Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Oscar 2013 Predictions

There is an Oscar contest at the Detroit Free Press (for residents of Michigan only) where they are giving away $1400 in prizes ($1000 1st place, $300 2nd place, and $100 3rd place). It would be remiss of me to not participate in this local contest! So with that, my predictions are pretty much sealed, and I feel that based on my selections, I need to offer up some explanations.

Best picture: "Amour," "Argo," "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Django Unchained," "Les Misérables," "Life of Pi," "Lincoln," "Silver Linings Playbook," "Zero Dark Thirty."

I select Argo. I love this film, and due to the 'Poor Ben Affleck' director snub controversy, I think that gives Argo a hefty edge over Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook.

Actor: Bradley Cooper, "Silver Linings Playbook"; Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln"; Hugh Jackman, "Les Misérables"; Joaquin Phoenix, "The Master"; Denzel Washington, "Flight."

I'm going out on a limb, and I feel that I must be completely honest and go against the grain at the risk of my sanity. But I'm going to call this for Joaquin Phoenix! Remember how I was a little disappointed in 'The Master' after seeing it at TIFF? Well, that film was the 4th film of that rather busy day, and I was exhausted while watching a film that needed one's attention. I reckoned that upon a second viewing, I would better enjoy it, and I definitely did. Joaquin was brilliant in this film and showed an emotional range that no other actor showed this year. I also have a hard time accepting that the brilliant Daniel Day-Lewis could win a 3rd Best Actor OSCAR, while someone like Joaquin, on his third nomination, would still be win less. If anyone from AMPAS is reading this which I doubt unfortunately, please vote for Joaquin, he deserves this Oscar. Unlike DDL, this will be probably his ONLY shot.

Actress: Jessica Chastain, "Zero Dark Thirty"; Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"; Emmanuelle Riva, "Amour"; Quvenzhané Wallis, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"; Naomi Watts, "The Impossible."

Although I have not seen Amour, yet, I have been greatly impressed by all the wonderful things people and critics have been saying about Emmanuelle Riva's performance of a terminally ill elderly woman. I think probably the main reason why I haven't seen Amour yet is because it's a serious tear jerker, and I hate tear jerkers because, they make me cry. Duh! But with aside, I should see this film and it will confirm why Ms. Riva should win. BTW, as an Oscar factoid, Emmanuelle will turn 86 years old on Oscar night, and she's the oldest Oscar nominee. How fitting would it be to honor this lovely woman by giving her an Oscar that she otherwise would totally deserve?

Supporting actor: Alan Arkin, "Argo"; Robert De Niro, "Silver Linings Playbook"; Philip Seymour Hoffman, "The Master"; Tommy Lee Jones, "Lincoln"; Christoph Waltz, "Django Unchained."

Everyone of these guys already have an Oscar, can you believe that? I have seen three of these performances, and of those three, I have selected Tommy Lee Jones. Lincoln is a fine film, and because I don't think it will win Best Pic, and it's iffy that Spielberg will indeed win Best Director, and chances are good for King DDL to win Best Actor, Lincoln could also win Best Supporting Actor.

Supporting actress: Amy Adams, "The Master"; Sally Field, "Lincoln"; Anne Hathaway, "Les Misérables"; Helen Hunt, "The Sessions"; Jacki Weaver, "Silver Linings Playbook."

I would like for Amy or Sally to win for their roles respectively, but AMPAS loves pretty women under 35 who are either naked, nearly naked, shaved heads, dying, and singing in movies. Anne Hathaway has that covered, and at 30, she seems to be the likely winner. Again, I prefer Amy (3 times nominee, 0 wins) or Sally (2 time Oscar winner), but this is Anne's to lose.

Directing: Michael Haneke, "Amour"; Benh Zeitlin, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"; Ang Lee, "Life of Pi"; Steven Spielberg, "Lincoln"; David O. Russell, "Silver Linings Playbook."

Oh boy... now if Ben Affleck or Kathryn Bigelow were rightfully nominated, this would be a very, very tough category. Along with having seen Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, I have seen 'Beasts', and 'Lincoln'. So this category is my most shaky because I have not seen Amour, Pi, and Playbook yet. My decision is purely based on sentiment and I'm calling it for Spielberg, but I will be gobsmacked if Haneke won, and that's only because he would deserve it and should have won for 'White Ribbon' a few years back.

Visual effects: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," "Life of Pi," "The Avengers," "Prometheus," "Snow White and the Huntsman."

I don't know why the Free Press added this category, maybe it's the tie-breaker. But in any case, it's the easiest category because Life of Pi owns this Oscar already!

So you may be left scratching your head at my selections for the Detroit Free Press contest, but since I'm not an Oscars statistics person, and I don't care to play the numbers game. My selections are based on hopes and gut instincts. And don't you think my ballot is a lot more interesting than the current favorites? And another thing... I'm still not going to watch the Oscar telecast on Feb. 24th, it's much more fun reading the live comments from movie fans at Awards Daily, and that's what I'll be doing.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Musical scene of the year in a Film

Yeah, I'm still on a high from Holy Motors. Here is the pivotal scene where Oscar breaks out with an accordion and plays R.L. Burnside's Let My Baby Ride. Perfecto!

