A Chattanoogans Guide to Summer Music Festivals

By: Carson O’Shoney

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop) –  This past weekend, the Coachella Music and Arts Festival kicked off the summer music festival season in Indio, CA. The likes of Gorillaz, Muse and Thom Yorke graced the Empire Polo fields and got music lovers excited about the upcoming festival season.

People flock to music festivals in droves for many reasons. The atmosphere of being surrounded by music lovers and having bands play all day and all night attracts many. Getting to see all the bands in one place attracts others. Junior Shahad Zarkani likes festivals because, “it’s a very chill way to enjoy music, a lot less stuffy than the concerts I usually go to.” Whatever the reason, music festivals are immensely popular are there are many different ones for fans to choose between.

While Coachella is arguably the most prominent music festival in America, it’s not on the radar of most Chattanoogans because of its far away location. For this article, we’ll be focusing on the music festivals that are closer to home (within a ten hour drive) and more realistic than the festivals out west. There are still plenty of festivals that Tennesseans can easily make it to.


We’ll start with the biggest of them all – Bonnaroo (June 10-13). Tennesseans sometimes take it for granted, but people come to Bonnaroo from all over the world. It’s one of the biggest and best music festivals out there. And Chattanoogans are lucky, this world-renown music festival takes place only an hour away in Manchester, Tenn. Bonnaroo is the music festival of choice for many Chattanoogans, largely due to this fact. “I would love to try different music festivals, but they’re just too far away,” said Zarkani. But with the consistently strong lineups Bonnaroo brings, having it be the only festival one attends in a year makes this okay  for most. This year’s lineup, while a step down from years past, still has a lot of exciting acts to offer – including Jay-Z, Tenacious D, Stevie Wonder and ousted Tonight Show host Conan O’Brien.

Metallica performing at Bonnaroo 2008

Metallica performing at Bonnaroo 2008

If you like camping, hippies and a laid back atmosphere, Bonnaroo is the festival for you. Junior Caleb See will be attending his first music festival this summer, and Bonnaroo’s reputation has preceded it. “I’m most excited about the “roo environment” that everyone keeps talking about.” Indeed, plenty of people go for the atmosphere just as much as for the music. The campsites are a great home base, and a place to relax with the company of friends in the mornings before each day of music starts. The hippies who populate Bonnaroo, love them or hate them, make it a better place. They make the audience interesting, not just the music. They also promote the Bonnaroo spirit – very laid back and free spirited. Which is the same atmosphere that runs throughout the whole festival. Between the art exhibits of Such n Such and the homemade stores throughout Centeroo to the Ferris Wheel and the air conditioned film tent – There’s much more to Bonnaroo than the music.


Bonnaroo is not for everyone, however. Chattanoogans who aren’t up for the rough four days of camping and no showers have a local alternative, that happens the same week as Bonnaroo. Chattanooga’s Riverbend Festival has been going on since 1981 and has had a host of legendary acts like James Brown, the Beach Boys and Willie Nelson. The festival stretches over nine days on five stages around the riverfront in downtown Chattanooga, and boasts over 100 bands, with a good mix of local and national touring acts. This years lineup includes Sheryl Crow, Alison Krauss, The Charlie Daniels Band and George Clinton. So if you like sleeping in your own bed every night and staying local while seeing some classic acts mixed in with some local flavor, Riverbend is the festival for you. The audience has a wide range, and the environment is a family friendly one. Riverbend is a festival that college students and their professors can enjoy equally. “My favorite part of Riverbend is the opportunity to see so many acts that were big when I was in college,” said UTC Professor Chris Dortch. “Bands like Steve Miller Band, America, Earth Wind and Fire, Z.Z. Top. Awesome!”


