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Oscar Predictions 2017 February 22, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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oscar-falls-alseepI don’t think there’s been a year where I’ve cared less about the Oscars, but then there’ll always be next year.

When Hollywood was HOLLYWOOD! we’d have a bunch of films we loved contending for an award during the one evening of the year where awards were given out. Legendary stars like Humphrey Bogart, Myrna Loy, John Wayne, Jimmy Cagney, Jimmy Stewart, Liz Taylor, Bette Davis and so forth would either win, be nominated or present in festivities hosted by Bob Hope.

What do we have now? An endless award season where overpaid entertainment-biz royalty continually stroke each other’s egos over largely forgettable fare, with a few diamonds in the rough. I’m always reminded of that when I cull through the screeners I’m lent by bona-fide academy members to see what I actually want to watch. It’s usually pretty thin.

Much the way NFL ratings dropped like a rock this year partly due to overexposure of mediocre product (like having last-place teams play week after week on Thursday night primetime games), the Oscars now blur into the year-long promotional fest of Hollywood telling us how great it is. It used to be a rarity to see our favorite actors & actresses as themselves, commenting on their work. Now, it’s everywhere, every day. Why, then, would Oscar night be a big deal? It’s just another day at the self-congratulatory office now.

Whatever.

Did I mention the show itself is most often a colossal bore? A funny joke here and there, usually depending on the host… but mostly it’s like watching factory gears turning. Every year at the end, I’d find myself saying “I don’t think I can sit through another one of these” and this year, I am keeping that promise.

I will not be watching.

I’ll check winners online, yeah, I’d like to see how well I call the winners, but I can’t sit through the broadcast. Through the boring production numbers. Through behind-the-scenes people who’d have great things to say being played off stage to make time for…. more production numbers. Through painfully unfunny contrived comedy bits like Neil Patrick Harris’ “psychic” act from a few years ago. Through this year’s memorial reel, filled with far too many wonderful people who died this year, and inevitably sitting there annoyed at who they left out. One year they left out DeForest Kelly. Another year, they skipped over Patrick McGoohan. Who will get dissed this year?

And then, this of all years, will be the politics. Movies are a nice escape from real life, or a window onto reality by way of creative fiction. If actors broke character and the 4th wall and speechified during their films, most people would walk out.

Hence, my reaction to the show. I’ll be watching the Columbo rerun, prolly. I have no idea what Peter Falk’s politics were, and I don’t care. They don’t matter.

Anyway, here are my predictions:

Best Picture: La La Land (they love movies about themselves)

Best Director: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Best Actor: Even though Denzel Washington won the SAG award, I’ll go with Casey Affleck for Manchester By The Sea.

Best Actress: All signs point to Emma Stone for La La Land, but a dark horse upset would be an interesting barometer: voting on this took place just after Meryl Streep‘s highly publicized political speech after winning a Golden Globe for Florence Foster Jenkins, not exactly one of Streep’s “major” career roles, but if everyone who agreed with her speech voted for her on account of it, AND rationalized the vote since, after all, she’s Meryl-fucking-Streep-fer-godsakes…. well, don’t be too surprised if her name is announced.

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress: Rhode Island’s Viola Davis, Fences

Best Animated Feature: Zootopia

Best Animated Short: Piper

Best Original Screenplay: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Best Adapted Screenplay: Eric Heisserer, Arrival

Best Cinematography: Greig Fraser, Lion

Best Documentary Feature: OJ, Made In America

Best Documentary Short: The White Helmets

Best Live Action Short: Enemies Within

Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman

Best Editing: La La Land

Best Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge

Best Sound Mixing: Hacksaw Ridge Swinging for the fences here… Kevin O’Connell finally winning after going 0 for 21!

Best Production Design: La La Land  

Best Score: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land this is getting monotonous….

Best Original Song: I’ll go for an upset here… “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana

Best Makeup: It’s always the one with he MOST makeup, so… Star Trek Beyond

Best Costume Design: La La Land

Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book

Well, there. My guiding principles in picking these was to pick movies that make Hollywood feel good about itself, either aesthetically (La La Land) or politically (the shorts, foreign film & documentary). We’ll see how I do.

