Pharyngula

Desperate space filler, Oscars edition

No, my work is not yet done, and my deadlines haven’t yet been met, but I’m confident that I’ll reach my goals by this afternoon. Bear with me with patience, please. Until this afternoon, when I slap these puppies and ship them off to their destinations, I’ll leave you with something to discuss among yourselves: the movies!

Last night was Oscar night, and I had the awards yammering in the background while I was pounding the keys. I have to get out more; I’ve seen virtually none of the nominated movies this year. There’s something called “Slumdog Millionaire” that’s getting a lot of buzz? Shows what I know. I hadn’t even heard of it until last night. My pop culture cred just took a nosedive.

As for the awards show, Hugh Jackman was pretty and congenial, which I guess is the role of the emcee. The format was grating: at each award, they’d have five past winners come out on the stage and slather flattery on each nominee, while the camera locked onto each one, simpering and squirming under the barrage of praise. This was not good; Hollywood already has a reputation of being the domain of the vain, and amplifying the effect with a prolonged demonstration of how happy these people are to be fawningly serviced in public had me cringing.

The high point, I thought, was Sean Penn’s acceptance speech for best actor in which he shamed the people who don’t want to see equal rights for everyone, gay or straight.

On a related note, Bill Maher was one of the presenters for best documentary, and what did he do? Plugged his movie, Religulous, while moaning over the fact that it was not nominated. Bad form, Bill, very bad form. Maybe it just wasn’t good enough.

I did finally see Religulous a few days ago, and I confess to being a bit disappointed. It consisted of a series of short interviews with, for instance, truckers at a truck stop chapel, Catholic priests, an “ex-gay” minister, a Muslim rapper, etc., and it was all capped with excellent and scathing monologue that strongly criticized religion. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, and there were some funny bits, but something nagged at me throughout, and only when I saw the conclusion did I realize what it was.

Maher cheated. He had a clear idea of what his opinion was, but he wasn’t sharing it with the people he was interviewing. They were left to flounder and make poor arguments in part because there are no good arguments for religion, but also because they were left in the dark about what they were arguing against. It may be funny, but it’s no fair; contrast that with the Dawkins’ documentaries on religion, which are less funny, but more honest, because the people on camera know (or should know) exactly what they are wrestling with.

A better Religulous would have recorded the closing monolog first, and sent that to each of the potential interviewees with a note saying, “Here’s my position. Are you willing to argue against it on camera?” That would have made for a much more interesting movie, and Maher would have had to break a sweat to address criticisms…and it would probably be less funny. There’s a reason Maher wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, and I think it’s because his documentary took no risks, and didn’t probe very deeply.

Comments

  1. #1 EVolutiAN
    February 23, 2009

    Firstly, you need to see Slumdog Millionaire. Aside from being a great story set in an amazing place, it’s directed by the guy who did Trainspotting! I also just learned tonight that it was edited by the guy who edited Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, which aside from being masterpieces of satirical comedy, have some of the best editing seen in a long time.

    As for Bill Maher, I agree with you. Despite being a fan of his and his show being one of the only I make a point of catching, he came off as a bitter, shameless self-promoter tonight and it was sad.

  2. #2 Nomen Nescio
    February 23, 2009

    There’s something called “Slumdog Millionaire” that’s getting a lot of buzz? Shows what I know. I hadn’t even heard of it until last night.

    it’s an excellent movie; visually stunning rags-to-riches love story with plenty of action. not your warmed-over hollywood pap, more still-warm westernized bollywood. very well worth seeing.

  3. #3 Kel
    February 23, 2009

    There’s a reason Maher wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, and I think it’s because his documentary took no risks, and didn’t probe very deeply.

    It wasn’t the most in-depth look at religion ever made, that’s for sure. But it’s what’s to be expected from Bill Maher, he’s a comedian and acted for comedic effect. (something that didn’t always pay off) One thing I did like about the film was the contrast between Ken Ham and George Coyne. They both might believe in the same God, but George Coyne came across as rational. Guess there’s always the chance to have an extra dig at creationists…

  4. #4 IST
    February 23, 2009

    My only issue with Religulous, and I loved it, was that it used the same ambush tactics we all decried when Stein used them in Expelled. It does have the advantage of not being a complete and utter fabrication outside of that, however (unlike Expelled).

  5. #5 Rick Dakan
    February 23, 2009

    I just watched the DVD of Religulous over the weekend as well, and I thought it was about the same as PZ – it’s fine, enjoyable, has some good moments, but overall is kinda lightweight. I’d recommend seeing it to anyone, but it’s not Academy Award material. But listen to the commentary (actually don’t) – Maher and the director whine incessantly about not getting nominated and think it’s because their stance is too controversial. I got news for them – it’s also because they made a mediocre film. There’s some good info in here, but there’s nothing inspired. It’s not great film making. And man, oh, man do they whine about not being recognized. I didn’t see the Oscars last night, but I’m not surprised Maher acted classless.

    Hey, has anyone tried to pin him down lately on his health-woo stuff? Like the germ theory of disease? And where is he on vaccines?

  6. #6 Phylum Chordata
    February 23, 2009

    By the way, another thing about Religulous that might have bothered you: during filming, they used a fake working title — “A Spiritual Journey” — in order to get interviews. No one knew the tenor of the film or that Maher was the interviewer until he actually showed up. Sound familiar?

    (See imdb’s ‘Trivia’ section on the film)

  7. #7 Dahan
    February 23, 2009

    I thought the taste in dresses was better than in the past few years. No Swans or anything crazy like that. At least from what I saw. There were even some truly classic pieces.

    Maybe that’s a reflection of the countries overall feelings in this time of economic crises. Who knows?

    Sorry, I haven’t seen any of the movies and I watched it with a bunch of gay men. Probably influences what I noticed about the show.

  8. #8 Smrt Newfie
    February 23, 2009

    All this time I thought I was the only one who found Religulous overwhelmingly mediocre. I have to say that I?m very torn about Bill Maher in general. He is a funny guy and generally takes a rational view of the world. However, I find that even when I agree with a point that he is making all I can think is how much I?d like to smack that smug fucking grin off of his face. It?s also difficult to hear him attempt to appeal to people?s sense of logic and rationality when you?ve seen him in ?PETA mode?, ranting about germ theory and vaccines. He is (generally) a funny man, and Religulous got a few laughs out of me, but at the end of the day, he really is an arrogant prick.

  9. #9 Smrt Newfie
    February 23, 2009

    The format was grating: at each award, they’d have five past winners come out on the stage and slather flattery on each nominee, while the camera locked onto each one, simpering and squirming under the barrage of praise.”

    The Oscars: just another reason I don’t have cable.

  10. #10 GWD
    February 23, 2009

    The problem I had with Religious was that each interview was very obviously edited heavily. Constant cuts back and forth that clearly showcased the filmmaker’s efforts to make the responses look as ridiculous as possible. Not honest at all.

  11. #11 Zeno
    February 23, 2009

    I didn’t watch the Oscars. Am I a social pariah now? (Or still?)

    And I’ve never understood why rival networks insist on doing “special” things on Oscar night. People who want to see the Oscars will not be drawn away by a broadcast of “Sixth Sense,” so why not just give us your usual Sunday night run of animated sitcoms?

  12. #12 chris
    February 23, 2009

    @9 cable has nothing to do with this. My mother watched on a local abc affiliate. So get of your high horse about not having cable.
    additionally I agree with Pz’s review of Maher’s movie. It was funny but the interviewees were ambushed in a sense. The movie was repetive and featured too many monologues. Pz if you see this I am curious about your stance on the pirate bay trial. Piratebay forever.

  13. #13 Steve Page
    February 23, 2009

    I decided a long time ago that I could not, in good conscience, subscribe to the mantra, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Bill Maher is just as much of a crank as the average religious person, just in a different way, and I don’t agree with his tactics in making “Religulous”.

  14. #14 SukIt
    February 23, 2009

    The Oscars: just another reason I don’t have cable.

    Since it was not a cable program, does this mean you loved the Oscars?

  15. #15 Michael
    February 23, 2009

    A better argument against religion, although not its intended purpose, is “Waltz with Bashir.” It didn’t win in its category of Best Foreign Film, but it is a great and stunning movie.

  16. #16 KI
    February 23, 2009

    I switched over between commercials (I was watching the NASCAR race) and saw a short bit of the lauding of the nominees. Barf-inducing ego-strokers who reminded me why I haven’t gone to see a Hollywood movie in 15 years. What a bunch of wankers!
    Oh, and I had ten bucks (at five-to-two) on Kyle Busch to finish in the top three, so I had a darn good time.

  17. #17 GMacs
    February 23, 2009

    I just watched both Expelled and Religulous last night (and you made a good point about Religulous, PZ). Unlike Stein, Maher was not trying to talk up raving, let alone rapturously angry, pseudo-scientists as the oppressed figures. He also HAD an argument, a point he was making, which Stein lacked.

    I haven’t seen the awards yet (damn timezones) but if he is bitchy about it, that disappoints me. I like Maher, he’s funny.

  18. #18 catta
    February 23, 2009

    No surprises there. Remember, Bill Maher is closer to a theist than anything – he just dislikes organised Religion and considers atheism to be the same as religiosity (and he spouts the stereotypical line ‘there is some kind of force out there’ every now and then, which I find incredibly lazy and unconvincing).

