Thursday, December 31, 2015

By the time I click on "Publish", 2016 will have already arrived in some parts of the world. Without further ado, I bring you...
The Top 15 Things That Were Trending in 2015

15. Selfie sticks (note to seniors: they don't double as one of those grabber thingys)

14. "Back To The Future's" prediction about the Cubs winning the World Series not coming true this year (which explains that that curse is all about the "B's")

13. The feature film version of "Jem And The Holograms" (Man, that movie sucked. It just plain sucked. I've seen movies that suck before but that was the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked! Sorry; back to this damn wiener list)

12. The sharks during Katy Perry's Super Bowl halftime show (they were there so they wouldn't get fined)

11. Ariana Grande caught licking a donut (somebody should just lick her face!)

10. Me winning big money at the casinos in June (had to put it in there)

9 (making her 17th consecutive appearance!!!). Britney Spears (she extended her Vegas stint by two more years and has been working on a new album...oh, Britney keeps getting better year after year after year after year after year after year after year...I could go on for a few more times!)

8. Lebron James's and Lenny Kravitz's full-frontal wardrobe malfunctions (keep them away!!!)

7. Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" music video (proving she still has "The Right Stuff" (referring to the movie, not the New Kids On the Block song))

6. "Empire" (because we loved tuning in on Wednesdays to see how the Cookie crumbles)

5. Periscope (aka Big Brother on steroids)

4. "Jurassic World" and "Star Wars" (two of the year's most anticipated movies scoring record opening weekend grosses. I'd rather go with the dinosaurs)

3. Caitlyn Jenner (no explanation needed)

2. The royal baby who ran in the Kentucky Derby then hopping on a flight to fight Mayweather and Pacquiao on the same day (Ronda Rousey, you met your match)

And the #1 thing that was trending in 2015 which will continue in 2016:

1. The presidential election (I'll be casting my vote for Not Donald Trump!)

And that's the AllenBlog's 2015 Year In Review.

Also, this is my last full blog after ten years. Yes, blogs like this one was a big deal in the mid-2000's, but the explosion of social media (especially with Periscope) has made it moot.

As with my annual Sexiest Woman of the Year poll, which I already ended this year after 15 years, the AllenBlog also originated in Fairbanks, Alaska where there was very little material. But since relocating to Atlanta a couple years ago, I would have an unlimited number of resources for me to consume, and other things in my life have led me to cutting back on doing the blog.

But of course, I won't be going away anytime soon, so is this blog. I will still do those mini-blogs on occasion, which will be about a single topic instead of multiple ones (which took up a lot of time). So yes, there will be much more of me in the months, perhaps years, to come.

Until I have something else to long stay strong, God bless, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Part 2: Entertainment and Pop Culture

From "Star Wars" to "Jurassic World"; from "Empire"s and another royal baby being born to a former Olympic gold medalist telling the world, "Call me Caitlyn"; and from saying "Hello" again to Adele to bidding David Letterman adieu...2015 in the world of pop culture had us whipping and nae-naeing on Periscope!

It was a lackluster 87th Academy Awards to say the least; favorite "Boyhood" was expected to walk away with a few Oscars but won only one (Supporting Actress for Patricia Arquette). The two they were gunning for, Best Director and Picture, both went to "Birdman" instead, while Eddie Redmayne picked up Best Actor for "The Theory of Everything" and Julianne Moore finally collected her first Oscar in the form of Best Actress ("Still Alice"). Why lackluster, you ask? Host Neil Patrick Harris failed to capture the same kind of ratings magic Ellen DeGeneres left behind last year, though he would later redeem himself with NBC's "Best Time Ever".

While we're sticking with movies...this year we had two mega-hits, several regular hits, and many misses. "Jurassic World" literally owned the summer box office, as it grossed $208 million in its opening weekend. But that all-time record would be short-lived, as the wait for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" was really worth it, just earning $40 million more to eclipse the dinosaurs; as of publish time, it has quickly surpassed the $1 billion mark.

