Monday, July 11, 2016

Paranormal Perfection

Greetings and salutations. There is a torrential downpour happening right outside my window, so I figured what better opportunity to flesh out some meaningless writing? A torrential downpour of scattered thoughts, if you will. Do you ever get the feeling that you have an ingrown fingernail? I do. Inspired by this gloomy, menacing weather, I decided to write about a genre I normally don't explore: horror. When I think horror, images of Michael Myers and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre come to mind. And blood--lots of blood. These facets of cinema have always repelled me, especially that creepy, murderous Chucky doll. I absolutely despise that ginger menace. No, the films I will be looking at share a characteristic that is not blood or cheap thrills. While they do feature jump scares quite frequently, the following films are true masterpieces when it comes to the genre of horror. They are, ladies and gentlemen, the psychological horrors.

I write this fresh out of the theater, and by theater I mean my at-home movie theater. I have my own projector, you know, huge screen and all. Anyway, the film I just finished is called Insidious. No need for introduction, I'm sure, as it was immensely popular among audiences, even some critics. Recall that most horror movies rife with jump scares are typically disregarded as "annoying" and repetitive. I quoted "annoying" because that's an actual review Insidious received: "It was far more annoying than it was terrifying." I'm paraphrasing, but that's the gist of the review. How can anyone define this film as "annoying," I truly wonder. I am going to say it right now: Insidious is by far the most terrifying film I have ever seen. Considering that I am not a savant of the horror genre, this statement is not very powerful, certainly not requiring bold effects. Not sure if "powerful" was the right word to use there. Then again, neither was "annoying" to describe this movie. Critiquing a horror film is a challenge because it requires the utmost subtlety and vagueness. I cannot go about divulging spoilers as it would caution you that much more before immersing yourself into the experience. How exactly does one go about reviewing horror "flicks" without giving a walkthrough of what to expect? Adjectives come to mind right away, as always, for they provide vague yet impacting declarations of what a movie can be described as. When I think of what I just experienced with Insidious, I think of exactly that word: insidious. The film oozes such malice, such utter terror that you never know what to anticipate. Nevertheless you are anticipating something, you cannot even predict what's lurking about or if there even is anything there. Just the mere thought forces your imagination to run free and once the actuality reaches your line of vision, you are confronted with fears unimaginable to what you foresaw. Let's be honest, one can't really force anything with this film. Unless I'm an amateur when it comes to horror films and I fail to see through the "annoying" facade the director presents for his viewers. He must prey on the gullible weakness of novice viewers such as myself then, for this film frightened any of my sources. By sources, I mean my close friends. Just kidding, I don't have any friends. The film was very unsettling. The visions that appeared upon the screen were expected yet unexpected; they tease you with their absence, then attack you with their sudden entrance. Again, no spoilers. All I will do is highly recommend Insidious. Be warned that the level of sheer terror is frighteningly steep. See what I did there with the pun? There was no pun.

The next film up for vague discussion is called The Conjuring, released three years after Insidious by the very same director. What is that you say? We have a skilled craftsman of horror that does not demand the need for senseless gore on screen? Other than Saw, James Wan seems to have a knack for original, genuinely chilling horror movies. I can actually watch and enjoy them, with my adrenaline levels spiking all the while of course. My craving for horror materialized out of nowhere, it seems. Perhaps I've matured to a point where films like The Shining aren't scary enough. Be advised that The Shining is one of my only experience with horror and that I very much appreciated that debut experience. The book was just as good as the movie, I reckon. Past horror movies I consider to be "horror movies" include Grindhouse productions, which were majorly bloody messes. Literally just a carousel of slaughters and cheap storylines. As a child, I was horrified by the onslaught of blood and guts, or at least that's what I recall from my youth. Since then, I've seen The Shining as well as 1408 and The Skeleton Key. The latter is worth mentioning for it was a truly creepy horror where the ending was everything. That's all I have to say about that. Though I will stress the importance of the ending when it comes to horror movies. A shitty ending will have you leave the theater with a rotten taste in your mouth, sometimes literally. The bile that formed was due to...unmet expectations? I thought I was going somewhere with that, some kind of metaphor. Oh well. Over the course of a horror film, you are left breathless yet your heart is pumping wildly--that's how it should be anyway--so when the ending is flat, you feel sick from all that wasted adrenaline. I feel my figurative language is all over the place there. Just like my train of thought. Let me return to The Conjuring now.

Aside from having an excellent title for a horror film, The Conjuring rests among the classics as one of the greatest among horror cinema. I hope that sentence wasn't too choppy. Loosely based on true events, the film follows famed spookologists Ed and Lorraine Warren. I definitely made up the word "spookologists," I'm sorry. Their official title is paranormal investigator, according to Wikipedia, which is a website that can be relied on when it comes to searching mundane facts, believe it or not. Ed is a self-taught demonologist (actual term), author, and lecturer, while Lorraine is a clairvoyant and light trance medium. Basically, he represents the clean-cut professionalism behind a case while she serves as the up-close and personal encounter with the haunting spirits. Personally, ghost stories triggered the shrug reaction for me, as I remained indifferent to these types of tales because I have never seen a ghost. I ain't afraid of no ghosts. I want to believe in ghosts because it implies prolonged life on this earth, which is somewhat appealing since I have a painstaking fear of mortality. But that's beside the point. Until The Conjuring, I steered clear of all things even remotely scary, including the frightful images of truly creepy ghosts. When it came to the paranormal, the most I've seen is Ghostbusters. The original one, obviously. Because the new one is a negatory as of now. I lose my train of thought so easily. For the last ten minutes, I was looking up attractive actors to see if they were single or not. As if I had a chance to hit up Bradley Cooper. Come on, get it together.

