2019 Oscars

The beginning of the year is known in Hollywood as the award season.  Where is seems like every week there is a new award show on TV. The most popular being the Emmys, Tony’s, Grammy’s, and the Oscars.  Each of these four popular award shows are based on a different category of entertainment: Television, Broadway, Music, and Movies. There is more than one award show for each category, these are just the most popular and seen as the most prestigious.

The Oscars seems to be the biggest award show out of the four, with movie stars coming from all over just to be at movies biggest night.  The Oscars gives awards for a large variety of categories from movie scores, to costumes, to the more common categories like best actress and actor.  Most people only seem to know about the “bigger” categories because those are the only ones broadcasted on television. Most of the other awards are done beforehand and are not shown.

The Oscars also has awards for different types of films.  There is the biggest award of the night, “Best Feature”, and there are also best animated film, best short, and best documentary just to name some examples.  

Generally the public has not seen the majority of the films nominated for Oscars, but it seems that this has changed a little in recent years.  For example “Black Panther” and “A Star is Born” are both nominated for best picture. “Black Panther” was one of the most successful movies of 2018.  Most people still have not seen the best documentaries or the best shorts nominations. However, the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor is playing all of the Oscar nominated best shorts and best documentaries.  This can give people a chance to go and see them before the Oscars, and it gives the opportunity to see something that most people would not have the chance to see otherwise.

What to do on a snowday?

Once the University of Michigan cancelling classes for two days in a row, I thought to myself “Hooray!  I’m going to catch up on sleep for the next two days!” Then I tried to remember what I did on snow days during elementary and high school.  I would play outside for the day, or have friends over to play inside. So I decided that maybe instead of sleeping for the next two days I could do something else.  So here is a list of things that I might do during our snow-days.

Movie Marathons!  I am a huge fan of movies, my favorite genres are romcoms, sci-fi, and thrillers.  When creating a movie marathon you have the choice of watching a bunch or random movies, movies with the same theme, or a movie series.  Watching random movies is good so that you do not get too bored when watching a couple movies in one sitting. This way you can laugh, cry, and get scared in one day; which can be more exciting.  Watching movies from the same genre, or with the same theme can give you an extra dose of whatever feeling you want. Watching a movie series gives you purpose when you are sitting watching a movie, because you now have to finish the series.  I personally like watching movie series. You can always re-watch Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings.

Read!  As a college student, I never do any reading for pleasure during the school year because I am constantly reading for my classes.  Taking two days to start and possibly finish a book that has been sitting unread in my bookshelf would be great. Cold weather is also the perfect reading conditions because then you are incentivized to sit in a chair curled up with a blanket and a book and are able to read for hours.  It’s also nice when you are sitting by a window that brings in natural light and so that you can look outside but you do not have to go outside.

Game night!  The last activity is better if there is someone else with you.  A game night or afternoon is always fun and relaxing, depending on the game.  I used to play a lot of board games growing up with my family, and I have not played them much since going to college.  I love when an opportunity comes up and I can play them again. The best games to play during snow days are games that take a long time because you have all of the time in the world.  I personally like to play Risk when I have a couple of hours to spend on a game.

Embracing the Sentimental During Difficult Times

I love “The Wizard of Oz” and think it deserves to be considered a classic of American cinema. This week, one of my professors showed the ending of the film to my class to make a relevant point during lecture. Tears formed in the corners of my eyes, and I remembered how I actually did cry the first time I saw it. I’m not a big fan of fantasy, but the message that nothing can replace the ones you love is very moving. The way the lecture hall had people audibly sniffing after the clip ended let me know I wasn’t the only one that found the movie powerful.

After the video ended, my professor addressed the class by saying that although the scene is “cheesy” it was still insightful for the purposes of studying witches. My mood soured when I heard her say that. “Cheesy”? The fact that the movie came out in 1939 at the end of the Great Depression and the beginnings of World War II makes it unsurprising that it was a box office hit. In my English classes, I learn about how history provides relevant context to literature that allows the reader to understand texts more deeply. In therapy, I have learned that a useful coping mechanism when emotionally distraught is to pretend that you are somewhere far away physically from your problems so that you do not become so emotionally attached that you are incapable of working towards solving them. What better way for the people living through such brutal times to be given a glimmer of hope, than to be transported to a magical wonderland that shows there’s no better place to be than home, with their loved ones who make struggling in life worthwhile?

