Saturday, September 28, 2013

Rush, a Movie Review

Rush is unlike any movie Ron Howard has ever made. Yes, Opie, we are not in Mayberry any longer.

The movie is based on the true story of the rivalry between two Formula One drivers in the late 1970's, Niki Lauda, and James Hunt. Both strayed from their well to do families to pursue their passion - driving. And, the two could not be any different. James, is English, a playboy and extrovert with a passion for the sport and to win. Niki is German, aloof, antisocial, and although he is driven to win as much as James, he sees it as science, taking no prisoners.

While James is fueled by love of life, people, alcohol, drugs, and speed. Niki is more calibrated, disciplined - concerned with the details. James needs to mature, Niki needs to become a little more human.

The filming of the movie alone is incredible. We did not see the 3D version, and still I was exhausted by the intense race scenes, many from the view of the drivers, some from the wheels. Formula One racing makes NASCAR look like what it is, American street cars going around in an oval for hundreds of laps. Formula One cars are special machines designed for one thing - Formula One racing. You will not see one in the parking lot next to you at Walmart. And, as opposed to just making left turns on an oval track, most of the traditional Formula One racers wind their way through mountainous towns (like Monaco) or other curvy race ways.

Another thing about Formula One is the danger. In the 1970's there was a 20% chance, during any given race, a driver was going to die. James best described the sport to someone, saying it was basically like riding a bomb going over 200 miles an hour. And, many great drivers lost their lives during that time.

Chris Hemsworth plays James, a good looking blue eyed Englishman with California shaggy blond surfer hair almost to his shoulders. Daniel Bruhl plays Niki, a serious German wound tight as the curls of his short dark hair. Watching the two fight for the 1976 World Championship makes for a great story with nail biting races and Ron Howard leads us through it with a few crashes and flat tires, but never running out of fuel. It is 123 minutes well worth your time.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Thanks for Sharing - a Movie Review

The whole movie, Thanks for Sharing,  revolves around a group of sex addicts in therapy. When Adam (played by Mark Ruffalo) confesses his illness to Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), her comment is something to the effect of - That really exists? I thought men just used that as an excuse when their wives caught them cheating? Yes, it exists and this movie tackles it head on, so to speak. 

The story line follows 4 members of Sex Addicts Anonymous support group as they deal with their demon in their daily lives. Besides Adam who is celebrating his 5th year of "sobriety", there is Mike (Tim Robbins), an older member, Adam's sponsor, who has been a leader and admired by many in the program. Neil (Josh Gad) is a porky out of control doctor who is new to the group and not there by choice but rather by court order. And, then Dede (played by Pink, Alecia Moore), probably the most intriguing character in the group. 

The characters' stories weave in and out of each other's lives. Mike has a wife who has stood by him through everything and the surprise return of their estranged son, Danny (Patrick Fugit). Neil's world has hit the wall and he has to deal with reality and his mom played by Carol Kane (who is almost farcical). Dede can only relate to men through sex which has led to a life of self destruction. And, then there is Adam, who has finally reached the point in his recovery when he needs to start dating. 

Some reviews call it a comedy, some call it a romantic comedy, the New York Times refers to it as a melodrama. I found it to be a poignant look inside an illness most of us know nothing about and have never considered.  It is a painful view of the emotional challenges and personal strength it takes for these mortals to overcome something most of us can easily dismiss. The combination of romance and comedy help ease the brunt and reality of seeing sex addiction behind the curtains in society. 

The cast is strong, the script is well written, and although, the story touches on the relationship between substance addiction with sex addiction, The New York Times writes, "But most of the rest of the movie never transcends a screenwriting formula that makes you uncomfortably aware of the machinery driving it all." I disagree, just when you are comfortable with their recovery, the dark side of the demon jars you back into their reality. More like an emotional roller coaster, it keeps the story moving and your interest peaked. 

