Away to Home

Originally published in Mainline magazine May 3, 2017

Opening Doors Helps Refugees Land on Their Feet in a New Land

Russul Roumani (in orange) takes a newly arrived family from Afganistan to retrieve their luggage at Sacramento International Airport. Photo by Vanessa S. Nelson | Photo Editor |

As the clock ticked forward, moving from one day to the next, Sacramento International Airport began to slowly shut down. Starbucks had just closed for the night, and the help desk was left unattended. A maintenance person was replacing the sign on the single-use restroom to indicate that it was now available to all gender. Lights had dimmed, and security gates had been rolled down, leaving just a few employees and agents.

I was sitting right below the escalator that passengers would descend to get to the arrivals platform to be picked up. To my left was a woman with a homemade sign that read “SON” while to the right was a young man who alternated his attention between the top of the escalator and his phone screen, eyes nervously darting up and down.

Russul Roumani’s attention was also split between her phone and the escalator, watching for a newly arrived Afghan family. She had been waiting for more than an hour and a half after the family’s flight from LAX was delayed. The plane was supposed to come in at midnight, and it was now 1:30 a.m.

For just about anyone else, it was a typical late night at Sacramento International. But for Roumani and the family coming to the United States, it was a new beginning for eight people.

Earlier that day, March 6, the White House issued an executive order that limited the year’s number of incoming refugees to 50,000 at most. According to the State Department, in the 2014-15 fiscal year that number was 70,000.

There are 21.3 million refugees worldwide, according to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees website. Under the new order, only about .2 percent of them will be allowed into the U.S. this year. The family from Afghanistan – whose names are being withheld for their privacy and protection – makes up eight of those 50,000 refugees.

They will be integrated into their new community by a Sacramento nonprofit agency called Opening Doors, which assists refugees with housing and other support services. As a caseworker for the agency, Roumani coordinates with local volunteers the family’s transportation from the airport to a hotel where they stay until more permanent housing is arranged.

Opening Doors CEO Deborah Ortiz, currently serves on the Los Rios Community Colleges District Board of Trustees after eight years as a state senator, two years as an assembly member and four years as a member of the Sacramento City Council.

Last year the Department of Social Services reported that the state had taken in 7,908 refugees. Of those, 1,299 settled in Sacramento, which has resulted in the city having the third largest refugee community in the state behind Los Angeles and San Diego.

According to Ortiz, Sacramento is also the No. 1 destination in the U.S. for special immigrant visa holders from Afghanistan – like the family Roumani was picking up.

“Once there’s a network and welcoming community here,” said Ortiz, “that really enhances the willingness for a person to identify Sacramento as a place they’d like to go to.”

At the airport, passengers and crew of the late flight from Los Angeles finally came down the escalator. Most of them went directly to baggage claim, while others went to the seating area to mingle with awaiting family. The nervous young man who had been studying his phone nearly stumbled over a duffle bag trying to reach and embrace a young woman. The woman holding the “SON” sign continued to wait.

Roumani was joined by Helen Killeen, a UC Davis graduate assistant who had volunteered to help pick up this Afghan family from the airport. Soon after Killeen’s arrival, Roumani smiled as the family of two parents and six children, including two sets of twins wearing badges marked IOM – International Organization of Migration – descended the escalator into their new city.

The family had arrived, and their two-day journey from Afghanistan to Dubai to Los Angeles to Sacramento had finally come to an end.

After greeting the family in their native language – Dari – with welcome and good faith, Roumani and Killeen went to baggage claim to pick up the family’s luggage. The father and his three sons soon followed. As they waited for the conveyor belt to move, one of the young daughters walked over to stand with her father and brothers. She looked up at the sculptures of unclaimed luggage piled high to the ceiling in Seussical fashion and smiled with sparkling eyes and open mouth.

When luggage began to flow down the conveyor belt, the father and sons quickly looked for their bags and began to stack them onto the carts with vigorous efficiency.

Roumani and Killeen strategized how they would transport the family to the hotel. But this was no challenge for Roumani. She once retrieved four families – 32 people – who arrived at the same time. The family Roumani was transporting that day consisted of 10 people.

