Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cameron Mitchell’s Culinary Empire

Each theme works, while the service shines

High Street in the Short North
     Columbus is a chain of suburbs in search of a downtown.  Its restaurant scene follows this same model.  Though there has been a proliferation of independent foodie styled establishments in the Short North and the Arena District in the past twenty years, chains are the way to eat in Ohio’s capital.  Wendy’s started there, Piada – Italian food in a cafeteria setting that mirrors Chipotle – is the most recent addition, and any new fast food item has to pass muster in the metropolitan middle of the heartland before it goes national.

Cameron Mitchell*

     The most significant Columbus restaurateur has to be Cameron Mitchell. Originally from Upper Arlington – a northwest Columbus suburb – he’s created a number of restaurants based on cuisine types beginning in 1993:  Mitchell’s Fish Market, which has expanded regionally yet has been sold by Mitchell, with a large variety of fish in a limited number of preparation styles; Cameron’s American Bistro; M – the elegant, upscale restaurant; Martini Modern Italian – the title labels it already; and various others.

     We’ve gone to four elements of this collection over the years.  Mitchell’s Ocean Club at Easton Towne Centre (everything that counts in Columbus is related to a shopping area) had a cool vibe thanks to soundscape type music and a dining room that looked like an airport lounge rising out of Atlantis.  The Pan-Asian food was very good and ahead of its time in 1999 at least.  I’m not sure why we didn’t return.  

     Molly Woo’s, located at Polaris (another upscale shopping enclave north of the 270 outer belt), looks like a ‘60s/’70s ‘theme restaurant’ version of ‘30s Shanghai.  The interior space is open plan, but divided into different dining areas with a comfortable bar.  It’s both wry and self-referential, but avoids looking like kitsch.  We ordered take out of potstickers, which were good, but not on the level of those at Emperor’s Choice in Chicago’s Chinatown, and Wonton Soup.  OMG, it felt like a salt lick or what I imagine one would be like.  Neil called and told the manager, who kindly dealt with the bill.  I would return just to see the restaurant again.

Cap City Diner
     We’ve gone to Cap City Diner (there are a couple of locations) a number of times and the food has been a merging of new takes on traditional family fare, whether they’re soups, sandwiches, salads, casseroles or other entrées.  Every choice has been anywhere from good to excellent.  Here the interior plays against expectations by throwing pools of light on tables in the midst of a velvety darkness and by displaying a full spectrum of color in various tiles on the walls and floor.

Marcella's at Polaris

     Marcella’s seems to be the happy medium between Bravo and Brio (members of another set of restaurants originating in Columbus), though the difference is the homemade pasta.  

The Apple Salad

We shared the Apple Salad with mixed greens, Granny Smith apples, red grapes, walnuts, and Gorgonzola dressed in sherry vinaigrette.  

Gnocci Bolognaise
Ravioli Mezzaluna
Neil chose the Ravioli Mezzaluna.  Goat cheese filled the pasta pillows and the sauce included Italian bacon, cabbage, and mushrooms.  It was really good, but the Gnocci Bolognaise with braised lamb was excellent.  The sauce was almost as good as Nicola’s (and that’s really saying something).  We finished off with a subtly flavored Vanilla Panna Cotta with apricot marmalade and house cookies.  It was beautifully presented and perfectly cooked.

Vanilla Panna Cotta
    What unites the Mitchell enclave is the service.  Culinary magazines make a big deal about Danny Meyer’s New York restaurants.  Meyer has been one of his own biggest fans.  However, we didn’t have service on the level of what is regularly expected in Chicago, Cincinnati, or Columbus.  Mitchell’s staff members are always friendly, intelligent, and ready to go beyond the expectations of patrons.

