Friday - began to snow in the DFW area around 9 am and continued all day. Bad roads reported so we were dismissed from work at noon. Took me 3 hours to drive home 35 miles (normally 50 minutes maximum). Ray had a 2-1/2 hour challenge. Highways and trucks don't mix well. My little Chevy Cruz did its job, but you had to really watch the snow/slush slippery effect.
After all that time sitting in cars it was time to play outdoors. We took a walk as snow pellets bombed our faces
I took myself to Bass Hall in Fort Worth on Saturday, and treated myself to an orchestra seat to enjoy the musical "Once". It was originally a movie created by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. A boy and a girl meet - he's Irish, she's Czech and they bond over music for a brief period of time. But once is the spark that changes their lives. It's a nice little love story about chance, dreams, and two cultures.
Excellent cast and voices. These photos are courtesy of an email from Bass Hall. No photography during the performance!
The musicians were superb and the song "Falling Slowly" is sublime. It won an Academy Award, and it's haunting. If a touring production of "Once" arrives in your town, treat yourself to a ticket and two hours of magic.
It doesn't look like much, but this is a Dallas-Forth Worth "Ice Event" - the latest weather terminology. We had thunder. We had sleet. Hence "thundersleet" - another new vocabulary word
My boss texted this morning to NOT come for now. Heavy sleet and bad road conditions. We might reassess at noon. A co-worker with 4-wheel drive called me and said he was headed back home - too nasty.
So, for all my friends in the Northeast - you are working far too hard with the shovels and plows, etc.
All it takes is a quarter inch of sleet to halt the DFW economy and world. I am home safe and warm.
Poor Ray - he headed out - east to north Dallas where Knight Electronics does not stop. I haven't heard from him.....hope he's okay as of 8:15 this am.
Thanks for coming back - Here are my predictions for some big awards
Julianne Moore/ Still Alice – it will be a huge surprise if
she does not win. Her performance in capturing Alzheimer’s decline is superb
Marion Cotillard/ Two Days, One Night – haven’t seen it, but
lots of buzz on this one
Reese Witherspoon/Wild – she was perfect as Cheryl Strayed.
Reese does spunky well
Rosamund Pike/Gone Girl – absolutely chilling performance as
a cunning scheming double crossing wife
Felicity Jones/Theory of Everything – strong backbone behind
Stephen Hawking. Charming and worthy
Eddie Redmayne/ Theory of Everything – he’s the frontrunner
and gave a physical and emotional depth to Stephen Hawking. Math and science
Michael Keaton/Birdman – didn’t see it, but he could knock
Eddie off his perch
Benedict Cumberbatch/ Imitation Game – as Alan Turing, he
made a brilliant maddening man human. Excellent
Steve Carell/Foxcatcher – creepy and intense as John DuPont.
You wouldn’t recognize him
Bradley Cooper/American Sniper – he lived, breathed,
exhaled, spoke and embodied Chris Kyle. Not just a pretty face
And drum roll please………… This category has tightened up and
could be a surprise.
Boyhood – director Richard Linklater filmed a boy’s story
over twelve years. We saw him grow into a young man with all the drama in
between. Poignant and rich. My personal fave
Birdman – Alejandro G. Inarritu – this one has been rising.
I did not see it. My father called it quirky – not sure if he liked it. But it
seems to be a critical favorite
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson. This is very
inventive, creative, gorgeously filmed, and unique.
The Imitation Game – the story of Alan Turing and the
cracking of the Enigma Code is exciting and well acted
The Theory of Everything – the story of Stephen Hawking –
it’s math, science, disease, and a love story. Brings a sniffle
Whiplash – a brilliant teacher and a skilled kid on drums.
Apparently Miles Teller whips up a fantastic performance as the student
American Sniper – the toll of war on a man – we go inside
the soul of Chris Kyle – brilliant marksman, patriot, husband, father, and a
bit of a broken man. This is the box office winner and is worthy of attention.
Selma – a snippet of a pivotal time in US History. 1965,
Selma Alabama and Martin Luther King Jr leads a quiet protest that grows and
leads in the fight for Civil Rights and the Voting Act. Great performances and
quite a story, quite a man.
If you missed them in the theater, it’s time to fill that
Neflix queue. I’ve been filling in the blanks and seeing some great
performances. Step out of your wheelhouse and be enlightened and entertained.
Have tissues handy for some, or ready for a laugh on others. There is so much
creativity in this world. Dim the lights, have your bowl of popcorn ready, and
Hooray for Hollywood. I love the movies, as you can tell from all of the reviews I post. So let's look at my predictions in a two part special edition.
The 2014 Oscars shall be a snoozefest. While critically
acclaimed and well filmed, acted, and directed, these were not big at the box
office. Until American Sniper came along, a majority of people
hadn’t even seen these performances. Sniper would win if it was
based on box office dollars. However, that’s not how the system works – there’s
popularity, there’s advertising dollars, there’s all sorts of shenanigans we
don’t know about. But Sunday, February 22nd shall be Hollywood’s big
night. If nothing else, tune in for the opening introduction by host Neil
Patrick Harris – that man is a winner.
