83rd Annual Academy Awards Predictions and Drinking Game

Anne Hathaway and James Franco are wondering, too, how they got the gig.

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards aired Sunday Night, February 27th, 2011.  Below were my predictions for the winners in the major categories.  The actual winners were filled in after the Oscars were announced.

There were no real surprises this year.  Anne Hathaway did her best, but to no avail, next to lifeless co-host James Franco, who appeared as if he hadn’t even shown up for rehearsal and couldn’t care less that he was there.  Next year, Academy, give us a comedian.  The speeches were nothing special, though who would’ve thought that of the two, Melissa Leo would’ve out “bat-shitted” Christian Bale?  Meanwhile, after batting under .500 in my predictions last year, I rebounded nicely by scoring 16/24 correctly and regained my family Oscar pool crown. Continue reading

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Love Songs for Dead Media

Tom Rachman’s debut novel, The Imperfectionists, reads like a collection of short stories, each one focusing on a different character swirling around in the soon to be ashes of an international English-language newspaper based in Rome.  At the end of each episode, Rachman reports in brief serialized fashion on the origins of the paper, a noble but doomed-to-fail experiment, and its different near-deaths over the years before instant-globalization and access to news through the internet put the final nail in its coffin.  What he achieves is a series of love songs (some better composed than others) serenading a dead media: the newspaper…romantic, archaic, quaint…obsolete. Continue reading

It’s Not a Grave, It’s a Niche

Hey, Dad, do you know what happens to owls when they die?

A Review of Biutiful

**Spoilers Ahead – Read with Caution**

It’s not a grave, it’s a niche.  It’s a seemingly innocuous piece of dialogue, a clarification on the not-so-final resting spot of our protagonist’s father – a father he never knew, a father who fled Spain as a political exile only to die in Mexico of pneumonia and be shipped back to Barcelona to be tucked away by his widowed wife in a niche.  But it’s also symbolic of the niche this family has carved out for themselves over the generations where fathers are sent to early graves.  Progress and globalization threaten this niche – a mall is to be built, the niche destroyed, and the corpse cremated – as do calamities and ailments including cancer both literally and figuratively.

Our protagonist, Uxbal (Javier Bardem in a devastating performance) is trying to make do in a Barcelona that is coming apart at the seams.  He deals in knock-off goods and illegal workers.  He’s also trying to raise his two young children (Hanaa Bouchaib and Guillermo Estralla – both naturalistic and deserving of sympathy) while being estranged from his bipolar wife (Maricel Alvarez in a wonderfully complex and flighty performance in perfect pitch through all her mood swings) who is sleeping with his opportunistic and corrupt brother (Eduard Fernandez).  But in the all the varying shades and undulations of director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s maddeningly complex and perversely intertwined world, nothing in what it seems on the surface. Continue reading