Friday, June 26, 2015

I'll See You in My Dreams: A Movie Review



I had arrived at the movie theatre to see I’ll See You in My Dreams fully expecting to see what was, at least for the most part, a funny or at least upbeat movie, based on the previews. A luminous Blythe Danner is cast in the role of Carol, a widow who finds herself grappling with the challenges that face many people, particularly women, in their twilight years.
Previews, however, can be misleading.  The film was, what is often referred to as, a “dramedy” and while it had touches of humor (particularly a scene in which Carol and her 70- something friends get high and develop the munchies, and one in which Carol takes a stab at speed dating) it was more poignant than funny. In fact, there were moments when the story takes a depressing turn.
The film begins on a sad note (this is hardly worth a spoiler alert since it occurs within the first 10 minutes of the movie) when Carol is forced to put down her beloved 14 year old dog.  The loss of that companionship highlights the fact that she now finds herself completely alone.  Widowed for 20 years, Carol has not dated in all that time.  Her daughter Katherine (Malin Akerman) lives miles away and Carol spends much of her time in the company of three close friends (Rhea Perlman, June Squibb, and Mary Kay Place, all of whom are equally well cast) golfing and playing cards.
(On a personal note, I enjoyed seeing the photo that sits on Carol’s mantel; it is a photo of a young Carol and her late husband and is actually one of Blythe Danner and her late husband, director Bruce Paltrow, with whom I worked many years ago.  There is also a karaoke scene, which I suspect is a nod to the film Duets, which was directed by Bruce and which starred their daughter, Gwyneth.)
While some might find Carol’s life enviable (she is after all, in apparent good health, has good friends, is great looking, and is financially secure) her sense of aloneness will resonate with most viewers.
In her quest to meet new people, she strikes up an unlikely friendship with her pool guy, Lloyd (Martin Starr) with whom, while consuming a lot of wine, she philosophizes about unfulfilled dreams.  Carol also develops a relationship with Bill (Sam Elliott,) an extremely handsome and charming man who is very attracted to her.
The story, written and directed by Brett Haley, unfolds as a series of sequences, examining the realities of life at a certain age, and the uncertainty of choices we’ve made in life.  Unlike The Great, Exotic, Marigold Hotel, which was geared towards a similar demographic and which tied things up neatly and offered viewers a satisfying ending, I’ll See You in My Dreams takes a more realistic view of life.  Ultimately Carol comes to accept the importance of living life to the fullest and making the most of each day.
Filmed on a relatively low budget, I’ll See You in My Dreams is a movie with some great insights and terrific acting, despite its sometimes melancholy tone.  Well worth seeing. 

Please continue following me on Rhodes Less Traveled.

And have a great weekend, Vivian
@VivianWrites

Friday, June 19, 2015

A HOLLYWOOD LOVE AFFAIR



There have been many noteworthy Hollywood love affairs throughout the years, but few as memorable nor as tragic as that of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.
Gable, “The King”, was an indisputable heartthrob in 1936, the year he met Lombard at a Hollywood party.  At 35, he was married to his second wife when he became smitten with the striking Lombard, who was seven years his junior and divorced from actor William Powell.  The chemistry between the two was mutual and grew even stronger once Gable was divorced.
Often described as devilishly handsome (in the 1938 film, Broadway Melody, a 14 year old Judy Garland memorably crooned the song, You Made Me Love You to a framed photo of Gable,) he was the man every woman wanted to be with and every man wanted to be.  He was a man’s man.  For her part, Lombard, blonde and leggy, starred in numerous screwball comedies and had that unique combination of sexiness and a wicked sense of humor.  It’s been said that she swore like a sailor and was known to play practical jokes whenever she had the opportunity.  By all accounts she was adored by film crews.
In January 1942, while returning from a tour to sell war bonds, the TWA DC-3 in which Lombard had been flying, crashed into Mt. Potosi, Nevada.  She and Gable had not yet been married three years when her plane went down. 
When Clark Gable arrived on the scene, he had to be physically restrained from climbing the snowcapped mountain in an attempt to rescue his wife.  His efforts would have been fruitless since all twenty-two passengers abroad, including Lombard’s mother, had died in the crash.
Gable sat on a stool at the nearby Pioneer Saloon, in Goodsprings, drinking whiskey and smoking cigar after cigar as he waited to hear the fate of his wife.  On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I visited the saloon, which was built in 1913, and is the oldest in So. Nevada. I looked at photos on display as I walked through a “memory room” that has been created to honor Gable and Lombard.
Friends claimed that Clark Gable was never the same after suffering this loss and in fact, when he died of a heart attack in 1961, his fifth wife had him buried in Los Angeles’ Forest Lawn, next to Carole Lombard, the love of his life.
Some love affairs are based in myth and some become the prototype to which others aspire.  Gable and Lombard’s love affair was the latter.
Ready to take a short quiz?  Can you correctly match up the famous relationships below?  Scroll down for the answers when you’re done.

