I.W.'s earlier tally of 14 Oscar nominations for films with Minnesota connections has risen to 17, depending on how loosely you define "connection."
We're happy to note that Jim Erickson, a 1968 grad of Badger (Minn.) High School, got one for his set decoration on "There Will Be Blood," starring Daniel Day-Lewis as an obsessive oil prospector. "My specialty is making places look shabby," Erickson joked from Vancouver, British Columbia, where he's at work on the comic book extravaganza "Watchmen." His résumé includes "The Last of the Mohicans," "Miami Vice" and "Alexander," but it's his first Oscar nod, so he plans to attend: "This is my only kick at the can, probably -- better take advantage of it."
Speaking from Los Angeles, Edina's Jim Burke modestly protested, "I was not nominated!" But the film he helped produce, "The Savages," is up for best actress (Laura Linney) and best original screenplay (Tamara Jenkins). Burke was on set every day and through post-production to cope with emergencies. "You're kind of a fireman," he explained. A onetime ticket-tearer at the Yorktown Cinema and '82 graduate of the U of M, Burke moved to California and landed a studio job largely because "I didn't realize I couldn't do it." His films include the Farrelly brothers' comedy "Kingpin," the 2004 remake of "Walking Tall" and "Election" with Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, who have become his partners in the production-development company Ad Hominem Enterprises. His next film will bring him close to home: a divorce comedy titled "Small Town Wisconsin" that should be out in about a year.
COLIN COVERTRage against the convention?
She was invited to sing the national anthem at the 2004 Republican convention, but Martina McBride says she hasn't heard anything about performing at this year's event in St. Paul. "I'd take it as it comes," she told us. "I'm not really a political person." I.W. has learned, however, that the highly political Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam and Green Day are considering separate concerts at Target Center while the Republicans occupy Xcel Energy Center across the river. In the interest of equal time, those bands also are contemplating rocking Denver during the Democratic National Convention.
JON BREAMSlumming with Sophie
Innocently enough, Canadian jazz songbird Sophie Milman invited some players from the audience to join her band for an encore Monday at the Dakota Jazz Club. She didn't realize until the song (Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Beautiful Love") was over that these all-stars -- trumpeters Sean Jones and Ryan Kisor and pianist Dan Nimmer -- were from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, which performed down the block at Orchestra Hall earlier that night. "That's just ridiculous," Milman said. "That's never happened to us before." More JLCO players joined Milman's bassist and saxophonist for an extraordinary hourlong jam, but not director Wynton Marsalis -- although he did hold the door open at the end of the night as stunned jazz fans exited.
JON BREAMNext time, somewhere warmer
Playwright Tony Kushner picked the coldest weekend of the new year to make his maiden visit to the new Guthrie Theater. But he had a good reason. Kushner flew in to meet with Joe Dowling and watch Robert Bly's new adaptation of "Peer Gynt" on the thrust stage. After catching Saturday night's show, Kushner had a drink with Mark Rylance, who put on an extraordinary performance as Ibsen's enigmatic everyman. Kushner's play, "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures," will premiere on the Guthrie's proscenium stage in spring 2009. Kushner pronounced the new three-stage complex "unbelievable."
GRAYDON ROYCEBon to pick
Eau Claire's rising music star Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver, didn't have to try hard to seem like a regular joe at his much-ballyhooed Turf Club performance last week. "I'm a bit surprised to see you all here," he told the sold-out crowd, one of his many aw-shucks comments. Early in the set, he admitted, "About the only thing I can think about right now is the Pack." (At least a few of the scarf-wearing indie-rockers in attendance knew he meant the Packers.) He even took a Westerberg-style swipe at his new record label, Jagjaguwar, which he said wouldn't let him sell copies of his heavily hyped album "For Emma, Forever Ago" before its Feb. 19 release. "But I have some burned copies out in my car," he said.