The Living and the Dead – BBC Series

April 9th, 2017

A and I have been watching an amazing horror-ish series from the BBC called The Living and the Dead. I have finished it, and she is about to finish it. Back on a cold winter’s day at the end of last year. I binged watched this show. I loved it and was very sad to hear it was cancelled and not coming back for season 2. That said, season 1 is like this perfect story arc for me and I just watched the entire series again so that A and I would be watching at the same time.

When watching this, at some point I had to log in to Facebook and tell all of my friends, “Oh My GOD! I just screamed at my television!”

The series starts out slowly and is a very beautiful period piece. Costumes, set, etc. are perfect in their details. It feels like a simple ghost story… kind of spooky and atmospheric. But as the episodes roll by, you start to see glimpses of things that let you know you ain’t in Kansas anymore – or instead of Kansas on a quaint Victorian era farm. I don’t want to give anything away BUT go, stream this or buy this and watch it as soon as you can. Keep going through the first three episodes – it will pick up momentum. If you like dark, period-era ghost stories, you will love this. The second time I watched it, rather than screaming, tears streamed down my face. I love this show


September 8th, 2012

A, here.

Calling all germophobes, you must watch this movie…because what you really need is to be even MORE paranoid!! Contagion is an intense movie that moves as fast as the deadly bacterial outbreak on which it focuses. Its message is disturbing, showing how both national and global disease control centers scurry to respond to a threat of this magnitude, all the while, still being about a hundred steps behind the fast-moving outbreak.

Watching this movie made me recall a documentary that M & I watched for one of his history courses — about a deadly flu outbreak in 1918. We were shocked at the worldwide devastation, even down to the area we live in now. But in Contagion, writer Scott Burns and director Steven Soderbergh show us how deadly an outbreak can be in our modern world. Imagine how long it took for a contagion to spread between countries back in 1918…and then imagine how quickly it can spread now, with thousands of international flights per day. No amount of Purell is gonna protect us from that!

This movie also shows how many disease control organizations, both national and worldwide, frantically struggle individually and collaboratively to locate and contain an outbreak of such magnitude, often putting their own lives in danger. And from the opposite perspective, it shows how families just like us respond to a worldwide emergency, doing their best to protect themselves while the world in general is in a panic. I particularly liked the juxtaposition of Jude Law’s character to the disease control centers — it shows how much the media can impact whether we remain calm or panic, and how easily the media can sway public opinion based on what one man thinks he knows, versus what hundreds of disease control experts are trying like hell to confirm as truth. It reminded me of watching wonderful anxiety-inducing zombie movies like 28 Days Later, but with a much more realistic fear that this can actually happen!

The Big Year

August 24th, 2012

A, here.

Starring Jack Black, Steve Martin, & Owen Wilson, The Big Year is a tale of how the strong call of a passion can transform into obsession and can lead to unexpected friendships and even a mutual respect for fierce competitors who share the same love. With the actors in this movie, I expected a knee-slapper comedy, and while it did deliver many laughs, I would rank it more in the genre of Parenthood — heartwarming at times and heartwrenching at times, with a clever touch of comedy throughout.

The three main characters are all bird watchers who unknowingly to each other (at first), are all aiming for a Big Year, which means they log as many bird sightings as possible in one calendar year, with the possibility of claiming the world record. Their pursuit of this dream takes them all over the world in all different seasons, which forces them to make difficult decisions regarding their families, jobs, and friends—all of which can result in sacrifice or reward, depending on how they choose. The true meaning of winning in the end is defined quite differently than you might have expected in the beginning.

The movie is even more delightful with humorous and touching support performances by Diane Weist, Brian Dennehy, Jim Parsons (Sheldon from Big Bang Theory), Tim Blake Nelson (Delmar from O Brother Where Art Thou), and a great role by Angelica Huston. I laughed and I cried (sometimes simultaneously), and I felt truly rewarded for having watched this movie. I highly recommend it!

S, here!
A – I just watched this movie recently and I thought it was great. Jack Black is one of my favorite leading men. I loved him in The Holiday as you know (since watching The Holiday is one of our guilty seasonal pleasures). He is just wonderful.
In fact this is a kind of an unassuming movie that just sneaks up on you and before you know it your are laughing or crying. It shows what price you can pay for your passions but also revels in new found friends. website analysis . I loved the great relationship between Jack Black’s character and his Dad played by Brian Dennehy.

