TV & Movies

Review: Geography Club

Geophardy-ClubSixteen-year-old Russell is still going on dates with girls while having a secret relationship with football quarterback Kevin, who will do anything to prevent his football teammates from finding out. Min and Terese tell everyone that they’re just really good friends. And then there’s Ike, who can’t figure out who he is or who he wants to be. Finding the truth too hard to hide, they all decide to form the Geography Club, thinking nobody else in their right mind would ever want to join. However, their secrets may soon be discovered and they could have to face the choice of revealing who they really are.

Disclaimer: I’m not reviewing this as an adaptation. I have yet to read the book, so I’ll get back to you if I do. Also, as always, slight spoilers ahead. 

Geography Club attempts to tackle the struggles, internal and external, that come along with coming out of the closet. It has central themes of fear clearly represented in all of the major characters, as well as the difficulties that come with deciding to be yourself within an environment that all but demands you conform. In this endeavor, it was almost successful.

From the start of the movie, I was hooked. I identified and connected with most of the main characters. I am very much a character person, willing to forgive shortcomings of a movie or book or game if it has compelling characters that I can relate to. In that effect, the movie was solid. Each character had their own story; each character was interesting in their own way.

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Russell and Kevin

Russell, the lead character, had an interesting conflict. At that start, he is only mostly sure he’s gay, but the thought still makes him uncomfortable. He’s nervous to explore the possibility, and won’t even consider the idea of telling anyone else about his struggle. His story arch remains quite real, and does a great job at portraying the struggles of coming out. Unlike many films on the topic, his love interest is not on the opposite side of the coin. Kevin, star quarterback of the school, was raised in an environment where it was perfectly acceptable to be gay. Despite this, he is not ready to come out. He has many reasons, the chief being he knows he will be persecuted and he doesn’t want to have to deal with it. Also, it may actually ruin his life. Both of these stories were presented with real conflict and real sympathy. Each character, gay and straight, had their own interesting story, and that made the movie worth watching.

That being said, by the end of the film I was left wanting. Not wanting more at the end, as much as wishing that there would have been more throughout the movie. It did trouble me that Min, originally written as bisexual, was made gay for the purposes of the film. Brian, while his clear abuse at home and school sat comfortable on the sidelines of the story, it was eventually used as a conflict for Russell, and resolved in a ‘no consequence’ faction. The movie had time to take that extra step, to go just a bit deeper into each of the characters and give many more shades to the central conflict of the film.

As for the ending, while I was glad the movie avoided the ‘happily ever after’ scenario, the way the ending was portrayed left me feeling a little sick to my stomach. And by that, I mean I was angry.

The last twenty minutes of the film seems to do everything it can to belittle Kevin’s conflict, almost outright stating that what he believes in and what he loves do not matter. When Russell is ready to come out, he seems to lose all sympathy for Kevin, who still isn’t ready. This is understandable, as dating someone in the closet can truthfully be compared to being back in the closet. However, Russell never even considers the idea of supporting Kevin through his struggle. He tells Kevin that ‘if he really cared about him’ he would come to the GSA meeting after school. The film does nothing to question this statement, drifting over that fact that it is unreasonably selfish. When Russell comes out, he is kicked off the football team. If Kevin comes out, the same thing will happen. Unlike Russell, who has always been very strong academically, all Kevin has is football. Not only does he love it completely, it is essentially his only hope for getting into a good college. Russell asks him to throw it all away, and the film proceeds to make Kevin out to be the bad guy when he can’t do it. There is almost a scene of redemption for the filmmakers, as we see Kevin come to the hall to attend the GSA meeting. But, as much of the football team is standing outside the door to haze the people who enter, Kevin cannot go into the room and leave. This fleeting moment of sympathy for Kevin is all the film offers.

While I enjoyed much of the movie and connected with many of the character, the film missed many key layers of what it’s like to come out, even brushing over the fact that Goodkind High School is a dramatically unsafe place for people who are different. It had character and conflict, but it lacked consequence and a sort of depth it definitely had the potential to achieve. I would recommend it for the general fan of LGBT films and conflicts, and especially for fans of Glee.   

star 5/10

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The Seattle Sound (2014)

The Seattle Sound is a documentary aimed at revealing a closer look into the lives of some of the street musicians and buskers of the Seattle Area, specifically Pike Place Market.

This is a wonderfully made documentary by two students, Ryan Lee and Heather Accord. The film focuses on musicians Piper Foulon, Gary Reid, and Emery Carl.

I find this very interesting. Not because I’ve never given this much thought – I usually stop to listen and I always give them spare cash if I have any. I find this interesting because I have never seen these people play before. It seems I’m always at Pike Place at the exact moment they aren’t playing. My sister actually went to school with Piper, and her family has a doughnut booth at the farmers market during the spring and summer. I find this interesting because this is my city and I really feel like I’ve missed something.

My main experience with buskers is what I affectionately refer to as the Piano Man. The Piano Man pulls a mini piano out to Pike Place and plays like a master. I remember once I sat for almost the full hour and listened to him play. I gave him some money, but I didn’t actually talk to him because I’m like that.

Anyway, take a look at this documentary. It’s well made, interesting, filled with great music, and it’s so, so, Seattle. Tell me what you think!

Review: Nebraska

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Nebraska is an American dramedy written by Bob Nelson and directed by Alexander Payne (also known for The Descendants). It Stars Bruce Dern, June Squibb, and Will Forte. It was released in the US November 15, 2013.

Nebraska tell the tale of Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) who is sent a pamphlet from an add and believes he has won 1 million dollars. To retrieve it, he has to go to Nebraska. He is repeatedly caught attempting to walk to Nebraska (much to the dismay of his wife and sons) and, eventually, his son (Will Forte) agrees to drive him to Nebraska. From there, the film chronicles a relationship between father and son.

This movie was slow. It was slow and nostalgic and lacked the big acting moments or spectacles prevalent in the front runners of this Oscar season. Despite this, it was nominated for six academy awards, including best picture. While i did not necessarily like Nebraska, while I would not have chosen it to be nominated, in retrospect, I really appreciate this movie and I really appreciate that it was nominated. It’s simple and, rather than showing us something big, it shows us something perfectly ordinary. We need movies like this.

There are parts that are outrageously funny (most of them belonging to the lovely June Squibb), but my favorite thing about this movie is the cinematography. Lead cinematographer Phedon Papamichael (also known for The Descendants and The Ides of March) puts something interesting into every scene. The camera angles and subtle moments, from the first to the final shot (which is my favorite shot), tell the story along with the words.

Overall, Nebraska was witty and perfectly subtle. The different elements came together quite nicely to tell a story, and they did a fabulous job.

star7/10

 

Review: American Hustle

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American Hustle is am American dramedy directed by David O’Russell and written by Eric Warren Singing and David O’Russell. It has a wonderful ensemble cast, starring Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and  Bradley Cooper. It was released in the US December 13, 2013. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

American Hustle opens with a black screen and the words, “Some of this actually happened.” Which is, I think ,a great way to start a movie. It tells the story of Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and his partner (and muse) Sydney Prosser (Adams) as they are forced to work for the unhinged FBI agent, Richie DeMaso (Cooper). To add to the fun, we have Mayor Carmine Polito (Renner), a great guy who Richie DeMaso has decided to screw over to further his career, and Rosalyn (Lawrence), who is Rosenfeld’s nutso crazy wife. The plot is fun, the opening is fun. I was very prepared to love this movie.

The movie is fast paced and ridiculous, but I was underwhelmed. It was certainly a good movie, but for all it had going for it, I thought it would be better. I will admit, I have never connected to David O’Russell films (I thought the Fighter was okay, but I did quite like Silver Linings Playbook). I appreciate how this story is told, in that sort of awkward quirky everyone-in-this-movie-is-nuts sort of way. It also had several great acting moments. For all the hype around Jennifer Lawrence (don’t get me wrong, I love her and she was really good), the best performance, for me, would have to go to Christian Bale.

