January Blues

january blues

My goodness, the January blues are here and they’ve hit hard. We are down to the last week of the month. Yesterday we had a tiny bit of sunshine, and we really haven’t had much sun at all this winter, but today is a dump of snow. The polar vortex is on the way next week, and it will be super cold again. It always seems to correspond that the January blues happen and we have a bunch of sick or stressed cats at work. I am counting down the days until spring, and I know time is passing, but there’s nothing I’d rather do more than curl up in bed. Fortunately for everyone around me, I am somehow able to get up and remain a productive human being.

january blues

I haven’t managed to get my latest scarves up on Etsy. Maybe I can muster the energy this weekend? Since the start of the new year, I’ve finished four scarves or cowls and I’m working on a fifth. My next one after the one on the hook will be Tunisian crochet for sure. Mom got me some hooks for my birthday and I’m anxious to give it a try.

january blues zine making

The sun briefly came out for Mom’s birthday. We had lunch and made some zines. That’s right, I’m back on my zine making and zine collecting. I even forced a bunch of Girl Scouts to make zines.

Yesterday was also the Oscar Nomination ceremony. I’ve seen three of the ten nominees for best picture already, one of the documentary shorts (plus five on the short list that weren’t nominated), one of the animated shorts, and none of the international, feature documentary, or live-action documentary. I’m going to have to get busy.

December is Going Fast!

Thursday, December 8, 2022 0 No tags Permalink
December is Going Fast!

Oh my goodness, we’re already well into December and I feel like I’m running behind. I’m working on a few last crochet projects and slowly working through my holiday greeting cards. I’ve had to cut my list back this year from 60 to 40 and I’ll be lucky to get them done on time. I hope to take my three packages to be mailed tomorrow. The good news is that, as December is going fast, spring will be here before we know it! Honestly, I’m more in the holiday spirit this year than normal, and I’m not as panicked about the upcoming winter. Maybe it’s the CPAP machine and getting regular sleep? Who knows.

I just finished this lap blanket for a family member’s mother. The colors remind me of the ocean. It’s using Bernat Blanket yard in one of those quick O’Go skein things. I don’t understand the hype of that yarn configuration. I’d rather have a skein. I generally don’t find skeins to knot and twist, which is the reason they came up with this new variety, and I find the new version actually binds and twists more at the end of the skein.

These two kitty blankets are for a friend. I made her middle kitty a blanket when he was tiny, and just now got one done for the older cat and newer kitten. These are both crocheted using Caron Simply Soft. Mom got me some fantastic Tunisian crochet hooks for my birthday. As soon as I finish my remaining holiday gift projects, I plan on starting a fun project with those hooks. I think it’s going to be the perfect way to start the new year.

What projects are you finishing up?

Craft Show Feedback Post

Monday, November 14, 2022 0 No tags Permalink
craft show feedback post

Last weekend, Mom and I went to to craft shows. I hadn’t been to one since I was a child, and Mom ran a small craft business and had booths regularly. I belong to a craft group on Facebook, and there was recently a post made about craft shows; the post had over 300 comments about how difficult it is to make money at a craft fair. Today, I’m going to provide a craft show feedback post about what I noticed at the two fairs, what folks were most bothered with on the Facebook group, and my own thoughts on running an Etsy store without any sales.

Meijer Gardens Holiday Gift Show

First up was the event at Meijer Gardens. The show, 40 curated booths, opened at 9am. We got there about 10 and you could barely get up to see things at the tables. People were grabbing things right and left, and there was a huge line for checkout. When we finally did push through to the front, I was surprised to see that most of the booths had things that were not handmade. For instance, there was a booth with lovely knit scarves that were super soft, but they were made in China. There was a booth selling hot cocoa bombs, all imported from England. There were several kid toy booths, but all had things you could purchase off Amazon. Yes, there was a local apiary selling honey and Founders Brewery selling dog treats, but most of it was mass-produced items made in factories.

The fee to get in was the standard entrance fee for Meijer Gardens, rather expensive if you just wanted to go to the fair, but for us visiting the conservatories was the best part. We wouldn’t recommend or go to the fair again next year.

