Last day of June, and I've been rather lazy with my blog. Yesterday as I sat on the patio, I looked up and snapped this picture. I decided I would try to snap a daily photo and post it as July Junque. The "que" classes up the word "junk". I shall still post some movie reviews and whatever strikes me.
Or we can just poke into a corner and see what pops out.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green has been
a young adult fiction phenomenon. The movie version starring Shailene Woodley
as Hazel Grace Lancaster and Ansel Elgort as Gus is a worthy film. It’s sharp,
sad, plucky, gutsy, and the key to these teens’ lives is to not just be
oblivion. They want to matter and they don’t want their cancer to define them.
Yes, these kids have cancer. No, that’s not the point of the movie. The point
is ultimately teen love, heart, and sheer living with every fiber.
Shailene Woodley continues her streak of tremendous acting.
She’s so smart and so real – her Hazel is snarky, wise, and a passionate girl
who has lung issues that can kill her. Gus – so wise, full of soul, and yes,
he’s darn cute – has a bone cancer that took his leg. But he’s strong and sees
the glow of Hazel. My review is gushy because this is such a great movie. Lots
of laugh out loud lines and moments. Even during some tough breathing times for
Hazel, she’s spunky. That’s the key. While her mother (played by a very good
Laura Dern) tells Hazel to make friends, it’s only out of concern. The mom
wants Hazel to be sorta “normal”, and embraces Gus. He infuses Hazel with
energy and indeed some normalcy.
Hazel and Gus are obsessed with a book by a Peter Van Houten
called The Imperial Affliction. It’s like a defining cancer fiction story. Gus
uses his “make a wish” to take Hazel and her mother to the Netherlands to meet
Van Houten. He (played by Willem Dafoe) is a total jerk, but that’s rather key
to the movie. It strengthens the kids’ relationship and also defines the issue
of living with cancer. They also visit the Anne Frank home and that’s very
powerful as Hazel lugs her oxygen up a zillion teeny steps.
All in all, the movie is a faithful rendition of the book.
Bring tissues. I won’t say more about the plot. The Fault in Our Stars
has depth, great acting, and lessons that don’t pound you over the head, but
should be embraced. See the movie, sniffle a bit, and then enjoy life,
breathe deep, run, love, and avoid oblivion.
First day of summer and it's sultry in Texas. We should be mid-90s today and humid.
The chance of sulky was very high this morning. I ran to Kohl's to check out their swimsuit sale. I realized this week that a few of the suits I had were revealing far more than necessary. I swim a lot and the pool just does its wear and tear. But I have to be in the right frame of mind to undergo the agony of trying on swimsuits. The potential for shrieking in the change room was very high. However - success. I found two suits that were modest, promised a "slimming effect", and they weren't hideous. Whew!
Today, June 21st, my mother would have been 82. She passed at age 60. I commented in an email to my father that it's hard to picture how she'd look, etc if she had lived. I figure she'd be even tinier, with her very neat wavy hair a silver white color. My father agreed that it's difficult to project - she's frozen in time for us.
She liked football - American. Not soccer football. World Cup is huge and I read a bit, but haven't watched it. Ray turns it on but tends to move on - he said he can't stand "the flopping about for fake injuries" and the "run here, run here, run pass, run pass, run pass and nothing seems to happen."
Guys I work with were commenting too - "Hey, it's a round ball. Every kid can kick it along. At least American football takes a funny bounce. Could be more interesting if they used a bowling ball." Ouch.
No respect, World Cup fans. No respect from we self-absorbed non-fans. Sorry
So, it's Sangria Saturday. Waiting on some friends to come for a pool float and visit. Snacks and sangria in flamingo glasses.
Summertime and the living is easy..........in my new swimsuit (I'm going with the black one today)
It was a bit of a morose Monday - everyone was grouchy at work for no apparent reason. (then again, it was Monday - that is reason enough).
I'm lacking inspiration in the blog department. I decided to open my Quotationary book and look to some quotes on motive. That could jump start some writing this week.
Give me virtuous actions, and I will not quibble ....about the motives - Lord Chesterfield 1748
Never ascribe to an opponent motives meaner than your own - J.M. Barrie 1922
Love draws me one way, and glory the other - Cervantes 1615
here's a goodie A man always has two reasons for the things he does - a good one and the real one - J.P. Morgan
And of course, Oscar Wilde is the finale Had it been merely vanity that had made him do his one good deed? Or the desire for a new sensation?....Or that passion to act a part that sometimes makes us do things finer than we are ourselves? 1891
Need a break from the everyday? Like to learn new things but
don’t want to commit to a full semester of classes? Want some enrichment
without tests? Then One Day University is for you. I attended a
session in early May and came home excited about new and old ideas. Various
sessions expanded on today’s issues and offered a new dimension to current
events. The professors were eager to teach to a full house (over 100 people in
the ballroom. Most folks were age forty and up. Comfy chairs provided at
tables, along with a notebook and pen). In one hour they gave a mini-lecture on
a subject and allowed time for some Q&A. There was no political agenda, and
plenty of humor. Plus a very tasty lunch for purchase. Conversation and new
friends were a bonus.
