Category Archives: Rants

An Insidious Affliction

WritingIt has been way too long since I wrote any kind of blog update in general, let alone any kind of update at all. I last wrote in March to sum up my Oscar picks and I’ve been having trouble keeping up with this blog ever since. So much for my New Year’s goals that I set for myself, although I could still engage in that now. Speaking of those New Year’s goals, you might remember that I mentioned in that post that I had trouble with writers’ block, although I believed I understood what the problem was at the time. I had said that I wasn’t ready to say anything about it yet, but that I might in the future. In light of some recent events, I think I may want to discuss that now.

As many have heard by now, Robin Williams committed suicide. In a statement, his manager stated that he had recently been suffering from severe depression. This comedic genius who had branched out and proven himself to be more than just a comedian suffered from an insidious disease that afflicts many people, even those that don’t recognize that they have it. I know this because I’m one them.

I’ve suffered from depression for quite some time. It was something that I didn’t want to accept but ultimately needed to if I was going to get better and have any quality of life. And depression is incredibly difficult to combat. It is not a simple sadness or just feeling down that someone has to snap out of, like many people think. It’s currently believed to be an actual chemical disorder in the brain, the organ that one needs to get out of it. I would use the following analogy: Imagine that you’ve busted both your hands very badly to the point that you can’t hold anything. However, the hospital will not admit you to have your hands treated until you fill out the correct paperwork. You are alone in the waiting room with no one to help you (and loneliness in a crowded room is something that depressed people can sometimes feel). And you can’t hold the pen in your hands to fill out the paperwork, preventing you from getting your hands fixed. Eventually, you might finally be able to grip the pen in your teeth and very slowly and imperfectly fill out the paperwork to finally get the ball rolling, but it is extremely difficult to do.

So, it’s not something that can simply be snapped out of or be a passing mood like many believe. I’ve had problems where I’m extremely tired and want to do nothing but sleep all the time. I know that many have had that happen now and then depending on how well they’re sleeping or the weather, or even had Mono like I did years ago, but when it starts happening everyday, it becomes a cause for concern. I’ve had trouble focusing and keeping my thoughts in order. I’ve had trouble with my short-term memory (interestingly, my long-term memory seems to have remained intact). I’ve had trouble with my attention span. So, it’s not just feelings of sadness but can become an all-encompassing illness where many don’t recognize the signs of depression.

It got really bad for me recently, and I’ve had to start taking medication. I’ve also recently had to seek counseling if nothing more than to have someone help walk me through the steps to recovery. Fortunately, I’ve had encouragement from people in my life to seek treatment. There are many others who aren’t so lucky. I’ve never had a suicide attempt or considered it, so again I’m one of the lucky ones, but the overall effect of it has still been very damaging to my quality of life and in seeking to achieve my goals. I haven’t been writing, something which I find enormously satisfying and fulfills a need, nor have I been taking care of other parts of my life. I’ve let this blog slip and needed to start writing again.

Depression is one of those weird things where the research seems to change frequently. Well, maybe not change, but it gets added to and adjusted. To me it appears that we have only developed a basic understanding of how the brain works on the whole and how disorders can affect thought processes, but this understanding is incomplete. But one thing that seems to remain consistent is that the problem is physical, not purely mental. Our current understanding seems to show that depression is often caused by a depletion of monoamine chemicals in the brain, namely serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. So the previous hand analogy may not be very far off.

One little side note that I thought was interesting is how the use of antidepressants can increase the risk of suicide. I know that doesn’t make sense until you understand how recovery from depression works, which I didn’t know until recently when I asked. The first thing to happen in recovery is not an improvement in mood but rather an increase in energy. Where a depressed person would feel down but not have the energy to do anything, someone starting recovery will often still feel depressed but now have the energy to do something about it, hence the reason suicide risk increase in the beginning stages of recovery. Again, I haven’t been this bad, but given the impetus for this post, I thought it was important information to get out there.

I’ve decided to come out about this problem to prove that there’s nothing be ashamed of. As a matter of fact, writing about this feels freeing. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before, but I have been tested to have above average intelligence. I have a loving and supportive family. I’ve led a decent life and I’ve been fortunate enough to have had time go on a sort of walkabout and figure out who I really am. So when I look at these aspects of my life, it has not been a bad one by any stretch. And yet I still suffer from depression. It can strike at anyone under any circumstances. While Robin Williams death is indeed tragic and we’ve lost a man who brought joy to so many people, one thing his death has done is to shine a spotlight on depression, and hopefully it will inspire others who have had these problems to seek help if they haven’t done so.


