Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Spring Awakenings

Phew!  I ALMOST walked out of Kohl’s with nothing purchased and Kohl’s Cash burning a hole in my pocket.  That would be like getting voted off Survivor while holding an Immunity Idol in my hand.  Close call.

Just curious:  Am I the only person who uses a tweezer to remove the residual lint from the screen in the back of the hair dryer?

One of the more annoying things I do to myself is to accidentally leave a tissue in the pocket of a sweatshirt, so when I do the laundry, the whole load is covered with little fragments of lint.  If only I had checked…

It would be so much more convenient if society used one standard of temperature.  Why do we need Fahrenheit and Celsius?  I’m confused enough about time zones!

Why are rest rooms called rest rooms?  Who would want to take a rest in a noisy, smelly, unsanitary place where the hand dryers sound like jet engines?  Maybe this practice goes back to when women were considered fragile and needed to rest, but today’s public ladies rooms are hardly conducive to resting.  I think they need a new name.  If you want to class them up, call them the “Ladies Lavatory” or the ladies room.  Trust me, we will know what that is for.

I have a new obsession: I am recording and watching episodes of “Hill Street Blues” and “NYPD Blues,” both Steven Bochco police dramas that aired nearly 20 years ago.  Two episodes each of these shows are broadcast on the “Heroes and Icons” network every day, and I faithfully watch them, often in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep anyway.  Hill and Renko, Sipowicz and Simone, Furillo and Davenport, and who can forget Mick Belker?  It is like having old friends come to visit.  So if my movie list looks a little sparse these days, consider how many more I could watch if I were not dedicating hours to these old classics.  Hey, let’s be careful out there!

Amazon’s Alexa has a new skill to help you remember things.  I would use it if I could remember how to access it.

I’m glad we are finally moving out of the cold weather season and into warmth again, which means sandals season is upon us.  But I confess that while sandals themselves are fine, I detest that “clacking” sound you hear as the bottom of the shoe hits my heel.  That is the price of warm weather, I guess.

If not for nail and hair salons and doctors’ offices, would there even be a magazine industry.  I see magazines sitting there as my nails dry at the salon, but I don’t dare open one or turn a page for fear of ruining my manicure!

I take my car to two different car washes.  One is strictly exterior and done with hoses in a parking lot.  The other one offers not only exterior/interior cleaning and sprucing up the tires (and vacuuming), but also some of the nicest greeting cards around.  Recently, I spent $34 getting my car washed and buying things.  I really can find ways to spend my money!

Don’t you think your car runs better when it has been washed?  I know mine does.  I guess it is like taking a shower.  You feel so good and refreshed afterwards.  The car must feel that way, too.

Why are we always surprised when the weather gets warm?  Sure, the timing may vary from year to year, but we all act like the change of seasons has never happened before.  I will agree that is strange to wear a winter coat on a Sunday and wear shorts four days later!

Here is a pet peeve:  All products which contain expiration dates should be clearly marked.  The dates are sometimes impossible to find or you need a translator to decipher the code!

Here’s another pet peeve:  All houses should be marked by easily readable numbers.  My house not only has a number right next to the garage, but there is also a reflective number on the mailbox at the end of the driveway, so you can identify my house in the dark.  This is so important in case of emergencies – or guests!

Thank God that no one can look at the little cloud above my head that is full of snarky comments, which happens when I am at an event and the speaker drones on FOREVA or during conversations I wish I wasn’t having with people I don’t want to talk to.  I only hope other people don’t have those same snarky thoughts about me!  (They don’t, do they?)

Do you ever have to buy paperclips?  I think I have been recycling the same paperclips for at least 20 years now.  I save the ones from documents I no longer need and reuse them.  So far, I have yet to run out of my stash.

Here is a job I wouldn’t want to have (any job, really…):  I would not want to be the poor soul who is stuck listening to those calls they tell you MAY be monitored.  You know, when you call the bank or Comcast or whomever for customer service.  Who would want to listed to those calls and grade the performance of the rep?  Or is the whole thing a ruse to make you think someone is paying attention?

Speaking of calls, those robocalls remain annoyingly confounding.  The number emulates a local number so you pick up, just in case it actually is someone you know whose number you don’t recognize, and you find it is someone trying to sell you a security system or give you a “free” vacation.  The caller sounds so friendly that you might not initially realize it is a recording.  The last one I got told me that time was running out on this particular offer, so I better hurry up and buy, subscribe or take some action.  OK, let the time run out so you WON’T call me again!  A live person called me recently about solar panels.  I told him to do himself a favor and take me off his list because I wasn’t buying solar panels for my new house.  His retort was, “Oh, so you don’t want to save money?”  The next time he calls, I am going to tell him that I am buying solar panels, but not from his company because I don’t like his approach to sales.  Or, that I just declared bankruptcy. 

