The Only Thing We Have to Fear is… Fear Itself!

Fear is such a prominent part of our societal fabric.  The fear of the unknown extends its tentacles to every part of our lives.  From the fear of poverty – which President Franklin Roosevelt addressed when he uttered the words in the title of this post in 1933 – to the fear of the Russians dropping a nuclear bomb on us in the aftermath of World War II to the fear today that drives people to exhibit so much hate in the world today.

There has been a term in our vocabulary for many years:  “fearmonger”.  The term is best described as:

     “One who spreads the ideology of fear through propaganda to fulfill a concealed agenda. Similar to a terrorist, but it fights   with information and not direct violence. Politicians, media personas, and internet posters can all be fearmongers. “

The hate exhibited towards African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, Asians and Gays in this country today, for centuries really, is just another example of the sad State of the Union.  Those who don’t understand; who fear what they don’t know, lash out because of that fear.  In this current climate of political posturing for the 2016 elections, there is quite a bit of “fearmongering” going on.  The change in the media from the likes of Walter Cronkite to today’s editorializing of the news fuels the fear and provides talking points for many people to parrot on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

The things I have been reading about Caitlyn Jenner on the ESPY’s last night – and from the time Bruce finally made the decision to step out of the shadow of Bruce and become the person she always felt she should be – make me sick.  There’s so much fear that fuels the hatred.  And those who hide behind the words of their bibles or the parroted comments of political pundits just make things worse, because the hateful, spiteful and angry words being written fosters the appearance of a society that is intolerant and, saddest of all, not all that intelligent.

Caitlyn Jenner received the ESPY because a) Bruce Jenner is one of the best known Olympic athletes and b) because – whether you understand it or believe in it or not – coming to the point of acceptance of his true self as a woman takes a lot of courage.  Yes, COURAGE.  The comments being thrown out are:  The soldiers giving their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, hell even back to World War I, in the name of security and freedom for our citizens is the “true courage”.  I am not disputing their courage – I’m a military brat I totally understand that.  But folks, THIS IS NOT A COMPETITION!  And…the ESPY’s are not about soldiers, they are about sports figures of which Caitlyn Jenner, in the form of Bruce Jenner, excelled.  The accomplishments of Bruce Jenner do not simply go away because Caitlyn has emerged.

So many have said she (Caitlyn) is “sick” or is trying to capitalize on celebrity.  I will disagree with the sick, but agree about the celebrity but not for the same reasons.  Celebrities, sports figures, are elevated on the platform and held to higher standards because they are looked up to; idolized.  Caitlyn is availing herself of the platform to reach out and give courage to those who do not have the support of family and friends.  In last night’s speech, she noted a trans teen in who was murdered in Alabama – Mercedes Williamson and one who took his life in Michigan – Sam Taub.  Two names out of hundreds – probably even thousands – to perish because of a lack of support or understanding from family, friends, SOCIETY.

I continue to hear that Caitlyn’s change is a “choice”. This is the same, sorry, argument that is made about gays.  I continue to point out that NO ONE would choose to put themselves into a position to be ridiculed and treated with so much disrespect just to be able to live their authentic life.  Matthew Shepard certainly didn’t “choose” a life that would end up costing his life by being beaten so savagely that he was thought to be a scarecrow rather than a broken young man left to die on a fence in the dead of winter.  NO ONE chooses this. The COURAGE comes from those who choose to live their authentic life and not hide as so many would rather have them do.

This all comes down to the two very important points Caitlyn Jenner made last night – which really could be used to describe any member of any group who are persecuted in the name of religion or fear:

      “If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead, because the reality is, I can take it.  But for the thousands of kids out there, coming to terms with being true to who they are, they shouldn’t have to take it.”

 And:

    “It’s not just about me; it’s about all of us accepting one another.  And while it may not always be easy to get past the things you always don’t understand, I want to prove that it is absolutely possible — if we only do it together.”

MOMENTOUS DECISION!!!

June 26, 2015. 

With props given to President Roosevelt, this date is the new “Date which will live in infamy.”  It is a watershed moment for all who identify as Lesbian and Gay, and quite honestly for their friends and family who identify as straight.

