Wednesday, December 31, 2014

As I'm doing this, 2015 has already arrived in Australia and Japan, so let's get to this before it heads our way. It's...
The Top 15 Things That Were Trending in 2014

15. Abigail Breslin attempting to sing (Hey, Rebecca Black called. She wants her gimmick back.)
14. "Utopia" (Hey, "Big Brother" called. They want their gimmick back.)
13. Brock Lesnar ending The Undertaker's winning streak at Wrestlemania XXX (and who says wrestling isn't fake...oh, wait, it is?)
12. Joe Namath's fur coat at Super Bowl XLVIII (apparently, he didn't get the memo that it was unseasonably warm!)
11. Maitland Ward (for the love of God, please stop teasing us and get naked already!)
10 (and making her 16th consecutive appearance!). Britney Spears (still with her Las Vegas show and now a lingerie line to boot...you really think I was going to exclude her?)
9. Idina Menzel (yep, Adele Dazeem had a pretty good year herself)
8. Ben Affleck's penis in "Gone Girl" (paging Seth MacFarlane!)
7. Apple CEO Tim Cook coming out of the closet (followed by reverting to the old Apple logo)
6. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (the whole world took part...why wasn't I called out?!)
5. Sony Pictures hacking scandal (the North Koreans demand deleted nude scenes to be released)
4. Weddings of George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and Kim Kardashian and Kanye West (and I didn't receive invitations for any of them!)
3. TIE: Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande (the two unstoppable forces in music)/Arthur Chu and Julia Collins (two of "Jeopardy's" unstoppable contestants)
2. The Fappening (which saw sales of Kleenex and lubricant rise by 629%)

And the #1 thing that was trending all throughout 2014, which there was lots of visual proof...

1. The butt (we saw Nicki Minaj's and Jennifer Lopez's, but if I see Kim Kardashian's one more time...)

And that's the AllenBlog's 2014 Year in Review. So long, stay strong, God bless, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Year in Pop Culture

A major movie studio's hacked e-mails forcing a controversial film about killing the North Korean dictator being temporarily pulled...George Clooney officially off the market while Brangelina finally marries...the late night landscape continuing to shift on both coasts...Jennifer Lopez and Nicki Minaj paying ode to the backside while Kim Kardashian bared hers...one of America's most beloved comedians the epicenter of a sex scandal...megabytes of hacked celebrity photos causing an explosion of Kleenex and hand lotion sales...we shook it all off and let ourselves go all during the course of 2014.

The 86th Academy Awards may have been headlined by "Gravity" taking seven Oscars including Best Director for Alfonso Curano, but the main honors were saved for "12 Years A Slave" as it nabbed Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong'o), Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture. Matthew McConaughey and Cate Blanchett were easily honored Best Actor/Actress, while host Ellen DeGeneres bunched up as many stars as she could for the selife of all selfies. Now that was very SFW, as opposed to the dozens of NSFW selfies that were leaked to the whole world, which I'll get to later.

"Breaking Bad" wrapped up their run with their second Outstanding Drama Series at the 66th Primetime Emmys, followed by "Modern Family" continuing their Outstanding Comedy Series streak (tying with "Frasier" with five apiece). But despite the ever growing onslaught of Netflix and other streaming services, there were a lot of outstanding DVR-worthy moments all throughout television this year, brought to us by "True Detective" (and Alexandra Daddario's boobs), Shonda Rhimes's Thursday night trilogy (completed with "How To Get Away With Murder"), "Gotham", "NCIS: New Orleans", "Masters of Sex", and "Game of Thrones." Then there were those that were not DVR-worthy: "Gracepoint", "Utopia", "Manhattan Love Story", "The McCarthy's", "Red Band Society" (despite all the critical buzz), and "Bad Judge."

The biggest TV highlight was the ever changing late night landscape. It started with Jay Leno bowing out of "The Tonight Show" after 22 years with Jimmy Fallon taking the reins and the show back home to New York, leaving Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O'Brien high and dry in Los Angeles. Then David Letterman announced he's hanging it up next year, passing the torch to Stephen Colbert (who just wrapped up his "Colbert Report"). Craig Ferguson already finished his last "Late Late Show" before turning everything over to James Corden, but there was already one casualty: Arsenio Hall, whose revival failed after only one season. And on the cable side, Chelsea Handler said goodbye to E! and hello to Netflix.

