Monday, May 8, 2017

American Beauty, etc.

          Greetings one and all. I know it's been quite some time since my last post, and I blame the majority of that on the Disney College Program. Granted, I've had some downtime where I could have written up a storm, not about movies but about the incredible time I'm having down here in Orlando, FL. Not only am I surrounded by pixie dust and the magic that define Disney, but I find myself growing into an entirely different person. Different in the sense that I am growing out of my insecurities and into an independent and confident persona. Am I making sense? Probably not, that's something I'll never grow out of. My intentions with this post do not involve extrapolating about my time here in Disney. I have a purpose in this post and--believe it or not--it involves an actual film. At last, on a sole day off I have amidst my busy schedule of working six days a week, I have the urge to write. Perhaps it sparked from my dad's inspiration to paint a remarkable painting? Perhaps it was provoked by a phenomenal film called American Beauty? Perhaps it was the three drinks I had with dinner? Who can ever be sure? Anyway, I plan on writing as much as I can before this choo choo train runs out. Bear with me with the various tangents and eccentricities that characterize my writing. Here we go.
          As I said, American Beauty is a truly phenomenal film, one I'm surprised I have yet to write about. In the past, I've said that it is easier to criticize--or in my case, brutally admonish--movies. Writing a post that extols a film's virtues (?) and good qualities is rather trite. The positive comments come off as repetitive, sounding as though they were generated by a thesaurus of compliments. Also, a scathing post is just so much more entertaining. American Beauty, however, is far from horrible. In fact, I consider it to be one of the greatest contemporary dramas of all time. Fun fact: I work at Disney's Contemporary Resort as a seater at both The Wave and The California Grill. I don't know why I capitalized the word "the." 
          Directed masterfully by Sam Mendes, the film follows Lester Burnham, a beyond average man who suffers through the monotony of suburbia. He laments over the loss of his life, the essence of happiness that should fill every person's day. He notes how his family despises him, how pathetic they think he is. The film documents (?) his desire and sudden action to take control of his life and improve it for himself and only himself. As simplified as that description sounds, the movie is orchestrated flawlessly and enraptures the audience into submission. Not in a sexual way or anything, why would you even think that? Submissive. The score, composed by Thomas Newman, is ideal as it envelopes the film in a quiet, curious ambience that asks viewers to "look closer," as the tagline reads. That was a pretentious way of saying that the musical score of American Beauty fits perfectly and sounded very good. The acting by Kevin Spacey is spectacular, the perfect combination of cynical and hopeful. I was really hoping for a better set of traits to come to mind but I have nothing. Lester has a wicked and dark sense of humor that I think any person can appreciate, particularly his outlook on the workplace, how the higher ups really do not care about their employees and how they treat them like less than human. I can appreciate that observation very much. I love my job, I promise. With that being said, I think there is a bit of Lester Burnham in all of us. Yet another cheesy statement, but what I mean is that each one of us has a moment, or ten, where we look blankly on events in life, commenting in our heads how absurd life can be. In one scene, Spacey even breaks the fourth wall when he tells his wife that he will act however she wants him to act in order to uphold a facade for everyone else. Then he proceeds to drink heavily at a social gathering as his wife puts on a fake smile and mills her way through a crowd of people she doesn't really like. It's as if his portrayal of Lester is asking, "Why do we as people have to subject ourselves to these asinine moments, essentially waste our lives, when we don't have to?" I feel I'm getting a little too philosophical. I think I just want to make this post as long as possible. Yes that's it. 
