Saturday, August 06, 2016

Thirty-Five, The Up Series, This is Us

Thirty-Five
This summer I turned 35.

When you're a kid, 35 is kind of old.  35 is a big deal for me. For me 35 is a bigger milestone than it's more popular neighbors, 30 and 40. For me, 35 is huge. For me, 35 had some modest financial goals. I wanted to be in a home that I would be okay living in my entire life, and ideally I would have had a 15 year mortgage, but even still even if 30 years, I would have a mortgage that would be paid off by 65 (a typical retirement age). I also wanted to have a certain benchmark number in my retirement account. I was a little short of my goal, but not miles away.

For me turning 35 means if a professional career spans 45 years (20-65) than at 35 your a third of your way done and you should feel okay with your trajectory, because your opportunity to start a fresh is dissipating. In my mind the first third is where you find your path. The second third is where you bust a move and keep the course. And the final third is where you respond to any unexpected changes in those plans, even if it means adapting to a new world where you may have lost some contemporary relevance.


These are the things I think about, these are the reasons 35 was such a big deal. I made it. And I feel okay.

And then there's this one little complication I've added to my life-view about being in your thirties...and it came from a documentary series called the Up series.

The Up Series
I've talked about the Up series before, but if you're not familiar with this ambitious British documentary series the premise is based on the Jesuit motto "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man." The first film, Seven Up! premiered in 1964 followed 14 kids, each seven year old. From 1964 forward, every 7 year a new installment comes out featuring most of the original partipants. The last installment, 56 Up came out in 2012. If you're interested in an intimate and personal tracking of the life of people, this series is absolutely binge worthy.

I bring this series up to discuss 35 Up, which came out in 1991 and caught up with these kids were the series had left off from when they were 28. This episode of the documentary series was revolutionary. I was nearing the end of my twenties when I watched this and frankly found 35 Up to be downright depressing. In This iteration the fibers of people's dreams were falling apart. The challenges of life were catching up with people in different ways, and people were running into real challenges and crisis. 35 seemed difficult, and I considered ending my watching of the series here. Where was the hope?

Yet, strangely 42 Up was better. Much better (mostly) than 35 Up. And as my wife and I binged through this series I tried to learn from this, and developed the deep belief that the people who were happy in 42 Up were the one's who had survived their 30s with a "do no harm" philosophy. The people who pushed through challenges of career, health, family, financial challenges and everything in between were in a much better spot at 42. On the other hands those who "cracked" and didn't push through seemed to take much longer to recover. Starting over in your late thirties or early forties didn't set people up for satisfying lives in the same way.

Granted, it's just a small cross section, and maybe I underestimate unique elements of the late eighties and early nineties that might color the experience. For me I walked away in that moment with a message that I share frequently with my wife and anyone who asks. For me the primary goal of the thirties is to survive them, push through, and simply make it. It might seem like that is not very ambitious, but I am convinced that this season of life is challenging than it's given credit. This is the start of families, this is the time of material ambition taking root in new ways, this is the time when you have to pay money to fix things, this is the season when the work place expects you to make your mark and put in the hours, this is the season where peers are more distant, and a season when there's not a lot of people handing our ribbons for a job well done.

So I give myself a ribbon every year through my thirties and celebrate each year when I can look at myself, my wife, and my family and say "we made it - good job."

This Is Us
 Last night was the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. The Olympics for our family means that a home which only has the TV on occasionally in the early morning hours and evening hours is suddenly on all the time. Which means we see a lot of commercials (thank you GE, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and Citi for entering my home, we hear you loud and clear). One of the commercials I have seen a few time is previews for NBC's fall show This Is Us.

It seems clear that this has some of the same appeal of NBC's Parenthood, yes, we can enjoy some manipulative human drama-comedy, and this seems to fit that mold. But in the previews I couldn't tell how these different families/couples are connected. Thank you internet, I now know that these different people are connected by all being born on the same day. Cool, not sure how that works in the show, but okay, kind of interesting. But then, one of the previews said something about the character being 36.

