Moderation in all things, including moderation

The above title is a quote I heard from Alan Alda, the actor most famous for playing Dr. Hawkeye Pierce in the long running TV show “MASH” about doctors and nurses during the Korean conflict. His interviewer liked it so much he commented. Alda coined this phrase when he was sixteen, “Moderation in all things, including moderation.”

His point is it is more than OK to do things in moderation, but there are occasions when a person needs to take a leap of faith and go for it. This comes from an actor who remains quite busy with various podcasts he hosts and acting roles. Plus, he is a very charitable person.

Alda was more than just the weekly doctor with a huge heart, surgical brain, skilled hands and appetite for making out with the nurses. He had a long list of movies and shows he did during and after his MASH work. I recall a couple of movies off the top of my head.

He and Ellen Burstyn turned a Neil Simon play into a wonderful movie called “Same Time Next Year.” The premise is the two meet and continue to meet up once a year at this beautiful inn overlooking the Pacific Ocean. They confide in each other and speak of problems and love they have their spouses. Seeing Burstyn change her attire and attitudes each year is what makes the movie sing, while Alda plays more of a straight man.

Carol Burnett, Rita Moreno and a wonderful cast join Alda for a very funny movie called “Four Seasons.” These three couples decide they are going to take four vacations (bad idea) together in one year. The humor heightens when one of the couples separates and the husband brings a young girlfriend to the next vacation. Like with Burstyn, seeing Alda and Burnett together is a treat, as very few people can rival the character acting of Carol Burnett.

A third movie I liked a lot was not a comedy, but a drama called “The Seduction of Senator Joe Tynan.” He played with Meryl Streep in this one, so there seems to be a pattern of his acting in movies with very talented leading ladies. Streep plays an intern who falls for the married Senator played by Alda. The premise is the rise and fall of a Senator do to his tryst.

There are of course several other movies he starred in or played key roles in. He even played the antagonist in some of the movies. That took some getting used to. He was much more enjoyable to watch when he could pull for him, even though he would make us cringe being smart-ass.

MASH was one of my favorite shows, playing each Saturday night in one of the best comedy line-ups ever. Ironically, the final show of the night was “The Carol Burnett Show” which is fitting that the two stars would play in a very funny movie together. What is also fascinating about MASH is the parade of future stars that came through the show, either for a few seasons or one or two episodes.

I recall having a crush on Blythe Danner, the mother of Gwyneth Paltrow, and a good actress in her own right, as she played a love interest. I also recall Marcia Strassman, who would go on to play in the sit-com “Welcome Back Kotter,” as another one of Alda’s love interests. I also remember Brian Dennehy, Edward Hermann, Ed Begley, Jr., Ron Howard, Patrick Swayze, Lawrence Fishburne, et all who played for an episode, most often as a wounded soldier, either mentally or physically or both.

What made the show popular went beyond the actors. The writers scoured documents about a wartime hospital in Korea and actually pulled some episodes out of those files. The one I remember vividly is when a wounded soldier had an unexploded shell in his chest, which was a true incident.

So, let me know what you think of Alda and his work on MASH and elsewhere.

From the Holocaust to Hogan’s Heroes – Robert Clary’s story

For those of us who grew up in the 1960s or watched a lot of reruns on television, there was a comedy show about a prisoner of war camp in Germany during World War II called “Hogan’s Heroes.” One of its stars was a diminutive and funny character named Corporal LeBeau, played by French actor Robert Clary. Yet, while a POW camp is a not a concentration camp where Jews were exterminated, Clary also had the horrid experience of being a survivor of the real Holocaust in a camp called Buchenwald.

I learned this watching a movie made in 1982 called “Remembrance of Love” starring Kirk Douglas, Chana Eden and Pam Dawber where two young lovers were split apart by the Nazis and Douglas’s character went to a Holocaust event in Israel to see if she was still alive. Clary played himself in the film as an ambassador to these Holocaust survivors.

Per Wikipedia, here is Clary’s early story:

“Born in 1926 in Paris, France, Clary was the youngest of 14 children, 10 of whom would die in the Holocaust. At the age of twelve, he began a career singing professionally on a French radio station and also studied art in Paris. In 1942, because he was Jewish, he was deported to the Nazi concentration camp at Ottmuth, in Upper Silesia (now Otmęt, Poland). He was tattooed with the identification ‘A5714’ on his left forearm. He was later sent to Buchenwald concentration camp.

