The Academy Awards – Who Should Win? 2014

academy-awards

A good controversy makes for a good Oscar year. Sharp disagreements such as The King’s Speech vs. Social Network make for entertaining fodder. But this year has been disappointing. I liked all the movies nominated for the Big 8 awards. Some I like more, but I don’t even dislike any of them. The acting awards, while not always my personal selection, did just fine. It’s not a year of dramatic passions.

So welcome to my picks for who I vote for if I had an Oscar ballot. This is not who WILL win. For that see info on my Oscar pool at the bottom of the post. This is who SHOULD win. Oscar voters are notorious for voting with their heart – for their favorite actors, to reward past performance, and to vote against films and filmmakers. I’m no better.

Unlike some Oscar voters, I have seen the nominees for all 7 of the major awards.

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15 Years of #1s

number-1It occurred to me that this is the 15th year I have been actively keeping a Top 10 movies list. So I did a little number crunching.

Of movies released from 1999-2013, I have seen 1029 (or 68.9 movies a year). Granted I see movies years after they are released and I also see movies released before 1999, so this is not an actual record of how many movies I see a year. But apparently I see quite a lot.

Of the movies I have seen, 144 of them were “not worth seeing” or 14%. Considering I intentionally skip most movies with terrible reviews, this means featured986% of the time I find the movie redeeming.

My picks for the best film of the year stand up as an eclectic collection. Only 1 of the films is not well known (50/50). 3 won the best picture Oscar. Another 7 were nominated (and Gravity might win). 5 were not nominated for best picture.

I can’t say which is the best. I haven’t watched 6 of the 15 a second time. I have seen 6 of them multiple times. One director repeats on the 15 – Ang Lee for two wildly different genres. I have watched other films (ex. Mean Girls) more than any of these films, but that doesn’t make it the “best,” just the most enjoyable.

See my #1 list below.

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Best Films of 2013

top-10-films-2013I wish I’d seen all of them – all the foreign films, documentaries, independents, even the poorly rated blockbusters. But I’m just an arm chair critic and seeing over 70 films in 2013 is a heck of lot anyway.

Another very good, but not outstanding year. Few of these films will be classics in a decade, but they were plenty enjoyable to watch. Of my top 10, 7 were based on real life stories. My tastes also seem to match up to the Academy more and more. Of the 9 best picture nominees, 7 are in my top 10 and the other 2 in my Top 20.  I chalk this up to not seeing enough independent and foreign films.

I’ll share Oscar predictions closer to the show.

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Oscar Stats 2014

I love Oscar Stats.

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  • Meryl Streep breaking her own record for nominations with 18.
  • That we might have to utter the words “Oscar Winner” and add “The Lone Ranger” after it.
  • 49th (!) Oscar nomination for John Williams (Soundtrack to The Book Thief) and he is still 10 shy of Walt Disney.
  • Cinematographer Roger Deakins looking to avoid going 0 for 11.
  • Jennifer Lawrence has her 3rd nomination at age 23 – the youngest to do so. (Teresa Wright was 24).
  • Gravity is only the 5th film to be nominated for all 7 technical awards. Titanic swept all 7. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the WorldHugo, and Life of Pi did not.

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Best Actor – Oscars 2014

academy-awards-actorI haven’t written in a while. But 2014 is all new. January, however, is a lost month since I’ll be away most of it. Therefore, I have been racing to see films in theaters in anticipation of the Oscar Nominations (January 16).

For the last bunch of years, I have successfully seen all the nominees for the big 8 awards before Oscar night. I have usually been nearly done by the nomination announcement because of good anticipation and because most of the big award nominees come from a cluster of films.

This year, if you can see just 15 films, you’ll cover nearly all of the contenders for the “big” (picture, director, 4 actors, 2 screenwriting) awards. There is always the outlier, but most of these awards come from a cluster of films.

The best picture nominees will almost certainly come from this group (order from Gold Derby)

  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Gravity
  • American Hustle
  • Captain Phillips
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Nebraska
  • Saving Mr. Banks
  • Her
  • The Butler
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Philomena
  • Blue Jasmine
  • Fruitvale Station
  • August: Osage County

Seeing these 15 will also help take care of most acting awards. In Best Actor, the only legitimate exception is Robert Redford in All Is Lost. (To be totally honest, I must mention also, Idris Elba in Mandela, but that’s not really going to happen – the film has no traction)

For Best Actress, the actual nominees all come from these films. This is unusual as Best Actress usually pulls from a not otherwise nominated film (think Meryl Street in The Iron Lady). But if you want to see all touted candidates, you’d also need to see Blue Is the Warmest Color, Short Term 12, and Enough Said. If you want to use the top candidates at GoldDerby as a benchmark, you’d also need Labor Day, The Past, and Before Midnight, but that’s never never going to happen. No chance.

Supporting actors would need 4 more films for legit contenders (Rush, Spring Breakers, 42, Enough Said). Supporting Actress, this year, very unusually, is covered in the 15 above.

This post is about the Best Actors. Who is going to be nominated and who do I think were the best performances.

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The Iced Tea Taste Challenge

I don’t drink coffee.

But I surely need my caffeine fix like many others. So I have been drinking iced tea for a long time. Iced tea is easy to make, comes in various flavors, and, if unsweetened, usually has Zero calories. So I drink iced tea the way some people drink too much Diet Coke.

But which Iced Tea?

Unknown For years living in Livingston, NJ, I passed a Dunkin Donuts on the way to work and would drink their large black unsweetened iced tea with a  lemon in it. When it was on sale for 99 cents, it was a great time…and a bit jittery.

imagesStarbucks lagged behind, but they introduced their shaken iced tea. The problem? Their “venti” wasn’t that large. Until they introduced the “treinta.” Now we have potential competition. But Dunkin Donuts was more convenient.

Then I moved to California. There are currently no Dunkin Donuts in California. Starbucks therefore moved up in the convenience department especially with one across the street from my house. Adding the iPhone app made it easy – and I got FREE refills and free drinks from the app. (Potential jittery)

Now I am in New York City. The Starbucks and the Dunkin Donuts are across the street from each other. They each have their merits in other areas, but which Iced Tea was best.

So we set up a taste test…

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