I Have Opinions: Oscars Edition.

Let us acknowledge one universal truth rarely cast into the light: awards shows are boring. Unless you have company and/or alcohol (preferably both), making it to the end of the telecast is the equivalent of walking barefoot over hot coals just to receive a vial of your own tears to wash your heels. It’s basically torture. One of the few ways to get through the needless musical numbers, the bad jokes, and the endless cutoff music is by having an opinion. A tenacious, dogmatic, self-righteous stake in the game.

Do I, personally, care that much? Not really. But I’ve seen a lot of the nominees, and I have feelings. Therefore here are my predictions (and my wishful thinkings) in the major categories.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Look, I love Jennifer Lawrence. She’s my imaginary best friend too, okay? She’s probably going to get the Oscar, and that is quite frankly bullshit. Was she fun in American Hustle? Absolutely. Her weirdo hair dance to “Live and Let Die” actually inspired me to go home and listen to Wings. But she didn’t really have to do much. Plus her accent fluctuated between “I don’t give a fuck” and Howard’s reviled mother (“mutha”) on “The Big Bang Theory.” Lupita Nyong’o? She brought it. Her grief, her despair was palpable. She made me feel. I’ve seen people argue that she shouldn’t win because her character Patsey was always going to garner sympathy, to which I say bullshit. This was her first film role, and she was incredible. To go with the safe choice of the white girl with the smelly nails over a woman throwing herself into the horrors of slavery…well, you get where I’m going with this.

Actor in a Supporting Role

I’ll confess that I haven’t seen Captain Phillips or Wolf of Wall Street, so Barkhad Abdi may be a revelation. I’m not entertained by stories of greed that make a corrupt man richer in the end, so sorry to Jonah Hill’s fake teeth. Michael Fassbender was downright terrifying in 12 Years a Slave, and I believe he hasn’t gotten nearly enough recognition for his efforts, probably because people are too afraid to watch a movie that’s a downer. Still, we all know Jared Leto has this in the bag. I haven’t been a fan of his except in Urban Legend (yeah whatever, haters) and Fight Club, but I saw Dallas Buyers Club twice and cried at different points each time. His portrayal of the doomed Rayon brings light and darkness, and I think this will be the Academy’s token “we acknowledged a trans character, so we don’t have to deal with that slavery thing!” vote.

Actress in a Leading Role

This is tough. I’ve only seen two of these films. Some people have told me that Blue Jasmine is incredible, and others have told me that it’s the most boring thing they’ve gone through in ages. I am not a fan of Sandra Bullock (I’m convinced that she looks like one incarnation of Michael Jackson’s face), but I enjoyed Gravity and could suspend my disbelief. She went through a lot to make that movie, and kudos to her. Bless Amy Adams and her dodgy British accent in American Hustle. I feel like Cate Blanchett will probably win, but if anyone upsets her, it’ll probably be Amy Adams. American Hustle is the safe bet that just keeps on winning.

Actor in a Leading Role

I wish there were an award for Best Accent in a Leading Role, because I would hand that to Christian Bale in a heartbeat for his sleazy New York stylings. He pulled it off better than everyone else in that movie. If there were any justice in this world, Chiwetel Ejiofor would take this home for 12 Years a Slave. I read the book before I saw the movie so I could be emotionally prepared for the violence, which I assure you is not as present as the shitty, white guilt reviews make it out to be. It’s isolated, shocking, and effective. Still, I wept through the last ten minutes of this movie. Not cried, wept. And I’m tearing up a little just typing this. Having said that, if Ejiofor loses, I’m pretty sure it will be to Matthew McConaughey. I have a theory that for the last decade, he was deeply method as a stoner so everyone would underestimate him. That’s how good he is in Dallas Buyers Club. Everyone who saw A Time to Kill knew he was capable of this pedigree of acting, and for the past few years, he’s been playing such diverse, nuanced roles that you can’t deny his talent. I am a believer in the McConaissance, “True Detective” is the best thing on TV right now, and if Leonardo DiCaprio finally gets an Osar for flopping around on drugs over the perils of slavery and AIDS, I will punch a hole through my face.

