Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wednesday Comics: Why Comic Book Stores Matter to Me

The first time I ever bought a comic book I was in a Waldenbooks.  It was The Cosmic Odyssey numbers 1 and 2, and those issues were buried behind magazines about fashion and housekeeping.

It was like discovering treasure.

I read and re-read those issues constantly.  I kept an eye out in the Waldenbooks week after week and I found issue three, but they never had the fourth.   None of the bookstores in the mall had it.  And when I asked them about The Cosmic Odyssey, they would look at me dumbfounded, like I asked them if they sold lemonade and foot massages.  Finally I begged my uncle to take me to a place I had passed several times but never entered: the comic book store.

Walking in there was an overwhelming experience.  I can still smell it.  It wasn't that it had an offensive odor, but it had a distinct essence that is a mixture of aged paper and plastic coatings.  And the bright colors kept pulling my eyes in every different direction.

But what was the most important was that I asked the comic book store clerk about The Cosmic Odyssey and he knew immeadiatly what I was talking about.

There were several stores in the area, but as I became a collector I ended up settling on one.  Other stores were bigger and others had more diverse selections, but the one that became my regular store had the people I liked.  I was a kid, but I felt like they treated me like an adult.  Or at least they treated me like my opinions mattered, which was something that I hadn't found in other adults yet.  I realize in retrospect that what they were doing was good customer service in order to keep a recurring client.  But it felt good.  And to a shy, nerdy kid (who would one day grow into a nerdy adult), this was special.

I remember the owner sold me a Flash #1 for only $5.00 (even though the selling price at the time was a whopping $8.00).  You could say that this was another shrewd way to secure customer loyalty.  But I think that he saw in me a love of comics and wanted to do something nice to increase that love.

I spent a lot of time in that shop.  My dad would often drop me off and then head to the hospital to do rounds.  Sometimes I would remain there for hours and hours.  But the store owners didn't mind.  They even fed me a few times.  And while no kid likes waiting for a ride, I didn't mind spending time in that wonderful place.

When I grew up, I stopped collecting for a while.  When I started up again, I went to a store near me where I found I could talk shop again with someone on a regular basis.  When that store closed up, I migrated to shop where I remained for nearly 10 years.  And once again the reason that I stayed so long was because of my comic book guy.

Now that I was an adult, I could come and go to the store as I pleased.  I stayed as long as I wanted and I found I did simply to speak with my comic book guy.  I respected his taste and I could tell that he wasn't treating me like just another sale.  When I asked about a certain comic on the stands, he wouldn't push it on me.  If he did suggest something he did so because he thought it would fit my taste and not just his.  And I was able to share my favorite comics with him.  I lent him the entire run of Starman (the greatest comic book series of all time).

I have to say though, I took that relationship for granted.  When he left, I was devestated.  The person who eventually became his replacement could never remember my name, he was incredibly unhelpful, he would talk to other people about his side business instead of aiding customers, but above all he didn't know comics.  And because he was ignorant, I couldn't talk to him.

I eventually migrated to my current store, and what convinced me to stay there was a simple thing.  I bumped into the owner at a comic con and he remembered that I had been in his store a few times.

I know this sounds trite and simplictic, but it really isn't.  As I said before, a number of us comic book patrons are shy by nature.  At least I am.  I don't count my boldness as a teacher in this.  When I'm in the classroom I "get into character."  But when I'm in most social situations I tend to wilt.  I would characterize myself as cold, but I am slow to warm up.  Get me a around a comfortable group of friends and it is difficult to get me to shut up.

But the one place where I can just jump into a conversation with crisp confidence is with my fellow comic book geeks.  Just the other day I was in my current comic shop and someone I had never met was speaking with my new comic book guy about the current Forever Evil storyline.  Without any real preamble, I waded in to the discussion and we all became engrossed for several minutes.

