Seeing it another way

I didn’t “get” the “what color is this dress” thing.

colorI read this joke recently. I’d seen it before:

As a man was driving down the freeway, his car phone rang. Answering, he heard his wife’s voice urgently warning him, “Frank, I just heard on the news that there’s a car going the wrong way on the Interstate. Please be careful!”
“It’s not just ONE car,” said Frank. “It’s HUNDREDS of them!”

It doesn’t ALWAYS happen, but I do TRY to see things from other people’s perspectives. Sometimes, I get a compelling narrative that butts up against my own.
For whatever reason, I never warmed to the Oscar Best Picture-winning movie Birdman. One of my oldest friends came out of a screening of the film the same day I saw another film, and she had exactly the same reaction as I did.

Yet, in my visit to one of the ABC Wednesday folks, Anita from India, wrote: Five Lessons from Birdman film. Among the observations: not resting on your laurels, and dealing with your inner voice. The piece is a wonderful contemplation, and I liked it much more than the film it touted.
I didn’t “get” the “what color is this dress” thing. Fortunately, my colleague sent me this story from Wired, which describes the science.

Another colleague noted, regarding the picture above: “Put your finger in the middle – Both panels are same color. It is the fact that the angle and highlighting make you believe the top is in the light and must be darker and the bottom is in the shadow and must be lighter.”
As a result of our conversation at church about white privilege in January, led by two of our members who are, not incidentally, white, one of my white church friends decided to engage his work colleagues about the topic; the result of this is that they looked at him as though he had three heads. Perhaps another reason why our white friends don’t talk about race.
The article in Salon with the provocative title Why the right hates American history has some really interesting notations about the change in in the American English language, which were instructive:

Living in the 18th Century, the Founders never would have actually used the word “privacy” out loud or in writing… The reason is simple: “privacy” in 1776 was a code word for toilet functions…
Instead, the word of the day was “security,” and in many ways it meant what we today mean when we say “privacy…”
Similarly, “liberty” was also understood, in one of its dimensions, to mean something close to what today we’d call “privacy.”

I’m still not going to read the book, thanks to SamuraiFrog’s painful and detailed review. But Jaquandor applauds EL James’s writing process for 50 Shades of Grey. Here’s a defense of its grammar.
As a business librarian, I am somewhat concerned that Tougher ozone standards could snuff out the recovery, businesses warn. Yet as a human being, I’m very concerned that weaker ozone standards could snuff out life as we know it, scientists warn. What to do, what to do?
Saturday Night Live had its 40th anniversary special last month. Haven’t watched more than seven minutes of the three-and-a-half-hour program, and I probably won’t. Didn’t watch the weekly show much in the past decade.

Yet I found myself reading several stories ABOUT the special, e.g., ‘Saturday Night Live’: 20 Personal, Funny Tales. Not only is former cast member Gary Kroeger’s observations interesting, so is the rest of his blog; he MAY run for Congress as a Democrat from California.

I enjoyed Norm MacDonald’s tweets; my, he did not fare well in the ranking of all 141 cast members.
Dustbury cannot decide whether he’s impressed or depressed by the number of YouTube scenes he recognized.
A favorite quote of the week, from Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock Taught Us Acceptance Is Highly Logical:
“As a young black man and science fiction fan, I strongly identified with Spock’s struggles to fit in with his human coworkers as I struggled to fit in at mostly-white schools and workplaces. And I wouldn’t be surprised if other fans struggling to fit into their communities for different reasons felt the same bond.”

Oscars for 2014 films

I’m hoping to see all the Best Animated Short and/or Best Live Action Short nominees at The Spectrum in Albany before Oscar night.

2015-oscar-nominees.nph“Everyone knows” that the only reasons that the Oscars matter is so 1) audiences can go to some obscure movie and complain, “THAT was Oscar-nominated?” or “THAT was an Oscar winner?” and 2) writers can put it in someone’s obituaries: “Oscar winner John Wayne…” The Academy Awards, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, will take place on February 22.

As I’m still in movie season mode, which runs, approximately, from November to March when it’s colder, and the better movies tend to come out, I may still see a few more films before Oscar night, or shortly afterward.

