Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oscar Compulsions and the sad decline of Billy Crystal's career

Every year I know I'll be bored, annoyed, confused and irritated. Yet, every year I compulsively watch the Academy Awards.

I was bored, as was most of the celebrity audience, judging by their painted-on, tolerant half-smiles at the antics of the sadly over-used Billy Crystal. He was terrible. Way back on "Soap", he was quite talented, and brought many amusing comical roles to life over the years. And I understand he was the favorite host for a long time, but he is WAY past his prime and seemed to be recycling all the bits that worked 10+ years ago, and they just didn't work. It was sad, his face looked odd, extremely made-up, and he just sort of embarrassed himself. Or should have...

I was annoyed by the opening montage featuring Crystal superimposed into scenes from some of 2011's big films. It wasn't nearly as good as it ought to have been.

I was confused by a few of Crystal's "jokes" and even moreso by Angelina Jolie's awkward, forced, thigh-baring pose, both onstage and (as I found in a photo online) on the red carpet. Weird. I guess it's gone all viral and her leg keeps showing up in all kinds of places now. What a strange world we live in.

And I was irritated by Crystal's phoned-in, obnoxious and unfunny performance.

But, as I've done nearly every year since I was a girl, I watched the whole thing... As my husband said, "that's three hours I'll never get back".

It wasn't all bad. I laughed at Will Farrell and Chris Rock, and I found Robert Downey, Jr.'s antics amusing. The acceptance speeches were mercifully short and non-political. Oh, and Tom Cruise? Looking good! He hasn't looked that good in years-- I almost thought I was back in Jr. High... well, not really, but he did look great. What else was positive... Oh! Meryl Streep! She was classy, poised, witty, and lovely. I was glad she won. I was equally glad that Glen Close didn't win... because I hate her. But I was looking for positive, wasn't I? Okay, let's see... the only presenter in a painfully horrible dress was Jennifer Lopez... most of them were actually rather lovely this year. Lopez was by far the worst dressed. Need I say more? Hideous. And it made her look 40 pounds heavier than she probably is. Ugh.

I have to say, the women's movement took a rather large side-step into the gutter last night. Really, we don't have to have women prove on international TV that we can be just as dirty, nasty, trashy and disgusting as men, do we?? The bits with Melissa McCarthy from "Bridesmaids" were tacky and unfunny. And I loved her on "Gilmore Girls". Bah. The six women from that movie presenting was fine, except that they became idiot caricatures discussing male genitalia, playing a drinking game (a gag that fell flat on its moronic face) and basically just acting like college-age men!

Wrapping up, there were ups, like (most of) the gang from "A Mighty Wind" and other films doing a focus group sketch of old timey folks watching "The Wizard of Oz". It was amusing.

And Christian Bale ignoring Crystal's tacky jab at his f-bomb-laden-rant a while back was nice. He looked good, he just did his presenting job and walked away, no reaction whatsoever. I would have wanted to roll my eyes and say "get over it", but I'm glad he didn't. As terrible as his behavior on that audio recording was, (remember, he screamed and cussed at a crew member for walking into a scene and ruining it? Yeah, that was major bad form, but it was also 3 years ago and everyone has off days, even the famous...) I hate it when one mistake forever labels or pigeon-holes a person, whether in Hollywood or real life. Zingers are zingers, but Crystal wasn't even funny, so his jabs (not just at Bale, there were others) were poorly-timed attempts at humiliating his peers rather than friendly all-in-good-fun jabs. Anyway, Bale looked good and sounded good and I wished he had had more to do on Oscar night and that Crystal had had less. Lots less.

Another great moment was when Christopher Plummer won. He said (to the statue), "You're only two years older than me. Where've you been all my life?" And that he would share it with Ewan McGregor "If I had any decency, but I don't". He was witty and I was glad he won.

And there were many, many downs. I'm not sure where Cirque du Soliel falls. Some of their performance was amazing, but it didn't really belong, and I missed having the nominated songs played, even though I often don't care for them...

And here we are again, the Oscars are over, I have a short list of movies to watch and another list to avoid...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Your Brain = Awesome!

National Geographic is very popular at our house. Though we don't currently subscribe to any of their magazines, we have over the years spent time subscribing to three of them. The standard version, the kids' version and Nat. Geo. Explorer, which was our favorite. We also really liked the National Geographic channel when we had it on satellite a few years ago. They are a trusted source for educational, informational programming and their new DVD release, "Brain Games" lives up to their reputation.