Add this one to your list. It is a good investment of 112 minutes. Also, I can see a new career for Pink (Alecia Moore). She is phenomenal playing a tortured female caught up in a predominately male dominated addiction.   

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A House Trailer Can't Roll on Blocks

Oh, the hits just keep on coming. I'm waiting for Jeff Foxworthy to chime in, "You might be a red neck if you represent South Carolina in the Miss America pageant."  Now the members of the manufactured home dealers association are quietly satisfied with her remarks, although even they felt the remarks could have been said a little better. The association has spent a heap of money working on getting everyone to refer to house trailers as "Manufactured Housing".  I hate to tell them, the bard from Avon put it well, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet." Whatever. Bottom line, you can't put lipstick on a pig.

Even, Stephen Colbert, a son of our fair state, who thought that Miss South Carolina “represented our state admirably.” “That’s right — 20% of our homes are mobile,” Colbert noted, “which means they could leave South Carolina and yet they choose to stay.” Which brings up another issue: Most of them are not mobile at all - they are up on concrete blocks. 

You can refer to it as a "Static caravan" (as the Brits would say), "prefabricated transient modular home" (technical designer speak), "Manufactured Housing" (as the trade group calls it) or "Double Wide" (for those who can't get enough), it doesn't matter. A house trailer by any other name is still a house trailer. 

It gives a whole new light to a red neck or white trash discussing being "upwardly mobile".

Don't get me wrong, there is a movement of modular manufactured housing that is put together on the housing site. And, there are two and three piece "mobile homes", that may be even two stories tall, that are set-up on the home site. And, after the final "construction", no one would know the difference between one of them and a traditional "site built" home. These are a whole 'nuther deal.

And, yes, there are many of our citizens who live in traditional single and double wide mobile homes or house trailers (whatever term you wish to use) and maintain the trailer and the yard better than many people do in well-to-do subdivisions. 

Although these folks make up part of the 17.6% , they are not the people Miss South Carolina was discussing. She was referring to the proverbial single wide house trailer, sitting up on concrete blocks (usually with a car or two abandoned in the yard) that are most often associated with red necks and white trash.

Or, did we all miss the bus here, and are to learn later she was referring to a percentage of our population who live in RV's and  are always ready to roll? If so, there are a few more issues here. I fear 20% of our state population is not wealthy enough to own an RV. And, I agree with Stephen Colbert, if they did, where would they go?

Photography Post - Brown Moth

A brown moth takes his turn on the early morning flowers.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Miss South Carolina - You Can Roll Along Now

God help us all. Even Mississippi and West Virginia cannot save us this time. Sunday evening during the "The Parade of States" in the Miss America Pageant, Miss South Carolina introduced herself to God and everybody with the following announcement, "I'm from the state where 20 percent of our homes are mobile, because that's how we roll."  Surprisingly, she did not advance to the semifinal round. Thank God for small favors. There is no telling what nifty answers she would have come up with when challenged with some thought provoking question thrown at her by a judge.

This just goes hand in hand with the rocket scientists who always manage to find the Weather Channel's cameras after a tornado plowed through their trailer park. Their comments are so memorable, "Well, it sounded like a freight train. I reached for Merlene and the next thing I knew our trailer was blown to smithereens and there I was left in the drive way sitting in my Barcalounger." As the camera pans the wreckage one manages to add, "Ain't never seen anything like this."

Nothing quite puts your state on the map and brings pride to your heart, like an over weight man standing there, missing at least two of his front teeth, proudly wearing his NRA ball cap and NASCAR t-shirt. God bless the USA.

It doesn't matter that our state is the home of Charleston, internationally acclaimed as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Or, that we have 47 lovely state parks. Perhaps, we should be known for our 70 gorgeous unpolluted rivers, including the Ashley and Cooper rivers that come together to form the Atlantic Ocean. There are so many positive attributes of the Palmetto State that we are proud of, I could go on and on. I do not think her choice of facts was the best to say the least.

