Friday, August 29, 2014

favorite song friday: cool kids

Continuing the back to school theme, Echosmith has a deceptively laid-back song that both the kid and I like, "Cool Kids." Echosmith is an American band comprised of four siblings: Graham, Sydney, Noah, and Jamie Sierota.

It took a few listenings for my daughter to really hear the underlying sadness of the song, which perfectly captures the yearning and frankly, ignorance, of youth:

She sees them walking in a straight line, that's not really her style.
And they all got the same heartbeat, but hers is falling behind.
Nothing in this world could ever bring them down.
Yeah, they're invincible, and she's just in the background.
And she says,

"I wish that I could be like the cool kids,
'Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in.
I wish that I could be like the cool kids, like the cool kids."

Echosmith, L-R: Jamie (21, guitar), Sydney (17, vocals), Graham (15, drums), and Noah (18, bass).

It's hard being a kid. Especially in our media-obssessed culture. Peer pressure never really goes away.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

throwback thursday: back to school

The kid is now in her second week of fifth grade. Here we go again, having to buy school supplies and pack lunches (or pad her school lunch account.) All the rushing around and saying goodbye to summer got me thinking back to a simpler time, my school daze ...

Dad cut my bangs crooked again, but I'm all smiles, third row, second from the right (Kindergarten)
I must not be the only one waxing nostalgic, as there have been some fun back-to-school related posts circulating online. One of them definitely struck a chord, as it compared going back to school in the '70s versus today. I must have been deprived, as I never had a cool TV show-themed lunch box and thermos. It was always a paper bag lunch and an ugly plain plaid-patterned thermos for me. Ahhh youth ...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

icymi: our idiot brother

Our Idiot Brother is one of those movies that had pretty good reviews and an appealing cast, and I just never got around to seeing when it was out in theaters. partly for its R rating — it's always harder for me to see R movies on my own — arranging to go without the kid can sometimes be difficult or just plain expensive. So I was glad to get an opportunity to catch up with the movie on Netflix the other day, and even happier when it turned out to be much better than I had expected.

The story follows Ned Rochlin (Paul Rudd), a good-natured, laid-back guy who wants to see the best in everyone and takes what people say at face value. This modern-day Candide and biodynamic farmer is easily caught selling marijuana at his farm stand in a "sting" by a policeman. After a brief stint in prison Ned returns to the farm and finds his girlfriend Janet (Kathryn Hahn) has moved on with Billy (T. J. Miller) and wants Ned out, but refuses to let him take his dog, Willie Nelson. Ned, homeless and heartbroken without his pet, reaches out to his family — first his mother (Shirley Knight), and then, one by one, his sisters, Liz (Emily Mortimer), Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) and Nat (Zooey Deschanel).

Omar, Ned's parole officer (Sterling K. Brown, speaking extremely slowly), "I'm Officer Omar Coleman. I'm your parole officer. "
Ned (Paul Rudd), "I'm Ned Rochlin. Why are you talking so slow?" 
Omar, "I just figured, looking at your sheet, that since you sold grass to a uniformed police officer that you must be retarded."
Ned, "Yeah, I get that a lot."

Paul Rudd is wonderful as Ned. He could have played the part as a real idiot, for broad laughs, but he and the movie don't make that choice. There are definitely humorous situations, but Our Idiot Brother is a more human comedy. Each of the girls' lives is spiraling out of control. Liz is trapped in a loveless marriage with her husband Dylan (Steve Coogan), Miranda is so focused on her high-powered job at Vanity Fair that she is willing to do anything to get a big story, and Nat may be throwing away her great relationship with Cindy (Rashida Jones) from fear of moving forward. While Ned may initially not seem to be helping anyone's situation, his open approach to life can't help but shine a light on some of their more deceptive ones.

As fun as it is to watch Ned, both Rashida Jones and T.J. Miller stand out in their roles as Cindy and Billy. Zooey Deschanel's twee Nat may be the only bum note, but her cluelessness does seem to be part of her character's trajectory. I couldn't help but feel that she needs to do something else and fast, as the charm has worn off the quirk. But the focus stays squarely on Rudd, who nails his hippie love man in all his tree-hugging glory. Most folks may not want to go "full-Ned," but couldn't we all stand to be a little more open, positive about people these days?

