Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscar Results

Well, that was a disaster.

For some reason the Oscar Predictions website is down, so I can’t tell who won the pool, but I don’t suppose it matters because I got killed this year. I got 13 out of 24 categories, 7 less than I predicted, 2 less than last year, and barely more than half. Ick.

I’ll say this for the Oscars – they’re all about the awards. The Grammys goes on for four hours and gives away maybe seven awards during the broadcast, giving the rest away in pre-ceremonies and commercial breaks. The Oscars gives out every single award in primetime, including best editing, best documentary short, best live-action short, best animated short, and both sound awards, plus a presentation on the technical Oscars held the night before (and have you ever noticed they always send the hottest young actress they can convince to do that gig? It’s always a bunch of 70-year olds and some actress desperate for credibility. This year it was Jessica Alba, and a bunch senior citizen who looked like they hit the jackpot). Anyway, no other award show would dare to be so boring.

I enjoyed the Oscars, though, I love the whole bunch-of-actors-and-actresses-in-fancy-clothes-reading-off-teleprompters thing. Let’s cover the highs and lows.

1. Jon Stewart’s a great host, especially during an election year – you’ll notice he managed to do the black man/white woman running for President joke without walking all over it, Mr. Mencia. Still, he seemed a little nervous, and a couple times a joke just didn’t go over, and you could tell that he felt it. Still, some of his seemingly off-the-cuff bits were pretty good, including the Pregnancy Of The Year Award bit. I’d like to see him again.
2. I love people who really, really can’t believe they just won an Oscar. Marion Cotillard looked like she just woke up in Candyland, and that one lady who made “Freeheld” looked like she wasn’t gonna sleep for weeks. The best one was how Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova were just so humbled by winning, that was my favorite win of the night.
3. By the way, props to the Oscars for letting Irglova come back out and actually say her bit after they accidentally cut her off after winning. It took cajones to admit to that mistake, and I thought her speech was pretty inspiring, for an Oscar speech. I wish everyone would stop talking about how Once was shot in 17 days, though, this habit that filmmakers have gotten into about bragging about the length of the shoot is getting dull. Paris Hilton will be bragging about how her latest sex tape only took 38 minutes to shoot if this keeps up.
4. The musical numbers were all pretty good, with the exception of the August Rush song, which was middling at best (that little kid has pipes, though). I kind of wish Amy Adams had her fans wanted to see her do both. Everything was decent except for “Falling Slowly,” which was exceptional, the clear highlight of the whole show, especially that final shot where the camera swooped down from Hansard and Irglova to the orchestra, then up to the conductor as he finished, then finally up to audience. That’s television magic right there, I hope you saw it.
5. I really, truly, honestly wanted someone to just wipe out on that slick spot that everyone kept slipping on. I was really rooting for Eva Longoria or someone similarly unlikeable to end up absolutely taking out that podium.
6. As awkward as it always is, Peter Boyle’s long, wandering Honorary Oscar speech was nice. I like old guys looking back to the old days. Not many people thank Alfred Hitchcock when they get their Oscars anymore.
7. Of the 79 Best Picture winners they showed, there were at least five I had never heard of in any context. That worried me. I’m gonna go update my Netflix queue.
8. Transformers got swept, didn’t get a single win. I’m torn between feeling really bad for Kevin O’Connell and being thrilled Michael Bay is still Oscar-free.
9. I was 0 for 7 on predictions I announced aloud before the ballot was read. Next year, I’m not gonna get cocky like that, it never seems to go well for me.
10. And finally, is it just me, or do the Oscars seem to have a jollier, more welcoming, family feel than other award shows? The hosts and award recipients are always off-handedly pointing out members of the audience that they spot and they’d like to thank, or stopping on their way to shake hands with old friends, or getting hugs from their presenters. It just seems so much less staged and more honest than the Grammys. Maybe it’s got something to do with the way movies work, that these guys just know each other better.

And now, the results. There’s no avoiding this now, I’m afraid, I’ve got to go over my wins and losses from tonight. Let’s run it down. Normally I start with disappointments and move on to victories, but this year I’m too embarrassed after my confident predictions crumbled to dust, so I’ll start with what I got right:

What I Got Right:
Honestly, a lot. I got Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, both writing awards, plus seven more. I felt best about getting Best Song since I was so thrilled for Hansard and Irglova, who were both outrageously humbled by winning, and Best Score, which I thought was a solid guess on my part. Oh, and Best Editing, since I went with my gut, against the conventional wisdom, and got it right.

What I Got Wrong:
All of the smaller categories. Best Documentary Short, Animated Short, Live-Action Short, Documentary Feature, both Sound Awards (they both went to Bourne instead of both going to Transformers), plus Visual Effects, Costuming, Cinematography, and both Actress awards. I’m kicking myself over Best Actress and Costuming, both of which I think I should’ve seen coming, the rest I can deal with. I was surprised by Cinematography again, I thought that There Will Be Blood was more of an art direction/directing movie, but that was a tough category to pick. Oh, and on Documentary Short, I went with AIDS in Iraq and the winner was homosexual marriage in America. I’ll take note of that next year.

You know, looking back on it, I didn’t do so bad. I only missed two of the eight majors (I got Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Directing, Adapted Screenplay, and Original Screenplay, and missed Actress and Supporting Actress), and overall had a solid showing. Sure, I might’ve shown myself to not be prescient, but I’ve clearly got my finger on the pulse of the Academy enough to get the big ones right. I think I did fine.

See you next year.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Oscar Predictions 2008 (Or, A Streak of One is Still A Streak)

Last year, you might remember (you don't, of course, only I recall this) that I challenged all comers to do battle against me in the poll. Less than a dozen people took me up on it, which means that everyone else was chicken. More accurately, it means that only about a dozen people noticed, but I've always chosen to see the world in the way that benefits my ego the best.

I won, which is why I'm bragging about it now (I haven't mentioned last year's top-600,000 finish in the Facebook March Madness Pool) (until now), but I usually don't mention that I only got 15 out of the 24 categories right, for 63% accuracy. That's not a number to brag about, and so this year I'm aiming for 20 out of 24 (83%), which, what with categories like "Best Documentary Short Feature," I think is a more than lofty enough goal.

And I feel confident. I feel strong. I feel like I'm on the top of my game. I might not have seen all the films (In particular I missed two of the Best Picture noms) but, like Dre, I've kept my ear to the streets, stayed close to the heat. And tonight, I will declare victory again.

Of course, as real life got in the way of my blog life, I only set up the post challenging people to compete on Friday night, so the pool currently only has five people in it, unless someone's joined in the past coupla hours. I'll go check and... no, no one else has joined. Five people. Including me. Not a big night out.

