Film: Oscar Predictions 2014

12-years-a-slaveIt’s been said that you buy a Golden Globe, but you win an Oscar. That may or may not be true. I’m not naive enough to think that there isn’t a big political game played with the Oscars. I know there are huge amounts of money spent by producers (Mr. Weinstein) campaigning for their films. They want votes and they will make sure they get them.

I know all of that and I don’t care. I still love watching the show, being super judgmental about who is wearing what, and of course, being right about who will win. It’s usually pretty easy to figure out who’s gonna win. But this year, this year is a little different. The way I see it, there are two movies which could take the big award, and possibly sweep. ’12 Years a Slave’ and ‘Gravity’. Below are my predictions (and hopes) for who will take home the coveted, eight pound, Golden Man.

Best Picture: ’12 Years a Slave’

Both ‘Gravity’ and ’12 Years a Slave’ have a great chance of winning best picture. Academy voters adore historical biopics, and especially one with this much weight. ’12 Years a Slave’ wasn’t an easy movie to watch. It wasn’t supposed to be. It was supposed to make you hurt and feel. It did both.The acting was superb, and Academy voters have a history of rewarding films like this one. On the other side of the coin we have “Gravity”, a film that showed real cinematic vision and originality. Some people found the script to be far-fetched, but whatever. Have you been to space before? I doubt it. So keep your totally unsubstantiated opinions about what is or isn’t possible about space to yourself. Oh, and remember it’s just a movie.

Although “American Hustle” is gaining momentum at the moment, the votes have already been cast, and I look at it as a long shot. Too bad there isn’t an award for best hair piece in a film. It would totally win. Both ‘Nebraska’ and ‘Philomena’ were better movies than Hustle, but unfortunately they are not sexy and not many people saw either. I did. I saw them both in the theater and said, “Those movies are going to get nominated.” And they did. They just won’t win.

Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey – ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

A disheveled Matthew McConaughey gets arrested in scenes for 'The Dallas Buyers Club' in New Orleans Oscar voters love nothing more than someone who gains or loses an insane amount of weight for a role. There is a long list of actors (Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Renee Zellweger, Christian Bale, Charlize Theron, Adrien Brody, Natalie Portman …) who have used this to their advantage. Some people say, “It’s not acting”, but they are wrong. It’s called “Method Acting”. It’s been around since Dustin Hoffman actually ran miles before filming scenes in ‘The Marathon Man’. This year I think it’s safe to say Matthew McConaughy will be added to the list. He gave a great performance as the straight guy who saved the gays in Texas from The Aids. His character was despicable at first, but after he met a drag queen with a heart of gold (Leto) he softened just enough for Academy voters to love him. I think he’s a shoe in. He seems to have stepped away from his Rom/Com roots and wants to be taken seriously now. I can’t believe that I live in a world where Matthew McConaughy will have an Oscar.

The runner-up would be Leo DiCaprio. He’s been working hard at playing crazy, and he got it right in Wolf. Too bad he didn’t lose forty pounds in the process. Better luck next time, Leo. Personally I’d love to see Bruce Dern win. It was a great and subtle performance that deserves more than just a nod from the Academy. But the chances of that happening are slimmer than McConaughy’s waistline.

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett – ‘Blue Jasmine’

Blue-Jasmine-Cate-Blanchett-4 For me, it’s a tight race between the always incredible Blanchett and Ms. Bullock. Both women star in films centered around them. For Sandra Bullock especially. I mean, without her there would be no movie at all. She IS ‘Gravity’. And as amazing as her performance was (and it was), I still think the little golden dude will end up in the hands of Cate Blanchett. I saw ‘Blue Jasmine’ in the theaters and left saying, “She’s going to win for Best Actress”. And I still think so. Her role as a wealthy divorcée suffering a meltdown is a Master Class in acting. Every breath she takes is deliberate and spot on. She played a very unlikable woman who you couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for. If the recent Woody Allen scandal doesn’t disrupt voting, you can be assured she’ll walk away with the statue.

And then again, there’s always Meryl Streep.

Supporting Actor: Jared Leto – ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

primary_DallasBuyersClub-2013-4There is no one in the world who I want to punch in the face more than Jared Leto. I can’t stand him. He’s pretentious and obnoxious and a poor excuse for a rock star. But He’ll probably take home the prize this year. It makes me crazy to say it. He’s going to win for playing a sympathetic composite character designed to make McConaughey’s dirt bag character look like he has something resembling a heart. Big whoop. It’s been done before and better than Leto. But I think he’ll win anyway.

