Sunday, February 22, 2015


As I write this, the temperature here in the Twin Cities is minus 6 degrees.  It's hideous.

We, along with my son Tom, are some are of the lucky ones, getting on a plane in a few hours to somewhere warmer -- Las Vegas, then a little road trip into northern Arizona to two places that are on Tom's "bucket list" -- the Grand Canyon and Sedona.  He hasn't been to Vegas before and is a Cirque-du-Soleil freak, so we are taking him to several of the shows there.

Without looking at the extended forecast and crossing my fingers, I am hoping that we arrive back in Minnesota next week to tolerable temperatures and that an early spring is more than a wild fantasy.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Howard ranks the Oscar nominees

Films come, films go, some we remember, some we don't.  I don't go to the movies nearly as often as I used to since the choices are generally pretty bleak (Remakes, sequels, overdone and tacky special effects).  Then comes January and the Academy Award nominees are announced and suddenly I'm bingeing in my annual quest to see all of the Best Picture nominees.  Some years, there are 9 nominees, this year there are 8.  The Oscars air tomorrow night, starting just about the time I'm stepping off a plane in Las Vegas.  I'll rush to my hotel room to see most of the program, I hope.

My friend Ward, another annual nominee-binger, was texting me the other day that none of this year's Best Picture nominees are grabbing him as outstanding, and I have to agree with that.  It's definitely not a Lawrence of Arabia year.  There are some close calls as I list my favorite to my least favorite. And remember, these aren't predictions, they are my quirky preferences.  Here goes:

1)  The Imitation Game.  A gripping story about the guy who broke the Nazi code in WW II and ended up being a "criminal".
2)  Birdman.  The direction, cinematography and Michael Keaton make this story about an aging former superhero movie star an excellent film.
3)  Boyhood.  The uniqueness of Boyhood is what makes it -- being filmed over 12 years with the same cast, watching this boy grow up before our eyes.  The story is kind of thin, but either this or Birdman will win Best Picture.
4)  The Theory of Everything.  Eddie Redmayne is a totally convincing Stephen Hawking.
5)  Whiplash.  An intense movie about "I'd do anything to be the best jazz drummer of all time".
6)  American Sniper.  Since I don't like war movies and since this movie had no context about "what the heck were we doing in Iraq anyway?", you might be surprised that I don't have this film listed last, but, hey, who wouldn't love Bradley Cooper in anything?
7)  Selma.  Considering the great topic of the 1965 Selma marches, this should have been a way better movie.  I personally couldn't get past the dragging dialogue and the totally unconvincing portrayals of MLK and LBJ.
8)  The Grand Budapest Hotel.  I'm sorry, guys, but I thought this was a really dopey movie.  It will win some technical awards, though.

Other thoughts:
Best Actor:  Michael Keaton in Birdman, although it would be kind of touching to see Eddie Redmayne win for Theory of Everything too.
Best Actress:  Julianne Moore will win for Still Alice, which I still haven't seen, but, gee, she sure looks good in the clips.
Best Supporting Actor:  No question.  J.K. Simmons in Whiplash.
Best Supporting Actress:  They all deserve it, although I thought that nominating Meryl Streep for her part as a witch in Into the Woods was kind of silly.  She was just having some fun.  Or maybe they just like having her in the Oscar-night audience.
Best Director:  Richard Lanklater will probably win because of his 12-year commitment to Boyhood, and I'm no expert in film directing, but I'm thinking that the best overall accomplishment in directing goes to the guy with the unpronounceable name for Birdman.

I looked back in my blog to my list last year, when I picked Wolf of Wall Street as my favorite, even though I pretty much knew that 12 Years a Slave would win.  A movie year goes fast.  All years go fast.

Who knows, maybe Imitation Game will pull an upset?

Watch the show tomorrow night.  Let me know what you think.

Friday, February 20, 2015

meditating with my eyes open

If I would have been blogging from November 8th until now, I would have been complaining and whining, so you didn't miss anything enlightening.  Now I'm ready to re-energize my blog (do people still blog?), partly because I have some things to say and partly because I need to give my annual Oscar rankings.

That's coming tomorrow, followed by continuous words of genius.  Stick with me.