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Top 7 Movies of 2012

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This was a fantastic year for movies, so I just had to make a list. Keep in mind that these are the movies I personally enjoyed the most and may not be for everyone. I did leave out some great movies on this list, so I will be doing honorable mentions at the very bottom.

7. Rise of the Guardians (PG)

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What? Pixar didn’t make my favorite animated movie list? Honestly, Brave didn’t even beat out Hotel Transylvania for me. I found it bland, boring, and ultimately underwhelming, especially for a Pixar film. No, Rise of the Guardians makes this list because it simply was the most enjoyable animated film I saw this year. It could have easily been a contrived mess, cashing in on the exciting premise of seeing Santa, the Easter Bunny, Jack Frost and the Tooth Fairy fighting the Boogeyman. Thankfully, the movie has some great storytelling behind it thanks to the series of books it’s based upon, making it an action-packed kid’s movie with some interesting, sometimes deep themes. Plus, it was great to see The Sandman actually being the “strongest” of the guardians. Definitely glad I went out and saw this one.

6. Dark Knight Rises (PG-13)

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What a great way to conclude a trilogy. I have to admit that I wasn’t as impressed as everyone else with The Dark Knight, but I more than appreciated how well they crafted such a phenomenon. I had my doubts that DKR would even manage to come close to meeting expectations fans had for this film, but I was pleasantly surprised. Put simply, the movie did it for me. It had plenty of flaws and gaping plot-holes, but it was still an enjoyable ride from start to finish, and they managed to end the trilogy in a way that pleases pretty much everyone. I call that a win.

5. Les Miserables (PG-13)

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What more can I say besides the fact that Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman were so good at their roles that absolutely everything else I disliked about the movie pretty much meant nothing because, holy crap, I got to see some of the best acting of the year done to a musical. See this in theaters while you can.

4. Chronicle (PG-13)

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What a fantastic movie this turned out to be. At a time when we’re getting bombarded with the “handheld camera” style of filmmaking (Paranormal Activity 4 anyone?), I was relieved to see a studio really nail it with Chronicle. The movie already wins points on not being an adaptation or sequel. It was just an ambitious project that was filmed extremely well and ended up being one of my favorite movies of the year. It worked because it was simple and well-executed with believable characters and, of course, the powers these kids used evolved from entertaining to epic, making the final battle scene one of the best superhero finales I can say I’ve seen.

3. Ted (R)

Image Courtesy of filmofilia.comI hate Family Guy these days. Ever since the end of season 6, I have been extremely disappointed with the show and have completely given up on it. Sure, I watch episodes every so often to “check-in” and see if the show has managed to fix whatever it is that they broke. Hasn’t happened yet, but maybe that’s why I enjoyed Ted so much. Seth McFarlane, the mastermind (and pretty much every voice) behind Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show produced this movie, and it really was like the spirit and humor of past Family Guy were revived. Ted was easily the most funny movie I saw this year, and the reasons it worked go beyond the humor. Just look at how they handled Mila Kunis, who we probably should have hated but ended up empathizing with. The casting was the most well-done aspect of this film, with Ted becoming one of this year’s biggest new stars. Not bad for a teddy bear.

2. Skyfall (PG-13)

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I’ve been an avid fan of the James Bond franchise since I was old enough to watch them back when Goldeneye came out. To be honest, however, I haven’t enjoyed a Bond film (with the exception of Casino Royale, though even that was disappointing in part) since The World is Not Enough back when I was just 9 years old. The charm and mind-splitting plot of James Bond just hasn’t been there until we received Skyfall, a Bond movie that finally took some serious risks. They say that Bond films are most successful when they reflect the taste of the times. This is why Cold-War, macho villainy, and gadget hi-jinks were so popular back in the baby boomer days. Now, we’ve finally received a Bond film that adapts to the audiences of today. It was a fantastic action film that utilized the gritty realism and introspection we have come to expect thanks to Christopher Nolan. The villain ended up being the best movie villain of the year, I’d say, thanks to a brilliant performance by Sam Mendes. Just the fact that Skyfall actually took the risk of showing us a more emotional Bond without polarizing what makes him iconic is a testament to how well this film was made. 

1. The Avengers (PG-13)

I just enjoyed this film the most, okay? It wasn’t the most well-made film that came out this year. It wasn’t the best story. It didn’t have the best special effects. It didn’t have the best characters. Still, this was the most fun, escapism movie I saw this year. I lost myself in watching some of my favorite movie heroes fighting alongside each other against my favorite villain from their string of movies. I laughed and cheered alongside hundreds of people watching this movie, which is an experience I’ll never forget. When I think back, I waited four years for this movie, starting with Iron Man, so I easily could have been disappointed if just one of the characters fell flat. Not the case. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk lived up to my expectations perfectly. Thank you Marvel Studios.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Argo
  • Lincoln
  • Django Unchained
  • The Hobbit
  • Cabin in the Woods
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • Wreck-it Ralph
  • Looper
  • Life of Pi

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person.

Don’t forget to check out THE JON REPORT every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

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Why I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions

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Like last year, I have made no resolutions this year. I find the exercise pointless, but probably not for the same reasons you do.

The running gag is that we make resolutions and break them rapidly, putting people in two camps: those who go for it anyways and try to resolve, and the people who give the tradition lip service at best.

I fall into neither category. It’s mostly because the date is so arbitrary. Why is each year considered a blank slate? This doesn’t even compute with the business calendar. Everything that affected me in 2012 won’t just get up and leave for 2013. Looking at the new year has a new start is cute and fine, but for me, it doesn’t hold much water.

The truth is that your life isn’t characterized by years. It’s divided into stages. You have the freshman stage of college which can last your freshman year of college and bleed into your sophomore year, you have your senior stage of college that really begins the summer before your junior year, and you have your postgrad stage which starts in the spring of your senior year of college. These are the times when you need to make resolutions; when your life is actually changing.

You just had a baby. Resolution. You’re moving to a new city. Resolution. Someone close to you has died. Resolution.

I don’t want to knock New Year’s. I’m still going to have a good time and celebrate how great 2012 was and look forward to a new set of 12 months. I’m just sick of people telling me to make life decisions that don’t fit within the context of anything that’s actually beginning tomorrow.

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person.

Don’t forget to check out THE JON REPORT every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

New Professionals: Don’t Get Too Comfortable

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There comes a point in the life of a new professional when you’ve achieved “comfort.” You’re happy. You’re used to your surroundings. You have the next year completely planned out to the dollar. For many, this is a godsend. A reward for harsh work needed from postgrad woes.

I understand this experience quite plainly and how much of a trap it can be.

Living comfortably is fantastic, but leads to complacency. We’re young. We have so much to accomplish before we settle down, take spouses and have children. Our careers shouldn’t be set in stone, they should constantly be adapting to our experiences as new professionals.

Try different things. Take on a totally new project. Hang out with people you’ve never met. Try something new. Don’t let yourself get too comfortable. You have plenty of time for that later.

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person.

Don’t forget to check out THE JON REPORT every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

5 Reasons Why Social Media Won’t Kill PR

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I’ve often heard it said that social media and public relations are merging and becoming synonymous. “The New PR” if you will.  I typically hear this either from college students or professionals speaking out of context.

Indeed, social media has become integral to public relations, and for the better, improved it. One-way-communication by means of the press release and press conference is no longer the norm. We’ve found it easier to create and sustain relationships with our constituents by means of effective control over social media outlets.

That’s the danger, though, isn’t it? Classic PR seems to be fading into irrelevancy these days, at least in the eyes of those who operate outside of the profession, especially those in advertising in marketing. Peers of mine have often regarded PR as a shell of what it used to be, and public relations professionals becoming social media managers rather than directors.

Sure, I’m a social media manager, so I get that point to a degree, but the concept of public relations being overwhelmed by social media is nonsense, and here are 5 reasons why.

