To Relax, Some Turn to Tetris, Stress-Producing ’80s Obsession

Sven Charleer has tried yoga and meditation, but it was “Tetris Effect,” a new version of the shape-stacking videogame incorporating immersive virtual reality and calming new-age music, that finally helped him unwind.

“It really takes you away,” said the 38-year-old user-experience designer, who lives near Antwerp, Belgium. “You can focus on the moment itself, which is something I have issues doing, because my mind is always wandering.”

Italy May Say ‘Arrivederci’ to Foreigners Leading Museums

MILAN—When James Bradburne became director of Milan’s Pinacoteca di Brera in 2015, he made changes to increase the art gallery’s appeal, including reopening the principal entrance that hadn’t been used for more than a century.

“Opening this door was a revolution,” Mr. Bradburne said recently, pointing toward the entrance that is adorned with a monumental clock.


This Car Is a Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini—in Spirit

John Golden, 92, a retired contractor living in Manhattan Beach, Calif., on his “Big Red,” as told to A.J. Baime.

I started working at Northrop Aircraft Corp. in California in 1951, and at the time, plastics were new. I ended up in research and development, working on ways to put plastic on airplanes. Engineers would laugh at us. They would say, “You can’t put plastic on an airplane! Plastic is for baby bottles and bowling balls.”

An #OscarsSoSafe Awards Ceremony

It was supposed to be a celebration of the best the motion-picture industry had to offer in 2018. But this year’s Academy Awards felt more like an effort to just get through the night without bungling one more thing.

And that they did. The best you could say about Sunday’s Oscars was that after numerous missteps along the way, it was perfectly competent. They didn’t give best picture to the wrong movie by mistake. There were no pointless montages. Rob Lowe didn’t dance with Snow White. Hooray.

No One Listening? Maybe You’re the Problem

A good friend called me recently to say hello. We chatted about his kids, a problem he was having at work, and his recent vacation. When he asked how I was doing, I mentioned a big work project. “The deadline is bearing down on me and I am stressed,” I said.

He didn’t respond, so I asked: “Do you think you could brainstorm a few things with me sometime?”


‘Bouguereau & America’ Review: Re-Examining a Reviled Master


William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) is the artist everyone loves to hate. His meticulously rendered—nary a brushstroke in sight—and idealized images of comely country lasses, doe-eyed street urchins and pulchritudinous nymphs defined French 19th-century academic art. Both Bouguereau’s subjects and his treatment of them, cloyingly sentimental or coyly erotic, ensured that his name became a byword for everything the Impressionists, with their loosely executed paintings of everyday life, reacted against. Nor…

The Season’s Secret Ingredient: Maple Syrup

OUTSIDE La Cabane d’à Côté, a restaurant less than an hour’s drive from Montreal, a handful of guests, early for their reservation, kill time. They’re sipping beers they’ve brought, chilling what remains of their six-packs in the snow. This cabane à sucre (French for “sugar shack”) in St.-Benoît de Mirabel, Quebec, specializes in the uniquely regional feast that takes place during sugaring season, when the maple sap is flowing. It shows up in nearly every dish on the menu.

To reach the dining room, one must pass through…

Little-Known, Inexpensive Reds Great for Winter Drinking

WINTER SEEMS ENDLESS at this time of year, with the holidays long past or far in the future, depending on your point of view, but either way, it’s fairly bleak. It is, however, an opportune time for some diversionary drinking, and there is nothing more appealing right now than a delicious, substantial red.

Like many wine drinkers, I’m prone to the occasional rut, buying the same wines from well-known places like Burgundy, Rioja and the Rhône—good bottles, easily found but not necessarily surprising. So, for my own sake as…

What to Watch For at the Oscars

Yalitza Aparicio, Marco Graf and Marina De Tavira in ‘Roma,’ one of this year’s best-picture nominees.
Yalitza Aparicio, Marco Graf and Marina De Tavira in ‘Roma,’ one of this year’s best-picture nominees. Photo: Carlos Somonte/Netflix

LOS ANGELES—The 91st Academy Awards have been marked by unpredictability: Who will host? (Kevin Hart, and then, not Kevin Hart.) How many categories will be removed from the live telecast? (Four, and then, none.) Will producers stick to their pledge to keep the show under three hours? (Get real.)

