Thursday, March 8, 2018

Destination Italy - May 2019

A few weeks ago I decided that for my 2019 holiday trip, I'm finally going to visit Italy! I have been wanting to go there for 20 years now. I have a penpal friend who lives in Pavia, a Province in Northern Italy, just South of Milan, and, coincidentally, about a hour train ride from Crema, the little Italian city made famous by an Oscar winning film I've been cheer leading recently! My friend Elena has been my penpal since 1998, and although we have never met or spoke on the phone (we have friended each other on Facebook), our annual Christmas cards have kept our friendship alive. During the first few years of our penpalship, I wanted to visit her in Milan, but money was tight and I never got a chance to do it. But I knew I would get there one day, and with the popularity of Call Me By Your Name, which was filmed in Crema, and with the film serving as a tourism public service announcement for Northern Italy, I now must go.

Coliseum of Rome
I have notified Elena that I will be visiting next May. I selected this time because the prime tourist season is June 15 - Sept 1, and I want to take advantage of Memorial Day weekend. She's quite excited and can't believe that I'm finally planning this trip. Traveling just before the prime tourist season will save me some money on airfare and hotels. And as you will see from the map of Italy at the top, the Milan region is way the hell up in the Northern part of Italy. Naturally, when one travels all the way to Italy, you want to spend some time in Rome, the capital, which is smack dab in the middle of Italy. So I need to figure out if I'm going to fly in/out of Rome or Milan, and how to travel between the two regions so that I can enjoy both areas. I will most likely travel by train between the two points. The art historian and world history buff in me needs to visit Rome for a few days. Then I need to fulfill a personal destiny in Pavia of meeting a sweet person who has regularly sent me Xmas cards from afar. And of course I need to visit Crema for at least 2 days to bike ride, and enjoy the sights before I head back home. I won't have time to visit Bergamo, which is just North of Crema and another important spot of where filming was done. I don't expect or necessarily want to retrace the steps made popular in the film - I just want to finally fulfill a long time personal desire to visit Italy, and check out a some beautiful landmarks in a small town that I just discovered from a favorite film.

Stay tuned for updates on my progress for trip of a lifetime!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Spirit Awards and Oscar Weekend Report on Timothée Chalamet!

Oscar winner James Ivory (Adapted Screenplay) and nominee Timothée Chalamet
I am so glad my mind is still intact after the last five months of this insane Oscar season. Until I saw Timothée Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name in late November, I was going into this awards season with no horse in the race. But dammit, this kid messed up everything, and I put a lot of emotional investment into seeing him being properly rewarded. As the entire awards industry would see to it, Timothée lost all the awards to Gary Oldman, except for one, the Film Independent Spirit Award (where Gary wasn't nominated) which he won this past Saturday. And speaking of that award, I was working at the event and I engaged with Timothée twice as he arrived to the event, and when he left.

I was in charge of handing out a white wrist bands to all the nominees. I cannot even begin to tell you how many celebrities I spoke with, and personally placed in their hand a white wrist band. All I can say is that when you are in the capacity of working at an entertainment industry event, you are there to work, not socialize with celebrities, do not initiate deep discussions them, and certainly do not ask for selfies or autographs. To do so would put you in jeopardy of being removed from the premises and not be allowed to work the event again. So regardless of seeing Chadwick Boseman (Mr. Black Panther) a mere 3 feet from me, you can't pester or bother them, just be professional, and courteous with a smile. As the universe would have it, I was assigned this position out of over a dozen I could have been chosen for, and this particular duty literally placed me and a few other volunteers in the prime position to meet celebrities, for however fleeting the moment would be.

Timmy and Barry Keoghan (Killing of a Sacred Deer) wearing the wristbands I gave them
Timothée was one of the last celebrities to arrive about 40 minutes before the show started. As usual, he stopped by the fan section to sign autographs, and as he came into the security tent, I stood in my position to give him his nominee wrist band. He was about to go down another security aisle where he would not be able to get a wrist band, so I had to quickly follow him and I said, 'Timothée, here is your nominee wrist band", and he turned around to face me, and the light from the sun entering the tent made his eyes look neon green at that very moment, and he took it from me and said, 'Ok cool, thanks a lot'. A very quick interaction, but still a mind-blowing fan moment where I was in a professional capacity doing my job. As volunteers, we have too much work and prep work to do so we were not allowed to attend/watch the show. I think over those two days, I probably racked up 10 miles of walking if I had my fitbit with me. When the security station was dismantled when the show started, I went on break. I kept up with the show by reading the #SpiritAwards live tweets.

