Guest Blogger “keyfilmfan” offers his predictions for this year’s 2013 Oscar nominations . . .
First of all, I want to thank my wife for allowing me the opportunity to guest blog as she continues to rest after delivering our second child. She then added that I can talk about any topic I want. Any topic? Wow, I feel like I’ve been given a blank check and a pen. Here we go.
I do miss the times when I can just grab my keys, jump in my car and drive to anywhere I want to go. The place I found myself the most when I had free time was at the movie theatre. Nothing beats the experience of seeing a film on a big screen in a sold out auditorium.
Nowadays, it is pretty tough to separate myself from my infant son. In 2012, my wife and I went to see a grand total of three films. Not just any three films, but highly conceptual, highly anticipated, commercial blockbusters: Marvel’s Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall. I’m thankful I got to see three, but if I was allowed to see only one film last year, it would be Skyfall. I am maintaining a decades long tradition of going to view every James Bond film at the movies since Moonraker in 1979.
While we are on the subject of Bond, every true James Bond fan should know by now that this Sunday, history could be made at the Academy Awards.
I haven’t been this excited about the Oscars in years. I cannot wait to see the great Adele belt out the Skyfall theme and then return to the stage minutes later to accept her Oscar for Best Original Song, a first for a James Bond tune. Then, the ceremony will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the film franchise. I will get to see a cool montage of classic Bond film clips. Most of all, if all egos are set aside, I may get to see for the first time ever all six actors who portrayed Bond appear in person, standing front and center, side by side, gleaming with pride, looking out at the rousing standing ovation coming from the audience. I am confident this will happen. If it does, well… I may just cry.
Oscar Sunday is just days away, and I am ready to predict the winners. Let’s face it; you don’t really need to see the films in order to know who will win. As we’ve seen in Oscar’s past, the best picture doesn’t necessarily win Best Picture. The winners are picked based on the hype currently spreading through the media and the mighty marketing campaigns that’s been taking place on my TV screen ever since the nominations were announced.
Here are two of my favorite campaigns. Academy voters are mad as hell that Ben Affleck was shut out of the Director’s nomination and they are not going to take it anymore. Translation: Agro will win Best Picture. Next, the people behind Silver Linings Playbook are pushing the fact the Robert De Niro has not won an Oscar in 32 years. Has it been that long? Well, this movie legend is overdue to win another one.
As a long time viewer of the Oscars (by the way, if you run into someone who claims they are movie fanatics but they never watch the Oscars is lying to you), one thing is consistent: the movie with the most Oscar nominations usually wins the most Oscars. Since this year is a horse race, Lincoln, who has the most nominations with 12, will not walk away with a boat load of statues. In years when there is no runaway hit, the Academy likes to share the wealth. Here is how it will break down.
Lincoln – 12 Nominations, will win 4; Directing, Actor, Adapted Screenplay and Production Design
Life of Pi – 11 Nominations, will win 3; Cinematography, Original Score and Visual Effects
Les Miserables – 8 Nominations, will win 2; Supporting Actress, and Makeup and Hairstyling
Silver Linings Playbook – 8 Nominations, will win 2; Actress, Supporting Actor
Argo – 7 Nominations, will win 2; Picture and Film Editing
Amour – 5 Nominations, will win 2; Original Screenplay and Foreign Language Film
As for the other categories:
Original Song – Skyfall; Animated Feature – Brave; Sound Mixing – Skyfall; Sound Editing – Skyfall; Costume Design – Anna Karenina; Documentary- Searching for Sugar Man; Documentary Short – Inocente; Animated Short – Paperman; Live Action Short – Asad
Let me know if you agree with my picks or if I’m way off the mark.
Traditionally, NYC Fashion Week impressed me as an exclusive event. The crème de la crème reveal and show off their dernier cri and totemic textiles. A-listers are awash in worship from photographic flashes. The illuminati offer praises like flowers at feet of fellow elite. Those of us who have no anchor in the sea of high fashion will rely on the reports of the select few broadcasts allowed harbor and entrance. Somehow this particular Thursday night the stars aligned, because I was given access to such a coveted event. What I would encounter was far from the images and assumption I initially endorsed.
At first, I felt as though I was “crashing” a selective soiree. Working in education, and now a stay at home mother expecting my second child, such pathways rarely make for opportune interceptions with the chic. It seemed irregular, unlikely, to sit alongside “those” who regularly lined the esteemed runways. I wasn’t a blip on the elite radar of the houses of Monique Lhuillier, Michael Kors or Ralph Lauren, so being a guest would be out of the question, or even the assistant of esteemed stylists like Rachel Zoe. Benevolently, my ticket came from the heart of a sister editor-in-chief, Shawn Chavis, whose gratitude to her staff and writers at Bronze Magazine gave us entre into this grand world, landing us at the premiere Sarahi showcase at RSVP, which her magazine was sponsoring.
