Best Picture Movie Marathon, Part 5

So – I’ve embarked on an EPIC challenge to watch every movie ever nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. To do so, I’ve put all the years from 1929 to 2019 into a bucket and I’m pulling out years one by one to determine what movies to watch.

5th PULL: 2016

MOVIES

  • The Martian
  • Spotlight (winner)
  • The Big Short
  • Bridge of Spies
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Room
  • Brooklyn
  • The Revenant

2016

THOUGHTS

A1+Fw58qbDL._SY606_The MartianBased on the best-selling book of the same name, The Martian tells the story of Mark Watney, an astronaut who is lost during a storm on Mars and left for dead by his crew. With any type of help literally millions of miles away, Watney is forced to put his skills and know-how to the test and figure out how to survive on a planet that does not sustain life.

The cool thing about this movie is that it doesn’t only answer the big questions – like how do you create food and water with the bare essentials around you, but what do you do if your helmet cracks? How do you survive the loneliness of being the only person on Mars? How do you find it in yourself to not give up?

As luck would have it, Watney is a trained botanist and is able to turn his bunker into a greenhouse where he grows several potato plants to help keep him alive. When he’s not in his garden, Watney is conversing with himself or his digital diary (aka the audience) about his mental health and the state of his situation.

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Back home, the director of NASA (Jeff Daniels) comes to discover that Mark Watney is indeed alive and alone on Mars, just after he organized a very public memorial for the astronaut thought to be dead. With a team made up of various scientists, PR executives and head-honchos, the NASA group quickly begins figuring out how to bring Watney home safe…and alive.

Despite the stress of the situation, The Martian still seems to find the humor in everything. Watney’s wisecracking jokes are just the comic relief we need to cope with his situation and the blunder and folly that takes place at NASA headquarters almost feels like an office workplace comedy. While this movie worked hard to be as scientifically accurate as possible, it also didn’t take itself too seriously, which really gave it a warm and almost relaxed feel.

Is The Martian predictable? YUP. But most castaway movies are, aren’t they? This is a story about man vs. nature, about the will to survive. And in movies like this, the lesson remains the same:

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MV5BMjIyOTM5OTIzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDkzODE2NjE@._V1_Spotlight: On January 6, 2002, the city of Boston woke up to the following story on the cover of The Boston Globe:

Church allowed abuse by priest for years
Since the mid-1990’s, more than 130 people have come forward with horrific childhood tales about how former priest John J. Geoghan allegedly fondled or raped them during a three-decade spree through a half-dozen Greater Boston parishes. Almost always, his victims were grammar school boys. One was just four years old…
Read the full Pulitzer Prize-winning article here.

Needless to say, this article not only shook up the residents of Boston, but the entire Catholic church. Not only did this article uncover nearly 80 priests in Boston alone that had abused young children, but also outlined how the Catholic church knew about it and tried to cover it up.

The journalists who put this article together were members of the Spotlight team – an investigative branch of The Boston Globe newspaper. This film is the story of that investigation.

When the new editor-in-chief of The Boston Globe, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), first brought up the idea of covering the abuse scandal surrounding the Catholic church to his editorial team, it was not well-received. Boston was, after all, predominantly Catholic and most of the writers on The Boston Globe were active members of the Catholic church. For a paper struggling to sustain subscribers, this was not the way to gain their trust and admiration.

But Baron was persistent and put the Spotlight team on the case. In a true testament to ensemble acting, the team made up of editors Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton) and Ben Bradlee, Jr. (John Slattery), researchers Sasha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) and writer Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) begin the journey from skepticism to revelation as they work with victims, survivors and lawyers to uncover the truth of what’s been going on behind the veil.

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The drama in Spotlight comes in a slow build to discovery, highlighting the unglamorous leg-work that goes into creating a power-house expose. Without any CGI explosions or superheroes flying in and out of frame, Spotlight was one of the most thrilling movies I’ve seen in the last 5 to 10 years.

This film is not easy to watch. It’s gonna sit in your gut for a while, as it should. You’re going to want to think about it. You’re going to want to talk about it. You may even want to see it again. There’s a reason this movie won more than half the awards and accolades it was nominated for. Not only does Spotlight break the story – it breaks the silence.


91dC4o8mScL._SY606_The Big Short: Remember that scene in The Office when Michael Scott asks Oscar to explain surplus to him like he’s 5 and Oscar uses a lemonade stand example to help him understand? That’s what I need to make sense of The Big Short.

There are two things I took away from this movie. One – no matter what role Steve Carell has from here on out, I will always just hear Michael Scott. Two – banks are bad.

Starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt, The Big Short is a biographical comedy/drama about the financial crisis of 2008, which was triggered by the US housing bubble. With almost an obnoxious amount of banking and stock terminology, this movie uses unconventional techniques to help explain itself. Various celebrities, including Margot Robbie, Anthony Bourdain, Selena Gomez and Richard Thaler, break the 4th wall to explain concepts such as subprime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations. Gosling, who also serves as the narrator of the movie, talks to the audience here and there as well to better explain the complicated plot.

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Though I didn’t understand this movie fully, I got the gist. Major banks all engaged in fraudulent, criminal activity and didn’t give a rat’s ass about it. The government bailed them out, just like the banks knew would happen, and the little guy had to pay for it all. This caused millions of people to lose their jobs, their homes, their retirement plans and their futures. And the scary thing is, it could will happen again.

Despite its heavy content, The Big Short does have a sense of humor and is actually quite funny. As one reviewer said, “This is by far the most entertaining movie I never understood.”


81Xw2kWrm6L._SY679_Bridge of Spies: I really shouldn’t be surprised that I thoroughly enjoyed Bridge of Spies. I mean, it stars my fave – Tom Hanks – dressed in retro swagger and walking to the slow, beautiful beat of a Thomas Newman soundtrack. Win, win, win.

Set during the Cold War, Bridge of Spies is a real-life thriller scripted by the Coen brothers (Fargo, The Big Lebowski). Yup, I was just as surprised as you are 😉 True to form, director Steven Spielberg tells the story of a man taking on something bigger than himself. This felt like a modern To Kill a Mockingbird story – and what Gregory Peck did for Atticus Finch, Tom Hanks did for insurance lawyer James B. Donovan.

Perhaps because of his great job performance or his ability to rock a dad sweater, Jim Donovan (Hanks) is asked by his boss to act as defense attorney for captured Soviet spy, Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance). Donovan is just asked to be a warm body in the courtroom, someone to make sure the process runs smoothly. But America’s dad is not about to sit there and be quiet without at least trying. After all, as Donovan points out, it might be in America’s best interest to treat Abel with respect, as we would want an American POW to be treated in return.

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And so, Donovan mounts a defense for Abel, fighting for jail time rather than the death penalty (which the public wants to see happen). Though Donovan’s defense is not well-respected at first, things begin to change when Gary Powers, a CIA pilot sent to take pictures in Russia, is shot down and captured by the Soviet Union.

