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Monthly Archives: January 2013

A Letter to my Readers

 

letter

 

Dear Friends;

I need your help. Would you like to be a guest blogger? Here is your opportunity to voice your opinion on a current affair, write a movie review, or share with us a favorite story, poem, or inspirational insight.

I am currently working on a book and since this is taking much of my time I have decided to let you, my friends and readers, use this forum. One of our friends is working on a story that is guaranteed to amaze and inspire you. It is a story of how a childhood pen pal led to changing a young boy’s life in a disadvantaged country. He came to this country for his education and then returned home to set up a school to help other disadvantaged children to better themselves, their families, and their community. The school has gained worldwide attention and has been recognized as a Clinton Global Initiative (http://www.clintonfoundation.org/main/our-work/by-initiative/clinton-global-initiative/programs/annual-meetings/cgi-annual-meeting.html). This promises to be a fascinating story.

I will add things to the blog periodically but I hope you, my readers, can help while I complete the work on my book. The book, titled Peach Cobbler for Breakfast, is one I have worked on periodically for the past several years. It is about my experiences as a young widow after my first husband died. It is a story of my journey through self discovery to recovery. Over the years the book has gone through many incarnations and titles. However, my goal has been to present an uplifting and sometimes comical look at a subject that is too often portrayed as depressing. True, the subject matter of widowhood can be depressing but that is my point—if we don’t move on and learn to look at the world differently we will never recover.

A publisher has expressed interest in it so I ask for your patience and help while I complete the work on the book. The more contributions I receive from you the more time I have to devote to my book and the faster it will be completed. Therefore, that means I will be able to come back to our regular visits quicker.

Please email me or leave a message at the end of this post and I will get back with you. I, of course, maintain the right to edit or reject any material I feel isn’t compatible with the standards I have set (after all, it is my blog). Send me your ideas or completed pieces. If you have artwork or photographs, please include these also.

Many of you have sent me notes after some of my posts and movie reviews so now I am hoping you will allow me to post some of these. Expound on your ideas and don’t be bashful.

This can be an exciting venture for both of us so I look forward to hearing from you and seeing what you produce. There are stories all around you and I’m sure you have opinions on things happening in the news. My mother asked how I think of so many things to write about and my answer to her was, “Have you ever known me not to have an opinion about things?” Let us know what you are thinking.

Hoping to hear from you soon,

Sheila

 

Zero Dark Thirty illuminates the dark side of war

Zero Dark Thirty

 

Zero Dark Thirty is about the manhunt for the most dangerous man in the world, Osama bin Laden. Although it has been nominated for many awards it has also attracted attention for controversy and criticism for allegedly taking a pro-torture stance. But, war is a nasty business.

The title is a military term for 30 minutes after midnight but it also refers to the darkness and secrecy that cloaked the decade-long mission to find bin Laden.

Zero Dark Thirty is not for the squeamish and I admit I found it disturbing in places. The movie has been heavily criticized for its torture scenes and I, personally, wish they had not spent so much time on those particular scenes. However, the movie leaves it up to the viewer to make the moral judgment of whether or not the final goal, the elimination of bin Laden, justifies the means by which the information was attained.

Along the journey the movie also reminds us of the many lives lost during unsuspecting terrorist attacks which bin Laden was behind. In addition to 9/11 bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organization were responsible for the bombing of the Islamabad Marriott Hotel, Camp Chapman attack, and the London bus bombing.

Jessica Chastain plays a bad-ass CIA analyst who spends her whole career studying al-Qaeda and tracking the moves of bin Laden and his associates. Through 10 years of diligent work looking for the needle in the haystack she finally unravels the mystery of bin Laden’s currier system and by following these men the CIA team finally finds a compound where they suspect he is living.

When the team presents its findings to the head of the CIA, the team estimates there is a 60% chance that bin Laden is there. Only Maya, Chastain’s character, is 100% sure.

Everyone knows how the story ends but that doesn’t make the ending any less exciting. The fact that it is filmed with handheld cameras with dark green lighting to simulate night vision goggles makes it all the more realistic. We feel we are right there breaking down doors and running up stairs with the SEAL Team 6. We hold our breath as various obstacles are met and overcome.

A certain faction of the Republican Party loudly criticized this movie claiming it was merely publicity for Obama and that it revealed sensitive government secrets. Release of the movie was held until after the elections so it would not be a factor in the elections. This movie is not about the president and his image is on the screen for about two seconds. We see a TV playing in the background of one scene and the image of Obama tells us that the time sequence is now during the Obama administration rather than Bush. In no way is this a political PR tool for Obama.

