And the Oscar goes to…Kevin Bacon!

Hooray for Hollywood! The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be giving out their most coveted statue, the Oscar, at the 91st Academy Awards. The best race this year is between Christian Bale and Rami Malek, but we want to make a case for — you guessed it — Kevin Bacon. Check out our third installment of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon featuring this year’s nominees for lead actor and actress. Maybe you can do one using all Oscar winners!  Enjoy the Oscars on Sunday, February 24 at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on ABC.


And the Oscar goes to…Kevin Bacon!

Hooray for Hollywood! The 89th Academy Awards will be giving out their most coveted statue, the Oscar, in about a month. The best race this year is between Emma Stone and Natalie Portman, but we want to make a case for — you guessed it — Kevin Bacon. Here is a fun graphic taking all the lead actors and actresses and connecting them to Kevin Bacon. Maybe you can do one using all Oscar winners! For instance, Natalie Portman who is nominated for Jackie and won Best Actress for Black Swan was in Closer with Julia Roberts (Best Actress in Erin Brockovich) who was in Flatliners with…Kevin Bacon. Who are you predicting to win? Enjoy the Oscars on Sunday, February 26 at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on ABC.


Jim is Art Director at Half Price Books Corporate

Dinner & A Movie: Godfather Edition

I am going to make you an offer you can’t refuse. This edition of Dinner & A Movie is in honor of the 40th anniversary of one of the greatest films ever made – one that everyone should watch or rewatch – The Godfather. Wow, how time flies– the Godfather is turning 40 (the same age as Half Price Books!) With a 3-hour movie ahead of us here, we better get started on dinner.


What else are you going to serve alongside a film about the Italian mob? Spaghetti and meatballs, of course. I love to cook, but instead of one of my home recipes, I am turning to a chef a bit more popular than me – Emeril Lagasse. But just because he is a world famous chef doesn’t mean the recipe is difficult. It’s super easy and a crowd-pleaser. Once you make it the first time following the recipe, you’ll feel safe to venture out, change it up, and make it your own. I find that when the recipe calls for the cajun seasoning, your favorite store-bought brand will work just fine, and I personally double or triple the garlic, but that is just me. This is a great standby meal to have in your bag of tricks for any night of the week.

10 cups Simple Tomato Sauce for Pasta, recipe follows, or store-bought pasta sauce.

For the meatballs:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

For the pasta:

  • 1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente according to package directions
  • Salt, for seasoning cooking water
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Place the Basic Red Sauce in a large pot. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Place all the remaining meatball ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir well with a wooden spoon to combine, then form the meat into balls by rolling about 2 tablespoons of meat between your hands. Place meatballs on a plate as they are formed. (Hint: if your hands are slightly damp, the meatballs will roll more easily and will not stick to your hands!) When all the meatballs are formed, gently place the balls into the sauce one at a time using a long handled spoon. Be careful – bubbling sauce splatters! Simmer the sauce uncovered, and allow the meatballs to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes before stirring. Stir the meatballs into the sauce when they rise to the top.

Simmer for an additional 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan. While sauce is simmering, cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente. Strain and toss with the olive oil. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Simple Tomato Sauce for Pasta:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (1 medium)
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves garlic)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes
2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 (3-inch piece) Parmesan rind
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves

Heat the olive oil in a 5-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, salt, crushed red pepper, oregano and black pepper, and cook, stirring, until soft, about five minutes. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and squeeze to break into small pieces. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, and sugar to the pot with the onions, and stir well. Add the Parmesan rind. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally with a long-handled wooden spoon, until flavors have come together and sauce is thickened. Stir in the basil and let sit for 10 minutes before using.

Remove from the heat, and use as needed. You can store this sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days, or freeze it for up to three months. Yields: 10 cups or 2 1/2 quarts.


Of course, we are watching The Godfather, which won the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor awards in 1972. It was also nominated for eight other awards, which tells you what a power house of a movie it really is. First let me suggest to you, if you are watching the movie on DVD and have a Blu-Ray player, sell your used DVD to HPB, then pick up the Blu-Ray. The high-definition is worth every penny, and you will be glad you upgraded. Scenes that were once a bit murky have been remastered – blacks are richer and colors are picture-perfect.

Enough about the technical side. No matter how you are watching it, this film is a piece of Americana and pop culture. So much so that it is referenced in other films, too. Remember Billy Crystal and the rest of cast in City Slickers II humming the theme to The Godfather as they search the cave? Tom Hanks quotes “going to the mattresses” and talks about scenes from The Godfather while chatting with Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail.

The movie is about the Corleone family, headed up by the Godfather himself, Don Corleone, played brilliantly by Marlon Brando. After surviving several assassination attempts, the quiet straight-laced war vet, Michael (Al Pacino) decides he should be the one to take revenge and sets off gang war. You’ll have to watch it yourself if you want to find out how it ends. I don’t want to give away too much for those watching it for the first time. You’re in for quite a ride!

So, get the spaghetti and meatballs and an old vine zinfandel or good bottle of chianti and start up the movie! Salute! — Jim

2012 Oscar Nominations & Frontrunners

And it’s official, the nominations are out for the 84th Academy Awards. This time last year, it was already down to a two horse race between The Social Network and The King’s Speech for Best Picture, and the best actor and actress awards were all but locked up by Colin Firth and Natalie Portman. This year, we have a few strong frontrunners, but the competition to take home an Oscar seems more challenging.

Could this be the year for George Clooney to nail down the Best Actor award for his performance in The Descendants? He was nominated two years ago in the leading category for Up In The Air and won a Supporting Actor Oscar for Syriana— and he has won the Golden Globe for The Descendants already. Clooney seems to be one of the Academy favorites these days, so if you had to make an early prediction, this might be a safe bet. I predict it will come down to him or The Artist’s Jean Dujardin.
Speaking of Academy favorites, is there any bigger favorite than Meryl Streep? This is now her 17th nomination, having won only twice for Sophie’s Choice in 1983 and Kramer vs. Kramer in 1980. Streep’s performance was spot on as Margaret Thatcher in Iron Lady, but there are two more to look out for in this category.

The first is Michelle Williams, who played the perfect Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn. She too has a few previous nominations for Blue Valentine and Brokeback Mountain. So she may get a few voters in the Academy thinking it is her time.

Glenn Close is in the same situation, having 5 previous nominations for the likes of Dangerous Liaisons and Fatal Attraction. Close gave a very daring performance portraying a man in Albert Nobbs. Two other actresses, Hillary Swank and Linda Hunt, have won oscars for portraying men in Boys Don’t Cry and The Year Of Living Dangerously.

And lastly, when you figure in Viola Davis in The Help, we are left with one tough category to pick. Streep has to be the odds-on favorite, but as much as the Academy likes nominating her, they also liking voting for someone else in the final ballot.

That brings us to the coveted Best Picture award. With the new nomination requirements, we have a different number of films nominated this year. The Artist (with its 1920s Hollywood glamor) and The Descendants (with its modern-day family drama) are certainly the two frontrunners at the moment. Both have already won Golden Globes for Best Picture in their respective categories. But I won’t discount The Help from the race quite yet either. Based on a bestselling novel, its humble story made audiences everywhere laugh out loud and then leave the theater touched. That combination spells success.  

If you haven’t seen some of the nominated films, get out there and go see them before Oscar night (Sunday, February 26) so you can judge for yourself. Just remember: no talking or texting during the feature presentation.

— Jim