    My problem with him is mainly this: he doesn’t seem to really think any of his opinions through, ever. He is fairly good at making fun of what he is opposed to, but he doesn’t appear to be able to explain or justify or argue for what he himself thinks. I think that’s necessary though, not only for Maher but especially for him.

  19. #19 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    February 23, 2009

    I think I would have been embarrassed to be a nominee with this format. I don’t know why they have to come up with ways to make this thing longer than it all ready is.

    It’s time for another streaker, what say you?

  20. #20 Canuck
    February 23, 2009

    I liked Religulous, but then I didn’t expect to learn anything from it, nor did I think it was going to be something serious that would convince believers that rationality is a better choice. I’ve known so many religious nutters in my life that I was only expecting to be entertained by a funny guy making them look like the irrational zombies they are. On that score it delivered. That much woo concentrated into two hours is still hard to watch without causing one to shake ones head violently. But I watched it twice, and laughed many times.

    I’m not surprised that he misrepresented his movie to get the interviews. Otherwise – and I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here – he would have lost the chance to interview more than half of those people. They don’t want to face rationality head on. They don’t want the woo challenged. If I recall correctly, Borat required the same sort of deception to make. It’s not what you would like to have, ideally, but it worked to get the footage he got. And I loved the part where the Imam was shown doing the bogus text message on his cell phone. That was hilarious. 21st century meets the bronze age.

    I know Maher is smug, but I am so sick of religion and the religious that I can take his smugness easier than their idiocy, so I overlooked that.

    The only serious part of the movie was the closing monologue, and that bit is rather disturbing, because these religious fuckwits in power could bring about some horrible things in the name of satisfying the “prophesy” of their woo. As Sam Harris notes, they aren’t well disposed to a strategy for long term survival.

    Lastly, that was the first time I’ve ever seen Ken Ham (I don’t have a television). He’s one scary critter. I could easily see him and his “Christian love” going violent without much provocation. He takes himself deadly seriously, as compared to the two fat cats he interviewed, who seem to know (from the twinkle in their eye) that they are running a great scam. Ham is nuts, and I’d say potentially dangerous. And not to be petty, but he’s f*&%ing ugly. Looks like he played goaltender for the local dart team.

  21. #21 www.10ch.org
    February 23, 2009

    “I have to get out more; I’ve seen virtually none of the nominated movies this year. There’s something called ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ that’s getting a lot of buzz? Shows what I know. I hadn’t even heard of it until last night.”

    As for me, I do not keep up with pop culture myself. It is not like I think highly of it anyways. Too egoistic for me.

  22. #22 ArchangelChuck
    February 23, 2009

    I didn’t want to admit it, but Maher definitely cheated. It was an entertaining film, and I think it resonates with those frustrated with the whole idea of religion.

    The most disturbing part of it was the Senator saying that you “don’t have to pass an IQ test” to be elected to the Senate.

  23. #23 Pat Gunn
    February 23, 2009

    I disliked religilous because the later interviews in the film stopped being interesting and started being just rude mockery. The humour angle of his film initially seemed to be inviting common religious people to put their foot in their mouth with their own beliefs. That’s still an intelligent endeavour, as even if these are very common believers (as opposed to religious leaders), their beliefs are important in struggles between worldvies. Partway through he started dropping more insults to people’s faces and focusing on their reactions to his rudeness (the interviews in Israel are great examples of this), with many of the later people feeling like cardboard props, not really allowed to talk and just being there as background for his comedy. There’s a lot of humour possible in letting people talk about their beliefs – I wanted the film be about that rather than be a Maher monologue. At least the first half was good.

  24. #24 Hein Wouters
    February 23, 2009

    Yep, same feelings here. After seeing some of Maher’s work on youtube (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IcUumWzue4) I had high hopes. Religulous was somewhat entertaining, nothing more.

  25. #25 Peter Ashby
    February 23, 2009

    I’ll just chip in on the side of those recommending Slumdog Millionaire. It truly is a feelgood movie without ever being maudlin or smothering it in sugar. It takes a nice gentle pop at the intolerance of religion too. I haven’t enjoyed a movie so much in ages.

    It might resonate a bit more with British rather than American viewers though simply because Indian culture is so much more prevalent over here in more ways than curry being our national dish now.

    A good introduction to Bollywood for non Hindi speakers is Monsoon Wedding which will be available on DVD now.

  26. #26 Shrunk
    February 23, 2009

    I haven’t seen “Religulous”, so I have no comment there. However, no one seems to have mentioned the rather succinct anti-religion comment Maher managed to sneak between kvetching about being passed over for the nomination. Unfortunately, I can’t remember exactly what he said. Something about our gods being the cause of too much strife. Anyone remember?

  27. #27 Peter Ashby
    February 23, 2009

    And indeed Monsoon Wedding is on DVD: http://preview.tinyurl.com/b5zvyq

    On searching for it I noticed the newer Bride & Prejudice is there too, though I haven’t seen it.

  28. #28 Canuck
    February 23, 2009

    @27. I saw Bride & Prejudice. It was okay, but not worth a second viewing. I’ve not seen Slumdog yet, but have it here and may watch it today. If it’s not a LOT better than Bride & Prejudice I’ll be disappointed.

  29. #29 Cruithne
    February 23, 2009

    Slumdog is a well deserved winner of best picture, it epitomizes the term “feelgood movie”.
    I don’t think I’ve enjoyed another film in a cinema in my entire life as much as I enjoyed Slumdog, my heart was pumping from the opening scene to the very end.

    Nice to see the Academy get it right last night.
    Believe the hype.

  30. #30 Dr.FabulousShoes
    February 23, 2009

    PZ, you should have watched the whole thing: Dustin Lance Black’s acceptance for Best Original Screenplay blew Penn’s out of the water. Even if he did bring the flying spaghetti monster into it, at least Black’s big guy in the sky is nice to other people.

  31. #31 Alverant
    February 23, 2009

    I did like “Religulous” and not afraid to say it. But it could have been better. The movie came out on DVD last Tuesday (I ordered it off Amazon and it should arrive today) which could be why he plugged it at the Oscars. I am hoping it may encourage someone else to do a better version of the film and avoid the pitfalls Maher encountered/created.

    “Religulous” was entertaining and treated organized religion with the respect it deserved. What’s wrong with that?

  32. #32 Tim
    February 23, 2009

    Missed the Oscars entirely, the set was on PBS ’til I left for work, Nature in HD seemed better than watching “Best supporting actor” go to the dead guy.

  33. #33 One Eyed Jack
    February 23, 2009

    Does the entertainment industry have an awards show for awards shows yet? Honestly I can’t watch these things. I get physically ill watching these egomaniacs slap themselves on the back.

  34. #34 mattand
    February 23, 2009

    I’ll probably rent “Religulous” at one point. I’ve kind of cooled of a bit on Maher as I learned more about his less rational side. Youtube has his Letterman appearance from January ’08 in which he exhort Dave to stop taking his post-surgery meds, because *that’s* what’s making Letterman sick.

    Also, the whole “atheism is as absolute as religion” is a complete misread from Maher. Someone (I think on Pharyngula) once posted that Maher is at heart a contrarian; he feels like he has to disagree with everyone in order to maintain an independent air.

    On a similar vein, anyone catch Tina Fey and Steve Martin’s dig at Scientology?

  35. #35 Bill Dauphin
    February 23, 2009

    I agree with those who recommend Slumdog, and I’m glad it won so many awards; I had been concerned that a typical late backlash against the presumptive favorite might bite it. Being the contrarian sorts that they are, I think movie critics start to second guess themselves when it turns out that their favorites are also broadly popular among the “unwashed masses.” In recent weeks, I’d heard more than one critic refer to Slumdog as “overrated”… but I suppose the votes were already cast by then.

    Oddly, even though I watch the Oscars (you should pardon the expression) religiously, even in years (like this one) in which I’ve seen few of the nominated films, last night I completely forgot that it was Oscar night, until I checked HuffPo at about 11:00 pm and saw that Oscar news was the lead headline. It was that kind of weekend! [sigh]

    Finally…

    And I’ve never understood why rival networks insist on doing “special” things on Oscar night. People who want to see the Oscars will not be drawn away by a broadcast of “Sixth Sense,” so why not just give us your usual Sunday night run of animated sitcoms?

    I think it’s more a matter of not wasting new episodes of a show on a night when you know in advance some large fraction of the usual audience won’t be watching. Then too, intelligent counter-programming appeals to that part of your usual audience that might not be committed to the special event. I agree that counter-programming the Oscars with a movie is pointless (though perhaps showing a movie as old as Sixth Sense is cheap enough to be used as a throwaway), but counter-programming the Super Bowl with figure skating or gymnastics or ski jumping — sports whose fan base probably doesn’t overlap with football the way basketball or golf would — probably makes sense.

    BTW, did Milk win anything? That’s the only other major nominee I’ve seen, other than Slumdog.

  36. #36 SteveM
    February 23, 2009

    and WTF, Benjamin Button got best visual effects?

  37. #37 JStein
    February 23, 2009

    I’ll join all of those on here who insist that you should see Slumdog Millionare. It’s beautifully made (and there’s some nice religious commentary, if you catch it).

    As for Religulous, I hadn’t even considered it that way, but, at the same time, I don’t necessarily feel that Maher had any sort of obligation to present an argument.

