Up in the Air

Alternate Title: Going Nowhere Fast, with George Clooney
2009 Nominee

Everyone in this movie has straight, white teeth and false smiles and the whole thing feels like it’s an elaborate ad encouraging you to stay at the Hilton.  They even make a big deal about Ryan Bingham (Clooney) being a Hilton Honors member, but you know what? It’s free to join.
I know.
I’m a member.

Ryan Bingham is the unrealistically handsome guy who makes a living by firing people. Yes, that’s correct. He takes away other people’s livings for a living. You know who else does that? The Grim Reaper.
He does his due diligence by using money paid out by his own company to fly around the country and fire people whose bosses can’t seem to fathom the cojones to do so themselves. He’s acquiring miles and membership points and has a hard-on for loyalty and status the entire time.

Toothy McHandsomePants meets a lady named Alex (Vera Farmiga) who’s equally smarmy on one of his trips, but the movie catches a second wind with the appearance of Natalie (Anna Kendrick), who although she’s a member of the Hollywood Dental Delights club herself is at least a teeny, tiny bit believable because she’s intimidated by George Clooney and actually cries once in the movie. She’s trying to learn how to do what Bingham does, but has the brilliant idea to involve the internet so that people can get fired over Skype or FaceTime.
Who can’t resonate with wanting to ruin someone’s day with the help of the internet and get paid for it?
I know what you’re thinking, but I don’t get paid to write this blog. (Yet).

Bingham decides to go to his sister’s wedding in Omaha with Alex. That part almost feels like a different movie entirely because one outburst from Natalie and one fun romp around his old high school with Alex turns Bingham into a softie who wants to settle in Omaha and abandon his status. It’s a sickeningly fast character change and I don’t buy it for a second. He’s still George Clooney, who for as handsome as people say he is, I would still rather listen to him read me a bedtime story than look at him because he always looks vaguely bored, like it’s not a challenge to show up and be George Clooney every day.
I don’t understand that kind of life, dude.

The whole sorry mess culminates with random shit collapsing in on itself like a dying star. Natalie quits via text message and Alex, as it turns out, is even scummier than Bingham.

The moral here? I don’t know. It’s about a bunch of sad, sorry beautiful people pretending they’re not empty inside. The characters that are most relatable are the characters who are getting fucking fired.

It’s an unrealistic movie trying desperately to make you feel for characters that have no soul.

Now it’s Your Turn…
Up in the Air was nominated for Best Picture in 2009, but did the Academy get it right?

Midnight in Paris

Alternate Title: All in Good Time
2011 Nominee

I love this movie. My first time viewing it was on behalf of this blog and if I have any regrets at all about the past (I try to have none), it’s that I didn’t see this sooner!

Anyway, Gil (Owen Wilson) is in Paris with his fiancee (Rachel McAdams). Right off the bat, it’s obvious their future marriage is fucked. She keeps rolling her eyes at him and sarcastically making fun of his attempt to write a novel in front of a guy she had a crush on in college (Michael Sheen), who just so happens to also be in Paris with his girlfriend.

Gil is trying to write a book as a turn from writing movie scripts. He’s having a hard time with self-confidence and finds himself wandering off, a little drunk, one night after dinner with his fiancee and her equally unremarkable parents. Gil gets into a car and is whisked to a party, where he makes an introduction with Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald – the writer of The Great Gatsby and his emotionally volatile wife. Before long, Gil gets the impression he’s taken a wrong turn and entered a different time period.

Of course, the following day, Gil recollects his adventure to the almost Mrs. Freeze and she dismisses his rambling as idle chitchat. Then she takes him to look at wedding crap with her mom, a decorator, whose favorite phrase is, “Cheap is cheap.”
Seriously though, who wouldn’t want to marry this girl already?

Gil soon discovers that every night at midnight, a car picks him up and takes him back to the past (which is why he never manages to meet Marty McFly). He does however meet Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, a woman who makes him experience love more than the one that starred in Mean Girls, and a whole host of other well-known figments of history. It’s hard for Gil to stay focused on his fiance duties and listen to Paul’s prattling when he looks most forward to midnight in Paris.

