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!

Let’s Get Presidential, Shall We?

I’m not nearly as bad ass as Wyclef Jean. If so, and if I was President, I too would getelected on Friday, assassinated on Saturday, buried on Sunday, and back to work on Monday.

Alas, I am not the President. And good thing, too. Because once I returned to work on Monday, everyone would have nothing to argue about. I’d make this country damn near perfect with my plan.

Isn’t that what everyone with an opinion on politics thinks? I know it’s easier said than done to fix a country with problems as monumental as ours, but can we agree that the last four years have been a large improvement over the preceding eight?

I’ll start this blog with a disclaimer – I am officially registered as a Democrat and voted as such in 2008. That being said, I align myself with certain ideals of each major party, and despise certain aspects of both as well.

The most important issues to me will never be decided by a debate. Candidates have far too much at stake to be completely honest with the public. I would pay attention to the political banter on TV that so rudely interrupted New Girl a couple of weeks ago, as long as the candidates were being fully truthful.

I understand that they can’t be. They have to appease multiple demographics of voters and ooze political correctness. But any insight on the issues I care about might as well have been answered in Swedish; it was like sign language to a blind man.

Again, I know that politics have come to this. It’s the only real way for candidates to survive. But can we get a little honesty out of these guys, please?

Regardless of who you are voting for or why, just make sure to exercise your right to go to the polls tomorrow and make a difference. The results will directly affect you and your family, whether you like it or not. And if you DON’T go vote, then you have no right to complain about how unfairly the government is treating you.

I wrote this blog simply to outline the six issues I personally feel most strongly about in this election. I know who I’m voting for, and I might move to Canada if he loses, mostly because I’m a sore loser.

Just kidding, it’s because I think the other guy will ruin this country. Now that I’ve had my moment of extremism, let me get to the meat of this blog:

Gay Marriage

I’m not going to harp on this one too long, because I just wrote a full blog about marriage equality a week ago. Please go through and read that if you want my full take on the issue. All I will say is that I believe denying the LGBT community a basic human right is more than selfish. And regardless of what anyone says, it is the same as racism and prejudice were during the Civil Rights era. African-Americans were persecuted for their skin color, something they had no choice in, just like homosexuals are being denied their rights for their sexuality.

Education

I have been fortunate enough to go through pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school, and four and a half years of college without paying  a dime of my own money. My parents saved up for years to put my sister and I through school because they knew the value of a good education. Both of us are looking at B.A.’s in our desired fields and are slaying job interviews along the way.

There are a ton of families who did not save enough money, or more likely, COULD not save enough money for that same opportunity. If these politicians truly want to improve this country’s education and start catching up to all the nations who have surpassed us, they should stop forcing the firing of teachers, cutting of school programs, raising of taxes and tuitions, and the emphasis on testing.

Economy

Oh, boy. Everyone’s favorite topic of discussion. It is my understanding, as a human with common sense, that if you have a certain amount of money, you can not spend more than that limit and go unpunished. The United States have certainly kicked that rule in the nuts and laughed over the years, huh? When you are zillionbillionkatrillions (it’s a number now…) of dollars in debt, you’d think the process of re-paying would be much more urgent. Yes, there are hundreds and thousands of things that government money needs to fix, but you’re telling me in a trillion-dollar annual economy, our government can’t stash away money in order to get us back in the black? Where has all the money gone? Damn you, A-Rod. Damn you.

Defense

Don’t forget, people. George W. Bush got us into Iraq, Barack Obama is getting us out. That doesn’t necessarily get the U.S. off the hook in my mind, though. Since when did we become everyone’s way-too-overprotective big brother? We have troops in nearly every country in the world, and we wonder why the U.S. is hated. Spending money on the military is great, as long as they are protecting us at home and abroad – nobody in their right minds wouldn’t appreciate what our troops do for us. But as the most powerful and dangerous military in the world, do we really need to test the limits of this? I want to be safe, but I don’t want to build a barbed-wire fence around a croc-infested moat, around a wall.

Global Warming

There is no denying the facts; hurricanes and storms have gotten bigger, faster and more devastating in the past few years. Ocean levels are rising, polar ice caps are melting and nobody seems to give a damn. Was the environment a topic even touched on publicly by any candidates this fall? It is our responsibility as citizens of this planet to make sure there is a livable home for future generations. Stricter measures on clean energy, reduced use of oil and pollution must be taken. Ignoring that the Earth is changing and getting sick is like being an elderly who visits the doctor for a check-up, gets diagnosed and prescribed for multiple illnesses, and goes home saying “Ah, it’s natural. It’ll cycle out. I’ll be fine.”

Healthcare

If I had it my way, everything would be Canadian…er…free. But I know that’s never going to happen in America. I’m not saying insurance policies should be more lenient or that healthcare should be less expensive, but am I supposed to believe the people who say they care about American citizens, and then don’t go to the greatest lengths possible to protect them? What is more important than your people’s’ health? All I’m saying is somehow, some way, healthcare needs to be affordable for anyone.

I’ll spare you my thoughts on abortion, gun control and immigration, which I also consider huge issues. You’re welcome. You could finish the entire Harry Potter series twice before I would be done with that.

Anyway, that’s just my take on the issues that I read into the most. I’d like to compare our country to the plight of my alma mater’s football team. Bear with me here.

In 2002, Washington State University went to the Rose Bowl. By the time I arrived in 2007, they were struggling to win two games, let alone be in the bowl conversation. After last season, along came Mike Leach to coach, and it all changed.

The 2012 version of the Washington State Cougars is still pitiful, but much improved. We used to lose 69-0 (no joke – at home to USC my sophomore year). Last year Stanford beat us 44-14. This year, we came within 10 seconds and one play of beating them.

Leach brought hope and a YES WE CAN attitude to that team, and they are finally, slowly climbing their way out of obscurity. Yes, there are bumps and bruises along the way, as with any rebuild. But he’s done a great job so far with what he was given.

If you don’t get the allusion here, I can’t help you. When a team has hit rock bottom, you can’t expect a new coach to come in and snap his fingers to suddenly fix everything in one season.

Have patience, people. Eventually, under this coach, we will return to glory.

These are my opinions, nobody else’s. Feel free to agree, disagree or argue with me. No matter what you do, get out to the polls tomorrow and exercise you right to VOTE! Follow Jeremy on Twitter @Jamblinman and follow this blog if you like what you see.