Dear Readers


Picture courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

These are unprecedented times.

Across the globe, communities, cities, and countries are taking measures to scale down the dynamic social interactions that defined our modern world. Social distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine have become imperative.

Many research institutions in the United States have entered a shutdown, ceasing lab operations for all work except that which is directly related to SARS-CoV2, in an attempt to stymie the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 18th, The Rockefeller University joined this effort.

While the changes in our daily lives may be unsettling, we are strong as a community. We have already seen lab donations to supply our local hospitals with personal protective equipment, community volunteerism to provide support services to Rockefeller community members, and guidance from our university leadership.

No one struggles alone. We are all in this together. And we will persevere.

 –Natural Selections Editorial Board


Available Resources:

Rockefeller University COVID-19 Updates (contact:

March 15th University Communication

Occupational Health Services and psychiatrist Dr. Nisha Mehta-Naik (contact:; (212) 327-8414)

COVID-19 Support Request (contact:

Anyone who has recovered from the novel coronavirus infection can participate in a study conducted at Rockefeller to better understand ways to block coronavirus infection.


Struggling with social distancing? Here are some ideas to keep you stimulated, active, and engaged with your community:

  •         Stay engaged in science

o   Write a review article. Preparing a review article is a great way to get a lot of reading done and also gain ideas for next steps for a project.

o   Host a journal club. Use Zoom to connect with your lab and discuss up-to-date literature.

o   Focus on an old project. Do you have an old project that you collected data for, but it fell by the wayside? Reconsider writing up your data and determining if it is publishable.

o   Apply for funding. Consider applying for both governmental funding and smaller private grants.

o   Think about career plans. MyIDP is a great platform for scientists to determine their strengths and weaknesses and explore potential career choices.

o   Promote your scientific work. Update your LinkedIn and ResearchGate profiles. Tweet about your work. Make sure your CV is up to date.

  •         Stay active

o   Hold a remote fitness challenge. Encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to get 30 minutes of activity a day.

o   Work on your push-up game. Stay strong by working on those exercises that require minimal equipment—think push-ups, planks, wall-sits, squats, and crunches.

o   Take online yoga classes. There are many platforms online and you can join Rockefeller’s listserv by contacting You can also join Rockefeller’s yoga group on Facebook and get access to regular videos of yoga classes.

o   Go for a walk. If you are feeling healthy, it’s ok to get outside and take a walk. Just make sure to social distance–stay at least 6 feet from others and wash your hands regularly.

  •         Stay connected

o   Video chat with your friends and family. Now is the time to connect with your favorite people that you are normally too busy to sit down and have a long conversation with. Try cooking a meal or sitting down for a cup of tea together.

o   Pick up a new hobby. Now is the time to focus on your knitting, instrumental, and baking skills. YouTube has tutorials on everything!

o   Play games remotely. Steam is an online gaming platform that has a play with friends function.

o   Watch a movie together. Use the Netflix Party extension for Google Chrome to watch a movie with a friend. The extension will synchronize playback and includes a chat function while you watch.

o   Blog. Write about your experiences, your science, or anything else you care about and share it on the web.

And above all, give yourself a break. It’s normal to feel anxious, and stress can make it difficult to concentrate. Don’t expect to be as productive as you would be in the lab. Do what you can and leave the rest.

New Member Guide to Campus

The Natural Selections Editorial Board

We welcome all of the new members of our community to The Rockefeller University! Here are resources you may find of interest:

Markus Library

Located in Welch Hall (enter the Founder’s Hall lobby and walk down the stairs), the library provides resources for scientific research at the university. In addition to providing access to scientific articles, the library has public computers, meeting spaces, a lounge with current magazines and newspapers, and Kindles loaded with popular books that are available for checkout.


Classifieds are posted by members of the community looking for scientific items, selling items, searching for housing, or submitting announcements. You can subscribe to receive RU classifieds alerts here:

The Faculty and Students Club

Located on the B level of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Hall and open from 4-11 p.m. Monday through Friday, the Faculty and Students Club is a place for social interaction, thesis celebrations, barbecues, parties, and meetings. The club provides discounted drinks to members of the Rockefeller community who have an account. To set-up an account, contact Human Resources.

Resource Centers

Rockefeller has many collaborative resources centers with specialized equipment and expertise. Find the complete list here:

Information Technology

IT maintains a safe and secure campus technology network and aids in technical support for computer issues. Their website can be found here:

Occupational Health Services

Located in Room 118 of the Hospital Building, OHS provides free health care services to Rockefeller employees covering physical, mental, and emotional wellness. Services provided can be found here:

Office of Sponsored Programs Administration

OSPA aids with the compilation of research grants in compliance with the correct policies and regulations, the identification of available funding, and any issues with obtaining funding (

Athletic Facilities

There is a tennis court, squash court, and gym on campus. To access the gym (6th floor of Founder’s Hall), you must sign a waiver at the security desk in Founder’s Hall. The tennis and squash court must be reserved at and

People at Rockefeller Identifying as Sexual/Gender Minorities

PRISM fosters a community of support for LGBTQ+ individuals at Rockefeller. PRISM co-hosts Friday breakfasts with seminar speakers, organizes talks and social events, and provides resources for the Rockefeller community. Find out more here:

Women in Science at Rockefeller

WISeR is a professional development and advocacy group for women scientists at Rockefeller. WISeR co-hosts Friday breakfasts with PRISM, organises lectures, outreach and a mentorship programme. Check out their activities and resources here: and sign up to join.

Science Education and Policy Association

SEPA gives scientists the ability to be engaged in policy-making and see how scientists affect policy and policy affects science. SEPA provides training, hosts career panels, and allows for engagement with policy at local and national levels. Check out the website here:

Rockefeller Inclusive Science Initiative

RISI is a student-run group that serves as a support system for Underrepresented Minorities on campus. RISI organizes seminars, mentoring programs, and training. Follow RISI on Twitter here:

Science Communication and Media Group

The SCM team ( is comprised of a group of students and postdocs who bring interesting lectures and film screenings to campus throughout the year. If you are interested in bridging the gap between scientists and the public, you can consider joining the SCM group by emailing

Postdoc Association

The PDA provides social and career development resources for postdocs and research associates at Rockefeller. In addition, the PDA holds a retreat every year, communicates with the administration about the needs of the group, and hosts seminar series and social events throughout the year. You can learn more here:

RockEdu Science Outreach

RockEdu is Rockefeller’s outreach initiative aimed at students K-12 in the New York City community to foster awareness of science and hands on lab experiences. If you are interested in volunteering through RockEdu, you can sign up here:

Tri-I Biotech Club

The Tri-I Biotech Club is for members with a shared interest in biotechnology. Find out more here:

Tri-I Consulting Club

The Tri-I Consulting Club is for members with a shared interest in consulting. Find out more here:

Art Studio

There is an art studio available on campus for community use. If interested, contact Zachary Mirman (

Weill Cornell Music and Medicine

The Weill Cornell Music and Medicine group fosters balance between medical and musical interests of the Tri-I community. For more info, go here: Also, of note, there are 2 music rooms on campus in Scholars and the Abby. Contact the Founder’s Hall security desk for access.

Bronk Fund

The Bronk Fund is available to students in their first through fifth years on campus. Students can be reimbursed half of receipts for fitness activities, language/art class, or theater/concert/sporting events, up to $125 total per year. The fund also provides a lottery of free tickets to students for various events throughout the year.

