OSCARS 2023 recap

March 13, 2023

OSCARS 2023 recap

For movie lovers, the Academy Awards ceremony is usually a fun night designed as a celebration of the art form, with recognition for some of the best work released the previous year. This year’s presentation marked the 95th ceremony, and as always, provided cynics ample opportunity to cast aspersions, while for the rest of us, there were many moments to treasure – some even falling into the category of ‘history-making.’

An opening faux trailer, with a superimposed Jimmy Kimmel sharing the cockpit in a fighter jet with Tom Cruise in TOP GUN: MAVERICK, concluded with the show’s host ‘parachuting’ onto the stage. Kimmel’s opening monologue was entertaining and didn’t shy away from last year’s stunning moment known as “the slap.” Noted in the monologue was a tip of the cap to composer John Williams, who at age 91, received his 53rd Oscar nomination, second all-time to Walt Disney’s 59. It’s also of interest to note that Mr. Williams has scored 25 of director Steven Spielberg’s 27 films.

The only things I’ll mention from the pre-show are that the carpet was “champagne” colored instead of the traditional red, Hugh Grant was an immense jerk during his arrival interview, and the odds-on favorite to have a huge night of awards was EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE (EEAAO), a film with co-directors and featuring many Asian actors in a bizarre story that breaks the mold for traditional Oscar-type films. If you’ve read my “Best of 2022” post, you know that my personal favorite was THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN, which garnered nine nominations, the same as ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (AQOTWF), with both just behind the eleven nominations of EEAAO. Yes, this year lends itself to abbreviated initials for two long-titled films!

Although I’m not one to buy into the idea of “snubs” since I believe such a label is an insult to others that are honored with a nomination and/or win, it is always fun to see which categories produce surprise winners. Kimmel pointed out that there were 16 first-time nominees and 5 Irish actors nominated – setting up a pretty good punchline. He also noted the absence of James Cameron and Tom Cruise … both A-listers rumored to have had their feathers ruffled due to a lack of nomination for directing (Cameron) and acting (Cruise), although both were producers on films up for Best Picture.

The first award went to the creative genius behind GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO (the actual title to differentiate it from other versions). This award was presented by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who was sporting a form-fitting pink silk sports coat. Not to be outdressed, Troy Kotsur sported a purple velvet suit as he and joined Ariana DeBose in presenting the awards for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Both were highlights and an early indication of the success that lay in store for EEAAO. Ke Huy Quan was emotional and inspirational as he reminded us of what the American Dream really means to those who value it, and Jamie Lee Curtis’ win is a testament to perseverance and support, as she thanked her many collaborators over the years, including her famous parents, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.

Each of the five nominated songs were performed live throughout the evening. 14-time nominee Diane Warren was first, soon to be followed by David Byrne and Stephanie Hsu (EEAAO). One of the evening’s true highlights was a rousing song and dance performance of the song, “Naatu, Naatu” from India’s RRR, the eventual winner. Also impressive were a no-make-up and torn-jeans performance from Lady Gaga (TOP GUN: MAVERICK), for some reason filmed almost entirely in extreme close-up; and a pregnant Rhianna (fresh off the Super Bowl) singing “Lift Me Up” from BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER.

Best Documentary Feature was awarded to NAVALNY, and Alexei Navalny’s wife sent a message from the stage. This powerful moment was followed by an audience participation version of “Happy Birthday” during the speech for Best Live Action Short film (AN IRISH GOODBYE). Although I found that moment a bit odd, it was the follow-up that hit me as truly bizarre … a no-holds barred, live from the stage promo for Disney’s upcoming live action, THE LITTLE MERMAID, followed by the first full trailer. I don’t recall such unadulterated marketing schemes every being a part of the ceremony in previous year. Later we did receive a tribute to Warner Brothers for their 100th anniversary of motion pictures – much different than a promo for an upcoming film.

James Friend winning for Best Cinematography for AQOTWF became the first of enough wins that some began to question if the film might pull off a Best Picture surprise to end the night. Best Make-up and Hairstyling went to THE WHALE, the first film to use digital prosthetics in order to allow an actors’ true features to flow through. All the donkey lovers were thrilled to see ‘Jenny the donkey’ led on stage by Kimmel. Unfortunately, this became one of the few nods to my favorite film, THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN. Best Costume went to BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER, and AQOTWF won Best International Feature Film (Germany). Next up were awards for Documentary Short (THE ELEPHANT WHISPERER) and Animated Short (THE BOY, THE MOLE, THE FOX, AND THE HORSE). What was notable was that the first winner was cut off from their acceptance speech, while the second was allowed to babble on.

The award for Production Design became my first “miss” of the night, as AQOTWF took the award over the visually stunning BABYLON. This was quickly followed by another AQOTWF win for Best Score – a straight-to-the-gut musical punch composed by Volker Bertelmann. Best Visual Effects went to AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER, an award presented by Elizabeth Banks and a ‘fake’ Cocaine Bear (her recent movie) as she explained the importance of visual effects. Another odd moment occurred as amazing actress Florence Pugh purposefully held her slit dress open as she presented awards for Original Screenplay (EEAAO) and Adapted Screenplay (WOMEN TALKING). As strange as the spandex undergarment sighting was, I was so excited for Sarah Polley’s win … hopefully this talented writer and filmmaker will be inspired to share more of her work.

Best Sound went to TOP GUN: MAVERICK, and it was the speech given by the RRR winners for Best Song, MM Keeravani and Chandrabose that stole the moment, as Keeravani sang his speech, adapted to “Top of the World” by The Carpenters, a pop group he says influenced him as he grew up. Lenny Kravitz performed during the “In Memoriam” segment … a segment that the Academy seems to botch with omissions every year (this year being no exception). EEAAO won for Best Editing, though it wasn’t until ‘Daniels’, co-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, won for Best Director that we sensed EEAAO would hold off AQOTWF for the big prize.

A humble and grateful Brendan Fraser (THE WHALE) was nearly overcome with emotions during his speech for Best Actor, and making history as the first Asian actress to win was Michelle Yeoh for EEAAO, an award presented to her by Halle Barry, the first woman of color to win Best Actress. At this point, we felt pretty certain of the film title Harrison Ford would read for the final award of the evening, and sure enough it became a night of history for EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE as it was named Best Picture. The film totaled 7 wins out of 11 nominations, and only two other films took home more than one award: ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (4) and THE WHALE (2). EEAAO also joined A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951) and NETWORK (1976) with winners in three of the four acting categories. It was also a record-breaking night for cutting edge studio A24 as it won 6 of the 7 ‘above-the-line’ awards (Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress).