At Buchenwald, he sang to an audience of SS soldiers every other Sunday, accompanied by an accordionist. He said, ‘Singing, entertaining, and being in kind of good health at my age, that’s why I survived. I was very immature and young and not really fully realizing what situation I was involved with … I don’t know if I would have survived if I really knew that.

Writing about his experience, Clary said,

‘We were not even human beings. When we got to Buchenwald, the SS shoved us into a shower room to spend the night. I had heard the rumours about the dummy shower heads that were gas jets. I thought, ‘This is it.’ But no, it was just a place to sleep. The first eight days there, the Germans kept us without a crumb to eat. We were hanging on to life by pure guts, sleeping on top of each other, every morning waking up to find a new corpse next to you. … The whole experience was a complete nightmare — the way they treated us, what we had to do to survive. We were less than animals. Sometimes I dream about those days. I wake up in a sweat terrified for fear I’m about to be sent away to a concentration camp, but I don’t hold a grudge because that’s a great waste of time. Yes, there’s something dark in the human soul. For the most part, human beings are not very nice. That’s why when you find those who are, you cherish them.'”

Clary published a memoir, From the Holocaust to Hogan’s Heroes: The Autobiography of Robert Clary, in 2001. Rather than summarize his career before and after “Hogan’s Heroes,” I encourage you to link to the Wikipedia article on his behalf. He was often asked to distinguish between the fictional POW camp and the real concentration camp he survived.

“Stalag 13 is not a concentration camp. It’s a POW camp, and that’s a world of difference. You never heard of a prisoner of war being gassed or hanged. When the show went on the air, people asked me if I had any qualms about doing a comedy series dealing with Nazis and concentration camps. I had to explain that it was about prisoners of war in a Stalag, not a concentration camp, and although I did not want to diminish what soldiers went through during their internments, it was like night and day from what people endured in concentration camps.”

To this day, there are people with hard-hearted and hateful motives who want people to believe the Holocaust did not happen, that over 6 million Jews, gays and lesbians and gypsies were not exterminated by the Nazis in World War II. This is not only a blatant attempt at disinformation, it truly is evil. It is on par with people trying to white wash all the bad things in history committed by humans against one another and the Holocaust ranks as one of the greatest atrocities in our history. These Jews and others were arrested, stripped, starved and gassed, because of some lunatic idea set forth by Adolph Hitler and his henchmen.

Interestingly, Clary remains alive and well at the age of 96, one of the last two survivors from the “Hogan’s Heroes” show. Yet, he said he still has nightmares at this age and lost many of his siblings due the Nazi genocide. We must never forget what happened to Clary and his family among the multiple millions of Jews and others that were impacted.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Clary

Humor abounds in all relationships

We have been watching several Rom-Com movies where relationship humor between the lead characters seasons what would be a dry movie plot. Just yesterday, in the movie “Sleeping with other people,” the main, opposite gender characters (played by Jason Sudekis and Alison Brie) became best friends. If they ever had romantic feelings for each other, they would say the word “mousetrap” to stop those thoughts. That is a neat ploy.

It got me thinking about humor in all kinds of relationships – partners, friends, relatives, etc. I won’t repeat several stories that I have written about a few times before, but here are a few I have not.

Make sure the door can lock – when I moved to a new city, I was in a temporary apartment before we sold our house. When my family was visiting, the kids slept on a sleeper sofa, while my wife and I were in the lone bedroom. During, shall we say a romantic interlude, in walks my oldest son who was about seven and he said an audible “ooh” and left the room. Note to self, make sure the bedroom door can actually lock.

Old dogs can be taught – having learned the above lesson, we went on vacation and stayed in an old lake house, whose bedroom door would not fully shut and lock. Part of our foreplay was made to include placing a chair in front of the door to keep it from opening.

Yes, your parents had sex after you were born – growing up, my parents’ bedroom was adjacent to my brother’s and mine. Since my bed was on the nearest wall to theirs, it enabled me to hear things a boy probably should not hear in the room next door. Yes, my parents had sex after I was born; I am sure they enjoyed it.