Maybe the cultural phenomenon of book clubs is a direct effect of the cultural phenomenon that is Oprah Winfrey, who may have started the trend on her former TV show when she established “Oprah’s Book Club.”  Millions of people started reading again and gathering to discuss books.  Or not discussing the books, which also happens in book clubs – especially those where wine is involved.  I know of book clubs that are difficult to get in – you have to be invited – where the women don’t even attempt to discuss the book, which, to me, defeats the whole purpose of a book club.  Most of my friends enjoy reading books or listening to the audio version as they commute via bus or train or drive.  The public library has a whole collection of books specifically designated for book clubs and allows members to borrow 10 copies at a time for members to read and discuss.  There is even an official bag to transport them, and they come with questions to get the conversation going.  Some of us download books on our Kindles or via the library’s “cloud” application) for convenient and portable reading.  Many people I know enjoy recommending books for me to read so we can discuss them later.  My neighbors formed a book club last year, and we have met monthly ever since, with a break in December for the busy holiday season.  I find that most members read the books, but some – if they don’t like the choice – will stop reading and go to Book Club anyway.  Some members are really there to discuss the book, while others show up just to talk, to catch up with each other or to enjoy the snacks that are served.  Some people are in several book clubs, just for the joy or reading and having someone with whom they can talk about the book.  Some of us have trouble remembering which books we have read, so I’m now inserting the name of the book on my calendar when I mark the date for our gatherings.  It doesn’t matter, really.  One of my favorite things to do as a child was to go to the library with my mother.  She was a voracious reader (side note: The word “voracious” seems to always accompany the word “reader”) who knew all of the librarians at the Somerville Free Public Library.  She would recommend books for them to read, and somehow, she managed to read several books at the same time.  When I picture her bedroom, I see a stack of books on the nightstand that she was working her way through.  She was at the library so often that she gave gifts to the librarians each year at the holidays, and I think they would put aside books she wanted.  She would take me in the family car after dinner, when my father was home from work, and the librarians would let me into the children’s library downstairs even though it was closed in the evenings (just one of the benefits of being the daughter of the late, great Sylvia Gordon).  My quest to watch as many movies as I can during the year had diminished my interest in reading for a while, but by dropping magazine subscriptions and relying on Book Club or recommendations, I’m back in the game again.  Just don’t ask me the names of the books I have read.  Between lists of books and movies, it is hard to keep it all straight!  Happy reading, everyone.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Tina's April 2018 Movies