Ned, "I like to think that if you put your trust out there; if you really give people the benefit of the doubt, see their best intentions, people will rise to the occasion."

As sweet as Ned can be, there is a wonderful scene in the middle of the movie where he finally loses it, while trying to play charades with his mom and sisters. It's one of those moments that occur within families, and a glimpse at the anger and frustration that even sunny Ned has to contend with. Our Idiot Brother is a fun and funny film, and Paul Rudd once again proves how engaging he can be.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

a few words about the emmy awards

I really just tuned in for Billy Crystal's tribute to Robin Williams. The red carpet was redder than usual, as the bright bold color showed up again and again on actresses. There were a few surprises, especially Benedict Cumberbatch and Sherlock winning three Emmys. Julia Louis-Dreyfus looked amazing and was as funny as ever, as a presenter and a winner. Seth Meyers was an OK host, although his best bit was a pre-taped Q&A with people on the street.

Andy Samberg had probably the biggest laugh as the night he romped, with presenter Lena Headey, post-Weird Al Yankovich musical number, as the odious Joffrey from Game of Thrones. It was too bad that Game of Thrones was shut out of all of its awards, but maybe the Academy, like me, is still reeling from what happened to Oberyn.

The internet is buzzing about Sofia Vergara on a revolving dais, being used in a sexist skit. Are they kidding? Didn't anyone watch the pre-show where actresses were asked to stand for the 360 degree cam to show off their fabulous gowns and gym-toned bodies? We are now shocked that actors and actresses are objectified? Why are people who would complain about such a skit even watch a show like the Emmys, where we watch beautiful people congratulate each other for their super-high paying and fortunate careers? Sigh. It's all a show, just for fun and glitz. Relax, people, or change the channel.

Monday, August 25, 2014

vmas: ladies' night

MTV is not even close to being the arbiter of what's hot in music or pop culture anymore, but it still puts on a pretty good awards show. Maybe because the emphasis is in the right place, as the show was definitely more about the performances than the awards. Does anyone, except the moon man recipient, really care about who wins what or who was nominated? It's all just a chance for musicians to party and dress up and maybe come up with a fun number that people will talk about the next day. And it was all about the ladies last night. And Sam Smith.

Sam Smith gave the best performance of the night with "Stay With Me" at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards.

The kid fell asleep before even one of her idols, Taylor Swift, turned up in an early performance. She was was lots of fun, channeling Hollywood musicals crossed with a goofy Carol Burnett Show skit. She also missed her other heart throbs of the moment, 5 Seconds of Summer, who were (strangely) the only band that played. I don't really remember the song, but she can check it out on YouTube and see what she missed. She, like I imagine most teeny boppers these days, loves the other everywhere-you-look pop product of the moment, Ariana Grande. I try to be nice, but I can't stand listening to her. She doesn't really dance, and the faux '60s go-go girl look isn't even Austin Powers fun. I also can't understand a word she sings — I'm just not a fan.

Last night's show had plenty of water cooler moments, most of them provided by the omnipresent Nicki Minaj. She was on hand for "Bang Bang," Jessie J's song which features blips by Minaj and yes, Ariana Grande. Their performance was a bit weird, with Nicki fighting an obvious wardrobe malfunction, holding her dress together — probably a busted zipper or something similar due to her quick change from her previous "Anaconda" number, which was predictably tasteless and riveting to watch. Minaj also turned up later in the evening in Usher's performance. He was certainly working hard, singing, dancing, playing guitar, on the less-than-memorable song — even bumping up to Nicki's formidable butt.

All hail Beyonce

There were a few quieter moments that caught my attention. Common referencing Ferguson before introducing an award. A very restrained Miley Cyrus who was accompanied by a young homeless kid who graciously accepted her award for video of the year for "Wrecking Ball." One of the most powerful moments of the night came from an ad that ran a slideshow of celebrities — many of them in attendance — smoking — and urging them to not continue to promote their habit via selfies.

