Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tina's November 2016 Movies

Despite two out-of-town trips in November, I managed to see 11 movies.  They are rated on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna, with 5 being the top rating.  Those movies I had not seen previously are marked with an asterisk.  Numbering picks up from previous months.

118. Too Big to Fail* (2011) – This movie is a dramatization of the 2008 U.S. economic crisis that saw mortgage foreclosures, giant banks fail and nearly decimated the US economy.  It consists mainly of middle-aged white men striding down corridors, talking on 2008 cell phones and barking orders to “Make the call” or “Just do it” – not the Nike slogan, either.  William Hurt plays the central character, US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulsen, who is watching the economy tank while trying to come up with solutions to save it.  Represented are the head of the NY Fed and the major banks and investment companies in a large cast (James Woods, Billy Crudup, Bill Pullman, Paul Giammatti, and, in the sole female role of note, Cynthia Nixon as Paulsen’s PR person).  Every now and then a character starts explaining the whole thing so the other characters (and, more importantly, the audience) will be able to understand what all of these maneuvers mean for the future of the economy.  We know how it ends – with a government bailout referred to as “Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, so it wouldn’t be called a bailout, but that’s what it was.  And that was after giants like Bear Stearns and Lehmann Brothers were forced to declare bankruptcy.  You can trace the entire route of the failure from the deregulation of the banking industry by President Ronal Reagan, as the unregulated banks grew huge and took on debt from unsecured mortgages that nearly toppled them.  Yet, in the end, the government bailout had to happen because these institutions are the bedrock of the economy and were just too big to fail.  Well-done, but preachy and occasionally pedantic.  3 cans.
119.  The Accountant* (2016) – Ben Affleck’s Christian Wolff is highly functional while dealing with some degree of autism.  He is an accountant, but he’s nothing like my guy, Stanley Dorfman.  He can find the loopholes and save you money, he can cook the books for the bad guys or find the discrepancies accumulated over time.  OK, that sounds boring, so in the second half of the movie Affleck becomes Liam Neeson-like, with a particular set of skills that will result in injury or death for the men chasing him by his mastery of martial arts or an incredibly accurate trigger finger on an assault weapon.  I found the story convoluted and inconsistent.  There’s one twist – which I did see coming – and there is the sporadic use of an accountant (Anna Kendrick) who has found a major amount of money missing from the ledger of a robotics company headed by John Lithgow.  There’s plenty of suspense and way too much shooting and violence for my taste.  If there is a sequel, I won’t return.  I prefer Stanley Dorfman.  3 cans.
120.  The Visitor (2007) – One of the best actors around, Richard Jenkins, stars in this story of the ramifications of the US immigration policies.  Jenkins is Walter, a quiet college professor from Connecticut who has lost his wife and is bored with his life.  When he has to go to New York to present a paper, he returns to the apartment he has kept in the city for decades only to find Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and his girlfriend, two immigrants, living in the mostly vacant place.  Instead of kicking them out, he lets them stay and a bond is formed between the professor and the young man whose passion is playing the African drum.  Although his wife was a pianist and he loves music, Walter could not master piano but appreciates the drum lessons Tarek provides.  When Tarek is wrongly arrested in the subway, life takes a different turn for the cheerful young man, who is placed in custody and threatened with deportation.  This is a warm story with serious overtones about the way immigrants are treated.  Well worth seeing.  4 cans.
121.  Denial* (2016) – Consider this movie the 2016 version of last year’s outstanding “Spotlight.”  Both movies are based on true stories, both involve evil people and those gullible enough to be led by them, and both are good vs. evil.  Here, American professor and author Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) is sued by British historian and author David Irving (Timothy Spall) for libel when her book outs him as a Holocaust “denier.”  Irving believes in Hitler and disagrees with the evidence that shows the death camps and the eradication of 6 million Jews is fact, not fiction.  But Debra is sued in England, where the innocent have to prove their innocence, and her British legal team takes an approach to defend her that she does not believe in.  Strong performances by Weisz and Tom Wilkinson as one of her attorneys.  Loved the movie, hated the wigs the barristers wear in court.  4 cans.
122.  The Crown* (2016) – Like the OJ series, this mini-series on Netflix is not a movie, but with exceptional performances, outstanding production values and the compelling story of the early reign of Queen Elizabeth, this 10-part series deserves a review.  Claire Foy might as well dust off a space on her mantle for the Emmy as the young Queen, and John Lithgow as Winston Churchill should do the same.  Elizabeth ascends to the throne at the age of 25 after the death of her father, King George.  She is admittedly bereft of formal education and forced to deal with the trappings of the monarchy.  She has difficult decisions to make and is pulled in directions that conflict with her own views by Churchill, the prevailing government, the Church and her family – especially her younger sister, Princess Margaret.  The attention to detail in this series is phenomenal, with period cars, clothing and countless scenes in castles and mansions.  Powerful performances, lots of behind the scenes stuff and a great insight into the Monarchy.  Heavy is the head that wears the crown.  Addicting.  4½ cans.
123.  Allied* (2016) – Brad Pitt is an RAF intelligence officer who parachutes into Morocco in 1942 (shades of “Casablanca”) where he assumes the identity of the husband to Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard), herself a member of the French Resistance.  He’s handsome (if a bit stiff), with the worst French accent I have heard since my Freshman high school French class, but they play the part of the married couple so well, that everyone falls for the ruse.  And then they assassinate a few of the local Nazi bigwigs.  The pretense of marital bliss becomes real bliss when they marry and move to London so he can continue his work as a wing commander.  But there are questions about his new wife’s background and identity, and Pitt is put in an impossible position while the local command determines whether she is actually working for the Germans.  I found this an intriguing story, and while Cotillard is at the top of her game, Pitt gives a labored performance.  I found it suspenseful – is she or is she not a double agent? – and despite the violence of war, I would recommend it.  3½ cans.
