No silver linings here

I don’t usually watch The Oscars, but this year I tuned in for the last half of it, mainly to see which film would win the prize for Best Picture.  There had been a lot of talk around the Internet that Silver Linings Playbook would likely win, and I was curious to see if the members of the Academy were that stupid.

Everyone from critics to friends to random people on the street have raved about this film, but I hated it.  It has a little bit of everything, but unfortunately, none of it was anything I wanted to see a movie about.  Football.  Gambling.  A dance competition (yes, a dance competition!).  Half the time I wasn’t sure if I was watching Dirty Dancing,  Any Given Sunday, or the movie I just spent way too much money to see.  Oh, yeah, and there’s also sex addiction, bi-polar disorder, OCD, unrequited love, and a dysfunctional family, any of which could have made for a decent movie, but that all got shoved aside for the most part because I guess the makers of this film found football, gambling, and preparing for a dance contest so much more interesting.  I did not.  Also, I found Jennifer Lawrence’s eye make-up and hair distracting (Apparently, others weren’t as bothered, since she took home the Oscar for Best Actress).

In one of the very few scenes that I thought worked, Bradley Cooper’s character throws a copy of A Farewell to Arms through a window in disgust at the way Hemingway chose to end the novel.  That’s how I feel about this whole movie.  I wish I could throw it through a window.

This isn’t the first time I watched a much-praised movie and thought, “Are we watching the same thing?”  Here’s a list of some of the worst offenders:

Shakespeare in Love 

In the Bedroom

The Fisher King

Fight Club

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

If I were a better blogger, I would probably break down each of these films and explain exactly why I found them so horrible, but because I hated them so much I can’t really do that.  A great movie should stay with you long after you walk out of the cinema or eject the DVD.  You should find yourself recalling a particular scene a few days later as you’re waiting in line at Starbucks or realizing something about a character you didn’t notice before as you’re loading the dishwasher.  You should be checking out to find out what else the actors, director, and screenwriter have done.  You should consult Amazon to see if the movie was based on a novel so you can read it and see how the two compare.  None of these things happened with any of these movies.  They were over and that was it and I never thought much about them again.

Which is exactly what will happen with Silver Linings Playbook as soon as I finish typing this sentence.


A Samoa by any other name

It’s Girl Scout Cookie time, which means it’s time for my annual Girl Scout Cookie rant.  I’m not talking about trans-fat or high-fructose corn syrup or any of the reasons people usually harsh on the tasty little treats.  I’m talking about identity crisis here.

Not long after I moved to Lexington, Kentucky, I made a shocking discovery.  One sunny but cold February afternoon I strolled up to a table of Brownies selling cookies in front of my local Kroger.  I asked for a box of Samoas and a box of Tagalongs.  Instead of handing over those brightly colored boxes that have the same photos on them since like 1980 (Seriously, they can’t update the photos?  Those kids must be middle-aged by now), the girls just looked at me like I was speaking another language.  It turns out that I kind of was.

When I pointed to the nearest box of Samoas, the troop leader informed me that those were called “Caramel DeLites.”  She spoke slowly and distinctly, as if she were speaking to a nursing home resident or a pre-school student.  I backed slowly away from the table, empty-handed and confused.  What kind of bizarro world had I moved to where the Girl Scout cookies have the wrong names?

Later, thanks to the fine folks at Google, I found out that even though I had moved only 85 miles and within the same state, I had entered a place where Girl Scout cookies have aliases.  A place where Samoas are called “Caramel DeLites,” Tagalongs are known as “Peanut Butter Patties,” Dos-si-dos are referred to as “Peanut Butter Sandwiches,” and Trefoils go by the moniker “Shortbreads.”  Only Thin Mints are permitted to retain their identity.  It was like I had stumbled into a confectionery witness protection program.

But why?  Why take a snappy name like “Dos-si-do” and change to something bland like “Peanut Butter Sandwiches”?  (Which is not only boring but also kind of a misnomer since it’s a cookie and not a sandwich and also somewhat confusing considering there’s also a cookie called “Peanut Butter Patties” here)  Again, it was Google to the rescue.  Apparently, there are two companies that produce Girl Scout cookies:  ABC Bakers in Richmond, Virginia, and Little Brownie Bakers in Louisville, Kentucky.  Although Lexington is only about an hour from Louisville, for some crazy reason the cookies here are shipped in from across the border.

It’s not just the names that are different—those Virginia cookies don’t taste quite the same as the ones baked in the Bluegrass.  Because I have nothing better to do with my time, I once did a taste test that confirmed this.  A Samoa beats a Caramel DeLite hands down.

A few years have passed since I discovered this entire Girl Scout conspiracy.  Now there are several new cookies on the scene, with names like “Thanks-A-Lots” and “Lemonades,” and these names are consistent no matter which factory produces them.  Still, I can’t bring myself to utter the words “Peanut Butter Patties.”  It just feels wrong.