As a writer, I do enjoy watching another writer’s idea of other writers. You see, only a writer could write a sentence that doesn’t at all sound right, right? Right. What I mean is that Woody Allen never met the writers in the film, or the other artists, but his imagination serves as the canvas for who they really were, and who the actors believe they really were, so the movie as a whole speaks to the wonderful imagination of a creative person…right?

The film is beautiful to look at and the story, while a little complicated, is still easy to follow. Perhaps that’s because the pace is a little fuzzy and deliberate, like you’ve just had one extra glass of really nice, French wine.

Now it’s Your Turn…
Midnight in Paris was nominated for Best Picture in 2011, but did the Academy get it right?

Silver Linings Playbook

Alternate Title: Swipe Right for Lunacy
2012 Nominee

A lot of the movie involves football, so I barely understood a word of that part. Basically, it’s about a dude getting treatment for bipolar disorder who leaves treatment and then tries to seek out his technically-still-wife, but also does a dance thing with this other woman who’s dealing with her own pile of mess and then they fall in love. It’s irrational’s response to the rom com.

Pat (Bradley Cooper) gets out of a mental institution after beating up a guy that he caught in the shower with his wife. Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who’s hardcore grieving because her husband died in a freak accident. They bond over conversations about which meds they’ve taken and conversations about their own erratic behavior. Tiffany convinces Pat to compete in a dance competition with her – even though neither of them can really dance – because somehow that will please Pat’s ex-wife and get her to pay attention to him.

What bugs me is that movies like this perpetuate this idea that if unstable people love each other, that will solve all of their problems. That’s a dangerous misguidance, at the very least. If you are not mentally stable, another person is not responsible for your stuff. You have to work on it and take responsibility for yourself. I’m not saying you can’t fall in love, but you have to understand self-love before you could possibly demonstrate love to another human being to full capacity. This isn’t rocket science.

Tiffany and Pat both embody people with mental issues that need to be addressed (not necessarily with just meds), not tossed away because love means they don’t have any problems anymore. Between him waking up his parents in the middle of the night to bitch about Ernest Hemingway and her throwing a temper tantrum every time something doesn’t go her way, the movie plays like a couple of adults in a Freaky Friday-type situation where they’re really kids trapped in grown-up bodies and neither of them is really dealing with anything because they’re too busy making selfish choices that hurt other people.

I think I was supposed to fall in love with this movie, but I didn’t. It’s a movie that’s meant to convey the importance of staying  positive while still sending a message to people who are unstable or still working through some things that love will save you from yourself.
But you don’t need to be saved from yourself. Self-love is your salvation.

As someone with their own mental health concerns, the most positivity I’ve found is in accepting your life for what it is and continuing to grow even when things don’t work out as you envisioned. Disappearing inside another person as a means of forgetting what you have to do for yourself, now that’s just plain crazy.

Now it’s Your Turn…
Silver Linings Playbook was nominated for Best Picture in 2012, but did the Academy get it right?

Dallas Buyers Club

Alternate Title: Drugs are Bad, AIDS is Worse (MmKay?)
2013 Nominee

This is the movie that birthed the phrases, “Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey” and, “Academy Award winner Jared Leto.” If that’s not surreal enough for you, add in the fact that McConaughey looks emaciated the whole time and Leto is dressed like a lady and they both play people who are HIV-positive.

McConaughey (excuse me, Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey) plays Ron Woodroof, a real person who was diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s. Woodroof is a Dallas rodeo cowboy, so when his friends accuse him of being gay due to the diagnosis, this only adds to the total fucking torment that is being HIV-positive. Woodroof is not in fact gay, but has had unprotected sex with women that were IV-drug users. It’s a subtle, but worthwhile reminder to ignorant folks that HIV does not discriminate; if you don’t use a condom or poke yourself with needles, you are at risk. Please be careful out there.
Unlike some people diagnosed with a terminal illness, Woodroof does his homework. With an estimate of 30 days left to live, he attempts to get ahold of AZT, a drug known to help with the virus. Remember that guy Martin Shkreli? One of the reasons he’s a villain is he spiked the price of AZT. I would have liked to hear Ron Woodroof cuss him out, but my guess is he would at least call him a mother fucker. I’m sticking with douchebag for now.