Hanks finds the perfect scene partner in Rylance (Rudolph Abel) and the respect these men have for each other both on and off-screen shines. They may come from different places, they may be on different sides of the war, but they’re both men who are simply following orders. They both refuse to take the easy way out. There is a sense of respect in that and a friendship blossoms between the two that seems so genuine and real.

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Bridge of Spies received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Rylance, which he ended up winning.

Unlike most war films, this one had a pretty happy ending, all things considered. It may not be COMPLETELY historically accurate, but that shouldn’t take you away from it. This film is not about the Cold War, that’s merely the backdrop. This movie is about a seemingly unlikely friendship and how our similarities sometimes outweigh our differences.


flat,550x550,075,f.u3Mad Max: Fury Road: I wasn’t really crazy about Mad Max: Fury Road the first time I saw it – and I was even less crazy about it this time. In this apocalyptic world of The Fast and the Furious meets The Terminator, I felt completely lost and disengaged in the story line.

Mad Max: Fury Road is set in the near future. The landscape is dying of thirst and civilizations have gone by the wayside. Essentials in this world, like water and gasoline, are severely rationed and fought over by those few who have survived.

One of those survivors is Max (Tom Hardy), who is captured and enslaved as a blood donor for a warrior named Nux (Nicholas Hoult). When word gets out that a runner for the Citadel, Furiosa (Charlize Theron), has gone off road and abandoned her journey to Gastown to pick up gasoline, Max finds himself strapped to the front of a car with Nux at the wheel to chase her down. What follows is basically an hour and 58 minutes worth of car chases and explosions.

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For those who love action movies or post-apocalyptic fiction, I could totally see how you would love this movie – maybe even classify it as one of the best of the bunch…but this is just not my jam. I’ve also never seen any of the other Mad Max films, so take this review with a big ol’ grain of salt. Though, for what it’s worth, I did not mind staring at Tom Hardy for 2 hours!

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I can’t even imagine what the CGI budget was for this movie…especially considering pre-production started way back in 1997! September 11th and the Iraq War made it difficult to continue shooting this movie, and other projects pulled director George Miller away from this project a few times. When it was all said and done, film editor Margaret Sixel had nearly 480 hours of footage to edit – which took three months.

It payed off, though – Mad Max: Fury Road won 6 Academy Awards in 2016: Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing. It was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Visual Effects, but lost in those categories.

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When all was said and done, I liked parts of Mad Max, but not the whole. I didn’t understand the point. There were so many opportunities to get in Max’s head and better understand his rage, but I feel like those were just glossed over. For me, this movie felt like someone’s guilty pleasure – like why I might watch Legally Blonde or Rush Hour – for shear, mind-numbing entertainment.


MV5BMjE4NzgzNzEwMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTMzMDE0NjE@._V1_Room: To 5-year-old Jack, Room is the world. It’s where he was born, it’s where he’s grown up. It’s where he lives with his Ma and is a place where they can eat and laugh and play together. It has everything Jack needs, everything he knows.

But to Ma, Room is a prison. It’s where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years, raping and abusing her daily. It barely has enough space for one person, let alone two – and the only bit of sunlight to enter Room comes from a small skylight. Depression and poor health plague Ma every day and soon she comes up with a plan to escape – the only problem is that she must put Jack’s safety on the line for it to work.

Based on Emma Donoghue’s award-winning novel of the same name (which you should totally read if you haven’t), Room is not only a story about survival, but about the impenetrable bond between a mother and her son.

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Though the escape of Jack and his Ma is best seen and not spoiled, it’s no secret that they do, indeed, get out (I mean it’s in the trailer for the movie). And as is the case with most abduction cases, being free is not quite the same as feeling free. In the comfort of Room, Ma could be a provider and keep Jack safe, even if they weren’t necessarily free. But outside the walls of Room, it seems that Ma and Jack reverse roles – with Ma acting like a needy, petulant child and Jack taking on the role of protector.

Brie Larson won an Oscar for Best Actress for her part as Ma and, in my opinion, Jacob Tremblay (Jack) was robbed of his own nomination. His performance here was nothing short of stellar and he absolutely deserved to be recognized for his talents.

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The coolest thing about the novel is that Room is told in Jack’s voice, from the perspective of a five-year-old boy. I worried that would get lost in the movie version, but it really doesn’t. This is a beautiful reinterpretation of the novel and a heartbreaking study into what we actually need to survive.


51Gwyev5joLBrooklyn: If I had to describe this movie in a word, it would be ‘lovely’. What a refreshing, heart-warming and beautiful movie this is. With an almost nostalgic feel of classic cinematic works, Brooklyn tells the story of a girl named Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) and her decision to start a new life for herself by moving from a small town in Ireland to a big city in America – specifically Brooklyn, NY.

Upon arriving in America, Eilis is overcome with homesickness. Though she receives letters from her family and resides in an Irish boardinghouse, she struggles to fit into traditional ‘American culture’. It’s not until she meets an Italian boy by the name of Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen) that Eilis finally feels a sense of belonging.

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With his unmitigated charm and stereotypical Italian swagger, Tony softly coaxes Eilis out of her shell, and their relationship begins to bloom. It’s soft and romantic…intimate and fresh. It’s been so long since I’ve seen a romantic film like this and I was completely swept up in their love for each other. There are no grandiose gestures, no hot and heavy sex scenes – rather he offers her his arm when walking her home from night class and rides home with her on the bus just to simply be by her side. It’s how I like to imagine ‘the good ol’ days’ were, when getting to know someone didn’t happen over a phone or a computer, but over coffee and parlor games.

At its heart, Brooklyn is a romantic coming-of-age story about a young girl trapped between who she was and who she wants to be. Back home, Eilis has history – a mother and a sister, friends and family that know and love her. But in America, Eilis finds a future, a job, a man she loves. What’s a girl to do?

The idea of home courses through this movie and hits hard for anyone who’s ever left what they know and love for a better life. Is home where the heart is or is it the other way around? Once we’ve flown the coop, can we ever REALLY go home again? Or maybe the idea of home can mold and change as we do.


MV5BMDE5OWMzM2QtOTU2ZS00NzAyLWI2MDEtOTRlYjIxZGM0OWRjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODE5NzE3OTE@._V1_The Revenant: I’d like to just start this review by quoting Rolling Stone magazine, because I think they really said it best: “Note to movie pussies: The Revenant is not for you.”

After fur trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is injured and left for dead, he begins the harrowing and brutal journey to hunt down the man who betrayed him (oh and killed his son right in front of him). Set in the wild west in 1893, The Revenant is literally 156 minutes of torture for both the cast and the audience.

In what is arguably the most gruesome scene in the movie, Glass is violently attacked by a bear. Hyperbole aside, this was truly one of the most amazing and terrifying things I’ve seen on screen in a long time. I heard his bones break. His blood COVERED the ground below him. The bear looked so real that I had to convince myself a couple times that it wasn’t. This scene alone could have been what solidified Leo’s Oscar win, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case.