New paragraph. I watched The Conjuring before I watched Insidious, actually, because at the time of writing I had just watched Insidious so I figured it would be best to write about that one fresh from the mind. Therefore, a somewhat significant amount of time (about two or three weeks) has passed since I watched The Conjuring. Forgive me if my analysis and sentiments of the film are not adequately produced as they were for Insidious. What I really appreciated about The Conjuring was the time period; the seventies motif gives the film a vintage aura about it that makes the horror aspect a tad creepier because it conjures images of classic scary movies. Objectively speaking, this film was no where near as terrifying as Insidious; however, its period creepiness will cement The Conjuring in cinematic history nevertheless. I'm not saying The Conjuring was tame overall because it certainly frightened me multiple times. Unlike Insidious, this film relied more on the quiet tension that something might happen as opposed to blatantly horrifying jump scares. (I may have contradicted what I said earlier. What i mean to say is that, while there were moments of silent tension in Insidious, they were typically followed by jump scares. The Conjuring, on the other hand, gave less pay-off in terms of jump scares, as there were more moments of silent tension that were there for aesthetics, I think. Moving on.) The basement of the Perrons' home is where the chilling fear faces the shocking horrors you were anticipating. In other words, the most scary scenes happen down in the basement. Just a complimentary spoiler for the ill and weak-stomached. Oh, and the creepy tree with the noose hanging from a branch (pictured in the poster) is the setting for a heart-stopping moment of dread as well. That's actually a great word to describe the feeling I have when watching these two Wan films: heart-stopping. Not in the thrilling, roller coaster kind of way, of course. The combination of a score reminiscent of classic horror films; the tiptoe slow approach to the horrific reveal; the undeniable tension and shortness of breath; and finally the unsettling jump scare that feels as if the spirits reached from the screen and jolted you themselves. That sums up these two films incredibly well, in my opinion, explaining my newfound fascination with creepy-eerie horror films that do not rely on purely visuals and gore to get your attention.

Before I wrap things up, I would like to give some praise to the acting in each of the films because I just realized that I ignored that. Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson play the husband and wife in Insidious, where their son experiences the cursed art of dream traveling. In more technical terms, he "becomes a vessel for ghosts an astral dimension who want to inhabit his body." Thanks Wikipedia. As the mother of this special child, who gets lost in the Further and is therefore temporarily lost to the world, Rose Byrne gives an excellent scared-shitless performance. At first, you wonder if she is going mad since she seems to be the only one encountering the paranormal. This was a notion both my dad and I had, until "something" happened that I can't share for fear of TMI. Her performance was great in terms of the setting and the majority of her specific role, as she was just the right amount of hysterical. Patrick Wilson was fitting as the supportive husband of Byrne, though the significance of his role does not come into play until the "something" happens. (Editor's note: Wilson was phenomenal in the sequel to Insidious, which I won't go into because I need to finish this post. I've been putting this off for weeks. It's about time.)
Patrick Wilson returns in The Conjuring as the Ed Warren to Vera Farmiga's Lorraine. The pair gives an incredible duet as acting partners, more effective than Byrne and Wilson in my opinion. While both actresses have good faces for horror films (not an insult to their appearance in the slightest), I feel that Vera Farmiga is a tad stronger an actress. That's just my sentiment. Once again, Patrick Wilson delivers as a solid horror performer, redeeming himself as the douchebag in Morning Glory for sure. Vera Farmiga was superb as the clairvoyant Lorraine Warren, as she enveloped herself wholly in the role of a woman frightened by an other-worldly presence. Again, good actors give good performances. This time anyway.

For the past few days, I've felt utterly useless and despondent in this time of summer. When I have nothing to do, I regress into thinking of past regrets and mistakes I've made. This is a toxic habit, one that can be cured with accomplishment, even as simple as a writing a blog post. After I publish this, I will read over it and feel satisfied with the work and brainpower I put into it. Granted, it didn't require the same brainpower as a college thesis, but for me this blog is my sanctuary of creative output. Reading past posts remind me that I have potential to do something with my life while I stay dormant at home for the summer. I'm letting this out mostly as a reminder to myself so when I read this, I will hopefully be inspired to write. It can be about anything, I just need to write to feel something other than nothing. That's all I have to say about that. Have a good evening. P.S. It's not raining anymore.

Good night.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Female Ghost(ball)busters

Greetings and salutations. I am beginning this post with an utterly blank slate. I have absolutely no idea what to write about, yet I have an urge to write--to do something satisfying with myself. So here I am in my humid little room at home, listening to my Spotify playlist which I labeled "Writing." It took me about three hours to organize 93 songs in this playlist, a whopping six hours and forty-seven minutes of music. I call the playlist "Writing" because it helps get the words flowing, but this playlist could also be named "Contemplative" or "Crying." As sad as it sounds, I cry often. No particular reason either, though the past tends to creep into my daily thought processes, triggering an inconsequential waterfall of tears to come streaming down. I don't see it as a sign of depression and I certainly don't consider myself an elevated, philosophical individual for enjoying these tears. I know of people who lead a constant parade of self-pity solely for attention or even admiration. Think Tumblr bloggers. Not all of them, of course, for I have a close friend whose content is genuine and heart-wrenching. Of course, many Tumblr posts are genuine, but there are those who reblog for the sake of appearing cool and to be part of something. This is not what I had in mind to write about. To keep the words flowing, I'll talk about personal paraphernalia. I honestly could not think of another word other than "paraphernalia." In approximately one month, it will have been two years since I graduated from high school. I decided to mention this due to the song that started playing ("And the Winner Is..." from Little Miss Sunshine) which is sort of my graduation anthem. I listened to this song on the way to the stadium where I would celebrate my departure from the K-12 system. Little did I know that college was simply 13th grade. 


