Oscar Predictions

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Oscar So White

I am not a fan of award shows.  The Oscars aren’t an exception.  In fact, I sometimes go so far as to avoid seeing nominated films.  I find that the winners (if not the nominees) are largely determined by politics and very little merit.  Witness the #Oscarsowhite tag for two-years running, despite some obvious non-white candidates  like Chiwetel Ejiofor as Best Supporting in The Martian or Will Smith as Best Actor in Concussion.  Those are the first two that sprang to mind, I’m sure if I looked into it I could find more candidates that are deserving of a nomination.  Or, why did The Lego Movie not even get nominated for Best Animated Film last year, it was far superior to any of the other nominees.  Even NPH, as host, called out the Academy on completely missing the boat.  It’s hard enough to predict what The Academy thinks is the best, much less the politics behind it – will they give the Oscar to someone who deserved it years ago, but doesn’t deserve it now?

So here we go, my Oscar predictions, guaranteed to be wrong or your money back:

Best Sound Editing – A fierce category this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the nominated movies won, but I’ll go with a movie I’ve seen.  Pick: The Martian When I watched it I was very impressed by the sound quality of the film – to the point where I noticed it being good.

Best Short Film – Live Action – Ha!  Like I have ever heard of these.  Torn between what looks like a German short and Stutterer.  I’ll go German.  Pick: Everything will be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)

Best Short Film – Animated – Less like to hear of any of these.  I’m picking based on the names only, because I don’t have a clue.  Pick: We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

Best Sound Mixing – I don’t know what the difference is between Mixing and Editing.  I’ll go with my second choice from the Editing.  Pick: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Makeup & Hairstyling – Only three nominees this year, and I’m not typing out the 12-word title so my Pick: Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Visual Effect – The only award I actually care about, also is a very deep category.  It almost always goes to a space film and there are at least two to choose from.  Pick: The Martian

Best Original Song – Doesn’t look like there is a Disney film this year, and I refuse to pick anything related to Fifty Shades of Grey.  I’ll go with the Bond movie, they usually have a good opening song.  Pick: “Writing’s on the Wall” Spectre

Best Original Score – I don’t know pick one out of a hat.  I feel like this is a category where politics will come in to play.  Pick: Sicario

Best Costume Design – This is where I think the heavy favorite to win the night will take over.  Pick: The Revenant

Best Production Design – I’ll go with a minor upset here.  Pick: The Martian

Best Film Editing – Favorite time again.  Pick: The Revenant

Best Cinematography – My pick is not even nominated.  I guess I don’t know what the hell this category even means.  Pick: The Revenant

Best Documentary Short Subject – Like I have a clue.  I’ll go with typing the fewest words.  Pick: Body Team 12

Best Documentary Feature – I’d say I have more of an idea than the short subject, but I really don’t.  Pick: Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Best Foreign Language Film – I’m terrible with languages.  Trés malo.  Pick: Mustang

Best Animated FeatureThe Lego Movie!  Still better (or bitter).  I’ll pick the only one I have heard of.  Pick: Inside Out

Best Adapted Screenplay – Hey, I might get one right here.  Probably not, though.  Pick: The Martian

Best Original Screenplay – Here is something I don’t understand, The Revenant is heavily favored to win a lot of awards, but somehow is not nominated for either Adapted or Original Screenplay.  If it is going to win Best Picture, shouldn’t it win one of these, or at least get nominated?  Pick: Straight Outta Compton [you’re still so white Oscar]

Best Supporting Actress – Haven’t seen any of these, probably won’t either.  Pick: Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Best Supporting Actor – I think I shall use a random number generator, because I don’t know.  Pick: Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Best Actress – Ditto the supporting actress.  Pick: Brie Larson, Room

Best Actor – Back to the favorite.  Though Cranston could win based on being Heisenburg (even though it is the wrong medium.)  Pick: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Best Director – Yep, favorite time again.  Pick: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant

Best Picture – It is a heavy favorite for a reason.  Pick: The Revenant

I count 24 categories.  If I get even half of them correct, I would be surprised.  I’ll tune in, roll my eyes at the red carpet, get upset that The Lego Movie still didn’t win, and then go to bed.

Book Review: Assassin’s Apprentice (Book #1 Farseer Trilogy)

Assassins Apprentice

Published: 4/1/1995

Author: Robin Hobb

Assassin’s Apprentice is Robin Hobb’s first work and the Farseer Trilogy as a whole finds its way on to many top-fantasy-series lists.  For most of the book, I could see why it made it on to those lists…right up until the end.  The book was a slow build – which I appreciated (some people may not) – then the ending was rushed without a satisfying conclusion.

