Sunday, December 17, 2017

HAPPY BUDDHAS: Vietnam Travelogue (Part 4 – Of Dollars and Dong)

28 November 2017 (Tuesday)

Somehow I manage to set my travel alarm clock back 30 minutes, so I wake up 30 minutes later than I planned.  After a fortifying breakfast I join the city tour.  The toilet in my room won’t flush, so I leave a note for housekeeping.  I hope it will be fixed by my return.

As the bus makes its way to the Museum of Ethnology I notice power lines strung haphazardly along the city streets, bunched and bound together.  This would not meet U.S. safety standards.  The city bustles but doesn’t seem as dirty as last night.  Perhaps this morning was trash day.

Hai guides us around the outdoor component of the museum.  We see housing and burial structures of the various tribes that populate the more remote regions of the country.  Inside the museum there are more traditional exhibits.  We only have 30 minutes inside.  I could have used 30 more, but it’s on to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex.

Uncle Ho’s final resting place is a boxy multilevel structure in the middle of a large mall convenient for parades and other large gatherings.  Military personnel are everywhere.  The mausoleum proper is guarded by 2 soldiers in white dress uniforms.  Every hour the guard changes.  We catch the noon ceremony.  Before arriving Hai told us to hold off on any politically sensitive questions until we were back on board the bus.  Several “tourists” wandering the mall are likely government spies, and there is an underground monitoring station beneath a grassy knoll that records everything said in the complex.  They can translate all language to make sure foreign tours weren’t being given non-Communist propaganda.  No shorts above the knee are allowed, and shoulders must be covered.  We must show respect for Uncle Ho.

Our last official stop before lunch is Hoa Lo Prison (dubbed by American POWs as the “Hanoi Hilton”), built by the French to house Vietnamese prisoners during colonial times.  The French would shackle one or both legs of a prisoner depending on how well they were behaving.  The guillotine used for executions remains on display.

After the gloom of the prison we make an unscheduled stop at Marou, a specialty chocolate shop with cacao varieties from different regions of Vietnam.  We spend far more time than Hai allotted as nearly everyone gets chocolate bars, candies and hot chocolate.

For lunch before our scheduled Water Puppet Theater performance I follow Hai, Tom & Anne, Lana & Mike, and Ana Maria to a restaurant near the theater overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake and have a simple vegetable fried rice and a Hanoi beer.

We walk to the Lotus Theater for the performance which features traditional North Vietnamese music and signing, along with water puppetry that focuses on local legends and the farming and fishing life of the local peasants.  There is a lot of chatting during the show either from tourists who don’t know better or children caught up in the spectacle.  Though the music and puppetry are interesting, the inertia of sitting after the long day of walking causes me and several group members to nod off occasionally.

Back at the hotel (my toilet is fixed) I promptly pass out and sleep until 10:00 p.m.  I hope I am able to sleep tonight.

29 November 2017 (Wednesday)

Side Note:  Vietnam is a communist country.  However, as Hai pointed out, communism is no longer an economic philosophy.  It is solely political.  And wholly corrupt.  Capitalism runs rampant here, most obviously in Saigon.

Today is our final optional tour.  I’m glad to be out of Hanoi for a few hours.  The dirty air and dirty streets have begun to get to me and my sinuses.  We visit the Thay Pagoda, the master pagoda, about an hour outside the city.  It’s not as elaborate and elevated as the pagodas and tombs we saw in Hue.  Its title notwithstanding, this pagoda feels quite modest.

The next stop is So Village where we are given a clear reminder of the poverty of much of country.  We visit the home of an 87-year-old woman who offers us biscuits and tea, as well as some beetle nut (which no one accepts because it turns your teeth black).  When she’s not doing household chores, she makes brooms and fans to sell.  Most of her children and grandchildren live in cities where they could find jobs.

We drive back to Hanoi for lunch at a chain restaurant (not Vietnamese) called Al Fresco.  Pleasant but nothing special.

Back to the hotel then one more trek to Café Pho Co for a hot egg coffee.  I follow our path from the first night.  The streets are busier and dirtier than before.  Or at least it seems that way.  My sinuses cry out for relief.  I wish I were wearing a mask.  Now I understand why they are ubiquitous on the streets of Vietnam.  I don’t think I could stay in the city another full day.  I would be in respiratory distress.

I run into Marika and her Irish boyfriend (husband?) from our tour group at Café Pho Co.  They had the same idea.  She is in rapture over the hot egg coffee, and I can’t say I blame her.  We have a group farewell dinner tonight, but they will not be attending.  Instead they have a street food tour.  Perhaps I will see them at breakfast tomorrow before departure.

I walk to the park around Hoan Kiem Lake and find a bench to relax upon.  Before too long a young woman with a backpack approaches me and starts chatting me up.  Earlier in the tour Hai mentioned that students would frequently want to practice English with tourists.  Since the first words out of her mouth are “Do you speak English?” I assume this is the case.  She pulls out a handwritten essay on the legend of Hoan Kiem Lake and asks me to read it aloud to make sure it makes sense.  The young woman’s English is spotty.  She claims to be 12 but that can’t be the case since I met an 11-year-old in So Village who was much younger.  I assume she is confused about English numbers.  She says she is studying banking and working part time with kids, so my guess is she’s a college student.  After a time I excuse myself and walk back to the hotel.

Breathing the air has become more and more difficult.  I return to my hotel room and hibernate until dinner.

Hai walks the group to 5 Spices, a local restaurant.  I sit with Rike and Pam again.  We’re the Special People’s Club.

The food is delicious, our best group meal to date, but Rike is accidentally given a chicken cake and makes a fuss.  The staff is very apologetic, and she’s given special attention the rest of the evening.

We walk back to the hotel, and I say my goodbyes to Tom & Anne and Lana & Mike, since they leave at 6:00 a.m. the next morning for Thailand.  I also say goodbye to Ali & Fariba and their boys.  They leave at 9:00 a.m., but I may see them at breakfast.

Back to the room for a shower and to begin a course of decongestant.  I hope that helps.  I do not want any sinus issues on the plane home.  My shuttle leaves the hotel for the airport at 12:45 p.m. tomorrow, so luggage out at 11:45 p.m. and check out at noon.