"Interstellar" was, well...interstellar as far as movies were concerned, as were "Guardians of the Galaxy", "Lucy", "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies", and "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 1)." Shailene Woodley had a breakout year with "Divergent" and "The Fault in our Stars"; "Boyhood's" acclaim has won the hearts of critics (and maybe Oscar voters); and "Let's Be Cops", "Robocop", and "Dumb and Dumber To?" It too won the hearts...of pissed-off moviegoers.

Who rocked it this year? Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" became our summer anthem; pint-sized Ariana Grande became a huge powerhouse; Pharrell Williams made us "Happy", Taylor Swift took us back to "1989"; Weird Al was...well, still Weird Al; Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga made the unlikeliest duet ever; former Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande left everything behind to "Break Free"; and it was all about the rear end thanks to Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, and Iggy Azalea. And my advice to Abigail Breslin: Please stick to acting; don't be another Rebecca Black or Don Johnson (yes, I'm old enough to remember "Heartbeat")!

Speaking of rear end...the most famous one of all, Kim Kardashian, bared hers in "Paper" magazine in an attempt to #breaktheinternet. Apple, on the other hand, broke record sales with their new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus; and when temperatures soared this summer, there was one charitable way to cool off: the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Scandals? Yeah, there were many! Justin Bieber provided the bulk of them includng his smiling mugshot in Miami, but that was nothing compared to Orlando Bloom giving Biebs a taste of his own medicine in Spain. One other elevator video besides Ray Rice that made headlines featured Solange Knowles attacking Jay-Z outside the Met Ball gala, though cooler heads really prevailed in the end. "Modern Family's" Sarah Hyland put out a restraining order against ex-boyfriend Matt Prokop because of his abusive ways against her, "7th Heaven" star Stephen Collins's admission to molesting teenage girls while he was younger, and the continuation of Miley Cyrus's wild adventures ranging from her "Bangerz" tour to going nearly topless at public parties...while new boyfriend Patrick Schwarzenegger's enjoying all this!

It was also a year of A-list celebrity weddings worldwide. The biggie, of course, was George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin, who tied the knot in Venice, Italy; that would be followed by the other no one saw coming: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at a private ceremony in France. Other "I Do's" include: Jenny McCarthy and Donnie Wahlberg, Stacy Keibler and Jared Pobre (baby daughter Ava Grace would follow months later), Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade, Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo, Katie Couric and John Molner, Jodie Foster and Alexandra Hedison, Kaley Cuoco and Ryan Sweeting, Adam Brody and Leighton Meester, Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, Elton John and David Furnish, and Scarlett Johansson and Romain Dauriac. Oh yeah, and Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.

As for the "I Don't's": Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin (who would later date and call it quits with Jennifer Lawrence), Kris and Bruce Jenner, Angie Harmon and Jason Sehorn, Ricki Lake and Christian Evans, Heidi Klum and Seal (divorce finally finalized in October), Jason Deluro and Jordin Sparks, and Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon. Meanwhile

There were three major entertainment stories this year: First of course, were the hundreds of leaked nude photos featuring Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Rihanna, and a dozen other celebrities that exploded onto the Internet in what was called "The Fappening." While the makers of Kleenex and KY Jelly were high-fiving themselves over all this, the FBI however, wasn't celebrating and they're trying to pinpoint the mastermind behind, in Lawrence's words, a "sex crime".

That would be later followed by the sex scandal targeting Bill Cosby, as dozens of ladies including models Janice Dickinson and Beverly Johnson stepped forward claiming the comic legend sexually assaulted them decades ago. Cosby has vehemently denied those allegations with wife Camille standing by him every step of the way, while TV Land, Netflix, and NBC pulled the plugs on upcoming projects involving him.

