Friday, January 14, 2022

Being the Ricardos

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, JK Simmons, Tony Hale
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Running Time: 2 hours, 11 minutes
Rating: R

Fans of "I Love Lucy", like myself, will no doubt love the premise of Aaron Sorkin's latest triumph. We love any chance to be reminded of the wacky, over the top, physical comedic genius that is Lucille Ball. I still watch those black and white clips and laugh out loud at her pronouncing "Vitameatavegamin" or stuffing chocolates in her hat - it is iconic comedy. But "Being the Ricardos" shines a different light on Lucy and her relationship with her co-stars, showrunners and husband. I admit I longed for the goofball Lucy, when instead Sorkin shows a more serious, type-A, control freak version of her. It's worth a watch for the nostalgia, but it was a bit darker and heavier than I would have liked.

The film chronicles a busy week on the set of "I Love Lucy" - not only has Lucy announced her pregnancy, which will no doubt prove to be an issue with the network, but her relationship with Desi continues to make waves in the tabloids. She has also recently testified with HUAC to prove that she is not a Communist. I certainly remember hearing rumors of Desi's infidelities, but the allegations of Ball being a Communist was news to me. Kidman portrays Ball as a relentless comedienne - incessantly picturing jokes and bits in her mind, and gathering the cast at 2am to work on a scene. It's clear that she is burying the stress from her personal life in her work.

Being a big Nicole Kidman fan, it pains me to say that I struggled to fully believe her performance. Bardem does a fine job as Desi, but this is really Lucy's story. I thought JK Simmons was absolutely fabulous as William Frawley, the actor who plays Fred. He reminded me the most of all the cast members to the real actor. There are some light and funny moments from writers (Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat - "Arrested" reunion anyone? - and Jake Lacy) but those moments are limited. 

Give me a magnifying glass to a show that played on "Nick at Nite" and I'll watch it, but I'll need to acknowledge that it could ruin a bit of the nostalgia. "I Love Lucy" is near and dear to my heart, and "Being the Ricardos" definitely made me see it through a different lens. 

Friday, January 7, 2022

Tick, Tick...Boom!

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Vanessa Hudgens, Robin de Jesus
Director: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Running Time: PG-13
Rating: 1 hour, 55 minutes

Finally. A movie musical I can get behind. I'm obviously seeing all the musicals that are adapted for the big screen, but they often disappoint. Not "Tick, Tick...Boom!" however. Maybe I'm biased because "Rent" altered me when I was 15 years old. Or maybe it's just a really touching story with beautiful songs, honest acting and a larger message about the world. Either way, this film is not to be missed.

Andrew Garfield surprised me with his portrayal of real-life musical theatre composer Jonathan Larson, whom we meet the week leading up to his 30th birthday. Garfield's performance is genuine and he has great chemistry with his co-stars, particularly Alexandra Shipp, who plays his girlfriend Susan, and Robin de Jesus, who plays his best friend Michael. Larson is struggling to finish his musical in time for a showcase that will be attended by producers, writers and other influential theatre folk. He's also put pressure on himself to accomplish "something" by the time he turns 30. His creativity seems stunted when he sits down to write, yet we see him frolicking all over his apartment and NYC singing songs about sugar and the bohemian life (cue "La Vie Boheme," anyone?)

Larson stays committed to his art while many people in his life move on to more professional jobs. We also see many people in his life being affected by the AIDS epidemic. His agent, played by the always fabulous Judith Light, encourages him to write what he knows. Thus is the catalyst for his beloved musical "Rent". I also enjoyed the few brief moments with Stephen Sondheim, played by Bradley Whitford, who serves as an inspiration and mentor to Larson. One song in particular features some very recognizable Broadway stars like Bebe Neuwirth and Lin-Manuel himself. Blink and you'll miss Bernadette Peters.