“I started asking, ‘Who is your wife? OK, come with me,’ just so we could get all of the kids, laughed while leaving the airport.

Once sufficient housing is found for this group of new arrivals, they would likely settle in the Arden-Arcade neighborhood where a significant Middle Eastern community has planted roots.

“The markets are there, the restaurants are there,” said Ortiz. “That’s where the community resides.”

On a Saturday morning later in March, most of the faculty, staff and student body at Greer Elementary were taking advantage of the weekend. But on that day a few volunteers watched as a class of young refugee children played basketball.

The Saturday School Program of the San Juan Unified School District, run by counselor Heather Berkness, offers children of refugees a chance to improve their language and social skills.

“A lot of our kids speak Arabic, Farsi and Dari, and they are just starting at the foundational basis of language,” said Berkness.

In the 2016-17 academic year, San Juan Unified School District reported that of the district’s 5,233 ESL students, 1,311 – roughly 4 percent – spoke either Arabic, Pashto, Farsi or Dari.

“This is so exciting for them to be in a place where they’re surrounded by others doing just the same thing,” said Berkness.

Since most of the refugee community resides in Arden-Arcade, San Juan reported last year that the district had 832 students who were refugees, the largest number in all districts in the region.

The staff meets every challenge, large and small, at Saturday School. On this day a volunteer approached Berkness with a young girl wearing a hijab who was crying. She had fallen on her hand. While Berkness comforted her, the volunteer went to find someone who could speak Farsi.

Since the program takes place on weekends, Berkness said that it is difficult to find faculty and staff to teach classes for the children. As a result, volunteers – including Berkness’ mother – fill the gap.

To best serve the diverse age range of children, Saturday School emphasizes different skills for different age groups. Berkness said they ask the oldest students what they want to learn and what they think is important. The group of older students that week wanted to focus on applying for jobs and properly preparing resumès.

The adult refugees have their own version of Saturday School – though it takes place on Friday. Opening Doors offers refugees the chance to attend cultural classes to learn about American society and the Sacramento region.

It’s not all fun and games, Ortiz pointed out. The students require more resources due to their experiences in their home countries.

“Because these children are coming from trauma and violence, there are emotional issues that [school districts] are seeking more guidance and support for,” Ortiz said.

In a Saturday School classroom for a younger age group, the children made collages to help identify what is important in their lives.

“We’re doing some really positive character building,” said Berkness. “We want to continue to have those positive affirmations so kids know that we want them here.”

Berkness, who had to leave to attend to the girl who had fallen on her hand, walked down the hallway as children inside the multi-purpose room sang, “This Land is Your Land,” which they would perform at an open house the following week.

“They’re an asset to our system,” said Berkness of the refugee children. “We’re glad that they’re here.”

After meeting the new arrivals at the airport, on the drive to the family’s hotel, Roumani described her own experience with Opening Doors.

It wasn’t long ago that she had someone waiting for her at the bottom of the escalator. In 2008, after a co-worker in Baghdad was killed by unknown assailants, Roumani and her children fled Iraq and were resettled by Opening Doors. In 2011, the agency hired her.

“[Opening Doors] was small when I first started, but now we’re getting bigger and bigger,” said Roumani, one of five employees – including the department head – in the agency’s Refugee Resettlement Department who were also once refugees.

Ten days before picking up the new arrivals, Roumani had returned from a visit with her parents in Baghdad. The house she lived in, she said, was gone.

“The situation hasn’t changed,” said Roumani.

She became a citizen in 2013 but chose not to vote in last year’s presidential election, believing that both candidates would continue conflict in the Middle East.

“I know what war is like,” she said, “I don’t like war.”

Though the Trump administration twice tried to impose a travel ban to the U.S. by nationals from six Muslim-majority countries, SIV holders are exempt regardless of country of origin, according to Ortiz.

Ortiz said that SIV holders differ from other refugees in that they have worked for the U.S. government or military in a capacity, such as translators, that would put them and their families in danger.

“They are at greater risk because they helped our government,” said Ortiz.

Ortiz also said that SIVs are typically skilled as engineers or medical professionals in their home countries. In the case of the arrivals Roumani was picking up, the father of the family was a cook for the U.S. government in Kabul.

