Saturday, April 25, 2015

I'm Mad As Hell and I'm Not Going to Take It Anymore

Readers of this blog are accustomed to amusing essays, movie reviews and random rants.  Sadly, this post is one I feel compelled to write.  As many of you know, I am a proud graduate of Douglass College.  For the past 10 years or so, I have become actively engaged with the Associate Alumnae of Douglass College, the official alumnae organization, serving as President from 2010-2014 and currently as treasurer.  My beloved AADC is under attack from big, bad Rutgers University, and I'm mad as hell.  On April 20, this organization was blindsided by Rutgers University with a demand that it relinquish its fundraising responsibilities and confine its activities to alumnae only, after spending decades supporting the College, its students and its alumnae.  We were told to stop all fundraising for Douglass, to conform to the other alumni organizations within Rutgers and not even to solicit funds for its own operating budget. The organization was given 30 days to comply with these demands or it will be shut off from services the University provides.

Loyal Douglass women everywhere who are concerned not just about the organization but about the future of Douglass itself have jumped in to lend their support.  We have been encouraging people to write letters to protest this drastic change to the President of Rutgers, Dr. Robert Barchi (robert.barchi@rutgers.edu), and Douglass Dean Jacquelyn Litt (jlitt@rutgers.edu) as well as the Board of Governors (secretary@oldqueens.rutgers.edu) and to insist that a negotiation take place to resolve this issue.  Feel free to lend your voice to the cause.  Here is my (long) letter to President Barchi.  Next month, back to funny business for this blog, I promise.

April 25, 2015
Dear President Barchi:

Writing this letter is probably a waste of time since all of the responses you have sent to my Douglass sisters and supporters of the AADC have been canned, but I’d like to add my name to the volume and my voice to the cause.

The completely unfair way in which the issue between the AADC, Douglass and the University has been handled is an embarrassment.  For your administration to blindside a valued partner is unconscionable. Clearly, this is an orchestrated campaign with plenty of paid staff and resources behind it that has taken time and resources from the University that should be devoted elsewhere.

The demand that the AADC agree to the conditions imposed on it would not even be possible within the 30 days – not specified as 30 business days – allotted for this purpose.  The AADC has a certificate of incorporation and by-laws that would have to be completely reworked if it were to agree to these onerous conditions. 

This treatment of the AADC by the University and Dean Litt amounts to no more than bullying.  Dean Litt has shown the AADC disrespect by eliminating the role of the official Alumnae organization in such treasured moments as Reunion, Sacred Path and the Senior Brunch (or whatever she changed the name to).  Funds contributed to the AADC have paid for these events.  And don’t tell me that they are paid for out of “corporate funds,” as I heard the Dean say last year.  If I make a donation to the AADC, my former employer, Johnson & Johnson, will match it.  It is these “corporate funds” to which the Dean refers, and they wouldn’t be available to Douglass if alumnae didn’t contribute and initiate a gift match in the first place.  If I don’t give, they don’t give.  We are talking about transparency, aren’t we?

The Dean has set up her own Alumnae Advisory Board without the courtesy of informing the AADC.  If she really wants to establish relations with alumnae apart from the AADC, why not give the AADC the courtesy of telling them instead of doing this on the sly?  After all, she serves as a member of the AADC Board of Directors.  This kind of act shows a blatant disregard for transparency and is insulting to the organization on whose Board she serves.  And what kind of example is it for students?  If you don’t like something, destroy it?

In your canned response, which I fully expect to receive, you say:

Contrary to what you may have heard, the proposed changes in the arrangement between the Foundation, the University and the AADC will not dismantle the AADC. The intention is to ensure that funds raised for Douglass Residential College are raised in the most efficient ways possible and to ensure transparency.

I take it you believe that recruiting, hiring, funding and onboarding a new development department for Douglass with no connection to alumnae is a more efficient way to raise money than having an organization with long-standing ties to alumnae and an outstanding track record continue to serve as the conduit with which funds are provided to Douglass.  In your 2014 Strategic Plan, you concede that Rutgers has not done a very good job of raising money for the University:

“Rutgers also lags its peers in key financial metrics: our fundraising per student is 44 percent of the AAU public average; our endowment per student is $20,000 compared with the AAU public average of $62,000 and the AAU aspirational peer average of $81,000. In 2011, Rutgers’ endowment totaled less than half of the average endowment of our AAU peers, and less than one-quarter of the average endowment of our AAU aspirational peers. Our alumni giving rate is 9 percent compared with an average of 14 percent among both public AAU institutions and aspirational peers.” – Page 24, University Strategic Plan.

The AADC rate of participation is on par with the rate of 14% that you cite in your report, so how is the University’s lower rate (which includes the AADC rate) better for Douglass?  So many of my friends have already told me they are changing their wills and their pension beneficiaries and that they pledge never to donate through the RUF.  Are you prepared to see that money evaporate when the University is suffering its own financial problems?  Your participation rate may be even lower because of these proposed changes.

The assertion that the AADC can be a “vibrant” organization with all of the rights and privileges of the rest of the alumni associations will not be possible once it is prohibited from raising money even for operating expenses and is likely removed from the campus home where we have resided for decades and which was rebuilt with funds provided by generous AADC donors.  Without the ability to fundraise for an operating budget, we won’t even be able to keep the lights on.

You say, “I am confident that the new relationship between the AADC, the University Foundation and the University will benefit the alumnae as well as current and future students of Douglass Residential College.”  I am not.  If scholarship donors angry about this new arrangement decide not to give, or others considering establishing scholarships for Douglass women change their minds, that will have a deleterious impact on students.  It was the AADC that worked with Victoria Dabrowski Schmidt ’42 to fund a Career Day for students each year, a perfect example of how the AADC fulfills its mission and can partner successfully with DRC.  If this donor rejects the new role proposed and decides to terminate her support, who will support this program for students?  And will others feel the same way?

Douglass women are justifiably skeptical of any actions taken by Rutgers that relate to Douglass because the University attempted to eliminate Douglass once.  There is no way to preclude that effort from taking place again without the vocal support of its chief advocate, the AADC. 

If the Douglass alumnae who support the AADC no longer donate to Douglass through Rutgers as a result of this draconian change imposed on the AADC by your administration, Douglass will suffer and its demise will be inevitable.  And perhaps that IS the strategy here after all.

You entered your term as President with the vision of “One Rutgers.”  I guess this is a step toward that end goal.  You can retire or find another position.  I cannot get another alma mater. 
I ask you to facilitate a return to negotiations between the AADC and the leadership of Rutgers University and establish a meaningful dialog that will resolve this dispute amicably for all.

Respectfully,

Tina Gordon ‘72




Thursday, April 16, 2015

Random Thoughts, Spring 2015 Edition


Let’s start with the fact that I hope this month’s entry doesn’t come across as negative.  I can’t help finding things in the world around me that I observe and on which I can comment. So, here are a few things about which you can agree or disagree, laugh or simply dismiss.

Does anybody pay attention to those annoying ads in the top of the e-mail list?  On the side of Facebook?  Me neither.

Why does it seem there are so many cute kids and not nearly as many good-looking adults? What happens to all those adorable babies?  Growing up is a tough thing for all of us, I guess.

Does the world really need “Paul Blart, Mall Cop 2?”  I saw the first movie (at a friend’s house, nothing else on, I probably dozed) and am fairly certain we don’t need a sequel.

In the commercial I saw recently for a diabetes medication, the announcer spent more time explaining the possible side effects than explaining what this medication purports to do.  It sounded really scary  and then I realized that I take it!

People – if you decorate your mailbox with a seasonal motif, please change your decal when the seasons change.  It was all I could do not to slip a reminder into the mailbox with the “Let it snow!” decal on it in 65-degree weather!

We have all had enough experience with answering machines and voice mail by now that we don’t need lengthy instructions like “Hi, we’re not here now but please leave us your name, number and a brief message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.”  That recording is usually followed by further instructions:  “After the tone you may leave your message or press 1 for further options.”  Who presses 1?  Have YOU ever pressed 1?  What ARE those options anyway?  This whole process takes too long.  Let’s abbreviate to something like:  “Hi, not home, leave a message.”  Callers will figure out they have to do it AFTER the tone, right?

Sometimes I wonder:  Is there a method to my madness or a madness to my method?

I’m prone to respiratory infections and bronchitis, so every once in a while, I lose my voice completely.  I notice that generally no one seems to mind.  I also lose my mind every once in a while, but no one seems to notice.

Many of us have a place in our house with a comfy chair and a lamp where we can just sit and read, but how many of us actually do?  With so many activities, movies to watch, basketball games and TV shows recorded on the DVR, I find myself reading a couple of pages at a time, and NEVER while sitting in that comfy chair with the lamp.  I need to work on that.

I don’t understand how SPAM works (the e-mail kind, not the ersatz food thing).  What have I done on the internet that would lead to anyone to think I would have an interest in Christian dating, a career as a nurse (or a career at all since I have been retired for 9 years), scholarships for ME as a student, eliminating toenail fungus or finding a Russian bride?  I find this stuff perplexing and amusing at the same time.

The CAPS LOCK button is situated dangerously close to the letter A on my keyboard, which means that halfway through a sentence, suddenly I am typing IN ALL CAPS.  That’s probably because of my lack of finger control and the fact that I still look at my fingers instead of the screen while I type.  That’s just another area on my report card of life that comes under “Needs Improvement.”

Seriously, Siriusly Sinatra has more people who are not Frank singing than they do actual Sinatra songs.  And I don’t think anyone tunes in thinking this channel is Nancy Sinatra’s (although she does a good job).  Today I swear I heard Bob Dylan singing a Sinatra song.

On the subject of music, it wasn’t until I started listening via headphones (in my ear) that I realized that in all of these years I never had the lyrics right to “He’s a Rebel.”  Apparently the Crystals denied his being a rebel with the words, “he’s not a rebel, no, no, no.”  And listening to the Temptations' “Beauty’s Only Skin Deep,” I realized that this song is very insulting to the girlfriend – “a pretty face you may not possess...” even though the man appreciates her tenderness.  But it makes it sound like she is really unattractive and he’s being big-hearted by loving her anyway.  Let’s see what HE looks like, shall we?

Raise your hand if you downloaded Gary Lewis & The Playboys Greatest Hits so you would listen to “This Diamond Ring.”  So it was just me.  I thought so.

I listen to “60s on 6” on Sirius Radio in the car, and Cousin Brucie is one of the hosts.  How old must Cousin Brucie be by now?  He was a DJ in the 60s when I first started listening to music on the radio and he still seems to be pretty sharp.  I don’t know what he’s doing but I’ll have what he’s having.

It spooks me out when I tune in to an Oldies station and they are playing Casey Kassem’s “American Top 40” from the 70s.

I found it ironic to learn that Barry Manilow didn’t write the song, “I Write the Songs.”  Bruce Johnston, who performed with the Beach Boys, wrote the song, but Barry’s version made the charts.  Isn’t it ironic?  No, THAT song was composed by Alanis Morissette.

I like the song “Baby, Come Back,” a one-hit wonder by the Ohio Players, simply because of the line “All day long, wearing a mask of false bravado.”  Anyone who can include the word “bravado” in a song gets my endorsement.

There are so many songs that remind me of my mother.  Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better” reminds me of how I would con Mom into making me a Bumble Bee Tuna sandwich (is there any other kind?) by singing that song to her, even when I was in my 30s.  She probably acquiesced just to make me stop singing.  When I hear Tony Orlando and Dawn’s “Knock 3 Times,” I picture Mom tapping her fingers on the steering wheel of the car, waiting for me to come back from S&S Stationers, where she made me go in and pick up cigarettes for her.  (Clearly, this was at a time when there was no age requirement, but I nonetheless would explain that they weren’t for me.  Luckily, the S&S folks knew her well enough to believe me.)  I think of her every time I hear anything by Barbra Streisand, particularly anything from the Broadway show “Funny Girl,” which my mother saw early in its run and henceforth claimed to have discovered Barbra.  Any Frank Sinatra song reminds me of those big old albums, the ones with ‘78s in them that she treasured, despite the fact that we did not own anything on which to play them.  My father favored Sinatra’s “Love and Marriage,” and “Young at Heart.”  The latter jived with his philosophy that you’re only as old as you feel.  

I never mind giving my opinion about something, whether or not I am asked.  But I can’t help but notice the uptick in requests to fill out a survey for practically any product or service I use.  One day it is the car dealer who serviced my Mercedes, where, God forbid, if I don’t rate every single item at the top of the scale, they make it sound as if someone will lose his or her job.  If I buy something at Amazon, I am not only asked how the shopping experience went, but they want me to review the purchase and comment on the shipping.  I know most of us will take the time to complain if we have a bad experience, but I actually have taken time to call or write about good experiences, too.  I called Del Monte once just to tell them I liked their peaches, and they couldn’t accept that there was no other reason for my call.  I even wrote to the county prosecutor’s office after serving on Grand Jury for four months just to compliment the assistant prosecutors on their performance in the courtroom (yes, I know, who else would do that?).  But please, enough with the surveys about every little thing!

Can it be that it was all so simple then, or has time rewritten every line?  If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we?  Could we?  Ah, memories…

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tina's March 2015 Movies

It is approaching the 11th hour of the last day of March, and it is a safe bet I won't be able to watch any more movies this month.  Despite March Madness, I managed to see 16 movies, many of the sports-related, and a few interesting documentaries.  As always, movies are rated on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna, 5 being the top rating.  Numbering picks up from previous months, and movies I had not seen previously are marked with an asterisk *.

MARCH
33.  The Candidate (1972) – Since I am the least political person I know, there is only one reason that I would watch this drama – its appealing star, Robert Redford.  As a candidate for the US Senate from California, Bill McKay can rely on the same superficial judgment that led me to choose this film – his good looks and charisma.  McKay is the son of the former governor of California but is a political neophyte.  He works in the community to help the poor and improve society and all those idealistic things that rich people can do when they don’t actually have to work for a living.  He is persuaded to enter the campaign by political operative Marvin (Peter Boyle) with the assurance that he has no chance to beat the incumbent Crocker Jarmin (Don Porter), but that, just by virtue of campaigning, he can bring attention to the issues he champions.  His ideas will be expressed and he’ll get to do things his way.  But as the campaign continues, McKay sees his control slipping even as his poll figures rise.  Can an unknown knock off a well-established opponent?  It is worth the time to see idealism and reality collide.  A few years later, Redford would go on to make a masterful film about the collision of politics and journalism, “All the President’s Men.”  Meanwhile, this film gets my vote.  3½ cans.
34.  Step Mom (1998) – Of all the movies Julia Roberts has made, this one and “Pretty Woman” are my favorites.  Here she is Isabel, living in NY with boyfriend Luke (Ed Harris), the divorced father of Anna (Jena Malone) and Ben.  His ex, Jackie (Susan Sarandon) is Supermom, organized and perfect when it comes to the house and the kids, and more than slightly resentful of the presence of the younger, pretty woman in her former husband’s life.  Isabel, a professional photographer, never asked to be a mom, but Luke’s busy career often puts her in charge of the kids, and Anna in particular, cannot hide her disdain.  Over time, Isabel proves to be worthy of the challenge, and, when Jackie really needs extra help as a parent, Isabel gets a chance to shine.  Yes, this movie is melodramatic and formulaic, but I always get a lump in my throat watching it.  And forget “Pretty Woman,” because to me, Julia Roberts has never looked better than she does here.  4 cans.
35.  McFarland, USA* (2015) – We’ve seen this before: a ragtag group of underdogs, seriously underestimated and never expected to succeed, rally behind a dedicated coach and take down the bigger, better rivals.  These heartwarming stories are always served best with a side of corn, but this one, with Kevin Costner as a cross country coach, despite being too long, won me over.  It is based on the true story of Jim White, a football coach with a bad temper who ends up in a small California town as a last ditch effort to save his coaching career.  The town is populated by Hispanic families who work in the fields, picking almonds and anything else.  These kids work in the fields, go to school and go back and work more.  When White sees them running, he sees potential for a cross country team, and despite his having no experience in the sport, he persuades the principal to let him form a team.  It takes even more convincing to get the buys to join the team and train – and for the parents to spare them from work.   If I hadn’t known this was a true story, I might have dismissed it as simplistic and unlikely, but it was actually inspiring.  The acceptance of the man the kids call “Blanco,” along with his family, the warmth and power of the people in the town and how they rally behind their team, and the – never mind, I can’t give away the ending, now, can I?  This won’t be the last sports movie about overcoming the odds, and it isn’t the best, but it is worth seeing.  3½ cans.
36.  Chasing Mavericks* (2012) – This must be my month for sports-oriented movies about underdogs who triumph – wait, aren’t most sports movies about the same thing?  In this case, surfing is the sport, and a teenaged, fatherless boy is taken under the wing of the wizened, older surfer to learn lessons about surfing and life.  Gerard Butler is the experienced surfer whose scowl hides his affection for the boy, who lives with his irresponsible mother (Elisabeth Shue).  Jay (Jonny Weston) is a mature kid who is willing to write essays and learn to hold his breath to prepare to ride the huge California waves called “mavericks” that only the veteran surfers are able to tame.  I wish I had seen this movie in a theater (and without commercials) because the surfing scenes were breathtaking.  There is plenty here about man facing the challenge of nature, teenagers maturing and, of course, the requisite drama.  Young actor Weston looks like a cross between Christopher Atkins in “The Blue Lagoon” and Willie Ames from “Eight is Enough.”  He may be proficient at surfing (although he was probably replaced by a real surfer in the most grueling scenes), but he is absolutely wooden on screen.  The story is true, and I won’t spoil the ending.  3 cans.
37.  Places in the Heart (1984) – I really, really liked Sally Field in her Oscar-winning performance as Edna Spalding, a widow living in impoverished Texas during the Depression.  Edna is fighting to keep her farm and her children, so she wards off the mean old bank by taking in itinerant worker Moze (Danny Glover) to help her plant and harvest cotton.  The unconventional family also includes her blind boarder, Mr. Will (John Malkovich).  Will Edna keep her kids and her farm?  Will they survive a tornado (which is harrowing on screen)?  Will the Klu Klux Klan kill Moze and all of the other black people in the area?  Aside from an entirely extraneous subplot involving Edna’s sister (Lindsay Crouse), her husband Wayne (Ed Harris) and his girlfriend (Amy Madigan, his real-life wife), this is a first-rate movie that defines family and struggle.  It will always have a place in MY heart.  4 cans.
38.  Oliver’s Story (1978) – “Oliver’s Story” begins where “Love Story” ended – at the funeral of Oliver’s young wife, Jenny.  The morose Oliver (Ryan O’Neal) is living alone in New York and immerses himself in his work as a lawyer, sworn to doing good deeds for underprivileged people.  He is afraid to connect with anyone out of respect for his late wife until he runs across Marcy (Candice Bergen) in Central Park.  These two are meant for each other.  They are both rich and impossibly good-looking and both are unattached.  But Oliver can’t give up the ghost and enjoy their time together.  This sequel to the cheesy but compelling original seems designed merely to pair up two attractive actors with about the same dramatic skill level and is not nearly as satisfying as its predecessor, but if you’ve seen the first, how can you pass up the sequel?  3 cans.
39.  Hoosiers (1984) – What March Madness would be complete without a viewing of the quintessential basketball (and perhaps all-sports) movie?  Another underdog, rising to the challenge, the fiery coach, the rural setting, the undermanned squad – all staples of the sports movie but never portrayed better than in this based-on-a-true-story tale of Indiana high school basketball in the early 1950s.  I subscribe to Coach Normal Dale’s (Gene Hackman) philosophy of life – not just basketball – to always do your best, live up to your potential and everything will take care of itself.  You cannot be a true basketball fan if you have never seen this classic.  “I love you guys.”  4½ cans.
40.  Stop at Nothing* (2014) – This title is particularly appropriate for a movie about Lance Armstrong, noted cycling champion, Tour de France winner, cancer survivor and perpetrator of one of the biggest frauds in sports history.  Armstrong duped and doped his way to the top of the cycling world (as well as pop culture and advertising), fending off all accusations about his use of banned substances and intimidating people around him to perpetuate the lie.  When he improbably came back to win the Tour de France after recovering from testicular cancer, he expanded his power base and improved his image with the truly commendable work of the Lance Armstrong Foundation (remember those ubiquitous yellow wristbands?).  It is safe to say that he had a lot riding on maintaining his clean image, so denying his use of banned substances and his carefully constructed drug program for his entire racing team was part of the ruse.  He threatened and cajoled people, sued them, ruined their lives with malicious rumors and had absolutely no hesitation to lie – under oath – about anything he didn’t wish to reveal.  This documentary is compelling in its unflinching look at Armstrong as well as at the people whose reputations he sullied while trying to save his own, and the people who were absolutely determined to bring him down.  My lasting image of him will be his interview with Oprah, after all the facts were revealed and he responded with a simple “yes” to her direct questions about taking drugs such as EPO, human growth hormone, testosterone and cortisone. I don’t care if he used drugs and I don’t care about biking.  I do care about the people who suffered as a result of his imperviousness and those people who admired him and trusted him.  The saying goes that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  That’s what Armstrong attempted, to control everything and everyone in his wake.  It is hard to imagine a more deserving fall from grace. 4 cans.
41.  Midnight Cowboy (1969) – This film is an unflinching look at the seedy underbelly of New York, in a period before Times Square underwent Disneyfication and offered little more than porno theaters and street hustlers.  It was unsafe, unseemly and full of desperation, not exactly what our hero, Joe Buck (Jon Voight), expects when he gets off the Greyhound from Texas with his goal of being a “stud,” servicing rich women with his handsome looks and boyish charm.  His expectations are soon dashed on the sidewalks of New York, first by an aging hooker (Sylvia Miles) whom he ends having to pay, and then by small-time hustler Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman, in a complete departure from his previous role as “The Graduate”).  Joe is reduced to hustling to, let’s say, a lower level of clientele, whom he picks up in movie theaters.  He’s barely making ends meet when he teams up with Ratso (most memorable line:  “I’m walkin’ here!”), squatting in an abandoned building and pawning his prized transistor radio.  An unlikely friendship and bond forms between the two lonely, sorry men, and when Ratso’s dream of moving to Florida and enjoying a warmer climate seems remote, Joe tries his best to make that dream come true.  This movie won the Oscar for Best Picture despite its X rating (which has since been changed to an R).  The performances and the milieu are spot on, even while the subject is difficult to endure.  4 cans and a tip of the cowboy hat.
42.  No Way Out (1986) – Imagine that you are put in charge of a murder investigation and the trail looks like it leads to you, even though you didn’t do it.  That’s the untenable situation faced by Navy Commander Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner, in my favorite of his films this side of “Bull Durham”).  He’s assigned to the Pentagon, where he discovers that he and his boss, the Secretary of Defense David Bryce (Gene Hackman) share something in common – a woman named Susan Atwater (Sean Young).  Susan is married Bryce’s mistress, and when she dies, Bryce and his chief of staff (Will Patton) will do anything they can to keep the investigation away from them.  Enter a theory about a mole in the defense department, a Soviet spy, whose existence is yet to be proven but whom they place front and center as a suspect.  This is a gripping story, as Farrell has to lead the team and deflect them from his relationship.  After 30 years, there is a lot of dated technology here (including the use of telephone booths), but the action and suspense are always timely.  Is there a way out?  Tune in to see.  4 cans.
43.  No Way Out* (1950) – Aside from sharing a name, this black and white movie about race relations shares nothing in common with the Costner movie above.  Luther Brooks (Sidney Poitier) is a young doctor who has to treat two brothers (Richard Widmark is one of them) who have been caught in a robbery and wounded.  When Dr. Brooks attempts to do a spinal tap, one of the brothers dies, and the other one, Johnny, a racist, accuses the young doctor of murder.  The class and race that divide the town are unrelenting, eventually leading to a confrontation between blacks and whites, which Johnny has incited.  This movie features more hard drinking and smoky rooms than I have seen in a long time.  It is depressing to think that the prejudice displayed here has continued even to this day, but it seems like the movie was portraying it accurately for its time.  3 cans.
44.  The Heiress and Her Chateau* (2014) – If you love the grandeur of “Downton Abbey,” you’ll appreciate this documentary about an estate right here in America that rivals the fictional British version.  Harriet Pullman Carolan, heir to the Pullman railcar fortune, fancied French things and rich people, so she and her husband moved from Chicago in the late 1800s and settled in the San Francisco area, in a wealthy enclave called Hillsborough, where only mansions were permitted to be built (no sideways, stores, gas stations or anything else for these incredibly wealthy landowners).  She commissioned a French architect to design and build Carolands, a 98-room palace, sometimes buying the entire contents of a room from a mansion in Europe to outfit it.  Though warned by her mother that even her vast fortune would not be enough to sustain the building and maintenance of the home, Harriet forged ahead.  As predicted, she outspent her fortune and ended up abandoning the property, which stood unclaimed for the next 29 years.  It passed through other owners but was left to decay and it became the target of area residents who wanted it demolished.  It finally became the home of a wealthy couple who painstakingly restored it and set up a trust to run it.  Now the home is used for charitable functions and remains a symbol of grandeur.  I hope I haven’t spoiled the plot enough to dissuade you from watching the movie.  3½ cans.
45.  Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) – As we approach baseball season, I thought it fitting to watch this touching story of the friendship between two baseball players.  Henry Wiggin and Bruce Pearson could not be more dissimilar.  Wiggin (Michael Moriarity) is a pitcher, an educated man who sells insurance and dupes people in card games when he isn’t pitching for the New York Mammoths.  Bruce (Robert DeNiro) is an uneducated catcher with a giant wad of tobacco in his cheek who is frequently the target of jokes by his teammates.  Catching equipment is often referred to as “the tools of ignorance,” and, in this case, that description is entirely appropriate.  An early scene depicts Wiggin and Bruce leaving the Mayo Clinic, where Bruce has been diagnosed with a fatal illness that he doesn’t really understand.  No matter, because “Author,” as they call the erudite Wiggin, is determined to keep Bruce on the major league roster and he even has a clause inserted into his contract to guarantee that they stay together.  Like Ratso in “Midnight Cowboy,” Bruce gets increasingly ill, looks disheveled and dirty, and is dying before our eyes.  It is only when his secret is revealed that his teammates show him compassion and care.  This film marked the debut of Mr. DeNiro, whom you might recall has starred in a few noteworthy movies since then.  4 cans and a box of tissues. 
46.  The Natural (1984) – Another day, another baseball movie.  Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) is blessed with good lucks and other-worldly baseball skills.  And he is cursed by people out to stop him from being “the best there ever was.”  On his way to a tryout with the Cubs as a young man, Hobbs encounters a woman who will change the course of his life.  We meet up with him again 16 years later, when he is no longer young and he has finally recovered enough to begin a career.  He’s old, especially for a rookie, but he still has magic in his bat.  He elevates the play of his new team, but the people who own the club have things other than winning on their minds.  In this saga, the lighting plays a major role, as Hobbs spots his first love in the stands, her head backlit as if God himself was pointing her out.  He crashes a baseball into the stadium lights, which causes a celebratory effect as sparks fly on the field like sparklers while he races around the bases.  Can he go out a winner?  Will he be the best ever?  I don’t know about that, but he sure looks great in a uniform.  Glenn Close, Barbara Hershey, Wilford Brimley, Robert Duvall and Kim Basinger are on hand to celebrate and thwart him.  I won’t tell you who does what.  4 cans.
47.  Innocence* (2000) – Can love be rekindled after a 50 year absence?  What is love anyway?  Shouldn’t it be more than friendship, passion, routine, habit?  This touching movie examines these questions through the lives of Andreas and Claire, once young lovers, and Claire and her husband John, who have been married for more than 40 years.  In flashbacks, the young, smitten Claire and Andreas connect with purity and lust.  In the present day, the aging Andreas (Charles Tingwell), a widower, remembers that time fondly, so when he finds out that he and Claire (Julia Blake) are living in the same area in Australia, he decides to reach out to her again.  But love is complicated.  She confesses her love for Andreas and their renewed affair to her husband, who refuses to accept this change in his life.  Do either of these men truly know and love Claire?  Can she give up the life she has shared with John (Terry Norris) for one she now wants to share with Andreas?  This movie is about people approaching 70 who look and act like people approaching their 70s, with lines in their faces and health issues facing them.  Will love end?  Will life end?  And how?  This is a beautiful, tender story that asks those questions.  Life and love are not necessarily easy.  Is there more to life and can we pursue it even as we approach its end?  Think about it, which you will after watching this movie.  4 cans.
48.  Going Clear* (2015) – This inflammatory HBO documentary by Alex Gibney rips the Church of Scientology apart, lambasting it for intimidating its members, forcing them into hard labor, and controlling virtually every facet of their lives.  The “church” was launched by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, best known for his book, “Dianetics.”  Though classified as a church (which saves the organization/cult from having to pay taxes on the millions it collects from the membership), this group was first led by the paranoid, maniacal Hubbard himself and later by its self-proclaimed leader, David Miscavige.  The movie includes interviews with several prominent former henchmen who once dedicated their lives to the church and its torturous methods of accountability, all of whom now denounce its practices.  It is run like a Ponzi scheme, with various “levels” of training and knowledge, each one more expensive than the previous one.  The church has friends in high places, relies on people with visibility (including Tom Cruise and John Travolta) as well as a veritable army of automatons assigned to assure the loyalty of its members through fear, intimidation and abuse.  How so many people could commit to this line of bull is beyond me, and the film is downright scary in its portrayal of the methods used to control its members.  You can’t make this stuff up, people.  3½ cans.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Meandering March Musings

Why is it we can refer to someone as “unkempt” when we never describe anyone as “kempt?”

At the holidays and all of the time, I am grateful for NOT having to lick stamps.  Imagine that there are generations of people growing up who never had to lick a stamp.  So yucky!

If I don’t see you for some time, I’ll just assume that you and your car have been swallowed up by the many potholes that emerge this time of year.

Doesn’t it seem that your car drives better when you get it washed?

I will drive out of my way to go to the post office in Belle Mead because the man at the counter there (where there are all of two windows) is always so pleasant to the customers.  He has a smile on his face, enjoys helping people and knows his job.  In comparison, the people who work at the post office in Hillsborough are surly and seem to resent working there.  So I will continue to do my postal business down the road, where they are happy to see me.

On the downside, have you looked for a mailbox lately?  I walk all around Hillsborough and there is not a single mailbox on any of my routes.  I don’t really like leaving mail in my mailbox for the carrier to pick up, so the only alternative is a trip to the post office. Beside the surly employees, the local post office doesn’t open until 10AM, so you have to cram your outgoing mail into the box outside the office, which, during the holiday season, is next to impossible.  Whatever happened to mailboxes anyway?  I guess this is just another example of “self-service” that we have to experience.  At the supermarket, you can find a shorter line if you are willing to scan, pack and pay for your items yourself.  Yet they have expanded the selection of foods that are already cut and ready to be cooked, like broccoli florets, sweet potatoes and even apples.  I guess the time we spend as our own cashiers is counter-balanced by the shortcuts in the kitchen, for which we pay dearly.

The sign entering Hillsborough should read:  Welcome to Hillsborough, the Land of Dead Deer.  Between walking around town and driving, I see them all over.  As the kid in the movie “The Sixth Sense” says:  I see dead deer.  Or something like that.

My arms are too short – not only to box with God, but to reach the cylinder at the bank drive-through window.  I have to take off my seatbelt, open the window AND the door of the car and reach out to grab it.  My arms are just too short.

Raise your hand if you thought Brian Wilson would be the last surviving Wilson brother from the Beach Boys.  Yeah, me, neither.

Every now and then I get a card from the local chapter of the Society for Financial Awareness, which goes by the acronym “SOFA.”  I see the postcard and immediately want to take a nap.  Of course, that’s not quite as funny as a store that sells sofas called “Sofa King.”  Go ahead – say it out loud and fast.  You’ll get it, I hope.

It’s funny how we associate certain smells with certain times of our lives or certain events.  To me, every hospital smells the same, and the memory is never a good one.  To this day, I can walk into a candy store/newsstand and smell the newspaper and the candy.  I have to try to get out without reverting to really old habits, which involve buying comic books (Superman in my youth) and Hershey bars. That smell just brings it all back.  And remember the smell of a luncheonette?  It’s all about the burgers, French fries and fountain sodas.  Yum.

Here’s how I assess my mental acuity:  I try to sing all of the lyrics to The Association’s song “Along Comes Mary.”  If I even come close, I figure I still have a decent memory – at least a long-term one.  Don’t ask me what I had for dinner on Tuesday.

Shouldn’t the expression “put on your shoes and socks” be, “put on your socks and shoes?”  After all, you have to put the socks on first, right?

I don’t know what bothers me more – finding spacing problems on this blog because I use the customary two spaces between sentences or trying to eliminate those spacing issues by using only one space.  It must be the latter, because I just cannot bring myself to stop using two spaces between sentences.  Can’t.  Do.  It.

In writing this blog, I never know when a random thought will occur to me.  Since I am afraid I will forget one of these gems, if I think of something while driving, I call my home phone and leave myself a message so I can write it down when I get there.  Then I come home and see the message light blinking and I think, “I wonder who called.”

Sometimes I put my left earbud in my right ear and I don’t bother to switch.  The music sounds the same in either ear.  Call me a rebel.

What’s the point of contractions anyway?  Look, if you use “can’t” instead of cannot, it’s not like you save a whole bunch of space, right?  I don’t get it.  Get it?

At the holidays, I baked cookies, a noteworthy event for me, and I was questioned by the doubters about whether they were “from scratch.”  That led me to wonder how that phrase came about.  Anyway, I opened a box, added required ingredients and put them in my oven.  All of that constitutes “homemade” to me, whatever “scratch” may be.

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I just don’t understand lint.  I clean the lint trap faithfully, but the towels always look the same once they are laundered, so what causes lint and does it affect wear?  I know you need to get rid of it, but is it what really holds material together?  I need to consult with Dr. Sheldon Cooper and the bunch from “Big Bang Theory” to see if they have a “Lots of Lint” theory.

Irony is buying one of those fitness devices and then spending so much time trying to figure out how to work it that you don’t have time to exercise.

Phew!  I was worried when Dr. Oz stopped e-mailing me on a daily basis about his fat buster product, but he must have been on a break because he’s contacting me again.  But as for 21-year old Adriana who wants me to look her up on Facebook and contacts me nearly daily, I have this message:  Trust me when I tell you that I am not even remotely interested.

It is truly amazing how many grocery bags, gym bags, etc., that I can carry into the house at one time just so I can make one trip.  I’ll spend five minutes organizing it all so I can carry every package, bag, the mail, the newspaper and my purse at once.  I don’t care if it weighs 50 pounds or if I look like a Sherpa.  One trip is all I’ll make.

On the question of liquid laundry detergent vs. those drop-in “pods” (did someone actually have a question on this topic?  No, just me.), I never believed the label on the liquid that said the bottle was good for 32 loads.  At least with the pods you know exactly how many loads you’ll get since it is one pod for every load, unless you roll around in the mud a lot.  I also never bought into the myth of number of servings on the carton of ice cream, either.  If you buy ice cream on a stick, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting.  And try to stick to the recommended dose!

I just replaced my old Samsung Galaxy tablet with a new, 10-inch model, which resembles an iPad but keeps me in the Android family.  Verizon was running a buy-one, get-one sale, so I also picked up a 7” model.  Between the two tablets and my sSmartphone, and my two laptop computers, don’t expect to hear from me for a while.  I have plenty of loading and updating in my future.  Since each one has its own placement of on/off switches and controls, I am about out of control trying to hit all of the right buttons.  You can find me in the near future at some sort of facility for the technologically overloaded.

I was in Chicago recently during the time change.  Since I couldn’t get the clock on my Garmin Vivo fitness device to change, I stayed on New Jersey time until we came home, and then I had to set that clock ahead by one hour for daylight savings time, which made me lose two hours body time.  At least I think so.

Do you experience this problem in hotel rooms?  The housekeeping staff makes up the bed so tightly that my feet feel like they are in a strait jacket.  You have to deconstruct the blankets and sheets just to get into bed.  The opposite of this phenomenon is when characters in TV shows and movies are shown in bed.  They routinely grab all of the covers off the bed to go into the bathroom, ostensibly being modest but practically speaking to prevent the viewing audience from seeing them unclothed. Seriously, if someone did that to my bed and I had to remake the bed, I’d kick them out of bed for the foreseeable future.  Unless they changed the sheets for me.  I never see that happen on TV or in the movies.

I still have (and frequently use) my original set of Corning Wear containers that I got when I moved into my first apartment in 1975.  I have the garden design ones, not the original blue designed ones, and I’m trying to remember if I even owned a microwave at the time I got them, because that is how they are used now.

Here’s a generalization for you:  Nothing in an infomercial or “Seen on TV” product ever works as well in your house as it did on the commercial.  I can attest to that fact by virtue of my experience with a pasta maker, the Slap Chop, the Pocket Hose and others, though I will admit that my first such purchase, the Berner V-Slicer, is definitely sharp and effective (I almost sliced off the top of my finger once and had to go to the emergency room).  Now I keep seeing the Flex Seal, which supposedly can be used to seal the holes in a boat.  Not that I have a boat, mind you, but I am just skeptical of its ability to apply as neatly as shown on TV and especially in its ability to really prevent leaking.  Let’s just say that I wouldn’t try out the demonstration in the commercial, where the pitchman is in a boat with a screen door that has been sealed.

Lately I have rediscovered the joys of the much underrated TV sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati.”  The characters – Jennifer, Mr. Carlson, Andy Travis, Venus Flytrap, Herb Tarlick, Les Nessman, Bailey Quarters and Johnny Fever – are funny, interesting and consistently entertaining.  And oh, those 80s hairdos!

I’ve noticed lately that stopping at a red light appears to have become optional for many people.  Drivers don’t even bother to slow down in some cases.  They aren’t trying to beat the red light.  They just ignore it.  Please be careful and don’t assume that just because you have the green light that the lunatic coming the other way will stop because his light is red.  Let’s be careful out there, people.



Sunday, March 1, 2015

Tina's February 2015 Movies

February is Oscar Month, and I did my best to see many movies that have been honored, including several old favorites.  I have yet to see this year's Best Picture, "Birdman," but I'm sure I will catch up with it soon.  Movies are rated on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna fish, 5 being the top rating.  Movies marked with an asterisk are ones I had not seen previously, and numbering picks up from the prior month to keep a running total for the year.

19.  Annie Hall (1977) – This is Woody Allen’s Oscar-winning Best Picture, and it is still my favorite of all his films.  A paean to New York, this classic movie brought us the delightful Diane Keaton, with her “la-di-da” title character, Woody as a morose, skeptical and nebishy comic who loves her, and more funny lines than I can begin to quote (but which I have memorized).  There is nothing about this movie that I don’t adore.  5 cans.
20.  Black or White* (2015) – Here is the question:  Is an 8-year old bi-racial girl better off living with the large and loving family of her black grandmother or staying in the place she has lived all her life with the white grandfather who loves her dearly but drinks too much?  Octavia Spencer is Rowena, otherwise known as Grandma Wiwi, and Kevin Costner is Elliott, the grandfather who raised the little girl with his wife since their daughter, the child’s mother, died in childbirth.  But when Elliott’s wife suddenly dies, he is left in charge of the little girl.  The girl has never known her father, who, despite being from a strong family unit, has suffered problems with drugs and served time in jail.  Grandma Wiwi decides that little Eloise would be better off with her and sues Elliott for custody.  There is a lot of anger and a lot of love on display here.  Costner is good as the loving and well-intentioned grandfather who drinks too much, and Octavia Spencer could get an Oscar just from her masterful “sideye.”  When she’s unhappy, everyone will know it.  How can these two adults compromise for the sake of the granddaughter they each love so fervently?  Good question.  3½ cans.
21.  Finding Vivian Maier* (2014) – Serendipity.  For auction aficionado John Maloof, finding a box of photo negatives at an auction was something he thought might help him illustrate a book.  This documentary depicts his quest to find out who took the thousands of pictures, undeveloped rolls of film and movies, which led him to Vivian Maier, a nanny by trade and a woman with a Rolliflex who photographed nearly everything she encountered.  Maloof found the people who employed Vivian, and uncovered more of her work and her life.  For a woman who captured so much about other people through her photography (which demonstrates an eye for composition, lighting and depth), she herself was a mystery.  Was she French (a highly qualified linguist calls her French accent phony), but she had relatives in France.  Why did she hold on to receipts, newspapers and all kinds of things most of us would consider useless?  And what did she intend to do with this huge volume of masterful, artistic work that she never showed to anyone.  Maloof is to be commended not only for exposing her photos to the public through galleries around the world, but for his research and insistence that she be recognized for her art.  This movie was nominated for an Oscar as Best Doumentary.  Fascinating, mysterious, and probably mentally ill, Vivian Maier – thanks to John Maloof – posthumously has been found.  4 cans.
22.  Castaway (2000) – I find this love story (Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt)/buddy movie (Tom Hanks and Wilson the volleyball)/adventure irresistible, so I am compelled to watch it nearly every time it airs on TV.  Hanks is Chuck, a FedEx exec who is in love with Kelly (Hunt).  When his plane goes down over the Pacific, he is stranded on an island for four years, somehow managing to survive on his own with only the company of Kelly’s photo and Wilson the volleyball, who becomes his friend and confident (I know it sounds ludicrous, but it seems entirely plausible).  True love never dies, and man’s ability to master his world is astonishing.  Forget “Wild.”  If you want to see someone conquer his fears and even an abscessed tooth, this is the movie.  Hanks was nominated for an Oscar for a performance of few words, and he is brilliant.  The ending always makes me cry.  5 cans from me for one of my all-time favorite movies.
23.  Unfaithful 23.  Unfaithful (2002) – Forget “50 Shades of Gray.”  If you want to see a hot, erotic movie, check out this Diane Lane-Richard Gere portrait of a happy suburban couple whose lives are changed when she meets younger/hotter Olivier Martinez on the streets of New York and starts an affair to remember.  The scene of Lane on a train after her first sexual encounter with her new lover is a remarkable mix of agony and ecstasy.  The film evolves with a twist, and there are telling moments where she knows that he knows and he knows that she knows, but the cops don’t know.  But I know, and I recommend this one highly.  4 cans.
24.  Trading Places (1983) – Before he started making movies that I left before they were over, and after hitting it big on SNL, Eddie Murphy made a few really fun movies to watch, like “Beverly Hills Cop,” “48 Hours” and this comedy with SNL vet Dan Aykroyd.  Murphy is Billy Ray Valentine, Capricorn, a street hustler in Philadelphia dropping hilarious lines on the cops, when he is gathered up by the ridiculously rich Duke brothers (Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy) for a “social experiment.”  The Dukes frame their business partner and chosen rich guy, Louis Winthorp (Ackroyd), and replace him with Billy Ray.  Billy Ray has the better part of the deal, living it up with Coleman the butler (Denham Elliott) in a fancy house.  Winthorp is broke, shamed but, luckily, taken in by the proverbial hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold, Ophelia (Jamie Lee Curtis).  When they discover the $1 bet made by the Dukes, Valentine & Co. plot revenge on a train and on the floor of the commodities exchange, where they corner the market in laughs.  Seeing this movie just makes me say out loud, “What a happy day!”  4½ cans.
25.  Murphy’s Romance (1985) – Never forget the charm and breadth of actor James Garner (see also “The Notebook,” sigh).  Here he is small-town druggist and all-around good guy Murphy Jones, who befriends lonely Emma Moriarty (Sally Field) and her teenaged son (Corey Haim) when they move to town to get away from her deadbeat former husband.  Murphy can do a little of everything, and, despite the age difference between them, he and Emma strike up a friendship that he seems to think will lead to something more.  Enter the ex-husband (Brian Kerwin), seeking to rekindle the relationship with Emma.  Field is plucky, as she was in “Norma Rae,” the other Martin Ritt film (for which she won an Oscar), but this charmer lacks the strident discord of the latter film.  Garner was never better than in this lovely romance.  This movie can be a little corny and too full of optimistic aphorisms, but it is lovely to see two people develop a friendship that leads to a romance instead of just hopping into bed first and building the relationship later.  By the way, how do you like your eggs?  4 cans.
26.  Prime* (2005) – She (Uma Thurmond) is a 37-year-old recent divorcee who confides everything to her therapist.  He (Bryan Greenburg) is an unemployed 23-year-old would-be artist who lives with this grandparents and has Jewish mother issues.  What they have in common is that her therapist is his mother (Meryl Streep).  The name of this movie shouldn’t be “Prime.”  It should be “Awkward,” because the situation is just that.  At first, Meryl doesn’t realize that the new love in her patient’s life is her son, and listening to their love life isn’t so bad.  However, when she has that moment of recognition, she declines to mention it to the patient and instead listens uncomfortably to details she’s rather not know – including comments about her parenting skills.  Betrayal, yes.  Compromising the doctor-patient relationship?  Definitely.  3½ cans.
27.  The Devil Wears Prada (2006) – In our last movie, Meryl Streep was an overprotective Jewish mother.  Here she is still a New Yorker, but her Miranda Priestly is the goddess of glamour, an unfeeling, unyielding editor of the biggest and most (self)-important fashion magazine.  What she says, who she favors can make or break a career.  So along comes young Andrea (Anne Hathaway), a Northwestern grad interested in writing for a magazine, decidedly unglamorous and bereft of any knowledge about the industry – including the identity of her prospective new boss.  To Miranda, the assistants are nameless (well, not exactly – she just calls them all Emily so she won’t have to bother remembering their names), faceless and largely useless.  Andrea is initially rattled by her boss’ tossing her bag, her coat and a stream of directives at her upon entering the office, but she soon figures out how to survive.  She just has to give up any semblance of a life and jump at each whim of this impossible-to-please woman.  Meryl is perfection as Miranda, and Hathaway blossoms from the “fat girl” Miranda hires to become a fashionista herself, with the help of loyal comrade Nigel (Stanley Tucci, who is great in any role he plays).  So much for her relationship with boyfriend Nate (Adrien Grenier).  But does Andy want this (lack of) life?  Will she ever be a size 2?  Emily Blunt plays assistant number one with a measured haughtiness and a nasty cold that gives Andy a chance to shine.  As we all know, Meryl can do anything, and playing an Anna Wintour clone is well within her wheelhouse.  4 cans.
28.  Non-Stop* (2014) – What does it say about a movie if you cannot remember whether you have seen it previously?  That it isn’t memorable?  This action-thriller with Liam Neeson and newly Oscared Julianne Moore seemed so familiar, yet I don’t normally go to the movies to see action flicks, so I’m just not sure whether or not I have seen this one.  What I AM sure of, however, is that if I saw Liam Neeson getting on my flight, or a train, or anywhere in my world, I’d head quickly to the exit.  The soft-spoken Neeson is making his living in this genre of action movies where his particular set of skills is put to good use killing people.  Even if he isn’t the bad guy – and here he is a sky marshal trying to save a planeload of folks from a ticking bomb on board – there are still dead bodies in his wake.  In this movie, everyone is a suspect.  I have trouble figuring out whether Professor Plumb did it with a lead pipe in the conservatory in the board game Clue, so I really don’t have a clue when it comes to identifying the actual bad guys.  Even after the movie ended, I still wasn’t sure.  I just know Neeson gets out alive, but I wouldn’t want to be on hand to see that for myself.  3 cans and a bomb.
29.  Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) – Meryl Streep Month continues.  Meryl had made only four movies before this moving drama about a mother/wife who abandons her young son/clueless husband to save her own sanity.  But you can see the greatness in her future.  Just the scene where she takes the stand in the custody battle that ensues when she gets her life together shows her incredible acting (and crying) ability, for which she was awarded Best Supporting Actress (her first of 19 Oscar nominations).  Her husband Ted goes from first class jerk to a loving father in the course of the film, and Dustin Hoffman was justifiably given the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal.  Check out the two scenes where he makes French toast with his 8-year old son (Justin Henry), which range from chaotic to orderly.  The movie itself beat out “Norma Rae,” “Breaking Away” and “Apocalypse Now” as Best Picture.  How do you keep your sense of self with the constant demands of parenthood?  There is no answer.  4½ cans.
30.  Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) – Ellen Burstyn was the Meryl Streep of her generation – minus the accents – playing lead roles and garnering multiple Oscar nominations.  Here she is Alice Hyatt, a wife stuck in a loveless marriage and a mother to Tommy, a very quirky 12-year old son (Alfred Lutter, perfectly cast and annoying).  When her husband is killed in a car accident, nearly destitute Alice and Tommy take off for her hometown of Monterey.  Along the road, they stop in Arizona so Alice can make some money as a singer in a piano bar.  But when she meets the wrong man there, they move on to another Arizona town, where she ends up as a waitress at Mel’s Diner.  The fabulous Flo (Diane Ladd) gives every customer a piece of her mind along with their slice of toast, and the strange Vera (Valerie Curtain) comes to work on the back of a motorcycle driven by her “Daddy Duke.”  Handsome, rugged David (Kris Kristofferson) nearly sweeps Alice off her feet.  Alice has to face a delicate balance, dreaming of being a singer, stuck being a waitress and caring for the smart-mouthed son she loves dearly.  A very young Jodie Foster is cast as Tommy’s much more mature friend, Audrey.  Burstyn won the Oscar for her role.  This movie contains the worst joke in the world: “shoot the dog.”  4 cans.
31.  The Big Chill (1983) – You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.  The lyrics of this Rolling Stones song apply perfectly to a bunch of 30-somethings who reunite at the funeral of one of their own, the charismatic Alex (famously played by but not seen actor Kevin Costner).  The sensational cast is matched by perhaps the best soundtrack of any movie I know.  Glenn Close, Kevin Kline, William Hurt, Tom Berenger, Mary Kay Place, Jobeth Williams and Jeff Goldblum have complex relationships that have waned over the years but are still rooted in their formative years at the University of Michigan.  They have grown to be a doctor, an attorney, an actor, a People Magazine writer, an entrepreneur and at least one person who uses plenty of drugs to forget he is none of those people.  They are attractive, erudite, a bit smug and very horny, as they reflect back wistfully on relationships and times before they became cynical and when, together, they felt most comfortable and genuine, before the realities of the world and making a living sidetracked them from teaching in Harlem and defending the poor.  To me, this film was a hallmark for those of us who were in our 30s when it was released, and whose college experiences forged lifetime friendships that remain strong despite distance and circumstance.  I can never hear “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” without thinking of this bunch of people dancing around the kitchen.  4½ cans.
32.  The Other Woman* (2014) – As you know, I love movies of all kinds.  Just not this kind.  This sophomoric take on revenge on a cheating husband doesn’t approach the similarly-themed “First Wives Club” with its vindictive and smarmy plot.  Usually, I’ll provide you with my look at the movie’s artistry or a summary of the plot.  Consider this review a public service announcement: Run, don’t walk, if you see this movie coming at you – in the other direction.  Leslie Mann, Cameron Diaz and the voluptuous Kate Upton band together and stop at nothing to get revenge on Mann’s husband, who is cheating on her with both of them.  I stopped watching when Diaz’ character slipped the scheming creep something that gave him explosive diarrhea at a restaurant.  At that point I had no interest in anything but tuning out.  Consider yourself warned.  I’m just glad I didn’t pay to see this offensive piece of drivel.  Zero, that’s right, no, nada, not even one can.  No pun intended.