I’m pleased that I managed to see the two Best Picture nominees that were released early in the year, Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel. (I’m going to link to my reviews of the films I saw, on the first mention.)

Are there Oscar snubs? Should Jennifer Aniston have been nominated for Best Actress in Cake? Should The Lego Movie, which I liked, have been on the list of animated features? Perhaps. I do appreciate this breakdown of “The Whitest Oscar Nominees Since 1995” because he names names; THIS should have been chosen instead of THAT. I don’t necessarily AGREE with the analysis.

Wow, there are a number of Oscar-nominated films this season based on real events: American Sniper, Foxcatcher, The Imitation Game, Mr. Turner, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Unbroken, Wild.

Best Costume Design

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

I’m rooting for Budapest, because these costumes defined the characters so well, though Into the Woods was worthy.

Best Documentary — Feature

Finding Vivien Maier
Last Days of Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth

Citizenfour, which is about Edward Snowden, played at Proctors in Schenectady for three days, but I didn’t catch it. Finding Vivian Meier is about this woman who took thousands of photos, discovered only after her death. I’ve seen a woman involved in The Last Days of Vietnam, a harrowing period, on The Daily Show. Wish I had seen these.

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

Interstellar was impressive, though the film itself was sometimes tedious. Sometimes they give this to the big box office champ, which would be Guardians of the Galaxy. AND it reviewed well overall.

Best Sound Editing

American Sniper, Alan Robert Murray, and Bub Asman
#Birdman, Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Brent Burge and Jason Canovas
#Interstellar, Richard King
Unbroken, Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

Best Sound Mixing

American Sniper, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, and Walt Martin
#Birdman, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga
#Interstellar, Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten
Unbroken, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee
#Whiplash, Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

Four movies in common in these categories. For mixing, I’m rooting for the fifth, Whiplash, which had a sound in the music competitions that had a visceral impact. But Birdman was good too, and based on just the previews of American Sniper, I figure the competition will go to one of those two.

Best Animated Short

The Bigger Picture
The Dam Keeper
Me and My Moulton
A Single Life

Best Live Action Short
Boogaloo and Graham
Butter Lamp
The Phone Call

Best Documentary—Short

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Our Curse
The Reaper
White Earth

I’m hoping to see all the Best Animated Short and/or Best Live Action Short nominees at The Spectrum in Albany before Oscar night, but I almost never see the documentaries anywhere, except, occasionally, online.
The best supporting players, in alpha order.

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

I really thought Budapest was quite remarkable visually.

Best Film Editing

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

Putting together a coherent story that was filmed over twelve years will almost surely mean a win for Sandra Adair for Boyhood.

Best Animated Feature

#Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya

I liked Big Hero 6, but have no real info on the others.

Best Original Song

#“Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie; Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson
*“Glory” from Selma; Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights; Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me; Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
#“Lost Stars” from Begin Again; Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

“Everything Is Awesome” is such a cheeky song. I thought the music from Begin Again was fine, and functional for the movie. Will the Academy voters throw a crumb to the fine song from Selma here? Or does it go to the dying Glen Campbell?

Best Original Score

#The Grand Budapest Hotel
*The Imitation Game
Mr. Turner
#The Theory of Everything

Though I’m a music kind of guy, I don’t feel particularly savvy at comparing scores while watching a movie, because it becomes part of the texture of the whole. Maybe this is where Interstellar will win.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

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

From the preview, they managed to make Steve Carrell look REALLY creepy in Foxcatcher. Budapest is great, but, from the ads, so is Guardians, which I’m guessing will win.

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

It could well be Boyhood, or Birdman, which I did not love, but which won the Golden Globes. But I’m rooting for Budapest, which was wacky fun.

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper, Jason Hall
*The Imitation Game, Graham Moore
Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson
#The Theory of Everything, Anthony McCarten
#Whiplash, Damien Chazelle

I suspect American Sniper will win, but I’m rooting for Whiplash.

Best Foreign Language Film

Ida, Poland
Leviathan, Russia
Tangerines, Estonia
Timbuktu, Mauritania
Wild Tales, Argentina

There were years I’d get to see one or two of these, but not this time out. Does anyone out there have any opinion on these?

