Preaching Progress

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Credit to @revelatori for the drawing! (www.revelatori.com)
I can really relate to this. It’s not always easy to align what we believe with what we do. We are human, we slip, we make mistakes. It happens ALL the time and that’s okay. We pick ourselves up, we learn and we do better tomorrow.
I admit, I am guilty of being irrationally hard on myself for simple little mistakes and sometimes for the quirks that make me, me.
I look at all of these posts on social media and see beautiful people, fit people, rich people, happy people and sometimes, I compare myself.
“Why don’t I look like her?”
“I wish I were as successful as she is.”
“I wish I could do that!”
I would never tell a friend to compare them self to anyone else. So why is it okay when I do it myself? I am reminded not to compare my ‘behind the scenes’ to their ‘highlight reel.’
I am working towards becoming the person that I want to be and that takes time and patience (not yet a virtue of mine). I see a therapist because mental health is just as important as physical health. I honestly believe that everyone could benefit from some time in therapy.
Why are we so afraid of that word? Let’s eradicate the stigma because in this world of social media and false representation, too many of us fall into this trap of comparing. We are creating a culture of constant insecurity and implied inadequacy.
You are wonderful. My pictures, his pictures, her pictures…they don’t matter. You don’t know what led to those photos.
Be careful of what it is that you envy. Take the time to discover who you are and grow into the best version of yourself.
I will be doing the same.

An Unexpected Farewell

At a time like this, words elude me.  At a time like this, when I would most like to be vulnerable and honest, I cannot.  At a time like this, I wish that wishing it away were enough.

Alas, wishing it away will not change the past and it will not change the present.  I will do my best to sit here and coax the words from my pen in honor of a man who loved the written word.  I will do my best to eulogize a man whose eulogy I was not prepared to give.

Today we must say farewell to my grandfather, Mr. Joseph Michael DeStefano.  Brilliant and determined, he contributed to one of America’s greatest feats by helping to put man on the moon.  He worked multiple jobs while attending night school to become an engineer with the hopes of growing and supporting a family.  He was a devout Catholic, a dedicated husband, a loving brother, father, uncle, and grandfather, and a genuinely good man.  He was always smiling, whether he was allowed to have that last cookie or not.  He was adorable and we all knew it.

I wish that I had been closer to my grandparents as a child.  Our lack of proximity may have kept me at bay but it was a painful bashfulness that kept me from speaking, even to my family members.  I was cute and quiet, that was the role I chose to play.  Regretfully, it was not until my grandmother’s passing that I found my voice.  I saw a different side to my grandfather then.  He was different without her, a quiet sadness followed him everywhere but he would light up when he saw his children and grandchildren.  “Princess!” he’d shout through a smile while taking my face in both hands before giving me a kiss on the cheek.  I felt the need to entertain in the absence of my grandmother.  My job was to make him smile whether that be with my unabashed sarcasm or simply my presence.  I learned a lot about him in his later years and I only wish that I had been paying attention so much sooner.

I am blessed to have received one final gift from my grandfather before he left us to be with his wife.  The family had gathered for a lunch recently and the subject of accomplishment arose.  Grandpa chose to look to me as his example of success, a memory which I am sure will propel me forward for years to come.  I struggle daily with self-doubt as I pursue an ever-elusive career in the arts but in his eyes, the pursuit itself was to be lauded.  He spoke of my endeavors with pride, something I would never do for myself.  I am fortunate that now, whenever I inevitably face those moments in which I am ready to quit, I will have a voice to remind me that the pursuit is worthy.  I will forever be compelled to continue creating because I can’t bear the thought of disappointing that happy and hopeful grandfather of mine.

Growing up, I was taught never to say goodbye.  Goodbye implies finality and luckily for us, nothing in this world is truly finite.  This is merely a parting to which we must say, “Until we meet again.”

“Ci vediamo.” “Nni videmu.”

Falling in La La Love

I am at a loss for words.  Where to begin?

I am a mere 15 minutes removed from my first viewing of “La La Land” and my head is still spinning.  What a magnificently beautiful film.  It has been said before that the stage is an actor’s medium and film is reserved for the director.  If we hold to that old adage, then La La Land is reserved for the cinematographer.

I often find myself marveling at nuanced photographs – pictures, if you will.  I note the color, composition, subject, light, shadow, and emotion.  There are so many factors that can influence a photograph.  I have been working in film for a number of years now, but this is the first time in a long time that I was reminded that movies are indeed moving pictures.

This film is not just stunning in a metaphoric, euphoric sense.  This film is blindingly brilliant in both image and essence.

I could easily turn this into a love letter to La La Land‘s cinematographer-extraordinaire, but film is a collaborative effort.  The writer/director, choreographer, musicians, lyricists, set designers, actors, editors, producers (and the list goes on) all joined together in perfect unison to create an everlasting representation of what it is to fall in love.  Complete with imagination, fantasy, heartbreak and harsh reality, La La Land manages to capture the array of emotions we experience as we navigate the winding roads in and out of love.

La La Land deserves each and every accolade currently being drawn into its gravitational pull.  While I truly believe that this film is a cinematographer’s dream, it would be a disservice to the cast and crew of this inimitable masterpiece to pinpoint one aspect over another.

If you have ever been in love, you will revel in each and every moment of this journey.  If your heart has ever been broken, you will appreciate it all the more.  Life is beautiful if only we would take the time to stop and see it for what it is.  If you are struggling to see the light, see La La Land.

 

“Here’s to the ones who dream, 

Foolish as they may may seem.

Here’s to the hearts that ache,

Here’s to the mess we make.”

-The Fools Who Dream (La La Land)

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How Did I Get Here?

I have a terrible memory.

No, really.  It is a struggle to remember yesterday, let alone my youth.  And so when someone asks me “what did you want to be when you were a kid?” I genuinely falter.  I think I wanted to be a million things.  I was a kid and the sky was the limit!  I got an Easy Bake Oven for one birthday, or maybe it was Christmas, or a random Tuesday…I can’t be sure, but I was convinced I would be a baker.

I got a super cool playhouse and a toddler-sized “My Buddy” doll and I was convinced that I would be a mother (with her own super cool house and no husband in sight), I was progressive even then.

I got a toy stethoscope and I was destined to be a doctor.

My swing-set had me convinced that I would be a gymnast.  (I had some pretty dope skills on those rings.  Now I can barely do one pull-up).

The list goes on and I find myself wondering, how did I get here?  At what point did I venture onto the path on which I belong?  Somewhere along the lines, I fell in love with the idea of moviemaking but I often forget how long it took me to reach that realization.  Even now, insecurity can get the better of me and I wonder if I shouldn’t be a teacher or an accountant…or anything that would offer some semblance of stability.  Yet here I am, the founder and director of an international film festival, of a non-profit dedicated to life behind and in front of a camera, an actress, a screenwriter, a novelist, and a producer.

I am what every parent dreads for their child… I am an artist.

There are some people in the world who feel that the word “artist” can be elitist, or perhaps inaccurate when referring to anything other than a tangible rendering- a drawing, a painting, a sculpture.  I disagree.  I feel that you are an artist if you have created something of your own design.  Did you write a fan fic?  You’re an artist.  Did you write a song?  You’re an artist.  Did you make a movie in your backyard?  You’re an artist.

It is altogether terrifying, exciting, easy, and tremendously difficult to be an artist.  Yes, it is all of those things at once.  Why the hell do you think we’re all so damn eccentric?

I majored in theater in college, much to the chagrin of my parents, but that theater major led me to a job at a local theater.  That job at a local theater afforded me the opportunity to produce and present a film festival.  That festival reminded me that I loved making my own movies.  I started writing again.  I started acting again.  I started producing again.

Now here I am, at age 29, largely in control of my own future and while that can be a scary thought, it is something that I am rather proud of.

Please don’t resign yourself to a life that you can’t enjoy.  Life is too long and too short for that.

Seize the day!

 

The Day the World Stopped Spinning

September 12, 2016

This time of year always finds me at a loss for words.  Fifteen years have passed since the towers fell and I still can’t so much as think about the date without beginning to tear up.  Heartfelt posts fill the mess that we call social media on September 11th and each and every one breaks my heart.  I admire those who can find the words to so succinctly express their emotions on days like these.  I don’t always have the strength to share what I am feeling and so I write now, one day late, for that very reason.

I was barely a teenager, at the age of 13 when the world stopped spinning.  I sat in my fourth block English class, with my best friend sobbing next to me.  Rumors had been traveling throughout the school that terrorists had struck the twin towers since that morning.  I was a skeptical, know-it-all, teen who refused to believe something of such brevity could ever happen so close to home.  Terrorists were far from us, not here;  not 45 minutes from my house.  It wasn’t until that fourth block period when I thought, just maybe, the rumors were true as I watched my best friend sob uncontrollably as she worried for her brother’s safety.  As she was ushered to the guidance counselors, it crossed my mind that maybe the rumors I’d heard weren’t just exaggerated truths.

My father picked me up from school that afternoon and not two seconds after I shut the car door, he too was in tears.  It was true.  It was all true.

I watched the world I knew shatter before me on the television screen.  That amazing little box that brought me so much joy watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S and Nick @ Nite was now emitting a new darkness.  I watched as they replayed the footage of the planes striking the towers, over and over and over again.

I looked out the window and I could see the billowing smoke in the distance.  It amazed me that the smoke could travel that far.  The sky was gray.  The America I once knew was disappearing before me.

I remember lighting candles that night and taking them outside to be joined by my neighbors.  We all gathered on the streets with candles in remembrance of those lost and those still fighting to be found.  In that sea of sadness, there was a glimmer of hope.  It was so good to see a united country- a town filled with candles in the darkness, cities across the country and the globe showing their support.  It was a glimmer, but a light nonetheless.

