Clear Skies in Cleveland

If not for that ill-fated rain delay, the Cleveland Indians are likely the World Series champs. Alas the showers did come that chilly night in October, washing away the momentum that nearly led to the greatest comeback in Fall Classic history.

No natural disaster will stop the Tribe this year as they will best the Washington Nationals in seven scintillating games to capture their first championship since 1948.

Wunderkind shortstop Francisco Lindor collects 11 hits in the series to claim the MVP.

Want to know how your favorite squad will fare? Check out my team-by-team predictions and get the first glimpse of an exhilarating 2017 postseason, including a Game 163 between the Cardinals and Dodgers and five of the seven series going the distance.

As for my Bold Prediction of the Year: The Milwaukee Brewers will exceed all expectations, expediting their rebuilding process, finishing with an 81-81 record, earning their skipper, Craig Counsell, manager of the year honors.

And the award(s) goes to . . . 

NL MVP: Bryce Harper, RF, Washington Nationals
AL MVP: Mike Trout, CF, California Angels

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox 

NL Rookie of the Year: Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves
AL Rookie of the Year: Andrew Benintendi, LF, Boston Red Sox 

NL Comeback Player of the Year: Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Michael Brantley, LF, Cleveland Indians 

NL Manager of the Year: Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers
AL Manager of the Year: Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles

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Oscar Scorecard

Wow. Did not see that coming. In fact, thanks to my DVR running out of space two minutes into La La Land’s acceptance speech for their well-deserved best picture win, I had eight glorious hours thinking my favorite movie in a long time was rightly declared the premier film of the year.

The next morning, wanting to soak in the entirety of the ebullient victory, my baby daughter on my lap, I looked on first with utter confusion, then shock and then, well, EARMUFFS! at the spectacle playing out before both of our unbelieving eyes. Look: I loved Moonlight. It was a beautiful, spare, important film. But La La Land was, well, perfect. And transcendent. I very much doubt there will ever be a movie quite like it again.

But kudos to the grace of everyone on stage—especially the La La Land producers—to make a horrible situation somewhat tenable.

All of that unfortunately overshadowed what was an unpredictable and very rewarding evening. Clearly the long overdue diversification of Academy voters is already paying immediate dividends.

Before we delve any further into the night that was, here is a breakdown of my selections and the evening’s winners in alphabetical order:

Category Predicted Winner Actual Winner
Adapted Screenplay Moonlight Moonlight
Animated Feature Film Zootopia Zootopia
Animated Short Film Piper Piper
Best Picture La La Land Moonlight
Cinematography La La Land La La Land
Costume Design La La Land Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Directing Damian Chazelle, La La  Land Damian Chazelle, La La  Land
Documentary Feature O.J.: Made in America O.J.: Made in America
Documentary Short Subject The White Helmets The White Helmets
Film Editing La La Land Hacksaw Ridge
Foreign Language Film The Salesman (Iran) The Salesman (Iran)
Lead Actor Denzel Washington, Fences Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Lead Actress Emma Stone, La La Land Emma Stone, La La Land
Live-Action Short Film Ennemis Intérieurs Sing
Makeup and Hairstyling Star Trek: Beyond Suicide Squad
Original Score La La Land La La Land
Original Screenplay Manchester by the Sea Manchester by the Sea
Original Song ‘City of Stars’, La La Land ‘City of Stars’, La La Land
Production Design La La Land La La Land
Sound Editing Hacksaw Ridge Arrival
Sound Mixing La La Land Hacksaw Ridge
Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali, Moonlight Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Supporting Actress Viola Davis, Fences Viola Davis, Fences
Visual Effects The Jungle Book The Jungle Book

As you can see above up until both best picture announcements, I was most upset about Casey Affleck winning lead actor for Manchester by the Sea over the incredible Denzel Washington in Fences. Affleck was very good with his grieving minimalism. Washington, however, made August Wilson’s words sing. He was masterful.

