Oscars Recap

Damn, those Oscars were not bad. Well, they weren’t great, but much better in comparison to the dreadful 2011 Academy Awards hosted by Anne Hathaway and James Franco. This year’s 85th Annual Oscars was hosted by the occasionally witty and occasionally awkward Seth MacFarlane, whose monologue proceeded into one lengthy set of uncomfortable musical numbers, so-so jokes, and a shtick with William Shatner as Captain Kirk from Star Trek. Other than the embarrassing and controversially sexist “We Saw Your Boobs” tribute, which spoke about all the A-list actresses who got naked in several movies, MacFarlane did a fair job of making one-liner gut-busters (“The quest to make Tommy Lee Jones laugh begins now”). The 3-hour-long award ceremony gradually continued through suspenseful award presentations, a visually and audibly gratifying James Bond tribute, and three musical numbers from the cast of 2002’s Chicago, 2006’s Dreamgirls, and this year’s Les Misérables. Most of the celeb presenters were endearingly dorky at some points, but just utterly disappointing at others (cough, Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy, cough). A few surprises in the show included a surprsing tie between Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty for Best Sound Editing, as well as an unexpected appearance by First Lady Michelle Obama, who presented the Best Picture award via telecast. Other than the performances and the presenters, the awards given were actually not so bad: Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) for Best Supporting Actor, Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables) for Best Supporting Actress, Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) for Best Actor, and Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) for Best Actress. Quentin Tarantino reclaimed his Best Original Screenplay award for Django Unchained, after previously winning it in 1994 for the American classic Pulp Fiction. Chris Terrio’s audacious script from Argo won Best Adapted Screenplay. Austrian hit Amour won Best Foreign Language Film. Searching for Sugar Man, the incredible untold story of a forgotten musician pioneer, won Best Documentary. Pixar claimed yet another win for Best Animated Feature with Brave (the Disney-associated company previously won 7 awards in the same category). Adele’s beautiful and compelling Bond theme, “Skyfall,” won Best Original Song. Ang Lee was the biggest winner of the night, when his epic survival drama Life of Pi won the most awards (4) of the night for Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, and the one of the biggest honors, Best Director. But in all honesty, Ben Affleck was the true triumphant victor of the award show when his acclaimed Argo won Best Picture, despite him winning only two other awards (Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing) and his snub for Best Director. Although he choked with tears of joy through most of his speech, it was indeed valiant, uplifting, and heartbreaking all in one. The show ended with another mediocre musical number, performed by MacFarlane and Broadway star Kristen Chenoweth, who both sang a tribute to all the “losers” at the Oscars that night. Some may disagree, but despite MacFarlane’s sporadic irreverent antics, as well the show’s excessive length, this year’s Oscars wasn’t that bad. Next year, though, not only will we experience yet another set of excellent films, but hopefully we will also get an actually interesting and engaging host(s). Preferably Tina Fey and Amy Poehler again? Let’s hope so.

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Oscars Precap/Predictions

This year in film has endured a variety of intriguing, inspirational, and artistic movies. Luckily, tomorrow is the long-awaited 85th Academy Awards, hosted by “Family Guy” and “Ted” creator Seth McFarlane. It will be televised on ABC at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood. This year’s Oscars will contain some obvious and surprising factors: exquisitely or dreadfully dressed celebs will walk on the red carpet before the show, Seth McFarlane will be accompanied by a digitalized Ted or Stewie (I’m assuming), awkward moments will occur between award presenters, the musical numbers will be lengthy, and there will be award snubs and surprises. This year’s Oscars also contains one of the most intense award competitions among films, writers, directors, and actors. Here are my predictions for the award nominees:

Best Picture:

  • Amour 
  • Argo
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Django Unchained
  • Les Misérables
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Zero Dark Thirty
Who will win: Argo
Who should win: Argo

Best Director:

  • Michael Haneke – Amour
  • Ang Lee – Life of Pi
  • David O. Russell – Silver Linings Playbook
  • Steven Spielberg – Lincoln
  • Benh Zeitlin – Beasts of the Southern Wild
Who will win: Steven Spielberg
Who should win: Ang Lee

Best Actor:

  • Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook
  • Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
  • Hugh Jackman – Les Misérables
  • Joaquin Phoenix – The Master
  • Denzel Washington – Flight
Who will win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Who should win: Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Actress:

  • Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty
  • Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook
  • Emmanuelle Riva – Amour
  • Quvenzhané Wallis – Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Naomi Watts – The Impossible
Who will win: Jennifer Lawrence
Who should win: Jennifer Lawrence

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Alan Arkin – Argo
  • Robert De Niro – Silver Linings Playbook
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master
  • Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln
  • Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained
Who will win: Christoph Waltz
Who should win: Tommy Lee Jones

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Amy Adams – The Master
  • Sally Field – Lincoln
  • Anne Hathaway – Les Misérables
  • Helen Hunt – The Sessions
  • Jacki Weaver – Silver Linings Playbook
Who will win: Anne Hathaway
Who should win: Anne Hathaway

Best Original Screenplay:

  • Amour – Michael Haneke
  • Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino
  • Flight – John Gatins
  • Moonrise Kingdom – Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
  • Zero Dark Thirty – Mark Boal
Who will win: Django Unchained
Who should win: Django Unchained

Best Adapted Screenplay:

  • Argo – Chris Terrio
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild – Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin
  • Life of Pi – David Magee
  • Lincoln – Tony Kushner
  • Silver Linings Playbook – David O. Russell
Who will win: Argo
Who should win: Argo

Best Animated Feature:

  • Brave
  • Frankenweenie
  • ParaNorman
  • The Pirates! Band of Misfits
  • Wreck-It Ralph
Who will win: Brave
Who should win: Wreck-It Ralph

Best Foreign Language Film:

  • Amour
  • Kon-Tiki
  • No
  • A Royal Affair
  • War Witch
Who will win: Amour
Who should win: Amour

Best Documentary:

  • 5 Broken Cameras
  • The Gatekeepers
  • How to Survive a Plague
  • The Invisible War
  • Searching for Sugar Man
Who will win: Searching for Sugar Man
Who should win: The Invisible War

Best Original Score:

  • Anna Karenina
  • Argo
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Skyfall
Who will win: Lincoln
Who should win: Life of Pi

Best Original Song:

  • “Before My Time” – Chasing Ice
  • “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” – Ted
  • Pi’s Lullaby” – Life of Pi
  • “Skyfall” – Skyfall
  • “Suddenly” – Les Misérables
Who will win: “Skyfall”
Who should win: “Skyfall”

Best Sound Editing:

  • Argo
  • Django Unchained
  • Life of Pi
  • Skyfall
  • Zero Dark Thirty
Who will win: Argo
Who should win: Argo

Best Sound Mixing:

  • Argo
  • Les Misérables
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Skyfall
Who will win: Argo
Who should win: Argo

Best Production Design:

  • Anna Karenina
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Les Misérables
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
Who will win: Les Misérables
Who should win: Life of Pi

Best Cinematography:

  • Anna Karenina
  • Django Unchained
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Skyfall
Who will win: Life of Pi
Who should win: Life of Pi

Best Makeup:

  • Hitchcock
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Les Misérables
Who will win: The Hobbit
Who should win: Les Misérables

Best Costume Design:

  • Anna Karenina
  • Les Misérables
  • Lincoln
  • Mirror Mirror
  • Snow White and the Huntsman
Who will win: Les Misérables
Who should win: Lincoln

Best Film Editing:

  • Argo
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Zero Dark Thirty
Who will win: Argo
Who should win: Argo

Best Visual Effects:

  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Life of Pi
  • Marvel’s The Avengers
  • Promethus
  • Snow White and the Huntsman
Who will win: Life of Pi
Who should win: Life of Pi

Hope the Oscars will be great this year!
Stay tuned for the recap!

Crew Cuts – Hoodie Allen

24-year-old Steven Markowitz used to work at Google, which seems like one of the best jobs someone could have in America in this day and age. But today he has taken a new direction and moniker as the charismatic rapper Hoodie Allen. His rise to recognition and fame started gradually with the release of his 2009 debut Bagels and Beats, as well as his Making Waves mixtape. It wasn’t until his pop-song sampled albums Pep Rally and Leap Year did music listeners start to listen to this up-and-coming rap artist. In fact, Hoodie’s underground success has led him to mainstream stardom, performing in front of sold-out concerts, posting on his Facebook page, having the decency to take pictures with fans, and even getting his first official studio EP reach #1 on iTunes. What’s surprising is how his new mixtape, Crew Cuts, doesn’t necessarily bring the same excitement or charm as his previous records. In fact, his most prevalent tune off of Crew Cuts, “Fame is for Assholes” almost disappoints devoted Hoodie fans (but some may beg to differ). Although the relatively appealing song maintains the catchiness of most popular Hoodie songs, the lyrics feel somewhat derivative to most of Hoodie’s vulgar one-liners. You could cringe or sing along, whether you’re a committed Hoodie fan or not, but Crew Cuts is too thematically irregular and artistically dull to be a great Hoodie Allen mixtape. Despite Hoodie’s consistent rhyming fluidity and quick flashes of genius, Crew Cuts doesn’t offer any noteworthy or stand-out tracks — unlike Leap Year‘s “The Chase is On,” All American‘s “No Interruption,” and Pep Rally‘s “Swimming with Sharks.” Another commercially popular song off the mediocre Crew Cuts is the indifferent “Cake Boy,” which lyrically sounds similar to “Clique” and melodically to Kendrick Lamar’s outlandish “Backstreet Freestyle.” Sometimes, it’s hard to differentiate Hoodie’s pop star half from his hip hop artist half, especially on the reminescent opener “Let Me Be Me” and the unoriginal “Two Lips.” It seems like Hoodie’s raps have become trite and uninventive, especially in his worst Crew Cuts track, “Reunion,” when he borrows Drake’s “Over” line of “drop the mixtape, shit sounded like an album.” Hoodie only comes to his full circle of brilliance when he raps on the funky, electro-induced “Long Night,” and the Sky Ferreira-sampled “Heart 2 Heart.” Although Hoodie’s rhymes generally about romance, girls, alcohol, partying, and being a ladies man, he fails to manage any appeal on the rushed “Good Intentions” and the hazy “Casanova,” which features an indifferent G-Eazy and Skizzy Mars. However, Hoodie Allen does retain some catchiness and glimmer, especially on the Shwayze-featured “Wave Goodbye.”

It’s pretty amazing how far Hoodie Allen has come along in the rap game, especially with his last three mixtapes and iTunes-charting EP.  Even though Crew Cuts isn’t Hoodie at his best,  he’s not done with rapping just yet. The mixtape fluctates from corny pop songs to intriguing hip-hop jams, which is definitely detrimental to Hoodie as both a pop and hip hop artist. Hopefully he won’t get lost in the fame and will instead utilize creative sampling with amazing rhyming, which Crew Cuts unfortunately hasn’t proven.   

Grade: C-
Recommended: No, unless you’re a die-hard Hoodie Allen fan
Suggested Tracks: “Long Night,” “Heart 2 Heart,” “Wave Goodbye”    

Grammy Awards Recap

Well, the year in music has gone and yet another Grammy Awards season has passed by. The 55th Annual Grammy Awards was hosted last Sunday at the Staples Center. The 3-hour program consisted of glamorous celebrities, crazy music performances, and anxious excitement on who will win what. It’s pretty much like most Grammy shows, but this year had one of the most intense award competitions within the four major categories: Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist.
R&B crooner Frank Ocean was expected to take home all six of his nominations, which included his critically acclaimed summer smash hit Channel Orange for Album of the Year, his chart-topping love ballad, “Thinkin Bout You” for Record of the Year, and for Best New Artist. But, boy, did we have it wrong. Ocean only won two of his six Grammys (He won Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best Rap Collaboration). He unfortunately lost to the folk rock group Mumford & Sons and their sophomore effort Babel for Album of the Year, chart-topping indie duo Gotye & Kimbra and their used-to-be-charming-now-obnoxious “Somebody I Used to Know” for Record of the Year; and the hyperactive indie rock band Fun., for Best New Artist. Other winners at the Grammys included Adele, Skrillex, Usher, Beyoncé, Jay-Z & Kanye West, Drake, and many more.
Ocean and the winners of the major categories and were also up against a fierce collective of music artists, which included The Black Keys, Jack White, Taylor Swift, Alabama Shakes, The Lumineers, Kelly Clarkson, and Carly Rae Jepsen. Some of these artists, including Ocean, Fun., Mumford & Sons, Gotye, and Kimbra, performed during the Grammys. Ocean sang his soulful ballad “Forrest Gump” in an understated yet mesmerizing performance. Jack White also blew away the audience with two of his head-banging rock anthems “Love Interruption” and “Freedom at 21.” The Black Keys crooned alongside Dr. John and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band with their infectious groove “Lonely Boy.” Unprecedented R&B artist Miguel performed his compelling Song of the Year nomination “Adorn” with rapper Wiz Khalifa. However, some Grammy performances fell flat, such as Taylor Swift’s tasteless and cheesy performance of “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together” (we get it Taylor, jeeze, stop overdoing it!) and Rihanna’s dull rendition of her Unapologetic track “Stay” with music producer Mikky Ekko. Even so, the performances never wavered when Damian and Ziggy Marley gave a lively tribute to their late great father Bob Marley, alongside Bruno Mars, Sting, and Rihanna. Another tribute was also given to the late Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch.
This year’s Grammys wasn’t anything special. But we got to experience some exhilarating performances, finger biting award winner announcements, and a few comebacks, including R&B-pop star Justin Timberlake’s return to music from a 7-year hiatus. He sang his first single, “Suit & Tie” with rapper Jay-Z, off his upcoming record The 20/20 Experience, coming out March 20th. I guess you could say that the Grammys reminds us every year about the excitement and mesmerizing effect of music and how intrigued we are by the art and development of music. Hopefully, the Grammys will help us look forward to this exciting year in music.
You can check out the list of awards and nominations here.

Warm Bodies

When I first heard of Warm Bodies, it just seemed like another trivial horror flick that didn’t interest me. Eventually, I saw that it received a 78% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so I decided to take it upon myself and watch the trailer. Though the trailer seemed indifferent and slightly predictable, I grew much more interested in the movie than I had before. Seeing it tonight, I had some doubts, but coming out of the movie theater, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed. Warm Bodies is not your typical horror rom-com, which is a good thing in this case, since most movies in this category don’t live up to their undead protagonists. Warm Bodies is a delightfully fresh and unique take on young love and human connection, as well as an interestingly and unexpectedly (somewhat) modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Although it can be much more quirky with its unique premise, Warm Bodies contains a lot of emotional depth, sweet moments, hilarious one-liners, and acceptable thrills. Taken place in a post-apocalyptic world with both zombies and humans living separately, a young, lonely undead corpse named R (Nicholas Hoult) discovers that life has meaning when he encounters an attractive, badass girl named Julie (Teresa Palmer). Although their relationship starts out awkward and quite creepy, the audience ultimately falls in love with the two opposites, as R’s love-strickeness melds him into becoming more human. The other zombies begin to also morph into quasi-humans, when they start to love as well. With a unusually-put yet engaging cast (John Malkovich, “Red,” Rob Corddry, “Hot Tub Time Machine,” Dave Franco, “21 Jump Street,” Analeigh Tipton, “Crazy, Stupid, Love”), Warm Bodies proves to be a watchable and insightful film, as well as a thrilling/humorous zombie flick. Watch the trailer here.

Grade: B+
Recommended: Yes