Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fifty Shades of Beige

I have decided I would rather be tortured than pick out paint colors.  Actually, those two things are the same. 

After 2 years in my new house, I have FINALLY gotten around to having the painter (whose mother lives down my street and who has painted most of the neighbors’ houses here) replace the builder grade Sherwin Williams “Hide the Flaws” (or whatever shade of off-white that is) with colors that better match my décor.  But who knew this task would be so daunting?

In my last house, I selected “Hillsborough Beige” for my master bedroom.  It seemed – from the tiny swatch – to match the furniture and the drapes, and, besides, I knew I would remember the name (since I was living in Hillsborough).  I hated it.  Too much mauve.  Did I get it repainted?  Nah, I lived with it.  Just like I lived with the yellow walls of the dining room and living room in that house, rooms I rarely entered.  I used to keep a laundry rack in the dining room because NO ONE ever went in there and you couldn’t see the room from the kitchen.  I guess I knew I wouldn’t be living in that house forever, because I was content (actually, just too plain lazy) to not put much work into the place beyond repairs and upkeep.  The pool alone “drained” my time and resources there. 

But this house is different.  I have never believed in painting BEFORE you move into a house.  As I predicted, I have changed the furniture, the rug and my mind (about a million times) since I moved in so my colors have to be selected accordingly.  But how?  I know I want a shade of beige, but which one?  One beige is too green, another too mauve.  Is this one too grayish, and is that one too gold?  That Benjamin Moore color deck offers way too many choices!

So I have done the thing that I see on all those HGTV shows I watch.  I am now the owner of 10 pints of paint, seven of which are varying shades of beige, and all represented by painted squares positioned all over the house.  Does Yosemite Sand (cute and memorable name) look right with the bedroom drapes?  Does Boardwalk match the new, coppery-brownish vessel sink?  Will Putnam Ivory have enough contrast with the stone going up around my fireplace, stretching 18 feet high?  Is it a good combination with Decatur Bluff if one is on the bottom under a chair rail and one on top?

Does Everlasting look too dull?  Does Sierra Hills look too bold?  You can ask yourself all of those questions by touring my house, where each painted sample has a color coded sticky note so I will remember which color is which.  The very patient woman in the paint store (who, seeing my dilemma, offered her services as a color consultant; if I were her, I’d run for the hills, and I don’t mean the Sierra Hills) steered me away from some potential candidates that didn’t seem quite right (this without her actually having seen the house).  Instead, my personal color consultant, my neighbor Donna, is providing much-needed guidance.  Our only issue is that she sees colors I don’t see.  “Do you see the gold in your granite?” she asks.  Gold?  Where?  I think. 

I knew I wanted a distinctly UN-beige shade on an accent wall, and I have been lusting after a deep blue, which is a popular color right now.  But most of the blues seemed too dark, or too gray, or too teal, until Donna and I walked into the local “Hand & Stone” massage place recently.  One whole wall was painted the perfect blue.  Of course, no one at the desk had a clue about the blue – why would they? – but we both agreed THIS WAS THE COLOR!  So after our massages, we ran to the local paint store, picked up a bunch of those paint chip strips, and headed back to Hand & Stone, where we told the folks at the desk not to mind us as we diligently matched them up to the wall – a large, living sample of the perfect blue (Benjamin Moore Van Deusen). Just to be on the safe side, I bought a pint of that, too, and up it went on the proposed accent wall, to full approval of Donna and me.  However, the second accent wall – in the family room – did not fare as well, since the room is darker and the blue looked, well, dark.  So there I am back to pondering the perfect beige, one that won’t make my huge sectional sofa (the one with not one, not two, but three power recliners) disappear. 

So back I went to the paint store, where the folks dutifully concocted the perfect small batch of my requested colors and put them on that milkshake machine to shake them to death.  Not that shaking helped me, since it took me a few days to even open the samples of Van Deusen Blue and Sierra Hills beige.

As a side note, who dreams up these names?  I mean, that’s an actual job, right?  Someone had to apply to be the “namer” of the paint colors.  Can you imagine letting your family know this is what you do for a living?  I mean, it’s an honorable profession, being a color expert who can marry a shade to a suitable name, but you have to admit, it seems like a profession to which few people would aspire – but what do I know?

I invaded my basement collection of leftover painting equipment, consisting of a bunch of small rollers, foam rubber brushes and plenty of take-out containers to serve as paint trays, my old shower curtain as the drop cloth of choice, stirrers and the cardboard box tops I always keep on hand for just such occasions.  I probably have as much stuff as the painters have, but I don’t move furniture and no amount of potential savings would prompt me to get up on a ladder and paint walls that run 18 feet high.  My painting these days is confined to a plethora of squares all over the house.

Given the expense of this undertaking and the amount of time and effort it will take, I really want to get it right.  But I feel myself getting bogged down in beige, which, knowing me, means I will settle.  I’ll lose my nerve and pick something that works but that I might not love.  Does it really matter?  After a while, no one notices it anyway.