That's right folks, 36. These characters in the show are either suppose to be recently 36, or turning 36 (I can't quite tell), which means these people are supposed to be my age. Right now, in a contemporary story.

And frankly, even from what I can tell from the previews it seems to in some way support my feelings that started with Michael Apted 35 Up, that this period of time is hard and are years that pave the path for the remaining chapters of our life. 

I am personally excited to be thirty-five and wonder how I will feel about future birthday's, but in many ways I can't see any birthday in the near future being as important mentally for me than this past year's milestone of 35, largely thanks to a world view of life and aging for a British documentary and personal goals that were established.

Here's a toast to 35, and another five years setting a low bar of making it, doing no harm, and having some fun along the way.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Pez Easter Egg Hunt and A Thought on Community

I could have pulled a number of news stories or anecdote's to present my point, but this one really seems to fit nicely.

If you want to read a not surprising story of people behaving badly read this story in the Washington Post titled: Easter egg hunt turns ugly after being ‘bum-rushed’ by parents.This story from Connecticut was about the Pez Factory hosting an Easter egg hunt that was ruined when people acted purely selfish and rushed the field (parent's included).

I wasn't there, but can only imagine listening and reading the story. And frankly, it's simply easy to imagine because we're used to the images.

One of the reasons I believe we see these types of stories of mass chaos and people acting this way is because in some ways as the world has become more connected and "smaller" and some would say, in our communities we've becoming increasingly anonymous.

If you live in a small community, or are connected to your local town you might be more likely to consider your behavior in public and in essence find yourself, if not naturally included, to keep yourself in check with the knowledge that your friends, neighbors and community are close at hand. And int this regard, our behavior impacts our credibility, our relationships, and our day-to-day interactions.

Yet, it seems to me that when I am out and about, there is no concern for maintaining community credibility in the way I would imagine in other places.

In reality, I often see people act more civil in the workplace (a place were credibility and relationship potential impact the day-to-day or future economic opportunity) far more than I see people's civility in the marketplace.

So when I see stories about the Pez Easter Egg Hunt I find myself wondering - did these people drive from far away and have no connections to others and felt it appropriate to not only act selfishly, but also with a disregard for the rules of the organizers? Or perhaps they lived close, and knew no one, or didn't care?

I don't want to suggest that behavior is only impacted by the social/economical trade offs that come from known relationships. But I also have to think that the social fibers of community drive behavior, and acts like these suggest that those social fibers are quite weak and worn.

The world is becoming more and more connected, but in our three-dimensional life it seems that we are far less connected and as a result our civil behavior manifest itself in disappointing ways. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Fuller House - Season 1 Thoughts

Had it not been for my wife I doubt I would crawled back into the nostalgic reboot of Fuller House, which follow-ups the popular ABC Television Series Full House (1987-1995).

And while the few reviews I've seen generally seem to claim this as a show just for die hard fans, I would like to suggest that this may not entirely be the case.

Anyone who has fallen in love with a show and gone back and rewatched it from the beginning are sure to realize that shows that last often evolve to a point where they find their sweet spot, and rarely does a show start of in full force in it's pilot episode (think about a non-funny 30 Rock pilot, or a Gilmore Girls where there is no chemistry and characters are bitter not witty).

In this same way the nostalgic element of Fuller House is strong - not only referencing previous episodes from the past but also creating an almost over-kill amount of symmetry between prior story lines and new story lines. And that continues through all 13 episodes, don't get me wrong.

But there was a glimmer of hope in the 13 episodes, particularly towards the end of the season that characters might be given the chance to grow into something beyond their 1989 counterpart. Specifically by episode 9 ("War of Roses") when all three female leads, plus Lori Loughlin (Aunt Becky), are trying to figure out the source of an overkill floral delivery.

It's a little campy in it's presentation, and shares the same tone of the rest of the show, but I don't recall any matching story line here, and instead this episode offered it's own level of interest which really fed into the next three episodes.

