Friday, March 2, 2018

11th Annual Oscar Picks

It's a crazy world, where up is down, boy bands play instruments, and "Boss Baby" is an Academy Award-nominated movie. Fortunately, it stops there, and won't also become an Academy Award-winning movie. And I can guarantee that, because I know exactly who is going to win. And I've never, ever been wrong.*

(Previously: 2017, 2016, 201520142013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008.)

Best Picture: I used to always get this category right. Now I always get it wrong. But this is the year I turn it around! I know it's down to "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" and "The Shape of Water." (Some are predicting an upset by "Get Out" or "Lady Bird," but I just don't see it). If I wasn't sure before, their big win at the BAFTA's convinced me: this year's top prize is going to "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri."

Best Director: This one, however, WILL go to "The Shape of Water," as the Academy has recently moved to awarding the director of the most technically advanced film of the year. Guillermo del Toro will win this one.

Best Actor: There's no doubt in my mind that Gary Oldman is taking home the gold in this category. His turn as Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour" is absolutely breathtaking, and he's finally bringing home a long-deserved award. And while young Timothée Chalamet may not be winning this time, we'll always have this video, where his high school self raps about statistics.

Best Actress: There's an outside chance that Saoirse Ronan could sneak in a win here, but I really can't picture anyone winning over Frances McDormand and her riveting turn in "Three Billboards." She's such a pro, and watching her act is truly watching a master at work.

Best Supporting Actor: I really, really, really love Sam Rockwell (particularly for his hilarious and heartfelt turn in "The Way, Way Back.") He's such an incredible actor, and so much fun to watch. (Plus, have you seen him dance?) All that to say, it's going to be really fun to see him walk away with the gold come Sunday.

Best Supporting Actress: It's another two-woman race, this time between Allison Janney and Laurie Metcalf. And here's the thing: while I absolutely adore Allison Janney (I own six of her movies!), I think Laurie Metcalf's heartbreaking and nuanced performance in "Lady Bird" is miles ahead of Janney's portrayal of LaVona Harding in "I, Tonya." However, Allison Janney has been unstoppable this awards season, and I think she'll come out on top once again.

Animated Feature: Sorry, "Boss Baby!" The award for Best Animated Feature will be the sweet, beautiful, musically rich "Coco!" Pixar gets to add another golden statue to their pile when they take home the win for this wonderful trip through the Land of the Dead.

Production Design: Let's be honest: "Blade Runner 2049" really SHOULD win this. It really, really should. But the scales seem to be tipping in "The Shape of Water's" direction, so I think they'll end up swimming away with the big award in the end.

Cinematography: BUT. THIS is where "Blade Runner 2049" is almost a shoe-in to win. Roger Deakins, legendary cinematographer, will finally, FINALLY win an Academy Award this year, after 14 (FOURTEEN) nominations!

Costume Design: I can hardly imagine a movie about gorgeous clothes not winning the Oscar for Best Costume Design. It'll be "Phantom Thread."

Film Editing: "Dunkirk" and "Baby Driver," two of my favorite films of the year, are in a dead heat for this category. And as much as I would love (LOVE) to predict this one for "Baby," I think the Academy is more likely to award the time-jumping narrative of "Dunkirk."

Makeup and Hairstyling: Awww, yes. Hair, done by one team of people, and makeup, done by another team. So sure, let's make them share a category! That is definitely a thing that makes sense. Anyway! While watching "Darkest Hour," I kept looking at Winston Churchill and thinking, "I am looking at a person that does not exist. Gary Oldman looks nothing like this guy on the screen, and there's simply not an actor that actually looks like that. For this astounding feat, "Darkest Hour" is the clear winner.

Original Score: I really loved the music in "Dunkirk," and I think they have a small chance of winning, as does "Phantom Thread." However, all of the momentum in this category seems to be for Alexandre Desplat's score for "The Shape of Water."

Original Song: Look out, 'cause here comes... a really tough category! Again, it comes down to two: "Remember Me" (the heartbreakingly beautiful earworm from "Coco," which appears in a remarkable three different forms in the film), and the power ballad "This is Me" from "The Greatest Showman." In the end though, the exceedingly talented Benj Pasek and Justin Paul will win their second Oscar in a row in this category, this time for "The Greatest Showman."

Original Screenplay: Talk about a STACKED category! The question of who will win comes down, though, to just two nominees: "Get Out" and "Three Billboards." Do you go with the really creative, original idea for a movie ("Get Out")? Or do you pick the one with the twisting story and razor sharp dialogue ("Three Billlboards")? I have a feeling most of the voters loved "Get Out" and will want to find a way to honor Jordan Peele, so he's got a shot here. However, I don't see it happening. I'm going with "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri."

Adapted Screenplay: Three things lead me to believe this award is going to James Ivory. 1) He's kind of old (89, actually) and that makes for a great Hollywood narrative. 2) He's been nominated three previous times and never won. 3) The voters seem to love "Call Me By Your Name," which likely won't pick up any other awards on Sunday. So there you have it: "Call Me By Your Name" will win Best Adapted Screenplay.

Sound Mixing: It's once again between "Dunkirk" and "Baby Driver." If it was a true RACE race, I would bet everything on "Baby Driver." But alas, Baby can't drive his Subaru through this one. The Academy historically loves war movies in this category, so I'm going "Dunkirk."

Sound Editing: I would love to be wrong in one of these sound categories, if only it meant that "Baby Driver" could pick up at least one Oscar. I don't think it's going to happen though; I think "Dunkirk" will win this one as well.

Visual Effects: I keep avoiding this category because I just! Don't! Want! To make! A decision! The effects in "Blade Runner 2049" were stunning. S T U N N I N G. They shouldn't be counted out in this category. On the other hand, though... you have those apes. This is the third in a trilogy of films that hasn't won yet in this category. I think it's very possible that the Academy will want to award the whole series by finally giving them a visual effects Oscar for "War for the Planet of the Apes."

Documentary Feature: Man, this one could go to any of these movies. I don't envy the voters on categories like this. In the end, I'll go with "Faces Places."

Documentary Short: The opioid crisis is about as topical as it gets, so I'm going to guess "Heroin(e)" will grab this award.

Foreign Language Film: The only movie I've heard of in this category is "A Fantastic Woman." (Something tells me that might be the case for a large percentage of the Academy voters as well.) Look for "A Fantastic Woman" to win here.

Animated Short: Guys, if "Dear Basketball" wins? Kobe Bryant will be an ACADEMY AWARD-WINNER. And I think that actually might happen on Sunday night! Pixar is usually not one to be bet against, and they still might pull out a win with "Lou." However, once I was reminded that Hollywood is a Laker town, I became convinced that this category is indeed going to "Dear Basketball."

Live Action Short: In this current climate, it's kind of hard to imagine that a short about a school shooting won't score a ton of votes. That's why I think the winner will be "DeKalb Elementary."

