Saturday, June 16, 2018

Quick Film Grade: American Animals A

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Quick Film Grade: Hereditary A-

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Blue Apron Meals at Home

I'm not one to follow many celebrities on Twitter, but I follow a few cool ones, and one of them is Chrissy Teigen. I find her to be funny, smart, and politically savvy. I bumped into her at the Avalon Hotel during the Palm Springs International Film Festival in January 2016, she's very pretty and sweet in real life. So today I was just reading my Twitter feed and I noticed that a Blue Apron subscriber tagged Chrissy in a post because she made a meal that Chrissy created as a recipe for Blue Apron as part of a six week meal preparation celebrity promotion. I loved the simple prep look, and the high delicious/nutritional value of the shrimp and broccoli meal so much that I immediately signed up for Blue Apron on a three week discount promotion. I subscribed to the 2 meals a week for 2 (they don't have a meal plan for us single folk so I can turn the two meal portions into two separate meals for me - making that four meals a week).

The timing of subscribing to Blue Apron comes when I'm already spending $30-40 a week on microwave meals and fruit and nuts, OK, and some cakes/cookies and salty crap, on top of the money I spend to go out and eat lunch maybe 2-3 times a week. My salt intake is much higher than normal and I'm noticing a difference in how it's affecting my health and that's not cool. When you sign up for Blue Apron, you get to select if you want vegetarian meals, fish/poultry, or red meat/pork. I don't eat the latter, so it's very convenient to order the type of meals tailored to your dietary needs. My first box arrives on June 16th and every Saturday after that. I'll see how it goes, I may even add in a recommended bottle of wine to complement a meal. I need to train my palate to tolerate wine, especially red wine as I plan my trip to Italy next year.

By the way, after I treated a thanks to Chrissy for bringing Blue Apron to my attention, she liked my tweet! Huzzah! It's the little things.

Friday, June 1, 2018

I'm Going to Coachella 2019!

As an update regarding my recent visit to London, I had the most fun, it was such an awesome trip 'home' to London. I hung out with friends, did some carefree shopping, saw a great play, and, really enjoyed myself at the historical event of attending the royal wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex! I was especially pleased with my flight with Virgin Atlantic and I can't wait to fly with them again. Due to my being so busy in London, the jet lag took a few more days longer than usual for me to recover as I had to go back to work the day after I came back home.

I don't have any other major plans for the rest of the year, so this will give me time to save up for Italy next year, and today, I was one of the lucky ones to buy a Weekend One pass for Coachella 2019! I can't believe I'm going! Just this past Wednesday, I read a tweet from @Coachella announcing that the 2019 pre-sale would start at 11am PST on Friday, June 1st. I have always enjoyed reading about the events and adventures of the Coachella shows and especially while I was living in Michigan, it was a dream that once I got settled in SoCal, to try to go to Coachella, if at least on a day pass. And with the 2019 Coachella being it's 20th anniversary, I think it's going to be an extra special music festival.

I had the past two days to plan my Coachella experience. I immediately knew I wanted to go to Weekend 1, which is April 12-14, so I booked a hotel in Palm Springs for those days. Hotels very close to the shuttle lot were already booked, so I was lucky to get a hotel just an 8 minute walk down the road from the drop off lot. The VIP pass was just too steep at $999 for a first timer like me, even with the 7 month payment plan, I just couldn't justify paying that money. So I opted for the General Admission pass with the shuttle at $499. I also wanted a poster which was $15, and I went back and forth in deciding if I wanted to splurge on Saturday night of the weekend to attend the Outstanding in the Field desert dining experience at $255. It's basically a gourmet 4 course meal served in the VIP Rose Garden (which I'll have access to all day Saturday). I figured, why the hell not? So my plan was to purchase these for my first Coachella experience.

Thank God my work load on Friday was medium and my immediate supervisor was out of the office. I anticipated that it would be crazy getting tickets, but I did not think that I would wait in the queue for 1 hour 57 minutes and 28 seconds to buy my package. To my amazement, once it was my turn, it was a breeze to make my selection and I checked out in less than 3 minutes! I was so thrilled, I tweeted about it immediately and I had to go take a walk to calm down and release the anxiety of the process. It appears that Weekend One sold out just minutes after I placed my order because people were tweeting just seconds after me that they waited for 2 hours only to have Weekend 1 be sold out, and they were livid. Whew! I'm glad that whatever karma I had stored up, it covered me today. As I write this update, tickets for Weekend 2 are still available. Update: Weekend 2 is now sold out.

