A Pandemic Life Update: July 22 2020

Am I the only one who’s actually staying at home and not seeing anyone during this COVID-19 pandemic?

I ask because I see people on Facebook and other social media sternly lecturing others to “stay at home”, “don’t go out to anything”, “why are you being so irresponsible and selfish”, and then some of those same people post Facebook Stories or other posts of them happily walking around outside, hanging out with friends, going to a protest (for the causes they approve of, of course; protests for causes they’re against are completely irresponsible), and so on.

As for myself, I have not had any kind of in-person contact with anyone besides service employees (so, all strangers) since March 18 2020, so more than four months now.  In that same four-month time period, I have not left my apartment to do ANYTHING besides go to work and run errands.  My already precarious mental health has suffered immensely.  My mental state has declined to the lowest point in at least two years, and possibly in my entire lifetime.  Well, it was even lower a few days ago, but has recovered enough now that I can sit down and write this entry.  It feels rather pathetic to admit this, but as I have no remaining professional or social endeavors to live for, most of my animating impetus in life comes from just enjoying diversionary pleasures like restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and music venues, the latter three of which are closed now.  In theory I could be using this freed time to be taking care of life business and exploring my movie and music hobbies at home (as I stated in my May 10 post), but in practice I’ve not done this nearly to the extent that I would like, because it’s really hard to even get out of bed these days.

It’s bad enough to see this trend of everyone getting on their High Horses on the Internet and talking down to others.  What annoys me even more is that everyone is acting like the only problems right now are COVID-19 and police brutality.  Those are obviously serious problems, but no one is talking about the financial devastation and mental health impacts (including a likely increase in suicide rates) this pandemic has brought about.  It makes me wonder if everyone just happens to be financially comfortable right now, and are able to mitigate mental health issues by, ahem, going out and seeing friends contra their own admonitions.  Meanwhile, I’m cutting myself off from doing what little I have left to enjoy in life, keeping me and others “safe” from COVID-19 while plunging me into deep mental illness.  Great.

I write all this to just put on the record that I am preparing to break this long period of abnegation by going to (gasp!) a restaurant, in the hopes that it might help me once again feel, even a little bit, what it’s like to be alive.  And if I do go out and try to have some pleasure again, I don’t want any shit from these sanctimonious quarantine hypocrites, especially because I’ve done my duty these past four months, at great cost to my own mental health.  But don’t worry, I have not the money nor energy nor will to make going out to restaurants (which, along with (maybe?) coffee houses, are pretty much the only “fun” businesses open right now anyway) a regular habit.  And I could hardly get most of my friends to meet me in person even before the pandemic started.  So I’ll still be mostly suffering in isolation at home, much to the approval of the oh-so-sage Online Covid Police.

The End of a Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday Era

In 2016, when I was looking to leave Oklahoma and deciding where to live next, I wanted to move to a city that had great film programming – and by great, I mean unique and diverse.  Something besides just the usual gamut of the latest first-run blockbusters.  I wanted events that would introduce me to “old” movies that I had never heard of and would never have heard of if it hadn’t been for those events showcasing those movies.  I had visited Austin, Texas early in that year and as I learned more about Austin and, in particular, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain that had six locations in Austin, I decided that Austin had what I was looking for, so I moved there in July 2016.

Once I had moved to Austin and looked more into what the Alamo Drafthouse had to offer, I learned about two long-running film series in particular that offered a weekly fill of cinematic exploration.  Terror Tuesday was a series that played horror movies every Tuesday night, and Weird Wednesday was a series that played “weird” movies every Wednesday night.  As I would come to find out, both “horror” and “weird” are used very broadly, as I’ve seen movies as tame and fun as Teen Wolf at Terror Tuesday and as seemingly conventional as Black Caesar at Weird Wednesday.

As it turned out, the events weren’t just rote screenings of the movies.  Each movie was preceded by trailers for upcoming specialty programming (including future Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday shows) and then an introduction by one of the specialty programmers.  Those introductions are some of my favorite things ever.  They’re usually about ten minutes long, and they explore the history behind the film’s production and distribution, stories about the filmmakers and cast, the response to the film, both contemporary and retrospective, a description of the film print being shown (more often than not a 35 mm print from either the movie’s distributor or the Austin-based American Genre Film Archive), and a brief selling pitch for the movie being shown for the series the next week.  The knowledgeable excitement coming from the programmer seems to always transmit onto those of us in the audience and get us jazzed up for both the movie we’re about to watch and the one coming up next week.