One person you didn’t mentions was JoBeth Williams who played Steve Martin’s wife. She was so big in the 80’s (Kramer vs. Kramer, The Big Chill). I really enjoyed seeing her in a movie again.

Loved it!!!

The Tree of Life

July 3rd, 2012

S, here.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to see this movie. But sometimes, I think, movies come to me just when I’m ready for them and not before.

I loved this movie. After months of seeing and hearing about prequels, sequels, and 2.0 versions of the same stories, seeing an original work is refreshing. I read a review of this movie and the reviewer mentioned that so many film makers these days shy away from attempting a masterpiece – just playing it safe. Terrence Malick is one of those filmmakers that is not afraid to try for something original and new – a masterpiece.

At times the film seems more like a meditation than a movie. It moves slowly and is filled with grace and beauty, though it doesn’t shy away from cruelty and hard knocks. It shows the sublime – from the creation of life on Earth – to the mundane – the creak of a rope swing in a tree and the sigh of a screen door. The film is filled with images and the story is more implied than told. It centers on the O’Brien family gives us glimpses of the lives of Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien and their three sons. We experience their world through the middle-aged eyes of the oldest son, Jack, as he remembers his youth in innocence and beyond.

These memories show us the loving, forgiving mother and the disciplinarian dad (a dad many of us grew up with in the 50’s and 60’s). I think we see Jack coming to terms with his feelings for his parents and the wondrous world he experienced in his childhood – and brings that wonder into his adult life in the space of what seems to be an elevator ride. It’s brilliant. As he reconnects at the end of the film with the people that inhabited the world of memory, you can feel him loosening up and breaking up the crust of his life.

Even though Malick’s world is one I was too young to live in, I do remember family suppers and tall jewel-colored aluminum glasses for cold milk and iced tea. I loved that the film evoked a time and place and I think many of us would recognize it and be transported by it. If you want a retreat from comic book characters and explosions this film is a good choice.

Harry and Tonto

December 9th, 2009

S: Back in the day, I read all of the Carlos Castaneda books, the first ones about peyote and then later about self-actualization without an altered conciousness. In his third book, “Journey to Ixtlan,” he talks about being impeccable, about living an impeccable life… being exactly who your are, without confusion or pretense. Being here now – as the philosophers of the time suggested. I always wondered what that really meant, what was it like to be impeccable. Then I saw this movie and I finally understood what Castaneda was talking about.

In some ways it’s a road movie/buddy movie. Harry is an old man who is being ejected from everything he knows – his comfort-zone is literally destroyed. Tonto is his best friend and is, at times, his most sane companion, even though he is a cat. Harry is forced out of his home by a wrecking ball. A long-time resident of New York City, he has worn a path from his apartment, to the market, to the park and back, never veering off of his course. He looks and feels old. You get the feeling that someone would have found him in his apartment dead for 3 or 4 days and wouldn’t have missed him or noticed. But, he is forced out, and forced to move on. It seems a disaster to him and he refuses to go – even though in the end I think it is the best thing for him. One of my favorite moments is when they are ejecting him from his home – he’s sitting in his easy chair with the cat in his lap while the cops are bringing him outside (carrying him in the chair) just as the wrecking ball starts to tear down his home. And in some ways, it’s a bit prophetic as he shouts, “Blow winds, Crack your cheeks” from King Lear, because Harry has three children and his journey will take him to each one in turn. (I also love that he quotes Shakespeare a lot)

As in any road move, there is a journey. Harry’s physical journey is to move in with his son, then – due to some unpleasant circumstances – he moves on to his daughter in Chicago, and then on to his youngest son in California. He and Tonto have many adventures along the way, hitchhikers, getting thrown out of an airplane, thrown into jail, off of a bus, reminiscing about his wife – he’s a widower, and his old girlfriend Jesse. When you read that last sentence, you might think this is a screwball comedy and it does have it’s funny moments. But Harry’s journey is a profound one. It’s an emotional journey that he takes as he faces each of his children. He has to come to terms with his own aging, accept who he is, and also accept who his children have become. In some ways, he realizes that his children are not going to save him and in doing that he comes to terms with his parenting mistakes and the imperfections of his relationships. It’s like he reconnects with each of them, just to be able to let them go, and move on with what’s left of his life.