Oh, and then there is the issue of math - obviously not her strong suit. According to the US Census, the percentage of SC citizens living in mobile homes is actually 17.6%, a point that was brought up by many irate South Carolina tweeters and blog posters. This is in response to the total humiliation brought on to the state by the young lady we chose as our representative to the Miss America pageant.

Her comments were supposed to be humorous and attention grabbing. An example of Miss Kentuky's was given: “From the home of fast horses and beautiful women – better not get those two things mixed up – I'm Jenna Day, Miss Kentucky!” Miss South Carolina's comment was not in the same league, or should I say same trailer  ball park.

It's a good thing Miss South Carolina did not win, she could have gone on to the Miss World Pageant and introduced herself as Miss America "From the land of  red necks, white trash, and blue ribbon beer."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Spectacular Now, a Movie Review

I'll admit my senior year in high school I was known to have a beer or two (or three), but I did not have a flask as part of my daily wardrobe, nor did the drink I kept with me in a Styrofoam cup average around 60 proof. Sutter Keely (played by Miles Teller) in The Spectacular Now does. The story revolves around Sutter and his senior year in high school. Everyone loves Sutter. Needless to say he is the life of every party. 

The movie opens with him lamenting about his break up with Cassie (Brie Larson) and how the two of them made the perfect pair. Unlike many hard partying teenagers, Sutter is not conceited, or running around with a band of  hoodlums, perhaps, however, a little self-possessed.  He is in school, he has a job he enjoys, there is never lack for something to do. He is a cute seventeen year old, who has nothing but good intentions and love for everyone. But, as the name of the movie says, he lives in the moment, for the moment, and no further in life. Although, I will admit he usually gets 125% out of his moments. 

His life is an example of all a high school senior year can be (or was) for all of us - the good, the bad, and the ugly of it. Well, maybe not for the perfect person we all had in our class who lettered in his/her sport each season, enjoyed dating different people, always had great clothes, finished close to top of the class, attended an Ivy League school, and went on to become a brain surgeon or rocket scientist, or better yet, married one. But, I digress. 

The story is more than just the tale of high school loves and losses, drama and parties, graduation and, sometimes, not - it is the story of real life, of broken families, of ugly ducklings, and flawed prince charmings. Life moves on, and some are hesitant to jump on the bus. It reminded me a lot of The Perks of Being a Wildflower (with Emma Watson), just without the well known cast and the more sophisticated storyline. However, this is a story that stands on its own. I do not want to spoil the ending, so I will go no further. I will say the story really begins when Sutter (literally) opens his eyes to see a classmate (Aimee played by Shailene Woodley) he never knew. 

I recommend the investment of 95 minutes of your time. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 91% and this was part of their review, "What starts as an unlikely romance becomes a sharp-eyed, straight-up snapshot of the heady confusion and haunting passion of youth - one that doesn't look for tidy truths."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Animal Crackers in My Soup

I saw a question the other day, "Do vegetarians eat animal crackers?" I found this to be a profound thought if you ponder it. If the purpose of their diet is to spare the life of living creatures, then should they be eating a baked replica of them, albeit of flour and sugar? Is this hypocritical?

As I have posted on earlier, I have no problems with vegetarians at all as long as (1) they practice it for a sane reason they are dedicated to, and (2) they do not judge nor proselytize those of us carnivores. And, down south, 95% of us are carnivores. That 5% being part of the Yankees who settled in Florida and other folks who feel the need to forgo meat. Remember we are the ones who have cookbooks on road kill. There is a reason we refer to an Armadillo as Opossum on the Half Shell.

A girl I worked with years ago declared she was a vegetarian. When ever we went out for lunch, she generally ordered salads. One day, at the annual Fall Church Bazaar, we found ourselves sitting at the table with the local priest, whom we knew very well. Lunch was their famous vegetable soup. 

