home | about my design | portfolio projects | web resources





Favorite Movies of 2016

Once again, it is almost Oscars Night, 2017. I have not seen all the Best Picture contenders this time, nor had time to think about writing reviews, but the four that I have seen include:

Hidden Figures
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea


Still want to see:


Others that I liked, but aren't voted for Best Picture include:
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Trek Beyond, Moana, The Jungle Book,
and Florence Foster Jenkins

Still want to see:
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

In the Best Picture category, my favorite movies so far are:
Hidden Figures, La La Land, and Lion

Hidden Figures

It is really hard to say which of these movies I liked the best, but Hidden Figures is a movie that highlights a very important era in our country's history at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement, circa 1961, when women of color still faced obstacles in the workplace, in schools, and in their communities—especially in states like Virginia where racial segregation and sexism were accepted ways of life. NASA however, was located in Langley, Virginia and was instrumental in breaking down some of these barriers, especially for women. Apparently, they hired numerous women to work for them, and gave opportunties to many women of color as well. The work these women did however, was not rewarded in the same way that the men's work was at the time, although women were doing the same quality work, and responsible for helping to advance NASA's programs in significant ways.

The movie tells a little-known story about three of these women of color who worked at NASA, and is based upon a novel of the same name, by Margot Lee Shetterley (who herself is the daughter of a NASA scientist, and also a woman of color). They were hired to work at NASA at a time when their communities and entire way of life was still segregated. But they were also very talented mathematicians and made invaluable contributions to NASA within this environment. The stars of the movie are based on three real-life women whose names are: Katherine Goble Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan. It tells their story, from the time they were children and young women, to when they were first hired to work for NASA, and later became instrumental in supporting the pioneering work of NASA's Space Program, helping to launch astronauts like Alan Shepherd and John Glen into the first rockets that went to the moon. Their story is told in a charming and upbeat way, showing how they overcame many of the obstacles and biases that white America placed upon them at the time, but in the end, earning the support of both their bosses and colleagues to became important contributors to the NASA Space program. They worked on both the first computers, as well as the first calculations done to launch space rockets, with tremendous accuracy. They helped to calculate the flight paths of the rockets, computing distance, speed, as well as launching and landing points for the rockets as they left Earth and returned again, on reentry through its atmosphere. They also managed some of the first mainframe IBM computers used at the time, and managed and taught others how to work with computers as well. The movie also illustrates how the women were able to break down other barriers, finding ways to further their own education, by attending night school at white-only schools, after receiving a judge's permission to do so, just to learn advanced calculus so they could advance their careers at NASA. Finally, they helped change workplace norms, including not only their colleagues' perceptions of their abilities, but also things like access to convenient bathroom privileges. The movie captures the essence of the times, through the costumes and dresses worn by the main characters, which are reminescent of modern and colorful styles worn in the 1960's, along with pointed glasses, and the kinds of vintage cars which they drove, as well as other props in the NASA workplace. The movie also created vignettes to show they lived in their personal lives, covering things like family celebrations and outings, making their characters more relatable, human, and ultimately very likeable.

Katherine Goble Johnson worked closely with the NASA Director on space-flight calculcations. She is still alive today at the age of 98 years old, and now has a research center at NASA named after her called, "The Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Center." In 2015 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work at NASA by President Obama, and was also featured on an NBC News interview recently as well, to talk about the role she played at NASA. The movie brings to light many of the issues that our country was dealing with in the 1960's, from the Civil Rights challenges, to the advancement of our Space and Technology programs, as well as how we were competing with Russia to be the first in space. Computers were just being invented, and were much larger than the desktops and smartphones and other devices we all use today. At the time, most of the computations that Katherine and her colleagues were working on, were done by hand, and the group that she worked with nicknamed themselves, "computers with skirts." Looking back on this time provides us with a teachable lesson in today's turbulent climate of politics and some of the racism we are seeing rising up again now, directed towards more than one sector of our society, and the rise of white nationalism. This movie provides an important message, and shows us that barriers that have been removed for people of color, should not be resurrected, and have no place in our society. More importantly though, I think the message is that barriers of any kind can be broken down, allowing great things to be accomplished when they are, if people have the will to do something to help advance society in positive ways. Today, we are also confronted with how to move forward, dealing with discrimination of a new type not seen often in our country before, as well as to question, in an unprecedented way, what our relationship to Russia should be. Although our times and circumstances are much different today, we must remember that America has always been a country of strong and positive ideals, allowing opportunities for all people and citizens to achieve their potential, as meaningful contributors to our society. We can learn a lot from the pioneering spirit of the "space women with skirts" at NASA, and take a note from their book!