    Maher’s documentary wasn’t about atheism, it was about religion. Would it have been nice if he had showcased the alternative? I certainly think so, but I don’t think it took away from the film as a whole.

    The film was about the absurdity of religious teaching and its inability to answer even the most basic questions about what it is supposed to have a firm grasp on. I do think it got that done pretty well.

  38. #38 Ashman
    February 23, 2009

    Penn got best actor for Milk. The only movie nominated in any category that I didn’t see. Don’t really plan on it, either. Nothing against it, but after Reader, Doubt, Frost/Nixon et el, you just sort of get worn out on the MOVIES ARE SRS BIZNESS drama scale. Still upset Wall-E wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. Slumdog was good, but Wall-E was the best movie of 2008.

  39. #39 Bill
    February 23, 2009

    Was anyone else annoyed with what they did in the “In Memorium” section using those sweeping camera motions? It’s one of my favorite parts of the show and I was irritated that I had to strain to see some of the people they were honoring. Hated it, in fact.

  40. #40 Black Jack Shellac
    February 23, 2009

    Well, it’s also because “Man on Wire” was the most gripping, interesting, fun, horrifying, terrifying, adjective-laden documentary film in years. Religulous had no chance.

  41. #41 Father Nature
    February 23, 2009

    For me, the high point of the Oscars was Ben Stiller’s spot-on parody of Joaquin Phoenix’s bizarre behavior on Letterman.

  42. #42 Eric
    February 23, 2009

    The Oscars were on last night? That’s news to me.

  43. #43 Virginia
    February 23, 2009

    I have never understood why we should have the slightest interest in the awards the movie industry gives to itself.

  44. #44 Bill Dauphin
    February 23, 2009

    And another thing…

    I’m puzzled by all the references to Slumdog Millionaire as a “feel-good movie”: I loved the film, and yes, it has a happy ending (I don’t think that’s too much of a spoiler)… but if that story — in total — qualifies as a “feel-good” tale, it says a lot about the level of despair in our culture these days.

  45. #45 Thoughtful Guy
    February 23, 2009

    I find the Oscars funny but enormously over-hyped. In ancient and into medieval times acting was a low class job. Fathers often forbid their daughters marrying actors out of concern that they wouldn’t be able to provide financial support. Now, we regard the movie industry with top honors and actors are some of the most important cultural icons.

  46. #46 Brian
    February 23, 2009

    My take on Bill Maher’s Religulous was that he was a Johnny Come Lately to the whole New Atheists movement.

    We’ve heard it all before.

    Recently.

    I’ve been told though that seeing the reactions to other theatre goers was worthwhile.

    Brian

  47. #47 PlaydoPlato
    February 23, 2009

    I watched Religulous yesterday and found it mildly funny, but disappointingly shallow. Additionally, Bill Maher’s aura of smugness made the film less enjoyable.

    I didn’t watch the Oscars because I don’t watch television. While I appreciate the work of talented actors, we give these people far more praise, and dare I say, worship, than they deserve.

    Franky, I can think of a dozen other occupations that more rightly deserve the kind of praise we accord the acting profession — a profession based mostly on ego, consumerism, and lies.

  48. #48 Ken Cope
    February 23, 2009

    Still upset Wall-E wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. Slumdog was good, but Wall-E was the best movie of 2008.

    Ever since Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was nominated in the best picture category, which was way too close to winning for Hollywood tastes, feature animation has been ghettoized in its own category, off at the Oscars’ kids’ table. (My screen credit on Beauty and the Beast is probably as close as I’ll ever get to winning an Oscar, although I’ve gotten to hold one in my hand on an orientation tour of the studio, I think for one of their nature documentaries.)

  49. #49 Bill Dauphin
    February 23, 2009

    Ashman:

    Don’t really plan on [seeing Milk], either. Nothing against it, but after Reader, Doubt, Frost/Nixon et el, you just sort of get worn out on the MOVIES ARE SRS BIZNESS drama scale.

    Well, I didn’t see the other films you named, so maybe I don’t have the predicate for the seriousness overload you’re feeling… but for my money, Milk was uplifting and even fun. Weird as it may seem considering their respective endings, I’d say Milk was much more of a “feel-good movie” than Slumdog.

  50. #50 aratina
    February 23, 2009

    Yay for Sean Penn! I decided to never watch the Oscars again after they skipped over Brokeback Mountain for that (IMO) piece of trash called Crash (yes, I’m still bitter). At least they were gracious enough to honor Heath Ledger this time.

    I finally got to watch Religulous, too, and found it to be hilarious for the most part (although a good Pharyngula thread will beat it any day). One person who watched it with me said Bill Maher should have stayed in the U.S. instead of hopping around the globe because that is when it stopped being funny.

  51. #51 Ranson
    February 23, 2009

    Bill @ #39

    My wife and I were both annoyed by that. I missed at least three or four names. For that particular sequence, I don’t care what the set looks like, just put the images on my TV screen.

    On the awards themselves, I think I would have rather seen Mickey Rourke take the statue. “The Wrestler” could’ve been a biopic for him, and I love a good comeback story. Penn winning sems to me too much like “We’re sorry we didn’t give you awards for all those roles where you played assholes. We’re also sorry Prop 8 passed; we should’ve released this movie before the election.” He did a great job, but I just think other issues swayed it his way. Of course, the Rourke comeback story is the same sort of thing, so I have no real room to complain.

    As to the format of past winners introducing nominees, the only real high point there was Cuba Gooding Jr. introducing Robert Downey for “Tropic Thunder”. I laughed harder than I should’ve.

  52. #52 Peter Mc
    February 23, 2009

    Wall E should have got the sound editing Oscar. No contest. On behalf of the nation I wish to apologize for Kate Winslett. A perfectly good actress but should be banned by acts of Parliament and Congress from ever making acceptance speeches.

    Disappointing lack of cephalopod-themed frocks on the lasses if you ask me.

  53. #53 Bill Dauphin
    February 23, 2009

    Thoughtful Guy (@45):

    I find the Oscars funny but enormously over-hyped. In ancient and into medieval times acting was a low class job….

    Interesting. Any other areas in which you think we should revert to medieval standards? What you point out was true not only of actors but poets and musicians and artists generally (except, perhaps, those working in a strictly religious paradigm); should we therefore not respect any of the arts today?

    BTW, in medieval times there were no scientists at all (by any reasonable modern definition of the word); what lesson should we take from that?

    PlaydoPlato (@47):

    I didn’t watch the Oscars because I don’t watch television. While I appreciate the work of talented actors, …

    If you truly appreciated the work of talented actors, you would watch TV: There’s great acting — the equal of any film or theater work — to be seen by teh discriminating TV viewer. Filmgoers who automatically dismiss TV as worthless is the same sort of snobbery as that display by theater patrons who sneer at movies.

    Ahhh, but the rest of your comment…

    …we give these people far more praise, and dare I say, worship, than they deserve.

    ….

    …the acting profession — a profession based mostly on ego, consumerism, and lies.

    …suggests that your real attitude toward actors is one of contempt, rather than appreciation.

  54. #54 omar ali
    February 23, 2009

    I have to plug Slumdog as well. I think its an absolutely fabulous movie. its entertaining, moving, meaningful and not too smarmy or sentimental…Highly recommended.

  55. #55 Bureaucratus Minimis
    February 23, 2009

    OT question: What’s the url for the site that sells the shirt that shows a devil burying fossils? TIA.

  56. #56 Bad Albert
    February 23, 2009

    I have to get out more

    You don’t call traveling to Edmonton getting out? Hell, I heard it was the setting for Slumdog.

  57. #57 JWC
    February 23, 2009

    I’d disagree with your take on Religulous. Debating people who are highly religious is a total waste of time — they’re not “down” with this whole “evidence” thing. So you give them enough rope to hang themselves and let the viewer decide. I thought Maher was very reasonable and polite when talking to people who looked like they were plain crazy to me. The ending was a bit much though, real heavy handed.

  58. #58 Bryan Firestone
    February 23, 2009

    I’m happy that Maher said, “We’re all going to one day have to face the fact that our silly gods cost the world too heavily” at the Oscars. He’s not the best orator of godless ideals, but I’ll take it.

    I didn’t think Religulous was that great and I have the same criticisms of it as most people here. However, I welcome criticism of religion in any intelligible form because, at the very least, it plants the question in the minds of people who consume and belch their dogmas unthinkingly, “Why do I believe what I believe? “How would I defend my position with this guy?”

    I thought it was bad form to whine about getting snubbed; especially because he deserved to get snubbed. But I think he backed off from that a bit right after he said it.

  59. #59 SteveM
    February 23, 2009

    Interesting. Any other areas in which you think we should revert to medieval standards?

    not to mention medieval surgeons.

  60. #60 Glen Davidson
    February 23, 2009

    How did Expelled do in the awards?

    Anyway, I agree that the tactics of Religulous have to condemned as well, even though it was good to see it almost double the take of Expelled.

    And they actually advertise the DVD for Religulous on TV. I have to hope that they succeed far better than Expelled, again.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  61. #61 Bryan Firestone
    February 23, 2009

    I was also pleased to hear very little god-bothering in the acceptance speeches. And Sean Penn was was awesome.

  62. #62 Quiet Desperation
    February 23, 2009

    My pop culture cred just took a nosedive.

