Off Beat Music Guide

2011 Oscar Predictions! February 25, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — bethstephenson84 @ 7:25 am

Lady and Gentleman (my 2 readers…which happen to be my parents…whom I pay to read this), it’s time for the Super Bowl of my year….The Oscars! There’s nothing more exciting in the months of January and February than watching the shameless campaigning and rivers of thespian tears that lead up to this pinnacle of the cinematic year. And while I have often kept my love of movies off of here because it is technically a music blog, this little lady wants to have it all. So we are gonna talk about some movies today!

Let me first start by saying that I have failed in my journey to the Oscars this year. For the past 6 or 7 years, in all my nerdy glory, I have prided myself on seeing all Best Picture nominees, but this year I am missing one from my resume. I must admit that I could not bring myself to watch “127 Hours” because unlike “Black Swan”, I knew in advance that the disgusting factor would be too much for me to bear. So here are some completely biased predictions based on my incomplete knowledge of the categories.

Best Picture

“Black Swan”

“The Fighter”


“The Kids are All Right”

“The King’s Speech”

“127 Hours”

“The Social Network”

“Toy Story 3”

“True Grit”

“Winter’s Bone”

My pick: I am rooting for “The King’s Speech” this year. Normally I don’t like cheering on the front-runner, but this was just such a wonderful movie and the dynamic between Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth is so understated and magical that it’s impossible not to be wooed by its charm. And it also stands to mention that I just love period dramas, so in my mind, it was always going to come down to TKS and True Grit (which is also an excellent movie).

Will Win: The King’s Speech. Not so long ago, it looked like “The Social Network” was the shoo-in for Best Picture, and perhaps it just peaked too soon, but all the buzz seems to be surrounding this sweet little movie about stuttering. I saw this film at 2 pm on a Sunday and it was a sold out show. And I keep hearing similar stories from friends in various cities, which goes to show how much we all want an uplifting movie to finally win Best Picture. (Go check out the past 7-8 years of Best Picture winners, and apart from “Slumdog Millionaire” you will understand what I’m talking about.)

Best Director:

Darren Aronofsky- “Black Swan”

David O. Russell- “The Fighter”

Tom Hooper- “The King’s Speech”

David Fincher- “The Social Network”

Joel and Ethan Coen- “True Grit”

My Pick: Much like my Best Picture picks, I’d like to see Hooper or the Coens take it home.

Will Win: This is still a tricky race as far as I can tell. It’s down to Aronofsky and Fincher and I’ve got a feeling they might give it to Fincher if “The Social Network” loses out to “The King’s Speech.” I’m just making up stuff now, I have no idea.

Best Actor:

Javier Bardem- “Biutiful”

Jeff Bridges- “True Grit”

Jesse Eisenberg- “The Social Network”

Colin Firth- “The King’s Speech”

James Franco- “127 Hours”

My Pick– Colin Firth. It’s hard not to let my love of this man weigh too heavily on my decision. I mean, he has played BOTH of my favorite Mr. Darcy’s for crying out loud. And apart from that one bad detour into “What a Girl Wants,” he’s built a nice little resume for himself. Last year’s “A Single Man” really showcased his abilities as a dramatic actor and this year I think he’s sealed the deal for himself with his role as King George.

Will Win: Colin Firth. See above. Not to mention he’s taken home every other award under the sun for this performance. It’s time Colin, it’s time.

Best Actress:

Annette Bening- “The Kids Are All Right”

Nicole Kidman- “Rabbit Hole”

Jennifer Lawrence- “Winter’s Bone”

Natalie Portman- “Black Swan”

Michele Williams- “Blue Valentine”

My Pick– Jennifer Lawrence. I am probably more passionate about this performance and this category than any of the others this year. Lawrence turned out one of the most flawless performances that I have seen in the past few years. She carried this gut-wrenching film from start to finish, And unfortunately she won’t win the Academy Award for it, but she’s walking away with something infinitely better: my stamp of approval (which is worth like $2-$5 American dollars).

Will Win: Natalie Portman. Looks like the preggo is takin’ the gold man home. Let this be a lesson to you aspiring actresses: if you have a fairly recognizable name, a production company that will spend millions to campaign for you and the discipline to starve yourself for your “art,” you too can win an Oscar.  Annette Bening is chomping at her heels, but I think it is Portman’s to lose.

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale- “The Fighter”

John Hawkes- “Winter’s Bone”

Jeremy Renner- “The Town”

Mark Ruffalo- “The Kids Are All Right”

Geoffrey Rush- “The King’s Speech”

My Pick– I am so torn in this category. I think Geoffrey Rush and Christian Bale both deserve it. Bale is the more flamboyant character, which makes him a more obvious pick, but Rush’s silences in “The King’s Speech” can break your heart. I’d happily take either of them.

Will Win: Christian Bale. Let’s face it, Bale is probably not the nicest guy in Hollywood, but the man can act. And however crazy he is in real life, he turned out a layered and truly interesting performance in “The Fighter”. It’s not really until the end of the film, when the clips of the real Dicky Eklund are shown, that you realize how brilliant Bale is in this role.

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams- “The Fighter”

Helena Bonham Carter- “The King’s Speech”

Melissa Leo- “The Fighter”

Hailee Steinfeld- “True Grit”

Jackie Weaver- “Animal Kingdom”

My Pick– Hailee Steinfeld. Understanding my pick in this category really requires you having actually seen “True Grit.” This 14 year old demands your attention every moment she is on the screen and she holds her own against previous Oscar winners Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. Her winning would be the most deserved upset in the past few decades of The Oscars.

