Saturday, February 9, 2013

May Induce Unforeseen Reaction

     I think it is safe to say we all recognize it's awards season. It's that special time of year when Sunday nights seem less depressing, Entertainment Tonight claims a more importnat role in our daily regimen and conversations morph from water cooler mundane ennuie to Hollywood goings on. That special something infiltrates the air and unfilled weekend hours all of a sudden provide untapped potential. Awards-nominated movies await.
     We've passed all the minor league shows so far from the SAGs to the Golden Globes and PCA's --and I've felt moderately to confidently comfortable in my nominated-movie viewership. Les Miserables was a glorious soprano-to-tenor-laden must see, Zero Dark Thirty an epic history-meets-fiction drama, and Argo...well, what else is there to say really other than we all love you, Ben Affleck. The other nominated titles surely warrant viewings from some (read Lincoln) but occupy a deprioritized rung on my personal pop culture ladder. I always enjoy a good last minute "oh no, I need to get to the movie theater ASAP and see a triple today, the (insert awards show) are tomorrow" run. Always have and always will.  Today, however, I took a bit of a different turn.
     Yeah so, as we all know, Blizzard Nemo found her way to the east coast yesterday, including Manhattan, and even though city life here in NYC remained unsurprisingly unaffected, I felt it my personal and cultural duty to abide by the drastic-weather-induced rules: don lofty boots, imbibe, and watch movies. (I did half-heartedly possess a desire to see Bloomingdales at half occupancy, however I successfully managed to repress this desire). My 8a - 1p morning of drinking way too much coffee, gyming, and staring out at the snow without leaving my way-too-far-east apartment was motivation enough to obey cultural standards.
     That in hand, off to I went. There were only two acceptable options:  the last unviewed nominated film, Silver Linings Playbook, or the one that truly appealed to my psychologically-inclined analytical self: Side Effects. Jude Law + Rooney Mara + CZJ + psychological drama...the answer was clear. Off I went to Side Effects.  It is here that I wish to commence my subjective cinematic analysis.
     It has been far too long that I have been so startlingly refreshed by a widespread non-awards-show-touted film as I was by Side Effects. Steven Soderbergh's (and advance warning for any spoilers) psychological, at times fucked-up thriller, is brilliantly able to combine a modern day financial-scandal-infused societal portrayal with a psychiatric study so genuine that even the MD's in the audience likely will not flinch. (Well, maybe at times but few and far between). The film commences with Emily (the starkly bold Rooney Mara), an attractive married Manhattan twenty-something, who we are deceivingly led to believe will be our protagonist throughout the nearly 110 minutes. Her husband, Magic Mike's breakout star Channing Tatum, is a wall-street-gone-bad former inmate who, we learn early on, does not have the starring role trailers lead us to think. Enough said there, I will try to refrain as much as possible from full spoilers. Ms. Mara's Emily, like the rest of twenty-first century urban America, is seemingly anxious slash mildly depressed and when her new anti-depressant Ablixa (prescribed by Jude Law's Dr. Banks) causes her to "sleep-walking-and-unknowingly" stab her husband, she immediately grabs our empathy. Jude Law's life and psychiatrist MD career are jeopardized in a heartbeat, pinning him at the center of the murder case. How could he prescribe such a detrimental, violence-inducing drug to an "innocent" young urbanite? Cue Catherine Zeta Jones. Jones portrays Emily's former psychiatrist (and secondary but no-less-important role which will remain unnamed so as not to hinder film earnings from blog-reading peers), Dr. Victoria Seibert, who occupies an intriguing, what we know will be instrumental role. Her character plays perhaps third fiddle to Law, a surprise for CZJ, throughout the film, and it is not until the last half hour that we truly grasp the importance of her role to the film's plot. I will leave the subsequent details of that piece and the film's ultimate conclusion unwritten.
     Suffice to say, Soderbergh's mind-bending, at times disturbing, psychological thriller is a masterful work of cinematic genius. It successfully straddles the line between intelligent character study and every-man thriller. Soderbergh provides us with a (although at times perhaps slightly unrealistic) profound look at the consequences of a nouveau-riche dishonest life as well as a suspenseful, lust-filled mystery that changes course just when we think we've solved it. It is a rare occasion when I feel truly confident in recommending a non-awards-show-you-must-see-this-out-of-obligation film to all, and Soderbergh has finally allowed me to do just that. Side Effects earns an A in my cinematic grade book, and here's to hoping more films follow in its witty, smart, scarily intense suit.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