Each session flew by, and as I left I’d chat with newfound
friends. One lady came in for the weekend and took advantage of the Hyatt’s
special rate of $99. She said, “I emerge from my Louisiana swampland and treat
myself to some learning.” She was a hoot. This was her third year to attend.
This was the May schedule:
Session 1 A. China, Russia, and India: the
Rise of the Rest Stephen Kotkin/Princeton University
Or B. The Future of Healthcare – Michael Sparer/Columbia University
Session 2: A. Global Economy – Paul Bracken/Yale
University or B. Abraham Lincoln: Fact from Fiction – Louis Masur/
Session 3: A. Psychology of Money – Jeff
Hancock/Cornell University or B. Darwin: What he Got Right and Wrong-Susan
Lindee/ Univ. of PA
Session 4: A. Four Books Every Book Lover Should Read
– Joseph Luzzi/Bard College or B. What we Know About the Universe-
David Helfand/Columbia University
Session 5: A. Four Films That Changed America – Marc
Lapadula/Yale University or B. How to Listen to and Appreciate Great
Music – Michael Alec Rose/ Vanderbilt University
Whew – Tough choices but I went with A, A, A, A, and
finally B which was the best class of all. Professor Rose contrasted Beethoven,
Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, and tied it up with some Disco tunes.
So consider attending One Day University in the fall. Make a
weekend out of it. Saturday, September 20, 2014 9:30 am
- 4:30 pm in the Arts District – Winspear Opera House and Dallas City
Performance Hall. Details at www.onedayu.com
Upcoming subjects include Brain Science, Foreign Affairs, Machiavelli
(History), Gershwin, Intuition Psychology, and more.
In the Blood by Lisa Unger will have you
rapidly turning pages. I have read some of her previous books and she is
getting better every time. We meet Lana Granger who’s lived a life of lies.
Her father is in prison for murdering her mother. Was Lana involved? And now
that she’s graduating from college, her friend Beck goes missing. A few years
ago, another friend was found murdered. Is this all tied in to Lana?
Lana herself still needs counseling, and when she takes a
sitter job for a very troubled 11 year old Luke, her fears heighten. She
thought she was smart, but Luke is extraordinarily brilliant, manipulative, and
possibly a psychopath. Is he involved in Beck’s disappearance? Lana’s college
mentor questions her actions in regards to dealing with Luke, Beck, and her
In this social media age, it might be difficult for Lana to
“keep her ominous secrets buried.” (cover blurb). P. 20 “I caught sight
of myself in the mirror, a slim black line with folded hands and furrowed brow,
an ink stain on cream silk.”
p. 46 “In my darkest moments, I wonder if it was a cheat, an
escape from that cosmic yawning. Maybe there was an angry god somewhere,
raging. He wanted us, he almost had us.”
In the Blood is smart, stylish, and slick. The
plot will keep you and the police guessing until the end. It’s satisfying to
read a book like this – an entertaining, well written thriller. It is not gory,
but don’t slip in the blood.
A Million Ways to Die in the West is
irreverently funny. If you like Seth McFarlane’s Family Guy, Book of
Mormon, and the movie Ted, then this flick is golden. I
would have deleted a few gross over-the-top bits, but I am not his target
audience. Otherwise, he was writing my thoughts completely about life in 1882
in the west. Totally freakin’ miserable. You could die at any moment, and
frankly the most dangerous place to be is at the doctor. But rattlesnake bite,
mountain lion, bar brawl, duels, any disease – especially cholera, stampede,
getting photographed at the fair, killed by the big block ice shipment. The
list goes on and on.
And there’s Seth’s Albert, a baby faced nerd who hates his
life. But he loves his girl (Amanda Seyfried) a vapid climber who dumps him for
Neil Patrick Harris – the successful owner of the Moustachery.
Fortunately, Anna (the gorgeous Charlize Theron) rolls into town.
Unfortunately she’s the wife of the most notorious outlaw in the west – Clinch
(Liam Neeson). But she befriends Albert, teaches him to shoot, and wisely
points out that the girl isn’t worthy of him. Yes, they fall for each other,
but one fateful kiss is seen by one of Clinch’s fellows. Now Albert is on
death’s door awaiting a duel with the best in the West.
Aaah – but nerdy Albert has his ways. I won’t give any more
away. Let’s add that Sarah Silverman as the town whore is hilarious. Even
funnier is her deeply Christian boyfriend (Giovanni Ribisi). Their scenes are
priceless. A Million Ways to Die in the West is filmed like a
John Ford flick and the music background is perfect Sergio Leone worthy.
It has cheap laughs and has not been greeted with great reviews by the critics.