Let’s take a quick peek at the big categories – we’ll start
with the first award usually given out to get the ball rolling
Best Supporting Actress –
Front runner – Patricia Arquette/ Boyhood – over a twelve year
span she played the role of the mother. Heartrendingly true performance. This
is my pick
Laura Dern/ Wild – excellent job as we see her in flashback
from Cheryl Strayed’s view
Keira Knightley / Imitation Game – she hung tough as the
smartest woman in the room. Helped Alan Turing solve Enigma. I liked her a lot
Emma Stone/ Birdman – didn’t see this movie. But you can
always count on Emma.
Meryl Streep/ Into the Woods – nope. She was fine, but I
would not have nominated her. So-So singer in a musical
Best Supporting Actor –
J.K. Simmons/Whiplash – he’s the frontrunner as a tough
Mark Ruffalo/ Foxcatcher –he plays Mark Schultz – it did not
end well on the DuPont estate
Ethan Hawke/Boyhood – he’s the fairweather father and gives
a soulful performance
Edward Norton/Birdman – didn’t see him, but generally darn
Robert Duvall/ The Judge – didn’t see him, but he IS Robert
check in tomorrow for Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Picture
Fifty Shades of Grey is now out in the
theaters and it’s quite an R movie. I’ve also seen reviews calling it Fifty
Shades of Boring. I wouldn’t go that far. The first book in the trilogy by
E.L.James was horribly written. I read it out of curiousity and figured the
movie had to be better. It stars Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey – a fine
specimen of a man. Dakota Johnson (daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie
Griffith) plays Anastasia Steele. She’s a pretty girl, but a bit stiff –
hopefully she can buy some acting lessons with her paycheck.
A brief premise. Christian Grey is the billionaire young man
in Seattle who lives in fabulous locations, flies his own helicopter, has tons
of cars, is great looking, can play the piano, etc – the full composite of any
fantasy. (Remember this is a movie, folks. Yes in real life we want the guy who
can change the oil in the car, can grill a steak, and picks his clothes off the
floor) However, Christian has “issues”. Eh, nobody’s perfect. He was born to a
crack addict prostitute and treated badly until he was adopted at age four by
the Greys. His issues manifest themselves in his naughty playroom for nighttime
activity. We shall be circumspect in our descriptions for this review.
Anastasia is a new college graduate and a virginal beauty in
her prime, with no idea of her allure. Christian wants her, but there are
contracts to be signed. Ana learns about this whole new world, and questions
it. There has been a big uproar for the books and the movie from folks
protesting on behalf of women. I can see some points, but Ana is a consenting
adult and has choices. She can and does say no at different plot points.
All in all, not a lot really happens in Fifty Shades
and some stuff is giggle worthy. The movie is better than the book, but just
watch with low expectations. This is a filler movie for February. The trailer
they showed late last year was HOT, and the soundtrack is actually rather good
– it opens with Annie Lennox singing “I Put a Spell on You”.
February - the sky outside is fifty shades of bleak. You can warm up in a movie
theater and kill two hours with pretty people and great skyline shots of
Seattle, or start working on your taxes.
I read a blip in a local Dallas magazine about The Birthday Party Project, and it captured my attention. I checked out the website which is very thorough, and I became more enthused over its mission.
They host kid birthday parties every month at local Women's Shelters. Cupcakes, balloons, games, music, and a lot of joy for an hour. As a volunteer I helped put up streamers, joined in a line dance (not well), and was there to chat and clean up. The lead coordinator was extremely organized with bins and the plan. I was very impressed.
The staff at the Arlington shelter were very nice and obviously cared about the attendees - the kids and the moms. The kids had a lot of fun and the one with the official birthday had a huge grin as he opened his package containing a football and a gift card.
I know I take a lot for granted in my life. Everyone should get to celebrate a birthday, but sometimes circumstances aren't right. The Birthday Party Project is working to make it possible. Check out the website. They have been expanding to other cities - contact them if you are interested, and spread the joy of blowing out candles.
The film opens with Martin Luther King, Jr. (played to
perfection by David Oyelowo) practicing his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance
speech. In contrast we see folks leaving a church, dressed up little girls on a
staircase, when a bomb blast hits. This sums up 1964 and 1965 – a time of
struggle and change in the Civil Rights Movement. The movie Selma
looks at a small snipped of history – the peaceful march from Selma to
Montgomery – the background, the discussions, the behind the scenes
negotiations with President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson), the hatred and the
vitriol in the South, and the determination of African Americans to be able to
vote without struggle.
