Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Time for a Smile


It is hard to be lighthearted in the wake of the recent heinous, hateful crimes committed by white supremacists such as the KKK in Charlottesville, VA.  As a Jew, I have grown up with sincere empathy for all oppressed groups within this country and with genuine fear of neo-Nazis and others who demonstrate more covert anti-Semitism.  All of this hate breaks my heart, and the absence of real leadership in the White House to denounce these people for what they are – racists and anti-Semites – is appalling.  So sending this month’s random thoughts weighs on my mind, but I do think that as important as it is for all of us to do the right thing, it is important to have joy in our lives, too.  So here is my attempt to lighten the load – if only for a moment.
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I may have accidentally taken a melatonin pill (to make me sleep better) instead of my multivitamin today, so if I yawn, don’t think that you are boring me – unless zzzzz.

I looked at my hands the other day and I thought my mother was still alive.

I’m trying to decide whether getting back to people promptly on email and social media makes them think that I am extremely responsive or that I have no life.

Recently I was involved in a hit and run accident.  A deer plowed into the side of my car and ran off.  At least I think it was a deer.  Fortunately, my passenger and I were OK, the car was still drivable, the doors opened, the windows worked, the airbags did not deploy and no glass was broken.  I never saw the deer again, so he must have run off as quickly as he could.  I think it might have been gang-related, because my friend and I saw a bunch of deer that night.  I hope Bambi made it home safely.  Meanwhile, the free concert from which I was returning that night ended up costing me $500 for my deductible on my insurance, which picked up the rest of the $5000 tab.  That deer made a dent in my wallet as well as my car!

If you are ever looking for a quiet place to settle in and read a good book, I highly recommend the traffic light at the corner of Hillsborough Road and Route 206.  It is soooo long from the Hillsborough Road side that you could make a considerable dent in “War & Peace.”

Don’t you hate it when you get into the left turn lane a little late and the little green arrow doesn’t come on, so you have to wait and wait until you can make your turn?  Meanwhile, there were exactly NO CARS as you approached the intersection, and now that you are there, the traffic in the opposite direction is in a long line.

I am a little bit worried that this morning's call from Card Services, which always comes from a robotic voice named Rachel, today came from Veronica. Do you think they got rid of Rachel because I never would speak with her?  Now do I have to get ready to hang up on Veronica every day? Just wondering.

Today I thwarted an attempted escape by a pair of socks. I spotted a pair of them hiding behind the dryer (only because the washer had jimmied itself out of position).  They were being aided by an errant sock unrelated to the pair.  All are being held for questioning and will be washed and released but will remain under house arrest. 

I need to confess something:  I never look at the back on my hair.  Sure, when my hairdresser hands me that mirror so I can tell that she cut it, I take a peek, but every day?  If I like what I see in the front, I’m satisfied.  I figure most people are seeing my front side anyway.  No one’s looking at me from behind.  In fact, according to my BFF, no one looks at either of us anymore, so who cares?

Speaking of hair, I’ve probably said this before, but wearing a hat is a commitment.  Or a resignation.  Because once you put one on, you are resigned to having “hat hair,” which you can get away with if you are only sunbathing or in a pool, but don’t even think of removing the hat and trying to look good.  It just never works.  Once the hat commitment has been made, keep it on until the next shower.  Even if that’s not until the next day.

Conversation between me and a bunch of 4-year old campers in the locker room at the pool the other day:
Me: Should I sign up to be a camper with you?
4YOs: No, you’re too old to be a camper. How old are you?
Me: You have to guess.
4YOs: 16?
Me: No, older than that.
4YOs: 17? 18? 19?
Me: Yeah, 19. Let’s go with that.
4YO Girl: I’m 4 and my name is Skylar. You better remember my name.
Me: Ok, Skylar. I will remember your name.

The problem with going to aqua aerobics three times a week is that I can’t seem to rid myself of that chemical/chlorine smell, even after taking a shower and using 2 different soaps with fragrance.  I asked my friend Leslie, a lifeguard, swim instructor and pool manager who spent years as a competitive swimmer, about this issue and she could do no more than commiserate.

I’m pretty sure that the pink hand towels I use to stand on the floor of the locker room at my pool are the same ones my mother bought for me when I went away to college.  You know, in 1968!  #theydon’tmakethemtolastthislonganymore

Today I decided to break in my new $160 New Balance sneakers on my daily walk.  That’s right, $160 sneakers – excuse me, “walking shoes.”  For that price, forget walking.  I want to be carried around on a giant throne, a comfortable giant throne, for $160.  And may my feet never touch the pavement.

It amazes me to see so many displays in stores of every kind – Walmart, ShopRite, Bed Bath & Beyond – for those stainless steel water bottles.  Way back when, comedian George Carlin wondered when Americans got so thirsty since everyone was carrying plastic bottles of water.  Well, George, now it is all about COLD water, and every store sells these not-inexpensive (though very effective) containers to keep us hydrated.  I wonder what was on those end-cap displays BEFORE the drought hit us.

Do you think there’s something wrong with someone who can’t sleep at night but is ready for a nap at noon?  Asking for a friend.

