Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Xavier: "I'm kinda androgynous most of the time. The Olsen twins inspire me because they have that 'I just got out of bed' look. Very nonchalant."

TorontoVerve: "Which Olsen twin do you admire more?"

Xavier: "Mary-Kate. She has a way of putting things together and making it look easy, but still stylish and comfortable."

TorontoVerve: "What's your biggest fear in life?"

Xavier: "Being afraid to live life."

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Linda: "I dress simple, chic and understated."

TorontoVerve: "What is your favourite memory in life?"

Linda: Marrying my husband."

Monday, April 21, 2014

From Peace River to House of Cards: An Interview with Canadian Actress Tanis Parenteau

When actress Tanis Parenteau first walked onto the House of Cards set, she didn’t expect to cross paths with Kevin Spacey so soon, but as fate would have it, she did. The oscar winning actor passed her to shoot his next scene with his TV wife, Robin Wright, and Parenteau got to watch every minute of it. Needless to say, it was a dream come true for the Peace River, Alberta-born actress, who currently appears in Chapter 20 of the popular political series on Netflix. She plays Tammy, a Native cocktail waitress (Parenteau is Métis and Cree), who has a chance encounter with Doug Stamper (Michael Kelley) in her tribe's casino. Recently, Parenteau Skyped with me from her New York City apartment and we discussed her life before and after her new success.

TorontoVerve: What was is like growing up in Peace River, Alberta? 

Tanis Parenteau: It’s really a small town. The population is around 6800. I grew up with my parents and my older brother. I was an athlete. I’m sure it’s like this in every town and city across Canada, but in Peace River, you play sports for the most part, and if you’re into winter sports, you’re either on the ice or you’re skiing in the mountains. My family was on the ice. My brother played hockey and I figure skated. My childhood was largely playing sports. I figure skated for 15 years, I played basketball, volleyball and I did track. I really liked growing up in a small town. My high school had around 300 people and my graduating class had around 60 people. It was a safe place growing up. One of the big past times there is jet boating on the river. We did a lot of outdoorsy things.

TV: Did you compete professionally at all? 

TP: Not professionally. I kinda just did everything in junior high and high school. I competed in figure skating until I graduated. I moved from Peace River to Edmonton to study for my undergrad at the University of Alberta, and then I just stopped all competitive sports. I was a little intimidated moving to a big city like Edmonton, where the competition was high. I didn’t have enough confidence to continue in sports so I just focussed on school.

TV: Tell us about your family. What are they like?

TP: I have a small immediate family. My parents are still together. Everybody still lives in Peace River. I was the only one to move outside the province -- never mind the country. My family is really close. I have a big extended family on both sides so I have a huge network of cousins, seconds cousins, aunties and uncles. We have family reunions every couple of years. Pretty much our whole life up there is about being with family.

TV: When you told your family you were moving to New York to train in acting, how did they react?

TP: They were ok with it. My mom wasn’t really shocked because I kept moving further and further away from Peace River since I went to U of A. I moved from Edmonton to Vancouver first and then from Vancouver to New York. I had already been living outside Alberta for 6 years so moving to New York wasn’t much of a difference for my family. They were sad that I was moving further away, but they were very supportive. They knew acting was what I wanted to do and there was no discussion. They’re great. I couldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for my family.

TV: You're a New York-based actor, how do you stay motivated to find your next gig in a city where the competition is so high? 

TP: I’m really resourceful. I’m good at the business part of it. I’ve come to develop confidence in marketing myself and understanding that I need to represent myself as an agent, a manager and a publicist until I have a team of people doing that for me. I understood that a long time ago. I’m all about doing things the most optimal way. Staying persistent is my motivation.

[Tammy and Doug, both recovering alcohol addicts, bond in Chapter 20 of House of Cards]

TV: Let's talk House of Cards. Tell us what that moment was like when you first heard you got the role? 

TP: It was really surreal. There was a two-week period from the time I first auditioned to the time I got offered the part. It was an emotional roller-coaster. After I auditioned, I got a phone call from my manager who said that the casting director called and they wanted to know if I was ok with nudity: “a little bit of side bum.” So I said, yes, no problem. I trust the show, I trust Netflix and I trust the writers. It’s fine with me. Every other day, I got a phone call saying that I was on a very short list. My manager said I’m 90% sure you’re going to get it. I sat on pins and needles for two weeks. When I finally got the part, it wasn’t as exciting as I thought, but I think that’s because it didn’t really hit me right away. I guess I felt in my heart that I was going to get it.