Film Review: Holy Motors. And Holy Argo!

One of Monsieur Oscar's alter-egos.
 On Sunday morning I tweeted this:

Simone Cromer @FassFass
Wow, Holy Motors at Detroit Film Theater was Holy wild! But it was good. Just, VERY different, and VERY, very French! Oui!

My friend Emilie, from France, asked me to elaborate on the 'very french' part. I replied:

Simone Cromer @FassFass
Denis Lavant is a brilliant actor! Very French = unusual, honest, dreamy, bold, crazy. It was a very good film. Review later.:)

I like watching quirky films, they remind me that when it comes to cinema, there is no one way to make a film. It makes me enjoy the art of film making even more when I'm reminded about the originality that goes into some films, and Holy Motors lived up to it.

In layman's terms, the film is about Monsieur Oscar, brilliantly played by French actor Denis Lavant, who spends most of a day inside the back of a white stretch limousine, and changing into different characters as his driver, Celine, takes him to various parts of Paris (this film delightfully whetted my appetite in my preparation to visit Paris this summer!). Before each session, Celine gives Oscar a file which explains his next session. He starts putting on makeup, wigs, and clothes of the next person he will be.

As he prepares for the craziest character, Oscar reads the plans and says, 'Shit', which indicates that it's something he's not really keen on doing, or, he's shocked by what he has to do. This is the only time where I got the impression that he's being directed to do this by some unknown source or people. Is this even real... who does this? Later, Oscar is visited in his car by one of the people who is behind his job/life and tells Oscar that the 'others' are sensing that Oscar is not giving his all, people are watching him and want to be entertained. And we start to see how this is affecting Oscar... maybe he is getting tired of pretending to be a circus monkey for people with money to burn and sick fetishes. Oscar also has to kill some people, so this leads us to believe that he's also a hit-man working for the mob.

I don't know if part, or all of what Oscar was experiencing was a dream... the opening sequence surely was, but what lead to it? In regards to my saying that this French film is "very, very French". Denis Lavant's nudity went the next step further compared to Michael Fassbender's nudity in 'Shame'. I'll say no more. The French are just much more uninhibited when it comes to nudity, and that's fine because it's the human body, why should we be scared of it? The French also have a sensual worldview that is different than American and British sensibilities, and I just find that bold, daring, and refreshing.

Grade: 8/10

Argo is going for that Oscar!

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards gave Argo the Best Cast in a Motion Picture statute last night, which is basically equivalent to the Best Picture. This is another great boost for Argo to go ahead and win the Best Picture Oscar. As Producer of the film, Ben Affleck will get that Oscar for himself, and Argo also won Saturday night at the Producers Guild. Basically, Argo is on fire!

One of my TIFF buddies, David, asked me a question last night because he's not on the Argo bus and he wants to get a better idea of why the heck it's doing so well, and why I like it:

Hi Simone,
I know you're a fan so explain to me -- what am I missing here?
I thought it was good but as a political thriller it didn't compare for me to such classics as All the President's Men, Z, or Missing.

I am totally shocked it keeps racking up awards. Not when there are so many other good movies being nominated.
The film is definitely winning the Oscar for BP--which leaves best director as a mystery. I am hoping anyone but Spielberg.

Hi David!
Dude, Argo rocks because it's a story about the human spirit of someone putting their life on the line to save a group of people. It's a feel good movie where literally, Hollywood is the Hero. A fake movie is created just so it could be used as a cover to sneak out six Americans from Iran who would be executed if found hiding. Also, it features America's baby sister, Canada, as the crucial piece in saving six American's lives. I loved it in Toronto, the TIFF audience ate it up, and it's going to win the Oscar.
So there you have it. If you're on the fence like David, just go see Argo and have a box of raisinettes too. It's a really good film and I'm glad it's doing well.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Get my DIA on!

On Saturday, my friend Laurie and I will head down to the Detroit Institute of Arts. I have a special project I'm working on and a need a few pictures of me taken in the galleries. Also, I'm going to buy a seat in the Take Your Seat program, and we'll watch Holy Motors! My friend Glenn in Toronto told me that it's a pretty remarkable film, it's French so I'm definitely down with that. I need to keep listening to French so it won't be so alarming when I travel to Paris this June.

And speaking of that, I need to listen to my Speak French cd that I bought months ago. I tried to download it onto my ipod, but it only downloaded a portion of it. When I visit Canada, they have most things in English and French, but one must really immerse themselves into a foreign language to get the gist of it to use for holiday traveling. So that's my goal in between my studies this term.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Our Government is one big Bully under the guise of justice

Like some of you, I knew of Aaron Swartz but I did not follow his activist activities closely at all. However, upon news of his death on January 11th, I soon began to learn more about him and what pushed him to commit suicide. I'm not going to pretend to know all the facts, or even try to be politically eloquent on this very issue. My vocabulary is not up to par with the essay from Aaron's friend, Matt Stoller, of Naked Capitalism, therefore I will post a small portion of his excellent, informative, and compassionate article in memory of his friend. In addition to Matt's essay, there is also an interesting RollingStone article about Swartz as well. Regardless if you supported Aaron's beliefs and actions or not, we lost a valuable human being who was very young and had so much more potential to helping society.