Caledonia Arts and Crafts Show

Craft Show Feedback Post

After Meijer Gardens, we swung by the Caledonia craft fair at their middle school. The school has two gyms, and both were absolutely packed with vendors and visitors. Now, this is a craft fair like I remember. Nearly everything was handmade. The booth pictured above was my favorite for set-up. The artist, LuAnn Tandy, runs Coppertop Crochet and has an eye for design. Her crochet pieces were gorgeous and the booth was both well put together and eye-catching. Check out her use of that vintage suitcase and dressmaker dummy to showcase her pieces! She had a lot of people looking at her products, but she had arranged everything so you could still see what she was offering. Mom bought a few gifts and the quality and look is amazing. LuAnn was at the front of the booth, answering questions and promoting features of the hats. I think her booth and her pieces were the best of the craft show.

Craft Show Trends

Here’s where the Facebook group post comes in. The individual in question had a booth at a show, and didn’t do very well. There wasn’t a ton of traffic (unlike what I saw at the two places Mom and I went), and those who were there just weren’t buying. Why?

First, we are looking at tight financial times. Prices in the grocery stores are higher, gas prices are higher, and winter fuel bills are right around the corner. Individuals are conserving their money to pay for needs, not necessarily wants. It may be slim pickings this holiday gift season for everyone.

Second, prices at craft shows are higher. Raw good costs are higher. The same skein of Caron Simply Soft is way more expensive now than before the pandemic. All craft supplies are more expensive than the pandemic. Craft show booth fees are more expensive, too. Fewer people having excess money to spend, and higher prices for the items means it’s harder to recover your money you put into the item you’ve made, never mind the time spent.

Finally, we are seeing that the big box stores have merchandise that looks more crafty or homemade. Similar crochet pumpkins I’m making are sold at Target for half the price, made in China. With new knitting machines and crochet machines, near-perfect designs can be created overseas for a much less cost.

Tips for Craft Success

One of the things I read over and over in the comments on Facebook was that there are still people out there who want to support handmade, unique items and the artists that make them. In many cases, the people who do buy these handmade items only give them as gifts to others who understand the value of these pieces. Once I offered to make a crochet blanket for a coworker’s ill father. She explained that while it was a nice thought, he wouldn’t appreciate the time or work that went into the creation. At the Caledonia craft fair, I bought a handmade felt ornament. I could see the fine detail work that went into creating it, and just fell in love with it. If you are working in arts and crafts, make sure you highlight the fact that your unique, handmade creations are supporting an artist, not a corporation. Even though I crochet myself, there are some things I just don’t enjoy crocheting, or there are some pieces so gorgeous I can’t help but want to support that particular artist despite the fact that I could maybe make it myself. All artists should support other artists! It’s what keeps us going. After all, who could better appreciate the time and skill that went into making something than someone who participates in the craft themselves?

Select a Location

Know where and when to sell your items. If you are mostly crocheting winter hats, a summer craft show might not be the best place for you. If possible, check out the craft show you are joining before paying your booth fees. Do they allow multiple vendors selling the same things? What is the normal audience at this particular show? Are there fees for visitors to get in? Consider arts and craft consignment shops, popup shops, farmers’ markets and other vendor booth events throughout the year. Make friends with other artists and find out where they like to go, and which shows to avoid.

Design Your Space

Next, if you do decide to set up a vendor booth at a show or an event, spend time designing your booth space and do a few dry-runs on setting it up and tearing it down. Does everything fit in your car? Can you haul everything yourself? Do you need electricity? There are so many YouTube videos on setting up tables for craft shows, watch as many as you can for ideas. Don’t just put your stuff flat on a table without having an idea of color and varying levels of height. And don’t just sit at the back of your booth! There were a few booths at Caledonia that had no interested customers, and the owner sat at the back of the booth. Being my own neurotic self, I felt awkward and wound up avoiding eye contact and not looking inside the booth at all!

Repeat Business is the Key!

Finally, and I think this is most crucial, you need to think about repeat business. Have signage of your business name so people know who you are. If you are going to be doing several different craft shows throughout the season, have a listing of where you’ll be next. Have business cards or a QR code that links to your social media. Offer small give-aways (stickers, suckers, etc.) to get people to give their email address and then send them an email the next week thanking them for stopping by, letting them know where you’ll be next, and asking them to follow you on social media. Even if you don’t have an Etsy store, having folks follow you on Instagram and Facebook, and showing your latest creations, could get them to contact you for individual sales. The fantastic booth with the felt ornaments? I gave her my email address in the event she gets a Facebook or Instagram page in the future. As I work on my holiday gift list, I would love to purchase some more ornaments from her but I have absolutely no way of contacting her. She didn’t have a logo or business name visible and had no social media. Leave a lasting impression and a way for folks to get in touch with you after the show!