Just a little observation I made today. Continue reading

And the 2014 Oscars Should Go To…

WritingHere we go again. I’ve done a repeat of my project last year and watched nearly every feature-length film in every category, and reviewed them. The only film I have been unable to see is “The Missing Picture,” one of the foreign language films. So for that category, I’m simply going to ignore it, which may or may not skew the result. We’ll see.

My reviews were quick and dirty jobs. If I do this again, I will space them out a little more and give myself more time. I’ve only had at best about 30 minutes to bang each one out, so they didn’t go into great depth which I would have liked to do. Check my “Movie Reviews” section to see my individual reviews for each movie.

And one final reminder that I will be live tweeting the Academy Awards, so follow me now. I’m told that I can be funny when I want to be.

And without further adieu:

Best Picture
My pick: “12 Years a Slave”
What will probably win: “12 Years a Slave”
Why: This was an incredibly powerful and socially important film. Like another “Schindler’s List,” it depicts a dark chapter in U.S. history and doesn’t let us forget. It grips us by the shirt collar and doesn’t let go. Difficult to watch, but important to do so, this was clearly the best film nominated in this category, I’m sure it will take home the gold.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
My pick: Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”)
Who will probably win: Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”)
Why: McConaughey will probably take it because of how he ruined his body and his health to play this role, but that would be overlooking the incredible acting job he did here. He showed major talent to really get into the head of a real life man and portray him in an accessible way that makes him identifiable and at times likeable even if he can be an ass. So, I predict that the Academy and I will be on the same page but for different reasons.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
My pick: Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”)
Who will probably win: Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”)
Why: Once again, I predict the Academy and I to be on the same page. Blanchett turned in one of the greatest performances of her career, even if I didn’t like the movie itself that much. It’s easy to see why so much buzz is surrounding her, and she seems to be a shoe-in for this award.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
My pick: Barkhad Abdi (“Captain Phillips”)
Who will probably win: Jared Leto (“Dallas Buyers Club”)
Why: This one is close for me. It’s so easy to see why Jared Leto would win this award, and I would not complain at all if he did, giving an incredibly powerful and touching performance in “Dallas Buyers Club.” But for me, newcomer Barkhad Abdi is just slightly, barely ahead on this one. He was so good, and unexpectedly so, in “Captain Phillips,” playing the perfect unpredictable villain. Sadly, it’s highly unlikely that he will win this award, but I will not complain if Leto takes it.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
My pick: June Squibb (“Nebraska”)
Who will probably win: Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”)
Why: June Squibb was hilarious in “Nebraska” and manages to portray a character that is shocking but is also so endearing that we can’t help but love her. However, Lupita Nyong’o will probably win because of the incredibly strong performance she gives as the abused slave Patsey, a touching and sympathetic role that makes her integral to the film.

Best Achievement in Directing
My pick: Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”)
Who will probably win: Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”)
Why: When McQueen decided to pick up and adapt a relatively unknown account of slave life in the southern plantations, people must have thought he was out of his mind. But what he has given us is an incredibly moving experience that stays with us long after the film is over. From getting the best out of his actors, to incredibly blocked camera shots, and intense drama, Steve McQueen created a superb film that will leave a lasting legacy.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
My pick: “Her”
Who will probably win: “American Hustle”
Why: “American Hustle” has huge buzz surrounding it, even if it really wasn’t that good of a film. But for me, “Her” has the edge for telling such an amazing and insightful story as we examine a pure relationship as it develops and grows while the individual participants grow.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
My pick: “12 Years a Slave”
Who will probably win: “12 Years a Slave”
Why: Having been adapted from a book, “12 Years a Slave” tells one of the most compelling stories we see nominated in this category. While there is some buzz surrounding “Before Midnight,” which has a great screenplay even if it’s depressing, “12 Years a Slave” tells the better and more important story.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
My pick: “The Wind Rises”
Who will probably win: “Frozen”
Why: I have a pretty low opinion of Hollywood when it comes to how they treat animated films, so I expect a heavy sheep response and for “Frozen” to win. But for me, “The Wind Rises” is hands down the best picture in this category. It’s a beautiful if mildly controversial film, and it is also supposedly Hayao Miyazaki’s final feature-length movie, and it would be wonderful to see him go out on a high note.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
My pick: “The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza)”
Who will probably win: “The Hunt (Jagten)”
Why: For me, “The Great Beauty,” aside from simply being a beautiful film, is also the most complex one nominated in this category. It makes the audience think, and it also makes us want to see the film more than once to peel back its layers and look deeper. However, “The Hunt” tells a more accessible if intense story, and the film is also more accessible through Netflix at this time. Having a film readily available usually increases the likelihood that it will win.

