Sunday, March 21, 2010

Buyer, Eater, and Drinker Beware, Part Two

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about Diet Coke. Specifically, I wrote about Diet Coke’s recent “Heart Truth” campaign, in which the company announced it was raising “awareness for women’s heart health programs.” I found this ad campaign particularly infuriating considering the fact that Diet Coke is basically poison (you can read the column, "Buyer, Eater and Drinker Beware," in the archives). This week I found out that the folks at Diet Coke have lent their product to another, sneaky, smile-while-we-kill-you ad – this time with my favorite health food, Bacardi Rum! I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I had just gotten over my fury at the Heart Truth lie-fest when I bumped into a Bacardi and Diet Coke ad that made me spit. No joke. I saw the ad in a liquor store (where I was buying ice, people, ice) and literally yelled “WHAT!? STOP IT!” at the top of my lungs. Have you ever yelled at the top of your lungs in a liquor store? No? Well, turns out it’s frowned upon. I was asked to leave. And I blame Bacardi.

I blame Bacardi instead of my old nemesis Diet Coke because it seems Bacardi is responsible for this campaign, so Diet Coke is only an accessory to the crime.  A lying, stinking, nasty tasting, gut rotting accessory, but an accessory nonetheless. The advertisement touts Bacardi and Diet Coke as having “0 Carbs and 0 Sugar.” This, I imagine, is supposed to make you choose it as the cocktail least perilous to your waistline. I am not going to argue with the fact that a regular sized shot of Bacardi mixed with Diet Coke has fewer calories and sugar than, say, Bacardi and Coke or a beer, but that is not the point. The point is that like many others (see Crystal Light’s new commercial in which it pretends to be water), this ad tries to trick consumers into thinking that a product is more healthful or diet conscious than it really is. And in this case, Bacardi does so with tricky language that is misleading at best and flat out dangerous at worst.

Before I launch my assault, let me assure you that I am not one of those people who thinks everything has to be good for you. I understand that bad stuff often tastes and feels good. Believe me, I get it. To wit: I smoked cigarettes for a loooong time. Don’t judge me. They made me look hip and cool, right? Okay, judge me, because they made me look like an idiot, it’s a disgusting habit, and I am embarrassed that it took me so long to quit. My point is, I don’t look down on cocktails (as long as you are old enough and not driving, of course). But I do look down on advertising that misleads people about their health. And Bacardi does exactly that.

First of all, “no carbs” does NOT make something healthful or good for weight management. We all know that by now, right? Let me make it simple: bacon fat, low carbs; apple, high carbs. Enough said. What’s worse than feeding into the no carb nonsense is the fact that calling alcohol a “no carb” beverage is absolute trickery. Here’s the deal: the distilling of hard liquor produces sugars which go straight to your liver and do not raise your blood sugar.  Therefore, yes, distilled liquor contains no carbohydrates. Fine. However, because of this straight shot (pun intended) to your liver, your body processes alcohol first, before fat, protein, or carbs. So, drinking alcohol slows the burning of fat. Not good, right? There’s more. All alcohol contains calories, and in fact a gram of alcohol has 7 calories, as opposed to a gram of carbs, with 4 (protein contains 4 calories a gram and fat has 9 per gram). In short, alcohol is more fattening than carbs, period. Bacardi knows all this, and they are counting on the fact that your don't. Now, mix your Bacardi with Diet Coke, and in addition to messing with your diet you are also ingesting a glass full of dangerous chemicals. Yummy! To say that you'd be better off with carbohydrate- and sugar-rich orange juice than with no carb, no sugar diet coke is a massive understatement. And on top of all this, with or without carbs, alcohol is just bad for you in a bunch of other ways -- none of which I will bore you with here, because, like I said, I’m not that girl. And also because I might maybe sort of be planning to have a glass of wine after I write this. Maybe. But I am over 21 and not driving anywhere. So there. My point is simply that ads like this are designed to trick people into thinking something is healthful or good for weight loss when in fact the exact opposite is true. And this is as close to lying as one can get without, well, lying.

When I was a bartender, I once overheard two women toasting each other by clinking classes and yelling, “Ain’t no party without that Bacardi!” Yup. Now, all lame toasts and poor grammar aside, I want to stress again that I am not suggesting that people give up rum. I am suggesting, however, that people should support only companies that are responsible in advertising. And in that case, come on, there ain’t no party with Diet Coke and Bacardi.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bigelow Ruled and Clooney Drooled!

If you tuned in for the live blog, thank you! It was a blast. In case you didn't, or in case you missed the Oscars entirely, I'm going to leave my commentary here for a few days. Give it a read -- everything you need to know about Sunday's show is here.

