Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Collected Random Thoughts for June/July

The world’s biggest lies:  The check is in the mail, the service tech will be there between 1-4 and this package contains 14 servings of ice cream.
My cleaning lady lends whole new meaning to the term “disposable razor.”  Whenever she spots one in the shower, she throws it away.  Then I can’t find my stash, so I can’t replace it, which means that if my legs look hairier than usual, you will know why.  And why does she also think that my soap is expendable?  A sliver being tossed I understand (although I am frugal enough to use it until there is nothing left), but half a bar of soap?  And what does she do with the dishrag in the sink?  I always have plenty of garbage after the house is cleaned.  Now I know why. 

There’s not much I can’t do with a letter opener or a pair of scissors.  One of my letter openers (yes, I have several) is too dull to actually open a letter (and, yes, I still get letters, but I mostly open bills), but it is perfect to help me put up the storm windows.  Don’t ask.  One night last month I was hot and I realized the storm windows were still down, so I grabbed my trusty letter opener and proceeded to try to pull down the screens and I dropped the letter opener on the roof of the sunroom.  So there I am at 11 PM, pajama-clad, flashlight in hand, long mop at the ready, fishing the letter opener off the sunroom roof.  I knew I would need it and didn’t want it to get away.  Yes, I may be a little crazy. 

I have a collection of black pants that could only be exceeded by those in Johnny Cash’s closet.  But I think they conspire against me.  Sometimes I’ll look for a particular pair and can’t find them.  Are they at the cleaners, I wonder?  And then I go back to the closet the next day and they are there, or I find a pair I don’t even remember having.  I think they step out and sneak back in, and sometimes bring along friends.

I frequently pass a parked truck from Somerset Hills Towing that is emblazoned with the company’s SHT initials.  Somehow, my demented mind always sees the letter I in there.  At least I amuse myself.

I don’t even know what millings are, but every time I pass a handmade sign on Route 206 that says “Free Millings” I am tempted to call the number to find out how I can get some.  The allure of FREE is powerful stuff.

We live in a world where there are little cartoon figures called emojis that people can use to express their feelings instead of using actual words, where the noun “friend” has become a verb (you can “friend” me on Facebook) and where a tradename has also become a verb, “I’ll just Uber to the show.”  My former English teachers are spinning in their graves and lamenting the decline and fall of civilization as we knew it.

So I get into a Town Car recently on the crowded streets of New York and the very nice/nosy driver starts asking me a million questions (long ride, too much time in car).  By the end of the ride I had claimed to be a married woman (28 years) with a 25-year old son and a husband who was responsible for all car maintenance (his car was making a funny noise).  It was easier than explaining that I'm not married because I haven't found the right guy, etc., and no I DON'T have grandchildren.  I get these questions all the time as a "lovely older" woman.  Is everyone just trying to fix me up or are they all that nosy?  So now I have a new life, I guess.

There’s nothing like packing up your house to remind you of stuff you have that you didn’t remember owning (I have a giant glass cake server that I haven’t used in years; I packed it anyway), stuff you don’t want or need (how many mugs do I need when I don’t drink coffee?), stuff you should have gotten rid of long ago (a glass mug from my worst vacation ever, a week on Hilton Head Island when it NEVER STOPPED RAINING), and stuff you don’t need or want but which you cannot bring yourself to throw away (my bunny bowl and dish from when I was a baby; I wonder who might want to take that off my hands as a sentimental reminder of me).  I just wrapped the cake server in a beach towel that is too frayed to use in public and which I have been saving to use for packing.  I have sworn that the towel at least goes right into the trash as soon as I unpack!

Only I could break a nail while I sleep. 

What is a better feeling than looking at your Kohl’s receipt and seeing that you saved more money than you spent?  Is it even possible to pay full-price at Kohl’s?  And for $6.99 (and then with a coupon, even less), I might as well buy a top that I might wear once.  At that price, it’s cheaper than buying lunch!

I may be the only person on Facebook who doesn’t have kids or pets but still likes watching those videos with babies and their dogs.

You know you are a grammar nerd when you want to correct other people’s Facebook posts.  I had a boss once who insisted that man’s greatest needs were food, water and to edit other people’s writing.

Who decided on the whole Initial Caps use thing?  Why do we lower case the smaller words and Initial Cap the rest?  Is the word “the” not worthy of a capital T unless it is the first word?  And which words are appropriate to keep as small letters?  Who makes these rules?  Why Do I Waste Time Thinking About Them?  Should “about” have been lower case?

We all like crunchy things in our food for a little texture, but one little bit of eggshell with my hard-boiled egg is NOT what I had in mind.

In my world, when someone has to undergo a surgical procedure or go for a colonoscopy, I consider the potential weight loss a “silver lining.”

When I put out the recycling, it almost looks like I have gift wrapped it.  Everything is neatly tied up, boxes are cut so the pieces are all the same size, and the magazines and junk mail are placed tidily in their bags.  I can’t help notice that my neighbors don’t seem to take the same measure of care.  I see beer cartons and other boxes just piled up, not broken down or tied.  I see bottles with labels and paper strewn about, sometimes even in plastic bags.  Am I obsessed or are they just lazy?  Or both?

