Winning…or not

We’re having a contest at work to predict the winners of this Academy Awards, and I’m almost sorry I haven’t seen any of the movies yet.

Correction: I saw “Frozen” and it was pretty darn good. I think it should win for best picture this year, but at the very least, maybe it will win for Best Animated Picture.

Since I had no idea what the nominated pictures were about, I thought I would find out.

The nominees for Best Picture are: American Hustle, Nebraska , Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, The Wolf of Wall Street, Her.

Nebraska-This movie is about Woody Grant, a man whose life has not gone exactly the he had planned. He lost his business years ago and is nearing the end of his life. Will Forte,of Saturday Night Live fame, plays his son, David.

American Hustle– this movie is loosely based on the ABSCAM operation of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

It stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Jennifer Lawrence. All three are nominated for an Academy Award.

Captain Phillips-The film is based on the true story of 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking, an incident during which merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips was taken hostage by pirates in the Indian Ocean led by Abduwali Muse.

Dallas Buyers Club-It is Dallas, 1985 and Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), a homophobic electrician and rodeo cowboy, is diagnosed with AIDS. Without medication, he is given 30 days to live.

Ron meets Rayon (Jared Leto), an HIV-positive transgender woman, whom he doesn’t much care for.  Running out of options, Ron drives to a Mexican hospital to get more AZT, which have helped alleviate his symptoms.

He brings the drug back to the states to sell it to others with HIV. Ron begins to show compassion towards homosexuals as time passes, and making money becomes less of a concern. Peptide T gets increasingly difficult to acquire, and in 1987 he files a lawsuit against the FDA. The judge is understanding, but lacks the legal tools to do anything. Ron died of AIDS in 1992, seven years later than doctors predicted.

Philomena– Philomena (Judi Dench) becomes pregnant in 1951 after meeting a man at fair and is sent by her father to Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea in Ireland. After giving birth to a son, she is forced to work in their laundry for four years to pay off the cost of her stay. Without telling her, the nuns adopted her son out and wouldn’t tell her to whom.

Journalist, Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan)is writing a book on Russian history. He is approached by Philomena’s daughter and she suggests that he write a story about her mother, who was forced to give up her son. He finally decides to write the story and meets with Philomena, where he hears her heart-breaking tale.

12 Years a Slave12 Years a Slave is an adaptation of the 1853 memoir of the same name by Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free negro who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery.

He worked on plantations in the state of Louisiana for twelve years before his release. After being enslaved for 12 years, Northup is restored to freedom and returned to his family.

Solomon tried to bring the man responsible to justice but could never get a conviction.

Wolf of Wall Street-Directed by Martin Scorsese, this movie is based on Jordan Belfort’s memoir of the same name.

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) narrates the film showing his monstrous success with his firm complete with ribaldry at work, a sumptuous home on the Gold Coast of Long Island and a trophy wife who is a former model. He then flashes back to 1987, where he began a low-level job at an established Wall Street firm.

Like many American dreams, Jordan works hard to succeed, only to fall on hard times because of the economy. But something happens that turns the course of his destiny and soon Jordan is living the good life, due to his Wall Street success.

In the end, Jordan is caught in a web of lies and deceit and left holding the bag.

Gravity-The film is set during a fictitious Space Shuttle mission. Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first space shuttle mission aboard the Space Shuttle Explorer. She is accompanied by veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), who is commanding his final expedition.

During a spacewalk to service the Hubble Space Telescope, Mission Control in Houston warns the team about a Russian missile strike on a defunct satellite, which has caused a chain reaction forming a cloud of space debris. Mission Control orders that the shuttle begin re-entry immediately. Communications with Mission Control are soon lost and the two are on their own.

The rest  of the movie is spent with Bullock and Clooney contemplating life and death and trying desperately to make it back home.

