Thursday, October 30, 2014

St. Vincent (2014)

Film: St. Vincent (2014)
Stars: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Jaeden Lieberher, Naomi Watts, Chris O'Dowd, Terrence Howard
Director: Theodore Melfi
Oscar History: There's a decent chance Murray lands a Globe nod, but no-the Best Actor race is too crowded this year for Murray to score.
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

Bill Murray is one of those celebrities I frequently find myself just at my saturation point regarding.  There are certain celebrities that I think are wildly overrated (Hugh Jackman, Jamie Foxx...I could list people like the Kardashians and the Real Housewives, but that's like the Free Space in Bingo) and then there are actors I think are wildly underrated (Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney, most actresses over the age of forty in Hollywood).  Murray is right at the saturation point.  Don't get me wrong-he's a terrific actor.  I am already dreading the Penn/Depp/Murray OVP decision of 2003 (and I haven't even seen Ben Kingsley yet!), and Broken Flowers has that devastatingly heartbreaking scene toward the end of the picture (if you haven't seen it yet, please make the point to), but like Steve Martin and Matthew McConaughey, the internet has put him in a class that approaches godlike status, and I just can't get there with him.  Too few films that deserve the kudos, too prickly of a personality outside of his work to truly appreciate him in that regard, and clearly stuck on himself quite a bit (though admittedly this is true of most actors).  That being said, I went into St. Vincent fairly charmed by the trailers and loving both Murray's part (perfect casting!) and the supporting crew, and had an open mind.

(Spoilers Ahead) Unfortunately for me, that open mind wasn't truly necessary.  This isn't the sort of film that really requires you to stretch, and aside from a couple of interesting flourishes, isn't the sort of film that required the screenwriters to use much muscle either.  The film is about Vincent MacKenna (Murray) a man who spends most of his days living in debt, switching his time between a prostitute named Daka (Watts) and nights in a bar.  All-in-all, he's the sort of down-on-his-luck curmudgeon that we've gotten used to every actor of a certain age playing (seriously-name me a famous actor over seventy that hasn't played this role in the past twenty years).  However, after a fateful day where a moving van runs into his car, he meets a newly-single mom named Maggie (McCarthy) and her precocious son Oliver (Lieberher), and suddenly becomes an unlikely friend for Oliver.

Watching the trailers for this film, I figured there must be something unique about the movie that I was missing.  Murray, notoriously prickly and usually only taking this style of film when he's decided he wants an Oscar (something he's clearly had his eye on since losing to Penn in 2003...how else to explain Hyde Park on Hudson?) must have seen something interesting in the script.  I mean, I get why the rest of the cast and director signed on (you get to work with Bill Murray!), but Murray himself indicated there was something more here.  Sadly, there isn't-this film was made dozens of times since the 1980's, and we'll see it yet again by Christmas, this time with musical numbers in Annie.  The film has the requisite "teaching him to fight" scene, the requisite "child who unexpectedly swears scene," the requisite "take child to inappropriate locations," scene...it's a series of horrible filmic cliches.

The best thing I can say about the film is the cast, but not necessarily the cast you're thinking I'll celebrate.  Murray occasionally has moments of brilliance-there's no denying that comic timing, and there's a madcap moment of slapstick brilliance over the end credits that you'll be absolutely enthralled by, but by-and-large this seems like he isn't really stretching.  Yes, it's good, but it's not great, and from the man who haunted my filmic dreams in Lost in Translation, I wish some director would truly pull him outside his comfort zone again like Sofia Coppola did.

Melissa McCarthy, in my opinion, is doing the best work here.  The most frequent complaint you hear about McCarthy is "why can't she be more like Sookie again?" (I say this with love, as multiple members of my family and friend group have said this to me whenever the actress is discussed).  That entire argument is a conversation for a different article entirely, but suffice it to say actors go through stages in their careers, and McCarthy is currently in a broader, more slapstick aspect of hers right now.  Still, this is the closest she's been to playing "Sookie" in a while, a harried mother who has to deal with the dissolution of her marriage and her anger toward her cheating ex-husband (and trying to hide that anger from her son, which she does a lousy job at), and making ends meet.  Life hasn't been fair with her, but she handles it in the way most of us would, rather than letting everything slide in a "screw you world" way that Vincent does.  Her performance is tempered with realism (her breakdown scene looks like something that would actually happen when she goes to the priest's office, and not just an expositional tool to give us background on the character), though she still lands all of her laughs and does her job subtly enough to show the path that Vincent could have taken, but decided against.  Watts and O'Dowd both have the great supporting comic bits in the movie (I love it when Watts does comedy and O'Dowd is so effortlessly charming in everything these days), but McCarthy's character was the one I found myself thinking about the next day.

My final problem with this film (which I will admit was at least short) is that I think it's time for us to give up on certain tropes of the Eighties because they're A) played out and B) highly unrealistic.  In real life, no sane-minded person would trust someone like Vincent with their children-the man should be in jail, and certainly shouldn't be shaping the minds of a young person.  Even in Maggie's precarious financial situation this seems unlikely.  These horrible guardian films seem completely dated in the same way that body-swapping comedies do-there doesn't seem to be anything interesting or new to say here. It's time screenwriters found a more interesting way to use aging actors than to pair them with a precocious tot, give them free comedic reign, and then let the plot go out for lunch.

Those are my thoughts on St. Vincent-how about yours?  Have you caught the movie yet?  If not, what do you think about the career trajectories of McCarthy and Murray (and the internet's obsession with Murray)?  Share in the comments!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Flip A Coin: The Ten Races I Cannot Figure Out

My much ballyhooed election night guide will begin being published on the site on Friday and will continue throughout the weekend right up until Monday, but with one week to go, I'm a bit stumped on a few races.  There are always a number of races that I have trouble figuring out, considering they are absolute tossups or there is a severe lack of polling, and in those races, I frequently find myself just tossing a coin.  While I always make predictions in all races (it means my percentage is considerably lower than people who go into election night with"tossups"), the below ten are the races that I'm waiting right up until the last second to make a call regarding (note: these are just Senate, House, and Governors races-there are other elections on the ballot that I'm also befuddled by and will be watching closely, but that would be too big of a scope for one article).

Mayor Henry Hays (D-AR)
Arkansas-2

Republicans have, by-and-large, seen a large amount of movement their direction in the past couple of weeks, both in the Senate, and to a lesser extent, the House.  However, there have been a bizarre handful of races where they haven't been able to shut down the Democrats, and this is one of them.  The race between White House aide French Hill (R) and North Little Rock Mayor Henry Hays (D) has been a bizarre conundrum in Arkansas.  By all accounts Hill should be winning this race-this is a Republican-held seat, and Tom Cotton and Asa Hutchinson are both performing quite well statewide.  However, it's worth noting that coattails aren't always super clear, and in this specific district, a high turnout by Pryor/Ross voters could help Hays.  This is the most liberal district in the state, and if Pryor in particular is going to be remotely close statewide, he's going to have to win this district, meaning that Hays could benefit from his coattails (even if the senator ultimately falls short).  I'm very reluctant, however, to predict a Democrat winning in Arkansas after the sharp right turn of the state in recent years, making this one of the oddest tossups on the map.

California-26

Two years ago, State Rep. Julia Brownley (D) seemed to have everything going for her-strong Hispanic turnout in a district that favored her, a seat that President Obama was sure to win, and an opponent that seemed way too conservative to win such a seat.  And yet, after an underwhelming primary performance, she only won the seat by six points.  This year, she only hit 45.5% in the primary (PS-they need to have something like Louisiana where if you hit 50% you just win the seat in California, in my humbled opinion), and has sort of proven herself to be a poor candidate.  The Republicans have nominated State Rep. Jeff Gorell, and the national committees, while not as actively as in the 7th and 52nd, have definitely started to play here.  The big question for me is how big is the drop in Hispanic turnout nationwide.  If it's pretty significant, Brownley will be an unexpected casualty.  If it stays fairly on-par, she'll probably have yet another middling victory.

State Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL)
Illinois-12

By all accounts, Rep. Bill Enyart (D) should be toast this cycle.  Without Illinois' favorite son to help him, he won't have coattails, and in fact will probably be hurt by Gov. Pat Quinn's lackluster performance at the top of the ticket.  However, he may have lucked out with a bombastic (seriously-google him) opponent in State Rep. Mike Bost (R).  The man nicknamed Meltdown Mike has run an unusual campaign (his latest dust-up involves him joking about killing a dog), and this may cost him.  On paper this district should go Republican (President Obama only won the district by 1.5%), but the district swing voters may decide they could do better in 2016 and vote for Enyart again.

Kansas Governor

If there is a race that national Democrats should be looking at that they probably aren't looking at enough, it's in Kansas.  Never before have I thought that I would be waiting with baited breath over a race in the Sunflower State, and this year I'm completely stumped by two.  It says something about Sam Brownback when you have received calls that you are "too conservative" for Kansas, and House Minority Leader Paul Davis has run a decent campaign, but this is entirely based on whether moderate Republicans hold their nose and vote Democratic.  This wouldn't be the first time they did this (Dennis Moore made a career out of it), but it's been six years since they've been able to pull the coalition together-can the Kansas Democrats do it in two races in one night?

Greg Orman (I-KS)
Kansas Senate

Perhaps the only Senate race where whomever is in the lead in a given poll is not really a surprise, but we're just looking at the margin, this is easily the biggest coin toss in the battle for the Senate, and not just because we don't know whom Greg Orman will side with (though, honestly, how does he not side with the Democrats at this point considering the Republicans have eviscerated him with the press?).  Either way, this is clearly a case of do I hate a party or a politician more?  Kansas is a Republican state, and there may be enough Republicans in the state that vote straight ticket to drag Sen. Pat Roberts over the finish line.  However, Orman has a slight but present lead in the polls, and we could be in for one of the great shockers of the cycle.  Win or lose, national Republicans should be fuming at Roberts for making what should have been a slam dunk one of the cycle's most fascinating nailbiters.

Maine Governor

This is, in my opinion, the hardest race of the cycle to call.  On paper, it should be simple.  Gov. Paul LePage (R) doesn't have the approval ratings that would warrant an incumbent winning reelection: clear and simple.  If either just Eliot Cutler (I) or Rep. Mike Michaud (D) were only in this race, LePage's career would be finished.  However, Cutler and Michaud are both running, splitting the progressive vote and potentially duplicating the disaster that befell them four years ago, when Cutler and Democrat Libby Mitchell got well over 50% of the vote, but split the vote enough to allow LePage to win.  That year it was clearly Cutler whom the progressives should have rallied behind in the end (he came extremely close to beating LePage), this year polls illustrate that it should be Michaud.  Will enough progressives in the state realize this, however?

Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN)
Minnesota-8

One of the less discussed aspects about political prognosticating is that it's much harder for armchair analysts like myself to take an objective look at their home states.  We come in with too much knowledge about the actual voters and their personalities, and frequently overanalyze that when you should just look at the raw data like you would in any other race.  That being said, the raw data in Minnesota's sprawling eighth is almost impossible to find a pattern in, and so we are left with one of the biggest tossups of the cycle.  In 2010, the long-time solid blue eighth district delivered arguably the biggest upset of that midterm, with legendary Rep. Jim Oberstar being ousted after 18 terms in office.  The seat returned to the Democrats in 2012, but newly-elected Rep. Rick Nolan, a largely forgotten former congressman from the 1970's, has not adapted to modern campaign tactics, and was slow to go after the swift negative campaigning of Republican Stewart Mills.  On paper, this appears to favor Mills, as he's run the stronger campaign and has the national headwinds, but this district has an extremely long tradition of electing Democratic congressmen despite its marginal presidential results, and both Mark Dayton and Al Franken are likely to win the district, helping Nolan.  Unlike a couple of other races, this is one of the few states where the Democrat is counting on coattails rather than the Republican.  Minnesota-even in a relatively calm cycle, it continues to defy political convention.

North Carolina Senate

I was torn between the odd insurgency of Scott Brown and this race, but I'm going to go with Hagan's race because I still light a candle for Jeanne Shaheen every night and think she's got that (extremely close) race under wraps.  Sen. Kay Hagan (D) and Speaker Thom Tillis (R) have run arguably the race of the cycle (give or take McConnell/Grimes in Kentucky) and the money here has proven it-by the end of the race, it's very likely that over $100 million will have been spent on which of these two individuals will hold the seat for the next six years (I still find it fascinating that these are probably the two most generic sets of candidates that I have ever seen run such a close race-months and months in, and there's still little actual personality in this race, just attack ads and seemingly unlimited amounts of money).  Tillis has clearly gained ground in the past few weeks, and this race is a dead heat, but if there's a lead in a poll, it's almost always Hagan, which gives her the slightest of edges.  The best question in the Tar Heel State is this-will the national mood, frequently stating that the Democrats have lost the Senate, hurt Hagan in turnout?  The big push by Democrats in early voting has to be encouraging to Hagan, but this is a race that will likely be decided by a percentage point, and I cannot tell whether Tillis's momentum or Hagan's nominal lead is where I should place my bet.

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY)
New York-11

Any rational person would look at this race and assume Rep. Mike Grimm (R) was toast.  Facing a 20-count indictment that he'll go to trial for after the election, and caught on camera stating that he'll throw a reporter off the roof, it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to actually vote for Grimm.  However, geography plays a part here, and Grimm is from Staten Island (where the majority of the voters in this district also hale from), while his Democratic opponent Domenic Recchia is from Brooklyn.  Additionally, Recchia is hampered by a Green Party opponent, as well as a blistering Daily Show video that showed Recchia has the intellectual heft of mayonnaise (seriously-check out that video and be thankful for the district you get to vote in...unless your congressman is Louie Gohmert, in which case you have all of our sympathies).  This race could go down to the wire, but probably the easiest prediction to make is that neither of these men will be winning this seat in 2016.

Wisconsin Governor

Two years ago, I would have laughed in your face if you said that Wisconsin's gubernatorial race was going to be competitive.  After getting shellacked during the recall election, I assumed that the Wisconsin Democrats would lick their wounds, nominate a random local office-holder, and then wait until 2018 to try and take back this seat.  While I was right about the seemingly random candidate they nominated, I was completely wrong about the lack of a contest.  Mary Burke has run one of the sharpest campaigns of the cycle, frequently scoring points on Walker on his jobs record, and this seat is basically a tie in the polls.  Common sense in this environment would favor Walker, but Democrats have defied national trends before in the Midwest (see Mark Dayton's victory across the border in 2010 when the national mood favored the Republican).  This could have major implications on the 2016 presidential race, which Scott Walker clearly was hoping to partake in, but won't be able to if he's just lost his seat.

Those are the ten races that have me stumped-how about you?  Which races are you baffled by?  Share in the comments!

Monday, October 27, 2014

October Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

Last week we took a look at the Best Supporting Actor race, and this week, we take a look at its slightly more robust (and easier to read) female counterpart, the race for Best Supporting Actress.

In the past couple of years, the categories have had a lot in common, but that hasn't always been the case, and this year seems like one of those years where they aren't destined to matchup, with one clear exception.  Emma Stone has consistently been one of the up-and-coming actresses that we're all supportive of, even if there hasn't been a lot to cheer outside of Easy A and some terrific interviews.  Her reviews for Birdman, however, have been solid, and it's the sort of film that, like The Master or Doubt, may not win the Best Picture field over but very well could grab all of its actors nominations (including Edward Norton over in the male supporting category).  Stone in particular seems at just the right juncture in her career to score her first nomination.