A great quote from the movie: "So yes they let women do some things at NASA, Mr Johnson. And it's not because we wear skirts. It's because we wear glasses." -- Katherine Gobel (Johnson)

Some articles to read:

Hidden Figures: The Incredible Real History Behing the Film

History Extra | February 2017 |written by Margot Lee Shetterley, author of the book which inspired the movie

Review: ‘Hidden Figures’ Honors 3 Black Women Who Helped NASA Soar

New York Times | December 22, 2016 | by A.O. Scott


Hidden Figures' Real-Life NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson: 'If You Like What You're Doing, You Will Do Well'


“Katherine Johnson: The Girl Who Loved to Count”
NASA website feature | video shows her receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in November of 2015


La La Land movie poster

La La Land a Movie Musical

I have a lot I am thinking about with this movie - whether it is the musical aspect of it that makes it so fantastic, or the visual cinematography and choices and uses of scenes that are juxtaposed against the backdrop of the character's everyday lives in Hollywood. This movie is clearly one of the most creative, visually and brilliant musical specatacles to have been produced by Hollywood. It is in effect, a movie about the life of would-be stars in Hollywood, while they star in their own fantasy of what they envision their lives being. The songs "City of Stars" and "Audition (The Fools Who Dream), are both nominated for "Original Song" and the entire musical score is also nominated for "Best Original Score" which it seems most deserving of. The music is definitely one of the fantastic elements that make this movie so spectacular, and truly creates an ambience that is magical and unforgettable. The music is brilliant, and works as background music that can be played again and again, in variations, throughout the movie without the listener ever tiring of it. The cinematography is also spectactular, and the way in which both of these elements are interwoven with the story of Mia and Sebastian, an aspiring actress and musician who by chance meet each other and become romantically involved, is incredibly artistic and original, and what gives this movie its "magic." It is a feast for both the eyes and the ears, and senses, as well as the heart.

One of the interesting aspects of the movie is the story itself and how it unfolds, then vascillates back and forth between the events of the two characters, and their lives. It also vascillates between fantasy and reality. The fantasy world in which the aspiring artists live in Hollywood, trying to realize their dreams; and the reality of the sometimes cold, stark and competitive world that Hollywood can be for aspirants. The movie though, also has a timeless quality about it - from the costumes of the characters, and the car that Sebastian drives, to the soft shoe dance routines, the background settings, as well as the music, all together lend to whisking the viewer away from the reality of today's Hollywood, to a time before - when perhaps making it in Hollywood was simpler, or based on real talent, and not superficialities. The movie was supposedly written with old Hollywood movies in mind, to harken back to the days of the old Hollywood musicals, but it inevitably has a modern twist to it. The fantasy element is one of the strongest in the movie, and is what makes it so enchanting. The fantasy aspect also is cleverly interwoven with the real action and life stories of the characters, and what brings about the very dramatic ending to the film, which has an element of unexpected surprise, as well as a let-down for the viewer, when Mia encounters Sebastian again playing the piano at his own private nightclub, after their lives had grown apart. This chance meeting creates a natural point at which the movie does a 180 degree turn, taking the viewer back to the beginning again of their relationship, and how they met, while Sebastian reflects back in his mind, over their past, and the "what-ifs;" what if things had been different, or had turned out differently between them? Mia does not appear to have the same depth of thought or feeling/emotion, but is moved and visibly touched by the encounter with Sebastian. It is hard to say who might be filled with the regret in this final scene at the nightclub, but the scene definitely creates a dramatic turn of events both in the storyline, as well as the "fantasy-line" of the movie. The visual fantasy that unfolds in Sebastian's mind is like a kaleidoscope of imagery and music, with the backdrops of scenes from an imaginary movie set that they may have both been starring in, had things turned out differently; and it seems evident that the characters have in a way, both became victims of their own ambitions, as well the trials and tribulations of trying to "make it" in Hollywood. In the end, it is Sebastian who seems more emotionally driven and more grounded in his artistry, than Mia was - who opted to marry a wealthy Hollywood producer, as perhaps a "shortcut" to the type of stardom she was seeking. Either way, the ending has a very dramatic impact on the rest of the movie, and does take the viewer by surprise, causing one to reflect on the kind of world in which the characters lived, verus the real-life Hollywood.