The film is essentially just a progression of Lester giving less fucks in his life and that is something I think all of us strive to do. Every time the new Lester stands up to someone, whether it's his wife or (even better) his boss, you can't help but find yourself grinning super wide because you have those fantasies of telling people off too. Lester himself smiles when he finds himself with the upper hand in a confrontation and his giddiness must feel glorious. He says in the movie, "It's a great thing when you realize you have the ability to surprise yourself," and us the audience can only imagine how great that must feel. I digress. Kevin Spacey is a first-class actor, without a doubt, and he deserved the Oscar for his humorous, real portrayal of a man who finds himself at the end--a spiritual awakening in a sense. As cheesy as that sounds, the movie is anything but. It's just my mediocre choice of words. Annette Being gives an amazing performance as his wife, Carolyn, a woman who transformed to fit the mold of a perfect housewife. Yet the shiny veneer that is her pleasant demeanor covers a desperate woman who struggles to keep up appearances. The scene where Carolyn preps the house she is determined to sell (spoiler: she's a real estate agent) captures this as she vigorously cleans a house only to find herself alone and a failure. That scene alone should have given her an Oscar, but no. Hillary Swank had to get it for Boys Don't Cry. As if anyone even remembers that movie, please. Not that I'm bitter still. 1999 was a long time ago, I get it. I don't actually. Supporting players include Thora Birch, who plays Jane Burham, their daughter. As I watch the movie, she reminds me of a 90s Jennifer Lawrence, only more depressed and less lucky with an agent in Hollywood. Because she never made it, that's the joke. As Jane, she is, as Lester puts it, a typical teenager: angry, insecure, and confused. She gets romantically involved with her new neighbor, Ricky Fitts (spoilers, spoilers everywhere), after she becomes flattered when he records her from his front porch. Hard to resist romance like that, I agree. Their relationship, in my opinion, stems out of their isolation from "normal" society as well as their individual loneliness. I'm no psych major or anything, but that's how I see it. One scene that has cemented itself in film history is the "most beautiful thing I've ever seen" clip where Ricky shows Janie a video of a cellophane shopping bag moving in the wind. Captivating stuff.
          Another character is Angela Hayes, the iconic girl covered in rose petals that the movie is recognized for. I promise I won't go into the symbolism of roses in this movie because I know that's taking it beyond pretentious into realms I don't want to tread. The focal point of her purpose here is Lester's obsession with her. Obsession may be a strong word, but he does envision her wearing nothing but rose petals throughout the movie. His attraction to her essentially inspires him to better himself to the point where he snaps out of the dullness of his domestic existence, becoming a whole new man. Although it is a tad creepy that his lust after a teenage girl motivated him to change into a "new man," it's not far from realistic. Middle-aged men thirst after some drive that will snap them out of monotony. Or so I assume based on this movie and stereotypes. Sure, she's underage and he's literally old enough to be her father, but whatever gets him going am I right? I hate that I used the word literally. And that I made that god-awful justification for Lester lusting after a high schooler. Lester lusting, that's funny. See, I told you to prepare yourself for just how weird I can get. I realize I'm giving a character-by-character analysis but I'd rather do that than give a full plot synopsis. It's not as if I'm giving away massive spoilers either, this is all basically from the trailer and word of mouth. Moving on.
          American Beauty is such a poignant portrait of the twentieth century American family. And yes, I acknowledge the pretentious loftiness of that statement. I talk as if I'm some film major who writes screenplays in hipster coffee shops, but I can assure you that I'm just your ordinary movie buff with a tendency embellishing my language. There I go again, talking like a hipster. I'm going to just ignore it and keep going, sound good? Wonderful. Beyond the Burnham family and their domestic dysfunctions, we have Ricky Fitts and his equally (if not more) dysfunctional family dynamic. His father, played magnificently by Chris Cooper, is military--he is the military, that's what I said--so of course he has a strict paternal role to play in the household. It goes further (farther?) than that as his wife/Ricky's mother is basically catatonic, milling through her role as caretaker for her boys without a shred of emotion. This