You'll find yourself bopping along to the upbeat tunes and getting chills during the ballads. I'm grateful that Larson never gave up on his dream, though he never got to see it fully realized (Larson died of an aortic dissection the night before "Rent" premiered). His commentary on the world combined with his unparalleled talent for "lyric and tune" as Sondheim remarked, truly made him the voice of a generation. This film is a fitting and beautiful tribute to this creative genius.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Don't Look Up

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Tyler Perry, Cate Blanchett, literally everyone else in Hollywood
Director: Adam McKay
Running Time: 2 hours, 25 minutes
Rating: R

This film is a metaphor staring you straight in the face. Rather, it's slapping you in the face over and over and over. I can certainly see why it's not a darling of the critics, but I absolutely loved it. I'm not always a fan of Adam McKay's work, but after seeing this (and being reminded that he produces "Succession" and did "Vice") I need to rethink my opinion on him. The film begins with his signature style - notes and text on the screen to inform the audience, and utterly manic camera shots and edits - but after about 20 minutes, that all calms down, thankfully. "Don't Look Up" really moved me. It was a clear commentary on many things our society is facing right now: the pandemic, climate change and political division. McKay does a good job at making it light-hearted at times, but make no mistake, his thoughts on these topics are evident.

My darling Leo plays a character a bit out of the norm for him - Astronomer Dr. Randall Mindy. One of his PhD candidate students, Kate (Jennifer Lawrence) discovers a comet headed directly toward Earth, which will have a catastrophic impact. In fact, it's a planet-killing comet that will arrive in approximately 6 months. Lawrence plays this role well, but it's one I've seen her in before, many times. A meeting with the President, played by the always remarkable Meryl Streep, doesn't seem to help matters. They just laugh this off as another "end of days" myths. Jonah Hill plays the Chief of Staff and his comedic timing is fantastic here.

Dr. Mindy and his team try leaking the story to different media outlets, thinking it's the public's right to know that the end is near. A meeting with the New York Herald goes nowhere, and a brief TV spot on a daytime entertainment news channel does very little (except offer the audience a few electric moments with Tyler Perry and an unrecognizable Cate Blanchett).

There are so many cameos in this film and each do a wonderful job with the specific character and intentions they've been given. The latter half of the film plays up the dark comedy and mirrors what we've been experiencing in the past 21 months. I won't spoil the ending, but unlike many Hollywood movies, there's not a resolution with a pretty little bow on top. This might be my favorite movie I've seen this year - and I've seen a LOT of them - and I encourage you to check it out. Oh, and I forgive the crazy editing and scene changes because Leo makes great eye candy.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Stanbury

Take what you think you know about fine dining and turn it on its head. Stanbury in Raleigh is every bit a fine dining experience, except you feel like you're in your neighbor's garage or back deck, complete with taxidermy on the walls and casual Christmas lights strung across the front of the bar. This place is kind of quirky. Plates don't match, but they come out fast and are quite satisfying. The menu reads very well and is primarily focused on small plates. Many dishes have an Indian or Asian flare. Service is top notch. They don't accept reservations but they offer ample outdoor seating with a wood-burning fireplace and heat lamps. Still, you'll want to get there early.

Don't sleep on the Bread & Butter (which I usually do, unless it's complimentary) but the $5 charge here gets you 4 slices of complex Sesame Pan Loaf from Boulted Bread and Cultured (aka DELICIOUS) Butter. And trust me, you'll need some bread throughout your meal to wipe up the various sauces.

Stanbury's Brussel Sprouts are some of the best I can remember having in quite some time. They're flash fried and served atop a Tikka Masala sauce with Cilantro, Cashews and Garam Masala Granola. This granola is life-changing! Never have I ever had a savory, Indian-inspired granola and it made all the difference in the world with this dish. Outstanding.

Cacio e Pepe Cauliflower is lightly fried and served over a zippy Pecorino cream sauce with loads of Black Pepper and Chives. It's hard to make cauliflower sexy and Stanbury succeeds here. It's all about that salty, umami cream. (But I'm a sucker for cacio e pepe anything. I think the episode of "Parts Unknown" that featured Anthony Bourdain eating it all over Rome sold me on it.)