Her– The movie is set in the year 2025. Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely, introverted man, writes personal love letters for people who have a difficult time expressing their feelings. Unhappy with his own life and the impending divorce from his wife, Catherine (Rooney Mara), Theodore buys a talking operating system with artificial intelligence, designed to adapt and evolve. He decides he wants the OS to have a female identity, and she (Scarlett Johansson) names herself “Samantha”.

I don’t want to give away the ending, but it didn’t end the way I expected it to. Truthfully, I didn’t have any idea how the whole thing would pan out. A love triangle with a machine. Who would have thought?

This is the 89th year for the Academy Awards and though I don’t remember every single one,  I do my best to watch them. It was a monumental event when I was a kid. I would sit in front of the TV and watch the actors parade on stage to receive their awards. How cool it would be, I thought, to be the one at the podium announcing the nominees for the Best Picture:

And the winner is…. Well, your guess is as good as mine. We’ll have to wait until March 2.

The other nominees are:

Actress in a Leading Role-Amy Adams, for American Hustle, Judi Dench for Philomena, Meryl Streep for August: Osage County, Sandra Bullock for Gravity, Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine.

I have not heard much about Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen is the director), and though he is a great actor, he doesn’t seem much like a great guy, in light of recent events. Still, my pick is for Actress in a Leading Role is Cate Blachett.

Supporting Actress; Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine, Julia Robert for August: Osage county, Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle, June Squibb, Nebraska, LupitaNyong’o, 12 years a Slave

My pick is Lupita Nyong’o. I don’t know her, but she has won several other awards.

Actor in a Leading Role- Christian Bale for American Hustle, Bruce Dern for Nebraska, Leonardo Di Caprio, Wolf of Wall Street,  Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave, and Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers’ Club.

My pick is Matthew McConaughey. Yeah, he’s cute, but he’s also a great actor, in my opinion.

Supporting Actor Nominees: Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips, Bradley Cook for American Hustle, Jonah Hill for Wolf of Wall Street, Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave, Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

My pick is Jared Leto. I like Jonah Hill and he probably deserves an Oscar, but Leto plays a transgender woman and that’s gotta be tough for any actor.

Best animated film nominees includeDespicable Me 2, Frozen, The Croods, Ernest & Celestine, The Wind Rises.

I made my pick earlier in my blog-Frozen. I laughed, I cried, I swooned. I laughed some more. A Happy Ending for all.

However, Despicable Me 2 deserves a shout out. I actually got into the story of the Evil Spy-turned-Daddy, who falls in love.

New Girl Scout cookie might be more nutritious, but…

The Girl Scout’s annual cookie sale is in full swing and I have been solicited by at least four scouts wanting to sell me cookies. The cookies are not part of my diet plan, but I want to help the girls out. So far I have bought 6 boxes of the yummy confections.

Cranberry Citrus Crisps

Cranberry Citrus Crisps

But let’s face it. They aren’t as good as they used to be.

“It’s all about the cause; it’s not about the cookie.” Yes, I know that.

The cookies are actually baked by ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers and then distributed by Girl Scouts all over the country. Some cookies, like Thank you Berry Munch and Chocolate Chip Shortbread (Gluten-free)  are only available on the East coast, while others are only available farther west, like the Cranberry Citrus Crisps.

Being the cookie connoisseur that I am, I had to taste a few of the new cookies to see what they were like. They are being called  “a more nutritious cookie” because they are made with 9 grams of whole wheat. The rest of the ingredients are: Whole grain wheat flour, enriched flour  (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), sugar, canola oil, dried cranberries (cranberries, sugar, sunflower oil), malt syrup (from corn and barley), invert sugar, natural flavor, baking soda, ammonium bicarbonate, salt, monocalcium phosphate, soy lecithin, distilled monoglycerides (BHT and citric acid added as antioxidants). I recognize a few of the ingredients; salt, cranberries, sugar, baking soda… (what the heck is monocalcium phosphate?)