can suggest that Ricky's father abused her. Actually, I can say that is a certainty based on his brute character. Now, your modern gender-studies-major feminist will have plenty to say about how much of a bigot he is, and he really is. Though I could care less about that. What disturbs me is the menacing hold he has over his family, how he has reduced his wife to a shell of a person. What's more disturbing is that, despite this persona, there is a sliver of heart in this man. There are scenes where I can sense him struggling with his dominant brute personality, how he strives for an affectionate relationship with Ricky. In the end, the brute wins and he is forced to live up to this manly man standard. Chris Cooper's performance was outstanding, worthy of more recognition, I reckon, as he portrayed a man struggling with his persona as a man's man. There is a questionable scene at the end, which to this day I still cannot comprehend. Those who have seen this movie know what scene I'm referring to. Moving on, Ricky chooses to play along in this stern setting and live his life behind a locked door of his room where he conducts drug deals and records mundane events and calls it art. True, there is an artistic aspect to the little things in life, but calm down. A plastic bag and a dead bird are not that fascinating. But I digress. More on Ricky, he exudes such a level of confidence to a point that is both impressive and intimidating. In all honesty, I can understand why Jane is drawn to him. Wes Bentley here sort of resembles Jake Gyllenhaal as well, so that might have something to do with how attractive he is. Sure, his videos of dead birds are creepy and so is the fact that he finds them to be "beautiful," but you can't judge someone over frivolous things like that. This is me commenting on Wes Bentley's solid performance, not how I'm in love with Ricky Fitts. Just clarifying.
          With that, that is all I have to say about the matter that is American Beauty. I am actually right in the middle of watching it, this massive spurt of writing just came to me. I'm incredibly talented, I know. I'm really not. Before I wrap this up, I would like to talk about my time here in Florida thus far. As of now, I have been living it up in Disney for about three months and it feels like I've been here for years. I found myself here, as annoyingly cheesy as that sounds, and I feel myself becoming a happier person because of it. The interesting thing is that nothing about me as a person has really changed. I may have said something earlier about Disney changing me as a person, which I would like to take back now if that is what I said. "Why not just scroll up to see if you actually did say it?" Because I don't really feel like it, Cheryl, relax. Anyway. The single thing that has changed about me is how I view and carry myself in life. I can finally start a conversation with someone I don't know without thinking that I come across as some weird, random person. I can stand up for myself and not give a damn about what people think. Now I only care a tiny bit about what other people think, and that's okay because you can't go through life being a complete bitch, right? I can finally talk to a guy without the thought in the back of my head that I am unattractive or uninteresting. That is not to say that I consider myself a flawless, extraordinary person because I definitely do not. What I can say is that the insecurities that have restrained me from enjoying life before have disintegrated slightly. I say slightly because there will always be that cunt in the back of my mind telling me how unworthy I am of happiness. What is different now that I've been living here is that I can tell that mind cunt to fuck off from time to time. I say cunt a lot, that hasn't changed. I'm going to stop before this becomes some off-beat slam poetry set about how I've changed because I'm starting to irritate even myself.
          Well, that's all I have to put on the record for now. I hope I'll get more of these bursts of inspiration to write because I truly love writing. I know only a handful of people actually take the time to read this, and that the majority of them is people I know in real life, but I write because I love it. While I appreciate the flattery from those who read it--I'm looking at you Paul S.--I don't seek out recognition. As if that was ever a question. I think I'm just writing a bunch of nonsense to make this post a bigger chunk than it already is. So long for now and see ya real soon.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Golden Globe Predictions 2017

