Sorry I didn’t continue my regular movie reviews this year but I was not able to keep up with the movies with the round of hospitalizations we had throughout the year. However, we were able to see most of the nominated movies at the end of the year so I feel somewhat qualified to make my annual picks.
Those nominated for best movie of the year are:
- American Sniper directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper. This is one of the most talked about movies because of its timely subject matter and its startling portrayal of today’s modern warrior. We see the physical and mental toll war has on a soldier and his family. The film is a true story of legendary sniper Chris Kyle’s four tours of Iraq as a Navy SEAL. The film is excellent in all departments and could be Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper’s best. I give it an A.
- Birdman; in a case of art imitating life this film is about an actor (Michael Keaton) who was famous for playing the superhero Birdman (Batman) trying to establish a new career on Broadway. He is haunted by self-doubt and the film constantly jumps from the real to the surreal. This technique is a bit confusing in the beginning but it gives us insight into his psyche. In addition to analyzing a character’s character the film is also an excellent peek at a behind the scenes stage production. The film is a bit off-beat but also engaging. I give it a B
- Boyhood is another out of the ordinary film. It was shot over a 12 year period using an unknown child actor and real actors Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as the dysfunctional parents. It follows a family from the time the boy is 6 years to 18 and graduation from high school. The film is like watching home movies of a family, warts and all. Many critics are raving about it but it left me wondering, “What’s the point?” other than proving that a film can be made over 12 years. I give it a C-.
- The Grand Budapest Hotel is another film using unconventional methods. This is a Wes Anderson film and his films can be described as creative, unique, bizarre, or strange. The story is about a once luxurious hotel, a randy concierge who is particularly fond of older, wealthy women, and his assistant, the lobby boy. It is a farcical comedy with many famous actors popping up in cameos. Visually, it is outstanding with almost every scene perfectly staged so each could almost be framed and seen in a gallery. If you like off-beat comedies, mysteries, and wild-goose chases all with a twist then this movie is for you. As for me, I like my movies a little less bizarre. I give it a B.
- The Imitation Game is about Alan Turing who invented the first computer to crack the German Enigma encryption code machine. What makes this story even more engrossing is Turing is not only racing against time to try to solve the German codes to end the war; but he is laboring under the handicap of keeping his homosexuality a secret. This is an excellent movie about a little know chapter of WWII. I give it an A.
- Selma is about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the freedom march on Selma. Since I did not see it I will not review it or give it a grade. Stay tuned, I hope to see it when it comes out on DVD.
- The Theory of Everything tells the story of Stephen Hawking and his diagnosis and battle with progressive motor neuron disease also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig disease. When Hawking was diagnosed with the disease in 1963 he was told he had only two years to live. Through sheer determination he refuses to allow the pessimistic prognosis to rule his life. Although his discussions of black holes and quantum gravitation are far beyond my ability to comprehend and his downward physical progression can be depressing, the movie is actually uplifting and even funny in places. Eddie Redmayne carries the movie by actually morphing into Stephen Hawking and vividly portraying his gradual physical decline. Don’t let the subject matter deter you from seeing this brilliant movie of one of the most brilliant minds of our time. I give it an A.
- Whiplash is the last of the nominated movies. This is another one I did not see but hope to see in the future.
My favorites of the nominated movies are American Sniper, The Imitation Game, and The Theory of Everything. All three are biographical but very different in subject matter. I think the sentimental favorite will be American Sniper because of the patriotic theme and the Academy’s love for Clint Eastwood. However, I see buzz over Birdman, Boyhood, and The Grand Budapest Hotel as well. My personal favorite and the one I am picking to win is American Sniper.
Grab a big bowl of popcorn and snuggle in for what looks like another cold and snowy night. What better way to spend a gloomy night than watching the glitz and glamour of Golden Hollywood. The Academy Awards always entertain.
Peach Cobbler for Breakfast – Surviving a life-altering event.
Sheila Moore Thornburg Dobbie lived the experience of loss, came up with a plan for survival and achieved her recovery.
Peach Cobbler for Breakfast is a story of love and loss. It is laughter through tears and overcoming fears. It is indescribable grief and pain beyond belief. It is joy and recovery through new discoveries. It is survival.
