Sunday, February 24, 2013

oscar watch 2013: my picks!

After watching all except 2 movies that I could not get my eyes on (The Gatekeepers - not yet released in St. Louis; The Master - out of theater, but doesn't come out on DVD until the 26th), I have my hopes for  who will take home Oscar.

This is not a list of  who I think will win, but who I would *want* to win. I categorized the nominees into groups by how I would feel if they won. If you want to know who I think will win, look for the asterisk*.

Best Movie:
Happiest: Argo*
Happy:  Silver Linings Playbook or Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty
Fine: Life of Pi, Django Unchained,  or Beasts of the Southern Wild
Angry: Amour, Les Mis

Best Animated Movie:
Happiest: Wreck-it-Ralph
Happy: Frankenweenie, Pirates! Band of Misfits
Fine: ParaNorman (cute, but not worth winning), Brave* (yes, I know impeccable animation, but the movie was so boring. UGH! Totally wasted potential for an awesome, strong, heroine for little girls to look up to).
Angry: n/a

Best Documentary:
Happiest: Searching for Sugar Man
Happy: The Invisible War, 5 Broken Cameras, How to Survive a Plague,
Fine: The Gatekeepers* (couldn't see it, so have no opinion)
Angry: n/a

Best Actor:
Happiest: Daniel Day Lewis*, Lincoln
Happy: Hugh Jackman, Les Mis; Bradley Cooper,Silver Linings Playbook
Fine: Joaquin Pheonix, The Master (I put him here because I can't really have an opinion since I didn't see the movie)
Angry:  Denzel Washington, Flight (I hated this movie & didn't think he did anything new or note-worthy. I certainly didn't get lost in his role.)

Best Actress
Happiest: Jessica Chastain*, ZD30
Happy: Jennifer Lawrence*, Silver Linings Playbook; Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Fine: Emannuelle Riva, Amour; Naimi Watts, The Impossible
Angry: n/a

Best Supporting Actor:
Happiest: Christopher Waltz, Django Unchained
Happy: Tommy Lee Jones*, Lincoln; Robert DiNero, Silver Linings Playbook
Fine: Alan Arkin, Argo; Phillip Seymour Hoffman, The Master (again, only here b/c I didn't see it)
Angry: n/a

Best Supporting Actress:
Happiest: Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Happy: Anne Hathaway*, Les Mis;  Jackie Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
Fine: Sally Field, Lincoln; Amy Adams, The Master (again...didn't see her)
Angry: n/a

Best Director:
Happiest: Ben Affleck, Argo - wait, he wasn't nominated (OUTRAGEOUS!)
Happy: Ang Lee, Life of Pi; Steven Speilberg*, Lincoln; David O Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Fine: Benh Zeitlin, Beasts S/W
Angry: Michael Haneke, Amour

Best Cinematography:
Happiest: Django Unchained, Robert Richardson
Happy: Skyfall, Roger Deakins; Life of PiClaudio Miranda; Anna Karenina, Seamus McGarvey
Fine: Lincoln*Janusz Kaminski;
Angry: n/a

Best Score:
Happiest: Silver Linings Playbook (not actually nominated)
Happy: Anna Karenina, Argo, Skyfall, Life of Pi,
Fine :Lincoln*
Angry: n/a

As it turns out, I've seen all the movies up for Writing, so I'll go ahead and give my picks for those, too. :)

Best (adapted) Screenplay:
*I guess I should have read the writings from which these were adapted. I've read Life of Pi, but not the others, & I'm going to just have ignore if I think it was adapted well, but only concentrate on which one I thought was written best in general.
Happiest: Silver Linings Playbook
Happy: Argo, Lincoln*, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi -- I almost put this at "fine," because I love the book so much, and was not happy with a couple of the changes they made. Overall, one of the better adaptations I've seen & I'm not supposed to be judging on the "adaptation."
Fine: n/a
Angry: n/a

Best (original) Screenplay:
Happiest: Django Unchained*
Happy: Moonrise Kingdom, Zero Dark Thirty
Fine: n/a
Angry: Flight -- are you KIDDING me?! I cannot believe this was nominated for writing. Can.Not.Believe!

best original score recap

I was having a hard time deciding which score I should pick to win Best, and I found myself just leaning towards the one I had heard most recently.  Because I’d heard some scores months ago and some days ago, I decided I should listen to them side by side. Below are my comments about the music  as I was listening to it.  

