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from Boston

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And so, now, what shall we do?
How are we to carry on?
In a world where happy times and should-be celebrations
Turn to dust and ash and shots and fire,
To smoke and shouts and weeping eyes,
To cries aloud and silent,
All stifled by the fear.

What’s coming? In the distance?
What atrocity comes next?
Will you slay our sleeping grandmothers?
Hang our dogs from trees?
Poison every lake and river, or simply taint the air?
Kill every living thing?
Or just every hope and dream?
The fear of never knowing the life we all once knew,
The fear those days are over,
The fear he’s won, the fear we’re done.

Where is it that we’re going?
Is there anywhere to hide?
Should we curl up in our own cacoons,
Never trusting, never knowing, never meeting, greeting, loving
Never sharing, shaking hands,
A careless laugh, impromptu hug,
A toast of drinks between close friends
A gathering of protest, of democratic voice,
A gathering for sport for music for fun,
For cars, for food, are these days gone?

How can we go on living,
When he’s plotting in the corner?
How can we go on going when it’s never safe at all?
How do we stop our lives so short we let him know he’s won?
To stay locked up indoors all night,
Homeschool the children in the day,
To watch, a nervous spectator, from the comfort of our homes
As the traditions of our culture stagger on.

Can we, will we, give it all up?
Can we, will we, fix this mess?
Can we stop what we don’t understand?
Will we find a way to stand together?
Or finger-point until we fall?
How can we give up what we love?
How can we not?

Zero Dark Thirty-QuestForBestPic

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Here’s my Best Picture review for Zero Dark Thirty. Two more to go and we’re all set for the Awards tomorrow!

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The beginning of Zero Dark Thirty was difficult for me to watch. Wincing, shifting my eyes to the side, and thinking this was going to be tough to get through, I felt immensely uncomfortable watching the torture and complete vulnerability of a human being.

Interestingly enough, by the end of the film, Jessica Chastain sitting alone in the back of a plane, a single tear rolling down her cheek, overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the fact that an intense eight-year chapter of her life had closed, you kind of forget about all that torture in the beginning.

The film follows Maya, played by understated powerhouse Jessica Chastain, who works on and ends up taking the lead in the CIA’s mission to find Osama Bin Laden. Her character is young and confident to the point of borderline naivety. But she is smart, she is dedicated and outspoken, and eventually she completes her mission. Chastain really makes this movie. Her sweet looks and demeanor coupled with the no-nonsense attitude of her character and the grim and grueling ranks of her work, create an intriguing and believable protagonist.

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Seeing the background story, that was happening all around us and right under our noses, of the hunt for Bin Laden was sort of haunting. I like seeing the behind the scenes stuff, “what really happened”, and it was certainly fascinating to watch through the lense of this film. But it was incredibly dark, and at the end it left me feeling a kind of emptiness (much like Maya experiences in her plane ride home.)

Eight years she was on the case. Looking at all of her teammates on this endeavor, all of the money and manpower involved, all of the hours of sleep and number of lives lost…it makes you question whether it was worth it. Tucked away in a compound in Pakistan, was Bin Laden still heading Al Qaeda? Did he still have the access and plight to call the shots? Do we, in 2012, accept American government-sanctioned assassinations as valid channels of justice? And did this decade-long manhunt deliver us the justice we sought?

Zero Dark Thirty displays the answer of how we got Bin Laden, but the questions is provokes are far greater.

Viewing torture, assassination without trial, and the killing of unnamed women and children leaves you wondering about the integrity of our belief system. In our doctrine of democracy, these things are denounced, and yet, when it suits our needs we throw procedure and principle to the wayside and do what we feel is necessary. Is this case-by-case basis the right way to run the show? Or should we be strictly interpreting our codes?

Does this film, this story, make it worse for us as Americans facing a fed-up world?  It’s funny how we consider ourselves the good guys but partake in activities that are so out of line with who we think we are… and all in the name of justice, morals, and democracy. Or was it all about vengeance?

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Writer Mark Boal and Director Kathryn Bigelow do a wonderfully careful job not to glorify this hunt and seizure, and I really appreciate the honesty.

Every American should see Zero Dark Thirty.

QuestForBestPic- Django Unchained

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Django Unchained was a BAMF of a movie. It was one of the most entertaining of the Best Picture films, but who doesn’t love a good Tarantino?

The combination of humor and badassery that QT brings to his films keeps you watching and wanting more and makes the extreme violence seem like background noise so the bigger issues shine through.

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The acting was near perfect. Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, and Leonardo DiCaprio seriously brought it. I think I formed a crush on Waltz through this movie and am probably going to be looking to see all of his previous films. Because he, as the kind-hearted killer Dr. Schultz, was SO incredibly engaging. The character was brilliantly written, so I’m sure that is part of my bias. A German doctor-turned-bounty-hunter who kills for a living but draws his moral line at slavery? I’ll take two.

