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Monthly Archives: February 2011

A STUTTERING KING, A PSYCHO BALLERINA, AND A FIGHTER’S FAMILY TOP OSCARS

It is now the morning after the night before and most of Hollywood is probably waking up with a hangover. The gowns are hanging in the closet or hung over a chair, the jewels are tucked away, the upswept hair-dos brushed out, and newly crowned stars are staring in disbelief at a little golden man.

I was pretty accurate in my predictions. I successfully predicted that Colin Firth and Natalie Portman would win Best Actor and Actress. I also called the Best Supporting Actor race with Christian Bale winning. Also, my favorite movie topped the list with The Kings Speech winning the honor of Best Movie. The only category I missed was for Best Supporting Actress. I should have gone with the majority of the critics who said Melissa Leo had the lead in that category.  

The hosts, Anne Hathaway and James Franco, were young and hip, as they pointed out in their introductory remarks, and designed to appeal to a younger demographic—also expressed in their dialogue. Anne was beautiful, energetic, and enthusiastic and kept the evening moving with her youthful exuberance. Sorry I can’t say the same about James Franco. Just standing there looking gorgeous isn’t enough. He could have been more animated to match Hathaway’s energy level. Their promo spots looked promising but nerves must have gotten the better of Franco (or the fact he lost in the Best Actor category).

A bit of old Hollywood was represented by Kirk Douglas who relished the spotlight and the audience loved it. Also, more in the traditional vein was the appearance of Billy Crystal. The audience broke out in a spontaneous applause showing their respect for the eight-time Oscar host.

Everyone was beautifully and appropriately attired for the evening. There weren’t any real disasters. Even Helena Bonham Carter was, in her own way, elegant but funky. You have to hand it to her for being true to her style. Russell Brand was the only one on the edge of good taste wearing a plaid (subtle but still plaid) shirt with his tux and very tight pants. There were so many beautiful dresses it is hard to pick a favorite. As Whoopie pointed out today on The View, no one wants to be raked over the coals for their choice so more are going with a stylist.

In my opinion, what stole the show was the stage. It was decked out with crystals and the back drop was capable of showing scenes and special effects in a multi-dimensional way. I miss the large production numbers for best song and soundtrack nominations. That was always a highlight to me.

However, I loved this year’s ending with the YouTube sensation kids from New York PS22 singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with all the evening’s winners coming back on stage for an encore bow. Hollywood is a town of dreams and make-believe and for one night once a year a very special few get to have their dreams come true.

AND THE OSCAR GOES TO………

Sunday is the 83rd Annual Academy Awards presentation. This, according to my husband, is the super bowl of awards shows. We will cozy up next to the TV and eagerly wait to see our favorite movie stars in all their glam and bling.

I am married to a movie junkie and thus we have seen most, but not all, the nominated movies. This was a dry as desert year for good movies until November and December with the flood of good movies held back until the end so they would be fresh in the minds of the Oscar committees. The movies nominated for best picture are:

Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

The movies I did not see were: Inception (although my husband did), 127 Hours (sorry, just couldn’t sit through a couple of suffocating hours watching someone cut off his own arm), Toy Story 3 (just missed it—don’t know how), and Winter’s Bone (must not have received much play here—don’t know much about it). However, two movies stand way above the others to the point that I don’t see how the ones I missed could come close to competing. Black Swan and The King’s Speech were outstanding. The Fighter, The Social Network, and True Grit were also excellent movies and would be strong contenders in any other year. All three were well-directed with excellent performances from the actors and above all very entertaining; all hallmarks of an award-winning movie. I must say that even though The Kids Are All Right was an entertaining movie with a touching story line, I just don’t get all the hype. I don’t feel it belongs in this year’s lineup.

The Black Swan and The Kings Speech are both riveting movies. There are scenes from the Black Swan that are so vivid and dramatic that they will stay with me forever. It is a very powerful movie and gives an excellent view into the competitive world of dancing. However, my vote for best movie is The Kings Speech. It also has some very touching and compelling scenes. I can’t explain why but I came away from the movie with a good feeling. Perhaps it was watching a world leader overcome a personal handicap, or the fragile but growing relationship between King George and his therapist, or the fascination with the British royals, or maybe it was the fly-on-the-wall view of major events prior to World War II. Whatever the reason, I just loved The Kings Speech.

The nominees for best actor are:

            Javier Bardem, Jeff Bridges, Jesse Eisenberg, Colin Firth, James Franco

My vote goes to Colin Firth not just because I so loved The Kings Speech but his acting and charisma is what makes the movie come alive.

The nominees for best actress are:

            Annette Bening, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman, Michelle Williams

Natalie Portman is my favorite here. Her descent into madness is so convincing I don’t see how she was able to keep her sanity during the filming of this movie.

The nominees for best supporting role are:

Christian Bale, The Fighter; John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone; Jeremy Renner, The Town; Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right, and Geoffrey Rush, The Kings Speech.

Although I would like to go with Geoffrey Rush, I think Christian Bale will win it for his complete transformation in this role.

