Saturday, January 26, 2013

Movie of the Week—Just the Bad and the Ugly

Recommendations from friends overcame our better judgment and we bought tickets for Parental Guidance.  We lasted 30 minutes.  It was over-done, over-acted, and over the top.  Watching Billy Crystal mugging at his worst, and stealing the show from Bette Midler and Marisa Tomei, was bad enough.  But the studio had loaded the trailer – which we saw at least four times in previous weeks – with all the best jokes.  So the movie was totally flat and there was not one character likable enough to make it worth our time.  Our parental guidance is to avoid this movie.

We bugged out and headed for the only show starting around that time that we had not already seen before and ended up in Hansel and Gretel—Witch Hunters.  It had not been screened for reviewers, which is never a good sign, and the movie lived down to its promise.  Jeremy Renner must have accepted this role early and for the money because he’s better than a sad vehicle like this.  It’s a weird mixture of campy humor, with sly references to other fairy tales, that probably would have worked if Joss Whedon had been in charge, and grotesque violence that I won’t begin to describe.  The troll looks like the love child of Shrek and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The sets look like it was filmed in Disneyworld and Busch Gardens in the Bavarian Village near the now-defunct Big Bad Wolf.  Still, an actor doesn’t often get to say lines like, “Trolls are extra,” or “Whatever you do, don’t eat the fx%#g candy.”

 Sigh.  I think we’ll swear off movies for another couple of months or until something decent is released, whichever comes first.  It could be a while.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Hollywood – An Ongoing History of Violence

After spending many weeks consumed by planning to move, moving, and unpacking, Seth and I are going out tonight, despite the cold, and catch a movie—but which one?  January begins the spring doldrums.  Holiday movies have gone out with the Christmas tree and Oscar candidates are still in the theatres, but we have seen all those.  Except for Beasts of the Southern Wild, which has only played in art houses, and Zero Dark Thirty, which Seth doesn’t want to see and which features torture as an interrogation technique.  What’s left is the bottom of the Hollywood barrel—movies so awful the studios are just trying to make back the production costs.  Horror (Mama), ridiculous comedy (Parental Guidance, A Haunted House, Movie 43) and violence.   

Gee, haven’t we had enough of violence lately?  

Here’s the rundown of what’s available in that genre: 
  •    Parker – . . . grindingly violent, a role that turns on inflicting—and suffering—pain.” Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal
  •     Broken City Rated R for “pervasive language, some sexual content and violence”
  •    The Last Stand – Arnold Schwarzenegger with a big gun and semi-intelligible dialogue
  •    Gangster Squad – " Mr. Penn's psychopathic monster is fun to watch when he's contemplating violence or unspeakable mutilation, but not when he's committing it. And an extraordinary amount of mayhem is committed, so much so that the movie's original opening last fall was delayed after the movie-theater massacre in Aurora, Colo.; some of the violence was dialed down (not all that much, to judge from what's still on screen), and a sequence depicting gunfire in a movie theater was relocated to a soundstage Chinatown.” Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal
  •    Django Unchained – Racist violence in the Old West that’s “ferociously violent . . . blood-spattered . . .” Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal
Sigh.  If we drive to Framingham and fight the crowds we can see The Impossible about the Indonesian tsunami.   

What’s coming up?  Well, there’s Bullet to the Head.  Now that title puts the violence right out there.  What is Hollywood thinking to release movies like this after multiple mass murders?  When is enough, enough?  Oh, right.  When people stop going to see them.  That would be us.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Year, New Initiatives

To keep moving on my goal of trying new things and looking forward, I am being creative.  This isn’t a brand new initiative: last year I did some contract work for VoltDB, and Firemon, consulted for The Durand, participated in a focus group, worked a fund-raising event for Lovin’ Spoonfuls food rescue, and visited our son in Alaska.  On Monday night, I joined in the Sauta Farm book group, where we discussed The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty, a book I enjoyed from start to finish.  The next read is The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, but I’m having trouble finding it at the library—and it’s a big book.  

Yesterday, I registered with Boston By Foot for the spring training course that will let me become a docent and lead tours. This is not a little thing: guides are “expected to complete a 6-week training course that includes lectures, field trips, written papers and even a final exam.”  So it’s commitment but I have wanted to do this for years and Kathy Vorse, who is on the board of BBF, has urged me to follow through.  Work got in the way, of course, but that’s not a problem now.   I have more outreach planned but that’s fodder for another day. 

In the meantime, I’m appreciating different opportunities.  Just being home has allowed me to watch things that I ordinarily would only catch in snippets on the news as I drove home from work.  Things like Monday’s presidential inauguration, yesterday’s testimony by Hillary Clinton on the Benghazi attack, President Obama’s press conference and the presentation of his 23 executive orders on gun security.   
Not only does trying new things make my next phase richer, they keep me from spending too much time by myself, talking to the cat.  Right now, Mystique is tucked up on Seth’s desk, pointedly ignoring me because I just gave her the morning pill.  Gaaakh!  I do talk to her more but I’m not sure what she understands.  She appears to like having the company, though.

Onward to today’s new things. The cold won't keep me in.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Starting The Next Phase of My Life

My friend Martha Schaefer has inspired me to start my own blog.  Although I intended to do it a long time ago, the challenges of downsizing ate up a lot of my time.  But now that's over, we're happily ensconced in our new home and it's time to start addressing the challenges of The Next Phase of my life. 

So far, it's working out well and I'm seeing new opportunities, opening up to new ideas, expanding my perceptions, and thinking more about my life, as opposed to my job, than I have ever had time to do before.  This is fun.  It's also exciting, sometimes scary, and sometimes quite unbelievable.  Is this really me?  Am I really not either working or looking for my next job?  Am I really living for good in this new and wonderful place?  How do I do this blog without falling into the GenY trap of It's All About Me?  Why am I letting the cat up on the table? 

So many questions, so little time.  But, as Yogi Berra once said, "You can observe a lot by just watching," so I'm going to start with observations and see where they take me.  But always looking forward.  Because, as another baseball great, Satchell Paige observed, "Don't look back.  Something might be gaining on you."  I hope you decide my observations are worth coming along for the ride.