Monday, 3 March 2014

(Near) Death and the Oscars...

Lots to say so let me get right to it: I came down with a nasty flu virus on Wednesday and have been in bed for almost four straight days now.  I’m almost back to normal, can only sleep 3-4 hours at a time still, but it was literally the sickest I’ve been since Grade 12.  Mom, I apologize in advance for not telling you, but I didn’t want both of us losing sleep, so I played this one close to the chest because I know, having spent two years developing antibodies in that crumbling petri dish of fraternity house in college, I now have the hardened immune system of a Rhinoceros and I’m not losing my life to something microscopic.

I felt a little off Wednesday night and was a few degrees above normal, so what? I woke up Thursday morning, however, with a fever of 102… no bueno.  Spent the day drinking gatorade, eating miso soup, and answering emails from home, before finally feeling like, by 9 or 10PM Thursday night, I had conquered this petty little virus and would be back to normal the next morning.  Total fake out.  I took two Advil, fell asleep at midnight, and woke up at 3am with full-body tremors and a 103.7 fever.  After I got myself to stop shaking, I stripped down, turned my fan on full blast, and chugged a few liters ice water to keep my body temp down until 8am the next morning when all the nearby doctors offices opened and I wouldn’t have to ride 30 mins across the city to the ER.  My head was POUNDING, every time I bent over I thought my eyes were gonna pop out of my skull, but I stomped into some high-tops and threw on an old Matt Ryan jersey to go see an MD across the block.  I figured who better to help break a fever than some “Matty Ice,” am I right?

The answer was definitely no… after last season, I should have known: the only thing Matt Ryan’s worth breaking at this point is his contract.

So the doctor said I had the flu, couldn’t prescribe me anything, and sent me home to continue my helpless regiment of OTC remedies. I get home, sip on some soup, catch up on every single episode of True Detective (a remarkable series by the way!), and finally doze off around 3pm to try my luck at sleep again. Three hours later, BOOM!  I wake up in a sweaty puddle, this time boasting a 104.3 fever! ONE HUNDRED AND FOUR!  Now having not been sick in several years, I’m not sure why/how I packed a thermometer, but I do know that THIS PARTICULAR thermometer has been in my family since I was six-years-old, and I am absolutely certain that I just set the all time high score on the damn thing!

PROOF (like I wasn’t gonna capture that):

Being that over 104 degrees is like “brain damage” level temperature, or so I read, I headed out for a second opinion… thinking that my condition had worsened to something more along the lines of viral meningitis (still not deadly Mom).  Second Aussie doc reassured me that I didn’t have anything more than a very harsh flu virus - as my American flu vaccines don’t cover the strains over here - and that my body temperature was so high because it was trying to “cook” the virus out of my system.  I just stared at him, so soaking with sweat it looked like I’d stepped out of the shower, and waited for him to tell me there still wasn’t anything he could prescribe me that would help.  He did tell me that I was the most “visibly ill” person he’d diagnosed in a long time… that did kinda make me feel less crazy.

So I was fighting this battle on my own it now looked like… just me and my friends Earl Grey, Panadol, Loperamide, AsproClear, Gastrolyte, and of course Ibuprofen.  I luckily had some Xanax leftover from the flight, so could call in the big guns if sleeping became impossible. Even with all my over-the-counter disease mercenaries… it was due to be a long next 48 hours with a fever that, I kid you not, didn't break below 102 for more than an hour until this morning.

Being the optimistic person I am, here are the few positive things I took out of this:
  • The weather is Sydney was shit… cold, rainy, easy to stay indoors
  • Having eaten nothing but soup and fruit, I’d probably lose a few pounds
  • Being so close to the Oscars meant I could illegally download perfect HD copies of almost every good movie in theatres -- there are always tons of quality leaks around big awards ceremonies

I remembered back in high school when I was quarantined at home with Mono and decided that, in order to cope with being violently ill and antisocial I needed to come up with a hobby. Back then, I purchased a World of Warcraft account, played it into the ground for two weeks, then deactivated it and returned to normal social activity.  But now, I’m a grown-ass man and really only had two days to come up with something… which needed to require little to no mental effort.  So I decided my hobby-in-sickness would be… (drumroll please)

Me Actually Giving a Shit About the Oscars

No joke. I took the seven leading Oscar contenders and watched them all start to finish this weekend.  Below are my admittedly biased, yet completely honest takes on each of these movies, which I have divided into two fair categories, as well as my predictions for the seven Oscars these films will take home.  No spoilers, I promise:


