Being involved in theatre and the arts from an early age, one thing I’ve always had a huge love for is the Academy Awards. Although I was never one to go through that “I want to be a famous movie star when I grow up” phase that other kids did, I love movies, and have a huge amount of respect for the many different talents that need to combine forces in order to put out a successful movie. The Oscars always seemed to me to be a very special way to celebrate that huge amount of hard work and dedication necessary to create a film. Though the event itself is full of glitz, glamour, and self-congratulatory speeches, anyone who’s ever worked on a movie knows it’s a distinctly unglamorous job. I’ve always loved the Oscars because it is the night that Hollywood celebrates everything that it collectively does, and all those things play such a huge role in American culture. While there’s plenty of award shows–the Tonys, The Emmys, The Grammys, etc.—none of them are able to capture the same style and camaraderie the Academy Awards are known for.

While I can’t exactly hop on over and attend the Oscars in person, I love Oscar Night parties, and am looking forward to attending a formal charity gala this evening that allows us to watch the show on the big screen, in a large theatre that’s typically used for the Atlanta Opera and other large-scale live performances. It’s a definite upgrade from sitting at home in my PJ’s, eating junk food, and painting my toenails during the 4-hour show.

On that note, here’s my thoroughly uneducated guesses for who’ll be taking home the honours tonight. I’ve actually only seen about half the Best Picture nominees (it’s much harder to see them all since they’ve expanded the nominees to 10 films, and Inception has literally been sitting on top of my DVD player for a month.), but I enjoyed almost all those I did see. “The Social Network” is the one I personally enjoyed the most, but “The King’s Speech” featured some tremendous acting. I’m a huge fan of both James Franco and Natalie Portman, though I didn’t see either of their respective movies, and I’m wondering if I’m the only person who thought “The Kids Are Alright” was a bit overrated, since it was enjoyable, but mostly just alright.

Alayna’s Oscar Picks:

Best Picture: “The King’s Speech”
Best Director: David Fincher, “The Social Network”
Best Actor: Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”
Best Actress: Natalie Portman, “Black Swan” (though the relatively unknown actress from “Winter’s Bone” was impressive, and far eclipses Annette Benning’s performance in “The Kids Are Alright”, Benning seems to be the favourite in this category.)
Best Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush, “The King’s Speech” (yep, I’m the only one out there who doesn’t think Christian Bale is a lock.)
Best Supporting Actress: Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit”
Best Animated Film: “Toy Story 3″
Best Original Screenplay: “Inception” (it is not favoured, but I think it’s the more creative of the nominees.)
Best Adapted Screenplay: “The Social Network” (Aaron Sorkin of “The West Wing” definitely rocks!)
Best Foreign Language Film: “Biutiful”
Best Art Direction: “Alice In Wonderland”
Best Costuming: “The King’s Speech”
Best Cinematography: “True Grit”

I think this year is an example of a varied field of films, each with a particular set of strengths and weaknesses. Unlike years where one blockbuster hit sweeps the field, the 2010 season provided a good diversity of films, most of which deserve to be recognised for the one aspect of the film that was simply head and shoulders above the competition.

I don’t know how Anne Hathaway and James Franco will stack up as hosts, but, hey, at least they’re better looking than Billy Crystal. ;)

There hasn’t been much posting here lately because, to be honest, I’ve been in a little bit of a funk lately. I can’t blame it on the weather, because it’s been unusually sunny for February in Atlanta. In fact, last weekend, it was in the 70′s, and felt more like May than February. However, it hasn’t been enough to overcome this feeling of frustration and discontentment with nearly everything and everyone. I feel a little like I’ve had month-long PMS.

It doesn’t help that last week was one of the worst weeks I’ve had in a long time. In the course of 48 hours, I broke a front tooth, got pulled over by the cops (and my roommate and I were both very lucky we didn’t end up in jail), and found out I got fired from a writing job I’d been working on for six months. I’m going to need a root canal and crown for the tooth, which is a $1700 bill, because I don’t have dental insurance. The job is replaceable, but I’m already financially struggling this month due to a huge amount of expenses ever since December, and this week, the primary place I work for isn’t sending any clients my way. It’s really a terrible, awful month here.