Her biggest competition for the actual win looks to be another young actress, Keira Knightley.  Knightley gets to be long-suffering (always a plus in this category), is being campaigned by Harvey (a huge plus for an actress), and has been doing fantastic work for years now, much of which has been ignored by awards bodies.  It's hard to believe, in fact, that the woman who randomly got a nomination in 2005 for Pride and Prejudice (when everyone thought it would be going to Zhang Ziyi) hasn't been nominated since, considering she's done superb work in Atonement, A Dangerous Method, Never Let Me Go, Anna Karenina, and earlier this year, Begin Again.  I am feeling this pretty strongly-Knightley seems like the winner to me from this vantage point.

There's also a couple of actresses who are a bit older than Stone and Knightley who are making a play for their first nomination this year: Patricia Arquette and Rene Russo.  Both actresses have been critically celebrated in the past, but have never been nominated for an Oscar.  However, they have the thespian stature to score a nomination without much previous momentum if the films do well (in particular Arquette).  Arquette's movie was a bigger deal, and critics seem certain to be trumpeting Boyhood by year's end, which can only help her with "best in show" reviews for the film.  Russo's got a harder push, but she's getting superb notices for Nightcrawler, and if that film catches on later this year, she could make the cutoff.

A few other actors seem to be very dependent on the strength of their films.  Anna Kendrick, Katherine Waterston, Jessica Chastain, and Carmen Ejogo are all young actresses with major films out this year, but their potential shots at a nomination are very dependent on whether Into the Woods, Inherent Vice, Interstellar, and Selma manage to land with Oscar in a major way.  Ejogo and Waterston are both trying for a first nomination, which occasionally helps in this category (this is the category most likely to honor an ingenue, as evidenced with Lupita last year, and Waterston benefits from this category frequently nominating the children of former nominees, such as Angelina Jolie and Kate Hudson), but Kendrick has become a genuine movie star since she was nominated in 2009, and Chastain is apparently the emotional crux of her film.

Other names in this list should include Laura Dern, who gets to be suffering from cancer in her film (Oscar bait!) and hit the road pretty damn hard last year for her father (will the Academy remember what a fun, intelligent presence she is on the red carpet?).  Jessica Lange has been getting a few rumblings for The Gambler, though I have to wonder if everyone just wants her to sign on to another season of AHS.  Kristen Stewart continues to defy everyone's expectations of her with Still Alice, and could well be embraced if she is able to find it her persona to campaign.  Sienna Miller has a prominent role in the fast-emerging American Sniper, and despite what's assumed, Clint doesn't have an awful track record with getting women nominated (Meryl Streep, Hilary Swank, Marcia Gay Harden, and Angelina Jolie have all been nominated from his films), though Sienna Miller isn't really in the same class as those four actresses.  And of course, if they want to make it up for her weird snub last year, Oprah Winfrey has a prominent role in Selma that could get her in, though if they skipped her for The Butler I have my doubts.

Finally there is Meryl Streep, who is an eternal presence in any Oscar race, but smartly moved to supporting for what could have been a lead campaign (wisely, or luckily, seeing that Supporting was going to be the easier race).  While I think that at some point the Meryl gravy train will end and she'll miss in a tough year, playing the scene-stealing role in a major year-end musical that has a lot of potential to be a big hit isn't really a great argument against her hitting nineteen nominations.

My September Predictions: Stone, Waterston, Arquette, Ejogo, and Felicity Jones (who has since moved to lead)
My October Predictions: I feel even more confident now with the strong reception for Birdman that Stone stays, and I'm also sticking with Patricia Arquette (there is actually a pretty strong history of women over forty getting nominated for character parts in this category, though only lately has the trend moved to them winning).  I think at this point that Knightley is going to make the cut, and quite frankly would be my guess for the eventual win.  As for the final two slots?  I'm debating between Streep, Ejogo, and Kristen Stewart, as I don't believe a woman can get a nomination in a Christopher Nolan film and Wild seems like the Reese-show.  Streep and Ejogo probably make the most sense, and I will stick to them, but I really do feel like Kristen Stewart is about to have her first serious awards shot this year, and considering she is a very big star (like it or not, that's what Twilight and Snow White have done) they might want her on the red carpet for the star power alone.  Plus, isn't she dating Nic Hoult?  Anyone want to see her on the same red carpet as Jennifer Lawrence?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

More Advice for Dating

Two of the most popular posts of the past year on the blog have been about first dates and online dating, and I'm going to be honest-they were two of my favorite articles to write.  I've recently been on a string of dates, some of them good (...okay, one of them pretty good) and most of them bad, and as a result, I have a few new pieces of advice.  I suggest if you haven't read the past articles, you should definitely check out the links above (even if you aren't single or dating any longer, you can still look back and say, "oh my god, I remember that!").  And if you're already read them, let's dive in...

1. Write a Damn Sentence

This is specific to online dating, but since it's one of the first ways you interact with someone else online, I figured it was worth mentioning.  I recently was interacting with what seemed like an extremely interesting guy online, at least from his profile.  Into nature, travel, running, had a good job, all the things you're kind of looking for in a profile.  And yet, when we wrote each other back and forth, it's clear that he didn't understand that this isn't a longtime friend where you can text one word.  I lost a sincere amount of interest when he decided to just write back answers like "Yep" or "Not Really" and not expound upon these replies.

I initially thought this was just because he wasn't interested, which is fine, but after not replying to his third or fourth monosyllabic reply, he kept emailing, albeit somehow miraculously with less than five word responses ("Hey, what's up?"), so clearly there was a pretty solid level of interest there if he kept pursuing things.  Therefore, my advice to him (and anyone who does this) is that dating websites are not Twitter (and quite frankly, you'd use 140 characters on Twitter, so that might have helped him) or, more importantly, your longtime friend that you're texting.  You're trying to show this person that you can hold down a conversation and that you are worth their time.  Prove it by spending more than two seconds crafting a response.

2. Be Clear About Your Intentions with the Other Person

Listen, I'm not a prude.  I get that with apps like Grindr and Tinder and Ashley Madison that there are people out there who really don't want to do the dating thing, and just would like to skip to the "dessert."  If that's what you want, please, by all means, go for it.  But be honest about it.  Considering the insane popularity of those websites and apps, there is clearly an appetite for this, and while you should be safe (STD's, stranger danger, and all that), it's fine to do that if you're both adults and know what you're getting into beforehand.

However, please be honest about that, because it might not be what the other person is looking for, and there's nothing sadder than both of you wasting your time in what is frequently a fruitless endeavor (I'm all in favor of getting more and more things out of the way that are going to be dealbreakers before the first date, because time is a vital asset to me as I'm sure it is to all people).  I've been on two first dates in the past six months or so where the guy I could clearly tell was just interested in me for that aspect of dating, and had absolutely no interest in anything else, and he looked forlorn when at the end of the date that was not what he was getting.  However, I told him that my intentions on my profile were not to use this website as a hook-up site, but as a way to meet people for longer term relationships, and clearly I wasn't lying.  There are dozens of sites you can use if you just want sex, just be clear about that when you're writing it.

3. Be Clear About Your Intentions with Yourself

Some of these people I think wanted to think, though, that that wasn't what they were using the site for (even though I talked with both of them afterwards and they both admitted after some prodding that that was what they were using the site for primarily).  So I think it's important to be honest with yourself before you start dating, whether it be online or through friends or people at the bar or a service or any other ways (and I'm curious other ways people meet people in the modern era, because online dating is a bit of a crapshoot-comments section!), of what you actually want.  It's totally fine if you're at a point in your life where you want only sex or just to hang out with people as friends first.  That's okay to spell out, but know this about yourself, and don't lead someone on if that's all you want.  Dating is hard enough when you have to figure out if you like someone enough to go exclusive, introduce them to your parents, take them to work events, etc.  It's made ten times worse when one of you isn't interested in that path but is not speaking up.