Assassin’s Apprentice is told in the first person from a flashback [yeah, letting it go].  Fitz (the narrator) is a bastard of the king-in-waiting of the Six Duchies.  Fitz was brought to the king at six-years-old by his maternal grandfather.  Fortunately, Fitz looks exactly like the prince; otherwise, I would have questioned why the royal family accepts that he is the prince’s child.  Some treat Fitz like a bastard, but others treat him like a child.  The king runs into Fitz and declares that he is of royal blood and begins treating him as such, and (secretly) trains him to become an assassin.

One of the main conflicts of the book focused on the problem of red-ships [I saw them as Vikings] raiding the shores of the six duchies.  The red-ship raiders somehow knew where the patrols of the duchies would be.  It would seem obvious that there is a spy in their midst, but the royal family casually brushes that off; rather they focus all their energies on trying to stop the Vikings from raiding their shore, despite constantly evading them.  We never get a conclusion to the Vikings raiding – it would seem the raids would just continue.   There are two more books; perhaps it is answered there.

One thing I didn’t realize when I started the book is that it is set in the same world as Hobb’s The Rain Wild Chronicles (Book One, Book Two).  However, the book stands alone, in fact, I can’t even tell where chronologically the story fits (or how the two books are even related other than they exist on the same planet).  My biggest complaint with the Rain Wild Chronicles was that I didn’t really like any of the characters.  With Assassin’s Apprentice, I have a related issue – while I liked the characters, they are all black and white.  The good guys are good and the bad guys are bad, so when betrayals are revealed to the reader, you aren’t surprised, but the main characters are so shocked it makes them seem really stupid.  At least they’re likable though.

While I had some issues with Assassin’s Apprentice, the writing was captivating.  At one point, I found myself so engrossed in the book that I didn’t even notice the flight attendant handing me my drink.  I am also hoping that the abrupt ending is explained (or picked up) in the next book in the series, Royal Assassin.

WWYT Rating: 7.1

Goodreads rating: 4.12/5

Hallmark Movie Review: Dater’s Handbook

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Aired: 1/30/16 on Hallmark Channel

I love math, logic, and numbers.  I’m an actuary and I like things orderly.  But, when it comes to matters of the heart, using an algorithm or checklist of any kind is fruitless at best, and more than likely asinine.  A catchall set of rules for the heart will work for maybe one or two people and probably create a disaster for anyone else.  So when Dater’s Handbook’s premise is built on Cassandra (Meghan Markle) using a dating guidebook to make different dating choices, I was less than impressed.  At least it has the decency to point out how stupid it is to use a set of rules.

Cassandra has had a string of dating the wrong man – all men who can’t/won’t commit [which, hey, thanks for the stereotype Hallmark.]    So, to change her luck, she decides to change her approach.  On the advice of her sister, Nadia, she follows the step-by-step instructions of the new book Dater’s Handbook.  It advises female readers to ignore how they feel about someone and instead go after a man who is “reliable and dependable.”  As Cass’s mother points out, it makes it sound like she is shopping for a major appliance not someone to spend her life with.  Cass has two suitors, one of which she has chemistry and fun with; the other suitor is rich, pretentious, and duller than dirt.  She must decide between the two.  The book says to choose the dullard; anyone with an ounce of common sense would choose the other guy.

Markle is by far my least favorite actress on Suits.  She doesn’t exactly endear herself to me here either.  She is slightly annoying, but takes a backseat in that department to Nadia.  Nadia is foisting the boring guy on Cass because that is what the book says – even though Cass doesn’t seem remotely interested in him or have anything in common with this boring guy.

I was probably never going to like Dater’s Handbook just based on the premise, but the two lead actresses got on my nerves.  I am sure others will find this movie far more likable than I did.

WWYT Rating: 5.95

Ranking: 41

37t. A Novel Romance

37t. Accidentally in Love

37t. Looking for Mr. Right

37t. Perfect on Paper

42t. Reading, Writing, and Romance

42t. Wishing Well

Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau

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Released: 3/4/2011

Free will vs. determinism.  That is the focus of The Adjustment Bureau.  Everyone’s life has a plan (i.e. predetermined), and the adjustment bureau helps keep everyone on that plan with subtle adjustments.  David Norris (Matt Damon) catches the agents (i.e. angels) making one of these adjustments shortly after his failed bid for the senate.  The agents capture him and tell him that the woman of his dreams, Elise (Emily Blunt) is not a part of his plan and they will do everything possible to keep them apart.