The author suffered the loss of seven family members in a two year period leaving her without a father and husband. This is her story on her road from the depths of grief and loss back to healing and thriving. This is the story of growing up in West Virginia, establishing a career, finding a life partner, losing it all and then beginning a rebuilding process.
Peach Cobbler for Breakfast is a beautifully written love story, biography, adventure, self-help, and spiritual book. The writing flows, is rich with description, provokes thought, touches the emotions, and takes one on a journey. It is interesting that even though the author lost her husband, she didn’t give up on love; lost her friends, she continued to make new ones; and lost the church, she didn’t give up on God. Sheila Moore Thornburg Dobbie has woven a beautiful, rich, and inspiring tapestry.
Judy Rehl, Retired Teacher
“A well-told story of loss and resilience that will inspire many readers.”
Richard Lederer, verbivore.com
“Peach Cobbler for Breakfast will speak to the heart of anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one, and particularly women who have lost a long-time partner. Her practical advice is woven into her personal story in such a way that positive steps seem more do-able, and hope seems close at hand.”
Louise Fericelli, coachinginnerwisdom.com
“Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive…” This quote is immediately familiar to Superman fans of all ages; but, these were the only words I could think of as I heard the diagnosis of cancer time and again in a two year period.
This disease had invaded our family faster than a bullet and had decimated it with the force of a powerful locomotive and now I needed the strength of a superman to survive.
When I was in my 40s I went through the worst time of my life. In a two year span I lost six family members, including my father and husband within six months of each other – my father to a brain tumor and my husband to bladder cancer. It is difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t been through a similar experience what it feels like to lose the center of your universe.
I will spare the reader and myself the pain of reliving every detail of that time. At a time when my friends were planning high school graduations, colleges, and weddings for their children, I was planning or attending funerals. I was angry at the world, afraid of the future, and confused.
Much of the time I was in a state of shock, numb to both joy and pain. I seemed to live day to day in a haze trying to cope with each crisis as it came along. Once you have been hit by a speeding train and endured the pain of impact you become numb to repetitive shocks. I do not mean to minimize the magnitude of the events but rather to put everything into perspective. Things, literally, could not get much worse. Everyone I loved had been touched in some way by the catastrophic events surrounding us.
Perhaps our bodies learn to insulate us against pain, death and sorrow so we can carry on. We learn we can make it through one day and then the next and we continue living our lives one day at a time until we eventually make it out of the dark valley. It may be like living as a zombie but it works.
An old Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” I repeated this to myself many times when the journey looked too difficult or I didn’t have the energy to continue. I reminded myself that I didn’t have to do the whole journey in one day and, if all I could do that day was take one step, then that was all that was needed.
I kept the pain to myself and put on my happy face when going out into the world. I did my crying in the shower so my husband didn’t know how worried I was. I tried to keep positive for him and others. A morbid curiosity surrounds people with a debilitating or fatal disease. It’s almost as if people are searching the faces of the patient or his loved ones for any sign things are getting worse. I wanted to be sure people saw only signs of hope in my face so I applied my smile each morning along with my makeup and faced the world with a façade of confidence.
David and I met at church when I was 15 and he was 17. We dated throughout high school and college and then married after dating for seven years. We fell in love toMoon River by Andy Williams and Today by the New Christy Minstrels, held hands during My Fair Lady and Sound of Music, cheered our losing football team at Marshall University and stole a kiss whenever possible. When we finally did get married there was a large clap of thunder just when the minister pronounced us man and wife and everyone said it was the man upstairs saying, “It’s about time!”
It was during the turbulent 60s and it seemed that our lives were in as much turmoil as the rest of the world, but we finally realized our goals of graduating from college. There were the pressures of college, work, integration, bussing, demonstrations, drugs, flower power, communism, the bomb, and the ever-present and growing disruption of the Vietnam War (or as some preferred–conflict). It certainly “conflicted” our lives because if the guys didn’t keep up a certain GPA, dropped out of college, or didn’t finish within the expected four years, then there was the draft to look forward to. One professor said almost daily, “You guys better study or you will be slogging around in the rice paddies.” We swore he was a recruiter for the draft board.