The Supreme Court of the United States, also known as SCOTUS in our acronym happy society, voted in the narrowest of margins – 5 to 4 – that the right to marry my best friend, who happens to also be a woman, is now legal in all of these United States.  I’ll be perfectly honest.  When I acknowledged my homosexuality in 1980, the thought of this ruling was not something I ever seriously dreamed would come true.  As with other decisions I’d made at that time, I knew that in accepting my sexuality, I was giving up the possibility of ever walking down an aisle or having a “first dance” or celebrating the love I have for the person I wanted to be with for the rest of my life.  I really felt there was no choice.  Sure, I could have married a man, but it would have been a mistake and it wouldn’t have been fair to him.  So, I lived my life as best I could.  Then the tides began to change and I started to feel a twinge of hope when Massachusetts began to have same sex marriages in 2004.  Still, the prize was so far in the distance that it wasn’t even a real blip on the radar.  I did consider going to Massachusetts to get married, but what was the point.  It wouldn’t be recognized here in Washington State so it seemed like it was pointless.  I won’t go into the entire timeline, but we had several instances of one-step forward, two steps back in the early 2000’s.  What I had feared had happened.  States like California and Oregon, both much closer to home, had allowed same sex marriage only to pull the rug out from under those who obtained those marriages.  The light was still just flickering and not at all steady.  Then, suddenly, things began to escalate.  From 2012 until today, more and more States began to recognize and legalize the marriages.  Indeed, Washington State recognized marriage in 2012 after having recognized “civil unions” in 2004.  In 2012 when we won the right here, my current partner (and best friend) and I waited.  I’ve thought about it over the years as we watched more and more states recognize the institution for us too.  Now… the lightbulb is brightly lit and it’s one of those special lightbulbs that are meant to last forever!

So now, my friends keep asking: when are you going to join the fray?  I’m not sure when.  I know I could very easily go to a justice of the peace and say the vows, but for me it’s not the same.  Even though I’d convinced myself that this day would never come, I have still dreamed of the type of wedding I wanted to have.  I try to tell myself that a quick deal in the courthouse would do the trick, but I can’t help but say I want more.  So… I have to get through a few medical issues and lose the weight needed to fit into the killer suit I saw at Macy’s and then…. Then perhaps I’ll convince my partner and best friend to take a trip to the alter.  I toyed with contacting David Tutera to make the day as magical as I imagine, but he stopped doing his show.   Dambit!     Maybe I’ll have to start a go fund me campaign!

About Josh Duggar

Let me get this out-of-the-way right off the bat:  Some people are going to disagree with me and I realize that.  I am just posting/voicing my personal “perception” in the true spirit of my blog’s name.  Let me also say that I do not, in any way, agree with the beliefs of the Duggars’.  The discussion on the major differences of belief/opinion is better left to be the subject of a different blog. It is unfortunate that members of the Duggar family, Josh included, have been outspoken on the issues of homosexuality and the lives of others.  Indeed, Josh’s’ work with the “Family Research Council”  is part of the reason he is in the news with this.  The “Family research Council” is an organization that lobbies against LGBT rights such as same-sex marriage and gay people/families adopting children and abortion, divorce and embryonic stem cell research.   Again, another blog post would be the best place to discuss those things… maybe a few posts.

Many of the Duggar supporters say “he was just 14 and they dealt with the situation as they knew best”.  In fact I just read that a Texas Pastor’s wife said something like (not a direct quote) “he was just playing doctor”.  Just as many, if not more, detractors say it’s a despicable act and he should be vilified for it.

This is where I’m going to get people giving me the “pug” look — also known at the “RCA Victor Dog Look”…..

He was just 14.  Yes, he was old enough to know better, but at the age of trying to figure life out.  One of my first jobs in my legal career was as a Paralegal/Investigator at a Criminal Defense firm.  We dealt with all kinds of crimes, but one of the areas was sex crimes.  Adults and teens being charged with sexual assault.   To this day I still get people asking how I could have worked for “those people”.   I’ll tell you.  Sometimes our clients were innocent.   If you or a family member are accused of such a crime, and you are innocent, wouldn’t you want to have the best defense possible?  That’s not to say that some of the clients were not guilty.  Some were.  The firm I worked at also made a point of getting counseling for the clients.   Sexual abuse is a sickness.  I firmly believe this.  I am certain most people would not advocate that someone with Cancer or other illness be put to death or sent to jail with no care for how they would be dealt with there.  It is the same with many sexual abuse cases.  Before you jump all over me for this opinion, let me also say that there are exceptions to the rule.  There have been cases of pedophiles who stalked their victims and did unimaginable acts with/to them.  I do not defend those people.  But I DO defend the practice of getting psychiatric help for those who are guilty of sex crimes — especially with children.  I have seen this course of action turn out to be beneficial to all involved.

Which brings me back to Josh Duggar.  I worked with a client who, at a similar age to Josh Duggar, was “playing doctor” with a cousin.  This young man went immediately into counseling, and spent some time in juvenile detention.  After his release, this young man went on to be an upstanding citizen with no further troubles with the law, save for a driving ticket.  He worked hard in school and worked at a retail store for 10 years moving through the organization to become a manager.  I helped him with the expungement of his records so that he could get a union job as an apprentice.   He is a wonderful young man.  I saw him just a few years ago and he is continuing to do very well with his life.  If I were only 20 years younger and so inclined!  🙂    My point is this:  not every 14-year-old who sexually fondles others of his age are going to grow up to be pedophiles.  Not all sexual abusers are bad people.  There IS the possibility of rehabilitation.

