Tag Archives: 2016

My Top 10 Films of 2016

Why do I do my Top 10 lists of the year so late into the following year? Simple. I’m not a film critic that gets free tickets to sneak peaks or special DVDs to preview before the end of the year. So that means I’m limited to making my picks until months into the new year.

It took awhile because I had a lot of catching up to do in terms of movie watching. Boy did I have a lot to watch and boy was it hard to rank the Top 10 of the year. There were a lot of films I liked and it’s hard to rank them 1st to 10th. But it’s needed if you want to make a Top 10 list.

So without further ado, here are my Top 10 Films Of 2016:

moonlight

  1. Moonlight
  2. La La Land
  3. Fences
  4. Manchester By The Sea
  5. Silence
  6. Deadpool
  7. Hidden Figures
  8. Hell Or High Water
  9. Kubo And The Two Strings
  10. Loving

Honorable Mention:

  • Arrival
  • Lion
  • Zootopia
  • The Salesman
  • Hacksaw Ridge

And there you have it. My Top 10 films of 2016. For my past lists, just click on the links below:

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My Predictions For The 2016 Academy Awards

DISCLAIMER: There was an incomplete post like this yesterday. The reason was I was editing from my smartphone and intended to update the draft, not publish the blog. It published anyways. This blog here is my complete blog for Oscar predictions.

Chocolate Oscar

The Academy Awards are here. I’ve seen enough movies to make up 82 of the nominations this year. It was quite the year with lots to offer and a lot of things that appeared guaranteed weren’t. So without further ado, let’s get on with the predictions:

BEST PICTURE WRAP-UP

You all saw my three summaries of all nine nominees. Doing shorter summaries were better for me this year. Maybe next year I won’t be so busy or have as many ailments. So here goes for predicting the winner:

-Arrival-  This is the first movie about aliens to be nominated for an Oscar. A very smart film that was loaded with buzz when it first came out. However its awards excitement faded over time as did its Best Picture chances.

-Fences- I like it when I see a celebrated play brought to the big screen. Especially around Oscar time. I felt it was done excellently. However it is up in this category against meatier competition. This is one category I think Fences won’t win.

-Hacksaw Ridge- Very rarely does a pro-religion movie have a chance for Best Picture. Hacksaw Ridge is the pro-religion film in the past 15 years most deserving of a nomination. However it does have some formulaic elements that come up every now and then and it has better chances in the technical categories instead of Best Picture.

-Hell Or High Water-  This year’s ‘summer survivor.’ Those like me who missed out on it during the summer missed out on a gem. A crime story that’s funny and entertaining, but smart too. However I’m not too optimistic in its Oscar chances here.

-Hidden Figures- This movie started with very little Oscar buzz at first but it increased as rapport from the film–from both critics and audience alike– grew. It seems like it doesn’t have good chances to win Best Picture but it could pull a surprise. A very slim chance of that but it is likely.

-La La Land- What can I say? People have been embracing it in droves. Why? Because people just really like a good musical? Because of its feel? Because it reminds one of the charm of old Hollywood? Whatever it is, it’s made it the frontrunner that looks hard to beat. That’s why it’s my Will Win pick. the biggest reason why I hope it win is because last year I said: “One more Best Picture winner that fails to gross $100 million and I’m done Oscarwatching.” I don’t know what made me carry on even after Spotlight won– and it didn’t even make $50 million— but La La Land makes me glad I did.

-Lion- I’m no expert in Oscar trivia but I think this is the first Australian film to be nominated for Best Picture, and a deserving nominee. It’s won over everyone I know who has seen it. It may have had better Best Picture chances in another year.

-Manchester By The Sea- This is a film that was loaded with buzz at the beginning of the Oscar race and looked to be the one film that could beat out La La Land. The buzz faded over time, despite how great the film was. May have an outside chance but not too likely.

-Moonlight- This is one film that proves that less is more. Less dialogue, more of a feel of what’s happening. Less showy characters, more knowing who the characters are. Less singing and dancing, more feel for the music in the film. This is the surprise of the Oscar race that was able to let it speak for itself. I know it faces a hell of a fight against La La Land to win Best Picture but I give this my Should Win pick.

BEST DIRECTOR:

Should Win – Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Will Win – Damien Chazelle, La La Land

I felt that Moonlight is the better picture and Jenkins did an excellent job of directing but I know this is the year of La La Land and it’s Damien Chazelle’s to take.

BEST ACTOR:

Should Win and Will Win – Denzel Washington, Fences

These past two years saw the rise of the #OscarsSoWhite outcry. This year there are seven non-white acting nominees. Denzel may have won twice before but his performance as Troy Maxson has been getting loads of buzz and even surprised favorite Casey Affleck at the SAG Awards. The only way I can see Casey winning instead of Denzel is if the Academy doesn’t want to make this his third Oscar, and it is a possibility.

BEST ACTRESS:

Should Win – Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Will Win – Emma Stone, La La Land

Some are saying that Isabelle Huppert looks to be the biggest threat to Emma Stone’s win. It is a possibility but I think Casey Affleck beating out Denzel appears more likely. It’s Emma’s to lose.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Should Win and Will Win – Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Mahershala Ali may have only been seen in the first part of Moonlight but there was something about his performance of Juan that stood out like no other supporting performance this year. Was it Juan’s charisma? Was it his silent coolness? Whatever it is, it’s what made Mahershala stand out this year among all the supporting actor performances.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Should Win and Will Win – Viola Davis, Fences

What can I say? If there’s anyone who can steal the show from Denzel, it’s Viola Davis. She reminded us very well that Fences wasn’t just about Troy Maxson. It was about Rose too.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

Should Win – Taylor Sheridan, Hell Or High Water

Will Win – Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea

A lot of people are expecting Damien Chazelle to do it again here but I feel that Kenneth Lonergan will take it for one of the best scripts of the year. It was a film that cuts deep and doesn’t water down.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

Should Win and Will Win – Barry Jenkins and Terell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight

It all started with a short story by McCraney, then Jenkins developed a screenplay, and now it’s one of the best of the year. No stopping it.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:

Should Win: Kubo And The Two Strings

Will Win: Zootopia

Kubo was the best at taking your imagination away this year. However in comparison to frontrunner Zootopia, it isn’t really all that family friendly and that I believe is where it will hurt it. Zootopia was without a doubt this year’s crowd charmer. Besides this is the one category Disney wants to take year after year.

BEST ART DIRECTION:

Will Win: La La Land

Let’s face it. Any movie that shows off the classic areas in Los Angeles and even meshes it into the present will win this category.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:

Will Win: Linus Sandgren, La La Land

BEST COSTUME DESIGN:

Will Win: Madeline Fontaine, Jackie

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:

Will Win: O. J. Simpson: Made In America

BEST FILM EDITING:

Will Win: Tom Cross, La La Land

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:

Will Win: The Salesman (Iran)

Salesman director Asghar Farhadi has been the subject of news as it was believed Donald Trump’s travel ban could prevent him from attending the Oscars. Whatever the situation, he boycotted the Oscars in protest of Trump’s policies.

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING:

Will Win: A Man Called Ove

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:

Will Win: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land

I’m sure we’ve all been waiting for the longest time for a musical of original composition. Especially the Academy.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG:

Should Win: ‘Audition (The Fools Who Dream)’, La La Land

Will Win: ‘City Of Stars’, La La Land

BEST SOUND MIXING:

Will Win: La La Land

BEST SOUND EDITING:

Will Win: Hacksaw Ridge

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

Will Win: The Jungle Book

I think the reason why Star Wars lost this category last year is because having the best digital effects of the year is expected for a Star Wars movie. That’s where The Jungle Book has the edge for this year.

