Live a Great Story Challenge 5: Dream Day

Live a Great Story Challenge 5: Dream Day

Use code "SPTV" on the Live a Great Story store for 10% off everything!

As a new Live a Great Story Ambassador, I'm participating in our weekly challenges. I am posting them because I feel that all anyone really needs is to know is that they aren't alone. Sometimes that's enough.

Challenge #5: Dream Day

Feel-Good Chemicals in The Female Brain

Feel-Good Chemicals in The Female Brain

The Female Brain looked like a movie that was going to piss me off. Thankfully, my wife said, "no put that on, it looks cute" because otherwise, I might have skipped it.

From the outside, it's a movie written, directed, and starring Whitney Cummings. That's enough for me to dislike it because: LOOK AT THAT WOMAN. Her cheekbones are perfect. Her hair is perfect. Her boobs are perfect.

I'm jealous of Whitney Cummings but I would absolutely hang out with and get drunk with Whitney Cummings. Imagine my surprise when I caught her in the trailer for The Female Brain, when, I am on a complete rom/com overload.

Jacob: The Story of a Suicide Survivor

When you grow up in a small town, you develop a close-knit kind of relationship with people who aren't related to you by blood. Their joys are your joys, their sorrows are your sorrows.

Growing up, I didn't really know Bobby Chase too well as he was in the grade below me. I knew of his brother Jacob, though, because you look up to the kids who are older than you.

After graduation, I moved around a lot and ended up back in my hometown for a little while (this kinda sounds like the premise for Welcome Home, Bobby's show that is available on Amazon Video). During that time period, Jacob, Bobby's older brother, committed suicide and Bobby was the one to discover what had happened.

It rocked the town.

It rocked me.

Up until that point, I had a history of unmanaged mental illness that I squished back down and ignored. I drank. I was generally a crappy person. I started going to therapy, regularly, soon after Jacob's funeral. While I didn't go to the funeral, because I felt that it wasn't my place, I did visit his grave, as well as my grandmothers, a few weeks later.

For me, that was a cathartic moment. For Bobby, this is his:

A trailer for the short film JACOB that tells the story of the exact moment I found my brother’s body and how I managed to deal with it.
— Bobby Chase

Bobby is an amazing filmmaker and I am very much looking forward to watching this work. If there is anyone that can understand why he made this short film, it's me.

I'm proud of you, Bobby.

talk now

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, and prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones

1-800-273-8255

The Best Job I've Ever Had

The lovely, sometimes mocking, tone that Facebook's On This Day feature offers to its users can sometimes bring up a lot of bad memories.

Breakups. Car accidents. Sports injuries. More breakups.

But this morning, I was reminded of the Labor of Love article, written for the Albany Times Union in 2014, just before I left my career as a chef and began my full-time journey as a journalist and filmmaker. At the time, I was working at the absolute best job I have ever had: SPoT Coffee Saratoga.

Things I love about this article:

Credit: Michael P. Farrell/Times Union

Credit: Michael P. Farrell/Times Union

  • Michael P. Farrell took some amazingly good photos of me. I don't look nearly as augmented as my brain has me to believe, or so these photos portray. I have loved this photoset of me at SPoT since it was published. I've actually used shots from this set when auditioning for roles. I also really loved his style, and if you've met him you'll know what that means.
  • Jennifer Gish was a great reporter. I believe she has moved on to a Director of Marketing position since this article was published, but man was she good. When I got the job in news after production school, I modeled how I would conduct interviews based on how she interviewed me. She had me quickly at ease and comfortable talking about everything. I really enjoyed speaking with her.
  • Michael and Jennifer were credited directly with the work they put into this article. The Albany Times Union credits the creators with the work they put out; not the company as a whole. Maybe that's "a small town kind of thing to do" (or so I was told when I asked once), but I find it highly respectful that the company decides to allow the journalists to associate with their work directly.

