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Best Picture

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I knew when I went to bed last night that I hadn’t written a post. The prospect of sleep was just too alluring to deny. I had fully intended to write one as soon as I woke up. But then there was a Facebook message that completely wiped all original intentions from my mind. I’m not going to tell you about it yet because it happened today, and that would be cheating.

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What I do want to talk about is Argo. Everybody on the planet has probably heard that it won Best Picture at the Oscars, as well as Best Drama at the Golden Globes. I have been so curious about this film for ages. It was pretty much exactly what I expected based on what I’d heard in the press. But in the best possible way. That’s to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I’ve said many times that I enjoy Ben Affleck much more as a director than I do as an actor. I did, however, very much enjoy his performance in Argo. It was restrained and honest.

The protest scenes in Iran created a heavy sense of tension. There were a few particularly brutal images, but just enough to give you the weight of the situation. Nothing too shocking or graphic.

John Goodman and Alan Alda were the brilliant comic relief of the film. They gave the film great balance. Plus, John Goodman is always a good thing.

What everybody said about the suspense is true. Even though this movie is based on a historical event, and you know how it’s going to end, it was still extremely suspenseful. I was truly concerned for those six escapees.

And I can’t end without talking about the fantastic glasses and facial hair. The production design team went to great lengths to recreate the period in both the sets and the costumes, hair, and makeup. I won’t think hipsters are legit until they start wearing the glasses worn in this film, and the hair was truly something to marvel at. Excellent verisimilitude. I salute you.

This wasn’t my favorite movie this year. My vote still goes to Django Unchained, but that has more to do with personal taste than anything lacking from Argo. It was a good solid film. I was thoroughly entertained. It’s intriguing, but not controversial. It was both riveting and comical. It had solid performances from well respected actors. It wasn’t super edgy or avant garde. But there is not a single reason why you shouldn’t watch it and enjoy it.

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Double Feature

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Today, in addition to watching the Golden Globes telecast, I also managed to watch two films. I’m a maniac. I know.

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The first film was Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, starring Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor. While I wasn’t blown away, I enjoyed this movie much more than I expected to, largely due to the simple and subtle performances of these two actors. Emily Blunt is just so sweet, it’s impossible to see how anyone could not fall in love with her. It bowed to some romantic conventions, but also had a few twists that gave weight and consequence to the plot. That good ol’ British repression didn’t let me down, and the main characters never even had a grand kiss, which, oddly, I liked. I wouldn’t say this was my favorite movie, but I don’t regret watching it at all.

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I also went to the theatre today to see Les Miserables. You may find this hard to believe, but I’ve never seen this show on stage, and I’ve also never listened to a complete cast recording. I knew a few of the songs by osmosis, and I read the novel years ago, so I had a good idea of what to expect plot wise. At first, I started off skeptical, but by the end, I was definitely affected. It sucked me in.

I thought Russell Crowe gave the weakest performance. He sang like a pop idol. While I understand that the director was trying to make a different kind of movie musical here, this is still a singers show, and the music is essential. Not being able to sing well can definitely ruin the effect. Amanda Seyfried was another disappointment. Everything about her is small and birdlike. I don’t enjoy it.

Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman both deserve all the praise they are getting. They acted the hell out of those rolls. I felt both voices were a bit lacking. I wish they could have done both. That being said, they deserve the awards they received tonight.

The moment I really started enjoying myself was when Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baren Coen appeared on the screen. That’s when I knew I was in for an interesting ride and not just a bunch of whining.

If I was giving out awards for performances in this film, mine would go to Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks, who played Marius and Eponine. They were able to both act and sing their parts beautifully.  “On My Own” was my favorite song from the film.

The overall look of the film was breathtaking. The rebellion scenes were powerful. I almost wanted to join the fight.

I left the theatre humming “Can you hear the people sing,” which is always the sign of a good musical.

Overall, I’d say the day was a success.

Made For Me

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I just this moment finished watching Moonrise Kingdom. The credits are still rolling. It was positively delightful. Just as reported, the entire thing was visually stunning. The muted colors and somber music were just perfect. I laughed at an inappropriate volume on several occasions. Bill Murray and Wes Anderson are like peanut butter and jelly. When he walked out with that ax, I thought I’d die. I always forget to list Frances McDromand as one of my favorite actresses. What a mistake. She is wonderful, as always. If you haven’t caught this fantastic love story yet, get on it.

