Another Oscar ceremony happened, and we got our fair share of joy and disappointment. After Parasite surprised the world and took Best Picture, it seems like the game has changed for the awards race, now that non-English speaking films can actually fight and be recognized as well as classics as… Green Book. The Oscar race is still full of pain and glory, and even though the year has barely started, we have a bunch of movies that are fighting for air. And here’s 50 of them. Yes, I had some free time in my hands and this is a cool hobby, so I took the liberty to introduce most of the movies that will have Film Twitter entertained for the following 12 months. I say most, because there are always contenders who come out of nowhere later in the year, so this is the starter set. Here we go. -Annette:
Since Parasite’s road to the Oscars started at Cannes, it seems fair to talk about a movie that is circling a premiere in the world stage that is set in France. After delivering weird, indie classics like Mauvais Sang and Holy Motors (yes, the kind of movies that make you seem like a snob when you recommend them to people), Leos Carax is making his first movie spoken in the English language… and it has a musical screenplay written by the cult rock duo of Sparks. Recently robbed Adam Driver and previous Oscar winner Marion Cotillard sing in this tale of a stand-up comedian and a famous soprano singer who rise and fall in Los Angeles while their daughter is born with a special gift. It seems like a wild bet, but we already know that Carax is a master with musical moments, so this is one of the most intriguing question marks of the year. -Ammonite:
It’s time to talk narratives. On the one hand, we have Kate Winslet, a known name who hasn’t been very successful in the Oscar race since her Oscar win for The Reader over a decade ago (with the exception being her supporting performance in Steve Jobs, where she had a weird accent). On the other, we have Saoirse Ronan, a star on the rise who keeps collecting Oscar nominations, with 4 nods at the age of 25, including her fresh Best Actress loss for Little Women. What happens if we put them together in a drama set in the coasts of England during the 19th century where both of them fall for each other?
That’s gonna be a winning formula if writedirector Francis Lee (who tackled queer romance in his acclaimed debut God’s Own Country) nails the Mary Anning story, and Neon (the distribution company founded three years ago that took Parasite to victory) is betting on it. -Benedetta:
We know the Paul Verhoeven story. After isolating himself from Hollywood for over a decade, he took Isabelle Huppert to an Oscar nominated performance with the controversial, sexy, dark and funny thriller Elle. Now, he’s back with another story that perks up the ears, because now he’s covering the life of Benedetta Carlini, a 17th-century lesbian nun who had religious and erotic visions
. If you know Paul, you already can tell that this fits into his brand of horniness, and a possible Cannes premiere could tell us if this has something to carry itself to Oscar night. -Blonde:
With a short but impactful directorial credits list that takes us from Chopper, to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford to Killing Them Softly, Andrew Dominik is back with a film about Marilyn Monroe, a woman who has transcended the ideas of fame and stardom, in ways that are glamorous and nightmarish at the same time. After failing to launch with Naomi Watts or Jessica Chastain,the rising Ana de Armas takes the lead
in the retelling of Monroe’s troubled life based on Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, which is said to be covered in the screenplay as somewhat of a horror movie. We don’t know what that means yet, but Netflix is gonna push hard for this one, especially considering how the Academy loves throwing awards to stars playing previous stars, and that also can possibly include co-stars Bobby Cannavale and Adrien Brody. -Breaking News in Yuba County:
While he hasn’t gone back to the heights of his success achieved by the box office and award success of The Help (a movie that did not age well), Tate Taylor is still enjoying himself economically due to recent thrillers like The Girl on the Train and Ma. For his next movie, he’s made a dramedy that once again reunites him with Oscar winner Allison Janney, where she plays a woman who has to keep appearances and a hidden body when she catches her husband cheating on her, and then he dies of a heart attack. With a cast that also includes Mila Kunis, Regina Hall, Awkwafina, Samira Wiley, Wanda Sykes, Jimmi Simpson and Ellen Barkin, this could be a buzzy title later this year. -C’mon C’mon:
You may love or hate whatever Joaquin Phoenix did in Joker, but you can’t deny the benefit of playing the Crown Prince of Crime in an Oscar-winning performance. The blank check that you share with indie directors afterwards. Now that Joaquin’s cultural cachet is on the rise, Mike Mills gets to benefit with this drama that stars Phoenix and Gaby Hoffmann, with him playing an artist left to take care of his precocious young nephew as they forge an unexpected bond over a cross country trip. We only have to wonder if A24 will do better with this movie’s Oscar chances compared to 20th Century Women. -Cherry:
After killing half the universe and bringing them back with the highest grossing movie of all time, where do you go? For Joe and Anthony Russo, the answer is “away from the Marvel Cinematic Universe”. The Russo brothers are trying to distance themselves and prove that they have a voice without Kevin Feige behind them, with a crime drama that’s also different than their days when they directed You, Me and Dupree or episodes of Arrested Development and Community. To help them in the journey, they took Tom Holland (who also needs to distance himself from Spider-Man, lest he ends up stuck to the character in the audience’s eyes) to star in a crime drama based on former Army medic Nico Walker’s memoir about his days after Iraq
, where the PTSD and an opioid addiction led him to start robbing banks. -Da 5 Bloods:
After bouncing back from a slump with the critical and commercial success of BlackKklansman, Spike Lee is cashing a Netflix check to tell the tale of four African American veterans who return to Vietnam to search for their fallen leader and some treasure. With a cast that includes Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Paul Walter Hauser and Chadwick Boseman, this sounds like an interesting combo, although we still should remember the last time that Spike tried his hand at a war movie, with the dull Miracle at St. Anna. -Dune:
If you are on Reddit, you probably know about the new film by movies
’ new Messiah, Denis Villeneuve. While the epic sci-fi novel by Frank Herbert is getting a new chance in the multiplexes after that David Lynch movie that was forgotten by many, some are hoping that this will be the beginning of a new franchise (as seen by the release date of December 18, taking the spot of the usual Star Wars opening), and a return to the whole “remember when stuff like Return of the King or Fury Road were nominated for Best Picture?” question. Timothee Chalamet will be riding a lot of hope, and sandworm. -Everybody’s Talking About Jamie:
As you start to see, there are several musicals that are gonna be fighting for attention over the next year, and Annette was the first one. Now, we also have this adaptation of the hit West End production
, that centers around a gay British teenager who dreams of becoming a drag queen and get his family and schoolmates to accept his sexuality. With a cast that mixes young unknowns, familiar Brits (Sharon Horgan, Sarah Lancashire and my boy Ralph Ineson) and the previously nominated legend that is Richard E. Grant (who is playing a former drag queen named Loco Chanelle), the creative team of the stage musical will jump to the big screen with the help of Fox Searchlight (sorry, just Searchlight), who has clear Oscar hopes with a release date right in the middle of awards heat, on October 23. -Hillbilly Elegy:
Even though the Parasite victory gave many people hope for a new Academy that stops recognizing stuff like previous winner Green Book… let’s be honest, the Academy will still look for movies like Green Book. This year, many people are turning their eyes towards Ron Howard’ adaptation of J.D. Vance’s memoir about his low income life in a poor rural community in Ohio, filled with drugs, violence and verbal abuse. If this sounds like white trash porn, it doesn’t help to know that Glenn Close, who has become the biggest living Oscar bridesmaid with seven nominations, will play a character called Mamaw. And if that sounds trashy, then you have to know that Amy Adams, who follows Glenn with six nominations, is playing her drug-addicted, careless daughter. I don’t want to call this “Oscar bait”, but it sure is tempting. -I’m Thinking of Ending Things:
After his stopmotion existential dramedy Anomalisa got him a Best Animated Feature nomination at the Oscars but at the same time bombed at the box office, Charlie Kaufman is getting the Netflix check. This time, he’s adapting the dark novel by Iain Reid, about a woman (Jessie Buckley, who is on the rise and took over the role after Brie Larson had to pass) who is taken by her boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to meet his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis), in a trip that takes a turn for the worse. If Kaufman can deliver with this one, it will be a big contender. -In the Heights:
Yes, more musicals! This time, it’s time to talk about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Tony-winning musical, that was overshadowed because of his other small play about some treasury secretary. Now, his Broadway ensemble tale about life in a neighborhood in Washington Heights is jumping to the movie screen with Jon Chu at the helm
, following the success of Crazy Rich Asians. This Latino tale mixes up-and-comers like Anthony Ramos (who comes straight from Hamilton and playing Lady Gaga’s friend in A Star is Born), names like Corey Hawkins and Jimmy Smits (who is pro bits), and Olga Merediz, who starred in the Broadway show as Abuela Claudia and who could be the early frontrunner for Best Supporting Actress, if Chu allows her to shine like she did onstage. -Jesus Was My Homeboy:
When looking at up-and-coming Black actors right now in Hollywood, two of the top names are Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, who already appeared in the same movie in Get Out, which earned Kaluuya a Best Actor nomination. This time, they share the screen in Shaka King’s retelling of the story of Fred Hampton (Kaluuya), an activist and Black Panther leader… as well as the story of William O’Neal (Stanfield), the FBI agent sent by J. Edgar Hoover to infiltrate the party and arrest him. With the backing of Warner Bros, this will attempt to make an impact with a clash of actors that will have to fight with an August release date, not the ideal time to release an awards movie. -King Richard:
Starting with Suicide Squad, Will Smith has been trying to prove that he’s back and better than ever. Some attempts to get back to the top of the A-list (Aladdin, Bad Boys For Life) have worked, while others (Gemini Man, Spies in Disguise)... have not. But Will is still going, and now he’s going for his next prestige play as he plays Richard Williams, the coach and father of the tennis legends Venus and Serena, who pushed them to their full potential. While it’s weird that the father of the Williams sisters is getting a movie before them, it does sound like a meaty role for Smith, who has experience with Oscar notices with sports biopics because of what he did with Michael Mann in Ali. Let’s hope director Reinaldo Marcus Green can take him there too. -Last Night in Soho:
Every year, one or two directors who have a cool reputation end up in the Dolby Theatre, and 2020 could be the year of Edgar Wright. After delivering his first big box office hit with Baby Driver, the Brit is going back to London to tell a story in the realm of psychological horror
, which has been supposedly inspired by classics like Don’t Look Now and Repulsion. With a premise that supposedly involves time travel and a cast that includes Anya-Taylor Joy, Thomasin McKenzie, Matt Smith and Diana Rigg, Wright (who also co-wrote this with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, who was just nominated for Best Original Screenplay for her work in 1917) is making a big swing. -Let Them All Talk:
Every year there’s more new streaming services, and that also means that there’s new players in the Oscar game. To secure subscribers to the new service, HBO Max has secured the rights to the next Steven Soderbergh movie, a comedy that stars Meryl Streep as a celebrated author that takes her friends (Candice Bergen, Dianne Wiest) and her nephew (Lucas Hedges, again) in a journey to find fun and come to terms with the past. The last time that Soderbergh and Streep worked together, the end result was the very disappointing The Laundromat. Let’s hope that this time everything works out. -Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom:
Now that Netflix got the deal to adapt August Wilson’s acclaimed plays with Denzel Washington’s production company, the next jump from the stage to the screen is a meaty one. Viola Davis is playing blues singer Ma Rainey in this tale of a heated recording session with her bandmates, her agent and her producer in 1927, with a cast that also includes Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman and Colman Domingo. The Tony nominated play
talked about race, art and the intersection of the two, and it’s gonna be explosive to see that unfold on screen, even if director George C. Wolfe’s previous filmography isn’t very encouraging. -Macbeth:
In a shocking development, the Coen brothers are no more. Well, just this time. For the first time in his career, Joel Coen is making a movie without Ethan, and it’s a Shakespeare adaptation. Denzel Washington is playing the man who wants to be king of Scotland, and Frances McDormand is playing his Lady Macbeth. While this just started filming and it will be a race to finish it in time for competition in the awards race, the potential is there, and this project has everybody’s attention. -Mank:
After scoring 24 Oscar nominations and only winning 2 awards last Sunday, Netflix has to wonder what else must they do to get in the club that awards them. They tried with Cuarón, they tried with Scorsese, they tried with Baumbach, they tried with two Popes, and they still feel a barrier. Now, the big gamble for awards by the streamer in 2020 comes to us in the hands of David Fincher, who is basically their friend after the rest of Hollywood denied him (Disney dropped his 20,000 Leagues adaptation, HBO denied the US remake of Utopia, and Paramount drove World War Z 2 away from him). In his first movie since 2014’s Gone Girl, David will go black and white to tackle a script by his late father about the making of the classic of classics, Citizen Kane, with previous Oscar winner Gary Oldman playing the lead role of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz. Will the Academy fall for the ultimate “power of da moviesshhh” story? -Minari:
Sundance can be hit or miss with the breakout films that try to make it to the Oscars. However, you can’t deny the waves made by A24 when they premiered Lee Isaac Chung’s new drama
there, ending up winning the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award in the US Dramatic Competition. If Parasite endeared Academy voters to Korean families, Steven Yeun hopes that the same thing happens with this story, where he plays a father in the ‘80s who suddenly decides to move his family to Arkansas to start a farm. Even though the reviews have been great, we must also remember that last year, A24 had in their hands The Farewell, another Sundance hit about an Asian family that ended up with no Oscar nominations. Let’s hope that this time, the Plan B influence (remember, that’s Brad Pitt’s production company, of Moonlight and 12 Years a Slave fame) makes a difference. -Next Goal Wins:
It’s a good time to be Taika Waititi. Why? Taika Waititi can do what he wants. He can direct a Thor movie, he can win an Oscar for writing a comedy set in WW2 about a Third Reich boy who has an Imaginary Hitler friend, or he can pop up in The Mandalorian as a droid. Taika keeps winning, and he wants more. Between his press tour for Jojo Rabbit and his return to the MCU, he quickly shot an adaptation of a great documentary about the disgraced national team of American Samoa
, one of the worst football teams known to man, as they try to make the cut for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Everybody loves a good sports comedy, and Searchlight bets that we’ll enjoy this story led by Michael Fassbender as the new (and Dutch-American) coach in town
who tries to shape the team for victory. -News of the World:
Seven years after their solid collaboration in Captain Phillips, Paul Greengrass and Tom Hanks reunite for more awards love in what seems to be Universal’s main attraction for the Oscars. This time, Hanks stars in a Western drama based on Paulette Jiles’ novel where he plays a traveling newsreader in the aftermath of the American Civil War who is tasked with reuniting an orphaned girl with her living relatives. With a Christmas release date, Universal is betting big in getting the same nomination boost that 1917 is enjoying right now, and the formula is promising. -Nightmare Alley:
Following his Best Picture and Best Director wins for The Shape of Water, everybody in Hollywood wondered what would Guillermo del Toro do next. Well, as Del Toro often does, a little bit of everything and nothing. Some projects moved (as his produced Pinocchio movie on Netflix, or his Death Stranding likeness cameo), others stalled and die (like his proposed Fantastic Voyage remake). But now he’s rolling on his next project, a new adaptation of the William Lindsay Gresham novel that already was a Tyrone Power film in 1947. This noir tale tells the story of a con man (Bradley Cooper) who teams up with a psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett) to trick people and win money, and how things get out of control. With a cast that also includes Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara and more, this could play well if it hits the right tone. -Nomadland:
There’s breakout years, and then there’s the amazing potential of Chloe Zhao’s 2020. On the one hand, after making Hollywood notice her skill with the gripping story of The Rider, she got the keys to the MCU kingdom to direct the next potential franchise of Kevin Feige, The Eternals. And just in case, she also has in her sleeve this indie drama that she wrote and directed beforehand, with two-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand playing a woman
who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad. If Chloe nails these two films, it could be the one-two punch of the decade. -One Night in Miami:
Regina King is living her best life. Following her Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress in If Beale Street Could Talk and the success that came with her lead role in the Watchmen show on HBO, the actress is jumping to a new challenge: directing movies. For her big screen debut, she’s adapting Kemp Powers’ play that dramatizes a real meeting on February 25, 1964
