Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The ToZ 2014 Oscar 'Hopes'

The final ballots for the 86th Oscars were submitted yesterday at 5pm PST. I did all I could do to promote my favorite performances and films in a desperate, but completely failed attempt to sway voters. So now that this awards season is almost over, I can now post my Oscar Hopes.

I am poor at this prediction business because I truly follow my heart and gut. I ignore stats, and frontrunner talk, and in all honesty, I think it's more fun (for me at least) and good karma, to post my ballot as I would like (aka, hope) to see transpire on Oscar night. After participating in discussions exclusively at Awards Daily in the past two months about this upcoming event, I sense what's going to happen, but I prefer my ideas, of course. While quite a few of my selections are in line with common predictions, there are a handful of Oscar winner picks that may be based on grand delusions or crazy wishful thinking. But you know what... all nominees are valid nominees in the running and anything can happen. Anything!

So without further adieu, here are my 2014 Oscar Hopes -

Best Picture:
12 Years a Slave

Steve McQueen - 12YAS
(alt. Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity)

Production Design:
The Great Gatsby

Actor in a Leading Role:
Leonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street

Actor in a Supporting Role:
Michael Fassbender - 12 Years a Slave

Actress in a Leading Role:
Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine

Actress in a Supporting Role:
Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years a Slave

Animated Feature Film:


Costume Design:
The Great Gatsby

Documentary Feature:
The Act of Killing

Film Editing:

Foreign Language Film:
The Hunt - Denmark

Makeup and Hairstyling:
Dallas Buyers Club

Original Score:

Original Song:
Let it Go - Frozen
(alt. The Moon Song - Her)

Sound Editing:

Sound Mixing:

Visual Effects:

Adapted Screenplay:
John Ridley - 12 Years a Slave

Original Screenplay:

Monday, February 24, 2014

My Rent Quandry

The current apartment that I have called home in Ann Arbor since April 2004, has been the one address I have lived at the longest for my entire life. In just two months, I will have lived there for ten straight years and I have become quite comfortable living there. I hate moving because I have moved a lot in the years prior to my current home. But these days, as I'm actively looking for new career opportunities in Detroit and Dearborn, I am open to moving closer to those areas so that I don't have to drive too far. Especially due to horrible winter we have experienced this year, it makes no sense to live so far away from a job. This is Michigan, not Southern California. I'm also very spoiled in being an Ann Arborite because I live and work in this city and my commute is barely 10 minutes on secondary roads.

Just last week, I was contacted by the landlord company and they informed me that my rent went up 7.5%! I looked at the new rental rate and I couldn't believe it. They have been tidying things up, new paint jobs that make the apartment building look more fresh and bright. I realize that during the housing bust that rents dropped and those years were good to me because my employment was shaky with the layoffs and part-time work. And it doesn't help matters living in a city with a world class public university because it brings in a lot of people with the money to spend on high rents. I foolishly thought that all the fancy high-rise apartments that were being built around Univ of Michigan's campus would accommodate all the students. But what about those students who can't or don't want to pay $1200/mth to share a flat with 4-5 other people? They spread out further to properties within the three mile zone of the university to apartments like mine. Some even move to apartments in Ypsilanti because rents drop significantly there, but unfortunately, crime goes up in some of those neighborhoods. But I digress.

The dilemma I'm faced with right now is making the decision to either renew for another year, look for another apartment in town, or upon getting a new job, prepare to move to the city of that new job. If I remain in Ann Arbor, it's smarter for me to just stay in the apartment I'm currently in. I live in the best area of town, and that can be determined based on the amount of traffic that is in the area. In a word, traffic is always congested here because of the access to M-23 and I-94, and loads of shopping that are literally just walking distance for me. There have been many times when I prefer to just walk up to Arborland as it's only a 10 minute walk. As I approach the shopping area, it's always congested with traffic entering and exiting. I walk past the people in their cars, just looking at some of them just sit there and wait for the traffic to move along. Life is too short to sit in this kind of crazy traffic all the time. If I were to consider moving to another apartment in town, I would be paying more, much more. I want some amenities that my current place doesn't have like a patio or balcony, but I don't want to pay another $100+ more in rent at this time. As an example, here is a link to Average Rent which shows the current rental rates in Ann Arbor -

