Monday, 23 February 2015

The 87th Academy Awards



After several weeks of anticipation, the winners of the 87th Academy Awards have been unveiled. The ceremony, which was held at the Dolby Theatre, was hosted by Neil Patrick Harris.The big winners are coincidentally the same movies leading the nominations count with 9 apiece, Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Both films took home 4 awards each, with the former taking home the two biggest awards of the ceremony, Best Director and Best Picture, at the expense of fellow awards season favorite, Boyhood.

This marks the second year in a row that the Best Director award is going to a Mexican director (Alejandro González Iñárritu), following Alfonso Cuarón's win for Gravity last year. Rounding out Birdman's wins were awards for Best Cinematography and Best Original Screenplay. The Grand Budapest Hotel's wins on the other hand were relegated to the technical categories, namely Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and Best Original Score.

There were few surprises on the acting front: Eddie Redmanye won Best Actor and Julianne Moore won Best Actress, while J.K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette won Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress respectively, the latter being the only one of six nominations that the movie Boyhood was able to secure. Also taking home single awards were Interstellar (Best Visual Effects), American Sniper (Best Sound Editing), Big Hero 6 (Best Animated Feature Film), and Selma (Best Original Song).

Lady Gaga sang a medley of songs from The Sound of Music in honor of the movie's 50th anniversary, during which she showcased her singing chops like never before. The moment was made even more magical when she was joined by Julie Andrews herself, who was there to present the award for Best Original Score. The team behind The LEGO Movie soundtrack also gave an energetic performance of Everything is Awesome, during which they handed out several LEGO Oscars to people in the audience.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed that Boyhood didn't win Best Picture, and that Wes Anderson didn't win Best Original Screenplay for The Grand Budapest Hotel. But there is no denying the sheer brilliance of Birdman, which won in both categories. The last time a dark comedy cleaned out like that was with American Beauty in 1999, so it is nice to know that the academy still has love for such movies.

Monday, 9 February 2015

My Thoughts on the 57th Grammy Awards



The 57th Grammy Awards were held last night at the Los Angeles Staples Center. And once again, I was unable to watch the ceremony live, due in large part to my cable provider pulling a fast one on us by deciding not to air it as promised. Still, I managed to salvage an otherwise sleepless night by following the proceedings on Twitter and several live blogs. For the fourth time in a row, the awards were hosted by LL Cool J. The ceremony was kicked into gear by a performance from aging rockers, AC/DC. Other performers ranged from pop stars Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, Madonna, to blue-eyed crooners Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran.

As far as the actual awards went, the rap categories were shared between Eminem and Kendrick Lamar, the former winning Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Album for The Monster and The Marshall Matters LP 2 respectively, while the latter took home Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance for "i." Punk rockers Paramore took home the award for Best Rock Song for their hit, Ain't It Fun, while Best Rock Album went to the critically-acclaimed Morning Phase by Beck. Best Dance Recording went to Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne for their song, Rather Be, while Aphex Twin won Best Dance/Electronic Album for Syro.

The evening's big winner was of course Sam Smith, who took home four out of the six awards he had been vying for. This included Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album for In The Lonely Hour, then Song of the Year and Record of the Year for Stay With Me. He didn't quite clean up the ceremony like fellow Brit Adele did in 2012, losing the Album of the Year award to Beck's Morning Phase in a surprising turn of events. But he'd promised in an interview to hand over that particular award to Beyonce, for what he considered a more deserving album, if he'd somehow managed to win, so I guess he shouldn't be mourning the loss of that award.

The ceremony was brought to an end by a performance of Glory by John Legend and Common, taken from the motion picture soundtrack to the highly-acclaimed biopic, Selma, a song which is incidentally vying for a Best Original Song award at the 87th Academy Awards later this month.

EDIT: Now that I have taken the time to watch the full ceremony, I just have to add that the part where Kanye West feigns rushing onto the stage in angry protest, after Beyonce loses Album of the Year to Beck, is quite possibly the funniest thing I have seen on television all year. Classic.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

IWSG: The 2015 Blogging from A-Z Challenge


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com for more information.

