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!
A meaty piece of literature for the true connoisseur
I must make a confession. I am a literary snob. That is the unfortunate by-product of possessing a degree in English and journalism and having approximately 40 years of writing and editing in my past.
I first discovered this about myself right after college when I tried to read the latest Jackie Collins novel for which everyone was raving. I could barely make it to the end without gagging. After years of studying the masters of American and world literature such as: Nathanial Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Eugene O’Neil, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, John Steinbeck, Herman Melville, Henry David Thoreau, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Chaucer, etc., etc., etc., I found I was spoiled.
After struggling to read several contemporary novels for the purpose of conversation, I finally gave up and have since devoted my time to mostly nonfiction and journalistic writings. (Yes, I did read all three of the Shades of Grey novels—Yuck!) However, something came to my attention recently that really grabbed my interest.
My agent asked me to review a newly released work of art called The Apes of Eden. It is an epic poem written in iambic pentameter examining the development of man, religion, and the quest for God. This sounds intimidating but don’t let this description deter you.
It is obvious the author, Jon P. Gunn, had fun writing, playing with ideas and words, and occasionally teasing the reader along the way. We see this on the title page which says: The Apes of Eden, The Journey Begins, as told by Literate Louie, the Scribe of the Tribe.
Literate Louie tells us in the very beginning:
My present goal is briefly to describe
the mighty deeds of Eden’s famous Tribe
from high antiquity to modern times
in lucid, readable Heroic Rhymes
that nearly any member of our band
with brains between his ears, can understand…
As they say, “this isn’t everybody’s cup of tea” and the author, via Literate Louie, knows this as he goes on to say:
of reader savors Art, the other, tripe.
There is no tepid “Middle Way” to go.
Like death, or pregnancy, it’s Yes or No—
However Literate Louie knows there will be a market for his work as he says:
I don’t expect my work to go to waste.
We have, among us, apes of cultured taste:
the Literate Elite. I write for those.
Let lowbrows read some Scribbler’s dreary prose.
As the reader continues through the history of the Apes of Eden, many classical pieces of literature and scenes from the Bible will spring to mind. We see scenes reminiscent of Greek mythology, Dante’s Inferno, Milton’s Paradise Lost and others. Chapter titles such as Genesis, Exodus, The Fall, and David and the Cyclops give us a clue as to the influences upon the author.
Through the epic poem the author, Gunn, explores classic themes such as creationism versus evolution, pride before the fall, the validity of past historical and religious events, and the relationship between man (or in this case, Ape) and God.
we’ve always been as we exist today;
we neither dropped from Heaven nor arose
“by evolution” from our racial foes.
That open-ended past I can’t conceive,
nor do I know which theories to believe….
he’d met someone, he said, who’d thought it odd
that we, the Higher Apes, had not found God.
Who wants to be considered such a clod
he has to hedge when asked: Have you found God?
Let’s find the Deity!” our prophet cried,
and swung excitedly from side to side.
(Remember—these are apes)
The apes begin their journey out of Eden, past a gate guarded by a being with a flaming sword and continue lost and without direction through desert and mountain and many strange adventures. They go on and on in their quest for a Deity until the end of the book. Throughout this quest we are reminded of Moses guiding his people to the Promised Land and other legendary figures.
If I have a criticism of the book it is that it just ends. It ends without any conclusion or a neat summary package. They say in art you must know the rules in order to break them and I feel this is exactly what the author is doing. It is his wink at the reader as if to say, “That’s life.” I understand this is the first of a trilogy so we can look forward to more in the future.
Every work of art has new discoveries to be found each time it is revisited. I found this true of The Apes of Eden. I have now read it about four times and each time I gleaned new information or a new insight. If you are hungry for a good read rather than the junk food and fluff that is fed to us in the commercial markets then look for The Apes of Eden by Jon P. Gunn at Amazon.com. It will be as satisfying as a good steak.
This is a must read for the “Literate Elite;” it is a classic in the making. So, I urge you to be among the first to read this gem and help spread the word. This is a treasure just waiting to be discovered.
Since I made the announcement of the publishing of my upcoming book, Peach Cobbler for Breakfast—surviving a life-altering experience, many of you have sent messages of congratulations and good wishes. I can’t tell you how much that means to me. I stopped by the mailbox on the way to meet my agent for lunch yesterday and found a beautiful note from my good friend and neighbor, Anne. When I showed it to my agent he suggested I post it on my blog to help promote the book. So, here it is—
Thank you, Anne. The hard part for me in this process will be learning to promote myself. I have promoted organizations, activities, and celebrities during my long and varied career; in fact, I have made a profession of making other people look good. I guess it is now time to switch gears and promote myself.