All of this reminds me of the classic Cary Grant movie, “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House,” where the lady of the house is pretty sure she know what she wants, as she conveys her color preferences to the painter:

“Muriel Blandings:  “I want it to be a soft green, not as blue-green as a robin’s egg, but not as yellow-green as daffodil buds. Now, the only sample I could get is a little too yellow, but don’t let whoever does it go to the other extreme and get it too blue. It should just be a sort of grayish-yellow-green. Now, the dining room. I’d like yellow. Not just yellow; a very gay yellow. Something bright and sunshine-y. I tell you, Mr. PeDelford, if you’ll send one of your men to the grocer for a pound of their best butter, and match that exactly, you can’t go wrong! Now, this is the paper we’re going to use in the hall. It’s flowered, but I don’t want the ceiling to match any of the colors of the flowers. There’s some little dots in the background, and it’s these dots I want you to match. Not the little greenish dot near the hollyhock leaf, but the little bluish dot between the rosebud and the delphinium blossom. Is that clear? Now the kitchen is to be white. Not a cold, antiseptic hospital white. A little warmer, but still, not to suggest any other color but white. Now for the powder room – in here – I want you to match this thread, and don’t lose it. It’s the only spool I have and I had an awful time finding it! As you can see, it’s practically an apple red. Somewhere between a healthy winesap and an unripened Jonathan.”

Mr. PeDelford: “You got that Charlie?”


Charlie the Painter: “Red, green, blue, yellow, white.”


So, in the end, much of my house will be beige.  Just do me a favor and tell me you love it.

Footnote – The painting as well as the installation of travertine stone around my fireplace (stretching 18 feet high) – is now done.  Nearly done, since I am still waiting for the perfect mantle and for the hearth stone to be laid down.  If I had hand grips, that could be a rock-climbing wall! 

The painters I used were phenomenal, and they reminded me why it is better to hire pros than to DIY.  I used to sponge paint (which is now so passé), but that was a goof-proof technique.  You pick some colors and sponge paint on the wall.  These guys painted without taping off nearly anywhere.  They did the baseboard trim without a drop cloth.  I, on the other hand, dripped paint on the trim with my very first sample! 

I made a few last-minute substitutions on colors.  I fell in love with “Simple Pleasures,” a color I selected for an accent wall in the office and made the painters, who had already done one coat of “Oakwood Manor” on the other three walls, paint the whole room and one more wall in the Simple Pleasure shade of beige.  I now have a typed chart (thank you, neighbor Donna) listing each room, the name of the color and its Benjamin Moore color code for future reference.

I didn’t quite meet the 50 shades that title this month’s entry, but I haven’t had the upstairs of the house painted this time around.  So I may get there yet!


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Tina's September 2017 Movies

