Sunday, February 26, 2012

If I chose the Oscar winners (...from the films that have been nominated)

                I enjoy watching the Academy Awards every year. It’s nice to see the stars dressed up and mingling at their yearly prom, though I don’t really care much about who is wearing what.  I’m happy to see Billy Crystal back too. I don’t get too worked up about what movies win because most of my favorite movies would never be considered anyway. But I usually have a horse to root for in almost every category. The tradition for the Oscars at our house is usually my wife and I watching from the beginning of the red carpet arrivals, then her going to bed midway through the awards so that she can get up for work, and me with my trusty bowl of popcorn seeing it through to the end. But this year we are making a little more to do of it, Amanda will be staying up, and we’ll even have our friend Ruth over. We’re even wearing movie related t-shirts. Did I mention more snacks? Oh, well, more snacks too.

I haven’t seen a number of the short films, foreign films and documentaries, so I’m not going to pass judgment on them. But I will tell you some of my major picks.   I know everyone has their own movies that they are pulling for, and I know a number of mine won’t win… but I thought I would talk about where my allegiances lie. Here a list: ‘If I chose the Oscar winners (from the films that have been nominated).’

Without further ado –

Writing (Original Screenplay)
Midnight in Paris

This movie was written brilliantly and beautifully on every level (from story to characters to character development, etc…).

Visual Effects-
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2
(Closely followed by Transformers Dark of the Moon… actually I would be good with either of these taking this category)

I would probably put Real Steel in third.
The effects in in Hugo and Rise of the Planet of the Apes while great, to me were noticeably not quite as polished

Sound Mixing and Editing
I am going with Transformers Dark of the Moon for both of these categories.

Okay, I know, you already knew I was going to pick that… but if you saw that movie you’d know that it was (not only really loud, but) filled with a lot of insanely intricate sound mixing and editing from start to finish.

Music (Original Song)
‘Man or Muppet’ from ‘The Muppets’

The Muppet movie was delightful, and I found myself singing this song to myself long after the movie was over.

Music (Original Score)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2

It might not win, but look into your heart… you know it should.

Film Editing
I’m going to take ‘The Artist’ on this one.

I chose this movie because not only did I think the editing was excellent, but they also overcame the added challenge of keeping the story presented in an outdated format interesting to an audience with modern pacing sensibilities.

I want Woody Allen to win, though I don’t think it will happen.

Costume Design
I would like to see costume design go to ‘The Artist’.

Art Direction
Art Direction was tough, I had a hard time choosing between Hugo, The Artist, and Harry Potter.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Animated Feature Film
This should absolutely be Rango.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Berenice Bejo in ‘The Artist’

Actor In a Supporting Role
I’d be great to see Jonah Hill win for Moneyball, but I don’t think it will happen.

Actress In a Leading Role
Viola Davis in ‘The Help’
She was excellent.

Actor In a Leading Role
Jean Dujardin in ‘The Artist’
He's amazing

Best Picture
Midnight in Paris

Easily the best picture of the year. I doubt it will win because I don’t think it is heavy-handed enough compared to the types of films that usually win.

As long as  ‘The Tree of Life’ does not win.  That movie is easily among the worst films (if not THE worst film) I’ve ever seen nominated.

Well it’s time to get the snacks ready; the Academy Awards will be starting soon!
Maybe if my choices don’t win, yours will. If nothing else I hope it will be an entertaining evening.

Kind Regards,
William j Barry

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Devices of Time Travel

                “Now I got a time machine at home… It only goes forward at regular speed.  It’s essentially a cardboard box and on the outside I wrote ‘time machine’ in Sharpie” – Demetri Martin

                The idea of time travel is something that has fascinated me ever since I first saw the movie ‘Back to the Future’ in 1985. That film had such a profound effect on my childhood that still to this day, if you asked me to pick a favorite film…that would be it.  But to tell the truth, time travel has been a topic in a few movies on my top ten: ‘Donnie Darko’ and ‘Midnight in Paris’ are some others that readily come to mind. I even wrote time travel into my ‘Sebastian and the Afterlife’ books.
                But who hasn’t had a fantasy about time-travelling back and experiencing another time period? Or at least dreamt about going back to tell yourself about the winning lottery numbers or what stocks to buy? I think it would be nice to show up at various points in my life and beat the snot out of myself whenever I was about to make a huge life-altering mistake (… and I’ve made a few in my time… I’ll probably make a couple more before I’m done).
                I’ve sometimes thought it would be fun to go back to the 1980s, when new-wave was cutting edge and classic 80’s movies were first hitting the big screen. Or maybe it'd be nice to experience an earlier time period. It might be good for a visit, but when I think about it further, there were a lot of terrible things going on in the 80s… and most other time periods for that matter.  I don’t even want to consider hygiene or health care when you start really turning back the clock … And there may be oppression and injustice now, but it only gets worse as you go backward. 
                In the film ‘Midnight in Paris’ (which is brilliant, by the way), the pedantic Paul character makes a reference to something called ‘Golden Age Thinking’. He says it’s “the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in.” His character is effectively annoying in the movie, but this particular statement makes a lot of sense to me. Come to think of it, there are a whole lot of amenities and advancements that have come about in the last ten years that I would never want to have to live without.
                Is my nostalgia misguided? Sure there are some exciting movements and trends in history that would be fun to have a part in, but maybe I have been too lenient on whole time periods. Most of them are not without really terrible elements. So, beyond some of the pop culture, what do I miss about the 1980s? I think the early 1990s were better for me anyway.
                I was a kid in the 80s, and I didn’t really notice as much of the scary things in the world as much as I noticed my dreams … and that my life was ahead of me. Anything was possible. As for me, when I was nine I decided I was going to be a rock star… it was totally going to happen (still might). Maybe my ability to dream unencumbered by my cynicism is what I miss most about the 80s.
                That’s the nicest thing about books and films…they are devices of time travel. Not necessarily to another time period in history, but another time period psychologically. You are free to lose yourself in outlandish ideas, dreaming of the possibilities as if you were a child. Maybe some of the wide-eyed optimism could even creep out of the story and into one’s mentality. Maybe we could all re-realize that the future still holds endless possibilities for us.  So get a book, get a movie; I think it’s time we did more time travelling.