Pork Cheeks are to die for tender and served with Sweet Potato Puree, Ginger Soy Glaze, Pickled Onions and Sesame Seeds. The meat reminded me of a short rib - you could cut it with a fork. I liked the sweet tang from the glaze and the acid from the pickled onions. It's wild that something as tiny as a sesame seed can provide such a nice and necessary crunch.

Ribeye Kofta reminds me of a good meatball, served in a pool of Tomato Harissa sauce with Mint, Yogurt for cooling and crispy Pita. I could taste whole pine nuts in the kofta, which kind of threw me. I enjoyed the flavor, but the texture was a bit chewy, save for those few crunchy pine nuts. I could drink that tomato harissa sauce though. More pita for that, please!

Even the desserts have an international flare - Apple Crisp is served with Garam Masala and the Ancho-Chocolate Brownie is complete with Chipotle Chocolate Sauce. The menu changes frequently (daily?) and I look forward to returning to try even more dishes. I'll be keeping everything crossed that those Brussels are still on the menu.

Friday, August 27, 2021

The Fearrington House Restaurant

I was absolutely thrilled to celebrate my 34th birthday and check off another bucket list item last weekend, by dining at the Fearrington House Restaurant in Pittsboro. It was unbelievably splurge-worthy, and unlike some other high-end restaurants I’ve been to, it’s worth every penny. My fiancé and I were stuffed to the gills with some delicious morsels, and agreed that it was one of the best dining experiences we’ve ever had. It's one we'll treasure for a long time. So if you happen to be in the market for a celebration, The Fearrington House Restaurant is your spot.

Love a personalized menu!

Our amuse bouche was a 3-parter. Instantly, I was intrigued: 1) Pernod-Chanterelle cream filled up the inside of a puffy Gougergie, which oddly enough reminded us of the flavors in a Ginger Snap. Unfortunately, the licorice flavor in the Pernod was just too overwhelming for me. 2) Tomato Gelée with Basil Mousse, a fresh Tomato, and Rosemary dust was like a perfect bite of a summer garden. It was a very interesting play on textures, having the tomato both raw and in gelée form. 3) An Herb Mousse with Peaches, Pearl Couscous and Popcorn Dust – while texturally playful, it was much sweeter than expected. It was like they used kettle corn dust, when salty, buttery popcorn might have been a better flavor.

Amuse bouches #1 and 2

Amuse bouche #3

I love a good bread service, and at Fearrington, they don’t mind if you get all 3 breads (I did!) The Parmesan Cornbread, Epi Baguette and Whole Wheat Challah were all fabulous, but my favorite was the whole wheat challah. The REAL star of the show was the disk of softened butter that had been rolled in flaky sea salt – OMG – save me from myself!! Soft, warm bread with salty butter is heaven on Earth. It does not get any better than that, folks. Believe me! (The 5 exclamation marks used in this paragraph are warranted here!)

Ooh bread-ven is a place on Earth

My sweetheart and I opted for the seasonal 3 course tasting menu, and got more food than we could have ever bargained for. They definitely want you to leave full, and leave full we did. My first course was a Farm Fresh Egg with Asparagus, Parmesan Mousse, Quinoa, Mushrooms and Brown Butter. There must have been 3 different sauces on the plate, each better than the last. I love eggs and this dish elevated the humble ingredient so beautifully. I appreciated the umami from the parmesan, brown butter and egg yolk, and it made for a very satisfying first course.

For my main course, I enjoyed Seared Halibut with Peas Two Ways (mashed and puréed) with White Asparagus. The Halibut was cooked beautifully – it practically melted like butter under my fork – and I appreciated the contrasting textures to the tender fish. A really beautiful, light summer dish, and again with the multiple sauces. I detected a bit of mustard in one of them, which brought a necessary acidity to the dish.

A pre-dessert amuse bouche was a bite of Lemon Cake with Guava Mousse and a Shortbread Crumble. I thought the cake was fabulous and moist, but found the guava to be disappointing and oddly floral (and I just developed a newfound guava obsession thanks to my recent trip to Miami!) But alas, I was ready for my MAIN dessert.