Speaking of discovery – some good friends were visiting her mother and father and were sleeping in the guest room downstairs. After one of those romantic interludes, in walks the husband’s mother-in-law. It should be noted my friend is in bed, sans clothing, with one leg positioned outside of the covers. His mother-in-law sits on the bed while they are talking and starts to pat his leg and pats it again. Then, it hits her what has just transpired and she gets wide-eyed and immediately leaves the room. See number one about locking bedroom doors.

Invariably, kids will walk through when the movie gets racy – with one adult-child staying with us since the pandemic staying upstairs when home, he will occasionally walk through our main TV area to go the kitchen. Often, if our movie has a racy scene come on the screen, that is when he walks through the room. My wife and I will say to each other “I thought this was PG-13.” That and the surprise “f-bombs” that are used in movies cause some parental cringing. He will say, “it is nothing I have not heard before.”

Yes, a squeaky bed can be heard downstairs – when we travel, we often stay in a bed and breakfast which is usually an old house. At one place, we learned, after the fact, our bedroom and another was above the downstairs parlor. The reason we know there was another bedroom is the guests were having one of those romantic interludes as we had done earlier. And, we heard the squeaky bed while sitting in the parlor below. Oops. Our bed was squeaky as well.

When it rains it pours – staying at another bed and breakfast, we arrived during a torrential rainstorm. Our room was in the back of the home with an elevated poster bed which needed a stepping stool to get into. It also was underneath a veranda with a partially covered roof accessible by the second-floor rooms. Since this story is about romantic interludes, when we were about to Christen the poster bed, we saw rain leaking down the wall. This was a few seconds before the ceiling caved in from the rain on top of us. After getting dressed and letting the owners know of our travails, we were moved to another room across the hall, but it had water running down the walls as well. So, we ended up in a third room.

So, the moral to this story is not to avoid having romantic interludes. The moral is lock or block the bedroom door, test the squeakiness of the beds, and watch out for B&B poster beds in rainstorms. And, yes your parents did these kinds of things as well and enjoyed them. As for those movies, don’t trust a PG-13 rating.

Company in New Hampshire knew of toxic poisoning and failed to act

Recently, I have written several posts about the poisoning in groundwater by companies who use these forever chemicals referred to by their acronym of PFAS. Dupont was highlighted in the movie “Dark Waters” about the true story surrounding their making of Teflon in a West Virginia plant, where they denied for years what they admitted knowing in their files. In short, PFAS (or per and polyfluorinated substances) “is a harmful manmade set of chemicals that don’t break down in the environment and can cause medical issues like some cancers if consumed enough.” See the fact sheet below from the CDC.

In an article in The Guardian yesterday by Tom Perkins called “‘They all knew’: textile company misled regulators about use of toxic PFAS, documents show,” we learned that Dupont was not the only company to hide the fact the making of and disposal of waste from their product was causing major health concerns in adults and children in the area. Here are a few paragraphs from the article that can be linked to below.

“A French industrial fabric producer that poisoned drinking water supplies with PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ across 65 sq miles (168 sq km) of southern New Hampshire misled regulators about the amount of toxic substance it used, a group of state lawmakers and public health advocates charge.

The company, Saint Gobain, now admits it used far more PFAS than regulators previously knew, and officials fear thousands more residents outside the contamination zone’s boundaries may be drinking tainted water in a region plagued by cancer clusters and other health problems thought to stem from PFAS pollution.

Saint Gobain in 2018 agreed to provide clean drinking water in the 65-sq-mile area as part of a consent agreement with New Hampshire regulators, and damning evidence suggesting it used more PFAS than previously admitted surfaced in a trove of documents released in a separate class-action lawsuit.

‘People are sick, there are really high cancer rates and people literally have died, so when you see what’s happening and the company acts like this – it’s really upsetting,’ said Mindi Messmer, a former state representative who analyzed the documents and sent them to the New Hampshire attorney general and state regulators.

Saint Gobain has denied wrongdoing. PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of about 12,000 chemicals used across dozens of industries to make products resist water, stains and heat. The highly toxic compounds don’t naturally break down, and are linked to cancer, thyroid disease, kidney problems, decreased immunity, birth defects and other serious health problems. They have been called ‘forever chemicals’ due to their longevity in the environment.

