Greenpeace USA’s anti-Shell effort (in pictures)

On July 8, conservation group Greenpeace USA released a video titled Everything is NOT Awesome.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhbliUq0_r4

Partnered with a creative agency Don’t Panic, Greenpeace used a slowed, melodic version of “Everything is Awesome” to score a host of artistically beautiful, yet harrowing images.  Together, they created a world overrun by corporate greed while promoting a strong conservation effort.  The video shows oil company Shell drilling in the arctic, which results in an oil spill that consumes everything in its path – from indigenous wildlife to the imaginations of children – and even our beloved Santa Claus and two LEGO Movie heroes Emmett and Wyldstyle.

Upon first seeing the video I was moved beyond words – such power in under two minutes.  That is amazing.  Then, I read that a previous version of the video had been flagged and removed by YouTube.  In an effort to make sure the powerful images survive, I’ve compiled a collection of twenty one screen caps.  They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words are there before you now?

Add your name to the petition to have LEGO end their partnership with Shell: Lend Your Voice – Add Your Name to the Petition

Everything is NOT Awesome 

(screen caps)

New Art | The Faces of Elephants

It’s been just about a month since I’ve shared any new art with you – that’s because I’ve been busy working on various other projects (ex. Boug & S’More: A Swamp Tale [novel] and a poetic sexual odyssey), which you could note by following me on twitter or Instagram (@TheBobbyJames).

Yesterday I managed to create two pieces – the first remains untitled, so I’m leaving that up to you:

Title TBD

Title TBD

Title TBD. Watercolor, (c) 2014. Bobby James.

This is my first foray into freehand painting with watercolor.  I used various brushes to create the image, then used my fingers to add strokes of yellow.  To finish the piece, I mixed in some additional water to splatter paint for the final effect.  Pretty simple, really.  I woke up, had a vision and knew I wanted to experiment with a medium I’ve never really used before.

I love this piece – but I cannot seem to find the right title.  I’d been toying with calling it “Elephants in the Wind,” but I figured, why not let someone else decide?  So leave your suggestion in the comments section below – or on social media using the hashtag #NameTheElephants and I’ll use the title I love best! :)

Next, I present:

The Faces of Elephants

The Faces of ElephantsThis piece began as a doodle while I was having coffee with my friend Pete.  Earlier this year, Pete and I decided to have what we call “art dates.” These “dates” are used to not only be social, but to share creative ideas while an organic, creative process occurs in public – the people at Starbucks love us (I think), well, I know they like the art at least.

Pete sketches forms and figures mostly and I let my mind wander into an abstract place (Breath of Life and The Spring of Life were created this same way [see below]).  During our outing, I drew the top left swirl in the image.  From there, the rest of The Faces of Elephants was born.  You’ll notice there is a great deal of symbolism.  Are the trunks phallic in nature?  Are the tusks suggestive of bondage?  Are people consuming the elephants or are elephants existing harmoniously?  These are some of the thoughts I hope this piece inspires.

What else do The Faces of Elephants say to you?  What do you see? I’m curious to know your response.  I can tell this abstraction is influenced by the sexual odyssey I’m composing.  Can you?

To view more of my art, CLICK HERE


Here are the two pieces referenced above:  Breath of Life and The Spring of Life.

The Bobby James Awards: A Comment and Update

As you may or may not be aware, The Bobby James Awards date back to 2002, when I decided to create a year-end list for the “Best of WWE.”

Since that time, I’ve expanded my year-end rankings to include movies, television, music and TNA Impact Wrestling.  This post, however, is about the film categories and history – which are listed as having began in 2007.  For several years though, I’ve been haunted (for lack of a better term) by the fact that some of the movies and performances I most admire and treasure haven’t had the opportunity to be honored or recognized – by me.  Yet, in conversations related to all things movies, I find myself constantly referencing some of these titles, actors, characters, scores, etc. and find one (Brokeback Mountain) among my all-time favorite movies.

This post serves to provide notice that I’m dating the “Film” categories back to 2005.  All “award” recipients will have an asterisk placed by their name (for 2005, 2006), and below the category, this note shall be referenced.

View the Updated Film Awards History Here

Tops: 10 Best [Animated] Supporting Disney Characters

Welcome to Tops!  Wildly popular on As Seen By (2011-2013), Tops is a feature highlighting the “10 Best” [insert topic] in television or movies!  Lists like the Top 10 Animated “Awww” Moments or Ten 21st Century Documentary Films The May Make You Want to Occupy a Street are among the most popular ever written for As Seen By.  Now, I’m bringing the Tops feature to Bobby’s World and I’m launching with the “10 Best [Animated] Supporting Disney Characters!” Enjoy.

 

10.  PASCAL

Pascal

from Tangled (2010). Voice: n/a

The countdown begins with the most adorable little chameleon ever.  Pascal is a fun, good-natured little guy who’s very protective of Rapunzel, his sole companion.  When Flynn Rider comes along, Pascal is none too happy and spends a number of moments standing off against the wanted hero.  And who could forget the two times he mischievously throws his tongue into Flynn’s ear – or his adorable squeaks – or cute little facial expressions?  Pascal stands by his friend through it all and even has quite the adventure retrieving the wedding rings near the end of the movie.  He’s crafty and fun, and one of the best parts of Tangled.

Favorite Moment:  Every single interaction with Flynn Rider!

Favorite Quote(s):  n/a

9.  GUS GUS

from Cinderella (1950). Voice: James MacDonald

from Cinderella (1950). Voice: James MacDonald

Duh!  Octavius … or rather, Gus Gus, had to make the list.  He’s the funniest little fat mouse ever!  Whether he’s acting tough by threatening Lady Tremaine or her evil cat Lucifer, or trying to pick up almost a dozen kernels of corn, Gus provides a lot of comedy for Cinderella.  Rescued from a mousetrap, Gus becomes attached to and very protective of Cinderella.  He’s her tiny little aloof knight in a mustard tee – and for that, and his adorable laugh, he earns a sweet spot on the list.

Favorite Moment:  When he’s competing with the “cluck-clucks” for corn kernels and keeps losing them!

Favorite Quote(s):

“Duh, duh, duh…Happy Birthday!”

“Take it easy cluck-cluck!”

8.  SHENZI, BANZAI and ED

from The Lion King (1994). Voices: Whoopi Goldberg, Jim Cummings and Cheech Martin

from The Lion King (1994). Voices: Whoopi Goldberg, Jim Cummings and Cheech Martin

Hyenas…in the Pride Lands!  At number eight, Shenzi (Whoopi Goldberg, center), Banzai (Cheech Martin, right), and Ed (Jim Cummings, left) are the only trio featured on the list.  Notable not only for their comedic moments, the Scar sidekicks are a dangerous pack that aid in Scar’s takeover of Pride Rock, Mufasa’s death and Simba’s exile.  As a unit, they’re deadly and individually, their traits make them devious yet joyfully memorable.