While Riverbend has been around for a long time and attracts a large audience, it’s not as far up the ranks as the likes of Coachella and Bonnaroo, who are both part of what festival goers call “The Big Three” of American music festivals. The third in the group is a storied franchise – Lollapalooza. It’s a bit further away from Chattanooga than the others I’ve covered, but it still attracts a large southern audience. It’s hometown since 2005 (after being a traveling festival in the 90s), Chicago, IL, is just over a nine hour drive from Chattanooga, which is a pilgrimage that many Tennesseans make every year – particularly college students. Their target audience is traditionally a bit younger than Bonnaroo and Riverbend, as they include up and coming headliners such as the Killers, Kings of Leon, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Muse and Interpol. This year’s appeal to the younger audience includes headliners Arcade Fire, The Strokes, Phoenix and Lady GaGa. But that’s not to say they don’t appeal to the older music fan as well. This year’s festival will mark the first show for the reunited Soundgarden since 1997. The atmosphere isn’t up to par with the experience you get with Bonnaroo, but the city of Chicago is just as much a part of the attraction as the music is. Lollapalooza takes place in the beautiful Grant Park in downtown, just blocks from Michigan Avenue. The crowds in the relatively long but narrow Grant Park can be a hassle, but festival founder Perry Farrell (of Jane’s Addiction) has promised to expand the festivals limits this year and open it up to allow more room for comfort.

Lollapalooza's Front Gate

Lollapalooza's Front Gate

“Some people may be turned off by the corporate sponsorships {at Lollapalooza}, but it’s consistently a lot of fun,” said Junior Brad Petraline. “Plus, seeing the Chicago skyline in the background of every show enhances the concerts a lot.” Lollapalooza is entrenched in the city – it recently signed a contract with the Chicago Parks District to extend their relationship until at least 2018. But due to city ordinances, the festival must end by 10 p.m. every night. Because of this, many of the bands who play the fest do aftershows at various venues throughout the city – adding to the connection the festival has with the city of Chicago. So if you like to get to sleep at a decent hour and like visiting and staying in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the U.S., Lollapalooza is the festival for you.


Chicago’s other major music festival is a hipster’s dream. The Pitchfork Music Festival happens in Chicago’s Union Park, and boasts a consistently great, outside-of the-mainstream lineup. This year’s lineup includes the newly reunited Pavement, Modest Mouse, LCD Soundsystem, OutKast’s Big Boi, Broken Social Scene and more. If your musical tastes are more adventurous than the average music listener, Pitchfork is the festival for you.

For those Chattanoogans who don’t want to travel very far for their music festivals, there is another option in the state of Tennessee. Memphis in May‘s Beale Street Music Festival has been invading the streets of Memphis since the turn of the decade in 2000. The festival boasts a very eclectic lineup year after year, mixing legends like Aretha Franklin, Buddy Guy, Al Green and B.B. King with modern radio rock staples Three Days Grace, Staind, Hinder, Korn and Fall Out Boy, while throwing in high profile hip-hop acts like Snoop Dogg, Three 6 Mafia, The Roots and Fergie with college hipster approved bands like the Flaming Lips, Cat Power, Lou Reed, The Stooges, Band of Horses and Elvis Costello. The festival takes place the first weekend of May in the city’s Tom Lee Park, on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River. Unfortunately, the past five years it has rained the weekend of the festival and creates a muddy mess, but that’s just an unlucky streak. If your musical tastes are very wide ranging, Beale Street may be for you. This year’s offerings include Widespread Panic, The Flaming Lips, Goo Goo Dolls, Alice in Chains and Earth, Wind and Fire.

This year saw the creation of a new music festival that happens not too far from Chattanooga – Gulf Shores, Alabama’s Hangout Music Festival. The only major music festival that currently happens on a beach, the debut lineup includes the likes of the Flaming Lips, John Legend, Ben Harper & Relentless 7 and the Black Crowes. If you’re a beach person, this is definitely the festival for you. Even if the lineup isn’t as strong as some, being able to experience the concerts while also being able to take a dip in the ocean makes for a fun atmosphere.

Another new music festival making it’s debut this year is the LouFest in St. Louis. It’s a smaller-scaled festival than most summer happenings, but still boasts a solid lineup. Topping the lineup for Loufest are She & Him, Broken Social Scene, Wilco’s lead singer Jeff Tweedy, and Built to Spill. The first year fest happens in Forest Park’s Central Field towards the end of festival season, August 28-29. If you like smaller crowds and a less overwhelming festival, LouFest is the one for you.

