Thursday, February 28, 2013

Guest Blogging - Coz I'm Kind of a Big Deal (in my own mind)

I'm a guest blogger today at fellow writer and friend Maria Buscher's A Journey from Creation to Publication blog. 

Warning: it's about my experience with last year's "So You Think You Can Write" contest. (AKA: The time when Janie went absolutely bat-crazy over a silly writing contest.) Head on over there and check it out: 

A Journey from Creation to Publication

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Showdown: Oscars Edition

It’s Oscar night, baby! Super Bowl Sunday for the other (more interesting) half. So this week's Sunday Showdown is my Academy Award predictions.

For the first time since probably 1994 (that bloody showdown of a year between Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction, but in which Forrest Gump actually won), I have seen all the Best Picture Nominations before the Oscars aired.  I have some bets going with some of my best movie buddies to see who can best predict the winners. Here are my predictions:

Best Picture Nominations:
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Who I think will win:  Lincoln.   Argo.   Lincoln
Who actually won: Argo

Commentary: Obviously, I’m torn. I liked Argo a lot. Truly. It is my personal favorite in terms of watchability, and entertainment value – plus a fabulous, incredible story. But I think there is a lot of hype around Argo only because Ben Affleck’s snub for Best Director. If Argo wins, I won’t be sad. But I think Lincoln will take home the top honor.

Beasts of the Southern Wild and Life of Pi I think both have a chance due to their fanciful nature and just excellent story-telling. But I don’t think it’s enough. Les Mis… well, the movie has the same problem the on-stage musical does: it drags terribly in the second half.

As for Inglorious Basterds: Slavery Edition, I mean, Django Unchained… not a chance. Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook were both good, but not great. Amour… [pause and hold 5,4,3,2,1]… no.

Best Director Nominations:
Michael Haneke (Amour)
Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

Who I think will win: Ang Lee
Who actually won: Ang Lee

What? I gave my Best Picture vote to Lincoln and don’t give the Director vote to Spielberg? Uh, yeah. Have you seen Life of Pi? It’s a-maz-ing. It has every film-making trick in the book, plus the book and the kitchen sink thrown in. I don’t think Pi will win best picture, but here’s the thing: without Daniel Day Lewis, I don’t think Lincoln would’ve had any chance at all.

And let’s face it, we all know who the big winner is here, no matter who takes home the statue: Ben Affleck. Being snubbed by the Academy may have been the best thing that has ever happened for his directing career.

So basically, I’m hedging my bets a little: If Argo does win Best Pic, then I definitely think Ang Lee will win, since Ben Affleck isn’t a possibility. If Lincoln wins then I think it’s a 50/50 chance between Spielberg and Ang Lee.

Best Actor Nominations:
Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
Daniel Day-Lew (Lincoln)
Hugh Jackman  (Les Miserables)
Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
Denzel Washington (Flight)

Who I think will win: Daniel Day Lewis 
Who actually won: Daniel Day Lewis (duh)

I didn’t get to see the Master or Flight – heard wonderful things about the acting in both. But seriously, Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln was masterful.

Best Actress Nominations:
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Naomi Watts (The Impossible)

Who I think will win: Emmanuelle Riva
Who actually won: Jennifer Lawrence

Who I really want to win: Quvenzhane Wallis.  That (6-year-old at the time) child was a force to be reckoned with in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Loved her.  But Riva was heartbreaking in Amour as a dying woman (although I didn’t like the movie itself, I can still appreciate her fabulous performance).

Everybody loves Jennifer Lawrence, and I do too, but I don’t think this is the win for her. Could be wrong. (Note: I was wrong)

There’s a lot of talk about Jessica Chastain, but she did absolutely nothing for me in Zero Dark Thirty. No growth in character, no maturing, no nothing. Her tears at the end didn’t even seem legit to me. And unfortunately, I didn’t get to see Naomi Watts in The Impossible.  

Best Supporting Actor Nominations:
Alan Arkin (Argo)
Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

Who I think will win: Robert De Niro
Who actually won: Christoph Waltz

Tough call. All are previous Academy Award winners.  I wasn’t able to see The Master, but loved everybody in everything else.

Best Supporting Actress Nominations:
Amy Adams (The Master)
Sally Field (Lincoln)
Anne Hathaway (Les Mis)
Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)

Who I think will win: Anne Hathaway
Who actually won: Anne Hathaway

Why disagree with 99.9 of the known universe?

So we’ll see how my predictions hold up in just a few hours.  Update: Ended up being 3 for 6. Shoulda gone with Argo, darn it. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Makes Me Laugh - Parenting Edition

For the past 48 hours, 21 minutes and 19 seconds (but who's counting)  I have had SEVEN (but who's counting) kids under the age of 12 residing at my house. Four dear angels of my own and three borrowed from people evidently smarter than me, because they left town without their kids.

Now they're all gone -- someone else's problem for a few hours. So, I decided to pry my fingers from around this bottle of tequila and post a few parenting funnies that have gotten me through the last couple of days. And twelve years.

If there had been warnings like these around when my kids were babies, they would've ended up in the oven much less often. Instead, I just had to muddle through...

Of course, this never happened.*

I never claimed to be a great mom

To all the parents out there (except my friends who are vacationing at the beach without their little terrors -- you guys can kiss my very tired butt), remember: Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory

But don't worry, if that "moment" involved you saying a four-letter word in front of your kids -- they're remind you of that "memory" every chance they get. 

