Friday, July 15, 2016

Walk On

“Oy.”

That word is spoken – silently or otherwise – as I haul my butt out of bed, knowing that I need to hit the streets for my morning walk.

My feet, my ankles, my Achilles tendons, my knees, my sciatica – everything hurts.  I’m no more than a litany of body parts that would keep an orthopedist in business indefinitely.  I stretch, worrying that I’ll simply aggravate the offended body parts.  I hear the “snap, crackle, pop” of my knees and shoulders as I get ready.  And I so don’t want to go.  I have other things to do.  Or I’ll go later.  Right, I can walk later.  But I know I won’t, so I go.

I throw on a shirt with some strange logo (where did “Hartford Health Care” come from?).  I check the weather to see if it is safe to wear shorts or whether I’d be better off putting on long pants.  I don the baseball cap I bought during a sudden 10-minute rain storm while visiting St. John.  I grab the phone and headphones, tune into Pandora or Amazon Music (since I will never be able to figure out how to access my 5,500 songs on “the Cloud” from my iTunes account without my iPod), and I hit the streets.  I wonder if there is an Olympic medal for just getting out of the house and walking when things hurt and you don’t want to go.  And then I remember how lucky I am to have the time, to have a place and to have the ability to do something others might want to do but can’t.  So I keep walking.

As I walk through my development, I make a mental note of the houses with generators so I know whose door to knock on in case of a power failure.  I envy the people whose homes have newspapers in the driveways since the Star-Ledger broke its promise to find my house and deliver the paper to me.  (I must admit, not getting a daily paper really cuts down on the clutter and the recycling.)

I dodge the sprinklers and the dogs on long leashes as I sing along (silently), hoping I can still recall all the words to “Love Child.”  I figure that if I can, I have avoided Alzheimer’s, at least for now.  I can actually hear the real words to songs I’ve known for decades, thanks to the headphones, although I still am not sure of the lyrics to “Louie, Louie,” but that, I’m sure, was the Kingsmen’s intent.  I think about the wonders of Stevie Wonder and the marketing genius of Berry Gordy.  I do, really.

Since I have been more stressed out than usual lately, I have even switched up the musical selections to include some New Age or spa music.  The music is soothing, although I find that nature sounds don’t work for me if there is running water in the background.  Saying more would be TMI.  I feel relaxed, but if only I could stop thinking for just a bit, I would really de-stress myself.

I stop periodically to remove tiny, almost invisible stones that somehow find their way into my shoes.  I’m like the character in “The Princess and the Pea:” I feel every little imperfection. I’m such a delicate little flower.

I notice the flowers and the variety of mailboxes from one street to the next.  I check the landscaping for ideas for my own property.  I take in the smells of the plants and the people who appear to have showered and put on clean clothes BEFORE their walks.  They smell like Tide.  I don’t.  I don’t even comb my hair (see baseball cap, above).

Because I live in an “active adult” community, there are plenty of other people out walking, too.  Some are older and some are younger, but very few look like they would be carded if they tried to buy the senior citizen ticket on the train.  There are some people who run, but I assume they are either younger and living with someone here who qualifies as 55 and older or they are visiting.  There’s one crazy woman who walks fast and far.  One morning I spotted her on the dangerous road outside the development.  When I returned two hours later, she was still powerwalking, but this time in another area.  Give it a rest, woman.  I note that no one I see has any kind of “cool factor” that is inherently mine.  Some sport fanny packs – and don’t tell me they are “back in style,” because these folks never gave them up.  I’ve seen people walking with umbrellas for the sun, carrying walking sticks, cross-body purses and wearing slacks and polo shirts, all looking totally dorky and uncool (compared to me, with my hugely oversized t-shirts and aforementioned St. John hat).

Sometimes I venture to a nearby park, where the views include a lake/pond, plants, people fishing, picnicking, riding bikes, walking dogs and playing tennis.  I can walk to Colonial Park, where I can literally “smell the roses” at the wondrous rose garden there.  That route isn’t as practical as noting the houses with generators, but it is much more life-affirming.  Or I walk along the tow path for the nearby canal, looking at the meandering path of the adjoining river.  Mother Nature is one cool chick.

These solitary sojourns give me time to think about the issues of the day.  What’s for dinner?  What’s my schedule for the rest of the day?  Can I get in my 3.2 miles/10,000 steps on just this walk?  Whose call do I need to return?  When can I do this again?  What’s the subject of my next essay?