Favorite Moment:  The “Mufasa, Mufasa, Mufasa” scene.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Make mine a ‘cub’ sandwich.” – Shenzi

“There ain’t no way I’m goin’ in there! What you want me to come out there lookin’ like you, cactus butt?” – Shenzi

“[uncontrollable laughter]” – Ed

“Who you callin’ upid-stay?” – Banzai

“Do you know what we do to kings who step out of their kingdom?” – Shenzi

7.  RAFIKI

from The Lion King (1994). Voice:  Robert Guillaume

from The Lion King (1994). Voice: Robert Guillaume

Like the circle of life, Rafiki begins and ends the story of The Lion King hoisting a cub into the air from atop Pride Rock.  A friend to Mufasa, Rafiki (whose name means “friend” in Swahili) serves as an advisor to Simba, as he grapples with his destiny as “the one true king.” An inhabitant of an old baobab tree, Rafiki is wise, mysterious and a tad bit eccentric (Simba even refers to him as a “creepy little monkey”) – but his lessons are invaluable to Simba, who learns quickly from the loveable mandrill.

Favorite Moment:  Rafiki’s lesson to Simba about running from or learning from the past.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Oh yes, the past can hurt, but he way I see it: You can either run from it, or learn from it.”

“Asante sansa Squash banana, Wiwi nugu Mi mi apana … can’t cut it out, it’ll grow right back!”

“He lives in you.”

6.  GENIE

from Aladdin (1992). Voice:  Robin Williams

from Aladdin (1992). Voice: Robin Williams

Remember wanting to find your own magic lamp in a Cave of Wonders, so that you could have a friend like Genie?  Me too.  Genie is one of the most animated and boisterous supporting characters in all of Disney.  He transformed Aladdin into “Prince Ali,” and is responsible for the set up between Aladdin and Jasmine.  He’s loving, loyal and loud, but beneath all of that, he only really desires his freedom.

Favorite Moment:  The “itty bitty living space” moment and the “Never Had a Friend Like Me” musical number.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Phenomenal cosmic powers, itty bitty living space.”

“Yo, Rugman!  Haven’t seen you in a few millennia, give me some tassel!”

“You ain’t never had a friend like me!”

“Beeeeee yourself.”

“Do you mind if I kiss the monkey?  …Oh, hairball!”

“Thank you for choosing ‘Magic Carpet’ for all your travel needs. Don’t stand until the rug has come to a complete stop.  Thank you, goodbye now.  Goodbye. Goodbye. Thank you. Goodbye.”

 5.  OLAF

from FROZEN (2013). Voice: Josh Gad

from FROZEN (2013). Voice: Josh Gad

Some people are worth melting for – so are some of Disney’s supporting characters, especially Olaf, the snowman who longs to “do whatever snow does in summer!”  First introduced as a lifeless snowman while Elsa and Anna are kids, Olaf is later brought to life and becomes one of the most animated and flamboyant characters in recent Disney memory.  His many adorable moments, quotes and “In Summer” number made him relatable, lovable and instantly classic and memorable.

Favorite Moment:  When he tells Anna that some people are worth melting for, or when he’s admiring his nose!

Favorite Quote(s):

“Winter’s a good time to stay in and cuddle, but put me in summer and I’ll be a … happy snowman!”

“Oh I love it [his new carrot nose]! It’s so cute, it’s like a little baby unicorn.”

“Hi everyone! I’m Olaf and I like warm hugs.”

“Heads up! Watch out for my butt!”

“Yeah! It really is beautiful isn’t it? It’s so white – you know have a little color! I’m thinking like maybe some crimson, chartreuse … how ’bout yellow? No, not yellow – yellow and snow [muffled brrr-sound] no go.”

4.  RAY

from The Princess and the Frog (2009). Voice:  Jim Cummings

from The Princess and the Frog (2009). Voice: Jim Cummings

Ray, the Cajun firefly, is the only supporting character featured on the list that dies, while battling “The Shadow Man,” Dr. Facilier!  Before Ray meets his tragic end though, he wows the audience with the “Gonna Take You There” number in the bayou and his story of Evangeline.  Ray (alongside ‘gator Louis) adds a great deal of soul, humor and folklore to The Princess and the Frog.  His bittersweet end sees him finally be united with Evangeline, as a star beside her.

Note:  Ray’s funeral was ranked as my #10 Animated “Awww” Moment.

Favorite Moment:  Meeting Ray and the numbers “Gonna Take You There” and “Ma Belle Evangeline.”

Favorite Quote(s):

“My name Raymond, but everybody call me Ray.”

“Ooo, I’m a Cajun, bro!”

“Go to bed! Y’all from Shreveport?”

“First rule of the bayou – never take directions from a ‘gator.”

“Don’t make me light my butt!”

3.  SEBASTIAN

from The Little Mermaid (1989). Voice: Samuel E. Wright

from The Little Mermaid (1989). Voice: Samuel E. Wright

Who doesn’t love Sebastian?  Sure, he’s a little crabby, but it’s because nobody listens to him, especially Ariel!  From start to finish, the wee crustacean transforms from a hard-shell crab into a softy! His calypso-reggae infused songs are brought to life by voice actor Samuel E. Wright and endure as some of the most memorable and timeless.  Recall “Under the Sea” or “Kiss the Girl?”  What’s great about Sebastian is that he’s always got everyone else’s best interests in mind – and he works tirelessly to help in any way possible.  Aww.

Favorite Moment:  When Sebastian teaches Ariel how to pucker her lips OR when Sebastian faces off against Chef Louis to the song “Les Poissons!”

Favorite Quote(s):

“Teenagers!  Dhey dink dhey know everything. You give dhem an inch; dhey swim all over you.”

“My nerves are shot.  This is a catastrophe! What would her father say? I tell you what her father’d say.  He’d say he’s gonna kill himself a crab, dat’s what her father’d say…”

“You gotta pucker up your lips, like this…”

“Geez mon, I’m surrounded by amateurs!”

2.  TIMON & PUMBAA

from The Lion King (1994). Voices: Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella

from The Lion King (1994). Voices: Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella

Timon and Pumbaa are inseparable!  They’re two of the most beloved characters of all-time, and the most dynamic duo ever created by Disney.  They enter the story of The Lion King at the most somber moment to provide hope, humor and even more spirit.   They’re rambunctious and zany, but above all, they’re tender-hearted and endearing.  After all, they save Simba – a lion – one of their natural predators!  Together, as co-parents, they protect Simba until he’s an adult – and they stand beside him as he takes his “rightful place as king.”

