87th Academy Awards Predictions

February 26, 2017

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Here we go! My predictions (although not necessarily my preferred winners) are listed below. ☆=Correct prediction.

Best Picture (x)
Ryan’s Prediction – La La Land
Actual Winner – Moonlight

Actor in a Leading Role ☆
Ryan’s Prediction – Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
Actual Winner – Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

Actress in a Leading Role ☆
Ryan’s Prediction – Emma Stone (La La Land)
Actual Winner – Emma Stone (La La Land)

Actor in a Supporting Role ☆
Ryan’s Prediction – Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Actual Winner – Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Actress in a Supporting Role – ☆
Ryan’s Prediction – Viola Davis (Fences)
Actual Winner – Viola Davis (Fences)

Read the rest of this entry »

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Take that, random Trump supporter.

September 20, 2016

Just saw my first “Trump that Bitch” yard sign in Rockford today.

I’m guessing the guy who’s proudly displaying his complete lack of basic decency would revel in knowing that his dumb sign pissed of some bleeding-heart liberal like me.

However, I’d also like him to know that his juvenile advertisement for misogyny inspired me to do something more productive with my time and resources. So here’s $25 to each of the following organizations:

  • The League of Women Voters of Greater Rockford, whose voter registration booth outside the Hononegah High School cafeteria back in 2004 first got me registered to vote. Donate here.
  • Rock Valley College, whose Refugee and Immigrant Services program works to find employment for refugees coming to our area. Their free interpretation services for their clients has been an incredible help for me and my colleagues at work. Donate here.
  • Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Rockford, who provides numerous services for refugee and immigrant families in the Rockford area. Donate here.
  • Planned Parenthood of Illinois, who gets an incredibly unfair and undeserved reputation thanks to some idiot politicians and activists. Planned Parenthood provides crucial healthcare services for millions of people and is a great advocate for scientifically-accurate health education. Donate here.

I know it’s not much, but I hope these small donations and this self-congratulatory blog post can help bring a little bit of civility and progressivism to this election season.

Maybe there is hope…

June 9, 2016

Just wanted to share two quick videos to remind people what legitimate politicians are look like:

Now, I’m not trying to be political here. Not in a partisan way, at least. Clearly, one video is from a candidate I supported; and the other is… Paul Ryan. But both of these videos are deliberately positive, and show that these public figures understand the responsibilities they have and how they actually take their jobs seriously.

I remember a comment my dad made back during the 2008 election, when he said it was the first time he felt like he could actually call a candidate a ‘statesman’ in the way people used to refer to Eisenhower or Kennedy. It described someone who carried both a sense of authority and humility. Someone you could respect, even if you disagreed with their politics. Someone who could prompt a guy like John Wayne to say, “I didn’t vote for him, but he’s my president and I hope he does a good job.”

Unfortunately, we live in a different time. But it’s not the statesman who’s changed. They’re still there. It’s us voters who have changed. Following Watergate and an emerging 24-hour news cycle, we had an opportunity to hold our elected officials more accountable. To demand ownership of their decisions and transparency within their administrations. Instead, we just said “they’re all crooks” and “kick the bums out.” We’ve entered a decades-long downward spiral of electing angry, untrustworthy politicians, and then reacting by electing even angrier, more untrustworthy politicians.

But these two videos prove that the statesman (and arguably more importantly: the stateswoman) is still out there. Yeah, I know these are just political ads. But they’re encouraging. It’s proof that positive messages, a willingness to collaborate, and a reverence for public office are still admirable.

So to the cynics who say that these are just polished, focus group-tested propaganda pieces: you’re right. But instead of dismissing these, let’s actually start expecting our officials to live up to these ideals. Let’s stop making virtues out of ignorance and ad-hominem attacks, and make intelligence and reasoned debate the norm again. It won’t be up to the politicians to make this change. It’s up to us. If we raise our standards, the politicians will follow, and maybe someday soon we’ll actually hear someone say, “I didn’t vote for her, but she’s my president and I hope she does a good job.”