    You say that like it’s a bad thing.

    I mean, have you *seen* pop culture?

    In ancient and into medieval times acting was a low class job. Fathers often forbid their daughters marrying actors…

    I always point out how prostitutes once worked in temples, but I don’t get much traction with that one, either. :-(

    Honestly I can’t watch these things. I get physically ill watching these egomaniacs slap themselves on the back.

    Well, I don’t get ill, but the whole thing seems silly. Given the range of roles and film types, you wind up playing radically different things against one another for a single award. Remember when the Best Picture was a battle between Reds and Raiders Of The Lost Ark? It’s like a tennis match between a baseball player and a football player.

    And you always have to wonder about the real reasons behind the award. For example, did Ledger win because his Joker was really that great, or because he’s dead? It was a good performance, but I’ve always been of the opinion that the crazy roles are easier than something more subtle.

  63. #63 Bill Dauphin
    February 23, 2009

    Arrrgh!

    Filmgoers who automatically dismiss TV as worthless is the same sort of snobbery as that display by theater patrons who sneer at movies.

    …should have been:

    Filmgoers who automatically dismiss TV as worthless are displaying the same sort of snobbery as that displayed by theater patrons who sneer at movies.

    Nothing undercuts good snark like bad grammar/sloppy copyediting! [sigh]

  64. #64 Bill Dauphin
    February 23, 2009

    …and nothing undercuts a grammar/editing correction like EPIC HTML FAIL!

    -Bill “Internet Death Spiral” Dauphin

  65. #65 The Biologista
    February 23, 2009

    Sounds like Bill Maher has stooped to the level of the AIG film crew who went after Dawkins or, even worse, Ben Stein’s style of documentary making. Keep your interviewees in the dark, then cut out anything that doesn’t fit the agenda.

  66. #66 Porky Pine
    February 23, 2009

    From SteveM:

    “and WTF, Benjamin Button got best visual effects?”

    Was there a problem with the SE on BB? I’ve never seen the film but from what I understand, it has the most realistic computer animated Brad Pitt ever captured on film.

  67. #67 druidbros
    February 23, 2009

    Well if you want to see one of the nominated shorts, go look at …

    Oktapodi – dir. Julien Bocabeille – France – 3 min

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qreOELd35Ig.

  68. #68 Kristine
    February 23, 2009

    Last night was Oscar night

    It was? :-O

  69. #69 PlaydoPlato
    February 23, 2009

    Bill Dauphin @53:

    If you truly appreciated the work of talented actors, you would watch TV: There’s great acting ? the equal of any film or theater work ? to be seen by teh discriminating TV viewer.

    My problem with television isn’t so much the acting, but the industry itself. Television, far more than the theater and a bit more than films, is preoccupied with selling the American dream of mindless conspicuous consumption. Television was, and remains, the primary pipeline for most of the extremist ideologies that pollute our politics and our personal lives.

    Television is one of our greatest technological achievements put to the worst use, that I can think of.

    …suggests that your real attitude toward actors is one of contempt, rather than appreciation.

    I love good acting and great actors. My contempt is for an ideology and an industry that tells us we should value an actress, with great boobs, over a man or a woman who’s doing real science that actually contributes something worthwhile to humankind.

    Note: I want to be clear that I’ve no qualms with great boobs… just sayin’

  70. #70 SteveM
    February 23, 2009

    Was there a problem with the SE on BB? I’ve never seen the film but from what I understand, it has the most realistic computer animated Brad Pitt ever captured on film.

    You mean it was even better than the computer animated Brad Pitt in Lord of the Rings? That one was pretty incredible.

    But seriously, aging one character through 70 years beat Iron Man and The Dark Knight?

  71. #71 Defaithed
    February 23, 2009

    PZ, and many commenters: I’m going to humbly suggest that you’re missing a key point of Religulous.

    If I recall my viewing of it (and I’ll happily accept correction), the film’s point wasn’t just “religion is bad” or “believers are gullible” or some such Big Broad Theme. Rather, it aimed for a pretty narrow, specific charge: “Many ‘believers’ don’t know what they believe.”

    The point Maher was after is that many religious believers pound the table with certainty about this Absolute Truth or that, yet when probed, can’t say why they believe it, or how to reconcile that belief with apparent contradictions, or what that big Absolute Truth even is! They don’t know what they believe because they haven’t actually given it any thought, and don’t realize (or care!) that they’re just mouthing words.

    Testing that hypothesis *does* call for the “ambush” format. Perhaps it would have been sporting and instructive for Maher to make clear that he was representing the side of atheism in his filming, and maybe even to reveal on the spot that he’s looking critically at whether believers can articulate what they believe. But to tell interviewees this *in advance* would be like handing out a take-home test, making it hard to separate those who actually know their beliefs, from those who crammed a response.

    That’s what I took from the film, anyway; did anyone else?

  72. #72 Ken Cope
    February 23, 2009

    I haven’t seen a frame of BB, but Digital Domain’s Brad Pitt reportedly avoided the zombies of Uncanny Valley so well that few people noticed what a challenge the accomplishment was.

  73. #73 Nikki
    February 23, 2009

    IST said:
    “My only issue with Religulous, and I loved it, was that it used the same ambush tactics we all decried when Stein used them in Expelled. ”

    I completely agree. Religulous made me feel really uncomfortable, as Maher wasn’t presenting a convincing argument, simply setting people up, then knocking them down with ad hominem attacks, many of which weren’t said TO them, but merely ABOUT them. Also, maybe there’s something about him to some people, but i don’t find Maher very funny; just smug.

    Given that religion is demonstrably wrong, I’m pretty sure that any atheist can do better than this.

  74. #74 AnthonyK
    February 23, 2009

    Slumdog, yes, good film. Extraordinarily, it was supposed to go straight to DVD!

    My favourite film was nominated but not awarded: In Bruges – it’s hilariously funny, beautifully shot, always unexpected, and even gratifyingly violent.

    OT but due to PZs policy of protecting posters here from stupidity in any way, and aware that Pharyngulites spend most of their time basking in Sun of Knowledge in the Land of Rationality, I thought a dose of 5-minute Stupid might be in order.
    Over at John S Wilkins blog, a noisome troll, who rejects some obscure/important aspects of Taxonomy, has set up his own blog. To find out more, go here:
    http://scienceblogs.com/evolvingthoughts/2009/02/envall_troll_has_his_own_blog.php#comments
    and look for Wes’s commentary.
    And this is one Stupid where no one has to get involved!

  75. #75 eddie
    February 23, 2009

    I’m shocked! SHOCKED! That Rise and Fall of the Nazi Dinosaurs didn’t get best animated short.

    On Religulous; what Canuck said. The interviewees got the respect they deserve. Them upthread, accusing Maher of dishonesty should heed Canuck – “They don’t want to face rationality head on.” and quit with the concern trolling.

    The worst part for me was that old priest guy, outside the vatican laughing. — We know it’s all a scam. But we’re here and you’re there. Hehehehehehe.

  76. #76 386sx
    February 23, 2009

    I didn’t even know they were having the Oscars until I saw it on the Drudge report. By that time it was already over. Did they have the great entertainer Whoopi Goldberg? Whoopi Goldberg: the greatest entertainer in the history of all humanity.

  77. #77 JoeSixpack
    February 23, 2009

    @55, Bureaucratus Minimis:

    That site: http://controversy.wearscience.com/

    I’ll continue the Slumdog-praise echo chamber and agree it was deserving of Best Picture (among the nominees…personally I thought “Synecdoche, New York” was the best film of ’08). I would’ve loved to have seen Rourke win Best Actor but Penn was deserving of it as well.

  78. #78 birdiefly386sx
    February 23, 2009

    Whoopi Goldberg: the greatest entertainer in the history of all humanity.

    The second greatest is of course the wonderful, wonderful Ed McMahon, followed closely by the amazing wonderful Billy Crystal, of course.

  79. #79 Bart Mitchell
    February 23, 2009

    A good documentary is like good science, if you start out with a conclusion you’re doing it wrong.

    All of these movies, Expelled, Moores movies, Religulous, all start out with their conclusions clearly settled. Then they go looking for evidence to support their positions. Sound familiar?

    That said, they do serve a purpose. I see them as a method of rallying the base. Getting people excited to support the position the movie espouses. On that base, I enjoyed the mocumentary Religulous. It helped me meet other atheists in my community.

  80. #80 PlaydoPlato
    February 23, 2009

    Eddie @ 75

    The worst part for me was that old priest guy, outside the vatican laughing. — We know it’s all a scam. But we’re here and you’re there.

    Besides the congressman who makes a fool of himself when he admits that he’s not very bright, this was the best part of Religulous for me. I mean, to see a priest standing out in front of the Vatican admitting that the whole thing (religion) is nothing but nonsense, well, that was priceless.

  81. #81 Jess T
    February 23, 2009

    I loved Religulous in the same way that I love chocolate. Empty calories, but fun. I laughed at the jokes and was quite entertained overall because I already agree with him. But it’s not like this documentary is going to change anyone’s mind on religion. I suspect that people still sitting on the fence aren’t going to take this guy seriously because he puts the “lulz” before any serious debate.

    But for what it’s worth, I enjoyed it as a comedy piece.

    And I’m not even going to comment on the Oscars. Last time I tuned it, Titanic was in the running.