Well, no matter. The important thing is the game, and I have every intention of dominating again. Let's see if I'm as good as I say:

Best Picture: Well, this is the big one, and if you miss this, you miss it all. But unlike last year's pack of uneven Best Picture nominees without a clear dominating film sitting at the pole, this year's films are better than last year, and none arrives with more ticker-tape to brush off its shoulder than the Coen brother's No Country For Old Men. From a rapturous reception at Sundance to near-universal acclaim (no other film has received more positive reviews), it doesn't seem possible for anything to knock them off their pedestal. I honestly don't feel No Country is quite as strong as it's been rated, which means it might be primed for a dark horse candidate to come take it away from them, a la Brokeback Mountain being overlooked for the very excellent yet clearly slightly inferior Crash. Of course, with that film there were warning signs that Brokeback might be having trouble, including an early loss to Crash at the SAG awards. This year there's nothing like that, and there doesn't seem to be any strong movement to any other picture as the weeks leading up the Oscars pass. I'm staying with No Country For Old Men, even though Charles Barkley has said at halftime of NBA games he was supposed to be commenting on, "Nobody should vote for that movie, that movie was tuhrible, just tuhrible." I'm sure everyone will take that into account

Best Actor In A Leading Role: You know how certain this category is? Experts everywhere, even the "experts" that morning shows cut to who are clearly just attractive people with handheld microphones, are guaranteeing victory for Daniel Day-Lewis, which is something they never do in case they look foolish on national television. Of course, they look foolish anyway as they've shown a penchant for nicknaming him "DDL" to show how comfortable they are with the pick. I've been a Day-Lewis fan for a coupla years and have never felt the need to nickname him anything to show how confident I am that he is a fine, capable actor and should be honored accordingly. It's past time, by the way, to eliminate the habit of newscasters adopting pet names for celebrities to convey a sense of closeness. It wasn't fun with Bennifer, it isn't fun now, and every broadcaster who says calls celebrities J-Love or Brangelina absolutely looks like a complete moron. It's gone past not-as-cute-as-it-thinks, gone past annoying, and now it's time for it to stop. We're done. However, I do agree that Daniel Day-Lewis is a lock for Best Actor, though I'm not so confident that I'm going to start calling him Dan Day-Lo.

Best Actress In A Leading Role: The debate on this category is a fairly classic one. We have two real contenders: Julie Christie, an esteemed elderly actress called out of retirement to give the role of her life. Her role is subtle, refined, and well-performed. On the flip side, we have Marion Cotillard, a lovely young French actress previously best known for being Billy Crudup's husband in Big Fish, who layers on makeup and puts on a performance so difficult and spectacular that reviewers consistently use the phrase "acting on a high-wire." They both won Golden Globes for their performances. I think in the future we'll view Cotillard's performance as better, and La Vie En Rose will have a much longer shelf life than Away From Her, but for right now, the Screen Actor's Guild has honored Julie Christie, and that's the safer pick here.

Best Actor In A Supporting Role: I'm partial to Casey Affleck in this category, since this really turned out to be his year to shine (and also since he's nominated for The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, a movie that was edited down the hall from while I was at Scot Free). A year ago, most people though Affleck carrying a movie was a laughable concept, and though Ben Affleck was a fool to put his brother so central in his directing debut. All of those people were proved absolutely wrong. Still it's hard to go against Javier Bardem in this category, since he is in fact the reason that No Country For Old Men is such a dynamite picture. He's probably unbeatable here.

Best Actress In A Supporting Role: There are three real competitors here - living legend Ruby Dee in a small but memorable supporting role, Amy Ryan playing a more complicated, rawer character, or Cate Blanchett's eccentric take on Bob Dylan. They're all dissimilar parts, so it's harder to predict. I don't think Ruby Dee is gonna take home the Beatrice Straight award here, so I think the battle's between Ryan and Blanchett, with Blanchett having a leg up by also having a best actress nod. Either way, I think Cate Blanchett was just too good to ignore.
Best Animated Film - Not only is Ratatouille the best-reviewed film here, it's the single best-reviewed film to see wide release this year (and therefore to be seen by more than a dozen critics). The fact that it didn't receive a Best Picture nomination has much, much more to do with Academy than it does with its quality. This film set the new standard for computer-animated films.

Art Direction - This is one of the toughest categories to judge. Judges tend to love movies with very exact art direction, like period pieces, or things that require creating entirely new worlds, like a fantasy or science fiction film. This year, we have lots of both, but there's one that required both: Sweeney Todd. That's got to be my pick here.

Cinematography - Well, I'm biased again because my favorite shot film was The Assassination of Jesse James, since I got to see the raw shots come together (and the raw footage was stunning), but there are some beautifully shot films here. Last year I basically thought there were two films deserving of the cinematography award, but all five of these films deserve the nod. Roger Deakins, one of the finest cinematographers in film history (Fargo, Shawshank, Jarhead, O Brother Where Art Thou), is nominated twice this year, once for No Country and once for Jesse James, which makes it seem like maybe the vote'll be split and someone else can slip in. Both The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and There Will Be Blood showed such clear, distinguished artistic vision that I think both could slip through, but I think Atonement will take it because in addition to being a stunningly beautifully shot film (I don't think Joe Wright got enough credit for how well Pride and Prejudice was shot, and so he should get more votes here), it also features a breathtaking steadicam shot at Dunkirk that's got people buzzing. One way or another, I think it'll be either Atonement or No Country, I think they're the powerhouses here. Of course, as we saw last year with Children of Men, sometimes groundbreaking tracking shots aren't enough to win people over. In fact... I'm gonna have to switch my vote. I think people will chose No Country, it's just one of those films that ends up swallowing up the votes.

Costume Design - This one has loads of period outfits, most notably the grandiose costumes of Elizabeth: The Golden Age. But even with that, I think Sweeney Todd and Atonement have a real step up here - Sweeney Todd has the art direction edge, and Atonement also has that tremendous attention paid to its period details, plus having three times as many nominations as Elizabeth. But no movie had more attention paid to one outfit than Atonement had to that famous green dress. I read another critic who noted that "it's the most famous dress since Monica Lewinsky's," and I recall Joe Wright explaining that he considered the dress a character in and of itself (the dress leads to a tryst between two characters that becomes the catalyst for the rest of the plot). I think that'll be enough in and of itself to win the day.

Directing - I kind of wish there was more play with this category, so I could expound on Jason Reitman's clever construction in Juno, or Julian Schnabel's singularity of vision in The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, the fact is that the Coen Brothers are locks for this award and always have been since Sundance happened. Props to screenwriter Tony Gilroy for managing an Oscar nod his first time ever directing, though, I don't think that's been mentioned nearly enough. Anyway, No Country For Old Men.

Documentary Feature - We finally get to test the theory - are people well and truly sick of Michael Moore? I submit that they are. Thank god. I think Sicko gets swept off the table by powerhouse No End In Sight, the only anti-war film to succeed in any context this year purely because it was the only film to start and end with the facts alone, letting viewers draw their own conclusions. Rendition, for example, didn't really give anyone that option.

Documentary Short Subject - Last year, because of lack of research, I accidentally went against a documentary about AIDS, instead picking one about homelessness. You never go against AIDS, unless it's about the Iraq war. This year there's Sari's Mother, a doc about a woman with AIDS in Iraq. Everyone's going to vote for that one, regardless. This is one time where liberal guilt works specifically in my favor.

Film Editing - I've got a choice between a carefully paced likely Best Picture winner and a fast, energetically cut action movie. This is the exact same problem I had last year, but I think I'm going to go ahead and make the same mistake again. For one, last year the editor of Best Picture winner was Oscar fave Thelma Schoonmaker, and this year it's "Roderick Jaynes," which is the Coen brother's editing alter-ego. I think people'll find it tough to vote for someone who doesn't exist. Plus, The Bourne Ultimatum really was a stellar piece of editing, and I don't think that there's anything too incredible about how No Country was cut, outside of its pacing (though I did like that final cut to black at the end, I thought that was as well done as any I'd ever seen). Still, I'm gonna go with The Bourne Ultimatum, one of the top-rated films of the year that didn't land itself any real accolades at these awards other than this one.