30 November 2017 (Thursday)

My last day in Vietnam.  Pack and breakfast.  There’s still time before luggage out, so I walk over to Truc Bach Lake.  Anne said it was an easy walk away.  My sinuses are unhappy, though the decongestant seems to have helped somewhat.

The air around the lake and the surrounding city is hazy.  I try to take a picture but everything’s white and gray wash.  The lake is close and easily walkable within an hour.

I stop at a convenience store to buy water and use up some of my remaining dong.  On the far side of the lake I see a “Cho” (dog) restaurant.  Walk on by.

Back at the hotel I finish packing, put my luggage out, and walk across the street for a quick lunch before the shuttle to the airport.  My biggest language difficulty of the trip occurs with the young waiter at the restaurant.  Luckily the hostess speaks decent English and translates my order.

Ana Vigo (a Peruvian who lives in Los Angeles) holds up our shuttle a few minutes while she waits for her dressmaker to deliver clothes she ordered.

Hai, Ana and her friend Matthew, and Michael and his 83-year-old mother Dinah are in the 12:45 p.m. group.  Ana, Matthew, Dinah and I are on the same flights to L.A.  Dinah’s son Michael is flying to Cambodia.  Hai flies back to his home in Saigon.

Dinah and I sat together at breakfast, so she adopts me as her proxy son for the trip home.  In Guangzhou we pick up boarding passes for our long final flight.  Ana and I are seated next to each other.  I ask for an emergency exit row, but the agent counts wrong and gives me the row in front of the emergency exit, which is the world’s worst row (with a wall behind the seat).

After takeoff Ana, who’s feeling claustrophobic, looks for another open seat and finds one, so her seat opens up to my left.  The middle aged gentlemen on the aisle is an odd duck who plans to sleep at LAX and catch a flight to Montana the next day.  He says he brought his own sleeping bag.

I sleep most of the flight.  We arrive early, but it takes time for luggage to arrive and a considerable wait for the shuttle from the airport.  LAX is the worst.  The U.S. Customs agent who processes us is a smug jerk.  He belittles some poor Asian man who clearly struggled with English.  With a welcome like that, who’d want to come to this country?  It’s time for persons in misplaced positions of authority to get taken to the woodshed.  My two cents.

HAPPY BUDDHAS: Vietnam Travelogue (Part 3 – Communism)

25 November 2017 (Saturday)


Side Note:  In Hoi An Hai recommended the massage services at the hotel’s spa.  However, he specifically did not recommend the massage services at the hotel in Hue.  According to him they focus little on massage and keep asking whether you want a “happy ending.”


I’m up before wake-up call for a quick stretch.  My right leg is stiff – perhaps from yesterday’s walking tour.  I realize I left my handkerchief drying in my room at the Hoi An Trials Resort.  Oh well.  Better than forgetting my phone.

I breakfast with Armond, a tech wiz from the Bay Area.  He’s traveling with his parents and brother, Alex.  Lana interrupts to enlist Armond’s help.  She’s a real estate agent, and her email was hacked by a particularly aggressive hacker.  She can’t figure out how to change her password.  Armond kindly offers his assistance.

Before leaving for the Perfume River tour I discover my hotel safe won’t open.  The safe contains my passport (which I don’t need for the tour) and my camera (which I do).  I call the front desk, and they send housekeeping.  While waiting for my safe to be opened I call the front desk to let Hai know I’m running late.  Housekeeping opens the safe, but now it’s locked open.  I lock what valuables I don’t need in my suitcase and head downstairs.  I’ll have to sort this out after the tour.

Overcast skies but no rain for the one hour cruise on a Dragon Boat (tourist version) down the Perfume River to Thien Mu Pagoda.  The pagoda has lots of stairs and beautiful grounds.  We take a bus to the Khai Dinh tomb.  This particular king didn’t like his concubines and preferred his bodyguards.  His queen became pregnant (by the king’s uncle, or so it was believed) and gave birth to the next king – technically not related to the king by blood.  But what could the monarch say nothing without causing more problems?  There are even more stairs here.  Grimmer in mood, and the rain starts again.  Next stop is the Tu Duc tomb via an Incense and Cone Hat making shop.  The Tu Duc tomb has more extensive grounds but the tomb itself is being renovated.


Side Note:  While waiting on the tour bus to leave Khai Dinh tomb I see the Kiwis from the XO Tour heading up to the site.  When we spoke during the food tour they had mentioned they would be in Hue a day after me.  I knock on the window, and they wave back in recognition.


Lunch is a vegan affair, prepared and served by nuns at the Dong Thuyen Pagoda.  Ana Maria and I share a plate (it’s two to a plate all around).  After lunch Hai interviews (and translates for) a 19-year-old nun.  She answers questions about her life in the nunnery.  She wanted to become a nun from a very early age.  She is very endearing.

Back at the hotel I call reception to have my safe fixed, with just enough time to scout a dinner location before dark.  Both Hai and Lonely Planet recommend the Mandarin Café, so I trek there.  Glad I scouted in daylight as the map is not very clear.  Back to the hotel to read and rest my knee, which is sore after all the stair climbing.

Next the dinner trek for real.  After dark there are significantly more taxi drivers accosting you.  One cyclo driver approaches me.  When I refuse he makes the universal sign for smoking.  I’m not sure if he wants a cigarette or is offering marijuana.  Either way my answer is no.

Mandarin Café is both a restaurant and a travel agency run by Mr. Cu, who displays his exceptional photos on the walls.  I order the local beer on his recommendation (Hai said it tastes like water; we’ll see), fried vegetable spring rolls as an appetizer, and sautéed mixed seafood for the main course.  Dessert is a mango pancake with ice cream and chocolate sauce, along with coffee and condensed milk.  Decadent!

Before leaving the restaurant Mr. Cu gives me one of his pictures as a souvenir.  Some fellow tour companions are eating at the restaurant when I arrive and leave shortly thereafter to check out the Night Market (if it isn’t closed due to rain).  They suggest I meet them, but my knee is still bothering me and I don’t want to overdo it.  So back to the hotel to shower and pack for tomorrow’s flight to Hanoi.