An Apple is Still an Apple

     As a self-proclaimed techie, I've been taking notice recently of a fair share of "Apple: the new uncool"- esque articles. Just this morning I came across a post on a tech site that will go unnamed entitled "Your Grandpa's iPhone".  While I tend to believe consumer reports and internally position CNET as the technology guru, I am sorry but I'm just not buying this anti-Apple hype.
     I would be remiss to deny the fact that the absence of Steve Jobs is both tangible and apparent. It is. I tend to feel that the world at large no longer gleans that all-encompassing sense of innovative brilliance from today's Apple as they did from Jobs' Apple. While iPhones and iPads under the reign of Tim Cook appear the same on the surface as they did when released during Jobs' era, I think consumers have lost that feeling of magical optimism of years passed. The tech sphere was a different place when Steve Jobs inhabitted it.  No matter how advanced the current generation of iPhones was, consumers knew that the subsequent generation would be just that much more awesome, that much thinner and lighter, and would provide that surprise "it" factor no one saw coming.
     The above being said, much of the population does still own iPhones. They are still partial to iOS over Android's constantly evolving, name-changing Jellybean/Ice Cream Sandwich operating systems. (I'm sorry but are childhood favorite desserts really the best Android could do on that?) Apple, from my perspective, still offers the sleekest, cleanest, and yes, most user-friendly smartphone platform in the market, and clearly a large proportion of the smartphone consumer base concurs.  While no longer a twenty-something myself, which took me quite a while to embrace, I do still consider myself on the semi-cutting edge of technological advances. I consistently visit CNET, Engadget and countless user Apple forums on a weekly, if not daily, basis. I am typically abreast of upcoming product innovations or releases before they occur and, if I had to answer a focus group multiple-choice question, would place myself in the "People come to me for tech advice" bucket. The knowledge aforementioned in hand combined with the advantage of living in a top United States urban DMA, I do not understand nor believe the hullabaloo over Apple's "downward-spiraling" market share.
    No less than 50% of fellow Manhattan dwellers I observe on a daily basis are touting around an iPhone 4 or 5...and I pay attention. Facts are facts. While I do take note of the occasional much-too-large -to-be-practical Galaxy Note, these are pretty few and far between. The headphones stemming from most hoods I've seen this winter tout the signature Apple on-wire remote, and I am not convinced all these headphone-wearing folks purchased them separately from an Android. Where the smartphone market lands in coming years of course remains to be seen and I will be attentively watching. But for now, I think I will mentally abandon the constantly cropping-up "Android as leader" gospel. Now please excuse me while I power off and upgrade to iOS 6.

Stupor Sunday

     Here we are again on my favorite day of the year -- the day when all of America celebrates the sport of football. Girls and guys alike congregate on couches throughout the country to watch the most highly rated guy-on-guy tackle match of the year. Yes that's right, it's Super Bowl Sunday. And in case you were uncertain as to my tonality in the former 2 sentences, correct, that was indeed sarcasm.
     Why the negativity you may be wondering? How could I not adore the biggest sporting day of the year, the day when companies spend three million dollars for thirty seconds of on-screen branding (If you did the calculation, you are correct, that's roughly $100,000 per second. And that's a conservative estimate). Well, it's actually quite simple -- I absolutely detest the sport of football. I always have. This comes as a confusing surprise to many people in my life, due to several reasons (so I'm told).  Well yes, I did attend The University of Michigan, a quintessential Big 10 college experience, rife with solid sports teams, talented athletes and the famed "Big House" football stadium.  Each of those four years, my parents annually bought me season tickets to attend Wolverines football and each year, I promptly scalped those tickets to any non U of M football lovers who desired them. A college girl's gotta make money somehow right? But I digress. I did attend roughly one (or at least half of one) game per season with friends, at that stage still slightly optimistic that I would one day just "get" football like the rest of the breathing world. My guy friends tried explaining the sport to me, sell me on its athleticism and exciting factor. Mmmm yeah, that never worked. At least I can get beer and a tan here, I used to tell myself. And then at some point, even those self-dictates stopped working...and I gave up.
     Since then, I've non-ashamedly embraced my hatred of the sport of football and actually seemingly quite amuse those around me with my negative waxings on the matter. I've been known to utter many a phrase a la "these guys are fat", "it's just a freezing wrestling match" or "I could definitely run faster than that". I recognize how inane and uninformed these (in my opinion) amusing comments must seem to my football-loving peers, however I just cannot seem to put myself in their shoes. I cannot grasp the allure of the slow-moving, ugly-uniformed, violent sport.
     But alas, I know that not many share my opinons and as I've mentioned, here I am once again. I'm relishing these last few moments in the absence of a Super Bowl takeover on my Facebook newsfeed, the lingering hours when people will still actively engage in non-football, non-screaming-decibal conversation.  I have agreed to attend a Superbowl (or as my childhood friend has wittily dubbed it with her married name, Sattinbowl) gathering later this evening in the spirit of being an American-culture-abiding, social citizen and I'm actually looking forward to it. It, of course, being the guacamole, wine, and it goes without saying, commercials and half-time show. I will do all in my power to not be in a food-coma-ed, Chardonnay-ed up stupor by then so as to be able to absorb the important elements of the game (namely, as stated, the :30 spots and half-time show) while still able to mask my boredom during the intervals between commercial pods.
     I hope everyone out there has a swell Sunday sitting, screaming, and sneering and jeering (oops that was a basketball reference, thanks Clyde Frazier) at the wrestlers, I mean athletes, at 6:30p tonight. If you, too, develop football ennuie, be sure to check back here for some sure-to-be snarky musings and more importantly, commercial commentary. Ta ta for now and see you on the cyber sideline.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Read My Lips: So What?