From one Lou to another, Louisville, KY has a pair of music festivals of its own, though they’re very different. The brand-new HullabaLOU Music Festival takes place in the legendary racetrack Churchill Downs, and caters to a more mainstream audience. Acts include Dave Matthews Band, Bon Jovi, Kenny Chesney, Steve Miller Band, Dierks Bentley and the Zac Brown Band. If you’re a sucker for arena-sized rock & country, this is the festival for you. Louisville’s other summer offering, Forecastle, caters to a much smaller audience, and features the likes of the Flaming Lips, Widespread Panic, Spoon and Drive-By Truckers. It also fashions itself as an art and activism music festival – so if you’re culturally and politically minded, this is the music festival for you.

Hopefully this article has helped you on your quest to find the music festival that suits you best. Be sure to drink lots of water, wear lots of sunblock, and have a happy festival season!

March Madness Starts Off With a Bang

By: Carson O’Shoney

(UTC/The Loop)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — While Chattanoogans didn’t have a team to cheer for after the UTC Mocs missed the cut, college basketball fans were left completely satisfied with the opening weekend of the 2010 NCAA Tournament. The Mocs were part of the madness last year after earning the #16 seed in the West, but their big dance ended shortly after the #1 seed UConn knocked them out in the first round. This time around, the only University of Tennessee school in the tournament is the main one in Knoxville.

Scotty Hopson celebrates a dunk against Ohio[/caption]

Fans of the Volunteers have had plenty to cheer about this tourney. The #6 seeded Vols handled their first round opponent, San Diego State, who were a popular upset pick. Earlier in the day, they were given an unexpected gift — the #14 seed Ohio pulled off an improbable upset over the #3 seed Georgetown. Two days later, the Vols took care of the Ohio Bobcats and easily entered the Sweet Sixteen, where they’ll take on the #2 seed Ohio State. “They got lucky getting to play Ohio,” said UTC student Roland Chapman. “I hope they go further.” Xan Gwaltney added, “I can definitely see them going to the final four.”

Check out the 2010 NCAA Tournament Bracket here.

Ohio over Georgetown wasn’t the only upset in the first couple rounds — there were upsets left and right this weekend. #10 seed St. Mary’s took down popular final four team Villanova in the second round. Ivy League school Cornell, a #12 seed, got it’s first two tournament wins ever this weekend as they took down #5 Temple and #4 Wisconsin on their way to the Sweet 16. #11 Washington easily moved past #6 Marquette and #3 New Mexico. Even the mighty Kansas, who was the runaway favorite to win the National Championship, fell to up and coming Northern Iowa thanks in large part to the clutch shooting of guard Ali Farokhmanesh and his dagger of a three with just over 30 seconds left.

Jordan Eglseder

Jordan Eglseder

Even aside from the upsets, the first two rounds were exciting due to the amount of games that were decided at the buzzer, by a small margin, and in overtime. By the end of the day there had been more games go into overtime than the entire tournament last season. The very first game of the tournament, Florida vs BYU, went into two overtimes. Murray St. knocked off the #4 seed Vanderbilt by knocking down a last second three pointer. The end of the Maryland vs Michigan St game had three lead changes in the final 20 seconds, ending with a game winning three by Korie Lucious. The list goes on and on.

Check out all of UTC student Xan Gwaltney’s thoughts on the first two rounds here:

All in all, this was a hell of a way to start a tournament. And if the next rounds are anything like these, basketball fans are in for a huge treat.

Colorado High School Gunman Revealed

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP/UTC) — A man accused of wounding two middle school students in a community still haunted by the Columbine massacre often talked to himself and imaginary friends — and that talk recently turned to yelling, his father said.

Bruco Strong Eagle Eastwood, 32, would unplug the refrigerator and not eat macaroni and cheese because they were too loud, War Eagle Eastwood said. Though the younger Eastwood was struggling with bills and getting his high school equivalency degree, his father said he couldn’t pinpoint anything that would lead his son to open fire Tuesday at Deer Creek Middle School.

“It would be nice to find somebody or something to blame it on, but you can’t,” War Eagle Eastwood said Wednesday at his ranch in Hudson, about 55 miles northeast of the school.

“He has problems, but I never thought he’d go to the extent to hurt somebody,” Eastwood said. “You can say you’re sorry, but you can’t replace the fear and hurt he’s put in innocent people. He’s put a hole inside of me.”

Investigators were reviewing Bruco Eastwood’s journals as they tried to figure out why the unemployed ranch hand allegedly showed up at his old school and started firing at students in the parking lot before being tackled by a math teacher.

