Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf is a rather
pleasant, low-key read. Haruf’s style is quite folksy, and he develops rich
characters. Even with a slow pace, you want to hang out and visit with these
people. Have a beer and/or a glass of wine with Addie Moore and Louis Waters,
and see where it takes them. Holt, Colorado is a small town with plenty
to gossip about and when Addie and Louis start to be seen together (why, he’s
knocking at her door after dark!), well…shut my mouth!
Turns out, Addie knocked on Louis’s door with a proposition.
Why not come over and spend the night? No, not in THAT way, for goodness sake.
Just companionship. Both spouses passed a while ago, and the nights sure do get
long. Louis contemplates this turn of events and calls her – I’ll be over
tomorrow night, if that’s okay. Sure. And there you go – a budding new
friendship is in the works.
They ask each other questions and talk. They also sit in
companionable silence. But there’s something to be said for just hearing
breathing, having a touch of a hand, and a meal together.
Things blossom. Their adult kids are shocked and question
what’s going on in their lives. And unfortunately, some senior health issues
come into play.
I recommend reading the book first and then watching the
Netflix version starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. Excellent
pairing/acting and fairly close to the book until the end. Typical Hollywood.
But that’s okay. If you read the Our Souls at Night first, you’ll
know the author’s intent.
P.S. Kent Haruf’s lack of quotation marks drove me
crazy. He said. She said. None of that at times. It took me a bit to get
into his rhythm. Harrumph.
The Greatest Showman refers to P.T. Barnum,
but it could also refer to Hugh Jackman, who portrays him in this musical. What
can’t Hugh do? He sings, dances, and charms on screen. This is an excellent
movie for his talents, and a fun two hours to watch. Born incredibly poor
and unloved, P.T. Barnum vows he’ll be a success someday. His father is a
tailor and does work at a fancy estate. That’s where PT falls in love and vows
to marry the daughter. He’ll show the father that he can provide. She (Michelle
Williams) falls in love with P.T. for his energy, enthusiasm, and his dream.
She slogs through as he loses job after job. The family is happy.
Then he buys a museum of oddities. He sees potential. It’s
the early 1800s and folks do seek entertainment. The museum builds, of course,
into a circus and it’s fun to see the permutations arise. P.T. Barnum likes to
make a buck, is willing to take chances, and he respects but will use society
outcasts – tiny Tom Thumb, a giant, bearded lady, dog boy, and more. Ultimately
he seeks some acknowledgment, for the sake of his daughters. By wrangling a
rich dandy (Zac Efron) into joining the business, Barnum hopes for legitimacy.
He also branches out with Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) – vowing to make her
famous in America. But she has eyes for him, wants to compromise him, and again
he steps too close to fire.
The Greatest Showman is a spectacular film –
colorful, full of pleasant tunes, an American rags to riches tale with a
sideshow of memorable characters. And Zendaya flies overhead on her trapeze.
Step right up folks and buy your ticket. Let Hugh entertain you in his top hat
and red coat. Fill up on the cotton candy dream.
P.S. Barnum & Bailey Circus closed for good in
2017. Just see the story on the big screen
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney is quite a
family tale. Lots of dysfunction, but well drawn characters and entertaining
lines. You want to wring our bad boy Leo’s neck, and yet he can be so
Here’s a bit from the Prologue - As the rest of the
guests wandered the deck of the beach club under an early evening midsummer
sky, taking pinched appraising sips of their cocktails to gauge if the
bartender was using the top-shelf stuff and balancing tiny crab cakes on paper
napkins while saying appropriate things…….(fill in more description that is
superb)….and here’s the kicker line –
Leo Plumb left his cousin’s wedding with one of the
Uh-oh. Let’s just say that Leo is charming, gorgeous,
spoiled trouble. He’s the baby of the family, been catered to and
forgiven his whole life. What could go wrong?
Leap forward to find Leo being released from rehab.
The siblings – Melody, Beatrice, and Jack – have called a meeting to
discuss the predicament caused by Leo. See, everyone was counting on the nest
egg that’s been accumulating. We learn everyone’s problems and debts in some
back story. Now it’s simmered and stewed and their mother used the nest egg to
save Leo – send him to rehab. Now what? Did they have a choice? Did they want
their brother to live, get saved…well, yeah…but NOT with “their” money.
Cover blurb - The Nest
is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways
we depend on one another, and the ways we let one another down.
Money can sure mess up a good or bad thing. The author
captures family dynamics perfectly, especially siblings – love, hate,
frustration, and that undying tie to blood. I really enjoyed this book
and felt as if I knew these people through the author’s prose. This is a
debut novel and I am jealous. Kudos to Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney for leaving The
Nest for us to read.
I, Tonya is a hoot. It’s a mockumentary
version of the crazy shenanigans that occurred with the U.S Figure Skating
program leading up to the Olympics. Tonya Harding, scrappy unconventional
skater with the ability to turn axels versus the ice princess, Nancy
Kerrigan. We hear “interviews” with Tonya, played by Margot Robbie,
saying she did not know anything about the plan to get Nancy out of her way.
