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I sing like this it sounds worse than it is…

‘The morning’s hot and harsh,
my notebook fills itself.
The words come thick with sweat,
it feels like someone else
is writing all of this,
someone I just can’t believe.
when I mop my brow,
set my pen back down,
it’s still me, still me.

And I’m grabbing at a feeling now
that I can’t ever name.
Some sign post to remind me
how I wanted things this way.

And she said, it’s pretty
but you hate yourself,
I can hear it clear as day.
And I say, I sing like this,
it sounds worse than it is.
I’m okay, okay.’

I’m in a funk again. I feel stagnant. A sense of isolation – partially by circumstance and partially because of this funk. I can’t fully articulate what I’m searching or hoping for, but I keep trying to tell myself that I’m ok. It isn’t that bad…

I’m watching my friends find their paths in lives – new jobs, amazing internships, study abroads, new loves; and I am happy for them. Sure, they still have their ups and downs, but they still seem to have found some spark of happiness: some sense of direction. It makes me question my own life and what is making mine so different – where did I go wrong in my life path and what can I do to start moving forward again?

I remind myself that there have been some positives over the last few weeks that have a possible promise of a future change, but it just perpetuates this waiting game and allows the air to become more stagnant and the ennui to grow.

This probably sounds like a bad idea, but when I get in moods like this, I prefer to surround myself with music that matches my mood. It seems like some happy fluff tune would be a better idea to lift spirits, but I guess for me the old cliche is true; misery loves company.

*Sorry for the downer post. I’ll try to be more upbeat in my next one. Maybe the sad, yet hilarious anecdote about my experience as a child with the tooth fairy and my current ridiculous nightmares relating to teeth.


Hungah Gamez!

EW has a first look at Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss from the Hunger Games!

Hunger Games is a story about a futuristic society with a lottery system that pits children in a rink to fight to the death for the entertainment of the whole society.

If you didn’t already know, I’m pretty excited about this movie. Now if they’d just get around to making Ender’s Game a movie…

*Update: Supposedly, and Ender’s Game movie is back on. This is what? Like the 20th attempt?

My heart is in Texas

I love sun. I love my family. I love Texas.

Based on those three statements, it is pretty easy to guess that I enjoyed my most recent trip to Midland, Texas. My only complaints? Too short. Between my early morning flights and staying up late to cram in as much awake time as possible with my family, I came back as one tired chica. My other complaint? No Caitlin. Since my niece was born two years ago, we’ve tried to make it an annual trip to visit around the time of her birthday, but Caitlin’s work schedule kept her from joining this year. We’ll have to make up for it soon with another visit.

My trip officially began around 1 a.m. I had stayed late in Topeka catching up with a college pal when Continental emailed me that my flight was delayed by over an hour out of Kansas City. One hour wouldn’t be a huge deal, but that meant I’d miss my connecting flight in Houston. Yes, “Houston, we have a problem.” Panic set in. I zipped out of Topeka and went straight to the airport to sort out the problem before it was too late. Unfortunately I couldn’t do anything until 4:30 a.m. when they opened up check-in. Knots built in my stomach, but fortunately my stress was quickly relieved. The airport clerk printed me a boarding pass not only for my original connecting flight, but the next one out a few hours later. When I arrived in Houston, I was sad to have missed the connecting flight by ten minutes, but relieved that I had secured a seat on the next flight to Midland.

My sister-in-law picked me up from the airport. She would be spending most of the weekend away in San Antonio, so I was thankful to have a few hours with her on this day. We grabbed a light meal and then she took me to G’s daycare. I was nervous that my little niece wouldn’t recognize me. She hadn’t seen me since Christmas. But when I walked into her daycare, a huge smile flashed across her face. Of course, the huge smile might have been because she had just finished eating a strawberry cupcake and was licking the remaining frosting off her fingers. But when they supervisors cleaned her off, she ran and gave me a huge hug and held my hand as we walked out. Ahhh.

We played with bubbles in the car ride back home and she told me all about the birthday party they were celebrating at daycare. I can’t get over how smart she is and what a great talker she has become! She’s like a real person now!

When we got back to the house, we immediately ran to the playroom for her to open the birthday present I got her. She pulled the tissue paper up onto my head, giggled and said, “hat” and excitedly pulled out the two books I got her. One of the books came with a little doll. The book was about Skippy Jon Jones, a Siamese Cat who thinks he is a Chihuaua. To my great joy, she loved that doll and the book, wanting it to be read to her constantly and taking the doll with her everywhere from the playroom to bedtime. We also spent more of the day outside. It’s gooooorgeous in Midland, which is to be expected considering that it is in the middle of a sunny desert. Although, that’s much to the chagrin of the residents there who have been in a 8-month drought. G and I even dipped our feet in the swimming pool, where she kicked and splashed quite gleefully.