  Just kidding. I'm wrong about this... (sigh)... a lot. An awful lot. *stares out into the distance*

Sunday, January 14, 2018

2017 Favorites

My Three Favorite Books I Read in 2017

3. Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer
At the beginning of the book, I was on team "this guy was an idiot." By the end I just felt so sad that Christopher McCandless was gone (spoiler alert?)—even if he was a bit of a punk. The author did a great job weaving an empathetic and tragic story that was truly gripping, although perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, as I'm a huge fan of Into Thin Air. The level of detail was fascinating rather than tedious, and the picture Krakauer painted of McCandless's life and tragic death was thoroughly engrossing. It's a great read, and one that moves briskly through the story (save one inexplicable extended foray into the author's own  climbing background). In the end, I was left both cursing McCandless for his hubris and mourning the way his story turned out.

"The trip was to be an odyssey in the fullest sense of the word, an epic journey that would change everything."

2. Cocaine Blues, Kerry Greenwood
One of my favorite TV shows from last year was Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. (I was correct in my prediction that I would only come to love it more—it's now one of my all-time favorite shows, and my roommate and I are constantly re-watching episodes.) All this love led me to seek out the books the television series was based on, and I'm SO glad I did! Book 1 in the series, Cocaine Blues, introduces our beautiful and independent heroine Phrynne Fisher, who is just as highly intelligent and capable in the books as she is on the show. This brilliant mix of 1920's Australian culture, a fascinating and brisk mystery, and, best of all, our terribly clever protagonist. I love a mystery that doesn't just reveal itself in the end, and sure enough, once again Phyrne can only save the day by using her smarts and lots of really hard work. This was a joy to read, and I can't recommend it enough.

“You broke the window, Bobby, and you pinched the necklace. Do you want to confess or shall I tell you how you did it?”

1. Wild, Cheryl Strayed
I don't like hiking. I don't identify with Cheryl Strayed, her story, or her need to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. But I figuratively walked every step of the way right along with her, shaking my head at her foolish unpreparedness, waiting with bated breath to learn if she made it through her most recent setback, and cheering at every minor victory along the way. I wouldn't have thought this was my kind of book, but I found it to be completely un-put-down-able for the entire duration. Her stories about her journey and the unforgettable people she met along the way are seamlessly interwoven with her backstory: the heartbreak of losing her mother (she said she wasn't afraid to be alone on the trail because THE WORST THING HAD ALREADY HAPPENED TO HER) and every other event that led to her embarking on her journey on an otherwise unremarkable summer day in 1995. The theatrical adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon was perfectly fine, but if you haven't read the full story of Cheryl's time on the PCT, you haven't experienced Wild.

"I walked and I walked, my mind shifting into a primal gear that was void of anything but forward motion, and I walked until walking became unbearable, until I believed I couldn't walk even one more step.
And then I ran.”

Honorable Mention
Born a Crime, Trevor Noah 
Death in the Clouds
, Agatha Christie
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Amy Krouse Rosenthal
You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried, Susannah Gora
Slave Day, Rob Thomas 
Fallout and Double Down, Gwenda Bond
Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan
I Love You, Ronnie, Nancy Reagan
The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown 

My goal for this year was to read 30 books. For once I actually blew past my goal: this year I read 38 books! That may not seem like a huge deal, but I'm pretty proud of myself for constantly searching for new books to read, making several trips to the library, and suffering through Audible narrators doing things like pronouncing the word 'capsule' as 'cap-sue-al'—yes, really. (And he wasn't even British or anything! Looking at you, Wil Wheaton!)

My Three Favorite Movies of 2017

3. (tie) Thor: Ragnarok
Without a doubt, Thor: Ragnarok was the FUNNIEST movie I saw this year. Taika Waititi is an absolute genius, and I'm eternally grateful that he was given the reins to a Marvel movie. He crafted a irreverent, fun, hilarious film and still managed to imbue it with weight and lasting meaning. I love quoting this movie, I love laughing about this movie, and I can't wait to see it again.

3. (tie) Coco I didn't think Coco was ultimately going to make my list this year. I really didn't. But every time I think about leaving it off of my list, my heart clenches, and I just can't bear the thought. This movie is so sweet and charming, and its themes on family and memory are deeply affecting. I can't stop listening to the music, most of all the tear-inducing "Remember Me (Lullaby)" and "Remember Me (Reunion)." Also "Proud Corazón" and "The World Es Mi Familia." (Okay THE WHOLE SOUNDTRACK! Go check it out if you haven't yet!)

2. Home Again
You're questioning my taste in movies, I know it. But just hear me out: this simple, sweet, and very pretty movie just makes me SO happy. When I was re-watching movie trailers trying to decide what order to put my favorites in, this is the one that made me smile and feel all warm and sparkly inside. It's such a fluffy, inconsequential little film, and yet it just fills my heart with joy. Everyone's just so beautiful (including the male lead, as explained in this essay in which the author calls him "an extremely attractive 20-something who looks like a Hillsong youth pastor" and questions, "Was his face created by a Pinterest algorithm? Or in the same CW lab that created Nate Archibald?"), their problems are so simple, and they do things like watch old movies outside on artfully arranged designer blankets under the stars. This movie is all about low stakes and high comfort, and sometimes that's exactly what you need from your movies.

1. Baby Driver
I don't think I can adequately express to you how much I loved Baby Driver. As a huge fan of Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright directed them both), I went in with pretty high expectations. Baby Driver surpassed them all. Everything worked for me: the stunts, the music, the acting, the romance, the dancing, the classic Edgar Wright cuts—everything. When I left the movie theater, I felt breathless and excited and full of adrenaline, almost as if I'd just gone on an exhilarating 100-mile-an-hour car ride with Baby himself. I just had a BLAST. And then I went and saw it again and had another blast. Then I went back AGAIN because I just couldn't get enough, and guess what? IT WAS STILL A BLAST. Baby Driver was my favorite movie of the year by SEVERAL HUNDRED MILES. I saw 33 of the movies that came out in 2017 and 32 of them pale in comparison to Baby Driver. I hope you got a chance to see it on the big screen, because there's just nothing like it. If you didn't, you should still check it out as soon as you can. It'll blow your hair back and make your heart race and by the end you'll feel like you can go kick a hole in the sun.

