The ONLY Oscar Blogger, who lives in walking distance to the Kodak Theater!

Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: A Retrospect

Where have you gone 2010? This is the fourth year I've written a retrospect on the year and it has become a tradition to write that sentence. Why? It is amazing to think that another year is over. I swear time goes faster and faster as you get older. Anyway, looking back on a year right when it is about to end gives me a unique perspective. I enjoy doing it and honestly, for the most part I've enjoyed this year.

I was re-reading my previous three retrospectives and they were filled with a lot of anger and regret. I feel different about 2010. There has definitely been some frustrations and disappointments, but let's be realistic. That is bound to happen every year. It's almost unavoidable. No one lives in complete harmony for an entire year. There's always going to be bumps in the road. It's a question of whether you can get back up and keep going. I would like to think I did that in 2010 more than any previous year since probably 2004.

I made a bold decision in the last few months that I would drop my PPS credential in my master's program. Really it's a career altering decision. Some people probably think I'm stupid to do it. I know my advisor at LMU tried to convince me it was a mistake. I did it for the same reason I quit Industry Entertainment two years ago. I don't want to live in a life that I don't think is right for me. Why not just cut out the bullshit and focus on your passion in life? That is one thing I realized this past year. Every person on this planet needs to ask themselves one question, "What are you passionate about?" Whatever that answer is should be what you spend as much time as possible trying to do. Life is too damn short to waste it doing something you don't care about.

I'll get back to grad school later, but this quest to find my passion really started to make a lot more sense this year. It really started in March when I started helping out Venice Arts. It was a chance meeting at a LMU nonprofit job fair. Maybe a meeting of fate, but my vision started to become more clear. I'm not sure what my future holds with that nonprofit in 2011, but in 2010 it was a fun ride. I mentored for three different semesters. Each one was unique in its own way. The most impressive part of mentoring is not being able to teach kids how to make films, but rather the relationships that you develop with them and how they teach you to appreciate the little things in life. Nothing beats watching their completed films. They are creative and more talented than you think. They have inspired me to start seriously thinking about making another film in the near future.

Event 17 was also a big deal for me. A great opportunity that I really did not expect. Being asked to do so much after only being a volunteer with an organization for a little over six months was incredible. It was a great challenge for myself, but one that I welcomed. That coupled with my nonprofit development certificate program I took at the LMU Extension showed me that maybe this is the right path for me. I may not make a lot of money, but I have potential to make an impact. At the end of the day, I think that is really exciting and much more fulfilling.

I saw Paul McCartney for a fifth time in March at the Hollywood Bowl. I literally can't believe I have been so fortunate to see him that many times. Many years from now, I will truly cherish these McCartney concerts even more. This past year I have actually seen a few concerts that were awesome. Roger Waters' The Wall tour was unlike any show I have ever seen. The production value was unbelievable. It was also the first concert I even smoked a joint at, so for that reason alone it holds a special place in my heart. I saw Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band, which was very emotional and I actually enjoyed the show. To see her bring back a concept that her and John Lennon came up over 40 years ago was unreal. I don't always agree with everything Yoko does, but I do respect the hell out of her for being such a strong woman throughout her life. Also saw Sean Lennon and his new project, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, a few weeks before Yoko and managed to sit in the front row. Then, saw an incredible tribute show to John Lennon by my favorite Beatles' tribute band, The Fab Four. It was definitely a memorable year for concerts.

It was also a big year for Yoko's other half, John Lennon. Yes, he has been gone for 30 years, but this year would have been his 70th birthday. It was really a special year for Beatle and John fans. On his birthday, I helped organize the Hollywood celebration and it was a lot of fun. The chalk art event went over really well. It was a very positive event and everyone there seemed to have a great time. We tried to keep that positive theme in December as well. While remembering his death is never easy, I thought that event also went over well.

It's funny when three out of four Boston sports team make the playoffs that it would be considered a down year. It was. Every team failed to live up to their full potential. The Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead and 3-0 game 7 lead in the second round of the playoffs. The Celtics lost in the NBA finals in 7 games against the Lakers after blowing a 3-2 series lead and 3rd quarter lead in game 7. That one was tough to swallow living in LA. The Patriots lost in the divisional round of the playoffs in a blowout. The Red Sox were the only team not to make the playoffs after having an injury plagued season. The good news is every Boston team looks ready to go in 2011. The Bruins look like a playoff team again. The Celtics should be a favorite for the NBA title again. The Patriots are heading to the playoffs again as the top seed in the AFC. The Red Sox signed two big free agents, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, which should make an exciting upcoming season. Optimism is around and it continues to be an exciting time to be a Boston sports fan.