Tori had to leave early in the evening, so we had to say our goodbyes. 😦 Greg, G and I then went on a walk for ice cream trip number one and some play time at the park.   Shortly after, it was G’s bedtime. So my brother had me sing ‘rock-a-by, baby’ to her and lay her down. She begged for SkippyJon Jones to be added to her menagerie of bedtime dolls and quickly fell asleep on her tummy with her tush raised way up in the air. Too funny.

My brother and went to the living room to catch up and chill. His brother-in-law, Tracy, came over and we ordered Chinese food and drank beer. I was pretty wiped, from not sleeping the night before, so we called it an early night. Plus we had to get up early in the morning.

Stella, their chihuahua terrier mix, bounced into my bed Saturday morning. Waking me up around 8 a.m. – which is a lot earlier than I am used to, working an evening shift. After letting G enjoy some green waffle (spinach waffle) for breakfast, we set off for the Midland Farmer’s market. Greg stopped to talk to some friends, so G and I walked around to look at the booths. Some young girls were selling duct tape hair bows, and I’m a sucker for kids selling their crafts, so I bought a white one for G to wear. As we walked around the booths, people commented, “that looks like another little girl we see a lot here.” To which I’d respond, “Oh?” “Yeah, G,” they’d say. I’d chuckle and say, “This is G. I’m just her aunt.” I guess it was probably suspicious for them to see what looked like G with her blonde hair and blue eyes being carried around by this brunette with brown eyes.

It was a bit chilly at the market, so we decided to hop back in the car and get some traditional Texas breakfast for us big kids (my brother and I), since we didn’t enjoy the green waffle for breakfast. We went to El Burrito or something like that and got breakfast burritos – YUM! Nothing like eggs, potato and cheese wrapped in a tortilla. G even ate a second breakfast of eggs and cheese – that kid is like a hobbit.

From here we swung by my brother’s office, which I had never seen before. There were all those cool oil rig figures and paintings. It seemed like a nice place to work. We didn’t stay there that long because we had one last morning activity to fit in before we picked up my other sibling from the airport. Next stop: feeding chickens.

We went out to the co-op farm my brother and sister-in-law are a part of and the owner let us into the chicken coop. He helped G fill her hands with kernels as the chickens surrounded her. I must admit that I was a bit unnerved to be in there with these critters pecking at me, so I’m pretty impressed with how calm, but excited that 2-year-old girl was with the event.

It was a pretty full morning and our little one was getting sleepy, but we worked hard to keep her alert for her Aunt Mary Catherine’s arrival. As of 12:30 p.m., Saturday, May 14, the three Smith kids were united in Texas for the very first time.  MC was starving, so we stopped yet again for food at a true Texas Roadhouse (not one of the chain Texas Roadhouses). G ate yet another time! Wowzers.

With all that food, it shouldn’t be any surprise that it was potty time for G. With all the excitement and her being so young, I was so proud of the kid for telling me it was potty time. We just barely made it in time for her to use the actual potty, but good for her! Her parents let her wear a special crown if she uses the potty, sing a song and eat some m&ms, so the whole ordeal was pretty adorable.

It was nap time pretty soon after that, so us big kids put on our swimsuits and headed outside for some beers poolside. When G got up from her nap, she got to join us at the pool, but the water was too cold for her to do anything more than dip her feet and play with squirt guns. In a bout of extreme ridiculousness, my sister tried to teach the child ‘how we tan.’ Seriously, who does that? Though in a nice twist of fate, MC, the Tanning Queen, got so sunburnt that she was too sore for the rest of the weekend to do much more for the rest of the weekend than sit on the couch being cold.

Ice cream adventure number 2, a trip to look at alpacas and some more time playtime soon found us quickly back at time for G’s bed. After begging me to read ‘just one more book,’ which turned into like five books, the kid was finally ready for ‘rock-a-by baby’ and bed.

MC, Greg and I then decided to make some really tasty vegetable pizza with a wheat crust, bean-tomato sauce and vegetable toppings ranging from broccoli to zucchini to peppers. It was delicious, but I think my sister was half asleep when we finally got around to eating it. We watched a movie, talked some more and then called it a night.

