fauxklore: (Default)
I have much catching up to do, but let's start with the quarterly things.

Quarterly Goals: I have been working on both household organizing and crafting projects, but am nowhere near completing anything. I have not really paid any attention to writing projects, nor have I been reading anything from my life list. (However, I have been making progress on my goal of learning a story from every country in the world.) I’ve contacted a few "lost" family members, with quite interesting results. And I am good at self-indulgence. So maybe a score of just under 50% for the first half of the year?

Movies – Second Quarter 2017:
Film festivals and airplanes affect my movie-watching pace.

  1. Moos: This is a Dutch movie I saw at the Washington Jewish Film Festival. Moos is a young woman who has been spending her time caring for her father. A childhood friend, Sam, returns from Israel and encourages her to follow her dreams, so she auditions for a performing arts school. Her failure to actually get accepted doesn’t stop her. Some of it was pretty predictable romantic comedy fare, but the characters were interesting and Jip Smit was likeable in the title role. There’s also a guest performance by Asaf Hertz. Overall, I thought this was sweet and enjoyable, if not as funny as I’d been led to expect.

  2. OMG, I’m a Robot: This is the other movie I saw at the Washington Jewish Film Festival and I have to admit I chose it largely because of the title. The story involves Danny, whose girlfriend leaves him because he is too sensitive. In attempting to commit suicide, he discovers he is actually a robot. It turns out his girlfriend didn’t actually leave, but was kidnapped and sets out to rescue her, with the help of his boss and an Orthodox Jewish robot named Robo-Joseph. There is plenty of absurdity, so watching this requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. But it is also very funny. If you can deal with a fairly high level of violence and like silly science fiction, I recommend it.

  3. Lion: Based on a true story, this involves a young boy, Saroo, who gets on a train and ends up in Calcutta. He wants to go home, but nobody can figure out where that is. He gets adopted by a family in Australia. As an adult, Saroo tells some friends his story, gets the suggestion of using Google Earth to help find where he came from. This is really an extraordinary film. I was particularly pleased with the way that Saroo interacts with his adoptive family, making it clear that he’s not rejecting them. The story is the sort of thing that could be played up as mawkish inspiration. That it isn’t is a true tribute to the art that can happen on film. I highly recommend watching this – but do have a box of tissues at your side when doing so.

  4. La La Land I like musicals, I like jazz, and I own a book of Ryan Gosling paper dolls. So I was set to enjoy this movie. Unfortunately, I found it dull, predictable, and slow-paced. Very disappointing.

  5. Arrival: I liked the concept of this movie, in which a linguist has to figure out how to communicate with aliens. But the execution annoyed me for a number of reasons. It may just be that I was tired (and, in fact, had to go back and rewatch some sections a few times), but the non-linear storytelling was sometimes hard to follow. Mostly, though, it seemed that nothing changed at the end for anybody but the main character. In which case, why bother?

  6. The Lobster: This is one of the weirdest movies I’ve seen in ages. The premise is that people have to be coupled up, so single people (including the main character, who is recently divorced) are sent to a hotel where they have to find a suitable mate or be turned into an animal. The matchmaking is based on superficial things, e.g. both partners limping or both getting nosebleeds. They also go on hunts for loners. The whole thing takes a very dark and twisted turn. While this held my attention, I can’t say it was pleasant to watch. It was provocative enough to be worth seeing, but one would have to be in the right mood.

  7. Loving: Richard and Mildred Loving were quiet people, but their arrest for interracial marriage led to a multi-year battle, culminating in a Supreme Court decision in their favor. The thing that was most powerful in this movie was how understated it was. They were just a couple who loved each other and wanted to live a quiet country life. I was particularly impressed by Ruth Negga’s performance as Mildred. The one thing missing is a bit more of the backstory of how they met and got involved in the first place. This is a well-done and important movie and was well worth seeing.
fauxklore: (Default)
Washington Jewish Film Festival: I made it to two movies this year. There were others I was interested in, but couldn’t make the schedule work for. The two I saw were both comedies - Moos and OMG, I’m a Robot. More about those when I do my quarterly movie wrap-up.

Laura Bush Killed a Guy: I went to see this one-woman play, produced by The Klunch, at Caos on Friday night with a friend. We had intended to have drinks and happy hour food at Hill Country BBQ, but there was a long wait for a table and the bar was too crowded, so we sought out something else. The Smith doesn’t do a happy hour and was too noisy. We ended up going to Pi Pizzeria, which was okay. As it turns out, I was wrong about what time the play started, so we could probably have managed Hill Country. So we ended up having a wait to get in to the theatre, during which two homeless guys got into a fistfight several yards from where we were waiting. Oy.

Anyway, the show was worth it. Lisa Hodsoll captured Laura Bush’s voice and manners effectively. Ian Allen’s script had three different versions of the traffic accident in which 17-year-old Laura ran a stop sign and hit another car, killing its driver. In one, it’s a deliberate plot. In the second, she’s drunk. Only the third version is a true accident. There are also multiple versions of how she met her husband. And then there is a lot of material about the Bush family in general, how she was treated by other dignitaries (Caroline Kennedy, in particular, snubbed her), and how she is pretty much the forgotten first lady. It was an interesting show and often quite funny.

Story Swap: The monthly Voices in the Glen swap was Saturday night. We even had a new attendee, who had found us via NSN. There was a good mix of stories, as usual. I told "Sawing Off Manhattan," which I had not done in a long time. I had played with the ending, unsuccessfully, so I decided that I won’t use it at the Folk Festival. If I want an American story, I can always tell a Bill Greenfield tale.

The Man Who: This play, written by Peter Brook and Marie-Helene Estienne, was inspired by The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks, but only some of the vignettes are based on patients Sacks wrote about. All four actors in this production at Spooky Action Theater played multiple roles, both as patients and doctors. The stories are really those of the patients, confronting the puzzling realities of neurological disorders. There was a talkback afterwards and it was interesting that the actors said they focused on performing the physical actions because many of the words were like speaking a foreign language.

Anyway, it’s an interesting show and worth seeing if you’re in the area in the next couple of weeks.

16th Street NW: I think 16th Street NW has to be one of the most interesting streets in D.C., at least from an architectural perspective. There are lots of grand old residences (pretty much converted to apartment complexes), assorted embassies, and interesting churches. Best of all is the House of the Temple, which has something to do with the Scottish Rite Freemasons and has a couple of sphinxes in front of it. Apparently, you can tour the building and I really ought to do that one of these days.

Overheard at Dupont Circle: Two men were embracing at the corner of 18th and Q. One said to the other, "Don’t die in Missouri."

Sleep, or Lack Thereof: I hate it when I wake up around 2 a.m. and never really manage to get back to sleep. Nothing was obviously wrong, but I just couldn’t seem to turn my mind to sleep mode. I did get up for a half hour or so and look at facebook, but, mostly, I stayed in bed, trying vainly to get a decent amount of rest. Sigh.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Just a few:

  1. Hidden Figures: This was a must-see, given its subject (technical women, related to space), so I got myself to a an actual movie theatre. It was excellent and well worth that effort. Yes, not every single moment in it was absolute fact, e.g. it was only Mary Jackson who had to seek out a "colored" bathroom to use, while Katherine Johnson just ignored the signs all along. And, while John Glenn did insist on Johnson's calculations, that was actually quite a bit before the launch, not at the last minute. But those are nits. The movie rang true, with plenty of inspiring moments. Highly recommended.