I can't really do that in any other context.  The only other place I've found this is in formal meetings of comic book themed clubs.  There is something about being in the presence of other comic book geeks that is different that being around film buffs, music enthusiasts, tv watchers, sports nuts… it has a different flavor.  We don't always agree, but even when we don't, there is an ease of understanding.  At least that's the way it is for me.  It is almost a relief to be able to talk about Nova, Jamie Madroxx, the Infinity Gauntlet, the Beyonder, Bouncing Boy, Mogo, Spider-Clones, Earth 2, Gold Kryptonite, Harold: Batman's Mechanic, Snikt, the Trench-coat Brigade, Dynaman, Liefield's foot problem, Escher poses, Moebius Chair, time-warping eye beams and bullets, Clobberin' Time, Volthoom, Whispering Iron, Opal City, retcons, reboots, continuity contradictions, and whatever else.

To talk about this passion with others in a way that finds reciprocal reception is one of my favorite simple joys.

This is why the comic book store matters.  You can buy most of the comics online and the move towards digital downloading looks to be the inevitable future.  But I will still go to my local comic book store for as long as I can.  Comic book geeks have a reputation of being loners.  We are not.

We only need a place where we can find each other.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hollywood Teenage Tantrums

I don't have a fully developed essay here, just some thoughts crawling around my brain.

A lot has been made about Justin Bieber losing his mind and being arrested.  And his behavior should be held up for public shame and used as an object lesson in out of control celebrity.

But are any of us surprised.  The entertainment industry is filled with people who never grew up.  I do not mean that they have a child-like imagination and wonder like a Steven Spielberg or a Peter Jackson.

I'm talking about never growing up from being a teenager into an adult.  Your teen years are an awkward and interesting time.  You are discovering who you are and challenging your parent's authority.  At the same time, you tend not be to ready for the real challenges of life and only rebel in ways that get you attention instead of causing radical upheaval.  And too often being a teen comes with a sense of invincibility from accountability.

Lately I've had this visceral reaction that so many in the pop culture are just old teenagers.

Take Lars Von Tier.  I have only seen one of his movies, Dogville, and it was awful.  The following comments on him are based not on my personal viewing of his films but on my observations in general.  But I remember that they did a large article about him in Entertainment Weekly, and the headline was literally "Mel Gibson's Worst Nightmare."  Gibson had no context to anything Von Tier was doing, except that The Passion of the Christ was currently a runaway hit and the editors wanted to show someone who was opposed to all of that.  They hyped Von Tier as edgy and provocative.  But look at the titles of two of his following movies: AntiChrist and Nymphomaniac.  How can you not see a teenager clamoring for attention by shocking us with his irreverence and startling sexuality!  How edgy!  And then he made a movie dripping with angst, even in the title Meloncholia.  He drew rave reviews, but I couldn't help but shake my head at his immaturity.

Recently Sarah Silverman has been attacking pro-lifers by using an actor dressed as Jesus to espouse pro-abortion propaganda.  It reminded me of someone I went to school with.  We were at a rehearsal for a play we were in and, for no reason, he went up to a chalkboard and wrote "God is a fool."  Of course many of us reacted with shock and derision.  But he got what he wanted: attention.  He could sneer at us sheep who blindly followed, while he was the iconoclast who could think for himself.  Silverman is the same.  She wants to get a rise out of people who love Jesus.  And I'm sure she's patting herself on the back for being brave.  But think about this: she picked a fight with people whose leader told us to love our enemies and do good to they that hurt you.  She thinks she's edgy, but she's in actuality a bully.

Tonight, apparently, the Grammy's are going to do a massive group marriage, including "marrying" homosexuals together.  Maybe I don't understand music, harmonics, rhythm, lyrics, etc, but I don't quite see what promoting homoerotic love has to do with making and selling albums.  Perhaps I'm just too old and out of touch to see it.  All I see are teenagers making a spectacle out of their drama, demanding our attention.

Ho hum.

