Monthly Archives: February 2015

I didn’t watch The Oscars …

Heyyyyyyyyyy berriesI I need a new word to call my buddies and I like fruit, so let’s make this catch on.

That is if you’ll still talk to me after I reveal I didn’t watch the Oscars last night.

Believe it or not, I enjoy a good deep dive on Twitter and coverage from The New York Times and Grantland more than the show itself.

birdmanI was actually surprised Birdman won over Boyhood in the best picture category, even though there was solid buzz about Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s film. Iñárritu also won for best director and original screenplay and the film was recognized for its cinematography. Micheal Keaton should have walked away with recognition for his performance too, but he lost to Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything. I still haven’t seen that film, but Keaton’s performance was one of the positives of Birdman for me and he deserves payback from when he wasn’t nominated for Mr. Mom years ago.

There wasn’t a huge sweep by one of the winners this year, which is rare. Whiplash did prevail in the sound editing and supporting actor categories so I am happy about that and hope that even more people see the film now. i think comedian wonder Daniel Van Kirk said it best on Twitter last night, “J.K. Simmons is my tempo.”

Now that the Oscars are over, I still do want to take some time to catch up on seeing the animated films and documentaries that were nominated.

I have to be in a certain mood to watch documentaries and really take in the subject at hand. I never would have expected it, but yesterday my mood was one where I felt I could make it through Blackfish and not have a total breakdown.

blackfishThe documentary (released in 2013) was showing at the movie theater I work at, but I just couldn’t bring myself to see it. I saw parts here and there while I was working, but I just knew it was going to be a sad and a frustrating story without a positive outcome.

At just under an hour-and-a-half, the film effectively covers details about the Killer Whale species, their captivity and treatment at theme parks like Sea World as well as what it’s like to be a trainer there.

It also focuses on one whale, Tilikum, who was treated maybe the worst of all the whales at Sea World and some trainers lost their lives or were injured as a result. I am appreciative the film shed light on a story a lot of people may not know about, but I am also frustrated it is a story that even needed to be told.

I do recommend the film if you can somehow prepare yourself for that feeling and being reminded about all the bad things that are going on in this world every day.

I wish I had something positive to turn to now, but last week I heard one of my favorite comedians, Harris Wittels, died. He was a writer and producer for Parks and Recreation (which just ended as a series) and a regular guest on many podcasts I listen to.

wittelsI never got to see Wittels perform as a stand-up comedian but, as I’ve heard many people say, I feel like I did know him from listening to his improv bits and interviews. Most of my exposure to Wittels’ work was through Comedy Bang! Bang! Scott Aukerman just released the latest episode, which happened to be recorded with Wittels, Adam Scott and Chelsea Peretti about a week before Wittels passed away. I definitely recommend visiting the Earwolf site for more archives of Wittels’ podcast appearances.

Marc Maron and Alison Rosen posted their most recent interviews with Wittels for listeners to hear again or for the first time. Even though Wittels died too young, at age 30, and clearly had a wonderful career ahead of him, listening to these interviews did make me laugh. It’s very bittersweet.

Well, this is just getting more and more somber. How can I pick things up?

I know, here’s a funny cat video on Funny or Die.

Bye berries! (Has this caught on yet?)

Whiplash and Selma

Get some popcorn and Raisinets and a drum kit if you have one, because I saw Whiplash for a second time and need to rave about it just a little.

whiplashIt’s a very intense film, centered on the relationship between music teacher Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons – nominated for best supporting actor) and Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) and what Fletcher will do to push an aspiring musician to realize what he’s really capable of. Neyman is a first-year student at Shaffer Music Conservatory in New York, where Fletcher takes notice of him and invites him to practice with his jazz band.

Practice as in he can turn pages, be ridiculed and abused to tears at the hands of Fletcher and have musical opportunities given and taken away in a second.

It was hard to watch during my first viewing and I think the level of intensity and violence took away from being able to really focus on the dynamics of the two main characters. (Only because I’m a bit squeamish about violence, it’s not a flaw of the film by any means.)

Whether you can handle the violence or not, my advice would be to watch this film twice (I’m almost ready to go a third time.) Fletcher and Neyman are complex characters and the film presents the opportunity to really think about why they act the way they do in their own lives and in contrast to each other with really good jazz music in the background.

Just wait until the final scene, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

As far as the Oscars, I honestly don’t know how much of a contender Whiplash is for best picture but Simmons could get the statue following his win at the Golden Globes.

Teller isn’t nominated, but I hope the role leads him to more of the same and subtle, solid performances like he made in The Spectacular Now. He’s actually got a couple of Fantastic Four movies coming out and others that appear to be more action than drama, so it will be interesting to see that play out on screen after his role as Neyman.

selmaI also saw an equally intense-but for different reasons-  film this week, Selma, starring David Oyelowo as  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he led a movement for voting rights through a peaceful campaign and marches in Alabama in 1965.

The true story told by Ava DuVernay showcases King as a person through his public mission and private life one in the same. It is a film and story that wouldn’t need artistic technique through cinematography to showcase that but the chosen visuals focusing on Oyelowo as King were one of my favorite aspects of it, second to his performance and again the story overall.