I guess I have that one figured out.


Friday, July 1, 2016

Tina's June 2016 Movies

I didn't even reach a dozen movies in June, but I achieved one milestone for me: Every movie I watched was new to me.  Maybe I should have added a few old favorites to the list, because there's nothing here I would watch again (the OJ program was excellent, but it is too long to sit through more than once).  Movies are rated on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna, with 5 being the highest.  Numbering picks up from the previous month.

60.  For All Mankind* (1989) – Only 12 men have landed on the moon, and this absorbing documentary features the actual footage they shot of their voyages and of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s landing.  There are plenty of scenes showing items floating around the spacecraft and even a discussion on some – to put it delicately – practical matters.  How does one make a sandwich while floating in space?  The astronauts record their activities and express their wonder at the universe as they peer through tiny windows to capture Earth in the distance.  We haven’t seen a moon landing in decades, but this film brings back that initial excitement.  3½ cans.
61.  Me Before You* (2016) – Book before movie.  Movie = meh.  Maybe if I hadn’t read the book and didn’t know what was going to happen, I would have enjoyed this movie more.  Screenwriter JoJo Moyes faithfully adapted her book, so the story I loved reading is exactly what I saw on the screen, but the lead actress (Emilia Clarke) was just a little too perky for my taste.  The story is about a handsome young man (Sam Claflin) who suffers a tragic accident and the inexperienced but spunky young woman hired by his mother as his companion/health care worker.  Sadly, this potato is twice baked.  3 cans.
62.  The Finest Hour* (2015) – Chris Pine plays a brave young Coast Guard seaman who is charged with the seemingly impossible task of taking a small boat out to sea to rescue the crewmen who are stranded on a tanker that was split in two by a violent storm.  The woman he loves and has plans to marry waits and worries, while the men on the nearly-destroyed ship work ingeniously to keep their half afloat.  This is a movie that is better seen in a theatre than on a TV set, because there is plenty of action, but my usual objection applies:  It is too dark.  Even the scenes not at sea are shot with little light.  In addition, the action takes place off the coast of New England, and the Boston accents are extremely hard to follow.  Pine is stoic, determined and destined to be a hero in this true story.  Maybe a little more light and hearing the dialog would have helped, so I can only give it 3 cans.
63.  OJ – Made in America* (2016) –I was captivated with the FX docudrama on the trial of OJ Simpson that aired several months ago, and this engrossing documentary is even better.  Produced and directed by Ezra Edelman, this multi-part program is one of ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, and probably its best effort to date.  It is a look at the life and times of OJ Simpson – not only his life, but of the culture of sports and celebrity, racial tensions and police treatment of African-Americans in the burgeoning Los Angeles.  And then there’s OJ himself, handsome, winning, an outwardly great guy who eschewed black power and his potential as a leader in the black community in favor of seizing marketing opportunities and fame that came his way because of his prowess on the football field and his affable nature and good looks.  But beneath that veneer is a real sense of entitlement.  And, by the way, he beats his wife.  The documentary asserts that he repeatedly flew into jealous rages and beat his wife Nicole, who called police only to see them downplay the incidents because OJ was such a good guy – right?  Did OJ kill her and Ron Goldman?  The jury said no, but you can draw your own conclusion.  His after-trial life is carefully documented, though we never see OJ fulfill his promise to “track down the real killer(s).”  His fall from grace wasn’t swift, but it was complete, as today he languishes in prison on unrelated charges.  An American tragedy for all parties.  4 cans.
64.  Stuck in Love* (2012) – Greg Kinnear is generally a likeable, low-key kind of actor, and he brings those qualities to this role as author Bill Borgens.  His wife Erica (Jennifer Connelly) left him for another man 3 years ago, but he is convinced she’s coming back.  He still sets a place for her at the table as he shares holidays with his nearly-grown children Samantha (Lily Collins) and Rusty (Nat Wolff), who try to persuade him that their mom is gone for good.  Of course, he should know that since he goes to Erica’s house every now and then and peeks into her windows.  Meanwhile, both kids are aspiring authors and Samantha, a college student, is having her first book published.  Bill hasn’t published a thing since his marriage went south, so he’s a little jealous, and Samantha wants nothing to do with her mother because she abandoned her father.  High school student Rusty smokes too much pot and falls for a girl with a drug and alcohol problem who thinks he can help her.  Samantha is a sassy young woman who unexpectedly falls for nice-guy Louis.  Everyone here is stuck on love, whether or not they have the right partner.  This movie has a good cast, but the story just kept getting stuck in the mud for me.  3 cans.
