Tag Archives: Academy Awards

A Red Carpet Affair

(source: filmofilia.com)

The Paaaaaaaaaaarty Has Arriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiived! 

The entirety of Sunday was spent prepping sauces and chopping party food, assembling schwag bags, and getting my costume ready.

I’m thrilled for the winners of the 84th Academy Awards, all of whom seemed more than grateful in their acceptance speeches and looked just lovely.

The winner for Best Achievement in Directing went to The Artist’s Michel Hazanavicius.  Likewise, Best Actor went to Jean Dujardin from The Artist.  My favorite awards of the evening went to Best Supporting Actor, 82 year Christopher Plummer for Beginners, gaining her 3rd Oscar and 17th nomination, Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady won Best Actress, and very exciting was the win of Best Supporting Actress, Octavia Spencer for her role in The Help!  And the finale of awards, Best Picture, went to The Artist.

Also exciting was the return of 9-time Oscar host, Billy Crystal!  Yay!

I think we all enjoyed THIS... (source: latimes.com)

More than THIS! (source: posh24.com)

Now, on to the party!  A party at my place is primarily about THE FOOD! The menu included:

  • Sugar Snap Pea Salad
  • Godfather Crostinis
  • Salmon Cakes and Dill Sauce
  • Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Mint
  • Herb Buttered Mushrooms
  • Gladiator Chicken Skewers
  • Bacon-Wrapped Jalapenos
  • Fresh Mozzarella with Toasted Garlic and Capers
  • Tofu Dill Fondue
  • Sicilian Herb Dib and Assorted Cheeses
  • Chocolate and Butterscotch Pudding Parfaits
  • Red Carpet Red Velvet Cake

Our signature drink to kick off the red carpet interviews was a Peach Bellini, followed by lots and lots of red wine!  I know right, are your mouths watering?  They should be!  This was possibly the best coordinated menu and most savory of foods my co-hostess and best friend, Cat and I have ever had!

Co-hostesses of the Mostesses: Marilyn Monroe and Catherine

Godfather Crostinis

Salmon Cakes

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapenos, Grilled Asparagus, and Gladiator Chicken Skewers

Mozzarella with Toasted Garlic and Capers, garnished with a few Slow Roasted Tomatoes

An Oscar Worthy Pudding Parfait!

Guests filled out their ballot sheets ahead and turned in their pens.  No cheating allowed!  Markers were handed out, and we waited during the awards.  My winning guest had 12 correct answers and won the first place prize of a Movie Theater Pass for Two, a bottle of Francis Coppola Chardonnay, a Box of Lindor Truffels, and a bottle of Chanel Chance perfume!

My blog contest winner from last Tuesday’s post, guessed 2 out of 4 main categories correct and will be receiving an Amazon Gift Card plus Oscar worthy prizes such as movies, recipes, and more movie fun!  And the Oscar for best blogger goes to…Amanda Rudd!

Thanks for tuning in to the Oscar’s with me!  Join me on Friday for my Guilty Pleasure rundown of Best Dressed!

The Tree of Life, Hugo, and The Descendants

The Oscars are just one week away and I’m trying to catch all the films available before the event to up my chances of picking the winners.  I’m also busy planning the decor and menu for the party.  I’ve got the schwag bags started for prizes, and they are gooood!

So here’s the final review on some of the hottest nominees for Best Picture.  Stay tuned at the end to enter Jess’ Ultimate Oscar Win Contest!

The Tree of Life

This film is not for everyone.  If you hate really artsy, existential movies where the cinematography is really the height of the story, then you probably won’t make it all the way through this movie.  I did like the film.  It’s artsy, thought-provoking, and the cinematography was like watching Planet Earth all over again!  The main story tells that of a family in the 50’s parented by Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain (nominated for Moneyball and The Help).  Their three boys are growing up in a household where life isn’t perfect.  There are good times and bad, and interspersed with that theme of a father and son’s relationship is some of the most breathtaking natural images of science and space.