I also missed on a surprising six other relatively minor awards: editing, live-action short film, makeup, the always confusing sound mixing and editing, not to mention my constant bugaboo: the dreaded costume design!

For comparison purposes to this year’s 16 of 24 correct picks, I only got 15 right two years ago, before rebounding for 18 of 24 last Oscars. Of course my finest moment came in 2014 when I accurately predicted a ridiculous 23 of 24 Academy Award winners, missing only . . . costume design.

More high—and low—lights from an Oscars that will never be forgotten:

Best Speech: Viola Davis. Is there anything she can’t do?

Worst Speech: Casey Affleck. Mumble, mumble, mumble. Really?! But good on you Brie Larson!

Best (electric) Moment: Could it be anything else? The so-called #EnvelopeGate will never be forgotten in the Academy annals.

Best (awkward) Moment: Ibid.

Biggest Upset: Hmm let me think . . . um . . . oh, yeah . . . err . . . um . . . right . . . best picture!

Biggest Disappointment: Two words: Denzel Washington!

Worst Dressed: Dakota Johnson

Best Dressed (tie): 


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The Year in Movies

Good on the academy. The first time I did this exercise I disagreed with seven of their nominations. Last year only three. And this year it’s just two, one more of a trifle (Hugh Grant over the always excellent Michael Shannon) and the other a complete and utter catastrophe. As I wrote in my Snubs and Surprises piece, how Amy Adams is not nominated for her daring, subtle, incandescent work in Arrival is simply beyond my human intellect to grasp. She is the heart and soul of one of the best movies of the year. I get it Academy: Meryl Streep is amazing!! But she should not be nominated for roles like she has the last couple years—Into the Woods and now Florence Foster Jenkins. I’m sure she’s even embarrassed about her inclusion this year.

Other than that, though, I have but little to trifle. Here is a category-by-category breakdown of this year’s nominees:

Oscar Nominees: Supporting Actress

Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Viola Davis, Fences

Nick Wood’s Top Five

1. Viola Davis, Fences
2. Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
3. Nicole Kidman, Lion
4. Naomie Harris, Moonlight
5. Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Oscar Nominees: Supporting Actor

Dev Patel, Lion
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Nick Wood’s Top Five

1. Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
2. Dev Patel, Lion
3. Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
4. Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
5. Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins

Oscar Nominees: Lead Actress

Emma Stone, La La Land
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Ruth Negga, Loving

Nick Wood’s Top Five

1. Emma Stone, La La Land
2. Natalie Portman, Jackie
3. Amy Adams, Arrival
4. Isabelle Huppert, Elle
5. Ruth Negga, Loving

Oscar Nominees: Lead Actor

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Denzel Washington, Fences
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

Nick Wood’s Top Five

1. Denzel Washington, Fences
2. Ryan Gosling, La La Land
3. Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
4. Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
5. Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

Oscar Nominees: Best Director

Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Damian Chazelle, La La Land
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge

Nick Wood’s Top Five

1. Damian Chazelle, La La Land
2. Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
3. Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
4. Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
5. Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge

Oscar Nominees: Best Picture

Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea

Nick Wood’s Top Five Nine

1. La La Land
2. Arrival
3. Lion
4. Moonlight
5. Hidden Figures
6. Fences
7. Hell or High Water
8. Manchester by the Sea
9. Hacksaw Ridge

And now for the moment you all have been waiting 364 days for . . .

The Worst Movies of the Year

1. Allegiant
2. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
3. The Huntsman: Winter’s War
4. Ghostbusters
5. Café Society

The Best Movies of the Year

11. The Shallows
10. Our Kind of Traitor
9. Hidden Figures
8. Eye in the Sky
7. Moonlight
6. Deadpool
5. Captain America: Civil War
4. Lion
3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
2. Arrival
1. La La Land


Breaking it down even further:

Best Movie That Made the Most Amount of Money: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($529,462,544 in domestic earnings since its release)
Best Movie That Made the Least Amount of Money: Our Kind of Traitor ($3,153,157)

Worst Movie That Made the Most Amount of Money: Allegiant ($66,184,051)
Worst Movie That Made the Least Amount of Money: Café Society ($11,103,205)

Editor’s note: Dollar figures courtesy of BoxOfficeMojo and current as of 26 February 2016.