And of course there is outrage, but that is all part of the intention.  How to respond?

I'm not sure.  I think sputtering with indignation only plays into their hands the same way a teenager gets immense satisfaction by making a parent lose his/her temper.  Ignoring it allows the pernicious behavior to fester and it encourages them to be more outrageous in order to get a reaction.

Perhaps humor and pity are the best.   A bemused boredom can sometimes shut down a teenage tantrum faster than a shouting match.

I don't know that these people will ever grow up.  But we can hope.  Maybe one day they can discover the thing that all of us who come into adulthood while admiring movies, tv, music etc:  Edge is fleeting, but art is forever.

Sunday Best: Actors of All Time #9 - Jack Lemmon


Tuesdays with Morrie (TV Movie)
Grumpier Old Men
Grumpy Old Men
Glengarry Glen Ross
The China Syndrome
The Odd Couple
The Fortune Cookie
The Apartment

Many years ago, my parents were sitting in their living room watching a movie called Missing.  I couldn't understand much, as I was very young.  But I could see that they were captivated.  They tried to explain to me that the man I was watching had lost his son and that he was trying to find him.  I looked at the screen and even though I knew nothing about acting, I felt a knot in my stomach.  I could feel his tension and fear and anxiety, though I could barely understand it.  That man was Jack Lemmon.

There is a reason that Ving Rhames gave away his Golden Globe to Jack Lemmon (not counting for publicity).  Lemmon's body of work and longevity in the business is staggering.

The most notable thing about Lemmon was his ability to move seamlessly from comedy to drama.  It is not as easy at it sounds.  Some comedic actors lack gravitas for drama.  And many dramatic actors can never quite find the right comedic timing.  Lemmon had no trouble at either.

His comedic stammer and double takes milk every laugh out of an audience.  His pairings with legendary Walter Matthau make some truly fun movie-making.  While Walter would play cool and laid back, Lemmon would hype up the anxiety until it was palpable and could only be released by laughing.  His Felix Ungar may be less popular than Tony Randall, but he was much funnier.

And the transition to drama was not a Jekyll/Hyde switch.  He had an uncanny ability to change tones in a movie while staying true to the character.  Watch his performance in The Apartment.  The first half has him play the loveable loser trying to climb the corporate ladder.  But then when someone tries to commit suicide in his apartment, Lemmon infuses his character with real drama.  The scene is not played for laughs, even though there are some tension relieving jokes.  Lemmon pulls you in with his frantic concern.  And it all builds as you see the character grow before your eyes until he finally has to confront the powerful people in his life with full determination.  Lemmon does not change character, but grows his character until he can do what needs to be done.

And when Jack Lemmon brought the drama, it shot you like an arrow.  The China Syndrome, a movie I actually cannot stand, is only watchable because of Lemmon's performance.  He plays a man trying to do what's right but crumbles under the overwhelming pressures of the powerful.  When you watch his breakdown as he his being filmed by a camera crew, you see every last nerve frayed off of him so that he is no longer able to control the volcano of panic inside.

Lemmon's later career was, I think, defined by his role as Shelly Levine in Glengarry Glen Ross.  Levine is a character of supreme impotence.  He is someone completely beaten down by life.  He is a desperate doormat who is one of life’s losers.  Lemmon brings Levine to awkward life in a way that I don’t think most actors could.  His performance is so iconic that it inspired it’s own Simpsons character (good old Gill).  Levine is all desperation, the very worst nightmare of a salesman.  And yet, there is an edge to Levine that Lemmon layers beneath the surface.  This is a character who is a guppy, but would be a shark if he could swim.  He would be vicious and cruel if he only had the power to do so.  That is what makes his smallness all the more pathetic.   And even with this edge, Lemmon gives him such deep humanity.

The reason why I say that this role defined his later career is because there would always be something of Shelly Levine in the roles he played after.  There would always be a little more of that put-upon poser in his characters, even more so than you can see in early Jack Lemmon.

