The ONLY Oscar Blogger, who lives in walking distance to the Kodak Theater!

Monday, February 27, 2012

5th Annual Oscar Contest Results

The Oscars are over and it's time to finally announce the winner of the Oscar pool. We had 110 people enter, but one person managed to win the contest outright with 22 correct picks. That ties my personal record and was really incredible showing. Honestly, I did a double take when I looked at his ballot. He only missed Best Editing and Best Documentary - Feature. Congratulations to Thomas Sentina!

I have included everyone that scored at least 17 picks, which was the same amount of picks I had this year.

22 Picks
Thomas Sentina (Winner)

20 Picks
Gary Gibson
Kent Bailey

19 Picks
Beth Hartnett
Preston Nicholson
James K Chambliss
Diane Guthmann
Philip Duong

18 Picks
Dave Guthmann
Kari Granlund
Shane Slater
John C. King
Chris Miller
Denexxel Domingo
Michael Johnson
Paul Kim
Patricia Mistric

17 Picks
Tim Wisneski
Kris Smith
Jimmy Orsag
Erica Adams
Matthew Partee
Megan Miller
Ryan Fernand
Katie Gillispie
Chris Frano
Neil Lapinsky

Congratulations to Thomas. I will be in contact with him shortly. I'm unsure if he is a LAMB. He didn't break my record to win the Fandango bucks, but he did win an iTunes gift card, two AMC movie passes, and his name will be photoshopped on the golden horse's ass. He is the closest person that has come to breaking my record and that is the most correct picks anyone has had in the five years I've been running this contest. I am really impressed.

If anyone thinks there may have been a mistake with their ballot, then leave a comment on this post. I double checked the top finishers and everything looks good. If there are no problems after three days, then I will close the contest.

Here are also some statistics from the categories that were a bit of a surprise.

15/110 predicted Meryl Streep for Best Actress
22/110 predicted Girl with a Dragon Tattoo for Best Editing
13/110 predicted Hugo for Best Cinematography
18/110 predicted Hugo for Best Visual Effects
9/110 predicted Undefeated for Best Documentary - Feature

Thanks again everyone for participating. See you next year for the 6th Annual contest.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Final Oscar Predictions

I want to be honest upfront. This is the worst year I've done researching my Oscar picks since I've been writing about the Oscars on this blog. Long gone are the days of "The ONLY Oscar blogger who lives in walking distance to the Kodak Theater". Of course that is not to say that I know nothing. I don't care if I sound cocky or arrogant, but I probably know more than most people about the Oscars and where these races are heading. The biggest difference is I haven't been analyzing them for months.

My first thought regarding this year's Oscars is that there are a lot of categories that are close. There seems to be an obvious frontrunner, but this year really lacks locks. This year I don't feel as confident in a number of categories. I am content with my selections, but I could easily see another nominee win. Part of my problem could be my endless overthinking, but I have no idea how well I will do this year. I would also be surprised if someone breaks my record in the Oscar pool. I don't think this is the year to get more than 22 picks. Maybe, I'll be wrong.

While I continue to ramble I might as well also say that I haven't even seen most of the films this year. I usually get screeners from my friends in the film industry, but that didn't happen. I still need to see The Artist, which I'm going to try to do later tonight. We'll see if that happens. The best thing about predicting the Oscars is you don't have to see the films to know what is going to win. So without further ado, here are my preliminary picks for the 84th Academy Awards.

Best Picture: The Artist

Believe it or not, I haven't even seen this film. It's not that I don't want to, but I haven't had a chance to see it in the theater and screeners for this are difficult to find. Trust me, I've been asking my friends since this film is on the top of my list. It's going win. There really hasn't been an exciting Best Picture race since The Departed and Babel were going head to head in 2006. At least that is the last Best Picture race that I incorrectly predicted. Hugo could maybe pull an upset, but that seems unlikely and nothing else is going to give The Artist a problem. Who would have ever thought the Academy would award a black and white silent film its top prize in 2012?

Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

I love this guy's last name. It just sounds bad ass. The French auteur is in the frontrunner. He has the DGA, which all but guarantees his win. This would be closer if Scorsese was still looking for his first Oscar. It would be fun to see Malick win, but I don't think there is enough love for Tree of Life.

Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist

I was sticking with Clooney, but after the SAG awards I have to switch to Dujardin. I know I just wrote this about Scorsese, but I feel the same for Clooney. If he was still looking for his first I think he would be a much more serious contender. I wouldn't be shocked if he won, but there seems to be a genuine love for The Artist. Actors make up the largest voting branch of the Academy, picked Dujardin over Clooney. You have to think repeat on Sunday.

Best Actress: Viola Davis, The Help

Viola Davis put her name on the Oscar map a couple years ago for her brief, yet powerful performance in Doubt. Now, she has her chance to win an Oscar. She has done well in the precursors that it just makes sense. My only concern is Meryl Streep. Believe it or not, the woman has not won at the Oscars since Sophie's Choice in 1982. You got to think they are going to give her another one at some point. I just don't think it will be this year.

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners

This is just a classic Oscar role and Plummer has been winning everything. I think this is the easiest acting category all night. If he wins, then Plummer will be the oldest acting winner ever.

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help

Like Plummer, Spencer has been on cruise control and looks like a lock. She could split The Help vote with Jessica Chastain, but I don't see it this year. Sometimes I think the split theory is misleading.

Best Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris

Everyone loves Woody even though he never shows up. That could hurt him, but I think he's going to win it this year. The field is weak. The Artist could win, but I don't think members are going to vote for a silent film.

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants

Here's a chance for the Academy to give some love to this film. I love Alexander Payne and he could become a two time Oscar screenwriting winner (won for Sideways in 2004). Also, if this wins, then Dean Pelton from Community would also win an Oscar. That would be really funny.

Best Animated Feature: Rango

No Pixar movie is nominated, so a non Pixar film will win this for the first time since Happy Feet in 2006. That year it defeated Cars. The Academy just doesn't like the Cars franchise even though its merchandising is incredibly profitable. Anyway, Rango like the obvious choice. I never even heard half of the films in this category. I figured maybe Tintin would have been awarded here, but that didn't even get nominated either. It's been a weird year for this category.

Best Art Direction: Hugo

I do think the Academy will give Hugo some awards, so this is one place where they can do that. The Academy never really embraced Harry Potter. War Horse just never picked up any steam and I can't see The Artist winning this category. I do think this is where the black and white will hurt it.

Best Cinematography: Tree of Life

I feel like this is a trap pick. Lubezki should have already won an Oscar for Children of Men in 2006. He was upset when the Academy went for Pan's Labyrinth. I'm sticking with this pick since Tree of Life may get a little love and this is the only place to do it. Plus, Lubezki has done well in the precursors. I just won't be surprised if I don't hear his name. The alternative could be Hugo or maybe The Artist. I can't convince myself to pick either one, so I'm sticking with Tree of Life.

Best Costume Design: Jane Eyre

Last year I got this category wrong with The King's Speech. I tried to convinced myself that the Academy would award a good film in this category. Look at the recent history of this category and some mediocre films have won here recently. They are all period pieces, so that is what they look at when voting. That leads me to this film. I wouldn't be surprised if The Artist or Hugo wins, but I can't bring myself to make the pick especially after the recent history. The last Best Picture nominee to win this award was The Aviator in 2004.

Best Documentary - Feature: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

The best documentary I saw all year, How to Die in Oregon, wasn't nominated this year since I don't believe it qualified. I saw it at Sundance for its world premiere and I highly recommend it. Anyway, I have no idea what is going to win here. This is one of the five categories where members need to attend special screenings to even vote in this category (Doc - Short Subject, Foreign Language, Animated Short, and Live Action Short are the others). That is part of the reason why people never really know how this will go. I heard from a friend that Undefeated was really good, but I have heard more buzz on Paradise Lost 3. That is why I'm going with it.

Best Documentary - Short Subject: Saving Face

The synopsis of this film seems the most powerful and engaging. It is about a Pakistani plastic surgeon who performs face reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid violence. Really any of these films could win. I'm sure they are all great, so consider it a crapshoot.

