Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tina's July 2014 Movies

I somehow managed to see a bunch of movies in July, even without a lot of rainy days.  Movies are rated on the basis of 1-5 cans of tuna, 5 being the best.  Any movies not previously seen are marked with an * and numbering picks up from last month.

84.  The Case Against 8* (2014) — HBO is airing an engrossing documentary this month about the four-year fight to overturn California’s Proposition 8, legislation that banned gay marriages in the state.  For two couples – one waiting to marry (Jeff & Paul) and already-married lesbians (Chris & Sandy) – the fight was personal, since both gay couples had to agree to be plaintiffs in the case with the ultimate hope that they would be able to marry and receive the same rights and benefits as heterosexual married couples.  An equal rights organization in California and an all-star legal team made convincing arguments that led to the banning of Prop 8, but the legal battle continued through various tactics and appeals all the way to the US Supreme Court.  Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act and said it would not rule in the Prop 8 case, thereby allowing the lower court’s decision to overturn it to stand.  Sadly, marriage between same sex couples is still banned in 31 states.  This absorbing look at the case and the principals sheds new light on the whole issue of equal rights under the Constitution.  I love a happy ending. 
3½ cans.  
85.  Rocky (1976) Who isn't familiar with the story of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), a lovable loser and club fighter who gets the chance to go up against the World Champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in a championship match?  Who doesn't get a thrill out of seeing Rocky sprint up the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum with the iconic theme song playing in the background?  This is the classic story of the underdog who beats (almost) the odds. Just seeing the faces of Rocky, Adrian (Talia Shire), Paulie (Burt Young), Mickey (Burgess Meredith) and Apollo again was like seeing old friends.  When Adrian goes from mousy with glasses to dolled up with beret, we get yet another thrill.  Give Stallone credit: A Hollywood underdog himself with little of note on his resume, he wrote "Rocky" and refused to sell it unless he could play the lead.  He parlayed the role into a veritable franchise.  Someday we'll see Rocky wheeling down the halls of a nursing home, calling out to Adrian, in Rocky 115. But until then, this inspiring story is to be cherished and loved. 4½ cans.
86.  Rocky II (1979) — After vowing to retire from the ring, the almost-champ finds himself with a new house and car and no way to support his family.  There is way too much story about Rocky not being able to find work.  A pregnant Adrian returns to her job at the pet store, but only after almost losing Adrian does Rocky agree to take on Apollo Creed again — with Adrian’s blessing.  Once again he trains in earnest and sprints up those iconic steps.  The sequel has a longer and less authentic boxing sequence, but Rocky is still the lovable lug we can’t help rooting for.  3½ cans.
87.  Rocky III (1982) — Please, someone, stop the madness!  In this second sequel to the original, Rocky now has a much better house and haircut, he has traded in his pork pie hat and leather jacket for form-fitting, custom-made suits, and he appears on everything from the cover of Newsweek to “The Muppets Show.”  He and Adrian have a big house, a couple of kids and a better life.  He takes on and beats all the contenders now that Apollo Creed has retired from boxing, but, like Apollo himself once took Rocky for granted, he overlooks a ferocious and hungry fighter named Clubber Lang (Mr. T, at his snarly best) who has everything to gain by going up against the champ.  Can Rocky pull off another championship bout?  What about his trainer, Mickey?  And Yo, Adrian?  And that expensive haircut?  Maybe I’m just getting Rocky-ed out, but I am starting to lose the eye of the tiger here.  Luckily, Rocky doesn’t.  3½ cans.
88.  An American President (1995) — Andrew Shepherd is a regular guy.  He’s a handsome widower with a 12-year old daughter who falls in love with an unmarried professional woman, and all would be fine except that she is a lobbyist and he happens to be the President of the United States.  Michael Douglas has made plenty of movies, but none that I like him in more than this Rob Reiner charmer.  Annette Bening is the woman who creates controversy just by dating him — that, and they happen to be on opposites sides of a piece of environmental legislation and Shepherd is facing political opposition from a Senator running for president (Richard Dreyfuss).  Aaron Sorkin’s smart script divulges the details of the inner workings of the White House, where presidential privacy is virtually non-existent.  Michael J. Fox as a George Stephanopolis-type aide and Martin Sheen as the President’s right hand man lend their own appeal to the mix here.  This is just a feel-good movie about two adults falling in love, and I did — with the movie and with the characters.  This American President gets my vote.  4 cans.
89.  Entrapment* (1999) — In this clever caper, Catherine Zeta-Jones is Jen, an insurance investigator checking out a master art thief, Mac (Sean Connery), who pilfers things like Rembrandt paintings.  She goes undercover to work with Mac to protect the insurance company from having to pay out claims for stolen works of art, as they plot intricate schemes to outwit the elaborate security measures standing in the way of the heist.  Or, she isn’t working for the insurance company at all, but is, as she tells Mac, a master thief herself.  In any case, she and Mac work very well together and are able to execute their plans to perfection.  This is a suspenseful and interesting movie, but it seems so completely unbelievable that I had to suspend my sense of reality to enjoy it.  Oh, and someone tell Sean Connery to stop wearing that bad rug, please!  3 cans.
90.  Tammy* (2014) — You have to hand it to Melissa McCarthy: She is not afraid to tackle anything, no matter how bad she may look or how outrageous the situation.  In this story, which she co-wrote with her husband (Ben Falcone, who also directed) she is the title character, a braggadocios loser whose car and marriage expire on the same day.  Time to hit the road, destination unclear, with granny’s car and bankroll — and Granny, herself (Susan Sarandon, in a bad wig and even then not looking nearly old enough to be the mother of Allison Janney or grandmother of Melissa McCarthy; see previous movie for problems with bad wigs and suspending my sense of reality).  OK, buying the premise, we see the two plunge nearly Thelma and Louise-like into a series of misadventures, picking up men (Granny and Gary Cole), drinking (Granny again, though Tammy isn’t exactly sober), blowing things up and committing crimes.  A road trip/buddy movie never really has a significant plot, and this one is no exception.  McCarthy’s predilection for risk-taking and her knack for physical comedy are reminiscent of Lucille Ball — on a much more physical scale.  This movie will never be mistaken for the great comedies of our time, but it continues McCarthy’s streak of mouthy, over-the-top characters who amuse theatergoers.  Or was that just me?  3½ cans because it is NOT a great movie, but I did like it. 
91.  The University of Sing Sing* (2011) — There is an eager bunch of students attending classes taught by Mercy College professors in New York State.  They do all of their readings, hand in their work on time, participate fully in class discussions and truly value their education.  For the men convicted of violent crimes who are serving their sentences in the correctional facility in Ossining, New York, education is a form of freedom, a way to escape from the despair they have caused themselves, their families and the victims of the crimes that put them in prison for long stretches.  This moving documentary shows the real meaning of education provided by Mercy through a program called “Hudson Link.”  The men acknowledge their past but see education as hope for their future, not only to help them get jobs once they leave prison but to help them think, reflect, and become better, more fully realized individuals.  The success of the program can be measured by the recidivism rate, which is only 2% for the Hudson Link graduates, compared to 45% for all others who leave Sing Sing.  I defy anyone who sees this movie not to get a huge lump in the throat watching graduation day.  4 cans.
92.  Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) — Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner) passes out at her 25th high school reunion and wakes up back in high school, surrounded by the trappings of her teenage years and looking for a way to change the course of her future life.  With shades of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Back to the Future,” this Francis Ford Coppola fantasy reminds us of the things we did as teenagers that dictated the course of whom we became as adults.  In Peggy Sue’s case, it was “going” with Charlie (Nicholas Cage), a typical teenage boy of 1960, with a big pompadour hairdo and dreams of becoming the next Fabian.  Peggy Sue herself knows she and Charlie will marry and get divorced, so she wants to change the course of her story.  The details here make the movie fun to watch — Peggy Sue and her high school friends, in her old bedroom, with the lectures of her parents and with a bit of cynicism about the hopes and dreams of everyone around her.  In school, she tells the math teacher that algebra will make no difference in her life, and it’s hard to argue with that logic.  Turner and Cage do fine work here, and, to Coppola’s credit, he doesn’t try to make the women actually look like teenagers, which would not have worked.  Look for Coppola’s daughter, Sophia, now a director herself, in a small role as Peggy Sue’s much younger sister.  3½ cans. 
93.  I Was a Jet Set Stewardess* (2014) — There was a time, back in the age of “Mad Men,” when traveling was glamourous.  People got dressed up and sat happily on board new jet planes, smoking and being served excellent food by specially selected and trained stewardesses.  These women were college educated, beautiful, young and unmarried — because those were the job requirements.  Oh, yes, and they had to wear girdles (count me out).  Their tailored outfits were designed by respected fashion designers and they were proud to put on the uniform.  The job of stewardess was coveted and the women who took on the responsibilities could often speak more than one language and wanted to expand their horizons.  As one former stewardess recalls in this documentary, there weren’t as many flights, so they could fly to Tahiti and stay there for a week waiting for their assignment home.  The tales about stewardesses and pilots and stewardesses and passengers hooking up might have been exaggerated, but they weren’t untrue.  All that ended when the first jets, the Boeing 707s, were replaced by the new generation of larger planes, like the 747, with 500 passengers and no opportunity for the flight crew and passengers to establish a rapport beyond fastening their seatbelts when told.  Eventually the changes in the industry and the discriminatory practices by the airlines led to the changes in service that we experience as travelers today.  But while they lasted as stewardesses, the women in this film loved almost every minute.  3½ cans.