Honorable Mention: The Post, Wonder Woman, The Big Sick, Everything Everything, Dunkirk, The Greatest Showman, Murder on the Orient Express

My Three Favorite TV Shows of 2017

Favorite shows I started watching this year:

3. American Vandal
Here's the thing about American Vandal: it's incredibly crass. There's no getting around that. The central mystery of this eight-episode mockumentary is: "Who spray painted a bunch of obscene images on 27 cars in the faculty parking lot?" The Netflix original is a comedic send-up of true crime shows like Making a Murderer and Serial. It takes this seemingly silly "whodunit" concept deadly seriously, which naturally just makes it funnier. You can't believe that this was one of my favorite shows of the year, and that's fine. I kind of can't believe it either. But as I continued to watch, I was surprised to find the mystery intensify, the characters become deeper and more layered, and the documentary (fake or not) itself lend meaning and weightiness to such an (apparently) dimwitted story. It's a difficult show to describe, so let me just end with this: the scene where high school documentarian Peter storms up to Dylan's house in a downpour to pummel on the back door and demand to know why he's been lied to and betrayed was as riveting as any I saw this year.
Stream it on Netflix

2. Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television
Not every show is for everybody. I'm a firm believer in that. Frankly, I don't know who Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television is for, exactly—other than me. A show that stars a Veronica Mars alum, guest starring everyone from Joel McHale to Kristen Bell herself, and makes constant reference to television, acting, and the entertainment industry as a whole? They might has well have called it, Ryan Solves Crimes on Television Just For You, Valerie! A delightfully bonkers comedic mystery series that takes meta to the extreme, RHSCOT is one of the most creatively risky shows I've ever experienced. It's a true delight from top to bottom that probably wouldn't work with any other lead—Ryan Hansen plays the perfect combination of guileless, optimistic, and delusional—and I'm not just saying that because we're total Twitter BFFs.
Watch it on YouTube Red

1. The Good Place 
I TECHNICALLY started watching The Good Place last year, but only a few episodes had aired by the time I wrote last year's blog. When the show came back in January of 2017, it had gathered some serious steam, and each episode just got better and better. The season 1 finale BLEW MY FORKING MIND and ever since then I have been obsessed. Kristen Bell is her usual luminous and effortless self, and the writing (especially the restaurant puns) is on POINT, brilliantly marrying comedy and an intriguing world-spinning narrative. I can't oversell this show to you: it's that genius, that creative, and that hilarious. Do yourself a favor and catch up on the best network comedy since Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Watch season one on Netflix and season two on NBC

Honorable Mention: Bletchley Circle, Great News, Manhunt: Unabomber, The Keepers

Special Mention #1: Riverdale is overly dramatic and a LOT of the time I just find myself rolling my eyes at the TV. But here's the thing: I cannot stop watching it. This moody, beautifully shot, dumb show knows exactly how to keep me coming back for more. Step 1: Base it on my favorite (read: only) comic book series I read as a kid. Step 2: Cast a combination of super fun, super pretty stars, and throwback actors like Luke Perry and Skeet Ulrich. Step 3: Throw in a ton of hilarious one-liners and zingers delivered by the saltiest teenagers since a certain blonde detective went to high school. Step 4: Keep me guessing about any number of fascinating mysteries: Who killed Jason Blossom? Who's the Black Hood? What temperature is it supposed to be??? It's a winning combination, and one that always leaves me coming back for more.
Stream it on Netflix or The CW App

Special Mention #2: This year I finally finished watching ALL six seasons of Dawson's Creek. I had a blast, and it made me so nostalgic—not necessarily for the show itself, since I wasn't watching it live when it first aired, but for the time period of the late '90's and early '00's, the exact time I was in high school. From the costumes and hairstyles to the music and lack of cell phones, it brought back a ton of memories for me, and I'm so glad I finally got to experience the fun (and ridiculousness) of Capeside for myself.
Watch it on DVD like a peasant because they took it off Netflix before you could finish it. But apparently it's on Hulu now.

My Three Favorite Other Things That Don't Fall Into Another Category of 2017

3. Holiday Inn filmed live
I wasn't able to make it to New York to see Holiday Inn during its limited run last year. That's why I am SO grateful that they filmed this beautiful, funny, and sweet show and aired it on PBS so that I could record it, bless it, and keep it safe on my DVR forever. If you missed it, come over to my house and we'll watch Corbin Bleu dance through fire crackers, rows of gifted performers tap dance while jump roping, and my close, personal friend Bryce Pinkham serenade us through the screen.

2. My Favorite Murder podcast
I have a confession to make: I am what they call a murderino. (Chances are, you're one too, because who doesn't have at least a minor fascination with true crime?) I was hooked on the first episode I listened to, and I've thoroughly enjoyed every episode since. Treading the line between reverent fear and out-and-out hilarity ("Unless you're a ghost baseball player, you don't need to be in that field."), My Favorite Murder never fails to keep the laughs (or the chills) coming. Just remember: stay sexy and DON'T get murdered!

1. Disney's Newsies: The Broadway Musical filmed live
You've heard me talk endlessly about Newsies, so I won't go back over well-trod territory. Suffice it to say, knowing that they filmed my all-time favorite Broadway show with the original Broadway leads and a hybrid super-cast made up of both touring and original Broadway dancers thrills me to no end. I went and saw it three times at the movie theater, and now it's on Netflix for us all to enjoy again and again and again. (And again, probably.)

Honorable Mention: Psych: The Movie, The Meet Cute Cafe Podcast, Tiffany Haddish on Jimmy Kimmel and SNL, the Potato Salad Guy, Busy Philipps' Instagram Stories

My Three Favorite Events of 2017

3. Working Girl
This was a difficult year at work, but in the end one good thing happened: I got a title change, added responsibility, and more time to spend on my passion: social media. It's hard to be excited amidst the challenge and change that have come to define the past six months at work, but in the end I have this wonderful shining bright spot that I can return to and take pride in.

2. Morby Family Christmas
Family time is always the best time. Our Christmas this year was packed with laughter, Christmas lights, fun, cookie-making, games, presents, hide-n-seek, movies, playgrounds and more. I could keep talking about it, or you could just click play and see for yourself!

1. Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway
I was fortunate enough to go to New York again this past summer, and we saw a lot of amazing Broadway shows, including Bandstand, Groundhog Day, and Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812. But the very best show I saw last year, and the best show I've seen in a long time, was Dear Evan Hansen. It's so good, it's so good, and I feel like I could just keep typing "IT'S SO GOOD" for the rest of this paragraph and it still wouldn't be enough. If Hamilton is the bomb that blew up Broadway and lit the pop culture world on fire, then Dear Evan Hansen is the sparkling star that fell from above for you to cradle in your hands and protect at all costs. And to be more precise: if I had to pinpoint the happiest, most fulfilled few moments of my year, it happened during Ben Platt, Will Roland, and Mike Faist's performance of the song Sincerely, Me, three minutes and 40 seconds of pure, concentrated joy. I've loved that song since the first time I heard it, and I can remember the feeling of finally experiencing it in real life so clearly: leaning forward, grinning from ear to ear, and feeling like sunshine was pouring out of my own face.
What a year!


Saturday, February 25, 2017

10th Annual Oscar Picks

You know the best part of making these predictions year after year? The fact that I have never been wrong, ever. It's a great feeling.*

And happy 10th Oscar Picks to me!

(Previously: 2016, 201520142013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008.)

Best Picture: Sometimes people like to predict an upset just because they're bored with a certain movie winning a majority of the awards leading up to the Oscars. Well, guess what? Sometimes that movie wins a lot because it's wonderful, and people just really, really love it. And this year, that special, spectacular film winning hearts in movie houses everywhere is the dazzling "La La Land." And for those asking if anything can "stop 'La La Land'" – why would you want to?

Best Director: The word "visionary" is probably bandied about a little too much in the film world. However, it absolutely applies to this year's Best Director winner Damien Chazelle.

