Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscar Time: It's On!

I just finished making my picks for this year's Academy Awards pool.  *rubbing hands together in anticipation of tonight's event*

One of my husband's former co-workers has been running this pool for several years, and this year she's gotten fancy enough to e-mail PDF ballots to everyone so we can fill them out and return our picks via e-mail.  The pool is for bragging rights alone, but I still feel pressure.  Even though I'm the only writer in the group, last year I whiffed the WRITING awards.  I know.  Humiliating!  

Despite making bad picks in the screenplay categories in 2010, I ended up second place, and I won it all in 2007.  The key is to make well-educated picks in the categories that don't get as much attention, such as live action short film, animated short film, sound editing, and art direction. If you're flailing in your own pool, feel free to copy my picks.  I won't tell.

  Best Picture:  The King's Speech 
  Best Director: Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
NOTE:  The buzz is that David Fincher will receive it for The Social Network, but I'm going with Hooper.
  Best Actor:  Colin Firth, The King's Speech
NOTE:  Closest thing to a lock there is tonight.  If you haven't seen this movie, go.
  Best Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
  Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter
  Best Supporting Actress: Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
NOTE:  Melissa Leo is the favorite and will probably win for her work in The Fighter.  But I'm picking Steinfeld.  Copycats, make a note of it.
  Best Animated Feature Film:  Toy Story 3
  Best Foreign Film: Incendies, Canada
  Best Original Screenplay: The King's Speech, by David Seidler
NOTE:  Even though I'm a writer and am usually quick to make my picks for the writing categories, this one gave me a lot of angst.  Inception could win this.  Still, I'm going with The King's Speech.
AND ANOTHER NOTE:  If you're a fan of The King's Speech and want some good behind-the-scenes info, ABC News did an interesting story on Seidler and his own stutter.  You can read it by clicking here.  And writers, if you'd like to see an innovative plot breakdown for the movie, check out one of my favorite writer's websites, Save The Cat.  The website also has a great analysis of another Best Picture contender, Winter's Bone.
  Best Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network, by Aaron Sorkin
NOTE:  For purposes of winning your pool, this is one of the safest picks of the night. Sorkin may also give one of the most interesting acceptance speeches of the night (Christian Bale would be his main competition in the "interesting speech" category, if there were one.)
  Best Art Direction: Alice in Wonderland
  Best Costume Design: The King's Speech
  Best Original Song: If I Rise, 127 Hours
  Best Original Score: The Social Network, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
  Best Documentary: Inside Job
NOTE:  Most seem to think that Exit Through The Gift Shop will win, with Restrepo another likely winner.  If you copy my picks, be warned.
  Best Film Editing: The Social Network
  Best Cinematography: True Grit
  Best Makeup: The Wolfman
NOTE:   I think this is another safe bet for Oscar pools
  Best Sound Editing: Inception
  Best Sound Mixing: Inception
  Best Visual Effects: Inception
  Best Documentary (Short Subject): Poster Girl
  Best Visual Short Film (Animated): Day & Night
  Best Short Film (Live Action): Na Wewe

If we don't have guests (which we often do), I usually catch the awards show arrivals from my perch on the elliptical machine.  Watching super-fit Giuliana Rancic interview actresses in cut-to-there gowns drives me to work out harder (a peek at George Clooney in his tux doesn't hurt, either.)  Then I manage a quickie shower as the last arrivals head into the Kodak Theater before I hit the sofa to watch the main event.

I promise to post my best and worst fashion picks later this week.  I predict an incredible showing by Hailee Steinfeld, whom I LOVED in True Grit, and a fun, multicolored gown on Helena Bonham Carter, who wore two different-colored shoes to the Golden Globes.  Maybe she'll go for a peacock-type look this time?  Whatever it is, it won't be boring.  Melissa Leo, host Anne Hathaway, and Michelle Williams are likely to have great gowns, too.  They've made good style choices in the past.  The real question (for me) is whether Penelope Cruz will come to support hubby Javier Bardem, who's nominated for Best Actor, and if so, how good she'll look in a gown as a brand new mom.  My guess is that she'll look phenomenal.  She's perpetually one of picks for best dressed.

What do you think?  Who will take home Oscar?  And what are your fashion predictions?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Book Report Time

You probably came across today's blog because you did a Google search using the term "Book Report" and then either "Niki Burnham" or the title of one of my books.  Since I can only assume you typed in those phrases because you're actually writing a book report, I hope you find today's blog useful.

I decided to write about book reports because I can pretty much guess what time of year it is by the subject lines that pop into my e-mail inbox.  If I'm getting e-mails with headers such as, "Help! Book Report on YOU!" or "Royally Jacked Questions" or "Sticky Fingers--Very Important!" I know that it's the week before Thanksgiving (when many book reports seem to be due), one of the last two weeks in February (ditto) or the week before April break.  Such is the cycle of the school year and projects.

While I am truly flattered that you chose one of my books for a report (I'm going to assume you chose it, because if you were assigned the book and didn't want to read it, I don't want to know), and I am glad you took the time to find my website and e-mail me, it's not the best way for you to get information for a book report. 

First off, book reports usually have a due date.  My inbox doesn't, so when I'm traveling or on deadline, it's easy for me to get a few weeks behind on reading and responding to e-mail.  By the time I see your e-mail, it's quite possible your deadline will be long past.  Second, if I answer one person's book report questions I'd feel obliged to answer them all, and I don't have time to write, eat, AND answer book report questions.  (I'll admit it, it's mostly because I like to eat.)  Finally, there are a lot of questions I can't answer, even if I want to answer them.  "What's the theme of Goddess Games?" is a question only you, as a reader, can answer.  And I couldn't begin to tell you about symbolism.  Again, these are for the reader to interpret.

That being said, I don't want to leave you frustrated!  There are a few things you can do to help with your reports:
   1)  If you're writing about a specific book, go the main page of my website and click on the link for that book.  There is an excerpt (which you should have already read, since you have the book and read the whole thing) and a section called Behind The Scenes.  The Behind The Scenes might be helpful to you. 
   2)  You can go to the About Niki page of the website to find out more about me.  Anything that you see there is fine to use in your report.  There is more biographical info on the Press Kit page, but that requires downloading a PDF file.
   3)  There is a page on the site called FAQ with answers to common questions about each book, about my writing process, and about where I get my ideas. 
   4)  You can always search this blog by clicking on the keywords at the bottom of posts.  That will bring up all the other posts on that topic.  To help you, I put the titles of all my books in the keywords at the end of this post.  Click the one you want, and it will bring up every blog about that book.

Hope you find that helpful!  Again, as much as I wish I could explain themes and motifs, if I took the time to answer every e-mail I receive about book reports, it would mean that no more books of mine would be published, because I wouldn't have the time I need to write them and would miss my own deadlines.  Which, in turn, means I would not eat.  (Did I mention that I like to eat?)  I work hard to meet or beat my deadlines, just as I know you work hard to turn in your book reports when they're due.

However, if you think this is rather uncool of me and that an author should simply write your book report for you (because admit it, some of you who have e-mailed me in the past were hoping for this!)  I urge you to check out author Pete Hautman's website.  He's the author of several phenomenal books you may have already read, such as Godless, Blank Confession, and Hole In The Sky.  Pete has an entire page of book reports ready to go, right here.  I think you'll get a better grade if you follow my suggestions, rather than going for Pete Hautman's reports, but that's your call.  Good luck!