On the brighter side of things, last weekend, one of my best friends in Atlanta (and my former roommate for two years), got married. The wedding has been in the making for a few months, but in terms of wedding planning, all came together in a relatively short amount of time and ended up being beautiful. It certainly helped that the order for 72 degrees and sunny was filled. *laughs*

The bride and groom have been living together for some time, and have a beautiful little girl, so in some ways, the wedding seemed a little like a formality. To most everyone who knows them, it’s as if they’re already married. However, during and after the ceremony, both of them looked so happy with each other….so I guess getting married is definitely something more significant than cementing a relationship with a piece of paper, particularly if you’re the church-going type (which these two are.)

However, planning a wedding is stressful for everyone involved, and the weekend of fun wedding events (bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner, nails, hair, and makeup) leading up to the ceremony ended up being an experiment in drama. In addition to having three bridesmaids from Atlanta, two of her good friends flew down from NYC, which I thought would make for an awesome weekend. However, somewhere along the line, the girls started bickering, which led to fighting, crying, silent treatment, gossiping, confrontation, and a year’s worth of resentments, annoyances, and who said what about who becoming an issue in the midst of all the things that needed to happen.

I’ve known, and been friends with, two of these girls for over four years. I’m not certain why, all of the sudden, I find out that Person X has a problem with me, and Person Y supposedly agrees, but Person Y says she never talks about me and she doesn’t trust Person X because she supposedly talks about everyone. The more I talk to both of them, the more I realise their stories don’t line up, both in terms of things that involve me, and other things that happened when I wasn’t there. To a certain extent, Person X must be telling the truth, because she told me about things she couldn’t have known about unless Person Y told her. However, on the same side of the coin, there are instances where I just intuitively know Person Y’s account of an event is the more accurate one.

What it’s led me to believe is that, among this circle of friends (and their close friends and significant others), everyone talks about each other. ALOT. Most of it is done behind backs and closed doors, and is more in the form of “venting” and dealing with the minor issues in a passive-aggressive way, so they don’t become major blow-ups. Most of the things said are things that are never meant to be repeated, and when they are repeated, are typically repeated out of context, causing resentment. This has characterised my friendship with these two girls for years, and for the most part, it works, because major blow-ups are rare. But now, somehow, it’s become the case that people are feeling as if they can’t trust each other, accusing each other of being fake or self-centred, and wondering if their friends are really their friends.

I care about both of these girls, and like them both, although they’re both quite different from me, and I don’t always relate. I think it’s largely true that we all talk about each other too much, and gossip, and repeat things we shouldn’t. I think it’s largely true that we all make rude, insensitive, and obnoxious remarks to/about each other, rather than addressing problems or insecurities. But I also know that these girls have been supportive of me through some really tough times, have been the ones to help me through life’s dramatic moments, and have kept the big secrets I’ve trusted them with. I hope that everyone can take a step back and take a look at what really matters, and as a result, work on ditching the high school drama BS.

I personally am going to work on remembering that snarky remarks are not a way to vent your frustration with another person, and even when someone makes them to you first, saying obnoxious things just makes you look like a bitch. I know this is one of my less likeable personality attributes, and it’s gotten me in trouble along the way in life, so it’s something worth working on in terms of growing as a person.

Anyhow, despite the drama, the wedding itself worked out beautifully, and I think that everyone had a great time. It occurred to me that putting on a wedding is almost exactly like putting on a show. There are all these details to take care of, numerous things go wrong, everyone has to remember exactly what they need to do, and there’s always a ton of short-temperedness, stress, ego, and inter-personal conflict involved. But, in the end, it looks like it all happens effortlessly.