I just received a “Breaking News” message from Travelocity to tell me I am eligible for a special travel deal that ends in the next 24 hours.  It went on to say “Won’t last long.”  Does that mean the 24 hours?  I think I know how long THAT lasts.

You know that new style of tops for women with the bare, “cold shoulder?”  Well, you won’t see one of those on me.  Personally, I don’t expose my shoulders in anything other than a bathing suit.  And my poor sister, with surgical procedures on each of her shoulders in the past year, promises never to succumb to this trend.  Besides, it will be out of date by this time next year.

I am so mad at myself for inadvertently buying Bounty paper towels that are NOT “select a size.”  I now have to suffer through 6 super rolls (that are the same as 8 regular rolls) of sheets that are too large and wasteful.  Let’s face it, the world would be a better place for all of us if this were the worst crisis we had to face.

Is it me or does anyone else have problems with those automatic paper towel dispensers?  You know, the ones where you put your hands under the box on the wall and the paper towels are supposed to come out.  I never seem to have my hands in the right place to dispense the towel and I look like someone doing pantomime as I move my hands all around.  Strangely enough, in the locker room at my gym, you can be in the shower and suddenly you hear the dispenser activating itself, but when I move my hands all around it like a blackjack dealer – nothing.

I was told to add plant food to my tomato plant. I guess it is only fair that if it feeds me, I should feed it.

My HGTV addiction is getting worse.  Now I find myself yelling at the TV if the people on “House Hunters” select the house that I feel is the wrong choice.  And please, Chip and Joanna Gaines, can we have just ONE house on your “Fixer Upper” show that does not have “ship lap” on the walls?  In the old days, it was called paneling, but you turn it sideways, use old wood and call it ship lap.  Paneling became very dated.  I foresee that happening here eventually.  So just stop!

And speaking of Chip & Joanna, the final segment of the show begins with the two of them holding a giant picture of the house BEFORE renovations were made.  They then say to the homeowners, “Are you ready to see your fixer-upper?” and then we go to commercial.  Really, is there anyone who ISN’T ready to see their newly-renovated home?  I mean, isn’t that the point of the show?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Tina's July 2017 Movies



Movies here are rated on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna, with 5 at the top.  Those movies marked with an asterisk are ones I had not seen previously.  Numbering picks up from previous months.