  2. Hunt for the Wilderpeople: This was a rather odd movie from New Zealand, involving a child running from child protective services, who are trying to take him from his foster father after the death of his foster mother. It won me over from the beginning with an interesting soundtrack and quirky characters. I thought this was genuinely funny and was mildly embarrassed to laugh out loud on an airplane. It probably isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you like character-based humor, give it a look-see.

  3. The Maltese Falcon: I'm sure I must have seen this before, but it had been a while and it was about the right length for the plane trip I watched it on. It's a classic of the noir genre and justly famous. But a lot of that has to do with the performances (especially Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade), since a fair amount of the plot is unconvincing.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Charles J. Colgan was a long-time member of the Virginia senate and founded Colgan Air. Mario Soares served as President and Prime Minister of Portugal for a couple of decades. Nat Hentoff wrote for The Village Voice and The Wall Street Journal, primarily about jazz music and politics. Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani served a couple of terms as the President of Iran. Clare Hollingworth was the British journalist who broke the news of the outbreak of World War II.

Sister Frances Carr was one of the last three Shakers. There are now only two members of the sect at Sabbathday Lake in Maine. I have a long-standing interest in the Shakers (and other 19th century Utopian communities), who I admire for their philosophy of "hands to work, hearts to G-d." Their combination of egalitarianism, craftsmanship, and innovation is intriguing and their music is a huge influence on American folk music in general.

Om Puri was an Indian actor, who also appeared in a number of British and American movies, e.g. East is East. I am highlighting him because I had actually thought of putting him on my ghoul pool list, but didn’t because I thought he had died a couple of years ago. I should have googled him to check. Oh, well.

For the record, my list of people I predict will die in 2017 is:
20. Buzz Aldrin
19. June Foray
18. Beverly Cleary
17. Robert Mugabe
16. Gord Downie
15. Irwin Corey
14. Shannon Doherty
13. Valerie Harper
12. Tommy Chong
11. Frank Langella
10. John Cullum
9. Tommy Tune
8. Queen Elizabeth II
7. Javier Perez de Cuellar
6. Jimmy Carter
5. Dick Van Dyke
4. Sidney Poitier
3 James L. Buckley
2. Birch Bayh
1. John Paul Stevens

Titanic: I went to see Titanic at Signature Theatre on Saturday. Because of the snow, I used metro plus bus, which worked well enough, especially since I was lucky enough to not have to wait for the bus at all.

As for the show, the performances were excellent. I want to particularly note Sam Ludwig as the stoker, Frederick Barrett, who gets a couple of great songs – one comparing working on the ship to working as a coal miner and one proposing (over the wireless) to his girl back home. Tracy Lynn Olvera was also notable as a social-climbing second class passenger. I also thought Katie McManus was very good as the forthright third class Irish immigrant, Kate McGowan.

The show is grand and the second act (after the iceberg) is moving. But, there are both too many and too few subplots. It’s hard to care about characters when you’re switching between lots of them with each song. Unfortunately, I don’t see a way around that without making the show 4 hours long. I also have to admit that I didn’t really care for most of the score, which was rather more operatic than my tastes. There were exceptions, e.g. "The Proposal / The Night Was Alive" and the lively "Ladies Maid." I also want to note that Yeston apparently believed the myth that the band played "Autumn" while the ship sank (which is, I suppose, better than the "Nearer My G-d to Thee" myth), while historians now claim the actual hymn played was "Oughten."

By the way, every attendee gets a boarding card describing a passenger. I got Mr. William Cruthers Dulles, a 39 year-old first class passenger. They provide a web page to look up the fate of your alter ego. He died in the sinking.

JGSGW Meeting: I was really interested in the topic for Sunday’s meeting of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington, which had to do with how to get reluctant relatives interested in talking with you. How interested? Well, when I went out to drive to darkest Maryland for it, I found my car had a flat tire and I paid for a taxi to get there. (I got a ride home from friends.) I’m not convinced it was worth it. I did pick up a few tips, but most of the talk was stuff I already knew.

And, sigh, I still have to find time to get the tire replaced.

Hidden Figures: Finally, last night I went to see Hidden Figures, the current movie about African-American women who worked as computers for NASA, performing mathematical computations in the early days of the space program. The story is a compelling one, involving three women doing their very best to make things happen, despite all the obstacles (both racial and gender) thrown in their paths. It’s not a word I use often, but I found it inspiring and highly recommend seeing it.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
2016 was not a great year for me, though I did have a few great things happen. I had certainly underestimated the impact of changing jobs, mostly in terms of how much mental energy that absorbed. I can't count how many nights I went to bed more or less right after supper.

I did finish one life list item, namely seeing the stone monoliths of Babeldaop. I got somewhat more involved with the Style Invitational Loser community, going to a few related social events. I started doing graze, which has, in addition to providing interesting snacks, given me something to write about here. And I had a particularly interesting year with respect to storytelling and to genealogy. Here are the details, in my usual categories.

Books: I only read 88 books last year, 48 of which were fiction. Only 6 were rereads. The ones I disliked include Lenore Glenn Offord’s Clues to Burn and Parnell Hall’s The Puzzle Lady and the Sudoku Lady. The absolute worst was a Laos Travel Guide which had about 40 pages about Laos and 100+ pages about studying mixed martial arts in Thailand, plus a chapter on ketogenic diets. I described this as the literary equivalent of the movie Disco Beaver From Outer Space.

On the positive side, some of the nonfiction books I enjoyed wereCocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness and Leaving Before the Rains Come (two of Alexandra Fuller’s memoirs), Last Train to Zona Verde by Paul Theroux (about his travels in Angola), Crossworld by Marc Romano (about the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament), and Motoring With Mohammed by Eric Hansen (about Yemen). As for fiction, I enjoyed Christopher Buckley’s No Way to Treat a First Lady, To the Power of Three by Laura Lippman (who often writes teenage girls well), and three books by Tess Gerritsen - The Apprentice, Ice Cold, and, especially, The Bone Garden.

Volksmarch: Nothing, zero, nada, nil. Sigh. I’m not sure why, but I just don’t seem to have been very interested in walking other than as a means of transportation.

Travel: The biggest trip of the year was, obviously, the eclipse cruise in the South Pacific, which included the visit to Babeldaop, as well as seeing the giant stone money of Yap, and, of course, my third total solar eclipse. It also pushed me over the edge of qualifying for the Travelers’ Century Club, so I joined it, even though I still think their country list is pretty silly. My only other international trip of the year was to Martinique, mostly to take advantage of a cheap airfare.

I had business trips to Los Angeles, Florida (the Space Coast), and Colorado Springs.