The Feral Katt

I buy most of my unique handmade items on Etsy. In fact, I try each year to purchase the majority of gifts from independent artists. As I’m not a fan of crowds, I do nearly all of my shopping on Etsy. I have even set up my own Etsy store, The Feral Katt, to unload some of my creations. I think it gives me insight into the struggle other crafters have in creating, marketing, and selling their pieces. It’s discouraging, really. Fortunately, I have a full time job and I’m just doing the Etsy thing to entertain myself. It takes a lot of time. Time to make the items. Time to photograph them and put them up with a description. And, I suppose, time with tell if I wind up selling anything.

If you’re a crafter or have been to a craft show recently, tell me about your thoughts in the comments!

Halloween 2022

Monday, October 31, 2022 0 No tags Permalink

My baby Pi was adopted this past Saturday. We did an online costume contest and dog and kid trick-or-treating at the shelter as usual, but this is likely the last year for it. There’s just so much competition with other events going on. I didn’t dress up this year as I wasn’t at work. I did make small Halloween bags for staff members (below). It’s a rainy Monday, not a great day for trick-or-treating in general, even if we were going to participate in that.

Halloween bags

Instagram Sucks

For some unknown reason, when I logged into my Instagram account this morning I found they had banned my account. Considering I only post photos of cats, crochet, and landscapes, I can see absolutely no reason for the ban. You can send a request they review the ban, and they will get back to you within 30 days. There was no mention at all of a report of a problem or anything. It’s a good reminder that using a platform you can’t control means troubles like this. I’ve had catobear.com up since 2007. 15 years, no problems. A temporary or permanent ban of Instagram isn’t likely to make me want to post anything on there ever again, just in case there’s another problem. I deleted the app and will probably delete my account if they restore it.

Crochet and Etsy

I made a few more crochet pumpkins and got them up on the Etsy store. Still not a single purchase, though two of my items have been ‘favorited’. I crocheted two head wraps (photo above) from a pattern from Just Be Crafty and did my own take on a hat with a pompom on the top that didn’t turn out great. Maybe hats aren’t my thing. I’m working on a crochet infinity scarf right now out of some recycled yarn. I’m hoping if I steam-block it, maybe it will soften up? Right now I can’t imagine it around my neck, although lots of people like wool and I have a problem with that too.

End of September

Thursday, September 29, 2022 0 No tags Permalink
End of September

It’s the end of September, insert Green Day reference here. It was warm and sunny and lovely right up until the equinox (photo above is the last day of summer), and then it turned cold and rainy. Temperatures have had highs in the 50s this week, and some counties near ours have already had frost. I need to get a video of the end of September garden, and I need to get started on cleaning it up as well.

I crocheted this blanket for Melissa’s mother, and have been working diligently on crochet wash cloths since then. I also have a plan for reusable cloth paper towels and about 100 other projects waiting to be started. So many projects in fact, I’ve had to write them down on a list so I don’t forget them.

At work, we had the lower driveway paved. Pi had a leg amputation and is back in the kitten room. There is a frustrating amount of calls daily for us to take in cats, and as usual every shelter and rescue in southern Michigan is completely full. People need to spay and neuter their cats.

My baby Pi

I finished The Betrayal of Anne Frank by Rosemary Sullivan and am now on The Girl with the Golden Scissors by Julia Drosten. Kirsten and Dustin came for a visit this month. I got a CPAP machine and have been sleeping a bit better thankfully. Overall, the month has gone by more quickly than I expected. I’m honestly feeling a bit “off” and I’m not sure why. Hopefully October will bring clarity.

Mid July

Thursday, July 14, 2022 0 No tags Permalink

It’s already mid July. How did that happen? The summer is going much too quickly, as always. What have I done to show for it? Not much, actually. Some art projects. Some garden maintenance. Lots of riding the spin bike in the evenings. Watching YouTube videos on how to make better YouTube videos. I’m trying to take care of my health, but I’m still waiting for my CPAP machine and new glasses to come in. I don’t know, it rather feels like I’m squandering life.