This was not a stellar month for movies. I watched 11 of them, and the ones I had not seen previously are marked with an asterisk*.  All movies are rated on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna fish, with 5 being the top.  Numbering picks up from previous months.  
98.  Nightcrawler* (2014) – An emaciated Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou, a man living by his wits, not averse to theft or any other means to survive.  When he witnesses an accident, he notices a phalanx of the news people who descend on the scene to shoot video and he is fascinated by their ability to get up close to the blood and gore and sell their footage.  A fast talker (who sounds like he has attended one too many business seminars), he gets himself some video equipment and starts listening to a police scanner so he can arrive early on the scene of grisly accidents and crimes and capture footage worthy of the ratings-starved local news, a lucrative way to make money.  But that’s not enough.  Instead of merely recording what he sees, he ventures out at night, even initiating action to make a grittier piece to sell at a higher price, ignoring the opportunity to make a 911 call to help the victims in favor of recording them in their dying moments.  Gyllenhaal plays Lou as fast and loose, desperate, slimy and a true opportunist, in an excellent performance.  Rene Russo is the woman who buys his news footage – and more.  The only lighthearted part of this movie is Lou’s relationship with the “intern” he hires, Rick (Riz Ahmed), whom he promises to pay once he completes the “internship” that gets Lou his services for free.  There is plenty of tension and suspense to go with shootings, blood and gore.  3½ cans.
99.  Miracles from Heaven* (2016) – Jennifer Garner plays Christy Beam, the mother of a terminally ill 10-year old, Anna (Kylie Rogers) with a rare intestinal illness that at first defies the doctors.  She can’t get an appointment with the specialist in Boston but flies there from Texas anyway, hoping to get him to diagnose and treat her daughter.  Of course, this movie being about miracles, he does.  Queen Latifah got a day’s work on the set playing a waitress who befriends the mother-daughter and shows them around her hometown (my favorite line in the movie is when she shows them tony Beacon Hill and says that’s where her boyfriend, Tom Brady, lives).  Garner’s part requires constant consternation, the family is going broke, the father (Martin Henderson) is left to care for Anna’s two sisters, and despite the family’s being active in the local church, there is nary a fundraiser or contribution provided for them.  And then comes the miracle, which I won’t spoil.  This treacly tale is actually true, so if you believe in miracles, feel free to watch for yourself.  The real miracle here is that I watched this movie to the end – despite falling asleep three times and having to rewind it to see where I left off!  2 cans.
100.  Mean Girls (2004) – Before Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams and Amanda Seyfried hit it big with other projects, they teamed to torture each other in this movie about the bullying ways of teenaged girls.  Lohan is Cady, a former homeschooled student entering high school after living in South Africa, and what she doesn’t know about her classmates is dangerous.  McAdams is Regina, the ringleader of “The Plastics,” the popular, unapproachable girl who thinks nothing of randomly having sex with guys while dating Aaron, the BMOC (Jonathan Bennett).  Quickly, good girl and mathlete Cady is caught up in the power struggle, going after Mr. Popularity while dumbing down her math prowess.  This movie, adapted by the clever and acerbic Tina Fey from a book, is a primer for all things teenagers do that you wish they wouldn’t.  It is an indictment of white privilege, of spoiling your kids (see Amy Pohler’s part) and how NOT to behave – in school and life.  If you can stand being part of this world for 90 minutes or so, it is a good lesson, but definitely not within everyone’s tolerance level.  It just isn’t so fetch.  3 cans.
101.  Staying Alive (1993) – Tony Manero (John Travolta, who never looked better) still has that strut, that swagger, years after leaving Brooklyn to hit Manhattan and seek a life as a dancer on Broadway (in what looks like a show sure to close on opening night).  Tony vacillates between his steady girl friend Jackie (Cynthia Rhodes) and the lead in the show, Laura (Fionula Hughes), a haughty, rich star who toys with his emotions and psyche.  Tony works hard for the money and displays much more charm here than when he was hanging with the boys from Brooklyn in “Saturday Night Fever,” where he ruled the disco dance floor.  Again, his determination to make it is admirable, even if he looks a little lost among real dancers.  Will he get the part, the lead, the girl?  Well, he’s still staying alive.  It amazes me that this movie was directed by Sylvester Stallone, who knows more about the underdog coming out on top than hoofing in a Broadway musical.   3 cans.
102.  Top Gun (186) – Once upon a time, watching Tom Cruise zoom around on a motorcycle and fly jet fighters thrilled me.  Now, after jumping on Oprah’s couch and espousing Scientology, he just doesn’t have the same effect on me.  Still, watching him as “Maverick,” a naval pilot at Top Gun School, flying missions with his buddy Goose (Anthony Edwards, married to Meg Ryan in a bit part), playing volleyball on the beach and romancing instructor Charlie (Kelly McGillis) for the first time in a very long time managed to put a smile on my face.  These pilots are highly trained, but apart from their skills, they have to have a boatload of braggadocio, enough to make each one feel like he is the alpha male in a competitive squad.  The plot here is simple – Maverick is sure he is the Top Gun and is out to show up anyone else vying for the top dog status.  In between chomping on gum and going after McGillis, he flies dangerous missions where people get killed.  This movie is a cross between John Wayne and a recruitment film for the Navy, with a little romance thrown in.  I liked it – and Cruise – much more 30 years ago.  3 cans. 
103.  The Disappearance of Natalie Holloway* (2017) – Teenager Natalie Holloway famously disappeared on the island of Aruba in 2008, making international headlines.  Last seen in the company of local playboy Joran van der Sloot, Natalie was celebrating her high school graduation with friends when she vanished.  Although all signs pointed to van der Sloot as the culprit, the authorities could never find the body or pin him directly to the crime.  Enter Dave Holloway, Natalie’s father, with a team of investigators, now primarily focused on what happened to the body, according to a local man who may have been in on the cover-up.  At the time of the incident, Dave stayed largely in the background as Natalie’s mother Beth, his ex-wife, made the on-camera pleas for information about her daughter.  But here Dave is the man behind this excruciating look into John and a friend, Gabriel, who claims he can tie John to the exhumation of Natalie’s remains.  This documentary, airing on the Oxygen Channel – which is now reestablishing itself as a law and order outlet -- is repetitive, detailed, and, frankly, boring.  I think we all want to know what happened and feel sorry for Dave, but this story, full of false leads and sketchy characters, could have been told in 2 hours instead of multiple episodes.  Natalie deserved better.  2 cans.
104.  The Sinner* (2017) – This multipart drama is one of those compelling stories that, once you start watching, you are hooked.  Jessica Beil plays Cora, a young wife and mother who one day seemingly snaps for no reason, viciously attacking and killing a man on a beach in broad daylight and with a plethora of witnesses.  She immediately admits her culpability and is ready to plead guilty.  But this is an 8-part series, so you know it can’t be wrapped up in episode one.  Bill Pullman plays a seasoned, dubious cop who wants to understand why Cora committed the crime, and he works on her behalf to investigate.  There is plenty of strange, even kinky stuff in his background as well as Cora’s, but it is tough to outguess the writers of this drama.  Beil is commanding in her role as Cora, a woman lost in her own past and unsure of what she did and why.  It only takes 8 episodes to understand the truth.  As this series continued, I liked it less and less, but I stuck with it.  I already knew whodunit, but I wanted to know why.  3½ cans. 
105.  American Experience – Walt Disney* (2017) – I realize this is the third consecutive non-theatrical program I am reviewing, but each is longer than a movie and as worthy of the attention as any film.  PBS takes a long and detailed look at the rise of ambitious Walt Disney, from his earliest days as a creator of cartoons to his establishment of the mighty Walt Disney empire.  What impressed me here was the inventiveness of this man.  If you have grown up with Disney – watching “The Wonderful World of Disney” on Sunday nights, going to Disney movies yourself or with your kids, or taking family vacations at Disneyland or Disney World – you can take for granted the man’s incredible gift of creativity.  He was the first person to meld animation with music, to create long-form, animated movies like “Snow White,” “Pinocchio” and “Fantasia” – complete with famed conductor Leopold Stokowski leading the orchestra.  He and his brother Roy practically invented licensing of merchandise, which today often earns more than the movies themselves.  Disney was clever, and despite early business setbacks that threatened to put him out of business, once he and his team of talented artists created Mickey Mouse, they were on the road to iconic stature.  In part one we get through the early part of his career and through “Snow White.”  Part two is all about expansion, including the creation of his Disney parks, TV programs and non-animated movies.  I found it fascinating, even though I personally think we have “disneyfied” our world a bit too much.  4 cans.
106.  The Heart of the Game (2005) – Every now and then, I just have to watch this documentary about Bill Ressler, the girls’ basketball coach at Washington High School in Seattle.  Whether he is exhorting his charges to rip out the opponents’ hearts or look into their eyes, Ressler cajoles, supports and teaches these young woman life lessons that go far beyond the court.  Filmed over seven years by Ward Serrill, the film focuses particularly on the immensely talented Darnelia Russell, who comes into the gym ready to take on Ressler and the world, which is good, because she has to.  This movie has everything good and bad about sports, and to me, it is the equivalent of the landmark “Hoop Dreams.”  4½ cans.
107.  Welcome to Kutsher’s* (2012) – Hot town, summer in the city, and for years people who were crowded into the confines of NYC traveled 90 miles upstate to get some country air.  But Jews were frequently banned from the resorts and country clubs, so enterprising Jewish hoteliers established places like Kutsher’s, Grossingers and the Concord to cater to them.  And cater, they did, with an abundance of activities, food, entertainment and sports.  The hotel you saw in “Dirty Dancing” exemplified Kutsher’s Resort and Country Club, which stuck around for 100 years.  This documentary is a loving look at that era and this resort, which ended this century as it couldn’t compete with the casinos of Atlantic City and Las Vegas, the Poconos and cruise ships – which essentially built on the Borscht Belt model established by Kutsher’s and others.  My parents used to go to what we referred to as “the Jewish Alps,” once a year when I was a teenager and in my 20s, and my father had but one complaint:  Too much food.  Ah, those were the days.  3 cans and a heaping helping of chopped liver.
108.   The Edge of 17* (2016) – This stage of life is certainly not the edge of glory for awkward high school junior Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld).  Nadine lives with her widowed mother (Kyra Sedgwick) and her perfect brother Darian (Blake Jenner) as she muddles through her angst-ridden teenage years. She is smart and attractive but she doesn’t fit in.  She gets by thanks to her devoted childhood best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) – until, that is, Krista starts dating Darian.  Feeling betrayed, angry and lost, Nadine begins sparring with teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) – a relationship that thankfully does not go down the path I feared it might.  The sardonic Mr. Bruner has just the right amount of cynicism to deal effectively with Nadine.  She also strikes up a friendship with low-key classmate Erwin (Hayden Szeto), who clearly has a crush on the otherwise miserable teen.  This being a contemporary movie, there is a predictable social media gaffe that almost sends Nadine in the wrong direction.  Steinfeld has just the right approach to her character, who you can love/like one minute and can’t stand the next.  3½ cans.