I have said this before, but there was many a time while living in Michigan where I was simply not able to enjoy the most basic form of entertainment, besides going to see a matinee on a Sunday morning. So to be living in Southern California, the epicenter of the entertainment world, I'll be damned if I deny myself the pleasure of at least experiencing a festival event of this scale. I'm making up for lost time and I don't feel guilty at all! I deserve this.

Lastly, this evening, I pulled the plug on a message board forum that I created in early 2017 in support of Meghan Markle as she transitioned from little known actress to HRH Duchess of Sussex. It has been a thrill following her through all that time, but the community was stale and was losing interest, and I did not make friends there. So I closed it down today and I have taken a pledge to not create another fan community forum again. I will happily just be a member of an established community and give my POV when I feel like it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Traveling to My Home Away From Home

The month of April flew by so quickly, I forgot to meet my at least one post a month quota! I did a lot of cool things, however, the biggest one was hanging out in Palm Springs with my buddies Glenn and Brian, and then going to Joshua Tree. Based on our proximity to the Coachella vibe, I have decided to try to attend one day next year. Just get it out of my system and to say that I went there. So now, the month of May has some great things in store for me! Firstly, I want to acknowledge that I'm closing down my other blog which focused on a formerly active actor. If I have the desire to write about him again, which is likely because he really is talented, I will write a quick blurb about him here at ToZ. There just comes a time when you have to cut the cord and refocus your attention on things that will bring you happiness. I wasn't happy anymore maintaining the other blog, hence my relief that I finally made that decision.

Moving on, I'm excited about my upcoming trip to London and I have a full itinerary. I planned this visit to coincide with the royal wedding! The Type A planner that I am jumped on booking my holiday as soon as the wedding date was announced. Try as I might, I was hoping I would befriend an interesting person at a Meghan Markle forum I'm a member at, but no one had the ability or true interest to tag along with me on this historic day in Windsor. So as usual, my best company will be myself. It's just as well so that I can do exactly what I want.

Here are the top activities I'll be doing on my 12th trip to London, 17 May - 22 May:

First night in town on the 17th, I'll see the play, The Inheritance at the Young Vic. Actor Timothée Chalamet is in London prepping for his next role, and he was spotted in the audience at both parts of the play. I can only view Part I, which is fine, and I got the last 10 quid ticket. Perfect!

The Inheritance
On Friday the 18th, me and my dear sister-friend Lucinda will see Killer Joe play starring Orlando Bloom. We're going there to have fun on the town! Lucinda and I became friends from an Orlando Bloom fan page way back in 2007, and we've been dear friends ever since. Going to this play, the second play we'll see together featuring Orlando, is just for shits and giggles down memory lane for an actor that allowed us to befriend one another. As disappointing as that fandom was, I'm grateful that I have a life friend from it.

Then on Saturday the 19th is the Royal Wedding Day! I will take a train from Paddington to Windsor at 6:30 am GMT and make my way along with thousands of other people to this historic event. I doubt I'll be able to actually see the royal couple, but it's going to be fun just being there!

Prince Harry and future Duchess, Meghan Markle
I look forward to writing a lot about future HRH Duchess Meghan Markle. She's an American girl living a real fairytale life, and I will happily live vicariously through her.

On Sunday, I'll spend all day with Lucinda and her family, and she has also invited me to their spa club where I can hang out with them. This will allow me to use my new swimsuit that I purchased a few weeks ago for Palm Springs. We're going to have dinner and dessert and just relax with my English family.

And on Monday, one of the highlights will be my 2 pm booking at a posh Afternoon Tea at a nice hotel that is walking distance from Harrods. I have jokingly posted tweets inviting Timothée Chalamet to join me if he was free.

Afternoon tea for one please!

