Oscars 2013: Runners and riders

Under rules drawn up by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, up to 10 films can be shortlisted for its best picture prize when its nominations are announced on 10 January.

Two months ahead of the 2013 ceremony, the BBC looks at the movies that are most likely to be up for the Academy's top award, and assess their chances of recognition in other categories.

Ben Affleck won an Oscar in 1998 for the screenplay he co-penned with fellow actor Matt Damon for Good Will Hunting.

In the decade that followed, some dubious decisions saw his leading man status wane as his friend's rocketed.

John Goodman, Alan Arkin and Ben Affleck in Argo Alan Arkin (centre) plays a grumpy movie producer in Affleck's film

But in recent years Affleck has cannily reinvented himself as a film-maker of promise and some distinction.

The fact this real-life, recently declassified rescue operation involved a phantom film production effectively casts Hollywood as the hero of the piece.

That, and Affleck's 'comeback kid' story makes it a solid bet for best picture. Affleck, who also appears in the film, is expected to receive another nomination in the director category.

On the acting front, Argo's best hopes of another citation lie with Alan Arkin for his entertaining turn as a cantankerous producer.

Having been named best supporting actor in 2007 for Little Miss Sunshine, however, the 78-year-old shouldn't need to write an acceptance speech.

Under normal circumstances, Quentin Tarantino's slavery-era western would seem a sure-fire bet for Oscar consideration.

In the wake of the tragic shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, though, Django's graphic mayhem has seen it attract censure in a reopened debate on movie violence.

Leonardo Di Caprio in Django Unchained Django star Di Caprio has been Oscar-nominated on three previous occasions

The elderly, more conservative contingent of the Academy membership might balk at rewarding such a bloodily visceral film in this charged political climate.

Compiled by: M.W

Only God knows the end of the world; predictions not reliable


 The Member of IRI High Commission for School Districts stressed that no one except God knew about the end of the world. He appreciated the cultural measures meant to reduce global anxiety as high priority.

“Leading predictions of the end of the world need further considerations,” Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Gharavi told Mehr News. “The public should look for grounds for such predictions, either religious or non-religious,” he added.

Some predictions disturb public security of human society.  “Such predictions provide no grounds for being factual. According to Islam, such predictions are not only discredited, but also unauthorized, and disturbs public security of the human communities,” he asserted.

 “What has been endorsed in religious scripts shows that no one but God knows the end of the world, and some signs indicating the end of the world, do not say the final word in this regard”, said Ayatollah Gharavi.

The Savior Cometh theme before the end of the world occurs in sacred Books.

Ayatollah Gharavi also added that according to Islamic tenets, before the end of the world, Messiah (Mahdi) (GPHA) will come. Sacred scriptures other than Islam have also heralded the savior’s coming.

 “Islamic tenets on the coming of the Messiah should be presented to the people of the world in order to diminish the anxiety stirred in societies and to discredit such predictions,” he added.

The anxiety built around the end of the world, which is based on Mayan scriptures’ predictions has brought about some unrest throughout the world, some people believing the tale being in search of a way out.

According to the Mayan scriptures’ prediction, the world comes to end on Dec. 21 2012.

Source: Mehr News


Some believe Friday is doomsday on the Mayan calendar; the Mayans don't

 At least the ones living in the city of Merida, Mexico, don't. Neither does anyone in the Mayan village of Yaxuna. They know the calendar their ancestors left them is about to absolve a key phase -- the end of an era and the heralding of a new one -- but they don't think we're all gonna die,according to CNN.

"It's an era. We are lucky to see how it ends," said wood carver Santos Esteban in Yaxuna, a sleepy village of fewer than 700 Mayans, located in a territory that once belonged to the ancient kingdom founded around 2000 B.C.

He feels it is a momentous occasion and is looking forward to the start of the new age. He is not afraid.

"Lots of people say it's the end of the world, but we don't believe that," he said.

People in his village will keep living much as they have, preferring hand-built, palm-thatch huts to concrete buildings and baking tortillas on an open flame.

For those less optimistic than the Mayans, an "official" website in the United States has collected links to all the doomsday articles and videos Internet users can consume.

December212012.com also offers tips on survival and advertisements for the needed gear -- from gas masks to first aid kits and hand-crank radios. Comments are welcome on its Facebook page, which has more than 14,000 likes, and website owner "John" from near Louisville, Kentucky, sends out tweets under the handle @December212012.

On the doomsday Facebook page -- in between gloomy superstitious links and user comments -- John has confessed that he does not really believe the world will end on Friday but thinks that a new era could dawn that may include some improvements for the world. That new era, however, might require a good bit of destruction as well.