Does this film stand a chance for Best Picture?  I doubt it.  But I think it’s an incredibly well made and poignant film written and directed by Terrence Malick.  The footage is breathtaking and there are some scenes where the essence of life is so beautifully blended between the family and the natural element that you can’t help but look at it with awe.


Nominated for 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Costumes, Best Original Score, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Cinematography, Hugo appears to be the race winner.  The titled lead, Hugo, is a boy who lives in the train station, desperately trying to piece together an automaton, a magician’s machine he and his father were working on before his father’s death.

The film creates a wonderful and imaginative world inside the clocks at the train station as well as the city of Paris.  The costumes and music are well coordinated to the setting, but what I loved the most is the colorful array of characters and their body language.  The picture seems as though minute detail was taken with every extra and every corner of the set.  I loved Sacha Baron Cohen as the Station Inspector!

Hugo could very well be the film to beat at the Oscars.  Scorsese certainly earned the Best Directing nomination!  And with so many other categories functioning together all in the same film, why wouldn’t the Academy select this one?  Don’t quote me yet, but I think the film picked will be Hugo, though I’m secretly rooting for The Help.

The Descendants

Will this be the year for George Clooney?  I’m going to say no.  But I could be incredibly surprised with the Best Actor category.  The Descendants is an incredibly well made film with honest characters and true to life acting of them.  Clooney is great as Matt King, a father who struggles to keep his family sane after his wife ends up in a coma from a boating accident.  The chemistry between Clooney and the two young actresses (Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller) playing his daughters is really quite charming, and I don’t know why unexpected, but it was.

I definitely recommend this movie for any audience. Note*  There is a lot of swearing.  The message of family is strong and presented in an equal balance of big and small picture, tough times and funny ones.  I like how they picked a paradise of a setting like Hawaii and blended it with the real issues we all face.  Definitely a film I’d watch again.

Jess’ Ultimate Oscar Challenge!

I’m going to list the nominees for 4 big categories:  Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress.  Vote for your picks below.  All entries must be submitted before Sunday at 6pm.  The commenter with the most correct answers wins AN AMAZON GIFT CARD!!!  And an array of Oscar themed fun like recipes and movies!  Don’t you want in?  Here are the categories; I’ll see ya’ll below!

Best Motion Picture of the Year


War Horse (2011): Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

My Week With Marilyn and The Help

Hi Everyone!  First of all a BIG THANK YOU, I mean it, A HUGE ONE, to all the readers and commenters of my last two guest posts.  You all made Jenny Hansen and Marcy Kennedy feel so welcome.  Thanks!

What, you missed them?  Well, allow me to give you directions.  You can find Jenny talking about definitions of love here and Marcy talking about overcoming anything for 30 seconds here!  Enjoy!

But today, we’re talkingOscars again!  I’m reviewing two films with Best Actress Nominees, and these are leading ladies you won’t want to miss!

The Nominees for Best Actress in a Leading Role are:

  • Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs
  • Viola Davis for The Help
  • Rooney Mara for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady
  • Michelle Williams for My Week With Marilyn

(source: teaser-trailer.com)

My Week With Marilyn

Based on the memoir by Colin Clark, My Week With Marilyn captures the film shooting of The Prince and the Showgirl, which starred Monroe opposite Laurence Olivier (played by fellow Oscar Nominee Kenneth Branagh).  Clark was a young man avoiding more sensible routes of adulthood, by earning himself a position as third Assistant Director on the set.  The film shooting took place shortly after Monroe’s marriage to author, Arthur Miller (who wrote the classic Death of a Salesman).

What Michelle Williams manages to portray are the polar opposites of celebrity poster child and girl interrupted.  Granted, this is all taken from the diary Clark kept while filming, so we only see his perception.  But we know enough about Marilyn’s tumultuous life and her struggle to feel loved.  On film, she stole the viewer’s hearts and they couldn’t take their eyes off her.  Behind the scenes, she worked diligently, albeit not timely, with an acting coach and whether she knew it or not, probably needed someone to take care of her.