Dallas Buyer’s Club
Superlative: Most likely to make you go “yikes”
Will win: Best Actor (McConaughey), Best Supporting Actor (Leto)
Being from Kilgore, Texas, Matthew McConaughey essentially plays himself, only a bit older, grittier, drug-addicted… oh and of course, with full-blown AIDS.  He lost 46 freaking pounds for the role and that, coupled with an all-too-believable Texan swagger will likely win him Best Actor.  Dallas Buyer’s Club is a two-hour bloodstorm against the FDA and Big Pharma, but it’s extremely touching, nonetheless, especially coming from someone that missed the chaos of the mid-80s AIDS epidemic and can only chalk it up to the loss of Freddie Mercury, Arthur Ashe, and celebrities of the like.  I didn’t even realize that Rayon, McConaughey’s bald cross-dressing sidekick, was actually Jared Leto until the scene, 2/3rds into the movie, where he actually puts on a man’s suit.  Five years it’s been since Leto has acted and this is the role he came back to? I heard he stayed in character for the duration of the shooting too. Bravo sir. Bravo.  If you haven’t seen this movie, do it.  Not right now, and not only if they both Oscars for it, but because I can’t think of another movie out there that gives AIDS any justice and this one reminds you just how short-sighted our country can be at times, whether its towards a sexual orientation or the treatment of a deadly disease. Or maybe I just sympathized especially hard because of my present illness and own personal feelings of neglect around such.

Wolf of Wall Street
Superlative: Most “bro” movie of the year
Will win: Nothing… It’s just too bad it’s not considered a Documentary
It’s hard not to come into this movie with a thousand expectations: A record-setting amount of “F Bombs,” non-stop drug use, busty prossies in every other scene, an incestuous Jonah Hill with huge caricature-esque chiclet teeth.  Despite my preexistent knowledge that Jordan Belfort is, in fact, a complete shoestringing scumbag… I couldn’t help but feel like I was rooting for him.  Maybe because it’s Leo, maybe because, despite the clear and present robbery, it still somehow seemed like the American Dream?  Either way, the role he took on was one-of-a-kind and the way Scorcese drew it all together with a host of narrations, camera-friendly asides, and painfully lengthy dialogues of Tarantino-worthy banter… remains unchallenged.  I went into it expecting a comedic documentary, but what I found was more of a dramatic comedy.  Seeing it on opening night here in Sydney, the entire stadium was in stitches constantly!  Only a few weeks ago, and I still watched it again yesterday for critiquing purposes. I actually want to suggest it be considered for Best Picture but then I have to remind myself that I am, in fact, a 25-year-old White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP, as the film refers to) who still plans to get rich quickly and take my fair share of the world, so my vantage point is clearly biased.  That being said, I still put 10 bucks down on Leo winning this Oscar (pays 5:1)... though I see now that was almost certainly a mistake.

Lone Survivor
Superlative: Most predictable -- based solely on its name
Will win: Also nothing, I only wish Best Soundtrack was a category because Explosions in the Sky did this one and absolutely killed it!
SPOILER ALERT! Only one dude survives.  But seriously, if you didn’t already realize that, you should be renting Frozen from the RedBox down the street right now, because you’re clearly not mature enough for the earth-shattering gunfights that take place in this power patrio-flick.  Sadly, I had already seen the riveting 60 Minutes interview with the hero/survivor Marcus Luttrell which, although it diluted the shock value of the plotline, did validate to me that this is a very factual account of the conflict that took place on the Afghani mountainside. The odds are reminiscent of the movie 300, where even the exceptional skillsets of this Navy Seal quartet couldn’t outweigh the sheer strength of a hundred Taliban rebels armed to the teeth and bearing down from high ground and at all sides.  It’s a constant reminder of why, despite some of our country’s shortcomings, we can never forget to honor and support the brave men and women that fight to defend the U.S.A. and the civil values it stands for.  It makes me want to adopt a bald eagle and wear an American Flag as a cape to work this week.  Plus… Mark Wahlberg.

12 Years a Slave
Superlative: Hardest to watch, in a good way
Will win: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Nyong’o)
Performance-wise? Wow! When I can say that Brad Pitt’s acting is actually the least-impressive in a feature film, that goes a long way. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Children of Men, American Gangster) plays the protagonist and, from the opening scene, there is not a single bead of emotion that is lost between frames!  His performance could easily earn him Best Actor, if not for perhaps a slight lack of dialogue and a sheer disadvantage to being up against Matthew and Leo’s tenure. Lupita Nyong’o, in her feature film debut, however, WILL take home Best Supporting Actress, as her portrayal of the tragically gifted slave woman with nearly every odd stacked against her is unwavering!  Every time she cried out, it pierced a very soft spot in my chest.  I am a child of the Deep South, and I truly FEEL for this story, for the centuries of grave mistreatment we bestowed upon a equal race we considered so inferior, but I dare say that it would bring quite the same rise out of anyone who sits in for two hours and pays mind to the sheer brutality of it all.  I made my Aussie roommate watch it and had to answer questions about why blacks could be free in New York but slaves in Georgia.  Despite my birthplace having no tie to this time period, providing an answer still stung a bit… as it should.  I don’t know who this director, the “new” Steve McQueen is, but he is the King of Cool in my book. Well done.