26 November 2017 (Sunday)

A brief stretch before breakfast, then on to the Hue airport.  Hai warns us that the customs officials there can be stern, but the woman who checks our passports is fairly typical.  Not friendly, not unfriendly.  The flight is short, but the bus ride to Halong Bay feels long.  The scenery begins to reflect the politics in Hanoi – flat, gray buildings become the norm.

We stop halfway to Halong Bay for a modest lunch at a restaurant whose proceeds assist victims of Agent Orange.  The food is unremarkable but hits the spot.  During the final leg to Halong Bay Hai fills us in our upcoming hotel’s scam to make you pay for drinks from the fridge in your room.  I take inventory when I arrive (even take a picture of the fridge contents just in case).  After unpacking I walk toward the bay with Ana Maria so she can smoke.

At the group dinner that evening I sit (once again) with my fellow vegan/vegetarians, Rike and Pam.  Joining us are Ali, his wife Fariba, son Ali and other son Alex.  They migrated to the U.S. from Iran.  The sons and I talk science fiction books, then Rike changes the subject (as is her wont) to politics, which I have no interest in.  Hai sits next to us but eats very little.  I wonder if he has some dietary restrictions, because I can’t recall him eating much of anything thus far.

After dinner Ana Vigo (as opposed to Ana Maria) suggests drinks at the Skybar.  When I return to my room many of my group are gathered outside the elevator.  They are still there when I head to the less busy elevator down the hall.  The Skybar is on the 16th floor.  It has trendy pretensions and tries too hard.  The only group member there is Fariba.  The outdoor seating looks enticing, so I head back to my room for a jacket, figuring the rest of the group will have arrived by the time I return.  Not so.  They must have gone to the night market.  I have no interest in that, or in waiting.  I make an early night of it.

27 November 2017 (Monday)

Because several tour groups are in the hotel Hai suggests we arrive at breakfast this morning before 7:00 a.m.  I arrive at 6:30 a.m., and it’s already a zoo.  Clearly everyone has the same idea.  A half hour later the crowds subside.  Oh well.  The food is good, though coffee and milk are in short supply.

Rike, the politics talker, is a lawyer from the D.C. area (originally from Nigeria).  She sits across from me and, bless her heart, talks my ear off.  Both she and Pam (who rounds out the non-meat-eating trio) seem to abhor silence.  Maybe it’s too many vegetables in their diet.

During check out Hai’s warning about housekeeping is confirmed.  Anne and Tom are called to task for removing a glass from their room.  All’s well that ends well, however, as it is tracked to the dining room (?!).  This meticulousness seems egregious.  However, Hai says it’s not uncommon for Korean or Chinese businessmen to get drunk and try to enter the wrong room.  Perhaps they (the businessmen) tear up their rooms, which has led to housekeeping’s overcompensating behavior.

At 8:00 a.m. we bus to the marina for our cruise of Halong Bay, which has hundreds of islands, many with caves.  We cruise for two hours before stopping to explore three caves in one of the islands.  The bay is gorgeous, the sailing serene, and the caves breathtaking.  Even the crowds at the caves aren’t too obnoxious.

After the cave crawl it’s back to the boat for a 9-course lunch.  No joke.  By the end of the meal I am full to near exploding.  Hai says this particular lunch used to be 11 courses.  That must have been coma inducing.

We take our 4-hour bus ride back to Hanoi where we will spend the remainder of the tour.  We arrive earlier than expected, so Hai conducts an informal walking orientation of the city.  He leads us from the hotel to Hoan Kiem Lake, then walks us to the Café Pho Co for a hot egg coffee, a Hanoi specialty.  I also have an uninspired piece of chocolate cake.  Dessert before dinner tonight.  Some teenage girls bus the tables.  I give one a $1 tip, and she is completely overwhelmed.  As I leave I see her speaking excitedly to a co-worker.  Never has a dollar gone so far.

Hai warned us about hygiene in the city, and the walk confirms this.  The sidewalks and curbs are covered with detritus.  According to Hai it’s not uncommon at street food stations for patrons to toss their used napkins on the floor around their table.

Tom & Anne, Mike & Lana, and Ana Maria and I walk back to the hotel (a significant hike).  I lead the way, since no one else feels confident of the route.  We make it back without incident – only minor stress crossing the street.  On the walk down Hai showed us his “kung fu” technique.  You wait for a break in the traffic, step into the road and hold up your hand.  It works for him but is not as easy for a non-native to pull off.

We go straight to Cha Ca Thang Lang for dinner.  It’s next door to the hotel, and they only serve fish.  You get a full meal for a mere 170,000 VND (the equivalent of $8) plus whatever you want to drink.  I also have the Bai Ha Nai (the local beer).  The fish is amazing.  I have yet to have a bad meal here.  The check comes all together, and there is some drama as we pay separately, some in dong (VND), some in dollars.  No credit cards at this restaurant.

We walk the few steps to the hotel and bid each other good night.  Tomorrow’s official city tour begins at 9:00 a.m., so we get an extra hour of sleep.  Huzzah!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

HAPPY BUDDHAS: Vietnam Travelogue (Part 2 – Culture)

23 November 2017 (Thanksgiving)

I join Anne & Tom and Mike & Lana for breakfast and am filled in on the previous evening’s shenanigans.  They are going on the optional tour this morning and must leave to prepare.  I go back to my room, putter, write in my journal, and head to the concierge to make arrangements for a taxi to the Hoi An Theater.  I am told the drive should take 15 minutes, so I plan to return to the hotel no later than 2:15 p.m. to make my 2:45 p.m. meeting time.

I time the walk from my hotel to Old Town Hoi An to gauge when I should head back.  On the way I’m accosted by a very nice seamstress who wants to make me some clothes.  Apparently it’s common for proprietors to chat you up and segue into the sales pitch.  Unless what they’re offering is a massage.  Then they skip the pleasantries and get right to the point.  I guess that product speaks for itself.

I plan to eat at Morning Glory, a cooking school and restaurant known for its high quality street food, so I make my way there to scout the location.  My map is confusing, and I get turned around, ending up in the Central Market for several stressful minutes.  My personal version of hell.  Consumerism at its most aggressive.  I make my way to the river to escape.  The water has breached the banks and spilled into small inlets on the sidewalk.  I locate the restaurant, then find a bench on the other side of the river to relax and enjoy the view.