Let’s face it; a cookie is a cookie, no matter how it is marketed. For the four cookies I ate, I consumed 150 calories, 4 grams of fat, 26 carbs, 70 grams of sodium, and 10 grams of sugars (yes-it’s not a typo-the sugar is plural). I take that  to mean there are other kinds of sugar in my Cranberry Citrus Crisps. I had to spend 15 minutes on the elliptical machine to burn off those four cookies.

I’m not knocking Girl Scout Cookies; I just wish they wouldn’t jump on the “wholesome goodness” bandwagon and market the cookies as something that is good for you. **Sigh**

I really wish there was such a thing as a no calorie, no carb, no fat, cookie that actually tasted good.

I will continue to buy Girl Scout cookies because I believe in the organization and I know that the money they make allows the girls to do things they normally wouldn’t be able to do.

My granddaughter, Isabelle, was able to see “The Nutcracker” ballet in Davenport over the holidays because of the money they made last year. They also use the money for community projects and activities that raise the confidence and self-esteem of young girls.

But back to the Cranberry Citrus Crisps.; they are kind of chewy, kind of bland, but overall, they satisfied my sweet tooth. As someone who can’t do anything in moderation, I did not feel like I had to eat the whole box of these cookies.

But to be honest, the Peanut Butter Sandwich cookies are still my favorites.

A baby is born

I have a new grandson. Gabriel Matthew was born Feb. 3 at 1:20 p.m. He weighed 8 lbs. 3 oz. and he and his mother are doing great.

Gabriel Matthew, born Feb. 3, 2014

Gabriel Matthew, born Feb. 3, 2014

Caryn didn’t have an easy pregnancy with Gabe. She was sick and sore and had several medical problems that weren’t really associated with having a baby. She developed a hernia in her belly button when she was seven months along, and they had to repair it. The procedure itself went well, but as she was healing, the baby kept kicking, as babies will do, and it was very painful.

So after 10 months of pain and misery, he finally made his appearance.

We couldn’t be happier. Especially my mother. Gabe is her 20th great-grandchild.

My mom is homebound and depends on me to relay information about the outside world. I called her Monday to tell her about the baby and she asked, “Who does he look like?”

My first response was, “Nobody.”  But as I watch Caryn feed and cuddle him, it occurred to me that he looks a lot like his older brother, Jake, (who’s 3) whose looks are a combination of his mom and dad, as is often the case.

When a baby is born, that’s usually the first thing that is asked. Who does it look like? The mom or the dad? But, really, does it matter?

Maybe they are just making conversation or maybe they really do care what the baby looks like. Or maybe they are really just musing about the miracle of life; how the DNA moves from one generation to the next, changing, merging, creating a unique being. I know that goes through my mind.

What a miracle life is. All of it.

When I think about how we were  all were born, how we grew, how we were able to learn everything we did, it leads to the next topic of conversation in my head; what or who is God, really? And why did he decide to create life as we know it? What is his purpose for us and what does he want from us?

I have my own ideas about all this, as I’m sure everyone else does, too. I am grateful that I am able to comprehend any of it, and I continue to look for more clues about what it all means.

But today I am content thinking about my new grandson, how unique he is, and enjoying his cuddliness.

I have 11 grandchildren now. When I tell people this they look at me in shock. I’m not sure why. My grandma had 35. And my mom has 22. I have perfectly fine with 11. Besides, the number isn’t important; it’s more about what I can do to better the lives of my grandchildren; how I can help make them into the people they were meant to be.

I love being a grandmother mostly because they love me just because I’m me. I’m a fun grandma; I play with them (when I have the energy) and we bake, and do crafts, and make things, something I wish I could have done with my grandma.

But as much as I would do anything for them, I also make sure they learn to play nice and respect others. I can be a meanie, too, though it doesn’t happen too often.

I’m amazed at how easy it was for me to slip into this role as Grandmother. But then again, I’ve practicing for it my entire life.