Another that was still developing at publish time: Leaked emails by Sony Pictures targeting Angelina Jolie, Aaron Sorkin, and even President Obama which led to the pulling of their upcoming movie "The Interview" a week before its Christmas Day release. The film, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, was a satire about North Korean president Kim Jong Un; the FBI has confirmed that North Korea was behind all this and Obama said the studio made a big mistake in 86'ing the movie. Now, Sony has rectified that decision and the film was out on Christmas after all in only a handful of theaters as well as online.

There's only one more bit of business left to do, and that is to name my Entertainer of the Year: Disney's "Frozen." Now I originally announced on Twitter that it was going to be Taylor Swift, but even though her "1989" album sold like hotcakes and that tickets to her upcoming world tour next year were the ultimate stocking stuffer this Christmas, her alone was no match to the power of the most successful animated movie of all time. It may have came out in late 2013, but "Frozen's" popularity was carried over into 2014, with Oscar wins for Animated Feature and Song ("Let It Go") and of course, John Travolta bumbling Idina Menzel's name as "Adele Dazeem".

But that's only a movie, so my second Entertainer of the Year is a human: Steve Harvey! From his radio show in the morning, to his talk show in the afternoon, to "Family Feud" at night he has been deactivating mute buttons on remotes everywhere because just like Oprah Winfrey, Steve was a one-man dynamo all throughout 2014. His Emmy wins this year (especially for "Feud", which is continuing to run circles around "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" in the ratings) cemented his stature.


What's in the cards for 2015? We could be expecting quite an Oscar showdown between Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon thanks to their respective stellar performances in "Cake" and "Wild." The theatrical version of "Fifty Shades of Grey" is expected to steam up screens everywhere; Hilary Duff is returning to TV with "Younger", which has gotten immense buzz on social media; Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge will be welcoming another baby at the royal nursery; and who knows what Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus have up their sleeves this year? What we do know is starting January 1, we'll all find out together.

Next time: We conclude our Year in Review with the Top 20 Trends of 2014; where will Britney Spears rank this time?

Saturday, December 27, 2014


It was the year when the whole world faced fears of a virus you couldn't get from a computer.

The year when terrorism got a whole new crISIS of its own.

The year when police unrests in the East and West had Rodney King turning in his grave.

The year when the public voted the Republicans back in the Senate and Honey Boo Boo out of our lives.

The year when "Guardians of the Galaxy" and the "Captain America" sequel were #fawesome, while "Hercules", "Sex Tape", and "Winter's Tale" were #fails.

The year when one singer "shook off" her country roots, while booties were shaking everywhere from J.Lo to Nicki.

The year when a pint-sized powerhouse "broke free", while someone else broke the Internet.

The year when fighting a battle against a hot disease required a nice, cold dousing.

And yes...it was the year that we did get to see Jennifer Lawrence's boobs...and everybody else's.

That year was 2014.
Join the AllenBlog for a look back at another 52 weeks that changed the world.

Every day, every week throughout 2014, there has always been drama: The drama of the Ebola virus hitting America, the drama of a missing downed plane with everyone on board, the drama of a discontented president and a do-nothing government not getting the job done, the drama of waves of terrorism in outlying areas hitting our way, and the drama of corrupt police forces killing innocent, unarmed victims when they should be left alone.

Our first big drama this year was the Polar Vortex, which resulted in bone-chilling temperatures all throughout the country including Hawaii. But that pales in comparison to Winter Storms Leon and Pax that numbed the South, including here in Atlanta. For two periods in late January and mid-February, we've seen our freeways jammed as far as the eye can see, as motorists spent up to a whole day trying to get home.

Super Bowl XLVIII should've been called Super Blowout I, as a record 111.5 million viewers saw the Seattle Seahawks totally humiliate Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos 43-8. The attention of the sports world would later shift from New York/New Jersey to Sochi, Russia, and the XXII Olympic Winter Games, where Meryl Davis and Charlie White claimed the inaugural ice dancing gold, Canada still ruled the hockey universe, Adelina Sotnikova made her home country proud in figure skating, and Shaun White's dynasty came to end as Switzerland's Iouri Podladtchikov became the new halfpipe king. In the end, Russia owned the medals podium with 33 (13 of them gold); United States, 9 golds and 28 overall.

Then there was the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, which saw the United States barely advancing to the next round, only to fall to Belgium. But after everything was said and done, it was Germany as the only one left standing.