I lost my marbles entirely for the Sticky Toffee Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce, Whipped Cream, Cream Cheese Ice Cream, Bruléed Bananas and a Maple Banana Bar. The cake was insanely tender and soaked up every bit of the butterscotch sauce that was poured tableside (I should have asked to keep the serving dish it was poured from!) The bruléed bananas had that lovely crème brûlée crunch, but the Maple Banana Bar really didn’t need to be on the plate – everything else just totally stole focus. I didn’t make many notes about this dish because I was so in the zone enjoying it. You cannot go wrong with sticky toffee pudding. Making it is a real labor of love but so, so worth the work!

I was 100% satisfied at this point, but when the server brings you a little tray of bite-sized nibbles to accompany your bill, it lessens the financial blow, and convinces me that I can find a little more room for these goodies. My favorites were the chewy Blueberry Caramel and the pillowy Coconut Marshmallow, but the Apricot Gummy and Mint Chocolate Wafers certainly earned their places on the board.

As if everything wasn't already enough, we received a box of beautiful truffles upon our departure, each with a unique fruit filling - lavender, raspberry, strawberry and orange. If you're keeping count, this marks dessert #4!! I love a little take home gift at the end of the night, and these jewels were *almost* too pretty to eat.

If you’re looking for a place near the Triangle to splurge, look absolutely no further. You will leave incredibly satisfied. The team at Fearrington will take fantastic care of you, and I was grateful for the opportunity to be in their hands.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Stillwater

Starring: Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin, Camille Cottin
Director: Tom McCarthy
Running Time: 2 hours, 19 minutes
Rating: R

I can't remember the last time I saw a movie with Matt Damon as the lead. It may have been as far back as "The Martian", but I must say, he is absolutely spectacular in the new movie "Stillwater". Loosely inspired by the Amanda Knox story, this film focuses on an oil-rig roughneck from Stillwater, Oklahoma, who vehemently works to free his daughter from a French prison. While a bit too long, it's a captivating, anxiety-ridden story, with great performances. If you're looking to get out of the house (or if you can stream it at home), give this one a watch.

We meet Bill Baker (Damon) in Oklahoma, as he prepares for a trip to Marseille, France, to see his daughter Allison (Breslin), who is serving a 9 year sentence after being convicted of murdering her former girlfriend/roommate. Prior to the conviction, Bill and Allison were somewhat estranged, so the tension between them is palpable. She maintains her innocence, and he's pretty much the only person who believes her, so when the opportunity to help get her sentence overturned arises, Bill jumps at the challenge.

After making acquaintances with a local, Virginie (Cottin), and her daughter, Maya, Bill begins digging for clues and following leads that Allison's lawyer has chosen to ignore. He comes in contact with some pretty shady characters and does some borderline-illegal acts to get answers. Meanwhile, his hard exterior is softened a bit by his budding relationship with Virginie and Maya. By day, he's super dad, picking up Maya from school and bringing her chocolate croissants, and by night, he's assaulting young men on the street and holding them captive.

The final 20 minutes of the film are thrilling, I just wish it didn't take us quite so long to get there. It's a great detective story, as we watch Bill uncover clues and stay under the radar on his mission. And Damon's attention to detail - the way he speaks and carries himself - allows him to fully disappear in this role. He reminds us that he is one of the great film actors of our time. Bravo, overall.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Herons

Herons Restaurant at The Umstead Hotel and Spa has been on my bucket list for a very, very long time. I was eager to experience their four course tasting menu, and last month presented the perfect opportunity to celebrate. If only the meal was as fabulous as the company!

My sweetheart proposed to me before we went to dinner(!!!!!!), and this splurge-worthy, over-the-top meal seemed like the ideal way to celebrate off the evening. We even got flutes of complimentary champagne to honor the occasion! My kind of place.

Love these teal plates!