THE MEN                                                         THE WOMEN
1.      Bogart                                                       a.  Woodward
2.      Reynolds                                                   b.  Tandy
3.      Wayne                                                       c.  McGraw
4.      Russell                                                       d. Gardner
5.      Cronyn                                                       e. Hepburn
6.      Pitt                                                             f. Radner
7.      Smith                                                         g. Bacall
8.      Arnaz                                                         h. Jolie
9.      Sinatra                                                       i.  Taylor
10.  McQueen                                                  j.  Davis
11.  Tracy                                                         k. Russell
12.  Newman                                                    l.  Hawn
13.  Merrill                                                       m.Pinkett
14.  Wilder                                                       n. Field
15.  Burton                                                       o. Ball

Hope everyone enjoys a great weekend (I'll be working hard on editing the second draft of my latest novel.)  Whatever you do have fun and stay safe.

And thanks for reading Rhodes Less Traveled (by the way, if you haven't already signed up to follow my blogs, please do.)  Vivian 















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Sunday, June 14, 2015

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD: A MOVIE REVIEW



Admittedly, I have never been a particular fan of author, Thomas Hardy, having been forced to read his works when I was a college student. That having been said, I find the story Far From the Madding Crowd, set in Victorian England, to be more compelling than others by Hardy.
            Briefly, it is the portrait of a proud and headstrong young woman, Bathsheba Everdene (Carrie Mulligan), who finds herself, thanks to a deceased uncle, the recipient of a rather huge inheritance.  Her lifestyle naturally changes, though her determination to be independent of men remains the same.  Throughout the film, Bathsheba attracts three suitors: Gabriel Oak, (Mathias Shoenaerts) a steadfast sheep farmer, Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge) a reckless sergeant, and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) a prosperous and eligible bachelor. Her attractions and her involvement with all three of these men basically comprise the core of the movie.
            This adaptation by director, Thomas Vinterberg, differs somewhat from the classic 1967 film which starred Julie Christie and Alan Bates.  For one thing, Christie as Bathsheba had more of an ethereal presence where Everdene’s Bathsheba is decidedly more earthly.  It is always difficult to try to compete with a film that many consider a classic, but I think this was a good attempt.  While some have questioned the casting of Belgium actor, Shoenaerts, I found his acting to be quite effective.  Regardless of one’s preference for the 1967 film or the 2015 film, Hardy’s message still comes through, that of a woman trying to balance her desire for independence with emotions over which she sometimes seems not to be in control.
            The pacing of the film, however, is slow and geared more to women who favor period pieces such as this. (To be fair, when I saw the film in the movie theater there were two men in the audience – though they both appeared to be accompanying their wives.)
            Still, if you’re a fan of Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey, then Far From the Madding Crowd might very well be your gently brewed cup of tea.
Out of five bags of popcorns, I’d give it three bags.

Thanks for reading Rhodes Less Travel and feel free to follow me on twitter @VivianWrites 

Have a nice weekend, Vivian

Thursday, June 4, 2015

MAD MEN: WHY WE LOVED IT SO MUCH



Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men (Courtesy of Flavorwire.com)
Just hearing the opening theme on Sunday night gave me, and millions of other viewers of Mad Men a tremendous feeling of satisfaction.  For 7 seasons (it premiered on AMC in July 2007 and had its final episode in May 2015) we followed the trials and tribulations of Peggy, Roger, Pete, Joan, Betty, and of course, Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm. 
The music evoked an era, as did the visuals. It should come as no surprise that Matthew Weiner, the creator, admits to having been greatly influenced by Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, in terms of production values.
Cary Grant as Roger Thorndike in Hitchcock's "North by Northwest"
Don, the fictional creative director of Sterling Cooper (the original agency before it was transformed by partnerships, take-overs, etc.) was the quintessential, uber advertising executive of the 1960’s – at least on paper.  An extraordinarily handsome womanizer, he was a genius in wooing both clients and a multitude of woman with charm and something intangible, possibly mystique. And Don was mysterious.  In fact, the basis of his character was the idea that for years no one knew much about the man with a secretive past and Don liked it that way.  
Don was classy and true to himself (it is interesting to note that while other male characters adapted to fashion trends throughout the run of the series, Don never changed his style) and even when we hated what he was doing, we found ourselves rooting for him.  Besides, his relationship with his daughter, Sally, always seemed to redeem him in our eyes.
Because of the superb writing and excellent acting, none of the characters were portrayed as cardboard figures.  They were flawed.  We loved them one week and hated them the next, or vice versa.  Peggy could be na├»ve, but stubborn.  Joan could use her sexiness to her advantage, but also lament being labeled as such.  Pete could be callous but also sensitive.  Betty, Don’s first wife, was cold at times, but the audience was usually made to see things from her perspective. My personal favorite was Roger (John Slattery) whose delivery of lines hit the mark, week after week.
Aside from the characters themselves, viewers enjoyed having a mirror set up, reflecting the era of the sixties.  For those of us who lived through the Kennedy assassination, the bee hive hairdos, the turmoil of the Civil Rights and Women’s’ movements, it was a chance to remember all of these in context.  For those too young to recall any of it, it was a fascinating history lesson.  This was particularly so when examining a period when people smoked like chimneys, drank like fish, and said things that were outrageously “un-P.C.”
Mad Men was a unique series and its storylines took us on unexpected, thrilling journeys.  I will miss it.
Thank you Matthew Weiner for a wonderful ride.

 And thank you all for reading my blog on Rhodes Less Followed today.  You can follow me on Twitter at @VivianWrites

Have a nice weekend, Vivian