65.  Renoir: Revered and Reviled* (2016) – Presented by the Barnes Foundation, the owners of the largest collection of the work of Renoir, this documentary takes a hard look at Renoir’s artistic evolution.  Pierre Auguste Renoir was a late 19th century painter and a member of the Impressionism movement, along with cohorts Claude Monet, Edward Manet and other French artists of the time.  This film carefully shows his style and brush strokes, his use of various kinds of painting techniques, and, most important, his shift from strict Impressionism to a more modern approach that was later emulated by Pablo Picasso and others.  In his later years, where much of the focus of the film lies, he painted numerous nudes.  All were fleshy, sometimes out of proportion women, and the question is raised as to his intentions.  Was Renoir misogynistic?  Was he objectifying women?  Many of this subjects have blank faces, which makes the critics think they seem to lack intelligence.  But who knows what Renoir was thinking?  That doesn’t stop the art experts here from either asserting their views on his intentions or speculating on his view of women.  Art criticism, like all criticism, is subjective, so there is no right or wrong.  Watching this movie made me examine the canvases more closely than I might have otherwise, and reminded me how much I love the Impressionists.  I think the title of this movie is inaccurate, because reviled is too strong a word for what is presented here.  3½ cans.
66.  The Identity Theft of Mitch Mustain* (2015) – Mitch Mustain seemed destined for greatness.  As a high school quarterback in Arkansas, he was a sought-after recruit who committed to playing for the local University of Arkansas.  This documentary takes to task the recruiting of high school students and the staffing of college football teams.  Despite prolific talent on the field, Mitch was caught in a power struggle between the head coach and the offensive coordinator (who had been his high school coach and who was undoubtedly hired to deliver Mitch and several of his teammates) and he ultimately transferred to USC, where he slipped off the depth chart.  This movie is an indictment of the fame that comes to young men simply because of their youthful achievements and potential and how the public’s expectation of them can turn to anger and derision should they not live up to the hype.  Meanwhile, far too many people have a stake in and a say in this young man’s life.  Today he is no longer involved in sports at any level.  And that seems a shame, given his abilities and accomplishments, but if that is his choice, then he has mastered the game.  3½ cans.
67.  Lovely, Still* (2009) – Martin Landau plays Robert, a lonely old man rambling about in a house clearly too large for him.  He goes to his job at the local market but he just sits there and draws.  One day a vibrant older woman named Mary (Ellen Burstyn) introduces herself to him and they begin a cautious but sweet relationship.  It doesn’t take much to throw Robert out of his routine, which is terrifying for him, but he develops real feelings for Mary.  This movie was so slow in reaching its crescendo that more than once I thought about abandoning it, but I’m glad I stuck around for the ending.  It was heartwarming and worth watching.  3 cans.
68.  The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club* (2013) – I cannot imagine a cornier or more amateurish movie than this little ditty about three grumpy old men who gather every Wednesday at the local small-town diner.  However, while as treacly as they come, the movie does have a certain charm, as the earnest young waitress Megan (Stacey Bradshaw) works diligently to accommodate their demands (a seat cushion for one, burning hot coffee for another).  She eavesdrops on their conversations, as each man discloses bits of his past, experiences in his native country and in the military.  She learns by listening that one man recently lost his wife, and she goes out of her way to visit when another is ill.  I can’t recommend this movie for most of you, but I did appreciate the reminder that everyone has a story and sometimes it helps just to listen.  And to keep the coffee hot.  2 cans, and no resemblance whatsoever to the Brat Pack’s “The Breakfast Club.”
69.  Maggie’s Plan* (2016) – Maggie (Greta Gerwig) had a plan and she should have stuck to it.  A single working woman, Maggie wanted to have a baby, and she enlisted a former college classmate as a sperm donor.  But when she meets unhappily married professor/author John (Ethan Hawke), her plan abruptly changes, and she and John marry and have a baby.  John is an overwrought author who will never finish that damn book or face his responsibilities, so Maggie is stuck with him, his two kids, their baby and a hopeless future.  Her plan then is to reunite John with his first wife, Georgette (Julianne Moore, with an accent), with whom he has maintained a relationship.  Seriously, Maggie, enough with the plans.  You should know by now that you aren’t good at it and they don’t always work.  The baby is cute, the movie is annoying.  If you are planning to see it, I say you should reconsider your plan.  2½ cans.
70.  The Fundamentals of Caring* (2016) – In this Netflix original movie, the ageless Paul Rudd plays Ben, an unemployed writer desperate for a job who becomes the caregiver for Trevor (Craig Roberts), an 18-year old fatherless young man with a form of muscular dystrophy.  Despite the warnings of the young man’s mother, the two strike up a friendship, and Ben agrees to take Trevor on a road trip – medicines, wheelchair and all – to see some roadside attractions that he finds appealing.  The movie soon becomes a buddy/road movie, complete with the addition of strangers they meet along the way who introduce Trevor to parts of life he’s never experienced.  The two main characters have a grudging bond and affection for each other, but it often manifests itself in cruel pranks and yelling.  I wanted more from the movie, because helping someone with a disability seemed like a different take on the typical road trip movie, but it didn’t end up much different at all.  The last scene, where Trevor gets to fulfill a lifelong dream, is modestly entertaining, but otherwise, this was pretty routine.  3 cans.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Mid-Month Musings for June 2016

