The Last Time I Used the N-word

Every so often the discussion of the N-word(Yes, the racially derogatory term) and who uses it, who can use it, who shouldn’t use it becomes a topic of discussion in our culture and in media. This last time it was triggered by Bill Maher using it on his HBO program as a “joke” during an interview.  You can see clip here.

It was not used in that hateful manner that we know it can be used.  Rather, it was used in that “I’m a progressive cool white guy, I can use this word for a good joke” I used to be in this camp. I majored in sociology.  I spoke out about racism.  I loved hip hop! Certainly, I could use the N-word every now and then in a “I’m down” sort of way. I could at least repeat it in rap lyrics or stand up routines, right?  I came to understand that I was wrong to use it in anyway.  Like Ice Cube tried to explain to Bill Maher a week later on his show.  “It’s not your word anymore Bill, It’s ours now”  It’s not our(white people) word anymore to be used in any fashion, “down” or otherwise.   Bill Maher immediately came out and apologized but I was more uncomfortable watching him the following week being unable to listen to Ice Cube’s explanation and really take it in.

Maher was dismissive and uncomfortable and kept wanting to just move on.  That word has meant death for so many people.  We have to be able to let someone express their hurt or anger for using N-word without being defensive or we haven’t really apologized for anything.  I will will never forget the last time I used the N-word.  It was about 14 years ago.  I was 27 years old.  I had not used the N-word in a derogatory fashion to my recollection in years.  Like I said, I was a social justice, anti-racist hip hop lovin’ white boy.  At the time I was living in Oakland, California and I was on my way to lunch with my friend Tom.  I had an experience the night before on the street where an African American guy was on the corner asking for some money but he was purposefully using some funny creative phrase where he used the N-word.  I was walking along the sidewalk with Tom the next day relating this story and I used the phrase the guy had told me with the N-word.  As I said the N-word, we were walking by an African American man eating lunch in his truck parked along the sidewalk.  His head jerked up hearing me say the N-word.  Our eyes met.  I still see that look from him and my heart hurts to this day.  He heard me.  He didn’t know the context but in the moment even I knew “Fuck the context” This guy is sitting here having his lunch and he has to hear a white person say the N-word. That is the only context.  Fuck my funny story.  After our eyes met, I was shaken as I realized what I had just did.  Tom was unaware and we continued to walk down the street.  Each step I felt worse and worse and I realized that I had to go back and apologize.  I think I tried to ignore that gut feeling initially but it became clear.  I told Tom “I have to go back and apologize, that man heard what I said” I walked back to his truck and told him that I wasn’t directing that at him but I was relating a story where an black guy had used that word(Still defensive) and I said I’m sorry and I  shouldn’t have said it.  He just nodded.  It was obvious that he heard me and it was obvious he wasn’t happy.  I walked away and realized that I would never use that word again in any context.  I will even skip over it when I’m going along with rap lyrics.  We all know the word is a hateful word but African Americans have taken possession of that word to use in their own way.  There is much discussion among African Americans themselves about the appropriateness of using that word in any way. That is not a debate for white people to weigh in on. The point is that I have no opinion on this nor should I.  We need to keep our mouths shut and stick to the fact that we as white people do not “own” that word anymore and we should no longer use it in any context.  It was upsetting a few years ago, when the NFL League office said that players would be penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct during games for using the N-word, and all I was hearing was white men in those positions and media saying African Americans shouldn’t use that word.  So let me get this straight, white people use this word for hundreds of years spewing hatred and death and then when African Americans finally transform this word to use in a new context you have white people from all walks of life(Politicians, media, NFL, etc) all of sudden saying that this word is abhorrent and shouldn’t be used.  What is abhorrent is white people thinking they can continue to tell people of color how to think, feel, and behave.  It’s past time for white people to be quiet and listen.

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Oscars 2017

 

So, It’s back.  My Oscar Blog. After 3 straight years, I just couldn’t bring myself to write it last year.  It just felt like homework instead of fun and ask all my teachers, I always hated homework!  I did watch all the movies last year and Mad Max and Brooklyn were my favorites.  Maybe I was boycotting last year without even knowing it.  #OscarsSoWhite was trending this time last year.  The Academy took a lot of criticism and rightfully so for their lack of diversity in nominated films and acting performances in 2016.  It’s nothing new. Every person and organization has to do better to look past what is most familiar to what is most deserving.  The argument I always hear against diversity is that we should just hire or choose the most deserving regardless of race, gender, etc.  That assumes that we have been choosing the most deserving but we haven’t and we don’t.  That’s the whole point. We continue to miss out on the truly most deserving because we choose the most familiar, the most comfortable.  I am a huge fan of film. I always lament the Academy Awards because they often celebrate what is most comfortable over what is truly great.  This notion will play out this year more than any year in recent memory.  Not to be all competitive or make it sound like a football game or something but this year we have the showdown of all showdowns. A film shot in Hollywood about Hollywood vs. A film made in Liberty City, Miami by a writer and director from those very streets.  You thought the Super Bowl was a classic?  This is the real Super Bowl!  Get ready for Moonlight vs. La La Land.  Moonlight is the Atlanta Falcons(even shot part of it in Atlanta) and La La Land is definitely the New England Patriots.  Let’s get real for a second…Moonlight is the best reviewed film of the year(and 4th best all time) with a 99 on Metacritic. 4th best of all time! Godfather is #1.  La La Land is good and it has the sexiest actor alive, Ryan Gosling(The Tom Brady of Hollywood). Damn, I’m just praying and hoping that La La Land doesn’t get that last 2 point conversion!  It is all about Moonlight for me.  It was the best movie I have seen in years.  I can’t even remember the last time I loved a film more.  I will be legit mad if Moonlight doesn’t win.  Don’t contact me for 3 days I will be rewatching it over and over again and crying!  I’ll do the same if Moonlight wins!

I like to tell you who/what I think “should” win and who/what “Will” win.  I’m usually pretty good at predicting what the Academy will do because it’s the opposite of what I want! It’s only a few more hours till the Oscars start so let’s do this.  I’m ranking the nominated films from least favorite to most favorite.  This year I will add the metacritic.com score next to the film.  Metacritic is a composite score based on critics reviews of the film.  It’s way better than Rotten Tomatoes to see how a film was reviewed.

Best Picture Nominees (not in any particular order…yet)

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land

Lion

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

#9 Hacksaw RidgeMetacritic Score: 71

Man, I hate that movies like this are even nominated but every year they throw a couple in.  I’m not sure why they do this.  I’m just not a fan of the true story made into a movie art form.  My three lest favorite movies of the year were the three movies that fit this category.  While the stories of all them were great, they are not made into great movies.  I always, always find myself wishing I was watching the documentary rather than the cheesy movie version. Hacksaw Ridge is about a combat medic in World War II who was a conscientious objector and refused to carry a weapon but saved over 70 lives on the battlefield with extraordinarily heroic efforts.  Amazing story right? A scene in the first 10 minutes of Hacksaw Ridge is why I don’t like the movie version.  His mother tells him that killing is God’s worst sin and then he finds himself in a hospital where he realizes his calling and also sees his future wife from across the room! Really? I mean I know you have to move the movie along but to realize his life’s calling and meet the love of his life in the same 3 seconds!  The best part was after the movie was over and before the credits rolled they had a brief interview with the actual man in his 80’s(He died in 2006) and a friend of his who he saved.  This 1 minute clip was way better than the entire movie and just proved to me that hearing his story from his mouth is a million times better than listening to Mel Gibson(Director) tell it.

#8 Lion – Metacritic Score: 69

This is a true story too and would be an phenomenal documentary.  It also had real life footage of the individuals involved at the very end and I just wanted to see more of that.  Again, this is an unbelievable story of a 5-year-old Indian boy who fell asleep on a train and ended up a thousand miles from home.  He didn’t really know the correct name of his small village.  He ended up at an orphanage and was adopted by an australian family. After 20 years he used google earth technology on his computer to try to find where he was from and he did! It was a pretty moving film and the scenes of India were beautiful.  The little boy actor, Sunny Pawar, was fantastic. Better than Dev Patel who was fine. The main issue I had watching this film was whether it was exploitive.  I’m just not sure how I feel about films that seem to want to tackle a larger social issue(Like missing children or child slavery) but in a for profit hollywood movie.  How many people leave a movie like that and think about what they can do to work on these issues? I don’t think many.  I don’t think that is the point of these movies.  I think the point is to exploit our emotions and give us this voyeuristic look into a terrible social issue.  Instead of making a shit ton of money on this film, what about producers spending money to produce a film like Blackfish which aired on prime time tv and did a lot for animal rights?