I will never tire of visiting London. I plan to make the most of this trip because I will skip it next year in favor of Italy next May. But then, hey, maybe I'll squeeze in a visit during Thanksgiving 2019 just for the hell of it!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Destination Italy - May 2019

A few weeks ago I decided that for my 2019 holiday trip, I'm finally going to visit Italy! I have been wanting to go there for 20 years now. I have a penpal friend who lives in Pavia, a Province in Northern Italy, just South of Milan, and, coincidentally, about a hour train ride from Crema, the little Italian city made famous by an Oscar winning film I've been cheer leading recently! My friend Elena has been my penpal since 1998, and although we have never met or spoke on the phone (we have friended each other on Facebook), our annual Christmas cards have kept our friendship alive. During the first few years of our penpalship, I wanted to visit her in Milan, but money was tight and I never got a chance to do it. But I knew I would get there one day, and with the popularity of Call Me By Your Name, which was filmed in Crema, and with the film serving as a tourism public service announcement for Northern Italy, I now must go.

Coliseum of Rome
I have notified Elena that I will be visiting next May. I selected this time because the prime tourist season is June 15 - Sept 1, and I want to take advantage of Memorial Day weekend. She's quite excited and can't believe that I'm finally planning this trip. Traveling just before the prime tourist season will save me some money on airfare and hotels. And as you will see from the map of Italy at the top, the Milan region is way the hell up in the Northern part of Italy. Naturally, when one travels all the way to Italy, you want to spend some time in Rome, the capital, which is smack dab in the middle of Italy. So I need to figure out if I'm going to fly in/out of Rome or Milan, and how to travel between the two regions so that I can enjoy both areas. I will most likely travel by train between the two points. The art historian and world history buff in me needs to visit Rome for a few days. Then I need to fulfill a personal destiny in Pavia of meeting a sweet person who has regularly sent me Xmas cards from afar. And of course I need to visit Crema for at least 2 days to bike ride, and enjoy the sights before I head back home. I won't have time to visit Bergamo, which is just North of Crema and another important spot of where filming was done. I don't expect or necessarily want to retrace the steps made popular in the film - I just want to finally fulfill a long time personal desire to visit Italy, and check out a some beautiful landmarks in a small town that I just discovered from a favorite film.

Stay tuned for updates on my progress for trip of a lifetime!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Spirit Awards and Oscar Weekend Report on Timothée Chalamet!

Oscar winner James Ivory (Adapted Screenplay) and nominee Timothée Chalamet
I am so glad my mind is still intact after the last five months of this insane Oscar season. Until I saw Timothée Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name in late November, I was going into this awards season with no horse in the race. But dammit, this kid messed up everything, and I put a lot of emotional investment into seeing him being properly rewarded. As the entire awards industry would see to it, Timothée lost all the awards to Gary Oldman, except for one, the Film Independent Spirit Award (where Gary wasn't nominated) which he won this past Saturday. And speaking of that award, I was working at the event and I engaged with Timothée twice as he arrived to the event, and when he left.

I was in charge of handing out a white wrist bands to all the nominees. I cannot even begin to tell you how many celebrities I spoke with, and personally placed in their hand a white wrist band. All I can say is that when you are in the capacity of working at an entertainment industry event, you are there to work, not socialize with celebrities, do not initiate deep discussions them, and certainly do not ask for selfies or autographs. To do so would put you in jeopardy of being removed from the premises and not be allowed to work the event again. So regardless of seeing Chadwick Boseman (Mr. Black Panther) a mere 3 feet from me, you can't pester or bother them, just be professional, and courteous with a smile. As the universe would have it, I was assigned this position out of over a dozen I could have been chosen for, and this particular duty literally placed me and a few other volunteers in the prime position to meet celebrities, for however fleeting the moment would be.

Timmy and Barry Keoghan (Killing of a Sacred Deer) wearing the wristbands I gave them
Timothée was one of the last celebrities to arrive about 40 minutes before the show started. As usual, he stopped by the fan section to sign autographs, and as he came into the security tent, I stood in my position to give him his nominee wrist band. He was about to go down another security aisle where he would not be able to get a wrist band, so I had to quickly follow him and I said, 'Timothée, here is your nominee wrist band", and he turned around to face me, and the light from the sun entering the tent made his eyes look neon green at that very moment, and he took it from me and said, 'Ok cool, thanks a lot'. A very quick interaction, but still a mind-blowing fan moment where I was in a professional capacity doing my job. As volunteers, we have too much work and prep work to do so we were not allowed to attend/watch the show. I think over those two days, I probably racked up 10 miles of walking if I had my fitbit with me. When the security station was dismantled when the show started, I went on break. I kept up with the show by reading the #SpiritAwards live tweets.