Leaving empty-handed were ELVIS, THE FABELMANS, and THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN, each coming in with multiple nominations. And though we got a bit tired of Kimmel’s running jabs at Matt Damon (who wasn’t attending), it was very cool to see him point out the legendary 94 year old James Hong, who has nearly 500 credits on IMDb dating back to the mid-1950’s … his latest, of course, being the night’s big winner, EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE. And I’m certain Mr. Hong was relieved to not be seated behind actress and presenter Danai Gurira, whose unique hairstyle stood up about 2 feet from the top of her head. Imagine being seated behind that for 3.5 hours! TV viewership for the ceremony was up 12% over last year’s program, though we can’t help but wonder if some tuned in to see if the Hollywood tradition included a sequel to “The Slap.”

OSCAR Nominated Shorts – Documentary (2022 releases)

March 3, 2023

Greetings again from the darkness. Every year this is one of my favorite categories. Typically, these filmmakers are committed to a subject and have very little money to work with, making their work easily categorized as passion projects. This year is no exception, and once again we are amazed at the wide range of topics and subjects covered: the transformation of an angry war veteran, true love at an elephant sanctuary in India, a profile of a key player during the Watergate era, the effects of climate change on walruses in the Arctic, and a father-daughter video project covering 16 years. Below is my breakdown of this year’s nominees:


Director Kartiki Gonsalves introduces us to Bomman and Bellie, indigenous Kattunauakans working together to care for Raghu, an elephant rescued as an injured orphan in Tamil Nadu, India in 2019. The elephant preserve where they live and work is run by the Forest Department, and Bomman’s hut is right next to the stall where Raghu sleeps.

The love they share for Raghu soon develops into a romance between Bomman and Bellie. They talk to Raghu, train him, feed him, bathe him, play with him, and even tuck him in bed at night. Later when they also become caregivers for 5-month-old Baby Ammu, we can see the similarities to raising human children. Both elephants make it into the wedding day pictures of Bomman and Bellie, but when Raghu is re-assigned to other caregivers, we witness the grieving of the couple, as well as that of Ammu, who has lost a friend and role model. The 41-minute film serves to show how animals and people can live off the same forest and share a love.

HAULOUT (UK, Russia) 25 min

For the first few minutes, we aren’t sure what we are watching. Maxim is huddled in a rustic cabin on the shore of the Russian Arctic. He eats canned good (from the can), boils his water, and recycles his cigarettes. One morning he awakens to the grunting and groaning noises occurring outside. What follows is a stunning and spectacular shot of tens of thousands of walruses huddled on the beach by his hut.

It turns out Maxim is a Marine Biologist, and he spends 43 days observing this annual ritual of walruses as part of a 10 year study. Although the walruses show up every year, the effects of climate change are obvious. There is no longer ice for them to rest on during the trek. This exhausts the creatures, causing the death toll to increase each year. Co-directors (and brother and sister) Maxim Arbugaev and Evgenia Arbugaeva deliver a beautiful (considering the harsh conditions) 25-minute film, and a stark reminder of how animals are being forced to adapt to the changes.


We must admire Jay Rosenblatt’s foresight as a father. It’s a simple idea, yet brilliant in it’s lasting impact. Beginning on his daughter Ella’s second birthday, Mr. Rosenblatt maintained a tradition of videotaping an “interview” with her each year. This tradition, or ritual, continued through her 18th birthday. The result bounces between predictable, stunning, sad, joyful, and touching … all in a condensed 29-minute run time.

To watch the progression of a precocious two-year old and three-year old toddler obsessing over a lollypop and make-up to a poised eighteen-year old on the brink of independence is fascinating. As a parent, we recognize the many stages … some so cute, others so challenging … each to be treasured.

Dad’s questions include: What do you want to do when you grow up? What are you afraid of? What is power? What are dreams? What is most important to you? You get the idea. He wants to document her progression as a person and as a thinker. In addition to the lollypop and desire to wear make-up, Ella’s singing voice develops beautifully as she grows into a 12-year-old who has learned sign language, and a 13-year-old fresh off her Bat Mitzvah. We see her with braces on her teeth, and as a 14-year-old toting the burden of her age. It’s those last couple of years that really give us hope for Ella’s future, and an insight into what the project has meant.

As a teenager, what would you have told your 25-year-old self?


Fifty years have passed, yet the Watergate scandal continues to provide us with stories. Co-directors Anne Alvergue and Debra McClutchy turn their attention to one of the fascinating figures of the era in this 40 minute short. Martha Mitchell was the wife of Richard Nixon’s campaign manager and subsequent Attorney General, John Mitchell. Outspoken Martha was a colorful personality and characterized as “a menace” by Nixon himself.

The directors utilize archival footage and news reels to show how Martha became a media darling during one of the most closed-off administrations in recent history. Reporters such as Helen Thomas and Connie Chung bring a media perspective, as do the numerous newscast clips shown. However, things took a pretty dark turn for this charming lady, and her story provides a stark reminder of just how corrupt and extreme the Nixon administration became.

Once news of the Watergate break-in hit the news, Martha seemed to vanish from the public eye. Her story is that she was held captive, basically kidnapped, as the administration advanced a public character assassination on her. When the secret tapes were revealed, and Martha discovered her husband had conspired with Nixon on the break-in, she became a high-profile whistleblower, After Nixon’s resignation, Martha became a celebrity, frequently seen on talk shows. Cast by many as a ‘crazy’ lady, the “Martha Mitchell effect” became the description for those whose ‘delusions’ turned out to be true. The recent TV miniseries “Gaslit” also focused on Martha Mitchell, who died in 1976 from a blood disease.


Should you ever doubt that kindness and understanding can make a difference, please watch this film from director Joshua Seftel (WAR, INC, 2008). The 29 minute run time may just rejuvenate your faith in human beings to change their attitude and be accepting of those they once distrusted.

