Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The best-selling recording artist of 2009 is...

On Thursday, Alicia Keys will enter the Billboard Hot 200 album chart at number 2 with an impressive 405,000 units of her latest album, The Element of Freedom. Who kept her off the top spot? Why, it's none other than the same artist who has occupied the top spot for the past for the past four weeks - Susan Boyle. In the UK, Boyle's debut album, I Dreamed a Dream, has already been declared the biggest album of the year. In the US, that honor belongs to Taylor Swift's Fearless....but at the rate SuBo is going (this week, her album shifted 659,000 units), she could very well topple Taylor....and to think, this woman was completely unknown a year ago! What a difference a year makes!

What I've been waiting for...

The teaser trailer for the second Sex and the City movie was just released on the cannot wait!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Sandra Bullock - Oscar Nominee?

February 2nd, 2010 is when the nominations for the 82nd Academy Awards will be announced. That's more than six weeks away but already, I feel confident in predicting that Sandra Bullock will be one of the five women nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. This prediction is a rather obvious one to make now that Sandra Bullock has been nominated for both a Golden Globe and a SAG Award for her career-shifting performance in 'The Blind Side'. The Screen Actors Guild Award nominations were announced today and they pretty much reflected the Golden Globe nominations and whom I believe will be nominated on February 2nd. I shall make my predictions today and when the time comes, check back and see how many I got right.

Best Actor:
Jeff Bridges - Crazy Heart
George Clooney - Up in the Air
Colin Firth - A Single Man
Morgan Freeman - Invictus
Jeremy Renner - The Hurt Locker

If anyone of these men is at risk, it would be Jeremy Renner. He is the least well-known name on this list and it's possible that Daniel Day-Lewis (Nine), Ben Foster (The Messenger) or Tobey Maguire (Brothers) could take his spot.
Best Actress:
Sandra Bullock - The Blind Side
Helen Mirren - The Last Station
Carey Mulligan - An Education
Gabourey Sidibe - Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
Meryl Streep - Julie & Julia

All of these ladies are looking like surefire bets. If anyone of them is snubbed, it'll likely to make room for Emily Blunt (Young Victoria), Abbie Cornish (Bright Star) or Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones).

Best Supporting Actor:
Matt Damon - Invictus
Woody Harrelson - The Messenger
Christopher Plummer - The Last Station
Stanley Tucci - The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz - Inglorious Basterds
This line-up is another one that looks like it won't be changing come Feb. 2nd.

Best Supporting Actress:
Penélope Cruz - Nine
Vera Farmiga - Up in the Air
Anna Kendrick - Up in the Air
Mo'Nique - Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
Julianne Moore - A Single Man

Of the five names here, I think that Julianne Moore might be the only who might not be nominated. If she isn't, I wouldn't be surprised if it was to make room for Samantha Morton (The Messenger) or Mariah Carey (Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire). However, I would be very surprised if SAG award nominee Diane Kruger (Inglorious Basterds) manages to remain on the same list at the Oscars, although pleasantly so! I thought that her performance was absolutely glorious (pun intended) but who knows what the Academy will like. The whole guessing game is absolutely pointless, I know, but boy, do I enjoy it or what!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Double your Golden Globe chances!

