Posts tagged Academy Awards

“As Good As It Gets” in Kazakhstan

I feel like the Helen Hunt character, Carol the waitress,  from “As Good As It Gets” which came out the same year Titanic did.  Both Jack Nicholson and Hunt deftly swept up the Best Actor and Best Actress award against all the other awards Titanic captured.  These two actors deserved it, I’ve watched this movie maybe about ten times.  The lines in AGAIG are quick, quirky and very funny.  The one simple line I especially like is delivered by Carol to Melvin, “Pay me a compliment, Melvin.”  Then she instructs him with, “A compliment is something nice.”  I’m waiting for some word of encouragement or even a compliment from my employers about my teaching these last two years at my “former” place of employment. 

The three misfits in this hilarious comedy are probably based on real life people in New York. It would be very difficult to make up these characters and their lines from one’s imagination. First is Melvin the neurotic, but very successful novelist. Next Helen, the cash strapped waitress who is also a single mom living with her mother. Finally, Simon, the gay guy who is an artist but has hit rock bottom, he is friendless and without money to support his lifestyle.

I claim to be similar to the Helen Hunt character of Carol and as a New York city waitress, she had a service mentality. She served Melvin his daily meals. I came to Kazakhstan to serve the people and was barely paid minimum wage after paying all the expenses of airfare and housing in high priced Almaty.  As a working Mom, Carol had to take care of her ailing son.  I taught academic English courses to my Kazakh and Kazakhstani students so they would not fail their classes in their future academic career.  Carol, the waitress, was uneasy about getting involved with Melvin because he was so rude to everyone and to her.  She regained her dignity when Simon made her feel good about herself.  He drew her from an artist’s point of view because he valued her beauty as a person.  Westerners are like that, identifying the individual for the gifts and talents they possess and reveling in that.

I see Simon as personifying Western ideas, he was accustomed to a fine lifestyle of luxury and the fine art.  However, that crashed in around him when his flat was broken into by vandals and he was beaten up very badly.  I see at our place of employment there is a fair share of America bashing going on since supposedly our institution was based on an American system of education.  Discrimination against Simon and at the same time against anything American seems to be in vogue for some people at my institution of higher learning.  Some say negative things to my face about how America has done this wrong or we as Americans aren’t correct on some other policy.  What do people say about Americans behind my back?  I shudder to think.  Well, Simon loves his little dog and that’s what helps get him through his ordeal.  Incidentally, the little dog plays an important role in this movie.  I believe he should have gotten an Academy award as well for bringing Melvin and Simon together as tolerant “friends.”

However, Melvin has an evil streak coursing through his cold veins.  At the beginning of the movie, he throws Simon’s dog down the garbage chute.  No reasonable explanation is given except that he seems to hate Simon and what he stands for.  Melvin is full of paranoia and he needs therapy.  Melvin has a huge ego and is a frustrated, demanding old man but paradoxically writes novels about romance. Yet he knows nothing about love and spends his life pretending there’s nothing wrong with him. He has to have everything completely sanitized and clean and he locks many doors to his flat because of his many fears. 

Enter Carol the waitress into the picture to encourage Melvin, the twisted old novelist, to re-enter the human race of compassion. She boldly helps confront his fears about relationships head on. The rest of the movie portrays how guy meets girl and with the help of a gay, the two finally get together all the while taking baby steps. There is “give” and there is “take.”

That is why I would love to say to my former employers, who have acted like Melvin sometimes, “Pay me a compliment…a compliment is something nice.”  I guess if there were a sequel to this movie, it would be that Melvin broke up with Helen. That part makes me sad.

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Watched Six Movies in 24 hours

I landed safely in Minneapolis after two long and uneventful flights and a long wait in Amsterdam in the span of 24 hours.  To pass my time on planes I usually can’t sleep and I like to catch up on movies.  The following are the six movies I watched in the span of 24 hours.  Lots to sort through!   

