Oscars 2014 – Running Diary

Well, the Oscars have come and gone and I have to say, I was a little underwhelmed with last night’s telecast. I don’t know if it was because I was so certain of many of the winners or that Ellen DeGeneres just wasn’t that funny. I giggled a few times during the ceremony, but there were also a lot of awkward moments where things just didn’t see very polished or well thought out. For a bunch of people who get paid to read lines for a living, there sure were a lot of teleprompter errors. And while there were some momentary moments of joy and happiness, for the most part no one seemed all that happy to be there. Enthusiasm was definitely a rare commodity. Maybe it was the weather; the people of Los Angeles are not used to that much rain.

I’m not sure which of these factors mattered most, but all in all I was pretty bored by the Oscars. Thank goodness I had my pal Kristin and a plate full of poutine to keep my energy up. As always, I jotted down my thoughts as I was watching the ceremony:

8:30 pm – Thank goodness. We can finally turn the channel from Giuliana Rancic and the E! red carpet coverage. I know people love her, but I can’t stand that woman. The only excitement was when Jennifer Lawrence fell getting out of her car:


JLaw should be carried around like Justin Bieber.

Also of note from the red carpet – Benedict Cumberbatch can photobomb like a boss:


Watch Ellen’s monologue here.

8:31 pm –Ellen makes her first (and hopefully last) joke about the weather. Sorry peeps – the rest of the country has been buried under snow all winter; we are not sympathetic to a little bit of rain.

8:32 pm – The real Captain Philips and Philomena are in the audience. No word on if the real Wolf of Wall Street got an invite.

8:33 – Liza Minnelli did not seem amused to be compared to a male Liza impersonator. I dug the blue hair, though.

86th Annual Academy Awards - People Magazine Arrivals

8:34 – Step away from the bronzer and hair dye, John Travolta.


8:35 – If I ever decide to try my hand at stand-up, I want Julia Roberts in the audience. She laughs enthusiastically at anything.

8:39 – You probably should be able to use your context clues, but if you haven’t seen The Wolf of Wall Street and were confused about Ellen’s joke involving Jonah Hill – he shows his (fake) penis in the movie. (“Jonah Hill is here tonight. He is nominated for Wolf of Wall Street. You showed us something in that film that I have not seen in a very, very long time.”)

8:40 – “And now…our first white presenter.”

8:41 – Best Supporting Actor kicks things off. Lots of talented people in this category.

8:42 – Not a surprise – Jared Leto and his beautiful hair win for Dallas Buyers Club.


8:44 – Sweet shout out to his mom. That was a pretty perfect speech. Well done, Jordan Catalano!

8:45 – I have no idea who came up with this Leto/Buddy Christ side by side, but God bless them.


8:46 – Interesting blue jacket on Jim Carrey


8:48 – “That magic I’m referring to is LSD.” That actually made me laugh, for possibly the first time all night.

8:49 – A montage? Already? We’re barely 20 minutes into this thing.

8:50 – Kerry Washington looks absolutely gorgeous. She’s got kind of a Grecian vibe going on.


8:51 – Pharrell is officially trolling us with this hat. But I’m excited to see him perform “Happy.”


8:52 – Lupita Nyong’o, Meryl Streep, and Amy Adams are getting down.

8:53 – I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen the audience get up and dance during the Oscars before. Well done, Pharrell.

8:54 – Where do I get a pair of the sneakers that Pharrell is wearing?


8:57 – Best costuming goes to The Great Gatsby. The winner apparently came in costume.


9:00 – Sadly, Bad Grandpa’s Oscar dreams have been dashed.

9:03 – Harrison Ford is out now to introduce three of the Best Picture nominees. He sounds very bored with the whole thing.

9:05 – I’m not sure what’s happening right now – I’ve been distracted by the dreamy Channing Tatum.

9:10 – We’ve now entered the portion of the evening where we trot out an older celebrity so that they can act like a whack job. This year’s “winner” is Kim Novak, who clearly has had a lot of work done.


9:11 – I think they do this to scare the celebrities as to what their future holds; sadly, even celebrities eventually age.

9:14 – Frozen wins for best animated feature. Novak thinks that this is American Idol and drags out the announcement of the winner.