Things I dislike about this article:

  • The person I was dating at the time, was what had appeared as a "Saving Grace" during a rough time. She blatantly lied and had a very harsh drug habit that was hidden so I wouldn't "think less" of her (I appreciate that mentality, but I will ultimately always refer people to Rehab when they are using their rent money for their drug habit). I regret ever feeling the pressure that she put on me to mention her in the article and giving in to it.
  • I worry that it gives the wrong impression of my time of being a chef. I loved my job at SPoT and I miss it all the time. If I had enough money to start a franchise in Tampa, I would absolutely do it. The issue was that as a chef, not all jobs were exactly like SPoT. Not all jobs gave me the freedom to try things with food when there was time available. Not all job managers/head chefs/kitchen managers treated me with respect/didn't blame me for their completely out of control drug problems/didn't physically assault me on the line. Not all jobs had paychecks that wouldn't bounce.
  • Who the f**k let me behind the line without my hair tied back? Yes, it was just a photo op and the food I made during that moment, I ate. But, it still bothers me that I represented the company like that with improper food safety standards because I hate how I look when my hair is tied back into a ponytail. I know there is no way I would have let anyone take a photo of me with my hair tied up in a kitchen cap, but sheesh!

Someone asked me recently (because apparently, this pops up in Google when you search for my name) if I regretted doing this article because "every other job that wants to hire you thinks nothing will be better than SPoT."

Absolutely not. I love the people I worked with, the location I worked in, and the menu in which I was responsible. I wish more people could hold jobs as good as my job at SPoT Coffee Saratoga.

#DerbyGirlsDoItBetter

#DerbyGirlsDoItBetter

You're going to see that hashtag a lot from me this Olympics.

#DerbyGirlsDoItBetter

You know when you are walking somewhere and you pass by someone who you admire, and then a few years later they end up in the Olympics?

That's where I'm at today.

Credit: Quick ‘N’ Derby

Credit: Quick ‘N’ Derby

Erin Jackson is a derby girl from the Jacksonville RollerGirls who has played with Team USA in the Roller Derby World Cup. She had her rookie season with the Ocala Cannibals before making her home in Jacksonville. She is a representative for Bont skates and, as an inline speedskater, she has multiple (30+) World and National Championship wins.

Soon, she'll be taking on the Winter Olympics in the Ladies' 500m Long Track Speedskating event. Her race will be on February 18 and you can find more info on it here

#DerbyGirlsDoItBetter

Operation City Quest, Sarasota Review

Operation City Quest, Sarasota Review

My wife and I tried out Operation City Quest in Sarasota, FL, and you guys, I think I found the cheat codes for being married to an attorney: Find something competitive and then let them go crazy and try to beat everybody. Trust me, it will keep them occupied for hours.

Live a Great Story Challenge 4: Go Live

Live a Great Story Challenge 4: Go Live

Use code "SPTV" on the Live a Great Story store for 10% off everything!

As a new Live a Great Story Ambassador, I'm participating in our weekly challenges. I am posting them because I feel that all anyone really needs is to know is that they aren't alone. Sometimes that's enough.

Challenge #4: Go Live

The Cloverfield Paradox Surprise Review, aka Thanks for the Heads Up, JJ Abrams

The Cloverfield Paradox Surprise Review, aka Thanks for the Heads Up, JJ Abrams

I've been less and less involved with the hype behind live tv events in general and I guess it's my own fault for missing the warning signs that The Cloverfield Paradox would be released immediately after the SuperBowl.

BUT I CAN STILL BE GRUMPY ABOUT IT, OKAY? I found out about this being released when I woke up at 4am and couldn't get back to sleep, so I was a little grumpy about actually having something productive to do at that hour. I don't know, I guess I really just need more sleep, that much I DO KNOW.

So what's the best thing to do when you can't sleep? WATCH A MONSTER MOVIE OF COURSE!

#BringBackTheFolk with American Folk

#BringBackTheFolk with American Folk

I finally had a chance to #BringBackTheFolk and check out American Folk, a film by David Heinz, on iTunes the other day.

"When their plane from Los Angeles to New York is grounded on the morning of September 11, 2001, strangers Elliott (Joe Purdy) and Joni (Amber Rubarth) are unexpectedly thrust together amidst the chaos of that historic day. With little in common but both needing to get to NYC urgently, they accept help from Joni's family friend Scottie (Krisha Fairchild) who lends the duo a rusty old 1972 Chevy Van. The shock and stress of 9/11 quickly threatens to derail their cross-country journey until the pair discover what they do have in common: a love for old folk songs."