I didn’t go to be seen, temporarily immortalized in this week’s tabloids and newspapers. Attending for me was an honor, as I would meet fellow women writers, affix flesh and blood to online personality, whose fellowship was garnered mostly online due to our remote locations. Working as a contributing writing and copy editor, Shawn has given me unwonted space to transition from working as teacher, professor and consultant to fulfill my aspiration of freelance writing. Emelyn Stuart and I had been corresponding on Facebook in anticipation of our initial meeting; first reading about her in a previous issue of Bronze Magazine, her humor and receptive spirit made me excited to meet her. And others I would meet would become for me tour guides of dreams, unexpected touchstones of inner pain and the strength, courage, and wisdom that emanate from them.
I arrived early to RSVP, erring on the side of caution give my long commute by public transportation. I landed midst the hum of tuxedoed wait staff priming final touches and hoisting the poster of sponsors, greeters coordinating guest lists, and models practicing their many faces and stances. Photographers, writers, and support staff buzzed away in preparatory tasks. The hive was hopping. Yet in the mix I felt welcomed, as people scooting by me made time to pause, smile, and even say hello. They provided a welcoming atmosphere I was not expecting.
By chance one such smile came from VJ Ameliaismore, a local celebrity. Instantly we started talking. She became a guide for me that evening, not just for that event but as an example of someone diligently on a mission and living to fulfill a dream. Like a big sister to little sister, she shared her life history and work, funny stories about being the single mom of a son, and a short retrospective on her life as a teacher, model, and business woman. It was her intimate sharing against the backdrop of the busyness and buzz that powered the pondering of my own dreams, and hollowing a space to wish her dreams their deserved flight and height. Quickly disappearing backstage, she pointed me to where Shawn was. I embarked to meet my colleague and mentor.
I recognized Shawn as soon as I saw her. Her spirit casts an aura of welcome and receptivity, even while standing still in the chaos of patrons indulging the open bar and cocktail hour (alas, how I craved sampling the sushi and steak tartare). She shared her gratitude for the work I’ve done, particularly for last-minute copy editing. Here I was meeting the fountainhead of an inspirational magazine thanking ME. It was wondrous and wonderful to finally meet her, feeling far more like homecoming. Her grace and warmth were contagious, enveloping me, like dwelling in the company of a dear friend.
Standing right next to her was Emelyn Stuart. I recognized her by the cool confidence she exudes, and in the striped dress (inside joke). Media magnate and prolific film producer, her repertoire and resume remained quiet within her. She didn’t greet me with her resume or reputation. She doesn’t bring them into our conversation at all. Instead, she bestows an authentic invitation to learn about one another. In fact, she asks ME questions that have me since thinking about where and how I want to direct my future endeavors in writing. She offered advice on how to gain sponsorship for my blog to build its readership and reputation. Being around her was like being released to explore and dig deeper into one’s dreams, and I found myself rattling off all that I wanted to be and become in this new chapter of my career and life. She offered her phone number and suggested we keep in touch.
Even more than what I learned from the outpour of sisters like Shawn and Emelyn is learning what we can offer others. Before the start of the show, acclaimed model and business woman Njie Sabik informed us of the silent auction going on as well, with proceeds going to two charitable organizations. She bravely shared that one was created in tribute to her mother; the designer, Suzette Kelly, earlier informed us Njie just buried her mother days before the show. Such character to remain committed to participating in the show and disclosing such a personal tragedy marks Njie as evidence of resilience. After the show, she was swept away for a barrage of photos. Between the flashes I snuck in to share with her how I was moved by her celebration of her mother. I told how I too lost my mother to cancer (AML), and offered for inspiration that eventually better days do come. I relayed my admiration of how brave she was to disclose what she did, staying committed to the show, and that I believed her mother would be proud of her for her endeavors. Njie embraced me in a long understanding hug. It felt fulfilling to know that even in sorrow there is the root of kinship, and that even as strangers we can each be healing balm for one another. Not to mention her power on a runway. She rips it with methodical presentation and presence. She owns a room when she enters, and leaves it mesmerized when she exits.
The House of Sarahi definitely lit up the night. Yet this night proved more to be a walk through the power and potential of sisterhood than retinal reverie. Amelia, Shawn, Emelyn and Njie irradiated my soul. I returned home, and in high heels and red swing dress, resumed the maternal work of feeding my son and rocking him to sleep. Out of sheer gratitude I thanked my husband who worked from home that day for this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Back to work . . .inspired.
Multi-award winning crime drama “Animal Kingdom” (Sony Pictures Classics, 2010) shines a focused light on the tension, turmoil, and tenacity of a family bonded by their familial investment . . . in criminal enterprise. Enter the Cody family, consisting of grandmother, three brothers, estranged daughter and her teenage son. Don’t anticipate a conventional family like that of The Cleavers, Bradys, or Cunninghams, or idyllic scenes of Sunday dinners or family vacations. All is not what it appears to be, as the façade of family barely gilds twisted ruminations.