, between Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown. -Over the Moon:
After earning praise and Oscar nominations with I Lost My Body and Klaus, Netflix will keep its bet on animated movies with a film directed by the legendary Glen Keane. Who? A classic Disney animator responsible for the design of characters like Ariel, the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Tarzan and more](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jRkx2PNVr8
), and who recently won an Oscar for Best Animated Short for Dear Basketball, which he co-directed with the late Kobe Bryant. Now, he brings us a musical adventure centered around a Chinese girl
who builds a rocket ship and blasts off to the Moon in hopes of meeting a legendary Moon Goddess. -Passing:
It’s always interesting when an actor jumps behind the camera, and Rebecca Hall’s case is no exception. For her directorial debut, Hall chose to adapt Nella Larsen’s acclaimed novel set in Harlem in the 1920s, about two mixed race childhood friends (Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson) who reunite in adulthood and become obsessed with one another's lives. With a premise that explores tough questions about race and sexuality, it looks like a tricky challenge for a first timer, but it would be more impressive if Hall manages to rise over the challenge. -Prisoner 760:
An interesting part of following the awards circuit is looking at when it's appropriate to talk about touchy subjects in recent history. I’m saying that because this next movie tells the real life tale of Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim), a man who, despite not being charged or having a set trial, is held in custody at Guantanamo Bay, and turns towards a pair of lawyers (Jodie Foster and Shailene Woodley) to aid him. Based on the famous journal that the man wrote while he was being detained, the movie (that also counts with Benedict Cumberbatch) is directed by Kevin Macdonald who, a long time ago, helped Forest Whitaker win Best Actor for The Last King of Scotland. Could he get back in the race after almost 15 years of movies like State of Play? -Raya and the Last Dragon:
This year, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ bet for the Oscars is a fantasy tale set in a mysterious realm called Kumandra
, where a warrior named Raya searches for the last dragon in the world. And that dragon has the voice of Awkwafina. Even though they missed out last Oscars when Frozen II got the cold shoulder by the Academy in Best Animated Feature, this premise looks interesting enough to merit a chance. One more thing: between last year’s Abominable, Over the Moon and this movie, there’s a clear connection of animated movies trying to appeal to Chinese sensibilities (and that sweet box office). -Rebecca:
It’s wild to think that the only time that Alfred Hitchcock made a film that won the Oscar for Best Picture was with 1940’s adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s psychological thriller novel, more muted and conventional than his more known classics. Now, Ben Wheatley and Netflix are giving the Gothic story a new spin, with Lily James playing the newly married young woman who finds herself battling the shadow of her husband's (Armie Hammer) dead first wife, the mysterious Rebecca. The story is a classic, and we have to see how much weird Wheatley stuff is in the mix. -Red, White and Water:
Between 2011 and 2014, Jennifer Lawrence was everywhere and people loved it. She was America’s sweetheart, the Oscar winner, Katniss Everdeen. But then, everything kinda fell. Those X-Men movies got worse and she looked tired of being in them, her anecdotes got less charming and more pandering to some, she took respectable risks that didn’t pay off with Red Sparrow and Mother!, and some people didn’t like that she said that it wasn’t nice to share private photos of her online. Now, she looks to get back to the Oscar race with a small project funded by A24 and directed by Lila Neugebauer in her film debut, about a soldier who comes back to the US after suffering a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan. Also, Brian Tyree Henry is in this, and it would be amazing if he got nominated for something. -Respect:
You know what’s a surefire way to get Academy voters’ attention? Play a real singer! Rami Malek took a win last year for playing Freddie Mercury, Renee Zellweger just won the gold after portraying Judy Garland, and now Jennifer Hudson wants more Oscar love. Almost 15 years after taking Best Supporting Actress for her role in Dreamgirls, Hudson will try to get more by playing soul legend Aretha Franklin, in a biopic directed by first timer Liesl Tommy that practically screams “give me the gold”. How am I so sure? Well, see the teaser that they released in December (for a movie that opens in October)
, and tell me. It will work out better for Hudson than Cats, that’s for sure. -Soul:
Unless they really disappoint (I’m looking at you, The Good Dinosaur, Cars 2 and Cars 3), you can’t have the Oscars without inviting Pixar to the party. This year, they have two projects in the hopes of success. While in a few weeks we’ll see what happens with the fantasy family road trip of Onward, the studio’s biggest bet of the year clearly is the next existential animation written and directed by Pete Docter, who brought Oscar gold to his home with Up and Inside Out. The movie, which centers on a teacher (voice of Jamie Foxx) who dreams of becoming a jazz musician and, just as he’s about to get his big break, ends up getting into an accident that separates his soul from his body, had a promising first trailer
, and it also promises a score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, as well as new songs by Jon Batiste. The only downside so far for the marketing was the fact that the trailer reveal led people to notice a suspicious trend involving black characters when they lead an animated movie
When Leonardo DiCaprio finally touched his Academy Award, an alarm went off in the mind of a portion of Internet users, who have made their next crusade to give themselves to the cause of getting Christopher Nolan some Oscar love. And his next blank check, an action thriller involving espionage and time travel
, could pull off the same intersection of popcorn and prestige that made Inception both a box office hit and a critically acclaimed Oscar nominee. It helps to have a cast of impressive names like John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki and Robert Pattinson, as well as a crew that includes Ludwig Goransson and Hoyte van Hoytema. In other words, if this becomes a hit, this could go for a huge number of nominations. -The Devil All the Time:
As you may have noticed by now, Netflix is leading the charge in possible Oscar projects. Another buzzy movie that comes from them is the new psychological thriller by Antonio Campos, a filmmaker known for delivering small and intimate but yet intense and terrifying dramas like Simon Killer and Christine. Using the novel by Donald Ray Pollock, Campos will follow non-linearly a cast of characters in Ohio between the end of World War II and the beginning of the Vietnam War, with the help of an interesting cast that includes Tom Holland, Sebastian Stan, Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, Eliza Scanlen, Bill Skarsgard, Jason Clarke and Riley Keough. -The Eyes of Tammy Faye:
After being known as a sketch comedy goofball because of The State, Wet Hot American Summer and Stella, Michael Showalter reinvented himself as a director of small and human dramedies like Hello, My Name is Doris and The Big Sick. For his next project, he’s gonna mix a little bit of both worlds, because he has before him the story of the televangelists Tammy Faye Bakker (Jessica Chastain, who has been really trying to recapture her early ‘10 awards run to no avail) and Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield, who was previously nominated for Hacksaw Ridge, instead of Silence, because why). With a real life tale that involves Christian theme parks, fraud and conspiracies, this is the kind of loud small movie that Searchlight loves to parade around, especially as an actors showcase (Jojo Rabbit being the most recent example). The first image looks terrifying, by the way. -The Father:
It’s weird to be in the middle of February and say that there’s already a frontrunner for the Best Actor race at the next Oscars. After its premiere in Sundance a couple of weeks ago, every prognosticator pointed in the direction of Anthony Hopkins (recently nominated for Best Supporting Actor in The Two Popes), who delivers a harrowing portrayal of an old man grappling with his age as he develops dementia, causing pain to his beleaguered daughter (recent winner Olivia Colman, who also got praised). With reviews calling it a British answer to Amour (in other words: it’s a hard watch), Florian Zeller’s adaptation of his acclaimed play not only benefits from having Hopkins and Colman together as a selling point
, because it was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics, a distributor with experience in getting Academy voters to watch adult movies with heavy themes. If you don’t believe me, watch how they got Julianne Moore a win for Still Alice, as well as recent nominations for Isabelle Huppert for Elle, Glenn Close for The Wife, and Antonio Banderas for Pain and Glory. They know the game, and they are going to hit hard for Hopkins and Colman. -The French Dispatch: If you saw the trailer, we don’t need to dwell too much on the reasons.