94.  Jersey Boys* (2014) — I’ve been a fan of The Four Seasons (no, not Vivaldi) since I got my first transistor radio (a pink Sears Silvertone) in 1962 and the number one song in America was “Sherry.”  Dozens of hits and radios later, I’m still surprised at the depth of the group’s catalog of well-known songs, most of which are performed in the course of this movie, which is the story of the NJ-born and bred Frankie Castaluccio — before he changed it to Valli — (John Lloyd Young) and his semi-mobster pal Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) and their struggle to make it in the music biz and what happens when — as we all know — they hit it big.  It isn’t until singer/producer/songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) joins the group that they begin to soar as high as Frankie’s falsetto.  Director Clint Eastwood makes a faithful adaptation of the huge Broadway hit, incorporating the technique of “breaking the fourth wall,” where the actors slip out of the action to speak directly to the audience.  The stage version of any musical brings more energy than the screen version can muster, so the last scene — a big production number — comes across a bit flat.  The struggles, mistakes in judgment and eventual break-up of the group are recounted against the growing catalog of their songs, which always seem appropriate to the plot.  On the downside, the film firmly supports every negative Italian and New Jersey stereotype that ever existed.  But in the end, this is a musical, and the music takes center stage.  4 cans.
95.  Mask (1985) — This movie was Cher’s first venture into “Serious Acting” and she shows she has the chops to pull it off.  Here she is a single mother who hangs out with bikers, uses drugs and is generally what you would describe as a “free spirit,” which means she has a foul mouth and a bad attitude.  Her sweet teenaged son (Eric Stoltz) is a normal kid who collects baseball cards, excels in school and just happens to have a disease that has left him with a horribly disfigured face.  Neither mom Rusty or son Rocky allow Rocky’s appearance to define him, though he realizes his limitations more than she does.  One of my favorite actors, Sam Elliott, plays Gar, Cher’s on-again-off-again biker boyfriend, and Estelle Getty of “The Golden Girls” has a small role as Rusty’s mother.  This movie is based on a true story.  Rocky really packs a punch.  4 cans.
96.  Tin Cup (1996) — Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy (Kevin Costner) is a failed golfer with a sweet swing and a laid-back attitude who runs a dilapidated driving range in the Middle of Nowhere, Texas.  When classy psychologist Molly (Rene Russo) turns up for golf lessons, he is intrigued, despite the fact that Molly is dating pro golfer and arch rival David (Don Johnson).  Tin Cup decides he needs a few treatments on his head while she learns to swing, and he ends up entering and contending for the title in the US Open golf tournament.  Roy is smug, David is arrogant and Molly is torn between them.  This highly unlikely story tries hard to turn on the charm and get you to like it, but it is no better than the 4th best sports movie made by Costner.  Here he is less appealing than he was as Crash Davis in “Bull Durham,” despite trying to win us and Molly over.  3 tin cans.
97.  Chef* (2014) — Jon Favreau (who wrote and directed) plays Carol, a chef who loves to cook.  Unfortunately, the owner of the restaurant where he works (played by Dustin Hoffman) is afraid to serve his loyal customers anything not on the tired old menu, and when a food critic comes (Oliver Platt) and blasts Carl for his unadventurous, dated cuisine, it sets off a Twitter war that leads to Carl’s demise.  He takes the advice of his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara, who really tones down her usual screen persona) and starts a food truck operation, driving from Miami back to California with his loyal sous chef (John Leguizamo) and young son Percy, with whom he doesn’t spend much time as a divorced dad always at work.  Everyone bonds, the people in each city love the food and everyone is full and satisfied.  There’s nothing too exciting here, but either the film is well edited or Favreau has mad knife skills, because watching the chef at work is thrilling.  One caution:  Don’t go to this movie hungry.  The beauty shots here all involve delicious-looking, well-prepared food, much more than one person could possibly consume, though you will want to do just that.  3½ cans.
98.  Mystic Pizza (1988) — Who could resist the movie that gave us Julia Roberts in her first starring role?  But Julia is not the only young actress to captivate the viewer in this coming of age story of three young, lower middle class women working as waitresses in the aptly named Connecticut pizza joint, Mystic Pizza.  Anna Beth Gish is Roberts’ idealistic, Yale-bound sister, and Lili Taylor is their commitment-phobe friend who is head-over-heels in love with her boyfriend (Vincent Dinofrio) but isn’t sure love is really forever — or for her.  The relationship between the girls seems genuine, as is the affection which they share with the pizza parlor owner (the underrated Conchata Farrell, one of my favorite actresses).  The secret lies in the pizza sauce, but, in this movie, it is the binds we make when we are young that get us through the ups and downs of young adulthood and beyond.  If you haven’t seen it, order a pizza and enjoy the show.  4 slices.
99.  Erin Brockovich  (2000) — Speaking of Julia Roberts, she’s come a long way in this movie, based on a true story of a single mom looking for work who talks herself into a job with a lawyer and ends up uncovering rampant and dangerous chemical pollution in the water of a small California town.  Roberts’ title character is just a little too brash and dresses a little too provocatively for most of the folks she encounters, but her earnestness wins them over.  It doesn’t hurt to have a neighbor as beefy as Aaron Eckhart next door.  Albert Finney is terrific as Erin’s boss, and Conchata Farrell (see above) has a small role as his assistant.  Roberts earned the Best Actress Oscar for this performance, and it is easy to see why (or maybe Meryl wasn’t nominated that year?)  If you are in for a dogfight, you’d want Erin in your corner.  4 cans.
100.  36 Hours (1964) — I watched this movie mostly as a tribute to the late, great James garner, the laconic star who passed away in July, but I had forgotten how good a movie it is.  Garner plays Major Jeff Pike, who is high up enough in the military to be intimately acquainted with plans for D-Day, the Allied invasion at Normandy that is days away in June, 1944.  The Germans manage to slip him a mickey and he ends up in what he thinks is a US Army hospital 6 years after the end of the war.  A clever German doctor (Rod Taylor) has devised a scheme to convince Pike the war is over and that he has amnesia.  His treatment includes discussions of events Pike remembers, all to gather information about the coming invasion.  There is plenty of intrigue, as Pike’s nurse (Eva Marie Saint) plays a pivotal role in the ruse.  This movie doesn’t give Garner the ability to charm the viewer, but his performance in a captivating story is excellent.  Pay attention to the first 2 minutes for an incident that plays a critical part later in the film.  4 cans.
101.  Sharknado 2: The Second One* (2014) — There is blood in the streets and there are sharks in the air in this sequel to last summer’s campy surprise hit, “Sharknado.”  This time around, hero Fin (the luckiest actor in the world, Ian Ziering) and his ex, April (Tara Reid, barely breathing) land in New York — literally, they crash land in New York in the midst of “a storm of biblical proportions” with sharks raining down at 2 inches per hour (or so says Al Roker).  Fin has to find his sister and her husband, so he goes to Citi Field to catch them at the Mets game, but snow wipes out the game.  And then there are the sharks.  April’s hand is ripped off by a shark, and she ends up in the hospital, where, despite being left with a bloody stump, she manages to dress in what looks like a Chanel suit, complete with a necklace that I couldn’t fasten with two hands.  The stump comes in handy (so to speak) later, when she attaches a circular saw to it to fight the flying fish.  Fin fights the enemy with the help of his other ex, played by Viveca A. Fox, and decides he will have to blow up a building this time around to defeat the storm.  People are beheaded, smacked around by the sharks, and Fin manages to play “Frogger” as he literally jumps the sharks.  Cameos include Robert Hayes of “Airplane” fame (and little else) as the pilot of the plane headed to New York, and Judd Hirsch, the star of the old sitcom “Taxi,” as a cabbie driving Fin to battle.  Al Roker and Matt Lauer, in what we can only hope is his first and last dramatic role, play themselves, as do Kelly Ripa (who kills a shark with her spike heels) and Michael Strahan.  The rest are too numerous to mention.  Fin’s chain saw has reached biblical proportions, and he manages to slice a flyby shark in half in what looks like the middle of Times Square.  When he needs a helping hand, he just reaches into the mouth of a shark and pulls out one that happens to be holding a gun so he can shoot down his prey.  It was brought to my attention after publishing this review that the hand in question belonged to April, his ex-wife, and he took the engagement ring off the hand and gave it back to her. Romantic, eh?   In the end, Fin (get it?) saves the day, which can only lead one to the conclusion that the Sharknado franchise will live to see another sequel.  Foolish, silly and irresistible, this movie was actually sponsored on Syfy by a seafood restaurant, Joe’s Crab Shack.  The only thing that would have made it better would be if Steve Sanders’ old pals from “Beverly Hills 90210” were cast.  I’d love to see a shark rip off Brenda Walsh’s head.  Stick your tongue firmly in your cheek and go for the ride.  It’s so bad it’s good!  4 cans.
102.  Waterloo Bridge* (1940) — Talk about eclectic taste in movies!  This movie could not be more different in tone, taste, style and substance than the last entry.  It is the ill-fated story of love — boy meets girl, they fall in love and plan to marry and things never go quite the way they plan.  In this case, British Army officer Roy Cronin (Robert Taylor, looking like the definition of dashing) meets dancer Myra Lester (a radiant Vivien Leigh) and they fall madly in love.  But he’s about to ship out for World War I (which they didn’t know would have a number, but that didn’t happen til later and doesn’t matter here…) so she breaks her curfew to stay with him and gets bounced out of the dance company by the mean ballet troupe leader (Maria Ouspenskya).  He has to ship out earlier than planned, so they cannot marry, and she is left to take care of herself without a job or money.  While the movie doesn’t show exactly what she does to make ends meet, she hangs out at Waterloo Station and on Waterloo Bridge with people with Cockney accents and looks pretty upset most of the time, so you get the idea that she’s finding a way to deal with her dire straits.  Is Roy alive or dead?  Will he come back to her? Will they still get married?  No spoilers here.  After “Sharknado,” this was a welcome change of pace.  3½ cans.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What a Load