The last two summers were spent with painting, and I haven’t done any painting at all. I do miss it. My latest project was creating this small moss terrarium (below). I wanted it to be like a living book nook, but I don’t think it was successful. I did manage to make a tiny staircase which is kind of cool. I will be interested to see if the moss grows or dies. I think they are kind of fun to make, and might make nice gifts, especially for people who have cats and can’t have regular houseplants.

Not that anyone ever reads these posts, but if you do, I’d greatly appreciate it if you’d subscribe to my YouTube Channel (click here). As I mentioned above, I’ve been watching lots of YouTube videos on how to make better YouTube videos. I don’t know why I find the work so interesting. You can see more garden updates that way, too as I’ve been taking regular videos.

I do miss reading. I used to love the summer reads each summer, sitting on the couch with Maxy on my lap. Maxy is gone, reading puts me to sleep, and my bad glasses give me a headache when I do try to read. I have been listening to audio books. The latest is Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts. They aren’t ghost stories in the traditional sense, though I suppose there’s one or two like that in there. It’s more the uncanny type of stories that will remain in your mind long after you’ve read them. I wasn’t sure with the first one or two, but now I highly recommend it. Many years ago I read a collection from Breece D’J Pancake, and there was one particular short story that never left me about a snow plow driver. This book is full of interesting tales like that one.

After finishing Severance on Apple+, I am now on the third season of Servant. I guess it is renewed for a fourth season, but that won’t be out for quite awhile. Severance was excellent.

Yes, mid July and I am squandering life. How is your summer going?

It’s Gonna Be May

It's Gonna Be May

It’s Gonna Be May? No, it already IS May, and well into it. This week May feel more like July though, with highs predicted in the 80s. I saw a meme the other day that said something like Summer? No, Outdoor Depression. With the state of the world, it’s hard to look positively on things outside your own home. I’m lucky to have happiness there.

It's Gonna Be May

While I did not manage to create my own postcards to send this year for National Postcard Week 2022, I purchased some cards from amazing artist MN John (check out her website here, postcards and stickers and all amazing!). I didn’t send out many, just enough to feel like I sort of participated this year.

It's Gonna Be May

The flower beds have been all cleaned up, though I haven’t started on the vegetable garden. I did install our tiny water feature, and this Thursday will be putting in the water plants. I’m super excited to see how it turns out. The perennials are coming right up and looking good, but nowhere like they will be in a few weeks. It’s an exciting time of year for gardeners. Just over two weeks until greenhouse day.

It's Gonna Be May - Cass

Work has generally been a giant dumpster fire of stress. Not enough staff, unhappy staff, not enough money. Typical nonprofit stuff, I suppose. Kitten season has started, and as I’ve said before, you should never give your heart to a kitten. Cass here has spend some time in my office helping me work. He’s a good boy.

Ideas on the horizon? More linocut printing, book nooks, more YouTube videos and follow up on My Michigan Garden. Gardening, reading Nature is a Human Right, and waiting for my sleep test. Hope you are having a decent spring, or at least enjoying better weather.

February Review

Monday, February 28, 2022 0 No tags Permalink

My goodness, February is over and it is the start of meteorological spring. I don’t recall there ever being any other spring than the vernal equinox when I was younger, but this meteorological but started popping up a few years ago. Either that, or maybe I just never paid attention? When was the first time you heard the concept of meteorological spring? Anyhow, there’s still snow on the ground, Bob still had to scrape my car this morning (thank you, honey!), and I don’t suspect we will see crocus until around the vernal equinox or the actual real spring.

I’ve done some artist trading cards here and there, working mostly on a stamp series where I take a vintage unused postage stamp and draw it as the background before affixing it to the card. I’ve sent out ten of them in total. I’ve also been collecting some zines as inspiration for creating my own. That will be the next project, I think.

I finished the Cornell Botanical Illustration class. Here is my final drawing.

I sent out letters for InCoWriMo 2022, which was really just a chance to catch up with my pen pal letters I’m behind on. I suppose overall it has been a fairly creative month, and I’ve even wound up completely caught up at work which seems quite odd. March starts some Fridays off here and there and I would like to get a zine done and available. That’s provided WWIII doesn’t actually start or anything.

How was your February?