Let me start this month’s edition by thanking those of you who faithfully read these monthly musings and take time to let me know you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.  You frequently tell me that you can relate to exactly what I have expressed.  Here’s a little secret:  Your random thought ARE the same as mine.  The only difference is that I write mine down.  And here we are.

I will get that gravity-defying crumb that is rattling around in the toaster out of the toaster if I have to take the damn thing apart to do it!

From now on, my criteria for buying a vacuum cleaner will be how well it sucks up sequins and glitter.

Do you know where your tongue is?  Well, of course you know it is in your mouth, but you don’t think about your tongue until you are in the dentist’s chair and are told to relocate it temporarily.  That’s when you feel you have lost all control over the errant organ.  Moving it out of the way seems to be an impossible task since you have no idea where it is situated and what it plans on doing next.  I have a similar issue at the nail salon, where I am always admonished to “relax your hands.”  Who knows where my fingers go?  I feel a little out of control.

You know those flapping batwings all women my age have under their arms?  I guess the only way to get rid of them without surgery is to work out really hard.  I don’t know any women my age who are willing or able to work out that hard.  Michelle Obama is our Shero.

I always wonder how old the potatoes are in the supermarket.  I mean, it isn’t like they have expiration dates.  Bananas go from green to yellow to brown.  Fruit gets mushy.  But potatoes?  Unless you can see the whites of their eyes, who knows how long they have been hanging around, hoping for an adoption?

Just wondering - does Guy Fieri ever go to a diner, drive-in or dive he doesn't like? Or do the producers refuse to air the losers? He can't like everything - or can he?

Who came up with the term “rock and roll” and why?

Let’s face it:  There’s never a day when I don’t want to eat M&Ms.  But I rarely ever do.

If you are like me, you feel pressure when someone asks you for directions.  I might know exactly how to go, but I won’t necessarily remember the names of the streets or the landmarks.  I find myself coming up with instructions to “turn by the old XYZ Diner, or that’s what it used to be called.”  Or I’ll think to myself, “I think that street is where Susie used to live and it is a block past that.”  Actual street names might be more helpful.

Who among us has NOT, on occasion, pulled some garment out of the laundry, given it the sniff test and decided that we could get one more wearing out of it?

What does it say about me that I buy “ultra-strong” toilet paper?  That strong just isn’t strong enough?  What makes it ultra-strong anyway?

I will spend 10 minutes rearranging things in the trunk of my car so that I can carry them all into the house in one trip.  It would take less time to make two trips, but that is against my principles.

It was the beginning of the War of the Weeds in Tina Town recently, and I won the initial skirmish.  But when I wake up the next day with my hips and hamstrings screaming, those weeds will have the last laugh.  And then they will come back and taunt me.

It annoys me that I have to make sure the plants are watered but that the weeds can thrive no matter what conditions prevail.  I just watered the flowers, so expect a downpour to follow.

Speaking of which, I don’t get the thrill of gardening.  The bending over, getting your hands dirty and pulling weeds doesn’t seem like fun to me.  I love to look at pretty flowers, but I think mine will be in pots!

Don’t you hate it when someone you are with takes a bite of something, tells you it tastes funny and then asks you to confirm that by tasting it?  No, thanks.

