‘Stranger Than Fiction’ Review

I watched one of my favorite feel good movies last night; Stranger Than Fiction. It’s actually kind of a dark comedy, but I find it really humorous. The story, for those unfamiliar, is that of Harold Crick, an average middle-aged man living a simple if not mundane 9-5 life as an IRS auditor, with no real ‘life’ to speak of. He brushes his teeth 38 brushes each way, he ties his neck tie in a single Windsor knot every single day, and his wrist watch is arguably his only companion.

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It’s not until he hears a woman’s voice following him throughout his daily life and narrating his actions that he seems to finally understand how empty his life is. As the narrator is clearly very right about some harsh truths in his life, he seeks out the help of first a psychiatrist (who wouldn’t?), and then a literature professor (played magnificently by Dustin Hoffman).

Through several scenes of trial and error, Harold realizes he is not in control of his own destiny, is told to go live the life he’s  always wanted to live. He buys a strata-caster and learns a guitar song, pursues a love interest with a woman he is auditing, and gains new friends along the way. Oh yeah, and it turns out his narrator is well known published author Carol Eiffel, who is notorious for killing off her heroes in her novels (played by Emma Thompson, who is brilliant as her eccentric, dark, shut-in character Eiffel).

While the plot appears lighthearted and comical at the surface, it actually deals with a lot of the same struggles and dilemmas we all face at some point. Life and death, living life how you want to live it, love, loss, accepting harsh truths, and power of the written word (this one is more of my opinion than a real theme in the film I think). Harold goes through so many peaks and valleys (and they are pretty deep valleys and pretty high peaks) and he just keeps persevering. Meanwhile, his narrator can’t think of anything except how to kill Harold.

In the end, Eiffel confesses that she just couldn’t kill anyone anymore, fictional or otherwise (but who’s to say all of her characters weren’t real at one point?). She claims that it was Harold’s complete acceptance of his death that made her realize she couldn’t keep killing off innocent, great people in this life. Harold, who was completely ready to die in the name of poetic and ironic justice, was one of those people that should probably stay on this earth a while longer.

I love Will Ferrell in this more serious role. His moments of deflation and his scenes of undulated happiness play so organically on screen, and Maggie Gyllenhaal makes an excellent scene partner with Ferrell.  Whether they are bickering in a bakery or whispering sweet nothings to each other in bed, their unlikely chemistry is so satisfying to watch unfold .

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Stranger Than Fiction is an odd, quirky, humorous, touching, and thoughtful film about life, love, death, and a lot of literature. Anyone who’s ever written a poem, short story, novel, or anything fictional will relate to this movie on an even deeper level. An old creative writing professor of mine said that as painful as it usually was, we had to ‘kill our babies’ while writing. What she meant was, even though we may love a certain character or plot development, sometimes it’s just not for the best of the story. I always begged and pleaded to let me keep that one scene I just loved so much. In hindsight, she was right. My character would have never done or said or been where I wanted her to be in that favorite chapter of mine, and any outside reader could feel the unnatural struggle there. I was just too close to the story.

Anyways, I digress. Rent this movie (Google Play- only $2.00!), prepare to laugh, ponder, maybe tear up a bit, and feel the need for an introspective moment as the credits start to roll.

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Pinterest for Your Business: 4 Tips to Get You Started

Pinterest-Pin-TimesPinterest is no longer just for creating your secret wedding board, or collecting cool DIY crafts that you will never actually try in real life (guilty). Pinterest is a great way to establish your company and brand as the authority in your industry. You can expand your reach and get your product in front of millions of eyeballs, using quality images and carefully crafted captions. Pinterest allows for higher traffic to your website, because all pins must link to somewhere. And if you think it’s only women who are using it, you are Screenshot (1)sorely mistaken. Comscore reported that one third of all Pinterest sign ups are men. Any business can take advantage of Pinterest’s highly active audience of over 70 million users, and here are a few tips to get you started.

High Quality Images & Rich Pins

When creating your pins, images that are colorful, descriptive, and high resolution will be re-pinned much more frequently. Vertical pins are also a crowd pleaser, partially because of the way users scroll, and because 75% of Pinterest usage takes place on mobile. Hubspot recommends using pins that are about 736 pixels wide with a minimum width of 300 pixels.

Adding rich pins to your repertoire will help your strategy as well. These kind of pins give users more information about your product or service. Product pins with pricing information included, for example, get 36% more likes than those without, according to Shopify. Other kinds of rich pins include recipes or articles, and these kinds of pins make it that much easier for viewers to purchase your product.

 

 

 

Use Text Overlay to Include a Call to Action

You can do this in a subtle way that still tells your audience what their next step should be. This will help explain to customers why they should care about your pin, and where to go next. According to Brandon Gaile, pins with a call to action showed 80% more engagement than those without. That’s a statistic that no one can ignore.  Screenshot (2)                         Screenshot (3)

If you’re not a graphic designer, don’t stress. You can create beautiful graphics for free on a variety of sites, including Canva, which is my personal favorite. Many of their layouts and elements are free of charge, and they make it about as simple as Microsoft Paint (if anyone remembers spending hours using Paint before high speed Internet was the norm, you’re cool!).

Stay Social

Like any social platform, you’ll want to continue to regularly engage and chat with your community; all social strategies should include two way conversations. Be sure to reach out and like, repin, and comment on your follower’s pins. You can dedicate a board specifically for your favorite follower’s pins, showing them that you’re listening to them, and you care about what they care about. You can also add a Pin It button to your website or blog, so users can pin whatever they see on your site, which will in turn link back to your webpage once they pin.