The NFL had all kinds of drama off the field, starting with the video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice attacking his wife in an elevator in Atlantic and dragging her unconscious; Rice would be suspended indefinitely by the team but won his appeal of the decision, saying that the league was asleep at the wheel when it came to obtaining the footage. He's now waiting for any team to sign him as soon as possible.

Another involved Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, who abused his young son in September but would remain suspended without pay until next April. However, the NFL Players Association filed an a lawsuit against the league after an arbitrator decided not to grant Peterson an appeal.

And there were countless non-Olympics/World Cup sports highlights: The San Antonio Spurs' sweet redemption by claiming the NBA championship they almost got last year (which resulted in LeBron James taking his talents back home to Cleveland), Bubba Watson's second Masters Green Jacket, Connecticut once again the mecca of college basketball, the Los Angeles Kings on top of the Stanley Cup throne once again, Florida State outranking Auburn in the last BCS National Championship game before the newly created College Football Playoffs, L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling's racist remarks leading to a lifetime ban from the NBA and his team put up for sale, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Hunter-Reay dominant in Daytona and Indianapolis respectively, the San Francisco Giants denying Kansas City's first World Series title in 29 years, a record-breaking Iditarod  -- and his second -- for Dallas Seavey; and Tonalist's Belmont Stakes upset costing California Chrome the Triple Crown, extending that winless streak to 36 years.

Malaysia Airlines had a tumultous year, all stemming from the disappearance of Flight 370 off the Gulf of Thailand with all 239 people on board before crashing into the Indian Ocean. That would be followed in July by Flight 17, shot down by a missile in Ukraine killing 298 people. In an historic first, Popes John Paul II and John XXIII were canonized in the Vatican; there was turmoil in Ukraine as President Viktor Yanukovych was out and Oleksandr Turchynov was in and pro-Russian unrest that culminated in the annexation of Crimea; and 276 females were held hostage in a Nigerian school, raising global awareness with the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag on Twitter. But in light of all that, 17-year-old Malala Yousafzi became the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

Meanwhile, same-sex marriages continue to take shape from coast to coast with the exception of Tennessee. From July to August, the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers and a Palestinan in the wake of growing tensions between Israel and Hamas led to Operation Protective Edge; 2,100 Palestinians and 71 Israelis were killed during those seven weeks. In April, the Korean ferry MV Sewol sunk with more that 290 on board; 35 tornadoes claimed 35 lives across the Midwest and Southern U.S.; a 6.0 earthquake struck Napa Valley, California in August; and President Barack Obama launched a coalition against the Islamic terrorist group ISIS, responsible for the beheadings and executions of three humanitarian workers.

But as in every year, we have experienced a lot of significant losses, including: Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Mickey Rooney, Harold Ramis, Shirley Temple, Maya Angelou, game show hosts Jim Lange and Geoff Edwards, Richard Kiel, director/playwright Mike Nichols, professional wrestlers Mae Young and The Ultimate Warrior, fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, Jan Hooks, Ruby Dee, Sid Caesar, Don Pardo, Mary Ann Mobley, Maxmillian Schell, Pete Seeger, Bob Hoskins, Casey Kasem, Bobby Womack, Richard Attenborough, Lauren Bacall, James Garner, Elizabeth Pena, Ben Bradlee, Eli Wallach, Joe Cocker, television producer Glen Larson, and author P.D. James. 

What were the three biggest stories of 2014 that had everybody on edge? The first was nationwide police unrest, starting with the shooting of Michael Brown that sparked unrests in Ferguson, Missouri and resumed in riots after a grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson with protests spread across the country. It would be deja vu for the latter as far as Eric Garner was concerned, as a Staten Island grand jury refused to indict Daniel Pantaleo over the chokehold that killed him. Even LeBron James and Reggie Bush among sports stars had T-shirts which read "I can't breathe" (Garner's last words) during pregame warmups. And on the last weekend before Christmas in Brooklyn, police officers Rafael Ramos and Wen Jian Liu were shot to death in their patrol car before the gunman pulled the trigger on himself, igniting a new wave of protests throughout the Big Apple. 