  82. #82 birdie386sx
    February 23, 2009

    I didn’t like Religulous much. I thought it was too pretentious.

    Oh, and people didn’t like the way “Expelled” tricked people into interviews, but they thought “Religulous” was okay just because the shoe is on their own foot, huh? Uh huh…

  83. #83 386sx
    February 23, 2009

    Does anybody remember the lying truck stop idiot dude that just made up crap as he went along? He use to be an atheist and then he converted and all that other crap? Obviously he was making up a bunch of crap.

  84. #84 JJR
    February 23, 2009

    I spent “Oscar Night” on YouTube watching Thunderf00t’s various video series and thoroughly enjoying myself in the process.

    At his best, Thunderf00t can be as inspiring as Carl Sagan’s COSMOS or James Burke’s CONNECTIONS.

    Great videos, and I’m very grateful to PZ for highlighting his channel, I was previously unaware of it.

    I try to be “Net savvy” but some things do slip past my radar.

  85. #85 AJ Milne
    February 23, 2009

    I didn’t watch the Oscars. Am I a social pariah now? (Or still?)

    Yes.

    (I should know. I spent Oscar night catching up on Partially Clips.)

  86. #86 aniket
    February 23, 2009

    The whole point of “Religulous” was to make a hilarious documentary (?) mocking absurdity of religion. It was targeted at different set of viewers than viewers of Dawkins’ or any other such documentaries.
    Was it a good ‘documentary’? may be not.
    Was it a well-made film, worth every penny? Yes, very much.

  87. #87 geetha
    February 23, 2009

    in india, oscar is a dream.when 3 indians won oscar last night the media here went berserk.
    though most of us feel a.r.rahman has done better music in most of his indian films, it was music in this film that got him international exposure.
    however the general mood here is ‘how humble rahman was. he dedicated all to god’.
    i don’t know what is it that makes us happy when a winner does’nt claim credit for his hardwork but dedicates all to an imaginary being. maybe that excuses our mediocrity?

  88. #88 mothworm
    February 23, 2009

    Man, that was far and away the worst Oscars show I’ve seen.

    Jackman did OK with the opening bit, but couldn’t really do any jokes on the fly, and it showed. And then he disappeared for at least 30 or 40 minutes in the second half of the show.

    The mid-show “medly” of famous songs was an absolute mess; just painful to watch and listen to and dragged the whole show to a halt. Isn’t that the sort of thing the academny finally realised that everyone was sick and tired of about fiteen years ago?

    Was there some reason that Daniel Craig and SJP were never shown in closeup? And why, when you have a stage the size of an airplane hangar, do you only show clips on screens the size of your average flat screen television? Which, of course, look even tinier when shown on your home screen. Also, the continuous swooping about the set, so that you can’t even get a good look at the screens when they are shown. This was particularly bad during the “In Memoriam” segment. I couldn’t even see half of the people, and god forbid you try and read their tiny, tiny names.

    Everyone seemed like they had just seen their script for their presentations the day before. Constant miscues and stepping on everybody’s lines. And the background music seemed entitrely random and unrelated to whatever happened to be on screen at the time. It was just really distracting.

    As previously mentioned, the former winners fawning all over the nominees was embarassing.

    Were Brad and Angeline the only famous people to attend that night? At least 85% of the reaction shots of the audience focused on them.

    Gown theme of the night: Decent, even pretty cocktail dress with some sort of asymmetrical, roped-together crap thrown across it as a shoulder strap.

  89. #89 Bill Dauphin
    February 23, 2009

    PlaydoPlato (@69):

    When I first read this…

    Television was, and remains, the primary pipeline for most of the extremist ideologies that pollute our politics and our personal lives.

    …my first reaction was to say you’d been watching too much Fox News… but then I remembered that, by your own account, you don’t watch any TV at all. So my next reaction is to ask you where you got the evidence to support your thesis? If you really don’t watch any TV, it seems to me that your position can only be based on hearsay.

    I love good acting and great actors.

    Once again, if this is true, and it’s also true that you don’t watch any TV, you’re arbitrarily denying yourself a lot of what you love.

    My contempt is for an ideology and an industry that tells us we should value an actress, with great boobs, over a man or a woman who’s doing real science that actually contributes something worthwhile to humankind.

    You really think TV is uniquely more guilty of that “ideology” (you keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means) than movies or popular music or popular prose fiction or theater or…?? All celebrity culture celebrates physical attractiveness; to blame TV as the “primary pipeline” for same is evidence of a certain tunnel vision on your part. As for promoting consumerism and celebrating wealth and consumption… well, at some level entertainment is always about fantasy, and people have been fantasizing about being materially wealthier than they are since the days when “mass media” meant storytelling around a campfire, or cave painting. You can’t lay the blame for people’s yearning for material comforts at the feet of any artform, much less uniquely at TV’s feet.

    Sturgeon’s Law tells us that “90 percent of everything is crap”; you seem to be coming to your conclusion by focusing on the 90 percent of TV that’s crap, while ignoring the 10 percent that’s really quite valuable… and also ignoring the 90 percent of other artforms that’s also crap.

    However, I might disagree with you about what constitutes “crap”: I reject the presupposition, embedded in your quoted comment above, that pleasure (even if it’s the relatively superficial pleasure of observing great boobs1) is somehow antithetical to “contribut[ing] something worthwhile to humankind.” I hold with that great philosopher Sheryl Crow that “if it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.” I know that sounds trivial at first blush, but if you employ an expansive enough definition of “happy,” it becomes a rather more serious maxim. Your comment seems to suggest that only earnest, furrowed-brow scientists (and, I assume, their equally serious-minded colleagues in other Importantly Serious Activities™) are contributing meaningfully to humankind, and everything else is mere vanity.

    I, for one, can’t follow you down that rocky Calvinist road. IMHO, to the extent that they make people happy, so-called “frivolous” pursuits like sports and popular arts are just as worthwhile as anything else. All work and no play… after all.

    But even if you reject my defense of “frivolous” pleasure, you’ll have a hard time convincing me that TV is any more frivolous than other popular artforms (esp. movies). And a harder time yet since you began this by admitting you don’t have any firsthand evidence.

    1 Not as sexist as it sounds: I assume that everyone, irrespective of gender, recognizes the transcendent glory of a great pair of boobs.

  90. #90 trrll
    February 23, 2009

    I thought it was one of the best Oscar presentations that I’ve seen. The dance numbers fell flat, and the humor was OK but not exceptional. What made it for me was the testimonials to all of the nominees, which changed the tone from a contest, with the emphasis on winners and losers, into more of a celebration of acting achievement. Considering the frequent arbitrariness of the selection of the winner from a group of strong nominees (did anybody doubt that Heath Ledger would win?), it seems far more appropriate to celebrate all of the nominees. And from my point of view as a movie-goer, it served to highlight strong performances that I might have missed. I ended up watching the Oscars with my laptop by my side, for rapid access to my Netflix queue.

  91. #91 misterbowen
    February 23, 2009

    @62
    > It was a good performance, but I’ve always been of the
    > opinion that the crazy roles are easier than something
    > more subtle

    excerpted from my blog from shortly after seeing Dark Knight (7/21/2008), I stand by it today:

    Now, I know there’s a lot of folks that’ll say, “it’s easy to play crazy.” And to an extent they are right. It is easier to play the hooting hollering crazy of what the public accepts as “schizo” or “psychopath” or “loony.” It is quite another thing to play sane but outside of the bounds of morality and convention. And The Joker has made the decision to be that way. He’s not unhinged because of an external force or some disorder.

    He’s the way he is because he wants to be.

    Every scene Joker inhabits is absolutely calculated for maximum terror–not the silly blood splattering, cheap shock kind–the Joker is absolutely in control of himself and knows what he’s doing the whole time–kind of terror.

    He wants it to happen this way.

    A credit to Mr. Ledger’s skills. A pity we’ll not see more.

  92. #92 Laura
    February 23, 2009

    I can’t 100% agree with PZ… Yes, it would have been fairer to tell them his opinion, but it didn’t matter really.

    It was posed as a documentary and he played the part of reporter gathering information objectively (for the most part). Had these been debates and not interviews, then I could understand sharing one’s opinion, but from my understanding, that wasn’t entirely the point. I was kind of irritated when he did debate them a little bit, because they did such a good job on their own of making themselves look silly.

    Many people get rather testy and stop thinking or answering as honestly when they think they’re dealing with unbelievers, and I think you get a more “honest” opinion when you don’t let people know your thoughts on the matter.

    Just my opinion, PZ makes an excellent point, but I think Maher and his opinions are well-known enough (and his identity wasn’t hidden) that most of the big interviewees (such as Ken Ham and that ex-homosexual preacher) could have refused an interview had they so chosen.

  93. #93 386sx
    February 23, 2009

    Sorry, but I thought Cesar Romero and Frank Gorshin were the best Jokers and Riddlers and whatnot. Everybody else overplayed their roles. Sorry…

  94. #94 386sx
    February 23, 2009

    Everybody else overplayed their roles. Sorry…

    Actually, I should probably say everybody else underplayed their roles. Cesar Romero and Frank Gorshin played it to the max, obviously.

  95. #95 Aaron Baker
    February 23, 2009

    A delightful surprise (at least for me) in the Oscar presentation was Beyonce Knowlese. She has to be one of the five or six cutest women on the planet. Prettier even than Hugh Jackman.

