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April 23, 2010

Favorite Albums of the Decade (2000-2009) – #4 – The Rising

Filed under: Casual Fridays,Music — Steve Krupa @ 2:00 pm

4. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band- The Rising – 2002

“I want a kiss from your lips
I want an eye for an eye
I woke up this morning to an empty sky”

Like the characters in Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising, every New Yorker has a 9/11 story.

At 8:46 AM when AA Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower, I was at breakfast with a group of business associates at The Coffee Shop, on the corner of 16th St. and University, around the block from my apartment, and just 2 miles from the World Trade Center.  By the time the attack caught our attention, we were standing by the bar watching live TV as UA Flight 175 hit the South Tower at 9:03 AM.  I remember walking out into the street and staring up at the burning towers that were clearly visible above the stunted skylines of Greenwich Village and SOHO, as groups of people fled the site in panic, up Broadway and through Union Square’s small park.  At 9:59 AM, I watched the South Tower fall to the ground, looking in wonder at the remaining tower and the enormous billow of ruble and dust, and trying to understand how it all could have happened.  I know I never expected to live through anything like that, and the experience, and its aftermath, come to mind daily.

______________________________________

“The sky was falling and streaked with blood
I heard you calling me then you disappeared into the dust
Up the stairs, into the fire
Up the stairs, into the fire
I need your kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire”

Records indicate that over 2,600 people died in New York in 9/11, over 411 were rescue workers from FDNY (343), NYPD (23), PAPD (37) and local hospitals.  Cantor Fitzgerald, a New York-based investment bank, lost 658 employees, one of them the older brother of a very good friend of mine. She was living in CA.  I got a call from her the night of 9/11, upset that they couldn’t find him.  He had called his mother after the plane hit and told her they were going to try to get out, but Cantor’s offices were on the  top floor, above where the plane hit, and the stairwells were blocked off.  He was too young (31), leaving a wife and new-born son.

Most people pass in private, mourned by their family and friends.  The victims of 9/11 passed as part of a national tragedy and an unprecedented act of terror.  They are mourned often, by a nation annually and by their families continuously as terrorism remains rooted in the fabric of our lives.

______________________________________

“We’ll let blood build a bridge over mountains draped in stars
I’ll meet you on the ridge between these worlds apart
We’ve got this moment now to live then it’s all just dust and dark
Let’s let love give what it gives”

Like many New Yorkers (and New Jerseyans), I’ve actually met Bruce Springsteen, a few times in fact.  The first time was at a Grammy Awards after-party in 2003 (The Rising won the Grammy that year for Best Rock Album).  I was there with a few friends who, knowing that Bruce was a hero of mine since high school, refused to leave until I said hello.  Bruce noticed me leaning around a huge bodyguard and came over without prompting and put out his hands.  I remember telling him how important The Rising was to me, how it got out so much of the emotion of the 9/11 experience, how hard we all worked to move on.  I remember his double fisted grip around my hand, and his response, “that’s why I do it.  That’s why I love music.”

______________________________________

“Now there’s tears on the pillow darling where we slept
and you took my heart when you left
without your sweet kiss my soul is lost, my friend
Now tell me how do I begin again?
My city’s in ruins”

Today my office is two blocks from Ground Zero.  I can see clearly the progress on One World Trade Center out my window on the 51st floor.  It’s expected to be complete sometime in 2013.  It’s designed to be a symbol of our will and determination, and our commitment to freedom.

