Soaking Up the Suds with James Crane
When I have a beer, I go for quality over quantity. This was not always the case. While presently I’d rather just have a single beer that’s memorable, I used to have enough beers to not remember anything, let alone what I drank.
Now, after one heavy and strong beer, I’m ready to call it a night. Sometimes, however, quantity is important. If I find myself at a party or out on the town, chances are I’m going to have more than one beer. This presents unique problems. The beers I usually enjoy are rich and full of character. Sometimes they are incredibly dark, other times incredibly hoppy. While delicious in their own right, they aren’t made for the long haul. The days where I could pound down multiple stouts is long gone. If I’m in it for the duration, I need something drinkable.
Enter the idea of the session beer. While not a distinct style in and of itself, the session beer does have certain characteristics. They generally are not too strong and value drinkability over complexity. While it is possible for a beer to score high in both of those areas, its not necessary for a session beer. Ultimately, you just need to be able to swallow a lot of them and not feel bad about it.
This week, I’m drinking Red Hook’s Audible Ale, produced in collaboration with sportscaster Dan Patrick.. I’ve had a few other Red Hook brews, all of which I would consider session worthy. I’m especially fond of their ESB. This one in particular claims to be crushable and easy to drink. I was willing to put that to the test.
The beer poured a hazy copper color. There was minimal head that dissipated with little proof that it was there. A big thick robust beer isn’t something I look for in a session brew so this was okay with me. A thick head generally points toward a great mouth feel but is also generally accompanied by a lot more heavy. With its slow rising bubbles, this one looked easy enough to put down.
The scent was predominately sweet malt with some citrus hints. There was some toastiness there that boded well. Some mild hop presence appears in the nose too, but it was the malts I noticed most of all.
There isn’t much taste at all when it first hits the tongue. There is a slight metallic flavor, but that’s it. As it swallows, it releases a little lemon sensation followed by light bittering hops. All of this was rather unimpressive. In its wake, however, there is some magic. Seconds after you’ve finished swallowing and are ready to write this brew off, the sweet biscuit cookie malt taste sets in. Its grainy and savory and sweet. The brew leaves a pleasant sensation in the mouth.
If a session beer can be qualified by its lack of offensiveness, this one certainly makes the cut. At 4.7% ABV, its not overly strong and goes down rather easy. The carbonation feels good in the stomach while the brew itself is pleasant and incredibly easy going. Audible Ale won’t blow your mind and nor was it meant to. Its a good beer to drink and share, however, beer is always better with friends anyway.
by Jeff Boam
Opening this weekend
300: Rise of an Empire
Sullivan Stapleton, Rodrigo Santoro
In this R-rated actioner, Greek general Themistokles (Stapleton) leads the charge against invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes (Santoro) and Artemisia (Eva Green), vengeful commander of the Persian navy. The Plus: The original. Based on a comic book series by Frank Miller (Sin City) and directed by Zack Snyder (Man of Steel), bloody swords and sandals saga 300 broke box office records, made a star out of Gerald Butler (Olympus Has Fallen), and trailblazed some groundbreaking special effects, which replicated the imagery of the original comic book panels. Here, for the prequel/sequel, Noam Murro (Smart People) directs a cast that includes Stapleton (Animal Kingdom), Santoro (The Last Stand), Green (Dark Shadows), and Lena Headey (HBO’s Game of Thrones). The Minus: The odds. Except for Snyder, who produced and co-wrote the screenplay, none of the original players returned save for Headey (Dredd). In the hands of a relatively inexperienced director, this big budget follow-up just might hit the skids.
Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore
*** — Taken to the Bank
Flying just high enough to give moviegoers a business class amount of frills and thrills, Non-Stop finds Liam Neeson in top form even when the story takes a familiar flight pattern. In this PG-13-rated actioner, an air marshal (Neeson) springs into action during a transatlantic flight after receiving a series of text messages that put his fellow passengers at risk unless the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore account. Even when the action recipe gets followed to the ounce, however, the script offers up a few first-class twists that keep the action from becoming grounded (the ransomer’s bank account is in our hero’s name and a cleared suspect later reveals himself to be the villain). Not only does Non-Stop apart keep audiences guessing, but it’s better than the blockbuster Taken twofer put together. Not that this is a high mantle, mind you, but it doesn’t put viewers in the economy class with a shoot-‘em-up that should’ve gone direct to video either. Like Fred Astaire hoofing it in top hat and tails and Jackie Chan prat falling his way through chop socky fisticuffs, H’Wood plays to certain actor’s strengths time and time and time again, regardless of the looming threat of redundancy. Regardless of how unoriginal Taken and its sequel prove to be, Liam Neeson deserves his well-earned tenure as latter-day action star. He gets the job done brilliantly, looking every bit of his 61 years but convincingly doling out ass-whoopings at 10,000 feet. Non-Stop doesn’t reach sky high levels of entertainment but definitely stands head and shoulders above his last collaboration with Jaume Collet-Serra, the horrid excuse for entertainment called The Unknown.
Kit Harrington, Emily Browning
** — Pomp and Circumvent
Ashing in the face of famed ‘70s producer Irwin Allen, Pompeii takes Gladiator and pits it somewhere in between the Shake ‘n’ Bake twofer of classic H’Wood disaster movies Earthquake and Towering Inferno. In this PG-13-rated disaster flick from Paul W.S. Anderson (the Resident Evil franchise), a slave turned gladiator (Harrington) races against time to save his true love (Browning), who has been betrothed to a corrupt Roman Senator (Kiefer Sutherland) as Mount Vesuvius erupts around them. That description alone should make your brain swell with hot anticipation, but the actual experience inspires less adventure and more displeasure as you pretty much watch a B-Movie with a nine-figure budget unfold before your eyes. When it comes down to it, why does Asylum, producers of such direct-to-video mockbusters as Transmorphers and Titanic II, catch such flak when such a supposedly A-List production house like Filmdistrict is pretty much providing the same blockbuster-aping product at a much higher ticket price?
Son of God
Diogo Morgado, Amber Rose Revah
** — Least Temptation of Christ
Drawing masses to the cinemas for a Greatest Hits package of Bible stories featuring the Son of God, this patchwork re-edit of a History Channel mini-series offering filmgoers a faith-affirming saga from the cradle to the grave of Jesus Christ sadly turns potential wine into water. In this PG-13-rated drama, the life story of Jesus (Morgado) gets re-told from his humble birth through his teachings, crucifixion and ultimate resurrection. If you’ve seen illustrated picture books of the New Testament for children, you’ve already seen and realized the breadth of this literal interpretation of a family friendly Bible story. Honestly, Monty Python’s Life of Brian provides Christians with more Sunday School discussion points. Aside from a few tears and some blood stains, there’s very little exploration of the human side of God’s flesh form. What Mel Gibson did with the gritty but reverential The Passion of the Christ was awe-inspiring. What the abridged Jesus of Nazareth clone The Son of God does is simply duh-inspiring. Imagine the creator of earth revealing himself in human form to experience his creation’s tragic failings. It would and should result in more than a big-budget Little Golden Book. Looking like Barry Gibb after a teeth whitening, Diogo Morgado tries to inspire humbleness but often comes off looking smug. Of course, there’s very little bread and fishes dredged up from the script, which presents a straight-ahead re-reading of Anglicized scripture rather than a truthful dramatization of some earth-shattering events.
3 Days to Kill
Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld
** — Jack Ryan: Shadow Rebuke
There are worse ways to kill time than watching Kevin Costner’s predictable latest, but this bland bang bang flirts so much with boredom that the viewing feels like it’s taken you 3 Days to watch. In PG-13-rated actioner, Costner plays a dying Secret Service Agent trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Steinfeld) who gets offered an experimental drug that could save his life in exchange for one last assignment. It seems like it was just weeks ago that this column raved that Kevin Costner was the best part of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and lobbied for him to be given another shot at being an action hero. Well, be careful what you wish for. Oh, there are some clever tweaks to the recycled story but it’s not enough to save moviegoers from a mission called tedium. Thanks to a winning lead, you almost want to throw 3 Days to Kill a bone … but it’s 10 days shy of being a Costner Days flick we actually care about: Thirteen Days.