A well deserved win for Lead Actor at the Spirit Awards
One thing that's really cool about working behind the scenes of an awards show is that you see so many celebrities just mulling around. And a lot of them are people whose work I really enjoy. Some going to the restroom, some smoking a cigarette, others drinking cocktails and just talking and chilling out... all while the show is going on. It was surreal watching all this unfold, and again, I never got the desire to interact with any of the stars because it's not permitted. If they asked me a question, I could definitely answer the question or find someone who could help them. But other than that, as the show was winding down, we got back into position at the exit where all the celebrities would go through to get to their chauffeured cars. We were handing out The Hollywood Reporter and Variety Oscar issues and most would happily take them. About 5 minutes after the show ended (just minutes before Timothée won his Lead Actor award), I thought of the idea to just capture a short video of him leaving the tent area with me saying congratulations to him. And just as I thought of that, I saw him bouncing towards the exit area and that's when I pulled out my phone, being as discrete as possible, and when he was passing by me, I said 'Congratulations Timmy', and he said, 'Thank you very much, I appreciate it'. See video link below.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to not only be a voting member of Film Independent, but also serving in a volunteer capacity for this great show has been an encompassing experience. I gave up a day's work on Friday, and worked 8 hours on Saturday to help make this show a success. I definitely like the Spirit Awards better than the Oscars. And speaking of...

Well, as I knew deep, deep, deep down in my gut, the Academy was not going to give Timmy his Oscar. They don't like to take risks because they have a brand to protect, and they only want to make certain kinds of histories when it benefits them. A 22 year old white boy winning Best Actor is not as historic for them at this moment, as a first black director winner (who the hell knows when that will ever happen), or the first female cinematographer winner. All the prognosticators knew the Academy too well to go against their establish bias and they didn't waste time predicting Timothée. While they all believed that Timmy "should win", they knew all the cards were stacked up against him because he's just too goddamn young to receive the highest honor in the entertainment industry in his first starring role, where a man who could be his father have been in line longer that Timmy's been alive to receive his Oscar. Again, the Academy with their favoritism and lust for the flesh of women under 30 don't count, they give Oscars to them like passing out candy and as young as 9 (Tatum O'Neal). But for males, you have to be over 30, with the exception of Adrien Brody who got his Oscar at 29. Timothée is a kid/boy as far as Oscar voters are concerned (he just turned 22), and when he was asked about Timothée, newly anointed Oscar winner Gary Oldman gave a flustered salty response and dropped the 'K' word regarding Timmy too. LOL! I guess Gary couldn't wait to let his guard down now that he secured his precious. BTW, the Oscars telecast suffered its lowest ratings in 4 years. Ha!

Congratulations to Call Me By Your Name for winning one major Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay accepted by James Ivory. The film is now an Oscar winning film, and has bragging rights for a Best Picture nomination. I'm so proud and happy for Timothée Chalamet doing so well this season in being such a critical darling with major prestigious critics groups, and being nominated by all the top industry awards groups. Timmy won, people know him, people love him, and people want to work with him. He will receive his Oscar one day, he just has to be a little older so that the old fools who vote for the academy can feel better about voting for such a young man. Thanks Timmy for making this frustrating awards season so much fun supporting you! 

Timmy and his gorgeous mama


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Spirit Awards and Oscar Weekend - Last Stop!

Best Actor Oscar 2018 nominee, Timothée Chalamet
I must admit, this has been the LONGEST and most emotionally exhausting Oscar awards season for me in all the years I have been following the Oscars. And the blame falls squarely upon Timothée Chalamet, the youngest Best Actor nominee in 80 years. Most people don't realize that I was happy on the Gary Oldman train back in September when The Darkest Hour did well at the Toronto Int'l Film Festival. I was happy that it looked like he finally was going to get his Oscar. But... in late November, I watched a pretty little gay Indie, Call Me By Your Name (CMBYN), and I put all my eggs in one Oscar basket for Timothée. It says a lot that a kid that I didn't know about until November 24, usurped a long time favorite character actor of mine in the Oscar contention. Who doesn't like Gary Oldman? That's why, if, IF he were to win the Oscar Sunday night, it won't be the end of the world, but it would be annoying because Timmy should win. As a matter of fact, a lot of Oscar predictions are claiming that Oldman "will win", but they have Timothée noted as 'Should win'.