Fifteen years later and my family is safe.  My best friend’s family is safe.  I wish I could say the same for so many who have suffered a loss that I hope never to understand.  It feels like eons ago and like yesterday all at once.  I pray that this country remember that small glimmer of hope we felt once upon a time.  May we stand united again.  May the fighting within our own country come to an end.  May the hatred subside.  May we look to the future with the childlike optimism as I once did so many years ago.

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My Own Personal Essay on Heart Break (Nora Ephron Made Me Do It)

My Own Personal Essay on Heartbreak

(Nora Ephron Made Me Do It)

I set aside an hour and a half this evening to watch “Nora Ephron- Everything is Copy,” a fantastic film about the life and career of the one and only, Nora Ephron.  She has always been a role model of mine, but after viewing this film, even more so.  She constantly wrote herself- her pain, her joy, her anger- into her pieces, with no shame or pretense.  It takes an immense amount of humility to be so vulnerable in the public sphere.  Unlike Nora Ephron, I am anything but famous.  My vulnerability here is on a much smaller scale and yet it feels as though the world is watching.

After viewing this beautiful film, I took this evening to let the words, the pain, the fear, the tears, and the laughter too (for good measure) flow onto the page.  I took a cue from Nora and let everything be copy.

And so today I present to you, my own personal essay on heartbreak.  It is certainly no “Heartburn,” and while my writing may never be as nuanced and poignant as that of Nora, I can give it the old college try.

*****

What they don’t tell you about heartbreak is that it’s not just your heart that falls to pieces.  Every bit of you becomes fractured.  Your mind ceases to function in ways you once took for granted.  Your limbs don’t seem to work the way they should, after all- it shouldn’t possibly be this hard to drag myself out of bed, should it?

As a child, I imagined heartbreak as I saw it in my all-too-admired romantic comedies (many of those crafted by Nora).  I imagined it as a sharp, shooting pain that made you cry until your tear ducts refused to work anymore.  I imagined it as a debilitating weakness that made women double over at the sight of an old photograph and made men shed a solitary and stoic tear.  I imagined this pain to last for an agonizing… three to five minute montage.

Wrong.

So very, very wrong.  If only we could cycle through the tragedies of our life in a three to five minute montage and move forward.  Alas, life is funny in that three minutes can feel like a lifetime if you let it.

I can’t pretend to have the wisdom of a life well-lived.  I’m only twenty-eight and, Lord help me, I have much more learning to do.  What I can say is that I have learned so much from my first few relationships and in particular, my last.  My last relationship finally taught me what it is to have your heart shattered, only to spend months combing the floor for the remaining shards that might help build a good replica.  In other words, I finally understand what Shawn Mendes has been singing about endlessly on every radio station in America.

My story is relatively simple.  I made the mistake of falling for a younger guy.  (I can’t bring myself to use the word “man” because he was just too far from it).  I had been so resistant to dating him; adamant even.  It was my friends who convinced me to give him a chance, reminding me that age is just a number.  (Perhaps it is, but numbers can make a hell of a difference- ask the guy who was one number away from the Power Ball Jackpot).

He was a good guy, well-meaning and caring but far too inexperienced and selfish, which is to be expected with youth.  Hell, I was the same way at his age and I’m not being facetious- we were eerily similar. As we were together, I could see him making the EXACT same mistakes that I had made with my first boyfriend.  I watched and there was nothing I could do.  If I pointed it out, I was nagging- I was mothering.  The only way to learn it, is to live it.

I sat back and watched him slowly destroy our relationship as he let selfish needs and outside perspectives cloud his judgment.   I learned very quickly that his inner circle did not approve of me (and for someone who so desperately wishes to be liked, this was quite painful).  Much more painful was learning that HE did not approve of me.  It was a slow and agonizing revelation.  As time went on, it became more and more apparent that I could not live up to what he had hoped I would be.  I wasn’t athletic enough, outgoing enough, smart enough (a five year old would scoff at my math skills), or pretty enough.

I listened to him when he said that he wanted to marry me.  I believed him when he said that he wanted to marry me.  It wasn’t until he asked for an open relationship that it truly hit me.  Those words knocked the wind out of me and simultaneously made me sick to my stomach.  It was as though someone had punched me in the gut and stabbed me in the back all at once.  Now, I know that I may not be the easiest person to live with – but no one had ever made me feel so worthless before.  It was further proof that I just wasn’t…enough.

I listened to him when he told me that he knew we were meant to be together as soon as he saw me.  Then I listened when he told me that we “just didn’t have a good relationship.”

I listened when he said that he had “so badly wanted to marry me” before reminding me once again that we were just friends.

I listened.  I listened and I allowed him to take away whatever miniscule spec of esteem that I had left.

I knew better.  I saw the signs and I ignored them.  I was the older, more experienced of the two.  I should have known better and I have had a very difficult time forgiving myself for that.

All I wanted was to be appreciated, respected, and most of all- loved.  Don’t we all?  I have spent months, picking up the shattered pieces of my heart, learning to accept that not everyone will like you; not everyone will love you, not everyone will want you and that is OKAY.

That does not define who I am.  All I know is that his willingness to let me go, does not define my worth.  Despite the ease with which he was able to say goodbye, I have faith that one day- someone will appreciate me for the sarcastic, bitter, brilliant, and fantastic neurotic that I am.

Heartbreak, while excruciating and sometimes destructive, is such a wonderful gift of rebirth.  It allows us to see the world in new ways.  We do have one choice – make the most of our new superpower, or let it destroy us.  I choose the former.

And to my ex, I wish him all the happiness in the world.  May he and I both find the kind of love of which our dreams are made.

 

love yourself

The #OscarsSoWhite Fight

Recently, one of my brilliant and fantastically talented friends, Emily Miller, had asked me to write a short piece on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.  I very willingly obliged and Emily then put together an excellent blog post showcasing a range of opinions from five guest writers.  I have copied the piece below for convenience.

Be sure to check out Emily’s page at Emily Miller Writes!  She’s a fantastic writer (and actress)!

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*****

White Do You Mean? #OscarsSoWhite Controversy

We are about a week away from Oscars and instead of talking about who will win and imagining what the stars will be wearing, an uglier more serious issue has come to the forefront. For the second year in a row, the Academy has chosen not to nominate any actor or actress of color. That’s right, all 20 of the actors nominated this year are white. It’s an especially devastating blow because the same issue was brought up last year, and after promises made by many inside the Academy to fix it, it’s become apparent that those promises went largely unheard.

Now this year the #OscarsSoWhite is back with a vengeance. The hashtag, started last year in protest, once again spread like wildfire on twitter, prompting some stars to boycott the ceremony and even forcing the Academy into new rule changes regarding how long a member could stay a member for.

On the other hand, some people have been offended at being called racists, and insist that voting is fair and only those who deserve to be nominated should get a nomination.

So what’s actually going on?

Since this is a difficult issue that should be discussed thoroughly with all sorts of opinions and people, I’ve asked 5 of my coolest friends to weigh in on this and they have graciously offered agreed. Thank you Gina, John, Glynis and Nick for weighing in.

GINA MARIE RODRIGUEZ:

Look, I have a Hispanic last name and an Italian face.  I have never had to deal with prejudices in the same way as my fellow Boricuas.  People don’t look at me and see a “minority.”  I don’t look at me and see a minority.

I can’t imagine what it is like to look in the mirror and be afraid that my looks will… cost me an award, cost me a job, cost me a beating, or cost me my life.  This is the real issue at hand here.  I want to make it clear that the reason that #OscarsSoWhite is an issue is because of the underlying dilemma, the cracks in the foundation that everyone are all too eager to jump over.  RACISM.  Yes, it still exists.  If you’re reading this blog, you probably already know that.  If you don’t- best to keep reading, darling.

The issue is NOT that a couple of whiney actors of color are upset that they don’t get the chance to walk away with a meaningless statue.  The ISSUE is that to this day, after hundreds upon hundreds of years of oppression, they still can’t get a bunch of old white dudes to ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR EXISTENCE.

Don’t tell me that there “just aren’t any worthy actors of color this year.”   What happened at the Academy this year and for many, many years prior is this: A bunch of old white dudes (and a few old white ladies) have the power to judge a wide breadth of films.  We, as a people, gravitate toward what we know.  What do a bunch of old white people know best?  Other white people.  They select what is most comfortable for them, faces to which they can relate, cultures to which they can relate, stories to which they can relate, and styles to which they can relate.  These Academy members may not even be inherently racist, they are simply choosing what they know, but because the collective as a whole is not diverse, the votes are heavily weighted to favor people with less melatonin.

Were I to become famous right now, I would not face these same issues.  I fall into the Cameron Diaz category.  We are Hispanic but we are the right kind, the “white kind.”   It is a damn shame.

The issue of racism does not just face African Americans; it faces anyone and everyone who is not the right shade of perfect.  Latinos, African Americans, Indians, Native Americans; the list goes on and on; all are suffering because our country refuses to accept on a larger scale that racism is still running rampant.

Don’t let anyone tell you that #OscarsSoWhite is some bullshit scam just because Will Smith is mad that he didn’t get nominated.  Actors of color already know that they are talented and so do the millions of fans who watch their work regularly.  This is not about walking away with a trophy.  This is about dignity.  This is about expecting a country, who so proudly touts itself as the “Melting Pot” to recognize that intelligence, personality, and talent are unrelated to skin color.  The Academy, and the rest of the world, must encourage diversity and stop using a color palette as a rating scale.

Gina Marie Rodriguez- is an old soul desperately trying to navigate her way around the 21st Century. A graduate of Rutgers University, Gina holds a B.A in Theater Arts and Communication.  She is therefore unemployed.  (Just kidding, just a little artist humor for you). She bides her time blogging, scriptwriting, filmmaking, acting and modeling.  She’s a true Renaissance woman (but don’t ask her to cook or sew- it will not end well). She has three independent films under her belt and is the Founder and Director of the Rahway International Film Festival.  Follow her on Facebook @Gina Marie Rodriguez, Twitter @NotThatGina, and on her blog Babble, Banter and Blather

JOHN MCHALE:

Another thing is that you can’t ask the nominees to not attend. That’s just dumb. You were recognized by a prestigious group for your accomplishment and not going is a middle finger to them and more importantly, yourself. Mark Ruffalo, nominated for Spotlight, put it best when he said he will be attending as a way to honor the victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Brilliant!