#7 Hidden Figures – Metacritic Score: 74

This is the last of the “true story” films. It’s about three African-American women scientists and mathematicians who worked for NASA during the race for space.  They were vital, along with many other women, women of color, people of color, in the success of NASA.  Duh. When I first saw this preview I thought why do I not already know this story.  We should already know this and it should be taught in schools.  Of course we know about many of the white men in NASA. I think I can speak for all of us when I say we should have a moratorium on hearing from or about white men. Lol. After you read MY blog of course.  Then stop completely.  I especially get annoyed with films about African-Americans that have a prominent role for the white hero character (Kevin Costner).  See my past Oscar Blogs for more discussion of the “white hero” in films.

 

#6 Hell or High Water – Metacritic Score: 88

Alright, I’m running out of time to get this out to you before the Oscars start so I’ll keep it brief.  This movie was set in modern times just after the economic crash of 2008. Two brothers whose family land was screwed over by mortgage companies and banks started robbing those banks in order to get the money back.  It was a little cliché but still pretty damn fun to watch.  I loved the soundtrack too and Ben Foster is one of the meanest s.o.b actors to watch.   Love him.

#5 Fences – Metacritic Score: 79

Fences is an August Wilson play starring Denzel and Viola.  Only first names needed.  It is so fun to watch a play on film because the dialogue is so damn good.  I felt like I could get an academy award nomination acting out that dialogue.  So damn good.  The ensemble cast was really great as well.  I balled at the end of this movie.  Ending was super dope.  Denzel and Viola were on point and are probably my picks for best acting performances.  But I don’t think that is a coincidence.  When something is written as well as August Wilson has done it must be so “easy” and a blessing to act in.  Really the award is shared with Mr. Wilson.  I hope they acknowledge as such tonight if they win.

#4 Manchester by the Sea

This film reminded me of Brooklyn in that all the characters were really likeable and the love between them was very present.  So many movies nowadays have these villainous  characters and plot twists. But really how many of us have villianous characters in our lives? Mostly we are surrounded by complex people that we love and struggle with.  We have painful and loving experiences with them. I just love how this movie was made with so many great scenes that lingered in the still but deafening silence of real life.  It wasn’t overacted (except maybe by Michelle Williams…who I normally love…maybe she didn’t) It is easy to overact in an emotional drama like this but they did a hell of a job with the subtlety of real life, love, and pain.  Casey Affleck was pretty damn awesome in this role and it seems to be between him and Denzel for Best Actor.

#3 Arrival – Metacritic Score: 81

I was so happy to see this film nominated for Best Picture.  It reminded me of movies that I have really liked in the past but never get nominated. It’s an alien invasion film but that’s the worst way to describe it.  It’s about relationships and deeper concepts of time and space.  I don’t have much to say about it except that I really liked it and I cherished the messages because they were particularly meaningful to me.  I won’t get into the concepts here but see it and then think of how the possibility of those ideas would affect how you lived your life.  Pretty trippy.

#2 La La Land – Metacritic Score: 93

Dammit, I am finally down to the showdown.  So, I have La La Land as my second favorite film of the year.  But I feel like I hate it now because of how great Moonlight is and how much I want Moonlight to win Best Picture.  Is La La Land really my 2nd Favorite??? Ugh. It is if it doesn’t win. If it wins I will hate it forever.  It was really beautiful and fun to watch.  It’s about two artists(a jazz pianist and actress) trying to make it LA and in love.  A modern-day Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire with tap dancing scenes and everything. Even though I’ve never seen one of their movies. I’m not that much of a film buff.  I have always liked Emma Stone a lot. I could watch her all day long and yeah yeah Ryan Gosling is super hot. Blah, blah, blah. I do wonder how good this movie would be without music.  I mean that’s not really fair because it’s a musical but does it stand on its own as a movie?  Does the music stand on its own without the movie? I’ll be honest, I don’t think either of them are that great on thier own.  Together, they make a pretty damn good movie and piece of art but nowhere near the same class as….

#1 Moonlight – Metacritic Score: 99

This is the movie my soul has been longing for for years.  Every year I see great movies and yet still something is missing for me.  I don’t even know what it is.  It’s probably a combination of things.  Maybe it’s heart…soul…truth. Damn, this movie had it all. Brilliant storytelling, cinematography, acting performances, soundtrack, etc. It’s a three act play following Chiron, a kid growing up in Liberty City projects in Miami.  The first act is him at elementary age, second is high school, and third is early 20’s.  The diner scene in the final act is by far the best piece of film this year(and years).  It’s the perfect film. It’s really hard for me to even write about it because I can’t seem to find the words and phrasing to tell you how much I loved this movie.  Maybe I can write more at a later time.   It just never strayed into cliche or gimmick or untruth.  No white hero.  A movie so true to the issues of race and sexuality, so true to itself that the viewer can be within it.  See what I told you? I can’t write about it.  I sound stupid. I can’t make sense of its greatness with my limited understanding. I’ve never talked about a film like this before. I’ll find words.  Hopefully, we will all find words and ways to connect.  I’m hopeful Moonlight has opened the door for more beautiful truth-telling art.  I can’t help but think the greatness of this film is really about the greatness of the people of Liberty City themselves.   Barry Jenkins, the director, and Tarell Alvin McCraney, the writer, grew up in this Miami neighborhood.  I’ll write no more.  They tell you. Promise me you will read this.

Actress in a Leading Role

Isabelle Huppert (Elle)

Ruth Negga (Loving)

Natalie Portman (Jackie)

Emma Stone (La La Land) Will Win

Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

I didn’t get to see Natalie Portman or Isabelle Huppert. The fact that most of these performances were not in nominated films made it a little more challenging for me to see in time.  Isabelle Huppert has racked up some awards already this season for her performance.  She is the safe bet to win but I have a sneaking suspicion that Emma Stone will win.  Ruth Negga was great in “Loving”.  Meryl Streep(aka LeBron James) just makes the finals every year at this point.  She was fine but just like LeBron she might have to be great to win the “MVP”  I sure hope there is some sports fans/movie fans crossover or none of this is making sense.  Of the three I saw I wold vote Emma Stone.

Actor in a Leading Role

Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) Should Win and Will Win

Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)

Ryan Gosling (La La Land)

Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)

Denzel Washington (Fences)

I did see all these performances.  Andrew Garfield was good but the movie sucked.  Gosling was Gosling, sexy as hell. I really like Captain Fantastic the movie but wasn’t blown away by Viggo Mortensen.  It’s all about Affleck vs. Denzel. And because one is known by his first name only I might have to go with him.  Both were really great.  I’m having a hard time choosing who I want to win and who I think will win.  I’m literally gonna pick now.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Viola Davis (Fences) Should Win and Will Win

Naomie Harris (Moonlight)

Nicole Kidman (Lion)

Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)

Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

One word. Viola!!!

Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) Will Win and Should Win

Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)

Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)

Dev Patel (Lion)

Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

One word. Mahershala! Okay more than one. Mahershala Ali in Moonlight instantly became one of my favorite characters and acting performances of all time. That is not hyperbolic. I wanted to watch him forever.

Animated Feature Film

And the winner is…John Lassiter and Pixar. I don’t know I didn’t see them except Zootopia but it’s always Pixar right?

Directing

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins Should Win

Arrival, Denis Villeneuve

La La Land, Damien Chazelle Will Win

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan

Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson

I swear to God if Barry Jenkins doesn’t win this thing for Moonlight, I will be as mad as Mel Gibson will be if Barry Jenkins does win.

The Rest

I’m gonna go ahead and just list off my choices and predictions for some of the remaining categories.

I think OJ: Made in America will and should win best documentary.  Crazy good.

I didn’t get to see Foreign Language Films this year and I’m looking forward to it.  I predict The Salesman.

Moonlight for adapted Screenplay. I think Fences could win.