Personal domestic travel included a trip to L.A. and Denver for Captain Denny Flanagan’s pre-retirement get-together, Stamford (Connecticut, that is, for the ACPT), Salt Lake City (for the NPL con), New York (for Lolapuzzoola and for my high school reunion), Pittsburgh (for Loserfest), Chicago (to see the Art Institute and go to an Elvis Costello concert), and Key West. On the way home from Salt Lake City, I achieved Million Mile status on United.

I should also note that I flew a few times on Jet Blue, which I hadn’t done before. I’m fairly impressed with their service, though I don’t think much of their frequent flyer program.

Culture: I went to several story swaps, of course, as well as several of the shows at The Grapevine and a couple of storytelling-related fringe shows. In terms of performing, I did the Washington Folk Festival. But, more importantly, I performed in three Better Said Than Done shows, including the Best in Show competition. I’m particularly happy to have the summer camp story on video. And I’m glad to be working with some family material in a way that I think works for humor without being disrespectful.

I saw 11 movies over the past year, with only one in a theatre. I think the best of them was The Imitation Game. I went to three music events. Both of those categories are things I would like to do more of this coming year. I also went to a Cirque du Soleil show and to a comedy show.

My biggest cultural activity of the year was going to the theatre. If I’ve counted right, I went to six non-musicals and 21 musicals. The worst of those was The Flick at Signature Theatre. As a friend said, "How many people walked out when you saw it?" Highlights included Matilda at the Kennedy Center, 110 in the Shade at Ford’s Theatre, The Lonesome West at Keegan Theatre, The Wild Party at Iron Crow in Baltimore, Freaky Friday at Signature Theatre, and, especially, Caroline, or Change and Monsters of the Villa Diodati at Creative Cauldron. The latter has become one of my favorite theatres in the region, with high quality performances in an intimate setting.

Genealogy: Note that I added this category this year. I made a fair amount of progress, particularly on my mother’s side of the family, with highlights including meeting a cousin and tracking down info on a couple of my grandfather’s siblings. I’m also proud of having funded the translation of the chapters my paternal grandfather contributed to the Lite Yizkor Book. And I got my DNA tested, though that hasn’t led me to any major revelations yet.

Goals: I pretty much failed miserably on my goals for last year, other than reaching million mile status on United. It isn’t even worth enumerating progress on others, all of which were, at best, one step forward and two steps back. I’m giving myself a 25% for the year.

As for the coming year, I still have hope that I can get things done. I’m tempted to write something like "oh, just grow up already," but let’s be somewhat specific and measurable.

  • Complete at least one household organizing project.

  • Complete at least one knitting or crochet project.

  • Complete at least one writing project.

  • Contact one "lost" family member every month to request genealogical information.

  • Spend at least a half hour each week reading things from the reading goals on my life list.

  • Treat myself to one indulgence (e.g. spa treatment or special meal or the like) every month.

fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I will do the 2016 wrap-up and 2017 goal setting later this week. But, first, let's finish off a few odds and ends.

Celebrity Death Watch: To finish off 2016, Huston Smith was a religious scholar and wrote an important book on the subject of world religions. Tyrus Wong was the lead artist on the Disney film, Bambi. William Christopher was an actor, best known for playing father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H.

To start 2017, John Berger wrote Ways of Seeing, a very influential book on art and the basis of a BBC television series.

Quarterly Movies: 2016 wasn’t much of a movie-going year, I guess. I only saw two movies this past quarter. The first was Next Year in Jerusalem, an interesting low-budget film about a young Orthodox Jewish man coming to terms with his homosexuality, while his cousin, who has been living the gay life in lower Manhattan reconnects to his Jewish identity. I thought it had some good things to say about identity and family.

The other movie, seen in an actual cinema on Christmas Day, was Jackie. I have to say I did not much care for it, alas. It was focused too closely on the short period of time right after JFK’s assassination and, thus, did not really provide enough perspective on what about Jackie shaped her reactions.

Graze Box #16

This box was all repeats, so I’ll keep comments brief. It also came a full week late, for which I blame the post office at holiday times.

Kettlecorn Kern Pops: This consists of partially popped corn kernels with a sweet and salty coating. It has 130 calories. I like the texture and the taste is okay, but I prefer the more savory flavors of kern pops.

Snickerdoodle Dip: This cookie flavored dip with cinnamon pretzel sticks has 150 calories. It is delicious – one of my favorite Graze snacks.

Original Protein Flapjack: This is one of the rolled oat soft granola bars that Graze does so well. This particular variety has flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. It has 260 calories, but with 8 grams of protein, at least it is comparable to (if not better than) store-bought granola bars. Golden syrup is the key to the flavor of these, which made a good lunch for an inconveniently-scheduled flight.

Sesame Garlic Crunch: This consists of garlic sesame sticks, oat bran sesame sticks, and multigrain soy rice crackers. It has 140 calories. The oat bran sesame sticks are particularly good. Overall, this is a tasty savory snack.

Peanut Butter & Jelly: This is a mixture of baked salted peanuts, raspberry fruit strings, and vanilla fudge squares. It has 220 calories and 7 grams of protein. The fudge doesn’t really contribute much of anything as far as I’m concerned. The best part is the raspberry fruit strings. It’s a tasty combination, at any rate.

Cinnamon Pretzel: Poppyseed pretzels plus cinnamon and honey glazed almonds make a tasty sweet mix. At 140 calories this doesn't feel too damaging a treat. Though, really, I admit that the pretzels are superfluous.

Chocolate Cherry Protein Granola Topper: This has cocoa granola, chopped hazelnuts, freeze-dried cherry pieces, and soy protein crisps. And 150 calories. Overall, it’s a nice crispy addition to plain yogurt, with a strong cocoa flavor. The cherry flavor is pretty subtle, which makes it blend in well. Very good.

Malaysian Laksa: This is a somewhat spicy coconut broth, with a side snack of chili and lime cashes and coconut flakes. It has 140 calories.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: The only death that crossed my radar this time out was that of Shimon Peres. He served a couple of terms as Prime Minister of Israel, as well as holding several other prominent political jobs there, notably Foreign Minister. I’d say his most significant accomplishment was the peace treaty with Jordan. But he also deserves a lot of credit for Israel being as much of a technologically advanced nation as it is. He also wrote poetry, but I am loathe to list that as an accomplishment for any politician after having heard praise for Stalin’s poetry at his house museum in Georgia.

Baseball: The Red Sox clinched the American League East. Yay! I am also reasonably pleased that the Nationals won the National League East. As for the wild card slots, I’d kind of like to see Detroit pull things out and beat out Toronto, just because the Tigers have some appealing history.

Quarterly Movies: Well, make that "movie," singular. The only movie I saw over the past few months was Seven Psychopaths. I chose it because it was written and directed by Martin McDonagh. Like pretty much all of McDonagh’s work, it is weird and violent, but funny. At any rate, it held my attention.

The Quarterly Goal Update: I didn’t make much of an attempt over the past few months, largely because I’ve been so swamped at work. My email inbox at work is ridiculous – back up over 6000 items. The only other thing I’ve made any actual progress on is dealing with papers, having handled about 2/3 of what had migrated to the bedroom floor.