Foreign Language Film - As of right now, only two of these films (Beaufort and The Counterfeiters) have opened in the United States, which makes it awfully tough to predict this. That means that only people who have seen all five films can vote in this category, and that's mostly just the people who have time to come in and see the Academy's pre-ceremony screenings of these films. With such a small demographic, the voter's actions are harder to predict. I'm gonna go with The Counterfeiters, which opened to acclaim last week. In situations like these, you've got to follow good buzz.

Makeup - This is my favorite category, and I'll tell you why. There are only three films nominated, but one of those films is Norbit, that reportedly vomitously terrible Eddie Murphy film that almost sunk his Oscar bid last year. Since all three films have to be viewed in order to vote for one, thousands of Academy voters had to pop in their Norbit screener and watch two hours of Eddie Murphy in a fat woman suit hitting on Eddie Murphy not in a fat woman suit, just so that they could vote for that job they did turning Marion Cotillard into Edith Piaf La Vie En Rose, which is my pick for the winner. I love rules like that, Hollywood's great sometimes. And, it gave everyone something to do during the WGA strike.

Music (Original Score) - Gotta go with Dario Marianelli's score for Atonement, though I think that Michael Giacchino's presence with the Ratatouille score is something to give one pause. Did you see that he won that Grammy the other week? It makes me nervous picking Atonement, but I will.

Music (Original Song) - This one is just so easy (I'm frantically knocking on wood while saying so, but still). Enchanted gets nominated three times for its cheerful, feather-light Disney tunes about being a princess in love, while the dark and haunting Once gets nominated a single time for its elegiac "Falling Slowly." Here's a link to see "Falling Slowly," and you'll see why it's my pick.

Short Film (Animated) - These are also generally pretty hard to judge, as it's hard to quantifiably state why one animated short is better than another, more than most other categories, it's simply a matter of opinion. The films are short and they're all animated in a lot of different style. Remember last year? That Danish poet movie won for no logical reason and no one saw it coming. I guess this year, the favorite is supposed to be a beautiful little short called "Madame Tutli-Putli," but someone laid animation on top of an old Lennon interview and called it "I Met The Walrus." It's supposed to be fantastic. I'll vote that way.

Short Film (Live Action) - These are simply impossible to predict, everyone says so. Most people haven't seen them, so there's that don't vote if you haven't seen it rule working against the predictor. I guess four films are serious and one is fun (a tango film called "Tanghi Argentini"), so the smart money would be to go that way, but apparently "At Night" is supposed to be quite something. I'll go that way.

Sound Editing/Sound Mixing - These are two categories, but I'm gonna vote for the same one each time, no matter what movie I pick, since for the past 30 years whichever movie wins one, also wins the other. It's a choice between likely Oscar sympathy for The Bourne Ultimatum's lack of nominations and the technical wizardry of Transformers. I'm picking Transformers because - you know how every year the do the special about that one guy, Kevin O'Connell, who's been nominated 19 times and never won? His first nomination was Terms of Endearment, just for reference. Well, this is his 20th time being nominated, his movie's probably deserving of the award, and his mother died this year. If he doesn't win this year, the Academy simply has no soul.

Visual Effects - Only three films are nominated, and Transformers should win this award going away. The special effects in Pirates and The Golden Compass were good, but no one shoots special effects of ridiculous machines that couldn't ever exist better than Michael Bay, just like no one shoots dialogue worse.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay) - This is another time where, just because No Country For Old Men will swallow up votes regardless of what people actually think of the movie, I think the Coen Brothers and their carefully-constructed adaptation of a quietly building Cormac McCarthy novel are the clear pick here.

Writing (Original Screenplay) - And finally, Juno gets some love. Diablo Cody, who will forever be known as the stripper-turned-blogger-turned-screenwriter, even if she writes the new Casablanca next year, should definitely get the nod here. Juno was clever, fun, quickly-paced, moving, and most importantly, completely original. Plus, good young female protagonists are rare in multiplexes these days, and the Academy will want to honor that.

Hey, and with almost four hours to go, I've got it done! I'm sure no one'll be reading this until after the ceremony is over, or at least until it's underway, but let the record show that I did get the post done in time.

Remember, 20 out of 24. You can quote me on it.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Oscar Prediction Pool

It's very late in the game, but I've created an Oscar Predictions Pool on the Academy website. Click on the link and sign up, then join this group:

Group Name: The Yardbirds
Password: brilliant

I'm guaranteeing victory again, after I so thoroughly trounced the opposition last year. Bring it on, posers!

I'll put up an Oscar Prediction Post up tomorrow (or by the time of the ceremony, at least) for all you non-combatants.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Belated Valentine's Day

I didn't do anything to honor Valentine's Day yesterday, so this scene from the pilot of "Flight of the Conchords." People keep wondering why tv show musicals don't work, and the reason is that they don't emulate this one, which is the only one that does. Stick through the clip at least until Jermaine seals the deal with his dance moves.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Justin Timberlake Super Bowl Commercial

Here's that Justin Timberlake commercial that my friend Justin ended up doing the voiceover work for. This is a big deal, obviously, so here's to Justin!

By the way, since he's just going "oh!" and "woah!" it isn't considered voiceover work until the part where JT keeps getting his crotch rammed into a mailbox, at which point Justin is saying "no!" and it becomes voiceover work. This is one of the million reasons why Hollywood is a weird town.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Grammy Results

I watched as much of the Grammys as I could, and I was… bored silly. With no Golden Globes this year and the possibility of no Oscars (though with the writer’s strike over, that possibility is gone now), the Grammys would have planned to step up their game, particularly since this was their 50th Anniversary show, and they’d put out a very extensive, costly ad campaign starting months prior. But instead we got a bunch of quavery-voiced senior citizens doing medleys – just like every other Grammy award show. Even with every other TV show in repeat, this was the lowest-viewed Grammys in 16 years, and outside of Kanye performing with Daft Punk, had virtually no highlights. However, it certainly wasn't without spectacle...