*courtesy of Restaurant Magazine
Marcella's Ristorante on Urbanspoon
Mitchell's Ocean Club on Urbanspoon
Molly Woo's Asian Bistro on Urbanspoon
Cap City Fine Diner and Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Slap

Yes, I miss Edward Zwick 
and Marshall Herskovitz too

     The Slap started a couple of weeks ago on NBC and I keep hoping it will be better each episode than it turns out to be.  Focusing on eight characters connected through family or friendship ties, it examines the aftermath of an aggressive rich man slapping the incredibly ill behaved five-year-old son of people he doesn’t know well.  From a birthday backyard barbecue for a man facing middle age to a professional single woman facing an unexpected pregnancy to the threat of lawsuits and the hovering miasma of parental relations, The Slap tries to take on middle-upper-middle classvGeneration X in New York City and its surrounding environs.

     Thirtysomething (1987 – 1991) and Once and Again (1999 – 2002), both created by Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, covered similar territory with the Baby Boomers as their main focus.  The primary difference (there are others I’ll deal with later) is that they delved much more deeply into their characters.  Part of that gap is due to the narration at the beginning and end of each episode.  The tone could be considered ‘satirical’ or ‘sardonic’, but it puts down the characters.  Cheever could get away with it for decades because a writer lays down the narrative groundwork, while the readers builds the story through imagination.  

Zwick and Herskovitz
     By providing the first impression through spoken narration, the characters are not freshly discovered by the viewer.  In media like film or video, the primacy of the visual cannot be overstated.  The tone has to be shown through cinematography and art direction and the punctuation provided by editing.  Dialogue is tertiary and narration is a distant fourth.  Relying on it punches up what isn’t happening through the other elements.  Zwick & Herskovitz (Z&H) employed various narrative strategies to involve the viewer with the characters as well as to step back and observe the characters in Thirtysomething.  They went further by having the characters speak directly to the viewer, revealing their feelings and commenting upon their actions in Once and Again.  

A New York Backyard?
     New York seems overdone as a setting.  We know how New Yorkers act and feel through countless other movies and TV shows.  Again, Philadelphia and Chicago figured in the earlier series; the only Z&H series that failed after a year was Relativity (1996 – 1997) and it may have been because it was set in L.A., already an unbearably light and overused location.  The Australian original was set in Melbourne, not Sydney, and I wish an American corollary could have been found – San José, Seattle, Austin?  

     An Australian with Greek immigrant parents wrote the source novel and that cultural identity has been retained.  It’s intriguing to focus on a group rarely shown on TV.  However, the stand-in characters for those parents sort of came across as if they had only gotten off the boat about a decade before, which didn’t seem that realistic.  Classy veterans Brian Cox and Maria Tucci as those parents did a fine job and brought some much needed gravitas to the first episode.  Following in Hollywood’s eccentric ethnic casting history, none of the Greek characters are played by anyone actually Greek.  

Blythe Danner and Uma Thurman
     Uma Thurman and Zachary Quinto have been the strongest actors so far, though she had the good fortune to play some excellent scenes with Blythe Danner as her English mother.  Danner nailed the accent, pronouncing ‘forehead’ perfectly, and made me regret she didn’t get the parts she deserved in her 30s and 40s.  Melissa George nails an American accent playing the drearily suffering mother of the little brat she continues suckling.  George was on The Good Wife for a couple of seasons as Peter’s Ethics Advisor.  She looks and behaves completely differently in this show, but her voice is still the same.  It sounds like someone trying to be sexy or hoping to sell a second rate perfume.  Peter Sarsgaard seems weak and tired as the pivotal character so far; if only he could have brought some of the perverse undertones he’s found in past roles.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Khaled Hosseini and Marjane Satrapi

Natives of enemy lands 
show the truth beyond geopolitical 

     Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed (2013) moves from Afghanistan to California to Paris to Afghanistan and from the 1940s to the 2000s to the 1970s to the 2010s.  It’s epic yet feels intimate and it takes off from E.M. Forster’s mantra ‘Only Connect’ from Howard’s End (1910).  That work was a parable for the state of England.  Hosseini’s third novel is a parable of East-West relations during peace and war.  It’s a novel that feels European in structure – almost like Schnitzler’s La Ronde (1897) or the “Wandering Rocks” episode of Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) – because the inciting incident that involves six characters reverberates as the narrative moves from one character involved with another and then follows that character involved with another and then follows that one until finally ending with the two characters that were initially introduced.  It’s multi-linear with interlocking narratives.  