All over Old Town handicapped men sell English language newspapers for $2.  One approaches me, and I give in.  Several minutes later another comes up to me, so I flashed the recently purchased newspaper, and he moves on.  A pack of unchaperoned dogs run up and down the street.  They look fed and clean, so perhaps residents are more comfortable with animals roaming freely about the town than we are in the U.S.

Morning Glory serves an exceptional seafood noodle dish, and I wash it down with Larue beer.  For dessert I have an excellent banana pudding cake.  Yes, it’s as decadent as it sounds.  After lunch I hike back to the hotel for a brief rest before the “Dinner With The Nguyens” tour.

Considering how most people drive in this country I prepare for a white-knuckled taxi ride.  Instead we move at a snail’s pace.  The driver spends a fair amount of time on his cell phone.  And despite leaving the hotel at 2:20 p.m. I begin to wonder if I’ll meet my guide on time.  There’s further delay because the driver doesn’t have 30,000 VND in change, so we stop at a nearby store.  I suspect I may be his first customer ever.  I arrive at the meeting place exactly at 2:45 p.m.  The rain has begun in earnest now.


Side Note:  Most Vietnamese speak at least two languages fluently – Vietnamese and honking.  Everyone honks.  I’m not sure what the rules of the road are in Vietnam, but I have yet to see an accident.  Plenty of close calls, however.


After a few uncertain minutes walking around the Hoi An Theater I meet Trang Le, my guide, and she and I climb into a mini-van to pick up 4 Kiwis who represent the balance of our tour group.  This is a walking tour, so the driver drops us off at the bridge to the nearby island of Cam Nam.  Though I have my own raincoat Trang has come prepared with XO Tours rain gear for everyone.  Bundled against the rain and wind, we trudge across the bridge to the island where our first stop is a local restaurant.  We sample fish cakes with dipping sauce, oysters with dipping sauce, and rice fried shrimp with dipping sauce.  Did I mention there were dipping sauces?  All washed down with more Larue beer.

Our next stop is a local farmhouse, but the path there is unexpectedly flooded.  Two of our number (myself being one) lack appropriate foot ware, so off come the shoes and socks and up go the pant legs.  When we arrive at the farm, the farmer brings out a bucket, gives us rubber sandals, and rinses our feet.  Inside we meet the farmer’s wife who teaches us to make Vietnamese pancakes made of rice flour, turmeric and milk.  You can add pork and/or shrimp to taste.  The pancake (folded over like an omelet) is rolled in rice paper with some sprouts and – you guessed it! – dipping sauce.  We each made one pancake at the family stove under the wife’s supervision.  Lovely.

Because our route would still be flooded and muddy, the farmer lends us the rubber sandals for the remainder of the tour.  Trang will return them afterwards.

Our next stop is a local market where we try different local fruits.  One looks like an eyeball but tastes sweet.  My favorite is the persimmon.

Our final leg of the trip is a boat ride back to Old Town for dessert.  Due to flooded banks we take a small boat to the larger boat.  The water is a shin deep wade, and the mud sucks at the borrowed sandals.  On the boat there’s more food.  I’m beginning to hit my limit.  The meat eaters (everyone but me) have beef and pork wraps with dipping sauce.  I have steamed fish with dipping sauce.  I’m glad this is a walking/wading tour, otherwise I’d be hopelessly stuffed.

We arrive at the banks of Old Town, and the sidewalks are underwater up to the steps of businesses.  We wade from the boat to Cargo for dessert -- a variety of fruit cakes.  These are mercifully free of dipping sauces.  We return the rubber sandals to Trang, and the shoes and socks go back on.  A fitting end to an amazing tour.  All the adventure and incredible food you could possibly desire.  If you ever go to Ho Chi Minh or Hoi An, look up XO Tours.  You will be glad you did.

24 November 2017 (Friday)

Heavy rains all through the night.  The Kiwis had a cooking class scheduled for this morning in Old Town.  I wonder if they were flooded out.  I suspect the restaurant where we had dessert the night before is under several inches of water.  The hotel grounds are flooded.  I walk to breakfast leaping over puddles.

Another Gate 1 group arrived yesterday, and today’s breakfast is chaotic.  The buffet is elbow to elbow.  I try the Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk and am quite pleased.  Nearby a woman (from the other Gate 1 group?) complains that she has yet to see the sun in Vietnam.  By her tone one would think the Vietnamese people personally responsible for the country’s weather.

On the bus ride to Hue we stop briefly at a marble shop in Da Nang where I buy a small Happy Buddha figurine.  Another brief stop at China Beach (where the French and American soldiers landed during their respective invasions).  The sky is overcast and drizzly.  Our last side trip before Hue is at the Dragon Bridge.

We arrive at the hotel in Hue an hour before the city tour is to begin.  With a very quick lunch of shrimp fried rice and Saigon beer at a family run restaurant across the street I am fortified for the tour.

The rain continues.  The bus drops us off, and a gaggle of women selling umbrellas and ponchos descend upon us.  I have to pull out my own umbrella to get a persistent hawker to back off.

The Imperial City was home to the last King of Vietnam before control was handed over to the French in 1945.  Hai explains that the King had many concubines so he could hand power over to one of his many children.  The parents of prospective concubines would bribe the attending eunuch to bring their daughter to the King’s attention.  Also a prospective concubine could prepare one of the King’s many dishes.  Presentation was everything (since the King could not possibly eat everything presented to him).  If the dish caught the King’s eye, the girl would be summoned.  Likewise a girl could make the King an article of clothing.  If a particular garment pleased him the seamstress was brought to him.

Eunuchs, Hai continues, were brought to the Imperial City in three ways.  The first type were those born without the “population stick.”  They were unceremoniously dropped off at the gates.  The second type were effeminate men.  The third type were boys so poor that becoming a eunuch was their chance for a good life serving the King.  There were female eunuchs that were used primarily to teach young princes the ways of love.  Boys were mutilated by removing some or all of their “population sticks” while girls were beaten on the stomach to force out their ovaries.  Neither eunuch could reproduce.

Hue was the site of the Tet Offensive in 1968, and a good portion of the Imperial City was destroyed by B-52 bombers trying to dislodge the Viet Cong from the grounds.  The city is still impressive, but the rain and excessive tourists take away much of the luster.