9:17 – Another montage.

9:21 – Emma Watson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are adorable. Can we get them to start dating?


9:22 – Gravity wins its first of what I predict will be many Oscars.

9:23 – Now Zac Efron is here to present. We have apparently entered the “youth” portion of the evening.

9:24 – Efron is proving right now that it’s hard to be pretty and talk at the same time.

9:25 – Karen O to perform “The Moon Song” from Her, which I loved. Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend accompanies her. Hipsters everywhere rejoice.


9:26 – Without the context of the movie, I’m not sure this song works as well.

9:27 – I do appreciate that she took off her shoes, though I hope that she doesn’t forget them on the stage.


9:33 – Worth noting -Jason Sudeikis cleans up nice.


9:34 – Kate Hudson should still be in time out for derailing Matthew McConaughey’s career for nearly a decade with her silly romantic comedies.

9:36 – Enough with the crowd work, Ellen.

9:38 – I’m looking very smart now that 20 Feet From Stardom won Best Documentary Feature.

9:39 – Darlene Love is making a solid case for background singers everywhere:


9:40 – Ha! Kevin Spacey comes out to present in character from House of Cards.

9:42 – Weird that Angelina Jolie is in attendance and they aren’t showing her when she won an honorary Oscar.

9:49 – The Great Beauty wins for Best Foreign Language film; guess I know what’s going to the top of my Netflix queue.

9:50 – I am so incredibly bored and we’re only a little over an hour in.

9:51 – Tyler Perry? Really? He gets to present?

9:52 – I’m pretty sure that Perry just completely skipped over the introduction of Her. Either that or I lapsed into a coma and missed it.

9:54 – That was not nearly enough Brad Pitt. Can we just have him stand on stage for the rest of this?

9:56 – U2 performs “Ordinary Love”


10:00 – Have we really resorted to selfies to liven this show up? Because nothing is more fun that watching people take photos of themselves.

10:03 – OK, I’m game – I’ll retweet this celeb filled photo:


Reports are that Liza Minnelli tried to sneak her way into this photo. A-List only, Liza (unless you are Lupita’s adorable brother, who totally crashed the party)!

10:04 – I do love me some Michael B. Jordan. Texas Forever!

10:06 – I’m just not sure how I feel about this colored jacket trend among the men. Even Chris Hemsworth is in on the action:


10:07 – Another one for Gravity – Best Sound Mixing.

10:08 – I’m now arguing with Kristin’s hubby that my rejection of the tinted tux jacket is not at all a rejection of Chris Hemsworth. He can wear a paper sack and I’d still be thrilled.

10:11 – Chritoph Waltz is here to announce Best Supporting Actress. He needs to be in another movie stat.

10:12 – I think the camera man is drunk; that shot was all sorts of messed up.

10:14 – Hooray! Lupita Nyong’o for the win. Well deserved!


10:19 – The consensus among our group is that the new ABC show Resurrection (which they are endlessly promoting) looks creepy as hell.

10:23 – OK – I’ll concede that the pizza delivery bit was pretty funny. I enjoy Brad Pitt running around handing out plates and napkins; he’s a stand-up dude. But seriously people – make sure the pregnant woman gets some pizza.


Side note: Turns out that was a REAL pizza delivery guy.

Further side note: Brad Pitt was totally digging that pizza:


I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of carbs in the Pitt/Jolie household.

10:26 – We all agree that it would be fun to hang out with Bill Murray.

10:27 – Harold Ramis shout-out gets big cheer. R.I.P., Harold.

10:28 – Yet another win for Gravity. My picks are looking pretty darn good.

10:30 – Anna Kendrick and Gabourey Sidibe here to introduce Best Editing, though I’m hoping this turns into an episode of American Horror Story: Coven.

10:31 – Whoopi seems to be wearing some cool red shoes under her dress.

10:32 – Ah – they are part of a Wizard of Oz tie-in. The Oscars were ahead of me.

86th Annual Academy Awards - Show

10:34 – Pink? Was Beyoncé busy? No disrespect to Pink, but she wouldn’t have been the first person I thought of for this.