Argo –While many of the pieces are not ones I necessarily want to listen to over and over again, I did think they fit in the movie perfectly; additionally, the pieces, “Breaking Through the Gates,”  “The Mission,” and “Clearing Iranian Airspace” are pure magic, putting the soundtrack squarely in the fantastic category. 

Life of Pi – I remember while I was watching the movie that I loved the music. It was actually a huge part of the movie, and in many ways, helped move the story along. It is beautiful to be sure, and I think my favorite piece is “Tsimtsum,” “Tiger Training,” “Orphans,”  and “Back to the World,” but it’s hard to pick. Most of the pieces are only 1-3 minutes long, and they all ease into each other; really it is one piece of music. It is gorgeous.

Lincoln – Well, it’s John Williams, so I know I’m going to like it. And I do, but that’s about all. I remember while watching the movie that music was power, but the same can be said for all of these scores.  I will say that the “Peterson House and Finale” is absolutely breath-taking (and, of course, the clip they play will be from this).  Overall, the music is beautiful and heads above many other scores, but I’m not feeling it for best score.

SkyfallI remember remarking on the music when I came out of the theater – the music and the gorgeous cinematography. So I was excited to give this another listen. I couldn't get my hands on it through Spotify, so I purchased it from iTunes.  The stakes have been raised, Thomas Newman, you’d better delight me!  Okay, yes, I remember why I liked this so much as I was watching the movie. It is amazing.  “Jellyfish” and “Silhouette” are two of my favorites (and they are from a beautifully shot scene in the film). “She’s Mine” and “Deep Water,” and “ Adrenaline,” are also favorites. I don’t think it’s going to win though, although I think maybe it should. I think it’s going to be too fast-paced/electric for good old Oscar.

Anna Karenina - this is gorgeous  It starts off so fanciful, and I love the waltz   When I was watching the movie, I remember enjoying the music above all else, and I still enjoy it. I would listen to this again and again.  It is gorgeous, classical, and if I were still in an orchestra and given the choice of which of these scores to play, I would pick this one. I do adore it.

Silver Linings PlaybookOkay, so this is not nominated, but it should be. Three bars in, and I’m reminded how much I love this. Very hip, funny, distressing and beautiful; it helps tell the story of the movie perfectly. God, I almost forgot how much I loved this movie &; the music is bringing it all back. I love it.  “Simple,” “With a Beat,“ and – well, all of them, actually -  are just stunning. I know its not a big grand score, and it is relatively short compared to those nominated, but it just captured the film so well & is quite enjoyable on its own as well. I wish it had been nominated.

oscar watch 2013: review recap

I often post mini-reviews on facebook, so I have compiled the oscar movie reviews here for posterity. Movies with an * means I didn't have a FB review, but added one here.

Yes, you are welcome. I know I am doing the history of cinema  a great service! You can thank me with cookies. ;)

Skyfall (11/12)
Skyfall was absolutely amazing. The opening credits were easily the best ever, and the cinematography was striking throughout the movie; there are a few scenes that were so beautifully done that little compares. The story was also good (although I'll always be partial to Casino Royale)
*Lincoln  (November)

  • I was completely blown away by this movie. As a history teacher, the congressional debate scenes rocked my world. Tommy Lee Jones was riviting, as, of course, was Daniel Day Lewis. I loved this movie and would happily watch it again!

*Silver Linings Playbook (December)

  • I adored this movie. I was expecting a romantic comedy - that is certainly how it was billed, but that isn't how I would describe it. I loved the characters and the ups and downs of the movie. It was a really smart, enjoyable movie.
* Django Unchained (December)

  • When I came out of this gorgeous, funny, though-provoking, violent, interesting movie, I said, "Nobody does blood splatter like Quentin Tarantino."  I stand by that statement. This movie was fantastic. Loved it!), and I HIGHLY recommend everyone sees this!