The sign-up list for the 2015 Blogging from A-Z Challenge was opened up last week, and rather than wait until the last minute like I usually tend to, I decided to put my name down for the challenge on day one. So hurray to me for biting the bullet early, since I already knew I was going to participate one way or another, crazy work schedule notwithstanding.

What I don't know, on the other hand, is what theme to choose for the challenge this year. Historically, I have always chosen a theme that fell within my sphere of interests, namely books, movies, music and video games. I am presently leaning towards a music theme, since that is the only one of my interests I am yet to explore during the challenge. But my taste in music can be just as odd as it is varied, so I fear that I might alienate my readers (all two or three of them) in the process.

Another possibility would be for me to "go random" as the description on the sign-up page puts it. That is, for me to take part in the challenge without any kind of theme. The problem with that approach is that I have always been someone who favors a bit of structure and guidance in everything I do, so I doubt if I'd actually make it to the end of the challenge that way. Still, I shouldn't knock it till I've tried it, as the saying goes.

So, what is a brother to do? Go with a music-themed challenge, or go random?

Thursday, 15 January 2015

2015 Academy Awards Nominations



I was originally going to post my thoughts on the 2015 Oscar nominations tomorrow, but alas, I must give in to doing so while those thoughts are fresh and fiery. Out of a possible 10 slots, eight films have been chosen for consideration in the Best Picture category. These include awards' season favorites, Birdman, Boyhood, Selma and The Theory of Everything. Rounding the category out are The Imitation Game, American Sniper, Whiplash and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Leading the nominations count with 9 nominations apiece are Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel. They are followed by The Imitation Game with 8, and then Boyhood and American Sniper with 6 nominations each. On the Best Actor front, we have the likes of Michael Keaton, Steve Carrel, Bradley Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmanye all contending. For Best Actress its Rosamond Pike, Felicity Jones, Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon and Marion Cotillard.

There were snubs aplenty with films like Selma only scoring two nominations (the second one being for "Glory" in the Best Song category). Gone Girl was not only deprived of a Best Picture nomination, but a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination too. Also deprived were Jake Gyllenhaal and first-time director Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler. But perhaps most alarming is The Lego Movie's snub in the Best Animated film category; as a sort of halfhearted consolation, the movie has been given a nomination in the Best Song category for "Everything is Awesome."

I could spend the remainder of this post lamenting the movies I was hoping to see get due recognition, but let's face it, it's impossible to please everybody. That is why I am choosing to appreciate the opportunity to explore the movies I wouldn't have seen otherwise. Of the eight films nominated for Best Picture, I have seen only three, Boyhood, Birdman and The Theory of Everything. I am updating my movies-to-watch list to include American Sniper, Whiplash and The Grand Budapest Hotel, just to name a few.

As things stand, I'll be rooting for Boyhood to win Best Picture. Not because I feel it is better than any of the other films in contention. In fact, the movie was for the most part devoid of any kind of story and I am quite surprised it managed to score a Best Original Screenplay nomination. But for the mere fact that it is a movie like no other, an epic 12-year shoot resulting in something that is frequently likened to watching a time lapse video. You can't help but shake the feeling the movie is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and as such, it needs to receive top honor.

I guess we'll find out if it does soon enough when the awards ceremony airs next month, on the 22nd of February. Before then, I need to do some catching up. For a full list of all the nominees, you can visit: http://oscar.go.com/nominees?cid=oscars_nominees_announcement_cadillac

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

IWSG: Goals and Resolutions for 2015



It's the first Wednesday of the month, and the very first Wednesday in 2015 to boot, making it the perfect opportunity for me to wish fellow Insecure Writer's Support Group members a "Happy New Year!" Hope you all enjoyed the holidays. The IWSG was of course started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the acclaimed Ninja Captain himself; you can head over to his blog or the official IWSG website for more information on the group.

As part of our very first post for 2015, members have been asked to introduce themselves. So my short bio is as follows:

My name is Michael Abayomi, writer of speculative fiction and an all-round lover of science fiction and fantasy. My book, Guardians & The Lost Paradise, was self-published serially over the course of 6 months in 2012. I am presently working on a post-apocalyptic superhero serial called Proxies, a book I am hoping to publish sometime this year.