     Where The Kite Runner (2003) was a coming of age novel about three boys and the country that became a crucible as Western powers tried to control it and A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) was about two generations of women practically crushed by the Taliban, Mountains Echoed is much more contemplative.  The violence plays backstage to the story’s events and that may be why it wasn’t the blockbuster the earlier two books were.  Torture porn sells; novels of ideas aren’t as alluring to Americans.  

Hosseini in Afghanistan
     Hosseini spent his childhood in Afghanistan, but was raised in France and the U.S.  That cross-cultural background partly accounts for his revelation of Afghan history and culture.  He was both a part of it, but can detach from it and objectively present it.  While his first two novels demonstrated Hosseini’s love of Dickens, And the Mountains Echoed moves him past Harold Bloom’s ‘Anxiety of Influence’ to a mature, idiosyncratic voice.  It’s a book I read very slowly because I didn’t want it to end.

     Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Chicken with Plums (2006) recounts a tale from Satrapi’s family history in 1950s Iran, though the country’s citizens still considered it Persia.  It’s a very funny, poignant recounting of her uncle who decided to go to bed for a week and die.  Each day provides flashbacks and glimpses of flash-forwards.  Middle-class life at that time in the Middle East wasn’t so much different from Europe or North America.  

     Satrapi was born in Iran, but left with her family to Paris during the revolution.  She examines loss and nostalgia in both this and her Persepolis series (2003 – 2007).  She possesses a strong sense of humor and her drawing style is inimitable.  She’s broadened her reach by writing and directing movies based on her books.  However, she doesn’t plumb her subject matter as deeply as Hosseini.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


Creepy, smart, thrilling

     Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler is the most trenchant comment about TV culture since Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1983) or Lumet’s Network (1976).  A week ago I said that Jake Gyllenhaal should be up for the Oscar mainly because he was in a movie this year.  After watching it last night on MOD, I can say he should have been nominated because he’s wildly frightening.  He plays Lou Bloom, a petty thief who, by chance, starts taking pictures of traffic accidents and selling them to a low-rated local morning news show.  

Renee Russo and Gyllenhaal
     Set in L.A. and taking place mostly at night, this feels like a noir that Hitchcock might have made if he’d been able to put his kinks right up on the screen.  He came closest in Psycho (1960) and Frenzy (1971), and Nina Romina, the treacherous, brilliant blonde TV news director Rene Russo plays would have been right up his alley.  Russo should have been up for some major awards for this (she was overseas and by smaller critics’ circles) and her final scene with Gyllenhaal made me squirm.  I felt like I’d caught the scabies watching it.

The Brilliant or Sociopath Nightcrawler
     Gilroy’s script answers many questions, but tantalizingly leaves others open.  Where does Bloom originate?  The suspense lies in wondering, then seeing how far he will push himself and others.  He yammers on so rationally at times that he seems like he’s either brilliant or a sociopath.  At times, he delivers information without any affect and it chills because it’s impossible to place his emotion.  And if that cannot be placed, neither can his feelings nor his motivation.  The other questions are how he makes it to the final scene and how long he’ll go and to what extreme, but I don’t want to give away too much.

     This is Gilroy’s first time directing and he proves his chops in two ways.  First, he hired the great Robert Elswit and his visualization of the night city is both glittering and poisonous.  As Neil pointed out, it looks like Edward Hopper.  There’s even a diner sequence as part of the climax.  Second, Gilroy shoots and paces a chase sequence that comes out of nowhere and doesn’t seem choreographed.  He demonstrates his taste and discretion by not allowing it to go on for a moment too long. 

Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed
     Gilroy also made three intriguing casting decisions in supporting roles:  Bill Paxton, grounded, generous, and tough as a veteran ‘nightcrawler,’ who doesn’t realize it’s a dog eat dog world and he might not be at the top of the food chain; Riz Ahmed, an entrancing English actor and rapper, turns Rick, Bloom’s employee, into the heart of the movie; and Michael Hyatt, a veteran Jamaican/English/American actress, who makes every moment count as a granite tough detective.  Hyatt’s performance shows up the one flaw in the movie, which is the ending.  Thematically (and very cynically), it makes sense in a male version of All About Eve, but it’s not very realistic because that detective wouldn’t have let go.  Maybe that’s me being naïve and not totally getting the point because Nightcrawler is the antithesis of dopey innocence. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

American Sniper

     Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, based on Chris Kyle’s memoir, happens to be the most widely seen movie up for the Oscar and, therefore, the one that may draw the most viewers.  It blends both the coming of age and the war genres to yield a highly suspenseful story, even for those who know the outcome.  It’s also one of the few studio big budget hit movies about the Iraqi War.  And, actually about the war, rather than an allegory for it like most of the superhero movies that have dominated the public consciousness, especially those featuring a group of heroes.  

     American Sniper follows a number of plot mechanics and tropes (i.e. clichés attached to a specific genre) that go back to Gary Cooper in Howard Hawks’ Sergeant York (1941).  These include:  the God-fearing child learning to hunt for dinner; commitment to saving American soldiers’ lives by using his lethal God-given talents; the love of a good woman; ambivalence about either the war or his role in it; ambivalence eventually quenched; a newly found serenity.  Add on the later device of the woman who says, “If you go back, I won’t be here.”  She’s always there when he returns.  The significant 
Dana Andrews and Virginia Mayo
in The Best Years of Our Lives
exception I can think of is Virginia Mayo’s character in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) so she pays by being portrayed as a slut.  The ‘80s brought Tom Cruise learning a lesson – generally maturity – after his more interesting, but less photogenic best friend is killed.  These are lined up here and they almost – almost because Eastwood is a master of genre archetypes drenched in ambivalence – work here.  What’s ironic or meta-theatrical about American Sniper is that these real life characters follow situations that have been demarcated in fiction.  

Cooper and Miller as the Kyles
     Where the movie really takes off is in the acting.  Bradley Cooper pulls off the Texas accent without making much of a deal about it.  His snarkiness, which was so funny in Kitchen Confidential (2006 – 07), has been replaced completely with sincerity.  Anger has been one of his acting fortes and he internalizes it here a way that’s understated in an Everyman way, unlike his explosiveness for David O. Russell.  He has changed himself physically to closely resemble Kyle.  It’s a consummate transformation. He neither patronizes nor dumbs down, but I hope he doesn’t brush away his funny and wild sides the way Cooper unfortunately did.  Sienna Miller, sharp featured like Parker Posey and with muscular loose limbs like Hillary Swank, may have found the role that will make me remember her face.  The two of them are fresh and diametrically opposed in their temperaments for the first half.  They have to overcome the writing in the second half of the movie when we know just where their relationship is going and they just about pull it off.  Cooper’s best scenes are with Jonathan Groff as a veteran whose life he saved, but whom he doesn’t (want to?) remember and with a group of vets at the VA.  He expresses a wide range of emotions through his physical tension.

Bradley Cooper and Luke Grimes
      Eastwood mixes the western genre with the war genre very successfully.  It’s no coincidence that Cooper’s nemesis is costumed in black.  There are a number of scenes where the Marines and Seals walk down dusty streets with guns seen and unseen pointing at them and locals who may be helpful or villainous.  The sandstorm scene calls up memories of Sergio Leone’s ‘60s trilogy of masterworks that made Eastwood a superstar.  Strong female characters that aid or challenge the male hero have been Eastwood mainstays.  Miller provides that dualism here as Taya Kyle.  I just wish she had one excellent scene in the last half hour of the movie.  Eastwood has usually found intriguing fresh faces for his movies and he does so again.  Luke Grimes as Marc Lee and Jake McDorman as Ryan ‘Biggles’ Job have been around on TV for a few years, but it’s the first time we’ve seen them and they’re both compelling and very different in looks and acting style from Cooper’s Kyle.  If Kyle’s the heart, then Lee’s the brains, and Job’s the soul of this military unit.  

