Wednesday at the movies

I hope your week is going well. I had an afternoon to myself, so I saw a movie my wife would pass on – “Vice.” The movie defines the Vics Presidency of Dick Cheney as one where he had more control of the country than his boss.

Christian Bale plays Cheney quite well to the extent it is hard to believe that is Bale underneath the weight gain and loss of hair. The movie is similar in style to “The Big Short,” so it has several asides to explain things. Amy Adams is highly commendable as his wife Lynne Cheney. I would give it a thumbs up, but I must confess it is a little unnerving.

Last year, we caught a few other movies that are also getting some Oscar buzz. Our favorite movie is “Green Book.” Viggp Mortenson plays a chauffeur hired as security to transport around the pre-Civil Rights era South an African-American concert pianist played by Mahershala Ali.

We also saw “Bohemian Rhapsody” about the life of Freddie Mercury and Queen. Rami Malek plays Mercury and Gwilym Lee plays the talented guitarist Brian May. It is quite entertaining and worth a look if only to learn more about Mercury and see the behind the scenes interplay of the band.

“A Star is Born,” is my favorite of the two versions of the same movie I have seen. Bradley Cooper brings a great deal to the role of the aging rock star with demons. Lady Gaga is sensational in her first acting role and her scenes on stage with Cooper are moving.

We also saw “First Man” where Ryan Gosling plays astronaut Neil Armstrong. The movie is good, but it does not get quite the buzz as the others. Armstrong was a duty-bound and sober man, so playing him straight-up does not offer a lot of drama outside of the challenge of the mission.

Finally, we saw the movie “Black Klansman” about the true story of Ron Stalworth, an African-American policeman who joined the KKK. Stalworth is admirably played by John David Washington. Adam Driver plays his Jewish white partner who attends the meetings as Stalworth’s avatar. It is a moving story with a brief history lesson that is unfortunately still alive today.

What movies have you seen that you rank highly? What do you think of any of the above?

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Green Book is a must go

My wife, daughter and I saw the movie “Green Book” yesterday. The movie is based on the true story of an African-American concert pianist named Dr. Don Shirley who is shepherded around the Midwest and South in 1962 by an Italian-American named Tony (Lip) Vallelonga.

The movie exceeded our expectations and we highly recommend it to others. The title is based on the green book written for African-American travelers to navigate the Jim Crow south. It stars Viggo Mortenson as Tony Lip and Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley. Lindi Cardelina plays an important role as Tony’s wife Dolores.

The movie was written by Tony and Dolores’ son Nick, so it is a third person retelling of the story. There are several poignant scenes that will endear you and frustrate you as the two travelers form a bond. In a separate car, two other members of the Don Shirley trio meet Shirley at the various events. They are white musicians, but provide context to why Shirley feels obligated to put himself at risk.

Rather than spoil the plot, let me end with the lead actors do justice to these two very different men. You become a part of their journey and worry about Shirley’s safety and hope Vallelonga does not add gasoline to a fire. Jim Crow was an ugly time in America and as one Southern law enforcement officer explained, Shirley was guilty of being Black in the South more so than any crime he may have committed.

Please go see it and take younger folks with you. Tony will utter a few bad words, but you will at least see him corrected by Shirley, which makes up for them. It is important to reveal the injustice that people who look like Shirley faced.

Sunday sermonettes redux

Good Sunday morning everyone. It is a rainy morning here. Here are a few little sermonettes on this Sunday morning.

A favorite mantra of mine is “don’t mistake kindness for weakness.” This weekend, the embodiment of that mantra passed away, former President George H.W. Bush. A key lesson for many today, toughness is not correlated with a false bravado. If someone has to tell you how tough or how smart he is, my advice would be to look under the hood.

With the G20 conference now ended, what stood out to me is the giddy handshake/ hug between MSB and Putin. To me it was due to them both being in on a joke. They have gotten away with doing their own thing and having something on the current US President. Both know that the US President has business ties in each country with a goal to leverage his candidacy and presidency to do even more. So, they both feel a level of impunity. Note to all, when leaders squash human rights or look the other way when violated, that is when Jesus crires. If you are not religious, that is when our parents cry.