Woodroof ends up going to see a doctor in Mexico when his illegally obtained supply of AZT runs low. The doctor prescribes Woodroof Peptide T and vitamins, explaining that AZT is poison. In fact, studies did show that early AZT was highly toxic and many patients undergoing drug trials were experiencing worsened symptoms while taking it. How do I know? Because Ron figured this out and broadcast the news to the community as well as to his own doctor (Jennifer Garner).

Woodroof befriends Rayon (Leto) while selling Peptide T and the supplements to other HIV-positive people. Ron and Rayon start the Dallas Buyers Club for people who want to use their pharmaceuticals instead of the infamous AZT. Of course, this leads to problems with medical professionals, the IRS, and the FDA, all of whom Woodroof fights with Texas swagger and refusals to stop his business.

This movie does a great job illustrating an incident where the government didn’t appear to have its citizens’ best interest at heart without serving up too much courtroom drama. It’s also pretty hard not to like Ron Woodroof by the end of it, no matter how you feel about Matthew McConaughey (…Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey).

Now it’s Your Turn…
Dallas Buyers Club was nominated for Best Picture in 2013, but did the Academy get it right?

The Theory of Everything

Alternate Title: The Stephen Hawking Movie
2014 Nominee

Stephen Hawking AKA the guy from the Harry Potter movies that aren’t Harry Potter movies (Eddie Redmayne) falls in love with Jane AKA the lady from the newest Star Wars movies (Felicity Jones). Gather, nerds. We must unite!
By the end of the film, you still won’t understand anything about black holes or space or the fabric of the universe because the movie is more about relationships with people than with time or space. People are the matter that truly matters.

There is some science jargon. There’s even some medical jargon related to Hawking’s diagnosis of Motor Neuron Disease, which is Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Remember when everyone in the universe was dumping ice water on themselves? They were fighting this disease, one frigid-ass shower at a time.
The whole film touches on the dynamics of love and – briefly – addresses the principle of time in relation to love. There’s just enough science to make you feel smart, but still not smart enough to read A Brief History of Time and have the faintest idea what it all means.

There isn’t a lot of Hollywood drama clouding the reality of the situation. In fact, there isn’t a lot of Hollywood dialogue either, but that’s partially because Hawking’s disease made it progressively more difficult for him to speak (until they made him an American robot voice, of course).
What I appreciate the most is that the film demonstrates how two people can still love each other with change. Love even develops for other people, but none of the characters end up demonized. There isn’t a lot of black and white when it comes to love or time (just black holes). Instead, the film delves into how relationships expand just as the universe expands and that love, like time, can be infinite if you simply allow it to exist for what it is at any given moment.

The Theory of Everything left me a little dizzy. Not only does it feel like a tremendous lot  of information to take in, but there are literal circles in the whole thing. The way scenes are shot, circular objects, and the notion of time itself all encompass an idea of circular motion and the cycle of life.
Sit somewhere comfortable for this one.

Now it’s Your Turn…
The Theory of Everything was nominated for Best Picture in 2014, but did the Academy get it right?


Lady Bird

Alternate Title: I was a High School Weirdo
2017 Nominee

Fuck high school.

I think the only people who really liked it were the people torturing me and people like the title character, Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan). Her real name is Christine, but you know how you made up a weird name for yourself and had everyone call you that because you were mad at your mom? A lot of people won’t admit it, but girls are mad at their moms for a pretty substantial portion of their teenage years.

Lady Bird is mad at her mom (Laurie Metcalf), but also she dates this boy who turns out to be gay. You totally don’t see it coming because he’s really good as the lead in the school musical.

Our beloved title character is simultaneously trying to go to college on the opposite coast from whichever coast Sacramento, California is on because she love/hates it and thinks New York is cool even though she’s never been there. This is why high schoolers shouldn’t be allowed to decide which institution they get to send all their parents’ money to for an education that really consists of learning how to have sex without getting pregnant and how to drink lots of alcohol without barfing.

It all boils down to a lady (bird) and her mom. I have to say, I teared up more than once. The movie is passionate and disjointed – kind of like a high school girl. There are a lot of lovely moments that make the movie feel a little like you’re flipping through a photo album, but also fighting with your mom, which makes sense because who the fuck else ever has the idea to look through a photo album?

It’s a movie that might even make you want to visit Sacramento…and  then immediately fly to New York.

Now it’s Your Turn…
Lady Bird was nominated for Best Picture in 2017, but did the Academy get it right?