One month later, I decided to continue this topic-less post. I actually have a remnant of a subject to write about, one that has no connection to the previous paragraphs. However, I hate to cut out meaningful words I carefully chose. In order to divide two separate thoughts, I'll apply a different font to the musings I made a month ago. Now onto my semi-fully formed topic: feminism. My reason for writing about feminism stems from the backlash against the new Ghostbusters movie--the "female Ghostbusters" movie. As of now, the movie's trailer has 880,154 dislikes on YouTube. The ratio of likes to dislikes is unprecedented as far as movie trailers go. The immediate reaction to this enormous disdain? Obviously sexism. My reaction to this reaction? Eye-rolling frustration. I find it amusing and utterly ludicrous that feminists are taking this YouTube campaign against the film so seriously. The fact that feminists are up in arms over the negative reception of just a trailer of a movie. For the most part, people are pushing the dislike button because it's sort of amazing and funny that there are so many dislikes. I, myself, have pressed dislike because it's funny and because the trailer did not put the movie in a flattering light. The reason so many people disliked it is because the movie not only pales in comparison to the original--it simply does not look good. The effects alone are shoddy and borderline campy. For a 2016 reboot of a science fiction classic, the visual "magic" is rather embarrassing; it's as if their inspiration was the 2002 Scooby Doo. The jokes that were in the trailer fell flat, to the ears of many, which is disappointing because the women here are truly funny. Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig at least. I haven't watched Saturday Night Live since Jason Sudekis left, so I can't say anything positive or negative about Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. What I will say about Jones is that her performance in the trailer seemed more racist than self-aware, as the director intended I'm sure. Also, it's interesting that she is not a brilliant scientist/engineer like the other ladies. No, Jones is a subway attendant (not sure what the correct job title would be) who is an asset to the team solely based on her knowledge of New York. She even said it: "I know New York," says the sassy, aggressive black woman. One joke that was actually pretty funny was when Wiig and McCarthy both said "let's go" as a dramatic statement and they awkwardly jinxed. I admit I chuckled there. The rest of the trailer just beckons staples of Nickelodeon movies--and not the early 2000s Nick movies that were good. Another point to make is that the original Ghostbusters make an appearance; however, they do not revive their roles, from what I've heard. This is upsetting because the director could have made an epic face-off between the past and present Ghostbusters. No, Paul Feig chose to make his own movie.
According to the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, Kristen Wiig said, "You can't get better than the original. But it's a different movie, it's a different cast, it's many years later, and we've also done things that are different. It's not just about it starring women. There is a lot of action. The special effects are insane. And it's really funny." Alright. The first statement comes off as false humility. I honestly feel that women will deem this reboot better than the original solely because "women are better than men." I believe critics will take to this idea as well because they do not want to be perceived as anti-feminist. Of course, feminists will say those reviews will be genuine, an "in your face" to sexists out there. Of course, I believe critics are too afraid to be honest sometimes. When the reviews come out rotten? Sexism prevails. Eye roll. The whole "it's not just about it starring women" comment. If it isn't just about that, then why are people treating it as "the female Ghostbusters"? Why are women defending this movie if this is a movie for everyone? Why aren't men refuting the negative backlash as much as women? Oh right, sexism. "The special effects are insane[ly awful]."
The EW interview actually provoked me to write. The cover was the four new Ghostbusters and the caption is as follows: "It's slime [it's a pun] for a new Ghostbusters! The stars dish on old cameos, new proton packs--and that sexist backlash." And that sexist backlash. It's truly remarkable how feminists think the world revolves around them, how every little negativity in the world has some sexist roots. No. People, for the most part, hated the trailer because the movie just did not look entertaining. If it were a stand-alone picture, I'm sure the backlash would not have been as brutal. However, fans of the original Ghostbusters were crushed when they saw their beloved classic rebooted à la Fantastic Four. Sorry not sorry, it's true. Also, the majority of Ghostbusters fans are, indeed, men. For example, on IMDb, 180,626 men voted an average score of 7.8/10 for Ghostbusters (1984). This compares to a mere 33,062 women who voted an average of 7.6/10. Granted this may be construed as a petty statistic, but it's present. Interestingly, more non-US users voted for Ghostbusters than US users. Because men represent a larger percentage of the Ghostbusters' fanbase, this negative reception of the new Ghostbusters is taken as sexist backlash. It's truly annoying that feminists are concentrating their toxic hate on a fucking movie. It's just a movie, and the backlash is coming from YouTubers! They have no influence on domestic politics, they do not push forward sexist agendas in the U.S. I won't delve into feminism too much because, well, it's exhausting. It's an argument that will always be met with irrational fury on the feminist side. One last point and I'll be done. If the movie turns out to be hilarious and plot-drivenly good, I will not deny it. I will admit I was wrong and prematurely critical. I will not, however, say that feminists were right. If I enjoy the film, it will be due to the talented director and his collaboration with the cast and script. Movies are movies, people.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Dream in Gold

Greetings one and all. The title of this post refers to the "catchphrase" of this past Academy Awards ceremony. It certainly provides a pleasing visual, especially at the conclusion of the ceremony when a mass of gold confetti drowned this year's Best Picture producer-winners. I will try to stay on task here and discuss only the 2016 Oscars and nothing else. Here, you will find my thoughts on everything about the ceremony, primarily the winners and snubbed nominees. What I will not be discussing is Chris Rock's performance as the host. Why, you may wonder? Well, this entire year for the Oscars was shrouded in controversy and scandal, coined by the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. I will not comment on this issue because it is an extremely touchy subject. What I will say is that centering the race issue on the Academy Awards is absurd because all actors in question (i.e. Will Smith and his wife who started the buzz) are successful, wealthy individuals. This issue should be addressed in areas where racism actually affects individuals. Sorry, but getting snubbed for an Oscar does not tarnish the golden wealth they already possess. That's the end of my thought. Every year, when awards season rolls around, I feel the delightful bliss of a holiday approaching, and that holiday is the Academy Awards. No matter who is hosting, no matter who is nominated, I always look forward to the Oscars with an unwavering ecstasy that rivals those who anticipate the Super Bowl. For my father and I, the Oscars is a massive celebration that demands undivided attention and untainted vision. That is to say, until we watch the Oscars, we avoid all media and social contact to avoid being spoiled with the results. Call us weird, antisocial hermits, but that is our devotion to the Academy Awards. Anyway, here is an organized paragraph-list of the highlights of the evening. Ready, set, let's begin.