As much as I don’t want to be a director, I also don’t want to be a wedding planner. *laughs*

This week hasn’t involved anything of the negative variety, really, other than not having enough work and concern over paying my bills. However, I can’t seem to shake the sad, blah feeling that’s taken over my week. I don’t even know where it’s coming from. But I hope it will leave when February does, if not before.

Tonight, I had a conversation with The Guy I Am Currently Dating about “connection”. Not as it pertains to our relationship, exactly, but in general.

For almost as long as I can remember, I’ve always had this relationship with the rest of the world that involves a certain level of me feeling disconnected from everyone else, as if, on some deep-down, personal level, there are very few people who ever really know or understand me. For the most part, it hasn’t stood in the way of my social interactions with the world. I’ve always been an extrovert, the person who feels at home in a majority of surroundings and situations. I’ve always been the person who has a good number of “friends”, most of whom really fall somewhere in the spectrum between “acquaintances” and “people whose company I enjoy frequently, but who know relatively little about me as a person.” However, my need for deep, “connected” relationships has always been something I’ve felt and identified greatly, and I’ve been fairly lucky to establish a handful of truly wonderful, enduring friendships as a result.

In this way, I’ve become a pretty rare breed: the guarded extrovert. And, although I’ve started to let my guard down a bit more as I get older, I’m still much more comfortable being the center of attention at a party, amongst a crowd of people I’ll likely never see again, than I am initiating one-on-one friendships with others. I’ve never been the one to meet someone, say “We should go to Place X together sometime”, and actually follow up on that, with either men or women. I’ve never been the one to actively seek out someone’s friendship, and I’ve been told that, despite being an outgoing and friendly person, there’s something about me that keeps many people from approaching me. It always surprises me, to hear years later that a person I met once had a crush on me, but was afraid to ask me out, or wanted to invite me to a party, but thought I wouldn’t be interested. Someone who has since turned into a friend once described me as “aloof”, which I’m really not, once you get to know me. I suppose there’s just a part of me that’s extremely guarded, and extremely particular about turning “acquaintances” into “friends”.

In any case, I’m sure it’s completely my own fault that I end up feeling thoroughly “disconnected” from the world, and like kindred spirits are hard to find. To be honest, although I’ve met literally hundreds of new people over the past few years through organising and attending Meetups, it seems like ages since I’ve found anyone with whom I truly have shared interests, a sense of commonality, an enjoyable rapport, and whom I’d really want to get to know beyond the occasional drink or running into each other socially. Even amongst those I do count as good friends, most aren’t very much like me at all, and even though we’re friends, probably don’t always relate to me terribly well.

The Guy I Am Currently Dating asked me what I did in the past to overcome this sort of feeling, and whether it’s a relatively new phenomenon. It certainly isn’t new; it’s something that’s plagued me my entire life. The deep need for “connection” is one of the many reasons that led me into my years of polyamoury, as it’s easy to conclude that perhaps the idea of one person you connect with on every level is rather unrealistic….yet, for people like myself, it’s impossible to ignore that need to know there is someone who relates to you, likes you, shares with you, understands you, or perhaps, is much the same as you—even if that person ends up being multiple people. It’s led me to trying to fill that need with meeting a parade of new people, mistaking that need for an interest in hooking up or dancing at clubs every night, seeking connection through intoxicants of all kinds, and even a brief, doomed flirtation with yoga. It’s also led me to things I never thought would be my cup of tea, such as my addiction to internet chat rooms back in the day, or joining a poetry community. It’s led me to experiment with virtually everything there is to experiment with, and, ironically, as I found myself making choices that increased the number of skeletons in my closet, it led me to feel even more guarded, more disconnected. However, it hasn’t been all bad. It’s led to me moving to different cities, having some life-changing friendships and relationships enter (and in some cases leave) my life, and taking chances on new jobs and new hobbies, and even starting a blog. *laughs*

Honestly, I’m not even sure what I’m looking for half the time, I only know that something’s missing…and it usually has to do with the idea of finding my voice, expressing it, and connecting with the world in a way that leaves me feeling understood and validated in some way. It’s possible that this desire has little to do with friendships, or relationships, but is a common feeling amongst artists that haven’t found a creative voice, that simply aren’t *engaging* with the world in the right way.