My sister and I have a seemingly inveterate interest in laundry.  We have a lot of it, which, for me, as a single person, is way above the average.  When we have extra time on our hands — like when we are stuck in our houses enduring a snow day — we throw in a “bonus load.” 

Sometimes when I go out for my walk, I set the timer on the washing machine so a load will be going (and nearly done) by the time I get back.  I know, I know, what if the hose breaks and floods the house?  Sure, but I could be upstairs when that happens and not know about it anyway.  It’s not like I go out with the dryer on.  I stopped that when I was in Dunkin' Donuts once and a woman there got a call that her house was on fire.  The local paper reported it was a dryer fire, so now I always stay home when the dryer is on.  That way I can go up in flames along with the laundry, I guess. 

I am obsessed about cleaning the dryer vent.  I do it after every load, and sometimes even during the load if I see that it looks full.  I have one of those long brushes, so I stick that down in the hole, too, and every year or so I have the dryer vent blown out.  I actually had to have my handyman create a trap door on the deck so the cleaners could access the vent outside, but, since the dryer nearly caught fire because the previous owners NEVER cleaned the vent, it was a clever solution to the problem and a good investment. 

Whenever her son arrives home from college, my sister is up to her knees in laundry.  We know that he does his own laundry on occasion, but when he comes home on breaks, she can’t wait to get her hands on every item of clothing he lugs home so she can wash it herself.  I know the feeling.  Boys are just grungy, and you can’t tell if the stuff they bring with them is the clean stuff or the dirty stuff because it is never neatly folded.  And the sheets?  Washing them hardly seems like enough.  Beating them on rocks down at the river might not be enough.  Quarantine and disinfecting might do the trick.  Possibly.  But we aren’t sure.

One summer my BFF’s son lived in my house while working at the Johnson & Johnson law department.  Although he was happy to do his own laundry (his version of the truth), I pounced on any pile left in the laundry room.  I never could tell whether he had already washed his clothes or they were waiting to be washed.

As for me, there are numerous laundry rules.  The sheets have to be washed before they are used for the season (flannel in the winter and cotton in the summer) just to get that fresh laundry smell.  I draw the line at having sheets, towels and underwear hanging outside on a clothes line, but I have been known to take the rack and put it on the deck to get that natural, fresh air smell as the stuff dries.

Of course, any new pajamas or underwear must be washed BEFORE wearing.  You do this, too, right?  It’s not just me. 

In my world, there is a towel “code.”  Bath towels are used once on one side and then turned over for the second use before they are relegated to the laundry pile.  My BFF insists this is a crazy rule, since, as she says, “You’re clean when you get out of the shower.”  Nonetheless, I wash them after two uses.  Add in my towels from aqua aerobics — which get washed after every single use to rid them of that chemical smell from the pool — and there’s always enough for a load around here.

I am pretty fussy when it comes to folding my clean clothes — fussy to the point of obsessed.  When I broke my leg once and couldn’t carry the laundry basket to do my own wash, my mother did a load for me and folded everything neatly.  I insisted that I could put it away.  The moment her car was out of sight, I stood on my crutches and refolded everything.  Try doing that to the sheets when you don’t have a leg to stand on.  I never told her, either.

I really hate it when I’m taking the laundry out of the dryer and I find one big, long thread from something in the load, and it is tangled around the towels and socks and underwear, and I’m are afraid to pull it for fear that something in there will completely unravel (although it never does) and I’ll ruin it.  I had three threads in a recent load, untangled the mess and cut them off.  So if my socks flop or my underwear goes south or a towel disintegrates, I have no one to blame but me.