Josh Duggar’s family purported to “deal with the problem” alone before going to the authorities — albeit an unscrupulous person who was later convicted of possession of child pornography.  Whether they actually sent him to a “camp” or to a friend’s home where he was forced to do “hard labor” was the way the Duggar’s felt they needed to go to rehabilitate him.  He is now an adult with a family.  Some would like to believe that he has been rehabilitated and others would not.  Bottom line is that he is, in fact, now an adult.  He is removed by years from the incident that he has admitted to.  He has apologized to the victims, so it has been written.  Is he forgiven by his God? That’s something  between Josh and his God.  Do I think he should be released from his job because of his actions?  If it happened today, absolutely.  That it happened 9 years ago, no.   If there are further incidences of this type of behavior that have happened since, and certainly in recent years, then yes, he should lose his job given the values of the organization.

The problem here is that he is in the public eye with his family being a reality tv show and such ultra religious people who put forth their religious beliefs as a standard that many should live by, and such staunch opponents of any behaviors that don’t follow their beliefs.  That makes this whole thing a slippery slope.

The unfortunate fallout from all this is not with Josh losing his job or TLC possibly cancelling the show (they have pulled it not officially cancelled yet), it is the fact that the victims have to be subjected to it again.  And because it’s being played out in such a public fashion, the victims (his sisters among them) have to be reminded of the abuse over and over.  As the victim of molestation as a child myself, I can empathise with these girls.  It’s not easy to be reminded of this past.  I was 14 when the second round of molestation happened at the hands of someone I trusted and loved, and it took me quite a few years to realize that  at the age of 14, and certainly at the age of 4 or 5 the first go round, I was not the one to blame.  The difference, I suppose, is that I was a 14-year-old victim and Josh was a 14-year-old “predator”.  Certainly he knew better — one would hope that his religious upbringing would have taught him so, but he was not an “adult” and his maturity was not fully developed.

Am I making excuses for Josh Duggar?  I suppose it could be construed as such, but I’m not trying to.  I am merely saying that unless we find out about some more current transgressions, who he is not is not the same person he was at age 14 and that needs to be taken into account.

Memorial Day thoughts

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A friend posted this photo/print on her Facebook site and I, in turn, shared it. As noted on my post, I first saw this photo about 15 years ago in a gallery in Spokane,  It took my breath away instantly and I was immediately in tears.  One day I will own it.

I went out to the site where the photo was originally posted and read some of the comments.  Among the wonderful comments about thanking the poster and others for their service and mentioning that more needs to be done to thank the Viet Nam vets along with the current war vets, was a comment that really got my hackles up.  The poster wrote:

“u want to make up for it, start by jailing Obama for treason and then executing him…his following politicians would play the game differently if they saw there are consequences to their folley” (misspellings left intact)

I cannot begin to relay how tired I am of the bashing of our President.  There are so many people in other countries that do not understand how we can be so disrespectful of our President.  When comments like this were made in the press/public realm, about President Bush, it was considered treason.

 

My thoughts about that post are as follows:

Calling for the death of any President is just ignorant.

President Obama was not in any office when the Viet Nam war was started, going on, concluded.  He was not responsible for it in any way shape or form.

To say that his not specifically saying thank you to those who served in Viet Nam and not “making it up” to the veteranis a reason to jail and execute someone, then we have to build more jails and execution facilities because he is not the only one who may not have acknowledged it.  The affront being attributed to President Obama is shared by MANY members of the House and Senate.  I don’t see anything being done to right they wrong by the very bodies of government who are tasked with these things.  In fact one candidate for Present – Ted Cruz- made the asinine suggestion that veterans  should sell cookies, like the girl scouts, to earn money to take care of their medical conditions!

I am a military brat.  Proud military brat.  I was also once in the service, but didn’t make it out of basic training.  Short story – medical reasons that have been since righted.  My father and both brothers served in the Viet Nam war. My oldest brother did at least two tours.  During his second tour my father was also stationed “in country”  a few hundred miles away from my oldest brother.  I was just 12 when my father went and I recall not really understanding the conflict, but being very scared for their safety and hoping for them to come home safely.  I watched the news and I saw the protests.  I didn’t entirely understand them either.  I just knew at least two of my family members were in harm’s way.

All my life I would hear my father’s “war stories”.  He served his country in peace time and in time of war.  He was in the Army Air Corp before the Air Force was created and he served in the Korean War.  But neither my father or my siblings ever told stories of their time in Viet Nam with only one exception.  My father talked about this little black and white 9″ TV he brought back with him and how he would lay on the floor, under the bed, with the TV on while they were under fire and try to drown out the sounds of the explosions with a TV and a bottle of scotch.  The only inkling of how service in Viet Nam affected my oldest brother was an incident during a trip to Disneyland when I was about 14.  We had been right at the entrance to Sleeping Beauty’s castle when he apparently heard the launch of the fireworks.  He grabbed me and threw me into the foyer of the Castle and laid on me shouting “get down, get down, get down”.  After a few moments he got up, and walked away.  I didn’t know what had happened until I was 17 and my parents and I had visited my brother for Christmas and both he related this incident to my dad during a random conversation.

