Category Archives: work

Oscar Recap

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Wellp, it’s over. The 85th annual Academy Awards have come and past. I figured, since I spent so much time thinking about the Awards before they happened, I should do a quick wrap-up post to summarize the experience and, of course, my take on the ceremony.

I have to say, doing this Best Picture project made the Oscars A LOT more interesting to watch. I found myself getting really into categories that I never would have cared about before. For example, when the visual categories came up– cinematography and visual editing, both of which Life of Pi took the award for–I was able to cheer on the winners and be excited for them because I had experienced the film myself (and commented on the cinematography…look at me reviewin’ like the Academy.)

I didn’t see every film that was nominated for an award, but I did see the nine tremendous films (excluding you-know-who) that were nominated for Best Picture. So I had a pretty good background and was able to have an educated opinion in almost all of the categories. I should have bet on some of them or something. Just kidding, I’m not much of a gambler. But I wouldn’t have bet on Argo winning. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the film, but I sort of saw it going to Lincoln or Beasts or Zero. But it was pretty awesome that Argo pulled it off. It was a great moment to watch, and must have been very validating for Mr. Affleck.

Perhaps the biggest shock of the night for me was how poorly Zero Dark Thirty did. They went pretty much unnoticed at the Awards. I still though it was a great film, and I think the political outrage points more toward the movie being true than it not.

Life of Pi did well, taking home awards in music and the visual category as well as Best Director for Ang Lee. I think this is fitting since, before making the film, Life of Pi was believed to be “unfilmable”. Lee took this challenge on and nailed it. So I’m happy for him.

Amour won Best Foreign Film, which was a completely obvious choice. Still glad they picked that one up though 🙂 (Almost cried when they showed the brief clip.)

I totally called Anne Hathaway for Best Supporting AND Christolph Waltz. So glad my picks won here. Daniel Day Lewis was winning from opening day. We all knew that one. I was up in the air between Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain though. J-Law falling up the stairs– best moment of the night?

Seth MacFarlane did a pretty good job I think. Just enough inappropriate to not be boring. What a great singing voice! And speaking of which…Adele killed it. And looked GORGEOUS. J.Huds rocked her solo out as well. (Could have done without the les mis thing but whatttttever)

I’m not going to pretend that I’m a movie critic AND stylist, so I’m gonna skip the best dressed section.

All in all I thought it was a great show and I’m really glad I took on my Quest for Best Picture.

QuestForBestPic-Silver Linings Playbook

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This is my last Best Picture Nominee review, and not a moment too soon as the awards are starting shortly. Even though I’ve bombarded myself over the past few days with movie review assignments, this has been a really fun project. I got to see some great films and am way more excited to watch the Oscars than I usually am. Well, here it is, last but not least, Silver Linings Playbook…

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“This is what I believe to be true: You have to do everything you can and if you stay positive you have a shot at a silver lining.”

Silver Linings Playbook stands out from the pack in that it is an uplifting film with a happy ending. Are best pictures allowed to have happy endings?

I left the theatre smiling after seeing Django, but it wasn’t exactly a warm and fuzzy kind. It was that smile that a badass Tarantino gives you, that one where you feel kind of weird and terrible on the inside but kind of exhilarated at the same time. To be fair, Argo did have a happy ending, and the six US citizens were rescued from Iran. It left me thinking about the Iran Hostage Crisis, US foreign relations, and how crazy it was that the incidents in the movie actually occurred in real life (oh, and what a marvelous job Ben Affleck did directing!) But this is a different type of happy ending than the one in Silver Linings.

For, while I was happy to have seen Argo, and thoroughly enjoyed it, Silver Linings actually made me happy.

The film follows Pat, played by Bradley Cooper, after his release from a psychiatric hospital where he was being treated for bipolar disorder following a violent attack in which he nearly killed his wife’s lover. Pat, in desperate effort to win back his estranged wife Nikki, is in a constant state of attempted self-improvement, exercising obsessively, reading each book on her classroom syllabus, and generally willing himself to be better.

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He meets Jennifer Lawrence’s character, the emotionally unstable Tiffany, through her sister, who happens to be a close friend of Nikki’s. A peculiar and combative friendship forms between these two damaged souls, eventually leading to a love story. They have eccentric social skills. They are blunt and sometimes impolite. And while they are comfortable around each other and understand each other better than their respective family members do, they also seem to push each other’s buttons far more than anyone else would dare to. Pat makes constant reference to Tiffany’s deceased husband or to her being a “slut”. (“No, that doesn’t count, he’s dead.”) And Tiffany casually asks Pat how his restraining order is going. Neither of these character flaws would be bluntly discussed by a “normal” person, because we’re always so concerned about etiquette, sparing feelings, and not making situations worse. Pat and Tiffany in this film found a way to connect with one another on a small oasis of truth.