A Top Ten List of Things You Could Only See On The Grammys:

1. A very, very creepy duet between 1958 winner Keely Smith and Kid Rock with Dave Koz playing sax alongside. Neither one remembered the lyrics but did remember to have an uncomfortable old lady-dirty middle aged man flirtation. I felt so uncomfortable just watching them that I had to go make a trip to the kitchen just to get away from the television.
2. The idea of putting John Fogerty, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Lionel Richie on the same stage, at the same time, on primetime television. The Grammys 2008 - 50 years of excitement!
3. George Lopez coming out onto stage to tell one single, solitary joke that he falls all over. Here’s an exact quotation, I gleefully wrote it down as soon as he finished: “America! The only place where a white woman and a black man can run for President of the United States of America!” Why yes, George, that is correct. Did you see he also did not win Best Comedy Album? Best moment of the night for me.
4. Amy Winehouse giving a shoutout in her Record of the Year acceptance speech to her jailed boyfriend that explained that this was “for my Blake incarcerated. And to London, this is for London because Camden Town is burning down!” Which made her sound weirdly like a cross between Samuel Coleridge and Mick Jagger after a bad night.
5. A long and completely uninspiring gospel showcase featuring Aretha Frankin, the Clark Sisters, and one of the Winans that simply killed the limping show for good. If anyone kept watching after that, it was to see if Winehouse was gonna pass out on stage or not. I got killed in the Gospel section this year because I didn’t realize that a lot of Grammy voters are apparently old-school gospel fans. I can understand Aretha and the Clark Sisters taking home the prize, but Israel and New Breed beating out Casting Crowns? Incredible. It was nice to see Ashley Cleveland win, though.
6. After months of ads promoting the show being about “The Next 50 Years,” the show started with a laughably inept duet between Alicia Keys and Frank Sinatra and proceeded to spend the rest of the show following suit. Absolutely no artist with even the hint of being around for any of the next 50 years was particularly honored, with the exception Kanye and Winehouse, the latter of whom stakes her claim as a 60's-era classically-styled singer and tore up the Grammys accordingly. For pity’s sake, Herbie Hancock won Album of the Year! (Not that I have a problem with that, it’s just that it proves my point)
7. I know that I can go to Vegas and see Cirque de Soleil perform the Beatles “A Day In The Life,” but now I also know, just as much, that I don’t want to. That was bizarre, and the guy playing Sgt. Pepper is gonna give me nightmares the next time I eat pizza too soon before bed.
8. Jason Bateman, squinting confusedly at the teleprompter and looking like he’s hating himself for even being there, introduces a contest where accomplished violinists and cellists play for exactly six seconds and then viewers vote for which one gets to play with the Foo Fighters by texting. I’m sure Juilliard will be following suit in their application processes next year. The most attractive girl ends up winning the competition and is given a three-second solo early in the song.
9. Carrie Underwood has emerged as the only American Idol artist (with the possible exception of Jennifer Hudson) who now operates completely free of its stigma, but her performance was… Idol-like. Gyrating awkwardly (though, attractively) in black catsuit as TV screens showing digital flames looped in the background and what looked like the crew from “Stomp” performed a color guard routine around her. This is a girl who’s trying to gain country cred. Really.
10. The Academy CEO, three and a half hours into the show, gives a long and boring speech interrupted midway through by a video clip of him giving a longer and even more boring speech while wandering through the Grammy building that’s under construction, and finishes with him introducing a yet another piano player who plays a lively tune that, since it happened at 11:30 on the East Coast, utterly fails to wake anyone up.

Alright, it’s late, so let me wrap up with the results of my predictions. Out of 110 categories, I got 47 right, 62 wrong, and one category where I can’t really tell from my writing on the last post exactly who I picked (I'm sure lots of good writers have this problem), for a success rate of 43%, slightly better than I predicted. Of course, lessee, I missed Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year, so let’s not get carried away with platitudes.

Losers: I’m a glass half-empty guy, and the glass is only 43% full anyway, so let’s cover the screw-ups. I failed to see Herbie Hancock win (though, really, who saw that coming? Kanye West sold 2 million albums last year, Hancock sold 55,000 and I’d never heard of the record until I saw it was nominated), failed to see Winehouse’s complete domination, and failed to dominate most of the categories I thought I had locked up, like Pop and Gospel. What’s more, a good number of the groups where I promised no one would ever vote for them? Well, a lot of those groups won, including, obviously, Herbie Hancock, plus Paquito D’Rivera Quintet? and Chaka Kahn’s “Funk This,” in addition to assuming that Blanton Aspaugh was a classical music superproducer (he had no wins in any of his categories). And that’s not counting the amount of times I picked the nominee with the funniest-sounding title, which turned out to be a very bad strategy indeed. I don’t think anything that had an exclamation point at the end of it ended up winning, unfortunately.

Winners: Alright, sure, 43% is nothing to be too proud of, but I thought I made a number of very good calls. For example, I correctly predicted:
- seven out of eight of the Rock categories, and the one I missed I pointed out who was going to win, I just voted for a band I was a fan of.
- That both polka and bluegrass had some dignity left in them (though it turned out that blues did not, as they gave the award to two guys named Pinetop and Honeyboy. Not kidding here.)
- That jazz voters would go with an album named “Pilgrimage” over one named “Kids: Live At Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola”
- That jazz voters would also vote for an album with “Katrina” in the title.
- That a guy named “Marley” would win best Reggae Album
- That Flight of the Conchords would kick George Lopez’s unfunny fanny
- That the White Stripes, Springsteen, Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, and the Foo Fighters would all dominate.
- That I probably wouldn’t get that last post done until the Grammys had started, and believe me, I barely made it.
- And finally, and most impressively, that people love the Beatles. I’ve got my finger on the pulse of the nation.

All in all, a good year, and a great lead-in to this year’s Oscars, which I plan to do better on than I did last year. Though last year, you might remember, I kicked everybody’s tail who competed against me in the Oscar pool. Anyone up for it this year or are you all scared little whiners (or, as our pastor puts it, “tittiebabies,” which is apparently a common phrase down here, though that’ll be the last time I use it) who don't have the guts to give it another shot? I'm now accepting all comers.

Until next year, remember: people don’t like to see young, fresh acts on primetime, they want to see Cher introduce Beyonce, who then will do a dance routine in order to introduce a still sequined, still catsuited Tina Turner, who will then perform a three-song medley while trying desperately to keep up with her backup dancers. That’s what television is all about. Before television, we would just have had to do without.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Grammy Predictions 2008

When the Grammys roll up the carpet on Sunday, they’ll have given away 110 awards in 32 categories. And y’know, I could just predict the categories I know something about: Album of the Year, Alternative Music Album, Rock Song, etc. But I’m going for it all this year. I’m going for everything. Ironically, I’m betting I won’t get Record of the Year but will randomly win Reggae Album and Instrumental Flamenco Record. You never know.

For the record, I’m predicting a success rate of 40%. I’m also predicting I don’t finish this post in time for the start of the Grammys. This is a lot of typing, and I hate half these bands anyway. I wanted to put all the nominees in, but there’s not room for that. If you want to look them up, click here and follow along.

But be honest, you’re just going to skim through anyway. I’ll post a results post at the end of the Grammys for comparison.

General Field

1. Record Of The Year – I know it won’t win, but between Beyonce, Rihanna, and Amy Winehouse, none of them gave me singles I wanted to hear more than once, and the Foo Fighters didn’t give me a single I could remember. Weird as it is, I’m voting for Justin Timberlake. But I’m picking Rihanna. Is that allowed?

2. Album of the Year – Between Winehouse, Kanye, and a pack of no-chancers, I’m picking Kanye. Not every time. But this time. No one’s giving an Album of the Year to Herbie Hancock.

3. Song of the Year – “Hey There Delilah” was boring, “Like A Star” was too thin, and that leaves me with three songs I don’t like. I’ll pick “Before He Cheats” over “Umbrella,” and try not to watch this part of the ceremony.

