Sunday, February 27, 2011

My 2011 Oscar Picks

I'm not usually one to do award picks, but the Oscars are tonight and there is a lot of people out there doing award picks for it, so I decided, what the heck, I'll do it too. Here's my picks, in the order the categories are listed on the official Oscars site.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Otherwise known as "Best Actor." The main battle here is between Jesse Eisenberg for his role as Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network and Colin Firth as King George VI in The King's Speech. The other contenders are Jeff Bridges for True Grit, Javier Bardem for Biutiful, and James Franco for 127 Hours.

Now, granted, I've only seen two of these films: The Social Network and The King's Speech. And they seem to be the only ones that matter, although Jeff Bridges is a pretty well-known actor and could win, I guess. My pick though is Colin Firth. If you have not seen The King's Speech, SEE IT!! Ok, so I'm a big fan of historical films, so maybe I'm a little biased here, but this film, which tells the true story of England's King George VI (father of the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II) and how he overcame his problem with stammering, is amazing. Colin Firth is a great actor anyway, but he really hits it out of the park here, capturing George (or rather Albert, since he's a prince for most of the film)'s frustration with his stammering and his brother's controversial relationship with an American divorcée, as well as the softer side he shows to his children. They couldn't have picked a better person to play this role. It kind of reminded me of his role as Jack in The Importance of Being Earnest, which was also a well-played mix of seriousness and lightness.

As for Eisenberg...well, I didn't think much of The Social Network anyway. It was an ok film, but it didn't wow me. And Eisenberg's performance makes Mark Zuckerberg out to look like a real jerk. Now, granted, the movie is based on a book called The Accidential Billionaires, and the only person from Facebook who helped with that book was Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin (played in The Social Network by Andrew Garfield), who ended up suing Zuckerberg after Zuckerberg drastically cut his holdings in Facebook while not cutting any of the holdings of the other shareholders. So Saverin may not have painted a very rosy picture of Zuckerberg. But still, his performance just didn't wow me the way Colin Firth's did.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Also known as "Best Supporting Actor" (people just love to shorten these award names, don't they?). The nominees here are Christian Bale for The Fighter, John Hawkes for Winter's Bone, Jeremy Renner for The Town, Mark Ruffalo for The Kids Are All Right, and Geoffrey Rush for The King's Speech.

Again, I haven't seen many of the films here - only one actually (The King's Speech). Bear with me; I don't make it to the movie theater as much as I'd like. I have school and a job. Anyway...

Interesting race here...I particularly noted the snub for The Social Network - after all, it's nominated for 8 Oscars, so wouldn't you expect a Best Supporting Actor nod for Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake (who plays Sean Parker, founder of Napster), or even Armie Hammer (who played the Winklevoss twins, the ones who originally recruited Zuckerberg to create the site that later became Facebook)? Guess they can't win everything. :) True Grit got snubbed too.

Christian Bale has shown he can win tons of awards before, but I'd really like Geoffrey Rush to win. He plays Lionel Logue in The King's Speech, the speech therapist/actor who helps Colin Firth's character overcome his stammer, and he does a really good job. I'm not familiar with his other films, but the fact that they cast an Australian actor for the real-life Logue, who was himself Australian, shows a great attention to detail. He does a great job. Hands down.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Or "Best Actress." Unlike Best Actor, The Social Network got snubbed here (as well as for Best Supporting Actress). But then girls aren't a big part of the cast in that movie.

Anyway, the Best Actress nominees are: Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right, Nicole Kidman for Rabbit Hole, Jennifer Lawrence for Winter's Bone, Natalie Portman for Black Swan, and Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine. Essentially it's a battle between two older, experienced actresses (Bening and Kidman) and three younger, not-as-experienced actresses (Portman, Lawrence, and Williams), with Bening and Portman being the faves.

Sadly, I haven't seen any of these films, though I do like Natalie Portman as an actress. I guess Williams's nod is the unusual one, because Blue Valentine is an indie film. Both Williams and Lawrence are TV actresses-turned-movie-actresses (Williams was on Dawson's Creek and Lawrence on The Bill Engvall Show) that I don't know if anyone has ever heard of. I've never heard of Bening either, but I guess she's a pretty well-known actress (her filmography is pretty long). Nicole Kidman I do like, and she has won Oscars before. And I do like Natalie Portman, as I said, though my favorite role of hers is still her early role as Padmé in Star Wars; her more recent roles I haven't been as into.

As I said, the front-runners are Bening and Portman. I haven't seen either of the films they're being nominated for, but they both look good. Portman's nom is for that creepy ballet movie Black Swan, while Bening's is for the more light-hearted The Kids Are All Right. Knowing the Academy, they're probably going to go for Black Swan because it's a more artsy film, but you never know. Bening has a really long career and she's been nominated for Oscars many times (including for American Beauty, which swept the award season in 1999) but has never actually won one. It would be nice to see her win one. So, provisionally, I'm going to pick Annette Bening for this award.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Or "Best Supporting Actress."

The nominees (I'm just copying-and-pasting at this point):

  • Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
  • Helena Bonham Carter in “The King's Speech”
  • Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
  • Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit” 
  • Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom” 
Amy Adams I've seen before in Drop Dead Gorgeous (where she plays cheerleader Leslie Miller) and in clips of Enchanted (where she stars as Giselle). She does seem like a good actress. Both she and Melissa Leo are nominated for The Fighter, a film I know nothing about.

I guess the two I'm interested in for this award are Helena Bonham Carter for The King's Speech (she plays the Duchess of York, the wife of Colin Firth's character) and Hailee Steinfeld, the young girl from True Grit. While I haven't seen True Grit, Steinfeld does seem like a strong actress from the trailers I've seen for the film. At only 14, she'd be among the youngest to ever win an Oscar if she does win. (The youngest person to win an acting award was 10-year-old Tatum O'Neal, and the youngest to win an Oscar was Shirley Temple, who was 6 when she received a Academy Juvenile Award). But Helena Bonham Carter does do a good job in her role, and I've seen her do well in other films, such as her role as Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter films. I call this one a tie between Steinfeld and Bonham Carter.