As the church ladies came by and filled everyones bowl at the table, my friend looked at me in horror. "There is beef in this soup." I had forgotten there was beef in the soup and felt badly about it. Then she continued in a panicky whisper, "What am I going to do?" "Don't worry, just have a few of the corn bread muffins and we will stop on the way back to work and pick something up for you." And, I apologized for forgetting the soup was not vegetarian.

I took a spoonful of my soup and savored the flavor I had enjoyed every year at the Bazaar. When I looked over at  my friend, I could see her getting even more anxious."Are your alright?" "No," she said in a whisper,"What will the Father think if I don't finish my soup." I hated to tell her since he was rector of the church and there were hundreds gathered to speak to him, whether or not she cleaned her bowl was not going to be his first (or last) thought. "Don't worry." "But, I don't want him to judge me because I am a vegetarian."

On the way back to work, I asked her just why she was a vegetarian. "Well, a good friend of mine in college was and I thought if she was, then it must be a good thing to do." "And, what were her reasons?" "I never really asked." "Do you like meat?" "Yes, I love steak and hamburgers." "So you have no ethical reason or health reason or political reason?" "No, not really."

"Maybe you should consider giving it up and just eating a regular diet." "But what would my friend think?" "If she is a good friend, it shouldn't bother her. She won't even know it until you dine together." "I guess not." "When do you think you'll see her again?" "Oh, I don't know, she hasn't really been available for a year or two now? I leave messages but she is so busy she never has a chance to return my calls." "In that case, I think she would happy you made a your own decision." "Still, I think I should call her." "You just do that."

Come to think of it, I'm not sure which is worse, an arrogant vegetarian out to covert the world, or one blindly following along, simply because someone said it was a good idea. The jury is out on that one.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Blue Jasmine, a Movie Review

If I ever felt like I had lost my mind, seeing Jasmine's character in this movie would give me solace that, no, in fact I was doing quite well. I have not been a fan of Woody Allen in the past, but he is redeeming his reputation. After his most recent films, Midnight in Paris and To Rome with Love, where he was writer and director, Blue Jasmine continues his run of good flicks.

Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine, the rich to rags Park Avenue socialite, wife of Hal (played by Alec Baldwin), who has come to live with her sister, Ginger (played by Sally Hawkins), in San Francisco. Her life in New York City has crumbled leaving her with nothing more than her pride, her Louis Vuitton luggage full of designer clothes, and her Hermes bag. Obviously adopted (because God did not create a gene ocean large enough) she and her sister, who lives in a small apartment and works in a market bagging groceries, could not be more different. Ginger takes her in in her time of need, even with Jasmine's constant slights and insults. Her genuine self is a marked difference to Jasmine's airs.

Coping is not Jasmine's strong suit, to say the least, and her arrival at Ginger's door wrecks havoc on her sister's life. Jasmine often talks to herself or to some imaginary person. Her constant use of anti-anxiety medication washed down by vodka, reveals her mental and emotional state teetering on the edge.

The story line goes back and forth between her having to the deal with the real world with her arrival in San Francisco and the tale of her pampered life in New York where she had no more stress than planning galas and dinner parties, deciding which diamonds to wear, and making sure her wardrobe and passport were up-to-date. Her fall from society and means was swift, public, and, obviously, more than she could handle.

The story is a comedy in the train wreck Jasmine carries with her and Jasmine herself. But, almost in a Shakespearean way, it is a drama, watching the fall from grace of someone, you are not sure you want to hope her life improves, watch with glee as she struggles with the reality most of us deal with daily, or just pray she goes away and puts herself out of our collective misery. Whatever the case, it is 98 minutes of your time, well worth investing in this movie.

