My wife and I just got home after a great vacation that included a 5-day Caribbean cruise followed by 2 nights in Delray Beach, Fla. So relaxing, such great weather ... and so much food. I am NOT looking forward to stepping on the scale!
I am looking forward to Sunday night's Oscars. I'm sure that Ellen DeGeneres will do a great job hosting the telecast -- and that a deserving film will win Best Picture.
On the last night of our vacation, Robbie and I saw Philomena, so I've now seen all nine nominated films. I'll give my ranking in a minute, but first a few thoughts about others awards:
Best Actor: I loved Bruce Dern (Nebraska) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), but Matthew McConaughey gave a performance of a lifetime in Dallas Buyers Club.
Best Actress: I did not see Blue Jasmine and that's too bad because just about every pundit out there says Cate Blanchett is a shoo-in. I saw the four films featuring the other nominees, and I'd rank Meryl Streep (August: Osage County) just ahead of Judi Dench (Philomena).
Best Supporting Actor: Four great candidates -- sorry, Jonah Hill, you'd be the one on Sesame Street's "one of these men just doesn't belong here" -- and my favorite performance was that of Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) as the leader of the Somali pirates who kidnapped Tom Hanks' character. Incredible to think that he wasn't even an actor before shooting started on the film. Most critics think Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) will win it, and it would be impossible to argue that choice.
Best Supporting Actress: Again, because I didn't see Blue Jasmine, I can't rate Sally Hawkins. I really liked the work of each of the other four. I laughed almost every time June Squibb (Nebraska) opened her mouth, but Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) had the most meaty role of all the nominees and was absolutely fantastic.
Now, here is where I rank each of the nine Best Picture nominees ...
9. The Wolf of Wall Street. I liked several films that weren't nominated more than this overly long, over-the-top silliness. Lots of critics liked it, but I didn't think it was one of Martin Scorsese's best.
8. Gravity. I almost feel like apologizing for liking this movie so much less than most experts do. I mean, I didn't hate it, and Sandra Bullock was fine as usual, but I was not wowed by either the special effects or the story. If it were a college basketball team, I'd be taunting it with chants of "Over-rated! Over-rated!"
7. Her. Quirky and interesting, with Joaquin Phoenix deserving of the Comeback of the Year award, if there was one.
6. Philomena. A well-written, well-acted film about an important but rarely discussed topic. Kudos to Steve Coogan, who adapted the screenplay and starred alongside the excellent Judi Dench.
5. Captain Phillips. Just as I was surprised I liked Gravity less than I thought I would, I was surprised that I liked this film more than I thought I would. It was a completely believable, edge-of-the-seat flick with outstanding acting by the two leads.
4. Dallas Buyers Club. Here's where it starts to get especially difficult for me, which is how it should be in trying to separate the Final Four. This film was superbly acted and presented, and I've got nothing bad to say about it.
3. American Hustle. I smiled or laughed throughout the entire movie and I thought Christian Bale was wonderful in leading a talented ensemble cast. It was a little goofy at times, but I know that was intentional.
2. Nebraska. As I watched this quiet gem of a film unfold, all I kept thinking was, "This is my favorite movie this year." Bruce Dern was absolutely perfect in the lead role and June Squibb was a hoot as his wife. It was beautifully filmed in black and white, and the entire production was top-notch and moving. I know it has little chance to win because it was not a "big" enough flick, but I enjoyed it tremendously.
1. 12 Years a Slave. A powerful, important story that was exquisitely presented by director Steve McQueen. Often brutal and difficult to watch, it nonetheless was filled with astounding performances, especially by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong'o and the boo-and-hiss-worthy Michael Fassbender. This is the kind of film academy voters often favor -- and for good reason.
I'm just now realizing that while I posted the final results of my basketball season on Facebook, I didn't here for my loyal tens of readers.
My Scholars Academy Eagles lost our semifinal game to a bigger, more experienced, and ... well ... superior team but I so enjoyed my first season as a head coach. The girls worked incredibly hard and played with such passion, the parents were wonderful, the administration was supportive. It was just a great experience, even better than I hoped it would be.
I'll probably write more about it after our team party on Friday.