A Year in Review and New Year’s Resolutions

Hey there.

It’s been a few months. Try nine, in fact. My last article on this site appeared in March. If you were a regular reader, and I don’t imagine there were many of you, then I apologize. I’ve literally joined and left quite a few different sites in that time; my blog became an afterthought, for better or worse. But I wanted to dust it off to reflect on this year a bit.

2016 was a difficult year. There was no shortage of shortcomings and no limit to our cultural limitations. Bowie died. Gene Wilder died. Carrie Fisher died. Trump won. I don’t need to delve any further. You’re still feeling our collective heartbreak. I want to believe things will get better, but they won’t. Not immediately, at least. The pain we feel today will still be felt tomorrow, even if the year has changed. Hate won’t repent to love because it’s 2017 instead of 2016. These wounds will leave scars, and we will not walk away clean.

But it’s easy to be dour, and I’m often dour these days. I don’t want to make a post badmouthing 2016 because it wasn’t a complete wash. I was privileged enough to write for places like The Playlist and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, two publications I grew up loving and still adore today — even if, to paraphrase Groucho Marx and Woody Allen, they decided to have someone like me as a member. I got to write more, read more, love more, laugh more, feel more, reflect deeper, work harder, dream bigger, be stronger, be more vulnerable and empathetic. In terms of personal growth, 2016 was one of the most developmental stages of my life, and I hope to grow, learn, progress and process more within the newfound year. It was a crummy year and a painful one, but to me, it was also a vital, meaningful one. While I traveled little and felt more self-contained physically, I went the distance emotionally. And psychologically. And, hell, maybe even spiritually too.

It was a hard year, but it came and it will now go. Moving forward, we must learn and we must move forward. We cannot go back, but we can do what we can to make 2017 better.

Will it happen? Who knows? Certainly not me, at least. I think a lot and I do little, and I want the latter to change. I’m set in my ways, in many ways, but I want to become more liberated and I want to become more open-hearted and communicative. I’ve spent many dark nights alone, scared and unsure of myself and my future. This is common ground for me, and that’s not going to change with the impending calendar switch. But I live in a world with invaluable resources, caring friends and immense privileges, whether I fulfill them properly or not. I’m going to do what I can not to waste them in 2017. I’m going to be 24 next year, and soon I’ll be in my mid-20s. Life is not going to slow down for me, and I need to accept that and pick up the pace. We live in an ever-changing world, and sometimes a fairly unforgiving one. But I want to make it through to the other side, and that’s a big step forward for my personal development. Life is a burden and a luxury. I tend to focus on the former and forget the latter. I hope that changes in 2017. I owe it to myself, and others, not to be so caught up in the bitterness and self-loathing. I can do better.

I need to stop expecting life to be filled with melancholy and soon-empty bottles. There is great beauty out there, and I take it for granted like a right bastard. That’s why I wanted to write this piece. Because talk is cheap, but actions speak volumes. Isn’t that what they said in school? I don’t really remember. My memory is terrible, which is yet another reason why I decided to write down these thoughts. I made them public because I want them spread, instead of getting blockaded in my wandering mind. I wrote them down because I hope to revisit to them in the near future, preferably one year’s time. It should be a reminder and an awakening, and I want to put some action into my endless reactions. I’m not sure if I’ll be a success or a failure. I’m not sure where I’ll be. I’m not sure if I’ll be okay, because I don’t know if anyone will be okay. My worldview is limited, but I want to make an impact, and I want that to start right now. So I present to you my New Year’s resolutions, because I actually have a few this year. I hope they’ll be fulfilled soon.

Many thanks and blessings to you all. I hope we get to talk again sooner next time.

New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Write one review a day, either film, TV, book, music, etc. You usually write at least a 1,000 words in any given 24 hours. See if you can make it 2,000. Or 3,000. Okay, I’ll stop pressuring you. But you should really step up your game. Make it count, son.
  2. Lose 20-40 pounds. You can afford it.
  3. Write that book or that screenplay. Or that short film. Anything creative.
  4. Spend more time with friends and loved ones. You don’t know if you’ll get a lot of time with them in the future. Therefore, make your time valuable in the present.
  5. Spend less time on Facebook, unless you’re promoting yourself or your work.
  6. Pitch more. You have some pretty big ideas in your head. You should try to see if some of those sites you think won’t publish you actually will. Remember, you didn’t think you’d write for The Playlist or The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Push yourself.
  7. Laugh more. You need to step back and let yourself breathe.
  8. Read at least 50 books this year, if you have the time. You need to push your literary self forward more, especially if you want to call yourself a writer. Grow that muscle.
  9. Try to go on a date or something. I’m getting tired of talking to you all the time.
  10. Try to get into stand-up comedy again. You’re weird and amusing enough that you might actually get it right the second time. Talking to people is scary. Talking to a lot of people at the same time is even scarier. If you do it more, it gets easier. I promise.
  11. Be more vulnerable. Be more humbling. Be more understanding. You know things are terrible. Try to see if things are actually okay once in a while. I don’t know.
  12. Try to move to New York City. Or just try to move, period. You need to leave.
  13. Apply for more jobs. This freelance thing is kinda fun, but you should see if you can get something a little more permanent too. Hopefully, while doing what you love.
  14. Learn to play the guitar. You’ve said you’d do this for nearly ten years now. Change.
  15. Watch some more movies, especially those outside your wheelhouse. If you expand your horizons, you have a better chance of becoming a more well-rounded critic. Maybe watch some different shows too. There are a lot of good ones out there.
  16. Listen to different music. You literally listen to the same songs all the time, dude. Don’t you get tired of them? You have new headphones. You share an Apple Music plan with your family (plus one friend, who is basically family). Treat your ears.
  17. Ease back into filmmaking. You didn’t make any short films, videos or anything this past year. Granted, it wasn’t completely your fault, but try to make that change.
  18. Listen to more people. They don’t always know you, and they don’t always know what’s in your best interest. But they have life experience and input. Just listen.

