Friday, August 15, 2014

A Tribute to Robin Williams - You taught me more than any teacher in school ever did.

"No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world." - Robin Williams

'Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary'

It was early hours of the 12th, when I received that shocking text from one of my friends stating "Robin Williams passed away" to which I spontaneously replied "Screw you", thinking it was one of his usual sadist pathetic jokes but in a matter of minutes realized that it was sadly true. Honest to god, I have never been affected by a celebrity death (May be a little when Michael Jackson passed away in 2009) but I always had this notion that people who mourn celebrity deaths were just being superficial. I just couldn't understand, how we could mourn people we don't even know. But on 12th August,2014 I understood how. Just moments after getting this news I was overwhelmed by so much grief and sadness, felt devastated. My Twitter feed and Facebook timelines were being flooded with quotes and RIP's. I was getting these flashes of scenes, these brilliant unbelievable scenes of Robin Williams one after the other. Few hours later, when the feeling and the truth had sunk in, I had to ask myself "You don't even know the guy, how can he be so Important to you? How has he touched your life so much so that it has made you cry?". The answer to that I guess was, Robin Williams wasn't just a celebrity, he wasn't just somebody known to us through the tabloids, gossip columns or films: He was an artist, who touched us few lucky ones through his art.

I just knew 140 characters or a status update wouldn't do justice to him, I just had to write out my feelings. 
The One that's truly Special
I was 6 when I was introduced to him for the first time, when he dressed up as 'Mrs. Doubtfire' and a few years later it was 'Jumanji' and 'Flubber'. Even though I didn't have much idea about films or what acting was, I for sure had become a fan of this guy's work. A cameo in 'FRIENDS' (One of my favourite episodes of all time) and few stand-ups later, I stumbled upon 'Dead Poets Society' and 'Good Will Hunting'. Williams, in both these movies is like an Angel. He's just an actor who's on screen reading and enacting his lines but somehow when he smiles, you start feeling comfortable, you start getting this feeling that this guy is there for you and everything is going to be alright. Majority of his characters had that charm, whether it was John Keating, Sean Maguire or Patch Adams, when they smile, you feel home. It felt as if Williams could have the answers to all of our problems! That's the true Genius of actors and the legacy they leave behind.
It's your move, Chief
I am sure those of you who have seen 'Good Will Hunting' remember the Bench scene. The warmth with which Williams acts out this scene is wholly recognizable and till date I am in awe of this scene. We are able to sympathize with both characters, because they are held on equal grounds and neither one is played as positive/negative. 'Sean Maguire' is not trying to engage Will, rather, he is implicating him, he is forcing Will to assess himself, to come to terms with his own insecurities. Fittingly, the scene ends with Sean’s line: “It’s your move, Chief.” Williams and Matt Damon then go on and enact one of the more moving scenes in all of cinema, with Williams helping Damon tearfully palliate the self-blame he harbours from the abuse by softly repeating the phrase: “It’s not your fault.” The role got Williams an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. This is one of those movies that I re-watch every time I feel down and depressed and it helps me every single time. 
When I think of Robin Williams as Sean Maguire, all I can think of saying to him is I never had a friend like you Chief, Thank you.
“You don’t know about real loss, because that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself.” 
Another one of those great Williams movies that I re-watch almost every other month, that talks about the clash between traditional and conservative education system with that of progressive teaching methods is 'Dead Poets Society'. For starters, I have to thank John Keating and his 'Dead Poets Society' for getting me interested into literature and poetry. I always wished that either in school or in college, I would meet a teacher like him but I never was that lucky. Looking at Williams' Keating, you just wish you could be in this out-of-the-box teacher's class. Taking the boys outside, for class, encouraging them to stand on their desks, rip pages out of their textbooks, write poetry to woo the ladies, and meet in a cave in the middle of the night to celebrate the verse of the dead poets that came before them. The thing about his unconventional teaching style is that it is exactly what his trapped-inside-the-box boys so desperately needed. We all need that someone to tell us that there are rewards for taking risks, that someone to tell us to look at things differently, that someone to tell us that we are all exceptional in our own different ways.
Why Do I stand up here?
In one scene, Keating stands on his desk and asks his students: “Why do I stand up here? Anybody? I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.”
"Gentlemen, what are the four pillars?