Just when we as Americans think we live in the best country in the world, the handling of the Swartz case is terrifying and an abuse of power. He was bullied into his death and the treatment he received from the Department of "Justice" gives me yet another pause about my country.

As we think about what happened to Aaron, we need to recognize that it was not just prosecutorial overreach that killed him. That’s too easy, because that implies it’s one bad apple. We know that’s not true. What killed him was corruption. Corruption isn’t just people profiting from betraying the public interest. It’s also people being punished for upholding the public interest. In our institutions of power, when you do the right thing and challenge abusive power, you end up destroying a job prospect, an economic opportunity, a political or social connection, or an opportunity for media. Or if you are truly dangerous and brilliantly subversive, as Aaron was, you are bankrupted and destroyed. There’s a reason whistleblowers get fired. There’s a reason Bradley Manning is in jail. There’s a reason the only CIA official who has gone to jail for torture is the person – John Kiriako - who told the world it was going on. There’s a reason those who destroyed the financial system “dine at the White House”, as Lawrence Lessig put it. There’s a reason former Senator Russ Feingold is a college professor whereas former Senator Chris Dodd is now a multi-millionaire. There’s a reason DOJ officials do not go after bankers who illegally foreclose, and then get jobs as partners in white collar criminal defense. There’s a reason no one has been held accountable for decisions leading to the financial crisis, or the war in Iraq. This reason is the modern ethic in American society that defines success as climbing up the ladder, consequences be damned. Corrupt self-interest, when it goes systemwide, demands that it protect rentiers from people like Aaron, that it intimidate, co-opt, humiliate, fire, destroy, and/or bankrupt those who stand for justice.


And the RollingStone article: Why did the Justic System target Aaron Swartz?

Swartz was well-known in technology circles for helping develop the RSS web feed format and the popular site Reddit, among other accomplishments. At the time of his death, he was facing 13 felony charges and up to 50 years in prison: Prosecutors had accused him of using MIT's network to download too many scholarly articles from an academic database called JSTOR.
Swartz's friends and family have said they believe he was driven to his death by a justice system that hounded him needlessly over an alleged crime with no real victims. "[He was] forced by the government to spend every fiber of his being on this damnable, senseless trial," his partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman said at the memorial, "with no guarantee that he could exonerate himself at the end of it."

Read more:
Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

The one question on my mind is this, couldn't someone help him with obtaining polical asylum in Canada or some other country? He was clearly being persecuted beyond reason, he was being made an example of (like many others have been). Wasn't there something that could have been done to help him? It's just such a waste.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Guest Blogger: Vera Isayeva - Totally Lost in Translation

In a recent announcement at my other blog, I asked readers that if they were interested in writing a blog article, to just email me, I'll review it and post it up. Well one reader wanted to submit an article for the Zen blog and I jumped at the opportunity. Vera lives in Russia, and as a cinephile, when she is looking for a movie to go see, she finds herself a little stumped over the title translation of English language and French films.  I look forward to posting blog articles from readers, so to start us off, here is the first Guest Blogger article:

Greetings everyone!

I am to start exploring a very interesting and sometimes quite funny topic of movies’ titles translation. Well, I think there is much more to explore in the movies’ translation field, from subtitles to interpretation itself, but a title for a movie is like a business card for an executive, makes up plenty of the first impression. Can you imagine a business card of a serious executive decorated with balloons? Or printed with flowers? Yet it happens often with titles of the movies that are being translated from its original language. In my case this happens with translation into Russian.

Of course I understand that it is extremely difficult to translate huge pieces of script from one language to the other and keep it alive (if you know what I mean) and within the right style and I respect the translators work, but some of their decisions leave me no choice but to ask :"Ah, WTF was THAT?”. I will give you several examples that puzzled me in 2012.

Firstly, some funny translations from English into Russian. Hmmm, actually, as you will see, they are not exactly translations. More like “titles based on the titles. Or plot. Or whatever came into my mind while I was translating”. I understand translations can work from the plot, but I usually expect at least some link to the original title. Maybe I hope for too much… See for yourselves.

1) Ted

I would like to begin with the most memorable one for me. I wanted to check out Russian release dates for Ted and went in search of the film to our most popular movie-related website. It took me nearly an hour to realize that I simply can’t find it! What was I doing wrong? Well, after another hour of search I had the reason. Here’s the “translation” from English into Russian and the Russian transcript (in case you want to start learning the language.)

Ted = Odd man out = Третий лишний = Tretiy Lishniy

Oh, how could have I missed it? Stupid me… Ted and Odd man out, they are just the same! We’ve all called our bears the Odd-man-out-bears of course! 