Good evening and welcome to another addition of movies and digressing on various tangents. This will not be a very long post, I've already come to peace with this conclusion. With the Golden Globes airing tomorrow night, I figured it would be nice for me to throw my hat in the ring. Not with a dark horse film nomination, obviously. Why would you even think that? The purpose of this post is as the title entails: I will share my predictions of who I think will win the Golden Globe for each film category. I will also include who I would like to win based on whether I've seen the movie or performance, obviously. Mostly based on how good a film or performance looks because, as of now, I have seen about four of the movies listed across all categories. Let us now jump right into this.

Best Motion Picture - Drama
Manchester by the Sea
Hell or High Water
Hacksaw Ridge

This category is practically a no-brainer. There are awards pundits who suggest that this is a race between Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight, but given the massive controversy at last year's Oscars, I'm going to have to go ahead and declare Moonlight's victory right now. Based on the high racial tensions spread throughout the country, giving this award to anyone but Moonlight would have murderous results. As if Hollywood is full of disenfranchised African-Americans, but I suppose that's neither here nor there. The only film I've seen in this category was Hell or High Water, which was an excellent film that may have had a chance in another year with less quotas. Ahem, pardon me, without such strong competition. Projected winner: Moonlight. Desired winner: Hell of High Water.

Best Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical
La La Land
20th Century Women
Sing Street
Florence Foster Jenkins

Not much to predict here, given the mass acclaim for La La Land, a film that is universally lauded as the greatest film of the year. (If you don't count Moonlight, of course.) La La Land is at the top of my list of films to watch this year in regards to awards season. Did I mention that this is my favorite time of the year? La La Land has such an old Hollywood feel about it, I absolutely love the premise of it. While many people believe this category to be a landslide victory for La La Land, I would not be surprised if the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) threw people a curveball and gave the award to Deadpool. This could be another Hangover situation where a crowd favorite takes home the Globe and stuns critics. We shall see. Projected winner and desired winner: La La Land.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama
Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea
Viggo Mortensen for Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington for Fences
Joel Edgerton for Loving
Andrew Garfield for Hacksaw Ridge

Well well, Ben Affleck's little brother finds himself back in the awards circuit, this time in a leading performance in a film that seems totally uninteresting. Though it is one of the most acclaimed films of the year, both Manchester by the Sea and Casey Affleck's performance appear to be unimpressive. The film itself looks pretty boring, no sugarcoating it, but then again I have to see it before making any assumptions. That's never stopped me before, but hey it's a new year and a time for change. In any other year with no political overtures, I would say this award is a clinch for Casey Affleck. However, there indubitably are political overtures that could favor Denzel Washington. In my opinion, Denzel's performance, in the trailer at least for I have not seen Fences yet, looks much stronger than Casey's. Again, we shall see. Projected winner: Casey Affleck. Desired winner: Andrew Garfield, because I see potential in him as a young actor and hope he moves up in the movie world.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama
Amy Adams for Arrival
Natalie Portman for Jackie
Jessica Chastain for Miss Sloane
Isabelle Huppert for Elle
Ruth Negga for Loving

I don't think there will be any surprises in this category. Natalie Portman has been the frontrunner not only for the Globe but also for the Oscar in recent weeks. Her turn as Jackie Kennedy, a mysterious figure who for some reason fascinates the American public, has been praised across the boards. Then again, with the past election results, perhaps the HFPA will throw another ridiculous curveball by awarding Chastain for her performance as some corrupt female political figure. Feminism is still needed according to everyone in Hollywood, but I still believe Natalie Portman has this in the bag. Whatever that saying means. Projected and desired winner: Natalie Portman.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical
Ryan Gosling for La La Land
Ryan Reynolds for Deadpool
Jonah Hill for War Dogs
Colin Farrell for The Lobster
Hugh Grant for Florence Foster Jenkins

First, may I just say that I am happy to see Hugh Grant return to the spotlight as well as be recognized for a film that I haven't seen yet but want to see. Welcome back, you sexy British gent you. Now this is a surprisingly tricky category. On one hand, La La Land is among the most nominated films of the year as well as the most praised film of the year. However, most of the praise regarding performances has gone to Emma Stone. That being said, this award is open season for the Hugh Grant and Ryan Reynolds. Should it go to Hugh Grant, I will be pleasantly pleased. (Redundant adjective-verb phrasing, it was intentional.) Ryan Reynolds has a strong chance in this category because Deadpool was adored not only by critics by general audiences as well. Once again, a potential Hangover stunner. Projected winner: Ryan Reynolds, a high stakes and controversial wager. Desired winner: Hugh Grant.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical
Emma Stone for La La Land
Annette Bening for 20th Century Women
Lily Colins for Rules Don't Apply
Meryl Streep for Florence Foster Jenkins
Hailee Steinfeld for The Edge of Seventeen