I firmly believe that veterans of ANY conflict, and especially those who fought in Viet Nam, deserve thanks for their service. Many many men went to war in a foreign country between 1955 and 1975. 58,303 men gave their lives for this country, 303,644 were wounded during the 19 1/2 year conflict. Many of the soldiers who served were drafted and thus forced into service. These men served despite being forced to. A majority of the servicemen who survived the war returned home not to the hero’s welcomes of the WWII and Korean War era, or even the welcome’s our current soldiers receive. They were called “Baby Killers” and spit on. Many speak of getting their bags and running to the restrooms to change to avoid the horrendous treatment they received. It’s deplorable.

 

 

The 87th Academy Awards — A review

The show is over, the envelopes have been opened and there were a few surprises but nothing earth shattering.

Neil Patrick Harris — NPH to those who do not want to write his entire name out every time they refer to him – hosted.  He has hosted the Tony’s for several years and brought that big show type of performance to the opening number titled “Moving Pictures” in which he was joined by Anna Kendrick and Jack Black.  I’m not going to say it was not good, because it was entertaining, but it’s almost impossible not to compare it to openings from past telecasts by Billy Crystal.

There was a running gag surrounding a magic trick, NPH is an excellent magician, involving the predictions of NPH and having Octavia Spencer being charged with watching the box to make sure no one tampered with it.  In the end, the magic was pretty impressive as he described events to a “t” but it fell rather flat.  NPH also did the obligatory walk into the audience to interview those in the seats with this year’s twist being introduction of “seat fillers” and was mildly funny when he finished with Steve Carell who pointed to Ed Norton as a “star” he’d most like to see (who was sitting right across the aisle from him.)

There were some very funny lines, with a number referring to the exclusion of black nominees this year.  NPH opened with “Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest, sorry I mean brightest”.  Later when there was a good deal of applause at the introduction of David Oyelowo in the audience NPH quipped “Oh sure, now you like him”.

I think the funniest moment for me was when he paid homage to Birdman with the gag of getting his robe stuck in the dressing room door and having to walk through the back stage area in his “tighty whities”  — stopping to tell a drumming Miles Teller “it’s not my tempo” before hitting the stage and saying “Acting is a noble profession.”

One joke fell particularly flat with twitter feeds was regarding the winner of the Best Documentary Short Subject.  One of the recipients, Dana Perry, wore a dress that had huge pom pom’s on it.  She spoke about her son having committed suicide and when she was done and NPH returned he said “It takes a lot of balls to wear that dress”.  Perry noted backstage that it was “adorable” and that she “got the dress to support the balls”.  Guess it was ok afterall.

On to the winners:

The Major Awards:

Best Supporting Actor:  J.K. Simmons – Whiplash.   I was so excited.  I know the buzz was there, but I really really enjoyed his performance.

Best Supporting Actress:  Patricia Arquette – Boyhood (the only win for the movie).  I figured it would happen.  It was the buzz.  In her acceptance speech she brought the political back to the Oscars by dedicating her win “to every woman who has ever given birth” and “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all!” which got Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez all riled up in the audience.

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Best Actor:  Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything.  Definitely well deserved.  He was awesome. Redmayne was genuinely pleased and excited and promised Steven Hawking, his ex-wife Jane and the Hawking children that he would take special care of the Statue “I’ll polish him… I will wait on him hand and foot”.

Best Actress:  Julianne Moore – Still Alice.   This was no surprise; it was predicted with great certainty.  It was Moore’s first win in 17 years and 5 nominations.  She gave a great speech and made a plea to “shine the light” on Alzheimer’s patients:  “So many people with this disease feel isolated and marginalized,” She added that “movies make people feel seen and not alone. And people with Alzheimer’s deserve to be seen so we can find a cure.”

And Best Picture: Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).  I admit to being surprised.  I fully expected Boyhood to take the top award.  I didn’t think it would have been deserved, but I thought it would win.  I was really hoping that Whiplash would win and was thinking it was becoming more possible as it was getting more and more applause for other awards like sound mixing etc.

All in all I was pleased with the winners.  In my scoring I found that I correctly predicted 4 of the 6 major awards and 15 of 25 overall.  A pretty good year for me!

The Holiday for Movie Enthusiasts is Finally Here!

As a self avowed film buff, the Oscar telecast is pretty much a holiday that is as important, in my home, as Christmas, New Years and birthdays.  The red carpet coverage has started on E! on TV and online and the telecast is only a few hours away.  With my review of the Best Picture Nominees in the books, it’s now time to offer my thoughts on the nominees for this year.