TV: How much did you know about the show before you got the part? 

TP: Everything. When I got my audition, I started watching the show to do some research. After watching the first episode I was hooked. In those two weeks, I sorta had this dilemma -- I want to keep watching the show because it’s really good and if I do get the part, I want to continue watching it to know what happens up to my scene, but if I don’t get the part, it would be sad because I would have invested all this time, energy and emotion into watching it. Still, I couldn’t help but watch it because it’s so damn good. Interestingly, when they give you your audition script, they block out all the names so you don’t know who your scene is with because they’re so hush hush, but I eventually figured out that I would be working with Michael Kelley who plays Doug Stamper on the show.

TV: Your appearance on the show is brief but poignant. Your character Tammy brings out an uncharacteristic sentimental side to the usually brooding Doug Stamper and she makes him aware that his obsession for Rachel (played by Rachel Brosnahan) isn't quite as hidden as he thought. How does it feel playing a significant part in one of the major character's development? 

TP: I didn’t realize that right away. I wish I had more [scenes]. She was so integral to his development, but it feels great to be that person who brings out that side of Doug because we didn’t see much from him in the first season.

TV: Which one of the cast members did you learn from the most and what did they tell you? 

TP: I worked with Michael and I did get to work with Gil Birmingham (TwilightThe Lone Ranger), but our scenes were cut. The whole crew was awesome too. It couldn’t have been a better experience. But I would have to say Michael because we worked so much together and he was just amazing. Our first scene together was a seduction scene where I take him back to my apartment. We ended up making out all day and he made me feel super comfortable. He kinda took me under his wing. James Foley was our director and I was a little intimidated at first because he directed Glengarry Glen Ross -- one of the best movies of all time, but he was awesome -- especially approaching the morning after scene. I was a little nervous because I wasn’t sure if the level of nudity that I was prepared to do was enough for him, but he was like “whatever you’re comfortable with is fine,” and everything worked out smoothly. He was really passionate about every take that we had. Michael was great. He told me that [House of Cards] was one of the best jobs that he ever had. I also got to watch Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright shoot a scene where Francis is painting one of his toy soldiers. It was wonderful seeing two masters do their thing.

TV: How has your role in House of Cards changed your life so far? 

TP: It definitely opened some doors here in New York as far as auditions go and meeting casting directors I haven’t met before. I recently interviewed for a casting director who is very passionate about the show. As you mentioned, my character was integral to Doug’s development and that’s how he felt. I guess he wanted to make sure that Tammy was getting her moment. I’ve had a lot of champions for my character on the show and it’s helped me get a little bit of exposure. Also, I finally signed with an agent -- it’s really hard to sign with an agent in New York. For the last 3 years, I’ve been freelancing with some management companies, but getting an agent is really tough until you get something substantial under your belt. At the same time, it’s hard to get something substantial if you don’t have an agent getting you auditions. A large part of me getting the House of Cards audition is that Tammy was written as a native character so they were only looking for native actresses, and since the pool is smaller, it was better for me as a native actress.

TV: This season both House of CardsBanshee featured prominent story lines with Native Americans. In fact one of your favourite actors, Gil Birmingham, appeared on both shows. Do you feel that there are more opportunities for Native American actors in Hollywood today?  

TP: I definitely do -- especially in TV lately. Maybe not so much with Hollywood studio films. Obviously, since Johnny Depp played Tonto in Walt Disney’s The Lone Ranger and now Rooney Mara is playing Tiger Lily in Warner Bros’ new adaptation of Peter Pan. But, in the industry overall, there’s definitely more opportunity. And there are more Native people writing their own stories and making their own films, which offers us more significant roles.

TV: You mentioned that the pool for Native actors is small. How do you feel when Native roles go to non-native actors like Rooney Mara in Pan

TP: I definitely feel it should go to a Native actress. It’s tough because that role is very stereotypical. In the original Peter Pan, I kinda look at Tiger Lily and wonder who would want to play that stereotypical character anyways? But, none of us have seen the new script so I don’t know how that character is going to be portrayed in the film. So there is an opportunity to not have such a stereotypical character. Yeah, I think the role should have gone to a Native actress and there are so many talented Native actresses.