I even showed off some of my athletic skills by playing softball. Not only did I play, but I also managed the Future Secret Presidents. Both the summer and fall seasons were full of struggles and tough losses, but it did contain some highs. Particularly, the last game we played this year. We rallied from six runs down to win the game in the bottom of the 7th. I even scored the winning run after drawing a walk with 2 outs. For a guy that is not much of an athlete, it was a moment I don't think I'll forget anytime soon. Getting mobbed by your teammates at home plate is simply unforgettable.

It could be argued that my days as an Oscar blogger have come and gone, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the Oscars anymore. I don't host many parties throughout the year, but my Oscar party in March was surprisingly a lot of fun and exceeded expectations. It was so much fun that I'm trying to figure out ways to top it in next year.

In my personal life, I had an interesting year. Some parts will be excluded here, but I did date a girl for a short time who admired Sarah Palin and the tea party movement. That was a mistake, but it happens. I can only laugh about it now. Besides the Palin girl, I can't really complain. There's been highs and lows, but compared to recent years it has been one of the better years.

I tried salvia (it's legal) earlier this year. I only bring it up since it really was a mind altering experience. If used under the right circumstances, I think Timothy Leary was right. Psychedelics can have a positive influence on your life. It changed my perspective on life. I still remember the feeling coming back to reality and being simply blown away at what happened. It was a total different experience than smoking weed. It was also one of the main reasons why I became an atheist this past year. I was never much of a religious person, but I decided enough was enough. Believing in the existence of God is a waste of time. He didn't create the universe. He doesn't control our destinies. It's perfectly fine if you believe in God, but it's not for me.

That leads to why I dropped the credential in my master's program. I don't regret going back to school, but I don't want to waste time doing something I can't see myself doing. Why extend my program longer and spend more money in school? Doesn't make too much sense. I have met some incredible people at LMU. Many who I consider my friends. My educational philosophy is just different from many of my classmates. I don't take my academics as serious as my peers. I try to stress the big picture rather than worry about the small details. This resulted in me at times not giving 100 percent, yet I still have managed to maintain a 3.97 GPA. I have no idea how I have done this, but I find it funny. I also have no idea how for one of my group projects, we used an article from The Onion and my professor never found it. Sometimes you got to love LMU professors.

I wrote in my graduate school journal a couple weeks ago that I planted a lot of "seeds" in this past year in all these different areas of my life from academics to career to even my love life. I'm ready for all these seeds to come out of the ground in 2011. Part of me has no idea what is going to come out of the ground, but that's what is exciting. I'm ready for grad school to end. I'm ready to start getting even more involved in the nonprofit world. I'm ready to get my creative juices flowing again. I'm ready to start the next chapter in my life. As John Lennon said shortly before his death, “I am going into an unknown future, but I’m still all here, and still while there’s life, there’s hope.”

A couple conversations that stuck in my head I've had this past year make me feel ready. A family friend described life being like a pinball machine. Life can take you in all these different directions and you have to be ready because you never know where the ball is going to go. The other is my nonprofit leadership professor giving each person in my class an imperfect map. Why? No one's journey is perfect and we all get to our destination a different way. The goal is overcoming the obstacles and getting there.

I'm going to end this with a line from Risky Business (1983) that is going to be my motto for 2011. "Sometimes you gotta say, what the fuck. Make your move... Every now and then say, what the fuck. What the fuck gives you freedom. Freedom brings opportunity. Opportunity makes your future."

What the fuck.

"If you can't say it. You can't do it."

Happy New Year,

Mikey Filmmaker


Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Xmas (War is Over)

Now, on a more serious note, there is this Christmas song. Much different feel than Paul's Christmas song. I love this song as it is able to combine both a Christmas spirit as well as a political message. No one has been able to do it better. John Lennon was so damn good at that. He always knew how to get his message across.

There's actually an updated video of this song with clips from around the world of people being affected by war. It's on YouTube, but the embedding is turned off. Not sure why, but check that version out as I'm sure you'll be shocked after you watch it.

This is my last post until after Christmas. Hope everyone gets what they want for Christmas. More importantly, I hope it's a day filled with peace and love.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lennon and Me: 30 Years Later

I don't think I've ever told anyone this, but my first memory of The Beatles is telling some family friends I didn't think they were any good. I thought The Monkees were better. I was probably somewhere between 7-9 years old. In my defense, my Mom was a Monkees fan. I don't know why I remember this. Yet, somehow that exchange was stored in my long term memory. I can't help, but smile and laugh at that. Who would have known that a little over 15 years later I am paying tribute to a man that is considered my idol. And he was a Beatle!