With a week away on vacation and an especially busy month otherwise, I'm amazed that I managed to see 10 movies, only one of which was a repeat for me.  Movies are rated on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna fish, with 5 being the top.  Those marked with an asterisk (*) are movies I had not seen previously.  Numbering picks up from previous months.
38.  Girls Trip* (2017) – This girls-just-wanna-have-fun romp is nasty, raunchy and hilarious.  The dialog makes “Bridesmaids” seem like “The Remains of the Day” in comparison.  A group of college buddies have drifted apart but still maintain that bond of friendship that women cherish, so they gather in New Orleans to have some big fun despite their different lives and careers.  Since this movie isn’t exactly plot-driven, I will spare you the details and just tell you that I always love Queen Latifah and I want to hang out with the outrageous Tiffany Haddish.  Regina Hall and Jada Pinkett Smith complete the ensemble.  Full disclosure: if swearing and sexual references are NOT your thing, you will think this movie is embarrassingly offensive and you should avoid it at all costs.  In truth, it isn’t good beyond shock value, but I did have more than a few laughs.  In the beginning of the movie, Haddish’s character gets fired from her job, and she doesn’t even understand that she has been let go.  That part alone – not at all raunchy – cracked me up.  This is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea.  2 cans.
39.  Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool* (2017) – Annette Bening plays real life movie star Gloria Grahame, who takes on a much younger lover/caretaker, Peter (Jamie Bell, years removed from the dancing kid in “Billy Elliott”), an aspiring actor who worships and adores her.  She is at the end of her career, frail and sick and refusing to treat her dying movie star condition.  Despite the age difference (she is easily old enough to be his mother), the two have a genuine connection, and she builds a relationship with both Peter and his supportive family.  Bening’s character reminded me of Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” all diaphanous and fragile and desperate for loving care despite wanting to dictate the terms of the relationship.  He feels obligated to protect her and genuinely cares for her.  3 cans.
40.  Novitiate* (2017) –If having an actual life and feelings for anyone in it other than God is NOT for you, stay away from the nunnery.  Here the strict Mother Superior (Melissa Leo) bristles against the loosening of regulations under the Vatican 2 rulings in the early 1960s.  She prefers her young nuns in training to maintain frequent silences, to walk on their knees around the chapel when they commit a transgression and to advance in their training so someday they can be worthy of being nuns.  This life is not for everyone, and although there are occasional glimpses of these young women displaying personalities, it is best for them to all look and act alike to carry on the traditions.  Mother Very Superior is determined to avoid any reformation of the church and anyone questioning her power.  This movie reminded me of the tough love training of “An Officer and a Gentleman,” except this was harder in many ways, and I’m not sure the MS loved the girls since here, only the love of God counts.  After the reforms on Vatican 2 were enacted, droves of women in training to be nuns left the church.  I can see why.  2 cans.
41.  Paterno* (2018) – This HBO docudrama is about the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual assault cases that took place in the area of Penn State over a period of several decades.  It covers just one week and how Penn State’s revered football coach, Joe Paterno (Al Pacino) slid from acclaimed coach to a man who protected a sexual predator in the eyes of the public.  All Paterno wants to do is coach, not deal with the walls closing in.  He underestimates the grand jury’s actions and the indictments that follow.  The story is uncovered by a young reporter, Sara Ganim (Riley Keough), whose dogged research of the cases eventually earned her a Pulitzer Prize.  This program focuses on the demise of the JoePa era, following a career that yielded 409 football victories.  What did Paterno know and when did he know it?  Was strictly following protocol and reporting the story of Sandusky in the shower that was told to him by PSU assistant coach Mike McQueary enough?  Did Paterno, a god-like figure at the university whose power at the university was vast and whose generosity in helping young men develop and get an education have a moral responsibility to the victims?  Of course he did, and no matter how befuddled he seems here (he doesn’t really understand the description of the shower incident reported to him), he glossed over it because Sandusky was known to have kids around him all the time.  Everyone knew of allegations about Sandusky, but no one alerted authorities.  When one of the victims did, the case was buried.  Pacino shows Paterno’s familiar shuffle, hunched shoulders and a good degree of confusion – though the coach is sharp enough to call football plays.  Moral obligations go unmet, and more victims of Sandusky result.  There is plenty of blame to go around here, and the exemplary life of an otherwise good man comes apart in a way he never could have imagined, losing his job as head coach after 46 years via a phone call from a member of the PSU Board even as the University President and other officials scramble to keep theirs.  If you see something, say something.  No question.  3½ cans.
42.  The Kennedy Dynasty* (2018) – CNN has broadcast some interesting documentaries in recent years, and this look at the dynastic Kennedys is one of the best.  We all know the story of Patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy and his wife Rose, his ill-fated sons (who include President John F. Kennedy and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, both assassinated) and more tragedy than you could possibly imagine.  There are deaths, botched operations, great success and huge challenges.  This multi-part documentary, benefitting from tons of available footage, shows the highs and lows of being a Kennedy or a Kennedy spouse, and it doesn’t gloss over the womanizing and health issues of JFK.  It is a fascinating study of generations of Kennedys, with real promise, hopes and disappointments.  4 cans, because I find this subject engrossing.
43.  My Cousin Rachel* (2017) – Philip Ashley (Sam Claflin) is the heir to the estate of his late cousin, who took him in when he was orphaned as a child.  Cousin Ambrose had married a captivating young woman, Rachel (Rachel Weisz), and shortly thereafter began suffering from various ailments.  When Philip goes to his cousin’s estate to sort things out, he meets the beautiful and mysterious widow – who has no legitimate claim on the wealthy man’s estate – and it is his turn to fall for her.  Does she feel the same way, or is she in it for the money, which Philip is about to inherit as he turns 25?  Soon strapping young Philip is also falling ill, too.  Coincidence?  Scheme?  Scandal?  This is no “My Cousin Vinny,” but there are plenty of legal issues and a love story to keep the tension high.  3½ cans.
44.  At All Costs* (2017) – The world of “amateur” basketball has long been criticized for taking advantage of the young (high school and younger) athletes.  This movie reveals the extreme pressure placed on high school students by the system and by the parents to secure a high rating and a college scholarships.  High school basketball has been supplanted in many cases by elite AAU teams who compete for players and the prestige of appearing in showcases run around the country by the shoe companies (Nike, Adidas and Under Armour).  The men who run those teams are competing for lucrative contracts from the shoe companies, courting young kids and their parents and pushing them to the limit.  This documentary follows Parker Jackson-Cartwright and his LaVarr Ball-like father, who pushes his son, determined to make the 5’8” high school junior into a superstar point guard.  He is obnoxious, overbearing and foul-mouthed.  It doesn’t matter that at age 16 Parker already is tired of the travel required (AAU concentrates on summer tournaments, but there are elite camps to attend and special training sessions and plenty of year-round basketball for the highly-rated prospects), practice sessions and injuries.  This is a JOB, folks, not just a game played in the driveway.  And other than acknowledging that the kid attends high school, there is never a mention of scholastic requirements.  A special committee chaired by Condoleezza Rice just last month released a report on the current state of men’s college basketball in the wake of reports of illegal payments, unfair recruiting and other issues with coaches, players, agents and shoe companies.  I know this system affords some kids a chance to attend college and get support from their AAU coaches that would otherwise be impossible, but at what cost?  3 basketballs.
45.  The Beach House* (2018) – In general, I avoid all of those treacly, clichéd Hallmark movies, but since this one was a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, I thought I would give it a try.  It was far from the kind of high quality that used to be associated with the Hall of Fame imprimatur, but, with an enormously attractive cast (Andie McDowell, Minka Kelly and Chad Michael Murray), it was easy on the eyes and no mental challenge was required.  Kelly’s Cara has moved away from her South Carolina roots to Chicago, barely staying in touch with her mother Lovie (McDowell) and staying away from former boyfriend Brett (Murray, who is too cute and NICE to ever dump).  She loses her bigshot advertising job and returns home without revealing the reason for her sudden visit.  Lovie has a secret of her own.  There is resentment between nearly every twosome, including Cara’s brother Parker and Cara, and secrets are not making things better.  And then there are turtles hatching on the beach, much to Lovie’s delight.  The scenes along the coast are beautiful, the cast is competent and at least it didn’t “star” some of the routine performers generally found in these Hallmark productions.  It was a soft, gentle change of pace for me, though I in no way consider it a cinematic triumph.  2½ cans.
46.  Kodachrome* (2018) – Ben (Ed Harris) is an irascible, annoying man who is dying.  He is a professional photographer whose last wish – a demand, really – is that his son Matt (Jason Sudekis) drive him to Kansas so he can have some long-held Kodachrome slide film developed in the last remaining Kodachrome-processing lab, one that is closing forever.  His nurse Zooey (Elizabeth Olson) is along for the ride as Matt, a failing music promoter, reluctantly agrees to drive the father he rarely sees.  It is a race against the clock: They need to get to the photo lab in Kansas before it closes or Ben succumbs to his cancer. This is not your typical road/buddy movie.  You can find it only on Netflix.  3½ cans.
47.  The Terminal (2004) – This movie offers further evidence about why you should never travel with Tom Hanks.  Here he plays Viktor Navorski, a man from a country in Eastern Europe who is stranded at a New York airport when his country revolts and he becomes a man without a country.  No valid passport = no entry into the US.  The airport security manager, played by Stanley Tucci, confines him to the International terminal, where Viktor, who speaks practically no English, is left to fend for himself among the kiosks, stores and food court.  He is stranded for months, dealing with US bureaucracy, making friends among the staff there, learning English by looking at books at Borders, getting a construction job at the airport and falling in love with a flight attendant (Catherine Zeta-Jones).  Hanks is resourceful and persistent in an engaging performance.   4 cans.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

All Over the Place

Does jumping to conclusions count as exercise?

Sometimes I think Marie Antoinette was talking to me when she declared, “Let them eat cake!”

Speaking of cake, can anyone explain who left that cake out in the rain in the song “MacArthur Park?”  Look, I wouldn’t want to pass up cake in any form, but a waterlogged one would never be acceptable.  What is that song about anyway? 

There was a very spirited conversation going on at the nail salon today between the owner, Kim, and one of the technicians.  I wish I knew what they were discussing, but since it was entirely in Korean, I didn’t have a clue.  I’m guessing they weren’t saying that my nails looked fabulous or that I was one of their favorite customers, but that would have been nice!

I could have a free dinner at a nice restaurant about once a week if I were willing to suffer through a seminar on retirement.  Really, I could GIVE a seminar on retirement, but I wouldn’t serve food.

Have you ever noticed that the word “egret” is only one letter different that “regret?”  Not that I would get them mixed up in a sentence, but just one of those quirky English language things.

Why is it that I always forget to put a new bar of soap in the shower until I am in the shower?  I know, I know, that is the most obvious time.

I am now using Informed Delivery, a service of the post office, to see what mail is delivered each day (I covered this last month).  The only problem is that the daily email I received showing me scans of the actual mail also tells me to let them know what is missing.  How would I know what is missing?  I don’t know what mail is coming.  If I get 8 birthday cards and figured I would get 10, should I tell the post office?  I’m not sure they thought that one through.

When my house phone rings now, I get 6 alert rings on my cell phone to let me know I have a call at home.  How this happened puzzles me.  I have Comcast phone service at the house but my cell phone is through Verizon and there are two different numbers with two different area codes.  I didn’t get an offer to enroll in this kind of service, and I didn’t link the 2 numbers together.  Now my home voice mail started not only being available for listening on my cell phone, but there is also visual voicemail, which I also didn’t order.  Maybe it is a trial offer and will go away.  These processes just seemed to start on their own.  Ironically, if I had seen them offered and signed up, they probably wouldn’t work!

Speaking of ringing phones, I have reached the point in life that when I hear a phone ring on TV I think it is actually my phone, just like my father did.

I must admit that when my printer randomly makes noise – as if it is about to print something I did not request – it freaks me out just a little bit.

Recently, I was on the phone in my office when I heard very loud music coming from the family room.  Apparently Alexa was craving Laura Nyro and just started randomly playing “Stoned Soul Picnic” without any outside suggestion (I wasn’t in the room and the TV was off).  The mystery was solved to some extent when I checked my Alexa history.  She decided on her own to “suggest” that Laura Nyro had some music I might like (and I did), so she played it.  I’m just glad she didn’t decide to “surprise” me at 3 AM.

I don't get the concept of Snapchat filters.  What’s so exciting/entertaining about putting funny ears, flowers or whiskers on your head?  I must be too old to appreciate this craze.

Do you forget the names of the books you read?  I’m in a book club in my community, and thankfully, someone is now keeping a list.  I’ll go one step further and include the name of the book on my calendar with the meeting, so I know when we read each book.  That’s what started my movie blog – I couldn’t remember all the movies I had seen so I started writing them down with a synopsis of the plot not only for myself, but for people who asked me for movie recommendations.  Please don’t expect the same treatment for books!

I am nothing if not consistent in my typing errors.  I always seem to make typos on the words “business,” and “Chicago,” for example, and the errors are always the same – Bsuiness and Chciago.  Every time.

Just wondering: Why DID Billy Joe MacAllister jump off the Tallahatchie Bridge?

Remember when you were a kid and you went somewhere with your family and your mother always had hard candy to suck on?  And tissues, which sometimes stuck to the hard candies.  I miss those hard candies. And Mom.  I miss her more than the hard candies.

Did you know that Dominos offers pizza insurance?  That way, if you have an accident and ruin your pizza before you get it home, Dominos will give you a new pizza.  I wonder if you have to call a claims adjuster or take pictures of the pizza to put in your claim.

It was probably not a good idea to attend my photography club meeting while suffering from jetlag, particularly since the meeting mostly takes place in a darkened room!