2015 Oscars

First of all I have to say that I’m really looking forward to Neil Patrick Harris (NPH to those who are huge fans) hosting this year.  He has had several successful turns at hosting the Tony awards, but this is his first Oscar hosting gig.  I really believe he will do a great job.

On to the ballot for this year.  The Major categories first:

2015 Best Actor Nominees

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

STEVE CARELL  – Foxcatcher

BRADLEY COOPER – American Sniper

BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH – The Imitation Game

MICHAEL KEATON – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

EDDIE REDMAYNE – The Theory of Everything

This category is a toss up, in my opinion.  Both Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne won Golden Globes for their performances:  Keaton for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy and Eddie Redmayne for Best Actor in a Drama.   Redmayne won the Screen Actor’s Guild award for Best Actor, which could give him the Oscar nod.

Who should win:   Toss up between Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne — I’m leaning towards Michael Keaton.

Who WILL win:     Again, a toss up but I think Eddie Redmayne could pull this out.

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ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

ROBERT DUVALL – The Judge

ETHAN HAWKE – Boyhood

EDWARD NORTON – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

MARK RUFFALO – Foxcatcher

J.K. SIMMONS – Whiplash

I haven’t seen The Judge, nor have I seen Foxcatcher — both movies I want to see just didn’t get to them this year — and while both actors are excellent actors, I don’t believe either of them have a chance.    The performances of those remaining are mostly stellar, I believe this one is already decided.

Who should win:  J.K. Simmons

Who WiLL win:  J.K. Simmons

The performance Simmons gives in Whiplash is overwhelmingly, in my opinion, the absolutely best performance of the category.  Honestly… I can’t watch the Farmers’ Insurance commercials in the same way.

2015 Best Actress Nominee

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

FELICITY JONES – The Theory of Everything

JULIANNE MOORE – Still Alice

ROSAMUND PIKE – Gone Girl

REESE WITHERSPOON – Wild

MARION COTILLARD – Two Days, One Night

Another category in which I haven’t seen all of the performances, but with the buzz I have a feeling it doesn’t matter.

Who should win:  Julianne Moore.

Who WILL win:  Julianne Moore.

I really enjoyed Felicity Jones’ performance in The Theory of Everything as well as Rosamond Pike in Gone Girl, but the buzz is really strong for Julianne Moore.  As I said, I haven’t had time to see it yet and I’m not sure I’m ready for it to be honest.  The story is about a woman who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s’ Disease.  It’s been ten plus years since I lost my mom, but she had Alzheimer’s.

2015 Best Actresss in Supporting Role

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

PATRICIA ARQUETTE – Boyhood

LAURA DERN – Wild

KEIRA KNIGHTLEY – The Imitation Game

EMMA STONE – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

MERYL STREEP = Into the Woods

Another category with movies I haven’t seen but really doesn’t matter.  I haven’t seen Wild or Meryl Streep and while any category Streep is nominated in usually earns the statue, I don’t believe it’ll happen this year.

Who should win:  Patricia Arquette

Who WILL win:  Patricia Arguette.

As much as I don’t think Patricia Arquette’s performance is Oscar worthy, I don’t think that Emma Stone or Keira Knightley had enough screen time to warrant the win either.

Best Director

BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)  – Alejandro G. Iñárritu

BOYHOOD – Richard Linklater

FOXCATCHER – Bennett Miller

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – Wes Anderson

THE IMITATION GAME – Morten Tyldum

This is a category that baffles me.  How can you have eight movies nominated for the Best Picture and yet not all of the directors nominated are connected with Best Picture nominees?  Along with the actors and writers of a film, the director is the major reason why a movie is considered a best picture.  The director is the one driving the movie, driving the story, driving the performances.  The director is like the CEO of a business.  If it succeeds, it’s because of the boss… if it fails, it’s because of the boss.  Rant over.

I didn’t see Foxcatcher  and while I’ve heard that the movie is great as is Steve Carell the movie didn’t make the best picture list.  I am not sure it matters, however, because I don’t think it has a chance, based on the buzz.

Who should win:  Alejandro G. Iñárritu for Birdman

Who WILL win:  Richard Linklater.

I think  Iñárritu was able to get the performance of his life from Michael Keaton, but I think Linklater bringing the story together over 12 years is an excellent feat.

Best Pictures

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson, Producers

WHIPLASH – Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster, Producers

BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) – Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole, Producers

SELMA – Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers

BOYHOOD – Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland, Producers

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING – Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten, Producers

THE IMITATION GAME – Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman, Producers

AMERICAN SNIPER – Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan, Producers

This is a really tough decision for me.  All of the films are excellent.  It was the first year, in a while, that there wasn’t a movie I left the theatre thinking “what the hell was THAT?”  I didn’t necessarily care for Grand Budapest Hotel, but it DID have some funny moments in it.  I just don’t care for Wes Anderson and his style.

