Blackwolf the Dragonmaster's Diary of Magecraft

Being a Chronicle of the Inner Secrets of, and Spells of Magick as Wielded by, the Philosopher of the Internet and Unofficial Sorcerer-in-Residence of the City of New York

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Location: New York, New York, United States

As New York's Unofficial Wizard, my mission is to encourage the Mortals of Manhattan to imagine responsibly!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Blackwolf @ the Oscars 2008, Episode 2

Welcome back to Blackwolf @ the Oscars 2008! As our epic chronicle continues, we find Owen Wilson on the Kodak Theatre stage, with the Oscar for Best Live Action Short. Phillip Pollet-Villard, writer/director of The Mozart of Pickpockets, approaches the stage, admitting how horrible his English is. He thanks his producer on the film, Fabrice Goldstein, and his wife Gabrielle and son Sebastien. "Merci beaucoups et puis a bientot pour un film plus grand. Merci. Au revoir," he wraps up. Vive le France!

We're then treated to an unexpected appearance by Bee Movie's one and only Barry B. Benson, who dressed himself up nice and bee-ish, so to speak, to present Best Animated Short Subject. How unprecedented! Asked to accept the trophy are the team behind the new vision of Peter and the Wolf --- while Suzie Templeton simply thanks her teammates, Hugh Welchman would rather see it as a faerie-tale ending for the production staff, hoping further that the original musical vision of Prokofiev will continue to endure in the hearts of children all over the world. In other words, ye olde brotherhood bit. As you Mortals say, been there, done that.

Up next: a look at 80 years of Best Performances by an Actress in a Supporting Role. In accordance with Oscar telecast tradition, all of the previous year's Oscar winners for Lead and Supporting Actors get to present the awards to their successors; accordingly last year's winner for supporting actor, Alan Arkin, presents this year's Supporting Actress award. In a year where, for the first time in Oscar history, none of the winners in the four Acting categories are Americans, the second major surprise only signals the halfway portion of this major Oscar milestone. Tilda Swinton explains that her U.S.-based agent has a head who is literally the spitting image of the Oscar trophy itself: "the same shape head and --- it must be said --- the buttocks." She goes on to thank not only George Clooney (why she got off on seeing him in the Bat-suit from Batman & Robin is beyond me!), but also Tony Gilroy, who directed her in Michael Clayton, and that film's producers, Jen Fox and Steve Samuels. Still, I can't help but suspect that back in a little Kingdom called Narnia, there's a dwarf named Ginnarbrik with a way-cool, ass-kickin' beard who's happy about how his boss --- the White Witch --- got her icy paws on the Academy Award!

Leading into the next round of breaks was Sidney Poitier, who briefly explored his own special Oscar memories from In the Heat of the Night. Then, Jessica Alba was next on stage, to share with us her duties as host for the Scientific and Technical Academy Awards Presentation. As you know, these are the Oscars the live telecast never has time for. But this is Blackwolf the Dragonmaster's Diary of Magecraft --- and, as you know, we always have time for the Sci-Tech Oscar Winners. Pay attention, brother nerds. Here are the Mortals in whose footsteps you WILL want to follow, starting with the Technical Achievement Certificate Winners:

Christien Tinsley, for his Tinsley Transfers two-dimensional and three-dimensional makeup system.

Jorg Pohler and Rudiger Kleinke of OTTEC Tech GmbH, for their battery-operated fog machines, the Tiny Foggers.

Sebastian Cramer, inventor and general designer; and Andreas Dasser, chief of Research & Development at P&S Technik GmbH, for the mechanical design of the Skater Dolly and its family of portable, camera-only dolly products.

Vic Gonzalez, Ignacio Vargas and Angel Tena, creators of the RealFlow software application, "the first widely adopted, commercially available, easy-to-use system for simulating realistic liquid in movie visual effects."

Jonathan Cohen, Dr. Jerry Tessendorf, Dr. Jeroen Molemaker and Mike Kowalski, developers of the fluid dynamic tools system at Rhythm & Hues.

Duncan Brinsmead, Jos Stam, Julia Pakalns and Marty Werner for designing and implementing the Maya Fluid Effects System, which creates simulated gaseous phenomena integrated into the ever-popular Maya tool suite.

Stephen Trojansky, Tom Ganshorn and Oliver Pilarski, developers of the Flowline fluid effects system, which incorporates highly parallel computation, allowing for rapid iteration and resulting in a detailed, realistic fluid effect.

