A travel guide to the 2011 Oscar movies

The 83rd annual Academy Awards are coming up in a few weeks and the Oscars race is on. This year’s nominations contained few surprises, with many nods for Brit period piece The King’s Speech, Facebook biopic The Social Network, and headtrip Inception. While 2010’s ultimate travel blockbuster Eat, Pray, Love failed to made the cut, there’s still plenty to inspire wanderlust among the Best Picture picks.

Read on for a travel guide to the best movies of 2010 and how to create your own Oscar-worthy trip.

127 HoursLocation: Danny Boyle’s nail-biter was shot on location in Utah’s Blue John Canyon near Moab and on a set in Salt Lake City. Go there: Should you want to explore Moab’s desert and canyons while keeping all limbs intact, check out Moab in fall for bike races and art festivals.

Black Swan
Location: Much of the ballet psychodrama was shot in New York City, though the performances were filmed upstate in Purchase, New York. Go there: To see the real “Swan Lake” on stage at Lincoln Center, you’ll have to hope tickets aren’t sold out for the New York City Ballet, performing this month February 11-26.

The FighterLocation: in the grand tradition of Oscar winners Good Will Hunting and The Departed, the Mark Wahlberg boxing flick was filmed in Massachusetts, in Micky Ward’s real hometown of Lowell, 30 miles north of Boston. Go there: For a map of locations in Lowell, check out this blog post and perhaps spot Micky Ward at the West End Gym.

InceptionLocation: The setting of this film depends on what dream level you’re in. The locations list includes Los Angeles, England, Paris, Japan, even Morocco. Go there: There are plenty of real locations to visit, including University College London and Tangier’s Grand Souk. Canada’s Fortress Mountain Resort where the snow scenes were shot is currently closed, but you can ski nearby in Banff.

The Kids Are All Right
Location: Director Lisa Cholodenko is a big fan of southern California, she also filmed the 2002 Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles. Go there: Love it or hate it, L.A. is still a top travel destination in the US and perhaps this year you can combine with a trip to Vegas, if the X Train gets moving.

The King’s SpeechLocation: A prince and a commoner in the wedding of the century. Sound familiar? This historical drama was shot in and around London, though stand-ins were used for Buckingham Palace’s interiors. Go there: It might be hard to recreate the vintage look of the film, but London is full of atmospheric and historic architecture and palaces to visit. If you’re a sucker for English period films or places Colin Firth has graced, tour company P & P Tours can show you around many historic movie locations like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

The Social NetworkLocation: Another Massachusetts and California movie, this very academic film shot at many college and prep school campuses, but none of them Harvard, which hasn’t allowed film crews in decades. Go there: If you enjoyed the Winklevoss rowing scene, head to England this summer for the Henley Royal Regatta June 29 – July 3.

Toy Story 3 – Location: The latest in the Pixar animated trilogy is set at the Sunnyside Daycare. Go there: Reviews are mixed, but Disney’s Hollywood Studios has a new Pixar parade, to let fans see their favorite characters in “person.” Visit any Disney gift shop to make your own toy story.

True Grit – Location: The Coen brothers western remake may be set in 19th century Arkansas, but it was filmed in modern day Santa Fe, New Mexico and Texas, taking over much of towns like Granger. Go there: If you’re a film purist or big John Wayne fan, you can tour the locations of the original film in Ouray County, Colorado.

Winter’s Bone – Location: Many moviegoers hadn’t heard of this film when nominations were announced, set and shot in the Ozark Mountains in southern Missouri. Go there: The difficult film centers around the effects of methamphetamine on a rural family, but travel destinations don’t get much more wholesome than Branson, Missouri. Bring the family for riverboat shows and the best bathroom in the country.

[Photo by Flickr user Lisa Norman]

Hotel prices hit bottom, survey finds

The average hotel room rate has begun to increase for the first time since 2007, shows the latest issue of Hotels.com’s biannual Hotel Price Index (HPI™). But the news isn’t all bad. Despite the 2% increase, hotel room rates are still markedly lower than rates at the peak of the market. As the 2009 HPI predicted, 2010 continues to be another great year for great travel values.

Las Vegas topped the list of top five most popular domestic destinations for the second time this year, with New York, Orlando, Chicago and San Francisco following close behind. Popular cities for international travelers include New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Orlando and Los Angeles.

“We’re seeing travel bookings pick up around the world,” said Victor Owens, Hotels.com’s vice president of marketing, North America. “There are, of course, still deals to be had, especially in international destinations like Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Reykjavik which each saw a major drop in hotel prices during the first half of 2010.”