Second was the Ebola epidemic spinning out of control, even making its way to the United States. Those stricken with the virus such as Dr. Keith Brantly, Thomas Eric Duncan, Nona Pham, Amber Vinson, and Craig Spencer were fighting for their lives in hospitals in Omaha, Dallas, and Atlanta; all but Duncan got clean bills of health and were named "Time" magazine's Person of the Year.

And finally...with President Obama's approval ratings still in a freefall, voters took to the polls in November to stage a political intervention. The result: Republicans retaining control of the House but claiming the Senate. Meanwhile, those in Oregon, the District of Columbia, and my home state of Alaska said "yes" to legalizing marijuana; Alaska and three other states also voted to raise the minimum wage, which became an issue as China once again surpassed the U.S. as the world's largest economy.

Now we look forward to what kind of new real-life dramas 2015 will bring us. One thing that's already slated is the general election in Britain, whose outcome could offer us a sneak preview of 2016. As of publish time, President Obama recently announced that the United States and Cuba should kiss and make up after 55 years, meaning those Eisenhower-era cars that have been on the streets of Havana all this time may be headed for the auto museums here. And there are countless others that will be developed in the blink of an eye; the first drama will start as soon as the ball drops.

Next time when the Year in Review continues: the biggest entertainment stories, trends, and everything else.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hello, everybody. As we're doing this, a newsflash: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were finally wed in a private ceremony last Saturday in France. This was Pitt's second marriage (Jennifer Aniston, anyone?) and Jolie's third (Jonny Lee Miller and Billy Bob Thornton), and one that we weren't expecting after seven years together.

Now...it was a good night for "Breaking Bad" as the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards Monday night as the already ended AMC series went out on a high note with Drama Series and acting honors for Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, and Anna Gunn. "Modern Family", despite the threat of Netflix's "Orange Is the New Black", remained unstoppable with their fifth Comedy Series prize (tying with "Frasier") and Ty Burrell's second Supporting Actor. 

But the major winners were all reruns anyway: Jim Parsons, Julia Louis-Dreyfus (still Best Actor/Actress-Comedy), Julianna Margulies (Best Actress-Drama), "The Colbert Report" (still Variety Series despite Gwen Stefani's flub; also won for Writing as the Creative Arts awards), and "The Amazing Race" (once again Reality-Competition program after losing to "The Voice" last year). Other winners include "Fargo" (Miniseries) and "The Normal Heart" (Movie).

This was the first time since 1976 that the Emmys were held on a Monday, and for good reason: The Sunday was already booked for MTV's Video Music Awards across town at the Forum (which I won't get into) and that being on NBC this year, they were committed to "Sunday Night Football." Look at this year's Grammys; they had them in mid-January to avoid clashing with the Olympics, and the Oscars moving from late March to late February/early March in 2004 had the American Music Awards being held twice in 2003. Despite all that, the show pulled in a strong 15.6 million viewers, already making it the week's top program.

Other than host Seth Meyers moving things along (and ending the show a few minutes ahead of schedule) and Cranston and Louis-Dreyfus re-creating their "Seinfeld" scene, what moved us of course was Billy Crystal's tribute to Robin Williams that capped the In Memoriam segment that also included Mickey Rooney, Paul Walker, James Garner, Maya Angelou, and Don Pardo.

Once again, without running down the fashion roundup, my top five best-dressed were: A very glowing Hayden Panettiere (Lorena Sarbu), Amy Poehler (Theia), Sofia Vergara (Roberto Cavalli), Lucy Liu (Zac Posen), and Halle Berry (Elie Saab). The bottom two worst dressed besides Lena Dunham: Debra Messing (Angel Sanchez) and Katherine Heigl (John Haynes).

And last but not least...Labor Day weekend is two things: The unofficial end of summer, and of course, the Muscular Dystrophy Association's annual "Show of Strength" telethon Sunday on ABC. Among the many neuromuscular diseases they're trying to find a cure for is ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, in which awareness has been raised in such a big way.