Back at the hotel, it’s still raining.  I had planned to walk to the Mandarin Café for dinner while part of the group took the optional Cyclo Tour.  After a brief nap in my 7th floor room, however, I am so chilled I crawl under the covers for warmth.  The wind cuts through the windows.  I pass out for several hours and settle for a protein bar once I wake up at 11:00 p.m.  A lost evening.

HAPPY BUDDHAS: Vietnam Travelogue (Part 1 – Commerce)

19-20 November 2017 (Sunday and Monday)

I park my car at work around 8:00 a.m. on Sunday.  The shuttle driver is early, and I’m his last pick up.  So I arrive at LAX with time to spare.  Just how I like it.

I mention to the agent at China Southern Airlines that this will be my longest flight to date, and he offers me an emergency exit row for the 14-hour flight.  Much more leg room and ready access to the aisles and bathrooms.  Score.

I sleep much of the way.  I can’t read without dozing, so my book, Why Does The World Exist? by Jim Holt, goes untouched.  The provided headphones are impossible.  I can’t hear dialogue clearly.  I try watching “The Trip to Italy” but haven’t a clue what they’re saying.  Instead I watch “Guardians of the Galaxy,” because I’ve seen it already.

The flight to Guangzhou goes on and on.  At the 7½ hour mark I realize I’m only half way there.

We land in southern China 15 minutes late due to turbulence en route, so it’s a frantic scramble for the connecting flight to Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon).  That flight is delayed as well, so we arrive in Vietnam around 10:30 p.m. local time on 20 November 2017.  The customs line is a grind.  Weary passengers (myself included) jockey from one line to the next when the first line stalls.

Our tour manager Hai meets us outside baggage claim.  My luggage arrives without incident.  The next day I learn that an elderly Chinese woman on my flight had her luggage left in Guangzhou.  (Happy ending – the luggage arrives the next day.)  While waiting for the tour group to gather a pleasant taxi driver tries to drum up business.  He seems unable (or unwilling) to grasp that each of us already have transportation to the hotel.

Check in at the Saigon Prince Hotel is quick, but I dread the 6:00 a.m. wake up call (it’s 2:00 a.m. when I crawl into bed) in order to make breakfast before the early morning tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels.

Not sure if it’s the jet lag or the constant sleeping/dozing on the flights but my sleep is restless.  Also it takes me several tries to figure out the A/C in the room.  Despite sweltering temps outside my room is chilly.  My foot keeps cramping.  I get about 2 hours of sleep on and off before the wake-up call at 5:45 a.m.(?)!  I showered the night before; otherwise I would have been very unhappy – and smelly.

21 November 2017 (Tuesday)

Breakfast is hearty.  I’m famished and wolf down eggs, noodles, beans, fruit and cereal with yogurt.  I’m surprisingly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the tour.  We’re set to depart at 7:15 a.m. but delayed due to the elderly Chinese woman.  Her son has to go to her room to fetch her.

The optional Cu Chi Tunnels tour is the one I’m most interested in.  The tunnels were used by the Viet Cong to escape detection by South Vietnamese Army (SVA) and US forces.  Our tour manager Hai is a Saigon native and has very personal opinions about the war.  For him it was a great tragedy for the people of Vietnam.  He believes the war has been misnamed.  The least correct names (in his opinion) are the Vietnam War (by the US) and the American War (by the Vietnamese).  A more accurate term (again, in his opinion) is the Civil War, but he prefers the term Ideological War -- a war to secure power through ideology.  He has no love for the Viet Cong but he certainly (and justifiably) admires their strategy and determination.

The Cu Chi tour highlight is watching a Viet soldier drop down into a tunnel through a tiny opening.  I’m claustrophobic just watching.  We are offered a chance to crawl 60 feet through a tunnel.  I demur, fearing a panic attack and unwilling to aggravate my bad right knee.  A couple men younger and shorter than me complain about the experience as they exit.  I made the smart move.

We drive to Saigon for lunch and a brief city tour, which is anticlimactic after Cu Chi.  Near tour’s end we stop at a local tile manufacturer.  I skip it and hang out at a nearby park.  Several tour members express interest in the War Remnants Museum instead of visiting the local market.  We alter the plan after a vote.  A fortuitous decision as a heavy squall moves in.  The museum is harrowing, though certainly lopsided in its viewpoint.  It is the unexpected highlight of the city tour.


Side Note:  Hai explains that Vietnam is divided into 3 regions.  The southern region, primarily the Mekong Delta and Saigon, represent the country’s commerce.  The central region with Hoi An and Hue, represents the country’s culture.  And the northern region, primarily Hanoi, represents the country’s political center.


We have a brief group meet and greet at the hotel, then off for dinner on our own.  Across the street a music festival is about to begin.  The road is blocked off, so it’s safer to walk.  Pedestrians look for a break in traffic then step into the road and press forward at a consistent speed.  Surprisingly no one seems to get hit, though it’s disconcerting to have motorbikes weave around you.  In a city of 12 million people there are 8 million motorbikes, and most are on the road or parked on the sidewalk at any given time.

I have a filling meal of seafood noodles at Nha Hang Ngon, a restaurant specializing in street food.  Afterward I walk to the Rex Hotel (recommended by a co-worker who had visited not long ago) and have a Saigon By Night (the Vietnamese equivalent of a Mint Julep) at the rooftop bar.  It’s easy to imagine diplomats after the heat of the day plotting over drinks and dinner while enjoying the cooler evening breeze.  As I sip my drink a Viet band play a guitar cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.”  As I leave they break into a rousing vocal cover of Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock.”

The street fair is in full swing as I make my way back to the hotel.  Hai had mentioned earlier that Gate 1 tried to get rooms at the Continental, but that hotel was full.  As I ride up to the 8th floor I still hear the pounding beat of the musical acts.  Now it’s clear why the Continental was full and the Royal Saigon not.  The music ends shortly after 10:00 p.m.  It’s a school night after all.

Before bed I shower and start packing for tomorrow’s flight to Da Nang.  I hope for more sleep tonight than last night.  Until tomorrow…

22 November 2017 (Wednesday)

I sleep much better after mastering the temperature gauge in the room.  After a hearty breakfast I finish packing then check out.  We bus to the airport for the in country flight to Da Nang.  Traffic is lighter than before, and we make it in plenty of time.  We check in as a group then wait.  I grab an egg sandwich to stow in my bag after Hai informs us that there may not be much time for lunch after we arrive.