I didn’t see The Lobster or 20th Century Women in the Original Screenplay Category but I’ll guess La La Land wins this.

Thanks again for reading and sharing my blog with others.  Academy Awards tonight at 8:30 pm.  The most disappointing thing I love to watch every year! Obviously you know I want Moonlight to win. I’m really scared they are going to give it to La La Land.  If I was betting the house on what will win I’d have to say La La Land.  But please let it be Moonlight.  I don’t want to wake up tomorrow morning feeling like that fateful Wednesday morning in November.  Okay, it’s not that serious. Much Love to you all!

-Tim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pay College Football Players

There was a time in the history of college football when it was just a good ole scrum between two rival academic institutions and any money made helped buy a few uniforms and some leather helmets. Those days are long over! The business of college football is beyond huge. The money is flowing, no… rushing, no… tsunami-ing to athletic departments, universities, and coaches. Don’t forget about food and beverage companies and stadium contractors (building new stadiums, additions and indoor facilities). Basically, everyone. That is everyone except the reason for all the money coming in…The Players. It’s time to pay the players. Actually, it is past time. It blows my mind how much resistance I hear from fans about the notion of paying the players. It is not hard to figure out why the universities and athletic departments would resist it. But, fans being against it? We don’t make money off the players. We cheer for them. I always hear different reasons why the players can’t be paid. I will concede that there are issues to be worked out in paying the players but that’s what we do in every other profession. I have heard these many reasons but I would call them excuses. Again, we pay workers in every other profession we can do it in college football.

I think the discussion needs to begin with this notion-There is only one reason and one reason only that college football players are not being paid. If they make money then everyone else in the system will make less. It is not rocket science but it is economics. This is not a new fight for workers to ask for a bigger piece of the pie and employers to resist. We have a minimum wage law in this country for a reason. Some employers didn’t/don’t even want to pay that. Here’s the deal, there is all this money coming in and everyone is getting a slice of that pie. If you pay the players then somebody getting paid has to get less. It’s simple. Those profiting off these player do not want to make less. What’s even crazier is that not only are the players not getting paid, there are rules limiting what a player can earn outside of football(job, etc). What is the reason for this rule? Well, it’s the same reason. If the player could make money then those who profit off the player will make less money. For example, would Nike pay the school millions for the teams to wear their clothing when they could pay the player some of that? Man, what a system the NCAA and universities have created.

Now, people like to talk that these players are getting a free education. That is true. That has value but I argue that it is not enough. Especially, since we are finding out more and more that these players are being funneled into easy classes to remain eligible(you can find several stories regarding this matter). Meaning they are not even getting the highest quality education. In fact, one of the main reasons the Northwestern players have sought to unionize is because they really can’t get the education they want because of the demands of football. They at least want to get the education they are promised since most of them are not going to play football professionally. Bobby Bowden was the first coach to make $1 million/year in 1996. 19 years later, 72 coaches make over $1 million/year. Nick Saban makes $7 million/year which is a 600% increase from Bobby Bowden in 1996. It’s time to pay the players. It’s past time. One argument you hear a lot is that the money from football supports all the other sports. It does but it also supports individuals and universities bank accounts. There is no need to take the money from women’s lacrosse. Most coaching staffs make a total of 4 million/year to 13 million/year. What if they made less and the players got paid? That’s one option. Believe me, give me a minute with that athletic budget and I will find money for the players. Everyone involved(including the players) should sit down at the bargaining table and figure out how much to pay the players. It’s not rocket science. It is economics and it can be done.

Let me give you a scenario. A buddy of yours has some start up cash to open a restaurant and he wants you to cook because you are an amazingly talented chef. He spends the money to start the business and the restaurant is open. Business is okay but neither of you are making a profit. Everything you make just keeps the place open and is enough to survive. Then things start to change for the better. More and more people are coming in to taste your creations. People are raving about you, the chef, at this new place. Business is booming and the place is packed every night. Yep, money is rollin’ in. You and your buddy’s dream came true. Now, he is taking a huge salary and he tells you that you have to make the same as when you started which remember was nothing. Then, he tells you that not only won’t he pay you but it is against the rules for him to pay you and if he did someone would come shut down the restaurant. But, he tells you “This is what I can do for you, I will send you to some classes so you can learn how to do something else besides be a chef” Except, that you are already a great chef, everyone loves your meals and you work at one of the most successful restaurants in the world. Then he tells you “Well, if you are a good enough chef maybe in a few years(you have to stay at his restaurant for 3 years by the way) you can get a great paying job at a really successful restaurant.” Except, that you already work at a really really successful restaurant. And not only do you work but you are the chef that cooks the meals that everyone comes to eat. Oh did I mention that he hired a bunch of support staff for the restaurant and they all make a bunch of money too. Everyone at the restaurant is doing well financially except you. Would you want to work under these arrangements? That my friends is NCAA college football and that my friends is ridiculous. Which one of you would ever think that scenario was fair and decent? Many of these players come from lower income families. What a positive impact being paid a fair salary would have on them and their families. It saddens me that as fans we don’t advocate for the players to be paid. We are supposed to be their fans. We cheer for them. We follow them from high school. Let’s use our voice to demand that they get the pay that they deserve. I just want one school to go rogue and say “if you come here, you will get a salary” You think that would help their recruiting? It’s time. It’s past time. Pay the Players!

 

 

The Oscars 2015

“Alright, alright, alright”(Feel free to repeat that in your best Matthew McConaughey impression…or not) The 2015 Academy Awards are tonight!!!  This is my third year writing about the Oscars and giving you my picks and musings about the best films and best performances of the year.  I was able to see every film nominated for best picture and every performance in the best actor/actress and best supporting actor/actresses categories.  Well, one movie nominated for Best Picture I walked out of because I thought it was that bad. It doesn’t happen often that I walk out.  Which film did I walk out on?  Read on and you will find out.  You may be surprised.

Rarely does the Best Picture go to my favorite movie of the year. The Oscar voters and I seem to have different tastes.  You would think I would have more in common with a 63 year old white man(that’s the predominant make up of Oscar voters) but apparently MTV and BET had more of an impact on me than I thought! (All credit goes to Fab Five Freddy and the cast of the first Real World) Anyways, I will count down and rank the nominated films starting with my least favorite.  You’ll see who I want to win but I will also include who I think will win.   I will give you my “should win” and “will win” with the acting performances.  As previous readers know, I can be kind of ridiculous in my opinions and it is possible that I will hate your favorite movie of the year.  Don’t take it personally.  🙂  This year you should be pretty safe because I liked almost all of the movies.

Also, you will not hear analysis such as ” the didactic advantage of Ethan Hawke’s characterization as a satirical intellectual in a post-modern familial emotional apocalypse”  However, you are likely to hear words like “cool” and “stupid”.  That’s just how I talk so let’s do this “thang”

Best Picture Nominees (not in any particular order…yet)

The Grand Budapest Hotel

American Sniper

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Boyhood

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

This was a actually a pretty good year.  I’m not sure it is a memorable year but I think there are a couple films here that will stand the test of time.  I actually liked them all a lot, well that is except for my lowest ranked nominated film of the year…

#8 American Sniper

Some of you may have already assumed that I am a liberal pansy by the mere fact that I am writing an Oscar blog.  Well? I think “pansy” is a tad harsh but I am liberal in my leanings. BUT, my political leanings had nothing to do with my thoughts on this film.  This film is based on the true story of Chris Kyle, an American sniper in the Iraq War.  Apparently, there was a lot of controversy about whether it was a propaganda piece for war or it did not depict Muslims in a favorable light, glorified snipers, etc.  I didn’t even get to this deep of a discussion about this movie because I just thought it was such bad film-making. Take what I say with a grain of salt because this is the film that I walked out on.  From the first scene it all felt so contrived and weirdly fake.  For example, we have all probably seen the preview where Bradley Cooper’s character Chris Kyle is about to shoot a young Iraqi boy who is carrying a rocket and walking toward his battalion.  The soldier next to Chris Kyle says “You better be sure he has a rocket or they will lock you up in Leavenworth (Leavenworth Prison is a maximum security penal facility of the US Military).  Really?  He’s gonna get locked up in a US prison for shooting a civilian he believes is about to kill American troops?  It doesn’t take much research to find that Leavenworth prison is not filled with American military who accidentally, or purposefully for that matter, killed innocent civilians during war.  I even found an article from two Iraqi soldiers who thought that was a ridiculous line for the character to say.  My whole point with all this is that no one would ever say anything like that because it is nowhere close to being true.  It is a poor attempt by the writer to increase the tension maybe? I don’t even know, I just know that in the 45 minutes I could sit through it was just poorly written line after line.  Don’t even get me started on the classic “soldier picks up girl in a bar who says she doesn’t date soldiers but dates him because of the funny witty banter they experience together.”  Can we just retire this cliched scene from movies and get more realistic for god sakes.  I’m gonna sit through the entire film eventually but what I saw wasn’t good.  I still love America though(especially if the NSA is reading this).