Live a Great Story Challenge 3: Sit Down With a Stranger

Live a Great Story Challenge 3: Sit Down With a Stranger

As a new Live a Great Story Ambassador, I'm participating in our weekly challenges. I am posting them because I feel that all anyone really needs is to know is that they aren't alone. Sometimes that's enough.

Challenge #3: Sit down with a stranger

Because it hasn't been hard enough for me to make (lasting) friends in Tampa Bay, this is the challenge this week.

Okay fine.

Constantly Redefining the Ageless Ambiguity in Call Me By Your Name

There are certain times in movies where I will absolutely call a pig a pig when it absolutely presents as one. It's easy to do that sometimes, call things as they are or how they present to be. I thought, for sure, that I would not enjoy Call Me By Your Name because of what it appeared to be on the surface.

The surface lied.

Call Me By Your Name starts almost identically to the trailer posted above. In the summer of 1983, Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives at Elio's (Timothée Chalamet) family summer home in the Lombardy Region of Northern Italy to help Elio's father with some research work (Yes, I'm biased. It's set in Italy. Of course, I loved the backdrop).

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

It's apparent almost immediately that Elio is taken by Oliver. The curiosity. The wonder. The ageless ambiguity. If I could pick a word to describe Call Me By Your Name, it would be "sensuality," and that comes with a warning: I do not find men sexually attractive whatsoever. I chose sensuality because Elio is experiencing things for the first time that he's never felt. Sure, he's a cocky 17-year-old, so he pushes some boundaries, especially with an adult man, but because we see things in Call Me By Your Name from Elio's point of view, it's in an earnest manner. It's in a new-to-him, sensual manner. And we're right there with him, through all of the emotions he experiences.

The characters in Call Me By Your Name keep eclipsing "ageless ambiguity" within the sculptures they study. How these statues represent the perfect male form, frozen in time. That's basically the point of ageless ambiguity: They define what it is in sculpture. They redefine it in their life in their current surroundings. Time passes and the search begins again. The wonderful thing about ageless ambiguity is some people can see it as a loving tale of youth, and others can see it as absurb, disgusting, immoral.

Yes, it is a little risque, especially right now, for a romantic storyline between an adult and a 17-year-old. Given everything that's going on in Hollywood right now, I can understand the stance that some, quick-to-assume critics take after watching this. If you haven't lived it, it can't resonate. But for some of us that lived similar stories, it hits home.

One of the most emotional scenes in this film isn't even between Elio and Oliver. It's between Elio and his father, portrayed by Michael Stuhlbarg. I don't want to give away the details in this sequence because, to me, they were very important to the story. However, I will say this: The easiest thing a person can do is be honest with themselves and most of us make it very difficult for that to ever happen. We lie to ourselves because it's easier to handle in the long run. You don't want to be different, you want to be just like everyone else. So, you follow the leader and play along. But are you really happy? Who knows.

Honestly, if you don't have any kind of emotional response while watching Call Me By Your Name, you don't have a heart. If you can't feel anything after watching this, you should really take a look at your life and figure out where you went wrong.

I love the multiple language fluencies throughout the film. First, we start in French. Then, switch to English. Then to Italian. Then, back to English. Then German. It's enough to make your head spin but it's handled with class and not elitism.

Armie Hammer constantly surprises me. I really dug him playing both Winklevoss (Winklevii?) twins in The Social Network, but even Lohan can pull that kind of thing off these days. No, Armie Hammer digs in his heels as Oliver. He commits to the ridiculous dance moves in all his dad-bod glory (I don't know if he has what's considered a Dad-Bod or not, but he's the older male in this pairing, so work with me here). I guess what I'm saying is I don't think Hollywood has given him a fair shake as of yet, and more casting directors should just sit their happy asses down and watch Call Me By Your Name before choosing their next leading man.

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Timothée Chalamet. Bro. What can I even say about this dude? He's apparently related to everyone and has been in a ton of recent films. Watch this actor, he'll show you why.

