American Sniper

American Sniper

I really had a hard time finding the motivation to see American Sniper. It is the type of movie I avoid as best I can. I do not typically enjoy movies about war. That is especially true of films about any wars that have taken place throughout my lifetime. My first and foremost issue is that I do not find them entertaining. And by entertaining, I mostly mean funny. It is difficult to find very much amusing about the never-ending warfare in the middle east. Beyond that there is just so much beige, and that, in and of itself, is unappealing.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. I found parts entertaining and even uplifting. Yes, there was plenty that was disturbing and heartbreaking about the film, but I did not leave the theater feeling exhausted and depressed like I often do after movies about modern wars.

Bradley Cooper did a fantastic job in his portrayal of Chris Kyle. He was charming, as expected, but also convincingly expressed the experiences of war from a different perspective than we often see.

I think a tremendous benefit to the film was the casting of Jake McDormand. I did not know that he was in the film before I went to see it. As soon as I saw him, I breathed a sigh of relief because I knew that I would be, at least periodically, entertained. His character, Biggles, was the highlight of the film for me. He brought light to a film about a dark subject matter in the same way, I can only assume, Ryan “Biggles” Job did for these men in real life.

The story is powerful. No matter you opinions on war, on sniping, or on the state of our country in general. A subject matter I do not make a habit of tackling on this blog or in my life in general, but an important one for sure. If you are resisting seeing the film because you think it will be a downer, know that this is not the case. The film was entertaining and uplifting while dealing with issues many of us choose to avoid when it comes to entertainment.

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The Theory of Everything

Theory

The Theory of Everything is a biographical look at the life of Stephen and Jane Hawking. The film is based on the book Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Wilde Hawking.

This is a movie that I had been wanting to see for a while. I find Stephen Hawking fascinating. I understand very little of the science (I have never put much effort into understanding science), but I think people who can change the world by solving one math equation have to be pretty interesting people. Beyond that, I love his sense of humor. Stephen Hawking will pop up on shows like The Big Bang Theory from time to time and, playing himself, has some of the greatest one-liners of the series.

I thought the film really captured what I know to be true of the physicist, adding the dynamic of Jane, who I knew almost nothing of. The story was both sweet and devastating, triumphant and heartbreaking.

I was blown away by the performances, which is not something that happens to me very often. I am often happy with performances, or even pleasantly surprised, but rarely blown away. Felicity Jones, is as lovely as ever. I think she is truly one of the greatest actresses of my generation. She is wonderful in everything. This is a particularly difficult character, I would say, for reasons I would rather not say to prevent spoiling even the slightest of plot points, but she tackles it with courage and grace. Eddie Redmayne, who won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama, is stunning. I have never been thoroughly impressed with him before, but this role changes that for me. The physicality of the character is truly incredible, but more than that is the fact that he does not speak for almost half of the film, but still brings such personality to the character that I never felt the loss.

Another area is one that I rarely think of when it comes to film. That is music. I rarely think about music unless I am specifically asked to think about it. During this film, I noticed and really felt the addition of the music. It was sweet and simple and reminded me of this mathematical music that I encountered during a production where the musician turned Pi into the most beautiful song I have ever heard. That is what the score to this film sounds like, and it was perfect.

I highly recommend this film and am very excited to see how it fares as the awards season closes this weekend.

My Funny Valentine

We are a mere day away from Valentine’s Day and so in honor of that I asked the group to submit their favorite Romantic Comedies. Some are more romance than comedy, and some more comedy than romance. Some may require a box of tissues because the ending is more heartbreaking than “happily ever after” and some may require a box of tissue because you are laughing so hard that you are crying. So here is the list I have compiled, broken into categories to make it easier to find what you are looking for this year. Each is complete with links to IMDb so you don’t get the 2005 Pride & Prejudice starring Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley confused with the 1995 Pride and Prejudice starring the one and only Mr. Darcy, Colin Firth, and Jennifer Ehle.

