Saturday, January 18, 2014

Forever in School

You guys.  I am kind of crazy but when I was on vacation I found myself flipping through Itunes University on my phone and I was kind of tripping out about some of the classes you can take. I mean sometimes it feels like I will be in school forever to finish this Master's.  But also sometimes I realize that I really probably want to be "forever in school" anyway.  I was actually a little bit sad that because of school and work I don't have time to do any of the self-directed courses available on Itunes University!

Sometimes I will hear adults say "If I could go back to school I would __________" or I would love to study "___________, but I am too old now" or "it's too late for that but I would have loved to major in _____________".  You guys.  This is a very sad thing to say!  Life is short and yet you have a lot of TIME.  There are some things you have to do in life, and some things you should do, but we should also always make some time for the things you want to learn or study or learn to do.  It's honestly never never too late.  Too late?  How can it be too late?  Are you still alive?  Then it's not too late. (and look at me, good grief, I'll be almost 50 before I have that Master's in hand...that could seem discouraging.  Sometimes for a moment it is discouraging. But I'm honestly just grateful I've figured out a way to do it at all).

Seriously look at these classes you could be taking:

Yale teaches a course you can take called "The American Novel Since 1945". (I mean who does not want to take this class?  I downloaded the curriculum just because, you know EVENTUALLY I'm going to do this.  It even appeals to me to write the papers even though I'm not actually going to be turning them in.)

There is whole course through Yale on The Great Gatsby

Stanford University teaches a course on film studies.

Stanford also teaches a whole course on the 2012 election cycle

A course that UC Berkeley teaches called "Psych 107, Social Welfare" with subtopics of "sleep, dreams and death", "emotion, demons, stress and action", "enlightened society - shambhala".

UC Berkeley course called Anthropology 114 with lectures on cultural materialism and symbolic anthropologies as well as social systems.

Harvard has a course on Justice

Harvard has a course on The Hebrew Scriptures

University of Virginia has a lecture series on architecture

University of Virginia has a class on Virginia Woolf

I mean those are just a few of the things that interest me - if math, science, philosophy or computers are more up your jam, there is something there for you as well!

I guess my point is that even if you didn't get to go to school on a campus that looks like this:

(isn't this beautiful - University of Virginia Rotunda)

You can still fill your brain up with some of the information these fine institutions have to offer.  

As difficult as school is sometimes, I love it when I learn things I didn't know before, I love the idea that we are limitless in the amount of information we can gain.  Isn't that one of the best things about being alive?

Sunday, January 05, 2014

2013's Best Movies (according to me)

So obviously I did not see every single movie that came out this year.  And decidedly my taste runs a little more towards independent films so results are skewed a bit in that direction too.  But every year for the past several years I have done a year end top movies post and I didn't want this year to go too far into 2014 without one for the last year.

In no particular order, these are all the movies I gave a "5 star review" to.  I recommend them all!

1.  Side Effects:

This is a thriller that succeeds on every level.  Clever, well-written and well acted with interesting twists and turns.  I love Steven Soderbergh's movies typically and this is one of his best.  I don't want to go into the plot too much and give things away because I think it's best if you go into with no preconceived ideas.  But there is an interesting topic here regarding big pharma which I think we should all be a little more frightened of than we are.  

2.  The Place Beyond The Pines

This movie was not exactly what I thought it would be - but I still really thought it was good.  I thought Gosling was so perfect in this role.  It's a generational story that gives you pause and has a theme that sweeps across time.  Besides everything else I liked about it, I thought that the photography was beautiful. 

3.  The Silence

This foreign thriller is really good.  More or less it's a detective piece to determine the murderer of a young girl.  I took my teenager to this with me, and although she initially protested going to a foreign film, I won her over with the storytelling and the tension of a well written and acted thriller.  I promise you won't mind the subtitles.  

4.  The Kings of Summer

An awesome coming of age film that really just spends two hours pondering the wonders of being young.  I loved it.  And again, it was beautiful besides being a sweet little story. Charming and endearing, I think you'll love it too. 