Best Achievement in Cinematography
My pick: “Gravity”
Who will probably win: “Gravity”
Why: Simply put, “Gravity” has some of the most impressive cinematography in this category this year. From the zero gravity environments, including making the camera feel like it’s floating in zero gravity, to the combination with visual effects and the use of 3D, this film is a feast for the eyes.

Best Achievement in Editing
My pick: “Dallas Buyers Club”
Who will probably win: “American Hustle”
Why: Despite its issues, the editing in “Dallas Buyers Club” is still done very well to tell the story within the confines of the film effectively, even though it peters out near the end. The editing is also good in “American Hustle” and may be the best part of the film, but it doesn’t tell the story we get in “Dallas Buyers Club.” Still this is one award that I would not complain about going to the otherwise mediocre “Hustle.”

Best Achievement in Production Design
My pick: “The Great Gatsby”
Who will probably win: “American Hustle”
Why: Even though I didn’t like the film, “The Great Gatsby” had some amazingly designed sets that showed great imagination. However, “American Hustle” was more contemporary and reflected an era that many seem to be nostalgic for at this time, which likely gives it the edge in this category.

Best Achievement in Costume Design
My pick: “The Invisible Woman”
Who will probably win: “American Hustle”
Why: Like the Production Design category, “The Invisible Woman” was a period piece and required the costuming to go along with it, needing enormous work to bring the Victorian clothing styles to life. Like the Production Design category, “American Hustle” reflects an era many are nostalgic for, especially when it comes to clothing, which again likely gives it the edge.

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
My pick: “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa”
Who will probably win: “Dallas Buyers Club”
Why: In “Dallas Buyers Club” makeup was most notably used to transform Jared Leto into Rayon, and as I mentioned in that review, he is almost unrecognizable and yet looks convincing. However, what impressed me the most was “Bad Grandpa” because the makeup not only needed to fool the camera, but it needed to fool people in real life as well, and it did that job amazingly well.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
My pick: “Gravity”
Who will probably win: “Gravity”
Why: The soundtrack in “Gravity” is simple, and yet it’s compelling. It fits the scenes so well, and it does what it’s supposed to do: it’s noticeable when you need and want to notice it, but it doesn’t pull you out and demand that you notice it over the events onscreen.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
My pick: Let It Go from “Frozen”
Who will probably win: Let It Go from “Frozen”
Why: While I wasn’t a huge fan of the film, I will admit that Let It Go is a very catchy song that sticks with you. It’s also been marketed so heavily that it’s pretty much another shoe-in for this award.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing
My pick: “Gravity”
Who will probably win: “Gravity”
Why: It wasn’t just the visuals but the sounds that needed to be created that makes the film so immersive. “Gravity” pulled this off very well, especially since it occurs in space and it’s difficult for sound to really travel, making the character of it completely different.

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
My pick: “Gravity”
Who will probably win: “Gravity”
Why: Which brings us to the Sound Mixing. Adding the sound into the movie tracks had to be done with extreme care in “Gravity” in order to keep it believable. Too much would seem out of place in an airless environment. Too little and there’s nothing to hear which would bore the audience. In “Gravity,” the sound team found the perfect mix and edited it into the movie nearly perfectly.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
My pick: “Gravity”
Who will probably win: “Gravity”
Why: The visual effects were integral in making “Gravity” as good and visually stunning a movie as it was. Without the quality of the visual effects, the illusion of zero gravity would not be as effective and the movie would have fallen apart.

Best Documentary, Feature
My pick: “The Act of Killing”
Who will probably win: “The Square”
Why: “The Act of Killing,” while disturbing, is one of those movie that hits you and then doesn’t take its fist away. It stays with you long after it’s done. However, it may have been too dark and disturbing (and from what I understand, not as widely seen), so the award will likely go to something following more contemporary events like “The Square,” which is also more accessible being available on Netflix.