1 World Trade Center in fall 2009

1 World Trade Center in fall 2009

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I spent the last week listening to The Rising again and again.  It’s a great record at any time, but coming out in the aftermath of 9/11 makes it even more vital.  It feels like America and its tales of heartbreak and loss, and its never-ending search for possibility and hope.  It’s a beginning and a remembering, something we all needed back then, and today, from time to time.
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April 16, 2010

Favorite Albums of the Decade (2000-2009) – #3 “Youth and Young Manhood”

Filed under: Casual Fridays,Music — Steve Krupa @ 3:15 pm

3. Kings of Leon – Youth and Young Manhood – 2003

I just can’t intellectualize this pick.  It’s no Kid A or Yankee Hotel FoxtrotIt’s not experimental at all.  I am sure it’s an influential rock record, but it certainly falls behind albums like The Strokes – This Is It and The White Stripes – Elephant (and probably White Blood Cells) on most professional critics lists of influential rock records of the decade.

I absolutely love filthy, dirty, southern white trash rock music (give me some Lynyrd Skynyrd or ZZ Top or the Stones’ Exile On Main Street) and this is it, the best of trailer-trash rock that I’ve heard in a long, long time. 

Do you want to see 4 dirtbags play southern rock?

Check out my boys in this live video of my favorite track on the album, Joe’s Head:

Don’t you just love the mustaches and the haircuts?

Here’s another, more spruced-up version of the band, still circa 2003, singing another tune from Youth… called Molly’s Chambers:

Gorgeous.  All this before Sex on Fire.

Notable(s):

KOL hails from Nashville, TN and is the “Followill” family band, consisting of brothers Caleb (Vocals/Guitar), Nathan (Drums) and Jared (Bass) and cousin Matthew Followill (Lead Guitar).

In 2003 when Youth and Young Manhood was released, Jared Followill (Bass) was just 16 years old, Jared, the drummer and the oldest member, was 23.

The band has evolved its sound considerably since Youth and Young Manhood and its follow-up, another white trash tour-de-force, Aha Shake Heartbreak (God, I love that name).  In 2006 KOL released Because the Times and in 2008 they released Only By the Night, two excellent albums produced with a cleaner more arena rock sound, and showcasing more melodic vocals from lead singer Caleb.

Here’s the video of KOL’s monster 2009 hit “Sex on Fire“.  I ask, where did these pretty boys come from?

My wife and I love KOL so much we used their song Use Somebody from Only By the Night as part of the wedding party introductions when we got married on Sept. 12, 2009.  We also stopped off to see KOL play at Nassau Coliseum (Uniondale, Long Island) on Sept. 14, 2009 on our way to our honeymoon in Montauk.

Use Somebody won this year’s Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

Next week, at #4, it gets a little more serious as I begin to bring out the singer-songwriters and my rock and roll hero…

April 9, 2010

Favorite Albums of the Decade (2000-2009) – #2 “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”

Filed under: Casual Fridays,Music — Steve Krupa @ 10:14 am

2. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – 2000

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

I remember being at Don Hill’s, a music bar in the West Village, sometime in 2001/02, waiting for Jesse Malin (a former Miles High Artist, among other things) to go on stage when he (Jesse) came up and said, “I have a problem, I can’t stop listening to this new album I just got.”

“Me too,” I said, “is it Yankee Hotel Foxtrot?”

Of course it was, and we both smiled and spent the next 15 minutes (and lots of time thereafter) talking about all the things we loved about the record.

Indeed YHF is one of those records that once you get it, you just can’t stop listening to it, and my bet is that Jesse, like me, listens to it more often than he can remember.

Wilco comes from a niche area of alternative music often dubbed Alternative country or Americana.  If you are a mainstream radio listener, it’s unlikely that you’ve heard much of their music.  But their founder Jeff Tweedy, and many of the musicians that have performed with Wilco over the past 16 years or so, are among the bona fide heroes of the indie music scene.

Tweedy began experimenting with his musical orchestrations with the 1999 Wilco release Summerteeth, moving away from country sounds toward more lush pop arrangements (or as one reviewer put it, replacing fiddles with violins), and making it, in the opinion of many, Wilco’s most tuneful and sonic album to date.