"Magic Mike XXL", "Straight Outta Compton", "The Hunger Games Mocking Jay: Part 2", "Minions", "The Martian", "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (opened on the same mega-weekend as the birth of the royal baby, Kentucky Derby, and Mayweather-Pacquiao), "Spectre", "Fifty Shades of Grey", and "Furious 7" were among the many regular hits that attracted casual moviegoers; while Helen Mirren in "Woman in Gold", Julianne Moore in "Freeheld", Eddie Redmayne in "The Danish Girl", and Jennifer Lawrence in "Joy" had some of them sending a clear message to the Oscar voters: "For your consideration."

And there were many moviegoers going, "What the (expletive) was that?!" in response to "Rock the Kashbah", "Our Brand is Crisis" (which may or may have not doomed Sandra Bullock's career fresh off of "Minions"), "Pan", "Fantastic Four", and what I think is perhaps the biggest steaming pile of turd since "Howard The Duck" almost 30 years ago: "Jem and the Holograms" (both films were by Universal)!

"Modern Family's" long streak was snapped at the 57th Primetime Emmys, as HBO's "Veep" walked away with Comedy Series with "Game of Thrones" claming Drama Series. Jon Hamm finally winning for AMC's "Mad Men" was the ultimate closer to the former Emmy darling, while "How To Get Away With Murder's" Viola Davis became the first African-American Outstanding Actress-Drama recipient. 

Other 2015 television highlights include David Letterman hanging it up after 35 years with Stephen Colbert inheriting the Ed Sullivan Theater, HBO (back to them again) to be the new home for "Sesame Street", Fox about to say goodbye to former ratings dynamo "American Idol" while saying hello to new powerhouse "Empire", Jon Stewart passing "The Daily Show" fake anchor desk to Trevor Noah, Brian Williams's pack of lies that cost him his "NBC Nightly News" job (Lester Holt would assume it while Williams would be demoted to MSNBC), Lady Gaga injecting new life to the ailing "American Horror Story", and Steve Harvey's Miss Universe flub as the franchise changed owners (Donald Trump to IMG). Among the new shows: "Supergirl", "Blindspot", "Agent X", "Life in Pieces", and "Quantico" (introducing Indian actress Priyanka Chopra to the western world) filled up our DVRs; the aforementioned "Best Time Ever" lasted a few episodes longer than "Knock Knock Live"; and "Wicked City" crashed and burned.

In music, all ears were on Adele in her first album since becoming a mom and that tickets to her upcoming tour next year were all but gone within seconds. In its first two weeks of release, "25" sold more than 1 million copies in the U.S., even though it came a little too late for Grammy consideration this year (oh, just wait till 2017). Taylor Swift's "1989 World Tour" packed venues with surprise special guests in every show, from the U.S. women's soccer team to Selena Gomez, one of the many co-stars in her "Bad Blood" video. In addition, there were new tunes by The Weeknd, One Direction (minus Zayn Malik, who suddenly quit the group this year to millions of girls bawling in their pillows and on social media), Carrie Underwood, and Selena Gomez among others. 

20 years after the death of Jerry Garcia, the remaining surviving members of the Grateful Dead played their last ever shows together in Chicago in July; three of them would still be touring as Dead and Co. with John Mayer as Garcia. The terror attacks in Paris catapulted the little-known Eagles of Death Metal into the spotlight; the following month, the band returned to Paris, this time joining U2 on stage. And at the MTV Video Music Awards, while verbal fisticuffs were flying between Nicki Minaj and a nearly naked Miley Cyrus, Kanye West announced his 2020 presidential run.

Apple may have been on a technological tear this year with the releases of the Apple Watch, iPhone 6s, iPad Pro, and new iPod Touch (the latter one came without any fanfare); but the hot app this year was Periscope. It was like watching a never-ending episode of "Big Brother"...except that we get to see countless glimpses of the outside world live as it's happening!