(12:00 am ET) "The Hurt Locker!" 16-8, people! Dance time!
(11:56) YES! It only took EIGHTY-TWO years, but a woman has won Best Director. And for a war film at that! Rock it, Kathryn Bigelow! 15-8.
(11:52 pm ET) Oh man. Bullock's speech. Yeah, I'm crying. Shut up. Only two awards left. Go "Hurt Locker!"
(11:50 pm ET) Gah! Bullock! Well, I set myself up for this one. 14-8. I still blame sound and shorts. And Clooney.
(11:45 pm ET) Gabourey Sidibe's story is really amazing. No snarky comment applies. Props, Gaby.
(11:33 pm ET) Jeff Bridges. No big surprise there -- the Body of Work Award is a ringer. I'm glad he won, but more than that I am grateful we didn't have to listen to a Clooney smugfest speech. Oh, and 14-7. All dancing is suspended until 17-7. Okay, maybe 16-8, because I have to admit I am starting to sweat Best Actress.
(11:28 pm ET) Okay, these peer tributes are a bit much. Michelle Pfeiffer's tribute to Jeff Bridges was sweet, but this Clooney nonsense is giving me a rash.
(11:22 pm ET) "Avatar" is the highest-grossing film of all time. Hmm. With all that money, couldn't James Cameron buy his wife some food? Have a sandwich, Suzy. You guys can afford it. Trust.
(11:16 pm ET) I lost Foreign Language Film. 13-7. But, you know, I couldn't understand a word they were saying. So it doesn't really count.
(11:10 pm ET) 13-6. Oh yeah. Does anyone else feel like they aren't using Steve and Alec enough?
(11:05 pm ET) "The Cove!" 12-6. Let the dancing begin. First, though, I want to say that if you haven't seen this documentary, you should. It's an incredible film. All the documentaries this year were remarkable, but this one especially. Now, excuse me, but I need to return to gloating. Check THIS out, Legion of Incredible Dancers.
(10:58 pm ET) Yeah, yeah, "Avatar" won Visual Effects. I picked it, so of course I'm glad. But I feel like it wasn't really a fair fight. When you spend 300 gazillion dollars on your film's technology, you better win this award. I'm talking to you, James Cameron. 11-6.
(10:54 pm ET) Original Score! 10-6. At 12-6 I'll bring back the victory dance. You're relieved, right? I promise to have the webcam set up next year so you can share the magic.
(10:48 pm ET) I usually hate the musical numbers, but these dancers are AMAZING. I mean, it's no Oscar pick victory dance, but they're still pretty rad.
(10:36) Cinematography! Picked it! SOOO much more important than sound, anyway. 9-6. Um, what is UP with Demi Moore? Why doesn't she age? It can't be as simple as Botox. She's scaring me. Kind of creepy that they picked her to introduce the tribute to those who died this year since clearly she never will.
(10:27) Stupid old stinking sound. 8-6. I will dance again. Don't worry.
(10:25) Uh-oh. I lost Sound Editing. Bad news as I picked "Avatar" for Sound Mixing, too. And I was just about to resume my victory dance. Stupid sound. It's not like it's important to a movie.
(10:18) It's the Twilight kids. Taylor seems like a nice guy, but I can't understand what the deal is with Kristin. Why does she always look so freaking miserable? You're at the Oscars, Krissy! Stand up straight! Put a little life into it! Jeez.
(10:10 pm ET) I picked Costume Design right, too, but I will tell you that this was an easy one. It's an Oscar law: any time they put women in corsets, the costume design wins. Evidently, inflicting pain on women and cinching their waists to 18 inches is how you get respect in that field. Cool. You know, Victoria Beckham does it to herself without the corset -- where's her award? Just saying. (*cough* 8-4)
(10:07 pm ET) And Art Direction makes it 7-4. I'm glad I picked this right, but I have to say that I thought "Avatar" was lame. Yeah, you heard me. Lame. Feel free to discuss this in comments.
(10:00 pm ET) Mo'Nique! Standing O! I mean, come ON. That clip alone gave me goosebumps. She was amazing. Oh, and 6-4.
(9:56) Penelope Cruz is so beautiful it makes me want to punch her. I mean hug her.
(9:50) 5-4. GRRRRRRR. Adapted Screenplay. If i tell you that I picked "Precious" first and then changed my mind, will you believe me? Because I did. I DID.
(9:42 pm ET) 5-3. Thank you, Best Makeup. Back on track. Have I mentioned how lame short films are? L-A-M-E.
(9:39 pm ET) And, by the way, WHAT was up with the freaky purple coat lady who hijacked the Documentary Short acceptance speech? Don't they have bouncers at this thing?
(9:38 pm ET) Ben Stiller: hilarious.
(9:31 pm ET) Animated Short, Live Action Short and Documentary Short are my first losses. 4-3. Not that I care. I don't. I don't care at all. I hate you, short films.
(9:21 pm ET) Okay, so, I might have cried a little during the John Hughes tribute. Don't judge me. But then I saw that they managed to drag Judd Nelson out from the rock under which he has been hiding. Yikes. Judd, your plasma called. It wants back into your body. Have a glass of orange juice or something, my friend. Please.
(9:15 pm ET) 4-0! Go "Hurt Locker!" Whoa -- Molly Ringwald is on stage. Holy time warp, Batman!
(9:04 pm ET) Ohhhh, I see. Miley is presenting the Best Original Song award. I can't believe "Party In the USA" hasn't been scooped up by a major motion picture. I mean, that's an award-winning song if I've ever heard one. Oh, and I might have picked this winner, too. 3-0. Not that I'm keeping track.
(9:00 pm ET) "Up" wins! 2-0! Whoot! But, omg, why is George Clooney on the screen every 3 minutes??? Enough! I swear they are taunting me.
(8:50 pm ET): Yes! Christoph wins! I'm 1-0, people! I'm going to do my victory dance now. You know you want to see it.
(8:45 pm ET): Oh, so I guess Clooney is part of the schtick. My bad. (He's still a snore.)
(8:43) Alec Baldwin seems a little nervous. He must be sober. I kid, Alec, I kid. You know I love you.
(8:40) Clooney is too cool to laugh, evidently. Once again: Snore.
(8:32) I love NPH, but, Whoever wrote this number needs to be fired. STAT.
(8:30) Finally! I'm excited. I'm not going to lie. I love this stuff. I could poke holes in myself and marinate in the Oscars.
(8:23 pm ET) Write down the date and time, people. Kristin Stewart just smiled.
(8:17 pm ET) Not to be a hater -- I'm not, really -- but why is Miley Cyrus presenting an Oscar? Imagine if you received your first Academy Award and it was handed to you by Hannah Montana. Weird, right?
(8:05) Oh!! Sandra Bullock's "just enjoy the ride" rant is just a different way of saying "The nomination is the award." Obligatory lie count is at 2.
(8:02 pm ET) I love Penelope Cruz. L-O-V-E. I want to hang out with her (imagine her excitement when she reads that). And Mo'Nique is (1) awesome and (2) so going to win.
(7:56) Show time! Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin are going to be amazing. (I hope.) Last chance to post your picks in the comments section to win Swakker stuff if you can beat me!
(7:54) My love for Robert Downey, Jr. knows no bounds. Really. But I miss his old face, lines and all. And that wife of his: I'm after you, Susan. I'm kidding, of course. Sort of.
(7:49) OMG! Quentin Tarantino sounded...dare I say...sane! Wow.
(7:41 pm ET) Every time the show cuts to commercial, I see an ad for a Liposuction Surgery Center here on the west coast. Dirty advertising approach, if you ask me -- and even if you don't.
(7:36 pm ET) Oh boy. Taylor Lautner just arrived. Cue screaming girls...NOW!
(7:24 pm ET) Some of you might not know that the producer of "The Hurt Locker" (my pick for Best Picture) was banned from tonight's ceremony. Yup. A few weeks ago he sent an email urging Academy members to vote for his film instead of "Avatar." Not only very poor taste, but also against the rules. I really hope his crazy lack of judgment doesn't hurt the film. It deserves to win. And the director, Kathryn Bigelow, rocks!
(7:20 pm ET) Oh, George Clooney, you're so down-to-earth. Snore.
(7:05 pm ET) Um, Randolph Duke? Holy Botox, Batman! And I have now officially started my count for how many times we hear "The nomination is really the win." Five minutes in, and the obligatory lie count is at 1.