Editorial Note

This month, the Natural Selections Editorial Board bids farewell to Jim Keller. We would like to thank him for his interminable dedication to Natural Selections over the past seven years. Jim first joined Natural Selections as a contributor and copy editor in October 2011, and he became Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor in July 2013. Jim’s love of film is evident if you’ve read his “For Your Consideration” column that has shed light on contentious Oscar races and given us insight into the best performances each year; luckily for our community, this column will have future editions. For the past five and a half years, Jim has been the fearless leader of Natural Selections as Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor, making the publication the success that it is today for the Rockefeller and Tri-I community. Jim has made a permanent impact on the Editorial Board, and we will do only our best to try to emulate his success in the years to come. We wish him all the best and will miss having him on the team!



Editorial Note

This month, the Natural Selections Editorial Board bids farewell to Chew-Li Soh and Stephanie Marcus. We would like to thank both for their dedication and for helping Natural Selections to become what it is today.

Chew-Li joined Natural Selections in May 2016 as a Copy Editor and served as Associate Editor beginning in December 2016 where she has left a permanent mark on the Editorial Board. She leaves us this month to begin a job at BlueRock Therapeutics as a Senior Scientist studying stem cell therapies for regenerative medicine.

Chew-Li Soh

Stephanie joined Natural Selections in October of last year as a Copy Editor and served as Associate Editor from March to October 2018. She leaves us to focus her attentions on Women in Science at Rockefeller (WISeR) where she serves as the group’s president. She is looking forward to future collaborations between WISeR and Natural Selections.

Stephanie Marcus

We wish Chew-Li and Stephanie all the best. They will be greatly missed!

Grappling with Mental Health

Sarah Baker

Photo Courtesy of Lavoz Magazine

The past few weeks have highlighted the mental health crisis that our society is facing. Two high-profile and esteemed celebrities, fashion designer Kate Spade and Chef Anthony Bourdain, were found dead just days apart.  These perplexing suicides remind us that success does not make one immune to unhappiness. Spade and Bourdain were far from alone in their struggles with mental health, but their deaths do stress a public health issue that has long been set aside. Suicide rates have risen in the past ten years, and this increase has not been addressed adequately by our society, our policies, or our institutions. It is time to destigmatize depression as a society, and especially here in our own circle at The Rockefeller University.

The realization that important figures in society face the same mental health challenges that many of us do has the ability to start a movement to combat this crisis. Spade and Bourdain gave the appearance of mental stability to the outside world, though people close to them admitted that they were both struggling with depression. These tragic suicides have resonated with people who have realized how they themselves have been grappling with anxiety and depression and has also motivated others to reach out to their loved ones, friends, and acquaintances who may also be struggling. The Twitter hashtag #MyStory has gone viral as many people, including celebrities, address their mental health struggles in a public forum.

Why have people suffered in silence for so long? And why do we still have so far to go in preventing these tragedies? The Center for Disease Control recently released a report indicating that 54% of people that have committed suicide in the past decade are people who were not known to be suffering from a mental illness like depression prior to their death. But many of these people were struggling with relationship or job problems, addiction, physical illnesses, or other immediate crises in their life. While people facing physical illness are often readily supported by friends and acquaintances, those suffering from mental illness usually feel that they must cope by themselves. Society regularly brushes off depression as mere sadness and suggests that, if someone just controls their thoughts, they will get over their feelings of misery.

Photo Courtesy of Graham Briggs Photography

We need to make mental health a priority. People who suffer need access to affordable and accessible mental health services. Adding more barriers to treatment deters the people who need it the most who are already overwhelmed and who we should nurture rather than push aside. The Trump administration is trying to strike down a provision of the Affordable Care Act that prohibits insurance providers from discriminating on the basis of pre-existing conditions, which include any history of depression or anxiety. If this is passed, it could be devastating for people who need mental health services, making them essentially unaffordable. Empathy for those suffering from mental health conditions is also lacking. Depression and anxiety are not a choice—they are real conditions derived from physiological changes and our health system needs to address them as such.  Pharmacological and behavioral therapies do make a difference when treatment is done properly.

In the type of academic environment that I work in, a shift in focus on mental health is paramount, because it has been shown time and time again that individuals in academia suffer greatly. A recent study published in Nature Biotechnology showed that graduate students experience depression and anxiety at rates six times higher than the general population. Sleep deprivation, stress, and the scarcity of tenure-track positions all play a role. Young trainees put a lot of pressure on themselves to perform well, and often face many internal mental challenges even though outwardly they may appear incredibly high-functioning. Females and non-gender conforming individuals suffer at higher levels than cis-males, and the relationship of the trainee to the principal investigator also contributes greatly to anxiety and depression, suggesting that mentorship is a crucial factor in student health.

Photo Courtesy of Mario Kociper

I am now almost three years into my PhD and I fully understand how this environment can breed depression and anxiety. At breakfasts and lunches with prominent scientists hosted by the University where we have the chance to discuss career development, I have repeatedly heard that to make it to the top, you have to be tough. You have to battle to move up and not be affected too greatly by the challenges along the way. Although it is easy to suggest that resilience is the most important trait, I am often left with the feeling that success in academia is largely a solitary pursuit. Yet not everyone can just ignore an assault, or struggle on their own to come out on the other side stronger. Without a reliable network of mentors, friends, and other people you feel are facing the same things, it can be easy to get lost. Feelings of isolation and despair can be overwhelming. Yes, resilience is crucial, especially when failure is inherent in scientific research, but, as a community, we need to be better at developing this resilience in our trainees and showing them that they do not have to weather their struggles alone.

There is no one factor that leads to depression, anxiety, or suicide, but there are steps that we can take to cultivate mental health in our community. This must go further than sending out an e-mail once a year listing the mental health services available. Some things that can help are stress and mindfulness workshops as well as events that promote physical, mental, and social health among the trainee population. Students should feel as if they are able to talk to their mentors to gain advice about career opportunities, especially if they are interested in careers outside of academia, in order to alleviate some of the anxiety that comes with reaching post-graduation goals. At the University of Minnesota, students are required to fill out annual evaluations that address both research progress and also overall well-being. Principal investigators then look over these self-evaluations and discuss the reports with their mentees. Simply having this formal system in place has led to increased communication between mentors and mentees about expectations and continuing steps in the training process. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, we must cultivate a culture that makes individuals who are struggling with mental health feel as if they can speak up and ask for help rather than suffer alone in silence.

Recent celebrity suicides have shed light on mental health issues. Now society needs to step up and address this public health crisis. Change can be made at the community level, and institutions should assess how they can prevent similar tragedies. Graduate students are a particularly vulnerable population and because the system of graduate education is a known risk factor for anxiety and depression. It needs to be addressed head-on. We must shift towards more openness in the ability to discuss these issues. Our communities do have the choice to increase access to mental health services and to promote cultural change. At Rockefeller, a vibrant institution full of some of the best scientists in the world, no one should have to go it alone.


Rockefeller University Counseling and Mental Health Care Resources:

Confidential access to personal counseling and mental health care for all students is available through the Tri-institutional Employee Assistance Program Consortium (EAPC). If your life seems to be getting harder to deal with, do not hesitate to contact EAPC. In an emergency, they are available at (212) 746-5890, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Employee Assistance Program
409 East 60th Street, Rm. 3-305 (between York and 1st Ave.)

Regular hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

Phone 212-746-5890

EAPC provides short-term counseling to members of the Rockefeller, Cornell, NY Hospital, Hospital for Special Surgery, and Sloan-Kettering community—students, their families and significant others included. The service is provided at no charge to individuals.