Friday, September 15, 2017

September Wit and Wisdom

I have decided to get serious again about Weight Watchers.  The first step was to get rid of all the bad food in the house.  I can tell you that it was delicious. 

Every time I think to myself that I don’t need to write something down because I will remember it, I am wrong.

It took me 15 minutes, a pair of vise grip pliers and scissors to open my medicine bottle.  The instructions were in the tiniest type imaginable, written in white on the white bottle cap.  Who dreams up these ways to torture senior citizens?

Just curious – If you wear socks with your shoes, do you put on both socks first and then both shoes, or do you do a sock and a shoe and a sock and a shoe?  Archie and the Meathead had this debate once on “All In the Family.”  And why do we say, “Put on your shoes and socks?”  No matter whether you do the socks first or one each, the socks ALWAYS have to come before the shoes.  (I know you are thinking, “Tina really has too much time on her hands.”)

Speaking of socks, OK, forget the missing socks.  Now I’m trying to figure out what happens to all of my headphones.  I come back from my walk and put them in the same place each time.  Except when I don’t, and then I can’t find them.  It has gotten to the point where I buy two pairs at the same time so I will have a competent back-up.  And the original ones – which you would think would turn up eventually – only occasionally make a return appearance.  Where do they go?  (Oops – found them…)

What is this huge obsession with all things pumpkin-flavored every fall?  People seem (to me) overly enthralled with the availability of pumpkin spice lattes, with pumpkin muffins and other baked goods from their favorite donut/coffee shops.  Folks, if you love pumpkin stuff that much, I have news for you:  You can bake your own muffins, breads, etc., all year round.  I guess it isn’t quite the same as hitting the drive-through at Dunkin’ Donuts, but this level of excitement baffles me.

I have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up.  I want to be the voiceover person for “House Hunters.”  How hard can it be to go into a recording studio and spend the next 8 hours reciting this scintillating dialogue?  “So far, real estate agent Melody has shown Chet and Angie a craftsman home that he prefers and a colonial that Angie likes.  Now Melody has found a house that she thinks will blend their two styles.”  Sign me up!

At least once a day I’m sure I have misplaced my phone, sometimes when I have it in my hand.

What is more annoying than hearing a crumb rattling around in the toaster when no amount of shaking seems able to dislodge it?