  96. #96 Max
    February 23, 2009

    Danny Boyle (who directed Slumdog) also did Trainspotting (drug fiction), 28 Days Later (zombie flick), and, his masterpiece IMO, Sunshine (hard sci-fi). One of the best directors of modern times to be sure.

    PZ you would love Sunshine, the villain is a religious fundamentalist and the hero is a scientist and atheist… allegorical, methinks?

  97. #97 Aaron Baker
    February 23, 2009

    I meant to write “Knowles.”

  98. #98 Ryan Cunningham
    February 23, 2009

    I don’t understand you people. I agree that Religilous wasn’t a fantastic film, but not because they edited the footage to make it more entertaining. That’s insanity! Maher’s goal wasn’t to make a nature documentary for Nova (They are also heavily edited. Documentaries are edited. Get over it.) Maher was trying to make something the average person would enjoy watching and maybe make them think a bit. He failed spectacularly, but not because he was dishonest or tricked anyone.

    You’re seriously trying to tell me that the people being interviewed for this video couldn’t piece together that Maher was skeptical without seeing his premise first? I know we all think religious people are thinking impaired, but come on! This wasn’t an “ambush”. Religion is supposedly the most important aspect of these people’s lives. Asking them basic, open ended questions about what they believe and why is hardly an “ambush”. He basically just recorded skeptical conversations, which weren’t very different from the conversations I’ve heard reported from “out” atheists on the holidays. After he was done, his people just stuck together the funny bits in an editing room.

    Maher’s movie was bad because none of his interviews had anything to do with his premise. As a result, the conclusion at the end was just tacked on and irrelevant. This isn’t “dishonesty”. It’s just incompetence. His massive ego forced him to declare his own positions from on high rather than summarize his experiences and tell us what he’d actually learned from his experience. As a result, we didn’t go on a journey with him so much as we watched him TP the houses of a few silly people and then call them names. It was immature, but not dishonest.

    His persecution complex about the film, however, is starting to make him sound more than a bit paranoid. With his nonsense rants about modern medicine and technology becoming more and more frequent, part of me wonders if he’s about to go off the deep end.

  99. #99 Virgil
    February 23, 2009

    Ha! We watched Religulous last night … instead if the oscars!

    Agree with everything said above, it was underwhelming. The diatribe at the end (last 2-3 minutes) was about the best bit, but most of the rest of it was boring. I also found it hard to hear what was being said much of the time – Maher was mumbling while driving along in the van, so we’d turn the volume up, only to have to turn it down again at the next loud music section. Very poor sound editing overall.

  100. #100 Bjørnar Tuftin
    February 23, 2009

    Just butting in to recommend the book Slumdog Millionaire is based on, Q & A by Vikas Swarup. I haven’t seen the movie yet as I can’t imagine how it can be as good as the book, even with a dozen oscars. ;)

  101. #101 386sx
    February 23, 2009

    I also found it hard to hear what was being said much of the time – Maher was mumbling while driving along in the van, so we’d turn the volume up, only to have to turn it down again at the next loud music section. Very poor sound editing overall.

    Every week they can put on a Saturday Night Live with cool hosts and cool skits and music and stuff, but they have an entire year to make an crappy Oscars show. Go figure.

  102. #102 Alverant
    February 23, 2009

    Why was Milk given original screenplay? It’s based on actual events! I would think that would make it anything but original. If you want original, see Wall-E because as far as I know, there hasn’t been a real life case of a trash cleaning robot going out into space.

  103. #103 MikeyM
    February 23, 2009

    I’ve seen about half of Religulous, and so far my favorite part is Maher exclaiming, “Hey! My wallet is missing!” after the group hug in the Trucker’s Chapel.

    A good drinking game: take a gulp each time Maher says, “talking snake.”

  104. #104 E.V.
    February 23, 2009

    Alverant:
    Whatever you’ve been smoking, I want some of it because you are baked in the cognitive department. THE …STUPIDITY…IT…BURNS … AAAAARRRRRGHHHHHHH!

  105. #105 Ouchimoo
    February 23, 2009

    Funny about the complaints regarding Bill Maher’s movie considering that he thinks the word “atheist” is a bunch of people who are really rude and bitter. Which he is different how?

    Sorry I just thought it was ironic.

    btw I agree 100% with Ryan Cunningham. It almost like reading my own thoughts.

  106. #106 BruceJ
    February 23, 2009

    Television was, and remains, the primary pipeline for most of the extremist ideologies that pollute our politics and our personal lives.

    You don’t listen to a whole lot of radio….do you?

    Nothing on TV is close to the bile, hatred and and propaganda the spews forth daily from like likes of Rush, Michael Savage, and their ilk.

  107. #107 Siddharth
    February 23, 2009

    Slumdog was good, but I sure thought it was also overhyped.

    In India, slum life is much much worse. I think the movie was actually unrealistic.

    If you ask me, WALL-E should have won the best picture award.

  108. #108 Bill Dauphin
    February 23, 2009

    Why was Milk given original screenplay? It’s based on actual events!

    Yes, but that makes it an original work of nonfiction, just as a nonfiction book would be. AFAIK, the distinction Oscar makes is between screenplays adapted from an existing work (e.g., a book, or play, or TV series) and those written directly for the screen… and this distinction holds regardless of whether the subject matter is fiction or nonfiction.

    BTW (to all), on re-reading, maybe my comment @89 takes PlaydoPlato’s complaints too seriously. I confess that people who sneer at TV in favor of one or more of the other popular arts is one of my pet peeves; please forgive my stridency on the point.

    More generally, I get frustrated with the argument that entertainment (in its broadest connotation) is somehow not worthwhile. It’s not for nothing that the Declaration of Independence recognizes “the pursuit of happiness” as an inalienable right. There’s enough reason for gloom as it is, without demonizing simple pleasures as “unworthy.”

  109. #109 mothworm
    February 23, 2009

    Why was Milk given original screenplay?

    Original just means “not adapted from a book” in this context. BOS has also traditionally been the consolation prize for the movie that should have won Best Picture, but was too “radical” for the chicken-shit academy to acknowledge.

  110. #110 Kitty'sBitch
    February 23, 2009

    Personally, I loved Religulous.
    I went in expecting a few giggles and some soft ball atheism, regardless of the fact that Maher calls it agnostic.
    I was right about the light touch with the faithful, but the humor was much better than I expected. I was actually embarassed by the fact that I laughed that loudly in the theater.
    I even converted a theist by taking him to the film and discussing it with him afterword. He was a little middle of the road to begin with, but the humorous approach followed by some real discussion helped.
    I really didn’t see it as a film for us. It’s for the people who haven’t put any real thought into it. Gives them a little nudge in the right direction and a few laughs to ease the pain.
    On the subject of the Oscars, Sean Penn’s speach was great and he gave a shout out to Mickey Rourke. That made the night for me.
    Yeah, yeah, I know, but Mickey used to be great. Looks like he’s finally pulled it back together. A lot of people don’t get a second chance and few that do pull it off. I’m proud of the boy.

  111. #111 E.V.
    February 23, 2009

    Score several points for Bill Dauphin (you hedonist!!!).

  112. #112 IST
    February 23, 2009

    Them upthread, accusing Maher of dishonesty should heed Canuck – “They don’t want to face rationality head on.” and quit with the concern trolling.

    Wow…. Narrow-minded much? Nearly every person upthread was an atheist who would’ve liked to see a more honest approach to making the film. Canuck actually made some decent points, it’s a shame you chose to sully his post by citing him in your monumental pile of idiocy… we disagree about Maher, great, that doesn’t by any means imply that any of those posters are trolling.

  113. #113 Ranson
    February 23, 2009

    Now, sitting on my table at home is the as-yet unwatched DVD of the film that, by definition, should have swept the major awards this year: My Name is Bruce, directed by and starring one Bruce Campbell.

    How much more do you need?

  114. #114 Louise Van Court
    February 23, 2009

    Speaking of documentaries.

    I loved the Oscar moment when director Megan Mylan won for best documentary short subject for ?Smile Pinki.? She said that she loves that she gets to tell stories for a living and thanked the little girl Pinki for letting her tell her story. She was so genuine and so gracious, the best of what the Oscars are about. I found a documentary trailer on You Tube but would really like to see the full movie it is only 39 minutes.

    I was already familiar with the US Charity ?The Smile Train? that provides free corrective surgery for children with cleft disorders in 76 countries around the world.
    Pinki is a young girl from a small village in India and the documentary tells the story of her surgery and how she becomes a celebrity in her village. I read that Pinki was present at the Oscars but fell asleep before the film won the award.

  115. #115 Kitty'sBitch
    February 23, 2009

    Ranson
    I met Mr. Campbell at an event he did to support “Make Love The Bruce Campbell Way”.
    It was a nearly religious experience.

  116. #116 blf
    February 23, 2009

    Congratulations to all the winners.

    I myself don’t really care about the awards or the ceremony or the clothing or the whatevers? My general disinterest in the subject is perhaps best illustrated by the fact I haven’t gone into a movie threatre since the LotR triology.