79.  Speak* (2006) – Kristen Stewart seldom speaks in this movie about a quiet, pained teenager starting high school.  She is distanced from her well-meaning but somewhat inept parents, doesn’t associate with other kids in school very well and barely answers questions in class.  But she has a good reason for her reluctance to verbalize her thoughts.  At a party prior to the start of high school she was raped by an upperclassman, a popular boy who turned a deaf ear to her strident pleas as he satisfied himself with her in a parked car.  She called the police but when they arrived to mass chaos at the party, she chickened out, not revealing the crime to them or to anyone – friends, family, counselors.  She wants it to just go away, but it hangs over her like a heavy overcoat.  She is wounded, nearly paralyzed by her experience, and it determines all of her relationships, fears and reluctance.  The story is a good one and timely, as rape culture is prevalent in high schools and across college campuses.  You want her to confide in someone, but will anyone take her seriously?  Stewart was well cast in a part where resignation and vulnerability reign supreme.  3 cans.
80.  Primal Fear* (1996) – Richard Gere plays attorney Martin Vail in this legal drama about the murder of a monsignor in Chicago.  Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton) is a 19-year old altar boy who had access to the victim’s bedroom and is captured with blood all over him.  Although the evidence seems to point directly at this innocent looking kid, Marty, a prominent defense attorney who once worked for the prosecution, eagerly volunteers to take the case and add to his reputation as the best defender in Chicago.  Should he have the kid plead innocent by virtue of insanity?  How will his opposing counsel, a woman he once dated (Laura Linney) and who knows his many tricks, stake out her case opposing him?  This legal drama had plenty of suspense, and although I was close to figuring out the twists and turns by the end, I enjoyed it anyway.  3½ cans.
81.  The Big Sick* (2017) – Whether it is a big Jewish family in “Goodbye Columbus” or a big Greek family in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” or here, a Pakistani family, there are always parents with expectations and always kids there to disappoint them.  Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) drives for Uber when he’s not doing standup and dreaming of the bigtime as a comic.   He comes from a traditional Pakistani family and is expected to agree to an arranged marriage, and his overbearing mother has no shortage of young, attractive Pakistani women who just happen to “drop by” the house when he is there for dinner.  But Kumail, who has been raised in the US, doesn’t see his future arranged.  And when he meets pretty Caucasian Emily (Zoe Kazan), a grad student, they hit it off immediately despite their cultural differences.  He knows that being with her will alienate him from his family.  And then she gets sick.  Movie star sick.  Her parents (the always feisty Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) come to town to manage her care and meet Kumail for the first time.  This movie stresses the opposites attract vibe, but it is tasteful, intelligent and different from the pure comedy movies mentioned above.  Kumail based the story on his own true-life experience, and it is a story worth telling.  3½ cans. 
82.  The Breakfast Club (1985) – The brilliant John Hughes delivered such classic high school movies as “Pretty in Pink,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Sixteen Candles” and this one, all centered around teenagers who are neglected and worse by their rarely-seen parents.  (Of course, in “Home Alone,” the parents accidentally abandon their young son, who is left to fend for himself and endures hilarious hijinks.)  Here we are at Shermer High, where high school stereotypes meet for Saturday detention.  They are a delinquent (Judd Nelson), a princess (Molly Ringwald), a geek (Anthony Michael Hall), a jock (Emelio Estevez) and a misfit who barely speaks (Ally Sheedy), there to remain silent and endure the oversight of teacher Mr. Vernon (Paul Gleason).  Over the course of the day the unlikely quintet with seemingly nothing in common screams at each other, defies authority, smokes the weed stashed in Nelson’s character’s locker and comes to understand that despite their outward differences, they actually have plenty in common.  When Nelson walks away at the end with his fist raised in defiance, the 80s generation finds a new hero.  Hughes also was the force behind two of my favorite comedies, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” and “Mr. Mom,” two films outside the teen angst arena.  It is a shame he died so prematurely, or we likely would have been treated to many more memorable comedies.  As the Simple Minds song goes, “Don’t you forget about me.”  Don't worry, John.  We won’t. 3½ cans.
83.  Carole King in Concert* (2017) –After more than a decade of co-writing such pop hits as “The Locomotion,” “One Fine Day,” and “Up on the Roof” with lyricist and then-husband Gerry Goffin, Carole King went out on her own in the early 1970s and created the classic “Tapestry,” an album of such depth and beauty that it remained the best-selling album of all time until Michael Jackson came along with Thriller a generation later.  Here she poignantly reminds us to “Wake up every morning with a smile on your face;” laments the end of a romance in “It’s Too Late;” wonders aloud, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” and commits to the longevity of a relationship in “You’ve Got a Friend.”  I have never seen her perform live, so I went happily to experience her wondrous music nearly first-hand.  It was her first time performing the entire album, and when it was done, she gave us a medley of some of the hits listed above.  She pounds that piano, displays some mad guitar licks and enthralls the 65,000 people singing every word on a beautiful London night.  “Tapestry” to me was a life-changing album that is still selling today.  Carole is 74 now, her voice a bit thinner, but her music provides meaning to generations of fans from 40 years ago until today.  I promise, Carole, I will still love you tomorrow.  4½ cans.
84.  August Rush* (2007) – Rock musician Louis (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) meets cello player Lyla (Keri Russell) and their instant, one night chemistry leads to the birth of a son.  But Lyla’s controlling father prevents the relationship from progressing beyond the one night stand and he tells her in the hospital that she has lost the baby.  Fast forward to an 11-year old Evan (Freddie Highmore), growing up in an orphanage and convinced he will find his parents.  Musically gifted, the young prodigy escapes and meets “the Wizard,” a Fagen-like character (played by Robin Williams) who aims to exploit the boy’s talent and deny him the chance of reuniting with his parents.  Love (and music) is a strong force, however, and no one here is about to give up.  Highmore turns in a stunning performance in a heart-warming movie.  3½ cans.
85.  Dunkirk* (2017) – War is hell, and if you don’t believe that adage, go and see this epic WWII movie about Allied Forces trapped on the beach in France in 1940.  Producer/director Christopher Nolan has perfectly captured the action in the air and on the seas as English soldiers wait on the beach for transport by any and all vessels available.  It is harrowing, as the boats are targeted by bombardiers and the men aboard them literally jump ship in an effort to survive.  I’m not typically a fan of the war movie genre, but this one is captivating enough to move swiftly through the story.  Kudos to the cast (Mark Rylance, Fionn Whitehead, Thomas Hardy, Kenneth Branaugh, Harry Styles) for their fortitude in overcoming challenging conditions throughout the filming.  3½ cans.
86.  Maudie* (2017) – This movie is the opposite of “Dunkirk.”  It is quiet, eschewing bombings and aerial dogfights in favor of establishing the relationship between a woman forsaken by her family who takes a menial job as a housekeeper to a taciturn fishmonger.  The house is barely a shack, but Maudie (Sally Hawkins in a performance sure to garner an Oscar nomination) brightens up the interior with her paintings.  Although she is arthritic, she is able to create cheery scenes on the walls of the modest home she shares with Everett (Ethan Hawke).  The house is so small that there is only one bed, and Maudie is forced to share it with her employer.  One thing leads to another, and the inevitable relationship is born.  He is a very private man and begins to resent the attention Maudie gets when her story is told on Canadian TV.  Cold and unaccepting, Everett begins to understand he has real feelings for Maude.  I don’t want to ruin the plot – which is based on a true story – but if you yearn for the anti-blockbuster and don’t mind a wonder woman without superpowers, this might be the movie for you.  3½ cans.
87.  Driving Miss Daisy (1989) – Morgan Freeman has starred in two of my favorite movies, this one and “Shawshank Redemption.”  Here he is Hoke, the man hired by a wealthy businessman (Dan Ackroyd) in Atlanta to drive around his irascible elderly mother.  Miss Daisy (Jessica Tandy, in a wondrous performance), an elderly Jewish widow who remembers her modest upbringing, is more than reluctant to have Hoke’s services.  It takes him days just to get her in the car to go to the supermarket.  But over the years, the two form an unconventional friendship amid the changing times in the South.  The mutual respect and bond they share is the soul of this heartwarming movie.  4½ cans.
88.  Diana, Our Mother – Her Life and Legacy* (2017) – Incredibly, we are approaching the 20th anniversary of the tragic death of Britain’s Princess Diana, an occasion marked by this documentary of comments made by her now-grown sons – Princes William and Harry – as well as by her friends and the people whose lives she affected with her charitable work.  Her sons admit that dealing with her death, while appropriate to do after all of these years, is still painful.  They depict her as warm, loving and funny, and they say with great conviction that she was the best mother in the world.  The program gives background on her marriage as well as her divorce from Prince Charles and demonstrates how harrowing her existence was as someone constantly hunted down by the press.  Her sons come across as genuine and respectful, with William saying he talks about his mother to his own children so they will know they had another grandmother besides their maternal one.  When the light shines so brightly on someone, it takes a long time for it to dim – if it ever does.  Diana was a gracious woman whose work with homeless people and AIDS patients reflected her kindness and empathy, traits she appears to have passed down to her sons.  It would have been nice to see how her life progressed had she not died in that horrible automobile accident in August of 1997.  3 cans.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Mid-Summer Musings

