Movie review: I, Tonya [as in Harding]

We thought that Margot Robbie captured the essence of Tonya Harding,

Some movies are more difficult to review than others, and I, Tonya is one of them. On one hand, it is a humorous film, making good use of the of the fourth wall to tell a story, or stories – it embraces its differing points of view – about what is referred to as The Incident, the injuring of skater Nancy Kerrigan by people around Tonya Harding.

On the other hand, it’s a lot about the abuse Tonya (Oscar-nominee Margo Robbie) withstands, first at the hands of her never satisfied mother LaVona Fay Golden (probable Oscar winner Alison Janney), then by her husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) in their odd love/hate relationship.

As someone who watched a LOT more figure skating in the day than he really cared about, I know it was also about how the girl from the proverbial wrong side of the tracks in Portland, OR never having the right “look”. Her skating was athletic – she was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition – but she lacked the grace, the elan that the skating community wanted to show.

I asked my local expert, my wife, what she thought of Robbie’s portrayal of Harding. She thought, and I concurred, that she captured the essence of Tonya, though she wasn’t as sinewy as the skater. We agreed, though, that the folks playing Tonya’s mom and husband, and especially Gilhooey’s lunkhead friend Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser), were spot on.

I continue to be amused by the fact that some people get up from the theater as soon as the credits begin rolling, even when those credits are paired with clips of the real people – Tonya, Jeff, LaVona, Shawn. Shawn really DID think he was a world-class international spy.

I liked the film because Tonya eventually overcame what was essentially a rigged system to become one of the best skaters in the world. She was turned into a national joke – the film Tonya points to a real David Letterman Top Ten – because of a ridiculous and ineptly executed plan not of her design. She was banned from participating in the only thing to do what she knew how to do, yet she survived.

I, Tonya speaks of the curse of celebrity, with the swarm of reporters camped outside her door for a time. A television infotainment reporter (Bobby Cannavale) admits how the medium sensationalized that narrative until the Next Big Thing came along.

And, as noted, I did love the storytelling device of the film. Tonya talks about all the specific difficult things she went through to train for the 1994 Olympics, and her coach Diane Rawlinson (Julianne Nicholson) looks into the camera and says, “And she did!” I laughed aloud through much of the dark comedy.

My wife, who wanted to see the film more than I, enjoyed it less, because of all that Tonya went through, starting at age of four. Of course, we saw this at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany.

Connective tissue on Groundhog Day

This is Smalbany, so SURELY they would have met each other by now.

On February 2, my friend Mark, who I’ve known since 1971, when I met him in at college, wrote: “I was at a concert recently and met a woman named Judy. She has friend-requested me [on Facebook], saying she knows Roger Green. I think you’ve mentioned her over the years.”

And evidently, I mentioned him to Judy, who I’ve only known since 1977, when I met her in that same college town. Judy’s also met other friends of mine, somehow, and realized they both knew me.

That evening, I went to First Friday at my church. The singer, Carla, who sang beautifully, BTW, has known a woman I’ve known through the library foundation for years. My activist friends Lynne and Dan were there, who I’ve known since the early 1980s. So was my activist friend Darby, who I’ve known since the late 1980s.

This is Smalbany, so SURELY they would have met each other by now. They knew other people in common besides me. But no, they had never crossed paths. So I introduced them.

And because it’s been on my mind a LOT lately, we discussed genealogy. Darby, Dan, and I all have misidentified ancestors in our family trees. As I’ve noted, mine involves my father’s biological father.

My second cousin Lisa called me that day. We’re working on a project that I’ll describe soon. She’s been doing genealogy of her family for years, and of course, there is some crossover.

To that end, she’s pretty much ordered me to do one of those DNA tests that Ancestry and others sell. Lisa had done hers and it pretty much disproved a family myth in her lines. But maybe some of the other lines in my past will tell a different story.

I related much of this to my wife just before we went to bed. She said, “You have an interesting life.” I guess I do.

Movie review: Phantom Thread

When my wife and I saw Phantom Thread at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany one Saturday afternoon in February, I was not quite sure what the title meant. Was it the secret messages that he sewn into each piece of apparel he makes? Maybe.

Or perhaps it’s the emotional push and pull of the three primary characters. Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a renowned dressmaker in 1950s London. The confirmed bachelor decides that his current girlfriend needs to be sent away because her capacity to inspire him has diminished.

Then he meets a somewhat awkward young woman Alma (Vicky Krieps) who he attempts to mold based on his needs. Buttering toast never sounded so loud. But she is more strong-willed than she appears at first.

His sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), my favorite character, is his majordomo; almost everything runs through her, which was confusing/frustrating to Alma for a time.

The relationship between Reynolds and Alma operates on two speeds, great love and irritated indifference on his part, the latter tied to his fastidious creative process. Alma understands the latter but obviously prefers the former and does what she needs to foment it. It is, let’s say, a dysfunction romance.

