Everyone’s a winner, according to some people

I had a great time at the Oscars.

OK, maybe I wasn’t actually there, but I felt like I was. Ellen DeGeneres made it a point to make everyone feel welcome, as thought they were a part of the celebration. And she did it well. She was really enjoying herself, too. I don’t think anyone really thought she would order pizza, but for those who have seen her afternoon talk show, it really was no surprise that she did.

The best part, though, was when she said there were no losers at the Oscars. And I tend to agree with her. Of course, this is coming from a 50ish midwestern, whose only brush with celebrity-dom was when I attended class with Mariah Carey (Miss Iowa) at Mount Mercy University, and an interview with Courtney Reed, who plays Jasmine in Disney’s Broadway production of “Aladdin.” I also waited on Fred Grandy of Love Boat Fame, and later Iowa Senator, but he doesn’t count because he was rude to me.

So, to make a long story short, anyone who works heard enough to reach celebrity status is a winner to me. But wait. Let me define my idea of “winner,” because it might not be the same for all people.

To me, a winner works hard to make a name for themselves; someone who appreciates and is thankful (Matthew McConaughey) where they are and doesn’t treat everyone else like crap. A winner is someone who doesn’t forget where they come from (Jared Leto) and says please and thank you, takes time to talk to their fans, and is able to laugh at themselves (Jennifer Lawrence).

There was a houseful of winners at the Oscars, and not just those who took home a little statuette. And Ellen wanted everyone to know that.

This year’s Oscars was more than an awards ceremony. It was a celebration; a celebration for all the winners. (Well, not all the winners. I know a few that didn’t get to go. But maybe next year!)

I guess I was a little surprised that I was so entertained. I usually start surfing half-way through the Oscars, but I watched until the very end. Others thought so too, with  reports that the audience for the Academy Awards was the highest it’s been for a decade.

I wonder what that’s says about the way we watch TV.

(Oh yeah, all of my predictions were right except for the Best Picture. After seeing the previews and hearing the stories, I realized that 12 Years a Slave did deserve it.)

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.

The Oscars-After

In my earlier blog, I wrote about my picks for the  Oscars. The votes are in, the judges have spoken, and this is what happened:

I think that if Bradley Cooper had gone up against lesser-known actors, he would have won Best Actor for Silver Lining Playbook, but it just wasn’t his time. Daniel Day Lewis walked away with the Best Actor award for his portrayal of our beloved president in Lincoln. This is the the third Oscar in the actor’s career.

Jennifer Lewis was chosen as best Actress for her role in Silver Lining Playbook, which didn’t surprise me. Lewis is on her way to proving her versatility as an actress, and is best-known for her starring role in Hunger Games.

Lewis also holds the award for “saving face,” when she hurried up tot he stage to receive her award and tripped. She immediately got a standing ovation from the audience. She picked herself up and kept going, without skipping a beat.

“I’m sure you’re all standing because you feel sorry for me falling, but thank you” she was quick to say before thanking all those involved with her success.

It was no surprise that Argo, directed by Ben Affleck, was the winner for Best Picture. But it was a surprise that First Lady Michelle Obama did the presenting.

I was right about the Best Supporting Actor category. Christoph Waltz did an awesome job in Django Unchained, a film which I’m sure will not get the publicity I think it deserves.

Best Directing honors went to Ang Lee for Life of Pi, a surprise by some, but deserving nonetheless.

Anne Hathaway won the award for Best Supporting Actress for Les Miserables. The  cast of the movie performed a song during the show, which was amazing and Hathaway was definitely the right choice.

Skyfall, a James Bond movie that was not supposed to take home too many awards, actually received two, a feat that is rare for a Bond film. Singer, Adele, performed her original song from the movie, and won an Oscar for her efforts. I didn’t think Daniel Craig made a very good James Bond. But that’s just because no one else does it better than Sean Connery.

The Academy remembered those who have passed during the year, including Marvin Hamlisch, for whom Barbara Streisand honored with his song, Memories.

