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Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer

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February 2015

My Nickel’s Worth

thOkay, now that that’s over with (Valentine’s Day), we can get on to what the rest of February is all about, for me anyway. The Oscars. Next Sunday marks the 87th annual Academy Awards, and as you may have noticed, I’ve increased my value over last year’s two cent’s worth post.

That’s both because I’ve seen more of the movies and performances nominated (all the Best Picture nominees except for Selma, and many films that contain nominations in other categories) and because I value my own opinion on the subject more (thanks, Mom). As for Selma, I opted not to see it. What can I say? I’m kind of a baby. I never saw 12 Years a Slave either. I can tolerate fictional violence if it has a point, but have a harder time with true portrayals, particularly of shameful periods in history. So, without further ado — my nickel’s worth.

indexMy favorite movie of the nominees and personal pick for Best Picture is Whiplash. I’m not saying it’ll win, but I absolutely loved it. Perhaps it resonated with me so much because it appealed to my artistic side. This inspiring film carries the message that what is necessary to become one of the greats in any creative endeavor (in this case Andrew Neyman, played brilliantly by Miles Teller, aspires to be a legendary jazz musician) is a drive that eclipses all else and leaves the rest of the world questioning your sanity. I’ve had this very conversation with writer friends and personally determined that I probably don’t have what it takes to make it big. Not for lack of talent, though unbeknownst to me that may be an issue too, but because I desire to have a long, sane and balanced life!

J.K. Simmons, formally known as “that guy,” plays whip-cracking professor/conductor Terence Fletcher, who takes the concept of tough love to new heights and rattles off offensive insults with rapid, drill instructor precision. Simmons has my vote for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, though I liked Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher (is Channing Tatum too much of a hunk to even be considered?) and Edward Norton’s performance is one of the few things I actually liked about Birdman.

indexI had planned a whole separate review of Birdman called “Snobby Bird,” but as usual, time got away from me. I know, I know. A lot of people liked it. I thought it was a pretentious, artsy, load of poo. Okay, maybe calling it poo is a bit much. After all, it’ll probably win. But I’d even prefer to sit through American Sniper again! (Read my earlier review of it here.) Well, wait. I’m not sure that’s true. As a writer and wannabe film critic, I’d probably read up on Birdman and suffer through it again just to try to figure out what all the fuss is about. Am I missing something here?

What bothered me about it is that it took me back to my college days as an English major or even further back to high school drama geek days when I was surrounded by hoardes of goth-styled, eyebrow-pierced young adults all trying to prove how unique and smart they were. At first, it’s intimidating. Like being stuck wearing penny loafers in some dark, artsy dive bar on open mic night listening to spoken word poetry. But then you really listen. And realize no one’s saying anything that profound or that you yourself can’t say anyway.

So, this is how Birdman struck me. Like a rebellious teenager desperately trying to prove how clever he is, director Alejandro Inarritu dazzled us with stylistic camera shots, an annoying, almost continuous drum soundtrack and heady, superfluous dialogue that had most of the audience nodding in approval while I bet they secretly scratched their heads, particularly at Keaton’s surreal alter-ego’s antics, and wondered but what’s it all mean? I understand the dig it took at today’s audience for needing superhero fueled action and explosions versus thoughtful Raymond Carver adaptations, but I still left feeling like I needed the CliffsNotes. Or Award Nominees for Dummies. Or maybe that’s all me and I just didn’t get it. I ‘d like to think I’m fairly smart, but I guess it’s possible. That’s probably why I prefer straightforward, simple writers like Hemingway.

indeximagesFor other nominations, I like Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game or Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything for Best Actor. (In Redmayne’s case, he deserves to win for the sheer physicality it took to transform into Stephen Hawking alone.) Speaking of amazing transformations, Meryl Streep would be my pick for her bajillionth award, this time for Best Supporting Actress in Into the Woods, if it wasn’t for Patricia Arquette in Boyhood. Into the Woods, by the way, is my favorite film not nominated for Best Picture. It’ll be a shame if it doesn’t at least take home an Oscar for Costume Design. I pick Julianne Moore in Still Alice for Best Actress. No, I haven’t actually seen the movie yet so I guess I can’t say, but I just bet she’s fantastic. I won’t be unhappy if Rosamund Pike wins either. She was truly twisted in Gone Girl, while Reese Witherspoon and Felicity Jones played parts that really didn’t do much for me.

So, there you have it — my nickel’s worth. I guess you know what I’ll be watching next Sunday. It’s the only thing that could tear me away from Downton Abbey. Well, that or a movie.

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St. Kindness Day

cropped-1200154414x08aj6.jpgIt’s a holiday rerun! This is my original post from February, 2012. Or check out a Valentine’s excerpt from my book here. Happy reading. And Happy Valentine’s Day.

Original Post: Happy Kind and Thoughtful Day

Being able-bodied and single for so many years, I have to say that Valentine’s Day used to cause me a lot of angst. If I didn’t have a boyfriend, that fact was made painfully obvious. And if I did, there was the constant worry over what he would or wouldn’t do and the terrible disappointment of not having my expectations met. Either way, I lost.

Now, I actually enjoy the holiday. Without troubling over whether I’m alone or just with someone who makes me feel like I am, I can really get into it. I usually buy valentines for family and friends alike and Mom and I trade red cellophane hearts stuffed with chocolate and gifts so tacky they’re cute, like last year’s plush bumblebee that sang Be My Baby.

I think everyone (who doesn’t have the perfect gift-giving spouse or significant other) should know this joy without becoming disabled. That’s why I’m suggesting that every February 14th become a day of benevolence and general consideration to everyone, even strangers. You know, like the whole random acts of kindness thing, except more concentrated. Make it a day less about romantic love and partners and more about just being nice.

One of the big perks of disability is getting to see lots of human kindness. My mom jokes she likes to take me out cause we might get our bill paid. Seriously! It’s happened at two different restaurants. Some kind stranger has picked up our tab. Another time, a friend and I went shopping at a consignment store. In recounting the total, we figured I got the “wheelchair discount.” It was cheap in there, but not that cheap! And I can’t count the number of times I’ve been walking Frankie and someone has offered to pick up his poop. Can you imagine?

I think that kind of generosity should extend to everyone, not just the handicapped. And if it’s done on Valentine’s Day (or the entire month of February,) a lot of people can avoid a lot of holiday-fueled anxiety. Now, I’m not suggesting you start picking up after some stranger’s dog, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

♥ Open doors for people behind you.

♥ Let someone with just a few items in front of you at the checkout.

♥ Send e-cards to friends.

♥ Don’t forget your “thank you” wave.

♥ Give a carnation to your co-workers — all of them.

♥ Be nice to someone you don’t like.

♥ Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while.

♥ Bring treats to work (or for the health-conscious — fresh fruit.)

♥ Pay the tab of the person behind you in the drive-thru at Starbucks.

And don’t forget — in the event my idea doesn’t take off, be kind to yourself. In my office days, I wasn’t above sending flowers to myself. From a secret admirer, of course. The person at the flower shop is the only one who’ll know. And I’m sure they get it all the time.

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