And if you’re reading this, you’re a monster for making it to the end of this article. Even I couldn’t make it this far. Congratulations!


Of all the Super Bowl commercials yesterday, this one is easily the most horrifying. I’m going to have nightmares about this. Continue reading

TV Rot: “Sleepy Hollow” Season 1

Sleepy HollowLast night a week ago (sorry it took so long to get this up), I finished watching the first season of “Sleepy Hollow,” and I thought it would be interesting to really sit down and think about what I just saw. There will be spoilers, so consider yourself warned.

Based very, very loosely on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving, “Sleepy Hollow” uses very, very loose interpretations of characters from that story for a modern day supernatural thriller which chronicles the beginning of the Apocalypse. Ichabod Crane is now a Revolutionary War soldier as opposed to a superstitious school teacher, and is actually responsible for the Headless Horseman becoming headless. And the Headless Horseman is now Death, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. So, it really has nothing to do with the original story except for the names.

That’s not to say that it’s bad. Actually, the show has a certain charm to it, as well as being very plot heavy with little padding. What works?

Well, to start, the short season works very well. With only thirteen episodes this season, the show didn’t rely on much padding or side stories to fill time like other shows do (*cough*”Lost”*cough*). As a result, the show ends up being very fast-paced with huge plot-important revelations every other episode. Actually, I’m a little concerned about this fast plot, as the writers could write themselves into a corner very easily in a short time span. But it does keeps the show focused rather than having the characters pursue every shiny object that crosses their path.

I like that the main villain is not Satan. It would have been so easy to rely on a tried and true (and overused) villain. Instead, the writers have gone with a very specific demon as the villain: Moloch. It was actually somewhat refreshing to see them not fall back on Satan. As a matter of fact, Moloch has a very rich history in ancient mythology, and it would be fascinating to see them bring that in and include it in the overall plot. In addition, I get the impression that the Horsemen are not actually on Moloch’s side, but that they’re more like mercenaries and Moloch is buying them off with promises of love to Death and revenge to War.

The acting is generally good, although occasionally hammy. Tom Mison play Ichabod Crane as a man confused and out of time only when it’s plot convenient or for a joke, but seems perfectly comfortable and well-adjusted the rest of the time. Nicole Beharie does well as Lt. Abby Mills, but I feel she’s somewhat underutilized and is remaining unexplored as a character except for what she saw in the woods as a child. Other than that, she’s almost a generic cop. Captain Frank Irving is much more deeply explored, portrayed excellently by Orlando Jones who shows how torn he is between his job and his family.

Finally, and a bit of a letdown, is Henry Parrish. I know that statement is going to be controversial, but hear me out. When Parrish is introduced, it appears to be as a one-off character played by John Noble, an actor of extraordinary talent. But that’s where the problem comes in. When Parrish began to appear repeatedly, you realize very quickly that something is up. And when Parrish’s true identity is revealed in the season finale, it doesn’t come as much of shock as the audience has now been expecting it. In fact, the whole reveal that he is actually the Cranes’ son felt a little too tidy. We knew that Jeremy was going to play a bigger role and couldn’t have just died. That would have been totally pointless, and one thing the first season of “Sleepy Hollow” has shown is that they use everything they introduce. But having Parrish be Jeremy felt like they were economizing their characters a little too neatly, and it became obvious that Parrish was more than he was letting on when he kept coming back.

And, let’s be honest: The Headless Horseman carrying a machine gun. Good for a laugh, but mostly silly.

So, what do I want to see from the next season? Well, for starters, I would like them to stick to a short season format. Thirteen episode a season seems perfect, and prevents the show from having to rely on padding. Don’t over-extend yourselves, guys. We’ll obviously need to get personifications of the other Horsemen, although Pestilence sort of showed himself (or herself) already. I would like to see more of Moloch’s background and character explored. It seems like there’s so much more that isn’t being said there. Andy Brooks will need to return since his “death” after his transformation felt lame and a waste of his character. They’ll also have to either play up Ichabod Crane being a man out time or give up on it altogether, but they really need to find a mood with his character.

Ultimately, the first season acted as the setup. The second season will be where the show either explores and intrigues or goes off into the realm of the silly and mediocre. In other words, the second season is what’s going to make or break “Sleepy Hollow.” The first season has been interesting, but not without it’s problems, so they either fix these with the second season or risk killing the show. I’ll be watching the second season to find out.