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM:

Click here for reviews and predictions.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM:

Click here for reviews and predictions.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT:

Will Win: Joe’s Helmet

JUST ONE MORE – TOP OSCAR UPSETS

I did this for the first time last year. I want to do it again this year.:

  • Moonlight wins Best Picture
  • Casey Affleck wins Best Actor for Manchester By The Sea
  • Kubo And The Two Strings wins Best Animated Feature
  • Arrival wins Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Greig Fraser wins Best Cinematography for Lion.

And there you have it. My predictions for Hollywood’s night of nights. Let’s see how Jimmy Kimmel does as host this time.

My Predictions For The 2016 Academy Award Nominees

Chocolate Oscar

I know I haven’t been blogging as much as I normally have. You may have noticed I didn’t post predictions for the Golden Globes this year. Heck, I’ve even delayed publishing my review of Doctor Strange! It’s not just about my busy schedule but my lack of hits to my blog in 2016: the least since 2011. However since I’ve been getting more hits to my blog this January, it gives me the energy to publish my next blog.

Of course I wouldn’t miss out on predicting the Oscar nominations. I have been paying attention to the race and seen some of the heavily favored films. The race looks exciting and it’s hard to tell who will win. La La Land looks like the best bet but there have been surprises before, like Spotlight trouncing The Revenant last year. And speaking of last year, I believe the #OscarsSoWhite row has paid off as the Academy has seen a lot of diversity in this year’s new inductees, which I will reflect on in a blog in a week or two, and there appears to be four or five non-white actors heavily favored to be nominated. Cheryl Boone Isaacs even said she’ll have the Academy lead by example.

Anyways without further ado, I have my predictions. To start off, here are my predictions for the nominations on Tuesday:

BEST PICTURE

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell Or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester By The Sea
  • Moonlight
  • Sully

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Garth Davis, Lion
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea
  • Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

BEST ACTOR

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea
  • Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land
  • Viggo Mortenson, Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington, Fences

BEST ACTRESS

  • Amy Adams, Arrival
  •  Emily Blunt, The Girl On The Train
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie
  • Emma Stone, La La Land
  • Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
  • Jeff Bridges, Hell Or High Water
  • Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Lucas Hedges, Manchester By The Sea
  • Dev Patel, Lion

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Viola Davis, Fences
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Nicole Kidman, Lion
  •  Janelle Monae, Hidden Figures
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester By The Sea

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Yorgos Lanthimos and Efyhimis Filipou, The Lobster
  • Paul Laverty, I, Daniel Blake
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea
  • Jeff Nichols, Loving

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Luke Davies, Lion
  • Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
  • Barry Jenkins And Terell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight
  • Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures
  • August Wilson, Fences

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

  • Finding Dory
  • Kubo And The Two Strings
  • Moana
  • The Red Turtle
  • Zootopia

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Greg Fraser, Lion
  • James Laxton, Moonlight
  • Rodrigo Prieto, Silence
  • Linus Sandgren, La La Land
  • Bradford Young, Arrival

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Colleen Atwood, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
  • Consolata Boyle, Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Madeline Fontaine, Jackie
  • Mary Zophres, Hail Caesar!
  • Mary Zophres, La La Land

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

  • The Eagle Huntress
  • Life, Animated
  • OJ: Made In America
  • Tower
  • Weiner

BEST FILM EDITING

  • Julian Clarke, Deadpool
  • Tom Cross, La La Land
  • John Gilbert, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Jennifer Lame, Manchester By The Sea
  • Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon, Moonlight

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • It’s Only The End Of The World (Canada)
  • A Man Called Ove (Sweden)
  • The Salesman (Iran)
  • Tanna (Australia)
  • Toni Erdmann (Germany)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • Nicholas Britwell, Moonlight
  • Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
  • Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka, Lion
  • John Williams, The BFG
  • Hans Zimmer, Pharrel Williams and Benjamin Walfisch, Hidden Figures

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  • ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’, Trolls
  • ‘City Of Stars’, La La Land
  • ‘Faith’, Sing
  • ‘Heathens’, Suicide Squad
  • ‘How Far I’ll Go’, Moana

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
  • Hail Caesar!
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • La La Land
  • Rogue One

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Arrival
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Doctor Strange
  • The Jungle Book
  • Rogue One

Those are my predictions for nominations. I also include predictions for possible upsetters for my main predictions. They could upset some of my favorites and get nominated instead. Without further ado, here is my list for the most likely upsetters:

BEST PICTURE

  • Loving
  • Deadpool
  • Elle

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Denzel Washington, Fences

BEST ACTOR

  • Tom Hanks, Sully
  • Joel Edgerton, Loving

BEST ACTRESS

  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Ruth Negga, Loving

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals
  • Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
  • Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Taylor Sheridan, Hell Or High Water

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Eric Heisserer, Arrival
  • Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese, Silence

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

  • My Life As a Zucchini
  • Miss Hokusai

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Seamus McGarvey, Nocturnal Animals

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson, The Dressmaker
  • Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh, Love & Friendship

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

  • 13th

BEST FILM EDITING

  • Joe Walker, Arrival
  • Jake Roberts, Hell Or High Water

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • Abel Korzeniowski, Nocturnal Animals

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  •  ‘Try Everything’, Zootopia
  •  ‘Just Like Fire’, Alice Through Looking Glass

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • Arrival
  • Jackie

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

  • Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

So did my predictions come true? Which of my upsetter predictions caused the biggest shocker? Or which nominations from left-field happened? We’ll find out Tuesdayj morning.

VIFF 2016 Wrap-Up And Introduction To My New Blog

Cinema
I’ll admit I’ve been delaying my wrap-up to this year’s Vancouver Film Festival for the longest time. Heck, VIFF 2016 ended exactly two months ago! Hey I’ve been bogged down with work, school and this surprisingly blizzard-like weather which is extremely rare in Vancouver. On top of it, VIFF stats I was hoping to get after the Fest didn’t come. Nevertheless I feel a wrap-up is still worth publishing even if it’s this late.

The 2016 Vancouver Film Fest ended on Friday, October 13th. This was the first VIFF since 2011 that took place during Thanksgiving weekend. Crowds came again and again. There was a lot to offer with over 300 films from 70+ countries. There were even VIFF late night Hubs around the VIFF theatre held during the first ten days of the festival. I missed my chance because I was thinking of catching a hub during the second week. I didn’t know they ended that soon. Maybe next year.

The award winners were announced at the closing gala on Friday:

BC Spotlight Awards

Best BC Film Award
Presented by the Harold Greenberg Fund, Encore by Deluxe
WINNER: Window Horses (dir. Ann Marie Fleming)

BC Emerging Filmmaker Award
Presented by UBCP/ACTRA & William F. White
WINNER: Hello Destroyer (dir. Kevan Funk)

Ignite Award
Recognizes the outstanding work of a female key creative on a BC-produced feature or short.
Presented by TELUS
WINNER: Cabbie (dirs. Jessica Parsons, Jennifer Chiu)
Honourable Mention: Here Nor There (dir. Julia Hutchings)

Canadian Film Awards

Narrative Features

Best Canadian Film
Presented by Directors’ Guild of Canada
WINNER: Window Horses (dir. Ann Marie Fleming)

Emerging Canadian Director
Presented by Directors’ Guild of Canada
WINNER: Never Eat Alone (dir. Sofia Bohdanowicz)

Documentary Features

Best Canadian Documentary
Presented by the Rogers Documentary Fund
WINNER: Living With Giants (dirs. Sebastien Rist, Aude Leroux-Lévesque)
Honourable Mention: Quebec My Country Mon Pays (dir. John Walker)

Short Film Awards
Best BC Short Film
Presented by CreativeBC
WINNER: Here Nor There (dir. Julia Hutchings)
Honourable Mention: Srorrim (dir. Wayne Wapeemukwa)