12 Years a Slave
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender
****1/2 — Roots Down
New to DVD following its Best Picture win at the Academy Awards, it’s 12 Years a Slave. In this R-rated drama based on an incredible pre-Civil War true story, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York (Chiwetel Ejiofor) gets abducted and sold into slavery in the Antebellum South. A Slave to no film before it, this amazingly rich but brutal true story earns a vaulted place as one of the best historical dramas of the last 12 Years, let alone one. It’s a blistering gut punch of authenticity that hits hard and stays with you. The performances sear (Ejiofor and Fassbender are assured Oscar nods), the writing crackles with truth, and director Steve McQueen captures this entire house on fire in long uninterrupted takes.
Up Close & Personal
Ryan Hnat’s world isn’t flat, and neither is his artwork. His new exhibit at Afa Gallery is called “Plane Space,” and it’s anything but plain. The show moves beyond just a two-dimensional painting to a realm where flat surfaces don’t exist. It plays with geometry and physics to show a world full of textures, colors and lines. Hnat has a passion for turning things around him into art, whether it’s a surface of a canvas, or pieces of nature. That’s clear from his new outdoors-themed book, Watch Towers and Portals, which he co-wrote with his wife, Amy. The book will be released at the exhibit opening on Friday, March 7 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Afa Gallery, located at 514 Lackawanna Ave. in Scranton. The event is a marker in the Scranton resident’s young, already successful career. The Penn State and Marywood grad has shown his art in several other cities, including Philadelphia and New York. But he’s also working to unite other artists, right here in The 570. Meet Ryan Hnat …
Tell me about your exhibition at Afa Gallery.
The exhibition includes abstract paintings and several sculptures I’ve created. So it’s a really immense show — it’s intense. The sculptures in the show are built out of a lot of house materials, because we bought a house and we’ve been doing a lot of construction work and everything’s right there. It makes sense to work with those materials. The paintings are a year’s worth of work. It’s an exploration of plane space, the use of three-dimensional objects and also texture and color. Though the sculptures are very minute in color, the paintings are very bright. And they’re from small to large. We’re trying to meet everybody’s tastes and budgets so everybody can walk away with a work from the show.
Why should people come to the show?
It’s going to be something they’ve never seen before. They’re going to either really love it or hate it, and I think everybody’s going to love it. I hope anybody who comes to this show is going to be blown away. It’s going to be a real breath of fresh air, a new look at what a painting can be. We’re really trying to get more people out. Basically, come to a show and ask questions. Learn about the paintings and spend time with a work as opposed to looking at it and walking away. Some paintings that I experienced that I really enjoyed, I couldn’t tell you if I liked them right away or not. After 15 minutes or an hour and a half, that’s when you really get to know and see a painting.
What places do you find inspiration for your artwork?
My wife. She puts up with a lot and she helps me, a lot of times I’ll come to her and ask, ‘hey, is this color right? How do you like this?’ I also get a lot of inspiration from being out in the woods and from people in general, just being out and about and seeing how people interact with space and how objects are created. Also, I’m an elementary school teacher for Neil Armstrong for the Scranton School District, and it’s a lot of fun. The kids are great. I kind of steal from them every once in a while because their art is so good sometimes.
What is the concept of your new book, Watch Towers and Portals?
The quote on the back is probably the best way to say it: ‘a visual journey of play throughout remote places in Northeastern Pennsylvania.’ The book is not about doing these awesome, incredible works. It’s about trying to inspire people to go out and play in the dirt, get outside. We also dedicated the book to everybody who preserves nature around us. So it’s really about getting out and seeing how nature works and trying to show a human presence without having an impact. We’re not making any money off the book, we just did it to get it out there, show people what we did, document it.
What are watch towers and portals?