Speaking of Paperwork: I went to pay my county property tax bill for my car on-line. And I discovered that they had changed my address to some address in a town I’d never heard of that isn’t even in the same county. I called and got it changed back, but the point is that they should notify people when there is an address change so they can verify that they did it. (Apparently, someone did it by phone and the clerk typed in the wrong property number.) The whole thing was bizarre and the security implications are scary.

New Years Rosh Hashanah is Monday and Tuesday, so let me pass along my wishes for a happy, healthy 5777. I will also pass along wishes for a happy fiscal year 2017 for all of my friends who have some sort of U.S. government affiliations.

Two, two, two new years in one.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Yes, I’m behind. Life gets like that.

Celebrity Death Watch: Stuart Anderson founded the Black Angus Steakhouse chain. Richard Seltzer wrote a number of books abut of popular medicine / medical philosophy. Lois Duncan wrote suspense novels for young adults. Goro Hasegawa patented the game Othello. Ralph Stanley was a bluegrass star. Rabbi Chaim Avrohom Horowitz was the Bostoner Rebbe of New York (and, later, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel) and wrote a lot of influential Jewish music. Barbara Goldsmith wrote several non-fiction books, including a well-received 2005 biography of Marie Cure. Alvin Toffler was a futurist and author, best known for Future Shock. Mack Rice wrote such songs as "Mustang Sally." Finally (and most relevantly to my career), Simon Ramo was the "R" in TRW, and is pretty much considered the founder of systems engineering.

The Breakfast Club: Apparently, I saw exactly one movie over the past quarter. I think I kept falling asleep on airplanes instead of watching movies. Anyway, I had somehow never seen this teenage classic before. It may be 31 years old, but I think it stands up reasonably well. Maybe I think that because my teenage years are a long time ago. It has obvious flaws – clichéd roles and an unlikely ending – but it is watchable despite those. I do, however, wish there were better female role models.

Story Swap: I had two things on my calendar a week ago Saturday night, and decided I could only do one of them. As tempting as coral crocheting at a local yarn store was, I do love story swaps. And the person who was hosting it has a particularly amiable cat. (That reminds me of The Minister’s Cat, a parlor game that way too few people seem to know. The minister’s cat is an amiable cat who adores avocadoes. The minister’s cat is a belligerent cat who batters bandicoots. And so on.) Anyway, it was a good time, with some fun stories, particularly a quest story that Eve told. I told the story I had done for the Better Said Than Done competition.

Friends in Harmony: A friend had given me a ticket to a concert that a chorus she sings in was part of. Seeing that it was very close to home, why not? The event was called Friends in Harmony and featured four choral groups - Mosaic Harmony, Olam Tikvah Chorale, Ketzal Chorus, and the Sakura Choir. The idea was to celebrate the diversity of Fairfax County, so there was an invocation by the imam of a local mosque, followed by the singing, which included gospel, Jewish liturgical, Mexican, and Japanese music. They even provided a CD to take home. All in all, it was well organized and I enjoyed most of the music.

Business Trip: Then I went off to Colorado Springs on a business trip, which meant lots of work and not enough sleep. It was reasonably productive, particularly in terms of meeting some folks in person who I had only talked to on the phone in the past. And, on the way home, I reached my million miles on United!

La Cage Aux Folles: When I got home Friday, I had time for a brief nap before driving over to Signature Theatre to see the final show of the subscription year. I had seen La Cage Aux Folles during its original Broadway run many years ago. Signature’s version is, of course, scaled down, but is still a large show for them. It was very enjoyable, with an excellent performance by Bobby Smith as Albin. I continue to believe that "I Am What I Am" is one of the strongest first act closing numbers in musical theatre. There’s Jerry Herman’s catchy music, a reasonably witty book, and fun choreography, so it made for an enjoyable evening. Given the competing drag queen stories playing local theatres now, I’d say this is well worth prioritizing above Kinky Boots if you are going to see just one of them.

Conference Going: I spent much of the weekend in a state of suspended animation, recovering from my trip, though I did get a few errands done. Then the beginning of this week involved a work-related conference that was decently informative. I am reminded again and again that space is a small world, as there were several people there who I know from various of my past lives in the business (i.e. other jobs within my company, supporting different customers). I hate to say this, but I really hope I haven’t aged as badly as some of them have.

And now I am caught up, for, oh, about 3 hours. Especially as I have theatre tickets tonight.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Time for the quarterly movie wrap-up. I actually saw fewer movies than I expected, since I ended up sleeping on some longer flights. But, then, there were a lot of flights.

  1. Papirosen: An Argentinian movie about a family whose matriarch is a Shoah survivor. Unfortunately, aside from general dysfunctionality, not much happens and I found this tedious and dull. Which is probably what I get for choosing to watch a movie only because I like the song it's named after.

  2. Trumbo: There was a substitute teacher back at Lincoln Orens Junior High who regularly read to us from Dalton Trumbo's novel, Johnny Got His Gun.. But he was more prominent as a screenwriter and this movie had to do with his choice to go to jail rather than name names to the House Un-American Activities Committee. It's a good story about the impacts of taking a moral stand and the consequences of sticking to one's guns despite an unpopular position. Recommended.

  3. The Walk: This film deals with Philippe Petite's walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Which is interesting enough, but the documentary Man on Wire told the same story more effectively. Not that this was bad, but it was unnecessary.

  4. Pitch Perfect 2: Sequels are almost always unnecessary and this one is pretty contrived. But fans of a capella music won't care, since the point is listening to the music, not the fairly silly plot. If you need a couple of hours of airplane distraction, you could do worse.

  5. The Imitation Game: This biopic told the story of Alan Turing and his work to decipher the Enigma Machine. It is, apparently, not particularly accurate regarding his personality and relationships, so treat it with a grain of salt. Still, I thought it was interesting and worth seeing.

  6. The Wolfpack: This documentary involves a family in New York in which the children are completely sheltered from the outside world and learn about it almost entirely through movies. Things change when one of them decides to start exploring the outside world. This sounds interesting, but the problem is that it isn't clear how much the filmmaker influenced the boys' explorations. (There is one girl, but she seems peripheral to the film.) Disappointing.

  7. The Big Short: Economics - and, specifically, the question of how derivatives influenced the markets - seems an unlikely subject for a movie. By concentrating on some of the people involved in the markets, the film did work and had several amusing moments. But I thought it was also a bit too long and a bit too slow paced. It is, however, possible that I was just too tired to focus completely on it. At any rate, it did make me want to read the book, which is about the best you can hope for with a movie based on a book.

fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
It’s not quite the end of the quarter, but I don’t expect to see any movies today or tomorrow, so I figured I could do this now.

  1. I Kissed a Vampire: I’d asked on facebook for recommendations of vampire movies for October. But none of the good ones are free with Amazon prime and this one was. It’s a teen vampire musical. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? And, in fact, it is a pretty bad movie. But, other than the teen part, it’s actually right my speed. The music is unmemorable at best, but I can never resist people breaking into song for no good reason. The story involves a boy who got a mild vampire bite and is concerned that, as he turns, he may also turn his girlfriend. She’s actually not all that unwilling, especially when she catches the eye of the rock star vampire who leads the whole gang. There is also a mad scientist who may have a cure. This just shrieks of midnight movies in college. I can’t say I’d recommend it, but it was more or less the sort of thing I was looking for to keep me distracted during a flight.