So, when I heard this would be renewed for a second season I was encouraged. I didn't need cameo's of prior Full House regulars regularly appearing...sorry, Dave Coulier. But instead I can enjoy the light hearted show for what it is.

In regards to characters, in many ways Candance Cameron Bure reprisal of her role of J.D. Fuller (nee Tanner), works well even in part because it seems she naturally in real life has continued to embody the Full House ethos. So, as a result the tone of this show some how cuts above a air of cheesiness and offer a strange authenticity. Now, I'm not getting carried away - there is something romantacized and cheesy here - but it generally does not seem forced.

Also, I'm not sure what it is, but Jodie Sweetin's character of Stephanie Tanner some how caught my attention in this series. There was some unique combination of her acting, her story line, and her onscreen personae that frankly just seemed different and intriguing.

The kids who play their caricature roles are certainly doing exactly what they're expected - similar to my long term interest, my hope is that these characters are given the freedom to grow and develop as well without being stuck in a pre-defined mold. Don't get me wrong, middle child's highly physical antics (Elias Harger as Max Fuller) are often fun, but they're almost over the top, much in the same way this would have been seen in the original series. It's fun, but it might wear thin. Especially if the baby (Tommy Fuller) jumps in strong in an early toddler stage in season 2.

So hear my message. I'm not suggesting this series be short listed for Emmy's, Golden Globes, or even People's Choice Awards. Still, I find myself pleased to see this reboot capture attention and a second season and expect that when it's released we'll be ready to watch it again.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Prior Black Oscar Nominees and Their 2016 Films

This past years "#OscarSoWhite" social media campaign regarding the lack of diversity in the awards, had an impact on the award ceremony. Must has been said and written on this topic.

It's hard to tell how this year's vocal disapproval will either (1) create or green light projects that feature more diverse characters (2) create added attention to diverse performances.

While to topic of diversity was front and center, it really specifically focused on African-American, or more generally black actors.

It could be seen as patronizing the way prior black nominees and winners were paraded as presenters and in audience members.

That said, I wanted at this point in the season collect a list of potential black performances from the list of prior nominees and winners. I fully acknowledge that there are roles and performances excluded from below from actors who haven't received prior nomination. I also acknowledge that many of these performances could be assumed to be excluded from the running because of the nature of the film/role. That said -- I've included as many as I can find here.

Actors: 2016 Performances By Black Actors Who Had Prior Nominations/Wins

  • Louis Gossett Jr: Operation Insanity, Don't Call Me Sir!, The Reason, Double Play, Breaking Brooklyn
  • Morgan Freeman; London Has Fallen, Going in Style, Now You See Me 2, Ben-Hur, Cold Warriors
  • Denzel Washington: The Magnificent Seven
  • Laurence Fishburn: Standoff, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,Passengers, John Wick: Chapter 2
  • Samuel L. Jackson: The Hitman's Bodyguard, The Cell, The Legend of Tarzan, Miss Pregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
  • Will Smith: Suicide Squad, Collateral Beauty
  • Jamie Foxx: Sleepless Night
  • Don Cheadle: Captain America: Civil War
  • Terrence Howard: Term Life, The Best Man Wedding
  • Forest Whitaker: Story of Your Life, Rogue One; A Star Wars Story
  • Djimon Hounsou: Same Kind of Different As Me, The Legend of Tarzan
  • Eddie Murphy: Mr. Church
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor: Triple 9, Doctor Strange
  • Barkhad Albi: Extortion

Actress: 2016 Performances by Black Actresses Who Had Prior Nominations/Wins

  • Cicely Tyson: Showing Roots
  • Diahann Carol: The Masked Saint
  • Whoopi Goldberg: Before I Do, Yamasong: March of the Hollows, Black Dog Red Dog, Actors Anonymous
  • Angela Bassett: London Has Fallen
  • Halle Berry: Kidnap
  • Queen Latifah: Miracles from Heaven
  • Gabourey Sidibe: The Brothers Grimsby
  • Mo'Nique: A Meyers Christmas
  • Viola Davis: Suicide Squad
  • Taraji P. Hensen: Term Life
  • Octavia Spencer: The Free World, Zootopia, Car Dogs, Gifted, The Shack
  • Quvenzhane Wallis: Counting By 7s
  • Lupita Nyong'o: Queen of Katwe, The Jungle Book