Django and Stephen, played by Jackson, were both, as far as I am concerned, unlikable characters. While they’re supposed to be on the good-guy, bad-guy spectrum, it seemed to me that they both had a little of each in them, and that they both leaned more towards the “bad”. Django, our protagonist, may have had good intentions (rescuing his wife), but in the process we see his total lack of regard for other humans  That’s fine, no one is perfect, but it harkens the same question I asked in my Lincoln post: Do the ends justify the means? Do they have to? (On a side note, when I mention the disregard for human life I’m referring to the other slaves and the man farming with his son, NOT the asshole slave-owners and cronies.)

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The film, inevitably and in true Tarantino fashion, turned into a bloodbath. But the fantastical shoot-em-up gore-spectacular towards the end was a cake walk when compared with a scene from earlier in the movie. The two most disturbing scenes for me offered less blood and less gore, Django-Unchained-28but made up for it in the unnerving vision of pure unfiltered evil played out on screen.

The first time Django and Dr. Schultz meet Calvin Candie (DiCaprio), the men are gathered in a smoking room, complete with bar and bartender, pool table, and snacks—a man-cave of sorts. The source of entertainment? Deathmatch-by-fireplace of two slaves. These two enormous black men were forced, by their owners, to fight one another to the death. Candie’s fighter wins, ending the match with a hammer.

I admit I’m a girl and I’m not big on violence. But there was something more sinister than two men fighting and one man dying. The fact that it was forced upon them, that they had to disavow any morals they may have had to quench their most basic human instinct of survival, made me absolutely sick with remorse.

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When the prized fighter mentioned above is caught in his attempt to run away, he cries that he can’t do it, can’t fight anymore. The war waged on his morals, on his soul, through the mandingo fights was too much to bear. He is questioned, ridiculed, and subsequently ripped apart by dogs in front of a caravan of people including a line of slaves, Candie and his employees, Dr. Schultz, and Django, who doesn’t flinch.

This was the worst moment in the film for me. It was difficult to watch and stuck with me long after the film had ended.

Here’s what Django does: It gives us an exciting and entertaining excuse to take a look into our Country’s most shameful history. We all know it happened, we all learn in school that slavery was bad and that the days of freedom came. But putting into context the brutality of small day-to-day events, and the fact that the entire black American experience was formed out of this treacherous circumstance, creates an opportunity for one to think critically and in depth about slavery and the need for repentance that never came.

I hear the criticisms, but I’m a big fan of this film.

Les Miserables– they weren’t kidding

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Reviewing Les Miserables on my Quest for Best Picture

I was an almost Les Mis virgin before seeing the film. Almost because although I had never seen the show, I was in chorus and chorale in high school and one year we performed all of the songs. So while the music was familiar, the details of the story were pretty blurry to me.

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This being said, I was SUPER excited to see it. And let’s be serious, that trailer featuring starring Ann Hathaway was awesome. As a matter of fact, Ann Hathaway’s performance in general was phenomenal. In stark contrast with the rest of the cast, I cannot say one negative thing about Hathaway’s portrayal of Fantine. Her singing was haunting and lovely. She was beautiful and wretched and desperate and hopeless. Believable. The silver lining of this uninspiring film.

As for the rest of you….

Russel Crowe’s singing voice is nasally and unpleasant to say the least. His singing sounds strained as if each note in each song were a struggle. (I once heard a singing tip that it should never sound like you’re straining and that the audience would hear it and be turned off. This was in the back of my mind the whole time listening to Crowe.)Les Miserables

I can’t (or won’t) hate on Hugh Jackman in the same way. His singing wasn’t great either (by any means) but I suppose his character had more emotion and more life. I felt more compelled to like him. NO, not because he’s the good guy. I have no problem liking a bad guy (hence my strange affection for Billy Bob Thornton—real life!) BUT where Crowe’s portrayal of Javert felt flat and boring, Jackman got across the emotions that he was hired to display and incite. Like really, Javert is a huge asshole. I should have left the theater hating him, and instead I left feeling nothing.

And THIS, my friends, is the issue I have with Les Mis. It’s not that Amanada Seyfried’s voice was quivering and shaking (probably out of terror), or that Crow sounded like he had a cold throughout the ENTIRE film. No. What made me give this terrible review is the fact that after two and a half hours sitting on my ass watching this piece of work I left feeling NOTHING. Not one ounce of emotion.

Am I alone on this one? Did anyone out there see this movie and seriously love it? There were people crying in the theater I was in. I’m not some kind of hard ass, I cry a lot in movies. All the time! So why wasn’t I crying? Should I have seen the show first before seeing the movie? Is it one of those things you have to have background knowledge of to really get into? But…but…I know the songs!