Favorite Moment:  When Pumbaa is stuffed and Timon dresses in drag to do the hula.

Favorite Quote(s):

“What do you want me to do? Dress in drag and do the hula?” – Timon

“Pumbaa:  It’s times like these my buddy Timon here says: ‘You got to put your behind in your past’. / Timon:  No, no, no.  Amateur.  Lie down before you hurt yourself.  It’s ‘You got to put your past behind you’.”

“Hakuna Matata”

1.  LUMIERE

from Beauty and the Beast (1992). Voice: Jerry Orbach

from Beauty and the Beast (1992). Voice: Jerry Orbach

“But of course!” The French candelabra Lumière tops the list.  Named after pioneering filmmakers, The Lumière Brothers, and fashioned with Pepé Le Pew in mind, Lumière is the quintessential supporting character.  He’s witty, charming, free-spirited and romantic – not to mention, one of the driving forces behind Belle and Beast’s romance.  His resistance to Cogsworth’s traditional attitude, hospitality toward Belle, and fiery romance with Featherduster provide plenty of memorable moments or musical numbers, like “Be Our Guest!”  He is the perfect host for entertaining and embodies all that one might imagine about France.

Note:  Lumière has been my favorite supporting Disney character since I was a child.  I oftentimes reference Beauty and the Beast, Lumière and Pepé Le Pew when discussing why I studied French, or explaining why I love the idea of Parisian life.

Favorite Moment:  The “Be Our Guest” sequence and his on-screen moment with Featherduster.

Favorite Quote(s):

“But of Course!”

“Ma Chère mademoiselle.  It is with deepest pride and great pleasure the we welcome you tonight …”


That’s the countdown!  How did you like the list?  Are there moments or quotes from these characters that you liked but don’t see here?  Share it in the comments section below.  Are your favorite supporting characters missing from the list?  Make the case for them below too!  Thanks for reading.

New Art: Clownin’ Around & Straight Jacket

I woke up this morning with a couple visions in my head for new art involving clowns.  Seems timely provided the media’s coming clown fixation (Lady GaGa’s ARTPOP cover art, the upcoming American Horror Story: Freakshow, “Crazy Steve” from IMPACT Wrestling and rumors about who will play “The Joker” next).  I have a feeling pop culture is about to enter the funhouse.

The first image I created, titled Clownin’ Around features a clown doing a backward bend.  This picture may seem kind of random – but it’s very specifically inspired.  I like the idea of a figure in motion, which is something dictated by using a clown as a subject.  Next, I thought of the costuming – how does this clown need to look? I didn’t want the image to be overly cliché and feature a frilly body suit.  Then, I remembered, about a year ago, I’d sent a tweet to Todd Sanfield (a PharmD student, model and owner of The Todd Sanfield Collection underwear line).  I recall asking Todd if he’d ever accept design ideas –  because I fully intended to submit a few – but I never did (that’s life in grad school).  So, Todd, if you’re reading – consider the underwear featured in Clownin’ Around a submission – and consider the idea for a potential photo shoot or next book possibly titled Circus or Funhouse (like Motel | Hotel, or Virgin Island)?

By choosing to feature the clown in underwear, I’ve provided a homoerotic undertone – which, along with the color scheme, is timely considering it’s National LGBT Pride Month.  Finally, I wanted to do a new take on rainbow-colored hair.  Why do all clowns have to have gigantic afros that remind me of the Madagascar 3 song, “Afro Circus” (I saved the ‘fro for the second image!)? Without any further ado, I present to you:

Clownin’ Around

(c) 2014, Bobby James

(c) 2014. Bobby James.

(c) 2014. Bobby James.

View more of my Artwork HERE

The next piece, titled Straight Jacket was the logical progression for this narrative.  What’s the one thing I could do that could drive this clown absolutely mad?  Take away his movement and change his hair – essentially transforming him into a generic performer.  This image is about confinement and restraint.  Despite the clown’s situation though, there is a devious and dastardly smirk.  With reference to ARTPOP and Heath Ledger’s “Joker,” I smudged the make-up to provide the illusion of instability.  Here is:

Straight Jacket

(c) 2014, Bobby James

(c) 2014. Bobby James.

(c) 2014. Bobby James.

Thanks for reading.  Hope you like the work.  Let me know!

 

 

A Media Comment: Hollywood’s New Obsession with Bizarre Sex

Sex

Penis.  Vagina.  Queer Sex.

When each of the above words are visualized in cinema or television in the United States, harsher scrutiny is applied by American censors (MPAA, FCC).  It’s something film and media students have discussed amongst themselves and in their classes for years.   How can a person be more permissibly tortured and graphically killed in a franchise like SAW (2004-2010) beneath an R-rating, while “a scene of explicit sexual content” in a film like Blue Valentine (2010) warrants an NC-17? This well-documented dilemma has been discussed and contested multiple times, yet European films are reputed to be more sexually liberal – that is, until recently.

Eva Green responds to MPAA vs. Sin City Poster controversy

American movies and television are beginning to embrace sex more freely, but violence isn’t tapering off.  Instead, what’s happening is a blending of sex and violence and audiences are witnessing controversial, discomforting, and sometimes erotic scenes or images.  Below I’ll present to you several recent instances that illustrate America’s new-found obsession with bizarre sex.

Let’s begin first with a title making headway with our new fixation:  American Horror Story (2011-).

Fans of FX’s original series will immediately recognize any number of scenes depicting controversial sex.  Season one, “Murder House,” repeatedly teases and shows a man donning a bondage suit.  The man is the source of Vivien Harmon’s (Connie Britton) psychological torment and eventual rape.  Then, the significantly darker season two, “Asylum,” provides viewers with even more controversial “love.” From the nearly instant death of Leo Morrison (Adam Levine) mid-fellatio to start the season, to Shelley’s (Chloe Sevigny) sexual advances toward Nazi doctor Arthur Arden (James Cromwell), to Sister Jude’s (Jessica Lange) fantasy with Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes) – American Horror Story: Asylum upped the ante for bizarre TV sex – then came “Coven.”