Recently I switched from liquid detergent to those little plastic pods.  The advantage there is there is one per load, so if the package contains 22 pods, that’s good for 22 loads.  On the bottle of liquid detergent, it says I can get 32 loads, but I doubt I ever do.  I’d keep track, but then I’d know I was completely crazy.  This way we can only suspect insanity without complete verification.

I also use the “color catchers” you can buy in the detergent section.  Sure, I sort my whites and darks, but once in a while there is some deep pink or red thing that you just want to throw into the load and not risk having all the whites turn pink.  Throw in a color catcher and the segregation of colors is not necessary.  As someone who has some pink dish towels that started as white dish towels, I really appreciate — though I don’t understand — this technological innovation.  I just know it works.  My sister, ever the doubting Thomas of the family, still does a separate load just of red garments.  When her son was little, it seemed that every team he played on wore red, so she had a separate rack in the laundry room where the red stuff would be hung to dry. 

Have you ever thrown something in the hamper or laundry basket only to take it out before it is washed and subjected it to the “sniff test” for one more possible wearing?  “I only wore it for a few hours,” you think, figuring you can get away with it just one more time before it absolutely has to be washed.  The converse of this situation is when I wear something very briefly and immediately toss it in the laundry.  I’m doing a load anyway, and I have enough underwear to take an around-the-world trip without doing laundry, so why not? 

Recently I had a dream that I threw my bathing suit in the dryer and it came out like one of Barbie's bathing suits.  Since you're not even supposed to put bathing suits in the washing machine, throwing them in the dryer is grounds for arrest by the laundry police, I suppose.  I wonder if I can file a “missing sock” report with the laundry police…

Last night, I carried the laundry thing a step further when I had the urge to iron a few items, much to the consternation of my Facebook friends, who implored me not to do it.  They suggested I rewash and throw these things into the dryer and remove them quickly (which I had initially done), or buy a steamer or even take them to the dry cleaner – any alternative except ironing.  That reminded me of growing up, when I would open the refrigerator and find — amid the fruits and vegetables — my father’s carefully rolled, dampened shirts, waiting to be ironed.  My mother used a sprinkle top on an old Coke bottle specifically for this purpose.  Sound familiar?

Laundry is one common denominator we all share.  Even if you send it out, or if someone else does it for you, we all have it, deal with it, and it feels so good when it’s done. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Tina's June 2014 Movies

It was a veritable 80s film fest at the Gordon house this month, but there are many really good ones in the bunch.  Movies are rated on the basis of 1-5 cans of tuna, 5 being the best.  Any movies not previously seen are marked with an * and numbering picks up from the previous month.