4. Best New Artist – Feist deserves it, Taylor Swift could use the recognition, but Winehouse wins it. Boo.

Field One - Pop

5. Female Pop Vocal Performance – I can’t pick Winehouse again, so I pick Feist’s “1234.” It’s a dynamite song that you’re able to listen to more than once; I swear to God, I don’t know why that isn’t the merit on which you judge this category. For Chrissake, Fergie could win this category, but Feist won’t because the song was an iPod commercial. That’s right, Fergie, who sang about her “London, London bridge wanna go down.” Her “London Bridge, by the way, is a metaphor for, uh, y’know – y;know, let’s just leave that there. Let me post the intro to “London Bridge” really quick:

Oh shit (oh shit)
Oh shit (oh shit)
Oh shit (oh shit)

Are you ready for this?
Oh shit (oh shit)
It’s me, Fergie
The Pimp!
Fergie Ferg, what's up, baby?

We’re thinking of giving this girl “Female Pop Vocal of the Year.” Stew on that for a little while.

6. Male Pop Vocal Performance – Timberlake wins this one going away. Speaking of Timberlake, you know that Pepsi Super Bowl commercial where Timberlake’s getting thrown all over the city slamming into things? That’s not Timberlake’s voice. That’s my friend Justin Ladd’s voice, he did the temp vocal and the producers liked it better than the final version that Timberlake did. True story.

7. Best Group Pop Performance – Have you ever tried voting against U2? I’m trying it here. I pick Daughtry’s “Home,” though I think Maroon 5 should win for “Makes Me Wonder.” But either way, I still feel that I was gutsy going against U2 right there. I deserve some kudos, or a respectful nod of appreciation.

8. Best Pop Collaboration – The choices: a washed up rock god (Robert Plant) and folk darling (Alison Krauss), a debonaire old-school swinger (Tony Bennett) and trashy-turned-classy diva (Christina Aguilera), a classic pop star/hip-hop hookup (Gwen Stefani and Akon), Timbaland plus a coupla A-listers (Timberlake and Nelly Furtado), and a maelstrom of booty-shaking (Beyonce and Shakira). I pick the only song from here I actually liked: Stefani’s “Sweet Escape.”

9. Best Pop Instrumental Performance – Beastie Boys, Ben Harper, Dave Koz, Joni Mitchell, and someone named Spyro Gyra. I don’t know any of these songs. I’ll pick the Joni Mitchell song because voters like classy, battered old rockers.

10. Best Pop Instrumental Album – God, I don’t know. Dave Koz. Whoever.

11. Best Pop Vocal Album – I don’t think Winehouse can be beat. Wish I could give it to Feist or Maroon 5, though. Of course, an under-nominated Paul McCartney could snag this on name recognition alone.

Oh my God, we’re only on Field 2 – Dance

12. Best Dance Recording – I’m gonna pick Mika, ‘cause I think Rihanna and JT will split the vote. I don’t really, of course, but I’d rather pick Mika and be wrong than put my money on Timberlake and feel foolish for overvaluing him, something I thought would never be a problem for me.

13. Best Electronica/Dance Album – LCD Soundsystem. I heard it was good.

Field 3 – Traditional Pop

14. Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album Call Me Irresponsible, Michael Bublé. Because I’m not voting for Queen Latifah, now or ever.

Field 4 – Rock

15. Solo Rock Vocal Performance – Just because I can’t, I can’t, I can’t pick “Our Country,” I’m picking Bruce Springsteen and “Radio Nowhere.”

16. Best Group Rock Performance – Easy one. “Icky Thump,” The White Stripes. Let the record show that I picked against U2 again.

17. Best Hard Rock Performance – “The Pretender” by Foo Fighters. It’s nominated for Record of the Year, it’ll win here.

18. Best Metal Performance – I’m an As I Lay Dying fan, and I think they’ll win here. No, I don’t, I think Slayer will win, but I hope people won’t be voting on name alone. In case all those closet Slayer fans/Grammy voters turn out, I just want to state that it shouldn’t be this way.

19. Best Rock Instrumental Performance – I don’t know and I don’t care. I pick Springsteen.

20. Best Rock Song – I pick Springsteen again. I’m telling you, the voters love this guy. He's gonna go far.

21. Best Rock Album - I… can’t pick Springsteen three times in a row. I pick Foo Fighters. Why not.

Alright, Field 5 – Alternative. I’m taking a break.

22. Best Alternative Music Album – I’m back, and I feel great. I’m ready to take on the rest of this list. And see, this is the best category in the event, every one of these artists deserve this. Arcade Fire, the Shins, Lily Allen, all criminally under-represented this year, plus critical favorites White Stripes and Bjork. This is a great category and lots to root for. I’m rooting for Arcade Fire.

Field 6 – R&B

23. Best Female R&B Vocal Performance – I dunno this one. Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, and Alicia Keys are all voter favorites, and I don’t know. I pick Keys, this time, though Blige dominated so much last time I’m sure I’ll look foolish. Ah, well, I think Keys is due.

24. Best Male R&B Vocal Performance - Tough call. It should be Ne-Yo, but Prince has name recognition, especially after last year's Super Bowl. I gotta go with the weird little man here.

25. Best Group R&B Performance – The best song here is T-Pain and Akon’s “Bartender,” and I think it should win, but Rihanna and Blige aren’t going to get votes in other places and so they’ll get votes here. I say they split those votes and people go for “Bartender,” but I also bet that I’ll be eating those words. No, I definitely will, I’m changing my vote to Rihanna’s “Hate That I Love You.”

26. Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance – No idea. I mean, no idea. I’m picking “All Night Long,” by Randy Crawford and Joe Sample, figuring that two people getting votes is better than just one person, and so that should maybe double their chances. I’m clearly stretching at this point.

27. Best Urban/Alternative Performance – See, I don’t even know what this category means. All my energy from before is gone. I’m picking “Daydreamin’” by Lupe Fiasco and Jill Scott, since I’ve heard of both artists and have no idea who Vikter Duplaix or Meshell Ndegeocello are. Frankly, I don’t think any voters will, either, so I figure “Daydreamin’” has this one locked up.

28. Best R&B song – Uh, between India.Arie, Alicia Keys, and Rihanna, I’m going with… Keys. I think “No One” is the best song in this category because it’s the only song in this category that I’ve actually heard.

29. Best R&B Album – No one’s voting for an album called Funk This, everyone’s voting for an album called The Real Thing. It’s gotta be Jill Scott.

30. Best Contemporary R&B Album – I think Akon gets robbed here, but it’s got to be Ne-Yo. Dark horse is little-known critical fav Emily King.

Field 7 – Rap - Twenty-five fields to go…

31. Best Rap Solo Performance – Kanye cleans up this year, and it starts here. “Stronger” is the clear winner.

32. Best Group Rap Performance – Kanye’s nominated twice, so that splits the vote, and voters love Common. I think Fat Joe’s “Make It Rain” should be the winner here, but Shop Boyz’s “Party Like A Rock Star” should snag some votes too. But then, I can’t see people going against Common and Kanye, but then, I can’t see them going against Kanye and Nas, either. And then UGK will get sympathy votes because they just lost a member… geez. No, I’ve decided: UGK featuring Outkast, “Int’l Players Anthem.” Voters love Outkast, too.

33. Best Rap/Sung Collaboration – Does an under-represented Chris Brown win here? Or Kanye continuing domination? I doubt it, because “Umbrella” is nominated, and it’s tough to go against in a smaller category when it’s also up for larger categories. I think it takes home the prize here, even with Kanye in the mix.