Queenie and the Minotaur

Queenie and the Minotaur (AHS: Coven)

According to creator Ryan Murphy, season three was tonally lighter – but Coven wasn’t devoid of bizarre sex.  If anything, Coven pushed the boundaries further.  Viewers of the show will recall several edgy instances of sex, most notably Queenie’s (Gabourey Sidibe) with the Minotaur (Ameer Baraka).  As she encouraged the mythical beast to mount her, Queenie motions her hands to lift her skirt and begs the line, “Don’t you wanna love me?”  Additionally, the season featured a satanic, snake-laden pregnancy ritual between Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson) and husband Hank (Josh Hamilton), and an implied/lightly featured incestuous relationship between Kyle (Evan Peters) and his mother that was interwoven with an on-going necrophilia-ménage-a-tois between Kyle, Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga) and Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts).

American Horror Story isn’t the only show to present necrophilia or incest in primetime, either.  These themes figure prominently into two other top-rated shows, one airing on FOX, the other on A&E.

Season two of FOX’s The Following (2013-) features Sam Underwood as twin brothers Luke and Mark.  The brothers calculatingly murder and dine with female corpses amidst sexual suggestion and homoerotic, incestuous undertones.  What is the basis for their strong connection to one another? Yes, they’re fighting for the same cause as serial killers and rapists, but is it normal for these brothers to be intimate together?  What about their unyielding commitment to one another?  Luke and Mark’s connection is suggestively deeper than brotherhood, though it’s not overstated and was downplayed after the first few episodes.

Norma and Norman Bates

Norma and Norman Bates (Bates Motel)

A&E’s Bates Motel (2013-) poses a similar question – this time about the relationship between mother and son.  For two seasons, Bates Motel has been teasing Norman’s (Freddie Highmore’s) obsession with his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga).  Season one featured a surprising, but inevitable (perhaps “predictable” would be a better word) kiss and awkward relationship between the two.  Season two pushes the envelope a little further by not only depicting more shared kisses, but by placing the characters in bed (non-sexually) together on different occasions, and by revealing a previous instance of incest – the rape of Norma.  The entire premise of Bates Motel is to explore the psyche of Norman Bates pre-Psycho (1960), so naturally, the relationship will only intensify.

Artemisia and Themistocles

Artemisia and Themistocles (300: Rise of an Empire)

Intensity’s become a key factor in both television and cinematic sex.  Take the movie 300: Rise of an Empire (2014) for example.  The sex scene between Persian naval leader Artemisia (Eva Green) and the Grecian Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) is one of the most intense I’ve ever seen.  Mortal enemies on opposing armies, the two come together to forge a deal and end up engaging in a fierce scene where seduction is filled with danger, passion is replaced by power and violence becomes empowering.  From this – what appears as a psychosexual game – allows Artemisia finds superiority against her male counterpart.

While I’m not saying Hollywood hasn’t exploited female sexuality to “empower” women in TV or movies, I am saying that there’s been a shift in the way women have presented and owned their sexuality.  In 300: Rise of an Empire, Artemisia exists as a formidable force beyond her sexuality before and after the scene – and during the scene, she was always in control.  Take the Starz series Spartacus(2010-2013) for another example.  Creator Steven S. DeKnight gave the series several strong, empowered female leads – notably Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) and Ilithyia (Viva Bianca).  Both women existed in the aristocratic echelon of society – and while they employed seduction and sex to further their own political agendas, they also used sex for pleasure, to objectify men (their property), and each other.

Ilithyia and Spartacus

Spartacus and Ilithyia (Spartacus: Blood and Sand)

Spartacus’ most intriguing (and relevant) sex comes during season one (“Blood and Sand”), after Ilithyia oversteps her bounds in the eyes of Lucretia.  Ilithya desires one of Lucretia’s slaves, but the one Lucretia delivers only ensures humiliation.  Ilithyia’s sex scene with Spartacus (Andy Whitfield) delivers eroticism and fantasy to the viewer, but also on the murkiness becoming common-place in TV/movie sex.  The scene is immediately followed by two acts of violence that increase in severity and gruesomeness.  The erotic nature of draped sheets, gold body paint and secretive masks co-exists with themes of deception, humiliation, anonymity, and shame, yet the moment exists to create (or to inspire?) fantasy and allure.  No longer are men using women regularly for sexual exploitation – women are now using their sexuality against each other and men.

Deceptive “use” is a keystone figuring prominently into another primetime show airing on FX – The Americans (2013-).  The Americans introduced us to Phillip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) Jennings, two covert KGB agents in America during the 1980s.  In disguise, throughout seasons one and two, Phillip and Elizabeth both employ sexual activity to gain information from the US government.  The twist comes during season one when we repeatedly see Elizabeth disregard sex and harbor no emotional attachments, whereas Phillip becomes entangled in a faux marriage to FBI secretary Martha (Alison Wright).  The double life begins progressively affecting Phillip, becoming noticeable later (in season two) to Elizabeth.

After involving herself out of necessity, Elizabeth learns about Phillip as a lover to Martha, and asks Phillip to become “Clark,” his alter-ego with her for a night.  The scene is riddled with discomfort – Phillip is visibly frustrated and Elizabeth is left in pain, crying on the bed.  Here we have another instance where deception becomes a violent and emotionally damning sexual act – and we have a sexual relationship (Martha-Clark) built entirely on false pretense and the objectification of a woman.  The irony is that the same show sexually empowers and demeans women and men.  Is this depiction real? Are people this easily manipulated by sex?

Malkina and Ferrari

Malkina mounts the Ferrari (The Counselor, 2013)

There’s a particular scene in the 2013 movie The Counselor, starring Cameron Diaz, that addresses my last statement and question.  While Malkina (Diaz), an affiliate to the Mexican drug cartel, is empowered through cunning, association, and sex, she is demeaned by what could be considered one of the most bizarre sexual acts to ever be featured in a movie.  I’m talking about the moment she mounts a Ferrari and does the splits on the windshield, to seduce her boyfriend Reiner (Javier Bardem).  Interesting to note however, Reiner finds the moment less erotic and more unnerving and intimidating.

This moment and Diaz’s entire performance are powerful.  She’s continuously revered for her feminist traits, including intelligence, independence and boldness (which are stated overtly throughout the movie), but also for her incredible sex appeal.  All of these traits combine to create a dynamic and unpredictable female lead.  So are people easily manipulated through sex?  The answer seems to be that there are great powers in act of seduction – and if you’ve seen the end of The Counselor you know the answer to the question.

But while a woman like Malkina does exist, so too does a woman like Law & Order: SVU‘s (1999-) Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay).  Since 1999, Detective Benson has been a beacon of hope for strong female leads – in television and cinema.  She’s been portrayed as an intelligent woman not reliant upon her sexuality and as an equal member of the male dominated police force.  She’s risen through the ranks and now exists as the top-billed character and face of the show as it enters it sixteenth season.  Detective Benson has done well for herself – until being confronted by an intense arc that sees her victimized by serial rapist and murderer William Lewis (Pablo Schreiber).