Will Win: Melissa Leo. Sometimes I think The Academy rewards actors and actresses for the roles they did not win for in previous years. Example: Renee Zellweger won Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for “Cold Mountain” as an acknowledgment for her role in “Chicago” which she did not receive Best Actress for the year before. It’s messy, but that’s how the system seems to work. That being said, I keep wondering it Leo will win this award more for her role in “Frozen River” than her performance in “The Fighter?” Don’t get me wrong, she’s good. Very good. But the hype feels forced.

Okay, I will stop here because I have no real opinions on the technical awards and I probably had you bored to tears at Best Picture. I am excited for Sunday’s show and I will hopefully post my feedback after it is all said and done.

Happy Oscar’s Weekend!


I just need to take a moment… February 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — bethstephenson84 @ 7:24 am

to reflect on the fact that the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the Grammys) and I both chose the same album as the Best Album of the Year. I don’t know whether to be impressed or disgusted.

In related news, people are HEE-larious!


PS22 Covers Ariel Pink February 3, 2011

Filed under: Covers,Music — bethstephenson84 @ 9:23 pm
Tags: , ,

And just because I am on a roll with my bloggin, I thought I’d do a post about my favorite little public school choir. I can’t get enough of these kids or their flipping AMAZING teacher! Can’t wait to see them perform at the Oscars.

Here they are covering one of my favorite new bands Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. This is “Round and Round” and it makes my heart happy.


Concert Review: Lost in the Trees

Filed under: Concerting,Music,Now Hear This — bethstephenson84 @ 12:17 pm
Tags: , ,

Lost in the Trees- Charlotte, NC 1/22/2011

Where: Snug Harbor, Charlotte, NC

When: January 22, 2011

I like having concert weekends. The more you can cram into Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, the better. After seeing Those Darlins on Friday, I went back to Snug Harbor on Saturday to hear the much lauded Lost in the Trees.

I’ve done a lot of research on this band, and it seems that the only common denominator is lead singer/composer Ari Picker. The rest of the band has been made up of something like 20 of Picker’s friends who weave in and out of the band as they like.

Picker put together his band of misfits while studying film scoring at Berklee College of Music. And it’s easy to see where his flair for the dramatics has crept into the compositions of Lost in the Trees’ debut LP All Alone in an Empty House. The strings are dark and mysterious, menacing even some times, but the folk elements of the music provide an overall comforting effect.

The variation of the band I saw was comprised of two cellists, a violinist, an accordionist/vocalist, a drummer and Picker on lead vocals/guitar. This was a sound the likes of which the punk/rock-in-roll venue, Snug Harbor had never heard.

Picker opened the set with vocalist/accordionist Emma Nadeau in a very stark minimalist style. It was a bit shocking to hear Picker’s first few notes burst out amidst the crowd of Pabst Blue Ribbons and decorations of stars and tinsel. His clear and haunting voice, reminiscent of Damien Rice, made for a theatrical backdrop to the other five band members’ parade onto the stage as a giant white dragon. Yep, it was about as weird as it sounds.

Lost in the Trees- Charlotte, NC 1/22/2011

The stage show may have been a little over the top. The girls, who all wore dark clothing, glittery eye makeup, and feathers in their hair, were force feeding us their caricatures of woodland sprites.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…we get it; you are “lost in the trees”.

But I have no complaints other than the theatrics. I found the band to be one of those rare treasures that sound even better live.  Their harmonies were lovely and the string instruments absolutely breathtaking.  The band certainly warrants the hype surrounding them.

Pardon the darkness of the videos. Snug Harbor is 99% bar/ 1% concert hall, so dark lighting prevails. Also please pardon the drunk guy beside me who sang/talked the entire time.

Walk Around the Lake

Lovely instrumental while Picker fixes a broken guitar string


Concert Review: Those Darlins with Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent February 2, 2011

Filed under: Concerting,Music,Now Hear This,Uncategorized — bethstephenson84 @ 10:57 pm
Tags: , ,

Where: Snug Harbor- Charlotte, NC

When: January 21, 2011

I can’t tell you how impressed I have been with the concert lineup in Charlotte this spring. We are certainly not known for our burgeoning music scene, and I often have to travel to either Raleigh or Atlanta to catch the really good shows, but it feels like the tide might be changing for my little big city.

Those Darlins- Snug Harbor 1/21/2011

My first concert of the New Year was Those Darlins who played a sold out show at Charlotte’s token indie bar, Snug Harbor. And as far as booking goes, the band couldn’t have picked a more perfect place to rock-and-roll in the Queen City.

As it sometimes happens, opening acts are better than the headliners. The headliners in this case were a great band, but opening act Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent seemed to stun the hipster crowd with their twangy sound.

If you married the smoky, raspy voice of Loretta Lynn with the soulful voice of anyone in Motown, you would have the powerhouse voice of Cary Ann Hearst. What this little lady lacks in height she makes up for big time in sound and presence. Michael Trent was a pleasant addition, but Ms. Hearst could have sung names out of the phone book, and brought down the house on her own merits.

If Cary Ann Hearst was ice cream Sunday of the night, then Those Darlins were the cherry on top. They were just what you would expect from their album: loud, tatted up, and absolutely gorgeous. With their mix of Rockabiliy and 60’s pop, this all girl band ripped Snug Harbor a new one.

I have mentioned this before about Snug Harbor, but it doesn’t hurt to mention again, the sound quality at the venue is pitiful. It was sort of fun when I saw Japandroids there because it added to their garage band feel. With Those Darlins though, I really thought it was a hindrance to their show. You couldn’t hear the lyrics very clearly and the sound guy had cranked the guitar amps up way too high.  Luckily those ladies were bad ass enough to still make the show fun.

I was stuck at the back of the bar, so I didn’t get any of my own video footage, but here are some videos of both Cary Ann Hearst and Those Darlins. It’s worth the listen.

Cary Ann Heart- Hell’s Bells

Those Darlins- Red Light Love