What should win?  Whiplash

What WILL win?  Boyhood.

I think Boyhood will be rewarded for the concept of filming the same actors once a year over 12 years.  The idea and execution was great.  The overall package, I don’t believe is worth the statue.

So there you have it… my picks.   In a about 35 minutes we will begin the journey of finding out the who the Oscar Statues will go to.

Happy Oscars!!!

Best Picture Showcase Part Deux

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Week two of the Best Picture Showcase is completed and so is another year of the ability to watch all of the Best Picture nominees prior to the Academy Awards telecast.  Here are my thoughts:

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BOYHOOD

Boyhood is a “coming of age” move about a boy, Mason Evans Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) growing up in Texas.  His parents are divorced and his mother is raising Mason and his sister Sanantha (Loreli Linklater) by herself.  We follow Mason from age six, through his high school graduation.  His mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette) marries two more times, over the years to men who were abusive and/or alcoholics.

The uniqueness of this movie is that it was filmed over a two week period, once a year for 12 years from 2002 to 2013.  Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke were interviewed on NPR and noted that other than the scenes they filmed together, they didn’t see each other’s performances through the years until the final product was completed.

Take away the distinctive style of creating this film, I don’t think this movie stands out.  It’s really sort of “meh” for me.  Being able to see the characters age is interesting, and the acting really is different to watch as the year’s progress – just like “real life”.  However, I don’t really see either actor walking away with a statue.  Patricia Arquette, for me, was Patricia Arquette.  I don’t see a distinction between roles for her from her stint on the TV shows “Medium” and the newer “CSI” show and this one.  That’s not to say she’s not a good actress, but I don’t think she’s a great actress and I don’t believe her turn as the single mother who marries poorly in an attempt to raise her children was worth the nomination let alone will garner an Oscar.  Ethan Hawke is ok, but again I don’t believe his performance was worth of the statue.

That being said, the movie is a front runner for the Best Picture Award having won the Golden Globe and has been noted on more “yearend” lists of critics in 2014 than any other movie.  I firmly believe the reason for all of the accolades is the production process.  Take that unique experience away and you have just another movie about a boy growing up.

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THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING

Three of the four movies seen on the final day of the Best Picture Showcase were true stories.  The Theory of Everything is the story of theoretical physicist Steven Hawking, based on the book written by his ex-wife Jane Wilde Hawking.  When you say the name Steven Hawking, most people know that he is a brilliant mind, we may not understand the concepts he has put forward, but we recognize what he is synonymous with.

Starring Eddie Redmayne as Steven Hawking and Felicity Jones as his wife Jane, the movie follows the progression of Hawkigs’ life after he is diagnosed with motor neuron disease which is often also called Lou Gehrig’s disease.  The disease causes the nerves of body that control movement of limbs as well as swallowing, to pretty much shut down.  The mind, however, is untouched by the disease.  Diagnosed at approximately 22 years old, Hawking was initially given only two years to live.  He is still going strong 51 years later.

Both Redmayne and Jones are nominated for their acting in this movie and I believe both nominations are well deserved.  Having seen videos of Steven Hawking I can say that Eddie Redmayne absolutely captured his mischievous spirit and sense of humor.  The twinkle in his eye and sly grin was absolutely perfect.  The struggles Jane Hawking went through to care for the man she loved and the emotional toll it took, were very aptly portrayed by Felicity Jones and I think she should be considered for the Oscar myself… though I’m afraid she might not be.

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THE IMITATION GAME

A true story, this movie is deemed “loosely based” on the biography of Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.  The Imitation Game tells the story of the group of cryptologists who gathered in Hut 8 at Bletchley Park, in England, to break to the code of the Nazi “Enigma Machine” – considered to be unbreakable by every security team in the world.  Turing, very aptly played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is not the best friend of anyone and considered hard to work with anyone, manages to get himself put in charge of the project to the chagrin of just about everyone on the team and in charge of the team.  He fires two people and recruits two others on the basis of the ability to solve crossword puzzles in record time.  One of the code breakers he hires is a female, Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) who solved the final puzzle in less time than it took Turing to solve.  While the rest of the team struggles to break the code in 18 hours (the codes change each night at midnight and the first messages come in at 6am) Turing is creating a machine – today known as a computer – to decipher the code for them.  Eventually the machine does as it’s designed to do, but the dichotomy is that they have to be careful which messages they break and pass on to the authorities to keep the Germans from figuring out that they have broken the code and then change the process.  Turing is telling the story of the work of breaking Enigma as he is being interrogated by the police in conjunction with the break in of his flat.  In the end, the work Turing and the team did to break the Enigma code shortened the war by at least 20 years and saved countless lives but Turing was convicted of homosexual acts and he chose chemical castration rather than jail time.  He died from cyanide ingestion, initially deemed a suicide but eventually determined to be an accidental death.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley are both nominated for their acting in this movie, and deservedly so.  Cumberbatch keenly portrays Turing’s lack of social skills which is directly related to his high level of intelligence.  The emotions that are buried deep down, and spring to the surface only intermittently, are a great part of the reason he received the nomination for best actor.  Keira Knightley is excellent as the female counterpart to Turing who has a much better grasp of social skills.