My first Terror Tuesday was Terror Tuesday: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, on September 27 2016, at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. (Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays were originally held at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, before switching to Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar starting in January 2018.) I subsequently went to Terror Tuesday: Plan 9 from Outer Space on October 4, and Terror Tuesday: The Deadly Spawn (one of my all-time favorites!) on November 1, out of being interested in seeing those movies.  I hadn’t originally planned on going to one or more Terror Tuesdays every calendar month, but it had turned out that way, and by November I decided to keep the streak going and see how long I could do it.

I also wanted to see what Weird Wednesday was about, and my first Weird Wednesday was Weird Wednesday: Conquest, on October 19 2016, at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz.  I didn’t initially think of going to at least one Weird Wednesday a month the way I thought of doing it for Terror Tuesday, so while I did go to Weird Wednesday: School of the Holy Beast (also one of my all-time favorites!) on December 14, I didn’t go to any Weird Wednesdays in November 2016, January 2017, or February 2017.

But by March 2017, the two film series had become such an enriching and important part of my life in Austin, and I became enamored with the idea of keeping attendance streaks going for them.  Having already gone to at least one Terror Tuesday in every month since September 2016, I decided that I might as well set a goal of going to at least one Terror Tuesday and at least one Weird Wednesday every calendar month going forward, and I started that streak that month, with Terror Tuesday: Castle of Blood on March 28 2017, and Weird Wednesday: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (another all-time favorite!) on March 29 2017.

And for the next 36 months in a row, all the way through February 2020, I managed to keep that streak going.  In some months, I only saw one of each.  In other months, I saw multiple ones of each, in some cases going multiple weeks in a row.  There was just one month – December 2018 – where I managed to attend every Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday that month; it helped that there were only five events total that month due to the holiday season.

I saw so many movies during this three-year time period; some great, many others… well, terrible, but all of them made for worthwhile outings that more than satisfied the movie lover part of me.  Most of them were eye-catching titles that I probably would not have seen or even heard of if it hadn’t been for the film series.  And that’s what I love most about Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday: they introduce me to all these movies I wouldn’t have known about otherwise and I wouldn’t have even thought to search for.  Going to Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays quickly became an integral part of my life.  Planning my upcoming outings, including learning what movies were coming up and figuring out which ones to go to and which ones to skip, was one of my favorite things to do.  And Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays became – at least! – 50 percent of the entire reason I wanted to stay in Austin. (There are Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays at the Brooklyn and San Francisco locations of the Alamo Drafthouse, but I have no desire to live in those cities.)

Alas, all good things will eventually come to an end.  The last calendar month where I went to at least one Terror Tuesday and at least one Weird Wednesday was February 2020, when I went to just one of each: Terror Tuesday: Candyman on February 4 and Weird Wednesday: Polyester on February 12.  As of this writing, those were also the last Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday I went to, period, and I can fairly say those were good ones to end on (for now).  I long had a feeling that it was only a matter of time before I would inevitably have to end the uninterrupted streak, and I always figured it would be because I would have to leave Austin due to the frustratingly ever-rising cost of living.  I could have never imagined the actual reason for the streak ending.

For March 2020, I was not able to go to the Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays in the first three weeks of that month, but I was set to go to Terror Tuesday: The Blob (1988) on March 24, and Weird Wednesday: Seeds (with a special appearance by Andy Milligan biographer Jimmy McDonough) on March 25.  Those would’ve been my Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday quota for the month.  I even had my ticket for Terror Tuesday: The Blob (1988) purchased already online.  And then came the COVID-19 pandemic.  I had been nervously watching the ongoing fast-moving developments surrounding businesses’ responses to the pandemic, seeing the Alamo Drafthouse in particular try to keep things going by introducing more vigorous cleaning procedures and spacing audience parties apart.  As restrictions tightened around in-person gatherings, I kept my fingers crossed that the Drafthouse could at least stay open until March 25.  But no, all too soon, movie theaters could no longer hold out against the tide of the inevitable, and on March 16 Alamo Drafthouse announced that it would be closing indefinitely in response to the pandemic.  I was very dismayed, especially about the fact that I would not be able to end my attendance streak in March 2020 so it would neatly reflect having started the streak in March 2017.  Later I realized that, having ended in and included February 2020, my streak still lasted an even 36 months, or three years, because the starting and ending months were both counted.  Still, it would have been nice to finish on the same month of the year that I had started on.