Finally, the nominees for best supporting actress are:

Amy Adams, The Fighter; Helena Bonham Carter, The Kings Speech; Melissa Leo, The Fighter; Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit; and Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom.

Most critics are saying it will be a fight between Melissa Leo and Amy Adams both from The Fighter but I think these two will cancel each other out. Helena Bonham Carter might get caught up in the wave if The Kings Speech sweeps much of the awards. However, my favorite is Hailee Steinfeld. At fourteen, this is her first movie but she holds her own with last year’s best actor winner Jeff Bridges. She was a delight to watch portraying innocence and grit at the same time. If she doesn’t win, I nominate her as girlfriend for my 13 year old grandson. She is tall (5ft.7in.), beautiful, intelligent, and athletic; all a perfect match for my grandson who is tall, good looking, intelligent, and athletic.

So pop a big bowl of popcorn and grab a favorite drink and join me beside the TV to watch the Academy Awards on Sunday, February, 27th at 8 EST. Check back next week to see if I got any of these right.

NOTE—A bit of trivia:

Q.        Who won the most Oscars for best actor?

A.         Nine men have won twice:

  • Spencer Tracy (1937,1938)
  • Fredric March (1932, 1946)
  • Gary Cooper (1941, 1952)
  • Marlon Brando (1954, 1972)
  • Dustin Hoffman (1979, 1988)
  • Tom Hanks (1993, 1994)
  • Jack Nicholson (1975, 1997)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis (1989, 2007)
  • Sean Penn (2003, 2008)

 

Q.        Who won the most Oscars for best actress?

A.         Katharine Hepburn won four Oscars.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR. PRESIDENT(S)

The Apotheosis, Abraham Lincoln and George Was...

Image via Wikipedia

Today is Presidents Day, or so I thought and I bet you thought so too. However, it is not now, nor has it ever been, officially “Presidents Day.” The legal holiday we are celebrating today is Washington’s Birthday.

George Washington, first president and father of our country, was born February 22 and that other great president born in February, Abraham Lincoln, was born February 12. Washington’s Birthday was first designated a holiday in 1880 by the District of Columbia and then adopted by the federal government in 1885. Lincoln’s birthday has never been recognized as a legal federal holiday however many individual states have observed it as such.

In 1951 the “President’s Day National Committee made the first attempt to create a Presidents Day to honor all presidents.  The committee promoted March 4, the date of early inaugurations, as Presidents Day, however, it died in committee because of its proximity to Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays. They felt three holidays so close together would create an undue burden. Creating more confusion was the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill of 1968 which moved federal holidays to Mondays to promote business with three-day weekends. By the mid 1980’s advertisers were running special sales during this weekend and calling it Presidents Day.

So, even though you thought this was an officially sanctioned holiday, if you celebrate “Presidents Day” you are actually playing into the hands of advertisers. Regardless of what this day actually is, let us take a moment to reflect on the lives and dedication of two, true American heroes—George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

In recognition of Lincoln, I will close with a poem I wrote 53 years ago when I was in the sixth grade. I recently found a copy of the school newspaper with my poem on the front page dated Friday, Feb. 28, 1958 in my box of memories. It is interesting to note that all along the margins of the paper I had written my name, guess I was practicing my autograph for bigger things to come. For what it’s worth, here is my first published piece.

Abe Lincoln

 Abraham Lincoln was born on a snowy, frosty morn,

In a little log cabin that was weathered and worn.

His parents were poor but honest and kind.

Abe was always able to bind his jokes and witty ways

To make them pleasant through out his days.

When Abraham Lincoln started to school

He always followed the golden rule.

He worked by day and read by night,

Near the hearth by the log firelight.

When he grew older he studied law,

And practiced it at the state bar.

President of the United States he became

His kindness, his wit, and knowledge brought fame.

His title was known both far and near

As “Honest Abe of the Illinois Frontier.”

——–Sheila Moore 6d

WHY WE NEED TO SAVE THE ARTS

I have several passions in life and the arts are one of them. I’m not sure why I’m so passionate about preserving the arts, perhaps it is because I never received much of an education and thus an opportunity to explore the arts as a young child.

I was in the first wave of baby boomers after the war and the overwhelmed schools were too busy shoving us into crowded classrooms to worry about the arts. To complicate matters, I moved in the ninth grade from a school system that waited until the ninth grade to introduce study in music and art to a system that covered these subjects in earlier grades. Thus, I have never had a real art or music class where I studied the basics of these subjects and then had an opportunity to participate in these activities. Most of my art education has been self-taught by joining choirs and visiting art museums, concerts, plays, ballets, etc. I think this early deprivation created a real yearning in my soul for an outlet for self-expression. Perhaps that is why I drifted toward writing.

Another popular belief during my childhood was that since we were to be the leaders in the new post war society our studies should be more about the basics such as math, science and basic writing skills. Anything in the arts was frivolous and must take a back seat to progress. But wait, this argument sounds very familiar! Over ten years ago I was a lobbyist for the arts in the schools and those are the very words I heard legislators use as they half-heartedly listened to arguments for and against revamping the educational system in efforts to establish a fair and equitable education for all. It was a huge law suit called DeRolf vs. State of Ohio first filed in 1991. The suit eventually died in 2003. I could give you the legal mumbo jumbo attached to the case but the best way to summarize it is to say it died due to politics.