Yesterday, I watched the terrific movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” about Queen and Freddie Mercury’s rise to fame and impact. It is very entertaining and even emotional. A key premise is how Mercury defined the group to a record producer, ironically played by Michael Myers. He said we are a family of misfits playing to the misfits in the final row. I like this. This group’s family chemistry is a key thread to the movie, which I won’t spoil here. Do go see even if it is just for the music.

So, to wrap up these sermonettes, kindness is important, human rights are important and family in whatever form is important.

 

 

 

There’s a lot of “money” in songs

After hearing me sing (of course singing is kind) a few lyrics to “Money,” by Pink Floyd, my daughter suggested a post on songs with “money” in the title. The song begins with a cash register ringing up sales, then proceeds with a well-known base guitar lick. Here are the first few lines:

“Money, get away
Get a good job with good pay and you’re okay
Money, it’s a gas
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash”

I think the most famous money song is by The O’Jays called “For the love of money.” It is based on the biblical verse from Timothy, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” The song starts with the words “Money, money, money, money…money,” Then they repeat it five more times before heading into the gist of the song. Here is a verse late in the song:

“I know money is the root of all evil
Do funny things to some people
Give me a nickel, brother can you spare a dime
Money can drive some people out of their minds”

Another favorite is courtesy of Donna Summer. “She works hard for the money,” is a pulsating disco song that she is known for, but this one has more meaningful lyrics like this one:

“It’s a sacrifice working day to day
For little money just tips for pay
But it’s worth it all
To hear them say that they care”

Shifting gears to rock-n-roll, an early Dire Straits song poked fun at MTV with “Money for nothing.” Mark Knopfler was joined on this song with a haunting harmony from Sting. In essence, it is hard-working people wishing they were MTV singing stars as they lament without realizing the hard work and dues they had to pay:

“Now that ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Lemme tell ya them guys ain’t dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb.”

Two other songs about money are worth mentioning. AC/DC sang of money in “Money talks” and Notorious B.I.G. rapped on about “Mo money, mo problems.” The former speaks of how popular one is with money noting all the things they can buy, while the latter speaks to how that popularity causes more problems with folks coming out of the woodwork asking for some.

Let me close with a song which comes from the play and movie “Cabaret.” It is quite the comical farce and force in the play with a title similar to that of Pink Floyd’s, “Money.” Here is a sample:

“Money makes the world go around
The world go around
The world go around
Money makes the world go around
It makes the world go ’round.”

Money is needed to provide a roof over our heads and feed and clothe our children. These songs look at its acquisition and power from a variety of views. From the documentary movie “I AM,” the key lesson is money cannot make you happy, but the absence of money can make you unhappy. That sums it up nicely.

Some truths that could shape debate

Things have not always been the way they are. By itself, that should force us to ask questions. Here are a few of those truths.

– Catholic priests used to be allowed to marry. Some who did not get the memo continued to marry hundreds of years after the Vatican stopped the practice. To me, married priests would solve a major problem for the church.

– Marijuana has long been used for medicinal purposes. Prior to the 1930s movie “Reefer Madness,” it was a centuries old treatment. Now, scientific evidence supports Cannabis as very helpful with pain, seizures, anxiety and other ailments. The remaining states who do not allow at least medical Marijuana should reflect on this.

– Bigotry has to be carefully taught. Seeing the movie “Operation Finale,” about the capture of Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann in Argentina in 1961, it shed a spotlight on the following. Nazism was alive and well in Argentina as Juan Peron made it more than a safe haven after the war. If we do not remember our moral compass and shine a light on this bigotry, it will continue to fester. This is a key reason the US President tripping over the low bar of leadership against bigotry is so problematic. It is not right to denigrate people saying they have lesser rights than others.

