Essential California: Welcome to Oscar Season

Hello and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Wednesday February 9and I’m Liam Dillon, your guest host for the day.

May this also be your official welcome to Oscar season. On Tuesday morning, the nominees for the 94th Academy Awards were revealed ahead of the March 27 ceremony at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.

The biggest early “winners” were Netflix’s Western drama “The Power of the Dog,” which led all films with 12 nominations, and the Warner Bros. sci-fi blockbuster. “Dune”, with 10. Also on the Best Picture nominees list: “Belfast”, “CODA”, “Don’t Look Up”, “Drive My Car”, “King Richard”, “Licorice Pizza”, “Nightmare Alley” and “West Side Story”.

Journalist Josh Rottenberg offers some key takeaways from the nominations, including the unsurprising dominance of streaming services; half of the Best Picture nominees came from a streamer or were released simultaneously in theaters and via streaming.

The history of the Oscars is already written with the nomination of Troy Kotsur, the first deaf male actor to receive an Oscar nod, for his supporting role in “CODA.” it’s the same for Jeanne Campion, the first director to be nominated twice, for “The Power of the Dog”. (His first nomination was almost 30 years ago, for “The Piano.”) Danish animated documentary “Flee” made history as the first to be nominated in three feature film categories: documentary, feature animated feature and international film.

Among the Oscar snubs that are getting the most attention are a pair of musicians, Lady Gaga and Alana Haim. The two pop stars had generated buzz for their performances in “House of Gucci” and “Licorice Pizza,” respectively.

Our culture columnist and critic Mary McNamara writes that themes involving families played well among the nominees this year. Our experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, she writes, have involved an inordinate amount of time both hunkered down with loved ones and separated from others, some suffering deep loss.

This was the case with my family. One of my most consistent pleasures over the past two years has been opening a bottle of wine at home one weekend night with my fiancé while we watched a movie. ‘The Power of the Dog’, ‘Dune’, ‘Belfast’ and ‘King Richard’ were all great, and now we have a list of even more to watch.

You can see the full list of Oscar nominees here. And our full range of Oscars coverage is linked here.

And now, Here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

LA County is likely weeks away from lifting its indoor mask mandate, public health officials said Tuesday. Such a decision could come no later than the end of April, unless a new variant of coronavirus poses a threat. Los Angeles Times

But with the statewide rules easing faster, many are wondering what’s next for mask requirements for K-12 students. California’s indoor mask mandate for vaccinated residents will remain through Feb. 15, but state officials haven’t announced what will happen in schools, and Los Angeles, which has seen significant virus transmission due to the Omicron variant, is slowing down. Los Angeles Times

A week of unruly mandate protests has led a school district in Stanislaus County ban students without masks on campus and postponing a school board meeting due to security concerns. There was a threat of violence against high school staff over mask rules in the Oakdale School District, its superintendent said. Police are investigating the threat, which was allegedly made by a relative. San Francisco Chronicle


University of California agreed to pay $243.6 million settlement to resolve the lawsuits of more than 200 women who alleged they were abused by a UCLA gynecologist. This settlement adds to a $73 million class action settlement involving more than 5,000 patients dating back to the early 1980s. More than 300 patients continue to sue over the conduct of Dr. James Heaps. Los Angeles Times

Prosecutors declined to criminally charge Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer following allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman last year at his home in Pasadena. Bauer maintained that the two had rough but consensual sex. A Major League Baseball investigation into Bauer’s conduct is ongoing. Los Angeles Times

City council members move to target bike ‘chop shops’ on streets, but critics called the motion a thinly veiled attempt to criminalize people living in homeless encampments. The council voted 10 to 4 to ask City Atty. Mike Feuer to draft a law banning the repair or sale of bicycles on city streets. Los Angeles Times

Honey Etcitty stands with one of the many bikes she assembled or repaired while living homeless in a row of skates. “I work on bikes from scratch,” Etcitty said. “It’s the only way to get income.”

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

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A judge has dismissed charges against three LAPD officers accused of falsely documenting people as gang members. The charges were part of a larger scandal in which six officers were charged. After two weeks of testimony, the judge ruled that prosecutors did not have enough evidence to prosecute the three officers accused of misrepresenting gang affiliations in a single case, “not a pattern” of offences. Los Angeles Times

Seven months after their block in South LA exploded in a failed detonation of LAPD fireworks, current and former residents could see millions in recovery funds. City officials have planned $5 million in spending for displaced residents’ housing, repairs and other assistance, including nearly $1.2 million in LAPD funding already allocated to the recovery effort. Los Angeles Times

A sign on a fence outside the boarded up houses reads "Destroyed by LAPD"

A house on East 27th Street in October, several months after an LAPD fireworks detonation damaged the southern neighborhood of Los Angeles.

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

An investigation into degrading text messages sent by Eureka police is dragging on behind closed doors. Almost a year after the Sacramento Bee revealed that police sent despicable messages on women and the homeless, the investigation into the conduct of officers has been little publicized. The city spent $250,000 on its investigation and commissioned a 200-page report, which it has not released. Sacramento bee


Meet Gary Gragg, the Bay Area horticulturist who has dedicated his life to the delicious and nutritious avocado. Gragg is looking for different varieties of avocado – it’s not just Hass out there! — and wants to propagate and sell the various fruits. San Francisco Chronicle

Two Bay Area communities are struggling with birds. In Sunnyvale, an attempt to rid downtown of what Mercury News calls its “growing crow problem” has led city officials to shine a portable $20 green laser into trees for the past two weeks. But now the Federal Aviation Administration is warning that the laser plane could be dangerous for low-flying planes. Mercury News

And in nearby Mountain View, a flock of nearly two dozen wild turkeys roosted at NASA’s Ames Center. They pecked at cars, blocked traffic and even posed a threat to airline operations. The United States Department of Agriculture tries to trap and relocate the birds. Mercury News


Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium gets its star turn Sunday as host of Super Bowl LVI. The stadium, which opened in the fall of 2020, cleverly integrates the Californian landscape, and even its cheapest seats – although barely “cheap” at $6,000 a pop for the Super Bowl – offer great views of the action, writes our columnist Carolina A. Miranda. Los Angeles Times

An empty SoFi stadium with its large circular video card in the center

SoFi Stadium’s upper decks are close to the action, thanks in part to their vertical pitch.

(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

Former college football legend Ricky Williams talks with our Adam Tschorn about his new cannabis brand, “Highsman”, a nod to his 1998 season which won the Heisman Trophy as a running back. Williams is a longtime cannabis activist. Los Angeles Times

UC San Diego researchers awarded $500,000 of a new NFL initiative to study whether cannabis can help athletes manage pain and recover from injury faster. The research will be done on professional rugby players in part because cannabis remains a banned substance in the NFL. San Diego Union-Tribune

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Los Angeles: hot, 88 San Diego: sunny 79 San Francisco: sunny 70 San Jose: nice, 74 Fresno: sunny 73 Sacrament: sunny 72


Today california memory is of Fikre Mariam Tsehai:

In 1967, when I was a student at Haile Selassie University in Addis Ababa, our professor of sociology, Dr. Brown, used to say, “I come from California, the best place on Earth, next to heaven. I can only visualize paradise while living, but I can certainly visit California. So I did. In 1997 I visited San Diego and Los Angeles. And more recently, in November 2021, I was in San Diego celebrating Thanksgiving. Dr. Brown is right – the best place on Earth!

If you have a memory or a story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please limit your story to 100 words.)

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