Best Actor: I'm having déjà vu to two years ago when I couldn't decide between Eddie Redmayne and Michael Keaton for this category. (Which is ironic, because Denzel Washington was in a movie called "Deja Vu." Could it be A SIGN?) (Probably not.) Anyway, I ended up being wrong in 2015 when Eddie walked away with the gold, and I'm afraid the same thing will happen this year. I just can't decide between Denzel Washington and Casey Affleck. I didn't get to see "Fences," but Casey absolutely blew me away in "Manchester by the Sea." He was just so, so excellent. I think he deserves to win, but I know there's a chance that he won't due to his reputation. However, while I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Denzel win this category, in the end I'm going with Casey Affleck.

Best Actress: Thankfully, this is an easier category to call. I've heard a few other names thrown out, but I just can't fathom Emma Stone not winning this one.

Best Supporting Actor: The most difficult part of picking this category is spelling Mahershala Ali's name.

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis nabs the acting Triple Crown (Oscar, Tony, Emmy) – and moves one step closer to an EGOT) with her win for "Fences."

Animated Feature: I honestly wasn't as taken with "Zootopia" as I think many Academy voters probably were. And as much as I want "Moana" to steal the win, I think the film with the best shot at an upset is actually "Kubo and the Two Strings," which won the BAFTA earlier this month. In the end, though, "Zootopia" will "hop" (smirk emoji) away with the Oscar.

Production Design: I was a little lost here, thinking about the eye-popping visuals of "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" and the gorgeous look of "Arrival." However, when I was reminded of the stunning opening and closing numbers of "La La Land," I went, 'Oh, duh.' So yeah. "La La Land" will win this one as well!

Cinematography: As much as I love "La La Land," it would be awesome to see "Arrival" win this category. But they call it a sweep for a reason! I think "La La Land" is poised to dance off with the cinematography gold.

Costume Design: I promise that I really do not plan to call ALL of the technical categories for "La La Land." It just so happens that I also think that "La La Land" will win in THIS technical category.

Film Editing: And also this one. It's "La La Land."

Makeup and Hairstyling: In 1997 I predicted that "Men in Black" would win this award, and actually turned out to be right. I was only 12 years old at the time, and I remember being so proud of myself for calling an upset. (Wait, was it an upset? I guess it is in my mind!) Anyway, all that to say: this story has nothing to do with my prediction. It's just something I was remembering. This year I'm going with "Star Trek Beyond."

Original Score: If you're tired of me saying "La La Land," you might want to skip this paragraph. And if you don't think "La La Land" deserves to win Best Original Score, go revisit the soaring music of Epilogue. It's breathtaking.

Lin, Justin, and Ben, astounded to be with JT and Quincy Jones.
Original Song: Obviously I wish my close, personal friend Lin-Manuel Miranda would win this award, and become the youngest and fastest person ever to EGOT. Because to reiterate: I loved "Moana," and all of the songs in it. However, there's no beating "City of Stars" from "La La Land." But that's okay, because its lyrics were written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, two astounding Broadway writers/composers (you MUST check out "Dear Evan Hansen") who just happen to also be friends with Lin.

Original Screenplay: This is actually shaping up to be a pretty tight race between "Manchester By the Sea" and, you guessed it, "La La Land." But if there's any category that another movie seems poised to steal from "La La Land," I think it's this one. I'm going with "Manchester By the Sea."

Adapted Screenplay: Here we go, "Moonlight" fans! HERE WE GO! You got this. High five, "Moonlight."

Sound Mixing: Obviously I am an expert on this category. OBVIOUSLY. That's why you can trust me when I say with 100% that this award will go to... um... "La La Land." (Nervous laughter.)

Sound Editing: I keep these categories semi-straight by remembering that Sound Editing is the "noisy" one. So with that infallible logic, I think it's going to be "Hacksaw Ridge."

Visual Effects: I didn't care for "The Jungle Book," but that doesn't mean I wasn't impressed by the creation of all of these talking animals out of thin air. ALL the hats off to the team behind the visual effects in "The Jungle Book!"

Documentary Feature: For the first year that I can recall, I've actually heard incredible things about three different documentaries in this category. And while I wouldn't be surprised if "13TH" eked out a win here, I think it's all about "O.J.: Made in America" this time.

Documentary Short: And I've heard of ALL of these documentaries! (Full-disclosure: I am a liar.) That being said, this category offers a trio of films about Syrian refugees, one about an Oakland ICU, and an uplifting film called "Joe's Violin." And while voters might be more inclined to pick the more hopeful option, I think in this politically fraught climate, they'll be going with one of the Syrian shorts. In that case, I think the winner will be "The White Helmets."

Also, that's the most I've EVER had to say about the Documentary Short category!

Foreign Language Film: Another case of the most political film winning the gold. "The Salesman" should have this one in the bag.

Animated Short: When I saw "Piper" on the ballot, I went, "Aw!" Assuming Academy voters have a similar positive reaction, "Piper" will be the winner here.

Live Action Short: This is likely to be another politicized category, so yea! I can't wait. Out of the most political shorts, I'll go with... eeny, meeny, miny... "Ennemis Interieurs."

*Minus the fact that I'm actually wrong so, so often.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016 Favorites

My Three Favorite Books I Read In 2016

3. Graduates in Wonderland, Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale
I won this book in a giveaway, and it languished on my shelf for a few years before I finally threw it in my bag to read on the plane. A few pages in and I couldn't put it down. The book is comprised of the real-life emails between two friends and recent college graduates, and it was so reminiscent of the missives sent between me and my own friends. Granted, I never moved to China or New York, but the universal feeling of loneliness and attempting to scratch out a brand-new life applies as much to moving across the state and away from your friends as moving across the world.

"Sometimes I think I really don't know what's best for me. Getting what you want can be the worst sometimes."

2. The Anne of Green Gables Series, L.M. Montgomery
(Books 1-5, except #4, because Audible didn't have it.)
Before this year, I'd never actually read Anne of Green Gables. So when I saw that there was a new version of the book narrated by Rachel McAdams, I jumped at the chance to finally get on board. After that, I just had to read the next book and the next, falling in love not only with charming characters like Anne, Marilla, Gilbert, et al, but also with Montgomery's brilliant writing. Her descriptions of beautiful flowers and foliage, hilarious town happenings, and new characters around every corner were completely captivating. I think my favorite of the four I read is Anne of the Island because her college years were so lovely and nostalgic, but I do love the story of sweet Miss Lavender in Anne of Avonlea, and I also have a soft spot for Captain Jim of Anne's House of Dreams. If you've put off dipping a toe into these sweet stories, let me encourage you to go ahead and jump headfirst into these idyllic Avonlea waters.

“In imagination she sailed over storied seas that wash the distant shining shores of 'faëry lands forlorn,' where lost Atlantis and Elysium lie, with the evening star for pilot, to the land of Heart's Desire. And she was richer in those dreams than in realities; for things seen pass away, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

1. The Martian, Andy Weir
Engrossing. Funny. Smart. Thrilling. Suspenseful. Funny. (Not a mistake. It's actually that funny.) I don't think I've been this absorbed in a science fiction novel since... ever. Granted, I don't normally delve into the genre, but reading one so based in reality (What would it actually look like for someone to be stranded on Mars?) and based on a movie I thoroughly enjoyed was the perfect entrance into the sci-fi world. By the end of The Martian I was so riveted to the story I was practically having to blink and shake my head like a cartoon character to break the spell. Every heartbreaking misstep, every complication on Mark Watney's long journey home was keenly felt, and when I think back on reading this book I mostly remember the feeling of holding my breath. But it wasn't all strife and setbacks! I want to emphasize the fact that Mark Watney is a truly hilarious narrator, and this book will make you smile, and maybe even laugh out loud. Read, read, read this book.

