Link Dump

The Six Weeks of Halloween is fast approaching, so here’s a final clearing of the baffles before we descend into horror:

  • The Gig Economy – At first I thought this was a non-fiction commentary on the gig economy, but it quickly becomes clear that this is not the case. It’s still a very interesting little piece of internets ephemera, well worth checking out. It actually reminded me of a modern, technology focused version of the opening of Clive Barker’s The Great and Secret Show, in which a postal worker assigned to the dead letters office finds patterns in the lost letters. This story posits anonymous gig contracts online, and it turns out that there are patterns to be discovered in the nonsense. An interesting story and might even make good Hugo award fodder (it’s probably better than 99% of recent Hugo short stories).
  • Halloween 1978 (The Inside Story) – A Halloween documentary I hadn’t seen before? Ok, fine.
  • The Web Design Museum – A blast from the past. We’ve come a long way…
  • Survivorship bias – The notion that focusing on survivors of a given tragedy can distort conclusions; the military example is a good one:

    During World War II, the statistician Abraham Wald took survivorship bias into his calculations when considering how to minimize bomber losses to enemy fire. Researchers from the Center for Naval Analyses had conducted a study of the damage done to aircraft that had returned from missions, and had recommended that armor be added to the areas that showed the most damage. Wald noted that the study only considered the aircraft that had survived their missions—the bombers that had been shot down were not present for the damage assessment. The holes in the returning aircraft, then, represented areas where a bomber could take damage and still return home safely. Wald proposed that the Navy reinforce areas where the returning aircraft were unscathed, since those were the areas that, if hit, would cause the plane to be lost. His work is considered seminal in the then-fledgling discipline of operational research.

  • Fan Fiction Friday: Hogwarts and a Giant Squid in “First Encounter” – Warning, you probably don’t want to read this. More adventurous readers who are not scared of what the internet can throw at them probably don’t want to read this either. I didn’t particularly want to read it, but someone sent it to me and once I started, I couldn’t stop. I used to save all sorts of interesting links on del.icio.us and I had this tag called idontknowwhatthefuckisgoingonhere that I would use to categorize stuff like this. Unfortunately, I kinda do know what’s going on here, and it’s pretty gross.

That’s all for now. Stay frosty people, 6WH starts next Sunday.

Link Dump

I’m brewing beer today (something like this), so here are some linkies from the depths of ye olde internets:

  • The 10 Best Movies of 2017 – Christopher Orr’s list is nice and all, but this is worth reading for all his cheeky categorical awards later in the post. I will be shamelessly ripping some of them off for my Arbitrary Awards.
  • The Ten Best Films Of 2017, And Other Films – Glenn Kenny’s extended list always has stuff I’ve never heard of, but would probably like.
  • This Year, Make a Movie-Related New Year’s Resolution – Matt Singer makes a good point:

    Want to know why most New Year’s resolutions flame out by February? Because they’re always about doing things that suck. Losing weight, drinking less sugary soda, reading a bunch of books: All of these things are awful. Even painful! No wonder no one ever follows through.

    That’s why, every year, I make a New Year’s resolution about movies. In my experience, a person is much more likely to commit to self-improvement when self-improvement involves watching a lot of films.

    Except for the part about reading books. Anyway, one of his suggested resolutions is to watch 50 films made before 1950. Looking back at my viewing last year, I only had 5 (and 2 of those were movies I’d seen before). This seems like a decent idea. I should get on that.

  • Disney’s Fox Acquisition Likely Won’t See Original ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy Released – It turns out that the whole Fox rights aspect wasn’t really that big of a hurdle. It’s still George Lucas’ fault.

And that’s all for now…

Link Dump

As per usual, just some linkies I found interesting:

  • My IRB Nightmare – Scott Alexander got revved up and tried to do some formal research at his hospital. The resulting bureaucratic mess is a thing to behold…

    IRREGULARITY #1: Consent forms traditionally included the name of the study in big letters where the patient could see it before signing. Mine didn’t. Why not?

    Well, because in questionnaire-based psychological research, you never tell the patient what you’re looking for before they fill out the questionnaire. That’s like Methods 101. The name of my study was “Validity Of A Screening Instrument For Bipolar Disorder”. Tell the patient it’s a study about bipolar disorder, and the gig is up.

    The IRB listened patiently to my explanation, then told me that this was not a legitimate reason not to put the name of the study in big letters on the consent form. Putting the name of the study on the consent form was important. You know who else didn’t put the name of the study on his consent forms? Hitler.

    The ultimate point is worth considering as well:

    I sometimes worry that people misunderstand the case against bureaucracy. People imagine it’s Big Business complaining about the regulations preventing them from steamrolling over everyone else. That hasn’t been my experience. Big Business – heck, Big Anything – loves bureaucracy. They can hire a team of clerks and secretaries and middle managers to fill out all the necessary forms, and the rest of the company can be on their merry way. It’s everyone else who suffers. The amateurs, the entrepreneurs, the hobbyists, the people doing something as a labor of love. Wal-Mart is going to keep selling groceries no matter how much paperwork and inspections it takes; the poor immigrant family with the backyard vegetable garden might not.

    Well said.

  • Redditors design worst volume sliders possible – A little UX humor for you,

    though I bet somewhere, some bureaucracy is mandating the use of something like one of these for ridiculous reasons.