Which sounds weird since Tiffany was lying to Pat about having contacted Nikki for almost the entire film.

The relationships are what this film is all about. Besides the relationship between Tiffany and Pat, we see a spectrum of others that range from devoted friendship (Pat and friend from the hospital Danny) to strained misunderstanding (Pat and his Parents) to stifling resentment (Tiffany and her sister Veronica played by Julia Stiles), and everything in between. The little idiosyncrasies that render each of us “crazy” in our own way are showcased in the context of tangled and thorny interpersonal relationships to create a small snapshot of life and of human interaction that is strikingly honest and relatable.

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The script is fantastic. It’s funny, like really a lot of funny. And it’s touching and entertaining.

The acting, very obviously, was wonderful. Jennifer Lawrence, our new IT girl killed this role. It was a great move after Hunger Games, and I can’t wait to see what she has coming up next. Bradley Cooper played this high-strung, delusional, and idealistic character very well, but he has a snowball’s chance in hell at beating Daniel Day Lewis for Best. I LOVED DeNiro in this role. Seeing the softer side of him in the heart-to-heart scene with his Cooper makes you want to give him a hug. He could be a contender for Best Supporting (although I still think I’d have to pick Christoph Waltz).

This feel-good film was worthy of the actors nominations it received and of Best Picture. One can only guess who will be victorious, but it is worth seeing either way. Enjoy!

QuestForBestPic-Argo

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Argo was the first of the Best Picture Nominees I saw, way back months ago. But, being the last-minute-mary that I am, I didn’t write the review until just now, the day of the awards show. But it’s done and up. I will be posting my Silver Linings Playbook review shortly (yes, I am strategically placing the happy ending films at the end.) Anyway, here it is:

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Whenever I see a film that is based on a true story, I am inevitably more interested and invested. The story of Argo is so incredible that it is hard to believe it was based on actual events, and it certainly could have been a great, highly entertaining film even if there were no truth behind it. With all the excitement of a fiction suspense set on the backdrop of a real historical political crisis, this movie was a home run for me.

The film takes place during the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis, in which the U.S. embassy in Tehran was overtaken by protestors, and the employees held hostage for 444 days. Six US diplomats escaped the embassy before seizure and sought refuge in the home of the Canadian Ambassador and his wife, hiding out and waiting to be rescued. Argo tells the story of this unlikely rescue mission.

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CIA operative Tony Mendez, played by Affleck, headed the impossible mission of retrieving these harbored escapees. The ingenious and extravagant plan involved creating a fake sci-fi movie, which came to be titled Argo, using the ruse of scouting film locations to evacuate the six diplomats undercover and in plain sight.

The movie keeps you on the edge of your seat, biting your nails or nervously clutching your bag-o-popcorn, right up until the last frame. The plan, so improbable and so intricate, that it almost seemed sure to fail, and almost did more than once. While I don’t particularly enjoy the feeling of panic or anxiety, I do like when a movie makes me feel. It kept me fretful, uneasy, and hopeful the entire time, conspicuously rooting for our Argo crew to make it out. And while the events of the movie are serious and daunting, the creators left room for comedic relief. And this I appreciated.

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I personally found this to be Ben Affleck at his best. Both in direction and acting he was superb. Seeing him as a man named Tony Mendez, however, was a little less than believable. Maybe he should have gone tanning before or something. Alan Arkin (who played film producer Lester Siegel) and John Goodman (Hollywood makeup artist John Chambers) brought the funny. Their characters were a central piece to the movie and helped take the film from scene-by-scene docu-drama to a personal and entertaining experience.

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I was very glad to see the happy ending, and left in amazement that something so far-fetched had actually occurred. Bravo for bringing history and entertainment together in a piece that was neither stuffy, nor campy, and for creating a film that I can and will recommend to anyone, regardless of age or personal taste in film.

<<insert nod of approval here>>

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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.

Update & Some of my recent work

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As I begin every post, I haven’t written at all because I’ve been sooooooo busy. 😉

But in all seriousness with the holidays and juggling jobs it just seemed the time was never there to start blogging again. I know it’s there people do it every day. In any event, here is some of the stuff I’ve been working on:

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These are a couple of the recent articles I’ve written for EDGE Boston.