Sunday, February 28, 2016

What Donald Trump and 2016 Movies Have In Common

A week ago, I finally was able to catch The Revenant in the movie theater and before the screening I saw these previews:
  • Independence Day: Resurgence
  • London Has Fallen
  • The Conjuring 2
  • Captain America: Civil War
The Conjuring 2 preveiw was simply dark and eerie. This film finds itself in the poltergeist genre of horror films that mix spiritual fears, violence and a dark demonic world. Clearly this message is about fear, yet the other three films share this type of tone. Not the demons, but they play strong into a message of fear.

They aren't horror films (actually they're generally sci-fi or action thrillers), but observe their tag lines.

  • The tag line to the Independence Day reboot is "We Had Twenty Years to Prepare, So Did They."
  • The tag line for London Has Fallen is "Prepare for Bloody Hell." 
  • The tag line for the Captain America sequel is "Divided they Fall."
In the preview sequence of these blockbuster films I saw the world destroyed three times in a row. 

In simplest terms the world was destroyed by aliens, terrorist, and the corruption and ambiguity of government agencies. Oh yes, and super villains.

And yet, when people say "how can Donald Trump be so popular," it seems to me the question can be answered by asking the question as to why are the studios making films like London Has Fallen or Independence Day: Resurgence.

There may be buried in these films individuals who have hope, but the message is one of fear.

Going one step further - these film's messages we'd assume also have an answer to this fear, and the answers will come in the form of the film's heroes.  

The sequences in the London Has Fallen preview are almost laughable in the way that a US President and his secret service agent are portrayed. 


I don't deny that there is not something compelling in the leadership qualities the preview presents in Gerard Butler (secret service agent), Aaron Eckhart (president), and Morgan Freeman (Vice President).

But these attractive archetypes creates a leadership picture for presidency that frankly most leaders in politics and other sectors can't live up to. And yet, it seems clear in this election people are asking the question - can be leader stand up to anyone? anything?

I am not saying that all Trump supporters are essentially popcorn eating Captain America fans who can't distinguish the real from the dramatic. But I am saying that the movie studios are aware of the American appetite for images that play to our fears and insecurities. They are also aware that we are attractive to these images of leadership that are bold, independent, and can fight for America on the behalf of powerless individuals, searching for a leader in dark times.

This is a story line that plays well in Trump's hand in a way that others cannot (or maybe consciously are not) taping into - it plays to a catastrophic picture of our present times. It's a hopeless picture that positions people in a place where they are searching for a larger-than-life voice to stand in the gap to protect liberty and freedom.

Is this the world we live in? Is this the type of leader we need?

Hope is easily stolen, and reality is easily clouded by fear. And while there is certainly chance for some truth in Trump's messages, it also plays to a dark place in the American psyche. This same dark place that allows us to be drawn towards movies like Independence Day: Resurgence,  London Has Fallen, and Captain America: Civil War

Monday, February 22, 2016

Oscars and This Space

The Oscars are coming and my blogging has declined...dramatically.

I have not been so vigilant in my film watching the past couple of years, so am more apt to bring old news in some areas. Such as, having seen the Reverent today (finally) I could easily type up some thoughts, but any thoughts here would be old news.

That said...

I'm still interested in this year's awards. This year did produce some great films (I must say, I'm missing the captivation with a film like Mad Max, but was able to find some enjoyment in the other nominated films I've seen).

We're now officially less than a week out. Get your last screenings in this week, folks.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Peanuts Movies

The Peanuts Movie is good, no great -- at the same time it's different enough that there's something special and endearing about it.

I saw this with my kids this weekend and was thankful that it not only held their attention, but was also a sweet movie free of scary scenes, hidden adult humor or agenda-driven story lines.