Directing

I always find it funny that the best director didn’t necessarily direct the best picture, which is why I’m including this category. I feel like this is going to be the token award to a film that doesn’t get much love elsewhere. It’ll probably go to Alfonso Cuarón because in spite of all of its flaws, Gravity is a directorial achievement. That long take at the beginning? Breathtaking. The visuals are far better than the script, which can get a bit hokey. Still, Steve McQueen is an auteur of devastation, and if 12 Years a Slave doesn’t get best picture, they may just give him this as the consolation prize.

Best Picture

Let’s get out of the way what it’s not since ten nominees is too much, okay? Captain Phillips, Her, Nebraska, and Philomena can all start drinking the free champagne already. It’s nothing personal. The Wolf of Wall Street will not win this because the Academy doesn’t want to look it’s made of assholes, plus comedies never do well here. American Hustle has won far more awards than I ever thought possible, but again, comedy. This award should go to 12 Years a Slave, but I don’t know if voters will be brave enough to go that route. (Remember when Crash won over Brokeback Mountain and then we didn’t need movies about racism anymore because everyone stopped being racist?) Dallas Buyers Club is also worthy, but with two torturous true stories going up for this, the votes might split in such a way that Gravity could take it.

So, those are my picks. Stay strong, friends, and everyone remember to DVR “True Detective” for some actual entertainment after the ceremony.

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Top Ten of 2013: Manic Street Preachers.

4. Manic Street Preachers – Rewind the Film

As a lady with a particularly liberal mindset, I went through a phase of really loving the hell out of Manic Street Preachers. These Welsh rockers were just the right amount of shouty, loud, glamorous rock with abrasive lyrics. Then I got a little mellower, Nicky Wire was a bit too much, and I just stopped paying attention.

Enter Rewind the Film. My God, what a beautiful album! The guest appearances of Lucy Rose, Cate Le Bon, and Richard Hawley accomplish that rare feat of enhancing a record rather than stealing the spotlight. Here these fearless rockers have allowed themselves moments of quiet, nostalgia, and even fear as they assess themselves in their middle age. There’s little aggression to hide behind, and that proves that the Manics have managed to build a legacy that will go beyond their politics. I signed up to review this album, and I am so glad I did. Each listen gives me a new insight and appreciation for my position in life.

This is an album for age. Allow yourself to feel older and wiser. Or less wise. To miss, to love, to lose. To know that there is much more ahead.

Top Ten of 2013: Lissie.

5. Lissie – Back to Forever

I don’t have anything against most pop music, but when it comes to my favorites, I like a bit more honesty. Building on folk and rock roots, Lissie isn’t afraid to take a bit of that pop in through her beats or keyboard embellishments while still staying true to her tequila-drinking, plaid-wearing, guitar-rocking self. Thank all of the gods you can name that there’s someone like her out there just being herself, as the song “Shameless” above so gracefully demonstrates.

Catching a Tiger, her debut album, came out when I was working for Nielsen writing trivia questions about British television ads. (Yes, I got paid for that.) At the time, Lissie was pretty big over there but not so popular here in her native land. Still, those thirty second clips were enough to inspire me to get into her music, and I’m glad I did. Back to Forever feels more cohesive and more about adult life than the nostalgia of her previous album. There are some real rock anthems (“I Don’t Wanna Go to Work” and “Cold Fish,” particularly), but there are also moments of extreme vulnerability. She’s a complex woman, and I think this album is a great demonstration of what that means in the modern age.

Also, on a purely personal level, I am so grateful for the song “Mountaintop Removal.” As a West Virginian by birth, I often feel that people ignore the problems in the state, particularly at the hands of the almighty mining industry. To hear an artist actually express concern in a song is incredible and moving. Rock on, Lissie.

Top Ten of 2013: David Ford.

6. David Ford – Charge

When I had my ill-fated romp through Virgin Megastore, as I described in my last post, I also  bought a record by David Ford. I discovered his music in 2008 after graduating college and becoming a bit depressed because I’d moved back in with my parents and didn’t feel like things were going as they should. Through one song, I felt better.