What would you do?  You would try to find her anyway, right?  She’s the woman of your dreams.  Three years of riding the same bus every day, Norris finally runs into Elise by chance.  Nothing will keep him from her now, not even the agents of the adjustment bureau.  Except they have one last trick up their sleeve; Norris is destined to become president of the USA, while Elise is destined to become one of the best, most famous dance choreographers in the world.  As long as they’re apart.  Do you ruin her dreams as well as yours just to be together?  He can’t tell her any of this, otherwise the agents will erase his memory.

I always give bonus points for creativity, and The Adjustment Bureau is one of the more creative movies I have seen in a while.  While the dream girl vs. dream job can sometimes be a false dichotomy, the movie does well to establish this as a true dilemma.  It is somewhat formulaic after the original premise, but the chase sequences are fun anyway.  If you are looking for something a little different, give The Adjustment Bureau a chance.

WWYT Rating: 8.1

IMDB Rating: 7.1

Book Review: The Ethos Effect

ethos effect

Published: 2003

Author: L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Saga of Recluse by L.E. Modesitt Jr. is one of my favorite fantasy series.  While no individual book is great, the series is definitely one in which the whole exceeds the sum of the parts.  It wasn’t until he started writing from the point-of-view of the other side of his opposing factions (order and chaos) that we see that neither side is inherently evil, only that individuals who use their power for evil are wrong.  One of the criticisms of Modesitt’s writing is that every novel is essentially the same.  A young man, an apprentice of some kind, is ostracized from his community for being different, usually because he has magical powers.  He slowly learns how to use his powers – generally the most powerful mage to exist in generations, yet he is always overly modest.  He triumphs over the evil dictator/tyrant/warlord, usually at some cost to himself.

I always like Modesitt novels, because they make you think a little bit.  The Ethos Effect is a science fiction novel (not fantasy and not related to the Recluse novels at all), but boy does it make you think.  It is one of the denser novels that I have read in a very long time.  I am not sure that I can explain the plot (though there is one and it is solid enough).  There is a heavy dose of ethics (given the title no one should be surprised), wrapped up with cultures and politics that we don’t know since it is set several millennia into the future.  Not to mention there is technological and military mumbo jumbo.  All of that makes it difficult to figure out what was going on for more than half the book.  I appreciate him not spoon-feeding me, but perhaps a little more background would have been helpful.  If I did have to summarize the book it would be with this quote:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  – Edmund Burke*

If you are looking for a quick, light read, this book isn’t it.  If you are an ethics professor, you will probably find this book a little simplistic.  But, if you are looking for an entertaining book that makes you think then this is probably a good choice.

WWYT Rating: 7.0

Goodreads: 3.8/5

*While Burke is most often attributed with this quote, variations have existed for millennia.

Movie Review: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

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Released: 4/20/12

I recently had my DNA tested and I am 75% British.  This is a little surprising to me, since I can’t stand how they pronounce certain words.  My least favorite is “Shedule.”  It’s SKED-ule, not Shedule.  There is a “c” in there.  Do British kids go to “Shool?”  After Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, I might have a new least-favorite pronunciation – “Shake,” for Sheikh, we Americans pronounce it “Sheek.”  Where are they getting the “a?”  I might have let it go once or twice, but after pronouncing “shake” a couple dozen more times, it drove me nuts.  Why am I harping on pronunciations?  Because, I don’t have many good things to say about the plot.

As the title suggests, Harriet and the “Shake” want to bring salmon to Yemen – a hot, dry country in the Middle East.  Dr. Jones (Alfred, not Indiana, unfortunately) is an expert in the field and tells them it is highly improbable, but he is forced to try to make it happen because of the wonders of politics.  Harriet and Alfred work closely together over the next few weeks.  They have several humorous interactions and as you might expect in a romantic comedy, they start to fall for one another.  There is only one small problem – Alfred is MARRIED.  Call me crazy but I think if you are having problems in your marriage, you try to deal with them, not just kick your wife to the curb the second someone younger and hotter shows the slightest bit of interest in you.  Harriet is also in a relationship, but it is only about six to seven weeks old and half the time she thinks he is dead.  I understand her attraction to Alfred; he was comforting in her time of need and they do seem to have a good time together (despite not having anything in common other than fish).

This has been a rather harsh review.  There were definitely light-hearted, funny moments and I can see why someone might enjoy the movie.  I just can’t root for a guy who leaves his wife for someone else – especially when I don’t see the relationship with the younger woman working out.

WWYT Rating: 5.75

IMDB Rating: 6.8