Secondly, and this is my last one that is exclusively related to online dating-know what you want in your profile, but be honest about it.  It's a harsh truth, but there are a lot of people out there who are exclusively interested in dating young and hot people.  I'm not here to judge (but, unless you've got Brad Pitt's genes or Warren Buffett's money, this isn't a stable dating model, just as an FYI), but I think you should at least indicate that in your profile.  I've read profiles of people I was interested in or my friends were interested and thought, "this person is PERFECT for me/my friend" all-the-while finding out that the person completely ignored the message, and the only obvious reason in that case seemed to be based on looks.  This is something to just know about yourself going into dating.  I remember on an episode of Brothers and Sisters when Kitty is filling out a dating questionnaire that she says looks are important and Nora is stunned and said that's such a terrible thing to say, and Kitty essentially replies, "I'm just being honest."  If looks are important to you, make sure to put that in the conversation.  Honestly is always the best policy, even when it's a hard truth.

4. Ask the Other Person Questions

Okay, this specific one is based on my most recent first date, which had to be a Top 5 worst dates I've ever been on (though, sadly, not the worst date I've ever been on).  I had coffee with a guy for about 45 minutes, and somehow, during that entire 45 minutes he never once asked me a question about myself.  I honestly toward the end of what would be the only date we'd ever go on thought "is this really going to be possible?" but yes, yes it was (try this in general with someone sometime, and figure out exactly how hard it is to do for ten minutes, much less 45).  I would ask him a question, he'd respond with a story and had no trouble talking-this was not a particularly shy person-but when I would tell an anecdote about my life that related (he'd talk about the gym, I'd talk about the gym; he'd talk about work, I'd talk about work), he never even asked me a question about my stories, never a follow-up comment regarding what I was talking about.  It was stunning, and something I've never experienced.

So here's a really strong piece of advice-you need to show some level of interest in your date.  Unless you look like Michael Fassbender or Jessica Alba, abject narcissism is not going to work on a date, and it certainly won't work for a long-term relationship even if you won the genetic lottery.  The worst part of my date was clearly that I thought he was having a terrible time, and was trying to find someway to get through the date faster by being a jerk (from a karma situation probably a terrible idea, but not the worst tactic pragmatically), but at the end of the date he clearly was interested in doing this again sometime, and said so.  He even looked at my dating profile an hour later.  So obviously he just didn't realize how terrible he was coming across.

So, and I cannot believe this needs to be advice, but make sure to ask questions about your date.  If you are interested in them as a person or a prospective future dating partner, you should want to get to know more about them.  If you're not great at asking questions stick to some of the soundest advice Emily Gilmore ever gave, "Keep it light-no politics, no religion...think of the things in the middle sections of the Sunday New York Times-travel, arts and leisure, Sunday Styles."  Bring up favorite movies, recent trips, and ask about the family.  It's pretty simple.

And if you realize that you've been talking without interruption for longer than five minutes, it's time to start an "enough about me, though, what about you..." style rejoinder.

5. Please, for the love of god, have a hobby

I realize that this is a lot to ask in this time-crunched world, but everyone needs a hobby.  I talked in one of the other write-ups linked up-top that if you're nervous on a date, talk about one of your hobbies.  This is, however, assuming that you have a hobby.

So, to clarify, the following things are hobbies: sports, movies, politics, writing, travel, cooking, marathon-training, sewing, any sort of collecting, reading, theater, volunteering, gaming, and bird-watching, amongst an infinite list.  Your job is not a hobby, unless you're independently wealthy and just doing it as a condition of a strange will provision.  If all you find you can talk about on a date is your job, you probably need to get out of the office more often.

Your family is also not a hobby, and neither is hanging out with friends.  This is a little bit harsh, as I know people love to do this, and it's a great topic for a first date (actually, your job is too, as long as it's not the only topic), but I am going to say that after the age of 25 you should have formed a few hobbies that don't revolve entirely around your friends/family (particularly if you're still single after the age of 25).  I get a little bit judgmental when someone says that hanging with their friends is their primary hobby, because it usually means that all they do at home by themselves is sit around and watch television, or that they're drinking every night, and to get a bit judgmental here, that sort of behavior doesn't fly after age 22.  Which brings me too...

6. Know How Old You Are

This title is of course tongue-in-cheek.  If you legitimately don't know how old you are, I suggest heading to the nearest emergency room and getting a CT scan.  However, I find that sometimes when I'm on a date, people aren't exactly aware of how old they are, or more precisely, how mature their age sort of mandates them to be.

This is something that I have found exclusively with men, based on my conversations with women and men who have tried online dating, so ladies, you can sit on the side and just nod in concurrence.  I have frequently gone out with men who are in their early thirties who frequently talk to me like they're still 22.  They revel in the fact that they got "totally wasted" last weekend, talk about their parents in a way that seems to indicate that they're still seventeen, and frequently have that "don't have your life together" vibe that Millennials are lampooned for in shows like Girls, except they are five years older than Hannah and her friends, who are all too old to be having these sorts of crises to begin with.

So I will say it in plain English: this is no longer attractive.  It was barely attractive when you were 24, and that was only if you had a guitar and looked like Keith Carradine in Nashville.  You probably still don't have all aspects of your life figured out (lord knows I don't, and most people throughout their lives are still struggling with where they are going, regardless of their age), but that's not a card to play on the first date, and something you should probably figure out for yourself before you bring another person into the picture.  If you can't remember the last Saturday that you didn't get drunk, but you do remember when Atlanta hosted the Olympics, you should probably try hitting a movie instead next weekend and taking a serious look at how you're treating your liver.

7. Ignorance is Not Attractive

This is pretty simple-ignorance is not remotely attractive.  General statements like "I hate movies," "Politicians are all idiots," and "I am proud to not know that" have no place in anyone's mouth, much less on a date.  It makes you appear stupid, and less interesting, and depending on how you handle the situation, like a major jackass.

If someone brings up something you don't know a lot about, admit you're not super familiar and ask questions.  I had a guy I went out with who was really into hockey, and I'll be honest-don't know a lot about professional hockey.  But I asked questions as he seemed like a cool guy and we went on several dates afterwards.  People frequently think that not having everything in common means that you aren't a good match; this is something I think a lot of people think when they're setting someone up on a date-if one person loves football and the other loves the ballet, they must not be compatible, right?  This is wrong, actually.  This guy approached hockey with the same passion that I approach movies, and that passion was a strong match-that's way more important than if he loves the same movies that I do.

Don't, however, say "XX is stupid," smirk, and hope that you successfully passed the buck back to a conversation that you enjoy.  Listen, if the guy had spent the entire night talking incessantly about hockey and not about something we had a little more common ground on, it would have been a bad date.  But it wasn't-hockey was important to him, he brought it up, learned that I would be interested in understanding more about it but didn't know a lot about it at the time, and then he turned the give-and-take back to a subject we both had in common.  That's how general conversation is supposed to go, which is what makes dating that much easier.  If you can't figure that out, you may have more troubles than just bad dates.

8. The First Date is Not a Time to Complain

I am not your therapist.  I am not your best friend.  I am not your mother.  A first date is about getting to know someone else, and showing the best part of yourself.  It is not a time to complain.

We're going to go back to the most recent date I had, because in addition to not asking me any questions about himself, he spent a good chunk of time complaining.  He complained quite frequently about his parents (this is part of the acting your age thing as well-if you're over 25, unless you live with your parents still you should have moved on to an age where you don't really complain about your parents to anyone except your siblings or a spouse or close friend, and it should have shifted to arguments of concern like "they shouldn't be working such long hours" or "they shouldn't still be shoveling the sidewalk" and not "she won't get off my back" or "he keeps bugging me about what I'm spending my money on").  He complained about his knee problems.  He complained about his car troubles.  He complained about the job he was applying for.  It was a total buzzkill.

