Stormtrooper Terry

Stormtrooper Terry

Monday, February 23, 2015

2015 Oscars, Part 3: The Scorecard

So the party last night is over, we've all recovered from the incredibly long, filler-filled nonsense, and it's time to see how we did on our predictions. And by we, I mean me on my predictions from yesterday's post. But first, let's just deal with the elephant in the room.

Best part of that hilarious skit was Miles Teller reprising his Whiplash gig on drums. Boy can bang. Moving on.

Last year I was a respectable .500 on my predictions, getting twelve out of twenty-four right. This year I didn't do as well but I came close, grabbing ten out of twenty-four for a .417 average. If this was baseball, I'd still be an all-star.

Leaving the overall total behind, how'd I do on the ten categories I really care about, the ones I posted? Right down the middle, five right and five wrong. I nailed Best Picture, Best Original Song, Best Supporting Actor, and the actresses in both of the ladies' categories. I was wrong about Best Animated Feature, having picked How to Train Your Dragon 2... but as Big Hero Six was my "want to win" pick, I'm not at all upset about it. Likewise, while I had Linklater picked as winner for Director, I wanted Inarritu to get it. I underestimated Grand Budapest Hotel when it came to Original Score and Original Screenplay. And I really thought it would be Keaton's year for Best Actor, and was kind of surprised to see Redmayne get it. Although in hindsight I shouldn't have been; before I had seen all the movies he was my early pick just because his role was everything the Academy loves.

As for the show itself, it was as usual a lot of unneccesary fluff shoved between some performances, some moving speeches, and some comedy. NPH was one of the better hosts of the last few years, and his opening was fantastic. I'm not going to touch the discrepancy he pointed out, whether it was his goal or not, between the movies that get nominated and the movies people actually see, because there's no point, we all know about it. But with all of that behind us, it just means there's another year of movies to dive into. Time to start looking for some early picks for next year...

Sunday, February 22, 2015

2015 Oscars, Part 2: The Predictions

Are we all ready for some Oscars? I know I am. With Neil Patrick Harris hosting, we can rest pretty well assured that the show itself is going to be legen... wait for it... wait for it... keep waiting... I hope you aren't lactose intolerant because the last part of this word is... dary. It's time for my annual attempt to compare what I want to happen with what I consider the ten big awards with what I think will happen. But first, let's look at how I rated the eight Best Picture nominees.

8. Boyhood
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel
6. Selma
5. The Imitation Game
4. Whiplash
3. The Theory of Everything
2. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
1. American Sniper

Best Animated Feature
Nominated: Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Song of the Sea, The Tale of Princess Kaguya
Want to win: Big Hero 6
Will win: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Big Hero 6 was a breath of fresh air, a superhero movie that, thanks to the animated nature of it, could fully embrace the superhero concept without any modicum of reality. The animation was flawless, the cast was great, and the story was wonderful. Plus, it had a breakout character. But, I think we all know the Academy hates superheroes, and they'll' probably follow in the Golden Globes footsteps and go with the safer Dragon sequel.

Best Original Song
Nominated: Everything is Awesome (The Lego Movie), Glory (Selma), Grateful (Beyond the Lights), I'm Not Gonna Miss You (Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me), Lost Stars (Begin Again)
Want to win: Everything is Awesome
Will win: Glory
Everything is Awesome deserves it because it's catchy as hell and it would make up for the ridiculous snub of the Lego Movie not getting a Best Animated Feature nod, but Selma isn't going to win anything else and after the controversy over its lack of nominations, I think it'll get the consolation prize here. And it is a good song, after all.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated: American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash
Want to win: Whiplash
Will win: Whiplash
I'm hoping I get this one right, because the Whiplash screenplay was vibrant and witty as hell.