I was very disappointed in Seth McFarland’s performance as host. He was rude, crude, and bordered on racism. That kind of behavior belongs on Family Guy or in movies like Ted. Not Oscar night. I actually like Family Guy. It’s goofy and silly enough to be funny, but even that has its limits, and McFarland tends to push them as far as they will go.

In the words of William Shatner, who shared the opening spotlight with McFarland, “Tina and Amy should always be the hosts,” (referring to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and their hosting duties at the Emmys). Yeah, they were pretty funny, but I wish they would bring Billy Crystal back. He was funny without being tasteless.

It was an interesting show to say the least, one that will find its place in the Academy Museum, set to open in California next year, the president of the Academy announced during the show.

It just might be worth a trip to the West Coast.

The Oscars-Before

In just a few hours, we will finally know what the best picture of 2013 is.

The 2013 Academy Awards

The 2013 Academy Awards

Will it be Argo, a film about the rescue of American hostages in Iran; Lincoln, a film by Steven Spielberg; Beasts of the Southern Wild, (which also boasts the youngest Oscar nominee); Les Miserables, a musical brought to the big screen; Life of Pi, a story about a young man who finds himself on a raft in the middle of the ocean with a tiger as his companion; Silver Lining Playbook, about a trouble young man who has to deal with life after his release from a mental institution; or Zero Dark Thirty, a film about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden?

Whichever film wins, we can be sure that it was chosen by a group of our peers, who are connoisseurs of film-making, who have studied each and every film to make sure that it is really and truly the best of them all. Yes, I am being a little sarcastic, especially after finding out through an ABC report that the Academy Award judges are 98 percent white, 77 percent men and most of them are over 62 years old. Nice.

I started thinking, what makes their opinions better than yours, or mine, or anyone’s? Nothing, except they are in the right place at the right time.

For what it’s worth, here are my picks for the Best of the Best:

Many TV personalities are choosing Argo as the Best Picture. Yes, it is good, it is great, it’s marvelous! But so is Lincoln. I think this will be too close to call. Personally, I would pick Silver Lining Playbook. I like Bradley Cooper, and I like Jennifer Lewis. Together they were awesome! But Best Picture? It borders on a chick flick and I just don’t think the old white guys will go for it.

Which brings me to the Best Actor Category.

Bradley Cooper is up for the award. He played his intense role the way it needed to be played, but I really think the honor will go to Daniel Day Lewis, who plays Lincoln in the film of the same name. Hugh Jackman, Denzel Washington, and Joaquin Phoenix are also nominated.

The Best Actress award should go to Jennifer Lewis, but there are a few other great actresses for the award, including Quvenzhane Wallis for her role as, Hushpuppy, in the Beasts of the Southern Wild (one movie we haven’t heard much about, but worth watching nonetheless).

Other nominees include Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty,Naomi Watts for The Impossible, and Emmanuelle Riva in Amour.

Which actress will the judges pick to reign supreme for the next year? I guess we would have to think like they would and choose the actress who is inspiring, touching, and tough. But since all the females nominated seem to fall under that category, I guess we’ll have to go with the most known-Jennifer Lewis. (see a pattern?)

Amy Adams, Sally Field, Anne Hathaway, Helen Hunt, and Jackie Weaver are all nominated for Best Supporting Actress. In my opinion, they were all great in their roles, but my choice for Best Supporting Actress goes to Sally Field in Lincoln. This is not because she is so well-known, but she really knows how to play the part of a tough broad magnificently. She was great on TV as the sweet and accident prone nun-in-training in the Flying Nun, but she truly captured the role in Norma Rae. She also knew how to handle Burt Reynolds in Smoky and the Bandit.

Robert DeNiro, Tommy Lee Jones, Phillip Seymour Hoffman,  and Christoph Waltz are up for the Best Supporting Actor award. DeNiro (Silver Lining Playbook) and Jones (Lincoln) were great, but it was Christopher Waltz who stole the show in Django Unchained. 

I may be way off-base, but who really cares? What matters is that these films were made for us to enjoy, and at least we will have the pleasure of being entertained for a few hours by Seth McFarland, a true Family Guy.