Guide to the 89th Oscars!

The biggest annual movie event in the world will take place on Sunday, Feb. 26 when Hollywood celebrates the 89th edition of the Oscars. The show will be telecast to 225 countries with an estimated audience of over a billion people. That is one crowd the current President of the United States would very much love to command – and Meryl Streep and her fellow actors will again beat him to it.

With the expected sweep of “La La Land”, the modern-day musical that celebrates two things that Hollywood loves most – itself and the city of Los Angeles, this year’s ceremony will likely go down as one of the most predictable in years and the real suspense is not who will win what but who will deliver the most politically significant speech of the evening. Look out for Viola Davis!

But that does not prevent this writer from dishing out our annual guide and predictions. We shall make up imagined contest in a couple of categories just to create some drama but otherwise consider the contest virtually over. The show this year has a new emcee in Jimmy Kimmel, host of the popular late-night talk show “The Jimmy Kimmel Show,” which once hosted the singing debut of Senator and boxing champ Manny Pacquiao.

Before we proceed with our predictions, let me just make a quick disclosure on my personal picks. In terms of overall filmmaking excellence, “Moonlight”, a coming-of-age story of a gay man told in three parts with a fascinating opening sequence that invites thoughtful scrutiny is easily the strongest film of the year. But my top favorite is the somber “Manchester by the Sea” for Kenneth Lonergan’s measured and masterful storytelling and Casey Affleck's terrific and heartbreaking performance. My 3rd favorite is the sci-fi flick “Arrival” for its revisionist alien invasion theme and Amy Adams’ powerful turn as a grieving mother and a linguist tasked to save the world.

“La La Land” is my 4th pick for its sheer joy and its rather familiar story of ambition prevailing over romance while “Lion” is my 5th favorite simply for the bucketful of tears I shed. “Lion” is based on the true story of an impoverished Indian boy who accidentally got himself on a train bound for Calcutta thousands of miles away from home. His search for home would take him to Australia and a quarter century of his life. The secret to a good film is a good story. This one has it. I loved this movie! It features Oscar-nominated performances by Dev Patel (who could pull an upset in the best supporting actor category) and Nicole Kidman. But it’s Sunny Pawar, the child actor who played the young lost boy that commands and carries the first hour of the film to perfection!

And now our predictions in several key categories.


Nominees: Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea

Winner: “La La Land.” The film has won both the Producers and Directors Guild Awards and was honored with a win at the BAFTAS last week. And it has grossed more than a quarter billion dollars in global box office! Hollywood loves a winner!


Nominees: Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea), Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

Winner: Damien Chazelle. He will become the youngest winner in this category at 32. In contrast Martin Scorsese didn’t win until he was 64.


Nominees: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic), Denzel Washington (Fences)

Winner: This is supposedly Casey Affleck’s award to lose but a late surge and a surprise win by two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) makes this one an interesting contest. It does not help that Affleck is still being dogged by an old sexual harassment case against him that’s already been settled years ago but despite all that I still call this category in his favor.


Nominees: Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving), Emma Stone (La La Land), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Winner: Emma Stone. It’s a La La Land night, remember?


Nominees: Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Dev Patel (Lion), Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

Winner: Mahershala Ali will likely win given the weightier subject matter of “Moonlight” but Dev Patel could pull the evening’s biggest upset if more Academy member watched “Lion” after the nominations were announced. Ali won the SAG while Patel won the BAFTAS. This is the drama that I mentioned at the top of this story.


Nominees: Viola Davis (Fences), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Nicole Kidman (Lion), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

Winner: Viola Davis. She’s a powerhouse in this film. She goes toe to toe with Denzel Washington and, in numerous times, she steals the scene from him altogether!


“La La Land” heads into the ceremony with a leading and record-tying 14 nominations in 13 categories (shared with “All About Eve” and “Titanic”) but will likely end the evening with less than that. Will it break the record 11 wins shared by “Ben-Hur”, “Titanic” and “LOTR: The Return of the King”? There’s only one way to find out. Watch the Oscars and you may just witness history.

Raymond Lo

News: Chris Bell's "Prescription Thugs" takes on powerful Big Pharma!

The theatrical release of "Prescription Drugs", the follow-up film of acclaimed filmmaker's Chris Bell to his Sundance hit, "Bigger, Stronger, Faster", is scheduled on January 22, 2016. The release date also marks the film's debut on iTunes and on demand.

This hard hitting and thought provoking documentary exposes the Big Pharma, its marketing practices and their impact on the staggering level of addiction to prescription drugs in North America.

This is Chris Bell's follow-up to his film "Bigger Stronger Faster" after witnessing friends and relatives face tragedy as they become addicted to prescription drugs. Bell sets out to explore the goals of pharmaceutical companies and doctors in this ever-growing market and asks how are they any different to back-alley drug-pushers. His journey leads to experts on the nature of addiction in our culture as well as to pharmaceutical whistle-blowers that testify to the solely dollar-driven aims of pharmaceutical companies.