As a Marine, Richard “Mac” McKinney was trained to hate and kill Muslims. He was informed that they were terrorists out to destroy his country, and September 11, 2001 was all the proof he needed. A simple question from his young daughter Emily convinced him he needed to act, so he plotted to bomb the Islamic Culture Center of Muncie (Indiana). So this former Marine, a trained killer and hater, headed to the mosque to obtain the “proof” he needed to convince his daughter that his actions were righteous.

A funny thing happened. Mac was treated kindly by the folks there. They asked him questions and guided him to a better understanding. Now this didn’t happen overnight. A shift in beliefs never occurs quickly. However, their treatment of Mac not only (unknowingly) saved their own lives, it saved his as well. He may have been trained to not think of his war targets as human beings, but he found them to show him more humanity than he’d ever known. It’s chilling to see Emily ponder what it would have been like to have a mass murderer as a father, and mostly we are inspired to see good people work so diligently at accepting someone who initially showed them nothing but hatred. Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai is one of the producers of the film.

BEST OF 2022

January 31, 2023

Yes, I finally got around to compiling my best of 2022, and you can find the page at this link:

DFW FILM CRITICS ASSN – Top 10 Films 2022

December 20, 2022

Below is a link to the 2022 Film awards as voted by the members of the DFW Film Critics Association. Since I am a voting member of the group, I thought you might like to see the final tally. I will soon be posting my personal favorites of the year so stay tuned!

Theater Review: MY FAIR LADY (2022, Dallas)

November 3, 2022

“I could have danced all night”. That felt like the sentiment enveloping the audience as the curtain dropped on last night’s performance at Dallas’ Music Hall at Fair Park. It was the second performance of the show’s stop on Broadway Dallas, and nostalgia filled the air as many were singing along to the familiar songs and laughing oh-so-slightly ahead of the famous punchlines. Watching live stage shows of beloved material is always a bit confusing. We usually have actors and voices ingrained in our memories, and it can be a bit uneasy to experience a different style.

The history here dates back to George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 stage play, “Pygmalion”, and how it inspired the 1956 Broadway production (winner of six Tony Awards) starring Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison and the 1964 George Cukor film (winner of eight Oscars) starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison (reprising his stage role). With lyrics by Allan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, most everyone is familiar with the most popular songs … as evidenced by the number of people ‘quietly’ singing along in their seats last evening.

Eliza Doolittle, the cockney flower girl at the center of the story is played here by Madeline Powell. Ms. Powell’s diminutive stature and beautiful red hair put her own twist on the character, and her acting and singing keep us enchanted. It’s really Jonathan Grunert as Professor Henry Higgins that stretches his phonetician character to extremes that some may find more challenging to accept. Rather than the savoir vivre of Rex Harrison, Mr. Grunert brings a frenzied energy to the role that may prevent some from finding any empathy for his plight. On the bright side, his singing was the easiest to hear.

The story involves a wager between Higgins and Colonel Pickering (played here by John Adkison) when Higgins claims he can turn the streetwise Eliza into one who can pass as “a proper lady”. Act 1 is filled with the ‘real’ Eliza and her struggles with the language, as well as segments with her father (Michael Hegarty) and his drinking buddies singing “With a Little Bit of Luck”. Act 2 shows us what happens after “The Rain in Spain”, Eliza’s big breakthrough. All of the familiar songs are performed, including “Why Can’t the English?”, “Wouldn’t it be Loverly?”, the raucous “Get Me to the Church on Time”, and “I Could have Danced all Night”. Easily the best singer featured in the troupe is Cameron Loyal who plays Freddy Eynsford-Hill, the man haplessly taken by Eliza’s ‘slip’ at the horse races.

Based in London in 1912, the tone shifts with the self-congratulatory piece, “You did it!” after the ball, and again with the finale, ““I’ve Grown Accustomed to her Face”. The orchestra was superb, if not a touch too loud, under conductor David Andrews Rogers, and the entertaining production under the direction of Tony-winner Bartlett Sher runs just under 3 hours with intermission.

For more information:

“My Fair Lady” runs through November 13, 2022 at Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas

TMI – Movie Backdrops/Backings

August 1, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. It’s unusual for a story on movies to mention such dissimilar films as Hitchcock’s NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) and the sci-fi cult favorite FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956), or two classics as diverse as SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952) and BEN-HUR (1959). What could these four films, and thousands of others, possibly have in common? The answer is the magic and artistry of backdrops or backings – a history as old as cinema.

This February 2020 segment from CBS Sunday Morning is only about six minutes long, yet provides a nice overview of how these have been used, and are continuing to be used, to create some of the scenery that sets the mood for memorable moments from our favorite movies (as well as those we wish we could forget).

Thanks to reader BG for passing this along:


Cooperstown or Bust! (an epic 2022 road trip)

May 19, 2022

Greetings fellow movie lovers! Today’s entry is no movie review. In fact, this much-too-long composition includes only a couple of minor movie blips. Instead, it’s a recap of the recent two-week, epic road trip vacation where Mary and I drove a total of 3713 miles through 18 states. For you mathematicians, statisticians, and data analysts, that’s 37.5% of the 48 continental states recognized by Rand McNally. I’ll admit this recap is over-the-top indulgent, however, it’s being written for two specific reasons. First, we want a travel journal-type remembrance of the trip, and secondly, we wouldn’t mind inspiring a few others to hit the road and experience some of the wonders (natural and otherwise) offered by our country.

Let’s start with a little background information. The initial onset of the pandemic (can you remember back that far?) squashed the trips we had planned, and only recently did we decide it’s time to try again. Our upcoming 40th anniversary was the motivation. Well that plus three years passing since our last vacation. Since I’m not personally ready to be one of the sardines compacted into a confined space on a commercial flight with 187 other passengers, we opted for the great American road trip, once so popular for family vacations (now considered a nightmare by many). Sure, the skyrocketing price of gas gave us pause, but protecting our sanity and the desire for temporary escape overrode the hesitancy that accompanied inflation and the increased carbon footprint associated with driving a non-electric vehicle that many miles. Another concern, to put it bluntly, was the overall uncertainty of the times … a war in Ukraine coupled with the most combative domestic political environment of my lifetime. Being spoiled, entitled Americans, we forged ahead.