The cinematography (by Linus Sandgren) was awkward and, at times, pointless. The screenplay was clever, the acting was great. My favorite thing about this movie was Louis C.K. He had kind of a bit part, appearing throughout the film as Bradley Cooper’s boss. Throughout the movie, he was telling Cooper a story about ice fishing. I was more interested in that story than the actual movie, and i was a bit disappointed that we never got to hear the end of it. But, as it was allegory, I think I can guess.

Overall, I really, really wanted to like this movie. As much as I disliked it, I do have to admit that it was, technically, quite a good movie. And for that reason, my rating is as follows:

star7/10

2013 Oscars Recap

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The Oscars ceremony, in my humble opinion, was hilarious. And, at times, beautiful. There were a couple of upsets for me, but they were upsets I saw coming. It was a good year for me as well. I correctly predicted the winner of every category I felt qualified to make a prediction in. Next year I may be able to speak on the shorts, foreign language films, and documentaries.

As for the actual content, Ellen’s opening monologue absolutely killed me. Everything about it was perfect. I especially love how every year within the opening monologue the host always seem up to bring up the film they want to win. For example, in 2009 Hugh Jackman brought up The Dark knight along with the films that were actually nominated. The end of Ellen’s speech is what really killed me though – “Possibility number one, 12 Years a Slave wins best picture. Possibility number two, you’re all racists.” I actually died. If you missed it, it’s already up on YouTube.

Now, without further ado, let’s get started.

Best Original SongBest Original ScoreCostume DesignProduction Design –  Visual EffectsFilm EditingCinematographyWritingAnimated FeatureOther WinnersDirectingActingBest Picture

Best Original Song

“Happy” from Despicable Me 2 – Pharrell Williams
“Let it Go” from Frozen – Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
“The Moon Song” from Her – Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze
“Ordinary Love” from Mandella: Long Walk to freedom – U2

This was not at all a surprise. I love their acceptance speech. It was very Disney, and oddly entertaining. What I really want to talk about are the performances of the night. U2 went on stage and was U2, so that was enjoyable. When I first typed up my predictions, though, I didn’t connect that Pharrell Williams was nominated. His performance was very entertaining and a lot of fun. I particularly liked when he went out into the front row and danced with Lupita Nyong’o , Meryl Streep, and Amy Adams. The Moon Song was creepy. I totally dug it, and I enjoyed that they didn’t try a big gimmick and just sat down on the stage and sang the song. As always, Idina Menzel knocked it out of the park. I don’t think people really realize just how hard that song is. Nearly the whole thing is belted, which could do some damage to the vocal chords  (I saw an opportunity and I took it). Her voice cracked a bit when she hit the big note, but it was still lovely. A nice win for the night.

Best Original Score

The Book Thief – John Williams
Gravity – Steven Price
Her – William Butler and Owen Pallett
Philomena – Alexandre Desplat
Saving Mr. Banks – Thomas Newman

While everyone saw this coming, I still reserve the right to be a little bit upset by it. I really did not like the score to Gravity. I respect and congratulate Mr. Steven Price on his victory, but upon closer inspect I really would have given it to Alexandre Desplat for Philomena. I really found that one to be special. I loved how during the ceremony iconic film scores were playing (mostly done by John Williams) and each presenter got their own little theme song (“I Dreamed a Dream” was playing with Anne Hathaway walked out). I think one of these years, they should play some of the scores nominated. Not enough people really pay attention to the music, especially what impact it has during the film. I think it’s just as important as hearing the nominees for best original song.

Costume Design

American Hustle – Michael Wilkinson
The Great Gatsby – Catherine Martin
The Grandmaster – William Chang Suk Ping
The Invisible Woman – Michael O’Connor
12 Years a Slave – Patricia Norris

On reflection, I probably would have given this one to American Hustle. We always award a ‘period piece’, but the costumes for American Hustle had a bit more of a ‘wow’ factor for me. I think it’s more difficult to portray styles of recent history without getting blocked by stereotypes and the like. The costumes for Gatsby were beautiful, the costumes for all of these films were beautiful. This was a very strong category this year.

Production Design

American Hustle – Judy Becker (Production Design); Heather Loeffler (Set Decoration)
Gravity – Andy Nicholson (Production Design); Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard (Set Decoration)
The Great Gatsby – Catherine Martin (Production Design); Beverley Dunn (Set Decoration)
Her -K.K. Barrett (Production Design); Gene Serdena (Set Decoration)
12 Years a Slave – Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Alice Baker (Set Decoration)

I would have given this award to Gatsby hands down. The sets were what you would expect from these ladies, and they were absolutely beautiful, totally filled with awe, and each and every scene pulled me right into the time and the situation and the scene. I extend congratulations to Catherine Martin and Beverly Dunn for their beautiful work.

Visual Effects

Gravity -Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds
The Lone Ranger – Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier
Star Trek Into Darkness – Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton
Iron Man 3 – Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick

This is one of the very few awards of the night I would have given to Gravity hands down. The movie looked spectacular. As much as I disliked Gravity, as much as I liked Smaug and Star Trek (well, sort of liked), this was Gravity’s award to win.

Film Editing

American Hustle – Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten
Captain Phillips – Christopher Rouse
Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
Dallas Buyers Club – John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa
12 Years a Slave – Joe Walker

I wouldn’t have given it to Gravity, but I understand why it won. The film looked beautiful, and for most people, they way it was cut together really made them feel like they were trapped in space. I mean, the movie blatantly ignored things like physics and logic and basic storytelling, but I am not violently upset that it won.

Cinematography

The Grandmaster – Philippe Le Sourd
Gravity – Emmanuel Lubezki
Inside Llewyn Davis – Bruno Delbonnel
Nebraska – Phedon Papamichael
Prisoners – Roger A. Deakins

I’m sorry, but most of the shots in Gravity were of Sandra Bullock’s butt. This should have gone to 12 Years or ever Her. Maybe another movie on the list of nominees really deserved it – I don’t know, I haven’t gotten to any of them yet. I understand why it won, I wouldn’t have picked it, but I understand. Again, not violently upset that it won. I’ve had months to prepare myself.

Adapted Screenplay

Before Midnight – Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
12 Years a Slave – Screenplay by John Ridley
Captain Phillips – Screenplay by Billy Ray
The Wolf of Wall Street – Screenplay by Terence Winter
Philomena – Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope

And everyone told me Philomena would win. Take that! 12 Years deserved this award so much, especially with the snubs in just about every other category (more on that later). This film was actual poetry on the screen, and I was so proud and filled and joy with they called up John Ridley. This is truly and important win. He is only the second black person to win in the writing category, the first being Geoffrey Fletcher for Precious. He went on to give me all the feels. “All the praise goes to Solomon Northup. Those are his words. His life.” Beautiful speech for a beautiful film.

Original Screenplay

Her – Spike Jonze
American Hustle – Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen
Dallas Buyers Club – Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack
Nebraska – Bob Nelson

And everyone said American Hustle was going to win. Boom, baby! Her was absolutely beautiful. The winners this year give me hope – they were poetry, masterful prose. Spike Jonze gave a lovely speech, as he is a truly adorable human being, and it was lovely. It was a great night for the writing category.

Animated Feature

The Croods – Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson
Despicable Me 2 – Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri
Frozen – Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho
The Wind Rises – Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki
Ernest & Celestine – Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner

A good win. I would have been unreasonably excited if The Wind Rises won, but this was really Frozen’s award to win this year. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the film because of the butchering of the culture that it borrowed from. What I have to say about that – nobody had even heard of these people before Frozen. You didn’t know about them or their struggles and unless Disney mentioned them you wouldn’t have known they were using an actual culture. You don’t have the right to complain that they didn’t do it well enough. I’m going to touch on that more later, but you have to accept little victories. This culture had no voice in mainstream media, and now it does. That’s more than a little victory, and we have to acknowledge that before we decide to condemn Disney because ‘they could have done better’.

Other Winners

These winners are by no means less important, these are just the guys I didn’t actually predict anything for in my previous post because I did not feel qualified or I didn’t feel like talking about Gravity.