Here we arrive to the prospective darling of this year's awards season: Miss Emma Stone for her critically acclaimed role as an aspiring actress in Hollywood. A win for her would be such a beautiful ode to Hollywood tradition, a dedication to the ambitious hearts and souls that have roamed the streets of Hollywood for generations. Her win appears to be a certainty at this point, even up against the feminist performance of Annette Bening in the running. Again, this is an assumption based on the trailer. Sorry Meryl, but I'm going with lovely Emma on this one. Projected and desired winner: Emma Stone.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Mahershala Ali for Moonlight
Jeff Bridges for Hell or High Water
Dev Patel for Lion
Simon Helberg for Florence Foster Jenkins
Aaron Taylor-Johnson for Nocturnal Animals

This one is probably the most easily predicted out of all categories, excluding Best Drama. Mahershala Ali will be handed this award on a pedestal because of course he will. Awards pundits are wavering between him and Jeff Bridges, but let's be real. It is undoubtedly going to the Moonlight actor. Detecting a hint of animosity, are you? I haven't seen Moonlight yet, true, but I have a strong inkling that suggests it is nominated solely based on the topic. Especially after last year's scandal at the Oscars regarding diversity, it just seems highly serendipitous that this film receive this much acclaim. Again, I have not seen the film, and I will gladly (albeit sorely) admit if I am wrong and that Moonlight is the greatest film of all time. Nevertheless, however, it is nominated and praised for the reason I suggested before. Projected winner: Mahershala Ali. Desired winner: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, I suppose because the film looks great. I genuinely do not care about this category.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures
Viola Davis for Fences
Naomie Harris for Moonlight
Michelle Williams for Manchester by the Sea
Nicole Kidman for Lion

You can just discard thoughts for Michelle Williams and Nicole Kidman to win because that is definitely not happening. I personally don't care for either of them, though I used to like Nicole Kidman before she started looking as though she's wearing a rubber mask of herself. Her talent has dwindled over the years as well, I'm not that shallow. In the three-way race between the other ladies, pundits have been divided over who will win. It seems to be mainly between Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis, who both starred in The Help back in 2011. Based on the amount of emotion and slobbering-crying Viola Davis exhibits in Fences, from what I've seen in clips and trailers, I think the Globe is going to go to her. That is all. Projected winner: Viola Davis. Desired winner: Octavia Spencer.

Best Director - Motion Picture
Damien Chazelle for La La Land
Tom Ford for Nocturnal Animals
Barry Jenkins for Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea
Mel Gibson for Hacksaw Ridge

This will be quick. The award appears to be in favor of Damien Chazelle for his work on the cinematically aesthetic La La Land, and I have no objection. His previous film, Whiplash, was surprisingly exceptional in style and direction, so god speed Chazelle. However I'd like to take a moment and acknowledge Mel Gibson's nomination. I am beyond thrilled that he has returned to the spotlight of Hollywood, and from what I have seen he has been greeted with open arms. This welcoming embrace of the talented Mel Gibson is quite a drastic flip from his former banishment from Hollywood after some drunken and taboo behavior. I am so incredibly pleased to have him back in the stratosphere of movies, and I hope he graces our presence more often from here on. Projected winner: Damien Chazelle. Desired winner: Mel Gibson.
Welcome back, Mel.

Well, there you have it. Hopefully I will return with Oscar predictions, or just a general awards post or two in the foreseeable future. Then again, I will be employed at Walt Disney World at the time, so it all depends on how much free time I will have. Before I end this, I'd like to give a public service announcement regarding my tone and my phrasing. In other words, what I say and how I say it. I will no longer be afraid of expressing my opinion. I will not be harsh in conveying my ideas, I will remain as respectful and objective as I can, but I will not censor myself. To be fearful on the Internet and in everyday life is utterly preposterous and I will not bow down to the feet of political correctness and the leftist agenda. My opinion. My blog. Condemn me for what you like. I know who I am and what I believe deep down. It's not as if anyone reads this anyway though, right? Backpedaling from that pseudo-political stance, I will bid you all good night and a happy awards season. Cheers and sweet dreams, dearies.