Opening Doors was founded in 1993 by the Interfaith Service Bureau as the Sacramento Refugee Ministry to resettle refugees from the former Soviet Union, which dissolved in 1991. It wasn’t until a decade later that it changed its name to Opening Doors.

Ortiz came into her role as Opening Door’s CEO when her predecessor, Debra DeBondt, stepped down to volunteer in Africa for the Peace Corp.

“Refugees especially during this time in history are a really vulnerable population,” said Ortiz. “It’s a passion to serve, and this is the organization that fuels this passion.”

The staff at Opening Doors are not the only people in the region concerned about refugees. In late March a group of former and current state workers and lobbyists hosted a picnic for about 200 recently arrived families that was catered by local businesses. It was originally supposed to be held at Land Park, but due to rain, B’nai Israel, a nearby Jewish synagogue, volunteered its recreation area so the event could take place.

“I still feel people across the country are compassionate and feel the need to do something and be welcoming,” Ortiz added. “Real people have a sense of goodness and compassion, and we’ve seen it every day here in Sacramento.”

At the hotel, Roumani headed for the front desk to get the family checked in. While the new arrivals waited in the lobby, the father went across the room to get coffee for himself and his wife. As Roumani finished at the front desk, a man pushing a cart full of boxes of baked goods came into the lobby. After asking Roumani if the family spoke Arabic, the man welcomed the family in Dari before pushing the cart into the back.

After checking in, Roumani and I assisted the father and his sons in bringing their luggage up to the room. Roumani gave them a cell phone as well as a few take-out boxes that contained hot food from a local Afghan restaurant before saying goodbye.

I asked Roumani how to say goodbye in Dari.

“Kuda Hafez,” she said.

I repeated the phrase as best I could to the father of the family, and immediately the hotel room filled with laughter. The father patted me on the shoulder and said, “That was good.”

Then Roumani and I left the hotel and went out into the night, which was actually a new day for us all.

A refugee mother holds her child as she leaves the airport in her new country. Photo by Vanessa S. Nelson | Photo Editor |

Two weeks after picking up the family – by this time sleeping in their new home – Roumani was back at the airport waiting for more new arrivals. This time she was not alone.

“A lot of families are coming tonight,” she noted, observing the large number of Afghans and caseworkers below the escalator.

This time the flight was not late, and the escalator soon filled with people wearing IOM badges. Roumani smiled and walked up to greet the new Afghan family of six she was picking up. After getting their bags, the group of seven headed out the doors to Roumani’s van. Gripping their parents’ hands, the young children occasionally fell behind, lost in wonder of the new world that the wings of a dream had taken them to.

Roumani and the newcomers walked out the airport doors and headed for a friend’s house to begin their lives in what Walt Whitman called the “center of equal daughters, equal sons.”

Volunteers make a big difference to Opening Doors. For more information, click here.

Hillary Clinton makes stop at City College before June 7 primary

Originally posted on on June 6, 2016

Additional reporting by Maxfield Morris.

Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes the stage in the North Gym. Photo by Zachary FR Anderson | Managing Editor |

Outside the North Gym, hundreds of people waited to hear Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speak at Sacramento City College Sunday, June 5 — two days before California’s June 7 presidential primary.

Clinton took the stage between 6 and 7 p.m. as Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” (Clinton’s official song) played. She was introduced by Congresswoman Doris Matsui, who also worked in the White House during Clinton’s tenure as First Lady to former President Bill Clinton. Matsui reminisced about when her husband, Congressman Bob Matsui, died, saying that Hillary Clinton was the first to call and offer her condolences.

The former Secretary of State’s speech focused on domestic policy. She shared emotional moments with the crowd regarding her time as a senator from New York during the Sept. 11 attacks as well as her experiences running the State Department during the 2011 siege on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan that resulted in the death of the infamous terrorist.

Focusing on connecting with the state’s voters, Clinton applauded California’s diversity calling it, “…as big as a country and as diverse as one, too.”

Supporters listen to Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) introduce Hillary Clinton in the North Gym. Photo by Zachary FR Anderson | Managing Editor |

During her speech, Clinton applauded President Barack Obama for “digging us out of the ditch,” referring to the president’s efforts to strengthen the economy during the Great Recession.