Since then he’s been putting out great, horrifically underrated music. I recommend him to my friends. I push people to see him live. Have you seen him live? If not, go! He often utilizes a loop pedal that can increase the drama of his songs. On the album, everything is its absolute best version, but to see a song build before your eyes, possibly going wrong, is a transcendent process.

I guess I should describe the music. It’s whatever the hell it wants to be: acoustic, piano, rock, folk, whatever. Earnest, informative, barbed, and clever. This album is a bit less political than his previous output, but where can you go when you’ve already done a sour love ballad to Margaret Thatcher? One of my few gig regrets about 2013 is that I missed out on seeing David play with a full band when he did two shows in New York City. I saw the first and delighted in every minute (as, oddly, I sat next to his lovely parents), but between that night and the next, I managed to acquire a fever over 100 degrees and spent a couple of days in bed, mourning my bad luck. So give this a listen and have many regrets for not seeing him on tour. Unless you did, in which case, I salute you.

Top Ten of 2013: Frightened Rabbit.

7. Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse

I fell in love with Frightened Rabbit sometime in 2008, around the release of The Midnight Organ Fight. During my first or second visit to New York City, I was an excitable tourist who went to the Virgin Megastore in Union Square with rabid hunger for new music. I’d just escaped the wilds of Cleveland, so a record store that was more than one floor was kind of a big deal. Anyway, I picked up Sing the Greys, adored it, and felt proud that I had found a band worthy of my praise.

While The Winter of Mixed Drinks was a good record, I didn’t love it as much as the first two. Scottish bands just do miserable songs better than anyone else. If anyone disagrees, it’s because they just don’t know enough Scottish music. Still, without hesitation I preordered the deluxe version of Pedestrian Verse, and man, am I glad I did. The balance of the band members writing together really gives this album a fuller sound. It’s still sleek like The Winter of Mixed Drinks but not afraid to show the cracks, making for a therapeutic listen.

Plus I won a meet and greet with them back in October, and they were the sweetest guys. Well done, FRabbits.

Top Ten of 2013: CHVRCHES.

8. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe

Do you have this ridiculously catchy song stuck in your head yet? Good.

I like embracing music that’s a little weird. I realize that much of my list this year is pretty straight forward rock/acoustic stuff, but electro influences are absolutely delicious to me. In fact, just missing the cut this year was Foals’ Holy Fire (spoiler alert), so if you like them but haven’t yet checked out CHVRCHES, please do. This is one of the later releases on my list, but I’ve found it addicting. These songs pop into my head in the middle of the day, and I feel no reason to exorcise them. They’ve gained proper buzz, and rightfully so. This is a band I want to see everywhere in 2014.

Lauren Mayberry of this band has endured a lot of misogyny online, and she penned a really great article fighting back against the abuse she receives just for daring to be a woman who makes music. I’d only heard “Recover” when I cam across her writing on The Guardian’s website, and that was when I knew that I had to give this band much more of my attention. I’m grateful for her words and, of course, the tunes.

Top Ten of 2013: Gabrielle Aplin.

9. Gabrielle Aplin – English Rain

My friend Suz introduced me to Gabrielle’s music in the middle of last year, back when she was known as more of a YouTube artist whose talent, dedication, and lovely EPs had secured her a record deal with Parlophone. Sometimes her music can be a bit soft and safe for my tastes, but here are a few reasons why she is totally badass:

a) She has a giant tattoo on her arm with a quote from “The Hollow Men” by T.S. Eliot.

b) She has a label to put out other artists’ music now that she’s signed to a major.

c) She loves animals, particularly her pet ferret.

d) She’s supported Ed Sheeran (something of a taste maker) and John Mayer (kind of a big deal) as well as headlined her own tours.

e) Her lyrics can be a hell of a lot darker than her beautiful voice lets on.

So give her a listen. English Rain will be released properly in America next year, and hopefully that will mean that we get to check her out live as well. I’d love to see the grit that follows after singing and playing for over an hour live. Somehow I think she’ll only triumph and become even more endearing.