10:38 – Pink did a nice job, but why exactly are we doing a tribute to The Wizard of Oz? This show is moving slowly enough without filler.

10:42 – Well, they finally got Ellen to wear a dress.


10:43 – Jennifer Garner and Benedict Cumberbatch are having a competition for sharpest cheekbones. I think I give the edge to Cumberbatch.


10:46 – Another freakin montage.

10:47 – It’s clear that we are using a very liberal definition of “hero” for this montage. Kevin Bacon in Footloose doesn’t strike me as all that heroic.

10:53 – Glenn Close is here to introduce the “Bring Out Your Dead” segment, which is fitting since she looks like she is dressed to go to a funeral.


10:54 – Interesting. They kicked things off with James Gandolfini.

10:55 – I’m glad that they muted the audio and gave all the people featured in the In Memorium segment the same amount of screen time. I hate when this turns into a popularity contest.

10:55 – Philip Seymour Hoffman gets the power position at the end of the segment.

10:56 – Why have Bette Midler sing now? This is more wasted time – and a song from the 80s. Get current, Oscars.

11:02 – If you are wondering about the weird add-on memorial for Sarah Jones as they were going to commercial, she was a camera assistant who was killed on the set of Midnight Ride on February 20th. There was an online campaign for her to be included in the full Memorial segment.

11:08 – Well, Travolta just butchered the hell out of Idina Menzel’s name. Dude – you had ONE JOB tonight. Learn her name.

11:09 – Menzel sings “Let It Go.”


11:17 – We’ve just seen someone hit for the cycle and complete the elusive quest for the EGOT.

11:20 – Dear Lord – there are still six more awards to go. Shoot me now.

11:24 – When Robert DeNiro gets one of the biggest laughs of the night, you know an Oscar telecast isn’t doing well.

11:26 – 12 Years a Slave for Best Adapted Screenplay. Got that one wrong.

11:27 – Yay! Spike Jonze wins Best Original Screenplay for Her.

11:28 – Jonze’s speech was confusing – I thought he was thinking DeNiro and Penelope Cruz, which made zero sense.

11:29 – A skateboarding joke? C’mon Ellen – you are better than this.

11:34 – Sidney Poitier looks old for the first time. He always seemed so timeless to me, but he’s certainly moving slowly.

11:40 – A “Sweating to the Oldies” reference? Who in the hell is writing these jokes?

11:44 – As was preordained, Cate Blanchett fulfills her Oscar destiny.


11:46 – Blanchett throwing a little Girl Power into her speech. Good for her!

11:49 – Jennifer Lawrence manages to walk out on stage without incident.

11:50 – Alright, Alright Alright! Matthew McConaughey is an Oscar winner!

11:51 – Leonardo DiCaprio is the Susan Lucci of the Oscars. I guess he’ll just have to be content with banging supermodels for the rest of his life. Poor guy.

11:52 – I am trying to decipher his speech for clues related to True Detective. Tell us who The Yellow King is already!


11:55 – Here’s Razzie award winner Will Smith to announce Best Picture and bring this bloated ceremony to an end.

11:56 – Ellen’s monologue was right – Hollywood isn’t racist. 12 Years a Slave wins!

11:57 – Steve McQueen is so happy. Good for them.


11:58 – Um…you may not want to start playing a guy off once he starts talking about slavery. Just an idea.

12:00 – Hooray! It’s over. Now I can go to bed. So sad that my beloved American Hustle got a big old goose egg.

What did you think of the Oscars? Were you as bored as I was? Sound off in the comments below.

2014 Oscar Predictions



The big day is almost upon us – the 2014 Academy Award ceremony airs this Sunday. It seemed so far away, but a chaotic and stressful February has mostly flown by. One of the casualties of this rough month has been my annual Oscar death race. I had been looking forward to trying to see as many of the nominees as possible like previous years, but a whole host of outside circumstances made that nearly impossible this year. I had seen all the major award nominees before they were announced, so I’m still in better shape than most of the country, but I’m still disappointed. I wouldn’t have been able to see all the nominees anyway, since two of the animated films haven’t gone to wide release yet, so that is some small solace.  I’ll hopefully bounce back next year to chase after obscure foreign films, but I just didn’t have it in me this year.