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What makes The Revenant so truly astounding is that it was shot using natural light and scenery.  Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki didn’t create a world, he brought us into our own. The cold, the snow, the wind – it was all real. The scenery of this movie almost becomes a character itself, offering a beautiful and albeit peaceful foil to the unmitigated agony that seems to plague Glass. The heavy use of panoramic shots – especially during battle scenes – literally put us in the center of the action. You don’t just watch The Revenant, you experience it.

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That brings us to my bae, Leo. Now, there’s no denying that Leo is a great actor. He’s been nominated for Oscars for his roles in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (which he should have won), The Aviator (which he also should have won), Blood Diamond, and The Wolf of Wallstreet. In what would come to be his first Oscar-winning performance, Leo is challenged to express raw fear, hatred and pain all with facial expressions, which he does flawlessly. With maybe 10 words of dialogue in this movie, Leo puts on a performance that will certainly become a pinnacle of his career.

A revenant is defined as a person who has returned from the dead or a long adventure, and I can’t think of a better way to describe Glass’s journey. His body was broken time and time again, but his spirit  remained unwavering.


OVERALL

Again, lots of great movies this year. The Martian was so enjoyable to watch that I might even have to purchase that one on one of them ol’ DVD’s. The Big Short was also a fun dramedy, even if I barely understood any of it. Mad Max seriously delivered on the action, but wasn’t really my cup of tea.

The Revenant, besides being hard to watch, was so beautifully done. Certainly worth watching if only to see Leo’s outstanding performance. While I thought Room was also a lovely movie, I think it got a little lost amongst the caliber of the other films in this category.

Brooklyn was my hidden gem this year. It was so lovely and whimsical and truly is one of the best romantic movies I’ve seen in years. Bridge of Spies was also a pleasant surprise and an interesting case study on humanity in general.

The Best Picture winner for 2016 was Spotlight, and I have to say I agree. This movie got down and dirty with one hell of a hot-button issue without resorting to rhetoric. The casting was great, the story was great, and the message resonated for weeks after seeing this film.

From being trapped on Mars to fighting for life here on Earth, these movies showcased the power of human survival and determination. Just like Mark Watney, Hugh Glass, Ma, and those crooked financial investors, we’re all just doing what we can to make it to tomorrow, holding on to life, our jobs, our health, our future in whatever way we can.

On to the next pull!

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Best Picture Movie Marathon, Part 4

So – I’ve embarked on an EPIC challenge to watch every movie ever nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. To do so, I’ve put all the years from 1929 to 2019 into a bucket and I’m pulling out years one by one to determine what movies to watch.

4th PULL: 2004

MOVIES

  • Seabiscuit
  • Lost in Translation
  • Mystic River
  • Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (winner)

2004

THOUGHTS

MV5BMWVmMmE1YzItNGUyZS00MzgwLWFhNzYtYjM4ZTJmZDVjNmNmL2ltYWdlL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTQxNzMzNDI@._V1_Seabiscuit: Seabiscuit was a lazy horse who loved eating and sleeping – and honestly, SAME. His handlers struggled to control his rambunctious nature and bad temper and his future as a racehorse was looking pretty slim…that is until the lives of three men intertwined to turn this zero into a hero.

This movie was set up like your average sports movie – a troublesome athlete with potential suffers a setback right before the big race, overcomes it, then inevitably wins. But a lot of this movie is spent introducing horse owner, Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges), horse trainer Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) and main jockey Red Pollard (Toby McGuire). The three story lines don’t even converge until about an hour or so into the film, making this one a bit of a slow starter (however, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy watching Jeff Bridges mold from a young car salesman into a dapper sugar daddy!).

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Once these three men come together, it’s off to the races, so to speak. Even though I have seen this movie before and I knew what was going to happen, my anxiety was at PEAK LEVELS during these horse races in the second half of the film. The only comic relief came from William H. Macy’s portrayal of radio announcer, Tick Tock McGlaughlin. Macy did an amazing job of throwing in corny jokes and sound effects into his broadcast and, as Roger Ebert said in his review of the film, “If Tick Tock McGlaughlin did not exist in real life, I don’t want to know it.”

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Coming fresh from the films of 1938, this was an interesting movie to kick off round four. Seabiscuit takes place during the Great Depression, with the final race of the film taking place in…wait for it…1938. INCEPTION. As mentioned in the last batch of reviews, the Great Depression brought America to its knees. The nation needed hope, joy, something to believe in – and I gotta say, I wish I cared about anything as much as these people cared about the success of Seabiscuit. This horse stood for something. He was the ultimate underdog (and I’m a huge sucker for a good underdog story!). If a lazy, bad-tempered horse from the streets could beat a thoroughbred Triple-Crown winner, maybe – just maybe – anything was possible.

Seabiscuit was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing; however, it lost in every category. I don’t think it lost because it was a bad film, I think it was just up against something bigger than it could handle. In any other race, this movie may just have stood a chance – but just like Seabiscuit himself, it got beat by a nose.


8b0411f37c3a635d9321d7052439024cLost in Translation: I’m going to say something that might be controversial but I feel like it has to be said. OK, here we go:

Bill Murray is one of the greatest actors of our generation.

OK – there it is. I said it. If you need more proof of this man’s acting abilities, I urge you to watch Lost in Translation.

Famous actor Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is stuck. While he should be in New York acting in plays and movies, he’s spending time in Tokyo filming a whiskey commercial. His time away is clearly putting a strain on his marriage and family life as Bob continuously struggles to communicate with his wife and kids back home.

Young college graduate Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) is stuck, too. Her husband of two years is in Tokyo for work and, since she wasn’t doing anything, she decided to tag along. However, while her husband flutters about with his camera in hand, Charlotte is just left to entertain herself in the hotel room. She’s visibly pained that he never offers to bring her along and even when she straight up offers to join him for a drink with a client, he seems genuinely surprised she would want to come.

Both lost in their own lives, Bob and Charlotte somehow find each other in one of the most populated cities in the world…offering each other something that seems to be missing in both of their lives – empathy.

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The characters of Bob and Charlotte are really our gateway into the insane city that is Tokyo. We eat and drink with them, we go clubbing with them. We sing karaoke with them. Like the third wheel, we are witness to their budding friendship, never included – always observant.

And even though this movie takes place in Tokyo, there is a quietness about it that adds to the intimacy of this film. The comedy is not said, but implied. It’s in simple looks, slight gestures, a raise of the eyebrow at the right moment. The genius behind this movie is that it feels so real because it is real. Movies have trained us to think that two characters who find comfort in each other like Bob and Charlotte should end up together. They should forget their spouses and just run off and be happy together – but that’s not who these people are. That’s not real life. That’s not the point of their friendship. What Bob and Charlotte share in Lost in Translation is not romantic, though it certainly had the potential to be. As I said before, it’s empathy. They get each other. They can relate to each other. They can communicate in a place that seems to disregard them. In each other, these two lost souls are found again.

