2019 is almost over and we face 2020....do we look it in the eye, face our fears, be ready to battle the jaws and teeth of destruction?
Family and motherland are but two circles that are part of the wider circle of humanity. Those who teach morality and who limit one's duties only to family and country teach a selfishness which is dangerous for all of us.
Calendar of Wisdom - Leo Tolstoy page 377
Here's to selflessness - concern and caring for our fellow beings. Ponder our part as the year ends.
I hope your Wednesday Christmas is merry and bright. We'll be up bright and early to trek to Kevin's house. We'll see the girls be excited over Santa surprises. Breakfast and then lunch. Family visit, laughs, and joy. I can only hope there's peace for all. I know that's not reality, but we have to keep working toward it.
Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand, and for a talk beside the fire; it is the time for home. Edith Sitwell
Merry Christmas one and all in blog land. Cheers and blessings.
Ray and I joined the hordes at the movies this weekend to
see the “final” episode in the Star Wars Saga – Rise of
Skywalker. It is very entertaining, well done, and lots of
special effects. I’m not a fanatic and was late to the whole party. I don’t
know that I’ve seen every episode. But, I enjoy the general theme – underdogs
fighting the empire. Underdogs seeking truth, justice, freedom, and
caring for humanity. What’s not to like?
Acting is good and Daisy Ridley as Rey kicks butt. Always
poignant to see ghostly Mark Hamill as Luke, ghostly Harrison Ford as Han Solo,
and the late Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia – still a leader, still the one all
look to. Whatever footage they had of her, they blended well and it works.
Adam Driver is great as Kylo Ren/Ben - evil force trying to get Rey
to join him on the Dark Side. Will he win, will she crater? Po, Finn, et
al – can they fly and fight for victory. Creepy Emperor Paletine – how’s he
still hooked to machines and pulling strings?
I won’t give away big reveals – who’s really related to
whom? Say what?!!! I think there are still questions that true fans must
ponder. I need to ask my guys at work for some clarification. But I
could roll with it all and be entertained. And frankly when the John Williams Star
Wars theme music swells, I can feel the exhilaration – you just know
something cool is going to happen on the big screen regarding a galaxy far, far
away. And that’s what movies should do – transform and send you to
another realm for a few hours. We, in the full theater, were united and rooting
for our scrappy resistance fighters.
I watch way too much Netflix and
Amazon streaming. At this point, I can’t fathom adding even more streaming
services. (I do admit Disney lurks…that darn Mouse, and Marvel, and Disney Wish
Upon a Star magic – we shall see if I succumb. However, I still need to read,
write, and go outside for some fresh air, for goodness sake.
But here’s a very brief listing with some comments on
The Irishman – Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe
Pesci, and every actor who’s ever appeared in mob movies, star in a
Martin Scorsese saga. This movie is way, way, way too long – 3-1/2 hours.
C’mon, Marty, use the edit button. I watched it over several nights – almost
like a mini-series. For a person who is not keen on guns, I confess to liking
mob movies. I like the language, I like the different ways of “offing”
people, and I like the scenes around the dinner tables. These guys eat
well. If you liked The Godfather series, Goodfellas, etc,
then you’ll appreciate The Irishman. This does not cover new
territory and it moves a bit slow, but I liked the acting. De Niro gives
great shrugs – he says a lot with them. Al Pacino, as Jimmy Hoffa, gives good
looks and can bark a great line. The special de-aging effects are amazing and
Marty does know how to film a scene.
Marriage Story – Scarlett Johansson, Adam
Driver, Alan Alda, Laura Dern. Directed by Noah Baumbach who can tear out your
heart with one scene. This is Kramer vs. Kramer as we watch the
destruction of a marriage. Charlie (Driver) is a rather self-involved
director. Nicole is an actress settling in L.A. for a mediocre show. The two
are seeing a therapist, but drifting apart. They do have a son and we see the
effects of their disintegration through his actions. This movie is heart
wrenching, well-acted, well done, and quite the character study. Not just a
light flick for a Friday night. You have to be ready for a soul search.
Comedies – any Jim Gaffigan special, any Ilisa Schlesinger,
any Sebastion Manecuso. You will laugh.
Classic series – Friends. I am up to
season 6 and must plow through before it’s yanked from Netflix at end of year.
I am reliving the hilarity. This series stands the test of time and is awesome.