Now, my white privilege might allow me to say this next part, but I do think that if five white people perform better than five black people, the five white people should be nominated and vice versa. That’s how any good contest is decided. If you do better, you win, or in this case, you get nominated. However, where this argument stops is when you look at society in general.

White people have gotten a tremendous head start and have gotten the short end of the stick far less than people of color. So do we treat this Affirmative Action-style? I don’t know. This is a contest. That’s what the Oscars are. But this is also the film industry. It’s a business. And white people generally make it through business a lot easier than people of color.

So what’s the right way to go about this? Not sure.

Either way, you probably have to realize that there’s a bigger issue than just white nominees. Take a look at the people doing the voting. The Academy is made up, generally, of old, white men. In the words of Brock Lovett in Titanic: “There’s your first clue, Sherlock!” It’s not the acting pool that needs diversification; it’s the people giving them a chance to expand their careers.

Now, I’m sure by now we’ve all heard of the report that the Academy is doubling the number of women and minority voters, right? Sounds great, right? The trouble is that number only really goes up by about 300 people in a voting body of about 1700 people. AND!

It won’t happen until 2018, which sort of makes me wonder how hard it is to find women and minorities. My feeling is not very.

Anyway, I also think that we are doing a disservice to other groups when we only say “white people were nominated. Blacks should have been too!” We gloss over the rest of the world. Think of it: we have 197 other countries with countless backgrounds and we’re focused on two. Even more to the point: The Danish Girl is the story of a transgender woman played by Eddie Redmayne. He’s a great actor and I have every confidence that he handled that role beautifully, but how about the fact that there are transgender actors who can’t even get roles about the story of their lives? That seems more unfair.

And if we are going to talk only about the nominees, we’re missing something else: how about the movies that get nominated for Best Picture? The Danish Girl is not there. Creed, which has a black main character, is not there. Beasts of No Nation, another movie with a black main character, is not there. Carol, the story of two gay women, is not there (yes, I know it got two acting nominations). Does that strike you as a little strange?

Now, if these movies just weren’t as good, cool. But the Academy can pick 10 Best Picture nominees. They chose eight. Maybe that’s something worth looking into.

John McHale- works for a major news network. Politics and current events are always playing a massive part in his life, but he still tries to keep up with his college love of theatre and show biz. For more of his two cents, please check out the “Movies that BETTER BE GOOD” section of this blog.

GLYNIS NEELY:

After the Oscar nomination list was released last week, the hashtag invented about last year’s nominations #OscarsSoWhite, resurfaced with a vengeance. And although the opinions have been mixed, one thing I think we all can agree on is that people are finally talking about this issue.  There is a serious problem with this industry and representation.  I cannot even begin to understand how it feels to have experienced this type of discrimination your entire career.  I most admire Viola Davis for speaking out against the industry itself.  “The problem is not with the Oscars, the problem is with the Hollywood movie-making system.” There is a dearth of talent in the minority community that is not being called upon. If these jobs were available, it would be an entirely different story. And while the nominations this year are indeed depressing, they aren’t exactly surprising either.  The Oscars are simply one piece of a systemic problem.

The Academy itself still takes some of the blame, however.  The Academy is majorly white (94%), largely male (77%) and unsurprisingly aged 50 or older (86%).  These statistics are indicative of the makeup of the overall Hollywood industry, so it makes sense that the Oscars would reflect the choices of this demographic.  Until there is change within the industry that puts money behind minority-led projects, there will not be a change in the films that are nominated.“How many Black films are being produced every year?” Davis continues. “How are they being distributed? The films that are being made, are the big-time producers thinking outside of the box in terms of how to cast the role? Can you cast a Black woman in that role? Can you cast a Black man in that role?”

Oftentimes, producers and casting directors have no vision of thinking outside the box when it comes to casting their films.  And only certain roles are bookmarked for Black or Asian or Latin characters; they can’t be seen in leading roles because people don’t want to see films like that – allegedly.  While I’m sure there are bigots for whom that would matter, the majority of the American population just want to see good movies, which has nothing to do with the color of the actor’s skin.

Let’s take the film that has now officially been named the highest-grossing worldwide opening of all time. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has pulled in over $2 billion worldwide and is still climbing higher.  While it did receive some technical Oscar nominations (film editing, original score, sound editing, sound mixing, visual effects) the lead female (Daisy Ridley) and lead males (John Boyega and Oscar Isaac) are notoriously absent.  People are clearly not bothered by these characters in the most popular movie of the year. The question is why do studios think it will be so hard to garner an audience with these actors?