#7 The Theory of Everything

These next few films could all be tied in my rankings and I liked them all a lot.  They are lumped together in my opinion but I had to choose so Theory of Everything sits at #7.  This is the story of Stephen Hawking(Eddie Redmayne) and Jane Hawking(Felicity Jones) who met and fell in love at Cambridge. In the beginning of their relationship he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.  It is the story of their life together as he becomes wheelchair bound and one of the greatest theoretical physicists. What I really loved about this film is that it was just as much about Jane Hawking.  Felicity Jones, who I must admit I wasn’t that familiar with, was amazing.  I loved watching her as she dealt with the emotions of watching the man she loved slowly lose his ability to walk, talk, eat and figure out what she wanted in the midst of it all.  I loved the fact that this movie didn’t go the cheesy inspirational route with their relationship instead showing how both of them fell in love with other people during their time together and eventually divorced and ended up with those people. Eddie Redmayne is a favorite for Best Actor and his physical transformation was amazing and his emotional transformation was strong too.  It is still such an inspiring story to see the impact he has had only being able to move a cheek muscle to communicate through a machine.  Pretty trippy.

#6 The Imitation Game

I’m usually not a fan of true stories made into film because I think they sometimes rely on the story too much and lack creativity in the storytelling.  This movie probably lacked creativity in the storytelling but I just liked the story so damn much.  I had never heard of Alan Turing before and his role in being part of team that broke the German code “Enigma” which potentially saved thousands of lives over the final years in WWII.  Turing(from England) had a wild life. He is considered a pioneer of the modern computer and a war hero.  He also committed suicide at the age of 41 after undergoing chemical castration by the legal system for being a homosexual which was a crime at that time.  Super sad.  I kept thinking that we would all know about this man had he not been homosexual.  He would be in all our school textbooks.  Let’s hope he gets in them along with the others. You don’t have to see the movie but read this story somehow.

#5 Whiplash

Man, it was just nice to hear some Jazz music for 2 hours in the movie theater.  This film is about a jazz student and his relationship with an abusive jazz professor.  It’s probably about other stuff too but I am keeping this thing simple.  This movie was intense.  This young man driven to succeed and be the next great.  His professor(J.K. Simmons) is legit crazy in this movie.  Simmons plays him well but I would have liked some more nuance in his character.  This film made me think about the cost of being great.  This young man’s whole life is about trying to be great and it almost kills him, literally.  I think we underestimate the power of being “good enough”.  There seems to be a price for being “great” that I’m not sure is worth it.  I liked this movie more until I read an interview by J.K. Simmons where he was discussing his character saying that he was abusive and he doesn’t condone that but that the character has a point when he said “the worst two words in the English language are good job”  He then went on in the interview to describe how he doesn’t agree with parents clapping when their children go down the slide because “gravity did all the work, not the child” Yowza! Dad of the Year? Well, Mr. Simmons, you gotta “let go” at the top of slide if you want the gravity to work for you and I for one would applaud the courage to “let go” every chance I get.  Can I get an “amen”?

#4 The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson’s films are just damn fun!!!  I was really disappointed when Moonrise Kingdom wasn’t nominated two years ago.  Finally, they get it right and nominate Grand Budapest.  It’s crazy how I went into this film thinking “Alright, maybe it will be a little too Wes Anderson-y for my tastes.  Perhaps I’m growing tired of his style”  Not even close man.  It is ridiculous the world that is created in this film.  There are some great interviews with cast and crew about them filming at a hotel  in eastern Europe for several weeks.  Pure creativity at its best.  Pure joy.  The details are amazing and once again Wes Anderson gives the stage to a newcomer, Tony Revelori as Zero.    Anderson did the same with Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore.  How sweet for him to trust his films with new actors.  Once again, it is a treat to watch the star studded ensemble cast of Grand Budapest.  Some of my favorites were Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, everyone really.  This is a great movie! I wish I put it higher on this list.

#3 Boyhood

This film is written and directed by Richard Linklater.  Go watch this guy’s movies, especially Before Sunrise(co-written with Kim Krizan). Before Sunset(co-written with Kim Krizan) and Before Midnight.  The dialogue in his films, including Boyhood, is masterful.  It is amazing how Boyhood captures the messiness, the realness, the underlying anxiety of relationships in its dialogue.  I loved it.  It’s the complete opposite of American Sniper in terms of writing.  It transported me back to my own childhood.  The scenes with him visiting his Dad’s apartment as a young boy were just like mine.  An apartment filled with cigarettes, guitars, and congo drums!  Haha.  Many of you have probably heard the story of this film.  It was filmed intermittently over 12 years to follows the life of a 6 year old boy(whose parents are divorced) until he is 18 and goes off to college.  It was filmed with all the same actors, including the boy, over 12 years!  Crazy, mesmerizing experience to watch.  There were scenes where the boy was 13 but maybe the movie only lasted 10 minutes on that time period.  To think, they waited several years to film 10 minutes of the movie.  One thing I think really shines through in movies is how much love did everyone working on it have for the project.  You can really feel this in a film and no more than in Boyhood.  He captured boyhood pretty damn good.  Why did I put this #3? I’m starting to question that myself.  I guess at the end of the day, if I take away the unique film-making did I really think it was better than my top two?  Let’s just say I won’t be mad(Definitely not “Argo” mad) if it wins and I think it might.

#2 Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

I was starting to have a panic attack going back and forth about which was my second favorite nominated movie of the year.  Coincidentally, I think I had a panic attack watching this movie.  I don’t even know what to say about this movie. Brave! It was basically one shot the whole time, meaning the camera never cut away.  The entire sound track was percussion. Yeah, that’s right, drums, nothing else(and it worked brilliantly)  It was about a “washed-up” actor who was famous for playing an iconic superhero “Birdman”.  Now this actor(played by Michael Keaton)  is trying to prove himself to himself and his critics(and Birdman) by producing and starring in a broadway play.  The movies takes place mostly in the theatre during the few days till opening night.   It is almost impossible to think that this movie was written without Michael Keaton in the lead role.  Perfect is an understatement for the job he did.  This entire cast was great.  I especially loved the scenes and the relationship of Keaton with his ex wife(played by Amy Ryan).  Edward Norton might just win Best Supporting Actor as the method actor brought in just days before opening night.  He was pretty hilarious.

#1 Selma

Here we have my favorite film of 2015.  I usually don’t trust Hollywood when it comes to movies concerning race.(see 2013 Oscar blog about Django Unchained and 2014 blog about 12 Years a Slave).  Selma surprised me and inspired me.  There were so many things I loved about this movie.  I loved the relationship portrayal of Martin Luther King and Corretta Scott King.  This was a great example of “showing” the characters feelings for each other not “telling” us about them.  They could not say a word (and they had some quiet scenes together) but the energy was fierce.  That is acting.  That David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo were not nominated is a travesty.  This film is about the 3 month period culminating in the march in Alabama for Voting Rights for African Americans.  I loved that this particular time period was chosen as opposed to an biopic of MLK.  In many ways this movie wasn’t even about MLK. It was about the movement itself.  I hope we have another movement like this in my lifetime.  What was so powerful was how every word in the script was relevant then and relevant today.  I mean we do really still fight the same struggle.  It may look different.  It may not depending on where you are looking from.  The institutional racism of the criminal justice system today, the prison system today, poverty today.  All of the words of the civil rights movement are just as meaningful today.  My hope is, to quote King in Selma as he is talking to President Johnson, “We cannot wait any longer.”