The movie looks marvelous, with great use of color. Reynolds looks great, even when he ought not, and Alma is transformed. I liked it well enough to recommend, though it is at 130 minutes, a little slow, especially in the beginning. Its R rating is for the occasional F-word.

Phantom Thread is Paul Thomas Anderson’s eighth movie, and his second collaboration with Daniel Day-Lewis, the first being There Will Be Blood (2007), which I did not see. I have seen Andersen’s Punch-Drunk Love (2002) and Boogie Nights (1997).

Whether or not this turns out to be Daniel Day-Lewis’ last film, he’s deserving of the Oscar nod here, though he will not win. I discovered that I saw him in several films – Gandhi (1984), A Room With a View (1985), and My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) – before I really knew his name.

I watched his breakout role in My Left Foot (1989) for which he would win an Oscar. It’s likely I saw The Age of Innocence (1992) and In the Name of the Father (1993) at the Spectrum, but I never saw him again until Lincoln (2012).

G is for generations of grandmother

Here’s another of those family pictures that, until late last year, I had never seen before in my life. There are a lot of them, actually, not always labeled, regrettably.

This photograph, I’m pretty sure who the folks in the picture are. The child in the front is Gertrude Williams, the younger. Her mother unimaginatively named her daughter after herself. Isn’t that what happened on the TV show Gilmore Girls?

In her youth, she was Gertie. But at some point, after she married Leslie H. Green in 1950, she became Trudy Green. That’s my mom, looking unhappy in the majority of the photos around that period. Of course, she was my daughter’s paternal grandmother. The last time The Daughter saw my mom was when The Daughter was five, so she doesn’t remember her well. Mom died in 2011.

What she does remember is a photo of herself surrounded by her two grandmas, taken at my mother-in-law’s former home. It IS a pretty nifty shot, which, I think, I took on one of those disposable cameras. And I try to keep Trudy alive to The Daughter through stories.

The woman to the left is Gertrude Williams, nee Yates. Mom’s mom, my grandmother, who I saw a lot growing up. As kids, my sisters and I would go to her house every school day for lunch since my mom worked outside the home. And we spent a LOT of time there in the summers. It was only six very short blocks from our house to hers. She died on Super Bowl Sunday 1983.

The woman on the right is Adenia Yates, my grandmother’s younger sister, my great aunt. I taught Deana how to play canasta, which I learned from my paternal grandmother, Agatha Green. Deana died around 1966.

I assume the woman in the middle is Lillian Yates Holland, mother of Gertrude and Adenia, and grandmother to my mother. (Lillian’s mother, my mother’s grandmother, Harriet Archer, died in 1928.) They all lived in a little house in Binghamton, NY, with other family members until Lillian died in 1938.

I could probably just post these pictures every week.

For ABC Wednesday

Presidents Day 2018: From Ghost Town to Havana

Barack Obama, the Best Wedding Guest Ever?

America, Please Stop Creating Myths about Your Presidents

Thomas Jefferson’s Silent Armies

Thomas Jefferson wrote his own epitaph never mentioning that he served as president. His epitaph read, “Author of the Declaration of American Independence, Author of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and the Father of the University of Virginia.

Her mother said they descended from ‘a president and a slave.’ What would their DNA say?

Should Trump Be Impeached? Why Founding Father James Madison Would Support Impeachment

Should Andrew Jackson Have Banned Catholics?

The Return of the President – Zachary Taylor

Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait, James Earl Jones with the Seattle Symphony; Gerard Schwarz, conductor

Guest blogger Abe Lincoln thanks the (non-idiot) people of Alabama

Lincoln Memorial

Grant Appointed General-in-Chief of Union Army: March 9, 1864

William McKinley was the first president to campaign by telephone

Teddy Roosevelt’s Secret

Warren Harding was the first president to speak over the radio

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

The first video re: Frank Buxton, R.I.P. is applicable to the category

FDR documentary

FDR and Robert Trout

Dorothea Lange’s Censored Photographs of FDR’s Japanese Concentration Camps

John F. Kennedy was the first president to hold a press conference on television

Reference in Reagan ad is to the movie Hong Kong (1952): “The theft of a jeweled treasure is within an adventurer’s grasp; he is restrained by his love for a good woman.”

Bill Clinton once lost the nuclear codes for months, and a ‘comedy of errors’ kept anyone from finding out

From Ghost Town to Havana: Two Teams, Two Countries, One Game – “But what I didn’t expect was that the whole trip happened because Corr got mad at George W. Bush”

The Verdict Is in: Guess Who’s the Worst President in US History?

May 2009: President Obama going to a Five Guys to get some burgers to go

Alabama lawyer reveals Obama’s demand for loyalty when first meeting with US attorneys

May 2016: President Obama and the First Lady hosted the Broadway cast of the musical Hamilton

Barack Obama: ‘Think before you tweet’

Barack Obama, the Best Wedding Guest Ever? Ex-President Officiates Washington Wedding

President Trump makes Disney World debut