The teacher, David Benke, was hailed as a hero. And officials said his response was further proof that the Littleton-area community had learned the lessons of Columbine, when law enforcement was criticized for not moving quickly enough in the 1999 incident in which two teenagers killed 12 students and a teacher before killing themselves.

Still, there was growing evidence the Deer Creek Middle School may have missed a chance to head off the attack.

Investigators said Eastwood entered the school earlier in the day, indicated he was a former student and chatted with teachers, apparently without drawing much suspicion.

Later he went outside and opened fire with his father’s bolt-action hunting rifle.

Sheriff’s department spokeswoman Jacki Kelley said Eastwood left the building without being asked to do so. She said a school security officer was not at Deer Creek at the time. The officer also has duties at another school, but it hasn’t been determined where he was when the shootings happened, Kelley said.

Jefferson County schools Superintendent Cindy Stevenson said there is a sign-in sheet that requires visitors to state their name and the purpose of their visit. She said school officials did not have access to the sheet because the school was closed as a crime scene.

Eastwood was jailed on $1 million bail on suspicion of attempted murder.

Residents were stunned by the thought of a gunman opening fire at a school less than three miles from Columbine High, the site of the nation’s deadliest high school shooting. Parents rushed to the middle school, many unnerved by the sight of youngsters running for their lives just like on that day in 1999.

“We thought all of that was behind us,” resident Betty Makr said.

Benke, a 57-year-old teacher and father of three, said he heard one shot and saw the gunman squeeze off a second round before he tackled the man and subdued him with another teacher.

Benke said he told the gunman: “Look, bud, I’m 6-5. … You’re not going anywhere, so let’s kind of relax till the sheriff’s people get here.”

Schools in Jefferson County have gone through extensive emergency drills since the Columbine tragedy, and Benke said he always thought about what he would do if a shooting broke out. “I said, ‘I hope that I’m capable of doing something about it,'” he recalled.

At a news conference, Benke choked up when he said it bothered him that he didn’t stop the gunman before he shot the second student.

Student Reagan Webber was treated at a hospital and released. The mother of the other victim, Matt Thieu, said he was doing well at a hospital.

A Facebook page called “Dr. David Benke is a Hero!!!!” quickly grew to more than 26,000 members, and his actions were hailed on the floor of the Colorado Legislature.

“Sometimes that’s just what we need. We need someone to be a hero for us,” said state Sen. Mike Kopp of Littleton, who lives in Benke’s neighborhood.

Authorities acknowledged emergency plans don’t call for teachers to pounce on gunmen.

Stevenson said Deer Creek’s security precautions include using a button in a secretary’s office that automatically locks down the school if there is a shooting. If something happens inside, teachers are to lock doors, get students out of hallways, keep them quiet so as not to tip off any gunmen and stay out of the line of sight, she said. All of that was done Tuesday, Stevenson said.

Eastwood has an arrest record in Colorado dating back to 1996 on suspicion of menacing, assault, domestic violence and driving under the influence.

Carla Wrisk, a cashier at the Barn Store gas station-convenience store in Hudson, said Eastwood would bring change to buy cigarettes but was often short 20 or 30 cents, and she would make up the difference. He would grab a newspaper, look at the sports page and mumble to himself. “Just a very odd, strange guy,” she said.

The son of an Apache father and Irish mother, Bruco Eastwood had many friends as a child and liked basketball and football, his father said.

He lived with his mother as a teen. Five years ago, after he lost a job at a King Soopers grocery, he took his father’s offer of a place to stay and work feeding horses on the ranch.

Shelves filling a wall of Bruco’s basement bedroom hold DVDs, videotapes, CDs, magazines, three Denver Broncos baseball hats, a Broncos team photo, a few GI Joe action figures in original packaging. A blank job application for a movie theater was on a mattress on the floor. A clock shaped like the cartoon character Garfield’s head sat on a dresser.

War Eagle Eastwood said his son would bristle when asked what was wrong. He said his son had tried to seek medical help but couldn’t pay. War Eagle Eastwood does not have health insurance either.

War Eagle said he was speaking out in hopes of helping other families and changing the system “so you don’t have to be a rich person to get help.”

“Sleeping is not an easy thing to do,” he said. “This is hard. No matter what, they’re always your kid.”

Stony Creek Elementary School, where rattled parents picked up their children after the shooting, appeared to be back to normal Thursday. There were no visible police near the school, and signs that had gone up a day before were taken down.

Movie Review: Shutter Island

By: Carson O’Shoney

(UTC/The Loop)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — When reviewing any Martin Scorsese picture, one has to keep in mind that his films are held to a much higher standard than most. Scorsese is one of the most respected and influential directors of our generation, and his name is perpetually near the top of critic’s “Best Directors of All-Time” lists. Even the worst Scorsese picture is better than 98% of the Hollywood trash out there. His new film Shutter Island is no exception.

Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island

Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island

Shutter Island is based off the 2003 novel of the same name, written by Dennis Lehane. Junior Corey Coleman read the book and saw the movie opening weekend. “I thought the film stayed very true to the source material,” he said. “Very little was changed and that which was was not extremely key to the original story.”

The film begins with the two main characters, U.S. Marshals Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule (played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, respectively), traveling on a water ferry to investigate a missing patient at Ashecliffe Hosptial for the Criminally Insane on Shutter Island. Scorsese establishes one of the main themes of the film early, water. The opening shots show Daniels getting seasick, and describing how he can’t handle all the water. Water becomes increasingly prominent and important as the film goes on. Scorsese is a master of his craft, and builds upon this and other themes at a perfect pace.

DiCaprio and Ruffalo arrive on the island

DiCaprio and Ruffalo arrive on the island

What starts out as a period piece mystery film quickly turns into a psychological thriller. It isn’t your typical Scorsese, but he proves once again that he’s on the top of his game regardless of the genre. Until the big reveal towards the end of the movie, he never lets the viewer in on what’s really happening, offering only subtle hints that could only be picked up on repeat viewings.

The cast that Scorsese assembled for Shutter Island is top notch, and he gets the best out of all of his actors. Lead performances by DiCaprio and Ruffalo are supported by the likes of Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, and Emily Mortimer. Even actors that are only in the film for one scene make the most of their time on screen. Patricia Clarkson and Jackie Earle Haley turn in powerful and memorable performances, despite only being on screen for a few minutes each.


Leonardo DiCaprio tries to solve the mystery

Scorsese keeps the suspense high throughout the entire movie while never resorting to cheap scare tactics. Even in scenes that have no business being tense, the score makes the viewer uncomfortable. That’s exactly where Scorsese wants his viewer to be, and it makes for a hell of a movie-going experience that keeps you guessing until the last minute.

Overall, Scorsese’s latest picture does not disappoint. It should thrill audiences that are new to the story. And while novel-based movies usually fail to live up to the expectations of fans of the source material, Shutter Island should satisfy that demographic as well. “I feel that Scorsese did an excellent job translating it to the big screen,” said Corey Coleman. “He remained loyal to the source material while still giving the movie his signature style. I read the book and loved the movie, which is a rare thing for me.”

In Depth Look at the 2010 Oscar Nominations

By: Carson O’Shoney
(UTC/The Loop)
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Well, the Oscar nominations are out, and there are a few surprises. Everyone knew there would be big nominations for the likes of Avatar and The Hurt Locker, but with the best picture field expanded to ten, a few unlikely players snuck in the race. This article will guide you through the major nominees and help you win the pool at your favorite Oscar night party.


Anne Hathaway and Academy President Tom Sherak announce the 2010 nominations

The Nominees:

  • Avatar
  • The Blind Side
  • District 9
  • An Education
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Precious
  • A Serious Man
  • Up
  • Up in the Air

In my last article, I correctly guessed eight out of the ten nominees. I guessed wrong about Invictus and Nine, and I wasn’t the only one. Many experts were surprised to see both left off the list. The two surprises were The Blind Side and District 9. The former is a family-friendly, feel-good sports movie while the latter is a low-budget science fiction movie. Neither genre is an Oscar favorite. While the Blind Side was a hit with audiences, it’s not the type of movie that usually receives a best picture nomination, especially considering that it only received one other nomination (for Sandra Bullock).  