The Golden Globe nominations were announced today and several stars emerged double nominees. Those reaping multiple nominations included Meryl Streep (who's a double nominee in the Best Actress - Musical or Comedy category for 'It's Complicated' and 'Julie & Julia'), Sandra Bullock (Best Actress - Musical or Comedy for 'The Proposal' and Best Actress - Drama for 'The Blind Side') and Matt Damon (Best Actor - Musical or Comedy for 'The Informant!' and Best Supporting Actor for 'Invictus'). Meryl Streep's performance in 'Julie & Julia' has already turned the veteran actress turned current box office queen the frontrunner for next year's Best Actress Oscar but it's entirely possible that having two nominations in the same category could end up costing her the Golden Globe, if votes end up being split between the two. Sandra Bullock's nominations top off what has been the most successful year of her career, with both movies that she's nominated for already hugely profitable hits.
Many titles that have generated award buzz for the past few months emerged even stronger contenders in Oscar's Best Picture race, especially now that the field has been expanded from the traditional five nominees to ten nominees. 'Precious' continues to be the little film that could in this upcoming race, with nominations in the Best Drama, Best Actress - Drama (Gabourey Sidibe) and Best Supporting Actress (Mo'Nique) but curiously, no nominations for Best Director (Lee Daniels) and Mariah Carey for Best Supporting Actress. 'Nine' will seems to have Best Musical or Comedy locked up, even though its director, Rob Marshall, was snubbed. Interestingly, Dave Karger of Entertainment Weekly noted that in the Best Director race, two of the nominees, Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) and James Cameron (Avatar), are former spouses, which must be a Golden Globe first!

On the TV side, I was so happy to see some of my favorite show, 30 Rock, nominated in multiple categories, as well as seeing several new shows that have caught my attention gain recognition, i.e. 'Cougar Town', 'Modern Family', 'Glee' and 'Nurse Jackie'. Actually, that's what I have planned for Christmas day - a marathon of 'Glee' followed by a marathon of 'Nurse Jackie'! Now, that's what I call quality time alone!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Shame on you, NY State Senate!

On Wednesday, the NY State Senate voted down the gay marriage bill 38-24. Yes, the Empire State, home of New York City, one of the gayest cities in the world, will not be handing out a marriage license to Adam and Steve anytime soon. The injustice and the regressive nature of this vote are too bewildering to speak I will leave you with this beautiful speech given by Senator Diane Savino of Staten Island, NY. This lady manages to make so much sense of the whole debate and she does it with amazing grace and humor.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

No Single Ladies? Halo-No!

Beyoncé dominates this year's Grammy nominations, with a leading 10 nods, including in the three main categories of Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year. None of this is a surprise to anyone who has witnessed the cultural impact of 'Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)' in the past twelve months. The song has spawned countless YouTube tributes and more recently, has been referenced in breakout TV shows such as 'Glee' and 'Cougar Town'. The phenomenal success of this song has even been recognized by President Obama! So, how is it that Beyoncé's nomination for Record of the Year is for the popular but nowhere nearly as iconic 'Halo'? I guess the Recording Academy felt like living up to their reputation of being out of touch with the zeitgeist. Strangely enough, 'Single Ladies' still scored Beyoncé (and her co-writers) a nomination in the Song of the Year category, which means that the song was considered by the nominating committee but deemed not worthy of the Record of the Year category.

Meanwhile, Lady GaGa can console herself for being passed over for Best New Artist with her nominations in the same three major categories as Beyoncé. Her 'Poker Face' is nominated for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year and her debut album 'The Fame' has been nominated for Album of the Year, where the other three nominated acts are the Black Eyed Peas, the Dave Matthews Band and Taylor Swift...cue a bunch of tired, old Kanye West jokes. Speaking of Taylor Swift, she joins Lady GaGa and Beyoncé in being the only acts this year that are nominated for all three major categories. It's encouraging to see young female singer/songwriters being recognized for their talent in an industry that often takes women less seriously than their male counterparts.

The most glaring omission from the nominations is probably the clear and deliberate snub of former Grammy favorite Whitney Houston, whose warmly-reviewed and commercially successful comeback album 'I Look to You' was actually released one day earlier than scheduled in order for it to qualify for this year's Grammys. With the highly influential Clive Davis in her corner, it's certainly curious as to how she missed out on a single nomination. Perhaps a duet with Beyoncé on 'I Look to You' would have been advisable but in all fairness, hindsight is 20/20!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Grammy goes GaGa...