The service at Herons is impeccable. They anticipate your every need, and strive to take exceptional care of you. Little touches go a long way: lemon and lime slices for your water, warm lavender oil wash cloths to clean your hands, mini pound cakes to take home with you at the end of the night - they know how to pamper their guests. I was expecting an amuse bouche before the first course, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that we'd receive a small, whimsical bite between all four courses! And the servers seemed genuinely excited to bring us each bite. We started off with a Sunflower/Sunchoke Tuile, filled with Egg Mousse and topped with Caviar. A fantastic way to tantalize the taste buds, and visually stunning.


First Course: Flounder Crudo with Cantaloupe, Caviar and Puffed Grains. I would soon learn that each course is a work of art. I admired the intricate plating and this was a delightful dish for summer. I love discovering unexpected flavors that work well together. Would I have ever paired raw seafood with fruit? Probably not. But as it turns out, I'm a big fan.  


Unfortunately, my sweetheart's first course didn't come out quite like he was hoping. The "King Crab" was presented like this:

Needless to say, he was disappointed that the dish was more green (and frozen) than crab. That should have been a tell-tale sign that our dinner was going to be a bit more avant-garde than we had initially anticipated.

I love a bread selection and at Herons, you get 3 options, each better than the last. A Truffle Parker House roll, Red Cornmeal Muffin and Pretzel Roll were each enhanced by softened, salted butter. This was the most outstanding bread course I've ever experienced.

Our second amuse bouche was a Cornmeal Puff with a Blueberry Foie Gras Mousse. I liked the idea of this, but it did not come together as a successful bite. Foie Gras is a fickle mistress, and she was a bitter one tonight. 

Second Course: A 62 degree Egg with Grits, Mushroom Ragout and Shrimp, with Truffle Crisps for dipping. This was my favorite course of the night, and I was so busy eating it, that I didn't capture a photo! The soft boiled egg yolk married beautifully with the mushroom ragout - super umami. This was a luxurious riff on shrimp and grits. The truffle crisps were a nice touch, but I can ALWAYS use more truffle flavor.

To up the whimsy, we were presented a Mini Pheasant Corndog with Truffle Ketchup. This was super cute and clever. The meat was flavorful and tender and a yummy bite but again, I can always use more truffle.

Third Course: Salmon with Coconut Tartare, Zucchini Linguine, Heart of Palm and Charred Okra, with a Red Curry Sauce. If you read that and thought "how does all of that go together?" you're not alone. I honestly don't know what some of it was doing on the plate. The star was the salmon, which was cooked to absolute perfection. The red curry sauce was a little too sweet, and the coconut tartare reminded me of a diced hard boiled egg with mayonnaise (eek, sorry!) The zucchini linguine was yummy and salty but didn't really have a place on the plate. This was the most confusing course for me, but they can sure cook some salmon.


To get our palates prepped for dessert, we were presented with a Yuzu-soaked Cucumber that was hollowed out and filled with Watermelon Sorbet, and topped with Black Sesame Seeds. I loved the refreshing sorbet, but the cucumber was not yuzu-soaked enough for me. Perhaps a squirt of citrus on top would have rounded this out more.


Fourth Course: Peaches with Corn Pudding, Honeysuckle, Creme Fraiche and Hibiscus Ice. Considering we're in the thick of peach season, this seemed a very appropriate dessert, but I could have used more corn pudding and less hibiscus ice - it melted into the creme fraiche and watered down what should have been a rich, luxurious sauce. Stunning, but not satisfying.

The bill was accompanied by Almond Joy Ice Cream Popsicles underneath a beautiful chocolate sheet that said "Congratulations"! These ice cream pops were sensational and I will never say no to seconds on dessert. And the mini pound cakes that we got to take home were perfect with coffee the next morning.


It's hard for me to recommend this place to anyone who is not a foodie (I'm a foodie and still struggled with some of these dishes) but it was very fun to pretend I was on Top Chef. It seemed a bit "fancy for fancy's sake" but it was an experience I will never forget, because it was the best night of my life (so far!)