During the wait I chat with two couples from Flagstaff – Tom & Anne and Mike & Lana.  Tom had gained notoriety the day before by wandering out of the Cu Chi site without telling anyone.  His wife, Anne, and Hai looked all over for him.  After about 15 minutes the group went outside to find Tom waiting by the bus.  Anne confirms this is not the first time Tom has gone missing.  It will not be the last.  I also chat with Ana Maria who, though nice, announces that all news is biased and that Puerto Rico is not nearly as devastated as media reports would have us believe.  The reports are political.  I consider mentioning that my boss’ sister lives in Puerto Rico and can back up the reports but don’t feeling like having that debate.

For the 1+ hour trip the inflight monitors play a French version of “Candid Camera” over and over.  The first 15 minutes are amusing, but after 45 minutes the formula gets tired.  Somehow I manage to lose my water bottle while departing the plane.

As we bus to Hoi An, the streets become narrower.  The region feels like a rustic version of the Napa Valley but with more motorbikes, cyclos and bicycles.  Or Cambria with more humidity.

We arrive at the Hoi An Trails Resort, a beautiful enclave off the bustling street not far from Old Town.  My room is spacious, with floors of dark wood.  It’s far more space than I need.  The rain begins just in time for our Old Town walking tour.

I suspect Hoi An at night has considerable charm.  However any charm is overwhelmed by the crush of tourists on foot, motorbike, cyclo and bicycle.  Add to that all the oversized umbrellas for the rain, and you have the recipe for a circle of Hell Dante might recognize.  I miss much of Hai’s narrative as I tried to dodge tourists and motorbikes on the narrow streets.  Inside it’s drier but not much better.  Sodden tourists crowd like packed sardines.  It’s a relief to go out onto the rainy street to find our dinner spot.

Somewhere between our last tour stop and the restaurant Tom disappears again, causing much consternation.  (It turns out that, against Hai’s earlier admonition, Tom had stopped in a shop to buy a rain poncho.  By the time he finished the transaction, the group had disappeared up an alleyway.)  Hai and Anne spend much of the dinner looking off the balcony at the wet street below.  (After searching the streets for some time Tom had taken a cab back to the hotel.)  Hai gives Anne a takeaway meal for Tom.

The dinner is lovely.  I sit at a table with two other non-meat eaters, Rike (pronounced “Ricky”) and Pam, which gives us the opportunity to bond as such.  There is more political talk, so I tune out until the subject moves on.  A significant reason to leave the U.S. for a couple of weeks is to avoid exactly these types of conversations.

I am not a mango fan, but the mango served with the dessert is stunning.  I will now only eat mango in Vietnam.  So I may never eat mango again.

Some stay to explore Old Town while most head back to the hotel.  Tomorrow is my food walking tour with XO Tours.  I’m to meet the tour guide at the Hoi An Theater, so I ask Hai how far away it is.  It’s in Hoi An proper (not Old Town), so I will need to cab it.  I will check with reception tomorrow to arrange transportation.

I use the hotel computer to email XO Tours my room number, which they may need in case they have to cancel due to rain.  A few days ago the Thu Bon River overflowed its banks, flooding a significant portion of Old Town.  Back in the room I hope to write in my journal but promptly pass out.  The jet lag has caught up with me.  Until tomorrow then…

Sunday, February 26, 2017


When someone is honestly 55% right, that's very good and there's no use wrangling.  And if someone is 60% right, it's wonderful, it's great luck, and let him thank God.  But what's to be said about 75% right?  Wise people say this is suspicious.  Well, and what about 100% right?  Whoever says he is 100% right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.
--attributed to An Old Jew of Galicia

The above quote appears at the beginning of The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz.  And as a reformed film scholar and occasional movie critic this quote is a solemn reminder of the duties of a critic (and as a citizen, but we'll limit our brief discussion here to the film critic).  Not as the final arbiter of the good and the bad, the quality and the dreck (though there is an element of that, too).  No, it is as a guide to the audience, a gentle (or not so gentle) prodding either toward or away from the film under discussion.

I cannot possibly know what you will or will not respond to, and I can only relate what I have responded to, for good or for ill.  And, to that end, it is my sincere hope that this simple missive may inspire you to see a film you might have otherwise dismissed or to seek out with more vigor a film you wanted but failed to see.  And if I disliked a particulate favorite movie of yours, please keep in mind that there's no accounting for taste.  Especially mine.

All that said, I feel comfortable stating that my opinions are 60% right.  Of course there are many people to thank, but I won’t bore you with all that here.  If you’re reading this, please accept my thanks.  I’m grateful to all of you for different reasons and in different ways.  But I can safely say that your presence in my life has not left me unchanged.  And I mean that in a good way.

Finally, thanks to my always supportive family.  I’m lucky to have you.

Brian Pope
February 26, 2017

(in alphabetical order)
ARRIVAL  Despite its science fiction trappings Denis Villeneuve’s film is a meditation on endurance in the face of inevitable tragedy and grief.  Eric Heisserer elegantly adapts Ted Chiang’s short story “Story of Your Life,” and Amy Adams’ sensitive performance anchors this profound and often moving drama.
THE HANDMAIDEN  South Korean director Chan-wook Park’s twisted, twisty tale of repressed passion and betrayal, inspired by the Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith, is chock full of crosses, double-crosses and steamy sex.  I double-dog dare you to stay ahead of this one.  Not for the prudish or faint of heart (in more ways than one).
HELL OR HIGH WATER  Two Texas brothers rob banks that stole their family home from them, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Writer Taylor Sheridan and Scottish director David Mackenzie beautifully evoke the post-financial crisis desolation and desperation.