Right. So on that note, I would like to move on to the next item on the agenda, namely my goals and resolutions for the new year. Last year, I made a point of not setting any specific deadlines or goals, other than a general desire to be productive and more proactive. But the problem with that approach is that it leaves little room for any form of accountability.

At the same time, I really don't want to commit to a course of action that I know I would not be able to realistically carry out. That is, I must also put into consideration the time and effort needed to write, edit and publish, not to mention market. All that said, I have decided to settle upon a single writerly goal for 2015, and that is to:

Goal #1: Finish the Darn Thing!

The thing in question is of course the aforementioned book, Proxies, a sizable chunk of which remains to be written. The book is being written in individual episodes, and I am almost tempted to publish some of the earlier ones, if only to force myself to finish what's left. But I'll stay my hand away from that shiny red button for the moment, at least until a time when such drastic measures would need to be taken.

Goal #2: Be Happy (No Matter What)

This is equally important, and remains a staple of my yearly goals. Because let's face it, writing a book is one of the hardest things to do. Even harder is all the extra work required to make our stories ready for prime time. So why do we do it? For me, it's the moments of sheer joy interspersed throughout the creative process, moments like when the story takes an unexpected turn, coming out even better than you'd imagined. I plan on taking the time to relish such moments.

And there you have it, my goals for 2015. Not quite as elaborate as previous years, but hopefully this would be enough to set me on the right path to attaining said goals. What about you? What are your goals and resolutions for 2015?

Friday, 26 December 2014

2014 in Review: Looking Back

Today marks the end of my week-long 2014 in Review series of posts, and as has become customary, I'll be providing a short recap of earlier posts before wrapping things off. On Monday, I revealed my favorite video games released during the year. On Tuesday, I moved on to favorite songs. This was followed by favorite albums on Wednesday. And yesterday, I shortlisted my favorite movies. Now it's time to examine the year as a whole.


2014 has been a rather turbulent year, when you consider all the news that made international headlines. I'm of course talking about everything from the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 to the missing Chibok schoolgirls. But none of that felt closer to home than the Ebola outbreak which made its way across much of West Africa. It was only after Nigeria was deemed Ebola free did the entire nation breathe a collective sigh of relief. On a positive note, the scare of an outbreak in the country did help raise awareness about the need to take cleanliness seriously.


The 2014 FIFA World Cup took place in Brazil this past summer, and 32 of the world's best football teams competed. Nigeria was of course one of those teams, but we lost unceremoniously to France in the Round of 16, after barely stumbling out of the group stages. That defeat however was nothing compared to the 7-1 defeat suffered by Brazil during their semi-final match with Germany. The Brazilian defense seemed to go up in smoke as 4 goals were conceded in the span of 6 minutes. Germany would eventually go on to win the tournament, claiming their 4th World Cup title.


This time last year, I can honestly tell you that I didn't know the difference between doing squats and doing a plank. I'd never given my personal fitness any kind of consideration beyond a rudimentary desire to not get winded every time I encountered a flight of stairs. But I have come to reconsider my stance following a health-related revelation. Now, I am actively doing everything I can to ensure that I stay fit and healthy, at least long enough to fulfill the purpose for which I have been placed here.

It's funny how when you pause to think about your own mortality, you come to realize just how insignificant some of the things you've placed importance on truly are. Everything from the relationships you think you have built, to the goals you've set for yourself and the plans you've put into place, none of that matters when you're too busy rotting in a hole in the ground somewhere. Sounds harsh, I know, but truer words have never been spoken.

The important thing here is to take each day like the present it truly is. So live life to the fullest and love endlessly.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

2014 in Review: Favorite Movies

Noah



2014 was a strong year for faith-based movies, with films like Heaven is Real, Son of God, and most recently Exodus: Gods and Kings all making an impact at the global box office. But the one faith-based movie I was most excited about was Darren Aronofsky's Noah. Loosely based on the biblical account of the great deluge, the movie was a visual spectacle with great acting, and despite some significant deviations, still managed to retain the core message of its source material.