5. Social Media Managers are not Publicists

Facilitating online communities is completely different from so many other aspects of PR, especially publicizing  Yes, publicists get a bad rep, but that doesn’t change how good they can be at their jobs. They are just as essential as agents, and you can’t maintain the image of a prominent businessman, politician, or celebrity without a publicist.

4. Social Media only Addresses Consumers (for the most part)

There are some exceptions to the above statement, but for the most part, social media is focused on the interests of consumers and the general public. Social media does little to foster the relationships an entity may have with  the government, investors, employees, and especially the press. For many PR pros, this is a “duh” moment, for they constantly fixate on more than just social communication.

3. Social Media can be Difficult to Measure

In many cases, social media is not as easy to prove effective to the powers that be. When it comes to ROI and actually driving sales, social media can be difficult to build a foundation on because it is reactionary communication. It functions in the same way that word-of-mouth does for advertisers. We create the message and pick the channels, but we can’t always see the fruits.

There are ways around this, and I’m not saying that social media is not beneficial (quite the opposite actually). I’m saying that we are not yet at a place where social media can be dissected comprehensibly on a chart, and most PR pros don’t want to take the risk of building their ROI around social media impressions alone.

2. The World is Bigger than Social Media (Right Now)

So many of us live in cities and towns, so we forget that it’s a big world out there. Even within the states, we have to constantly remind ourselves that not everyone flocks to the internet as their source of reference. People still read newspapers and respond better to billboards than sponsored stories. It’s how the world works.

In time, millennials like myself will rely on “outdated” concepts such as (who knows?) cell phones and commercials. Social Media won’t kill PR because not everyone in your audience is using social media. Simple right?

1. Good Social Media Needs Good PR

Ideally, social media is about transparency, effective communication, and relationship-building. For PR pros, that sounds pretty familiar to what is essential about PR. Social Media is more than just a tool of PR, it is a product of it. The idea of instant, transparent communication being out there for the whole world to see is working for many people because many people rely on good PR.

It’s not just about the product. It’s the image and how the image is presented. Without the fundamentals and structure of high quality public relations, social media is just another bulletin board at your local coffee shop. With the right tools, however, it can affect more than just a handful of coffee drinkers.

The two subjects need each other. Be sure to watch how social media evolves in the coming years, and we’ll see just how the profession of PR changes with it. I am confident that both have a bright future.

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person.

Don’t forget to check out THE JON REPORT every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

Review: ‘Les Miserables’

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People have been waiting a long time for Les Miserables to hit the big screen. Constantly regarded as one of the greatest musicals to ever hit broadway, this piece of work has, until now, been an undertaking some would call “unfilmable.” Well, I’m here to let you know that, yes, this movie works, and it just might be the best movie you’ll see this year. Maybe.

BIAS

I have no bias with this work. I had never seen the play, read the book, or known any crucial plot points before seeing this film (not for lack of wanting. I had tickets to the broadway play in 2008 but the show was canceled due to the writers’ strike. I’ve been charred ever since.)

So this review is coming from the words of someone completely unfamiliar with the source material, so take my opinion for what it is. I won’t be in the business of trying to compare the movie to the book or play, since I simply can’t.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Image Courtesy of projectqatlanta.comIf you don’t know much about the story or backdrop, know that you will be entering a biopic of sorts centering around the character of Jean Valjean played by Hugh Jackman, with his story taking place over a period of about 20 years (40 if you count the unseen prologue) in 17th century France.

Yes, the movie has plenty of supporting characters, but the story really revolves a long chase scene between Jean Von Jean, a convict who broke parole but is seeking spiritual redemption, and Javert, the ruthless policeman who hunts him played by Russel Crowe.

The movie carries many themes, with one of the most prominent being freedom. Halfway in, the story coincides with the second French Revolution that took shape in the 1830s. The story coincides beautifully with these events, making it a fitting period piece.

This movie is truly a musical, with characters constantly singing and very, very rarely speaking out of song. I don’t have to have seen the broadway play to know that the music is one of the world’s most celebrated scores, constantly pulling at your heartstrings throughout the movie’s long 2.5 hours.