The cinematography choices that are made in Call Me By Your Name are done deliberately with an artful hand. The filmmaker in me usually rips on out of focus camera shots, however here it works. I also truly enjoy the long, no-cut, shots that seem to go on forever. I think long shots like those show actors true capabilities. So many rely on cuts, close-ups, and reactionary shots to help their dialogue. Here, the silence can be deafening.

Speaking of sound, get yourself into the music of Call Me By Your Name, especially Visions of Gideon by Sufjan Stevens. You will not regret it.

I firmly believe that this year, like most years, the Oscars nominating committee didn't pay enough attention to everything that was in contention. Luca Guadagnino was absolutely robbed of a nomination. The conceptualized idea that Call Me By Your Name will be the first in an installment of a Before Sunrise-like decades-long series blows my mind. It also truly terrifies me because, quite obviously, Call Me By Your Name is set in 1983, and history tells us that the 80's and 90's (along with many other decades) weren't particularly easy for out or closeted gay men.

I guess that's the funny things about having a connection to a film like this: You immediately want to protect the characters as if they were real people.

Nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spot.
— Mr. Perlman

Do yourself a favor, go and see Call Me By Your Name while it's in theaters: you owe it to yourself and to the story to watch this film without interruptions. If that's not possible, preorder Call Me By Your Name today!

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Purpose and Freedom, a Documentary Film About a Women's Rights Activist From Mexico Freed From a Corrupt and Abusive Immigration and Legal System by Lawyer Zulu Ali, Has Been Released

Purpose and Freedom is a documentary film of an African American attorney, Zulu Ali, seeking his purpose as a lawyer. Born and raised in the south and raised by a single mother who works two jobs, Ali spends a lot of time with his grandparents, who instilled in him the importance of helping others and making a change in the world for the less fortunate. Ali ultimately pursues a legal career as the vehicle to make the change but is becoming constantly discouraged by the roadblocks of corruption and discrimination placed in his way while attempting to help people.

Ali crosses paths with an illegal immigrant named Aracely from Mexico who, as a women's rights advocate, was brutally abused by Mexican officials. Aracely flees the abuse by crossing the border with her daughter but is kidnapped and held. She is able to get away from her captors but she finds herself in a situation that causes her to be arrested and jailed. 

After release from jail, she is detained by immigration officials and placed in deportation proceedings. Aracely and her daughter experience abuse, discrimination, and corruption. While in detention, Aracely is abused by officials and loses her daughter. She seeks her freedom by pursuing a torture claim.

Attorney Ali represented her in the deportation proceedings but lost the case to a mean and heartless immigration judge. Ali continues to fight for Aracely, and others like her, but begins to question the path and losing faith and confidence in the journey he chose, because of the corruption and discrimination. Ali is notified that Aracely's appeal was granted and she was released from custody, at which time he realized that her freedom was the glory he was looking for. In the process, Ali finds his purpose and Aracely gets her freedom.

The documentary film is presented by Nubian Pictures, a subsidiary of 10 Nubian Queens & 5 Kings, Media, Inc., produced by CCM Films, and is now available on demand on the iTunes store.

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The Punishment Finally Ends! Maze Runner: The Death Cure

I've given this movie series a lot of shit over the past 4 years and I fully admit that. First, my glowing review of The Maze Runner. Then, my even more enraged review of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.

And now here we are. Once again.

With me literally falling asleep for 10-ish minutes in the theater during this tie-it-up-with-a-bow nonsense.

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I swear to all things holy, if they continue on this series and make films from the subsequent two novels that appear in the written series, I will flat out refuse to see them. I cannot do this to my eyes again. It's like splashing acid in them even though you know it will burn!

Once a-freaking-gain, Thomas and his rag-tag group need to out-wit the adults. Only this time, so much time has passed from an on-set accident that nearly killed the star of the movie, that our young adults are now in their early 30's... at least they look that way to me.

Apart from not being in the maze anymore, the only thing that really separates this movie from the rest is the gritty vibe they've got going on. It's like they threw this movie in the washing machine with Max Max: Fury Road or something.

It definitely seemed like Dylan O'Brien was over this movie.

And he's just like me in that respect. I'm happy I won't have to ever watch these damn movies again!

Preorder Maze Runner: The Death Cure on iTunes today!

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