Not So Miserable Anymore, Huh?

les mis posterI was originally going to author a New Year’s Resolution blog in this space. After examining the massiveness of that cliché, I thought better of it. That, and one of my resolutions was to actually blog once a week.

So here I am, two weeks into the new year, writing my first blog. And it has nothing to do with resolutions. Instead, let’s talk film.

The Golden Globes are happening as I type this, and we know all about the Oscar nominations from earlier this week (I’m sure there’s a great story behind the name “Oscar,” but why not something cooler – like “D’Brickshaw” or something?).

I’m not going to pretend I’ve seen all the films out there, but it’s definitely a strong class in 2013. I believe Kathryn Bigelow, based on her previous work and current media buzz, got snubbed for a Best Director nomination. I was a proponent of Flight for a Best Picture nomination. And I certainly don’t think anything will beat Wreck-It Ralph for Best Animated Feature (though who knows — those numskulls at the Hollywood Foreign Press gave the award on the Golden Globes to Brave).

Also, I have to give fair warning. You’ll be able to cover a mountain of chips with the cheese I’m about to spew in your general direction. But I sincerely mean what I’m going to say. So grab a napkin and buckle up.

Now that we got the standard conversation out of the way, let’s talk about something miserable. See what I did there?

I was familiar with the basics of the story behind Les Miserables, but didn’t really get to experience it until seeing it on stage recently in San Francisco with my theater-obsessed lady friend.

Needless to say, the theater performance was incredible. But you never know how that will translate to the big screen. That being said, I’d like to present a case for Les Miserables as Best Picture:

*Spoiler Alert – if you haven’t watched the Golden Globes yet, that’s your own fault, so don’t yell at me when i tell you this very next thing!*

Les Mis won Best Picture (Comedy or Musical) at the Golden Globes this weekend. Therefore, it was not up against Argo (which won Best Picture for Dramas), Lincoln or Silver Linings Playbook. But it gives a glimmer of hope to people like me.

See, it’s not just a film. It’s a book-turned-performance-turned-film-turned-musical. And though the story is exceptionally dramatic, over the top, and depressing in most parts, it is one of the truest, purest stories of love and hope one will ever read, watch or witness.

Call me cheesy if you want, but I’m a sucker for stories that bring out emotions in people. And if you understand the narrative (it’s pretty self-explanatory, really), you would not leave that movie theater unaffected.

Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to sob and weep at the precision of Anne Hathaway’s version of the epic song “I Dreamed A Dream.” You don’t have to shed a tear for Russell Crowe’s internally twisted Javert. You don’t have to grab a box of tissues to get through Eponine’s sacrifice and heartbreak.

hathaway jackman les mis

Where this film differs for me from other contenders (Lincoln, Django Unchained and Argo are really the only three I can fairly make comparisons to, as they are the only other of the nine films nominated for the industry’s greatest award that I’ve seen in theaters), is in its well-rounded execution.

I was shocked into another world watching Daniel Day-Lewis, the leading candidate for Best Actor, portray Abraham Lincoln. I was left in awe of his performance and the overall technical perfection of the story and film.

And Argo was a jaw-clenching ride about a terse, political event that I also thought was extremely well put-together, and especially well-directed by Ben Affleck (one of the bigger snubs, in my opinion).

Yet where those films succeeded, so did Les Miserables. With one slight improvement.

I can praise all three films (likely, the three leading candidates for Best Picture if the Golden Globes are any indication – I assume Django, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty will all get strong consideration as well) for the story, the acting, the directing, the cinematography, and everything in between.

But one thing that Les Mis excels at is creating emotion in a viewer. Not only was it one of the most untouchable stories of all time — which, according to the girlfriend, was made into a mediocre non-musical film years ago — but it required the exclusive use of music and singing to get said story across.

Watching and listening to the story of lost hope, self-discovery, love, war, hate, revenge, regret, doubt and incredible human kindness unfold on the big screen left me feeling, as my sister said at the end of the showing, like “my heart just got ripped out of my chest.”

As unnatural as this sounds, that’s a good feeling to have after seeing a work of fiction – no, a work of art – take place in front of you. I did feel like a hole had been punched right through me, but I was beaming from the happy ending of the film and the overall dedication of the actors and characters to making their lives livable in such a desperate time.

Those are the things I reward artists for. And if I understand correctly, that is what artists live to be rewarded for. Making a difference, no matter the size, in the audience’s collective minds and hearts. oscar statue

While the other films I mentioned were not easy projects by any means, Les Mis gets my vote for its sheer power in telling the strongest, most legendary story of them all through musical theater.

Director Tom Hooper took on a monumental task, that had even the biggest Les Mis fans primed for a let down. Instead, what those theater nerds got was music that brought them to their knees, and a film that made tear glands burst.

You have to understand that for people like that — for people like my girlfriend — this film living up to the massive expectations is akin to the Dodgers going 162-0 and sweeping their way through the playoffs to a World Series title for me.

Perfection. Pure perfection. It was…no, IS, the Holy Grail of musical theater. And the fact that Hooper, Jackman, Hathaway, Crowe, and the rest of the cast did it justice at all is a feat worth celebrating.

And in this otherwise unimportant blog’s opinion, it’s worth celebrating with a shiny, gold Oscar on February 24.

Agree? Disagree? Just want to talk about your feelings? Hit Jeremy up on Twitter @Jamblinman. Thanks for reading!


Random, Awkward, Shower-Inspired Epiphanies

I’ve been meaning to make this blog a weekly thang – a departure from the one-track mind I tend to publicly display via Facebook, Tweet, and Jam Shot. Because believe it or not, I’m not only…always…thinking about sports.

Yes, it fills a significant portion of my lobes. But I promise there is more going on in this head of mine. I’ve been told I can write, so I’m here to do so about topics that matter in the grand scheme of things.

You know. Dreams. Emotions. Travel. Charity. Drunken samplings of gnarly crustacean delicacies.

Just one problem. Writer’s block – the bane of my existence. And by “writer’s block,” I mean laziness, non-motivation, finger cramps, whatever personal problem you want to pathetically disguise behind a clichéd veil.

It’s no excuse. A writer who has “writer’s block” is like a singer who claims to have suddenly gone mute. Or a hitter in a horrific slump (I get ONE sports analogy…come on!). The only way to break out is to keep on writing, singing, swinging and throwing.

For some reason, I’ve been able to keep writing my daily-but-turned-to-weekly sports blog, and my assigned Bleacher Report articles, and my contributions to Three Up, Three Down (the next great baseball podcast, co-host and co-creator…at least that’s what I imagine the business cards will say when we hit it big), and even a piece here or there for Lasorda’s Lair.

Yet between all that and the shameless self promotion that just occurred (I’m really hoping there’s an opening at a major magazine and the Editor happened to peruse through that previous paragraph), I haven’t been able to just sit down and hammer out some thoughts on this digital piece of parchment…

…until NOW. And I really do have a couple of thoughts I want to etch into the blogosphere tonight.

While I was showering away a more-painful-than-usual two-mile run earlier tonight (I swear the wind was against me both ways…), I got into one of those awkward “why am I thinking deeply about life and such while scrubbing my armpit with a soapy loofah” moods.

Whatever the reason, I realized how much I miss college. Which led to me reflecting on the last five years of my life. Since the day I decided to go to Washington State at age 18 1/2, to today…almost 23 1/2…just, wow.

I mean, how else do I describe it? Do I sacrifice how I really felt to make it read better? Or keep as is. As it came to me when the memories started flooding in. I literally, audibly, muttered the word, “wow.”

See, I consider myself a decently lazy person. To the point that I’ve spent no less than 2,500 hours over the last five years watching a full game or match of baseball or football or basketball or soccer. Factor in 12,750 hours of sleeping and approximately 5,000 hours working over that same time span, I’ve spent nearly 50 percent of my 43,830 hours of life since age 18 1/2 doing things that require no more than basic physical functioning.

This doesn’t even include the infinite hours I’ve spent Tweeting, Facebooking, YouTube-ing, Sporcle-ing, Stumbling, and any other form of procrastination ending with “ing” that you can think of.