However, I do think a majority of the world spends a lot of time being largely disconnected, and the more reliant we become on Facebook statuses, Twitter updates, and texts, the more disconnected we become. I feel it on a personal level, every time someone tells me they don’t read my blogs or my e-mails because they were simply too long, or went on about feelings too much. Every time, I feel even more estranged from the rest of the world, and I miss those days when my Inbox was filled with long e-mails from friends, and remember how much I looked forward to that genuine type of connection. I’m as much to blame as anyone else, since I let either those friendships lapse or the habit of such honest communication fall by the wayside, largely because I began to lack the time and emotional energy to keep up. But, on days like today, I genuinely miss being connected with in a way that’s beyond the mundane, the ordinary, and the “safe”. I miss knowing people who wear their emotions on their sleeves, in their words, through their art, and have a genuine need to express who they are rather than hide it, or from it. And, I am somewhat grieved to know that time has turned me into an example of the latter, rather than the former.

One of the things I vowed to concentrate on in 2011 is recapturing a bit of the zest I’ve always had for life, and, in recent years, I’ve found myself sacrificing to age, responsibility, hard work, planning for the future, and—well, being a bit more like everyone else. Being an adult, it appears, means making money, going to sleep before 3 AM, not eating fattening foods, not drinking on the weekdays, and not blowing an entire week’s salary on that bracelet that keeps staring at you, or that trendy restaurant at which you so desperately want to spend a great evening. However, I do miss the zeal for appreciating la dolce vita, something that seems to be missing from my life, and from that of my friends and acquaintances (at least, from what I’ve observed.)

To that end, I’ve made a commitment to live the life I want to, and not to make excuses not to have the new experiences and do the fun things I truly want to do. There’s always a reason; none of my friends want to go with me to an event, a travel experience means time away from my dog, boyfriend, and whatever happens to go on around here, I shouldn’t spend the money on something that seems too extravagant or unnecessary, or travel from my inconvenient suburban location with no car is too restrictive. Ironically enough, in my younger years, I didn’t let these concerns stand in the way of taking risks, having experiences—and there were likely more reasons not to do be that type of person then than there is now. So, I’ve decided that even if I need to do things by myself, or meet new people who share my interests, and even if the things I want in my life mean that my relationship or life in Atlanta just isn’t meant to be, I’m not going to keep creating excuses to limit myself. I can blame where I live, my job, my friends, or my relationship, but none of those things are really keeping me from being adventurous, or being myself.

One of the things I’ve taken an interest in recently is learning more about the things I like, and learning to appreciate them from a more educated, slightly more cultured perspective. I already blogged earlier this month about my movie and book challenge, but I’ve decided to learn more about other things that I enjoy. After all, clothing is more than something to spend money on, wine and spirits aren’t simply something you consume to get drunk, there are forms of culture that don’t exist on a TV screen, and you can have a much different appreciation for food when it doesn’t come in a plastic wrapper.

A great resource I’ve found for learning about and tasting wine is the great community at Snooth . The site also has a wonderful community for spirit lovers and bar aficionados, located at The Spirit.

I also ordered a pretty little new journal, hopefully to inspire me to renew a habit I picked up while working on The Artist’s Way, of writing three pages each day without much thought or structure, or the inclination to self-censor.

I’m enjoying all of these more solitary pursuits, at least for now. It seems refreshing to take time out and work on myself, rather than always seeking external company and stimulation. I’m also looking forward to a whole bunch of things in the future, while generally not feeling today is a huge drag, which is a sign my life is becoming more balanced and more enjoyable. As it turns out, no matter who you are, and at any age, la dolce vita is very important. :)