Based on a Jane Austen novel:

Pride & Prejudice

Clueless (1995)

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Sense & Sensibility (1995)

Emma (1996)

Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001)

Based on a Novel:

The Notebook

Anne of Green Gables (1985)

The Princess Bride (1987)

Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)

The Notebook (2004)

P. S. I Love You (2007)

Old School:

Breakfast at Tiffany's

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

To Catch a Thief (1955)

High Society (1956)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Charade (1963)

The Essential 80s:

Sixteen Candles

Sixteen Candles (1984)

The Breakfast Club (1985)

The Sure Thing (1985)

Say Anything (1989)

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

The Golden Age of Rom-Com:

You've Got Mail

Pretty Woman (1990)

My Girl (1991)

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

While You Were Sleeping (1995)

The American President (1995)

My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

The Wedding Singer (1998)

You’ve Got Mail (1998)

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Never Been Kissed (1999)

21st Century Classics:

How to Lose A Guy in 10

Sweet Home Alabama (2002)

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

Love, Actually (2003)

13 Going on 30 (2004)

The Holiday (2006)

Sydney White (2007)

Definitely, Maybe (2008)

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

He’s Just Not That Into You (2009)

Bridesmaids (2011)

A Little Quirky

Moonrise Kingdom

Benny & Joon (1993)

Amelie (2001)

Just Friends (2005)

Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

Juno (2007)

WALL-E (2008)

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

Midnight in Paris (2011)

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Academy Award Winners:

Shakespeare in Love

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Annie Hall (1977)

Forrest Gump (1994)

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

And now for something completely different:

Jennifer's Body

Chasing Amy (1997)

High Fidelity (2000)

Jeux d’Enfants (2003)

Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

And there you have it. Hope you all have a fantastic Valentine’s Day!

I’d like to thank the Academy…

Academy Awards 2015

In case you have not yet figured this out, I am a huge movie fan. From the date the Academy Awards nominees are announced until the evening of the show, I am doing my best to see as many of the nominees as possible. This year, I am going to post about each of them I am able to see. I have a list narrowed down at this point that includes that include the movies that swept the nominations as well as films from the specific categories that are the most important to me. Included in this post, will be the links to all of the posts about nominated films I have seen so far this year.

And the Nominees are:

Best Picture

Lead Actor

Lead Actress

  • Two Days One Night (Marion Cotillard)
  • The Theory of Everything (Felicity Jones)
  • Still Alice (Julianne Moore)
  • Gone Girl (Rosamund Pike)
  • Wild (Reese Witherspoon)

Best Supporting Actor

  • The Judge (Robert Duvall)
  • Boyhood (Ethan Hawke)
  • Birdman (Edward Norton)
  • Foxcatcher (Mark Ruffalo)
  • Whiplash (J.K. Simmons)

Best Supporting Actress

  • Boyhood (Patricia Arquette)
  • Wild (Laura Dern)
  • The Imitation Game (Keira Knightley)
  • Birdman (Emma Stone)
  • Into the Woods (Meryl Streep)

Best Cinematography

  • Birdman (Emmanuel Lubezki)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (Robert Yeoman)
  • Ida (Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski)
  • Mr. Turner (Dick Pope)
  • Unbroken (Roger Deakins)

Best Costume Design

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (Milena Canonero)
  • Inherent Vice (Mark Bridges)
  • Into the Woods (Colleen Atwood)
  • Maleficent (Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive)
  • Mr. Turner (Jacqueline Durran)

Best Director

  • Birdman (Alexandro G. Iñárritu)
  • Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
  • Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
  • The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum)

Best Film Editing

  • American Sniper (Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach)
  • Boyhood (Sandra Adair)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (Barney Pilling)
  • The Imitation Game (William Goldenberg)
  • Whiplash (Tom Cross)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • Foxcatcher (Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White)

Best Production Design

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock)
  • The Imitation Game (Production Design: Maria Djurkovic; Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald)
  • Interstellar (Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis)
  • Into the Woods (Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock)
  • Mr. Turner (Production Design: Suzie Davies; Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Best Original Screenplay

  • Birdman (Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo)
  • Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
  • Foxcatcher (E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness)
  • Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)

Best Visual Effects

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick)
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould)
  • Interstellar (Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher)
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past (Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer)

This is not a complete list of the nominees, just a list of the films I intend to see and the categories for which the are nominated.