In the film, Chris meets with WWE legends such as Matthew “Horshu” Wiese and Chris Leben, with former California State Senator (now Congressman for California's 33rd District) Ted Lieu, pharmaceutical company whistle-blower Gwen Olsen, Cliffside Malibu Rehabilitation Center founder Richard Taite, Professor of Psychiatry David Healy, author of Generation RX Greg Critser, and members of his own family.

"Prescription Thugs" is a Samuel Goldwyn Films release. Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley serve as the films Executive Producer.

Raymond Lo

News: Rooney Mara is recipient of 31st SBIFF Cinema Vanguard Award!

Oscar-winning actress and Rooney's "Carol" co-star Cate Blanchett will present the honor to Ms. Mara on February 12th!

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced on Tuesday, December 8th, that it will honor Rooney Mara with the Cinema Vanguard Award on Friday, February 12, 2016 during the 31st edition of the festival.  The actress will be celebrated for her remarkable role in this year’s "Carol" alongside Cate Blanchett, who will present Mara with the award at a tribute at the Arlington Theatre.

The Cinema Vanguard Award was created in recognition of actors who have forged their own path - taking artistic risks and making a significant and unique contribution to film. Previous honorees include Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, Amy Adams, Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, Nicole Kidman, Christoph Waltz, Vera Farmiga, Stanley Tucci, Peter Sarsgaard, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Ryan Gosling.

Festival Director Roger Durling commented, “From her scene-stealing turn in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to her outstanding performance in his year’s Carol, Rooney has repeatedly showcased her talents as one of the most gifted actors of her generation. I truly admire the enigmatic and complex nature of her performances. She’s an adept, beguiling actor, and we are proud to present her with this year’s Cinema Vanguard Award.”

Rooney Mara is best known for her Golden Globe® and Academy Award® nominated performance in David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She has also appeared in The Social Network, Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects, and Joe Wright’s Pan. She will be seen in Lion alongside Nicole Kidman and in Untitled Terrence Malick Project, also starring Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, and Ryan Gosling.

Carol follows two women from very different backgrounds who find themselves in an unexpected love affair in 1950s New York. A young woman in her 20s, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), is a clerk working in a Manhattan department store and dreaming of a more fulfilling life when she meets Carol (Cate Blanchett), an alluring woman trapped in a loveless, convenient marriage. The film is adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s seminal novel “The Price of Salt”, and also stars Kyle Chandler and Sarah Paulson.

Raymond Lo

News: 2016 Golden Globes Nominations are in!

The 2016 Golden Globes nominations announced this morning. "Straight Outta Compton" did not get any nomination. Johnny Depp snubbed. Charlotte Rampling snubbed. Kristen Stewart snubbed!


Motion Pictures

Best Drama
"Mad Max: Fury Road"
"The Revenant"

Best Comedy
“The Big Short”
“The Martian”

Best Director
Todd Haynes, "Carol"
Alejandro González Iñárritu, "The Revenant"
Tom McCarthy, "Spotlight"
George Miller, "Mad Max: Fury Road"
Ridley Scott, "The Martian"

Best Actress in a Drama
Cate Blanchett, "Carol"
Brie Larson, "Room"
Rooney Mara, "Carol"
Saoirse Ronan, "Brooklyn"
Alicia Vikander, "The Danish Girl"

Best Actor in a Drama
Bryan Cranston, "Trumbo"
Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Revenant"
Michael Fassbender, "Steve Jobs"
Eddie Redmayne, "The Danish Girl"
Will Smith, "Concussion"

Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy
Christian Bale, "The Big Short"
Steve Carell, "The Big Short"
Matt Damon, "The Martian"
Al Pacino, "Danny Collins"
Mark Ruffalo, "Infinitely Polar Bear"

Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy
Jennifer Lawrence, "Joy"
Amy Schumer, "Trainwreck"
Melissa McCarthy, "Spy"
Maggie Smith, "The Lady in the Van"
Lily Tomlin, "Grandma"

Best Supporting Actress
Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”
Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight”
Jane Fonda, “Youth”
Alicia Vikander, “Ex Machina”
Helen Mirren, “Trumbo”

Best Supporting Actor
Paul Dano, "Love &Mercy"
Idris Elba, "Beasts of No Nation"
Mark Rylance, "Bridge of Spies"
Michael Shannon, "99 Homes"
Sylvester Stallone, "Creed"

Best Screenplay
"The Big Short"
"Steve Jobs"
"The Hateful Eight"

Best Foreign Language Film
“Son of Saul”, Hungary
“Mustang”, France
“The Fencer”, Finland
“Brand New Testament”, Belgium
“The Club”, Chile

Best Animated Feature
"The Good Dinosaur"
"Inside Out"
"The Peanuts Movie"
"Shaun The Sheep"

Best Original Song
“One Kind of Love,” “Love & Mercy”
“Simple Song #3,” “Youth”
“See You Again,” “Furious 7”
“Love Me Like You Do,” “50 Shades of Grey”
“Writing’s on the Wall,” “Spectre”