70.  My Kid Could Paint That* (2007) — Really?  Then why is your kid’s artwork on the refrigerator when 6-year old Marla Olmstead’s paintings are hanging in art galleries and the homes of collectors?  This fascinating documentary looks at the prodigious work of young Marla, who appeared to be a wunderkind of the art world — that is, until “60 Minutes” aired an examination of her creative process and cast doubts on how much of the abstract art was actually created by the budding artist and how much was either coaxed or completed by her father.  The family, which had banked upwards of $300,000 selling Marla’s work, suddenly became the object of doubt and derision not only in their hometown of Binghamton, NY, but nationwide.  To assuage the doubters, they recorded her creating a painting from start to finish, showing her working all on her own.  This film questions not just the authenticity of the art, but raises the question of what is art anyway?  Can genuinely valuable paintings be created by a 6-year old?  Maybe you had better take a second look at what is hanging on your refrigerator.  You could have the next Marc Chagall.  3½ cans of paint.
71.  Roman Holiday* (1953) — It’s not easy being Queen…or, in this case, a European princess.  Dazzling Audrey Hepburn brings a fresh new face to the screen as Princess Anne, the young princess who, on a tour of European capitals, rebels against the boredom of her strict schedule, clothes and everything that dictates her existence.  One night in Rome, she escapes from the eyes of her minions and finds herself on the streets, passing out from medication and rescued by American journalist Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck).  He takes her in, and then, after learning her true identity, takes her around town with his photographer friend (Eddie Albert) in tow, figuring he can write a story about the mysterious young royal.  Neither of them knew they would fall in love (even if the audience could have guessed as much).  The princess gets her hair hacked off, outwits, outlasts and outplays the palace guard and the polizzia.  Within 24 hours, the fairytale is over, but will Bradley capitalize on what turns out to be a romantic adventure?  When in Rome…3½ cans.
72.  Broadway Danny Rose (1984) — Danny Rose (Woody Allen) is a manager of strictly D-List talent (balloon artists, bad comics, nightclub signers) whose biggest act, a lousy lounge singer named Lou (Nick Apollo Forte) refuses to go on stage unless Danny can convince his girlfriend Tina (a gum chomping Mia Farrow) to come to the show.  But Lou is married, so Danny has to bring her as his date.  The problem is that Tina is married, too, and her husband’s brothers are hot after the two, thinking Danny is her lover.  Woody is his usual nebishy self, tossing off funny lines and generally wondering what is happening to him as he tries to outrace the thugs.  2½ cans.
73.  Stripes (1981) — This classic Bill Murray comedy is predictable, but with John Candy and Harold Ramis along for the ride and Ivan Reitman directing, it is also predictably funny.  Murray is a laconic cab driver who loses his job, his apartment and his girlfriend in the same day.  His solution is to join the Army, and he drags his buddy (Ramis) along for the ride.  Before you know it, he has irritated everyone above him in rank — and that’s pretty much everyone on the Army base — and is forced to do push-ups in the rain and mud.  But you also know he will somehow lead the troops in triumph at the end — if that’s what you call it.  This is not my favorite Murray movie (“Caddyshack” or “Groundhog Day” are much more amusing), but Murray is too slick to pass up. 3 cans.
74.  Broadcast News (1987) — James L. Brook’s terrific movie look at network news is about integrity — and flop sweat.  Albert Brooks is Aaron Altman, a skilled writer and reporter with no charisma on camera.  William Hurt is Tom Granick, who admittedly is a lightweight intellectually but has a persona ideally suited for the camera.  It is inevitable that he will rise up the ladder of network news, even if he is dumb enough not to realize it.  But the glue factor here is Jane Craig (Holly Hunter), the dynamic writer-producer who barks commands that belie her slight frame and who steers the nightly broadcast with supreme confidence in her abilities, even if she does go through a crying jag every day.  Jane knows Tom is over his head, just as she knows Aaron is a talented writer who deserves a chance to anchor the news.  But one weekend stint as a substitute anchor that results in an epic case of flop sweat takes Aaron out of contention.  Jane is caught between the two newsmen romantically.  Could someone of her superior intellect really fall for a pretty boy who is nowhere near her level?  This film is a great look at the production of news and yet brings a real personal touch.  My favorite line is when the head of the news division asks Jane what it’s like to always think you are the smartest person in the room.  She knows she is, and it is never easy.  Broadcast this: 4½ cans.
75.  Footloose (1984) — This exuberant tale of a fish out of water stars Kevin Bacon in his breakout role as Ren McCormick.  Ren and his mother move from Chicago to the little town of Beaumont, where Ren, with his spiked hair and narrow ties, looks nothing like the other kids in high school.  They like to race trucks while Ren likes to — GASP — dance.  But dancing and loud music is forbidden in Beaumont and the restrictions are proselytized by Reverend Moore (John Lithgow), father of high school hot girl Ariel (Lori Singer).  Soon Ren is teaching his awkward buddy Willard (Chris Penn) to get his groove on.  Sarah Jessica Parker is the adorable girlfriend of Willard, there is a rivalry between Ren and the local tough guy Chuck, and, at the end, there is much dancing.  Considering that this town prohibits such exhibitions, there are sure a lot of great dancers.  I love the music here and the joy of free expression and dance.  4 cans.
76.  Bull Durham (1988) — And the 80s Film Festival continues with one of my favorite Kevin Costner baseball movies (he also starred in “Field of Dreams” and “For the Love of the Game”).  Here he is Crash Davis, a veteran catcher who suddenly finds himself demoted to A ball, the lowest level in the minor leagues and a far cry from “the show,” as he refers to the majors.  He is sent to Durham, NC, specifically to tutor phenom Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), a young pitcher with a million dollar arm and a 10 cent head.  Crash gives Nuke a crash course in how to pitch, handle himself and deliver sports clichés to the press, while local baseball fan Annie (Susan Sarandon) teaches him some of the finer facts of life.  Crash is going nowhere, while Nuke is full of potential.  The depiction of baseball in the minor leagues is priceless: Long, boring bus trips, clubhouse pranks, awkward conversations on the mound and more chewing and spitting than you would think humanly possible.  Crash is much more suited for the mature Annie (she’s not only older, but she listens to Edith Piaf), but not while she is interested in schooling young Nuke.  Costner’s speech about what he believes in is worth the price of the movie.  And wow, he looks great here.  4 cans.
77. Breaking Away (1979) — And now we venture back to the 70s for this charmer about four high school graduates unsure what to do with their lives.  Dave Stoler (Dennis Christopher) rides bikes and dreams of joining the Italian racing team – so much so that he speaks Italian around the house and drives his “Papa” (Paul Dooley) crazy.  Dave is one of the “cutters,” the town kids in Bloomington, Indiana, who aren’t college students and aren’t really the men who cut limestone in the local quarries, like their fathers did.  Mike (Dennis Quaid) was a high school quarterback and longs for his glory days.  Cyril (Daniel Stern, in essentially the same role he played later in “Diner,” but this time without the benefit of a college education) is goofy and funny and cannot get along with his father.  The fourth musketeer is the runt of the litter, Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley), the almost forgotten one.  These guys don’t have enough ambition to actually break away from their hometown.  They just want to defeat their college rivals in the “Little 500” bike race, and Dave wants to win the college girl who thinks he actually is Italian.  This warm, sweet movie unexpectedly won an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, losing out to “Kramer vs. Kramer.”  3½ cans.
78.  Notes on a Scandal (2006) — I finally moved back to the 21st century with this taut drama about a scandalous affair between an attractive, married and iappropriately older teacher, Sheba (Cate Blanchett) and a 15-year old student (Andrew Simpson).  But the real relationship is between Sheba and a fellow teacher, Barbara (Judi Dench), a dour, lonely spinster who has designs of her own on an increasingly vulnerable Sheba.  Barbara stumbles upon the teacher and student affair and uses that bit of information to build a close bond with Sheba that she thinks is something more.  Outstanding Oscar-nominated performances by Blanchett and Dench elevate the story to more than a soap opera, and it held my interest to the end.  4 cans.
79.  Thelma & Louise (1991) — Thelma and Louise (Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon) have men problems, money problems, and, after a girls’ weekend goes terribly awry, murder problems.  When a lout in a bar tries to rape Thelma, Louise shoots him and the girls take off, trying to get away with murder.  Along the way to Mexico, through rural Oklahoma and on the run, they ramp up the fun with armed robbery and by picking up a young Brad Pitt, whose movie feature debut is a memorable one.  This romp is a buddy movie, a road movie and a fun flight for two women who have put up with plenty of crap from the men in their lives.  Call it revenge for past transgressions if you will, but the girls just want to have fun.  The iconic last scene is the female version of the ending of “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid.”  4 cans.
80.  Labor Day* (2013) — If you have the choice of A) Renting this movie from Red Box for $1.20; B) Watching it for free; or, C) Skipping it altogether, go for option C.  Josh Brolin is an escaped con who cons his way into the car, house and lives of depressed single mom Kate Winslett and her adolescent and moony-eyed son (Gattlin Griffith).  He needs a place to hide while on the lam, so he forces them to take him in and, of course, turns out to be a great guy who can do everything from household repairs to throwing a baseball or making a mean peach pie.  Actually, making the peach pie turned out to be the best part of the movie, which should tell you why you should just go bake a pie and skip the movie. 1 can of peach pie filling, though they only use fresh in the movie.
81.  Nonstop* (2014) — Liam Neeson again plays a guy very much in charge in this suspenseful movie that takes place on an airplane.  Someone knows he is an air marshal and keeps sending him threatening e-mail messages about killing passengers every hour if $150 million isn’t transferred to an off-shore account.  Julianne Moore is sitting next to him, amused by his fear of flying, but she is soon full of fear herself, as strange things keep happening on that plane.  Although this one is billed as an action/adventure, that didn’t stop me from dozing off more than once.  All I know is that with Neeson’s record, I want his name to be my emergency contact when I travel.  It’s never easy, but he gets the job done.  3 cans.
82.  Starting Over (1979) — Seeing this erudite comedy was better than ever for me (to quote a line from one of the songs).  Burt Reynolds underplays his role as Phil Potter, a man whose wife Jessie (the always stunning Candice Bergen) dumps him and then tries to get back into his life just as he establishes an attachment to teacher Marilyn (the late and much lamented Jill Clayburgh).  Potter is basically a good guy, a little buttoned up (as evidenced by his ever-present trench coat that is actually buttoned up), but he is skittish enough about his new relationship that he has an anxiety attack in Bloomingdales while buying a couch with Marilyn.  And when Jessie reappears in his life to win him back, he is in a quandary.  Jessie is a singer whose belting is the equivalent of Elaine Benes’s dancing on “Seinfeld,” and Bergen, to her credit, plays it to the hilt.  Reynolds is deadpan as his character with just a bit of the arched eyebrow and askance look when appropriate, and Clayburgh is endearing as she tries to trust the relationship she and Reynolds have established.  There are witty lines throughout the script, as one would expect from screenwriter James L. Brooks.  So happy I got to see this adult comedy again.  4 cans.
83.  Big (1988) — Tom Hanks caused a splash in “Splash,” but he really hit it big here.  When 13-year old Josh Baskin visits a carnival and goes to the Zoltan machine, he wishes he were bigger.  The next day, his wish is granted and Josh wakes up in Hanks’s body.  Aside from the obvious problems of clothes that don’t fit and hair that has suddenly sprouted on his now-manly body, Josh needs to find that Zoltan machine and wish for his old life back.  Accompanied by his best buddy, Billy, he heads to NYC to track down the Zoltan machine at the next carnival.  While there, he realizes he needs a job to live and he gets one — at a toy company.  Hanks is brilliant in the role, awkward and physically unfit for this new body and naïve and sweet as a 13-year old who is now treated like a man — especially by co-worker Elizabeth Perkins.  Will he find true love or will he find Zoltan and go back to the real Josh and his family?  Penny Marshall directed this movie with a deft touch, and Jared Rushton as Billy is terrific, but it is Hanks who seals the deal.  The scene of him dancing on the floor piano in FAO Schwartz is priceless.  4 cans.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

More Random Thoughts

Here is one of the main reasons I retired: I no longer knew how to operate the bathroom fixtures at Johnson & Johnson.  Now I find the same issues in virtually every commercial restroom. Some toilets flush automatically, while others require a push of a button or a yank of a handle. Some sinks have water that turns on when you move your hands under the faucet, while others require you to touch the handle and do it the old fashioned way.  The soap won't squirt at you unless your hands do a happy dance in some sinks, and, even then, it’s hard to find the exact hand position.  Paper towels may or may not be automatically dispensed.  In at least one bathroom I know, the hand dryer requires you to insert your hands into a device facing downward, as if you are being handcuffed (not that I have any personal experience with this action).  Really, should using a restroom be this complicated? This conundrum has followed me from the hallowed halls of Johnson & Johnson to bathrooms everywhere. I remember a colleague commenting that she was so used to having the toilet flush automatically at work that she stopped flushing at home, to the horror of her family, which probably started looking into assisted living facilities for her.   