Travesty! Horror! Decadence! Excrement"
Williams lived the role as the teacher, the kind who could actually change your life - it's hard to differentiate the man from the character. Just like Keating, Williams too believed in taking risks, being original, spreading love and joy, seeing things in a different and exceptional way and achieving them. Robin Williams was one of the teachers I will never forget, When I think of Robin Williams as John Keating, all I can think of saying to him is I never had a teacher like you. O Captain, My Captain! Thank you, You taught me more than any teacher in school ever did.

               'Dead Poets Society' - The ending that makes you want to stand on a desk

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
The more I get to know and hear about this man, I end up getting more and more pissed with god. From trying his luck as a street mime to then doing various stand ups to breaking into television and then into films. Even during his depression, he made sure that he continued performing for the US national troops in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq, continued his unpublicized campaign for St Jude's Children's hospital, even funding Jessica Chastain's full-ride scholarship to Juilliard acting school when she was just starting out herself.

Oh Captain! My Captain!
From starting off as an alien on TV going on to play a disc jockey in Vietnam and talking about press freedom in 'Good Morning Vietnam', to being the real 'MunnaBhai MBBS'/ Clown doctor in 'Patch Adams', to improvising 70% of the dialogues as Genie in 'Aladdin' so much so that the Academy Awards rejected the bid in the Best Adapted Screenplay category because so much of Williams role ended up being improvised, to being a nanny and bringing out the issues of single parenting in 'Mrs Doubtfire', to being a therapist and bringing out the issues of domestic abuse in 'Good Will Hunting', to being an android who gradually acquires emotions in 'Bicentennial Man', to voicing a wise and all-knowing penguin in 'The Happy Feet', to being a photo lab worker who gets obsessed with a family in 'One Hour Photo' and in 'The Birdcage', at a time when it was still relatively controversial to be gay in America, Robin Williams and Nathan Lane played a loving gay couple who fought through stigma and showed their son why he shouldn’t be ashamed to be part of a gay family. From comedy to drama to even thriller, he excelled in each every role he did. Heck! He even made 'RV' and 'The Crazy Ones' watchable. 
He could pretty much treat anyone or anything.
His Oscar winning speech is still one of my favourites. It encapsulates the essence of this man, his passion for life, his love of people, his close friend and Oscar host Billy Crystal coming and hugging him, his quick witted humour. 
Robin Williams along with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, raised almost $80 million for people in need with their Comic Relief stand up specials, which spanned over 20 years.
 "And most of all, I want to thank my father, up there, The man who, when I said I want to be an actor, he said, 'Wonderful, just have a back-up profession like welding.'
May be deep down it was the hint of depression that made him excel in every single role, no matter what character he played, funny or dramatic. Always felt there was something different about this Genius, but i guess it can surface at any time, and devastate lives, even in the case of a man who's gusto for living and seemingly very happy life seemed he could be immune to. It will be very difficult to reach the benchmark that he has set and I personally believe that his shoes will never be filled. A truly remarkable comedian with electrifying energy, extraordinary actor and more than all that, an unbelievably great human being.

When you have a crazy, creative or different idea, NEVER EVER dismiss it.
I may not have been able to place flowers outside your home or on your Hollywood walk of fame but this right here, is my tribute to you Chief. God bless you Robin, few people leave this place with the impact of how many lives you touched. You are and will ALWAYS be an inspiration to me.
         A fitting Tribute to the Genius, who made us laugh, cry, think and a lot more.
                       Life is too short - stop worrying so much and start living it.

                                 The 'Good Will Hunting' bench in Boston Public Garden
Sorry guys, I went to see about a girl.
My tears are an evidence of his death, My laughter is an affirmation of his life.
Rest In Peace Robin. You were one of a kind. Now you are free to make God laugh. 
Thank You for everything.
The World will be a lot less funnier place without you.
Two words : 'Carpe Diem'.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Highway - Road to Liberation

“In the end, what we regret the most are the chances we never took.”