TV: Is it harder for you to get roles that are not written specific for Native Americans? 

TP: I don’t know if I would say it’s harder. I think they’re both an equal struggle for me. Depending on who’s judging, some people may think I don’t look Native or don’t look Native enough so I might miss out on Native roles. Others may not be able to place what I am. I’m not Caucasian. I’m ethnically ambiguous. Some people ask me: do I want to be typecast as a Native actress? For me, I don’t think that’s possible, but I really don’t mind because there are so much more opportunities for Native actresses -- especially now when we’re telling our own stories.

TV: In addition to acting, you have a passion for strength training, nutrition and health. What is your daily routine to keep in shape? 

TP: It changes. I prefer not following those fitness gurus like Jillian Michaels and Tracy Anderson who are always trying to sell you something on TV. Instead, I follow a handful of well-known strength and conditioning coaches who have PHDs on the subject and have published the scientific aspects of it. I also have a bachelors in Physical Education so I’ll occasionally develop my own programs. In the gym, I mostly do multi-joint barbell movements like squats, dead-lifts, bench-press, chin-ups and over-head press. My goal isn’t aesthetics so much as it is getting stronger. I’m always trying to achieve a new personal record. There’s always a goal and that’s what I think most people miss out on. Most people’s training is so random and they don’t keep track of what they’re doing so they get easily demotivated. I always track what I do and I know when I’m making progress. Being strong is awesome. I get to open my own jars and lift my own furniture. It’s really empowering.

TV: With all the muscle you're putting on, are you possibly reinventing yourself to be an action star like Gina Carano from Haywire

TP: Yeah, I’ve done a few action films in the past, but they haven’t been released. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough money to finish them so they’re probably sitting somewhere in someone’s computer. Because I’ve always been athletic and I love staged combat, I’d definitely jump on an action film in a heartbeat.

TV: Next month, you're playing the lead in the off broadway play, Manahatta, at The Public Theatre. Tell us about your role and the play. 

TP: The play is written by Cherokee playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle and it tells two stories in one. I play Jane, the protagonist, who moves from Oklahoma to New York to work with an investment firm on Wallstreet. Her struggles leaving her family parallels another story that takes place in the 1600s when the Lenape lost their land to settlers. Each actor gets to play a character in both past and present. The play is about knowing where you're from and remembering your roots. It also highlights a sad moment in history when the island of Manhattan was deceptively sold. The Indians didn’t know they were really selling their home.

TV: What's it like for you to perform on stage in front of a live audience? 

TP: It’s thrilling. Sometimes it’s scary. It’s great because it heightens the work so much. The stakes are higher when you’re performing live. It really keeps you on your toes because sometimes there are people in the audience that you know, but you have to block it all out and focus on the story and your character.

TV: You're living your dream now -- what words of advise can you offer our readers who are considering a career in acting?  

TP: Training. An actor should always be training. It’s a skill like in sports. You have to keep it up or you can get rusty. If you’re just getting started, sign up for some classes. I would recommend immersive and intensive programs to gain a wide variety of skills and methods. Join a theatre troop or take drama classes in school. Just training, training, training.

* * *

Follow Tanis on Twitter.

Manahatta will be at The Public Theatre in New York City from May 15th to May 25th.

Street style photos courtesy of Kimberly Mufferi -- follow her on Twitter.

House of Cards photos courtesy of Netflix.

Fitness photo courtesy of Anthony Thosh Collins.

Fashion photo courtesy of Baker T. Bilsen.

If you haven't already started watching House of Cards on Netflix, what are you waiting for?

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Jaime: "My style is carefree. I get ideas from other people, but my fashion is mostly my own."

TorontoVerve: "What's your biggest fear in life?"

Jaime: "To not be successful."

And success is not eluding Jaime aka JAI JONES. He's a busy rap artist whose influences are old school artists: DMX and Three 6 Mafia. You can check out his beats on his YouTube Channel here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Quinn & Laura

Quinn: "I am very tweedy. I basically am always trying to keep up with her. I feel if I can make myself look halfway presentable then I'm good enough to walk around with her. She's the most stylish person I know."

Laura: "My style is an eclectic vintage collection."

