Lawrence soars as the Mockingjay in Part 1

Mockingjay Part 1Is there anything Jennifer Lawrence can’t do? It’s no secret I love The Hunger Games franchise and Lawrence’s work as Katniss Everdeen. In this franchise I believe she’s been her strongest, ever. Forget Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle – neither movie has given us the emotional range, character depth, or beautiful restraint The Hunger Games has. I honestly believe the Academy gets it wrong every year they nominate her for the David O. Russell “indie,” over this highly successful franchise.

Why can’t she be nominated for a blockbuster?

As Katniss, Lawrence has consistently delivered riveting performances – and in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, she does it again. Whether she’s acting as the beacon of hope for the people of Panem – or if she’s caught in a close-up – or reacting to Peeta’s messages from the Capitol – or [surprisingly] singing, she’s on-point. Her work deserves recognition – and in the absence of a David O. Russell collaboration this year (she and David O. Russell have Joy coming in December 2015), hopefully she’ll finally get the nod for giving Katniss life!

I can’t say I’ll be surprised if she’s overlooked, though – in favor of an actress from a quieter, more perceptively “artsy” movie – but I think it’d be a mistake. It’s been widely discussed online that leading roles for actresses – and strong performances filling those roles have been scarce this year. Yet, here we have Jennifer Lawrence – giving us a character that eclipses her celebrity. When you look at that screen – despite her huge success – you don’t think, “That’s Jennifer Lawrence.” You convincingly say, “That’s Katniss Everdeen.”

That deserves recognition – at the very least, a nomination.

Effie Trinket - MockingjayAs for the movie itself. I liked it. I really did. The continued work of Lawrence’s co-stars keeps me intrigued and interested. There’s never a spare moment wasted with this group of talent. Just as I’ve been vocal about Jennifer Lawrence’s performances, I’ve also championed Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket. I love her. The way she presents the character is magnificent – especially in this installment with a more restrictive color and costuming palette. She adds just the right amount of humor and seriousness – and I think she too is overlooked – like much of this franchise has been.

From the start, The Hunger Games has presented an intriguing concept – and it’s ignited a “what if” discussion about the future and the possibility of this type of life. That premise has resonated with people – and in turn we’ve grown attached to these movies and characters (or, as least I have). The films have been exquisitely made and on various technical levels (especially costume design, score and editing) they excel. This movie is quieter and more brooding – to prepare us for what should be an adrenaline-inducing and emotional conclusion to The Hunger Games.

Mockingjay Part 1 serves the purpose of getting us there – and that’s okay. It’s nice to take a break from the action and to explore the characters in the wake of the Quarter Quell. For an example of this, look to any scene with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Hutcherson was good before – primarily because of his interactions with Katniss, but without her, the character’s propelled to the next level. Something’s wrong – he’s notably darker – and now, Peeta is his own entity. In some form, he can exist without Katniss.

I’ve skimmed over some of the reviews for Mockingjay Part 1 – and the reception’s been a little more mixed than positive (like the first two films) – and all fingers seem to be pointing to the lack of action. I, for one, am entirely fine with a story taking precedence over explosions in a big-budget feature film. I commend director Francis Lawrence for providing us with an opportunity for that. Surely he had to know it’d be a less popular, but necessary, decision.

Francis Lawrence has certainly added his signature to the franchise, earning more critical acclaim. Unlike the first installment, Catching Fire and Mockingjay Part 1 look and feel big-budget, polished and more well-made overall. Though I feel like Gary Ross’ initial interpretation – though it was a little grittier, shakier and in your face – was stylistically more appropriate for the franchise. Honestly, I would be in favor of more close-ups and less wide shots in the second and third movies. The way Ross did it makes it feel a little darker; the way Francis Lawrence does it makes it feel more cinematic – more beautiful. I’d prefer an in-between – and that’s almost exactly what is delivered with Mockingjay Part 1. Perhaps Mockingjay Part 2 can be The Hunger Games we’re all craving!

Grade: B+

#ThanksMichelleObama: Why it’s a stupid trend.

I wasn’t going to bother writing something people probably weren’t going to read anyway - that’s how it goes with political opinions or comments - but I just couldn’t resist.

For two days, I’ve noticed the trending hashtag “#ThanksMichelleObama.” Behind the hashtag are pictures, of school lunches that look less than appetizing, backed by sarcastic commentary about Michelle Obama championing healthier school lunches. To those of you posting your pictures and “thanking” Michelle Obama, I ask you the following questions:

1. Is it better to have food – or no food at all?

2. If you’re unhappy with what’s being served (is there not a lunch menu?), then can’t you pack a lunch from home?

3. What does the First Lady’s effort/push for healthier food have to do with the food’s preparation and presentation?

These are three very basic questions that come to mind when I see this type of complaining. I won’t even touch the “Just wait until 2016″ commentary either. As if a school lunch should be the basis of your voting two years from now. Then again, it goes without saying – if you’re basing your ballot on smashed peas or a bad picture, then …

Perhaps you (or your kids if you’re a parent reading this), in this age of ultra-criticism and entitlement, would rather eat a highly processed frozen disc called a cheeseburger – or maybe you’ll settle for some frozen “chicken strips.” Obviously you would, otherwise food chains like McDonald’s wouldn’t be raking in billions of dollars. Then again, maybe you would like something that looks appetizing – and is nutritious. That’s more than fine. I understand that point – when I cook/bake, I make it point to present (after all, that’s half of eating!).