2) Silver Linings Playbook

This one I did not expect at all. I came across a Russian translation in a newspaper article and did not really pay much attention to the original English title. Then just by accident my gaze slipped on the poster on a foreign website and…here came my second most powerful “WTF!”. I would not have found it as well if I ever went looking.

Silver Linings Playbook = My Boyfriend Is A Madman = Мой ПареньПсих = Moy Paren’ - Psikh

I understood the motives of the translators of course, but still… title was made like this for some reason!

3) Lawless

I haven’t seen the film myself yet, but I intended to, and checked out its title and cast. And guess what? Another pleasant surprise for the one looking for brilliant translation decisions!!! I would not have thought of THAT in a million years to come up with the translation, if I was working only from the title, but not from the plot.

Lawless = The Most Drunken District In the World = Самый Пьяный Округ В Мире = Samiy Pyaniy Okrug V Mire

Surprised? Or not at all? well, I was surprised a great deal. Gave me quite a laugh. 

4) Zero Dark Thirty

It is not yet released in Russia, I think it comes out somewhere in the mid-February. There is also some confusion with the title. So, here’s the Russian translation:

Zero Dark Thirty = Target Number One = Цель Номер Один = Tsel’ Nomer Odin

I think that this example enables me to explain why I do not approve of somewhat improvisational approach to translation. When a director comes up with a certain title, he tells a part of the film’s story with it, and gets the viewers in a certain mood. Of course we all understand that this horrible terrorist has been the Target Number One for the US military for quite a long period of time, but the original title refers to a certain point in time, to the most important moment of several soldiers, to the tension. And I do not approve when translators and those who authorize the alterations change the titles in whatever ways they think will be more suitable for a certain movie market. I feel like I am fooled a bit. And if I did not speak English, I’ll certainly lose some part of the film’s charm or appeal for sure.

I have told you about most…hmmm…vibrant English ones. There are also ones that are somewhat arguable since there is not so much difference in meaning.

5) The Dark Knight Rises

Even here our translators managed to improvise and add an unexpected twist to the title. It is not altered much, but still it was not the way it was initially planned!

The Dark Knight Rises = The Dark Knight: The Rebirth of The Legend = Темный Рыцарь: Возрождение Легенды = Temniy Rytsar’: Vozrozhdenie Legendy

The last time I looked, the original title did not feature the word Legend anywhere. Luckily, the core idea was the same. At least I could find in the search pop-up list.

6) Inception

Here’s my favorite one, because it’s quite linguistic related.

Inception = Начало = Nachalo

I decided to give you the Russian word first because this one is complicated, since there are some options of translating it into English. It can be either Beginning, or Start, or Origin, or Source. But again it is not quite Inception! And it is not quite what they were trying (successfully and unsuccessfully) to do. But that one keeps me thinking till the present. Difficult one. What do you think about it? Do you think some of the suggested words are properly used?

And a couple of classics to end the English list!

7) Die Hard

I only recently paid attention, because I’ve been watching all the parts for some time now, and by the way my mom is just fond of Bruce Willis, but still the “translation” is not quite accurate.

Die Hard = Back-Breaker = Крепкий Орешек = Krepkiy Oreshek

But I actually like this one. It kind of fits.

8) Some Like It Hot
Hmmm, maybe you can guess this one? Unfortunately I live too far from you all to send something to you as a prize, but the closest one will be considered the most telepathic linguist of the FF society! 

(and could you promise not to look it up on Russian sites? It will spoil all the fun!) 
So, please feel free to post your variants for the supposed Russian translation of Some Like It Hot!

And here comes the second part of my list, it is much less than the first, and it is translations from French into Russian. One film is dated 2012, another back to 2003.

1) Intouchables

Don’t know their motives for messing up with the title. It worked fine for me. Well, it kind of fits, eh, but it was not the original one! (damn me, maybe I should take it easy). Anyway, see what we’ve got in Russia.

Intouchables = 1+1

No Russian letters here. It just was that way.

2) Jeux d'enfants

Aaaaaand I want to conclude this somewhat long post with the one like Ted. In the way that you would not expect that at all. Here you go!

Jeux d'enfants = Fall In Love With Me If You Dare = Влюбись В Меня, Если Осмелишься = Vlyubis’ v menya, esli osmelishsya

Bet you did not expect that, I did not for sure! A colleague of mine brought it to my attention.

So, that’s it! I hope you liked the list and the Russian words. The list is not exhaustive of course, since I only recently have started to give movie posters a closer look. I am sure each one of us non-native English speakers has a couple of those.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A First time Oscar winner, or a Third time Oscar winner?