And speaking of jetlag, the reason for mine is that I recently went on a river cruise to Holland and Belgium.  This was my first river cruise after having taken a number of cruises on much larger ships, and I would highly recommend it.  I went with two friends on the Ama Waterways line, on a brand new ship that was comfortable, very clean and well thought out.  We had an interesting itinerary and great tour guides.  I learned that the entire area relies on careful management of water – hence locks on the rivers/canals and plenty of reclaimed land where new structures exist in places where canals once were located. You have to be a real expert navigator to get a boat through a luck with only 4 inches clearance on each side!  You take your life in your hands in Amsterdam, where the entire city Amsterdam is filled with people riding bikes for transportation (gas is pricey and traffic is everywhere).  You have to carefully look both ways before crossing a street, but the bikes seems to peacefully coexist with buses, cars and trams.  And there are plenty of canals for those who prefer small boats to get around.  Good chocolate is easily found (yum), along with Belgian waffles (which are nothing like those found at IHOP here) and, since we intentionally went during tulip season, we saw gorgeous fields of tulips that made for colorful and impressive pictures.  We went to a tulip processing farm, where the flowers are stripped and each bulb is x-rayed for the record because the real money is in creating and selling bulbs, especially new varieties.  The trip home included a 10-hour delay because of malfunctioning toilets on our plane from Amsterdam, which was diverted to London for repair.  The plumbers were unable to “rectify” the situation, which meant we had to rebook onto another flight after sitting on the tarmac at Heathrow for three hours.  I probably don’t even have to tell you the flights were on United Airlines, which has a justifiably bad reputation all around, although they were helpful and polite (and the passengers were cooperative) during the ordeal.  The happy ending was that we made it home that day, tired and cranky but with lots of memories of a great week. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Tina's March 2018 Movies

This month's movies include some new, some old, and one that you should never waste time seeing.  Movies are rated on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna fish, with 5 being the top.  Those marked with an asterisk (*) are movies I had not seen previously.  Numbering picks up from previous months.

