Three Movies, Three Amazing Performances

26 Jan still-alice-scene

We’ve all heard the cliché that there aren’t any good movie roles anymore for women of a certain age.

In fact, yesterday, a Boston Globe article about Julianne Moore led with that very thought.

Well, three year-end movies — each of which finally received national release this past weekend — provide more than ample evidence to the contrary.

In the films, Jennifer Aniston (Cake), Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), and Moore herself (Still Alice) play women who are challenged physically, emotionally, and financially, and these actresses set great examples for those in the younger generation who may worry about their future career prospects.

Are the movies worth seeing? Here are some brief reviews. Continue reading

The 2015 Happiness Project

5 Jan

balloon-smiley-faceIn 2014 I was happy, and I’m committed to being happy in 2015 too.

So in an effort to demonstrate that every day has at least one thing to smile about (even the so-called bad days), I’ve decided to steal an idea from my friend Christoph Trappe, who spent the entire year last year posting happy thoughts, memories, or moments in one running blog post that he updated daily. It was a great way to show gratitude and remember what made each day so special for him.

That idea, like so many other good ideas, came from Twitter — specifically, a fellow tweeter named Krista, who did a similar thing in 2013. So you might say I’m now continuing the chain. Maybe next year somebody else will follow my lead.

Here’s the plan: For the next year, at the end of every day, I’m going to write down something that made me happy, whether that’s something I did, something I ate, something somebody said, a music lyric or line of movie dialogue that resonated with me, a tweet, or something else. It’s just that simple.

With apologies (and all due respect) to Gretchen Rubin, I’m calling this blog post my “2015 Happiness Project.” Think of it as a digital “rememberlutions jar,” a way to make sure I’m doing everything on my 2015 to-do list, or, in a way, an abbreviated version of the journals I used to keep when I was in high school. And please, check back here often to see what’s making me smile all year long.

Here we go. Continue reading

In 2015, I Want To …

1 Jan

to-do-listHappy New Year!

Like it or not, the page has been turned and we’re now in a brand new year.

If you’re like most people, today will be a day of looking forward (after you get over your hangover, anyway). It’ll be a day of making resolutions and declaring all the things you know you should do this year that you probably won’t. (No joke: According to the University of Scranton, only 8% of people are actually successful in achieving their resolutions.)

I’ve long believed that the reason New Year’s Resolutions suck and never work is because they’re always things people don’t actually want to do. If there’s an inherent negativity in everything you list, and no one wants to stick to something negative, why would you even bother? (Case in point, when I took this BuzzFeed quiz, it told me I should resolve to stop wearing pants. Ha! Yeah, that ain’t gonna happen.)

I choose to take a more positive attitude when it comes to this kind of thing. Last year, I came up with a list of five resolutions I actually wanted to accomplish and knew I could, and I’d like to think I stuck to every one of them. And that was without the help of a “rememberlutions jar.” (Huzzah!)

This year, as a twist on that idea, I’ve decided to merge my “resolutions” list with a “to-do” list, and compile all the things I actually want to do this year.

I can do these things. And I know I’ll enjoy doing them too. For example, this year, I want to … Continue reading

Instead of Happy New Year, I’m Celebrating Happy This Year

31 Dec
Photo credit: nImAdestiny/Flickr/Creative Commons

Photo credit: nImAdestiny/Flickr/Creative Commons

I really didn’t want to write this blog post.

No, not for the same reasons that have prevented me from writing more often this year. I just didn’t want to admit — to myself, or to anyone else — that 2014 was over.

A year ago, things for me were looking (and feeling) good, and I was on the verge of some much anticipated professional stability. If things went as predicted, I was finally going to be able to reprioritize and shift from job searching to living my life again, and let things get back to normal. And then it happened: In January, my contract gig became a full-time job, and after about a year and a half of being unemployed and putting my life on hold, I was ready — determined — to make up for lost time.