  2. The Vampire and the Ballerina: Also free on Amazon prime, this is a surprisingly stylish Italian movie, in which a couple of ballerinas at a country house stumble upon a castle, its owner, and her servant. The dancing is a peculiar mix of styles and the special effects are almost comical (let’s just say a mask is just a mask). But the story more or less makes sense and I thought this was, overall, a lot better than I had any right to expect.

  3. A Mighty Wind: Copa actually has a decent movie selection on their flights and this was my choice from IAD to PTY. It’s a Christopher Guest mockumentary, centered on folk music. The idea is that three groups are reuniting for a concert in honor of their late producer. This is mostly character driven humor, but it also helps that the songs feel pretty authentic for the 60’s folk revival they’re intended to portray. If you like Guest’s other mockumentaries (e.g. This is Spinal Tap or Best in Show) and can at least tolerate folk music, you should enjoy this.

  4. Mud: One of two movies I watched on the Copa flight from PTY to MVD, I had seen at least part of it before, but I think I had drifted off and missed a lot that previous time. The plot involves two boys who stumble upon a fugitive hiding on an island and help him repair a boat to make his escape. There’s a lot of coming of age stuff mixed in there. It was also effective in manipulating which characters one felt sympathetic towards. Overall, it held my attention and I thought it worth watching, but it could have been tighter.

  5. Frozen: There was still time on the flight to MVD and I needed something light to watch, so this animated musical filled the bill nicely. I don’t have any sisters (just a brother, who I don’t always get along with), so I can’t completely relate, but I did think it was sweet. As far as I can tell, Elsa is more popular with little girls who see it, which is exactly what is wrong with little girls, since Anna is a much better role model. Overall, this was a deeply flawed but cute enough movie and one could do worse.

  6. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Okay, so it isn’t like this sequel (which I watched on the way home from South America) was actually necessary. But the characters remained interesting, the conflicts felt realistic, and it’s rare enough to see a movie that treats elderly people with respect that one should encourage those efforts. Plus there is Bollywood music and dancing. Mildly recommended, but the first movie was definitely better.

  7. The Skeleton Twins: The plot involves a twin brother and sister reconnecting after his failed suicide attempt. This was billed as a comedy, but the only remotely funny scenes are one uncomfortable encounter with their flaky new-age mother and one involving a bunch of fart jokes after they take nitrous oxide together. Basically, they are both screwed up people and neither of them is doing anything to heal other than looking for other people to blame. An unpleasant film about unlikeable people, which is a pity because it starts people (Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader) who are competent actors.

  8. Spotlight: I chose this for my Christmas movie excursion (yes, an actual movie theatre) because I’ve been a huge fan of Tom McCarthy, who wrote and directed it, ever since seeing The Visitor some years ago. And it was an excellent choice. The story involves the Boston Globe’s reporting on the Catholic Church pedophile priest scandal. The emphasis is on the Globe staffers and their triumphs and frustrations as they discover the depth of the scandal and how many people it has affected. There is a particularly powerful moment involving the realization of the paper’s own complicity in lackadaisical treatment of accusations. All in all, a superb movie, treating a sensitive subject seriously and professionally. Highly recommended.

  9. The Station Agent: Since Tom McCarthy was on my mind, I downloaded (from Amazon Prime) the first film he wrote and directed. And it is also a winner – the sort of quirky slice of life movie I like. There isn’t a lot that happens, but a friendship develops between a train enthusiast with dwarfism, a woman who has lost a young child, and a garrulous but lonely Cuban hot dog vendor. The three don’t seem to have much in common, but it all works because they somehow manage to accept one another just as they are and grow as a result of the relationships. Recommended.

fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I think that seeing a movie every other week is about average, so this quarter was still slightly below average, but so it goes. I’m doing this today because I have my book club tonight, so I can be reasonably sure I won’t be seeing anything else this month.

  1. The Last of Sheila: It was co-written by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins and the story involves a puzzle game. So it’s no wonder that this mystery film has something of a cult following in the puzzle community. Overall, I found it absorbing enough, though there’s nothing terribly surprising if you’re familiar enough with the mystery genre. The 1970’s clothing and hair styles (especially on the men) are also pretty amusing. If this is the sort of thing you'd enjoy, you've probably already watched it.

  2. Still Alice: I saw this discussed somewhere as a movie for adults and that seems a fair call. If you’re not familiar with it, Juliane Moore gave an excellent performance as a woman stricken with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Her family copes surprisingly well and the film avoids the hysterics that I think my family would go into under the circumstances. Frightening and articulate, I highly recommend this to adults.

  3. Sex Tape: The thing about United’s on-demand entertainment is that sometimes you’re on a flight that’s not really long enough to watch most movies, so you end up watching something only because it suits the distance from, say, IAH to IAD. The premise of this movie – a couple makes a porno on an ipad to stir up their passion level and he accidentally synchs it to the cloud – isn’t inherently a horrible premise for a movie. But their machinations to get it back, which include stealing ipads he has given to various people, are just dumb. This isn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen (that would be Disco Beaver From Outer Space, still execrable after all these years) but I watched it to the end only because I found it hard to believe it could continue to be so stupid. Don’t make the same mistake.

  4. Famous Nathan: Once in a while, I see a movie somewhere other than an airplane or my living room. In this case, the Washington DC Jewish Community Center was screening yet another entry in a category that is less limited than you might expect – namely, documentaries about Jewish food. This one is about Nathan Handwerker, of Coney Island hot dog fame. It’s really less about the food (though New Yorkers will smile at seeing signs for things like the chow mein on a bun) than about the family, with the collapse of the empire as Nathan’s sons disagree on the future of the business and create yet another family rift. (There are lots of past ones, some more hinted at than others.) I think anyone who has tried to understand the stories of their immigrant ancestors will enjoy this film, which was made by Nathan’s grandson. (And, yes, the JCC had a hot dog truck out front before the film.)

  5. Man on Wire: I recently bit on a discount offer for Amazon Prime, and this was one of several tempting options from their on-demand streaming. It’s a documentary about Philippe Petit and his 1974 tightrope walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. (By the way, I watched this without knowing that there is a new film, The Walk now out on the same subject.) Much of the film’s emphasis is on the planning, which was complex and definitely worthy of a heist story, and I thought that provided a good balance to the drama of the actual high-wire act. I was, frankly, mesmerized. Highly recommended.

fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Last Week’s Entertainment: I went to see a documentary (Famous Nathan about Nathan Handwerker and his hot dog emporium) at the DCJCC Tuesday night. I’ll have more to say about that when I do my quarterly movie wrap-up.

Then, on Wednesday night, I went to the opening show of the new season of The Grapevine, which has moved more conveniently to Busboys and Poets in Takoma. I’d comment on it still being in darkest Maryland, but actually it is on the DC side of the line. And, most importantly, it’s easily metroable. There were two storytellers, followed by an open mike. The first teller was Shirleta Settles, who I had not heard of before. She did a folk tale, with excellent voices and strong singing, and was very animated and entertaining. She was followed by Jon Spelman, who did a couple of excerpts from The Prostate Diaries. One of those was quite timely since it had to do with his experiences on the Camino del Santiago, which [livejournal.com profile] fossilfreakca had just started on. He did a good job of making the excerpts make sense while telling something less than half of the whole piece. As for the open mike, I told "Two Foolish Old People," a badly mistitled Mongolian story.

