Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Bell Let's Talk

My name is Robyn Flynn, and I suffer from anxiety and depression.

Living with mental illness is incredibly challenging, for several reasons. Not only do you have to deal with the actual illness itself and the ways in which it manifests itself, but you have to deal with the stigma attached to it.

You have to deal with people acting awkward when you tell them that you suffer from anxiety and depression.

You have to deal with questions like “what do you have to be depressed about?” and “have you tried going for a walk or taking a multivitamin?”

You have to deal with friends and family members who don’t understand that you’re having a bad day, and who get mad at you for missing events and dinners and parties. If I called and told you that I fell and broke my leg, or that the medication I was taking for a heart condition was making me sick, you wouldn’t hold it against me for missing your birthday party. So why is having a panic attack, or being so depressed that I can’t get out of bed any different?

I have always known that I felt things differently than most people. But the anxiety really only started to become unbearable after there was a shooting at my school, Dawson College. All of a sudden I went from having manageable anxiety to suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, without even realizing it. The first symptom that I experienced was that I stopped being able to sleep at night. I’m not exaggerating; I slept no more than 4 or 5 broken hours a night for several years. There was even a stretch of about a year where I would panic just getting into my bed, so I had to sleep on the couch every night.

I’m also a rape survivor, which has probably messed me up in ways I’ll never begin to be able to understand. It feels like the girl I was before that night nearly four years ago died the moment she was pressed up against that brick wall. The woman left behind is scared, terrified, sad and ashamed most days. She’s a shell of the vibrant, brave woman she used to be.

I went from being confident and ambitious to being anxious in a room where I can’t see the exit. I started jumping when I heard loud sounds. My heart starts to race, and I start dripping with sweat when I see school shooting coverage on the news. I panic when I see crowds of people running, even if it’s in a movie or on TV. I actively avoid certain streets that I’m too afraid to walk down. I’m scared of walking alone at night. I feel sick to my stomach when I hear about accused sexual predators walking free. These might sound like normal reactions, given what I’ve experienced. But sometimes, it doesn’t make sense.

Sometimes I’ll start sweating and my chest will feel like it’s going to explode when I’m sitting at my desk answering an email.

Sometimes I’ll feel fine as I’m getting ready to leave my house to meet a friend, and then all of a sudden it’s like there’s a steel wall blocking my door and I can’t physically leave my house.

Sometimes I’ll be watching a movie and start crying and be unable to stop for hours.

Sometimes I cry myself to sleep.

Sometimes I lay in bed for hours, thinking about every mistake I’ve ever made.

I spent years being unable to sleep for more than 45-60 minutes at a time, waking up constantly in a cold sweat.

Sometimes I sleep 14 hours straight and wake up more exhausted than I was when I went to bed. I’ve felt like a lead blanket was preventing me from getting up and out of bed.

Some days are worse than others, and I’ve come to be grateful and appreciate the good days. But the bad ones weigh heavily on me.

I’ve been seeing a psychologist on and off for the better part of the last decade, and she has given me a lot of tools to help me deal with my anxiety. I got a fish tank, and watch my goldfish swim. I drink herbal tea in the evenings to wind down. I started colouring in patterned colouring books. I practiced breathing techniques. I visualized places that I felt safe and happy. But despite my best efforts, it doesn’t always work.

Sometimes, dark thoughts will creep into my head, and I’ll get mad at myself for not being normal. And dealing with my anxiety every single day is exhausting and depressing. When every day feels like life or death, and you can’t help but feel like you’re disappointing everyone around you, things can get pretty dark.

So many people don’t realize the struggle I’m dealing with on a daily basis. All they see is that I have a great job that I love, and have slowly been building a career that I can be proud of. But lately, I stopped feeling good about my achievements. I resented encouragement, accolades and praise. I stopped believing the people who told me they loved me and believed in me. I started feeling worthless. And I didn’t want to be on this planet anymore.