Best Original Screenplay
Nominated: Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Nightcrawler 
Want to win: Birdman
Will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Birdman screenplay was brilliant, but the Academy loves Wes Anderson, and as much as I disliked the movie itself, the screenplay was pretty good.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominated: Robert Duvall (The Judge), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), Edward Norton (Birdman), Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Want to win: J.K. Simmons
Will win: J.K. Simmons
Tough one here. I think the only real competition here is between Simmons and Norton, but Norton disappears completely for the second half of Birdman, whereas Simmons is almost as much the star of his movie as Miles Teller, so I think he gets the edge.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Nominated: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), Laura Dern (Wild), Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game), Emma Stone (Birdman), Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)
Want to win: Emma Stone
Will win: Patricia Arquette
I think Stone was the best of the bunch, especially for her little monologue where she rips her onscreen father apart, but I think the Academy will go with Arquette, who was pretty much the emotional anchor of the otherwise awful Boyhood.

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated: Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Michael Keaton (Birdman), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
Want to win: Bradley Cooper
Will win: Michael Keaton
This is I think easily the toughest category of the night, as these were all monster performances. I think Bradley Cooper put in the performance of a lifetime, but I think there's a good chance Michael Keaton will be rewarded for a lifetime of performances. We'll see.

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Nominated: Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), Reese Witherspoon (Wild)
Want to win: Julianne Moore
Will win: Julianne Moore
I think this is a walk-off for Moore. the other ladies were all good, but she was mesmerizing and heart-breaking. It was a powerful performance that had me stifling tears for a lot of it, and I think there's no way it doesn't get the recognition it deserves.

Best Directing
Nominated: Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)
Want to win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Will win: Richard Linklater
I think Birdman was an infinitely better movie, but Linklater will probably get recognized for the achievement and unique filming process of Boyhood. I'd be happy to get this one wrong, but I guess we'll see. 

Best Picture
Nominated: American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash
Want to win: American Sniper
Will win: Birdman
I'm honestly unsure of this one, as I think American Sniper, The Theory of Everything, and Birdman all have decent shots, but I have to pick one and my gut says Birdman, just because it seems to be on a roll.

There's still four hours or so til the show, so there's still time for all you reading this out there to chime in with your predictions, and remember to check back in tomorrow to see how we did!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Goodreads Book Review - Schulz and Peanuts

Schulz and PeanutsSchulz and Peanuts by David Michaelis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An interesting, if dry read, that was sort of hurt by the way it seemed to me to jump back and forth too much. I also didn't like the way it, at times, painted Schulz in a bit of a negative light; unavoidable, I suppose, when telling the truth, but still some sad things to think about when it comes to the father of Peanuts. One of the true gems of the book is the way Peanuts strips are dispersed throughout. Which also leads to one of the things about the book that really annoyed me, which is that, despite the thousands upon thousands of Peanuts strips the author had to choose from, he repeated a few of them throughout the book. All in all, an interesting book for the dedicated Peanuts fan who can slog through how dry a read it makes for.

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"RPG: Real Playing Game" Review - Written by Jim Herling

Monday, February 16, 2015

"Paddington" Review - Written by Jim Herling

Friday, February 13, 2015

Strugglegate 2015 Update

A little over a week ago, I published a post wherein I talked about the struggle of a writer, and questioning whether or not I even was a writer, given the way I felt. It was a very popular post, read over 100 times and garnering a bunch of comments (more views and comments by far than any of my movie, TV, or book reviews; this says that people are more interested in my life than all that other stuff... which is sweet but, given the direction of my writing career to date, kind of unproductive). Since then, some things have happened.

I got paid for a writing gig. It was a short one, and the odds of anyone I know ever seeing the work or, more relevantly, knowing I wrote it if they did, is slim to none, and none just hopped a train out of town. But I got paid, which is great, and it involved Star Wars, which was a bonus.

Also, I applied for a paid writing job on a site devoted to talking about comic books, something you all know is right up my alley. No guarantee I'll get it, but I have my fingers crossed... among other things.

Lastly, despite my equivocation about the subject, since I wrote that post, I've written five reviews of various things and a separate, creative post that got pretty popular in its own right. So, even when I'm unsure about it, I find myself still writing, which I guess answers some questions.

Is the struggle real? Absolutely.

Am I a writer?

