A Somewhat Lame Attempt at Poetry — Part the Third

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I can’t help but feel that this might be a fail.
If it bugs you too much, please throw me in jail.
I don’t have much time for a longer blog post,
So enjoy this for now, and humor your host.

As I sit on my bed on this fine winter’s night,
I think about bedbugs — I’m told they can bite.
As far as I know, they aren’t in my bed,
Perhaps they have gone on vacation instead.

My cat just walked by and did not visit me.
I feel rather hurt. It’s a sad thing to be.
And now he walked back the same way he came —
Should he come to me later, I’ll still be game.

Pajamas are soft. Pajamas are nice.
They help keep you warm while all turns to ice.
Polka dots, stripes, paisley or plaid —
If we didn’t have PJs, we’d all go mad!

My poetry skills could be compared to a void,
But in spite of this fact, I hope you’ve enjoyed.
Next week, I hope, my post will not fail.
But look at the time — I’ve got to bail!

“The LEGO Movie” and the Oscar Nomination That Should Have Been

On February 7th, 2014, a film was released that absolutely enthralled me.

That movie was The LEGO Movie.

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When I first saw this movie, I never wanted it to end. LEGO was a huge part of my childhood, and it made me feel like a kid again watching those little plastic figures come to life in a movie. But it wasn’t just about the nostalgia factor — the movie itself was incredibly well-made. Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (the minds behind Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, another movie I really enjoyed), the film was absolutely bursting with creativity, humor, and attention to detail — and on top of that, it told a wonderful story about an everyman-turned-hero, the importance of imagination and creativity, and the inherent value of each and every individual. It even had some subtle (and not-so-subtle) social and political commentary!

Now, most of you probably know that the 2014 Oscar nominations came out this past Friday, which I was pretty excited about. I just knew that The LEGO Movie would be one of the nominations for Best Animated Feature. It was so good. I was even hoping that it would win in that category, even when it was up against Big Hero 6 and How To Train Your Dragon 2. Both of these were great movies and I knew it was pretty much a given that they would be nominated, but to me, The LEGO Movie was the best animated movie of the year (at least that I saw).

So, you can imagine how shocked and upset I was when I found out that The LEGO Movie had NOT been nominated for Best Animated Feature.

Oh, sure, the song “Everything is Awesome!!!” was nominated for Best Song, so the movie at least got one nod. But . . . NO NOMINATION FOR BEST ANIMATED FEATURE?!

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I couldn’t believe it. The LEGO Movie was creative. It was well-written. It was well-acted. The mock stop-motion animation was great. The attention to detail was jaw-dropping. AND NO OSCAR NOMINATION?!

Now, I know that the Oscars are not the be-all end-all of film, and they can sometimes be pretty bogus. But for the Academy to not recognize the ingenuity of this film is almost criminal. To be fair, I have only seen two of the nominees for Best Animated Feature (Big Hero 6 and HTTYD2), so I can’t say anything about how the other nominees match up to The LEGO Movie. But . . . just . . .

REALLY?!

*sigh* Anyway . . . I can live with this, I really can. It’s just an award, and The LEGO Movie is garnering other awards (it did win Best Animated Film at the Critics’ Choice Awards, for one thing!). But this movie is going to be watched and loved for years to come. It’s just that good. I know it’s not for everyone — it’s very high-energy and fast-paced, its sense of humor may not connect with everyone, and then there’s the fact that it’s about LEGO. Some people just can’t get past that, and I’m sure that some of the Academy members are among them.

But come on, just LOOK at the attention to detail in this movie!

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Look at the texture! Look at the teeth marks on the helmet! And notice how the helmet is cracked in the middle? My understanding is that that’s something that often happened with the 1980s space figures in real life!

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I could watch this movie over and over again and STILL not catch everything that’s going on! So much is packed into each scene that you’re always finding new things every time you watch it.

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And do I even need to mention that EVERYTHING IS MADE OUT OF LEGO?!?! Seriously! Even the explosions and the water! The animators built every scene within the computer out of virtual LEGO! No shortcuts, no illusion. THEY BUILT THE MOVIE. Check out this featurette to see!