After graduation and a brief stint with Uncle Sam, we were finally free to strike out on our own. We headed for the big city of Columbus, Ohio, which seemed perfect for us. It was three hours from home, which meant it was close enough so we could get home quickly in case of an emergency, and far enough away so relatives couldn’t drop in unexpectedly. I think those were my Dad’s words.
My first visit to Columbus was something right out of The Jetsons’ cartoon when my family, David, and I attended the Ohio State Fair in 1962. At the time it was perhaps the largest state fair in the country. We drove into the city on one of the first interstate highways I had ever seen and whirling above the city were helicopters whizzing by. This was all very new and exciting for a kid from the hills of West Virginia. As we left late that night, fireworks were bursting over the city and I felt as if I had been to the City of Oz. I immediately fell in love with Columbus and when David and I married a few years later we decided that was the place for us.
Armed with our degrees and naïve enthusiasm we headed for the big city – he to become an architect and I a teacher. We found jobs and changed jobs, we made money and lost money, we started and closed businesses, we loved and we fought. We had the usual ups and downs and disappointments most people go through but, through it all, we said that the only thing that mattered was that we had each other. We felt we could survive and conquer almost anything as long as we were side by side.
All too quickly 23 years of married life passed and it became apparent that David would not survive the bladder cancer that had stricken him at age 45. As I watched him during those last days in the hospital I thought of the good times we had but also of the hectic life we had led. Where did it get us? I would gladly give up everything to know he would continue by my side forever. Why hadn’t we taken more vacations or weekend trips? Why hadn’t we found more time for just us? Life is too short.
For the first time I had to face the world alone. I may not be Superman but I will survive this hell.
Become a good noticer. Pay attention to the feelings, hunches, and intuitions that flood your life each day. If you do, you will see that premonitions are not rare, but a natural part of our lives.
It was a wonderful vacation with our good friends, Kevin and Margie, filled with sun, fun, surf and turf, and margaritas. But I can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong. Maybe it’s just the eerie darkness preceding the storm coming in from the mainland.
As we cross the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge leaving our favorite beach island to return home, it looks as if we are spiraling directly into the storm clouds. I can’t suppress the shudder that suddenly shakes my body. “This is silly,” I tell myself. “You are being overly dramatic with the dark clouds ahead.” Little did I know that my reactions were, perhaps, a premonition of what was to come. There would be a time I would long to return to this moment.
Life is good. David, my high school sweetheart, and I have been married for 20 plus years. We live in our dream house that he designed, he has a promising position with a leading engineering/architectural firm, and plans are in the works to make him a vice president. We have many good friends, a church that feels like our home away from home, and a loving family.
Life has not always been so fulfilling. There were disappointments with several failed businesses, job changes, money problems, and the inability to have children. But, we all have our problems and we viewed ours as no different from anyone else’s. We can weather anything together.
Shortly after returning from vacation, David complains of a recurring bladder infection he has had since spring. When he calls in a refill for the antibiotic, he decides to revisit the doctor for a more thorough exam. The doctor orders a brief surgical procedure called a “cystoscopy” and we schedule it for the upcoming Monday. The procedure will be done as an out-patient but will require some sedation as they insert a scope through the penis and into the bladder.
Long ago we had planned a last hurrah, warm weather get-away for the upcoming weekend with Kevin and Margie to take in the fall colors around Lake Erie. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful weekend. The weather was warm with a slight tinge of autumn in the air – one of those rare perfect days. The trees were brilliant colors of gold, orange, yellow, and florescent green splashed against a sapphire sky while Lake Erie glistened in the background like an array of Swarovski crystals. We laughed so much our sides hurt as we bounced around Kelly Island in a golf cart. On our return trip we stopped at local farmers’ markets to stock up on pumpkins, apples, Amish cheeses, and apple butter.
Kevin and Margie are good friends we met at church. We sing in the choir together, enjoy going to restaurants, and vacationing together. David and Kevin hold down the bass section and usually find some kind of mischief to get into and Margie is secretary to the minister, Rev. James. In addition, Kevin is treasurer for the church and I am president of the Board of Trustees. The one rule we have when we travel together is no church business allowed.