“He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.”
LOG ENTRY: SOL 61 How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.” 

Honorable Mention

Death on the Nile, Agatha Christie
Stories I Only Tell My Friends, Rob Lowe
Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna Kendrick
The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion, Fannie Flagg 
Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
Talking As Fast As I Can, Lauren Graham

Overhyped: Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins (A better book: anything by Agatha Christie)

I set a goal to read 30 books in 2016. I fell short and only read 25. But in the wise words of Aaliyah, "If at first you don't succeed, Dust yourself off and try again, You can dust it off and try again."

I'm coming for you in 2017, 30 books!

My Three Favorite Movies of 2016

3. Moana
Make way, make way! Readers, it's time you knew: Moana lives up to the hype. Wait, has there been hype? I don't even know. I saw it four times, so clearly I was picking up exactly what Disney was putting down. What's not to like about this movie? The Rock was hilarious. The animation was stunning. The music was incredibly catchy and I can't stop listening to it. The script was smart and original. And... I don't know, did I mention I saw it four times?

2. Undrafted
There's a line in a musical called "Title of Show" where a character writing a musical sings, "I'd rather be nine people's favorite thing, than a hundred people's ninth favorite thing." That's how I feel about Undrafted. This is a film that was released with very little fanfare and didn't receive great reviews. It's not for everybody. And yet, sometimes you find something that is just your exact sense of humor, that packs unexpected emotion that hits you in just the right spot, and that you find inexplicably endearing. It's a simple story: Aaron Tveit plays a character who despite being an exceptional baseball player, has just been passed up for the draft. He and his summer league teammates work through this disappointment over the course of a single baseball game, and... that's the movie! Simple, yet character-driven and heartwarming — not to mention based on a true story. It's also incredibly funny, and features an argument over who's the best Backstreet Boy, pre-game ice cream cones, and a particularly hilarious rendition of the Full House theme song. What more could you want?

1. La La Land
How could it be anything else? A movie musical starring two of my favorite actors? YES PLEASE. Is it an oxymoron to say there should be more unique movies like this? When you can create a film and make anything happen... why wouldn't you? Why not have your leads dance while floating through the air? Why not involve an 80's cover band? Why not break out into song every now and then? Why not completely enchant your audience with music and dance, bright colors and glitter, classic jazz and classic silver screens? This movie put a spell on me, and it's one that I'm not eager to have lifted.

Honorable Mention: Arrival, Captain America: Civil War, Ghostbusters

(Note: Last year I made my list of 2015 favorites before I'd seen "Spotlight," one of the best, most moving, brilliant films I've ever experienced. If I'd seen it before creating my list last year, it definitely would have warranted a spot.)

My Three Favorite TV Shows of 2016

Favorite shows I started watching this year:

3. Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries
I like to say that Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries is a lot like Veronica Mars, if Veronica was less angry and lived in 1920's Australia. So, basically the same, right? Phryne (with the Australian accents I initially thought her name was Franny, but it is indeed Phryne, pronounced Fry-nee) Fisher is a smart, fearless, headstrong detective in post-World War I Melbourne. Each 60-minute episode follows Miss Fisher and the local police, with whom she has an amiable and banter-filled friendship slash rivalry, working to solve a case. Accompanied by her sweetly naive maid Dot and numerous other employees and friends (I'm partial to taxi driver Bert), every case is brilliantly solved with plenty of fun along the way. Full disclosure: I only just started watching this show last month, so I'm only a handful of episodes in. I suspect I'll only come to love it more. 
Stream it on Netflix

2. Stranger Things
If all you know about Stranger Things is that it's set in the 80's and it has something to do with Christmas lights, I can't encourage you enough to go ahead and press play and see what all the fuss is truly about. During the course of marathoning this show over the course of a weekend, I screamed and covered my face with a blanket, laughed out loud numerous times, and put forth MANY theories and guesses attempting to untangle the mysteries held in this magnificent, funny, suspenseful, layered show.
Stream it on Netflix

1. Agent Carter
I love the character of Peggy Carter. I adore Edwin Jarvis. I have such a soft spot for Daniel Sousa. And that's exactly what draws me to all of my most favorite TV shows: a deep affection for the characters. Add in espionage, romance, real stakes, brilliant dialogue, jaw-dropping story twists and turns (not to mention a setting in the late 1940s—my favorite!) and it's not hard to see why this show is so dear to me. Please find a way to check it out. There may only be two seasons, but if you're looking for a fantastic show with a fierce, capable, smart, dynamic, driven female lead, Agent Carter is for you. (And don't say anything to me about how you don't want to watch a show named after a female character. I will be forced to handle you as Peggy would.) 
Stream it on Amazon

Honorable Mention: Agents of Shield (I loved the first few seasons of this show, and am heartbroken at how different it is now. But I'll love you forever, Agent Coulson!)

My Three Favorite Variety Specials of 2016
These are things I LOVED this year that didn't make it into any other category, but need to be mentioned.

3. Songs from The Lion, Ben Scheuer
You've no doubt deduced that I listen to a lot of show tunes. The reality is that I listen almost exclusively to show tunes. (As I write this, the title song from "Merrily We Roll Along" is playing. So.) That being said, in my list of most listened to tracks on Spotify this year, only two songs are not from a musical, and both from from Ben Scheuer's album. The songs are beautiful, complicated, and, at times, gut-wrenching. Check out my favorite song, accompanied by delightful, "Up"-ish animation.
Watch the entire album here.

2. The Comeback Kid, John Mulaney
John Mulaney is my favorite comedian, and his latest stand-up special is absolutely hilarious. Released only a year ago, I have watched this special no less than four times. And looking up clips to find a good one to embed had me giggling and wanting to watch it all over again. He's much cleaner than other comedians (although there is a small amount of cursing, full disclosure), and his talents as a storyteller are extraordinary. I can't recommend this enough.
Stream it on Netflix

1. Grease Live
I didn't particularly care for The Sound of Music Live or Peter Pan Live. I wanted to like The Wiz, but it wasn't for me. Grease Live, though? I LOVED Grease Live. From the smart production choices by director Tommy Kail ("Hamilton") to perform before a live audience and stage numbers outside, to the near-perfect casting, to the fun/genius costumes, to the extraordinary re-imagining of several numbers, this performance was just non-stop. And when Hairspray Live came along and took a page from Grease with the live audience and outdoor sets, I thought they'd cracked the code and I'd find another live musical to love. Alas, the magic wasn't there. But we'll always have "Those Magic Changes."
Stream it on Netflix

My Three Favorite Events of 2016

3. Flagstaff
In October, my parents took my siblings, my nieces, and me on a wonderful, fun, relaxing, unique vacation to Flagstaff, Arizona. I got to see the Grand Canyon for the first time, actually enjoy hiking in the mountains (no really) (like, for real), play so many games and have so much fun with family, and so much more. It was luxurious to go on such a well-planned vacation with every detail taken care of. Thanks, Mom and Dad.
Bonus: Morbyland Campout (check out the video!) and Christmas break (check out the video!)
2. Broadway Serendipity
Every year for the past several years has seenits share of Broadway shows, touring productions, and theater fun. This year, however, had an extra spark of serendipity.