(7:01 pm ET) Sandra Bullock looks amazing, but my money's on Mulligan.
(6:58 ET) And we're on! ABC pre-show and Swakker Café! It's Oscar time!
(6:30 pm ET) Okay, people. Here are my picks. As I mentioned in this week's column, Carey Mulligan as Best Actress is a highly controversial pick; it is nearly impossible to predict a Split the Vote award, but I'm sticking with it. If you want to submit your picks for a chance to win a Swakker Prize, just make sure you post them in the comments section before 8 pm ET. And, remember, you have to beat me to win! So, here they are:
Lead Actor: Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”
Supporting Actor: Cristoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”
Lead Actress: Carey Mulligan in “An Education”
Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique in “Precious”
Animated Feature: “Up”
Art Direction: “Avatar”
Cinematography: “Avatar”
Costume Design: “The Young Victoria”
Directing: “The Hurt Locker”
Documentary Feature: “The Cove”
Documentary Short: “China’s Unnatural Disaster: the Tears of Sichuan Province”
Film Editing: “The Hurt Locker”
Foreign Language Film: “The White Ribbon”
Makeup: “Star Trek”
Original Score: “Up”
Original Song: “The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart”
Animated Short: “A Matter of Loaf and Death”
Live Action Short: “Kavi”
Sound Editing: “Avatar”
Sound Mixing: “Avatar”
Visual Effects: “Avatar”
Adapted Screenplay: “Up in the Air”
Original Screenplay: “The Hurt Locker”
Best Picture: “The Hurt Locker”

Monday, March 1, 2010

Super Bowl, Schmuper Bowl. It's Oscar Time!!!

