Friday, November 30, 2012

Movie Review: Lincoln

A movie about the sixteenth President of the United States, Lincoln, couldn't be more timely. Director Steven Spielberg looks at January 1865 in great depth and from it we get a portrait of a caring man, a concilliator, a smart politician, a family man, a compromise, and a key to American history. The Civil War was winding down and the Union would prove victorious. Lincoln (played by a genius actor, Daniel Day-Lewis) wants an amendment to the Constitution to abolish slavery. He feels this is very important for closure to this long bloody mess.

Thus we see the behind the scenes meetings in the House of Representatives - the arm twisting, the cajoling, and yes, compromises. Much like today, there has to be some wheeling and dealing to get things done. Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens is excellent. James Spader provides some comic relief, as he visits members and takes count. Sally Field is haunting as Mary Todd Lincoln - still mourning the death of son Willie, still dealing with other young son Tad, and worrying about eldest son Robert who wants to enlist.

Lincoln is quite enthralling. Daniel Day-Lewis portrays Lincoln as we imagine - his walk is perfect for a very tall man (rather gangly), his eyes twinkle as he tells a story with a meaning, his pauses and gestures reflect a man who speaks with purpose. It is an amazing performance. Lincoln gives depth to the holiday movie season.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Movie Review: Skyfall

Bond, James Bond. Aaah - we've celebrated those words for fifty years and over twenty plus movies in the franchise. Classics for the ages. Best ever was Sean Connery and Goldfinger - that's this critic's opinion. You may write in your favorites. But let's discuss the latest, Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig. Superb, exciting, and ranks high in the pantheon.

James Bond has been buried and is mourned. MI6 is moving on, but comes under attack. Cyber terrorism outs a multitude of agents and they are being killed. MI6 itself is blown to bits and has to relocate. And who shows up, but a very much alive James Bond. Daniel Craig's eyes gleam a steely blue, his face reflects weariness, and yes he was wounded and has to rehab. M herself, the great Judi Dench, greets him in her clipped tone and expects him to get to work. Can he pass the tests? Is he ready for the field? The new Q is a flop-haired youngster (Ben Whitshaw) with a few new gadgets in the arsenal.

It's all typical Bond movie, and yet raised to a higher level. Skyfall gives us a glimpse into James's history. We see the slightest of vulnerability, but also the dashing guts and glory too. Top notch goodies, plus a Scottish estate and an old Aston Martin. Cheers!

As for the villain - oh, Javier Bardem as Silva (an ex-agent) is a slippery snake oozing enough psycho charm to keep us interested. He matches wits and charm and then explosion for explosion. He's definitely up there in the list of great Bond villains. (Again, argue and write in your favorites - that's what makes 007 movies so fabulous).

I won't give away anymore. Skyfall is pretty girls, sexy intro, an Adele sung theme (rah), chases, explosions, and Daniel Craig doing it up right as Bond, James Bond. Go see this movie and come away shaken, not stirred, by the stunning camera work and slick pacing. Skyfall is a reason to go to the big screen movies.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving/Black Friday - Small Moments

Quick post to continue my small moments Thanksgiving theme. Enjoyed Thursday at my husband's folks. Fourteen adults and four kids made for a packed house. Plenty of delicious food and reasons to give thanks. Cousins teased cousins and now their children played together. The eight year old corralled the four year olds. I remember following my older cousin anywhere. Savored the memories.

Black Friday at Kohl's around 10 AM. We were lined up, armed with our newfound goodies and checking our coupons. Everyone behaved and the line moved pretty quickly. They have a good system with one traffic controller directing people to the next available checkout line. Then there was the man who kept trying to dodge into the line and acting surprised that people pointed him to the back. "What? You mean the line goes all the way back there?"  I chuckled to myself. He's the kind that dives into traffic or tries to bar you from entering the freeway. There's always one in the crowd.