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I adore Wes Anderson. Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums are two of my favorite comedies. I feel like his movies are made just for me. I can’t get enough of the ridiculous juxtapositions in the visuals, the witty banter, the simultaneously raw yet contrived emotions. Jason Schwartzman is so rad. The colors. The music. It’s pure joy.

I wonder what it would be like to hang out with Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, and Zhong Yimou for a day. Huh? Do you think they’d get along? I would watch anything those guys create. It’s splendid to know that you’re going to for sure get something beautiful. Run right out and see Django Unchained. And if you haven’t seen Hero yet, check that off your list, post haste. Seriously, movies are the best.

Goth

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I’ve previously proclaimed my disdain for Dickens, and it’s no secret that I’m ambivalent toward Victorian literature in general.  I know a lot of people will be clutching their pearls when they read that I don’t particularly care for Jane Austen or the Bronte Sisters.  All that decorum and repression goes against my American rugged individualist sensibilities.  Just say how you feel, ladies.  Be free.  Sheesh!

Gothic literature, on the other hand, I adore.  The Victorian idea of love I find frustrating and borderline nauseating, but what Victorians found frightening is delicious.  From the first time I read Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart in the 9th grade, I knew I loved the more horrible aspects of this period.

I recently started reading Dracula on my Nook, which is awesome.  I haven’t had to charge it once since Christmas.  But that’s not the point.  The point is, this dark and creepy novel lives up to its reputation.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed following Jonathan Harker through Dracula’s castle and reading the Captain’s account of the ship crashing in to Whitby.

I’ve seen the movie several times, and love it.  But reading the book has been a completely worthwhile experience.  There’s much more subtlety in the novel.  And when you compare it to modern horror novels, it gives a sense of refinement rather than vulgarity, which makes it seem that much more tense.

When Victorians turn dark, somehow they become much more interesting.  This glimpse into the Victorian psyche is so much more fascinating than when they’re falling in love and trying to find husbands.  I don’t know what it is, but I just devour it.

Read Dracula.  Don’t wait until Halloween.  Just do it now.

Separation Anxiety

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For the last two days, I’ve posted absolutely nothing.  And I have to tell you, I’m feeling sort of guilty about it.  There’s absolutely no reason for that.  I made no commitment to write a certain number of posts in 2012.  But after a year of daily blogging, I guess I’ve been conditioned.  It’s become such a habit.  When I don’t write, I feel bad, and also, I miss it a little bit.  I guess I miss you, mysterious handful of readers.  I miss my invisible friends.  So let’s catch up.

Sleep has been elusive lately.  It’s not like insomnia really.  It’s more like the conditions haven’t been right. It never quite gets dark enough in our bedroom because of the streetlights nearby, and the baby next door is often known to scream bloody murder for what seems like an eternity during the night.  There are many reasons I didn’t have more kids.  That was a big one.  The late night guitar players got told off by some of the other neighbors, so I feel like that problem is probably solved.

This is me.  Okay, that’s not actually me, but I feel like it’s a pretty good representation of how I’ve been feeling the last few days.  I feel like a good night’s sleep would really go a long way toward improving my mood.  You know how much I love sleeping.  When I don’t get it, it makes me want to punch things.

I finally watched Bridesmaids.  I feel like I was probably the last person in the world to see it.  It was brilliant.  Other than the vomiting and diarrhea, I loved every minute of it.  I loved that Jon Hamm played a total douche.  Never saw that coming.  Also, I thought the scenes between Kristin Wiig and Maya Rudolph were particularly honest.  That’s how women really talk to each other.  I also really felt for the character of Annie.  When things seem to be spiraling out of control, it’s so hard to be happy for someone else, even when you love them.  Don’t miss it.

I just saw my email, and it looks like Crazy Stupid Love is coming next.  I have to say, I wasn’t impressed by the trailer.  I hope this turns out to be one of those Easy A situations where they tried to make the trailer seem like a typical stupid brainless romantic comedy, but really there’s something more going on.  Ryan Gosling is cute and all, but that’s really not enough for me.

It’s been good to catch up.  Let’s do this again soon.

A Cluster of Reviews

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I’ve done a lot of physical and mental consumption lately, so I thought I’d share a few opinions.  Take it or leave it.

