One film, one T.V. series, delicious indulgences, and cruelty-free make-up: January Favorites!

Let me start by throwing a huge THANK YOU out into the ether for Idris Elba’s winning a SAG Award (Best Supporting Actor, or however they call it at the SAG) for his role as Commandant in Beasts of No Nation. The win alleviates my annoyance over seeing that Elba’s well-deserved recognition wasn’t reflected on the list of Oscar nominations.

So, I’m back to doing these “monthly favorites” posts. January’s list is mostly about food and cosmetic items, the latter of which came from my stash – things I already had, but wasn’t using. The only newly purchased item here is the Burt’s Bees lip crayon color.

As usual, though, I’ll start with entertainment. Here’s the one film and the one T.V. series that held our attention in January:

 

1). Amy (documentary)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Amy_documentary

 

If I had to choose one word for this documentary: Devastating. It started with a scene showing footage of Amy at 14 years of age singing “Happy Birthday” to her friend, a heart-breaking scene because we knew how her story ended. Here was this happy girl in possession of a brilliant talent, and then she was neglected, used, and preyed upon by vultures masquerading as people who loved her. Well, they loved her, alright. They loved her to death.

Here’s that scene of Amy as a kid singing “Happy Birthday” to her friend:

 

 

R.I.P., Amy.

 

2). How to Get Away With Murder (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-HowtoGetAwayWithMurder_2016

 

We started January binge-watching How to Get Away With Murder. Then we tried to watch the documentary series Making a Murderer, and on the heels of the former, it’s hard to watch the courtroom scenes without thinking of how Annalise would flatten her opposition in one sweeping, ire-charged oratory. “Steven Avery needs Annalise” became our Making a Murderer tag-line up until we stopped watching it. Seriously! One day with Annalise in court and Avery would walk.

Minus: Annalise is a fictional character. Plus: Viola Davis won a SAG Award for her performance as Annalise.

 

3). The Body Shop Shea Body Butter.

 

The Body Shop body butter in Shea.

The Body Shop body butter in Shea.

 

This is an old favorite that’s made a come-back as our night hand cream. I’ll always love its unique scent, and the rich body butter formula is wonderful on our dry hands.

 

4). Burt’s Bees lip crayon in Sedona Sands.

 

Burt's Bees lip crayon in Sedona Sands.

Burt’s Bees lip crayon in Sedona Sands.

 

This was the only shade of Burt’s Bees lip crayons I didn’t have, and now it’s tied as my favorite (with Redwood Forest). I’ve been wearing Sedona Sands every day, since I’m feeling the nude/pink vibe right now. It’s hard for me to find a nude shade I really love, so I’m glad to have discovered a perfect one in my favorite lip color formula.

 

5). e.l.f. Flawless Finish foundation in Sand.

 

e.l.f. Flawless Finish foundation in Sand.

e.l.f. Flawless Finish foundation in Sand.

 

(Yes, that would be a half-eaten Larabar in the pic. I’d set it down on that paper towel and then decided to place the product next to it, for some reason.) Toward the end of last year, I experimented with a couple of high-end cruelty-free foundations and ended up putting the new one by Too Faced on my 2015 Favorites list. When I found this old bottle of e.l.f. foundation, I started using it again and realized that it actually looks better on me than the Too Faced one. So I stand corrected: The e.l.f. foundation IS my favorite foundation. Six bucks at Target! Amazing.

 

6). e.l.f. High-Definition powder in Soft Luminescence.

 

e.l.f. High-Definition powder in Soft Luminescence

e.l.f. High-Definition powder in Soft Luminescence

 

(And yes, that would be Nenette poking her nose into the pic!) e.l.f. came out with this new-ish version of their High-Definition powder, so I had to try it. Also six bucks! Why not? And I love it. Their original (Sheer) High-Definition powder always seemed a bit chalky on me, and I was loving the Shimmer version for a while, but this one in Soft Luminescence is like the perfect hybrid of the two. It’s fabulous.

 

7). e.l.f. Jumbo Eyeshadow stick in Rock Out.

 

e.l.f. Jumbo Eyeshadow Stick in Rock Out

e.l.f. Jumbo Eyeshadow Stick in Rock Out

 

I still love e.l.f.’s Smudge Pot cream eyeshadow in Cruisin’ Chic, but in January I dug through my e.l.f. collection, found the eyeshadow stick in Rock Out, and have been using it ever since. It’s slightly darker than Cruisin’ Chic, and the color is more like a deep olive, kind of a shimmery, moth-like greenish-brown. It blends as easily as the Smudge Pot formulas, too.

 

8). Vegan donuts and cookies.

 

Vegan donut and cookie from Whole Foods.

Vegan donut and cookie from Whole Foods.