Friday, July 9, 2021

Poole's Diner

Restaurants are opening back up, and that means I need to dust off my list of must-try spots and give them a visit! Poole's Diner in Raleigh has been on my list for as long as I can remember. Owner/chef Ashley Christensen is something of a celebrity chef, and has been the name most synonymous with Raleigh dining in the past decade. In fact, she won a James Beard Award (the Oscars of the food world) in 2014 and 2019, securing her among the highest ranks of chefs in the country. While she's branched out to open several other bars and restaurants in the Triangle, Poole's remains her flagship. They finally started taking reservations this summer, and you better believe that I snatched up a seat as soon as I could.


The atmosphere is a major contradiction to the menu - at first it seems weird to sit on a swivel stool at a countertop or high top table and pay $12 for beets. But I knew that the food would be exceptional, so I went along with the whimsical, casual environment. The server was open to bringing multiple samples of wine until I found the right one (there were only 3 reds by the glass!) and pointed us in the direction of the chalkboard on the wall to see the menu. I don't love a menu on my phone (sorry) and I definitely don't love a menu on the wall, but I get it. It's all part of the theme.

I'd always heard about the Macaroni and Cheese at Poole's Diner. It's supposedly somewhat legendary. It's $18 and features cheddar, jarlsberg and grana padana. It comes out piping hot and has a crispy cheese topping, over an ooey gooey pile of cheesy, tiny elbow macaroni noodles. It's excellent. But, I've had excellent macaroni and cheese before. My bar was extremely high for this dish, and I hate to say that it did not give me the mind blowing I was quite hoping for. Still, really good.

The roast chicken with pan sauce and mashed potatoes unfortunately were a bit lacking. I usually don't order chicken in a restaurant (sadly they were out of the lamb!) and as I feared, it was a bit dry. The mashed potatoes were fine, never anything that really excites me, and the dish desperately needed the dark, umami gravy that came with it. I expected more here. If you're serving roast chicken and mashed potatoes in your fine dining restaurant, it should be outstanding.

The peas were the surprise star of the meal. Cooked with giant, meaty oyster mushrooms and sherry cream - I could not stop eating this dish! This is how all peas should be served. It was super creative, and my dining partner who "doesn't like peas or mushrooms" devoured it.

Poole's does a great job of taking dishes that you've had, and elevating them. They frequently change their menu according to what's in season, and I thought this was a perfectly good meal. But did it blow me away? No. I'm not sure if I went on an off night, but I have a feeling that if I went another night, I would have a better experience. I'd like to give them another shot, and now that they take reservations, I can do it sooner than later! Maybe they're still finding their footing after being closed for in-person dining during Covid. I know many restaurants are grateful to be open again, and I'm grateful for that, too!

Friday, May 14, 2021

Cuisine & Screen: At Home, Part 39

Y'all - it has been a MINUTE! I hope you're still hanging in there and doing your best to enjoy the "warmer" temps. I'm eager to share some upcoming posts on local restaurants and events, as things slowly creep towards normalcy. But in the meantime...I hope you continue to enjoy reading these at-home posts as much as I enjoy writing them!

CUISINE
This post pays homage to my boo, who singlehandedly cooked a show-stopping Oscars dinner for my mom and me. I had been bugging him for months to make his famous White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake, and finally, my Oscar wish came true. Unfortunately, his secret is no longer safe - it's actually a recipe from Taste of Home! It's absolutely delicious and you won't be able to stop eating it. It's super luscious, rich and thick - it calls for 4 (yes, 4) blocks of cream cheese - and I like that the crust is reminiscent of a shortbread, not that tired graham cracker crust crap (I love alliteration). Get your stretchy pants on and  get the recipe here!


TO DIE FOR.

SCREEN
Léon: The Professional - I know, I know, I am SUPER late to the game on this one. But boy am I glad I finally made it to the game. This film reminds me of a Quentin Tarantino movie - really great music, cool cinematography, eccentric characters - I absolutely loved it. Léon is a hitman who finds himself caring for 12-year-old Mathilda (played by the utterly phenomenal Natalie Portman). He begins training her to become his protégé, and their relationship is surprisingly heartwarming. Gary Oldman slays as the villain (no surprise there). Must see!!