I personally find The Peanuts comic strip to be simply not funny. An iconic comic strip that never really captured me. I want to like the Peanuts specials that air, but we watched a few with the kids and found them feeling slow and disjointed.

Yet, somehow keeping all the campy charm of the comic and specials, this movie figures out how to speed the pacing up just a bit to create a feature length story that is touching -- nice work writers!

The one thing is this story that I found very special was the way that Charlie Brown's timid story line mirrored Snoopy's brave story line and in the midst of the contrast there was still a beautiful overlap of fear, bravery, and our own humanity. We often spend so much time defining our experience by who we are (outgoing, shy, silly, smart, a victim of our situation, etc.) but crossing through that is some core similarities. A care about who we in the eyes of others, who are in the eyes of ourselves, and the desire to be something special.

I am not sure how this film ages over time or whether it makes it way to family video cabinets or part of holiday traditions. But I am always amazed at projects like this that present the ultimate challenge of being genuine to an original and add something safely to it without isolating audiences. In this case, I see it as a true success.

Horrible Christmas Dramas and Parenting Reflections


This thanksgiving weekend we accidentally watched the unenjoyable film The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (again, Netflix...you do me so wrong...I just want a good Christmas film option).

I don't even remember how many siblings there are in this film, but there are a lot -- and they are all pretty messed up...all for different (but typical, for films of this type) reasons. Mad husbands, vices of all sorts, personal ambition, and daddy issues.

Think Rachel Getting Married, but worst acting, worst story, no wedding, plus an Irish Catholic Christmas.

All that horribleness aside, perhaps it was because I recently watched the first episode of the TV show Bloodlines (also about family/siblings) that it I started thinking about my own children.

In both this film and the TV show there is the emphasis on all the children getting together for a parent-related events (holidays, birthdays, local honors) and the emphasis is that these siblings get together for the sake of the parents.

In thinking about my own children it is my hope that they enjoy each other, even long after my wife & I are gone.

As a result, one of my thoughts the past couple week has been asking "how can I ensure they enjoy each other?" And one of my thoughts has been "Get out of the way."

This has worked in my kids favor already (to my own detriment) in that on Thanksgiving eve when hosting our families annual piefest my kids decide to bust open a box full of packing peanuts. It was crazy. Very crazy.

And yet, my reflection was instantly on this thought that I get out of the way and ensure they have their own parent-free memories of good times together to strengthen their own bonds with one another. I even filled an empty spice jar with packing peanuts as a memorial to this horrible event (that ultimately led me to Walmart at 11:00 pm on the night before Thanksgiving to buy a shop vac. Thank you, Walmart).

In The Fitzgerald Family Christmas there is a lot of reasons why different siblings haven't connected with one another, and simple acts of memory making will not heal all wounds - not to mention, people change, experiences in life continue past the age you leave your parents home, spouses certainly plan a roll and other family developments.

But, also think as a parent of three children, I have an opportunity to foster experiences and if I can crack the code of making memories without being central to the memory, I want to figure it out.

My young kids still are parent dependent as you'd expect. They will fight over who gets to sit next to which parent at a meal, on the couch, at a move theater. But if I can let them explore, give them a perimeter for them to tackle together then maybe I can foster a flame between them that last long after they leave my house.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Bizarre Addiction: Tami Dunn on YouTube

I'm not sure why, so I'm not going to venture to try to justify, explain, or comment on my recent "moment filler" which is watching Tami Dunn's videos on YouTube.

How It Started (A Convoluted Social Networking Story Featuring Instagram, Blogs, Google, and YouTube)


I was reviewing my Instagram feed and saw a cake from @iambaker that intrigued me - it was called a Buckeye Cake and made with Biscoff Butter, I went to her blog and reviewed the recipe (recipe here). The recipe calls for Creamy Biscoff Spread (as you would suspect since it comes from The Biscoff Cookie & Spread Cookbook.

I have never bought Biscoff Cookie Spread before, but had seen it before and assumed it was similar to Trader Joes Speculoos Cookie Butter. I have had Speculoos Cookie butter, and wasn't sure if Biscoff and Speculoos were interchangeable.