TorontoVerve: "What's your favourite memory in life?"

Quinn: "Favourite memory in life? That's heavy. Wow. Okay, I'm laying it on thick today, but it's when I first started dating her."

Laura: "Oh my God (laugh). I have to go with the same answer."

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Andrew: "I can't say anyone inspires my style. I've seen styles come and go at least 3 or 4 times. I'm an avid fan of McQueen, Gaultier, Dior and YSL -- when it was YSL. Not sure about that now."

TorontoVerve: "What's your biggest fear in life?"

Andrew: "Not being happy. Even when the shittiest things in life are going bad, if I'm not happy then I'm not happy, but if I'm feeling good knowing that tomorrow is going to be okay…well, it's a Buddhist kinda thing."

Interestingly, we shot Andrew's street style before on Spadina Avenue nearly 3 years to this day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Victoria: "I'm not quite certain what my style is. It's not a distinctive look. It's whatever I throw on each day. However I feel. My parents influence my fashion. The old Saigon era. It's kinda French Vietnamese."

TorontoVerve: "What's your favourite memory in life?"

Victoria: "Meeting my partner. It was love at first sight."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Ty: "My style is edgy and bohemian."

TorontoVerve: "What's your favourite memory in life?"

Ty: "South Africa. I once modelled in South Africa. It was life-changing for me."

TorontoVerve: "How was it life-changing for you?"

Ty: "Seeing people who are worse off than me. It gave me a different perspective on life -- made me more appreciative of what I have."

Monday, April 14, 2014


Jeremiah: "My style is eclectic -- a mix of vintage and bright colours. I'm looking forward to summer."

TorontoVerve: "Who's your biggest fashion inspiration?"

Jeremiah: "Me. Always. That's it."

TorontoVerve: "And what's your biggest fear in life?"

Jeremiah: "To be boring."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Paolo: "My style is laid-back. Whatever I like that's what I wear. There's no pattern. I just do what I like. My parents inspire me. They're hippies, man."

TorontoVerve: "What's your biggest fear in life?"

Paolo: (pause) "Nothing."

TorontoVerve: "Nothing?"

Paolo: "Maybe my love ones passing, but that's about it."

Friday, April 4, 2014

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

St Stella

St Stella: "My style is vintage with a twist of hippie. Vintage Marilyn Monroe inspires as does Janis Joplin's flower-power style."

TorontoVerve: "What's your greatest fear in life?"

St Stela: "Being boring."

TorontoVerve: "Being boring?"

St Stela: "I don't want to come and go from this world without having had an effect on people."

Monday, March 31, 2014


Michelle: "My style is kinda funky, hip, feminine and a little bit edgy."

TorontoVerve: "Let me ask you something that isn't style related: what's your biggest fear in life?"

Michelle: "Well, it was not finding true love, but I think I got that now."

Friday, March 28, 2014


"My mom inspires my style. When I see her old photos, we look so much alike. We both have that easy-going, vintage hippie look."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


"Today is my all black and professional look. I get a lot of my style inspiration from Beauty By JJ."

Monday, March 24, 2014

DJ Kimberly Kitty

"My style is soft goth. Fashion icon Daphne Guinness inspires me because she's super chic and really edgy."

Kimberly is a club DJ and you can check out her techno beats on her website.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


"I always like mixing something that's really fancy with something that's casual. I love the best of both worlds."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Asia: Hobo Luxury

"This is vintage fur - it's hobo luxury. Shabby and chic, but with a colourful twist."

Asia previously appeared on TorontoVerve last summer. Check out her Marilyn Monroe inspired look here.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"And the Oscar Goes to…" Film Critic Ariel Fisher Predicts the Winners

This is the first year I’ll try to make an educated guess on who'll win the Oscar based on industry reactions, rather than my own personal tastes. It’s a strange hat to wear, but I think it fits. We’ll have to wait until March 2nd to see if my estimations are correct!

Best Actor in a Leading Role 

This year’s Best Actor race is a difficult one, mostly due to an overall underwhelming list of nominees. Christian Bale’s nod for American Hustle feels misplaced, in spite of his caliber overall. The film was adequate, and his performance was great, as would be expected. However, it hardly feels up to snuff as one of the best male performances of the year.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort of the much-discussed The Wolf of Wall Street is excellent, but hardly the best we’ve seen from the actor. 