This is my list and my rankings! My guess is that Birdman or Boyhood will win.  I’m guessing Boyhood.  I think Birdman might be a little too good and outside of the box for the Academy voters.

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard(Two Days One Night)

Felicity Jones (Theory of Everything)

Julianne Moore (Still Alice) Will Win and Should Win

Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

This was a very strong group.  I mentioned previously how impressed I was with Felicity Jones in Theory of Everything.  Rosamund Pike was what I like to call “Creepsburg, West Virginia” in Gone Girl.  Marion Cotillard was fantastic as always.  I actually preferred her in The Immigrant this past year.  But Julianne Moore was the real deal as a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s.  Brilliant.  I guarantee she will win.

Best Actor

Steve Carrell (Foxcatcher)

Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)

Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)

Michael Keaton (Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Should Win and Will Win

Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

Once again, Travesty that David Ayelowo (Selma) was not nominated.  Usually, the actor that undergoes the most physical transformation wins and that would be Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking.  He is the early favorite but I am going to guess Michael Keaton.  I heard a critic predict it could be an upset and Bradley Cooper could take home the Oscar.  I hope not.

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) Will Win

Laura Dern (Wild)

Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)

Emma Stone (Birdman) Should Win

Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)

I didn’t really love, love, love any of these performances.  They were all good but no one really stood out to me.  If I had to, which I don’t, but I will, I would say my favorite was Emma Stone.  I think she could pull the upset but the favorite is Patricia Arquette

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall (The Judge)

Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)

Edward Norton (Birdman) Should Win and Will Win

Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)

J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Robert Duvall is one of my all time faves.  I would watch him put on his shoes in the morning.  I have no idea why Mark Ruffalo is nominated.  I love him as an actor but I didn’t see the greatness in his performance.  You already know how I feel about J.K. Simmons. Of course I think if he wins no one should clap.  I’ll go with Ed Norton.  He was pretty fun to watch.

A few other tidbits

My favorite documentary this year was Citizen Four.  This was actually one of my favorite movies this year.(Along with Locke and Nightcrawler)

Best Director is a really tough category this year.  I’m torn between Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Richard Linklater (Boyhood) and Alejandro Inarritu (Birdman).  I think Richard Linklater will win but I think Inarritu should win for directing.

I think Boyhood and Richard Linklater will win for original screenplay and should win.

Yo, That’s a rap.  Enjoy the Academy Awards and thanks for reading. I appreciate that you took the time to read my ramblings.  I still love the movies.    Please follow my blog if you wish as I will be posting more content very soon.  What were your favorite movies of the year?  Let me know, Leave a comment.

Much Love,

Tim Bryant

The Oscars 2014

Today is the day! The 2014 Academy Awards and I know you all have been excitedly awaiting my 2nd Annual Oscar Blog.  That’s cool if you weren’t because here it is anyway.  I had a lot of fun seeing the nominated films this year as well as the acting performances and I hope you did as well.  I have a love/hate relationship with the Academy Awards.  I love watching the Academy Awards and some of my favorite films of all time have been past winners but too often I hear the name of my least favorite movie.  I’m still shaking my head from “Argo” last year.   The main reason my head still shakes is because it was one of the worst critically acclaimed films I have ever seen and booya it won.   People I love and respect still tell me they loved that movie but for the life of me I can’t figure out why.  I did figure out why it won though.  Because it was a movie about Hollywood saving the day and ending the hostage crisis in Iran.  They had to vote for themselves.  Okay, okay, enough with my bitterness. It’s time to turn the page. It’s 2014! A new year! A whole new crop of films. The Academy can still save face with me.  There is still a chance that sometime after midnight, in the early hours of March 3rd, the envelope will be opened and I will hear the words….”American Hustle”  Nooo!!!!!!!

Best Picture Nominees:

American Hustle

Captain Phillips

Dallas Buyers Club

Gravity

Her

Nebraska

Philomena

12 Years a Slave

The Wolf of Wall Street

Here is how it goes.  I will rank my favorite movies from least favorite to most favorite.  This year I will include my predictions on who will win but also include who I think should win in the acting categories.

#9 American Hustle 

This film is based on true events about a hustle that involved the FBI, New Jersey politicians, and small time hustlers who got in way over their head.  My least favorite nominated movie of the year is American Hustle.  I’m afraid that it will be two years in a row that my least favorite movie wins the Oscar.  I know, I know, maybe it’s me.  🙂  Forty-five minutes into this movie I was waiting for it to start.  The plot had already started and characters were introduced but I was waiting for a good movie to start.  It took forever for me to finally be interested and care about any of these characters. These characters were intended to be sort of bumbling, way over their head people for the most part.  But they still have to be interesting to make it a good movie.  I eventually got interested in Christian Bale and Amy Adams and found myself being really curious how they were going to figure out this dilemma they were caught in.  Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence on the other hand were boring.  Poorly written characters, poorly executed, too one dimensional, and I swear Jennifer Lawrence’s accent changed a few times.

#8 Philomena

I wasn’t able to see Philomena this year but it still comes in at #8.  There is no way it was worse that American Hustle.

#7 Captain Phillips

This is the true story about the captain who was kidnapped by Somali pirates and then rescued by navy seals.  I remember being fascinated with this story when it happened and mainly how navy seal snipers could shoot people who are in a boat rolling in the ocean while the snipers are in a boat rolling on the ocean.  Not to steal UPS’s tagline but that’s logistics right there.  The movie was intense and I liked it but it is far from Best Picture Quality.  I still haven’t decided how I feel about turning true stories into movies.  I feel like the fact that they are true fascinates us more than how good the movie actually is.  The category is still “Best Motion Picture” not “Best True Story made into a Movie.”  I’ll talk more about this later.  One of the things I loved about Gravity and All is Lost is how the movie started right where the characters were at and didn’t start with a lame backstory to attempt to give the characters depth.  Captain Phillips starts with Tom Hanks packing and he and his wife driving to the airport and there is some tension about their son.  It’s the same thing Argo did and a lot of movies do.  I just want to say that as a viewer it is sometimes what I don’t know about the person that draws me into their character.  It would be more powerful to hear Tom Hanks screaming out the name of his wife when he fears he is going to die if I’m left to fill in who and what that means to him.  I’ll sum up by saying “Captain Phillips” is “Castaway” except Wilson the volleyball has been replaced by Somali Pirates.

#6 Dallas Buyers Club

Another true story(See a trend here?). Texas bull rider Ron Woodruff  contracted HIV/AIDS in the early 80’s and started smuggling and selling non-FDA drug treatments to AIDS patients.  Hmm, I’m not sure what I’d like to say about this movie.  It falls in that same category of perhaps a better story than movie.  Many people predict Matthew McConaughey will win the Best Actor.  I don’t know man but it didn’t seem like that complex of a character to play.  It’s an emotional and gut-wrenching character but sometimes I think those are easier to dive into to than those characters who have all the intensity of that emotion but it’s just under the surface.

#5 The Wolf of Wall Street

Yowza!  This dark comedy was definitely a roller coaster ride of sex, drugs and money.  Lots and lots of sex, drugs, and money.  Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese teamed up again to tell the story of Jordan Belfort, who set up Stratton Oakmont brokerage and a penny stock “boiler room” in Long Island, NY and then served almost 2 years in prison for securities fraud.  The main reason I was looking forward to seeing this movie was to see Jonah Hill.  I love him and it was cool to see him doing something different though he didn’t really seem that different.  The film was very funny but I definitely had several moments of “Am I bad person for laughing at this?”  The film has received criticism for glorifying the lifestyle of excess.  I can see that but I feel that anyone who has hit bottom in their life and lived to see better days would not find anything glorifying about the selfish, out of control lives depicted on screen.  I can see, however, some 19 year old males watching that movie and thinking “That’s what I want to do when I graduate”  That’s a scary thought.