Best Animated Feature Film

As a category, Best Animated Feature Film is still very new; it was created in 2001 and basically created for Shrek, which was really the only notable animated feature film that year anyway. But the field of animated feature films has grown, so it'll be interesting to see how this category goes in its 10th year of existence. Surprises do happen, like Spirited Away's surprise win of this Oscar in 2002 (that's why everyone automatically thinks of that film if you mention Hayao Miyazaki to them, I think).

There are only three nominees for this category: How to Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3, and The Illusionist. The Illusionist is a French animated film which only had limited release here and which I haven't had a chance to see, unfortunately. It looks good, though. I have seen the other two, however. They both have the advantage of having been available in 3-D, which The Illusionist didn't have, which may increase their chances of appealing to the Academy.

I can't speak for The Illusionist, but both of the other two contenders are very good. It's once again a faceoff between Dreamworks (for How to Train Your Dragon) and Pixar (for Toy Story 3), which should be no surprise since they are the two main animation companies out there, besides Disney of course. If this were a fight about whose use of 3-D was better, I'd say How to Train Your Dragon wins. But it's not, of course.

Not sure who to pick here. I guess I did like How to Train Your Dragon better than Toy Story 3, though. So I guess I'll pick that.

Interesting note here: Considering Studio Ghibli's success in this category - a win for Spirited Away and a nomination in 2005 for Howl's Moving Castle (which lost to Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit) - I'm very surprised to not see a nomination for Ponyo in this category. (Just checked. I guess it came out in 2009. I could've sworn it came out last year though...I guess the DVD did).

Best Art Direction

Art direction is a very tricky thing, so it's always interesting to see who is in contention for this. Art direction, by the way, basically includes set dressing and all that good stuff. Anyway, the nominees are: Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Inception, The King's Speech, and True Grit.

I'm actually surprised at the last two, since much of True Grit appears to take place outdoors and I never really noticed the set decoration in The King's Speech because I was focusing on the great story and the acting. But then again, the sets do look nice in at least the trailers of True Grit that I've seen, and the details in the backgrounds of The King's Speech are very nicely done and actually look correct for the time period. As for Inception, I haven't seen that yet, but as I understand it much of it takes place in the world of dreams. I don't know if that allows for good set dressing or not.

As much as I love The King's Speech, I think the real contenders here are Alice in Wonderland and Deathly Hallows (I'm abbreviating the title for convenience's sake). The set design in Alice in Wonderland is mind-boggling - particularly the palaces of the two Queens and the battlefield for Frabjous Day. Those three sets deserve awards just by themselves. Of course, Alice in Wonderland was also the first 3-D film I ever saw, so that may have impacted my view of it too.

As for Deathly Hallows, it's hard to speak of set design for that film since it takes place completely outside of Hogwarts. But there are some great sets there, like the interior of the camping tent, Malfoy Manor, and the Lovegoods' house. Stuart Craig, the production designer for all of the Harry Potter films, is excellent at his job.

Man, it's hard to choose my pick here. I think I'll go with Alice in Wonderland here though, and not just because I'm a huge fan of Carroll's novel and will go see any adaptation of that story that comes around.

I am surprised at there being no nomination for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader for this category though! That movie had awesome set design! Perhaps it didn't make the cut for this ceremony because it was released in December 2010?

Best Cinematography

Cinematography (basically all work involving the camera) is hard to judge because, like art direction, it's an art. But there are some really good cinematographers out there.

Anyway, nominees...

~Black Swan (Matthew Libatique)
~Inception (Wally Pfister)
~The King's Speech (Danny Cohen)
~The Social Network (Jeff Cronenweth)
~True Grit (Roger Deakins)
Again, I've only seen two of these films, The King's Speech and The Social Network, so it's hard for me to make a pick. Like the art direction, I didn't notice the cinematography much in The King's Speech because the story and the acting were so forefront. There were certain shots, like during Firth's first speech as King, that were really good, though. And as for The Social Network, I can't say it had as good of shots, to be honest. But then I am kinda prejudiced in that regard; I didn't like that movie and I don't want it to sweep the Oscars like it did the Golden Globes (where it won 4 - the most of the night for one film).
So, no clear pick here.
Best Costume Design
This is one of those categories that seems superfluous; does anyone care about costume design or makeup in movies? (I still remember the year The Passion of the Christ was only nominated for one Oscar, Best Makeup, and lost to Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events). Apparently the Academy does, though, because this category continues to exist.
The nominees:
  • Alice in Wonderland (Colleen Atwood)
  • I Am Love (Antonella Cannarozzi)
  • The King's Speech (Jenny Beavan)
  • The Tempest (Sandy Powell)
  • True Grit (Mary Zophres)
While I did like the costumes in The King's Speech - they looked very period-accurate - again, it's something I didn't really notice in the film. I don't know about I Am Love, The Tempest, and True Grit because I haven't seen them.

I think Alice in Wonderland is the clear winner here though. Like the sets, the costumes are exquisite in this film - as if all the posters of the Mad Hatter weren't enough evidence of that. Alice's dress is very nice too, and I love her Frabjous Day armor. So that's my pick.

Best Director

This is always a big category; it's one of the "Big Five" at the Academy Awards, i.e., the five awards every filmmaker or actor wants to get (the other four being Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Writing, a.k.a. Best Original Screenplay or Best Adapted Screenplay). Generally whoever directed the Best Picture winner also ends up winning Best Director. That's the trend, anyway. Not that this is always the case, of course. Anything can happen. But it's what usually happens.