  • World’s Strongest Man — Full Day of Eating – Around 12,000 calories. This is almost a week’s worth of calories for me (or, uh, should be). The crazy thing is that he considers eating to be the hardest part of his training regimen, though it sounds like a constant, all day affair, so I could see that getting old.

    I imagine the Bodybuilder diet is different, since this guy is going for pure, functional strength rather than body sculpting

  • No, YOU spent Labor Day weekend putting Michael Meyers into the background of Activia commercials. Brilliant.
  • Stop Laughing At Old Movies, You $@%&ing Hipsters – I don’t get to a lot of repertory screenings, so this isn’t something I run into, but it does sound obnoxious.

    The audience at Hercules in the Haunted World thought the styrofoam boulders were hilarious. They cracked up the first time Park opened his mouth and baritone Kihun Yoon began to sing. Soon after, most people settled down. But a third of the house continued to treat Bava’s heartbreaking fantasy epic like a comedy. Guy gets boiled in lava? Hysterical! Lady gets her throat slashed? Priceless! People weren’t laughing because Mario Bava was funny. They were laughing because Mario Bava wanted them to feel. (No one seemed to care if composer Patrick Morganelli and his singers had their own feelings hurt.)

    The guy behind me munching Sour Patch Kids and wearing an ironic Hawaiian shirt kept up the chuckles for 91 minutes, long after I began to beseech Zeus to throw a non-styrofoam boulder at him. His stubborn laughter was an advertisement for his own superiority, like it’s heroic to refuse to be “suckered” by a fake rock that’s obviously fake. But there’s nothing triumphant about being too cool to dream.

    Seriously, why would someone like that go to a Mario Bava movie? I guess he found it funny, but it’s still obnoxious.

Oh man, the Six Weeks of Halloween is coming. Just two weeks. Gird your loins.

The Year in Books

So we have reached the one time of the year in which Astrology suddenly becomes palatable for everyone. As we’ve reached the end of our current calendar’s orbital period, we take stock of where we are and where we’re going. We come down from the holiday season, make resolutions, and promptly get to breaking them. I’m making light of this, but it’s a good thing to do from time to time, and completing another trip round the sun is as good a time as any. I don’t tend to talk about my more personal reflections here, but I do like to look back at the year that was in terms of books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen (movies will get their own, much more elaborate jamboree later in the month). I keep track of my book reading at Goodreads (we should be friends there!), and they have some neato statistical visualization tools which could really use an overhaul, but they’ll have to do and now that I have 6 years of data, it’s more useful than it used to be.

First up, total books read:

Overall Books Read in 2015

So I read 45 books in 2015, about on par with last year, but still not quite reaching the heights of 2012’s 50 books (my record in the current era). Same distortion as last year: I was following along with the Hugo awards this year, so the 45 includes some short fiction (but, I should add, not all of the ones I read, so maybe it’s a wash). Call it cheating if you like, but it actually made up a smaller piece of the pie than last year. We’ll get into this in more detail below, so let’s take a look at page numbers:

Number of Pages Read in 2015

Less than last year’s record breaking number, but far from my worst year and considering the inherent variability of page numbers, let’s just call this on par with last year or 2012. Anecdotal evidence indicates that I tend to read more page numbers when reading shorter books, while longer epics tend to slow me down. This year I had a lot of both. Sure, I had a bunch of novellas and novelettes, but I also read several 800+ page books. Let’s look closer:

2015 Summary

So the shortest book was a Hugo novelette that I was kinda meh about, whilst the honor of longest book went to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell clocking in at 1006 pages. Runner up appears to be Seveneves at a svelt 880 pages, followed by the most “popular” novel, A Game of Thrones at 835 pages. And I read a lot of other 500-800 page books, leading to a moderate average page count of 306, which is not quite as good as last year’s 322, but better than 2012’s 289. Interestingly, 2013’s average page count was 356, which is the highest of the current era; more evidence that longer books tend to slow me down.

Longest Book and Book Breakdown

And the breakdown remains similar, though simplified this year. No comic books or short stories included, and maybe a slight increase in terms of non-fiction, but still dominated by fiction.

Goodreads also provides a fancy gizmo that graphs publication dates, which now looks like this:

Books Read by Publication Date

The oldest book I read was 1961’s The Stainless Steel Rat, a short little SF con man turned spy novel. Not my favorite, but more interesting than a lot of Hugo related stuff I’ve been reading.

I declare this a good year of reading. I don’t plan any significant changes in my patterns this year, though I’m honestly still on the fence about participation in this year’s Hugo process. My current membership allows me to nominate, and two of my favorite authors released great stuff this year, so I’ll certainly submit a ballot, but I’m just not sure if I want to put up with all the manufactured controversy. Taking a quick look at the Sad Puppies crowdsourcing post, it looks like there will be a John C. Wright novel this year, which is not an exciting proposition. Dude is talented, but his style bounces right off me and while he sometimes has neat ideas, I rarely find them explored well. Plus, Wright is one of the more divisive members of the Puppy cohort, and I don’t want to deal with all that baggage. I guess we’ll have to see how this plays out. In the meantime, I’ll just keep poking at older SF since that seems to scratch the itch I have right now.