Makeup and Hairstyling

Dallas Buyers Club – Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa – Stephen Prouty
The Lone Ranger – Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

I did actually predict this one. I mean, come on. There was no way in heaven or hell the academy was about to give an Oscar to anything related to Jackass, and everyone hated the Lone Ranger. I don’t consider this to be a default win, though. I really think that American Hustle should have been nominated here, but I also really think that Dallas deserved this one. They had a $250 budget (which is nothing) and they did something beautiful.

Foreign Language Film

The Broken Circle Breakdown – Belgium
The Great Beauty – Italy
The Hunt – Denmark
The Missing Picture – Cambodia
Omar – Palestine

While they were cycling through the nominees, The Great Beauty immediately caught my eye. The one little bit of a scene they showed was beautiful. I haven’t seen any of the films in this category, so I am particularly interested to see what everyone else thinks about these. I was quite happy when this one won, and I was also very pleased to hear Martin Scorsese mentioned in their acceptance speech.

Documentary Feature

The Act of Killing – Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
Cutie and the Boxer – Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher
Dirty Wars – Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill
The Square – Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer
20 Feet from Stardom – Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen and Caitrin Rogers 

I normally love documentary, so I was a bit disappointed in myself that I hadn’t seen any of these. I was immediately interested  in The Act of Killing. Let me know what you think about these. With that in mind, this was one of my favorite acceptance speeches of the night. Sister-girl got a standing ovation. After that my dad turned to me and said, “12 Years better win after that.”

Documentary Short Subject

Cave Digger – Jeffrey Karoff
Facing Fear – Jason Cohen
Karama Has No Walls – Sara Ishaq
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life – Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall – Edgar Barens

This movie is important and I need to see it. That’s all I have to say about that.

Sound Mixing

Captain Phillips – Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro
Gravity – Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson
Inside Llewyn Davis – Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
Lone Survivor – Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

I also called this one. Everyone called this one. I don’t know much about sound mixing, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Gravity truly and completely deserved this one. I also heard great hings about Inside Llewyn Davis (I saw and opportunity and I took it). Regardless, Skip Lievsay would have won something.

Sound Editing

All is Lost – Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
Captain Phillips – Oliver Tarney
Gravity – Glenn Freemantle
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Brent Burge and Chris Ward
Lone Survivor – Wylie Stateman

Again, I don’t know much about sound. I almost would have given it to Smaug, but mostly because I’m an ass and I need to spite Gravity. Sound people. Come out from the wood works and set me right, please.

Short Film

Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me) – Esteban Crespo
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything) – Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras
Helium – Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson
Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?) – Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari
The Voorman Problem – Mark Gill and Baldwin Li

I just want to say that there were a lot of foreign films being honored this year, and I think that’s wonderful. I haven’t seen any of these even though I really should have. If you’ve seen any of these, please tell me what you think!

Short Animated Film

Feral – Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden
Get a Horse! – Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim
Mr. Hublot – Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares
Possessions – Shuhei Morita
Room on the Broom – Max Lang and Jan Lachauer

I also should have seen these. If you’ve been on my blog as any point recently, you would know that I love animation. Like, a lot. I want to go into filmmaking, but I also secretly want to be an animator. Also not, because it might take some of the magic away. I haven’t decided yet. I was immediately intrigued by all of these films, and I will be watching them, but I mostly wanted to talk about the acceptance speech. It was wonderful. The guy who was talking was shaking so hard! I could tell just looking at him that this was a dream realized, and it just reaffirmed all of those crazy dreams I have.

Now we’re getting into the ‘big’ awards. They’re all big awards, but I really have something to say about a lot of these.

Director

Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón
American Hustle – David O-Russell
Nebraska – Alexander Payne
12 Years a Slave – Steve McQueen
The Wolf of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese

I love Alfonso Cuaron and he deserves an award. This movie was hard to make, and I understand why he won. I would have given it to Steve McQueen in a heart beat, but you know. My problem with this category is the presenters. Angelina Jolie and Sidney Poitier. Image this: it’s the 2006 Oscars, and Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Francis Ford Coppola are there presenting the best director Oscar. Martin Scorsese doesn’t win. He did win, but these were three of his closest friends there to present the award to him (finally), so image if they set that up and he didn’t win. This is essentially how I feel about this year’s award. Angelina Jolie is Brad Pitt’s wife – he was the producer for 12 Years a Slave. She was there with the cast, she knew them. Sidney Poitier was the first black man to win and Oscar and the second black person to win an Oscar. This year is the 50th anniversary of his historic victory. Steve McQueen would have been the first black person to win best director and he is only the third to be nominated. This was set up for 12 Years a Slave even though everyone knew Alfonso was going to win. And that’s just painful. I’m not saying we didn’t break barriers. Alfonso Cuaron is the first Hispanic (please correct me on my terminology if need be) to win best director, and that’s extremely important. We still broke barriers in this category, and even though it wasn’t the barrier I wanted, it was still important. Cue dramatic sigh.

Supporting Actress

Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
June Squibb – Nebraska
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave

I knew in my heart that she was going to win. I could feel it. But that did not stop the last second doubts from creeping in, that maddening nervousness that the academy was going to massively screw up and give it to Jennifer Lawrence. But they came through! Everyone was crying as Lupita went up to accept her award – she got a standing ovation. It took about two seconds for the screenshot of Benedict Cumberbatch crying to make it onto the magical land of tumblr. She sped on well past the 90 second mark, and (thankfully) nobody stopped her. “When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me, and every little child, that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid. Thank you.” Yes. Yes, yes, yes. This win was important. It was really, really important. And they played her off with “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, which was completely perfect and totally called for. “Because she’s chocolate,” my father remarked.

Supporting Actor

Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street

Again, it has been a fantastic year for actors. It was abundantly clear as we cycled through the clips of each and every one of them. I did cringe just a bit with Michael Fassbender’s intense performance being plopped right in between Bradley Copper and Jonah Hill. He really should have gotten a bit more recognition, I think. But, as we all expected, Jared Leto took home the prize and gave the first speech of the night. Which was completely touching and beautiful. People have called it a plug for his band, and I call those people rude. His band is something he loves, how the hell could he not mention it while winning his Oscar? I loved what he had to say about his mother, his brother, and the many victims of AIDS. This was also a very important movie and an important win. He gave a brilliant performance.

Actress

Meryl Streep – August: Osage County
Amy Adams – American Hustle
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Judi Dench – Philomena
Sandra Bullock – Gravity

I know a lot of people wanted it to go to Amy Adams, but this simply was not her year. She’ll have her moment. I have yet to see Blue Jasmine, but the clip they showed completely blew me away (I saw an opportunity and I took it). This was her year and her award to win. This was actually a very strong category this year, but there was no question as to who was going to take home the gold.

Actor

Again, fantastic year for actors. You know it’s a great year when Tom Hanks doesn’t make the cut.

Chiwetel Eljiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Bruce Dern – Nebraska
Christian Bale – American Hustle
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street

His speech, though. I wasn’t completely sure what he was talking about at one point, but he did bring it all together in the end. He really said something. I told myself that I wouldn’t be upset when he won, that he did a great job, but I failed in this mission. I was upset. Not violently so, but enough to become a bit forlorn for a few minutes. Chiwetel Eljiofor was head and shoulders above every actor in this category. You could tell just by the clip they played. He was like that the whole movie – subtle, most of the story being told on his face. As stated in previous entries, the “Roll Jordan, Roll” scene is one of my favorite scenes in cinematic history. Don’t get me wrong, McConaughey was brilliant, and this snub wasn’t nearly as bad as what happened in 1997 (Djimon Hounsou wasn’t even nominated – he should have won that year, damn it!) but he just wasn’t Chiwetel Eljiofor.