I don’t know how people walk around ShopRite in shorts and tank tops.  I put on a shirt, sweater or sweatshirt as I get out of the car – especially in the summer – so I won’t freeze in the dairy aisle.  And the frozen food section?  I try to steer clear of that one altogether.  And if you have ever entered the section of Costco where they keep the salad, you understand exactly what freezing is.

Why is it that we have to nurture our plants and lawn, feed them, weed them and make sure they are properly watered, and yet weeds are ignored until they are pulled and can grow strong and hardy even between cracks in the sidewalk?

I don’t understand the expression, “Sign on the dotted line.”  I’ve seen the line, and it is not dotted. 

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you know that I recently marked 15 years since I underwent surgery for colon cancer.  I'm still here, and I use this occasion to urge any of you over age 50 to get a colonoscopy.  Mine saved my life (thank you, Katie Couric, for televising yours).  If I am around, I'll even drive you.  It isn't as bad as you think and you get a lovely rest while under sedation.  Don't put it off.  It could save YOUR life.  And while we are discussing screenings, don’t forget to schedule a mammogram, too, ladies.  Steps off soapbox.

I recently went for my annual mammogram, which is the day you are not allowed to use powder or deodorant after a shower.  I play “Hide the Deodorant,” stashing it somewhere the night before so I cannot routinely grab and use it.  I did it so well that I couldn’t find it the next day.  I’m back to the old routine now.

Life is a journey, and I am still trying to figure everything out.  The only thing I know is that I don’t know everything.  So I am still learning, which is what helps keep me alive. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tina's June 2015 Movies

June brought a dozen movies to my list, some fun, some charming, and some not really worth seeing.  As always, numbering picks up from the previous month, and movies that I had not seen previously are marked with an asterisk.  Ratings are based on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna, with 5 being the highest rating.

65.  From the Terrace (1960) – Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward star in this melodramatic adaptation of the John O’Hara novel about a wealthy but unhappy married couple.  He is the scion of a modestly wealthy family which doesn’t love him.  She is from a much richer family and he doesn’t really love her, either.  What he loves is his work at an investment bank on Wall Street, a job he “fell into” by rescuing the partner’s grandson.  They become fabulously wealthy and attractive and yet are miserable together, though she lusts after him (and settles for her old boyfriend instead).  He doesn’t even understand how unhappy he is until he meets and falls for a much less complicated, pretty woman (Ina Balin) and her life.  Will he give up everything for the chance of finally achieving happiness?  Tune in and find out.  This movie and “The Young Philadelphians” are two of my favorite Newman movies.  I love Paul Newman!  4 cans.
66.  School of Rock (2003) – I’ll give this fluffy little movie a passing grade mainly because of the A+ performance of Jack Black as the star.  Black plays Dewey, an out-of-work, slacker musician, too obnoxious to remain in the band he started and posing as a substitute teacher under a friend’s name.  He takes on a group of private school students, introduces them to music and his passion for it, and forms them into a credible rock band.  This is where the movie runs off the rails for me, since I have to suspend my sense of reality in watching him get hired as a teacher in the first place, and then get these kids on board.  Still, Black is at his John Belushi best as he wins over the students, the administration (yet another role for Joan Cusack) and the competition.  3 cans. 
67.  Grand Central* (2014) – As a New Jersey native, I have always been relegated to entering New York by train via dreary and perfunctory Penn Station.  Its much more splendid cousin is Grand Central Terminal, the beautiful beaux arts building across town that is both a destination and gateway into the city for millions of people who arrive by train from places all over the country.  This beautifully-restored building represents the confluence of art, architecture and engineering, with its ceiling of the stars, carvings, magnificent arched windows and a state-of-the-art transportation system – after all, it is first and foremost a train station.  But within its airy confines, it is the home of shops, restaurants, markets and multi-million dollar clocks, each made from a single piece of opal and which, collectively, have served as the meeting point for millions of people.  The station had fallen into disarray by the 1970s and there was consideration of knocking it down (the current iteration is the third terminal built on the site).  But the cautionary tale of the destruction of a once-grand Penn Station caused city historians and people who appreciate the value of preservation (including a major role played by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) to restore the building and enhance its glory.  I followed up the experience of seeing this movie by meeting a dear friend there a week later so we could explore its wonders.  I’m so glad I was inspired by the movie to take a walk from Penn Station to the aptly named Grand Central.  4 cans.
68.  Doc Hollywood (1991) – Manic Michael J. Fox is at his smug Alex P. Keaton best in this fish-out-of-water tale of Dr. Ben Stone, a hotshot doc who is Hollywood-bound when he crashes his sports car into a fence in small town Grady, SC, and is sentenced to community service.  He has to fill in for the grumpy old town doctor and gets to meet the town’s colorful characters – the family who come to him so he can read them letters since they can’t read; the farmer who gives him a pig in lieu of payment; and the attractive ambulance driver.  He’s bound for the big bucks of plastic surgery but falls in love with Lou (Julie Warner), the driver, and the laid-back but warm lifestyle of the locals.  Will he head to the Hollywood Hills? Or will be stick around for the Annual Grady Squash Festival?  Tough one to call.  This movie is a major dose of charm, especially Fox and Warner.  4 cans.
69.  I’ll See You in My Dreams* (2015) – “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” I said to the kid at the ticket counter as I plunked down my $8, “but don’t take it personally.”  But this film is personal.  Carol (Blythe Danner) is a widow of 20 years who lives quietly with her beloved dog Hazel and is very settled in her routine.  She sets the alarm for 6, gets up, reads the paper, does her errands, occasionally plays bridge with her girlfriends, drinks a lot of wine, sits in the house by herself and generally lives a lonely existence.  However, two men enter her life and change things up a bit, making her rediscover the woman she once was.  Lloyd (Martin Starr) is the much younger pool guy (nothing happens beyond a friendship) and Bill (the silver and foxy Sam Elliott) meets her at the retirement community where her friends live and he asks her out.  He turns out to be a really good guy, and she can start to think about changing her life.  But life is not always as we plan it.  This is a heartfelt movie, at times touching and amusing – a far cry from those big-budget blockbusters you can find at the multiplex.  I’d love to hang around with Carol and her old friends (Rhea Pearlman, June Squibb and Mary Kay Place), minus the speed dating sequence.  3½ cans and a couple of large glasses of wine.
70.  Love & Mercy* (2015) – Brian Wilson: Musical genius.  Tortured soul.  As someone with no musical ability, I cannot even imagine what it must be like to have music in your head and try to translate it into a cohesive, complex sound, but that was the genius of the man behind such classic songs as “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Good Vibrations” and “God Only Knows.”  But Wilson, the heart and soul of the Beach Boys, was the victim of abuse – first by his father, who abused him physically and emotionally, and then by the charlatan psychologist, Dr. Eugene Landy, who kept Wilson drugged and firmly under his control for decades, estranged from his family and convinced that he was a paranoid schizophrenic.  If you didn’t know this story was true, you would never believe it.  But Wilson heard music in his head (among other things he heard), and eschewed his early hits about sun, sand and surfing to turn out the iconic “Pet Sounds” and set a new standard for popular music, backed by the power and grace of the famed studio musicians, The Wrecking Crew.  Paul Dano as a younger Wilson and John Cusack as the older version give remarkable performances as a man always on the edge of losing it all.  Elizabeth Banks plays the woman who sees his pain and finally is able to get him freed from the burden of his “caretaker,” Landy.  How Brian Wilson survived his private hell and turned out some of the most memorable music of the century, well, God Only Knows.  4 cans.  
71.  Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002) – And speaking of back-up bands, the Funk Brothers were to Motown what the Wrecking Crew was to the West Coast sound.  A group of talented, mostly jazz, musicians, the Funk Brothers worked at Berry Gordy’s Motown Studios and created that distinctive Motown groove that appears on every artist’s record from that era, from Smokey Robinson to Marvin Gaye to Martha Reeves.  Most came from the South, and many ended up in Detroit to work in the burgeoning automobile industry, but the veritable assembly line of hits that was Motown in the 1960s was a better fit for them than Chevrolet.  Even the most ardent fan in this documentary can’t name the members of this crew, because they were largely anonymous and ever changing.  But take the bass work of James Jamerson or the beats of Benny Benjamin or the piano of Joe Hunter and let them work and the result is the soundtrack of my youth.  When Gordy abruptly abandoned Detroit for Hollywood in 1972, he left behind these huge contributors to Motown’s success, and the sound was never the same.  Like the recent documentary “20 Feet From Stardom” that focused on the anonymous back-up singers behind so many hit records, this movie looks at these men and their contributions as a group and as individuals.  Several more contemporary artists are paired with them to recreate the songs they made famous.  4 cans.
72.  Back to School (1986) – From the esoteric to the sophomoric, my electric taste in movies covers a lot of territory.  This comedy is my favorite Rodney Dangerfield movie, surpassing even the classic “Caddyshack.”  Dangerfield is plus-size clothing mogul Thornton Melon, a man so rich he gets into his son’s college by writing a big check to build the college’s new business school.  He enrolls to be closer to his son Jason (Keith Gordon), brings along his faithful factotum Lou (Burt Young) and proceeds to take over the school, doling out “Shakespeare for everyone” and remaking the dorm to look like a bachelor pad.  His interest in the professor played by Sally Kellerman is thwarted by her teaching schedule, so he tells her to “call me some time when you have no class.”  The whole movie is filled with Dangerfield witticisms, low-brow comedy that is entertaining nonetheless.  Today’s top box office draw, Robert Downey Jr., plays Jason’s best and only friend in a way that his rise to stardom would never have been predicted.  Adrienne Barbeau is Melon’s wife in the opening sequence, and her appearance, while brief, is memorable.  Not a thinking person’s movie to be sure, but plenty to make me smile.  
3½ cans.
73.  Spy* (2015) – If you can buy Melissa McCarthy as an “action hero” in this comedy, you must be willing to believe she could be an accomplished marksman, able to drive motorcycles and fast cars, fly helicopters and airplanes and run down a street in high heels.  You have to overlook reason and logic in movies like this in order to enjoy them.  Here McCarthy is Susan Cooper, a CIA desk jockey whose mission is to convey information to the master spy played by Jude Law, a man with whom she is in love.  When circumstances at the agency change, Susan goes undercover to catch the bad guys and girls (Rose Byrne, also McCarthy’s co-star in the uproarious “Bridesmaids”).  Rather than try to kill Byrne’s character, Susan should just shave her head and remove the thousand pounds of hair on it.  (There is a funny line about her hair breaking her fall.)  The plot gets very convoluted, but the audience is there mostly to hear McCarthy swear like a sailor, make incredibly complex and hilarious statements about others and keep a legion of stunt women in work.  If you are looking for relatively mindless entertainment, I recommend Spy.  3½ cans.  But not as funny as “Back to School.”
74.  Midnight Run (1988) – Before action comedies started to kill people and blow things up every 30 seconds, there was this version, starring Roberts DeNiro as a bounty hunter who is trying to deliver fugitive accountant Jonathan (Charles Grodin) back to the bail bondsman (Joe Pantoliano) in time for trial.  Jonathan is a genuine pain in the butt, and DeNiro is working this big payday as his last.  There is great chemistry between the two opposite types as they board planes, trains and automobiles in this combination buddy/road comedy.  DeNiro looks great, constantly puffing on cigarettes and being chastised for it by Grodin, whose character has crossed up the Chicago mob boss and stolen his money only to give it away for philanthropy.  There is plenty of adventure and amusement.  4 cans.
75.  Music of the Heart (1999) – Meryl Streep plays real-life music teacher Roberta Guaspari in this story of a woman who teaches elementary school students to play the violin in an inner-city school in East Harlem, NY.  What are the chances these kids from impoverished backgrounds will be interested or able to learn this instrument?  Streep’s teacher conveys such love and affection for the music and the experience for the kids, even as she is tough and demanding of them.  Under the category of “Meryl can do anything,” it sure LOOKS like she is actually playing the violin.  This may not be her greatest work, but if you can get through this movie without goosebumps, a tear in the eye or a lump in the throat, then you have no heart.  Here’s to the importance of the arts in our educational system.  3½ cans.
76.  The Oranges* (2011) – Vanessa and Nina (Alia Shawcat and Leighton Meister) are best friends as kids, but the relationship doesn’t survive through high school.  Their parents, David and Paige (Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener) and Terry and Cathy (Oliver Platt and Allison Janney), are also best friends, with the men especially close.  So when the prodigal Nina begins an affair with her former friend’s father, all of the relationships are thrown into upheaval.  Never mind that the marriage between David and Paige was on the skids anyway.  This affair is enough to drive Paige into abandoning her Christmas caroling plans!  This is an earnest attempt at comedy/drama, but so lightweight that it never fully succeeds in either.  Mostly, it is just awkward, and the moral dilemma posed by the relationship-shattering affair (and the May-December romance) is never really resolved.  Move along, folks, not much to see here.  2 cans. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

On the Market

Four bedrooms, finished basement, gourmet kitchen, in-ground pool, hot tub, fabulous four season sunroom.  My existence has been reduced to this kind of description as I put my house on the market in anticipation of moving to a nearby active adult community (Canal Walk) sometime in the next few months (and not a minute before it is finished, of course).

For months, I have been getting rid of things.  Many charities have benefitted from my extra clothes, sheets and towels.  A garage sale in May rid me of more unused Yankee Candles than you can find in a Hallmark store (I could have opened my own branch).  My hedge trimmer was happily scooped up by someone who might not cut the extension cord with it, as I did.  (The first time I used it – which was the last time I used it – I thought to myself, “It isn’t a question of WHETHER I will accidentally cut this cord, it is a question of WHEN,” and, predictably, I did.) 

I have gone through every photo album and box and given away (or tossed) pictures of people’s weddings whom I no longer see and who are no longer married.  I just about gave away picture frames and empty photo albums.  I went through old paperwork that somehow survived the last move, to this house in August of 2007 (I cannot explain how and why I still had bank statements from the 1980s, from banks that no longer exist) and shredded it.  I made a vow that every time the garbage went out, so would SOMETHING from this house.  Now I am down to the “bare necessities” (cough, cough) and I still have way too much stuff.

Knowing the house would be in the market soon, I turned my attention to organizing and optimizing what was there, cleaning everything from the lint catcher on the hair dryer to the hair brushes, because surely someone will say, “The kitchen was nice, but did you see how clean the hairbrushes were?”  Ironically, when the realty SWAT team showed up for picture day, all of the necessities of daily living were quickly relegated to new homes.  My towels were replaced by white ones, and a tray with a tea cup and saucer and a cloth napkin was strategically placed on my bed.  Sure, I always keep a cup of tea on a tray ON THE BED!  Again, maybe someone will see that and think – “That’s what I need to do, keep a tea cup and saucer on the bed.”  Vases of fake flowers replaced my knickknacks, and my bowl of fake fruit on the kitchen island was replaced by a bigger bowl with more fake fruit.  My toothbrush, soap and tissues were banned from the bathroom, as if no one actually has these things in their home. 

Meanwhile, I kept cleaning.  I consolidated the cleaning products (of which there were far too many duplicates, I must admit) by combining the like ones into a single bottle.  I straightened up the kitchen cabinet in which they are stored.  My sister and I redid the laundry room, which is now fit for photos itself.  Switch plates were replaced, furniture was moved or removed, desktops were cleared and files put away.  I had the house landscaped, the lawn mowed, the weeds whacked and every bush and tree trimmed.  Flowers were planted (must remember to water…).  

The house, deck and pool surround were powerwashed, the driveway sealed, the garage doors painted (by me!); the finished basement and the carpeted garage were vacuumed (again, maybe someone will buy the house just because of that feature).  I hid the jewelry and stashed the cash.  I’ll be lucky to find this stuff again before I move, which only points to the fact that I have stuff I don’t use and probably don’t need.  I took a bunch of gadgets from the kitchen junk drawer – come on, you know you have one, too – and put them in a box labeled “extra kitchen gadgets” and vowed to toss the box next year if, after I move, it hasn’t been opened in six months.  I can’t figure out why the drawer these gadgets came from still seems so crammed.

My bathrooms are so clean and shiny that I am afraid to use them.  This condition is in stark contrast to the bathroom at my nephew’s rented house that he shared with some of his fraternity brothers.  I made the mistake of taking a quick glance at it as I walked by while there for his graduation from the University of Maryland and that image will be burned into my brain forever.  It was so disgusting that it made “Animal House” look like “Downton Abbey.”  I can’t imagine using a bathroom that requires the wearing of a HAZMAT suit, but that is surely NOT the case here.  Here at 17 Joshua Drive, one could do surgery in the bathroom or kitchen – that’s how well lit and spotless they are.  

Now, with people coming in to see the house – we can only hope – I am finally making use of the huge collection of perfume strips that I faithfully remove from Macy’s ads and magazines and toss into the garbage cans and drawers to make them smell good.  I play “Hide the toothbrush” every day, have soothing music playing and Candy Kisses out in a bowl for visitors.  Maybe THAT will make the difference?  Meanwhile, it is killing me to leave a room with the lights on, but, after all, people need to see the place, right?

If you see my car, it looks like I am a homeless person.  A week’s worth of newspapers are on the floor of the backseat because I cannot leave them in the house.  Apparently the homebuying market does not include people who read newspapers.  I have books to be donated to the library, dry cleaning that I can’t leave in the house and a collection of umbrellas that are homeless themselves. 

Each time a real estate agent texts me about showing the house, I straighten up once again, hiding the laundry, which I have to do late in the evening so it isn’t drying on a rack in the dining room when someone comes to see the house.  The toaster has been off the counter for three weeks, hidden in a cabinet, and I am afraid to cook lest the odor of whatever I am making permeate the house and render it unmarketable.

So if you know anyone who is looking for a great party house with a gorgeous kitchen in a quiet neighborhood, a house that is described in the listing as “Super clean” (thank you for that), a house with a pool and large bedrooms, let me know.  It’s only been a few weeks, but I’m not sure whether I can live in this museum much longer. 

Must run now.  I have to hide the hair dryer. And I only hope I can find it again when I need it.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Tina's May 2015 Movies

I saw a small and relatively undistinguished bunch of movies in May.  Now that the summer blockbuster movies are upon us, that means less time for me spent seeing new movies (I rarely see blockbusters) and more time for rentals, documentaries and others.  As always, numbering picks up from the previous month, and movies that I had not seen previously are marked with an asterisk.  Ratings are based on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna, with 5 being the highest rating.

55.  Rumor Has It* (2005) -- A very appealing cast of performers and a kind of sequel to my favorite all-time movie, “The Graduate,” promised to be a winner.  But the convoluted story and the creepy factor that Sarah (Jennifer Anniston) is sleeping with Bo (Kevin Costner) just after he swears he is NOT her father was enough to make me cringe.  Her good guy boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo) wants to marry Sarah, but she is suddenly attracted to the man who slept with both her grandmother (Shirley Maclaine in the Anne Bancroft role, looking indignant) and her late mother.  I loved “The Graduate,” but when it comes to “Rumor Has It,” I’d rather listen to Adele sing the song of the same name.  3 cans.
56.  First Wives Club (1996) – I can hardly believe 20 years (almost) has passed since Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton sought revenge on their cheating husbands in this cheesy romp.  Hawn and Midler virtually burst through the screen – Hawn with collagen-laced lips first – to validate the old adage “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” – as they team up and plot to take down their ex-husbands by the wallet.  Keaton, on the other hand, has to rise up from being an understanding apologist and get strength from the others to fully participate in their scheme, but she does so with relish.  This is not a good movie, but it provides enough gusto and woman-power to overcome the sight gags and cheesy plot, and the stars do shine.  But cool it on the collagen, Goldie, because your lips look like suction cups.  3½ cans, mostly for the cast and the Lesley Gore anthem, “You Don’t Own Me.”
57.  Boychoir* (2015) – This new movie has a little bit of everything in it: The story of the outsider, Stet (Garrett Wareing) trying to fit in; the story of a tough but caring teacher (Dustin Hoffman, thankfully short of the insane music instructor of “Whiplash;”) kids with talent and an opportunity to use it that quickly evaporates because of their age (they are members of a boys’ choir, and eventually those high notes will be a thing of the past).  But I went to see it mostly because one of the lead boys is played by Dante Soriano, Hillsborough’s finest and the grandson of my dear, departed friend, Rose Drabich.  Dante acquits himself well in the role of Stet’s first real friend, who is kind enough to show the newcomer how to read music so he can better utilize his amazing voice.  Stem is a lost boy from Texas, poor, living with his alcoholic mother and without contact from his father (his father’s close encounter with the boy’s mother is a secret unbeknownst to his “real” family).  A teacher (Debra Winger, totally unrecognizable even to such a film buff as me) who knows he has talent tries to hook him up with the visiting National Boy Choir, but he leaves without auditioning.  Only when his mother dies in a car accident and his father is summoned to take care of young Stet do the realities of the system play out.  The father (Josh Lucas) is rich, and to keep his secret son away from his family, he in essence buys the boy a spot at the Boy Choir School, where his raw talent must be honed along with his rowdy behavior.  More than once it appears young Stet will be thrown out, but this isn’t THAT movie.  He learns to overcome the obstacles and hit the high notes.  So does the movie.  It unfortunately did not get a distribution deal, so it will not play at the local multiplex, and that’s a shame, because it is a good story (if a little corny) and makes a fine family film.  I can think of at least one person who is watching from high above a movie theater, and she is smiling down on her grandson Dante and his cast mates and giving this film a big thumbs up.  This one’s for you, Rose.  3½ cans.
58.  500 Days of Summer (2009) – Tom Hanson (Joseph Gordon Leavitt) is a greeting card copywriter with dreams of being an architect and even more important dreams of being in love.  When Summer (Zooey Deschanel) starts working in his office, he is almost immediately smitten, and the two strike up a dating relationship that he would like to define as a couple and she would rather think of as a friendship with benefits.  She makes it clear to him that she isn’t interested in a relationship, but he cannot help himself in falling for her and needing to know where they stand.  The movie traces their coupling and uncoupling unconventionally, using various points unchronologically along the way to check in on their status.  He’s happiest just going to Ikea or a museum with her, feeling like he has her as a girlfriend, but her free spirit and lack of commitment makes it that much tougher on him.  Gordon-Leavitt shows his charming and morose sides as Tom, buoyed by love and hope and refusing to realize that he cannot reign in Summer.  Deschanel is quixotic and sweet and you just wish they would fall in love with each other – but that is not this movie.  Still, 3½ cans even without a happy ending.
59. A Little Romance (1979) – 13-year olds Daniel (Thelonius Bernard) and Lauren (Diane Lane – yes, THAT Diane Lane, from “Unfaithful”) meet on the streets of Paris.  He’s a native, she’s an American living abroad with her self-absorbed actress mother (Sally Kellerman) and second stepfather (Arthur Hill).  He loves movies, she’s bored and neglected, and they find each other and quickly fall in love.  But she knows she will be leaving France for the States, so they decide to venture to Venice and share one kiss under a famous bridge at sunset, aided by a charming older man, Julius (Sir Lawrence Olivier), who finances the trip through his successful career as a pickpocket.  The charm of this movie cannot be overstated, from the young leads to the veteran Olivier.  I’ve been a fan of Lane’s for years, and although I cannot recall any other movies starring young Mr. Bernard, this one is good enough to last a lifetime.   Let’s face it, we all need a little romance in our lives.  4 cans.