 

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Oscar Predictions 2014 February 23, 2014

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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criswellpredicts

Let me preface the following prognostications with a small caveat: the ONLY movie I saw in theaters in 2013 was Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Yup, that’s right. While I used to see anywhere around 35-50 movies annually, I’ve been so turned off by the entire experience of theatergoing that I’d rather wait for the things I’m  interested in to come out on disc & watch ’em at home, without the cellphones going off, the texting, idiots talking to each other or back to the screen, crying babies (I keep the ones I kidnap in a sound-proof room, so no problemo at home).

So I’m flying blind making these calls, relying solely on my gut feelings of how Hollywood gives out awards and what they give them out for: that wonderful blend of capturing the PC zeitgeist mixed with proper star power & convincing industry insiders you’re setting a trend.

Unlike in years past on this blog, I think I’ll predict the ENTIRE ballot with some commentary here and there…. we can see my batting average after next Sunday. Here we go!

PICTURE: 12 Years A Slave

DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity (another year where pic and director won’t match, I think… Cuaron’s been around for a while and made a big CGI epic, but they’ll go racial guilt big-time in picking picture, one to sneer in front of all the anti-Obama flyover folk they look down on anyway, and also to show up Oprah who tried to guilt ’em into letting her ram her own racial guilt movie down their throats. A twofer!)

ACTOR: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyer’s Club

ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyer’s Club

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lupia Nyong’o, 12 Years A Slave

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Spike Jonze, Her

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: John Ridley, 12 Years A Slave

FOREIGN FILM: The Great Beauty, Italy

SCORE: This one is tough since they all sound alike except really for Thomas Newman’s score for Saving Mr. Banks. But I think they’ll give it to Steven Price for Gravity

SONG: “Let it Go” from Frozen

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Another tough one, but I’ll go with The Act of Killing

DOCUMENTARY SHORT: The Lady in No. 6 (it’s about music saving the spirits of a Holocaust survivor… Holy Oscar slam dunk, Batman!)

LIVE ACTION SHORT: Helium (it’s got the best visuals)

ANIMATED SHORT: Mr. Hublot (visually the most dazzling)

BEST ANIMATED FILM: Frozen

CINEMATOGRAPHY: Gravity

EDITING: American Hustle (it’s gotta win something…)

COSTUME DESIGN: 12 Years A Slave

PRODUCTION DESIGN: The Great Gatsby

MAKEUP: Dallas Buyers Club

SOUND EDITING: Gravity

SOUND MIXING: Gravity

VISUAL EFFECTS: Gravity

The best I’ve ever done is 20/24, narrowly missing the Oscar party pool pot of several hundred dollars by ONE goddamn pick! This year I’ll be at a party where the pool is strictly for honor & glory, so the food better be good while I, once again, sit through one of the ABSOLUTE WORST, MOST BORING, SELF-CONGRATULATORY HEAPING PILE OF MOOSE SHIT SHOWS known to humankind.

And (sigh) I’ll be back again watching next year. I hear Carrot Top is hosting.

Spring Is Here, And Young Wagstaff’s Thoughts Turn To Baseball (2013 Edition) March 31, 2013

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball.
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2013Topps

Here are my fearless predictions for the upcoming baseball season which just kicked off with a Rangers/Astros game this evening. I kept forgetting that the Astros have migrated to the American League after 50+ years in the National. I miss those happenin’ 1970s psychadelic uniforms they wore well into the non-psychadelic ’80s. They’ve got a better look now, but they’re certainly at the bottom end of what’s generally considered to be this year’s possible contenders. The Houston team is a multiyear rebuilding project with a roster of mostly-unknowns and a new manager who is way younger than me. But more power to them all – I’d love to see a team build itself up from within with young players who then become stars together.

Kind of like the Yankees in the early to mid 1990s before they began an amazing run of post-season seasons that, as much as it pains me to say, is now over. My first prediction for 2013 baseball is that the Yankees will NOT be in contention for the first time since 1992 or so. It’s been interesting to watch various prognosticator shows on MLB or ESPN where the boys simply cannot bring themselves to count the Yankees out.

I can, and I’ve been a fan of that team for more than – Good GOD – 40 years.