The Big Short fell short - I hope that caption isn't too repulsive of a pun. Or whatever that is, whatever I just did. This thing I did with the caption refers to the performance of The Big Short at the Oscar ceremony, for it received, regrettably, only one Oscar. I recently watched The Big Short, just in time for the Oscars, which is extremely fortunate because it gave me my tentative frontrunner. Not only was the film phenomenal overall, but the Guilds Awards over the past few weeks gave the impression that it was, indeed, in the front-running. Allow me to give a brief review of The Big Short. Directed by the Wall St. skeptic, Adam McKay--whose previous film, The Other Guys, featured an illuminating presentation that showed the excessive greed of Wall St. executives and CEOs--guides the film with such remarkable agility. The mechanics of Wall St. and the economy are notoriously regarded as being impossible to understand for average people. I believe the system is challenging to comprehend because that's exactly how those grimy executives want it. If the system is complicated, people will not bother with trying to understand, giving those executives indirect permission to continue doing what they're doing. What are they doing? To paraphrase, they are swindling the American people and using the government as a puppet to accomplish this more effectively. This topic may be the only politically-centric topic I feel comfortable and not at all ashamed for discussing. I am bold enough to discuss this because (1) having conversations about this will hopefully expand my knowledge on the subject, and (2) I believe it is the crime of the century and the culprits and getting away with it.
The end of The Big Short features narration by Ryan Gosling (he narrates the film throughout, just to clarify) and, once the financial bubble pops, he explains what became of the Wall St. executives who were part of this scheme. Basically, all the executives were prosecuted and new laws were created to combat the possibility of another crisis on Wall St....just kidding. No, according to Ryan Gosling and my own belief, Wall St. executives faced no charges and actually received a $700 billion bailout from the government. They were rewarded for their outrageous blunder and given leeway to restart the cycle of financial thievery. I call it financial thievery because they do not directly reach into the pockets of people and steal, but they utilize mechanisms to achieve their wealth. Again, my knowledge on the subject is limited to what I saw in The Big Short and various documentaries. (Capitalism: A Love Story is a great one, explained profoundly by Michael Moore.) I feel I jumped into talking about the evil of Wall St. as opposed to discussing the film itself. That's exactly what I did. One-sentence review: The Big Short was directed/written in a way that appeals to average audiences who do not understand the economy. Despite the complicated terminology involved on Wall St., Adam McKay managed to engage viewers, luring them to root against Big Business yet revealing to them what caused the economy to crumble. My dad, for example, watched the film with aching bewilderment. While he loved the movie as much as I did, it was painful for him to examine the smugness, the conceited disregard, that business executives expressed during their scheme. Right before the 2008 crisis, my dad bought a house with my mom, an investment that, as the movie demonstrated, would prove to be unwise and heartbreaking. Other externalities aside, this crisis injured my dad greatly. These pompous executives kept making shitty deals involving synthetic CDOs (which I still do not understand) and their greed caused lives to be ruined. Not their lives, of course, but the lives of people who were not even involved in these sinister machinations. They had no idea what was happening, and the shock and consequences fell on them and they were devastating. It's honestly painful even to write all this out. It's sad that The Big Short received just this one Oscar. I was really hoping it would win Best Picture because it gives a message that is relevant and ongoing today. What's happening behind closed doors led to the 2008 financial crisis and it's still going on. As seemingly insignificant as the Oscars may be, I hope that this single recognition might open the country's eyes to the corruption occurring--and I feel confident in saying this--on Wall St.

Leo - This caption defines this past Oscars, and I'm sure everyone can agree with me on that. Sure, Mad Max: Fury Road can be coined the catchphrase of the Oscars as it won award after award; however, Leonardo DiCaprio owned the night as he won his very first Academy Award. Although I disagree with the movie that accompanied his honor, I cannot help feeling bliss at the event itself. Leo finally won an Oscar. True, I hated The Revenant just as much (or even more than) Birdman. Calling Leo's win a glorious event may make me sound like a hypocrite in that sense because I hated the movie he won for. Here is my rationale for being happy for Leo: Fuck the director. As crass as that may appear, it justifies my happiness for Leo. No apologies, I hope that director never returns to the Oscars. Also, two Best Director wins in a row? Fuck that. Anyway, back to Leo. As the evening approached the Best Actor category, the room was abundant with anticipation. It was pretty much a sure thing that Leo would be accepting the statuette, yet even viewers at home felt the tension. This was not the year to snub Leo yet again, though Oscar history has shown that they are a dick to Leo. Fortunately, Julianne Moore was able to announce his name with joy as literally every single person in the theater jumped up for a standing ovation. Watching Leo's acceptance speech truly was an historic moment. (Note: I hesitate in saying "an historic" as opposed to "a historic" because elementary grammar has taught me to use "an" only for words beginning with a vowel. Yet everywhere I turn, people write "an historic." Moving on.)  His speech was a dignified as anyone can imagine from this long-awaited victory. Leo's speeches throughout the awards season were gracious and humble, so it is logical that his Oscar speech would top them all. What made his speech absolutely remarkable was his politically-charged conclusion where he acknowledged the threat of climate change. Usually, these comments make me cringe because they feel provoked by political bribes. You know, "mention this important issue and we'll give you money," sort of like sponsoring or in-movie advertising. I shouldn't make any additional political conspiracy observations after the previous paragraph, right? Knowing Leo's active activism, however, makes his cogent comments incredibly admirable and, most importantly, genuine. He used this precious, momentous occasion to bring to light a significant global issue, and that is simply astounding, in a good way. In case the message hasn't gotten across, I could not be more ecstatic for Leonardo DiCaprio. A long overdue congratulations is in order, for sure. Cheers, Leo.


Three-legged Race to Best Picture - Not a very clever caption, I realize. My intention was to highlight that there were three films in the running for Best Picture. This happens every year, of course: a few films are at the top while the remaining films nominated are simply happy to be nominated. This year was an anomaly however, as there were three major contenders. This made predicting the winner difficult. I started those last three sentences with "this." In a previous post, I declared that The Big Short would win because it triumphed at the Producers Guild Awards and because I loved the movie. Well, in time, I hadn't watched it yet, but the topic was enough for me to root for the film. Sadly, if you read the first caption, The Big Short disappointed. Actually, the Academy disappointed and pissed off viewers such as I because they failed to honor the best picture of the year. Fortunately, The Revenant did not shine either, despite winning for Best Actor and Best Director. The winner of the evening--the individuals lucky enough to be showered in gold confetti--was the Spotlight group. Here is an instance where I am pleased solely because it surpassed a film I disliked. This is not how winning should feel. One should feel inner bliss at hearing a film they truly loved win the bestowed honor. (Bestowed?) I was relatively happy when Spotlight won just because it was not The Revenant. And that just makes me a bitter, hateful person, doesn't it? (Ennio Morricone won his first Oscar for Best Original Score for The Hateful Eight.) Anyway, Spotlight does not deserve the Best Picture title either, even though it was slightly better than The Revenant in my opinion. Nevertheless, standing alone, Spotlight was not an impressive film. I was honestly looking forward to watching it because I have an interest in journalism as well as a sick curiosity in the Catholic Priest Scandal. (All caps.) However, the film fell well below expectations. As I said, The Big Short deserved that Oscar, making me upset that Spotlight did win, even if The Revenant didn't. I just stated the three Best Picture contenders there because I realized that I didn't state them clearly in the beginning. Anyway, despite the disappointment, this entire Oscar race was indeed very intriguing to follow and predict. It sort of mirrors a certain other race occurring in the United States at the moment. Not really.