Despite the uncertainty surrounding this year’s show, here are five things to watch for on Sunday.

A Crowded Race

This year’s best-picture race is among the most unpredictable in recent years, with three front-runners considered to have an equal shot at the top prize. Netflix’s “Roma,” the black-and-white drama about a Mexican domestic worker, is the leading favorite. But it will need to overcome Academy resistance to rewarding a movie that played mostly on a streaming service, rather than in theaters.

The race-relations drama “Green Book” is the most traditional of the front-runners and has picked up accolades from the Golden Globes and the Producers Guild of America. The wild card of the lot is Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther,” the critically acclaimed blockbuster that has been gaining momentum since its cast won the best-ensemble prize from the Screen Actors Guild.

Glenn Close in ‘The Wife’
Glenn Close in ‘The Wife’ Photo: Graeme Hunter Pictures
The Overdue Oscar

Glenn Close is considered the favorite to win best actress for her role in “The Wife,” a drama about the long-suffering spouse of a Nobel laureate. She has been nominated for six Academy Awards but hasn’t won any, and she is considered the most celebrated actress who doesn’t have a statuette of her own—with Annette Bening and Amy Adams as contenders for that dubious distinction.

Despite a career that includes 1989’s “Do the Right Thing,” director Spike Lee hadn’t been nominated for an Academy Award before this year, though he won an honorary Oscar in 2015. His luck should change this year: Mr. Lee is the favorite to win in the best adapted screenplay category for “BlacKkKlansman,” and a contender for best director, though most prognosticators assume that award will go to Alfonso Cuarón for “Roma.”

High Note

The best-picture nominees “A Star Is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” are giving the Academy the chance to stage some major musical numbers. Lady Gaga and her co-star Bradley Cooper will perform their duet “Shallow,” considered a favorite to win in the best original song category.

The Academy announced earlier that the surviving members of Queen will perform with singer Adam Lambert, though a rendition of the six-minute title song may not help shortening the show’s running time. Among the other musical highlights: Bette Midler has been tapped to sing “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns.”

The Journal took a stopwatch to the last five years of Oscar broadcasts to breakdown what’s filling up those more than three-and-half hours. WSJ’s Jason Bellini reports the findings. Photo Illustration: Drew Evans/The Wall Street Journal.
On Deadline

Producers of this year’s telecast have pledged to do the near-impossible: Keep the show under three hours. The Oscars have stretched longer than four hours in the past, and the Academy tried to find ways to trim time leading up to the show.

They announced a plan to move four categories to commercial breaks, only to face such intense criticism from members that they scrapped the idea just days later. Same went for a plan to cut the number of performances of nominated songs—now all five will be sung. ABC, which broadcasts the awards, will be watching the clock: The network has said that viewers start dropping off when it passes 11 p.m. on the East Coast. Expect the orchestra conductor to be playing more winners off the stage than usual.

Rami Malek in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’
Rami Malek in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ Photo: Twentieth Century Fox
History Books

This year’s crop of nominees present opportunities for the Academy to mark several firsts. A “Roma” win for best picture would be the first foreign-language film to receive the honor and its lead actress nominee, Yalitza Aparicio, is the first indigenous best-actress nominee. Acting wins for Rami Malek, playing Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and Mahershala Ali, playing pianist Don Shirley in “Green Book,” would mark the first time two actors receive Oscars in the same year for playing gay characters. According to awards pundits, it seems likely that particular milestone will be achieved, since Messrs. Malek and Ali are considered near-locks on Sunday.

Write to Erich Schwartzel at

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Oscars 2019: Cast Your Ballot

From left: Regina King, Bradley Cooper, Alfonso Cuarón, Richard E. Grant, Melissa McCarthy.
From left: Regina King, Bradley Cooper, Alfonso Cuarón, Richard E. Grant, Melissa McCarthy. Photo: From left: Annapurna Pictures; Warner Bros. Pictures; AP; Twentieth Century Fox

Wall Street Journal film critic Joe Morgenstern weighs in on who deserves to win the top awards at the 91st Academy Awards—and who will actually win. See his choices for key contests, and have your own say in our annual poll.