Though, if the schools spent time presenting food for hundreds of teenagers – it’d go largely unnoticed and be met with no gratitude. Well, it might end up on Instagram, facebook or twitter and get the #FoodPorn hashtag instead.

Are you getting this (and agreeing with me) – or are you reading this wanting to slap me because you’re stupid?

We live in a world with millions of hungry people. There are places where people are dying from starvation – hell, it’s happening in/around our neighborhoods everyday – and all you can do is sit on your privileged asses and post sarcastic remarks “thanking” the First Lady for your “disgusting” food. It’s food! It’s a first-world problem – and at the end of the day, you have the choice to not eat it.

Many people don’t have that choice. Remember that the next time you say “Thanks Michelle Obama.” Bon appetit!

 

 

A Very Bobby Christmas. Vol. 1.

ChristmasWell, it’s been a while since we’ve last spoken – or since you’ve last had something to read (from me anyway). Now, the holidays are upon us – and if you’re like me, you’ve been bitten by the Christmas spirit. I’m excited! I can’t wait! I’m ready for Christmas lights, hot chocolate, holiday parties and warm nights by the fire while snow falls just outside the window.

That means I need a lot of Christmas music in my life – so I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite holiday songs by some of my favorite artists. You’ll notice that I wanted to combine powerful instrumentals with beautiful vocals, drama with fun – and most importantly, I wanted the compilation to flow – to quite literally be music to your ears.

I’ve carefully selected each track and artist and arranged them in a way that should leave you feeling all kinds of warm and fuzzy – just in time for Christmas cheer. The playlist has been anchored with Lea Michele (“O’ Holy Night”), Celine Dion (“Ave Maria”) and Josh Groban (“Chestnuts Roasting”). It begins heavily with the unique sound of a capella group Pentatonix and ends with a fun influence. You may also notice, my love for movies and television is sprinkled throughout!

If you like what you see, build this list and burn it for yourself (or get in good with me and I’ll burn it for you!)! Happy holidays and happy listening!

Here’s the 25 song track listing of “A Very Bobby Christmas. Vol. 1″:

1. Vuelie – Frode Fjellheim and Christophe Beck ft. Cantus – from Frozen 

2. White Winter Hymnal – Pentatonix

3. What Child Is This? – The Canadian Tenors

4. Mary, Did You Know? – Pentatonix

5. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy – Pentatonix

6. Believe – Josh Groban – from The Polar Express 

7. Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People – Jonathan Groff – from Frozen 

8. Where Are You Christmas? - Faith Hill – from Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas 

9. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Gene Autry

10. The First Noel – Connie Francis

11. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Judy Garland

12. O’ Holy Night – Lea Michele – from GLEE 

13. Ave Maria – Celine Dion

14. Chestnuts Roasting – Josh Groban

15. You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch – Thurl Ravenscroft – from How the Grinch Stole Christmas 

16. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee

17. Carol of the Bells – Celtic Women

18. Frosty the Snowman – Ella Fitzgerald

19. Text Me Merry Christmas – Straight No Chaser ft. Kristen Bell

20. Blue Christmas - Elvis Presley

21. Baby It’s Cold Outside – Idina Menzel ft. Michael Buble

22. Let It Be Christmas – Alan Jackson

23. What’s This? – Danny Elfman – from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas 

24. Deck the Rooftop – GLEE Cast – from GLEE 

25. Holly Jolly Christmas – Michael Buble

BONUS! Here’s the lyric video for Straight No Chaser and Kristen Bell’s new song, “Text Me Merry Christmas.”

Bobby James enters the “Freak Show”

I’ve spent the morning working on an illustration for my children’s book The Story of Piph. During my creative process, I reviewed tutorials on how to create and fade layers. I thought, “Why not have a little fun?”

When Ryan Murphy announced that American Horror Story: Freak Show would feature the most sinister clown ever recorded, I figured it was time to face my fear. I decided to tackle evil clowns head-on. As a result, I created a collection of art pieces featuring (seemy posts Clownin’ Around and Enter the Circus) those who were vilified by “Pennywise” from Stephen King’s It.

I took a screen cap from the most recent trailer for Freak Show and overlaid my piece titled “Circus Freak.” Enjoy.

Circus Freak meets Freak Show. 2014.

Circus Freak meets Freak Show. 2014.

“Genie. You’re free.” RIP Robin Williams.

Robin WilliamsRobin Williams was one of our time’s greatest comedians and character actors.  Now, he’s dead at 63.

My heart broke when the headlines started flowing in.  The victim of depression and an apparent suicide, a great actor was lost today.  How does this happen?  How can a man who brings joy be darkly tormented and leave this world so sadly?  It doesn’t make sense and it’s heartbreaking.