5.  Frances Ha

This is one of my favorites of the favorites - shot in black and white, the story telling is excellent, the photography is great, and the message is superb.  Sensitive and endearing it's all about figuring out how to become and adult.  And some of us still haven't figured that out.  But some of the realizations Frances has are both global and personal at the same time.  I HIGHLY recommend this one. 

6.  Lore

Another foreign film, this one packs a punch.  Set in the days just before Nazi Germany began to crumble, this story takes a look at things from the perspective of the left-over germans who were Nazi or Nazi sympathizers.  Seen through their eyes, we don't actually know how to feel half the time.  Revulsion and a sneaky sense of compassion this movie plays roller coaster with your emotions.  The photography is to die for.  This is a quiet one, watch it alone when you have no distractions because you need that with this one.  (or with someone you trust will be quiet enough to let you really have it wash over you)


The Way Way Back

Another one of my favorite favorite faves of the year.  So good I think I've seen it 3 times now (maybe 4?).  Absolutely awesome coming of age film from the perspective of a slightly nerdy teen boy who figures out who he really is and learns to stand up for that self as well as have some perspective on the adults in his life.  Toni Colette is awesome here, as is Steve Carell even though you hate him.  SUPER highly recommend this film to anyone with a heart. 

8.  In a World

Can they all be favorite favorites?  Cause I love this one too.  Great story and original ideas here, Lake Bell (writer, director and actor of this film) does an outstanding job!  There are some really funny scenes and moments here and it would not have been the same without Dimitri Martin.  This is another one I saw multiple times because I kept taking people to go see it.  A great message in this movie for girls also.  


Short Term 12

This movie just really hit me in my heart.  This film is really about the same kids that I work with every day.  Everything in this movie resonated and felt so true it made me cry A LOT.  It's absolutely fantastically well done and I'm sad not very many people will see it.  I feel like it explains in such a simplified way the issues that face young kids in the foster care system or the behavioral health system and all the challenges that they face.  


Enough Said

Probably the only really romantic comedy I liked all year - this is a great little film with a lot of heart.  Superbly acted by James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.  If you want a rom-com but hate that they all end the same way with the exact same plot, then this is the movie for you.  I also liked that this was a rom-com for the over 40 age range, which is sometimes hard to find. 

11.  What Maisie Knew

I loved how this was told completely from the standpoint of little Maisie.  A movie about a custody battle, but it's really about the ways in which this turmoil visits itself on the little people involved without the adults understanding the toll.  Although this sounds like a depressing premise, I really thought it was a lovely and beautiful film.  

12.  Dallas Buyers Club

Although the subject matter here is rough to watch - and I don't recommend it for anyone with squeamish sensitivities - this is an excellent film.  Jared Leto is stunning, McConaughey is at his very best, and the story is compelling even if it is hard.  The basic premise is that McConaughey's character develops AIDS and then has to resort to illegal means to obtain the drugs needed to survive because they aren't legal in the U.S.  In the meantime he ends up overcoming some (though not all) of his homophobia as his friends become those who he helps to get the drugs and treatment as well.  Based on a true story. 

12.  Nebraska

Another awesome one.  Another black and white.  Parts of this, being from a small town myself, felt so darn real it almost made me uncomfortable and claustrophobic.  EXACTLY what it feels like to live in a small town.  I thought this movie was just excellent story telling with some stellar acting.  A little bit about aging, but a lot about family.  And even in family's imperfections, some greatness can be found.


The Heat

Look you guys, NO ONE can make me laugh like Melissa McCarthy.  I saw this 3 times and laughed every single time.  


Blue is the Warmest Color

I know.  But hear me out.  Darned if this isn't gorgeous and excellent.  I'm obviously not recommending it for anyone who is going to be upset by sex scenes.  And there are quite a lot of them.  And they are long.  I'm glad I saw this though - I thought it was really beautiful. 

That's it - there were several movies that ALMOST made the list, but I tried to keep it to 10 and I couldn't even do that.  2013 was a good year for movies!


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