You would never see a watch tower or stacked stones unless it was from other human, so it shows you a human presence when you’re out in the middle of the woods in a very remote place but you know you’re still safe because somebody stacked stones here, so somebody else has been here. The portals are very temporary sculptures in leaves, and they’re about just a timeless moment, a real quick spot, and some of them are really big. We leave them and we try to engage people to walk around them or stand in them. And they’re built right by major waterfalls or along a path, and when you come across it it’s another human element. We probably started the first one 2 and ½ years ago. It was when Amy and I just started dating.
It seems like you really love nature.
Yes. Amy and I are both avid rock climbers. We’re probably out in the woods two or three times a week without a doubt. I probably take our two dogs walking every day in Nay Aug Park. When Amy’s home on the weekends, we’re usually at East Scranton Park. I built a lot of sculptures on Roaring Brook, which is in a really remote section, and you have to go down a little cliff to get to it. I think there’s still one standing.
How do you work to promote other local artists?
I’m on the board of Afa, and right now we’re trying to bring everybody together again. Everybody wants to do their own thing and be successful, but the only way that everybody can survive in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre is if everybody works together and supports each other. Everybody can prosper. What’s great about Afa is they support the artist so much and it’s a great place for your art to be seen. It was the first place that started First Friday. There’s a lot of support for other artists and it’s a great community and I can’t be more grateful to be a part of it.
What’s next for your career?
I would like to go on to a bigger city. We’ll probably be in Scranton for a long time. To really make a career as an artist and keep moving on, we really have to push for New York City and push beyond, trying to do something international. There might be a possibility for me showing in the Czech Republic in the next year, so we’re trying to get things moving in the right direction, and this is where it’s all starting. I’m getting tons of support from lots of public sources and it’s really getting exciting. I think starting local and getting the support here and having the people around here support the arts and support individual artists to keep building their career, anybody around here can do anything and that’s what we need lots of — lots of local support.
by Jeff Boam
The acting community has their SAGs. The Brits have their BAFTAs. The H’Wood Foreign Press has their Golden Globes. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have their Oscars. And I have my PFA … no wait, er, the Boamies! Yes, that’s what I’m here to present!
Every year, these collectible figurines hard-crafted by a hundred screaming chimpanzees are given to honor the very best in film … from the previous year, mind you. It’s no accident that these malleable statues made from a mysterious alloy that fell to earth in the ‘60s get presented THISclose to the annual Academy Awards telecast (this year, the 86th annual event bows on ABC this Sunday at 7 p.m.). After all, the Boamies ceremony not only includes scarily dead-on guesses as to who and what will win the Oscar, they also shoehorn in the important categories that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences seemingly forgot to include.
At an informal, business casual affair catered by the pizza shop below a certain “Screens” reporter’s condo and attended by the prestigious Boamie Committee (which, not for lack of trying, numbers one person), the following glowing conversation pieces that smell like a landfill fire were given:
THE BOAMIE WINNERS
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
This is the End WINNER
We’re the Millers
The World’s End
If Wolf of Wall Street wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, this award would’ve been wrapped up with a cocaine-dipped bow made out of $100 dollar bills. By default, the prize goes to This is the End. Hilariously insane and insanely hilarious, the star-studded potty-mouthed directorial debut from the screenwriting duo behind Superbad made moviegoers want Apocalypse RIGHT Now. If the Who’s Who of comedy legends in the comedy classic It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World worked blue, were being invaded by otherworldly forces and found a stash of weapons-grade marijuana beneath the giant X, it would turn out a lot like this uproariously funny and brave comedy.
BEST COMIC BOOK FLICK:
Iron Man 3 WINNER
Kick Ass 2
Thor: The Dark World
Mostly Marvel-ous, this nearly Iron-clad sequel answers the questions “Has he lost his mind?” and “Can he see or is he blind?” with results that are often quite entertaining. Much of this sequel’s success is owed to Lethal Weapon scribe-turned writer/director Shane Black, who took the character out of the suit and into a downward spiral only redeemed by a blockbusting ending.