Now politics threatens to endanger the very arts themselves. The Republicans have been nipping at the heels of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for years and now the Republican dominated congress is threatening to drastically trim the NEA budget or even eliminate it. The Republican Study Committee, led by Rep. Jim Jordan of Urbana, wants to eliminate the NEA budget altogether. Why should this matter to you? For one thing, Ohio arts groups have received $8.8 million from the NEA since 2007. About half that went to the Ohio Arts Council which then issues grants to smaller groups around the state. I was once a member of the board of a community concert association that received a grant from the Ohio Arts Council and I can tell you that money was greatly appreciated. It enabled us to bring in big names and quality acts to our small community. We received many letters of thanks for our long hours of volunteer work but the most rewarding one was from a patron who brought her recently widowed friend to a show. She said that was the first time in months her friend had smiled and was able to forget her troubles.

You may think you are not a patron of the arts and the arts have no affect on your life. I challenge you to stop what you are doing right now and look around you. Is music playing in the background or is the TV turned on? Musicians are providing the music. Writers wrote the script for the TV show, designers created the sets, fashion designers created the wardrobe, artists painted the sets and provided pictures for the walls, and actors made the story come alive. Do you have art work on your walls? An artist created it. The furniture you are sitting on was designed by a designer. The building you are in was designed by an architect. The magazine on your coffee table houses a multitude of artists from commercial artists, to photographers, to writers. The public buildings you were in today required the cooperation of various architects, interior designers, commercial artists, etc. Art is in every aspect of our lives.

Now, take it all away. Turn off the music, turn off the TV, close the movie theatres, silence the orchestras and bands, take away all color, make all buildings a square box, make all fabrics plain and beige. What kind of world would we have? Whether you know it or not, we need our artists. Help save the arts. Get involved with your local arts groups, community theatre, concert associations, choirs, bands, etc. If you aren’t talented enough to be able to participate, then show your support by being an enthusiastic audience member. Support these groups with you time and financial gifts. Let your representatives know that you support the arts and we need the National Endowment for the Arts

Hendrik Willem Van Loon, known for writing about the arts in history and winner of the first Newbery Medal in 1922 said:

The arts are an even better barometer of what is happening in our world than the stock market or the debates in congress.

MY CALENDAR COLORING BOOK: RED IS FOR FEBRUARY

 When one thinks of February the color red automatically comes to mind. The most obvious is the red found in sentimental Valentine’s Day cards or the bright red heart-shaped box of chocolates. It is a welcome color coming in the middle of a drab winter. It adds a cheery note to an otherwise depressing month which is just one of many in the long march of winter.

February has been celebrated as the month for lovers going as far back as Roman times when it was celebrated as the beginning of spring and renewal of life with various pairings of unmarried men and women and fertility rites. The exact origins of Valentine’s Day are unknown with the Catholic Church recognizing at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.

One legend from the third century Rome reports that Emperor Claudius II decided single men made better soldiers and outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Claudius discovered Valentine’s actions he ordered Valentine’s execution.

A second legend suggests Valentine may have been killed attempting to help Christians escape Roman prisons where they were beaten and tortured. Still another legend suggests Valentine may actually have sent the first valentine greeting himself. While in prison, Valentine fell in love with a young girl who may have been the jailor’s daughter. It is said that before his death he sent a letter to the young girl and signed it “From your Valentine”.

Regardless of which legend is the truth it is evident that Valentine is portrayed as a sympathetic, heroic, and romantic figure. By the Middle Ages Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France. Valentine’s Day was regularly celebrated by the seventeenth century in Great Britain. By the eighteenth century it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection in handwritten notes. By the end of the century printed cards began to replace the written notes. Americans began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s.

February is also known as “Go Red” month by the American Heart Association. Since 1963 Congress has required the president to proclaim February “American Heart Month to urge Americans to join the fight against cardiovascular diseases. During American Heart Month thousands of volunteers visit their neighbors to raise funds for research and education and to pass along information about heart diseases and stroke. Cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke are the number one killer in the United States.

In addition, one day each February is designated as National Wear Red Day to help bring recognition to the message that heart disease is the number one killer of women. The Red Dress was adopted as the symbol for women and heart disease awareness in 2002. The color red and the red dress have become linked with the ability all women have to improve their heart health and live stronger, longer lives.

You are at a higher risk of heart disease if you are:

  • A woman age 55 or older
  • A man age 45 or older
  • A person with a family history of early heart disease

Heart disease can be prevented. To keep your heart healthy:

  • Watch your weight
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke
  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation
  • Get active and eat healthy
  • Talk to your doctor about taking aspirin every day if you are a man over the age of 45 or a woman over 55.
  • Manage stress

 So red is seen in not only in Valentine greeting cards and heart-shaped decorations but also in red sweaters and dresses donned to celebrate American Heart Month. Whatever the reason, celebrate red this month for the pure joy of it and for love and life.