Best Canadian Short Film
Presented by Lexus
WINNER: Ceux qui restent/Those Who Remains (dir. Mathieu Vachon)
Honourable Mention: Fish (dir. Heather Young)

Most Promising Director of a Canadian Short Film
WINNER: Parent, Teacher (dir. Roman Tchjen)
Honourable Mention: Old Man (dir. Alicia Eisen)

Impact Awards

Radcliffe Foundation Refugee Crisis Awareness Short Film Competition
Presented by The Radcliffe Foundation
WINNER: Helpful Hand (dir. Alex Nagy)

VIFF Impact Award
Presented by Leonard Schein to one of the nine issue-oriented documentary films in the Impact Stream

WINNER: Power to Change – The Energy Rebellion (dir. Carl-A. Fechner)

VIFF Industry Builder Award
Presented by MPPIA to celebrate BC Creates with support from Western Economic Diversification and CreativeBC

2016 Honoree: Chris Carter

Audience Awards

Super Channel People’s Choice Award
WINNER: Maudie (dir. Aisling Walsh)

VIFF Most Popular International Feature
WINNER: I, Daniel Blake (dir. Ken Loach)
Runner up: The Salesman (dir. Asghar Farhadi)

VIFF Most Popular International Documentary
WINNER: Human (dir. Yann Arthus-Bertrand)

VIFF Most Popular Canadian Documentary
WINNER: Spirit Unforgettable (dir. Pete McCormack)

#mustseebc Presented by TELUS Optik Local
WINNER: Cadence (dir. Alex Lasheras)

As for my volunteer experience, it was all at the International Village this year and it was a good experience. I had a mix of shifts from early morning to late evening to middle of the day. I volunteered both during the Sunday and Monday of thanksgiving. I also volunteered all day Thursday the 12th. I had more chances this year to watch films than I did last year. Last year, I only had the luck of seeing one during my volunteer work. If you can ask me what my favorite film of the ones I saw was, I would have to say it was the first one I saw: Barakah Meets Barakah. It was entertaining and very intelligent.

For the end of the VIFF, there was a volunteer party held the Saturday before Halloween. Volunteers were treated to films shown at this year’s VIFF. Three of the best. After that, they were treated to a Jackrabbit Slims party which consisted of the VanCity Theatre turned into a 1950’s diner, like in Pulp Fiction, and people treated to hamburgers, cupcakes, a complimentary drink and dancing to a jukebox. It was fun and it had me looking forward to next year.

My New Blog

One of the things I’ve been thinking about this year is the way I do blogging. This is nearing my sixth year. I’m not getting the amount of hits I was hoping to this year. Blog topics that normally get a lot of hits on my site didn’t this time. In fact this year is set to have the least amount of total hits for the year since 2011. I won’t quit blogging but the lack of hits have taken away from my ambition and I don’t post as often as I normally do, as you may have noticed.

One thing I’ve thought of doing is setting up one blog focused on a single topic. The first single-topic blog I’m starting is about the Vancouver Film Festival and it’s called VIFFin’ It Up. It will consist of reviews I’ve seen at the VIFF and reviews of VIFF films I saw after the fest. It will also consist of news related to the Fest and the usual annual previews and wrap-ups. If you want to follow it or enter your email to subscribe, just click here. Right now I just have the intro. Over the days, I will post reviews and previews of past VIFFs starting with 2011: the first VIFF I blogged about.

So there you go. The 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival ended with continued success if not a record and fun for all volunteers. Next year’s VIFF is anticipated to be from September 28th to October 12th, 2017 and should be bigger and better. Hopefully next year I’ll attend a hub. See you next year!

 

2016 UEFA Euro Final: Preview and Prediction

Euro Trophy

Will France win for the third time? Or Portugal for the first time ever?

How about that? What started on the 10th of June with 24 teams will end on the 10th of July deciding which team will win the 2016 European Championship. It took this whole time 50 matches to decide the two teams most worthy to play for the Championship. On Sunday, it will come down to Portugal and hosts France.  The big question is who will win it?

Euro Final

Head-To-Head Stats:

Before I get to head-to-head stuff, I’ll do some finals stats. France has been to the Euro finals twice before and won both times, including when they hosted in 1984. Portugal has been to the finals only once before back in 2004 when they hosted and lost to underdogs Greece. And to think back then it featured a rising 19 year-old by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo. The two have squared off 24 times before. France has won 18 times, Portugal five times and one draw. France’s most recent win over Portugal was 1-0 in a friendly nine months ago. The last time Portugal beat France was all the way back in 1975.

Team Breakdown:

PortugalPORTUGAL: Just a small tidbit of trivia. Two players from Euro 2004 –Cristiano Ronaldo and Ricardo Carvalho– are here in Euro 2016. Also a piece of irony: you know how Portugal lost to Greece in the 2004 Euro final? Well coach Fernando Santos coached the Greek team at the 2014 World Cup. Unlike 2004, Portugal come to the finals as the underdogs. And it’s easy to see why. All three of their Group Play games were draws. Their Round of 16 match against Croatia was won thanks to an extra time goal. Their quarterfinal against Poland was a 1-1 draw which Portugal luckily won on a flawless penalty shootout. They didn’t fully come alive until their semifinal against Wales which they won 2-0.

It’s obvious Portugal has shown some of their weaknesses. Hungary was good at exploiting them during their 3-3 draw. Portugal should consider themselves lucky they were able to score three goals during that match too. Portugal has a lot of strengths too. They have two good strikers in Cristiano and Nani. They have a rising young star in 18 year-old Renato Sanches. They’ve also delivered more goal attempts than France. They’re a team that knows how to attack. Their defense needs to be as consistent as it was during their match against Wales if they want to win the Championship because the French are the highest-scoring team in the tournament. This will make for an interesting final of Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Antoine Griezmann.

FranceFRANCE: No member of France’s Euro-winning squad of 2000 is playing for France now. However the team is coached by Didier Deschamps who was the captain of the Euro-winning 2000 squad and was part of the 1998 world Cup winning squad.

For the most part, this trip to the Championship has been a dream for France. Save their scoreless draw against Switzerland, the French have been the class of the field. They’ve played like a strong team unit and have defended strongly too. They have a star striker in Antoine Griezmann but don’t forget Olivier Giroud and Dimitri Payet. They look like they’re on fire to win France’s third Euro title.

It’s not to say France has weaknesses, though they have hardly been exposed. One thing is that France has had less ball possession in some games. While that doesn’t prove much of a fact for those games, that could be a factor in the final as Portugal also has strikers who know how to score. France has even been contained by the other teams at times, including Albania who kept them scoreless until the 90th minute. Sure, Portugal has slacked off for most of the tournament but they could just surprise France on home turf when they least expect it.

My Verdict: Eventually I will have to predict a winner for the final so here goes. I predict France to win 3-1. They’ve been delivering the most and giving the least away. So I have to go with them. If they do, France would also become the first country to win the Euro twice as host nation. No nation has won even the World Cup twice as host.

Here’s an interesting note. Whichever team wins the Euro will represent Europe in next year’s Confederations Cup in Russia. Already six of the eight berths have been decided. Russia qualifies as hosts, Germany qualifies as World Cup winners, and Australia, Chile, Mexico and New Zealand qualify upon winning their Confederation’s respective championship. Africa decides their winner in February next year. However Sunday will decided which team will represent UEFA next year.

And there you have it. My breakdown and my prediction. So Sunday will answer all your questions. Who will win it? Will France be only the third nation to win a total of three Euros? Or will Portugal become the tenth country to win a Euro? It will all be decided in the Stade de France that night.