Worst Comic Book Flick actually proved to be a much more heated competition, mostly because Man of Steel made that particular list. RED 2 and Kick Ass 2 (it only made the list above because I needed 5 contenders and refused to grant Man of Steel a spot) would’ve been duking it out were it not for the painfully bad — but appropriately titled — R.I.P.D.
Before Midnight WINNER
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Star Trek Into Darkness
Best Sequel (AKA Continuation of a Franchise) mostly boasts popcorn blockbusters but it’s the Hemlock-laced, romance-on-the-rocks maelstrom and Indie Dark Horse Before Midnight, following in the footsteps of Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004) before it, that easily takes the prize. In fact, this ridiculously engrossing gem, one of 2013’s best, should’ve taken the 10th Best Picture nomination.
A Good Day to Die Hard had Worst Continuation of a Franchise sewn up (Fast and Furious 6 and Grown Ups 2 were never great franchises to begin with) until A Madea Christmas almost singlehandedly ruined the holidays. And yes, the Madea movies were never good either, but this chapter hit a new groan-inducing low in filmmaking that falls somewhere close to the 6th circle of Dante’s levels of Hell.
BEST HORROR FLICK:
The Conjuring WINNER
World War Z
Though the docket goes on and on for Worst Horror Flick (AKA: Scariest for the Wrong Reasons) — The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia, Insidious: Chapter 2, Mama, The Purge, Texas Chainsaw 3D — moviegoers were also lucky to amass a short list of strong spine-tingling contenders. Barely edging out the frightfully good You’re Next and decent crowd-pleaser World War Z is a flicks that conjures up some ridiculously heart-stopping scares with a fudged true story that ends up to be one of the best bets for horror fans who like to be so hair-raisingly frightened that they wet themselves. OK, so the real events portrayed here get thrown against a wall and scraped off as something different — not completely, just heightened. Regardless of credulity, however, the flick proves to be a veritable blood curling scream machine cranked up to 11.
Again, like Wolf of Wall Street and Best Comedy, if Gravity wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, this award would’ve been a done deal. Honestly, not one of these Boamie nominees is an out-and-out great movie … so let me suggest instead a romantic comedy with a sci-fi gimmick! The hands come together for writer/director Richard Curtis’s latest, About Time, a time-travel romantic dramedy worth a Notting Hill of beans in a cineplex flush with superheroes and Oscar bait. Granted, you can wind your watch to writer/director Curtis’ formula. His oeuvre often and rightly gets criticized for putting forth sentimental hogwash perpetrated by British archetypes. The lynchpin in this flick, however, proves to be a clever, touching, and unapologetically wonky timey wimey premise that bears a lot of fruit for moviegoers who like, well, sentimental hogwash.
Jack the Giant Slayer
The Lone Ranger
Man of Steel WINNER
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Oz the Great and Powerful
Expectations often skew moviegoing … unless you’re a paid reviewer. Then, you learn to expect very little to the occasional reward of pleasant surprise. Still, it must be argued, when so much money gets spent on and talent touted around a popcorn blockbuster, audiences begin to get their get their Super-sized hopes up. In stepping away from the cinema, some wannabe tentpoles grew more distasteful (Oz the Great and Powerful) while others moderately improved with a second look (The Lone Ranger). Still, far up, up and away, the clear winner of this Boamie is Man of Steel. Taking a divisive leap away from the funny books in a single genre-shaking bound, the latest reboot of Superman soured more than soared. Indeed, this gritty, dark, and decidedly sci-fi revisionist take on Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel’s famous red-caped superhero wasn’t so much a comic book adventure as reboot of Starman. Ultimately, the movie wants for levity and more superhero than spaceman in the Superman equation.
BEST REASON TO STAY HOME:
Breaking Bad — Season 5 WINNER
Game of Thrones — Season 3
Homeland — Season 2
House of Cards — Season 1
Orange is the New Black — Season 1
Episodic television has embraced so many cinematic qualities (H’Wood stars, Oscar worthy writing, marquee production value), but 12 -13 chapter seasons allow for something that the big screen doesn’t: room to breathe. A TV program that never jumped the shark and was just starting to peak, the brilliantly scripted, acted and directed Breaking Bad went out on top with a bang in 2013. Even if the disagreeable premise turns you off at first, one screening — like the drug featured on the show itself — gets you permanently addicted to what amounts to being one of the greatest programs in television history — as cinematic as anything on the big screen.