It’s morning, and I’m hungry, so let’s start with breakfast.  Yesterday we decided to go to Cafe Kaila.  It’s walking distance from our house, tucked away under the freeway near Foodland.  It’s a tiny little place, and I first noticed it when we saw the line outside on our way to Fun Factory.  Long lines all the time?  They must be there for a reason.  We waited probably a half hour for a table, and then another fifteen minutes for our food once we got inside.  When it finally arrived, though, I was completely satisfied.  I ordered the buttermilk pancakes, and Geoff got a Belgian waffle with a side of bacon.  We both ate hungrily and made plenty of yummy noises.  My pancakes were tender and flavorful, which is a lot more uncommon than you might think.  The bacon was extra crispy, which I love.  And the prices weren’t too outrageous.  Be warned, though, you can’t use your card, so make sure you visit the ATM before you sit down.

I’ve also been reading Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.  The movie version of this novel is one of my all time favorites.  This is one of the few times when I have to say that the book isn’t necessarily better than the movie.  It’s not that the book is bad.  It’s not.  It’s great.  And the voice of the novel, the spirit of it, is extremely similar to the movie. It’s just different.  There are a lot of plot differences.  I think I might like the movie better, but probably only because it’s been dear to me for years.  I definitely recommend this book.  It will give you plenty to think about.  And the pace is unrelenting.  Do it.

One last thing I think you should experience is Midnight in Paris.  Owen Wilson is absolutely delightful, and Marion Cotillard and Carla Bruni are absolutely stunning.  I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a Woody Allen fan, and yet each time I watch one of his films, I love it.  Owen Wilson plays a Hollywood hack striving for artistic integrity on vacation with his annoying fiance and her judgmental parents.  Through some unknown magic, he is transported through time, and meets the likes of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Picasso.  It’s a charming film.  And if, like me, you are a lover of modernist American literature, you’ll love to see the portrayals of Hemingway and Zelda Fitzgerald.  It’s a quick little film.  Worth a watch.

I have been doing a ton of reading lately but haven’t made much progress on my movie list.  I suppose I better shut up and get some things done so maybe I can catch a matinee of Hugo.  Fingers crossed.

Remaking the List

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Yesterday was a sort of exciting day for me.  It’s the little things, people.  The Golden Globe nominations were announced, which means I spent way too much time updating my list, watching movie trailers, and trying to figure out where and how I could see all of these movies while spending the least amount of money possible.  I like movies.  I get excited about them.  Deal with it.

I was in a sort of lethargic and grumpy mood most of the day, and beyond household chores, I didn’t really get much else accomplished.  I did make some chocolate mousse and buy some Christmas presents for the child, so it wasn’t all bad, but I wasn’t feeling my usual day off serenity.  So let’s not talk about me.  Let’s talk about movies.  They’re awesomer.

The first movie on my list is The Descendants starring George Clooney.  He just keeps getting better and better.  I prefer quirky Clooney to political Clooney.  I think he’s sort of normal Clooney in this movie set in Hawaii about a dad with a sick/dead (?) wife who is trying to keep his rich family together on a beautiful beach.  At the very least, there will be lots of lovely things to look at.  I’m going to try to catch a matinee before work today, actually.

Next up is The Help.  I’ve obtained a copy of this film through stealthy and secret means.  (cough cough)  I have a tiny crush on Emma Stone, and Bryce Dallas Howard is brilliant.  Neither of them is nominated though.  I think all the nominations went to the black actresses in the film, and I haven’t seen it, but they probably should.  It is their story, after all.  I’ve heard great things about this film.  I’m looking forward to finding some time to sneak off and watch it.

The third and final film I’ll discuss today is Hugo.  I was all excited to go and see this while Emily was here.  It looked like a lovely and whimsical adventure.  Right up our alley.  I was a bit disappointed when she told me she’d already seen it, and even worse, it was just okay.  Well, I’m going to go see it anyway.  I mean, Scorcese and a magical mystery involving an orphaned British child.  Sounds pretty perfect to me.

Watching potentially award-winning films is one of my favorite parts of winter.  I had seen everything up to 2005, and was currently working through some 04 TV shows when the new noms came out.  I’m excited for some fresh blood.  I love stories.  I’ll never get enough.