Relationships came and went this year; among those that went down the aisle: Sofia Vergara and Joe Manginello, Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, Amy Adams and Darren Le Gallo, Geri Halliwell and Christian Horner, Nikki Reed and Ian Somerhalder, David Arquette and Christina McLarty, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden, Stephen Fry and Elliott Spencer, Daisy Fuentes and Richard Marx, and Billy Joel and Alexis Roderick. 

Then there were those that had enough of each other: Kate Beckinsale and Len Wiseman, Olivia Culpo and Nick Jonas (and later Tim Tebow), Halle Berry and Olivier Martinez, Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green, Kaley Cuoco and Ryan Sweeting, Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn, Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, and the one that nobody saw it coming: Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy!

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West may have welcomed Saint West to the world, but that (and many others) paled in comparison to what was the year's biggest celebrity baby birth: Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, born on May 2 as a kickoff to what would be the biggest 24 hours in the world of sports and pop culture (see fourth paragraph)!

The new "Star Wars" film was without question the top entertainment news story of the year, but of course, there were tons more that shared the spotlight. One of them in particular, was Bruce Jenner now Caitlyn Jenner, as the transformation from a he to a she shone a gold medal for the transgender community. Josh Duggar's sex scandal and his use of the infidelity website Ashley Madison led to the cancelation of TLC's "19 Kids and Counting", while the allegations continue to mount against Bill Cosby as more women stepped forward claiming that he was "all over" them as well. Bobbi Kristina Brown, the only child of Bobby Brown and the late Whitney Houston, was clinging on to dear life after submerging in a bathtub at her Atlanta home; she would die in July after several months in a coma. Charlie Sheen announced he contracted HIV a few years ago, while Justin Bieber was captured frolicking naked in Bora Bora. Former NBA star Lamar Odom was too in a coma for three days after being found unconscious in a Nevada brothel where he partied and took way too much drugs'; concerned for his well-being, estranged wife Khloe Kardashian shredded the divorce papers. 

With eveything that has went on, my Entertainer of the Year for 2015? Amy Schumer, and here is why: Her "Trainwreck" wasn't anything but that, becoming a box office smash (partly thanks to LeBron James, Bill Hader, Daniel Radcliffe, and WWE wrestler John Cena among the few co-stars) and putting her on the map. Then there was her Comedy Central show "Inside Amy Schumer", which claimed the inaugural Variety Sketch Series Emmy (beating the venerable "Saturday Night Live", which she hosted to spectacular ratings); her HBO special taped at the Apollo Theater; and of course, a sold-out comedy tour. Oh, not to mention being BFFs with Jennifer Lawrence.

What's in the horizon for 2016? It could be deja vu at the Oscars as far as Eddie Redmayne and Julianne Moore are concerned, while "The Angry Birds Movie", "Independence Day" Resurgence", and the all-female "Ghostbusters" starring Kristen Wiig are expected to collect millions at the box office. Whatever else happens, we'll be keeping our eyes peeled.

Tomorrow...we conclude with the Top 15 Things That Were Trending in 2015, and you-know-who will be on there! Also, a personal note.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What pops into our minds when we look back at 2015? Was it the series of mass shootings and terrorist attacks that had the world on edge? The "anything goes" race for the White House starring a billionaire, a former First Lady, a doctor, and several politicians? The fact that gay marriages are now official in every state in the union? The possibilities were endless in those last 52 weeks.

We started it all with a series of massacres in Baga, Nigeria initiated by the jihadist group Boko Haram, killing over 2,000. But that was just the beginning, as they would be hooking up with the mega-group ISIS, which we'll get to later. 

With a record 114.8 million viewers tuning in, the Seattle Seahawks were about to put the New England Patriots to bed in Super Bowl XLIX (making them back-to-back champions), until an interception by Malcolm Butler, uh, "deflated" those chances 28-24. A month earlier, the Ohio State Buckeyes were crowned the first national champions in the newly-created college football playoffs. But perhaps the biggest sports story of the year was 37 years in the making as American Pharoah, ridden by Victor Espinoza, captured horse racing's Triple Crown and ending that long streak.