    Changing gears? At a stage threatre one-woman show about Shakespeare, the actor (a well-known British Shakespearian actor whose name now totally escapes me! ;-\ ) claimed the term “actor” should only be applied to people who have acted a role from Shakespeare, and that “actor” applies to both men and women. Parapharsing, she dismissed an “actoress” as a girl who takes her clothes off. The Online Etylomogy Dictionary supports the contention that “actoress” is a recent term, albeit the rest of it is presumably made-up, or perhaps British stage tradition (snobbery?)? (I don’t recall that bit being presented as a joke.)

  117. #117 GreyTheory
    February 23, 2009

    I was disappointed ‘Religulous’ spent so much time on the nut jobs (let’s be honest, beating up on Mormonism and the Discovery Institute is like watching a cat play with a mouse caught in a trap). It would be very nice to see someone put together a full-on documentary about the inconsistencies, half-truths, and outright historical lies that punctuate Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. I’ve seen ‘The God That Wasn’t There’ and was woefully disappointed that about 1/3 of the way through it went from ‘Jesus didn’t exist’ to ‘Why I Became an Atheist’.

  118. #118 Rob Davidson
    February 23, 2009

    #107 “Slumdog was good, but I sure thought it was also overhyped.

    In India, slum life is much much worse. I think the movie was actually unrealistic.”

    Yes, but we are talking Bollywood here – realism is not a primary value.

    I thought it was a stunning fusion of British and Indian filmmaking/storytelling approaches.

  119. #119 Badjuggler
    February 23, 2009

    I can’t stand anymore of this “Wall-E for Best Picture” nonsense. Cartoons have no place in the Academy Awards in my humble opinion. The Oscars are all about the acting and there is none in cartoons. Wall-E bored me silly (though I must admit pretty much all animated films do). The Best Animated category is pretty useless already because they can only scrape up three nominees every year, so that makes it much easier to win. My favorite movie of the year (in a landslide) was Let The Right One In, the Swedish vampire movie. Fabulous picture. See it if you can find it.

  120. #120 erasmus31
    February 23, 2009

    That’s it!!! I also enjoyed Religulous but something kept nagging at me. Everyone knows or should know how Meher feels about religion but he didn’t make his point clear to those people to start with. Thanks, PZ. Now I can rest my weary brain that couldn’t figure out what was niggling me about this very enjoyable movie.

  121. #121 Bill Dauphin
    February 23, 2009

    Bill Dauphin (you hedonist!!!).

    You betcha!

  122. #122 Naughtius Maximus
    February 23, 2009

    Badjuggler:
    I’m looking forward to seeing it on dvd; I read the book. The book is very dark, they stripped some bits out for the film.

  123. #123 Samantha
    February 23, 2009

    I’m glad I’m not the only non-believer unimpressed with Religulous. It seems like Maher went for the easy laugh over substance. There was just no depth.

  124. #124 mothwentbad
    February 23, 2009

    Yeah, Religulous was just a couple shades shy of Expelled when it came to saying that the other side equals holocaust, and perhaps just one or zero shades shy when it comes to choir preaching.

  125. #125 Ken Cope
    February 23, 2009

    The Oscars are all about the acting and there is none in cartoons.

    Kids say the darnedest things.

  126. #126 Sven DiMilo
    February 23, 2009

    The Oscars are all about the acting

    Right. Except for those that aren’t (p.s. ever heard of voice acting?)

    from ‘kipedia:
    Current awards
    Production
    * Best Picture:1927 to present
    * Best Director: 1927 to present
    * Best Original Screenplay: 1940 to present
    * Best Adapted Screenplay: 1927 to present
    Acting
    * Best Actor in a Leading Role: 1927 to present
    * Best Actress in a Leading Role: 1927 to present
    * Best Actor in a Supporting Role: 1936 to present
    * Best Actress in a Supporting Role: 1936 to present
    Technical production
    * Best Art Direction: 1927 to present
    * Best Cinematography: 1927 to present
    * Best Film Editing: 1935 to present
    * Best Visual Effects: 1939 to present
    Music
    * Best Original Score: 1934 to present
    * Best Original Song: 1934 to present
    Sound
    * Best Sound Mixing: 1930 to present
    * Best Sound Editing: 1963 to present
    Costume and makeup
    * Best Costume Design: 1948 to present
    * Best Makeup: 1981 to present
    Animation
    * Best Animated Feature: 2001 to present
    * Best Animated Short Film: 1931 to present
    Documentary
    * Best Documentary Feature: 1943 to present
    * Best Documentary Short Subject: 1941 to present
    Other
    * Best Foreign Language Film: 1947 to present
    * Best Live Action Short Film: 1931 to present

  127. #127 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 23, 2009

    Maher may nail it on religion on his show occasionally but he’s demonstratively a kook on SOOOOOO many other things.

    It’s not surprising he was going for the yuks and missing the chance for real substance.

    He is a comic when it all boils down to it.

  128. #128 Wavefunction
    February 23, 2009

    I think the Oscar committee shot themselves in the foot by asking Maher to present the documentary awards. They should have seen it coming.

  129. #129 Ashman
    February 23, 2009

    I didn’t watch the awards, so I missed it, but I just saw a clip of the foreign film (long form) winner. A Japanese guy who speaks broken English and ends his speech with Domo Arigato; Mr. Roboto. I think he should get like 2 extra oscars just for being legimately entertaining in his award speech.

  130. #130 naughty savage
    February 23, 2009

    This is me, unable to let go of a tiny little comment from up at the top …

    Hey, chris @#12. In my neck of the woods, if you “don’t have cable”, it means you have one television channel (most likely the CBC), with too much static to see anything more than human-like blobs of grey and white.

    I am assuming that, when Smrt Newfie says he doesn’t have cable, he means something similar.

  131. #131 Kate
    February 23, 2009

    @ naughty savage # 130

    …and sometimes, if the wind is right, you can get CTV. Maybe. (or you used to be able to… I gave up on TV completely when I learned it was cheaper to get my news via the internet.)

  132. #132 'Tis Himself
    February 23, 2009

    Steve Page #13

    I decided a long time ago that I could not, in good conscience, subscribe to the mantra, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

    “”The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy. No more. No less.” -Howard Tayler Schlock Mercenary: Rule 29

  133. #133 Qwerty
    February 23, 2009

    The Oscars are the gay version of the super bowl. First, you dish about what someone is wearing or if they have had surgery. Then, you complain about who won and/or lost along with those who weren’t even nominated. And, during the commercials, you party!

    At least, that’s the way I understand it, but I am gay and I did none of the above. Maybe that’s why my friends say I have a defective gay gene? (But I do LOVE the Tony awards.)

  134. #134 JJ
    February 23, 2009

    Just for the sake of diversity and exercising my holy right to be a contrarian :), I didnt like Slumdog so much. I found it over hyped and full of cliches and even worst, mildly insulting and condescending to India. I was glad to read this review by an indian guy ( http://greatbong.net/2008/12/29/slumdog-millionaire-the-review/ ) . There is a very intelligent and diverse discussion over there, go there if you are interested in the movie.

  135. #135 Ouchimoo
    February 23, 2009

    OH noes! Say it isn’t so naughty savage! You’ve got FARMER’S VISION!! Yeah I grew up with that. One clear channel and then 5 channels you could barely make out through the snow. Can’t wait til everything goes digital though, so those people with farmers vision will spend the 40 bucks and probably end up with 1 to 0 channels. Yay. . .ah never mind.

  136. #136 John
    February 23, 2009

    You haven’t heard of Slumdog Millionaire? Have you been under a rock for the past few months? haha

  137. #137 'Tis Himself
    February 23, 2009

    You haven’t heard of Slumdog Millionaire? Have you been under a rock for the past few months?

    If that’s the only housing available….

  138. #138 Aquaria
    February 23, 2009

    If you truly appreciated the work of talented actors, you would watch TV: There’s great acting ? the equal of any film or theater work ? to be seen by teh discriminating TV viewer.

    Acting is only one part of the equation. You can have actors with the talent of Olivier, but 99% of the shows they’re performing in are fucking crap. And that’s what you can catch of it between the deluge of commercials.

    I don’t watch TV because:

    1) I hate commercials. When one comes on, I mute the TV, and find something else to do. By the time I remember I was watching a show, it’s over, or MORE commercials are on again. No, I don’t think I need to buy a Tivo or whatever the fuck they’re called just to watch a few shows sans commercials. Speaking of Tivo…

    3) I hate having TV dictating my schedule. Nothing’s on when I can watch it, and again, I’m not investing in Tivo just to give Hollywood some love.

    3) I hate paying for 250 channels with only one of them showing anything worthwhile–maybe, so I don’t have cable. Why waste my money on that?

    4) I just have better things to do than be glued to the idiot box.

    If Hollywood wants me back then cut back on the fucking commercials, and quit insulting my intelligence with 3 nights of CSI, 5 nights of Law & Order, and the absolutely dumbest, tritest, one upping bullshit sitcoms ever. I happened to catch one of these new sitcoms before I left work recently–I was appalled at how insipid it was. It had no redeeming features. Zero. And no, I couldn’t be bothered to name it.

    And if all that makes me a snob, then I’m proud to be one.

  139. #139 Kel
    February 23, 2009

    Acting is only one part of the equation. You can have actors with the talent of Olivier, but 99% of the shows they’re performing in are fucking crap. And that’s what you can catch of it between the deluge of commercials.

    Agreed. Most TV is pretty abysmal, but there are a few good shows. Though very seldom are those shows on commercial stations, got to go to things like HBO for decent programming.