In some cities, however, luxury hotels became a more attractive proposition, with average prices for top-end rooms dropping by over a tenth. Domestically, a 5-star hotel dropped 13 percent in Orlando ($259-$225) and San Francisco ($323-$280). Chicago’s rates have stayed steady with an average room rate of $137, making it ideal for business travelers and one of the best locations for meeting planners to book their next event.

The Big Apple was the most expensive domestic city of those tracked in the global list; but, U.S. and overseas travelers continued to flock to NYC. Prices averaged $224 per room per night during Q2 2010 – an increase of 14 percent compared to 2009. A Gradual return of business travel and an increase in domestic travel fuelled this rise.

The biggest loser is Abu Dhabi, which fell by 46 percent between Q2 2009 and Q2 2010. This means a hotel room that would have cost a U.S. traveler $304 during the first six months of 2009 cost a traveler just $163 this year – a drop of $141. This was fuelled by various factors, including a growth in the number of rooms, as new hotels opened, and a drop in the number of corporate travelers visiting the Emirate, due to the economic situation. This influential city of commerce was affected by the fall of international business travel, as was its larger neighbor, Dubai, which saw a 10% decrease in hotel room prices.

Cost rose most sharply in the second quarter of 2010 for locations that hosted major events or were the scene of major motion pictures. rices rose 60% in Cannes, France, 57% in Eat, Pray, Love location Bali and 53% in World Cup home base Cape Town, South Africa.

For detailed information on your home city or next travel destination, view the report online.

[Image courtesy of Hotels.com]

There’s a (foreign) word for that

When traveling to a new place or leafing through a phrase book, have you ever come across a great expression that doesn’t exist in English or perfectly describes a common feeling or occurrence? I remember learning in Chile that taco is used for a traffic jam; now I could use taco supreme to describe the city of Istanbul’s daily traffic flow.

I Never Knew There Was a Word for it, a new book by Adam Jacot de Boinod, compiles his earlier works about foreign words The Meaning of Tingo and sequel Toujours Tingo with his collection of odd or out of use English words and phrases, The Wonder of Whiffling. Gadling reviewed de Boinod’s first book and highlighted some great phrases such as the French Seigneur-terrasse (one who spends too much time but little money in a café) and the German backpfeifengesicht (face that cries out for a fist in it), and this collection provides even more linguistic fodder.

Many travelers can admit to being guilty of catra patra, Turkish for speaking a foreign language badly and brokenly. Long-term travelers may have inadvertently pulled a minggat, an Indonesian phrase for leaving home forever without saying goodbye. How about spending time in a bar with a shot-clog, a drinking companion only tolerated because he’s buying the rounds? Perhaps that same bar buddy is crambazzled, or prematurely aged due to drinking?A few more great travel-related idioms:

  • asusu (Boro, India) — to feel like a stranger in a strange land
  • wewibendam (Ojibway, North America) — being in a hurry to get home
  • far-lami (Old Icelandic) — unable to go further on a journey
  • nochschlepper (Yiddish) — unwanted follower; literally, someone who drags along after someone else
  • Tapetenwechsel (German) — wanderlust, wanting a change of scenery; literally a change of wallpaper

And one more just for the Eat, Pray, Love fans…

  • Henkyoryugaku (Japanese) — Describes young women who rebel against social norms and travel abroad to devote time to an eccentric art form, such as Balinese dancing; Literally, study abroad in the wild.

Those are a few of the wonderful words and expressions in this collection currently for sale in the UK or on Kindle. Never suffer from onomatomania (frustration in not finding the correct word) again.

Eat, Pray, Love movie review

Elizabeth Gilbert’s personal transformation from depressed divorcee to healthy, balanced woman in love were recorded in her bestselling memoir, “Eat, Pray, Love.” The book resonated with so many people that a movie adaptation was made, with Julia Roberts playing the lead.

Filming highlighted the beauty of the locations, especially Italy and Bali. A soft focus gave a dreamlike quality, with Roberts’ golden hair glowing like a halo. India didn’t get as much glamor, though the chaos of the country, especially to a new arrival, was portrayed fairly accurately.

Though the movie definitely employed “pretty power,” it wasn’t able to really tell a story. Lost is the complexity of Gilbert’s situation and relationships. We see her in New York, telling her husband she doesn’t want to be married, but there’s no background. The pivotal moment in her story, when she first talks to God, seems out-of-place and as if it came out of nowhere.
The rest of the movie is similar. Gilbert goes searching for herself, but as viewers we’re not really sure what she’s in search of — or if she really ever finds it. Relationships don’t have the weight they should, and thus Gilbert’s journey is lost. Gone is the story of her building herself back up, learning to be alone, and eschewing romance in favor of nurturing her soul. People pop up, friendships are made, but none of it seems to make much sense. And while Roberts does a fantastic job of conveying pain, she doesn’t have the perk that led to Gilbert’s being assigned to the job of Key Hostess in her ashram in India. Thus, Gilbert’s charisma is also gone, and with it any sympathy the viewer might have had for her. When there is an emotional scene, it just tries too hard — like the awkward, pointless confession from Richard from Texas (played by Richard Jenkins).