AND, OF COURSE, THIS YEAR’S REQUISIITE JOKE CATEGORY:
WORST SHOWING BY A MEMBER OF THE EXPENDABLES:
Bullet to the Head
The Last Stand
Oh, but I wish it were a joke. Stand Up Guys and Last Vegas also made this list until I realized that no action star pensioners who could qualify as ‘able’ (read: they ain’t no Expendables) Eking out a slim albeit dubious victory over The Last Stand, however, is Homefront. The laugh hit of the season, this unintentionally hilarious Home-spun tough guy tale is an affront to any high-octane thriller set in a backwater town. This flick puts a swivel-arm battle-gripped action figure with one setting through a one-pump firefight in a one horse town with a one-note villain. As a Bostonian trying to fit into Podunk Louisiana, Jason Statham plays Jason Statham, squinting and kicking people in the head while delivering a snarl that’s not so much an attempted American accent as a horribly misplaced British accent. Plus, for those movie fans who thought he might look better with hair, the once and future Expendable elicits huge laughs while wearing a long mane as a cop working undercover in the Sons of Anarchy. Worst, the action plays out as a series of B-Movie fisticuff cliches that the audience can see coming from a country mile away.
ACADEMY AWARD PICKS
Now, without further foot-dragging or back-peddling, here are my predictions for how this year’s Academy Awards race will break down. It’s been a stellar year for film so far as quality. As always, these aren’t my personal picks for these categories—just educated guesses as to how the consensus of Academy members will vote.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong-o, 12 Years a Slave WINNER
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska
Jennifer Lawrence is totally deserving and presents Nyong-o’s biggest challenge, but the fact that she just won the same prize last year for The Silver Linings Playbook diminishes her chances. As indelible a screen debut as I can remember, Nyong-o’s harrowing turn as Patsey, the tragic subject of continual brutal rape and an unforgettable lashing caught in one long uninterrupted take, is the performance that leaves your heart lodged — perhaps permanently — in your throat. With such turns that burn white hot, writing that pops and crackles with truth, and direction from Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame) that captures this entire house on fire, the film earns a vaulted place as one of the best historical dramas of the last 12 Years, let alone one.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:
Barkhad Adbi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club WINNER
A drama about the AIDS crisis might seem to be a bit, well, well dated. Given the film’s pharmaceutical bent — pitting terminally ill Americans against for-profit pill-pushing corporations in a broken-down health care system — it’s actually a very modern parable. As the business partner of Matthew McConaughey’s pharma-hustler, a drug-addled cross-dresser with a tough veneer named Rayon, Jared Leto definitely sets the bar untouchably high for the supporting category. Director Jean-Marc Valee colors their pestilent world with a winning mix of period detail and immersion into the sadness, sickness and silliness, but it’s the performances that sear — burning indelibly into your memory after the credits role.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE:
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine WINNER
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
If Woody Allen’s latest happens to leave filmgoers a little Blue, it’s only because this auteur paints such a ridiculously engrossing portrait of a woman well past the verge of a nervous breakdown. A timely tale of financial malfeasance and a brilliant bi-polar character study, this cross-cutting story is as every bit as gut-punchingly brutal as Match Point with moments as gut-bustingly funny as Mighty Aphrodite. With a performance that proves both beautiful and withering in the same scene, Cate Blanchett pulls ahead as the Best Actress winner with her turn as the widow of a Bernie Madoff-type investor. Thanks to pitch perfect support from Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Andrew Dice Clay, Louis CK, Allen can technically call this dramedy an ensemble, but Jasmine only blooms because Blanchett says so.