Then we have a film like Creed, of which I have heard nothing but good things for its lead actor Michael B. Jordan. The Academy chooses to acknowledge the white supporting actor, Sylvester Stallone, while the lead of the film is completely ignored.  Some supporting actors have gotten Oscar nominations without their lead in tow, but it is most definitely not common and especially strange considering all the critical praise for Jordan’s performance.   Idris Elba was also touted as Oscar material for his turn as a ruthless commander in Netflix’s acclaimed film Beasts of No Nation.  And yet, both of them are absent from even the nominations.  Even Straight Outta Compton, which has a large African-American cast, was well received by audiences and critics and yet the only people nominated were the two white screenwriters. Even in their own films, they do not get their due praise. These films are being made and they are out there, but until studios decide to fully fund them and market them properly, the numbers will likely stay the same.

And there needs to be opportunities to work in order for the best to rise to the top.  The pay gap needs to be closed and more women and especially women of color need to be put at the helm of projects, as they have been found to often be more open minded with their casting choices.  We need to see more female directors and producers and decision makers at the top.  Without giving their voices a platform to tell their stories, they can only remain silent; the system as a whole needs to change to reflect the time we live in.

Increasingly more celebrities are stepping forward and speaking out about the inequalities within the industry that must change in order for us to move forward. Many of these people advocating on behalf of their peers are women. Geena Davis has been encouraging studio executives to add more female characters to their scripts.  Meryl Streep has founded a screenwriting lab intended for women over 40. Ava DuVernay has been building up her distribution company, which releases films specifically by women and directors of color. And Viola Davis, as I have mentioned, has been crashing through the glass ceiling every chance she gets, from her jaw dropping reveal on How to Get Away with Murder to her demand for equality on the red carpet. There are so many talented women who are not even getting offered those roles because of the sexism, racism, and ageism ingrained in the industry. Davis’s comments ring true yet again: “You could probably line up all the A-list Black actresses out there, [and] they probably don’t make what one A-list White woman makes in one film,” she said. “That’s the problem. You can change the Academy, but if there are no Black films being produced, what is there to vote for?”

And what can we vote for this year?  I am so disappointed in the Academy, I don’t even want to watch and I can completely understand why some actors, namely Jada Pinkett-Smith and Snoop Dogg, have chosen to boycott the Oscars.  I am angered on their behalf.  The Academy needs to be aware of how polarizing their ceremony is and what it says about our society as a whole.  I can only be thankful that Chris Rock is hosting this year.  The Academy has given him more than enough material to rip their show to shreds and I can only hope that he does so in the most hilarious way possible.  If anyone can tear down the industry’s inherent racism, it’s him.

Some new films by and starring people of color to check out:

GIRLHOOD (BANDE DE FILLES), FRESH DRESSED, DOPE, 3 1/2 MINUTES, LILA & EVE, WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?

Glynis Neely– is a TV addict with the dedication of a devout seamstress and the attention span of a small child. She loves dissecting pop culture in her spare time and enjoys staring longingly at pictures of Oscar Isaac, especially when they include cats. She is highly opinionated with the movie knowledge to back it up; her friends often refer to her as a walking IMDB. She is also extremely passionate about feminism and has no problem calling people out for misogynist, racist bullshit.

NICK NAPPO:

So the lovely and talented Emily Miller asked me to make my return to the blogosphere to comment on the recent #OscarsSoWhite controversy.  At this point in this Sunday evening, Carly Rae Jepsen is singing this God-knows-what song in “Grease: Live”, so I thought I’d share my thoughts with you.

Firstly, I do agree with the general chatter – for the second straight year, the Oscars nominations have been…ahem…a sort of mayonnaise/Wonder bread hybrid.  In other words, very Caucasian.  However, I’m not entirely certain that this is a reflection of racial bias among members of the Academy.  I’m going to take an opposing view here and say that maybe it just so happened that the nominees that got the highest number of votes were all Caucasian.

To be honest, it’s a little difficult for me to say that Hollywood is completely “racist” in light of Idris Elba’s win last night at the SAG Awards for his amazing performance in Beasts of No Nation.  After all, as actors voted for the SAG Awards, many of them are also members of the Academy, which votes for the Oscars.

What’s especially apparent to me, however, is that we live in an extremely polarized society nowadays.  I think the nominations announcement came at an unfortunate moment, coming off the #BlackLivesMatter sandstorm of 2015.  The nominations only exacerbated the situation.  But I don’t think we should jump to say that the Academy won’t honor artists from all races and ethnic backgrounds.  After all, in recent years we’ve seen honors bestowed to people such as Steve McQueen, Lupita Nyong’o, Octavia Spencer, and Mo’Nique.

Plus, when have the Oscars honored every deserving artist of the year?  It’s in the nature of the ceremony to exclude people.  And just because they happened to exclude people of a different race at this particular time does not mean they’re against all people of that different race, and it doesn’t mean they won’t include them in coming years.