If a pun is a “play on words,” why don’t we call it a “p-o-w” instead of a “p-u-n?”

I need so much light to see things now that by the time I’m 80, I’ll probably be walking around with one of those lights like they have on miners’ helmets. At least if I wander off from the nursing home I’ll be easy to track down.

My phone never rings unless I’m on it. Go figure.

Does this happen to you?  I start falling asleep downstairs on the recliner and vow to go to bed early, but by the time I go upstairs, wash my face, brush my teeth and get ready for bed, I’m wide awake.  Yet I don’t want to spend the night sleeping in the recliner — or do I?

I completely disagree with Comcast’s on-screen TV listings of movies that now define such dramas as “42” and “Brian’s Song” as documentaries. Really?  These are dramas, not even docu-dramas in many cases, and they are a far cry from genuine documentaries.  With whom do I have to address this travesty?

I just finished reading actor Rob Lowe’s latest memoir, “Love Life.”  It turns out that he is a nice guy who loves his wife, adores his sons and enjoys his work.  Apart from a reference to a near-encounter with a very young and hot Madonna and a dip in the Playboy pool, there isn’t much here about his love life.  And there is a paucity of pictures of his pretty face, too.  Let’s just say Rob Lowe’s Love Life wasn’t satisfying — at least to me.

If video killed the radio star, then surely videostreaming killed the video store. It might just kill network television, too.

No matter how hot it may be outside, I always have a jacket or sweatshirt with me for when I go to ShopRite, where it is always freezing cold.  If I ever have to go in the frozen food section without an outer layer, I’ll freeze to death.

Whenever anyone uses the expression “and the rest is history,” it always makes me think of “Yada, yada, yada,” from Seinfeld because they are either too lazy to give you the details or think you know them.  I usually don’t.

Try as I might, I cannot control the spacing between words on-line.  I was taught to use two spaces after a sentence, but the result in publishing something is that the next line sometimes starts with a word that is indented by one space.  To fix this issue, I have to remove a space from the previous line so everything will be even.  I'm just telling you this in case on your screen you see inconsistent spacing between words, which ordinarily would drive me crazy.  And now you know what did it.  I have a feeling no one cares about this issue like me.

I have decided I want to live at Walgreen’s — you know, on the corner of Happy and Healthy.

Clint Eastwood as the director of the movie version of “Jersey Boys?”  I’m not so sure about that combo.  I’ll have to see it for myself to judge it fairly.

I recently spotted a 4-door Maserati on the road.  Really, why buy a luxury sports car brand that looks like a Nissan Altima (with apologies to Nissan owners, but Nissan is no Maserati)?  I also saw a Porsche SUV.  People, let's keep the sports cars as sports cars and leave the family vehicles to Honda or Ford, OK?

If you open my freezer, you'll find a multitude of ice packs to soothe my aches and pains.  I'm not sure if that means I am an athlete (OK, not according to a strict definition, but at least I walk and do aqua aerobics) or just old and creaky.

At any meeting, social event or meal, someone always has her or her cellphone out and is looking at it.  We are that obsessed as a society that we cannot sit still and be in the moment. Instead, we are checking Facebook to view yet another cat video or see what someone's grandkids are doing or checking our ever-essential mail.  I do this, too (though not at a restaurant with other people), and I'm worried for all of us.

I like having a garden, but I don't like creating the garden.  I don't enjoy lugging sacks of soil, digging in the dirt and getting dirty.  So my idea of planting flowers is to buy them already in full bloom and drop them in planters with new dirt surrounding them.  Then I only have to keep them watered and hope for the best.  Flowers will die if you don’t water them.  But weeds, no matter what brutal conditions they endure, will manage to survive and thrive.  Sometimes Nature is a Mother.

And speaking of watering, do not, under any circumstances, invest in one of those collapsible hoses (the Pocket Hose is one brand name, but they are all the same).  Trust me when I say that I have been through 3 of them.  The plastic inside is no thicker than a Baggie, and any amount of water pressure, even if the hose is straightened out completely, will cause the little bugger to burst.  Luckily, last time it happened on a nice day and I needed a shower anyway.  

I am like "The Princess and the Pea" when it comes to finding a stone in my sneaker when I am out for a walk.  I can feel the slightest irritation in my shoe.  I hobble to the next street sign or mailbox so I can lean against it and yank off my shoe to remove the offending boulder, which is often so tiny that I don't even see it fall out of the shoe as I bang it against a pillar or post.  Good grief, I think lint could make me limp.

It is hard to imagine that anyone falls for those e-mails from people in other countries who want to give you money for setting up a bank account or whatever the details are of the scam they are trying to pull.  Are people REALLY that gullible?  I recently found yet another one in my SPAM, alongside the latest plea from Christian Mingle.  This Jewish girl is not falling for that one, either.

I love to drive with the top down on the convertible — except for the hair thing.  First, my hair blows in the wind, and, second, the sunlight really makes my hair look gray.  It's just the sunlight, not the actual hair, right?

According to an e-mail I received, I am a member of the CVS Beauty Club.  As Woody Allen would say (or was it Groucho Marx?), I would never want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.

I watch a lot of those house renovation shows on HGTV.  Whenever the owners or builders think they are moving along nicely and there is still 15 minutes yet to go before the show ends, you can always count on their finding asbestos, termite damage, a main beam that needs to be replaced or something else that turns the house into a money pit.  And yet, it is always beautifully finished when the show is over.  Only on TV, folks.

Pandora Radio is fine for my walks, except for those damn Brad Benson commercials.  Yet I am too frugal to shell out a few bucks for the free version.  And so I suffer.

Few things are more annoying than having a fly (or mosquito) buzzing around your head.  You search frantically for him, a magazine or fly swatter in hand, checking the windows to see if he landed, only to assume he’s flown the coop when the buzzing stops.  So you put down your weapon — and he’s back.  Bzzzzz.

I don’t get the whole garden gnome thing.  I pass by plenty of houses that have fake deer and those squatty body gnomes in the garden, and I am perplexed as to the point of the whole thing. They are supposed to be cute, I assume, but I find nothing appealing about them.  Then again, I never really believed in pierced earrings, either, and I have worn them for nearly 20 years.  I guess I don’t have to understand everything that perplexes me in this world.

I was feeling a bit guilty for running a light today, but I was reassured by my good and wise friend Dy, who said, “Teen, don’t worry about it.  Yellow is the new green.”  Gotta love that logic!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Tina's May 2014 Movies

May was a good month for movies for me.  As usual, the numbering picks up from previous months, and the movies are rated on the basis of cans of tuna, with 5 being the best rating.  Movies I had not seen previously are marked with an *.