Sometimes, when certain artists release a new work, a lot of the critical response seems to be more a referendum on the whole of their oeuvre than a straightforward review. I suppose this is something of a natural tendency, and I’m sure it happens often, but there are some artists for whom this approach seems to be the overwhelming default. This is probably best described by using some examples:

  • Wes Anderson – This post itself is mostly a reaction to all the reviews of Anderson’s latest effort, The Grand Budapest Hotel, all of which, without exception, devolve into a discussion of Anderson’s career and style and try to place this new film somewhere on that continuum. To be sure, Anderson does have a distinctive style, an almost defining sense of quirk, like it was built in a lab and weaponized. Weaponized quirk.
  • Pixar – I’ve mentioned this before in my review of Brave, but when there’s a new Pixar movie, people love to take that opportunity to do things like rank the Pixar films or ask trolling questions like “has Pixar jumped the shark?” and other such ponderances. Indeed, the recent announcement of two sequels, Cars 3 and Incredibles 2, has lit off the debate over whether or not Pixar is totally out of ideas (though plenty of excitement surrounds Brad Bird’s return from the realm of live action). I suppose you could argue that Pixar isn’t, in itself, an artist, but for whatever reason (perhaps John Lasseter’s heavy involvement does warrant such though) everyone treats the studio as one entity.
  • The Coen Brothers – Perhaps less so than the other two examples, but you still often see folks attempting to summarize or otherwise put the Coens in a box when talking about a new release. This is another situation where you often see people ranking all the Coens’ movies, usually on the occasion of a new release. In this case, even while the Coens’ often take far ranging ideas and mash them together, you also see people trying to genrefy their catalog into their more broadly comedic releases (Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, etc…) or their more serious pieces (which, to be sure, often contain some form of their off-kilter humor, stuff like Fargo or No Country for Old Men).

So what is it about these filmmakers that seems to necessitate a referendum (or at least, a trip down through their filmography)? Well, all three kinda represent a singular vision. Wes Anderson did bring a certain brand of quirk to the screen in such a way that many have tried to imitate, and yet, I feel like no one has ever really come close to actually duplicating his vision. I feel like you could almost certainly pick out an Anderson picture without knowing ahead of time who made it. This is perhaps less so when you get to Pixar, but it still works – no one was making movies the way Pixar did (now that they’re sequelizing everything, I’m not as sure). And the Coens have some rather strange streaks that are almost impossible to imitate (though I suppose some of their films are more distinctive than others).

Next would be a relatively small filmography. When combined with a singular, distinctive style, you get something that screams to be listed and ranked. This, I think, is why you don’t always see a referendum on someone like Martin Scorsese. This is partly because Scorsese has been making movies for so long, partly because he has made a lot of disparate types of movies (I think he has a distinctive style, but he also isn’t afraid to tread new ground from time to time). Of course, with something like The Wolf Of Wall Street, there were a ton of comparisons to Goodfellas (and to a lesser extent, Casino), but that makes a certain sort of sense, as the three movies are basically exploring the same ideas and themes, from slightly different angles. If those were his only three movies, you better believe that his next movie would be used as a referendum on his whole career. As it is, the guy has so much stuff, including several absolute classics, that no one feels the need to do so.

Maybe all of this means nothing and I’m just reading too much into a few reviews (and it’s not like I read every review evar), but I think there’s something here. And there’s probably a bunch of other examples I haven’t really thought through yet (Tarantino? Aaron Sorkin?), but I’ll leave it at here for now. To be honest, I’m not even sure it matters that much, as the three examples above are all excellent in their own way…

The 2013 August Movie Season

August used to be a dumping ground for unwanted movies, but I feel like that’s changed in the past few years. This year is no exception, and there’s been a lot of small indie fare coming out all month. But this weekend is actually looking to be pretty amazing. Here’s what’s coming:

  • The World’s End – An unofficial sequel to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, this movie reunites the creative trio behind those great movies: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost. I’ve been avoiding specifics about the movie, but it looks to have something to do with a pub crawl and, uh, the end of the world. Or something. Early word seems good.
  • You’re Next – This movie played at Fantastic Fest in 2011 (the year I went), but the movie got picked up that very week, and the studio cancelled the second showing (the one I had penciled in). Word of mouth from the first screening was great, and the film won awards at the end of the fest, so it’s been a long two years of waiting for this one. On the outside, it looks like a typical “home invasion” movie, but I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun (or “fun”, as home invasion isn’t the most playful of subgenres).
  • The Spectacular Now – An indie film that’s been making the rounds for a while and is supposed to be expanding this weekend (though likely still fairly limited). It’s supposed to be a good coming of age story, which could be fun.
  • Ain’t Them Bodies Saints – I know nothing of this movie, except that it has buzz. What else do you need? It’s supposed to be hitting VOD this weekend.
  • Honorable Mention: Short Term 12 (doesn’t seem like my kinda thing, but it’s also got great buzz), Blue Jasmine (not a big Woody Allen fan, but he is usually at least interesting), The Grandmaster (Wong Kar Wai’s latest, only here in the HM section because it’s unlikely to be playing near me/you), and In a World… (which I think has been on VOD for a while now).

Obviously, I have no idea if any of these movies are actually good, but they all seem interesting, so let’s get on this stuff.