Look how much talent the Angels had last year, and how despite all of it they could not recover from a horrible April by the end of the season, and sat on the sidelines in October. Now look at the injury-riddled aging Yankees, missing much of the meat of their line-up until mid May, with the Biogenesis shoe ready to drop on A-Rod and a possible money-saving salary-cap ducking contract voiding… the Yankees will struggle to get to .500 by June and will never recover in a hotly competitive AL East where it might only take 90 games to win, but I can’t see them getting there.

I can, however, see Baltimore getting there. Or maybe Tampa Bay. Or everyone’s favorite on paper, Toronto, who will probably do just fine, although I think they have last year’s Marlins and all their expensive signings looming over their shoulders.  What I think will happen is that the Orioles will take the division, the Blue Jays will get one of the wild cards, and both the Yankees & Red Sox will battle not to be last.

The AL Central will be more fun because of who I think will be this year’s Cinderella team – The Kansas City Royals. Yeah, the Royals have sucked since the late ’80s, but they’ve put together a solid group of young players who had an amazingly impressive spring, and I think they are poised to be in 2013 what the Orioles were in 2012 and what the Nationals were in 2011 – the team-formerly-known-as-suck that’s clearly on the way up. I don’t think they’ll make the post season, but I think they’ll have wins in the high 80s and fall short of the Tigers, who I can see winning the division unless Justin Verlander breaks his schvantz with Kate Upton. The Royals will get back in the post-season in the next few years if they keep this up, though.

The AL West is an interesting mix – the Angels have a hitting line-up as good as the great slugging teams of all time, but beyond Jered Weaver very little pitching. The Rangers have lost a lot of talent but made some nice replacements and will certainly be competitive. And the A’s have some great pitching. All in all, I’d think the Angels & Rangers will be at the finish line, although I’m not sure which will win the division and which will be the other wild card.

Over in the NL East, it’s easy to pick the Washington Nationals – this time they’ve got more experience, they’ll have more Strasbourg, and they are loaded with good young talent. The Braves will compete as they always so, and fight with the Phillies for the wild card.  The Marlins & Mets will fight for the cellar.

NL Central: I still like the Reds, who ought to go further in October this time. I think the Cardinals have run out of last-minute heroics and luck, and the Brewers will be the main challenge to the Reds, with a rejuvenated Pirates team playing spoiler, along the lines of the Royals in the AL. When the dust clears, I think the Reds take it.

NL West: The Dodgers went on a spending spree and put together a very impressive line-up, although they have some weak spots in their pitching staff and are vulnerable to injuries. Still, it’ll be them & their rival Giants fighting it out, and I think both of them will wind up in the post-season, with one winning the division and the other getting the wild card. The Diamondbacks will compete & play spoiler here.

I hope I’m wrong about the Yankees and that everything magically comes together, but I’m too much of a realist. I’m sure Pettite & Rivera will have wonderful farewell seasons.  Having Gardner and Joba back ought to be a positive. Jeter ought to come back from his injury decently, but I worry about that after seeing him this spring. Texiera & Hughes remain injury prone and they’ll miss Granderson’s bat. I just don’t see it happening this year, and with most of that team aging, they’d better start beefing up the farm system the way they did in the early ’90s and patiently grow the core of a new Yankee team that could start its run in another 5-6 years or so. But I doubt it – it took nearly 10 years of suck & disappointment & (temporarily) taking the reins from Steinbrenner  before the Yankees learned to patiently grow a team, and the successful run they had didn’t reinforce that lesson but probably undid it due to the way affluence breeds complacency. Bummer.

Welcome back, baseball… it’s been a long winter.

Oscar Predictions 2013 February 22, 2013

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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oscarmadison

Is everyone all set for the 3+ hour annual borefest known as OSCAR TIME???

I know I am! And this is a very special year for me, since I grew so disgusted with the overall moviegoing experience in the age of nonstop ads, audience members using cellphones, and the never-ending conveyor belt of drek emanating from the studios that I stayed away from the theaters all year. In these predictions, I’m totally flying blind – I haven’t seen any of these movies yet!

Oh, I will… eventually. In the privacy of my home, on my flatscreen, with kitty alongside. The only way to fly.

I actually got invited to attend the thing in person this year (long story), but I’d have to rent a tux and sit through the entirety of it (a) without eating and (b) without being able to vocalize any of the endless stream of snark, insults and flat-out derision that overwhelms me in every Oscar telecast. I must admit if the invite had also included the Governor’s Ball afterwards, I’d have gone, but for just the awards… Well, I thanked them immensely but passed.

