Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Oscar Post Mortem 2016

Another Oscar night is in the books and I had an okay year - In the end it was Doug: 16, Oscar: 4. That's 80%, which isn't my best, but is still pretty good.  Here's how it turned out. My correct picks are bold:

Best Picture: Spotlight
Best Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio
Best Actress: Brie Larson

Best Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance
Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander
Best Original Screenplay: Spotlight
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short
Best Film Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Cinematography: The Revenant
Best Score: The Hateful Eight

Best Song: "Writing On the Wall"
Best Art Direction: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Costumes: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Makeup: Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Visual Effects: Ex Machina
Best Sound: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Sound Effects Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Animated Feature: Inside Out
Best Documentary Feature: Amy


With The Revenant getting the most nominations and Mad Max close behind, I figured one of the two would get Best Picture, but didn't account for the power of a strong ensemble cast getting a sizable push from the large actors' wing of the Academy. Supporting Actor, Best Song and Visual Effects were just old-fashioned surprises. 

Still, I'm pleased that Mad Max went home with the most awards of the night. The final score was Spotlight: 2, The Revenant: 3, Mad Max: 6, everyone else: 1. 

I'm also thrilled for the great Ennio Morricone, who won his first competitive Oscar after 50 years of writing film scores. And it was exciting to see him get a standing ovation.

I enjoyed the show overall and thought that Chris Rock did a fantastic job hosting. Sure, there were moments that dragged and the pacing was a bit off and they did nothing to rectify the snubs in last year's In Memoriam (Joan Rivers, Jan Hooks, Taylor Negron), but it was a good broadcast. I won't go into opinions about fashion because there are so many others here on the interwebs who do such a better job than I ever could.

Better luck next year! Now back to our regular programming about orchestra music...

  

Friday, February 26, 2016

Oscar Picks 2016

It's Oscar weekend, my favorite holiday of the year! And for once, my favorite movie of the year (Mad Max: Fury Road) is nominated in a bunch of categories, including Best Picture. Mad Max may, in fact, be my favorite movie of the past five years or so. Perhaps the past decade. It is amazing on all levels and if I had my way, it would win all the Oscars including Best Picture and a write-in Best Actress for Charlize Theron.

But there's a big gap between what I want to win and what I think will win. Here are my best guesses as to how the hardware will be distributed:

Best Picture: The Revenant
Best Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio
Best Actress: Brie Larson
Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone
Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander
Best Original Screenplay: Spotlight
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short
Best Film Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Cinematography: The Revenant
Best Score: The Hateful Eight
Best Song: "Til It Happens to You" from The Hunting Ground
Best Art Direction: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Costumes: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Makeup: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Visual Effects: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Best Sound: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Sound Effects Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Animated Feature: Inside Out
Best Documentary Feature: Amy

You'll notice that while I'm picking The Revenant for Best Picture, I'm picking Mad Max to take home the most Oscars. Mad Max was, objectively, the best looking, best sounding movie of the year. I'll be thrilled if it wins more, but I predict it will take at least six Oscars.

There was a lot of buzz for Spotlight and The Big Short in the Best Picture race, but I think The Revenant will take it in the end and the others will take the screenplay awards. Also, it looks like Inarritu is poised to become the third person in Oscar history to win back to back directing Oscars. The lead acting categories are locks and Vikander is a strong favorite for Supporting Actress, but Stallone is in a tough race. His win (for a role he's played in seven movies) could be seen as a defacto lifetime achievement award, but many may feel that that's a lifetime of bad action movies and cast their votes elsewhere.

The category I'm most anticipating is Best Score, where the legendary Ennio Morricone is poised to win his first competitive Oscar in a lifetime of creating memorable music. This will be the best-deserved Oscar of the night and I'll be very bitter if he doesn't receive a standing ovation. In other music news, I predict that Lady Gaga will be halfway to an EGOT by the end of the ceremony.

As usual, I don't pick the short films and this year I'm not comfortable taking a guess in the Foreign Language category. I will take a shot at Animated Feature (Pixar is usually a safe bet) and Documentary Feature.