Slumdog Millionaire – set in India using the popular game show “So you want to be a millionaire.”  Heard so much about this movie because of the academy awards, I just HAD to see it.  They used a kid named Jamal who grew up on the streets who ultimately won a lot of rupees from the game show Indian style.  How did he do it? *Spoiler*  Shows torture of Jamal at first like water boarding, electrocution and slapping around to get to the bottom of that answer.  The “truth” was even more riveting to Jamal’s accusers than what they thought was some kind of electronic scam.  Many improbable scenes happen so it seemed surreal throughout in that sense and had a typical Hollywood happy ending.  I liked the last dancing scene at the train station when they rolled the credits.  Very creative.


Changeling – The next sobering movie I watched was directed by Clint Eastwood.  He is a master at creating films that have an “edginess” to them with current social issues, this one was no exception set in the late 1920s in L.A. starring Angelina Jolie.  She did a superb job of acting, convincing the viewers that she was a single mom who simply wanted her son back alive.  Her son had been missing for five months and then things got really rough for her.  True story but the supporting role goes to the Presbyterian minister who was backing this mother to find out just how corrupt and devious the L.A. police department could be.  Never seemed that she thanked the minister for pulling her out of a psycho ward and the courtroom cases they went through while she was very motherly about correcting the boy on his manners when he came to live in her house who wasn’t her true son.  Seems when Hollywood directors use any period piece, they may discover that a lot of prayer went into the actually living out of the real life tragedy. I believe Hollywood does all they can to dilute how much faith happened back in our earlier days.  This has a mixed ending, similar to Eastwoods “Million Dollar Baby.”  I want to see his latest film “Grand Torino.”


First Daughter – After two sad and serious movies, I had to watch a comedy and this felt like I was watching Chelsea Clinton leave Wash. D.C. to go to Stanford for her university education.  Probably this movie script had all sorts of things that happened in real life for the Clinton family or for the Bush twins but it was made to look fictional.  I would have liked to have seen Anne Hathaway do this movie but she no longer is convincing as a college coed, another young actress did a very good job.  Her “boyfriend” looked a little older for the college scene but that was part of the plot too.  Watch it for some funny scenes that will make you LOL.


Doubt – Meryl Streep never disappoints in her acting roles, though I’m disappointed in her politics as with most all Hollywood actors.  This movie is set in 1960s in some Catholic Church and school and Streep is the battleaxe principal who does not like the warm, charismatic priest. (Think “Devil Wears Prada” but the opposite in fashion design with her nun’s habit)  The plot is rich with meaning about intolerance, discrimination and struggles with the Catholic faith as it tries to lighten up a bit from the Old School.  It reminded me of the Soviet teachers I am surrounded by who are stuck in the old ways and can’t get out.  Meryl Streep has an abrupt and surprise ending and it leaves you with DOUBT!!!  I recommend watching it to see what issues they are really dealing with.


Get Smart – Anne Hathaway and the other male actor (I forget his name) but he does a great job playing the Max character from the Get Smart TV series.  Lots of funny scenes that are set in U.S. then in Russia then in L.A. but my KLM airline pilot had to land so I couldn’t find out what really happened.  I believe the president of the US was saved from a certain nuclear attack in L.A. thanks to Max and his agent 99 (Anne) and they predictably got together in the end.  Agent 23 turns out to be the double agent but then I’m giving the whole plot away, right?


Australia – Nicole Kidman and cattle driving don’t seem to go together but she does a great job riding horses and being the prim and proper British woman at first who eventually fits into the Wild West cowboy scenes in Australia.  What was odd about this film was that the director’s made Nicole seem so cartoon-ish at first.  From being totally aghast at kangaroo hunts, shocked at the decay to their Down Under residence her late husband had built and then trying to be a mother to a little half Aboriginal child.  Then the second half of the movie Kidman suddenly becomes ultimately absorbed by Australia’s toughened charm. It was as if the directors forced Kidman to do a fast forward in her caricature and then she seemed more relaxed and likeable as a person once she started to fight the big fight in Australia against an adversary in the cattle drive business.  This movie is set in the late 1930s and continues into the war with Japan in the 1940s and how it changed many Australians lives as a result.  The scenery is beautiful; the history bits are good just to see how Australia was affected by WWII. I always knew from my Philippine days that the Australians were very involved in the Pacific conquest but have not known much in how they suffered.   This film also deals with the issues of the discrimination against the aboriginal peoples.  On the whole a good movie, though it seems long but is worth the watch. 

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