Les Miserables (12/31)
Having seen the stage version when I was younger & belting out "Do You Hear the People Sing," many times in my car, I had high hopes for Les Mis (sorry, Jason H-). And although some of the scenes/songs were absolutely amazing, overall the movie fell flat for me. I'm glad I saw it, but I think it could have been better; this review sums up my issues with it quite nicely.

Invisible War & Looking for Sugar Man (1/27):

I finally watched the documentary, The Invisible War, and holy crap it was compelling. Heart-wrenching at times, but a story that must be heard. I highly recommend it. Last night I watched another Oscar nominated documentary, Looking for Sugar Man, and it was also fantastic. So far I'm two for two. Let's keep 'em coming!

 Brave (1/28)

My first Oscar dud: Brave. The animation might be fantastic, but the story was rather lame an humorless :-(
 ...I was excited of the prospect of a strong, smart princess whose main goal in life was not just to find her prince, but the story was just not that good. Hopefully this movie will pave the way for more movies in which our girls have strong role models. And hopefully those movies will be better.
How to Survive a Plague (1/28)
3rd documentary: How to survive a Plague. Amazing story of how average people band together to become extraordinary and successfully fight for AIDS research & treatment. Although dry at times - like something you might watch in school- it is powerful and inspiring, and a is part of our history that should not be overlooked.
Beasts of the Southern Wild  (1/30)
Oscar prep continued tonight with Best Movie nom, Beasts of the Southern Wild. I'm not done processing this movie, but it certainly does raise questions of culture and land worth discussing. While this wouldn't be my choice to win best movie, the little girl was amazing.
 5 Broken Cameras (2/1)
Another thought provoking documentary: 5 Broken Cameras. 14 movies to go!
Wreck-It Ralph (2/3)
Best Animated Movie #2: Wreck-it Ralph. I loved this movie! It was hilarious, and I could see owning it. I'm having a hard time believing any of the other animated films will come close to this one, but I'm going to try to have an open mind about it. (13 movies to go!)
Oscar (short) BONUS! Paperman (2/4)  My friend Ellie  & my roomate shared this with me. Thanks!
           Love this

  Flight (2/6)
Oscar Watch 2013: Flight(Denzel Washington, best actor). Denzel was Denzel; fantastic as always. But I wasn't wowed. The movie did wow me- in how completely awfull it was. The tone was off, the climatic moment was contrived & unrealistic, and the end was basically a montage of cliches. It should have been a good movie; there were moments of greatness, but then they were ruined by poor writing and a distracting soundtrack. 13 to go! 
  Zero Dark Thirty (2/7)
"Oscar Watch 2013: Zero Dark Thirty (picture & actress). Absolutely amazing. I'm increasingly conflicted over which picture I want to win Best. On one hand this was perfect: gripping, and emotional, and somehow suspenseful even though I knew the outcome. On the other hand, it has a low rewatchability likelihood. Jessica Chastain was flawless and should take home the Oscar. 12 to go!"
this post on FB led into a question about whether rewatchability should be a factor, however slight, in determining if a movie should win best picture. I maintained it should be a  very small factor, but the majority of people disagreed with me. It is an interesting question to ponder & ponder it still I do.   
  Life of Pi  (2/9)
Oscar Watch 2013: Life of Pi (movie, director, cinematography, & music). Another fantastic & gorgeous movie. The book is one of my absolute favorites, so I found some of the changes jarring and strange, but the way the story was brought to life visually spot on. If you haven't read the book, read it. I have a copy & will lend it to you. Then see the movie. So far this has my cinematography vote.
 ParaNoman (2/11)
Oscar Watch 2013: Paranorman (best animated): Slow to start, but a cute little horror movie for kids. Reminded me a little of Hocus Pocus. My favorite line was, "Don't make me through this hummus at you! It's Spicy!" 9 to go  