The movie does have a timeless quality about it, and all the makings of a "classic" with song, dance, and cinematography—even though a good part of the story is actually based in the world of today's Los Angeles. The viewer can harken back to the opening scene of the movie, which takes place on the Los Angeles Freeway, where random drivers who are caught in a traffic jam, all get out of their cars, and start singing and dancing in a musical routine that looks like something from a Broadway play. It seems to be a symbol of all that L.A. stands for — a show that goes on and on continuously, but is also presents a conflict between the real, everyday world of Los Angeles, versus the world of talented actors and musicians, trying to make it to become successful, or something "permanent." Whether or not Sebastian or Mia found the success and/or permanence they were looking for, or even happiness in the end, is to a certain extent, debatable. Perhaps they each did, in their separate ways but the viewer is left with this unanswered question to ponder, and whether their relationship was perhaps, "meaningless?"

The movie itself has many uplifting scenes, most of them based in fantasy, but this is what makes it so delightful. One of my favorite scenes is the scene in the Planetarium, where Sebastian and Mia seem to float effortlessly up and into a starry night sky, while the world turns below, all set to the wonderful musical score, “City of Stars,” that is the thematic of the entire movie. The movie is stunning and spectacular in everyway, whether it has a happy or a sad ending.

The Soundtrack from the Planetarium:


Epilogue and City of Stars soundtrack:





Favorite Oscar-Nominated Movies of 2015:

Cathedral Illumination Evening - "Seeing Deeper"

Visit this page to see images from the National Cathedral’s “Seeing Deeper” Illumination evening.









Oscar-nominated, Animated Short Films
In the animation categories, both short-film and long:

In the animation category, I liked the artistically illustrated Japanese movie, The Wind Also Rises, by Japanese producer Hayao Miyazaki, but have not seen any of the other animated movies, yet.

More on the short film animation nominees...




April 19, 2013

Quote for the day:

"You can't use up creativity — the more you use, the more you have."

-- Maya Angelou





my Flickr favorites

facebook twitter Pinterest


« past art exhibits at the Corcoran »

brown scroll


» Inspirational Music

Oscar Reviews 2016

» Movie Reviews, Oscars 2015

» Oscar Animated Short
Films, 2013

» Movie Reviews, 2012

Movie Reviews, 2011




» Environmental
Websites & Links

* Visit:
The Climate Reality


green swirls

Travel Photos:

» Travel photos from my trips to:
Martha’s Vineyard 2012,
Woods Hole
and Martha’s Vineyard 2006;
and my
’07 California coast trip.




my website design + photography + graphics






Web content development
Content writing & copy editing
Logo design, graphic design
Layout & coding
Blogging & writing
Facebook, Twitter, Google +

Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Photoshop
Adobe InDesign
Adobe PDF

HTML 4/5.0
CSS 2.0/ 3.0

Content Management Systems


WITH: Slideshows & scripts
Flash headers
music files & video file formats & YouTube

SEO, Google analytics, mobile website design & code, J-Query

large, graphic capital T in green and white his web site began as a project for my Interface Design class at The Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, D.C., where I completed a certificate program in Electronic Publishing/Web Design in 2001. The assignment was to create a portfolio of our school work, with an emphasis on a particular theme or skill, or to show photography and other graphic arts projects. My site started out as a travel photo portfolio of a trip to France, (the explanation for my url/domain name), along with some of my class projects. Over time, however, it has expanded to become a web design portfolio site showing all of my current (and some past) website design projects, which are displayed on my Portfolio Projects page. I also have an interest in typography, and have a page devoted to Typography and Gaphic design projects, which show some of my typography posters and other things that I have created, after I took a class in typography at The Corcoran. (Please see the graphic link in the right column of this page, called “What is Typography?” ) I am also a frequent visitor to other typography and graphic design-related blogs on the Internet, some of which are listed under my Web Resources page, since typography and color are two of my favorite design topics!