#4 12 Years a Slave

I have to admit that I was hesitant to see this movie because I care about racial justice but feel like too many movies are made about slavery and not enough about current issues of racial inequality.  White audiences can handle the racial injustice(and triumph over it) if it is hundreds of years ago.  Whatever emotion you are left with you can always say “it was a long time ago” to soothe yourself.  If you want to see a more current problem with racial inequality, I suggest seeing Fruitvale Station, a great movie that came out in 2013. Fruitvale Station leaves you with an emotional urgency, that you must do something now, today.  That creates quite an impact or dilemma.  All this being said, I think 12 Years a Slave is one of the best movies I have seen about slavery and it is also a true story.  The film really took time to explore the different relationships in the system of slavery and what those relationships felt like.  The relationships between slaves and owner, slaves amongst themselves, slave owners and their wives, overseers and owners, and on and on.  It did a graceful job of this.  The film also had a powerful technique of lingering in a particularly painful scene way longer than the viewer is accustomed to(but way shorter than what real slaves were accustomed to).  I really liked this movie and thought it might be my favorite of the year but then something began to gnaw at me which caused me to put this movie #4 on my list.  Solomon Northup was a free-born African American when he was kidnapped as an adult and sold into slavery for 12 years.  He was eventually freed with the help of a white Canadian abolitionist(played by Brad Pitt) and returned home to his wife and children.  Critically acclaimed movies about race usually always have a “white hero” who saves the day at the end.  It is true that white people were involved in the abolitionist movement and did help in many instances.  My problem with movies being made like this is that they ignore the fact that there were no “white heros” for the overwhelming majority of slaves.  These “white heros” feel like they are being used to 1) make the movie palatable for white audiences and 2) help to assuage feeling of white guilt.  The last several nominated films dealing with race were Lincoln(the White Hero of all White Heros). Django Unchained(In which the white character shot the bad guy in the end and gave up his own life to save the slaves and Christoph Waltz won the Oscar for this role). Even Captain Phillips ends with the white captain being saved by the white navy seal commander by shooting black somali pirates. All “white heros” in movies dealing with race.  I go back to Fruitvale Station, there were no “white heros” for Oscar Grant that night in the subway station when he was shot in the back by white police.  If there were, he would be alive and that movie would be nominated for Best Picture.  The irony of Brad Pitt’s character in 12 Years a Slave(He is only in the movie for 10 minutes) is that him coming on aboard to produce and be part of the film is a big reason it was made.

Talk about a “white hero.”  And check out these posters from the film in Italy.  12-years-a-slave-white-black-620x4001-620x400 Michael Fassbender on the left is the slave owner by the way.  The posters in America had only the black main character Solomon Northup on them.  So, at least we got that going for us.  Look, I’m glad Brad Pitt did what he did and helped get this movie made but the narrative becomes about what a great thing he did(“white hero”) and not about the racial politics of why this movie couldn’t get made without him.  For me, that is the more important conversation to have.  My h0pe for the future is that more African American films can be made and we can enjoy the art and story without a “white hero.”

#3 Nebraska

Now we have arrived at my three favorite nominated movies of the year.  I didn’t realize this until writing this blog that my three favorite films are not based on true stories.  I think this is really telling.  I know that when a movie starts and I see those lines “based on a true story”, I start to get interested.  I wonder if that is used as a crutch for creativity by filmmakers.  You don’t have to create it from scratch.  You “recreate” it.   I don’t think it is coincidence that the most beautiful films of the year for me are not based on true stories but are original screenplays.  Nebraska is directed by Alexander Payne(The Descendants, Sideways).  Payne has a really truthful way of portraying family relationships, funny and heartbreaking. Nebraska is about an elderly man(excellently played by Bruce Dern) who gets a letter in the mail that he won a million dollars.  It is a marketing letter to get you to sign up for magazine subscriptions but he thinks it is real.  He no longer drives so he starts walking to Omaha Nebraska to claim his prize.   His son helps in the journey after he can’t convince his Dad it is not real.  This was a great film.  It was shot in black and white.  It worked perfectly.  It is interesting to me how you don’t need color to make a great movie.  Life is full of color but perhaps the real color to our lives is human emotion and spirit (the sentimental line of this blog).  I loved the family dynamics in this movie.  They had that closeness and love with years of anger, pain and frustration constantly bubbling up.  All the characters were really excellent in this movie.  I felt a kinship with this film since some of my family is from the midwest.  It had an amazing true feel to it and perfect midwestern humor.  I loved how the seriousness and the pain of the situation came in and out but was always there even during the “lighter” moments.  The ending is really sweet and touching as well.

#2 Gravity

I’ve heard mixed reviews on this film winning Best Picture from friends and family.  Is it really Best Picture worthy? I debated between Gravity and Her as my favorite movie of the year.  I got to be real, I thought Gravity was freakin’ amazing! Sitting in that theater I felt like what I imagined people watching 2001: A Space Odyssey or Star Wars for the first time might have felt like.  Gravity is a complete game changer in cinematography. The score was ridiculous in a good way.  I loved how the movie did not start with a lame back story and Sandra Bullock packing for her trip to space.  Rather, we are instantly transported to space and feel like we are really there and within minutes shit hits the fan, literally.  It wasn’t just a movie, it was an experience.  My stomach was so tight from the tension it took hours for it to relax.  I felt weird walking on solid ground afterward.  The only thing I didn’t like about the movie was George Clooney but what’s new?  Nah, he was cool but I think it is still technically workplace sexual harassment even if you are outside the earth’s atmosphere.  The movie is a heck of a ride but it fell just short to my favorite movie of the year

#1 Her

The man who gets the new artificially intelligent computer operating system and falls in love with her.  Joaquin Phoenix played Theodore but the star of the movie was Scarlett Johansson as the voice of the operating system.  I think she would have been an amazing “out of the box” nomination for best actress even thought it was only her voice.  The other star of this movie was the “feel” of it.  The world and feeling created by Spike Jonze(Director and Writer) was amazing.  In was set in the near future which in intself is such a cool concept.  It is one thing to create a far off future world but to create something that seems just like ours but…just beyond our imaginative reach. Maybe sooner than we think.  I don’t know, it was just awesome.  The way they dressed seemed like I will totally being wearing that soon.  Alot of people talked about the theme of this movie being the technology of having a computer system that it would be possible to fall in love with.  While that technological advance was trippy that heart of the story was relationship.  The driving force of the story was relationship.  It was one of the best movies exploring the nuances and power struggles and enjoyments of being in love.  It was all so real and somehow made even more real despite the fact that one of them wasn’t real at all.  Like he was willing to risk his heart a little more.  It really made me think and feel. What a work of art.

That’s my list.  I hope you enjoyed reading and please feel free to comment and disagree with everything I said.  Ha.  I really want Her to win but my gut is telling me 12 Years a Slave. As long as it’s not American Hustle. 🙂

I’ll quickly list the acting nominations and some other awards and maybe include a few words

Best Actress in a Leading Role:

Amy Adams(American Hustle)

Cate Blanchett(Blue Jasmine) Should Win and Will Win

Sandra Bullock(Gravity)

Judi Dench(Philomena)

Meryl Streep(August: Osage County)

If you want to feel uncomfortable in your skin for two hours watch Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine. So amazing. When I saw Meryl Streep on this list I was like “not again.” But then I saw her and dang she is crazy good again.

Best Actor in a Leading Role:

Christian Bale(American Hustle)

Bruce Dern(Nebraska) Should Win

Leonardo Dicaprio(The Wolf of Wall Street)

Chiwetel Ejiofor(12 Years a Slave)

Matthew McConaughey(Dallas Buyer’s Club) Will Win

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

Sally Hawkins(Blue Jasmine) Should Win

Jennifer Lawrence(American Hustle)

Lupita Nyong’o(12 Years a Slave) Will Win

Julia Roberts(August:Osage County)

June Squibb(Nebraska)

This was hard to decide because outside of Jennifer Lawrence they were all really good but nobody seemed better than they other.  I have a feeling Nyong’o will get it which is cool with me.  I’d say my favorite performance was Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

Barkhad Abdi(Captain Phillips)

Bradley Cooper(American Hustle)

Michael Fassbender(12 Years a Slave)

Jonah Hill(The Wolf of Wall Street)

Jared Leto(Dallas Buyer’s Club) Will Win

Do I have to pick one of these? They were all good but none seemed award worthy. I’ll root for Jonah Hill because I like him.