My Amazon Echo (Alexa) is very accommodating when it comes to playing music or sounds to help me sleep.  But judging how badly I am sleeping these days – unless I am at the movies – I wonder if I can ask her to play sounds of people munching on popcorn, coughing and opening candy wrappers.  Those sounds seem to put me to sleep.

Exactly 10 days after I get a haircut, my hair looks perfect.  Sometimes this even extends to the 11th day.  On any other day, I vacillate between “It’s too long but maybe I should let it grow” and “I need a haircut RIGHT THIS MINUTE!”

Sometimes I think to myself, “If it were up to me,” and then I realize that whatever it is IS up to me.

I think that after coming back from a three-mile walk in the heat, dripping with sweat under my lip like Richard Nixon, it’s only fair that I should lose 6 pounds.  Just sayin’.

If only dieting were a losing proposition, but it has so many ups and downs.

You know when you ask for directions and you listen carefully and nod knowingly but you are sure that after that first right you’re probably going to forget everything you just heard and will have to ask the next person for further directions?  Yeah, that’s me.

I recently hooked up a new, 75-foot stainless steel hose that is supposed to be kink-proof and which has a lifetime warranty.  I give it two weeks.  The hose it replaced must have been guaranteed to kink, because it did – constantly!

If I ever post a picture of a gnome or a fake deer in my yard, please understand that this is code to let you know I am being held hostage and you need to come and rescue me.

Today I heard Martha & the Vandellas (parenthetically, exactly WHAT is a Vendella???) singing “Come And Take These Memories” and sang right along, recalling every word.  But I don’t remember what I had for lunch. 

There’s one reason that I like the song “Baby Come Back” by the Ohio Players (one-hit wonder?).  That’s because of this line: “All day long, wearing a mask of false bravado.”  Anyone who can work the word bravado into a song lyric gets my admiration.

I also love the Eagles song “Best of My Love” because of this line:  “Every morning, I wake up and worry, what’s gonna happen today.”  I can identify with that thinking.

And speaking of song lyrics that I admire, let’s look at Gladys Knight’s “If I Were Your Woman.”  Start with the title, which appropriately uses the subjective “were” instead of the more common – and incorrect – “was.”  And then there is a line which I swear makes Gladys sound Jewish.  She sings,
“You're like a diamond,
But she treats you like glass
Yet you beg her to love you
But me, you don't ask.” 
If that doesn’t sound like Sylvia Gordon herself – “But me, you don’t ask” – nothing does!

FACT:  If your clothes that need ironing hang around long enough, they eventually look better to you and you will wear them without ironing them.

On those occasions when I have to open a bottle of champagne or Prosecco, I can almost hear Ralphie’s mother from “A Christmas Story” saying, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

As my dear friend Flora points out, wishing someone a “belated birthday” makes no sense.  The birthday has come and gone.  It wasn’t belated.  It took place right on schedule.  It is your birthday wishes that are belated. 

I recently killed a fly with my bare hands.  I really didn't think my reflexes were that good.  I'm not sure whether to be proud of myself or disgusted.

When you buy stamps, do you care what they look like?  I found some “Love” stamps in the drawer and just couldn’t bring myself to use them to pay my dentist bill (there are still some bills I pay by check).  I went out and bought a book of the generic “Forever” stamps so I could use the Love stamps on birthday cards.  The things I take time to consider could drive me crazy!

I recently left this typewritten note to my mail carrier:  “Dear Mail Carrier:  Please do not cram a bright orange envelope from Shutterfly into my mailbox.  It contains photographs, and if they get bent, they will be ruined.  Thank you.”  I taped the note to my mailbox and slipped a $5 bill inside.  When I checked my mail later that day, it was gone.  The next day I found a bright orange envelope from Shutterfly crammed into my mailbox (luckily, everything was perfectly packed).  So much for that strategy.

