My art and writing are two channels I use to express gratitude for all the goodness in my life.  Being creative requires me to step out of my comfort zone and explore new avenues.  When I write and paint from the heart, everything makes sense.  I am grateful for the opportunity to share my joy with you.

And the Winner Is...

Lights!  Camera!  Action!  Yes, it's that time of year again, Oscar season.  One of my most favorite times of the year.  I look forward to Oscar night as much as my husband looks forward to The Master's, golf's premier tournament (for those of you who aren't subjected to Sunday afternoons watching grown men swat a little ball around with a club). Photo Courtesy of The Girl in Row K

I have been in love with the movies since childhood.  I wish I could tell you what was the first movie I ever saw but for the life of me I can't remember.  I do recall standing in line outside the Palace Theater in Danbury, Connecticut with my mother and brother, waiting to purchase our tickets to see "Snow White".  Tickets cost 25 cents, a far cry from today, right?

Movies have been a touchstone for many stages of my life, especially once I reached my teens.  My first boyfriend was crazy about the Marx Brothers, and it so happened that about the time we began to date they were going through a renaissance.  I fell in love with their schtick, particularly in the movie "Animal Crackers".  220px-Animal_Crackers_Movie_PosterMy favorite quote from that movie?  "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas.  How it got in my pajamas, I don't know."  I still smile when I think of that movie.

The first movie I ever saw where there was a hint of sex was "Love Story".  Boy, was I intrigued!  And I so wanted to be Jenny and have my own Oliver to swoon over me.

Then there was "The Godfather", the first movie I ever saw that had nudity in it.  My mother felt it necessary to give me a heads up about this fact, reminding me that it was completely natural and in line with the story.  Needless to say, what I really remember most is the horse's head in the bed.  Now, that was a sight I could have done without!

(As I write this, I realize what a sheltered life I led.)

The first movie I ever saw with my husband was "Dog Day Afternoon", on New Year's Eve, 1976.  I still remember Al Pacino screaming, "Attica!  Attica!"  I was recently watching a Gilmore Girls episode with my daughter where this quote is referenced; Mary didn't get it at all, but I thought it was great.

My husband also took me to my first horror film, although I guess it is more accurate to call it a thriller.  "Jaws" scared the heck out of me.  It was the first time I ever saw a dismembered body part...I told you,  I led a sheltered life!

I developed quite a few crushes over the years.  Gene Hackman in "The Poseidon Adventure", Al Pacino in "Serpico", Sylvester Stallone in "Rocky" (only the first, he lost me after that, especially when he started the Rambo franchise), George Clooney in...well, just about anything.

As with so many people movies provided me with an escape from my own (in my mind) uninteresting life.  They gave me a chance to dream, to believe that anything was possible.  I still favor seeing movies in the theater as opposed to watching them in the comfort of my home.  I love the ambience of the theater; the smell of buttered popcorn, the big screen, the cushioned seats.  Magic.

I was lucky enough to be able to see seven out of the eight films nominated this year for best picture.  I loved each and every one of them.  Without further ado, here are my picks for tonight's Academy Awards.  These are the nominees that I would like to see take home the trophy.

Best Picture:  "Birdman" I have a feeling that "Boyhood" is going to win, but I found "Birdman" to be so endearing; the once popular, over-the-hill actor attempting a comeback.  I love comeback movies (as evidenced by my crush on Rocky, er, Sylvester Stallone). I love Michael Keaton, and I love the way this film was shot.  "Boyhood" is equally deserving and amazing, but as I said, this is all about my favorites.

Best Actor:  Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything".  He was amazing, from the moment he appeared on the screen.  This was such a physically demanding role; we slowly witnessed the deterioration of Hawking's body until all that he could communicate with were his eyes and a touch activated computer.  Redmayne's eyes spoke volumes in the final scenes.

Best Actress:  This is going to be hard for me to comment on, because it is the one category that has nominated actresses from films I had not seen.  Julianne Moore is the front runner and from everything I have read she deserves it for her portrayal of a woman coming to terms with early-onset Alzheimer's.  She is also my favorite actress out of the ones nominated so I am going to root for her.

Best Supporting Actor:  J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash".  Another incredible performance.  His cruel, psychologically abusive music teacher was downright frightening, and yet I found myself understanding his relentless desire to bring out the genius in his student.  J.K. Simmons succeeds in not making him a one-dimensional character.

Best Supporting Actress:  Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood".  I loved watching how her character evolved through the years.

Best Director:  Richard Linklater, "Boyhood".  No director has ever made such an original film.

So, who will you be rooting for tonight?  I'll see you on the red carpet!

Farewell, February!