You walk into a dimly-lit movie hall expecting to be entertained, that’s it, nothing more than that, and then 2 hours and 13 minutes later, you walk out as a completely different and changed person.
Well, that’s what Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Highway’ did to me. It may not be a commercially successful film (yet) and might have got polarized reactions but it’s beautifully assembled, ambitious, holistic in its approach and most importantly touched me at a very personal level.
Judging a film or for that matter any art form is totally subjective, one can’t say, this movie or performance is better than that or this music is better than this and that. It’s a very personal choice; it might take you just a second to fall in love with a performance or couple of notes to fall for a musical piece. I remember in 2011, when ‘Rockstar’ had come out; it had got quite a lot of flak for its disjointed narratives, excessive flashbacks, many criticized its editing and some even when to the extent of saying “There were too many songs!” Now for a Rahman fan like me that definitely is something that would anger me to the point of no return but even through all that, I waved the “Rockstar was more soul, less logic” banner and stayed wholeheartedly with the movie. If you ask me, what made me connect with that film? I would have to say that every single flaw that got mentioned, each one of those “too many” songs, every bit of the lead character’s vulnerability and anger, their confusion regarding relationships and marriages, every single chaotic upheaval of the lead character somehow connected with me.

The same happened with me when I watched Imtiaz Ali’s latest ‘Highway’, it's strong and involving, it reaches beyond Bollywood clichés, transforming what could have been an ordinary road-trip movie into something with so much potential. Unlike the loud and splashy melodrama that comes out majority of the time, this one’s very thoughtful and subtle in its story and approach. It’s a tale of suffering, loss, pain and most importantly, it’s about self-discovery. It smashes all the commercial adornments of a typical Hindi film.

One main thought that lingered on as I walked out after watching the movie was “What is the true meaning of freedom and liberation?” Like in the case of Alia Bhatt’s character Veera in ‘Highway’, she found her true freedom on being a captive; her true liberation was [SPOILER] when her captor whom she falls in love with, dies in her arms [SPOILER]. To others liberation could be anything, a trip to Spain, buying your dream home, quitting your job and heading towards doing something that you truly have passion for. Everything and anything could be liberating.   
The character in ‘Highway’ takes us from carefreeness to vulnerability, petrification to liberation, all this on a 2 hours and 13 minute road-trip. Imtiaz Ali has always had travel as a recurring motive in all of his films. It is said that when you want to know someone, travel with that person. When you want to know yourself, travel. When you don’t know, what to do with your life, travel.

As much as I hate being or hearing preachy stuff, this movie did make me ask myself “Am I living my life?” “Have I been facing my fears?” “What would I regret not doing if today was my last day on this planet?” “Am I living a life that I chose or the one that I was steered into by the expectations of my family and friends?” and “Does traveling really have that much impact on a person?” The answers varied from noes and yeses but one thing which I couldn’t figure out was, “Why travel?” and then it hit me, I do need to get out of my comfort zone, all of us do. 

All of us need that one trip that just turns their lives around. That one trip that slows time for us which takes us away from our automated and monotonous routine, that one trip that helps us gain those important perspectives about life, that one trip that pushes us into a torrent of apparently uncomfortable situations like forcing us to meet and greet new people from completely diverse lifestyles and cultures or hike our way around a mountain where no one speaks our language, a second of “Culture shock” can leave an everlasting positive impact on us, it compels us to give back, share, help out and appreciate life.

We are not guaranteed old age. Without injecting too much of my personal opinion, I just have to say, stop living by the views that society imposes on you, those are just the expressions of a group that is already deeply conforming. At the end of it all, it is your choice to live how you wish.
Go for it and have no regrets. Always choose to buy experience over external objects.

Live for today. Take the Highway you feared.  

“The Purpose of life is to LIVE it.”  - Roosevelt
Special mention to the following books, movies and articles that made me want to write this piece.

Highway – Directed by Imtiaz Ali
Into The Wild – Book written by Jon Krakauer/ Movie directed by Sean Penn
Anything and Everything written by Bill Bryson 
On the Road - written by Jack Kerouac
Into thin Air - written by Jon Krakauer   
Bunch of Ted Talks, Articles on  Quora , Elitedaily and livelearnevolve

Sunday, February 23, 2014

86th Academy Awards ... Here We Go!