Best Picture

12-years-a-slave-posterAmerican Hustle – Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison, and Jonathan Gordon
12 Years a Slave – Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas
The Wolf of Wall Street – Pending
Dallas Buyers Club – Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter
Nebraska – Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa
Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman
Her – Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay
Philomena – Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward
Captain Phillips – Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca

My reaction went something like this: YES! YES! KFNVJHNCSODCSLFVNASKFNCDKJNSLFVNSFVFNALJN! And then I rolled onto the floor and had a total spaz attack because yes! This is really important, guys! This is really, extremely important! The last movie to win best picture that had anything to do with American slavery was Gone With the Wind. In 1940. When the winner for Best Actress in a Supporting role couldn’t get into the theater because she was black and the security didn’t know who she was (don’t worry, she made it in eventually). In 1986, we all had to sit and watch as The Color Purple was nominated for 11 Oscars – and lost each and every one of them. We had to endure the 1997 Oscars as Amistad – arguably the best picture of that year, definitely one of the most important – wasn’t even nominated. Here is where we come back to the ideas I expressed under Best Animated Feature and Best Director – Yes, 12 Years a Slave was snubbed this year. Yes, it should have been nominated for and won more awards. But best supporting actress, best adapted screenplay, best freaking picture – those are victories! Those are hugely important, and we cannot ignore them simply because someone says there weren’t ‘enough’. This is something that should be shown in classrooms, this is a story people need to know. I second Steve McQueen’s impressive jump after his speech – we should all be jumping like that because this is a victory and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

What did you think of the Oscars this year? Let me know in the comments below, and have a very nice day.

Favorite Cartoons, Part 1

When I sat down to write this post, I did not realize that I had something like 30 favorite cartoons. I cannot stress to you enough how much I love cartoons. I firmly believe there should be upper awards for voice acting. As in, an Oscar for the craft. At least and Emmy. I love and respect the craft of animation and so I shall now share with you my favorite cartoons in no particular order. A bit of a disclaimer: I am not claiming each of these cartoons is as ‘good’ as the last, simply that I have an extreme enjoyment of each of these in some form.

Adventure Time

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A human boy named Finn and his best friend Jake, a magical, talking dog, set out on their adventures in the magical Land of Ooo.

I love pretty much everything about this show. I like how, unlike many cartoons, this shows follows a sort of story arc. There are new relationships and friendships and they change clothes and they grow older. The show is ridiculous and magical and kind of secretly really dark (it takes place 1000+ years after ‘the great mushroom war’ and Finn is sort of the last human anyone can find) and I’m so into that. This is a great show to watch if you’re into a strange adventure and wonderful what-the-actual-fuck moments.

American Dad 

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The random escapades of Stan Smith, an extreme right wing CIA agent dealing with family life and keeping America safe, all in the most absurd way possible.

I sometimes like this show more than Family Guy. Mostly because I like making fun of the hard right (Stan Smith) and the hippie part of the left (his daughter). Also, German fish and gay alien. So that’s a thing. My favorite episodes are the rapture Christmas episode and the episode about the gay republicans. I don’t think I’d put it in my top ten, but this is a thoroughly entertaining show with absolutely no story arc.

Avatar: The Last Air Bender

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The story follows the adventures of Aang, a young successor to a long line of Avatars, who must put his childhood ways aside and stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the Water, Earth and Air nations.

This is probably my second or third favorite cartoon. I absolutely love this show, and if you haven’t seen it yet, stop what you’re doing and go find a way to start watching this beautiful piece of art. It has a story, a really big story, and a natural conclusion. It doesn’t just keep going! As much as I want it to, the ending was great. I’ll give a special shout out to The Legend of Korra – I watched the first season and, while the first few episodes only managed to piss me off, it’s a good show. Anyway, back to Avatar. One of the many brilliant things about this show, other than everything, is the characters. Because they’re all perfect with each other. And they change and develop and guys this show is perfect.

Batman Beyond

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Fueled by remorse and vengeance, a high schooler named Terry McGinnis revives the role of Batman. Under supervision of an elderly Bruce Wayne, he fights crime in a harsh futuristic Gotham.

Oh look, it’s my childhood. I consider this required if you’re a Batman person. And I’m not sure I like the kind of person who isn’t a Batman person. This show is awesome. I mean, it’s not Avatar, but, you know, Batman. My favorite episode is the one with the flashbacks and then Harley Quinn is in it. I like that one.

Batman the Animated Series

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The Dark Knight battles crime in Gotham City with occasional help from Robin and Batgirl.

Because Batman, that’s why. This show used to be a really huge part of my life. The look that Batman has in the show, the look of Gotham, the voice of Batman – all that stuff is iconic. If you’re a cartoon person, like I am, You have got to check this one out. even if you aren’t that into Batman. Which, I mean, how could you not be? Look at that face.

Family Guy 

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In a wacky Rhode Island town, a dysfunctional family strive to cope with everyday life as they are thrown from one crazy scenario to another.

I love this show. I just find it really funny. All of my favorite episodes revolve around Stewie and Brian (the baby and the dog) who have a relationship that the show creator sort of repeated with Ted. This is the kind of show that has about no story and resets at the end of every episode. You can watch any episode at any time and pretty much get what’s going on. There are repeated jokes, like when a character hurts their knee, or how everyone hates Meg, and they make the show that much more enjoyable. They also break the fourth wall a lot, treating the show like they’re actors or something. Awesome show.

Flapjack

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The comical seafaring adventures of a young, enthusiastic boy, his pirate captain mentor, and the talking whale that raised him from birth.

Oh, Flapjack. The show is actually called The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, but nobody goes ‘hey! The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack are on!’ No. It’s just Flapjack. I was actually surprised this show stayed on as long as it did. It was really creepy and strange. Totally awesome, with Captain K-nuckles (he gets drunk on syrup) and Bubbie the whale. Flapjack was really friendly and super annoying and a little bit creepy. And someone was married to a lady made out of candy. If you’re into some really weird shit and enjoy creepy ugly-close ups, then this is the show for you, my friend.

Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends

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Eight-year-old Mac has outgrown his imaginary friend, says his mother, so he takes his buddy Bloo (a walking, talking security blanket) to Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.

I love this show. And you should too. Another one that’s a bit off-beat, I appreciate how creative this show is. I also didn’t realize Bloo was a security blanket until just now. This is actually a show about a mother who tells her son that he’s too old for his blanky. Which makes it that much better. If you’re looking for something quirky, fun, and actually super smart, I highly recommending this show.

Generator Rex

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A 15 year old boy with the ability to produce machines from his body via nanites is enlisted by the government to stop other creatures created by the same science.

I was really surprised that I liked this show. My brother and I used to watch Ben 10 a lot, and then the one where Ben is older. I always hated Ben, and I didn’t like Gwen until she grew up (I also liked Kevin), so I thought this might be one of those ridiculous shows about some asshole with superpowers. That is not this show at all. I actually really like Rex. And I like that he’s Mexican. That feels significant. In this strange distopia-like futuristic world, it makes for a really cool show. A lot of action, and a lot of fun.

Justice League/Justice League Unlimited

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Seven of the most formidable heroes form arguably the most powerful team ever.

I’ve watched this show since before I was even into comics. I always loved Batman and the Flash and Green Arrow. And Green Lantern. I didn’t even know that the original human lantern wasn’t black until later. What I like about this show is the dynamic of the team, and it’s the show that made me occasionally ship Wonder Woman and Batman and despise the entire idea of Wonder Woman and Superman. I don’t like Superman at all, but he’s pretty alright in this show. If you have no experience with the Justice League, this show is as funny as it is action packed. It’s a really great show.

The rest of the list is still to come. Do you like what you see so far? Let me know in the comments below! Have a nice day.

Favorite TV Shows

You can really tell a lot about a person based on the TV shows they watch. For example, my sister is a fan of reality TV. It’s not a guilty pleasure for her. She legitimately and outwardly enjoys it. She’s dramatic and likes the spot light, she’s vaguely judgmental, and very ambitious. But, she also loves various sitcoms an crime shows, especially true crime. She’s okay with reality, interested in stuff that’s actually happening. She likes to laugh. So, as a nice form of getting to know me, let’s take a look at my (rough) top 15 favorite TV shows. [Side bar: Animated shows are getting their own list so I don’t have to do a top thirty because wow I didn’t realize I watched so much TV].

15. New Girl

new_girl_wallpaper_1280x1024_08After a bad break-up, Jess, an offbeat young woman, moves into an apartment loft with three single men. Although they find her behavior very unusual, the men support her – most of the time.