Jack Ryan Season 2 - arrgghhh. We
were psyched for this after season one. What happened? This is a mess
with Venezuela. Jack and crew are slashing through the jungle. The evil German
villain dude is annoying. The overall plot has holes. And Jack keeps
going off the reservation. We found this all rather predictable – no good
Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – season 3. Snappy
patter, spiffy clothes, fast and frenetic in a good way. Great acting and just
funny. This show is different in a good way and you can’t be slouching in your
chair half asleep while watching it. Lots of wordplay, and it moves quickly.
Comedy isn’t for sissies and Midge Maisel is staying on her toes…in heels. Good
That’s if for now. That should fill up your time if you are
bored. Or turn off the TV and read a good book…..I’m on the Magpie
Murders right now and it’s quite intriguing. Cheers!
How's that for a Wow! display? My sister snapped this pic at Longwood Gardens and sent it to me the other night.
The season is moving along rapidly. Hope everyone is taking time out to enjoy family and friends, stroll through a garden, or just sit and stare at your own Christmas tree. Ray and I do that a lot. Go for some calm amidst the clamor. And yes, eat another cookie...
Knives Out is a jolly good whodunit. Big cast,
plenty of plot curves and twists, a creepy old family manor, and just when you
think you know…wait there’s more. This is a very fun flick to enjoy – a nice
break from the holiday scramble.
Oliver Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) has the family
gathered for his 85th birthday. Everyone has a selfish reason to be
there and they are counting on inheritance money someday. Well, Oliver, a
renowned mystery author, is found dead the next morning with his throat slit.
Suicide? Or murder? The siblings and spouses gather – Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris
Evans, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, along with the nurse (Ana
de Armas) to be questioned by police and a hired (by whom?) private
investigator, Blanc (played with great fun by Daniel Craig sporting a southern
Who argued with whom? Who stormed out? Who’s been double
dipping? Who manages the publishing company and wants to expand to movies and
tv? Who’s self-made but still seeks daddy’s approval? Oh the knives are out
everywhere, along with footprints in the mud, dogs barking in the middle of the
night, and Oliver’s mother (yes, she must be over 100) who seems to always be
at the right window at the right time. What did she see?
Daniel Craig is a hoot pondering the clues, questioning the
red herrings, and keeping this self-absorbed selfish family (all well-acted and
great to see in combinations) on its toes. Knives Out is quite
clever, very entertaining, and might make you appreciate your own family,
however modest your gatherings, even more. I can tell you it was not Mr.
Mustard in the library with the candlestick. Enjoy!
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter is
quite a family saga based on a true story. Full of hope, luck, destruction,
love, and perseverance – this book features three generations of the Kurc
family. 1939 Poland, in the hometown of Radom, dark clouds are circling Jewish
families. Cover blurb: Soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become
inescapable, and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each
desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety.
The sweep and scope of the book take you to Paris jazz clubs
and the Siberian gulag, along with South America. As you read this book
you’ll hold your breath for this family – Sol and Nechuma, Genek, Mila with
baby Felicia, Addy, Jacob and Bella, along with Halina and Adam. As you read
one story line, you will be eager to turn pages to read about someone else and
then meanwhile, you are concerned for another couple. Communications
break down and each person worries for the safety of their kin. Fortunately,
their strong faith and love truly binds them and no matter the lack of
food, the evil they face, and the depth of despair they face, their
goal is to reunite.
Georgia Hunter writes a compelling story and weaves the
plotlines well. We are the lucky ones to get to meet the Kurc family and root
for their survival. We Were the Lucky Ones is rooted in truth,
and that makes it an even better read.
Black Friday - I spent the afternoon at the theater in Dallas - Fair Park Music Hall. The Dallas Musicals presented the touring production of the Tony Award winning Dear Evan Hansen, and it was a treat.
A lonely teenager lies and ups his celebrity quotient in school as the unknown before "best" friend of the kid (Connor Murphy) who committed suicide. But it was his (Evan's) letter, his own cry for help to himself, that the parents think was Connor's last words. In truth, Connor bullied Evan. Evan adored Connor's sister Zoe from afar.
Evan's single mom works a lot and goes to school, and, while she cares deeply, just isn't around much. Connor's folks grab hold of Evan as a conduit to their son's life. Evan hangs on to them as a lifeline of how a family "should" be.
This is a serious, angsty subject dealt with in current form - social media slides on the screen, a spare stage, and melodic tunes with strong lyrics - "When you're falling in a forest and there's nobody around, do you ever really crash, or even make a sound?" The pressure for kids these days is apparent in this very current musical.
I was extremely impressed by the matinee understudy, San Primack. His voice was clear as a bell. Everyone was quite good and Dear Evan Hansen will stick with you.