2022 Oscar Nominees

Thursday, February 24, 2022 0 No tags Permalink

For the past few years, I have tried to watch as many of the nominees for the Academy Awards in the categories of feature length documentary, short documentary, live-auction short film, and international film. The nominees were announced on February 4, 2022. I have been watching some over the last month, but not everything I watched made the list. I will need to get busy to see everything by March 27th. You can read more about the 94th Academy Awards here at their website. In the meanwhile, I will continue to update this list as I watch the films (and if more films become available for streaming), and I will let you know my thoughts.

Update – much to my great disappointment, my favorite categories will not be broadcast on the Academy Awards show this year. “The new plan will allow more time for comedy, film clips and musical numbers, Rubin explained. But the Academy head acknowledged that the move could prompt bruised feelings.” (Variety article) Honestly, aren’t the musical numbers mostly terrible? And unless it is Ricky Gervaise hosting, the comedy often falls quite short. Documentary short and live action short will both be done apart from the telecast. It may make sense for live action short, as so few of the films are available for viewing. Scroll to the very bottom to get my take on Best Picture Nominees.

Best Live-Action Short Film

Ala-Kachuu – Take And Run – not available for streaming
“Sezim wants to fulfil her dream of studying in the Kyrgyz capital when she gets kidnapped by a group of young men. There, she’s forced to marry a stranger. If she refuses the marriage, she is threatened with social stigmatization and exclusion.”

The Dress – YouTube limited time release
“In Tadeusz Lysiak’s Oscar-shortlisted film a maid working in a rundown motel in rural Poland longs for intimacy, but will the repeated visits of an intriguing truck driver change the loneliness of her situation?” Sukienka/The Dress is a Polish film, and not for children. It is also beyond bleak. There’s no happy ending in this film for sure. It’s powerful, but I rather wish I could remove it from my mind. Watch at your own discretion.

The Long Goodbye – available on YouTube
Did you love Riz Ahmed in The Sound of Metal? This short (12 minute) film goes from wedding preparations to horror. So much is packed into so few minutes. Ahmed is an actor and a rapper, and you will get a rap from him at the end. In a time when so much is placed on where one is from, or rather, where one’s ancestors are from, and people are killed for the color of their skin, this dystopian piece is unfortunately not terribly far from reality. It’s violent, so be aware of that, but it is worth the watch.

On My Mind – not available for streaming
“A desperate and loving husband wants to sing and record a karaoke version of the song his wife loves the most, and which symbolizes their bond the best. It leads to heartbreak, sorrow and regret.”

Please Hold – HBO starting March 17
Mateo (20s, Latino) is arrested by a police drone without explanation. Finding himself locked in a fully automated jail with no means of recourse, Mateo realizes he’s fallen through some kind of crack in the system.”

Best Documentary Feature

Ascensionavailable on Paramount +
Exploring the pursuit of the Chinese Dream in modern society. Presenting a contemporary vision of China that prioritizes productivity and innovation above all.” My goodness, this is a mesmerizing film! It takes you into countless Chinese factories and in their service industry to see how the workers live and face their lives in an emerging world. I loved this film, and highly suggest you check it out!

Attica – available on Hulu
During the summer of 1971, tensions between inmates and guards at the Attica Correctional Facility are at an all-time high. On the morning of Sept. 9, it all comes to a head as Attica becomes the stage for one of the largest U.S. prison riots ever.” Honestly, I watched most of this documentary, but had a hard time keeping my focus. I will give it another try and get back with you.

Flee (Denmark) – Hulu
“Recounted mostly through animation to protect his identity, Amin opens up about his past as a child refugee from Afghanistan. He looks back over his life as he grapples with a secret he’s kept hidden for 20 years, one that threatens to derail the life he’s built for himself and his future husband.” This film is a triple-threat, nominated for Best International Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature, and Best Animated Feature.
Your first responsibility is to select SUB or DUB. That’s right, like many anime films, you can choose if you want subtitles or for it to be dubbed into English. Folks, I’ll be honest here. I had a bad headache and I’m not a huge fan of listening to the Danish language, so I went with the DUB version. It was also a treat for me, because the main character is voiced by Riz Ahmed, who is also one of the executive producers.

Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) – available on Hulu
Over the course of six weeks during the summer of 1969, thousands of people attend the Harlem Cultural Festival to celebrate Black history, culture, music, and fashion.” If you like history and you like good music, you won’t want to miss this great film. It is amazing to me that Woodstock has gotten such a lasting legacy and so much coverage, and the Harlem Cultural Festival missed out.