When they entered the studio in 2000 to make what ultimately became YHF, the pressure was on to create a truly commercial version of Wilco.  The band’s record label, Reprise, believed the mission was clear.  Tweedy and his bandmates holed up in a loft in Chicago and, in line with the initial vision, wrote a phenominal collection of acoustic guitar pop songs.  Through the recording process and, I believe, the influence of an active experimental prodcution scene, spawned in part by Radiohead’s Kid A, the band pulled each of these songs apart, adding experimental beats, riffs and structures, but maintaining the underlying melodies and poetry.  The outcome is a tuneful Kid A-esque Amercana record that’s highly original and listenable.

Reprise (read: evil, stupid record label), did not see the album that way at all, going as far as to say that they believed the record would kill Wilco’s career, refusing to release it and instead selling the record back to the band for $50,000 as part of dropping them from the label’s artist roster.

In an odd twist of fate, Wilco first self-released the record digitally over the Internet, and then released it physically through Nonesuch Records, a division of Warner Bros Records, the parent company of Reprise (meaning Warner Bros actually paid for the record twice).  The album went on to become a fan favorite, selling over 400,000 copies.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is number 2 on the list of my favorite albums of the decade because I believe it is simply the most innovative record by a categorized alt-country band that I have ever heard.  It’s catchy, poetic, experimental and memorable.  It launched Wilco’s leader, Jeff Tweedy, into a decade where he felt challenged to try to top it, and, although I believe he never did quite top it, Wilco released 4 other fantastic records this past decade that get regular play in the Krupa household (namely:  A Ghost is Born -2004 – Grammy Award Winner:  Best Alternative Music Album, Kicking Televsion: Live in Chicago – 2005, Sky Blue Sky – 2007 – Grammy nomination:  Best Rock Album and Wilco (the Album) – 2009 -Grammy nomination:  Best Americana Album).

Favorite Track(s):  My favorite track is the opener, “I am Trying to Break Your Heart” because I love the drum beat, the lyrics and the piano riff, but all of the tracks are pretty awesome.  My wife, along with Jeff Tweedy’s son (see video below), loves the more tuneful “Heavy Metal Drummer.”

 Notable(s):

The indie film I am Trying to Break Your Heart captures the entire drama surrounding the production and eventual release of YHF, including Tweedy’s conflicts with Reprise and the ascension of the tension between Jeff Tweedy and bandmate Jay Bennett that eventually led to Jay’s exit from the band.

Jay Bennett, Jeff Tweedy’s primary collaborator on YHF died on May 24, 2009, at the age of 45, apparently from an accidental overdose of the painkiller fentanyl.  Jay struggled to build a successful solo career in the years following his release from Wilco.

Being There – 1996, Wilco’s other masterpiece of the 1990s demonstrates the essensnse of the Americana sound.  The 1990s is an era some believe to be the band’s best, where lush, catchy, poetic music dominates and production and rhythmic experimentation dwells in the background.

Jeff Tweedy along with Jay Farrar were the original partners/founders of the punk/country band Uncle Tupelo, which disbanded around 1993.  My favorite Uncle Tupelo album, titled simply March 16-20, 1992, and produced by REM’s guitarist Peter Buck , demonstrates the transition from Uncle Tupelo’s punk/country hybrid to the more atmospheric and poetic sound Tweaty ultimately adopted when he left and formed Wilco.  For those interested in exploring Uncle Tupelo, I recommend this album and the 89/93 Anthology collection.  Also, Jay Farrar, known for his outstanding vocal skills, went on to form his own band Son Volt.

As with all great bands, there is a case against Wilco, usually presented by music journalists that believe the band is just not alternative enough.  This piece, titled “What’s So Great About Wilco?,” captures this sentement, for those interested.

I was an investor and board member of my friend Marc Geiger‘s Internet music company ARTISTdirect from 1998 through around 2003.  At the time Wilco lost it’s deal with Reprise Marc advised the ARTISTdirect board to sign Wilco and release the record.  Unfortunately Wilco selected Nonesuch as its new label, but I credit him for knowing a great indie record when he heard it.  Just another one of those “I told you so” moments, so common in the music industry and in investing.