Chatted with the lady in front of me. She had tried out a new jalapeno cheese spread recipe for an appetizer. Said it was a hit. We discussed our respective thanksgivings and then the husbands off to hunt. We agreed we were happier at Kohl's. We bade each other a happy weekend as we left the checkout. I was headed home and then to a movie. She was off to the Apple store with a friend (good luck to her on that)

People held doors for each other. I saw folks waiting to let parking spaces clear. There was no point rushing around. I enjoyed the small moments on a blustery day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving - Soak in the Small Moments

 First, in regards to Thanksgiving, there's no better place to be (besides home) than New York City. My friends Linda and Cecil are visting there this week and thus, here's a behind the scenes shot as the huge parade balloons are aired up. SpiderMan will float high above crowds in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The final float signals the official arrival of Santa Claus and the Christmas season.
Now, a Thanksgiving reflection. Last week as I strolled around the arboretum, I stopped and actually studied the nature around me. I was orignally focused on the babbling brook, but then realized that this tree was fantastic. I don't know how many times I've probably walked by this tree, glanced at it, and didn't think about it. This time I focused on this majestic, gnarled bark, character of a tree.

With Thanksgiving, I usually post my gratitude for family, friends, good health, and general life. And I am grateful for so much bounty - I'm truly fortunate. But this Thanksgiving, in the holiday rush, I want to make a special point of truly looking around me, and savoring the small moments.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Book Review: Gold by Chris Cleave

Tenths of a second have separated Zoe and Kate for years as they began to battle at age nineteen for cycling supremacy. Now at age 32, they aim for the 2012 Olympics. Each wants desperately to win gold, and each has more than a medal to lose. (book jacket blurb)

Gold by Chris Cleave is well written fiction that delves into the psychology of sport, the intensity of training, and the difficulty in coping with real life. Kate is married to an Olympic level cyclist, Jack, and together they have a daughter Sophie who is battling leukemia. As parents they are torn as they juggle her care and their workouts.

Meanwhile, Zoe is compulsive in her need to win, and at various points in her career has jeopardized her only friendship with Kate. Obsession never looked so ugly.

p. 224 You got up to the speed where the bike started humming beneath you, where the vibration through the handlebars and the saddle drew you into a trance of concentration. You noticed everything. ...Time had the quality of indecisiveness. Everything was unusually quick and unusually slow.

I enjoyed Gold and the characters are well drawn. You cheer and jeer at them along the way. As a non-athlete myself, I found Gold riveting in regards to this level of sport - what it takes to get there and stay at Olympic level. Saddle up and start pedaling. Once you start reading, you won't want to stop.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Movie Review: Flight

Flight starring Denzel Washington is fiction. Yet it's a hot subject that has some sponsors asking to have their names blocked from the movie trailers. Denzel's Whip is a senior hot shot pilot for a large airline. We first meet him as an alarm goes off. He's in bed with a hottie flight attendant. The room is strewn with beer bottles and evidence of some hard partying. And the two need to prepare for a return flight. Uh-oh. A drink here, a sniff there, and Whip is ready to take the controls, just needs coffee and aspirin from the senior flight attendant on board, who obviously knows the drill. The co-pilot has concerns but doesn't officially state them. It's stormy, with nasty winds. Time for take-off. It's a rough one, but we can see that Whip knows his stuff and expertly skirts between thunderheads to get to smoother flying.

Then, things go wrong mechanically. Losing engines, lack of control. Whip is focused, intent on slowing the plane down. He'd been chugging orange juice laced with vodka (yes, we saw him open the two little bottles and pour them into his mug) and yet when he inverts the plane, then re-inverts and lands it, albeit in a controlled crash, he is a hero. Out of 102 people, he saved 96. BUT, and this is a big BUT, did he endanger the lives of those 102 people? Is he really a hero, or just darn lucky?

That first quarter of the movie is gripping excitement. The next three quarters is the telling tale of a man who's spun out of control and lost his way, but his ego won't let him ask for help.