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 15

Olivia Benson as a victim (Law & Order: SVU)

Lewis, one of SVU‘s most terrifying villains, is known to torture girls before raping and killing them.  He is eroticized by the helplessness of women – Benson becomes his strongest, most resilient target – his prize.  In the squad room, Lewis’ objective  is clear:  he wants his victims to fight for life, to resist him – it feeds his desire for power.  He tortures them (forces them to consume alcohol, burns them with cigarettes, and terrifies them with guns).  The last moments of these women’s lives are hell – but the Benson-Lewis saga was successful enough that it survived beyond the season fourteen finale and season fifteen premier and carried throughout all of season fifteen.

Why was SVU‘s victimization of Benson such a successful storyline?  Was it because the crime-procedural had an actual arc? Or was it because of Schreiber and Hargitay’s amazing work together?  It could be either of those things, but it could also be because fans liked seeing Olivia Benson in peril, fighting for her dignity and for her life.  The question “Will Lewis rape Benson?” loomed over all of their interactions, especially Benson’s captivity.  Fans cringed at the idea, but had to know how or if Benson would survive William Lewis.  Could she carry on as a detective (and later sergeant) if she were to have been raped by Lewis?  Could this man undo one of TV’s most powerful women?

In some odd way, Benson in peril made for compelling television – and the “will she or won’t she” be raped intrigue caused people to tune in. Despite the dynamics, the fact that Lewis’ sexual obsessions and crimes warranted a season-long arc is noteworthy.  His lust blended with violence, and his appetite for rape and death was unnerving, but the character “William Lewis” was a perfect fit for the media’s bizarre new obsession.

UPDATE: On June 6, Hayley Krischer with the Huffington Post wrote an article about the “rape” of Maleficent and how rape culture has permeated Disney movies

Dorian Gray

Dorian Gray (Penny Dreadful)

More recently, on Showtime’s freshman horror series Penny Dreadful (2014-) we find the character Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney).  While the series is just beginning, and its unknown to viewers where Gray is headed sexually or otherwise, we’ve already learned a bit about his twisted infatuations.  Through staging, we become aware that Gray is at least bisexual, he’s infatuated with beauty, that he has an affinity for lust and orgies, and that he isn’t phased by people coughing up blood during intercourse (that seemed to excite him further).  We’ve also been introduced to his tactics to achieve his desires – notably the scene where he seduces Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) by using a special elixir that inspires a homosexual transgression in Victorian-era London.

Dorian Gray and Ethan Chandler (Penny Dreadful)

Dorian Gray and Ethan Chandler (Penny Dreadful)

It is interesting to note that in 2014, while America is still absurdly sensitive to sex, we find such bizarre instances of sex in so many period pieces like Penny Dreadful (and Spartacus, 300: Rise of an Empire, The Americans).  What is it about these times that inspires creators or writers to visualize these societies as sexually explorative and free?  Are these interpretations simply fanaticized – or is there merit to the ideas – were those times more provocative than our own?  What’s the comment being made toward current society – if these were the sexual attitudes in ancient Greece, Victorian London, or the 1980s?

Perhaps the 2013 movie Her could shed some light on our current state of affairs.  Her offers the comment that our society is less-socialized and less interactive, despite being more “social” in a cyber fashion.  In our digital age, online dating is popularized, sexting is a norm, and sexual necessities are more easily fulfilled alone (by phone, internet, magazine, erotica novel, etc.).  While Her is a gorgeous cinematic achievement, it perhaps offers one of the more bizarre love stories of all – about a man, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), who falls in love and has a pseudo-sexual relationship with an operating system named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson).  Is this contemporary love?  Can this instant companionship replace physical desire or touch?  What is the capability for fulfillment and happiness?

If there’s one positive to Her‘s bizarre sexuality, it’s that the element of violence is removed, but at what cost?  Theodore is physically lonely – he’s withdrawn and suffers from depression.  Is an operating system a suitable replacement for a human? Or is the comment being made by Spike Jones’ feature that we need people to be totally fulfilled – and to feel love?  This question, I believe, is posed in Her and I think the overall message affirms that we do need people to love.  We do need touch and intimacy.

As I’ve illustrated, the current media climate is welcoming, and the censors seem to be softening, with respect to sex and eroticism in cinema and television.  However, the cost for increased instances of sex is that they’re often accompanied by violence (rough sex, demeaning sex, rape) or are so bizarre in nature they’d be considered disturbing (necrophilia, incest, bestiality) to a majority of viewers.  Despite featuring more sex (of all types, heterosexual and homosexual), the media seems to be lacking healthy, passionate, loving, or sensual instances of sex.  We’re trading those intimate and deep-rooted desires for harsh images and sometimes cruel seduction and saying “That’s what I want.”

Mark Ruffalo and Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart)

Mark Ruffalo and Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart)

What’s worse is that each instance of homosexuality I’ve mentioned has been accompanied by a deviant behavior (deception in Penny Dreadful, and suggestive undertones of incest and necrophilia in The Following).  It’s been nearly a decade since Brokeback Mountain revolutionized American cinema and television – and the passionate, loving, and sensual scenes are still fleeting.  Take the powerful HBO movie The Normal Heart (2014), the scene filled with passion between Ned (Mark Ruffalo) and Felix (Matt Bomer) is as fleeting as the flashback depicting their first “hookup.” Why is love still unequal?  What is so fearful about two men or two women being depicted in a moment of true love or passion?

At the same time, what is so threatening about a woman being sexy – and in control of a heterosexual scene?  Why is there still preference to the missionary position – and why can’t there just be stories about love?  Why does everything either have to be categorized as bizarre or follow the romantic comedy formula that presents what I call “soap opera sex?”  American media’s journey into the sexual realm is beginning to intensify.  I just hope sooner, rather than later, we can start displaying love as it should be – not as something that still brings shame, embarrassment, or that disturbs us.  Some stories will warrant the types of bizarre sex prevalent in media – but some stories should just be about passionate freedom.  Don’t you agree?

Is there a show, a movie, or a scene from either that you’d consider “bizarre sex?”  What about something you consider to be about “passionate freedom,” and love? Let me know in the comments section below.  Let’s explore this idea together.  Thanks for reading.

Angelina Jolie is wickedly enchanting as “Maleficent”

MaleficentBeing a fan of Disney and Angelina Jolie, I was predisposed to like this big-budget summer venture titled Maleficent.  A reimagining of the 1959 animated classic Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent is told from the point of view of the title character by a mysterious narrator.  A pleasant, but predictable third-act twist continues Disney’s notable feminist fairytale trend (recall last year’s hit Frozen?), leaving audiences with fond memories of Jolie’s performance and of this tale as a stunning and imaginative summer-worthy effort.

Maleficent 2Visually, Maleficent is wondrous – I love the look of the mystical kingdom (The Moors), all of the creatures (this movie boast one of the best dragons I’ve seen to date!) and magic.  Despite the MPAA citing “frightening images” as the reason for a PG rating, I welcomed the intense fantasy battle sequences and creatures that continuously made me feel like I was watching a Guillermo Del Toro fairytale (ex. Pan’s Labyrinth) – leaving me extremely happy.  I found myself particularly fond of the wispy special effects used to accompany Maleficent’s various enchantments (anything wicked – like the curse on Aurora – is lit in vibrant hues of green, whereas anything bright or gentle flows in a combination of shimmering gold and glowing yellow), and the special effects like this served this production very well.

What’s more is that Jolie’s makeup and costume design (by Anna B. Sheppard) only add to the allure of the fantasy and aura surrounding this classical villain – and there’s of course, Jolie’s performance.  Boosted by Sheppard’s striking costume and a host of prosthetic makeup, Jolie has a commanding screen presence.  She’s enchanting and embodies the villainess perfectly by displaying unparalleled physical, emotional, and vocal skill.  She thrives most in subtle moments where eye contact and facial expressions are essential.  There’s a way she operates in this role that seems natural, yet calculating and ultimately beautiful.  There is a motive behind every move – and then of course, there’s the evil laughter  (I love the moment during Aurora’s christening when her straight face is overcome by a devious smile and her dark laugh!), and she nails it.

Jolie’s level of performance stands out – and perhaps this is where an “off” feeling may become evident to some viewers.  Stefan (Sharlto Copley), Maleficent’s adversary, is miscast throughout the entire movie.  None of the actors playing Stefan during any stage (childhood, adolescence, adulthood) feel right opposite the actresses playing Maleficent, there just seems to be an overall lack of chemistry. This made me thankful for the limited Maleficent-Stefan interactions, but made me wonder if the roles were simply type-cast.  There are far more interesting interactions to be had, partially between Maleficent and Aurora (Elle Fanning), but mostly between Maleficent and Diaval (Sam Riley).

Maleficent and Diaval

Sam Riley, “Diaval,” will be an underrated part of this movie – only because he may become lost in the shuffle amidst the three nutty fairies and host of kings, guards and princes wandering about.  Riley makes an intriguing accomplice, and is the only cast member that truly feels right when paired with Jolie.  Then again, his character is the second most developed.  We are provided with clear motives for his actions and learn just enough about his character and his compassion to care.  At least that’s how it’s written – and therein lies Maleficent‘s greatest downfall.

Maleficent is the most solid character of all, then again, this is her story, so she should be, but why should I care about anyone else involved (I should!)?  The rest of the characters, save for Diaval, fail to be anything other than accessories splattered into the story for the sake of Maleficent having someone to interact with.  This is a problem plaguing most of Disney’s recent live-action adaptations including that womanizing mess known as Oz, the Great and Powerful (2013) and the mediocre Alice in Wonderland (2010), which were both vehicles for James Franco and Johnny Depp, respectively (despite having other capable cast members).  Maleficent’s problems aren’t nearly as bad – in fact, you could probably overlook them if the casting was right, but even proper casting couldn’t make up for a middling story.

Overall, Jolie’s performance and the gorgeous special effects make Maleficent a worthwhile endeavor – it’s just a little frustrating when a performance like Jolie’s is surrounded by mediocrity.  The movie could have done without the first and last ten minutes and it would have improved.  The idea and basic foundation is right, it’s just a shame the overall execution of the story and its characters couldn’t be totally the same.

Grade:  B+

Note [may contain spoilers]:

I’m curious to know, based on the last two Disney fairytales (Frozen and now Maleficent) if Disney’s feminist themes and twists are preparing us for a lesbian princess. It’s an interesting thought – one I’d be interested to explore in the comments section below! What do you think about Disney re-defining how they present “true love?”

 

“The Normal Heart” is shattered by Bomer and all-star cast

The Normal Heart - Matt BomerHome Box Office (HBO) premiered Plan B Entertainment’s film adaptation of Larry Kramer’s 1985 off-Broadway play titled The Normal Heart.  Set against the backdrop of the early to mid 1980s, The Normal Heart is a haunting and heartbreaking story about a generation of gay men (later women) and the emergence of HIV/AIDS in the United States.  Anchored by Matt Bomer’s incredibly moving performance as “Felix Turner,” The Normal Heart is one of the most profound, poignant, and important movies and love stories of the last decade.

In 1981, an unidentified disease begins to ravage New York City’s gay community.  When his friends begin dying, Jewish-American writer Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo), becomes an outspoken activist who helps establish a support group for people either infected with or effected by “gay cancer.”  Weeks, alongside his conflicted friend Bruce Niles (Taylor Kitsch) and Dr. Emma Brookner (Julia Roberts), a female physician and wheelchair-bound survivor of polio, works tirelessly, to both understand the new disease and to bring its existence to the forefront of the American political discussion.  During this time, Weeks meets and falls in love with closeted New York Times reporter Felix Turner (Matt Bomer), beginning an overwhelming love story.

Felix Turner (Matt Bomer) in The Normal Heart.

Felix Turner (Matt Bomer) in The Normal Heart.

As “Felix Turner,” Bomer delivers an exceptional performance that I predict will survive as his most timeless and inspiring.  It’s a side far removed from his dapper USA network series White Collar or his Ken-doll portrayal in Magic Mike.  The trailer and publicity images show you Felix’s transformation, but Bomer’s abilities and physical transformation (he lost nearly 40 pounds for the role) leave you with a haunting sorrow upon full emotional impact.  His intonation is incredible and the eye contact in one scene with Ned’s brother, Ben Weeks (Alfred Molina) is heartbreaking yet empowering. Empowering in the sense that through it all, his passion for life has survived.

Read Matt Bomer’s “The Normal Heart” Interview with The Daily Beast

I’m proud to say I live in a time when stories like this are able to be told – and to be told well.  Adapted for the screen by original author Larry Kramer, and directed by Ryan Murphy (GLEE, American Horror Story), The Normal Heart moves viewers through the motions of free, unadulterated 1980s gay life, love, fear and heartache.  The characters and story feel authentic, and this documentation of these people’s (fictional) existence makes you question the choices our country, and its leaders, made when the AIDS epidemic began.  Murphy’s hand rightfully paints a picture of a world where the US Government’s refusal to fund AIDS research, or to even acknowledge the disease’s existence, led to countless deaths and unnecessary transmissions.

