Oscars and Entertainment

Best Actress Academy Awards

Best Actress Academy Awards (Photo credit: cliff1066™)

While watching the Academy Awards last night my kids wanted to know the purpose for all the awards ceremonies. “Tell me again what the Grammys are for?” said one son. “And how is that different from the Tonys and the Golden Globes?” said son number two. “Is it an Oscar or an Academy Award if you win?” pondered son number three. The conversation ultimately led to the most profound question of the night, “What does it all mean and why are we watching?”  The truth is nothing really. These shows simply offer us eye candy and entertainment.

The Oscars were started in 1929 as an out-of-the-public-eye industry recognition event. They have morphed over the years to be a great publicity opportunity for the movie industry. Proof of the benefit lies in the after-bounce that winning movies receive in ticket sales and the profit that clothing and jewelry labels receive if their creations are recognized as being worn by a particular star. Tell us Jennifer Lawrence, is that Dior you are wearing? Anne Hathaway, is that necklace Tiffany? The stars and their evening looks enter the zeitgeist in the form of pictures, videos and tweets

Admittedly, I love watching and had always assumed that one billion other people did too. The number one billion has been quoted for years as the world-wide audience of the Oscars but apparently this is way off the mark. The International Business Times had the following to say about the audience watching:

“In 1998, the Academy Awards U.S. audience peaked at 55 million. Since then, U.S. viewers have declined. From 2001 to 2012, the U.S. audience has hovered between 32 million and 43 million U.S. viewers, according to Deadline Hollywood…The Oscars are less relevant to a younger audience, because movies in general are less relevant,”  said a Monday morning editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald. “Young people watch other screens: they play computer games, watch less television, download movies rather than go to them, and those they do watch are not those the Oscars celebrate. Most of the academy voters, numbering just under 6,000, are over 50.’ ”

This explanation is certainly corroborated in my house by the under-19-year olds and the over-the-50s. However, I will keep watching, whether I am one of the 50 million or 1 billion. The awards ceremonies are fun and worth a few laughs.

The tongue-in-cheek Razzies Awards underscore this sentiment by mocking the Oscars. The Razzies award the worst movie performances of the year the night before the Oscars. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 had the dis-honorable distinction of capturing 7 out of 10 categories including Worst Picture, Worst Actress (Kristen Stewart) and Worst Supporting Actor (Taylor Lautner). Albeit a little insulting, at least these actors can laugh all the way to the bank as the film has already garnered over $800 million in ticket sales world-wide.

Yesterday for our family Academy Awards viewing party my hair was “styled” by rainy dog-walk, my “outfit” was a rolled up pair of jeans and a baggy sweater and my make-up was Saturday-night-smudge. Love them or hate them, shows like the Oscars are entertaining and a reminder not to take everything so seriously.

Carol Lewis Gullstad, February 25, 2013

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Dirty Girls, Part One

My cheeks literally ached during “Spank! The Fifty Shades of Grey” parody at a small theater in Seattle last week.

The audience of middle aged women (plus a few very brave men or hopeful dates) laughed raucously at the “musical,” which features a Bette Midlar-esque character as the popular trilogy’s author, trying to put the steamy scenes she envisions to paper. Two adept actors represented the book’s suave title character and the inexperienced young woman he takes under his wing for sexual adventures.

The evening reaffirmed that laughter definitely is the best medicine.

The outing for my group of gal-pals was organized by a member of our book club. We had discussed the first “Fifty Shades” installment at one of our monthly meetings, and of course often make reference to the books when we are together. The series has inserted itself into our popular culture.

And so, the parody was timely, and an unqualified hit.

When we entered the theater lobby, wr spotted a well-dressed man whipping a seasoned woman’s derrière as her wrists were clamped to boards above her shoulders. Apparently, after the show we could have paid for photos of ourselves in that position. The line was too long for those of us with kids to return to.

I wish I could remember the hilarious lines and scenes that brought tears to my eyes. They probably wouldn’t seem as funny if I repeated them here, anyway.

What I do remember is the buoyant feeling my friends and I shared as we exited. For two hours we had been thoroughly entertained. We had laughed at ourselves a bit– middle-aged women, like the writer portrayed on stage, with tried-and-true sex lives. We had gawked at the male character’s six-pack (or was it an eight pack?), and reveled in Anastasia’s overplayed innocence.

Most of all we, like the “author” on stage, engaged in some healthy escapism. For two hours we forgot about the laundry, dishes, homework and issues at home. For a short while, we thought of nothing but the drama we had actually paid for, and filled our souls with positive energy and good company.

We all need to remember to spend time with our friends, laughing, more often.