Secondly, I don’t see that any information is given in the movie that we didn’t already know. It is no longer a dirty little secret that we use torture and almost any means necessary to gain the information we need. This is a black eye for the U.S. and it appears even uglier when we see it played out on the screen; but it happens. This is the nature of war and I’m sure it has been happening as far back as the Revolutionary War. We as a nation have preferred to sanitize it or overlook it altogether when we make our hero war movies.

Zero Dark Thirty has been nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture. It was also nominated for four Golden Globe Awards including Best Actress for Jessica Chastain which she won. I feel Zero Dark Thirty could win many awards and this could be the year for Chastain to win for Best Actress. She is excellent in portraying a young but very dedicated CIA agent who is so self-assured that she is willing to risk her reputation when going up against those at the very top of the ladder.

This movie is really about those behind the scenes. The dedicated CIA and undercover agents and the rigorous and sometimes tedious life they lead—a life that is also accompanied by danger which could occur at any moment. Chastain portrays an actual undercover agent who is still working in the field and is not allowed to talk with reporters. Those who know her, however, say the movie does an excellent job in portraying her dedication and determination.

I recommend this movie but I do it with caution. It is only for those who can handle some of the more disturbing scenes. I must admit I closed my eyes a few times.

I give Zero Dark Thirty an A.

 

Promised Land is a small movie that tackles a big subject

Promised Land #2

 

Promised Land is a small movie currently in limited release that should get more publicity than it has. It is about the controversial topic of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” as it is commonly called.

Promised Land written by Matt Damon and John Krasinski (of The Office) also stars these two men who oppose each other in the battle for or against fracking in a small Pennsylvania town. Matt Damon as Steve Butler and his partner Frances McDormand as Sue Thomason are sales reps for Global Crosspower Solutions, an energy company specializing in retrieving natural gas through the controversial method of fracking. They convince the farmers to sign over the drilling rights in this small depressed farm town by promising them they will be millionaires. All they have to do is sign on the dotted line.

Damon, the smooth operator dressed down in jeans and flannel shirt, feels this will be a quick job and they will be out of the town in a few days when the town decides to put the decision up to a vote. This decision is encouraged by the town’s local high school science teacher (played by Hal Holbrook) who is also an internationally renowned geologist. He brings up the question of the safety of fracking causing the town’s people who have already signed to rethink their decision.

To further muddy the picture for Global’s reps (Damon and McDormand) Dustin Noble (Krasinski) as a grassroots environmentalist comes to town. He tells the people how his family’s dairy farm cows all died due to Global’s fracking.

As expected, tensions mount building up to the big vote. At this point the plot takes a twist that blind sides everyone.

This is an excellent movie that examines the pros, cons, and dangers of natural gas retrieval through hydraulic fracturing without being preachy. Anyone who has followed this blog knows I have cautioned about the dangers of fracking and have written against it in the past. In some ways I wish the movie were more forceful about the dangers of fracking but it does point out one problem I have been fearful of from the beginning. That is, I have been afraid government, business, and struggling families may be too eager to jump on the bandwagon without considering the consequences. Can we trust these gas companies when billions of dollars are at stake? Will we sacrifice our environment, safe drinking water, and our health for more energy?

Promised Land is an interesting movie about a very hot topic. It has an excellent cast and is well written and acted. Hal Holbrook gives a forceful and touching performance, Matt Damon and John Krasinski are great playing against each not only for the loyalty of the town but also for the same girl, and Fances McDormand enlivens the movie with her usual quirkiness.

This is a must-see movie if you are concerned about our environment or want to know more about fracking.

I give Promised Land a B+.

 

NOTE–here are links to previous posts regarding fracking.

 

http://dobbie.icrewdigital.com/2012/09/27/nature-vs-natural-resources-the-case-for-and-against-fracking/

 

http://dobbie.icrewdigital.com/2011/06/30/companies-over-hyping-wells-some-experts-say-the-columbus-dispatch/

 

http://dobbie.icrewdigital.com/2011/06/30/editorial-due-diligence-the-columbus-dispatch/

 

http://dobbie.icrewdigital.com/2011/06/30/is-natural-gas-a-windfall-or-just-fools-gold/

 

http://dobbie.icrewdigital.com/2011/05/27/the-fracking-song/

 

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&ved=0CDIQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdobbie.icrewdigital.com%2Ftag%2Ffracking%2F&ei=j0z4UJCoO-Ga0QGPqIC4CA&usg=AFQjCNEZMAj74yrlUHt5dIY8Oq5qB3Sj4Q&sig2=ZbwUHLxeDPI0U9yHEdkZ5A&bvm=bv.41018144,d.dmQ

 

