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Neal Vitale's Oscar Picks

[Ed. note: It is with great pleasure each year that I publish here, sometimes even before the Oscar ceremony, the picks of my friend of four decades, the former publisher of Variety, Neal Vitale. I don't find much to disagree with here, although I liked Lincoln more then he did, Le Mis less, and preferred The Longest Daycare for best animated short. Which doesn't mean it will win, just that I prefer it. As usual, check back next week (or maybe even midweek this week) to see the scorecard.]

[NV additional note - These picks are what I think will win, not what I personally liked best.]

Best Picture - Argo

Best Actress - Emmanuelle Riva

Best Actor - Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Supporting Actress - Anne Hathaway

Best Supporting Actor - Robert De Niro

Best Animated Feature - Wreck-It Ralph

Cinematography - Life Of Pi

Costume Design - Anna Karenina

Directing - Steven Spielberg

Documentary Feature - Searching For Sugar Man

Documentary Short - Inocente

Film Editing - Argo

Foreign Language Film - Amour

Makeup & Hairstyling - Les Misérables  

Original Score - Life Of Pi

Original Song - "Skyfall" from Skyfall

Production Design - Lincoln

Short Film-Animated - Adam And Dog

Short Film-Live Action - Asad

Sound Editing - Skyfall

Sound Mixing - Les Misérables

Visual Effects - Life Of Pi

Adapted Screenplay - Lincoln

Original Screenplay - Amour

Neal Vitale Reviews: Top Music Of 2012

Apologies that my top picks for the past year are unusually late. I've been agonizing over my selections in a year that produced mostly lackluster music - in my view there were no great, breakout albums in 2012. So, I have not separated my list into a first tier and a set of "honorable mentions" - I don't think the year's output justifies such a segmentation - and instead cited those works that caught my ear, sorted alphabetically. Many of these records are inconsistent or only have two or three terrific songs, but I gave points for freshness and a distinctive voice. 

Anais Mitchell Young Man In America
Andrew Bird Break It Yourself
Band of Skulls Sweet Sour
Cold Specks I Predict A Graceful Expulsion
Cornershop Urban Turban
David Byrne & St. Vincent Love This Giant
Divine Fits A Thing Called Divine Fits
Dr. Dog Be The Void
Dr. John Locked Down
Django Django Django Django
Elle King The Elle King EP
Father John Misty Fear Fun
Fun. Some Nights
Gary Clark Jr. Blak And Blu
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals The Lion The Beast The Beat
Graham Parker Three Chords Good
Heartless Bastards Arrow
Hope For Agoldensummer Life Inside The Body
How To Destroy Angels An omen_EP
Imagine Dragons Night Visions
Jack White Blunderbuss
Japandroids Celebration Rock
JEFF The Brotherhood Hypnotic Nights
Jessie Ware Devotion
JuJu (Justin Adams and Juldeh
In Trance
Matthew E. White Big Inner
Neil Young & Crazy Horse Psychedelic Pill
Norah Jones Little Broken Hearts
Sinéad O'Connor How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?
Susanna Wild Dog
Tame Impala Lonerism
The Big Pink Future This
thenewno2 thefearofmissingout
White Rabbits Milk Famous
Yeasayer Fragrant World
Reissues/ Tributes  
David Bowie Ziggy Stardust
Peter Gabriel So
Various Just Tell Me That You Want Me - A Tribute To Fleetwood Mac
Aimee Mann (w/James Mercer) Living A Lie
Alabama Shakes Hold On
Alex Clare Too Close
Benjamin Gibbard (w/Aimee
Bigger Than Love
Bonnie Raitt Million Miles
Gin Wigmore Man Like That
Gotye Somebody That I Used To Know
Mastodon A Commotion
Muse Madness
Neil Young & Crazy Horse Oh Susannah
Pink Try
Sleigh Bells Comback Kid
The Black Keys The Baddest Man Alive
The Lumineers Ho Hey
The Rolling Stones Doom And Gloom
The Shins Simple Song

Identity Thief

2.5 stars out of 5
Don't get me wrong, I love Jason Bateman and am normally quite tolerant of Melissa McCarthy. And I managed to wring a few laughs out of this too-long comedy. The critics savaged it, in a way that was somewhat more cruel than it needed to be. But Craig Mazin's screenplay, based on a story by himself and Kerry Eeten, indicates that they had a lousy education. I was taught, and I teach, that the only forbidden phrase at the start of a concluding paragraph or sentence is, "In conclusion." Now, I am aware of the fact that screenwriting manuals require the protaganist to learn something over the course of the movie (I am reading an interesting book on the subject that I will review soon). But to have the protaganists, literally, say to each other, "I guess I learned..." is the height (or depth) of sophomoric writing. Whatever happened to "show, don't tell." Based on the box office, this film is clearly critic proof, and it is entertaining, but it could have so easily been done shorter and better that it is a disappointment.

A Good Day To Die Hard

2.5 stars out of 5
You've no doubt read of the nanobots, that are made of materials as little as one molecule thick. I found myself thinking of these nanobots as I watched what will, hopefully, be the final installment of the Die Hard franchise. The wife was gone, the smarmy TV reporter was gone; we were left with naught but Bruce Willis and his out of nowhere son. All that is left is a little, tiny, molecule-thin plot, wrapped around car chases and explosions. Really impressive car chases and explosions, but that's all they were (and they were shot in Budapest, standing in for Moscow). As for the plot, sometimes the only thing I could hear as Willis yelled over the gunfire and explosions was "Jesus," and yet, I doubt religion was central to the plot. Look, I went despite the excreable reviews because I like Bruce Willis and sometimes enjoy the distraction of watching things blow up. I got what I paid for. At least it was only 15 minutes too long (although if could have been done in 70 minutes, easy).

Dern and Russian Dashboard Cam, Dan Grobstein File

Daniel Dern sent me a link to some of the most amazing video I have ever seen, taken, supposedly, by Russian Dashboard Cams.

Dan Grobstein File

The Two Banks of the River

During Satsung at the ashram Saturday night (now there's a phrase I never dreamed I'd write),  a video of Amma was played, during which she said that when we look at a river, we see two banks. This is an illusion, she said; both banks are part of a single planet. They simply appear to be different banks because of the river running between them. The river is the ego; when we let that go, we can see that both banks are the same. That was three days ago. I'm still thinking about it.

Political Briefs

Safe Haven

3.5 stars out of 5
Director Lasse Hallström has a firm hand on the tiller in this thriller rom-com, which features pretty good acting by the leads, Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel and an amazing performance by first-timer Cobie Smulders as Lexie. Maybe W.C. Fields was wrong about working with children. The Leslie Bohem & Dana Stevens screenplay based on Nicholas Sparks' novel was good, not great. Any time you say, to yourself or out loud, "you've got to be kidding" at not one, but two of the plot twists in the climax, you know the writers have gone a little too deep into the cliché well. Still, a pleasant enough film. Critics hated it, audiences love it. Put me down as siding with the audiences.