If you’ve heard anything about this movie before, it probably has to do with the controversial ending, when Bob whispers something into Charlotte’s ear. We can’t hear what he says, all we see is Charlotte’s reaction. This exchange was not scripted. Director Sophia Coppola did not write dialog, nor did she record what he said. Those words were not meant for us. The entire time we’ve just been observing, watching, outsiders. This was never OUR moment to get closure, it was theirs. UGH I LOVE THIS MOVIE SO MUCH.


41zijzcMysLMystic River: In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous. In Boston, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Kevin Bacon Unit. This is his story.

*DUN DUN*

Directed by Clint Eastwood, Mystic River is a heartbreaking crime story about three childhood friends who were forever changed when one of them was captured and abused by a child molester. Now in adulthood, Sean, Jimmy and Dave are dealing with a new tragedy: the brutal murder of Jimmy’s daughter, Katie.

Though adulthood has forced these three friends apart, this tragedy brings them all together again. Sean (Kevin Bacon) is the lead detective on Katie’s murder and Jimmy (Sean Penn) finds himself turning to Dave (Tim Robbins) for emotional support – that is until Dave becomes suspect #1.

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I really don’t want to say too much about this movie because it boasts a GREAT twist at the end…so be careful what you Google before you watch it! But I will say this: In a town where everyone knows your name, you like to think you can trust your family, your friends, your spouse. But that’s not always the case.

Mystic River was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. Sean Penn took home a well-deserved Oscar for Best Actor, as did Tim Robbins for Best Supporting Actor. This film also earned several accolades outside of the Academy Awards, including Golden Globe awards, Critics’ Choice awards and won in a variety of film festivals.

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As is the case with most police dramas, we want a character to hate here. We want to know who we can trust and who we can’t – but that resolution is not offered in Mystic River. There’s no one to hate. Whether or not director Clint Eastwood intended for us to sympathize with all the characters, he achieved it. We feel for them. We grieve with them. In the quiet, unspoken moments between these three boys, we not only understand their anger, we can even relate to it. Which can only beg the question – does that make US the bad guys?


220px-Master_and_Commander-The_Far_Side_of_the_World_posterMaster and Commander: The Far Side of the WorldNothing builds character like fighting a war at sea. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World tells the story of the British ship, Surprise, tasked with taking down the French ship, Acheron. Based on two novels by author Patrick O’Brian (Master and Commander and The Far Side of the World), this film combines elements of both story lines to create an epic movie set in the open waters.

The heart of this film is the friendship of two men, Captain Jack Aubrey and the ship’s surgeon, Stephen Maturin. Opposites in many ways, these two men are still close friends who spend downtime playing music together (how sweet is that!). Their friendship actually is quite representative of human nature – where Captain Aubrey is a man of action and skill, Maturin is more intellectual and thoughtful. This is further highlighted in a scene where Maturin’s hopes of collecting a few specimens upon arrival at the Galapagos Islands are crushed by Aubrey’s determination to pursue the French warship, Acheron.

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Their dichotomy is further enhanced by their interactions with other members of the crew, specifically the young Lord Blakeney (played by Max Pirkis in his film debut), who is taking on leadership roles at the tender age of 13.  Under the command of Captain Aubrey, Blakeney becomes a courageous and impactful leader, actually commanding the deck during one intense battle. However, Blakeney shares Maturin’s passion for biology, even going so far as to fill a journal with sketches of birds and beetles. Both men try to shape this young lord in their image – and it is through this that we learn about the character of Aubrey and Maturin.

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With 90% of this film taking place at sea, most of our time as viewers is spent aboard Captain Aubrey’s ship, The Surprise. Filmed on an actual boat in a large California tank (this is also where many shots from Titanic were filmed), director Peter Weir takes us deep into Navy life on a ship – large, vast waters, grim living conditions and poor rations of food and drink. With a soundtrack of crashing waves and sea shanties, Master and Commander brings the fear and the comradery of being in the Queen’s Navy to life in amazing detail and style.

Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, Master and Commander only took home two: Best Cinematography and Best Sound Editing. Though it opened to great reviews, it ultimately lost out to another Captain Jack who took to the high seas in his Black Pearl the same year.

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With great attention to detail and character, Master and Commander deserves a spot on any list of great maritime films. This movie showcases humanity in a way that’s hard to do in most war films and features the one thing that makes every good war story worth seeing: the element of surprise.


71X6YzwV0gL._SY679_The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the KingDISCLAIMER: Okay my adoring LOTR lovers, I have a confession. I admittedly have never read any of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books and I’ve only seen this movie trilogy once in totality. As a lover of literature and the daughter of a well-read Tolkien fan, I have often thought about giving this book series a try, despite the fact that it does intimidate me a bit. In expressing concern about starting to read LOTR, I was told, “If you love Game of Thrones (and I do), you’ll love Lord of the Rings.”

As I was watching Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, I jokingly made some comments about how certain characters and plot points reminded me of Game of Thrones. How they both have an army of the dead, destructive flying dragons, how the romance between Aragorn and Eowyn reminded me of the love between Jamie and Brianne of Tarth, how similar Gimli and Tormund were, not to mention they both killed off SEAN BEAN…at first it was funny, but then it became obnoxious.

Again, I can’t quite make this argument fully as I’ve never read LOTR, but I kind of have to side with you Hobbitses here because after watching this movie, it’s so incredibly obvious that George R.R. Martin was not “inspired” by LOTR, he freaking stole it. This had me in tizzy the entire time I watched this movie, so I’m apologizing now if I bust out in another rant later on down the line!

OK, ON TO THE REVIEW!

Man, they really don’t make movies like this anymore, do they? Though Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is the third installment of the LOTR series, this movie really can stand on its own without any problem. Will those unfamiliar with The Ring trilogy be lost? Most likely. But aren’t we all kinda lost in this magical Middle Earth? Even those who have seen these movies can’t admit fully that they understand EVERYTHING. But even if you don’t, there’s plenty of action and visual stimulation to keep you entertained for the 200 minutes you’ll spend watching this film.

Image result for lord of the rings return of the king battle*IS THIS WHY CERSEI WANTED ELEPHANTS? 

Continuing the plot of the second installment, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, this final film has Frodo, Sam and Gollum making their way toward Mordor to destroy The Ring while Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and our other favorites join forces against Sauron in Minas Tirith. With freaking amazing set design, cinematography and special effects, the world created by director Peter Jackson is nothing if not breathtaking. Even if you don’t care about Frodo’s mission, there’s plenty to enjoy in the vast New Zealand landscape where this story comes to life.

Image result for lord of the rings new zealand

I really had trouble finding anything to dislike about this movie. Granted it’s been years since I’ve seen the other two films, so much of this story-line was slightly confusing, but I found I was able to follow the general gist of the movie. My only criticism about this film is that the female characters kinda fall flat. They don’t have as much growth as the main male characters and are often portrayed as soft, wispy fairy-like creatures, which I suppose is fine for a fantasy film – but they just seem to be begging for more development.