There were only two Scientific & Engineering Plaque winners this year:

Dr. Doug Roble, Nafees ibn Zafar and Ryo Sakaguchi of Digital Domain, for developing that studio's version of the fluid simulation visual effects system.

Nicholas Rasmussen, Ron Fedkiw and Frank Losasso Petterson of Industrial Light & Magic, for developing that studio's fluid simulation visual effects system within ILM's Zeno framework technology. (Didst thou get the feeling, Mortals, that this year, it was all about water at the Sci-Tech Oscars?)

One Oscar of Merit statue, too --- to Oscar's friends over at Eastman Kodak Company. Why? Because they developed photographic emulsion technologies which they then incorporated into their Kodak Vision2 family of color negative motion picture films.

The 2007 Gordon E. Sawyer Award goes to optical effects printer lens designer David A. Grafton, whose technology in that field remains the gold standard adopted by practically every visual effects studio in Tinseltown and environs.

One-time Disney Imagineer, and now head of audio-video technology at Universal Studios Hollywood, David Inglish, receives this year's John A. Bonner Medal. In 1985, Inglish supervised the original project team that initiated Disney's CAPS System, which two years later allowed him to produce Disney's first-ever all-computer-generated short, Oilspot & Lipstick.

Finally, the Special Award of Commendation Plaque is in the hands of Jonathan Erland, in celebration of his leadership and efforts toward figuring out, and solving the problems of, High-Speed Emulsion Stress Syndrome in motion picture film stock.

And there are your Sci-Tech Oscar winners, fellow nerds. You may now put away your pocket pagers.

"The night is young, and Jack is still with us," Jon Stewart, our host for the evening marveled. Better be nice, Jon --- your Dragonmaster knows not to mess with Jack Nicholson. One does not get on Jack's rotten side without paying. EVER. Anyway, here come Josh Brolin and James McEvoy with the Oscar for Screenplay Adaptation. The Brothers Coen win it --- a sign that No Country for Old Men is going to be unstoppable! Joel thanks Scott Rudin for bringing the lads Cormac McCarthy's original novel, and thus granting them the means to make the movie. "Whatever success we've had in this area has been entirely attributable to how selective we are," says he. Ethan just wants to get the hell outta there.

Jerry Goldsmith's Fanfare for Oscar is next heard, meaning that it's time for the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, our old wacky pal Sid Ganis, to introduce his own, weird package --- this one explaining how the voting works. As we see in the clip, the goodlies at Price Waterhouse Coopers are so hush-hush re the final results, they won't even let poor Sid into their top-secret offices! (This was the only really funny package of the entire show, mind you.)

Miley Cyrus was the next presenter, who introduced a watered-down version of Enchanted!'s big "That's How You Know" number --- which will look REALLY powerful when you see the completed version. After the next spot --- this one, another in American Express' "Signature Series," this time starring Diane von Furstenberg --- Hour Three began with Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, the two guys from Superbad, engaging in some unfunny schtick; followed by a look at 80 years of Best Actress. After that, Forrest Whittaker came up to the podium; seconds later, there was Marion Cotillard, who was immediately speechless. "There is some Angels in this City," she sobbed. Yeah, and I'm bloomin' Sgt. Joe Friday!

Colin Farrell then introduced the next nominated Original Song (and the eventual winner of that category) --- Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, singing "Falling Slowly," from Once. Then the man named Jack presented the most powerful roll call in the Universe --- the 79 previous Best Picture Oscar winners. What a company! What next? Film Editing, with Renee Zellwegger presenting. "40 years ago," said winner Christopher Rouse for The Bourrne Ultimatum, "my father was privileged enough to receive an Oscar, and I'm deeply honored that you have put me in his company tonight." When Jon returned to the stage, he decided to check up on Bill Conti, and see if things were OK with the Academy Award orchestra. Maestro Conti, in this, his 19th time as the show's musical director, gave a proper thumbs up.

A very special Oscar was presented by Nicole Kidman. The Board of Governors has chosen to honor veteran production designer Robert Boyle. "From his multiple collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock to his top-quality work on so many other films," says Sid Ganis, "this man is a master film artist, and I can't be any happier that a special Oscar statuette will be presented to him. Not just his many years with ol' Hitch, Boyle's nearly 100 credits as a top art director/production designer are one of key reasons why he is an icon of the field. Huzzah! to Robert Boyle, who, at age 92, can still draft 'em like the rest of us!

Next on Blackwolf @ the Oscars 2008: Foreign Language Film; the Best Original Song recap; Spielberg on Schindler's List; the Oscar for Cinematography; and the 2007 Oscar Necrology. Be here!