So, I do a Google search "Speculoos vs Biscoff Cookie Spread" and come to find this kind of zany group of characters doing a blind taste test in a YouTube video.


This was how I met Tami Dunn and crew this week.

Some Favorite Tami Dunn Food Reviews & Blind Taste Test
Must say, my favorite are the Blind Taste Test, but here are some favorites I've watched this week.



Oh Yes...The Cake

My wife made the Buckeye Cake on I Am Baker's blog today - we're having it tonight! Can't wait.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The State of My Relationship With Netflix

In preparation for this post, I have reviewed every prior reference I've ever made to Netflix on my blog.

Typically it's been in the context of something on Netflix, how Netflix is one cog in the media world diminishing our shared culture, or how Netflix has a leg up over Blockbuster (in semi-regular post I did previously about the end of the Blockbuster-era). I even had a post in 2011 about the short lived company Qwikster that spun off the physical DVD side of Netflix into a short lived company.

And yet, I've never posted how I feel about Netflix. In fact, if I had posted in 2008 about Netflix (my first Netflix reference), I think my feelings would have been different - largely in part because I would have discussed Netflix as a DVD-by-mail video subscription service.

But in 2015, we're dealing with a different beast. A highly profitable company who while still mailing disk to some, primarily fills homes with on-demand video streaming services. That same company that mailed copies of DVDs offers something additional now that it didn't have previously, which was original content.

Disregarding feelings of Netflix from times past, I pick up my feelings in 2015 with a snapshot of feelings today.

Frankly, I can do without Netflix. I am a faithful library wait-lister and feel that I can get more than my hearts content from my local library system as long as I am patient to wait for more recent or popular releases.

I would never say my wife is less patient than I, but well...sometimes she's less likely to take some extra steps by working through the system to get what she wants...especially if she wants it right now. So, if we are subscribed to Netflix it is because she started it.

Over the past 12 months we have begun subscriptions twice (once I canceled, and she picked it up a few months later). It seems that both times started because my wife wanted to watch Gilmore Girls, that WB phenomenon that, for whatever reason, my wife does not tire of.

She wants to watch Gilmore girls and subscribe to Netflix for $7.99 month, than so be it.

But then we've "invested" the money and we feel like this should be our media source for the month (instead of my well stacked library wait list).

And then, a surprising thing happens. Of all the choices there may be one thing that draws us in, perhaps a TV shows we're behind on or a movie we've been wanting to watch. But after that one thing we're stuck with tons and tons of content but nothing we want to watch.

Now, don't hear me say there's nothing good on Netflix. There is. But as a person who's seen many many movies, for example, I've already made it a point to see what I want to see, so say a great movie like Sunset BoulevardCity of God, Good Will Hunting, or Short Term 12, may be available, but I've seen those.

I'm looking for something hard-to-fine on my watch list. Maybe the type of films that my local library doesn't carry (which are few and far between). Some movies on my watch list that my library doesn't carry is Fred Zinneman's 1948 film The Search, or the Barbara Stanwyck and Humphry Bogart film The Two Mrs. Carrols (1947). But the obscure collection on Netflix does skew towards the obscure I'm looking for. I'm not looking to watch The Gabby Douglas Story or The Woman In Black 2: Angel of Death (although both show on the Netflix page right now as films I may be interested in, I am not).

So, I might spend hours (and I mean literally hours) to search through the depths of the Netflix catalog to find the films and TV shows I forgo that I wanted to watch or gems that grab my interest. There has been a winner or two in the mix. We were so glad to find The Honourable Woman or watch Broadchurch. Yet to dig these selections out took work.

So in this regard you might catch me complaining about Netflix. I find it mostly a mix of (a) good stuff I've already seen (b) stuff I'm aware of but not interested in (c) stuff I'm not aware of and not interested. The category I'm missing is "stuff I'm interested in." This makes it a bad product for me.

But there is this extra category that is problematic. It breeds a love/hate relationship with netflix. This is...original content.