One of my projects has included developing a WordPress blog for a friend/client who took a summer travel sabbatical, and blogged about his visits to land trusts between Maine and Montana. The purpose of the blog was to write about how land trusts help to protect and preserve undeveloped, wild regions and lands throughout our country, and at the same time, help to save them by setting up conservation easements, through the acquisition of landtrust easements and cooperation from individual landowners, who would like to donate and/or sell their lands for conservation, people can conserve these places for future generations to enjoy and help the planet at the same time. His blog, "Unity to Wisdom," (the name referring to the blogger’s beginning and ending destination towns), is located at: http://www.unitytowisdom.org. I took a class to develop my skills with WordPress, and then learned how to set up a blog, as well as how to incorporate the blog posts with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. I then transferred management of the blog to the client, so he could update it himself. The blog featured podcasts of his visits to the land trusts which he recorded and uploaded using a plug-in for podcasts, making his travel stories more interesting and interactive. The blog development was a fun learning project for me from a design aspect, in terms of learning how to create a distinctive blog look through the use of plug-ins, link colors, and adding navigation and additional, non-posting, static pages to the blog. I also set up one other blog for another small client, and that one was fun to maintain myself, until it was hacked due to a security issue with my hosting company. Since then I have not had time to recreate the blog, but learned from the hacking experience, as well. In the future, perhaps I will have time for my own design blog at some point — but for now, due to my job schedule and maintaining all of these other websites, my website is being used as an “improvisational” blog, with the occasional posts on things, as you can see above. On my own website also like to use fun, colorful graphics and images, and spend time creating new headers around the seasons, and holidays. I use the right-hand column of this page for links to other sites that are either design-related, or of some other newsworthy interest. Being a nature-enthusiast, I also have a resources page on the topic of Global Warming which has several links to various environmental websites, articles, and things like videos about this urgent and timelyl topic, and what we can be doing to try to solve it. I also have some website pages devoted just to travel photos from trips, although the France photos have since been replaced with photos from California and Ireland. I may add to this section in the future, when I have more time.

My other website projects include ongoing web work for The Northern Virginia Chorale, as well as some sites for small businesses and/or individual clients. The Northern Virginia Chorale’s website I frequently update with their seasonal concert information, as well as content for their For Singers’ Only section, which serves as an internal resource of music links and downloadable materials for their voice and learning practice.

Beyond my own freelance work, I have worked as a web content editor and developer for a number of associations where I have helped to manage larger, more complicated websites, and created things like e-newsletters, flyers, and online registration processes. I have also worked with other graphic design team members to prepare photos and graphics for both print and web publications. Between my freelance work and association work, I have experience with things like designing the site architecture, navigation, creating and editing graphics; writing, editing, and taking photos, as well as developing all of this content on individual sites. My work for associations such as The Nature Conservancy, has involved creation of new content and feaures on webpages such as slideshows and photography, as well as text, and updating exsiting pages within the larger framework of sophisticated content management systems such as the Oracel OUCM. I also assisted the TNC with a major website migration to their new website which was built with the Oracle content management system. You can read about all of my website projects by clcking on the individual icons on my Portfolio projects page, here.

There is always something new and exciting happening on the Internet in terms of technology, but I try to concentrate my efforts on the things that I know how to do best for now in web design, and adding to what I know, through reading and keeping up with the trends, depending upon how much time I have to learn new things. For example, in this paragraph, I am using CSS 3 to render webfonts, using a fandy script font for all of the links. I have also gained inspiration from reading other designers’ and bloggers’ websites like Veerle Pieters’ Design Blog, where designer, Veerle Pieters has spent much time creating tutorials and writing about graphic deisgn, providing insight into both graphic and web design for other designers. I also like sites like the “I Love Typography” blog and MyFonts.com. I find the web design work to be both fun and challenging, and enjoy the creative, artistic, as well as the technical aspects of it. I also like to write and edit, and find that web design lends itself to all of these things. Before working as a web designer, I was a paralegal, and have a degree in political science. However, I have always maintained an avid interest in things like art as well as graphic design, so like other career-changers, decided to pursue something that was more in keeping with my own individual passions and interests!

Thank you for visiting my site. I appreciate all those visitors who continue to come back.

-- Jacquie Apel

back to the top


© 2015 j.a. - header


back to the top