The only role where I didn’t see any of that was in a TV movie, Tuesdays with Morrie.  This movie is a melodrama among melodramas, trying to wrench every tear from your eyes.  And yet Lemmon is surprisingly restrained as Morrie.  As his body wastes away, Lemmon employs all of his physical skills that a master actor has.  And to this day I cannot get out of my mind his words: “This is how we say goodbye: ‘I love you.’”  

Jack Lemmon was that rare actor that could not be boxed in.  He could travel from project to project and bring something new and exciting.  His presence is greatly missed.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Becoming Socrates

There are many types of people needed in the world: doctors, priest, mothers, fathers, farmers, etc.  And throughout history we've seen the rise and fall of many great and terrible people.

But today's modern world is in desperate need of a Socrates.

I am a news junkie.  And yet I find myself falling more and more into disgust with how we present and pursue the truth.  Stories are covered but the reporters push an agenda.  Even in debates between people on opposite sides, no one really listens to each other.  They should their talking points past each other, asking questions without listening to answers and listening to answers only to find a sound bite with which to attack their opponents

I saw a clip of prime time news host asking a theologian where in the Gospels Jesus ever condemned "gay marriage."  The theologian gave an incredibly cogent and detailed answer that explained exactly how Jesus' marriage morality excludes to people of the same sex being married.  But the host didn't ask for clarification.  He did not seek to deepen his understanding.  He simply attacked without comprehending what his opponent said.  This method I find very typical in today's media, be it on the news, in the Twitterverse, or just in the classroom.

I find this very depressing.

At my school I run a club dedicated to the model Socrates left behind for argument and debate.  Most schools have a formal forensics class that teaches how to speak, rebut, and deliver arguments with all power of rhetoric.  We don't do that in my club.

In his day, Socrates was surrounded by people who would be later called the Sophists.  These were ones who sounded wise but really were not.  These were the educated, cultured, and powerful.  Socrates was a blue-collar stone cutter who got the call late in life to pursue philosophy.  The oracle at Delphi told Socrates' friend Chaerephon that there was no one wiser than Socrates.  The stone cutter then made it his life-long mission to find someone wiser.


Because Socrates knew he was a moron.  I say this with all respect, but I think Socrates would agree.  He could not believe that no one was wiser than he, when he didn't have any real wisdom.

Socrates then set out to find a wise man.  It was during this time that he discovered what is now called the Socratic Method and he also discovered the laws of logic (later formalized by Aristotle).   He would find someone who claimed to have wisdom.  He would then ask them to explain their wisdom.  For example, politicians said that they were wise about justice.  Priests said that they were wise about piety.  Poets said that they were wise about poetry.  Socrates would listen to them until he completely understood what they were saying.  Socrates demonstrated this by restating this person's ideas in his own words to the satisfaction of his interlocutor.

Then Socrates would begin to ask clarifying questions where he found either undeveloped ideas or contradictions.  This usually resulted in the person who thought they were wise realizing that Socrates was exposing their ignorance.

Socrates was never able to find anyone with wisdom.  Everyone who claimed to have wisdom crumbled under his investigation.  It was only after many years that he realized the meaning of the Oracle's statement: there is no one wiser than Socrates.  The oracle did not say that Socrates was wise.  Socrates knew he wasn't wise.  But if no one is wiser than Socrates and Socrates is not wise, then no one is wise!  The only difference Socrates saw between himself and the people he questioned was that they thought they were wise but weren't.  Socrates knew he wasn't wise and that knowledge gave him more wisdom than anyone.

Because of Socrates' pursuit of truth, he laid down the foundation of formalized logic and rational investigation.  From this we have the essence of all of the hard sciences and even rational theology.  Socrates transformed the Western world in a way that is dwarfed only by Jesus Christ (and the early Church Fathers).

