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 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?