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.

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A Monster Calls

Do you ever get surprised by a movie or book? You did not expect to like it, but it touches your core. The movie “A Monster Calls” fits into this category.

The movie stars Felicity Jones as a divorced mother of a boy, Conor, who is bullied at school, but has anger issues, the source of which are revealed as the movie develops. Conor is played by Lewis MacDougall who does a wonderful job revealing his angst, which is far more than the bullying.

Conor loves to draw like his mother and is quite imaginative. He awakens each night at 12:07 am to a monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) who evolves out of an old tree Conor can see from his window in a field near a church. The monster teaches him parables, one each night, with one requirement. Conor must tell him a key truth when he is done with all of his lessons.

I will leave the summation at that. Sigourney Weaver plays his grandmother who has a hard time understanding her artistic daughter and grandson. Weaver does an excellent job in her role, as she must come to grips with her own angst and get closer to her daughter and grandson.

Give the movie a chance and don’t let the title turn you away. You may want to have a Kleenex close by, just in case. The simple truth may touch your core.

If you have seen it, tell me what you think. If you have not, you may want to avoid reading the comments. What other movies or books surprised you?

Dick Cavett – an interviewer extraordinaire

My guess is many people are not familiar with the work of Dick Cavett. He is known for his conversational and engaging interviews with a who’s who list of entertainers, writers, directors, musicians, athletes and even politicians. He is known for giving the interviewee room to talk.

He had nightly show on ABC for about six years. While it was tough to compete with Johnny Carson, Cavett would get into deep conversations with folks like John Lennon, Muhammed Ali, George Burns, Katherine Hepburn, Gore Vidal, Colleen Dewhurst, James Earl Jones, et al, which drew an audience.

I remember two memorable moments from that show. His show was the first time I ever saw Janis Joplin live on TV. She gave so much of herself into the song, she would be out of breath as she answered Cavett’s questions.

The other is when he had Governor Lester Maddox, the racist governor of Georgia, on his show. During the interview, Maddox felt insulted by the questions and proceeded to walk off the set. Cavett was left there speechless. To be frank, it appeared Maddox planned to leave when the questions got tough. Yet, to his credit, Maddox accepted an invitation to return for a future show and did so.

There is a television channel on my cable called Decades. It plays reruns of thirty and sixty minute interview segments from various vintages of Cavett’s shows. It is fascinating to hear George Burns tell why he had a cigar, which gave himself a distraction. If the crowd laughed at his joke, he took a puff. If they did not, he kept talking. On another, I watched Catherine Deneuve, the beautiful French actress and model. She was quite thoughtful and deliberate as she responded to Cavett’s questions.

Seeing these icons years ago explain their craft or opinions is spellbinding. It is like finding an old album or CD that you misplaced. If you are channel surfing and come across Cavett’s show, give it thirty minutes. You won’t regret it.

Comfortable in a role – Tommy Lee Jones

I was watching for the umpteenth time one of my favorite movies, “The Fugitive,” starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. While Ford is the lead as the fugitive, the movie belongs to Jones, who plays a US Marshal.

Jones is so very comfortable and believable in the role. But, he is like that in many roles he plays, from Loretta Lynn’s husband in “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” to the adventurous movie I first saw him in “Nate and Hayes,” to his playing a talented and irascible man in “Cobb.”

The best line of “The Fugitive,” was not written by the screenwriters and was an ad-lib by Jones in character. When Ford is first cornered at water storm drain, he said to Jones’ character, “I did not kill my wife.” To which Jones responded, “I don’t care!” The line resonated so much, Ford’s character reminded him of it later in the movie after the Marshal saved him and proved his innocence.

Whether he is playing a hero, anti-hero, misunderstood person, villain or antagonist, Jones eats up the screen. In “Blown Away” and “The Package,” he plays the villain that needs to be stopped. In “The Client,” he is an attention seeking prosecutor who is the antagonist to Susan Sarandon’s young client. In “JFK,” he plays a wealthy gay entrepreneur who may know something about the assassination.