District 9 was the underground hit of the year, and was considered a dark horse contender for best picture. However, the Academy’s history with science fiction is not a good one. This is the first year since 1982 that a science fiction film has been nominated for best picture (E.T.). District 9 was considered even less likely thanks to the guaranteed nomination of another sci-fi, Avatar. However, it made it in and we now have two sci-fi noms in the same year for the first time ever.



The Hurt Locker


The Hurt Locker. The intense Iraq war drama has the right mix of style and substance; its great story supplemented by solid performances and perfectly captured by director Katheryn Bigelow. There is almost an even split among experts as to who will take home the final award. I believe The Hurt Locker is the most deserving, but the Academy doesn’t always get everything right.


Avatar. The last time James Cameron came around with a new movie chocked full of groundbreaking technology and stunning visuals it won 11 Oscars (1997’s Titanic). This time around, Avatar has no acting nominations, which could hurt its chances, but something tells me the Academy will get caught up in the fresh and exciting technology and give Cameron his second Best Picutre. I’d love to be proven wrong.

The Nominees:

  • Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
  • George Clooney, Up in the Air
  • Colin Firth, A Single Man
  • Morgan Freeman, Invictus
  • Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

No surprises here, each of these were favored to receive a nomination for best actor. The best storyline may be from relative unknown Jeremy Renner. He’s been in movies and television for years now, but has never had a high profile gig like this one. He’s been thrust into the spotlight with his excellent performance in the Hurt Locker.



Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart


Jeff Bridges. He’s been receiving praise left and right for his performance as a down on his luck country singer named Bad Blake in the movie Crazy Heart. On top of his great acting, he gets to show off his vocal chops, too.

Jeff Bridges. Sometimes the Academy does get it right. He’s long overdue for an Oscar, and with his role as Bad, he’ll finally get it. After he won at the Golden Globes, he became the heavy favorite for the Oscars.

The Nominees:

  • Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
  • Helen Mirren, The Last Station
  • Carey Mulligan, An Education
  • Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
  • Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

No real shockers here, either. However, Helen Mirren is a bit surprising for the very seldom-seen The Last Station. I personally disagree with Sandra Bullock’s nomination, though her win at the Golden Globes made a nomination inevitable.



Gabourey Sidibe in Precious


Gabourey Sidibe. She came out of nowhere to give a powerful performance in her first acting job. She is an upbeat and happy person who is the polar opposite of her role as the titular Precious, a pregnant 16-year-old living in the Bronx who is abused by her mother and raped by her father.

Meryl Streep or Sandra Bullock. The victory over Streep at the Golden Globes gives Bullock the slight edge here, but the Academy loves Streep, who has been nominated for more acting Oscars than anyone else in the Academy’s history. This race is the closest of all the acting categories, as Bullock’s win at the Globes was an upset many people think will be corrected at the Oscars.

The Nominees:

  • Matt Damon, Invictus
  • Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
  • Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
  • Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
  • Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Another category with not many surprises. Christoph Waltz came out of nowhere to sweep everything so far, and is expected to do the same at the Oscars.



Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds

Christoph Waltz. His tour-de-force performance as Col. Hans “The Jew Hunter” Landa has won over fans and critics alike. He has won most of the major acting awards so far, including the Golden Globe, for being evil in four languages.

Christoph Waltz. His already legendary performance has cemented his place in Oscar history. Woody Harrelson provides his biggest competition, but even he is a big long shot.

The Nominees:

  • Penélope Cruz, Nine
  • Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
  • Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
  • Mo’Nique, Precious

The Best Supporting Actress category is similar to the Best Supporting Actors, one nominee came out of nowhere and seems like a lock to win the statue. Although already famous as a comedian, Mo’Nique took a sharp turn as the abusive mother in Precious.



Mo'Nique in Precious


Mo’Nique. Her performance as the abusive mother in Precious was as powerful as it was unexpected. I doubt any experts expected the star of Phat Girlz (iMDB rating 2.2) to ever be nominated for an Oscar, let alone be a runaway favorite.

Mo’Nique. Her Golden Globe win made her a lock for this year’s best supporting actress statue. Her closest competitors cancel each other out, as they both star in the movie Up in the Air.

The Nominees:

  • Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
  • James Cameron, Avatar
  • Lee Daniels, Precious
  • Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
  • Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

These five have been the favorites since award season started, but this category really comes down to a battle between ex-spouses. James Cameron vs. his ex-wife Katheryn Bigelow. Tarantino has a chance to leap frog them both and win his first Best Director Oscar, but the majority of the focus has been on Cameron and Bigelow.