The answer speaks for itself.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Goodreads Book Review - Ghost Story

Ghost Story (The Dresden Files,  #13)Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I took a break between the last installment of the Dresden Files and this one, my longest since starting the series, because I wanted to let the cliffhanger really marinate with me for awhile. But I'm very happy to have dived back in. I've seen this book get a lot of hate on here, but I can't say I know why; it felt just as good as the rest of the series to me, and even had an added bite to it for the very in media res feel of it all, with the reader having to play catch up along with Harry. No, the book didn't necessarily advance the main thrust of the series so far, but to me it feels like that's because this was the start of "phase two" of the story, and that needed to be set up first. With all that aside, the world-building was sound, the flashbacks filling in some holes were great, and I loved the character growth. And, while I'm not going to post spoilers, I will say I was completely correct about who the killer was, but I in no way saw the twist involved with it coming. I can't wait to get into the next installment, but now that I'm almost all caught up I might have to make biding my time a more habitual thing here.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2015 Oscars, Interlude: Acting vs. Imitation Games

One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just isn't the same.
Go ahead and take a look at the collection of this year's Oscars' Best Actor nominees above. Can you hear the song in your head about one of these things not being like the other? No? Well you're no fun. But take a look and think about it. Do you see it? Go ahead, look again. Okay, fine, I'll tell you.

Michael Keaton is the only one who played a fictional character.

You've got John DuPont, Chris Kyle, Alan Turing, Stephen Hawking... and Riggan Thomson.

But it doesn't stop there. If you take a look at the Best Actress nominees, Felicity Jones and Reese Witherspoon are both nominated for portraying real people. And on the Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress side of things, Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, and Laura Dern are all up for portrayals of real people. That means that, out of the 20 nominated actors, 9 of them were portraying real people. And the number jumps to 11 when you consider the controversy over whether or not David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo deserved nominations for their turns as Dr. and Mrs. King in Selma. This brings me to a question, dear readers, something my girlfriend and I talked about while watching the aforementioned Selma (where, by the by, I decided the controversy over that flick's lack of acting nominations is nonsense; yes, the cast was good, but they weren't as good as the people who were nominated, it's as simple as that), and the question is:

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but is it the same as acting?

Now obviously, imitation is a form of acting, if only just by the definition of acting. And I'm not trying to jump on anybody or put anybody down here. I'm just wondering if, for example, the way Eddie Redmayne studied and basically copied Stephen Hawking for his performance is the same as the way Michael Keaton had to create and bring his character to life basically out of whole cloth. Is one thing easier than the other? I mean, I learned from experience in a couple of high school plays that I can't act. But I can imitate Christopher Walken when the mood strikes. Could I do it for a whole movie and play him in a biopic? Probably not, but the point stands.

If I even have a point, that is.

But if acting and imitating are different things, should they be up for the same award? I mean, it seems to me it takes at least a bit of a different skill set to sort of breathe life into a character as opposed to becoming someone who already exists. Or does it, perhaps, depend on the story? Going back to Eddie Redmayne, for example, is the way he basically had to act with his eyes and face, emote the way Hawking does, different than the way way David Oyelowo basically just copied MLK's speechifying tones and posture?  Is that why Oyelowo wasn't nominated while the other "copycats" were (or was it because the other movies were 100% about the characters the actors portrayed, whereas Selma was about a situation the character took part in)?

And wouldn't it be interesting if the Oscar went to Michael Keaton, the only original character in that particular bunch?

I don't know what I'm going for here, folks. I don't particularly have a point, and like I said, I'm not putting anyone down; they're all talented actors who put in great performances. But I just feel like there's something to this, aside from the fact that the Academy is a bunch of suckers for true stories.