My husband and I had low expectations and the movie rose above them. We were
entertained and there’s nothing wrong with that. Go to a matinee, then grab a
burger afterward. Truly a worthy date. Sometimes you have to go for silly, and
sly Seth, the sheep boy, is too clever by far.
Nancy Horan had great success with Loving Frank,
a fictionalized account of Frank Lloyd Wright. Now she takes her skills and
entertains us with Under the Wide and Starry Sky starring Robert
Louis Stevenson. This is a love story, a writer story, and a tale of
fragile health. Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, a tempestuous American, came
to Europe to study art, escape a philandering husband, and find her own
identity. She meets Robert Louis Stevenson – a Scot, ten years younger,
weak lungs, no money, and a gift for telling a tale. He’s a lawyer who hates
the law and decides to devote himself to writing, despite his father’s
misgivings. Together the odd couple embark on a love affair and marriage
that “spans decades and the globe. The shared life of these two strong-willed
individuals unfolds into an adventure as impassioned and unpredictable as any
of Stevenson’s unforgettable tales.” (cover blurb)
As a writer, it was fun to read about his slow success in
magazines and finally books. In the late 1800s, writers depended on the mail
for letters of success or rejection. He was often down to his last penny when
something would pay off. His success with Treasure Island and The
Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde cement him as a classic author. He
also had a winner with A Child’s Garden of Verses. He was
close to death many times and seemed to find health on the high seas and
finally in the South Seas islands. Fanny nursed him, fought for him, and also
wrote and published. She recognized his genius and had to live with his
peculiarities. Nancy Horan captures the personalities and we root for Fanny –
her passion, her self-esteem, her pride, her American identity, and her love
for RSL. This is a smooth enjoyable read as Robert Louis Stevenson and the
woman behind him come alive on the page.
Chef is a savory morsel of a movie. You will
come out of the theater hungry for a cubano sandwich. Jon Favreau’s chef is on
top of his game in Dustin Hoffman’s restaurant. He’s prepared to create the
best meal of his life for a famous Los Angeles food blogger critic. Hoffman
says, “No, prepare the hits people come here to eat.” Alas, the critic (a
pompous Oliver Platt) blasts him for his tired presentations and lazy lava
cake. A social media war escalates and the chef is out of a job.
He takes the advice of his ex-wife, Sofia Vergara, and meets
with her former ex-husband, Robert Downey, Jr (small role that he makes magic
on screen). It’s food truck time, and this turns the movie into a summer road
trip/father son bonding and sizzling food heaven. John Leguziamo, sous-chef,
adds a fun dimension. They kick off the Cubano sandwiches in South Beach, and
there’s no turning back. The son, at age 10, turns out to be the tweeting,
filming, marketing genius. Crowds gather wherever they roll – New Orleans,
Austin, etc. Laughter, love, and memories are made as the boy grows up,
the dad sees his son as a person, and the glory of cooking simmers.
Chef is heartfelt soul food.
It brims with humor and life. Forget a tub of popcorn. Enjoy the movie
and then treat yourself to a meal at a family owned restaurant or gourmet food
truck. Spend time with your family and friends, visit a farmer’s market, and
treat your palate. Spice up your life after enjoying Chef
The Railway Man is based on a true story that
shows the horrific aftermath of war – the mental despair that can occur. We
meet Eric Laskow (Colin Firth) as a world weary man riding trains in England.
His brilliance shines through when he chats with Patti (Nicole Kidman), and
they fall for each other. Soon after marriage, she sees the real Eric as he
suffers from war flashbacks.
In flashback we uncover his story. World War II in Burma,
the British are beaten by the Japanese and men are taken prisoner. Eric Laskow,
from the signal corps, and his buddies managed to steal enough parts as they
dismantled gear to rebuild a radio. Meanwhile they are part of the slave labor
building a railroad. Unfortunately, the Japanese discover the radio and also a
map Eric has drawn. He admits to the radio and the map but had no ulterior
motives. They suspect spying and Eric is subjected to horrific torture. The
film handles this well – you cringe just watching the reactions of other
In present day, Patti wants to help. She seeks out a fellow
war hero to get more of the story. Henley tells her and also reveals to Eric
that he’s found the Japanese man who did the torture. The man now conducts
tours for the war museum. To reach some closure, Eric travels to Burma and
confronts the man. He’s come to kill him, but as they talk he breaks down. He
realizes, as does Takashiki, that they are different men now. Sadly they did
their jobs as twenty year olds, with huge regrets.
There is closure for The Railway Man. This
well done low key film depicts the underlying horror of war with gravitas.
Colin Firth is restrained and you feel for the fiber of his soul. It is a
very serious film that tells a great tale of forgiveness and bravery.
Joanne Faries, originally from the Philadelphia area, lives in Texas with her husband Ray. She considers herself fortunate to be able to pursue a writing career after eons in the business world. Joanne enjoys reading and movies, and is the film critic for the Little Paper of San Saba.