Call me Chair, and I’ll Call You Oscar

Decades of working inside and outside, around and through the entertainment industry has taught me one thing:

NO ONE can reliably predict the Oscar winners each year.

Oh sure, the odd person can get lucky every once in a while and ace the whole thing, even the bonus questions in your local online poll. But maintaining that accuracy every year would mean there is some secret formula to understanding Hollywood.

Trust me, there isn’t.

The only secret is that, at the end of the day, there is no secret.

That’s because Hollywood is more of an idea than a location with an overriding opinion. And that’s coming from someone like me who actually lives IN Hollywood.

Oh.. and about my Oscar party

Oh there are lots of opinions here, too many, but there is no guiding principal to any one school of thinking when it comes to awards.

Not money, not artistic merit. Not dues-paying, good looks or familial connections.

Any one or two or three of those can help but they are no guarantee of anything.

Hollywood is more a state of mind in a particular moment where someone with power makes a decision based on – well – an opinion. Put 6000 or so of those together and what comes out are the annual list of Oscar winners – about as elusive of figuring in advance as receiving the shiny gold plated 8 ½ lb. statuette itself. (Note: And a mere 13.5 inches high. Though it does FEEL taller and HEAVIER in person).

Are you saying size doesn’t matter?

So, in that spirit, let’s get started on an online cheat sheet that can maybe help you gain an edge in the categories where you have doubts. (Note: The kind word for that is a consensus of informed opinions. The cynical one: guesswork). We’ll also include the Chair Choice (what we would vote for among the list of nominees) because…well….we want to and we can.

Best Picture

Who’s it gonna be?

Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Winner: The Shape of Water

Chair Choice: Lady Bird

The toughest category this year. The Shape of Water is singularly the most original and yet the one that most reflects the best of the mainstream movie industry as it now stands in that it combines dazzling visual effects with an emotional story. A case can be made for Three Billboards but its odds are a bit lowered since it received no director nomination. Sadly, we haven’t gotten to the cultural moment where a gay love story like Call Me By Your Name, beautiful as it is, could win best film. Some think we will hit a different cultural moment with Get Out but I don’t think so – The Shape of Water is probably the safer genre choice – not to mention the better film. As for Chair Choice, try making a truly great coming-of-age movie (aka Lady Bird) in the age of cynicism and see how far you get.


Lead Actor

Elio… Oliver… Sigh

Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name              

Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread

Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Winner: Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

Chair Choice: Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

Yup, you read right. We’re going far out on a limb here because Gary Oldman is the odds-on favorite. But Chalamet’s performance was so unusual, raw and riveting for even those most cynical about his film, that it just feels like he could be rewarded. Also, there are three words in his favor – the crying scene. Yes, the Oldman/Churchill turn was hard to turn away from – for SO many reasons. And he did win the SAG Award, a good predictor here since the actors are the largest voting branch. It doesn’t matter. We’re NOT going with the favorite here. EVER.


Lead Actress

American Badass

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Margot Robbie, I, Tonya

Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Meryl Streep, The Post

Winner: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards

Chair Choice: Saioirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Seriously, FM is gonna win. Though we prefer Saioirse Ronan’s feat of so many colors in Lady Bird the idea of hearing a McDormand acceptance speech televised LIVE internationally to tens of millions of people is just too tempting not to simultaneously root for.


Supporting Actor

No comment.

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water

Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World

Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Winner: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards

Chair Choice: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards

It’s Sam Rockwell’s year. He’s a character actor everyone in the industry respects and it’s the kind of emotionally showy performance that wins supporting acting awards. Many of us have issues with the film (ahem, the performances, the tone and even the writing), but there is something about Rockwell’s work here that ultimately rises above the naysaying. Perhaps…talent?


Supporting Actress

Lady (with a) Bird

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound

Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread

Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Winner: Allison Janney, I Tonya

Chair Choice: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

This will be the most UNJUST award of the evening. Allison Janney, an often brilliant actress, will win for an over-the-top turn in an over-the-top film despite Laurie Metcalf being nothing short of brilliant as the hate her/love her Mom in Lady Bird. There were literal scenes with that fictional mother that I actually recall living through as a teenager in 197___. Now how can that be????