 

UEFA Euro 2016 Group Play: With One Game To Go

Super Victor

Euro 2016 has made headlines for a lot of good memorable play. It’s also made headlines for the worse for hooliganism from Russian and Croatian fans. However starting tomorrow, all 24 teams have one last game to play. Three teams have officially qualified, one is officially out and the other twenty are still relying on the last game to decide it all. Here’s the breakdown of the teams that made it and the teams still with one last chance. Note only teams guaranteed qualification have their names bolded.

Group A

Okay, it’s safe to say that by now, two wins guarantees you’ll be playing in the knockout round no matter what happens in the third game in any group. France is already guaranteed to move on after their wins against Switzerland and Albania. However they’re not guaranteed first place in the standings. Switzerland could take France’s top position away if they beat them. Chances are slim but still there. If Switzerland doesn’t win, they do have strong chances of finishing second despite what happens in the Romania-Albania game. Romania would need to have a win of at least 2-0 or 3-1 over Albania and Switzerland will have to endure nothing more than a loss to France if they can take second place in Group A.

Albania may have lost both of their games but they are not out. They still have a chance of qualifying if they defeat Romania. It will have to be nothing less than a win for Albania and even then they will have to wait until all the groups have finished and have all the third-placers ranked in order to determine the four that qualify. It’s what it all boils down to in this wildcard race.

Group B

This is unique because none of the teams in the group are guaranteed of qualifying. That’s a good thing because all four still have a chance leading up to their last matches on Monday, June 20th.England currently leads with a win and a draw with Wales and Slovakia with both a win and a loss. However they could drop to third place if Slovakia beats them and Wales beats Russia. I’m sure England wouldn’t want that embarrassment. Slovakia and Wales can qualify even if they draw Final results of who ranks where will have to be decided in the final game. One thing is certain: if Wales and Slovakia both win, draw or lose, Wales will have a higher ranking because of their win over Slovakia. Even if Wales lost to Russia on Monday, they would still have the advantage of finishing at least third.

Now onto Russia. Russia has had a lot of bad publicity because of their fans’ hooligan actions. UEFA has even dealt them a blow of a fine of 150,000. In addition, they face difficulty with their play as they sit with just a draw and a loss. Russia can still qualify but they will need nothing less than a win against Wales to do so.

Group C

Germany currently at the top is no surprise. Germany’s scoreless draw against Poland was to many. Except me because I anticipated them to draw: albeit a score of 1-1. No doubt about it, this is Poland’s best Euro especially since they achieved their first ever win. Germany leads Poland in goal differentials should both Germany and Poland win, lose or draw on Tuesday the 21st.Poland could still clinch the lead over Germany but they would have to win over Ukraine and Germany draw over Northern Ireland or Poland draw and Northern Ireland win. Northern Ireland will need nothing less than a win over Germany to rank second at the very least. They are guaranteed a third-place finish but they will have to rely on win-loss stats and goal differentials of the other third-place teams to see if they are one of the wildcard qualifiers.

As for Ukraine, it’s over. Even if they did win over Poland by even the hugest margin, their Euro 2016 trip will end Tuesday because their loss to Northern Ireland on Thursday put them in last place in Group C. For those that don’t know, head-to-head results override goal differentials at the UEFA Euro while it’s the opposite for the FIFA World Cup. That’s how things work here.

Group D

It’s official that Spain is advancing to the Round of 16. Their wins against Turkey and the Czech Republic solidified their chances. However they could still finish second in the group. That can happen if they lose to Croatia. Croatia sits in second with a win against Turkey and a draw to the Czech Republic. Croatia is comfortable enough that they’re guaranteed finishing third at least. A draw will give them second place. A loss could still keep them in second but it would have to be a small loss to keep them in second. They wouldn’t want the Czechs to win big against Turkey.

The Czech Republic will need a win if they are to advance. A draw will not cut it because of possibly falling short in the wildcard ranks. Meanwhile Turkey is not out either. A win will put them in third place with the possibility of qualifying. It will all be decided Tuesday the 21st.

Group E

It’s now official that Italy has guaranteed qualification to the Round of 16. Its wins against Belgium and Sweden assured them a spot in the next round. Actually Italy has been guaranteed first place because even if they lost to Ireland and Belgium won, they’d have the advantage over Belgium because of their 2-0 win. Belgium’s win over Ireland brought their chances back. They could still qualify if they drew against Sweden. However a loss could endanger their chances of qualifying. Simply put, Sweden and Ireland need nothing less than a win to qualify. A draw for either wouldn’t cut it.

Group F

Hungary is the team on top right now thanks to the group’s only win: against Austria 2-0. Every other match was a 1-1 or 0-0 draw. Hungary can still advance with a loss to Portugal because of their win over Austria. Iceland and Portugal have two draws but Iceland leads because they scored more. Already Iceland has their best team ever and they keep on breaking new ground each time, even if their two Euro games are 1-1 draws. I’ll bet Portugal was shocked to find out how good they were. Iceland would have to win over Austria in order to advance but Austria needs nothing less than a win over Iceland for their chances as they’re the one team with a loss. And it’s all chancy for Portugal. A win over Hungary will give them qualification but a draw will put them in the tricky wildcard category.

And there you go. That’s the team rundown before they play their final preliminary game. Just like in FIFA tournaments, the third games for each group will all be played simultaneously. Hey, it’s do or die.

 

UEFA Euro 2016: Group D Focus

Euro Logos

Wow! Euro 2016 is not even a week away. Fast notes about the ten stadiums staging the Euro. Six were venues of the 1998 World Cup. The other four are new stadiums that opened anywhere from back this January to four years ago. Glad to see this Euro isn’t that big of an expense. Although five of the ‘older’ stadiums did need upgrades for this event. Anyways here’s my look at the Group D teams:

TurkeyTurkey (13): Turkey is a team known for its infrequent successes. It has competed in three Euros and two World Cups. It finished third in the 2002 World Cup–its first World Cup since 1954– and hasn’t qualified since. Turkey didn’t qualify for the 2004 Euro but finished in the semis in 2008 and didn’t qualify for 2012. Turkey’s back now. All but six players play for Turkey’s Super Lig, three play for German teams and captain Arda Turan plays for Barcelona. The team has done very well in play the past year and a half including wins against the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Sweden. Their only loss came to England two weeks ago and the score was 2-1. Turkey is one team that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Croatia ficedCroatia (23): Croatia has a reputation of being world class ‘minnows’ that will surprise you when you least expect it. However Vatreni has struggled to regain their strong reputation they had back in the late 1990’s. In fact the team’s play has been mostly quiet news. However they still should not be underestimated. They may have lacked a standout moment for the team in recent major tournaments but they’ve continued to exhibit consistent play. They may lack a standout superstar but they function excellently as a team unit. Since World Cup 2014, they’ve regained the consistency they’re known for. They’ve had wins against Russia, Israel, Norway and Bulgaria and have even drawn against Italy. The team has only had two losses in that time: against Argentina and Norway. In this group, their toughest opposition will be Spain as they’ve only won against them once in the last 25 years. In that same time, they’ve never lost to Turkey and the Czechs. Euro 2016 is another time for the team to prove themselves once again.

Spain FixedSpain (6): We’ve talked about England trying to recover from its 2014 World Cup embarrassment. England’s not alone. Spain entered the Cup as the reigning holders only to lose their first two Group games which meant their elimination as Group play concluded. Like England, La Roja didn’t drop their coach: Vicente Del Bosque. Their road to redemption did have a struggle for the remainder of 2014 as they lost three of their six 2014 games after the Cup. Spain did have challenges bringing in new players who aren’t as well seasoned as their veterans still on the team. However Spain were very good in qualifying for the Euro and their only loss in 2015 came to the Netherlands. This past week they scored big wins against Bosnia (3-1) and South Korea (6-1). No doubt they will be coming to France with something to prove.