And we had other major sports happenings besides those three: the U.S. soccer team lifting their first FIFA Women's World Cup in 16 years, Juan Pablo Montoya's second Indianapolis 500 victory lap, Duke (men's) and Connecticut (women's) the masters of their college hoops domain, the Golden State Warriors's first NBA title since Gerald Ford was president (and Jay Hammond my home state's (Alaska) governor), Serena Williams almost "slam"-ming her way into the tennis history books, the Chicago Blackhawks taking another drink out of the Stanley Cup, Britain's Tyson Fury ending Wladimir Klitschiko's reign as boxing champion, the Kansas City Royals dethroning the New York Mets for their first World Series pennant in 30 years, Holly Holm putting Ronda Rousey's UFC dominance to an end, Boston dropping out of their 2024 Olympics bid and Los Angeles back in; and on the same day as the Kentucky Derby, NBA/NHL playoffs, final day of the NFL Draft, Yankees vs. Red Sox, a NASCAR race, and the birth of a second royal baby for William and Kate (which I'll save for Part 2)...Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao in the fight of fights that was or wasn't -- depending on who you were rooting for -- worth the $100.

The U.S. Supreme Court had a monumental year themselves, as they ruled Obamacare unconstitutional and made same-sex marriage legal all over the country in a span of 24 hours (Ireland would become the first for that latter). From late April to early May, Baltimore became the latest epicenter of racial turmoil over the arrest and death of Freddie Gray; riots broke out all over the city and even a Orioles-Red Sox game had to be played with nobody but the teams and TV cameras present (as of publish time, there was a mistrial in the Gray case). Two days of flash flooding in Texas and Oklahoma claimed 17 lives, Rachel Dolezal resigned as Spokane, Wash. NAACP president over allegations about her race, Alaska and Oregon made recreational use of marijuana official, and former President Jimmy Carter announced in August he was diagnosed with brain cancer, only for the cancer to be eradicated from his body in early December.

Over 9,000 were killed in a 7.8 earthquake in April that stretched from Nepal to Bangladesh; 218 more would follow in another quake over two weeks later. After 54 years of being dormant, the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba and the Cuban embassy in Washington were both reopened at the same time. The U.S. experienced its worst wildfire season on record with a $1.71 billion bill and over 9.8 million acres burned, especially in California and Alaska; other fires were ablaze in Australia and Indonesia. Subway pitchman Jared Fogle would plead guilty for possession of child pornography, and Virginia TV reporter Alison Parker and her photographer Adam Ward were shot and killed live on the air by a disgruntled former employee of their station, who would later commit suicide. Pope Francis made landfall in the United States for the first time in late September; a day after his visit to Washington, House Speaker John Boehner announced he would resign and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin would take the gavel. And in north Texas, 12 were killed in a series of severe storms around Christmas

In international politics, Britain took to the polls to keep David Cameron and his Conservative Party in power for at least another five years; while in Canada, the Liberal Party (led by Justin Trudeau) ended Stephen Harper's nine-year reign. 

There were temporary streaks ending as I mentioned, and then there were life streaks that also came to an end this year: Robert Loggia; Ed Sabol; Yvonne Craig; Dick Van Patten; professional wrestlers Nick Bockwinkel, Verne Gagne, Dusty Rhodes, and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper; game show host Jim Perry; Gary Owens; Leonard Nimoy; Lesley Gore; Dusty Rhodes; Los Angeles newscaster Stan Chambers; Marty Pasetta; Betsy Palmer; Scott Weiland; gospel singer Andrae Crouch; blues legend B.B. King; James Horner, Bess Myerson, Maureen O'Hara, Patrick Macnee, Allen Toussaint, Percy Sledge, Jayne Meadows, former New York governor Mario Cuomo, Ben E. King, Christopher Lee, Stuart Scott, Paul Prudhomme, Bobbi Kristina Brown, former Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon, and Frank Gifford.