Danny Boyle’s new movie Trance is one of those reality-bending films that constantly has you wondering if what you’re seeing is real. It takes some deserved flak for being more concerned with plot machinations than characters, and boy does that plot go in some ludicrous directions, but if you’re the type of person who likes the tick-tock puzzles of movies like Inception or Timecrimes, I think you’ll enjoy it. And if you don’t, it would still probably fall under the not wholly depressing category of “Interesting Failure.” Personally, I’ve been in a bit of a lull when it comes to keeping up with new releases, so I found this one to be engaging and energizing in a way that most 2013 releases have failed to achieve (though, true, I have been woefully neglectful of a lot of movies I probably should have seen).

The movie opens with a bang, an art heist, complete with an “inside man” (Simon, played by James McAvoy) who manages to stash the stolen painting away from both the authorities and the criminals. Alas, it appears that during the heist, Simon gets a rather nasty bump on his head and claims amnesia. The criminals, lead by Franck (Vincent Cassel), attempt to extract the location of the stolen painting via some rather intense torture, but eventually decide that Simon’s amnesia is real. This leads them to consult a hypnotist, Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson, who they think might be able to extract the location of the painting. But Elizabeth has ideas of her own, and you begin to wonder if she’s really uncovering lost information… or is she implanting information for her own purposes?

That’s a pretty raucous mashup of cliches going on right there. You’ve got the heist (of notoriously impossible to fence artwork no less), you’ve got amnesia, and you’ve got hypnotism, the latter of which drives you to constantly question what you’re seeing on screen (there’s more tropes to be had here, especially as the story starts to really twist and turn). It starts off plausible enough, saunters into ludicrous territory, which would be bad if it didn’t rocket past that phase and into some next-level bonkers stuff towards the end. As previously mentioned, the characters are rather thin here, and there’s not really enough there to provide the required weight to the plot, particularly when you reach the very end (there’s a relationship there that I think it’s hard to buy).

That being said, Danny Boyle’s propulsive, visually striking style certain keeps things moving at a fast, entertaining pace. So while the characters may not have been fleshed out as well as I’d like, I did find myself fully engaged at all times. While Boyle’s style doesn’t completely make up for ridiculous plot points or thin characters, it does elevate the film beyond simple schlock. The pounding soundtrack also works really well here. The performances are solid all around, but extra credit goes to Rosario Dawson’s fearless performance here. She’s channeling that sultry femme fatale archetype, but as it turns out, she might be the actual heroine of the story too, and she plays it well. Dawson has some nude scenes too, and not mere glimpses either. I suppose you could say that the nudity is integral to the plot, though it’s a pretty big leap. Not that I’m complaining.

Ultimately, I enjoyed it for what it was: an outlandish thriller with preposterous twists and turns that were nonetheless completely engaging and entertaining. I had a lot of fun with this, but then, I tend to enjoy these sorts of reality-bending puzzle movies. Fans of more character-based drama may come away unfulfilled, but I had a good time and it’s a film that’s stuck with me for a couple weeks now. ***

BFI Greatest Films Meme

Minor controversy in the film nerd world broke out recently when the once-a-decade BFI film poll unseated reigning champion Citizen Kane in favor of Hitchcock’s most personal of films, Vertigo (Kane had held the top spot for 5 polls… 50 years is still a pretty impressive run though). Personally, Vertigo is a middle tier Hitchcock film (lesser Hitch?), as there are at least 5-10 other Hitchcock movies I’d put ahead of that one. But on the other hand, I’d probably opt to rewatch Vertigo over Citizen Kane (though I agree that both movies are pretty darn good!) In any case, all the cool kids are showing off their filmic bona fides by listing out which of the top 50 BFI movies they’ve seen. Sad to say, I’ve probably seen less than I should have, but here’s what I’ve got (typical meme rules apply – bold the film if you’ve seen it):

1. Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock, 1958

2. Citizen Kane, Orson Welles, 1941

3. Tokyo Story, Ozu Yasujiro, 1953

4. La Règle du jeu, Jean Renoir, 1939

5. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, FW Murnau, 1927

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick, 1968

7. The Searchers, John Ford, 1956

8. Man with a Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov, 1929

9. The Passion of Joan of Arc, Carl Dreyer, 1927

10. 8½, Federico Fellini, 1963

11. Battleship Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein, 1925

12. L’Atalante, Jean Vigo, 1934

13. Breathless, Jean-Luc Godard, 1960

14. Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola, 1979

15. Late Spring, Ozu Yasujiro, 1949

16. Au hasard Balthazar, Robert Bresson, 1966

17= Seven Samurai, Kurosawa Akira, 1954

17= Persona, Ingmar Bergman, 1966

19. Mirror, Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974

20. Singin’ in the Rain, Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1951

21= L’avventura, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960

21= Le Mépris, Jean-Luc Godard, 1963

21= The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola, 1972

24= Ordet, Carl Dreyer, 1955

24= In the Mood for Love, Wong Kar-Wai, 2000

26= Rashomon, Kurosawa Akira, 1950

26= Andrei Rublev, Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966

28. Mulholland Dr., David Lynch, 2001

29= Stalker, Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979

29= Shoah, Claude Lanzmann, 1985

31= The Godfather Part II, Francis Ford Coppola, 1974

31= Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese, 1976

33. Bicycle Thieves, Vittoria De Sica, 1948

34. The General, Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman, 1926

35= Metropolis, Fritz Lang, 1927

35= Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock, 1960

35= Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles, Chantal Akerman, 1975