34. Best Rap Song – Two Kanye songs, and they split the vote, which means 50 Cent and JT wins with “Ayo Technology,” even though it’s an awfully dumb name for a song. Even for rap music. Though there is a Soulja Boy song listed, which lets us see that Soulja Boy’s last name is “Tell’Em.” Incredibly, his legal name is “Soulja Boy Tell’Em.” No word yet on whether that’s a legal change or an overly enthusiastic hip-hop fan of a mother. And people wonder why it was so hard for the hip-hop community to gain respect with Grammy voters.

35. Best Rap Album – Kanye wins here, easy, no question. Next.

Field 8 – Country – Oh good, another category I don’t know anything about.

36. Best Female Country Vocal Performance – “Before He Cheats” was a wild crossover success and no one, repeat, no one is voting any other way.

37. Best Male Country Vocal Performance – I have no idea, there’s five established artists here and they all deserve it. Or don’t deserve it. I don’t know anything about any of the songs. I should really take country’s pulse more often if I’m supposed to write a piece like this. I pick… Tim McGraw. I don’t know why.

38. Best Group Country Performance – No idea. I pick Montgomery Gentry. No, Emerson Drive. I don’t care. I’m probably not winning this one, but 38 categories in, I’m just swinging away at this point.

39. Best Country Collaboration – Willie Nelson’s “Lost Highway.” Because I live in Texas now, and it’s not allowable to vote against Willie Nelson in any situation.

40. Best Country Instrumental Performance – Brad Paisley. Only name I know. Next.

41. Best Country Song – Uh, “Before He Cheats,” again, though I think it’s a tougher battle here than before because country is a male-dominated industry. If it loses, that’s as clear a sign as any that things will never, ever change on that front.

42. Best Country Album 5th Gear, Brad Paisley. I don’t feel great about this one, but I think it’s got a chance. You’ll note Underwood, and indeed, no female at all, is nominated here, as always. Shocker.

43. Best Bluegrass Album – Really, I’m supposed to have a good guess about this one? I pick Jim Lauderdale’s The Bluegrass Diaries, just because I can’t find it in my heart to vote for album’s called Scenechronized, Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular, or Lefty’s Old Guitar. And I really, really can’t get myself to vote for Cherryholmes’ Cherryholmes II: Black And White. Even for bluegrass artists, these guys have no self-respect, you know that?

Field 9 – New Age. Really, I can’t believe this is still a category. Who’s still making New Age music?

44. Best New Age Album – Kitaro’s Sacred Journey of Ku-Kai, Volume 3. Because if you can have a name as silly as that and still be nominated, you absolutely deserve to win. This is an award, by the way, that will not be handed out in prime-time.

Field 10 – Jazz. Hey, now we’re movin’!

45. Best Contemporary Jazz Album – Herbie Hancock wins, hands down, with River: The Joni Letters. No question. It’s nominated for Album of the Year, so it’s winning here. That’s how it works.

46. Best Jazz Vocal Album – Patti Austin’s Avant Gershwin. Do I need a reason? ‘Cause there’s no way I’m coming up with one. I wasn’t voting for Red Earth – A Malian Journey, that’s for sure.

47. Best Jazz Instrumental Solo – Herbie Hancock, “Both Sides Now.” Because, you know what? It’s a good song. Both now and when Joni sang it 30 years ago. Though Hancock doing it makes it a whole new ball game, it’s like Johnny Cash doing “Hurt.” It’s that good.

48. Best Jazz Instrumental Album – Michael Brecker’s Pilgrimage. Because in the choice between that and Joe Lovano doing Kids: Live At Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, who are you picking? Damn right.

49. Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album – Terence Blanchard’s A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem For Katrina). If you know nothing about jazz, which album do you check off? You check off the one about Katrina. Everyone does. Sorry, Maria Schneider Orchestra, I’m sure you were very good, but nobody listens to large jazz ensembles anymore, but they do watch the news, and so you have no chance this year.

50. Best Latin Jazz Album – How the hell am I supposed to know? I pick the serious-sounding name here, and that’s Refugee by Hector Martignon. I can’t vote for an album named Funk Tango, especially if it’s made by a band named Paquito D’Rivera Quintet?, since no one should ever name their band and end the name with a question mark. It is not cute. It is annoying, so give it up.

Field 11 – Gospel. Oh my gosh, I’ve still got 21 fields to go. At least, here’s one field that I know.

51. Best Gospel Performance – Now, keep in mind, Casting Crowns should win, they absolutely should. But do you know who’s nominated in this category? Aretha Franklin with Mary J. Blige. Good luck, Casting Crowns, but you have no chance in hell. Hopefully a critical darling and gospel mainstay won’t do a collaboration next time you’re nominated.

52. Best Gospel Song – Now Casting Crowns can win the consolation prize, since nobody big is nominated here and they’re the only holdovers from last round. Glad you get to go home with something, guys.

53. Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album – Incredibly, there are two rap albums nominated, including one by a guy named Da’ T.R.U.T.H. Let’s be honest, that guy’s not winning. The other rap group is the moderately talented hip-hip supergroup The Cross Movement for their album HIStory: Our Place In His Story, which is one of the worst titles I have ever seen in Christian Music history. I gotta figure Skillet wins on moderate name recognition, though props to them for nominating Ashley Cleveland. She never gets recognized for anything.

54. Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album – It’s all about name recognition, and so even though Casting Crowns will get votes just for being nominated in the other two categories, I think Michael W. Smith wins again. The sad fact is that just by getting nominated, he gets the win. That’s how Grammy voting works. dc Talk once won for a promotional EP they put out that had ONE dc Talk song on it. That’s how little people are paying attention.

55. Best Southern, Country, Or Bluegrass Gospel Album I’ll Fly Away: Country Hymns & Songs Of Faith, should win – Ed Cash produced it, after all, but I think Ricky Skaggs wins on name alone.

56. Best Traditional Gospel Album – I pick Smokie Norful. I always did like that name. The Clark Sisters will actually probably win, though.

57. Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album – Got me. I say Fred Hammond, and I give you exactly no evidence to back that up. There’s a Winans nominated, so that’s possibly a bad bet on my part.

Field 12 – Latin. Okay, I need another break. This next part is all in Spanish.

58. Best Latin Pop Album – There’s an album here named “Papito.” Papito! What a fun name for an album. I believe it means “little father.” I’m going to vote for 12 Segundos De Oscuridad, which means “12 Seconds Of Obscurity,” I think, and avoid voting for Navidades Luis Miguel, which means either “Navigating Luis Miguel” or “Christmas-y Luis Miguel,” as well as Dicen Que El Tiempo (‘You Guys Are Talking To The Time”) and El Tren De Los Momentos (“The Train of These Moments”). Tough decisions all around.

59. Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album – I could vote for No Hay Espacio (“No, I’m Not Special”) or Adelantando (“We Were Adulating”). But there’s a band called Panda with an album called Amantes Sunt Amentes (“Amanda Without Amendments”) and Rabanes’ Kamikaze (“Kamikaze”). But who could not chose to vote for Zoé’s Memo Rex Commander Y El Corazón Atómico De La Via Láctea? Who? It translates out to, roughly, “The Memo of the Commander King and The Atomic Heart of the Lactating Life,” which is what I would have titled my first album, given the chance. Eff you and your unoriginal album, Zoé.