His time

Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

Jordan Peele, Get Out

Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird

Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread

Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Winner & Chair Choice: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

He’s going to win. Del Toro was innovative, unusual and Hollywood. It’s not Nolan’s year. Give it up.


Animated Feature

No brainer

The Boss Baby, Tom McGrath, Ramsey Ann Naito

The Breadwinner, Nora Twomey, Anthony Leo

Coco, Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson

Ferdinand, Carlos Saldanha

Loving Vincent, Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Sean Bobbitt, Ivan Mactaggart, Hugh Welchman

Winner & Chair Choice: Coco

It’s a sure thing. Nothing to discuss.


Animated Short

Kobe’s got it

Dear Basketball, Glen Keane, Kobe Bryant

Garden Party, Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon

Lou, Dave Mullins, Dana Murray

Negative Space, Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata

Revolting Rhymes, Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer

Winner: Dear Basketball

Chair Choice: Lou

I’ve actually seen all of these. Not being a sports fan, I guess I didn’t at all get Dear Basketball. But watching a drawing of a young would-be Kobe Bryant acting to the words spoken by the actual Kobe Bryant of what basketball meant to him in a film produced by the real Kobe Bryant has gotten to ALMOST everyone who wants to see the live Kobe Bryant accept an Oscar in the flesh. I myself prefer Pixar’s Lou, the story of how and why a young bully gets reformed because I guess I’m still working through my childhood issues.


Adapted Screenplay

Can I just say.. SIGH… again

Call Me by Your Name, James Ivory

The Disaster Artist, Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

Logan, Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green

Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin

Mudbound, Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Winner & Chair Choice: Call Me By Your Name, James Ivory

It’s the very definition of brilliant screen adaptation of a novel that was made into one of the most unique films of the year. Plus, it was written by the guy who directed and produced such classic movies as Howard’s End, Remains of The Day, and Maurice.   James Ivory has never won an Oscar, was robbed off it too many times to count and is now 89 years old. You do the math.


Original Screenplay

The Academy’s cup of tea

The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani

Get Out, Jordan Peele

Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig

The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh

Winner: Get Out, Jordan Peele

Chair Choice: Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig

The idea for Get Out is brilliant, as is the script and film that everyone is writing about. Sadly, that’s not the film I saw – at an actual movie theatre early on – and not at a screening and not on DVD. But the screenplay for the movie that’s getting talked about is the one that I WANT to see. Still, who cares what I think? Certainly, not anyone in the Academy. So we’ll just sit home and sulk, knowing Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird was the far more accomplished and nuanced achievement in storytelling.



Is it his time?

Blade Runner 2049, Roger Deakins

Darkest Hour, Bruno Delbonnel

Dunkirk, Hoyte van Hoytema

Mudbound, Rachel Morrison

The Shape of Water, Dan Laustsen

Winner & Chair Choice: Blade Runner 2049, Roger Deakins

This is Roger Deakins’ FOURTEENTH nomination for best cinematography WITHOUT A WIN. While it is possible the brilliant work in Mudbound or The Shape of Water or Dunkirk could win, we won’t be responsible for it.


Best Documentary Feature


Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Steve James, Mark Mitten, Julie Goldman

Faces Places, JR, Agnès Varda, Rosalie Varda

Icarus, Bryan Fogel, Dan Cogan

Last Men in Aleppo, Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed, Soren Steen Jepersen

Strong Island, Yance Ford, Joslyn Barnes

Winner & Chair Choice: Last Men In Aleppo

It was near impossible to get through. Can you imagine making it? To do that you’d have to slog through thousands of dead bodies in Syria, side by side with the ordinary citizens of Syria, searching for survivors, and then relive it all again and again and again in the editing. For bringing the unendurable and unimaginable into the light, this one should and will win.


Best Documentary Short Subject

Edith+Eddie, Laura Checkoway, Thomas Lee Wright

Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, Frank Stiefel

Heroin(e), Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Kerrin Sheldon

Knife Skills, Thomas Lennon

Traffic Stop, Kate Davis, David Heilbroner

Winner & Chair Choice: Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, Frank Stiefel

I saw all of these. A lot of wonderful stories but nothing has stayed with me like Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405. You MUST watch this woman’s story. Then think about art. And what it means to survive. That’s all we’ll say.


Best Live Action Short Film

DeKalb Elementary, Reed Van Dyk

The Eleven O’Clock, Derin Seale, Josh Lawson

My Nephew Emmett, Kevin Wilson, Jr.

The Silent Child, Chris Overton, Rachel Shenton

Watu Wote/All of Us, Katja Benrath, Tobias Rosen

Winner & Chair Choice: DeKalb Elementary, Reed Van Dyk

After watching these DeKalb Elementary left me speechless, even though I had read all about the real story it is based on right after it happened. And that was prior to the recent school shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, FL, which happened just prior to the date Academy’s final voting ballots were due.


Best Foreign Language Film

Oscar sparkle

A Fantastic Woman (Chile)

The Insult (Lebanon)

Loveless (Russia)

On Body and Soul (Hungary)

The Square (Sweden)

Winner & Chair Choice: A Fantastic Woman (Chile)

This is a guess based on speaking to people and the one film in the bunch I experienced. That film, A Fantastic Woman was a slow build around a trans actress who always appeared to be living, and not acting, a trans woman not unlike herself onscreen. It’s the likely winner.


Film Editing

Baby Driver, Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss

Dunkirk, Lee Smith

I, Tonya, Tatiana S. Riegel

The Shape of Water, Sidney Wolinsky

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Jon Gregory

Winner: Dunkirk, Lee Smith

Chair Choice: Baby Driver, Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss

It’s hard to understand how a movie that many of us couldn’t follow could win the Oscar for editing. Isn’t coherence part of good editing? Isn’t that common sense? Of course, in Oscar polls and award giving, sense is not always the ultimate deciding factor, common or not. And who are we to talk when we’re advocating for a movie starring Kevin Spacey?


Sound Editing

you guessed it

Baby Driver, Julian Slater

Blade Runner 2049, Mark Mangini, Theo Green

Dunkirk, Alex Gibson, Richard King

The Shape of Water, Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ren Klyce, Matthew Wood

Winner & Chair Choice: Dunkirk, Alex Gibson, Richard King

It’s the only thing I liked in the film. I don’t care what you think.


Sound Mixing

one more time!

Baby Driver, Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin

Blade Runner 2049, Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hephill

Dunkirk, Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo

The Shape of Water, Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michae l Semanick

Winner & Chair Choice: Dunkirk, Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo

See above. And I still don’t care. At all.


Production Design

I preferred the fish man

Beauty and the Beast, Sarah Greenwood; Katie Spencer

Blade Runner 2049, Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola

Darkest Hour, Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer

Dunkirk, Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis

The Shape of Water, Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau

Winner: Blade Runner 2049, Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola

Chair Choice: The Shape of Water, Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau

One of my dearest friends is a big time production designer and he says it’s Blade Runner. I, myself, loved the fish man, the marquee lights and the largest bathroom a tenement building has ever seen in The Shape of Water.


Original Score

Dunkirk, Hans Zimmer

Phantom Thread, Jonny Greenwood

The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, John Williams

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Carter Burwell

Winner: The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat

Chair Choice: Phantom Thread, Jonny Greenwood

The score for The Shape of Water was wonderful but The Phantom Thread score was brilliant and made it the movie it was. Either could win but the edge goes to the fish man.


Original Song


“Mighty River” from Mudbound, Mary J. Blige

“Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name, Sufjan Stevens

“Remember Me” from Coco, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez

“Stand Up for Something” from Marshall, Diane Warren, Common

“This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

Winner & Chair Choice: “Remember Me” from Coco

This song provided THE central motif of the movie. That’s what the best original song is supposed to do. Plus, it’s a good song. Okay, perhaps not as memorable as such other Oscar winners as “(The Theme from) Shaft” but you can’t have everything.