With physical events suspended indefinitely, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is gamely trying to keep the fire burning by offering “Virtual Cinema” virtual screenings of Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays, where they send customers the movie selections digitally, complete with pre-recorded versions of the pre-show content and programmer introductions.  They started this with a virtual Terror Tuesday: Centipede Horror on March 31 and a virtual Weird Wednesday: Godmonster of Indian Flats on April 8. (I have noticed that many of the titles are repeats from ones shown during my three-year attendance streak; for example, I saw Godmonster of Indian Flats at a previous Weird Wednesday on July 18 2018.) I have declined to participate.  Not only do I lack a good movie-watching setup at home, it’s just not the same as going to the actual physical events.  I would rather wait until the theater reopens and the two series start back up with regular in-person screenings, and maybe I’ll get a new streak going then.

It’s been four months now since I’ve been to a Terror Tuesday or a Weird Wednesday, and I really do miss them and the Alamo Drafthouse.  In keeping with the trend of “this has been the longest I’ve gone without doing X” that all of us are experiencing during this shutdown, this really has been the longest time I’ve gone without going to these two series, since I started going to these two series.  While it’s unquestionably sad that I won’t be able to make new memories for now, I do feel like my memories from the past are all I have to hold on to in these dark times.  And there are plenty of good ones: for example, almost a year ago today, on June 5 2019, I went to Weird Wednesday: Can’t Stop the Music and I had so much fun.

My three-year attendance streak going to both Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays every calendar month started with Terror Tuesday: Castle of Blood on March 28 2017 and ended with Weird Wednesday: Polyester on February 12 2020.  In that time span, my personal world really expanded tremendously and I learned so much about cinema.  All this new knowledge and these fond memories from this three-year time span are truly gifts that have indelibly made my life all that more interesting and culturally rich, no matter what happens going forward.

Life Update at 33

Today I turned 33 years old.  I started writing yearly life updates on my 30th birthday back in 2017.  2016 and 2017 were horrible years – two of the worst years of my life.  On my 31st birthday in May 2018, life was still pretty bad, though I had started to pull myself out of the ditch of 2016 and 2017.  Things continued to turn around over the course of the rest of 2018 and into 2019.  2018 and especially 2019 turned out to be two of the best years of my life, and definitely my best years since I left graduate school and moved to Austin in 2016.  I was still very much unmotivated and poor and struggling with the basic functions of being an adult, but at the same time, I was really trying to enjoy the cultural and recreational aspects of life that I had moved to Austin for.  I continued to go to wonderful movie events and great restaurants and bars, and most notably, I took advantage of Austin’s rich local music scene and started going to electronic dance music shows and events.  Turned out that this musical aspect of the world that I had previously left mostly unexplored opened up a huge new part of my life that was both culturally and socially enriching.

 

Of course, a good thing can’t last forever and while I left 2019 on a high note, come 2020 and my life started going downhill again.  First, I experienced a series of setbacks in my social life that left me feeling very weak and emotionally isolated.  It’s a lot to explain but the short version is that, from what I sense, I have a much harder time making meaningful friendships than most other people.  Then, as I was preparing a new effort to get back into the social world, along comes the COVID-19 pandemic and everything that I was depending on to find meaning in the world – eating at restaurants, attending movie events and music events – gets wiped out.  It’s amazing how much the loss of these things could really plunge my life into a new period of bleary emptiness and lack of meaning.  As of this writing, I have not seen any of my friends in person for almost two months.  The disconnection from my social world and new but familiar financial stress plunged me into a series of debilitating depressive episodes, the last of which started two weeks ago.  I think I’m a little better now… I’m hoping to come out of it over the next few days so I can be productive again.

 

All in all, 2020 is shaping up to be a pretty bad year, my worst since 2017.  I’m trying to not get too mired into negative feelings and I really should just focus on getting by and saving money.  One of the few bright spots about this pandemic is that the lack of events has facilitated staying home and saving money.  I’ve also coped by using my newly freed time to discover new music and start catching up on writing movie reviews.  I’m hoping to use the rest of my 2020 to catch up on life business and try to put my life back together again.