  140. #140 cambrico
    February 23, 2009

    I think the Oscars are a necessity as well as Star Trek, Star Wars, The Pixar’s awsome movies, etc. I go to the movies to have a good time. If I wanted to get depressed I only need to read the newspaper. A dosis of superficiality and fantasy is good for the mind, and if somebody doesn’t get it, i would advise him/her to get a life.
    About the Oscar’s awards, I don’t like Sean Penn. Good actor but a total idiot regarding his political ideas. Good thing he lives in the USA and enjoys free speech and now an Oscar. Several countries whose leaders he admires would have send him to hell if he were a national from those countries and said something not nice about them.

  141. #141 E.V.
    February 23, 2009

    …got to go to things like HBO for decent programming.

    Once Six Feet Under, Deadwood and The Sopranos went off the air, HBO has been pretty fallow for me. Carnivale died just as it began to find a stronger story line and I dropped away from The Wire after the second season. HBO repeats the same 12 movies and most are 1 or 2 star rated. I’m hoping for something beyond Big Love and the Vampire dreck.

    I’m a Lost geek. Hugh Laurie rocks but House is so formulaic it sucks. The Closer is so-so. There are some great actors in very meh vehicles. Whose Line is it Anyway?, was usually any (former) actor’s favorite. It’s all subjective of course.

  142. #142 Dust
    February 23, 2009

    I turned off my cable a few months ago-my 6 six months at 1/2 price special was over and I didn’t feel like paying for it anymore.

    Also, like Aquaria I’ve grown to despise commercials, especially poltical ads. Lucky me, I missed seeing most of those.

    The only show I have to watch is Battlestar Galactica and so I watch it at my brother’s house. But that will end soon.

    All the best picture nominated films sounded intersting to me except “Doubt.” I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic grade school, and as much as I like the actress Meryl Streep–just seeing the previews for that film gave me the creeps!

    Wonder how many of these films will be available from the library soon….?

  143. #143 Bill Dauphin
    February 23, 2009

    Aquaria (@138):

    You can have actors with the talent of Olivier, but 99% of the shows they’re performing in are fucking crap.

    No, only 90%. Don’t take my word for it; ask Ted Sturgeon.

    1) I hate commercials.

    Yeah, 90% of them are crap, too. Of course, the good ones can be frickin’ brilliant little pieces of film-making, if can get over yourself for a minute and pay attention. If you can’t, though…

    When one comes on, I mute the TV, and find something else to do.

    …you’ve already figured out how to deal, eh? Or, of course, you could just use your DVR… oh, but wait:

    Speaking of Tivo…

    3) I hate having TV dictating my schedule. Nothing’s on when I can watch it, and again, I’m not investing in Tivo just to give Hollywood some love.

    Investing? Yeah, the extra $5 or $6 per month you’d pay your cable company for a DVR would surely tip you over into bankruptcy. Oh, but wait!…

    3) I hate paying for 250 channels with only one of them showing anything worthwhile–maybe, so I don’t have cable. Why waste my money on that?

    The thing is, what you’d pay per month for those 250 channels (actually far more than that many, plus On Demand and hundreds of digital music channels, if you care) — including the DVR fee — is roughly equal to the cost of just 2 evenings at the movies for you and a date/spouse/buddy… and if you can’t find yourself a good deal more than 4 hours of quality entertainment in a month’s worth of those hundreds of channels, you’re just not paying attention.

    If by…

    4) I just have better things to do than be glued to the idiot box.

    …you mean you’ve got better things to do than consume popular entertainment, then by all means carry on with your dour self.

    But the comment I was replying to was from someone who claimed to value good acting, and presumably good dramatic work, yet arbitrarily denied himself TV, which (as I’ve said) has plenty of good work to offer, and which, with a little care, can return far more quality entertainment for your investment than movies or live theater.

    Mind you, I love live theater and going out to see movies… but as I pointed out, two movie dates cost the same as a month’s worth of digital cable w/DVR, and a single evening at a Broadway show (or touring company of same) will cost you a significant fraction of a year’s cable bill. One reason people think movies and theater are better art than TV is that they’re so damn expensive most of us can only afford to see the very best of them.

    Obviously, if you just flick the TV on to whatever channel comes up, your odds of being delighted are poor… but the same would be true if you just randomly walked into a movie theater. If, OTOH, you use the same degree of care in choosing your TV viewing that you do in picking a movie or a play, you’ll be well rewarded. The best of TV is easily equal to the best of movies, in terms of writing, acting, and overall craft, and while there are some things movies can do that TV can’t (e.g., huge spectacle splashed across a giant canvas), there are also things TV can do well that movies can’t (e.g., really extended narrative arcs).

    Look, nobody’s going to beg you to watch TV if you don’t want to… but don’t pretend it’s because “there’s nothing good on.”

    And if all that makes me a snob, then I’m proud to be one.

    Sorry, I don’t think it makes you a snob; I think it just makes you a curmudgeon.

  144. #144 Twin-Skies
    February 24, 2009

    Huzzah for Sean Penn getting Best Actor! I have yet to see Slumdog, but Milk and Dark Knight go a long way to help my quality movie cravings :)

    Penn’s nomination has proven my age-old suspicion – The Oscars are gay.

  145. #145 Vijay Kishore
    February 24, 2009

    Slumdog was okay but 8 oscars? I’ve read the book and found the book version to be much better than reel version. I went for the movie with lots of expectations and was purely disappointed. Nothing to do with me being Indian and showing India in a poor light. I thought they have done their best to show the reality. It’s also surprising to see so muchof appreciation for this movie. I am a bit curious as to why would people from US like this movie.

  146. #146 Quiet_Desperation
    February 24, 2009

    I hate paying for 250 channels with only one of them showing anything worthwhile–maybe, so I don’t have cable. Why waste my money on that?

    I’m very close to ditching satellite and not having any live TV (well, I suppose I could hook up an antenna for the local HD channels).

    Every TV series, even short lived ones like Wonderfalls, get a DVD release nowadays. Heck, I just saw the quirky little 1970s sci-fi series Quark on DVD. That ran a total of six episodes.

    All one needs is a little patience and a Netflix account. That’s how I’m enjoying Dexter. Why pay for Showtime for just one show? And I just started on “Spaced” from the UK.

    Next up in my queue, I’ll be rewatching the Planet Earth series, this time in glorious 1080p Blu-Ray and digital audio. Remember the guy in the Memorex ads being windblown by his audio system? That’s me. :-) Viva la 21st century!

  147. #147 Quiet_Desperation
    February 24, 2009

    Whose Line is it Anyway?

    Now there’s a show I miss a lot. I love improv. I ate up both the British and American versions. Never understood why there had to be a war between fans of the two shows. It was all good. Want more!

    yet arbitrarily denied himself TV, which (as I’ve said) has plenty of good work to offer

    Standouts for me this season: Michael Chiklis and Walton Goggins on final season of The Shield. Especially the scene were Vic Mackey (Chiklis) is about to confess seven seasons worth of crimes, and about two minutes go by without a spoken word- just a series of expressions on Chiklis’ face that say more than words ever could.

    The scene in Battlestar Galactica a couple weeks ago. Thrace and Gaeta sitting across a table from one another, expressing absolute seething hate for one another with a series of quietly spoken but incredibly nasty little insults. Very sharply done scene.

  148. #148 Rjaye
    February 24, 2009

    Vijay Kishore wrote:

    Slumdog was okay but 8 oscars? I’ve read the book and found the book version to be much better than reel version. I went for the movie with lots of expectations and was purely disappointed. Nothing to do with me being Indian and showing India in a poor light. I thought they have done their best to show the reality. It’s also surprising to see so muchof appreciation for this movie. I am a bit curious as to why would people from US like this movie.

    The reason Americans loved “Slumdog” wasn’t because it was realistic or not realistic (I expected a grittier view of the poverty, but this was not that kind of movie), but because it was different from the usual material we are normally subjected to. The other reason people may have fallen for “Slumdog”-most of us haven’t read the book, so we aren’t expecting oranges when we get apples.

    People may complain of cliche or the lack of realism, but this film departed from most of the darker nature of the book to be something a little different. And that’s what caught many people’s attention. It was a complicated script that required the audience’s attention compared to the usual film at the local cinema, and had a view of a country we really should know more about and to celebrate.

    I really hope that this film opens up American theatres to many more foreign films, because there’s so much great stuff in the world we don’t get to see.

  149. #149 JoyB
    February 25, 2009

    geetha @87: This is a good question. I think a lot of us take it as humility–that the honoree is claiming that good fortune beyond their own efforts assisted. The toughie is that they invoke a god instead of good fortune or other people. Not so much about our own mediocrity, but it’s just in good taste to act a bit humble. But the boilerplate humble language is god-thanking, it seems like. I’m not sure it’s so meaningful out of an honoree’s mouth, but it does perpetuate the whole God is Our Default Belief stance.

  150. #150 JohnF
    February 25, 2009

    My take on Religulous is that it was really meant to entertain those that already lean toward disbelief.  I think it did a pretty good job overall.  I was certainly entertained.  I mean does anyone think that a well put together documentary would really gain any ground in changing anyone’s opinion about their belief in God? 

    As for Bill’s comments I will agree that they were somewhat self-serving and out of place…

  151. #151 eddie
    March 21, 2009

    IST @112 – Ur concern is noted.

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