So. Anyway. I’d better stop before I rant for too long.

My point is this: The LEGO Movie is incredibly well-made — visually, aurally, technically, and narratively. And I have just one thing to say to everyone in the Academy who did not vote to nominate it for Best Animated Feature: you have terrible taste in movies. Shame on you for not recognizing that this movie was easily one of the best animated films of the year.

What do you think? Should The LEGO Movie have received said nomination, or do you agree with the nominations as they stand? Besides nominations and such, what did you think of the movie?

Oh, and one more thing.

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See you all next week!

Opinions, Man

Ah, the Internet. That wonderful, magical land where opinions are facts and facts are opinions.

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Well, actually, that mix-up happens outside the Internet as well. But why? Why can’t we just accept the fact that opinion is opinion and fact is fact?

We see and hear it all the time. Here’s an example:

Joe: “Ocarina of Time is the best Zelda game ever!”
Bob: “No it’s not! It’s so overrated. Twilight Princess is the best one. So there.”
Joe: “You think that cheap rehash of Ocarina is BETTER? Ha! Ocarina had a better story, and it was harder, which automatically makes it the better game.”
Bob: “Yeah, right! Twilight Princess was dark, it had better graphics, and the music was way more awesome. That makes it the better game.”
Joe: “Shut up! You know nothing about games! NOTHING!”
Bob: “YOU’RE AN IDIOT!”
Joe: “SO’S YOUR MOM!!!”
*Joe and Bob proceed to fly at each other and begin a fight to the death with lightsabers*


A bit exaggerated, perhaps, but I’m sure you can think of many similar, um, conversations that you witnessed (or were even a part of) either online or in real life.

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Why do we get so defensive over things that don’t matter in the long run? Sure, it’s fine that we all have our opinions on things, but isn’t it unhealthy to state them as fact and get angry when people disagree with us? I would say yes. How, then, should things be handled?

Here’s an idea. How about we all learn the difference between opinion and fact and respect each others’ opinions whenever we happen to be discussing them? I dream of a world in which all opinion-related conversations go something like this:

Joe: “Ocarina of Time is my all-time favorite Zelda game!”
Bob: “Really? I liked Twilight Princess better, but that’s cool. What do you like about it?”
Joe: “I love the story, and the difficulty really kept me coming back. What do you like about Twilight Princess?”
Bob: “Everything! The darker story, the graphics, the music . . . it just really clicked with me, you know?”
Joe: “I get ya. That’s cool! I liked it okay, just not as much as other Zelda games.”
Bob: “To each their own!”


Wasn’t that a lot more pleasant? Unfortunately, we’ll ever reach a state in which people respect each others’ opinions like this all the time. I do think it’s a worthy goal to reach, though, so I say we reach for it!

TL;DR: Have your opinions, but respect others’ opinions as well, and have fun discussing them in a healthy manner. Please and thank you.

See you all next week!

Matthew Recommends: “Gravity Falls”

Every now and then, a TV show comes along that really surprises you.

Recently, I had one of those experiences with a cartoon called Gravity Falls.

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I had previously overlooked this cartoon for one main reason: it’s on the Disney Channel. Now, obviously, this was pretty unfounded on my part. After all, my favorite show is Phineas and Ferb, which is also a cartoon on the Disney Channel. But I came to discover and love that show because some of my best friends had recommended it to me. I had never heard any of my friends talk about Gravity Falls.

I do remember a couple of my sisters showing me an episode a couple of years ago, though, when the show was new. Apparently, they had caught a bit of the show while we were on vacation — the only time when cable TV is available to us. So I sat down and watched what I would eventually discover was the second episode of the series. Honestly, I don’t remember being all that impressed with it. So I shrugged the show off and forgot about it for the longest time.

But, a few months ago, I came across some recommendations of the show by a few different YouTubers I watch. Some of them included Gravity Falls in lists of cartoons they liked, while others did whole videos describing why it was such a great show and more people should check it out. My curiosity grew, and I searched and searched until I finally found a website where I could watch full, uncut, unaltered episodes. I put the first episode on and, to my delight, found that I really liked it.