Although, I am not one to play the Oscar game, Cate Blanchett deserves, if nothing more, a nomination for her role as Jasmine. The talent it took to play this self absorbed, self medicated almost alcoholic, delusional, ex-socialite in denial was extraordinary.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lee Daniel's The Butler, a Movie Review

First, Lee Daniel's The Butler was not what I expected at all. The trailers led one to believe this was the story of a Georgia field hand who rose to serve eight presidents in the White House  - a story of someone who saw our country from eyes of its leaders simply by his almost silent service. But, alas, that is not the story line at all. Rather, Cecil Gaines (played by Forest Whitaker) is used as a vehicle to show the civil rights movement from the cotton fields in Georgia to Selma Alabama and the Freedom Riders to apartheid  in South Africa. And yet, Cecil himself, it reticent about the movement himself.

I would say a good half of the movie deals with actual footage from the civil rights movement and the story line of Cecil's oldest son Louis' (played by David Oyelowo) participation in the fight for equal rights among all people in the United States. Oh, yes, there is plenty of the story of Cecil in the White House serving the presidents and seeing history being made. But the movie is really the juxtaposition between the generations of the race.

Oprah Winfrey plays Cecil's wife Gloria, who has to share her husband's attention with his dedication to his job. She is devoted to her man, protective of her children but is a tortured soul. And, it is almost worth going to the movie to see the cast of presidents, Eisenhower played by Robin Williams and Nixon played by John Cusak. Jane Fonda shows up as Nancy Reagan. If you look carefully you may recognize Vanessa Redgrave, Cuba Gooding, Jr, and Mariah Carey in various roles.

There was initially a lot of Oscar buzz about this film. However, when we walked out of the theater, I said to my DH, "It was a good movie, and I enjoyed it, but I did not see any Oscar material there."

The movie is two different stories, both which need to be told. However, together they make an untenable marriage. I recommend the movie, just make sure your expectations are in check.

A reviewer on IMDB said it best, "Although the movie is based on a true story, a story that is very interesting, the producers couldn't leave it alone. Instead, they tampered with it so much that they made such an interesting story, uninteresting."

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Gravy - The Real Thing

Is gravy a beverage? 

What kind of question is that? If you have to ask, then obviously you don't know. Down here, we know a good thing when we see it (or, in this instance, taste it). And, since we are known for conspicuous consumption, then perhaps that term does apply. But, then we are just talking semantics here.  

Personally, I think of gravy as something additional or unexpected that is pleasing to the senses. That one thing that truly makes a dish. And, as I see it, gravy is gravy. Southerners are honest about it. We have no airs about our cooking (or cuisine as y'all call it now). At least Italians call it as it is. An honest to God old school Italian cook calls the rich red sauce that the meatballs lounge in to soak up all that flavor - "gravy".

When you go to a fine restaurant, the menu may read that their steak is "topped with a sauce au pouivre" or the chicken is served "with a demi glace", and those (yummy) duck fat fries are served "with a side of aioli". Honey, you are either in denial or fairly dense (or both) because those are just fancy names for gravy.

Today's expensive cookbooks of haute cuisine have pages of  recipes for Béarnaise, Hollandaise, Beurre blanc, and Béchamel sauce.  These fancy highfaluton incredibly rich flavorful concoctions are just - you got it! And even though nothing beats a southern gravy, a gravy by any other name is still a gravy. 

So, it doesn't matter whether the meal is served with a South American Chimichurri, a Southeast Asian Sriracha sauce, or an Eastern Asian Tianmianjiang, sweat heart, I hate to tell you, it's all  gravy - "something additional or unexpected that is pleasing to the senses". How tasty would our fare be without it? 

We have our Red Eye, Sawmill (White), and Brown gravies. It is served as rice and gravy, biscuits and gravy, grits and gravy, chicken fried steak and gravy. Then there is the creole gravies that start with a roux and we are in a whole different ball game. 

So if you have a problem with this, that's alright with me. But, you can't have your boring bland dull health food and enjoy your gravy too. Just something to think about. 

Photography Post - Field of Goats

A field of satisfied goats.