Here is the part where I apologize for the sheer, unforgivable lateness of this post. The Oscars were on February 29, and here I am, two months later, posting this. Shame on me. I do love writing, please never forget that. For those of you who actually read this, (1) I'm sorry for the gaps between posts, and (2) I'm sorry for alluding to how few people read this. I'll end things here for now. Until next time. Hopefully soon. Cheers, everyone, especially Kate and Leo.

The Big Four
(Should have been Kate Winslet next to Leo)


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Gone into Digressing

Good evening one and all. I bid thee a gracious hello on this freezing yet beautiful day. This contradicts the "good evening" I just said, but I am not completely sure when I'll be posting this. As always, I write for weeks before officially posting. Anyway. This post won't be anything special. As if any other post is magical. I say "post" often.) Currently, I am in my accounting class, writing this old-fashioned with a pen and paper. Obviously, I'll be transferring this online for your reading pleasure. I'm not really sure why I decided to write, therefore I have no specific topic in mind. I should be judiciously taking notes since I am, after all, in class, but it's accounting and the professor is shit at lecturing. I digress. This entire post will probably consist solely of digressions.

To remain true to the nature of this blog, I will talk about the movie, Gone Girl. I don't mean to say that the nature of this blog is the movie Gone Girl, just movies in general. You understand. I was about to write cunderstand, that would've been bad. Because it sounds like cun...berbatch. Benedict Cumberbatch. Wow, this is terrible. I just watched it for a second time, and my dad and I agree that it was just as good, if not better, as the first time. Watching it again also reminds me of my seething rage that Rosamund Pike failed to receive the Best Actress Oscar for her performance. While I recall her role as a beautifully psychotic (or psychotically beautiful) wife, the second time watching her was absolutely entrancing. Indeed, now that I knew what her plan was and what she's capable of, I could overlook the plot and savor in the majesty of her performance. Beyond her stunning portrayal as Amazing Amy, the movie as a whole was magnificent. Granted, it was based on a best-selling novel, so most of the work put into the film was, objectively speaking, already finished. However, adapting a well-made book into a well-made movie is challenging. Just look at Twilight. Because of Gone Girl's popularity, the anticipation for the adaptation was immeasurable and the pressure to satisfy fans is even more considerable. Fortunately, Gillian Flynn, the author of Gone Girl, wrote the screenplay, and David Fincher, fortunately, directed one hell of a picture. I place emphasis on "fortunately" because David Fincher's track record with movies is split, in my opinion. On one hand, we have Fight Club and The Game (and Zodiac, which was excellent until it turned into a drag of three unnecessary hours); on the other hand, we have Se7en, Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and The Social Network. I realize that those last three films I mentioned were critically acclaimed and adored by general audiences. However, I truly did not like them. The direction of Se7en, as I've said in the post about the movie I wrote long ago, was slow yet chaotic, accompanied by a disturbing buzzing-of-flies sound in the background. Benjamin Button was a film I sorely wanted to enjoy, but the pacing of the film was tedious and the chemistry between the actors on screen was poorly directed by Fincher. The Social Network is simply a pretentious film, written by the very pretentious Aaron Sorkin. Overall, it was a solid movie, but the reception for the movie was exaggerated: it was not that good. I digress.
The film is masterfully constructed, divided into "parts" that give the viewer a satiating feeling of constant shock and mesmerization. Not memorization, that wouldn't make sense. Part One of the film, as I see it, is the mystery behind the disappearance of Amy Dunne. Another component to Part One is the rising suspicion that Nick Dunne, her husband, murdered her. As the husband, Ben Affleck gives a solid performance, which is an improvement from his earlier Razzie-worthy performances. Seriously, who would have imagined that Gigli and Daredevil could give a decent performance in Gone Girl, let alone direct an Oscar-worthy movie like Argo? Back to the film, the evidence that Nick had murdered his wife was considerable. Add the fact that Nick was having an affair with a student, there's motive. A classy motive at that--sarcasm. The first part ends with the arrest of Nick Dunne and the discovery, to the audience, that Amy was alive and kicking. Part Two begins with Amy's chilling explanation of how she framed her husband. This entire reasoning alone is deserving of an Oscar. Rosamund Pike did a complete switch. From a frightened and sympathetic wife to a sinister, calculating villain. Her transformation is a beauty to watch; she is utterly hypnotic.
I get the feeling that many women hate Amy Dunne. She may be considered a bane to female existence because she took advantage of the media with deceit and misrepresentation. Also part of this deceit was exploiting her femininity and fragility to gain sympathy from the world. When in reality women should be masculine and rigid...I guess? Because I am not a feminist--not a radical one anyway--I'd have to go ahead and say fuck that. See, I can curse like ladies aren't supposed to. First of all, this is a movie and Rosamund Pike was portraying a fictional character. Second, the film was merely delineating the theme that the general public is a mob and that a single person can manipulate the media and therefore shape the minds of the people. While this is a pessimistic view of the public and could very likely be taken as insulting...it's kind of true. The media is an extremely powerful device. And its mystery is only exceeded by its power. Sorry. I won't get into the why and how of the machinations of the media because that's a tad too political for this environment. Also, I think I piss of people a sufficient amount already. British people say "piss off" the way Americans say "fuck off." Fun fact I learned from Guy Ritchie movies. Although the British do say "fuck off" as well.)