    There’s been controversy over the movie’s politics and I don’t get it.  This is about the military and soldiers have to be committed to their mission or they’re sunk.  That’s explicated later in the movie when a major character is killed.  A number of characters express complex thoughts about the war and 
A Call From Fallujah
the issue of PTSD is handled head on.  Whatever viewers may think about the war, at the very least an excellent movie is showing it to them.  The ambivalent characters’ and audience’s reactions make this seem like it could be Vietnam, rendering it less specific and more timeless.  However, one caveat we had which relates to its contemporaneousness is that Chris calls Tara at the most inopportune times.  It feels like texting and driving in Fallujah.

Friday, February 20, 2015

York Street Café

Bohemian mainstay still nails it

The Victorian Dining Room
      York Street Café in Newport has been around for more than a couple of decades (rare for most restaurants), unique both for its menu and décor.  We used to go there for lunch or dinner or for later desserts.  Not only was there a gallery back then, but there was (and is) also an upstairs performance space where musicians played and patrons could dance.  We haven’t gone in a few years because there have been so many new restaurants opening (and some closing) that we wanted to check out.

The Bar Collection

      Tom and Karen suggested we visit after a double header at NKU.  It’s still a splendid Victorian space adorned with all manner of curlicues and accessories inside.  Our server was hip, funny, and informative.  We asked for recommendations and we fortuitously followed her suggestions.

Our Spread—Mediterranean Board,
Autumn Salad and Mushroom Toasty
      The Mediterranean Conversation Board can easily feed two as an entrée and it was more than enough as a collection of appetizers for four:  the hummus was smooth and the spanakopita was rich and had a slight citrus note; there was also a side Greek salad, which was sprightly.  The Autumn Salad included chunks of butternut squash, sweet and spicy pecans, golden raisins, red onions, and goat cheese dressed with a tangy apple cider vinaigrette.  This was an excellent choice and one I haven’t seen on other local menus.  The Mushroom Toasty was like a Greek version of pizza; sautéed baby mushrooms, Swiss, and Parmesan cheese on toasted pita bread.  Neil could have made a meal of that by itself.  

A Perfect Dessert Spot
      Desserts have always been home made.  There are usually half a dozen selections and they focus on cakes and pies, which makes me want to sing.  Yes, the old school desserts still taste great and can be very presentable.  The foodie obsession with fiddly, pretty desserts (various crème brulées and three bites of different desserts with two or more sauces) and every type of bread pudding has grown dated.  We ordered the Kentucky State Fair cake – a variation on Hummingbird – was moist, complexly flavored, and a delightful original.  The caramel rum cake was a bundt (a bluegrass version of baba au rhum) and a hit.  The flourless chocolate cake had that rich fudge texture with a bright raspberry sauce.  All were generous portions.

      We’ll certainly return soon to York Street Café!

York St. Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Still Alice

Give Julianne Moore the Oscar already

     The major reason we went to Still Alice was to see Julianne Moore, who hasn’t won the Oscar, though she’s been nominated four times in the past.   She’s the leading contender this year because she delivers a heartbreaker of a performance about a very hot medical subject right now – early onset Alzheimer’s.  The other well-publicized disease is ALS, which co-writer and director Richard Glatzer is battling.  

Alice Testing Her Memory
     I haven’t read the source novel by Lisa Genova, but the script was stronger than some reviewers had led me to expect.  Where the movie weakens is in its embrace of American consumer-porn.  At one point, Neil and I wondered what a family would do without the economic resources of the Howlands.  Or what choices would a single person do in this situation?  Although Alice’s neurologist points out that early onset Alzheimer’s seems to occur more frequently in the intelligent, it also seems to occur more frequently in the upper-middle class (if recent American movies and plays are to be believed).  Or maybe it’s because American domestic dramas portray that class almost exclusively at least back to the Technicolor days of Douglas Sirk/Ross Hunter.  

Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart
     It’s unfair of me to lay the weight of classism on this movie, which only wants to touch and inform us and do so through some lovely acting by Moore and also by Kristen Stewart (believe it or not) as her younger daughter.  There are a number of times when finances are discussed by the characters (an almost unheard of topic in current American movies), but the comforts of home are on spectacular display.  Glatzer and his husband Wash Westmoreland had the guts to realistically examine working class Chicanos in Quinceañera (2006) and the seamy underside of the adult film industry in The Fluffer (2001) so they’re working with the milieu they’ve found in Genova’s work. 

Moore with Baldwin
     Moore has an easy chemistry with Alec Baldwin as Alice’s husband from their relationship together on 30 Rock, but I wished for Dennis Quaid because he was electrically ambivalent with her in Far from Heaven (2002) and convincingly played a college professor in Smart People (2008).  Baldwin brings a lot of baggage with him to a role and I have a tough time erasing his Jack Donaghy from my mind when I watch him.  Nonetheless, this doesn’t matter because it’s Moore’s movie.  The best scene is one she plays against herself.  Alice leaves a video of herself early in her illness for later.  The full range of her talent burns through when the after faces the before and she’s unable to follow through with a decision she’d made months earlier.  That’s when the American fear of death trumps the American fear of poverty.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Award Shows Round Up

Snow between the Grammys 
and the Oscars (with our predictions)

30s Hollywood Glamour
Bette Midler's
45 rpm Hat at the
1975 Grammys
with Stevie Wonder
     What to do on a snowy day?  How about write up the biggie award shows?  The Grammys were set up to get people to buy LPs (yes, it was that long ago) and the Oscars were set up so that Hollywood moguls could try to class up a glamorous factory system (yes, it was even longer ago).

Rosanne Cash, the Big Americana Winner
     The Grammys are now about promoting current and upcoming A-list tours because it’s the only way to guarantee a big income, thanks to downloading. The show is about who wins the night, i.e. the performer who makes the biggest splash and it’s usually someone unexpected.  We were glad to see that some of our faves from the past year won:  Rosanne Cash with three, but she’s Americana – i.e. not commercial enough for the regular show; Miranda Lambert, when it looked to be Eric Church’s critical year in Country.  I liked his album, but didn’t love it.  He’s neo-late ‘80s rock, but she’s current/future Country pop; 
Pharrell Williams
Pharrell deserved more because about eight of the songs on Girl could be hits and that’s monster news in any year.  I wish he’d stop dressing like a 12 year old rehearsing for his Hip-Hop Bar Mitzvah and the new live version of “Happy” sounded like an airport lounge on steroids.

     And, best of all, Beck who released my favorite album of the year, which I think is a masterpiece and he’s been around for twenty years and he’s a genius – just not one that Kanye West, the other supposed genius understands and why is he always having to play Beyoncé’s protector when she’s brilliant, classy, and married to Jay-Z, who possesses the same qualities as her and they’re both real geniuses?  One caveat:  Morning Phase is an album and hearing one song out of context dissipates the overall listening experience.

     Besides Pharrell, I’d like to have seen Tom Petty win best Rock album because Hypnotic Eye is his best since Full Moon Fever (1989) and moves both forward in terms of subject matter – yes, middle age and beyond, which is usually Bob Seger’s territory, hits us all if we’re lucky, but Petty addresses it (unlike the various British Sirs and when did pop music become so Establishment as to kneel and grovel to a foreign title?), and his bass lines that go all the way back to 1976, plus a couple of songs that would have worked beautifully on Long After Dark (1982).  

John Legend Performing Glory
    Okay, enough of that rant and back to the show.  John Legend and Common ended the show on a powerful grace note, but why did they have to wait 3 ½ hours to perform?  The song is great and it better win the Oscar on Sunday.  Why didn’t Stevie Wonder get to perform solo and for longer?  Sam and Rose saw him perform for an over two hour-long concert in November and said he was terrific.  It’s nice that Sam Smith won and he performed well, but I wish he were a little less mopey.  He’s out, but he’s a little neutered.  I guess he learned that he better not express too much of his sexuality or he’d end up like Adam Lambert, who’s still the nicest and best looking white guy in pop music, but isn’t the superstar some of us hoped he’d become.  I realize we’ll never be over Tony Bennett, but aren’t we done with Lady Gaga, even if he isn’t?  
Annie Lennox
Hozier was touching, but Annie Lennox blew the whole thing out of the water with her still amazing mezzo/alto voice.  She didn’t win the Grammy, but she aced the show.  When will she tour next?  When will the British wake up and make her a Dame if we’re that concerned with titles?

Announcing the 2015 Oscar Nominations
     The Oscars are no longer about the movies because most people haven’t seen them.  This year, only American Sniper is a hit among the best picture nominees.  We haven’t seen it yet, but I’m glad a movie about the war is up there, regardless of its supposed politics.  The last blockbuster nominated was Avatar (2009) and the last hit was Django Unchained (2012).  The nominees are really good this year, but Hollywood no longer makes big movies that are also memorable.  They’ve whored themselves out because they have a casino Big Rollers mentality instead of building by quality brick upon quality brick.  The academy shot themselves in their other foot by not nominating a number of deserving African-American performers so they’ll lose about 3 million viewers right there.  

Björk's Swan Dress
     Instead, the show is about the red carpet and has been ever since Joan Rivers shoved a microphone in an actress’s face asking, ”Who are you wearing?”  Yes, we’ll be checking out the dresses, hoping that someone pulls a Björk swan out of her (or her stylist’s) closet and someone else wears an oversize silk towel that barely covers her décolletage like Jennifer Lopez.  

     It comes down to who will win, whom we’re rooting for, and whom we wished were considered.

Movie:  Boyhood (will and rooting for); Wished for Gone Girl (a hit) and Locke (a tiny, perfect tour de force)
Director:  Richard Linklater (will and rooting for – he committed twelve years to what could have been a weird exercise, but ended up as a masterpiece); Wished for Ava DuVernay for Selma
Actress:  Julianne Moore (will and rooting for – the best American film actress of her generation in a terrific performance yet again); why aren’t there more major female roles to even wish for?
Actor:  Michael Keaton (will and rooting for, plus he made a ton of money for generations of Hollywood moguls).  He could be knocked out by Eddie Redmayne, who gives the most externally acted performance.   Wished for Tom Hardy in Locke (Hardy could turn into the new Sean Connery BBMO – British, Brilliant, Masculine, Overlooked), Miles Teller in Whiplash, David Oyelowo in Selma, Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler or whatever movie he’s in 
Supporting Actress:  Patricia Arquette (will and rooting for); Wished for Carmen Ejogo for Selma, Emily Blunt for Into the Woods, Sela Ward and Carrie Coon for Gone Girl, Sofia Vergara for Chef, Kristen Stewart for Still Alice
Supporting Actor:  J.K. Simmons (will and rooting for); Wished for Tyler Perry for Gone Girl, most of the Selma males, but particularly Wendell Pierce and Tim Roth, Robert Downey Jr. for Chef
Original Screenplay:  Birdman (will); Boyhood (rooting for); Wished for Chef because it’s the best family movie of the year even with its foul mouth
Adapted Screenplay:  The Imitation Game (will because it’s great); Whiplash (rooting for because we liked it); Wished for Gone Girl because Gillian Flynn improved on her book
Cinematography:  Birdman (will and rooting for because of the amazing camera pyrotechnics, though the lighting in Mr. Turner is amazing): Wished for Boyhood
Editing:  Whiplash (will and rooting for but the one thing going against it is that this usually goes to the longest movie, not the best cut)
Production Design:  The Grand Budapest Hotel (will); Mr. Turner (rooting for)
Song:  “Glory” from Selma (will and rooting for)

Overrated nominee:  The Grand Budapest Hotel

Underrated nominees:  Selma and Gone Girl