I made up my mind that life wasn’t worth living anymore. But then my youngest sister told me that she was pregnant. And I decided that she needed me. So I decided to stick around for a little while longer. And then I heard my nephew’s heart beat. So I decided to stick around for a little while longer. And then I was in the delivery room the day he was born, and witnessed a miracle. It was the most incredible moment of my life, and I fell head over heels in love with him. I decided then that I needed to stick around, for him.

No one knew what was going on inside me. No one knew about the pain in my heart, and the darkness in my mind. It started to get better for a little while, but then it got worse.

It got so bad this past fall, that I started missing therapy appointments. I couldn’t drag myself out of bed and to her office. I started showing up late for work. Turning down extra shifts. Ditching my friends, and avoiding places I enjoyed hanging out. I stopped eating, and started losing weight, telling anyone who noticed that it was because I was playing Pokemon Go. I was too ashamed of the wreck of a human being that I had become to admit the truth. No one knew what was going on. I plastered a big fake smile on my face. I covered up the panic attacks. I made jokes with co-workers, who had no idea I was just coming from the bathroom where I cried so I hard I threw up. Believe me when I say that it’s no way to live.

So I went to see my doctor earlier this month and he prescribed me Sertraline (the generic name for Zoloft). It’s a medication meant to help with both anxiety and depression. It’s only been three weeks and I basically just feel sick all the time, and haven’t yet started to feel the benefits. It can take as much as 6-8 weeks for the medication to start to work, so in the meantime, I’m nauseous, dizzy and groggy, while still feeling anxious and depressed. Oh, and the dry mouth. The dry mouth! My mouth feels like the Sahara Desert twenty four hours a day.

But the nausea and the dizziness are nothing compared to the family members who won’t talk to me about my illness. Or the friends who don’t believe that I’m actually sick. The people who have written me off and given up on me. The people who tell me that medication isn’t the answer, that I should eat more greens, exercise more, and be grateful for the good things in my life. I wish it were that simple.

Today is Bell Let’s Talk today, and my hope is that you will stop shaming those of us who struggle. I want anxiety and depression to stop being dirty words. I want Post Traumatic Stress Disorder conversations to stop excluding those of us who weren’t in the military. But mostly, I just want us all to listen to each other and be a little more compassionate. I don’t want to be ashamed of my illness. I want you to realize that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Most importantly, I want the people in my corner that have stood by me to know how much they mean to me. Lucas, Alyssa, Jenn, Hadleigh, and Z… Thank you for your kindness, love and support. Each of you saved me in a different way, and you’re literally the reason I’m still alive. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Today sucked

So, today sucked.

For the last few weeks, I've been having trouble sleeping. Sleep and I haven't always had the most stable of relationships. Whenever my anxiety goes up, the amount of sleep I'm able to get goes down. In fact, I spent several years getting four to five hours of sleep each night, waking up every hour or so either from nightmares, in a cold sweat, or just feeling too afraid to stay asleep. 

But for the past few months, sleep and I have been getting along. My therapist and I had established a nightly bedtime routine, and I've been able to get 7-8 hours of (nearly) uninterrupted sleep most nights. My mood significantly improved with each night of decent sleep that I got. So you can imagine my frustration when I once again found myself on the outs with restfulness.

When I met with my wonderful therapist this week, we tried to figure out why I was having difficulty sleeping again. We went through everything I've done over the last few weeks, trying to figure out what happened. Everything seemed relatively normal. Then we started to think about whether or not there was anything coming up that could be the source of problem. It may not seem like a big deal to some, but losing sleep for me is the first sign of more problems to come, and I didn't feel like spiralling back down into the dark place that I had worked so hard to come out of.

I've got my best friend's wedding coming up. A bridal shower. A bachelorette party. The usual stresses of work. Oh, but wait. There WAS one thing different this week. The Jian Ghomeshi verdict was scheduled to be announced.


As soon as we landed on that possibility, I felt my palms get sweaty, my heart rate increase, and that old familiar lump began forming in my throat. I didn't even realize how nervous I was for the verdict until I said it out loud.