EAPC is a confidential referral service geared towards short-term problems-solving for any personal problem you may have—depression, loneliness, relationship or family issues, substance abuse, legal or financial problems, child care services—anything. The social workers on staff will first help you evaluate what your situation is, and then discuss all possible avenues for resolving the situation to your satisfaction. There is no long-term counseling offered at EAPC, but they can set you up with counseling if it is needed. Referrals for counseling include psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists of other types, and social workers. A few visits to EAPC (maybe only one!) may be all that is necessary for you. Appointments may be made during normal business hours and there is a 24-hour emergency cover given through the number given above.

On site counseling services are also available. Dr. Daniel Knoepflmacher, M.D. is available two days a week to meet privately with members of the RU community. If interested in scheduling a confidential appointment, please contact Occupational Health Services at (212) 327-8414.

For those who prefer a more holistic approach to mental health, Rockefeller Wellness has got you covered:

Mindfulness Practices for Stress Reduction

Stress is one of the biggest contributors to poor health. Its effects can cause physical illness, damage relationships, and negatively impact work performance. Mindfulness meditation is a means to reduce stress, boost the immune system, improve attention, and promote well-being. Try Sitting Meditation or the Body Scan on your own with a guided audio clip of Dr. Patricia Bloom.

Patricia A. Bloom, MD is a Clinical Associate Professor of Geriatrics at the Icahn Medical School of Mount Sinai and the past Director of Integrative Health for the Martha Stewart Center for Living at the Mount Sinai Medical Center. Her main interests include the promotion of healthy aging, integrative health, stress reduction and Mind Body Medicine. She teaches meditation and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for patients and conducts stress reduction workshops for professional and workplace groups. Dr. Bloom has been listed as one of New York Magazine’s “Best Doctors” for 15 years. In 2012 she was honored by the New York City Zen Center for Contemplative Care for her work advancing integrative medicine in academic settings.

Mindfulness Resources in and around New York City.

Editor’s Note: Access to the URLs in the above Rockefeller Wellness section is restricted to those within the Rockefeller community.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Guide:

Warning Signs of Suicide:

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a suicide.

 If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide:

  • Do not leave the person alone
  • Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
  • Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional


For Your Consideration – Ones to Watch, Vol. 2 Edition

Jim Keller

The storm of film festivals galore began at summer’s end with the one-two punch of the Venice (August 31 – September 10) and Telluride (September 2-5) film festivals. In recent years the former has been credited with birthing our eventual Best Picture winner into the world and so begins the Oscar race. In the second of a three-part series, we discuss the performances that are likely to feature in the Best Actor race.

billy-lynns-long-halftime-walk-joe-alswynThis year’s race feels peculiar in that at September’s end the festivals have not yielded any consensus of frontrunners. By this time last year we had already seen the performances of Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) and Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl) by way of Telluride and Venice, respectively, and Matt Damon (The Martian) via The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Currently, we have little to go on because the films that have been shown have centered on a female, not a male, lead. Considering the Academy’s history of mostly nominating films for Best Picture that have a male lead, this is a very good problem to have. One thing is certain: in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, there are high hopes for Denzel Washington (Fences) and Dev Patel (Lion). This isn’t to say that there aren’t performances already out there that could become consensus decisions (Casey Affleck, Joel Edgerton, Ryan Gosling), just that it’s too early to tell what critic groups might circle back to.

Before we get to this year, let’s recap last year’s awards.

Of the eight roles that were discussed here, three went on to secure Best Actor nominations. The biggest story was that after 22 years, the Academy finally broke down and awarded the top prize to Leonardo DiCaprio for his searing performance in The Revenant. There really wasn’t much of a competition, given how overdue DiCaprio was for a win. But outside of Fassbender’s performance in Steve Jobs and Redmayne in The Danish Girl, Bryan Cranston (Trumbo) and Damon (The Martian) managed to sneak in. There was a short snub list comprised of Johnny Depp (Black List) and Michael Caine (Youth) as Fassbender’s other performance (Macbeth), and Ben Foster’s in The Program were not able to find early footing. Mark Ruffalo, the last actor discussed here, wound up being nominated in the supporting actor for Spotlight.

THE HEE-RO: Joe Alwyn – Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (director: Ang Lee):

FYC: Based on the novel of the same name by Ben Fountain, this drama concerns infantryman Billy Lynn (newcomer Alwyn) who recounts at a Thanksgiving Dallas Cowboys halftime show that he and his squad members made an appearance in during the final hours before the soldiers return to Iraq. Alwyn is as green as they come, with only a single screen credit to his name for the TV series documentary short, A Higher Education. As one of Lee’s many directorial strengths is getting brilliant performances from his actors (see Sense and Sensibility and Brokeback Mountain), there is reason to expect the same here. Having been shot at 120 frames per second, the highest frame rate for a film to date, all eyes will be on Lee’s film when it bows at New York Film Festival later this month.

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Zika Virus

By Aileen Marshall


Rash on a arm due to Zika virus. FRED / Wikimedia Commons

What should you know about the Zika virus? It’s been around for over 50 years, but it’s only recently that it’s spread has increased around the world, especially in South America. The Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes, but for most people it only causes a mild infection. However, an infection in pregnant women can cause a birth defect called microcephaly, in which the skull and brain don’t fully develop. At this point, there’s limited diagnostic tests and no cure, so labs are scrambling to develop these products.

The Zika virus was discovered in 1947 in the Zika Forest of Uganda. It was isolated from the blood of a rhesus monkey there, as part of a Yellow Fever monitoring program. It was then found in an Aedes africanus mosquito from the same area, a year later. The first human infected was found in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania. A study in India that year found a significant number of Indians who had antibodies to Zika, an indication that it had been prevalent in that population. There were sporadic outbreaks of Zika over the later years in equatorial areas of Africa and Asia. Then in 2007, an outbreak of what initially appeared to be dengue or chikungunya occurred in the French Polynesian island of Yap. It was later confirmed to be Zika, the first outbreak outside of Africa or Asia. By 2013 it had spread to other South Pacific islands with some patients who also had neurological effects and there were some cases of microcephaly. In March of 2015, health officials in Brazil noted an increase in Zika-like symptoms and rash in the northeast part of the country. By that summer, there was a great increase in the number of children born with microcephaly, especially in that same area. By later that year, there were confirmed cases of Zika infections in other South and Central American countries, and the Caribbean. On February 1 of this year, the World Health Organization declared it a public health emergency of international concern.

The Zika virus belongs to the same family, Flaviviridae, as dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever and West Nile viruses, which is why the antibodies often cross-react in diagnostic tests. It has a single strand positive sense RNA genome, which means it replicates in one step. The strain in this recent outbreak has been sequenced and it has found to be the same strain from the South Pacific outbreak.

It is transmitted by a couple of species of mosquitoes under the Aedes genus of mosquitoes. These tend to be relatively aggressive biters who bite during the day and like to stay indoors. If a mosquito bites someone with an active Zika infection, the insect can then pass it on to the next person it bites. Evidence of the virus has been found in blood, semen, saliva and urine. There have been some cases of person-to-person transmission by blood and semen. It is not known whether it can be transmitted by a person’s saliva, or kissing. The mechanism of maternal to fetal transmission is also not known. According to Claudia Dos Santos of the Instituto Carlos Chagas/Fiocruz in Brazil, it is found in Hofbauer cells, a type of white blood cell found in the placenta. “It’s possible that Zika virus can cross the placenta and infect the brains of fetuses” says Melody Li, of our own Rice lab.

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Quotable Quote

One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.