– Linda Williams Rorem, 18 February 2012
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Life and Love

Author: Bagande

Author: Bagande (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since my daughter left for college, my life is more locker-room and less romantic comedy. My husband and 3 active teenage sons make every day action-packed. While I love their banter and musky aroma, the “movie night” selection at our house is predictable. Since I am always out-voted, all movie options must include crashes, explosions and not too many icky kissing scenes. Since I do like a little romance now and then I have taken to going out for chick flick nights with my friends or watching movies solo on my computer. This arrangement allows me to enjoy myself while deftly avoiding critiques of my entertainment choices.

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Notebook, based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks. Without giving too much away, the story includes love, loyalty and heartbreak without being trite. Suffice to say that The Notebook spans generations and gender and in a rare feat of movie making, both my husband and I enjoyed it equally.

Last week, Mr. Sparks was interviewed on NPR and I was intrigued. He was on air to promote his latest book-to-movie entry, Safe Haven, which I will undoubtedly see without my at-home family. Many of the questions he fielded were standard for a successful author who has sold millions of books, including blockbusters Message in a Bottle and The Last Song. However, I paused when Mr. Sparks responded to a query about love.  He said,

“I suppose it’s just deeply rooted in humanity itself; the desire to care for others and to be cared for. I think it [has] probably led to the development of civilization itself in no small way. He further stated,” … To me, without love of something I don’t know if you [can] have a meaningful life at all. I’m not saying it has to be romantic love, but you’ve got to love something: your family, your kids, your friends, your job, and your pets— but if you love nothing, to me, that would be an empty life.”

I found his reply to be thoughtful and meaningful. I appreciated that this accomplished romantic story writer pointed out the  myriad of ways we can love in our life. It is a very real human need to care about something or someone and know that our care is acknowledged and returned in kind.

Great philosophers and authors from Aristotle to Shakespeare have written about love but it is Mahatma Gandhi who said, “Where there is love there is life.” In addition to the standard hearts and chocolates this Valentine’s Day, I will pause to appreciate how full life can be and the limitless ways we can express love.

Carol Lewis Gullstad February 11, 2013

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Dumping Diets and Focusing on Fitness

A good friend recently confessed that she has been dieting for nearly 50 years.

She’s a beautiful, healthy woman who carries herself with grace and self-assurance, so I was shocked to hear her years of personal sacrifice and denial began when she was just eight years old.

photo-15Over tapas downtown Seattle, I probed the how’s and why’s of her long journey, and discussed her successes and lessons learned.

The good news is the answers are clear in an eBook she published on Amazon.com yesterday. 50 Things I Learned in 50 Years of Dieting offers Laurie Fritts’ tips, experiences and philosophy on what has become an international obsession for women.

It’s rare to find a woman who has never, ever pushed herself to diet. In fact, a quick Google search revealed these statistics:

– The average American woman spends 31 years on a diet;

– The average British woman has tried 61 diets by the age of 45;

Eighty-three percent of college women diet regularly, whether they are overweight or not;

Sixty five percent of American women between the ages of 25 – 45 report they have engaged in unhealthy purging activities (e.g. diet pills, laxatives, vomiting);

– Nearly 48 percent of women who are NOT overweight think they ARE;

– And, despite all the dieting and our $60-billion diet industry, some 64 percent of women remain overweight or obese.

In her pithy, practical and philosophical guide, Fritts suggests that the focus should not be on “getting skinny.” In her book, she gives women permission to forgo trendy diets and instead “eat healthier, exercise and adopt an attitude that allows them to discover their strongest, healthiest and most beautiful selves.”

Fritts writes about which foods to eat and which to avoid, how to develop an exercise habit and stick to it and ways to change old thinking into a new mindset. And, because she minored in philosophy in college, Fritts throws in a bit of deep thinking, too.

“It’s about being comfortable in your own skin,” she says. “I think you should strive to have as good a body and as healthy a body as you can. The book is about supporting your health and your well being.”

Fritts definitely speaks from experience. From that moment at age eight, when she stood on the toilet, looked at her bathing-suit-clad body and determined she was overweight, she has tried virtually every conceivable diet.

However, she adds that over the past five decades, “I have not just been obsessed with dieting, but also with health and exercise.” Her goal has never been to wear a size 0 jeans, but at the same time, she doesn’t think women should feel good about being overweight, either.

50 Things I Learned in 50 Years of Dieting kicks off with Lesson 1: “You eat what you are” – meaning “mind comes before body, and thoughts determine actions and eating habits.” Other chapters include advice on good and bad foods, running, toxic friends and getting rid of old baggage.

With humor and aplomb, she tackles topics including:

– “Why sugar is worse than heroin” (it’s as pure and just as addictive, and has no nutritional value)

– What God has to do with cellulite

– How to “stop whining and start winning” (“if you want to live up to your full potential…start treating your body like a temple”)

“I talk about clean foods, what foods and food combinations are good for you, how to get inspiration to exercise and how to avoid excuses,” Fritts says. “My goal is to inspire and motivate.”