I don’t know if I require less sleep these days, but I am sure getting less sleep these days.  Yet I am not taking naps – unless, of course, I am at the movies!  I really think I need more sleep than I am getting, but I’m up crazy early and can’t get back to sleep.  Maybe I need an all-night movie theater to cure my sleep woes.

Speaking of which, I wish the world were ready for me when I am ready for it.  When I wake up at 4 AM and cannot get back to sleep, it would be great to be able to go to the library or the dry cleaners.  Around here, the post office doesn’t open until 10 AM, which is way too late.  And wouldn’t it be great to stroll down the aisles at Costco around 6?  Dream on – which I would if I could sleep.

Truth:  The more you shave your legs, the more often you will cut yourself shaving your legs.

If my actual friends and family contacted me half as much as Macy’s and Raymour & Flanigan do under the guise of bargains for “Friends & Family,” I’d feel like I was being stalked.

I have two “potluck” dinners to attend.  The whole concept confuses me.  Will there be pot?  And who’s getting lucky?

My Douglass sisters and I took advantage of a trip to Atlantic City to make a detour to the outlets at Tinton Falls on the way home, where we walked into virtually every store (minus the ones that sell children’s clothing) and contributed significantly to the local economy.  For women, shopping is about the hunt, bagging the big find and paying as little as possible. Debbie won with her purchase of two sweaters for $10 – total – but we all went home with multiple bags.  So we all won.

When I called the sprinkler company about starting up the system, I was told that the earliest they could get to me was May 18th, and I was worried that my grass wouldn’t survive that long.  But the woman at the company said not to worry because we would be getting plenty of rain between now and then.  Sure, I thought.  Meanwhile, it rained practically every day since we spoke.  I wonder if she plays the lottery.

At this age, buying just one sympathy card makes no sense.  I buy in bulk now.

Without fail, every time I go into a sauna, the first thought that crosses my mind is: “Wow, it is really HOT in here.”  Duh.

I am slowly making my way through listening to the 5500 songs on my iPod, in alphabetical order. (I know this sounds like such a Tina thing to do.)  I never realized how many songs there were that started with the word “All.”

Sometimes I just wish there was “left turn on red.”

And finally, already this month we have experienced another senseless tragedy with the murder of 50 people in a club in Orlando and the injuring of 53 more.  Why should anyone in this country be allowed to purchase assault weapons?  The right to bear arms was created when muskets were the weapon of choice.  This slaughter of our own people by our own people has got to stop. 











Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Tina's May 2016 Movies

Thirteen movies made the May list, with several that I enjoyed watching again as well as a few new ones (noted with an asterisk) I found worthy of the list.  Movies are rated on a scale from 1-5, with 5 being the best.  Numbering picks up from the previous month.