If I get a new job within the next 6-8 weeks and if it's close to Detroit, I will certainly have to move due to the before mentioned weather related reasons. But I'll be torn inside a bit to have to move because Ann Arbor has everything for me, and after living in this area after moving back to Michigan from New York City, it's hard to find another city that can live up to A2. So for the time being, I'm prepared to renew my lease but I'm actively applying for new jobs that may position me to eventually move away from Ann Arbor. Whatever my decision, this will be my last year renting at this apartment, it'll be time to move on.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

No More Sanctuary in Covent Garden

I will desperately miss my favorite London spa, The Sanctuary
As I was preparing to head out this Sunday afternoon for lunch and see a movie (The Monuments Men) with my friend Laurie, I spritz on a bit of my perfume from The Sanctuary Spa and it made me think about the spa. This is a lovely spa in London, specifically, the Covent Garden location that I have had the absolute pleasure of visiting four times since my first visit to the spa in 2008. During my most recent visit to London in June, I had difficulties trying to make a booking to the spa because as I am based in the US, the new online booking website no longer worked for ISPs based on the United States. I even tried to email The Sanctuary directly to make a booking, but they couldn't seem to be bothered with helping me. This was a red flag and very disheartening. It takes time, planning, and MONEY for an American to holiday in London, and considering that I go there approximately every 12-14 months to visit my dear friend Lucinda, one would think that the spa would have been more accommodating for an American trying to make a booking.

Since I could not make my spa booking, Lucinda and I took advantage of a coupon to go to Amida Spa at Chelsea Harbour instead. And we had a great time. I did miss some exclusives that were specialized by The Sanctuary, but I received my spa experience as I desired. It was my intention that on my next visit to London, possibly in November, I would try to visit the spa again. However, just this morning, I learned that the spa will be closing all of its locations as of May 31st! I was so shocked to learn this and the website did not go in to details - I had to read more about it at Get the Gloss. Apparently The Sanctuary has been losing day spa business, so instead of closing down one or two of the four spas to increase demand at the remaining spas, they are closing all four down. Moving on, they will launch their cool spa items via online retail. Well, I personally think this is a poor decision plan. They could have at least just left the Covent Garden spa open - it's absolutely beautiful (I hope another fancy Spa goes in that space). Well, I reckon during future visits to London, I'll find other spas to frequent, and I'll have to go to Boots to buy the Sanctuary toiletries I've come to enjoy.

Goodbye Sanctuary, I'll miss your lovely Covent Garden Spa!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Closer Look

On a cold Saturday, I went to the DIA for a lecture about the Holy paintings on display at the DIA, and it was very interesting. It allowed me to gain a better understanding and appreciation for the Catholic view of religious art. The guest speaker was a Catholic Priest and he was very interesting and funny, and I quite liked him. So much so that I just visited his blog to see what it was about and I started to read about his prayers for the people of the Ukraine as they are in the middle of a horrible conflict in Kiev. Then in the next blog post, he posted something homophobic and I suddenly lost interest. Why oh why do so-called compassionate and loving people openly hate and disrespect homosexuals? I'll never understand it.

Anyway, some pictures I took at the museum were up close shots to concentrate on a certain view in the painting, providing a fresh perspective of paintings I love. Here are a few of my favorites.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Proud Moment

I received my Master's degree from EMU in the mail today, and it's just such a proud moment. For so long I pondered whether I should go back to college to get my Master's degree, but the timing was just never right - work problem, family problems, health problems, financial problems, employment problems. Things happen when they are suppose to happen, you can't rush these things.

I'm so glad I'm finished with school and I can't wait to frame this bad boy! Yeah me!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Finding Henry Cavill in Michigan

Out of all of the social media formats that I am engaged with, the one that really stands out as the best and most efficient is Twitter. While I can proudly boast that way back in early 2004 I was one of the first one million people to join Facebook, it really just was never my scene. However, I keep it up because half the planet is on it now and you’re considered a Luddite freak if you do not have a Facebook account. I visit FB maybe 3 times a month, if that, but Twitter, I’m on it continuously, and I prefer to say it that way instead of constantly – it’s all about semantics and self-pride.