Sunday started with church, which G was mostly fine through. She did cry once, but was otherwise calm. She got really excited when the eucharistic gifts were being blessed and they rang the bells. “I hear the bells!” is one of her favorite expressions to say and she also says it whenever Greg gets a text and a little chime sounds. Another little adorable habit of hers. We then got breakfast – yay more breakfast tacos – with some of Greg’s friends.

After a detour by George W. Bush’s childhood home, we headed back to the house. When we got back, G wanted me to play with her outside on one of her scooters, but then we decided to see what Aunt Mary was up to. Guess what? She was complaining about her sunburn on a couch with blankets covering her. So G decided she wanted some books read to her. How many books did she want read to her? ‘One, two, seven, eight.’ After she had books read to  her, it was time for another nap time before we were to go to a baseball game.

While she napped, my brother put on Scott Pilgrim, which we both love, but confused my sister deeply. “Why do people turn into coins when they die?” “What is this?” “Why does he look 10?” were some of her many questions during the film. We mostly just laughed these off.

Soon it was time for the baseball game, which my brother was incredibly excited about. G was, too, or so it seemed. However, once we made it to out seats, it wasn’t long before G got restless. Enter ice cream number 3. We only got her one, but she was very sweet about trying to spoon feed all of us. “I feed Daddy!” she’d exclaim. Once the ice cream was gone though, she was restless once more. Since I’m not a huge sports person, I took Geneva for a walk around the stadium. We stopped at a very busy playground for a bit and continued walking back. At one point, the stadium played a snippet of Pirates of the Caribbean theme music over the speakers, which made G stop to dance. Adorable and funny. She mostly just dances by shaking her tush and walking at an angle.

When we made it back, Greg’s team was horribly losing and G was ready to go “Hoooome,” so we decided to leave. The second we were outside the stadium, however, she started crying, “baseeeeball.” Aw. The kid has no idea what she wants.

When we got back to the house and I unbuckled her from her car seat, she mischievously jumped into the front seat and stole some coins from Greg’s cup holder. Then she showed me her piggy bank and meticulously put her coins in the bank. She had me open the bottom and take some more coins out so she could do it again and again. Then she wanted to show Aunt Mary, who – you guessed it – was moaning about sunburn on the living room couch while covered in blankets. Oh, MC. G is a very sweet kid, but this was also the one moment during the weekend when we saw a bit of her hostility. She does not care for the dog, Stella. She did not want Stella anywhere near her or her aunts. “No, Stella, nooooooooooooo!.” She cried. Greg says she’s trying to assert her place in the world and prove her dominance over the other being that’s her size. Poor, Stella.

Back in the playroom, G asked to be covered in a blanked like Aunt Mary. So silly.

We were playing with her Monkey bowling game when Tori finally made it back from her trip. Greg, MC and I played with G, while Tori worked on preparing a special dinner in honor of Greg’s birthday (which was Monday). Soon Uncle Tracy and his fiance came over for the meal and brought another Southern treat: tres leches cake. G helped Greg blow out the candles and she ate her piece before her bedtime. She managed to stall quite a bit before finally going to bed. Asking for more books to be read to her, Skippy Jon Jones, another kiss from Aunt Mary or whomever and repeat singings of’ ‘rock-a-by baby.’ This was hard for me as well because I knew that with my early flight in the morning, this would be my last awake moments with the kid for who knows how long.

The rest of us adults then sat down for the birthday dinner and presents. I got Greg a little lens for his iPhone camera and MC got him a piano book of Beatles tunes. Even though G was asleep, he braved trying to quietly play so we could sing-along. Sufficit to say, I was nervous of this plan for multiple reasons.

Then we tried some of the tres leche cake, which allowed my sister to earnestly comment, “it tastes like there is milk in this.” Yes, MC, yes. It tastes like there is milk in the three milk cake. Sigh.

Some more chatting and it was time for some rest before my 5 a.m flight. My brother kindly woke up at 4 a.m. to drive me and I had to say goodbye to my wonderful family and the warm weather of Texas to go back to work in dreary Kansas.

It gets harder and harder to say goodbye every single time. It’s safe to say that my heart is in Texas.

Genevers time!

Guess what?

This time tomorrow, I’ll be in in that oasis of the Western Texas desert: Midland. Home to oil rigs, cacti and lots of Republicans.