Kind Regards,
William j Barry

Friday, February 17, 2012

I can do all things through Angry Birds…

                I know it’s been a phenomenon for a while now, so it’s old hat, but I still really love the game Angry Birds.  It’s addictive, and I might be suspicious of someone who didn’t enjoy it at all. 
                I like the entire cast of birds, but I think if I had to pick a favorite Angry Bird, it would be the original red one.  Okay, I know he doesn’t have special abilities like many of the other birds, but to me he just seems the angriest… and I appreciate that. On the second swipe of your finger he just lets out a gut-wrenching ‘caw’ as he flies, because he’s so… angry.  He’s been there from the first level, destroying everything he can.  Those green pigs should have never stolen the birds’ eggs.
                I know it’s a stretch, but I feel like I could learn something from these angry ones.  In the game, every so often you’ll get to a level that seems impossible at first.   But despite the challenge, the birds hurl themselves against the obstacles.  Sure, it may take replaying the level a few times, but eventually you’ll either get a strategy or a lucky break. 
                It’d be nice if I had that kind of fortitude; to not give up; to just keep throwing myself against my problem until it crumbled to the ground… even if it seemed impossible (perhaps especially if it seemed impossible).  If you keep working at something you’ll eventually develop a strategy, and you may just get a lucky break. 
                I’m not a very angry person in general, and I’m not saying we should all be perpetually mad and try to lay waste to all that we see.  Don’t do that.  But the world is full of challenges, and metaphoric green pigs that want to steal our dreams away.  I hope I can wake up tomorrow and have the drive to keep throwing myself against the walls that are in my way.  If I keep working at it eventually the barriers will fall and I will get to where I want to be: …back in my recliner, playing Angry Birds, making ludicrous assumptions that they are teaching me something about life.

Kind Regards
William j Barry

Friday, February 10, 2012

Immortal Web Surfers

                I wonder what kind of strange immortal creatures might happen upon my blog late at night.  There are so many possibilities. A dark wizard could be browsing the web after chanting a mystical spell to protect his computer from viruses, a vampire could be on the way to order some
O-negative blood online, maybe the Flying Dutchman has Wi-Fi, and there might actually be ghosts in the internet.  I could even get some other magical beings like writers, artists, musicians or actors; maybe architects, scientists or parents.  Okay, admittedly the list is starting to get less interesting, but it is still filled with fascinating immortal beings; individuals that can potentially cheat death and live on beyond their mortal time.
                I used to have a bit of a hang up about my journey to immortality.  A few years ago it had gotten to a point where I felt I couldn’t relax for a moment until I had ‘left my mark on the world’. Whatever I was to be known for, my artistic work would live on long after my days were done… I would join the ranks of the immortals.  I wouldn’t be coming back to bite you on the neck, but I would be there speaking to you through the pages you were turning. (my first published book was even about ghosts… is that telling?) 
                The drive someone finds to follow a passion can be steeped in a lot of things; for
example – proving oneself, feelings of obligation, fear, or more specific in my case, fear of mortality.  But I had to let all of that go to find peace.  A passion should be just that… a passion.  Shouldn’t that be at the core of why we bother with it at all? That and the joy and enlightenment it brings others?
                One day you and I might join the ranks of immortals, and it’s unlikely we’ll have to don a black cape in the process. Perhaps we will be gone but our art will continue to do our bidding (whatever ‘art’ that might be). We should strive for our passion, and immortality may follow on its own.  As long as we can live a life doing what we love, we’ll have the last laugh in the end.

Kind regards,
William j Barry

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Thesaurus Rex

I like to imagine that a thesaurus is a really pretentious type of dinosaur.  He’s always looking down his nose at me for overusing commonplace words that readily come to my mind.  But honestly I can’t blame him.  In a culture where the English language is being destroyed by text-speak and social networking sites, coherent word and sentence structure stands little chance.  I consider myself much more of a storyteller than technical writer, but even I too might be slowly turning into a pretentious literary dinosaur myself… I even lost my respect for the Oxford linguists when the word ‘bootylicious’ made it into the Oxford English Dictionary back in 2008.  That was to be followed by them naming ‘refudiate’ best new word in 2010.  Maybe I should look into getting a job alongside those linguists, because it seems like they might need my help.  Am I old before my time? Am I sitting on my front porch shaking my fist in the air, yelling “You darn acronyms get off my lawn”?  … Maybe; I’m only moderately old, but if I’ve learned anything from getting older, it’s that though you may be upset with the way things are now, you will likely cherish them in the future when things get even worse.
 I think if I had to pick a moral of the story, I may say that if you want to be a writer, take a little pride in your craft … do it for the Thesaurus Rex, that most pretentious of dinosaurs, who will always think your writing is crap anyway, no matter how good it really is.  At least you can hold your head high despite his criticism and give him the finger.  And if you’re not an aspiring writer… please just try not to completely destroy what’s left of the English language.

Kind regards,
William j Barry