To give you more of an idea of what the book is about I am listing a brief chapter summary. I will be running brief excerpts from the book occasionally on this site.
Peach Cobbler for Breakfast
A journey from self-discovery to recovery after a life-altering event
By Sheila Moore Thornburg Dobbie
The Premonition—dark storm clouds
As we leave our favorite vacation beach island I have an uneasy premonition but rationalize that I’m over-reacting to the incoming storm clouds.
Oh, Those West Virginia Hill—how majestic and how grand
A brief biographical sketch of my family and my background including a look at my family history; also, what it was like growing up in the protective environment of the West Virginia hills during the 50’s and 60’s.
They Tried to Tell Us We’re Too Young—but only time will tell
I was 15 when I met and fell in love with David, my husband to be. We dated through high school and college and finally got married seven years later. Things didn’t always go smoothly and my parents were against us in the beginning but they eventually changed their minds.
Mushroom and Crutches—receiving bad news
The mushroom shaped tumors continue to reappear in David’s bladder. He has another procedure and the day after his surgery a disc in my back ruptures.
The Sweetest Words—a father’s love
David has another surgery but things don’t go as planned. I prepare to spend the night at the hospital and send my parents home. As my mother steps on the elevator my father steps back and puts his arm around my shoulders. He is spending the night with me. He knew I would protest if I had advanced warning. I’m just too independent.
The Impatient Patient—preparing for the long journey
As I sit by the east window in David’s room I see the sky brighten and turn shades of red and purple. Fiery fingers ignite the city below. I know the doctor will be in soon to give David the bad news and I dread that moment. I prepare for the long journey with the impatient patient.
Lightning Flashes—swimming like a mad salmon
Buddha said, “….To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movements of a dance. A lifetime is a flash of lightning in the sky….”in the following year my father is diagnosed with a brain tumor and dies ten weeks later. David’s health is on the rebound but the cancer returns only three months later. He dies a little more than six months after my father.
Quicksand—drowning in emotions
My life is like a movie I saw as a child which traumatized me for weeks in which a horse is caught in quicksand and struggles to get out. Now, I feel as if I am that horse. I am exhausted and my body feels disjointed. I feel trapped by emotions I don’t understand and can’t control.
The Stages of Grief—the long road to recovery
Sigmund Freud said, “We are never so defenseless against suffering as when we love.” The journey to recovery is long, individualistic, and lonely but every tear we shed brings us that much closer to the healing.
Annoying Words of Comfort—a cliché is a sure way to dilute an idea
Many well-meaning people use the same worn out phrases to comfort me. After a while they lose their meaning. A simple “I am here for you” is all that is needed.
Encouraging Words and Deeds—make it personal
A personal note or an act of kindness is always appreciated.
The Merry Widow—things aren’t as they seem
To some jealous women I appear to have it all with no responsibilities. I am the subject of gossip. I am hurt and confused by the changes in my social circle but I must accept the changes in my life. Times change, people change, but life goes on.
Bubble Baths and Wine—what a way to relax
I know I must restore my mental, physical, and emotional health. I develop a bed time ritual of a bubble bath that helps me gradually unwind and relax. Somehow my bedtime routine turns into a rumor that I entertain men with bubble baths and wine.
Pick A Little, Talk A Little—mean girls grown up
Handling the negative forces and gossip that come my way; I learn to look at the gossip mongers in a fresh way.
Be a Clown—make room for fun and laughter
You can’t be sad while trying to make other people laugh, and laughter is an essential part of healing. Humor helps me overcome the negative.
Never Volunteer—unless you want a fresh outlook
I reluctantly volunteer to assist with a new community concert association and find new friends who give me a fresh outlook on life. The most I had hoped for when I joined was to serve punch and coffee and meet a few celebrities backstage. Little did I know that my whole life would change.
Let the Force Be with You—be open to unseen and coincidental influences
So many unbelievable coincidences occur that I begin to believe a path is being carved out for me. I follow the path, learning to rely on my intuition.
A Smorgasbord of Friends—variety brings spice to life
As I venture out into my new world I am surrounded by many new and interesting people. One of the most exciting aspects is that they are from all types of social, educational, ethnic, religious, and professional backgrounds. I now have a more rounded and grounded life.
Finding the Mountaintop—finally, a new life
My journey through the dark valley of hurt, confusion, and depression has taken seven years but I finally made it to the mountaintop. I have emerged a new person with a new life.
A Diamond in the Rough—from lumps of coal to diamonds
Once coal is subjected to ages of extreme heat and pressure, a diamond gemstone emerges. I have been under extreme pressure for a long time but now I am a stronger person for it.
A Letter from the Author
Recipe for Mom’s Fresh Peach Cobbler