So here is one way to know you married the right person. Mere weeks away from our anniversary, Mary determined our trip should center on a destination that has been a dream of mine ever since I sprinted home from school to watch the 1968 World Series between the St Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers: Cooperstown. Whether or not you are a baseball fan, you likely know that this small village in central upstate New York (200 miles from Manhattan) houses the National Baseball Hall of Fame … and has done so since 1939. I figured there are two possible motivations for her to encourage this as a destination. Either she felt like this was the only way I would agree to a long driving trip, or she sincerely wanted to make sure this bucket list item was checked off before it was too late. Knowing her as I do, I’m going with “B”, while acknowledging “A” likely played a supporting role. Either way, how many wives not only encourage at trip to the Hall of Fame, but also want to come along?

We were determined to keep the agenda very loosie-goosy – no specific time or day to be any particular place. For a planner like yours truly, this was a bit challenging, yet an approach that was quickly embraced. All we knew for sure was that we were going to visit with old friends on the front end, tour the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and spend time with some other old friends on the return. By pacing this over two weeks, we hoped to minimize most extended drive times. And you know what?  It all worked out pretty darn well. Below is a synopsis of our daily shenanigans.

Monday, April 25, 2022

We expected to leave the Dallas area early Tuesday, kicking things off with our longest single drive day. Yes, this means that the loose plan we had was tossed before it ever started. Instead, we wrapped up worked meetings, and hit the road at 1:00pm on Monday. After picking up warm pecans from Buc-cees in Terrell (birthplace of Eric Marion Bishop and yours truly), we headed east on I-20 and drove approximately 365 miles through Louisiana and on to Vicksburg, Mississippi. This still ended up being our longest drive day, and sitting for so long motivated us to walk down the street from our Marriott Courtyard to the local McAlester’s for a dinner salad. This was a very uneventful first day, but it served the purpose of cutting about 5 hours off our expected Tuesday drive. We did drive through some beautiful areas of east Texas and Louisiana, and what became very evident was that we were going to have to share the interstate with A LOT of trucks. Given the ‘supply chain’ issues we hear so much about, we were taken aback by the sheer volume of 18-wheelers on the road. They couldn’t all be empty! Beginning mileage 52,255, Ending mileage 52,622

Tuesday April 26, 2022

Our hotel was just a couple of miles down the road from the Vicksburg National Military Park. We purchased a National Parks pass and watched an informative film in the Visitors Center. The film outlined the 47-day siege in 1863 that ultimately cost the south control of the Mississippi River. Driving through the park, we saw the bunkers and battlefields which are now hosting more than a thousand state memorials and markers commemorating the many who died here during the Civil War. Unfortunately, we were unable to see the USS Cairo, a restored US gunboat, as that section of the park is under construction. The park is now a serene reminder of a vicious battle fought by a divided country. We couldn’t help but wonder if such a travesty could happen again. A stroll through the gift shop gave the appearance that gray rebel caps were outselling blue Union caps at about a 12 to 1 rate. After the tour, we had lunch at the Klondyke Trading Post. Founded in 1896, it’s a former gas station converted to a rustic eatery catering to those who enjoy home-cooking in an especially non-fancy environment. Those joining us for lunch included construction workers, law enforcement, and locals (mostly for takeout). There was little doubt that we were the only tourists, as well as the only first-timers. Multi-colored metallic floor-to-ceiling ribbons served as the backdrop for a single-microphone on the corner stage. Since we couldn’t locate the schedule for upcoming performers, we finished our lunch and drove on to Birmingham, Alabama. Once there, we checked in to the historic downtown Tutwiler Hotel, which opened in 1914. We walked a couple miles to the newly renovated Uptown area, which includes a Convention Center and the shiny new University of Alabama Birmingham football stadium. Across the street are multiple restaurants and bars. We chose the Southern Café, which was a typical sports bar exhibiting none of the character we had experienced earlier that day at Klondyke. Beginning mileage 52,622, Ending mileage 52,905

Wednesday April 27, 2022

After a quick hotel breakfast, we walked down the street from The Tutwiler to the Birmingham Art Museum. Although admission is Free, we gladly made a donation. It seemed as if an inordinate number of new exhibits were in the midst of installation, and thereby inaccessible; however, there was still plenty of art to take in. The featured exhibit was the work of Manjari Sharma and her presentation of nine significant deities of the Hindu pantheon. The colors and images were quite vibrant and unlike what is typically on display in art museums. Other exhibits included Wedgwood, ancient Asian art, African art, and various eras of European art. As our culture cup runneth over, we headed back on the road – this time to Rome, Georgia. A happy reunion occurred at the Rome Mellow Mushroom, where (over pizza) we met up with my old college buddy, Lawrence, and his wife Colleen. Lawrence and I have been friends since 1978, and our history includes flag football for “Killer Toes” at the University of Texas, a shared love of oldies music, Sunday dinners ravaging the Sirloin Stockade salad bar, marathon tennis matches in the Texas summer heat, spending hours flipping through vinyl at Inner Sanctum, dodging tar balls on the Gulf shoreline, and many ‘philosophy of life’ conversations through the years. He is a renowned professor and academic writer and speaker, and we simply don’t see each other often enough. I am honored to be Godfather to their amazing son, Robert. The two couples chatted through dinner, trying to catch up on the important stuff, and then Lawrence and Colleen treated Mary and I to a driving tour of the stunningly beautiful Berry College campus, a school founded on Christian values in 1902 by Martha Berry. After the tour, we were invited back to the house for some wine, chocolate covered blueberries, and more fun conversation. Mary and I crashed for the night at a local hotel managed by Berry College.  Beginning mileage 52,905, Ending mileage 53,063

Thursday April 28, 2022

This was Day 4, and we finally turned north … you know, the general direction of Cooperstown. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, we waltzed across the Walnut Street Bridge, the world’s longest ‘walking bridge’ over the Tennessee River (and back). While in downtown Chattanooga, we had lunch at the Frothy Monkey, located in the restored Train Depot. This was our tribute to Glenn Miller: “Pardon me boys, is that the Chattanooga Choo-Choo”. The song was first heard in the 1941 film, SUN VALLEY SERENADE (but did not play for us over lunch). We drove on to Knoxville to spend the night and made our first misstep of the trip by choosing the local Mexican food restaurant with the best reviews. Rio Grande Mexican restaurant is not one we would recommend. Fortunately, the only ramification was disappointment. That’s not always the case with subpar Tex-Mex.  Beginning mileage 53,063, Ending mileage 53,270