Speaking of Storytelling: I am part of the Better Said Than Done fundraiser for the Reston Nature Center this coming Saturday night (September 19th). The show is at 8 p.m. and doors open at 7:30. We had rehearsal on Sunday afternoon and the show (which has a theme of "Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire") is going to be hot, hot, hot! You should come if you are anywhere in the general vicinity.

Rosh Hashanah: I went to services at Shoreshim in Reston. Overall, I’d say I’m looking for something more traditional. In particular, I would have preferred a more complete Torah reading , rather than just the first Aliyah. I also prefer not to have musical instruments (though I can actually make an argument for including them) and very much prefer not having microphones (though that is a losing cause for the most part). On the plus side, the drosh (sermon) was both brief and relevant and the shofar blowing set a high standard.

I Despair for Our Future: The internet is exploding today with the story of Ahmed Mohammed, a 9th-grader in Irving, Texas, who was hauled off from school in handcuffs because a teacher and some cops were too dumb to be able to tell that his homemade clock wasn’t anything like a bomb. I’m proposing supporting him with a Bring Your Clock to Work Day.

At the same time, there’s an 11-year-old kid in Virginia who is serving out a year suspension (having to go to some special school as a result) for having what someone believed looked like a marijuana leaf in his backpack. Except it was actually a Japanese maple leaf. He (or someone else) may have joked that it was pot, but sheesh.

I suspect that if I were a kid nowadays, I’d end up in juvie over something similarly dumb.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Only a few movies over the past 3 months, mostly because I have been busy with other things:

  1. Theory of Everything: I watched the Stephen Hawking biopic on my flight home from Oslo. It certainly held my attention, though I have to admit that I still think of Hawking as a bit of an egotistical ass, which is not exactly atypical for a physicist. His wife came across better. I have no idea how accurate the whole thing was, but it was entertaining enough and I can't really ask for more on an in-flight movie.

  2. Into the Woods: Oslo to Newark is a long flight. I like Sondheim. Sure, it's not as good as the live musical on stage. And the title song has all the annoyingness of a commercial jingle. But the performances were competent enough and some of the aspects of the show I like were left intact (e.g. the princes, the wolf). Bottom line is that it was entertaining enough to keep me occupied during a long trip.

  3. You Can't Take It With You: I was predisposed to like this 1938 Oscar winner. After all, it was based on a play by George S. Kaufman, who wrote for the Marx Brothers and collaborated with the Gershwins. Unfortunately, I also hate farce and this is essentially a farce, filled with characters who act out of sheer eccentricity. Sadly, I found the whole thing dull, preachy, and unfunny. A major disappointment.

  4. The Sturgeon Queens: I saw this short documentary about Russ and Daughters, the famous Lower East Side appetizing store, at a Jewish film festival event. It was warm and amusing, filled with regular customers fumbling with the script, famous people (including Calvin Trillin, who had first brought the place to my attention), and members of the family, including two of the original daughters. I left hungry for some whitefish salad. However, I will note that it is less than an hour long, so felt as expensive as sable is these days.

fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I only saw a few movies this quarter. But I want to keep up the habit of doing this run-down, so here goes:

  1. Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara. This is an intriguing and provocative documentary about McNamara, who is most famous as having been the Secretary of Defense under JFK and LBJ. Much of it is, of course, about Vietnam, but there is a lot other material ranging from McNamara's statistical analysis of bombing sorties during World War II to his later stewardship of the World Bank. Recommended if you have any interest in history and its lessons for current and future events.

  2. The Thin Man. I had, surprisingly, never seen this classic, though I had read Dashiell Hammett's novel. Sad to see, the movie version really didn't work for me. There's too much emphasis on partying and drinking (and Asta getting underfoot) and too little on the actual story. Disappointing.

  3. Deli Man. I already wrote about this movie, which I saw as part of the Washington Jewish Film Festival. It's about Jewish delis, with a focus on Ziggy Gruber of Kenny and Ziggy's in Houston. It's funny and poignant and highly recommended to fans of Jewish humor and Jewish delis alike.

  4. Birdman. I watched this on my flight to Norway. I understand why it won the Oscar for Best Picture. Namely, the motion picture industry insiders love this sort of meta-film. I thought it had its moments (e.g. a sex scene between two actors, which goes wrong in a particularly twisted way), but, overall, it didn't work for me. I couldn't bring myself to like - or care about - any of the characters. I will say, however, that Michael Keaton did an impressive acting job.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Sort of Celebrity Death Watch: I forgot to mention that storyteller Steve Sanfield died recently. He told Jewish stories (including Chelm stories, though, of course, my versions are better) as well as African-American stories and other folktales. He also wrote poetry. His most significant achievement was probably having founded the Sierra Storytelling Festival. He will be missed.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: I am still in shock about Joel Ratner’s death. I grew up with him and, while I have not seen him since high school, I’ve heard that he built a great life as a music educator and family man. People my age should not be dying.

Don’t Analyze This Dream: Actually, I don’t remember enough details to write about the dream coherently, but it involved both sushi and gefilte fish. I like both, but they really don’t go together.

Weather Whining: We got about 6 inches of snow this past Saturday and another 2 or so late Wednesday night. It is really distressing to me when the temperature in Oslo is 15 degrees higher than the temperature in northern Virginia.

Deli Man: In spite of the snow, I trudged to the metro and slid down Q Street to see the screening of Deli Man, part of the Washington Jewish Film Festival. There are scenes and interviews involving many famous Jewish delis, with the main focus on David "Ziggy" Gruber of Kenny and Ziggy’s in Houston. There was, alas, no explanation of who Kenny is or was. Despite that lingering question, the movie was excellent. I laughed, I cried, I drooled. I went home and made matzoh ball soup.

Food Failure: With all that pristine snow falling, I completely forgot to collect some in a pie pan and make sugar in the snow. I have real maple syrup on hand so it would have been simple enough to boil some and pour it over a pan full of snow. Maybe next winter. (I refuse to hope for more snow so I can do it this season.)

General Kvetching: I have several annoyances with things ranging from work to the Norwegian railroad website to the likely closing of McCoy Field (home of the PawSox) to the stupid selfie crap on the new season of The Amazing Race to my own sheer lack of focus. But, you know, it doesn’t pay to dwell on any of that, so I will keep from boring you with my current state of discontent and leave myself time to do something about some parts of that.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I am spending an exciting New Year's Eve doing laundry and reading. So it's a good time to write up the few movies I saw over the past 3 months. Just three this time.

  1. Boyhood: The concept of using the same actors over a long period of time was interesting, but, overall, I thought this was too long, with too little happening. Okay, but not great.

  2. Jersey Boys: I watched this on a plane and liked it more than I expected to, but I admit that was mostly because the music was fun. The ending could have been a bit more fleshed out.