But the only thing I care about is that it is also the home of my adorable 2-year-old niece: Geneva! She just celebrated her birthday, so my sister and I are flying down to have our own celebration with her and to celebrate my brother’s birthday as well. His is on Monday. I can’t wait!!!

Open book

Let the Summer of fun reading begin. “Water for Elephants” just completed (still haven’t seen the movie yet).

Next up: “Hunger Games” series. That’s right, it is time to get on the Hungah Gamez bandwagon.

Then: Finish the Sword of Truth series. I made it about halfway through the during the Winter then kind of lost my focus.

Finally? I need some recommendations…

And the Oscar goes to…

Sunday is the 83rd Academy Awards. I’ve seen most of the nominees in every category (yes, even the technical ones) and thought I’d share some brief thoughts on each category.

Best Motion Picture of the Year – Guessing “The King’s Speech” but maybe “The Social Network”
Black Swan – About a ballerina and her crazy obsession with perfection. I’m a lover a fine arts and Portman’s acting is superb, the use of colors and lighting to reflect her inner torment perfect and then of course there’s the music – what would a movie about performing Swan Lake perfectly be without the music from my favorite composer popping up everywhere: her music box, ring tone, the studio, friend’s apartments, etc. It just completely engulfed her life. No ending spoilers, but it is dark, yet cathartic. If you were looking for happy, give the King’s Speech a try instead.

The Fighter – Based on a true story, blah blah, family strife, overcoming obstacles, blah blah, successful happy end. This is a little too formulic to the inspirational sports story for me to find it deserving of a best pic nominee, but the acting from Marky Mark and Bale does make it worth checking out. It’s extra impressive when they show the real-life guy that Bale’s character is based on during the credits (justifies why he’s a best actor nominee).
Inception – Inception isn’t for everyone.  And I do think the debate over this film’s ending is a little overblown. However, it is a beautiful film and if the traveling to a dream within a dream idea doesn’t blow your mind, then the effects will. The only thing that I didn’t care for in this film was the Ellen Page, the chick from Juno’s role. She did what she could with her lines, but the character’s part in the grand scheme seemed under developed.
The Kids are All Right – 2 lesbians whose lives are shaken up by the appearance of their sperm donor in their life. They almost fall apart, but come out stronger. The kids are just fine. The adults are a mess. Liked it more than I thought I would, but not going out of my way to see it again.
The King’s Speech – Loved loved loved. This isn’t one of those artsy fartsy films that the Academy will pick to look smart. This is artsy, but it also has the appeal of a blockbuster. It is a charming tale about gaining self-confidence and coming into one’s own. Acting, music, directing – everything is great. I think it covered every possible emotion an audience could experience, too.
The Social Network – The ‘true’ story of Facebook. An entertaining story about a timely subject, but it boils down to a tale about friendship and lust. This was a well-done film, but they did take a lot of liberties with the facts.
127 Hours – dude gets trapped against a rock for about week. Has to cut off his own arm to survive. This easily could have been terrible. You have essential 90 minutes where the scenes can’t really change and you basically have one actor who can only talk to himself all building up to only major action moment. But it was entertaining and it worked.
Toy Story 3 – I must be heartless. I didn’t weep for the nostalgia of my lost youth at the end of this movie. In Toy Story 3, all our beloved characters are back but their beloved owner is off to college and is supposed to ditch his toys. First they get dropped off at a daycare where they’re brutalized, but then Andy is like, that’s just cruel. They should go to this family friend. Happy end roll credits. It’s a cute film, but let’s face it. Sequels can rarely top the first in a series (unless you’re Empire Strikes Back). Not sure I got any originality or saw any boundaries being pushed here. It will win animation to please the masses, but it is just forgettable in this category.
True Grit – This is made a lot better as a drinking game. Someone drinks a beer – you drink too. You see a horse – drink. Someone says the words “grit” or “grits” then you drink. I’ve always had a hard time seeing the big deal about the Coen brothers. Their movies just move too slowly for me and you really only need to watch this for the first 15 minutes to learn the young girl’s problem and then the last 1o for the resolution. The rest of the middle is just filler where people mostly just sit around on dusty ground. However, props to young Hailee for being a very mature character.
Winter’s Bone – Enter the token artsy fartsy film that no one will care about in a year, but it was nominated to make people look smart. Girl tries to keep her family her together in rural, meth-dealing Southern Missouri