For those interested in a more pure form of alt-country music, this past decade belonged to one Lucinda Williams.  Lucinda released three very special records, World Without Tears, West and Essense, the latter being my favorite of the three.  Also look for alt-country hero Ryan Adams later as this list develops (kudos for those that guess which of his albums makes the list).

Next – my third favorite album of the decade is the ultimate in contemporary southern-fried white trash rock…

April 2, 2010

Favorite Albums of the Decade (2000-2009) – #1: “Kid A”

Filed under: Casual Fridays,Music — Steve Krupa @ 10:01 am

So what is a healthcare venture capitalist doing posting a list of his favorite albums?

Well, if the Pope can do it, why not me?

As some of you know I spent much of the past decade as a partner/investor in an artist management business, Miles High Artists, with one of my best friends (and a great artist in her own right) Diane Gentile.  Diane was the music industry insider of the partnership.  I was just a music fan and businessman that sought to add some value to the careers of up and coming artists.  Over the course of the decade I was involved in the making, recording and/or marketing of 10 studio albums, all of which I am extremely proud of.  Diane and I successfully secured record contracts for five artists and all of the artists we worked with continue to actively write, record and perform music today.  It was a great experience, and some of the artists remain among my best friends.

So, as you might imagine, I listen to a lot of music, and I thought it would be fun to put together a list of my 10 favorite albums of the decade.  Now the list ultimately stretched to over 60 albums, and almost all of the 60 will be referred to in my notes related to the top 10.

The top 10 were chosen from the longer list because not only do I absolutely love them, but I believe they influenced a lot of the music of the decade.

As I have a lot to say about each of these albums, I am releasing the list one at a time as part of “Casual Fridays,” starting today with number 1.

1. Radiohead – Kid A – 2000

Kid A

I was three years old when the Beatles released Revolver and Sgt. Pepper, coming to them as a pre-teen and well after the initial shock and awe.  Despite decades of listening to new music it was not until Kid A’s release that I experienced the incredible energy of hearing something that felt so different and yet so immediately great.  Kid A opened my ears to a whole new way of listening to music and, in retrospect, influenced an entire decade of new music exploration.

In this past decade Radiohead reinvigorated and re-commercialized progressive rock music through the release of three masterpieces, Kid A being the first.  I could easily place the other two (masterpieces that is, the other release of the decade, Hail to the Thief, was not, in my opinion as strong an effort), Amnesiac or In Rainbows, in the number one spot (personally, I listen to Amnesiac more than the others).

Kid A makes my top 10 because it came first, and as such it deserves special recognition for shepherding new production techniques, beats and electronics into alternative rock music and for creating the openings in our ears necessary to accept the experimentation of bands like Animal Collective, The Dirty Projectors and even Wilco.

Kid A is number 1 on my list because I believe it is the most influential rock album of the last decade.

Favorite Track:  “Optimistic” – because “the best you can is good enough” (maybe).

Notable(s):

OK Computer and The Bends, Radiohead’s masterpieces of the 1990s provide ample competition in answer to the question: what is Radiohead’s greatest album?  (And yes people ask this question often).

“Pyramid Song,” the second track on Amnesiac, released one year after Kid A, might be Radiohead’s coolest song.  I remember hearing (seeing) them play it live and leaving the show with a complete absence of self-confidence.  Along with its haunting piano riff, the track baffles musicians determined to decode it’s time signature, which Wikipedia posts as 16/8 (which is like 4/4, the most common time signature in rock, nonetheless, the beat is confusing and unique, check it out below).

Icelandic band Sigur Ros is clearly a major influence on Radiohead, both on Thom York’s vocal style and the Greenwood brother’s orchestrations.  Sigur Ros has released two outstanding albums, namely Ágætis Byrjun in 1999 and “( )” in 2002.