I wonder if my professor didn’t like The Wizard of Oz or just was self-conscious about including the G-rated movie in lecture. The way she talked about it made the film sound more out there than it really is, in my opinion. Compare Oz with the song “Pon Pon Pon” by Japanese singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. She has said what drove her to become a singer is to make other people happy. This can be seen by how her first performance was a charity event called “One Snap to Love” in 2011 to raise funds for victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. On the English-language Internet, I’ve heard people speculate that she made such an over-the-top music video for her debut single in order to cheer up the people of Japan as the nation started to repair and mourn after the massive devastation of the earthquake. The lyrics are really sweet, full of optimism and vitality as it calls people to become vulnerable by exploring where they live and joining hands as one in order to take life by the horns. The music video, however…

is full of surreal imagery as Kyary dances around a psychedelic room fulled to the brim with cute junk and faceless backup dancers. It’s wacky and colorful and way over-the-top. If my professor was weirded out somehow by the ending of The Wizard of Oz, then I’m sure she would have a cow watching this. But I for one almost teared up when I realized the context that this wild music video was released in because at the end of the day it tried to inject life into desperate times full of death. Let the people struggling decide what’s too weird to appreciate.

Deconstruction Means “Freddy Got Fingered” and “School Days” Are Good, Actually

I grew up being exposed to gross-out comedies, so even though I can’t remember specific movie titles, the opening sequence to “Freddy Got Fingered” feels extremely familiar and tired. It’s almost laughable how lame the movie’s beginning is, and I was concerned this bad movie wasn’t going to reach a level where it was so bad it became good. I’m not surprised that there is debate over whether or not the movie is parody. However, I’m convinced this is intentionally left unanswered because the movie is satire. The man-child cartoonist called Gord who is unfortunately the protagonist of the film put my concerns to rest 30 minutes in, right when he begins to spread pain and suffering on a wider scale in his quest to have his cartoons adapted into a TV show.

Gord (Tom Green) storms an animation studio by force, bypassing security and harassing a secretary in an effort to meet the TV executive who runs the company (Anthony Michael Hall). When informed that the executive is at lunch, the public nuisance goes to the restaurant and harasses diners until he finds the person able to turn his dream into a reality. While this is off-putting to Hall’s character at first, he immediately listens when Gord begins to sell his comics.

Gord being given the chance to pitch his work despite being a terrible writer and a threat to society. Source: IMDB

This is amusing to me only because Gord had a hard time finding the exec after running into many men who look and are dressed like the one from the animation studio. The fact that Hall is just one of many blond-haired, blue-eyed men eating at Movers and Shakers restaurant is transparent criticism of the lack of inclusion in Hollywood and, by extension, powerful institutions in America. The way the TV executive turns away in disgust from Gord’s ridiculously unprofessional proposal but automatically turns around again to give the desperate cartoonist a chance when Gord starts to beg to sell his cartoons suggests that influential people in the media are more open to giving opportunities to some people more than others, even when it is undeserved…

In this scene, Gord is giving up on his cartoons at the same time Green is giving up on his movie. Source: IMDB

Despite his generosity, the TV executive is not blind to how talentless Gord is. He tells the artist that while the art of the comics is good, the stories and humor behind them are awful and would never sell. This pushes Gord over the edge, making him pull out a gun and lament that his characters are losers so he is a loser. He threatens to kill himself right then and there, which is shocking and completely unexpected if not for how this situation would be played straight in a normal comedy movie with the hero getting the job and the girl at the end. It is extremely funny to me how the stepping stone of Gord’s career is when our protagonist declares he needs to die, because this is the most illustrative way possible for Tom Green to scream about how much he clearly hates gross-out comedy movies and explains why the 90 minute run-time is used to push tropes of the genre to their most grotesque and absurd limits in order to make a point.

The infamy of “Freddy Got Fingered” reminds me of the reputation of “School Days”, an anime that I think wasn’t intentionally satire but ended up criticizing the short-comings of harem animes anyway. The formulaic show is based on a video game where a painfully average young man named Makoto suddenly finds himself becoming the most eligible bachelor in his high school after creating a love triangle. The video game has many endings determined by how well you navigate having multiple girlfriends, and the majority of the outcomes are good. However, “School Days” is infamous for its few bad endings that depict the absolute worst possible consequences of someone playing with the affections of a group of people.

Makoto easily guilt-tripping Otome, the third girl he’s cheating on, in order to keep their relationship a (poorly kept) secret. Source: MyAnimeList

The value of this criticism I think is highlighted in the anime when Makoto goes from being too shy to talk to an attractive girl in the first episode to having romantic encounters with three girls in one day by the end of the show. He is warned by his latest conquest, Otome, that problems will arise if the fact he is seeing several women at the same time becomes known. He tells her what he has already told his other girlfriends, that she is as responsible for the delicate situation as he is and that she should just let things happen. The anime adapts the worst possible endings of the game and illustrates that in real life it would take someone to be extremely narcissistic and emotionally abusive to sustain a harem like in anime.

I think these two works were poorly received because fans of these comedy genres weren’t expecting the deconstruction of the tropes they have come to love. The shocking violence and overall bad taste is only believable as the work of professional writers if the intention is to show how ridiculous the cliches expected from viewers are. It is difficult to make a parody or satire of something, especially with film, without being mistaken for the real deal, but as someone who thinks they’re in on the joke I think I have the right to laugh along.