Listen, I get if you're over 25 the venues of people to complain to have probably thinned since you lived with several dozen people in a dorm who all had very similar issues, but a date is the wrong time to bring these things up.  Eventually, yes, with a partner it's vitally important to air what is bothering you so that they can help you work through it-that's one of the most wonderful things about a long-term relationship.  However, you need to save some of that mystery for down-the-road.  If all you do is complain on a first date, then you're clearly not interested in adapting to another person, because you weren't even willing to put your best self forward for a couple of hours.

9. Don't Bring Up Money on a First Date

Listen, I get that the recession hit a lot of people really hard, and there are certain sections of the populace that have been hit particularly rough by it and continue to struggle (in fact, we're running an election about this in nine days, so, you know, vote if you have concerns about this like I do, particularly if you live in Iowa, Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, or Georgia).  Money worries are toward the top of almost everyone's list when it comes to what they are working toward and where they want to go with their lives, and this is something that is critically important to talk with someone whom you are sharing a life with.

But a first date is not a marriage, and don't treat it like one.  As I mentioned in our last article, a first date should typically be drinks or coffee.  If you cannot afford the $8 roughly that will go with that, either A) find a date that is free like a walk through an art exhibit or around a lake or B) maybe right now isn't the best time to start dating.  If you continue to see someone, it's okay to point out that fancy restaurants or bed-and-breakfasts aren't really in the budget right now, but you can still do cooking with each other and stay in and watch movies and have lots of time at each other's houses (in my opinion, this is WAY more fun anyway).  However, the first date is not the time to bring this up-it makes the other person feel bad about the place you picked out (particularly since they almost always ask "does this place work for you?") and makes them wonder just what they are getting into when a perfect stranger starts discussing their deeper financial worries in front of you.  If they do this, will they talk about things I don't want them to talk about to other strangers?  And it will also make them judge your financial responsibility.  If you spend the entire date complaining about how expensive everything is, but then I see that you drive a sports car, I'm going to be left with a bitter taste about your priorities.

10. I am not your Manic Pixie Dream Girl

For those unfamiliar with this trope, a manic pixie dream girl is a woman in cinema who is solely there to make you see the possibility and hope of your life, not to actually have goals or hopes for their own happiness, but just to help the main, misunderstood male protagonist see his life for the better and to improve his world.  Think of someone like Natalie Portman in Garden State or Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer or Kate Hudson in Almost Famous (if you want a male version of it, look to someone like Ben Wyatt on Parks and Recreation-patient-to-a-fault, always picking up the pieces of his partner's life, and rarely having any reason to exist other than as a reflection of the main female protagonist).

I am not claiming to be as beautiful as those three women, but (and this is going to become a bit braggy for a second, so bare with me), I am frequently treated like a manic pixie dream boy.  I think I sometimes get this because I like to know a lot about other people, am well-versed in most subjects, and am cute, but in an approachable way, like a male Drew Barrymore.  As a result, I frequently get guys trying to entirely put the weight of their worlds in my court, rather than having any interest in learning about the weight in mine.  I went on four dates with one guy whom I liked but couldn't quite put my finger on why it didn't seem to be working out until I realized that his interest in me was entirely in me being his therapist/reassurance/plus one, not in me as an actual person.

This is a difficult one to tackle, and it's probably the only one that you don't get to on a first date typically, but a bit later (though you can hit on a first date-trust me).  Think about it this way-why are you interested in this person?  If the answers are entirely "they understand me" and "they are so cute," but not specific things you love about their personality, you might be treating them this way.  If you say "we have a real connection" but you cannot think of any way you've connected into their past or personality, you're probably treating them this way.  This is a weirdly specific one because if you've been young and single for so long, you've grown up with romance onscreen looking like Garden State and (500) Days of Summer (or, more recently, The Fault in Our Stars) and uncomplicated creatures like the love interests in those movies don't really exist in real life, and if you treat someone like that, it's not going to work out.

And those are my follow-up pieces of advice for online dating, first dating, and just approaching dating in general.  I know we've written three articles about this, but there's clearly tons more advice to be had here, so have at it in the comments-what are your additional pieces of dating advice/pet peeves?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ranting On...Fixing the Electoral System


Next week at this time we’ll be going through all of my predictions for Tuesday’s elections, and as a result, this is probably our last proper Friday rant of the year about the Midterms.  I could spend it talking about the incessant emails I keep getting from the Democrats (I’m a life-long, yellow dog to the core Democrat, but even I roll my eyes every time I get an “all is hope is lost” subject line).  I could spend it discussing the increasingly disheartening New Hampshire Senate race, where Scott Brown may be able to prove that state-shopping is totally appropriate and apparently New Hampshire doesn’t care about giving one of their Senate seats to Massachusetts (I’m telling you right now-Jeanne Shaheen loses that seat, I’ve got an easy answer for the most disappointing loss of Election 2014).

But instead I’m going to focus on something a little less partisan (yet for some reason, it’s become partisan): how to fix the electoral system.  One of the few truths that every pundit of every stripe agrees upon is that the 2014 Midterms will have less voter turnout than two years ago with the presidential election, which didn’t even hit 58% of eligible voters.  I think we would all be better off (regardless of whether it favors our party or not) if more eligible voters actually made it to the polls, and that should be a goal of both parties, since we want a system of government that reflects the citizenry.  Below I list out seven ways that I think you could do that, mostly with fixes to the system and a couple with fixes to the campaigns.

1. All Federal and Statewide Elections Should Require At Least One Debate

I think part of why people don’t vote in Midterms is because the media partially designates which seats are actually competitive or not.  What reason does say someone in Wyoming have to vote this particular cycle if all of their incumbents are assured victory.  Setting aside the fact that even in the best of circumstances getting 40% more voters would assuredly challenge the assumption of what is designated as a “safe seat” or not and that as states like Georgia and Arkansas have proven that voting trends change over time and you never know when you will randomly hit the tipping point, having a debate for all major offices would at least mean that everyone would hear from your candidates.  I follow the polls religiously, and I have no idea what is going on with my Democratic House candidate since she has no chance of winning, and isn’t going to debate her opponent.  If politicians are worried about gaffes or snafus at a debate, then don’t run for public office.  You’re responsible to all of the citizens, and they should hear what you have to say on a variety of issues, not just the ones you want to bring up.

2. Don’t Run from Your Record/Votes/Party

Part of what turns people off to elections is that they cannot stand politicians.  Congress has an insanely low approval rating, and part of that is the blame culture that has permeated both sides of the aisle-Democrats blame Republicans for not getting anything done, Republicans blame Democrats for not getting anything done, and the world continues unchanged (though it always feels a little worse, sadly).  I loathe the concept of term limits because I’m against limiting someone’s freedom of expression and choice (and no, there is no way that you can sugarcoat term limits to get around that fact) and as a general rule I value experience in a position, but I do agree that incumbents oftentimes go unchecked with their votes.  Have moderators at debates that mandate a clear answer on different subjects, and that if, say, a candidate won’t say whom they voted for for president, that they need to since they are running for a partisan public office.  If they won’t say their opinion on gay marriage, remind them that gay marriage is still illegal in almost twenty states and they may have to vote on it in the near future.  And if they voted for the Affordable Care Act (or against it), ask them to explain that vote or explain why they changed their mind about it once it became popular or unpopular (this goes for legislation that they have endorsed or sponsored).  Politicians shouldn’t have amnesia about what they do in office, and it’s okay to challenge them if they voted against certain things and wait for a response until you move on, rather than watching them hem and haw through a non-answer.