35= Sátántangó, Béla Tarr, 1994

39= The 400 Blows, François Truffaut, 1959

39= La dolce vita, Federico Fellini, 1960

41. Journey to Italy, Roberto Rossellini, 1954

42= Pather Panchali, Satyajit Ray, 1955

42= Some Like It Hot, Billy Wilder, 1959

42= Gertrud, Carl Dreyer, 1964

42= Pierrot le fou, Jean-Luc Godard, 1965

42= Play Time, Jacques Tati, 1967

42= Close-Up, Abbas Kiarostami, 1990

48= The Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966

48= Histoire(s) du cinéma, Jean-Luc Godard, 1998

50= City Lights, Charlie Chaplin, 1931

50= Ugetsu monogatari, Mizoguchi Kenji, 1953

50= La Jetée, Chris Marker, 1962

By my count, that’s 20 out of 50, not a particularly impressive number, though nothing to be embarrassed about either. Still, there are a few on the list that I really should have seen by now (I’m looking at you, Metropolis! I’m coming for ya!) I think perhaps I’m also due for a French new wave marathon of sorts, as that’s one area of film I’m not particularly familiar with…

Oscar Liveblogging

It’s always hip to claim that the Oscars are a big horrible affair, and to be sure, it is an overlong ceremony dripping with hoary jokes and self-congratulation. Here at Kaedrin, we don’t mind all that though. I find that two things really help make the experience palatable: Beer and Mockery. In all seriousness, as much as people are sick of awards season, I like this late placement – it gives you time to catch up with some of the lesser-seen films and because of the dearth of good films released this time of year, theaters will often feature Oscar nominated films that you didn’t get a chance to see before (I doubt I’d have seen The Artist if it didn’t get nominated). Sure, the demographics of the Academy (basically old white dudes (the horror!)) seem to get things wrong often, but the Oscars are ultimately a celebration of movies, and I think that’s a good thing, even if they almost never reflect my tastes.

If you’re interested, here are previous installments: [2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004] Check back for frequent updates (starting around 8:30 pm EST), and feel free to hang around and leave comments to play along (I’ve re-instituted anonymous commenting for the event)…

I’m going to post my picks for the major awards now (around noonish), but again, check back later for frequent updates (usually posted every 2-5 minutes or so).