Czech Republic fixedCzech Republic(29): The Czechs are an enigma in football. Since the divorce of Czechoslovakia in 1992, the team has qualified for every Euro even being finalists in 1996 and semifinalists in 2004. However they’ve only qualified for one World Cup: back in 2006 and they were out in Group Stage. Their play since the 2014 World Cup has also been enigmatic. They’ve lost to the United States, Slovakia, Iceland, Turkey, Poland and Scotland. However they’ve also won against Iceland, the Netherlands, Serbia and Russia. France will be another chance for the team to prove themselves.

Prediction: This is a tough one because both teams have a lot of strengths but they also have a lot of very noticeable weak spots. You could call this a ‘group of death.’ I predict Spain to top it with Croatia second and Turkey third.

And there are my thoughts for Group D. Next up my review of Group E.

UPDATE:

Here are my reviews of other groups:

 

UEFA Euro 2016: Group C Focus

Super Victor

Meet Super Victor, mascot of Euro 2016.

This is actually my favorite group of the six because I’m 3/4 Ukrainian, 1/4 German. Plus I like Poland because Poland and Ukraine have a lot in common, especially in their language. Nevertheless this should make for an exciting group with a lot of rivalry. So here’s my review of Group C:

Poland fixedPoland (27): Poland may have a good World Cup legacy with seven appearances and two third-place finishes but they lack a Euro legacy with competing in only the last two and going out in the Group Stage both times. Last Euro was especially embarrassing since they were co-hosts and didn’t win a game. Since then the White Eagles has gotten better. And it’s not just with Robert Lewandowski becoming a star striker for Bayern Munich. It’s the whole team that has been performing consistently. In fact the team even scored their first ever win against Germany in October 2014 during Euro qualifying. They’ve had other notable wins in the past two years against Ireland, Czech Republic and Serbia. Their only loss in the past two years came to Germany when they got their Euro qualifying revenge last September. Before I even give my predictions, I can already say I know Poland will advance to the Round of 16 at the very least. Poland could be the team most likely to cause a surprise.

Northern IrelandNorthern Ireland (26): This is Northern Ireland’s first ever Euro. They’ve played in three World Cups before and even made the quarterfinals in 1958 but no previous Euro. The team may not have a George Best right now but they appear to be getting stronger in recent years. Five players play for the Premier League and they’ve scored notable wins against Hungary and Greece. Their two losses to European teams in the past two years were to Romania and Scotland. France could be another proving ground for the team.

Germany fixedGermany (5): You think that since they’ve won the World Cup in 2014, they should be top of the world, right? Well one of the reasons why they won the World Cup is because they had the most team unity and best team chemistry of all. No standout superstars, just one functioning team. And that’s how it should be. However three of its top players from World Cup 2014–Per Mertesacker, Phillipp Lahm and Miroslav Klose–retired immediately after. This led to dealing with a new team format since then and also into developing new national team players. Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Andre Schurrle and Mario Gotze and still part of The Mannschaft but they’re also added some new younger talent too.

With the changes to the team, they’ve gone through some ups and downs. They qualified for the Euro top of their group. They’ve had some notable wins against Poland, Spain, Scotland and their traditional ‘Achilles heel’ Italy.  However they’ve also had some notable losses to Argentina, Poland, the U.S., France, England and most recently Slovakia. However Germany has a habit of coming alive when they most need to so it’s not right to dismiss them quite yet. Plus Euro 2016 could be the grounds for a lot of the new younger players to come of age. Only time will tell.

Ukraine FixedUkraine (22): Ukraine is a team that either gets better or keeps on learning over time. They first arrived as a team at the 2006 World Cup where they made the quarterfinals. However they’ve struggled to qualify for a World Cup since. They played in their first Euro in 2012 as co-hosts going out in the Group Stage. The current team mostly plays for teams in the Ukrainian Premier League. The current team has a lot of good talent like veteran Anatoliy Tymoschuk and rising great Andriy Yarmolenko. In the past year, the team has had some notable wins over Wales, Romania and Slovenia. Their only loss in 2015 came to Spain. In their history, they’ve either won or tied Northern Ireland, had mixed results against Poland and never won against Germany. Chances they could be on at Euro 2016.

Prediction: I think Germany vs. Poland will be a draw game and both teams will have the exact game results in all of group play. But I think Germany will come out on top over Poland because of goal differentials. Third place in this group will go to Ukraine.

And there you go. My thoughts on Group C. My thoughts on Euro 2016’s Group D coming soon.

UPDATE:

Here are my reviews of other groups:

2016 Eurovision Song Contest Final Preview

eurovision2016euro

I’ll admit I had no intention of posting a preview blog about the final. I was just content with watching the performers and playing ‘armchair judge’ for my own leisure. Besides I intended for my detailed blog of the ESC to be my only blog about it.

However that all changed last night as I was on Youtube and the ESC channel watching video after video of the night’s semi-final performances. Hey, when the show’s on live at noon your time, that’s your resort. That all changed after I added comment after comment with many of the videos. And that’s what inspired me to do this preview of the final for the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest.

For this preview, I’ve decided to post my opinions about the performances in the semi-finals. I will be judging the performances of both the competitors from the semis as well as those from Sweden and the Big 5 whom I will call ‘automatics’ because they automatically have their berths in the Final and their performances in the semis are simply a dress rehearsal for the Finals.

I felt it best that I place my judgements mostly on their semi-final performances. A lot of people have based their judgements from the song’s official music video released on YouTube months before the Contest. The videos are very telling in terms of how well each song will do however I feel the performances in the semis are more telling as it gives a good sense what their live show will be and even how together they are as a performer. Sure the semi won’t tell it all but it will tell it most. I do feel that the song is the key thing to base a judgement on. No matter how big of a show you put on, the song and its content is unavoidable. However I will consider showmanship as a performer will still have to make the song entertaining and eyecatching. Simply put, I will give top kudos to those performances who deliver best.

I will also start with my first section where I give opinions of the performances that have qualified for the final. I will then give my personal picks for who I would give the biggest point to if I were a jury. Note I will not be making predictions like I normally do. I will be giving my preferences and opinions. I’m not familiar with the music tastes of most European countries nor am I familiar with jury tastes. So here goes:

SEMIFINAL 1:

  • Hungary: Freddie  ‘Pioneer’ Very good song with a very dramatic opening. Freddie has very good vocals in singing the song. The song is far from boring. It will catch your ears. A deserving finalist.
  • Croatia: Nina Kraljic ‘Lighthouse‘ – Nina came to Stockholm in hopes of breaking Croatia’s bad-luck spell of missing out in the finals since 2009. She did exactly that. As for her performance, you’ll think her outfit at the beginning is ridiculous but that’s part of adding drama or theatrics to the song. I’m cool with that as long as it’s done right. Her performance was very good and deserving of her final berth.
  • Netherlands: Douwe Bob ‘Slow Down‘ – This is one of my delights of the night. I’m impressed to see how the Dutch know how to do bluesy rock or rockabilly. The Dutch did it before in 2014 with ‘Calm After The Storm‘ and they do it again here. Best song of the evening that delivers as a great alternative after so many techno numbers. Stage show is minimal but it works for the song instead of against it. I ranked it my 3rd place of this semi.
  • Armenia: Iveta Mukuchyan ‘LoveWave‘ – It’s not the best of the night but it’s still good and a deserving finalist. Very good song with good vocals. I felt the stage show was a bit iffy. Otherwise very deserving nonetheless.
  • Russia: Sergei Lazarev ‘You Are The Only One‘ – What can I say? For me that was the show of the first semi and my #1 pick for that night. It didn’t have the same song quality the Netherlands had but still an entertaining song with the most entertaining stage show of the evening. Definitely an eye-catcher and it will not surprise me if this song is a top contender for the win on Saturday.
  • Czech Republic: Gabriela Guncikova ‘I Stand‘ – Not exactly a song that stands out too much. Nevertheless Gabriela did sing it well and perform it well on stage. what it lacks in catchiness, it makes up for in its consistency and professionalism. A very deserving finalist. Especially since this is the first time in five tries a Czech performer qualifies for the final. Great job!
  • Cyprus: Minus One ‘Alter Ego‘ – You’d think with this being Cyprus, it would be ethnopop, right? Actually this is a hard rock song high in energy. I could even feel the energy of the song while watching it. Great song and great performance which was one of my favorites of the night. I feel it should do strong on Saturday.
  • Austria: Zoe ‘Loin d’Ici‘ – This was my surprise of the night. I like it when a song goes beyond my expectations. At first you’d think a number too sweet would come off as saccharine to you. However this is one ‘sweet’ song that actually did everything right and even charmed me. Excellent stage show that tried mimicking what was in her video. However if anyone had doubts about her song while watching her video before the Semi, I think her performance in the semi increased her chances of winning. It was better than the video. I consider this my 2nd place of the semi.
  • Azerbaijan: Samra ‘Miracle‘ – Once again a case of an Azerbaijani singer performing a song written by Swedes. This is one of only two semifinalists whom I did not have on my list of my ten ‘finals picks.’ The song was good but I’ve seen better performances by Azerbaijani acts in past ESCs. I think 2013’s ‘Hold Me‘ is their best ever.  Also the back-up dancers did a real tacky job of dancing. That’s all I can describe about it. Their dancing was tacky. Nevertheless Samra was dressed well and she did sing her song very well despite t not being much of a song. I just feel it didn’t deserve to be in the semis.
  • Malta: Ira Losco ‘Walk On Water‘ – Once again a case of a stageshow that was hard to swallow thanks to backup dancing. Ira did her song very well. However the dancer on stage just plain came off as ridiculous and irritating. It actually turned me off the song. This is the other finalist from the first semi that I felt didn’t deserve it.

SEMIFINAL 2:

  • Latvia: Justs ‘Heartbeat‘ – The biggest thing about the song is its arresting instrumentation. The stage graphics fit the song very well and Justs delivers the song in style and with the right moves you’d expect from a male pop singer. Justs does it solo without backup singers or backup dancers and does it with style. I ranked it the best performance of this semi because it grabs your attention from the very start and won’t let go.
  • Poland: Michal Szpak ‘Color Of Your Life‘ – This is a good ballad delivered very well from Michal. Its style really stands out. Michal delivered it very professionally despite missing a note near the first chorus. The biggest glitch I feel has to be the vintage military jacket he wears on stage. I don’t think it fit the performance that well. Especially since Justs that was on just before him came on stage with a leather jacket. Backup violinists and stage graphics blended well with the performance.
  • Israel: Hovi Star ‘Made Of Stars‘ – This is an excellent ballad delivered very well with excellent singing from Hovi. I almost thought he was doing a cover of an Adele song. The stage graphics added excellently to the song. However the two dancers on the spinning hoop had me questioning whether they were worth it or not? Do they add or subtract? Because Hovi delivers well in a no nonsense performance.
  • Serbia: Sanja Vucic ZAA ‘Goodbye‘ – It’s both a ‘Balkan Ballad’ and a power ballad. Excellent vocals full of emotion and a set up back-up singers that add to the drama and power. Might bring back memories to some of 2007 winner ‘Molitva’ but it holds its own. The male backup dancer didn’t add but he didn’t subtract from the performance either. If there’s one weakness, it’s her stiff black dress. Overall an excellent package and I rank it second-best of this semifinal.
  • Lithuania: Donny Montell ‘I’ve Been Waiting For This Night‘ – A powerful song with a lot of energy and Donny knows how to deliver it vocally. However I didn’t like how he added Michael Jackson-like dance moves to his performance. I feel it did not fit the song at all. Maybe the front flip near the end helped but the dancing didn’t. This is one of two from this semi that qualified for the final that didn’t make my personal Top 10.
  • Australia: Dami Im ‘Sound Of Silence‘ – A very powerful ballad delivered excellent by Dani. I also have no problem with the dress since it was meant to fit the song. However I’m not too happy about some of the stage choices she was given such as sitting on that platform until after the second chorus. She does walk around after that and deliver the song well but I don’t think she was given enough movement.
  • Bulgaria: Poli Genova ‘If Love Was A Crime‘ – Many people felt Poli was robbed of a finals berth five years ago with ‘Na Inat‘ but she finally gets it here. I’ll admit this is not that much of an attention-grabber of a song. Nor were a few of her dance moves the best. Nevertheless Poli delivered the song well and gave it its energy and made it enjoyable to hear. It’s very good for the most part.
  • Ukraine: Jamala ‘1944‘ – This is the first song at the ESC with Crimean Tatar lyrics. This is probably the most political song at this Contest. She has a song with a message and she delivers it with emotion in the song. The wailing at the end of the song is a big plus and especially shows off her vocal abilities. However political songs are touchy grounds at the ESC. They welcome it as long as it’s subtle. I feel this is deserving of its finals berth.
  • Georgia: Nika Kocharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz ‘Midnight Gold‘ – The number starts with a lot of potential with some exciting rock instrumentation and fitting stage graphics. However it goes downhill when the singer delivers vocals with notes that don’t seem to fit the song. I don’t know if he did it for creative purposes but his choices don’t really fit at all. Can’t complain about the instrumentation as it’s the best part. However this is the second qualifier to the final from this semi that I felt didn’t deserve it. Actually I ranked it second-to-last of this semi.
  • Belgium : Laura Tesoro ‘What’s The Pressure‘ – At last! A song that makes you wanna get down! Laura delivers a funky, feel-good energetic number that delivers all the best qualities of a pop number including vocals, dancing and even trying to get the crowd involved. I ranked this the third-best of this semi.

AUTOMATICS:

  • France: Amir ‘J’ai Cherche‘ – Good song, has a lot of energy, very good singing, but it comes across as rather boring. I don’t know what it is but when I saw Amir perform, I felt like there was something missing. I don’t know how this will fare on Saturday.
  • Spain: Barei ‘Say Yay!‘ – Now this is one number I feel will go far. A very good song that is full of energy and has good potential of being catchy. Also she performs excellently on stage. She dances like she’s in control and delivers the song as she should. I question her dress, especially with the 03 on it. However I feel she will be great on Saturday night.
  • Sweden: Frans ‘If I Were Sorry‘ – Sweden has one of the best success records at Eurovision. This number however is very questionable. Frans delivered a boring performance where the background tries to make the song interesting by flashing key words. He does sing the song well but his accent is too thick to comprehend some of the lyrics. I think he might score well in the popular vote because of his teen idol status but I don’t think he’ll score well with the judges.
  • Germany: Jamie-Lee ‘Ghost‘ – I have to say a good song and Jamie-Lee is a very good singer. However her outfit was too over the top. I’m cool with a weird outfit done for theatrical purposes such as Nina Kraljic’s outfit during the opening of ‘Spotlight’ but that was too ridiculous like Alice In Wonderland went through a flower garden. The backup singers had on sensible clothes and the trees that shot laser beams worked good but that outfit is dumb and works against her performance. However the outfit will make her win the Barbara Dex award.
  • United Kingdom: Joe & Jake ‘You’re Not Alone‘ – I have to say it’s a very good song with a very good performance. The two sing the song very well and add to the young energy of the song. It’s hard to find something to dislike about this number, especially since it’s very low in gimmicks. I think the one cheesy thing was probably the jumping near the end. One thing we have to keep in mind is that ‘no nonsense’ performances like these are great but they face the obstacle of winning attention from both televoters and the juries. Nevertheless I do wish the best for both of them. Especially since the UK used to have quite a Eurovision legacy and the 21st century has been very unkind to them with only two Top 10 finishes.
  • Italy: Francesca Michielin ‘No Degree Of Separation‘ – Italy rarely disappoints. They’ve mostly delivered some top notch performances to the Contest over the years, even in the last few years. And this year’s entry is a delight too. 21 year-old Francesca Michielin is already a seasoned pro. You’ll notice it as she sings the song consistently and with feeling. Adding the feeling to the song is a big plus. A big minus to the song however is all those stage props and stage graphics. I don’t know if they were trying to reflect a theme or emulate the music video but I feel it went too far and they were distracting from the song. This could work against her performance which holds its own without all the added stuff.