As you may be aware based on my previous expression of glee, the Superman vs Batman movie will be filmed in the Detroit area.  You may recall my fantastic review of Man of Steel, so you know I’m very excited about the sequel being filmed in town. According to my twitter fed last weekend, Henry Cavill has been in town for several weeks, and he was seen bar hopping around Ferndale. There have been reports by fans who have spoken to the man himself, stating that he’ll be in town for most of the year. Right now it appears that he’s working with his trainer to get Superman cut again. Well, just as timing would have it, I happen to plan to be in the neighborhood of Ferndale and Royal Oak this Saturday. Now I know chances are low of me bumping into Henry Cavill, but I should be respected for at least positioning myself to allow for such an encounter to occur.

Henry Cavill at Motor City Cross Fit in Detroit
As a matter of fact, now that I’m free from the anti-social monopolizing binds of graduate school, I am actually FREE to do fun stuff over the weekends again! So bring it Hollywood! It will be a fun mission to find Henry Cavill like finding Waldo this summer in the Motor City! If I am successful in my venture, I will surely post pictures. Wish me luck!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Losing a Master Actor - Philip Seymour Hoffman

Notable personalities pass away every day, in fact, several passed away just in the past week. You take a moment to pause and reflect on their achievements in life that affected you politically or socially, and move on. When a celebrity dies, the reflection process is slightly different because most of us come to rely upon celebrities as our direct and reliable route to escapism, our own way to deal with life. The sadness is compounded even more when you really liked and enjoyed the work of a particular celebrity, and that’s why the sudden and shocking death of Philip Seymour Hoffman was like a kick in the gut. I was doing some research on the internet around 1pm on Sunday, and I went to check out my Twitter timeline feed to see what was up. Low and behold, I saw the shocking tweet headline declaring Hoffman dead in NYC. I could not believe it! I let out a very loud, “OMG, Jesus Christ”! And I frantically scrolled down my twitter feed to see if this was not a hoax or some terrible error. At that very moment, the news hadn’t spread just yet, but up popped several more tweets from favorite bloggers I follow, and they had the same ‘OMG’ ‘Jesus Christ’ ‘Dear God’ expressions that I had. That’s when I knew it was true.

Shortly afterwards, more reputable tweets came up linking the news to New York City media outlets and police comments confirming the horrible news. The majority of celebrity sudden deaths do make me sad, especially if they are young. But when I like the person and their talent was exceptional, their death just hits my heartstrings and leaves me depressed. As a person who enjoys watching great films and enjoys the great performances of prestigious actors/actresses, I am fond of quite a few. Although Philip Seymour Hoffman was not an actor I thought about daily, nor blogged about, he was someone who commanded my respect because the man was just a phenomenal actor. He never gave a poor performance. And even though I preferred the other Capote film that was released around the same time his Oscar winning Capote performance came out, I still greatly admired the man and felt that he was going to be one of those actors who will be around for another 30-40 years and earn at least two more Oscars. My favorite performance of Philip’s was in 2012, ‘The Master’, with Joaquin Phoenix. A movie not truly appreciated by critics and snubbed by the Oscars (nominated but won nothing), but something tells me they will all look back at this film with different eyes due to Philip’s passing.

Sadly, it appears that Philip’s life was cut short by a long rumored battle with drug addiction. To not sully the man’s reputation, I see no need to comment about the unsavory aspects that lead to his death, but with that said; we should not demonize a fellow human being who was haunted by drug addiction. It’s sad that he could not find complete joy in the successes of his famous life, his brilliant talent, and his three lovely children who have now had their young father taken away from them far too soon. In this social MEEEEEdia society we live in, there are countless, talentless celebutards whose images are forced fed into our faces almost 24/7. I have no use for 90% of the most popular celebrities because they offer me absolutely nothing in return – they are cheap entertainment for the lowest common denominator. However there are some truly talented entertainers who are a marvel to watch bring characters alive and make stories interesting to watch, and Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of those special entertainers. He left us far too soon due to his private suffering, and left us with a wasteland of 24/7 MEEEEEdia morons who deliberately and desperately toe the line with questionable public misbehavior so that we can notice them and talk about them, by any means necessary. Rest in peace Philip.