The Biggest Movie Event of the Year
Well, it’s that time of the year when I don my firangi movies ka hat and start blabbering about who’s hot and who’s not up for the 86th Academy Awards AKA The Oscars. Won’t be reviewing them but will surely give you pointers so that you can decide whether to watch them later or not. Happy Movies ;)

Out of the many brilliant and few boring movies that came out in 2013 these are the 9 that are up for the
'Best Film - Oscar'. The Race in my honest opinion is actually just between 'Gravity', 'American Hustle' and '12 Years a Slave'. Personally, I feel 'American Hustle' is over-rated and has been getting all the attention mainly because of the 4 leads, out of which 3 gave pretty impressive performances but the movie in totality doesn't stand out and more importantly doesn't stand against the MIGHT of 'Gravity' or '12 Years A Slave' .

This very well might be the FIRST time in the 85 years of Oscar History that we might just have a TIE for the Best Film. The probability of that happening is very minute but you never know ;)
 Here are the nominees for '86th Academy Awards Best Film' (In a very particular order):

  1. Gravity - Dir : Alfonso Cuaron ('Children Of Men' , 'Y Tu Mama Tambien')

     2. Dallas Buyers Club - Dir : Jean-Marc Vallee ('Cafe De Flore' , 'C.R.A.Z.Y')
  3. Her - Dir : Spike Jonze ('Being John Malkovich' , 'Adaptation' , 'Where The Wild Things Are')

  4. Nebraska - Dir : Alexander Payne ('Sideways' , 'Citizen Ruth' , 'About Schmidt' , 'The Descendants')
5. Wolf Of Wall Street - Dir : Martin Scorsese (It's F-in Scorsese .. So obviously whole filmography is EPIC)

6. 12 Years A Slave - Dir : Steve McQueen ('Hunger' , 'Shame')
7. Captain Phillips - Dir : Paul Greengrass ('United 93' , 'Bourne Supremacy')


8. Philomena - Dir : Stephen Frears ('High Fidelity' , 'The Queen')

9. American Hustle - Dir : David O Russell ('The Fighter' , 'Silver Linings Playbook')
Best Film:

Who Should Win : Gravity
And this would just ruin my day :  12 Years a

Best Director:

Last year we had
Ang Lee winning the Best Director for his highly visual effects laden fantasy-drama 'Life Of Pi', about a person who gets stranded at SEA whereas this year we have the GENIUS of Alfonso Cuaron (Children Of Men, Y Tu Mama Tambien & Harry Potter - Prisoner Of Azkaban) finally coming out with his Magnum-opus venture which took him 6 years to make, about a person who gets stranded in SPACE!
Both movies display the directing craft at its highest level of artistic and technological dazzle. Out of the 8 Harry Potter movies that came out, 'Prisoner of Azkaban' still stands out as my favourite.
Now with
Alfonso Cuaron winning the 'Directors Guild of America', Globes and The Bafta - Best Director, it’s almost done and dusted.