2020 Democratic Presidential Primaries Predictions: February 11

Here are my predictions for the Democratic Presidential primaries and caucuses on February 11 2020.  I will add actual results and post-election commentary later.

New Hampshire

RealClearPolitics Polling Average Predictions Results
Bernie Sanders: 28.7 percent Bernie Sanders: 30 percent  
Pete Buttigieg: 21.3 percent Pete Buttigieg: 20 percent  
Amy Klobuchar: 11.7 percent Amy Klobuchar: 15 percent  
Elizabeth Warren: 11.0 percent Elizabeth Warren: 12 percent  
Joe Biden: 11.0 percent Joe Biden: 11 percent  
Andrew Yang: 3.7 percent Andrew Yang: 4 percent  
Tulsi Gabbard: 3.3 percent Tulsi Gabbard: 3 percent  
Tom Steyer: 1.7 percent Tom Steyer: 2 percent  
Deval Patrick: 1.0 percent Deval Patrick: 1 percent  
Michael Bennet: 0.3 percent Michael Bennet: 1 percent  
All others: 6.3 percent All others: 1 percent  
I actually think the results will largely reflect the polling averages, with some shifts in the most recent trends that will enlarge the differences between the various candidates.  For Sanders, he’s getting a late but modest bump that pushes him away from second-place Buttigieg.  Buttigieg enjoyed a surge after his kinda-win in the Iowa caucuses but it has tapered off since the February 7 debate where he took a lot of incoming fire, so I foresee a slight dip for him.  Klobuchar is having a surge (which baffles me personally, but oh well) and she’s probably picking up some support that’s leaving Buttigieg, so she will probably outperform her polling.  Everyone else is just sort of languishing – does anyone even remember that Warren is running, and are people still taking Biden seriously as a contender?  Yang and Gabbard were probably counting on New Hampshire as the high-water marks of their campaigns as they were polling around the 5 or 6 percent area a few weeks ago, but their support has also dipped down a bit, probably from voters leaving them for Sanders.  

 

92nd Academy Awards: Predictions and Choices

February 9 Note: The following entry is incomplete.  Only the ranking for Best Picture is complete.

 

Here are my preferences and comments for the top eight categories for the 92nd Academy Awards in a table format.  For the first time since, I believe, the 85th Academy Awards (for movies released in 2012), I was not able to watch all the nominees for the Academy Award for Best Picture prior to the ceremony, which is today, February 9 2019.  There were four main reasons for me not being able to do so: 1. The ceremony having been moved up to earlier in February as opposed to the last Sunday in February, when it used to be, 2. A lot going on in my own personal life that kept me from watching more movies, 3. The Irishman and Marriage Story were not given a very wide theatrical release, 4. Problems with my laptop that make it difficult for me to use the Internet.  So for this year, given that I haven’t seen four of the nine Best Picture nominees, which also produced a lot of the nominees for the other categories, there are a lot of cases where I’ve only seen one movie in a given category, in which case my preference ranking isn’t really meaningful.

 

Nonetheless, for what it’s worth, I’ll put the movies and performances I haven’t seen at the bottom, separate from the actual rankings.  For the predictions, rather than try to formulate my own as in previous years, I just put GoldDerby’s; you can find all their predictions here

 

Best Picture

Nominees by alphabetical order (the titles in bold were the ones I watched before the nominations were announced on January 13) Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest GoldDerby’s predicted winner
Ford v Ferrari Parasite  
The Irishman 1917
Jojo Rabbit Joker
Joker Ford v Ferrari
Little Women Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Marriage Story Haven’t seen:

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Little Women

Marriage Story

1917
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Parasite  
 

 

Best Director

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest GoldDerby’s predicted winner
     
   
   
   
   
 

 

Best Actor

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest GoldDerby’s predicted winner
     
   
   
   
   
 

 

Best Actress

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest GoldDerby’s predicted winner
     
   
   
   
 
 

 

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest GoldDerby’s predicted winner
     
   
   
   
   
 

 

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest GoldDerby’s predicted winner
     
   
   
   
   
 

 

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest GoldDerby’s predicted winner
     
   
   
   
   
 

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest GoldDerby’s predicted winner
     
   
   
   
 
 

 

2020 Democratic Presidential Primaries Predictions: February 3

Here are my predictions for the Democratic Presidential primaries and caucuses on February 3 2020.  I will add actual results and post-election commentary later.