On the one hand, we have the style of Wes Anderson, a filmmaker who has become a name in both the critics circle and the casual viewer, with his last two movies (The Grand Budapest Hotel and Isle of Dogs) earning several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture for the one with Gustave H. Then, we have a long cast that goes from the director’s regulars like Bill Murray to new stars like Timothee Chalamet, and also includes people like Benicio del Toro. The only thing that could endanger the Oscar chances for this is that the story, an anthology set around a period comedy with an European riff on The New Yorker, will alienate the average Academy member. -The Humans:
There’s the prestige of a play, and then there’s the prestige of a Tony-winning play. Playwright Stephen Karam now gets to jump to the director’s chair to take his acclaimed 2016 one-act story
to the big screen, and A24 is cutting the check. Telling the story of a family that gets together on Thanksgiving to commiserate about life, this adaptation will be led by original performer Jayne Houdyshell (who also won a Tony for her stage performance), who’ll be surrounded by Richard Jenkins, Beanie Feldstein, Amy Schumer, Steven Yeun and June Squibb. If it avoids getting too claustrophobic or stagey for the cinema, it will be a good contender. -The Last Duel:
Always speedy, Ridley Scott is working on his next possible trip to the Oscars. This time, it’s the telling of a true story in 14th-century France, where a knight (Matt Damon) accuses his former friend (Adam Driver) of raping his wife (Jodie Comer), with the verdict being determined by the titular duel. It’s a juicy story, but there was some concern when it seemed that the script was only being written by Damon and Ben Affleck (who’ll also appear in the film). A rape story written by them after the Weinstein revelations… not the best look. But then, it was revealed that they were writing the screenplay with indie figure Nicole Holofcener, who last year was nominated for an Oscar for her script for Can You Ever Forgive Me? Let’s hope that the story is told in a gripping but not exploitative way, and that it doesn’t reduce the role of Comer (who deserves more than some of the movie roles that she’s getting after Killing Eve) to a Hollywood stereotype. -The Power of the Dog:
We have to talk about the queen of the indie world, we have to talk about Jane Campion. More than a decade after her last movie, Bright Star, the Oscar and Palme d’Or winner for The Piano returns with a non-TV project (see Top of the Lake, people) thanks to Netflix, with a period drama centered around a family dispute between a pair of wealthy brothers in Montana, Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Burbank (Jesse Plemons), after the latter one marries a local widow (Kirsten Dunst). According to the synopsis, “a shocked and angry Phil wages a sadistic, relentless war to destroy her entirely using her effeminate son Peter as a pawn”. Can’t wait to see what that means. -The Prom:
Remember the Ryan Murphy blank check deal with Netflix that I mentioned earlier? Well, another of the projects in the first batch of announcements for the deal is a musical that he’ll direct, adapting the Tony-nominated show about a group of Broadway losers
(now played by the one and only Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells and, uh, James Corden, for some reason) who try to find a viral story to get back in the spotlight, and end up going to a town in Indiana to help a lesbian high school student who has been banned from bringing her girlfriend to the prom. The show has been considered a fun and heartwarming tale of acceptance, so the movie could be an easy pick for an average Academy voter who doesn’t look too hard (and you know that the Golden Globes will nominate the shirt out of this). It’s funny how this comes out the same year than Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and then it’s not funny realizing that Film Twitter will pit the two movies against each other. -The Trial of the Chicago 7:
After getting a taste of the director’s taste with Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin wants more. For his second movie, he’s tackling one of his specialties: a courtroom drama. And this one is a period movie centered around the trial on countercultural activists in the late ‘60s, which immediately attracts a campaign of how “important” this movie is today’s culture. To add the final blow, we have a cast that includes Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jeremy Strong, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Frank Langella, William Hurt, Michael Keaton and Mark Rylance. If Sorkin can contain himself from going over the top (and with that cast, it would be so easy to surrender to bouts of screaming and winding speeches), this could be one of the top contenders. -Those Who Wish Me Dead:
Having made a good splash in the directorial waters with Wind River, Taylor Sheridan (also known for writing the Sicario movies, the Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water or that Yellowstone show that your uncle raves about on Facebook) returns with yet another modern Western. For this thriller based on the Michael Koryta novel, Angelina Jolie stars as a survival expert in the Montana wilderness who is tasked with protecting a teenager who witnessed a murder, while assassins are pursuing him and a wildfire grows closer. -Untitled David O. Russell Project:
Following the mop epic Joy, that came and went in theaters but still netted a Best Actress nomination for Jennifer Lawrence, the angriest director in Hollywood took a bit of a break (it didn’t help that he tried to do a really expensive show with Amazon starring Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore that fell apart when the Weinstein exposes sank everything). Now, he’s quickly putting together his return to the days of Oscar love that came with stuff like The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, with a new movie that is set to star Christian Bale, Margot Robbie and Michael B. Jordan. Even though we don’t know many details (some people are saying the movie is called Amsterdam) except for the fact the movie hasn’t started shooting yet, David is a quick guy, so he’ll get it ready for the fall festival circuit. If there’s one thing that David O. Russell knows (apart from avoid getting cancelled for abusing people like Lily Tomlin, Amy Adams and his niece), it’s to make loud actor showcases. -Untitled Nora Fingscheidt Project:
When Bird Box became one of the biggest hits on Netflix history, the streamer decided to keep itself in the Sandra Bullock business. Sandy’s next project for Ted Sarandos is a drama where she plays a woman who is released from prison after serving time for a violent crime, and re-enters a society that refuses to forgive her past. To get redemption, she searches her younger sister she was forced to leave behind. With the direction of Fingscheidt, who comes from an acclaimed directorial debut with Systemsprenger (Germany’s submission to the last Academy Awards), and a cast that also includes Viola Davis, Vincent D’Onofrio and Jon Bernthal, this will also hopefully try its luck later this year. -Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Project:
We don’t know if this movie will be ready for the end of the year (although last time, he managed to sneak Phantom Thread under the buzzer and earn several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture), but PTA is apparently gonna start to shoot it soon, with the backing of Focus Features. After several movies with prestige locations and intricate production design, Film Twitter’s Holy Spirit will go back to the San Fernando Valley in the 1970s, to tell the story of a high school student who is also a successful child actor. -Stillwater:
Tom McCarthy’s recent career is certainly puzzling. After delivering the weird lows of The Cobbler, he bounced back with the Best Picture winner that was Spotlight. And following that, he… helped produce the 13 Reasons Why series. And following that… he made Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, a Disney+ original movie. Now, he’s back to the award race with a drama starring Matt Damon, who plays a father who rushes from Oklahoma to France to help his daughter (Abigail Breslin), who is in prison after being suspected for a murder she claims she didn’t commit. -West Side Story:
To close things, we have to see one of the possible big contenders of the season, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the iconic musical that translates Romeo and Juliet to the context of a street gang war in 1950s New York. While the decision to adapt again something that has been a classic both in Broadway and in movie theaters almost 60 years ago is a challenge, the idea of Spielberg doing a musical closer to the stage version with Tony Kushner as the writer is too tempting for the average Academy voter, who is already saving a spot in major categories in case Steven nails it in December. However, there’s two question marks. First, how well will Ansel Elgort and newcomer Rachel Zegler
stand out in the roles of Tony and Maria? And second, will In the Heights steal some of the thunder of this movie by being, you know, more modern?
My name is Russ and I am a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. One of the recent Problem Gambling Support Group meetings I attended via Skype had this fantastic topic for us to discuss as a group. I loved the topic so much I said to the person who was chairing I’ll have to write a blog on this. That person knows who they are and I just want to say I am proud of you and your journey so far. submitted by
Cognitive Dissonance in Addiction
It is rare for an addict to realize they have a problem, and stop the behaviour right then and there. Cognitive dissonance is an incompatibility between one's beliefs and desires or behaviours which causes extreme anxiety and discomfort. A gambler who recognizes their gambling has become harmful and continues to gamble experiences cognitive dissonance. In theory, dissonance reduction requires either our beliefs or behaviour to change. Generally, addicts take the path of least resistance. Our beliefs change and morph to accommodate our addictive behaviours.
1) At what point in your active addiction did you realize you had a problem? Did this create within you a sense of internal conflict?
I honestly believe the first time I realised I had a problem was on April 2nd 2019 which was the date of my last bet. That’s when I honestly said to myself that I have a problem and need help, then told my partner. Now, in saying that, there are a hell of a lot of red flags that I can talk about when looking back that should have been enough for me to realise I had a problem.
Spending hours of my time gambling is the one I will start off with, hours on end gambling online or when I was working spending my full lunch hour standing in a bookies. Sitting up until 3am or 4am betting on some shite tennis in Asia between two players no one has ever heard of. Not even anyone watching it at the court, there’s me streaming it and betting on it. When I would constantly gamble when out and about either with my family or when I was out with friends, I couldn’t do anything without my head being in my phone. So yeah, time spent on gambling should have been enough alone to make me realise.
Obviously the amount of money I was spending was an issue but more than that it was the fact I was borrowing money so I could gamble. More and more debt was being added simply so I could gamble. When I ran out of options to gamble from companies I started borrowing from friends and family, I even stole from the fantasy leagues that I run! That was crossing so many lines that I should have realised at that point but I didn’t want to. I wanted to continue gambling.