The big closer of the night was a tour-de-force performance by a radiant Beyoncé, who was the recipient of the Video Vanguard award. It is undeniable that Beyonce is an amazing performer. It was also sweet and rumor-crushing to see her receive her award from her "beloved" Jay Z and daughter Blue Ivy. Congrats all around.

Friday, August 22, 2014

favorite song friday: awesome mix vol. 1

The runaway film hit of the summer, Guardians of The Galaxy, didn't just introduce the coolest talking tree ever and make comic book movies cool again, but it also spawned a hit soundtrack of decades-old jukebox hits, "Awesome Mix Vol. 1":

1. Blue Swede – "Hooked on a Feeling"
2. Raspberries – "Go All the Way"
3. Norman Greenbaum – "Spirit in the Sky"
4. David Bowie – "Moonage Daydream"
5. Elvin Bishop – "Fooled Around and Fell in Love"
6. 10Cc – "I’m Not in Love"
7. Jackson 5 – "I Want You Back"
8. Redbone – "Come and Get Your Love"
9. The Runaways – "Cherry Bomb"
10. Rupert Holmes – "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)"
11. The Five Stairsteps – "O-O-H Child"
12. Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell – "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough"

The movie starts off with a bang with "Come and Get Your Love," by Redbone and doesn't ever really quit.

The songs are not just a fun blast from the past, but are integral to the story and carefree, fun mood of the film.

"One of the main story points in the movie is that [hero Peter] Quill [played by Chris Pratt] has this compilation tape that he got from his mother before she died that she made for him. It was of songs that she loved, all songs from the 1970s, and that's the only thing he has left of his mother and that's the only thing he has left of his home on Earth. He uses that as a connection to his past and to the sadness that he feels of having left all that and lost all that." — Empty Lighthouse Magazine

The soundtrack is not unsurprisingly, already a bestseller on iTunes and other outlets and there's already a wish list circulating of what songs might turn up on "Awesome Mix Vol. 2."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

throwback thursday: star wars, summer of '77

In the summer of 1977 the biggest movie of the summer was Star Wars. I had been eagerly tracking the progress of the film's opening through various fan magazines, and was not disappointed when we finally went to see it, on Long Beach Island (at a theater in Beach Haven, which alas, is no more). My family were all big science-fiction fans and loved the movie, from the corny crawl-titles at the start to the space battle at the end. Star Wars is the first movie that I ever saw twice in a theater. I think we all went back to see it again the next weekend.

Star Wars was also the first movie where I remember merchandising being an integral part of the experience. My brother and I collected Star Wars cards, which came in a pack, with gum, like baseball cards. Wish I still had some of those now. My mom loved the character of C3PO so much she asked a friend to create a customized tee shirt. I had a major crush on Mark Hamill, and was devastated when I read about him getting banged up in a car crash while filming his next movie, Corvette Summer. Anybody remember that one?

As much as I loved Star Wars, I wasn't in any rush to see the next installment, The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. Maybe it's because I guessed who Darth Vader was when a friend who had already seen it said, "You'll never guess who Luke's father is ..." and I suddenly just knew and told him. His face told me my guess was correct. I did end up seeing it, of course, and liking it, and the third installment, Return of the Jedi, too. I even managed to make it through the 1999 dreadful George Lucas cash-grab prequel, Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

I definitely had this one

When the Star Wars trilogy was re-released in theaters in the late '90s I headed back to the cinema to see if it was still as much fun on the big screen. The new digital scenes that had been inserted added absolutely nothing to the film, and the re-titling and re-sequencing of the original trilogy meant diddly to me. I didn't quite recapture that feeling I had all those years ago when seeing Luke and Leia and Han and R2D2 and Obi Wan and Chewbacca and all the other memorable characters for the first time during the summer of '77, but it was, and still is, a fun film.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

guardians of the galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy is the feel-good film of this summer. It is colorful, funny, and not afraid to be silly. The kid and I saw it twice while we were on vacation. It wasn't that there weren't any other movies that piqued our interest, it was just that we had so much fun the first time around we figured what the heck, let's see it again. That sort of devil-may-care, in search of a good time attitude  permeated the film. It was infectious.

