Movie Review – “The Fault in Our Stars” (2014)

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The Fault in Our Stars - 2014 - 01

Choosing to watch the film I am reviewing this morning is a bit like asking “Thelma and Louise” if you can sit in the back seat of their car and join them as they drive across the canyon plain toward the inevitable cliff’s edge. You know where the end of the trip is leading but you opt to tag along anyway. Such is pretty much the case if you choose to watch this poignant but absolutely wonderful film.

If you enjoyed movies such as “Love Story” and “Beaches”, heart wrenching as they may have been, then here is a film that I would say should certainly be considered as rounding out the trio. Two young adults who have been stricken with cancer meet at a cancer support center and the ensuing relationship and love story that evolves brings to the screen a tender, heartwarming drama that fully entertains and will certainly put some pressure on that hanky or tissue box so just make sure they are nearby.

I was unfamiliar with the two young actors who handled the roles of the main characters, Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, but they are outstanding in the very difficult roles into which they were cast for this film.  In fact regarding the actors in the film, there was only one with whom I was familiar and that was Laura Dern who played the mother of Shailene’s character.

As an applicable side note I might add that I was so embolden emotionally by this movie which I watched in the afternoon that when evening came along I opted to watch “Beaches” again and with “The Fault in Our Stars” having been the main course, I held up better than expected for my “Beaches” desert! I do, however, need to remember to put tissues down on my next shopping list! :)

In Remembrance of Bob Simon…

Bob Simon - 01

I woke this morning to the tragic news of the loss of Bob Simon and was quite saddened as I’m sure many others were also. He was a wonderful journalist and correspondent and I always looked forward to his reports on “60 Minutes”. He will be sorely missed…

Movie Review – “The Mothman Prophecies” (2002)

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The Mothman Prophecies - 2002 - 02

Given the fact that I am not a real fan of the ‘supernatural’ film genre, I had, in the past, past on several opportunities to view the subject film. I knew little about the content or plot but creepy pictures of a moth-like looking creature on the film’s advertisement posters and ads were enough to deter my interest.

But a few nights after noticing it was airing again on cable and perhaps finally realizing that it starred the likes of Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Debra Messing and Will Patton thought perhaps I should reconsider given its underlying star power. And so it was that I settled in on this particular evening and decided to give it a look.

Pleasantly surprised I believe would be appropriate with regards to my reaction to the movie. It was quite entertaining and one of those films kept you a bit on your toes with several twists that kept you attentive and at times a bit antsy. Turns out that the film is actually based on a true event of which I was unaware of until the credits rolled round at the end of the film.

And unlike many movies, I found myself during the next day or two having the film pop into my mind and realizing what something meant that I had totally missed while watching the film. Since this film does flirt somewhat with the supernatural, ‘prophecy’ being the key word there, it might not be to everyone’s liking but don’t miss the fact that it is based on true events… :)

Still lovin’ those Beatle Boots after all these years….

I think that when it comes to conversations involving the subject of ‘shoes’ that it normally is a conversation participated in exclusively by women, for women and about women. We men just come up considerably short on matters of interest when it comes to shoes. From famous movie lines like the one in “The American President” where the President’s daughter advices her widowed dad to compliment his dates shoes to the infamous deceased President of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos, who was rumored to own more than 7500 pairs of shoes, although the exact tally was determined to only be about 1060 pairs. Women and their relationship with shoes is well documented.

Chelsea Standard Heeled Boots

The Chelsea – Standard Heel

I doubt my post here will do anything to shift that center but I must declare that I have a particular type of shoe that I love and have since the early 1960’s. Since that time I have never been without a pair or at least some fact simile. The shoe I refer to was initially known as the Chelsea. The shoe was designed and created by an English shoemaker, J. Sparks Hall, around 1851 who was Queen Victoria’s personal shoemaker. The shoe gained almost immediate popularity given the fact that Queen Victoria herself is said to have worn them almost on a daily basis.

Then in the early 1960’s Paul McCartney and John Lennon, two very familiar names I’m sure, saw a pair of the shoes in a local shop window and they adopted the style for the group. They also commissioned a London based shoe company, Anello & Davide, to modify the standard heel and replace it with a Cuban heel which is a high heel normally anywhere from 1½ – 3 inches high. And so it was that what we now know as the “Beatle Boot” was born. Almost immediately after their arrival on the music scene they had put long hair back in fashion along with high heels for men…

Chelsea aka Beatle Shoe

The “Beatle Boot” (The Chelsea with a Cuban Heel)

Other groups and musicians almost immediately started mimicking Beatle fashion by also adopting the beatle shoe as fashion wear. Here along with the Beatles are a few other well known faces I’m sure you’ll be familiar with also…

The Musicians & Their Beatle Boots - 1

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The Incites - Okinawa, Japan - My Boots

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My initial introduction to the high-heeled boots came in late 1965 when I was invited to join my first ever rock and roll band, a small four-piece combo consisting of two guitar players, a drummer and myself, the keyboard player playing a small portable organ at the time. Although a little hard to make out, the accompanying band photo of me at my portable organ shows my first pair of “beatle boots”.

Would I have ever donned a pair of high-heel boots had I not had the musician persona to ride? No, I doubt very seriously if I would have. When you become a musician there seems to come with that a sense of freedom when it comes to fashion and social conformity.

But wait… let me not give all the credit for the notoriety surrounding my fabulous high heel boots solely to musicians. There was one other ‘celeb’ and dancer that took them yet a step or two higher in what is probably the most famous sequence of a film’s opening credits in the history of cinema. Actually the song accompanying the opening credits should be the boots own personal theme song. That’s all the hints I am giving….

How do you get in the mood to pull off an opening scene like that? Just put on a pair of those boots and you will find out. They are as transforming as Dorothy’s sparkling ruby slippers! As you can note right at the beginning of the video clip, Mr. Travolta stops briefly at the shoe store window to ensure his shoes are up to standards. Say what you may but this film intro is all about those shoes and how they embolden the male ego!

Andy Warhol (Negative) - Beatle Boot

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And let’s not forget a most famous artist of our time who was primarily well known for his iconic art. And along with his Campbell soup cans, Marilyn Monroe and Brillo Pad art you just knew he would have to slip in a rendering of the Beatle Boot. The Andy Warhol print shown below was sold at a Christie’s auction for $722,500 in 2011.

I don’t know about everyone with regard to their relationships with those special pairs of shoes, but I can tell you the truth about these shoes, they were transforming. No matter how bad I felt or how down in the dumps I was, when I put those shoes on and my feet hit the pavement… I was literally transformed into a well-dressed and self-confident guy who felt they could own the world. That was one helluva pair of shoes! Dorothy’s sparkling little red slippers had nothing on my beatle boots! :)

Technically speaking I don’t suppose my current boots would qualify as being “beatle boots” but my love for the boot style surely comes from a passion passed on by the “beatle boot”. For me they are still “beatle boots” in every sense of the word because I know that is where my love for the boots I now own evolved. I still have 3-pairs of ankle-high boots styled after the Beatle Boot sitting on my closet floor. It’s been years since I have worn any of them and I’m guessing I never will again. At my age I would probably fall flat on my face. These days they may be referred to as gancho boots but no matter the name, no matter the color, they will always be “beatle boots” and will remain so until I die!

Beatle Boots Combo

Still love ‘em after all these years – Click Graphic For Larger View

Thank you Paul and John for the shoes. They changed who I was and they made life a little more enjoyable… :)

The Little Stone House That Could….

Natural Stone House Sample 2Can’t say why but I have always loved ‘natural stone’ houses similar to the one featured in the picture to the left. Just something about them that always catches my eye when I see one. I purchased my first and only little stone house back in the late 1970s and I hold very pleasant memories regarding the experience.

I was working in Missouri at the time during the construction of the Callaway Nuclear Power Plant and had rented a duplex pretty much out in the boonies. Actually it was located in New Bloomfield, Missouri which is probably some 15 miles or so north of Jefferson City in a very rural area. The population of New Bloomfield itself was probably around 450 people at the time.

Across the street from where I was renting was a one-acre tract of land with a very small little one-bedroom stone house located on it. It wasn’t much to look at and obviously quite small but nevertheless when it came up for sale I found myself very interested. The owner of the house just happened to be the owner of the duplex where I was renting. To make a long story short, given the love I harbored for stone houses I ended up purchasing the little house and the 1-acre of land it was sitting on for $10,000. Below are a few Polaroid snapshots of the place just prior to my purchasing the place. You can click on photos to enlarge….

Old House Duo - 01

Old House Duo - 02

Now granted, it wasn’t much to look at but I saw some potential there and let’s not forget, it was a natural stone house! The house certainly needed some work here and there but it was quite livable and functional from the git-go. Being a one bedroom it was going to be the smallest living space I had ever occupied but room was not a real issue with me being single. The duplex where I was living at the time was two-bedroom and I pretty much just used the second bedroom for storage and such anyway.

This was the first home I had ever owned so the freedom I felt to make changes and improve both the inside and outside of the house had me pumped up. The inside of the house was quite small of course so I was quite limited as to what could be done there. I did have the old grayish-white roofing removed and replaced with new brown shingles. The outside, being a one-acre plot on the other hand, was a different story and I have always enjoyed doing landscaping work.

And so it was that after deciding how I wanted to approach the landscaping of the property I was off and running. I would end up planting some ten small Scotch pine trees around the property; I would install a 2-rail pole fence around the entire property; I would redo the gravel driveway and enlarge my parking area; I would build numerous planters; I had a large concrete patio poured in the back of the house and had a network of decorative concrete blocks installed to finish off the changes; lastly I would tear down a large old outbuilding in the back of the property and replace it with a nice, large storage shed. Photos follow of the finished project and you can click on photos to enlarge….