That won’t stop me from making some predictions, however; even in the years where I have seen more of the nominees, I usually wind up guessing. On some things, my tastes and the majority (or plurality) of the Academy are simpatico; on others, we differ quite a bit. What I think will win and what I want to win are sometimes two very different ideas. Who knows – this could be the year that my accuracy actually increases because I don’t have to take my personal feeling into account for some categories.

So without any further ado – here are my predictions for the 2014 Oscars:

Best Picture:

12 Years a Slave

This is an extremely close race this year and there are several of the 9 nominated film that I could see possibly walking away with a trophy. For me, I think it’s probably down to 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle and while Hustle was my favorite film of the year, I think that the importance of 12 Years a Slave will ultimately give it the edge. I’m guessing that voters will be more inclined to pick the more serious film. I don’t think that Nebraska, Captain Philips, Philomena of Her have any real chance, but a win for Gravity, The Wolf of Wall Street or Dallas Buyers Club isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility.


Actor in a Leading Role:

Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

I was torn on this one – I’d like to see Leonardo DiCaprio finally pick up a win, but Oscar voters love a physically transformative performance and that gives the clear edge to McConaughey. I’d like to think that Chiwetel Ejiofor is in the conversation as well, but I haven’t heard a lot of buzz to indicate that. This would be a great capper on what has turned out to be the Year of McConaughey. Bruce Dern and Christian Bale were also great, but I don’t think that they’ll be factors.



Actress in a Leading Role:

Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

I’m pretty sure that this is Blanchett’s award to lose; she’s done quite well at the earlier awards shows and she really gave an outstanding performance. I think Amy Adams is the best shot for an upset, but unless Blanchett did something awful to a lot of Academy voters, she appears to be a lock to win. Meryl Streep always makes things interesting, but I didn’t think her performance in August: Osage County was one of her best.


Actor in a Supporting Role:

Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Leto’s performance was one of my favorite things that I saw this year, so I’ll be thrilled to see him win. He completely disappeared into his portrayal of Rayon and brought a sensitivity and fragility to that role that was essential for the movie to work. I kind of like the idea of “Academy Award Winner Jonah Hill” appearing on posters for movies like 22 Jump Street, but I don’t think that is going to happen.


Actress in a Supporting Role

Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave

I hate to go against my girl Jennifer Lawrence, but I think that Lupita Nyong’o will ultimately walk away with this one. She had the more challenging role and really nailed it; you can’t think about that movie without thinking about her Patsey. 12 Years a Slave was her film debut, which may hurt her with Oscar voters, but in the end I think she’ll ultimately walk away the winner.


Animated Feature Film


I was going to go out on a limb here and name The Wind Rises (a film that I haven’t actually seen from acclaimed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki), but I don’t think that will be any competition for the Disney machine. I quite enjoyed Frozen and it’s a nice throwback to the classic Disney movies of the 90s. And let’s be honest – there is no stopping “Let It Go.”




Few films were as visually stunning this year as Gravity and I think that the voters will reward the cinematographer for that achievement. I liked the black and white landscape of Nebraska, but the Midwest is no competition for the wonder of outer space.


Costume Design

American Hustle

I loved so many things about American Hustle, but the clothes were at the top of my list. I have a soft spot for 1970s couture, so I was in heaven while watching this film. It would have been easy to get caught up in 70s kitsch, but the costume designer showed enough restraint that the characters didn’t become caricatures.



Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity

The sheer magnitude of what he was able to pull off with all the special effects will surely win Cuarón Best Director. I had my issues with Gravity, but I think that Academy voters will be so awe-inspired by what he put up on the big screen that I don’t think the other directors have much of a chance.


Documentary Feature

20 Feet from Stardom

I predict that the change in the voting this year for documentaries (now open to all Academy voters) will result in a win for the more crowd pleasing 20 Feet from Stardom over some of the more depressing films that are in contention for Best Documentary. I really liked 20 Feet, so I have no issue with the win should it happen; I thought it was an interesting look at the world of being a back-up singer. And any movie that featured Bruce Springsteen gets my vote.