The year's major story? Violence, especially a global wave of mass shootings and terrorist attacks, starting with the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris that left 12 dead inside the offices of the French satirical publication and "Je suis Charlie" ("I am Charlie") becoming a worldwide sign of solidarity. But the worst was far from over; in November, Islamic State militants wreaked terror all over Paris, killing 130 people in restaurants, bars, and an indoor rock concert.

Domestically, mass shootings from coast to coast dominated the news. One in particular was in Charleston, South Carolina, as a white gunman opened fire during bible study at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, killing nine blacks including the pastor. The killer's fascination with the Confederate flag sparked debate about present-day Civil War symbols; the following month, the flag would permanently be removed from the South Carolina State House grounds. And there were others: 14 dead at a community center in San Bernadino, four Marines and a sailor in Chattanooga, a professor and eight students at an Oregon community college; and three, including an police officer, at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.

The other biggie? The ever changing 2016 presidential race, headlined by former First Lady/New York Senator/former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Dr. Ben Carson, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Lawrence Lessig, and several Senators (Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham) and governors (Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, Chris Christie, Lincoln Chafee, Martin O'Malley, Bobby Jindal). Everything seemed to be going well as planned...that is, until uber-billionaire Donald Trump decided to put his name into the hat, and things were about to get wild. His participation in the televised Republican debates drew record ratings for the cable news channels, while some of the names I mentioned couldn't stand the heat and let themselves out.

No doubt, the headliner maker of 2016 is guaranteed to be the presidential election itself, as Hillary Clinton wants to make all those dreams about a woman occupying the Oval Office finally become a reality...that is, if she can get past Bernie Sanders. Donald Trump may still lead the polls on the Republican side, but something tells us that we will have had enough, and that Ted Cruz will pull as many strings as possible to be that party's nominee with Trump pulling a Ross Perot and running as a third party candidate. Based on what we've seen, especially in Paris, the war against ISIS is expected to escalate even further. And yes, you have the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, as Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt could be going out in style and new legends will be born.

There's no telling what else will happen in the next 366 days; all we have to do is to count down the final seconds of the previous 365 to find out.

Next time in Part 2: A look back at the year's biggest entertainment highlights.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hello, everybody! Yes, it's been months since saying those words, and why? I've been mega-busy with tons of things (work), including ending my annual Sexiest Woman of the Year poll after 15 years. 

But enough babbling; we begin first up with the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, in which streaks ended and history was made. HBO's "Game of Thrones" got its first Outstanding Drama, beating out AMC's "Mad Men", which went out on such a high note as Jon Hamm finally copped Lead Actor-Drama. And "How To Get Away With Murder's" Viola Davis became the first-ever African-American Lead Actress-Drama winner, and this passage from her speech summed it up very well: "'In my mind I see a line, and over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line, but I can't seem to get there no how. I can't seem to get over that line.' That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s."

"Modern Family's" five-year Emmy reign came to an end as "Veep" dethroned them for Comedy Series; star Julia Louis-Dreyfus picked up her fourth straight Lead Actress (seventh overall) while Jeffrey Tambor got Lead Actor for Amazon Prime's "Transparent." Other winners include: "The Voice" (Reality-Competition Program), "Inside Amy Schumer" (Variety Sketch Series; Schumer herself will be part of the Oddball Comedy Festival here in Atlanta on October 4), Uzo Aduba ("Orange Is The New Black"; she is the second person after Ed Asner to win for playing the same character in a comedy and drama series), "Olive Kitteridge" (Miniseries-Movie, plus acting honors for Frances McDormand and Bill Murray), and, for the final time, "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" (Variety Talk Series).