This summer when we went to New York, Emily and I were blessed to see and love "Waitress," "An American in Paris," "Shuffle Along," and "Fiddler on the Roof." And as amazing as all of those shows were, there was a small pang of regret that we were in New York several months too early to see one of our favorite Broadway performers, Bryce Pinkham, star in "Holiday Inn." During the trip we caught a glimpse of the show's bright and colorful marquee, and joked that we should go hang out under it and hope to just run into Bryce. We didn't do that, because we are not insane. Fast forward to Saturday night, when we walked up to the Music Box Theatre to see "Shuffle Along." And who was standing outside the theatre also about to see "Shuffle Along"? Bryce. Pinkham. (I know, I still can't believe it either.) After Emily and I conversed and decided that approaching him would not make us crazy fans, we walked up and actually ended up talking with him for a few minutes. He was so incredibly kind, charming, and continues to be a favorite of ours. Thank you so much, Bryce.

Serendipity 2: Guess who was performing a show at BB King's while we were in NYC? Our old friend Ramin Karimloo! As I'm sure you remember, Ramin is the Tony-nominated Broadway star who surprised Emily at her school in 2013, and we've been lucky enough to see perform a few times since. He appeared on Broadway as Jean Val Jean in "Les Miserables," and will soon be back on the Great White Way in the brand-new stage musical, "Anastasia." This concert was extraordinary, as his talent is just through the roof, and he sang so many beautiful, meaningful songs. Plus, thanks to Emily's friend Debbie being friends with Ramin, we were even able to go backstage and visit with him for a few minutes afterwards. And we got hugs and free t-shirts and now I am just a skeleton typing this out because my soul hath since gone straight up to Jesus.
Video I took at the concert. WATCH IT!

Serendipity 3: My all-time favorite Broadway show, Newsies, unfortunately ended their two-year tour in October. And of all the numerous locations they've been to (65 total cities!), and out of everywhere in the world they could have ended their tour, where did they close it out? Austin, Texas. Seeing the show one more time before it closed was absolutely unexpected, and I'm so incredibly grateful that it happened.

1. Lucia Jeanne 
The world is a brighter, lovelier, more sunshiney and snuggly place, and that's all thanks to the grand entrance of one precious, pink, and full-cheeked girl. Welcome to the world, my gorgeous and cheerful Baby Niece, Lucia Jeanne! Only seven months old and the Lord is already blessing our socks off through you. (But if you could go ahead and start blessing us by sleeping through the night to save your parents' sanity, that would be GOLDEN.)

And Because I'm a Fool for Twitter
Super excited for...
Retweets: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., and Sean Lowe.
Quote tweet calling my comment hilarious: Newsie Chaz Wolcott
Likes: Aladdin's James Monroe Iglehart, Iain Loves Theater, Hamilton's Renee Elise Goldsberry, Newsies Ben Cook and Joshua Burrage, Undrafted director (and Jurassic Park child star!) Joe Mazzello, Matilda's Lesli Margherita, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Gentleman's Guide's Bryce Pinkham, Gilmore Guy Kevin Porter, The Tony Awards, Annoying Actor Friend, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Aladdin, Fiddler on the Roof, and School of Rock.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Scattered Thoughts for a Stars Hollow-day

It's late November, so naturally it's time to think about family, Thanksgiving, the inevitable Christmas shopping, and of course, the return of Gilmore Girls.

I'm quick to tell anyone who will listen that I have four all-time favorite television shows, and I absolutely love them all. But there's only one show that I fall asleep to each and every single night, and that's Gilmore Girls. I'm somewhat of a Gilmore historian now, with more trivia and facts about the show packed into my brain than you might believe. I own two books about the show, I used to frequent online message boards about the show, and I'm currently an avid listener of the Gilmore Guys podcast.

Hi, I'm Valerie, and I'm a Gilmore Girls addict.

And yet.

And yet, I am a bit wary of this Friday's release of four new 90-minute episodes. Yes, Amy Sherman-Palladino is back.* But remember: Amy was still involved with season six, a series of episodes that saw Rory and Lorelai be separated for "five months, three weeks, and sixteen days,"** the introduction of fan-favorite April Nardini (j/k everyone hates her), the introduction of dog Paul Anka (Who honestly believes Lorelai is a dog person? To quote season one Lorelai: "That's it! We are not animal people! Period."), the introduction of doormat Lorelai (the Lorelai of seasons past would have spoken up and voiced her opinions to Luke long before things built to an ultimatum), and an increasingly insufferable Rory (I could write an entire additional blog entry about the inappropriate way she badgers her way into a job in The Prodigal Daughter Returns.)

All that to say, if Gilmore Girls Colon A Year In The Life feels more like season six than the show's heyday (aka everything that came before season six), I will be a bit disappointed.

But. I'm still really excited, and can't wait to check back in on Stars Hollow and my favorite characters.

Incidentally, here are my favorite characters:

5. Brad Langford
4. Jess Mariano
3. Brian Fuller
2. Dave Rygalski
1. Lorelai Gilmore

Gilmore Girls has always been a warm fuzzy blanket to pull around my shoulders. It has always been more than the base-level question of which of Rory's boyfriends she should end up with. It's a honey-colored hug, and a visit to a familiar, hilarious, quick-witted place we ALL wish existed in real life. I love the character of Lorelai so, so much. Positive, clever, caring, independent, capable, sparkling, and smart-- so much to aspire to.

The show is obviously well-known for the speed and wit of its dialogue. But I think some of its funniest moments are actually non-verbal, or at least only funny because of the way the actor performs it. Here's a not-so-comprehensive list:

  • Teach Me Tonight - Lorelai tries a brownie to which Luke accidentally added too much chocolate. Lorelai tries a bite, looks like she's going to spit it out, then considers and says, "Mm, that's good!" The way Lauren Graham performs this line has always cracked. Me. Up.
  • Bridesmaids Revisited - Rory, heartbroken over Logan being the worst, goes to a bar and gets drunk. A waitress clearing dishes picks up Rory's beverage napkin. This incenses a tipsy Rory, who immediately starts berating the waitress. "Don't take what's mine. These came with MY drinks." She ends it with the kicker, "Sick of people touching my STUFF!" I realize this is not at all funny on paper, but the line reading Alexis Bledel gives it is absolutely hysterical.
  • They Shoot Gilmores, Don't They? - Jackson is upset about Sookie and Lorelai discussing his and Sookie's personal life. He yells, "My child-bearing arrangements are between me and Sookie!" Then Luke interjects, "And the Lord." Scott Patterson's deadpan here is pure gold.
  • Keg! Max! - Brian's freaking out before the band's first-ever gig. Zach hears that it's heartburn and insists, "I told you, dude, it's your citrus intake. Stop eating oranges." What high school-aged guy says this to another guy? Hilarious.
  •  Let Me Hear Your Balilaikas Ringing Out - Luke has unknowingly become the sponsor for a soccer team full of violence-obsessed girls. After a winning game, one cherubic-looking player gleefully announces, "She went one way and her knee went the other!" Then all the girls cheer.
  • The Third Lorelai -Tristan is incredulous at the fact that Rory would suggest he date Paris. Please re-watch the way Chad Michael Murray says, "Are you serious?" It KILLS me!
  • Say Goodnight, Gracie - It's the morning after the disastrous party at Kyle's house. Lorelai learns that Rory was the cause of an enormous fight that broke out and says, "So not only did you go to a cop-raided party but you started the raid?
    Rory: Yes.
    Lorelai: This fence is broken because of you, this crap is on the ground because of you.
    Rory: What's your point?
  And then, immediately, this:

And now, two slightly controversial opinions.

  1. Jason Stiles was a great boyfriend. He came the closest to matching Lorelai's wit and pace of dialogue ("Take a poll! No one in this room has any idea what this crazy old man is talking about!"), and he really cared about her. Plus he was way more FUN (and Lorelai is all about having fun!) than Max, Alex, Christopher, or Luke. Let's go.
  2. April Nardini is not the worst character on the show. That honor belongs to her mother Anna: an unreasonable, spiteful, and joyless human being. Stay in New Mexico forever, Nardini!
Finally, I'm not above acknowledging one of Gilmore's biggest weaknesses: continuity. Specifically, its utter lack of any type of understanding of time/anything that's happened in the past. How long did Lorelai live at her parents with Rory before she moved to Stars Hollow? How long has Luke actually known the girls? Don't think about these questions too hard! However, the most egregious offense to me is an off-hand exchange between Rory and Jess in A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving. 

Jess: It's not the first time a couple’s broken up.
Rory: It is for us.

Uh... in what universe is this the first time Rory and Dean broke up? Apparently the writers temporarily forgot that they were broken up for like five episodes in season one. And two of those episodes were ALL ABOUT the break-up! Literally! There was an episode called The Break-Up Part 2! And Dean and Rory even discuss that storyline in season two! ("Breaking up, not for us.") And I know what you're thinking. 'Val. You're obsessing over a reference made by two fictional characters from an episode of a television show that aired 14 years ago. Get over it.'

Well, that's something that's just between me and the Gilmore Girls.

And the Lord.
*Sherman-Palladino, the creator and voice of the show, famously left after season six. Season seven was produced without her, and it's pretty universally agreed-upon that this season is a bit sub-par. (Jason Mantzoukas: "I felt like I was watching a show that I love be haunted.")

**What a weird way to say that amount of time. Would this not actually be six months, one week, and two days? I mean, far be it from me to correct Lorelai, but... what??

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Lin-Manuel Shouldn't Win The Tony

Scattered thoughts on the Tony Awards slash the current Broadway season. Way more than you want to read, but you should anyway. Because reasons. Let's go!!!!

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda is one of my favorite people. "Hamilton" is the best piece of theater I've ever seen in my life, hands down. He should win every single creative Tony award he's up for, from score to book and everything in between. He's created an AMAZING piece of art, and what he's done deserves all the acclaim it's received.

    BUT. I don't think he should win the Tony for Best Actor. He's bested in this category by Leslie Odom Jr., who consistently stops the show as Hamilton's foil, Aaron Burr. Odom's voice is out of this world, and he's just a very skilled performer. Lin would be the first person to tell you that his voice is not as strong as some of his co-stars, and I just don't think he deserves to win in this category. But he will, because the Tony voters can't not give it to him. I mean, he wrote the thing! They'll probably check his name every time his name comes up on the ballot. And every other time, he totally deserves it. But in the Lead Actor in a Musical category? Lin-Manuel shouldn't win the Tony.

  • It's no secret that I'm a big fan of "Hamilton." I love that so many people who wouldn't normally be musical fans are head over heels for a Broadway show. I just hope that the audience "Hamilton" brings to the Tonys on Sunday night will take note of the many other wonderful productions currently on Broadway! "Hamilton" is being hailed as a gateway to Broadway. I just hope people will actually walk through it!

  • The person I'm rooting for the MOST? Daveed Diggs. I want him to win more than I've wanted any one person or show to win a Tony since I was pulling for "Newsies" back in aught twelve.(Gives the side-eye to "Once.") Anyway, Daveed is an incredibly magnetic performer. This is his FIRST theater experience (not just Broadway), and he NAILS IT. He's hilarious, he raps faster than anyone else (he spits 19 words in three seconds), and he masterfully takes on two incredibly disparate characters: Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. I could watch him perform all day!

    Also it doesn't hurt that he is super attractive.

  • Did you know that Danny Burstein, up for the same award as Manuel and Odom, has been nominated for a Tony a total of FIVE times now? And he's never won. Any other year and his acclaimed role of Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof" would probably be awarded with the spinning trophy. Too bad "Fiddler" had the unfortunate timing to open in the same season as "Hamilton." He'll soon be in the company of Broadway soprano Kelli O'Hara, who was nominated five times before her sixth time out finally netted her the long-deserved award. Let's just hope Burstein also strikes gold in his next role!

  • Laura Benanti won't win, but that's okay. She's already won once before, and she's definitely won the heart of the internet, with brilliant and HILARIOUS videos like this and this being consistently released! 

  • You know who might win in her category? Not the "Hamilton" actor, shockingly enough. But I really think Cynthia Erivo might win this one! She's supposed to be phenomenal in "The Color Purple."

  • Alex Brightman is super fun to follow on social media. He just seems like a really cool person! It's no wonder he's been getting rave reviews for his role in "School of Rock." (Also: Dude runs the equivalent of 3.5 miles EVERY SHOW! Whaaaaaaat!) This isn't his year to win, but I'm hopeful that he'll take home the big prize another year!

  • "Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed," you guys. This same I've got to experience this show, I need to know what everyone is talking about feeling I have about it is exactly how I felt about "Hamilton" a year ago. (Fun fact: "Shuffle Along" producers submitted the show to the Tony committee as a revival, since it's based on a 1920's show of a similar name, in order to get out of the way of "Hamilton." No such luck -- the show was ruled an original musical.)

  • Audra McDonald, Billy Porter, and Brian Stokes Mitchell ALL IN ONE MUSICAL ("Shuffle Along"). It's almost too much for me!!! I mean, Audra is the QUEEN and it would thrill my heart to no end to get to see her in this.  Billy Porter gave one of my most favorite Tony acceptance speeches of all time, and it never fails to make me tear up! And Brian Stokes Mitchell's voice pours out of him and just makes your heart soar. Between Sarah Brown Eyes and This Nearly Was Mine, this man is just the ultimate Broadway singer.