Saint Gobain Performance Plastics’ Merrimack, New Hampshire, plant had for decades treated its products with PFOA, one type of PFAS, to make them stronger. The company released PFOA from its smokestacks and the chemicals, once on the ground, moved through the soil and into aquifers. Hundreds of residential and municipal wells pull from the groundwater.

Please look through the CDC Fact Sheet below. If you have not seen “Dark Waters,” please watch it as it shows how Dupont knew and covered up their poisoning of others, then was shown verified causal data from the largest sampling of people in a scientific study and reneged on an offer to help and then lost successive lawsuits before they settled the remaining cases in a class action. I am sure there are some theatrics in the movie, but over all the movie will disgust you that leaders of a company could be so brazen. And, stop using Teflon cookware as their poison resides within many of us if we did.

Companies must be held to account. Leaders must be held to account. And, it cannot be so rarely done, that they make a movie out of the effort. Rob Bilott, the attorney who fought Dupont and Erin Brockovich cannot be the only folks recognized for fighting these battles.

https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/PFAS_FactSheet.html

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/aug/05/saint-gobain-textile-company-toxic-pfas

A Real Life Star Trek Hero Nichelle Nichols passes away

The following is an encore post to someone who deserves an encore – Nichelle Nichols – who passed away yesterday at the age of 89.

After the first season of the original “Star Trek” television series, African-American actress Nichelle Nichols was speaking with a prominent public figure about her role as Lt. Uhura. The public figure noted “Star Trek” was the only show he watched regularly with his children. Nichols told the man she was leaving the show, but he encouraged her to reconsider, which she did. He said you are a role model showing Blacks and Whites that there is a place for women of color in key roles in the future .His name was Martin Luther King.

She took that inspiration seriously and did far more than I ever knew until a recent documentary enlightened me. The Scyfy network has written an important piece called “NICHELLE NICHOLS’ NASA ‘WOMAN IN MOTION’ DOC BOLDLY BLASTING OFF FOR ‘BLACK HISTORY MONTH.’” Here are a few paragraphs, with a link to the full article below.

“A new documentary is boldly tackling one of actress Nichelle Nichols‘ greatest achievements. In addition to playing the iconic Lt. Nyota Uhura on the original Star Trek TV show, Nichols used her pop culture influence as a fictional space-farer to help pioneer a NASA recruitment program in the 1970s and ’80s that hired the first astronauts who were women and persons of color.

Directed by Todd Thompson (The Highwaymen), the documentary features exclusive interviews with Neil deGrasse Tyson, George Takei, Pharrell Williams, Martin Luther King III, Al Sharpton, Vivica A. Fox, Walter Koenig, Rod Roddenberry, Michael Dorn, Guy Bluford, Charles Bolden, Ivor Dawson, Frederik Gregory, Benjamin Crump, and, of course, Nichols herself.

The movie’s title refers to the company Nichols founded (Women in Motion, Inc.) that brought over 8,000 African American, Asian, and Latino women to NASA. Thanks to the actress’ work, the agency became one of the most diverse institutions of the U.S. federal government.

‘We are thrilled that Woman in Motion will be getting its U.S. premiere and launching the Fathom Events Celebrates Black History Month series next month! This is a great American story with incredible global impact,” Thompson said in a statement. “Nichelle Nichols helped create the brighter future we are living in today by proclaiming that space exploration is for everyone. It’s a simple but very strong statement that opens doors and allows all humankind to boldly go!’   

‘We are proud to bring pioneer and role model Nichelle Nichols’ inspiring story in cinemas across the nation,” added Fathom CEO Ray Nutt. “It is an honor to have Woman in Motion as the debut film in the inaugural Fathom Events Celebrates Black History Month series.”‘

To see Nichols speak of her efforts later in life is a treat. She is a very dignified person and understands the importance of these earlier efforts. A key comment was during a speech she made in the 1970s to a large group of NASA people. She looked out in the audience at all of the white men and observed “Where are my people?” The NASA leader heard her and asked for her help. She said she would do so, but did not want to be a figure head. She wanted to help make a difference. And, she did. She did her part to help NASA “boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before.”