English is a strange language, as we all know.  Can anyone explain why we pronounce the word Colonel – as in Colonel Sanders – as if it were spelled Kernel?   There is no letter R anywhere to be found.

Recently, my BFF asked me if I talk to myself (sure, I ask myself questions like the Colonel Sanders one, above…).  I immediately began muttering to myself, which is apparently why she asked the question.  When you live alone, you tend to talk to yourself, I reason.  There are days when I don’t make a sound, and then when I finally talk to someone on the phone, I’m told I sound hoarse.  That’s because I haven’t spoken all day!  So I need to talk to myself.  That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

How many days should you leave wrinkled clothes hanging in the bathroom to be “steamed” by the shower before you give up and iron them or take them to the cleaners to be pressed?  Just asking.

Do you get that sinking feeling when you try to sign on to something on-line and you aren’t sure whether you know your password?  And then it comes up automatically, which the privacy gurus tell us should not be done but we are so relieved when it happens.

Overheard at the library (I know, you aren’t supposed to talk, but I was just listening):
40ish woman talking to elderly-looking man – So how old are you anyway?
Elderly-looking man – Oh, I’m getting up there.
(At this point, I’d doing a side eye to get a glimpse of the old codger.)
Her – Age is only a number!
Him – I’m about to be 63.
(Me, not talking, but thinking, Hey, I’m older than he is. But I don’t look “elderly,” right?)

The woman ahead of me on the line at RiteAid had to punch about a million keys at the register to get checked out.  I could write my autobiography with fewer keystrokes.

I firmly believe that knowing your limitations is a good thing.  While I can calculate 25% off at a sale at Macy’s, and while I am frequently the one to figure out how to split the check at a restaurant, I recognize that only those few things are in my math wheelhouse.  Don’t ask me about algebra or anything calculus-related, etc.  That’s why I am grateful to have been born in 1950.  At an early age, I recognized that it would always be easy to figure out how old I am.  Now that I am in my 7th decade and 2nd millennium and getting older, I really appreciate that convenience.

If I am tied up but my plans change, does that mean I have been untied?

Someone just used the expression, “Just my 3 cents worth.”  Three cents?  When did inflation take this expression from two cents to three cents?  And, by the way, I wouldn’t have given him a penny for his thoughts!

When you are buying boxes of tissues, do you try to match the design of the box to your décor, or don’t you care?  I have been known to take apart a store display just to get the right box.
I have also been known to climb up the shelves in the supermarket to reach things.  Let’s face it, nearly everything is out of my reach!  And there is so little help around in the store to assist.

I don’t want to say I am a sloppy cook, but I recently set off the smoke alarm (which, with my extensive experience, I knew exactly how to stop from wailing), and when I was done cooking, my kitchen looked like I was the victim of a home invasion.  And the final product wasn’t even that tasty!
I don’t want to say I am distracted lately, but I almost put the Fabuloso Toilet Cleaner in the refrigerator.  Hey, it looked like juice!

It’s really scary when the “storm of the century” happens every few years.  And these reporters who stand outside, getting battered by the wind and rain, are crazy.  If I were a reporter, my mother would forbid me from going outside to report on a storm.  And if that wouldn’t dissuade me, I’m sure she would have some choice words for the station management.  Really, do these folks HAVE to stand outside during the storm?  We get it – it’s REALLY windy.  Can’t we tell that by watching the trees bend in half?

It wasn’t even 6 PM and half of the people in my active adult community had already put their recycling by the curb for the morning pick-up.  I’m guessing they hauled it out on their way to an early bird dinner.

One thing great about living here at Canal Walk is that everyone on my street has a beautiful view of the sunset behind our homes.  And when it is especially pretty, we will text each other to be sure no one misses seeing it.  It really is the little things in life that bring me joy.  Simple pleasures.




















Friday, September 1, 2017

Tina's August 2017 Movies

Despite 31 days in the month of August, I managed to squeeze in only 9 movies.  Good weather, outdoor activities, etc., all got in my way. I did manage to see a good selection, which are rated here on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna, 5 being at the top.  Numbering picks up from previous months, and movies marked with an asterisk are those I had not seen previously.