  3. Breakfast at Tiffany's: Thanks to United's streaming entertainment, I finaly watched this classic, which I really enjoyed. Holly Golightly is exasperating, but interesting and, besides, Audrey Hepburn had a great wardrobe in this film. Cool clothes and a cat made it right up my alley.

fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Before moving on to the catch-up stuff, here is the run down on movies I saw over the last quarter.

  1. In the Heat of the Night: This was part of my on-going attempt to see every movie that’s won a Best Picture Oscar. I’m fairly sure I’d actually seen it before, but it doesn’t matter because Sidney Poitier is so good as a Philadelphia detective caught up in a murder in Mississippi. Throw in Rod Steiger as the sheriff who shows himself capable of human transformation and the murder mystery is a side plot. Highly recommended.

  2. The Greatest Show on Earth: Another Oscar winner, this is pretty much a paean to the circus, including narration by John Ringling North himself. There is plenty of spectacle, particularly in the performances of aerialists. But, I thought the movie would have been stronger had it been shorter, with fewer competing subplots.

  3. Easy A: I watched this on a recommendation from the Wall Street Journal. And, wow, am I glad I did. The plot involves Olive, a high school girl who lies about her sexual experience, earning her an undeserved reputation as a slut. They happen to be reading The Scarlet Letter in English class and she plays the role to the hilt, sewing A’s to her clothes. I was not entirely comfortable with her faking relationships with various boys in exchange for gift cards. But, overall, I thought this movie had important things to say about slut shaming and did so in an intelligent and witty manner. I also want to note the performances of Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as the most amazing parents any teenager ever had. I absolutely loved this movie and cannot recommend it highly enough.

  4. Butter: The competitive world of butter carving gets shaken up by the wife of a retired competitor and an adorable black foster child. This would be the sort of quirky movie I love, but there was an unfortunate subplot involving a prostitute who is involved with the retired competitor. Recommended, with reservations.

  5. Million Dollar Arm: Since I love baseball and find Indian culture interesting, this story (based on a true one) about recruiting the first Indian players to MLB was right up my alley. It’s somewhat predictable, but I thought it was sweet and entertaining. Of the options on DirecTV on a United flight, I’m reasonably sure it was the best choice. Recommended.

  6. Down Argentine Way: I was at a hotel and flipping through channels when TCM was doing a Betty Grable retrospective. The plot is thin and predictable and there are surprisingly few songs for a musical, though the title song is repeated multiple times. More significantly, this was the first U.S. film for Carmen Miranda. This is a fluffy diversion and far from essential, but there are worse ways to kill an hour and a half.

  7. The Wolf of Wall Street: I was somewhat hesitant to watch this movie (on another flight) since I knew my mother had walked out of it, apparently based on excessive cussing. Frankly, the language is a bit much, but it didn’t really bother me and I thought it fit the character well. I grew up on Long Island, so I know the type. At any rate, the movie held my interest and, in some ways, Jordan Belfort’s behavior is so over the top that it didn’t bug me that he was so reptilian. Recommended, if you can handle the lack of any likeable characters.

  8. Let the Right One In: This Swedish vampire movie is truly spooky and disturbing. It’s hard to know what to say about it, because the interplay between Oskar, a bullied boy, and Eli, a vampire, is such an unusual relationship. Apparently the sexual ambiguity about Eli is explained in the book the movie is based on, but there was a certain value in not knowing that back story. This is a brilliantly original film and highly recommended for those who think they know all about vampire movies.

  9. Broken: United’s wifi entertainment system has limited availability for movies if you use an Android device. Basically, you can get uninteresting television episodes and foreign films. British apparently qualifies as foreign, so I watched what was described as "the story of a young girl in North London whose life changes after witnessing a violent attack." That’s a horribly inaccurate description of the plot, which has to do with three families of broken people, all of them impacted by the mental illness of one family's son. Overall, I found this movie depressing and overly melodramatic. Bear in mind, however, that I also detest To Kill a Mockingbird and for much the same reasons.

  10. Woman of the Year: There are times when you just need to watch Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Yes, the concluding scene where Hepburn tries to be domestic to slapstick results is annoying, but this was 1942. There will always be a part of me that always wants to be every Hepburn character, so suave and so elegant and so immensely competent. If you feel the same way, you can watch their films over and over.

fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Here’s the run-down on the movies I saw from April through June. There would have been one more but I fell asleep trying to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel on my late night flight to Denver last week. I don’t think I absorbed enough of it for it to count.

  1. Lars and the Real Girl: You have probably figured out by now that I like romantic comedy. This is an unusual one, since it deals with a socially isolated young man whose love object is a sex doll. The people in his small town go along with treating Bianca as a real person and he gradually outgrows his need for the delusion, becoming open to real human interaction. It’s warm and funny. And Ryan Gosling is good eye candy. Recommended.

  2. Gentleman’s Agreement: This film won the Oscar for best picture of 1947. It stars Gregory Peck as a journalist who tells people he is Jewish to research an article on anti-Semitism. It’s a reasonably interesting movie and a good reminder of how far we have come in the past 55+ years. I was, however, disappointed that nobody – including the Jewish friend - did anything particularly Jewish (e.g. observing kashrut or Shabbat or going to a synagogue) in the movie. By the way, June Havoc (Gypsy Rose Lee’s sister) played the secretary who is passing for a gentile.

  3. 56 Up: Michael Apted has been following the same group of British people since they were 7 years old. I’ve seen several of his previous films, which are done every 7 years, and they remain interesting for the most part. I do find myself disappointed in most of the women, whose lives seem to revolve around family and relationships. My favorite participants are Nick, the physicist who teaches in Wisconsin, and Neil, who has struggled with mental illness and homelessness over the years. If you haven’t seen the previous films, I would suggest watching them in order, rather than starting with this one. If you have seen the others, you probably already have this on your list.

  4. Unorthodox: Anna Wexler was raised in a Modern Orthodox Jewish family and decided as a teenager that she was an atheist. The film follows her attempt to understand friends who studied in Israel for a year after high school and became religious ("flipped out" in her terminology). She followed two men and one woman, all of whom expressed doubts about Orthodoxy, through their experiences. There is also a lot in the movie about her own life and dealings with her family on religion. I found this movie absolutely fascinating and, in fact, bought a copy of the DVD. My one disappointment is that she stays off the subject of sex, though there is plenty about drug and alcohol abuse. By the way, MIT provided a lot of the support for this movie as Wexler got her undergraduate degree there and is now working on her doctorate in neuroscience. Highly recommended, with the caveat that I am not sure how a non-Jew would relate to it.

  5. Her: Long international flights are always a good opportunity for me to catch up on movies. I knew the premise of this one, which has a writer fall in love with an operating system. What I hadn’t known before seeing it is that this relationship is not unique. Rather, there are plenty of other human/OS couples around – enough for there to be surrogates who specialize in allowing actual sexual encounters for them. In general, this movie was less predictable than I expected it to be. It was also more serious. Overall, it kept my attention and I thought it was worth seeing.

  6. Captain Phillips: The story of a merchant ship captain whose ship is captured by Somali pirates was exciting and suspenseful. I was particularly pleased that the pirates were portrayed as something other than purely evil, but were instead partly victims of circumstance. There may be questions about just how accurate the movie was but I didn’t care. Highly recommended.

