Amanda Gates
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A Musings - February 2012

I used to get so excited for the Oscars. I just loved all award shows. But, I don’t know, I got older and celebrities patting themselves on the back during a super long ceremony lost its appeal. Plus, as a parent, now I don’t have time to see all the movies. But, I still tune in for a bit – though I don’t miss my bedtime anymore – and I like to hear who wins.

While the Oscars can be pretty predictable, especially if you read as many entertainment blogs and magazines as I do, I always hope for a little something different to happen. Here are my predictions of the winners…ahem…recipients. I’m also including a Dark Horse, just in case the voters took time to think outside the box a bit.

BEST PICTURE

Will win: The Artist. While it seems silly for a primarily silent film to win in this day and age, you can’t deny the hype. Plus it won the Golden Globe for Comedy/Musical.

Dark horse: But, The Descendants won the Golden Globe for Drama, so.

BEST DIRECTOR

Will win: Alexander Payne or Michel Hazanavicius. Whatever film above wins the Oscar, I say the other’s director goes home with this prize.

Dark horse: Martin Scorsese. Hugo’s been getting a lot of praise, so if I could have two Dark horses for Best Picture, I’d pick Hugo, thus making Scorsese a possible winner here.

BEST ACTOR

Will win: George Clooney. I thought he did a great job in The Descendants.

Dark horse: Jean Dujardin. Again, the hype, and American voters don’t shy away from giving Oscars to nominees from other countries.

BEST ACTRESS

Will win: Viola Davis. I’m totally fine with this; she was amazing in The Help.

Dark horse: Glenn Close. She’s never won, which seems absurd, like it’s time for a “body of work” honor this year. Plus, she plays a man in Albert Nobbs and voters like that sort of thing.

* But this happens nearly every year. The ladies are just too good and it’s impossible to root against any of them.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Will win: Christopher Plummer, if only because he’s awesome (see also “body of work” honor mentioned above).

Dark horse: Plummer will win, so I’m going to go way out on a limb here and say Jonah Hill. They don’t call it “dark horse” for nothing. Plus, if Moneyball is going to get any love, maybe it’s here?

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Will win: Octavia Spencer. If anyone was better than Viola Davis in The Help, it was Spencer.

Dark horse: Melissa McCarthy. While I don’t think her acting in Bridesmaids was quite worth the astounding praise it received, I would be lying if I didn’t say it would kick ass if she won for being the fat girl in a gross-out comedy written by women.

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Will win: Wow, the pickings are slim, so Rango, if only because it’s the strongest of the American offerings.

Dark horse: Chico & Rita

MUSIC (Original Score)

Will win: Ludovic Bource for The Artist.

Dark horse: Because John Williams is nominated twice and probably cancels himself out, I’ll say Howard Shore for Hugo.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Will win: The Descendants, especially if it doesn’t win Best Picture.

Dark horse: Because they won’t give Clooney two Oscars in one year, I won’t say The Ides of March, but instead Hugo for its praise as of late.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Will win: The Artist. How a movie can win for Best Picture but not for writing doesn’t make sense, so that’s why I predict The Artist.

Dark horse: But I hope its Bridesmaids, just for the Girl Power and hearing Kristen Wiig’s acceptance speech.

Here's hoping I'm wrong about a lot of these and the Oscars shake things up! What are your predictions?

Posted: Wed, 02/22/2012 - 15:03 | Comments: 4

It’s always hard to know what to say when you enjoyed reading a book about complicated, and frankly disgusting, issues. “I loved it!” doesn’t quite seem right when you’re reading about the hardship of war or child abuse or eating disorders or drug addiction. Or, in the case of The Kitchen House, when you’re reading about the turn of the 19th century when people were bought and sold, raped, beaten and killed in the South.

The Kitchen House focuses on a young Irish girl named Lavinia, who finds herself owned by a ship captain and placed under the responsibility of Belle, his slave who works in the kitchen house. As Lavinia grows up as an indentured servant, she’s taken in by the slaves on this plantation as one of their own. Because she’s white, she winds up getting some extra opportunities and her role in the family (either family) gets confused. The book follows Lavinia from about age 7 to 27 and then briefly beyond.

The book covers the classes of slaves on the planation; those who work in the quarters are worse off than those who work up closer to/in the Big House. The book covers different types of plantation owners—those who are kind and those who are not so kind. The book discusses the loneliness a woman of the Big House might go through when she’s in the middle of nowhere without her husband raising his children. The book highlights in depth the hidden relationships among the slaves, among the slaves and the owners and among the owners—these relationship consist of all the same people but can be so, so different.

It’s easy to fall in love with many of these characters, but all through the book you don’t know if you should. You have no idea what their fate will be. I found myself trying to protect my heart in a way because I wasn’t sure how long some of these wonderful, soft-hearted people were going to be around.

