Best Picture nominations leave me numb

downloadJanuary 15, 2016 – Yesterday, the Oscar nominations were announced.

What once kicked off a month and a half of genuine excitement and a race to see all of the films nominated for Best Picture, has me scratching my head, wondering why I am not familiar with these titles. I may not get to the movies as often as I have in the past, but I’m still a member of the Philadelphia Film Society and I try to stay informed.

Let’s take a look at the eight nominees up for Best Picture, a category that no longer focuses on the obscure films, expanding to include those that appeal to general audiences, as well. However, these films feel obscure to me.

Bridge of Spies
Starring Oscar darling Tom Hanks, directed by Steven Spielberg, and written by a team that includes Ethan and Joel Coen, this film should have generated a lot of buzz. Alas, in my world, it has not. Released in October, the espionage thriller tells the story of a U.S. pilot sentenced to 10 years in prison after his U-2 spy plane is shot down during the Cold War. Hard to believe I never heard of it.

Mad Max: Fury Road
It’s understandable that this post-apocalyptic action film passed me by. It’s not the type I’m drawn to; futuristic films are always painted in doom and gloom and I don’t see the entertainment value in that. Since when is this type of film a sequel or a remake no less, nominated for Best Picture? It may appeal to the masses, but it doesn’t appeal to me.

Revenant
The Revenant is one of only two films on the nomination list that I’ve seen advertised. Leonardo DiCaprio is fresh off a win for Best Actor at the Golden Globes last week and is probably a sure pick for the Oscar, according to may critics. The story is inspired by true events and is generating lots of positive reviews, especially for the scene where DiCaprio’s character is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead. It’s also being hailed for its cinematography. It’s likely to win the Oscar for Best Picture, as well, mimicking its win at the Golden Globes. All of this sounds positive, yet I have no desire to see it.

Spotlight
If I wasn’t certain “The Revenant” would win Best Picture, I would bet that the Oscar would go to “Spotlight”, the story of the Boston newspaper reporters who uncovered the decades-long cover up of abuse by the Catholic Church. Hollywood loves to make loud political statements, and when they do, they typically get plenty of critical praise. The way the church handled the scandal was horrible to say the least and the guilty deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but this is another example of what is not entertainment to me. Critics are singing the praises of the cast, though, which includes Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams.

The Martian
The Martian is the other movie I’ve seen advertised, yet had no desire to see. Matt Damon leads a cast that also includes Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig and Jeff Daniels in the story about an astronaut presumed dead and left behind by his crew on a manned mission to Mars. I’m not a sci-fi fan but admit the movie sounds like a rip-roaring comedy, doesn’t it? Why else would it have just won Best Picture in the Comedy category at the Golden Globes?

The Big Short
I had just returned home from spending New Year’s weekend at the Jersey Shore when my son told me he saw a good movie called “The Big Short”. It was the first I had heard of it. When I asked him what it was about, he said it focused on the housing credit bubble that took place earlier in the 2000s. Yikes! Aside from solid actors like Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt, this is another film that holds little appeal. I worked in the mortgage industry and watched this collapse first hand, losing my job in the process. Now that’s entertainment!

Room
Straight from the headlines of the past few years, “Room” tells the story of the bond between a mother and child after they escape from the enclosed surroundings that the son has known for his entire life. Brie Larson, who stars as the mother, is a relatively unknown actress who just took home the Golden Globe for her performance. I may add this to my must see list since critics say it’s touching and deeply moving, focusing on the bond between mother and son, and the son’s wonderful discovery of the world outside of captivity. Sounds promising.

Brooklyn
“Brooklyn” tells the story of an Irish immigrant to travels Brooklyn in the 1950s. The film stars Saoirse Ronan as the young girl who is lured by the promise of a better life in America. Critics’ reviews and comments from those who enjoyed the film make me want to place this one a must see list, as well.

There you have it. Two out of eight films appeal to me, which means that neither of them have a chance at the big prize. There may be no point in watching the Oscars this year.

Get Off to a Great Start in 2016

great startJanuary 6, 2016 – A fresh, clean slate is presented to each of us at the beginning of every New Year. Here are a few simple tips that may help you ease your way into a successful 2016.

1. Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Most of us make them with good intentions, but quickly we get frustrated and fall off track. Sure, resolutions are great to want to make improvements, if we keep them, but too often we reach for the sky when we should make changes at a slower pace. Statistics show that only a small percent of those who make resolutions actually keep them, anyway. Here’s proof that the reason we fail is because our brains can’t handle resolutions.

2. Create a list of goals. If you want to make any type of change in your life start by writing down each goal, and then tackle the items on the list one at a time. When you’ve completed a goal, it may give you satisfaction and drive to cross it off the list. I know that works for me. By starting small, with one goal and taking steps towards achieving it every day, you can begin to change your behavior. Soon the new behavior becomes a habit and once something is a habit, you’re more likely to stick with it. Here’s more information about the science behind building habits that stick.

3. Remember to breathe. My niece has the word “breathe” tattooed on her wrist. She got it in support of my mother who suffered with emphysema and required an oxygen generator to perform a function many of us take for granted. It’s also a reminder, she explained, that we need to slow down and remember to breathe. Wise words. I remember in a training class when the instructor asked us to pair off with the person sitting next to us and tell each other about ourselves for 30 seconds. Sounds simple, right? I’m not too fond of public speaking, but with an audience of only one, I expected to breeze through it. Unfortunately, I performed the task like a banshee, telling the dazed woman next to me everything I could think of, and at rapid fire speed. When I was finished, I was almost panting like I just ran a few miles because I had forgotten to breathe. I had plenty of time to catch my breath, though, and listen to my partner tell me all about herself in a calm and collected manner, and at a much slower pace. Remembering to breathe would have saved me from that awkward situation, and probably countless others in my life. At the very least it would have gotten me through a 30 second speech without turning blue. Taking a moment to focus on your breathing is also good to control stress, anxiety, high blood pressure and more. Learn more about the benefits of deep breathing exercises.

4. Be Curious. Did you know that being curious can lead to a happier, healthier life? Curiosity may have killed the cat, something my mother used to say to me because I was a curious kid who asked lots of questions, but curiosity should never be considered negative. Children are naturally curious and we can always learn a lot by watching them. By definition, the word curious means eager to learn more, and what is wrong with that? Curiosity can lead you to discovering new interests, hobbies and passions, and help you feel engaged in your life. Here are 10 reasons why you should be curious.

5. Don’t forget to laugh. Your ability to find humor in life’s crazy and wonderful situations is most important. Research has shown that having a sense of humor has a positive effect on a person’s health, happiness and success in life. For example, finding your sense of humor in stressful situations or difficult times usually helps you get through it much easier. Not only that, a sense of humor is an important part of brain development in young children. When a child laughs – or anyone else for that matter – blood flow increases to the brain and they feel energized and alert. Don’t you always feel better after a hearty laugh? Here’s more scientific proof that laughter truly is the best medicine.