I also thoroughly enjoy this program. The humor is quirky and off beat, all of the character are ridiculous. Again, I haven’t seen it in awhile, but the odd theme song is currently playing in my head. I am particularly fond of Schmidt. As well as being funny, this show has some emotional beats. But it’s only part romantic comedy – most of the episodes focus on the characters trying to accomplish something simple and failing completely because they are ridiculous people. This show is just ridiculous. I believe it’s also on Netflix instant watch. Give it a look.

14. Broadchurch

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The murder of a young boy in a small coastal town brings a media frenzy, which threatens to tear the community apart.

I am a fan of BBC. Also a fan of David Tennant and Arthur Darvill. Detective shows. All that. This show is a match made in heaven for me. The major thing I like about this show is that they don’t close the case in one episode – we spend the whole season trying to figure it out. And you really are trying to figure it out. I haven’t actually finished watching it yet because it disappeared from xfinity ondemand, but what I have seen so far is something smart, enjoyable, and completely addictive. It’s like there are actual drugs in this show. I love it.

13. The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

617120605062551335632BA-DUM-BA-DUM-DA – I know it’s cheating to put these together but you can’t ask me to choose between them, okay? There are few things quite as funny as a liberal democrat pretending to be a conservative republican to satire all of their ideas. One thing that is definitely funnier than the idea of the show is the fact that some people seem to really think he’s a conservative republican. Because they don’t actually watch the show. It’s brilliant. There’s a bunch of this on hulu – check it out if you want some political satire!

127_1the_daily_show_2What I love about this show is that Job Stewart makes fun of everybody. He’ll make fun of Fox news then have a go at the president. I love it. There are also correspondents used primarily for satire, which I appreciate. Just, I love this show and I can’t really tell you why. Well, I’m a dirty liberal. That’s why. It’s also on hulu. Go watch it.

12. Merlin

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Young Merlin is a teenager, discovering and then learning to master his magical gift. Magister Gaius, King Uther Pendragon’s learned court physician to whom he’s assigned as humble page, teaches him medicine, coaches his magical self-study, and warns him of Uther’s strong aversion to magic. Merlin becomes squire to the noble but imprudent crown prince, Arthur, whose fate is linked with Merlin.

When I first started watching this show, I hated it. I had no idea why I kept watching it. I am a slave to the characters, and seem to have fallen in love with them. The show started off good, then by the third or fourth episode I was banging my head against the wall. By the end of season two, though, it was actually really awesome and I got drawn into cool stories as well as cool characters. While there are about a million things I would have done differently, you cannot beat the relationships these characters naturally form with each other and the personal arch of each character. They all effect each other, and they all make really, really stupid mistakes. It has a rocky first season, for me, but the rest is pretty much worth it.

11. The Big Bang Theory

431311A woman who moves into an apartment across the hall from two brilliant but socially awkward physicists shows them how little they know about life outside of the laboratory.

This show never fails to make me laugh. Because it’s funny. I haven’t watched it in awhile, but I still love it. I have the theme song playing in my head while I write this, and it will continue playing in my head until the theme song for the next show on the list gets stuck in my head. There is not one specific thing that makes this show for me. The jokes are nerdy and amazing and the characters are slightly perfect. I am particularly fond of Sheldon (Sheldon is one of my many nick names) and Howard. And Raj. And Amy Farrah Fowler. I cannot talk about her character without using her full name. Just, everyone is amazing. I recommended it for nerdy people who are able to get science jokes as well as comic jokes. If you fall into neither of those categories, you may still enjoy it. Just, ah. This show is great.

10. Supernatural

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Two brothers follow their father’s footsteps as “hunters” fighting evil supernatural beings of many kinds including monsters, demons, and gods that roam the earth.

I love Supernatural. But it’s a love that quickly began to form into disappointment which became an outward loathing. Basically, I couldn’t get through season six. I read ahead through season seven and decided not to bother. By that point I was too far gone to make it to season eight or nine. It’s a sad story, my friends. Looking at the first five seasons, Supernatural is easily one of my top five favorite shows. The top three, even. But I could not in good faith include it on this list with my severe hatred for so much of the show. For me, Supernatural ended in season 5. My love of the first five seasons is large enough to make me want to forgo all hesitancy and just through it up on upper end of the list. I love the characters (especially Dean, Cas, and Bobby) and the stories leading to the bigger picture and the laughter and fun in the face of series issues (Pudding!) and now have a strange fondness for Carry On My Wayward Son. But then the rest of the show comes and round house kicks me in the face. And so here we are, a sad number ten filled with regret and disappointment based on what could have been in the face of what was. That being said, go onto Netflix and watch this show. Love the first five seasons, then give the rest of it the love that I never could.

9. The IT Crowd 

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Deep in the sub basement of the ambiguous company of Reynholm Industries, are not one, but two socially awkward IT guys. Moss, an electronics wizard and overly naive man and Roy, a lazy disgruntled co-worker have to provide support for Reynholm Industries with their inept boss, Jen, who doesn’t know the difference between hardware and software. The show revolves around Moss and Roy’s antics both at work and out socially, which always ends badly.

This show is pretty much perfect. I love every episode and it will always make me laugh way harder than I should. If you like the Big Bang Theory, watch this. I find it to be funnier in that it is much more ridiculous. Truly ridiculous things occur during this show. From the eccentric (to say the least) boss to the goth that lives in the boiler room of IT. And we can’t forget the ‘gay musical called Gay‘. This show it so funny. You can’t even comprehend. Just go watch it and come back and rave about it with me. Or, I mean, if you hate it I guess we can talk about that too.

8. Six Feet Under

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A drama series that takes a darkly comical look at members of a dysfunctional family that runs an independent funeral home. With the prodigal elder son (Nate) returning home for the holidays to shattering news, the family must learn to deal with a death of their own, while figuring out how to go ahead with the business of the living. A funny and emotional look at a grieving American family…that just happens to be in the grief management business.

This will probably end up higher on the list at some point, but I haven’t finished watching it yet. I love this show. I really do. I’ve only see part of the first season, but goodness I love it. It’s a dark comedy (perhaps you’ve already gotten the sense that I prefer my comedies dark or nerdy) and there’s a lot of substance to it. It tackles real issues in family relationships and it all feel very really. I love watching the show. Few things have made me laugh as hard while simultaneously causing me to feel emotions and stuff. It’s wonderful.

7. The Walking Dead

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Police officer Rick Grimes leads a group of survivors in a world overrun by zombies.

The emotional investment I have in this show is completely ridiculous. I don’t get emotionally invested with real people, mind you, just fictional ones. The show hurts so much. I think I might have actually had an emotional break down when the old guy died (spoiler alert: there are multiple old guys) and every time something happens to anyway I’m compelled to scream at the TV just to make sure they are okay. I’m particularly fond of Daryl and I haven’t watched the fourth season yet so don’t even try to spoil it for me okay? Anyway, this is a really great show, filled with painfully real moments and great twists. I can only handle it in small burst, but I love it nonetheless. And, if you need further encouragement beyond zombies and emotional investment in generally awesome characters (I hate Andrea so much you have no idea), know that the guy who creates this show was behind The Mist (great movie), The Green Mile (I can’t handle those feels), and the Shawshank Redemption (is perfect). So yeah.

6. Law and Order SVU

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This show is like my solid old friend. On any given day I can sit down to watch an SVU marathon, saying ‘Oh, this episode!’ one to ten minutes into each episode and occasionally – occasionally – find an episode I haven’t seen. I can recite the introduction off the top of my head. Because in the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad know as the special victims unit. These are there stories. DUN DA. I love this freaking show, guys. Side bar: Alex is my favorite ADA, and I pretty much love all of the other main characters (including Huang and Warner).