     The always-classy, beautiful, mind-bogglingly talented Beyonce performed a breath-taking rendition of the national anthem at Obama's inauguration. She was dignified, tasteful and flawless to watch and I don't think the American public could reasonably have asked for more from a performer on the momentous occasion. I will abide by my own rule that politics have no place on this blog but I will say that she did the President and country much honor with a tasteful and elegant offering.
     You'd have to be living under a rock to not know by now that (gasp) this magnificent performance was lip-synced. I mean my gosh, has there not been one other news-worthy story for Entertainment Tonight, Extra and Access Hollywood to cover within a seven-day span? I am not a die-hard entertainment news show viewer, however I do enjoy a good dose of broadcast pop culture every now and again to keep myself afloat of important Hollywood goings-on. Well over the course of the last week, my roughly four seven-o-clock ET viewings have taught me nothing more than I already knew a few minutes after the inauguration ended. "BEYONCE LIP-SYNCED!" And here is what I have to say to that...who really cares?
     Beyonce has clearly demonstrated time after time, performance after performance, that she is a talented and true songstress. We've watched her grow up from a cookie cutter girl-band teenager to a full-fledged Mariah Carey-esque diva. Her voice is without question one of the best in today's music industry. With that being said, I am at a minor loss as to why the country is so up-in-arms over her one time not-as-live-as-it-could-be presidential performance. I mean honestly, she was tasked with performing the most nationally recognizable song in front of the President of the United States, the entire White House staff and not to mention, the entire breathing nation. So she pre-recorded the song the day prior and "lipped" over it this one highly critical what?! I think she is entitled to a little self-assurance for her biggest televised performance to date. There is no need for this unnecessary pop-culture-spread hullabaloo, Beyonce is not Milli Vanilli V2, and she is the same amazingly talented singer she was before the inauguration "fiasco" took place. I would genuinely like to see any of these quick-to-judge reporters, American Idol wanna-bes or critics do half as well as she did.  So let's all just cut Beyonce a little slack here, people. Deal with it, she is classier, better dressed, and more talented than any of us can ever hope to be ... and that's no lip service.

Weather or Not

     I think it's safe to say that at this point, the healthy majority of folks living in the twenty-first century own a smartphone. As always, of course, I must caveat that I am speaking predominantly from an urban standpoint. From both my media-planning stance and also simply from living in the world, I have ascertained (at the risk of being overly obvious) that the first activity most people engage in upon waking up is checking the native weather app on their smartphone. It just makes sense -- wake up, anticipate coming day, plan one's outfit agenda-and-weather-accordingly. Now having set the stage on consumer weather-checking behavior, I feel I can comfortably move on. So to momentarily back track.  Wake up - check. Coffee - check. Monitor weather - check. Next up - Facebook. Now to bring this to a personal level.
     Inevitably, no matter what the season, what the temperature or humidity index, I would say my Facebook newsfeed is roughly 25% consumed by weather-related posts on a daily basis. Being that it is currently winter (yes, I know, a cold one here in New York City), these diverse posts range from screen-shotted weather apps to the ever-popular "I'm coooold" complaints to the most obvious of them all, "Snow!!!!!!" one-liners. I am in no position to sit in my moral throne judging those who overshare on Facebook or other social networks since I am fairly certain others would dub me with that very  label, however I do feel warranted in assigning the lightest of judgments on these over-obvious posters. I, as do most of us, enjoy a witty Facebook peer post, however I am confident in saying none of these enjoyable posts have nor ever will involve weather as a subject matter.
     Yesterday morning I woke up this particular gem "Not even twenty degrees outside!" Noooo-fucking-way, I hadn't checked the weather for myself in the two hours since arising this morning to see that it was nineteen degrees, hadn't yet hurriedly run to the gym fast enough so my legs wouldn't freeze or seen my own smoky breath.  No way, I would NEVER have known it was cold out had you not written that utterly unnecessary, uninformative update. Thank you so very much for that tidbit. (Insert wish for sarcasm font).
     In summary, fellow Facebook comrades, I think you can safely make the assumption that everyone in your network of friends has already checked the weather by the time you are about to write that what-you-think-is-funny weather post for the rest of us to eye-roll at. So please, spare your thumbs the activity and your peers from what we already know. It't winter, it's cold, and that's just life.