Makeup and Hair

Darkest Hour, Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick

Victoria and Abdul, Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard

Wonder, Arjen Tuiten

Winner: The Darkest Hour

Chair Choice: Either of the other two.

The latex, the bald cap and the insistence that this was a HISTORICAL CHARACTER and we have to get CHURCHILL right!! Lawd.


Costume Design

I see you

Beauty and the Beast, Jacqueline Durran

Darkest Hour, Jacqueline Durran

Phantom Thread, Mark Bridges

The Shape of Water, Luis Sequeira

Victoria and Abdul, Consolata Boyle

Winner & Chair Choice: Phantom Thread, Mark Bridges

Phantom Thread is a movie about a CLOTHING DESIGNER and it received SIX nominations.   Get it? Not to take anything away from the accuracy and beauty of its costumes or some of the other nominees. But this is another sure thing.


Visual Effects

Blade Runner 2049, John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover, Gerd Nefzer

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Dan Sudick

Kong: Skull Island, Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, Mike Meinardus

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Chris Corbould, Neal Scanlan

War for the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist

Winner & Chair Choice: War for the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist

Things have come a long way since the original Planet of the Apes – at least visual effects-wise. The CG apes, the real apes – who knew? Still, it’s a crime the Fish Man in Shape of Water will go unrecognized – and went un-nominated.

Best Original Songs 2000-2017 


Lawfully Wedded Chair

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 1.01.41 PM

Guess what? The Chair got married! After 28 years of being a “partner,” the Chair now takes on the title of “husband.” Below, both the Chair and the Chair’s husband explain why after all this time they made it official. Each wrote their blog entry in separate rooms without ANY INPUT OR EDITING from the other.  Judge for yourself whether these two people belong together. (Duh, of course they do!)


Written by the Chair

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d get married. But like James Mason once told Judy Garland in A Star Is Born – and I’m paraphrasing here – the trouble with some dreams is that they’re not big enough.

Referencing a Judy Garland movie is not the only reason I got gay married after almost 28 years with the same guy.   Still, it certainly feels apt. Especially for someone like me who has truly always believed that among the benefits of being gay was the fact that you a. didn’t have to get married and b. weren’t required to join the military.

Well, clearly I’m a dinosaur.

After much talk over the last few years about what the heck we were going to do about the marriage thing, as we called it, my guy and I decided to make it legal on May 5 in the upstairs room of our house, overlooking the cloudy L.A. skyline, in front of two witnesses listening to words said by a friend we work with who marries people in his spare time. It literally took less than five minutes. (almost as fast as the slideshow below)

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We had planned various incarnations – some bigger and some much bigger – of this event. But it quickly became apparent to each of us that there was no way to keep it sort of smallish and the bigger it got the more anxious we both felt. Thanks to another good friend who years ago had a big wedding she and her husband paid for by themselves, we decided instead last year to blow our wedding money on a two-week trip to Italy and consider it our illegal honeymoon. All I can say about that is – cash REALLY well spent.

Yet here we are 12 months later, still dragging our feet on the legal front.

What pushed me over the edge was buying a house and the part where they ask you how you want your title – single, domestic partners, married, blah, blah, blah. That followed several prior medical experiences over the years where forms and people asked what is your relationship to your sick spouse and you find yourself realizing that legally, well, you have none. Not to mention the endless questions asked by others that boil down to phrases like: So, when? Or What are you waiting for?

Me to everyone for years

Me to everyone for years

Truth be known I really do HATE the government or any part of the public sector involved in my life in any legal sense, but most especially when it comes to my love life. Is it because my parents were divorced – well, maybe? Could it be because as a gay person I realize how crazy the U.S. government can be when dealing with our issues and I didn’t want to give them the privilege of legislating our love in any way, good or bad, at all – absolutely?! Would another reason be that I found the whole thing tedious, tiresome, sort of corny and didn’t want to be bothered with it –MOST CERTAINLY AND DEFINITELY, ABSOLUTELY!

