The Oscars & The NCAA

But the easiest way to demonstrate relevance would have been to hand major trophies to two of the year’s most-loved films: Black Panther and A Star Is Born. When it came time for the two biggest awards of the evening, those movies were nowhere to be found.

This from writer David Sims, hits on the continuous ambiguity that is the Oscars. It is hard to know who the awards are for, and why certain movies continue to be selected in spite of the complaints that are made against them. I have not watched Green Book, so in a sense I probably do not get to complain. Regardless, it is still a confusing pick considering the complaints  from the Shirley family and the other films that came out this year. Free Solo, Roma, Black Panther, First Reformed, Minding The Gap and others all seemed to be lost on the academy. The Oscars continue to mystify me, as this year they tried to branch out and show that they were changing when in the end they really were not that different.

How valuable is an Oscar? Well in terms of money it seems to help a great deal, however its ability to reward merit is slightly skewed. When looking at the Oscars, it is important to remember that the voters are a specific group of people who have specific tastes. Not everyone has those tastes and that is okay. If you do not like the movies that get selected, ignore the show. Many terrific people (Alfred Hitchcock) and movies (reference the list) never get the recognition they deserve.

Justice demands the removal of artificial barriers to fair compensation. Here’s another one: Just organizations do not reap billions of dollars from mainly poor kids and then grant them fewer rights and more obligations than their peers.

This article from David French points to something I highlighted in a Michigan Review Article last year. After Zion Williamson went down with another knee injury, I continue to struggle to see how and why the NCAA should be allowed to function the way it is.

The athletes are not fairly compensated for the revenue they produce, and they cannot even work minimum wage paying jobs that any other college student would be able to if not for NCAA rules. I am fine with these athletes not being professionals, so long as they are also not barred from competing professionally whenever they want. The idea that they have to spend years in college to develop is absurd. Professional teams should be responsible for development academies, not colleges who should focus on academia and future employment.

 

My Guide to 2018

I am a bit late on this but I thought it would still be a good idea to go over my year in smaller tidbits. It was a year of personal growth and change, and while many seem to despise 2018 I could not have asked for a more incredible year. Here are some highlights.

Favorite Movie: Minding the Gap – Bing Liu’s masterful documentary struck a cord with me I could never quite shake, as its chronicles of skateboarders transitioning into adulthood are joyous and heartbreaking. I used to skateboard when I was little, and so I understood the motivation these three people felt. It was a way to break rules and to rebel from what was expected of you, or to challenge yourself in new ways. The underlying motivations for skateboarding turn to their home situations and also towards domestic abuse, creating a powerful portrait of life in America. A must watch. I gave it a 9.7 and I think that is modest if anything.

Runner-up: First Reformed – Paul Schrader’s haunting tale of a Reverend having a crisis of faith is the most topical and relevant film to come out in 2018. It is slow and intentionally still, creating an austere sense until it breaks its own rules. Amanda Seyfried is most impressive, as she plays the woman who can most understand the two men who are at the focal point of this story. Please do me a favor and see it. It is truly special.

Favorite Book: When Breath Becomes Air – A book I picked up off of my uncle’s shelf quickly turned into one of the most searing and poignant books that I read this year, as the pain, trauma, and delight of a neurosurgeon in his final days was a beautifully rendered story. It is tough and heartbreaking, but it finds a way through sheer determination to find its voice, and for Paul to get the auto-biography he always deserved. A book I loved and I think others will as well.

Runner-Up: A Storm of Swords – While I am still not finished with this book, George R.R. Martin continues to amaze me with his deep and empathetic take on characters most of us would have looked away from. This was the first in the series to dig deep into many of the villains of this story, and it makes for incredible reading and deep emotional thought. Certain scenes killed me, and the major deaths in this story keep the incredible shock-value, but what I was consistently amazed by was Martin’s care for everyone in the story.

Favorite Moment: NIRCA National Championship Meet – It is hard to overstate how incredible my experience was running in freezing cold Shelbeyville, Indiana with my club track team. All of our hard work came to fruition, and we had a blast while doing it. I can not thank my team enough for all they have given me and I hope to get to go to more incredible meets in the future.

Defining Change in Character: Openness – So much of my time before 2018 I spent my time in a bubble, resulting in stereotypes about people who live outside of my own. After spending a year away from home and traveling the midwest as well as meeting people from all over, I had the incredible opportunity to meet people from the furthest corners and reaches of the midwest and beyond. This has allowed me to be much more open to new experiences and new people, and my slight fear of breaking my bubble has turned into exuberance to discover others.

What will define 2019: Resolve – 2019 looks to be a year that will be hard, with a lot of goals set and plenty of things to achieve. My hope is that by the end of 2019 I can be in an even better spot than I am now, and that will take strength and resolve to get through it. I know I, as well as you can, but it will take time. To an amazing 2018 and an even better 2019.

No End in Sight & First Reformed

No End in Sight – In preparation for a film review I am writing for The Michigan Review on the movie Vice, I decided to watch this documentary about the Iraq War. This is the best critique of the Iraq War I have ever watched, as it interviews public officials who were in charge of implementing policy and change in Iraq. It shows the numerous misfires and missteps, and focuses particularly on the months before and following the invasion. It shows an inexplicable level of ignorance, by those at the heights of power. I was impressed with how thorough and honest it was, it never felt like I was watching a Michael Moore film. For anybody interested in knowing more about this period in our history, this is a must-see. 8.7/10

Will God forgive us for what we have done to his creation?

First Reformed (Available on Amazon Prime)This quote comes from Paul Schrader’s latest effort First Reformed, a haunting portrait of our present moment in America. Reverend Ernst Toller loses one of his parishioners in a suicide due to his anguish over climate change, and that begins a crisis of faith for our Reverend. The movie is meticulous and almost shockingly still, but evokes a calm that disturbs and cuts deep. Ethan Hawke is terrific, in his pained performance, and the earnestness of this film ultimately comes through. Of all the films to come out in 2018, this is perhaps the most important. It captures religiosity, our changing world, and what happens when we are left behind. It is necessary viewing.   9.6/10

Also I know I have been late to it but I will do a guide to 2018, so stay tuned for that if you are interested!