  • Best Picture: The Artist. I know some folks hate this movie or find it too slight to win a best picture nod, and while I really enjoyed the film, I don’t think it’s the best of the year. That being said, it’s right up the Academy’s alley and it’s been racking up other awards. I think a lot of folks thought The Descendants would be the favorite, because who woulda thunk that a silent film would be successful, but Payne and Clooney have lost some steam here. Interestingly, Midnight in Paris seems to have picked up some steam, because for some weird reason, Hollywood people really want to like Woody Allen movies, and this is actually Allen’s most commercially successful film ever. Even more unlikely is Hugo, though as self-congratulation goes, it’s hard to beat that one. I still consider those dark horse picks though, as The Artist is going to mop up tonight. The rest of the field has practically no chance of winning, but then, I’ve only seen 6 of the 9 nominees (and seriously? I saw 95 movies that came out in 2011 – the Oscars definitely don’t match my taste) and only one of the nominees showed up on my top 10. As it happens, that one movie was The Artist, so there is that. But then, I’m full of shit and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close will probably win.
  • Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist. Since Best Picture and Best Director generally track together, this is the obvious choice. Again, you’ve got an outside chance that Alexander Payne or Woody Allen will take this home (same as for Picture)… and I doubt Scorsese will take it home, as the Academy probably feels like they already rewarded the guy and corrected all wrongs a few years ago. Malick is the film nerd community’s choice, I guess, and the dude sure knows how to make movies that are visually brilliant, but his movie is overly indulgent and personal and long and probably won’t connect with the Academy.
  • Best Actress: Viola Davis for The Help. The other obvious choice is Meryl Streep, because you know, she gets nominated every damn year and has “only” won twice. I suppose this is a sorta rematch of that year these two were both nominated for Doubt a few years ago, but I’m just betting that Davis will take the statue this year. I think the Academy will see this as an opportunity to reward a film they like (racism bad!) without having to go all Best Picture on everyone. I suppose there’s a chance with the other nominees, but I do believe that Rooney Mara and Michelle Williams will be passed over because they’re young and everyone assumes they’ll have lots of opportunities in the future… Particularly Williams, who has very quietly established herself as one of the best actresses of her generation. Hard to believe she got her start on the Creek, but now she’s in one or two art house darlings every year.
  • Best Actor: George Clooney for The Descendants. Mostly because he’s George fucking Clooney and the Academy likes to be starstruck, especially when it comes to actors. Jean Dujardin is the other obvious choice, if only because the The Artist is a juggernaut, but he’s, like, French, and he will remind people of Roberto Benigni in that he’s new to Hollywood and probably won’t do much else… I was puzzled at Demian Bichir’s nomination, but in the interest of mocking Hollywood, I’ll just say that they nominated this so that they could look their landscapers in the eye or something. My choice for this award would definitely bee Gary Oldman… and holy crap, this is only his first nomination? Zoinks! Maybe a dark horse, but the movie he’s in is so damn reserved (and so is his performance), and the Academy likes histrionics more than subtlety.
  • Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer for The Help. This one’s a toss up. Bérénice Bejo may end up spoiling by riding the wave from The Artist, but Spencer has some momentum of her own (she took the Golden Globe, the SAG, the Critics Choice and the BAFTA) so maybe this isn’t as much of a toss up as I initially thought. Personally, I’d love to see Melissa McCarthy get some recognition, but that’s not going to happen.
  • Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer for Beginners. Plummer has all the momentum here… he’s apparently a classy guy and everyone loves him and this is the sort of thing the Academy does to reward a long career. Speaking of rewarding careers, Max von Sydow might have been a spoiler if his movie wasn’t so reviled. None of the other nominees can really mount opposition here. Plummer is pretty close to a lock.
  • Best Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris. One reason I don’t think Woody Allen will take Best Picture/Director is that the Academy often uses these screenplay awards as consolation prizes, and again, Hollywood wants to like Allen, so I’m betting he’ll get this. The Artist may be riding high and totally ruin this pick, but I’m still betting on Allen.
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants. The consolation prize factor strikes again. Moneyball has a chance to spoil, but Sorkin/Zaillian already have a statue (and Sorkin just got his last year), so I’m betting it will be a consolation because this movie isn’t going to win Best Picture…
  • Editing: The Artist. I don’t really know about this one, so I’ll just go with the obvious choice… Could also be Hugo, but I’m going with momentum here.
  • Cinematography: The Artist with, again, Hugo as competition.
  • Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This is basically making up for the lack of a nomination for Andy Serkis as supporting actor… I guess Hugo or Harry Potter could mount an offense, but I’m doubting it.
  • Makeup: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Ungh. Why do I even pick this category? I guess the Iron Lady could win too, but Potter certainly has more visible makeup…
  • Costumes: The Artist. Though Jane Eyre could easily take this, who cares? I don’t want to think about this one anymore.
  • Musical Score: The Artist. For the momentum, but also because it’s a more prominent element of the film than the other nominees… In other news, John Williams has been nominated for this award 47 times. But he’s still going to lose tonight.
  • Best Song: “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets. Only two nominees! And I actually like one of the songs! And it’s the song that will win! (even though the song doesn’t make much sense – does anyone really ever doubt if either of the participants is a man or a muppet? But hell, it’s catchy and fun and it’s the Muppets, so there.)
  • Best Animated Film: Rango. A pretty sparse field this year, though the inclusion of two European features is interesting. I doubt they’ll find any traction though. Rango seems to be the favorite. Usually I just go with the Pixar movie, but Cars 2 didn’t even manage a nomination this year. I didn’t love that movie, but is it really worse than Puss in Boots?
  • Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation. This is always a wildcard category, as even films with critical praise often get beat out by some film that hasn’t even come out in the US yet. Or something. But A Separation has a lot of praise going for it, so here it is. Plus, it’s Iranian, and Hollywood is tolerant and insert joke about Hollywood totally not being a Zionist conspiracy or something.
  • Best Documentary: Undefeated. I have no fucking clue. I picked this one because it’s got some Weinstein buzz behind it or something. But any of the other nominees could take it (the only category where I haven’t seen any of the nominees, nor have I heard of a few of them)…

So there’s my picks. Check back later tonight to see how I did!

Update 7:40 pm: Ok, just settling in now, making final preparations etc… Alex from Batrock has posted his guided tour of the nominees and in previous years, he’s also at least posted a recap, so check it out. “I’m calling for an immediate moratorium on Bullock and all Bullock related products.” Yes.

Update 7:54 pm: Every year, I tune in a little early and then immediately tune out of the inane Red Carpet pre-ceremony. This stuff is just mind-numbing and I can’t take it. This will either force me to start drinking early, or… Holy shit, what the hell is going on with Zach Galifianakis’ facial hair? He looks a little like Stephen Root. Not that that is a bad thing, cause Stephen Root is awesome, but Galifianakis’s quasi-beard is just bizarre. (Expect updates to start in full force at 8:30)

Update 8:04 pm: Uh oh, it looks like the porno stache is going to be a trend this year. Bradley Cooper is sporting one. Makes him look like a child molester.

Update 8:06 pm: I aspire to someday be one of the people who stand by the red carpet and just scream as loud as I can whilst in the general vicinity of C list celebrities. I’m nothing if not ambitious.

Update 8:09 pm: Stella Artois commercial basically confirms that they spend all their time making really fancy glassware and no time on the crappy beer.

Update 8:17 pm: I usually feature other blogs that are liveblogging, but no one does that anymore, so I’ll just feature some tweets: “Shitty joke, smug smirk, everyone laughs = George Clooney’s life.”

Update 8:25 pm: In anticipation of some sort of musical number at the beginning of the ceremony, I’ve cracked open my first beer: Firestone Walker Walker’s Reserve Porter. (Natalie Portman’s answer to how she felt last year when she was nominated: “I was in a daze” in other words, she was totally baked)

Update 8:29 pm: This beer is really solid, though not really in my favorite style. Lots of roasted coffee flavors, but enough other notes to make up for it, and really easy to drink. Perfect. Ok, let’s get this party started.

Update 8:37 pm: So this youtube video (cause seriously, that’s what it’s like) they did at the beginning of the ceremony was ok, but Billy Crystal as TinTin is the creepiest thing ever.