I go to water aerobics three times a week and afterwards, our group plays volleyball in the pool.  Not only is this athletically rewarding, but the conversations are hilarious.  Most are centered around food.  One woman recently professed her love for powdered mashed potatoes, which she insists have improved since they were introduced years ago.  She likes to eat them with stuffing and cranberry sauce, and even suggested that she would love them as a sandwich.  I couldn’t help pointing out that she was just missing turkey, but she’d rather do a carb overload than consume meat -- except for the ham sandwich she eats every morning before she comes to the pool.  I’m not sure this makes any sense to most of us, but we all have our idiosyncrasies, don’t we?  We also have profound discussions about important issues.  For example, if you are retired and you travel, can you call your trip a vacation?  If you don’t work, do you get a vacation? 

I find myself relying more than ever on closed captioning when I watch television.  First, people mumble.  My BFF says she and her husband will hit the replay button 3 times to see if they can understand the dialog, and, if they can’t, they just move on.  I get that.  Second, if I am watching people with British accents, I NEED closed captioning, because I could replay a scene 10 times and still not understand what they are saying.  Half of the time I’m reading the dialog just because it is easier to read than to listen.

I live in an “active adult” community, which means everyone here is at least 55 but not dead yet.  There are more than 1500 people here, and I swear half of the women are named Anne or Barbara.

When the people in this community go to the pool, no one swims.  They stand in the pool, chatting.  Oh, a few bring “noodles” into the pool and occasionally float a bit, but mainly they chat.  And they all wear hats and sunglasses, both men and women.  The only difference is that while the men wear baseball caps, the women wear all kinds of hats, visors, sombreros – and way too many have been bedazzled. 

This is also the land of OPDS – Old People Driving Slowly.  The exceptions are the few rebels who refuse to obey the community stop signs.  The township has no control over our streets, and, apparently, neither do we, since some people adamantly refuse to stop.  Not that there is exactly a drag strip here, since we are populated by OPDS.  Nevertheless, the failure to adhere to the simple stop command has forced the Board to announce we will soon be subjected to the installation of “speed bumps.”  This decision was met with many comments by residents who think they will slow down ambulances (again, this IS a 55+ community), interfere with snow plows and, generally, slow people down.  Isn’t that the point?