60. Best Latin Urban Album – This one’s actually easy, because our old “Gasolina” friend, Daddy Yankee, is nominated for El Cartel: The Big Boss. Which is a shame, because I wanted to vote for Vacaneria! (“A Restaurant For Cows”) which is sure to be overlooked.

61. Best Tropical Latin Album – Not many of these are any fun. They’re all named United We Swing or Greetings From Havana. I am, of course, immediately drawn to La Llave De Mi Corazón (“The Lava Of My Heart”), but my vote goes with Arroz Con Habichuela (“Rice That Lives With Us”). I’m sure it’s a dynamite record.

62. Best Mexican/Mexican-American Album – But how will we know which album is which unless we have a national ID? This is why these awards are so important, they help us work out these issues. I pick Pepe Aguilar’s 100% Mexicano, because what album better fits this category, and none of them have funny names.

63. Best Tejano Album – There’s an artist here named Sunny Sauceda, who wrote an album called Vagar Libremente (“Liberty For the Vagabond Lifestyle”). Case closed.

64. Best Norteño Album – How is this a category? Who knows what kind of music this is? How are thousands of Grammy voters who don’t listen to this sort of music, or know what it is, to make an intellectual choice between Los Tigres Del Norte (The Tigers of the North) and Los Rieleros Del Norte (The Realists of The North)? And yet, how can they not vote for Conjunto Primavera (The First Conjugation) with their album El Amor Que Nunca Fue (“The Love That Never Was”)? I certainly couldn’t resist.

65. Best Banda Album – All those die-hard banda fans out there may get mad, but I’m definitely picking Valentin Elizalde’s Lobo Domesticado (“The Domesticated Head”), though Conquistando Corazones (“Hearts That Are Also Conquistadors”) and “Entre Copas Y Botellas” (“Enter, You Cups And Bottles”) gave me pause.

Field 13 – Blues, and it’s getting late and I’m tired.

66. Best Traditional Blues Album – You know who’s still making music? Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Really. I’m voting for him.

67. Best Contemporary Blues Album – Eric Clapton is nominated. And we’re done.

Field 14 – Folk, and I’m going to bed before I have to do this one, because it includes zydeco music, and I just can’t face zydeco music right now.

68. Best Traditional Folk Album – Peter Case has an album named Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John. Bada-bing.

69. Best Contemporary Folk/American Album – See, all of sudden, we’ve got a race. Mary Chapin Carpenter, Steve Earle, Patty Griffin, and Tom Waits are all nominated. I think Tom Waits has aged better than any, so I’m voting for him here.

70. Best Native American Music Album – Black Lodge has an album called Watch This Dancer! and the exclamation point is not mine. How many unnecessary exclamation points have I voted for so far? Is anyone keeping a tally?

71. Best Hawaiian Music Album – My knowledge of Hawaiian music begins with Brother Iz and ends with “Lilo and Stitch,” so I’m not sure who to vote for here, but there is an album called Ka Hikina O Ka Hau (“The Coming Of The Snow”), which is a wonderful title for a Hawaiian album. Much better than Hawaiiana.

72. Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album – Okay, only 5 nominees are allowed in all other categories, so why are 7 nominees allowed here? Are there so many deserving albums here that they couldn’t possibly be nominated? Then how the heck did Arcade Fire only get nominated once? I almost don’t want to chose anything at all in protest, but I’ll pick La Cowboy Creole. Sullenly.

Field 15 – Reggae. I hope there’s someone named Marley, or else I'm not getting this category.

73. Best Reggae Album – Burning Spear put out an album, and a guy nicknamed “Scratch” put out an album called “The End of the American Dream,” which sure sounds like a winner, but – hey! – there’s a guy with the last name of Marley in this group! The choice is made for me.

Field 16 – World Music, or Music Not Good Enough to Go In Another Category.

74. Best Traditional World Music Album – There’s a When The Soul Is Settled: Music Of Iraq album and an album about HIV/AIDS in Uganda (one would assume they came out against it). Anti-war… AIDS in Africa. AIDS in Africa… Anti-war. Tough call. I go with AIDS.

75. Best Contemporary World Music Album – Did you know Loreena McKennitt was still making records? Me neither. She gets the award just because I’m so impressed she’s still around.

Field 17 – Polka. Ah, back on familiar ground.

76. Best Polka Album – Four out of five albums have the word “polka” in their title. I’m going with the one that doesn’t, called Come Share The Wine, which does not sound like a polka album at all, which frankly might be why it wins.

Field 18 – Children’s

77. Best Musical Album for Children – Hey, the Muppets have an album! Obviously I’m voting for that, even if there is an album two guys named “Buck Howdy With BB.”

78. Best Spoken Word Album For Children – Jim Dale, the voice of the Harry Potter books, is back for the last time on Deathly Hallows, and so I think he takes the prize here, even though both Meryl Streep and Toni Morrison are nominated. Seriously, what’s Meryl Streep doing in this category? How many awards can one person win?

Field 19 – Spoken Word. Wait, we just did spoken word last category. What happened?

79. Best Spoken Word Album – Okay, this one is impossible. Maya Angelou, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Alan Alda? I gotta figure the Democrats split the vote and everyone else goes Angelou. Okay, so Angelou's a Democrat, too, but not, y'know, a real one.

Field 20 – Comedy. If he’s here, I’m NOT voting for Dane Cook.

80. Best Comedy Album – Wow, this one turned out to be easy. George Lopez had an album named America’s Mexican, so the competition was obviously not steep. Flight Of The Conchords are nominated, and it’s a lock.

Field 21 – Musical Show. I know nothing about Broadway this year, so this is rough.

81. Best Musical Show Album – How are both “A Chorus Line” and “West Side Story” nominated here? This whole category makes no sense. Sondheim’s nominated in for a show I’ve never heard of, but both “Spring Awakening” and “Grey Gardens” are nominated as well. I’ve always liked Duncan Sheik, so I’m voting for “Spring Awakening.”

Field 22 – Film/TV/Visual Media, and I have to get this one right.

82. Best Compilation Soundtrack Album – It should, absolutely, positively be Once, and I’m afraid that it’ll be The Beatles’ Love. However, Across The Universe should split the Beatles vote, and Once breaks through for the win. No, wait, I take it back, there's no way Across The Universe will steal enough of the vote, people doing Beatle interpretations never beat actual Beatles. Love wins this one.

83. Best Score Soundtrack – You remember what soundtrack won the Oscar last year? It was Babel. You know what’s nominated this year? The soundtrack to Babel. Wow, this one was easy. The presence of Michael Giacchino and the Ratatouille soundtrack gives me pause, though.

84. Best Song Written For Motion Picture/TV/Visual Media – Tough call here. There’s a track from Once, Eddie Vedder’s theme for Into The Wild, and Chris Cornell’s Casino Royale theme. I gotta go with… hmm… the song from Once. That one’s gonna come back to bite me.

Field 23 – Composing/Arranging. Oh good, another field I do not feel good about.

85. Best Instrumental Composition - Béla Fleck’s nominated here, and so is Harry Connick, Jr., but I think Philip Glass’s criminally overlooked score to Notes On A Scandal should get the nod.

86. Best Instrumental Arrangement – Hey, Harry Connick’s nominated again! The man deserves some love. As Angela Kinsey would point out, “he’s so talented.”

87. Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists – I thought this would mean that any song with great arrangment, but – look, here’s Queen Latifah again! So I guess not. Ella Fitzgerald is nominated somehow, so I’m voting for her.

Field 24 – Package. See, this is what the Grammys are hiding down here at the bottom of the list, a category that has nothing to do with music. I guarantee they won’t announce this one aloud.

88. Best Recording Package – I haven’t seen all the art on these, so I’m voting for Bright Eyes here, cause I saw his and loved it. We’re now an hour away from the beginning of the show, and I haven’t finished the writing or started bolding or italicizing. I don’t think I’m gonna make it. I was gonna go back and edit this and punch up the writing, but, I guess my first crappy pass will have to do.

89, Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package – Same sort of deal, I’ll have to vote for the only one I saw, which is My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade.

Field 25 – Album Notes. Seriously, we don’t have any standards at all anymore?

90. Best Album Notes – Magician Ricky Jay is randomly nominated here, for Ricky Jay Plays Poker, which is either a teaching CD or a really boring documentary, but him being nominated is impressive enough that I’ll give him the nod here.

Field 26 – Historical. I don’t even know what this category means.

91. Best Historical Album – All of these are compilations from older eras except for one Woodie Guthrie live show, so I’ll vote for that, with the possible dark horse being the collection from the 1890’s.

Field 27 – Production, Non-Classical. Yet another category that I don’t have any ideas what its title means.

92. Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical – Bela Fleck is nominated again, so I’m voting that way, which is a pity because there’s an album called Don’t Mess With The Dragon on this last.

93. Producer of the Year, Non-Classical – Hey, a section I feel I might have a chance at! Except I’ve got no idea who to vote for here. Mark Ronson made his own album plus Lily Allen’s and three Amy Winehouse records, but Timbaland a number of different hit songs, Mike Elizondo did both Rilo Kiley and Maroon 5, Joe Chiccarelli did that great Shins album, and Howard Benson, who did Daughtry, The Starting Line, and Relient K this year, and really probably deserves some recognition. I gotta figure that Timbaland is the favorite, and I’m leaning toward Ronson in a lot of ways, but I’m gonna pick Chiccarelli, who did full albums, which voters should, I think, lean towards.

94. Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical – I don’t know any of these remixes, so I’m gonna pick the Delerium song, since that’s not some producer throwing down tracks 30 years later, it’s them adding a quality singer to their own song years later. Remember that great Sarah McLachlan-Delerium record? I bet it’s like that.

Field 28 – Surround Sound. How is this a category? How?

95. Best Surround Sound Album – There’s a classical album, which seems it should be the favorite, and the Flaming Lips are here and I’d like to vote for them, but the Beatles are nominated, too. It’s hard to vote against the Beatles. Half of them are dead, you know.

Field 29 – Production, Classical. Is there possibly a reason why this isn’t right after “Production, Classical?” “Surround Sound” had to go there?

96. Best Engineered Album, Classical – When the New York Philharmonic is nominated, you don’t vote for the Dallas Wind or the Kansas City Chorale. These categories are getting easier.

97. Producer of the Year, Classical – Two of the nominees from last category are here, and they’re both made by alleged superproducer Blanton Alspaugh. Good for you, Blanton.

Field 30 – Classical. Almost there.

98. Best Classical Album – I’m hurrying now, I’m just skimming the categories. The great Blanton Alspaugh has an album here, so you know where I’m going here.

99. Best Orchestral Performance – The category is supposedly awarded to the conductor and the orchestra. When one of them wins, do they have everyone up on stage? It seems like that would be a drag on the show. Anyway, I’m rushing, so I’m picking an album called “Shostakovich: The Golden Age,” since I don’t have any idea what that means.

100. Best Opera Recording – Please, please can I vote for “Humperdink: Hansel & Gretel?” Please? Alright, I’ll vote safe and go with Verdi’s “La Traviata.”

101. Best Choral Performance – I just want to be done. I’ll vote for the Kansas City Chorale album. Let’s go.

102. Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (With Orchestra) – I don’t recognize the artists, so I’ll pick the violinist who played Barber, Korngold, and Walton, whoever they are.

103. Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (Without Orchestra) – I don’t have any idea who these people are. And they’re all playing the piano. I’m picking Solo Piazzolla because it sounds like “Pizza For One.”

104. Best Chamber Music Performance – Please, please let this be done. I pick the album called Strange Imaginary Animals. This thing is just about to start, I gotta get this done.

105. Best Small Ensemble Perforamnce – I’m picking Mahler: Das Lied Von Der Erde (“Mahler: He’s Slept With All The Help!”) and we're moving on.

106. Best Classical Vocal Performance – That Homage: The Age Of The Diva album is nominated again, so I’m going that way.

107. Best Classical Contemporary Composition – I wanted to go Higdon: Zaka, because, duh, but Made In America is nominated again so I’ll be going that way.

108. Best Classical Crossover Album - If they think this is a real category, they’re fooling themselves. I’ll pick Brian Setzer, the only musician to successfully survive the death of the swing craze.

Field 31 – Music Video. The final category and one that I know! I could still do this!

109. Best Short Form Music Video – "Typical" from Mute Math is nominated, and it’s all shot backwards, so I’m voting that way, but both Johnny Cash and Feist are nominated, so there’s not much chance. Who cares, when you're under the gun, you gotta go with your gut.

110. Best Long Form Music VideoTrapped In The Closet is nominated! Who cares what else is nominated? Man, what a way to go out! What a great category this is.

Well, that finishes it. A minute and thirty seconds until this show starts, and I'm done.

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Monday, February 04, 2008


I've decided - for fun, and as a writing exercise - to review virtually everything I watch for a little while. This includes commercials. We'll see how long I'll keep it up.

By the way, Mitt Romney said that Mike Huckabee should drop out because he complained that he was "splitting the conservative vote," forgetting, apparently, that this is a primary. Months and months in, I still do not understand the secret of Romney's appeal.


Review - CSI:Miami, "Bang, Bang, Your Debt"

Watching "CSI:Miami" is always a high-class endeavor, and tonight was no exception. A couple has sex while committing suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning, and a credit-card salesman sleeps with co-eds in exchange for canceling their debts (only he doesn't cancel anything, the scalywag!). Chris was watching it, so I gamely stuck with it.

And I wasn't disappointed, because - behold! - the return of Rory Cochrane! Cochrane left the show in 2004, ostensibly to pursue a film career. You can see why he would see it as a good idea, because he was on a show with David Caruso, who once famously made the same decision. And uh, that sure worked out. Anyway, Cochrane's character returned to be a hallucination for Adam Rodriguez character, who was having trouble dealing with the loss, which is the sort of story that lots of shows do 4 years after a character dies, right? Right?

I really like Cochrane, but let's review what he's done since leaving the show: a TNT miniseries, a direct-to-DVD movie, and a bit part in A Scanner Darkly. Still, he gets huge points in my book that the miniseries he was in was "The Company," a drama about the birth of the CIA made by Scott Free while I was interning there. That wins my heart forever.

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