It too is unclear if Selma will be a surprise winner or close second or third for best picture on Sunday, but at the end of the day that doesn’t really matter. It’s a film everyone should see to know more of who Martin Luther King Jr. was and is as an influence in history.

I don’t have the best transition here, so I’ll just move on to a couple of comedies I can’t wait to see as Oscar season winds down and as a break from all the dramas (as amazing as they are.)

The trailers before Whiplash this time around included What We Do In The Shadows from Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi about a group of vampires in modern times. It. Looks. Hilarious. I’ve heard several interviews with Clement and Waititi and cannot wait to see it after hearing about their vision for the project and time they spent perfecting their work.

Last but not least, Amy Schumer, one of my comedy heroes has her film Trainwreck, which she wrote, coming out this summer.

I hope the film is not, well, a trainwreck, but with Judd Apatow at the helm and Schumer as the sole writing credit, I think it has promise to be a comedy to relate to while showing Schumer’s skills in stand-up comedy played out on screen.

Next time I write, most likely, the Oscars will be over and it will be time to start following potential nominees for next year. It’s also my goal to see, and document, more of the movies that should be nominated and win but never will.

Over and out.

Beep boop boop

Hey hey hey!

“Beep boop boop” is the message that comes up while WordPress is opening a new post window. I couldn’t think of a subject for this post, so it will have to do.

I am beyond saying I am behind on my blog because I haven’t posted in so long. I will just consider this, hopefully, a starting over point to keep up with it and move on.

david carrBefore I get to all the movies I’ve seen and want to see and the upcoming Academy Awards, I must touch on sad news in the journalistic world that ended the week. David Carr, a media columnist for The New York Times, died on Thursday in the newsroom at age 58. I got to see him speak at the Minnesota Newspaper Association convention a few years ago and just loved all his commentary and seeing him on assignment in the documentary Page One: Inside The New York Times.

I was too shy to introduce myself to him at the convention, and knew I would be. I was comfortable listening to him and admiring him from afar much like I felt reading his work every week. He will have a legacy that lives on in that but he definitely left this world much too soon.

That is all… wait, no, The Oscars are on the way on Feb. 22. Last year they weren’t until March 2. I guess I’ll just have to wear skinny jeans and a hoodie that day because there is definitely not enough time to find a gown appropriate for the red carpet at H&M.  I only have three of the best picture nominees left to see, Selma, The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game, so I may actually be able to finish that category on my Oscar ballot if I see a couple this weekend.

It seems clear Boyhood will make a sweep at the awards show, and rightfully so. I saw the film when it came out last summer and appreciate the mix of a simple story about a boy growing up and his family life on screen knowing in the back of my mind nothing about how it was made was simple. As many people probably know it was made over 12 years to reflect the actors growing up and aging much like the characters in the film. And, from what I can tell, although certainly there is a lot of buzz about the project now it was done with little fanfare or attention-seeking.

If it weren’t for Boyhood I’d love for Whiplash to take the best picture statue. it was definitely my favorite of the eight nominees and I’m tempted to see it again before the big show and it leaves the theater. I work one of the theaters in the Twin Cities that is showing it right now and get to hear snippets of the jazz music blaring through the halls, especially during the final scene of the film, and it’s fantastic.

The rest of the nominees are a mix of fiction and films based on true stories.

I did not like Birdman as much as I thought I would, and I’m not entirely sure I understood it, but the acting makes up for it and Oscar nods for Michael Keaton and Emma Stone are just.

I saw American Sniper to learn more about the story of Chris Kyle. It’s obvious there is more to it than the movie could tell, or Clint Eastwood chose to focus on, but the film itself didn’t impress me either way. The acting was middle of the road and I don’t think, as a movie, it is deserving of any accolades.

I wonder why Foxcatcher didn’t make the Best Picture nominee list. I enjoyed the film and unlike American Sniper, the acting across the board by Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo was solid and compelling. Each actor seemed to embody the men they played and the film drew attention to a story that people might not know a lot about. I, for one, did not and I will say Bennett Miller’s depiction of it reminded me a lot of his work in Capote. It was very stripped down and raw and focused in-depth on the characters. Somehow it left me wanting more at the same time, but maybe that’s because the directing and acting was so good I just wanted to watch more of what could be done with the story.

And last but not least, of the best picture nominees I have seen, The Grand Budapest Hotel made the cut. It won’t win and I remember reading there was a divide in feelings about the film from Wes Anderson fans. Maybe I’m not critical enough to delve into Anderson’s work, but he took it up a notch with his visual depiction of the story in The Grand Budapest Hotel and of course it’s always great to see his regular cast of characters like Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzmann have their small roles mixed in with newcomers like Tilda Swinton and Harvey Keitel.

I’m behind, as usual, on seeing the feature-length documentaries among the nominees, but I did catch a showing of the animated short films this week.  My favorite was The Dam Keeper about a young pig charged with operating a windmill dam that needs to run to protect his small town from pollution. He befriends a fox in his school and the story also focuses on their friendship and it was a adorable.

Speaking of adorable, I was recently alerted to a story about how Jimmy Fallon and Nicole Kidman met years ago and she apparently was interested in him. I was smiling and laughing so hard during the video of them talking about it on his show, it made my cheeks hurt. Jimmy Fallon is just all around adorable and this is why.