There were so many things that I liked about the movie. It captured my fancy, much like the original Star Wars film did when I first saw it (more on that tomorrow). It has a bitchin' soundtrack (check back here for details on that on Friday), and some truly memorable, lovable characters (I'm looking at you, Groot). I am not particularly invested in the Marvel universe or superhero movies in general, but I am definitely on board to see more adventures featuring Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot. And the film had Benicio Del Toro, so win-win.

Here they come, L-R: Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Groot (Vin Diesel), and Drax (Dave Bautista)

"Groot's the only one of you who has a clue."

The movie doesn't just reference a seventies movie vibe, but also shares its quirky sensibility with other sci-fi/fantasy fan favorites like Buckaroo Banzai and The Fifth Element. There's even a touch of The Wizard of Oz to the motley crew that joins Peter Quill, AKA Star Lord, on his galactic adventures.

We saw the movie in New Jersey, at a Bow Tie Cinema, which added to the whole nostalgia appeal of the experience. No IMAX, no 3D, no "big" movie-going experience. Just popcorn, drinks, a decent-sized screen, and a cool movie. Now don't get me wrong, I love the IMAX screen at our local multiplex (although I loathe 3D). But I also really love this more laid-back, cheaper ticket, local theater approach. It would make me want to start going to the movies more often, like I used to, seeing whatever sounded interesting, instead of weighing the pros and cons and the cost. So far no Bow Tie Cinemas in Florida. Hopefully that will change soon.

One of the other interesting things about this mega-movie that I have noticed is that it isn't (so far) over-merchandised, like so many other aimed-at-kids films seem to be. Wandering around Target with the kid recently we noticed there were a couple of LEGO themed sets,  few action figures (but no Gamora) and some school notebooks featuring the characters, but not much else. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys and paraphernalia, on the other hand, are omnipresent.

I think I can probably hold off watching it again until it hits Blu-ray, but the internet offers some fun links in the meantime to feed my Guardians fix.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

the love of trees in movies — we are groot!

Groot was such a terrific character in Guardians of the Galaxy. Even with his many variations on his one line of dialogue, "I am Groot!", he was able to become lovable and memorable. How did a walking, talking tree capture viewers hearts?

The wonderful Groot got me thinking about some other fun talking trees in movies through the years. Kids and adults alike love to climb trees and sit under them and dream — when they come to life on screen maybe we can't help but love them.

An Ent from Lord of the Rings

Disney's Pocahontas 

Dorothy runs across a rude tree in The Wizard of Oz

Monday, August 18, 2014

back to school

Fifth grade ?!?

Time sure flies. The kid is super-excited about going back to school, being a fifth grader, a safety patrol, and seeing all her friends. I'm a little less excited about early mornings, but can't help but smile at her enthusiasm and hope it rubs off on me a little bit.

Here we go ...



Friday, August 15, 2014

favorite song friday: fireball

The kid has to go back to school on Monday. Yikes! But both of us are still in vacation mode, and this song by Pitbull seems to capture the fun and rhythm of summertime.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

throwback thursday: old barney

I grew up at the Jersey Shore and spent loads of time on Long Beach Island, but I don't think I ever climbed Old Barney, its lighthouse — that is, until last week. I wasn't sure at first that I'd make it all the way up, but thanks to some way stations along the way, I did. And it was great. What a view.

Vintage postcard from The Rix Mix
The kid and I had a great time.

It's a long way up

Following the kid

Don't look down!

What a view from the top

And back down again

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

r.i.p. lauren bacall, 1924-2014

“If you want me just whistle. You know how to whistle don't you? Just put your lips together and blow.”

"Stardom isn't a profession, it's an accident."

"I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that."

She was gorgeous, talented, a woman not afraid to speak her mind. Although she disliked the appellation, she was a legend. So many great roles, great movies: To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Key Largo, How to Marry a Millionaire, Written on the Wind, Applause, Murder on the Orient Express, The Forger. She will be missed.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

r.i.p. robin williams

Like so many, I first encountered him as Mork, grew to love his crazy, improvisational stand-up routines, and loved his funny and serious turns in movies. Some of my favorite of his film performances are in The Birdcage and The Fisher King. When I picture Robin Williams I see him in his stand-up persona, wearing crazy rainbow suspenders, complete with cloud buckles as he hopped and joked and did his impressions all over the stage.