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE:
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonaredo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers
Buying up awards votes with an emotional Texas-sized tale brimming with emotional Texas-sized performances, membership in the Dallas Buyers Club offers a lot of truth, tears, and timeliness. Oh, it’s not exactly perfect (some of the antagonists come off as caricatures), but some Oscar-worthy turns make up the dividend. Capping off a string of amazing performances (Magic Mike, Mud), Matthew McConaughey delivers his best performance ever and the best male performance of the year as a homophobic hustler who travels over the border to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is himself diagnosed with the disease.
ANIMTED FEATURE FILM:
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
The Wind Rises
Like an invigorating wintry blast of coolness, Disney finally surpasses its subsidiary Pixar in terms of heart and humor with this beautifully sung, drawn, and written loose adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Snow Queen.” Of course, the Mouse House’s animation unit has been riding high again as of late, following up the impressive The Princess and the Frog with the superior Tangled. But this is something beguilingly more. Their best feature since Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, Frozen challenges Pixar (Disney bought the Toy Story studio in 2006) when it comes to combining smart alecky wit and whipsmart writing with letter-perfect voices — all with Uncle Walt’s signature princess and tunesmith hook.
12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen
American Hustle, David O. Russell
Gravity, Alfonso Cuaron WINNER
Nebraska, Alexander Payne
The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese
Career-wise, director Alfonso Cuaron jumped from indie success (Y Tu Mama Tambien) to blockbuster hit (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) to critical darling (Children of Men). Gravity, however, is one giant leap for filmmaking. Consider the uninterrupted naturalism-aping takes. Consider how he filmed the actors underwater to capture the feel of listlessly floating. Consider how he invented a spinning rig to make you feel every pulse-pounding tic of their perilous space walks amid showering space debris. Just like the opening moments of Saving Private Ryan proved all-too-too real for WWII veterans, however, this film must surely do the same for astronauts. Unfortunately, you also feel that they’re wasting valuable oxygen when encouraging each other to talk and laying on the survival message a little too thick with a 2nd act pep talk, which is why Gravity won’t win Best Picture. Still, it’s Cuaron’s masterwork thus far and he’s a shoe-in for Best Director.
12 Years a Slave WINNER
Dallas Buyers Club
The Wolf of Wall Street
A Slave to no film before it, this amazingly rich but brutal true story sets an almost unreachable high standard for H’Wood awards season films to follow. You’ve seen such scenes before, harrowing historic events depicted on screen with wince-inducing near-realism. In fact, you’ve probably seen them so many times before that you wonder what a 2013 slave drama could possibly bring to the screen. And then you bear witness to 12 Years a Slave, a blistering gut punch of authenticity that hits so hard that you might have a legal claim towards, pardon the expression, whiplash. It is the greatest cinematic achievement that captures America’s darkest hour. Period.
Up Close & Personal
The Business of Art
Artist and business teacher Lisa Malsberger only opened her arts and crafts business, Tig and Cooney’s, last June, and she has already built herself a nice following on Etsy and landed a corporate Christmas order from Pittsburgh. So far, her business offers place-related coaster sets, personalized pillows and doggie bags and will be expanding even more in the coming months. Every gift comes complete with a handwritten note and Lisa makes sure each customer gets what they had in mind. When she’s not riding bikes, doing yoga or heading to the beach, this Olyphant resident is thinking about her next art project. Meet Lisa Malsberger …
How did you come up with the name Tig and Cooney’s?
The business is named after my dog’s two favorite stuffed animals, a tiger and a raccoon, hence Tig and Cooney.
And you’re obviously a dog person, so let’s hear about your little guy.
(Laughs) He’s a cockapoo, and his name is Bubba Charles.
So how did you get started in making your art?
Well, I’m actually a high school business teacher and I do this on the side. The whole thing started less than a year ago — it will be a year in June. I always made handmade gifts or tried make something different for gifts for the people in my life. The whole idea started a few years ago when a friend was moving away to Texas. I wanted to get her a going away present to celebrate that she was moving away, but also something that reminded her of home. That’s how I got started with the maps, and it became the line Something Beautiful. Then that line expanded to include New Jersey where I always visited as a kid. I try to make gifts that I would want someone to give me or something that I would like. A lot of it has to do with maps, different places, oceans and things of that nature. Around here, I work with a lot of Scranton maps. I also make dog pillows and doggie bags.