Don Cheadle, John Goodman, Kelly Reilly, and Melissa Leo are part of an all star cast that takes Flight along with Denzel. His is an Oscar worthy performance. The movie see-saws between admiration for the man and his crisis abilities, and repulsion at his weaknesses and flaws. It is intense and has you, the audience, alternating in taking sides, and wondering if Whip will ultimately make the right decision. Buy a ticket and climb aboard. But strap on your seatbelt - Flight is a bumpy ride.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Book Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

Here's a quirky (in a good way) read - Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple - that had me chuckling out loud. Bernadette Fox chose to move from L.A. to Seattle with her genius husband, Elgie, who's a god at Microsoft. Now she hates Seattle, the stay-at-home moms she calls gnats, the vibe, and the weather. The feud with a neighbor is very entertaining and results in a mudslide.

She loves and adores her daughter, Bee, her one connection to the real world, and yet she's encouraging Bee to go to boarding school.

A mass of contradictions, Bernadette Fox is a unique character, and after she disappears on a trip to Antarctica we find out she was a MacArthur grant genius in architecture. Her daughter is sure her mother is still alive and pours through various emails, correspondence, and goes on a trip with her Dad to Antarctica. Ultimately, the family discovers a great deal about themselves, family dynamics, and stifled creativity.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Movie Review: Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a nice little indie film with good acting and a poignant storyline. We meet Charlie (Logan Lerman) as he trods off on his first day as a high school freshman. It's mid-late 1990s. He's back from a summer at an institution and as he observes his fellow students, you can see him folding inward, trying to be invisible. He's smart and observant and desperately wants a friend, to belong somewhere.

Fortunately, he meets Patrick, a flamboyant young man. Patrick (Ezra Miller)and his stepsister, Sam (played by the lovely Emma Watson - all grownup from Harry Potter days), run a little renegade group and welcome Charlie to the land of the misfits. He indeed fits right in. Smart, witty - these kids all have secrets as they try to grow up and figure out life. Charlie falls head over heels for Sam, but another girl in the group really likes him. Sadly and typically that causes a rift in the dynamics. The problem is that Charlie keeps remembering things from when he was a little boy, and as these memories emerge he has more reasons to be depressed.

So, that paragraph sounded dark and dreary. The movie does have deep issues and is serious, and yet while watching it, I laughed at a lot of the clever lines and enjoyed hanging with these kids. The movie time going by did not drag or seem pathetic or dreary at all. The nineties vibe is captured well and the soundtrack gives a great atmosphere. Charlie watches as his friends prepare to graduate, and his time with these kids gives him more confidence. An English teacher, played by Paul Rudd, is also an anchor for Charlie, a mentor who encourages Charlie's reading and writing.

As a wallflower, you get to step back and watch the world. But sooner or later, you have to plunge into living. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a nifty little film highlighting teen life in general. Worth plucking out of the current movie choices.

I also recommend the book by Stephen Chbosky. He wrote it and then directed the film.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Friends Across the Pond and More

Thanks to Rosalind Adam  for giving me a shout out on her blog. She's in the UK, I'm in Texas but we enjoy our reads and comments on the writing world and more. I can't say I'm an addict, but I enjoy my blog. It started as a "well to be a writer, you need a platform, and a blog, and a website, and etc, etc, etc." At this point, I don't know that many people stumble upon my blog nor do I promote it. It's noise amongst the zillion other writers in this world.

However, I delight in putting together a post once or twice a week. It's not a chore. I like to share book reviews, movie, reviews, and my poetry. I try to promote the arts - museums, plays, and musicals; and a variety of nature pics.

In turn I look forward to reading posts from newfound friends with a variety of interests, perspectives, and a grander scope of the world. So, thanks Rosalind and cheers to you and these worthy bloggers:   Annalisa Crawford    Sherry Ellis    Kate O'Mara   Charlotte Bailey   Roni Loren

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Silly Deer Poem

Hunters’ Delight

(by Joanne Faries for her mighty hunter, Ray Faries, who is in a deer stand now in Bronte TX
 for her father (non-hunter) in PA who sees deer in his front yard)

deer wander suburbs

hoof prints embedded

poop piles on lawns

bucks could ring doorbells

like a Far Side cartoon

deer forced from wooded

protection by

developer buildings

the same men who lease land

sit in camouflage blinds

aimed to shoot deer that

meander backyard America