New House Duo - 01a

New House Duo - 02a

I owned the home for about three years but eventually sold it as the job I was working in the area was coming to a close and I would be moving to a new location in the near future. It was a great life experience and I got much satisfaction from my endeavors. The house sold for a little over $20,000 when I sold it.

“I thought it was stupid!” – Robert Redford

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - 1969I recently had an opportunity to re-watch a film which I had not seen in years. That film which was certainly quite well known was “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” which was released way back in 1969. Gosh, it just doesn’t seem like it was some forty-five years ago when I first watched that movie. And of course who can mention this particular film and not in the same breath mention the song “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” which was sung and recorded by B.J. Thomas that same year. For most the film and the song are synonymous.

I was, however, to also learn during this particular airing of the film that all was not as it seemed back in the beginning with regard to the film and this particular song. There was much discussion as to whether the song fit the film in any regard. And as recently as April of 2012 during an interview at the London Film Festival one of the stars of the film, Robert Redford, noted that the music played a huge role in the film’s success but at the time they were filming he thought it was stupid to put that particular song in the film. Redford noted, “Suddenly there was a scene where the guy was singing “Raindrops Falling on My Head” and it wasn’t even raining. Well… how wrong was I?”

The song was released in October of 1969 to very mixed reviews. It wasn’t particularly a good fit with the hit songs on the charts at the time competing against number one songs at the time to the likes of “Can’t Get Next To You” by The Temptations; Sugar, Sugar by The Archies; Suspicious Minds by Elvis; Wedding Bell Blues by The Fifth Dimension; Leaving On A Jet Plane by Peter, Paul & Mary.

A separate version of the song was recorded specifically for the film which included a separate instrumental break when Paul Newman did a few bicycle stunts during the subject music sequence. The entire filmed sequence centered around two of the lead characters, Paul Newman and Katherine Ross, riding on a bicycle in one manner or another.

Despite the song’s initial slow rise in popularity, with the release of the film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” in December of 1969 “Raindrops Falling on My Head” shot up to Number One in January of 1970 and held that position for four weeks. It sold some 200,000 to 300,000 records a day and continued selling for about three years. Written by Hal David and Bert Bacharach, it won an Academy Award for both “Best Original Song” and for “Best Original Score”.

Below is a video clip of the scene in discussion along with the song courtesy of “Turner Classic Movies“…

As we now know of course, the song became almost iconic after it became a part of the film. And to this day I suspect it is hard for anyone who was old enough to remember the release of the film or the song to think of one without thinking of the other. And can’t you imagine just how bad Mr. Redford must feel about his prior misgivings! :)

Those damn little oak tree “thingys”….

Dear Diary…

Oak Tree Flower - 07

Oak Tree Male Flower (Thingy)

I think if there are any truisms out there that are indeed “true”, the one inferring that we’re never too old to learn surely has to be up there somewhere among the top ones. As a classic example, I have spent my entire life referring to those tassel-looking things that fall off of oak trees every spring and cause a great deal of mess on my roof and driveway as “those oak tree thingys”. It is probably one of my life’s greatest educational failures that I have known no other terminology for those creations of nature than “thingys” but I, nor for that matter, anyone else in my circle of family and friends seemed any more enlightened on the subject. If they were, they chose not to share it with me and left me running a muck in this world emulating yet another one of those sometimes referred to ‘dumb Southerners’.

But as of very recently that has changed as I have once again taken to the Internet to see if I couldn’t come up with something more sophisticated in nature (no pun intended) to better define and describe those little “thingys”. I am happy to say it was a successful venture and I can now refer to those “thingys” which have been such a pain in the butt over the years in a much more appropriate manner.

As it turns out those things I call “thingys” are actually flowers. Yep… and they even have a gender. They’re ‘male’ flowers. The whole drooping, hanging “thingy” is made up of very tiny little male flowers which at a designated point in time release their yellow pollen in hopes of finding an oak tree’s female flower, a human’s nose, or better yet a nice, clean car. Seems it matters not which one!

Now the female flower is very, very tiny and is normally located where a leaf stem joins the twig or small branch from which it is attached. And if the female flower is pollinated, she will grow into a nice little acorn. The acorn as I already knew, falls from the tree and if not consumed by a tree rat, will quite possibly grow into another stately oak tree. That fact led me to the conclusion that all our oak trees must then be female oak trees. I’ve never really thought about trees having a gender before but I guess that’s all changed now! I guess when someone asks me what kind of tree this is or that is I’ll also have to tell them what sex it is! :?

Oak Tree Flower - 05

Oak Tree Female Flower

I actually learned one other thing during this educational adventure, that being that “thingy” is actually a real word and not something just made up by us less fortunate who sometimes find themselves a bit short on the command of the English language.