53.  The Astronaut’s Wife* (1999) – This movie may sound like it should star Don Knotts, but it is actually a suspense film that starts out like “Apollo 13” but morphs into “Rosemary’s Baby.”  Charlize Theron, sporting Mia Farrow’s short hairdo from the latter film, is Jillian, the title character.  Her astronaut husband Spencer (Johnny Depp) has an accident in space with his partner and loses contact with earth for two minutes so she, naturally, is relieved when both men are saved.  But something is a bit off with the almost-doomed astronauts.  Jillian begins having strange dreams that only get worse when she finds she is pregnant with twins.  The story takes on scary tones, with elements of the movies mentioned above and even a bit of “The Sixth Sense.”  This kind of drama is not my cup of tea, but I wanted to hang in there to see if we had lift-off.  I think I would have preferred if the real title was “Lost in Space.”  2 cans.
54.  We Could Be King* (2014) ­– I’m always amazed when documentaries start with a broken down whatever and the subject person or team triumphs in the end.  The filmmakers had no way of knowing the eventual outcome, and they spend a lot of time documenting something that could turn out to be useless for their dramatic purposes.  This movie is an example of the former, the story of an inner-city Philadelphia high school, Martin Luther King, that is forced to take in the students of nearby Germantown High School when budget cuts lead to the closing of the latter.  The two football teams, former bitter rivals, are now one, and are led by a volunteer coach since there is no budget to pay one.  Combine that situation with King’s recent record – no victories in two years – and it looks like a long season ahead.  The kids have their own issues.  Some have college potential but not the grades, and one is jailed after being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  In the end, they triumph, on and off the field, but it is never easy.  Sports and the arts have an important place in education, sometimes being the only things that keep kids in school at all.  So the winning here isn’t confined exclusively to the field of play.  3½ cans.
55.  All About Ann – Governor Ann Richards* (2014) – In 1988, Ann Richards made a name for herself with an unforgettable keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention.  The state treasurer of Texas, where she saved the state billions, Richards lambasted fellow Texan George Bush on route to becoming a national figure.  Known as a firebrand with a passion for women’s rights and education, Richards started off as a housewife and rose to the governor’s mansion, one of only two governors in the history of the state, and opened the doors for other women and minorities in the state and country.  This loving look at her includes plenty of memorable moments behind the podium, where she got her points across with wit and charm.  At her funeral, columnist Liz Smith said she had known Mother Theresa, Katherine Hepburn and Eleanor Roosevelt but considered Richards the greatest woman she had ever known.  High praise indeed.  3½ cans.
56.  Come Blow Your Horn (1963) – When I was 13, Frank Sinatra was the coolest guy around (this was before the Beatles nearly made him obsolete).  In this movie version of an early Neil Simon play, he is Alan, a swinging bachelor, complete with tricked out NY pad (that even features a remote control for the stereo) and multiple babes on his arms.  He is a disappointment to his parents (Lee J. Cobb as his blustery father refers to his unmarried son as a “bum” and Molly Picon) and barely holding up his part in the family’s waxed fruit business.  But to his young brother Buddy (an adorable Tony Bill), he is a hero, and when Alan gives refuge to Buddy when his younger brother flees the family home for life in the big city, Alan transforms the inexperienced young man into a younger version of himself.  Buddy adjusts quickly to his new life, but he’s cramping Alan’s style and Mom and Dad want him home.  Let’s just say that comedy and many hats ensue.  This is early Neil Simon, but with the family relationships and the stereotyped Jewish parents, you can see into his future as a playwright.  3 cans.
57.  Coming Home (1978) – When they say “war is hell,” that sentiment extends beyond the combat to its aftermath.  In this poignant drama, the Vietnam War is hell on the battlefield and on the home front.  Jon Voight is Luke, a Marine combat veteran and paraplegic, who meets hospital volunteer Sally (Jane Fonda), the straight-laced wife of Bob (Bruce Dern), a Marine captain stationed in Vietnam.   The two strike up first a friendship and then a way to deal with their loneliness.  Sally goes from pageboy hairdo to literally letting her hair down, much to the chagrin of her returning and visibly changed husband.  The tenderness of the scenes between Luke and Sally contrasts with the awkwardness between Bon and Sally.  There are plenty of people who still resent Fonda for her antiwar activities, but this movie is her best statement to decry the uselessness of war.  She and Voight won Oscars for their performances, as they dignify the physical, emotional and practical tolls suffered by those who serve their country and their loved ones.  The soundtrack here is one of the best, with Richie Havens, the Rolling Stones and the Chambers Brothers providing the contemporary work of the late 1960s.  4 cans.
58.  Where the Heart Is* (2000) — Not to be confused with “Places in the Heart” or countless other movies with the word heart in their titles, nor to be confused with “Anywhere But Here” (another Natalie Portman movie), this quirky comedy-drama has a lot of heart.  Natalie is Novalee Nation, and any movie with that name for the lead character doesn’t take itself too seriously, though there are serious tones and situations throughout.  Novalee is 17, pregnant, and abandoned by her boyfriend on a trip to California when she stops at a WalMart in Oklahoma to buy shoes.  With no money and no way out, she simply moves into WalMart, carefully noting everything she appropriates from the store.  She delivers her baby girl with the help of the erstwhile, handsome but odd town librarian, who falls in love with her.  The people of the town are a quirky but compassionate lot (Stockard Channing and Ashley Judd, among others) who take her in and help her with her child.  It is hard to imagine this sweet young woman as the tortured ballerina in “Black Swan,” since Portman pulls off sincerity, naiveté and strength all at the same time.  I always wanted to see this movie but never seemed to catch it until now.  You gotta have heart.  3 ½ cans.
59.  The Big Lebowski* (1998) — Take one laid-back, pot-smoking, bowling surfer dude named Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski (a paunchy and unkempt Jeff Bridges) and throw in a disabled millionaire with the same name, a best buddy with anger issues, kidnappers, thugs, erotic artists and a host of other bizarre characters and you have this Coen Brothers pastiche of a plot.  Picture Jeff Spicoli several decades removed from his fast times at Ridgemont High and you’ll see the Dude, as he seeks revenge for strange men ruining his rug.  This is a strange brew indeed, and while it hardly ranks in the pantheon of classic, crazy comedies (where “Animal House” and Blazing “Saddles” rule), I can see its appeal to a younger generation.  For me?  Not so much.  3 cans.
60.  Prisoners* (2013) — If you thought Hugh Jackman was intense as Jean Val Jean in “Les Miz,” you should see him here.  He plays Keller Dover, a husband (to Maria Bello) and father whose Thanksgiving with neighbors (Viola Davis and Terrence Howard) is abruptly disrupted when their respective young daughters disappear.  There is one local man who police think may have been involved, but when he is arrested and questioned, he refuses to talk so the charges are dropped.  Keller continues his pursuit of the young man and the search for the girls, taking drastic, desperate measures that put him at odds with his friends, family and the dogged detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is working the case.  Just when you think you know what is happening here, the music gets spookier and the direction changes.  This is an old-fashioned thriller, well played and plotted, that you don’t want to watch before you go to bed.  There is enough creepiness to give you nightmares.  3½ cans.
61.  The Pilot’s Wife* (2002) — Since I started off the month watching “The Astronaut’s Wife,” I figured this movie would be a good companion piece, although these movies have little in common.  The one thing they do have in common is mystery.  What really happened to the men these women married?  In this case, Jack, the pilot (John Heard) is killed in a plane crash as the movie opens.  His grieving wife, Katherine (Christine Lahti), is in shock and buttressed by a representative of the pilot’s union, played by Campbell Scott.  For all intents and purposes, the crash is just a tragic accident, but that wouldn’t give us much of a movie, would it?  It turns out that Jack’s life included much more than his wife and daughter, and getting to the truth will take time and courage.  Though many people have read the Anita Shreve book from which this movie is adapted, to say much more would spoil the plot.  It is safe to say you don’t know Jack. 3½ cans.