Anyway the nominees are: Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan, David O. Russell for The Fighter, Tom Hooper for The King's Speech, David Fincher for The Social Network, and the Coen Brothers for True Grit. Fincher is the big favorite, of course, because for some absurd reason the public is in love with that darn Facebook movie. The Coen Brothers are contenders because they are almost always up for some award with every film they make. They've only won Best Director once before though, for No Country for Old Men (which, per the trend I just mentioned, also won Best Picture). Aronofsky could have a chance with the good press Black Swan has been getting thanks to all the awards Natalie Portman has won for it. And even Tom Hooper has a chance, since The King's Speech has done well all award season too.

I think I'm going to pick Tom Hooper for this one, just because I want The King's Speech to sweep this show so badly. If it wins all the awards it's up for (12), it will break the 11-Oscar record held jointly by Ben-Hur, Titanic, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. That would be AWESOME. *fingers crossed*

Best Documentary, Feature-Length

Also called "Best Documentary Feature." Best Documentary is a category I never know much about, since documentary films don't usually get wide distribution, with the exception of films like March of the Penguins, though they tend to run the film festival circuit. Thus, I haven't seen any of the nominees. And they are:

  • Exit through the Gift Shop
  • Gasland
  • Inside Job
  • Restrepo
  • Waste Land

So film #1 there is for a film about a street artist, despite the museum-sounding title. Gasland is about the dangers posed by natural gas drilling. Inside Job is a documentary on the current recession we're experiencing. Restrepo follows two journalists who covered the war in Afghanistan for Vanity Fair. (Not a topic one would expect to be covered in Vanity Fair, is it?) Waste Land documents a Brazilian artist who creates art out of items found in the garbage. (Fits the current "green" trend, I guess).

Not sure who should win here, though Inside Job is definitely relevant. It's hard to predict this.

Best Documentary, Short-Subject

This is the version of Best Documentary for shorter documentaries. I haven't seen any of these either. The nominees are:

  • Killing in the Name
  • Poster Girl
  • Strangers No More
  • Sun Come Up
  • The Warriors of Qiugang
Killing in the Name is a documentary about Islamic terrorism. I wonder what stance it takes on that, if it takes one. Poster Girl has a related focus, being about a Iraq War vet suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (Odd that two films related to the War on Terror should both be nominated, not to mention the award for Restrepo, also War on Terror-related). Strangers No More documents a school in Tel Aviv where children from many countries and backgrounds come to learn together. Sun Come Up is about the effects of global warming in the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea (which, it seems, have had flooding issues recently). The Warriors of Qiugang is about a Chinese village which took action against chemical companies poisoning their land and their water supply.

As with Best Documentary Feature, I really don't know who to nominate for this. It would be cool if Strangers No More or The Warriors of Qiugang won, though.

Best Film Editing

Also called "Best Editing" or something like that. Editing is as big of a deal as anything in the making of a film, so it's good that it's celebrated. Nominees:

  • Black Swan (Andrew Weisblum)
  • The Fighter (Pamela Martin)
  • The King's Speech (Tariq Anwar)
  • 127 Hours (Jon Harris)
  • The Social Network (Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter)
Noticing a pattern here? The same films again: The Fighter, The King's Speech, The Social Network, Black Swan, plus a wildcard - in this case, 127 Hours (which is not too much of a wildcard - it's also nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song). This is how films can be nominated for ten or more awards - they get a nomination or two in the major categories and then get nominated in all these little categories too.

Again, editing wasn't something I really noticed in The King's Speech, though it did have some good montage work in it. The Social Network also had some good use of footage with voice-overs, probably the only good thing I will say about it this entire post. I can't say anything about the others because I haven't seen them.

I think probably my pick for this will be The King's Speech, because...well, by now, you can probably tell how I feel about The Social Network.

Best Foreign Language Film

Since foreign-language films rarely get big distribution here, I generally have never heard of any of the films that get nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. The Mexican film Biutiful, one of the nominees, has probably got more notice than others due to the surprise Best Actor nom for Javier Bardem. The other nominees are the Greek film Dogtooth, the Danish film In a Better World, the Canadian film Incendies, and the Algerian film Outside the Law/Hors-la-loi.

Biutiful is about a guy with cancer who is trying to reconcile all the parts of his life before he dies. It sounds good. It was also nominated for a number of Goya Awards (Spain's Oscars) but only won one (Best Actor for Bardem). Actually, it's been nominated for a lot more awards than it's won. So we'll see how it does.

Dogtooth is about parents who keep their children captive on their property even into adulthood. It won the Prix Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival, an award given for innovative and daring films. I don't know whether that says anything about it. It sounds daring.

In a Better World, or Hævnen ("The Revenge"), as it's known in Danish, appears to be about a doctor who splits his time between small-town Denmark and an African refugee camp. Sounds interesting. It did win the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film so it will be interesting to see if it wins the Oscar in the same category.

Incendies is, as I said, Canadian. I didn't know Canadian films counted for this category. It's in French and Arabic, though, which may explain it. Basically the plot has a lot to do with family relations, love, and rape (based on the Wikipedia summary). Sounds like not exactly my kind of film.

Outside the Law, known as Hors-la-Loi in French, is a film about three brothers set in the time of the Algerian war for independence from France. I wonder whether the recent revolts in that same area (not in Algeria specifically but in Tunisia, Egypt, and Sudan) will influence anyone's feelings about this film?

I really don't know which one to pick here, but I guess I'll pick In a Better World just to see if it wins this award as both a Golden Globe and an Oscar.

Best Makeup

As I said with costume design, does anyone really CARE about this award? Anyway, there are three nominees for this award: Barney's Version, The Way Back, and The Wolfman. I've never seen any of them.

Should I even pick something in this category? Probably not. Next!

Best Music (Original Score)

Also known as "Best Original Score." Any person who creates scores for movies wants this.