5. The West Wing

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When the erudite Democrat Josiah “Jed” Bartlet is elected U.S. president, he installs his administration. He places confidants from his electoral campaigns in the White House. Each of these people play a significant role in the Washington power game: the Chief of Staff (Leo McGarry), his deputy (Josh Lyman), Communications Director (Toby Zeigler), deputy (Sam Seaborn, and later, Will Bailey), and press secretary (CJ Cregg). Also in key positions are the assistants of each of the power players. We follow these people through many political battles, as well as some personal ones.

love this show. There are politics, it’s funny and it’s serious and I mean come on Martin Sheen is the president of the United States. The show is not just about the president – it’s about his senior staff. The president is in every episode, and he certainly has a huge role, but it’s called ‘The West Wing’ not ‘President Josiah Bartlet’. It is essential my idea of the best case scenario for a president of the states. I want Josiah Bartlet to be the real president, and I want the Democrats and Republics he deals with to be as open to working with him. don’t get me wrong, they aren’t really open to working with him. But it’s better than what we have now. Also, the president is an economist. Not a lawyer. So you can trust him with the actual budget of the country. He spends a good chunk of time in one episode correct the official economy people. He’s an idealist (a good man and a good president), and his staff is perfect (I mean, they’re flawed but they are also idealists and very good at what they do). It’s one of those dream scenarios that probably will never happen. Well, I guess, a dream scenario if you’re liberal. Or really into that bi-partisan thing. I’m not saying it’s accurate, but I am saying it’s great. Republicans and Democrats getting along, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore. This is a really great show. 

4. American Horror Story

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An anthology series that centers on different characters and locations, including a haunted house, an insane asylum and a witch coven.

This show is an absolute freakshow. It’s wonderful. It’s an anthology series, and it’s pretty much the same cast taking on different parts every season with wonderful regulars such as Evan Peters, Lily Rabe, Denis O’Hare, Frances Conroy, and Jessica Lange. The first season will always have a special place in my heart (my favorite characters were Tate and Patrick). The second season is probably my actual favorite because it is so completely left field. There were so many what-the-actual-fuck moments. It was wonderful. Interracial relationships, serial killers, rapists, lesbians, nuns, a demon, an insane asylum, aliens – just, what. The third season was also thoroughly enjoyable, giving my closure on a relationship from season one (the characters weren’t there, but there were the same actors and they have amazing chemistry). Basically, this show is slightly addictive, really weird, and totally awesome. I’m super excited to see what they do next.

3. Dexter

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Meet Dexter Morgan. By day he’s a blood spatter pattern expert for the Miami Metro police department. But by night – he takes on an entirely different persona: serial killer. But Dexter isn’t your average serial killer as he only kills people who fit a very prolific and precise “moral code” taught to him by his late father Harry (he didn’t kill Harry, honest), and developed very thoroughly throughout each kill.

My current binge is focused on Dexter. I just re-watched the first four seasons and can finally move on because they put the rest of it on Netflix. I’m really excited because I completely love this show. I was warned against the 5th season, but I actually really like it so far. The first two episodes are emotional, and it seems to be continuing with this sort of offbeat emotional feel that we didn’t really get in the first four seasons. Anyway, I love this show. I love the characters. I basically know what happens, but it’s still great to watch. it’s especially interesting if you’re into psychology and/or philosophy. This is kind of me filling up space that i don’t need to fill because i can’t really describe why I love this show so much. It’s just so wonderful.

2. Sherlock

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A modern update finds the famous sleuth and his doctor partner solving crime in 21st century London.

I love this show with all of my heart. I connect so hard with Sherlock I can’t even and his relationship with Watson is perhaps the most beautiful thing. On top of that, the show is funny and generally cool. The cases don’t discount the complicated forensics we do now as most of them are logic puzzles and it’s really not one of those things where it seems the incompetent police have a new case for Sherlock ever single day. If you haven’t seen it yet, and people have told you you’ll love it, be warned: there are nine episode total. And there is often a long hiatus between each three episode long hiatus. the show is addictive and I am completely emotionally invested. The first episode is when Sherlock and Watson first meet, and from there you get to watch their relationship grown as they basically actually connect to someone for the first time (at least, in a long time in John’s case). It’s interesting and thought provoking and generally a very well made show. My favorite episode is the second episode of the third season. Sherlock’s best man speech. I can’t handle how much I love it.

1. Doctor Who

doctor-who-logoYou really had to see this coming. If you’ve been with me for any amount of time, you would know that when I get going about Doctor Who, I really get going. So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to copy and paste the snippet I keep using that describes my love fro the show in the best way I am capable, I am going to link you to my posts in which I discuss the insurmountable love I have for this show, then I’m going to cover the basics. Here we go.

The love I have for this show is incredible. Incredibly geeky, but incredibly pure. Because, for me, when it comes down to it, in each incarnation of the Doctor I see that desire to run, to be anywhere but where they are now. I see someone who is slowly going numb to things they once thought to be incredible, someone trying so hard to move forward from all the pain, only to face more every day. Someone who is lonely. Someone who can still smile. I am all about that life.

For more on that, check out my post Ode to Doctor Who.

Time for the lightning round.

Favorite Doctors: 10, 3, 4, 11, 7, 8 (also the war doctor)
Favorite Companions: Sarah Jane Smith, Donna Noble, Rory Williams, Captain Jack Harkness, Ace (also K-9 and Handles)
Favorite Episodes: Blink, Midnight, The Girl in the Fireplace, Spearhead from Space
References: *I’m definitely verbally making the TARDIS noise right now*, *Time to sing the theme song with noises I’m making with my mouth* [join me]

Okay. I’m done. For now. Please note that this list is imperfect. I managed to completely forget about House and Community (tis a mystery). What are you favorite shows? Do you like any on my list? Do you dislike any? I’ll never know if you just keep staring at the screen. Leave a comment, and have a nice day.

The ‘Best’ Films of 2013

I say ‘best’ because I don’t pretend to be an expert. The Gods of Film did not bestow on me some great sight that gives me special authority to truly decide what is ‘great’. And, until Grandmaster Yoda himself descend from the heavens and personally bestows onto me such power, I will remain humble and open to other ideas and opinions.

Also note, I have not seen all of the movies of twenty-thirteen. This list is based on my experiences and what I have seen this year. In depth thoughts on each of these films will come soon.

Honorable Mentions: American Hustle and Gravity

gravity-posterTo be perfectly honest, I hated Gravity. We were thrown into an absolute mess before having any chance to get to know any of the characters – Sandra Bullock’s character especially. While my enjoyment of a film does not always hinge on my ability to connect with a character, in this instance it was so important because,  without it, I lost my willing suspension of disbelief. Everything seemed farfetched – we focused on the spectacle when we should have focused on the character. That’s what made movies like Apollo 13 and Inception so brilliant – we didn’t lose the characters to the spectacle. That being said: visually  speaking, Gravity is absolutely brilliant. This is definitely not Alfonso Cuaron at  his best – but his ability to make a film look to amazing, to put us in the scene and  really show us space – that’s an amazing feat. For that reason, this film deserves  just about all of the technical Oscars it is definitely going to win. This is the film  of the effects department and the technical team, and I appreciate it for that, if  nothing else.

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I wasn’t nearly as disappointed with American Hustle as a was with Gravity – I know that I don’t really get into David O’Russell movies, and that’s okay. I thought I would like it more than I did, but I was entirely underwhelmed. I will watch it again at some point and see if it’s better the second time but, in general, I’m not a fan. That being said: The performances in this film were great, and the ensemble work was brilliant. Every actor onscreen had such great chemistry with the other actors, I could really believe their story and I could really start to get into it. It was definitely a good movie, extremely popular with the acting community, especially. And I have to give it props for having one of my favorite opening statements in film history – ‘Some of this actually happened’.

5. The Wolf of Wall Street

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This movie was completely hilarious. Brilliantly acted and, as expected from Mr. Scorsese, brilliantly directed. I came away from this movie with one thought on mind mind – ‘That was a really good movie’. What the movie does, is it brings you a sort of connection with DiCaprio’s character – Jordan Belfort – from the start. He’s poor, he’s just looking to become rich, he has morals and does not do drugs. About thirty minutes in, he’s done a complete 180 and you’re with him every step of the way. This movie is completely ridiculous, and most of this stuff actually happened. It’s hard for me to really explain how good of a film this is. Like most Scorsese films, it simply causes me to wave my hands around in the air making strange noises in a futile attempt to explain. Everything just comes together in a way where I lack the capacity to really pick out and discuss the individual elements – as a film, it was wonderful. That being said: This movie was originally second on my list, but got bumped down as I watched more and more movies – I even prompted my resident Movie Guru to take it down a couple of notches. While this film is brilliant and enjoyable, a lot of the things that make it so great is the shock of what your seeing, the shock that someone could be so completely ridiculous. It’s portrayed in a way that is so shocking, it might lose a lot of it’s value for some people the second time through. Overall, though, it was a great movie.