We need more people like Socrates today.  He was not dedicated to an ideology, a political party, or to the majority opinion.  In the end, the majority opinion of Athens was in favor of executing him.  But Socrates willingly took this road because he believed truth was worth it.

Socrates was honest not just in the passive sense, but the active sense.  He was someone who did not lie, which how we can be all passively honest.  But he was active in his pursuit of the truth wherever it took him.  For him, honesty was not simply excluding untruths but also seeking out what is true.

But Socrates is long dead.  If we want another Socrates in this world, it will have to be one of us.  One of us should take up this mantle and lead the way.

So how does one become Socrates in the modern world?

I have a few steps to doing so.

1.  Be curious.  Aristotle once said that only gods and beasts don't have questions.  Gods don't question because they know everything.  Beasts don't ask because they're too stupid.  Well I am not a god.  So my lack of questions might point to my own stupidity.  Sometimes it is difficult to motivate curiosity in the big questions like metaphysics or epistemology.  I would start with whatever fascinates you.  I remember I once spent a few hours figuring out the science of air conditioners.  I was always fascinated by the idea of making the air colder.  I did research and I was fascinated.  This led to more questions and it whet my appetite for more learning.

2.  Start with belief.  This is not a statement about religious faith.  Socrates always sought out people because they claimed wisdom.  And he sought them out because he started in a state of credulity.  If they said they had wisdom, Socrates would begin by taking them at their word.  If someone says that they have the solution to fixing schools or the drug war or the priest shortage, start with the assumption that they have something wise to say.  If you start by assuming they are wrong, you will never fully understand their idea.

 I had a student say to me recently, "Doesn't the big bang theory disprove God?"  (I assume he was talking about the scientific idea that the universe began at a single point and time in space, not the hit CBS situation comedy that should have originally been called "4 Nerds and a Hot Chick.")  I could have responded with a simple "no," and went into a long exposition about science and theology being compatible.  Instead, I said something akin to: "That is very interesting.  How?"  He thought about it for a moment and realized he had no basis for his claim.  This brings us to our next point

3.  Ask to clarify, not to attack.  In the above example, I actually wanted to hear why he believed such a theory would disprove his faith.  When you are speaking with someone, especially on a topic of disagreement, if it is possible, do not begin by asking questions that seek to refute their point.  That comes later.  Before you can properly refute any argument, Socrates taught us that you must understand it.  The only way you can understand it is if you have the same idea in your mind as the person with whom you are speaking.

Recently a Hollywood celebrity said that opposition to abortion should also include protecting the life of the male sperm.  Her point (it would seem) was to be controversial and outrageous with vulgar images to mock those who are pro life.  Perhaps I am wrong, though.  Socrates would ask this person a few questions like: What is human life?  When does it begin?  Are all parts of the human organism human life?  If so is it always/never okay to kill that life?  Is there any difference between human life and the human person?  If so, what is it?

After this point?

4.  Find a common definition.

In the example above, Socrates would ask questions until he could restate her position in a way that she would agree with, for example, "Since no one believes that killing microscopic human cells, like sperm, is murder, then the killing of microscopic human embryo cells."  But Socrates would not stop until he had a definition that she agreed with.

I have found in the classroom and in our debates, the main source of much disagreement is the fact that we fail to properly define our terms.  For example, when debating "gay marriage," it sometimes hinges on the word "love."  But the idea in mind in both parties can be different.  One is thinking romantic attachment.  The other is thinking Godly charity.  In arguing tax policy, people often use the term "fair."  But one could mean "equality of opportunity" and another "equality of results."

In order to avoid these conflicts and find truth, a common definition should be chosen.  If we both have the same thing in mind, then we can begin to move to the next step.