“We can all use a little kindness”. This is the lead
on the movie poster for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and
it’s very appropriate for our world today. Last year’s documentary on
Fred Rogers was superb and truly gave us a lot of insight into the man who
created Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. What more needs to be said? This
new movie is based on a true story and is an added bonus salute to the man, the
myth, the down to earth hero.
We actually see more of Lloyd (played by a very sincere
troubled Matthew Rhys). He’s a journalist who’s known for unearthing the dirt,
the real scoop on folks who seem too good to be true. He’s assigned a small
(400 word) Esquire Magazine puff piece on Fred Rogers. Lloyd has anger
issues from his past and he’s currently a new father, on a new path with his
wife (the very intensely good Susan Kelechi Watson). He’s loaded for bear,
ready to find the chinks in the Mr. Rogers armor. Instead he’s disarmed by this
sweet sincere man (played by our American acting saint Tom Hanks) who seems
genuinely interested to know Lloyd. He can’t believe what he’s experiencing.
It’s as if he’s on the interview block. Fred Rogers manages to get under his
skin, make him question himself, make him face himself.
Mr. Fred Rogers, as embodied by Tom Hanks is the real
deal. He’s no saint. He’s a man. But he’s someone in the moment. He’s someone
who genuinely likes people, is interested, and takes the time to truly listen,
to truly think, and to truly care – for young and old alike. As we learned from
the documentary and we see in this portrayal – he respected children and knew
kids deal with very grownup type issues, but in their own way. He guides. He’s
there. He pulls you in and you are his neighbor and friend – a word he does not
Bring tissues. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
is sniffle worthy in a good way. We do need some kindness these days. This is a
good family movie for our holiday season.
Strap in. Put your helmet on and gird your loins. Ford
v Ferrari is an A-rated movie with a lot of zoom.
Henry Ford II (the incomparable Tracy Letts) has been
insulted by Enzo Ferrari and he’s opened his check book. He wants a Ford race
car to win the Le Mans 24 hour race. Who’s the man to do this? Carroll Shelby
(perfect performance by a spot on Matt Damon) is a racing genius. He won the Le
Mans. He designs cars. He has a vision. Who can drive a winning car? Shelby
vouches for the “difficult” Limey -Ken Miles (another genius role done by
Christian Bale). Miles breathes the air of racing. He can sense one tic, one
engine miss, one esoteric nuance that embodies a vehicle.
But within Ford you have the suits and Josh Lucas plays the
biggest jerk of all. He wants the marketing power, he wants the
limelight. Shelby says this can’t be done by committee and he takes Henry Ford II for
the ride of his life. The man is crying and gives carte blanche. Miles wins
races and proves he’s worthy of being on the team. Shelby keeps him reigned in
just enough. The movie keeps us on edge with lots of oomph as we enter Le
Ford v Ferrari is really good and you don’t
have to know or care about racing. It’s about art vs. commerce, devotion vs.
cynicism, inspiration vs. deadness, and it involves some crazy. Men who can’t
help but be outside the box with a passion. And wow – the acting chemistry
works. The cinematography works. Your heart will accelerate as Miles shifts
through some nutso driving. And you’ll root for Ford Motor Company (America!) to win the darn race.
It’s holiday movie season and this one is a winner. Zoom
I went to see Let It Go 2 – aka Frozen 2.
After all, Let It Go was an earworm you could not escape when the
original Frozen phenomenon hit theaters. Frozen 2
does not disappoint and kids clapped at the end of the film. I’m sure many will
see it again and again and again. The franchise stays on track and I agree with
the Dallas Morning News – the movie has all the staying power of a
snowflake. It evaporates almost on contact.
The movie is pleasant with snowy landscapes, fun lines,
decent songs, and sister power. Elsa (Idina Menzel) is queen of Arendelle. Anna
(Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), and Olaf (Josh Gad) follow Elsa when
she hears a mysterious voice from the forest. Turns out she needs to free the
forest from a fog, work with native people in the area, and resolve an ancient
struggle to right some historic wrongs. She has her ice powers, but she still
need her posse – most of all her sister. The journey involves the scary giant
boulder men, caves, a very cool water horse, and dealing with all elements –
fire, water, air, and earth.
This sister bond is the key to this movie and what makes the
concept of Frozen and Frozen 2 special. The movie
made me happy and yes, I want to build a snowman…
So, it’s been out for a while, but I really liked Maleficent
– Mistress of Evil. This is Disney at its best. Total production,
special effects and the acting of the otherworldly Angelina Jolie as
Maleficent, Michelle Pfeiffer as the evil stepmom, Elle Fanning as Aurora- so
innocent and pure. What’s not to like? This is a movie for the big
screen. It’s gorgeous. The effects are excellent. The plot line works.