50 Things I Learned in 50 Years of Dieting is available as a Kindle edition on Amazon.com for $5.99: http://www.amazon.com/Things-Learned-Years-Dieting-ebook/dp/B00BBZBUIY/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1360223268&sr=1-1&keywords=laurie+fritts

– Linda Williams Rorem, 7 February 2013
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Losing Leftovers

It’s so cliché to talk about how much harder life was when we were young, isn’t it?

Most of us grew up hearing how our parents walked five miles to school in sub-zero temperatures, with hot coals in their pockets, and now we tell our kids how we were forced to clean our plates at dinner.

“There are starving children in Africa!” my mom would claim if any of us dared leave food on the plate.

leftoversI learned to sit by my father when Lima beans were on the menu. He was always happy to steal the green horrors from my plate when Mom wasn’t looking.

And, like most kids, I perfected the full-mouthed escape to the bathroom, where I would subtly spit offensive food into the toilet. Friends tell of wrapping ABC (already-been-chewed) meat in their napkins or stuffing it into floorboard-radiators.

Even so, we got the point: food was not to be wasted.

On occasional Sunday nights, my ever-resourceful, Depression-era mother of six would set up a “buffet” to entice us to eat leftovers. Sure, she would add some salad and freshly boiled eggs, but the rest was a selection of “re-purposed” dishes from the prior week.

She saved ham bones for split-pea soup, made turkey tetrazzini after Thanksgiving (I ate it for the name alone) and excelled at casseroles.

Times have changed. Like my mom, I salvage the scraps from every meal, package them in Tupperware and stash them in the refrigerator. If it’s chili, minestrone, pasta sauce or lasagna, I can serve it for a second supper. Sometimes, I can get a teen to eat leftovers for a late-night snack or weekend lunch.

However, more often than not, I cram the fridge with leftovers, and when I can’t find any more space, I start sending the food down the garbage disposal.

I feel horribly guilty every time I do so.

Many years ago, when I offered to help a neighbor box up the extra food following a dinner party, she laughed,  “Are you kidding? My husband does not DO leftovers.”

It turns out he had grown up in a family that was just scraping by, so re-heated table scraps were de rigueur. Now, as a successful lawyer, he has determined that leftovers are for paupers, and his wife gladly obliges…without an ounce of guilt. I’m envious.

I just can’t get past the idea of throwing away perfectly good food, and I know I’m not alone. Some of our best dishes were actually designed to re-use overstock. Pizza was created to utilize pre-cooked meat and veggies. Stew makes use of old meat, carrots, onions and potatoes. And the French invented “French toast” (they call “pain perdu,” or lost bread) to salvage stale bread.

In fact, some of the best kitchen staples were designed to help us save, protect and serve leftovers; among the most important are refrigerators (1920s and 30s), Earl S. Tupper’s food containers (1940s), Saran Wrap (1953), Ziploc bags (1968) and microwave ovens (1970s).

A full plate of cookbooks exist to inspire us to re-use and re-heat; available titles include “Use it Up Cookbook: Creative Recipes for the Frugal Cook,” “The Thrifty Cookbook: 476 Ways to Eat Well With Leftovers” and “31 Leftover Ham Recipes.”

Of course, what would Thanksgiving be without leftovers? Hosts make extra food on purpose, because half the fun of is dipping into the leftover turkey, candied yams and green-been casserole a few hours after the big meal, and again the following day.

And, who hasn’t eaten cold pizza the morning after a great slumber party or late-night gathering? The hair of the dog can’t hold a candle to pizza’s curative powers.

However, some foods just don’t stand up to a second showing.

So many times my kids have brought home “doggy bags” after an expensive, but half-eaten meal, promising to finish the food the next day. More often than not, I’m tossing out cartons of Thai food the following weekend, or trying to locate the pungent smell in the back seat of the car several days later.

I get it.

For instance, as delicious as Kraft Macaroni and Cheese tastes straight from the stove, I have never found a suitable way to serve it a second time. I try adding a little milk, heating it in the microwave and stirring it, but my kids can tell it isn’t fresh. I know the difference, too. And yet, every time I have a little left over, I pack it in a clear plastic box and send it to the cooler.

Perhaps it’s not just about the waste and the song-and-dance involved in boxing up food I know won’t get eaten. Maybe leftovers just help us hold memories of good meals shared with loved ones. Or, they remind us of a successful turn in the kitchen. And then again, it could just be the internal recording of our mothers, telling us about all those starving children…

– Linda Williams Rorem, 4 Feb. 2013
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