Iowa

RealClearPolitics Polling Average Predictions (for Final Alignment) Results
Bernie Sanders: 23.0 percent Bernie Sanders: 29 percent Bernie Sanders:
Joe Biden: 19.3 percent Joe Biden: 20 percent  
Pete Buttigieg: 16.8 percent Pete Buttigieg: 19 percent  
Elizabeth Warren: 15.5 percent Elizabeth Warren: 18 percent  
Amy Klobuchar: 9.0 percent Amy Klobuchar: 6 percent  
Andrew Yang: 3.3 percent Andrew Yang: 5 percent  
Tom Steyer: 3.0 percent Tom Steyer: 1 percent  
All others: 2.5 percent All others: 2 percent All others:
Bernie Sanders benefits from being atop the polls and having a very powerful ground game. Joe Biden stands to benefit from picking up some of Amy Klobuchar’s supporters where Klobuchar fails to make viability, but his ground game is so weak that he doesn’t gain much from where he currently is in the polls. Pete Buttigieg’s and Elizabeth Warren’s relatively strong ground games allow them to improve just a little bit from their current poll standings, as their support has stagnated. Amy Klobuchar’s and Andrew Yang’s late surges are tempered by failure to reach viability in many precincts.  

 

I Endorse Bernie Sanders for President in 2020

Bernie Sanders has been literally my favorite living politician since all the way back in 2005, when I first really learned about him in Matt Taibbi’s excellent and highly recommended “Inside the Horror Show That Is Congress”. When Bernie Sanders announced he was going to run for President again in 2020, it seemed like a no-brainer that I would endorse him for the Presidency, as I did in 2016. But I have never been someone who wants to jump into a decision on the single most important political office in the land until I have had a chance to hear from every candidate, and a chance to see how their campaigns play out over the course of the year or so between their announcements and when the first voting begins.

 

In particular, two other candidates stood out for me: Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang. At the beginning of the primary season, I had provisionally ranked Sanders, Gabbard, and Yang as my number one, two, or three candidates, and the only candidates I would be considering for my vote. Gabbard and Yang traded places over the course of the past year; at this point I would probably put Yang just slightly ahead of Gabbard. Sanders has always kept his place at the top for me. To be sure, I have had reason to find both pleasure and disappointment in all three candidates. But in the end, I have come to realize this: when possible, accept no substitutes.

 

What I have always looked for in candidates for any office are individuals who believe in the cause of an active, compassionate, and democratic government that will provide for the needs of all people in this country. That has been my guiding cause since I first became interested in politics as a teenager and I have always wanted to see politicians, especially Democratic politicians, who openly articulated the message of activist government as I would. Bernie Sanders has fulfilled this personal desire in running a campaign that has built a winning central message with three component principles that he and I both deeply believe in:

 

  1. Government, at all levels, must directly serve the basic needs and interests of all people, not just those who are already wealthy and well-connected.
  2. We individuals are all connected as one country and one society, and in both moral and practical terms, what affects one affects us all.
  3. Real political change happens from capturing hearts and minds, engaging with people on what’s important in this country, and mobilizing and leading them to do what’s necessary to make meaningful progress a reality.

 

My political dream has been to see a democratically accountable government – at federal, state, and local levels – that takes direct action to advance the general welfare of this country and all its people, and to see politicians openly and explicitly advocate for such. In Bernie Sanders, we have such a politician, and, with Sanders as President and with the aid of like-minded people in Congress and in state and local governments across the country, we have a new hope of creating such a government in the years to come.

 

I deeply respect Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard for their services to our country and for the amazing campaigns they have run. When I have more time, I hope to come around to writing about my thoughts about them and how I came to my decision to not endorse them. I see bright futures for them yet in U.S. politics and I really do hope they run for office again. But not now and not for the Presidency. It really is Bernie Sanders’s time. We need Bernie Sanders to be President.

 

I officially endorse Bernie Sanders for President in 2020. I will do what I can, given the constraints of my own personal abilities and circumstances, to help him win the Presidency. My hope is that in the coming days of the Sanders campaign and the coming years of a Sanders Presidency, this country will come to embody the deeply humanistic slogan that has been used for Sanders’s campaign: Not me. Us.