A well deserved win for Lead Actor at the Spirit Awards
One thing that's really cool about working behind the scenes of an awards show is that you see so many celebrities just mulling around. And a lot of them are people whose work I really enjoy. Some going to the restroom, some smoking a cigarette, others drinking cocktails and just talking and chilling out... all while the show is going on. It was surreal watching all this unfold, and again, I never got the desire to interact with any of the stars because it's not permitted. If they asked me a question, I could definitely answer the question or find someone who could help them. But other than that, as the show was winding down, we got back into position at the exit where all the celebrities would go through to get to their chauffeured cars. We were handing out The Hollywood Reporter and Variety Oscar issues and most would happily take them. About 5 minutes after the show ended (just minutes before Timothée won his Lead Actor award), I thought of the idea to just capture a short video of him leaving the tent area with me saying congratulations to him. And just as I thought of that, I saw him bouncing towards the exit area and that's when I pulled out my phone, being as discrete as possible, and when he was passing by me, I said 'Congratulations Timmy', and he said, 'Thank you very much, I appreciate it'. See video link below.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to not only be a voting member of Film Independent, but also serving in a volunteer capacity for this great show has been an encompassing experience. I gave up a day's work on Friday, and worked 8 hours on Saturday to help make this show a success. I definitely like the Spirit Awards better than the Oscars. And speaking of...

Well, as I knew deep, deep, deep down in my gut, the Academy was not going to give Timmy his Oscar. They don't like to take risks because they have a brand to protect, and they only want to make certain kinds of histories when it benefits them. A 22 year old white boy winning Best Actor is not as historic for them at this moment, as a first black director winner (who the hell knows when that will ever happen), or the first female cinematographer winner. All the prognosticators knew the Academy too well to go against their establish bias and they didn't waste time predicting Timothée. While they all believed that Timmy "should win", they knew all the cards were stacked up against him because he's just too goddamn young to receive the highest honor in the entertainment industry in his first starring role, where a man who could be his father have been in line longer that Timmy's been alive to receive his Oscar. Again, the Academy with their favoritism and lust for the flesh of women under 30 don't count, they give Oscars to them like passing out candy and as young as 9 (Tatum O'Neal). But for males, you have to be over 30, with the exception of Adrien Brody who got his Oscar at 29. Timothée is a kid/boy as far as Oscar voters are concerned (he just turned 22), and when he was asked about Timothée, newly anointed Oscar winner Gary Oldman gave a flustered salty response and dropped the 'K' word regarding Timmy too. LOL! I guess Gary couldn't wait to let his guard down now that he secured his precious. BTW, the Oscars telecast suffered its lowest ratings in 4 years. Ha!

Congratulations to Call Me By Your Name for winning one major Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay accepted by James Ivory. The film is now an Oscar winning film, and has bragging rights for a Best Picture nomination. I'm so proud and happy for Timothée Chalamet doing so well this season in being such a critical darling with major prestigious critics groups, and being nominated by all the top industry awards groups. Timmy won, people know him, people love him, and people want to work with him. He will receive his Oscar one day, he just has to be a little older so that the old fools who vote for the academy can feel better about voting for such a young man. Thanks Timmy for making this frustrating awards season so much fun supporting you! 

Timmy and his gorgeous mama


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Spirit Awards and Oscar Weekend - Last Stop!

Best Actor Oscar 2018 nominee, Timothée Chalamet
I must admit, this has been the LONGEST and most emotionally exhausting Oscar awards season for me in all the years I have been following the Oscars. And the blame falls squarely upon Timothée Chalamet, the youngest Best Actor nominee in 80 years. Most people don't realize that I was happy on the Gary Oldman train back in September when The Darkest Hour did well at the Toronto Int'l Film Festival. I was happy that it looked like he finally was going to get his Oscar. But... in late November, I watched a pretty little gay Indie, Call Me By Your Name (CMBYN), and I put all my eggs in one Oscar basket for Timothée. It says a lot that a kid that I didn't know about until November 24, usurped a long time favorite character actor of mine in the Oscar contention. Who doesn't like Gary Oldman? That's why, if, IF he were to win the Oscar Sunday night, it won't be the end of the world, but it would be annoying because Timmy should win. As a matter of fact, a lot of Oscar predictions are claiming that Oldman "will win", but they have Timothée noted as 'Should win'.