Though The Return of the King is the third installment in this series, it’s still thought to be a landmark in filmmaking and is wildly regarded as one of the greatest and most influential fantasy films ever made. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards in 2004 and won EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. It holds the record for the highest clean sweep at the Oscars, as well as the record for the most Academy Awards won by a single film.

In short, there may come a day when another film beats out The Return of the King as the pinnacle of fantasy fiction but, it is not this day.


OVERALL

Man, this was a good year for film. Each one of these movies packed a powerful story with real and raw human emotion.

Seabiscuit was such a joy to re-watch and really is one of the greatest underdog movies I’ve ever seen. Mystic River was like one long and crazy Law and Order episode in the best possible way, complete with a twist that would make Dick Wolf proud.

Lost in Translation has to be my hidden gem this year. It’s just so sweet and honest and I really cannot recommend it enough. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World was also a bit of a surprise. Had Pirates of the Caribbean not come out that same year, I think Master and Commander may have stood a better chance of winning.

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was this year’s winner and I’m torn in my agreement. Based on pure audience interest, there’s no question that LOTR was the crowning achievement in this batch – but really any of these movies could have won Best Picture. They all had heart and compassion…they all had real and relatable characters…and they all told a story of bravery and redemption.

On to the next pull!

#bestpicturemoviemarathon

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Best Picture Movie Marathon, Part 3

So – I’ve embarked on an EPIC challenge to watch every movie ever nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. To do so, I’ve put all the years from 1929 to 2019 into a bucket and I’m pulling out years one by one to determine what movies to watch.

THIRD PULL: 1938

MOVIES

  • Stage Door
  • Captains Courageous
  • Lost Horizon
  • The Awful Truth
  • The Good Earth
  • In Old Chicago
  • A Star is Born
  • Dead End
  • The Life of Emile Zola (winner)
  • One Hundred Men and a Girl

1938

THOUGHTS

MV5BNDIwODc3MDAtZWY5Ny00MTNkLTk2ZTMtYTE4NDY4NDk3MTVmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDI2NDg0NQ@@._V1_Lost Horizon: OK, BUCKLE UP I HAVE SOME THINGS TO SAY ABOUT THIS MOVIE. Based on the James Hilton novel of the same name, Lost Horizon brings to life a mythical land where peace reigns and the inhabitants live for hundreds of years. So indulgent was this idea that its name has entered popular culture: Shangri-La. Directed by Frank Capra, Lost Horizon spared no expense in creating this idealist paradise – in fact, it did indeed win an Oscar for Best Art Direction. And the hero of our story, Robert Conway, is nothing if not an idealist himself. When his plane crashes in the snows of Tibet, Conway and his team are guided to Shangri-La, where they contemplate their warm invitation to stay. In the most poignant and meaningful scene in the film, Conway meets with the High Lama (the creator of Shangri-La) to learn about the making of this mythical land. The High Lama describes a vision he had long ago, where he saw all the nations strengthening, not in wisdom, but in the vulgar passions and the will to destroy. He felt this vision was so strong and powerful that he decided to create a place to house all the beauty and culture in the hope that, once the world corrected itself, all would not be lost. Sound familiar? Just wait. The High Lama went on to describe the “outside world” as he saw it: “Look at the world today. Is there anything more pitiful? What madness there is! What blindness! What unintelligent leadership! A scurrying mass of bewildered humanity, crashing headlong against each other, propelled by an orgy of greed and brutality. A time must come my friend, when this orgy will spend itself. When brutality and the lust for power must perish by its own sword.” CHILLS. Produced during the Great Depression and released just two years from the official start of World War II, this quote must have hit just as hard for audiences back then as it did for me more than 80 years later. While Lost Horizon was not an earth-shattering movie that changed my life, it certainly is culturally and socially significant. It also shares a common characteristic with another Capra classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, in that it leaves you feeling hopeful – not just for our beloved characters, but for humanity as a whole.


516n-05J9wL._SY445_The Awful Truth: It’s a tale as old as time – boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy and girl fight over custody of the dog…With Cary Grant and Irene Dunne at the helm of this precious screwball comedy, I knew I would love it right from the start – and let me just say that the only thing more adorable than Cary Grant is Cary Grant playing with a wire fox terrier which is literally THE DOG OF MY DREAMS. This movie was as sweet as cotton candy and comedic with simple charm and quick, witty dialogue. The direction and staging of this movie made me feel like I was watching a stage play, which isn’t surprising as most of this movie was actually improvised. Should it have won Best Picture? No. But it had more heart and soul than any other movie in this list…and THAT is the awful truth!


220px-Stage_Door_(1937)Stage Door: I feel like Stage Door is what some might call “an actresses movie”. This snappy comedy had a powerhouse lineup (Katherine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Ann Miller and Lucille Ball just to name a few) and takes viewers behind the scenes of the theater, showcasing a female boarding house filled with hopeful Broadway babes. The witty dialogue is really the best part of this movie and I was quite surprised to learn how sassy little miss Ginger Rogers could be! While Stage Door is by no means a great film, I found it to be a testament to the art of ensemble acting – and really gave the impression that these women had a lot of fun making this movie together.


aafb5c7898a61cf2a32435fd715ad114Captains Courageous: Little Harvey is a spoiled brat who uses jokes and pranks to get everything he wants. However when one of his pranks goes wrong on board an ocean liner, Harvey ends up overboard and nearly drowns in the rough ocean. Fortunately he’s picked up by a fisherman named Manuel, just heading out with his crew for the fishing season. Manuel (played by a very young Spencer Tracy) ends up befriending the boy, taking him under his wing and teaching him valuable life lessons about responsibility, pride, respect and enjoying the simple pleasures in life. Spencer Tracy’s portrayal of a boisterous Portuguese fisherman earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor and his chemistry with Freddie Bartholomew (Harvey) was nothing if not heartwarming and real. In a movie about fathers and sons, Captains Courageous could have told a very different story – and I’m so, so glad it went the way it did. I gotta tell ya, the ending of this movie got me good – hook, line and sinker.


51oJRWB5WCL._SY445_The Good Earth: Well, it happened. We got to the racist one. Based on the 1931 novel by Pearl Buck, The Good Earth is about a Chinese farming couple whose lives are torn apart by poverty, greed and nature itself. The movie takes place in rural China, yet feels about as Chinese as my go-to take-out order from Golden Wok. The hero of this story, Wang Lung, is played by Paul Muni, a Jewish mid-western boy from Chicago. His soft and demur wife, O-Lan, is played by the German-born actress Luise Rainer, who somehow won an Oscar for Best Actress for basically pouting and crying her way throughout the entire movie. Every other Asian character (with a speaking part at least) was played by a white man with a BRITISH ACCENT and any Chinese actors and actresses that appeared on screen remained in the background and were not given any speaking roles. Ugh. All of that aside, this movie was truly epic in its scope, showcasing beautiful cinematography and set design, as well as a famous locust scene filmed during an actual locust swarm – which is truly stunning and horrifying at the same time. The vastness and openness of the scenery really becomes a character itself, which ideally makes sense in a movie about the struggles of farming. The small, intimate story of a man trying to provide for his family is made so by the wide, sprawling landscapes that seem to welcome natural elements that are out of human control. No matter how much money you have – how many friends you have – how many children you have – the earth, nature, inevitability, will always win.


