A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Beautiful Day in the NeighborhoodThe movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood I thought was going to be some sort of biopic about Mr. Fred Rogers. But it really wasn’t.

Rather, the story concentrated on a hard-bitten journalist Tom Junod. He’s called Lloyd Vogel in the film, played by Matthew Rhys (The Americans; Brothers and Sisters). Lloyd is assigned to write a puff piece on the television performer (Tom Hanks). He interviewed Rogers extensively for what was supposed to be a 400-word piece in Esquire magazine. Because of that very clever angle, the story worked.

Tom Hanks, nominated for Best Supporting Actor in the Golden Globes, embodies Fred Rogers without overtly imitating him. I was astounded by a couple of interviewers suggesting to Hanks that playing Mr. Rogers must have been easy. Fred Rogers was nice. Tom Hanks seems nice. Those reporters showed no understanding of the craft in creating a specific persona.

Even though it it less Fred’s story than Lloyd’s, the values of guy in the cardigan sweater are clearly infused. One of the funny moments was in the trailer, but still worked. Lloyd’s wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) says to her husband, “please don’t ruin my childhood.” Chris Cooper is strong as Lloyd’s estranged father.

For its time

As Ken Levine put it in his review: “As I was watching it I thought, if Fred Rogers hadn’t really existed no one would ever buy this film. We’d all be saying, ‘No one is that genuine and kind-hearted.’ But of course he was. And my second thought was ‘Boy, we sure could use him now.'” That last sentiment shows up at least in the subtext of many of the reviews I read.

I’m glad this was not the standard biopic because the 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor, which I loved, already covered that territory. And if it isn’t quite as strong as the doc, the biopic nevertheless stands on its own.

(Conversely, I had a much different feeling after seeing two films about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The documentary RBG was great. The biopic On the Basis of Sex was extraneous unless you’d never seen RBG.)

I recommend A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which did made me feel better about the world. Oh, and check out a piece from the Washington Post: “What happened when I showed vintage Mister Rogers to my 21st-century kids.”


I got a great deal of enjoyment about the memes on Facebook about Tom Hanks in movies, that you wouldn’t want to travel with him.

sullyThe movie Sully should not have worked. There’s a major event, which you almost certainly know about because they wouldn’t have made the film otherwise. You KNOW it has a positive outcome. The picture shows the event TWICE. And yet the audience is on pins and needles, both times, including me.

This is fine film making by director Clint Eastwood about airline pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), where experience outweighs the machines. It is what happens when one man simply does his job every day in a professional manner. The one odd thing – and maybe this really happened – is that Sully’s dealing with his wife Lorrie are all on the phone, so one doesn’t get a real strong feel for her character.

The Wife and I saw Sully at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany last month and were happy to spend the 90 minutes. And I LOVED seeing the real people at the end, including many of the passengers.

Unfortunately, I read a lot of reviews before I saw the film. A few of those folks thought that the National Transportation Safety Board members were somehow persecuting Sully for his arguably risky maneuver. Whether it actually happened that way – movies based on real life are not supposed to be documentaries – I thought the questions from the NTSB folks were quite reasonable, in an attempt to learn for future situations. If they were a little too “villainous”, it served the story.

I got a great deal of enjoyment about the memes on Facebook about Tom Hanks in movies, that you wouldn’t want to travel with him, lest one be captured by Somali pirates (Captain Phillips), get stuck talking with a volleyball (Cast Away), get stuck in an airport (The Terminal), or get stuck in space (Apollo 13).

37th Annual Kennedy Center Honors

I’m sure I first heard The Police on WQBK-FM, my favorite radio station in 1979.

al greenI’m on the record being a real sucker for the Kennedy Center Honors, an “awards show” like no other. Five legendary performers get to sit with the President and First Lady and watch others honor them by singing their songs, saying their words, and the like, with the performers, kept secret from the honorees until the curtain opens. The event will be recorded Sunday, December 7, 2014, and broadcast on CBS-TV on December 30, 2014, at 9:00-11:00 p.m., ET/PT. This year’s honorees, like most years, features four people I know quite well, and one, I must say, who is unfamiliar to me.

The one is Patricia McBride, “renowned American ballerina.” However, my wife has seen her perform when the New York City Ballet would perform at the Saratoga Performing Art Center.
Barack Obama famously sang Let’s Get Together by Al Green; expect a mention of that fact. The running joke I’ve had is that Al Green is my cousin, “cousin Al,” but I stopped because people actually believed me. He was born Albert Greene, but “corrected” the spelling later. If I were to sing karaoke, I might pick Take Me To the River, but it’d be more like the Talking Heads’ version because I can’t sing like cousin Al. (There, I did it again!)

The back catalog of Hi Records, Al’s label, was distributed for a time by Motown, which explains how an Al Green song ended up on a Motown compilation I own.

Need to LISTEN to:
Tired of Being Alone
Let’s Get Together
Take Me To the River
When I was watching Bosom Buddies, starring Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari, I had no idea that the former was going to become a huge star. What have I seen him in? Splash, Nothing in Common, Dragnet, Big, Punchline, A League of Their Own, Sleepless in Seattle, Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, That Thing You Do!, You’ve Got Mail, The Green Mile, Cast Away, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal, Charlie Wilson’s War, and Saving Mr. Banks. I’ve heard him as Woody in three Toy Story movies, plus the TV episode Toy Story of Terror.

I remember watching him on some late-night show talking about the Johnny Seven OMA (One Man Army) toy gun, which I used to have when I was a kid, which oddly endeared him to me.

There’s No Crying in Baseball – from A League of Their Own
Houston, We Have a Problem – from Apollo 13
La Mamma Morta – from Philadelphia
LilyTomlnI have only a vague recollection of Lily Tomlin before her breakthrough appearances on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, starting in 1969, where Ernestine the telephone operator, and Edith Ann, the six-year-old in the massive big rocking chair, came to prominence. But I’ve watched her regularly ever since, from her comedy specials to Nashville, Nine to Five, All of Me, The Player, I Heart Huckabees, and A Prairie Home Companion.

She had supporting roles on TV shows such as Murphy Brown and The West Wing. Go to YouTube and put in “magic school bus full episodes” to listen to her voice as the awesome teacher, Ms. Frizzle

According to the bio, “she is the recipient of numerous honors, including the 2003 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, seven Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, a Grammy, and two Peabody Awards.”

Violet and the boss in 9 to 5
Edith Ann’s sandwich from Sesame Street
The soul transference scene from ALL OF ME
My Minnesota Home – A Prairie Home Companion
Texas Monthly Talks: Lily Tomlin
I’m sure I first heard The Police on WQBK-FM in the Albany area, which was my favorite radio station in 1979. The bass player, lead singer, and principal songwriter was a guy with the unlikely name of Sting. I bought all their albums, twice, actually, since their CD box set included the albums plus rarities.

I still have his first solo album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles from 1985, but I’ve gotten more than a few of his subsequent albums on CD. One of his best songs, I Hung My Head, got covered by Johnny Cash, and that became the definitive version of the song.

Roxanne- the Police
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic – the Police
I Hung My Head
We’ll Be Together
When We Dance

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