62.  Parkland* (2013) — This drama is an engrossing look at the events surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963.  Having recently visited the museum in the Book Depository in Dallas, I found it extremely compelling.  The actual assassination, filmed by amateur movie maker Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giammatti) quickly becomes central to the case.  The heroic doctors (Zac Efron and Colin Hanks) and nurse (Marcia Gay Harden) try to treat the president with dignity as they fight in vain to save him while his young wife, clad in that blood-stained pink suit, looks on.  The subsequent identification of Lee Harvey Oswald, his arrest and then his own assassination are all tastefully included.  The role of his brother was one with which I was not familiar (he knew nothing about Lee’s plans and tries to reel in their publicity-seeking mother).  The events depicted here, and the years of speculation that followed, are a time of demarcation for many of us.  Where we you when Kennedy was assassinated?  4 cans.
63.  The Horse Whisperer (1998) — Short version: Young girl and her horse have a horrific accident so mom hires a trainer with a unique approach to help the horse heal.  But there is nothing short in this languorous ode to time and patience, to allowing the healing process to play out for the young girl (Scarlett Johansson), her driven mother Annie (Kristin Scott Thomas) and the man who rescues them all (Robert Redford, who also directed).  This movie is visually stunning, replete with silhouette shots of riders against the big Montana sky, vistas of hills and creeks and not a 7-Eleven anywhere in sight.  The accident, shown in graphic detail, takes a part of the girl’s leg and breaks her spirit and that of the nearly dead horse, but Tom Booker (Redford, looking older but handsome with his blond hair still lit by the sun) has an unconventional approach.  He is full of subtlety and quietude, which, it turns out, heals more than the girl and her horse.  This movie has overtones of one of my favorite films, “The Bridges of Madison County,” and the growing relationship between the horse trainer and the NY-based (and married) magazine editor would seem to be dead on arrival.  Don’t watch this movie if you cannot sit quietly for 3 hours, because the pace reflects Tom’s approach.  Tom may be good with horses, but when he puts his hand on Annie’s back while they dance, it’s clear that he’s pretty good with humans, too.  4 cans.
64.  The Normal Heart* (2014) — This adaptation of Larry Kramer’s Broadway play is a searing look at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s.  Hedonism among the gay community gave way to panic, as young men started falling victim to what was initially called the “gay cancer.”  Many in society felt the deadly virus was retribution for a lifestyle of debauchery of which they did not approve.  But the men who lost loved ones realized that this disease — previously unknown — would result in countless deaths without government support of research, so they banded together to provide information and get the government involved.  Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo), the oldest and most vocal, presented a more radical, public view, attacking politicians and seeking as much publicity as possible to hold officials accountable.  His histrionics annoyed the politicians and his fellow activists, the other men who had formed the Gay Men’s Health Crisis organization in his living room.  The acting here is uniformly superb, with Julia Roberts playing the lone doctor who agreed to treat these men while collecting as much research as possible as the deaths mounted.  Matt Bomer as Ned’s lover transforms from a tall, dark and handsome young man to a gaunt, dying skeleton of a human, looking like a Holocaust victim.  The men won’t be dissuaded from giving up sex, as Roberts’ doctor urges them, even as they see their friends pass away.  With remnants of the classic “And the Band Played On,” this drama puts the crisis in perspective: It wasn’t just homosexual men who were afflicted, as the closing credits reveal that 36 million people have died of AIDs since it was identified 30 some years ago.  4 cans.
65.  Masquerade (1998) — I saw a lot more of the beautiful young Rob Lowe here than in his memoirs, “Love Life,” and I liked the view better.  He plays Tim, a young but accomplished yacht captain who in spending the summer in the Hamptons among the rich and toney folks as he gets his employer’s yacht ready for the racing season.  There he meets Olivia (Meg Tilly), a lonely, quiet young woman who just happens to be the wealthiest person in the area.  Who wouldn’t fall for young Lowe?  He’s gorgeous and charming, though we soon see him as a two-timing creep with plans that won’t end well for Olivia.  Doug Savant plays the local cop, Mike, who secretly loves Olivia.  Everyone knows everyone in this Hamptons town, yet nobody really knows who to trust.  This suspenseful film has plot twists that I won’t reveal here, and while Rob Lowe isn’t and will never be Robert DeNiro, he certainly carries off the charm.  4 cans.
66.  Office Space (1999) — Pete (Ron Livingston) and his fellow office drones sit in their cubicles thinking of ways NOT to work.  Pete hates his job, the 8 bosses he reports to, the memos, meetings and all the trappings of a big, impersonal office environment.  Pete and his buddies come upon a scheme that they figure no one will notice that will net them a little money by rounding numbers and depositing the difference in an account they set up.  Really, if these slackers put anywhere near the effort into actually working than they do into the scheme and not working, their lives would be noticeable better.  Oh, and Ron dates Jennifer Anniston, a waitress who hates her job, too.  I’m not sure why I watched this unfunny movie, but thanks, Mike Judge (writer and director), for reminding me how glad I am to be retired.  2 cans.
67.  Taking Chance (2009) — I thought it only fitting to watch this moving and patriotic movie on Memorial Day, a day meant for appreciation of the men and women who have served our country in the armed forces.  Kevin Bacon plays stoic Marine Colonel Mike Strobic, an analyst for the government who has missed out on his chance for real action.  When he learns about the death of Private Chance Phelps, a 20-year old Marine from Strobel’s home town in Colorado, he volunteers for the role of escort, the Marine who is assigned to bring the body home to the family.  Along the way, he encounters civilians and service people alike who pay homage — officially or in some personal way — to the young Marine and his escort.  Bacon is dignified and noble as he takes his assignment to heart, often fighting back tears as he recognizes the respect with which Private Phelps is treated and as he comes to know more about the young man.  This is a touching movie and a good reminder of the dedication of the members of the armed forces and how we all need to respect them and their families for their sacrifices.  4 cans.
68.  Broken City* (2012) — I only watched this movie because I like Mark Wahlberg and his stoicism (and his body, but you don’t get to see him shirtless here).  He is Billy Taggert, a disgraced former policeman who is hired by the Mayor of NY (Russell Crowe) to tail the mayor’s wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) to see who she is having an affair with.  The task is too easy — which only means Taggert got the wrong guy.  And the wrong guy, the campaign manager for the Mayor’s opponent in the election in a few days, is in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Turns out, the whole exercise is a cover-up for a power play by the Mayor in a construction deal.  Crowe is my idea of a bad actor.  He mumbles, putting forth some vestige of an American accent that is unidentifiable and unintelligible, and his bad performance is surpassed only by his bad wig.  I just thank God that he didn’t sing, since he ruined “Les Miz” with his inferior crooning.  I kept thinking this story would get better, but I was wrong. 2 cans.
69.  Tootsie (1982) — Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is a pain in the ass.  A mostly unemployed actor, he is zealous about his craft.  The guy needs the right motivation and backstory to play a tomato, which is why his agent (played by Sydney Pollack, who directed the film) can’t get him work.  When Michael’s friend Sandy (Teri Garr) fails to get a part on a soap opera, Michael tries out for it, dressed as Dorothy Michaels, who may just be the most unattractive woman of all time.  The director (Dabney Coleman) can’t stand her, but her co-star, Julie (Jessica Lange, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress) builds a friendship with Dorothy that Dorothy, thinking like the Michael Dorsey that she really is, thinks is something more.  Like all cross-dressing comedies of stage and screen, comedy ensues.  Except here, Dorothy’s popularity grows as she makes her character into a strong woman who demands respect.  As Michael eventually comes to realize, he is a better person as a woman than he could ever be as a man.  This sweet and funny comedy is enhanced by the presence of Bill Murray as Michael’s roommate, whose droll sense of humor begins to fail as Michael decries Dorothy’s wardrobe and the things that make “her” look “hippy.”  Since Michael isn’t Dorothy, eventually the charade is bound to end, but how will his/her relationships fare?  Hoffman is manically good in the role, and Michael/Dorothy show us a few things about how to be better people.  Just not in Dorothy’s wardrobe.  4 cans.