At least it’s beautiful. And not just the scenery or the Italian food porn: Roberts is surround by a cast of sexy eye candy, including Billy Crudup, James Franco, and Javier Bardem. Unfortunately the beauty of these men in contrast with the lack of character development will only serve to amplify the dreamlike, fantastical quality of the movie; rather than focus on the work that Gilbert did on herself in order to become a more aware human being (what makes the story appealing and relatable), female fans are likely to get lost in the dream of travel and sexy men. I don’t suppose that’s the end of the world, and it is definitely what Hollywood is for, but again, the bigger message of Gilbert’s story is pretty much only conveyed in a final voice-over at the very end.

[Photo credit: Flickr user mzarzar]

Abercrombie & Kent: Five cinema-cations around the world

You may not have that look that Hollywood craves, but you still want to get close to the action, right? You want to touch the greatness that comes with being splashed across screens from coast to coast. Thanks to the latest concept from luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent, you don’t need talent. The latest “cinema-cation” packages send you to the locations where some of the hottest movies of the last year or so have been shot. There are enough options that you’ll definitely find something to match your personal style.

1. Sex and the City 2
After seeing this movie opening night on May 27, 2010, dash off to Morocco. A&K Group Managing Director George Morgan-Grenville was actually over there while movie was being filmed at the Amanjena Hotel and in the Djema el-Fna Square souks. The interiors and pool scenes, he says, were shot at the soon-to-open Mandarin Oriental Jnan Rahma and Palmeraie over in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Suggests Morgan Grenvile: “Take a camel ride at sunset and spend the night under the stars in a Bedouin-style tented camp surrounded by the largest sand dunes in the world.”

2. Eat , Pray, Love
Before going to see Eat, Pray, Love on August 13, 2010, check out the treasures of Northern India with this A&K Journey for Women. You’ll take apersonal journey with A&K guide Shagun Mohan, who says, “We spend time with local women at a bead-making workshop in the holy city of Varanasi, witness a spiritual Aarti ceremony on the Ganges at night, see the Taj Mahal at both sunrise and sunset, and visit Khajuraho’s Hindu temples. This kind of journey is a life-changing experience for almost anyone.” 3. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallow Part 1
Families can get a feel for Harry Potter‘s Great Britain ahead of the November 19, 2010 opening with the A&K Tailor Made Magical Great Britain package. According to Duncan Hambidge of A&K Europe, who has visited may Harry Potter film spots with his family, “One highlight for children is the Great Hall at Oxford University, Hogwart’s Dining Room. Another favorite is crossing the dramatic Glenfinnian Viaduct in the Western Highlands aboard The Royal Scotsman, the route taken by the Hogwart’s Express train in the Chambers of Secrets, The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire.

4. The Hurt Locker
Last year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture, The Hurt Locker captured the attention of audiences across the United States. A&K suggests following in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia if you’re looking for travel inspired by this movie. The A&K Extreme Adventures Jordan package is the way to go, led by Raed Omar Saleem.

Saleem’s been leading thrill-seeking visitors through Jordan since 1997 and recalls from a recent excursion, “In the middle of nowhere, we pitch our tents and gather around the campfire for dinner, recalling the hikes through ancient cities, the 4X4 treks and mountain climbs that brought us here. Without speaking of it, we all share the same sense of awe, the palpable sense that time passes through this desert yet barely seems to touch it. The moon-like landscape stretches to the mountains, bannered by multicolored striations in the rock. The smooth reddish sand is devoid of stones, and our camels’ toes rouse no dust as they thudded in their steady pace. There is no dust here in the valley of Wadi Rum, once a sea basin and later the place T.E. Lawrence found his calling. That is the beauty of the desert: it is nothing and everything.”

5. Creation: The True Story of Charles Darwin
Trace the history of life with the A&K Wonders of the Galapagos trip. Says A&K’s Ian Mackinnon, “The islands of the Galapagos offer an opportunity to interact with the natural world to a degree that’s virtually impossible anywhere else.”

He suggests, “Swim and snorkel with sea lions and turtles. Stroll past colonies of penguins and blue-footed boobies. Imagine yourself as Charles Darwin seeing a tortoise for the first time. Every island is unique; it’s no wonder Darwin was changed by his time there.”

I suggest: “Bring a creationist and ask constantly if he thinks dinosaurs walked the earth 5,000 years ago. Point and laugh.”