Update 8:40 pm: Oh God, a musical number. And it’s horrible. Drink.

Update 8:41 pm: Jonah Hill fat joke. I want to say that I was surprised that Crystal took the risk… but it was a really lame, unfunny joke. If you’re going to insult someone, go whole hog. Anyway, musical number is over, and now I remember why Billy Crystal doesn’t have a career anymore.

Update 8:44 pm: Cinematography kicks things off and goes to Hugo, and I’m 0 for 1. Nice. Hahah, even the guy who won can’t believe they put Cinematography first.

Update 8:46 pm: So Hugo wins another technical award and boy these two are weird and can’t talk. Is this a harbinger of things to come, or a consolation prize for Hugo?

Update 8:48 pm: James Gunn: “Martin Scorsese deserves a best actor nod for laughing at Billy Crystal’s song.” ALso, apparently the guy who won for Cinematography was Quentin Tarantino’s “coke wizard

Update 8:52 pm: Montage! Over/under this year is 8. This is number 1. Place your bets!

Update 8:59 pm: Costume Design goes to The Artist and I’m 1 for 2. This guy spent all morning practicing this speech. Makeup goes to The Iron Lady? I guess they think that portraying someone on the opposite end of the political spectrum takes a shitload of makeup. Nice speeches. Ok, I’m 1 for 3. Meanwhile, on twitter, everyone is noting that the Montages are like YouTube supercuts. Heh.

Update 9:01 pm: Montage #2! Kinda? Its a montage of interviews, but I like it better than the supercuts.

Update 9:07 pm: Sandra Bullock, in German/Chinese: “Death to America!” Best Foreign Language film goes to A Separation, and I’m 2 for 4. I will see this movie someday. Maybe this guy will make a political statement. And yep, here we go. War bad!

Update 9:14 pm: Jessica Chastain was in every movie last year, right? Best supporting actress goes to Octavia Spencer for The Help. I’m 3 for 5, and yes, racism bad! Ohhh, she’s gonna cry! Cry, crybaby, cry! Seriously, always nice to see genuine emotion in a speech, but she’s gonna get ushered offstage soon, but she didn’t and she’s actually asking them to wrap up because she knows she’s freaking out. Awesome.

Update 9:17pm: Hmm: “What does Spielberg, Voice of All Jews, think of this Iranian gentleman? #Oscars” and this: “A SEPARATION is the best film if the year, period. Well deserved win. I hope Iran doesn’t kill the director.” and finally: “Someone, I hope, transcribed that speech. I’m pretty sure he said ‘stay away from our enriched uranium.'”

Update 9:24pm: Bob Balaban! Hey, at least it’s not a montage. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this a hundred times before. Tina Fey and Bradley Cooper’s Mustache present editing, which goes to: The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo? Ok, I guess. I’m 3 for 6 now. And they weren’t expecting this either. Heh, some of the team didn’t even bother showing up, and these guys are so flustered that they’re just leaving.

Update 9:29pm: Hugo picks up another technical award. Hmm. Awesome “Hugo, no you go” pun. Also, I would love to be able to call him Marty. These guys are pretty good. Wait, sound mixing and sound editing are separate awards? I smell a way to make this ceremony shorter. And Hugo wins this other award too. Martin Scorsese is apparently dating a 9 year old girl.

Update 9:31 pm: Stay tuned for a memorable performance from Circ du Solei. Can it be a “memorable performance” before it actually happens? Is that how memory works now? Damn.

Update 9:37 pm: The Muppets! Well, at least they put some sort of live performance in front of this Montage. Does that count as a montage? I’ll say yes, which brings us to…3? And this is actually pretty good, though not sure how relevant it is. Jesus, look at that guy. Is he human? Or is he just going to have really bad back problems for the rest of this life?

Update 9:45 pm: Man, these Crystal jokes are reallly hoary. This Robert Downey Jr and Paltrow bit is really stupid. He should have just walked out in the Iron Man costume. Best Documentary goes to Undefeated. Holy crap, I was right, bringing my total to 4 for 7. Nice speech for a bunch of thank yous. Ohhh, did he just curse? Sound cut out. And had to believe, but these are the first people to be played off… and damn, they cut off the microphone, hehe. Chris Rock is rockin a mini-afro, reminding me of that Good Hair documentary he did…

Update 9:50 pm: Chris Rock is pretty funny, best animated movie goes to Rango and I’m 5 for 8.

Update 9:57 pm: Emma Stone and Ben Stiller, weird pairing. And I never knew she was so tall. Holy shit, she’s totally trashed. Or high. Probably both. Visual Effects goes to Hugo, and shit, I’m 4 for 8, and I’m still not sure what this means for Hugo. Will it be a big sweep, or all these technical awards a consolation prize. Guy just said that winning an Oscar is really “underrated”. Hehe.

Update 10:03 pm: Wow, they didn’t use the breakdown scene from Warrior, good on the Oscars. Best supporting actor goes to Christopher Plummer and I’m 5 for 9. Oldest actor ever to win an Oscar? Huh. Totally had his speech prepared, and now, heh, he admits to rehearsing his whole life for this, classy move acknowledging the other nominees, nice.

Update 10:05 pm: Heh: “Drop and give us ten pushups, Christopher!”