Supreme Court To Review DOMA, Prop 8 Challenges

(This is an Article about the Supreme Court’s decision to review the constitutionality of DOMA and Prop 8.)

THRIVE Brings Gay and Straight Cape Cod Youth Together

(This is an article about a Cape Cod based group called Thrive, which brings together gay, straight, queer, questioning, and transgender youth and their allies to promote leadership, acceptance, and empowerment for youth.)

Check ’em out!

 

logo At Literary Traveler, where I intern, we’re doing a segment called “Literary Fauxscars”, a spin on the Academy Awards in which we’ll be giving kudos (or jeers) to the films of 2012 that are based on literary works. We’ll be awarding for categories like “Best Stand-Alone Film” (best film regardless of the original work or how similar they are), “Best Character Portrayal” be actor and actress, and “Best Guilty Pleasure Film”.To see a complete list of the categories and nominees, click HERE. Polls will be up soon, so be sure to vote!

 

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For this project I saw and reviewed one of the book-to-film adaptations, Cosmopolis. See my review here:

http://www.literarytraveler.net/blog/2013/01/fauxscars-nominee-cosmopolis/

To see reviews of more literary adaptations of 2012, go here:

http://www.literarytraveler.net/

Hurricane Sandy Volunteer Road Trip

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So, Kate and I made the trip last Thursday to the NY/NJ area to deliver donations I had been collecting for the past couple weeks and to do some volunteer work.

While researching I discovered an organization called “Occupy Sandy” www.occupysandy.org. Apparently the same people who took part in the Occupy Wall Street protests set up a grassroots volunteer network for Hurricane Sandy relief. Which is pretty cool. I never got caught up in the Occupy movement last year, so I can’t really speak on that at all, but having people handy and willing to help in places of need is always a thumbs up in my book. They had several sites for volunteering and donations and because you could “just show up” (rather than schedule a time and do registration and all that) I decided that would be a fine outlet for us to work with.

We set out at 5am to head to one of the main distribution centers, which was in Brooklyn, NY. I had never been to Brooklyn, or NYC (I know, I know ridiculous) so I was pretty excited. Plus I love a road trip. The ride was great, we left early enough to avoid traffic and made great headway until about 8:30, when I had to pee and we realized we were passing the town in Connecticut that one of Kate’s good friends lives in. We called her up and the three of us went out to breakfast at some little diner. Catching up with friends, missing rush hour traffic, and eating…it’s a three-fer.

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We made our way to Brooklyn to the main distribution center at the Church of Saint Luke and Saint Matthew, where we unloaded most of our donated good. Cleaning supplies, water, food, and toiletries are what they accepted from us. We had also gathered a good amount of blankets, coats, hats and other warm weather gear which they were not accepting. So we figured we’d drop those at another location where they were needed and wanted. We said we were interested in volunteering so they dispatched us to Rockaway Beach to lend a hand there.

Mostly what we were asked to do was administrative tasks (bitch work, Kate calls it) and everything was a bit disorganized. But we did what they asked and while we were there we did some exploring of the area and got to see some of the devastation caused by Sandy. The Rockaway area was by no means the hardest hit, but there was still extensive damage. Here are some of the photos we took at Rockaway Beach:

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It was crazy to see the damage and destruction up close. It was even crazier that this was nothing compared to some other areas of Jersey and New York. The people that own these ocean-front properties are no doubt devastated by this…but seeing this really made me feel for the people in poorer areas that were hit the hardest…people who don’t have homeowner’s insurance or anywhere else to go or the money to start all over again.

So with this thought, we headed to the Newark, NJ airport, where we had reservations to stay for the evening. We were very fortunate in that I was able to get free hotel room for the evening. The hotel management was appreciative that we were coming to help out their neighbors, and in return they made a generous donation to this effort in the form of accommodation for the night.

A quick dinner and to bed we went, asleep by 8pm. The next morning we headed into the city of Newark. Our parents were right; it was a rough city. I had the doors locked and was very happy that when I pulled up to the church which was serving as an Occupy Sandy Headquarters that there was a police officer parked in front of me. People were gathered inside who had stories of losing everything. They were frustrated with the government, with FEMA. I was glad that we had come because the people in this neighborhood really needed help and we knew the items we brought would be put to good use. The kind gentleman at the door helped me to unload bag after bag of blankets, coats, sweaters, gloves, and hats.  We said our goodbyes, they thanked us for coming, and we were on our way again.

Another 5+ hour ride home, a one hour nap, and back to work I went.

And here I am again.

Onto the next adventure…

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