MV5BZjMyMTU4M2YtZWVmOS00MmYwLTljYWItN2UwMjFjNTBmZmYzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDI2NDg0NQ@@._V1_In Old Chicago: When Patrick O’Leary decides to race a FREAKING STEAM TRAIN on his way to Chicago in his horse-drawn wagon (not only filled with his worldly possessions but also his wife and children), he soon finds himself hella dead on the side of the road when his horses get scared and bolt. Idiot. This leaves Mrs. O’Leary to fend for herself and her three boys in a new city filled with possibility. Over the course of several years, Mrs. O’Leary finds work as a laundress as her sons grow up, get married and become successful in their own right – that is until disaster strikes. If the name O’Leary sounds familiar to you Chicago folk, that’s because this story is the very fictionalized retelling of the night of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which – as legend says – took place after a cow kicked over a lantern in the O’Leary barn. With amazing special effects for the time, the final scenes of Chicago on fire were terrifyingly real. Roughly $500,000 (about $9 million today) was spent burning nearly 200 acres of the studio’s set – and I’m telling you, I felt like I could feel the heat coming through from the screen. This movie had a lot of what you would expect to see in a movie about Chicago – corrupt politicians, brutal police force, rampant crime and violence…as well as a few jazzy musical scenes that were a nice break from the norm. As a local Chicago gal, I liked seeing this city back in its hay day and it was fun to look up places they were talking about in the movie to see how much the city has changed (or hasn’t, haha). The streets are still a mess, the city still smells like butt holes and there are still way too many people, but you have to admit that Chicago has always had a sense of wonder about it – a hustle and bustle that seems to energize you and terrify you all at the same time. In Old Chicago, though mostly fictional, is a bit of an origin story for how this metropolis came to be – like a phoenix, born from the flames.


MV5BMmE5ODI0NzMtYjc5Yy00MzMzLTk5OTQtN2Q3MzgwOTllMTY3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjc0MzMzNjA@._V1_A Star is Born: No matter what the year, decade or location, the idea of a small-town girl watching her life disappear in the rear-view mirror as she heads towards Tinseltown is nothing if not relatable. In fact, it’s so relatable that after David O. Selznick told the story in the 1937 film, A Star is Born, it would go on to be adapted not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES. Small-town girl Esther Blodgett dreams of Hollywood stardom. While her family scoffs at the thought that Esther would rather chase her dreams than settle down and raise a family, Esther’s crotchety old grandma is actually the one to convince her to get up off her ass and quit dreaming and start DOING – which I found very progressive given the time. Old Granny Warbucks ends up financing Esther’s trip to Hollywood, where Esther heads straight to Central Casting. After she’s let down gently, being told her chances for stardom are about 1 in a thousand, she meekly replies, “Maybe I’ll be that one!” And so begins the oh so common struggle of convincing directors, producers, casting agents, and most of all, herself, of proving that she’s worthy of the spotlight. It’s only after a fortuitous meet-cute with famous actor Norman Maine that Esther is given the opportunity to shine. You know the rest – Esther and Norman fall in love, he becomes instrumental to her success and as one star rises, the other falls. Unlike the remakes that would come to be based on this original story, we don’t really see too much of Norman’s progression into destruction here, especially compared to the emotional rollercoaster that was Bradley Cooper’s recent interpretation of the role. In a movie about making movies, Hollywood is portrayed in a soft but honest light, not nearly as charming as we think, not nearly as brutal as it is. And just like the Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand and Lady Gaga movies that would follow this one, A Star is Born asks the question, what are we willing to lose for the idea of stardom? It’s a hard question for some, and almost always a harder answer.


MV5BMDM2ZGY5MDQtZTUyMS00ZTgzLTk4YWMtMWM2YjE2NWQ1Yjk3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjc1NTYyMjg@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Dead End: Sigh. CAN SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME WHAT IT IS ABOUT HUMPHREY BOGART THAT HOLLYWOOD LOVED SO MUCH? Because I just don’t see it. Based on the 1935 Broadway play of the same name, Dead End is a time capsule of the New York slums. On the East River district, the poor and the wealthy share a backyard and are constantly at each other’s throats. When notorious gangster Baby Face Martin (Bogart) comes back to town to visit his mother and childhood sweetheart, the rough and tough “Dead End Kids” come to idolize him and lots of pointless violence ensues. Filled with heavy, over-the-top New York accents and so much (SO MUCH) whining, Dead End felt like borderline cultural appropriation, if I’m being totally honest. This movie also featured the first appearance of the “Dead End Kids”’, who were all from the original cast of the Broadway play. This gang of misfits would go on to appear in several other films together, including Little Tough Guys, East Side Kids and The Bowery Boys. While Dead End is boasted as one of the great Bogart films, I found him falling flat here. This movie was just Humphrey Bogart sitting at a bar with a cigarette, staring off into space. Humphrey Bogart sitting at a restaurant smoking a cigarette, staring off into space. Humphrey Bogart standing on the docks smoking a cigarette, staring off into space. The title of this movie felt appropriate, though – as each character becomes a victim to their environment, falling back into their old ways, and ending with a proverbial dead end for everyone.


MV5BNDI2ODAyNDQzMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzE2MzI2MzE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_The Life of Emile Zola: In the midst of evil and ill intent, it seems that there is still someone willing to do the right thing. Nominated for 10 Academy Awards in 1938 and winning 3 (Best Supporting Actor, Best Screenplay and Best Picture), The Life of Emile Zola tells the story of the famous French writer and his involvement in fighting the injustice of the Dreyfuss Affair. Before we get too deep into the review, we need some background. Here’s your Reader’s Digest version: Alfred Dreyfus was a Jewish member of the French artillery. In 1894, he was (wrongly) convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment. Two years later, evidence came to light that the real culprit was a French Army Major named Ferdinand Esterhazy. High-ranking officials suppressed this new evidence and Esterhazy was unanimously acquitted after a trial that lasted only two days. This injustice inspired Emile Zola to write his famous open letter, titled “J’Accuse!”, putting pressure on the government to reopen the case. Long story short, Dreyfus was eventually exonerated in 1906 and reinstated as a Major in the French Army. But before Zola penned his letter, he was a poor, struggling writer waiting for his big break – and so begins The Life of Emile Zola. Produced after the Nazi Party had taken power in Germany, this film was a definite, albeit soft, finger pointed directly at antisemitism. I found it interesting to see how timid Hollywood was at the time to raise the issue of antisemitism, especially given the vast amount of Jewish people in the business even back then. No where in the film is the word “Jew” or “Jewish” even mentioned, nor was any reference to the religion or the bigotry of the accusing army men. Also as a die-hard Law and Order: SVU fan, let me just say that the Dreyfuss court case, as depicted in the film, was infuriating (and probably pretty true to the O.G., it sounds like). Corrupt judges, people jumping in and talking willy-nilly – let me just say that D.A. Barba would have NONE OF THAT. The depiction of government corruption, however, was first-rate. The military police did whatever they could to hide any evidence that one of their own was at fault – and the fact that every officer looked exactly the same seemed to be further proof that this was a group of men who all move and think and act as one. That being said, Paul Muni (who also starred in The Good Earth) as Emile Zola was an absolute joy to watch. I had never heard of Emile Zola before this film, and now I’m about to add his whole life’s work to my Goodreads list. The work he did to tell the truth about the Dreyfuss Affair was truly honorable – and it kills me that he died before Dreyfuss got exonerated. But the most courageous thing is that Zola didn’t do this for a friend, he didn’t do it for money and he didn’t do it for fame – he did it because it was the right thing to do. What a beautiful thing. As Zola said in his open letter (which you can read online if you want), the “…truth is on the march, and nothing will stop it”. He goes on to conclude his letter with the following: “I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the inquiry take place in broad daylight! I am waiting.” F*cking baller.