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Tina's June 2017 Movies

It was a good month for movies, with Wonder Woman at the top of the list. I ventured outside the movies to include Season 5 of Netflix's Orange Is the New Black, a worthy addition to the list.  Movies are rated on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna fish, with 5 at the top.  Those marked with an asterisk are ones I had not seen previously.  Numbering picks up from previous months. 
64.  If You’re Not in the Obits, Eat Breakfast* (2017) – Actor, writer, director, raconteur and nonagenarian Carl Reiner takes center stage in this clever documentary about growing old but not extinct.  Reiner, who created (with manic Mel Brooks) “The 2000 Year Old Man,” is still – like Brooks himself – writing, performing and keeping the world laughing.  Reiner is joined here by other comic entertainers, like the still-spry Dick Van Dyke, Golden Girl Betty White, and TV and movie producer and legend Norman Lear, who insists he gets applause just for showing up alive.  This film is a tribute not just to longevity, but to a lifetime of laughter.  When it comes to Reiner, I’ll have what he’s having.  3½ cans.
65.  Blood Ties: The Mendendez Brothers* (2017) – If you were alive in the early 1990s, you will recall the “trial of the century” (which it remained until the OJ Simpson trial came along).  Brief summary:  Brothers Erik and Lyle Menendez grow up overindulged in Beverly Hills and, thinking they will be cut off by their wealthy parents, they brutally kill their father and mother in their own home.  Their defense for this heinous crime?  They both claim they were sexually molested by their father, and they simply snapped.  That is, of course, after one brother writes a movie script depicting the same scenario AND after they buy guns.  This story was all over the news at the time, with the two clean-cut looking young men telling their tale to a packed courtroom as America watched on the fledgling Court TV channel.   I had forgotten much of the detail, but it has been 25 years!  Whether or not the “boys” (as they were referred to in court and in the press) told the truth about their motive cannot be proven, but the film recounts the details of the case in a two-hour documentary for which there is an unending supply of footage.  Later this year an eight-part series is coming our way, so now I have finished the prerequisite for that course.  It remains as compelling a case now as it was back then.  3½ cans.
66.  Shop Girl* (2005) – This Steve Martin story is billed as a comedy, and, while it has its moments, I thought it was a sad and underplayed movie.  Mirabelle (Claire Danes) is a lonely young woman who enjoys creating art but who supports herself by working as a clerk in the glove department at Saks in LA.  She begins dating two completely different types of men at almost the same time.  Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman) is young and sloppy and unpolished.  Ray Porter (Martin) is his opposite – poised, classy, wealthy and unable to commit to a relationship.  Mirabelle seems all too eager and willing to give herself to either of these men.  And though Ray is clear that he isn’t looking for a permanent relationship, she can’t help falling for him.  Martin is far from the manic guy we are used to seeing, bursting with physicality.  He so underplays the role that I wondered what – besides his money – drew Mirabelle to him.  No more plot points.  I know this movie is based on a short novel of Martin’s, and I always wanted to see it, but it did not live up to my expectations.  3 cans.
67.  Churchill* (2017) – It is three days before D-Day in 1944, and the invasion of Normandy is ready to go under the Allied command of American General Dwight Eisenhower.  Not so fast, says British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Bryan Cox in an Oscar-worthy performance).  Fearful of repeating the disaster that resulted in significant loss of life in Gallipoli in 1915, Churchill first counsels against the plan and then insists that he be on the first ship to land.  As history shows, the plan went ahead (with Churchill on terra ferma), enabling the Allied forces to drive the Germans out of France and win World War II (if you can actually “win” a war…).  Stooped over, shoulders hunched and surrounded by a cloud of cigar smoke, Churchill is at once intimating yet feeble.  The war and his duty have worn him down.  With his wife getting the brunt of his brooding, he needs support and strength.  He looks defeated before the invasion starts.  But as a leader, Churchill knows he needs to rally himself and be strong for his country.  This movie is an excellent character study and a reminder that war is hell.  4 cans.
68.  Danny Collins* (2015) – Al Pacino plays aging rocker Danny Collins, a world-weary music headliner who spends too much time with younger women and too much money on drugs.  Once a prodigy who claimed to be influenced by John Lennon, Danny is surprised when his manager gives him a letter he uncovered that Lennon wrote to Danny years before that Danny never received.  Just seeing that letter is enough to make Danny reconsider his choices and attempt to reconnect with the now-grown son he never knew (Bobby Canavale).  Danny alternates between bombastic and charming, especially as he roosts at a New Jersey hotel and tries to win over its manager (Annette Bening in a part not really worthy of her skills as an actress).  Danny is trying to be a dad and a grandfather but in reality, he’s an old rich guy whose groupies are as old as he is (hey, take a look at the crowd at a Rolling Stones concert sometime).  Pacino hasn’t been a favorite of mine since “The Godfather,” but he plays this part well.  3 cans.
69.  Definitely Maybe* (2008) – Ryan Reynolds is Will Hayes, a political consultant with a precocious 11-year old daughter (Abigail Breslin) who wants to know whether her mother Emily  (Elizabeth Banks) is really her mother since Mom and Dad are divorcing.  With some reluctance, Dad starts to share the story of the great loves of his life, all of whom came along at the wrong time or were the wrong people for him.  Rachel Weisz and Isla Fisher are his past girlfriends, both of whom he loved enough to marry but didn’t.  This romantic comedy gets its juice from Reynolds’ extreme likeability.  Very enjoyable for a light movie.  3½ cans.
70.  The Book of Henry* (2017) – Talk about precocious kids (see above):  Henry (Jayden Lieberher) is an 11-year old with more smarts and wisdom than most of the adults around him, including his loving but somewhat ditzy mother (Naomi Watts), a video game-playing waitress who wisely lets Henry manage her money.  Henry and his younger brother (played by the adorable Jacob Tremblay, who was so memorable in “Room”) are good kids, but when Henry suspects that his friend next door (Maddie Ziegler) is being abused by her stepfather, he feels compelled to act.  But who is going to take the word of a kid, especially when the suspect is a cop?  This is a family story that slips into an unexpected suspense thriller with Henry’s plotting every move.  More than one plot point was hard to believe, but the story held my attention and the acting was terrific.  3½ cans.
71.  Fracture (2007) – I’ve written about this movie previously, but if you want to see a taut thriller with plenty of twists and turns, try this one.  Willie Beachum (Ryan Gosling), an LA assistant prosecutor, has one foot out the door, headed to a cushy job at a prestigious law firm, when he catches the case of a man who has just been arrested for shooting his wife.  The police have his signed confession and the murder weapon, so the case should be a quick and easy one for young Mr. Beachum, except that maybe they don’t.  Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) is a clever and sinister guy who has plotted out his cheating wife’s shooting and has enough smarts and moxie to derail the case against him.  If you want to spend time watching a riveting movie – really watching, not playing Candy Crush on your phone – this is the movie for you.  Plus, did I mention Ryan Gosling?  4½ cans.