4. August: Osage County

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I want to take a moment  to appreciate this poster; it essentially sums up the movie, depicting the longest and arguably best scene in the movie. There are many things I love about this movie. One of my favorite things to see in a film is honesty – and this movie is starkly honest. The script was great, penned by the the original author of the play. The cinematography was great, the acting was brilliant, and the story was amazing. What some people dislike about this movie is actually what I really like about it: the honesty, the almost slap-in-the-face anger and sadness. These people are unhappy. This movie is so emotionally dark, watching it, you will root for the incestuous relationship to work out. Even the ending, while everyone technically escapes from the things that are destroying them, it presents the honest melancholy of such an escape. I really loved this movie – as much as you can love a movie like this. Every scene is brilliant. It’s criminal this didn’t  get a best picture nod. Great movie, completely underrated in my humble opinion. Note that while this does not seem as excited as my comments for number five, a movie with this type of content is nearly impossible to explain in a couple hundred words in a blog post. I highly recommend viewing this film for yourself.

3. Her

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This, ladies and gentleman, is great scifi. It’s the movie that bumped August down to number four. I was very prepared to like this movie when I first sat down to watch it, but I wasn’t prepared for exactly how much I would love it. This is easily my favorite film of the year, but as for actual ‘best’, it’s a solid number three. The script was the best original of the year – I hung on every word and every scene. And within every scene there was that stark honesty I am so, so fond of. The cinematography was absolutely brilliant – perhaps the best of the year. Even the editing – the way he cut in the little scenes without dialogue just to show you the true emotion behind this man. The performances were brilliant. The concept of this movie was absolutely brilliant. A friend told me, before I watched it, ‘I want this to win best picture. It doesn’t deserve it, but I want it’. I took his word for it, and moved on. But then I actually watched it, and I am now in that exact boat. I don’t think this should win best picture, but I want it so bad. I’ve never been in that boat before. You can see the main character falling in love with his AI as they build a true relationship (and no one really cares or judges him for it), you see him pulling out of his depression with her love, and when she disappears at one point, you’re at the edge of your seat. Because the AI, Samantha, is a person – grappling with her new found ‘humanity’. There are a million metaphors and it’s just perfect. Go watch it – you’ll understand a new found capacity to love a film completely, and the seeming contradiction of this film being a ‘solid number three’.

2. Dallas Buyers Club

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This was definitely one of my favorite movies of the year. But, I really think it was also one of the best. Because it was brilliant. The cinematography was brilliant, the direction was brilliant, the characters were brilliant – their development was even better. Again, this movie was very honest. Not honest in a way that is unsettling, but honest to the point of subtlety – subtle pain, subtle connections. Even though this movie, the characters especially, were pretty far from subtle. Matthew McConaughey gave a truly brilliant performance – he’s going to win the Oscar. And even though I still maintain he was second best, I will not be upset when he wins. Rather, I accept and appreciate it. Jared Leto is also going to win the Oscar – rightly so, because he was brilliant. Many, many things make me love and appreciate this movie. For one, we’ve done an AIDS-centered movie without the main character being black or gay. In so many movies it’s ‘other people can get aids too’, but we don’t really see it. And it wasn’t all doom and gloom – they wanted to live, and that’s what they did. One of the major things that made me love this movie so much was the huge character growth. McConaughey’s character, Ron Woodroof, was a piece of shit at the start of the movie. But the end, he’s so human – calling his development a 180 or 360 or what have you would be completely inadequate. But these changes happened over time, he didn’t suddenly see the light. Then, of course, there was Jared Leto’s character: Rayon. Trust me when I say that rayon was perfect, and then go watch the movie and see for yourself. Because Rayon was perfect. Ron and Rayon initially meet in the hospital in a very funny scene, and months later enter into a business deal that forms an extremely unlikely friendship. Like, really unlikely.

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Their scenes are some of the most heartbreaking and heartwarming scenes I’ve seen on screen. Because they really do become actual best friends – the best friend either one has ever had. It’s beautiful, man. I love this movie, and I don’t think this bit in a blog post really does it justice. Go and see it for yourself.

1. 12 Years a Slave

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If you’ve made it this far, you know I love an honest film. And this move is…well I don’t know if I can properly describe it. For me, it’s easily the best film of 2013. There is no competition. This film is truly brilliant. I cannot stress that enough. The cinematography was brilliant – they had one camera and 35 days to shoot and they produced something completely brilliant.  The script – brilliant, and it’s going to win the Oscar. Michael Fassbender gives a brilliant performance, but all praises belong to Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Eljiofor. Lupita Nyong’o was simply amazing in this film. She’s going to with the Oscar, and I am going to be very happy about it. She gave the superior performance in her category – easily one of the best of the year. And Chiwetel Eljiofor was absolutely incredible in his portrayal of Solomon Northrup. I connected with him as I got to see his family, his life, and as it was all taken from him in the course of one night. As he was dehumanized and broken each and every day – right alongside Nyong’o’s character, who was broken from the start. This film is the chief portrayal of American slavery. Everyone knew it was bad, that slaves were whipped, that they were not considered human. But they never tell us how bad, they never go into the extent of the pain of the actual slaves. So often in movies, the slaves become one massive, faceless character. They are slaves, they are suffering. This film offered an actual perspective into the inhumanity of the whole thing. They are human, and they are dying. This film is tough to watch – people were leaving the theater, even I had a it of an emotional collapse after watching this movie. Nothing has moved me quite so deeply, and I don’t think anything will again.

I’d like to leave you with a short scene from 12 Years: One of my favorite scenes in this movie brilliantly displays what I like to call the birth of soul music – as someone without hope allows himself, for the first time, to feel that hope, to consider that he may get out of this, that he may see his family again, that hope is the only thing that will keep him alive until his does. And it’s all on his face.

2013 Oscar Predictions

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I hope you’re all as excited about the 86th Annual Academy Awards as I am. 2013 was a pretty good year in film (more on that later) and Ellen will be hosting the ceremony. Lots of excitement! Here, I’m going to talk about what I think should win, and what I think will win. Yeah? Yeah.

Best Original SongBest Original ScoreCostume DesignProduction DesignForeign Language FilmVisual EffectsFilm EditingCinematographyWritingAnimated FeatureDirectingActingBest Picture

Best Original Song

“Alone yet not Alone” from Alone Yet Not Alone – Music by Bruce Broughton; Lyric by Dennis Spiegel
“Happy” from Despicable Me 2 – Pharrell Williams
“Let it Go” from Frozen – Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
“The Moon Song” from Her – Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze
“Ordinary Love” from Mandella: Long Walk to freedom – U2

“Let it Go” is almost definitely going to win. I really like the song, but I do think a lot of what made it brilliant was the animation that took place during the song. The only other song on the list that has a shot is “Ordinary Love”. But with “Let it Go” having won the critics choice award, it’s almost a sure thing that it will win the Oscar.

Another great song from 2013 was “I See Fire” from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug by Ed Sheeran. The song coming right after the cut when everything went to hell was actual perfect.

Best Original Score

The Book Thief – John Williams
Gravity – Steven Price
Her – William Butler and Owen Pallett
Philomena – Alexandre Desplat
Saving Mr. Banks – Thomas Newman

I’m actually less informed about this category this year than I usually am. My first instinct is to say it should go to John Williams, because this is John Williams we’re talking about, and his score for The Book Thief is absolutely beautiful. After that, I would probably say Her. It was so perfect for the film and had a huge interaction with the story. Philomena and Saving Mr. Banks were also really strong. That being said, Gravity is probably going to win the Oscar. Which upsets me, because I didn’t even notice there was a score for Gravity. I always thought that best score should go to the score that’s really a part of the story telling – and Gravity’s wasn’t. For me, it’s the weakest one on the list. But, you know, what can you do.