Friday, April 29, 2022

We lollygagged this morning and were a bit slow departing Knoxville (fortunately unrelated to the previous evening’s dinner platter). We drove for a while just enjoying the scenery (other than the big rigs) and ended up enjoying exquisite cuisine at Mrs. Rowe’s Family Restaurant and Bakery in Staunton, Virginia. It’s a family restaurant founded in 1947 that specializes in home-cooked meals and pies. Everything, including my Reuben sandwich was delicious, and I couldn’t help but top it off with what was likely the best coconut cream pie I’ve ever tasted. Mary’s lunch was a half-dozen vegetables, and although she was quite happy, this was a clear lunch victory for yours truly. What an incredible bit of luck we had finding this place. The food was so good we even put up with the grouchy 87-year-old woman complaining non-stop to her very patient 86-year-old friend at the table next to ours. A small price to pay for a scrumptious lunch! We finally rolled into Hagerstown, Pennsylvania at 6:00pm, and I’m embarrassed to say, we had wine (yes, just wine) for dinner at the local Red Robin. We simply didn’t want to taint the lunch served at Mrs. Rowe’s earlier in the day.  Beginning mileage 53,270, Ending mileage 53,725

Saturday, April 30, 2022

We walked to the nearby Valley Mall Diner and had the single best breakfast of our trip. My ‘over-medium’ order for eggs actually came out over-medium. That NEVER happens! From the outside, this place was sterile like an old Blockbuster Video, but the service and food were top notch. And we didn’t even get booted out after a misfire of a squeezed lemon for tea hit our waitress in the face. After reflecting on how we had two outstanding meals in two days, we headed back on the road to Hershey, Pennsylvania where we took in the candy factory tour and gawked at the largest candy and gift shop we had ever seen. The tour is very efficient and informative, but likely not as popular with kids as the gift shop or the full amusement park (similar to Six Flags) next door. We made the decision not to load up on candy as gifts since we still had a week of driving and chocolate doesn’t tend to react well to the warm air of a parked car. Of course, upon our return home, the grandkids saw the Hershey/Reese’s bag and were kinda disappointed in their logo soccer ball and basketball, neither of which was edible nor contained sugar. At least the granddaughters were good with their Hershey’s Kisses birthstone necklaces. Almost made up for the lack of candy. After the tour, we continued on to Scranton, Pennsylvania to check out a few sites from “The Office” (which was mostly filmed in California). A late lunch at Cooper’s Seafood was definitely the right call. An octopus on the roof, a pirate at the door, and the place was jam packed with all types of memorabilia, plus offered Scranton’s best gift shop dedicated to Dunder Mifflin and “The Office.” The seafood was excellent and we spent an inordinate amount of time perusing the gift shop and laughing. It should also be noted that Cooper’s had the best restrooms we saw on the trip. Elvis pictures and music filled the ladies’ room, while The Beatles took over the men’s. It was 6:00pm when we arrived in Binghamton, New York – our final stay before Cooperstown.  Beginning mileage 53,725, Ending mileage 53,996

Sunday, May 1, 2022

It was but a short drive to Cooperstown and we arrived by 10:00am. Downtown is a picturesque throwback with many shops, cafes, and other small businesses. We parked by Doubleday Field, and a high school game was already underway. The walk was only a couple of blocks to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and we excitedly made our way in. Well, one of us was excited. Mary was kind enough to join me, and even showed interest in a few of the displays. For a lover of baseball, this truly felt like hallowed ground … the keeper of the game’s sacred history. It’s okay if you don’t understand, but for me, it was a dream come true – and I was thrilled to share the time with Mary. The key is to start on the second floor and work your way up, before finishing on the ground level where the iconic plaques are displayed in a single hall. Having studied the history of the game, the oldest items and details proved the most fascinating to me. There is even an explanation of how Cooperstown managed to land the HOF in the first place … a case study of marketing and self-interest. After a couple of hours, we took a break and had lunch at the Stagecoach Coffee House, a local café that specializes in organic meals and coffees. Since I’m no fan of coffee aroma, we grabbed a table on the patio and enjoyed our lunch in the picture-perfect weather. It was then back to the HOF for another 2-3 hours of walking, touring, and absorbing. This is likely the only place where you can see Babe Ruth’s bowling ball, or a collection of game hats from each of Nolan Ryan’s seven no-hitters. Seeing the old bats and gloves are a stark reminder of how fortunate today’s players are from an equipment standpoint. There were individual displays of many of the great players, as well as tributes to the Latin America influence and women in the game. There is even a ‘Baseball in Movies’ section! After going through all of the plaques, we did manage to nab a few items at the gift shop before heading to The White House Inn, our Bed and Breakfast spot for the night. Of course, after a dream-fulfilling day at the HOF, we needed to top it off with a tremendous dinner at Nicoletta’s, a long-standing Italian restaurant in the village. The wine was good and the food even better. It’s difficult to imagine a better day. Beginning mileage 53,996, Ending mileage 54,078

Monday, May 2, 2022

After a tasty breakfast at the Cooperstown White House, we headed toward Niagara Falls, which took us through Syracuse. We arrived at the park around 1:30pm and immediately noticed the drop in temperature and increase in wind. It was quite chilly as the heavy mist from the falls mixed in, and since we missed a boat departure by one minute, we spent 45 minutes trying to find a proper blend of enjoying the majestic sight of the Falls while trying to maintain a life-sustaining body temperature. Once aboard the Maid of the Mist (the tour boat on the U.S. side), the wind somehow managed to increase and the mist shifted to something akin to a brisk morning shower. All passengers are provided blue plastic ponchos (similar thickness to Saran Wrap), which does help with the wetness, but doesn’t do much for the wind. It’s a remarkable experience to ride in a boat so close to the Falls – feeling the immense power and hearing the roar. It’s a beautiful site and quite a wonder to take in. Afterwards (still shivering), we grabbed an early dinner at the Griffon Pub before heading to the Hyatt Place. The contrast is a bit startling between the beauty of the actual Falls and the depressed look of the town of Niagara Falls. Glancing across the river, it seems Canada has done a better job of creating an environment for tourists. That said, this is an experience everyone should consider at least once.  Beginning mileage 54,078, Ending mileage 54,340

