The Golden Globe nominations are here

Every year Hollywood is abuzz with awards fever. The season culminates in the Academy Awards but ultimately begins with the Golden Globes held by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. It honours the best of cinema and television from around the world.

The 67th Annual Golden Globes are slated to be held in January 2010, but the nominations that were recently announced have started to create buzz not only for the winners of the awards but also the eventual nominees for the Academy Awards. Take for instance the Best Picture (Drama) category. Though traditionally an honour bestowed upon heavy dramas, this year however there is a complete outsider in the group: James Cameron’s Avatar. A CGI heavy action adventure that tells the story of a clash between humanity and an alien race, Avatar seems completely out of place when you consider its competitors in this category; Inglorious Basterds, The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, and Precious.

Whereas Avatar seems to be the complete outsider, it is Up in the Air and Precious that are clearly the favorites for the critics. Up in the Air stars George Clooney and Vera Farmiga, and is directed and co-written by Jason Reitman, son of director Ivan Reitman. Precious stars Gabourey Sidibe, Mariah Carey, Mo’Nique and Lenny Kravitz and tells the story of a young single mother whose life drastically changes with her second pregnancy. Both Precious and Up in the Air have characters that have their lives changed because of a single moment or decision. It’s that kind of conflict, both inner and outer that the Golden Globes, and even the Oscars, love to see.

Reitman, Cameron and Tarantino have also earned nods for Best Director, along with Eastwood for Invictus, and Kathrine Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. As always, the Best Screenplay category produces some of the finest collections of script writers, and this year it is no different. Another nod for Quentin Tarantino and Jason Reitman, who now have two nominations each, along with Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell for District 9, another surprise that caught almost everyone off guard. Besides Reitman and Tarantino earning multiple nods, Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep are heating things up in the Best Actress category. Both actresses have been nominated twice and if anything, it will be the most hyped about award of the night. Matt Damon also enjoys two nominations, one for Invictus, the story about how Rugby united South Africa and the other a comedy called The Informant!

The Best Animated Feature nominations include some of the highest grossing movies of the year. Both Up and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs have enjoyed tremendous box office success. More recent releases include Fantastic Mr Fox and The Princess and the Frog, which is the only traditionally 2D animated feature in the awards. Finally, there is Coraline, another surprise hit that may have not stirred much at the box office but definitely did well with DVD sales.

Over at television, things are as equally — if not more — exciting. Best Drama nominees include some of the year’s finest dramas, which include the highly popular Mad Men and Big Love. Also included here are two equally gory and fantastic dramas, Dexter and True Blood. Finally, what would drama be without House? The Hugh Laurie drama about a doctor inspired by Sherlock Holmes is also nominated.

Over in the Best Comedic TV show, awards include 30 Rock, Entourage, Glee, Modern Family and The Office. The favourite is 30 Rock, a TV show which has already been nominated 79 times and has won 29 awards out of which five have been Golden Globes. New shows Glee and Modern Family — while outsiders to the group of previous winners (30 Rock, Entourage and The Office) just might tip the balance in their own favour with their unique show formats.

Finally, after all the nominations, the Cecil B. DeMille Award; an award presented for lifetime achievement in motion pictures. This year this honour will be bestowed upon Martin Scorsese. After being avoided by the Academy Awards, Scorsese finally earns the highest honour from the Hollywood Foreign Press after an epic career in Hollywood. His critics have not accepted this quietly, stating that Scorsese had to sell out with films like The Departure and The Aviator; a considerable deviation from the man that showed us films like Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Casino. Nevertheless, his achievements cannot be ignored and hence him receiving the Cecil B. DeMille award this year. Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio will be presenting the director with the award. Both DiCaprio and DeNiro have made landmark movies with Scorsese and it seems only fitting that they honour the man who gave them those opportunities.

All in all, this year at the Golden Globes will prove to be riveting, thanks in part to the inclusion of Avatar. Critics question the film, which has swept more than $73 million at its opening weekend, for its nomination. If such a film — which is clearly more hype that substance — can be allowed to get a nomination, then why not films like, for example, New Moon be nominated as well? The answer of course is not that simple, however it is the right of the Hollywood Foreign Press to nominate whom they choose to be the best of the year.

The Golden Globes will be held in January 2010 with comedian Ricky Gervais set to host the ceremony.


Aqua Luna

It's official: Nasa has declared our moon ‘alive’. Thanks to the Lcross impact satellite last month, results now pouring in have detected ‘significant’ amounts of water in a crater at the moon's South Pole. This is a major discovery that will dramatically alter how we view the moon as a barren world. In turn, it makes it a more viable option as an off world outpost for interplanetary travel.

“Indeed yes, we found water. And we didn’t find just a little bit. We found a significant amount,” said Anthony Colaprete, the principal investigator for Nasa’s Lcross, in a news conference.

On October 9 this year, the Lcross disengaged from a large bus-sized section which eventually crashed in Cabeus, a crater 60 miles wide and two miles deep, located near the South Pole of the moon. At that exact moment of impact, Lcross was tuned to the location. Not only was it looking, it was also sensing and it picked up a plume—elements of the surface expunged upwards from the impact.

However, the satellite was not tuned properly to pick up the photograph. But what Lcross did do was sense water. An analysis of slight shifts in colour after the impact illuminated water molecules emerging from the impact crater. These water molecules, hydroxyls, absorbed specific colours of light which emerged as specific wavelengths.