5.  Test the idea.  As we stated, Socrates began with belief.  Only after he understood the idea would he begin to probe its truth.  The first thing to do is check for logical inconsistencies.  I had a student who disbelieved the existence of hell.  I asked if they believed in the existence of Heaven.  They said yes because Jesus said there was a heaven.  But I asked, "If you believe in Heaven because Jesus said so, why do you disbelieve in hell if Jesus said that existed as well?"

After that, check to see if the idea has a consequence that is ridiculous.  For example, "If there is no hell, then everyone is forced to go to heaven?  Does that mean that our free will has no meaning?  If so, doesn't that mean that love has no meaning?"

6.  Open Your Mind.  One of the great things about Socrates was that he did not have an agenda.  He really wanted someone to teach him wisdom.  If he ever found it, he would have rejoiced.  Nowadays, we mostly use arguments as weapons to bludgeon our opponents, not as tools to discover truth in others.

If I am not open to having my mind changed, then what is the point of the dialogue?  I told my students that the reason that I am Catholic is that I believe that the fullness of truth is found in the Roman Catholic Church.  If I did not believe that, I would be Catholic.  I want to be honest the way Socrates was.  I want to actively pursue truth.  I have had students leave the Church.  I then ask them, and I do so sincerely (though I don't think they believe it so), to teach me the truth they learned that pulled them out of the Church.  They must have learned some deep truth, I tell them, because rejecting Christ and His Church simply out of distaste is illogical.

I admit that changing your mind can be an unpleasant experience.  But is immensely satisfying.  And this leads us to the last step to becoming Socrates.

7.  See Lesson One.  Even after the argument ends, we should remember that we still only human and there is much more truth and wisdom to learn.  Socrates never stopped.  Socrates used every moment, even his last few moments pursuing the great mysteries.  And he did so with joy and great humor.  In fact, his last words were a joke.  He jumped into the great beyond seeking the truth on the other side.

But while we remain on this side of the undiscovered country we should imitate the great master Socrates.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Evangelizers Post: Tapping into an After Christmas Spirit

I have a new article up at

The presents have been opened.  The cards have all been sent and filed.  We laughed, we hugged, we ate roast beast.  For many of us, the decorations have already come down.  (Of course in the Grayson household, they stay up until mid-May).

One of the nice spiritual blessings of Christmas is the atmosphere of faith and charity that accompanies it.  Yes, there are a lot of issues with commercialism, Charlie Brown.  But regardless, our airwaves are carrying songs about a little town called Bethlehem and we anticipate that Silent Night.  I’m sure many of us are annoyed at how some of our brothers and sisters in the Church crowd into the services only at Christmas and Easter.  And while they should be there every Sunday, at least Christmas draws them to the Table of the Lord.

But the Christmas season is over and we have returned to Ordinary Time.  And for many of us we have already settled into our ordinary routines.  And we wait for Christmas to come again and sprinkle its magic over our lives.

This should not be the case.

We should look to the Magi from the Gospel of Matthew.  Like us, they experienced a great build-up to Christmas.  And like us, there was a lot of traveling that culminating in giving of gifts.  But what made their experience special, and what should make our experience special, is that they had a life-changing encounter with Christ.

You can read the entire thing here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

TARDIS Travels: Exploring Doctor Who Part 2 - The TV Threshold

(TV THRESHOLD = the episode after which you come to love a series and appreciate its greatness)

So, my wife and I are continuing to go through Doctor Who, and I think we hit the TV Threshold. 

Before that, I have some thoughts on what I have seen so far.

1.  Comparing Doctors.  David Tennant is leaps and bounds above Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor.  I know that this is not a unique opinion in the blogosphere, but I can say that there is good reason.  Eccleston is not a bad actor, and his Doctor had some wonderful moments.  But he played the Doctor way too alien.  His Time Lord was someone who kept pantomiming human behavior, almost like the aliens in Galaxy Quest.  Tennant's Doctor is as crazy as Eccleston's, but his emotion seems much more natural than artificial.