3. Implement a Ten-Day Voting Window

Okay, now we move away from specific politicking ranting and move into specifics to not just change people’s attitudes, but to help them to vote.  The best way in my opinion to get more people to vote is to expand early voting.  Early voting clearly works in getting less involved voters to the polls, and gets you a stronger assortment of the electorate.  It also helps with lower income people or people who have multiple jobs or people who have children-in a culture that makes being busy a status symbol, we should find a way to adapt voting to fit a larger window of time, allowing more of the citizenry to have its say.  Ten days seems about right (it gives every weekday, weekend day, and two Sundays), and should be something that all fifty states should employ.  You can keep with tradition and have the final voting day be “Election Day” as a result of this.  This should also greatly cut down on the insane Election Day lines that a number of states end up having, which deters people with time crunches from casting their ballots.

4. Same-Day Voter Registration

I grew up in Minnesota, so the concept of not having same-day registration is alien to me, but I know lots of states don’t have it.  This seems silly to me-we whine literally all the time about how busy we are (again, it’s become THE status symbol of our times to compare who is the busiest), so why not make it easier and have registration happen the same day as the election?  It means less points of contact to get people to vote, and it’s clearly proven in other states to help turnout (Minnesota, for example, has one of the highest voter turnout traditions in the country).

5. All States Deserve Runoffs

Whether you are discussing the South Dakota Senate race or the Maine gubernatorial race or (quite frankly) the presidential race fourteen years ago which Democrats still privately grumble about losing, it’s extremely clear that some sort of runoff or ranked ballot system is necessary, particularly with the increased interest in third party candidates.  A progressive in Maine shouldn’t have to worry that a vote for Eliot Cutler is really a vote for Paul LePage, and a Republican in South Dakota shouldn’t have to worry that his voting for Larry Pressler will lead to Rick Weiland winning the election.  Runoffs ensure that a minority of the voters don’t win based off of a plurality, and makes the process more democratic.

6. No Excuse Absentee Voting

This, like same-day voter registration and an expanded ten-day voting window, just makes sense to me.  You shouldn’t have to explain why you want an absentee ballot.  Maybe you work two jobs and don’t have time to get to the polls, even with an expanded window.  Maybe you have children and don’t want to spend an evening away from them.  Maybe you just want to sit on your couch and watch a Scandal marathon on Netflix.  It doesn’t really matter-absentee ballots should be available to all who want them, end of story.

7. Eliminate Voter ID Laws

I’m 100% against voter fraud.  If people are caught committing voter fraud, by all means press criminal charges, as it’s a shame to our democracy and makes all of our votes a little less sacred.  That being said, voter ID laws are poll taxes as long as you have to pay for a driver’s license, so either find a way to give away the licenses for free (taking both a revenue away from the government, and also using taxes to pay for it), and then make a way for people to be reimbursed for traveling to the DMV, as well as making up for their lost wages, or find a different way to fix the issue.  Because Voter ID is discriminatory, end of story.  And if you look at study after study, they don't prevent voter fraud to start with, they just prevent people from voting.

And those are my ways I think we could improve the electoral system and increase turnout.  What are your suggestions?  Share them in the comments!

Democrats and the Majority: A Look at the Numbers

Can the Democrats "pull a Heidi Heitkamp" to win the majority?
All cycle long, I have written about the Senate, and from a political junkie's perspective there's a reason for that.  While the battle for the Senate is always my favorite election to study (because of the nuisances that go into only electing a third of the body every two years, and the array of individual personalities that it manages to ensnare), this year in particular has been a battle royale because so many races have either defied conventional wisdom or stayed just within the margin of error.  However, I have said for a while now that the Democrats have little to no chance of actually holding the Senate, and in my last article about the majority before next week's mammoth articles (I feel like I'm up-selling here, but just prepare yourselves here), I figured it was time to get a little data-driven into why the Democrats have an issue in holding the Senate.

Real Clear Politics is one of the political sites that I visit religiously-not just every day but throughout the day, primarily because it is a one-stop shop when it comes to articles from around the web and polling averages.  This is where I start out when I’m thinking about where the trends are going nationally, and which seats are going up or down (rather than simply relying on one specific poll, as I’ve learned through the years that one specific poll doesn’t really help you at all).


Real Clear Politics will take the average of the polls right before an election to create their political prediction, a pretty solid way to create a prediction, and as a general rule, this is breathtakingly accurate.  For all the talk about “upsets,” the reality is that if you look at polling data immediately before an election, it’s almost always correct in predicting the victor.  In fact, while frequently the RCP Average will have little to do with predicting the actual margin of victory (someone like Mark Begich dropped nine points in his RCP Average in 2008 and Mark Udall went up eight points that same year), only five times in the past four Senate election cycles has the RCP Average leader lost the actual election.

This is key to understanding why the Democrats have such an uphill battle.  If you look at the current averages, four Democrats are currently leading in very close races: Jeanne Shaheen in Hew Hampshire, Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Greg Orman (Independent, but let’s be serious here) in Kansas, and Michelle Nunn in Georgia.  All four of these incumbents have RCP Averages that are in the plus-column, but by less than two-points.  By comparison, no competitive seat leaning Republican has an average that low (the closest you get is Joni Ernst in Iowa with +2.5).

Let’s assume for a second that Shaheen, Hagan, and Orman all three win (this is a big assumption, for what it’s worth, as only Orman could legitimately claim that momentum is currently in his corner).  This would get the Democrats to 48 votes in the Senate, two shy of the majority.  Michelle Nunn, were Georgia a state without runoffs, would likely be in the driver’s seat.  The David Perdue outsourcing comments were about the best thing that could have happened to her campaign-they hit home with blue collar, lower-income, white voters in Georgia, the sorts of voters who are registered as Democrats but only actually vote Democrat when they don’t like the Republican (this gave Nunn an in to show why they shouldn’t like the Republican, and even if it’s a protest vote rather than one specifically endorsing Nunn, it counts the same on Election Night).  However, Nunn needs to hit 50% on Election Night to avoid a runoff, which means she’d need nearly every undecided to go in her favor, a steep task and probably the first “miracle” the Democrats would need to seal the deal with the Senate (the Democrats would be underdogs headed into a runoff, particularly if Shaheen, Hagan, and Orman had just won, as Nunn’s seat could well be the clincher for Senate control at that point).

This, unfortunately for the Democrats, would leave them with 49 votes.  That’s where the big challenge is for the Democrats-they are in a position this year where they are hoping that the polls in at least one state are wrong.  In fact, they aren’t just hoping (we’re always hoping the polls are wrong when we are losing), they’re counting on it.  They have to win four very marginal seats, plus one that isn’t in their column yet, which as I stated above, there’s only about a 4% chance of happening.

Taking a look at the five races that favored the Democrats, there’s a wee bit of hope in that all five of the candidates that beat the odds were in fact Democrats: Al Franken in 2008, Harry Reid and Michael Bennet in 2010, and Jon Tester and Heidi Heitkamp in 2012.  As I mentioned above, the closest race currently favored for the Republicans is Joni Ernst’s in Iowa, which has a +2.5 margin in favor of the Republicans.  The reason that I’ve been stressing this race as so important throughout the cycle is this is really the only race that is currently on the board that there’s at least a semblance of past precedent for the Democrats to win.  Ernst’s margin is actually smaller than all of the margins of the five Republicans who lost despite leading the polls above, with the exception of Denny Rehberg in Montana.  The second most vulnerable Republican (Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado) has an RCP Average of +4.0, which would be a bigger upset than all but one of the above seats.  For this reason, despite the national press frequently writing off Bruce Braley while keeping Mark Udall alive, I think that Iowa is clearly the path of least resistance and the most pivotal seat in this election.  Can the Democrats win without Iowa?  Sure (we’ll get there in just one second), but if history teaches us anything, if the Democrats have the majority in January, it will be with Bruce Braley as a member of that majority.