“It is a fact that the economy does better when we have a Democrat in the White House,” said Clinton, who also indicated that the recession began during the presidency of Republican President George W. Bush.

Clinton also criticized Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, on key issues, such as his ability to be a responsible and reliable as commander in chief.

“Here’s somebody who in the last few weeks has insulted our closest allies,” said Clinton, “has praised dictators like [Kim Jong Un] in North Korea. Has advocated pulling out of NATO, which is our strongest military alliance. Has said in very cavalier [fashion] that he doesn’t really mind if other countries get nuclear weapons, including Saudi Arabia.”

Other politicians at the event also voiced their concerns regarding the business mogul’s ability.

“…All you have to look at is what’s happening in this country in the past week with this guy Trump,” said Sacramento mayoral candidate Darrell Steinberg, “calling out a judge because of his Mexican heritage and saying he can’t be impartial, applying the same logic to any Muslim judge. This is dangerous.”

Steinberg was referring to Trump’s recent comments regarding the federal judge overlooking the California lawsuit against Trump University, Gonzalo P. Curiel.

Steinberg endorsed Clinton as the next president.

“She’s eminently qualified,” said Steinberg. “She’s going to be respected around the country and around the world.”

Sacramento mayoral candidate Darrell Steinberg greets Clinton supporters outside the North Gym. Photo by Zachary FR Anderson | Managing Editor |

Nancy McFadden, Gov. Jerry Brown’s chief of staff, took a lighter approach. She compared Trump to the “Harry Potter” villain Voldemort by referring to him as “He who must not be named.” She justified this by saying that Trump likes hearing his own name.

“Who puts their names on steaks?” McFadden joked to the crowd that roared with laughter.

Before Clinton addressed the standing-room-only crowd, the first to speak was former United States Ambassador to Hungary Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, a Sacramento native. Other speakers included Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, Congressman John Garamendi and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

Though knowledge of Clinton’s campaign making a stop in Sacramento had been released over a week earlier, the location remained undisclosed. It wasn’t until Thursday, according to Public Information Officer Rick Brewer, that the Clinton campaign contacted City College officials about holding the event on campus.

California residents registered as either Democrats or with no party preference may vote in the Democratic primary Tuesday, June 7.

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Confirmation (2016) Review

Originally posted on on April 30, 2016

Confirmation_posterScore: 2/5

HBO’s latest original film, “Confirmation,” is a minor addition to the channel’s recent repertoire of political dramas in the same strain as 2008’s “Recount” and 2012’s “Game Change.”

But instead of exploring the behind-the-scenes operations of political campaigns, the film instead explores the confirmation process of Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Even before Thomas’ colleague Anita Hill came forward with her sexual harassment allegations against him, Thomas was a figure steeped in overwhelming controversy. As a textualist that believed the Constitution must be interpreted as it was originally written, he was accused by many liberals of not caring about civil rights.

Regardless of the controversy surrounding Thomas’ jurisprudence, the Senate – at that time controlled by the Democrats – was sure that he was a shoe-in for the court.

It wasn’t until a staffer for Ted Kennedy found Hill’s name that she ever felt the need to come forward.

Hill is portrayed by Kerry Washington, who doesn’t at all look like the real Hill, but instead embodies her. She embodies how Hill carried herself during the proceedings and how she anticipated the waves of criticism and skepticism that were bound to follow.

Wendell Pierce portrays Thomas, not as a man who knows he did something wrong and is trying to cover it up, but as a man who is sure that he has done nothing wrong. To him the hearings were a political circus, a public humiliation, or in his own words “a high tech lynching.”

Overseeing these hearings is the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Joe Biden (Greg Kinnear). The members of the committee are all men and Senate lifers: old segregationist Strom Thurmond, Republican yes-men Alan Simpson and Arlen Specter, and failed presidential candidates Paul Simon, Ted Kennedy and Biden.

Biden’s leadership style throughout the hearings was centered on compromise, to a fault. Because of his approach, the GOP members were able to walk over him and Hill was left abandoned.

However, these powerful dynamics and themes of gender and race are completely ignored by director Rick Famuyiwa.

