Silver Lining for February 20: Jim McElwain talks 2015, Scottie Wilbekin succeeding, Oscars picks

By Adam Silverstein
February 20, 2015

Jim McElwain on infrastructure, spring practice, 2015 outlook

During an exclusive sit-down interview with Chris Fischer of WTSP 10 News that aired Thursday evening, Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain touched on a number of topics including his first two months with the program, plans for spring practice and projections for the 2015 season.

As he has in the past, McElwain spoke about the need to “constantly … stay current” and ensure that the Gators “continue to get better in everything that we do within the organization” both on the field and off. He said he remains in the evaluation stage as he hopes to rebuild Florida’s infrastructure, cautioning that “it takes time” because “you only have one chance to get it right.”

With spring practice set to begin at a yet-to-be-announced date in March, he also discussed his plans for the Gators once they finally take the field under his leadership.


“Developing an identity really in who we are and what we’re all about,” he said of his expectations for the spring. “For us, it’s a trial and error process; it’s seeing what they can do, make sure we as coaches adapt to their strengths and don’t’ highlight the weaknesses. … We’ll be able to evaluate that and kind of figure out who we’re going to be next fall.”

What kind of team Florida will be once the fall rolls around certainly remains to be seen, but McElwain has no plans to make 2015 a rebuilding year on the field.

“I didn’t come to have a participation ribbon, you know? I think everything you go out – no matter what you do in life – you go out to be the best and to win. I try to approach every day just like that,” he said. “You got to win the now, and the only way you win a championship is by getting better today.”

OnlyGators.com will have more on the Gators’ infrastructure-building (and actual structure-building) process next week.

Check out the full interview with McElwain below:

Wow-ing in Australia

Former Gators point guard Scottie Wilbekin was picked up as an undrafted free agent after not being selected in the 2015 NBA Draft, but despite playing well in NBA Summer League action, he did not make a roster in his first year out of college.

To the surprise of some, Wilbekin traveled halfway across the globe to begin his professional career in Australia. Suffice to say, it has worked out for him.

The first member of the Cairns Taipans to be named the team’s Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year, Wilbekin is leading his squad to new heights while averaging 4.44 assists per game, second-most in Australia’s National Basketball League

The Taipans (20-7) are expected to finish in first place in the regular season for the first time in team history and have become the favorite to win the NBL title. Wilbekin, the starting point guard who is now rocking a blonde top, averages a team-high 14.7 points in a team-most 30.3 minutes per game.

Cairns’ regular-season finale is set for Sunday.

M-I-C-K-E-Y … C-H-O-M-P

Here is Mickey Mouse … Gator Chomping.


Not Only Gators: My picks and predictions for the 87th Academy Awards

As we have touched on over the last few weeks, the Oscars are set for Sunday, which means it is time for me to share my picks (if I had a vote) and predictions (what I think will win) for the most important awards that will be handed out. Though I am far from a professional film critic, I am an avid movie buff and have watched and dissected nearly every film nominated for the awards below.

For context, you will also find my record in picking and predicting such categories over the last two years. Those were published on my now-inactive-but-still-public Tumblr page.

Disclaimer: I reserve the right to change these ahead of the show but will not make any adjustments after close of business on Saturday.

Best Picture
Nominees: American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

Pick: Birdman | Prediction: Birdman
Pick record: 2-0 | Prediction record: 2-0

Unlike Argo in 2013 and 12 Years a Slave in 2014, there is no obvious winner this season. The field is filled with tremendous achievements but two of the nominees – Boyhood and Selma – do not even belong. Whiplash was my favorite movie of the bunch, Birdman the most unique, The Grand Budapest Hotel a captivating feature, The Imitation Game completely enthralling, The Theory of Everything led by a tremendous performance, and American Sniper solid from start-to-finish. In the end, the overall package delivered by Birdman should prevail, which would make it the first winner in 34 years not to be nominated for editing.

Actor – in a Leading Role
Nominees: Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Michael Keaton (Birdman), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

Pick: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) | Prediction: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
Pick record: 2-0 | Prediction record: 2-0

For me, the toughest category of the night. There is no denying that Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking was superb. Similarly, Cumberbatch’s turn as Alan Turing was attention-grabbing. Unlike his fellow nominees, Keaton built a character from the ground up and played him with such amazing depth that it was hard to separate the actor from the character. He is equally deserving of the award, and it would not be a surprise if he comes away with it. The Theory of Everything deserves an honor, and it will be the film’s star that delivers it – and rightly so for his performance.

Actress – in a Leading Role
Nominees: Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

Pick: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) | Prediction: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Pick record: 1-1 | Prediction record: 2-0

Failing as I did last year picking Amy Adams (but correctly predicting Cate Blanchett), I expect a similar folly to follow me this time around. Admittedly, I did not watch Still Alice or Two Days, One Night, so the Moore prediction is based off of her being the heaviest favorite in any category this season. However, I did watch the other three films and Pike had me transfixed for the duration of that picture. So, it will be Moore winning, but Pike won me.

Actor – in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Robert Duvall (The Judge), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), Edward Norton (Birdman), Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), J.K Simmons (Whiplash)

Pick: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) | Prediction: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Pick record: 1-1 | Prediction record: 1-1

No-brainer. In fact, had Simmons been categorized as a lead actor (an unlikelihood from the beginning considering Miles Teller was in every scene of the movie), he probably would have won that award. Duvall was Duvall. Hawke was simply present for 12 years. Norton and Ruffalo would both have legitimate claims in many acting groups in previous years for their performances. It’s Simmons, though, and it’s not even close. A knockout performance, literally.