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO  Raoul Peck’s documentary based in part on the unfinished novel Remember This House by provocateur James Baldwin traces the fight for racial equality in the 1960s but ties in, and is just as urgent and vital, to today.
THE LOBSTER  This bleak black comedy from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos takes society’s notion of ideological purity, applies it to romantic relationships, and carries it to the absurdist extreme.  As the film’s fine line between humor and horror gradually breaks down we find ourselves alternately gasping with laughter and shock.
LOVE & FRIENDSHIP  Even Whit Stillman’s most “modern” films have always felt like the product of a bygone era.  So it should surprise no one that his most entertaining and insightful film in years is this crisp, clear adaptation of the relatively obscure Jane Austen novella “Lady Susan.”  Kate Beckinsale has never been better.
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA  Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan has a distinctly Irish sense of tragedy, and this devastating drama is no exception.  The filmmaker refuses easy sentimentality and pat catharsis and instead grapples with inconsolable grief.  Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges and Michelle Williams are exceptional.
MOONLIGHT  A tender, lyrical tale about a black boy/youth/man seeking an identity and human connection in Miami’s inner city.  Writer/director Barry Jenkins divides this journey into three parts, and each feels like a revelation.  Exquisitely acted and gorgeously shot, this is the year’s finest film.
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS  Tom Ford adapts Austin Wright’s novel Tony & Susan about a visual artist who, while reading a novel written by her ex-husband, reevaluates her feelings about their separation and her life.  Ford brilliantly explores the power of fiction to alter our sense of the past and manipulate our desires for the future.
ZOOTOPIA  This delicious animated confection tells a timely and timeless tale of tolerance and cooperation without feeling preachy.  Instead the film relies on smart storytelling, clever world building, and engaging yet complicated (but not too complicated) characters.  This is a captivating kids’ movie that will delight adults as well.
Runners-Up of 2016
(in alphabetical order)
THE WORST of 2016
(in alphabetical order)
THE BIRTH OF A NATION  Nat Turner’s slave rebellion deserves to be told, just by a more accomplished filmmakerWriter/director/actor Nate Parker believes he's hit a home run only to be thrown out at second base.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR  Is this a superhero movie or a philosophical treatise?  Either way, it lost me at hello.  And yet it kept on talking for over two hours.  Put a sock in it.

HACKSAW RIDGE  A thick pudding of jingoism sprinkled with just enough Christian palliative to provide cover for the last hour's non-stop pornographic violence.  Sanctimonious, self-righteous and shamelessly manipulative.

Saturday, February 25, 2017


It’s time once again to match wits with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  Below are my predictions the 2016 Oscars®.

Best Picture:


Unless something very drastic happens, LA LA LAND will win Best Picture.  Aside from the unintentionally risible HACKSAW RIDGE it’s the weakest option.  But Hollywood does love to congratulate itself.  MOONLIGHT would be my first choice.  Followed by HELL OR HIGH WATER.

Should Win:     MOONLIGHT
Will Win:          LA LA LAND
Overlooked:    ZOOTOPIA

Best Director:

Damien Chazelle, LA LA LAND
Barry Jenkins, MOONLIGHT
Denis Villeneuve, ARRIVAL

Damien Chazelle will win for LA LA LAND, because he loves old school Hollywood musicals.  And Hollywood loves itself.  Enough said.  A better choice would be Barry Jenkins for MOONLIGHT.

Should Win:     Barry Jenkins, MOONLIGHT
Will Win:          Damien Chazelle, LA LA LAND
Overlooked:    David Mackenzie, HELL OR HIGH WATER

Best Actress:

Isabelle Huppert, ELLE
Ruth Negga, LOVING
Natalie Portman, JACKIE
Emma Stone, LA LA LAND

I wasn’t able to see ELLE, so I can’t comment on Isabelle Huppert.  Generally speaking this is a weak category.  As such, Emma Stone will win for LA LA LAND, because Hollywood.  Ruth Negga was wonderful in LOVING.  But it was such a subtle performance in such a small movie, it doesn’t stand a chance.

Should Win:     Ruth Negga, LOVING
Will Win:          Emma Stone, LA LA LAND
Overlooked:    Amy Adams, ARRIVAL
Kate Beckinsale, LOVE & FRIENDSHIP
                        Annette Bening, 20TH CENTURY WOMEN
                        Taraji P. Henson, HIDDEN FIGURES

Best Actor:

Andrew Garfield, HACKSAW RIDGE
Ryan Gosling, LA LA LAND
Denzel Washington, FENCES

Up until about a month ago, most would have said Casey Affleck was a lock for MANCHESTER BY THE SEA.  Now, thanks to tons of bad press and a less-than-pleasant demeanor, his chances have dropped.  I still think his performance was the year’s best, very closely followed by Denzel Washington for FENCES.  I suspect Washington will win.

Should Win:     Casey Affleck, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Will Win:          Denzel Washington, FENCES

Best Supporting Actress:

Viola Davis, FENCES
Naomie Harris, MOONLIGHT
Nicole Kidman, LION
Octavia Spencer, HIDDEN FIGURES
Michelle Williams, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Viola Davis will finally win an Oscar® for her heart-wrenching work in FENCES.  And although Davis deserves it, Michelle Williams’ devastating performance in MANCHESTER BY THE SEA or Naomie Harris’ fearless turn in MOONLIGHT would have won in any other year.

Should and Will Win:   Viola Davis, FENCES

Best Supporting Actor:

Mahershala Ali, MOONLIGHT
Dev Patel, LION

The Golden Globes gave the award to Aaron Taylor-Johnson in NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, but the Academy didn’t nominate him.  The SAG Awards recognized Mahershala Ali for MOONLIGHT.  So the question now is whether Michael Shannon’s nomination will change the calculus.  Shannon is wonderful, as always, but likely won’t pull enough support from Ali to change things.

Should and Will Win:   Mahershala Ali, MOONLIGHT
Overlooked:                Ben Foster, HELL OR HIGH WATER
                                    Sunny Pawar, LION

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Luke Davies, LION
Eric Heisserer, ARRIVAL
Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney, MOONLIGHT
Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, HIDDEN FIGURES
August Wilson, FENCES

Eric Heisserer’s adaptation of Ted Chiang’s slim story “Story of Your Life” raises stakes and expands action without dwarfing its more meditative theme, but Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unproduced play turns inner city angst into a lyrical tone poem.  He should and will win.