The Oscars are on Sunday night on ABC with Chris Rock hosting - it should be a good time. I'll post the winners and my correct picks.

 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter YouTube Concert

Winter concert season is just about done for the year, so let's put together a YouTube concert of recent performances!  First up is the Wydown Chamber Orchestra, directed by Dr. Jan Davis of Clayton, MO performing Iroquois Journey.


Man, those kids can play! I love the tempo and their articulations are so precise. Best of all, they bring an energy and passion to the piece that pushes the performance over the top. Check out how the 1st chair violin is getting into it! Nicely done.

Next we have the MNPS Honors Orchestra performing Las Mariposas Exoticas. They don't start playing until 0:25.


It's just slightly too fast, but the group has a good sense of the style and delicacy required for the piece. Also, it's always nice to hear the optional percussion used. Way to go!

Up next is the SLJH Chamber Orchestra performing Agincourt.


This group has an excellent sense of dynamics and made the transitions and changes in energy feel seamless. They also have a good balance and intonation and kept up with the tempo beautifully. Great job!

Finally, Gauntlet, performed by the Mineola High School 8th Grade Orchestra, directed by Sarah Ramsingh.


There are a few little problems here, but I like the transitions between the fast section and the middle section and back again. I also like that they played what's written in measure three. A good performance - Nice job!

 


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Winstride Tutorials

Another great orchestra teacher has made a series of tutorials for her students - this time of Winstride! Please enjoy:







Sorry, Cellos and Basses, it looks like there aren't videos in this series for you just yet. But thanks to this wonderful teacher - I hope your students, their parents and the school administration appreciate your efforts!

Edited: Cello and Bass videos have appeared on YouTube! Enjoy!


Cello



Bass

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Oscar Post-Mortem 2015

Another Oscar night is done and I did only okay this year - I honestly wasn't expecting to match 2014's 91.5% accuracy, but I was hoping to get somewhere in the 80% range. Rather, thanks to a surprisingly strong showing by Whiplash and a few risky picks, I got 71% this year. Not great, but not my worst year.  Here's how it broke down (correct picks are in red):

Best Picture: Birdman
Best Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman
Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Best Actress: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Best Supporting Actor: J. K. Simmons, Whiplash
Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Best Original Screemplay: Birdman
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Imitation Game
Best Editing: Whiplash
Best Cinematography: Birdman
Best Score: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Song: "Glory" from Selma
Best Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Costumes: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Makeup: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Sound Editing: American Sniper
Best Sound Mixing: Whiplash
Best Visual Effects: Interstellar
Best Animated Feature: Big Hero 6
Best Foreign Language Film: Ida
Best Documentary Feature: Citizenfour

The final count was Birdman: 4, Grand Budapest: 4, Whiplash: 3, Everyone else: 1. I was hoping for more love for Boyhood, to recognize its epic production schedule and I underestimated the impact of Whiplash, which took two surprise awards.  I'm disappointed that proven veteran Michael Keaton was passed over but am thrilled for Julianne Moore, who finally won after four previous nominations.

Overall, I liked the show itself - NPH is a natural, likable host and did a great job. Lady Gaga has a great voice, but her Sound of Music tribute brought the show to a screeching halt and should have been cut. I was not happy about the In Memoriam montage leaving out Joan Rivers - the woman who basically invented red carpet coverage, personally boosted Oscar ratings for decades, made careers for up and coming designers and upped the standards of the event after years of questionable fashion. Anyone remember what the red carpet was like in the 80's? It was awful.  Besides that, she was a beloved writer and actress and for that alone should have been in the montage.

I enjoyed hearing all the political statements from the winners - the best Oscar moments are always the ones where the show goes off the rails and the producers lose control while someone goes rogue at the mic. After Patricia Arquette took a stand against wage inequality, it opened the floodgates for everyone to speak their minds and I applaud everyone who did.

It was an interesting broadcast with exciting results that left us with plenty to talk about - it's what we hope for every Oscar night. I'll try to do better next year and look forward to more exciting races!