What you just read was originally written on December 2, 2015, on my mom's birthday as a matter of fact. No particular correlation between her and the movie. Two months ago, I was in my accounting class writing down my thoughts on Gone Girl, a movie I had just watched. Now, I sit in my dad's computer room writing yet again, only this time on Superbowl Sunday. This day has absolutely no sentimental or significant value to me, other than the fact that it gives me an excuse to watch movies about football. I'm torn between Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday and The Blind Side. Oliver Stone only directed the former, in case there was confusion in that sentence. At the moment, I am listening to the amazing Goodfellas soundtrack, which is excellent enough to inspire me to write. What to write about is the question at hand. Since this post is called "Gone into Digressing," I feel it appropriate to just vent out the things on my mind. Movie-related, of course.
One thought that comes to mind is the idea that Star Wars: The Force Awakens may beat Avatar in the ultimate box-office record. That is, the worldwide box-office record. Thus far, Star Wars has already kicked Avatar from the domestic box-office record, which was a thrill for me. Why do I care so much, you may ask? Well, I hate Avatar. Pure and simple explanation. One major reason of my dislike for the movie is how hyped up it still is, seven years later. If it was truly that great, it would hold a spot on IMDb's Top 250, would it not? This is a petty justification for hatred, for I should enjoy a movie in and of itself, not depend on what others think. Usually, my hate for a movie is amplified, not caused, by a general audience's praise. Take The Revenant for instance. I cannot fathom what is so extraordinary about Leonardo DiCaprio, hardly audible, trekking through the frigid wilderness set out on revenge. Now, if Quentin Tarantino directed it and manipulated the film in his special way, I might see some value. Tarantino can direct DiCaprio splendidly (see Django Unchained) and I feel he has an expert grasp on the whole "revenge" theme. Discussing the "what-ifs" is futile, since The Revenant was already released as a pretentious, naturalistic bore. My opinion. Clearly not shared by anyone else. Anyway, Avatar was very impressive to watch regarding visual effects. The setting was, indeed, beautiful and adventurous, but it was all thanks to visual effects. One could argue that Star Wars also abuses its visual effects to lure viewers in; however, the story of Star Wars is truly epic and multi-generational as well. Another box-office argument: James Cameron has two movies at the top spots, and it is unfair to J.J. Abrams who is trying to make a name for himself. As if he hadn't already with Lost and Star Trek. Either way, James Cameron is a greedy bastard and I am rooting for Star Wars to get to number one. Consider it a wish for a devoted fan to the beloved Star Wars saga.
Well, the song, "Layla" by Derek and the Dominos, is playing from the Goodfellas soundtrack. That means it is time to wrap things up. I must express how much I love this song and the scene in Goodfellas where the song is played. You all remember--spoilers ahead. Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta, who I miss dearly) narrates the explanation behind the uncovered bodies. You see, he and his gang executed a lucrative criminal scheme that rewarded all involved with a pretty penny. Clearly, I am not as photographically talented as I would like to be with a movie as magnificent as Goodfellas. Do not be mistaken, I absolutely love this movie, and I consider it my all-time favorite. No question, Gone With The Wind is the greatest movie of all time. My personal favorite--one I've watched countless times, yet still can't remember the details--has to be Goodfellas. Digressing is a dangerous habit to dive into. Anyway, for those watching the Superbowl tonight, I hope your team wins! For the time being, have a wonderful evening.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Awards Season Condensed

[NOTE: The following excerpt was written back in December 2015. The font will be different than the remainder of the post, which will be written tonight.]
Greetings to all. The most exciting time of the year is here. Forget the traditional holidays involving gift-giving between loved ones. The time I'm referring to is awards season because what better gift can be bestowed than the gift of the best in film. This is, of course, how I feel personally. The Oscars are much greater than Santa. I mean, please. Though you must admit the interesting twist of awards season beginning right around when the holidays start. Coincidence? Probably.

As usual, I am typing away inside my warm and cozy local coffee shop (Starbucks) because I enjoy the cliche. You know, struggling writers writing in a coffee shop. I enjoy the mindless humor I concoct. I've been meaning to write about the Golden Globe nominations, which were announced last Thursday, and just now I'm finally getting to it. Today is currently the 14th of December, so I can give you a shocking glance at how long it takes me to finish these posts. Expect this to be posted next year. Onto the Globes, there were shocks, snubs, and completely predictable placeholders for the nominees of the Golden Globes. Did that make any grammatical sense? I'll just go ahead and fill some space by presenting you with the nominees, followed by my thoughts on them of course. I'll also include who I think will win and who I want to win. Another note I want to make is that I signed up for a website called The Gold Derby, which is a place to predict winners/nominations in various award shows. What I say will reflect how accurate my predictions were. Because I'm a movie psychic.

Best Motion Picture - Drama
Carol
The Revenant
Mad Max: Fury Road
Spotlight
Room
These were pretty much all sure things. I will express my disbelief at the nomination of Mad Max since I summed it up as pure blockbuster entertainment. Considering the first two films, with Mel Gibson (great guy), saw no love from the awards circuit, I expected just as much for the newest installment. And now Fury Road is leading the Critics' Choice nominees with a total of thirteen (that's 1-3) nominations. What will its fate be at the Academy Awards? Time will tell. I'm also surprised that Bridge of Spies received little accolades because Americans adore films that are majorly anti-Russia. You know it's true. I also expected nominations for The Danish Girl and Steve Jobs but as you can see, nothing. Prediction: Spotlight. Wish: Spotlight.


Best Motion Picture - Comedy
The Big Short
The Martian
Joy
Trainwreck
Spy
Again, all predictable. This is one of the categories I predicted correctly across the board. I truly cannot contain my joy (pun) at the nomination for Spy, as it was truly (x2) the funniest film of the year that I've seen thus far. Already I've seen it twice and laughed uncontrollably each time. Melissa McCarthy is a comedic force here, and Jason Statham is a surprising hilarity. Here's hoping for a sequel. I am looking forward to watching The Big Short because it involves the 2008 financial crisis and possesses impressive star power. David O. Russell's Joy is a sure-thing to be as amazing as his previous films, and I say this because I have faith in directors and actors. Just them actually, nobody else can be believed in. Prediction: Joy. Wish: Spy, because it was that funny.