I’d love to see Fassbender walk away with the award, but that won’t happen. The Academy rarely gives awards to villains unless the guy was a cute villain like Christoph Waltz in ‘Django Unchained’. There was nothing cute about the bat-shit-crazy slave owner played flawlessly by Fassbender. And that’s why he won’t win. If Leto somehow manages not to win, you can expect to see the statue go to Barkhad Abdi for ‘Captain Phillips’.

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o – ’12 Years a Slave’

Lupita12yas_2784544bI know that all of America is in love with Jennifer Lawrence at the moment. I get that. I am too! But I still think Lupita Nyong’o will walk away the winner tomorrow night. Her performance was heartbreaking and pretty much perfect. Lawrence won last year for ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and I didn’t think she deserved it. And I don’t think she deserves it for her portrayal of a manic house wife in the 70’s. She might win, but it will be due to her popularity as a celebrity more than for her performance. If we are giving acting awards to women playing angry wives, then I think June Squibb ought to win for her perfect portrayal of a bitter, mean-spirited wife in ‘Nebraska’. The chances of her winning are slim, but I’ll be damned happy if it happens.

Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón – ‘Gravity’

gravity_ver2_xlgI love his films, and he deserves to win. ‘Gravity’ was a masterpiece. He already took home the Directors Guild award, so I think this one is in the bag. His vision came to life on-screen, and he used some new techniques that raised a few eyebrows in the film world. Steve McQueen is the runner-up in this category, but I don’t think it’s his year.

Best Screenplay, adapted: ’12 Years a Slave’

But don’t count out Jeff Coogan’s touchingly funny ‘Philomena’, a movie based on another horrific true story. ’12 Years’ might have an all around sweep and take everything it is nominated for, but this category might be one that upsets it. Weinstein has been making the rounds with this film, making sure Oscar voters don’t forget about the little movie that packs a huge emotional punch. Don’t count it out just yet. It stars Dame Judi Dench, after all. She won for ‘Shakespeare in Love’ and was on-screen less than eight minutes. Total.

Best Screenplay, original: ‘Her’

I know that’s not the popular choice here, but it is in fact the right choice. It really is an original idea. And that should be rewarded. Most folks are giving it to ‘American Hustle’, but I feel like I’ve seen that movie before. And more than once. It reminded me of ‘American Gangster’ and ‘Casino’. I didn’t find it to be very original at all. This might be the only award given to the wonderful Spike Jonze film. It deserves it. I’d love to see Woody Allen take home the prize, but considering the recent news and scandal, I don’t see that happening.

Best Animated Feature: ‘Frozen’

I don’t see much of a race here. Disney is back in full force with this pro-female cartoon. Everyone loves it, and the lovely and talented Idina Menzel will be on hand to sing “Let It Go” from the film. If for some reason it doesn’t win, expect to see ‘The Wind Rises’ take the prize.

Best Documentary: ‘The Act of Killing’

frontpage1 Another category where I am going against popular opinion, but that’s just how I roll. The odds on favorite to win is ‘Twenty Feet From Stardom’ about the backup singers (like Judith Hill) and legends (like Darlene Love) who sang lead but were never given credit. It’s one of the only nominated films that folks actually saw in theaters, and it made more money than the rest. It will probably win. But I’m still holding out for the incredible film, ‘The Act of Killing’ in which American director Oppenheimer contacted the paramilitary thugs who in the 1960s killed thousands of Indonesian civilians. Nearly 50 years later, he persuaded them to reenact their own crimes, in the form of the Hollywood movies they loved. Yeah, it should totally win.

Best Documentary, short: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life

Just trust me on this one.

Best Foreign Language film: ‘The Great Beauty’, Italy

I haven’t seen any of the nominated films, so I am guessing here. All of the folks who know about these things agree that ‘The Great Beauty’ will take home the prize.

As for the rest, you’re on your own. Expect ‘Gravity’ to take home editing and cinematography awards, and probably ‘Gatsby’ for costume design. Make-up will go to ‘Dallas’, and you can never go wrong with picking John Williams to win for Best Score. Although ‘Gravity’ might be a solid bet.