 The Sessions (2/11)
Oscar Watch 2013: The Sessions (best supporting actress, Helen Hunt). Did John Hawkes get a Golden Globe nomination at least? I love him in everything, and this was no different; but alas he is not nominated. So far the only supporting actress I haven't seen is Amy Adams, and Helen Hunt may be my top pick (even though I know Anne Hathaway is going to win); this was not an easy role & she did an impeccable job. The movie was sweet, funny, and tear inducing in that way all good indie comedy-dramas are. 8 to go!
 Frankenweenie (2/13)
OW2013: Frankenweenie (best animated) was way better than I anticipated. This may be the first Tim Burton movie I've liked in awhile. Sweet & well crafted, and not over the top. The music was just perfect for the film.
 Amour (2/16)
OW2013: Amour (best picture, actress, director). This movie was more depressing than Wall-E. I kind of wish I hadn't seen it, and cannot, in good conscious, recommend it to anyone who has ever experienced a loved one dying. That said, if you enjoy extremely realistic and heart-wrenching movies about people growing old & their enduring love, then this is the movie for you! Emanuelle Riva (actress) was outstanding, and definitely deserves the nomination. ( 6 to go!)
 Pirates! Band of Misfits (2/17)
OW2013: Pirates! Band of Misfits (best animated) was cute, but not terribly entertaining for me. Visually, of course, it was ridiculously good. And bonus: Jeremy Piven and a Flight of the Conchords song is in it. 5 to go!
 Oscar (short) BONUS! Maggie Simpson, The Longest Daycare (2/19)
Oscar Bonus! I caught the animated short, Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare," today because my all-knowing Tivo thought to record it for me. It was sweet & lovely, but also had some comments about society. I laughed when Maggie's intelligence was tested by "Often Wrong Technologies," and then placed in the "nothing special" (loved that)
 Argo (2/20)
OW2013 Argo (movie, supporting actor, score). Firstly, how did Ben Affleck not get a director nomination? Secondly this movie was awesome. I loved every minute if it. See it! On Alan Arkin (s actor): I adore him beyond reason, and his comic relief was welcome during the film, but much like Denzel in Flight, he was just sort of Alan Arkin being Alan Arkiny. Great, but nothing new. The score: beautiful. Need to hear them all side by side to pick a fav, but Loved it. Great movie!!! 
 Anna Karenina (2/21)
 OW2013 Anna Karenina (Cinematography, Score). Oh Anna Karenina, you long, long, boring movie. But, I have to give credit where credit due: the cinematography and music are beautiful. There were also several scenes that were quite compelling as well as being masterfully shot, but in the end the pacing was so drawn out that it could not hold my undivided attention. (And now, with the sad reality that it is not possible for me to see 2 of the nominations having sunk in, I say, "1 to go!")
 The Impossible (2/24)
 OW2013: The Impossible (actress: Naimi Watts). Well, if you need a good cry, this is the movie for you. I loved it, but it was somewhat draining emotionally. I though Naimi Watts did a fantastic job - as did Ewan McGreggor. I thought the kid who played Lucas (Tom Holland) should have gotten a supporting actor nomination. He certainly showed more range than Alan Arkin in Argo, and in ways he carried this movie. No, he totally carried this movie. He is the character whose emotions on which you hung your own. He was fantastic. 
Nit-pick: I loved this movie, but I thought the "let's zoom out to show how small we are compared to the tragedy as a whole and/or how impossible it was for these people to find each other  was overused. Doing that 1-3 times at key moments (like the first time they did it) is really powerful, but it was done so many times that I became someone somewhat immune to it. Which is, I guess, why it was not nominated for any other major categories. Still, great movie. I recommend it!
That's it! I'm done! Challenge Complete! :)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

reading list

NPR keeps adding books to my reading list. These are a few I don't want to forget as I read the books currently on my nightstand.