2.  Tone.  One of my big issues with the first season was the awkward juxtaposition of tones.  There was a lot of silly co-mingled with serious.  But the 2nd season handles it much better.  It feels more like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where the humor does not take you out of the dire situation but instead enhances it.

3.  Pop Culture.  This season has so far done a better job of integrating contemporary cultural issues in the metaphor of science fiction.  In "New Earth," it raises some contemporary issues regarding creating life to save life.  But it doesn't feel to "on the nose" so as to be awkward.

But once again, getting to the TV Threshold, it was episode four of the second season "The Girl in the Fireplace."  This was such a fantastic episode.  It was silly when it needed to be.  It was scary when it needed to be.  But most importantly, it wrenched my heart completely and utterly down to the last seconds when the entire plot finally makes sense.  This episode is still sticking with me even a week after watching it.  

After season one I was still interested in Doctor Who.

Now I am hooked.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday Best: Oscar Game 2014

photo by Alan Light


OBJECT: Get the most points!

HOW TO PLAY: Fill out a score sheet for each category with your choice (who you want to win) and your prediction (who you think WILL win).

On the night of the Oscars, give yourself a point for each correct guess in MY PREDICTIONS. If you get a prediction wrong, subtract 1 point. Give yourself 3 points each correct guess in MY CHOICE. There is no penalty for incorrect guesses for MY CHOICE.

For example:


Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
David O Russel – American Hustle
Christian Bale – American Hustle
Matthew McConnogahay – Dallas Buyers Club
Amy Adams – American Hustle
Amy Adams – American Hustle

If David O Russel wins Best Director, gain 1 point for a correct guess in MY PREDICTIONS, but no points for an incorrect MY CHOICE (total points = 1)

If Christian Bale wins Best Actor, gain 3 points, for a correct MY CHOICE, but subtract 1 point for an incorrect MY PREDICTION (total points = 2)

If Amy Adams wins Best Actress, gain 3 points for correct MY CHOICE and 1 correct MY PREDICTION. (total points =4)

You may NOT make a guess for a MY CHOICE in a category if you have not seen any of the films in the category. You may, however, make a blind guess for the MY PREDICTION section even if you have not seen any of the nominees.

Some have asked about the purpose of the point system.  The game is designed to be enjoyed by anyone who likes movies.  Some of us follow the inner politics of the movie industry, but many of us do not.  I did not want to give too much of an advantage to those who study the inside of the industry.  Also, by giving more points to the movie you WANT to win, it makes the joy at their victory greater and gives you more incentive to root for them.


Get a group of friends who love movies and the oscars and pass out the below ballot.  

Figure out a nominal prize to give out to the one with the most points.

Choose one person to be the ballot keeper.

Add up the points on Oscar night and crown a winner.

I hope you all enjoy!

Nominees for the 86th Oscars®

Actor in a Leading Role
Christian Bale in “American Hustle”
Bruce Dern in “Nebraska”
Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Chiwetel Ejiofor in “12 Years a Slave”
Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club”

Actor in a Supporting Role
Barkhad Abdi in “Captain Phillips”
Bradley Cooper in “American Hustle”
Michael Fassbender in “12 Years a Slave”
Jonah Hill in “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club”

Actress in a Leading Role 
Amy Adams in “American Hustle”
Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine”
Sandra Bullock in “Gravity”
Judi Dench in “Philomena”
Meryl Streep in “August: Osage County”

Actress in a Supporting Role
Sally Hawkins in “Blue Jasmine”
Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle”
Lupita Nyong’o in “12 Years a Slave”
Julia Roberts in “August: Osage County”
June Squibb in “Nebraska”

Animated Feature Film
The Croods” Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson
Despicable Me 2” Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri
Ernest & Celestine” Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner
Frozen” Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho
The Wind Rises” Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki

The Grandmaster” Philippe Le Sourd
Gravity” Emmanuel Lubezki
Inside Llewyn Davis” Bruno Delbonnel
Nebraska” Phedon Papamichael
Prisoners” Roger A. Deakins