My faith has been restored in the hopes that Joaquin Phoenix can win the Best Actor Oscar after his win last night at the London Critics' Circle awards. It seemed that Daniel Day-Lewis and even Hugh Jackman have been winning lots of awards for their best actor work in Lincoln and Les Miserables, respectively, but Phoenix has been an after thought... a name added to nicely fill all five slots. But he's better than that, and deserves more respect than the mere nominations. He deserves to win for his frank and brutal portrayal of a very self-destructive, if not insanely volatile alcoholic who is trying to find himself, and find hope for his life under the guidance of a religious cult leader. If DDL wins, it will be his THIRD Best Actor Oscar! And because he's still reasonably young, very early 50s, you know he can win maybe 2 more!

Of all the Best Actor nominees, wouldn't you really want to see this go to the most crazy and challenging performance from an actor who also could provide a nice narrative of his life on the path towards Oscar gold?

Bradley Cooper, Daniel Day-Lewis (2 Oscars), Hugh Jackman, Joaquin Phoenix, Denzel Washington (2 Oscars) 

Here is Joaquin's acceptance speech. After reading this, if you feel like me that he deserves to also win the Oscar, I hope his words go far and wide because it really comes from his heart. My respect for him as a fellow human-being and actor, went up a few more notches!

I struggle with the idea of winning awards for acting. Stating I’m Best Actor for something as subjective as film seems strange to me. To the uninitiated it implies I’m solely responsible for the creation and implementation of the character. I am not. I suppose that’s why we thank our colleagues. There are those who you all know such as Paul Thomas Anderson, to whom I am eternally grateful – a man who has persistently searched for the truth. I am fortunate to have been under his guidance. Philip Seymour Hoffman for his patience and advice. Amy Adams for being angry. Megan Ellison and everyone at Annapurna for their support of the film and ensuring that I was able to cover my mortgage. But there are many others who you do not know by name such as Mike Kenna, who I believe was the grip but he did 20 different jobs so I can’t be sure; Adam Somner, the first assistant director; Karen Ramirez in the office; Tommy – I don’t know your last name… there are too many to list. The truth is, you cannot separate my work from their’s. We were a unit bolstered by the same goal: to do our part in helping Paul to achieve his vision. I view this award as recognition of all of our work. I am very cognisant of the fact that for me this award is an encouragement to continue my lifelong passion of being an actor. I will not squander this high regard. P.S. There’s an up-and-coming actor named Daniel who’s in a movie called Lincoln. You should check it out.
— Joaquin Phoenix’s acceptance speech for the London Critics’ Circle Film Award for Best Actor (Source: charliekaufmans, via imthebat)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday night movies & a busy weekend

I'm going to go see Argo with friends tonight, I can't wait, very excited to sit with them as I know they will enjoy this film as much as I did when I saw it in Toronto at TIFF last semester. It was an incredible honor to have Ben Affleck present his film to us at TIFF, so my friends will just have to settle for film previews and milk duds. Then afterwards, we'll go to the neighborhood pub for drinks and chat for a bit. I usually go to my Bikram yoga class on Friday night, so I'll do that on Saturday morning instead.

Meanwhile, I just read the latest EMU Graduate newsletter and they announced that it's application time for a financial award program based on merit. As I'm a 2nd year grad student, one has to have a 3.8 GPA in order to qualify, and since I have a perfect 4.0, I hope I can win this honor and receive a little bit of money for the Fall 2013 semester, which will be my last semester. As I reviewed my loan status from undergrad and now graduate work earlier this week, my nose almost started to bleed. I don't want to take out a loan for the fall, but if I have to, I'll take the smallest amount. So whatever help I can get from The University Fellowship program, I would greatly appreciate it:

The University Fellowship
is a distinction of honor awarded to
select graduate students on the basis of academic merit.
Fellowship awards may range from $500 to $4,000 per year.
New graduate students = 3.6 cumulative undergraduate
Current students = 3.8 GPA in your program of study.
Awards for part-time enrollment may be based on merit and
a 3.0 GPA.
Priority is given to students not receiving other kinds of aid such as a G.A.
Awards are competitive and distributed among all graduate academic

In the past year, I have had on my mind about the Take Your Seats program through the Detroit Film Theater (DFT) which is a part of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). You can buy a seat and have a bronze plate with your name or someone else's name on it and that seat will be yours for the next 30-40 years. What a great way to memorialize someone who is a film lover right? Well I'm thinking about doing this for my late sister Suzy, who passed away in 2008 from cancer. She loved movies just like me and I cannot think of a better way to honor her for what will be for a very long time. The starting price is $500 and it goes up to $2500! But as I'm a member of the DIA and a supporter friend of the DFT, I can take advantage of a special sale of a seat for $325 only through Jan. 31st. As a poor grad student who really wants to do this, I'm going to purchase a seat for Suzy and I need to go visit the DFT to select a seat in the theater. I am anxious to do this so I may go this weekend to finalize the purchase. However, I have already planned to go next weekend to the DFT to see a film, so I may wait until then. I'm waiting for the program manager to contact me so I can schedule an appointment.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Playing the Lottery - Dreams do come true, right?