Bruce Dern, on the other hand, offered a nuanced, sad portrayal of a man succumbing to senility and old age in Nebraska. Though his performance was excellent, it doesn’t fit with standard Oscar contenders. He’ll be overlooked, there’s no doubt.

This year’s battle is really between two contenders: Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthew McConaughey. Ejiofor took the lead in Steve McQueen’s latest triumph, 12 Years a Slave, as the free man kidnapped, and sold into slavery, Solomon Northup. His performance was elegant, and powerful, bringing audiences and critics alike to their knees. I would love nothing more than to see him awarded for this role.

However, it will likely go to McConaughey for his portrayal of AIDS victim Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club. His nomination is deserved, and in what has come to be a stupendous couple of years for the actor, it’s hard not to award him for his exceptional work. However, it’s not his best work of the past couple of years, and I still stand by my previous criticism that his weight loss took centre stage above his performance. Do not misunderstand: he is an exceptional actor, and his performance as Woodroof was excellent. Just not quite excellent enough. I still think he’ll take the trophy, but I believe Ejiofor deserves it more.

Winner: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Actual Winner: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Like much of the Oscars this year, this category is peppered with great and questionable nominees. Amy Adams’ performance in American Hustle drifted from beautifully dark and complex to painful and stilted. Her affected English accent, while put on for the sake of her con artist persona, was enough to yank me out of the film repeatedly throughout its run time. It’s just not solid enough for the nomination, let alone a win.

The lovely Judi Dench was lovely in the spotty Philomena. That’s about all that can be said. It’s a charming film, and Dench does a great job with the soft-spoken role. However, more than anything, it’s the story that’s heartbreaking. This isn’t to snub Dench’s performance, just to say that it’s not quite Oscar caliber. Then again, let us remember the 1999 Academy Awards, where even she was flabbergasted by her nomination and subsequent win.

And then we have Meryl, the Queen of the Oscars if ever there was one. She’s here with her 18th nomination, but likely not her fourth win for August: Osage County. Although her venomous character afforded her the opportunity to be ruthless and devastatingly callous and manipulative, it’s not quite her best work. Worthy of the nomination? Absolutely. But someone will beat Meryl.

Gravity was, at one point this year, all anyone could talk about. And while it’s certainly a visual achievement, the performances were simply alright. Clooney, as usual, was Clooney. Only he was in space. No great achievement there. Sandra Bullock, however, truly performed. And while her performance was good, it was simply that. Good. It’s not the best performance of the year, nor will it be rewarded as such. Or rather nor should it be.

Cate Blanchett has been cleaning up the awards for her performance in Woody Allen’s latest, Blue Jasmine, as the damaged titular character. While this is hardly Allen’s best work, and would scarcely grace the presence of a top ten list, Blanchett’s performance is exquisite. In a comedic role, she allowed the severity of her character’s condition to shine through, deftly avoiding being reduced to little more than comic fodder. She’s deserving of every accolade she’s received for the part, and will hopefully earn at least one more. Not only does she stand the greatest chance at winning this award, she’s easily the most deserving of it.

Winner: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Actual Winner: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Bradley Cooper’s presence for American Hustle baffles me. His performance felt wrote, and predictable at best.

Likewise, Jonah Hill’s nomination is a surprise. The poor, schlocky use of improv, especially on Hill’s part, for The Wolf of Wall Street, distracted from the film.

Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips, unfortunately, feels like filler. While his performance was good, I don’t know that the nomination was necessary.

And then you have the titans. For his third time now, Michael Fassbender has done an outstanding job with Steve McQueen’s material. He was faced with the difficult task of bringing the vile Edwin Epps, slave master and plantation owner, to life in 12 Years a Slave, and he did so astonishingly.

In a widely different role, Jared Leto made his big screen comeback after a six-year absence in Dallas Buyers Club as Rayon. Thankfully, it isn’t just the drastic weight loss that catches your eye. He fills the screen with a glowing presence I never knew he was capable of. He commands the film every moment he’s in frame, and depicts a realistically heartbreaking portrayal of an AIDS victim. He’s simply outstanding. So far, he’s garnered a ton of support for the role, and thus far he seems to stand the best shot of taking home Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Winner Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Actual Winner Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

This year, there’s no contest as to who deserves the Oscar. Sally Hawkins did an admirable job in Blue Jasmine. While she’s become a critical darling thanks to the film, her performance doesn’t move mountains. Her character didn’t call for the same amount of emotional volatility as did Blanchett’s Jasmine, which may have been a detriment. It’s hard to outshine that kind of potency.