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Back on the road this morning as we head south/southwest through Buffalo and towards Cleveland. It was only a week after our trip ended when the tragic shooting in the Buffalo supermarket occurred. Our mission on this day was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, located on the shore of Lake Erie in Cleveland. The HOF opened in 1995, and it has since morphed into something much broader than rock and roll. The inducted artists and music celebrated are quite diverse, and most people will find something to enjoy. To save time, we lunched at the HOF café, which is on the main floor, and then we headed to the lower level, which is where they suggest each visitor begin. The displays do a nice job of traveling through the early influences and influencers. We immediately notice that music is playing constantly … sometimes multiple songs are going at once, though the music for specific areas is easy to hear over the “main” system. It’s a beautiful and modern building, and listening stations with headsets are included so that everyone can hear the music of their favorite artists, discover new artists, or both. There is an entire section of the HOF devoted to Peter Jackson’s new documentary, THE BEATLES: GET BACK, that details the recording sessions for the “Let it Be” album. If you haven’t watched, I highly recommend. For music lovers, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is an interesting tour featuring clothes, instruments, photographs, and videos of some of the true legends of the past 80+ years. Once we finished our tour, we drove just a few miles into the city so that we could take the tour for the house used in the classic A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983). It’s surprising that this terrific little movie has spawned a tourist attraction that includes not just the house where Ralphie lived, but also the Bumpus house, a huge gift shop, and a museum with artifacts from the film. Additionally, both houses are available for overnight stays and are frequently booked. Ralphie’s “official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time” is on display in the museum, and the gift shop is stocked with new models … in case you want to warn your kids not to shoot their eye out. The “Fra-Gi-Le” shipping case and the infamous lamp are on display, as is a bar of Lifebouy, should you happen to mutter … “Fuuudge”. We also saw the actual school blackboard with A++++ scrawled across. The movie has long been a holiday favorite, and it was enjoyable to experience this. After the tour, we continued south to Mansfield/Ontario to get a jump on the next day’s driving. Beginning mileage 54,340, Ending mileage 54,637

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Today’s drive took us through Columbus, Ohio and Cincinnati. We spent very little time in either on our way to Louisville. Yes, it was ‘Derby Week’ and we arrived in Louisville just a few days before the scheduled Kentucky Derby. We don’t gamble, follow horse racing, or wear elaborate hats, so our attention turned to the Louisville Slugger Factory and museum. For baseball fans, this is a very interesting place and a gem that shouldn’t be missed. A museum gallery features the bats used by some of the all-time greats like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Hank Aaron. It’s the factory tour that makes this a must-see as we got to walk through and witness firsthand where the bats are formed, including explanations of how wood is divided into two categories – that used for major league bats, and that used for the rest of us mere mortals. Now I understand why I was never able to hit like Stan Musial – his bats were made from better wood!  Still a family business, legend has it that the first bat was made by a young Bud Hillerich in 1884 for Pete Browning (nicknamed the Louisville Slugger). In 1916, the company name was changed to Hillerich & Bradsby, and many of us are familiar with seeing that company name on Louisville Slugger bats. Serving the country during WWI and WWII, the company made gun stocks for the troops, though they never stopped bat production. It was fascinating to learn that the old equipment used to form the bats has been out of production for decades, and has been re-purposed for one thing – making bats. The giant bat in front of the facility makes a unique landmark and photo opportunity, and the racks of bats in the shop are awaiting shipment to their final destination. It was in Louisville where we splurged for one of our few luxury hotel stays. The first Galt House opened in 1862, and the current location was part of the revitalization of Louisville’s waterfront district in 1972. It’s obviously a popular spot for Derby attendees and we were probably the only hotel guests not in town for the race. People watching while standing in line to check-in was about as entertaining as any stop on our trip. We headed to the Conservatory on the walkway between towers – it’s an all-glass lounge with nice views of downtown. As a tribute to the Kentucky Derby, Mary ordered a Mint Julep. You can imagine her disappointment and shock when the bartender explained they had not yet received their shipment of mint. My gardener wife got a kick out of this, describing mint as little more than a weed that grows uncontrollably. So, we settled on wine of such quality that one glass was sufficient. On the bright side, our view of the river from our room was simply spectacular – we could also see the Muhammad Ali Center next door. Beginning mileage 54,707, Ending mileage 54,922

Thursday, May 5, 2022

This was mostly a driving day, and our highlight was stopping in downtown St Louis for lunch at Bally Sports Live! right next to Busch Stadium, where the St Louis Cardinals play. As a Texas Rangers fan, I still have nightmares caused by the Cardinals snatching a World Series victory away from my team in 2011. As a baseball fan, I tip my cap to their traditional uniforms and contributions to the sport. With Stan Musial and Bob Gibson and Lou Brock as franchise icons, respect has been earned. World Series banners hang outside right next to a giant World Series trophy (which makes for a nice photo op). Even the Cardinals’ “Live!” facility beats the Rangers’ “Live!” And adding to the insult was the Bally Sports sponsorship – the overly-greedy company behind my inability to watch most Rangers’ games on TV. We stayed the night in Fenton, Missouri. Beginning mileage 54,922, Ending mileage 55,221

Friday May 6, 2022

After making fun of the sheer number of Cracker Barrel billboards we passed on the trip, we broke down and had breakfast at one. It’s always nice to feel young again. Speaking of billboards, on the drive to our next destination (Springfield, Missouri), we couldn’t help but notice a couple dozen billboards advertising Uranus Fudge. Their slogan, “the best fudge comes from Uranus” was effective in keeping us speeding right past that exit. Knowing that our trip would not take us through Darwin, Minnesota for the world’s largest ball of twine, we were filled with excitement to see one of Springfield’s attractions: the world’s largest fork! Yep, it was a really big fork near the entrance to an office building. And yes, we took a selfie with the fork. We also stopped into the tourist center to get some background on the old Route 66 which once ran right through Springfield. They claim to be the birthplace of Route 66, but when you question that, they quickly admit that Chicago was actually the beginning. Regardless, the area offers some travel history of long-ago days, when Route 66 was a key throughfare for those traveling across the Midwest. We ate dinner at the “World Champion” BBQ spot called The Whole Hog. Plenty of trophies are on display touting their success in competitions, and since this is Missouri and not Texas, we went for the pork instead of the beef. The food was delicious (except for that mayo-based potato salad) and the accompaniment for our dinner was provided by the grizzled man holding court a couple of tables over. After proclaiming that most truck drivers are “extremely smart”, he dazzled those at his table with tales from the road, stopping periodically to mix in jokes that were, at best, politically incorrect, and often racist or sexist or both. The man had no filter. One final note regarding Springfield: as we drove through the downtown area, we were struck by the dozens of parked trailers at the events center. Upon closer inspection, Mary noticed that folks were setting up displays for the taxidermy festival. Stuffed animals were everywhere – only not the kind you typically gift a toddler. Sadly, we couldn’t find the time for The World Taxidermy & Fish Carving Championship. Beginning mileage 55,221, Ending mileage 55,461