Lots of other great categories and awards to be handed out. I’ll be rooting for Alfonso Cuaron(Gravity) for Best Director, and Spike Jonze(Her) for original screenplay.  Enjoy the Academy Awards and thanks for reading my Oscar Blog 2014.  Please comment below.

Dez Bryant “not sorry,” but others should be.

The headline on ESPN this morning reads “Dez not sorry, respects, loves Romo, Witten.”  What the headline should read is “Media and fans sorry to Dez for bashing him for encouraging his team.” or just go with my headline for this blog.   You get my point.  Dez Bryant was filmed on the sideline adamantly encouraging his teammates including WR coach Derek Dooley and Tony Romo.  I saw it live and somehow I could tell that he was not being negative.  I just did not get that vibe.  But, I also realized that as far as the media was concerned, they were going to take this and run with it.  That’s exactly what they did, describing the situation and Dez using the words “tantrum” “rant” “unhappy with Romo” “selfish” “diva”.   Well, today the NFL released the audio transcript of what Dez said and here it is.

“Man, we good on that, Tony. We the best in the NFL on that. We the best in the NFL. And I could…I’m telling you, if you look at it on film…man, if you look at it on film, [unclear] I swear to God out there, [unclear, PA announcer speaking] on the zero, I’m cutting. [Unclear] [expletive] [unclear.]”

The rest of it was in similar style but dissecting some plays that they had run or were going to run.  The media and others did what happens way too often in our society and that is mischaracterize a black man as angry and selfish(even dangerous).  It’s fascinating because I live in Gainesville, Fl and watched Tim Tebow implore his teammates at the University of Florida in the same fashion and he was lauded as a great leader.  Last year, Aaron Rodgers yelled at his WR James Jones and some praised him as being a leader.   Rodgers and Head Coach Mike McCarthy had a heated discussion on the sidelines this year and the narrative that emerges from the media is that these things happen in the heat of the battle.  Greg Jennings, former Packers WR, came out and discussed what he thought was a selfish attitude of Aaron Rodgers when he played with him.   The narrative that emerges from the media on that story is that Jennings has sour grapes and should apologize to Aaron Rodgers.  Ridiculous.  This Dez Bryant story is another example in a long line of example of black athletes(and all people of color, really) being held to a higher standard. In most cases, like this one with Dez Bryant, the media(and others) are just flat-out wrong and mischaracterizing.   I would like everyone who wrote a story about Dez and his “tantrum” to write a follow-up apologizing to him.  My hope is that we will all examine our reactions to people of color and recognize our prejudice. I hope we will see how this attitude and behavior inhibits our connection with others instead of strengthens it.

Oscars

Each year my Dad and I would see all the nominated movies for Best Picture and enjoy analyzing each movie together.  One of our all time favorites was Life is Beautiful by Roberto Benigni.

That year Shakespeare in Love won Best Picture and my Dad and I were flabbergasted.  Being flabbergasted at Oscar winners(and nominations) is a common emotion.  I still love the Academy Awards and I watch every year, feeling moved, inspired  with tears in my eyes.(What can I say, My Dad and I were both criers)  The thing is that I think the Academy doesn’t even nominate the best movies of the year.  Some are great, some good, and some, well I don’t like them.  Here are my thoughts about this years nominees.  To my friends out there, don’t be offended if I hate a movie you love because I am kind of ridiculous when it comes to this stuff.  My Dad passed away in 2011 and this year I felt his presence while completing our ritual.  I know he is happy that I am finally writing down some of my thoughts on the movies  Be prepared, I am not going to give much detailed analysis.  This probably won’t evoke critical thoughts.  Just some fun thoughts about the films.  Also, I didn’t feel like explaining the movie.  This will be a way more interesting read if you know what the films are about.  Okay, let the opinions begin:

Best Picture Nominees: Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty http://oscar.go.com/nominees  I am going to rank the movies from worst to best.

#9 Argo
Just because something is an amazing true story does not make it an amazing movie.  I feel like this happens a lot in Hollywood.  So, none of the acting performances stood out.  Character development was pretty weak.  They gave Ben Affleck(I guess Ben Affleck gave Ben Affleck, since he is the director) a lame side story of being separated from his son and wife yet didn’t develop that plot line.  It’s a cliché thing to do to try to make the character more interesting except it doesn’t work and just seems silly.  Honestly, how much do you think they thought about that part of his character.  Barely, is my guess.  So than don’t try to get me to feel something that took you two seconds to come up with writing a “made for hollywood” screenplay.  Another thing, I’m tired of these movies that make white people look cool and brown people not cool.  Most of the time they did not even give subtitles to the Iranian characters.  “Just be mean and Iranian, who cares what you are actually saying, the audience will get the point.”  Terrible.  I want some real nuanced creative discourse on these interesting topics not a super hero Ben Affleck riding into Tehran on his white horse/plane to save the day.

What I liked? Seeing the old phones from 1980.  I miss them. It reminded me of my grandparents house. Seriously, I did like the vintage look and feel of the film, but that’s about it.

Ridiculous that this movie was nominated for Best Picture.  A joke, a farce.  I heard rumblings that it could actually win! I am critiquing the film not the story, it’s awesome that those hostages were rescued and amazing how they pulled it off.  But if it wins best picture, someone send a fake movie crew to my house to rescue me from my flabbergastment.

#8 Lincoln

I know, I know. Now you think I am really crazy putting Lincoln at #8.  Here is the deal, part of my reasoning here is about all the hype and accolades it received and how hopeful I was that it would be good.  I was very disappointed.  I was afraid to see this movie because I was afraid that Daniel Day-Lewis wouldn’t be able to pull it off.  Unfortunately or fortunately he was able to pull it off but no one else associated with the film was.  Once again, everything was over simplified.  Politicians for slavery were uglier, boring, mean-spirited, weak. Those against slavery were funny, confident, suave, likeable.  I hate being beat over the head with that simplicity.  There is a scene where Tommy Lee Jones(the abolitionist politician Thaddeus Stevens) brings a new congressman into his office to intimidate him into voting to abolish slavery.  The scene is just so contrived with Jones bullying him while, we the audience laugh at the young congressman’s inability to get words out of his mouth in the presence of such a witty powerful man.  I felt the dialogue was not realistic and was just there to explain to the audience what was happening.  When will screenwriters realize that you don’t have to tell us what is happening in the dialogue? Let the dialogue be authentic and we will enjoy figuring it out. Also, I wasn’t really into the portrayal of the relationship between Lincoln and his wife Mary(Sally Field).

What I liked? Actually, Daniel Day-Lewis.  I didn’t think what he was working with was all that good.  But, I found myself thinking while watching the movie.  “Why is Abraham Lincoln surrounded by all theses doofuses?  I would have thought those people would have been more interesting.” In other words, I forgot I was watching Daniel Day-Lewis.  Unfortunately, the rest of the movie reminded me.

#7 Les Miserables

My favorite part of this movie was the trailer and the 9 months prior to seeing it.  I love this musical.  I’ve seen it on Broadway.  I have the music on my ipod, etc, etc.  Not to be a Broadway snob but once you’ve seen it on Broadway, this cast is a let down.  I was really stoked for this movie but alas I pretty much hated it.  First of all, Javert is my favorite character in Les Mis and “Stars” arguably my favorite song.  Russell Crowe was just not good as an actor or singer.  Anne Hathaway was pretty awesome and did steal the show in her few minutes.  I also felt like the musical score was pushed to the background for the acting and singing.  The opening scene is huge and dramatic but the score was barely audible over the crashing waves and Hugh Jackman’s voice.  They missed the boat on this.(those who saw the movie get my bad reference)

#6 Life of Pi

We are getting closer to movies I liked(kinda) I promise. I actually didn’t like this crop of nominated awards very much but there are a few.  Keep reading. Haha.  So, Life of Pi? I saw this movie so long ago I can’t even remember what happened.  There was a tiger and then a Zebra that sounded like Chris Rock.  Wait, that was Madagascar 3 which was awesome by the way.  I was nervous to see Maddy 3 because I had not seen the first 2.  I wasn’t sure I would understand anything but I picked it up quick and laughed right along with all the kids in the theater.  I really don’t have much to say about Life of Pi.  Sorry.  I kinda liked it, kinda didn’t.  I didn’t see the end coming.  People talked about it being spiritual but I didn’t find the discussions about God particularly interesting or thought-provoking.  I have always liked adventure and survival stories so I enjoyed that.  I would recommend seeing it but an academy award nomination is stretching it.