124.  Waffle Street* (2015) – Failed financer James Adams (taken from his actual story) loses his job in investments and cannot find work, until one day when he sees a Help Wanted sign in the window of the local Waffle house.  Adams (James Lafferty) gets hired as a server and decides, in spite of his inexperience in the restaurant business, to change his life and buy a Waffle franchise.  He works a crazy schedule to accumulate the required 1000 hours, including stints unclogging the toilets, taking orders, working the register, dealing with some eccentric customers and doing anything else asked of him to make his new dream come true.  That includes selling his Audi convertible (his finance job was considerably more lucrative) and convincing his pregnant wife to sell their dream house to raise the money for the restaurant.  Will he get what he wants?  Will he want what he gets?  This little trifle of a movie was not one I sought out but one I ended up watching anyway.  I think I would have enjoyed it more had it been a documentary about a nice guy whom we hope will finish the race.  2½ waffles.
125.  Life Itself* (2104)  -- It is impossible to think about writing a movie review without conjuring up the master himself, Roger Ebert, who passed away in 2014.  I started reading the autobiography from which this Steve James documentary was derived but found it ponderous – too detailed and slow.  However, I’m glad I watched the movie, because it tells the fascinating story of a brilliant film critic and writer who later established an identity on TV as part of the team Siskel and Ebert, a pair of movie critics whose various TV shows were “don’t miss” programming for me.  The right word from the prolific Ebert could make or break a movie, and people like Martin Scorsese at least in part owe their careers to Ebert.  It was Ebert who lauded Steve James’ classic documentary “Hoop Dreams,” so it is entirely appropriate that James documents Roger’s career and ultimate death from a progression of various cancers.   A film critic for the Chicago Sun Times at age 21, Ebert spent too many hours in too many bars until he gave up drinking altogether, and he waited until he was 50 to find and marry the love of his life, Chaz.  His erudite reviews were a guide for all of us, enabling viewers to see and discover gems and masterpieces in movies we might otherwise have missed.  When his sometimes sparring partner Gene Siskel died, Ebert was crushed, but he carried on his TV career, reviewing movies with others.  But ironically, his medical conditions required surgeries that robbed him of his voice, though not his ability to write reviews for a blog that continues today as a repository for his work and the contributions of other reviewers.  Long before Rotten Tomatoes gave us guidance about what movies were worth seeing, it was the thumbs up from Roger Ebert that made a movie worthwhile.  Feisty, egotistical and brilliant, like the man himself.  4 cans and a big “Thumbs Up.”
126.   The Other Woman* (2009) – No, this isn’t the bawdy comedy with Cameron Diaz, and it isn’t some cheesy Lifetime movie.  Oscar-winner Natalie Portman plays Amelia, a driven young associate at a law firm who falls fast and hard for her married boss, Jack (Scott Cohen).  Jack has a precocious 8-year old son named William (Charlie Tahan) and a barracuda of a wife (Lisa Kudrow, playing a decidedly un-Phoebesque character), whom he leaves for Amelia when they find out Amelia is pregnant.  Blending families is never easy, and Amelia has little experience with kids.  Her father and Jack become good friends, and the son takes to his new grandfather right away, but building that bond between son and stepmom is tougher, particularly when wife #1 spews venom on wife #2.  Jack is caught in the middle.  This movie has similarities to “Stepmom” with Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon and “Kramer vs. Kramer,” especially since the young son sports a haircut like Justin Henry’s in the latter film.  This movie took an unexpected turn for me and was better than I expected.  3 cans.
127.  Race* (2016) – There’s a good story in here somewhere, but this slow, plodding movie about track and field Olympian Jesse Owens (Stephan James) has no pace to it.  It traces Owens’ career as a collegiate star at Ohio State through the decision of whether the US will participate in the Berlin Olympics of 1936, whether Owens himself will bow to pressure NOT to participate (we know the answer to that already), to Jewish athletes being denied a chance to race…I cannot get into the details because the movie isn’t worth the time.  Jason Sudekis plays Owens’ coach, who advises and helps him, all while drinking heavily.  Owens was one of the best Olympic athletes ever and never got his just rewards until his death.  This film doesn’t do him any favors, either.  2 cans.
128.  Cast Away (2000) – I’m ending the month with one of my all-time favorite movies.  Tom Hanks has starred in so many terrific films (“Forest Gump,” “Big,” “Apollo 13” (also (one of my ATFs), “Sleepless in Seattle,” “You’ve Got Mail,” “Terminal,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “The Road to Perdition,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Nothing in Common” (not a great movie but an outstanding performance by Hanks) and “Bachelor Party” (only kidding on this last one).  But Cast Away, despite lengthy stretches with minimal dialog – mostly between a man and a volleyball named Wilson – is riveting.  Hank’s character Chuck Nolan works for Fed Ex, and when his plane goes down in the Pacific, he is stranded on an island for 4 years, surviving on his ingenuity and undying love for his girlfriend Kelly (Helen Hunt, who has one memorable line that always makes me cry).  How strong is man?  The longer he’s there, the more adept Chuck is at figuring out how to survive.  We take for granted the little things in life – a glass with ice, electric lights, clean water and warmth – and Chuck has to cope with a life bereft of even the basics.  Chuck’s physical transformation is astonishing, and kudos to Hanks for undertaking such a challenge.  I love this movie and urge anyone who has not seen it to take the time to enjoy the story, the music, the setting, and the incomparable Hanks.  A rare 5 cans.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Falling for Spain, or The Sprain in Spain