Instead, the main focus that “Confirmation” has is on the personal struggle of Thomas at home. Too much time was spent at Thomas’ Washington, D.C, townhouse as he ignored Hill and the hearings. This came off as if Thomas was the true victim of the entire affair, which is far from the truth.  Famuyiwa tried to find two sides to a story that was clearly an all-out assault on a victim of sexual harassment. This doesn’t come from research, this comes from scenes in the film.

There’s a moment when Republican members of the committee are called inside the White House by Chief of Staff Kenneth Duberstein (Eric Stonestreet) to discuss tactics for the hearings. There were only two ways the narrative could end: Hill’s story ends up being true (meaning Bush nominated a pervert), or Hill is a liar. As history shows, the committee worked as hard as they could to prove that the latter was correct.

Orrin Hatch read passages of “The Exorcist” to imply that Hill plagiarized one of the harassment accounts. Missouri Senator Jack Danforth consulted with psychologists to see if a mental illness existed that would cause Hill to create fictional scenarios in her head.

When it comes down to it, this was not a high-tech lynching of Thomas. This was the Republican Party slut-shaming Hill.

But this was the movie that could have been. I can no longer dwell on what could have been. What exists now is a film that can only be described as entertaining at best, and disappointing at worst.

“Confirmation” is now streaming on HBO Go.

Recount (2008) Review

Originally posted on on April 16, 2016

Recount_(film)Score: 4/5

As the 2016 presidential election draws nearer and the cycle continues to electrify with surprises, I am reminded of the influence of past elections.

Like a kaleidoscope that assaults our fields of vision with aggressive intensity, each election cycle brings with it defining images and phrases: “I Like Ike,” Bill Clinton playing the saxophone on Arsenio Hall, Mitt Romney and his “binders full of women.”

But the 2000 presidential election can be summed up in one phrase: There’s a problem with the numbers in Florida.

These are the most important words spoken in Jay Roach’s 2008 HBO film “Recount.” The movie, which premiered on television, dramatizes the events that transpired in the Sunshine State when Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore became locked in an eleventh-hour decision over who would be the rightful winner of the presidency in 2000.

State campaign officials were left  to figure out who actually won Florida, which in turn would determine who won the presidency. The close margin of votes between the two candidates in Florida prompted an automatic recount of votes.

“Recount” opens with problems with the “butterfly ballot” in Palm Beach, Florida. Candidates were listed on both sides of the ballot with the punch card in the center. The confusion that elderly voters experienced is represented by a single woman who looks at her ballot, and then at the sign in the booth that says “time limit in voting booth is five minutes.” She finally punches a hole into her ballot, but the only problem is that she doesn’t know whom she has voted for.

This is the moment it all began. It was the moment when every lawyer in the country had to learn about chad (small pieces of paper punched from the ballot when the voter chooses a candidate) and whether hanging chad (punched but still partially attached) and dimple chad (punched but all corners still attached) had to be counted. It was the moment Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (Laura Dern) became a national name.

Harris can only be described as a whack-job, and Laura Dern is a master at playing a whack-job. She’s been thrust into one of the most important positions in the world, and she abused it for the sake of herself. Everyone on both sides of the election can see it. Because it’s so clear that she’s trying to push the recount into Bush’s favor, leaders of the Bush campaign become afraid that Americans would think they’re influencing her (which they’re not).

During election years, the animalism of people comes out, and 2000 is no exception. Death threats are sent to members of canvassing boards during the proceedings. A protest in Miami-Dade County almost erupts into violence as a group of Bush supporters nearly attack a Gore lawyer. The canvassing board feels so threatened they decide to end recounting proceedings.

As history has shown, Florida eventually goes to Bush. The truth is that the Gore campaign stood no chance against the complex apparatus of think tanks, law firms and state officials that supported Bush in Florida. It didn’t help that George W. Bush’s brother Jeb was governor, either.

At the end of “Recount,” a Gore aide approaches a Bush aide on a tarmac and asks him if the best man won. Whether the best man won the election or Florida will never be known, despite the images of Katherine Harris and hanging chads that defined that election cycle.

What images will define the 2016 election?

“Recount” is currently available for streaming on HBO Go, HBO Now and Amazon Prime.