Best Score
“The Danish Girl”
“The Revenant”
“Inside Out”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”


Best TV Comedy or Musical
“Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
“Silicon Valley” (HBO)
“Transparent” (Amazon)
“Veep” (HBO”
“Casual” (Hulu)
“Mozart in the Jungle” (Amazon)

Best TV Drama
“Empire” (Fox)
“Mr. Robot” (USA)
“Game of Thrones” (HBO)
“Outlander” (Starz)
“Narcos” (Netflix)

Best Actress in a TV Drama
Taraji P. Henson, “Empire”
Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder” (ABC)
Robin Wright, “House of Cards” (Netflix)
Caitriona Balfe, “Outlander” (Starz)
Eva Green, “Penny Dreadful”

Best Actor in a TV Drama
Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan” (Showtime)
Wagner Moura, “Narcos” (Netflix)
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul” (AMC)
Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot” (USA)
Jon Hamm, “Mad Men” (AMC)

Best Actress in a TV Comedy
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep” (HBO)
Gina Rodriguez, “Jane the Virgin” (CW)
Lily Tomlin, “Grace & Frankie” (Netflix)
Jamie Lee Curtis, “Scream Queens” (Fox)
Rachel Bloom, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (CW)

Best Actor in a TV Comedy
Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent” (Amazon)
Aziz Ansari, “Master of None” (Netflix)
Rob Lowe, “The Grinder” (Fox)
Will Forte, “Last Man on Earth” (Fox)
Patrick Stewart, “Blunt Talk” (Starz)
Gael Garcia Bernal, “Mozart in the Jungle” (Netflix)

Best Miniseries or TV Movie
“Fargo” (FX)
“American Crime” (ABC)
“American Horror Story: Hotel” (FX)
“Wolf Hall” (PBS)
“Flesh and Bone” (Starz)

Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie
Lady Gaga, "American Horror Story: Hotel" (FX)
Sarah Hay, "Flesh & Bone" (Starz)
Felicity Huffman, "American Crime" (ABC)
Kirsten Dunst, "Fargo" (FX)
Queen Latifah, "Bessie"

Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie
Oscar Isaac, “Show Me a Hero” (HBO)
Patrick Wilson, “Fargo” (FX)
Idris Elba, “Luther” (BBC America)
David Oyelowo, “Nightingale” (HBO)
Mark Rylance, “Wolf Hall” (PBS)

Best Supporting Actress in a TV Show, Miniseries or TV Movie
Regina King, “American Crime” (ABC)
Uzo Aduba, “Orange is the New Black”
Joanne Froggatt, “Downton Abbey” (PBS)
Maura Tierney, “The Affair” (Showtime)
Judith Light, “Transparent” (Amazon)

Best Supporting Actor in a TV Show, Miniseries or TV Movie
Damian Lewis, “Wolf Hall” (CBS)
Christian Slater, “Mr. Robot” (USA)
Alan Cumming, “The Good Wife” (CBS)
Ben Mendelsohn, “Bloodline” (Netflix)
Tobias Menzies, “Outlander”

Raymond Lo

News: Screen Actors Guild Announces Nominations; "Straight Outta Compton" wins ensemble nom, Kristen Stewart snubbed!

The KStew Oscar train stalls at the SAG even if today's morning announcement brings joy to the cast of the surprise 2015 critical and commercial hit "Straight Outta Compton" after it earns a coveted nomination for Best Ensemble Cast.

Sarah Silverman also earns a surprise best actress nomination for "I Smile Back", possibly at the expense of Jennifer Lawrence ("Joy"), Charlotte Rampling ("45 Years").

2016 SAG Nominations


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role in a Motion Picture
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Johnny Depp, Black Mass
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role in a Motion Picture
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Helen Mirren, Woman in Gold
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Sarah Silverman, I Smile Back

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Michael Shannon, 99 Homes
Jacob Tremblay, Room

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Helen Mirren, Trumbo
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture in a Motion Picture
Beasts of No Nation
The Big Short
Straight Outta Compton


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Idris Elba, Luther
Ben Kingsley, Tut
Ray Liotta, Texas Rising
Bill Murray, A Very Murray Christmas
Mark Rylance, Wolf Hall

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in Television Movie or Miniseries
Nicole Kidman, Grace of Monaco
Quene Latifah, Bessie
Christina Ricci, The Lizzie Borden Chronicles
Susan Sarandon, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe
Kristen Wiig, The Spoils Before Dying

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Louis C.K., Louis
William H. Macy, Shameless
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actress in a Comedy Series
Uzo Aduba, Orange Is the New Black
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Rami Malek, Mr. Robot
Bob Odenkirk, Better Caul Saul
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Claire Danes, Homeland
Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Robin Wright, House of Cards

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Mad Men

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
The Big Bang Theory
Key and Peele
Modern Family
Orange Is the New Black

Raymond Lo