24.  Game Night* (2018) – Jason Bateman and Rachel MacAdams are an attractive young couple obsessed with playing games of all types.  Then Bateman’s brother (Kyle Chandler) shows up with an different idea for a fun evening, and things go terribly awry.  Or do they?  The plot is funny despite the lack of believability, and Bateman is his usual appealing self.  3½ cans.
25.  Black Panther* (2018) – Despite my reluctance to embrace the action/fantasy genre, I have to admit that this Marvel production captured my attention.  For once, an action movie focuses on people of color and the power of women (I liked last year’s Wonder Woman for its emphasis on the power of women, too).  Great special effects and a terrific cast (Chaswick Bozeman, Michael B. Jordan, and Lupita Nyongo, who is so outrageously beautiful, among others).  The story is not as important as the message it sends, and the audiences and box office appeal prove that there is an audience for kickass women and warrior men of color.  4 cans.
26.  A Place in the Sun (1951) – George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) is a poor man with a wealthy family, the son of impoverished evangelists and the nephew of a powerful industrialist.  His life is clearly not charmed, but he has aspirations when he takes a job on the lowest rung of the Eastman ladder in hopes of moving up.  He begins a relationship with a co-worker (Shelley Winters), but sets his sites considerably higher, on the beautiful, vivacious and wealthy young woman, Angela Vickers (a stunning Elizabeth Taylor), who improbably falls for the poor, dreamy, quiet young man.  This story of class differences is based on the Theodore Dreiser novel “An American Tragedy,” a more apt title for the misfortune that ensues.  The novel tells a broader tale and sets up the stunning conundrum that is portrayed in the movie with equal doubt as to intent.  No more spoilers: Just read the book or watch the movie. Both are terrific, if dated.  4 cans.
27.  Little Man Tate* (1991) – Jodie Foster directed this movie about a working class single mother (Foster) and her genius 7-year old son, Fred (Adam Hann-Byrd).  Fred may be brilliant, but what he really wants is just someone with whom to eat lunch.  An accomplished pianist and amazing mathematician, Fred is a lonely little boy.  Dede, his mother, is extremely down-to-earth, and she realizes that she cannot foster his academic career, so she allows him to be cared for by Jane (Dianne Weist), a teacher of gifted children, who takes Fred to live with her while attending college classes.  Aside from a brief encounter and learning to play pool with a fellow college student (Harry Connick, Jr.), Fred is left by himself, teased and overlooked by everyone.  It is the adults here who need to be educated so they can figure out what is best for poor Fred.  It doesn’t take a genius to see that the quiet kid is lonely and needs friends.  3½ cans.
28.  About a Boy (2002) – Hugh Grant is Will, a confirmed bachelor who lives off royalties from an annoying Christmas song penned by his father.  When 12-year old Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) expectantly enters his life, everything changes, as the irresponsible Will suddenly has to assist young Marcus and his depressed mother (Toni Collette).  But aside from buying good sneakers and living in a cool bachelor pad, Will – who neither wants nor enjoys helping other people – is not the least bit qualified to help.  Grant is great at self-deprecating humor.  Here, his impeccable timing and innate charm come in handy.  I always enjoy this movie.  4 cans.
29.  The Assassination of Gianni Versace* (2018) – In the spirit of last year’s dramatization of the O.J. Simpson case, this multi-part TV docudrama tackles the subject of the title.  Darren Criss plays assassin Andrew Cunanan, whose life is thoroughly explored with flashbacks.  Andrew is brought up being told he is special by a father who cheats and lies, so it is no surprise that Andrew himself becomes adept at the same things.  Mastering multiple identities, he preys on rich, older men looking for a handsome young man with taste for the finer things in life.  He imagines himself in a relationship with fashion designer Gianni Versace but ends up shooting him down at the entrance to his Miami villa and simply walking away with his ability to retreat into a crowd.  I found this program tediously long – at least a few episodes longer than necessary – and very violent.  But Andrew, who comes across as charming as he is psychopathic, is confounding to watch.  He’s a sociopath with no qualms about killing people.  He wants and believes he deserves the very best things and gets other people to support him.  In the end, as the authorities close in on him a week after Versace’s death (still in Miami), he shoots himself.  3½ cans, but give Criss a 4.
30.   Everything, Everything* (2017) – For her entire 18 years, Maddy (Amandla Stenberg) has lived her life indoors.  Suffering from a rare illness called SCID (Severly Compromised Immuno Deficiency), she can become fatally ill just by coming into contact with someone.  Her doctor mother (Anika Nonni Rose) keeps her in an airlocked (but gorgeous!) home, and only she and the trusted nurse can have regular contact with the beautiful young woman.  Then adorable teenager Olly (Nick Robinson) moves in next door, and the two develop a texting relationship.  She is like Rapunzel, locked up in her tower, and the two young people get to know each other at a distance but want more.  Can she risk EVERYTHING to have a relationship with the boy next door?  This movie reminded me of “The Fault in Our Stars,” another story of sick kids who yearn to be free and normal.  The main characters are just a little too perfect, the families and homes just a little contrived, but the story has a lot of heart.  3½ cans.
31.  Love, Simon* (2018) – I had never heard of Nick Robinson until today, and now I have seen him in two movies.  Here Nick is Simon, an adorable and extremely normal gay teenager who is afraid to come out to his family and friends.  When he discovers that a classmate of his is also gay, he and the mysterious young man begin to exchange heartfelt emails without knowing each other’s identities.  He is threatened with blackmail by another classmate, and Simon has to figure out who is potential mate is without giving away his own secret.  Robinson is extremely likeable in this part of a normal kid with a great family (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhmel are his parents), good friends and a desire for love.  3½ cans.
32.  Masquerade (1988) – Rob Lowe plays Tim, a handsome, young yacht skipper who is racing a boat for a rich citizen of the Hamptons when he meets the beautiful Olivia (Meg Tilly), a shy, sheltered, orphaned heiress of a very wealthy family.  Competing for her millions is her evil stepfather.  Tim falls in love with Olivia and she with him, although there are undertones immediately that something is just not right.  The settings are gorgeous, and so is Lowe, in this suspenseful, underrated drama.  3½ cans.
33.  Snatched* (2017) – Sometimes you have to watch something that is so bad, so unfunny and so totally inept just so you can appreciate really good movies – and almost every movie I can think of is better than this one.  It wastes the iconic Goldie Hawn in a role as a mother to an adult (???) daughter, a woman who would rather clean the kitty litter than go out and have fun.  But when her desperate daughter Emily (Amy Shumer) finds herself with a non-refundable ticket to Ecuador and no traveling companion, Mom agrees to come along.  Not surprisingly, things go horribly wrong, as the two women are kidnapped by local bad guys and have to fight and run for their lives.  Back home, Emily’s ne’er-do-well brother tries to talk the State Department into rescuing them.  I’ll go ahead and ruin it for you and let you know that they survive as long as you promise never to watch this train wreck (which is the name of another bad Shumer movie).  I don’t find Shumer’s smarmy, audacious humor funny; she lands between snarky and disgusting on the comedic scale.  Despite appearances by Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusak (whose character is unable to speak, which is probably just as well), there is nothing worth seeing in this film.  And that goes for Hawn’s drastically altered face, where extensive plastic surgery makes her nearly unrecognizable and unable to move her lips.  Our scale here is 1-5, but this movie is truly off the charts.  0 cans.  See what I do for you people?  You’re welcome.
34.  Overboard* (1987) – With the stench of “Snatched” still lingering here, I decided to clear the air with an actual comedy from Goldie Hawn, and since I recently watched “Private Benjamin,” I figured this one would have to do.  It is a bit too madcap, as Hawn plays Joanna, a haughty woman who lives the rich life with her husband (Edward Hermann), until she suddenly gets thrown overboard from their enormous yacht.  She is rescued but has no identification and is suffering from amnesia.  Her hubby is not all that keen on having her home again, so he leaves her in the hospital.  When Dean Proffitt (Kurt Russell) sees her on the news, he realizes she has no idea who she is and he decides to seek revenge for the way she treated him when he did some work for her on the yacht.  He comes forth, claims she is his wife, takes her home and puts her in charge of “their” 4 rowdy boys.  She still sounds as if she comes from money and she has no idea how to even turn on the stove, no less cook, but this new life of squalor isn’t completely repulsive to the poor little rich woman.  There is chemistry between Hawn and Russell, and, playing a rich bitch or a bewildered wife and mother, Hawn has plenty great comedy chops.  Though the ending is inevitable and the plot requires suspension of reality, this comedy is actually funny and takes advantage of Hawn’s comedic gifts.  That was a major step up from “Snatched.”  Shudder… 3 cans.
35.  Gran Torino (2008) – Clint Eastwood (who also directed and wrote the title song) is Walt, an ornery bigot with a thick skull and a kind heart who lives next door to a Hmong family.  When the neighbor’s son Thao (Bee Vang) tries to steal his beloved Gran Torino classic car as a gang initiation prank, he develops an unlikely friendship with the young man, whom he takes under his wing.  The cultural differences between them initially seem like deal breakers, but Thao’s very chill sister invites Walt over for Vietnamese barbecue and the family manages (despite language differences) to win his heart.  But Thao and his family are terrorized by their thuggish cousins who are involved in a gang, and tensions escalate.  You would think Walt is too set in his ways to ever change, but you would be wrong.  This is a very moving and unexpected film that is much more than I would have expected from the taciturn Eastwood.  4 cans.
36.  Our Souls at Night* (2017) – If you ever think that you are too old for romance, watch this sweet film.  Robert Redford reteams with Jane Fonda to play widowed neighbors who get to know each other much better when Addie makes Louis an unexpected proposition:  She is lonely and craves having a man in her bed.  Not for sex, mind you, but just for physical closeness.  Louis doesn’t say much – Addie takes the lead – but each little thing he does or how he moves says much about his character.  He’s afraid they will be caught and the neighbors will talk.  She could not care less.  When she has to take in her 7-year old grandson Jamie (the delightful Ian Armitage) temporarily, Louis is there to teach the sheltered young boy how to throw a ball and play with something other than video games on his phone.  When we say this film is intended for mature audiences, it is not because of sex and smut but rather directed to an audience that is chronologically advanced but not too old to understand intimacy.  Heartwarming and worthy of 3½ cans.
37.  The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling* (2018) – Drama is easy; comedy is hard.  That old show business adage is on ample display in Judd Apatow’s loving but frank documentary about his dear friend and mentor, the late comedian Garry Shandling.  Shandling started as a writer, penning jokes for stand-up comedians and then for TV shows, but he had an urge to perform.  Once he hit it big for Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show,” his goal was to host the classic late-night program, and he eventually became a permanent guest host.  But by then he was involved in his innovative comedy program, aptly called “The Garry Shandling Show,” so he gave up “Tonight.”  Shandling was a neurotic, introspective, unsatisfied, articulate and clever guy, but despite his success, he just could not seem to achieve peace and happiness.  He skewered the talk show genre with his landmark “Larry Sanders” show, but eventually gave that up, too. Throughout the film, Apatow relies on snippets from Shandling’s extensive diaries to gain insight into his state of mind.  The result is an engrossing look at a genuinely funny guy with doubts and dreams whose career must be considered accomplished by the public even as Shandling himself professes misgivings about his life and work.  4 cans.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Winter Words of Wisdom