Costume Design

American Hustle – Michael Wilkinson
The Great Gatsby – Catherine Martin
The Grandmaster – William Chang Suk Ping
The Invisible Woman – Michael O’Connor
12 Years a Slave – Patricia Norris

The Great Gatsby is probably going to win. This is one of the few times in history where I actually don’t really have an opinion. I mean, my opinion is that the costumes in all of these movies looked fantastic, and I will not be upset no matter who it goes to.

Production Design

American Hustle – Judy Becker (Production Design); Heather Loeffler (Set Decoration)
Gravity – Andy Nicholson (Production Design); Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard (Set Decoration)
The Great Gatsby – Catherine Martin (Production Design); Beverley Dunn (Set Decoration)
Her -K.K. Barrett (Production Design); Gene Serdena (Set Decoration)
12 Years a Slave – Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Alice Baker (Set Decoration)

This one is, again, probably going to The Great Gatsby. The movie looked beautiful. I mean, you’re watching it and you know exactly who made it because it has the same sort of feel to Moulin Rougue, but still. Beautiful. I would have liked to see a nomination for The Desolation of Smaug in this category, though. But they all looked great – you really felt the 70s in American Hustle, you could feel the subtle futuristic setting of Her, 12 Years really immersed you within the time and the situation, and Gravity was…you know….in space.

Foreign Language Film

I’m only bring this up because I’m pissed off. I’ve only see a couple of the films in this category, but something terrible has happened.

The Broken Circle Breakdown – Belgium
The Great Beauty – Italy
The Hunt – Denmark
The Missing Picture – Cambodia
Omar – Palestine

Somehow, Blue is the Warmest Color was not nominated. Are you kidding me? Like are you actually serious right now? That movie was absolutely beautiful! It won the critics choice award and it wasn’t even nominated for the Oscar. Not the first time in history this has happened, but it pisses me off almost every time. I’m not saying that movies here don’t deserve to be nominated. Just, Blue is the Warmest Color.

Visual Effects

Gravity -Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds
The Lone Ranger – Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier
Star Trek Into Darkness – Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton
Iron Man 3 – Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick

Gravity is definitely going to win this. And it deserves to win. The effects were beautiful.

Film Editing

American Hustle – Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten
Captain Phillips – Christopher Rouse
Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
Dallas Buyers Club – John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa
12 Years a Slave – Joe Walker

The winner of this award traditionally goes on to win Best Picture. That being said, Gravity, the visual spectacle that it was, it probably going to win. It has no chance was winning Best Picture, but it’ll probably get this one. I understand, but I would also be glad to see it go to 12 Years or Dallas. Or Her. Her was brilliantly cut together.

Cinematography

The Grandmaster – Philippe Le Sourd
Gravity – Emmanuel Lubezki
Inside Llewyn Davis – Bruno Delbonnel
Nebraska – Phedon Papamichael
Prisoners – Roger A. Deakins

First and foremost, 12 Years a Slave should have been nominated in this category. They used one camera and had 35 days to shoot (which is unheard of) and it came out wonderfully. 12 Years was certainly strong enough to win in this category. Unfortunately, Gravity is probably going to win. While it was very visually pleasing, in generally, the cinematography was ‘nothing special’ for me. What I really think should win (based on what I’ve seen so far) is Her – the cinematography was really a part of the story. it was kind of completely perfect.

Adapted Screenplay

Before Midnight – Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
12 Years a Slave – Screenplay by John Ridley
Captain Phillips – Screenplay by Billy Ray
The Wolf of Wall Street – Screenplay by Terence Winter
Philomena – Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope

This one’s going to 12 Years a Slave. It has to. If I haven’t said it already, the film was beautiful. It was an actual piece of art. I would accept it going to The Wolf of Wall Street (it won’t), but current evidence suggests it going to 12 Years. And 12 Years definitely deserves it.

Original Screenplay

Her – Spike Jonze
American Hustle – Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen
Dallas Buyers Club – Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack
Nebraska – Bob Nelson

The writing categories are two of the strongest this year. That being said, Her is going to win. I won’t accept any other winner. The screenplay was absolutely brilliant.

Animated Feature

The Croods – Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson
Despicable Me 2 – Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri
Frozen – Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho
The Wind Rises – Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki
Ernest & Celestine – Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner

I love all of these movies, but Frozen is definitely going to win. And I really think it deserves to.

Director

Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón
American Hustle – David O-Russell
Nebraska – Alexander Payne
12 Years a Slave – Steve McQueen
The Wolf of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese

While it would certainly be nice to see Scorsese win again (he won in 2006 for The Departed), this year it’s going to Alfonso Cuaron. I’m almost certain of it. That being said, I would really love to see Steve McQueen win. What with the tough subject material, and the fact that they had one camera and 35 days and produced something of such quality, I think he really deserves it even over Alfonso. Gravity is, by far, not the best of Alfonso Cuaron. He certainly deserves and Oscar, just not for Gravity. I also would have loved to see Jean-Marc Vallée nominated for Dallas Buyers Club. And it is completely criminal that Spike Jonze wasn’t nominated in this category.

My thing is, this category had such potential to be one of the strongest this year. I haven’t seen Nebraska yet, but Gravity is probably Alfonso Cuaron’s weakest film to date. And American Hustle – well, what made the movie was the acting. I understand, I do. But, for me, these are five of the best directors of the year – not exactly the top five directors of the year.

Supporting Actress

Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
June Squibb – Nebraska
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave

Lupita Nyong’o not only completely deserves to win, she’s definitely going to win. I’m very happy about that.

Supporting Actor

Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street

It has been a fantastic year for actors. Truly. That being said, Jared Leto is definitely going to win, and he definitely deserves to win. Again, super happy about that.

Actress

Meryl Streep – August: Osage County
Amy Adams – American Hustle
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Judi Dench – Philomena
Sandra Bullock – Gravity

I haven’t gotten to Philomena or Blue jasmine yet (I’m working on it), but all evidence suggests that Cate Blanchett is going to win. From what I’ve seen so far, the only other person I’d accept winning this year is Meryl Streep.

Actor

Again, fantastic year for actors. Check out this line up.

Chiwetel Eljiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Bruce Dern – Nebraska
Christian Bale – American Hustle
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street

Matthew McConaughey is almost definitely going to win. And – as much as it pains me to say it – I can completely see why. This year, I would have given it to Chiwetel Eljiofor for his positively brilliant performance in 12 Years, but I will not be upset when Matthew McConaughey wins. He gave a fantastic performance – definitely Oscar worthy.

Best Picture

American Hustle – Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison, and Jonathan Gordon
12 Years a Slave – Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas
The Wolf of Wall Street – Pending
Dallas Buyers Club – Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter
Nebraska – Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa
Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman
Her – Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay
Philomena – Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward
Captain Phillips – Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca

There are some years where I am completely stumped and cannot even form a coherent opinion on what should win. Like in 1994 – Forest Gump, Pulp Fiction, and The Shawshank Redemption were all nominated. I still have no idea which was truly the better of the three. This is not one of those years. While I wasn’t crazy about American Hustle or Gravity (and August: Osage County definitely should have been nominated) I understand that both are serious contenders. That being said, it has to go to 12 Years a SlaveI might be the only person that thinks that 12 Years is going to win (a lot of other people think it’s going to American Hustle) bu all evidence really suggests it’s going to 12 Years. It won the Golden Globe, when everyone thought it was going to Gravity. It won the Critics choice award (historically the best Oscar predictor) when everything thought it was going to American Hustle. American Hustle has more nominations that 12 years (10 to 9), but American Hustle is projected to win one (makeup) while 12 Years is protected to win two of the bigger ones (supporting actress, adapted screenplay). While the most Oscars of the night are almost definitely going to Gravity, Gravity has just about no chance – it’s always been between 12 Years and American Hustle. Best how the award season is going, right at the end of the race, Gravity is pulling up a bit. If anything other than 12 Years wins, I am going to give up. For me, it’s easily the best picture of the year. Hence, it’s winning the damn award.

Leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments below. I’ll have my list of the best films of 2013 up soon.

Have a nice day!