Anyway, after reviewing movie descriptions, the buzz, the campaigns, and everything I know about motion picture academy behavior, here are my predictions for most of the awards and a little about the show:

Let’s start with the acting categories: These are fairly easy to call this year. Daniel Day-Lewis seems a shoe-in for Best Actor & Tommy Lee Jones a lock for Supporting Actor, both for Lincoln. I think Anne Hathaway will win the “we love your career trajectory lately” Best Supporting Actress for Les Mis even if the movie fell short of expectations. Best Actress has been strange the past few years, and I think the backlash against the politics of Zero Dark Thirty will sink Jessica Chastain’s odds and give it to Jennifer Lawrence from Silver Linings Playbook.

In writing, I think we’ll get one of those years where best script and best picture do NOT coincide. I think Lincoln will win adapted over Argo because they’ll want to reward Tony Kushner’s politics. And I think Amour will win Best Original because it’ll match up with my predicted win for it in Best Foreign Film as well.

Best Picture will go to Argo – it’s the easy favorite, and was helped immensely by the snub of Affleck for director. It’s also about filmmaking to some degree, something the Academy always loves. Without Affleck in the category, Ang Lee will win Best Director since they probably feel like they still owe him something from Brokeback Mountain losing out to the inferior Crash.

Life of Pi will also win a lot of tech awards – Cinematography, Sound Editing, Visual Effects… possibly even Musical Score.

Editing? Argo.

Animated Feature? Wreck It Ralph

Seth MacFarlane? At least he was honest enough to admit that no matter what he does, the critics will savage him. He’ll get to sing, perhaps a show-tune type thing. Maybe he’ll even sing to Snow White at the Copacabana with a reanimated Merv Griffin. I’m sure there’ll be some suck-up political digs in his jokes, but one thing I’d like to see is him actually hit the thin-skinned Hollywood crowd with some joke, ANY joke, that makes them amazingly uncomfortable. He’s got the capability to do it, even if it’s on the immaturity level of the stuff on Family Guy. He’ll go up a lot of opinion points in my eyes if he makes some crack about Hollywood that makes some of ’em absolutely cringe.

Please, God, ANYTHING to save us from the usual boredom of this thing.

And yes, Jack Klugman better make the memorial reel. And Ernest Borgnine too. Or there’ll be HELL to pay!!!

Belmont Stakes Predictions 2012 June 7, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in Horse Racing.
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So, will we have a triple crown? It’s certainly been a while since Affirmed took it, back when disco ruled the airwaves and Saturday Night Live was funny.  1978 was a long long time ago to be sure.

Why? Well, probably because horses really aren’t being bred and trained for the Triple Crown anymore. There are hardly any mile and a half races like the Belmont, and horses aren’t running long routes every two to three weeks the way the Kentucky Derby-Preakness-Belmont clip comes along. So most often, the Derby winners fail to win the Preakness. Every so often like this year, we get the excitement of a Derby/Preakness winner going into the Belmont, usually as a favorite only because of the wishful thinking that a Triple Crown winner will generate excitement for the sport in a time when its popularity is waning, especially when pitted against other forms of gambling.

Which is too bad, since it’s a great sport. And all the PR damage & lack of market-building to a younger audience is nearly entirely self-inflicted. Stupid infighting means we have no HD cable channel entirely devoted to the sport, covering all races & providing high quality analysis featuring the leading handicappers from around the nation. The star power of both specific horses, trainers & jockeys is frittered away.

Oh, don’t get me started. But I won’t fly into a rant here about how I’m often the youngest guy in the Vegas sports book betting horses, and I’m an OLD FART, fer cryin out loud.

It’s time to pick the Belmont! Yay!

Well, I’ll state right off that I don’t think we’ll have a Triple Crown. Yeah, I’m sure I’ll Have Another will run a great race, but it’s that long length of the Belmont that becomes the final test, where horses who run a mile or even a mile and a quarter like lightning weaken and falter towards the end of that final stretch. Think back to the Kentucky Derby when I’ll Have Another pulled that late surge to pass Bodemeister… there was also another horse putting on an amazing late surge, but without enough speed to overtake the winner, and that horse was Dullahan. But Dullahan was moving faster than I’ll Have Another at that point, and would passed him with another quarter mile tacked on. And that was after chasing the lightning pace being set by Bodemeister, something that will not be happening here. And Dullahan has had more rest than I’ll Have Another by skipping the Preakness.