The film, My Week With Marilyn, isn’t exactly a love story, but perhaps its players would say so.  Though Monroe was newly married, she began an affair with Clark, who probably never had a real girlfriend before.  That’s quite a coupling!  Michelle Williams is stunning in her doe eyed, young Marilyn and impressed me by doing her own singing in the film.  She is gorgeous and I think well deserving of this nomination.  How does one begin to embody an epic Hollywood starlet like Marilyn Monroe?  I think Williams got it right!

(source: imdb.com)

The Help

Nominated for several awards including Best Supporting Actresses Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain, Best Picture, and Viola Davis for Lead Actress, The Help is a film to contend with.

Viola is quickly becoming a favorite actress of mine.  From small scenes in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close to this starring role, she proves again and again she’ll do what’s needed and what’s right for the character.  What’s more, I caught the end of the SAG Awards (Screen Actor’s Guild) and both Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer won, as well as the Cast won Outstanding Performance in a Motion Picture.  When Davis got up to speak she said this film was truly a story where everyone came together, and having such a large cast, it was remarkable how they all came to work and made this movie happen, no egos, no demands, just working together.

Davis plays Aibileen, the Godly and good maid who cares for white people’s children.  The story of The Help is set during the civil rights movement in Jackson, Mississippi.  New graduate, Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan, returns home to Jackson and doesn’t understand the segregation going on around her.  She decides to write a book from The Help’s perspective.  What follows is a beautiful and strong friendship caught on film through the acting of Davis and Spencer, who plays Minny, the much MUCH  more outgoing and sassy maid.

This film, largely in part to its actors, will make you laugh so hard you could choke on your popcorn if you’re not careful, but it also will make you unnerved and moved in a very real way.  Both Davis and Spencer, and even Chastain, have done exceptionally well, being nominated in almost every award ceremony, and winning several more.  They are strong performances to beat, but I wonder if those awards cancel them out for the Oscars?  Will this be the year Meryl’s name gets called?  I don’t know, but Viola and Octavia are two women who have earned their nominations!

Your turn!  What films have you seen nominated for the Oscars?  Which leading lady are you rooting for?  Who would play you in your own Oscar worthy life story?

Who Couldn’t Be Romantic About Baseball…And That New Woody Allen Movie?

(source: google images)

Most of you know that I’m OBSESSED with the Academy Awards.  If you didn’t, I’m OBSESSED with the Academy Awards.  There, now you know.  For the past 5 years I’ve hosted elaborate parties (except for that one year where an epic snowstorm ruined my life by barricading all guests from leaving their homes and I was left with an entire bowl of red pepper parmesan dip to eat by myself). 

Where was I?  Oh yes, the parties!  I host one fine swanky soiree!  The food is always gourmet appetizers and deserts with lots and lots of wine.  I’ve made platters of antipasto, bacon wrapped apricots with a honey barbecue sauce, cranberry salsa with green chilies, sundried tomato and pesto hors d’oeuvres, and many more delectable goodies.  And all my guests share one appetizer or dessert as well, so we have a full spread!  Some years we’ve also dressed up in our finest formals, walked a real red carpet to classical music and interviewed guests about “who they’re wearing” tonight!

In fact, the theme for this year’s party hasn’t been totally set.  I’m welcome to ideas!  What would you want to do or see?  We’ve suggested coming dressed for the Oscars as a member of the opposite sex, coming dressed as your favorite Oscar winning actor/actress or character, or dressing like the “Worst Dressed” Oscar attendee.  I’m completely open to more ideas, so do share! 

As the award ceremony draws near, I’m hoping to enlighten you all on what I think of the nominees.  I hope you’ll share with me too!  We’ll start with some of the Best Picture nominees, of which there are nine this year.

Best Picture Nominees for 2012:

  • The Artist
  • The Descendants
  • Hugo
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  • The Help
  • Moneyball
  • Midnight in Paris
  • The Tree of Life
  • War Horse

Today I’ll feature Moneyball and Midnight in Paris.  I previously reviewed Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and you can check that post out here.


(source: google images)

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I picked up a copy of Moneyball from the video store.  I don’t think I expected this film to be as fascinating and the story so gripping as it was.  Without seeing the movie, I would’ve told you all convincingly that Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill didn’t stand a chance at the Oscars.  I would’ve been badly mistaken.