And holy crap, did I. Continue reading

The Best Movies of 2014 Were Quite the Present

29 Dec
Photo credit: Fox Searchlight

Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight

The thing about movie trailers — great as they are — is that they get us focused on movies still to come, when what’s currently playing at the multiplex (maybe even on the screen right in front of you) is worthy of attention too. It’s kind of an ironic shame if you like this sort of thing.

That’s especially true now because in 2014, there was plenty to see. There was, for example, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill satirizing ridiculous sequels in 22 Jump Street. Chadwick Boseman bringing James Brown back to life in Get On Up. Matt Damon making a surprise cameo appearance in Interstellar. Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen grappling over who feels more “Agony” in Into the Woods. Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader lip-syncing to Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” in The Skeleton Twins. And of course, Groot getting down to the Jackson 5 in Guardians of the Galaxy.

And then there were the movies themselves. If trailers are about future movies, the movies this year served as quite the present. (Sorry.)

So, before we turn to 2015, a year in which we’ll see Jurassic World, a new Star Wars, and even a dramatic version of the Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire (a.k.a. Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk), among other things, allow me to look back on the films that made going to the movies so much fun this year.

Of the more than 60 movies I saw in 2014, these were my favorites. Continue reading

These Songs Are in My Musical Time Capsule for 2014

17 Dec

2014 Time Capsule PlaylistEvery year, folks like DJ Earworm and Daniel Kim create mashups of the year’s most popular pop songs. The top 40 songs of 2014 include ones by Ariana Grande, Jason Derulo, Taylor Swift and Iggy Azalea, so it’d be easy to be dismissive and say there wasn’t much good music to listen to.

And yet, DJ Earworm and Daniel Kim’s 2014 mashups are still pretty awesome. Which proves, in one way or another, that when you listen to the right song in the right context, it can sound better than you remember.

Also, that we all have our own soundtrack, and like to listen to music in different ways. What sounds good to one person doesn’t to another. We all march to our own beat. Etc.

Plenty of music writers have already ranked what they think is the best/worst music of the year, and I have no intention of creating that kind of list. That said, as I look back on the past year, I’m finding that there was plenty of music I want to remember. Admittedly, not all of it was good (by my standards, anyway). But months or years from now, when I’m trying to put my head back in the place it was this year, playing these tracks will do the trick.

You won’t find any U2 here (free or not, I just didn’t dig their new album), but you will find multiple songs by folks like Bruce Springsteen, Jamie Cullum, and Pharrell Williams. You may even find a song from a Broadway show and a jazz instrumental track. (And two Megan Trainor songs, too; no judging.) That’s what I listened to this year. That was my soundtrack.

For your listening pleasure, here’s my musical time capsule for 2014, with some commentary on some of the tracks. Songs are listed (on the playlist and in this blog post) in no order other than a roughly chronological one. Enjoy! Continue reading

Giving Thanks with Every Bite

26 Nov
Photo credit: Satya Murthy/Creative Commons

Photo credit: Satya Murthy/Creative Commons

How often do you stop and say thank you to those people, places, and things that bring you joy?

If you’re anything like me, the answer is “not often enough.”

That’s just one reason why Thanksgiving is such an important holiday: It’s perhaps the one day all year when we shift our focus from work and other stresses, and focus instead on expressing gratitude. While we gobble down turkey and watch football games and get stressed out by our families, sure. But we can be thankful for all of that, too. To paraphrase the great poet Nicole Westbrook, this is a day not to be hateful, but to be grateful.

Actually, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s right up there with Fourth of July, Patriots’ Day, and yes, my birthday. I love most everything about it, from the parade to the pigskin to the pie. And I’m celebrating this year with a big smile on my face. That’s because I have a lot to be thankful for.

Here (listed in no particular order) is a public shout-out to all those people, places, and things that tomorrow, when I’m eating turkey, potatoes, bread and butter (#morebutter), etc., I’ll be saying thank you to with each and every bite.

Thank you, thank you, thank you — for all of this, and so much more.

Continue reading

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