For the last month now, almost the entire world has been taking part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge including numerous celebrities too many to name and even former President George W. Bush. The premise is this: Take a bucket or cooler full of ice, fill it with water, issue a challenge to who knows how many people (friends, family, co-workers, even the Pope), have yourself or somebody dump it on you, and make sure you get it on video. Oh yeah, and make a donation to the ALS Association, who thanks to all this has raised $94.3 million as of Wednesday.

But not everybody has been digging this summer craze. Pamela Anderson on her Facebook page has been slamming the ALS Association for animal testing saying, "Recent experiments funded by the ALS Association, mice had holes drilled into their skulls, were inflicted with crippling illnesses, and were forced to run on an inclined treadmill until they collapsed from exhaustion. Monkeys had chemicals injected into their brains and backs and were later killed and dissected."

The California Biomedical Research Association, however, tends to differ. According to them, animal research has always been used in medical breakthroughs over the decades. Remember when monkey kidney cells were the key to Dr. Jonas Salk's polio vaccine in the 1950's? That was the result of animal research.

Back to the ice bucket challenge: As someone who used to donate to MDA, nobody has called me out yet. But if they do, I'll be ready...to take a worthy plunge colder than Nestea! So long and stay strong.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Hello, everybody. Boy, it's been months, but what has been up in my life? A new job here in Atlanta, of course (and in the very high-end Buckhead district)! But other than that, scores of things going on, starting first up with -- you guessed it -- the World Cup.

Group play in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil has already ended and we're now into the next phase: Win or go home. And in the case of the United States, they ain't going home...at least not yet.

After beating Ghana in their first game, the attention turned to Portugal last Sunday, where a win against them means a berth in the next round. We were just a few heartbeats away from that, until Portugal, thanks in no small part to Cristiano Ronaldo, tied it up at 2-2 in the very end. Not since Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals (in which San Antonio almost won the title until Miami's Ray Allen's 3-pointer kept his team alive; the Spurs truly got their redemption this year) have we ever seen the whole country -- especially soccer fans watching the game at Atlanta's Soccerfest in Brookhaven Park -- suffer emotional strokes after that last-second goal.

So it's on to the next game against Germany, and despite our 1-0 loss...we barely made it to the Sweet 16! Germany may have won Group G (which has been dubbed the "Group of Death"), but it's Portugal and Ghana -- among several countries including England, Australia, and defending champions Spain -- that's gone home. We survived Ghana, Portugal, and Germany; can we do the same with Belgium? We'll find out on Tuesday.

Now the USA/Portugal match was on television, but right after that, most of us hit our computers, tablets, and/or smartphones for that other big event on Sunday: The 41st Daytime Emmy Awards. Now usually I've recapped the Primetime Emmys, but quite frankly, the daytime counterpart has never been the same since Susan Lucci finally won in 1999 after some 20-odd nominations. At one point it ended up on The CW and even HLN to the point that nobody even cared anymore.

So, what did they do this year? Put the show exclusively online and, just like PBS, commercial-free! It could've been also rated TV-MA because presenter Sharon Osbourne, knowing that the awards aren't televised anymore, dropped a few F-bombs before awarding Best Drama to "The Young and The Restless." The other big winner was the absent Steve Harvey, claiming both Game Show Host ("Family Feud") and Informative Talk Show.

And last but not least: I've said that most of Atlanta watched the USA/Portugal match at Soccerfest last Sunday, which is quite fitting as we have become a soccer-crazed city as of late.

It started last spring with the Mexico/Nigeria exhibition match, which filled the Georgia Dome to the brim. That success led to the announcement of a Major League Soccer franchise, helmed by Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank; they'll be playing in the new Falcons stadium under construction right now. And on the night before I started my new job last month, I went to a Braves game for the first time. Fairbanks may have a baseball team of their own with the Goldpanners, but let's face it: baseball season back in Alaska lasts about only 13 weeks while high school football runs from September till late November.

In about a few years when soccer comes our way (team name TBA), we're all going to be in our seats with our sweet tea shouting, "GOOOOOAAAAALLLLLLLL, ya'll!" So long and stay strong.


Monday, March 03, 2014

Hello, everybody. We'll get to the Oscars in a moment, but I should start with the serious news up front.

First up...the continuing conflict in Ukraine, as the United States and its allies are left with a decision to bolster their missile defense systems in Europe. Secretary of State John Kerry will be heading to Kiev on Tuesday to meet with the Ukrainian government while calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to pull his troops out of the Crimerian peninsula, which until 60 years ago was part of their country's territory. But according their Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Crimeria is still on Ukrainian soil despite the Russian presence.

Back here in the States, the week has already started with the never-ending winter with the latest (and hopefully last) blast pummeling the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, closing down schools and businesses yet again. Up to 10 inches of snow will have fallen in Washington and Baltimore with a foot of snow to come in New Jersey and parts of West Virginia, with governors of Tennessee and Virginia declaring a state of emergency.

Punxsutawney Phil was right about those six extra weeks of winter coming our way. Here, we have General Beau Lee, whose forecast called for an early spring in Atlanta. When it comes to weather in March, it's all about asking yourself one question: Who do you trust?

And now...

Slavery and "Gravity" triumph at the Oscars!

"Gravity" may have walked out of the 86th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday with the most overall haul (seven Oscars including Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron); but in the end, the more prestigious honors belonged to "12 Years A Slave" with Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong'o, and Best Picture of 2013. Those two films and "American Hustle" were in a cutthroat battle for the big prize, with "Slave" coming in with a huge advantage after racking up Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, and BAFTA wins ("Hustle" on the other hand, got nothing, as did "The Wolf of Wall Street").

As predicted, Matthew McConaughey was named Best Actor for "Dallas Buyers Club" with Jared Leto claiming Supporting Actor, while the heavily favored Cate Blanchett completed her winning streak with her second overall Oscar, this time Best Actress for "Blue Jasmine." 

Other big winners include: "Frozen" (Animated Feature and Original Song ("Let It Go")), "20 Feet From Stardom" (Documentary Feature, punctuated by Darlene Love ultimately singing her praises), Italy's "The Great Beauty" (Foreign Language Film), and "Her" (Original Screenplay in a surprise).

Ellen DeGeneres in her second go-around as host put a whole lot of fun into the 3 1/2-hour Oscarcast, as opposed to Seth McFarlane's fawning last year. In addition to serving pizza to the audience, she was also solely responsible for the selfie that crashed Twitter, amassing 2 million retweets and counting. But I thought the best highlight went to Bette Midler in her first visit to the Oscar stage with "Wind Beneath My Wings" closing out the In Memoriam segment (which was probably completed on the fly to include Harold Ramis, whom Bill Murray gave a shout-out to)

One major highlight prior to all that's going on was in the skies above Los Angeles, as torrential rains threatened to put a damper on the fashion action. But thankfully, the sun came out to play just in time, though Jennifer Lawrence still couldn't get the sting from last year out of her head as she tripped in her red Dior yet again...this time on the red carpet. Though they both graciously lost to Blanchett, Sandra Bullock and Amy Adams looked like Old Hollywood in Alexander McQueen and Gucci respectively, while among the men, Jared Leto looked like a true winner himself in his Yves Saint Laurent jacket and red bow tie.

I think the best honor goes to Lupita Nyong'o in her icy blue Prada, but (back to the guys) Pharrell Williams? This is the Oscars, not the Grammys; leave those shorts in the house!

Cate Blanchett has always been the odds-on favorite ever since "Blue Jasmine" was released last summer, and her Best Actress prize did the trick for her. As for Lupita Nyong'o? Like Jennifer Lawrence last year, this is definitely not the last we'll be seeing of her...well, unlike Mo'Nique when she won that very same award four years ago.

And then there was the Sexiest Man of 2005 winner whose Texas charm has drawn the females wild for years. Even though his big-screen persona has now been carried over to the small screen in HBO's "True Detective", there is no doubt that Matthew McConaughey's stature is well cemented now that he and his wife Camilla have welcomed the newest member of their family: an 8 1/2 bundle of joy named Oscar.

Heroes and Hollywood may have been the theme, but there was one other keyword all throughout the 86th Academy Awards that held true: Diversity, and we've seen it. Quite fittingly, the Oscars did soar to new heights in more ways than one. So long and stay strong.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Hello, everybody. I'll get to my Oscar preview in a bit, but first up, the latest on Young Hollywood's bad boy and a relocation:

Now other than Keshia Knight Pulliam, I can't think of any other major celebrities that call Atlanta home. But soon, you can add Justin Bieber to the list as he has reportedly purchased a home in the exclusive Buckhead area, which has been dubbed the Beverly Hills of the South.

Apparently, some people were so against their newest resident that they wanted Bieber out...or so we thought? A group that called themselves the "Buckhead Neighborhood Coalition" started up a Facebook page and on Monday morning, even went all out to hold a protest near Blackland Street, where the house is located. It garnered worldwide media attention, but in the end...it was all for show! Yes, this whole thing was brought to us by Rock 100.5 radio's The Regular Guys, the brains behind the phony group/fake protest, and we were all duped. Even though there were only five "protesters", two others were actually pro-Bieber. Sam Massell, the head of the real Buckhead Coalition, had nothing to do with the faux protest and is welcoming Bieber with open arms.

After that prank, I'm really all for Biebs shacking it up in Atlanta; but since it's that time of year once again, the Girl Scouts should be given fair warning.

And now...with the Winter Olympics in Sochi already over, we are immediately moving forward to two big events this weekend: the 42nd annual running of the Iditarod back in Alaska in which dog mushing's biggest names will be roughing it to see who'll be the first to Nome; and of course, the 86th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday. For the latter, crews have been working round the clock to prevent a soggy red carpet as those aforementioned rains are continuing to pound Los Angeles with a vengeance.

Meanwhile, host Ellen DeGeneres will be doing everything in her power to get the show back to becoming a major event again in the face of not just Richter scale ratings, but also AMC's "The Walking Dead" already ruling Sunday nights after taking a chunk of viewers away from the Olympics. A lot has changed since DeGeneres last hosted in 2006, but after last year's host Seth MacFarlane got some lambasting (thanks primarily to "We Saw Your Boobs") followed by Billy Crystal's rusty return and James Franco and Anne Hathaway bombing (though Hathaway got a lot of redemption also last year with her Supporting Actress win), the Academy felt that Ellen is the safe bet.

"American Hustle", "Gravity", and "12 Years A Slave" are locked in a three-way battle for Best Picture with "Slave" already the heavy favorite. As for "Captain Philips", "Dallas Buyers Club", "Her", "Nebraska", "Philomena", and "The Wolf of Wall Street"? They wished it was back to just five nominees.

Supporting Actor may be all about Jared Leto, but Barkhad Abdi, Bradley Cooper, Michael Fassbender, and Jonah Hill in the mix. The Supporting Actress showdown is between Lupita Nyong'o and Jennifer Lawrence, who wants to add that to go along with the Best Actress she collected last year (Sally Hawkins, 2000 Best Actress Julia Roberts, and June Squibb are also in there). 

Matthew McConaughey may have Best Actor in the bag, but he's not alone as Christian Bale, Bruce Dern, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Chiwetel Ejiofor could take that away from him. And Best Actress? If not Cate Blanchett, then Amy Adams', Sandra Bullock's (winner of that same category four years ago), Judi Dench's, or three-timer Meryl Streep's names could be on that envelope instead.

With all that said, here's whose names I think will be embedded on that ultimate piece of hardware after Sunday night:

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jared Leto
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Jennifer Lawrence had one hell of a 2013 with her memorable trip to the Oscar stage as the headliner, but she's been a workaholic and is deserving of a long breather. The chances of back-to back Oscars have already been against her, so it's safe to say that Lupita Nyong'o is the easy bet.
BEST ACTOR: Matthew McConaughey
BEST ACTRESS: Sandra Bullock may have also shared the same sentiment with Jennifer Lawrence, but remember what Mo'Nique said when she won in 2010: It's the performances, not the politics (or your name, for that matter), that land you the Oscar, and Cate Blanchett's in "Blue Jasmine" was a whole lot powerful than political.
DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuaron, "Gravity"
BEST PICTURE: "12 Years A Slave"

We'll see how I fare Sunday on the original Show of Shows (sorry, Wrestlemania!), with my full recap to follow on this blog Monday. So long and stay strong.