Moneyball stars Best Actor Nominee, Brad Pitt, as Billy Beane, the General Manager for the Oakland Athletics baseball team.  The story, however, is more than just a tale of home runs and who beat who.  What Moneyball portrays is the politics and science behind the game.  It is a biography of the unconventional tactics used to change the game of ball forever and what role money plays in this sport.

The Oakland Athletics were one of the worst paid baseball teams, and most likely still are.  After a poor playing season, Beane loses his three best players to trade ups that all provided more money to the player.  Left in a position of zero dollar increase, Beane had to find a solution that would make a whole new team of players, winning players.

A chance partnership with Yale graduate, Peter Brand, played by Supporting Actor Nominee, Jonah Hill, creates a unique approach to drafting players based on statistical data of their playing.  Suddenly, Beane is selecting the players that everyone else in baseball neglects and has written off.  What Billy Beane does in this movie, with great talent from Pitt, is change the way baseball is run.  He did what was right for the team and showed the million dollar moguls of the game that money isn’t everything.

I rate this one a surprise contender because while I LOVED this movie and both actor’s performances, I do think they are up against some “heavy hitters” of their own.  I would be thrilled if any of them did win.  Most of all, Brad Pitt, I think this was a smart role for him and could do what The Blind Side did for Sandra Bullock.  Kudos to this film!

Midnight in Paris

(source: google images)

I never noticed the similarities between Owen Wilson and Woody Allen were so striking until this film.  It’s like Woody attached strings to Owen and danced him around the film like a babbling marionette puppet.  It’s uncanny!

Per usual Woody Allen, this film stars a man who wants greater things in life, is intimidated by others around him, but is really a creative genius.  Don’t get me wrong, I adore a good Allen film.  I’m a big fan of Small Time Crooks, Mighty Aphrodite, and of his book Without Feathers.  I recommend this flick for fans, people in the mood for nostalgia, and anyone who likes a little light-hearted magic.

Owen Wilson plays Gil; he’s engaged to Inez played by Rachel McAdams (the couple’s second film together following Wedding Crashers).  Gil is already a Hollywood writer, but he can’t find his groove when it comes to his novel.  While traveling with Inez’s parents in France, Gil daydreams of a golden age:  Paris in the 20’s, raining.  *swoon*

One night, Inez goes dancing with friends, and Gil decides to take a walk.  Where he’ll find himself is a parallel world of Paris in the 20’s and soon this couple will have to face whether the illusion around them is better than their actual relationship or not.

I already gave kudos to Wilson’s character being a new generation’s introduction to Woody Allen humor.  He really captures an idealist’s heart that we all can understand.  The supporting cast of his Parisian fantasy includes such names as Oscar winners Marion Cotillard and Kathy Bates as well as the First Lady of France herself, Carla Bruni.

While I liked this film, I don’t think it’s a contender for Best Picture.  Allen may be the underdog win for Best Director, but he’s also facing top nominee Martin Scorsese for Hugo.  I can’t help but wonder if this is another case of a nomination come too late.  Should Allen have won last year for his more poignant and stellar casting film, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger*shrug*  Time will tell.  February 26th to be exact.

What say you fellow movie watchers?  Have you seen either of these nominees?  What do you think their chances are?  Who are you rooting for?  And don’t forget to weigh in on the costumes of the evening! 

Making Sense of the Unknown

(source: imdb.com)

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this film.  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  I knew it was a film about September 11th, indirectly.  I knew it was about a boy with Asperger’s, indirectly.  The combination of those qualities both compelled and deterred me from wanting to see this film.

The film is directed by Stephen Daldry and adapted from the same-titled book by Jonathan Safran Foer.  Foer also wrote the book Everything is Illuminated, which was too made into a film, starring Elijah Wood, and I really liked that movie.  So why didn’t I run to theaters to see this one?