#5 Django Unchained

I just saw this today actually so I have not fleshed out my thoughts on it.  Forgetting about the content, the violence, rightness and wrongness, it was a beautiful film.  Tarantino is great with a camera and often has cool shots and cinematography in his films.  I really liked “seeing” it.  I love Jamie Foxx, I always knew he was a star back on In Living Color when he was my favorite.  Foxx was cool but not to cool even when he was being to cool.  Follow me?  Tarantino reminds me of 13 yr old boy who stole his parents camera and makes movies with his buddies.  I mean that in a good way.  As for the social aspect of the film.  I know the white people ultimately lose in the end but I did not like that the black characters were humiliated and perversely killed or threatened while the white people in the film were simply shot.  It just seems that our racism again allows us to stomach the poor treatment of slaves but Tarantino didn’t have the guts to turn that treatment around to the whites.  He simply gave the whites bullets albeit plenty of them while those of color got the dogs(literally).  Maybe he knew white people wouldn’t watch.  Maybe he’s just white.  The sad thing is it would have been a braver film if Jamie Foxx had slung up the white man to castrate him instead of the other way around(Foxx was hung up by slave owner and almost castrated) but could a white audience watch that?  No way.

#4 Zero Dark Thirty

This was another film that I was very excited to see after the trailer.  I must admit there is a little John Wayne in me that gets excited to hear about America kicking ass and taking names especially UBL.(Bin Laden)  But, my John Wayne part is only a little the rest of me is yearns for a more balanced look at things.  There was so much discussion about this film being critical of the war on terror and torture.  I don’t know how anyone came to this conclusion.  The people conducting torture were made to be sympathetic.  Those being tortured were not and the torture turned up pretty good results without any negative consequences to anyone except those being tortured.  Pitiful critique.  Hearing this you might wonder how this film is #4 on my list.  I don’t know actually.  Ask John Wayne?

What I liked? I did like the filming of the final scene.  Bigelow took her time with that scene which rarely happens and I appreciated that.  The helicopters were flying to Bin Laden’s compound for what seemed like hours.  The realism of the final scene was confusing to watch.  I kept waiting for Bin Laden to jump out a window and try to escape but then I realized that is what most actions films depict and I have come to expect.

#3 Beasts of the Southern Wild

I almost put this #2 but I went with my heart and heart strings were plucked by my #2.  This film brought up some intense feelings for me so it was hard for me to tell if I liked it or not.  The main character, a young girl, dealing with her dying father.  It was close to home to watch and I felt angry after.  This is what heartfelt film making is about.  Telling stories that need to be but are rarely told because we are making films like Argo.  It was intense seeing how these people lived in what is poverty and yet is filled with connection as well.  I don’t know man.  This film was just damn good.  I can’t even think about what they were trying to portray.  I just felt all sorts of damn things the whole time.  Happy to see these beautiful people, sad that they didn’t have much.  Guilty because I shouldn’t feel sad for them.  They were cool so then I felt sad for me.  Then happy cause they had each other, then angry that people we love die.  This film gets my vote because of the emotional roller coaster it took me on.  I was ballin’ at the end of this movie.  Great job ya’ll!

#2 Silver Linings Playbook

Any film that can make me like Bradley Cooper should win an Oscar.  This film does not seem like a typical best picture nominee.  I think that speaks to how good it is.  I called this a perfect movie.  Amazing supporting cast. Deniro was excellent as an obsessive compulsive codependent father, Chris Tucker was confident and defeated. Jacki Weaver(Cooper’s mother) was loving and strange.  All the surrounding characters stood out in their own way.  The characters had depth and expressed both the yin and yang of their personalities.  There was a great tension balance humour and seriousness.  I’m telling you this film was good.  It even had a Desean Jackson Eagles jersey which you can never go wrong with.  It was cheesy at times and I didn’t always love Jennifer Lawrence.  I appreciated the portrayal of Cooper’s struggles with mental illness but more his attachment to getting back with his wife.  I too once read a book my girlfriend tried to get me to read but I read after she broke up with me in hopes that would change something.  Cooper took this to the next level and it was so believable.

#1 Amour

The French have done it again.  My little John Wayne is so pissed right now.  Finally this movie came to my town last week.  Zero Dark Thirty and Amour were the best reviewed movies on Metacritic this year.  Man, I loved loved loved this movie.  It is a heart wrenching story of an elderly couple and their last several months together.  Their love is felt so strongly from the opening scene when police break into their apartment(probably because no one has heard from them) to find a deceased elderly woman dressed in a beautiful dress lying her bed with flowers all around her.  Someone asked me if the movie goes back into their life together when they met or when they were younger.  I loved this question because that is what movies typically do right?  To try to “build” the connection of the couple. The beauty of this film is that it doesn’t have to go back.  Why go back when all the depth of their love and experiences are so palpable in their final moments together.  Apparently, the male and female lead are well-known great french actors.  They were exquisite.  Essentially, for the 2 hour film you never leave their Parisian apartment.  I do not remember watching a film and becoming so intimately connected with a home before.  I felt I was there in the kitchen having dinner with them.  I wanted to pull a book down from the living room shelf and curl up on the chaise lounge with a cup of tea.

With both actors, I could feel the deep sadness and loss of control at facing death while at the same time a certain peaceful reservation that this is what we all must do.  We all hope to be there for our loved ones to escort them to that next place, to the great mystery.  I am grateful to see a film do this so beautifully.  Full of sadness, confusion, struggle and tenderness.  This is my favorite film of the year easy.  A great thanks to everyone involved in making it.

Movies I would have like to have seen nominated and other favorites: I think it is a travesty that Moonrise Kingdom was not nominated over most of these other films.  It was in my top three of the year.  I also loved the prequel to Alien, PrometheusParanorman was an awesome animated film nominated in that category.  And My favorite comedy of 2012 was 21 Jump Street.  Jah feel?

Here are my picks for the some other categories at the Oscars tonight

Actress in a Leading Role 

Emmanuelle Riva(Amour)  This is a cool category because the oldest(Riva) and youngest(Wallis) nominees ever are represented.

Nominees:  Jessica Chastain(Zero Dark Thirty), Jennifer Lawrence(Silver Linings Playbook), Emmanuelle Riva(Amour), Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Naomi Watts(The Impossible)

Actress in a Supporting Role

Anne Hathaway(Les Mis)  I want to say Amy Adams here because that would make me look like a more polished film critic(and Adams was good) but Anne gets my vote.  Ha.  Nominees: Amy Adams(The Master), Sally Field(Lincoln), Anne Hathaway(Les Mis), Helen Hunt(The Sessions), Jacki Weaver(Silver Linings Playbook)

Actor in a Leading Role

Joaquin Phoenix(The Master)  This guy is so good.  I felt I was watching a young Jack Nicholson or Marlon Brando.  The film is some kind of crazy and Joaquin is awesome.

Nominees: Bradley Cooper(Silver Linings Playbook), Daniel Day-Lewis(Lincoln), Hugh Jackman(Les Miserables), Joaquin Phoenix(The Master), Denzel Washington(Flight).

Actor in a Supporting Role

Tie between Phillip Seymour Hoffman(The Master) and Robert De Niro(Silver Linings Playbook)  I didn’t think this was a strong category.  It was just the “other guy” from the nominated films.  De Niro was pretty fun to watch though.  I’ll go with him.

Nominees: Alan Arkin(Argo), Robert De Niro(Silver Linings Playbook), Phillip Seymour Hoffman( The Master), Tommy Lee Jones(Lincoln), Christoph Waltz(Django Unchained)

Best Director

Michael Haneke(Amour)

Cinematography

Django Unchained

Adapted Screenplay

Silver Linings Playbook(David O. Russell)

Original Screenplay

Moonrise Kingdom(Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola)

Thanks a lot for taking the time to read my blog.  Please share it with others and become a follower.  I would love to hear your thoughts, disagreements, and you betcha’s so leave a comments.  Enjoy the Oscars.  I know even if Argo wins, I will probably shed a tear.  Peace and Love.