Nichelle Nichols/NASA ‘Woman in Motion’ documentary boldly blasting off (syfy.com)

Oranges and sunshine

Sometimes you come across a movie where the hero is unlikely. In this case she is an overworked social worker from England. Sometimes the problem presented is unheard of so the duty of the movie is to point out atrocious behavior on the part of people and entities that should know better. Sometimes the victims do not have a voice and really just wanted to find out what happened and who they are.

When you add these things into a pot, the movie “Oranges and sunshine” comes out starring Emily Watson. Watson is one of Great Britain’s finest actors in my view, but she has the misfortune of having a name close to another actress of Harry Potter fame, Emma Watson, so confusion results. If Watson is in a movie, it usually is a good one and this is no exception.

In short, it is about a social worker named Margaret Humphreys in the mid-1980s who learns something unsettling from an adult Australian woman who was visiting England to find out who she was and where she came from. She tells Humphreys she was transferred as a child from an orphanage in London to one in Australia, not to be adopted, but just rehoused. Humphreys does not believe her as that would be illegal, but she leaves the file.

With her husband’s (and later her boss’) help and support, Humphreys begins a process to find out what happened and locate parents, alive or dead, so that this woman and others who come out of the woodwork can get closure. Without giving the plot away, this true story tells of what Humphreys learns and how extensive a problem it is. With it so large, she hypothesizes it has to be systematic and involve folks higher up.

I will stop there. The movie is a must see. Will it make you angry – yes? Will it show you what one person can mean to many – yes? Will it show you the mental, family and physical toll trying to do the right thing causes – yes?

The movie was made in 2010 and also stars Hugo Weaving, Lorraine Ashbourne, Molly Windsor, Stuart Wolfendon, and David Wenham among many. The screenplay was written by Margaret Humphreys and Rona Munro – note the title comes from an adult telling the kids that Australia had plentiful oranges and sunshine to get them on the ship. It was directed by Jim Loach. Weaving played the father with PTSD in “Hacksaw Ridge” and people who watch British TV will recognize Ashbourne from numerous shows. Give it a look.

A few more excellent movies

I usually pick eight or so movies to highlight on my movie posts. Today, I am going to keep it to a manageable few to list some that are top drawer in my mind. Please remember, my wife and I like dialogue, plot and good characters, so we will lean away from the more recent CGI films. At the end, I will list a few honorable mentions.

“Where the crawdads sing” is just out in theaters based on Delia Owen’s book by the same name. Starring Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya, known in town as the Marsh girl, it is fairly true to the book and tells the story in a flashback form, which works for the movie. Taylor John Smith stars as her friend Tate, Harris Dickinson as her boyfriend Chase, David Straithairn as her attorney, and Sterling Macer and Michael Hyatt as the store owners who help her out from time to time. The movie starts out with Chase’s body being found and Kya being arrested for his murder. She has been treated as an outsider her whole life as her violent father runs off her mother and siblings. He eventually leaves as well when she is only ten and she fends for herself in their marsh cabin. We loved the book and the movie.

“Last night in Soho” was released last year and is categorized as a horror/ thriller. It stars Thomasin McKenzie as Eloise, a fashion designer trainee just arrived in school in London who has a curse of seeing glimpses of her deceased mother. After being teased by others for coming from rural England, she moves to lease a bed and bath from a landlord played by Diana Rigg shortly before the actress died. Apparently, there was a murder in the room and when Eloise sleeps she goes back in time to the late 1960s in Soho, an era she loved for fashion and music. She becomes infatuated with a singer named Sandie, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. The movie keeps your interest and is not too horror oriented, although you do get lulled into thinking it will only be macabre. We give it a thumbs up.

“84 Charing Cross Road” is an older movie that may sound dull, but it is fascinating to see good actors tell a story. It stars Anthony Hopkins as Frank Doel, a British bookstore co-owner and Anne Bancroft as Helene Hanff, a New Yorker who loves non-fiction books. With her search for inexpensive earlier editions, she befriends Frank and his whole staff and eventually his wife played by Judi Dench. Their relationships starts just after WWII and lasts into the 1970s and is based on a book Hanff wrote about their interactions. The story is in essence told as a series of letters and asides to the camera. This movie is one of the better ones you will see, if you choose to give it a go. It should be noted Mel Brooks produced this movie as he wanted his wife, the great Ms. Bancroft, to play the role she loved from a similar named play.

“The immigrant” is a true to life story about predatory people taking advantage of women traveling to the states from Europe in small numbers or alone. This story will make you angry, but it is a must watch to see how it happened, and likely still does. The movie stars Marion Cotillard as Ewa, an immigrant woman before WWI whose sister is told she has TB and must be quarantined on Ellis Island. Cotillard is charged with prostitution on ship, as she was raped by another passenger and is about to be deported. An advocate steps in played by Joaquin Phoenix, who pays off an Ellis Island official to “help” Ewa. He, of course, is taking her into prostitution. Jeremy Renner stars as Phoenix’ cousin. The number of people who are involved in the predatory relationship is what will make you angry the most.

A few other movies worth the watch include:

“Love and mercy” a biopic about Beach Boy Brian Wilson and his struggles and how his second wife saved him from a domineering therapist starring John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elzabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti.

“A promise” about an older German owner of a manufacturing facility played by Alan Rickman who becomes ill, his young wife played by Rebecca Hall, and his new right-hand secretary played by Richard Madden. The younger two have an attraction, but make a promise to be there for each other in the future so as not to betray the trust of the boss/ husband. This is one of Rickman’s final movies.

“33 postcards” is an Australian movie about a man played by Guy Pearce who sponsors an orphan girl in China named Mei Mei (which means little sister) played by Zhu Lin. They exchange 33 postcards over the years and when she travels to Australia with her orphanage choral group, she wants to meet her mysterious benefactor who she finds in prison.

“Sunset song” is a movie about an Irish woman (starring Agyness Deyn) before WWI who endures the tough hand over of her father after her mother died and brother moved on. She keeps the land after her father dies and eventually marries a man who will come back from WWI with PTSD.

A couple of others include “Caroline?,” “Hush,” “The go-between” and “Up against the ropes.” Each of these is good, with the first one being an unexpected surprise.

Summer movie watching list

Avoiding the summer blockbuster movies, here are few movies worth the watch from the convenience of your own home. You may have seen a couple of these movies, but they may be worth the watch again. In no particular order:

“Sarah’s Key” starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Aiden Quinn, Melusine Mayance as the young Sarah, Charlotte Poutrel as the older Sarah and Niels Aretsrup is based on the novel by the same name. Scott Thomas plays a journalist whose husband’s family lived in a Paris apartment vacated when the Vichy (Nazi) government rounded up the Jews during August, 1942. Sarah is the youngest daughter of the Jewish family. The movie is outstanding as it flips back and forth to different periods to show what happened and Scott Thomas’ investigation of such.

“First do no harm” stars Meryl Streep, Fred Ward, Alison Janney and Seth Adkins as the young boy. It is based on a true story of a mother’s fight to get better care for her epileptic son. The movie is excellent and an ideal role for Streep as the mother. Ward does a good job as her husband who is a road weary truck driver whose insurance was temporarily canceled during a change in insurance carriers. But, this issue is less about insurance and more about the kind of treatment he needs.

“Spotlight” which I had seen is based on a true story of a special reports division of the Boston Globe that goes by that name. Spotlight investigated and broke open the story in 2002 of a covered-up decades old pedophile priest problem in Boston. It stars Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery and a host of other good actors. With the recent reports on the sexual misconduct of Southern Baptist ministers, this story remains critical.

“Road to your heart” is a South African movie about a son who is asked by his father’s will to do a series of visits to people who touched him as he journeys to his funeral in Cape Town. He is accompanied by an eclectic young woman who gives him a ride when he must lose his car per the will. The movie stars Ivan Botha and Donnalee Roberts as the travelers. While in subtitles, the movie is actually quite good, especially with the obvious chemistry of the two stars, who later get married in real life. Marius Weyers plays the father.

“Ladies in black” is an Australian movie based in the late 1950s. It is about the social and work lives of four women who work together in a department store in Sydney, who are required to wear black dresses to work. The focus is most on the college bound, well-read young intern played by Angourie Rice (who was in “Mare of Eastown with Kate Winslet). But, the other three women’s stories of acceptance in society by a Hungarian refugee played by Julia Ormond, a former dancer who learned her opinion mattered played by Rachel Taylor and a woman whose husband is shy and not very affectionate played by Alison McGirr are covered. The movie is surprisingly good and gives glimpse of culture and mores in the late 1950s.

