Photo Locale of the Month – March 2018

Although this recent winter has been one of the stranger ones in memory, spring is right around the corner. While nights and early mornings are still quite cold, dogwood trees are in bloom and the rainfall has turned the rolling hills of East Tennessee into a verdant quilt of green. Meanwhile, summer is waning in the Southern Hemisphere, where January = July and June = December.

Some below-the-equator regions, however, such as Central Chile and Northern Argentina, enjoy a mild year-round climate, and you can visit cities like Santiago and Buenos Aires well into April and still enjoy what I call shorts-and-sandals weather. It was in March, 2011, in fact, when I found myself enjoying two warm, sunny days exploring downtown Buenos Aires. 

This obelisk, with eight lanes of traffic on each side of Avenida 9 de Julio (the widest street in the world, and named after Argentina’s Independence Day), is the defining symbol of Buenos Aires.

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Oscar 2017-18 – predicting the winners

And so it is Oscar time once more. Last year’s host, Jimmy Kimmel, will be returning for his second at-bat, and the 90th annual Academy Awards show will be filled with stale jokes about the show’s running time, about the #metoo movement (no Harvey Weinstein nor Kevin Spacey in the audience, you can guarantee it), and about whether, as was the case last year when “La La Land” was erroneously declared the Best Picture winner, there will be any last minute envelope mix-ups.

Despite 2017 having been such a banner year for mainstream movies – and for superhero movies in particular – the slate of nominees is, some would, say, disappointing in terms of its ordinariness. “Wonder Woman,” so empowering and successful, walked away empty handed, even in the technical categories. “Thor: Ragnarok” was also snubbed across the board, as was “Lego Batman,” which didn’t even score a customary nomination for Best Animated Feature. “Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi” earned a few technical nominations, but the only true *hits* to receive above-the-line nods were “Dunkirk” and “Get Out.” (Okay, so “The Shape of Water” lead the pack with 13 nominations, but its “R” rating and graphic nudity worked against it at the box office.)

Will “Dunkirk” or “Get Out” win, reminding audiences that the Academy is not out of touch with popular opinion after all…or will it be something much artsier – “Phantom Thread” perhaps? My gut tells me it will be none of the above. To learn more about those and other nominated films, check out the official Oscar website. For an educated guess on who will win, however, you can do worse than to keep reading the following paragraphs for my predictions.

(GringoPotpourri disclaimer: Although I’m no insider, I have seen all of the nominees mentioned below, and my batting average is well above .500. So there’s that.)

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A Civil Rights Lesson in Memphis

The last two weeks have been interesting in my world. I found myself quitting a job that was simply never going to meet its full potential in favor of what I hope will be a better career opportunity. In the short term, as these things go, the move is lateral, and it actually has a longer commute, but I hear nothing but good things about the place, so I will do everything I can to quell the cynical side of myself that – all too often – comes to the forefront.

I pride myself on being punctual, hard working, and loyal to any company that I work for, so changing jobs isn’t as easy or commonplace for me as it is for others. I do have a weird vibe about the fact that I left my last job without giving proper notice, but I simply didn’t have the chance to give a proper two weeks’ notice.

You see, I had to take a week for myself. This included catching up on errands, going for a hike, and visiting my sister, who as Loyal Readers know lives in Memphis. The last time I saw her down there was in Thanksgiving, 2016, just two months after our mother passed away.

Many of my blog introductions begin with the following sentiment, but it really is true: Where does the time go?

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Photo Locale of the Month – February 2018

The Olympics are in full swing and the South Korean city of PyeongChang – certainly not to be confused with Pyongyang, in the North – is enjoying an influx of tourists, athletes, and advertising dollars. At press time, the medal count is Norway 17, Germany 15, and Canada 13. The U.S. is in fifth place, with 8. These standings will surely change.

Although I’ve never been to PyeongChang – nor to Pyongyang, for that matter – I have been to Seoul, the vibrant capital of South Korea and part of a greater metropolis that, all told, is home to almost 26 million people, according to Seoul is a teeming city that never sleeps, but, like Tokyo, Beijing, and other East Asian mega-cities, its skyscrapers are punctuated by verdant green spaces. This month’s gallery pays homage to Seoul’s urban gardens and palaces.

