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Showing posts from February, 2014

Movie Review: Philomena

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Movie:Philomena (Stephen Frears, 2013)
Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress (Dame Judi Dench), Original Score, Adapted Screenplay

So, Philomena. An Irish girl named Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) gets pregnant as a teenager and her parents take her to one of the Magdalen laundries, where she has her baby and works off her indentured servitude. The nuns then adopt her little boy out without telling her. It's not until she's grown old and married and her children are grown that she ever reveals anything about the birth of her son, and starts her search for him in earnest, backed by Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a reporter in search of a story to redeem his career.

That the laundries were awful is really not in doubt. The Irish government came out in 2001 and finally admitted that they were a cultural abuse perpetrated on the women of Ireland by the Catholic Church and the government, who turned a blind eye to anything that happened there. That's not in the movie, where…

Movie Review: Her

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Movie: Her (Spike Jonze, 2013)
Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Original Score, Original Song ("The Moon Song"), Production Design, Original Screenplay (5 nominations total)

Her is a really intriguing film by Spike Jonze, who has done a number of intriguing films. The plot summary is that there's a guy who writes "handwritten" letters as part of a service for people he's never met. He has broken up with his wife (or rather, she broke up with him) and has been putting off signing his divorce papers. He's lonely and all the spark has gone out of his life -- he misses his wife, or at least he misses someone, and he can't seem to find anything on his own worth living for. About this time, an "intelligent" operating system is released. He upgrades his computer accordingly, and thus Samantha enters his life -- the name the AI gives herself. Oddly, the two fall in love with one another, with Theodore (played by Joaquin Phoenix) realizing that life&…

Movie Non-Review: 12 Years a Slave and Gravity

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It should be noted that, for reasons I could speculate have to do with my existence as a high functioning person with ASD but for which I have no proof, I have to work really hard at not getting overwhelmed with my emotional responses. I am either on, in which case I'm overly plugged into everything going on, or I'm off, in which case I'm uncomfortably objective but able to handle stuff.

This means I don't have an emotional buffer in movies. When all my sensory input is coming at me from the screen, I can very easily lose control of my emotional reaction, having feelings all out of proportion to what's going on -- or at least out of proportion to the reactions of those around me. I'm also super sensitive to low-frequency sounds, which can effectively induce panic attacks and headaches in me if I have prolonged exposure*. I effectively can't communicate under those circumstances, other than to get up and leave, which I do if necessary. I can't stim enoug…

Writing in the Year of Comprehensive Exams

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The pic is from my yard last year, but it looks about the same this year (except more snow) so it works. Winter in Ohio, people!

I am bad at time management. I'm not as bad as I used to be (and for those who know me and are good at it, there's your shot of horror for the day) but I'm still like an old car with a sticky transmission -- it goes, but never smoothly. That said, this year I am forced to get my shit together as never before -- because in October, I take my qualifying exams.

Now, for those not initiated into the funhouse that is grad school, qualifying exams are the exams you take to prove you know enough about your speciality to be something of a subject expert -- certainly enough to teach it. Unlike comprehensive exams, which demand that you know everything about everything in your field, qualifying exams only demand that you know most things about the areas you're in which you are specializing. You set the reading list, you do all the research, and you an…

Movie Review: Captain Phillips

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Movie: Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass, 2013)
Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Barkhad Abdi), Film Editing, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Adapted Screenplay (6 Nominations Total)

Captain Phillips is the story of commercial ship's captain Richard Phillips and his (and his ship's) encounter with Somali pirates, in which he was taken hostage. It's adapted from his book, A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea. If you dig into it, there's some controversy over this "true" story as to how accurately it was reported by Phillips in his book and in the movie, and whether or not it should have been told this way. I'm not taking a position on that, as I've neither read the book nor dug into the background, but if that matters to you at all, you might consider doing so. Certainly taking Hollywood as the last word on anything historical is almost always a fool's game.

Phillips is played by Tom Hanks, …

Movie Review: The Croods

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Movie: The Croods (Kirk DeMicco, Chris Sanders, 2013)
Oscar Nominations: Best Animated Film (1 nomination total)

So there's a teen neanderthal girl named Eep who chafes under her father's restrictive rules (that, which unnecessarily harsh, likely do keep them alive as all their neighbors have been killed off). One day, she meets a teenage boy named Guy (who looks a bit more homo sapiens) who tells her the end of the world is coming and leaves her a shell to call him with -- oh, and he knows how to make fire. Sure enough, there's an earthquake and their cave is destroyed and thus begins the merry adventure to try to find a place that isn't going to be all blown to bits and eaten by lava. Along the way we get some personal growth, family togetherness, a large parrot-cat-like creature, a sloth with dramatic tendencies, some last-minute sacrifice, and a happy ending. Sorry if that spoiled it for you.

To be honest, I wasn't terribly a fan of this movie. Eep's the one…