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – Guessing Natalie Portman
Annette Bening (The Kids are All Right) – Lesbian couple’s life gets thrown for a loop when their kids decide to invite their sperm donor into their life. She does a good job acting in this. She’s a loveable person, but you do really come to hate her overbearing character. However, I didn’t really see this as a ‘leading’ role at all.
Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole) – A good contender and probably a challenging role that hit close to home for the actress. Kidman plays a mother struggling to deal with her son’s recent death, but the traditional ways of coping don’t seem to help her. Therapy and support groups might be good for her husband, but how does she cope? By befriending the kid who killed her son. Not many people saw this one, which is a pity because it had some subtle surprises what could have been a routine story. Kidman is always a superb actress, but we know who is going to win in this category and it won’t be her.
Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) – If the award were for best southern drawl and most skilled at walking long distances, then maybe it should go to her. Otherwise, I think any person could be told not to smile for two hours and pull off this roll too.
Natalie Portman (Black Swan) – We all know she’s going to win. She pulled off crazy beautifully in her spiral out of control.
Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) – Chick from Dawson’s Creek goes around looking bored…I mean sad and supposedly sometimes happy in the flashbacks in this tale of a relationship that’s lost its spark. If anyone should have been nominated, it should have been Gosling. Williams was overrated.

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role – Guessing Colin Firth. Wouldn’t be upset with James Franco though.
Javier Bardem (Biutiful) – people love him, but he won’t win for his role in this film about a dying man
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) – Jesse is perfect as Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, but it isn’t really an amazing acting feat from Jesse. It’s just who he is.
Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) – He’s winning. Duh. Great up and down emotions and really sucks you in to the character’s struggles.
James Franco (127 Hours) – This dude basically had to carry 90 minutes of screentime and pulled off. Plus he’s hosting the awards.
Jeff Bridges (True Grit) – he’s playing the same thing he always plays – ‘the dude.’ why are we so impressed by him?

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role – Guessing Christian Bale, but it is a close call with Geoffrey Rush.
Christian Bale (The Fighter) – Plays a cokehead fighter. Really believable in this role and when you get to see what the real guy looks like in the credits, you’ll really see why he deserves this/
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone) – meh.
Jeremy Renner (The Town) – meh. Another druggie/gang member. Did a great job, but not impressive enough to win.
Mark Ruffalo (The Kids are All Right) – meh. Liked the movie, but he didn’t really do much.
Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech) – The King’s Speech would not have been possible without him. This is a story just as much about him as it is the King. My only problem is that this probably should have been a best actor, not supporting.

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – Apathetically picking Melissa Leo, but would have liked it to have gone to Hailee
Amy Adams (The Fighter) – she curses a lot and is supportive of her guy, but nothing spectacular.
Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech) – Rather subdued in the role of the supportive wife from what she normally is playing, but she does do a royally good job.
Melissa Leo (The Fighter) – Family’s great and I’m a little batty persona pulled off well, but I wasn’t that impressed. However, the rest of the world seems to think she was the bomb.
Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) – so young, so mature. I hated True Grit, but did like her.
Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom) – what a manipulative grandmother/mother. The poor grandson moves in with her and his drug dealing uncles and the woman acts all nice but stabs the kid in the back after one of the uncle’s kills the poor lad’s girlfriend. Her twistedness makes her a good nom.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year – Guessing Toy Story 3
How to Train Your Dragon – cgi kids film about a lad who befriends and trains a fearsome dragon. Teaches his father some valuable life lessons about love in the process. loved it, but it won’t win.
The Illusionist – not for children (suicide and other dark themes) and a bit of a downer. It’s about a struggling musician who can’t seem to get a foothold in the changing world. People care more about technology and material items than his old school tricks. One girl is fascinated though and follows him and he gives her everything, but the world weights heavy and he snaps. He tells her magic doesn’t exist and runs off. The animation carries this film. There is practically no dialogue used to tell the story. My main beef is how it makes women look like materialistic idiots.
Toy Story 3 – cute, a bit overrated tale about everyone’s favorite toys. will probably win.

*Best Documentary Short Subject – Only saw Warriors of Qiugang, but I’ve heard a lot about Poster Girl, so I’m guessing that
Killing in the Name – didn’t see
Poster Girl – didn’t see
Strangers No More – didn’t see
Sun Come Up – didn’t see
The Warriors of Qiugang – Small Chinese town fights factories that have been polluting their environment for years. Subtitled, mostly only talks to villagers. Not a very well-rounded documentary, so from a journalistic standpoint too one-sided, but from a more storytelling/narrative style it makes more sense that way.