I had a dream in December that in 2013, I would win the lottery. Naturally my hopes would be that I would win a lottery large enough to not have to worry about my financial securities ever again, but not too large to become an overwhelming burden, a curse, and a target for scams and freeloaders. I think most decent hard-working people would welcome the chance just to win a few hundred thousand dollars, or just a cool million. With proper investments, the interest alone would make a million dollar win a life changing event. I'm aware that my "dream" could mean that I would win something as little as $5. I'll take it, and then turn it around and re-invest it back into my frugal lottery fund.

The way I look at it, is if you want to win the lottery, you have to play it, and play it regularly. What is $1 a week? Exactly, nothing! Instead of a pack of gum, a bag of Doritos, or a snickers bar, why not invest in a dream?

So, playing the Michigan 'Classic' lottery once a week is my goal. No harm, no foul. I pick six numbers and cross my fingers. If I don't win, again, it's just $1. In the past, I used to play the Mega-millions and "only" if the jackpot got up to $200+ million or more. The higher the jackpot, the more ridiculous the odds are against you from winning, especially if, like me, you only spent $1 on an EZpic! So instead of once or twice a year, why not weekly on a state managed jackpot that ranges from $100,000 on up? The odds would appear to be more in my favor of winning something significant, one day.

If you reply to this post with good luck wishes, and if I win a big lottery, I'll give you a gift! I promi$e. :-)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ben Affleck wins big at Golden Globes & are the Oscars still credible?

As much as I enjoy many of the award ceremonies, I don't like watching them so much in the past few years. It's usually due to the ridiculous nature of having such a strongly supported pre-determined winner that he or she is constantly winning in their category and it kills any element of surprise on the 'big night', ie., Oscar. It's boring when one person wins award after award leading up to the Oscars. And oftentimes, the person who is winning all the awards is a performance I tend to be less enthused about, and so far, the same is going for this year. However, after the Oscar nominations last Thursday, and with the disappointing snub towards Ben Affleck for his directing of Argo (btw, he also had a LEAD role in the film too so he was pulling double duty!), I'm glad to see that Ben has won his second award in two days and this time from the Golden Globes as Best Director, and Argo won Best Film!

Because I have been watching film award presentations for so many years, I do realize that as far as the industry goes, the Oscar award is THE top prize and winning that is the final testament of the recognition of supreme achievement in acting in a film, producing a film, editing the film, and directing the film, etc. To not have Ben Affleck nominated for Best Director in the Oscars this year must demonstrate now that the Oscars have a terribly flawed nomination process and in the end, the industry should start to realize that the Oscars are not the end all and be all of Hollywood's top achievement gold standard.

It's my hopes that if Ben goes on to win the Director's Guild Award on February 2nd, and if he does, this will be the first time in modern Hollywood history that an award season's most winning-est director will not have been nominated for an Oscar. So will Hollywood finally come to realize that there are other voting bodies of similar prestige and credibility that has a better gauge of the industry than the Oscars? I hope so because each year it is becoming more and more clear to me that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences are out of touch with performances, and artistic direction/creation, and has lost some of its relevance, validity, luster, and credibility quite a while ago. I thought last year's snub of a great actor took the cake, but this year, for such a well-known mainstream young actor/director to be snubbed for a critically acclaimed film, is a travesty.

Ben Affleck and his wife Jennifer Garner
So congratulations to Ben Affleck and Argo for winning at the Golden Globes last night, and best of luck in winning more awards this season!
Images: Daily Mail UK

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Film Review: Zero Dark Thirty (9/10)

Since the events of 9/11, I have refused to watch any film depicting that day in New York City. I was living in the city at the time and I coincidentally had the day off from work. I lived in the Washington Heights section, just a mere stone's throw from the George Washington Bridge. I was about 5 miles away from the World Trade Center and I will never ever forget that day. I don't need a film to remind me of what happened, nor do I want to know the artistic re-enactment of what could have happened of the planes that hit the towers, the pentagon, and hit the ground in Pennsylvania. However, I had hoped that the mastermind behind 9/11 would be caught and punished like the subhuman that he was. So I was intrigued about Zero Dark Thirty to see how the operation to find and destroy UBL was developed and ended.

This Kathryn Bigelow directed film has recently been nominated for five Academy awards, sans Best Director, and there is a great deal of controversy surrounding the accuracy about the usage of water boarding and other torture techniques of terrorists to find answers to track down UBL. What makes me raise an eyebrow is the coy manner of our government in trying to deny and denounce any discussions about the torturing of prisoners and known terrorists. Zero Dark Thirty starts off with an uncomfortable torture scene where a man is slapped around, denied food and water, slept deprivation via heavy metal music blasting, shoved into a 2x4 wooden box, and simulated drowning (ie., water boarding). The torture scenes seemed realistic and unbearable, but not head turning like the gross blood/torture-porn Hostel movies directed by Eli Roth. I also find these controversies suspicious as the award season is underway, similar to what Bigelow had to deal with back in 2009 for The Hurt Locker.