I would cool off, self exclude, withdraw after I won whatever “responsible gambling” measures there are I tried them but obviously I was so far past that stage that they were completely useless. I remember self excluding from Bet365 and Betfair for 5 years each and literally counting down the days until I could reopen them. The amount of times I withdrew from a bookmaker only to reverse the withdrawal and lose it all, I mean, countless times. I know that’s a familiar story for a lot of online gamblers and I hated it when I did it. So much so in fact that I stopped betting with bookmakers that I knew you could reverse the withdrawal. Instead, on the other sites, I would withdraw then sit and wait for it to hit my account so I could deposit it again.
Finally I will touch on this, and it’s not something I am proud of but it is simply a fact of how I felt back then. I loved gambling more than anything else in the whole wide world, more than my kids, my partner, my parents, my friends, my job, the list is endless. Gambling was the number one thing in my life and when that happens, when that is how strongly I felt about gambling, I should have realised I had a problem and needed help. Instead it took me until I was mentally broken to finally enter recovery.
2) After realizing you had a problem and before entering recovery, did you convince yourself that your behaviour was justifiable/excusable?
Again, because I feel like I had a problem and entered recovery at the same time I will share how I justified or explained my behaviour to myself when I was gambling. So I have time, money, responsible gambling and relationships.
Time wise I justified it that I was using my own down time to gamble and it wasn’t impacting on any other aspects of my life. This was clearly bollocks since I was gambling every minute I was in work, I have no idea how I have a job to be honest. I gambled non stop at home, but I will get to that when talking about relationships.
When it came to money it was easy to justify, it was my money! Only it wasn’t was it? I was spending money that could have been used on my kids or my partner. I was borrowing money that wasn’t mine to gamble or to replace money lost by gambling. Any money I borrowed was always paid back, well to friends and family anyways, until it wasn’t. Until I borrowed too much and couldn’t pay it back. Then I would lie and make up excuses or try to borrow more. I stole money from my partner when I used our savings to gamble. It wasn’t a lot of money but that isn’t the point, it’s the fact that I took that money, which was ours and didn’t ask her. That’s stealing but in my head I was just borrowing.
I would tell myself I could control my gambling, that I was in control. Sure I even self excluded from websites and I would use cooling off periods. I even stopped gambling for periods of time, a few weeks, a few months, nearly a year at one point. I always went back though because I was stopping because I had to. Either lack of money or I thought I was going to get found out. Debts needed paid that I couldn’t hide. I always felt that I was in control but in all honesty I was controlled by gambling.
Last but not least, relationships, and my justification was simple for this one, I was not hurting anyone with my behaviour. How could my kids or my partner be hurt by me gambling? It didn’t make sense to me, and again being totally honest it has only started to make sense to me in the last few weeks where I have had the opportunity through the GamCare chat room to be able to talk to spouses of compulsive gamblers. I now see the hurt that I have caused those closest to me, and I probably can’t see all of it. Shouting at my kids for no reason other than the fact I was having a bad day or had no money left to gamble. Making them feel like shit because I felt like shit. Letting my relationship with my partner fall apart to point it might never recover to what it used to be. As she told me recently, “you are so in touch with your emotions recently but you didn’t give a fuck about mine while you were sitting up all night doing what you were doing.” She’s not fucking wrong either. I barely spoke to my parents when I dropped my kids round for them to look after, I was too busy on my phone or thinking about gambling. I went round to their house a week or two after entering recovery and had a cup of coffee and they said to me it’s the most I have spoken to them in ages.
3) What happened to make you realize you needed to change your behaviour? What happened to your beliefs at that time?
I was mentally broken by gambling and I could sense my brain was flying me towards self destruction. April 2nd 2019 I was sitting in work, looking miserable, trying to work out how I would fix everything and my mate asked me if I was ok. It was the first time I said no, not really. So he said let’s go for a drink at lunchtime and it was the first time I opened up to someone about what I was going through. It was at that point I realised I needed to change my behaviour. Not just change my behaviour but change everything about my life. I was a mess and it was because of gambling. I didn’t know how or what I would do but I knew I needed to do something. All my bullshit reasons to justify my behaviours and actions were proven to be just that...bullshit. I knew I had to tell my partner and I was fucking terrified. I assumed she would kick me out of the house, I wouldn’t see my kids all the time, I had all these thoughts going through my head about what would happen and it was obviously all the worst possible scenario. Another thing I knew was that if I came out about this I would lose the one thing I loved the most and that wasn’t my two kids or my partner, that was gambling. That also terrified me. My mind was racing but I knew what I had to do. I realised my beliefs were totally fucked up and I realised that I was lying to myself. I was miserable and I needed help. I needed to stop digging, put the fucking shovel down and reach out for help.
I absolutely loved this topic and it really gives me plenty to think about when writing about it and for that I am grateful. I’m really enjoying the Brothers Osbourne at the moment and they have a song called “It Ain’t My Fault”. Although it has nothing to do with addiction the song reminds me of the sort of thinking I would have after I fucked up...again.
“I got my hands up
I need an alibi
Find me a witness who can testify
You made a mistake
You got the wrong guy
I'm only guilty of a damn good time
No it ain't my fault”
At my most recent Problem Gambling Support Group meeting via Skype (the same one posted on here weekly) it was my turn to do a therapy session. This is my journey from starting gambling until now. I thought it would be worth sharing here as someone may get something from it. It is a bit of a long read. submitted by
My name is Mark and i’m a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. The day of April 2nd was a massive turning point in my life, it was the day I finally admitted to my long term partner, who is the mother of my two children, and to my parents that I was a compulsive gambler and needed help. The weekend prior was when I finally said to myself I’ve had enough, I had been betting for 14 years and it had beaten me so badly that I was a mess mentally and financially. Although no one knew that because I was an expert at hiding it.
I started gambling like almost anyone in the UK or Ireland, The Grand National. The one day of the year where it seems like every man, woman and child has a bet on. The biggest horse race in the world. That and those glorious holidays spent in Portrush playing the 2p machines (penny fall machines). I don’t for one second blame those experiences for my gambling problem, they are just my first memories of gambling. One really vivid memory I have of gambling was when I was begging my dad for the latest Official Playstation Magazine, the one with the demo disc, and he was just sitting down to watch England play against someone and said to me “if Paul Scholes scores the first goal I will get you the magazine.” Now, I know for a fact win or lose my Dad would have gotten me the magazine, he just said that so I would give him peace to watch the match. Well I remember watching the game with him hoping with all my might Paul Scholes would score 1st and he did. That adrenaline rush, even at a young age (I was 13 years old at most I would say) was unbelievable. Now, again, I am not blaming that for my gambling addiction at all, it is just one of my first vivid memories but that mentality of gambling to get something I want for free would be a regular pattern throughout my gambling career.
Once I turned 18 I opened my first betting account with Blue Sq and that started my online sports gambling journey. Friday nights were spent betting on Wolverhampton all weather horse racing and the Dutch and French 2nd Divisions. All harmless fun, controlled gambling, small stakes. I was still working part time at this stage, left school that summer and gambling was not in the way. Once I got my full time job though that all changed.
The first time I could put my finger on when my gambling changed was the first day of the 2008/2009 football season. I’d been working full time for about 3 years and my gambling was still under control, well, at least I thought it was. My stakes were still low and I was doing football bets at the weekend for a bit of fun. I gambled, but it wasn’t causing me any issues. That Friday I walked into a Paddy Power and decided instead of placing a load of stupid football bets for £1 or £2 I’d pick three teams for the season and do a £20 treble each week. Sheffield United, Leicester City and Leeds United were the picks. Of course, the first weekend it landed (the only time it landed all season I think) and my betting changed from that moment. I genuinely can’t remember the odds but I must have lifted over £100 from that £20 stake and after that staking £1 or £2 just wasn’t appealing. What was the point in that when I could stake £20 and win more. From that moment my gambling started to get out of control over time. Then came the loans, the credit cards and the payday loans.