The nominee who is listed as a 'should win', gave a performance that if all things were considered equal, they should win. But they might not win because of politics, biases, and marketing/Oscar campaigning that overshadowed the other nominee's campaigns. Also, Oldman is very lucky that he's predicted to win because most Oscar voters know him, and they don't want to vote for a 22 year old kid, and that's what most voters look at Timmy as - a boy who came out of nowhere. However, just as my gut instinct keeps bugging me to keep hope alive and that an upset is begging to happen on Sunday night, the biggest upset would be in Best Actor. There are some predictors that have Timmy taking the Oscar. One is at Gold Derby, Matt Jacobs, Huffington Post Entertainment Editor. He's the sole believer at Gold Derby that Timothée could win the Oscar, and as long as someone like him believes so, there is hope, however dim the glimmer is, there's hope. Additionally, readers at Gold Derby voted Timmy for Best Actor, and CMBYN as Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, and Best Newcomer for Timothée. There's a lot of love for Timothée, but the older voters from the guilds, and possibly the Oscars, vote for their own, someone older and more established in the industry.

Once more, I hope that history is made Sunday night, if it's not this year, Timmy has six years to still be the youngest Best Actor winner. On Saturday, The Spirit Awards will take place and I will be a volunteer there. It's going to be exciting being around the ceremony. Although I won't be inside watching the actual show, because I'll be on duty, but being there and possibly seeing Timothée win the Best Actor award, as he's predicted to do so, would be so much fun. In the end, the reason why so many Oscar fans so strongly support their favorite is because predicting, and hoping for an Oscar win for your favorite, if they win, will be an affirmation of your taste and ability to recognize a talent/performance that deserves the highest honor in the entertainment industry. A win for our favorite ultimately validates our interest and support in a performance that will be designated as the best of the best.

As this crazy awards season comes to a close, I befriended a Timmy fan on Twitter, @darkingenue (Dwan Williams, age 34), and I asked her if she could answer a few questions about her being a new fan of Timothée and wishing him good luck on his road to the Oscars. She's been following the Oscars since 1997, but started to question the integrity of the Oscars in the year that The Color Purple (1985) was nominated for 11 Oscars, but did not win anything. In this final pre-Oscar article, I thought it would be nice to share the voice of another fan who has a calm understanding of the frustrations of being an Oscar watcher, and the eloquence in expressing support for Timothée.

Theatre of Zen: The Academy has an opportunity to make history with awarding Timothée Chalamet with the Best Actor Oscar at the age of 22. Do you think the age bias for men can end this year?

Dwan Williams: I'm not sure if the age bias for men can end this year. The Academy is usually behind the times, and yes, even though they are honoring the best in film, who they choose won't necessarily be who you or I would choose. They're not listening to us - it's not a voting requirement. That being said, it would be a huge opportunity - it would show that the Academy has its finger on the pulse. Especially now that there has been such a shift in Hollywood with the recent headlines of sexual misconduct en masse, it would be a very interesting development.

ToZ: Was there anything Sony Pictures Classics (SPC) could have done otherwise with their marketing of Call Me By Your Name and Timothée to garner much more publicity?

DW: No, he was the one to follow. He was marketed well. I mean, I know that there are actors or studios who take out ads in the paper to sway the Academy to vote in their favor, but I don't know if Sony Pictures Classics has done that (Ed note: Yes, SPC had a strong ad campaign). But there was no reason one couldn't find Timothée Chalamet.

ToZ: Have you ever supported an Oscar nominee as you have for Timothée this year? What's so special about him and his film?

DW: I've had my favorites, but I must admit that Timothée caught me a little off guard! I was not expecting to look at this young man and say, "I want him to win!" But yeah, he was different, and I don't know why. Look, I'm not someone who just gets on the bandwagon, but to me, there was something sweet about his acting, and then there's his personality. Anybody can be charming, but I don't think he tries to make people believe him - it's just who he is. Also, I love indie films. The fact that this is an indie film with mainstream backing is significant. I also want to think that the film itself is alluring because of its simplicity. There is the heightened drama of attraction, [which] contributes to the sensuality, but because it's set in a time where technology is not heavily present, there is this need to connect, to communicate as people did in the past. It seem to have some normalcy, if that makes any sense.

ToZ: If you could change one thing about the way the Oscar voters cast their votes, what would it be?

DW: Change the people who vote.

Timothée at a private CMBYN pre-Oscar party in Hollywood, Feb. 28