And what a life it is. Harry is one of the greatest characters in any film I’ve ever seen. Harry is played by Art Carney. I was never a big “Honey-Mooners” fan and all I ever thought when I heard Art Carney’s name was goofy Ralph Cramden. Harry is nothing like Ralph. He is funny, angry, and real. He’s not always nice, but he is always fair, and Carney’s performance is subtle and perfect as he moves from being a grouchy set-in-his-ways old man, to someone who is really alive. He won an Oscar for his performance and it is well-deserved! The film was directed by Paul Mazursky and it is funny at times, poignant at others, and always emotionally rich. To me, Harry seems to get younger as he moves West and when you see him playing chess on the beach in California and talking about Buddhism he hardly seems like the same man thrown out of his home at the beginning of the story.

His oldest son is played by character actor Phil Bruns and Josh Mostel plays his nephew Norman (who has taken a vow of silence, LOL). His feminist daughter is played by Ellen Burstyn, and his youngest son, the sad swinger, is played by Larry Hagman. Hagman in particular is amazing and nails his performance. Again, when I think of him I think of JR – but his performance in this film is a revelation. Some of the best scenes in the film are between Harry and his son Eddie.

This is one of those films I would take to a desert island with me. I can watch it again and again, crying and laughing, but always feeling like I’m in the presence of something meaningful and lovely.

Director: Paul Mazursky
Harry: Art Carney
Eddie: Larry Hagman
Released in 1974 (I saw it on HBO in the late 80s)
Bill Conti wrote the score and Paul Mazursky wrote the screenplay

Trivia from IMDB: James Cagney was originally offered the role of Harry. Other people considered for the role were Sir Laurence Olivier and Cary Grant before Art Carney was finally cast. Paul Mazursky’s words to Carney were “You’ll win an Oscar,” which turned out to be prophetic.

Sadly it is hard to find on DVD – but there are used copies around. I recently picked it up on my DVR from TCM.

Snow Falling on Cedars

December 9th, 2009

S: Back in the late 1990s I read a really wonderful book that was suspenseful, romantic and moving. I read it in the dead of winter (which was appropriate since most of the book takes place in a very cold town, in a very cold courtroom). It’s the story of two generations of people who are united and divided by race, culture, and war. I loved the book.

When the movie came out, I was apprehensive. Sometimes films just can’t capture a movie  and I’m usually disappointed. But – this movie is lovely. It captures the essence of the book and has amazing performances by Max Von Sydow and Sam Sheppard, as well as one of the most beautiful scores there is; I watch this every chance I get.

The only word of warning I have is that I read the book… so the movie made sense to me. The entire film is made up of flashbacks, just like the book, and they come up as memories to the various characters in the story. They aren’t all in chronological order. Since I had read the book, it all made perfect sense to me. In fact, I appreciated that they didn’t over-explain, or ruin the dreamlike quality of the book. However, if you haven’t read the book, it could be a bit confusing, and you might have to watch it twice to really get it. (You can’t go wrong reading the book first, it’s a wonderful read, especially in the wintertime.)

The story is a basic courtroom drama involving the possible murder of a fisherman out in a foggy channel in the Pacific Northwest. It is set in post World War II Washington state, and the townsfolk are still not over the trauma of the war and the difficulties the population endured. When a local Japanese American man is arrested for the murder, many twisted relationships and long-forgotten memories surface. The flashbacks involve two people, Ishmael (Hawke) and  Hatsue (Kudoh), who shared a secret love when they were young, a love that was ripped apart by the war.  He is the son of the town’s progressive newspaper editor, she is the daughter of Japanese immigrant farmers. Ishmael becomes involved in the court case because he has taken over the newspaper upon returning from fighting in the war and Hatsue’s husband is the man charged with the crime.