Please know this is not a put down to any married person out there, especially since I am now one of you. It was just never one of my dreams. Of course, neither was living outside of New York City or getting my driver’s license but somehow I learned to love navigating a convertible through the windy canyons and gridlocked roads of L.A.   Well as John Huston told Jack Nicholson in Chinatown, You may think you know what you’re dealing with but believe me you don’t… OR as Jack Nicholson told the world in A Few Good Men, You can’t handle the truth!

I think my sister, who served as one of our two witnesses, summed it up best when she told me point blank on my wedding day: You just hate doing anything where you think people are giving you permission. It makes you feel like somehow they’re telling you what to do and you hate being told what to do. In fact, you’ll do the opposite just to show them.


Wow, how did she get so smart?

Does it feel different? Slightly but not much. I mean, it’s awkward to suddenly call someone your husband. As if something has changed. Nothing has really changed in our relationship. And I had finally gotten used to the word partner.

But each person we tell – relatives, friends, acquaintances, business associates, even strangers we have just met where it comes up in conversation – are absolutely thrilled. Seriously, you should see the smiles on their faces. It’s as if to say – we love you, we support you, we don’t know you but want to support you because we think the fact that marriage equality is even a question is ridiculous and we want you and every friend you have who faces this same issue to know that. My god, the last time I saw this many people so happy about something I’ve said or done is, well….NEVER. Not even my bar-mitzvah came close because truly, what person at a mortgage company or doctor’s office would really care???

Everyone has suddenly become this Kristen Wiig character

Everyone has suddenly become this Kristen Wiig character

Well, there is one last thing worth including but I guess I’m, as we’re all so often taught to do, saving the best for last. I got married because, well, I love my husband. Not to mention, I think anyone who has had the perseverance to spend almost 28 years with me deserves something official. Which is also why community property exists and why he can have a divorce any time he sees fit and take half, if not more, of everything I own.

Oh, don’t groan – he’s used to this from me. He loves me both for it and in spite of it. Though no, he didn’t marry me for it. And yes, that’s from Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which the playwright has always said is NOT about a gay couple but well, may as well be and certainly will be at some point generations after Mr. Albee dies – if for no other reason than the normality of marriage equality. Which I guess is, in itself, reason enough to get hitched.

Yes, there are other reasons. Many, in fact. But those are between me and my guy. I mean…husband. Wow. Make that, double wow.



Written by The Chair’s Husband


Since the day back in August of 1978 when I realized I am gay (I think it was on a Saturday), I realized there were three things I would no longer have to worry about in my lifetime. While some gay men at the time thought of these as drawbacks to not being a member of the heterosexual majority, I always thought of them as advantages (let’s call them “perks”). My list of things “I don’t have to do” included:

  1. Serve in the military. When I had to register for the Selective Service in 1980 in order to receive my government-issued college loan, I wrote “Conscientious Objector” on the form. I wanted to write: “I’m gay, suckers.”
  2. Get married.
  3. Have children.

#1 is no longer an issue (yes, I did pay back my loans).

#3 would take an act of divine intervention, which means it’s NEVER going to happen.

As for #2, well, on Tuesday, May 5, 2015, at approximately 5:25 p.m. (PT) in a very private ceremony in our upstairs media room, I removed Get Married from my list and uttered, “I do” to the man I love.

Ever since San Francisco starting issuing marriage licenses in 2004, we were each asked separately and together, “So when are you getting married?”

Neither of us ever had a “straight” answer to that question, because we weren’t entirely sure if we actually wanted and/or needed to get married.

Oh is that not polite?

Oh is that not polite?

It’s not that I’m anti-marriage (some of my best friends are married), but I always thought no matter where you happen to fall on the Kinsey Scale, getting married should be a choice, and, if you decide to get married, it should be for the right reason(s).

I realized immediately after the moment I said “I do,” I was overthinking this whole thing. It’s actually quite simple. We got married because we love each other.


I don’t need the State of California’s blessing. Or even a license from the City of Los Angeles (which took 30 minutes on a line to get to a window next to the window where you took care of unpaid parking tickets).

I think the fact I am married is really going to hit me the next time someone hands me a form to fill out and it asks me to check my marital status. Now I can check “married.” I am no longer a Conscientious Objector.