Anderson’s Oscar Predictions (2016)

Originally posted on on Feb 27, 2016

oscars-770x437Though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has come under fire for its lack of choosing racially diverse nominees, predicting the winners is still fun for movie lovers across the globe. To differentiate from my Golden Globes predictions, I have also included a list of snubs for each category. Here are my predictions (listed in bold) for the 88th Annual Academy Awards:

Best Picture (Director)

  • “The Big Short” (Adam McKay)
  • “Bridge of Spies” (Steven Spielberg)
  • “Brooklyn” (John Crowley)
  • “Mad Max: Fury Road” (George Miller)
  • “The Martian” (Ridley Scott)
  • “The Revenant” (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
  • “Room” (Lenny Abrahamson)
  • “Spotlight” (Tom McCarthy): It is one of the most important narrative films of 2015. As Americans continue to yearn for truth, “Spotlight” chronicles the noble search for it. Though it is too early to call, “Spotlight” may occupy the same space as “All the President’s Men” as one of the most iconic newspaper films ever made.

Snubs: “Straight Outta Compton”; “Chi-Raq”; “Inside Out”; “Tangerine”; “Beasts of No Nation”; “Suffragette”


Best Director (Film)

  • Adam McKay (“The Big Short”)
  • George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”)
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu (“The Revenant”): No other director in the 21st century would be able to pitch a Western after making as phantasmagorical of a film as “Birdman” the year before. Iñárritu has made his mark in future film textbooks with his stellar work.
  • Lenny Abrahamson (“Room”)
  • Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”)

Snubs: Ridley Scott (“The Martian”); F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”); László Nemes (“Son of Saul”); Spike Lee (“Chi-Raq”); Cary Joji Fukunaga (“Beasts of No Nation”); Sarah Gavron (“Suffragette”)


Best Actor (Film)

  • Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo (“Trumbo”)
  • Matt Damon as Mark Watney (“The Martian”)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass (The Revenant): Though Fassbender was unmatched as tech giant Steve Jobs, DiCaprio’s reign as an Oscar winner will begin with “The Revenant.” Like Adrien Brody in “The Pianist”, Hugh Glass is a role that people will bring up whenever they want to talk about method acting.
  • Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs (Steve Jobs)
  • Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe/Einar Wegener (The Danish Girl)

Snubs: Michael B. Jordan (“Creed”); Will Smith (“Concussion”); Abraham Attah (“Beasts of No Nation”)


Best Actress (Film)

  • Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird (“Carol”)
  • Brie Larson as Joy “Ma” Newsome (“Room”): 2015 was a strong year for female actors as a result of the abundance of multi-dimensional roles. Cate Blanchett and Jennifer Lawrence are always good, and Saoirse Ronan’s performance is so far the high point of her career. But Sacramento native Brie Larson has broken from the teen genre bubble with an eruption of emotion and scars in “Room.”
  • Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano (“Joy”)
  • Charlotte Rampling as Kate Mercer (“45 Years”)
  • Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey (“Brooklyn”)

Snubs: Lily Tomlin (“Grandma”); Amy Poehler (“Inside Out”); Teyonah Parris (“Chi-Raq”)


Best Supporting Actor (Film)

  • Christian Bale as Michael Burry (“The Big Short”)
  • Tom Hardy John Fitzgerald (“The Revenant”)
  • Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendez (“Spotlight”)
  • Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel (“Bridge of Spies”)
  • Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa (“Creed”): It is a true shame that the Academy has recognized Stallone for a character that he portrays for the seventh time over the superb work of Michael B. Jordan, who was not nominated in the Best Actor category for the title role. But Stallone’s coolness has made him comfortable as Rocky Balboa and it is a deserved homage to the legend that he created.

Snubs: Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation”); Seth Rogen (“Steve Jobs”); Jacob Tremblay (“Room”); Michael Keaton (“Spotlight”); Liev Schreiber (“Spotlight”); Nick Cannon (“Chi-Raq”)


Best Supporting Actress (Film)

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue (“The Hateful Eight”)
  • Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet (“Carol”)
  • Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer (“Spotlight”)
  • Alicia Vikander as Gerda Wegener (“The Danish Girls”)
  • Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman (“Steve Jobs”): Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine described Winslet’s performance as “glorious,” and there is no synonym available that is comparable. As the no-nonsense, but always loyal Joanna Hoffman, Winslet is the only actress who could portray such a brave soul.