  • Sticks and Stones, by Emily Bazelon - I've actually heard Emily Bazelon speak on the subject of autism in girls (which often presents itself much differently in girls than in boys) on TED, so I was interested when I heard she'd written this book. The book is about how cyber/internet bullying has upped the anti when it comes to bullying. Here  you can listen to Terry Gross interviewing Brazelon on Fresh Air (incidentally, she sounds exactly like a friend of mine; I'm beginning to think they are the same person).
  • Cinderella Ate My Daughter, by Peggy Orenstein - I heard Orenstein talking about this on All Things Considered & it seems like the kind of book anyone (mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, cousins, teachers, etc) who has a hand in raising girls should read. I've read Orenstein's other book, School Girls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap, which is a great read, so I am hopefully I will like this one as well.
  • Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, by Lawrence Wright - I heard an interview with the author on NPR and I became fascinated. Independently, my mom told me she was reading this book and it was amazing. As Agent Cooper says, "When two things happen simultaneously pertaining to the same object of inquiry we must pay special attention," so pay attention to this I must!

Friday, February 22, 2013

map wars

This is one of my favorite scenes from The West Wing.  CJ has a meeting with cartographers who want to change the map we use to be a map that more accurately shows the size of land masses. It will BLOW.YOUR.MIND!

By all accounts, the Gall-Peterson map projection and the traditional Mercator both distort parts of the globe (Gall-Peters distorts angles, but preserves land mass size; Mercator distorts land mass size, but preserves angles). What's their problem? Why distort anything at all? Well, of course it is difficult to make something round flat with out any negative affects.  Read more about it (and other mind blowing map projections) here.

Gall-Peters Map

Thursday, February 21, 2013

oscar watch 2013: the nominations

Here are the movies & their nominated categories for the 2013 Academy Awards (Major Categories). If I'd seen them prior to making the challenge, they are in blue. I am supposed to see them all before Feb 24, 2013!!

Best Movie:
Amour (director)
Argo (s. actor, score)
Beasts of the Southern Wild (actress, director)
Django Unchained (s. actor, cinematography)
Les Meserables (actor, s. actress)
Life of Pi (director, cinematography, score)
Lincoln (actor, s. actor, s. actress, director, cinematography, score)
Silver Linings Playbook (actor, actress, s. actor, s. actress)
Zero Dark Thrity (actress)

Movie Itself Not Nominated:
The Master* (actor, s. actor, s. actress)
Flight (actor)
The Impossible (actress)
The Sessions (s. actress)
Anna Karenina (cinematography, score)
Skyfall (cinematography, score)

Best Animated:
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Wreck-it Walph

Best Documentary:
5 Broken Cameras
The GateKeepers*
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War
Searching for Sugar Man

* = I will be unable to see these movies because they have either not been released in St. Louis (Gatekeepers) or they are no longer in the theaters, but not yet on DVD (The Master). :(

oscar watch 2013: the challenge

Many of you know that about a month ago I gave myself the challenge of watching all the Academy Award Nominated movies (major categories). Together, this totaled 25 movies; fortunately I had already seen 5 of them: This gave me 29 days to watch 20 movies in preparation for the Oscars!

The categories I chose as "major":
  • Best Movie
  • Best Animated Movie
  • Best Documentary
  • Best Actor, Actress
  • Best Supporting Actor, Actress
  • Best Director
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Score
Next year I'd like to add best screenplay (original and adapted) and the shorts (animated and live), but given the time constraints of this challenge, I felt my category list was already ambitious enough!

Can this challenge be done? I'm still working on it. Currently, 4 days before the Oscars I have 4 movies left to watch. Time is of the essence!

My next post will include all the movies & their nominations...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

book of mormon

Last night my mom and I saw The Book of Mormon.  It was fan-fliping-tastic!  I loved the music and I laughed pretty much non-stop. Even with all the jokes, it managed to have heart & be quite charming. I'll admit, it seems odd to call a musical that has such a comfortable relationship with 4-letter words "charming," but it's done. I stand by my statement.  One of my favorite parts in the whole musical was when the broke out a tap dance. It was amazing.

Everyone talks about how offensive it is, but I certainly didn't find it to be. While I'm sure the language would bother some, and it is certainly not for the faint of heart, on a religious level I was not offended at all.  The take-home message, took home, was that while the writers clearly don't believe in Mormonism & find some of it laughable, they seem have a, "but it makes really polite, happy people, so Mormon it up!" Of course, that may be offensive to some Mormons. I'm just saying if it had been about Catholicism, I don't think I would have been offended (but I try to have a sense of humor about my religion).  I would be interested in what my Mormon friends who've seen it think.