Radiohead’s guitar player, Jonny Greenwood, wrote the soundtrack to the Paul Thomas Anderson film, There Will Be Blood, by far the most interesting movie soundtrack I have heard in a long time, and maybe my favorite movie of the decade (another list perhaps?).

Other notable prog-rock records of the decade include: Porcupine Tree – In Abstentia, Tool – Lateralus, Muse – Black Holes and Revelations and The Standard – August.

Next post – number 2 – is an album by one of my favorite Alt-country bands…

March 18, 2010

March Madness & the Art of the Best Guess

Filed under: Casual Fridays,Sports,Venture Capital — Steve Krupa @ 12:31 pm

I remember going to a meeting with one of our limited partners where I explained our reasoning for staying clear of investments in biotechnology and novel compounds.  I equated it to the early rounds of the NCAA tournament – terming it “March Madness Investing.”  It turned out that my LP completely understood my analogy, shooting back, without missing a beat, that he felt the same way about selecting venture funds…

_________________

My wife and I just submitted our NCAA brackets.  At tip-off it looks like there are 16 entries in my group, for a total pot of $320.  My wife’s got one bracket in, creating “pot odds” of 16:1.  This year I am playing two brackets, bringing my “pot odds” down to 8:1.  Of course, I have a system.

My first bracket is 100% gut-shot, a blast through the match-ups based mostly on personal feel.  I took this approach last year.  I picked a few upsets and entered the final four with a strong bracket.  My wife went to UConn, so I am a UConn fan, and I picked them to win it all last year despite my gut feeling for North Carolina.  This year UConn is out of the tournament, so my gut is pure.  I should have submitted two brackets last year.  I will not make that same mistake again.

My gut-shot spoiler is K-State.  I have them beating Syracuse and Kansas to get to the finals where they will lose to Kentucky.  It feels like Kentucky’s year to me, they have a great new coach who needs to win before he gets caught in another NCAA violation (like he did at Memphis and UMass).  Interestingly, out of the 32 first round games my gut produced 8 first round upsets (25%).  I bet that’s how many there will be, but I doubt they will be all or many of the ones I picked.  I think I am in big trouble on the gut-shot (for those interested my first round upsets are listed below).

As I was filling out my first bracket I found all sorts of interesting information on ESPN (dot.com, of course), where a horde of college hoops fans submit brackets every year.  With no real love interest in the tournament (UConn and USF are playing in the NIT), I decided to submit my second bracket based solely on ESPN’s “National Bracket,” which shows the preferences of the majority of the horde.  It turns out that the “National Bracket” is not much different than the NCAA tournament seeds.  Of the 63 potential games, the majority of the horde chose the favorite 59 times, with the only upsets coming in the first and second round (N Iowa (9) over UNLV (8), Louisville (9) over Cal (8), Texas A&M (5) over Purdue (4) and Michigan St. (5) over Maryland (4)) (Note a 9 over an 8 seed or a 5 over a 4 seed is hardly and upset, just perhaps an indication that the majority of the horde disagreed with the seeding ever so slightly).  But I know this is not the way things are going to turn out.  There has to be more upsets than that.  Perhaps I should submit a third bracket, the average of the first two.  That takes my “pot-odds” down to 4:1, I would lose alpha, returns would go down the tubes.

For the record, I claim no expertise in college basketball.  I read the box scores sometimes, and watch a game or two a week during the season, but, unlike, say the Oscars (ha!), my opinion is as much a guess, built off of the seeding, versus an expert point of view on how each team matches up against the others.

I wonder how Bobby Knight and Digger Phelps do on their bracket picks (both, which I am sure you know, b/t/w, are former college coaches and current ESPN analysts)?  The experts should beat me nearly every time.  The odds are that one of the number 1s will win the tournament.  The horde (and my second bracket) has Kansas as the winner.  The experts say they are the best by a meaningful margin.