Writing With Fire – not available for streaming
In a cluttered news landscape dominated by men emerges India’s only newspaper run by Dalit women. Chief reporter Meera and her journalists break traditions, redefining what it means to be powerful.”

Best Documentary Short Subject

Audible – Netflix
“Shaken by a friend’s suicide, a deaf high school football player copes with family and relationships while anticipating his final homecoming game.” This film, currently available on Netflix, was worth watching. Honestly, I wasn’t really expecting much as I’m not a crazed football fan, but connecting with the players as they worked through their loss was especially touching. I was left wondering what life would be like for them after high school.

Lead Me Home – Netflix
“Fighting just to survive, California’s homeless population suffers as housing costs soar, pushing more of the disadvantaged onto the streets.” I loved this film. Homelessness continues to be an issue in major cities across the nation, and thoughts are often divided on what to do about it. The United States seems to have lost its will to provide care for the least among us. We are one of the only first-world nations without a robust public housing program. Section 8 housing vouchers are difficult to get, there are not enough apartments, and removing individuals away from their support networks can cause greater problems. I could talk all day on public housing and the housing crisis in America. Watch this film!

The Queen Of Basketball – New York Times (available on YouTube)
“Lusia “Lucy” Harris Stewart is a pioneer in women’s basketball, leading a rural Mississippi college to three national titles, scoring the first basket in women’s Olympic history in 1976, being the first and only woman to be drafted into the NBA.” If you want a delightful film that will make you happy to watch, this is it. You’ll fall in love with Lucy Harris Stewart. Again, you might not care much about basketball, but this film is well worth watching.

Three Songs For Benazir – Netflix
The story of Shaista, a young man who — newly married to Benazir and living in a camp for displaced persons in Kabul — struggles to balance his dreams of joining the Afghan National Army with the responsibilities of starting a family.” If you want to get a good view on what life is like in a camp for displaced persons in Kabul, this will help. There’s not much hope at all for a better life, and yet they still want to live. Your family and friends can help to hold you back from achieving more than what you are as well, and addiction is everywhere. Still, Shaista loves his wife and she seems to still love him. You find yourself hoping for a better life for them and their children. A short film, worth watching.

When We Were Bullies – not yet streaming online but available on HBO March 30
“A coincidence leads filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt to track down his fifth-grade class and fifth-grade teacher to examine their memory of and complicity in a bullying incident 50 years ago.”

Best International Feature Film

Drive My Car (Japan) – HBO Max
An aging, widowed actor seeks a chauffeur. The actor turns to his go-to mechanic, who ends up recommending a 20-year-old girl.” This one is a bit of a slow-starter. It’s done in many languages including Korean sign language, but it’s all subtitled into English. As a foreign film, it’s not what you expect, but what you get is worth it in the end. Beautifully shot in Hiroshima, you can’t help but be drawn into the characters and their tragedies. It’s another long film, perhaps broken up into a few days, but worth the watch.

Flee (Denmark) – for rent or purchase through Amazon Prime Video
“Recounted mostly through animation to protect his identity, Amin opens up about his past as a child refugee from Afghanistan. He looks back over his life as he grapples with a secret he’s kept hidden for 20 years, one that threatens to derail the life he’s built for himself and his future husband.” This film is a triple-threat, nominated for Best International Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature, and Best Animated Feature. Your first responsibility is to select SUB or DUB. That’s right, like many anime films, you can choose if you want subtitles or for it to be dubbed into English. Folks, I’ll be honest here. I had a bad headache and I’m not a huge fan of listening to the Danish language, so I went with the DUB version. It was also a treat for me, because the main character is voiced by Riz Ahmed, who is also one of the executive producers.

The Hand Of God (Italy) – available for streaming on Netflix
In 1980s Naples, Italy, an awkward Italian teen struggling to find his place experiences heartbreak and liberation after he’s inadvertently saved from a freak accident by football legend Diego Maradona.” The thing I love about foreign films is that they just don’t follow the American film trope. At all. I never know where a foreign film is going until it’s all over, and then I wonder what I saw. This family will stay with you, as will the scenery.

Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (Bhutan) – available for rent or purchase from Amazon
An aspiring singer living with his grandmother in the capital of Bhutan dreams of getting a visa to relocate to Australia.

The Worst Person In The World (Norway) – not currently available for streaming
A young woman battles indecisiveness as she traverses the troubled waters of her love life and struggles to find her career path.

