Movie review: The Fabelmans

Director/co-writer Steven Spielberg

FabelmansI believe the film The Fabelmans is underrated. That may seem to be an odd conclusion, given the fact that it won the Golden Globe for Best Drama and director Steven Spielberg. Plus, it’s been nominated for seven Academy Awards.

It’s the commentaries, and I’ve read a few of them, that say, e.g., that “the ending is something of a foregone conclusion, as we all know what happened to Spielberg.” I think this is a banal observation, given the number of movies based on actual events for which the audience may know the outcome.

In any case, the protagonist is Sammy Fabelman (Gabrielle LaBelle), whose life is a fictionalized portrayal of Spielberg’s journey. It’s the journey that is interesting.

His mother, Mitzi (Michelle Williams), is a talented pianist without much chance to express it. Her artistic outlet was supporting Sammy’s desire to film everything, a passion that started after a family outing to a movie.

His dad, Burt (Paul Dano), a technological innovator, tolerates his son’s “hobby,” a term Sammy rails against.  Burt’s friend and colleague Bennie (Seth Rogan) is a like an uncle to the Fabelman kids.


The movie worked for me because it shared some universal truths about family dynamics. Couples are complicated. Secrets are kept. For instance,  that uncle Boris (Judd Hirsch), who Mitzi’s mother warned Mitzi about from the grave, shows up.

Mostly, it’s about how, sometimes, an artist is compelled to do their art. Looking back at his growing up so late in his career may have given Spielberg the perspective a younger writer-director could not have mined as well.

Some critics thought it was overly sentimental. Sentimental, sure, but it also shows some family members as fish out of water, especially when the Fabelmans leave the relative comfort of Arizona for the foreign land that is California.

All the Oscar nominees are deserving. I was particularly taken by the not-nominated Paul Dano, whose Burt is walking a tightrope between being the left-brained breadwinner and trying to address his wife’s and son’s more right-brained passions.I’ve never favored the idea of a performance being ‘snubbed,” but some have used the term about his performance.

My wife and I saw the film at Albany’s Spectrum Theatre in mid-January.

March rambling #2: librocubicularist

They don’t think capitalism will exist by then

Lao Tzu
The invasion of Iraq more than a US “blunder,” or “colossal mistake;” it was a crime

The Return of the Chicken Hawks

John Bolton Paid Cambridge Analytica $1.2 Million to Make Americans ‘More Militaristic’

Scientific American: Why Are White Men Stockpiling Guns?

Give Teachers Guns, And More Black Children Will Die

How baby-toting, robed-and-hooded moms paved the way for today’s white hate groups

Surveillance footage shows the Las Vegas gunman’s methodical steps in the days just before the massacre

Obamas to Parkland students: “You’ve helped awaken the conscience of the nation”

I Tried to Befriend Nikolas Cruz; he Still Killed My Friends

Don Blankenship, the worst man in America, is running for Senate

“Death Penalty for Drug Dealers” Proposal Reeks of Eugenics

Non-disclosure agreements for White House staff? Not so fast

Why the Stormy Daniels story matters – it’s not about sex, it’s about the abuse of power

Austin Goolsbee says the tariffs are like his Aunt Trina’s lasagna

After the Storm – post-hurricanes Irma and Maria in the U.S. Virgin Islands last fall, some people showed up and stayed

New York City exporting homeless families to other parts of the state, including my hometown of Binghamton

Some millennials aren’t saving for retirement because they don’t think capitalism will exist by then

Living like I’m dying

NY Mets hitter Rusty Staub dies at 73

Kimmel Produces PSA For Melania’s ‘Cyberbullying’ Campaign

How to Decipher a Sarah Huckabee Sanders Press Conference

Librocubicularist (noun; plural: librocubicularists) (rare) A person who reads in bed

Bill Messner-Loebs, comic book artist worked on Wonder Woman and Thor, now homeless

Every Wes Anderson Movie, Ranked Worst to Best

Lois Weber, early 20th-century filmmaker

Sophia Jex-Blake, part of the Edinburgh Seven who campaigned for the right of women to study medicine