Do any of us really face the things we know are going to be difficult with running feet and waving cash in hand?!  Not in my world.  But Tuesday morning announced the 84th Academy Award Nominees, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was among the nine films nominated for Best Picture.  It’s getting a fair amount buzz early on from the critics as the surprise nomination.  Sure, they’re banking on the films with homage to the film industry, such as lead nominee, Hugo, and the black and white flick The Artist, but there’s something about this film.

What could an audience learn about a situation that makes no sense at all, from a boy who has to have a practical and scientific explanation for everything?  After seeing the film, I think quite a lot.

(source: post-gazette.com)

I’m not giving anything away to tell you that the film begins with the events of 9/11.  It is still difficult to see and unable to understand.  For Oskar Schell, the protagonist, it is a life changing day that will set him on a new course.  Oskar loses his father, played by Tom Hanks, in the destruction of the World Trade Center.  Oskar’s father was the closest person to him and had a way of explaining things and teaching things in a way that was perfect for Oskar.  This boy, is only my second encounter with a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, a type of autism.  I hadn’t even heard of Asperger’s until last year, when my local library led a book discussion with all the local schools and community using Kathryn Erskine’s Mockingbird, the story of another child with Asperger’s who tries to make sense of her brother’s death caused by a school shooting.

When his father is taken from him by “people he didn’t even know,” Oskar can’t make sense of why his father left.  A year after his father’s death, Oskar finds a key and decides if he can find what the key unlocks it will make him closer to his father and make sense of the unknown.  What follows is a series of encounters with individuals who will inspire you, irritate you, and make you laugh, told from the perspective of a boy with unwavering determination and courage.  By putting himself out there, again and again, in social situations that are difficult for him, Oskar will change the lives of everyone he meets, including that of his own family.

There’s something to say for the way our Nation comes together in times of need.  We’ve shared a history of despicable and unthinkable hatred toward one another.  But in times of great loss, in times of disaster, in the times when life does not make sense, we have a way of reaching out to one another.  And what better reminder of how important that is than a story of one little boy who overcame fear to get extremely loud and incredibly close.

Here’s hoping I’ll see you all at the movies!  Have you had an experience where life challenged you to make sense of the unknown?  What helps you overcome that fear?  What change do you wish our nation would make in order for us to be extremely loud and incredibly close?  Do you yourself live out that change? Why or why not?   

And the Oscar for Best Writer Goes to…

Welcome to the 83rd Academy Awards!  If you missed the second most watched television event of the year, here are the highlights!

The hosts, James Franco, staring off into space, and Anne Hathaway, giggling so much and trying to be slapstick though no one appreciated it.

Melissa Leo wins the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in "The Fighter" and curses on stage in her enthusiasm!

Presenter Kirk Douglas takes his sweet time on stage hitting on Anne Hathaway and Melissa Leo, who coincidentally walked off stage with his cane, while he walked with his hand holding her very "tightly".

Colin Firth made every woman's dream come true by winning the Best Actor role in the same film that took Best Picture, The King's Speech!

The food I made for my Oscar Party! Cucumber stuffed cherry tomatoes, bacon wrapped apricots with smoky honey barbecue, and a wine marinated antipasto platter!

I wish you could read this napkin better. It says, "Dinner is Poured."

The day went by very quickly, as did my whole weekend.  Amidst the rushed grocery shopping, dish cleaning, counter wiping, gift assembling, and cooking *whew* I was able to completely restart my story, beginning the book in a totally different place and adding more dialogue.  Woohoo!  I read the first page to my mom and best friend and asked for feedback on whether or not it hooked them.  Generally, they both really liked it, but did give me one place I could embellish the relationship between characters more intensely and that was appreciated.  So that gives me exactly one hour after work tonight to madly edit the first page, print it out, and mail it in to the writing contest at the Writers Institute conference I’ll be attending in April.  Nothing like a little deadline madness to tell your procrastination pixies to buzz off!  If they’re flying around your work space, please take time to check out Kristen Lamb’s Blog, she has helped me immensely with realistic goal setting, hooking your reader, and gives FREE advice on what to watch for in your story that may make an editor pass on your project.