Actress – in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), Laura Dern (Wild), Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game), Emma Stone (Birdman), Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)

Pick: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) | Prediction: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Pick record: 1-1 | Prediction record: 2-0

Let’s just move on.

Directing
Nominees: Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

Pick: Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman) | Prediction: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Pick record: 1-1 | Prediction record: 1-1

I’ve yet to unanimously pick/predict the directing award and for good reason – the Academy does not seem to be able to make up its mind on how it determines the winner as of late. The last two recipients – Ang Lee (deserved), Alfonso Cuaron (meh) – were awarded for their spectacular achievements, yet neither of their films ultimately won Best Picture. That’s happened 23 times in 86 years and the last time it occurred thrice in a row was 1936-38. In the same vein, I have a sneaking suspicion that Birdman and Boyhood will split these two honors despite Birdman and Iñárritu deserving both. How they are divided up remains to be seen, though I obviously went unanimous with Birdman for Best Picture. There is a sneaking suspicion I have that Linklater will simply be rewarded actually achieving something on an ambitious 12-year production plan.

Writing – Adapted Screenplay
Nominees: American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

Pick: The Imitation Game | Prediction: The Imitation Game
Pick record: 1-1 | Prediction record: 2-0

Whiplash cannot win enough awards. There is some sentimental value in Sniper, and both Game and Everything are commendable achievements. Whiplash, on the other hand, was spectacular. (In fact, if you have not seen it and happen to have enough time to go see the film before the Oscars, go do it so you can also say to your friends, “I told you so.”) Second to Birdman as my Best Picture, Whiplash features tremendous performances that were able to flourish on screen in large part due to what was laid out on paper prior to filming. Despite its standout value in my mind, Whiplash could (and probably will) certainly finish behind Game here. I hope it doesn’t. But even as I write this, I feel inclined to give Game the ultimate nod for it’s overall achievement (especially considering it does not look like it will win another major award).

Writing – Original Screenplay
Nominees: Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Nightcrawler

Pick: Birdman | Prediction: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Pick record: 2-0 | Prediction record: 1-1

Wes Anderson has never won an Oscar, and while some will point to his other films, this was his finest achievement in writing. At the same time, Birdman’s overall uniqueness and fast-paced dialogue allowed it to stand out. I have Hotel just missing out on cinematography but winning three other artistry awards (see below); adding a writing honor would do a great film justice.

Cinematography
Nominees: Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ida, Mr. Turner, Unbroken

Pick: Birdman | Prediction: Birdman
Pick record: 2-0 | Prediction record: 2-0

One of my favorite categories – and tied for my most successful – there is a very difficult choice to be made this year as Birdman’s continuous shot approach was incredibly unique and attention-holding, while Hotel’s overall artistry was eye-catching from scene to scene. It can really go either way, but Birdman could absolutely have a big night and this would be an early indication.

Production Design | Costume Design | Makeup and Hairstyling
Pick / Prediction: The Grand Budapest Hotel

This Week’s Movie Trailer

Aloha:

The Top 5 List
From the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska…

2015 Best Picture nominees, ranked:
1a. Birdman
1b. Whiplash
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. The Imitation Game
5. The Theory of Everything

Thanks for reading. Leave your comments below.

9 Comments

  1. Dave Massey says:

    It’s all over now, start inscribing the trophy, we’ve got Mickey Mouse on our side, we can’t lose!!!

    Glad to see SW doing so well, looking stylish too.

  2. SW FL Joe says:

    Every time I hear Coach McElwain speak I like him more and more. He seems like he knows what he’s doing, has a well thought out plan and doesn’t lie to me or insult my intelligence. I especially like the part about “it’s seeing what they can do, make sure we as coaches adapt to their strengths and don’t’ highlight the weaknesses.” To me that’s Head Coaching 101 and has been lacking for the last 4 years.

    • SaraGator says:

      I hear ya. I love the fact that he didn’t declare what type of offense he’s going to run during his press conference when he got hired.

    • Gatoralum88 says:

      I couldn’t agree more!…a complete 180 from Muschump. I can’t wait too see spring practice. Go Gators!

  3. Ken (CA) says:

    What was the context of Mickey doing the chomp? just at random in the park? At some special event?

  4. Gatoralum88 says:

    I’m happy for Scottie. There’s a great 5 minute YouTube video of him lighting up the New Zealand Breakers for 24 points. In the post-game interview the reporter calls him “mate”. It’s good stuff! Obviously, it’s not the best competition but he looks super smooth…even better than he did last year at UF. I wish the Gators still had him…had he not reclassified as a junior at the Rock & left early he’d still be playing for Billy. I’m hoping an NBA team will give him another look/shot considering how well he’s playing down under “mate”!

  5. one says:

    Why don’t you like Boyhood Adam?

    But yeah, the Supporting Actress category. Just a bad selection all around. Arquette’s performance wasn’t that good. Birdman was very good but Emma Stone’s role in it? Not one of the best 5 of the past year. No one in that category is.

    I agree with you on the Pike pick. She was excellent in that movie.

    • Hate to be so simplistic … but it’s not that I don’t like the movie. I just do not think it is Best Picture quality. Not even close, actually. It is more of an achievement in filmmaking (like Avatar) than a great movie.

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