Posts Tagged ‘review’

Kelly SedingerThere’s this guy in western New York named Kelly Sedinger who has been blogging regularly since early 2002. I have no real idea how I came across Byzantium’s Shores, but it would have had to have been after I started my daily prattling in 2005. For most of the time, he used the nom de blog Jaquandor, but much less so now.

Besides his now-tempered following of the Buffalo Bills football team, his exquisite knowledge of classical music, and his odd attraction to a pie in the face, Kelly’s driving force has always been the power of the written word.

In 2014, he not only wrote but published Stardancer, which he sent to me. I enjoyed it, but have not yet gotten to the other books in the Song of Forgotten Stars Trilogy.

Yet, when I read the prologue to his supernatural thriller, The Chilling Killing Wind, I was compelled to immediately buy the book, a Christmas present from me to me.

It is about a guy named John Lazarus, who had attended the executions of two of the murderers of his wife Michelle and was about to attend the third, and final, one, that of Roy Edgar Chalmers.

Lazarus is a professor and an ex-cop, now living with his fiancee, Ellen, still negotiating the relationship vis a vis the memory of Michelle.

John isn’t expecting “closure” with Chalmers’ death, any more than he felt it after the executions of Luther Mayhew and Raoul Serrano before. He doesn’t know how little closure until a string of murders rock the small Michigan town where he lives.

I received the book on a Friday and finished it by Tuesday. It was a compelling read. I don’t read murder mysteries, but my daughter has begun watching certain TV procedurals, and without getting too much into it, he seemed to follow the form without being formulaic.

Kelly seemed to think his YA sci-fi was something my daughter would enjoy, and she might if she gave it a chance. But I gather she’ll almost certainly enjoy The Chilling Killing Wind. There are minor issues I could note, including at least one typo, but I was glad to have read this.

I’m not sure where Kelly goes from here, though. He has proposed a John Lazarus series, and I’ll be curious how that will shake out.

can you ever forgive meWhat is extraordinary about Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which my wife and I saw at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany recently, is how one manages to care about the protagonist, very much in spite of herself. This is based on a true story, generated from Lee Israel’s 2008 memoir.

Lee (Melissa McCarthy) was a biographer in the 1970s and 1980s of actress Tallulah Bankhead, journalist and game show panelist Dorothy Kilgallen, and cosmetics tycoon Estée Lauder. The Kilgallen book appeared on The New York Times Best Sellers List, but the Lauder book was a disaster.

By the early 1990s, her work had dried up, her agent (Jane Curtin) ducked her calls, and she was having difficulty making ends meet. The veterinarian wouldn’t even treat her cat. Moreover, her personality, fueled in part by alcohol consumption, tended to be abrasive.

Lee sold a couple genuine letters of famous people to Anna (Dolly Wells), a sweet young woman who inherited her bookstore owner and was interested in Israel’s talent and persona. For the money, Lee starts to forge letters of deceased writers and actors and selling them to Anna and other dealers. She also started to steal actual letters of famous persons from archives and libraries, replacing them with forgeries.

Israel coincidentally runs into an old acquaintance Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant) at a local bar. To her surprise, they become not just drinking buddies but actual friends. It’s the core relationship in the movie. Can You Ever Forgive Me? is not a fast-paced story or overwrought drama but a too-believable tale of what one will do to survive.

Julianne Moore was initially attached to the role of Lee Israel, but Melissa McCarthy, mostly known for her comic portrayals, was excellent in the role. It is unsurprising that the film received 98% positive reviews from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, but only about 83% from audiences.

A Star Is BornI saw A Star Is Born (2018) without a lot of preconceptions. I never saw the 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. And I’d all but forgotten the existence of the 1954 iteration with Judy Garland and James Mason. Both were mentioned in the credits. According to the IMBD, the 1937 take with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, which I was totally unfamiliar with, is NOT credited.

The current film was really solid from the beginning when we first meet Ally (Lady Gaga). She is a shy performer who lives with her loving, though blowhard, father Lorenzo (Andrew Dice Clay).

By chance, she meets Jackson (Bradley Cooper), a superstar singer and guitar player. The movie, from the beginning until when Ally finally goes on the big stage, I love.

After that, A Star Is Born is pretty solid, though there are probably a couple scenes the director (Bradley Cooper) or one of the writers (including Cooper) might have trimmed. Still, not bad for a first-time director. Lady Gaga is excellent; expect an Oscar nod. Cooper is a very good singer in the country-rock genre.

They weren’t the first stars attached to this project over the years.

Clay, a comedian I didn’t like in the day, I thought was quite fine. And Sam Elliot is always great; here he plays Jack’s protective older brother Bobby.

But a technical glitch at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany diminished the experience. It wasn’t the quality of the filmmaking, it was the quality of the film. It stuttered – think of a compact disc that is stuck – at least six times during the previews.

It happened at least five times during the movie itself, usually not in critical points, although there was an important scene near the end which was negatively affected.

It stuttered so often during the closing credits that I, a huge credits fan, left after the 12th interruption. I know others had already complained, but we went to the concession stand to add our voices. We were told the theater thought it was only on the preview section, not the film itself.