...but not in the Best New Artist category! The Grammy nominations will be announced later today and there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the ineligibility of Lady GaGa in the aforementioned newcomer race due to her nomination last year in the Best Dance Recording category for her debut single 'Just Dance'. Grammy's President Neil Portnow has conceded that the way Best New Artist nominees are selected will probably have to be reviewed and revised following the omission of the biggest newcomer to pop in the 2008/09 award season. Meanwhile, the rules do not prevent recording artists who are not even on their debut album in the eligibility period from being eligible for the Best New Artist Grammy. Previous Best New Artist winner Shelby Lynne was already on her sixth studio album when she was nominated. Don't feel too bad for GaGa, though. I have a strong hunch that she'll still reap multiple nominations in the Pop and Dance categories, not to mention the all encompassing main categories of Record, Album and Song of the Year. Besides, that's what a true pioneer does...they blaze the trail for those who come after them, even if they themselves miss out!

'Precious' Spirit Award nominations

It's the beginning of December and I feel like 2009 just flashed by me. Truth be told, I absolutely love this time of year because my version of Christmas is watching the unfolding of the movie awards season. As the year draws to an end, the road to Oscar unofficially begins, even though Oscar nominations aren't announced until early February and the actual ceremony isn't until March 7th, 2010. Actually, for an Oscar fan like me, someone who enjoys handicapping the entertainment industry's highest honors, Oscar season is all year round but it's around this time every year that contenders start to come into focus and pretenders fall by the wayside. On Tuesday, the nominations for the 2010 Spirit Awards were announced. These awards honor achievements in independent, US-funded cinema.

'Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire" and 'The Last Station' lead the field with five nominations each. 'Precious', the story of an abused and illiterate Harlem teenager who struggles to find a better life, is the frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar. The movie has been collecting accolades and great acclaim ever since it was premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January. 'The Last Station' is an account of the battle over the estate of Russian literary giant Leo Tolstoy between the man, played by Christopher Plummer, and his wife, played by Helen Mirren, who has already won the Best Actress prize at the Rome Film Festival for her performance. Both are nominated, with the latter competing against Gabourey Sidibe, the young lady making her professional acting debut playing the eponymous role in 'Precious', in the Best Actress category.
Because the Spirit Awards specifically recognize lower-budget films, success here doesn't necessarily translate to success at the Oscars...but it certainly doesn't hurt a leading contender's Oscar chances and, if anything, only adds to the momentum of award frontrunners. Furthermore, there tends to be quite a number of overlapping in the acting categories between the Spirit Awards and the Academy Awards, ever since Oscar got more hip and wiser to the quality of independent film, especially in telling stories that are character-driven; the kind of meaty opportunities that every actor craves. Just last year, Spirit Award nominee Sean Penn, for Best Actor for his work in 'Milk', went on to win the Oscar. This year, there are several nominees at the Spirit Awards who will likely contend at the Oscars. They include the aforementioned Gabourey Sidibe and her co-star Mo'Nique, who portrays the title character's abusive mother, one of the most horrific parental figures ever committed to celluloid, for 'Precious', Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer for 'The Last Station', Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton for the Iraq war on the homefront movie 'The Messenger', Colin Firth in iconic fashion designer Tom Ford's directorial debut 'A Single Man' and the current frontrunner for the Best Actor Oscar, Jeff Bridges for 'Crazy Heart'.
One performance that was surprisingly omitted from these nominations is Mariah Carey's performance as the social worker who helps the title character to confront her domestic hell in 'Precious', which has been generating a great deal of Oscar buzz for the diva, due to the transformative nature of her role and the revelatory potency of her subtle turn. Carey has already won one award for her work in 'Precious', the Breakthrough Performance Award from the Palm Springs Film Festival. I believe that her journey from making one of the worst-received film debut of all time in 'Glitter' to Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for 'Precious' will continue because it is clear that the Oscar momentum for 'Precious' will continue to grow in the next few months. No doubt, Mariah will benefit from all the attention the movie is getting. If there is one thing that the Academy loves more than recognizing a good, deserving performance, it's recognizing a good, deserving performance given by someone with a personal trajectory of redemption and triumph over adversity. Now, that's definitely our Mimi!