So, I’ll be picking Dullahan as my top choice to win.

I think I’ll Have Another has a great chance to hit the board, however, and I’ll certainly include him in any exotics I put together, although I can only see two other horses possibly winning this race: Paynter & Union Rags.  Both of them can probably run this distance well, and both accelerate nicely in route stretches.

And that’s the 1-2-3-4 order I think they’ll finish. The only possible surprise I might throw into the mix for hitting the board and not winning would be Street Life, who has gotten steadily better with each race, is in good condition, and also runs very well in a route stretch.

I’d love to see another Triple Crown, but I don’t think it’ll happen this year. But I’ll be happy to be wrong since it’ll be good for the sport (though not as good as all the ideas that would flow from my brilliant rant. And that rule applies to nearly all subjects.)

UPDATE: So, the radio greets me this morning with the news that I’ll Have Another has been scratched due to tendonitis & will also be retired to the stud farm. I keep writing to Victoria’s Secret about the idea of retiring me to a slightly different style of stud farm with no success. Conspiracy theories abound on various horse racing boards, but the bottom line is that a lot of the excitement has gone out of this race. I’ll stick with my picks for the top 4 possibilities, however… although after seeing how many random posts to comment boards list the same horses I have, I’m guessing the payoffs on exotics will be minimal here. Dullahan has already gone from 5-1 to 9-5 in the morning line. Ah well.

Preakness Picks 2012 May 18, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in Horse Racing.
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Considering how well I did in calling the Kentucky Derby a couple of weeks ago, I fully expect some 50-1 longshot to flush me down the toilet on my picks for the second leg of the Triple Crown, but I’ll post them anyway.

It’s the eternal optimist in me, I guess. One of the main considerations in this race is the short two week interval between the Preakness and the Derby – usually horses ought to be given a three week (at least) rest between races, especially major stakes races where even finishing fifth can mean decent purse money. The first thing I look for when handicapping this thing are competitive horses who did not run in the Kentucky Derby.  This year, I can only really see one of these, Zetterholm, having any sort of shot at it, although I’d say the chances for a win are slim.  He’s won his last 3 races, though all of them were at a considerably lower class level and his running times are not quite competitive with the top picks I’ll name below… BUT: this horse closes well in the stretch and will most likely pass a lot of the field once they come around that final turn. He’s in better form now than he was a month ago at Aqueduct when he won a 75K stakes race, and at 20-1, he makes a very tempting bet to simply wind up in the money or be part of any exotic combo.

The more serious contenders, to me, are all horses that did well in the Derby, starting with my #1 pick for this race, Bodemeister. He barely lost the Derby in the end, after setting a blistering pace for nearly the entire race. My guess would be that he’d once again be the pacesetter, but I’m sure Baffert and Smith would rather he conserve just a little more energy, maybe adding a second or so to those split times, still leading & with enough in the tank in the end to finish this slightly shorter race.  For the #2 and #3, I’d go with Derby winner I’ll Have Another and fellow SoCal entry Creative Cause to once again keep pace with Bodesmeister, with Went The Day Well & Daddy Nose Best as contenders for third or fourth.

So, throw Zetterholm in there and you have six horses to play with for exotic combos, perhaps keying the top choices. I haven’t really figured out how I’ll actually bet yet, I’ll have to sleep on it & see if there are any last minute considerations like weather, but I’ll probably Exacta-box my top 4 at the very least. Unlike the Derby, the Preakness will have a ten cent Superfecta, so I might use all 6 horses in that somehow. I’ll amend this post with my results.

Results: Well, I had the longshot Zetterholm hitting the board in the Super like I figured he might, and got the other top 3, but since I keyed a couple of my exotics to Bodemeister winning, I basically broke even due to the small payoffs all around. Ah well… at least I called it well & I hope any of you who took my advice set up your own tickets more successfully!  I’ll try again in a couple of weeks with the Belmont.