Who Should Win Alfonso
for 'Gravity'  
Alfonso Cuaron
Surprise: Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave)
Just like last year, here’s a list of movies that you might have missed for various reasons (time constraints, the title sucked, the cast was just plain damn boring or Yify didn’t upload it on torrents when you checked, etc etc):
1.   Rush - How in the HELL did the Academy snub this one? I have no freaking clue. Daniel Bruhl – Best Supp Actor, Hans Zimmer – Best Music, Ron Howard – Best Director. ‘Rush’ is hands down one of Ron Howard’s best works and I’m talking about a guy who has ‘Apollo 13’, ‘Edtv’ ‘A Beautiful Mind’, ‘Cinderella Man’, ‘Frost/Nixon’ in his filmography.
2.   Prisoners - The brilliant hollywood/english debut of Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (‘Incendies’). It’s sad and partly shocking to think that the script for ‘Prisoners’ had been doing rounds of various studios since 2009. Aaron Guzikowski's script for 'Prisoners' appeared on the Black List of the best unproduced screenplays of the year in 2009, but it took him and Jake Gyllenhall four years to bring the 2 1/2-hour kidnapping thriller to the screen. Prisoners has a brilliantly written screenplay with hard-hitting performances by Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhall & Paul Dano
3.   Disconnect - Intense and upsetting at times, this multi-story movie talks about the digitally obsessed world we live in. You could even say it’s the ‘Crash’ or ‘Babel’ for the current internet-crazy generation.
4.   Behind The Candelabra - First let me have a go at Steven Soderbergh (Director). Why the hell did you release this directly on VOD (Video-On-Demand) rather than having a theatrical release? You do know that you have robbed Michael Douglas of his 2nd acting Oscar right? Douglas, not just acts brilliantly but he LIVES as Liberace, the flamboyant American entertainer who was renowned for his skills on the piano as well as on vocals. Douglas’ performance is so deep and sympathetic that I personally don’t think he has EVER done a better role than this. This thoroughly entertaining biopic is unsettling yet lovable.
5.   The Spectacular Now – I’ll tell you when I kind of knew that this might end up on my personal best list of 2013, the moment in trailer when this comes up From the writers of ‘500 Days Of Summer'". Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber together had given us “500 Days…” way back in 2009 but it still and I guess it will forever remain one of those movies that is just too close to my heart. That one, had catapulted the career of a relative newbie (Read: Joesph Gordon-Levitt Alias Robin) and this one I am sure is going to take one Mr Miles Teller to greater heights. It tells us the story of Sutter (Miles Teller), a high-school life-of-the-party who falls for a nerdy nice girl Aimee. I know what you guys are thinking, “We have seen this kind of $**t N-number of times on screen” but trust me on this guys, you’ll like it. Screw it, you won’t just like it, you’ll love it. Let me sum it up by saying that “If you liked ‘Perks Of Being A Wallflower’ which came out last year and was easily one of THE Best movies of 2012 then you will definitely fall in love with ‘The Spectacular Now’.
6.   $50K, A Call Girl: A Love Story – These are the kind of movies that give us a reason to believe and have faith in the “Indie Movement” and in independent film making. Story revolves around a man with 30 days left to live, goes on a wild road trip with a call girl his older brother and his fiance, who use their wedding fund to pay for the journey. Very rarely do you come across a film that feels so real with such genuine performances that you start getting a feel that you are watching a documentary instead of a scripted feature. All the main leads involved (who were also the Writer/Director and Producers of the film) seemed so real that if I hadn't read beforehand that they were actors, I would have seriously thought that this was all real. Kudos to the whole team for pulling that off. 
7.   Mud - Written and Directed by Jeff Nichols (‘Take Shelter’), a coming-of-age expressive and adventurous story about 2 young boys who encounter Mud and form a pact with him to find and reunite him with his true love. It’s smart, witty, and has a Mark Twain-ish approach throughout, talks about boyhood on the brink of adolescence. Amazing cinematography with spectacular visuals of Mississippi. Oh! ya one more thing, It has Matthew McConaughey playing Mud. Am sure that would get you guys to watch it.
8.   The Best Offer – Written and directed by the great Guiseppe Tornatore, film buffs all around the world remember him for ‘Cinema Paradiso’ and tired-teens remember him for making ‘Malena’. A truly great writer/director, this time comes up with a truly artistic Hitchcockian caper. The suspense unfolds in a truly elegant way; music by the GENIUS Ennio Morricone is an added advantage which takes the movie to a higher level.
9.   The Kings of Summer – An indie coming of age drama about 3 teenage friends. It’s a poignant and witty at places and conveys to us the yearning for freedom and independence. This one is the ‘Stand By Me’ for the current generation.
10.  Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa – British dark humour and Steve Coogan at its best! Coogan reprising his portrayal of Alan Partridge, a fictional presenter he has played on various BBC radio and television shows since 1991.  Alan finds himself at the center of a siege, when a disgruntled fellow RJ (Colm Meaney) decides to hold their station hostage after learning that he's getting sacked by the new management. The characters have great amount of irreverence about them along with that they are just laugh-out-loud funny. 
     Special Mentions:
  •          Bad Grandpa – One of THE funniest movies to come out in 2013.
  •          The Great Gatsby – Leonardo DiCaprio just owned the role.
  •          Stoker – Hollywood debut of South-Korean gutsy director Chan-wook Park, famous for Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, Thirst. Watch it for the amazing acting by the leads and for its Cinematography.
  •          The Art of the Steal – Who doesn’t like a fantastic heist movie?
  •          Don Jon – Writing and Directorial debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Need I say more? Well, it also has Scarlett Johansson.
  •          East – Now why wouldn’t you watch a solid hard-hitting thriller that’s co-written and directed by a guy who’s named Zal BATMANglij?
  •         The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty - A project that many wanted to try out but eventually was helmed by Ben Stiller and honestly, has done a brilliant job.         
  Some really great movies from that came out of my motherland in 2013 (Contains Hindi/Tamil/Malayalam and English films released in India):
  •          Kai Po Che (Hindi) – One of those RARE occasions where the movie surpasses the book it’s based on.
  •          Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (Hindi)   A brilliant bio pic on the life of Indian athlete Milkha Singh.
  •          Madras Café (Hindi)   A Fictional take on the assassination of an Ex-PM of India. Brilliantly executed by director Shoojit Sircar (Vicky Donor)
  •          Raanjhanaa (Hindi)   National award winner Dhanush makes an impressive hindi acting debut, along with that add the brilliance of musical genius AR Rahman and a bit of UP-flavour.
  •          The Lunchbox (Hindi) – Well what can I say about this “controversial” flick? A brilliant film that could have got us the Best Foreign - Oscar.
  •          Ship of Theseus (English) – Well-crafted and beautifully executed indie film but pretentious at certain places.
  •          Amen (Malayalam) – 3rd Directorial venture of Lijo Jose. A layered screenplay with intelligent story that has amazing cinematography, different music and powerful performances by the leads.
  •          Thira (Malayalam) – A taut thriller by Vineeth Sreenivasan and his team that talks about illegal human trafficking.
  •          Drishyam (Malayalam) – A chilling crime-thriller that’ll keep you on the edge.The first Malayalam movie to enter the 50 Cr Club. Soon to remade in 3 languages. (Tamil-Telugu-Hindi)
  •          Soodhu Kaavum (Tamil) - Quirky characters in weird situations.
Now I’ll get on with the other Oscar categories:
Best Actor - Leading Role:

It's not that difficult to say that all 5 of the nominees have given their CAREER BEST performances this year. And being a Leo
DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street) fan myself, I don't know what more he could do to get his hands around the statue, but this year, one man is miles ahead of the other 4 nominees. For a guy who for 20 years has been struggling and was deemed as just another "Rom-com-stud-with-no-talent", this guy has made one of THE greatest comebacks ever seen in Hollywood. I'm talking about Matthew McConaughey, who has not just given a memorable performance as an AIDS victim but is definitely way ahead of his contemporaries. (Really looking forward to his association with Christopher Nolan, 'INTERSTELLAR' comes out on Nov 7th, 2014) He hasn't lost out a single award this year and the way things are going; he's sure to win his first Oscar from his first nomination and will go onto give an amazing acceptance speech starting with his trademark “Alright, Alright, Alrighhhht”. 

Who Would/should
Win: Matthew McConaughey for 'Dallas Buyers Club'
Matthew McConaughey
Biased Personal Opinion: Leonardo DiCaprio for 'The Wolf Of Wall Street'
"I'll have my Oscar, in this life or the next."
Best Actress - Leading Role:

This is one category which is all but locked. There is just no doubt who's going away with this. The moment I walked out after watching 'Gravity' I was pretty damn sure that it's going to be
Sandra Bullock's year but then few weeks back, I got around to watch eccentric genius' Woody Allen's 'Blue Jasmine' which stars Cate Blanchett in the lead role as a fallen, delusional, deeply troubled and in denial New York socialite.
In nearly 50-years of writing and directing movies, Woody Allen has conjured some of cinema's most vivid and lively female characters including 'Annie Hall', 'Hannah & Her Sisters', 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona'. Strong and memorable women have become a hallmark of his movies and almost nothing connects these characters except that they have all sprung from the mind of the same gifted filmmaker/writer/director,
Woody Allen.