The timing with this case was everything. For a long time, I remained silent about my own sexual assault. Out of fear, embarrassment, shame, and mostly because I just didn't want to be "the victim" for the rest of my life. I wanted to move on. But repressing a traumatic event isn't the way to move on. It ate away at me. Slowly, but surely until I didn't even recognize the person that I had become. I buried myself in my work, the one place where I felt like I could escape it all. But eventually it catches up to you. For me, that boiling point came when the allegations surrounding Jian Ghomeshi became public.

It was a watershed moment for survivors of sexual assault. Women felt empowered for the first time in their lives to come forward, and tell their stories. And at the same time, those who couldn't possibly understand the damage they were doing felt the need to spew hateful, thoughtless jokes. I knew so many women COULDN'T come forward, so I made the decision to get it off my chest. I wrote a blog post about my own experiences with sexual assault and rape. I put my name and face to a story that 1 in 4 women share. It was the most terrifying and liberating thing I've ever done. I was finally free of the secret I had been carrying, but the freedom was replaced with the burden of being "a victim", and having people know that I'm "a victim". Some days are harder than others. Today was one of those days. 

I work in news media, and I knew that I would have to sit through an exhausting day of extensive coverage of the Jian Ghomeshi verdict. Analysis. Opinion. Rehashing of details. Victim blaming. 

I knew what to expect. I knew that he would probably get away with it. But hearing it out loud was like a sucker punch to the gut. I felt sick. Indescribably sad. Unbelievably anxious. Only hours after the verdict was announced did I notice a raw, bleeding patch of skin on my left hand where I had nervously scratched away the skin in an effort to keep it together at work.

To hear the way the women in this case were torn to shreds by the judge made me feel ill. It was like every knock against THEIR credibility was a slap right across my OWN face. Like it was a knock against my OWN credibility. My own memories were altered after the traumatic experience of being shoved up against a brick wall and raped. I can only imagine how they were feeling.

The first thing I want to stress is that TRAUMA ALTERS MEMORY. There are countless studies anyone with access to Google can read on this. There were details about my own ordeal that I only remembered years later in my therapist's office. Like flowers. There was a lilac bush nearby the night that I was raped. I've never been a huge fan of flowers, but ever since, the smell of lilacs has made me physically ill. I didn't know where that came from until much later. Trauma alters the memory in ways we can't even begin to imagine. Of course an alleged victim's testimony can change. There is nothing manipulative or vindictive about it. 

While the justice system clearly worked as intended today (it was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Jian Ghomeshi assaulted these three women) the justice system also failed everyone today. But not guilty does NOT mean innocent. In a case of he said vs she said, ultimately courts will side with what he said. This is the system that we have created. This is how it is, and how it will continue to be. I ask those that have no problem with this whether or not they would leave their daughter alone in a room with Jian Ghomeshi? I ask you, will you still believe in the justice system when YOU or your daughter or your girlfriend or your sister are sexually assaulted, and the perpetrator gets away with it? Will you still feel that the justice system won out?

I know that Jian Ghomeshi isn't the one that attacked me. But I never filed a report when I was sexually assaulted. And while it may not make sense to some, this felt like my case. It isn't reasonable. It isn't sensical. I'm well aware of that. But it felt like I was told today that it never happened. That I made it all up. That is how so many survivors are feeling today. Confused. Hurt. Ignored. 

I find myself wishing it could be different. Wishing that it wasn't always the same outcome. Wishing people actually CARED. Society has become so disgustingly tone deaf to the needs of survivors of sexual assault. Unless we appear on stage at the Oscars with Lady Gaga, you don't hear us. You tell us to report, but then you tear us apart. You tell us to fight back, but then you push us down. Being sexually assaulted is horrifically traumatic, but it has been almost WORSE to go through it all again, over and over, as more perpetrators walk free. Survivors aren't valued. No one cares about us. No one wants to hear us. No one wants to be us.

I never reported my own rape, and I've never been more convinced that I made the right decision. I will find a way to heal in my own time. How I choose to do that is my own business. Truth be told, I'll probably never be the same person. Something inside of me was shattered the moment that guy took away my power over my own body, and it will probably never be fixed. That's something that I have to live with. And it's something you will have to live with as well unless something changes. 