Top Ten Thanksgiving Foods

For this addition of Adventures with Friends, I polled the group to determine what were the all time best Thanksgiving foods. There were some that were new to me, some that have never been absent from my Thanksgiving table. Here is the ranking:

10. Stove Top Stuffing: Not everyone’s cup of tea, for sure, but the familiar taste of un-messed around with Stove Top stuffing can be one of the most comforting comfort foods I have ever known.

9. Dinner Rolls: On a holiday that is all about the carbs, what can be better than bread itself?

8. Mashed Sweet Potatoes: When plain ole potatoes are no longer enough. It seems like every dish made of traditional potatoes now has a sweet potato counterpart that is quickly rising up the list of Thanksgiving favorites.

7. Sweet Potato Casserole: Another sweet potato favorite. Though some might say this is the dish that brought sweet potatoes to the table in the first place.

6. Potato Casserole (Also known as Party Potatoes): Potatoes, cheese, what more could you ask for?

5. Green Bean Casserole: The only honest to goodness vegetable to make the list, though by the time you are done it hardly looks like a vegetable. Exactly how Thanksgiving was meant to be.

4. Homemade Stuffing: Some would argue that it is not quite as good as Stove Top (just me then?), but for those who prefer ingredients that don’t come from a dehydrated box, homemade stuffing is the way to go.

3. Turkey: The traditional main dish. When you think of Thanksgiving, you think of turkey. There is no denying that. However, tradition does not seem to be enough for the old bird to win Thanksgiving.

2. Mashed Potatoes: Of all the potatoes that made the list. The old fashioned mashed potatoes are still the king of potatoes.

And the winner is…

1. Pumpkin Pie: I will admit, this one is my all time favorite. Clearly, I am not alone. If I had to forego every other item on the Thanksgiving menu for pumpkin pie, I would happily do so.

See You Next Week

Hey all,

I just wanted to let you know that I will not be posting this week because I have a show that I need to finish before I head out of town to put up at the end of the week. I hope to be back next week Monday, but it may be Wednesday depending on how the trip goes. I figured I would give everyone advance notice this time rather that just disappearing for a while.

See you next week!

To Soon?

The subject of when to put up Christmas decorations always seemed like a clear answer to me. After you finish all your Black Friday shopping, you take a nap (because you woke up around 2am) and then you turn on the Christmas music and decorate the house. From then until New Years, it is Christmas time.

For the last several years, it seems like the timeline keeps creeping forward. Black Friday shopping starts on Thanksgiving day. Most stores are now open at 6pm on Thursday, though some are open as early as 6am on Thursday morning. There use to be a magical moment when you would go shopping the day after Thanksgiving and suddenly everyone had Christmas stuff everywhere. Christmas came over night. Now it is far less magical. Christmas comes gradually. Some stores put everything out the day after Halloween. Some stores start in early October. Hobby Lobby starts in July.

I totally get that people decorate their homes on the day after Thanksgiving and therefore stores should begin selling decor prior to Thanksgiving. I also understand that the retail industry needs to pull out all of the stops in order to make their Christmas sales goal, but by bringing Christmas out too early, are we missing out on the holidays that fall has for us? Does the greedy side of Christmas overshadow Thanksgiving. Be thankful for everything you have, buy going out and buying more that you could ever need? Not to mention us suckers who miss out on the holiday all together because we are being forced to work on one of the most major holidays of the year.

I get being prepared for Christmas. Some think that by getting the shopping done early, you then have time to enjoy the holidays. And I can totally see that. Though for me, shopping is one thing that makes Christmas so special.