Ishmael is faced with hard choices as he remembers and comes to terms with his own pain and suffering. By  facing his demons, he redeems himself and those that were torn apart by the war and heals some of the racial scars in the community. While this is no fairy-tale, it’s sublime and profound in its way. A quiet story – the snow that falls throughout the film ads much to the ambience, and the Pacific Northwest scenery is like a supporting actor in itself. Max von Sydow is just right in his portrayal of the defense lawyer – he’s such a huge talent and I was sorry he didn’t get an Oscar nod for his supporting performance in this film. It’s is a great story, a beautiful, haunting, winter movie. I’m sorry my Father never got to read the book or see the movie, I’m sure he would have loved them both.

Released: 7 January 2000
Director: Scott Hicks
Ethan Hawke – Ishmael Chambers
Youki Kudoh – Hatsue Miyamoto
Max von Sydow – Nels Gudmundsson
Sam Shepard – Arthur Chambers
Score: James Newton Howard
Book: David Guterson

Role Models

December 7th, 2009

S: Okay, I have a secret. On the weekends, I hang out with people that dress up and hit each other with stuff. I have to disclose this, because I understand Augie’s world really well, and sometimes I get swept up in it just like he does, and other times, I think it’s just as goofy as Danny does. While we don’t have a dude dressed up like a Centaur, we do have our eccentricities. One of the things I loved about Role Models, is how it both makes fun of misfits, and sympathizes with them, even appreciates them.

Danny Donahue (Paul Rudd) is finding that being a cynic is making his life more and more difficult. He is grouchy and lacks enthusiasm for his job, his life, and his relationship. His co-worker, Wheeler, is a “dude” who thinks he’s Danny’s friend and is always on the lookout for a good time. When Danny freaks out at the breakup of his relationship and gets in trouble with the law – and takes Wheeler with him – the only option they have is jail, or going into community service (a big brother/sister organization called Sturdy Wings).

Of course, they get paired with two kids that are misfits in their own way. Augie, who is in a live action role-playing group, and Ronnie, a foul-mouthed kid who likes boobies and has gone through numerous “bigs” until paired with Wheeler. At first Danny and Wheeler are just trying to log enough hours so that they can stay out of jail, but eventually they care about their charges and get involved in their lives. The end is a big war with all of Augie’s role-playing allies and enemies, and the only way they can succeed is to work together. The movie is in the same vein as 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and The Hangover, and even though those movies are hilarious, this movie has something more. I think it has a heart – as the boys learn something from these two seemingly worthless adults, the adults learn things from the boys as well. In a world where none of these four people can depend on anyone, they learn to depend on each other – but instead of it being some Disney-like feel good movie, this one is full of profanity, fart jokes, and Kiss makeup. I love it.

I can recommend it heartily!!!


June 8th, 2009

S: Visiting your best friend is always the best kind of trip that you can take. My recent visit to see A was wonderful and we enjoyed ourselves, well at least until she pulled the Coq Awe Van on me. But I digress…  My trip to see her was great. But I have to say I had to travel through Nashville to get to A – she’s in Tennessee somewhere – and the problem with having some time to wait in a city airport with a theme is that you can’t enjoy your double-frickin’ bloody Mary in peace without listening to some sad live country western duo in a place that has THE WORST f’ing barbeque – Tootsie’s. Now I’m sure there are those among you that would say, “What? Tootsie’s is great, and I love me some George Strait and Trisha Yearwood.” I’m not so down on country, but after spending an entire weekend with A – all I was in the mood for was M. Manson or My Chemical Romance. So I downed the double drinks and rushed down the hall to Gibson’s –they were playing classic FM – Yes, Police, etc., and while that is not what I would choose to listen to, it helped me keep my 3rd bloody Mary and salad down without hurling.

A and I had an awesome time, and we will be blogging about the film experience. We both love action flicks and thought we would see Terminator and other such fare, but in the end – maybe due to where we found ourselves on this particular weekend – we needed to laugh. So STUPID COMEDIES to the rescue it was!

However, this blog is about traveling so I will have to discuss the movies later.

Here’s what I learned on this trip:·

-A restaurant with a picture of a Gibson guitar is safer than a restaurant with a picture of Tammy Wynette on the wall.

– If you are from Texas and you find yourself in Tennessee: Don’t eat the barbeque. Just don’t. If you do you will find yourself on the upper tier of hell.