The husband, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), is not the brightest guy in the
world. His buddy and Tonya’s bodyguard, Scott, are bumbling idiots. And
finally, La Vona Golden, Tonya’s mom, is brilliantly played by Allison Janney
(who won a Golden Globe for this role) and she’s harsh. She pushes Tonya to
excel. She smokes, drinks, curses at the rink, and is just a piece of work.
All in all, did Tonya know that Scott was going to arrange
for Nancy’s knee to be whammed by a steel bar? Did Jeff really arrange for this
to occur or was he just going for threats? We’ll never know and you have
to watch this film with tongue in cheek appreciation. It’s snarky and
From a review in EW – “absurd, irreverent, piercing
portrayal of a life and career in unchecked and checkered glory”. I,
Tonya proved to be a fun film to see on a cold day.
Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton was
discovered after his death. It’s a tad rough around the edges and started a bit
slow. But the story kicks into gear and turns into a fun interesting read. It’s
a touch of the old west with hints of Jurassic Park to come. Who knew fossil
hunting could be so dangerous, rewarding, and thrilling?
William Johnson, a spoiled Yale student, joins a world
renowned paleontologist (Marsh) on a summer expedition to the Wild West. But
the (cover blurb) paranoid and secretive Marsh becomes convinced that
William is spying for his nemesis Cope. He abandons William in Cheyenne, WY, a
locus of crime and vice. William joins forces with Cope and stumbles upon a
discovery of historic proportions. With this extraordinary treasure comes
Fossils, Darwin’s theories of evolution, Wild West
characters, gold rush towns, and more abound. Dragon Teeth is a
decent romp led by a naïve young man:
p. 9 You, sir, have made a wager,” I replied.
And in that moment I realized that, through no fault of my own, I would now
spend the entire summer in some ghastly hot desert in the company of a known
lunatic, digging up old bones.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is a
well-researched novel based on a real life New York socialite. Caroline
Ferriday, as liaison to the French consulate, made a huge difference in WWII
for French orphans. She also impacted Polish women from Ravensbruck concentration
camp who suffered unspeakable horrors. Caroline managed to get them to the USA
after the war for reconstructive surgery and help in returning to “normal”
Cover blurb: Kasia Kuzmerick is a Polish resistance
fighter sent to Ravensbruck. Herta Oberheuser, a German doctor, is sent to work
at Ravensbruck and committed to horrific surgical experiments on camp women.
Caroline Ferriday is a woman on a mission. The stories cross continents as
Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.
This debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and terrible secrets that
were hidden for decades.
Lilac Girlsis a rich debut novel
filled with well-drawn characters and compelling drama. As the stories unfold,
you will be shocked at what occurred and the strength of humans to survive.
p. 440 Caroline waved toward the lilac bushes that
swayed in the breeze. “It’s fitting in a way – lilacs blossom after a harsh
winter. It’s a miracle that beauty emerges after hardship.”
Be sure to read the Author’s Note at the end. Kelly’s
path to finding this story and bringing it to life in novel form is
fascinating. The life of Caroline Ferriday was admirable and worthy of more
attention. Her strength and persistence made for a compelling read. I finished
the book in awe.
Pitch Perfect 3 is silly, campy fun and a
great way to spend a winter two hours. Hang out with a tub of popcorn, listen
to tunes, laugh, and come out smiling. The Pitches are back in fine form.
Well, the Bellas are out of college and in the real world,
and that’s a bummer. Anna Kendrick’s a music producer but feeling discouraged
with the kids and crap she has to deal with. She quits. Now what?
Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson – so fabulous. Her throwaway lines are
gems) is bumbling along. At a Bellas reunion, the ladies all agree they’ll do
anything to sing together again. How about a USO show? They have a connection
and suddenly are landing at a base in Spain. Hilarity ensues. Of course there’s
a riff-off with the other bands (and they have instruments…shocking!)
Are there love connections? Yes. These ladies are on a
military base for goodness sake.
Are there some daddy issues? John Lithgow appears from a
long ago past to connect with Amy. But his nefarious past proves troublesome.
Just go with the plot line. Rebel is vulnerable and strong.
Pitch Perfect 3 has awesome mash-ups and
plenty of girl power. Don’t judge. I got my five dollars of matinee
entertainment. And hey, can’t go wrong with a George Michael finale tune
– Freedom 90. Seriously, so uplifting. The Bellas are fine and ready for their
own freedom in the world. Sing it loud!
Christmas highlights - I got a Super Spirograph. I always ask for stuff that we can keep here and play with kids. I loved Spirograph as a kid myself. My father liked. it too. What a hit. If I'm in the mood to do something artsy, I'll be playing with my new toy.
I don't think you can have Christmas and little girls without the appearance of Barbie. And her hair already looks like a tousled mess from her Corvette ride.
Music - here's the key - bang the maracas on the tambourine....try it. (That gift left our home!)
Those words are the key to Darkest Hour.