Until next year folks. I hope.

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The Night Before’ Red-Band Trailer Finds Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie Bro-ing Up the Holidays

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I was quite taken by Jonathan Levine’s 50/50 when it came out. The 2011 cancer dramedy starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, who also produced, was funny, touching, sweet, honest, heart-felt and brave in ways most movies aren’t today, let alone the rest of Rogen’s raunchy filmography. The movie landed on my top ten list that year and, though I haven’t revisited it, the found memories keep reminding me to do so one of these days, even though I’m fully aware of the emotional roller coaster ahead.

I’m even more inclined to see it a second time, however, because the latest from Levine, Rogen and Levitt doesn’t quite look as promising as I would have hoped with the first red-band trailer for their reunion project, The Night Before. I should note the upcoming holiday-themed comedy doesn’t necessarily look bad, it just doesn’t look it’ll be as heartfelt, memorable or impressionable as their last film. The comedy, which also stars Anthony Mackie, finds three life-long friends reuniting during the festive December season for one final get together proposed by Levitt’s character when their one friend (Mackie) is “too fucking famous to hang out with us anymore” and the other (Rogen) is becoming a father. They come in possession of drugs (this is a Rogen comedy, after all), get into some trouble, drink some beer and also meet Lizzy Caplan and Mindy Kaling in the process as the merits of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” are sung.

There’s nothing wrong with having an adult R-rated comedy for the big end-of-the-year holiday season to combat family favorites like A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas did a couple years ago to okay-ish results. I guess I just expected something a little heavier, thematically. But that’s my fault. All things considered, it does appear as though the emotional wrought moments packed inside this package are being hidden until the film’s unveiled. I guess kids these days care more about the f-bombs and the druggie jokes than the quality buddy time moments, but there’s serious potential for this to balance the immature and the coming-into-adult found in Rogen’s Superbad but with 30-year-olds and the Jewish/Christmas/Kwanzaa spirit in toe.

This’ll have to be determined, though, on November 25 … unless this somehow gets The Interview treatment. That is something, by the way, they self-depreciate with in this promo. In the meantime, check out the restricted trailer below and see what you think. Despite the pessimistic attitude, I’m still very excited. I’m a Rogen fan, and I’m always happy to support him, especially when he brings good tidings.

Rosamund Pike joins Christian Bale in ‘The Deep Blue Good-by’

By Will Ashton

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Rosamund Pike has been a familiar face in Hollywood for some time, but she didn’t get her full do until her excellent, Oscar-nominated work leading David Fincher’s Gone Girl. Now considered something of an “It-Girl,” she’s getting offers left-and-right, and one of those includes starring alongside Christian Bale in The Deep Blue Good-by.

The star is currently in talks to play the female lead in the feature, according to Variety. While they don’t report who she’ll play, she will likely serve as the female companion to Bale’s Travis McGee. This adaptation is to be directed by James Mangold (The Wolverine), with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson-Killoran producing with Amy Robinson under the Appian Way banner. Chernin Entertainment also helps fund this production.

Pike shots the movie while production on The Mountain Between Us prepares for the weather-appropriate conditions necessary to tell that story.

Under the screenplay by Dennis Lehane (Shutter Island) and Scott Frank (Minority Report), The Deep Blue Good-by is the first book in John D. MacDonald’s 21-book series with McGee at the center. Needless to say, Fox wants this to be a long-standing franchise for The Dark Knight star.

‘Selma’ director Ava DuVernay reunites with Oprah to co-create ‘Queen Sugar’ for OWN

By Will Ashton

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Ava DuVernay’s work has exploded on the big screen these past few months with her Best Picture-nominee Selma, but it looks like the director is diverting her attentions to the small one for her next effort.

Deadline reports DuVernay is going to co-create the new series Queen Sugar with her Selma star and producer Oprah Winfrey on her channel OWN. In addition to creating, DuVernay will also serve as the show’s producer, writer and director. Winfrey, meanwhile, is going to executive produce and have a recurring role in the series.

This marks the first project Winfrey will act in on her network. Filming begins later this year, likely this fall. Queen Sugar is based on the book series by Natalie Baszile, whose first novel shares the name of the series, and follows a spiritual woman who leaves her upscale L.A. lifestyle to go to the center of Louisiana to claim a 800-acre sugar crane farm lend by her recently-deceased father.

“I loved this book and immediately saw it as a series for OWN,” Oprah Winfrey said to Deadline. “The story’s themes of reinventing your life, parenting alone, family connections and conflicts, and building new relationships are what I believe will connect our viewers to this show.”

DuVernay confirmed the news when she tweeted the following:

Queen Sugar becomes the first OWN scripted series to not come from Tyler Perry. OWN has already scheduled a multi-year exclusive deal with the filmmaker.

There’s no word on how this new project is going to affect DuVernay’s other projects which were announced in the last couple weeks, which includes a Hurricane Katrina movie starring her Selma lead David Oyelowo.