Oh yeah, the movie is long. If you don’t have the RunPee app (an app that shows you when the best times are to take a bathroom break) GET IT. I did and benefitted greatly, since the movie is constantly introducing new characters and jumping forward in time, though there are plenty of long song sequences you can cut short.

Back to the music, you may have already heard that the movie has pioneered a new method of recording the music. Rather than produce all of the singing in a studio months before production, most of the singing recorded is actually being sung on camera, and it shows. The raw emotion in the sound this creates is extremely noticeable and provoked many in the audience to tears, literally.

WHAT WORKS

Pretty much every scene with Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, who plays Fantine, is pure gold. Their performances overshadow most everything else about the film, and awards will most likely be handed out. The music is phenonemnal, though the only songs that really did it for me were “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Red and Black,” and “Do You Hear the People Sing?” Everything else was fine, but there was just so much singing that many of the others songs were cluttered and forgettable. Something I’m sure purchasing the soundtrack would cure.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK
I’m not going to say that Russell Crowe did a poor job. He really didn’t. I’m just burdened with having to compare him to Hugh Jackman. The performances were far apart in my opinion, mainly because of Crowe’s lack of emotion, though perhaps that’s what the character of Javert calls for.

The sets are hit or miss. They ranged from epic in scale, especially towards the beginning, but then meander to looking like something out of a Lemony Snicket novel. It was too noticeable for me to forgive.

I know British accents are all the range, but do we really lack the capacity for pulling off French accents in America? It’s annoying to watch a French Revolution movie where the 8 year old is leading one of the most epic battle songs sounding like Kelly from Misfits. 

On a more serious note, I hesitate to judge the story, which I frankly found rushed. Yes, this is a different medium. Movies can’t do what books do. I just wish that more explanations between time skips could have occurred. You absolutely have to pay close attention, or you will be yearning for more.

I also wish they could have done more with Cosette, played by Amanda Seyfried, though I’m appreciative that they took full advantage of Sacha Baron Cohen, who played Thenardier the Innkeeper.

IS IT WORTH WATCHING?

For most people, definitely yes. It’s pure drama with some action, so don’t expect much humor. If you want to get truly involved in a long, gripping, and performance-rich musical, you will get what you paid for with Les Miserables. Almost everyone can appreciate the beauty behind the music, but the movie is definitely not for everyone. If you couldn’t even handle the music breaks in Phantom of the Opera, for example, then this is definitely not the movie for you.

For fans of the source material, I can say with confidence that every person I know that has seen both the play and the movie have greatly enjoyed this. I’ve yet to hear of disappointment from the fans. There was a standing ovation at the very end, which turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever witnessed. Not a dry eye in the house.

I highly recommend that you see this in theaters! I can’t imagine the sound being better in your living room. On a final note, here is my favorite quote from the movie that gave me chills: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

 

What Public Relations Should Boil Down To

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This is a crazy, roller-coaster of a profession. Though I’ve only just begun my career in the last year, I’ve delved into corporate communications, agency work, freelance, the world of publicity, and now nonprofit PR.

The job of public relations is definitely fascinating, and continues to grow as more and more people are choosing it for their career path. College students all over the world are seeing the benefits of choosing this profession, though some are honestly in it just to jump on the social media bandwagon, but let’s be real. PR is about so much more than just social media.

What is Public Relations? This is a question I hear often, though I’m confident most people who ask me already know. We are in the business of creating and maintaining good relationships with the publics of whatever organization we are working for. It’s advocacy but with a clear focus.

Yes, people confuse it with advertising and marketing all of the time, though the three are actually more integrated than you might realize. Still, there is one thing that definitely separates the profession from so many others, including it’s “cousins” of advertising and marketing. It’s the one thing that PR should always boil down to.

Love.

PR is about showing love and reacting to how it is reciprocated. We craft relationships and images out of love for our constituents: the government, investors, our own employees, and of course, the consumers of our brand.