"PLEASE PEOPLE. . . I'm begging you. Do not overreact or make any rash decisions regarding Dec 21st. Anyone who knows anything about the 2012 prophecies, including myself, does not believes that the world is going to end," the Facebook page says.

"I taught about economic collapse and how it actually looks on the ground," he said. "People want to act like it can't happen or doesn't happen, and it happens around the world. There are places on fire right now."

In true survivalist manner, Croft also teaches his family how to subsist on alternative sources of nourishment, such as algae, roasted mice and live earthworms.

The ancient people measured time in cycles called "baktuns" of 394 years each, and the winter solstice coming Friday marks the end of the 13th baktun. Some who study the clendar say the date for the end of the period is not Friday, but Sunday.

The Mayan calendar is based on the position of the heavenly bodies -- the sun, the moon and the stars -- and was meant to tell the Mayan people about agricultural and economic trends, said archeologist Alfredo Barrera.

NASA is also weighing in on the matter, with a post on its website declaring that the world will not end on Friday.

"It will be another winter solstice," NASA said. "The claims behind the end of the world quickly unravel when pinned down to the 2012 timeline."

If it's Saturday, and no major calamity has occurred, then relax and go celebrate the beginning of the 14th baktun with the Mayans.

Compiled by:Maysa Wassouf

World's Scariest Bridges

From sky-high suspension bridges to dilapidated rope bridges, these crossings aren’t for the meek.

Rotting wooden planks, held aloft by rusty bits of wire, stretch out in front of you. You reach for a railing to steady yourself, but all you find are two threadbare ropes. The howling wind blows the rickety footbridge from side to side. Somewhere below you lies the forest floor—you don’t even know how far.

All bridges serve a purpose, whether utilitarian or inspirational. And some of them, like MusouTsuribashi—this shaky, 50-year-old crossing in southern Japan—add a distinct element of fear. But you don’t have to be in a remote part of the world: scary bridges exist everywhere, in all shapes, sizes, and heights. And crossing over them can be the ultimate in adventure travel.

Surprisingly, not all of these bridges are old and dilapidated. Take the Mackinac Bridge, which connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas. The wind here can reach speeds of 30 mph, leading to white-knuckled drives across its five-mile-long span. It can be so scary that some people simply won’t go. So the Mackinac Bridge Authority will drive your car for you…for free. In the past year, it has assisted almost 1,400 drivers—and plenty of similar programs exist around the country

Is this an irrational fear? Not necessarily. Gephyrophobia—the

fear of bridges—is an accepted psychological diagnosis. Dr. Michael R. Liebowitz, founder of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, told the New York Times that the fear of crossing bridges is very common (if not as well known as, say, the fear of flying). It also “carries a stigma,” says Liebowitz, even though bridges have been known to collapse, like the interstate highway bridge in downtown Minneapolis in 2007.

But unlike gephyrophobes, many courageous (or foolhardy) travelers seek out hair-raising bridges just for the thrill. The bridges along the route to Colombia’s National Archeological Park of Tierradentro are a good example. Though there are safer routes via bus from La Plata, some thrill-seekers choose to ride motorcycles over slippery bamboo crossings deep in the mountains, where one wrong move could mean plunging into a turbulent river.


Beyonce Just Went To Another Level


We all know Beyoncé is a star. She’s arguably the biggest star of this era, able to influence millions with the drop of a hat or a sway of her hips. But now, she’s really on some next level , According to the Associated Press, she has been confirmed to perform at this year’s Super Bowl halftime show.

For a recording artist, this is the biggest honor you can reach, and it’s only built for true mega-watt individuals. So Taylor Swift, and any of these other cornball celebrities you see on magazine covers, please step off the curb and walk in the street. You are not worthy.

When Beyoncé steps on stage on Feb. 3, her impact will be two-fold. One, it will finally give audiences what they’ve asked for repeatedly, and that’s a contemporary artist. No shots at Madonna, The Rolling Stones or anybody that’s performed in recent years, but it’s 2012, fam. These people haven’t put out relevant music in eons and yet every year they’re propped up like they’re officially official.  Secondly, the Super Bowl needs more diversity. Beyoncé will be the first black woman to perform at the halftime show since Janet Jackson’s Nipplegate moment from ’04. There’s no excuse for eight years to have passed before another black woman got a chance. The NFL typically bows to its corporate check-writers in picking the performer (otherwise how can you explain The Who and Tom Petty getting over like this?), so it’s good that they’ve picked someone who actually warrants the selection.

As for Bey, with this on her resume, she’s almost getting to the point of being unstoppable. She’s one more classic album from legitimately barging into the GOAT argument. Detractors aside, her catalogue is powerful. One last thing: I’m assuming we’re gonna get a Jay-Z sighting on stage, too. He has his detractors as well, but, man, that’s a dude having one helluva year.