Travel is overrated.  I thought so when I did it for business, and even going on vacation – though it is great to get away – brings with it a certain amount of inconvenience – or worse.

I was looking forward to my first real vacation is several years, a long-awaited trip to Barcelona and San Sebastian with my sister alumnae from the Associate Alumnae of Douglass College.  Unlike a friend who travels often and told me she packs nine outfits for a 30-day trip, I packed what seemed like 30 outfits for my nine-day trip (no washing out anything in the bathroom sink for me!).  I even “fired” another friend who graciously offered to pack for me, knowing that after she left, I would only add more to the pile.

I was looking forward to experiencing the culture, walking the cobblestone streets, and putting to use the 12 years of Spanish I studied from third glade through my sophomore year at Douglass.

I got off on the wrong foot, so to speak, upon arrival at our hotel in Barcelona.  We weren’t there for more than 30 minutes when the group began to scatter, eager to explore the city with our free afternoon.  I could see my carry-on bag containing my camera just yards away in the lobby and I headed in that direction. 

And then came the fall.

Looking straight ahead, I missed the two (not one, but two) steps between me and my bag and fell hard, twisting my ankle and landing with a thud on both knees on a very hard marble floor.  You know that awful feeling when you know you’re going down and there’s nothing you can do to stop yourself?  When you hope you aren’t going to break anything?  When it seems to take forever just to land and you know it won’t be good when you do?  When you hope no one is watching?

So much for the latter, because EVERYONE saw it, and I was immediately surrounded by well-intentioned people asking if I was alright.  Too soon to tell folks.  Did I want to go to the hospital (more on that later)?  See a doctor?  Die of embarrassment (they didn’t ask me that question, but of course that’s what I wanted to do)?  I gamely got up – swearing at myself for being so negligent – and was swiftly brought to my assigned room – thankfully, near an elevator.  I elevated, iced and had the ankle wrapped by a hotel employee.  Needless to say, sightseeing that day was out.  Later that night, when the group went to dinner, I went by taxi instead of walking the tree blocks to the restaurant. 

Our AADC leader and my good friend Valerie Anderson went to the local “farmacia” (and there are tons of them in Barcelona) and bought me a crutch, which I used for the rest of the week to walk over those cobblestones, go in and out of cathedrals and museums and get in and out of buses as we toured. 

The ankle only hurt with every step I took.  Having broken both of my ankles in the past, I was worried that I was doing more harm than good and decided to go to the local hospital to get it checked and make sure there was no fracture.  How would I get my pants on over a cast?  Would I be confined to my room?  How do you say “broken ankle (tobilla) in Spanish?  Somehow our Spanish conversations in school – which included trips to the library – never covered this now-important ground.

So I got to see a part of Barcelona not designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudi – the inside of a Spanish hospital.  

The people there were extremely nice and accommodating.  The first question I was asked was “Que paso?” (what happened?).  I quickly abandoned my Spanish and gave way to the more familiar terms, explaining my fall and twist.  Three hours, three x-rays and 300 Euros later (on my Visa card), I was relieved to learn the ankle was not broken, just sprained.  It could have been so much worse.  I could have broken the ankle and needed a cast or fractured my wrist, in which case, how would I have gotten myself dressed?

By the next day, my right ankle was a combination of swollen (I could only wear one pair of shoes) and discolored, and the left shin turned lovely shades of purple from the impact.  Though I missed the special dinner in which the group celebrated birthdays – mine included – in favor of elevating and icing in my room, I gamely marched on and did everything else.

Spain is a very interesting place.  Barcelona took full advantage of the 1992 Olympic Games and has repurposed all of the facilities built for them, along with massive improvements in the infrastructure of the city and environs.  

And then there is Gaudi, the famous architect whose masterwork, Sagrada Familia, is a cathedral that has been under construction for more than 100 years and which is scheduled for completion in 2026 (though most people are dubious).  This man never knew a straight line when he saw one.  In addition to the group visit to the cathedral and a park where he was supposed to build what amounts of a housing development (only two houses were ever completed, so it isn’t exactly Levittown), I ventured to a tour of a private home he built.  Little did I know that seeing the entire building required a walk up 10 stories to the roof.  But it was worth it.  His work reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, and it is better seen than described.