Costume Design
American Hustle” Michael Wilkinson
The Grandmaster” William Chang Suk Ping
The Great Gatsby” Catherine Martin
The Invisible Woman” Michael O’Connor
12 Years a Slave” Patricia Norris

American Hustle” David O. Russell
Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón
Nebraska” Alexander Payne
12 Years a Slave” Steve McQueen
The Wolf of Wall Street” Martin Scorsese

Documentary Feature
The Act of Killing”Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
Cutie and the Boxer” Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher
Dirty Wars” Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill
The Square” Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer
20 Feet from Stardom” Nominees to be determined

Documentary Short Subject
CaveDigger” Jeffrey Karoff
Facing Fear” Jason Cohen
Karama Has No Walls” Sara Ishaq
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life” Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall” Edgar Barens

Film Editing
American Hustle” Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten
Captain Phillips” Christopher Rouse
Dallas Buyers Club” John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa
Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
12 Years a Slave” Joe Walker

Foreign Language Film
The Broken Circle Breakdown” Belgium
The Great Beauty” Italy
The Hunt” Denmark
The Missing Picture” Cambodia
Omar” Palestine

Makeup and Hairstyling
Dallas Buyers Club” Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” Stephen Prouty
The Lone Ranger” Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

Music (Original Score)
The Book Thief” John Williams
Gravity” Steven Price
Her” William Butler and Owen Pallett
Philomena” Alexandre Desplat
Saving Mr. Banks” Thomas Newman

Music (Original Song)
Alone Yet Not Alone” from “Alone Yet Not Alone”
Music by Bruce Broughton; Lyric by Dennis Spiegel
Happy” from “Despicable Me 2”
Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams
Let It Go” from “Frozen”
Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
The Moon Song” from “Her”
Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze
Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”
Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson

Best Picture
American Hustle” 
Captain Phillips” 
Dallas Buyers Club” 
12 Years a Slave”
The Wolf of Wall Street” 

Production Design 
American Hustle” Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler
Gravity” Production Design: Andy Nicholson; Set Decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard
The Great Gatsby” Production Design: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn
Her” Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena
12 Years a Slave” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Alice Baker

Short Film (Animated)
Feral” Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden
Get a Horse!” Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim
Mr. Hublot” Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares
Possessions” Shuhei Morita
Room on the Broom” Max Lang and Jan Lachauer

Short Film (Live Action)
Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)” Esteban Crespo
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)” Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras
Helium” Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson
Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)” Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari
The Voorman Problem” Mark Gill and Baldwin Li

Sound Editing
All Is Lost” Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
Captain Phillips” Oliver Tarney
Gravity” Glenn Freemantle
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Brent Burge
Lone Survivor” Wylie Stateman

Sound Mixing
Captain Phillips” Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro
Gravity” Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson
Inside Llewyn Davis” Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
Lone Survivor” Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

Visual Effects
Gravity” Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds
Iron Man 3” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick
The Lone Ranger” Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier
Star Trek Into Darkness” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Before Midnight” Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Captain Phillips” Screenplay by Billy Ray
Philomena” Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
12 Years a Slave” Screenplay by John Ridley
The Wolf of Wall Street” Screenplay by Terence Winter

Writing (Original Screenplay)
American Hustle” Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
Blue Jasmine” Written by Woody Allen
Dallas Buyers Club” Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack
Her” Written by Spike Jonze
Nebraska” Written by Bob Nelson



























American Hustle
Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
David O Russel – American Hustle
Christian Bale – American Hustle
Matthew McConoghay – Dallas Buyers Club
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Cate Blanchete – Blue Jasmine
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
American Hustle” Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
Her” Written by Spike Jonze
Descipible Me 2
The Great Gatsby
American Hustle
American Hustle
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The Moon Song – Her
The Moon Song - Her
The Act of Killing
Karma Has No Walls
Dallas Buyers Club