the movies. She's talking to a casting director and a movie critic, and I've never heard of either one. And I live here!
Hey! The momentary lull is over, since there's George Clooney. Yeah!

"We've been unburdened by success at these award shows," George said. "I'll be the drunk in the back."

This is why people (me especially) love George. Not only is he gorgeous and a good actor, but he's funny, too! Godspeed, George. I do hope you win something. It would be a crime for you to go home empty handed.

Jennifer Aniston is on now. Isn't that great that she's been able to dust herself off and be out on the town. She just finished her interview with someone or other and made the FUNNIEST faces, as in, "Those were the stupidest questions I've ever heard." She's wearing black-- which seems to be the color of the night-- but didn't say who did her dress. It's nice enough, I suppose, but really boring.

Reese Witherspoon and her husband Ryan Phillipe are being interviewed right now. She's wearing a silver dress, but I didn't get a good look at it. I do hope she wins, though. She was amazing in "Walk the Line." You couldn't take your eyes off of her.

12:36 a.m.

Neither Sky Movies One or E! seem to be covering the Red Carpet right now. What's up with that? I think it's time to make some coffee.

12:22 a.m.

Sandra Bullock came with Keanu Reeves. I like her dress, though black is such a boring choice. There's now some speculation that she's pregnant. It doesn't look like it to me, but who knows: they might have sewn her into the dress. She seems to keep stuffing her hands in her POCKETS though, in her dress, so maybe she is pregnant. Why in the world would you put pockets in a beautiful couture dress?

Nicole Kidman looks gorgeous, but I worry that they haven't let Nicole have a proper meal in a long time. Come to think of it, we could say that about a lot of the actresses on the red carpet tonight. I, on the other hand, have just enjoyed a chocolate chip cookie. Yum.

Some of you may be wondering what your host for the evening is wearing. I really made an effort for you, my faithful fans. While I was tempted to wear my very special Circus jim-jams, I decided to push the boat out. I've got on my red Gap sweats and one of Tim's sweatshirts. Damn, do I look good. I am definitely the best-dressed awake person in the house.

Oscar Morning, 12:05 a.m.

Oh, the Oscars!! One of my most favourite events of the year, combining my loves of the movies, superstars and fashion.

You have to know how much I love it if I've roused myself from a warm sleep to get up and watch it. In the U.S., being a devotee of the Oscars doesn't require a mid-afternoon nap and the need to get up in the middle of the night.

This year, I was pondering how I would be able to stay up through the whole broadcast. Two years ago, I used the time to create a mail and document filing system that is still in place to this day (I used to just pile things up). Last year, I took notes throughout the broadcast for my next-day blog. I was wondering what I could do this year to stay awake and I realized, "I shall blog throughout!" Now, through the wonder of wireless broadband, I can stay awake and entertain all three of you who happen to be reading MarathonMum.

OOh. George Clooney! Doesn't he look lovely! I hope he wins.

I've switching between the coverage on Sky Movies One (for which I had to sign up specially) and E! (and how great is it that I finally have E! even if Joan Rivers isn't on it anymore).

There's Naomi Watts. Is she pregnant? I don't like her dress, though. It's a terrible, terrible colour: biege. Why in the world would you wear beige to the Oscars. She says it's Givenchy, but yuck.

Now Paul Giamatti is talking. Isn't he witty? I think the airhead woman he's speaking to doesn't fully appreciate his intelligence. She seems a bit befuddled by his answers. I don't think he's going to win, though.

Hey! Helena Bonham Carter with Tim Burton and she looks great. usually, she looks slightly off, in some strange way, but she looks beautiful. I'm guessing she's wearing Vivenne Westwood, flying the British flag and all that.

Now the couple of the night: Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams. Heath is all gushy about the greatest thing about Brokeback Mountain was "Meeting this lovely lady here." She's wearing yellow, but I didn't get a great look at the dress. That'll come later.