I largely have avoided some of Netflix's original content (I tried to do Season 4 of Arrested Development, but it wasn't the Arrested Development I loved). But pause there...it's all not Arrested Development Season 4.

My wife a few months back watch the first season of the Netflix Original Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. My wife and I both enjoyed this show - it's humor...well was humorous to us (not sure what that says about us, but I don't think we're alone).

Netflix taking a power grab at not just being a technology company or content deliverer, but a content creator has crossed over into genius territory here because now they will grab me as a subscriber. Every month I try to quit them every month, but if we're stuck in the middle of a TV show we're watching when the month ends we keep the subscription alive. And even when I succeed in cutting the chord there will be a day when my wife says "the next season of Kimmy Schmidt's on Netflix, you want to watch some this weekend" and it will start up again.

So like many (I presume) I will continue to search things in Google like "The best movies on Netflix right now" or "New Netflix Movies August 2015" in hopes of a gem, captured by the one-off of pleasure and trapped by a subscription service that sometimes fails to meet me were I am.

This is the state of my relationship with Netflx today, August 2015.    

Monday, April 27, 2015

Real (Reel) People Win Oscars: 2015 Edition

When it comes to win an Academy Award, recent years have shown that not any bio-pic performance means a guaranteed nomination, but if you get nominated for your performance playing a real person, then there is a good chance you will win.

Of the past 10 years (20 Lead Actor/Actress winners), 12 of these winners have won for playing real life people. That's 60% of winners since the 2003 ceremony.

• In 2014 Eddie Redmayne played Stephen Hawking, the famous theoretical physicist won the Oscar for Best Actor (post here)
• In 2013 Matthew McConaughey played AIDs drug smuggler Ron Woodroof and won the Oscar for Best Actor. (post here)
• In 2012 Daniel Day-Lewis played Abraham Lincoln and won the Best Actor award (his third Oscar win) (post here)
• In 2011 Meryl Streep played the well known British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and won the Best Actress prize (her third Oscar) (post here)
• In 2010 Colin Firth played King George VI, stuttering British royalty at the dawn of the radio era and won for Best Actor. (post here)
• In 2009 Sandra Bullock played a surprise hero as the Southern mother Leigh Ann Tuohy and won for Best Actress.
• In 2008 Sean Penn played controversial politician Harvey Milk and won the Oscar for Best Actor.(post here)
• In 2007 Marion Cotillard played French singer Ediath Piaf and won the Oscar for Best Actress. (post here)
• In 2006 Helen Mirren played Queen Elizabeth II and won the Oscar for Best Actress.
• In 2006 Forrest Whitaker played Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and won the Oscar for Best Actor
• In 2005 Reese Witherspoon played country music celeb June Carter and won the Oscar for Best Actress.
• In 2005 Philip Seymour Hoffman played author Truman Capote and won the Oscar for Best Actor.

The non-biopic winners from the past 10 years:Jiulianne Moore (Still Alice),  Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Lining Playbook), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), Kate Winslet (The Reader), and  Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood)

I wouldn't expect 2015 to be different. As a result we can almost plan on either Best Actor Oscar winner or Best Actress winner going to a performer who played in a biographical film as a "Real (Reel) Person."

2015 Real (Reel) People Performances:

(Coming Soon)

Click the following links to see the previous Real (Reel) People projects from 2014201320122011201020092008 and 2007. Or check the reel people archive.

App Thoughts: Robinhood

One of the apps that I have really been pleased with recently is Robinhood iOS application.

Robinhood is a stock market trading application that launched to the public in the past couple months (after a significant waiting list in beta mode).

The application allows for stocks to be traded in real time with $0 minimum balance and $0 trades. The general thought process being that the company can leverage technology to minimize overhead.

Ever since high school there has been various times were I've been clued into the market, watching certain stocks and having an interest to jump into the game. Yet, to pick individual stocks has been something that just didn't seem financially feasible. I wanted to dabble, not set a major account.

Instead, I do have a employer sponsored 401k which I actively monitor and adjust my mix based on what's going on, but not being allowed to play in the weeds.