Host Andy Samberg was "smooth, saucy, purposely goofy and self-assured", raves the Associated Press, especially when he gave out a functioning login/password to the HBO Now streaming service to 11.9 million viewers (making it the least-watched Emmycast ever). But I thought the highlight of the night belonged to Tracy Morgan, making his first public appearance on the Emmy stage to a rousing ovation since last year's near-fatal car crash.

The other highlight was the red carpet, and man, was it sizzling! No, not the fashions, but the weather, as temperatures soared up to 100 degrees! Even though she graciously lost to Viola Davis, "Empire's" Taraji P. Henson was very scorching in her Alexander Wang, making her my best dressed followed by Kerry Washington (Marc Jacobs). As for Heidi Klum? Sure, she may still be a 10, but her Alterier Versace reeked Big Bird and my score: 0! That same score should also be given to the reigning -- and our last -- Sexiest Woman winner Julianne Hough (Marchesa); no offense to her male fans, but her butt is flat as a pancake.

From television's biggest night comes this news just in as far as the presidential race is concerned: Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is the second Republican candidate after Rick Perry to throw in the towel.

Now this comes almost a week after Walker and others including, of course, Donald Trump, clashed in the second debate which garnered a record 23 million viewers for CNN. But Walker got only less than half a percentage point among Republican voters, while numbers for Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina have been increasing over the last couple of weeks.

On the Democratic front, Hillary Clinton has been losing some steam to Bernie Sanders, but the big question is: Will Vice President Joe Biden crash the party? Rumors have been swirling about him making a play to get promoted, but as of right now, Biden is still pondering.

Last month, we got quite a jolt as there was a surprise contender from out of nowhere: Deez Nuts! It turns out that that was the work of 15-year-old Brady Olson of Iowa, who decided to drop out when he realized one thing he learned in history class: To run for President, you must be at least 35 years or older!!! No is, ands, or buts; the constitution put it in writing over 225 years ago. Oh well, at least Deez Nuts would've been the worst president since...I would say Jimmy Carter.

But in the end, I think the battle for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will be Clinton-Bush II. Trump may be taking his race very seriously for now, but...when was the last time we had an entrepreneur as president? Probably never, but hey, we once elected lawyers, a World War II general, even a Hollywood actor. Make no mistake: when things get down to the nitty gritty, Trump will have had enough, and it'll be the public saying to him, "You're fired." So long, stay strong, and God bless.

Monday, February 23, 2015

"Birdman" flies away with Oscar Gold!

Hello, everybody. "Boyhood" was coming into the 87th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday as the odds-on favorite; but in the end, Best Picture of 2014 belonged to "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" which, along with "The Grand Budapest Hotel", walked out of the Dolby Theatre with four Oscars apiece. "Birdman's" other wins were for Cinematography, Original Screenplay, and Director (Alejandro G. Innaritu); while "Budapest Hotel" collected Original Score, Production Design, Makeup, and Costume Design.

"Boyhood" did get a rightfully deserved Supporting Actress win in Patricia Arquette (its only award of the night), while J.K. Simmons easily earned Supporting Actor for "Whiplash". Best Actor was awarded to Eddie Redmayne, and after four previous tries...Julianne Moore finally claims her first Oscar: Best Actress for "Still Alice." Other winners include: "Big Hero 6" (Animated Feature), "Ida" (Foreign Language Film), and "Selma" (Original Song, and how about the performance that left everybody in tears?)

Neil Patrick Harris left us entertained all throughout in his first stint as host, shedding light to the lack of diversity as far as the acting nominees were concerned calling the Oscars "Hollywood's brightest and whitest night." There were a lot of standout moments during the show such as Lady Gaga paying tribute to "The Sound of Music", Arquette standing up for women's equality, Graham Moore's "Stay weird, stay different" speech, Joan Rivers omitted from the In Memoriam montage, and Oprah Winfrey being given a Lego Oscar during the "Everything Is Awesome" performance. Oh yeah, and Harris in his tighty whities.

Not even a downpour prevented the stars from displaying their ultimate Sunday best on the red carpet. Dakota Johnson, still riding high from the success of the uber-steamy "Fifty Shades of Grey", was in a shade of Yves Saint Laurent red; we also had Scarlett Johansson in Versace; last year's Supporting Actress Lupita Nyong'o in Calvin Klein; Lady Gaga (designer unknown); and Margot Robbie in Van Cleef & Arpels.

Overall, I thought Julianne Moore outshone them all in Chanel couture; as for Reese Witherspoon? One of the sexiest Oscar winners ever was unsexy in her Tom Ford.

Now the ubiquitous suck-up: Once upon a time, we started seeing her not once, but twice as Frannie and Sabrina Hughes on "As The World Turns", earning her an Emmy. The late Robert Altman's "Short Cuts" would put her on the map, followed by "Nine Months", "The Lost World: Jurassic Park", "Boogie Nights", "The Big Lebowski", and channeling Jodie Foster's Clarice Starling in "Hannibal." 

She really made a name for herself with "The Forgotten" followed by her turn as Sarah Palin in "Game Change" and recently, alongside Jennifer Lawrence in "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay". But in the end, it was her performance as a college professor stricken with early Alzheimer's Disease that would earn her the praise she's been waiting for. At long last, after 30 years with four previous attempts along the way, Julianne Moore finally got the ultimate reward: Oscar gold!

Everything was truly awesome at the 87th Academy Awards...except that we never got to Best Original Sauce. But whatever; it was legen -- wait for it -- dary. So long, stay strong, and God bless.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Hello, everybody. Well...Punxsutawney Phil is right again: Winter is halfway over, and there's still proof in many parts of the country, especially here in the South.

For the last few weeks in a row, we've been pelted with a deep freeze that made us wish we were in Hawaii by now; wind chills even went to as low as -20 in the Midwest areas. One Minnesota town even hit a temperature that I was always accustomed to in Alaska: -41F!!! The Siberian Express, which is responsible for all those record-breakers, have claimed 15 lives so far; and we're not done as heavy snow is expected in the Great Lakes and Northeast and yet another snowstorm about to hammer Boston sometime next week.

Of course, we all need a break from that, and that will be on Sunday with one of the biggest events in auto racing: the Daytona 500. But as soon as the checkered flag is raised and the winner makes his (or her, if you're Danica Patrick) way to the winners' circle, it's over to Hollywood for the biggest event in entertainment: the 87th Academy Awards!

Last year's show with host Ellen DeGeneres and the selfie that originally broke the Internet drew the highest ratings in four years. That was when Neil Patrick Harris opened the show with a rousing musical number before handing things over to Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin; this time, he's handling the festivities. 

In addition to producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, director Hamish Hamilton is back for his third show; in the last few years, veteran TV directors like Louis J. Horvitz (who himself did the Oscars for a dozen of years) and Glenn Weiss have been learning from him, especially Weiss. The video of him working the 2013 Tony Awards like a boss is probably why he beat Hamilton for the Emmy last year, while Horvitz for the Golden Globes got the close-ups of the winners during their speeches -- another Hamilton technique -- down pat.

Okay, enough with the technical stuff and on to what the Oscars are really all about: the films and nominees. Of the eight up for Best Picture, "Boyhood" stands a chance at being the favorite followed by "Birdman"; "American Sniper" (despite its box office success and an ongoing trial), "The Grand Budapest Hotel", "The Imitation Game", "Selma", "The Theory of Everything", and "Whiplash" all at least got a nomination certificate. For the first time ever this year, all of the categories were announced with J.J. Abrams and last year's Director Alfonso Cuaron reading the first half and Academy president Cheryl Davis and Chris Pine handling the second and most important half.

