Thursday, December 25, 2014

Yes or No

There is a category of moment I encounter, and I need a name for it.

Moments when I am faced with two clear options, and everything in me knows which one is a better option, though it's clearly the tougher choice. And so I simply sit with myself and see if I can muster the courage to pick that better option. And I sometimes do, but I sometimes also fail.

Does that ever happen to you?

(from July 2014)

I'm a Hufflepuff, but I wasn't always

For awhile I knew about the Pottermore sorting hat, but I didn't bother to try it. Was it because I wasn't curious? No, not at all. It's because I was so sure I'd be a Hufflepuff, I didn't think to bother.

When I finally took it, I tried to clear my head and approach each question alone with no bias. I told myself to welcome any house. I even turned the lights off and went into fullscreen. Yep, I was committed.

Big surprise: I got Hufflepuff. And when I read the welcome from J.K. Rowling, it matched up. Patience and acceptance and all that—bring it. I'm happy in my new home.

But here's the thing.

When I got up from the computer and was walking through the night toward the laundromat (where most epiphanies occur), I realized something. I think I've been trying to become more of a Hufflepuff for nearly 5 years now. No, not in the "please let me be in the house of Cedric and badgers" sort of way. But rather, I realized somewhere in high school that these Hufflepuff traits—loyalty, kindness, justice—were what I admired most.

Growing up I wouldn't have felt that way. I remember being fiercely competitive. I thought that wisdom and notability was the best way to go. I valued test scores and talent and popularity and skills and knowledge. But somewhere along the line, I realized that maybe wasn't me.

The change is probably less dramatic than I make it seem, but if you were to ask teenage Joel what Hogwarts house he would've wanted to be sorted into, I doubt he would have said Hufflepuff. But I feel halfway certain that this new me does. At least for now.

Are we too complex to fall into four categories? Yes, a million times over. Is it fun anyways? Yes, of course.

(from December 2013)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

'Gravity' and 'American Hustle' lead 86th Oscar nominations with ten

(article for Neon Tommy, USC's digital news)

As every critics' association and guild deals out awards recognizing the best in 2013 cinema, one opinion is still held above the rest. On Thursday morning, the nominees for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 86th Oscars were announced live on ABC.

The nomination totals were unsurprisingly led by three films that have continued to dominate the Best Picture discussion. Gravity and American Hustle each scored ten nominations, while 12 Years a Slave came in with nine.

The event itself goes by very quickly. While the Oscars ceremony in March will give as much attention to spectacle as to the winners themselves, the Nominations Announcement presents itself as all business. At precisely 5:38 AM this morning inside the Academy's Wilshire headquarters, Rush-star Chris Hemsworth and new Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs walked onto stage and read the names to a lone camera. The timing of the announcement is such to catch Good Morning America viewers on the east coast, so the entire day remains for analysis and speculation.

As always, the story is found in the films that are snubbed. This year's surprise omission was the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, which only picked up nominations for cinematography and sound mixing. A number of other contending films were left out of the nominations altogether, including Lee Daniels' The Butler, Enough Said, Monsters' University and Fruitvale Station, while Saving Mr. Banks was only nominated for Original Score. Actors that were left out of the mix included Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels' The Butler), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks), Robert Redford (All is Lost), and the late James Gandolfini (Enough Said).

Films that made a stronger-than-expected performance included the British film Philomena, which picked up four nominations including ones for Best Picture and Supporting Actress Judi Dench, and Her, which gathered five nominations despite speculation that it would feel too new-age for Academy voters.

The acting categories brought a number of familiar names, with American Hustle stars Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence all repeating from last year. Lawrence is now the youngest three-time acting nominee at age 23, and Meryl Streep extended her all-time acting nomination lead, receiving her eighteenth nod for August: Osage County. Surprises in the acting categories included a second nomination in three years for both Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street) and Christian Bale (American Hustle).

The 86th Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, March 2nd at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.