That’s a wrap for the 89th Academy Awards Ceremony!

What a night! The ceremony opened with a lively performance of “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake along with some backup dancers. It set the tone for an upbeat and fun show. Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue was surprisingly funny; I was pleased with his jokes and surprises. The bus full of tourists was definitely one of my favorite parts of the night because (as far as we know) it was honest. Kimmel’s famous “Mean Tweets” segment, which is celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves, added his personal touch to the night. My other favorite bit was when Kimmel was talking to Sunny Pawar, the 8 year-old star of the first half of Lion. He didn’t win anything but it was apparent that he was psyched to just be there.

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I did end up seeing all but one of the movies nominated for Best Picture (I didn’t see Hell or High Water). I am upset that Hidden Figures and Lion didn’t win anything because they both told such incredible and true stories.

However, I can honestly say that all the awards that won were well deserved. I am especially thrilled that La La Land won for cinematography and the soundtrack/song. I still listen to that soundtrack everyday and it is breathtaking. Emma Stone’s performance was so raw and heartfelt (as I describe in another post about the film) and I am so happy she won Best Actress in a Leading Role! John Legend performed a medley consisting of “Audition and “City of Stars,” which were both nominated for Original Song (“City of Stars” won in that category). Damien Chazelle is now the youngest to take home the award for Directing. This honor opens a whole new world for him as a director because he has now earned the trust of producers and executives. I am excited to see what he creates in the future!

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ESPN’s 8-hour special entitled OJ: Made in America won for Documentary Feature. Yes, I did watch all 8 hours of it (and it was worth it). It didn’t just go through the trial; it went all the way back to the LA riots and gave background information on all those events, which is important to know in the context of OJ’s trial. Netflix’s The White Helmets won for Documentary Short. The 40-minute documentary is about a group in Syria called The White Helmets who are the first on site right after a bombing to save innocent lives and help those who are stuck under rubble. It’s fast-paced and informative that’s worth the watch.

Viola Davis received the award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Fences. Her speech was elegant and sincere (not to mention that she looked absolutely stunning in her red gown). Mahershala Ali won in the male category for the same award. He is the first Muslim to win an Oscar, which is groundbreaking especially because of the current political climate and the discrimination against Muslims. Though he doesn’t have a lot of screen time in Moonlight, his character is very important and plays a huge role in shaping the main character, Chiron.

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Another actress who looked beautiful in a red gown was 16-year-old Auli’i Cravalho (above), who is the voice of Moana. She sang “How Far I’ll Go,” which was nominated for Original Song, with an original prologue by Lin-Manuel Miranda. During her performance, she unfortunately got hit in the head with a flag that one of the backup dancers were holding, but she kept going like a professional and she made it look like it didn’t even happen! Zootopia won for Best Animated Feature, which I was so excited about because it was such an amazing movie that everyone should watch, not just kids! There are messages in the film about discrimination and friendship that are so important for children to see and understand. It’s currently streaming on Netflix so if you don’t know what to watch, definitely give it a shot (I promise you’ll be crying at the end).

Of course, one of the most talked about moments of the night was when La La Land was mistakenly announced for winner of Best Picture. It was just a bad situation because they were halfway through their acceptance speeches when they realized they didn’t win! It took away from the excitement for Moonlight. Nevertheless, I am glad that Moonlight ended up winning Best Picture because the film tells a story that might be uncomfortable for some but it’s a conversation that needs to happen and shouldn’t be ignored.

I can’t end this blog post without mentioning that Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae looked AMAZING. They were without a doubt my two favorites on the Red Carpet last night. Just see for yourselves.

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My Thoughts on ‘Hidden Figures’

I still have to watch 3 Best Picture nominees so I don’t have time to write an extensive review on Hidden Figures, which is why I’m keeping it short. Putting the Civil Rights issues aside, the film was inspiring and motivating because it reiterated the concept that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. If you work hard enough and want something bad enough, you will achieve it.

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This movie offers insight into NASA during the Space Race, which was also at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. There were many African-American women who had crucial roles in getting the first American into space. This film did an amazing job of portraying the science and mathematics behind launching a spaceship, while not forgetting the segregation that was going on in America at the time.

This one is a must watch (and isn’t depressing like so many of the Academy Award nominated movies are). Hats off to Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, and the rest of the incredible cast of Hidden Figures!!!

Here is a great (and longer) article about the film and the true story it tells.

’13th’ Review

Netflix’s documentary, 13th, about social injustice and the broken U.S. prison system is one of the most powerful documentaries I have ever seen. This genre can so easily be boring but there was not one instance that I checked to see how long was left in the film. Besides the interviews, pictures, and videos, there were breaks in the film for music and visual statistics, which keeps the viewer constantly engaged.

It opened up with President Obama presenting a statistic about the prison population in the United States. His voice set the tone for a thoughtful, emotional, but factual, documentary. The main topic is how the 13th amendment basically made African-Americans go from being slaves to being criminals. The movie explains how this was partly because of economic reasons (the Civil War left the south in financial trouble because they had about 4 million former slaves who weren’t working for free anymore). When the Union won the Civil War and the 13th amendment was put into place, slavery went away but segregation was just beginning.

