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February 2014

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And the Oscar Goes To …

Oscars 2014 • Little Gold Pixel

It’s hard not to care just a little about the Oscars when you work in the entertainment biz. I’ve been inundated with a steady stream of nomination speculation for the past three months. I’ve been curating photos for the Best Picture nominees for so long I feel like I’ve seen the movies I haven’t even gotten around to seeing yet (for the record: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club (I plan to watch this one tonight) — all of which I’m sure are wonderful).

Briefly, my thoughts on the five I have seen:

1. Gravity: Really, there is no comparison. Best picture I’ve seen in years, hands down. Suspenseful, masterfully made, superb performances by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. I hope everyone gets a chance to see it in Imax 3D. I saw this at an industry screener, and we were all on the edges of our seats to see whether Sandra would survive space. For such a sparsely scripted film, the message is truly worthwhile. A bit of an odd comparison, maybe, but it has the depth of something like “The Neverending Story.” You can read into it what you will, but I think the storyline makes a good metaphor for depression or grief.

2. Philomena: I had no preconceptions going into this Judi Dench film, and I found myself pleasantly surprised. About a woman who gave up her baby under nuns’ care decades ago and hopes to track him down, it is guaranteed to get under the skin of any mother. Dench molds a persona with pluck and gumption, one who refuses to give into hate even when you, as a viewer, are so tempted to do so. Ultimately a story about forgiveness. Highly recommend.

3. Her: The love story between a man and his computer. It’s everything you think it will be, and nothing you think it will be. The cinematography is outstanding, the styling equally inspiring/dreadful. Joaquin Phoenix can play quiet desperation like no one else, and Scarlet Johansson’s voice is like butter. A very worthwhile commentary on the times we live in, and the ever-increasing distance we are putting between ourselves and others because of the convenience of technology.

4. Captain Phillips: Very good (mostly true) action/suspense film about Somali pirates and the cargo ship they commandeered. I mean, it’s Tom Hanks. He knows what he’s doing.

5. Nebraska: Family drama about the dynamics when the patriarch starts to lose his mind, set in the middle America I grew up in. I wanted to like this one a lot more than I did. I found it unbalanced. Way too bleak, way too crass. I actually gave up about 15 minutes from the end because I just couldn’t see it ending in any satisfying way. I know other people LOVED it. Just not for me.

Have you seen them all? Which film do you think will win?

And, because I love you, here are some fun Oscar-related clicks:

» These honest titles for Best Picture are sooooo spot-on.

» Mediarun made a graphic of every dress worn by Best Actress winners. (My favorite is the dress Grace Kelly wore.)

» The amount of Oscars swag per bag is more than most people’s yearly salary.

» I’m rooting for Leo to win, I won’t lie. He’s due!

» I have the biggest girl crush on Lupita Nyong’o. Her skin is to die for.

» Tuxedo hot dogs! And other home-viewing party foods.

» DIY Oscar party rosettes.

Why Do We Love Violent Fairy Tales?

Why Do We Love Violent Fairy Tales? • Little Gold Pixel

She doesn’t want to read the little stories anymore.

Those old standbys — the ones about the owls, the bunnies, the little pea — they have been tossed aside. Now, in their place, she prefers the stories with fewer pictures. More words. The stories with pages that bend. The ones that require various voices from Mama.

“I want to read that one,” she says. “Bedtime stories.”

That just happens to be the name of this particular Little Golden Book.

“OK,” I say, sidling up to the little toddler bed that used to be a new crib just three years ago.

She is tucked in for the night, cozy in her PJs and hair damp from the bath. Her breath smells like bubblegum toothpaste. She leans in and gently pets my hair as I read the first story: Chicken Little.

Silly Henny Penny, thinking the sky is falling! All her poultry pals soon believe it, too. They’re off to tell the king. Along the way they meet Foxy Loxy, who slyly pulls aside the birds one by one … to eat them.

I glance at my daughter, who is hearing violent fairy tales for the first time. Will she be traumatized? Will she have nightmares? Should I stop reading?

“Keep reading, Mama,” she says. “More stories.”

OK, then. And so I read. I read Goldilocks.

A little girl essentially pulls off a dine-and-dash on a bear family, and they’re left with no porridge, broken chairs, and crumpled beds. The injustice! Somebody’s been sleeping in my bed, and she’s going to get away with it because she’s a pretty little girl who can run fast.

My daughter is enthralled, but maybe because I make the Little Bear talk realllly realllly high, and high voices make everything better.

Unfortunately, my high voices can’t keep two of the Three Little Pigs from getting eaten alive by the Big Bad Wolf, who has abnormally strong breath, huffing and puffing till he blows down a house made of wood. It’s OK, though, because the third pig exacts revenge by boiling the wolf in a stew that presumably he will eat later. (Animals are hungry.)

In our book’s version of Red Riding Hood, her grandmother locks herself in the closet to hide from the wolf, and doesn’t come out until the Hunstman shoots the wolf. I guess she was OK with her granddaughter being bait. (Apparently there are versions in which both the grandmother and Red Riding Hood get eaten, and in some ways I would prefer that to knowing that a grandmother wouldn’t protect her granddaughter.)

Finally, the arrogant Gingerbread Man can outrun everyone he encounters except the wolf, who of course tricks him into a death trap. By the time I get to the last line about how all Gingerbread Men should be eaten, my daughter is drifting off to sleep.

I kiss her in hopes that she has sweet dreams. Dreams that are free of carnivorous wolves, sly foxes and thieves.

The following night she’ll ask to read more fables and fairy tales. And I’ll oblige.

It makes me wonder: Why do we love fairy tales and fables? Why does my 3-year-old daughter, who has heard none of these stories previously, seem enraptured in a primal way? Why have these violent fairy tales endured the test of time? Are the messages still important/true? What do you think?

Do You Think of Your Future Self as a Stranger?

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Too bad my Past Self didn’t see fit to sock away money for a $2.5 million oceanfront condo for my Present Self.

I wish I were better at saving money. I could pretend I am. Sometimes I even try to be, like the week when I tried to keep track of all the money I didn’t spend on iced coffee … and later forgot to move it into savings, so I’m sure it just ended up back in the cycle of iced coffees I did buy, and … you get the point.

Can you imagine the nest egg I would have to buy a home if I would’ve had the foresight in my early 20s to start setting aside money? I’m imagining a mountain of cash to jump into, but I’d be happy with just a medium-sized stack of dollar bills that would make a dent in this Los Angeles real estate market (average house price: $745,000).

And why can’t I seem to drop some extra weight? Is it because today tomorrow next Monday would be a better day to start exercising?

Apparently I’m not alone (please tell me I’m not alone) in my procrastination. According to this Nautilus article I came across, there’s a mental disconnect between our Present Self and our Future Self. A study found that people often see their Future Self as strangers, not of the same flesh and blood as their Present Self:

Their future self “felt” like somebody else. In fact, their neural activity when they described themselves in a decade was similar to that when they described Matt Damon or Natalie Portman.

It definitely makes sense. And it explains why every time I make an appointment I set it for the far future. It’s almost like I’m setting it for someone else, so I don’t have to stress about how Future Self will feel about dental work. Hint: I will always and forever be unhappy about dental work.

The study says that people were compelled to save more money at the ATM if they saw a composite of what their Future Self might look like. What do you think: Creepy or ingenius? Would you be compelled to stash some funds away if you saw yourself gray-haired and liver spotted?

For now, a quick promise to my Future Self.

Dear Future Self: I’m sorry I haven’t taken you seriously! (And I hope you’re not living in a cardboard box down by the river.) I’ll do better now to make your life easier later, promise.