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Best Picture Winners by Year – Part Two

This concluding entry about every movie to win the Academy Award for Best Picture doesn’t need the four-paragraph intro that Part One did. All you need to know is that the list begins with the 1970’s – generally believed to be the best decade for quality filmmaking – that my all-time favorite movie is on the list, and that after March 4, 2018, another movie will join this list.

(Also, films in italics are especially worth watching. Read on.)

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Best Picture Winners by Year – Part One

It was just two weeks ago that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced the 2017 films, film stars, and filmmakers that were nominated for Academy Awards. There weren’t many surprises, certainly not among the nine films nominated for Best Picture, among them “The Shape of Water,” which leads the race with a not-quite-record-setting 13 nominations, followed by “Dunkirk” with eight and “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” with seven.

You can watch for my predicting-the-winners post closer to Oscar night, which this year isn’t until Sunday, March 4th. I will wax poetic at that time about who I think will win, as well as who I think should win. For now, I’m still trying to catch up on some of the nominees, particularly in the categories of Best Documentary Feature and Best Foreign Film.

In the meantime, I’ve had a chance to write up a summary review of the previous 89 winners of the Best Picture Oscar. If this seems like a lot of work, know that I first had the idea last year, but it literally took me 12 months to gather my thoughts, and to rewatch some of the winners in question.

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The Indian in the Cupboard: Travel Souvenirs and Various Miscellanea

Are you a collector?

I ask because I recently moved, and when slowly unpacking four decades worth of boxes (I’m getting old), I discovered what was probably just a handful, but seemed like dozens, of travel souvenirs, tchotchkes, and other knick-knacks picked up during the course of my travels. Some, like a foot-long Maori carving made of wood, are rather nice. A couple, such as a Statue of Liberty paperweight that was given to me by my grandmother and is my only material memory of her, are nostalgic.

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Top Ten Films of 2017

2017 was a rather unusual year for movies. For one thing, there were more good movies released than in most other years; I almost made my top ten list a top *twenty* list. (I still did, sort of. Read on.) For another thing, half of the top ten list could easily have been filled by comic book movies; no fewer than three did make the final list. For another thing still, there were many good movies but not many great ones.

The much anticipated “Blade Runner” sequel was every bit as good as I hoped it would be and in some ways better, but then again, it clocked in at almost three hours and I know it didn’t need to be that long. “The Last Jedi,” the eighth film in the “Star Wars” saga – ninth if you include the stand-alone sorta-prequel “Rogue One,” featured more action and more characters than 2015’s disappointing “The Force Awakens,” but it also had sequences that went nowhere and plot holes that didn’t make much sense. “Dunkirk,” that sure-to-sweep-the-Oscars WWII epic from “The Dark Knight” and “Inception” director Christopher Nolan, had several moments of cinematic brilliance, but also bombastic sound mixing, bland casting, and unmemorable characters.

GringoPotpourri’s Top Ten Films of 2017:

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Photo Locale of the Month – January 2018

As a Northern Hemisphere denizen, I cannot help but mention the weather in any wintertime photo locale post in which the location is in a warmer clime. After all, with bomb cyclones and polar vortexes having placed much of the U.S. and Canada in a deep freeze for the first week of the new year (even Florida had snow for the first time in 30 years!), it only makes sense to write about some place warmer.

For this month’s entry, that place is Granada, Nicaragua. This jewel of Spanish colonial architecture in Central America, Nica’s one time capital and the country’s most conservative city is one of the most vibrant towns on the planet. I can hardly believe that it was exactly one year since my visit.

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Three Days around Valle de Bravo

It was roughly 5.5 years ago that I started this blog, and six years ago to the month that I took my first of four, unknown to me at the time, exploratory trips to Mexico City prior to my moving there…a move that, in turn, led to the creation of this blog. As such, I thought I’d start 2018 with a post that hearkens nostalgically back to a wonderful extended weekend in Mexico. Where have the last six years gone?! Continue reading “Three Days around Valle de Bravo”