Best Actor - Drama
Bryan Cranston in Trumbo
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant
Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl
Will Smith in Concussion
Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs
The only confusing actor here is Will Smith. One, I've never heard of Concussion until now. Two, why? I wholly expected Johnny Depp to hold a place here for his portrayal of a real-life criminal, Whitey Bulger, since the Academy--every awards academy really--loves him. Honestly, who is going to get the Oscar nod, the Fresh Prince or Edward Scissorhands? Point well made. (I was about to type the Fresh Prince of Edward Scissorhands. Oh, how ridiculously amusing I am.) The obvious winner seems to be Leonardo DiCaprio because "it's about time." I'm going to coin this phrase, as it applies often in the awards stratosphere for actors who earn every nomination they receive but have yet to win. Kate Winslet in The Reader, for example. I would love to see Leo win, but the film in question, The Revenant, looks terribly uninteresting. And with the director of Birdman at the helm? Well, you can see where I'm going with that. Birdman sucked. Michael Fassbender is another reasonable contender, transforming himself into Steve Jobs when he, himself, does not resemble Steve Jobs. Also, I must say that I am excited for Bryan Cranston this year because (1) I admire him as an actor, (2) the movie Trumbo looks entertaining, and (3) Walter White. Point well made. Prediction: Leonardo DiCaprio. Wish: Bryan Cranston, sorry Leo.


Best Actress - Drama
Cate Blanchett in Carol
Rooney Mara in Carol
Brie Larson in Room
Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn
Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl
Once again, I guessed the nominations correctly across the board. Hooray for me. What is curious and somewhat frustrating is that Rooney Mara will be considered for the Best Supporting Actress category at the Oscars, yet she qualifies as a lead here at the Globes. It forces other dramatic contenders from getting the nomination, which I find unfair. The sure-thing appears to be, at the moment, Brie Larson, as she leads every expert's list for winning Best Actress across the board. Phrase of the day: "Across the board." I would have to watch Room before making any accusations or giving support, for Jennifer Lawrence is a major player in the Oscar race as well and I do love her. Time will, once again, tell as the season progresses. Prediction: Brie Larson. Wish: Cate Blanchett, because I know and respect her talent.


Best Actor - Comedy/Musical
Steve Carell in The Big Short
Christian Bale in The Big Short
Matt Damon in The Martian
Al Pacino in Danny Collins
Mark Ruffalo in Infinitely Polar Bear
As much as I do like Mark Ruffalo, we can just ignore Infinitely Polar Bear because who's even heard of that? Al Pacino is another shock in the Globe nominations this year, for many have sort of let go of him as a player in the industry, at least from what I can infer from his presence in the Razzies lately. The two Big Short nominees please me, for I like both actors and I root for the movie's continuing success. Why? The deep recesses of the financial world of this country must be exposed and to achieve this feat comedically is utter genius. Exit conspiracy theorist, enter eccentric writer. Much love is being thrown at The Martian, which is apparently a comedy, so the expectations are pretty transparent. No, not like the Amazon show. Prediction: Matt Damon. Wish: Steve Carell, because he's a better actor than people give him credit for.


Best Actress - Comedy/Musical
Jennifer Lawrence in Joy
Amy Schumer in Trainwreck
Melissa McCarthy in Spy
Maggie Smith in The Lady in the Van
Lily Tomlin in Grandma
The winner here is pretty obvious, but I'll give some input anyway. Melissa McCarthy was absolutely hilarious in Spy and truly deserving of the title Best Actress in a comedy. Granted, Jennifer Lawrence is an extremely gifted actress; however, the movie Joy doesn't seem like a comedy. It doesn't seem like a drama either. I don't know what it is, but David O. Russell, it seems, has been placed permanently in the comedy category for the Globes. I can't say much for Amy Schumer, since I'm still getting used to her presence in Hollywood. As for the older ladies nominated, they're merely placeholders. And their time has passed. I'm mean. Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence. Wish: Melissa McCarthy, because it would be nice to see a truly funny performance win for best performance in a comedy.


Best Supporting Actor
Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies
Paul Dano in Love & Mercy
Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation
Michael Shannon in 99 Homes
Sylvester Stallone in Creed
Here is a category where the most infuriating of snubs occurred. None of the male supporting actors in Spotlight received a nomination, and the omission of Michael Keaton is especially enraging to critics. I cannot account for this frustration since I've yet to watch Spotlight, but I can say that I am disappointed not to see Mark Ruffalo nominated. Michael Keaton is a man I could care less about, considering his stint in Birdman last year. The nominees here really don't stir me in a good or bad way because (1) I haven't seen any of their performances and (2) I don't have an opinion about the actors themselves. Though I would like to see Stallone win, just because he's older. His time, clearly, hasn't passed. Prediction: Mark Rylance. Wish: Sylvester Stallone.


Best Supporting Actress
Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs
Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina
Jane Fonda in Youth
Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight
Helen Mirren in Trumbo
Another nomination for Trumbo! I know that this is only the second Globe nomination, but acting nods are significant. And I'm allowed to use exclamation points, damnit. It's impressive to see Jane Fonda still hard at work and getting recognized by the awards circuit. The past few months, I've been watching documentaries about the 70s and 80s, and Ms. Fonda was a dominating presence outside of Hollywood. She also happens to look phenomenal for her age. This is Alicia Vikander's second nomination this year, as she was nominated for Best Actress in a Drama for The Danish Girl. Because I don't know her, I find this to be unfair. Of course, I'm tickled pink to see Kate Winslet mentioned in the awards because she is an exceptional actress. Exceptional. Prediction: Jennifer Jason Leigh, because she apparently "needs" a win. Wish: Kate Winslet, because she's exceptional.


I hope you enjoyed this little relic of the past. This was started around the time Golden Globe nominations were announced, which was mid-December. While I hate myself a tad for not posting in the moment, I do appreciate the element of accuracy. That is, seeing how accurate my predictions were; the ones I predicted correctly will have stars next to them, and by stars I mean asterisks. I'll just type a list out of it and we'll just see and you'll just enjoy my late writing.