Early Monday morning I drive David to the hospital and we hope to be home by lunch time. I wait in the overcrowded and overly hot waiting room. I wait and wait. It occurs to me that I have never met this doctor and perhaps he called for me but I missed him while trying to avoid the noisy and rowdy kids playing on the floor. The hospital is remodeling and it seems that most of the hospital’s population has crowded into this dusty, dirty, dingy 12’ x 12’ room.
Finally my name is called and a short, foreign doctor rushes up to me and begins talking. I don’t understand his accent; but, since he does not take me into the conference room, I expect to hear that everything is fine. But, different words are coming out of his mouth.
What did he say? Did he say the word “tumor”? Surely that is a mistake. Did he say they are keeping him overnight for observation? When and where did he say I could see my husband?
The doctor is gone just as suddenly as he appeared and I’m left in a daze. I feel faint and confused. I have to get out of this room and away from the chaos. I’m shaking and suddenly feel hysterical. I have to calm myself. I begin walking and taking deep breaths.
Although I want and need some comfort, I decide not to call my parents and upset everyone until I know more (both of David’s parents are deceased). I call Margie and she and Rev. James rush to the hospital. While waiting for them to arrive, I am directed to another floor where David will be admitted. I wait. I notice it is raining and the drops running down the dirty windows match the ones running down my cheeks.
Rev. James and Margie soon arrive and it is good to see their friendly faces. Rev. James is a former college football lineman and a big man with broad shoulders (literally and figuratively) and curly white hair. They are a welcome sight and exactly what I need right now.
By the time they bring David to his room the initial shock has worn off and we are there with smiling faces to greet him. Rev. James always has words of comfort and a joke or two so by the time they leave I am fine, David is OK, and the world is back on its axis.
Tomorrow David’s company is having a big reception to announce some re-organizational changes and among those changes is his promotion to vice-president.
I arrive at the hospital early to bring David home. We wait and wait. We begin to get uneasy because David needs time to get ready for the reception. I’m beginning to think I don’t like this doctor. Finally the doctor comes and, with the door wide open, he flings the covers back exposing David to all the world to remove the drainage tube from his penis. Now I know I don’t like this doctor!
Because he can’t drive for a short time I drive him to the reception. I watch him walk in and am very proud of him. It looks like our hard times are almost behind us.
About a week later we return to the doctor for the test results. He calls us back and we stand in a hallway as he casually leans against a file cabinet and tells us there was a mushroom shaped tumor; but they removed it. He tells us they will watch David every three months and if it recurs they will use a laser to remove the mushrooms.
I’m confused and am not sure if this is a good thing or not. Is it cancer? I ask about chemo and he says chemo is not needed. The atmosphere is easy and relaxed and the doctor seems upbeat and positive. We are not worried and we go to a Japanese restaurant to celebrate our good luck. I wish I had kept the fortune from the fortune cookie that night.
THE OSCARS—and other stuff
If you have not seen a movie recently, then you have missed some excellent entertainment. This past year was one of the best for films in many years or perhaps decades.
I did not make my usual Oscar predictions this year because it was impossible to choose from the many excellent films and performances. A lot of the movies are still playing at your local theater complex and others are either on DVD or will be released soon.
If you are looking for a good movie to see you can’t go wrong with any of the ones nominated for best picture. They are:
- American Hustle—Not since The Sting with Paul Newman and Robert Redford has such a con game played out on the screen. Set in the ‘70s, this movie is worth it just to see the outrageous fashions of the day. I can’t believe that we proudly wore those wide bell bottoms and polyester leisure suits. The plot will keep you guessing till the end.
- Captain Phillips—Although we know how this one ends, you can’t help but get caught up in the tension. High sea drama in a tiny little boat. Be sure to take your Dramamine.
- Dallas Buyers Club—You will see why Matthew McConaughey won Best Actor in his role as an AIDS patient. He gives a powerful performance as someone who refuses to give up. Jared Leto, who won Best Supporting Actor, is convincing as a transgender struggling for acceptance. Although, on the surface this movies looks as if it could be depressing, it isn’t. This is a very uplifting story.
- Gravity—Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are stranded in space—but this is not a love story. Another story focusing on the power of the will to survive. I was exhausted at the end of the movie having gone through all the physical and emotional trauma right along with the main character. See this in 3D if you can.
- Her—A love story of a man and his computer operating system. Is this what the world is coming to?
- Nebraska—An old man falls for one of the many scams today and thinks he has won a million dollars. Since he no longer drives, he sets of walking to Nebraska to collect his prize. This movie is both funny and sad at the same time. This movie produced two award nominees—Bruce Dern for Best Actor and June Squibb for Best Supporting Actress. Don’t let the fact that it is shot in black and white discourage you from seeing this masterpiece. The stark surroundings help intensify the emotions.
- Philomena—This small movie has not received the publicity it should. Judi Dench turns in an award nominated performance as a staunchly religious person who never loses her faith even though the church is responsible for her great loss. Another movie that runs the gamut of funny to sad. A cynical reporter helps a mother search for her son and you will never guess the outcome.
- 12 Years a Slave—This is one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen. There are scenes that are so vivid that they refuse to be erased from my memory. If you think you know what life was like as a slave, think again. This movie portrays the emotional toll it took on the slaves and even the owners and overseers. What makes the story even more impactful is that it is taken from the book written by the man who lived it. This won Best Movie of the Year and is one that everyone should see.
- The Wolf of Wall Street—Here we see the obscene excessiveness of the very, very rich. They have so much money they throw $100 bills around as it is paper money. But eventually we must all pay for our abundance, especially if is gained unethically. This is another true story and gives us a peek into the world of the ultra rich where money, prostitutes, drugs, and fancy cars are the norm.
What were you doing when you heard of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination? I was a senior in high school making up an assignment in Office Machines class.
An announcement came over the PA system that Kennedy’s car had rushed to the hospital in Dallas after a shooting. It wasn’t long after that another announcement came on saying that President Kennedy was dead. At first there were gasps and then silence. People started crying and there was a mix of fear and sadness as the horrible fact sank in. Remembering the Cuban Missile Crisis of just one year before, we were wondering if this were some evil plot of the Communists who had come to seek revenge; or, was it the act of a mad man?
Our school’s administration called for an assembly in the auditorium where we gathered to listen to prayers and then we adjourned to the outside to silently view the lowering of the flag to half-mast and went home to an early dismissal. Words couldn’t explain how we felt that our young, vigorous president was now dead. At that time I felt the future was as dark and bleak as that cold, gray November day.
In the days that followed we stayed glued to the small, grainy, black and white TV screen as we watched history played out before our tired eyes. We suffered more shock when we watched in disbelief Lee Harvey Oswald gunned down just like in the movies. But this time we had to remind ourselves this was real, not something from a gangster film.
We learned about tradition in state and military funerals. The image of the riderless horse was a poignant scene. The black stately horse with empty boots in the stirrups was an all-too-real reminder that our president was struck down in his prime. He was interrupted in the midst of a fruitful life leaving behind a young family without a father and husband and an important agenda unfinished.
The final climax of an emotional day was the image of young John Kennedy, or John-John as the public affectionately called him, saluting his father’s casket as it passed by.
As difficult as those days were, I also felt encouraged by the fact that our Constitution works. It allowed for a peaceful and orderly transfer of power during a frightening and chaotic time. There was no need to call out the troops or the fear of living under military control. During the darkest of times people knew what to do and the government continued as usual without a glitch.
The world has changed a lot since that dark November day. Some say it was the end of innocence and I agree with that statement. We no longer had the happy and carefree days of the 1950’s. The world became a little more cynical and a lot crazier.
After that, the Viet Nam war escalated and drugs raised its evil head in our society. In college there was even the phrase, “Tune in and turn out.” The world started going at a faster and faster pace which left us exhausted and frustrated. Now, 50 years later the world continues on its frantic tempo. My own theory is that on Nov. 22, 1963 we learned that things can change in an instant; a world can be turned upside down in the blink of an eye. This uncertain fate can affect anyone, even a promising young president. Now, people are out to grab what they can as fast as they can, leading to more and more greed.
It would be nice to turn back the clocks to Nov. 21, 1963 and find a way to change history. There are even a couple of books out discussing this prospect. But, since we know that is impossible let us learn from this experience. Take time to embrace life more fully; give your family and loved ones hugs; take time to talk with a neighbor; or give a stranger a smile.
We don’t know the future and can’t change the past so let’s make the most of the moment we have. Carpe diem!