Documentary Short Subject

Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall

This is a total guess as I’ve seen none of these nominees and there usually isn’t a lot of news on the frontrunners in this category.  The woman profiled in The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life just died, so it would be nice to see that film win.


Film Editing


I think that Gravity is going to win most of the visual awards. Just a hunch.


Foreign Language Film

The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)

This is how you know I really dropped the ball this year – usually I’ve seen at least half of the foreign language films and this year I’ve seen nada. But I’ve heard good things about The Broken Circle Breakdown, so it gets my vote.


Makeup and Hairstyling

Dallas Buyers Club

I think this wins by default because I think most Academy voters would have a tough time voting for Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa or The Lone Ranger.


Music – Original Score


I liked a lot of things about Her, but the music in particular stood out to me which is saying something as I am usually pretty oblivious to that stuff. I don’t know if John Williams being in this race will have any bearing – he’s a known quality – but I hope he isn’t a factor. I did notice the music in The Book Thief, but mostly because I found it schmaltzy and cloying.


Music – Original Song

“Let It Go”

Case closed


Production Design


Just going with the trend.


Short Film – Animated

Get a Horse!

I honestly didn’t really like this short, but it brings back Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse so I think that will be enough for people to get all nostalgic.


Short Film – Live Action

The Voorman Problem

I liked this title the best of the options.


Sound Editing


In space, no one may be able to hear you scream, but you can sure hear things colliding with one another.


Sound Mixing


Sure – why not?


Visual Effects



Writing – Adapted Screenplay

The Wolf of Wall Street

I don’t know if this will actually win, but I’m reading the book The Wolf of Wall Street and Terence Winter deserves the award. That book is not very well written. At all. Jordan Belfort might know a lot of ways to hustle people out of money, but he has a very limited knowledge of adjectives.


Writing – Original Screenplay


Not everyone loved this movie, but I think people can agree that it is a pretty unique story idea. I don’t know if that will be enough to get Her the win, but it is certainly the most non-traditional nominee.


What are your Oscar predictions? Let us know who you think will be a big winner on Sunday – and watch Monday for my love blog of the Oscars ceremony.

Her – A Review


I have an unhealthy attachment to my cell phone.

I feel like I’ve been writing this blog long enough and that you people “know” me so I am comfortable making this kind of confession. I have a wholly unhealthy relationship with my phone; if I leave it at home, the level of anxiety that I have rivals that of a mother that doesn’t know where her child is. The whole day I am off kilter, obsessing about its whereabouts. I know because this happened last week, when I innocently forgot to grab my phone when I left for work. It was a stressful day, which is ridiculous since I not only had a desktop computer at my disposal, but also my tablet and a desk phone. But, of course, none of those devices can send or receive a text message and the thought that I was missing something important was almost too much for me to handle. Now, keep in mind that I can count the number of really important texts that I’ve received in my life on one hand. But the idea that I was missing out on something drove me to distraction.

Yes – I have issues.

However, as much as I love my phone and the technology that it puts at my fingertips, I am not in love with my phone. That concept was initially something of a hard sell for me, despite my proclivity to have my cell by my side at all times. When I first saw the previews for the film Her, where Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his operating system, I was a little skeptical. It all seemed kind of ridiculous and I remember people laughing after the trailer had ended at the sheer lunacy of the premise. I remember one person turning to their companion as asking if that was a fake trailer.

Nevertheless, I have complete faith in director Spike Jonze so while I had my doubts about the concept, I had confidence in his execution. The fact that he also wrote the film was a mark in the film’s favor as well; Jonze is a pretty creative guy and if anyone was going to stick the landing in this film, it would be him. An impressive cast was the final component that won me over. By the fourth time that I saw the trailer, I was legitimately excited for the film and saw the potential for a compelling story in what I had first dismissed as nonsense.

My change of heart was absolutely warranted as I truly enjoyed Her; though the love affair is between a human and an inanimate object, it is still one of the more poignant and touching stories about love and romance that I’ve seen. Jonze and his actors completely sell the story and within moments of the story unfolding you forget that this is a tale that on paper sounds outlandish at best.