Our trip (pardon the expression) included a flight to location two, San Sebastian, in the Basque County, where everyone understands Spanish but uses the distinct Basque language proudly.  I was hauled to the plane in a wheelchair, clutching my crutch.  We had a stop an hour away in Bilbao, home of the Guggenheim Museum, an architectural wonder designed by Frank Gehry and a completely different experience from Gaudi’s work.  We were lucky enough to see it on a sunny day, and the colors of the metallic exterior glistened and changed in the light as we moved around it.  The modern art inside was not my favorite, but the building itself exceeded my expectations.  And there wasn’t a cobblestone in sight!

We spent a morning in Pamplona, not trying to outrun the bulls but dodging delivery trucks and vans as we and they made our way down hilly, twisty, cobblestoned streets (definitely not on the activities you want to do on a bum ankle and with a crutch). 

It seems that every city in Spain has an “old town,” and we visited each of them.  I wondered what we in the United States would show Spanish visitors about our old towns:  “Here’s where George Washington slept.  And here’s where he also slept.”  There are cathedrals (very grand, and with many stairs and steps) and tiny shops and more cathedrals.  I spent much of my time looking down rather than up, walking cautiously and taking into account the uneven surfaces.  For a few days, I took barely any pictures, since it was impossible to carry my camera and remain balanced and upright.  But as the week progressed, as I got used to the crutch, popped ibuprofen and took care to elevate and ice as much as possible, the pain wasn’t quite so bad.  

By the end of the week, I was able to walk 2½ miles on a beautiful, sunny day – and on my birthday, to boot – to the funicular, a cable car that goes up the steep side of a hill.  We had spectacular views of the coastline (San Sebastian is on the Atlantic Ocean) and took the requisite photos that I will treasure as happy memories of this vacation.

I’ve traveled before and will do it again, and despite the accident, I enjoyed the chance to see so much of Spain.  I had been there twice previously, but I was in Marbella on the Costa del Sol, a resort, so I hadn’t experienced any of the cities aside from Granada. 

So here are my impressions and some of the lessons I learned.
  • Every place in the world should be on the same electrical system.  I favor the US system, so I wouldn’t need a converter.
  • Every hotel where you stay has its own quirks.  You have to remember to put the room key in the slot so the lights stay on, get used to the shower controls and the hair dryer, which required a finger on the on-button in both hotels. 
  • You have to tolerate people in any group asking genuinely stupid questions.  Asking “where is such-and-such?” to each other made no sense since none of us knew the answers.
  • Ham is big in Spain.  Iberian ham, bacon – whatever – was available or a part of every meal.  PS – I don’t eat ham.
  • European countries have more statues and cathedrals per mile that you can count. The US has more Starbucks and McDonald’s.  Europe wins.
  • Despite the relatively cool temperatures, people in San Sebastian go into the ocean, do yoga on the beach and enjoy the sand and surf.  No beach badges required, either.  Are you listening, NJ?
  • In every restaurant where we ate, we enjoyed delicious bread, but there was never a bread plate.  The bread was put on your place mat or on the table with nothing under it.  And if you wanted butter or olive oil – and this is a country that exports olive oil – you had to request it.  There were bottles of red and white wine on every table without having to ask, however (part of the tour package, I presume). 
  • Many people in Spain speak English well but don’t think they do.  They were very accepting of my attempts to communicate in Spanish and I could understand them as long as they spoke muy lentamente (very slowly).  Despite so many years that have passed since my last Spanish class in 1970, I was proud of my ability to use it. 
  •  Always bring plenty of plastic bags.  I used them for ice bags for my ankle. The next time I travel, I am bringing my portable cane, an Ace bandage and more ibuprofen.  And my health insurance card.  It’s not like hospitals in Barcelona take United Heathcare or Medicare, but I had to contact a friend back home to get the Membership Services number to find out the process for dealing with the hospital in Barcelona. 
  •  I still bring plenty of underwear and throw out the oldest pairs to lighten my load.  We were all just under the 50-pound suitcase limit and determined NOT to pay extra for our checked bags.
  • Noise cancelling headphones and a mask come in very handy on a nine-hour flight, as does a neck pillow.  I wouldn’t leave home without them.
Our group, which traveled through the touring company AHI, had several lectures from highly informed and interesting speakers and an opportunity to have dinner with local residents, so I learned so much about Spain on this trip.  Among the highlights for me was learning the term “cuadrilla,” which, here in the US, would be translated into “circle of friends.”  In the more modern vernacular, that would mean your “squad,” or the people who are closest to you.  Long-time, dear friends comprise your cuadrilla.  I know I have mine, and now I have a name for them.

And I know how to say ankle in Spanish.







Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tina's October 2016 Movies

A vacation to Spain interrupted my movie watching, so there are only 9 movies on this month's list.  They are rated on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna, with 5 being the top rating.  Those movies I had not seen previously are marked with an asterisk.  Numbering picks up from previous months.