IF this is the case, that you had to know the story already to enjoy the film, then it is probably not a good film. End.

Almost end.

I can’t sign off without saying Sacha Baron Cohen was GREAT! And Helena Bohnam Carter, come on! The two of them were perfection in these roles. (Not that I know what I’m talking about since I’m a nouveau Les Mis-er.)

I guess this is the end of my Les Mis rant. I recommend you see it, but only so you can agree with me.

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QuestForBestPic-Lincoln

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Being that it’s  President’s Day, it seemed an appropriate time to finally post my Lincoln review. (And by this I mean it was President’s Day…before I finished at 12:20am.)

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In case you didn’t catch the other posts, I’m on a mission to see and review each film nominated for Best Picture…

After all the buzz and rave reviews Lincoln received, I was looking forward to seeing it. My dad, a big movie lover, was as well. So we did.

I’m not a history buff, but the older I get the more interested in politics and history I become. (Is it me or is it so unfair that we teach this stuff in school when kids don’t care about it and by the time we’re curious adults most of it has been forgotten…?) The film looks at President Lincoln’s struggle to get the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery, passed before the end of the Civil War. The direction and acting were fantastic, but there were two other things that really interested me when viewing this film.

First, it was really cool, I thought, to get a glimpse of the Republicans and Democrats of 1864 and their respective party stances. I’m not going to insult your intelligence (“you” being the maybe five people who will ever read this blog post). I’m a registered independent. But the truth is I can’t vote Republican because I have a soul a lot of the stances of the current party I just can’t jive with. “Who votes on social issues?” I know, I’ve heard it before. Try being gay. OK, the gay card was a bit much. But seriously.6a00d83451b74a69e20167659bac90970b-pi

I vote on economic issues too, I just don’t think that everything without a monetary value is worthless. I really believe that for our society to flourish and to be the great people we imagine ourselves to be, there are certain standards we must hold ourselves to, there are certain necessities to which everyone should be entitled (healthcare, for example), and there are certain investments we must make, not because the profit is great, but because they are just and because they will benefit our people as a whole.

Now, don’t go calling me a socialist. I’m a reasonable independent thinker. But that Tea Party shit is Fucking NUTS. Logical Republican Americans know this. Do yourselves a favor, band together and make those lunatics secede to form their own group…They could be the “Mad Hatters” or something, if they want to keep the tea theme.

Anyway, that being said, it was actually very fascinating for me to watch the Republicans as the good guys on screen in this film. I’m not demonizing anyone, but in all honesty in 2013 who would we expect to be holding onto racism? (Hint: not Democrats.) I know it’s a movie and so the truth was stretched to be formatted to fit the screen, but, similar to how I felt about Life of Pi, it was really cool for me to connect with and root for the opposition.

What also drew me in was the reality of the good guy/bad guy complex that is so palpably demonstrated in this film. I mean…none of us are all of one and none of the other, are we? Lincoln’s best intentions were realized by corrupt, illegal, even immoral measures.

The movie covers only the last four months of Lincoln’s life, the end of the Civil War, the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment, and his untimely death. The Emancipation Proclamation, which had been signed in 1863, a year prior to where the film begins, was of questionable legality. In one scene, Lincoln admits to this, pondering, himself, the legitimacy of the Proclamation and the potential legal quandary it could result in.

I decided that the Constitution gives me war powers, but no one knows just exactly what those powers are. Some say they don’t exist. I don’t know. I decided I needed them to exist to uphold my oath to protect the Constitution, which I decided meant that I could take the rebel’s slaves from them as property confiscated in war. That might recommend to suspicion that I agree with the rebs that their slaves are property in the first place. Of course I don’t, never have, I’m glad to see any man free, and if calling a man property, or war contraband, does the trick… Why I caught at the opportunity.

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Lincoln, a figure for the people, oversteps his executive power—the power granted him by the people– to ensure that his objective is advanced. A pure intention it may have been, and reflectively we forgive him this transgression. But it makes it awfully difficult, looking at the actions of one of our most beloved historical figures, to discern where the line of right and wrong lie, whether they’re rigidly set by some ultimate guide, or whether, more likely, they’re relative, bending and swaying as necessary, meeting at some eventual plot on the map of existence.

Honest Abe did whatever it took to get his Amendment passed, including cheating, lying, and bribery. His actions would get him thrown in prison in 2013, but, luckily for us, it was 1864 and the man took care of business.