I hope my predictions have helped you in your own Oscar pool. But don’t blame me if I’m wrong. There’s a first time for everything.


What I’m Loving Right Now – Fall 2013 Edition

brandery-portfolio-imageIt’s Fall. At least that’s what the calendar says. I’m in Texas at the moment, so it looks like every other day of the year just eight degrees cooler. I really miss the fall foliage, wearing my pea coat, and feeling crispness in the air as I walk down the street in my super cute scarf. Since I can’t have those things this year, here is what I’m loving right now.

  1. – Hands down my favorite place to suck time. If you have a serious case of Wanderlust like I do, then you find a lot of inspiration and useful tools here. You can plan your (US) trip down to the mileage and estimated gas costs. You can find cool and unusual places on your route and save them to your trip! It’s a “web and mobile platform that streamlines discovery, planning, booking and navigation into one engaging road trip planner.”
  2. Gravity (film)gravity_ver2_xlgI saw this movie a few weeks ago (in 3D, of course) and I can’t stop thinking about it. It was a beautiful and intense movie that explores more than outer-space. A few of my friends have complained that the film inaccurate, and had little plot. To this I say, you are wrong. A film like Gravity isn’t to be taken literally. If you do that, you are missing the whole point of the film. The movie isn’t “about” astronauts and what it is like to be in space. It isn’t a documentary. The film is about the gravity of relationships, isolation and loss. The movie asks – do things like love and loss tether us to the past, pull us back down to earth, or let us float free? Try watching movies with a wider view and your enjoyment will triple.
  3. Masterchef Junior (FOX) 131022_TV_JuniorMasterchef_top.jpg.CROP.original-originalBy far the best competition show on television, and it stars children. And Gordon Ramsey. And he’s nice! Most shows featuring kids either exploit the kids and their family by making them seem out of control, or crazy. I find Toddler’s and Tiaras to be a good form of birth control, and also a handy “What Not to Do” guide for parents.  It’s difficult to watch a kid lose, especially when they lose like a brat. Watch any T&T episode and you’ll see what I mean. The kids featured on Masterchef Junior behave better than most adults in these situations. It focuses on talent, good parenting, smarts, and losing. You probably cannot cook half as good as these kids (I can’t!) and it is eye-opening to watch a nine-year old make a perfect three layer cake, sear a steak, or cook escargot – ALL BY THEMSELVES. No parents around. Just Gordon, Graham, and Joe. Children are capable of so much more than most people give them credit for. They don’t need to be talked down to, or fed “kid food”. They are capable of being happy for the person next to them when they win, and losing with grace and dignity. Adults sometimes are not. These kids know that playing the game is more important than winning or losing.
  4. Trader Joe’s (Market)73994643_88b6765232_zAfter seven years in the Czech Republic, US grocery stores were a frightening experience. I almost had a panic attack when I went to the local supermarket. I actually got lost inside. I got used to a smaller store. It was a year before I was able to get my ass back to TJ’s. (They finally opened one in Austin last month) TJ’s is the only place to go for inexpensive, healthy food that is good quality. I feel like Trader Joe’s takes the guess-work out of shopping. When you walk into a Trader Joe’s you are not going to have 75 different yogurt to choose from. You’ll have about ten. And that’s more than enough. You’ll know which ever you choose will taste good and have less chemicals and shit than what you’ll get at a BIG store. They have the best wine and beer selection for the budget minded, and their coffee is the shit. I’m so happy to have TJ’s back in my life. And not just for the White Cheddar Cheese Popcorn.
  5. CampingFisherman camping at a wilderness lakeOkay. I haven’t actually camped in a really long time. But that is about to change. In January we are driving to California and camping along the way. I have a new tent, jacket and sleeping-bag, and I’m super excited to test them out. We are going to drive to San Antonio next month and test out our gear before taking it to The Grand Canyon in winter. I’m excited about being outdoors (in The Nature for all you Prague Expats) and being surrounded by beauty. I can’t wait to be disconnected from everything, and everyone, and having time to just sit in peace or just read a book. And, your day revolves around food. I’m a big lover of food, and when you’re camping, it’s the perfect time to really enjoy cooking. It just takes a little longer to prepare, but camping can be an excellent time to bring out your inner “foodie”.