The show is broken into three episodes. The first, titled "Watch This" features optical illusions, challenges and tricks that illustrate how single-focus our brains really are. Even those who think they are great at multi-tasking are really only able to focus their attention on one task at a time. I loved the scenes featuring sleight-of-hand illusionist Apollo Robbins- it's amazing what we don't notice! This was my favorite of all the episodes, though it is frustrating to try and grasp why two squares of the same shade of gray look totally different just because of the shading at the crease. I know they're the same color, why does my brain still tell me they aren't? Weird stuff.

The second episode is called "Pay Attention". The website tag for this episode says, "When it comes to mastering — and manipulating — attention, some of the world's leading experts aren't scientists; they're magicians." I may be mixing up the episodes, but I think this one had sensory cues that the brain understands, including sounds made by foley artists.

The best episodes are the two on the first disk. The third episode, "Remember This!" slowed the pace and the focus wasn't as interesting to my family, though some of that may be due to the fact that we had already watched two hours on the first disk and our own brains were just... done by the time we watched the third. In it, there is a staged crime, witnessed by 8 or 10 people, all of whom have different memories of what happened, and much of the episode is spent discussing it. I was surprised to learn how unreliable eyewitness reports really are, but it was long and boring and I lost interest by the end.

It's worth checking out, and though you may have seen some of these "games" before, you will likely learn something new as well! Oh, and it's narrated by Neil Patrick Harris, so that's pleasant as well!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Honor and Courage

A few nights ago, my husband and oldest son and I watched the newly-released-on-DVD film "Courageous", which was made by the people who made the movie "Fireproof" a few years ago. I enjoyed "Fireproof" for what it was-- a good movie about marriage and saving it-- it was moving and I enjoyed seeing Kirk Cameron again. I had a poster of him on the back of my bedroom door when I was about 12 years old...

My dad recommended "Courageous", telling us that it has a really good message, especially for fathers. So we watched it. It really was very good-- it was touching, inspiring and moving. It made me cry (which, according to my kids, isn't hard to do... but still...) If you don't know what it's about, I'll let you read the synopsis on the site-- follow the link above. 

My favorite character was Javier, who comes into the story part of the way through the movie, and isn't in the group on the cover of the movie, but he was the highlight of the show-- sweet, honest, hardworking, and prayed often. He worked hard and struggled and I found his character to be the most authentic. 

I was especially moved by the declaration the men all sign and commit to-- saying they are "doubly accountable" now as fathers and husbands. I think it's high time for fathers everywhere to truly take up the mantle of fatherhood- take it more seriously and honorably work hard to be not just "good enough" but to really try to live up to God's expectations of them as fathers and as men. This film is an excellent starting place. Watching these characters take responsibility and control of their lives is inspiring.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Brain Association

Ramin Karimloo as The Phantom -
Photo Credit Catherine Ashmore
It's early in the morning (for me) and my brain is playing "Word Association". Last night I got an email from my dad informing me that he would be giving me a copy of the new 25th Anniversary concert version of "The Phantom of the Opera", to which I reacted with three excited, increasingly high-pitched gasps and an inner squeal of glee. I do so love musical theater... and the film version of Phantom was decidedly atrocious, so I can't wait to see actual theater performers take a turn. I adored the recent concert version of "Les Miserables", and I am now edge-of-my-seat excited to watch "Phantom". Plus, I looked up some details about it, and it stars Ramin Karimloo, who played Enjrolas in the aforementioned "Les Mis" (truly, he should have played Marius, but... I digress...)

So here's what my brain is doing this morning. I woke up extra early and drove my son to his job shadow assignment. Afterwards, I thought I might sleep a tad longer until I really have to get up. Not so much. Instead, my brain did this:
"Phantom of the Opera"-- Karimloo-- kangaroo-- Australia (the country, not the film)-- Hugh Jackman-- Wolverine-- superheros-- The Avengers-- summer-- sunshine-- my garden-- tomatoes-- dinner tonight-- work schedule-- I'd better get up...

I assume most people's brains work in much the same way. It's the story of insomnia, isn't it? Your brain shifts quickly from one topic to another, not allowing you to sleep? 

So, I'm up. My brain is crammed with thoughts of movies and musicals and Hugh Jackman... looks like it might be a good day after all. :)