Superlative: Most unexpectedly satisfying
Will win: Best Original Screenplay

Spike Jonze, to have written and directed this one... hat's off! I came in knowing that this movie was about a lonely middle-aged man who falls in love with an OS (if you’re still reading this Mom, that’s kind of what Siri is on your iPhone), but I didn’t expect to be so touched by a movie with such a whimsical plotline.  Jonze is truly a visionary into how the Digital Era is breeding a more desperate and disconnected society than ever before. (Tinder, anyone?) Joaquin Phoenix who, like Jared Leto, also recently took five years off of acting to pursue a "musical career", and has retuned to play a an extremely lovable, albeit pathetic, middle-aged man named Theodore. Scarlett Johanessen plays the voice of the A.I. (on Phoenix's phone essentially) and wishes throughout the film that she only had a body in order to act out her emotions towards him in full physical form.  I wish the film had, too, given her a body so that she could be at least nominated for Best Actress because the sexy, witty voiceover she provided was otherworldly!  I would have fallen in love with that little gadget too I think.  I think Her actually invented its own genre: a Science Fiction Romantic Comedy.  So to all my non-single friends out there, suggest a SciFi RomCom to your significant other when this one hits OnDemand and you won’t be unimpressed.

Superlative: Most unrealistic, not in a good way
Will win: Best Director, Best Graphics/Visual Effects or whatever the hell they call it
Let me start by saying I was STOKED TO THE MAX to see this movie. As a youngster, I always wanted to be an astronaut but, unlike most other kids, I actually maintained this belief until high school (when I found out I didn’t have 20/20 vision and liked chasing girls).  My Grandpa, a Navy Vet from Huntsville, AL, actually sent my cousin Tyler and I to Space Camp/Academy THREE TIMES!  Based on the amount of knowledge we acquired there (in middle school have you), I can tell you that Gravity is a completely unrealistic and inaccurate depiction of how both outer space and general space missions work!  So simply put, if critiquing this movie were a Jury Duty summons, I’d be relieved of it immediately. However, despite hating both the main (and only two) characters, it IS visually breathtaking and I commend the production of a movie that took place almost entirely on an artificial zero-gravity set. Being one of those movies with absolutely no backstory or plot build whatsoever, that just takes place over the course of its length essentially, I'll admit I did find it entertaining and it had plenty of shock value! But I take solace in the fact that the great Carl Sagan is similarly rolling his eyes in a grave somewhere. Don't ever watch this movie with me or you will hate me by the time it's over.

American Hustle
Superlative: Hardest to recall, just for me though
Will win: Sadly, I predict it will win zero Oscars
Okay, so I didnt’ really watch American Hustle.  To be fair, I did “watch” it, but it was when it was still in theatres in the States and, since we’d crushed two bottles of wine before we got there and snuck in two more… I can honestly say I don’t remember anything relevant after the first fifteen minutes of it, aside from me not having to drive home.  What did stick out to me was that Amy Adams stole the show, Christian Bale REALLY let his physical self go, and the haircuts… boy THESE HAIRCUTS were brilliant!  Bradley Cooper with a Jheri Curl and Bale with a combover to rule them all!  I’m sure it was a good flick, but I wasn’t even tempted to re-watch it a second time during my stint as a part-time movie critic which means, meh… its a flop. In fact, I kinda wish we’d all stayed home and watched The Departed that night.  There’s your most one-sided and clearly unprofessional critique of the lot.  Deal with it.

And that’s it.  Due to my lack of even follow-through at this point, I doubt there's a career in it for me. But like I said, I feel a fair bit better tonight, and that's all that matter. I'm still waiting for my body clock to reset… but I bought a scale this morning and I lost 9 pounds over the course of the gut-wrenching evening! I only wish I had the self-control to continue sleeping in 3-hour intervals and avoiding solid foods.

For those of you who finished this post, I have a surprise for you that I'll share later this week on Facebook. Stay tuned, wash your hands, and take plenty of vitamins kids!

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