Best Film Editing: The Artist

When in doubt, pick the Best Picture winner to win this category. Nothing really stands out to me, so that is my logic behind this pick.

Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation

I haven't seen this film, but everyone loves it. There have been upsets in this category in the past. Pan's Labyrinth and Amelie lost here. I have been a little lucky with this category in the past. Yes, I picked Departures a couple years ago, which helped me win a lot of Oscar pools that year. The reason why I'm sticking with this film is there seems to be enough support. A Separation was even nominated for Best Original Screenplay. The alternate seems to be In Darkness, but I haven't heard enough buzz to change my mind.

Best Makeup: The Iron Lady

All three of the nominees here don't really impress me that much. I'm going with making Meryl Streep like Margaret Thatcher. Maybe Harry Potter steals one here.

Best Original Score: The Artist

This has to win here, right? It just makes sense since the music is so important in a film without dialogue.

Best Original Song: "Man or Muppet" from The Muppets

Flip a coin. I'm going with The Muppets since I think it would be fun to give it an Oscar. This category is somewhat of a joke this year. I think the Academy may have to look at their nominating process for Best Original Song. At least nominate three songs. Two nominees looks stupid.

Best Short - Animated: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris

I'm just picking the film with the longest title. I'm kidding. I have heard this is a really well done short and it seems to be the popular choice. The alternate may be La Luna, but history has not been kind to Pixar in this category. I have no idea why, but it seems to never win.

Best Short - Live Action: Tuba Atlantic

I have no idea about this category. I haven't heard of one film being the popular choice. It is all over the map. I am going with this film since I like the title and the film is from Norway. I'm hoping it will stand out and sneak in for the win.

Best Sound Editing: Hugo

I could see the sound categories going Hugo for both, War Horse for both, or it could split. I would rather just pick the same film for both and attempt to get at least one category right. You never know what is going to happen. I feel like this is another chance for the Academy to give Hugo some love. The upset would be if Transformers won, but as we learned 2007 the Academy doesn't like Transformers.

Best Sound Mixing: Hugo

To keep with my strategy of going for the same film for both sound categories, I'm sticking with Hugo here. It makes sense and I would rather go all in with Hugo than War Horse.

Best Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

This deserves to win, but will it? Hugo could win here, but I think they will go for those dirty apes. Plus, everyone loves Andy Serkis and all the great work he does.

There you have it. My final predictions for the 84th Academy Awards. I'll try to post some reaction to the results and thoughts on the show a day or two after the Oscars. I'm having my annual Oscar party, so I may have to rewatch the show again. We drink a lot of wine and it's loud, so I miss a lot. I do think the show will be better than last year's and I'm curious how well Billy Crystal will be. I don't think he'll be the savior some people expect, but he's reliable. Overall, it should be a fun night.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

LA Marathon Training Diary: Half Way There

February 18, 2012 - 13.1 miles (Marathon Race Pace)
This was technically a cut back week, but it didn't feel like it. Part of that reason was that this was a marathon race pace run, so we were running miles a minute faster than usual. For my pace group that means we were running 11 minutes a mile. After last week, I definitely was excited to see how my body would respond and how well I would run.

Overall, I felt pretty good on the run. Blisters are still driving me crazy, but I've somewhat accepted that is part of running long distances. I've got a hot spot right now on the bottom of my right foot. I'm also starting to really not like running in the median on San Vicente. The roots are killing my ankles. I have weak ankles to begin with, but I'm always nervous I may slip and hurt myself. That would be horrible, so I'm very careful during that part of the run. That is what made last week interesting since we were running faster than usual. It made that part of the run a little more challenging.

While one minute faster is a big difference, I didn't notice as much as I thought. The key is not looking at my Garmin every two minutes. It's a bad habit. My legs held up pretty well and I definitely thought like I had something left in the tank at the end of 13.1 miles. In the back of my mind I'm a little nervous since I know that on Marathon Sunday I need to keep this pace for another 13.1 miles. I need to do everything I can to stick with the group for as long as possible.

