NCR Today

Making educated predictions for Sunday's Oscars

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I saw 120 of the top films released in the United States in 2012, most of them in the top 250 that made at least $1 million at the box office. I saw 33 of the 45 films in the major categories nominated for an Oscar. I am only going to cast votes here in the categories for which I saw all the films.

On NPR today, host Michel Martin talked about The Los Angeles Times story that claims that "most Oscar voters are white, male, out of touch" and of a certain age.

If I were a voting member of the Academy, here are the films I would vote for, as a white, still middle-aged (it's a close call but I still have some time) female and, I like to think, an in-touch film reviewer. And I don't like sympathy wins. Oscars are precious; give them to the truly deserving.

Best picture

"Hugo" -- This film gets my vote, and I hope it will win; it's a beautiful homage to cinema, the imagination, storytelling and family. It moved me.

"The Help" -- This is a very strong contender, and I loved it.

Students go on hunger strike over employee wages at University of Virginia

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Eighteen students and their supporters at the University of Virginia, my alma mater, are on day six of a hunger strike calling for a living wage for the university's lowest-paid workers.

Members of Living Wage at UVA campaign are demanding the university pay their employees at least $13an hour, provide job security, "safe, just and humane working conditions" and create a Living Wage Oversight Board.

In a letter to friends and supporters, hunger striker Hunter Link gives background on the campaign and explains why he is participating. Link, who is Catholic, says Catholic social teaching and Dorothy Day inspired his decision to join the hunger strike. Interestingly, University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan is also a Catholic and has written in favor of a living wage.

Here is an excerpt from Link's report:

Catholic bishops should read the writing on the wall for same-sex marriage

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Yesterday, our State Senate here in Maryland passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. This follows similar action by the House of Delegates last week, and it makes Maryland the eighth state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage. Our governor, Martin O'Malley -- who is a Catholic -- pushed for the bill and will sign the bill into law.

In this, O'Malley joins other Catholic governors who also recently approved same-sex marriage: Andrew Cuomo of New York and Christine Gregoire of Washington state.

O'Malley's signature might not be the end of the story in Maryland, however, because opponents of the measure are hoping to put the question on a ballot referendum this fall. So the ultimate decision could be made by Maryland voters. Currently, the polls show a solid majority of Marylanders favoring the measure, but who knows what a large dose of negative campaigning might do?

Part of that negative campaigning, you can be sure, will come from the Catholic bishops. Yet they might profitably do what the three Catholic governors have done: read the handwriting on the wall.

Oscar nominee for 'A Better Life' talks about leaving Mexico and his move to the U.S.

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From the Huffington Post:

Demian Bichir learned an important lesson when he left his native Mexico to launch a U.S. acting career and ended up working in a Mexican restaurant in New York: How to live the invisible life of an undocumented immigrant with dignity.

It's a subtle quality he brings to his Oscar-nominated role of Los Angeles gardener Carlos Galindo in the movie "A Better Life."

Like Galindo, Bichir came to the U.S. illegally. The U.S. amnesty program in 1986 put him on the road to a Green Card. The character he plays is not so lucky, trying to climb the rungs from day worker to owner of a gardening business while keeping his American-born teenage son from street gangs.

"It was important for me to relate to that time when I arrived in New York," Bichir told The Associated Press. "Carlos Galindo's dignity is similar to all those 11 million undocumented workers in U.S. They live their lives with ... that power and that passion, and they never give up. That's me."

Former Philippines president Arroyo pleads not guilty to poll fraud

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MANILA, PHILIPPINES -- Gloria Arroyo pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of election fraud at a Pasay City regional court south of Manila.

The former president, now serving as elected House Representative for Pampanga province's second district, has been charged of electoral sabotage for allegedly ordering the tampering of official election returns in the 2007 senatorial elections in which her candidates eventually won.

Arroyo, 64, became president in January 2001 after President Joseph Estrada was forced out by a people's mass protest against his aborted impeachment trial for allegedly accepting bribes. Arroyo, then vice president, assumed the presidency and ran for the position in 2004. She claimed victory in disputed elections.

'Act of Valor' is more propaganda than honest film

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Deep in the heart of the South American jungle, members of a drug cartel torture kidnapped CIA operative Lisa Morales. A team of U.S. Navy SEALs is sent to rescue her. But there is more going on, however, than America's war on the international drug trade. A global terrorism plan is revealed, and the SEAL team is dispatched over and over again until the men take out or neutralizes the enemy, and the USA and the world is safe once again -- until the next threat raises its head.

"Act of Valor" was directed by documentary filmmaker Mike McCoy and professional stuntman Scott Waugh and was written by Kurt Johnstad, who previously co-penned "300." There are four actors in the film, whom you might recognize right away: Roslyn Sanchez, Nestor Serrano, Alex Veadov and Emilio Rivera.

Pax Christi opens nominations for Teacher of Peace

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Just got the press release from Pax Christi:

Each year, Pax Christi USA honors an outstanding peacemaker with the Teacher of Peace Award, in the tradition of Sr. Thea Bowman, Cesar Chávez, Dorothy Day, and Pope Paul VI. This award recognizes women and men whose lives and work exemplify the theme of Pope Paul VI's World Day of Peace message, "To reach peace, teach peace."

Past recipients of this award include: Dan Berrigan, SJ; Fr. Roy Bourgeois, MM; Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB; Msgr. Ray East; Bishop Thomas Gumbleton; Kathy Kelly; Helen Prejean, CSJ; and Martin Sheen. Last year's recipient was Colleen Kelly, a founding member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. To see a complete list of Teacher of Peace Award recipients, click here.

All nominations must be postmarked by March 12, 2012 to be considered.

To see a list of criteria for nominations and to download the nomination form, click here.

In Christ's peace,

No one has a monopoly on what defines an American

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I hosted a conference Feb. 17 and 18 titled "Chicano! A Conference on the Emerging Historiography of the Chicano Movement" at the University of California in Santa Barbara. I did so because, as the conference title suggests, there is a growing historical literature on the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s that represented the largest and most widespread civil rights and community empowerment movement by Mexican-Americans in the United States.

The movement made Chicanos and other Latinos into national political actors. The significant political influence that Latinos have today is a product of the movement. The conference showcased the variety of themes and subjects that historians, many of them recently having completed their doctoral degrees, are pursuing. I was very pleased with the conference and I hope to publish the papers.

The reason I choose to mention my conference in this blog is because of the recent attack on Chicano studies in the Tucson educational system, where Chicano studies has been banned under the false claim that it is a form of reverse racism and that it is nothing but political rhetoric.

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