In short: if you have the opportunity, love musical & laughing, then see it!

Monday, February 18, 2013

10 things I love

I realized it's been awhile since I've reminded myself of things that bring me happiness.  Here are 10 things I love right now:

  • my green hat that I crocheted several years ago.
  • the sound of rain on my tin awning.
  • my friends, near and far
  • sleeping in
  • walls that are colored bright, beautiful colors
  • my nieces smiling
  • chevron prints
  • quiet days with nothing on my schedule
  • the West Wing streaming on Neflix
  • Cooper and Lucy curled up & snuggling next to me.

the owls are not what they *seam*

Okay, if you've been reading my blog for any period of time you know I love Twin Peaks. I also love owls. While my love for these things are unrelated, they do overlap, so when my friend D suggested we make owl pillows I jumped on board. Then I made a Twin Peaks inspired owl.

This project was really fun, but not easy (navigating the curves with Walter took some practice). In the end our efforts were totally worth it, and I have several people who already want to order some owl pillows from us.  YAY! Here is what we made:

D & I made this couple of owls together.  D was the mastermind with the pattern, & stitched the eyes; I sewed and stuffed them! :)

Using D's pattern, I made this Twin-Peaks inspired owl (adding buttons for eyes). I like to think David Lynch would be proud.

In case you don't know why the black and white is "Twin Peaks;" it's classic Lynch. The zig-zag floor has been used in several of his project, most notably Eraserhead and Twin Peaks. I know my zig-zags should have been wider, but I couldn't find black and white that was wide and thick.  My search will continue, but I'm still happy with my owl!

sewing for an evening out

I love clutch purses. I used to crochet them, but that takes quite a bit of time, and then I always had to hand sew in the lining. Sew, I thought (heh), why not try sewing my own clutch.  This was my first ambitious solo project. It meant lining, interfacing (which I had no idea what that was), and fasteners. This time, I kept the vodka in the cabinet, and began this project with nothing but Diet Coke to help me.  I know some things I' will do differently next time, but over all, I love it! Super cute. :)

I pined the embellishment so I can change it depending on the occasion. :)

totes, totes, and more totes!

My second sewing project: tote-bags. Everyone loves tote-bags, so this seemed like a great project. I enlisted the help of my friend S. After some troubleshooting, and perhaps more vodka than was prudent, we made some beautiful bags!

How did we do it? Well, we didn't have a pattern - just directions. You will notice this happens a lot of you are scouring the internet or Pinterest for sewing ideas.  To make our own pattern, we used brown paper bags. We just cut them to size, and viola! instant pattern.  I've since also used large heavy (but not quite card-stock) paper, and that works even better because there are no pesky creases.

Here's what I noticed about totes: they are a perfect beginner project.  I love making them, but anyone who says a beginner can whip them up in an hour is wearing crazy pants. Maybe I'm just slow, but because I like all my edges to be finished and I wasn't lining the bags, it meant I had a lot to fold, iron, fold again and sew. Since my material is rather sturdy, I haven't wanted to line the bags, although this may be a better (adding sturdiness and saving time) option for the future. I'll have to play with it.

Here are a couple of the totes I've made since getting the hang of it:

adventures with walter, the sewing machine.

I received a sewing machine for Christmas a little over a year ago, and it was wonderful  My mom used my sewing machine to make me all sorts of curtains for my home.  This year, I decided I should probably try to figure out how to use the thing for real.  This resulted in my mom and I making a skirt. This time, however, I paid attention to what my mom was doing, and afterwards, felt brave enough to go out on my own. It took a little while for Walter and I to get used to each other  but with the help of YouTube sewing tutorials and an understanding about which bobbins Walter prefers, we've found a way to work together.  The result has been several little projects that probably take me longer to make than they should, but it is great fun. I highly recommend it!

This (Twin Peaks inspired) pillow was my first solo project:  :)

If you are thinking about sewing, this is a great video about how to thread one's bobbin; it saved me a lot of heartache.