“War flowers” stars Christina Ricci as southern woman with a daughter played by Gabrielle Popa) whose husband is fighting in the Civil War. She mends a wounded Union soldier (played by Jason Gedrick) who crawled into her basement to get away from the action. Tom Berenger plays a small part as a Union general. The movie is good, but does get a little cheesy on occasion. Ricci, who usually plays bizarre characters, does an admirable job in the lonely wife.

“Sweet land” is a surprisingly good movie about an immigrant woman from Germany traveling to Minnesota to marry a US citizen, a transplanted Norwegian man. The movie is set before WWI and stars Elizabeth Reaser as the young Inge, with Lois Smith the older version. Tim Guinee plays the young Olaf who is painfully shy. Alan Cumming and Alex Kingston liven up the movie as friends of Olaf who welcome Inge. This is critical as the town is not very accepting of a German immigrant.

“Heartland” stars Conchata Ferrell, Rip Torn and Megan Folsom. It is set in Wyoming and involves a mother (Ferrell) and daughter (Folsom) moving west to work as a cook and gardener for a rancher played by Torn. Based on a true story, the woman applies for a homestead and is supported by Torn whose interests in Ferrell are mutually shared. It is a good movie and takes advantage of Ferrell’s feistiness for the role.

Others include “Jindabyne” starring Laura Linney and Gabriel Byrne in an Australian movie about a discovered murdered girl, “Columbus” starring John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson and Parker Posey about an young woman coming of age and falling for the son of a famous architect visiting Columbus, Indiana and “Then she found me” starring Helen Hunt, Colin Firth and Bette Midler about a separated woman finding love with the father of one of her students and being found by her birth mother.

If you were short on time, the first three are outstanding movies.

Friday free form – recognizing those mistakes

Happy Friday all. I thought I would throw a few random musings down in free form on this Friday. In no particular order:

  • I watched a great movie whose title was uttered by a prescient boy with a debilitating immune disorder. He said you are “more beautiful having been broken.” He was sharing this with a new female friend who he sensed was sad. Its poignancy and pertinence to the plot was profound. Think about this line as it applies to all the screw-ups, errors or misstatements in your own lives. We learn more from failure than success.
  • This self-awareness is important for self-improvement. If we don’t acknowledge our mistakes, then we never learn from them. One of the best teachings by the former president is what we should not do – not recognize that we messed up and blame others for our transgressions. This is what a toddler would do. “I didn’t do it” is uttered with his hand in the cookie jar. It is not what a more mature person should do.
  • I don’t think I have enough toes and fingers to count all of my mess-ups. Thank goodness for erasers, backspace and delete keys. In fact, it would be great to have a life oriented “undo” button. Handling a break up poorly – undo. Saying something hurtful to a loved one – undo. Passing along a rumor that may be untrue – undo.
  • I wonder if ol’ Putin wishes he could press the undo button. For such a control freak, who used disinformation to build the impression that Russia is stronger than its adversaries, to make the horrible mistake of invading and failing to execute in Ukraine is telling. Russia’s economy is not large enough to support the military spending of its aspirations and the Ukraine president called the bully’s bluff and said “I am not going anywhere.” Russia has made some inroads but has also been fended off and is now viewed as a pariah.
  • Speaking of undo buttons, ol’ Boris got a vote of confidence, but the celebration is muted because of the closeness of the vote. He was fortunate to recognize he would benefit by calling Putin on the carpet for his invasion. Everyone needs a foil. Had he not been able to do so, Johnson may have been on his way out. He may still get there, but he should learn some lessons from this about lying, cover-ups and poor decisions. The question is will he?

That is all for now. Key lessons. Our mistakes make us better, not worse, unless we choose to ignore them. In that case, they can be an anchor.

More movies to take a peek at

Here are a few more movies that I have enjoyed watching to varying degrees. Most of these were found on the free-service Tubi, but a few came from HBO and Showtime.

“Once upon a river” starring Kenadi DelaCerna, John Ashton, Tataka Means, Ajuawak Kapashasit, Coburn Gross, Lindsey Pulsipher and Kenn Head is about a half Native American teen whose father is killed. She travels up river to find her mother who left several years before. She befriends an elderly man who gives her shelter on her journey. The movie is compelling in the uphill struggle for this disenfranchised young woman as she seeks help.