Update 10:10 pm: Actually laughed at a Billy Crystal joke here. Twice. Tyler Perry joke and Nick Nolte joke… and oh shit, the President of the Academy! Run! Go! Get to the Choppa! Save yourself!

Update 10:15 pm: Crystal’s crack about the President of the Academy riling up the audience got a giggle from me. Best Original Score goes to the Artist, and I’m 6 for 10. Accents are funny. Anyone else bothered by the weird, tinny audio feedback thing that’s going on with the sound? What the fuck is this guy going on about? He sounds French.

Update 10:19 pm: Will Ferrell is always a highlight, and Zach’s weird facial hair is a fine addition. It’s funny, this is the first time in years when I wouldn’t mind seeing a live performance of the songs (especially since there’s only two, and one of them is from the Muppets, which would be awesome). And yeah, best song goes to The Muppets, duh. I’m 7 for 11, and this dude was in Flight of the Concords? Heh. Nice speech.

Update 10:21 pm: Beer numero dos: homebrewed Simcoe IPA. Just bottled it last week, and it’s still a little light on the carbonation, though there’s enough here to make it drinkable. Another week or two and it will be perfect. Huge citrus hop character here, really nice, but will benefit from some additional time.

Update 10:24 pm: Heh: I’m behind on Oscars but I’d be remiss if I didn’t express my happiness about hearing the Meet Joe Black theme in this first montage.

Update 10:28 pm: God, the sound at the Oscars is horrible. Also, I like how this is the one night out of the year that Hollywood pretends that writers are important. Best Adapted Screenplay goes to The Descendents, and I’m 8 for 12. Holy shit, is that Dean Pelton? Posing? Nice!

Update 10:31 pm: And best original screenplay goes to Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris… and he’s not there? WTF? I’m 9 for 13. Nice interview montage. Again. Herzog, Overboard, well done. Oh great, the short film awards are next.

Update 10:42 pm: And so we enter the portion of the show that no one cares about: technical awards and short films. Brutal. But the Bridesmaids penis talk is livening things up a bit. And the Oscar goes to… a short film no one has heard of or cares about! Funny drinking on stage. Marty is as confused as I am. And the other Oscar goes to… another short film (documentary) no one has heard of or cares about!

Update 10:45 pm: Morgan Freeman isn’t clapping. He hates Pakistanis. Or is drunk. And best animated short goes to… another short film no one has heard of or cares about! Yeah!

Update 10:47 pm: Who is this guy kidding with that hat? Let’s get back to some real awards.

Update 10:54 pm: Ohh, best director award. But we haven’t done the best actor/actress yet? Huh. I wonder how they really determine what order to do these awards in. Anyway, the oscar goes to haha, Michael Douglas can’t pronounce his name either, for The Artist. He forgot his speech, and he’s just thanking everyone he can think of. I’m 10 for 14. He just thanked the dog from the movie. Before the financer.

Update 10:59 pm: What the hell are the Governor’s Awards? Are these like the Lifetime Achievement Awards? Honorary Oscars, apparently. Yeah, so as much as I like guys who do makeup and James Earl Jones and even Oprah, this is totally unnecessary.

Update 11:02 pm: Beer #3, my homebrewed stout. I wasn’t really planning on drinking these tonight, but it seems all the beer in my fridge is high ABV and I’d like to, you know, work tomorrow.

Update 11:03 pm: Yay dead people!

Update 11:04 pm: I think that, instead of What a Wonderful World, the song for the dead people montage should be Queen’s Who Wants to Live Forever. You know, like Highlander does it.

Update 11:07 pm: Oh, and that afro is amazingly awesome.

Update 11:10 pm: I should have counted these interview montages as actual montages, but whatever. In other news: “It would be cool in the In Memoriam segment if they could tell us which people were in Hell.”

Update 11:20 pm: Natalie Portman arrives, and finally we get to some more big awards. It would seem so appropriate for Natalie Portman to present best actor to Gary Oldman, but it’s probably not to be… Best Actor goes to Jean Dujardin. I’m 10 for 15. Jean speaks pretty good English, but he still has a funny accent. He seems very excited and good for him.

Update 11:32 pm: Mama mia! Colin Firth is pretty likeable, love his anecdote about Michele Williams… And Best Actress goes to Meryl Streep! I’m 10 for 16, and it’s hard to argue with her win, but, you know, racism. Or not, whatever. And in fairness, it’s been like 30 years. Nice speech though, acknowledging the “her, again?” side, then completely dismissing it, as she should.

Update 11:35 pm: Hahah: “And, of course, Rooney Mara. She showed bush.” Also: Horse is shitting himself waiting for Best Horse.

Update 11:38 pm: And Best Picture goes to The Artist, and I’m 11 for 17. No surprise here, holy crap, look at all those people on stage. Who are all these people? What is this guy talking about? Who is he? Ah, he’s the producer, and he, too, does not know how to pronounce Hazanavicius.

Update 11:42 pm: Well, 11 for 17 works out to 65% or so, which is actually pretty low for me. Yet the show was still not all that exciting. Whatevs. It’s been real folks, I’m going to bed. Maybe one more update tomorrow when I realize that I counted wrong.

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone is having a great holiday, and here are a few links that I put together in 5 minutes:

That’s all for now…