Saturday, May 7, 2022

A short drive took us to Bentonville, Arkansas … yes, the home of Wal-Mart. Five or six years have passed since our last trip to the area, and we were stunned at the growth and development that has occurred over that span. Having been away from home for two weeks, we were craving Torchy’s queso, and Rogers, a neighboring town to Bentonville and another booming area, has recently opened the largest Torchy’s we have seen. After our queso fix, we headed to Crystal Bridges Museum and Park, a truly inspiring and beautiful facility that is a pet project of Alice Walton, whose father, Sam, founded Wal-Mart. There is no admittance fee to tour the art museum or the grounds or the walking trails through nature. Some elements, like the tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright house, do have a fee, but one could spend many hours over many days enjoying the free sites. Some of the trails feature large scale sculptures, and the varieties of plants and trees and flowers seem endless. After a few hours of culture and nature, we headed to the hotel to prepare for the evening. We were so excited to see our friends Regan and Jeanne. It was the wedding of their youngest daughter that last brought us to Bentonville, and this time it was simply a reunion of the two couples who first took a Caribbean vacation together approximately 35 years prior. We met at their beautiful home for champagne and appetizers. Catching up on family developments was enlightening, and what stood out was how quickly we all fell back into a conversational comfort zone. Regan is perhaps the most upstanding man I’ve crossed paths with in my entire life, and I regret that we haven’t visited more often over the years. The four of us jumped in the car and took a backroads journey to make our dinner reservations at LakePoint Restaurant in Bella Vista. As the sun set, the view of Loch Lomond was lovely. There was a scary moment when a 58-year-old man sitting across the dining room passed out and crumbled to the floor. After being tended to, the man appeared to recover as he walked to the door with the paramedics. Our after dark drive back home was a bit slow as those pastoral roads became horror-movie settings with no streetlights for illumination. It was such a pleasure to catch up with old friends and good people. Beginning mileage 55,461, Ending mileage 55,626

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Captain’s log: our final leg home. Left Bentonville at 9:00am and drove south to Fort Smith, then took a hard right turn west into Oklahoma, before finally heading south towards DFW. Since we have friends from Oklahoma, I will not mention how the terrible conditions of the state’s highways never cease to amaze me. Eastern Oklahoma is a much prettier drive than what you might have experienced driving north or south on I-35 between Texas and Kansas. Rather than head directly to our house, we veered off towards our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant (Jhonny’s in St Paul) for one final moment of pleasure before admitting that our two-week adventure had reached the finish line.

The trip was long and quite an atypical vacation for us. Of course, the highlights were seeing old friends and touring the main sites. There were other pieces that generated much conversation. Many of the rural area we drove through were simply gorgeous. Towering trees, thick forests, rolling hills, and tended farms and ranches were all treats for these two city folks. Other things that stood out included what we thought was an abnormally high number of “God” billboards, rebel flags (mostly, but not only Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee), and gun-toters (and we are from Texas). Also abnormal was the fact that I went two weeks without watching a movie … something that hasn’t happened since a two-week grounding in junior high school. I couldn’t have asked for a better travel buddy (or life partner). Mary and I had fun, learned a few things, and cleared our minds so that we could be ready to go back to work possessing a bit more respect for this great country of ours – and it is great, even though each day seems to bring more questions and uncertainty. So the message we would like to leave you with is to consider taking a road trip at some point. It’s not as fast as an airplane, but you get a real taste for the countryside and the varying cultures within different regions. It’s quite a treat!

Total miles driven: 3713   Overall MPG: 26.2   Highest price gas: $5.149/gallon (premium)

The states we drove through on the trip: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas.

OSCARS 2022 recap

March 28, 2022

For years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been working to punch up the Oscars broadcast in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. Who knew that Will Smith would take that mission literally? We just thought announcing the wrong Best Picture winner at the 2017 ceremony was a low point in Oscar history, but Will Smith punching/slapping comedian Chris Rock across the face on stage after a joke directed as Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, has again lowered the bar for Oscar.

If most of us displayed a similar violent reaction to say, a fellow shopper in Kroger, we would at least spend the night in jail. And our assault would not have been broadcast across the globe! But of course, most of us aren’t Will Smith. We aren’t absurdly wealthy and famous and beloved, and we likely wouldn’t be minutes away from winning our first Oscar. So, Mr. Smith was not arrested. He was not even escorted out of the theater. In fact, he returned to his seat, yelling profanity at Mr. Rock, who handled this with exceptional grace. Smith remained seated front row center until his name was announced as an award winner. Well, there was a commercial break where he huddled with his publicist (What? You don’t have a publicist?), which allowed him to gather his thoughts before delivering his acceptance speech.

And what happened when he was announced as winner of the Best Actor award? Well, obviously the room gave him a standing ovation. Yep, the folks who frequently use their celebrity status to influence our political beliefs, stood there cheering the man who had just assaulted another man during the most prestigious event in their industry. Smith proceeded to tear up and give a speech that invoked God, his calling, love, and protection. He apologized to some, but not to the man he assaulted. Instead, he seemed to justify his violent outburst as if it was some acceptable form of protection of his wife. Although the band had ‘played off’ other winners who were deemed to have taken too much time, Smith’s speech rambled on with no music … the second time that evening he should have been escorted away. And when he was finally done, the room again gave him another standing ovation. We certainly won’t be surprised if we soon hear it explained that Will Smith is yet another celebrity struggling with “mental health” issues. What better way to gather sympathy after a vile act?  But then, I don’t have a publicist, so perhaps a better way does exist.