James Cameron and Katheryn Bigelow


Katheryn Bigelow. She is already only the third woman to be nominated for the Oscar, but she would become the first female director to ever win the award, should she go on to win. Her film has received the best reviews of the year, thanks largely to her directing. She made the tension palpable, and that’s why she’s a leading contender for the award this year.

James Cameron. To give credit where credit is due, James Cameron has brought about some major new technology to the industry, and may have forever changed the way movies are made. He deserves recognition for everything that he has brought to the table with his latest epic, Avatar. However, in my eyes he does not deserve the best director statue. He didn’t get great performances out of his actors (as recognized by there being no nominations for actors on Avatar), but the Academy will still bestow him with another Best Director award simply because of everything else.

Those are my predictions for the major categories at this year’s Academy Awards. Tune in to ABC on March 7th at 8pm Eastern to watch the ceremony live. For a full list of nominations and more information on each movie, click here.

White House Mocks Sarah Palin from Podium


By: Carson O’Shoney

WASHINGTON (AP/UTC) — Even the White House’s top spokesman is getting in on the act of mocking former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin for looking to talking points written on her palm during a speech to “tea party” activists.

Robert Gibbs showed the words “hope” and “change” on his hand as he started his daily briefing with reporters on Tuesday.

Many in the room, where President Barack Obama had spoken just moments before about the need for bipartisanship, groaned at the political shot.

Palin spoke Saturday in Nashville and photographs and video show she had “energy,” ”tax” and “lift American spirits” on her hand. During one question, she looked down at the palm of her hand for a cue.

In her speech she mocked Obama’s use of teleprompters.



The Top Ten Oscar Contenders for Best Picture

By: Carson O’Shoney

(UTC/The Loop)

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — This year’s Oscar race is wide open, in a few different ways. First of all, the films this year as a whole are not as strong as previous years. There’s no Slumdog Millionaire or No Country For Old Men. No film this year sticks out as a sure-fire bet to win best picture.

The Academy also decided to expand the field of best picture nominees to ten for the first time since 1943. There have only been five nominees for best picture every year since then.

The Academy’s president, Sidney Ganis, hinted that the snubbing of The Dark Knight last year might have influenced their decision. The film was a critical and box office smash, and left many upset when it was left off the ballot last year. Now that the nomination field has been expanded to ten, it could pave the way for some more popular movies to garner a nomination and increase public interest in the televised broadcast of the Oscars.

Ganis said “Our partners at ABC are very, very happy.” While some believe this may dilute the prestige of achieving a best picture nomination, Ganis believes it will be a good thing for the Oscars.  “We’ll be casting our net wide,” he said.

Now that we know there will be ten nominees in a somewhat weak year, the question then becomes, “Who gets the nominations?” There is a wide-open field this year, but we’ll discuss the ten films that have the best chance of earning a nomination.

Hurt Locker

1. The Hurt Locker – Kathryn Bigelow’s intense Iraq war drama is a guarantee for at least a nomination, and is one of the strongest contenders to win the top prize.  It was among the best-reviewed movies of the year and is receiving high praise for the direction, gripping story, and the performance of lead actor Jeremy Renner.

Up in the Air

2. Up In The Air – With one best picture nomination under his belt (2007’s Juno), director Jason Reitman returns with a dramedy that has been receiving a lot of best picture buzz since it’s release in December. With a wonderfully adapted script and great performances by George Clooney and the rest of the cast, this is another lock for a nomination.


3. Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire – There may not be a more devastating movie in the field this year than this story of an abused 16-year-old girl living in Harlem. After premiering to great acclaim at Sundance and Cannes film festivals, Oprah and Tyler Perry jumped on board to help it reach a broader audience, only adding to its already strong buzz. Great and powerful performances come from unlikely places in this film, such as the comedian Mo’Nique, singer Mariah Carey and newcomer Gabourey Sibide.

Inglourious Basterds

4. Inglourious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino’s alternate-reality WWII film will most likely prove to be too violent and over-the-top for the Oscar voters to select it as best picture, but with it’s great script and masterful performance by Christoph Waltz (a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actor), the Academy won’t ignore it completely. They should award Tarantino with nominations for best script, best director and best picture.


