Going off Topic (#1) Thank You, Oscars Thoughts & Looking Forward

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Welcome to the start of a series of posts where I diverge even further off topic than I normally do! On my old blog Flick Chicks I got into the habit of putting together a monthly round-up post of general goings on, but it was also a great chance to share some link love for the bloggers I spoke to regularly, and that’s kind of how this series came to be.

Firstly though, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who follows Often Off Topic, to everyone who leaves me a comment, and to everyone who reads my posts. This blog has just passed it’s 1 month birthday, and it’s been a wild ride! Some of you might have followed me here from Flick Chicks, a blog a ran with a close friend of mine for nearly 3 years! Whilst I’m forever optimistic that Flick Chicks will make it’s return, my efforts are here for now.

It’s been a nerve-wracking experience, starting over again. I was prepared for a beginning just like before, spending a good couple of months before anyone really noticed I was here, but so many of you have stuck with me, which has been incredible. It’s hard sometimes, checking in on my stats and seeing my latest post has 20 views rather than the 200 it would have pulled on my old blog, but it takes time to build that up again, and I’m 100% ready for that. I’m just overwhelmed to be honest that this little corner of the internet is as active as it is! So thank you, from the bottom of my heart 🙂

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Moving swiftly on…to the Oscars! Whilst I only really got into Awards Season in 2013, I’ve tried every year to make an effort to watch at least all of the Best Picture nominated movies. So far, I haven’t done it, there’s always been 1 movie that I just couldn’t bring myself to sit through. 2017 is my year though! Here’s how I’m doing:

Arrival: Reviewed on Flick Chicks here
Fences: Reviewed here
Hacksaw Ridge: Hoping to see this week!
Hell or High Water: Reviewed here
Hidden Figures: Watched on the weekend, review coming soon
La La Land: Reviewed here
Lion: Hoping to watch soon
Manchester by the Sea:Watched on the weekend, review coming soon
Moonlight: Reviewed here

That’s right, I have just 2 left to see! Who knows, I might even be able to tick off the Best Actress and Actor movies too.

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So, what else is going on? I’ve finished another book, The Fireman by Joe Hill. It was a looooong read, but worth it in the end. I think it just had some pacing issues. I should have a proper review of it posted sometime this week. I’ve now started Bloodline by Claudia Gray. It’s a Star Wars novel set in the years before The Force Awakens. I wasn’t expecting it to be so political (I should have known better) but it’s picking up a bit now.

In my personal life, my husband and I are going through the process of buying a home together! We’ve been renting our current home for 3 years now and are finally in a position to buy. It’s exciting of course, but stressful. I’m hoping the move won’t impact the blog too much, but we’ll be without internet for a few weeks, so I may have to type up my posts at home and use my work’s WiFi to get them posted!

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Finally, I wanted to share some of my favourite posts by other bloggers. Give them a read, and if you aren’t following them already, you should be!

I can always rely on Brittani at Rambling Film to cover the Awards Ceremonies I don’t get to watch. Here’s her post on the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Winners.

For weekly Ed Harris appreciation, look no further than Sati’s Rambling Friday series. I hope she reviews The Handmaiden soon, I can’t wait to watch it for myself.

Natasha at Life of This City Girl posts 10 things she loves about 10 Things I Hate About You, a 90’s classic I haven’t seen in YEARS.

As if any of us need an excuse to talk about Disney songs, Drew at Drew’s Movie Reviews together with Bex at Film Music Central have put together their own Disney Mix Tapes. Drew has been kind enough to let me tag along, so look out for my mix tape this week!

M.Brown at Two Dollar Cinema appreciates a good car honking by Ryan Gosling just as much as I do in his review of La La Land.

The amazingly talented Ruth at FlixChatter has held her first script writing session!

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Review: Fences (2017)

When the Oscar nominations were released, I’d seen 4/9 of the Best Picture nominees. That sounds pretty bad, but it’s certainly a much better position than I’ve found myself in previous years. In fact, I’m feeling pretty confident that I’ll have seen the full 9 by the time the big night rolls by. The difference this year is that I genuinely want to see all of them, none feel like they’re going to be a chore.

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If there was one movie I was slightly unsure of, perhaps ‘on the fence’ about (geddit?) it was Fences. Not because I didn’t think it looked very good, it just seemed like it was going to be more of an experience than an enjoyable watch, the kind of movie you had to really be in the right mood to see. That was definitely the case, but what a fantastic experience it was!

Set in the 1950’s Troy (Denzel Washington) is a family man living with his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and youngest son Cory (Jovan Adepo) in Pittsburgh, USA. Troy is bitter about a lot of things in his life, not being able to get credit, being overlooked for promotions at his job as a sanitation worker, and his long lost dreams of being a professional baseball player. His gripes are valid, but they have tainted Troy’s once cheerful outlook on life.

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We get glimpses of a happier Troy through conversations with his friend and work colleague Bono (Stephen Henderson), often over a bottle of gin drank in Troy’s back garden, where he’s promised to build a fence with the help of Corey. These moments are far too brief however, as something to make Troy snap is never far away, be it his older son Lyons (Russell Hornsby) asking to borrow $10, or Corey mentioning the upcoming visit of a college football recruiter.