Best Short Film (Animated) – Guessing Let’s Pollute (though The Lost Thing seems a popular guess on the web)
Day & Night Teddy Newton – two characters – one day and one night look at each other and are jealous of the other as one shows off what you can do during the day and the other what you can do at night. Then they swap and become friends. Cute and fun as you can expect form Pixar. Some adult images though, so not sure who the target audience is.
The Gruffalo Jakob Schuh and Max Lang – LLLLLLLOVE the story. Framing device story – mamma squirrel tells the story of the gruffalo to her kids. A little mouse goes through the woods in this rhyming tale and to escape being eaten by a fox, owl and snake, it makes up the fearsome gruffalo that supposedly likes to eat foxes, owls and snakes. Story is strong and I love the voice actors, but not sure if the animation itself is good enough to contend against the others.
Let’s Pollute Geefwee Boedoe – This would be my pick to win. This sataric tale is like one of those old cartoons you used to watch in the 60s about being a better person – taking care of the environment, how cook, that sort of stuff. But this makes it seem like polluting is the ‘it’ thing to do. Tone is great, satire is perfectly executed and charcoal is used to give the animation a greasy – and polluted effect. This is the whole package to me.
The Lost Thing Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann – People say this will win because it about a quirky creature: the lost thing. This guy befriends a lost thing, but can’t keep it, so he tries to take it to a place for lost things. I just couldn’t stand the narrator’s voice and if it had been anyone else I might have been able to enjoy this.
Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary) Bastien Dubois – Teaches about Madagascar through a travel book. The graphics are unique, but as a story, it is unwatchable.

Best Short Film (Live Action) Guessing The Crush
The Confession Tanel Toom – I’m Catholic, so I understand the fear that goes through a young kid’s mind right before your first confession. What if I don’t have anything to say? What if I’ve done too much? I don’t want the Priest to think I’m awful? This is the story of two young Catholic boys. One is a bit of a troublemaker. Confession is no sweat. The other is panicking because he’s a pretty good kid and doesn’t have anything to say for his first confession. The other boy decides to help him, but what should have been one little sin gets out of control. Very out of control. As in people die. An extreme and weighty yet funny look at this common practice. Great acting from such young boys.
The Crush Michael Creagh – Another one with great acting from a young lad. This kid has a crush on his teacher, but he finds out she’s engaged so he challenges the guy to duel. This looks like things could get out of control, but really the kid is trying to show the teacher she deserves better than her tool of a fiance. Simple and heartwarming.
God of Love Luke Matheny – Hated the end ‘try to stuff meaning into this final bit of dialogue while riding off into the sunset’ moment, but thought this was funny and had some great scenes. This jazz singer basically becomes a human cupid – the god of love – but he first thinks he can use his love darts for his own gain.
Na Wewe Ivan Goldschmidt – a little untimely, which is why I don’t think it should win, but focuses on the Rwanda conflict.
Wish 143 Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite – dying kid wants to use his final wish to get laid. Sounds crude, but ends up as a charming tale. BBC backing means it looks nice, but not sure if it is worthy of winning.

Achievement in Art Direction – Guessing The King’s Speech? I don’t really know how to guess in this category, so I’m not bothering to explain for each movie
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
The King’s Speech
True Grit

Achievement in Cinematography –  Guessing Black Swan, but maybe The Social Network. Really could be any of these
Black Swan (Matthew Libatique) – the way the camera showed off the muscles in the human body = omg
Inception (Wally Pfister) – this film was just cool. ’nuff said.
The King’s Speech (Danny Cohen) – Everything was perfect with the film. See above.
The Social Network (Jeff Cronenweth) – this film was just cool. ’nuff said.
True Grit (Roger Deakins) – go out in a deserted dusty field. Wide pan with camera. Boom. Cinematography done.

*Achievement in Costume Design – Guessing the Tempest
Alice in Wonderland (Colleen Atwood) – awful film but I guess the costumes were fun
I Am Love (Antonella Cannarozzi) – pretty italian film about a woman having an affair with her son’s friend. son isn’t too pleased when he finds out. waaay overrated. and the outfits were ugly. especially that weird track suit she wears at the end.
The King’s Speech (Jenny Beaven) – Great outfits matching the period.
The Tempest (Sandy Powell) – didn’t see
True Grit (Mary Zophres) – meh.