This is not a documentary and there have been arguments over
some aspects of the film’s viewpoint of the White House actions. However, when
it comes down to the people – to a woman trying to register to vote and being
denied because she can’t name every county judge in Alabama - Selma
is a powerful movie with an excellent story to tell. The emphasis was on
peaceful protest, and ultimately it did help the cause when a broader spectrum
of the populace joined the cause. Priests and other clergy joined arms with Dr.
Martin Luther King to preach a message of peace and to walk with him in
Excellent filmmaking and a formidable story to tell earned Selma
an Oscar nomination. So many good movies this year, I don’t think it will win
but it’s worth viewing. David Oyelowo embodies the spirit of Dr. King.
The Oscar nominated song “Glory” sung by John Legend soars over the end
credits. You’ll march out of the theater contemplating history and a man.
Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2013, and the key to her writing is short stories.
The Nobel Prize presentation speech summed it up - Reading one of Alice Munro's stories is like watching a cat walk across a laid dinner table. A brief short story can often cover decades, summarizing a life, as she moves deftly between different periods. No wonder Alice Munro is often able to say more in thirty pages than an ordinary novelist is capable of in three hundred. She is a virtuoso of the elliptical and the master of the contemporary short story.
The Family Furnishings collection offers twenty-four accomplished tales. It is worth time and effort to read each story slowly, relish the details, and ponder her characters and their life choices.
I liked this line from the story Too Much Happiness - "Always remember that when a man goes out of the room, he leaves everything in it behind," her friend Marie Mendelson has told her. "When a woman goes out she carries everything that happened in the room along with her."
Observe life with Alice Munro. Read Family Furnishings.
I usually see musicals when I go to the theater. However, The Book Club Play, caught my eye and had great local reviews. Thus, last Sunday a friend I ventured for lunch and some culture - a live theater experience.
The Dallas Theater Center offers a variety of worthy productions, and this was no exception. Written by Karen Zacarias and directed by Meredith McDonough, The Book Club Play brings us into the living room of Ana (Christie Vela) and Rob (Jeffrey Schmidt) who host the book club. Joining them are Will (Steven Michael Walters), Jen (Sarah Rutan), and newcomer Lily (Tiana Kay Johnson). Their love of books brings them together and now they are part of a documentary study about book clubs. The pervasive camera causes concern, and of course some things spoken or done (a cheating kiss) cannot be undone.
Not only is the camera intrusive, but the newcomer Lily is young and has them read Twilight. To go from classics to current throws a shockwave. And, to make matters worse, Alex (Brandon Potter) shows up randomly at the invitation of Jen. But this is unheard of. Book Club requires proper vetting according to Ana. There are rules. (Gasp!)
This play was well acted and had a lot of great lines. Anyone who loves to read, belongs to a book club, writes, or has anything to do with the written word will get a kick out of the references, jokes, and obvious love of literature and culture. The Book Club Play was a tight production, and we left smiling and vowing to perhaps once again attack Moby Dick.
(and Rob - you should read the book, not just watch the movie)
(I was a kid just prior to vaccinations for measles, mumps, etc. I remember measles as the worst of the worst for me - just so darn sick. I don't usually climb a soapbox on this blog. However, how can there be any question about not getting vaccinated?)
Foxcatcher tells the true story of the Schultz
brothers – Mark and David – Olympic wrestlers and their life changing
involvement with John du Pont (of DuPont fortune). We meet Mark (a superb
Channing Tatum) and older brother David (Oscar nominated Mark Ruffalo) as they
train in a rundown dimly lit wrestling arena. Mark’s life is training,
training, training – then go home to watch tv, eat, and sleep in a barren
apartment. It looks like a meager bleak existence. David is married with two
kids and a sunnier outlook. One phone call changes the whole dynamic.
Mark is helicoptered to the John du Pont estate outside of
Valley Forge, PA. There he meets the eccentric man who fancies himself a
philanthropist, sports enthusiast, and benefactor. He’s created a
state-of-the-art wrestle training center and wants to help Mark and others
train for the Seoul Olympics under his “Foxcatcher” team name. He offers
a guest house for living, food, drink, and a glimpse into the world of the
rich. There’s also a dark side of drugs and partying.
John du Pont is played by Steve Carell. You would not
recognize him and he’s very worthy of his Oscar nomination. He’s eerie in his
eccentricity, temper, possessiveness, jealousy, and bizarre sense of
entitlement. He acts as if he owns Mark, and he wants David too. David resists
but sees that Mark’s in trouble. David ultimately comes to help Mark, and he
gets drawn into the payroll and du Pont circle. But he does not completely drink
the Kool-aid, and this drives John nuts. Let’s just say – John with a gun in
hand signals the end of the ride.
Foxcatcher is a very good movie. It’s a tad
long and I would have edited it down. However, the acting is fantastic and this
insight into a murder story is chilling. Money does not bring happiness, and we
see not only physical wrestling, but wrestling with demons brought to the big
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.