Next week is the last big run of training before we taper in the weeks leading up to the marathon. It's unbelievable to think, but it is less than a month away. The time has really flown. It's exciting and scary at the same time, but I feel like I'm ready. At this point, there is really no backing down.

Until next week... 16 miles...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

LA Marathon Training Diary: Without Limits

My apologies for not updating the last few weeks. It's been a crazy couple weeks. Let me try to get caught up in one post.

January 28, 2012 - Water Station (13 miles marathon race pace)
I actually didn't run this day. I ran 8 miles on Friday with a friend and didn't want to overwork my body. I figured I would come out and support my pace group and the other runners, so I worked a water station. Besides waking up a little earlier than I normally do on Saturdays, it was a lot of fun. The water station was run by Alan, who happens to have a wealth of knowledge and experience. In the future, I will definitely consider volunteering again if I need another Saturday off.

February 4, 2012 - 10 miles
It was back to work this day as I headed to Dodger Stadium for hill training. We ran in the neighborhood near the stadium and did three loops. It was a nice change of scenery and it was nice to focus on running hills. Venice is pretty flat, so it's important to get in those miles on hills.

It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but by the third loop I was started to get a little more exhausted. We were actually running the flat areas at aerobic pace, but running the hills at MRP (marathon race pace). We won't be doing that on the day of the marathon, but the goal was to attack the hills.

February 11, 2012 - 20 miles
This was the run on the calendar that no one was really looking forward to. 20 miles is a big distance and I knew I was going to be running for over four hours. That's a long time. I also didn't really have the greatest week of training, so I had no idea how well I would really do. I felt like I had nothing to lose, so I mentally came into this run really confident. Why not? I have to run 26.2 miles in a month. I can't be afraid of running 20 miles.

One of my favorite moments of LA Roadrunners happened before the run. Coach Rod Dixon brought everyone together (a couple hundred people) and was carrying this big American flag. Then, one of the pace leaders sang the national anthem while Coach Dixon held out the flag. I know it was just a training run, but it was really cool and really special. I'm not even that patriotic, but I was pumped after that. Hearing the anthem before going out to participate in an athletic event is a great motivator.

I wasn't really planning on it, but I ran at the front for the first time in a month or so. It felt like no one wanted to be in the front, so I jumped at the opportunity. Plus, I was wearing a shirt with Steve Prefontaine's face on it. That guy always ran in the front, so part of me felt like I had no other choice.

I'm not sure if it was due to the fact that I've been training since September or if I'm just more confident, but I had a really good run. I experienced very little difficulty. We ran at aerobic pace (12 minute miles). I did experience a few times when I felt a little tired, so I took a couple energy gels. I have been mostly using the GU brand and the chocolate and vanilla flavors. They work well when I need that extra boost. I don't know if it's possible to run 20 miles without some energy supplement.

Running for four hours was also not as bad as I thought. Running in a group is definitely helpful. We can each other company and we occasionally entertain one another. I may have written this in a previous post, but I hate running by myself. I don't think I could run a marathon unless I was training with a group of people.

The best part of the 20 mile run was I felt like I still had stuff left in my tank. I could have kept going and that felt great. I wasn't the only one that said that either, so I guess that is a testament to this training program working. They say the marathon is two parts. The first 20 miles and the last 10k (6.2). The second part is supposedly all mental, so I think I have the physical toughness to get to 20, then have my mental toughness carry me the rest of the way.

After the run, Roadrunners provided ice baths for runners. They filled large trash barrels with ice water and people stepped in them. It was really cold, but actually felt really good on my legs. I was starting to feel a little sore after finishing the 20 miles, but this definitely helped. My legs actually felt great the rest of Saturday and I experienced very little soreness or pain in the following days. I almost want to take ice baths after every run. They really work.

Now, with the 20 mile run done, I am really in the home stretch. There's about a month of training left. I can't believe how quickly the time has come and gone. We are going to start to taper soon, but there's still a couple big runs coming up in the next few weeks. It's crazy. It will be March 18th before I know it.

Until next week... 13 miles...