Instead, we are thrust smack into the tangled dynamics of this deranged family, and the perverse loyalty shaping and shaming it. Narratives of twisted maternal instincts, sinister sibling rivalry, bilious behaviors, benevolent friendships and coming of age are slowly unraveled and witnessed. Matriarch Janine “Smurf” Cody showers her sons with a love that borders on the incestuous, and yet harbors a diabolical willingness to sacrifice some cubs to preserve those most cherished by the pride. Actions taken by eldest brother Andrew “Pope” to protect him and the family are at times paternal and psychotic. Teenage grandson Joshua “J” Cody comes to live with the family after his mother overdoses, but realizes that he has to grow up fast and choose allies carefully, whether police or kin, if he is to survive.
The movie will not belittle your sensibility with an admonishingly bow-tied retelling of the adage “I am my brother’s keeper.” It is replaced by revealing brute savagery that the family inflicts on one another to preserve the herd, no matter the sacrifice. The intertwined and wicked relationships unravel the extent and cost the members of the Cody family will pay in preserving the frays of family.
The movie will not distract you with scenes of armed bank robberies to titillate and fulfill our propensity for special effects and bedazzlement. Movies such as “Set it Off” and “Heat” do a unique job of using such scenes to propel plot and inform characterization. Instead, a montage of bank camera photos during opening credits takes care of this revelation. What is more deeply and intimately investigated are the aftershocks of crime, its residual impact on loyalty.
It’s damn near sinister and shameful the extent kin will go, and blood be shed, to procure peace. Everyone fears one another.
With rightful cause.
The Starz series “Boss” unfolds with immediate access into Chicago’s Mayor Thomas Kane’s Achilles’ heel. In an arranged secret meeting, he finds out his fateful diagnosis. The clock starts ticking. There isn’t much time. Yet it is this very alchemy of electoral ambition and corporeal deterioration that make for compelling drama. Kane is a well-crafted villain who is simultaneously vicious and vulnerable, sinister and sympathetic.
It is knowing upfront the mayor’s deterioration that spawns an audience’s intrigue, for the mayor does not go gently into that good night. Kane is an alluring character study. Ruthless and lacerative, he weathers all tides as his kingdom rises and falls, falls and rises. His prowess to manipulate is fascinating, wielding calculated and merciless vengeance over all who disobey him, inclusive of kindred and his own political inner circle. Even innocent people who unfortunately help his health are thrown under the bus.
The beauty of “Boss” is that as audience, we are made privy to not only the king’s ambitions but also his subjects’. We are given access to their subjection and subversion. Immediately we are thrust into a world of characters with rivaling complexity, coordinating and calculating their own moves within the chaotic milieu of a gubernatorial primary. No one-dimensional characters here. From office staff to family to foes, each has motives and agendas. Camouflaged and chameleonic does not begin to describe their orchestrated facades. It’s as if living in a Shakespearean tragedy, like that of King Lear, where family’s and statesmen’s loyalties are in constant flux and purchase. Morality and allegiance are wantonly disregarded.
The characters are compelling because while they are somewhat puppets of Kane, each resounds with their own uniquely tailored dilemmas and demons. An estranged drug-addicted daughter, now venerable priest of a local Catholic church and director of medical programs at its local poorly funded clinic, works to reconcile her past by promoting messianic and charitable good, even if done through unconventional and illegal means. An ambitious state treasurer, handpicked and endorsed by Kane to be the next governor, gets ahead of his post, and consequently, his unbridled lust, political naiveté, and easily purchased loyalty place him in dire and compromising positions. It all makes for intriguing viewing.
Masterful and crafty as a weathered chess player, Kane anticipates the moves of others before the seed germ has begun to sprout. He calculates their moves from jump, before they even touch the first pawn. He brings people in check should they garner the audacity to position their own ambitions before his. He has played their games before, so much so that their moves pulse and proliferate in the marrow of his bones. He engages the defense of some political foes and defenestration of others, all to the purpose of his glory and gain. He antiseptically disinfects against all others’ self-determination and self-service.
Yet while Kane in many respects is the devil incarnate, he is a character not incapacitated from conducting self-study. As his disease periodically peeks through in public speeches and private conferences, he takes steps to monitor its unfurling. He records its manifestations to capture and research what leaks out and what remains. Through these intermittent windows into his soul, we as witnesses sympathize with his helplessness and pity his body’s betrayal.
Accentuating “Boss” is its skillful cinematography, particularly the use of soliloquy to afford the audience intimate access into Kane’s mental machinery. Kane’s ramblings are like Shakespearean soliloquies that allow us to hear his inner meditations, as like the ravenous ruminations of Macbeth whose leprous ambition unravels his mind to see phantom daggers and the ghost of murdered ally Banquo.
Thomas Kane, the infamous mayor of Chicago, is unscrupulous. There is no person he will spare, no blood he will not shed (figuratively and literally), no ambition he will not dare, to insure his throne.
Which is why I can’t wait for Season 2 this Friday.