While I remember The Monkees' story. I also remember simply sitting in my basement as early as 12 years old listening to Beatles' records especially the Red Album and the Blue Album. Sitting down there for hours being mesmerized by their music and having a horrible habit of not being able to sit through an entire side of a record. I would always skip a song or simply want to re-listen to "I Want to Hold Your Hand" or "Strawberry Fields Forever". I used to drive my Dad crazy, who was more of The Beates fan out of my parents. Still, he let me put on their records on my own terms. He never forced or rammed The Beatles down my throat. In retrospect, I respect him for doing that. I actually attribute that for making me The Beatles fan I am today.

I would be lying if I said I haven't been thinking of what I would write about John Lennon. He has been gone for 30 years. I was not even alive the same time as him. Yet, he is such an important part of my life. Everyone from my family to friends often ask me why I love The Beatles such much. What makes John Lennon so special to me? I don't really have an easy answer to that question. I don't think I will ever have an easy answer to that question.

I have often said that John Lennon lived one of the most fascinating lives of the 20th century. He lived only 40 years, but his life was full of so much happiness, sadness, excitement, disappointment, success, and even failure. Every year of his life was full of ups and downs. Even his life before he was famous is worthy of a film. Oh wait a second, Nowhere Boy just was released a couple months ago. Seriously though, there was so much pain and loss that he had to overcome. It is really an admirable part of his life that some people forget. His Father abandoned him when he was 5. His Mother was killed by an off duty drunken police officer when he was 17. His Uncle George died when he was 14 years old. Even his best friend Stuart Sutcliffe died at the age of 21 of a brain hemorrhage in 1962. The only constant in his upbringing was his Aunt Mimi. He dealt with all this loss and change and somehow managed to turn it into something.

His first creative outlet was art, but it was music that really gave him a voice. After meeting Paul McCartney in 1957, the two of them formed the most successful partnership in the history of rock 'n' roll. Then, George Harrison came along. Then, of course Ringo Starr joined them in 1962. The rest was history. I don't need to write about what happened, but by 1970 it was over. Although, The Beatles were over. John Lennon still had plenty to say. His 10 years after The Beatles is just as fascinating as his time with the band. He became one of the leading peace activists in the world. He also still recorded some damn good music. Ever listen to Plastic Ono Band? I've never listened to a more honest and emotional album.

His death was one of those "where were you moments" of the 20th century. Many people (including my Dad) were watching Monday Night Football and listened in total shock to Howard Cosell's announcement. Total shock is probably the best way to describe it. 30 years later there is still total shock. Why did someone do such a unnecessary act? I am not going to name John's killer in this piece for obvious reasons. He does not deserve my recognition. His name is already all over the net, so google it if you must. Discussing his motivation or actions is not what today is all about.

Today is about thanking a man who touched my life. I am 25 years old. I missed him by five years. I feel like John has taught me a lot about myself through the years. He made me more self aware of myself and my actions. He showed me a lot through his 40 years. You don't have to be a model student in school to succeed in life. You don't have to be a perfect husband or father. You have to have a sense of humor. You have to be passionate about what you believe in whether it is peace, love, positive thinking, etc. And maybe most importantly to me, you can leave the industry you love and return years later with a renewed faith and interest. Sometimes you need to just step away. As John said shortly before his death, "I am going into an unknown future, but I'm still all here, and still while there's life, there's hope."

At the end of the day, we are human. Humans are not perfect. They are flawed. As John proved, you may experiment with drugs. You may abuse alcohol. You may have affairs. You may say things people might not like even if they take it out of context ("The Beatles are more popular than Jesus."). You may even get yourself almost kicked out of the country after being considered a threat by the President of the United States. You just have to be able to rise above it all to inspire and live a fulfilling life. That's what John Lennon did for me. That's why I love him.

He was really just a regular guy, who was so aware of his talent and had a vision. One that he made global and universal. One that still resonates to us today. "All You Need is Love". "Give Peace a Chance". "Imagine". Pure genius. That is why 30 years later we continue to talk about John Lennon. That is why people of all ages and backgrounds are fans of The Beatles and fans of John Lennon. People will sing and listen to those songs (and countless more) for another 30 years and beyond. John Lennon touched so many people while he was alive and continues to touch people.

Today, people will gather around the world to remember John Lennon. I will gather in Los Angeles at Capitol Records for what will be an emotional ceremony being run by my good friend Jerry Rubin. And I will admit, I will probably cry a little. As Paul McCartney said during his concert at Amoeba Records in 2007 when he finished "Here Today", "It's okay to cry." Today those words are very true. Yet I remind myself of something in Ray Coleman's biography. After Stu's death, John told Astrid Kirchherr, "You either die with him or you go on living your life". It is acceptable to reflect and remember, but I really try to make today a positive one as a day with filled hope for the future and my future specifically. John would have wanted that. That is why I never consider John Lennon to be a god. He is more like a friend. I just never got to meet him. Yoko said it best, "He was one of us". Unfortunately, 30 years ago tonight, one of us was shot and killed.

Mike Cersosimo

December 8, 2010