The nominees: How to Train Your Dragon, Inception, The King's Speech, The Social Network, and 127 Hours. There's that pattern again, except with two exceptions. Inception was nominated for other things, but How to Train Your Dragon is the real wildcard, being an animated film among four live-action films up for this.

I haven't seen Inception or 127 Hours, so I can't say anything about their scores. I didn't really notice the score in The King's Speech, same with all the other little things it's nominated for. And I don't think the score was that great in The Social Network. So I'm going to say How to Train Your Dragon for this one.

Best Music (Original Song)

Also known as "Best Original Song." There is some correlation between this and Best Original Score; sometimes if a film is nominated for both, it wins both. That depends on whether a film has a score and an eligible original song. So, the nominees: "Coming Home" (Country Strong), "I See the Light" (Tangled), "If I Rise" (127 Hours), and "We Belong Together" (Toy Story 3).

Animated feature films tend to do well in this category since they often have great vocal songs (especially if, like Tangled, they are Disney films). So the songs from Tangled and Toy Story 3 have a good chance. For 127 Hours, I haven't seen that film so I can't say anything about the song (other than that the title is very pertinent, considering the film is about a guy stuck between two boulders for five days). This is the only Oscar nod for Country Strong, a film that got some attention because it was the first time Gwyneth Paltrow had sung in a film. But I haven't seen that film either.

I think for this I'll pick Toy Story 3, because it's the only one of these films that I've seen.

Best Picture's next on the Oscar site list, but I'll save that one for last. So, next is...

Best Short Film (Animated)

Or "Best Animated Short Film." Unlike the Best Animated Feature Film category, this category has a long history with the Oscars, being offered since the 5th Oscar ceremony in 1932. The nominees are:

  • Day & Night
  • The Gruffalo
  • Let's Pollute
  • The Lost Thing
  • Madagascar, un carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)
Day & Night is the only one of these I've seen, as it was shown in theaters before Toy Story 3. (It's tradition with Pixar to show a short film before their feature films). It's a cute film featuring these two identical characters against a black screen who show day and night scenes through their respective transparent bodies, and how they interact. It's pretty cute.

The Gruffalo is a BBC short about this mouse who scares the other animals with a tale about a "gruffalo," as told by two squirrel parents to their squirrel children. Sounds cute too.

Let's Pollute is a film by animator Geefwee Boedoe, who did animation for Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, and Beauty and the Beast. It's a satire of the problems with pollution and consumerism, done in the style of those old educational films from the '50's.

The Lost Thing is about a kid who finds a creature on the beach but can't get anyone to pay attention to it. And Madagascar, carnet de voyage is about the customs of Madagascar.

I better hurry with this, because it seems that Oscar results are already coming out on the internet. Pick for this: Day & Night.

Best Short Film (Live-Action)

Nominees: The Confession, The Crush, God of Love, Na Wewe, and Wish 143.

Haven't seen any of these. The Confession is about a guy worrying about not having any sins to confess to his priest. The Crush is about a young schoolboy who falls in love with his teacher, only to find out she is engaged. God of Love is about a guy who receives magical darts which he can use to make people fall in love with him, which he intends to use to make his beloved fall for him. Na Wewe is about the 1994 civil war in Burundi. Wish 143 is about a terminally ill boy granted a wish by a Make a Wish-like charity who wishes to lose his virginity before he dies.

Not sure which to nominate as I haven't seen any of them. Not going to try.

Best Sound Editing

Nominees: Inception, Toy Story 3, Tron: Legacy, True Grit, Unstoppable

This is a tough one - I've only seen Toy Story 3 out of these. But I'm sure the sound in Tron: Legacy is probably amazing, so I'm going to pick that one.

Best Sound Mixing

Is there a difference between this and the previous category?

Anyway, nominees: Inception, The King's Speech, Salt, The Social Network, and True Grit.

Not sure how The Social Network got this nom. I'm voting for The King's Speech though because it does do some great things with sound.

Best Visual Effects

One of the big awards the last couple years thanks to the 3-D revolution.

Nominees: Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Hereafter, Inception, and Iron Man 2.

All of these films have great special effects from what I've seen or heard of them. But I think my pick will be Alice in Wonderland, because its visual effects are just as awesome as its art direction and costume design.

I'm very shocked that Tron: Legacy got snubbed in this category. If any film should've been nominated for this, it would be that film.

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Also known as "Best Adapted Screenplay," and one of the Big Five. Since many movies are adapted from books, there are always films to choose from for this category.

Nominees: 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter's Bone

I'm not sure how Toy Story 3 got in the "adapted" screenplay category...anyhoo, I'm going to pick it because as I keep saying, The Social Network stinks. So, Toy Story 3.

Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

Also known as "Best Original Screenplay," and one of the Big Five.

Nominees: Another Year, The Fighter, Inception, The King's Speech, The Kids Are All Right.

Finally, a category The King's Speech does not share with The Social Network. Anyway, The King's Speech is definitely my pick here, hands down. The story is AMAZING.


Best Picture

This is the Big Kahuna. Win this, and you've got it made as a filmmaker. It's also often the biggest category because sometimes the Academy just can't narrow the category down to just five.

Nominees: Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter's Bone.

Yes, you counted right. That's TEN films in line for Best Picture. Dang.

Also, you'll notice it's the same films you've been seeing nominated for a bunch of other Oscars. That's not uncommon for the Oscars. It makes the Oscars look rather fixed, but oh well. Nothing we can do about that.

Anyway, the two faves are The Social Network and The King's Speech, which are nominated for 8 and 12 Oscars overall, respectively. Third would probably be Black Swan. Unusual to see an animated film like Toy Story 3 in there though.

Anyway, if you've put up with me this long, you can probably guess my pick for Best Picture. Yep, The King's Speech. Because it's (as the Vlogbrothers would say) MADE OF AWESOME.