We Need to Talk About Kevin - Yowza. This is an incredibly unnerving and disturbing story about a woman dealing with the aftermath of raising a son who commits a mass murder at school. From childhood, you can feel the tension between Eva (Tilda Swinton) and her son Kevin (played exceptionally well by Jasper Newell, ages 6-8, and Ezra Miller as a teen). The film itself is jarring and not easy to watch - extreme close-ups, disorienting shots - but that just contributes to these characters' states of mind. It was an excellent film, but it's hard for me to recommend.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

2021 Oscar Predictions

It's been a crazy year for movies and award shows (and literally everything else). The Oscars (my Superbowl) are allegedly going to be a live show, and while it will be a very different ceremony, I'm thrilled for any semblance of normalcy. I did my best to stream as many of the nominated films and watch as many of these performances as possible, but I still have a few to cram in before Sunday. I am getting very excited, people!!

Best Picture

The Father

Judas and the Black Messiah

Mank

Minari

Nomadland

Promising Young Woman

Sound of Metal

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Should Win: This is tough. Four of the nominated films were my favorite of the year. I would be very happy if Judas and the Black Messiah; Nomadland; Promising Young Woman; or Sound of Metal won the big award. If you haven't seen any of these, stop what you're doing and go watch any one of them. They'll blow you away.

Will Win: Nomadland. I think the buzz around this movie (and rightfully so) will push it into first place. The director has it in the bag, Frances McDormand is the favorite, and it was a really great film. I think it's got the momentum to bring home the gold.


Best Actor

Riz Ahmed, "Sound of Metal"

Chadwick Boseman, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"

Anthony Hopkins, The Father

Gary Oldman, Mank

Steven Yeun, Minari

Should Win: At the time of publishing, C&S has only seen half of Ma Rainey, but it only took half the film for me to see that Chadwick Boseman delivers an outstanding performance. In fact, I can only fully speak to Ahmed's performance in Sound of Metal, which was sensational, and he's spectacular as a deaf musician. I just don't think this is his year.

Will Win: Boseman. 


Best Actress

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman

Frances McDormand, Nomadland

Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman


Should Win: As much as I loved Frances McDormand in Nomadland (it's like the part was written specifically for her), I would love to see someone new get honored (she has already won twice!) I loved Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman, but is it an Oscar-worthy performance? Maybe not. From what I have seen of Viola Davis in Ma Rainey, she is fabulous, as usual. I'm just not sure that the competition is strong enough against McDormand.

Will Win: McDormand.


Best Supporting Actor

Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Leslie "Burr, sir" Odom, Jr., One Night in Miami

Paul Raci, Sound of Metal

LaKeith "bring back Atlanta on FX" Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah


Should Win: Daniel Kaluuya, by a landslide, and dare I say he should have been included in the Best Actor category? The man just knocked our socks off with this role, amiright? Shout out to Paul Raci, who I had never heard of, and who delivers an outstanding subtle performance as a man running a retreat center for deaf addicts in recovery. He had his hands full with this role and he slays.

Will Win: Kaluuya.


Best Supporting Actress

Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Glenn "always a bridesmaid" Close, Hillbilly Elegy

Olivia Colman, The Father

Amanda Seyfried, Mank

Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari


Should Win: This is another tough category. I'm secretly pulling for Glenn Close. The 8-time nominated veteran should have been awarded long ago, just not necessarily for this role. Maria Bakalova seemingly came out of nowhere and was tremendously over the top in Borat, but the Oscars hardly ever recognize comedies. Yuh-Jung Youn is a beloved South Korean actress who might just pull off the win.

Will Win: Based off award show season momentum, Yuh-Jung Youn is my bet.


Best Director

Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round

David Fincher, Mank

Lee Isaac Chung, Minari

Chloé Zhao, Nomadland

Emerald "best name ever" Fennell, Promising Young Woman


Should Win:
I desperately want Emerald Fennell to get some sort of recognition for her outstanding film, so if she doesn't win for direction, I hope she has a shot at winning for producing or best original screenplay. I would also love to see Chloé Zhao win for Nomadland (and I think I will).

Will Win: Zhao.