Aurora is grown up and she loves the Prince. Why not bring
two families together? Um, well, there are the horns on Maleficent’s head, and
the fangs when she smiles. Nothing a little scarf couldn’t cover. But wait
there’s more….the Prince’s mom – gorgeous Michelle – is way evil and has been
plotting forever to take over this kingdom. OMG. And there’s a whole other
world (of Maleficent species) that have been hoping for some acknowledgement.
Plenty of threads interconnect through this movie. I won’t go into more detail.
You need to watch to see it play out.
But the general theme is Love. In her weird way, Maleficent
is the best mother for her “beastie” Aurora. And as the plot thickens, the bond
does too. The super-duper battle scene is totally worth the wait. Oh – Angelina
vs. Michelle – cinema genius.
This is just absolute fun. Don’t wait for Disney Plus
streaming. Support your local theaters. Everyone else is seeing Frozen
at Thanksgiving. Find a seat for Maleficent – Mistress of Evil.
Cheers and cranberry sauce.
A lovely Saturday spent with a friend at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. The special exhibit featured Renoir: The Body, The Senses. As a young lad growing up next to the Louvre, he spent hours studying the old masters. By the late 1880s/ early 1900s, his impressionistic style gathered raves or guffaws. Critics were divided.
This exhibit featuring his nudes and studies of the human form is fascinating. He constantly evolved. He often thinned his paint and then used layers and layers to create the translucent effect. His blending of colors on the bodies - blues, purples, yellows, etc. added a glow to skin. I stood in the middle of the gallery and gazed about - the figures just popped from the canvas. I especially liked the above portrait - Blonde Beauty 1881 - ethereal and filmy.
Go check out the latest at a museum near you. Renoir and his cohorts are waiting for you to admire (or criticize) their works.
The previews to JoJo Rabbit may look a tad bizarre, maybe even off putting. On the contrary this is a nifty little artsy film that will touch your heart.
Written, directed, and acting - Taika Waititi - has truly hit the right notes in regards to confronting nationalism. Johannes (JoJo played by Roman Griffin Davis) is ten and totally psyched to go to Hitler youth camp. He's got the uniform, the knife, and his imaginary "friend" Adolf Hitler (played by Waititi) pops in to pump him up.
Never fear, JoJo is truly a kid with a heart and soul. Stuff occurs at the camp that make him question mob mentality. Back home, different walks with his mother and things she says (Scarlett Johansson) demonstrate she's working with resistance. And after hearing strange sounds, JoJo discovers his mother's been hiding a 17 year old Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in a cupboard space in his sister's room. He's not sure what to do with this information and in talking to her he has to acknowledge to himself that she's okay - not a monster.
A lot happens in this ninety minute movie - there are some funny bits just because JoJo is so dorky, and Hitler is so ridiculous. But trust me, it's poignant, deep, and the kid is SO darn good in this film.
Anything is possible - it's the Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith
cover blurb - February 2016, a surreal lunar year begins, bringing unexpected turns, heightened mischief, and also inescapable sorrow. For Patti Smith - inveterately curious, always exploring, always writing - this becomes a year of reckoning with the changes in life's gyre: with loss, aging, and a dramatic shift in the political landscape of America.
As Patti Smith travels from CA to AZ to KY, her dreamlike writing and haunting Polaroids give Year of the Monkey quite a reflection on a life. She's a unique woman - funny, wise, odd, endearing, and weird. There are times I wasn't sure I truly understood her message or thought process. However, this book is unique and intriguing, as is the singer poet rebel that is Patti Smith.
Terminator: Dark Fate was written and produced
by the originator – James Cameron. He did not direct this, but all of his
masterful touches are there. Forget a bunch of the Terminator sequels
and just go into this one fresh. This movie opens in Mexico when there’s a
lightning disturbance and out from the sky drops Grace (Mackenzie Davis) –
she’s an augmented human sent to earth to protect Dani (Natalia Reyes), a young
Mexican gal, who has no idea how important she is to the future of Earth.
Forget Skynet, etc. Now it’s another force sending
Terminator Version 9.0 and this is one bad dude. The initial fight sequence,
chase, shootings, car chase, bulldozer incident, etc is intense and certainly
kicks off Dark Fate. Ray leaned over and whispered, “I’m
exhausted.” And fortunately, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton!) is there – world
weary, raspy voice barking orders, no-nonsense sense of the situation, and
she’s been fighting Terminators since one killed her son. Now Dani is the
This movie is kick-ass sharp and yes, he’s BACK – Arnold –
is on “our” side and ready to help Sarah and Grace to save Dani. I
won’t spoil any more of the plot. It’s all familiar and yet has some new
twists. The special effects are fabulous. The pacing of the film is non-stop.