60.  Bessie* (2015) – I guess if you are going to sing the blues, you had better be able to draw on your personal experience, and singer Bessie Smith has plenty to draw on.  Queen Latifah gives an outstanding performance (she is in virtually every scene) as she traces the story of a singer whose career rose and fell, who indulged her tastes in men and women and drink, who suffered discrimination and poverty as well as great success, and through it all, stayed strong.  Monique co-stars as Bessie’s rival and erstwhile friend, Ma Rainey, another woman who has earned the right to sing the blues.  4 cans, and thanks, HBO, for a docudrama well worth seeing.
61.  Animal House (1978) – It had been a while and I was in the mood for a nostalgic trip down Fraternity Row, especially after having seen the horrifyingly disgusting bathroom at the house my nephew shared with his fraternity brothers.  Good to know that no progress has been made since John Belushi, Tim Matheson, Peter Riegert and the other Deltas pursued knowledge at famed Faber College circa 1961.  The fact that I know EVERY line in this movie is not a deterrent to seeing it again.  In fact, some of them seem particularly apropos these days (“Seven years of college down the drain” and “It’s not over until we say it’s over.”).  This movie is a classic and applies to anyone and everyone who ventured onto a college campus in the past 50 years and ended up fat, drunk and stupid at a fraternity party.  Hilarious, memorable and right on target.  5 cans (of beer, of course) to one of the funniest movies of all time.
62.  In & Out (1997) – Greenleaf, Indiana, is shaken to its mushy core when beloved English teacher Howard Bracket is outed by a former student during his Oscar acceptance speech.  After all, Bracket (the immensely talented Kevin Kline) is just about to marry his long-time love Emily (the underrated Joan Cusack), so he can’t possibly be gay.  Or could he?  There is his Barbra Streisand fetish, the fact that he picked out Emily’s bridal gown, and the three-year engagement and wait before, well, never mind.  When TV reporter Peter Malloy (Tom Selleck) comes to town to cover the story, Howard is less sure about himself than ever.  I don’t want to reveal the plot of this comedy gem, but Cusack gets off two of the best lines.  Life in a small town has never been the same.  I once spent a rainy weekend with a dear friend watching this move three times – and we still laughed out loud.  It is not of the same humor as the gross but hilarious “Animal House” above, but it packs a punch and a punchline.  And Kline makes it all worthwhile.  4 cans.
63.  Working Girl (1988) – With “a head for business and a bod for sin,” Tess McGill (Melanie Griffiths) has great ideas for mergers and acquisitions at her investment bank, but no one will take her seriously because she is a lowly secretary.  But when her autocratic boss Katherine (Sigourney Weaver) is out of commission following a skiing accident, Tess moves into the office and the life of Jack Trainor (Harrison Ford) to broker a bid deal.  It turns out Tess herself is a big deal, taking the lead and showing her stuff, advancing far from the girl with the big hair on the Staten Island Ferry.  I haven’t seen suits with such big shoulder pads since – well, since I got rid of my own earlier this year!  Griffiths has just the right tone here, demonstrating a quiet resolve and plenty of smarts for someone who has been tested by the poor treatment of her colleagues.  Trainor (get the name?) only knows her as an exec, and the woman he meets is powerful and lovable.  This is a great Mike Nichols film that is only enhanced by Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run” theme song, New York/Staten Island locales, and terrific performances – including a small but funny part by Joan Cusack, who, as in “In & Out,” gets the best lines (“Sometimes I dance around in my underwear. It doesn’t make me Madonna.  Never will.”)  3½ cans.
64.  Runaway Bride (1999) – There are two problems with this movie.  First, despite the leads and director (Julia Roberts, Richard Gere and director Garry Marshall), it is NOT its predecessor, “Pretty Woman.”  That film was warmer and yet edgier than this one, whose second problem is that it marches so ploddingly toward its inevitable conclusion.  Is there anyone out there who hasn’t figured out that the two stars will end up together?  Roberts is Maggie, a bride who has left too many men at the altar, and Gere is Ike, a reporter who writes about her less than stellar track record and then comes to her small town (where he whistles the theme from “The Andy Griffith Show”) to keep the story alive after his first attempt costs him his newspaper job.  Will she go through with her latest engagement and marry the guy?  I can’t even bother to answer that one.  The attractive leads are always worth watching, but you yearn for them to have more meat to chew on than this painful plot provides.  One more note:  This movie is my third consecutive one with Joan Cusack, although her part here is small and unworthy of her comic chops.  3 cans.

Friday, May 15, 2015

You Know You’re Getting Old...

This October I will turn 65.  Yes, I’ve heard all of the “60 is the new 50” talk, and plenty of “65 today isn’t like 65 used to be,” but still, 65 SEEMS like it should be old even if people keep insisting that it really isn’t old.  After all, can I really call myself “middle-aged” at this stage?  If this is the middle, is 100 the end?  Let’s admit it, 65 is at least GETTING OLD.  For those who aren’t there yet (also for those who are), I offer this list of telltale signs that we are GROWING OLD.  But at least we’re still growing, right?

You Know You’re Getting Old When:

You’re not so much worried about your hair turning gray as you are about your hair disappearing entirely. Yes, ladies, I’m talking to you.

You seriously consider a visit to the Wizard on Park & 73rd for a little “work.”

You notice that the husbands of many of your friends look old enough to be their fathers.

You complete a survey and enter your demographic information into that box that reads “65+,” knowing full well that you are demographically undesirable to anyone who isn’t selling life monitors, reverse mortgages, adult diapers or Polygrip.

You use the phrase “back in the day” frequently.

You realize that three of the Supreme Court Justices are younger than you (Sotomayor, Roberts and Kagen).

You have been friends with people for more than 45 years and you didn’t meet them until you were in or out of college.

You’re surprised when the mother or father of someone you know passes away because you can’t help but think, “She still had a father?”

Your conversations with your BFFs always include a segment on medical issues.

You need a doctor for some specific or general ailment and all you have to do is ask friends for a recommendation because they either have, had, or know someone who has or had the exact same thing.  First, however, you and your friends diagnose the ailment yourselves.

You equate the word “senior” with “citizen” and then with “discount” and no longer with someone in 12th grade or graduating from college.

You’re only too happy to provide a urine sample at the doctor’s office because you really need to go.  Again.

You are colder or hotter than all of the younger people in the room.

Your friends all have grandchildren, some whom are in college or married.

You find yourself listening to ‘60s radio stations because the “Oldies” stations play music from the ‘90s that isn’t from your era.

You listen to old songs on the radio and they transport you to another time in your life.

You can recall when there were only 48 states.

You remember skate keys, the Princess phone, party lines (Note for the young people, this had nothing to do with parties), skipping stones, playing jacks and hopscotch and when cars had no seatbelts.

You’re still disappointed that nothing good is on TV, even though there are hundreds of channels.  In your day, there were channels 2-4-5-7-9-11 and 13, and there really wasn’t anything on.  Oh, and back then, YOU were your own remote, having to get up and manually change the channel.  So now you can change the channel remotely, but there’s still nothing on.  But at least you don’t have to get up.

You yearn for the days the milkman came to the house so you didn’t have to go out and buy milk.

You still have clothes you bought in the 80s and you think you had better hold on to them, just in case they come back in style.

You don‘t bother to wash your hair some days and justify it by saying that “it is too dry anyway” when your hair has been oily for your whole life.

You can’t bring yourself to throw out stuff you have been saving for years, even though it has no monetary value and the sentimental value is more habit than anything else.  This is why I still have my mother’s wooden spoon and shrimp fork.

You use the term “What’s her name” to identify someone and your friends know exactly who you mean.

You are grateful when you go to an event and everyone is wearing nametags.  And if they aren’t, you introduce yourself to them because you assume they won’t remember your name just as you don’t remember theirs.

You look around the room and feel relieved if you aren’t the oldest one in the crowd.

You decry the abuse of language and punctuation that is common in the vernacular (or is that just me?) and you relish the chance to use the word “vernacular.”  (Again, just me?)

You can’t put up with bad service by a waiter, by delivery people or by someone in a store because your lifetime quota of patience has been depleted.

You cannot tolerate unwanted phone calls by people trying to scam you or sell you things you don’t want – especially since you are on the Do Not Call List.

You don’t call people before 9 AM or after 9 PM, even though you can’t sleep.  In fact, virtually nobody you know can sleep through the night, although we can all sleep through a movie or TV show.

You rarely need to set the alarm because you can’t sleep past 6 AM.

You relish a nap because, well, see above.

You can recall Derek Jeter’s rookie season.  And you remember when Joe Torre was a player.

Forget Eleanor Roosevelt and Madam Curie.  Your new heroine is Maxine on the Hallmark cards because says exactly what she is thinking.

You watch reruns of “The Golden Girls” and think, “Dorothy was only 60 in this episode?”

You survey the room or the arena in hopes of finding a handrail if you have to walk up or down the stairs.

You and everyone you know is moving to single-story houses or at least to houses where the master bedroom is on the first floor.

You need an inordinate amount of light in a room to read, cook or function at all.  Operating rooms don’t have this much light.

You need a teenager or someone in his/her 20s to help with your phone and computer.

You think “these kids today” are crazy for going out at 11PM or later and you resent anything that requires you to come home after dark.

You have reconsidered the “early bird special” and decided that it isn’t so pathetic after all.  Who wants to wait on line at a restaurant?  And besides, this way you can be home before dark.  Or at 6 PM.

You notice that people in your circle spend a lot of time watching PBS and the History Channel.

You are resigned to the fact that your life revolves around moisturizing, a must in your daily routine.

You get all dolled up – nice dress, right jewelry, hair, make-up, shoes – and look in the mirror and say to yourself, “Let’s go.  It doesn’t get any better than this.”

You can’t remember if you wore this outfit the last time you saw these people and then you realize that if YOU can’t remember, they probably can’t remember either.

You walk into a room and you don’t know why, so you return to the previous room to remind yourself, and then you get distracted by something else and never end up back in the room you went to and didn’t know why.

You always have tissues in the house.

You cherish your friends, rely on them, confide in them, complain to them, listen to them, plot revenge with them and thank God for having them.

You realize that you probably won’t fulfill those dreams of climbing mountains or backpacking through Europe if you haven’t done them by now, but…

You realize that you are still here, you’ve probably faced down a challenge or two, or raised your kids, or done your job with some degree of distinction, and you have every reason to be feel proud and damn lucky.  What the hell – who’s better than you?  And there’s always SOMEONE older than you.