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&ved=0CEQQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdobbie.icrewdigital.com%2F2011%2F05%2F25%2Ffracking-brings-risk-ohioans-should-avoid%2F&ei=j0z4UJCoO-Ga0QGPqIC4CA&usg=AFQjCNFNuaCsyVpw3D-mubzJNgRbpjTpiQ&sig2=dJVfzEvSsmYivjPc4-fX7g&bvm=bv.41018144,d.dmQ

 

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&ved=0CEQQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdobbie.icrewdigital.com%2F2011%2F05%2F25%2Ffracking-brings-risk-ohioans-should-avoid%2F&ei=j0z4UJCoO-Ga0QGPqIC4CA&usg=AFQjCNFNuaCsyVpw3D-mubzJNgRbpjTpiQ&sig2=dJVfzEvSsmYivjPc4-fX7g&bvm=bv.41018144,d.dmQ

 

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&cad=rja&ved=0CE4QFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdobbie.icrewdigital.com%2F2011%2F08%2F11%2Fmore-news-on-fracking%2F&ei=j0z4UJCoO-Ga0QGPqIC4CA&usg=AFQjCNGKi9RwGMXPggnCtVEXikiAxKMzcQ&sig2=xrGm5oWb5Rwdmv22mfya9A&bvm=bv.41018144,d.dmQ

 

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=5&cad=rja&ved=0CFgQFjAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdobbie.icrewdigital.com%2F2011%2F05%2F27%2Fthe-fracking-song%2F&ei=j0z4UJCoO-Ga0QGPqIC4CA&usg=AFQjCNFUjqPZB6Pv5LzFkf41-xzgSbYMwQ&sig2=qSNhqu7tu-XTbd4qLWTVrg&bvm=bv.41018144,d.dmQ

 

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&cad=rja&ved=0CGIQFjAF&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdobbie.icrewdigital.com%2F2011%2F06%2F20%2Fsenate-oks-fracking-in-parks%2F&ei=j0z4UJCoO-Ga0QGPqIC4CA&usg=AFQjCNEwx-HAtoGbFckYXgZ01n6YV5S6nQ&sig2=BR0qqE0JLgB6o2kb_8PvhA&bvm=bv.41018144,d.dmQ

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=7&cad=rja&ved=0CGwQFjAG&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdobbie.icrewdigital.com%2F2011%2F08%2F09%2Ffracking-fray-still-in-the-news%2F&ei=j0z4UJCoO-Ga0QGPqIC4CA&usg=AFQjCNE2apuvkfJOVEJH0IaPikgfxfU7VA&sig2=X3FpxBBLFgq_4EBggZCZkA&bvm=bv.41018144,d.dmQ

 

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=9&cad=rja&ved=0CH8QFjAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdobbie.icrewdigital.com%2Fcategory%2Fnature-2%2Fpage%2F2%2F&ei=j0z4UJCoO-Ga0QGPqIC4CA&usg=AFQjCNHtG4uTpgmuK7lsdJLeczosNqM2HA&sig2=X-Oapj30kLCBGqla1UTA_A&bvm=bv.41018144,d.dmQ

 

Movie Review: Parental Guidance is misunderstood by the critics

Parental Guidance #2

Parental Guidance is a cute little movie about generational differences and parenting styles. The movie encompasses three generations which include the modern techie parents, the out-of-date grandparents, and three hyper bratty kids.

The movie stars Billy Crystal and Bette Midler as the grandparents and Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott as the tech savvy parents. Some of the jokes are predictable when you throw social media and computer terms at dinosaurs but it still evokes a chuckle or two. (Unless you are a dinosaur yourself and don’t understand the new age technical terms.) The movie also has some typical slapstick moments but that isn’t all bad.

If you are not familiar with the computer lingo you will at least recognize the discrepancies in parenting styles. The grandparents are from the old school of believing kids must face defeat and hardships in order to toughen them up for life’s experiences. The grandparents also believe in discipline coupled with time for play for the kids. Above all, the grandparents believe a generous dose of love should accompany all activities.

The parents are the typical helicopter parents who constantly hover over their kids and protect them from any negativity. They don’t believe in saying “no” or raising their voices at their kids. Their baseball team allows a kid to continually swing at a ball until he gets on base—no three strikes and you’re out rule.

If you are a grandparent or “of a certain age” you will probably recognize someone you know in the characters. You might even recognize yourself.

Parental Guidance has received mixed to poor reviews from the critics but in spite of that it has done well at the box office. My personal opinion is that most of the reviewers have been young 20 to 30 somethings and have missed the point all together.