Christmas is my all-time favorite time of year. I love shopping for other people. I love the cold weather. I am still happy when it snows in March. I love that everything is festive and covered in glitter and lights. I love that everyone dresses up. I love that you see the family members that you haven’t seen in a year. I love that people make a point to see each other. I love the magic of Christmas that no other time of year can replicate. I say that I wish it was Christmas all year round, but wouldn’t that take away the feeling when you finally get to unpack all of the decor, turning on the music, watching your favorite movies?

I think the general consensus is that it is fine for the stores to start getting prepped early as long as they don’t overshadow the holidays that come before Christmas. Halloween and Christmas do not mix. Remember to be thankful for everything you have before rushing out to buy everything you don’t. And whenever you want to start celebrating Christmas, go for it, just be fair to those who like to wait. And a special request from one of my contributors, please only have your Christmas lights up from Black Friday through the week after New Years. People can avoid the stores, but they cannot avoid their own street.

Happiness Is… Using Your Brain

I have been out of school for two years now. The last time I was out of school for this long, I went back. I miss it. Not the politics of academia, but just sitting in a room of people discussing ideas and expanding my knowledge on topics that I do not tend to seek out on my own.

This month, I want to bring a little of that back into my life.

My goals for the month are to:

Read a non-fiction book. I love fiction. I could read fiction all day, especially anything that could be qualified as Chick-Lit. I do not make a habit of reading non-fiction despite the fact that I enjoy learning about new topics.

Read the news daily. I really hate the news. I don’t know why. Probably because it is so depressing. But I also hate not knowing what is going on in the world. I have subscribed to an email list called The Skimm, which I absolutely love. It takes all the news from the day and gives you the highlights in a condensed version. I try to read it every morning, but I have been slacking.

Read the articles in Vogue and Vanity Fair rather than just looking at the pictures. I love magazines, but I pretty much read a magazine for two reasons: entertainment news and fashion pictorials. These “fashion” magazines also have really incredible articles, but I rarely read them. I usually only look through them when I have a few minutes and am trying to unwind my brain rather that use it.

That’s it. That is the plan for November. I will be sure to let you know how it goes at the end of the month.

Happiness Is… Making Time: Part II

Happy Halloween! Since it is the last day of the month, I am posting my report on this month’s Happiness Project. To see the Halloween themed post, check out What’s Your Favorite Scary Movie? from earlier this week.

This month, my plan was to make more time to do things that made me happy vs. working all the time. I do feel like I was able to make time for myself. My work schedule has slowed a bit and given me more time for other things. Like leaning out my email inbox and reading articles that I have been saving until I had time to read them.

As far as the specific goals I set for this month:

Getting back into a blogging routine. I did not do a great job of actually posting. I had limited access to wifi for about a week and wasn’t really able to post, but I did get my thoughts organized and came up with a plan of action for the next few months, so hopefully you all will see that coming through here shortly.

Read a book. I did not even crack a book this month. I read a few scripts for work, but that is in no way the goal I had. I just was not in a book reading mood this month. And since this month was all about taking more time to do what I wanted to do, I didn’t try too hard since the inspiration never came. I did come up with a reading list for the next few months so that when I have enough brain power to read a book, I know where to start. I did start watching a YouTube series that was based on one of my favorite books, which was very good, so that’s sort of the same thing, right?

Clear off my To Do List. This was a very successful goal. I got a lot done this month. I worked on and updated my budget, I wrote my syllabus for the class I am teaching next semester, reorganized my filing system, and got my supplies organized for the run of the show I opened this month.

I know that everyone relaxes in their own ways, for me, organizing is the number one thing I can do to alleviate stress. If I feel like I can head into the next few months with everything already setup and organized, I feel totally stress free.

So here we go, the holiday season is coming and I am totally prepared. Which is a good thing because I also have a retail job on the side, so I will obviously be spending a lot of time there in the next couple of months… hopefully I am prepared enough to stay on top of everything while the retail industry is in all hands on deck mode.