72.  The Departed (2006) – This intense drama is not for the faint of heart, and you had better pay attention when you watch it, because the action is fast and furious (oops, that’s a different movie…).  Matt Damon is a cop who is really a mobster planted in the police department to give the inside dope (info, not drugs!) to the mob boss played by Jack Nicholson.  Leonardo DiCaprio is also a cop but recruited by the higher ups for a secret mission that puts him in tight with the mob so he can rat out their activities to the cops.  Lost yet?  Both sides are sure there is a mole among them, and whom can you trust?  DiCaprio’s Billy Costigan even does a stint in jail to make his background authentic enough to be trusted by the mob.  Every time someone appears to be cornered and about to have his identity revealed, they somehow slither out of it.  This is a Martin Scorsese movie, the man who gave us “Goodfellas,” so there is the requisite violence, shooting, bleeding and murder, along with the most frequent use of the “F” word that I can ever recall.  Excellent cast, in addition to Damon and DiCaprio, with Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg.  Tough to watch but worth the time.  4 cans.
73.  The Wolf of Wall Street* (2013) – And speaking of Leonardo DiCaprio, he gives an absolutely stunning performance again, here as Wall Street broker Jordan Belfort, a broker with a real edge.  Jordan builds a business by hiring his childhood friends, all of whom favor bilking small investors and practicing non-stop debauchery.  And the use of the F word proliferates here, too.  Jonah Hill is Jordan’s right hand man, empowered to hire, fire and exploit staff or whomever is within shouting distance.  I watched this movie because it was recommended by a friend, but I found the entire thing completely repugnant.  The sets, the fast delivery of dialog and the acting here were all outstanding, but I absolutely hated the milieu depicted.  For once, I could not even finish the movie, so my rating will be an incomplete. 
74.  Sleepless in Seattle (1994) – The sequel to this movie is “Sleepless in Somerset,” which accounts for why I was up at 5 AM one morning watching this great rom-com.  The fabulous Tom Hanks is Sam, a widower with a young son, Jonah (Ross Malinger).  When Jonah calls a radio station about his lonely and grieving father, women all over the country hear dear old dad and fall instantly in love.  That includes Annie (Meg Ryan, when she looked like Meg Ryan), a Baltimore-based news writer engaged to a boring fiancĂ©e (Bill Pullman) who is intrigued by the man who proclaims he is sleepless in Seattle.  The story takes its cue from the great Cary Grant-Deborah Kerr romance, “An Affair to Remember,” with its main characters promising to meet at New York’s Empire State Building.  Hollywood has largely abandoned the romantic comedy in favor of the “franchise” movies, from “The Hunger Games” to all those “Star Wars” sequels and prequels, but I miss them!  I’m not desperate enough to watch Lifetime or Hallmark movies of this ilk, because the classics, like this one, “While You Were Sleeping,” “When Harry Met Sally,” etc., were absolute charmers that continue to bring a smile to my face.  Plus, this one has Hanks.  4 cans. And a nap, because I really am sleepless in Somerset.
75.  The Bodyguard (1992) – It is impossible to see this movie and not feel a profound sense of loss over the premature death of star Whitney Houston.  She was such a beautiful, talented and troubled woman, and seeing her here, lighting up the screen as fictional actress-singer Rachel Marron, reminded me of her extraordinary voice and promise.  Rachel is being stalked so she hires former Secret Service agent Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner) to protect her.  He’s all business, which annoys Rachel and her entourage as he tries to set up the level of protection he feels she needs.  And then he falls for Rachel.  He is after a stalker who seems just a little too professional, and with Rachel up for an Oscar, protecting her in a public venue will be a challenge even for Frank.  Not a great movie, but good chemistry between Costner and Houston.  And that voice!  3½ cans.
76.  Wonder Woman* (2017) – Holy smokes, Batman!  There’s a new sheriff in town, and her name is Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot).  Descended from the badass Amazons on an island with no men, Diana is trained as a princess warrior, and if you catch one look at Gal Gadot, you will know why.  She’s tough and fierce and absolutely stunning.  She rescues American spy Steve (Chris Pine), who tells her about the raging World War he is trying to end and she’s ready to leave the island behind and roll right along with him.  Along the way she demonstrates female empowerment, smarts, athleticism, naivetĂ© and damn fine skills with a shield and a sword.  Loud, violent (though not bloody in the least), inspiring, witty in parts and completely unbelievable, this movie is everything I hate about action movies – except that I loved it!  I was cheering out loud even while I scoffed at Wonder Woman’s quick change from a formal dress to her WW ensemble, complete with bullet-rejecting wrist bands.  Rock on with your bad self, Diana.  I’m totally down for the sequel(s).  4 cans.
77.  Lifeguard (1975) – Rick Carlson (Sam Elliott) has a great life: Lifeguard on the beach in South California by day, partying with stewardesses (this was the era before flight attendants), nurses and all measure of attractive young women at night, tooling around in his ‘Vette.  He loves his job and takes it seriously, watching the beach, saving swimmers (he boasts a rate of “3 out of 5” when asked if he has saved anyone today), breaking up fights, and just taking time to think.  But what is enough for Rick, now 15 years removed from his high school graduation, isn’t enough for other people.  His friend Larry wants him to work in his car dealership, selling Porsches.  And when he reconnects with his high school girlfriend Cathy (Anne Archer) at their Reunion, his “career” comes into question.  Will he give up the surf and the sand and get a “real” job?  Is his just being Rick Carlson enough for Cathy, a divorcee with a young son?  I first saw this movie years ago and immediately loved it.  Elliott is the perfect Rick, and when Archer looks at him, you see that she regrets the years they have been apart and wants him to be part of a happy life with her.  Kathleen Quinlan plays Wendy, a lonely 17-year old with a major crush on Rick, and you feel her pain.  What is adulting anyway?  I picture Rick staying at the beach for a very long time to come.  4 cans.
78.  Orange Is the New Black (2017) – OK, I know this isn’t a movie, but my readers have told me that they want to see more of my reviews, so I thought I would include season 5 of OITNB here.  The new season picks up exactly where season 4 ended, with a riot among the inmates at Litchfield Prison, and the prisoners have the upper hand.  There’s a gun and a shooting and major shifts in power.  The main character in OITNB started out as Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), but she has lost much of her relevance as the story arcs of other characters have dominated the series.  It seems to me they have to find things to incorporate her into the plotlines.  I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but I can tell you that the entire season takes place in just a few days this time around, and there are new alliances, revelatory looks back on what happened to these women to get them to this awful place, and plenty of drama and humor.  There is humanity and violence, caring and anger, all of which is reflective of our society as a whole.  The season is perfectly set up for whole new characters and plots in Season 6 – but we have to wait a year to get there!  Special plaudits for this year’s acting, especially to Danielle Brooks as Tastee and Uzo Aduba as Suzanne.  If it were up to me, these characters would be in Litchfield for life, because I can’t get enough.  5 cans.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