  7. Nebraska: Bruce Dern plays an old man who believes he has won a sweepstakes and is determined to collect his million dollars. His son agrees to drive him and what follows is mostly family drama. The quality of the acting is impressive and I understand why people praised this movie. But as somebody dealing with my own aging parent issues, I found it horribly depressing.

  8. Crossword: I wouldn’t normally bother to write up a short subject, but this 13 minute Irish movie is charming enough that it should be better known. The premise is that an isolated young woman named Heather suddenly finds that her daily crossword puzzle seems to be written specifically for her. She goes to the crossword office to investigate … It’s all very sweet and I recommend it highly.

  9. Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon: This biopic deals with the manager of such rock stars as Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd. He also created the concept of the celebrity chef. His life was pretty much full of sex and drugs and rock and roll, but he also comes across as basically a good guy. In fact, a mensch. The main thing is that this is a very funny and entertaining movie, worth seeing even if you aren’t into the whole celebrity culture. The audience at the preview screening I was at (part of the Washington Jewish Music Festival) broke into applause at the end. So did I.

fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Jay Lake was a science fiction writer. Jerry Vale was a singer. Arthur Gelb edited the New York Times and had a big influence on its direction. Ann B. Davis kept house for The Brady Bunch. Maya Angelou was a poet. Mona Freeman was the first Miss Subways, which will probably not mean anything to non-New Yorkers, but it meant her picture was on the trains.

Ruby Dee was an actress. I think I knew that she was the widow of Ossie Davis. I am pretty sure I didn’t know that she had a degree from Hunter College (in romance languages).

Don Zimmer was a baseball icon. Among the things he was notable for were being an original member of the New York Mets and managing the 1978 Boston Red Sox.

The more obscure person I want to note is anthropologist George Armelagos. His book, Consuming Passions, is one of the most interesting books about food ever written. I particularly enjoyed the section on cannibalism, for its utter lack of sensationalism.

Non-celebrity Obituary: Mack Smith died of a stroke just about as I was setting off on vacation. He told good stories – Jack tales and tall tales. If I recall correctly, he won the Virginia Liar’s contest at least once. He was good people and will be missed by our community.

Bat Boy: Last weekend, I went to see Bat Boy: The Musical at 1st Stage. It was about what one would expect of a musical based on a story from the Weekly World News. The basic plot involves a half-boy half-bat creature found in a cave, who is taken to the local veterinarian’s home, where he is taught to be civilized, but has to fight the local townsfolk’s prejudices. There was an impressive performance by Jimmy Mavrikes in the very demanding title role. Maria Rizzo as Shelly had good chemistry with him. Unfortunately, some of the cast lacked energy, possibly because of the demands that playing multiple roles made on most of them. The score was okay, but not especially memorable. So, overall, while it was entertaining, it was hardly an essential show to see.

The Tony Awards: As much as I like Neil Patrick Harris, I think Jefferson Mayes was robbed.

Washington Jewish Music Festival: This is one of my favorite events of the year. Monday night, I saw a movie as part of it - Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon. I will write about that more when I do my quarterly movie wrap-up. For now, I will just say it was very funny.

Last night, I went to see Kinky Friedman. He’s pretty much still doing the same shtick he’s been doing for 40 some odd years. He sang stuff like "They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore" and "Asshole from El Paso" and so on. And he told various jokes, many in questionable taste (which is part of his persona). My favorite was his comment about his will, which specifies that he be cremated and his ashes scattered in Rick Perry’s hair. He also had some serious notes, reading a story about his father from his book about Texas heroes. Overall, it was an entertaining evening.

Tonight, I am going to see Yemen Blues, which I expect to be more energetic, fusiony stuff. Which is exactly my cup of tea.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
It’s time for the quarterly movie review entry. Note that, while I didn’t set any specific goal for that this year, I am still working towards seeing every Oscar winning movie, which is a life list item. I added three this month. However, there are always other things to see.

  1. The Way. This was not the movie about the Camino del Santiago, which I had intended to rent. Instead, google play gave me this Barry Shay film about a boy in L.A. who gets involved with gangs, goes to prison, develops his body, and becomes a runner thanks to his parole officer. (Shay plays the parole officer, who sees the kid as sort of a surrogate for his son.) This was actually a pretty absorbing movie, although it was fairly predictable. I do still intend to see the Martin Sheen one about the Camino del Santiago, however.

  2. Cavalcade. This was part of the Oscar winner campaign, having won best picture for 1933. Based on a Noel Coward play, it traces an upper-class British family (and some of their servants) from the turn of the 20th century through the Boer War, the death of Queen Victoria, the sinking of the Titanic, and World War I. At one level, it’s something of an anti-war film. The whole thing is probably best summed up in the song 20th Century Blues. It’s interesting enough, but watching this now, I couldn’t escape knowing that things only got worse with World War II.

  3. Enough Said. This was the feature film on a United flight. Bsaically Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays a neurotic (surprise!) who screws up a promising relationship by being a jerk when she also befriends the guy’s ex-wife. James Gandolfini did a good job as the love interest, but he couldn’t salvage this idiocy. Overall, this was one of the worst romantic comedies I’ve ever seen.

  4. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. The final movie of the trilogy continued to be fairly true to the book. That is good for the most part, but it also means that it shares what I’ve always thought was the main flaw of the final book. Namely, the material after the battles are over and done with is too long and not nearly as interesting. It’s still worth seeing, but one could actually skip the last half hour or so with no loss.

  5. About Time. United redeemed themselves on movie choices with this sweet romantic comedy about a young man who has the ability to go back in time to relive parts of his life, allowing him to fix various events (from preventing accident to improving a sexual experience). There are limitations on how this works and he ends up learning how to appreciate the extra time for little things. Despite the premise, the characters felt surprisingly realistic and I enjoyed watching this.

  6. Everything Must Go. I downloaded this to watch ona train trip under the misapprehension that it was a comedy. Despite starring Will Ferrell, it is anything but. I found this a self-indulgent story about a drunken asshole who progresses to being merely unlikeable and pitiful by the end. The premise of a guy living on his lawn because his wife has kicked him out of the house could be comedic. But, given that she has moved in with his AA sponsor in the meantime and isn't living in the house, it doesn’t even make sense. In case you haven’t figured it out, I absolutely hated this movie.

  7. The Great Ziegfield. This was another Oscar winner, from 1936. It’s hard to say how accurate it was, but it certainly isn’t a particularly flattering portrait of Flo Ziegfield, emphasizing his fiscal irresponsibility and his womanizing. The real reason to watch this is to see the production numbers, including actual performances by various famous people like Fanny Brice. Recommended.

  8. Under the Same Sun. This mockumentary was part of the Northern Virginia Jewish Film Festival. The plot involves two businessmen – one Israeli, one Palestinian – who try to start a joint solar energy company on the West Bank. They both have skeptical family members and have to deal with the political and personal fall out when the scheme gets publicized. They fight back via social media, with considerable success. This was definitely an absorbing movie, but, ultimately, I found the ease of the social media campaign unconvincing.


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