As a lifelong lover of movies, I’ve enjoyed watching the Oscars ceremony for what it once was, and should still be … a celebration of the industry and the art of making movies. Being that many fans of movies are mostly interested in the “big” categories, the decision was made this year to shift many categories to a pre-show event, and then air the replay of the winners from those categories during the main show. This promised a brisker pace and shorter run time. The result gave us a show that dragged with a run time 20 minutes longer than last year, and a show that disrespected many of the technicians and craftsmen who work behind the cameras, and the short films that are often the proving ground for rising visionary writers and directors. I believe the term for that is failure.

As for the actual awards, the surprises were few, but the history was inspiring. CODA’s Troy Kutsur became the first deaf man to win an acting award (Marlee Matlin had won Best Actress for CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD, 1986). Ariana DeBose became the first openly gay woman of color to win an acting award, and she did so in the same WEST SIDE STORY role that won the award for Rita Moreno in the 1961 version … and 90-year-old Ms. Moreno was on hand to see this happen. Jessica Chastain won her first Best Actress Oscar (THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE), and in doing so, became the 7th person from the cast of THE HELP (2011) to win an Oscar. Mr. Kutcher, Ms. DeBose, and Ms. Chastain all gave gracious and appreciative speeches.

Should we call CODA’s Best Picture win a surprise? Probably not. It had picked up significant momentum over the past few weeks. The film’s win, along with Kotsur’s win and Sian Heder’s Adapted Screenplay Oscar was an inspiring triumph for the Deaf community. It’s also a counterargument to all those who claim only artsy stuff ever wins – CODA is a heart-warming and entertaining movie with a terrific family story. It was also a rare Best Picture win for a film whose director (Ms. Heder) was not nominated.

Perhaps the real surprise of the evening was THE POWER OF THE DOG. Despite leading the pack with 12 nominations, the only victory on the evening was for its director Jane Campion. She became the first woman to win the award twice, and this also meant that THE POWER OF THE DOG was the first film to win Best Director and no other awards since THE GRADUATE (1968). WEST SIDE STORY and BELFAST were two other heavily nominated films that managed but one win, although this was Kenneth Branagh’s first Oscar, likely long overdue. And speaking of overdue, songwriter Diane Warren’s 13th nomination again left her with no Oscar. History was missed as Lin-Manuel Miranda remained an Oscar short of EGOT when his ENCANTO song didn’t win, and Ari Wegner missed out on becoming the first woman to win Best Cinematographer. DUNE was the big winner of the night with 6 Oscars, but only cinematographer Greig Fraser’s award was presented live on the main show.

In an attempt to honor the history of cinema, some “Tributes” were included, and yet they all came off a bit awkward. In celebration of 60 years of James Bond, the presenters were … snowboarder Shaun White, skateboarder Tony Hawk, and surfer Kelly Slater. Huh? Their uncomfortable banter was followed by a poorly edited montage of the many Bond films. For the 50th anniversary of THE GODFATHER, director Francis Ford Coppola, Al Pacino, and Robert DeNiro marched out on stage; however, only Coppola spoke. And if that’s not strange enough, Mr. DeNiro did not appear in the first film, though he won an Oscar for THE GODFATHER: PART II. Finally, there was the 28th anniversary of PULP FICTION. Who celebrates year 28? Uma Thurman and John Travolta danced a bit, while Samuel L Jackson carried out a gag with the mystery briefcase. Happy 28th everyone!

One new feature this year involved the Academy’s attempt to tie-in with a social media contest where ‘real fans’ could vote for the “Fan Favorite” and the “Best Moment”. To no one’s surprise – except maybe the Academy’s – Zack Snyder’s fandom flooded the voting to the point where the Fan Favorite was his zombie movie, ARMY OF THE DEAD, while the Best Moment was Flash Speed Force in JUSTICE LEAGUE. Another segment that deserves mentioning (or forgetting) was “In Memoriam” where the stage performers were the focus rather than the recently deceased legends who actually helped build the industry.

Four of the five nominated songs were performed (no Van Morrison). Beyonce performing “Be Alive” from the streets of Compton was quite something, as was the NOT-nominated “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from ENCANTO – which featured Megan Thee Stallion shifting it from kids’ song to adult themed. You might ask why a song not nominated was performed, and the answer is as simple as Disney owns ABC, the network broadcasting the ceremony.

After a few shows with no host, this year’s show featured three talented women: Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall. Each landed a good line or two, while each had a gag that fell flat (or worse). Schumer’s Spider-Man bit was awkward, but nowhere nearly as cringe-worthy as Ms. Hall’s horny bit as she dragged handsome men onstage for some poorly constructed backstage COVID testing. Somehow the industry’s reaction to Harvey Weinstein and years of inappropriate behavior from men was to have a woman publicly harass men. The fallout would be unfathomable if the script were flipped and a man did that to the women. A dear friend made an excellent point when he noted how different the reaction to Will Smith’s stunt might have been if Ricky Gervais had been hosting. Fashion discussion is typically off-limits for me since I’m a jeans and t-shirt guy, but Timothy Chalamet going shirtless under his sparkly jacket seemed inappropriate … well, until Will Smith redefined that word.

On the bright side for the Academy (and they are probably still in shock), the early ratings show 15.4 million viewers, which is a 56% percent jump over last year. It’s quite impressive considering the vast majority of movie watching occurred via streaming the last two years, as movie theaters are just now starting to see an uptick in attendance. Questlove (for his documentary SUMMER OF SOUL) gave the evening’s most emotional speech, while Billie Eilish (songwriter for NO TIME TO DIE) flashed unbridled joy. Those two and the sight of a roomful of people in formal attire standing and waving their hands as applause for Troy and CODA made for the kind of heart-warming moments we’ve seen from the Oscars over the years, and would have made the night a success if those same people had not stood and applauded for Will Smith … twice.

Sir Anthony Hopkins, showing the wisdom of age, said it best: “Let’s have peace and love and quiet.”

BEST OF 2021

January 5, 2022

My BEST OF 2021, including my personal TOP 10 … and a whole lot more … is now live!

Just click HERE

Ray Peterson interviewed ‘yours truly’ (2021)

October 16, 2021

Ray Peterson is a Canadian writer, blogger, music expert, dedicated reader, and lover of cinema. He recently interviewed me about my movie watching passion/addiction. His questions forced me to slow down and think through many aspects of why I enjoy watching and writing about movies.


If you’d like to contact Ray:


Twitter: @Pete_Ray