89.  Diana: Treason or Tragedy?* (2017) – The salutes to the late Princess Diana continue with this overly-long documentary that skips back and forth between her childhood, her marriage to Prince Charles and her tragic death in Paris 20 years ago.  The film explains Charles’ need to find a suitable wife, and the 19-year old Lady Diana Spencer fit the bill.  They had been out together barely a dozen times before getting engaged and then married in the “wedding of the century.”  But as the fairytale progressed, it did not have a happy ending, and they eventually divorced.  Was Diana too famous to suit the Royal Family?  The theory posited here is that the British agency equivalent to the FBI may have played a role in the accident that claimed her life.  More important is the life she led as a warm and loving mother to Princes William and Harry, to her charitable work and to the legacy she left behind.  If this program had been two hours, I probably would have liked it more, because the entire treason section was without much merit.  3 cans.
90.  Get Out* (2017) – If Rob Serling and Chris Rock did a remake of “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” it would be this movie.  But this one has director Jordan Peele, who uses just the right combination of genuine creepiness, humor and social commentary to make a whole new type of film.  Daniel Kaluuya is Chris, an African American man dating Rose (Allison Williams), a young white woman.  It is time to meet the parents, so she takes him to her folks’ beautiful suburban spread, where Mom and Dad are immediately overly friendly and a bit too accepting of the relationship.  Her mother is a therapist, and, before long, she is tapping on her teacup and hypnotizing Chris, though we don’t yet know why.  We just know this situation is getting increasingly creepy, and we all want to yell, “Get out.”  All of the parents’ friends are white, and the few African Americans around the estate appear to be robotic in their demeanor and appearance.  If Chris hangs around long enough, will he become an automaton, too?  This movie’s commentary on white privilege and racism from people who swear they aren’t racists (the father boasts that he would have voted for President Obama for a third term) is witty and sly, but there is no mistaking it, since we can see it as shown from the African American point of view.  This film was sold to me as a scary movie, but it is more harrowing to consider the reality of marginalizing an entire race of people to exploit for nefarious means.  That’s the true horror.  3½ cans, mostly because I just a wuss when it comes to anything scary.
91.  The Outsiders (1983) – If you were a young actor in Hollywood in 1983 and you were NOT in this movie, ask yourself what the hell happened (and did you fire your agent?).  Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez and Rob Lowe (among others) star in this S. E. Hinton story about two rival factions of young guys in an Oklahoma town who just don’t like each other.  Ponyboy (Howell) and Johnny (Machio), under the influence of the intense and combative Dallas (Dillon), are among the economically deprived Greasers who rumble with the more upscale Socials.  Bodily harm ensues, there’s a death and a couple of guys are on the lam.  These kids are aimless, with no adults in their lives, just trying to hang on.  This is the Oklahoma version of West Side Story, of the Capulets and the Montagues – minus the romance aspect (though there are strong overtones of homosexuality throughout, unless I’m reading that wrong…).  Stay gold, everyone, stay gold.  3½ cans.
92.  My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) – BFFs Julianne and Michael (Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney) make a pact to marry each other if they haven’t found life partners by the time they are 28, but Michael foils the plan by falling for young, vivacious Kimmy (a very cheery Cameron Diaz) just short of the deadline.  It takes Michael’s announcement that he is getting married to make Jules understand that Michael is really her own true love and that she needs to put a halt to the wedding.  So we spend the next hour and a half waiting for her to say something to him, as her other BFF, George (Rupert Everett), urges her to do.  But she can’t, or she won’t, not so much because she doesn’t want to ruin the wedding – clearly, she’s desperate to stop it from happening – but she can’t pull the trigger.  Meanwhile, Kimmy, who has known her for about 8 minutes, asks her to be her maid of honor (as if Kimmy wouldn’t have a host of friends willing to serve in that role), bringing her even more into the inner workings of the big day – and maybe that’s Kimmy’s intention.  So will she (Jules) or won’t she?  Will she step back and allow her best friend to marry the woman of his dreams – even if that is not her?  Maybe Billy Crystal’s Harry was right when he said to Sally in “When Harry Met Sally” that men and women can never be friends.  Michael comes across as a bit of a dolt, not recognizing the unrequited love in Jules. Diaz is exuberant and charming in her part, while Roberts has the toughest role – to remain likeable even as she plots to undermine her best friend’s wedding.  3½ cans.
93.  Because I Said So* (2007) – The title of this movie is a lame excuse to justify someone’s commands and, considering the lightweight and annoying script for this film, the title seems particularly appropriate here.  Despite a cast full of engaging actors (Diane Keaton, Mandy Moore and Lauren Graham among them), there is little to like or invest in here.  Keaton is Daphne, mother of three grown women, who is determined to match Moore’s character up with a suitable man for marriage.  She takes out a lengthy ad on an internet dating site and proceeds to screen the applicants.  There is the expected parade of losers, but one guy (Tom Everett Scott) turns out to be a good looking architect whom one would think wouldn’t be swiping right to attract attention from women.  Daphne helps them “meet cute” and they are quickly smitten with each other.  But Mom also meets a musician and music teacher (Gabriel Macht) who sees the scheme unfold and wants to be under consideration for the job.  Everyone here has his/her shortcomings, and this movie just tries too hard to make you love it.  All told, it’s just not a good match.  Don’t bother to watch it – because I said so.  2 cans.
94.  A Bronx Tale (1993)  It’s the mob in the Bronx, complete with straight up shootings, plenty of violence, and cool guys in suits who rule the neighborhood.  For young Calogero, the man to watch and emulate is not his honest father (Robert DeNiro, who also directed), a bus driver who eschews the Mob.  Instead the kid grows to idolize neighborhood Mafioso Sonny (Chazz Palminteri, who wrote the story).  The kid (Lillo Brancato) enters what in essence is a mob training program, making himself useful to the gangsters with the idea of entering the profession himself when the time is right.  As the teenaged Calogero, Brancato looks just like a young DeNiro and handles his part with cool and confusion.  His father is the moral compass of the story, but will his example be enough to dissuade young “C” not to become a wiseguy?  This Bronx tale is well told.  4 cans.
95. Memories of Me (1988) – Abbie (Billy Crystal) is a successful New York cardiologist who has a heart attack and a change of heart about his father (Alan King), an “actor” from whom he’s been estranged.  Abe, who works as an extra on the sets of films, TV shows and commercials, is a lively and popular man about Tinsel Town.  He loves what he does, even if Abbie frowns on his father’s chosen profession.  “Any schmuck can get a speaking part,” he insists.  Instead, he’s King of the Extras, presiding over a coterie actors who line up every day, hoping to be cast in the background of restaurant scenes, play jurors and don lobster outfits for a commercial or two.  These are Abe’s people and he fits in with them much better than with his uptight and disapproving son.  Abbie can’t quite wrest his father’s attention, until Abe demonstrates signs of early dementia and Abbie has to step in.  This movie reminds me of another one that I like better, “Nothing in Common,” with Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason.  In both, the sons can barely tolerate the fathers they disapprove of, though here Abe is an amiable guy and much admired by his fellow extras.  He is utterly charming with Abbie’s girlfriend Lisa (JoBeth Williams).  Will Abbie and Abe find common ground?  Or is it too late?  3 cans.
96.  The Glass Castle* (2017) – I hadn’t read this book, so I didn’t go to see this movie with any preconceived notions about its content.  It is Jeannette Walls’ true story of her ragtag family, an unconventional group headed by a frighteningly erratic father, Rex (Woody Harrelson).  Along with two sisters and a brother, the bright young Jeannette (Brie Larsen) and her perennially sunny mother (Naomi Watts) are terrified of the family patriarch.  A brilliant but disturbed man, Rex is a dreamer.  When he drinks, he loses all of his sanity, uprooting the family from whatever temporary housing (including being squatters) in which they reside and taking them on the road in the middle of the night.  The kids don’t go to school, since Rex claims they can learn more about life from living it.  The movie switches back and forth from the young girl Jeannette to her adult life in the 1980s, where she has somehow managed to extricate herself from the squalor under which she lived as a child.  The chaos of her existence doesn’t seem to be quite gritty enough considering the conditions, and how she transitions into a sophisticated New Yorker isn’t quite clear.  I had to keep reminding myself that the story was real, and Jeannette herself wrote the book on which the film is based.  The children band together, knowing they cannot rely on their phlegmatic father for their safety and security.  And yet, Rex truly loves them in his own, mentally disturbed way.  Harrelson gives an award-worthy performance.  I’m sure the book went into more detail, but what is on the screen is difficult enough to watch – yet worth seeing.  The human drive to survive is truly an amazing thing.  3½ cans.
97.  Whitney Houston: Can I Be Me* (2017) – The obvious answer to this Showtime documentary about the life and death of the transcendently talented singer is NO.  This painful program is peppered with plenty of interviews with the people who surrounded Whitney Houston, including her mother, assistants, family, back-up singers and hangers-on.  But the most prominent person to appear – besides her eventual husband, singer and fellow drug user Bobby Brown – is her best friend, Robyn Crawford.  Robyn loved the signer, protected her, and traveled with her from her days in Newark through her triumphs as a world-renowned vocalist and star.  But was their relationship more than a friendship?  And why was that a matter of such high security?  The documentary never gives you a definite conclusion, but the friction between Robyn and Bobby Brown, both fighting for Houston’s attention and devotion, is very clear.  It seemed she might still have a chance to overcome her love of cocaine and pot, if only Robyn wasn’t ousted by Bobby and others in the Houston camp.  After Robyn’s departure, it was a fairly quick demise for Houston, a woman with a memorable voice, a radiant smile, and a fate so tragic.  3½ cans.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Time for a Smile