So those are my thoughts for the qualifiers. As for the ‘also-rans’:

Semi-Final 1: I know I said Malta and Azerbaijan didn’t deserve to be in the final. In their place should be Iceland and Moldova. They did their performance better. Finland’s Sandhja was good but came off as flat. That’s not good especially when you’re first up. Greece must have forgotten the golden rule of rap acts at Eurovision: rap acts go nowhere, even if it’s mixed with ethnopop. It’s a shame because I usually like the Greek numbers. San Marino’s Serhat had a style but I didn’t see it as enough to qualify for the final. Estonia came off as ridiculous in his stage antics and his voice. Montenegro’s number sounded like a mashed-up song and Bosnia’s on-stage theatrics made me wonder if it was really necessary for the song.

Semi-Final 2: If I were to trade Georgia and Lithuania from the finals, I’d put in Ireland and Macedonia. Ireland was full of energy and delivered well. Macedonia was also excellent, especially in her vocal range. Switzerland had a good song but it all fell apart with all the on-stage props and moves she was given. Belarus had potential but I thought the face stripes were dumb. Slovenia was good but the singer delivered awkward stage poses that worked against her. The Danish vocal trio came across as rather boring. Norway delivered a song that alternate from one tempo and mood of the verses to a different tempo and completely different mood in the chorus. It didn’t really mix well. And Albania had good potential but I feel her chances were marred by lousy backup singers.

Overall I have to say this is a mostly good set of performers for this Contest. There is a bit of the eccentric in some elements but it’s nothing compared to the ‘freak shows’ of five years ago or even ten years ago. I think the freakiest moments will come from Germany and Italy. I guess the country’s are now getting the message that doing something super-eccentric or super-gimmicky doesn’t pay. I didn’t notice too many off-key moments and those that did recovered well.

Like I said, I don’t know enough about European music tastes to make predictions. So instead I’m giving my personal Top 10. Eurovision style, of course:

  • Poland, 1 point.
  • Australia, 2 points.
  • Spain, 3 points.
  • Cyprus, 4 points.
  • Netherlands, 5 points.
  • Belgium, 6 points.
  • Serbia, 7 points.
  • Austria, 8 points.
  • Latvia, 10 points.
  • And my personal 12 points goes to…Russia!

So there’s my summary of the 2016 Eurovision finalists and their semifinal performances. I’m glad I don’t have to be a jury member because it’s a headache ranking them. Mind you anything can change on Saturday. They may go off key or something may malfunction or the energy that was there in the semi may not be there in the final. Even things like performance order can play a factor. How ironic how Belgium who ended the second semifinal will open the final? Ending the final will be Armenia. Whatever the situation, I wish all the performers the best and the winning performer’s country to get ready to host next year!

MTV Movie Awards Holds Its 25th

mtv_movie_awards

The MTV Movie Awards, the awards that’s been come to be known as the anti-Oscars, will hold their 25th edition this year.

Back in 1992, producer Joel Gallen founded a movie awards show for MTV completely unlike the Oscars. It may not have reached to same status as the Oscars but it has grown over the years as an event of significant popularity.

MTVs

The first MTV Movie awards were held in 1992. The film reel was the award and Terminator 2: Judgement Day was the big winner. It was obvious these awards were going to send a message to the Oscars.

Now back in 1992, MTV had already been known for their Video Music Awards. The event which was started in 1984 was seen as a music awards that appeared more relevant with what was happening in music as compared to the Grammys. It also offered notorious on stage events, either planned or spontaneous, that would get people talking. While such events would threaten the popularity of some musicians or even make the Grammys nervous, it made MTV.

The first MTV Movie Awards were held in 1992. Its nominations featured movies that the Oscars would either turn their noses up to or just relegate to nominations in the technical categories like Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Backdraft, Boyz N The Hood and Wayne’s World. In fact the Silence Of The Lambs which was the apple of the Academy’s eye that year did not even receive a single nomination. The event also featured unorthodox categories like Best Kiss, Best Villain, Best Action Sequence, Best Breakthrough Performance, Most Desirable Male and Female and its Lifetime Achievement Award which went to Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th infamy. Instead of Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress, they had categories like Best Male Performance, Best Female Performance and Best Movie. Even animated performances could be nominated in the various categories. On top of that, they had people call in to vote for who they felt should win the awards in the weeks leading up to the event.

Basically the point of the awards was to have a movie awards show that was current and more in line with the people’s movie tastes. Especially young people since they made up most of the movie-going crowd. The awards didn’t simply want to give accolades to movies that made big money but gave people their enjoyment and their money’s worth. In fact Terminator 2: Judgement Day, which won four Oscars in the technical categories, was the big winner at the first MTV Movie Awards. Basically the focus is on movies instead of films and stars instead of actors. MTV turned out to be only domain likely to start such a movie awards show at the time. In fact the award which is a golden bucket of popcorn is meant to symbolize its rewarding of crowdwinning.

There’s also the entertainment factor of the awards too. There were frequent movie spoofs, often starring the awards’ host, that still happen quite often. The event was also used to promote upcoming summer releases with presenters often people starring in movies to be released later that summer. Also the musical performers would often have nothing to do with the movies and more to do with summer album releases. Performers of movie songs were more commonly featured in the 90’s editions of the awards show as movie music was bigger then than it is now.

There would be category changes and category drops of awards categories. However the standard would be the same where performances and movies that gave people their enjoyment would get top wins. Only three times has the Oscar winner for Best Picture won Best Movie. In addition, nine movies that didn’t receive a single Academy Award nomination won Best Movie including Scream, There’s Something About Mary, four of the five Twilight movies and the most recent Movie Of The Year winner, The Fault In Our Stars. That’s another thing too, how the MTV’s aren’t afraid to even give teen movies accolades. No wonder the show has been come to be known as the anti-Oscars.

There have even been times when the MTV Movie Awards would appear to ‘make right’ what the Academy did wrong as most saw. In 1995 when Hoop Dreams was snubbed of a Best Documentary Oscar nomination, director Steve James would receive the Best New Filmmaker Award: an honorary award from 1992 to 2002 which honored filmmakers whose debut film would introduce a new element to film making. In 1998 when most people thought Leonardo diCaprio was snubbed of a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Titanic, he won Best Male Performance at the MTVs.

Now onto this year’s Awards. This is the 25th annual MTV Movie Awards. As noted, it’s come a long way. It’s still a big public event where a lot of big stars show up. Stars from upcoming summer releases are planned to be among the presenters. However the list is still incomplete even among musical performers. Categories from the first Awards are still here like Movie Of The Year (retitled from Best Movie) , Best Male and Female Performance, Best Breakthrough Performance, Best Comedic Performance,  Best Villain and of course their trademark category: Best Kiss. New categories this year are Best Documentary, Best Action Performance, Best Ensemble Cast and Best True Story. Returning categories not at the first Awards are Best Fight and Best Hero. In addition, the category of Best Virtual Performance returns this year.

This year’s Awards are again focusing on big crowd winners. One trivia note: the highest-grossing film of the previous year would always get at least one MTV Movie Awards nomination. This year is far from an exception as Star Wars: The Force Awakens received eleven nominations including Best Movie. Deadpool is the next-most nominated with eight and Avengers: Age Of Ultron is next with six. Four of the six movies nominated for Best Movie are sci-fi or action movies and none of the Best Picture nominees for this year’s Oscars, not even Mad Max: Fury Road, were nominated for Best Movie. Mad Max still got four nominations as did The Revenant. Five of the eight Best Picture nominees have received at least one nomination but Spotlight didn’t get a single one. Can you believe it? While the hard-to-watch Room got a nomination with Brie Larson for Best Breakthrough Performance. In addition, this year’s nominees are way more mixed in terms of race and gender than this year’s Oscars by far.

Also you may remember I talked about a Best New Filmmaker category? That was there during the first Awards but was dropped after 2002. Now the honorary award at the MTV’s is the Generation Award: like a ‘lifetime achievement’ award but going to a star whom the generations born and bred on MTV made. The first one back in 2005 went to Tom Cruise. This year, it goes to Will Smith. Even though he’s not my favorite actor, I wonder what took MTV so long to award it to him.

Now onto my predictions for this year’s MTV Movie Awards winners. Note I’m better at prediction the Oscars than predicting MTV winners. With this being a ‘people’s choice’ awards, they can go any which way. So here goes:

Movie of the Year
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Creed
Deadpool
Jurassic World
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Straight Outta Compton

Will Win (WW): Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Most Likely Upsetter (MLU): Straight Outta Compton

Yes, Star Wars mania returned. However underdogs have come and taken the Best Movie award before. People’s tastes may surprise you. I predict Straight Outta Compton to be the movie most likely to pull an upset.

True Story
Concussion
Joy
Steve Jobs
Straight Outta Compton
The Big Short
The Revenant

WW: Straight Outta Compton

MLU: The Revenant

I strongly believe with this being MTV, Straight Outta Compton will rule this category. However The Revenant could upset.

Documentary
Amy
Cartel Land
He Named Me Malala
The Hunting Ground
The Wolfpack
What Happened, Miss Simone?

WW: Amy

MLU: He Named Me Malala

It’s a surprise to see a documentary category for the MTVs. I thought the awards were about movies instead of films. With this being MTV, I think Amy is the hands-down winner here.

Best Female Performance
-Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
-Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect 2
-Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
-Daisy Ridley, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
-Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
-Morena Baccarin, Deadpool

WW: Daisy Ridley, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MLU: Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road

Looking at the nominees, I feel the biggest star-buzz would go to Daisy Ridley. However Charlize could win because of how she stole the show from Max.

Best Male Performance
-Chris Pratt, Jurassic World
-Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
-Matt Damon, The Martian
-Michael B. Jordan, Creed
-Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool
-Will Smith, Concussion

WW: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

MLU: Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool

Leo has already won this award before in 1998 for Titanic (of course) and 2005 for The Aviator. He may seem like a guarantee here since everyone wanted him to win the Oscar. However don’t count out Michael B. Jordan or Ryan Reynolds as they charmed crowds too.

Breakthrough Performance
-Amy Schumer, Trainwreck
-Brie Larson, Room
-Daisy Ridley, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
-Dakota Johnson, Fifty Shades of Grey
-John Boyega, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
-O’Shea Jackson Jr., Straight Outta Compton

WW: Daisy Ridley, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MLU: Amy Schumer, Trainwreck

Interesting how both Amy Schumer and Brie Larson were co-stars in Trainwreck and they’re now competing against each other in this category. However I feel this is Daisy Ridley’s for the taking.

Best Comedic Performance
-Amy Schumer, Trainwreck
-Kevin Hart, Ride Along 2
-Melissa McCarthy, Spy
-Rebel Wilson, Pitch Perfect 2
-Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool
-Will Ferrell, Get Hard

WW: Kevin Hart, Ride Along 2

MLU: Amy Schumer, Trainwreck

It seems like Kevin Hart is the comedy phenom right now. However Amy Schumer is the one having him look over his shoulder.

Best Action Performance
-Chris Pratt, Jurassic World
-Dwayne Johnson, San Andreas
-Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2
-John Boyega, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
-Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool
-Vin Diesel, Furious 7

WW: John Boyega, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MLU: Vin Diesel, Furious 7

Best Hero
-Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
-Chris Evans, Avengers: Age of Ultron
-Daisy Ridley, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
-Dwayne Johnson, San Andreas
-Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2
-Paul Rudd, Ant-Man

WW: Daisy Ridley, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MLU: Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road

This seems to be the year of the heroine instead of the year of the hero. Rey and Furiosa. Rey seems like the best bet but Furiosa could overtake her for the win.

Best Villain
-Adam Driver, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
-Ed Skrein, Deadpool
-Hugh Keays-Byrne, Mad Max: Fury Road
-James Spader, Avengers: Age of Ultron
-Samuel L. Jackson, Kingsman: The Secret Service
-Tom Hardy, The Revenant

WW: Adam Driver, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MLU: Hugh Keays-Byrne, Mad Max: Fury Road

This seems like another category where it’s a foregone conclusion Star Wars will win. Mind you there have been surprises in the past. Hugh Keays-Byrne could upset.

Best Virtual Performance
-Amy Poehler, Inside Out
-Andy Serkis, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
-Jack Black, Kung Fu Panda 3
-James Spader, Avengers: Age of Ultron
-Lupita Nyong’o, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
-Seth MacFarlane, Ted 2

WW: Amy Poehler, Inside Out

MLU: Lupita Nyong’o, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This category only existed once before: back in 2003. Andy Serkis, I mean Gollum, won. I think Amy Poehler will take it here as she was the most charming.

Ensemble Cast
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Furious 7
Pitch Perfect 2
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2
Trainwreck

WW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MLU: Furious 7

Now this is one category I’d like to see at the Oscars. Hey, the SAGs have it. I’m surprised Straight Outta Compton didn’t get nominated.

Best Kiss
-Amy Schumer & Bill Hader, Trainwreck
-Dakota Johnson & Jamie Dornan, Fifty Shades of Grey
-Leslie Mann & Chris Hemsworth, Vacation
-Margot Robbie & Will Smith, Focus
-Morena Baccarin & Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool
-Rebel Wilson & Adam DeVine, Pitch Perfect 2

WW: Dakota Johnson & Jamie Dornan, Fifty Shades of Grey

MLU: Morena Baccarin & Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool

This is the category that separates the MTV Movie awards from all other movie awards. Hey, the biggest stars want to win this. The winning kisses have ranged from innocent kisses (My Girl) to romantic kisses (The Notebook) to same-sex kisses (Cruel Intentions) to unique kisses (SpiderMan) to threeways (Starsky and Hutch) to even humorous kisses (American Pie 2). I think the Fifty Shades of Grey kiss will take it.

Best Fight
-Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) vs. Ajax (Ed Skrein), Deadpool
-Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) vs. The Bear, The Revenant
-Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) vs. Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), Mad Max: Fury Road
-Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) vs. Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Avengers: Age of Ultron
-Rey (Daisy Ridley) vs. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Star Wars: The Force Awakens
-Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) vs. Lia (Nargis Fakhri), Spy

WW: Rey (Daisy Ridley) vs. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MLU: Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) vs. The Bear, The Revenant

This is always a hard one because any fight could end up a winner. However I give it to Star Wars. You can’t beat Star Wars in this category.

Hey, I told you the categories were unorthodox. Anyways those are my predictions for the 25th annual MTV Movie Awards. Tune in Sunday, April 10th to watch who wins what, who’s performing and what notorious acts happen.