– While having a crazy aunt named Dot is perhaps cool at Christmas, having a waitress named this is just not tolerable for a person that get’s pissed off easily.

– The secret to flying is to figure out the precise body weight/height/time/anxiety ratio to the vodka. Once you have this – you have Airport-vodka-vana. Fear is the mind killer, after all.

– When waiting for a flight and trying to get plastered, listening to Styx is much more palatable than listening to a cover of “god bless Texas,” I swear to god – and I’m from there.

– Traveling down I-40 screaming the lyrics to My Chemical Romance’s “Mama” or Squeeze’s “Tempted” is the only way to prepare to fly when you don’t like leaving the ground. I mean, when the plane takes off, I’m praying to every saint I know just trying to figure out why the hell I’m doing what I’m doing. Every cell in my brain is screaming WTF!!!!!!

– This one is for A – Salmon doesn’t taste good with a red wine/chicken broth fondue. Ask the rude bastard waiter you get to give you more chicken and skip the damn fish. Oh and I did order it dry and VERY dirty, you douche!

– It really helps to have good friends in the travel agency business. My friends Michael and Bob at Uni-Travel rock – yes thanks guys.

– Having a mother that forces you to use her AA miles to travel 1st class is a godsend.

– Flying first class is really something. Steward: Would you like something to drink?  S: Yes, give me a bloody Mary as fast as you can.  Two minutes later – Steward: Wow, somebody is thirsty – can I get you another one? S: Yes bring me the fucking drink now. S: wakes up and finds the 3rd  (I shit you not)  3rd bloody Mary sitting on the tray table. Jeez –  1st class rocks and I am now officially spoiled!!!

– Saying goodbye to your very best friend is not recommended on an empty stomach – I love you A! Thanks for lugging me around for 4 days and for the scenic drives, even though we were taking hairpin turns at 50 MPH with Arma-GDMF-geddon playing loud enough to make my eardrums burn!!!

I miss my furkids and can’t wait to get home. I had a great time and it can all be deducted from the income tax (makes me think I’m a fucking genius). I loved seeing A’s place and visiting with her mom – who I haven’t seen in a few years. AND even though she made me sit in some nameless stain on her seat – I know she loves me and that I’m welcome anytime. Well, at least I hope so.

Oh my god, are they playing Blinded by the Light? I have to close now – yes I’ll have another bloody mary, thank you mister Nashville airport waiter –

PS – if you have to wait in the Nashville airport, do yourself a favor and skip Tootsie’s and head on down to the end of Terminal C and go to Gibson’s. The waiter just noticed my drink was empty and brought me another one without asking. I would offer to have his baby if I had a working ovary somewhere – checks backpack for appropriate gonad.

Gotta go they are playing U2… fuckin A

Hamlet 2

April 29th, 2009

S: If you cross Napoleon Dynamite with Dead Poets Society and add in some Godspell and a pinch of High School Musical, you might come close to the essence of this movie. Steve Coogan is hilarious as Dave Marschz (just telling people how to pronounce his name is a big laugh every time it happens). He is a failed actor who, after doing commercials for things like genital herpes medication, has found himself at the rock bottom of the actor’s life teaching drama at a Tuscon High School. When the “tough kids” get forced from shop class due to asbestos-covered portables and join his drama class of 2, he tries to teach them to love theater in a parody of the inspirational teacher movie. He begins to work on a socio-political-avant-garde musical that allows Hamlet to go back in time with Jesus, to prevent everyone from dying at the end. The play also gives Hamlet and Dave an opportunity for father forgiveness. It’s so controversial, it gets the drama program shut down and forces the kids to pull together to save the day in old Andy Rooney “let’s do a show” fashion. However the musical numbers rock – no pun intended – Jesus H Christ, LOL.

All I can say is the song “Rock Me, Rock Me, Sexy Jesus” left me spitting my Margarita out of my nose. This movie is really dumb funny, but I enjoyed it and found it better than Prozac for lifting my spirits. Some of my favorite moments:  the Tuscon Gay Men’s Chorus comes to school singing “She’s A Maniac” from Flashdance as musical accompaniment, the Kaftan scene, Dave roller skating around Tuscon (really Albuquerque).  The film also has gratuitous Elizabeth Shue and David Arquette in bit parts that shine. I give this movie 3 enthusiastic smooches!