But it’s a fairly well established notion that in order to succeed in an NCAA bracket you have to pick some upsets.  How do you do it?  Best guess?  Educated guess?  Study and know your stuff.  Understand the match-ups.  Pick the unknown underdog. Dartboard?  Or is the notion of needing upsets to create a winning bracket false?  Where’s the data?  Is it reliable?  Maybe the seeding is off? Is NCAA seeding reliable?

_________________

If you’re curious, here are my 8 first round upsets on my gut-shot:

1.    Houston (10) over Maryland (4)

2.    No. Iowa (9) over UNLV (8) (9 beats 8 – not a major upset)

3.    GaTech (10) over Oklahoma St. (7)

4.    UTEP (12) over Butler (5)

5.    Florida (10) over BYU (7) (some people like BYU to go to the final four to play in Salt Lake City – I say no way)

6.    Wake Forest (9) over Texas (8) (Texas was ranked #1 in the country earlier this year only to fall hard)

7.    Missouri (10) over Clemson (7) (I never have any luck picking Clemson)

8.   Louisville (9) over Cal (8) (again 9 beats 8, no biggie)

Of course my big upset is K-State going to the final four.  Good pick?

March 8, 2010

Oscar Picks Audit / The Handsome Men’s Club

Filed under: Casual Fridays,Film — Steve Krupa @ 8:55 pm

A quick recap on the Oscars, and then back to more vocational posts.

I went 5 for 6 on my picks.  My prediction that Carey Mulligan would upset Sandra Bullock did not come to pass.  However, I do stand by the artistic merits of my pick, and, I have to say, I do like Bullock’s public persona.  As I was saying to my wife during the show, if I had to bet I would have bet on Bullock.  On the whole, I did not notice any big surprises except for The Hurt Locker‘s getting a bunch of technical awards, which I thought Avatar would sweep.

To wrap it up, I thought you might enjoy the following video, called The Handsome Men’s Club from Jimmy Kimmel’s post-Oscar show.  For sure, there are quite a number of surprises here.

March 5, 2010

Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director and Other Oscar Picks

Filed under: Casual Fridays,Film — Steve Krupa @ 11:35 am

This year’s film phenomenon was undoubtedly AvatarHow much did it really cost? – numbers range from $230-$500 million.  It’s analogous to Star Wars (I saw Star Wars with my father the first week it was out.  I was 13).  Its state-of-the-art 3-D/CGI sets the stage for revitalizing the Hollywood blockbuster, creating new film making techniques and enhancing the theatre going experience as something superior to home DVD viewing, even Blue Ray.  Avatar is a visual masterpiece and James Cameron deserves praise for it.  But does he deserve the Oscar for Best Director?  Is Avatar a great movie, or an amazing visual spectacle?  Did someone make a better movie this year?

Avatar, which I really did like, ranks 6th on my list of the 10 nominated films (yes – I have seen all 10).  As beautiful as the film is, I find its story flawed (I’ve seen it before).  Granted, the predictability allowed me to get absorbed into the 3-D/CGI, but I never quite fell for the Universe’s greatest sci-fi army falling prey to the native’s bows and arrows and super powerful prehistoric animals bit.   For a more intellectual dissection of Avatar’s plot failings, check out David Brooks’ analysis in his New York Times Op-Ed, The Messiah Complex.   

Director Kathryn Bigelow spent around $15 million on The Hurt Locker and managed to make a much better movie than her long-ago ex-husband Cameron; it might well be my favorite war movie since Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter.

So what makes The Hurt Locker so special?  It manages to slow down war and make it comprehensible, both visually and emotionally; it creates a set of characters we find ourselves giving a damn about; and it creates non-stop, nearly unbearable, suspense.  Every shot and hand-held camera angle is meticulous and in almost every instant we know exactly what everyone is doing and why.  On a personal level, it’s also about those of us that at some point in our lives learned to do something so well that we loved it beyond anything else.  That’s the case of the understated main character in this film, Staff Sgt. William James (played by Jeremy Renner).  He knows how to diffuse bombs better than anyone.  He’s a hotshot.  It’s all he loves, and he changes the lives of everyone in his platoon as a result of it.