In Murphy and Kramer’s world, each of the characters have an emotional climax as the result of their frustrations with this disease and the government’s silence.  To name a few, Ben Weeks is vociferous about the city and country’s silence, Emma Brookner is infuriated about the lack of research, understanding and funding, and notably, Tommy Boatwright (Jim Parsons) is saddened because of the all the potential that never will materialize because an entire generation is dying (Parsons delivers an affecting monologue).

Did you see The Normal Heart? Rate it at IMDb

The Normal Heart will leave you with tears in your eyes – it will haunt you – and it will leave you questioning how the world we live in could be so cold.  There are several scenes and lines of dialogue that will pierce your heart and your soul – the injustice, the reaction, the silence – it’s overwhelming and frustrating.  The imagery is heartbreaking – then again, this movie is designed to and does rattle your core – to create a legacy for those we lost to this epidemic (and worldwide pandemic).  It leaves you with a lingering, unstated question of “will you be silent – or will you speak out?”

Then again, the tagline “to win a war, you have to start one,” is a call to action – so the lingering question isn’t really unstated after all.  In the 1980s, the original play was timely and culturally significant – today, the movie is equally as relevant, as we struggle to define love as a nation.  The imagery here will ignite a fire in some who will become agents, or voices rather, for change, beginning with this cast and crew.  I could tell that this project meant a lot to those involved, it resonates well beyond its medium – and when that happens, then we are able to experience the true power of movies.

Grade:  A+

This post has been updated.  A previous version of this post stated that Matt Bomer was in USA’s “Suits.”  The correction to “White Collar” has been made.  Thanks @idebrat on twitter for the tip.

 

Michael Sam: The Draft & “The Kiss”

Michael Sam Draft Kiss

NOTE:  I would like to first begin by saying that I believe the clip of Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend after being drafted into the NFL runs too long. I believe the media’s extended take and subsequent, unedited airing created an artificial feeling that some have construed as a “gay agenda” publicity stunt.

Michael Sam was drafted into the NFL by the St. Louis Rams.  By current media standards, this news is ancient history, but the discussion Michael Sam and his boyfriend created upon receiving “the call” is still being heavily discussed across all forms of media. Did he cry too much, smile too little or not display enough enthusiasm?  Nope.  He shared a kiss with his boyfriend, oops.

Michael SamIn early February, I wrote about the world Michael Sam would have to face – I said he’d pay a price for “coming out” and positioning himself to become the NFL’s first openly gay athlete.  I was right – as I predicted, Sam has an uphill battle ahead of him.  He has his detractors, and he always will, no matter how good he is on the field.  They’ll make hateful and hurtful comments about his sexual orientation first – and those comments will disregard Sam’s personhood entirely.  Blind hatred will be unfounded – but it will become part of the asterisk by Michael Sam’s name.

This week alone, Sam has come under fire for “the kiss.” Some have it found “disturbing,” others have said “It’s [homosexuality] being pushed in faces.” Michael Sam’s celebratory moment garnered anti-gay sentiments on social media from various people, including other NFL players, who’ve subsequently been fined and ordered to sensitivity training. Various religious followers, politicians and ordinary conservatives think their First Amendment rights are in jeopardy, under attack by the “gay agenda” – one even mocks “Am I allowed to comment on issues that pertain to homosexuality if I don’t echo the views of our masters?” – and others, in a defeatist fit, walk off set declaring “I’m done.”

Michael Sam has been the subject of as much negativity as praise this week – described using various adjectives first, he’s been mocked, and his supporters have been labeled hypocrites.  Really, some of the things said about Michael Sam could be categorized in our digital era as “cyber bullying.” Then again, cyber bullying has juvenile implications, right? Right. Adults have thrown around derogatory terms (ex. faggot) and have used their children as shields (“my children shouldn’t have to watch”) as they rush to cower behind the First Amendment. Some (a former soldier) have gone as far as to say (paraphrasing) “I defended this country, I can say what I want – and you’re free to think I’m wrong because I served to give you that right.”

Flawed logic, like that of the former soldier’s (after all, he fought to defend some rights, not all?), is the basis for much of the Sam critique.  People claim it’s their right to publicly denounce and dehumanize Michael Sam.  It’s their right to condemn his lifestyle and to make comments that could damage his soul, or have an emotional impact on those close to him (his partner or mother).  Then, when Sam supporters come to his defense, cries of “hypocrisy” sound like alarms.  When fines are levied, suspensions are dealt and sensitivity is suggested/required, then it becomes “What has happened to America? Where is my freedom?”

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What has happened to America, a place founded on freedom? This is a place where blacks were persecuted and enslaved for the color of their skin, a place where women once didn’t have a voice – and were thought of as property.  Now, it’s a place where people like Michael Sam aren’t welcome?  It’s a place where people vehemently defend their “rights” while seeking to strip people of or to keep others from their own?  Case and point, some conservatives cry “hypocrisy” when their hatred is censored, they clutch their constitution in one hand, their Bible in the other, and claim they’re under attack – yet, where’s that defense of freedom for the woman who can’t marry her lifelong partner, for the loving men who are restricted from co-parenting an adopted child, or for the football player who kisses his boyfriend?  Why aren’t they equally as free?

It’s a pot and kettle story that rears its ugly head time and time again.  “My rights – and religion – are under attack because I don’t support the ‘gay agenda’.” People who say things like this, are also people that vote against marriage equality, that don’t support homosexual co-parenting, yet they’re against abortion, contraceptives, and sex education.  They don’t want the “gay agenda” in their face, yet they pull various quotes from The Bible out of context, apply contemporary thought, and push those beliefs into the faces of others.  These people promote messages of why alternative lifestyles are wrong – why LGBT people are damned to (and will burn in) hell – why they’re an abomination.  All the while, their message is this:  LGBT people are less than us – they don’t deserve the same rights.

This hatred is thought to be automatically free, but again, here’s another instance flawed logic.  Not all speech is free. Hate Speech is not protected speech.  Defined as “speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or other traits” that leads to imminent hate violence is criminal.  Hate speech prosecution is a hard sell, and so it’s loosely enforced, but this simply means there’s a fine line between protected and not.   There could come a perfect storm – a series or public record of hateful comments, a tragedy born of hate, an ambitious prosecutor with just enough evidence (tweets maybe?), and a sympathetic jury – and the First Amendment no longer offers protection, because what’s materialized is now a hate crime.