5. Avatar – The last time director James Cameron made a feature film, it won 11 Oscars (1997’s Titanic). And after smashing box office records left and right and winning the Golden Globe for best picture, it’s hard to imagine his new film Avatar not getting a nomination for best picture. It remains to be seen, however, if the voters of the Academy will get caught up in the film’s groundbreaking technology and visuals like the Hollywood Foreign Press did with the Golden Globes or if they’ll realize the criticism that most people have of the movie, that the visuals are the only decent part of the film.

These top five represent the films that I feel are a lock for a nomination. The rest is just speculation.


6. Nine – The only musical in contention this year is directed by Rob Marshall, who won best picture with another musical, 2002’s Chicago. The Academy loves him, and this time he’s backed by a cast that features six Academy Award winners. However, the reviews haven’t been as strong as they were for Chicago, and the buzz has died down since the films release. Regardless, it should still earn a nomination even if only by pedigree alone.


7. Up – Pixar’s latest computer animated masterpiece is basically a lock for the best animated feature Oscar, but the studio also submitted the film to be in competition for best picture. The last and only animated feature to be nominated for best picture was Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in 1991, so it’s no guarantee that the Academy will nominate it, especially while there is still a separate category for animated films. However, with the expanded field this year, Up has the best chance of any animated picture in recent years of garnering a nomination.


8. Invictus – This is another film that has a shot at a nomination on pedigree alone. Director Clint Eastwood is an Academy favorite, and he’s directing Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. The story is part biopic and part sports movie, which plays both into and out of the Academy’s favor. Regardless, under the direction of Clint Eastwood and the solid performances by the cast, this film should be a best picture nominee.


9. An Education – This year’s “little film that could”, An Education picked up steam after a strong showing at the Sundance Film Festival. The coming-of-age drama features strong performances by Carey Mulligan, Peter Saarsgaard, and Alfred Molina, and the Oscars like to have one small indie coming-of-age film. Look for this film to sneak into the expanded field.


10. A Serious Man – The Cohen Brothers’ latest dark comedy has no recognizable actors, but still has a shot at a nomination due to the strong script and solid performances. It doesn’t hurt that it was directed by the Cohen Brothers, who won best picture and best director at the Oscars two years ago.

Other Possible Dark Horse Candidates:

The Lovely Bones – Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the celebrated novel.

A Single Man – Tom Ford’s directorial debut about a gay professor in the 60’s.

(500) Days of Summer – Could be this year’s Juno, a contender with indie cred.

District 9 – Small budget Sci-Fi thriller that exceeded box office expectations and won over critics.

While the field is wide open this year, I believe we’ll see these ten contenders duke it out for best picture at the Oscars this year, which will be televised live on ABC on Sunday, March 7th at 8pm ET. The nominations will be announced Tuesday, Feb. 2nd at 8:30am ET.

NBC’s Prime-Time Jay Leno Experiment Ending, Late Night Lineup Could Be Shuffling

By: Carson O’Shoney

PASADENA, Calif. (UTC/AP) — NBC said Sunday it decided to pull the plug on the Jay Leno experiment when some affiliate stations considered dropping the nightly prime-time show, and the network has a new plan for it’s weekday late night lineup.

NBC Universal Television Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gaspin said that “The Jay Leno Show” at 10 p.m. EST will end with the Feb. 12 beginning of the Winter Olympics, which will air in the prime-time hours, including Leno’s slot.

NBC wants to begin airing Leno’s show at 11:35 p.m. after the Olympics end Feb. 28, but as a half-hour show, Gaspin said.

The plan calls for O’Brien to retain his job with “Tonight” but at the later hour of 12:05 a.m. EST, Gaspin said. Also in the mix is Jimmy Fallon and his “Late Night.” Fallon’s show would be pushed a half-hour later as well, to 1:05 a.m. EST.

“My goal is to keep Jay, Conan and Jimmy as our late-night lineup,” Gaspin said, adding later that they “have the weekend to think about it” and discussions with them will resume Monday.

Conan O’Brien released a statement today stating that he has no intentions of being a part of damaging “the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting,” and he “has no idea what happens next.”