It is hard to be lighthearted in the wake of the recent heinous, hateful crimes committed by white supremacists such as the KKK in Charlottesville, VA.  As a Jew, I have grown up with sincere empathy for all oppressed groups within this country and with genuine fear of neo-Nazis and others who demonstrate more covert anti-Semitism.  All of this hate breaks my heart, and the absence of real leadership in the White House to denounce these people for what they are – racists and anti-Semites – is appalling.  So sending this month’s random thoughts weighs on my mind, but I do think that as important as it is for all of us to do the right thing, it is important to have joy in our lives, too.  So here is my attempt to lighten the load – if only for a moment.
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I may have accidentally taken a melatonin pill (to make me sleep better) instead of my multivitamin today, so if I yawn, don’t think that you are boring me – unless zzzzz.

I looked at my hands the other day and I thought my mother was still alive.

I’m trying to decide whether getting back to people promptly on email and social media makes them think that I am extremely responsive or that I have no life.

Recently I was involved in a hit and run accident.  A deer plowed into the side of my car and ran off.  At least I think it was a deer.  Fortunately, my passenger and I were OK, the car was still drivable, the doors opened, the windows worked, the airbags did not deploy and no glass was broken.  I never saw the deer again, so he must have run off as quickly as he could.  I think it might have been gang-related, because my friend and I saw a bunch of deer that night.  I hope Bambi made it home safely.  Meanwhile, the free concert from which I was returning that night ended up costing me $500 for my deductible on my insurance, which picked up the rest of the $5000 tab.  That deer made a dent in my wallet as well as my car!

If you are ever looking for a quiet place to settle in and read a good book, I highly recommend the traffic light at the corner of Hillsborough Road and Route 206.  It is soooo long from the Hillsborough Road side that you could make a considerable dent in “War & Peace.”