At some point around this time I had opened a spread betting account due to a sign up offer. Now I did not have the first clue about spread betting but the offer was they gave you a free £100 or something to sign up so I did. I was still living at home at the time and we had one computer which everyone used. Well my Dad stumbled upon this website and was able to access the account (he’s not technically minded so I imagine I left it logged in) and he seen the betting history and he went mental at me. Now, I did explain that it was just bonus funds and I hadn’t actually deposited any of my own money but still the lecture came. It felt like a lecture at the time to me but he was just warning me of the dangers of gambling. Giving me examples of people he knew who had a problem and how easy it is for a gambling problem to begin. So I can never turn around and say that I wasn’t aware of the dangers, I was, my ego was just too big to listen. I paid lip service to the lecture and said I wouldn’t do it again and my Dad took me at my word and trusted me.
So, I knew early on I had a problem. I self excluded from places over the years but never really wanted to quit. I was getting in debt but was able to continue with my lifestyle as I was living at home. I remember one day going to a cheque cashing place where I could write a cheque for £100, dated on my next payday, and they’d give me £90 there and then. I did two cheques for going out that weekend (and a couple of bets on the Aintree Festival) walked straight to the bookies and had the £180 on Denman to win the Aintree Bowl at even money. Denman was a monster of a horse, a machine. He could not lose...then he suffered the first fall of his career. Back I went to the cheque cashing place for another £90 so I could still go out that weekend.
I wasn’t learning from my betting mistakes either as I was just borrowing more money to cover the cracks. I got a few debt consolidating loans over the early years to try and get a handle on my debt but it just gave me an excuse to take out more credit. The payday loans which I used to either gamble or cover my expenses for going out because I used all my money gambling. I would borrow money off my Dad and give him the puppy dog eyes when I paid it back and normally he’d only take half of what I owed him. He thought he was doing the right thing and he wanted me to have money to be able to go out with friends, I was just manipulating the situation.
I moved out and into my friends house for a year and the gambling continued, although I had less money to gamble with. My credit rating was taking a battering but I was young and didn’t really care. Then I met my current girlfriend in February 2010 and we moved in together that September. The gambling continued and was getting worse. I made the smart move to get a second job to supplement my gambling…...at a greyhound track. I’d be earning about £20 a night but gambling £60 or £80. Insanity. We had our first child in April 2012 and not long after she found out I’d be gambling some of the money we’d saved. It wasn’t a lot of money, but she was pissed (rightfully so). I managed to talk my way out of it and that was when I became really good at hiding things. She took control of the rent money and any money for our son so that was never in danger thankfully. We had our daughter in 2016 but the gambling still continued.
It may seem like I have glossed over an important period of time there but the truth is I can’t really remember any of the details. The only details I am able to recall with any great clarity are coming up but I just want to touch on a couple of things from this period. This was a time when I had the biggest wins of my gambling career, two separate occasions. One was an insane run of luck where I couldn’t lose all weekend and ended up with enough money for me, my partner and our Son to have our first and only foreign holiday. Another time I had a £5 free bet and landed a treble at Sandown, all Gary Moore horses and won £3.5k. That money went towards decorating the nursery for my soon to be born Daughter, my partner got money, my Mum and Dad and her Mum and Dad. I bought a PS4 and gambled the rest from memory. The two reasons these moments stick in my head isn’t just the amounts, it’s the only time I walked away in profit, at least for the sessions in question and the reason is that I told my partner I had won the money. That was the only way I knew I wouldn’t gamble it all away because she would ask questions if the money I promised didn’t materialise.
Another part of this time period I want to explore is how I was emotionally. I was 25 when we had our Son and he wasn’t planned. It was a shock to say the least and my life, as I knew it anyways, changed. No longer was I able to do what I wanted socially, I had a Son to provide for. I was working two jobs, money was tight, was I still gambling? Of course I was but slowly I started to strip everything else out of my life. We had our daughter when I was 29 and to be honest here, as much as it sadeness me I thought this way I resented having kids, especially at that age. I felt trapped at times, people I knew were able to do what they want but yet I had all this responsibility. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my kids during this time as well and they meant the world to me, but I do feel that I got into the thought process that I was trapped because of them and my only escape was into the world of online gambling.
I would go through phases where I’d stop altogether for months on end, a year at one point which I imagine was around the time my partner found out about me using the savings for gambling, but I’d always go back to it thinking I was in control but I never was. When gambling I’d deposit £10, lose it, deposit another £10, lose it, rinse and repeat until all my money was gone. If I won it just meant I could gamble longer. It was never about the money. I thought it was, but really the money was the fuel that could keep me gambling longer. Most months I was skint a few days after payday and couldn’t gamble until the next payday. It may not sound like a lot of money but it was a relentless cycle month after month after month.
At the end of 2016 I got an overdraft of £2k and gambled it all on soccer all around the world. Woke up and started gambling in Asia, moved across the globe into the Middle East, Africa, Europe and then fell asleep betting on South American football. It was out of control. Betting on Egyptian football on Xmas Day a particular lowlight. This was what my gambling looked like when I had money. All these bets were in-play as that’s how I gambled, watching a little graphic on Bet365 and thinking I could predict what was going to happen. I also gambled heavily on tennis as well, picking a player to win a set 6-0 was one of my favourites. Generally I would start with £10 as I mentioned and if the bet won I would keep “investing” all the money until it got to a certain amount, normally a couple of hundred quid. Once I got to that point I would raise my stakes significantly because I would tell myself it wasn’t my money. It wasn’t if I didn’t count all the loses it took to get to this point over the previous few days. I would then gamble that until it’s gone cursing myself for not taking the money when I had the chance. Placing the last of my money praying to a god I don’t believe in that if he could just make this bet land then I wouldn’t bet again. Once the money was done I would just sit there, looking at my bank balance, the lack of money, the direct debits due to come out in a few days, trying to figure out how I would survive the next 3-4 weeks until payday. Then I would dust myself off and start working on some budgets. What direct debits I could bounce, who I could ask to borrow money from or maybe what I could sell to fund another round of gambling to try and win my money back.
Coming into 2018 I was in a “good place” with gambling, or so I thought. I was Matched Betting which was a way of making money via bookmakers offers. It worked well for a few months but it all went to shit in the Summer of 2018. Matched Betting introduced me to the casino side of things and I lost £3.5k on roulette. I’ll not go into the ins and outs of how I had that sort of money, lets just say I didn’t and I found a way to deposit via direct debit on PayPal and of course those all bounced. Luckily Paddy Power rewarded me by making me a VIP customer after that, every cloud and all that. So I was chasing big style and getting free £50 bonuses each week from them but I could never get enough money to stop, because no amount was ever going to be enough. Their offers of Money Back if Horse X wins are normally £10 max refund, I was getting £100 max refund. Eventually I was running out of ways to get money and when I started to bet less with Paddy Power they removed my VIP status. I did win £1000 on an NFL bet and lost the lot on roulette the next week. Another lowlight.
The win on the NFL followed by the lose on roulette sticks in my mind because visually it summed up how miserable I was. I had promised my partner back at the start of the year that we would get the living room redecorated and I would pay with it from my Matched Betting and she was happy with that. Of course I explained it was risk free and nothing could go wrong and it wasn’t even gambling. Anyways, come November we are due to have our living room redecorated and of course I do not have the money for it so I have to go to my Mum and Dad. I give them some sob story about how when I was Matched Betting I made a mistake, layed off the wrong horse and lost my money so could then lend me it and don’t tell my partner. It was a complete lie and to be honest at the time I didn’t think they had bought it but they lent me the money. Turns out when I told them about my gambling problem back in April they had smelt bull shit but my Granda (on my Dad’s side) was ill in the hospital and he was stressed about that so he just let it slide. So the redecoration was on and it was going to take a couple of days. One Monday night I had a bet on the NFL and it landed, £10 at 100/1. Happy days, I can give my Mum and Dad back their money, it’s nearly Xmas, this is amazing luck. So on Tuesday night I sat in my half decorated living room and thought if I could just win a little bit more then things would be even better so loaded up the roulette. I lost it all sitting in the living room and during it I could literally see what the money would be paying for but it didn’t stop me, nothing would stop me.
2019 I could feel myself struggling. My life was consumed with gambling or working out how to get money to gamble and then how I was going to pay people back what I owed them. I was in a bad place, I was a bad person, lying, angry but still no one knew the truth. January had always been a tough month as I run several NFL Fantasy Football leagues for money and I am in charge of the money. Of course, that was always gambled away by me and January was the month people expected pay outs because the season was over. Usually I would have won enough money in my leagues to cover it or convince people to pay for next year with their winnings that I could cover it. This year I could not and I had the added pressure of owing people money. A lot of these people were friends of mine I knew personally, others were people I had gotten to know over a few years and only talked online. Either way I had stolen their money and gambled it away. I managed to use my Granda’s death in January as an excuse for why I had not paid people yet, I was in a bad way with the funeral etc, all the excuses, the truth is I was just trying to buy more time.