At first, Michael Keaton with his Golden Globe and Critics' Choice wins for Best Actor seemed to be the front-runner, but the momentum would immediately tip in Eddie Redmayne's favor. If I were Steve Carell, Bradley Cooper, or Benedict Cumberbatch (who got married just recently), I would just stay home. The same should go for 2007 winner Marion Cotillard, newcomers Felicity Jones and Rosamund Pike, and 2005 winner Reese Witherspoon, as Best Actress is all about Julianne Moore.

I'm leaving Supporting Actor/Actress alone since they will ultimately go to J.K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette respectively (despite the presences of returnees Edward Norton, Keira Knightley and Ethan Hawke, newcomer Emma Stone, and past winners Robert Duvall and three-timer Meryl Streep), so here's who else I think will be the happiest people on Earth the moment the words "And the Oscar goes to..." are read and the envelopes opened on Sunday:

Best Actor: Like I said, it's been the tightest race between Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne, but remember: Keaton was Batman and one of his successors, George Clooney, already owns two Oscars. Michael has two, Eddie has two himself (Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA); since the latter two really count, I'll have to go with Eddie Redmayne.
Best Actress: She has literally swept the board all during awards season with her performance as a college educator suffering with Alzheimer's, and...nah, who am I kidding; it's Julianne Moore all the way!
Director: Richard Linklater ("Boyhood")
Best Picture: "Boyhood"

We'll see how I fare with the rest of the world when the 87th Annual Academy Awards will be handed out this Sunday on ABC. So long, stay strong, and God bless.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Patriots deflate the Seahawks!

Hello, everybody. Not even the fallout of "Deflategate" couldn't stop the New England Patriots, as they put that controversy to bed as only they could: by doing their job and dethrone defending champions the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 in Super Bowl XLIX Sunday. Seattle was on the verge of hoisting their second straight Vince Lombardi Trophy with a last-minute touchdown and 20 seconds left in the game, but an interception by New England's Malcolm Butler in the end zone sealed the deal for them, giving head coach Pete Carroll a shellacking. That dramatic ending -- and everything else -- was viewed by a record 114.4 million viewers, as for the sixth year in a row now, the Super Bowl remains the most-watched television event ever!

Social media erupted over the call that cost the Seahawks the game; Dwight Clark (who made "The Catch" that sent his San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl XVI) said it was "The dumbest catch in the HISTORY of NFL football", while Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith called it the "Worst call I've ever seen in the history of football."

The festivities kicked off with John Legend performing "America the Beautiful" followed by Idina Menzel with the national anthem. But those two were only a warmup to the real non-game highlight: Katy Perry setting off fireworks at halftime! Accompanied by Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott (whom we've not seen in about 15 years), it had all the makings of a halftime extravaganza for ages, from Katy on top of a lion to her on a shooting star that screams out, "The More You Know."

As for the commercials? They had a touchy-feely vibe this time around, and here were my top five favorites:

5. Snickers' "The Brady Bunch" (Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! This ain't "Sons of Anarchy"!)

4. Nationwide's "Invisible Mindy" (if Mindy Kaling really wanted to be invisible, she should've contacted Harry Potter)

3. Mercedes-Benz's "Fable" (Slow, steady, and yes, a new set of wheel does win you the race alright!)

2. Bud Light's "Real Life Pac-Man" (next up, "Real Life Donkey Kong", "Real Life Q*Bert", etc.)

And I already have my #1 favorite ad already locked in already in days before the game, which was also tops in "USA Today's" Ad Meter:

1. Budweiser's "Lost Dog"
(nothing to say about it; just let this ad speak for itself)

Most of us were rooting for Seattle to claim back-to-back Super Bowls, but let's face it: the last two times New England were in, they fell victim to the New York Giants--twice (especially in that quest for perfection). But sports in Boston is picking up the pace again after that Boston Marathon terrorist attack and the Red Sox's 2013 World Series win, and the Patriots' fourth championship should help the city in their ultimate quest: the 2024 Olympics, as they're now in contention to bring those games back to America. So long, stay strong, and God bless.