June Squibb, nominated for her performance of the disgruntled and feisty wife to Bruce Dern’s senile Woody Grant in Nebraska, gave a charming enough performance. While she’s hilarious in the film, her nomination is a bit of a head scratcher for me.

Julia Roberts was explosive in August: Osage County. She allowed herself to unleash a ferocity I don’t think I’ve ever seen from her. She was ugly, like the pain of her life, and it worked. She was raw, painful, and stripped bare in the best possible way. But the race this year is between only two young women, both exceptional talents, although one more deservedly nominated than the other.

Jennifer Lawrence was entertaining enough in American Hustle, the film that seems to have become the darling of this year’s awards season. She did a good job. Beyond that, there isn’t much to be said. Her nomination for Winter’s Bone made much more sense, even than her win for Silver Lining’s Playbook, in my opinion. But there seems to be this push to make her the new Meryl. She took home the Golden Globe for her performance, and had everyone scratching their heads. If politics carry this year, which, let’s face it, is pretty much par for the course, she may take her second Oscar in two years.

But, she’ll have to take down the magnificent Lupita Nyong’o first. By far the best female performance of the year, Nyong’o has managed to solidify her career with her first performance in 12 Years a Slave. With what was one of the most cripplingly beautiful performances in an already devastating film, she’s emblazoned herself in the public consciousness, and likely in cinema history. Of all of the actresses nominated in this category, she deserves it the most. I will be stunned if she isn’t awarded this honor she so richly deserves.

Winner: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
Actual Winner: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

Best Documentary Feature

This year’s documentary race is a predominantly political one. Cutie and the Boxer and 20 Feet From Stardom, however, separate themselves from the theme. The former intricately goes in-depth into the lives of two Japanese artists living in Manhattan. Though the film is a standout, it hasn’t garnered enough support to take the award this year.

Meanwhile, 20 Feet From Stardom is a powerhouse, garnering unanimous critical praise. While a truly exceptional film, full of emotion and fire, it’s runner up at best.

The political stream in this category starts with Dirty Wars, the Rick Rowley directed documentary with Blackwater author and journalist Jeremy Scahill at the foreground. His detailed look at the covert operations of the US military, while significant, winds up feeling like the most lackluster entry of the bunch. With barely any support from the Producers Guild Awards or the Directors Guild Awards thus far, it’s not likely it’ll take the cake.

The Act of Killing, on the other hand, has garnered a great deal of support and praise for its remarkable effect. No other film on the list managed to affect the change this film did. Asking a former Indonesian executioner, Anwar Congo, to recreate many of his executions on camera with some of his former “coworkers” forced him to take a long hard look at his legacy. The result is astounding. It’s one of the most remarkable documentaries in years for its ability to affect change, even in just one man. The change is not only visible, it’s visceral, and captured on film for all the world to see.

Lastly, we have The Square. A Netflix production, it’s garnered the most support across the board, and as such stands the best chance of winning the Oscar this year. The film puts the Egyptian Revolution and the protests of Tahrir Square in a clear light from the perspective of the people, the very demographic crying for liberty. Filmed on the political battleground that often looked like a warzone, the film captures first hand accounts from those involved on both sides, giving the world unfettered access to the truth behind the protests. Aside from its monumental achievement, and from being an exceptional piece of documentary filmmaking, The Square has been garnering awards across the board. Winner of the People’s Choice Award for Documentary at 2013’s Toronto International Film Festival, it’s also taken the International Documentary Association’s Best Feature award, and The Director’s Guild of America’s Best Feature Documentary award. It won the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary at Sundance, was in the National Board of Review’s Top Five Documentaries, and won the Documentary award at the Dubai International Film Festival. Its praise is irrefutable, and it is likely the Titan of this category.

Winner: The Square
Actual Winner: 20 Feet from Stardom

Best Original Song

The nominees this year in this particular category are all solid. Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” is infectious. It’s perfect for Despicable Me, and, as the video will suggest, it’s impossible not to dance to.