“But Jon,” my internal conscious says as I write this, “PR really boils down to making your company look good no matter what. It’s about saving a company money and creating good press, not love!”

This is my internal reaction to the idea that PR should boil down to love. Being in the business for a short while, I’ve seen the bad side of how PR is used just as much as I’ve seen the good. That said, I’ve seen the success of PR versus the failure of PR and that leads me to the conclusion that PR needs to boil down to love.

I believe this not based on how the profession has been judged and seen by others in the past. I believe this not based on what I want out of the profession.

I believe that PR is about love based on everything I have experienced up to this point in my career. 

Yes, we write press releases, measure ROI, pester journalists and do whatever we can to increase the bottom-line for our organization. That’s the reality of our lives in PR. Everything we do, whether we do it in love or not, has to be sustainable.

All of these things, however, are just goals. They’re what’s necessary to achieve the vision of whatever organization we are a part of.

To truly find success in PR, the message has to be sent in love. It has to respond to the needs of whomever is affected. Sure, a PR professional can’t please everyone. What may be good for consumers is not necessarily good for stockholders. Not every consumer is going to like a new policy change or maybe something as simple as a new logo.

It’s the PR pro’s job to maintain balance between these opinions and concerns, constantly using two-way communication, that yes, social media has allowed us to foster better than ever before.

Is there dishonesty in the profession? Absolutely, but that’s because there are dishonest people. The good PR pros know that shortcuts and coverups are the most impractical options for how to deal with crises. This is why you will often see companies owning up to their mistakes and making them right. You know that a good PR team is behind those decisions.

PR goes by a set of rules very similar to how we operate as people. You have to show love. To your customers, to your employees, and to your partners. When an organization operates by this creed, they will find success in PR.

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person.

Don’t forget to check out THE JON REPORT every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

What to Do When You Don’t Feel Like Writing

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We’ve all been there. Even the most emphatic writing lovers I know get to a point where they stop updating their website as often. The frequency of your posts slow down and may even halt.

It doesn’t mean you have lost your love for writing. It may not even mean you have writer’s block. I’ve sent out plenty of above-average posts born out of lack of desire to write them.

It’s human nature for us to get bored. Ideas stop coming in as naturally. That euphoric feeling of posting something people like and that craving you have to constantly check your site’s stats doesn’t last forever.

At the risk of saying something that will make you roll your eyes, I’ll say that it’s almost like a relationship. Once the honeymoon phase of your website or blog wears off, it’s natural to not be as excited about keeping up with it.

So what do you do? Here are some solutions to this problem depending on your situation:

Go back to basics.

Identify the true reason for why you put the time and effort into creating your platform. Reconnect with your old self who motivated you to get this started.

If you made goals at the beginning of this writing adventure, revisit them and conclude on whether or not they are worth upholding. It’s this soul searching at a critical time that will determine whether or not you’re cut out to be an online writer.

If you find yourself constantly creating new blogs every few months in order to hold onto that euphoric new car smell, chances are you will never find a meaningful relationship with an online audience.

Take a break.

Of course, taking a break is always a good thing, and going a few weeks every once in a while is actually one of the best things you can do for your creative mind, especially during the busy holidays. These breaks contribute to a rhythm that we as human beings thrive on. Work. Rest. Work.

Tread carefully, however, because more often that not, it is incredibly difficult to come back home after a vacation. For some writers, you may need to post less frequently, which would prevent long breaks. If you’re posting 7 days a week, then you are likely to burn out fast, making it hard to recover.

Instead, figure out what your rhythm is. Establish a vision and make it happen as my boss would say.

Shake things up.

Spice up the relationship. It’s very possible that you’re sick of writing because you are using a format that isn’t inherently exciting. Use change to your advantage by writing about something completely out of the ordinary, or take on a new project, like an interview, or a video review.

Write anyways.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is power through. It takes a lot of discipline to stick to a structured timeline and set of goals, but it is tremendously rewarding.

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person.

Don’t forget to check out THE JON REPORT every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

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