It is of course worth noting that one of those seats exceeded a 4.0 margin-Heidi Heitkamp’s in 2012.  I frequently write about the stunning victory that Heitkamp pulled off in 2012, but that’s because it’s, on paper, the biggest upset victory of the past four Senate cycles.  Heitkamp headed into Election Day with a 5.7-point margin working against her.   If this were the bar of entry for upsets, we’d have a pretty different playing field: Kentucky, Colorado, Alaska, Louisiana, and even Arkansas all have margins that are smaller than 5.7, and you can bet that all of these incumbents have likely called Heitkamp in recent weeks for advice (if they haven’t, they should).  It’s worth noting that Heitkamp did have the momentum going into Election Day; despite Mitt Romney easily winning her state, it was pretty clear that she was gaining on Rep. Rick Berg, though no one expected her to actually win.  That’s a problem for most of these Democrats, because with the exception of Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, none of these Democrats have shown that they are gaining on their opponents in the final days of the campaign.  Therefore the Heitkamp path to victory remains an elusive, probably impossible, but still theoretical way that the Democrats could win the Senate.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Oscar Trivia: Can Angelina Jolie Make History?

It doesn't take a genius to realize that Angelina Jolie is a pioneer.  A movie star par excellence, she's a figure recognized the world over for her incredible commitment to humanitarian causes, her beauty and style, and of course her many contributions to the world of cinema.  This year, that includes only her third directorial achievement, following the documentary A Place in Time and her Golden Globe-nominated In the Land of Blood and Honey.  With this movie (Unbroken, for those of you who don't live night and day for the Oscars), she is positioning herself to potentially win the Best Director prize at the Oscars, becoming the first woman to be nominated for both acting and directing, and the second woman potentially to win an Oscar for Best Director after Kathryn Bigelow a few years back.

Note above that I said first woman nominated for acting and directing, because Jolie, ever the trendsetter, were she to win the Best Director prize, would become the first person to ever win Oscars for both directing and acting (she won in 1999 for Best Supporting Actress in Girl, Interrupted).  While there are actors who have won for producing and acting (Michael Douglas comes to mind) and writing and acting (Emma Thompson comes to mind), no person has ever won both an acting Oscar and a directing Oscar.  This could change this year, and in honor of Ms. Jolie and her potential achievement, I thought it would be worth going through the thirteen men who have tried before her and failed.  Below I'll list the thirteen multi-hyphenate entertainers who have enjoyed nominations for both acting and directing (in chronological order of hitting this distinction).

Honorable Mentions: Before we begin, it's worth noting that there are a number of famous actors who have been nominated for Oscars for performances that also direct, amongst them (and this is completely off the top of my head) Barbra Streisand, Jodie Foster, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Laughton, and Dennis Hopper.  On the flip side are a number of actors that have been nominated for directing but never for acting, including Sydney Pollack, Mel Gibson, Sofia Coppola, Richard Attenborough, and Ron Howard.  And then of course there's the bizarre case of Ben Affleck, who is most known as an actor-director, and yet has been nominated for neither and still won two Oscars (for producing and writing).

1. Lionel Barrymore (1878-1954)

Acting Nominations: A Free Soul (1931), for which he won.
Directing Nominations: Madame X (1929)
Other Nominations: Mr. Barrymore was only nominated for acting and directing.
A Random Bit of Trivia: Barrymore is most noted today for his work in It's a Wonderful Life as Mr. Potter, but was quite the Oscar enthusiast in other Best Picture nominees, and directed won of the most significant lost films of the 1930's, The Rogue Song.  The film features one of the only Oscar-nominated performances to be considered "lost," from famed Oscar singer Lawrence Tibbett. Barrymore's sister Ethel would go on to have a pretty robust career with AMPAS, winning an Oscar in 1944, but his brother John would have to settle for being "The Great Profile" rather than an Oscar nominee.  His grand niece Drew is still a major star and feels like she'll someday be nominated, but so far no luck.

2. Orson Welles (1915-1985)

Acting Nominations: Citizen Kane (1941)
Directing Nominations: Citizen Kane (1941)
Other Nominations: Welles received an Oscar nomination for writing Citizen Kane, lucking out and winning for this particular citation.  He also went on to win an Honorary Oscar in 1970 for career achievement.  Funny story-Welles claimed at the time that he was filming The Other Side of Wind (his still unfinished last directorial work), but in fact was in his home in Hollywood at the time.  John Huston, another actor-director, would pick up the trophy from the Academy and give it to Welles after the ceremony.
A Random Bit of Trivia: Welles spent most of his career as a director "in the wilderness," working outside of Hollywood.  He did, however manage to have a successful follow-up to Citizen Kane with The Magnificent Ambersons which won a Best Picture nomination and is heralded as one of the greatest films of all-time, though Welles was locked out of the editing room and so the public didn't get to see his intended vision of the classic Booth Tarkington novel.

3. Laurence Olivier (1907-1989)

Acting Nominations: A titan of acting, Olivier received ten nominations for acting in his career for Wuthering Heights (1939), Rebecca (1940), Henry V (1945), Hamlet (1948), Richard III (1955), The Entertainer (1960), Othello (1965), Sleuth (1972), Marathon Man (1976), and The Boys from Brazil (1978); he won for Hamlet
Directing Nominations: Olivier directed himself as the forlorn Danish prince in Hamlet and was Oscar-nominated for it.
Other Nominations: While he received no other nominations, Olivier did win two Honorary Oscars, one in 1945 specifically for writing, directing, and acting in Henry V, and then one in 1978 for his life achievement.
A Random Bit of Trivia: Despite an assumption that I had made that Olivier was in control of most of his later projects, he only directed three of his Oscar-nominated works.  In addition to Henry V and Hamlet, Olivier also directed Richard III.  Olivier would actually only direct two more films after Richard III: The Prince and the Showgirl with Marilyn Monroe (chronicled in the Oscar-nominated My Week with Marilyn) and Three Sisters (where he directed his wife, Oscar-nominee Joan Plowright).

4.  John Huston (1906-1987)

Acting Nominations: One of the rare men on this list that is more known for directing than acting, Huston nonetheless had a brief career as an actor, most notably as the evil Noah Cross in Chinatown.  He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Otto Preminger's The Cardinal (1963).
Directing Nominations: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The African Queen (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952), and late in his career Prizzi's Honor (1985).  He won for Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
Other Nominations: Mr. Huston was nominated for producing for Moulin Rouge and for writing Treasure of the Sierra Madre (which won him his other Oscar), The Asphalt Jungle, and The African Queen, as well as Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet (1940), Sergeant York (1941), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957), and The Man Who Would Be King (1975).
A Random Bit of Trivia: Huston is the only person to ever direct both a parent and a child to an Oscar.  His father Walter won the Best Supporting Actor trophy for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre while his daughter Anjelica won for Best Supporting Actress in Prizzi's Honor.

5. Woody Allen (1935-Present)

Acting Nominations: Woody received his sole acting nomination for 1977's Annie Hall.
Directing Nominations: Annie Hall (1977), Interiors (1978), Broadway Danny Rose (1984), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), Bullets Over Broadway (1994), and Midnight in Paris (2011).  Mr. Allen won for Annie Hall.
Other Nominations: Allen's biggest claim to fame with Oscar is with his writing.  He received screenplay nominations for all of the films he was nominated for for directing, as well as Manhattan (1979), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Radio Days (1988), Alice (1990), Husbands and Wives (1992), Mighty Aphrodite (1995), Deconstructing Harry (1997), Match Point (2006), and Blue Jasmine (2013).  He won for Annie Hall, Hannah, and Midnight in Paris.
A Random Bit of Trivia: In addition to being the most nominated screenwriter of all time (beating one of his heroes, Billy Wilder), Allen is a good luck charm for actors when it comes to Oscar-seventeen actors have been nominated for their work in his films (though bizarrely never Mia Farrow).