As a young kid in the 90s, I grew up loving works Robin Williams was associated with, most notably Aladdin, one of my all-time favorite movies.  I’ve always loved the joy and charisma of Genie – all of which is owed to Robin Williams.  I remember how I loved him as Mrs. Doubtfire – and how I fondly remember other movies like Jumanji or Flubber.  But one of his most important cinematic moments for me was his cliff-top conversation with God about compassion in Patch Adams.  I remember his emotional reach from that moment – it was the first time he ever made me cry.

…but within minutes, his infectious smile had returned along with joy to warm my heart.

As Maya Angelou once said,

“People will never forget how you made them feel.”

Robin Williams brought a great deal of joy to a lot of people, myself included – his legacy will forever be seen in their smiles and heard in their laughter.  Thank you for the memories Mr. Williams.  My thoughts and prayers are with your family – may they find laughter once again.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tweeted (and broke my heart again):

"Genie, you're free."

“Genie, you’re free.”

Genie Youre Free

“Genie, you’re free.” – The Academy

Reading: The Night Circus

The Night CircusI’ve just finished reading Erin Morgenstern’s fantasy novel The Night Circus.

I found Morgenstern’s novel to be a read that captivated me with gorgeous sensory writing and vivid imagination.  The idea of a circus (Le Cirque des Rêves) that’s only operational at night and of magicians, or illusionists rather, bound to one another – for the duration of a magical exhibition in a strikingly monochromatic world – tends to be quite breathtaking – and tragically beautiful.  Every tent in this circus provides you (the reader) with an opportunity to imagine a place entirely - through physical and sensory descriptions.  There are constantly sights, sounds, tastes, touches and emotions referenced that allow you to draw from your own past, and most importantly imagination, to envision this enchanted world.

While I came to care for the characters in this world - notably Celia, Marco and Bailey, I was drawn to the grand imagination on display more.  One image that lingers with me, well beyond the final pages, is that of the ice garden and it’s wishing tree.  The idea – and romanticism – of an ice garden with hidden fragrances intrigues me enough, but factor in a wishing tree adorn with candles and I’m hooked.  There’s something about it that inspires me – and it’s the idea that people ignite their wishes (candles) from the wishes (flames) of others.  It’s a beautiful and very cinematic image.

Which brings me to my desire to see this novel adapted into a feature film.  After completing a quick online search, I found that the film/TV rights to The Night Circus were optioned by Summit Entertainment (part of Lionsgate) in 2012.  From what I’ve found, the film is in development and the script being written by Moira Buffini (writer of Jane Eyre).  While reading the novel I came to the conclusion that The Night Circus (tentatively titled) can go one of two ways:

1.  It could easily be transformed into a Twilight-esque fantasy film with juvenile romanticism and easily-dated special effects, or…

2.  It could be transformed into something beautiful – a contemporary masterpiece that pushes the boundaries of special effects and that could (should) inspire beautiful art, cinematography and costumes.

The world created by The Night Circus lends itself entirely to special effects.  As such, in extremely capable hands, Morgenstern’s world can be visualized – and could be a hybrid of The Prestige and The Hunger Games.  For this to happen, I thought I’d do a little fantasy “casting.” My vision for this world would see it directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas), Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Prestige, Inception), or Francis Lawrence (Water for Elephants, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire).  Each of those directors have strengths (and a filmography) that suggest they’d make it as beautiful as Morgenstern’s writing suggests it should be.

I think the Wachowskis would add the fantastical element this story needs – as such they’d be my first choice.  Watch The Matrix or Cloud Atlas and you’ll see they have a knack for creating bizarre, yet breathtaking works that appeal to the imaginations of viewers.  Under their direction, I believe the characters and the circus – through the nuanced timeline – would benefit most from their familiarity with pacing (based on time-jumping) and gorgeous special effects.  Fantasy is their specialty.

Then, if the Wachowskis were unavailable, I’d choose either Christopher Nolan or Francis Lawrence.  Both directors have previous experience with circus or illusion-based films.  Nolan has a knack for creating gritty worlds in which his characters (and actors) thrive.  Celia and Marco would likely be markedly darker in Nolan’s hands, but the actors portraying them would likely turn in authentic, award-worthy performances – and the movie itself would probably garner praise from critics and moviegoers alike.  Nolan would be the director to give The Night Circus the dark undertone it presents – and the conflicted characters it needs.

And if the script doesn’t recognize/call for such unnerving darkness or conflict - and instead chooses to rest of the pure imagination and love story, I’d have Francis Lawrence as the director.  While he’s currently directing The Hunger Games franchise, he’d be the perfect director to balance the dark undertone with any scripted Twilight-ization – meaning, if the writing calls for a love story akin to Bella-Edward, Lawrence would be sure to deliver something better, like Katniss-Peta from The Hunger Games or Marlena-Jacob from Water for Elephants.  Lawrence takes what could easily trend into juvenile/young adult territory and directs in a way that adds maturity and finesse, while remaining able to connect to that target (young adult) audience.

Finally, while I was reading The Night Circus, a list of actors crept into my mind for a few of the parts: