Selma and the Academy Awards

Almost exactly a year ago, I made a post that will end up being eerily similar to this one. Why, you may ask?

It is, once again, AWARDS SEASON.

*cue excited music*

Okay, okay, I have a confession. Yes, I love awards season, and yes, I’m still excited to see who will win. But something just isn’t right this year.

As you may have heard, Selma got majorly snubbed in the noms for the Academy Awards this year. And I’m not particularly happy about that.

First, before I say anything else, I want to reiterate that I am, in fact, a white female, and thus am speaking from a view of someone who is privileged, and I try to acknowledge that as much as possible. But all I ever want to be, both writing these columns and in my everyday life is honest. And honestly, this is not okay.

Last year, I watched the Academy Awards, and when they called the name of Lupita Nyong’o, I could literally see the joy and surprise she felt when they called her name. I beamed when she acknowledged what an amazing opportunity this was, how she instantly became a role model, just like actresses like Audrey Hepburn and Amy Adams became for me.

And yet now, are we really going to take a step backward from that? Frankly, I’m not surprised, but immensely disappointed at the Academy. I have yet to see Selma (though you can bet I’m planning on it), but even without seeing it I already know what a phenomenal movie it is.

All I can say is America, we can do better.

Okay, now that that’s over with, I present my picks and favorites for the Academy Awards 2015 in the major categories. Feel free to disagree in the comments…I’m actually really excited to do this publicly, because I’ve always made my picks, but usually just told my mom right before they announce the winner.

Also, disclaimer, if you didn’t read my post from last year, I also try and challenge myself to see every best picture/best actor/actress nominated movie, because they aren’t movies I typically see in my casual movie-going habits (that would be How to Train Your Dragon 2…I mean…what…who said that…). So, something to keep in mind, I probably haven’t seen the movies I pick. So…make of that what you will.

Best Picture:
Pick: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Favorite: Boyhood

Best Actor:
Pick: Michael Keaton, Birdman
Favorite: No particular favorite

Best Actress:
Pick: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Favorite: No particular favorite

Best Supporting Actor:
Pick: Edward Norton, Birdman
Favorite: Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Best Supporting Actress:
Pick: Laura Dern, Wild
Favorite: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Animated Feature Film:
Pick: The Tale of Princess Kaguya
Favorite(s): How to Train Your Dragon 2, Big Hero 6

Best Director:
Pick: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Favorite: Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Sick Days and Movies

I’d like to propose a theory that has not been tested or proven in any way shape or form. To be honest, this theory hasn’t been around for very long because I may or may not have come up with it today while I was lying in agony trying to will my body to sleep. But it’s a theory nonetheless.

This theory? When there is an increase in sickness/illness/general suckiness, there is a direct correlation to the increase in enjoyment of any movie or TV show.

Note I said correlation not causation because if I hadn’t already had it drilled into my brain in high school AP Psych I had it again drilled into my brain in my (very easy) stats class last year.

Normally, today I would have one class in the morning, have an hour and a half for lunch, and have a 3 hour work shift after which I’d attend my last class of the day from 4-5:30. However my body was having none of that, so after waking up with a scratchy throat I went to my first class and in the course of an hour and half went from “ew gross throat” to “please help I’m dying.” To my chagrin, my poor attempt to use Panera Bread’s chicken noodle soup to nurse myself back to health did not work, and so I walked into my office a half hour earlier than I’m supposed to arrive and asked if please I could go back and rest, and she agreed heartily. (Side note: I literally have the best boss on campus. And I’m not saying that in case she reads this, because she probably won’t, but because it’s true, so you should all be jealous).

Only focused on how the wind was not lowering my pain tolerance at all, I shuffled slowly back to my dorm, took the elevator instead of the stairs, and crawled into bed. And even though I was completely exhausted from only getting six hours of sleep the night previous, I could not fall asleep.

Not only was I thinking of all the things I still need to do this week and how to accomplish them with the least amount of effort possible, I also was kept awake by the dull throbbing in my muscles.

And so, as I lay there, I thought of all of the times I had been sick when at home, and how yes, I felt horrible, but maybe it’d be okay because that meant I got to watch a new movie or finish a TV show.

One distinct time this happened was when I was in 4th, maybe 5th grade. My mom kept me home from school with just a normal (but brutal) cold, but she still had to go to the store and wouldn’t leave me home alone, so naturally I accompanied her to the WalMart five minutes down the road. As soon as we got there, there was a huge display in front of me, with at least three shelves all lined with one movie. This movie, which happens to be my favorite out of all Disney/Pixar movies, is Finding Nemo. I don’t know why my mom did it, maybe out of pity, or maybe she just saw the look on my face as I looked at the shiny blue cover of a movie I didn’t get to see in the movie theatre, but she turned to me and asked “Do you want me to buy this for you?”

Young and confused, I answered with my own question, “Why?”

“Because today is a special day.” I couldn’t see what was so special about it, but if it meant getting a new movie I was game, so I went and picked out one, a two disc special edition, and watched it when I got home.

Now, to be honest, I don’t remember how sick I was or how much I liked the movie the first time I saw it. But to this day, it’s one of my favorite movies, both to watch when I’m sick and when I’m fine. I can quote almost every line, and over break I bought myself a stuffed plush of Dory (I kid you not).

Okay, so I will acknowledge that this has less to do with “art” and more to do with psychology. Maybe it’s just this way for me, but when I get sick, cuddling up with a soft blanket and a movie works better than any medicine or home remedy. I can’t tell you why, but the connection still exists in my head to this day, because when I lay there in my dorm, miserable and desperately wishing for sleep, just sleep, all I really wanted was to watch Finding Nemo.

*Disclaimer* I am still very sick as I write this so if you see any typos or if some sentences just don’t sound the best, please forgive me, I’m about to take a shower and some Nyquil and sleep forever.

The Art of The Snow Day Movie Marathon

Do you hear that? It’s the triumphant cries of students everywhere rejoicing in the luck of it being 2014. What’s that? A Snow Day in Michigan? Has there ever been a more perfect time?

With all this time on your hands, dear students, I impart to you the knowledge of my vast and ever-growing movie collection, so that you too may reap the benefits of not having class today in the form of a movie marathon.

And so, for this January 28th, in the year 2014, I present to you, my Top 10 Movies To Watch When You Have A Snow Day

1. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Okay, you should have seen this one coming from a mile away. And if you haven’t seen this movie yet, PLEASE take this excuse to watch it RIGHT NOW. In short, Ferris is taking a day off – so you should do yourself a favor and take one too.

2. Stardust

Over the years I’ve grown accustomed to the response of “What’s Stardust?” whenever I mention this movie. A hidden gem, Stardust is a movie based on a book of the same name by Neil Gaiman. A fantasy following the story of a man traveling to “catch” a fallen star who happens to be a beautiful girl named Yvaine, this movie is a must see, and is the perfect balance of action, comedy, and romance that will fill you with warmth as you wrap up in a blanket on your bed.

3. How To Train Your Dragon

And unlike the movie previous, almost everyone I know has heard of this installment of the colloquially known “Big Four” But honestly, I can’t get past how amazingly written and heartfelt this movie is. A coming of age story with the enjoyable twist of a puppy-dog like dragon, I love this movie for its inexplicable wit and ambitious but oh so totally worth it plot line. This movie is a modern classic in the realm of animation, and is a highly enjoyable movie for any age.

4. Dan In Real Life

As a sophomore, I decided to embroider my letterman with a quote from this movie. I received much criticism, as the line is kitschy, but in context, it fits perfectly. At the end of the movie, middle-aged father Dan tells the readers of his column to “Plan To Be Surprised”, and heeds his own advice as he falls in love for the first time since becoming a widower. This offbeat rom-com will surprise you with how much it doesn’t feel like a rom, and is the perfect way for the ladies to get their dose of romance while guys enjoy the comedic styling of comedians such as Steve Carell, Dane Cook, and the ever great John Mahoney.

5. Push

Another movie that you may not have heard of, Push is an action-adventure set on the streets of Hong Kong. Fast paced with action around every corner, this movie will surprise you with its slightly complex plot. While not a masterpiece such as Inception, the plot contains more than your usual Michael Bay-type fare, and will leave you satisfied but curious as to where the plot could go.

6. Easy A

Another rom-com that’s heavy on the comedy, I watched Easy A for the first time in a while last night in my room with my friends. As I watched, I was reminded of how bland the plot could have been – but how amazingly executed the movie was. The perfectly balanced dialogue contained a heavy dose of sarcasm mixed with a realism that stayed true to high school teenagers, and the delivery by the now-famous Emma Stone never faltered. She was able to portray a female lead that wasn’t strong in her sassiness but in the choices she made, never second guessing or wavering in them, and sticking through her “business” to the end. I was struck by how well made the movie was, and so this movie makes my list as something to dig out of your 2010 pile to re-watch.

7. Meet The Robinsons

I seem to be alternating between well-known and what is THAT? but nevertheless Meet the Robinsons  is one of my favorite, underrated Disney movies. Disney takes the tired trope of time traveling and adds a bit of Disney magic, and you get this movie, which was made as a homage to Walt Disney himself and his ever present theme of innovation, showcased primarily in his creation of the Tommorrowland section of Disneyland. This movie surprised me in how enjoyable it was, even though I didn’t watch it till I was 16 or 17 years old. It’s worth a shot, and you won’t regret it.

8. Take The Lead

One of the more serious movies on this list, Take The Lead is another must see. Based on a true story, it details the life of Pierre Dulaine, played by Antonio Banderas, a man who decides to implement ballroom dancing lessons in the detention hall of one inner-city New York public school. It deals with the harsh topics of racism, classism, and how these things affect the real lives of the teens that have to live with it every day. While somewhat heavy, this movie is a must see because of the way it gracefully navigates these subjects while simultaneously delivering an satisfying plot that leaves you cheering for the underdogs.

9. (500) Days of Summer

My final rom-com that differs in its emphasis on the romance, I absolutely love this movie. Maybe the fact that I got it for Christmas but accidentally left it back in Houston made me put it on this list. Nevertheless, if you’re going to watch a romance, go big or go home, and watch as Joseph Gordon-Levitt tries to navigate a relationship with the ever elusive Summer.

10. The Princess Bride

And finally, I had to end with a classic. One of my favorite movies of all time, The Princess Bride just makes you feel good, even when it’s 30 below outside. It has an air of timelessness that can’t be found today, and that’s why this movie wraps up my list.

So there you have it. 10 movies for you to choose from on your day off. Watch one, watch none, watch all, but please, take this day to watch something. After all, snow days only come once every 36 years.

A Precious Golden Statue

Ah. Do you smell that? It’s my favorite season.

Wait.

Did you think I meant winter? No no no – this southern girl is NOT made for the cold.

But it’s January, and that means that it’s awards season, one of my favorite times of the year. The funny thing is though – I don’t watch awards shows.

I mean, I do. I remember very vividly piling onto my mom’s bed with her and guessing who we thought would win Best Picture. But while I love awards shows, I really only made it my priority to watch the Academy Awards.

And yet, I love all them. I don’t know why – they’re mostly filled with stiff jokes and horrible acting. But for some reason, rooting for my favorite, watching someone rise to the top, or watching Leo DiCaprio get passed off yet again for that golden statue – it’s all so exciting to me.

I think the roots come from the fact that I wanted to stand on that stage one day, and smile and laugh and cry while knowing that I won something. And I can’t help to think that Anne Hathaway was that same way when she was 16.

Now, of course, I’m not 16 and I’m no longer striving to be an actress as I once was. So maybe I love awards season just because it’s nostalgic for me. Maybe I secretly love the punch lines read from cue cards (or is it cue computers now?). Who knows. But even if I didn’t watch the Golden Globes, I still love the thrill, the excitement, the sheer beauty of that one night when the people I see as talented and a literal star get rewarded for what I consider one of the hardest jobs on the market.

And so, without further ado, I present to you my challenge.

I started this a few years ago, and have not once succeeded. There is an even less likely chance that I’ll succeed this year. But my challenge is to watch every movie that was nominated for Best Picture of the Year for the 2014 Academy Awards. I won’t make it before the show (which will be airing on Sunday March 2nd for those interested), but I will try to watch them all before December. Like I said, I haven’t yet succeeded, since I’m still working on many years passed, but I want to set it as a goal, because if I don’t, I won’t put forth any effort.

And if you’d like, I extend the challenge to you. They’re just movies – take an afternoon off, watch the movies, and select which one you think deserves the award and which won you think will win (because, as often is the case, the two may not coincide). I invite you to try and watch something you may not thought of watching, and surprise yourself. All I ask is that you try, and I will do the same.

The Heart of Frozen

Like many people my age, I am in love with Disney. I’ve been in love with Disney movies ever since I could sit up long enough to watch one. I even got to sit on Cinderella’s lap when I was three years old because she was at the castle while everyone was watching the fireworks at Disney World. And that little three year old in me has never grown up.

So anytime Disney puts out a new movie, I am always beyond thrilled. And as many people know, they delivered a fresh new animated movie over the holidays for Disney fans to enjoy.

However, I wouldn’t say “enjoy” was how I felt about Frozen.

Set in a fictional land named Arendelle meant to resemble Northern Europe, Frozen is a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen.” The last time we got an Anderson story was in 1989 with one of my favorite movies The Little Mermaid, and as many know it was vastly changed from the original, since Anderson is known for his, ah, gruesome endings. And as a Disney fan, I’ve grown used to the fluff they add to make their movies age appropriate. I didn’t even protest when they took E. D. Baker’s fantastic fairy tale The Frog Princess and turned it into the vastly different The Princess and the Frog.

But as far as Frozen is concerned, I was massively disappointed. I have never read “The Snow Queen” before, but I know that Frozen has greatly disrespected it. I don’t mind when Disney puts out an adaptation that misses the mark. I do mind when they put out a movie that misses the mark.

The beginning of the movie started off strong, and I immediately loved the feel of it – the sisters in the castle, the playfulness with the snow, and the mistake that sets the narration in motion. I was ready to love this movie and put it in my favorite;s collection forever.

But as the movie wore on, it started going downhill. The songs, while cute and relevant at the beginning, started getting pointless, adding nothing to the movie nor advancing the plot. The characters were being left undeveloped. And the lines started getting cheesier as the plot started to get unbelievable.

In a word, Frozen, in all of its praise and glory, is a very sloppy movie.

Now I’ve voiced this opinion to many of my friends and family members, thinking that this is a valid complaint. It’s not like I didn’t like Anna’s hair, it’s that the movie was poor in quality. But instead I’ve gotten shot down. The main counter argument? It’s a kids movie, you’re being too critical.

As I’ve thought of this, I’ve come to a realization. Why can’t I be unbiasedly critical of a children’s movie? Why can’t I mention what aspects were weak and needed to be fixed? Disney not only has a reputation of making over 50 solid if not good movies, but they also are marketed as a family brand. When you go to a Disney park, rides, activities, and games are all made for a family to enjoy. Granted, they understand that a child will get the most enjoyment out of a Peter Pan ride, but they also strive to include the things that families can enjoy together, without feeling like they will die of boredom. The same goes for their movies; when I saw Brave with my mom, me and her were the only ones that laughed at the jokes that were supposedly for the kids that were in the theatre with us.

So with that in mind, seeing that Frozen has flaws in its writing and story, the fundamentals of what makes a movie, isn’t being critical. It’s pointing out that a company is getting sloppy and lazy in order to put out movies that will make money. If they truly want a family to enjoy their movies, they must make a quality movie that someone like my mom can enjoy along with me and my little cousins. I have no doubt that children loved the talking snowman included in the movie, but frankly, Olaf got on my nerves, mostly because he added nothing to Anna’s character or the plot, and had the most horribly written lines and jokes I’ve ever seen in a Disney side character.

And honestly, I know that Disney can make better movies, and those movies, the ones that are top notch and are made with love, those are the ones I want to show my kids. Not the ones that have a frozen heart.

5(1/2) Days of Unconventional Christmas Movies

In honor of the holidays, I have taken it upon myself to provide unconventional fun for all who love Christmas movies, but have seen ‘Elf’ way too many times and do not want to start watching any of the new crap that made-for-TV specials attempts to shove down our throats like bad fruit cake.

Listed below are five (okay six) movies that I recommend for anyone who wants a laugh, a cry, and a good explosion.

1. Love Actually

Okay, so maybe this one is not totally unconventional.  Especially if you are an American female between the ages of 16-25.  But if you are not, or you are and you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen this feel-good film then you should.  For one, it has every British actor that ever acted, acting in it. This includes Colin Firth. Why you should need another reason to see any film is beyond me.

2. We’re No Angels

This is an oldie but a goodie, featuring Humphrey Bogart and two other guys who hang out with Humphrey Bogart.  But they’re cool.  What is really cool about this movie is that 1) It is old = major cool points 2) Humphrey Bogart plays a crook who helps a family during the holidays 3) It is short, takes place in one location and the plot doesn’t drag at all. 4) A snake plays one of the major roles. How many Christmas movies do *you* know that have snakes as main characters?

3. Die Hard

A film whose story is a lot better than its tagline.

Hopefully, this one makes up for my first suggestion to all the chick-flick haters in the world. If you cannot get through a film without at least one building blowing up, then Die Hard is for you.  It has Bruce Willis and a brilliant Alan Rickman in his role as a Russian warlord (who buys Armani from the same store as Arafat).  Better than the explosions is the explosive dialogue.  Once you have seen this film, you will be a proper American and finally know what to say after the sentence, “Yippie ky-ay -”

4. The Muppet Christmas Carol

As an English major and muppet lover (in a the most non-sexual way possible) I love this movie.  Not only does it present a classic tale from British literature to the masses, it also does it using adorable furry creatures, Michael Caine, and addicting songs that my sister starts singing every November because she can.

5. Holiday Inn

Only Fred Astaire could dance with firecrackers and not blow his shoes off.

Aha, so you claim to be a great American because you have seen ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.  Good.  You can name that movie as the single black-and-white film that you have ever seen (but only because your Grandma made you watch it when you were four).  If you ever see another black and white Christmas movie, this one features Mr. Crooner and Mr. Dancer of the black and white era (aka Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, respectively).  It also features great songs

5 1/2. Just Friends

Ryan Reynolds in a fat suit = A Christmas Miracle
Ryan Reynolds in a fat suit = A Christmas Miracle

If you for some reason do not like Ryan Reynolds, seeing him in a fat suit may just make your day or at least endear him to you in some way.  I consider this movie to be the ‘Meet the Parents’ of Christmas.  It is full of wonderful visual gags, characters who you want to get punched in the face, and movie-moms that you want to hug forever (in this case, played by Julie Hagerty who is adorable as ever).  After seeing this, you will no longer be able to say the name ‘Dinkleman’ without a gravelly voice and utter hatred.