MV5BN2JlYzViNTQtZThhYy00YTQ1LWE4YjMtODY1MTVlNzMxOGJkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTk1MTk0MDI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_100 Men and a Girl: First of all, I feel like this movie could have been titled literally anything else. Googling this one gave me some pretty interesting hits – but that’s neither here nor there! 100 Men and a Girl actually turned out to be a very sweet story about a girl who will stop at nothing to get her unemployed father a job. When John Cardwell, an unemployed trombone player, tries to get an audition with Leopold Stokowski’s orchestra, he’s almost immediately given the boot. However his luck turns when he happens to stumble upon a purse filled with money on his way home. Pride gets the best of ol’ John Cardwell and he tells his loving daughter that he got the money after finally earning his spot in Stokowski’s orchestra. I’m sure you can guess what happens next. Loving Patsy decides to follow her dad to rehearsal one day and comes to discover he’s just been carrying his trombone to the local pub to play cards with his friends. After she calls him out, Patsy decides to return the purse to the true owner and explain what happened with the money that was inside. But, LOW AND BEHOLD, the owner of the dazzling purse turns out to be one Mrs. Frost, a socialite who is so rich, she didn’t even remember losing her purse in the first place. Man oh man. Of course Patsy charms the diamonds off of Mrs. Frost and her friends and is invited in for a meal. She entertains the room with her singing and then explains that her unemployed father was the one who taught her to sing. After a conversation about why there are so many musicians out of work, someone at the party simply suggests, “maybe there aren’t enough orchestras”. Thus, a Harold Hill is born! With financing from Mr. and Mrs. Frost, Patsy begins a whirlwind adventure to assemble her own orchestra, hopefully with the famed Stokowski at the helm. The relentless, headstrong daughter is played by a young Deanna Durbin, who I joked was like the “budget Shirley Temple”; however, I would later come to eat my words because Durbin had some SERIOUS pipes. Basically carrying this movie herself, Durbin proved she was both a great actress and a great singer and 100 Men and a Girl would come to be her most well-known performance. This movie also stars famed conductor Leopold Stokowski as himself and showcases an amazing score and soundtrack. Nominated for five Academy Awards, 100 Men and a Girl would only take home the Oscar for Best Original Score, which was rightfully deserved. This movie was never going to win Best Picture, but I think its inclusion in this category spoke to the sense of hope this movie offered. Clearly made for the time, 100 Men and a Girl must have been at least a little ray of sunshine for those struggling to find work during The Great Depression.


OVERALL

Man, this year was all over the board. There were some winners, some clunkers and some movies that are still sitting and percolating in my brain. I simply loved The Awful Truth, but then again I’m bound to like just about anything with Cary Grant (and a dog!). My hidden gem this year was Captains Courageous, which was just such a beautiful story about family and redemption.

Lost Horizon, 100 Men and Girl, A Star is Born and Stage Door were all entertaining, but didn’t really stick with me the way others in this list did. However there’s something to be said about these types of movies that just make you happy, especially during a time when the world was falling apart.

It should come as no surprise that some movies in this list also felt very dated, like Dead End, The Good Earth and In Old Chicago. While these movies were not favorites of mine, I can’t deny that they told relevant and meaningful stories that obviously struck a chord with audiences of the time.

That brings us to this year’s Academy Award-winning film, The Life of Emile Zola. This was a bold choice for Best Picture. This film was purposefully written in a wishy-washy type way so as to not take a side in the antisemitic war; however, in awarding this film the highest honor, Hollywood was technically saying something without saying anything. Very angsty, Hollywood…very angsty. This movie had the holy trifecta of an amazing film: great acting, great plot and great writing. Was it deserving of the win? Absolutely. Not only is this a movie that will stick with you, crawling through the folds of your brain, but it remains relevant and relatable, even today.

If there was one theme that carried through all of the movies of 1938 (besides men wearing very high-waisted pants), it was hope. Hope for humanity, hope for love, hope for success, hope for a good life still to come.

On to the next pull!

#bestpicturemoviemarathon

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Best Picture Movie Marathon, Part 2

So – I’ve embarked on an EPIC challenge to watch every movie ever nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. To do so, I’ve put all the years from 1929 to 2019 into a bucket and I’m pulling out years one by one to determine what movies to watch.

SECOND PULL: 1976

MOVIES
• One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (winner)
• Barry Lyndon
• Dog Day Afternoon
• Jaws
• Nashville

1976

THOUGHTS
Jaws: I’ve seen this movie I don’t even know how many times and it still holds up as an awesome horror film. Such a great summer blockbuster that still gets me every time! Also, I have never wanted Saltine Crackers so much as I do when I watch this movie…

Dog Day Afternoon: In a movie about cops and robbers, the amazing thing about Dog Day Afternoon is that there really aren’t any bad guys here. Everyone from the burly NYC cops to the robber who needs money to finance his boyfriend’s sex change operation (YUP – in 1975!), is extremely likable and sympathetic. This was a stellar performance from Al Pacino (no surprise) and was surprisingly funny at times. Definitely recommend!

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: This is easily one of my favorite movies of all time. If I stumble upon it while watching TV, I’ll stop and watch it through to the end. This movie takes you through a gauntlet of emotions, leaving you laughing in some scenes and crying in others. It’s truly no wonder this movie took home all 5 of the top Academy Awards (Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Directing, Best Picture) and watching it again for this project made me love it and appreciate it even more. Also Billy Bibbit will always and forever have my heart and no one can convince me otherwise.

Nashville: Well, that was 2 hours and 40 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. The best part of this movie was watching Jeff Goldblum do a magic trick. In this exact amount of time, I could have flown to Nashville, squeezed into Robert’s Western World and be enjoying some cold brews and good music. I had high hopes for this one, but, like any good country tune, it just left me broken-hearted.