Best Picture

This category is a little harder for me. I do not go to the theater to see films. I wait for it to come on streaming, and then I have to somehow remember where it is and that I wanted to see it in the first place in order to catch it. Of last year’s nominees, I’ve still only seen The Sound of Metal and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Anyhow, this year there are ten nominees. Again, I’ll update this as I watch.

BELFAST – Amazon Prime

It’s no surprise I loved Belfast. I’ve always had an interest in the troubles in Northern Ireland. As an American who was raised Episcopal but doesn’t practice anything these days, the idea that one would turn to violence over religion is absurd. I mean, I know that the troubles are about more than that, but come on. When I was young and went to visit my friend Elizabeth Sheldon outside of London on an air force base, there were IRA bombings happening in England. I believe there was one that took place while I was there, as I remember one night we came home from some outing and had to stop and show ID. And Derry Girls…don’t get me started. That might be my favorite TV show ever! Belfast is in black and white and has lovely cinematography. It shows a snippet of family life of a protestant family that doesn’t really see the difference in religions, either. It’s got a fantastic cast and is just beautiful in every way. I’m pulling for this one to sweep the awards.

CODA

Apple TV +

DON’T LOOK UP – Netflix

The premise of this didn’t sound too interesting to me, and honestly I don’t really care for Jennifer Lawrence, but I gave this movie a try and I’m glad I did. The plot has a great division in the country that somewhat closely matches the division between trumpers and everyone else, with an impending doom in sight. In the movie, because of the party in charge of the country at the time, survival of the planet is all but a guaranteed failure. It’s funny and cautionary as who you vote for really does make a difference when it comes to life and death and how policy can create changes that have a ripple effect far beyond one’s expectations. It’s well worth a watch.

DRIVE MY CAR – HBO Max

This film is also up for best international film feature. It has subtitles, and I know not everyone enjoys that. I’ve reached the age where, if I want to catch every word of dialogue, I need to have the subtitles on for everything anyway. This one is a bit of a slow-starter. It’s done in many languages including Korean sign language, but it’s all subtitled into English. As a foreign film, it’s not what you expect, but what you get is worth it in the end. Beautifully shot in Hiroshima, you can’t help but be drawn into the characters and their tragedies. It’s another long film, perhaps broken up into a few days, but worth the watch.

DUNE

Available to purchase or rent from Amazon Prime

KING RICHARD

Available to purchase or rent from Amazon Prime

LICORICE PIZZA – Rent or Purchase from Amazon Prime

This is a fun movie, set in the 1970s. The main character, Gary Valentine, is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s son Copper. Sisters from the band Haim are also in it. Though I enjoyed it, I’m not sure what to make of it. Is it the modern day Stand By Me or Empire Records?  Bradley Cooper and Sean Penn both play small roles in it and are unlikeable. I guess Sean Penn is unlikeable anyway, unless you can forgive his violence against women. The film is Los Angeles at it’s best, the idyllic never-ending summer of your youth. Roger Ebert suggests it’s the best movie of the year. I’d like to know what you think.

NIGHTMARE ALLEY – HBO Max and Hulu

I watched this one on HBO Max. You thought Power of the Dog was long? This tops it, at a full 2.5 hours. You all know I love a good carnival show. There’s not enough of the carnival in this one for me. Maybe I need to write my own carnival movie? I should see if I can dig up the 1947 version of this movie, for it is a remake and based on a book. If you like that film noir setting, and I most certainly do, you’ll like the cinematography. It’s violent, and the characters are disgusting and unlikeable. Still, I could see myself watching it again for the costumes and sets alone.

THE POWER OF THE DOG – Netflix

Well, this is an interesting film, and it leaves me with some unanswered questions at the end. And I mean, at the end of a more than two-hour movie. If you can’t stand a horse-beating scene, you’ll probably want to skip this one; the scene is short but uncomfortable, though not gory or bloody. I’m still wondering what I watched, really. I think it will stay with me though, so maybe that is worth the watch. At the end, I can’t think of anyone I’d recommend it to except for folks who watch films specifically for the Oscars. If that’s you, and it is me, have at it.

WEST SIDE STORY

Available on HBO Max and Disney + starting March 2

Which of the 2022 Oscar Nominees did you watch? Who are you hoping will win? Let me know in the comments!