Suicide is always a mystery, and if there was ever any proof that fame and talent and money are meaningless in the big picture that is life than this is it. I am just so sad that for whatever his reasons, he wasn't able to stay. To take a breath and embrace the little things. To just be in the moment until the dark cloud passed. He will be missed.

Monday, August 11, 2014

i love the ocean

I always have. I don't think I ever want to live too far away from it.


I've been told my natural homeopathic remedy is Natrum muriaticum, or sea salt.

A substance that is largely responsible for the flow and exchange of fluids and the flow and exchange of neural signals, displays extreme sensitivity and receptivity – or awareness! This is true of the salt subject or archetype. ...

... They need to appear strong, to show no weakness, but inside they are exceedingly vulnerable and afraid of being hurt. Often there is a history of a broken relationship, a love disappointment. Since that time they have never permitted anyone to get too close to them emotionally. They will even avoid getting into a position where someone might get attached to them. It is not the attachment that they fear, but the outcome, which they anticipate with dread: the end of the relationship, the betrayal, the disappointment, the terrible loss, the grieving and the humiliation. — Nat Mur, British Homeopathic Association

Ouch! Sounds a bit too familiar.

Friday, August 08, 2014

favorite song friday: ed sheeran tells another story

Ed Sheeran definitely likes to tell stories, and his latest song, "Don't" tells it like it is. It's a bit similar in vibe to "Sing," but it's also a lot of fun. It chronicles a busted-up love affair from the guy's perspective. Ahhh love ...

I met this girl late last year
She said don't you worry if I disappear
I told her I'm not really looking for another mistake
I called an old friend thinking that the trouble would wait
But then I jump right in
This acoustic version is really nice:

Thursday, August 07, 2014

throwback thursday: what exit?

This week as we continue to enjoy our Jersey Shore vacation, here's a look back at an earlier trip to the beach.

At the beach, Spring Lake

By the sea, Spring Lake

To the shore

By the way, we took exit 7A on the Turnpike.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

ian mcshane is the lovable rascal lovejoy (and might just teach you a thing or two about antiques)

When American audiences hear the name Ian McShane the first image that comes to mind is most likely his gritty, brilliant portrayal of Al Swearengen in HBO's Deadwood. But the actor has been busy on stage and screen since 1962. And before Deadwood, he created another iconic character, Lovejoy, whose series aired in the U.K. from 1986 to 1994. The shows were picked up in the U.S. and broadcast by the A&E Network in the 1990s. They haven't been available to American audiences on DVD until recently, thanks to Acorn Media, who has released the first set, Lovejoy, Series 1, with hopefully the remaining five seasons to soon follow.

Based on the character from the popular mystery novel series by Jonathan Gash, Lovejoy isn't a typical British mystery series. The focus is not on grisly murders or detectives trying to get into the heads of brilliant and idiosyncratic criminals. Set in East Anglia, McShane's Lovejoy is an antique dealer, who is mostly honest, but most importantly, has an absolute love of all things antique and ancient. He is also a "divvie," someone who can feel in his bones whether a painting or an object is the real thing or a clever fake. It's a wonderful quality to possess, but it can get Lovejoy into a lot of trouble. What makes the series escpecially fun is watching Lovejoy's true love for his work, and being able to learn a thing or two about paintings, porcelain, furniture, and even history along the way. ...

You can read the rest of my review on Cinema Sentries ...

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

no, they didn't stow away ...

The boys are back in Florida, being well cared for. Guess I'm missing them. Just a tiny bit.



Monday, August 04, 2014

mom's birthday ...

... was Saturday. But as the days of the week (or the year) don't mean as much to her these days, we will celebrate it when we return. I know I will get another big smile from her when I see her.


Happy 81st birthday, Mom!

Friday, August 01, 2014

favorite song friday: heavy cloud, no rain

All the summer storming makes me think of this Sting song.