I’ve spent 5,000 hours answering phones, writing emails, asking for donations, taking payments, making trip reservations, washing dishes, serving food, tutoring fellow students, teaching baseball. Nearly 13,000 hours dreaming of whatever my crazy brain dreams of while sprawled across beds, futons, hammocks, hardwood floors, rocks, car seats and trampolines. And 2,500 hours cheering, screaming, analyzing, moping, stressing and moaning about any combination of the Dodgers, A’s, 49ers and Cougars.

You’d think I’d have time for nothing else. And sometimes it seems like I truly don’t. But when I stopped to consider – I was floored at the realization that despite half of my time being devoted to sleeping to recharge for work, to work for money, to pay for activities that make me tired again…I have done so many things without really trying.

Since turning 18 1/2, I’ve received two college degrees. I’ve been hired by the fourth-largest sports website in America. I’ve quit my job at the fourth-largest sports website in America. I’ve been named one of the Top 50 baseball fans in the country, out of 22,000 hopefuls.

I’ve traveled the Mediterranean by sea, Europe and Africa by foot, and America by car. I’ve visited New Orleans, and Boston, and Canada, and Mexico, and St. Louis, and Orlando, and Breckenridge, and Las Vegas, and Chicago.

I’ve snowboarded at Whistler, and sun bathed in Puerto Vallarta, and blacked out on Bourbon Street, and skinny dipped in Barcelona, and hiked the coastline in Italy, and witnessed evening prayer during Ramadan at a Moroccan mosque.

I’ve watched movies that made me laugh. I’ve read books that made me cry. I’ve written stories and poems made of fiction based on truth. And memoirs and papers of fact based on fiction. I’ve written things that made me feel good, and made other people cry.

My work has been published. Multiple times.

I’ve learned to like sushi, and wine, and traveling by train. I’ve even tried raw oysters and fried calamari (see, gnarly crustaceans!).

I’ve helped raise a puppy. I’ve sung Whitney Houston in front of 500 people at a karaoke bar. I’ve milked cows. Hell, I’ve even grown a beard.

I’ve ridden a camel. I’ve run a sub-five minute mile. I’ve gone shirtless in 23-degree weather. I’ve watched the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean, and not from land. I’ve survived a plane ride through bolts of lightning. I’ve mastered the most terrifying, exhilarating river rafting trip on this continent.

I’ve succeeded grandly. I’ve failed miserably.

I’ve changed people’s lives. I’ve had my life changed.

And most importantly, I’ve physically distanced myself from my family, yet never been closer to them. And in my movements, I’ve met hundreds of people from around the country and around the world and formed friendships and partnerships and romances that will never die.

All these things have come about from the sheer will of curiosity. A poster in my Humanities classroom caught my eye. A friend’s texted suggestion piqued my interest. A deep love for baseball forced me to make a video on a whim.

I’ve been to a hundred new places and met a hundred new people and learned a hundred new things and eaten a hundred new foods in that short, five-year span.

And it’s all been done on a tight budget. I can’t remember the last time the number in my bank account made me feel secure. I’ve had the wonderful support of my generous, hard-working parents and a lot of loving family and friends help get me to these places. To meet these people I’ve met and learn these things I’ve learned.

So. I’m not here to preach. Or throw morals at you. Or brag about my successes and find sympathy for my failings.

I’m here to realize that if a somewhat lazy, semi-penniless, totally average guy who literally spends half his life either staring at a TV, a work-supplied computer, or the back of his eyelids can do ALL THOSE THINGS in five years…

So can you. And I hope you do. Go meet people. Go see places. Go learn things. Go eat food. And drink drinks. As our elders say, these are the best years of our lives.

And now that I realize those former hippies were right all along, I’m going to embrace it. I’m going to try to make my life as awesome and interesting and memorable as the last five years have been. And this time it won’t take a random concoction of curiosity, luck and happenstance.

In five years, since turning 18 1/2, I’ve seen and done some incredible things. I call some unbelievable people my friends. People I never would have known existed, in places I couldn’t pronounce the names of, doing things I couldn’t dream of.

And if I can actually set myself down that path instead of just stumbling onto it from here on out…I may just knock out two or three full bucket lists by the time my next half decade passes.

Check back in with me in June of 2017. I’ll be 28 1/2 then. Five years richer, five years smarter and five years happier.

Hopefully, the writer’s block has subsided by then.