This documentary also offered a different perspective on Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The 40th president of the US is often mythologized because of his great accomplishments. It exploited the “war on drugs” and what declaring that statement did to the African-American communities. Michelle Alexander states, “So many aspects of the old Jim Crow are suddenly legal again once you’ve been branded a felon. And so it seems that in America, we haven’t so much ended racial caste but simply redesigned it.”

Music also played a part in this film. There were some breaks in the story to play bits of songs (accompanied by the lyrics shown on screen) that describes and encapsulates the slaves’ and the criminals’ pain. One lyric that stood out to me was: “You treated like a criminal, crime is all you know.” It basically states that there are certain areas that have high crime rates where kids are treated like criminals. Most of those kids assume that they will end up in jail someday, and that is partly because of the way not only authorities treat them, but also the general public.

The film talks about the effect of The Birth of A Nation, the rebirth of the KKK, drug problems, and how the presidents negatively affected the criminalization of Black people.

Rengel says, “We have too many laws locking too many people up for too many things, giving them sentences that are too harsh, putting them in prison, and while they’re in prison, doing very little, if anything, to rehabilitate them so that they can reenter civil society when they get out. And then when they get out, we shun them.”

I highly encourage everyone to watch this movie (it’s on Netflix, it can’t get easier!) It’s educational and very interesting. Plus, the director is a woman, Ava DuVernay, which makes it even better!!!

“When black lives matter, everybody’s lives matter.”

A Valentine’s Day Comedy Special

If you watch a lot of stand up and comedy shows on Netflix, you probably got a notification about “Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special.” Since I had no other plans, I decided to watch it (also because I saw Fred Armisen on one of the thumbnails). I had no idea what to expect because I don’t really know much about Bolton. I do love a random Netflix comedy special that didn’t have a lot of publicity leading up to it!

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It was weird, dirty, and original. It was great. Scott Aukerman (“Comedy Bang Bang”) and Akiva Schaffer (The Lonely Island) co-directed the special with an all-star cast. Andy Samberg, Sarah Silverman, Maya Rudolph, and Will Forte are just a few of the comedians who appear in the show. There is singing, dancing, sketches, and weird romance (and maybe even an appearance from Santa Clause). I don’t want to give too much away so I’m going to stop. But if you don’t like SNL, then you’re probably going to hate Michael Bolton’s special, so don’t watch it. If you DO Like SNL and you wouldn’t mind if it even went a step further, then why are you still reading this? GO WATCH!

‘Jackie’ Review!

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ elegance lives on through Natalie Portman in the new biography film, Jackie. Portman never fails to amaze her audience. She is always so dedicated to her roles and she fully immerses herself into whatever she does.

The film itself was beautifully shot and really captures the era’s style and the emotion surrounding the JFK assassination. Natalie Portman did an amazing job understanding and portraying Jackie’s raw emotions, whether it was anger, confusion, or devastation. Before this film, I didn’t know too much about what happened and it inspired me to do some more research about the horrible event.

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The movie has a sort of non-linear format where it starts with Jackie giving an interview months after her husband’s assassination, to a flashback of the days immediately after the tragedy, to even further back when she was filming a tour of the White House. The entire film is like this but it was easy to follow. There were some scenes that were so real and intense with emotion that they were almost hard to watch and I found myself wanting to fast forward (but I didn’t). That’s how you know it’s good acting!

After watching Jackie, I found a link to watch the real Jackie Kennedy giving the famous tour of the White House because I was intrigued. At some points, Jackie was giving a voice over and I kept forgetting that it was really her and not Natalie Portman’s voice (that’s how spot on her accent was!!!). I admire Natalie’s dedication and keenness to get it right.

 

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‘The Couple Next Door’ Review

(No spoilers!)

I recently finished The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena (it took me three days). It is a fast-paced mystery/crime/thriller novel. It was an easy read that kept me on my toes and anxious to flip the page. It had so many twists that somehow all tied together in the end.

The book is about a couple who goes to a dinner party at their neighbor’s house (their houses are attached in a town house style) but decide to leave their infant at home and bring the baby monitor with them and agree to check on her every 30 minutes. At the end of the night, they return home and find the baby’s crib empty. The rest of the book is about trying to find who was responsible for this and why.

I loved the book because Lapena really dove into each character and made the readers understand the intentions of each person. She makes you sympathize with every character. It is a little slow in the beginning after they realize the baby is gone, but once you get a few chapters into the investigation, it really picks up. It is intriguing up until the very last page (literally the last page). Without giving anything away, I have to applaud the author for not making this a fairy tale ending. Though you do wonder if this would happen in reality, it goes to show that nobody’s perfect and not everything has a happy ending.

It is a story of poor communication between loved ones that tests everyone’s relationships.

Overall, I would definitely highly recommend this book!