But with all this precursor information aside, I found Zero Dark Thirty to be an extremely well made film. It was entertaining in the sense that it had some intriguing espionage scenes, and several heart stopping terrorist act moments that brought home the 24/7 danger that CIA operatives and special agents constantly have to deal with. What I really enjoyed about ZDT is Jessica Chastain's character, Maya, who is a standout female in a testosterone driven environment, but she is as cool and strong as she is intelligent and tenacious. Her role could have all too easily been a male figure, so it's all the more awesome that she is the brains behind connecting the dots to locating UBL.

The final 35 minutes of the film is very intense as it leads to the most covert CIA and US Government approved operation of the past decade of infiltrating the compound in Pakistan where UBL had been hiding out. With brilliant stealth, the team of US Special Ops go in and room by room, search for him and kill any adult figure that stands in their way. Eventually, in the last room on the top floor, they find UBL and kill him, and make sure he's dead by pumping more bullets into his body. For a moment, I felt as if I were watching a propaganda film which gave me a cathartic release after ten years. The man behind 9/11 and a host of other terrorist acts the world over, was dead.

The film does not go into the events after his body was removed from the compound. Americans and millions of citizens around the world do not have proof that UBL has been killed. And although I have questions and my curiosity may be too curious for my own good, a part of me believes he is dead, but the other part of me wants proof and I'm not satisfied in the least with how the government disposed of his body and pretty much treated the populace as children by telling us, 'He's dead, we won't show you proof, now carry on'.

I respect the work and research that Bigelow and her producer Mark Boal took to create this film.  Apparently they uncovered some information that is featured in the film, which has prompted the State Department to investigate how they found their information, and who were their CIA contacts. Regardless of the controversy and politics, ZDT is on target to be the #1 film this weekend with an estimated box office of $24 million.

Grade: 9/10

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The 2013 Oscar Nominations the Good and the Rude

I have a true love/hate relationship with the Oscars. They have upset me so often with their snubs to the brilliant, and awards to the bland, that I pretty much have abandoned watching the actual live telecast to spare my blood pressure. But I do live for nomination day because like many Oscarholics, I want to know who AMPAS felt justified in bestowing a nomination upon. Here is the full list first, then my praise or criticism beneath each category.

But first off, the snubs that irk me the most is the rude absence of Ben Affleck for Best Director for Argo, and actor John Hawkes for The Sessions. I am also peeved that Skyfall did not garner even a token Best Picture nomination - and to add salt to the wound, the were nine nominated films... not ten like of the past two years. Seriously, what.the.fuck? And no love and appreciation for at least the technical brilliance of Cloud Atlas (hello? makeup bitches?) or Looper (hello? Original Screenplay bitches?).

(List copy and pasted from Awards Daily)

Best motion picture of the year
  • “Amour” Nominees to be determined
  • “Argo” Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers
  • “Beasts of the Southern Wild” Dan Janvey, Josh Penn and Michael Gottwald, Producers
  • “Django Unchained” Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin and Pilar Savone, Producers
  • “Les Misérables” Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward and Cameron Mackintosh, Producers
  • “Life of Pi” Gil Netter, Ang Lee and David Womark, Producers
  • “Lincoln” Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers
  • “Silver Linings Playbook” Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
  • “Zero Dark Thirty” Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Megan Ellison, Producers
Come on, they could not squeeze in one more for Skyfall to make it a perfect 10 film list?!

Achievement in directing
  • “Amour” Michael Haneke
  • “Beasts of the Southern Wild” Benh Zeitlin
  • “Life of Pi” Ang Lee
  • “Lincoln” Steven Spielberg
  • “Silver Linings Playbook” David O. Russell
Where the hell is Ben Affleck? Others that people are pissed off about being snubbed are Katherine Bigelow for 'Zero Dark Thirty', and Quentin Tarantino for 'Django Unchained'.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
  • Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook”
  • Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln”
  • Hugh Jackman in “Les Misérables”
  • Joaquin Phoenix in “The Master”
  • Denzel Washington in “Flight”
Too bad Dwight Henry of 'Beast of the Southern Wild' was not nominated, but my main gripe is the exclusion of John Hawkes of 'The Sessions'.  I know DDL is going to win, but it would nice to see Joaquin pull this out, he deserves it.

Performance by an actress in a leading role
  • Jessica Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty”
  • Jennifer Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook”
  • Emmanuelle Riva in “Amour”
  • Quvenzhané Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
  • Naomi Watts in “The Impossible”
Nice to see Quvenzhane, Naomi Watts nominated. I haven't seen Amour, yet.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
  • Alan Arkin in “Argo”
  • Robert De Niro in “Silver Linings Playbook”
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman in “The Master”
  • Tommy Lee Jones in “Lincoln”
  • Christoph Waltz in “Django Unchained”
The most boring category - everyone here won already. This is silly!

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
  • Amy Adams in “The Master”
  • Sally Field in “Lincoln”
  • Anne Hathaway in “Les Misérables”
  • Helen Hunt in “The Sessions”
  • Jacki Weaver in “Silver Linings Playbook”
I think Sally has this, but won't be shocked if Jacki won, or Anne 'I really, really, really want an Oscar' Hathaway.