“Nothing special” starring Julia Garcia Combs, Karen Black, Barbara Bain and David Hardie is about a woman (Garcia Combs) who is having difficulty taking care of her bipolar mother (Black) while trying to serve a demanding, but supportive boss (Bains) and find time for some kind of love life. The three lead women are each excellent in their roles. You feel for this young woman as she comes close to her wits end.

“Small town crimes” underlines what an imperfect hero looks like. John Hawkes is excellent as a suspended, alcohol and drug addicted cop trying to solve a murder case as an unregistered private investigator. Anthony Anderson and Octavia Spencer are his only support, with Spencer playing his foster sister. Michael Voltan, Clifton Collins, and Robert Frasler play key roles.

“Peaks and valleys” starring Kitty Mahoney, Kevin T. Bennett and Ted Carney is also excellent as it shows Bennett taking care of a woman in a mountain cabin after he witnesses her body being cast out of a small plane into a lake. This cantankerous man nurses her back to health and teaches her how to hunt and fish. She will return the favor as his own issues become apparent. Given the verbal volleying back and forth, the movie remains interesting.

“Road to Perth” starring Tommy O’Brien, Hannah Lehman, Ellen Grimshaw and Kat Kaevich is an Australian movie about an American who travels alone after his girlfriend declines his marriage proposal. He is intent on taking pictures and interviewing Australians along his journey. He befriends and gives a ride from Adelaide to Perth to a woman who is the sister of an internet friend as she scatters her Dad’s ashes in places he held dear. Along the way, he speaks by phone with his own sister who offers milepost check-ins as the travelers become mutually infatuated.

“The Honeymooners” (not that one) starring Jonathan Byrne, Alex Reid, Justine Mitchell and Conner Mullen is an Irish film about a man who gets stood up at his wedding (at least she tells him) and after drinking too much of his wedding champagne pays a waitress who just got fired (and whose married boyfriend can’t be with her) to drive him to a cottage on the coast. They butt heads often and the say hurtful things,but do have enough fun and good conversation as their hard feelings soften. Like the “Road to Perth,” the movies are more about the journey and travails, where two people in angst can lift each other up.

“Wanderland” starring Tate Ellington, Tara Summers, Victoria Clark, Harris Yulin and a host of others is about a relatively rational man who accepts an invitation to house sit over a weekend in a Long Island coastal village. He befriends a charming woman on the beach and she invites him to a party later, which he surprisingly declines, but we learn later he too often says no. So, he goes from party to party meeting a wide assortment of characters as he tries to track down this woman . The name of the movie connotes wandering, but the similarities to a male Alice in Wonderland are not unfounded. His journey and the bohemian characters make you want to watch.

“Jackie and Ryan” starring Katherine Heigl, Ben Barnes and Emily Alyn Lind is about a hobo traveling musician trying to put a band back together. He winds up in a beautiful mountain town and befriends a woman who has had success as a musician, but has moved back home with her daughter to live with her mother as she is finalizing her divorce. The movie is a little trite, but the music is good and we learn Heigl can sing, especially with a lovely duet with her daughter played by Lind. Barnes also sings a poignant song that he is encouraged to finish by Heigl.

“Bonneville” starring Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Joan Allen, Christine Baranski and Tom Skerrit offers an interesting road trip plot as Lange takes her husband’s ashes to a funeral arranged by her step-daughter. “Surviving love” stars actual life married couple Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen as they get stranded in the Maine mountains and is worth the watch. “Christmas Eve” with Loretta Young, Arthur Hill and Trevor Howard offers a cheesy, but feel good movie about a dying woman wanting to see her grandchildren who escaped from her controlling son’s grip. Finally, we just watched “Being Rose” with Cybil Shepherd and James Brolin who play late in life lovers as Shepherd is dying.

Each of these movies is worth the watch and I don’t think any have things that are too risque for younger eyes, even the two jilted lover stories, although the adult themes and language on some may need to be factored in. The ones in the final paragraph are neat as they give a glimpse of actors who are later in their careers. Let me know if you have seen any of these.