– Finally, hyper-nationalism has been a recipe for problems and poor relationships among countries for multi-millennia. The world is safer and more prosperous the more it works together and trades commerce. This must be remembered as people in the position of power retrench into their own cocoons.

That is all for now. Let me know what you think or offer some other truths.

More candid observations

In keeping with the theme of my previous post, the following are some diplomatic candid observations:

– Help me understand why the people in the White House seem surprised that North Korea is not going to give up its nuclear weapons? I applaud their and the the South Korean’s effort and energy, but we seemed to be a little naive that Kim would cave.

– Saying something under oath in front of a judge who will sentence you carries a lot more gravitas than tweeting or saying something to a favorable interviewer. Under oath, Michael Cohen said he committed illicit acts at the direction of the candidate. I realize Cohen is not a Boy Scout, but his words under oath should carry some weight.

– A man of character died Saturday on what would have been my parents’ 67th anniversary. Senator John McCain was an imperfect man with whom I did not always agree, but he was very honorable public servant. Character and honor are two words that are not top of mind when I look to define a certain man in a US leadership position. I think it speaks volumes that McCain asked such a man to be excluded from attendance at his funeral.

– It is nigh impossible to stop bigoted thoughts or the teaching of children about bigotry. But, we must shine spotlights on behaviors that strip away at other people’s rights or promote one group’s rights over that of another. We must share our disagreement with hate speech. The easiest thing to do is vote with your feet and avoid people and places that enable bigoted thoughts. Confrontation is difficult, but listening, questioning and commenting can be done civilly with some. Or, it can take the form of openly applauding the efforts and successes of people who seem to be targeted with hate speech more than others.

– Finally, one’s reputation is the dearest thing we own. Rob Roy said your honor is a gift you give to yourself. This is why it is puzzling so many Republican legislators are spending their dear reputation supporting a man who daily brings dishonor to the Presidency and would throw them under the bus if needed. Please note my intentional avoidance of the use of “leader” in my descriptions.

We Americans and others around the world are craving an honorable leader. And, as said in the movie “The American President,” being President is entirely about character.

Beautiful Beaufort

My wife and I ventured to a quaint town and area called Beaufort for the weekend. Pronounced Bew-fert, it is located on the coast of South Carolina between Charleston and Savannah. It is a historic town and has beautiful architecture as it sits on the Beaufort River. We just wanted to get away and this trip did the trick.

Beaufort is where the South Carolina leaders fomented the plan to secede from the United States. Ironically, Abraham Lincoln had an armada and ten thousand troops invade the port town just after the war started, so it fell into Union hands as the town leaders left quickly. It was called the “Great Skedaddle.”

The historic homes and stories behind them are marvelous. One interesting story is of a slave named Robert Smalls, who was educated and became an indentured servant which led to him being a ship captain. He later bought his old slaveowner’s house and brought in his destitute owner as she became homeless following the Great Skedaddle and Civil War. He took care of her until his death and asked his family to continue such until she died, letting her stay in her old bedroom.

Smalls later developed the first church built specifically for African-Americans. It was featured in the movie “Forrest Gump,” which was filmed in the area. Tom Hanks is remembered fondly in Beaufort and even used a box of chocolates from a store there in the movie.

Other movies filmed there include “The Big Chill,” “The Great Santini” and “The Prince of Tides” to name a few. The southern author Pat Conroy penned several of his books there, two of which were made into movies noted above.

The nearby islands add so much to a journey there. While we stayed in town, we did venture to Hunting Island State Park and enjoyed a beach with no houses, just tree-lined. Plus, I did climb the lighthouse to get some cool pictures.

The scenery and the food make it happen. Low country food such as shrimp and grits or Frogmore stew are worth a try.  Plus, one of the restaurants had a local guitarist perform his own and orher songs, so it added to one of our meals. We toured one house and did a carriage tour, which we both enjoyed and recommend.

If you come from a distance, the area has a lot to offer. Savannah, Hilton Head or Charleston are neat by themselves, but could easily be included in a longer visit to Beaufort. It is worth the venture.