I won’t lie, the book is sad up until the end. There are only brief moments of joy, yet the book is so gripping and engaging that you just kind of embrace the sadness and keep reading. While I didn’t love it, I did like it a lot, even though it broke my heart.

Posted: Fri, 02/17/2012 - 16:07 |

I was having a discussion with a close friend who’s on the verge of starting a family. She’s a bit discouraged, because in recent years a majority of what moms write on the Internet or tweet about tends to be negative. Here’s what she said to me:

“I just feel like everything I've read online lately is so negative and depressing and anxiety-making and justifying decisions and not about the crazy miraculous awesome transformation (and what transformation ISN'T hard?) of mom and child. Everything seems to be about letting go and feeling like you did all this to be left and your body is destroyed and identities have been lost. Sounds like a war zone. Or self-inflicted abuse. Why are they all having kids then?”

And she’s absolutely right, in a few ways. Being a mom is hard. But also, we don’t talk enough about what we love about being moms. I compare it to customer service in a way. When we have great customer service, rarely do we call over the manager and sing praises. But when we have a bad experience? Oh hell, someone is going to hear about it!

It’s the same with our kids. We tend to talk more, tweet more, blog more when things are a struggle. Don’t get me wrong – we should! Personally, writing it out is sometimes the only way I feel better about things. And the commiseration you can get from other moms who have “been there”? Priceless.

However, my childless friend made me realize that while it’s OK to talk about the hard stuff, I don’t talk nearly enough about the wonderful stuff.

I don’t say enough to people how awesome my kid is. (He’s so awesome, by the way.)

I may complain, but then I don’t balance it out with, “Guess what? I love this life.”

Because I do. And there are people out there (my friend) who need to hear that.

So, here’s my list for Why I Love Being a Mom.

HIM

The giggles. My kid has the best laugh on the face of the planet. Our daycare provider says we need to bottle it up and sell it.

The sound of him saying “mama” makes me feel like the most important person in the world. No other being on the planet can make me feel that way.

Our conversations in the car. He’ll narrate what he sees (Truck! Car! BIG Truck!) and I’ll answer back. He’s not even two, so I can only imagine these getting better as his vocabulary expands.

That I can still rock him to sleep some nights. Holding him, rocking him in his glider, hearing his breathing slow down and him start to snore – It’s really hard to put him down that I hold him until my arms feel like they’ll fall off.

Because before we fall asleep each night, my husband always says, “He’s the best baby.” And I agree.

Jonna put it a great way in one of her posts: it’s like when you first fall in love with someone – the stomach butterflies, the falling feeling, wanting to kiss them all over all the time. With your kid, you feel that way every day for the rest of your life. (Go read her comments on that post; they’re just what we all need to say all the time.)

The cheeks. I could kiss his cheeks all day every day if he would let me. (But, that kind of gets in the way of his playing time.)

Going into his room before we go to bed to see what funny position he’s sleeping in. Sideways, diagonally, knees up, flat on his tummy. Listening to him lightly snore. And then teasing my husband because they sleep exactly the same way.

(I COULD GO ON…)

ME

Watching him learn. I look back at videos and pictures of my boy when he was a tiny baby and how amazed we were when he was cooing at the camera or learning to smile. And now we’re amazed at him for knowing his letters and numbers and colors. I’m 31 years old and I just made my dad proud the other day. THE AMAZEMENT, IT NEVER ENDS.

When you get married, you feel like, “We’re in this together; we can take on the world as our little unit!” That feeling only escalates when you have a kid. You find yourselves alone together in this challenging yet rewarding new life. We’ve never felt closer.

When I figure something out. Like how to get him to nap in his crib. Or a new food that he likes. Or how to get rid of a pesky rash. Those little tiny victories really aren’t that little or tiny.

I’ve never felt so protective about anything in my life. I would take a bullet for that kid. I would murder someone for that kid. And that feeling of protectiveness, sureness and unwavering passion makes me feel powerful.

While some things may still rile me up, I’ve found I’m more laid back about things. Because in the end, nothing matters more to me than my family. Sure, I’ll get riled up and fight for them, but as for the other bullshit out there in the world – politics, poor relationships, mean people, competitiveness – I could care less. Stuff that would make me mad before just rolls of my back. I love that new part of myself.

To go along with that, I’ve found I’m more honest with people, more willing to share my opinion, even if it’s different, because I care less what people think about me.

Finally, when I look at him, the miracle I brought into the world, I know I’ve made the world a better place.

**Now, I’ve only been at this for two years, so I need others to chime in, too. Those of you with newborns to teenagers and more than one kid. Help me out, give my friend some love, and tell us Why You Love Being a Mom.

Posted: Fri, 02/10/2012 - 15:28 | Comments: 5

WARNING: Major spoilers ahead. Also, um, it's wordy.

Well, I finished. And it was sad, but not as sad as I thought and not as devastating as others experienced. I saved the last episode for Friday night, I cried through one Kleenex and then I read a book for the rest of the night. And that felt nice.