Evergreen Content is King

The beautiful thing about Pinterest is that once your content is out there, it’ll never really fade away. There’s Twitter, where your tweets disappear in minutes (even if you get re-tweeted regularly, the visibility of tweets fade pretty quickly). Facebook has introduced the “save this post” option, which is pretty cool, but when’s the last time you looked back at your saved posts? This is where Pinterest marketing continues to give back to businesses.

Say you run a promoted pin campaign and you get 11 repins. You might not think this is a great return on investment, but consider how many eyes saw those 11 repins. And those eyeballs may repin to their own boards, and so on and so on. As long as your content is evergreen and valuable for long periods of time, your content will continue to be pinworthy, and your hard work designing and creating such beautiful pins will pay off handsomely.

Do you use Pinterest for your business? Please share your own tips and experiences in the comments!

My Thoughts on Spotlight

As so many of my friends and family know, I absolutely love movies. I watch at least one or two per week, and I have a habit of watching my favorites over and over. I love to quote them, google them and see their awards, become obsessed with certain directors (I’m certain I’ll always be a Christopher Nolan fan-girl). I typically try to watch all of the Academy Award nominated films before the awards are announced, but between work and play this year, it didn’t happen. So I’m finally starting to check them off my watch list.

I watched the Best Picture winner Spotlight last night. I was so pleasantly surprised at how well done it was, and how well deserving it was of winning the most coveted Oscar. Having spent some time in a professional news setting (interning at a National news source), perhaps my opinion was skewed more to be in favor of the movie. Who doesn’t love a great story about journalist who rock at their job, and uncover the decade’s most controversial story about a fundamental institution? Sign me up.

What gets viewers hooked so swiftly is the pacing of the movie. It doesn’t linger on any scene or any character, nor does it contain any unnatural monologues or quick witty banter between characters (I’m looking at you, Aaron Sorkin). The movie progresses at such a rapid yet thoughtful pace, you can’t look away.

The writing is also so superb. Each moment of dialogue is like a precious gift to viewers. Every time we hear the Spotlight team speak, the story unravels just a little bit more. Even though we already know how the story will end, we are still so captivated by it and we hang on every spoken word.

The acting, is, in a word, masterful. The cast is supremely and thoughtfully chosen. You might think with such a star studded cast, they might all be competing for the best performance in any given scene. And that’s where the film shines. Each character has their own identity, but meshes so seamlessly into the Spotlight team. There are no egos, no heroic moments, and no over dramatized scenes. Tom McCarthy’s directing skills are something to marvel at. He creates compelling scenes that are straightforward and complex simultaneously.

On the based-on-a-true-story level, the film captures the heart of the real Spotlight experience. The film comes to the sorrowful realization that it sometimes takes an outsider to see the truth, or at least the whole truth. Each reporter, and victim, and school teacher, and parent, were all accessories in some way to the atrocities, they just didn’t realize it. It took the fresh view of a new editor from Florida to take the piecemeal reporting of the events and see that together, they formed a cohesive and disturbing story.

McCarthy also reflects on accountability. Looking past the obvious fact that the Catholic Church should be held accountable, there are many other significant institutions that turned a blind eye, for fear of repercussions, for their pride, or any other number of reasons. The schools, the parents, the teachers, and most startlingly, the Boston Globe itself, are left standing out in the cold with nothing to cover them from the responsibility they carry. As Michael Keaton’s character admits that he was the one who buried the list of potentially guilty priests sent to him years ago, the audience feels his shame and regret, but also his acknowledgment of that fact, and his hope to correct his actions.

Spotlight doesn’t focus too intently on the tawdry details of the molestations. It shows the men and women who put their heads down and put in the work to uncover the whole story. They could have released a less than complete version of the story, but chose not hold off and keep digging deeper, because of their duty to the readership, to the victims, and to themselves as investigative reporters. This is another strong element of the film. They weren’t heroes. They were doing their jobs, and doing them well. Spotlight reinforces our faith in the power of media and investigation, at a time when most have all but written off mainstream media as completely biased, bought and paid for by corporations or skewed due to the political leanings of certain broadcasters. Spotlight offers us a glimmering hope that our trust may someday be restored in the critical and significant institution of conventional journalism.

Spotlight was the perfect ensemble of elements; talented cast, brilliant storytelling, careful pacing, under-dramatization, accountability, and truthfulness. I read all parts of the Spotlight series written in the Boston Globe during 2002, and while there were some omissions in the film, it was overall incredibly accurate.

Have you seen Spotlight? What did you think of the film? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

First Post

Hello all. I’m going to cut right to the chase; I’ve started this blog for a number of reasons. I firstly wanted to see if I’d have the courage and motivation to create my own blog. Now that I’ve crossed that bridge, I need to find out exactly why I wanted to start one so badly.

Lately, I’ve had this feeling like I need to take my knowledge, my ideas, and my skill-set to see what I can do with it all. I’ve been yearning to accomplish something that is all mine; complete career independence, with my own successes or failures determining the outcome. Maybe it’s that quarter life crisis my older brother told me about.

With that in mind, the WordPress account has been created, and the blogs will soon start to flow. I hope to bring my readers (if I ever have any), informative articles on what’s trending in social media and blogging. I want to bring any business the tools to succeed at any social campaign, because knowledge is power. I want to help anyone looking to get an idea off the ground, and what better way to do so than through social media? It’s such a powerful tool that, when properly utilized, can bring any company more leads, conversions, and a more visible brand identity.

I’m feeling scared, and excited, and maybe a little foolish for starting something that my hopes are set so high on. Here’s to whatever happens next.