As you probably already know, I will be posting live this Sunday during the Academy Awards broadcast. Even if you’ve never watched the Oscars before, I encourage you to tune in to Swakker Café for the broadcast if for no other reason than to witness the complete insanity that takes me over every year at this time. I have been watching the Academy Awards broadcast since I was 13. That’s a lot of Oscars. I get a little, um, passionate about them, so even if this isn’t usually your cup of tea, I think you’ll have a good time. Check it out.

With this in mind, I am going to use this week’s column to post my Oscar picks. You might not think that this is a big deal. Well, you’re wrong. I mean, I might as well be disclosing CIA secrets. Okay, maybe it is slightly less serious than that. But it’s serious. My friend, V., and I have been betting on the Oscars since we were 15 (Yes, I know. We’re geeks. Fine. But we’re geeks who know a lot about the Oscars). We have a lot of rules surrounding this lifelong competition, among them that our picks must be disclosed to each other right before the pre-show begins. Revealing my picks this early gives V. a huge advantage over me and is an insult to our sacred process, but whatever. I’ll still beat her.  However, because I want to preserve some of our competition’s venerable rules, and because it would take me 7000 iPhone screens worth of words to explain my picks for every award, this column will address only the “Big 6.” So, with no further ado, I present to you my picks for the 82nd annual Academy Awards. Cue drum roll.

BEST ACTOR IN A LEAD ROLE: Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”
WHY: This is what we call “The Body of Work Award.” The BOW award is given to an actor or actress who maybe didn’t give the best performance of the year, but who has given so many good performances that the Academy figures, well, we better give him/her this one. Almost always, the BOW award winner is not the best performance in the group. I think Jeremy Renner should win this award, but my money is on Bridges. Past BOW awards in this category were Paul Newman in “The Color of Money” and Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman.” And if you saw either of those, you know the award was not for the performance. Trust.

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”
WHY: Primarily because everyone is saying he will win. He is the easy favorite. I am worried that this will result in the “Backlash Award,” which happens when the voting members of the Academy get mad because the media is stealing their thunder, so they purposely vote for someone other than the favorite. A recent (ish) famous Backlash victim was Kate Hudson in “Almost Famous” (she lost to Marcia Gay Harden in “Pollock”). But Kate didn’t deserve it anyway, and Christoph does, so I’m sticking with him.

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEAD ROLE: Carey Mulligan in “An Education”
WHY: Well, let me first say that this is a controversial pick. For one thing, Meryl Streep is in the category, and for another, Sandra Bullock has already won the SAG and the Golden Globe. So I am expecting Mulligan to win what we call the “The Split the Vote Award.” Splitting the vote happens when two frontrunners (in this case Streep and Bullock) command such high, nearly equal numbers of votes that they literally split the majority, leaving the highest number of votes to a third contender – in this case, Mulligan. Confused? It’s all algebra, people. Or calculus. Or trigonometry. Or something else I know nothing about. The point is, the SV award is a tough one to predict, but I think it will happen in this category. The most famous SV award of all time was Marisa Tomei’s ridiculous Best Supporting win for “My Cousin Vinnie,” when Vanessa Redgrave and Miranda Richardson split the vote. With all due respect to Marisa, whom I adore, come on. “My Cousin Vinnie???” Vanessa Redgrave? Miranda Richardson? Please. In this year’s case, though, I think Mulligan is a deserving winner. You can imagine how relieved she will be to read that.

WHY: Because she has already won the SAG and the Golden Globe for this role, because her acceptance speeches have been inspiring and beautiful and real, and because she kicked acting butt in this role. Basically, because she rocks.

BEST PICTURE: The Hurt Locker
WHY: Because it should win. This is rarely the case with the winner of this category, if you ask me (or even if you didn’t). But this year, I feel strongly that the best film will win, and the best film is this one. Case closed.

BEST DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker”
WHY: Because the film didn’t direct itself. It’s as simple as that. Plus, it’s a war film directed by a woman, and that just rocks.

So there you have it. Hard science, people. Hard science. As promised, I won’t go into the other 18 awards here. But I assure you I have an equally scientific process for choosing them. I can also assure you that I will beat V. this year. If you’d like to hear the victory unfold, or if you just want some good laughs, tune in to Swakker Café this Sunday from 4 pm (pre-show) until the last award.  Now I have to go practice my victory dance. That’s right, V. You’re going down.