91st Academy Awards: Predictions and Choices

Here are my preferences and comments for the top eight categories for the 91st Academy Awards in a table format.  I’ll put the movies and performances I haven’t seen at the bottom, separate from the actual rankings.  For the predictions, rather than try to formulate my own as in previous years, I just put GoldDerby’s; you can find all their predictions here.  I made sure to watch every nominee for the Academy Award for Best Picture prior to the ceremony, which is today, February 24 2019.

 

Best Picture

Nominees by alphabetical order (the titles in bold were the ones I watched before the nominations were announced on January 22) Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest GoldDerby’s predicted winner
Black Panther A Star Is Born Roma
BlacKkKlansman Green Book
Bohemian Rhapsody Roma
The Favourite Black Panther
Green Book The Favourite
Roma Bohemian Rhapsody
A Star Is Born BlacKkKlansman
Vice Vice
I found the Best Picture field this year to be rather weak.  No film really stood out to me and most were middling or just plain bad.  I had low expectations going into A Star Is Born so it’s rather amusing and surprising that it managed to rocket its way to the top of my list.  It’s a good movie, but I think in a different year with a better field it wouldn’t have made it as my top pick.  Green Book, my previous favorite before I saw A Star Is Born, is a strong second, and Roma a strong third.  Black Panther, The Favourite, and Bohemian Rhapsody occupy the middle-of-the-pack just-okay territory, Bohemian Rhapsody barely qualifying thanks to a balls-to-the-wall final act that partially made up for a crummy first half.  I did not like BlacKkKlansman and I especially did not like Vice.

 

Best Director

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest GoldDerby’s predicted winner
Spike Lee for BlacKkKlansman Alfonso Cuarón for Roma Alfonso Cuarón for Roma
Paweł Pawlikowski for Cold War Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite
Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite Spike Lee for BlacKkKlansman
Alfonso Cuarón for Roma Adam McKay for Vice
Adam McKay for Vice Haven’t seen: Paweł Pawlikowski for Cold War
My rankings for Best Director pretty much follow my preferences for Best Picture.  I will say that Yorgos Lanthimos and Spike Lee both did decent, if not extraordinary, jobs, even if I didn’t particularly like their nominated films.  I wanted to see Cold War before the ceremony but I didn’t get to it.

 

Best Actor

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest GoldDerby’s predicted winner
Christian Bale for Vice Bradley Cooper for A Star Is Born Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody
Bradley Cooper for A Star Is Born Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody
Willem Dafoe for At Eternity’s Gate Christian Bale for Vice
Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody Viggo Mortensen for Green Book
Viggo Mortensen for Green Book Haven’t seen: Willem Dafoe for At Eternity’s Gate
Well this was a tough category for me to get through.  The four nominees I’ve seen were all really good and all about equally good, which made it hard for me to untangle them enough to rank them.  Bradley Cooper and Rami Malek both really impressed me, and at the end of the day I gave Cooper the slight edge because his performance really made me forget that the person on screen was actually Cooper rather than his character.

 

Okay, I know what you’re thinking – Christian Bale in third place?!  He melted into his role as Dick Cheney!  Well he’s a strong third, but he’s still a notch below Cooper and Malek, not just because of how strong Cooper and Malek were, but because I found some problems with Bale’s performance.  There were times when I thought he was overacting or exaggerating Cheney’s mannerisms (and you’ll see below that I have the same issue with co-star Amy Adams’s performance), and it took me out of the experience of watching Dick Cheney.  I might be thinking from bias since I’m much more familiar with Cheney than I am with Cooper’s and Malek’s characters, so I’m going to be more critical of how close Bale gets to the real thing (I’ve never actually seen anything of the real Freddie Mercury aside from the footage in Bohemian Rhapsody’s end credits).  Viggo Mortensen was really good and I would place him just slightly below Bale.

 

Best Actress

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest GoldDerby’s predicted winner
Yalitza Aparicio for Roma Yalitza Aparicio for Roma Glenn Close for The Wife
Glenn Close for The Wife Olivia Colman for The Favourite
Olivia Colman for The Favourite Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born
Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born Haven’t seen:

Glenn Close for The Wife

Melissa McCarthy for Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Melissa McCarthy for Can You Ever Forgive Me?
It’s funny – when I left the theater after watching Roma, I didn’t think much of Yalitza Aparicio’s performance, let alone jump to putting it in the Oscar-worthy category (this was before the nominations were announced).  But with this field, picking Aparicio’s quietly and somberly powerful performance makes sense, especially in contrast to the much more high-profile, obvious, and loud choice in Olivia Colman.  I would put Colman and Lady Gaga pretty close together but Colman gets the slight edge here just because of the range in her performance.  Honestly, I’m not sure if Colman should even be in the Lead Actress category as opposed to Supporting (more on this in the Supporting Actress comments).