What we must understand is that merit is not confined to an object such as an award.  As Viola Davis said last night, actors of color, even if they aren’t recognized by a governing body, will continue to do great work now and into the future.  I, for one, am looking forward to seeing future work from them, and all actors.  I don’t see actors in colors – I see them as a collection performances and a community of artists.

Nick Nappo- is a marketing director for a small financial services firm in downstate New York.  When he’s not doing that, however, he enjoys all types of the arts, especially film.  He went to Drew University for Theatre Arts with some of the contributors to this article, which is why he was asked to contribute.  For his horribly outdated blog, visit nicknappo.wordpress.com.

 

EMILY MILLER (ME, HA.):

Anyone who has ever met me knows what an Oscar fanatic I am. Every year I blog about and obsess over every detail. Which is why the #OscarsSoWhite controversy has been especially difficult, because the Academy is truly an organization that I have grown up loving and idolizing.

There comes a point though when one becomes disenchanted with the hero they’ve loved. And while I will always hold a special place in my heart for the Oscars, on nomination day for the first time in my life, my idol failed me.

While it’s true that we shouldn’t nominate actors, directors, or films who don’t deserve it, I find it incredibly hard to believe that in two years, there wasn’t a single actor or film involving an ethnicity other than white, that didn’t deserve a nomination.

For me, it showcases two problems. The first is within The Academy themselves. For a long time The Academy was an enigmatic group of people. No one knew who they were or how many of them actually existed. The Academy has a rule that once you are inducted in, you are a member for life. (Which side story, explains Sister Dolores, who became a member and then joined a convent!)

However a few years ago, the LA Times after extensive research, issued an explosive story on who the Academy actually was. While these statistics are a few years old, they are still fairly accurate.

-94% White
-77% Men
-2% Black
-2% Latino
->.5% Asian, Native combined

The average age, is 63.

It’s hard not to balk at those statistics and admit there isn’t a problem. It’s difficult to take their nominations seriously when old white men keep nominating white actors and stories that focus on men. And for those that say they have nominated ethnicities in the past, let’s take a closer look.

In case you’re interested:

Over the course of its history, 66 Black actors have been nominated for an Oscar and 15 have won; 28 Latino actors have been nominated and 9 have won; 17 Asian actors have been nominated and 4 have won. This is the 88th Oscars, meaning 352 awards to actors have been given overall out of 1760 nominees.

Black actors nominated = 3.75% of total nominations; Black actors awarded = 4% of total awarded

Latino actors = 1.6% of total nominations; 2.5% of total awarded

Asian actors = 1% of total nominations; 1.1% of total awarded

For comparison, Black people are 13.2% of the US population; Latinos are 17%, and Asians are 5.6%.

Kind of puts things into perspective.

For almost all of modern culture, it has been the artists that have been the most liberal. The artists that have been able to stand up and protest with their creativity and art. The artists that have kept the humanity alive in the darkest of times. And so now, in the hour when the #BlackLivesMatter movement is growing stronger and they look to the artists to support them, they get no help back.

It’s frustrating for any person, but as someone that identifies as an artist, I’m especially crushed.

The way I see it, is the Academy 100% dropped the ball.

Now it would be easy to sit here and blame the Academy for all of these problems, but honestly it’s not entirely their fault. Were there films that showcased minorities that just blatantly weren’t nominated, yes. Were they bombarded with so many films featuring people of color that they had no choice but to nominate them, no.

The #OscarsSoWhite does highlight a nasty trend growing within the Academy but it really showcases a much larger issue, representation in Hollywood. Because overwhelmingly the films being made have a white male protagonist. And usually if a female stars in it, it’s a Romantic Comedy.

The film industry needs to do a better job at including everyone. We need more films starring women, in roles that men could play. We need more films telling LGBTQ narratives, actually starring those people. We need films with every race and ethnicity represented. We need less white men directing, producing, and writing films and more of everyone else.

Because we can change The Academy rules all we want but until the film industry offers equal opportunity for all, The Academy will continue to nominate the story of the white man, and continue to nominate white actors.

Yes, #OscarsSoWhite is a reality, but so is #HollywoodSoWhite. While we have created change among The Academy, lets not forget about an even greater change that needs to occur.

I’m Emily– and welcome to my blog. After graduating college with a dual degree in History and Theatre Arts, I put them to good use by working at a 2 classical theatre companies. Watch me in a webseries that’s about everything except the white man, called Sidetrack. Follow me onTwitter and my blog for all my pop culture commentary. I promise to be witty in at least one of those places at all times.

And as always, sound off in the comments section below and thanks for reading.

 

How to Spend Singles Awareness Day

It’s Valentine’s Day and the world is going crazy with reds and pinks, and chocolates and stuffed animals.  As much as I appreciate love and romance, I can also appreciate autonomy.  Sometimes, it’s nice to spend a little quality time with yourself.

I had a little Valentine’s Day photo shoot recently that I thought I might share.  These are just some suggestions as to how to enjoy your “Singles Awareness Day”.  Since I’m posting late, perhaps this will help you for next year. 😉

Step 1: Find a Cuddle Buddy

Gina Marie Rodriguez Shoot 2-6265
Photography by Walter Rodriguez, Makeup by Brigitte Goncalves

There’s nothing wrong with needing a little cuddle time.  So grab your favorite stuffed animal, snuggle up and put on a good movie.  Make sure to pick something that makes you smile.