Below is my ranking of the nominees for Best Director.

Best Director Ranking:

  1. The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)
  2. Avatar (James Cameron)
  3. Precious (Lee Daniels)
  4. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
  5. Up in the Air (Jason Reitman)

If you have an interest in Bigelow, and you’re okay with a couple of plot spoilers, Leslie Stahl’s 60 Minutes profile on Bigelow is very interesting.  It includes an interview with James Cameron who insists Bigelow might win because she is a woman.  Oh, I failed to mention, were Bigelow to win she would be the first woman ever to win the Best Director Oscar, pretty cool.

For controversy, note that one of The Hurt Locker’s producers, Nicolas Chartier, has been banned from the Oscar ceremony because of e-mails he sent urging academy members to vote for his movie  (he also indirectly pans Avatar in the emails, apparently).

It is “Casual Friday” so here are my other Oscar Picks.  We’ll check in on Monday to see how I did.

Best Picture Ranking:

  1. The Hurt Locker
  2. Precious
  3. Up
  4. District 9
  5. An Education
  6. Avatar
  7. Inglorious Basterds
  8. A Serious Man
  9. Up in the Air
  10. The Blind Side 

I have no idea how The Blind Side got nominated, it’s a very good made-for-TV movie, like Brian’s Song.  Bullock might win for Best Actress, but I didn’t get why the performance was so special.  My wife disagrees.

Best Actor:

Jeff Bridges is great in Crazy Heart.  He sings, he plays, he pukes, he does it all.  He was better as the Dude, so this is a make up win for a great career, but he deserves it.  Jeremy Renner is also excellent in The Hurt Locker.  If he weren’t running against Bridges I’d expect him to win.

  1. Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
  2. Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)
  3. George Clooney (Up in the Air)
  4. Did not see: Colin Firth (A Single Man), Morgan Freeman (Invictus)

Best Actress:

  1. Carey Mulligan (An Education)
  2. Meryl Streep (Julie and Julia)
  3. Gabourey Sidibe (Precious)
  4. Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
  5. Did not see:  Helen Mirren (The Last Station) 

Carey Mulligan upsets Sandra Bullock – you watch.  And see An Education.  It’s creepy and unexpected.

 Best Supporting Actor:

  1. Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
  2. Did not see: Matt Damon (Invictus), Woody Harrelson (The Messenger), Christopher Plummer (The Last Station), Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)

Sorry, I can not add a lot of value to this category given that I have not seen 4 of the 5 performances.  I did think Christopher Plummer did a great voice over in Up, as the evil explorer, and Stanley Tucci was sweet in Julie and Julia.  Christoph Waltz MADE the movie in Inglorious Basterds.  I have not heard similar praise for the others, but we’ll see.

Best Supporting Actress:

  1. Mo’Nique (Precious)
  2. Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart)
  3. Tie:Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air), Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air)
  4. Did not see: Penélope Cruz (Nine)

Notwithstanding my missing Penélope Cruz (Nine), I just cannot believe that Mo’Nique will not win this category.  In Precious she (Mo’Nique) plays Mary Jones, the meanest most disgusting woman in the world, and the perfect antagonist to the loveable Precious herself.  I guess Mo’Nique is a loved stand-up comedian (I thought to include a youtube clip of her stand-up routine, but it’s quite dirty and this is a PG blog).  Credit Lee Daniels for getting a great performance out of her, and other celebrities including Lenny Kravitz and an almost unrecognizable Mariah Carrey.  Note: Gyllenhaal was very good in Crazy Heart, but my favorite performance of hers was her supporting role in Away We Go, which is a very fun movie if you haven’t yet seen it. 

 

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