Here is what IRONY is – When you have to contact your BFF to ask whether you both read a book, and the name of the book is “What Alice Forgot.” 

As I was watching “Golden Girls” this morning, it dawned on me that every other commercial was about stomach/bowel/digestive issues.  Boy, have they got the right demographic!

I just had a tooth extracted – my first since my baby teeth fell out – and now I know two things:  First, my tongue cannot stop itself from finding the gap where the now-missing tooth was located.  And second, I am a right-sided chewer.  I wonder if this is related to the fact that I am right-handed.  In any case, chewing exclusively on my left side until the bone graft takes and an implant/crown can be completed will be interesting.  Maybe being able to chew on just one side will help cut down on my food intake?  Somehow, I think my body will adjust, but that would be a good side benefit.

Speaking of which, I wonder why wisdom teeth are called wisdom teeth. (Yes, I looked it up on Google.  Your turn.)

Zebras are the coolest animals.  They get to prance around in stripes all of the time.  It probably helps encourage them to stay slim, since we all know you shouldn’t wear stripes if you are overweight.

Someone needs to devise a better way of searching for programs on Netflix and Amazon Prime.  That tiny keyboard that comes up on the huge TV screen in my family room is excruciating to work.  You use the arrow to go all around the screen, entering one letter at a time.  In contrast, my Comcast remote allows me to verbally enter the service or information I need and search for programs on broadcast TV, but going into the streaming services eliminates that option.  Can someone PLEASE improve on this ancient search process?

On a day when about 10 inches of snow was predicted, we also experienced thunder, otherwise known as a “Thundersnow.”

I recently passed a pre-school with the name “Crème de le Crème,” which translates into “Best of the Best.”  What are all the kids who don’t go to the school called?  The Losers?  Worst of the Worst?  And how about the pressure you place on a pre-school kid by sending him/her to a place deemed the very best?  What if they aren’t worthy?  And I thought the “Genius Bar” at the Apple Store was a poor name.

Under the category “There’s an app for that,” you can actually download an app on your phone called “Run and Pee.”  If you ever need to go to the bathroom at the movies and don’t want to miss the good part, this app will let you know before the movie starts  when the three best times to take care of business are and then will buzz you when it’s time to “go.”  And just so you don’t miss anything, the app offers a plot summary of what was happening during your time away so you can catch up.  The database is updated weekly, so you can check out the plot (with obvious spoilers if you read the synopsis of what you might miss, I assume) and decide if this movie is right for you.  Well, if you gotta go, you gotta go.  And as the app says, it was created “Because there’s no pause button at the movies.” 

There has been a lot of complaining of late in my community that mail is not being delivered in a timely way.  Some people get their neighbors’ mail and others report finding their mail out on the lawn.  Someone recommended that we sign up for what is called “Informed Delivery,” where the post office sends you an email each day with images of the mail to be delivered.  Now I know if it is worth a trip to the mailbox to pick up the mail.  This is a great service when I’m traveling.  It is free, so go to the USPS website and sign up.