Barry Lyndon: Though this movie clocks in at almost 3.5 hours, it strangely doesn’t feel that long. A stunning painting in motion, Barry Lyndon is a cynical, sarcastic and ironic character movie about a poor man who marries into money, then falls into ruin. Based on a novel published in 1844, this Stanley Kubrick classic won four Oscars in 1976, including two rightly deserved awards for Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design, respectively. This movie uses a narrator to help guide the audience through the story and I gotta say, MUCH APPRECIATED. The narration not only explains the story as we move along, but also is our key to understanding a lot of the action that happens off-screen (and there’s a lot of it). This movie really has a little something for everyone: romance, revenge, fighting, happy times, sad times, family drama, basically everything a human can go through in a lifetime because, at its core, Barry Lyndon is really about people – our flaws, our fears and, perhaps most of all, our vanity.

OVERALL
Even if I wasn’t such a fan of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I’d have to say that was the best movie of this group and totally deserving of Best Picture. An insanely talented cast and a brilliant script made this movie shine, and it really is an emotional roller coaster from start to finish. Jaws was a fun film with great special effects for the time and really did wonders in its own right for basically defining the summer blockbuster. Dog Day Afternoon was this years hidden gem and Barry Lyndon was a visually stunning movie that showcased the human condition at its best (and its worst). Nashville was a dud in my opinion. I honestly don’t even know what the point of that movie was…other than to act as a star-studded travel commercial for visiting a town that really doesn’t need the publicity.

These movies were all about humans taking on something bigger than them, whether it was a man-eating shark or a corrupt government system. And if this lot proved anything, it’s that humanity – regardless of time and place – is determined, yet fragile.

On to the next pull!

#bestpicturemoviemarathon

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Best Picture Movie Marathon, Part 1

So – I’ve embarked on an EPIC challenge to watch every movie ever nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. To do so, I’ve put all the years from 1929 to 2019 into a bucket and I’m pulling out years one by one to determine what movies to watch.

FIRST PULL: 1980

MOVIES
• Kramer vs. Kramer (winner)
• All That Jazz
• Apocalypse Now
• Breaking Away
• Norma Rae

1980

THOUGHTS
Apocalypse Now: This was easily Martin Sheen’s best performance. Also young Robert Duvall was my favorite part of this film.

Breaking Away: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. So sweet and heartwarming.

Norma Rae: SALLY FIELD YOU SKINNY BEAUTIFUL BAD-ASS LITTLE BISH THANK YOU FOR BRINGING THIS STORY TO LIFE. Also everyone is so sweaty in this movie!

Kramer vs. Kramer: I am so, so, so grateful that I wasn’t a child of divorce. This movie practically gave me an anxiety attack. But Justin Henry certainly earned his Oscar nomination for this movie (he was only EIGHT YEARS OLD. EIGHT!!)

All That Jazz: This self-indulgent movie describes itself perfectly in this quote from the film, “We take you everywhere, we get you nowhere.” HOW did this acid trip earn an Oscar nomination?

OVERALL
While the acting in Kramer vs. Kramer was certainly the best of the lot, I didn’t really think the story line was deserving of a Best Picture win. Apocalypse Now, and even Norma Rae for that matter, had much better plot lines with amazing scenery, character development and story progression. Breaking Away was the hidden gem in this lot and All That Jazz gave me serious fever dreams.

Thanks for all the chest hair, deep V-necks and brown power suits, 1980…onto the next pull!

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Merry Christmas!

CHRISTMAS

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December 25, 2018 · 8:47 am

15 Self-Help Journals to Help You Find Happiness

Whether your New Year’s resolution is to focus more on YOU or to finally (for real this time) make an effort to find the joy, it can be hard to jump in and get started. Making self-help goals are great for your mental health, but it can certainly be a struggle to figure out where to even begin.

Thankfully those that have come before us have realized this, too…and have given the reading and writing lovers among us a variety of self-help journals to help us list and doodle our way to happiness. If you’re on a mission to better your life in 2019, check out these 15 self-help journals that will help you find happiness.

happiness journals

15 Self-Help Journals to Help You Find Happiness

One Question a Day: A Five-Year Journal – A Personal Time Capsule of Questions and Answers: A simple guided journal that offers one question per day, to be answered on the same day for five years in a row.

The Mindfulness Journal: Daily Practices, Writing Prompts and Reflections for Living in the Present Moment: With The Mindfulness Journal, you can build a stress-reducing habit that makes you appreciate every single day.

52 Lists for Happiness: Weekly Journal and Inspiration for Positivity, Balance and Joy: 52 Lists for Happiness will inspire existing fans and new journal readers to cultivate their own uniquely happy and fulfilling lives through the power of lists!

Cheaper Than Therapy: A Guided Journal: Journal about your childhood, your recurring dreams, and what your relationship was like with your parents.

This Time Next Year: 365 Days of Exploration: Over the course of a year, this prompt-a-day journal will lead you to discover what makes you tick and how you can use that knowledge for greater happiness and success.

I Am Here Now: A Creative Mindfulness Guide and Journal: I Am Here Now inspires readers to explore the world with greater curiosity and find moments of mindfulness in everyday life, while unleashing your creativity along the way.

The Inspirational Journal Book: Self Help Book with Inspiration, Quotes, Positive Affirmations and Motivational Exercises: This inspirational journal book suggest various ways to stay motivated some of which include reading inspirational and motivational quotes, listening to certain types of music, coloring mandalas, using positive reaffirmations and so on.

Practice You: A Journal: Practice You is a portable sacred sanctuary to record our flashes of insight, find our ground, create and clarify our goals, and bear witness to our own evolution.

Let That Shit Go: A Journal for Leaving Your Bullshit Behind and Creating a Happy Life: With Let That Sh*t Go, you’ll find moments of profanity-laced catharsis and joy through journaling activities and inspirations that are positive as f*ck.

Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration: Start Where You Are is an interactive journal designed to help readers nurture their creativity, mindfulness, and self-motivation.

Good Days Start with Gratitude Journal: Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude: Good Days Start With Gratitude is a 52 week guide to cultivate an attitude of gratitude! It is a self exploration journal designed to focus on being thankful for what we have, the big things in life, as well as the simple joys.

Claim Your Power: A 40-Day Journey to Dissolve the Hidden Blocks That Keep You Stuck and Finally Thrive in Your Life’s Unique Purpose: Identify and dissolve whatever’s holding you back, break free from trauma and victimhood, and transform your life. Not only will you change your life for the better, but in doing so, you’ll improve the lives of the people you love.

Present Not Perfect: A Journal for Slowing Down, Letting Go, and Loving Who You Are: A beautifully illustrated guided journal that helps women slow down and enjoy life rather than pushing for perfection.

Zen as Fuck: A Journal for Practicing the Mindful Art of Not Giving a Shit: Journal your way through positive affirmations and cathartic-as-f*ck activities on your liberating journey toward something pretty close to happiness.

How to Be Happy (or at Least Less Sad): A Creative Workbook: Through a series of supportive, surprising, and engaging prompts, this journal helps readers see things in a new light, and rediscover simple pleasures and everyday joy…or at least feel a little less sad.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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