Later, I watched the next two. I recognized the second episode as being the one I had seen before, and now appreciated it more now that I had seen the first episode. I also enjoyed the third episode pretty well.

This is good, I thought to myself.

A few weeks went by before I remembered to watch some more of the show. And by the end of the fourth episode, I was completely hooked, largely due to a clever twist that had me hungry for more answers.

As of today, I’ve finished watching the first season (20 episodes) and have started the second, along with my siblings, some of whom have watched all of them with me while others have seen only some. But enough about my experiences with the show. What about the show itself, and why am I recommending it?

ALEX HIRSCH (CREATOR, "GRAVITY FALLS")

Well, first of all, it’s a really high-quality cartoon. It was created by Alex Hirsch (seen above), an alumnus of the California Institute of the Arts, who is young but clearly full of talent. The animation is great, the characters are great and very likeable (despite some of them being quite flawed), the humor is great and often laugh-out-loud funny, and — perhaps best of all — the show is a continuity-based whirlwind of mystery.

Let me explain with the premise of the show. Dipper and Mabel Pines are preteen twins who have been sent to a town called Gravity Falls, Oregon to live with their Great Uncle Stan (or “Grunkle Stan,” as they call him) in the woods for the summer. There, Stan runs a “tourist trap” called the Mystery Shack, where he shows off fake exhibits and sells merchandise based on the legends of paranormal activity and other anomalies surrounding Gravity Falls. The twins work there along with man-child Soos and lanky teenage slacker Wendy. Dipper thinks it’s going to be the most boring summer ever, until he discovers that all is not as it seems in Gravity Falls — in fact, the legends of ghosts and monsters may actually be true.

The main cast of the show. From left to right: Soos, Dipper, Grunkle Stan, Mabel, and Wendy.

The main cast of the show. From left to right: Soos, Dipper, Grunkle Stan, Mabel, and Wendy.

That’s all I can really say about the story for now — as I said, the show is about mysteries, secrets, codes, and all that kind of fun stuff, and I really don’t want to give any of it away.

There are a few content concerns — some rude humor here and there, fairly frequent talk about puberty and all of its awkwardness, some occasional questionable messages (e.g. lying “for the greater good”), and the show might be a bit scary for young children — not to mention, the paranormal aspects of the show might give some pause for some people, even though it is a cartoon. Also, it should be mentioned that Grunkle Stan is a greedy con man, as can be seen in how he takes advantage of naive tourists with his fake exhibits and such, so he’s not exactly a great role model. On the plus side, however, most of his antics are played for laughs, and he does have a good heart overall. As a general rule, I would say that the show is probably appropriate for preteens and up.

For me, the positive aspects of the show outweigh the negative. I’ll talk about just a couple of examples, in addition to what I’ve already said about the technical quality of the show. First, Dipper and Mabel. They have a realistic sibling relationship, in that they do fight sometimes, but they always make up, and they clearly care for each other. Dipper in particular is a very selfless brother who always chooses what’s best for Mabel rather than himself in the end, and Mabel’s infinitely positive personality is a great influence on her brother, who can sometimes be negative. In addition, I’ve already mentioned how the show is about mysteries and codes and such, but to elaborate, I cannot emphasize enough how fascinating it all is. As the series progresses, there is just enough revealed and just enough kept secret to keep you coming back. There’s even a coded message in the credits of every episode for you to solve. Also, the music is great. It really enhances the mood in certain scenes, and the instrumental theme song grows on you pretty quickly.

I’d better stop myself before I ramble for too long, though. To summarize, it’s a great cartoon and you should definitely check it out. Just keep a couple of things in mind: it’s a little more mature in content than other cartoons like Phineas and Ferb, and you should (nigh on must) watch it in order due to its continuous narrative.

Where to watch if you don’t have cable? Here’s the website I found, which has all of the currently released episodes: all of Season 1, all of the currently released episodes of Season 2, and all of the shorts which came between the two seasons. And remember, you didn’t hear this from me.

http://www.toonget.com/gravity-falls

Have you seen the show before? Tell me what you think of it in the comments! If you haven’t and you decide to check it out, come back and then let me know!

See you guys next week!