Steven Spielberg Doesn’t Think Netflix Movies Should Qualify for Oscars

Now I Know: How Chairman Mao Turned Freedom into Oppression and How Hitchcock Kept Psycho a Secret and How a Nearly-Perfect Crime Became Perfect Again and When the Driver Walks Away and Why Tennis Balls Are Yellow and Why You Shouldn’t Eat Those “Do Not Eat” Packets

Lois Lane, The Pulitzer Committee Wants Their Prizes Back

A video essay about cartoon sound effects

“73 Questions” video – Christine Pedi as Liza


Three Manhattan Bridges, for Piano and Orchestra: I. George Washington Bridge – Michael Torke, composer; Albany Symphony Orchestra, David Alan Miller, conductor; Joyce Yang – piano; Torke, Miller, Yang discuss the work

Pluto – King of the Underworld (Hades) – Taimane

Chicken Shack Boogie – Amos Milburn

Snake Farm – Ray Wylie Hubbard

Hendrix doing Hendrix on an acoustic guitar

5 O’Clock World – the Vogues, with more of their songs

Long Time Gone -Tom Jones & Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Coverville 1210: Aerosmith Cover Story II

WKRP in Cincinnati new home recordings and end theme lyrics

TV Theme Song medley – Jimmy Fallon & Will Smith

Stream a 346-Hour Chronological Playlist of Live Grateful Dead Performances (1966-1995)

DJT and I have the same favorite song

The curiously elusive date of Bach’s birthday

Director Steven Spielberg turns 70

Spielberg won the Academy Award for Best Director for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan.

steven-spielbergHe’s Steven Spielberg, for crying out loud, one of the most consequential movie directors and producers of all time, and certainly of the past half-century. I was fascinated to see all the work he’s done in the 21st century that I have NOT seen.

Early on, Spielberg also directed episodes of TV shows that I watched, often religiously, such as Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law; Columbo; The Name of the Game; Night Gallery; and Marcus Welby, M.D., all in 1969-1971, but since I didn’t KNOW it was Spielberg, I’ll pass on those.

1968 Amblin’ (director of the Short) – I saw this well after Steven Spielberg became successful. Not much happens here. A couple of hitchhikers, no dialogue. But it’s from whence he named his productions from Amblin Entertainment

1974 The Sugarland Express (story, director) – This I also saw much later, much more fully realized
1977 Close Encounters of the Third Kind (written by, director) – I saw this in at least two different iterations; not sure the expanded version is better, but I was very fond of the original

1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark (director); 1989 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (director) – no, I never saw the second film. I think I liked the third film more than the first in some ways because the Sean Connery character made Indiana more real
1981 Continental Divide (executive producer) – I recall this John Belushi/Blair Brown comedy was savaged at the time, but I liked it, and current critics seemed to warm to it
1982 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (producer/director) – I loved the suburban kid angst, and just about everything about the movie until the bike scene at the end, which I found sappy
1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie (producer, director of segment 2) – saw this movie in Binghamton, NY
1985 Back to the Future 1989 Back to the Future Part II 1990 Back to the Future Part III (executive producer of all) – I should write about all of these, but liked the 1st, was depressed by that tricky middle act and thought the western motif in the 3rd was a hoot
1985 The Color Purple (producer/director) – a lot of good things, and its flaws were minor compared with the angst over a white guy directing this. Is this still the movie with the most Oscar nominations that won zero awards?

1986 The Money Pit (executive producer) – enjoyable enough, I think, but I don’t remember it well
1986 An American Tail (executive producer) – I was taken by the story
1985-1987 Amazing Stories (TV Series) (executive producer – 45 episodes, director – two episodes) – watched fairly regularly. As anthologies go, uneven, but worthwhile
1987 Empire of the Sun (producer/director) – I fell asleep in the movie theater; not necessarily a reflection on the film, just my fatigue
1988 Who Framed Roger Rabbit (executive producer) – I loved that movie, but have not seen it since
1989 Always (producer/director) – it has Audrey Hepburn in her final role, and that’s enough for me