Movie Review – X-Men: Apocalypse

May 27, 2016

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As the ninth entry into the X-Men film franchise, and the fourth directed by Bryan Singer, it’s impressive that X-Men: Apocalypse can still feel fresh and tell a new story worth telling. That’s not to say it’s without its faults, but overall, Apocalypse gives the ‘First Class’ trilogy a satisfying conclusion. Minor spoilers may follow, but I won’t give anything away that you couldn’t reasonably assume from the trailers.

Let’s start with the negatives. As with almost all comic book movies, the X-Men films being no exception, there’s just too many characters. I appreciate that the writers know their source material and want to include as many fan-favorites into their movies. But inevitably, some characters are given way too much importance with absolutely no context or development. Psylocke (Olivia Munn) is far and away the worst offender. With a high-profile casting choice and a constant presence in all of the film’s marketing, it’s incredibly disappointing that she’s relegated to a completely forgettable henchman. Or rather, it’s incredibly disappointing that a forgettable henchmen was over-hyped and miscast with Olivia Munn.

Speaking of poor use of high-profile casting, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) is about as bland as comic book villains come. Now Isaac has proven himself as a great actor. Despite his endless charm, he can totally pull off creepy and manipulative (see Ex Machina) as well as selfishly jerky (see Inside Llewyn Davis). Unfortunately, he’s never given a chance to do anything memorable as Apocalypse, and winds up as nothing more than a run-of-the-mill angry purple guy who yells a lot. Which I swear I just saw somewhere…

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And lastly, how Professor X (James McAvoy) loses his hair is really lame. So this might sound nit-picky, but Charles Xavier’s bald head is iconic. First Class even makes a joke about how he doesn’t want to shave off his hair. So for a movie that’s supposed to help show how McAvoy turns into Patrick Stewart, the hair thing could have actually been a pretty funny, if not compelling moment. Instead, it’s a huge missed opportunity.

With that, there’s still plenty to like about this movie. First is just how well it handles the ever-growing franchise universe that it fits into. Throwbacks to earlier movies, especially those that take place in this story’s future, are well thought out.

The obligatory Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) cameo works well because it’s just that–a cameo. Days of Future Past was a great movie, but changing the story to feature more Wolverine only took away from the great Professor X/Magneto story the First Class trilogy set out to tell. Though Wolverine’s appearance is more significant than it was in First Class, it doesn’t distract from the real story that’s being told. And it’s just fun.

Speaking of fun, Quicksilver (Evan Peters) returns with another wonderfully choreographed and over-the-top slow motion scene. The prison escape in Future Past was maybe its best sequence, and we’re given a worthy follow-up here. It’s more or less used for comic relief this time, but it’s just long enough to be enjoyable without bogging down the story.

But the absolute best part of this movie is Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Although my biggest complaints with the movie are with its new villains, they’re not what drive the main conflict of the story. The most compelling conflict in the film–or throughout the whole First Class trilogy for that matter–is with Magneto’s struggle to deal with all the loss he’s faced. Without giving anything away, Apocalypse shows us what’s probably the most heartbreaking thing we’ve seen happen to Magneto yet. And yeah, I do remember that we’ve already seen him taken away from his family in a Nazi concentration camp and seen him watch his mother get murdered by Kevin Bacon. I’m not saying what he goes through in this movie is necessarily more tragic than those events, but the audience is given just the right amount of exposition to really sympathize with him.

I honestly consider Magneto to be the greatest comic book villain of all-time. And even those who don’t think so can’t deny that he’s right up there with the likes of the Joker or Lex Luthor. And the reason is because he’s (usually) fighting for a wholly justifiable cause. What makes him a bad guy are just the methods he uses, but (usually) not his motives. Fassbender, just like Ian McKellan before him, brings so much genuineness to the character that you almost can’t help but root for him.

X-Men: Apocalypse is certainly not a starting point for anyone just getting into the X-Men film franchise, but for those of us who have been with it since the beginning, it’s a more than worthy entry into the series and a satisfying conclusion to the First Class trilogy.

My rating: ★★★★☆

2016 Summer Movie Pool

May 24, 2016

**UPDATED**

Congrats to Dave C. for winning the 2016 Summer Movie Pool! Check back around April for the 2017 entry form!

Original post:

Time for our annual Summer Movie Pool! If you’re interested in playing, just fill out the embedded form below!


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