Achievement in Directing – I honestly don’t know, but I’m guessing Aronofsky, but maybe Fincer – see what I wrote about these films under best pic nominees
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
David O. Russell (The Fighter)
Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)
David Fincher (The Social Network)
Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit)

*Best Documentary Feature – Guessing Restrepo. The masses want Exit Through the Gift Shop and I want Gasland, but the academy loves their war flicks.
Exit through the Gift Shop Banksy, director (Paranoid Pictures) – Ok, I kind of hated the narrative path that Banksy picked, ‘blah this is a story about some crazy french dude who filmed a bunch of stuff but was a bit of an idiot.’ I could have done without Banksy’s introduction and conclusion because the rest of the story was fine and didn’t need it to teach me about guerrilla art. Popular pick to win, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Academy plays it safe with Restrepo.
Gasland Josh Fox, director (Gasland Productions, LLC) – banjo-picking our way through some amazingly polluted American towns and lighting water on fire? Shocking, informative and very entertaining.
Inside Job Charles Ferguson, director (Representational Pictures) – the economy sucks. thank you long film for reminding me
Restrepo Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, directors (Outpost Films) – war story, loved the camera angles and that it wasn’t nauseuatingly shaky like most war pics
Waste Land Lucy Walker, director (Almega Projects) – didn’t see

*Achievement in Makeup – Guessing Barney’s Verison even though I didn’t see it
Barney’s Version
The Way Back – people looked pale – oooh ahhh. Seriously not worth a nom.
The Wolfman – why did the Academy even waste time watching this. The people that draw on Harry Potter’s scar every film would have been a better pick. Just anything but this.

Achievement in Film Editing – Usually goes to Best Picture, so guessing The King’s Speech, but maybe Social Network. Read my blurbs for each film under Best Picture.
Black Swan (Andrew Weisblum)
The Fighter (Pamela Martin)
The King’s Speech (Tariq Anwar)
127 Hours (Jon Harris)
The Social Network (Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall)

*Best Foreign Language Film of the Year – Guessing Dogtooth because that’s the only one I ever seem to hear about
Biutiful (Mexico) – story of a dying man and some confusion with reality, but also an interesting glimpse at some of the socio-economic-class-immigration issues in Spain. Would be an ok pick to win, though it was a long film to endure. Some stuff could have been cut.
Dogtooth (Greece) – crazy premise. Parents raising family in isolation and teaching them some twisted meanings of events, words and life to keep them within the family compound. Definitely an interesting and unique idea.
In a Better World (Denmark) – didn’t see
Incendies (Canada) – didn’t see
Hors la Loi (Algeria) = didn’t see

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score) – guessing The Social Network, might be Inception though, would like The King’s Speech
How to Train Your Dragon (John Powell) – didn’t stand out to me musically
Inception (Hans Zimmer) – There were some crazy things going on with the score – sound effects used where the score slowed down to different speeds, and etc. Makes me think of Wagner motif’s on hallucinogenic drugs.
The King’s Speech (Alexandre Desplat) – It was just beautiful. Is that a wrong reason for wanting this classically perfect soundtrack to win?
127 Hours (A.R. Rahman) – This seemed too much like the soundtrack to a skateboarding youtube video
The Social Network (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) – The dude from Nine Inch Nails and his lady already have won for this and will continue winning. They did a good job. It really drives the emotional intensity of the film

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) – Guessing “I See the Light” but it should have been that other song from Tangled
“Coming Home” from Country Strong Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey – not as obnoxious as country usually is to me
“I See the Light” from Tangled Music and Lyric by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater – I mostly just want this to win because I miss when Disney used to always make musicals
“If I Rise” from 127 Hours Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong – I don’t really remember this song and I’m too lazy to go look it up again
“We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3 Music and Lyric by Randy Newman – I don’t really remember this song and I’m too lazy to go look it up again

Achievement in Sound Editing – Guessing Inception
Inception – they used audio clues to get people out of dreams and other effects were just well down, from the spinning top sound to the explosions
Toy Story 3 – I guess the voice overs synced nicely?
TRON: Legacy – should have been in the soundtrack category. That and swooshes were pretty much what you heard in the film.
True Grit – meh. could have used a bit more actually. all I could hear were my own ZZZZZZs.
Unstoppable – typical action flick sounds. how hard is it to get a train noise right, though?

Achievement in Sound Mixing – Guessing Inception – someone explain the difference between editing and mixing to me?
Inception – they used audio clues to get people out of dreams and other effects were just well down, from the spinning top sound to the explosions
The King’s Speech – nice for its subtlety
Salt – Meh. Typical action film effects
The Social Network – nice for its subtlety like the King’s Speech
True Grit – meh. could have used a bit more actually. all I could hear were my own ZZZZZZs.