Wow – Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill is superb. Neville Chamberlain
does not have the support of Parliament. Viscount Halifax is still an up and
comer. Who to tap for Prime Minister? Oh dear. Winston Churchill appears to be
the man that can appease all sides. He drinks a lot, smokes those infernal
cigars, he’s insufferable and goes through secretaries like crazy. King George
VI (Ben Mendelsohn) is not a fan. He’s a tad afraid of the man. Winston’s
wife Clemmie (the incomparable Kristen Scott Thomas) asks him to try to be
patient, but she’s pleased he’s finally getting the accolades he deserves.
It’s dire times for Western Europe. Hitler is swallowing up
countries – Poland, Holland, Belgium, and now in France. The United Kingdom
must declare war or negotiate peace. But is Mussolini of Italy the one to work
with. Oh dear. Churchill has a quandary. He’s in the War Room, looking at the
map with despair. Thousands of young man are on the beaches of Dunkirk – stuck
as the Germans narrow the circle. Now what? Civilian boats set sail and it
looks as if the plan will work. Winston seeks out his people, the citizens for
an opinion – fight or flight? That’s where he sees and hears – Never Surrender.
His great speech to Parliament at the finale of the film is
stirring. His words still ring out today. History was made.
Director Joe Wright captures the times. There are many
nuanced touches and tough characters. He gives us a slice of history on the big
screen and doesn’t waver in showing flaws and strengths. It’s a wow. I
loved a line from the movie in regards to Winston – “He mobilized the English
language and sent it off into battle.”
Star Wars: The Last Jedi has more than myth
going for it. This is a movie filled with character, emotional arcs, and a real
story line. It’s exciting and rich filmmaking. I still would have cut
approximately thirty minutes (yes, I realize I am not the target audience, but
some of the air battle scenes go on too long. We get it – zoom zoom,
swish, and shoot) (And there is one too many trips up and down the
mountain with Luke and Rey – we get it. He’s trying to break her down. And gee
– she’s persistent). Picky, picky, I know, but that’s me being a critic.
Otherwise, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is in fine form and showing
more and more power. Her confidence grows and she’s learning. Kylo Ren (Adam
Driver) is evil, yet we get more of some emotional undercurrents. Po,
Finn, Laura Dern as a military leader – steely enough, and new Resistance
worker bee – Rose – all get to rise to the occasion and be a hero. I’m
not going to delve into more plot line. Suffice to say, the Resistance is
battling the First Order and the Supreme Leader Snoke. Take sides and root for
And there’s Leia – the late Carrie Fisher – still in the
film, still important. The filmmaking they achieved when she was alive is
fabulous. She’s grand, she’s funny, and she lends gravitas. As for Luke, is he
the last Jedi? Mark Hamill’s blue eyes are more vulnerable, less piercing.
Older, wiser, and weary – Luke is a key to the magic.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is one to see on the
big screen. I know it came out before Christmas, but if you haven’t seen it
yet, what are you waiting for? A galaxy far, far away….
Alas, Sue Grafton passed at age 77 before completing her alphabet mystery series. A fun, decent writer gone too soon.
A Is For Alibi started it all in 1982. Kinsey Millhone, a young private detective, let us into her life in Southern California and led us through a lot of puzzles. She was dogged, intrepid, smart, wily, and also keenly perceptive about the human condition.
Ms.Grafton said, "I find it more interesting to see what the constant exposure to violence and death really does to a human being, how a person incorporates that into their psyche." (from The Times interview 1985)
Y is for Yesterday was published in August, 2017. That is her final book. According to her family, Sue Grafton never wanted the series turned into movies, TV shows, or allow a ghost writer to continue in any vein. Thus, the alphabet ends at Y. (from her DMN obituary).
Sue Grafton was a solid author with a unique character in Kinsey. She grew in confidence in front of our eyes. By keeping the series in the 1980s, Grafton avoided the ease of too much technology. Old fashioned,hardcore beat footwork was the name of the detective game.
I hoofed along with Kinsey and enjoyed the ride, cruising up and down the CA highways, stopping for a run at the beach, and trying to guess the outcome of the mystery. Sue Grafton's work lives on.
A bit brisk in Texas, and I know it's quite the deep freeze around the nation.
Welcome back. Hope everyone had a good holiday, a week of family, fun, and also reflection and contemplation of what's ahead.
I already broke a resolution. Well.......I contemplated jogging. The thermometer proclaimed 28 degrees and I said, "Hell, no." So, that's out of the way. Whew!
I do plan on posting more movie reviews, book reviews, and general jargon in 2018. I hope to attend some theater, symphonies, museum exhibits, and more. I'll give you peeks into the arts, and share the fun.
Write more? Yes, it's a plan.
Fine writing, next to doing nothing, is the best thing in the world - John Keats
He did nothing; he was a poet - Sheila Mooney
I'm a lousy writer but a hellava lot of people have lousy taste - Grace Metalous (Peyton Place)
Let's have a laugh or two, and make the best of 2018.
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.