The Fellowship of the Ring

April 23rd, 2009


Well, trying to save money, I’ve been rereading books I have read before (series with lots of sequels seem to be my favorite) so I just reread “The Hobbit” and had started on “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Because I was heading into the Mines of Moria in the book, I decided to watch the movie to get me into the mood.

I put the DVD in and watched it while doing some other things around the house. At the end of the film, I sat down and paid attention to all of the things that happen to break the fellowship, cried when Boromir died, and thought again about how much Tolkien loved the hobbits – unattractive, short, brave, loyal, hardy creatures that loved to eat and were just as interested in “second breakfast” as they were in saving the world. I love hobbits too! In the end, watching Sam and Frodo leave for Mordor wondering if they would ever see the others again made me sad, even though I know how it all turns out.

This movie is bittersweet for me. When I found out that they were making a movie of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I was excited. I started looking things up on the Internet and tried to read everything I could about the movie. I scanned forums, IMDB, etc. and discovered that the “Fellowship” movie was coming out on December 19th, 2001. I was really into this. I reread the books and even put a 3 x 5 card on my bulletin board at work with the date 12-19-01. Sometimes, when I was having a bad day, I looked at that card and thought about seeing the movie. I had already talked with Ernie about going to see it on opening night. He reread the books too so we were ready.

That year I had quite a bit of vacation left at the end of the year. I remember taking off from work the Friday before the 19th for the holidays. I was cleaning out my closet. On the 18th, I had planned to take the train down to see my parents, but I called my Mom to tell her that I was still working on the closet and would come on the 19th. I figured I could run down and see them, and still get back to see the movie that night.

At about 6am on the morning of the 19th, my Mom called to tell me that my Dad had collapsed in the bathroom and that she couldn’t wake him up. She called the ambulance and they were on the way. Ernie and I left the house and he drove me to the hospital. About an hour after we got there, they came in to tell us that my Dad had died. This was so unexpected. Looking back, I don’t think he felt that well, but I don’t think any of us, including him, expected this. All thought of the movie went right out of my head. I spent the rest of the day with my family, trying to help my mother cope with things, arranging for family members to get here, visiting the funeral home, etc. I remember working on his obituary thinking it was the last thing I had ever dreamt of doing that day.

The 20th, a Thursday, was a long hard day. My Mom’s sister arrived and planned on staying with her, so I decided to come home to get some rest. About 5pm, I walked in the door and just crashed. When Ernie came home, he suggested that we go to see the movie, just to get out of the house and get our minds onto something else. At first I didn’t want to go, but then realized that I did want a distraction and that after waiting so long, I really was looking forward to seeing the movie.

I was transfixed through the whole 3 hours. Any emotional reaction I had was deeper and more meaningful because of how raw my feelings were. Even after all this time, when I watch “Fellowship” the movie is forever linked with my Dad’s death. website host information It’s hard for me to believe that all those months when I looked at 12-19-01 on my bulletin board, I wasn’t looking at the date I would see “Fellowship” but was looking at the day I would lose my Dad.

So here I am, 7 1/2 years later watching the movie again and thinking about all of that. I know people say that time heals, but it doesn’t. That is a lie. Maybe you don’t think about your loss as often, but when it hits you it hurts just the same. wall cloud . As I watched the end of Fellowship and the credits, there is a song called “In Dreams” sung in a boy’s pure voice and it always makes me think of losing my Dad and how I felt that night sitting in the dark and hearing the words – “And in dreams, we will meet again” and praying that it would be true -that just like Sam and Frodo think they will never see their friends again, in the end they are reunited.

Dad I miss you every single day. Because of you and the things you taught me, I truly love movies and books like Lord of the Rings. You gave me so much. I love you.

“In Dreams”
When the cold of winter comes
Starless night will cover day
In the veiling of the sun
We will walk in bitter rain

But in dreams
I can hear your name
And in dreams
We will meet again

When the seas and mountains fall
And we come, to end of days
In the dark I hear a call
Calling me there,
I will go there
And back again.