Snubs: Meryl Streep (“Suffragette”); Phyllis Smith (“Inside Out”); Angela Bassett (“Chi-raq”)


Best Original Screenplay

  • “Bridge of Spies” by Matt Charman, Joel and Ethan Coen
  • “Ex Machina” by Alex Garland
  • “Inside Out” by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley and Ronnie del Carmen: Pixar truly outdid themselves with this charming tale about the inner emotions of a young girl’s mind. There was a chemistry that was perfected by the scribes that cannot be replicated.
  • “Spotlight” by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer
  • “Straight Outta Compton” by Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge and Alan Wenkus


Best Adapted Screenplay

  • “The Big Short” by Adam McKay and Charles Randolph (based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis)
  • “Brooklyn” by Nick Hornby (based on the novel of the same name by Colm Tóibín)
  • “Carol” by Phyllis Nagy (based on the novel “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith)
  • “The Martian” by Drew Goddard (based on the novel “The Martian” by Andy Weir)
  • “Room” by Emma Donoghue (based on her novel of the same name): This movie is a triumphant piece on the endurance of the human spirit as a result of being held hostage for years. Instead of looming on the horrors of the situation, Donoghue explores the inner workings of the female victim. Imagine the “Inside Out” characters in the mind of Ma; wouldn’t that be cool?

Snubs: “Steve Jobs” by Aaron Sorkin; “Chi-Raq” by Spike Lee; “Beasts of No Nation” by Cary Joji Fukunaga


Best Original Score (Composer)

  • “Bridge of Spies” (Thomas Newman)
  • “Carol” (Carter Burwell)
  • “The Hateful Eight (Ennio Morricone)
  • “Sicario” (Jóhann Jóhannsson)
  • “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (John Williams): “Star Wars” has always relied on the strength of its score to finish painting a galaxy far, far away. The latest installment of the beloved franchise has awakened with electricity the mind of Master – with a capital “M” – John Williams, who while exploring known themes, discovered new ones.

Snubs: “The Danish Girl” (Alexandre Desplat); “Steve Jobs” (Daniel Pemberton); “He Named Me Malala” (Thomas Newman)


Best Original Song (Film)

  • “Earned It” (“Fifty Shades of Grey”)
  • “Manta Ray” (“Racing Extinction”)
  • “Simple Song #3” (“Youth”)
  • “Til it Happens to You” (“The Hunting Ground”): The song and the film are fueled with powerful titles. “The Hunting Ground” is a documentary about rape on college campuses, and its title strikes what campuses across the country have become for young women. Lady Gaga aids the anger with “Til it Happens to You,” which has been seasoned with betrayal, resulting in a piece that yells furiously. It expresses how no one will ever understand sexual assault unless it happens to him or her.
  • “Writing’s on the Wall” (“Spectre”)

Snubs: “See You Again” (“Furious 7”)


Best Documentary Feature (Director)

  • “Amy” (Asif Kapadia)
  • “Cartel Land” (Matthew Heineman): This chilling documentary about the border between the United States and Mexico plays more like an action film narrative than a documentary. With camera crews embedded on both sides, it creates a rush of adrenaline for viewers.
  • “The Look of Silence” (Joshua Oppenheimer)
  • “What Happened, Miss Simone?” (Liz Garbus)
  • “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” (Evgeny Afineevsky)

Snubs: “All Things Must Pass”; “The Hunting Ground”; “Where to Invade Next”; “He Named Me Malala”; “Welcome to Leith”; “The True Cost”; “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief”


Best Animated Feature Film (Director)

  • “Anomalisa” (Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson)
  • “Boy & the World” (Alě Abreu)
  • “Inside Out” (Pete Docter): The two settings are San Francisco and the mind of a young girl. Yet in “Inside Out” the two seem to morph into one metaphor for change and growth. The voice cast is of the highest order and the quality is quintessentially Pixar.
  • “Shaun the Sheep Movie” (Mark Burton and Richard Starzak)
  • “When Marnie Was There” (Hiromasa Yonebayashi)

Snubs: “The Good Dinosaur”

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