Anybody else have any thoughts on the subject they'd like to share?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Goodreads Book Review - Snowblind

SnowblindSnowblind by Christopher Golden

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's funny to me that one of the buzz quotes on the book jacket is from Stephen King, because this is the most Stephen King book not written by Stephen King I've ever read. New England town? Check. Mysterious circumstances coming out of the mundane? Check. A sprawling cast of characters including a group of kids who become adults and have to deal with the horrors of their past? Check and check. Golden's story is just as uneven as some of King's books, too; the beginning is gripping but the middle, after the time jump, feels like it drags as it takes forever to heat back up. He focuses on what's become of the characters since the traumas of the opening section instead of ratcheting things up. I was prepared to rip on him for that until I realized the effect it had. You see, that slow burn worked wonders without me even realizing it because, by the time the breakneck climax hit, I was actually left in tears over the fate of one of the characters. So all that characterization Golden did during the slow burn really paid of for me, and made me end up giving the book a whole star more than I had expected to. And the chilling ending didn't hurt, either...

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"Song One" Review - Written by Jim Herling

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Struggle is Real

There really is a Star Wars meme for everything...
I'm not so out of touch and unhip that I don't know the phrase "the struggle is real" is an ironic one meant to be used whenever the struggle isn't real, or worse, when the "struggle" is ridiculous. But the truth that we should hold onto amongst all our sarcasm and cynicism is that yes, the struggle really is real. We all have struggles, every day. Some are as simple as getting up in the morning and dragging your ass to work. Some are harder, like struggling to make ends meet or struggling between what you want and what you need and how to prioritize the two. So the question is, why am I bringing this up? What am I struggling with? I struggle with money constantly. I struggle within myself over hoping I'm being the best boyfriend I can be to the wonderful woman who loves me. And yes, I struggle over getting my ass up and to work in the morning when I do have a job to go to. But, above everything else, there's one question I've really been struggling with lately.

Am I really a writer?

Yeah, this is going to be one of those honest, personal posts.

I think about this a lot. What do I do that makes me a writer? Sure, I write unpaid movie reviews. and before you say it: yes, I know getting paid isn't really the mark of a writer, despite what my entire family and everyone else I've ever met who wasn't some kind of artist says. I enjoy writing the movie reviews, and I put a good amount of effort and creativity into them, so there must be something there, but that's really it. I mean, yeah, there's this blog, but in the last seven or eight months it's basically just become a repost site for the movie reviews. Yeah, there are the book reviews, but I completely half-ass those because really, who am I to criticize the work of a writer who has actually finished a novel? Not counting the reviews, I haven't finished a single writing project since 2009, and even that was just a 19-page story that was my senior thesis I had no choice but to finish if I ever wanted to graduate.

And let's let this thing sink in for a minute: that 19-page story is the single longest thing I've ever actually finished.

Yeah, I did that short story series almost three years ago now, but those were all less than ten pages and, while I might have finished ten of them, I had plotted out twenty and I just dropped the ball halfway through the story. And honestly, most of that was to impress a girl with my creativity anyway. So again, I have to ask, what makes me a writer? If I even am one anymore, that is.

I tried doing NaNoWriMo (that's National Novel Writing Month, wherein one tries to write a 50,000-word novel over the course of November, for those of you who might not know) for the second time this year. Last year, I got as far as a plot and never actually put a word down on paper. This year, I managed approximately 5,600 words, as you can see by the counter on the side of the blog, and dropped it. I only even managed that much because I was working at a temp assignment where I had a LOT of free time (much like how I'm writing this right now, coincidentally), and the drop hit as soon as that assignment ended and I was left to spend my days at home watching TV and movies and reading comics instead of writing.

Does that make me a writer? Because it doesn't sound like it to me.

I don't know. I have no shortage of story ideas, but I never seem to take them anywhere. I watch friends I've known for years do things with their writing, find outlets, get published, whatever; I'm happy for them, and yes, even jealous, but it doesn't push me to follow their lead. I've even let opportunities pass me by because I just didn't feel like writing what I needed to write. For years I've said that all I've been waiting for is a story I really want to tell, and that's when I'll get into high gear and write. But I've been saying that for well over a decade now. How long does that get to be something I mean before it turns into just an excuse? I'm not getting any younger, you know, which is something I've become painfully aware of lately. So am I really a writer?

The truth is I don't think I know anymore.

So yeah, the struggle is real.

Monday, February 2, 2015