Who Should Win:  Cate
Blanchett for 'Blue Jasmine
Surprise: Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)/ Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
I know, I know, the whole world loves and adores Meryl Streep so do I but sometimes I just get the feeling ..

Best Supporting Actor:

This is another one of those categories where all 5 nominees have given their utmost best and sublime performances. Specially, Michael
Fassbender in '12 Years a Slave' and Jonah Hill in 'Wolf Of Wall Street' who just lived through their roles. Can’t freaking believe Jonah Hill got sodomized by the devil in 'This is the End' and also got nominated for an Oscar in the same year, very well my fellow pot-loving friend. 2 years back 'Moneyball' and this year a Scorsese film, you sure seem to be getting stronger and stronger every year.And then you have Jared Leto, who had "almost" retired from movies 4 years back, making an unbelievable comeback. His role in 'Dallas Buyers Club' as an HIV positive transgender woman required Leto to lose a lot of weight (20Kg to be precise!!) and spend a good while in the make-up chair. He’s won everything going so far, from the Globes to the SAGs, and looks to be in prime position to have everything his own way on Oscar night.

Who Should Win:  Jared
Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Now that's called a transformation
Surprise: Michael
Fassbender (12 Years A Slave)

Best Supporting Actress:
This is one category that might very well get decided on the sheer power of lobbying. Couple of months back we had Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) going as the strongest contender then later on we had the crowd favourite Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) winning quite a few awards and taking the lead. The definite showdown seems to be between these two. But the question is will the Academy really want to give Lawrence two Oscars in two years? It sure could happen, but Lawrence herself doesn't seem that interested and hasn't been lobbying much. Personally, I would have just straight away given it to Scarlett Johansson for being the voice of the Artificial Intelligence OS that Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with in 'Her' but surprisingly she hasn't even been nominated.
Who Should Win: Scarlett Johansson (Her) - This is also this years BIGGEST Oscar. 
Who would Win: Lupita Nyong'o / Jennifer Lawrence Dark Horse: June Squibb (Nebraska)
Best Original Screenplay:
Spike Jonze, this ones yours. Don't think anyone's going to snatch this one from you. You sure deserve it for the splendid original screenplay. In 'Her' you have a lonely man falling in love with his Operating system. Story about love and life that is heart-achingly brilliant and powerful. 
Who Should /Would WinSpike Jonze (Her)
Surprise : Bob Nelson (Nebraska)

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Now with 9 nominations '12 Years a Slave' has to go home with at-least couple of Oscars and this is one of those categories that will be in its kitty. My personal choice would have been the master-piece 'Before Midnight' written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke which completes the 18-year long brilliant 'Before Trilogy' which showed us the journey of Jesse and Celine who just randomly meet on a train and fall in love (Before Sunrise). Some might consider this trilogy to be boring as majority of the story is conversations but I feel the writing is fun, clever, witty and really romantic.
Who should win: Richard Linklater 'Before Midnight'
Who would win : John Ridley '12 Years a Slave'

Best Cinematography/ Best Visual Effects :
I thought it would be better off to just combine these two categories as it has almost become like a tag-team event. Like last two years, even this year we will have the same team winning both the Cinematography and Visual Effects. It's high time the Academy starts to differentiate between "Camera Work" and "CGI".
Cinematography :
Who should win: Bruno Delbonnel (Inside Llewyn Davis)
Who would win: Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity)
Visual Effects :
Hands down 'Gravity'
Now let me sum up rest of the categories as quickly as possible :
'Gravity' :  Best Editing (Alfonso Cuaron & Mark Sanger) , Best Production Design , Best Original Score (Steven Price) , Best Sound Editing , Best Sound Mixing.
Well I guess you got the hang of it. YES! according to me 'Gravity' deservingly is going to make a clean sweep at the 86th Academy Awards.
Comment, share, abuse me if you think I've totally messed it up , tell me what your predictions are.
Would love to hear. See you at the Oscars ;)
Telecast: March 3rd, 6:30 AM (IST) - Star Movies 

Oscar Nominees Luncheon