Then came the weekend prior to April 2nd. I had just been paid and deposited some money into my Bet365 account and managed to get my balance up to £910 on Friday 29th March. I should say by this stage I was fully gambling on tennis. Not match winner, that took too long, generally set winner or next game winner as that was quicker. Now this £910 would have cleared some of my urgent debts to allow me to continue on gambling. All I had to do was withdraw, and I was going to…...once I got it up to a nice round £1000. As you can guess I lost the lot. £300-£400 on Benoit Paire was one of the worst hits but I was gambling like a mad man. That was how I bet when I had winnings, the stakes got out of control. By the time I was leaving work at 6pm on the Friday the whole £910 was gone. I was betting on ATP, Challenger, ITF, any tennis that was on I was betting on it. Back in the day I remember betting on a tennis match where they had one ball. Still a story that brings a smile to my face if I’m honest. A smile that consists of a mixture of shame and cringe. That Friday night I deposited whatever I had left in and managed to win back a good chunk of the money, but it still wasn’t enough. It still wasn’t what I had before. So the whole weekend went like that, up and down, up and down. I went to a family dinner and sat betting on my phone the whole night. That’s how my life has been the last number of years, i’m present at gatherings, or nights out but my mind is deep in my phone gambling away not giving a shit about anyone.
Eventually the money ran out that weekend. I was a mess. I could have actually made it work financially and gotten through the month but mentally I was gone. I could tell my brain had put me into a nosedive and the only way this was all ending was in disaster. Maybe not this month, or this year but I was being flown towards rock bottom.
I sat down on the Monday and wrote out everything that I owed, who I owed it to, a budget going forward. It was grim enough reading, £18k in the hole. The money wasn’t the issue, it was how it was making me feel, the time I’ve been wasting. The fact that I finally couldn’t take anymore, that I was ready to wave the white flag and say gambling has won, it defeated me. I found out when and where the nearest GA Meeting was to me and wrote that down too. So I found a set of balls and on the Tuesday I told my girlfriend. My attitude was that life can’t be any worse for me than it currently is. I was a mess, I cried, I honestly expected her to tell me to get out and I wouldn’t have blamed her, but she was amazing. She was angry obviously, but she was so supportive. Then I called my parents round and told them. They were disappointed, confused but also really supportive. Then the next day I told my closest friends who were again all really supportive. I owe them some money too and they’ve been great about setting up a payment plan to pay that back. I can imagine some people saying that I didn’t hit rock bottom in comparison to others, I felt that way myself to be honest. I felt like I had gotten off lightly but looking back the cycle I was in was soul destroying and although I didn’t cause the devastation others have caused I knew I needed to reach out for help as I couldn’t do it on my own.
I registered for GAMStop and self excluded online for 5 years which has taken the avenue of online gambling away from me. A vital step if online is your vice. I also handed over control of my finances to my partner which again removed another temptation. I’ve since learned in recovery that gamblers need 3 things, time, opportunity and money, take away one of those and you won’t be able to gamble. I took away two with these simple steps.
I then went to my first GA Meeting on Wednesday 3rd April. The time doesn’t suit me for that, Monday at 9pm is my meeting but I felt I needed to get to one ASAP. I don’t know what I expected GA to be, some sort of church run cult filled with a bunch of old men desperate for a bet but it’s one of the most amazing groups I’ve ever found. It’s a dumping ground for all my shit and it’s a place where I can listen to other people’s stories. Without sounding sexist, it’s something a lot of men could do with outside of addiction, a place to talk about life and how they are feeling. I take a 50 mile round trip every Monday to get there. When I was gambling if I had to travel 50 miles to get internet to gamble you can guarantee I’d have travelled every day. When I leave a meeting I am buzzing, for all the right reasons. I’m a lifer when it comes to GA now and I am fine with that.
I am also a member of the Problem Gambling Support Group and we run three meetings a week via Skype. This group has been so influential to my recovery and I have met so many good people I now consider friends through it. The topic meeting style is completely different to what happens at my own GA so it fits into my recovery perfectly and gives me a different perspective.
I have a sponsor, who has had a massive impact on my recovery. He has helped me work the Steps and is always there if I need him. At times it’s hard to tell who is sponsoring who but that sort of dynamic works well for me as I see him as a friend first and sponsosponsee second.
I have also found a passion for writing about my journey and post my stuff on my blog, on GamCare and on the Reddit Problem Gambling Sub. I have been told my stuff is very good and people seem to get a lot from it. As I explained at a recent meeting I am still learning how to deal with praise, it makes me feel awkward. I’m not sure if it’s from years of not wanting to be the focus of people's attention because of the fear they might ask questions and my addiction would be exposed. Whatever the reason I am working on being able to accept praise and enjoy it and as I was told at the last meeting...a simple thank you is usually enough.
I’ve been clean for over 9 months now, and I have not struggled with urges to gamble. My life is amazing, it always was but I was too wrapped up in my addiction to notice. I literally had everything I could ever want. I have an amazing partner and two amazing children along with my parents who are absolutely fantastic. I have my health, a job and my friends are another support network I couldn’t do without now. They stood by me when I admitted my problem and they gave me the belief that I could do this.
Recovery is now my focus along with my family. The debt can be managed, stopping gambling is one day at a time, but the main focus of my recovery will be fixing my character defects, helping others, being open and honest to people and not being a selfish asshole. I would like to think those that know me now can at least drop the selfish part when describing me.
I have put plenty of work into my recovery and I feel like I am getting the benefits out of it. I have a routine when it comes to meetings and they don’t impact on my family life. Is every day amazing? No it’s not. Some days are rather boring and some days are tough, but that’s life. Some days you have to make chicken salad out of chicken shit. I have accepted what I am, I am a compulsive gambler and I need to be the one who changes. No one else around me needs to change, I am the common denominator. I have noticed a change in myself and those closest to me. They all seem happier, more content, happy to have this me in their life and not the old me. I wasn’t a nice partner, father, son or friend when I was in active addiction. I don’t want to be the person I was before I started gambling either because I am pretty convinced he was an asshole as well. I am using this recovery to become the man I want to be, the man I can look in the mirror and be proud to be.
As I said, I have accepted that I am a compulsive gambler and I cannot have a single bet because it will lead me back to active addiction. I have no issues with the gambling industry or people who gamble, I just know that I am unable to gamble as it ends in disaster. I feel there should be more discussion around problem gambling and the industry should be putting more money into helping problem gamblers and to help identify problem gamblers. It’s a fine line though, as I know if a bookie told me they felt I had a problem and wouldn’t accept a bet I’d have been angry and just went somewhere else. You need to be ready for recovery to fully embrace it. I never was until April 2nd. For the people in recovery we need to be ready to help those that get to the stage where they are ready for recovery. We are the ones who these people will come to rely on as we’ve been through it, you can tell when talking to someone who hasn’t had a gambling addiction they just don’t understand. Over the coming years I think there will be a significant rise in people looking for help with problem gambling. I don’t feel like my story is close to the worst out there and I have read and heard some people who have the opinion that you need to cause devastation before recovery will work. That’s bollocks and that sort of attitude is why GA is filled with old men and young people are reluctant to stay. I have come to believe it doesn’t matter how much you have lost, how many relationships you have destroyed or what age you are, all you need is a desire to stop gambling and that is the qualification for entering recovery.
For now though, for me, my next bet won’t be about the money I lose, I’ll lose my partner and my children as well and that’s not a bet that I am not willing to make.
My name is Russ and I am a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. Back to Step Work for this blog and Step 8 is the next one up. I’ve gotten so much out of working the Steps it really has helped me on my recovery journey. As usual, anything in bold or italics is from the worksheet, the rest is my own. submitted by
Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and
became willing to make amends to them all.
Step 8, Exercise 1
In what ways (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically, financially) did you harm yourself through gambling. List and write about them. Be specific.