Don’t you hate it when you get into the left turn lane a little late and the little green arrow doesn’t come on, so you have to wait and wait until you can make your turn?  Meanwhile, there were exactly NO CARS as you approached the intersection, and now that you are there, the traffic in the opposite direction is in a long line.

I am a little bit worried that this morning's call from Card Services, which always comes from a robotic voice named Rachel, today came from Veronica. Do you think they got rid of Rachel because I never would speak with her?  Now do I have to get ready to hang up on Veronica every day? Just wondering.

Today I thwarted an attempted escape by a pair of socks. I spotted a pair of them hiding behind the dryer (only because the washer had jimmied itself out of position).  They were being aided by an errant sock unrelated to the pair.  All are being held for questioning and will be washed and released but will remain under house arrest. 

I need to confess something:  I never look at the back on my hair.  Sure, when my hairdresser hands me that mirror so I can tell that she cut it, I take a peek, but every day?  If I like what I see in the front, I’m satisfied.  I figure most people are seeing my front side anyway.  No one’s looking at me from behind.  In fact, according to my BFF, no one looks at either of us anymore, so who cares?

Speaking of hair, I’ve probably said this before, but wearing a hat is a commitment.  Or a resignation.  Because once you put one on, you are resigned to having “hat hair,” which you can get away with if you are only sunbathing or in a pool, but don’t even think of removing the hat and trying to look good.  It just never works.  Once the hat commitment has been made, keep it on until the next shower.  Even if that’s not until the next day.

Conversation between me and a bunch of 4-year old campers in the locker room at the pool the other day:
Me: Should I sign up to be a camper with you?
4YOs: No, you’re too old to be a camper. How old are you?
Me: You have to guess.
4YOs: 16?
Me: No, older than that.
4YOs: 17? 18? 19?
Me: Yeah, 19. Let’s go with that.
4YO Girl: I’m 4 and my name is Skylar. You better remember my name.
Me: Ok, Skylar. I will remember your name.

The problem with going to aqua aerobics three times a week is that I can’t seem to rid myself of that chemical/chlorine smell, even after taking a shower and using 2 different soaps with fragrance.  I asked my friend Leslie, a lifeguard, swim instructor and pool manager who spent years as a competitive swimmer, about this issue and she could do no more than commiserate.

I’m pretty sure that the pink hand towels I use to stand on the floor of the locker room at my pool are the same ones my mother bought for me when I went away to college.  You know, in 1968!  #theydon’tmakethemtolastthislonganymore

Today I decided to break in my new $160 New Balance sneakers on my daily walk.  That’s right, $160 sneakers – excuse me, “walking shoes.”  For that price, forget walking.  I want to be carried around on a giant throne, a comfortable giant throne, for $160.  And may my feet never touch the pavement.

It amazes me to see so many displays in stores of every kind – Walmart, ShopRite, Bed Bath & Beyond – for those stainless steel water bottles.  Way back when, comedian George Carlin wondered when Americans got so thirsty since everyone was carrying plastic bottles of water.  Well, George, now it is all about COLD water, and every store sells these not-inexpensive (though very effective) containers to keep us hydrated.  I wonder what was on those end-cap displays BEFORE the drought hit us.

Do you think there’s something wrong with someone who can’t sleep at night but is ready for a nap at noon?  Asking for a friend.

I just received a “Breaking News” message from Travelocity to tell me I am eligible for a special travel deal that ends in the next 24 hours.  It went on to say “Won’t last long.”  Does that mean the 24 hours?  I think I know how long THAT lasts.

You know that new style of tops for women with the bare, “cold shoulder?”  Well, you won’t see one of those on me.  Personally, I don’t expose my shoulders in anything other than a bathing suit.  And my poor sister, with surgical procedures on each of her shoulders in the past year, promises never to succumb to this trend.  Besides, it will be out of date by this time next year.

I am so mad at myself for inadvertently buying Bounty paper towels that are NOT “select a size.”  I now have to suffer through 6 super rolls (that are the same as 8 regular rolls) of sheets that are too large and wasteful.  Let’s face it, the world would be a better place for all of us if this were the worst crisis we had to face.

Is it me or does anyone else have problems with those automatic paper towel dispensers?  You know, the ones where you put your hands under the box on the wall and the paper towels are supposed to come out.  I never seem to have my hands in the right place to dispense the towel and I look like someone doing pantomime as I move my hands all around.  Strangely enough, in the locker room at my gym, you can be in the shower and suddenly you hear the dispenser activating itself, but when I move my hands all around it like a blackjack dealer – nothing.

I was told to add plant food to my tomato plant. I guess it is only fair that if it feeds me, I should feed it.

My HGTV addiction is getting worse.  Now I find myself yelling at the TV if the people on “House Hunters” select the house that I feel is the wrong choice.  And please, Chip and Joanna Gaines, can we have just ONE house on your “Fixer Upper” show that does not have “ship lap” on the walls?  In the old days, it was called paneling, but you turn it sideways, use old wood and call it ship lap.  Paneling became very dated.  I foresee that happening here eventually.  So just stop!

And speaking of Chip & Joanna, the final segment of the show begins with the two of them holding a giant picture of the house BEFORE renovations were made.  They then say to the homeowners, “Are you ready to see your fixer-upper?” and then we go to commercial.  Really, is there anyone who ISN’T ready to see their newly-renovated home?  I mean, isn’t that the point of the show?