Best Motion Picture - Drama: The Revenant not Spotlight
Best Motion Picture - Comedy: The Martian not Joy, and I have no idea what made me think that such a low-rated, inadequate film would actually beat The Martian
*Best Actor - Drama: Leonardo DiCaprio naturally
*Best Actress - Drama: Brie Larson deservedly, if you'd read my last post
*Best Actor - Comedy: Matt Damon which makes me smile
*Best Actress - Comedy: Jennifer Lawrence which makes me smile as well, though only because I adore her
Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone surprisingly enough
Best Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet pleasantly, miraculously, and wonderfully enough

Literally fifty-fifty here. This is a glass half-full/half-empty situation, for I could be an awards guru or just lucky enough to guess some correctly. Anyway. The Golden Globes themselves were very entertaining, mostly due to the return of Ricky Gervais, who I personally find to be hilarious and just biting enough. Apparently the ratings fell this year because of his presence, which I find to be an absurd accusation. Then again, who am I to argue with ratings? I am a lowly amateur critic after all, if that. Another pleasant aspect of the ceremony was the shocking attendance of Mel Gibson, who had been shunned from Hollywood's good graces for years. Granted, this appearance does not serve as his comeback by any means, but it is so good--so good--to see his face again. I do miss him, and I can admit that because I have not fallen in line with the mindless followers of indirect boycotts--but I dwell into controversial territory when I say that. Considering all the things Mel Gibson was accused of doing and saying, that is. By showing my prolonged admiration for him, I'm practically drawing a target on myself for criticism. Untitled criticism. Thank you very much.


Moving on. In addition to the Golden Globes, several other awards have been distributed, helping legitimate award experts to predict the outcome of the Academy Awards. During this extended period between the Golden Globe nominations and now, the Oscar nominations have been announced, giving experts a gauge of who's in the running. I won't get into that whole hashtag campaign about the absence of African-American performers because I just won't. It is far too controversial to discuss and I really don't know how to talk in these settings anymore. So I will simply say nothing. What's done is done, so let's focus on what is for the time being. The following segment will present my Oscar predictions, and from there I'll wrap things up since this post is becoming rather chunky.


Best Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet for Steve Jobs
I say this a bit daringly because I am very aware of the current rankings. According to experts, Alicia Vikander will take home the gold for her role in The Danish Girl. The reason for my defiance is because I have hope in Kate's talent as well as hope in the element of surprise. I was sure that she was to be merely a placeholder in this year's competition; however, the Golden Globes presented an astoundingly fantastic turn for her chances. I am sticking to my loyalty to Kate Winslet. Also, I really don't care for newcomers, especially when they're Michael Fassbender's booty call. That was mean. Overall, Kate Winslet gave the performance of the year when it comes to supporting ladies.


Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone for Creed
While I sort of cemented this prediction the moment he won the Golden Globe, I now can accept his win because I have finally watched the movie. Seeing the praise for Stallone in Creed--forty years after the first Rocky--is heartwarming, though I can't help but sense the "honorary" aspect of this nomination and acclaim. I hate to say it, but I feel this award is simply to make up for the fact that he did not receive an acting Oscar for Rocky. It's purely an honorary award in this suspicious sense. However, Stallone's performance was excellent, surprisingly, for he usually slurs his way through a picture. In Creed, the heavy emotion in Stallone's eyes was undeniable, and the nostalgia factored into his delivery of the character favorably well. Is it okay to say favorably well? As good as the performance was, I cannot help but hope for Mark Rylance to win. After watching Bridge of Spies, I came down to two conslusions: (1) Mark Rylance deserves the Oscar for his unusually entrancing portrayal as a Soviet spy, and (2) Bridge Of Spies is highly underrated and should be at the top of critics' lists.


Best Leading Actress: Brie Larson for Room
I believe my previous post explains my reasoning behind this prediction. It is rather unsettling to say that the critics and I actually agree on the poignancy and power of a performance for once. This prediction is hardly one in that the certainty of her victory is unwavering and most deserving indeed. Also, I would like to point out the vicious snub by the Academy: Jacob Tremblay, the magnificent little boy in Room, was not nominated. Granted, he's only nine years old and his time will come. this argument, however, is infuriating because his performance here and now was worthy of a nomination. His hypnotic innocence was just so impressive, and even writing about it now and recalling his performance brings tears to my eyes. I actually mean it when I say that too.


Best Leading Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant
Now, this one is an absolute, 100% certainty. There is no margin of error here. It is just his time to get an Oscar. I must stress my undying love and admiration for this man before I say that I regrettably do not think this performance was worthy for esteem. Typing that out feels sinful, for I truly do love Leo. I've said it once and I'll say it again: I hated The Revenant. I cannot for the life of me understand why the movie is held in such high regards by not just critics, but audiences as well. Whenever I ask or search for an answer, all I get is pretentious praise and flowery explanations that make zero rational sense. I apologize for this ignorance solely because of my love for Leo. The fact that he will finally win an Oscar for a film I detested is astonishing and, above all, depressing. Beyond this disagreement, I also believe Michael Fassbender and Bryan Cranston to have delivered excellent performances this year, each more complex and attractive than Leo's performance. Again, I hate to admit it. Another interesting point, made by my dear old dad, is that Leonardo DiCaprio will surely have another chance at Oscar, while Bryan Cranston, for one, has a smaller chance of returning to the film award circuit. Though I would love to see Walter White getting an Oscar. Breaking Bad.


Best Motion Picture of the Year: The Big Short
I'm going for the ballsy prediction here. For months, critics have predicted the winner to be Spotlight, and I merely joined in the chorus at the time. As of now, I've seen six out of eight. the ones I've missed are Brooklyn and The Big Short. You're probably wondering why, then, I chose The Big Short as my tentative victor without even seeing it. You probably also knew I was going to direct that hypothetical towards you, my nonexistent reader. My rationale behind picking The Big Short is that the topic of the film is incredibly controversial for Hollywood, considering it appears to be anti-Wall Street. Of course, my understanding of Hollywood's machinations is limited, but I enjoy my blissful assumptions that are most likely far-reaching. Anyway, I not only predict a surprise victory for The Big Short, but I root for the film to win because it would be amazing if a comedy won. Not only that, but a comedy directed against the wealthy powers that be, that actually enlightens average people as to why life is as it is. Again, far-reaching, especially considering I haven't seen the film. Nevertheless.


Well, there you have it. A combination of predictions, some old and already announced, some pending to be announced. I think it's high time I stop writing out a storm of various thoughts. I find it interesting that I began this very post when awards season began, and I am now posting it as it comes close to an end. Just know that, even though I haven't been diligently reporting as often as I'd hoped, I was productive on my own in my quest for finding the deserving victors. Among the list of nominees handed down to us, anyway. Cheers to one and all.