6. Warren Beatty (1937-Present)

Acting Nominations: Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Heaven Can Wait (1978), Reds (1981), and Bugsy (1991), making him one of those rare actors to have been nominated in four separate decades.
Directing Nominations: Heaven Can Wait (1978) and Reds (1981).  Mr. Beatty won for Reds.
Other Nominations: In addition to the Thalberg Award he won in 1999 (the same year his wife was starring in Best Picture winner American Beauty), Beatty has been nominated for producing Bonnie and Clyde, Heaven Can Wait, Reds, and Bugsy, as well as for writing Shampoo (1975), Heaven Can Wait, Reds, and Bulworth (1998).
A Random Bit of Trivia: Beatty kind of wrote the book on multi-hyphenate trivia.  He is one of only two actors to have been nominated for acting/directing in two separate movies (the other one is Number 10 on this list), and is the only person to be nominated for writing, directing, producing, and acting all for one film, twice (for Heaven Can Wait and Reds).  Beatty also has a bit of a history of turning down Oscar-nominated roles, including Rocky Balboa, Gorden Gekko, Richard Nixon (in Oliver Stone's Nixon), and Jack Horner in Boogie Nights.

7. Robert Redford (1936-Present)

Acting Nominations: Despite being a matinee idol for decades now, Mr. Redford has only received one acting nomination so far in his career, for 1973's The Sting.
Directing Nominations: Ordinary People (1980) and Quiz Show (1994); he won for Ordinary People
Other Nominations: Redford was also nominated for producing Quiz Show, and was given an Honorary Award in 2001 for his career, particularly for his role in conjunction with the Sundance Film Festival.
A Random Bit of Trivia: Despite the Sundance Film Festival being one of the great Meccas of independent filmmakers and the event featuring a host of future writing and acting nominees with AMPAS, only a handful of movies from the festival have competed for Best Picture: Little Miss Sunshine, Winter's Bone, The Kids Are All Right, and Beasts of the Southern Wild (none of them ended up winning).  However, if you want a guide to what documentaries will be nominated for the Oscar next year, just look at the Sundance lineup, as they almost always play there.

8. Kenneth Branagh (1960-Present)

Acting Nominations: Henry V (1989) and My Week with Marilyn (2011)
Directing Nominations: Henry V (1989)
Other Nominations: Sir Kenneth (he was knighted in 2012) has a bizarre history with AMPAS, having been nominated five times in five different categories (the only person ever to do that without doubling up...so far).  In addition to the above nominations, he was also nominated for Best Live Action Short Film for Swan Song and in an odd situation (considering it was exactly the same as the Shakespearean text and hardly adapted at all) Hamlet in 1996.
A Random Bit of Trivia: Branagh is the only person on this list to never have won an Academy Award.  All of Branagh's nominations relate either directly or tangentially to Laurence Olivier: Hamlet and Henry V were both roles that Olivier played earlier in his career to Oscar-nominated success, Swan Song stars Olivier's fiercest rival on the Shakespearean stage John Gielgud, and in My Week with Marilyn Branagh actually plays Olivier.  Perhaps to keep with the symmetry of one nomination per category he should make a documentary about Olivier and see if that can finally land him a trophy.

9. Kevin Costner (1955-Present)

Acting Nominations: Dances with Wolves (1990)
Directing Nominations: Dances with Wolves (1990), for which he won.
Other Nominations: Mr. Costner was also nominated for producing Dances with Wolves, which also won him an Oscar.
A Random Bit of Trivia: Costner is one of only two men on this list to get their nominations to warrant inclusion in this list for only one film.  Costner did star in Best Picture nominees both the year before and the year after Dances with Wolves, however: 1989's Field of Dreams and 1991's JFK (it might be hard to fathom now for younger audiences who only know him from random baseball films you see on cable, but Kevin Costner was once one of the biggest movie stars on the planet).  Also, despite the general apathy with which it was received by critics and the public, Waterworld is a part of the OVP (I've never seen it-it'll be something to look forward to), getting a nod for Sound Mixing.

10. Clint Eastwood (1930-Present)

Acting Nominations: Unforgiven (1992) and Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Directing Nominations: Unforgiven, Mystic River (2003), Million Dollar Baby, and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)-he won for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby
Other Nominations: Clint was also nominated for producing Unforgiven, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, and Letters from Iwo Jima, winning for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby.  He won the Thalberg Award in 1994.
A Random Bit of Trivia: Clint had to temporarily host the 44th Academy Awards when his buddy Charlton Heston was stuck in traffic.  Eastwood, not a comedian by nature, was not good at improvising and the material that was written for Heston made no sense for him.  Eastwood swore he wouldn't return to the Oscars again unless he was nominated, and he stuck to his word, not showing up again until Unforgiven.

11. Roberto Benigni (1952-Present)

Acting Nominations: Life is Beautiful (1998), for which he won
Directing Nominations: Life is Beautiful
Other Nominations: Benigni was also nominated for writing Life is Beautiful, but lost.  The film did win Best Foreign Language film, but since that honor technically goes to the country rather than the director Benigni's technical Oscar count stands at one even though you saw him win two (I have always felt this was a stupid rule, and think all directors of Foreign Language film nominees and winners should get to use their Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning titles).
A Random Bit of Trivia: Both he and Kevin Costner are the only men on this list to get all of their Oscar nominations out of one film.  Coincidentally, they share a far more dubious honor: they're the only two men to have directed themselves to Oscar nominations AND Razzie Awards (Costner for The Postman and Benigni for Pinocchio).

12. Tim Robbins (1958-Present)

Acting Nominations: Mystic River (2003), for which he won Best Supporting Actor
Directing Nominations: Dead Man Walking (1995), one of those extremely rare films that gets nominated for both lead performances, directing, and writing and doesn't get a Best Picture nomination.  Oddly enough, Leaving Las Vegas in the same year managed to do the same thing.  Also, Robbins ended up losing to a fellow actor in Mel Gibson, one of the very rare times where two actor/directors competed against each other at the Oscars.
Other Nominations: Robbins has had a long career with Oscar-nominated films, but those are his only two nominations to date.
A Random Bit of Trivia: Despite the men on this list being married to the likes of Vivien Leigh, Annette Bening, and Emma Thompson, Robbins is one of only two to have their longtime romantic partners win an Oscar for a role they directed, with Susan Sarandon in Dead Man Walking (the other was Woody with Diane Keaton in Annie Hall).  Clearly Brad Pitt should have waited until he had his trophy before he and Angelina got hitched.

13. George Clooney (1961-Present)

Acting Nominations: Syriana (2005), Michael Clayton (2007), Up in the Air (2009), and The Descendants (2011), with Clooney winning for Syriana
Directing Nominations: Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)
Other Nominations: Clooney was also nominated for writing Good Night, and Good Luck as well as The Ides of March (2011), and was nominated for producing Argo (2012), which won him his second Oscar.
A Random Bit of Trivia: I'll go with two for the quintessential movie star of our era.  First, he isn't the only Oscar winner in the family: his uncle was Jose Ferrer, Best Actor of 1950 for Cyrano de Bergerac.  Secondly, Clooney is the only person in Oscar history (to date) that has been nominated in six different categories: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, and Adapted Screenplay.  $20 says he tries to get into one of the shorts categories before the decade is over.

And those are the thirteen gentlemen that Angelina Jolie could well be in the company of by January.  Do you think she'll do it?  Can she be the first to actually win the big prize?  And which of these men got the closest/should have sealed the deal?  Share in the comments!