109.  All of Me (1984) – Steve Martin shows off his physical comedy prowess in this fantasy about an uptight lawyer/musician whose body becomes inhabited by an eccentric woman after a plan designed to help the dying millionaire (Lily Tomlin) switch bodies with a vibrant young woman (Victoria Tennant) goes awry.  Martin and Tomlin battle it out over body territory as they each control half, which makes shaving and relieving himself nearly impossible.  The story is a trifle, but the performances are so much fun to watch.  Martin has had two memorable dances in his career, one amazing stint on the dance floor with Gilda Radner on an episode of “Saturday Night Live” to the tune of “Dancing In the Dark,” and the closing dance sequence here, set to the title tune.  Martin is truly a gift from heaven.  3½ cans.
110.  Queen of Katwe* (2016) – Ten-year old Phiona (Madina Nalwanga) and her mother (the graceful and fierce Lupita Nyongo) live with her brothers and sisters in Katwe, a village in Uganda, barely subsisting on the sale of vegetables.  The children don’t go to school, don’t know how to read and can only look forward to a lifetime of hardships.  But then Phiona meets Coach Katende (David Oyelowo), who teaches the local children to play chess.  Phiona is a prodigy, growing so skilled that she beats the teacher and is accused by one of her opponents of “reading my mind.”  But considering her background, can she possibly become a chess master and use her status to improve her living conditions?  This movie is based on a true story, and it is delivered with intensity and warmth.  Who is braver?  The teenaged chess champion facing off against more educated and experienced players?  Or the mother, dealing with weather disasters without a roof over the head of her family?  This is a Disney movie, and you know they don’t dwell on defeat, so you can figure out where this is headed.  But the ride is a good one.  3½ chess pieces.
111.  The Four Seasons (1981) – Any movie that starts with soaring music from Vivaldi is bound to get your attention, and this examination of three close-knit couples delivers.  Alan Alda wrote this comedy/drama about six people who vacation together, get on each other’s nerves, care for each other, laugh together and, every now and then, let loose with a judgmental evisceration of each other.  Yet, for the most part, it is entertaining.  Alda has always tended to be preachy in my view, and this movie is no exception.  The highly-likeable cast (couples Alda and Carol Burnett, Rita Moreno and Jack Weston and Len Cariou with first wife Sandy Dennis and second wife the considerably younger Bess Armstrong) has plenty of chemistry.  I recall liking this one better at first view, but it was an interesting study of the dynamics between couples and friends.  3 cans.
112.  The Girl on the Train* (2016) – Here’s my summary:  Girl gets on a train, girl gets off a train, girl drinks too much on the train and we know it’s not water in that bottle.  Rachel (Emily Blunt) is a hot mess.  Fired from her job because of her drinking, she boards the Metro North line every day so her roommate (Laura Prepon of OITNB fame) won’t know she’s unemployed.  Despite her alcoholic haze, she is able to see clearly into the homes and lives of the people whose houses she passes.  She yearns to be living in her former home with now-ex Tom (Justin Theroux) and fantasizes about the lives of the attractive young couple Megan and Scott (Haley Bennett and Luke Evans), who hang out on the deck of their house down the street from Tom entirely too much.  Tom has remarried and has a young daughter with wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), but that doesn’t keep Rachel from calling him, stalking Anna and recalling past incidents that make her feel responsible for the demise of her marriage.  When Megan goes missing, Rachel thinks she has information that could help solve the case.  She also thinks she might have had something to do with harming Megan, since she can’t recall why she herself came home bloody and bruised the night Megan disappeared.  This is a whodunit about a bunch of people with lots of problems.  Because it jumps back and forth in time and because two of the three women look very much alike, it can be confusing.  It definitely helped that I read the book first.  It was not quite as twisty as “Gone Girl” and not quite as suspenseful as “Fatal Attraction,” movies of the same genre, but it held my attention.  Emily Blunt has the right amount of desperation and smeared make-up, the men are all creepy, and Allison Janney reminds us (in a small part as the detective) of her dramatic chops.  By the end of the movie, I wished Rachel had just driven instead of taking the train.  Still, 3½ train cars.
113.  Notting Hill (1999) – She is a movie star with a megawatt smile.  He is an unassuming owner of a travel book bookstore.  One day she walks into his store and changes his life.  Julia Robert is the American star and Hugh Grant is the English bookstore proprietor in this utterly charming story about two people from different worlds exploring their possibilities.  He is surrounded by good friends while she is swallowed up by fame, chased by photographers and hounded by the press.  She can break his heart, but will she?  Will he let her?  Could he recover?  Watch this movie for the answers to these burning questions.  There is a great scene between them towards the end that is worth the price of admission.  Good cast, good story, good movie.  4 cans.
114.  Still Mine* (2013) – Craig (James Cromwell) is a stubborn guy.  Although he is in his 80s (and Cromwell is clearly younger), he is convinced he can construct a new house for his ailing and failing wife, Irene (an unrecognizable Genevieve Bujold), on a piece of property he owns.  The man knows his lumber, and his construction skills are stellar, but that’s not enough to satisfy the local town authorities and their building codes.  As he defiantly continues building, he also cares for his increasingly frail wife, who is given to severe lapses in memory and who can wander off and fall.  Theirs is a solid relationship – as solid as the perfectly plumb and square house, a one-story structure where Craig and Irene can live instead of in their old place, where Irene can’t climb the stairs so the bathroom is outside.  Cromwell is magnificent in the part of the husband, father and master builder.  But Irene is getting worse, requiring more care, and she may never get a chance to live in their new home.  This is a tender love story about a 61-year relationship, about love and trust AND carpentry.  3½ cans.
115.  Money Monster* (2016) – George Clooney and Julia Roberts team up in this suspense movie about one of those TV financial gurus who dispense glib advice and seldom think of the consequences.  But a young man who has lost a considerable sum (for him, but peanuts to Clooney’s character) invades the TV station while the “Money Monster” show is live and threatens to kill Clooney if he cannot explain the huge drop in the stock price of one of his picks and everyone jumps to track down the shady character who runs the company.  Clooney has sympathy for the guy, while Roberts, the director, just wants to get everyone out alive. This is exactly why I don’t watch and cannot stand these kinds of programs, where the so-called experts espouse their theories with sound effects and razzle-dazzle as if they know everything.  Clooney and Roberts always make a good team.  3½ cans.
115.  The Meddler* (2015) -- Some might call it meddling.  Some might call it mothering.  I call it annoying when Susan Sarandon, a lonely widow with a lovely, grown daughter (Rose Byrne), shows up unannounced and proceeds to intervene in the young woman’s life, assuming relationships to her friends and generally meaning well but pestering the daughter no end.  Until she meets a completely different sort of guy (J. K. Simmons) and realizes she might be able to have a life of her own.  This movie is very similar to the road trip one with Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen – two well-meaning mothers and the children they drive crazy.  No, thanks.  2½ cans.
116.  My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2* (2015) – We know the characters, the Windex jokes, the smothering family (see above) – so nothing is new in this sequel to the delightful Nia Vardalos original, so I didn’t have high hopes after reading tepid reviews.  But I found myself laughing out loud more than once at the antics of the Greek family, admiring their closeness and even appreciating a plot that stretched things out more than necessary.  Nia wrote and stars as daughter Toula, but it is Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan as her parents and Andrea Martin as her aunt who get off the best lines.  John Corbett as Toula’s non-Greek husband comes across as the blandest, but, after all, he is not Greek.  3½ cans.
117.  Dirty Dancing (1987) – Since I am going to see a stage version of this memorable movie in a few days, I thought it would be a good time to view the original in all its glory.  Patrick Swayze’s duck-tailed dancing dervish, Johnny Castle, is the bad boy of Kellerman’s Catskills Resort, spending his summers cha-chaing with the guests, until he and Baby Hausman (Jennifer Grey) and her family come along.  Johnny teaches Baby more than how to dance.  Swayze, whose character dons a shirt only occasionally, is all sinewy muscles and grinding hips as he and his fellow dirty dancers tear up the staff cabins and the dance floor.  Is there anyone who hasn’t see this movie?  Great music, great dancing and an excellent cast.  Corny, yes, but I could watch it again and again.  I hope the stage show is even half as good.  I had the time of my life.  4 cans.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Random Thoughts for Fall 2016

