Last night's Oscars ceremony...

 

 

 

Did you watch last night's Oscars ceremony? 

I did...

For starters, it was not my favourite Oscars ceremony but having said that, it was far from my least favourite. I've read some negative opinions about Neil Patrick Harris' hosting performance but I think this would have been a hard show to host even for Billy Crystal or Ellen! Why? Because it was a really political year in cinema, a lot of powerful movies with difficult subjects were nominated, and this year, the winners did not want to win quietly! There simply was no way this could have been sugarcoated with comedy as per the Hollywood norm.

And here's why...

Suicide: Firstly, suicide was movingly approached by Graham Moore in his acceptance speech as he received the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for "The Imitation Game", a movie in which its main protagonist, real life Alan Turin, commits suicide: "I tried to commit suicide at 16 and now I'm standing here," Graham said. "I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. You do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it's your turn and you are standing on this stage please pass the same message along." Secondly, a moving comment from Dana Perry, one of the winners of the Best Documentary Short for "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1", was cut off by the damn Oscar music - Perry mentioned her son, Evan Scott Perry, who committed suicide at age 15 in 2005. "I lost my son," Perry told reporters after the speech, "we need to talk about suicide out loud to try to work against the stigma and silence around suicide because the best prevention for suicide is awareness and discussion and not trying sweep it under the rug."

Racism: The amazing performance by Common & John Legend of their song "Glory" for the movie "Selma" (which documented the 1965 voting rights' marches from Selma to Montgomery led by Martin Luther King, Jr.) and their consequent truly eloquent acceptance speech which rightly brought the whole room to their feet. As reported by Variety, "Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris didn’t shy away from the controversy over “Selma’s” perceived snubs and the overall lack of diversity in the nominations, opening the ceremony by joking, “tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest — sorry, brightest!” He later visited David Oyelowo in the audience to include him in a bit about every joke sounding better in a British accent. After the crowd applauded Oyelowo’s delivery, Harris quipped, “Oh, sure, now you like him!” in reference to the the actor’s shutout in the Best Actor category."

Equal rights for women: In Patricia Arquette's Oscar acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Boyhood",  she said "to every woman who gave birth, to every tax payer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else's equal rights, it's our time to have wage equality once & for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!" This was my favourite speech as it was closest to my heart. I feel like I never hear women in the public eye in the US speak out so openly & with such vehemence about women's rights as Patricia Arquette did, and from the looks of it, neither had Meryl Streep or JLO! Not that this will put an end to the complacency of western nations to discard this inequality (see the backlash Arquette's speech has received in the press since Sunday as evidence), but it's a start!

Terminal Illness: ALS & Alzheimer's were both at the forefront of the Oscar winner selection with Eddie Redmayne winning Best Actor for "The Theory of Everything" and Julianne Moore winning Best Actress for "Still Alice" respectively, as well as Tim McGraw's emotional rendition of Glenn Campbell's song "I'm not going to miss you" about his Alzheimers disease, (the song was a Best Song nominee for the documentary "Glenn Campbell... I'll be me").

So, in my opinion, Neil Patrick Harris had a very difficult year to present and tough crowd to lead. Kudos to him for keeping it going in such a professional way! Give him some slack, people!

PS: Ethan Hawke was being interviewed on the red carpet about his movie "Boyhood", the Oscars and acting, he had this to say in response to the interviewer's question, What does it mean to have this night here, to get this kind of acclaim from everybody who makes movies?, "What, are you kidding, I mean this is the church of my choice! Making movies, telling stories, is what I’ve believed in my whole life and this community is the only real community I’ve ever wanted to be a part of. So it’s a huge honour, you just have to try to go through it with grace and not turn into a smug jerk about it all." Not like I needed another reason to love Ethan Hawke but there it is! If you have a moment, check out this pre-Oscars "Actors Round Table" by The Hollywood Reporter's Stephan Galloway with Ethan amongst other nominees/actors in nominated movies, such as Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne.  

Serial

Although I listen to the radio show This American Life from time to time (which I hold in high regard), I only just came upon their spin-off show, Serial, hosted by Sarah Koenig. The premise of the show is to report on a true story over the course of an entire season comprised of twelve chapters. 

Per Serial's website, Season 1 is about the following story:

On January 13, 1999, a girl named Hae Min Lee, a senior at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County, Maryland, disappeared. A month later, her body turned up in a city park. She'd been strangled. Her 17-year-old ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested for the crime, and within a year, he was convicted and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. The case against him was largely based on the story of one witness, Adnan’s friend Jay, who testified that he helped Adnan bury Hae's body. But Adnan has always maintained he had nothing to do with Hae’s death. Some people believe he’s telling the truth. Many others don’t.

My opinions of the show and its journalistic purpose oscillated back & forth throughout the 12 episodes, at times I believed in the journalist's pursuit and at others, I felt completely disheartened, wondering whether the story was worth telling. I told myself that I needed to look at this as if it were a documentary but even then, as I listened on to the often reality TV show'esque reporting, I kept finding myself querying what story I was being told - is this a story about a man wrongly convicted of a crime? is this a story about the failure of the justice system in the US? or is it a story about the trials & tribulations of an investigative journalist? is it maybe a story to stimulate the listeners to cross the fine line between justice & injustice? all of the above? The show states that the questions we're hoping to find answers to are, "How can you know a person's character? How can you tell what they're capable of?" (my answer to both these questions is that you cannot, and I did not need this show to tell me that).

By the end of the last episode, it was completely unclear to me what I had just experienced. I cannot deny how gripping the show was and at times, I wondered if my annoyance with it was my fault, because as an avid absorber of fictional material, I felt dissatisfied by the conclusion, or lack there of: we never find out if Adnan Syed did in fact kill Hae Min Lee, and that's life, we cannot expect to have answers to everything. A devils's advocate may even say it is a sign of societal malaise that we cannot rest with uncertainty. I say, dear reader, give it a go and let me know what you think. Was it worth your while?

PS: while we're talking radio shows, I also discovered that Alec Baldwin has (or had, this may be a legacy show) his own show, Here's The Thing. I have had a crush on Alec Baldwin ever since 30 Rock, and his charisma transpires through his show ever so brilliantly, I am now happily making my way through his archives. Mr B is an auspicious interviewer, he asks questions I never knew I wanted to know the answers to! Check him out!

Girls S4E5 - "Sit-In"

I love and hate Lena Dunham's show "Girls" for the exact same reason - it rings so damn true. Being a 20something girl can be hard, you do not always understand what's going on around you, you rarely make the right decisions, do not give yourself enough credit and put up with shit from others that you shouldn't have to put up with, leading to great woes that bloody hurt and often resulting in a lack of self-respect.

In some ways, I felt more uncomfortable in my 20s than I did in my teens. In my teens, I was very instinctual, I did and felt intensely, thought and loved irrationally, and as the youngest in my group, looked up at the world going around me, amazed. I felt like a spectator often and sometimes, I would loom down from the skies and perform some rash act then bolt back-up to my safe cloud in the mountains. In my 20s, I was on that damn earth, in ongoing traffic, facing it all head on. It was exhausting.

In my 30s, I have come to learn how to stand-up for and preserve myself which is why watching Hannah & her friends go through, the rawness of their experiences can be excruciating to watch at times. Last night was no different. Seeing Hannah break-up with her long time love Adam broke my heart a little - we all could have told her that it would end this way but what good would that have done, she had to see it for herself, as we all had to when we were in Hannah's shoes. 

This is the song that was playing as Hannah left Adam after the break-up talk and went to find her things that he had put in a storage unit, where she chooses to spend the night - heartbreaking.

Happy Valentines Day!

I do love being the recipient of or a spectator to a romantic gesture but this wedding proposal killed me! Justin Baldoni (from Jane The Virgin) went all out! His girlfriend took it all pretty well, I would have crawled under the table and died! Note to future husband whomever you are, never pull a Justin Baldoni on me! How would you have taken it?

Then they got married, video here.

Then they got pregnant, video here.

A couple RomComs

I'm such a sucker for romantic comedies, they make me happy!! Here are two upcoming RomComs by two modern day Lords of the genre: Cameron Crowe and Judd Apatow! What do you think, will you go see them at the cinema? Wait to see them on DVD/iTunes/Netflix? Or simply avoid them entirely...

Dealing with PCOS

I was diagnosed with PCOS - Polycystic Ovary Syndrome - when I was 21. I was living in Barcelona at the time and had put on about 20kgs within a year. Before my diagnosis, I had assumed it was my change of lifestyle, going from mountain girl to city girl, going through a break-up and dealing with all kinds of crap which makes 30something gals relieved to no longer be 20somethings gals. I had acne for the first time as well as my weight gain which was almost more unacceptable than putting on all that weight as I'd always been proud of getting through my teens acne free.

The gynaecologist who diagnosed me with PCOS, wasn't very tactful with her delivery of all the pretty terrifying symptoms of the Syndrome (obesity, risk of miscarriage, infertility, endometriosis, acne, hirsutism, diabetes, heart disease, amongst others...), which quickly dissipated the relief I felt at knowing the reason for my weight gain and acne. My gyno shuffled me off to an endocrinologist who in turn, diagnosed me with hyperinsulinemia or insulin resistance as it's most commonly called - I explain it to others as the opposite of diabetes which probably is far from medically accurate but hey, I'm not a Dr! My endocrino (who had a memorable case of psoriasis or eczema, but who was I to judge with my zits & my love handles) promptly put me on Metformin, an insulin regulator, which can cause side effects such as vomiting & diarrhoea as well as coming with a strong restriction - you cannot drink alcohol while taking it... 

I felt inadequate. I was 21, my priorities were to have fun & party, not deal with an illness, take a drug that made me sick (which led me to abandoning it pretty quickly), and have a "healthy lifestyle". So throughout my twenties, as I moved around the world living my life (and struggling to always appreciate it), I battled with the symptoms of and the stigma surrounding PCOS. For example, in London I had to deal with a gyno telling me I'd likely never have children after 30, an endocrino who stated that I was halfway there because I didn't look like I was born a fat person whereas some people do, and a string of failed attempts at losing weight... although one success: I got my acne under control by eating healthier than I used to.

By the age of 29, I was 10kgs less than I was at 25 which was a huge accomplishment without any Metformin, working 60-80hr weeks, not much in way of physical activity but motivated for a better life. I moved to Milan that year and in the three years I lived there, I managed to lose a further 12kgs - I thank my Italian gyno for her support, giving me a natural Metformin replacement (Prepart: a combo of Inositol & Maca) and at one appointment, telling me I had the most beautiful ovulation she'd ever seen, "the kind that they show you in school" she said, "to illustrate what an ovulation should look like". Losing the extra weight, what I wanted seemed accessible! Then I got my heart broken again and moved to the US for work...

I put my weight back on and more. The heartbreak, the change in lifestyle & environment, the self-esteem issues and not being on any medication (natural or otherwise) meant that I simply did not have the heart to fight back against my PCOS. I have read so many stories of women that face similar issues and it's hard not to feel like a failure. 

Until now. I'm over feeling sorry for myself and I hope I'm not too late. I went to see a gyno last week and going to see an endocrino next week. I will take Metformin again if I have to (in the 15 years since I took it last, those damn Drs still haven't invented a better drug), I will eat what they tell me to eat and I will exercise. Even if it takes me 3yrs, I will achieve my desired weight and become a mom if that is what I want to do! They say healthy is the new skinny and that's what my target is. PCOS can go Brooke itself! (OTH reference - for those who don't know, Google it!)

PS: if you think you have PCOS, go see your gynaecologist. 

Brits in Hollywood

Vanity Fair created some funny shorts in honour of British actors in Hollywood and the upcoming Oscars (they're directed by Jason Bell, of Billy Elliot fame). It really makes you realize how many British actors are in American films and TV shows. I found the shorts really funny, do you? 

Pinteresting: 2014 food trends

My main source of current food trends comes out of Pinterest (and Instagram) - I have all my favourite online recipes pinned there and love the accessibility of it all. Having said that, cooking via Pinterest is more of a day to day to thing, there is still nothing like grabbing one of your cookbooks and planning a feast with friends through its colourful & taste bud inspiring pages (Ottolenghi is one of my favourites, I have all his books).  

So here are some of the 2014 food trends I picked-up on (disclaimer: some may have been trending in 2013 but they're here because they were still going on strong). The recurring themes are leafy greens, pickling, smoking, fermenting, Paleo, and juicing; hover over photos for descriptions: 

Have I missed any??