So, in summary, my picks:

Best Actor: Colin Firth (The King's Speech)
Best Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech)
Best Actress: Annette Bening (The Kids are All Right)
Best Supporting Actress: *tie* Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) & Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech)
Best Animated Feature Film: How to Train Your Dragon
Best Art Direction: Robert Stromberg & Karen O'Hara (Alice in Wonderland)
Best Costume Design: Colleen Atwood (Alice in Wonderland)
Best Director: Tom Hooper (The King's Speech)
Best Film Editing: Tariq Anwar (The King's Speech)
Best Foreign Language Film: In a Better World (Denmark)
Best Original Score: John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon)
Best Original Song: "We Belong Together" (Toy Story 3)
Best Short Film (Animated): Day & Night
Best Sound Editing: Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague (Tron: Legacy)
Best Sound Mixing: Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley (The King's Speech)
Best Visual Effects: Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips (Alice in Wonderland)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Michael Arndt (screenplay); John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich (story) (Toy Story 3)
Best Original Screenplay: David Seidler (The King's Speech)
Best Picture: The King's Speech

No clear picks:
Best Cinematography
Best Documentary, Feature-Length
Best Documentary, Short-Subject
Best Short Film, Live-Action

No pick at all:
Best Makeup

The results tomorrow!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Overwhelmed...I think

Man. Who know that as soon as week 4 of the semester that I'd have all this work? I've already had big writing assignments due! One was an essay for U.S. Lit, due this week, which I wrote on The Great Gatsby. The other was for my Writing Process class, but then I have writing due pretty much every week for that class. Not to mention my Flash class, which has been difficult because I had trouble even getting Flash to install - I ultimately had to ask Adobe for a refund of the money I spent buying that program (I'm using a trial version now). I should've known better than to try to take classes for my web design certificate in my last semester at CSUSM, but since I was unable to take any classes for it last semester (because I ran out of money after Comic-Con), I'm trying to catch up. I wasn't able to get into the Photoshop class I put myself on the waitlist for, so I'll have to take that probably next fall (I am definitely not going to take a class like that in the shorter summer semester). But given the work I have so far this semester, I'm almost glad I'm only in one web design class. Two would've probably been WAY too much.

I worry though...I feel like school is becoming the only thing I work on lately, while my websites, my novel, and any attempts to further my relationship with God (like Bible memorization) are falling by the wayside. Now, I am going to Chi Alpha (a Christian group on campus) and I'm going to try to do this Bible study for graduating seniors that Chi Alpha came up with called Springboard. And I've started going to church with my parents, if only to spare them the hassle of having to take me to North Coast Carlsbad and possibly being late for their service. But is it enough? I don't know.

And I have been working on my novel in bits and pieces. If I have the energy to write and the willingness to put off reading The Sound and the Fury (the novel we're currently studying in US Lit), I might work on it today. I'm almost done with it, and I think once I get over the "falling action" (the part I'm writing right now) and into the dénouement, it will go more smoothly. Then I can finally leave it alone for a while. I'm going to hide the notebooks somewhere so that I can distance myself from the work before I revise, as all those writing books advise. Though how I'm going to make myself forget where I hid them is tough. But I suppose if I put them somewhere I'm not likely to look, like on top of that big blue box on my closet shelf - or even better, inside it - maybe I'll be able to do it. As the French say, Loin des yeux, loin du coeur ("Far from the eyes, far from the heart," essentially the French version of our saying "Out of sight, out of mind"). I'll have to hide the folder on my computer that has the typed manuscript too, come to think of it.

Some weird process just started on the Macs in this lab (I'm in the Academic Hall computer lab at school, writing this before my Writing Process class; Dr. Wilson doesn't allow laptops, so I didn't bring mine). Oh wait it's stopped now.

I wish I didn't have to go to work after school today. Last week I was able to deal with because Jose said he "needed me" that day - but this week they gave me the same exact schedule as last week, which is weird. Especially since they put me back on the Courtesy Clerk schedule after one week of finally being back on the GMC schedule, and they have a bunch of new Courtesy Clerks now, so they shouldn't need me to do that stuff. Plus, they have me starting at 2, and my class gets out at 12:45. I barely got there in time last time because I missed the 1:30 303 because the train was delayed at some point. I might be able to leave a bit earlier because we're having a writing workshop in class today, so we might be able to leave once our workshopping is done. Not sure though. Anyway, I stayed up late last night finishing my second draft of my first Writing Project, but had to get up early this morning because my class starts at 10. So I'm really tired. It doesn't help that it's also my time of the month. So I'm not really in the mood to work.

To be honest, I'm not looking forward to the workshop. I don't do well in writing workshops because I'm not good at giving feedback, other than really surface stuff like "I really liked this metaphor" or grammar and mechanics stuff. Maybe Dr. Wilson will give us some guide to go off of, like Dr. Breuer did last semester. Or even better, one that people can fill out themselves, like the one Dr. Berghof had us use for our research paper in LTWR 333 last semester.

Gah I feel so restless. I'm thinking about stupid things like the cover art being off for some of the songs on my iPod, which then leads to thoughts of my frustration over not being able to upgrade iTunes, which I don't want to think about right now. That or why my cursor randomly jumps on my laptop, resulting in me typing in the wrong places constantly. This just started happening recently and I don't know why. I keep glancing at this girl across the way who is looking at some Tumblr blog with a lot of Japanese-related pictures. Or at the huge pictures of Earth on the screens of the nearby Macs. Is that the default wallpaper for all Apple products? My iPod's default wallpaper was the Earth too.

As for the websites, my main concern right now is how to make my revival of my Sailor Mercury shrine stand out. I guess the info on Mercury as a planet, a god, and an element is unique, as well as the video game clips. I did look at a few other Mercury shrines last night, and there are some good ones still out there. Mostly old ones from a time when simpler web design was still ok. The only really current one is, run by the fansubber Innocentami. That one is also the only Mercury shrine with any info on Ami in the musicals and PGSM. I guess I just need to find a layout I like. I was going with a pre-made one for a while, but the way it's designed is really limiting. I think the basic premise, of being the ultimate site for info and media of Sailor Mercury, is something that can work. I shouldn't have much problems getting images for the gallery, since the aforesaid shrines all have plenty of them, and I found a bunch of old scans I did for the original site on an old CD-ROM backup of a folder I had on another computer. I should be able to find scans for the musicals and PGSM at and Three Lights respectively, if they'll let me use them, as well as some stuff for her PGSM actress Hama Chisaki/Rika Izumi on the official fansite for her, A Fruitful Spring. As for the info, I still need to write most of it. I think I'll get rid of the International dub info page, since I can't find much info for most of the dubs, and most of the info is from a site that hasn't been updated in quite a while. I'll need to borrow Warriors of Legend again too (or buy it, maybe along with that French Kiki's Delivery Service poster on Amazon that I want, which just got marked down to 90% off) for the section about her special places.

It's getting late. I better go to class.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

How You Spend Your Time, Part 2

-Started on Tuesday evening, the 8th-

So I kinda cut the last post short because I had to go to bed. I'm not exactly more awake now, but I figure this will help me kill time while I wait for Flash to install. That or while I wait to AIM chat with Tomi-san from Family of Moonlight, cause he e-mailed me asking to chat about my con report. I've got AIM open, but I'm not sure if he's on because I don't know his username.

I guess my main dilemma is about how I should spend my time. Is it wrong for me to make websites about such temporal things as SeraMyu or (in the past) Pokémon when people's eternal destiny is at stake? Shouldn't I be spending my time getting in people's faces and telling them what I believe, like those Jehovah's Witnesses people who try to get you to take a copy of their magazine The Watchtower? (They don't actually preach to you, though; they just try to get you to take their magazine).

And yet spending every free minute doing stuff like that doesn't sound appealing to me. If I met someone like that, I just might tell them to get a life. Not that being all on-fire for God is a bad thing - I wish I was on-fire for God too. And I know we're supposed to give God control over every aspect of our life. They frequently quote Proverbs 3:5-6 at North Coast:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make straight your paths (ESV).
Just now when I looked that up I noticed the two verses after that as well (Mr. Pichette said always to look at a verse's context):

Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

It will be healing to your flesh

and refreshment to your bones (Prov. 3:7-8, ESV)
The same verses in my "Manga Bible" (which has the text of the New Living Translation) says:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart;

do not depend on your own understanding.

Seek his will in all you do,

and he will show you which path to take.

Don't be impressed with your own wisdom.

Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil.

Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.
Same verses in the NIV:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;

fear the LORD and shun evil.

This will bring health to your body

and nourishment to your bones.

And in the King James Version (sorry...I have more Bibles than the average person; please indulge me):

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
(The "navel" thing there is because the actual Hebrew word used there means "navel").

-After several hours, during which I IM'd with Tomi-san, ate dinner, and took a shower-
I guess they're all basically saying the same thing. The NLT puts it in the easiest-to-understand words (part of why I like that translation).

-Continued the next day-

I went to bed without finishing this because I had to be work at 6am again.

These verses seem to stand out to me now. I'd heard verses 5-6 before, tons of times. It's the classic verse someone pulls out when you're faced with a tough choice or loss of direction. But I didn't look at the next two verses, the ones that tell you not to rely on your own wisdom but to fear the Lord (though what fearing the Lord means no one seems to have agreed on) and do what's right, because that will bring you strength and healing.

That reminds me of Micah 6:8:

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good;
and this is what he requires of you:

to do what is right, to love mercy,

and to walk humbly with your God (NLT).
To do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. The ESV makes it slightly clearer:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?
To do what is right/do justice - that's obedience. It has to be. To love kindness/mercy is, I think, how you act towards others. To "walk humbly with your God" is to be humble, and to walk together with God. Not just for God, but with him. I think God has wanted us to walk with him from the beginning; Enoch - one of the two men in the Bible who never died - is said to have walked with God: "Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away" (Genesis 5:24, NIV).

I realize I'm not good on any of those counts. I don't always obey; while I try to act kind towards others, I know sometimes my mouth gets the better of me and I gossip or say things I shouldn't; and I wouldn't consider myself very humble. (I hesitate to say I have a "problem with pride," because that phrase has become a bit of a Christian cop-out).

So where do I go from here? Well, to be honest, I wish I could go away to the mountains somewhere and think all this through, but I can't.

I think I definitely need to change the negative way I think and (sometimes) talk. And I definitely want to study the Bible in a deeper way and actually start to memorize it. I do know some verses, either from church or from an old cassette (which, sadly, I no longer have) that had a bunch of them put to music.

The other day I was listening to my Christian music playlist, and the first song was "About You" by ZOEgirl. I found it very fitting for my frame of mind right now (you can hear the song in the video below)

I've been thinking lately about You
When it hit me from nowhere, out of the gray
Everything's been coming together
Now that I've moved beyond myself
And wrapped my head around something else

It's not about me, it's gotta be about You
(Everyday and...)
All I wanna see is who You're turning me into
(In every way and...)
I will not forget that You said You'd always lead me through
To who I wanna be, making every part of me about You

I’ve been spending so much time disconnected
I was searching for perfection inside myself
But I finally turned away from my reflection
I saw Your world outside my door
And everything that I'd been looking for

So I'll lay down my pride 'cause You laid down Your life
And I'm giving up all that's holding me back
And clinging to You
And You'll lead me through
'Cause You always do


In other news, I went through an annoying day trying to get Flash installed so I could do the Flash assignment I thought was due today - only to find out that it's due NEXT Wednesday. What a relief! Oddly enough, only after that did I get Flash to install, when I found and installed files for the CS4 version of Flash (the version before the current one). I think it might be a 30-day free trial, but that at least buys me some time. Since I got that to work and wasn't able to install the one I spent $179 for, I'm going to call Adobe tomorrow and ask for a refund. Then I'll order the cheaper physical-copy one over at JourneyEd. I just hope I don't end up on hold again for half an hour like I did tonight. I do not get that, but then again it was right before they closed, so maybe the lines were really busy. (Ironically, I was on hold for less time calling Microsoft about the Windows Installer issue the guy in my Adobe Live Support Chat - who I think was from India - pointed out than I was calling Adobe...I'm still amazed I even got a real person at Microsoft).

I have my first draft for my first Writing Project due Friday. I've decided I'm going to do film reviews for Project 1, since we're supposed to do one project in a mode of writing that stretches our abilities, and reviews aren't my strong suit. But I really like film, so I think it will be interesting. Since I just bought a DVD of Bandslam, this awesome movie I first saw via a Redbox rental (they had the DVD for $7.99 at Albertson's), I think I'll do my first draft review on that film (and maybe another one, if I can't meet the page requirement with just that film). I will probably do multiple reviews, as Dr. Wilson suggested; I just don't know how many yet because I don't know how long the first one will be. I'd like to do at least one foreign or anime film. Maybe one of the many foreign films they have in the Media Library, or maybe La Vie en Rose, the docudrama about Édith Piaf that I own (that movie is quite intense, actually).

I'm becoming less sure about reviving my Mercury shrine. Innocentami has done quite a good job with her Mercury shrine. Maybe I'll put it off for now and focus on Myu Corner and my writing site.

I still haven't made my personal site/domain hub, and recently I thought about making it a Tumblr blog. I'd read about Tumblr and even made an account there but then wasn't into it. But I just read about it again in an article in Laptop magazine called "101 Social Networking Tips." It does look pretty cool. Plus I follow Frankie Franco of PotterCast on Twitter, and he frequently tweets things from his Tumblr blog. I checked out a couple Tumblr blogs that this one article said you should definitely follow, and one of them, Daily Dickinson, provides a different Emily Dickinson poem every day. As that blog shows, you can have a Tumblr blog with a custom domain, though Tumblr's staff admit that it's hard to set up.

While doing whatever I could to curb my boredom today, I ended up checking out and signing up for the "web discovery site" StumbleUpon. It's kind of a social network combined with the link sharing aspects of bookmarking networks like Delicious (formerly known as When you sign up, StumbleUpon gives you a list of topics, and based on what you check, it will then "discover" sites for you that are on the topics you check. You find these by "stumbling," either through the site itself or through downloading the StumbleUpon toolbar for your browser (which is probably the more convenient way). I downloaded the toolbar and started "stumbling." It brought up some great stuff, as well as a couple weird videos - one of a skateboarder "wiping out" and landing butt down on a bench, and one of a girl playing an awful prank on a guy (her brother probably) where she spread butter on the floor just outside the shower while he was in it, which then resulted in him slipping on the butter and hitting his head. That's gotta hurt!

(Gah...lately my cursor just randomly clicks in the wrong place a lot. I don't know why that is. Maybe I'm just typing too fast?)

Wow it's already 11pm. I should go to bed so I'm well-rested tomorrow. Good night!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

How You Spend Your Time

I've been going with my parents to the new church they've been checking out, Mission Hills Church, for the last couple weeks. It works out better for them because then they don't have to be late for their service because of dropping me off at the Carlsbad campus of our old church, which I've been going to since they merged the off-campus site in South Carlsbad with the one meeting by our house at Madison Middle School. Interestingly, the sermons the last two weeks have been on the subject of time. I think there is some providence in this, because time is something that has been on my mind. I am quite certain that I am obsessed with time, not in some weird pseudo-science, time-travel-loving sort of way, but in the sense that I try to get so much done in a day in order to please everyone, including myself, and if I don't accomplish everything, I get upset at myself.

The pastor cited a study that says that productivity in American workers has increased since 1987 (when they started this study), and that our rate of productivity shows that we are working as if there were 31 hours in the day and not 24. An extra 7 hours. That's crazy. I guess in a way we're all workaholics, aren't we?

To be honest, there are only so many things I have to do in my life right now. I have school, work, and church. I have made commitments to those things and I keep them. Granted, I don't have to go to school, go to work, or go to church if I don't want to. No one's forcing me. But I go because I have made a commitment to those things. Then there are the responsibilities that grow out of these three big things - showing up to school on time, doing my homework, showing up to work on time and in uniform, following the rules at work, etc.

But in the hours of the day when I'm not in class, not at church, and not at work, my time is my own. Or rather, it is God's, since he "numbers our days" as it says in the Bible (in Psalms 139, I believe). But he has given me the time. It is because of him that I am fortunate enough to wake up every morning and to live in this great country where I am free to worship him (despite whatever other woes this country may have; I won't go there).

So how should I really spend my free time? The time I'm not in class, in church, at work, or engaged in responsibilities branching from those, such as homework? Wisely, I guess. But what does that mean? Like I've said before, I'm not the kind of person who goes out and evangelizes every person I see. Yet, with all this supposed free time, I should be doing something that matters for eternity, right? Not just sitting at home with my face in front of a computer screen, watching YouTube videos or randomly grazing Wikipedia. (Yes, I do do that. I'll find one article and then jump from that to a related one, and then another, and then another. I did that the other day and read a great deal about the Japanese Imperial Family). But what does that mean, doing something for eternity? Most people assume it means going out evangelizing or doing community outreach or what-have-you. I think. And to be honest, who am I to judge people who think that?