Since I’m still in a celebrating mood from my Oscar party, “Cheers to Writing Weekends!” that also involve your BFF making asparagus soup, squash risotto with gorgonzola, and chocolate peanut butter cupcakes and your BF helping chop blocks of cheese and doing the dishes!  Yay!

Monday  Mash-up:

I actually had some time to get back into reading blogs by you wonderful fellow writers!  Here are my favorites from the past week!

Jillian sparked up a great debate on the mash-up of classic literature with sci-fi themes.  What do you think about this new wave of publications?  Check out her post, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer Seriously?

Discovered through Freshly Pressed, C C Lester, had a great post on the times she argued over whether she was a writer, or an author, or neither at all.  In the end, it was having a loyal reader that meant the most to her, but she’s certainly struck a chord with many of us so check out her post, So am I an Author Yet?

Wendy Matheson just kicked off Women’s History Month for me in her entertaining post, Strength, Thy Name is Woman! It details many inventions that are often accredited to men, but were actually made by women.

For your laughing pleasure, The Hack Novelist writes a letter to the guy holding a conference call in a crowded Starbucks cafe’.  I think he eloquently pens what we would all be thinking.  8 Pages and the Conference Call

I’ve also been following the very funny Mark, from Mark My Words as he battles the unemployment offices, takes on the world of freelance writing, and has to fire his maid and buy clothes at a second hand store.  Well… you’ll see.  Champagne Wishes on a Sparkling Water Budget

Happy writing and reading, friends!  Tell me about your weekends!  What writing goals did you accomplish?  If you found some great blogs this week, what are they?  I’d love to cheer you on and check out the posts you love!

How to Host a Party from the Floor

I’ve been entertaining lately.  February is the month containing the two parties my boyfriend and I throw together.  The Superbowl and The Oscars.  I’ve been scrambling to see as many Oscar films as I can between now and the award ceremony.  So the other night I enticed one of my friends over to watch a marathon of movies by offering to cook dinner for her.

Menu:  Apricot Chili Pork Chops with Lemon and Spinach Pasta with Herb Dinner Rolls

If you’re going to force your friends to sit through six hours of cinema, I recommend basting the rolls with garlic butter and sprinkling parmesan and herbs over the top right as they walk through the door.  They’ll have to stay to taste them, and then they won’t be able to move after they’ve devoured about four.  Placing the wine bottle on the ottoman also does the trick.

By far the best taste of the evening was the pasta, extremely light and fresh, while still forcing your eyes to roll back in your head.  To make it, you just cook some angelhair pasta as normal, and in a large pan saute garlic, baby spinach, lemon juice and salt/pepper until the spinach is wilted.  Add the pasta and toss!  So delicious!

So far of the nominated best pictures I’ve seen:  Inception, Black Swan, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, The Kid’s Are All Right, and Winter’s Bone.  I still need to see:  True Grit, The Fighter, 127 Hours, and The Kings Speech.

Back to the party.  All was going exceptionally well.  We had viewed The Kids are All Right and spiked up a nice conversation on surrogacy.  To further entice my friend to stay, I rented the second season of The United States of Tara to watch a few episodes.  She can’t tell me no when I’ve brought her schizophrenic Toni Collette and comedy by Diablo Cody!

Somewhere in the middle of the fourth episode it hit me, like an all too real flashback “Live from the Wizard of Oz, it’s Dorothy trapped in a tornado!”  I instantly got the spins.  I fess up to my own body.  I know I didn’t eat much earlier today, I still wasn’t feeling very good.  But dinner was amazing, and a little wine is supposed to be good for you! Mixing in my stomach was the storm of Poseidon!  I guess red wine and cold medicine are not meant to mix.  Suddenly, I became that absurd host who kept excusing herself from the room hoping no one would notice her 5’2″ frame swaying around like Kramer on Seinfeld.  After my poor, but understanding, friend had paused the episode too many times to count, I guiltily said “I don’t feel good” and left the room again.  She finished the episode at my pleading from the bathroom afar, and like the wonderful friend she is, let herself out.  Dear Lord, how embarrassing!  I spent the next half hour lying on the bathroom floor moaning and cursing.  At least we have heated tiles.  *shakes head in shame*

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