June Jewels

Why is it SO EASY to find typos in a post, email or text AFTER you send it?

Haven’t we all left enough voice mail messages that we could do without the instructions reminding us to wait after the tone and leave our message?  By now, is there anyone alive who actually needs to know how to leave a message?  I think we all know the drill. 

You know you need to lose weight when your socks feel tight.

Does this happen to you?  You suddenly find a bump or bruise you didn’t know you had, or a cut suddenly appears that you don’t remember happening.  I can never figure out what I did this time to cause a cut or bruise.

You know you are impatient – or overbooked – when you can’t wait for the toaster to pop and you can’t find 30 quiet minutes to use teeth-whitening strips.

How is it that I can wake up at 5 AM and still be late for my 10 AM aqua aerobics class?

True confessions:  As much as I loved the Beatles and Paul was my fave, I really never liked Wings as a band.  Now that Sirius Radio has added the Beatles station to its lineup, that’s all they seem to play.  Maybe more of the credit for all those Lennon-McCartney songs I loved should have gone to John, or maybe it’s just that after the Beatles broke up, I never got over it.  You know, since 1969.

Remember the good old days, when you could buy vitamins without having to read the box for 10 minutes?  Now I have to find the multivitamin-mineral supplement for women over age 50 in the smaller size (that last part is not a necessity but is preferable).  Tell me again the advantages of growing older?

Why is there always that one thread or piece of lint that manages to fend off the powerful suction of the vacuum cleaner and remain affixed to the floor?  You go over it and over it until you finally are forced to bend down and pick it up.  But then, what do you do with it?  You toss it lightly back on the floor to see if NOW the vacuum will suck it up.  God forbid you walk to the trash can and toss it in.

I want a nap more than anything.  And a good, sharp utility knife, one that slices through cardboard like a hot knife through a stick of butter.  #modestgoals

Is there a legal limit on how tired someone can be?  Because I think I may just have exceeded it.

You know you’re getting old when you go to the beach with your friends and someone is either reading AARP Bulletin or telling you about an article she read in it that you just have to see.

Don’t you love those disclaimers for drugs advertised on TV?  “Caution, this product may cause constipation or diarrhea.”  OK, which is it?  And I especially love the line that says, “Do not use drug XYZ if you are allergic to drug XYZ.”  How do you know you are allergic to the drug until you take it?

Passwords: Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.  Some call for a minimum number of letters, or some require letters and symbols, and you can’t use what you previously used, and you don’t want to make obvious choices (like your birthday or the name of your pet).  Sometimes you are required to change them every certain number of days/months.  It is SO HARD to remember them all, and you aren’t supposed to write them down where someone would have access to them (although the person who NEEDS access to them is YOU).  Passwords are the bane of modern existence.  That might make a good one: Baneofmodernexi3tense. 

As I walked out of Lowe’s recently, the cashier said to me, “And don’t forget to take our online survey.”  As if I have nothing better to do than to log onto my computer (see above), find the Lowe’s website and take their survey.  Of course, if I had experienced bad customer service or found something to which to object, you can be sure I would have found the time to take the stupid survey and embellish it with a few choice words. 

And speaking of Lowe’s/Home Depot, here’s a story a friend shared with me.  She was in the Garden Center and asked where she could find peat moss.  “I don’t know who Pete Moss is,” the worker answered.  So much for expert gardening help.

If there is a limit on how many HGTV shows one can watch in a single day, I may have exceeded it. This morning I watched a program on bargain lakefront vacation home renovations???  I see more of Chip and Joanna than I see of my family. These HGTV shows are as addictive as a bag of potato chips!

It’s funny how when I lived on Joshua Drive, EVERYONE asked me how to spell it, but no one ever asks how to spell Constitution, the street where I now live.  Really, folks, you couldn’t figure out how to spell Joshua?  How many variations could there be?  It is spelled exactly how it sounds.  I guess I’m relieved that people actually are aware that we have a Constitution in this country and that they can spell the word.  (Well, there may be a citizen on Pennsylvania Avenue who is not familiar with it and probably can’t spell it, either…)

I am fascinated by the popularity of “The Golden Girls” among women much younger than me.  This was an ‘80s show, and one I watched and loved when I was younger (in my 30s), but I would think it would be so dated to the Gen X viewers.  Yet I know so many young people who love it, I assume because of the strong friendships among the women.  It is a classic!

You know you’re losing it when you find the apples stashed in the pantry next to the red potatoes because they look similar.

I love watching “So You Think You Can Dance” with the very talented (and flexible) contestants doing things with their bodies that I cannot imagine trying.  I’d settle for a stint on “So You Think You Can Get Up From the Floor Without Assistance” if only I actually could.