I loved the show. Like I said before, it’s up there with some of the best dramas, for sure. When I started season 3, the jump from season 2 was quite disjointed, and I’m contributing that to the unsure future of the show at this point. But once I got over that, season 3 turned out to be one of my favorites. Here are my random likes and dislikes of S3-S5, in bullet form:

+ I had no idea Lyla, Tim and Tyra were sophomores when we first met them. Wow, by S3 they were quite the mature seniors. However, this seems like an obvious move because the show’s creators would want to keep around their most popular characters for as long as they can (see also: Glee).

+ So, Tami Taylor, a stay-at-home mom for 15 years/guidance counselor for two years is somehow qualified to be principal? This seemed far-fetched to me. But, my girlfriend brought up a good argument in that why would a school that cares more about its football team than anything else, really care about who was principal? And once I got used to the idea of her as principal, of course I loved Tami as principal. Such a good woman. Her struggles with the JumboTron, the boosters, the budget, Becky’s abortion, etc., were really, really interesting. And I loved how she handled pretty much every single hurdle that was thrown her way.

+ I appreciated Jason Street’s story arc. His effort to be a good father and provider seemed in true character for him. While I loved his coaching, he seems even more fit to be a sports agent, so that was an awesome end to his story. I just wish his last episode in S5 ended on a little higher note.

+ Man, I hate the McCoy men. First JD is this whiny little wanker and his dad is a giant pain in the ass, then they just become disgustingly awful people. I wanted Coach to punch Mr. McCoy so many times. While there are a few characters I couldn’t care less about (more on that in a bit), I actually liked hating the McCoys. However, what did I miss once S5 started? Where did the McCoys and the S4 Panthers coach go? Why wasn’t JD QB when the Lions played the Panthers in S5? I figure I missed a quick reference to them somewhere, right?

+ While Tyra’s constant back and forth on wanting to be a good student and with Landry and not caring about her future (and not with Landry) got a bit old, she was still one of my favorite characters. I cried when she got the letter that she got into college. I missed her character the most in seasons 4 & 5. (And nearly had a heart attack when she returned, I was so happy.)

+ Becky, Billy & Mindy. From the moment Becky entered the show, I really wanted her to exit. Unfortunately she stuck around. I never cared for her or any of her problems. (It could’ve just been a casting thing? Maybe another actress wouldn’t have rubbed me the wrong way?) I understand why Billy and Mindy were important to the story, but I think because I so preferred Tim and Trya, I felt like Billy and Mindy, especially in S5, were just the leftovers or second best. Every time they were on I thought, “I wish you were Tim or Tyra instead.” I didn’t care about them, besides wanting to smack Billy for being such poor role model.

+ I also didn’t give a crap about Epic. Even though I knew Tami needed a project in S5, I felt nothing for Epic or her struggles. Boring.

+ Matt. Gosh, he just broke my heart at the end of S2. And then in S3 Coach benches him. Ugh. But, I loved his arc in S3. I liked the storyline with his mom and I liked that he made himself into a wide receiver. I didn’t like that he decided to stay in Dillon (at first). Seeing him deliver pizzas was one of the saddest things ever. The death of his father was also some great character acting on Zach Gilford’s part. In the end, I definitely appreciated where Matt ended up.

+ Oh, Julie Taylor, how I want to shake you. I want to shake you for thinking your poor little 18-year-old self with no boyfriend in a new college just has it so rough. I want to shake you for sleeping with a married man. I want to shake you for pretty much being a whiny brat to your parents for five years. I want to tell you that if you can’t handle life now, well girlfriend, you’re in for a big surprise. At least she ended somewhere stable.

+ Because I first watched Parenthood, I think I came into FNL with a bit of an advantage. I knew Alex (Michael B. Jordan) was going to show up sooner or later. And when he did in S4, I cheered. So, the switch over to the Lions didn’t hurt quite as much because I was excited to meet Vince Howard. And while he had his bad moments, he was a great character. Just great. I also liked Luke, Jess and Tinker.

However, in the end, I always missed the S1-S3 cast of characters. S4 & S5 just didn’t have the same flair for me without a consistent presence of Matt & Tyra & then Tim & Landry. I cared less about more of the characters (like mentioned above), so S4 and especially S5 were a bit lackluster for me.

+ I’m still in love with the Taylors, too. One of my favorite lines between the two of them: Coach says, “You know who I miss? The coach's wife.” And Tami replies, “You know who I can’t wait to meet? The principal’s husband.” Love them. They went through ups and downs and power struggles but have always been so in love. Her support for moving for him is unwavering, that it’s frustrating when Coach gets stuck in the “what about my job?” mindset. But he always comes around.

I enjoyed the series finale and that we got a wrap up of many of the characters. If I had to rank the seasons (the last couple episodes of the series notwithstanding –they were great), I think this would be my order by most to least favorite: 3, 1, 4, 2 & 5.

So, NOW WHAT?

Posted: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:53 | Comments: 1