Life is so complicated. Everyone's trying to tell you how to live, how to have better sex (and it's not just Cosmo that's to blame for that one), what to eat or what not to eat, how to think, how to dress, how to do your hair...the list goes on and on. It is quite literally sensory overload. And for someone with Asperger's, sensory overload is something that can quickly become untolerable. This is because Aspies have heightened senses, which makes things stand out more for us than for other people. In my case, every sense seems to be enhanced at some point in time except for smell, but this might be because my nose is usually stuffed up or something, making it basically impossible to smell anything half the time. I'm particularly sensitive to taste and touch, which makes me picky about what I eat and whether my clothes are comfortable. Thus, I tend to eat the same things all the time, be picky about what water I will drink, be picky about flat soda, and wear a lot of cotton (the added bonus with cotton is that it breathes, which helps because I seem to have overactive sweat glands).  I also notice more than other people when I am touched, even if it's my dad putting his around around my back or kissing me on the cheek. My sense of sight is somewhat impaired by my nearsightedness, but like a typical Aspie I notice everything. My hearing is also not always the best because I have an earwax problem (sorry...I know that's gross, but it's true), but again, I tend to hear everything. I think this, combined with my seemingly incurable reporter's nosiness, is why I have a bad habit of eavesdropping. As if that wasn't bad enough, I don't always watch what I say and I also have a bad habit of gossiping, which I know is a really bad thing.

I think it is when you consider these issues that you really can self-reflect. It's as they say at North Coast, the Bible is meant as a mirror to see your own heart, not a pair of binoculars for you to use to point out everyone else's problems. In my Writing Process class this last week, we were given an in-class assignment where we had to read Mary Pipher's "diagnosis" of the United States, written in the style of a psychological assessment report (Pipher is a psychologist) for a client named "Mr. USA," and then write our own diagnosis of someone or write a letter to Mr. USA. I chose to write my own diagnosis, and for some reason I did it on myself, more or less following Pipher's formula. It's always hard to write about yourself in the third person (actually, it's harder for me to write in third person rather than first person period), but the exercise was pretty enlightening. I wrote way more than I probably needed to, using almost all the class time except for when Dr. Wilson called me to talk about my writing project proposal agenda (we have the first draft of our first project due this Friday, so she wanted to give us feedback on our projects last Friday so we could do our drafts). I'll be curious to see what Dr. Wilson thinks of it (yes, we had to turn them in). I also got into a spirited talk with my CWCW friend and fellow classmate Derek, first about poetry (a favorite subject of his), then about linguistics (a favorite subject of mine). One thing Aspies are known for is being able to talk in great depth about their "restricted interests" (hence Hans Asperger's term for the children he studied; he called them "little professors"), and I know I can definitely do that.

I suppose it's not a sin to have interests and pursue them in our free time, be they music, web design, art, taking Zumba (as my friend Marina does), or running (like my mom does). As it says in the book of Ecclesiastes:

What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13, ESV).

Well I have to be at work super-early tomorrow, so I should go to bed. I think I may have to give this matter much thought and prayer.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Back in school

So school has started again; this is the second week. I managed to get into Cultural Studies, which I need to graduate but was unable to enroll in pre-semester because it filled up in the first week of registration. The bad news is that the focus of the class changes depending on the specialty of whoever is teaching it, and because I have Dr. Breuer, whose specialty is feminism and LGBT (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transsexual) studies, the focus is feminism. Not exactly my cup of tea. I would've done better with Dr. Moukhlis (postcolonial studies) or Dr. Stoddard-Holmes (disability and cultural studies). It doesn't help that Dr. Wilson, my teacher for "The Writing Process" (the one elective I need), also appears to be a feminist. That class isn't specifically about feminism though, and actually looks like it'll be really good for developing my writing.

I'm also continuing my web design certificate, after being unable to take any classes for it last fall due to not having money for it. I got into a class in Flash and am trying to get into a Photoshop class. I got waitlisted for both, and I'm still waitlisted for the Photoshop class (I was fortunate enough to get sent a permission code for the Flash class before school started). I realized that last night I forgot to do my Flash assignment for today last night -- in fact, I don't even have the program yet. So I tried to buy it really quick before work this morning, only to find out that I had to verify my PayPal account before I could do anything with it, because my account got randomly selected (I think) to be checked to ensure no one had used my account fraudulently. It's just so stupid. Thank goodness I only have to create a short animation for this exercise (5 seconds long, I think), because I switched to an early morning shift for tomorrow because of school, so I can't stay up very late (I get off at 8 tonight). But I have to do reading blog comments for Cultural Studies too (though we only have to do 10, so if I have to I can skip this week). *Sigh* I wish I got off earlier today. At least I don't need to add an extra half hour to a shift (to make up for switching from a 5 1/2 hour shift tomorrow to a 5-hour one) because I had to work some overtime on Monday because I had to close bakery because the girl who was supposed to close, Christina, got burned when a rack of hot bread tipped over on her (it didn't totally fall over; it just tipped).

Other than that, school seems to be going ok so far. But it's still the beginning.

I haven't done the work on my websites that I've planned, though I made to-do lists for all my current sites. I also need to renew the hosting plans for Myu Corner and Sparkle Moon, unless I decide I want to host them elsewhere. I think I may stick with GoDaddy though, for now.

We have to do three writing projects for my Writing Process class (at least I think you have to do 3 for the A contract; like Dr. Breuer, Dr. Wilson uses contract grading), and it was mentioned that we can do blog posts for a fictional character. It got me thinking about whether I should make my Ayeka-POV blog idea (as a resurrect of my old shrine to Ayeka from Tenchi Muyo) one of my projects. I suppose I could propose it and see. We can do copyrighted characters for that; Dr. Wilson mentioned that someone had done a Twilight-related Twitter project for one of her previous classes. So I guess I can try!

I asked for advice from the Miss Dream staff about how to approach my anime/manga guide site. Both MarioKnight (a contributing staffer) and Elly-san said a wiki-style site would be best. Now I just need to find good wiki software and figure out how to set up the site and (perhaps more importantly) promote it.

I've gotta go to work soon, so I should go. I'll write more later (perhaps when I am both less stressed and more coherent). Bye for now!

-- Posted from BlogPress