 * It was Target

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sunday Showdown: AFI vs. IMDb (#50 and #31, 19, 11)

It's the Sunday Showdown: continuing my comparison of the American Film Institute's and Internet Movie Database's Top 100 films.  Another triple play today (actually, the first ever quadruple-play), although it requires a little bit of jumping out of order.

It all has to do with The Lord of the Rings trilogy. They were all coming up on the list, but not necessarily in correct order which is how I wanted to watch them.  They show up as low as #50 and high as #11.

So I watched all three in order so I could get their full effect. But here’s the thing: these movies were not as great as I remember them being.  I mean, they were good and I still enjoyed them, but they weren’t ohmygoshthatwasthegreatestthingever!!!! that I remembered in my mind.

They’re kind of long. And indistinguishable from each other. And hours go by nothing really happens.  Even the epic battles were just really long.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s good acting and a great story. And heck, I’m still in love with Legolas, Aragorn, and Gimli together as an entity.

But sometimes the films seemed to drag.  Sorry.

AFI only includes Fellowship of the Ring on its list (#50) – neither of the other two.  Honestly, I think Fellowship is the weakest of the three films, and I believe AFI included it to be a representative of all the LoTR films. I support that, because I do believe the three films as a whole deserve to be on the list somewhere, but not necessarily taking up three individual spots.

As #50, Fellowship was up against some Japanese anime film entitled Spirited Away. I liked it okay. I’ve said before that animated films are not really my thing. Anime even less so. I’m sure there’s some sort of cultural or historical or cinematic significance to Spirited Away that I don’t understand. Oh well, I don’t really care. So even though Fellowship is my least favorite of the three LoTR, it definitely beats Spirited Away, hands down.

My tougher choices were for when LoTR showed back up for IMDb :
#19  Fellowship vs. the Marlon Brando masterpiece On the Waterfront,
#31  Two Towers vs. John Huston’s glorious Maltese Falcon
#11 Return of the King vs. Charlie Chaplin’s classic City Lights

Brando at his most charming
Maltese Falcon was a no-brainer for me; sorry Two Towers. I had never seen On the Waterfront, and I was absolute enthralled with Brando’s performance. This is a great movie – classic in every sense of the word – and I can’t wait to watch it again. So against Fellowship, the weakest of the three LoTR, Waterfront won.

Return of the King vs. City Lights is what really gave me pause. I like Chaplin’s films a great deal. City Lights is one of the best. He released City Lights as a silent film, even though “talkies” had already taken over Hollywood. I respect that.  City Lights was good enough to have already won once at #59. And it was going to be my pick in this challenge.

But in a last minute change of heart, I’m going to go with Return of the King over City Lights.  If it had been Modern Times, Charlie would’ve won it, but for everything LoTR wanted to be and mostly achieved – I’ll give the final win to Return of the King.

So AFI gets three votes today and IMDb gets one, bringing the score to AFI -31, IMDb – 23.

AFI’s Top 100
IMDb’s Top 100 (as of 1/1/12)


City Lights (1931)
LoTR: Return of the King (2003)
On the Waterfront (1954)
LoTR: Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
LoTR: The Two Towers(2002)

LoTR: Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Spirited Away (2001)
Paths of Glory (1957)
Taxi Driver (1976)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Double Indemnity (1944)
M*A*S*H* (1970)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
The Pianist (2002)
Jaws (1975)
The Lives of Others (2006)
Rocky (1976)
The Departed (2006)
The Gold Rush (1925)
Memento (2000)
Nashville (1975)
City Lights (1931)
Duck Soup (1933)
Aliens (1986)
Sullivan's Travels (1941)
Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004)
American Graffiti (1973)
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Cabaret (1972)
Das Boot (1981)
Network (1976)
The Third Man (1949)
The African Queen (1951)
L.A. Confidential (1997)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Chinatown (1974)
Unforgiven (1992)
The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948)
Tootsie (1982)
Modern Times (1936)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Life is Beautiful (1997)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Monty Python & the Holy Grail (1975)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Back to the Future (1985)
Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (1969)
The Prestige (2006)
Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Raging Bull (1980)
Forrest Gump (1994)
Cinema Paradiso (1988)
All the President’s Men  (1976)
Singing In the Rain (1952)
Modern Times (1936)
Some Like it Hot (1959)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
The Apartment (1960)
Rashomon (1950)
Spartacus (1960)
All About Eve (1950)
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
Amadeus (1984)
Titanic (1997)
Once Upon A Time in America (1984)
Easy Rider (1969)
The Green Mile (1999)
A Night at the Opera (1935)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Platoon (1986)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
12 Angry Men (1957)
Inglorious Basterds (2009)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
The Great Dictator (1940)
Sixth Sense (1999)
Braveheart (1995)
Swing Time (1936)
The Bicycle Thief (1948)
Sophie’s Choice (1982)
The Apartment (1960)
Up (2009)
Goodfellas (1990)
The French Connection (1971)
Downfall (2004)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Gran Torino (2008)
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Metropolis (1927)
Do The Right Thing (1989)
The Sting (1973)
Blade Runner (1982)
Gladiator (2000)
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Toy Story (1995)
Unforgiven (1992)
Ben Hur (1959)
The Elephant Man (1980)