Spiritually - Psychology Today states “Spirituality can mean different things to different people. For some, it's primarily about participation in organized religion. For others, it's a non-religious experience that involves getting in touch with their spiritual selves through private prayer, yoga, meditation, quiet reflection, or time in nature.” So, with that, considering I am not a religious person and I don’t want to avoid answering this part of the step I am going to focus on the non-religious part. I view spirituality as getting in touch with your inner self, being able to focus and improve the inner me and the only thing my addiction did was make me truly hate who I was deep inside. The further I got into my addiction, the deeper I dug my own hole, the more I hated and resented who I was. Gambling was destroying the inner me so much that I had no idea who I was anymore.
Emotionally - My addiction made me emotionally numb, I couldn’t feel anything for anyone, not even myself. At the start I would be emotional about wins and losses but towards the end I didn’t care anymore. When I look back now I can see the vicious cycle I was stuck in, I’ll try to explain it here. I gambled to escape, I fully believe that. What was I escaping from? Who I was inside was one, gambling would allow me to escape that person for a short time. The real world, responsibilities, gambling allowed me to escape those as well. Emotions though, these were the big things I feel like I was escaping from. They were always something I have struggled with, expressing them, being honest about how I felt, controlling them and gambling allowed me to escape having to deal with them. When I gambled it would numb my emotions, I thought I was happy when gambling but really I was just escaping. I didn’t feel anything, the addiction took over and it was like I was on autopilot. At that point though I thought I was controlling my emotions by gambling. The chasing my losses came when the money was about to run out and I realised I would have to go back into the real world and no longer would I feel safe the way I did in my online world of gambling. So I would chase my losses to get more fuel to allow me to escape longer. The longer I could escape the more numb my emotions became until I came back to reality once the fuel finally ran out. I couldn’t deal with who I was, responsibilities or emotions in the real world so I desperately needed to get more money to get allow me to escape. This was the cycle I was stuck in. I didn’t realise at the time that gambling was causing a lot of this damage because I was blinded by my addiction. Towards the end I still had that small hope, that little thought that somehow, someway, I could gamble my way out of this mess. That was the addiction talking and thinking for me because it had totally consumed me.
Mentally - I was a broken man when I finally owned up to my partner about my gambling addiction. It was like my brain had put me into a nosedive and was flying me towards rock bottom. The weekend before I asked for help I could feel that sensation, that sense of inevitability. This was going to end in disaster unless I reached out for help. The thing that scared me the most about asking for help and admitting my problem was at the time I knew I would lose the one thing I loved the most in this whole world. It wasn’t my kids, it wasn’t my partner, it was gambling. Even at that point, after all it had put me through, I was still terrified that I would never be able to gamble again. That’s how mentally broken I had become. I loved gambling, I still do in a weird way but that’s for another time. My addiction had pushed me to the edge, my mental edge of how much I could take at that moment. I think addiction has a real bend but don’t break mentality. It wants to push us to that edge, to push us far enough that we still come back to it each time. Once it breaks you though, there only seems to be two options, recovery or death. I still can’t believe I admitted to my partner I had a problem, but I did and it’s saved my life.
“You hear that, Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability. It is the sound of your death. Goodbye, Mr. Anderson.”
Physically - I wouldn’t eat healthy when gambling because I saw it as a waste of my money. I would live on energy drinks, coffee and biscuits while at work. Have dinner at home and snack into the wee hours while gambling on shite tennis in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t exercise (to be fair I still don’t) but I wouldn’t want to leave the house at all when I was gambling. Lack of sleep was another massive thing for me. It wasn’t unusual for me to be sitting up until 4am and then waking up with the kids at 6am. Doing that day after day eventually catches up with you. I’d crash early one night then just repeat the cycle. I was constantly late for work as I couldn’t motivate myself to get up and get going. I was a mess.
Financially - Gambling has destroyed me financially when I look at it. I’ve debt that will take me 10 years to pay off at the current rate, my credit rating is destroyed and I have to deal with the consequences of my actions for a long time. I’ll probably never be fully trusted with money by my partner and anytime something happens with regards to money the first thought in everyone's mind will be was I gambling. The chance to buy a nice car or house in the near future are out the window and I have to make do with what I have at the moment. This next part is going to sound super selfish because when it comes to finances I don’t care how long it takes to pay back, it will be paid back eventually. I don’t focus on it, I’m in no rush. Now, it has impacted other people as well which I will get to in the next section, but for me personally my attitude to it all is...it is what it is.
Make a detailed list of all others you harmed through your gambling. Describe how you harmed them. Be specific.
My Partner - This links nicely after the financial section above because, although it isn’t the main issue, I believe my partner has been hurt by me financially. Now all the debt is in my name, it is my own debt, but obviously there is the wasted money and the money I am paying out each month in debt repayments. More importantly though is the lies, the hurt, the bullshit I have put her through over the years. She said to me recently, “you are so in touch with your emotions now when for years you didn’t give a fuck about mine when you were sitting up all night gambling.” She’s not wrong. My behaviour has definitely had an effect on our relationship.
My Kids - I’m lucky in a way that my kids are so young that I probably have a chance to make things right with them. They are blissfully unaware at the moment about my gambling addiction but it is something I will talk to them about when they are older. What I do know I have done to them is shouted at them for no reason, making them feel bad because I was having a shit time gambling. I ignored them to gamble. I made them feel like they were annoying me when they were fighting for my attention and affection. Bottom line is, they played number 2 to my gambling, to my addiction.
My Parents - The bank of Mum and Dad was a thing I took the piss with right up until I was 32. I was constantly borrowing money, of course all based on lies, and then struggling to pay it back. When I struggled I just assumed they would be ok to wait but I didn’t think how that made them feel. Turns out it made them feel awful because they didn’t like asking for the money back. I used them as a babysitting service but could barely muster up a conversation with them. My Mum had cancer during my addiction and I never asked her how she was, I didn’t show concern, I just let her get on with it. I also hurt them by not feeling like I could open up to them about how I was really feeling.
Other Family Members - Birthdays, anniversaries, visits, whatever it was I was on my phone gambling and ignoring what was going on. I didn’t want to be at these things because they were getting in the way of my gambling and I was anti-social at events. More than that, I was an ignorant bastard. January 2019 my Granda passed away and at the funeral everyone was so emotional, I didn’t understand. I didn’t feel anything. It makes me feel terrible now but that’s just the truth, I couldn’t feel anything because my addiction had destroyed my emotions.
My Friends - The amount of lies I told my friends, from why I couldn’t go out to why I needed to borrow money from them. It was all the time and got worse over time. I owed my friends so much money and on top of that I stole from the NFL fantasy football leagues I run. I broke the trust of everyone close to me, I lied to their face or over text, I avoided them when I had to pay back money.
My Job - Honestly, I’ve no idea how I’m employed. In fact, I got a promotion during my addiction, towards the end of it. My productivity was terrible, my interactions with other staff members was awful and my level of customer service was a disgrace. This is worse because I am dealing with vulnerable people.
Step 8, Exercise 2
Review your lists from Step 8, Exercise 1. Are you carrying any guilt or shame over the harm you did to others? Are you still angry or blaming others for the harm done to you? Write about your feelings of guilt, shame, anger or blame.
Currently I have to say I am still ashamed of what I have done in the past and how my actions, especially those to my family, have affected them. I didn’t lose any relationships over this addiction, although that doesn’t mean it can’t happen if I do not keep up with my recovery. When it comes to anger and blaming others for the harm done to me I never experienced that in recovery. From day one I fully accepted I was to blame for my addiction and although the gambling industry could be doing a lot more, the bottom line is, no one held a gun to my head and made me gamble. Plus, if any bookmaker had stopped me when I was gambling I would have just found another one. The person who needed to change was me.
Choose a way (visually, symbolically, spiritually or physically) to release your feelings of guilt, shame, anger or blame. Describe this process of letting go and how you felt afterward.
I still get feelings of shame when I go back and write about certain things that have happened in the past but in general I feel like I am in an ok place. Writing has really helped me process thoughts and feelings of guilt and shame and the other thing that has helped me was understanding and accepting the serenity prayer.
“Grant me the serenity,
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference”
Are there any legal or financial situations you created while gambling with which you will need additional assistance or support to make direct amends/repayments? Are you willing to ask for help with them (i.e. from a sponsor, Pressure Relief group, employer, court system, bank/creditor)?
Yes, I am currently in a Debt Management Plan which is through Step Change debt charity and they have helped me massively.
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