You will be exhilarated and hyped by the end of the film. Terminator:
Dark Fate is meant for the big screen, so get that tub of popcorn and
immerse yourself in the dark fate of the world. Enjoy!
photo courtesy of my friend Linda - harbor boat tour of NYC.
Lady Liberty - beacon to all the huddled masses yearning to be free. Symbol of so much along with our U.S. flag. Gift from France, our ally
Cheers to all the veterans who have served our nation. Men and Women who volunteer to work, fight,-here and abroad - alone on a mission or alongside our allies. All to keep America free.
my opinion - respect for our allies is very key to the safety of our military so that they can serve their tours and return home safe to be veterans.
The real and lasting victories are those of peace and not of war - Ralph Waldo Emerson 1860
Bruce Springsteen's concert/cinematic musings Western Stars brings an added dimension to the thirteen songs on his new album. At 90 minutes, we see the Boss perform his new songs in his own rustic barn - complete with a symphony orchestra - in front of select friends.
Our boy from Asbury Park NJ is now an elder music statesman on a ranch in CA still singing about the common man and issues - love, loss, loneliness, family, and the passage of time. He's a troubadour for troubled souls and he's still looking in the mirror trying to fix himself too.
The film has scenes of nature, horses, Bruce looking reflective, sunsets, sunrises, and stark desert lands. I enjoyed the film and the insights into the songs. Some were catchy, some got a bit morose. But Bruce Springsteen is a music poet and he's captured a lot of America through the years. And by his side, wife - Patti Scialfa plays her guitar and leans in for some harmony. Old clips show them cavorting as kids and with their kids - quite a life - lean times and golden.
I am a huge fan of Colson Whitehead's writing. The Underground Railroad blew me away. Now with The Nickel Boys, I think his writing is even better.
Elwood Curtis lives in the black area in segregated Tallahassee, but the Civil Rights movement is stirring and he's in awe of Martin Luther King's words. As a high school senior about to take classes at a local college, he's ready for the world. His grandmother has kept him on the straight and narrow.
cover blurb: But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future.
Elwood finds himself at the Nickel Academy - its mission is to provide moral training. It's true goal - to break down the soul of "colored" delinquents. Elwood tries to hold on to Dr. King's words, but his friend Turner thinks that Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble. (cover)
Colson Whitehead's The Nickel Boys is based off of a real life reform school in the South, where horrors came to the forefront. You'll root for Elwood's ideals and hope for the best. Twists and turns abound, and through it all the writing is stellar, the characters rich, and you'll shed a tear for the torment of tough times in the 1960s South.
Happy Fall and November. I am currently in Philly visiting my dad, so I won't be around much to comment. Here are some random fall filler pics. We've survived Halloween, now it's onward to Thanksgiving, and
sshh! You know who sees you when you're sleeping, knows when you're awake, knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.
Have a good Monday and week.
A few Saturdays ago, I enjoyed an afternoon of Jubilee Theater. Single Black Female by Lisa B. Thomson, directed by Vicky Washington, and starring Cherie Williams and Naeaidria M. Callihan was excellent.
Plenty of laughs, plenty of Oh NO moments, plenty of reminders of the resilience of a strong species - upwardly mobile...highly educated...take no prisoners...loving and enjoying life...all while keeping an eye on that ticking biological clock, dodging the brothas who just know that they are "Mister Right", and seeking love in all kinds of places! (from the director's notes in the program)
I thoroughly enjoyed the solid performances, the clever dialogue, the hysterical vignettes, and the poignant moments of friendship too. Superb play.
The Jubilee Theater is a gem in Fort Worth Texas. Their mission is communication and awareness through the arts - unite folks from all backgrounds and appreciate the beauty of the human spirit.
The Monday moment is courtesy of Saturday's trip to the Fort Worth Symphony. The Halloween Spooktacular brought out creatures of all ages. Kids dressed in costumes - plenty of princesses, super heroes, and witches. The orchestra played tunes from Harry Potter, Star Wars, and the theme from Jurassic Park brought out this dino to roam the aisles. Fun!
The "Witch's Ride" from Hansel and Gretel was a good tune. Many folks in the orchestra also wore costumes. The best was the man in a shark outfit playing the bass.
Support your local symphony and enjoy a safe walk In a Haunted Forest from Suite No. 1, Op 42.
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.