47.  Lego: A Brickumentary* (2014) – I am a little too old to have played with Legos as a child, but I never imagined that the ubiquitous bricks – launched in their current form in 1958 – would be a cultural phenomenon.  Sure, millions of kids play with the interlocking plastic blocks, building special kits and also letting their imaginations run wild.  But the creativity aspect of Legos reaches far beyond kids.  In this fascinating documentary, an artist has an entire show of original art and reproductions of famous works made of Legos; a psychologist shows how autistic children interact better in social situations when they build with Legos; an architect gets a commission for a huge project based on the model he submits that is made with Legos; and Legos go on a space mission to Jupiter.  Adults flock to Lego conventions, and some have even gotten jobs with the company based on their designs.  Let’s face it, we would all envy grown-ups who get to play with toys all day, coming up with new designs and uses for the colorful bricks.  People have created actual cars, homes and movies starring the bricks.  It’s fair to say that Legos are a cultural icon.  3½ bricks.
48.  Sing Street* (2016) – Plenty of teenaged boys have started bands to meet girls.  When 15-year old Dublin schoolboy Colin (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) develops an immediate crush on aspiring model Raphina (Lucy Boynston), he asks if she will be in a video for his band – and then quickly realizes he has to form one.  Luckily, he recruits some decent musicians and begins writing songs to win her over.  Colin is the youngest child of a couple who fight constantly and have put him in a local school where he is bullied by his classmates and castigated by the administration for not wearing black shoes as part of his required uniform.  The “band” of misfits becomes his support system, along with his musically inclined slacker older brother, as he navigates the world of songwriting, performing and romance.  Walsh-Peelo, with his rosy cheeks and innocent face, makes a very appealing lead in this sweet story.  3½ cans.
49.  Learning to Drive* (2015) – This movie is about life lessons, not just a reminder to use your blinker when turning.  Patricia Clarkson is Wendy, a book critic who is suddenly dumped by her cheating husband.  She realizes that she needs her independence, and that means she has to learn to drive so she can visit her daughter (Mamie Gummer), who lives on a farm.  She enlists the aid of a very proper Sikh named Darwan (Ben Kingsley), a driving instructor who is looking for a wife.  One marriage is ending while another is beginning, and these two people have plenty to teach each other.  She sees him subjected to incredibly rude and belligerent comments from people put off by his turban and beard.  He sees her as lonely and unable to focus on just one thing at a time.  The movie restrains itself from including an obvious romance between the characters and allows them to show how their friendship leads them to individual growth.  Patricia Clarkson always delivers outstanding performances, usually in secondary roles, but she’s got the chops to pull off the lead with plenty to spare.  3½ cans.
50.  First Monday in May* (2016) – Is fashion truly art?  This captivating documentary answers that question with a resounding YES.  Although the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been relegated to the massive building’s basement, each year the opening of a new show on the first Monday in May elevates fashion by not only highlighting a theme from the collection but also through its gala.  The celebrities turn out in couture outfits and sit when Vogue’s Ann Wintour tells them to sit.  As a member of the Met Board, Wintour wields plenty of power, dispensing “advice” from behind her dark sunglasses while carrying her ubiquitous container of coffee.  This film provides a behind-the-scenes look at the 2015 exhibition, “China: Through the Looking Glass,” a melding of Chinese inspired Western fashion and the Museum’s considerable collection of Chinese art.  The hero of the story is Met Costume Institute Curator Andrew Bolton, whose vision and year-long work make the exhibition take shape.  Even as the gala gets underway, he is roaming the hallways, fussing over every detail of the show.  Wintour is on hand to reinforce her “Devil Wears Prada” persona, which she shrugs off when questioned about her bad reputation.  The fashion is stunning, carefully crafted and meticulously handled by the Museum’s reverent staff.  Their glory is challenged by the clothing, hats and jewelry worn by the star-studded guest list.  It was worth the price of admission just to see Rihanna ascend a staircase with an elaborate yellow dress and train.  4 cans.
51.  Paper Towns* (2015) – We’ve seen this kind of movie before:  Somewhat nerdy teenaged boy has a crush on the popular girl in school and will do anything for her.  Here Quentin (Nat Wolff) has lived across the street from popular but enigmatic Margo (Cara Delevigne) since they were kids, but their friendship has never blossomed into romance.  After catching her boyfriend cheating on her, Margo enlists Q in an adventure to seek revenge, which, for the high school senior, marks his first time doing anything so contrary to his straight-laced persona.  He only falls more in love with Margo, who disappears the next day.  Q is convinced that he can track her down through a series of confounding clues she has left behind, whereupon the movie becomes a buddy trip as he and his friends take off from Florida to upstate New York to find her – and, hopefully, make it back in time for prom night.  Will they locate her in time?  Does she want to be found?  Will Q’s nerdiest friend really go to the prom with a pretty and popular girl totally out of his league in real life?  I found nothing new here, and I did not like Margo’s character at all.  Besides, the practical side of me, the one that questions where these kids got the money to travel and how Margo intends to fund her adventure, did not help me accept any of the premises here.  2½ cans.
52.  5 Flights Up* (2015) – Artist Alex Carver (Morgan Freeman) and his wife Ruth (Diane Keaton) are just as in love with each other now as they were 40 years ago when they got married.  They love their Brooklyn neighborhood and dote on their dog Dorothy, but traipsing up 5 flights to get to their apartment is wearing on them, so they reluctantly turn to niece Lily (Cynthia Nixon) to put their home on the market.  Between selling and buying, bidding wars erupt, with complications from what could be a terrorist incident on the nearby bridge.  This movie is propelled more by its warmth and less by the obnoxious characters who come to the open house, invade the couple’s space and make them rethink whether they really want to forsake their routine in favor of a building with an elevator.  Freeman and a less-quirky-than-usual Keaton make a perfect couple and have great chemistry.  They make the movie worth seeing.  3½ cans.