1991 Cape Fear (executive producer – uncredited) – never saw the original, but this was tension-inducing
1991 Hook (director) – somehow left me cold
1993 Jurassic Park (director) – one of the very few “popcorn movies” I’ve actually seen, and good for its genre
1993 Schindler’s List (producer/director) – profoundly moving. I think the two people I saw it with and I talked ABOUT it longer than the 195 minutes running time. Not sure that I ever want to see it AGAIN, but glad I saw it in the theater. It also engendered certain activism within Steven Spielberg to tell more Holocaust stories.
1993-1998 Animaniacs (TV Series) (executive producer – 99 episodes) – loved the self-referential schtick. a lot
1995-1998 Pinky and the Brain (TV Series) (executive producer – 60 episodes) – I lOVED this show. Probably didn’t find it until the second season

1996 Twister (executive producer) – serviceable film
1997 Men in Black 2002 Men in Black II (executive producer in both; actor – Alien on TV Monitor (uncredited) in 1st) – I surprisingly really enjoyed the first film, as it was very funny; the sequel I could have done without
1997 Amistad (producer/director) – a fascinating topic, important subject, I found the pacing rather slow, yet, by the end, I enjoyed it quite a bit
1998 Deep Impact (executive producer) – even within the genre, this seemed to be a preposterous story, told melodramatically

2001 Shrek (executive producer – uncredited) – I found it fun
2002 Catch Me If You Can (producer/director) – I liked this a lot, from the graphics to the characters well played by worldly Leo DiCaprio being pursued and hangdog Tom Hanks
2012 Lincoln (producer/director) – I know a lot of people thought this was a boring movie. I did not.

Steven Spielberg “won the Academy Award for Best Director for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, as well as receiving five other nominations… The unadjusted gross of all Spielberg-directed films exceeds $9 billion worldwide, making him the highest-grossing director in history… In 1987 he was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his work as a creative producer.” Here’s his 2006 induction for the Kennedy Center Honors.

J for Jewish History Museum


I saw a segment on CBS Sunday Morning earlier this year about the National Museum of American Jewish History, which opened in November 2010. I was unfamiliar with the facility, but I assumed it was somewhere in New York; I assumed incorrectly.

It is in fact located in Philadelphia, not far from Independence Hall. This was deliberate, a reflection of, initially, a “tiny minority [who] sought, defended, and tested freedom—in political affairs, in relations with Christian neighbors, and in their own understanding of what it meant to be Jewish.” Then “the migration of millions of immigrants who came to the United States beginning in the late 19th century and who profoundly reshaped the American Jewish community and the nation as a whole.”
“On the Museum’s first floor, the Only in America® Gallery/Hall of Fame illustrates the choices, challenges, and opportunities eighteen Jewish Americans encountered on their path to remarkable achievement.”

The first eighteen individuals to be featured in the Only in America® Gallery/Hall of Fame are:
Irving Berlin
Leonard Bernstein
Louis Brandeis
Albert Einstein
Mordecai Kaplan
Sandy Koufax
Esteé Lauder
Emma Lazarus
Isaac Leeser
Golda Meir
Jonas Salk
Menachem Mendel Schneerson
Rose Schneiderman
Isaac Bashevis Singer
Steven Spielberg
Barbra Streisand
Henrietta Szold
Isaac Mayer Wise

How many of the 18 can you identify? I knew 12.

And for no particular reason, here are:
America from West Side Story
There’s No Business Like Show Business, sung by Ethel Merman
A pivotal scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor

ABC Wednesday – Round 9

What TV Shows Are You Looking Forward To This Fall?

Are there any shows YOU are looking forward to?

I’ve been rereading the extensive list of shows that will be on ABC and CBS and NBC and FOX and the CW. I came to the conclusion that there probably isn’t a single new show that I’ll start watching. I’ve ODed on police procedurals, the comedies don’t sound particularly funny, and the few shows I might have given a chance to (ABC’s Pan Am, about the hassles of being an airline stewardess in the 1960s, for one) won’t last more than a month.

This is not such a bad thing, mind you. Every year for the last couple at least, I say I’m not going to add any more new shows to my DVR recording. two years ago, I lapsed and started to watch The Good Wife, but last year, nada. (I don’t think so, anyway.)

Are there any new shows YOU are looking forward to? I feel that I should be into FOX’s Terra Nova, especially with Steven Spielberg’s name attached, but I’m just not.

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