(Martin Luther King, Jr. 1929 – 1968)

For Your Consideration – And They’re Off! Edition

By Jim Keller

As I’ve said many times, one can liken the Oscar race to a horserace where each studio bets on its thoroughbreds and hopes that they can place at the end. The studio is the owner, public relations is the jockey, and the horse is the actor or film in the analogy. Here we thrust those roles I’ve discussed, in the three-part Ones to Watch edition, under a microscope to separate the nominees from the contenders and to identify the power players for each studio. I’ve also included my rankings as they stood on Oscar nominations eve. I chose nine nominees for Best Picture. I had planned to choose only eight, but The Big Short was an unexpected player announced by its studio, Paramount Pictures, in November. All other categories reflect five nominees. The picks that appear in black text within the table were my nominee picks, those in red represent actual nominees that I had not picked.

In the July/August issue, I delved into my favorite race, Best Actress. Here are the roles I discussed and where the ladies ended up half a year later:

THE QUEEN BEE: Meryl Streep – Ricki and the Flash (director: Jonathan Demme, studio: TriStar Pictures ):

FYC: When the film premiered in August, it became clear that Streep’s role was not the kind Oscar campaigns are built on. A muted critic response also kept that door closed.

THE ACTIVIST: Carey Mulligan – Suffragette (director: Sarah Gavron, studio: Focus Features):

FYC: The drama became the first casualty of the season when co-star Streep was labeled a racist (by the internet collective) for wearing a t-shirt bearing the phrase “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave” to promote the movie. Never mind that the phrase is a real quote by Emmeline Pankhurst, a leader of the British feminist movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, whom Streep portrays in the film. Despite a British Independent Film Awards nomination, it was this incident that curbed early frontrunner Mulligan’s campaign along with any screenwriting, directing or Best Picture hopes—all of which, the film is worthy of being recognized for.

THE DARK LADY: Marion Cotillard – Macbeth (director: Justin Kurzel, studio: The Weinstein Company):

FYC: Truth be told, I’m not sure what happened to neither this film nor its once promising awards season chances, but suffice it to say the Weinstein Co. put all its weight behind Carol and The Hateful Eight. Macbeth started off strong, having wowed audiences at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d’Or, and ended with a slew of British Independent Film Awards nominations, including one for Cotillard.

THE PERENNIAL: Jennifer Lawrence – Joy (director: David O. Russell, studio: 20th Century Fox):

FYC: This awards season was such a wild ride that even J-Law was in jeopardy after the film, saddled with the highest of expectations, failed to deliver. Still, she managed to stay on-board the bucking bronco with Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and Golden Globe nominations as it zigged and zagged to the finish line—even as its other awards chances faded to grey. A win is not likely for Lawrence.

THE MULTI-TASKER: Kate Winslet – The Dressmaker (director: Jocelyn Moorhouse, studio: Universal Pictures):

FYC: The film adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same name came and went quietly. While it snagged Winslet a win from the Australian Film Institute, it did not register with other awards bodies. No matter, Winslet cropped up in the supporting race thanks to her role in Steve Jobs. More on that below.

THE IMMIGRANT: Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn (director: John Crowley, studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures):

FYC: After the film adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel bowed at the Sundance Film Festival last year, Ronan was considered the de facto frontrunner by some for her wonderful turn as 1950s Irish immigrant Eilis. Like current frontrunner Brie Larson (Room, A24 Films), she secured nominations from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and a slew of critics’ groups. She is a threat for the win and while Larson won the National Board of Review (NBR), the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, the BFCA and the SAG, Ronan won The New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) Best Actress award and was runner-up for the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) Best Actress award. This award was taken by fellow Best Actress nominee Charlotte Rampling for 45 Years, (Artificial Eye). While Larson appears to have the upper hand, anything could happen—especially since the Academy is apt to sidestep a darker film (Room) for a light-hearted one (Brooklyn).

THE LESBIAN: Cate Blanchett – Carol (director: Todd Haynes, studio: The Weinstein Company):

FYC: Blanchett’s role as an older, married woman who falls for a department-store clerk (Rooney Mara) in 1950’s New York is like catnip for the Academy. But considering that she won the Best Actress Oscar only two years ago, she isn’t really in this race to win, but a nomination was inevitable. She matched Ronan and Larson with Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG, and BFCA nominations, but two of the biggest (and dare I say controversial) snubs of the year occurred when the Academy passed over the film and its director. From the outset, the drama, based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt, was expected by many pundits to do well across the board. Indeed, it earned six nominations, including Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (Mara) and Adapted Screenplay. In fact, its nomination haul tied with Best Picture nominees Bridge of Spies and Spotlight, and surpassed three others: The Big Short (five) Room (four), and Brooklyn (three). This left many people (including yours truly) scratching their heads and crying foul on the Academy, even using #JusticeForCarol on Twitter to show their outrage. After all, Carol was the only film in contention with a gay theme and Haynes is an openly gay director who was snubbed by the Academy 12 years ago for his film Far From Heaven. Surely they would take this opportunity to right that wrong? Nope. If there is any justice for Carol, Mara, who took home the Best Actress statuette at Cannes, will take home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar this year (see below).

The leading men were covered in the September issue. Let’s see where they stand:

THE ARTIST: Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl (director: Tom Hooper, studio: Focus Features):

FYC: Last year on Oscar night, the Internet erupted when a picture of Best Actor nominee Redmayne, dressed as Danish artist, and one of the first known recipients of sexual reassignment surgery, Lili Elbe, made the rounds. This ignited huge buzz for the star’s 2016 Oscar chances and placed an unachievable level of expectation on Redmayne who would go on that evening to win Best Actor for The Theory of Everything. By the time August’s Telluride Film Festival rolled around, bloodthirsty critics were more than ready to take the film, based on David Ebershoff’s novel of the same name, and its star down.

Fortunately, Redmayne delivered in the role and despite pundit grumblings, secured the requisite Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG, and BFCA nominations, keeping him firmly in the race. Redmayne has now earned his second Oscar nomination, but like his counterpart, Blanchett in the Best Actress category, don’t look for him to win. Even though his portrayal of Elbe is far better than pundits would have you believe. Instead, it’s newcomer Alicia Vikander as Elbe’s wife Gerda who represents the film’s best awards chances and who could take home gold over in the Best Supporting Actress category (see below).

THE MOGUL: Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs (director: Danny Boyle, studio: Universal Pictures):

FYC: This biopic of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs (Fassbender), adapted from Walter Isaacson’s biography of the same name, also had its bow at Telluride. Like The Danish Girl, it wasn’t long after that critics and pundits alike turned their noses at it in favor or something fresher and therefore sweeter. Unlike Redmayne, who held on through a maelstrom of naysayers for his nominations, Fassbender became everyone’s number two throughout the majority of the race. This allowed him to stack up the same nominations as Redmayne while keeping a target off him and on everyone’s number one (Leonardo DiCaprio). In fact, as Oscar night approaches, Fassbender remains many pundits’ number two. But it seems preordained that this is finally DiCaprio’s year and his number two slot may as well be lightyears away.

THE MURDERER: Michael Fassbender – Macbeth (director: Justin Kurzel, studio: The Weinstein Company):

FYC: As I previously indicated, following a wonderful reception at Cannes, this film adaptation was a non-starter awards-wise and Steve Jobs is Fassbender’s lone and far shot.

THE WILDMAN: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant (director: Alejandro González Iñárritu, studio: 20th Century Fox):

FYC: This drama, based in part on Michael Punke’s 2003 novel of the same name, follows 1820s fur trapper Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) as he sets out on a path of vengeance against those who left him for dead after a bear mauling. DiCaprio won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, the BFCA for Best Actor and the SAG. He has all the trappings (read: requisite nominations) to finally take it home. In a year where his closest competitors can’t touch him, look for DiCaprio to make a much-deserved, clean sweep from here all the way to the Oscar podium.