So, when I heard about this app, I wanted to give it a try. And with some generally nominal deposits, I've had the chance to try it out and find it to be a fantastic opportunity to start small and make my own investments.

Having not worked with the competitors of Robinhood, I'm not sure where this company is providing me better or worse services than more established companies of this type.

Application designers of the Palo Alto start-up have done a nice job in their application design and web design. Even their frequently asked questions section of their website is clearly written, helpful, and very transparent.

The things that I enjoy here as well has been the thought process of investing - I have always read and heard people discuss things like "invest in what you know" or "invest in what you're already buying" and it's been interesting to spend some more time delving into the companies that own the products that I regularly consume. Obviously some companies are logical (we all know Nike's makes shoes), but when it comes to knowing who really owns the shoe brands I love, or the eggs I buy it has been enlightening and educational in it's own way.

It's exciting to see apps that do more things than just create mindless games, but instead create accessibility to something that previously was (or seemed) far less accessible. Very pleased, very pleased.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Who is Carol Danvers? Casting predictions for Captain Marvel

As the Avengers universe gets built out on screen Marvel and DC Comics have a gold mine of source material at their disposal. Ever since the Iron Man movie proved that there was an appetite the went beyond Batman, Spider-Man, and Super Man the opportunities for super hero cinema (with the right cast, budget and special effects team) is nearly endless.

A 2018 release of the film Captain Marvel has been announced for 2018. This iteration of Captain Marvel pulls from the Carol Danvers mythology - a blonde haired, blue eyed super hero who first appeared in Marvel Super Heroes # 13 as Carol Danvers, and then as Ms. Marvel #1 in 1977.

She didn't appear as Captain Marvel in 2012 in Avenging Spider-Man Vol. 1 #9.  

Who Will Play The Part of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel?

I suspect we will find out shortly, especially as the Avengers series often gives it's viewers a strong dose of anticipation in the way it creates a road map to future films, either within the films themselves or at the end after the very long credits.

So why not jump in here and speculate here are my best guesses for who might be cast to play the Superhero. I'm generally convinced it will be someone young that can grow into the series. So I'm excluding possible contenders over 35 (sorry, Charlize Theron, Rosamund Pike, Jessica Chastain and Naomi Watts...you'd be great, I'm sure but it doesn't seem like that's how they're casting the very big series). I also assume it will be someone famous with a track record that shows some generally dependability. They need to have the acting chops to portray a wide range of emotions -- both a general softness and then a powerful aggressive side as well. I'm also assuming it will be someone who can be convincing as a blue eyed blonde (hence the white-washed list below).

That leaves me with these 10 predictions (in alphabetical order by last name, because I couldn't rate them)

Emily Blunt

Natalie Dormer

Dakota Fanning

Brie Larson

Jennifer Lawrence

Margot Robbie

Taylor Schilling

Emma Stone

Olivia Wilde

Shailene Woodley

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Good Lie

This past weekend finally got around to seeing the film The Good Lie staring Reese Witherspoon. The film is directed by Philippe Falardeau (known for the Oscar nominated foreign film Monsieur Lazhar) and is a dramatic account of a group of the Lost Boys of Sudan who resettle in United States.

Reese Witherspoon plays an employment agent who is responsible for finding these young men employment and who become engaged in their lives as they encounter America after their own tremendous experience in eastern Africa as they escaped death in the wide spread civil war.

Like the documentary God Grew Tired of Us (2005) [discussed on this blog in 2008] this film reminds us of the incredibly true story and creates a unique opportunity to reflect on aid, the American experience, global needs, and the power of survival.

The story is weighty, but told with a gentle and honest hand. Performance are relatively strong, outside of Witherspoons you have a compelling performances by Ger Duany, Kuoth Wiel, and Corey Stoll.

The film never drags with great pacing at is rolls through it's various acts. The film's limited gross in the United States in it's fall 2014 release (just under three million domestically) was surely a disappointment, but many films which did much better at the box office hardly touched the importance of the story told here.
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