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AMERICAN SNIPER

This movie is based on the autobiography of Chris Kyle, written with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice called “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History”.  He was noted to have had 255 kills of which 16 were officially confirmed by the DOD.

Warner Brothers bought the film rights with Bradley Cooper set to Produce and star in the movie. Cooper wanted Chris Pratt to play Kyle, but Warner Brothers wanted Cooper or no one else.  Sienna Miller was signed to play Kyle’s wife Taya and Steve Spielberg was on tap to direct, but he bowed out when budget cuts left him unable to bring his vision to the screen and Clint Eastwood was tapped to direct instead.  There has been quite a bit of criticism of this movie as being a propaganda machine.  I don’t see that, myself.

As I watched the film I couldn’t help but compare it to 2008’s “The Hurt Locker”.  While I have never served in the military during war time, thus I have never seen battle, I AM the daughter and sister of military men who have and the limited stories I heard lead me to believe these movies depict a realistic view of battle and what our troops have faced in the latest war.  Despite the belief of those critical of Clint Eastwood’s politics, I understood this movie was not to focus on the kills – though the records is what earned him the nickname “Legend”.  Rather, this movie was really about the drive and dedication of a man whose mission was to serve his country and protect his brethren.  Chris Kyle was a soldiers’ soldier and revered by many – not because of the “record” that gave him his nickname, but for the things he did to save the lives of many who fought.  The other side of that story is the struggle he had – as do many who serve in the armed forces in war time – acclimating himself to civilian life.  He was torn between wanting to save lives, but avenge his lost friends, and be a good husband and father.  Indeed he struggled when he left the service, as have many veterans.  The irony of the story of Chris Kyle is that he served, heroically, four tours in Iraq and lost his life at home at the hands of a former Marine suffering from PTSD that he was trying to help.

Bradley Cooper’s turn as Chris Kyle is excellent.  He certainly buffed up for the role.  He has the gift of being able to portray many emotions with his face.  I was very impressed.  In another year, with a different field of actors nominated, he might have a chance at winning the Oscar.  However, this year, the field is tough and I don’t see that happening.

All in all, American Sniper is a good movie.  It felt a bit overdone in the war scenes and I would have liked to have seen some more of the issues on the home front, but I would recommend viewing this movie for sure… especially if you are a fan of Bradley Cooper — and seriously, who isn’t.

Up next:  My Oscar picks and predictions.

Best Picture Showcase Week 1

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

I admit that I didn’t see all of the movie as I dozed off a few times because of only getting four hours sleep each of the two previous nights and not because of the movie. 
I am not a big fan of Wes Anderson films, but I enjoyed this movie enough. There was a Cavalcade of Celebrity “Near Cameos” – A new term I Made up to describe the quick appearances of actors including: Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Owen Wilson, Bob Balaban, and Fisher Stevens to name a few. The dialogue was fast paced,  which was ok but a bit annoying at the same time.  I’d say it was an OK film.

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WHIPLASH

Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, inspired by his experience in high school studio band.

The movie follows Andrew (Miles
Teller) a young drummer who attends a music school known for its high marks for music study in music and Terrance Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) the instructor who is almost inhuman in his treatment of the students he chooses for his studio band.  The movie very capably shows Andrews struggle to become the best drummer in spite of, and perhaps because of, his overbearing, physically and mentally abusive instructor. 

The intensity of the movie is almost non-stop with a few moments of calm as Andrew struggles with asking out the girl at the movie theater snack bar and then ends up breaking up with her because he fears she will be a distraction for him in his goal to be the best.  Andrew’s intensive practicing in his goal to succeed drives him to eat and breathe drumming to the point of his hands bleeding.  I won’t give away the ending, I will say this…. It is intense and quite fulfilling!

The fun fact about this movie is that Miles Teller did all his drumming and they only used a stand in for visual purposes – I suspect the bleeding hands. 

In addition to being nominated for Best Picture, Whiplash also has Oscar nods for J.K. Simmons as Best Supporting Actor (he won the Golden Globe and SAG Award and he is the frontrunner for the Oscar), Film Editing, Sound Mixing and Adapted Screenplay. 

Not having seen all of the best acting nominees yet, I am a bit surprised at Miles Teller being left out, but then there are eight movies and only five actors.