A lot of the credit for the beauty of Her belongs to Phoenix, who gives a wonderful and heartbreaking performance. This is one of my favorite roles of his in a while; he is so vulnerable and multifaceted that you just want to give him a hug. His loneliness and inability to connect with the real world in the wake of the dissolution of his marriage are relatable and believable to anyone who has been through a rough breakup. In his hands Theodore Twombly is a sweet guy who has regressed into himself and transforms once he connects with his operating system Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Theodore slowly blossoms and Phoenix masterfully handles this subtle transformation; you not only completely believe that Theodore is in love with Samantha, but he manages to make it not seem weird or too abstract. You believe that this is a real relationship and you find yourself happy that Theodore is happy, despite the unconventional nature of his romance. Since Samantha is only a voice, a lot of the heavy lifting in the movie falls to Phoenix, who more than rises to the challenge. It has been an especially stellar year for lead actor performances in films, but Joaquin Phoenix absolutely deserved to be recognized by the Academy for the work he does in Her. His full commitment to the role and his artful depiction of Theodore falling in love with Samantha was like nothing else that I saw this year. In a lot of ways, he had a higher level of difficulty because the role was so unique and creative; while Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bruce Dern and Chiwetel Ejiofor are all stellar, most of them are portraying real people and all are portraying very real situations. The role of Theodore could have easily become one note or a joke, but Phoenix finds the true humanity in this story and it’s a shame that he couldn’t find his way into the crowded field for some recognition.

Scarlett Johansson also has an interesting handicap in her portrayal of Samantha as she has to convince the audience that an operating system could develop feelings for a person. She mostly nails this, though I did eventually grow a little weary of her voice by the end of the film. You do believe, however, that Samantha is an equal partner in this relationship; this is not simply the story of a lonely guy who channels his despair into a delusional obsession with his phone. Samantha evolves as well, and in many ways this is the even harder part of the film to make believable. Johansson is ultimately able to pull this off, without the benefit of any emotion other than what she can convey in her voice. The lead roles in Her are unique, but when done as well as Phoenix and Johansson they create an interesting and surprisingly relatable look at relationships and the inherent joy and struggles associated with them.

Of course, without a well written script or helpful direction, Phoenix and Johansson would be limited in what they could accomplish. Jonze provides them with a solid foundation in his script and his direction is 100% on point in the film. Jonze is a true visionary and can somehow take some of the more off the wall ideas – like someone having a portal into actor John Malkovich’s head in the film Being John Malkovich – and make them seem completely logical yet still maintain their whimsy. He just has a knack for this kind of filmmaking so his association with Her really is a perfect marriage. There aren’t a lot of directors that could pull off this film with the depth of emotion and humor that Jonze is able to coax out of his stars.

Some other quick thoughts:

  • Amy Adams, Chris Platt and Rooney Mara all have small roles in the film as well and do nice work in their supporting parts. Adams is completely dressed down and mousy as Theodore’s best friend, a complete departure for the glamour of her other big role this year in American Hustle.
  • While none of the actors were recognized for their fin work, I’m glad that film at least squeezed in as a best picture contender. Jonze also has a real shot in the Best Original Screenplay category.
  • It is kind of amazing to think about how much your phone or computer really “knows” about you; it might be a good thing for a lot of people that our electronic devices keep our secrets.
  • Just in case you were wondering – the day I left my phone home, I had zero text messages waiting for me. All that agitation for no good reason; I am clearly not as popular as I like to believe.
  • I also really dug the music in Her; Karen O from Yeah, Yeah Yeahs received a Best Original Song nomination for “Moon Song”


I really enjoyed Her and its interesting and unique premise; though I first dismissed it as a trifle, it easily would make my list of best films of 2014 thanks to an incredibly strong performance from Joaquin Phoenix. If you have previously enjoyed Spike Jonze’s directorial work, you will be impressed with what Her has to offer. I encourage those that are dismissive of the plot to take a chance on this film – I think it will win you over. This is a sweet and touching film about alienation, love and connecting with others. It is a love story for our times – the emotions are real, but the conditions are very modern. Joaquin Phoenix is not everyone’s cup of tea and seems to go out of his way to be unpleasant, but this just may be the film that reminds people that underneath it all he is one hell of an actor. Spike Jonze and his actors bring an unlikely love story to life.