 

I spent January eating way too much refined sugar, once again, and I had the zits to prove it. I just didn’t have the inner wherewithal to walk past Whole Food’s bakery without raiding the pastry case. They have vegan cookies, muffins, donuts, and scones. The donuts and the chocolate chip cookies are my favorites.

 

9). Nachos.

 

Vegan nachos.

Vegan nachos.

 

Okay, so January wasn’t my healthiest month ever. For dinners, I mostly alternated between big plates of nachos and heaps of pasta. Callaghan was on a salad kick, so I didn’t even share. Granted, vegan nachos and pasta the way I make it aren’t that unhealthy, but my diet was definitely lacking in veggies in January! The nachos on the plate you see here are made of blue corn tortilla chips, vegan cheese, salsa, and avocado. What can I say.

 

10). Cheerios with peanut butter.

 

Original Cheerios with peanut butter for breakfast.

Original Cheerios with peanut butter for breakfast.

 

Those of you who hang with me on Instagram and FaceBook might remember when I posted this pic. That was the day I’d forgotten to bring bread to go with my peanut butter at work, so I ran to the little shop on campus and came back with this little container of original Cheerios. The Cheerios/peanut butter combination was a little dry, but I enjoyed it. Now I bring Cheerios to work every day. Nutritionally speaking, they really aren’t that bad! They have a little sugar and one preservative, but I’m not going to argue with whole grain oats.

 

11). Celestial Seasonings Honey Vanilla Chamomile tea.

 

Celestial Seasoning's Honey Vanilla Chamomile tea.

Celestial Seasoning’s Honey Vanilla Chamomile tea.

 

Here’s another old favorite! I love this deliciously mellow, sweet tea. We often have it as a dessert between dinner and bedtime. I think it’s the hint of licorice that makes it special.

That covers it for January. I hope the first month of the year brought simple, pleasurable little things into your lives, as well!

“Beasts of No Nation” and The Oscars should have collided, but they did not, and I can’t believe it.

As the dust settled at the end of this crazy week at work, I finally got to sit down and look at the list of nominees for Oscars at this year’s Academy Awards.

I’m happy with some of the big nominations. Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant  were two of my favorite films of the year (of the Best Picture nominees, I hope Mad Max wins). I also enjoyed Bridge of Spies, Creed, and The Big Short. 

I hope Amy  wins for Best Documentary Feature.

I wish that Ex Machina got nominated for something more than a small award.

Moving on to OUTRIGHT SNUBS, Straight Outta Compton, another of my favorite films of 2015, deserved a Best Picture nomination, in my opinion. I also believe that Straight Outta Compton is worthy of a Best Director nomination, and why Jason Mitchell didn’t get nominated for Best Supporting Actor as Eazy-E is beyond me.

But the main questions in my head as I read the list of Oscar nominees were:

1). Why wasn’t Idris Elba nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Beasts of No Nation?

2).  Why wasn’t Abraham Attah nominated for Best Actor for Beasts of No Nation?

3). Why wasn’t Beasts of No Nation nominated for Best Picture?

4). Why wasn’t Cary Joji Fukunaga nominated for Best Director for Beasts of No Nation?

5). Why wasn’t Beasts of No Nation nominated for Best Costume Design?

 

Idris Elba and Abraham Attah in Beasts of No Nation.

Idris Elba and Abraham Attah in Beasts of No Nation.

 

6). Why wasn’t Beasts of No Nation nominated for Best Cinematography?

7). Why wasn’t Beasts of No Nation nominated for Best Original Score?

 

 

(“A Song for Strika”)

At least Straight Outta Compton received a nomination for Best Writing – Original Screenplay. Beasts of No Nation received ZERO Oscar nominations. It was completely left out of the competition, and I’m incredulous. Who, exactly, is responsible for deciding what constitutes art in cinema?

Idris Elba’s searing performance as Commandant should be recognized. And young Abraham Attah? His performance as Agu hurt my heart so profoundly, I’m unable to shake the memory of it, or the pain I felt when I witnessed it.

That’s how Beasts of No Nation made me feel: Like a witness. Not a movie-goer, an audience member, an entertainment seeker. A witness. That is what good art can do. It can put us in the picture, in the moment, make us see and feel things we don’t necessarily want to see or feel; it can unflinchingly cast light on the abominable, because we need to see it. We need to acknowledge it.

A part of the brilliance of Beasts of No Nation is that somehow, overall, it manages to be poetic. Maybe at the end I was too emotionally spent to see it, but thinking back on it now that I’ve processed the film as a whole, the imagery in that last scene was poetry… and it was beautiful.

My personal feelings aside, Beasts of No Nation is next-level outstanding in every respect of film-making, and for it to have been excluded from the Academy Awards is a gross oversight. A colossal oversight. I would go so far as to say that it seems like a deliberate oversight, because anyone with eyes and a heart can see that it’s a masterpiece, and the movie-nominating people have eyes and hearts, do they not?

Idris Elba’s and Abraham Attah’s performances are performances that deserve Academy Award recognition.

Beasts of No Nation is difficult to watch, for sure, as I’ve said before. But art’s intention isn’t solely to entertain us. Good art in all of its genres makes us feel things, including real despair for real-life realities.

How is it that The Martian received a nomination for Best Picture, while Beasts of No Nation and Straight Outta Compton did not?

Two of my favorite movies of the year – both of which I thought were objectively stellar – were snubbed, and I can’t fathom why. I could go on and on about Beasts of No Nation, but there’s no need. I wrote a lot more about it after I saw it, so click here if you’re interested in reading that.

I’m actually so disappointed about the omissions on the list of Oscar nominees that I’m not even sure I want to watch the Academy Awards this year.

Beasts of No Nation: A review, of sorts (No Spoilers)

I didn’t include Beasts of No Nation in my October “favorites” post because those posts are about Little Things, and this film is anything but that. Beasts of No Nation is an immersive experience, and it’s a heavy one. A powerful one. It didn’t feel right lumping it in with Scream Queens and salsa.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-BeastsOfNoNation2015

 

The crafting of Beasts of No Nation demonstrates exquisite mastery; if you’re into movies to appreciate the fine art of film-making, I’d say it’s a must-see. However, be warned: Beasts of No Nation is difficult to watch… it’s a must-see for reasons beyond its artistic merits.

There came a point where Callaghan just stopped. As tension tightened our throats in the scene that ended it for him, he muttered, “I don’t want to watch this anymore.” I understood where he was coming from. I was on the verge of stopping, myself. He got up and said, “I’m sorry… you can watch the rest if you want, but I don’t need to see this!”

The challenge when watching a war drama so finely rendered is that you’re there. The film engulfs you, and you become a witness to gut-wrenching circumstances and atrocities appalling beyond belief. It’s harrowing, it’s heart-breaking, and it took me two more days to finish watching Beasts of No Nation after we stopped (and Callaghan had gone to France for his business trip). It took two days because I couldn’t watch more than a chunk at a time.

While all movies of this nature don’t trigger my PTSD, enough of them do that I generally avoid them. I couldn’t turn away from this one, though, and I don’t mean that in a train-wreck kind of way. It was more like, I have to keep watching because at some point something has to happen that will restore my faith in humanity.

While the story in Beasts of No Nation is a work of fiction, the tragedy of it is real. The film depicts a reality that’s largely overlooked in our ongoing lament over global atrocities and human rights violations. We commonly bespeak outrage over horrendous things that are done to little girls, practices we know to be inhumane and abominable. Comparatively, we give negligible thought to the horrendous things that are done to little boys. We forget to acknowledge the trials of male children in some war-torn countries… trials that, as this film so brutally illustrates, result in bodily harm, psychological damage, and an obliteration of childhood innocence too sad to contemplate.

I’d never seen Callaghan so upset by a movie that he had to quit watching it. As for me, I’m usually dry-eyed while most everyone grabs at tissues… but there was one scene in Beasts of No Nation that had me crying, and it wasn’t due to illusory maneuvers on the director’s part. The director avoided any semblance of heart-string-pulling and simply let the power of authenticity do its dirty work, a feat allowed by his elegantly nuanced talent. My sorrow felt heavy, like a sorrow for the entire planet.

The director, Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective), also wrote the film’s screenplay (based on the novel by Uzodinma Iweala). I’ve seen several movies this year that I thought deserved serious Academy attention; Beasts of No Nation joins them and rises – urgently – straight to the top. I’ll go so far as to say that I hope it captures awards not only for itself, but for humankind. Fukunaga’s adapted screenplay and directing ought to garner Oscar nominations, at least, and actors Idris Elba and Abraham Attah deserve the highest accolades for their searing performances. They were both brilliant. The cinematography and costume design were also stunning. All of the art that went into the making of this film took my breath away.

Here’s the trailer:

 

 

Beasts of No Nation will do more than tug at your heart-strings… it’ll just seize your whole heart and crush it. But this film needs to be seen. Child soldiers need a place in the discourse of the problem of world suffering, and if swallowing our horror through the viewing of films like this can help bring awareness to the plight of these children, then we need to do that.

Child soldiers are not out there bearing arms and killing people because they had aspirations to do so as healthy children with sound minds. They are victims.

Beasts of No Nation elucidates one of the ways in which art is important and even essential for the well-being of the human race. We can’t continue to keep our eyes closed while certain things are happening in the world, and this is why Oscar-generated hype over Beasts of No Nation could be seen not only as well-deserved, but necessary. Everyone’s attention should be brought to this film.

Beasts of No Nation is Netflix’ first original film, being to movies what House of Cards is to television series. The movie streamed on Netflix the same day it appeared in theatres. If you have Netflix and you want to see Beasts of No Nation, it’s there for the watching.