Scientists also saw colours of ultraviolet light associated with molecules of hydroxyl, consisting of one hydrogen and one oxygen molecule, presumably water molecules that had broken apart by the impact and then glowed like neon signs.

This becomes an exciting discovery for the scientists who have always theorised that water would be present below the moon’s surface, in craters located in the South Pole which is not exposed to a lot of sun rays or any sun rays at all. In addition to the water molecules, there were spikes in the data indicating the possibility of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, methane or more complex carbon-based molecules. But these readings take a backseat compared to the discovery of water.

The possibilities by which the water can be harnessed are actually plentiful, and the news of such information gives hope to some of us, while it makes for an interesting business opportunity for others.

Ever since man first landed on the moon, mankind has envisioned a home for itself there. Moreover, some have even ventured to turn that vision into a business proposition. Lunar real estate has slowly seen an increase in popularity. Thanks to the worldwide web, thousands of websites have cropped up, apparently selling land on the moon, Mars and even Venus. These are all, of course, bogus sites. Nevertheless, people have shown great interest, some so far as purchasing land on the moon and obtaining a certificate from these bogus sites.

However, the only authority on the moon, which is recognised officially by all states around the world, is the United Nation. In the "1979 United Nations moon treaty" which was discussed during the 89th plenary meeting, on December 5, 1979, the treaty states, "... to promote on the basis of equality the further development of co-operation among states in the exploration and use of the moon and other celestial bodies,". It further states under Article 3 that, "The moon shall be used by all States Parties exclusively for peaceful purposes."

The treary continues in Article 4 that, “the exploration and use of the moon shall be the province of all mankind and shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development. Due regard shall be paid to the interests of present and future generations as well as to the need to promote higher standards of living and conditions of economic and social progress and development in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations."

All these points and more, make it absolutely clear that the moon does indeed belong to the humans, but they should learn to use it wisely and within cooperation.

When Eugene Cernan, the last man on the moon was about to leave, his last words foretold of this time when man's destiny to return to the moon is about to be realised: "As we leave the moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came, and God willing, we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind."

Originally published here.


The Phantom Rickshaw and Other Eerie Tales

Rudyard Kipling is best known for the story of Mowgli from the aptly titled novel, The Jungle Book. It was Kipling’s fascination with the Indian subcontinent during the height of the British Raj that truly set him apart from his peers.

The Phantom Rickshaw and Other Eerie Tales comprises seven short stories which were originally published nearly 125 years ago but remain timeless, for readers of the subcontinent in parti-cular.

Kipling was one of the great subcontinent romanticists of his time. Born in Bombay, and returning to British India after his education in the United Kingdom, Kipling joined The Civil and Military Gazette as an assistant editor at the age of 17. It was these times, during the 1880s, that the British Raj was at the peak of its glory and splendour. The Indian subcontinent was part of the British Empire and for an Englishman like Kipling the cultural stories of this exotic land made him feel more at home than the newspaper headlines he was printing.

It is because he drew so heavily from his own experiences that nearly all of Kipling’s stories are told in the first person. And because of this writing style, the reader is automatically drawn in and mesmerised with the adventures narrated.

The short stories collected in the book include ‘The Phantom Rickshaw’, ‘The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes’, ‘The Return of Imray’, ‘My Own True Ghost Story’, ‘At the end of the passage’, ‘The Man who would be King’ and ‘Without benefit of Clergy’. All of these are set in and around exotic lands and times; from the exciting journey across the Khyber Pass into what was known as Kafiristan to the many colourful characters that come across the reader’s way.

There are fakirs, princesses, soldiers, sepoys and other fantastical yet real characters that populate his stories.

In the preface Kipling makes it clear that the book ‘is not exactly a book of downright ghost stories’. He admits that ‘it is rather a collection of facts that never quite explain themselves.’ Out of all the stories, the most notable is ‘The Man Who Would Be King’, which tells the daring tale of two Masonic conmen who venture upto the Khyber Pass and beyond it in search of the elusive Kafiristan.

The story was eventually adapted for the big screen in 1975, in a film directed by John Houston and starring Michael Caine and Sean Connery.

Critics refer to Kipling as being classist, racist and even sexist at times. Most if not all of his stories do have a tinge of these elements, but then such were the times in general. Nowhere in literature does the British attitude towards the people of the subcontinent, and the region itself, become more apparent. Fellow British author Eric Arthur Blair (better known as George Orwell) called him the champion of British imperialism.

There are no close comparisons to the works of Kipling, though many authors have written about various cultures. What separates him from the rest is his total dedication and devotion to the form of short story.

In fact, Andrew Rutherford called Kipling ‘an innovator in the art of the short story’, a fact that would be recognised by the Nobel Foundation which awarded him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907.

The Phantom Rickshaw and Other Eerie Tales makes for a gripping read, especially for children. It features an introduction by another English author born in India, Ruskin Bond.

Bond writes ‘It is Kipling’s brilliance as a storyteller and stylist that carries the reader along and obscures some of his faults.’ And concludes with: ‘At times his own heart may have remained hidden, but he looked closely into the heart of others. And the rest was genius.’ This book proves Bond right.

The Phantom Rickshaw and other Eerie Tales
By Rudyard Kipling
Introduction by Ruskin Bond
Penguin Books, India
ISBN 0-143-06790-0
170pp. Indian Rs199

Originally posted here