How does the doggie bag work?
Well, say one of your friends gets a new dog, you give them this bag with some dog treats or gifts in it. The bag is personalized just for that dog. I base my ideas on my interests and music is another huge favorite of mine, so I’ve made some Bruce Springsteen coasters for girlfriends or wives to give to their husbands. I’m looking to expand the music part of the business more, so I started doing Pearl Jam, too — putting their lyrics on a throw pillow.
Tell us more about the map coaster sets, since that seems to be your specialty at the moment.
The coasters are made of travertine stone, which is a really great, quality material. I love when people order them through word of mouth and when I get to see them open them for the first time. They’re always like, “Wow, these are heavy.” (Laughs) But they’re really nice to display in your house or to use. I do wedding gifts, too, so I can personalize the coasters with a couple’s maps and memories. I have them choose four places that are special to them, like the place they met, or where they went to college, or where they live now and I make the coasters based on those places.
What do you think of selling your work on the website Etsy? Is there competition out there for your type of work, or is what you do so location-specific that you’re not really affected?
I think for the dog things, there’s a lot of competition. You can type in “Boston Terrier” and come up with 40,000 items. But if you type in “Manasquan, N.J.,” there’s going to be 10 results, and one of them will be a postcard and the rest will be my work. I have a niche there, I guess. Being a business teacher, I’m then able to take the business I have and the model I use and teach it to the kids.
What is the biggest challenge facing you in terms of your business right now?
It goes back to what you were saying — Etsy is great because I can get my products out there, but at the same time it’s saturated with so many shops. I have to strive to stay different and unique. When I make it, I make sure I put everything into it. Whether it’s a gift for Christmas, a birthday, a wedding, that person trusts Tig and Cooney’s to make it. I make sure to keep the communication open. Do you want something different? I’ll put a different tag on it. Having a personal relationship with the customer is really important to me. I don’t have a storefront. People can’t come in, see an item, pick it up and say, “I love it,” and take it home. That’s why I keep that communication open and rely so much on feedback on my Etsy site. And that’s a great thing about Etsy: It’s getting out to people, getting good feedback on how much they love these gifts and how unique they are. They’re personalized. I ask them, “Tell me a story. Tell me why you’re ordering this.” Then I personalize it and I even include a handwritten note inside the box. Let me know how you like it, and leave feedback!
And you’ve been contracted for a pretty big project out of Pittsburgh, yes?
That’s the other thing about Etsy. If I didn’t have that site, they never would have found me. The sales manager at the Renaissance Hotel in Pittsburgh was searching online for corporate Christmas gifts and she found me. I put their hotel on the map where it is in Pittsburgh and made them their own personalized sets. I had to make 280 coasters in three days. (Laughs)
Did the big contract change the way you run things in your art business? Sometimes those big orders can be really overwhelming, I’d imagine.
I did get some help from people, absolutely, but really, Tig and Cooney’s is just one person.
What is your creative process like? Do you have a studio space? Do you have any art-making rituals?
I work out of my house so it’s kind of insane (laughs). With the Pittsburgh order, I had to go elsewhere to get it all done. Most of the time, though, it’s just this quiet little space where I put some music on and start creating things. Again, this is why being online is so nice because I have no overhead.
What’s your creative-time music soundtrack?
I love the Gaslight Anthem, Springsteen, Simon & Garfunkel … a lot. I like so much. (Laughs).
Your teaching job is unique. Can you explain it to our readers?
I was a teacher in a regular school for a few years and this is my first year as an online teacher. I teach at the Commonwealth Connections Academy, and the students can see the teacher and talk to the teacher, but we don’t have to see the kids. It’s a different way of learning and it’s becoming more popular for a variety of reasons.
Not that you’re not completely swamped with teaching and making art, but what do you do to unwind?
When it’s nice outside I love to bike ride. I do Yoga. I love going to the beach. But honestly when I’m not working, I’m usually just thinking of the next art project I can create.