Every time I even think about leaving the house with the washing machine going, it nosily reminds me not to abandon my post by making one of those sounds like a jet is landing in the laundry room. 

Rainy day, perfect for reading a book, watching a movie or taking a nap?  Why does that so rarely happen?  We are all too damn busy!

It’s tough enough to walk by the Entemann’s display at ShopRite but when the sign reads “Half Off?”  Keep walking, girl.

Since we live in a society dominated by electronic communications, why is it that I still have to contend with so many pieces of paper?

As if this world weren’t scary enough already, now we have the threat of creepy clowns terrorizing towns and schools.  What is going on?

And speaking of creepy, while I loved listening to Casey Kasem and American Top 40 back in the day, I find it a little creepy when the Oldies station replays his AT40 broadcasts from the 1970s, as if he were still behind the microphone – like Cousin Brucie.  Casey’s been gone long enough now, and it is jarring to hear him sound very much alive.

I find it odd that people who swear often say, “Pardon my French.”  What makes them think that the swear word they just said was French?  I took four years of French in high school and, trust me, we never got around to swear words. 

It’s not hard coming up with stuff to include in this blog every month (until now…), but it IS hard to remember it.  If I don’t write it down as soon as it pops into my mind, the cleverest thing can easily be lost.  You know what I mean.  I have actually called myself to leave a voice mail message when I get a sudden inspiration in the car and cannot stop to write it down immediately.  Then I come home and see the message light blinking and I wonder, “Who called?”  Duh.

You know that there is a “weather event” when I have the Weather Channel on my TV.  I think if I saw Jim Cantore on the street, I’d instantly evacuate.  I just don’t get how these people can broadcast through power outages (their own generators, I assume), through blinding snow, furious winds and tidal waves.  And why would they want to?  Some of the information they provide is so detailed and scientific that I don’t know what they are talking about.  But I loved it when they switched to a reporter who simply said, “It’s bad.”  That I understand!

I bought a big digital clock and put it right by the garage door so I could see exactly how late I am when I leave the house.  Like now, when I am writing about my big digital clock instead of leaving on time…

The woman sitting next to me in the nail salon today might just as well have been in a welding shop, judging by the amount of power tools used on her hands.  In the event of a power outage, she would have been left with claws.

Is there anything more BORING than sitting in the nail salon, waiting for your nails to dry?  You can’t pick up a magazine, scratch your nose (well, carefully, I guess) or use your phone – unless you can do that with your chin.  I wish I had more patience.  And while my gel manicure will last several weeks, sitting in the salon soaking my hands in nail polish remover will eventually take so much time that I could write a book.  I can’t do that with my hands in the foul-smelling chemical bath, either.