You won’t find Parental Guidance at any awards shows. You won’t hear any profanity, loud car crashes, or guns blazing. You won’t see any nudity, sex scenes, blood and gore. But, if you want an enjoyable night out go see Parental Guidance. It might restore your faith in “the family of man”.

I give Parental Guidance a C.

 

Les Miserables Has Many Virtues

Les_Misérables_Soundtrack_Cover

 

Les Miserables is a complicated movie to review because Victor Hugo wrote a very broad and far reaching book in 1862 upon which the movie and stage play are based. The book is populated with a multitude of characters from many different backgrounds. There are so many plots and subplots running throughout a long time span that it is difficult to keep everything straight. However, this is not entirely Victor Hugo’s fault as this was typical of novels during that time.

In addition to the complex plot the story is told almost entirely through song. So what is it that keeps readers and audiences captivated over the last 150 years? Perhaps it is because it touches on so many principles and emotions that affect us all. The story explores love, hate, redemption, passion, loss, sacrifice, patriotism, right versus wrong, and survival of the human spirit. All of these themes are expressed through moving lyrics and emotionally engulfing music. I dare anyone to sit through the movie and not experience a lump in the throat, a tear in the eye, or even a chuckle at times.

As I said, the plot is too complicated to go into depth here but I will break it down to its very simplest form.

Plot Summary

Les Miserable, or Les Mis as it is commonly called, translates from French to mean The Miserable, The Miserable Ones, The Poor or Poor Ones, The Wretched Ones, The Wretched Poor, or The Victims. The drama covers the time period of 1815 to the June Rebellion of 1832.

The main character is Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who has been imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s family. Valjean vows to make a new life for himself after his parole and help from a compassionate priest. He becomes a factory owner and mayor of a town in France; however, he is constantly hunted and harassed by his nemesis and former prison guard, Javert (Russell Crow) for breaking parole.

Hugh Jackman and Russell Crow

I liked the movie but after having seen it as a stage play several times I can’t help but make comparisons. A couple of things stand out. First, I have to agree with many critics that the singing is not as good as it should be. The roles are demanding and the stage actors are mostly classically trained singers. Although Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean) is a good singer, I didn’t feel his voice is as strong as it should be for this rigorous role. Also, criticism has been directed toward Russell Crow’s (Javert) performance. Here, I disagree with the critics. True, Russell Crow is not a great singer (he is a rock singer) compared to those who have filled the role in the past, but I like the down-to-earth ruggedness he brings to the role. How many prison guards do you know who are classically trained singers?

Secondly, something I found annoying is the way some scenes were edited. Many of the songs are very emotionally charged and in a theatre you have an opportunity after a musical number to applaud and soak in the emotional atmosphere. In the movie it jumps from scene to scene without that break to reflect on what just happened. A simple fade to black after some of the production numbers would give the viewer time to digest the scene. I felt robbed of that emotional experience.

A new approach tried by the director and one which was successful was recording the singers live rather than dubbing it in afterwards. This allowed the actor/singer to put more emphasis and interpretation into the scene. By using this technique the singing is not perfect all the time but it adds more realism and emotion to the movie.

Mixed reviews and 8 Academy Award Nominations

Les Miserables has received mixed reviews by the critics but received eight Academy Award nominations including best picture, lead actor (Hugh Jackman), supporting actress (Anne Hathaway), production design, costumes, makeup and hairstyling, original song and sound mixing. Anne Hathaway is thought to be the front runner in her category and may very well win it. This role is a stretch for her and she is a wonderful Fantine.

Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne play Cosette and Marius the love interests of the story. They are great together and their voices blend beautifully. Redmayne is fairly new to the scene but I predict you will be seeing much more of him in the future.

I must also comment on my favorite couple of the show, the Thenardier’s. They provide the comic relief with their famous number, Master of the House. They are sleazy owners of an inn where they feed their guests less than edible food and even charge them “extra for the lice.” The Thenardier’s are played by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonaham Carter. They are outrageously funny however I had a little difficulty understanding Carter’s lyrics. You could say Carter was typecast for the role as her hair and makeup could have come from her own closet.

Les Mis will stir your soul

If you haven’t seen the stage play of Les Mis then you must see the movie. It is a classic that will stir you down to your soul in spite of its few flaws. I know of no other play that captures such a wide range of the human condition from life and death struggles to the many kinds of love. There is a line that comes at the end of the play when Jean Valjean is dying that says so much in such few words and it hits me like a lightning strike every time I hear it. It is—to love a person is to know the face of God. This gives you an idea of the genius of the play.

Overall, I enjoyed Les Miserables and expect it to win many awards, however I don’t anticipate it winning best picture.

I give Les Miserables a B.