Step 2: Indulge Your Sweet Tooth (AKA- Candy Coma)

Gina Marie Rodriguez Shoot 2-6364
Photography by Walter Rodriguez, Makeup by Brigitte Goncalves

Buy yourself a bunch of chocolate candies because you deserve it!  No shame in taking a nice little nap after filling up…. I know I can’t be the only one who gets sleepy after eating a pound of candy.

Step 3: Have a Night Cap

Gina Marie Rodriguez Shoot 2-5928
Photography by Walter Rodriguez, Makeup by Brigitte Goncalves

Once you’re out of your coma, make yourself a nice dinner (because real food at some point will come in handy) and pour yourself a drink.  Or you can drink it right out of that bottle, girl.  You do you.

In closing, remember to take the time to pamper yourself, whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not.  You deserve it!

I hope that you have had a lovely and happy Valentine’s/Singles Awareness Day.

What’s Cookin’, Good Lookin’? (Adventures in Cooking)

Spoiler alert: It’s me!  I’m cookin’!  I’m also good lookin’… and apparently talking to myself and answering my own questions.  Isn’t that the definition of insanity?  Or is it genius?  Eh, that’s fodder for another blog on another day.  Pushing the A.D.D. aside and moving along…

We learned in my last blog that I am newly on a gluten free diet and since this new development has confused my poor father beyond all belief, I am left with no choice but to cook for myself.  (Disclaimer: I used to attempt to cook for myself but it typically ended with my father standing over my shoulder telling me that I’m doing everything wrong until he swiped the spatula from my hand and shoved me out of the kitchen.  Needless to say, I gave up trying rather quickly.  Ah, the pitfalls of living at home. Pro: Mo’ money.  Con: Mo’ parents).  I am now forced to learn the old fashioned way: Trial by Fire.  Literally.

Luckily, I have not yet burned the house down so I’m counting that as a win.

I started slowly, with boxed gluten free/dairy free brownies by King Arthur Flour (did I mention that I can’t have dairy either?  Clearly, I killed someone in a past life). Surprisingly, these brownies turned out amazing (thanks to the chefs/engineers who figured out how to make that flour so bangin’) considering the lack of skill needed on my part!  I have been eating them non-stop for the last three days.  Actually, it’s become a bit of an addiction and I may have a problem.  This is going to be a once in a blue moon kind of treat otherwise I will blow up like Violet in Willy Wonka in the Chocolate Factory, minus the awesome violet hue.

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The next day I made my own soup…from scratch!  Thanks to my new favorite app, Yummly, I was able to find a bunch of really great gluten free/dairy free recipes.  It even generates a shopping list for you, making grocery shopping that much easier!  (I’m not even getting paid to advertise for these people- I just think it’s an awesome app.  And if you struggle with the culinary things in life as much as I do, it may come in handy)*

Here’s the recipe for the soup if you want to try it out:  Cream of Broccoli

What I learned from making this soup:

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  1.  The estimated cook time is total bull.  It took me twice as long to get to the final product as predicted.
  2. Chopping broccoli is frustrating and not nearly as fun without Dana Carvey singing to you as you go.
  3. Blenders sound really scary.  Even the counter trembles in fear.
  4. Dancing to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons while you cook is the ONLY way to cook.

I am rather happy with the way it turned out.  It was totally edible!  I would go so far as to say I enjoyed it!  Shocking, I know.

Today, I went all out and made a gluten free/dairy free shrimp scampi.  Again, here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it out: Shrimp Scampi12711194_10106009590259829_6851101468767847583_o

What I learned from making this scampi:

  1.  When you heat oil and then attempt to toss garlic in the pan, it will jump out of the pan and try to kill you.  Oil hates you.  And your mother.
  2. When you don’t reduce the wine enough, you can get drunk from scampi.  (Well, if you have tolerance as low as mine which is, to be fair, pitifully non-existent).
  3. Don’t add too much lemon.  You’ll make really weird faces while you eat which is not ideal for date night (I would assume.  I slurp my s’ghetti alone, thank you very much).

Overall, I am ridiculously proud of myself for adulting so hard this week.  I took my first steps toward culinary greatness.  Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be the next Giada.

I’m just kidding.  My cooking show would be me cursing every five seconds because I knocked over the pepper AGAIN and spilled the olive oil on my scarf (because yes, I am that genius who cooks with a scarf on.  I also get said scarf caught on the kitchen drawer and almost choke myself mid-sautee).

Thinking about it now…this would be a BRILLIANT YouTube show. ::Makes a mental note::

Well, that’s enough of that.  I hope you’ve enjoyed my slightly (scampi induced) drunken ramblings.

gina cooking

 

*However, if Yummly wanted to pay me to advertise for them, I would be totally game for that too….