I passed a sign that read “Kickboxing Class,” and it occurred to me that if the middle letters were missing, that sign would read “Kick Ass.”  OK, so I amuse myself.

The other day I heard the word CONFLATE used twice, by two different people, both done correctly.  I can’t express how thrilled I was!

Somehow I seem to have built up a new tolerance for Neil Diamond.  Where I couldn’t change the station fast enough when any of his songs came on the radio (except “Sweet Caroline,” which everyone loves), now I am much slower to flip to a new station.  Maybe I haven’t built up a tolerance after all.  Maybe my reaction time is just slowing down?  And what’s next?  More tolerance of Lionel Ritchie songs?  Help me!

I recently uploaded a bunch of photos from my phone to Shutterfly, which I have to say was much easier to do than it had been previously.  However, while it is handy that the file information goes with the photo – so I can readily see when and where the picture was taken – I couldn’t help but think this information would be great for forensic investigators trying to confirm a location and date when looking into a crime.  Not that I have committed any.  I guess I just watch too many of those mysteries on the Investigative Discovery Channel.

I would like to offer my congratulations to the clever blue sock who engineered the great escape from today’s laundry.  He leaves behind a jealous and grieving twin and a perplexed owner, who is not yet ready to toss his twin away.

My life is so boring that I actually got excited today when I saw that paper bags WITH HANDLES! are available now in my ShopRite.  All the better for recycling.  Oh, and if that isn’t evidence enough of my boring life, I sorted out my sock drawer.  Just the drawer with the white, athletic socks.  There are separate drawers for the blue, black and other color socks.  I threw away the mismatched socks and the ones about to have holes in the toes.  And you’re reading this, so what does that say about how interesting YOUR life is?

Why do bras and socks come on those little hangers?  I can understand displaying them in the store that way (kind of), but I have no intention of hanging up either item once I get home.  I would need a separate closet just for socks if they all had to be stored on hangers.  See above for more on my socks…

One last note on socks:  There are at least 3 separate areas in my ShopRite where socks are sold, and that doesn't count the section where kids' socks are on sale.  Maybe I'm not the only one with a sock obsession?

I’ve lived in this house for a year now and I still turn the wrong way to hit the light switches.  Or did I already tell you that?

The local car wash charges $7 for a hand wash but only $6 for seniors.  I don’t know whether I should just feel happy that I saved a dollar or if I should also feel offended that they never ask for ID when I say I am a senior.  They are probably trained not to ask, right?

This year’s Yom Kippur fast was a tough challenge for me.  I stayed out of the kitchen for fear that I would absent-mindedly pick up a banana and inadvertently break my fast.  Or that I would just decide to eat before sundown.  I am happy to report that I made it through.  And since my Weight Watchers weigh-in in took place the next day, I’m glad I did. 

I only hope I stick around long enough to outlive the date on the tuna fish in my pantry.  Or my Arborio rice, which doesn’t expire until 2019.  That’s motivation!

A few movie theaters I frequent have replaced their old seats with brand new recliner type seats, making it even more difficult for me to stay awake in the movies.  With the new seats, I don’t even have someone next to me vying for the armrest to keep me awake.

I recently had a reunion of sorts with some former J&J PR colleagues, not all from Corporate.  We really had a great time catching up and talking about the “old days.”  Many of them are still consulting or teaching, and they sure have great lessons to impart.  I am so fortunate to be associated with organizations like the Associate Alumnae of Douglass College, the Community Visiting Nurse Association and with Johnson & Johnson, where intelligent, caring people abound and the standards are so high.  Not everyone has these kinds of experiences.  I’m the lucky one.


And finally, I attended yet another funeral this morning, this time for the mother of a friend.  Each of these experiences reminds me how fragile and fleeting life is, and how we should be grateful to spend it with people we love.  So look around, be thankful for friends and family, and let them know that you love them before it is too late.

Random Thoughts for Fall 2016

Every time I even think about leaving the house with the washing machine going, it nosily reminds me not to abandon my post by making one of those sounds like a jet is landing in the laundry room. 

Rainy day, perfect for reading a book, watching a movie or taking a nap?  Why does that so rarely happen?  We are all too damn busy!

It’s tough enough to walk by the Entemann’s display at ShopRite but when the sign reads “Half Off?”  Keep walking, girl.

Since we live in a society dominated by electronic communications, why is it that I still have to contend with so many pieces of paper?

As if this world weren’t scary enough already, now we have the threat of creepy clowns terrorizing towns and schools.  What is going on?

And speaking of creepy, while I loved listening to Casey Kasem and American Top 40 back in the day, I find it a little creepy when the Oldies station replays his AT40 broadcasts from the 1970s, as if he were still behind the microphone – like Cousin Brucie.  Casey’s been gone long enough now, and it is jarring to hear him sound very much alive.

I find it odd that people who swear often say, “Pardon my French.”  What makes them think that the swear word they just said was French?  I took four years of French in high school and, trust me, we never got around to swear words. 