U2’s “Ordinary Love” from Mandella: Long Walk to Freedom is a perfectly lovely song, but winds up feeling a little flat.

And then you have Karen O and Spike Jonze’s “Moon Song”, a stripped down acoustic lullaby from the surprisingly tender Her. An intimate and delicate song, it’s absolutely stunning.

But the winner this year will likely be “Let It Go” as sung by Idina Menzel in Frozen. With all the love this film is deservedly receiving, it seems only fitting that its song about perseverance and self-acceptance take the award.

Winner: "Let It Go" Sung by Idina Menzel (Frozen)
Actual Winner: "Let It Go" Sung by Idina Menzel (Frozen)

Best Director & Best Picture

This year’s Best Picture nominees are a ramshackle group of things that don’t belong. I still can’t quite wrap my head around Captain Philips, American Hustle, Philomena, or, honestly, Nebraska. The inclusion of ten films rather than five still baffles and aggravates me. But, alas, such is the way of the Academy. I’ve come to expect far less.

Sadly, I’m still surprised. The Wolf of Wall Street, though oddly subversive, and the subject of much heated critical debate, is not best picture quality. It’s barely on the radar for the category – though still a clearer contender than Nebraska, Philomena, and Her. Likewise, Best Director won’t be going to Scorsese. He won in 2007 for The Departed, so it seems very unlikely that the Academy would give it to him again so soon, especially with two Titans in the ring, and one “dark horse.” In spite of all of its critical praise, Dallas Buyers Club won’t take the title. Nor will the charming and heartwarming Her. Nebraska and Alexander Payne will likely be left out in the cold, as well, alongside Philomena and Captain Philips. And then there was Gravity and American Hustle, the two films and their respective directors who may share these most prestigious awards. While it received universal praise, Gravity is just not the best picture of the year. It’s a beautiful film, to be sure, but that’s about it.

[Director Alfonso Cuarón on the set of Gravity]

Alfonso Cuarón, however, could possibly take the Best Director nod for that very reason. It’s a well-directed film, even if the end result is imperfect. He’s also been nominated three times previously for Y Tu Mamá También and Children of Men. He has a win coming his way, and this is likely his year.

American Hustle could take the Best Picture category. David O. Russell has been nominated twice before for directing, just last year for Silver Linings Playbook, and in 2010 for The Fighter. Both films had numerous nominations in their respective years.

[Director David O. Russell on the set of American Hustle]

And while I don’t think he’ll take it for directing, it’s not a stretch to think that American Hustle could earn him the Oscar. Hustle’s garnered tons of press, and its theatrical release so close to the Oscars could prove a leg up. It has a whopping ten nominations at this year’s Academy Awards, won Best Motion Picture Comedy or Musical at the Golden Globes, took home the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture award from the SAG’s, and won Movie of the Year at the AFI Awards. It’s proving to be a force to be reckoned with.

However, now that 12 Years a Slave tied with Gravity at the Producers Guild Awards, the Academy may change its tune. The PGA winner for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures has taken the Best Picture Oscar the past six years running. It’s hard not to bet on those odds. Meanwhile, with two of the most talked about films of the year tying for the title, this may clear up the odds. 12 Years a Slave clearly deserves the win. Out of every film nominated, it has the most merit, and is of the highest caliber.

[Director Steve McQueen on the set of 12 Years a Slave]

While it strays away from the stoic force behind McQueen’s remarkable Hunger, it opens up his body of work to a wider audience, without compromising artistic integrity. This will be McQueen’s first Oscar nomination for directing, so the Academy may feel like he’ll have ample opportunity to give it to him at a later date. However, he’d also be the first Black director to win the award. Considering the film he’s nominated for, this would be the perfect time to make history. Awarding McQueen the Best Director Oscar and Cuarón’s Gravity Best Picture seems the most logical progression of events.

Winner: Steve McQueen, Best Director (12 Years a Slave)
Actual Winner: Alfonso Cuarón, Best Director (Gravity)

Winner: Gravity, Best Picture

Actual Winner: 12 Years a Slave, Best Picture

A very special thanks to Ariel Fisher for sharing her Oscar predictions with us.

Check out Ariel's latest film reviews on her blog The Fish Bowl and follow her on Twitter.

Watch the 86th Academy Awards on CTV Sunday March 2nd at 8:30pm EST.