I need to face the reality that I will NEVER be able to get all of the crumbs out of the toaster.  There will always be some that cling to their heated prison, where they will emit that burning smell just to get on my nerves, knowing I won’t be able to release them no matter how much I shake the toaster.  This should be my biggest problem.

My car navigation system and I have a mostly-amicable relationship, with her tolerating the fact that I don’t always follow her advice, and with me trying to understand her sometimes strange directions.  Example:  I get to an intersection and she tells me to turn right, then make a left, and then make another left.  If I do that, I will be exactly where I would have been if I had gone straight in the first place.  OK, I can handle that when I know the area and can ignore her suggestions, but when I am in unfamiliar territory, I can’t help but wonder if she is, quite literally, giving me the run-around.  And then she tells me to “prepare to turn right in a quarter mile.”  I figure that means “get out of the left lane if that’s where you are,” so I’ll do that.  But she knows NOTHING about the Easy Pass lanes and always tries to get me to stay to the right at the toll booths.  And finally, she will say to “stay right” sometimes when, in my view, she should say “make a right” instead.  So, we are still on speaking terms, and I am grateful for the assistance, but she could certainly improve!

Do you ever arrive somewhere and don’t know how you got there because you don’t even remember making that left turn?  We get so accustomed to driving to work or home or other places we frequent that we don’t recall driving there. It’s not just ME, right?

Is it bad that I had to add salt to my otherwise tasteless can of Manischewitz reduced sodium matzoh ball soup?  I guess it kind of defeats the purpose of reduced sodium.

Back in the olden days, when I lived in the small town of Somerville, we went to stores where people who worked there knew us, our names, our families and made us feel at home.  Now I have to scan my own groceries and bag everything and next I’m afraid they are going to make me slice my own meat at the deli counter.  We order online, go to big box stores and feel anonymous.  That’s why I still love going to a small store or a shop where they help me – gladly.  The guy in the UPS store and I are on a first-name basis.  My name is in his computer (I don’t favor EVERYTHING “old school”), and he can make a label for my package quickly and efficiently.  He even knows who gets some of my packages, because their names are in the computer, too.  I also frequent the “Bulbs & Batteries” store, where I can ask for any kind of bulb without standing in the Lighting Department at Lowe’s for an hour reading every package.  It’s nice to have some remnants of the good old days still around today.

Remember when LifeSavers came in cherry, lemon, lime, orange and pineapple?  Most people I know went immediately for the cherry, but give me the lime.  I’d take the lemon next, then the cherry.  I didn’t like the pineapple but could put up with the orange.  I wish they still offered those original flavors instead of today’s cherry, raspberry, watermelon (which looks deceivingly like my lime favorite) orange and pineapple.  I wish they would bring back the original lineup!

Here’s the good thing about living alone (and there are MANY) – the house stays neat.  Here’s the bad thing about living alone – if the house ISN’T neat, it’s MY FAULT.  Who left the cabinet doors open?  Who left the phone off the charger?  Whose shoes are those in the hallway?  Guilty on all counts.  I generally hold myself to a high standard, so when slippage occurs, it is time to sit down and have a harsh discussion with myself so I’ll do better next time!

High heels – I don’t get them and never will.  Why would I want to jam my foot into a shoe with a very thin heel that throws off my balance (not a good thing for a top-heavy girl) and pray that the heel doesn’t break or that I go face first onto the floor?  Give me age-appropriate flats any time.  I know I’ll get pushback on this one!

And speaking of shoes, if you ever find me in a shoe store sniffing the goods, it isn’t some kinky thing.  My father sold shoes for a living, mostly women’s shoes – or, as I loved to tell people, “My father’s in women’s shoes.”  On days when the store had a big sale, he would come home smelling like leather.  He bore that scent long before English Leather was invented.  It wasn’t until I was in my 30s, after his death, that I had to go to an actual shoe store to buy shoes.  Prior to that, he would simply bring home multiple pairs from the store, I’d try them on, and he’d return the ones I didn’t like or that didn’t fit and I’d keep the rest.  So if you ever see me sniffing the shoes, I’m actually having a moment with dear old Lester Gordon.

And finally on the subject of shoes, can someone explain why my triple-knotted sneakers can still manage to untie themselves?  I await your reply.

Why is it that we can give in, give up or give back, but we can’t give down?

Is there anything more boring than waiting in the nail salon for your nails to dry?  I can’t pick up a magazine or check my email, and I can’t just sit and relax because the dryer and seat don’t lend themselves to any degree of comfort.  So I sit, staring at my surroundings (which, in at least one salon I frequent, includes a TV permanently tuned to HGTV), thinking of all of the things I SHOULD be doing and hoping that I don’t jump ship too soon and ruin my manicure.

Why is itching so contagious?  I start out scratching my back with my handy-dandy extendable backscratcher (which looks like a miniature garden hoe), and the itch spreads up and down and side to side.  I’m working that backscratcher like a dog chasing its tail, trying to get some relief.  I have a long device that I used to apply cream on my back, but it is broken and I can’t reload the cream.  So, until I find and order a new one, I’ll just keep scratching!

It is mid-March and there may be more snow in our future.  I’m about done with this weather.  Enough snow!