THE MOBSTER: Johnny Depp – Black Mass (director: Scott Cooper, studio: Warner Bros.):

FYC: Despite critics’ division on Depp’s portrayal of Whitey Bulger, he earned BFCA and SAG nominations. Bulger was the brother of a state senator and the most infamous, violent criminal in South Boston ‘s history, who became an FBI informant to take down a turf-invading Mafia family. But the film culled from the book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, showed weakness in its campaign with Depp as the sole awards nominee. It wasn’t altogether a surprise when Depp was replaced on the Golden Globe and eventually the Oscar ballot by TV golden boy Bryan Cranston (Trumbo).

THE RETIREE: Michael Caine – Youth [director: Paolo Sorrentino, studios: Medusa Film (Italy), Pathé (France), and StudioCanal (U.K.)]:

FYC: Youth is the third Cannes film that couldn’t score in the major categories— Original Song is its lone Oscar nomination. Still, Caine won the European Film Award for Best Actor. This along with his age (he’ll be 83 next month), and his long charted history with the Academy, prompted many pundits to pencil him in, but he failed to garner any major nominations stateside.

THE DRUGGY: Ben Foster – The Program (director: Stephen Frears, studio: Momentum Pictures):

FYC: While the biopic of the famed athlete Lance Armstrong (Foster), and the uncovered truth about his use of banned substances, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall and was released in both France and the U.K., the film has not yet been released in the U.S. With a March release date, it doesn’t seem likely that the film will figure into next year’s race, but we’ll have to wait and see.

THE REPORTER: Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight (director: Thomas McCarthy, studio: Open Road Films):

FYC: As I mentioned earlier, this drama, based on the true story of how the Boston Globe “Spotlight” team uncovered the massive child molestation scandal and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, is a Best Picture nominee, so too is Ruffalo, but in a Supporting role (see below).

Matt Damon (The Martian), who won the NBR and the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical and who was nominated for the BAFTA and BFCA, is the fifth nominee in this category. I’m happy to report that he doesn’t stand a chance for such an awful movie.

The Ones to Watch series concluded in the December/January issue with a look at the Best Supporting Actor and Actress races. Let’s see how their contenders have stacked up following January 14th’s Oscar nominations:

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Natural Selections wants your art!

Whether you can’t stop drawing while waiting for the bus, or taking a walk around the city; if photography is your passion, or if you’re more of a painter, this is your chance to share your art. Beginning in 2016, Natural Selections will publish a picture of the art we receive every month. To take advantage of this opportunity, email us your work with a title, a brief description, and your name. We’ll make sure to include it in a future issue. We hope to receive several images to create an open space for art! We’ll be delighted to receive your artwork, please email hi-res jpg files to :<>

Photo by Nan Pang

The History of the Thanksgiving Holiday in America.

By Aileen Marshall

The weather has turned pleasantly crisp recently. It turns our thoughts to sweaters, leaves turning colors, apples and pumpkins. Along that line comes the Thanksgiving holiday. Most Americans today think of it as a day to have a turkey dinner with family, along with pumpkin pie and watching the parade and football. We decorate with dried ears of Indian corn, various gourds and cornucopias. It wasn’t always that way. Various forms of the American holiday go back almost 400 years.

Central Park

Picture by Nan Peng

When the Pilgrims first came to this country in the 17th century, it was a new experience for them, trying to survive in a completely undeveloped environment. They didn’t know what or how to hunt or plant for food. The winters in the colony of Plymouth, Massachusetts, were a lot harsher then they had encountered in England or the Netherlands. During their first winter of 1620-21, 46 of 102 Pilgrims died. They encountered the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans. They established communications with them and befriended one called Squanto. The Wampanoag showed them how to plant corn and squash and other vegetables, and how to hunt for wild game and fish. They were so grateful for a plentiful harvest in the fall of 1621, that they invited the tribe to celebrate with them. They feasted over three days. That first dinner included corn, cranberries and pumpkin, venison and fowl. The turkey is native to North America, but it is not known if the fowl included turkey. The act of thanksgiving was a part of their Puritan religious tradition, to celebrate what they saw as an act of divine providence. The Native Americans also had a tradition of celebrating the harvest. Edward Winslow wrote in a journal called Mourt’s Relation, a record of the Plymouth settlement, “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that we might after a more special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some 90 men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

There are other claims of a first Thanksgiving. Virginia, Florida and Texas all have claims to an earlier event. But historians say that our current tradition came out of the Pilgrims celebration in 1621. The other claims were not known until the 20th century, and it was common practice in those days to hold a celebration in thanks for some fortuitous event.

From the time of the Pilgrims, until the Civil War, Thanksgiving was celebrated by different states and on different dates. Each state or colony would pass a declaration for its own celebration. At first it was considered a New England holiday. But it slowly migrated as the country grew. In 1777 the Continental Congress declared a national Thanksgiving for all thirteen colonies. This continued until 1784. In 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation for a national Thanksgiving. Only Presidents Washington, Adams and Madison made Thanksgiving declarations. This tradition continued until 1815, after which, the individual states still declared a Thanksgiving holiday. By the 1850s, almost all states had an annual tradition of having a Thanksgiving holiday. Although it would be on different dates, it was mostly celebrated on the last Thursday in November.

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Halloween in New York

By Aileen Marshall

Dave Bledsoe/FreeVerse Photography

It’s that time of year again, goblins and ghouls abound, the real and the fictional. If you are too old to go trick or treating, what is there to do? Luckily, you live in New York, where there are always options for something to do.

The most iconic New York Halloween celebration is the Village Halloween parade. It was started in 1974 by puppeteer Ralph Lee. In that very first year, people on the street got caught up in the mood, and jumped into the parade. It has grown over the years from 1500 revelers marching from West Street to Washington Square, to the present day parade of sixty thousand marching along Sixth Avenue from Spring Street up to 16th Street. This parade is known for its elaborate and outlandish costumes.

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Dave Bledsoe/FreeVerse Photography

Besides the costume contingents, there are floats and bands and large puppets. People tend to compete to have the most noticeable and impressive costumes. Sometimes they will coordinate and march as a group of a certain character. (How many Elvises can you fit on a block?) Since the parade is at night, people often incorporate some sort of lighting in their costumes. Anyone wearing a costume can enter the parade by waiting at the staging area on Spring Street. Each year the parade has a theme. The theme this year is “Shine a Light”.

The Village Voice gave it an award the first year to encourage it to continue. Now the parade committee works with the city, Community Board 2 and the NYPD. In 2001 the theme was a phoenix rising from ashes as a tribute to the victims of the World Trade Center attack. The only year it didn’t run was during Hurricane Sandy since lower Manhattan had no power. The parade this year starts at 7pm.


Dave Bledsoe/FreeVerse Photography


Dave Bledsoe/FreeVerse Photography

There are a number of haunted houses in the city. There is the reputed kind, considering the city is over 300 years old, and there is the entertainment kind, for your Halloween fun. The best known is Blood Manor. Located at 163 Varrick Street, it is a 5,000 square foot maze of gore and freights. Blood Manor is reported to go through 37 gallons of fake blood each night, hence the name. Tickets are $30 online or $35 in person. Be warned that this attraction is known for its long lines. For more information, go to Another entertaining haunted house is Times Scare, located at 669 Eighth Avenue, the only haunted house open all year long. Tickets are $27 but the associated Kill Bar is free. There are also various theatrical performances such as magic and burlesque shows. Go to for more details. The Jekyll and Hyde Haunted House is located at 91 Seventh Avenue South. The famous story is performed while you wander through the house. There is also a restaurant attached. Their website is

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Kykuit, The Rockefeller Family Estate – For a Very Special Day Trip

By Susan Russo

810867_seThe 3,000-acre estate of four generations of the Rockefeller family is nestled in the lovely area of Pocantico Hills, New York. The name of the estate, Kykuit, means “lookout” in Dutch, an apt name, since the vistas over the Hudson River are magnificent. John D. Rockefeller had the six-story mansion built in 1913. The architects were Delano (cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt) and Aldrich.