Dad thought the movie was a little dry. He said he would have preferred more action. I found the dialogue, the back-and-fourth verbal jousting, to be quite entertaining. But I was a Legal Studies major in college and spent my days reading and deciphering case law and legal journals and debating absolutely EVERYTHING for years. And now I spend my time in the car listening to talk radio, catching up on the ins and outs of the day’s current events and political happenings. Soooo this film was right up my alley. I think Dad thought there would be more war scenes, which I was quite happy to do without. The presentation of the factual legal and political arguments tied in with the humor of Lincoln’s long-winded stories or of Thaddeus Stevens’ political trash-talking was enough to keep me entertained.

The acting was wonderful. I cannot say truthfully that the “character portrayals” were excellent because, if I’m quite honest, I’ve never seen footage of Abraham Lincoln or Mary Todd Lincoln or Thaddeus Stevens or any of the other characters. And yes, I did list these three as examples because they are the stand-outs for me.

Daniel Day Lewis is getting more praise than maybe Lincoln did himself. His performance was captivating. Lincoln’s quirks, his lengthy, at times exasperating stories, his manner of avoiding difficult subjects when he saw fit, and his soft spoken and distinctive speech and mannerisms all helped to solidify the idea that this historical figure was no ordinary man. And yet, at the same time, the honesty of the scenes of his and Mary Todd Lincoln’s arguments, the visual of a strained relationship between a father and son (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and the clear inner turmoil and uncertainty about his actions and the potential for success, show the true humanity of our treasured monument. Bravo Daniel Day Lewis, and Bravo Steven Spielberg, and Bravo Doris Kearns Goodwin.

sally-field-as-mary-todd-lincolnSally Field. As with the multidimensional qualities I mentioned above when discussing Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln was also a woman of many hats, so to speak. She was difficult to like at times. She was very emotional. Screaming, crying, giving her husband absolute hell when she thought it necessary, aiding to her long-standing reputation as a crazy woman. But this fiery disposition came in handy as she used it to put Thaddeus Stevens (played by Tommy Lee Jones) firmly in his place at the President’s Ball. Another side of Mary Todd Lincoln was shown in the film. While emotionally charged and undoubtedly fragile, she also was a woman of concrete opinions and ideas. She was not merely a devoted supporter of her husband, but she was a powerful force behind him. She, a woman, knew of the goings-on of the presidency, of the political battlefield, she had her own thoughts about the best use of her husband’s power, and she was indeed one to be reckoned with. So another complex character gets my approval.

Tommy Lee Jones as the Asshole-With-a-Heart sort of melted mine. I liked that Thaddeus Stevens was disagreeable. I liked that his intentions were pure, outspoken, and unyielding. And I liked that when he came to that ultimate bridge where principle meets action, which he probably never imagined crossing, he crossed it. And I really liked the “twist” at the end, showing his personal stake in abolishing slavery.

It may have been long and it may have been dry, but I found myself emotionally and intellectually involved throughout Lincoln, and that is something of great importance to me.

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This theme of actions vs. words, the blurring of the lines of good and bad, the sight of honorable intentions and dishonorable actions brings about the age old question of whether the means justify the ends. Do they always have to? Are victories less sweet when you’ve jabbed a hole in your moral compass to achieve them? Are pure and just goals reason enough to commit dishonest acts? Or do those ends become less pure, less just, in the process of objectionable procurement?

These are questions I cannot answer. But ones that I, and probably all of you, have wondered about.

Happy Hump Day!

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Part II of My Hump Day Happy Hour Series…

So I don’t know about you, but where I live it has been gray and rainy and gloomy ALL day! So I thought I’d do a tropical-themed drink to get you out of your funk today and make ya feel like you’re on Vaca.

The Rum Punch is a signature drink at the bar I work at. Invented by a coworker, it’s become a staple here. We sell a TON of these. And once you taste it you’ll see why.

What You’ll Need:

  • Malibu Passion Fruit Rum
  • Cruzan Mango Rum
  • Captain Morgans Spiced Rum
  • Mount Gay Rum
  • Grenadine
  • Lime juice
  • Orange, Cranberry and Pineapple Juice

What to Do:

  • Fill pint glass with ice
  • Pour 1 count of eazch liquor into glass (a little less than one full shot each)
  • Add Splash of grenadine and a splash of lime juice
  • Fill ramainder of glass with mixture of three juices
  • Shake, shake, shake
  • Garnish with cherry, orange or both

Et Voila!

Rum Punch

Enjoy!

The times they are a-changin’

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What I did last Columbus Day weekend:

  

Oh, also we did this:

         

90 degree weather, beach, bathing suits, beer, and lots and lots of fun.

Thank you Ocean Mist Beach Bar.

And this year?

        

our new pumpkins!

Highlight of my weekend was pumpkin picking with my best girl at Connors Farm, Danvers MA

No partying, no beach, and the weather was cold. Still had a  great weekend.

I guess I’m old. And in love.