  • Savion Glover, of "Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk" (and Sesame Street!) fame, choreographed "Shuffle Along," is going up against Andy Blankenbuehler, whom I love. This will be a tough category.

  • I love Megan Hilty. I hope she wins. 

  • "Waitress" seems like a magical musical. It certainly has a magical cast album! Check it out if you've not had a chance to listen to it yet. It has some beautiful (and funny!) songs composed by Sara Bareilles.

  • RIP but props to "Tuck Everlasting," "American Psycho," and "Dames at Sea," who have already closed their doors after short runs, but still received at least one Tony nomination! You go, Glen Coco.
Here I am with all of my Tony-nominated pals at the top of the Empire State Building yesterday! Wow, what a crew. Thanks again, guys! I'm so glad we're all best friends forever!

The Tony Awards will air Sunday at 7 on CBS. Don't miss it!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

9th Annual Oscar Picks

I can feel it, people! This is my year! I'm about to correctly predict TWENTY-FOUR Academy Award categories. A thing that will totally, TOTALLY happen, because I've never been wrong before ever.*

(Previously: 201520142013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008.)

Best Picture: I've not had such a difficult time picking the Best Picture winner since... well, since last year. And I was wrong last year. But who's keeping track (nervous laugh)? Anyway, with apologies to all of the other nominees, I think this race comes down to "The Big Short," "Spotlight," and "The Revenant." But despite the critical love for "The Big Short," I just don't think this one is remarkable enough to take the top prize. That leaves "The Revenant" and "Spotlight," which is truly one of the best movies I've ever seen. If I was voting, Michael Keaton and his team would get to go up on stage to accept the award. Unfortunately, I think the tide has turned, and the votes are going to come down in favor of "The Revenant." Good job, Alejandro. Good job, Leo. Good job, bear.

Best Director: Speaking of Alejandro: Congratulations, Alejandro Innaritu! You are about to become only the third director ever to win back-to-back Oscars for Best Director! Sorry, George Miller. Better luck in another 30 years!

Best Actor: Okay, yes. After four fruitless nominations, this fifth should stick, as it is finally, FINALLY Leonardo DiCaprio's year. And we're all very happy for him. (Particularly Kate Winslet, which makes me tear up every time I think about their sweet friendship.) But if we're not careful, Matt Damon could soon be in the same boat: come Sunday he will have lost three times! So. Fair warning, Academy voters, of which doubtless scores of you are reading this. Don't let what happened to Leo happen to Matt! Anyway, the question now is this: is Leo winning because this is truly the greatest performance of the year? Or because OH JUST GIVE HIM ONE ALREADY, HE ATE A DEER CARCASS (or whatever it was)? Spoiler alert: it's probably the latter.

Best Actress: All things being equal, and every Oscar year being a clean slate, Cate Blanchett might actually be in the running for this award. But all things are NOT equal, and the Academy has a very good memory for anyone they've honored recently. And unfortunately for Cate, she's just won too recently to have a fighting chance this year (the same fate that's befallen Eddie Redmayne). All of this to say: Brie Larson will be the one to win. An Oscar for you, Brie Larson! You go, Brie Larson! (And none for Gretchen Weiners, bye!)

Best Supporting Actor: Sylvestor Stallone all but has this one in the bag. If somehow it doesn't go his way, though, look for one of the Marks (Ruffalo or Rylance) to steal it away.

Best Supporting Actress: Kate or Alicia? Alicia or Kate? As much as we'd all love to see a "Leo/Kate with their Oscars" photo op, I think Alicia Vikander is going to win. (Although let's be honest: she already won big when she starred in one of the best films of 2015, "The Man from Uncle," amiright?)

Animated Feature: I don't believe there's a universe where "Inside Out" doesn't win. But if something strange happens with time and space and Pixar DOESN'T scoop up this award, I suppose "Anomalisa" could possibly upset.

Production Design: I think this one probably comes down to "Mad Max: Fury Road" or "The Revenant," not that I believe "The Martian" is any less deserving. In the end, however, my money is on "Mad Max."

Cinematography: "The Revenant" being shot all in natural light makes a pretty good case for it to win for Best Cinematography (along with, I'm sure, plenty of other... technical... cinematographical... reasons). Interesting side fact: this will be Emmanuel Lubezki's third straight win in this category!

Costume Design: One of my favorite things about "Cinderella" was the glorious, gorgeous costumesparticularly those worn by Cate Blanchett's character. However, it's facing stiff competition from both "Mad Max" and "Carol." At the end of the day, I think we'll be seeing a win for the innovative designs of "Mad Max."

Film Editing: Conventional wisdom would have me pick the Best Picture to win in this category as well. But with the Best Picture category so up in the air this year, conventional wisdom is in shambles. Look for "Mad Max" to pick up yet another award here.

Makeup and Hairstyling: Tra la la, "Mad Max" again. Sigh.

Original Score: Man, wouldn't it be great to see John Williams win for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"? (Would that make Lin-Manuel Miranda a winner by extension?) Too bad, though. Ennio Morricone will be winning for "The Hateful Eight." (Likely that film's only award of the evening.)

Original Song: 2016 is off to quite a start for Lady Gaga! First she won a Golden Globe for her work in "American Horror Story," and as of Sunday night she'll also be an Oscar winner for her song from the movie "The Hunting Ground."

Original Screenplay: Oh, I hope I hope I HOPE that "Spotlight" wins this one!

Adapted Screenplay: To me, this field seems wide open; any of these movies could win! And while it would be so wonderful to see the lovely "Brooklyn" scoop this one up, I think it's going to "The Big Short."

Sound Mixing: Honestly? I have no idea. Probably either "The Revenant" or "Mad Max"? I guess? Sure, "Mad Max." HAVE ANOTHER.

Sound Editing: See above. "Mad Max."

Visual Effects: "The Revenant's" bear. "Star Wars'"... battles and aliens. "Mad Max's"... mad... people. This one could go to any of those three. And at first I was going to pick "Mad Max" AGAIN, but the more I think about it, the more I think that this is the one category that "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" could reign supreme.

Documentary Feature: Once in love with "Amy," always in love with Amy!

Documentary Short: Dang. These categories could not be more difficult to predict, and I won't pretend to have ever heard of these films! It's a total crapshoot, and crap... I'm going with "A Girl in the River."

Foreign Language Film: Some years you hear buzz about some of the Foreign Language Films, but this year? I've never heard of any of these titles. Whoops. Well, apparently Academy voters were pretty enamoured of "Son of Saul," so I'd imagine that's the big winner!

Animated Short: I recently watched "World of Tomorrow" on Netflix, and it was so incredibly creative and inventive and strange and sad and intriguing and... I'm out of adjectives. But it really was fascinating (oh, there's another one!), and-- who knows?-- voters might be up for picking something a little different! If not, though, they'll probably instead throw their support behind a safer bet: Pixar's "Sanjay's Super Team."

Live Action Short: Frankly, my dear... I have no idea. But the Academy seems to like to pick more serious fair, so with a short about war on the list, I think I'll go with "Shok."

*Oh, what's that, Bob? I'm wrong all the time? Got it!