On February 27, Hollywood's biggest night of the year arrives with the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. It's also a big evening for Comcast movie insiders Vanessa Marcello and Sara Castillo. Marcello, who creates the movie collections on XFINITY On Demand, compiled the collection of past Oscar-winning films that's been highlighted in Top Picks since mid January. "With 60 films, it's our largest offering of past Oscar winners to date," she says.
In addition, a dozen movies from this year's pool of Oscar nominees are currently available On Demand, including "The Social Network," "The Kids Are All Right," and "Exit Through the Gift Shop." Castillo, Comcast.net's entertainment editor and self-described "mistress of movies," programmed xfinityTV.com's Countdown to Oscar, a popular special that will have highlighted a different past Oscar-winning movie online every day for the 30 days leading up to the awards show. Those entries have included "Avatar," "Cabaret," "Raging Bull," "The Sting," and "Jerry Maguire."
Their efforts, along with the growing number of marquee films, illustrate the way Comcast is putting the highest quality content on multiple platforms, enabling subscribers to watch anytime, anywhere. What our customers might not see is the passion and knowledge behind these curations -- and the fun they have choosing them.
For Marcello, making the On Demand Oscar collection is one of the year's biggest initiatives, behind only Holiday films and the Halloween moviethon. Her favorites in this year's collection are "Good Will Hunting" ("I was a screenwriting major in college at the time and it felt like a huge victory for young screenwriters," she says) and "The Departed" ("I worked for Martin Scorsese's former agent for many years, so it was a triumph to see the legendary filmmaker receive the recognition that had eluded him throughout his career").
Castillo also searched through thousands of movies on xfinityTV.com to come up with her list, and wrote a brief history of each film on the xfinityTV.com blog. The horror movie buff says her highlights are "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" ("The special effects were awe-inspiring") and "Jaws" ("Robert Shaw's Sam Quint is quite possibly the greatest barnacled old coot ever to grace the screen with the exception of Gregory Peck's Captain Ahab").
Both Marcello and Castillo look forward to the Oscars every year. "Ever since I was a little girl, my mom and I would stay up late to watch the big show, fantasizing about the glamorous dresses we would wear some day on the red carpet," Marcello says. "Since losing my mom to cancer in 2009, I continue the tradition as a bittersweet tribute to her and her love of cinema." Adds Castillo, "Probably the thing I love the most about the Oscars is the red carpet. I am a clothes horse by nature and always look forward to seeing what Hollywood's biggest names show up wearing. But even more than that, I love when they show up in fashion disasters."
As for this year's Oscar predictions, Marcello is rooting for "Black Swan" to take Best Picture ("Compelling storytelling, gut-wrenching performances, and beautiful filmmaking," she says) and Natalie Portman to win Best Actress. "I personally don't see why there should be separate Best Actor and Best Actress categories -- what does gender have to do with the ability to portray a character?" she adds. Castillo's personal favorite among the Best Picture nominees was "Winter's Bone," but she believes "The King's Speech" "will get the award." Her other picks include Portman, Colin Firth ("but I think Eisenberg should get it") and Christian Bale in the Best Supporting Actor category for "The Fighter" ("he was amazing").
Where will these two insiders be on Oscar night? Castillo will actually be inside the Oscars, covering from the press room at the Kodak Theater and contributing to the website's annual Academy Awards live chat. "This is my first time actually going," she says. "Just being in the middle of the madness during the biggest entertainment event of the year is going to be a thrill."
And her outfit? "I have a very lovely Tracy Reese doll dress that sort of makes me look like a walking peppermint candy," she says. "I am still looking for the right pair of shoes." Marcello says that she'll be "curled up on the sofa at home" with her husband and cat, and as for her formalwear, she says, "I'll be in my very glamorous PJs, of course."
What are your Oscar night traditions? What are your Oscar picks? Let us know.