The nominee who is listed as a 'should win', gave a performance that if all things were considered equal, they should win. But they might not win because of politics, biases, and marketing/Oscar campaigning that overshadowed the other nominee's campaigns. Also, Oldman is very lucky that he's predicted to win because most Oscar voters know him, and they don't want to vote for a 22 year old kid, and that's what most voters look at Timmy as - a boy who came out of nowhere. However, just as my gut instinct keeps bugging me to keep hope alive and that an upset is begging to happen on Sunday night, the biggest upset would be in Best Actor. There are some predictors that have Timmy taking the Oscar. One is at Gold Derby, Matt Jacobs, Huffington Post Entertainment Editor. He's the sole believer at Gold Derby that Timothée could win the Oscar, and as long as someone like him believes so, there is hope, however dim the glimmer is, there's hope. Additionally, readers at Gold Derby voted Timmy for Best Actor, and CMBYN as Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, and Best Newcomer for Timothée. There's a lot of love for Timothée, but the older voters from the guilds, and possibly the Oscars, vote for their own, someone older and more established in the industry.

Once more, I hope that history is made Sunday night, if it's not this year, Timmy has six years to still be the youngest Best Actor winner. On Saturday, The Spirit Awards will take place and I will be a volunteer there. It's going to be exciting being around the ceremony. Although I won't be inside watching the actual show, because I'll be on duty, but being there and possibly seeing Timothée win the Best Actor award, as he's predicted to do so, would be so much fun. In the end, the reason why so many Oscar fans so strongly support their favorite is because predicting, and hoping for an Oscar win for your favorite, if they win, will be an affirmation of your taste and ability to recognize a talent/performance that deserves the highest honor in the entertainment industry. A win for our favorite ultimately validates our interest and support in a performance that will be designated as the best of the best.

As this crazy awards season comes to a close, I befriended a Timmy fan on Twitter, @darkingenue (Dwan Williams, age 34), and I asked her if she could answer a few questions about her being a new fan of Timothée and wishing him good luck on his road to the Oscars. She's been following the Oscars since 1997, but started to question the integrity of the Oscars in the year that The Color Purple (1985) was nominated for 11 Oscars, but did not win anything. In this final pre-Oscar article, I thought it would be nice to share the voice of another fan who has a calm understanding of the frustrations of being an Oscar watcher, and the eloquence in expressing support for Timothée.

Theatre of Zen: The Academy has an opportunity to make history with awarding Timothée Chalamet with the Best Actor Oscar at the age of 22. Do you think the age bias for men can end this year?

Dwan Williams: I'm not sure if the age bias for men can end this year. The Academy is usually behind the times, and yes, even though they are honoring the best in film, who they choose won't necessarily be who you or I would choose. They're not listening to us - it's not a voting requirement. That being said, it would be a huge opportunity - it would show that the Academy has its finger on the pulse. Especially now that there has been such a shift in Hollywood with the recent headlines of sexual misconduct en masse, it would be a very interesting development.

ToZ: Was there anything Sony Pictures Classics (SPC) could have done otherwise with their marketing of Call Me By Your Name and Timothée to garner much more publicity?

DW: No, he was the one to follow. He was marketed well. I mean, I know that there are actors or studios who take out ads in the paper to sway the Academy to vote in their favor, but I don't know if Sony Pictures Classics has done that (Ed note: Yes, SPC had a strong ad campaign). But there was no reason one couldn't find Timothée Chalamet.

ToZ: Have you ever supported an Oscar nominee as you have for Timothée this year? What's so special about him and his film?

DW: I've had my favorites, but I must admit that Timothée caught me a little off guard! I was not expecting to look at this young man and say, "I want him to win!" But yeah, he was different, and I don't know why. Look, I'm not someone who just gets on the bandwagon, but to me, there was something sweet about his acting, and then there's his personality. Anybody can be charming, but I don't think he tries to make people believe him - it's just who he is. Also, I love indie films. The fact that this is an indie film with mainstream backing is significant. I also want to think that the film itself is alluring because of its simplicity. There is the heightened drama of attraction, [which] contributes to the sensuality, but because it's set in a time where technology is not heavily present, there is this need to connect, to communicate as people did in the past. It seem to have some normalcy, if that makes any sense.

ToZ: If you could change one thing about the way the Oscar voters cast their votes, what would it be?

DW: Change the people who vote.

Timothée at a private CMBYN pre-Oscar party in Hollywood, Feb. 28