 

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest GoldDerby’s predicted winner
Mahershala Ali for Green Book Mahershala Ali for Green Book Mahershala Ali for Green Book
Adam Driver for BlacKkKlansman Adam Driver for BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott for A Star Is Born Sam Elliott for A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant for Can You Ever Forgive Me? Sam Rockwell for Vice
Sam Rockwell for Vice Haven’t seen: Richard E. Grant for Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Let me get this out of the way: I think Mahershala Ali should’ve been in the Lead Actor category rather than Supporting.  He’s one of the two main characters!  Well, even discounting the importance and screen time he gets that far surpass what’s normal for a Supporting Actor, his performance really did impress me, far more so than his Oscar-winning turn in Moonlight.  Adam Driver also had a pretty weighty role for Supporting (an argument could be made for him being considered Lead as well) and the amount of acting he had to work with helped push him up the rankings.  The two Sams – Sam Elliott and Sam Rockwell – don’t feel like they really belong here.  Rockwell in particular seems rather out of left field; he was barely in the movie, and his performance was actually pretty weak by Sam Rockwell standards.

 

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest GoldDerby’s predicted winner
Amy Adams for Vice Emma Stone for The Favourite Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk
Marina de Tavira for Roma Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk
Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk Amy Adams for Vice
Emma Stone for The Favourite Rachel Weisz for The Favourite
Rachel Weisz for The Favourite Marina de Tavira for Roma
Let me get this out of the way: I think Emma Stone should’ve been in the Lead Actress category rather than Supporting.  She’s pretty much the main character! (And yes, I did copy and paste from what’s basically the same situation with Mahershala Ali for Supporting Actor.) If I were arranging the categories for Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz for The Favourite, I would probably put Stone as Lead, Colman as Supporting (or possibly Lead alongside Stone), and Weisz as Supporting.  Given how much she gets to work with, Stone really did play the role to the hilt and showed a great amount of range.  I was pretty torn between giving Stone or Regina King the top spot, and although I think King did a really great job, ultimately it was the amount of material Stone had to work with that pushed her to the top.

 

Amy Adams, much like her co-star Christian Bale, feels overacted and over-the-top at times in Vice, perhaps owing to the over-the-top overall feel of the movie (wow that’s a lot of uses of “over-“ in one sentence).  I’m also biased because I’ve seen much better from Adams (how was she not even nominated for Arrival?!) and much like the rest of the Vice cast, she seems to be underperforming (or perhaps misperforming?) in a way.

 

Rachel Weisz was good, but not extraordinary, in The Favourite.  The same goes even more so for Marina de Tavira in Roma; she did well, but I was very surprised she was actually nominated.

 

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest GoldDerby’s predicted winner
The Favourite Green Book The Favourite
First Reformed The Favourite
Green Book Vice
Roma Roma
Vice Haven’t seen: First Reformed
So this shouldn’t be a surprise given my Best Picture rankings, with one exception: how did Roma fall lower than Vice?  Well, even though I thought Vice was a garbage movie, its script did have a few noteworthy high points, and the majority of the dialog was fairly well-constructed.  And even though I thought Roma was a rather good movie, it wasn’t because of its script, which I actually think is rather sparse and unmemorable.

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest GoldDerby’s predicted winner
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs If Beale Street Could Talk BlacKkKlansman
BlacKkKlansman A Star Is Born
Can You Ever Forgive Me? BlacKkKlansman
If Beale Street Could Talk Haven’t seen:

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

A Star Is Born
A Star Is Born is my Best Picture top pick and I did really like its script, but it does get edged out by If Beale Street Could Talk. (If Beale Street Could Talk was not nominated for Best Picture, and I would’ve ranked it lower than A Star Is Born if it had been.) The voiceover narration by Tish Rivers in If Beale Street Could Talk was especially powerful, and made even more so by that gorgeous accompanying music (I’m not doing a breakdown for Best Original Score, but of the three nominees in that category I’ve seen, If Beale Street Could Talk is my top pick).