Achievement in Visual Effects – Guessing Inception
Alice in Wonderland – terrible film as a whole, but it was pretty to look at. With how colorful it was, stands a chance at winning
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 – great effects, but not sure if they’d be considered showy enough or boundary-pushing, which is what is often looked for in this category.
Hereafter – Meh. The stuff I cared about was in the trailer. Those are all the effects you really see. Rest of the film = meh.
Inception – crazy upside down realities and a story that relies on mind-bending visuals? This should probably win.
Iron Man 2 – lots of explosions. Nothing too wowing though.

Adapted Screenplay – Guessing True Grit, but I’d like to see 127 hours
127 Hours (Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle) – 90 minutes about a guy trapped against a rock? One real set and few props to use? That is something that works as a book, but can be very difficult to work as a film, but Boyle pulled it off. For that reason, I’d like to see him win, but again, I think the Coen bros are too buddy buddy with the Academy for Boyle to pull the upset.
The Social Network (Aaron Sorkin) – Love the screenplay, however, the adaption is so loose from the true events, that I don’t think it should win.
Toy Story 3 (Michael Arndt, story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich) – Seriously? Sequels count as adaptations? Lame.
True Grit (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen) – I was bored by this adaptation of a classic Western, but the Academy loves the Coens, so it will probably win.
Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik and Anne Rossellini) – Ok film. About Missouri meth dealers and fighting to keep a family together, but I don’t see why it is nominated for anything.

*Original Screenplay – Guessing King’s Speech
Another Year (Mike Leigh) – didn’t see, but half of the dialogue was ad-libbed by the actors. Complete crock to be nominated.
The Fighter (Paul Attanasio, Lewis Colich, Eric Johnson, Scott Silverand Paul Tamasy) – “who do you think you arrrreh?” “we’re your family. You need us” “pow pow.” I could have written this.
Inception (Christopher Nolan) – This film did need a tight script for it to make sense, but not a contender for me.
The Kids are All Right (Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko) – No effects and not too much big action. The tight script is basically what made this film, but it still doesn’t stand a chance against King’s Speech.
The King’s Speech (David Seidler) – It MUST go to this guy. He basically spent his whole life working out this film. He had a stutter as a kid and knew he wanted to write about the King, but he had to get the Crown Queen’s permission first. He waited decades for her approval. He’s also been attacked for worshipping an anti-Semite which he has said has just cut him to the core because it is ludicrous. He lost family in the Holocaust and would never spend his life’s work on an anti-Semite. There could almost be a movie about his story making the King’s Speech. Plus it has to win, because this is all about speech – and speaking. The script makes it the hilariously charming picture that it is.

*didn’t see all the nominees in the category

Jolly Old St. Nicholas

Today, December 6, is one of my favorite holidays. It might even be a day that I have fonder memories of than Christmas, yet it is a holiday that not everyone knows about. Today is St. Nick’s Day.

When we were kids, on St. Nick’s Eve, we put out a pair of shoes outside the front door. When we woke the next morning, on St. Nick’s Day, the shoes were filled with chocolates, oranges and other small gifts. It was so simple, but so wonderful and magical. I loved it even more than opening presents Christmas morning.

The tradition stems from our Italian roots and a couple of other European cultural traditions. In Italy, and in many other European countries, St. Nick was just a regular old man who visited the less fortunate and gave them gifts during this season. The traditions vary depending on your European region, but in Italy, St. Nick specifically visited children on December 6. He brought them small treats such as chocolates and fruits. Our family, which is also German, blended the Italian portions of the holiday with the German traditions. In Germany, families put out shoes, often filled with hay or carrots for St. Nick’s steed, and he replaced with presents. The Western tradition of Santa Claus grew from the tales of St. Nick.

Now that I’m older and living away from my parents, I don’t have anyone to fill my shoes with goodies, but I still look fondly back on the memories of this event. My brother is carrying on the tradition with my niece and someday, if I ever have children, I will celebrate this holiday with them as well.

I love traditions and this is the best time of the year to embrace them. My family is mostly Italian, so I’ll end this blog post on one more Italian tradition. Dominic: The Italian Christmas Donkey. The reindeer can’t climb the hills of Italy, so St. Nick had Dominic: The Italian Christmas Donkey. Enjoy this fun tune that also celebrates jolly old St. Nick and several Italian traditions: