Rave: Oscar Predictions

Hollywood’s big night is just days away – the 85th Academy Awards take place this Sunday, February 24. As the entire awards season leads up to this, anticipation is high. If you give a hoot about these awards, then you’ve likely got an Oscar pool you’re participating in (we highly recommend entering Lainey’s annual pool for some kickass prizes). While we aren’t going to reveal all our picks today – because duh, we want to win, too – we will share our insight into the nominees and the evening, in general. 


The BFF Connection


Wonder if Matt is jealous of George?



If anything has become evident this awards season, it’s that Best Picture is Ben Affleck’s to lose. Argo has been riding a massive wave of dominance, which is partly attributed to Affleck’s Best Director snub, partly because of the “perfect family” show he and wife Jennifer Garner have been putting on the past few months, and a lot due to his bestie and co-producer George Clooney. Clooney knows how to play the game and he’s been pressing a lot of flesh on behalf of Argo. Who could resist the Clooney charm? Not us, that’s for sure. The only real question left to ask is, will Clooney bring girlfriend Stacy Keibler with him to the Kodak? That would be two trips in a row, a new record. 

Tightest Races


Classic moments from JLaw & Bette.

There are a few categories that are way too close to call, among them Best Director and Best Actress. Also, Best Actor. We know, you’re all thinking “oh hey, who can challenge Daniel Day-Lewis? Nobody.” and yes, you’re right. But maybe, just maybe… Hugh Jackman can rip the bald statue out of DDL’s hands? That would be an upset. For Best Actress, we’re saying it’s between Jennifer Lawrence and Emmanuelle Riva. We love JLaw, but this won’t be her last time at the Kodak. Can’t say the same for Riva (sorry!). Finally, the most contentious category: Best Director. After the high-profile snubs of Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow, we weren’t sure what to think. Still don’t, to be honest. The power of Harvey Weinstein has us leaning towards David O. Russell, but Steven Spielberg and Ang Lee are also strong candidates. 

Locked Down


Shaved head + singing cry face = OSCAR!



We’ve already called Argo for the Best Picture win, but we’re sure you’re wondering what other categories are a lock. While there’s always a chance Academy voters will go rogue and have a change of heart, calling Anne Hathaway for the Best Supporting Actress win is about as close to a sure thing as you can get. Considering Amour was nominated in both the Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film categories, we’re also pretty sure that Amour will take the non-English category. 


Lowered Expectations


Stewie! 

After the excitement of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting the Golden Globes, we just can’t muster up much enthusiasm for the Oscar’s host, Seth MacFarlane. Don’t get us wrong, we love Family Guy and were thrilled to hear some of the show’s writers were contributing to the Oscars. And while MacFarlane is a talented vocal actor, we always want a little bit of Broadway (i.e. singing and dancing) in our telecast and don’t know if he can deliver. Not to mention, he’s already claimed that this is a “one-time thing” for him. Doesn’t really engender the most confidence. 


Magic Oscar


Please God, let this happen on Sunday. 



This year’s show has an impressive list of presenters and special guests, including the cast of The Avengers (Robert Downey Junior, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans and Samuel L. Jackson), Barbara Streisand, Adele, Nicole Kidman, Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Channing Tatum. There’s so many things we want to know! Is Babs going to sing? Will Aniston bring fiance Justin Theroux with her? How does Clooney feel about Theroux?  Are Kidman and Naomi Watts still besties? And, most importantly, is Channing Tatum going to take off his shirt? 

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Media, Darling: Jessica Allen

Jessica Allen is an assistant editor at Maclean’s magazine where she writes and edits for the website in the areas of arts and culture, and makes podcasts and videos. After work, she maintains her personal food blog, Foodie and the Beast, and is the editor-in-chief of T Magazine, a bi-annual publication put out by Terroni restaurant, a Toronto Italian restaurant that she worked at for nearly a decade. During that time she completed a Master’s degree in the history of art at the University of Toronto and spent a year teaching art history in Florence, Italy. Jessica’s TIFF coverage in 2011, her first time reporting on the festival, earned Maclean’s a National Magazine Award nomination.


Did you
always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
Well, as a kid I really wanted to be a
cashier, a waitress or a writer because I loved cash registers and typewriters.
I was very good at pressing buttons. Some might even say gifted. I also used to
host my own radio show that I’d tape on a little cassette recorder from the
living room floor, in private, when I was seven. Topics included: Why does my
brother like Star Wars so much? How
do you make musical instruments from stuff you find in the kitchen? How do they
make those Strawberry Shortcake dolls smell so good? And…Holy s- – t. I just
realized I’ve been a cashier, a waitress, a writer and a podcast host, which is
kind of like being on the radio. I have achieved all my childhood dreams.

Where
would you like to be five years from now?
Surrounded by friends and family at an
intimate, modest book launch. And maybe the book would have my byline. Or maybe
not.  But it would still be a lovely evening
with wine, cheese (fancy kinds) and crackers that would all be FREE.

Any
advice for people getting started in your industry?
Most days I feel like I’m still getting
started. But for freelancers, I’d suggest avoiding emailing an editor with,
“I’d love to write for you. What are you looking for?” It’s just a bit vague.
Do a little homework and see what sort of stories are making the cut and then
pitch a specific idea. And ideally, those queries should reflect who the writer
is, that they can write and that they have a clear idea for a solid story. If
the pitch is vague, boring and poorly written, chances are, the story will be
too.

What
are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
Right now I subscribe to three
publications: the New Yorker, the National Post and Bon
Appétit.
My dad suggested to me 15 years ago, when I was probably reading Sassy, to start reading the New Yorker: if you want to be a better
writer, he said, then read good writing and cross your fingers that some of
that fine craft on the page will be absorbed. I don’t read each issue
cover-to-cover, but man, does it manage to both entertain and enlighten. I love the ritual of first looking at the contents
and mapping out what I’ll read. I’ll usually jump to something by my favourite
contributors, like Amy Ozols, Tad Friend or Calvin Trillin. And I especially
love that the stuff I might resist reading at first, usually ends up being my
favourite. Reading the National Post
is my morning ritual. I like to think that it keeps me sharp because I don’t
always agree with the positions of the columnists and trying to articulate—or
at least think about—why that is, is a nice little exercise with morning
coffee. And since Adam Rapaport from GQ
came on board as editor-in-chief at Bon
Appétit,
I’ve been thrilled with that magazine. And I do love television but don’t have
cable so I just keep watching my favourite shows in rotation: The Sopranos, Deadwood and Northern
Exposure
.
Best
interview you’ve ever had?
This September on
the red carpet of a movie called Quartet
,
directed by Dustin Hoffman and starring Maggie Smith and Billy Connolly. We had
a chance to talk with all three of them on the red carpet for the film’s
premiere at TIFF.  And man oh man did
they bring it! That is how you do a
red carpet. And their enthusiasm, humour and professionalism made me feel a
little less sympathetic to other celebrities who slinked their way down the
carpet, with little verve or vigour, giving one word answers.
Worst?
I once had a scheduled phone interview
with a Toronto chef of international renown. He didn’t answer my first three
calls. He picked up on the fourth though, but asked if I could call back in an
hour. There were a couple of more no answers. By the time I got him, he was
talking to three or four other people in the background at the same time as me.
That was a tough one.
Best
advice you’ve ever been given?
There are three, and they’re so simple
I’m almost embarrassed to tell you: First, I was doing a video with Maclean’s colleague Brian D. Johnson,
who’s covered TIFF for 27 years now and appears on CityTV every Friday to talk
about the newest movies to hit theatres. I kept flubbing a take and he told me
to slow down and pause if I didn’t know what to say, instead of blabbering on.
GENIUS! Second, Philippe Gohier, a former editor at the magazine who now works
at enRoute, told me not to be afraid
to focus on what I think the best bits are in a story: think about the stuff
I’d be most excited to tell my friends about. 
And finally, my boyfriend, after being appalled over how many times I
interrupted celebrities on
my first TIFF red carpet
—think Anna Faris, Chris Pratt and Brad Pitt—told
me maybe to stop interrupting people in interviews. It’s just that I don’t like
making people uncomfortable and would always fill in the awkward silences. If
you let them do it instead, sometimes magic will happen.
What
rule(s) do you live your life by?

I wish I had more
rules to live my life by, but here’s one: Be nice to people. And hopefully not
because your motivations are selfish: be nice to people, including the security
guard, the cashier, the 
sales clerk or the taxi driver, because
being polite and nice are just good things to be in a world that sometimes
lacks those basic courtesies.


What’s
the most important tip you can give PR pros?
I suppose to do a little research before
emailing a press release or pitch: For example, while I’d love to cover a media
scrum on the Hill in Ottawa that you’ve emailed me a press release about, there
are probably far more capable reporters at Maclean’s
to do the job, even ones who actually work in Ottawa. Also, peg the person,
place or thing you’re promoting to a specific section of the magazine or
website that you know would be a good fit for your pitch. And don’t be alarmed
if I choose not to write about those chipotle-yogurt-acai berry gluten-free
chips that you’ve sent. I’m sure they’re amazing, but our readers might not
understand why I just dedicated 500 words to them. 
Best
experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
Last year was my first time covering
TIFF. I was so naïve and had to count on the kindness of PR strangers
(including you fine folks! But it might be considered gauche to recount here.) I
managed to connect with Jennifer Love of Duet PR, who practically held my hand
after I flat out admitted that I was new to TIFF and usually wrote about food. She
did her best to include me at events that might have a culinary focus. One was
a private dinner for a movie called The
Artist
where the star,
Jean Dujardin, director
Michael
Hazanavicius
and producer Harvey Weinstein would be
in attendance. Media wasn’t supposed to be there but I promised to behave and
be a fly on the wall. I ended up sitting with two of the smartest people I’ve
met working in media—Anne Thompson and Dana Harris of Indiewire—and had the time of my life. Hearing Thompson over dinner
confess that:
“I’ve been quoted in print as saying
Ewan McGregor has the most beautiful penis I’ve ever seen. Well, the title now
goes to Michael Fassbender,” was especially memorable, not to mention watching
the Weinstein brothers work the room, or rather, the room working them, and
being privy to New York PR sensation Peggy Siegel doing her thing, were like
scenes out of a movie on the business of making movies. And I
got a great little story out of it to boot
.

I hate?
Chicken on pizza, or in pasta. And
strawberries in rhubarb pie.


I love?
My bike. I ride it everywhere. Sometimes
in heels (don’t recommend.)


Reading?
Currently on the bedside table are A Room With a View (because I just
re-watched the Ivory-Merchant film), Philip Roth’s Zuckerman Unbound, and a food history called Consider the Fork.


Best place
on earth?
Lately, my couch, in home-time comfy
clothes, fire going (in fireplace), one of the above-mentioned TV shows
playing, with my feet on my boyfriend’s lap and a glass of Sancerre resting on
my tummy. (I will take a cheap Italian white, if funds are limited, which is
more often than not.)
Dinner
guest?
Daniel Day Lewis as Nathaniel in Last of the Mohicans, Matt Damon as
Jason Bourne and Brad Pitt as Tristan from
Legends of the Fall
. And if there was room, Russell Crowe as Gladiator. Okay, and Daniel Craig as
007. They would arrive in costume, and be in character the whole night. After
dinner, which I’d prepare at my place, we’d all go sit on the couch with
glasses of bourbon and watch the movies they’re in, or maybe deconstruct
episodes of Girls, and eat a Deep and
Delicious cake out of the container. I’ve said too much.


Hero?
Professionally speaking, Elaine Lui of LaineyGossip. Her writing is not only
hilarious, but it also, for me, blurs the line between high and low culture. If
I’m ever feeling lazy, I think of how much she works, and how she manages to
pump out copy on pop culture that is often so acute and illuminating that I
wonder why she’s not a f–king university professor. (Probably because having
your own gossip website is more fun, and you still get to do TED Talks on the
side.)
Favourite
app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
I use the LCBO App quite a bit. Probably
too much, actually.


Pool or
ocean?
Always the ocean.

Voicemail
or email?
Always the email.

Rave: Award season films

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – when superheroes have left the silver screen and studios’ award season bait films flood the theatres. It seems every week there’s a new trailer we’re watching on repeat, and we’re having trouble deciding which movie we’ll be seeing come Christmas Day. Thankfully the weather is getting chilly, so we’re not opposed to spending day after day at the movies. 


Argo (now playing)





The latest directorial effort from Ben Affleck confirms his status as a respected director. The film tells the true story of a joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six American diplomats out of Iran during the revolution in 1980. But, as this is a Hollywood film, don’t expect it to be based entirely in fact: the story is slightly exaggerated and the role of Canada is downplayed considerably. Still, odds are high that this film may earn Affleck his second Oscar. 


Lincoln (now playing)





It’s an unspoken rule that whenever the notoriously reclusive Daniel Day-Lewis stars in a film, Academy Awards follow. In Lincoln, Steven Spielberg directs Day-Lewis as the legendary president during his final few months in office. The dramatic film is set during the Civil War, when the president fights to abolish slavery and end the war. Sally Fields, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tommy Lee Jones also star.  


Silver Linings Playbook (November 21)





Silver Linings Playbook won the Audience Choice Award at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, and for good reason! Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in this charming comedy romance (please, do not mistake this for a “rom-com”) about two outsiders struggling to rebuild their lives. The two actors’ performances alone make this film worth seeing, but we’d be remiss to neglect mentioning Robert DeNiro’s scene-stealing role as Cooper’s father.  


Anna Karenina (November 30)





Keira Knightley re-teams with director Joe Wright to take on Leo Tolstoy’s tragic novel. What sets this adaptation apart from the rest is it’s unique staging – Wright shoots the film entirely on a single soundstage. The sumptuous costumes and beautiful designs make this visually stunning film a must. We’re intrigued to see the love triangle play out on-screen between Knightley’s Anna, Jude Law’s Karenin and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Vronsky. 


Zero Dark Thirty (January 11)





This film hasn’t been receiving the same level of popular hype as some of the others on this list, but the insider buzz is steadily rising. Not surprising, as Zero Dark Thirty reunites The Hurt Locker‘s director-writer team of Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal and features critical darling, Jessica Chastain. This film tells the story of the decade-long manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man, Osama Bin Laden. However, the biggest draw for us may be Coach Taylor (aka. Kyle Chandler) listed in the credits. 


Django Unchained (December 25)





Early word on this new flick from Quentin Tarantino is “holy crap, get ready for some violence!”. If you thought Inglourious Basterds was bad, well, brace yourself. Django Unchained stars Jamie Foxx as former slave, Django who is helping a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) search out his bounty. Django’s ultimate goal is to locate his long-missing wife (Kerry Washington). Leonardo DiCaprio plays the brutal Calvin Candie, proprietor of the infamous “Candyland” plantation.


Les Miserables (December 25)





If this trailer doesn’t give you goosebumps, then you have no soul. Award-winning director, Tom Hooper brings the sweeping, epic musical to the big screen for the best Christmas present we could ever ask for. The all-star cast includes Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert, Anne Hathaway as Fantine and Amanda Seyfried as Cosette. Watch this behind-the-scenes vignette, which discusses how the actors all sang while filming (as opposed to mouthing the words and laying vocal tracks in a studio). Oh, and make sure you have some Kleenex handy.