Best Movie I Haven’t Seen (Yet): 13th
Worst Movie(s) I Will Never See: Tie: The Angry Birds Movie and Independence Day: Resurgence

Movie Quote of the Year: “I been standing with you! I been right here with you, Troy. I got a life too. I gave eighteen years of my life to stand in the same spot with you. Don’t you think I ever wanted other things? Don’t you think I had dreams and hopes? What about my life? What about me?” (Rose portrayed by Viola Davis in Fences)

Four categories back by popular demand:

Very Good Movie(s) That I Thought Would Have Been Worse: The Shallows
Movie That Should Have Been Much Better: Ghostbusters

Most Overrated Movie of the Year: For the second year in a row, none, thankfully.
Most Underappreciated Movie of the Year: The Shallows

And now some more fun categories:

Best Book Adaptation: The Girl on the Train
Best Musical: Florence Foster Jenkins (just kidding!) La La Land, of course!

Most Romantic: La La Land
Least Romantic: Tie: The Shallows and Nocturnal Animals

Most Exciting Movie: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Least Exciting Movie: Allegiant

Best Year—Female: Janelle Monáe (Prime roles in two best picture nominees, Hidden Figures and Moonlight)
Best Year—Male: Mahershala Ali (Ibid, plus he’s a shoe-in to win an Oscar for Moonlight.)

Crystal Ball

Every year I peer into the future to ascertain this year’s crop of future Hollywood stars. Here are examples of previous predictions:

Actress: Alicia Vikander, Felicity Jones, Shailene Woodley, Imogen Poots, Samantha Barks
Actor: Emory Cohen, Jack O’Connell, Joel Edgerton, Dane DeHaan, Theo James
Director: Tom McCarthy, Ava DuVernay, Marc Webb, Rian Johnson, Ryan Coogler

Definite Moonlight theme developing here . . .

Next ‘It’ Actress: Janelle Monáe
Next ‘It’ Actor: Mahershala Ali
Next ‘It’ Director: Barry Jenkins

Secret Weapon

Need last minute help with your Oscar pool? Below is how things will go this evening on the 89th Academy Awards. I’ve amended some of my predicted winners (*) which I previously made before the actual nominations came out:

Animated Short: Piper
Animated Feature: Zootopia
Cinematography: La La Land
Documentary Short: The White Helmets
Documentary Feature: O.J.: Made in America
Live Action Short: Ennemis Intérieurs
Costume Design: La La Land
Film Editing: La La Land
*Foreign: The Salesman
Makeup and Hairstyling: Star Trek: Beyond
Production Design: La La Land
*Screenplay (adapted): Moonlight
*Screenplay (original): Manchester by the Sea
Score: La La Land
Song: ‘City of Stars’, La La Land
Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
Sound Mixing: La La Land
Visual Effects: The Jungle Book

But those are just fillers. Now for what you really care about—the awards that will make-or-break your chances of going home with some booty tonight:

Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences
Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
*Lead Actress: Emma Stone, La La Land
Lead Actor: Denzel Washington, Fences
Director: Damian Chazelle, La La Land
Picture: La La Land

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The Final Films

The previous three cinematic posts—‘The First Sixteen’, ‘The Second Quarter’ and ‘Penultimate Pictures’—have now brought us to this: the final 31 movie reviews of the 2016 Oscar campaign. I’ll let the tweets speak for themselves:

Coming very very soon to a web log near you: The stupendous and always exhilarating movies of the year. Entertainment Weekly calls it a ‘can’t-miss’!

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Penultimate Pictures

With most Oscar-caliber films not coming out here in Oz until after the new year, these seven films that I saw between the beginning of September and the end of December are mostly action movies with a smattering of Woody Allen, Kate Beckinsale and yet another brilliant film version of a John le Carré novel:

And don’t forget to catch up on the other iterations—‘The Second Quarter’ and ‘The First Sixteen’—of this piece before the always amazing year-end best pictures is released anon.

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 . . . on gender assumptions and stereotypes:

“It’s hard to tell because all Latin men look gay.”

“So my brother went to this spa in New York and didn’t realize it was a gay hangout . . .”

“Lesbians make me so nervous.”

“. . . a brother and sister hooking up.”

“Please tell me this was a reference to Game of Thrones!”

“I always wanted to be a man.”

“I’m 50 percent gay.”

. . . and more from my former place of employment:

“Oh I got my birds on Gumtree!”

“’I just think it happens when you are Asian.”

“No. I’m not giving you any more dresses. You just use them as pillows.”

“’If I licked myself I would just smell.”

(Same) American colleague:

“Didn’t you tell me you were in love?”



“Why are guys always rubbing on each other at work?”

“. . . and I can’t stop. Especially when I drink.”

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The Second Quarter

The first installment of my look back through the films of 2016 featured, aptly, 16 reviews of movies I saw between the Oscar telecast and the end of May. Three films—Captain America: Civil War, Deadpool and Eye in the Sky—all have a great shot in being included in my prestigious year-end best pictures and one (Allegiant) is currently the odds-on-favorite to be at the opposite end of the cinematic spectrum.

Now it’s time to cover the summer months, June through August, as we move inexorably toward naming the best movie of the past year.

This odd mélange features a charming Kiwi indie, a fine literary adaptation, three uproarious comedies, one magic show, a thriller and a near-flawless biopic:

Confirmation can be seen on the HBO GO app. It’s a can’t miss!

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 . . . around my old office:

“My mum is going to grow a beard. She’s actually quite upset about it. But she’s old. And morbidly obese. Of course I didn’t say that aloud, though I did start calling her ‘Whiskers.’”

“Was he on the bottom or the top?”

“The bottom.”

“Alzheimer’s would be pretty fun, though, I reckon.”

“I need to Google how to use a gift card on Amazon.”

“And I’ve got to get my nose fixed up again!”

“Imagine having a single door fridge these days.”

“Oooh! It doesn’t say they are in a relationship!

. . . one second later . . .

They are NOT in a relationship! Fuck yeah!”

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The First Sixteen

In a run-up to my favorite annual blog post, The Year in Movies, I thought it germane (and of course oh so fun!) to take a chronological trip down memory lane to see how we got to this moment in cinematic history.

First up, ranking the very odd slate—usually a mishmash of over-budget, sure-to-disappoint Hollywood fare; silly horror movies; video game adaptations; and at least one of every other genre—of post-Oscar films.

And this year there were some doozies! In fact this three month span fortuitously included two of the best action movies in recent memory, a couple hilarious comedies, two saturated in classic British mirth, one underrated spot-on-topical thriller and very possibly the worst literary adaptation of all time.

Without further ado here is a best-to-worst ranking of the 16 movies I saw from the telecast of the Academy Awards until the end of May here in Melbourne.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints was the only one of these I did not see in the theatre. This film came out in 2013 and stars Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara and Ben Foster.

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“I don’t think Jesus gives out wedding rings.”

“Is James Bond famous?” (a son to his mother)

And two previously unpublished blasts from the past:

Older (surly?) gentleman: ‘Walk faster’

Me: ‘I’m trying’

Older (definitely surly!) gentleman: ‘Well you are not doing good enough.’

(En route to a Caps playoff game.)

And surprisingly not a reference to the—at the time—yet unpublished The Hopefuls:

“Look: If I am going to be here, I think everybody should just have to move to D.C.”

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