Why “Ringu” Started a Hollywood Trend

I was surprised to learn that Hollywood loved Japanese horror films so much in the early 2000’s that it made America remakes of the most successful ones. I’ve seen “Ringu” and “Ju-On: the Grudge”, two of the most famous Japanese horror films here, and started thinking what about these movies could have captured American audiences so much. From the outset, it’s clear that Japanese horror loves a good villain, like Sadako and Toshio, the same way American horror does, like with Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. All of these characters were born human but gained supernatural powers over time. Toshio from “The Grudge” and Jason Voorhees from “Friday the 13th” are more sympathetic villains because (spoilers) they were abused by their families before their death and want revenge for how they died, while Sadako from “Ringu” and Freddy Krueger from “A Nightmare on Elm Street” are scary from the start of the movie because unbeknownst to the viewer, they killed innocent people while alive before dying and taking on demonic powers that allow them to seek new victims in the afterlife. The motivations of these villains aren’t unfamiliar to American audiences.

At the same time, I’m not surprised “Ringu” made Hollywood sit up and take notice. The movie blends supernatural horror and psychological thriller to weave a complex plot about Reiko, a journalist and single mother, on the hunt for the mysterious entity killing teenagers across Japan via VHS tape. Not only is the movie entertaining because the mysterious case keeps you guessing who is behind the murders, but it is innovative on an artistic level as well. The movie puts the literary archetype of the vengeful ghost from Japanese literature into a contemporary setting. This is represented by the ghost behind the murders adapting to modern technology in order to haunt more people. Released in 1998, the movie captures this unease with how past horrors will exist in society after the turn of the millennium, a concern that I’m sure is relatable to developed nations like America. Additionally, the film provides social commentary on the changing role of women in Japanese society by having Reiko neglect her son more and more as the case goes on while Sadako kills more and more people. It is a pessimistic movie in that it puts women attempting impossible “double shifts” as professionals and homemakers on the same footing as past horrors developing alongside society in the future. I can’t tell if the movie is sympathetic to Reiko’s struggles to be a good mom, but this parallel plot raises the stakes of an already horrible mystery.

What I think cements “Ringu” as an instant classic is Sadako. She doesn’t have to appear much to make a grand entrance after seeing her infamous VHS tape and her increasing body count. The VHS tape almost looks like a bizarre art film but in reality has clues that let Reiko find Sadako, making the ghost’s capabilities and motivation unknown. The scene where Sadako finally reveals herself is horrifying because it juxtaposes the strange footage of her VHS tape with the deaths of her victims, suggesting she is in control of the afterlife in addition to her existence on Earth, letting her bend the rules dividing the present from the past and art from real life. She conveys her great power and anger without saying a word. By confirming Reiko’s worst fears of who could be killing without leaving a trace, the movie combines the best of psychological horror with the paranormal, an achievement that is essential viewing for any horror fan.

The Christmas Rom Com

During the holiday season it seems like the only things on television are Christmas related.  Every other channel is running a Christmas movie marathon with all of the classics like Elf, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and Home Alone.  There are so many Christmas movies that there are genres within the genre of Christmas movie. One of the most popular genre is Christmas rom coms.

Christmas rom coms are very similar to normal rom coms.  With a plot consisting of two people meeting, waiting a while to get together, a big twist and they break up, and then a big gesture at the end so they end up together.  But Christmas rom coms have their own set of tropes that are different from other rom coms throughout the year. An example of this is that in order for them to be together they both have to be really into Christmas, and if one of them is not they will learn to love it by the end of the movie.  Snowstorms keeping someone in a small town in another classic trope that makes the two main characters stay together and then fall in love.

Some classic Christmas rom coms are “Love Actually”, “The Holiday”, and “Four Christmases”.  All of these movies are constantly playing on TV. The most popular of the three is “Love Actually”.  The movie is different from other rom coms because it follows more than one couple throughout the movie, it has 4 different story lines instead of just one.  But each storyline still follows that same general arc as a typical Christmas rom com.

Netflix has been making more rom coms in the past year, and this includes Christmas rom coms.  The most popular Netflix rom com is called “The Christmas Prince” and it follows one of the typical rom com stories of a normal girl falling in love with a man who turns out to be a prince.  “The Christmas Prince” was such a big hit on Netflix that they have now made a sequel this year. Other Christmas rom coms on Netflix are “The Princess Switch” starring Vanessa Hudgens, and “Christmas Inheritance”.  These are only movies that are made by Netflix, you can also watch other Christmas rom coms on Netflix as well.

Christmas rom coms is a feel good movie genre that is meant to put people in the holiday spirit.  Everyone in all of the movies are extremely kind and they always give to others, something that not everyone does in the real world.