What is said teeters atop a slippery slope just waiting for the fall.  Not to mention, what is stated publicly may be in direct conflict with a company or organization’s belief or mission – and could result in disciplinary action (ex. fines, sensitivity training).  Then again, once disciplinary action happens, cries of “hypocrisy” and “freedom of speech” will resume and could accompany a lawsuit.

Is that world we live in?  Is that America?  Perhaps we’d all do well to remember the Thumperian Principle, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

When cameras cut to Michael Sam during the draft, and saw him standing there with his boyfriend, couldn’t any person with a brain deduce that a kiss between the two was a possibility? For those that “don’t want their children seeing that,” couldn’t you change the channel?  Or was it the idea of having an explanatory conversation with your child that was frightening?  For those of you that were “disturbed,” are you equally as disturbed by any number of heterosexual kisses you may have seen during the previous drafts or Super Bowl victories? For those who were “offended,” how do you think Michael Sam feels when you qualify and categorize him as “the gay football player” or refer to him using derogatory terms like “faggot?”

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So some are offended, and their rights are under attack.  Well, what about Michael Sam and his rights? To those of you who’ve made hateful remarks about Michael Sam (or even other member of the LGBT community) – to those of you who speak out in protest of “the gay agenda,” I say this: Your messages of hatred, while you are entitled to them, are not acceptable. You’re learning that your archaic, hateful views and comments are increasingly becoming unwelcome.  It’s not okay to categorize a person because of their sexual orientation, but most importantly, it’s entirely unacceptable to to dehumanize a person because of a minor difference.  It is not okay. People are people first. None of the rest really matters, does it? As our President, Barack Obama, once said, “It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or who you love…”

Tweet about Michael Sam - ObamasThe times are changing for the better.  The future is coming – and some of us are working to create a more accepting, unified future for generations to come.  There will be a day when a man kisses a man without people looking on with disdain, when homosexual co-parenting is a norm, and when all people are free to be who they were born to be and can love whoever they love. That future is a picture of a world where people are equal.  As Obama said, “I believe we can seize that future.”

It’s time to let the future rise and to leave the archaic, unfounded views where they belong – in the past.

 

An Oscar Note.

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

The Oscars (the 86th Annual Academy Awards) are finally here! This is the night (most – okay, maybe half) movie lovers look forward to.  We’ll watch with anticipation, hoping our favorite movies and actors go home with a little golden man named Oscar – and let me tell you, that Oscar is one desirable dude – he’s flawless, and he’ll always stay that way … did I mention, he’s gold and he usually makes you rich … I’d really love to take him to bed… Oops, I’ve digressed.

Let It GoWhere was I? Right – this is a night to look forward because not only did 2013 have some amazing movies, but the actors in those movies turned out some incredible performances.  If the roles from the nominated actors and actresses weren’t enough for you, the Oscars will feature some of the most anticipated musical performances, including Idina Menzel singing “Let It Go” (original song from Frozen), Bette Midler performing for the first time on the Oscars telecast, and a special appearance (billed as “epic”) by Pink.

Hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, the show promises appearances by Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence, and Kerry Washington (that’s right, the Oscars are about to get “Poped” because you know there’s about to be a scandal!).

Click here for the 2013 Bobby James Awards + Top 25 Movies of 2013

Before I get too involved with my “predictions” (where I rely on my “hopes” to make choices…must stop that…because it leaves me with a 50%-ish accuracy level), I must pose two questions for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:  Why are there not performance awards for actors and actresses in supporting and leading voice-over roles? It’s 2014! Toy Story 3 was a serious contender for “Best Picture” three years ago – better yet, Beauty and the Beast almost won 12 years ago! – and to think, their talented casts would be unrecognized in acting categories!  It’s time for change!

Some of cinema’s most beloved characters are from animations – don’t the actors and actresses responsible for bringing them to life and endearing them to audiences (with just their voices) deserve to be recognized? Where’s the statuette for the Jodi Bensons (voice of “Ariel” [The Little Mermaid], “Barbie” [Toy Story 2 and 3], and “Thumbelina” [Thumbelina]) and Tom Hanks (voice of “Woody” [Toy Story franchise]) of the world. These actors provide voices for their characters, but also for generations to come.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Andy Serkis…and while I’m at it, where is the Oscar for Performance in a Performance Capture role? Highly talented actors and actresses go unrecognized, yet their work is unmatched in restraint and physical demand.  The best example of this would be Andy Serkis, who plays “Gollum” in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the new Hobbit franchise, as well as “Caesar” in the rebooted Planet of the Apes blockbusters.  Or how about Zoe Saldana, who was widely praised for her performance as “Neytiri” in AVATAR. People know and imitate these characters – they’re inspiring any number of young/aspiring actors…

Now, as I step off the soap-box, I see no reason to not get right down to it.  I’m predicting the biggest night for 12 Years a Slave and Gravity with appearances by Dallas Buyers ClubFrozen, and American Hustle. Here are my predictions (and hopes – though I’ll try to dial them back a bit) for the 86th Annual Academy Awards:

Best Picture:   12 Years a Slave (winner)

Actor in a Leading Role:  Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club (winner)

Actress in a Leading Role:  Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine (winner)

Actor in a Supporting Role:  Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club (winner)

Actress in a Supporting Role:  Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave (winner)

Best Animated Feature:  Frozen (winner)

Cinematography:  Gravity – Emmanuel Lubezki (winner)

Costume Design:  American Hustle - Michael Wilkinson (winner: The Great Gatsby - Catherine Martin)

Best Directing:  Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave (winner: Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity)

Documentary Feature:  The Act of Killing (winner: 20 Feet from Stardom)

Documentary Short:  n/a  (winner: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved my Life)

Film Editing:  Gravity - Alfonso Cuaron, Mark Sanger (winner)

Best Foreign Language Film:  The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium) (winner: The Great Beauty – Italy)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:  Dallas Buyers Club (winner)

Best Original Score:  Saving Mr. Banks - Thomas Newman (winner: Gravity - Steven Price)

Best Original Song:  “Let It Go” – Frozen (winner)

Best Production Design:  12 Years a Slave – Adam Stockhausen, Alice Baker (winner: The Great Gatsby)

Best Animated Short Film:  Get a Horse - Lauren MacMullin, Dorothy McKim (winner: Mr. Hublot)

Best Live-Action Short Film:  n/a (winner: Helium)

Best Sound Editing:  Gravity – Glenn Freemantle (winner)

Best Sound Mixing:  Gravity - Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead, Chris Munro (winner)

Best Visual Effects:  Gravity - Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk, Neil Corbould (winner)

Best Adapted Screenplay:  12 Years a Slave - John Ridley (winner)

Best Original Screenplay:  American Hustle - Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell (winner: Her – Spike Jonze)