53.  In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye* (2012) – If you are looking for strong female role models, look no further than this documentary on the formidable women who have served as editors and fashion editors of the 120-year old fashion magazine.  From Diana Vreeland to Anna Wintour, from Polly Mellon to Grace Coddington, these women have their fingers on the pulse of fashion and have for decades.  Their selection and depiction of fashion displayed in the magazine reinforce or create new trends, establish the careers of designers and launch models into superstardom.  And each of them is fierce.  Designer Vera Wang started her career as an assistant to fashion editor Polly Mellon, a steely-eyed woman who Wang describes as a nightmare.  These women are all trendsetters, have strength in their convictions, and most of them stayed in their jobs for decades.  This was my second Wintour movie this month, and this one was equal to its predecessor.  4 cans.
54.  An Unfinished Life* (2005) – Let’s face it, Robert Redford looks mighty fine wearing a cowboy hat and riding a horse.  Here he is Einar, an aging rancher living in Wyoming and feeling bitter over the death of his adult son.  He leads a quiet, stoic life, taking care of his friend and former ranch hand Mitch (Morgan Freeman), who was crippled when he was mauled by a bear.  One day a desperate woman shows up on his doorstep with the granddaughter (Becca Gardner) he didn’t know he had.  She is Jean (Jennifer Lopez), his son’s widow, whom he blames for the death of his son.  She is a victim of domestic violence, trying to escape her boyfriend (Damian Lewis).  Einar is the strong silent type who doesn’t warm up or forgive easily, even as he grows attached to his 11-year old granddaughter.  Despite his advanced age, he can ward off younger men who cross his path.  But can anyone forgive the bear?  Can they ALL live peacefully?  Jean has her demons and Mitch has the marauding bear, while Einar wrestles with himself.  3½ cans.
55.  The Godfather Saga (not sure of the date) – Even after a zillion viewings and despite knowing every line, I relish the opportunity to watch genius at work.  The sprawling saga that combines The Godfather and The Godfather II in chronological order ranks up in my top five all-time favorite movies.  The story, the acting, the detail – I love every frame.  If you don’t know the plot and the highlights by now, there is no sense in my trying to summarize it beyond telling you it is epic.  Loved every minute.  5 cans.
56.  Same Time Next Year (1978) – A married accountant and a housewife meet at a small California inn and are immediately attracted to each other.  They continue to return for yearly trysts that are shown in 5-year increments.  Their ardor for each other never wanes over the 25 years we get to be voyeurs of this funny, warm and loving relationship.  Although I would never condone philandering, this relationship is so much more than that.  Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn are at their peak performance levels as George and Doris, who sometimes are on completely different – and highly amusing – wavelengths.  I love this movie and would be happy to watch it at the same time every year.  4½ cans.
57.  Hoop Dreams (1994) – Simply put, this documentary that chronicles the lives of two inner-city Chicago high school basketball players is the best sports documentary of all time.  Director Steve James shot 300 hours of footage over 5 years, tracing the basketball dreams of Arthur Agee Jr. and William Gates from the time they were 14 until they graduated from high school.  Both promising athletes, they had to survive the realities of urban life – poverty, family issues and injuries – while holding out hope for college scholarships and professional basketball careers.  Recruited by a prestigious suburban high school that they traveled three hours a day to attend, the teammates were separated when Agee’s family couldn’t come up with the money and he couldn’t come up with the grades.  Indifferent students but potential basketball prodigies, both players had inconsistent careers, Agee plagued by poor grades and high expectations, and Gates by knee injuries, surgery and rehab.  This movie shows the struggles, the challenges and the hoop dreams of so many kids who think they will make it to the pros.  Life doesn’t always work out the way we plan.  5 cans.
58.  Breach (2007) – Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper) is a tough, taciturn, church-going, Bible-quoting FBI agent who just happens to be selling US secrets to Russia.  Young Eric (Ryan Phillippe) is an FBI technology expert and aspiring gent whom the Bureau assigns to work for Hanssen and get the goods on a man responsible for breaching US security.  This suspenseful drama is based on the real-life case of the Russian spy.  Eric has to be fast on his feet to avoid detection on the part of the wary Hanssen, and he cannot disclose his assignment even to his increasingly impatient wife.  It is hard to know whom to trust, and Hanssen is a very experienced, perceptive operative, so working with him and against him is a tough assignment for Eric.  The movie is taut and compelling as Eric takes orders from his superiors and tries to keep Hanssen in the dark.  3½ cans.
59.  Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont* (2005) – I’d like to thank the algorithms of Amazon Video for suggesting I might like this little gem of a movie.  Mrs. Palfrey (Joan Plowright) is a genteel, elderly widow who moves into the Claremont, a residential hotel in London not quite as antic as “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” but inhabited by seniors who create their own family.  One day Mrs. Palfrey literally stumbles upon aspiring writer Ludo (Rupert Friend) when she takes a spill outside his basement flat.  He gallantly helps her up and takes her in to make her tea, and a friendship that spans the generations is born.  The regulars at the hotel assume he is her grandson, and Ludo and Mr. Palfrey play along.  What is family anyway, but a group of people who care about you?  Accidents of birth are not required.  The charming young man is devoted to his “Sa Sa,” and he helps heal her loneliness.  I fell instantly in love with this movie.  From now on, when Netflix or Amazon Video suggest some movie I might like based on others I have seen, I’m all in.  4½ cans.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