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BIRDMAN

Written, produced and directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, this was a very different movie for me.  The story is about a former Superhero film actor who is trying revive his career with a Broadway show based on a story by Raymond Carver “What we talk about when we talk about love”.  In the process he is struggling with the past and present in the form of hearing the words of his “alter ego” Birdman and having issues with the cast – most notably the other male role.  His daughter is his assistant and they struggle to gain some sort of relationship. 

Michael Keaton has hit a homerun, in my opinion, with his portrayal of Riggan Thompson.  He won the Golden Globe for Best Actor – his first ever Globe – and is the frontrunner for the Oscar.  At this point, having not seen the others yet, I would have to agree.  I think it was the best performance I’ve ever seen him give.  Director Inarritu is up for Best Director and Emma Stone as his daughter has the nod for Best Supporting Actress and Edward Norton for Best Supporting Actor.  He was very good, but I don’t think he’ll beat out J.K. Simmons. 

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SELMA

Starring David Oyelowo as Dr. King, Tom Wilkenson as LBJ,  Tim Roth as George Wallace and Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, it’s the story of Dr.Martin Luther King Jr., the marches from Selma Alabama to Montgomery Alabama for voting rights of the African Americans and all of the struggles that surrounded them. 

The movie, at one point, was written by Paul Webb and Lee Daniels (The Butler) was involved but he left the movie when he was asked to do the Butler.  David Oyelowo had worked on an independent film with director Ava DuVernay and he was instrumental in getting DuVernay involved with the project.  In the end, DuVernay rewrote a great majority of the script but because of the contract the producers had with Webb, DuVernay is uncredited.   The King estate was not involved with the making of the film and the major speeches by Dr. King are copyrighted.  DuVernay re-wrote the speeches for the film, rewriting them line by line and striving to keep the cadence of Dr. King.  I believe she achieved her goal.

The movie has been criticized for its historical inaccuracy by supporters of LBJ, but if you review the history and watch movies like “Freedom Riders” and “Summer of Freedom” (both of which are on Netflix I believe) you will see that although LBJ did get the Civil Rights Act instated in 1964, it was a hard fought victory for Civil Rights.  The law wasn’t being followed in the South, however, and there were many people who were disenfranchised and unable to vote in the South.  One woman, portrayed by Oprah Winfrey in the movie, applied and failed five times, to get the vote. 

Must like last years’ “12 Years a Slave”, and the aforementioned “Freedom Riders” and “Summer of Freedom”, Selma made me sad, angry and embarrassed at the treatment of African American’s.   Indeed, the Voting Rights Act was finally passed in 1965.  Sadly, in 2013 a crucial formula in Section 5 of the Act was stricken by the Supreme Court as being “unconstitutional” – a ruling that has essentially reversed all the work and struggles and bloodshed that was experienced in the fight for equal rights and the right to vote.  I am back to just shaking my head. 

Finally Back

I know I’ve been remiss in my blogging duties and The only explanation is That The holidays and end of Seahawks Servan got The most of my time.

So today is first day of The rest of my blogging life.  Today is day 1 of The 2 weekend movie marathon called AMc best Picture showcase. This is my 5Th or 6th year. At the beginning it was only 5 movies shown on the Saturday before the Oscar telecast. when they opened the field to up to 10 Best Picture nominees they spread Them out to the two Saturdays prior To the Oscars.

Today we will see Guard Budapest Hotel, Whiplash, Birdman and Selma.  Im not sure two I feel about Grad Budapest Hotel, but I’m remaining open. I didn’t I was going to Mm Django Unchained and it was ok so I’m going to reserve judgment for now.  I will th to update after each move, but The cellular connection is Spotty at best,

Dream Reader

This is day 3 of blogging 101 and the title says what our focus is:  write to our “dream reader”.  This is a specific person or specific target to write for.  I found this to be a challenge because I don’t really have a specific target.  Whether that’s a plus or something that hinders me I don’t know.  I am forced to stretch my writing chops here.

One of my passions is photography.  I consider myself to be rather creative, but when it comes to art I can’t even draw a straight line.  I  began to explore photography and found that I am able to see a subject, point my camera and actually capture what I see.  It’s very rewarding.  I started out with an entry level point and shoot digital camera and moved on to a little more sophisticated digital camera that had a bit more in the “bells and whistles” catetogy.  Just about a year ago I graduated to my current camera a DSLR  a Canon T3i.  I have two different lenses and am still learing how to use them in the proper way.  There is still quite a bit to learn, but I’m on my way.  I will share photos here from time to time.   For now, here’s a small taste:

In the late summer of 2014 my partner and I went on a boat ride on Lake Washington and got a view of the Blue Angels at Seafair that was a totally different perspective.

In the late summer of 2014 my partner and I went on a boat ride on Lake Washington and got a view of the Blue Angels at Seafair that was a totally different perspective.