Just…don’t mention the football recruiter. Seriously. I hope that in my lifetime I never made Denzel Washington mad at me. Dude is scary as hell. No, scrap that actually. I hope I never disappoint and upset Viola Davis. Denzel might have made me shrink in my seat, but Viola broke my heart. These are two of the greatest performances I think I’ve ever seen.

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This isn’t a movie for everyone. It’s dialogue heavy, and clocks in at over two hours, although I’d argue it doesn’t feel that long. Most of the movie is set in the back garden, which is understandable as it’s based on a play, but it’s not the kind of movie you would sit down and watch on a Saturday night with a takeaway and a few beers. I’m certainly glad I watched it though, and I’ll be gutted if Viola Davis doesn’t win that Oscar!

On my silly ratings scale, I’d give Fences 4/5 fence panels.

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Thursday Movie Picks: Television Edition – Science Fiction

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To quote the great Father Christmas (in January, sorry) I’m making a list, I’m checking it twice. My first venture into Wandering Through the Shelves‘ Thursday Movie Picks was kind of a disaster, seeings as I went off an out of date list and wrote about the wrong subject. Whoops. Fingers crossed I’ve got it right this week! Anyway, 2017 is an exciting year for Thursday Movie Picks because Wanderer has thrown in some Television Editions! This is the first of the year, Science Fiction.

Here are my favourites:

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Westworld (2016 – )

I hardly need an excuse to gush about Westworld, because in my opinion it was the best show on TV last year, and I won’t stop talking about it until everyone has made the effort to give it a go. Westworld is a Western-themed adventure park, in which ‘guests’ can pay thousands of dollars to visit and interact with the ‘hosts’, of whom are all robots. The guests are free to do as they wish in the park, they can murder, they can rape, and the hosts all have settings to stop them being being able to harm guests.

That alone is enough to make an amazing TV Show, but of course with any Artificial Intelligence theme, these hosts are becoming more and more self aware, and as time goes on, shenanigans ensue! There are so many twists and turns along the way, and that’s what makes Westworld such a great watch.

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Wayward Pines (2015 – )

I’ll admit, Season 2 of Wayward Pines wasn’t as good, and in fact it feels like a different show, but I absolutely loved Season 1! Basically, a Secret Service agent travels to a town called Wayward Pines to search for 2 of his colleagues who went missing. An accident happens along the way and he wakes up in the town, where everything is a little…off. There’s no phone signal, the residents are unwelcoming, and he can’t escape. Literally. Each episode answers a few questions, but just brings up even more, and it’s the kind of show that gets you making theories constantly!

I can’t explain how the Sci-Fi theme fits in without giving away some key plot points, but I promise you that it fits this theme perfectly. It’s based on a book trilogy of the same name by Blake Crouch, and I’d love to give them a read someday.

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3rd Rock from the Sun (1996 – 2001)

I can’t believe I’m saying (typing?) this, but I’m currently watching 3rd Rock from the Sun for the first time in my life. Why didn’t I watch this sooner? It’s got that perfectly crafted 90’s, literal humour that I just love. I’m 2 Seasons in so far, and the comedy in this show still holds up amazingly well. If you live under a rock like I clearly have been, this show revolves around a group of aliens who have traveled to Earth to learn about the planet’s inhabitants. In order to fit in, they have disguised themselves as a human family.

If you hate canned laughter, over dramatic sitcoms you’ll hate this, but I absolutely love them. Also, it’s one of the first big roles for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and it’s so funny to see him as a kid!

Now I’ll spend the rest of the day nervously refreshing my blog feed to see if I’ve got the subject right this week…

Oscars Special: Moonlight (2017), Loving (2017) & Hell or High Water (2016)

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How are we all feeling today, after yesterday’s Oscar Nominations? I was lucky enough to have them fall into my lunch break at work, so I had my tablet set up in the kitchen with my headphones. Sadly I’m in the only movie nut in the office so I got a few odd looks as I made faces as the nominations were coming in. I’m gutted for Amy Adams, but I’m not on the war path like I was when The Lego Movie got snubbed. Still don’t like the sound of ‘Oscar Nominated Suicide Squad’ though.

Perhaps it was a mercy that Silence only picked up 1 nomination, because as much as I know I should see it, I just can’t bring myself to do it. Still, we’re living in a world where Passengers has more Oscar nominations than Silence. Just let that sink in for a while, and tell me this isn’t the beginning of another 2016.

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Anyway, now the lists are out I can put my regular watch list on hold and try as hard as I can to see as many of the movies as possible! Annoyingly, 7 out of the 9 Best Picture nominees are 2017 releases in the UK, so I’m going to be pushing my luck. I’ve only been able to see Loving and Moonlight thanks to advance screenings my local cinema put on. My point is, I’m not going to have time to write full reviews for them all, so this is the first of perhaps a few mini review posts to cover what I’ve seen.

There’s a theme within a theme here, as all 3 of these movies made me sad as hell afterwards! Thank goodness for La La Land which lifted my spirits. Let’s do this, shall we?