No Glittering


If you know me at all, you know you are much more likely to find me sporting sweats or wearing a pair of jeans than all glammed up in diamonds and pearls.  The thought of having to apply make-up, squeeze into pantyhose and do my hair is more of a challenge than a good time.  But I am a good sport, so when my Douglass alumnae sisters need me to attend an event, even one that is formal, I’ll start the primping process. 

While I never mind shopping, going on a mission to find something dressy, that fits, looks decent and is comfortable enough to wear all night is no easy task.  But Macy’s had just the right outfit, muted yet glimmering, classy and elegant.  Totally not me, but hey, I can pull it off, I figured. 

I should have recognized the problem as soon as I saw the tag that said, “The glitter on this garment gives it added dimension and beauty.”  OK, that’s kind of what I am looking for.  But then they added this telltale warning: “Due to the natural characteristics of the fabric, some glitter may fall off during wear.”

“Natural characteristics?”  Does that mean gravity?  “Some” glitter?  Because shimmering things were jumping ship as I paid for the outfit at the register.  I wisely asked the salesperson to put it in a separate bag from the black skirt I bought to wear with it.  I even kept it in isolation in the closet until I was ready for the big night. 

As soon as I removed the clothing from the plastic isolation chamber, glitter started raining down on the carpet in the walk-in closet.  As I put it on, more sparkles flew.  I went to the bathroom, sequins went to the floor.  The good news, I figured, was that if I went missing that night, there would be a trail of glitter the authorities could use to trace my steps.  If I had been abducted, there would be no need for DNA testing.  The glitter would provide all the evidence needed to find me. 

When I put on make-up I had glitter on my face.  When I put on my new black patent leather shoes, gold flakes littered the tops.  When I took out my phone to take a picture the fall-out continued, festooning the case. 

Finally, all dressed up and with somewhere to go, I was afraid to enter any room in my house after leaving the bedroom.  Or sit down, for that matter.  I really did not want my new sectional sofa to glow in the dark.

So I went to the garage, leaving a shiny trail through the laundry room.  I grabbed an old towel I keep in the car so that when I sat down in the backseat of my friends’ car, I wouldn’t glitter that up, either.  Now my garage floor has a shimmer it never had before.

Since the party was actually conducted in two separate venues, I’m sure I left plenty of glitter for the cleaning crews to remove.  And the dance floor came alive with that certain glow as I partied with my pals.

And then Cinderella came home from the ball, took off the now slightly less shiny outfit, put on pajamas -- and took out the vacuum.  Just like the real Cinderella (OK, I know it is a fairy tale, but go along with me on this), I went back to work as the clock struck midnight, diligently attempting to round up all of the shiny stuff.  Three times I unplugged the vacuum convinced I had captured it all.  Three times I plugged it back in and tried again.  My bedroom carpet hasn’t been vacuumed this carefully since I moved in, and, yet, I still see evidence of the evening.  I had to keep changing the angle of my head to make sure I could see every last sparkle.  Even this morning there was glitter on my pajamas, my face and my chest.  I didn’t even try to check my hair.  I went to the community pool to work out and probably brought some along with me.  Next, I’ll find it on my bathing suit.

I think the next time around I’ll have to get back to cotton, “the fabric of our lives.”

Here’s the scenario I imagine:  Years from now, when I am dead and gone and the house goes on the market and the realtor is showing it and some older couple (this is an age-restricted community, after all) declares that they love it and want to buy it, they will hesitate for one reason and – no doubt – ask the realtor this question:

“What’s with all the glitter?”