Also, they didn’t want to disappoint viewers by canceling the showing. Guess what: We WERE disappointed that they DIDN’T cancel. I also went online to complain, and to the Landmark Theatre’s credit, they mailed me coupons good for two movie tickets and two small bags of popcorn.

There was a recent Daily Double on the game show JEOPARDY, in the category PARDONER: Ronald Reagan pardoned this owner for illegal campaign contributions in 1989–the Gipper a Yankees fan?

The contestant guessed George Steinbrenner and was, of course, correct. What other owner of that American League franchise could many people name? And which other owner would be in need of Presidential absolution?

Steinbrenner – The Last Lion of Baseball was written by Bill Madden, a well-regarded writer who had a “mostly pleasant working relationship with George in his “capacity as a baseball writer” for UPI and then the New York Daily News. But Madden was furious when he had been fed some bogus story by Steinbrenner about how Lou Pinella, a manager George fired, was trying to steal the furniture.

Steinbrenner was always firing managers, publicity directors, and general managers, who presumably run the day-to-day operations of a team. But it was difficult for all of them because he was a hands-on owner, luring or aggravating the players.

George grew up in Ohio and made his wealth first by reviving the family-owned Kinsman Marine Transit Company, then purchasing it from his family. He later was a co-owner of the American Shipbuilding Company, and, in 1967, he became its chairman and chief executive officer. By 1972, the company’s gross sales were more than $100 million annually.

CBS bought the New York Yankees in 1965, but it was not a good fit. Early in 1973, Steinbrenner, who had tried and failed to buy the Cleveland Indians in 1971, led a group of investors in purchasing the Yankees for $10 million. However, part of the price was two parking garages that CBS bought back the garages for $1.2 million, so the net cost was $8.8 million.

One of my friends recently told me that, though he grew up as a Yankees fan, he changed allegiances, and it was entirely because of the massive amounts Steinbrenner spent in trying to buy championships. I get that. During his 37-year ownership from 1973 to his death in July 2010, the Yankees did earn seven World Series titles and 11 American League pennants.

Madden’s book was exceedingly thorough and obviously well researched. I was feeling a bit exhausted, though, about three-quarters of the way through the 430-page book. Oh, yeah, ANOTHER manager fired – he hired and fired former Yankee infielder Billy Martin FIVE times as manager!

Or dissing one of his players; in 1990, baseball commissioner Fay Vincent booted Steinbrenner out of baseball “for having paid a two-bit gambler to dig up dirt on the Dave Winfield Foundation.” George once dubbed Winfield Mr. May for a poor post-season.

In many ways, George Steinbrenner was a loud, pompous, opinionated, stubborn rich fellow who reminded me of a current part-time DC resident. At least George could play the stadium organ. Oh, yeah, Reagan pardoned Steinbrenner for his really minor financial role in the Watergate scandal.

Fahrenheit 11 9.The family saw Fahrenheit 11/9 at the Spectrum Theater this month. I knew it was going to be heavily about the guy currently running the regime, but it was a lot more than that.

In fact, what filmmaker Michael Moore said about him early on was, as Moore noted, known or at least knowable. OK, there was one thing I was not aware of, involved Gwen Stefani. The filmmaker did confirm what I suspected about the motivation for the candidate’s campaign run.

Moore showed Michigan governor Rick Snyder, a Republican elected in 2010, as a prototype for the former Apprentice star. The agendas were similar: reduce democracy, big tax breaks for the rich, “remove services from the people, especially from the poor. There’s a racial element to it” as well, as seen painfully in the Flint water crisis that his administration created.

One of the members of my church who saw Fahrenheit 11/9 before I did, complained that Barack Obama came to Flint and did nothing. I disagree; he deflated people’s hopes, and in an unnecessary manner.

Even though I noted it in this blog at the time, listening to now-former CBS head honcho Les Moonves tout the great ratings the reality show guy was creating for the network was really revolting. Likewise that interview Matt Lauer did of the party’s presidential candidates in the summer of 2016; he was unrelenting about Hillary’s emails but offered up softballs to the Republican. Ditto Charlie Rose’s coverage. All three, not so incidentally, were ousted from their positions as sexual predators.

The news outlets, as my friend Dan noted, presented “him nonstop as an entertaining TV personality full of outrageous antics while suppressing mention of other candidates… that is, besides a coordinated campaign of negatives about Ms. Clinton as a sideshow.” The reality show host was able to “normalize” some outrageous behavior.

“Also, [Moore] convincingly demonstrates that Bernie Sanders actually won more than half a dozen other states in the Primary election, but” the use of the superdelegates undermined the will of the electorate. “For example, Mr. Sanders won all 55 counties in the West Virginia Primary…”

Can we stop this “calculated slide into fascism and chaos”? A stream of often young, frequently female candidates, give hope, though the pushback from establishment Democrats, embodied here by House party whip Steny Hoyer, makes one wonder.

I’ve seen a lot of Michael Moore films over the years. This one is less optimistic than most, but perhaps that’s the nature of the situation. If you like Moore’s work, you’ll probably appreciate – enjoy isn’t the right word – Fahrenheit 11/9. If you hate his documentaries, you’ll likely despise this movie.

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