Should and Will Win:   Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney, MOONLIGHT
Overlooked:                Tom Ford, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

Best Original Screenplay:

Damien Chazelle, LA LA LAND
Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou, THE LOBSTER
Mike Mills, 20th CENTURY WOMEN
Taylor Sheridan, HELL OR HIGH WATER

Damien Chazelle’s lead-footed venture into Hollywood nostalgia has a good chance to win, despite being the weakest script in the bunch.  Kenneth Lonergan’s devastating drama is the only one that has a chance against it.  Taylor Sheridan’s modern western about desperate, misguided desperados is a very worthy entry.  However, THE LOBSTER is easily the most outlandish and original screenplay this year but will have to settle for the nomination.  The safer bet is LA LA LAND; the more interesting bet is MANCHESTER BY THE SEA.  For fun I’ll go with the interesting bet.  (For those who listened to the On The Page® podcast, I have changed my prediction; I just couldn’t bring myself to let LA LA LAND win on paper.  Even if it does in “real” life.)

Should Win:     Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou, THE LOBSTER
Will Win:          Kenneth Lonergan, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Overlooked:    Jared Bush & Phil Johnston, ZOOTOPIA

Best Animated Film


I did not see MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI or THE RED TURTLE, alas.  Of those I did see KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS boasts the most artful animation; however, it suffers in its voice work.  MOANA is terrific in a traditional way, with classic animation and a marvelous musical score.  Yet ZOOTOPIA combines clever animation with a sharp script.  The timely, resonant message is icing on the cake.  It deserves to win and shall.

Should and Will Win:   ZOOTOPIA

Best Foreign Language Film

LAND OF MINE (Denmark)
TANNA (Australia)

If the Academy is feeling political they may give the award to THE SALESMAN.  However, TONI ERDMANN made several critics’ Best of Year lists, so let’s go with that.

Will Win:          TONI ERDMANN (Germany)

Best Documentary Feature


I only saw I AM YOUR NEGRO, and it was remarkable.  A must see.  However, I have heard that 13TH is equally compelling.  Because 13TH was directed by Ana DuVernay, who was snubbed for Best Director for SELMA some years back, there’s a chance the Academy could try to make amends here.  However, despite its imposing length, more people probably saw O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA.  It will likely win.

Should Win:     I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO
Will Win:          O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA

Best Cinematography

Grieg Fraser, LION
James Laxton, MOONLIGHT
Rodrigo Prieto, SILENCE
Linus Sandgren, LA LA LAND
Bradford Young, ARRIVAL

Grieg Fraser won the ASC award but that doesn’t always mean the Academy will think similarly.  Fraser deserves the Oscar®, but I fear it will go to Linus Sandgren as part of the LA LA LAND nostalgia-fest.

Should Win:     Greig Fraser, LION
Will Win:          Linus Sandgren, LA LA LAND

Best Film Editing

Tom Cross, LA LA LAND
Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders, MOONLIGHT
Joe Walker, ARRIVAL

Did I mention how much Hollywood loves itself?  Even when there’s an hour-long dull stretch through the middle of a movie?  Despite that fact Tom Cross will win for LA LA LAND.  A better choice would be Jake Roberts for the lean and mean editing of HELL OR HIGH WATER.

Should Win:     Jake Roberts, HELL OR HIGH WATER
Will Win:          Tom Cross, LA LAND

Best Costume Design

Madeline Fontaine, JACKIE
Joanna Johnston, ALLIED
Mary Zophres, LA LA LAND

Normally one would look to a period piece for the winner of the costume award.  The most obvious choices would be FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS or ALLIED.  Personally I prefer Madeline Fontaine’s subtle work, but I suspect Mary Zophres will ride the LA LA LAND wave.  Hollywood, thou art a narcissist.

Should Win:     Madeline Fontaine, JACKIE
Will Win:          Mary Zophres, LA LA LAND

Best Production Design


The Coen Brothers’ HAIL, CAESAR! was a puzzling concoction, but its production design was immaculate.  I hope I’m wrong, but LA LA LAND is the likely victor.

Should Win:     HAIL, CAESAR!
Will Win:          LA LA LAND

Best Original Score

Volker Bertemann, Dustin O’Halloran, LION
Nicholas Britell, MOONLIGHT
Justin Hurwitz, LA LA LAND
Mica Levi, JACKIE
Thomas Newman, PASSENGERS

Bertemann and O’Halloran’s sinuous LION score should prevail.  However, nostalgia will have its revenge (again!) as Justin Hurwitz’s tepid music for LA LA LAND carries the day.

Should Win:     Volker Bertemann, Dustin O’Halloran, LION
Will Win:          Justin Hurwitz, LA LA LAND

Best Original Song

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” LA LA LAND
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” TROLLS
“City of Stars,” LA LA LAND
“How Far I’ll Go,” MOANA

Lin Manuel Miranda knows how to write musical numbers, and his rousing “How Far I’ll Go” from MOANA deserves the prize.  Once again, however, Hurwitz will triumph with his morose “City of Stars” from LA LA LAND, because, hey, it’s a musical.  (Psst, Academy members, so is MOANA.)

Should Win:     “How Far I’ll Go,” MOANA
Will Win:          “City of Stars,” LA LA LAND

Best Sound Mixing


Whether deserved or not the nominated “musical” inevitably gets the sound mixing award.  Hence, LA LA LAND’s win.  ARRIVAL is head and tentacles better.

Should Win:     ARRIVAL
Will Win:          LA LA LAND

Best Sound Editing


There’s a good chance this will continue LA LA LAND’s landslide.  However, this may be the chance the Academy needs to give HACKSAW RIDGE some undeserved love.  Me?  I prefer ARRIVAL.

Should Win:     ARRIVAL
Will Win:          HACKSAW RIDGE

Best Visual Effects


I only saw KUBO and ROGUE ONE.  Of the two I preferred ROGUE ONE.  Just about everyone I know who saw it loved THE JUNGLE BOOK.  What the heck.  It’s worth a shot.

Will Win:          THE JUNGLE BOOK

Best Makeup


This seems like a particularly weak year in the category.  I only saw STAR TREK BEYOND, so let’s go with that.

Should and Will Win:   STAR TREK BEYOND

Best Documentary Short Subject


No clue, so I’ll guess.

Will Win:          EXTREMIS

Best Animated Short Subject


I’m guessing.

Will Win:          PIPER

Best Live Action Short Subject


I’m guessing again.