But, I enjoy him most when he plays the anti-hero roles where he does his job and cares little about rules and more about the truth. “The Fugitive” and his spinoff sequel “US Marshals” fill this role. I also enjoy “Space Cowboys” with Clint Eastwood and “In the Valley of Elah” with Charlize Theron.

Just mentioning these co-stars, reminds me he seems to be in movies with other big stars, which is telling – a few more include Sissy Spacek, Gene Hackman, Jeff Bridges, Donald Sutherland, James Garner, Kevin Costner, and Will Smith.

What are some of your favorites? I did not see the “Men in Black” movies, so I cannot  offer comment.

Climate of Hope

One of the positives of the US President pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord is it has galvanized the many who see the need to act to save our planet. Coupling the US exit with the President placing climate change deniers and fossil fuel supporters in key cabinet roles, he has placed the US government at the kids table, while the adults talk about solving the world’s problems.

Fortunately, even the President’s actions cannot stop the momentum as a tipping point on renewable energy and other efforts have been reached. As reported in the book “Climate of Hope,” by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Executive Director of the Sierra Club Carl Pope, cities, businesses and citizens have been leading the way. This is important as cities are significant contributors to climate change and can therefore make a huge dent in ameliorating its effect. And, they are sharing their successes formally and informally.

Some of these efforts include:

– Restoring and renovating older buildings into green buildings. Bloomberg touts the renovation of the 1931 built Empire State as a key example.

– Building new structures with an even greener footprint. In India they deploy white rooftops to reflect away the sun to minimize cooling costs, e.g,

– Building more pedestrian areas which provide safer and eco-friendly access to shops, restaurants and businesses. These car free zones actually are part of a solution to reroute traffic to reduce carbon polluting stoppage.

– Building with buffers to allow nature to do its jobs to absorb the pounding of the ocean, since,  so many large cities are coastal cities with some below sea level. We should use nature to provide defenses that stand the test of time.

– Developing master traffic plans embracing car sharing, ride sharing, bike sharing, pedestrian pathways, electric vehicles from buses to taxis, and the elegant use of mass transit based on capital needs and restrictions. Bloomberg is big on measuring things, so installing GPS in New York taxis allowed them to measure success and make modifications to their plans as executed.

– Planting more carbon saving trees in cities and other areas, as well as using other plants such as mangroves in coastal areas as they suck carbon out of the air.

– Conserving food and reducing wastage. We waste huge amounts of food, both before and after it is cooked. Imperfect fruits and vegetables go straight to the dumps unless concentrated efforts prevent it and guide distribution to other users. Buying local saves on transportation costs and emissions, as well.

– Challenging manufacturers for efficient production and distribution. For example, a significant amount of wood goes to pallets that are tossed after one use. Look to more durable pallets that can be reused. Plus, the US does an excellent job of distributing products by rail and can do even better, as the rest of the world improves their efforts. These transmodal distribution centers that marry the efforts of ships, planes, trains and trucks provide huge efficiences and enhance trade.

– Dissuading the building of new coal plants. Active efforts have reduced coal from over 53% market share in 1990 to 30% market share of energy in 2016. Market forces are reducing this further as natural gas became cheaper and renewable energy cost fell to become more on par with coal. If new coal plants must be built, do it in concert with retiring older, less efficient plants.

– Making investment funds available to pay for upfront costs for renewable energy in countries that have fewer capital funding sources. India could do even more with available funding, especially as they electrify more of the country.

The great news is these things are happening. And, they are being shared. Please read this book. It is brief and optimistic. Also, watch the soon to be released sequel to Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” Then spread the news about what is happening.

To be frank, these actions are positive and smart irrespective of one’s stance on climate change. And, a final note from Bloomberg is the millennials are paying attention. They want to work in places that are doing their part to fight climate change. Think about that as you plan.

We need Dave

One of my favorite movies is called “Dave” starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver. Kline plays the title character who is asked to be a puppet President propped up by the Chief of Staff (played by Frank Langella) after the President has a stroke. Dave is tapped due to his close resemblance to the President which he has parlayed into an act for parties.

Yet, Dave turns out to be a surprisingly good President who gets further enabled when the First Lady (Weaver) realizes he is a fraud and her husband (who she loathes  due to his affair) is in a coma on life support. She encourages Dave to be a true people’s President and he flourishes. Unlike the President he replaces, he focuses on jobs and helping people when needed. The best segment is when he asks his accountant, Murray, played by Charles Grodin, to find money in the budget to help disadvantaged kids and then plays his ideas out in front of his cabinet to the fury of the Chief of Staff.

Thinking of the line from Simon and Garfunkel song, “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you,” I would insert Dave’s name for the needed hero. Rather than the man who is President in name only, we need Dave to come to the rescue and take the reins. It cannot be the Vice President who has become chief sycophant to the President agreeing with every inane thing he does. We need a hero who truly cares about people and relationships, values those who serve and inspires others. The “valuing those who serve” is important as our current President shows disrespect to hard working civil servants as well as his staff and due process.

Two key undercurrents of the movie are the relationship Dave has with his Secret Service lead (played by Ving Rhames) and his respect he gains for his Vice President (played by Ben Kingsley). He values them and they show him respect in return.

So, if we could trade out Dave for Donald, we would be in a much better place. And, if he cannot do it, maybe Michael Douglas’   “The American President” could be tapped.

 

Small pieces of big movies

With the forthcoming Academy Awards, it might be fun to select small funny pieces or vignettes from movies that had some level of acclaim.

Annie Hall: Two small scenes that must be paired stand out. In an earlier scene Woody Allen’s character is speaking with Annie Hall’s brother. The brother notes that sometimes when he is driving at night, he briefly considers veering into an oncoming set of headlights to end it all. A few scenes later the expression on Allen’s face is priceless as guess who is driving them to the airport at night?

Forrest Gump: Two priceless scenes stand out. One is when Bubba finishes telling Forrest the many ways to cook shrimp. They are using toothbrushes to clean bathroom tile and Bubba’s says “Well, that’s about it.” Forrest pauses and then goes back to scrubbing. The other is when Lieutenant Dan shows up at the Bayou and Forrest just leaps into the water, while the now pilotless boat is still running.

Casablanca: There are countless scenes in this most quoted movie of all time. One that I love is just after Inspector Renault is forced to close “Rick’s” because he is shocked there is gambling going on, the pit boss hands the Inspector his winnings. The other is when Rick tells the Nazi Major Strasser that he came to Casablanca for the waters. When the Major replies there are no waters here, Rick says “So, I was misinformed,” with a very wry grin.

Jaws: The running gag line echoed by Roy Scheider, the land preferring lawman, is “We gotta get a bigger boat.” The other eerily funny scene is when the grizzled sea captain played by Robert Shaw got the attention of a talkative town council by slowly scraping his finger nails on a chalkboard. Yikes. Another funny scene is on the boat, after much drinking, the guys are comparing scars. At the end, Richard Dreyfus’ character points at his heart and notes the name of the girl who first broke it.

Rocky: A couple of character names for the pets gives me a chuckle. The bulldog was called “Butkus” in homage to the tough linebacker for the Chicago Bears. The two pet turtles of Rocky were humorously named “Cuff” and “Link.” As Rocky heads to the ring to fight Apollo Creed, he is wearing a robe with advertising on the back. When his manager asks him what he gets out of the deal, Rocky said he gets to keep the robe. “Shrewd,” the manager replies.

Gone with the Wind: A humorous set up occurs when Scarlett is about to get a visit from Rhett Butler in Atlanta and does not want to reveal she is on hard times. So, she has a dress made from the draperies. By itself, this is a humorous scene when the audience recognizes what she is wearing. But the funniest parody of this scene is courtesy of comedienne Carol Burnett, when she comes down the stairs with a dress made out of the drapes, including the curtain rod.

Please share with me your memorable scenes from award-winning movies. They can be funny, impactful, romantic, sensual or sensuous. Tell me who you think will take home best picture.