Edge of Tomorrow



Groundhogs Day meets Starship Troopers in this trippy science-fiction movie about an untrained soldier who is forced to relive the same unwinnable battle with a formidable alien foe, over and over again. Tom Cruise stars alongside Emily Blunt, neither of whom are strangers to sci-fi movie roles. The movie strikes a delicate balance between grave and lighthearted, which helps make its gruesome battles that much more palatable.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier



Easily one of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies till date, Captain America: The Winter Solider proves that a comic book adaptation can be handled with style and sophistication. Rather than take a more traditional approach, directors Anthony and Joe Russo decided to present the movie in the style of a 1970s conspiracy thriller, and the decision pays off, marking perhaps the best received entry in the MCU.

The Lego Movie



I'd spent a significant amount of my early childhood playing with legos, which might help explain why I was immediately drawn towards The Lego Movie. And there is a certain charm to the toyline's beautifully-animated big-screen debut. The movie was written and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the comedic geniuses behind 2009's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and the recent Jump Street movies.

Guardians of the Galaxy



Of all the MCU movies released thus far, Guardians of the Galaxy has come the closest to matching the tone of 2012's The Avengers. That said, the movie does require even more tolerance for the latter's comic nature. Most of that can be attributed to its cast of oddball characters, which include what is effectively a humanoid tree and a talking raccoon. Except the movie succeeds on so many levels that it takes these previously unknown characters, and makes them into household names.

Snowpiercer



Snowpiercer is a post-apocalyptic tale about a futuristic Noah's Ark. In this future, majority of the Earth's population have been wiped out by a self-inflicted ice age, and the handful of survivors take shelter in the titular train, where they are governed by a class-based system. Originally released in 2013, the movie stars Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton and Octavia Spencer, and it was directed by South Korean filmmaker, Bong Joon-ho.

X-Men: Days of Future Past



Timelines collide in X-Men: Days of Future Past, the latest installment in the superhero franchise that ties together the original trilogy with the 2011 reboot, X-Men: First Class. And once again, the movie centers upon Wolverine, who is sent back in time to prevent an event in 1973 that would alter the fate of all mutants. But for me, it was Quicksilver's brief appearance that stole the show, which culminated in one of the franchise's most visually-stunning action sequences.

The Maze Runner



In a year crowded with big-screen adaptations of young adult novels like Divergent and Mockingjay, The Maze Runner comes out on top as a smartly-executed introduction to a world we feel we've all seen before. What sets it apart from the aforementioned properties is its darker tone, as I remember feeling genuine dread the first time Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) steps into the maze. The movie is further helped by a competent cast and a well-written script.

The Raid 2



How do you make a sequel to one of the biggest and boldest martial arts films in recent years? By going even bigger and bolder, which is precisely what director Gareth Evans does with The Raid 2. The fight scenes are so tightly choreographed that you can almost feel the impact of every single blow. The script on the other hand has been beefed up and expanded, resulting in the movie's two hour thirty minutes running time.

Gone Girl



I usually make a point of reading the book before seeing the movie, which was why I finally read Gone Girl a few months ago. And boy was I blown away by the book's unlikely turn of events. But even that couldn't prepare me for the sheer suspense of watching those events play out on the big screen. The movie is a definite contender for next year's Academy Awards, and I foresee a best actress nod for Rosamond Pike and a best adapted screenplay nomination for Gillian Flynn, at the very least.

And the winner is...

Snowpiercer



Yes. That's right. My favorite movie for 2014 is a South Korean movie that actually came out more than a year ago. How this science-fiction gem managed to elude me for that long is anybody's guess. But of all the movies I have shortlisted, no other one has left as much of a lasting impression. Was it the premise of a world frozen over and the survivors confined to a single train that won me over? Or the hard-hitting violence? Or Tilda Swinton's portrayal of the villainous Mason? Whatever it was, it is clear that Snowpiercer has become one of my favorite science-fiction movies of all time.

P.S: Merry Christmas!