The house’s interiors are beautiful, but not overly ornate, as were many grand mansions of the time. The designer was Ogden Codman, Jr., who rejected the cluttered decors of the turn-of–the-century, and created a more modest yet graceful style. Codman, who designed novelist Edith Wharton’s home in Newport, collaborated with her on a book published in 1897, called “The Decoration of Houses,” which introduced this more livable style.

You will notice on your tour of the house that there is no ballroom, a main showplace of many U.S. and European mansions. John D. Rockefeller, a Baptist, did not allow dancing or alcohol in the mansion. Mr. Rockefeller, did, however, have a small pipe organ, later removed, in a family room. In this room now reside portraits by the American painter, John Singer Sargent. A Sargent landscape painting also depicts the huge Fountain of Oceana in front of the mansion, a replica of a fountain in Florence, Italy.

810869_seNelson Rockefeller’s collection of mostly modern artwork is exhibited in the subterranean art gallery, where the ceilings are covered with ingeniously-designed Italian tiles made by the Guastavino family, originally from Spain. These elegant ceramic tiles can also be seen outside the Grand Central Terminal Oyster Bar, in the New York City Municipal Building, in Grant’s Tomb, and in the City Hall subway station. In the Kykuit gallery are amazing tapestries designed by Pablo Picasso, commissioned at Nelson’s request, and woven in France. Throughout the house and estate you will see artwork by, among others, Constantin Brancusi, Louise Nevelson, Henry Moore, Joan Miró, Andy Warhol, Jacques Lipschitz, Alberto Giacometti, and Alexander Calder. Cynthia B. Altman has been curator of the art collection for the Rockefeller family, the Kykuit estate, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and our own Rockefeller University campus for over twenty years, and she also serves as an advisor to the National Trust for Historical Preservation, the International Center for Photography, and the Empire State Plaza Art Commission.

The gorgeous landscaping, designed by William Welles Bosworth, includes peaceful settings such as the rose garden, the Japanese garden and teahouse, a replica of the Greek Temple of Aphrodite and grotto, more elegant fountains, an Italianate loggia, and the swimming pool garden. On the “Classic Tour,” you will be taken by bus to the Coach Barn, which features a charming collection of the Rockefellers’ horse-drawn carriages, saddles, and classic “touring” and other luxurious cars.

Some of the private parts of the estate are “The Playhouse,” still a family retreat, and the nine-hole reverse golf course, where only the family and their guests are permitted to play.

If you have a car or can manage a fairly long walk, you can visit the family-built church, the community’s Union Church of Pocantico Hills, which is free to all. On Sundays, services are held at 9:00 and 11:00am year round. This charming stone building was enriched by the Rockefeller family with thirteen amazing windows designed by Marc Chagall, and a rose window designed by Henri Matisse. I was told by a guide that M. Matisse came out of retirement in his 80s at the request of the Rockefellers to design that window. Since the church is near the surrounding towns, one special event is a Harvest Church Fair, this year on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 16-17, from 9:00am to 4:00pm, and on Sunday, October 18, from 12 noon to 4:00pm.

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For Your Consideration – Ones to Watch, Vol. 2 Edition

By Jim Keller

I usually wait until after the Telluride and Toronto International Film festivals to discuss the second of the three-part Ones to Watch series, but I’ll be in Hawaii honeymooning for half of September, so I moved it up. I admit I’m at a bit of a disadvantage without the critics’ feedback from the summer’s end festivals to consider, but it could be fun to navigate this without a flashlight for a change. By my count the Best Actor race currently has about 40 men in contention for the five slots. Who will be the true contenders? We can only speculate at this juncture. But there’s no greater way to seek out the ghost of Oscar future than by looking at the past. Here’s how the men of last year’s Best Actor race stacked up against Oscar.

Four out of nine leading men discussed in last year’s column (including our winner) went on to earn Best Actor nominations: Michael Keaton (Birdman), Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game). Eddie Redmayne won the Best Actor Oscar for The Theory of Everything. By year’s end those names were foregone conclusions and only Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner) was snubbed, as he was eclipsed by Bradley Cooper (American Sniper). Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice), Brad Pitt (Fury), Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up), and Jack O’Connell (Unbroken) didn’t make the cut.

THE ARTIST: Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl (director: Tom Hooper):

FYC: This biopic, based on David Ebershoff’s novel of the same name, depicts the true story of Danish artists Lili Elbe (Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) whose marriage is tested after Lili becomes one of the first known recipients of sexual reassignment surgery. The road to Redmayne’s Oscar was paved with Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) wins, a Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) nomination, and a slew of critics’ groups nominations, all for his portrayal of famous physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Given that the transgender topic is everywhere in the media, it could be just the timely role to land him a second nod, or even a win.

THE MOGUL: Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs (director: Danny Boyle):

FYC: The biopic of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs (Fassbender) was adapted from Walter Isaacson’s biography of the same name. It explores the modern day genius’s triumphs and tribulations and how they affected his family life and possibly his health. Fassbender has had a bit of a rickety relationship with the Academy as evidenced by his Best Actor snub for 2011’s Shame, a film that netted him Golden Globe, BAFTA, and BFCA nominations. It wasn’t until 2014 that Fassbender earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for 12 Years a Slave after requisite nominations from those bodies as well as SAG. One might say that he’s overdue for a win, but Fassbender’s three other films due out this year give him four Oscar opportunities: Macbeth (see below), The Light Between Oceans, and Trespass Against Us. Any of these could lift him into the upper echelon. With 12 Years, the actor sidestepped the Academy’s tendency to not nominate unlikable characters and he did so without campaigning. But it could be his refusal to campaign that ultimately keeps him out of the winner’s circle.

THE MURDERER: Michael Fassbender – Macbeth (director: Justin Kurzel):

FYC: Fassbender plays the titular character in this drama, based on Shakespeare’s play about the ill-fated duke of Scotland who receives a prophecy from three witches that he will become King. At once consumed by ambition and goaded by his wife, Macbeth later commits regicide and takes the throne. See Steve Jobs, with four shots on goal, it seems the Oscar is Fassbender’s to lose this season.

THE WILDMAN: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant (director: Alejandro González Iñárritu):

FYC: This drama, based in part on Michael Punke’s 2003 novel of the same name, follows 1820s fur trapper Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) as he sets out on a path of vengeance against those who left him for dead after a bear mauling. I’ve written at length in this column about DiCaprio’s previous nominations (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator, Blood Diamond and last year’s The Wolf of Wall Street), as well as his six Academy snubs (The Titanic, Gangs of New York, The Departed, Revolutionary Road, J. Edgar, and Django Unchained) so I won’t repeat myself. Pretty much the whole of the Oscar-watching world concedes that the actor will someday win an Oscar, it’s just a matter of time, and the right timing. This looks like a meaty role to get ‘er done.

 THE MOBSTER: Johnny Depp – Black Mass (director: Scott Cooper):

FYC: This crime drama depicts the true story of Whitey Bulger—the brother of a state senator and the most infamous, violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a turf-invading Mafia family. It’s based on the book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. It’s been a while since Depp’s name has come up in the Oscar conversation. He earned back-to-back Best Actor Oscar, SAG, and BAFTA nominations for 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and 2004’s Finding Neverland, and his third and final nomination three years later for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Depp earned BFCA nominations for all three films. The trailer for Black Mass features a decidedly more down-to-earth Depp, who appears to have disappeared into his character. Can the actor come back from playing fanciful characters and prove himself to the Academy? Time will tell.

 THE RETIREE: Michael Caine – Youth (director: Paolo Sorrentino):

FYC: The film sees two old friends on vacation in the Alps discussing their careers and the lives of those around them, when retired orchestra conductor Fred (Caine) receives an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II to perform for Prince Philip’s birthday. Caine’s history with the Academy is long and fruitful. Beginning in 1967 with Alfie he has earned four Best Actor nominations: 1972’s Sleuth, 1983’s Educating Rita, and 2002’s The Quiet American, and two Supporting Actor wins: 1986’s Hannah and Her Sisters and 1999’s The Cider House Rules. At 82, Caine’s repertoire cannot be denied. Will the Academy want to give him that elusive Best Actor statuette? You can bet on it.

THE DRUGGY: Ben Foster – The Program (director: Stephen Frears):

FYC: This biopic of the famed athlete Lance Armstrong (Foster) is told through Irish sports journalist David Walsh (Chris O’Dowd), who is convinced the bicyclist’s Tour de France victories were possible via the use of banned substances. With this conviction Walsh hunts for evidence to expose Armstrong. The film is based on Walsh’s book Seven Deadly Sins. Foster has been on an uphill climb since his work in 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma. He has yet to earn any nominations from major awards groups for his individual work, but that could change this year. It’s still too early to tell, but there’s a chance that O’Dowd may be the lead, in which case Foster would be supporting.

THE REPORTER: Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight (director: Thomas McCarthy):

 FYC: This thriller is based on the true story of how the Boston Globe “Spotlight” team uncovered the massive child molestation scandal and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese. The Globe won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its investigation, and its coverage is among the most celebrated journalism projects of the 21st century. The team is the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative unit in the U.S. Ruffalo has two Best Supporting Actor nominations under his belt for 2010’s The Kids Are Alright and last year’s Foxcatcher. He earned BAFTA, BFCA, and SAG nominations for both (he also won the SAG for Best Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries for The Normal Heart), and a Golden Globe nomination for Foxcatcher last year. It seems fair to say that the actor is a club member of those preordained to win an Oscar, but the film’s trailer suggests that the film is more of an ensemble piece, making it difficult for anyone to earn individual recognition.

 As I mentioned earlier, several men have irons in the Oscar fire this year. It’s too early to tell what will hit and what will hit hard. If Jodie Foster’s Money Monster lands, George Clooney could find himself in the mix. The same can be said for Warren Beatty and his as-yet-unnamed Howard Hughes project. Meanwhile, could Christian Bale shrug off last year’s Exodus: Gods and Kings pitfall and muscle in via Terrence Malick’s long-gestating Knight of Cups?

Each of these men is a past winner and none of them should be discounted. FYC returns in November. So until then, keep your ear to the street and your eyes on the screen.


For Your Consideration – Ones to Watch, Vol. 1 Edition

By Jim Keller

This month we begin our four-part series that will take us all the way up to Oscar nominations in January 2016 by discussing the leading ladies of the Best Actress race. While it was slim pickings for last year’s crop, this year’s appears to feature some strong, bona fide leads out of the gate, but still pales in comparison to the Best Actor race. Last year’s narrative was a tale of three actresses overdue for a win (Amy Adams, Julianne Moore and Jessica Chastain). The category was so underrepresented in Hollywood that a supporting actress (not a lead) took one of the top spots. What will this year’s story be? Will our top five be true leads? These are the questions we will be looking to answer in the next couple of months. So let’s first examine last year’s Best Actress nomination results and see who won over Oscar.

Although Reese Witherspoon and Rosamund Pike received Best Actress nominations for Wild and Gone Girl, the Best Actress Oscar went to a very deserving Julianne Moore for Still Alice. Meanwhile, Oscar queen, Meryl Streep, originally discussed in the lead category, earned a Supporting Actress nomination for Into the Woods. Among those performances snubbed by the Academy were Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year), Amy Adams (Big Eyes), and Hilary Swank (The Homesman). Rounding out the top five were Felicity Jones for a supporting role in The Theory of Everything and Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night). Both Streep and Cotillard are discussed again this year.

THE QUEEN BEE: Meryl Streep – Ricki and the Flash (director: Jonathan Demme):

FYC: This comedic drama focuses on a rock-and-roller who gave up everything to reach for stardom and who returns home to make things right with her family.

Streep has been discussed every year in this column. As of last January the actress has 16 Oscar nominations under her belt and three Oscar wins—two in lead (Sophie’s Choice in 1983 and The Iron Lady in 2011), and one in supporting (Kramer vs. Kramer in 1980). Whether the film ends up being nothing more than summer fun fodder, omitting Streep from consideration is a fool’s errand.

THE ACTIVIST: Carey Mulligan – Suffragette (director: Sarah Gavron):

FYC: The drama centers on early members of the British feminist movement of the late 19th and 20th centuries—a time when such women were forced underground to pursue a dangerous cat and mouse game with an increasingly brutal State. It is the first film in history to be shot at the Houses of Parliament in the UK and was done with full permission of members of parliament (MPs). Mulligan earned Best Actress nominations from the Academy, Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) for 2009’s An Education. The same role won her the Best Actress award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), which also nominated her for its Rising Star award that year. 2011 yielded two supporting nominations from the BFCA (Shame) and BAFTA (Drive). The film’s trailer suggests a strong performance from Mulligan and showcases her range. This film is one of my most anticipated of the year.

THE DARK LADY: Marion Cotillard – Macbeth (director: Justin Kurzel):

FYC: The latest adaptation of Shakespeare’s play wowed audiences at this year’s Cannes Film Festival where it competed for the Palme d’Or. For those living under a rock, the story unfolds when an ill-fated Scottish duke receives a prophecy from three witches that he will become King. Consumed by ambition and goaded by his wife, Macbeth murders the king and takes the throne. Cotillard (Lady Macbeth) continues her hunt for a second Oscar after a Best Actress win in 2008 for La Vie en Rose and her aforementioned nomination this year. It’s worth mentioning that in 2013 she narrowly missed her first opportunity for a second nomination with Rust and Bone—a role that netted her a slew of pre-cursor Best Actress nominations including SAG, BAFTA, BFCA, and France’s answer to the Academy Awards, César. Judging on her performance’s reception from Cannes, it would be surprising not to see Cotillard in the top five this year.

THE PERENNIAL: Jennifer Lawrence – Joy (director: David O. Russell):

FYC: This biopic chronicles the life of Joy Mangano (Lawrence) the struggling Long Island single mom who invented the Miracle Mop and became one of the most successful American entrepreneurs. In 2012, Lawrence won the Best Actress Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook (also directed by O. Russell) after earning her first Best Actress nomination in 2011 for Winter’s Bone. Last year, she earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination for American Hustle.

With this kind of track record we can expect that Lawrence will feature prominently in this year’s race. Whether or not she’s due for a second win is another question.

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Where have all the bees gone?

By Aileen Marshall


Photo: Böhringer Friedrich

Perhaps you’ve heard in the news about the mystery of the disappearing bees. It seems no one knows exactly why, but we do know that it’s serious. While bees may be an annoyance that can mar your outdoor activities, they are very important for pollinating crops. Some estimates say the drop in the bee population has cost as much as $200 billion in increased costs of produce, according to a United Nations study in 2005. The USDA has found an average cost per year to farmers to have bees pollinate their crops around $15 billion. One blueberry farmer claimed that his pollination cost used to be about $250,000 a year, now it’s about $750,000. Almonds are particularly dependent on bee pollination, and many nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables are also reliant on pollination. This increased cost gets passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices.

There has been a growing business in beekeepers providing pollination services for farmers, since there has been a decrease in wild honey bees. These businesses are mostly migrant, moving with the seasons. Some have speculated that the constant moving has also put a stress on bees. This also makes it difficult to study this disorder.

The current phenomenon of disappearing bees is called colony collapse disorder (CCD). It is characterized by a hive where there are no live adult bees except for the queen and larvae, and there is plenty of food. With few dead bees found, it is difficult to find a definitive cause. It seems the bees don’t come back to their hives. Normally when a hive is abandoned, nearby bees will loot their food, but in CCD, the food remains untouched.

While there have been episodes of bees disappearing in the past, this one is notable in that there has been a sharp decrease of an average of 33% per year since 2006, primarily in the Americas. While it is normal to have attrition in colonies over the winter, CCD has been notable in the sharp decrease that occurs in the summer.

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For Your Consideration – Crystal Ball Edition

By Jim Keller

The early part of the Oscar race is a moving target. There are a few awards stops along the way: Sundance, SXSW, and Cannes, to name a few, but by and large spitballing what may come down the slippery slope of the Oscar pike is tricky. For one, a lot of the films do not have distributors yet or have soft release dates. This makes it easy for films to be pushed to the following year. Second, the films discussed here haven’t screened, so it’s really impossible to know what kind of film they are—all we have to go on is the log line and the talent attached. Sometimes we get lucky and the films stick the Oscar nomination landing (FYC’s Crystal Ball Edition covered four of nine 2014 Best Picture nominees), but out of the eight 2015 Best Picture nominees only one was featured. Here are some films of interest debuting this year that could wind up in this year’s Oscar conversation.

The Danish Girl (director: Tom Hooper):

Why you might like it: Based on David Ebershoff’s novel of the same name, the film depicts the true story of Danish artists Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) whose marriage is tested after Lili becomes one of the first known recipients of sexual reassignment surgery.

Why I’ve got my eye on it: Redmayne is on fire after his Best Actor Oscar win for last year’s The Theory of Everything. What’s more, early pictures of Redmayne as Lili are intriguing and the transgender topic has been gaining steam. After helming 2011’s Best Picture winner The King’s Speech and winning Best Director for it, Hooper is always on the Academy’s radar.

Steve Jobs (director: Danny Boyle):

Why you might like it: This biopic of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs was adapted from Walter Isaacson’s biography of the same name. It explores the modern day genius’s triumphs and tribulations and how they affected his family life and possibly his health. Michael Fassbender plays Jobs and could figure prominently in the Best Actor race.
Why I’ve got my eye on it: Like Hooper, Boyle is permanently on the Academy watch list ever since his go for broke Slumdog Millionaire swept the 2009 Oscars and won eight awards including Best Picture and Best Director. Here he is paired with Aaron Sorkin, an Oscar perennial since his 2011 Best Adapted Screenplay win for The Social Network. And of course, there’s the aforementioned Fassbender, who always gives deserving performances and who earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for 2013’s 12 Years a Slave.

Joy (director: David O. Russell):

Why you might like it: The biopic chronicles the life of Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) the struggling Long Island single mom who invented the Miracle Mop and became one of the most successful American entrepreneurs.

Why I’ve got my eye on it: Russell has been after the Oscar since his Best Director nomination for 2010’s The Fighter. Jennifer Lawrence is amazing in almost everything she does (RIP 2014’s Serena) and with Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro on-board, the chemistry exhibited between the three since 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, which landed all three Oscar nominations, thrives.

The Witch (director: Robert Eggers):

Why you might like it: It’s a horror film that takes place in a devout, Christian 1630 New England homesteading community. When a series of strange events start happening a family begins to turn on one another. It’s a chilling portrait of family unraveling within their fear and anxiety, leaving them vulnerable to inescapable evil.

Why I’ve got my eye on it: This is one of my most anticipated films of the year. Eggers won the Directing Award in the U.S. Dramatic category at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

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The Union Forever!

Dedicated to the memory of Bruce Voeller

 By George Barany, Michael Hanko, and Paul Luftig

This puzzle is modified and updated from versions that went on-line in the run-up to the 2012 Presidential election. We dedicate the puzzle to the memory of Bruce Voeller (1934-1994), a Rockefeller alum (1961) who later served on the Rockefeller faculty and raised some eyebrows when he asked for his office to be painted pink. As our modern society has shifted toward accepting same-sex marriages, the puzzle’s theme remains just as relevant today, and we note with sadness that Dr. Voeller was never able to experience this basic right with the man his New York Times obituary listed as “his companion.”

GB is a Rockefeller alum (1977) currently on the faculty at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities; MH is a NYC voice teacher, writer, and performer; PL lives in Larchmont and is retired from a remarkable career in the world of finance. More Barany and Friends crosswords are at



  1. Sailors do it on deck
  2. Disciplines
  3. Prepares leftovers for a quick bite
  4. South American monkey
  5. ___ Lama
  6. Institution with its med. sch. named after David Geffen
  7. Non-traditional marriage of the gay pop icon who wrote “Candle in the Wind” to a war hero who ran for President
  8. Pen, in Montpellier
  9. Tenets of Flat-Earthers or Evolution Deniers, e.g.
  10. Epiphanies
  11. Valley where David slew Goliath
  12. Amenity at a high-end spa
  13. Like Napoleon while in Elba
  14. Suffix added to “Mercedes-Benz” in a joke told by a professor of organic chemistry
  15. “Then Again, Maybe ___” (Judy Blume young adult novel)
  16. Ex-Veep Agnew’s plea
  17. Non-traditional marriage of an ex-Veep/Nobel Peace laureate to a novelist who believed in the pan-sexuality of men and women
  18. When doubled, a Jim Carrey movie
  19. One who was more shocked than awed in March 2003
  20. “Yadda, yadda, yadda”
  21. ___ -laced (excessively strict)
  22. “Hamilton,” for one
  23. “___ I” from Gershwin’s “Lady, Be Good!”
  24. One of a papal dozen
  25. Exemplars of loveliness
  26. Too, in Toulouse
  27. Non-traditional marriage of “Atlas Shrugged” novelist to a pair of politicians, one a current Presidential candiate, the other who ran for Veep under Romney
  28. Manitoba native
  29. Traffic trouble
  30. Dope
  31. What a lumberjack does behind the woodshed
  32. Pink-slips
  33. Ball handler?

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Ten Years of Natural Selections

By Daniel Briskin

Continuing on with our salute to the tenth anniversary of Natural Selections, here is a comic republished from 2004.

This month, the Natural Selections Editorial Board bids farewell to Daniel Briskin. We would like to thank him for his dedication and for helping Natural Selections to become what it is today.

Danny has been a contributor and editor for Natural Se- lections for nearly two years. He worked as a Research As- sistant in the Laboratory of RNA Molecular Biology and began a graduate program at MIT, beginning this fall. While preparing for graduate school, Danny contributed this year by dusting off a collection of comic strips that originally ran in 2004 issues of Natural Selections. This dovetailed nicely with the publication’s 10th anniversary. We wish him all the best!