It’s not hard coming up with stuff to include in this blog every month (until now…), but it IS hard to remember it.  If I don’t write it down as soon as it pops into my mind, the cleverest thing can easily be lost.  You know what I mean.  I have actually called myself to leave a voice mail message when I get a sudden inspiration in the car and cannot stop to write it down immediately.  Then I come home and see the message light blinking and I wonder, “Who called?”  Duh.

You know that there is a “weather event” when I have the Weather Channel on my TV.  I think if I saw Jim Cantore on the street, I’d instantly evacuate.  I just don’t get how these people can broadcast through power outages (their own generators, I assume), through blinding snow, furious winds and tidal waves.  And why would they want to?  Some of the information they provide is so detailed and scientific that I don’t know what they are talking about.  But I loved it when they switched to a reporter who simply said, “It’s bad.”  That I understand!

I bought a big digital clock and put it right by the garage door so I could see exactly how late I am when I leave the house.  Like now, when I am writing about my big digital clock instead of leaving on time…

The woman sitting next to me in the nail salon today might just as well have been in a welding shop judging by the amount of power tools used on her hands.  In the event of a power outage, she would have been left with claws.

Is there anything more BORING than sitting in the nail salon, waiting for your nails to dry?  You can’t pick up a magazine, scratch your nose (well, carefully, I guess) or use your phone – unless you can do that with your chin.  I wish I had more patience.  And while my gel manicure will last several weeks, sitting in the salon soaking my hands in nail polish remover will eventually take so much time that I could write a book.  I can’t do that with my hands in the foul-smelling chemical bath, either.

I passed a sign that read “Kickboxing Class,” and it occurred to me that if the middle letters were missing, that sign would read “Kick Ass.”  OK, so I amuse myself.

The other day I heard the word CONFLATE used twice, by two different people, both done correctly.  I can’t express how thrilled I was!

Somehow I seem to have built up a new tolerance for Neil Diamond.  Where I couldn’t change the station fast enough when any of his songs came on the radio (except “Sweet Caroline,” which everyone loves), now I am much slower to flip to a new station.  Maybe I haven’t built up a tolerance after all.  Maybe my reaction time is just slowing down?  And what’s next?  More tolerance of Lionel Ritchie songs?  Help me!

I recently uploaded a bunch of photos from my phone to Shutterfly, which I have to say was much easier to do than it had been previously.  However, while it is handy that the file information goes with the photo – so I can readily see when and where the picture was taken – I couldn’t help but think this information would be great for forensic investigators trying to confirm a location and date when looking into a crime.  Not that I have committed any.  I guess I just watch too many of those mysteries on the Investigative Discovery Channel.

I would like to offer my congratulations to the clever blue sock who engineered the great escape from today’s laundry.  He leaves behind a jealous and grieving twin and a perplexed owner, who is not yet ready to toss his twin away.

My life is so boring that I actually got excited today when I saw that paper bags WITH HANDLES! are available now in my ShopRite.  All the better for recycling.  Oh, and if that isn’t evidence enough of my boring life, I sorted out my sock drawer.  Just the drawer with the white, athletic socks.  There are separate drawers for the blue, black and other color socks.  I threw away the mismatched socks and the ones about to have holes in the toes.  And you’re reading this, so what does that say about how interesting YOUR life is?

Why do bras and socks come on those little hangers?  I can understand displaying them in the store that way (kind of), but I have no intention of hanging up either item once I get home.  I would need a separate closet just for socks if they all had to be stored on hangers.  See above for more on my socks…

One last note on socks:  There are at least 3 separate areas in my ShopRite where socks are sold, and that doesn't count the section where kids' socks are on sale.  Maybe I'm not the only one with a sock obsession?

I’ve lived in this house for a year now and I still turn the wrong way to hit the light switches.  Or did I already tell you that?

The local car wash charges $7 for a hand wash but only $6 for seniors.  I don’t know whether I should just feel happy that I saved a dollar or if I should also feel offended that they never ask for ID when I say I am a senior.  They are probably trained not to ask, right?

This year’s Yom Kippur fast was a tough challenge for me.  I stayed out of the kitchen for fear that I would absent-mindedly pick up a banana and inadvertently break my fast.  Or that I would just decide to eat before sundown.  I am happy to report that I made it through.  And since my Weight Watchers weigh-in in took place the next day, I’m glad I did. 

I only hope I stick around long enough to outlive the date on the tuna fish in my pantry.  Or my Arborio rice, which doesn’t expire until 2019.  That’s motivation!

A few movie theaters I frequent have replaced their old seats with brand new recliner type seats, making it even more difficult for me to stay awake in the movies.  With the new seats, I don’t even have someone next to me vying for the armrest to keep me awake.

I recently had a reunion of sorts with some former J&J PR colleagues, not all from Corporate.  We really had a great time catching up and talking about the “old days.”  Many of them are still consulting or teaching, and they sure have great lessons to impart.  I am so fortunate to be associated with organizations like the Associate Alumnae of Douglass College, the Community Visiting Nurse Association and with Johnson & Johnson, where intelligent, caring people abound and the standards are so high.  Not everyone has these kinds of experiences.  I’m the lucky one.


And finally, I attended yet another funeral this morning, this time for the mother of a friend.  Each of these experiences reminds me how fragile and fleeting life is, and how we should be grateful to spend it with people we love.  So look around, be thankful for friends and family, and let them know that you love them before it is too late.