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Moonlight (2017)

I was apprehensive about watching Moonlight, I’ll admit. I watched the trailer and read a brief synopsis, but couldn’t see much of a plot. That’s not really what Moonlight is all about though, it’s a 3 part movie that tells the story of Chiron, AKA Little, AKA Black (played by Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) and his struggle in life growing up with his troubled Mother in a crime riddled neighborhood in Miami. Chiron is a quiet, shy boy and doesn’t fit in at school, often being bullied for being a wimp.

Moonlight is the kind of movie that breaks your heart into a million pieces. I didn’t cry, but that’s because by the third segment I felt pretty numb. I don’t know how I expected it to end, because I don’t think I wanted it to. It’s a beautiful movie in every sense.

Moonlight has been nominated for 8 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali), Best Supporting Actress (Naomie Harris), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing & Best Original Score.

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Loving (2017)

Despite it not being my usual kind of movie, I was looking forward to seeing Loving, mainly because I was completely unaware about the story of Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), an interracial couple who are arrested for their marriage in Virginia, and the legal battle that ensued. I guess the saying ignorance is bliss holds a lot of merit, because it took me so long to even wrap my head around the fact that interracial marriage was illegal.

The movie was just a little too slow for me to really get immersed, and I could never get used to seeing Nick Kroll in such a serious role as a lawyer, because I’m too used to picturing him as The Douche in Parks and Recreation!

Loving has been nominated for  1 Oscar: Best Leading Actress (Ruth Negga).

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Hell or High Water (2016)

It feels like I entered 2016 having never watched a Western, and ended it having watched more Westerns that Rom Coms (I watch a lot of Rom Coms) without even realising, or trying! Hell or High Water is the best of the bunch, though. Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are brothers robbing banks across Texas to try and pay off the mortgage on their late Mother’s ranch. Rather than hit 1 bank for the entire sum, they rob multiple banks for smaller amounts so as not to be caught. However, Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) soon picks up the chase.

This is another fairly slow movie, but the tension gets ramped up as it goes along, ending in an adrenaline-fueled final act. I wasn’t even sure who I was rooting for in the end, but it was all quite emotional. I really wish Ben Foster was given more attention for his role, I thought he was fantastic.

Hell or High Water has been nominated for 4 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Jeff Bridges), Best Original Screenplay & Best Film Editing.

Review: La La Land (2017)

la-la-land-review-2017-posterWhen the trailer first came out for La La Land, I felt torn. Yes, the movie was reuniting Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, the most amazing on-screen couple EVER. But it was a musical. I don’t like musicals. That’s what I told people, I don’t ‘do’ musicals. Well, apart from every Disney movie ever made, The Muppets movie, my undying guilty love for High School Musical, and the musical Broadway show I saw on honeymoon. Hm. Turns out I’m a musical fan after all.

Once I’d come to terms with this, I was hyping so much it literally hurt. With every review that cropped up in my feed, I felt a twinge of jealousy that one more person had seen it, whilst I was still waiting. Yet when my time came, I was terrified. When you’ve been looking forward to something for so long, and literally everyone has said how amazing it is (apart from someone on my Facebook feed who shall remain anonymous) you just get this feeling, what if I don’t enjoy it?

I shouldn’t have worried. I know that now. Mercifully, my worry vanished in the opening scene, when a highway full of stand still traffic burst into song about how how much of a beautiful and sunny day it is. People were dancing on top of their cars, a band was playing from the inside of a lorry, and everything was just so colourful. I was grinning from ear to ear, and then Ryan Gosling blared that car horn and I fell in love. To me, Ryan Gosling blaring a car horn is the equivalent to that boombox scene in Say Anything!

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Love is the theme here in La La Land. Love for your hometown, for your family and friends, for your dreams. Mia (Emma Stone) is an actress working at a coffee shop at the Warner Bros Studio, attending audition after audition to try and catch her big break. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a struggling musician playing piano at a jazz bar ran by a guy named Bill (J.K. Simmons) who has no appreciation for the music genre. Knowing that La La Land is directed by Damien Chazelle who also directed Whiplash, I wanted so badly for Bill to tell Seb that the music ‘wasn’t his tempo’, but complaining about it general kept me happy enough!

Watching Mia and Seb go from hating each other to loving each other was just so much fun to watch. The scene at the pool party was a favourite of mine, my husband and I were laughing so much I that I think we got a few funny looks for finding it a little too funny. Their musical number whilst walking to find Mia’s car was utter perfection, with the sarcastic comebacks going back and forth. It’s one of those songs you find yourself tapping your feet to without even noticing.

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Ugh, I could honestly gush about this movie for hours if I was given the chance. Just give it all the awards, please. The cinematography was stunning, the costumes were a delight (I would kill for Mia’s wardrobe, and my husband wants some of those shoes Seb wore!) and the ending was so bittersweet. I wasn’t even sure why I was crying in the end, I didn’t know whether I was happy or sad.

It was nights like that night that I was so grateful for Spotify, because I stuck the soundtrack on as soon as we got into the car. It was just a shame home was only 10 minutes away! A full 5/5 chicken on sticks from me.

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