Best Cinematography

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

I’m guessing Birdman, though Roger Deakins on unbroken is a name I actually recognize, so maybe that. Of course, I’m rooting for Budapest.

Best Supporting Actress

#Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
*Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
#Emma Stone, Birdman
#Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Without Patricia Arquette’s steady presence, Boyhood doesn’t work. She won the Golden Globe over three of these four women, and she deserves the Oscar. My only knock is that it’s hardly a “supporting” performance.

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall, The Judge
#Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
#Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
#J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

I’ll tell you a selfish truth: I was enjoying Whiplash being this little movie that no one heard of, but that I liked a lot. Then Simmons had to spoil it all by winning the Golden Globe against all four of these guys. He deserves to win the Oscar.
Best Actress

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

Gone Girl played for a week at the nearby Madison Theatre, but I missed it. Jones was fine but didn’t feel like “best actress” material. I never heard of Two Days One Night. Still Alice, for which Julianne Moore won the Golden Globe, hasn’t even come to town yet. Hard to judge.

Best Actor

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
*Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
#Michael Keaton, Birdman
#Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

I suspect it’ll be Keaton, who won a Golden Globe for Comedy or Musical over Redmayne, who won it for Drama.

Best Director

#Alexandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
#Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
#Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
*Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

I’m guessing this will be Boyhood’s director Linklater since he won the Golden Globes over the Birdman and Budapest. He’ll get a point for the vision thing.

Best Picture

American Sniper
#The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
#The Theory of Everything

If it were not very good, the fact that Boyhood took a dozen years to make wouldn’t have mattered. Had it been more conventionally made, with different actors as the boy, and makeup for the adults, it wouldn’t likely have had the same impact. But ever since I saw Boyhood, I was convinced it would win Best Picture. The way they vote, only in this category, is such that, if the voter thought Birdman or Selma or The Grand Budapest Hotel were the best films, but Boyhood was surely second or third on their ballots, it would win.
SamuraiFrog reviews Grand Budapest Hotel HERE. He reviews all the other Best Picture nominees, including his brilliant dissection of American Sniper, HERE.

At Central Casting, Hollywood’s Bit Players Need to Stand Out Before They Can Blend In.

The Human Seat Warmers


Birdman is “a backstage drama, an absurdist comedy, a quasi-autobiographical revelation.”

birdmanWay back on Thanksgiving weekend, I saw Birdman, or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance at the Spectrum in Albany. I really admired what they were trying to do, this black comedy about an actor named Riggan (Michael Keaton) who had become rich and famous for playing a comic book superhero, the title reference.

Now he wants to write, produce, direct and star in a play on Broadway. However, he finds himself in conflict with some of the other actors, a nasty Broadway critic, and mostly, with himself.

The scene where Riggan is walking through Times Square nearly naked (seen in part in the trailer) is quite funny, as is the superhero action sequence (likewise teased in the trailer). This is great work by Michael Keaton, who, of course, played Batman in the movies then walked away from the role.

I think the movie says some important things about celebrity, trying to be true to one’s artistic vision, and how difficult the acting profession can be on family life. The actors are all fine, including Andrea Riseborough, Naomi Watts and especially Edward Norton as his fellow thespians; Zach Galifianakis as the guy trying to keep the production together; Lindsay Duncan as the steely critic; Amy Ryan as Riggan’s ex-wife; and Emma Stone as his very moody daughter.

Eric Melin wrote, correctly, in “It’s a lot of things-a backstage drama, an absurdist comedy, a quasi-autobiographical revelation, a self-aware jab at blockbusters, a wannabe social-media age satire, and a piece of technically superior magical realism-but one thing it isn’t, is subtle.”

It has reviewed really well – 94% positive on Rotten Tomatoes, last I checked. Yet as I walked out of the theater, I saw someone I knew, who had seen the same showing of the film. He asked if I liked the film, and I said, “I’m still working on that.” He replied, “I didn’t like it.”

A couple of weeks later, I STILL don’t know that I liked it as much as admired it. Perhaps the too-positive buzz raised my expectations too high. Maybe the quirky direction of Alejandro González Iñárritu, who also co-wrote the screenplay was at times too distracting. Or maybe, just maybe, I just wasn’t in the mood for that particular movie at that particular time; it happens.

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