My heart today goes out to Jian Ghomeshi's victims, and all survivors of sexual assault. There are too many of us in this shitty club, and membership is continuing to grow.

A lot of people have asked me today what they can do. How they can help. It's a complex problem that has existed for as long as men and women have existed. It's a disgusting, despicable crime that no one wants to hear about, talk about, or experience. What can you do? Where can you start? It's quite simple, really.

Believe us.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

My Story

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve certainly heard the news this week about a certain Canadian media member being accused of sexual assault by several women.  As a result, discussions have cropped up about consent and anonymity. And, as could be expected, questions have surfaced about why none of these women went to the police.

I must first admit that I’ve wrestled with writing this all week. It’s never easy to come forward when you’ve been silent for so long. But sometimes certain issues come to light, or certain discussions arise that make you feel like you can’t be quiet any longer.

What I’m about to say is something only a handful of people know.

What I’m about to say is something I’ve never told my family.

What I’m about to say is something I’ve never told most of my closest friends.

I don’t know Jian Gomeshi. I’ve never met him. But I do know what it’s like to be sexually assaulted, because I was sexually assaulted.


The first incident happened seven years ago. I was at a Halloween party organized by a friend’s boyfriend at a bar on Crescent. I had been drinking, and didn’t know many people at the party. I’ve never had trouble meeting and talking to new people, and so this wasn’t much of a concern for me. I met a group of people that I began chatting with. When they invited me to come back to their apartment for an after-party, I foolishly agreed.

Red flag #1. I didn’t know these people. I had been drinking. I shouldn’t have gone with them. But I did.
When I arrived at the apartment a few blocks away, I excused myself to go to the washroom. When I came out, only two people remained. One girl, and one guy. Red flag #2. She lived across the hall, she said, and was going home to bed. She left, and I was left alone with this guy. Red flag #3. The guy and I chatted about nothing of consequence, and soon found ourselves kissing. I eventually stopped him, realizing that this was not something I wanted to do, and he was gracious... At first.

As I got up to fetch my coat, he tried to kiss me again. I tried to politely decline, explaining that I didn’t know him and needed to go home. That’s when he grabbed me and pushed me into his bedroom. He forcefully kissed me, and pushed me down onto his bed, pinning my wrists above his head. I squirmed, but he was much stronger than I was. I repeatedly asked him to stop, but he didn’t listen. He grinded his pelvis against me, and I could feel his obvious excitement on my hip. I panicked and mustered up all my drunken strength to push him off of me. I quickly gathered my belongings and rushed out of there.

I headed back to the bar where the party was, and saw a friend at the door. I was visibly shaken and upset. I told him what had happened, and he convinced me to call the cops. We went to his apartment to call the police and wait for them to arrive. I didn’t want to talk about what had just happened, but I felt like it was my responsibility to do so. I figured the cops would have my back.

When the police arrived, I explained what had happened. I couldn’t remember specific details like the address or the apartment number. I just knew it was somewhere downtown, a few blocks from Crescent. I had moved from the south shore to Montreal only a few months prior, and didn’t know my way around the city very well yet.

“You’ve been drinking this evening, miss?”


“And you went back to his apartment?”


“You know that guys have expectations when you agree to go back to their house.”


“And you’ve been drinking. Maybe you changed your mind. But men have expectations.”

The rest of my discussion with the cops wasn’t much more helpful than that. They decided that since “nothing” actually happened, and since I couldn’t recall where the guy lived, that there was no sense in filing a report. So I didn’t.


A year and a half ago, I was out at a bar downtown in early May watching a Habs playoff game with some friends. I didn’t have a bus pass that month, and decided to walk home after the game. It was about an hour walk, and I opted to use a busy, well-lit street as my route of choice.

When I was just a few blocks from my house, a man began making obscene comments at me. Given the fact that it was late at night, and I had no interest in this belligerent stranger in the street, I ignored him and kept walking. He approached me, blocking my path. I muttered something about not being interested and wanting to go home. He pulled a knife out of his pocket and held it to my throat. I looked around, and there were no cars or pedestrians in sight. He forced me behind a closed grocery store, pushed me face-first against a brick wall. I do not wish to get into details, but suffice it to say that what happened next was something I definitely did NOT consent to.

When it was over, I collapsed to the ground. By the time I had gathered myself, he was gone. I walked the rest of the way home. But I did not call the cops. I did not file a report. (NOTE: I did make sure to get myself checked out medically in the days that followed. I’ve been diligent since to ensure that everything checked out and there were no long-term negative effects to my physical well being.)

Physically, I am fine. But I’m far from okay. Nothing has ever been the same. I don’t trust men in the same way that I used to. I’ve had a series of dysfunctional relationships with unavailable men ever since. I’m addressing it, and dealing with it, but I’m a work in progress.

I’ve never spoken up about what happened because I thought people wouldn’t believe me. I’ve never spoken up about this because I didn’t want my father to find out what had happened to his little girl. I’ve never spoken up about this because I was drinking both of the times that I was sexually assaulted. Because I was walking alone late at night. Because I was wearing a skirt. Because I put myself in situations that I shouldn’t have. I’ve never spoken up because I’ve felt dirty, ashamed, and humiliated. But I am speaking up now because what I’ve finally realized, after all this time, is that it wasn’t my fault. I did absolutely nothing to deserve being sexually assaulted.

This is my story. I am one of many. I understand why women don’t come forward. I understand why women don’t go to the police. I am one of those women. I have chosen not to let myself be a victim, but rather to move on with my life and be awesome. That’s the only way that I feel like I can regain control.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t like to talk about the “big stuff”. If something really gigantic happens, or if something is really bothering me, the odds are good that I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t particularly want to be talking about it right now.

But I’m putting my name to a story for the women who can’t. I’m coming forward for the women who can’t. To them I say, I understand. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should handle yourself after being sexually assaulted. Only you can decide what’s the best way for you to deal with it, and what’s the best way for you to heal. 

There is no right or wrong. 

I support you and whatever you decide. 

I am with you. 

I am you.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Sappy post about how much I love the Habs and my job

The Habs just got eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. I’m feeling sappy and sentimental. Bear with me.

For a lot of Habs fans, 2014 will be remembered as the year that the Habs got closer to the Stanley Cup than they have since 1993. For a lot of Habs fans, 2014 will be remembered as the year that Carey Price solidified himself as an elite goal tender, and silenced his detractors by back stopping Team Canada to an Olympic gold medal, before carrying the Canadiens further into the post season than they’ve been in 21 years. For me, 2014 will mean so much more.

First, let's back track to 2011, when Zdeno Chara laid out that infamous hit on Max Pacioretty. I thought #67 was dead. I sat in the lazyboy at my dad’s house in complete shock. I was a McGill student at the time, and couldn’t get myself out of bed to go to school the next day. I was overtaken with concern, and sadness. I stayed in my room all day, listening to what was then known as Team 990. Radio had always been an incredibly powerful medium to me (my dream job ever since I was six years old was to be the play by play announcer for the Montreal Canadiens) but in that moment, I knew I HAD to make a go of it, and try to get into radio. I applied for my internship at the station soon after.

Let's jump ahead now, past my internship (where I spent over a year waking up at 3:30 AM every day to work with the Morning Show guys), to when I was hired as a pinch hitter board op. Then, the lockout! But it thankfully ended in time to salvage a shortened season.

The 2013 season was the first time that I had the opportunity to co-host the pregame show on TSN 690. It was actually my first chance to co-host a radio show at all. I learned so much from my co-host that season, Ted Bird. Ted is a phenomenal broadcaster that I grew up listening to, and have come to respect all the more after having had the privilege of working alongside him.

Another first for me in the 2013 was the realization of a childhood dream; a seat in the press box at the Bell Centre for a Habs game.

I remember the day well (let’s face it, it was only 15 months ago, and I’m only 27, so my memory is pretty sharp). I was so nervous, but I hid it pretty well (I think). Ted came with me to the rink to pick up my press pass at the media entrance. He led me up the stairs and down the hall to the work room, where I hung up my coat. We then took the elevator up the 8th floor, walked down the steps and onto the press box. (DISCLAIMER: I have tears in my eyes and I’m getting goosebumps all over again just THINKING about that moment).

As a kid, I thought that I would never get to have that moment. When I told people I wanted to find a way to get paid to watch the Habs, people laughed at me. Well in that moment, I wasn’t even thinking about the nay sayers. The only thing running through my mind were these three words: you did it. (side note: the Habs lost that game 6-0 to the Leafs)

Flash forward to a scary summer, where the fate of TSN 690 was up in the air. I was heart broken. I felt like I had finally found my place in the world. I was finally happy after spending years struggling to figure out who I was and where I fit in. In a tremendous display of support, our listeners literally SAVED the radio station. My eternal gratitude can never truly be expressed for what you, the listeners, did for us. I don’t know what I would have done without my happy place. 

The hockey season started back up, and I found myself with a new pregame show co-host, Abe Hefter. A broadcaster who picked up the mentoring process where Ted left off. Abe has already taught me so much about radio, sports, and the Habs. I’m proud to call him a friend. 

The pivotal moment of this season for me, came a few months into the season, when the Pittsburgh Penguins came to town. The station was down a reporter, and since I already had a game pass for the game, could I handle reporting duties for the visiting locker room? Sure! Needless to say, I jumped at the chance. 

Calm, cool, and collected (NOT), I made my way to my seat in the press box (#86 for those who've been up there). I was nervous, but the lovely Jessica Rusnak talked me through where I needed to go and what I needed to do. Microphone in hand, note book and pen tucked under my arm, I joined the gaggle of reporters waiting to gain access to the Pens locker room after the game. I walked in, and I wish I could say that I had the same sappy, goosebumpy moment as I did when I stepped onto the press box for the first time, but instead I was overcome by the STENCH of sweaty men. For reals. NHL locker rooms smell really gross. But I digress. 

Anyway, I made a bee line for my favourite hockey player, el capitano, Sidney Crosby, stuck my mic in his face, and confidently asked him a question about PK Subban potentially being his team mate in Sochi. He smiled, and answered. When I finished up in the locker room, I made my way to the area where head coach Dan Bylsma would address the media. But wait! Who should I walk by? Mario Lemieux. No time to stop. No time to gush. Work mode. Keep moving. Join the scrum of reporters. Rush back up the press box. Upload and edit the audio. Send it into the station. Pack up. Walk out of the building. Call my dad. 

I had the privilege of covering several more games this season, and I feel like this is only the beginning. Since making the decision to get into this crazy business, I've done everything from traffic reporting, to producing, to reporting, to board opping, to hosting, to MCing events. I find myself lucky enough to be part of the CJAD and TSN 690 teams, and I couldn't be prouder of the amazing work that we do on both radio stations.

This has been an amazing season, not just for the Habs, but for me. I work with such an amazing group of people, who I continue to learn from every single day. 

To Shaun, Elliott, Ted, Sean, Sean, Jess, Abe, Tony, Conor, Rod, Mitch, Mitch, John, Sergio, Amanda, Knuckles, Steph, Simon, Eric, Marco, Dave, Jay, Noel, and everyone at TSN 690, thank you for helping me grow.

To the TSN 690 listeners, thank you for listening. Thank you for saving us. Thank you for supporting us.

My dreams are coming true faster than I could ever have imagined, and I’m so grateful for that.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Academy Awards - Nominees and Predictions!

It's time for the annual Oscars post! Who's nominated, and who will win. Let's dive right in.

Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

It seems like poor Leo is always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Whenever he delivers a stellar performance, there's always someone who was just ever so much better. Oddly enough, the guy that will take home Best Actor this year made a cameo in The Wolf of Wall Street, and was excellent in his brief appearance in that film as well. Matthew McConaughey will win for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club.

SIDE NOTE: Christian Bale was only nominated because he's Christian Bale. I thought that he was borderline unwatchable in American Hustle. Would have preferred to see Joaquin Phoenix get some love for Her.

Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

I can say with certainty that Cate Blanchett delivered the most spectacular performance of the awards season in Blue Jasmine. Her portrayal of a woman coming to terms with losing everything (her husband, her wealth, her stability) and being forced to start from scratch while dealing with mental health issues in a very "wasp-y" fashion was absolutely riveting.

SIDE NOTE: Amy Adams received a nomination for American Hustle? Seriously? Her performance was awkward and her accent faded in and out. I thought that she was the worst part of the movie. If anything, she should have been nominated for her role as Joaquin Phoenix's bestie in Her. She was great in that.

Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

This is as close to a lock as you can get. Jared Leto's gripping performance as a trans-sexual suffering from AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club was superb. Major fist bump to Jonah Hill, though, for his second Oscar nomination, as he was fantastic in The Wolf of Wall Street, and Michael Fassbender was equally good in 12 Years a Slave.

SIDE NOTE: Notice how everyone from American Hustle got acting nominees? It seems that doing a David O. Russell film appears to be the recipe for awards season success. Bradley Cooper was good. Oscar good? No. He was way better in Silver Linings Playbook last year. Too bad Daniel Day Lewis was Abe Lincoln's doppelganger & ruined Brad's party.

Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)

This is perhaps the closest category of this year's Oscars. My personal preference would be to see J-Law win her second Academy Award on her third nomination, but I have a feeling that Lupita Nyong'o will win this year. 12 Years a Slave was a tough movie to watch, in large part because of her performance. Sally Hawkins gets props from me though, as her Blue Jasmine character was awesome.

David O. Russell (American Hustle)
Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)
Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Slam dunk. Alfonso Cuaron. If you saw Gravity in IMAX 3D (as it was meant to be seen), you'll understand why he's hands down everyone's pick for best director this year.

SIDE NOTE: I'm elated that I don't have to RAGE about this category this year. Ben Affleck was hands down the best director last year, and didn't even get a nomination?! Who'd you piss off, Ben?

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

I'm the only person who didn't like American Hustle, it seems. Lots of people have it as their favourite for Best Picture this year. I, quite frankly, could barely get through the movie because I found it so boring, and the performances so lacklustre. Were it not for Jennifer Lawrence, I probably would have turned it off. Captain Phillips kept me on the edge of my seat, and I thought that Tom Hanks was excellent (notice his snub?) Dallas Buyers Club was an "okay" movie with beautiful performances. Gravity was a cinematic masterpiece. Her was gutwrenchingly heartbreaking, and the fact that there isn't a way to recognize Scarlett Johansson for HER performance is a travesty. Nebraska was mediocre, in my view. Philomena was wonderful (I was actually quite surprised. I wasn't expecting to sympathize so deeply with Dame Judi Dench's character, nor did I expect to enjoy Steve Coogan's performance so thoroughly). 12 Years a Slave was hard to watch. The Wolf of Wall Street was tremendously fun and entertaining from start to finish.

My Pick: The Wolf of Wall Street. Hands down, the best movie that I saw this year. Her comes in as a close second, for me.

Who Should Win: 12 Years a Slave. This movie was right up the Academy's ally. AND it's based on a true story. Don't chicken out à la Schindler's List & Saving Private Ryan, Academy. Winner winner, chicken dinner.

Dark Horse: Gravity. Often the film that wins for direction will also win Best Picture. If Alfonso Cuaron does indeed win Best Director, Gravity has a shot at all the marbles.

Biggest Snub: The Butler. It came out in August, which is pretty early for movies that consider themselves as Oscar contenders. Forrest Whittaker was robbed of a nomination in the Best Actor category, Lee Daniels was robbed of a Best Director nod, and this film easily could have at least garnered a Best Picture nom, given that there is room for ten nominees, and only nine films received nominations this year. Not sure what the story is here, or why this movie got no love whatsoever.