Best Picture

Should win and will win: “Roma”

Netflix ’s first best-picture nominee has ignited a debate over whether a film being distributed mostly via streaming even belongs in the category. But it shouldn’t matter. By any measure, Alfonso Cuarón has made a masterpiece, a movie that transcends formats, genres and business models. A tribute to Mr. Cuarón’s childhood nanny in 1970s Mexico City, “Roma” is both intimate and enormous, speaking eloquently to our need for stories that expand our understanding of love and family. In doing so it lights up screens of any size.

Watch the trailer for the movie “Roma.” Photo: Netflix
Best Director

Should win and will win: Alfonso Cuarón

Mr. Cuarón is—I was going to say “arguably,” but make that “inarguably”—the most important feature-film director of our time, having preceded “Roma” with “Gravity;” “Children of Men;” the best of the Harry Potter movies, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban;” and “Y Tu Mamá También.” What makes him so consistently distinctive is the suite of gifts that makes his most recent work worthy of an Oscar: his ability to deploy the techniques of modern filmmaking—pace, thematic density, dramatic fluency, visual power—with traditional human values. Stanley Kubrick would have admired “Roma;” Jean Renoir would have loved it.

Best Actor

Should win: Bradley Cooper

Will win: Viggo Mortensen

Why has “A Star Is Born” been coming up short during this awards season? Maybe because this mainstream studio production is so entertaining, as opposed to spectacular, controversial or didactic, and more easily dismissed as conventional. The film happens to be hugely entertaining, thanks in significant measure to Bradley Cooper’s direction, which gained no Academy respect at all, but also to his performance, which is exceptionally affecting, solidly grounded, impeccably musical, virile, tender and intelligent. Yes, he’s up against strong competition from Viggo Mortensen in “Green Book,” but what does a guy have to do to win an Oscar in this category? He’s done more than enough. Give him one.

Watch the trailer for “A Star Is Born,” starring Bradley Cooper, and Lady Gaga. Photo: Warner Bros.
Best Actress

Should win: Melissa McCarthy

Will win: Glenn Close

Logic and sentiment combine to make a strong case for Glenn Close in this category: She’s long overdue for an Oscar, and moviegoers have been stirred by her performance in “The Wife.” But I just can’t get Melissa McCarthy out of my head for her incarnation of Lee Israel in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” I can still hear her quirky line readings, feel the thwarted yet unquenchable intelligence of her character. She’s a new one on me, this down-and-out, though also up-and-coming, literary forger. In my review I called her a model of eccentricity descended from Dickens by way of that quintessential Manhattan chronicler Damon Runyon. Here I’ll just call her an original, played by an original.

Watch a clip from the movie “Can You Ever Forgive Me,” starring Melissa McCarthy, and Richard E. Grant. Photo: Fox Searchlight
Best Supporting Actor

Should win: Richard E. Grant

Will win: Mahershala Ali

The front-runner in this category is formidable: Mahershala Ali, who could move us by reading the proverbial phone book, has strong drama and formidable charm on his side in “Green Book.” Still, I’d like to think there’s still a winning place for performances that may seem less than consequential—one definition of a supporting player—yet are in fact indispensable. Melissa McCarthy couldn’t have achieved what she did without the counterpoint of Mr. Grant’s raffish Jack Hock. Thick as thieves only hints at the relationship; like her Lee, his Jack lives beneath thick layers of contradiction and complexity. It’s a brave characterization, full of life, devil-may-care wit and genuine deviltry.

Best Supporting Actress

Should win: Regina King

Will win: Rachel Weisz

It’s no reflection on Rachel Weisz to say this is an odd category this year. Lots of discussions in critics groups—and the real world—have turned on who starred and who supported in “The Favourite,” an ensemble piece if there ever was one. No such uncertainties concern “If Beale Street Could Talk,” a beautiful film in which Regina King gives the very essence of dramatic support. She does so quietly, at first, as Sharon, the heroine’s mother, then not at all quietly as she plays a leading role—a leading supporting role—in the effort to prove the innocence of the young man her daughter loves.

Watch a clip from the movie “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Photo: Annapurna Pictures

Write to Joe Morgenstern at

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Appeared in the February 22, 2019, print edition as ‘Our Critic Picks His Oscar Favorites.’