Best animated feature film of the year
  • “Brave” Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
  • “Frankenweenie” Tim Burton
  • “ParaNorman” Sam Fell and Chris Butler
  • “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” Peter Lord
  • “Wreck-It Ralph” Rich Moore
Best foreign language film of the year
  • “Amour” Austria
  • “Kon-Tiki” Norway
  • “No” Chile
  • “A Royal Affair” Denmark
  • “War Witch” Canada
Adapted screenplay
  • “Argo” Screenplay by Chris Terrio
  • “Beasts of the Southern Wild” Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
  • “Life of Pi” Screenplay by David Magee
  • “Lincoln” Screenplay by Tony Kushner
  • “Silver Linings Playbook” Screenplay by David O. Russell
Original screenplay
  • “Amour” Written by Michael Haneke
  • “Django Unchained” Written by Quentin Tarantino
  • “Flight” Written by John Gatins
  • “Moonrise Kingdom” Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
  • “Zero Dark Thirty” Written by Mark Boal
This is where Looper should have been nominated!

Achievement in cinematography
  • “Anna Karenina” Seamus McGarvey
  • “Django Unchained” Robert Richardson
  • “Life of Pi” Claudio Miranda
  • “Lincoln” Janusz Kaminski
  • “Skyfall” Roger Deakins
Glad to see Skyfall here, but Cloud Atlas should have been nominated as well.

Achievement in film editing
  • “Argo” William Goldenberg
  • “Life of Pi” Tim Squyres
  • “Lincoln” Michael Kahn
  • “Silver Linings Playbook” Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
  • “Zero Dark Thirty” Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg
Another for Cloud Atlas 'should have been'

Achievement in costume design
  • “Anna Karenina” Jacqueline Durran
  • “Les Misérables” Paco Delgado
  • “Lincoln” Joanna Johnston
  • “Mirror Mirror” Eiko Ishioka
  • “Snow White and the Huntsman” Colleen Atwood
Best documentary feature
  • “5 Broken Cameras”, Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
  • “The Gatekeepers”, Nominees to be determined
  • “How to Survive a Plague”, Nominees to be determined
  • “The Invisible War”, Nominees to be determined
  • “Searching for Sugar Man”, Nominees to be determined
I saw The Gatekeepers at TIFF, it's excellent!

Best documentary short subject
  • “Inocente” Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine
  • “Kings Point” Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider
  • “Mondays at Racine” Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan
  • “Open Heart” Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern
  • “Redemption” Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill
Achievement in makeup and hairstyling
  • “Hitchcock” Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel
  • “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane
  • “Les Misérables” Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell
For the love of Christ... 'Cloud Atlas' again should have been considered. Hell, even Lincoln!

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
  • “Anna Karenina” Dario Marianelli
  • “Argo” Alexandre Desplat
  • “Life of Pi” Mychael Danna
  • “Lincoln” John Williams
  • “Skyfall” Thomas Newman
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
  • “Before My Time” from “Chasing Ice” Music and Lyric by J. Ralph
  • “Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from “Ted” Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane
  • “Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi” Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri
  • “Skyfall” from “Skyfall” Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
  • “Suddenly” from “Les Misérables” Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil
Achievement in production design
  • “Anna Karenina” Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
  • “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” Production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright
  • “Les Misérables” Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson
  • “Life of Pi” Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
  • “Lincoln” Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson
Best animated short film
  • “Adam and Dog” Minkyu Lee
  • “Fresh Guacamole” PES
  • “Head over Heels” Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly
  • “Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”" David Silverman
  • “Paperman” John Kahrs
Best live action short film
  • “Asad” Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura
  • “Buzkashi Boys” Sam French and Ariel Nasr
  • “Curfew” Shawn Christensen
  • “Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)” Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele
  • “Henry” Yan England
Achievement in sound editing
  • “Argo” Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
  • “Django Unchained” Wylie Stateman
  • “Life of Pi” Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
  • “Skyfall” Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
  • “Zero Dark Thirty” Paul N.J. Ottosson
Achievement in sound mixing
  • “Argo” John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia
  • “Les Misérables” Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
  • “Life of Pi” Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin
  • “Lincoln” Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
  • “Skyfall” Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson
Achievement in visual effects
  • “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White
  • “Life of Pi” Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
  • “Marvel’s The Avengers” Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick
  • “Prometheus” Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
  • “Snow White and the Huntsman” Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson
Nice to see Prometheus nominated for something. But Looper and Cloud Atlas should have been here too.

I watched this morning's nomination presentation with Seth McFarlane and Emma Stone. I thought they were cute and funny. I'm sure he's going to be a great host! But I have "issues" with Oscar, and I'm not going to watch it. Here is a selection of some of my colorful commentary this morning at Twitter:

Damn, no Ben Affleck... that hit me like an after shock, I was like...hey...HEY,... wait a minute! This pisses me off.

OH no! No Bigelow either... they are setting this up for a Spielberg or Haneke win. Scandal!