Link’n’Blogs – 6.9.17 – Greatest Romantic Movies


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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as thought provoking as I have.

It’s my anniversary today so I thought it would be appropriate to feature a list I came across on Entertainment Weekly’s website last year: The Greatest Tearjerker Romantic Movies. There are some terrific (and terrifically sad!) movies here. Hard to argue with the list. Click the photo!

Ghost

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Best Combination, 10 Times Over


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Tin. Tin is the traditional gift for one’s 10th anniversary. The modern gift, by-the-way, is diamonds but no diamonds will be proffered to The Cinnamon Girl today.

Frankly, no tin will be, either. We have decided to treat ourselves to a lovely vacation in lieu of exchanging presents this year and it is killing me (but her birthday is in just over a month and I’ll make up for it, then!).

For reasons known only to her (and, I suspect, to God), The Cinnamon Girl married me and I married her 10 years ago today. And, while I could do some clever math adding up to 10 concerning the past decade –

Oh, hell, I have to do it now that I’ve thought of it!

1 purchased home +

3 graduations from high school +

2 new cats +

2 parents passing +

1 major job change +

1 perfect wife = 10!

Um, as I was saying, I could do some clever math, but I will resist the impulse. Instead I want to write about tin.

There is nothing particularly special about this metal. It is soft. My brave wife is the strongest woman I know. It is malleable. My incredible wife is the most confident and convicted a person as I know. It is not particularly shiny or attractive. My beautiful wife is absolutely dazzling.

What it has going for it is that it combines with other metals incredibly well and it makes them new, different, better. It changes and revitalizes them. That is what tin does.

Without question, that is what The Cinnamon Girl did for me when I met her over a decade ago. She did it when she and I married on a June 9 in 2007. She made me new, different and better.

With sincere apologies to all of my wonderful friends who are not her, The Cinnamon Girl is the person with whom I want to spend my time, free and otherwise. She is the first thing I think about in the mornings, the last thing I pray about when I fall to sleep. She is the best friend I have ever had and she is the wisest person I know.

She is my wife and the combination is all but perfect.

Happy Anniversary, Cinnamon Girl. I love you more today than I did yesterday, but not as much as I will tomorrow.

2017-03-03 18.48.23

 

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The Passing of My Mother-in-Law


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In the early morning hours of Tuesday, June 6, my mother-in-law, Dora Thornton Durham, passed away in her sleep.

She was 84 years old.

Dora was a character in every sense of the word and her larger-than-life personality was in complete and delightful contrast to almost incomprehensibly small frame. Dora suffered from COPD and the disease took its toll on her, to be sure, but the twinkle in her eye and the edge in her wit remained until the end.

Dora and LBC

Dora Thornton Durham and Little Black Cat, April 2015.

Compassionate, intelligent and engaged, Dora had a saying for almost any occasion and many of them were wise, indeed. She was a life-long educator (her most important student being HJ jr who she taught to read) who valued knowledge and character development and she shared many, many stories about the children she had taught throughout her career. Dora married a man whom she first dated because she thought he was Don Meredith, believed in flying saucers and tried to always see the positive in negative situations. She became more liberal in her thought and politics the older she got. She was funny as hell.

There are so many things about my mother-in-law I will miss, but I will always associate Dora with how much she loved animals.

As she lay in our home in during the last days of her life, Dora was not alone. The incredible Cinnamon Girl cared for her night and day, ably assisted by first year nursing student Sous ChefHJ jr and I were around as well, and her son was by her side, too.

But I am not talking about the company she had from any of us. I am talking about our animals. We have cats and a dog and Dora loved them very, very much.

Dora shared many lovely “last words” with us when it was her time to go, but perhaps none were as precious as two directed at our animals.

As she was losing strength one afternoon, Dora saw our dog and lit up with a bright “Hi!” The wagging of the dog’s tail spoke for everyone.

Later that same day, our lovely Siamese cat Lulu crawled onto Dora’s bed. Dora looked down and said to her “soft.”

At that point, these words were an effort for her to form and they must have felt important to her.

I will cherish many memories of Dora, but, in particular, I’ll hold on to these two.

I did not have the luck to know Dora for a very long time , but I am blessed to have had 10 years with her.

I love her and I will miss her.

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The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: May 31 – June 6, 2017


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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.
Then I read them.
Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

COMICS I READ LAST WEEK:

TwoOne

Three

 

The best comic I read last week was

Wonder Woman Annual #1.

Writer: Greg Rucka (and others)

Artist: Nicola Scott (and others)

After seeing the terrific movie, I am clearly not over my Wonder Woman fever, but I believe that I would be selecting this book whether I had WW on my mind this week or not.

Annuals are tricky business. Are they in continuity? Do they continue a story being told already in the main book? Are they a special event in-and-of-themselves?

This one is special for two reasons. One, there are some terrific back up stories written and drawn by some great talents. Each has its own spin and its own bent and each is very solid, telling a story of Wonder Woman from a number of various perspectives. Two, the main story is brilliantly positioned between panels of a previous issue in the main series. Written by Greg Rucka, the story details the first time Diana met Clark and Bruce and, though I believe I have enjoyed the DC cinematic universe more than most, I will note that this story exudes the kind of charm, hopefulness and optimism that is not in abundant display on film (at least until last week’s triumph). It also captures the essence of each character. Brilliantly.

Oh, and there was a third reason: the return of Nicola Scott to the character. Scott is an amazing artist, with command of composition and action. Her Diana is beautiful and bold and, for my money, the best rendering of the character since the halcyon days of George Perez. Scott is a perfect fit for the book and the character and I cannot believe DC has not locked her on the title for years to come. She’s also a great follow on twitter…

Wonder Woman has been the unsung hero of the Rebirth line up. Perhaps, with the success of the movie, this book will be unsung no more!

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Does Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Redeem Star Trek V? MINOR Spoilers Here.


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GotG2Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a runaway hit having grossed over $800 million dollars world wide in its first month of release. It is being hailed as one of the best of the Marvel Studios films and seems more delightful each time it is seen.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was not a big hit when it was released in 1989. It is often mentioned as one of the worst of the almost 15 Star Trek films and does not hold up on repeated viewings.

At all.

There would seem to be little that the two movies have in common but I have a sneaking suspicion that Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn saw Star Trek V when it was released when he was a young man and has seen it on more than one occasion since. I believe, consciously or unconsciously, he wrote the conclusion of his film as a love note to Star Trek V.

Star Trek V minimalStar Trek V was famously (infamously?) co-written and directed by William Shatner. Leonard Nimoy had helmed Treks III and IV and, as it turns out, he and Shatner had had a long standing “equal nations” clause in their contracts: whatever benefit one received, the other was accorded the same consideration. Following the box office success of The Voyage Home, Shatner said “it’s my turn” and the rest is Star Trek history. 

He wrote a movie about the crew of the Enterprise encountering, well, God or, at least, something very like God and conceived a story that would ask big questions about the nature of existence and religion – one that would take on many topics Trek had avoided.

As the movie changed and evolved, the conclusion of the film was drafted and it contained an epic battle between Captain Kirk and the god-like creature who was one with the planet on which he was imprisoned. In the best/worst line of the movie, Kirk asks the villain “what does God need with a starship?” The unspoken answer: the starship will carry his essence across the galaxy. The god-being, whose eyes crackle with electricity, would be realized as a bearded old man and would attack Kirk and crew with rock formations and rock creatures before an unlikely rescue by Spock is effected and the god-being is defeated.

The battle was supposed to be epic. Kirk vs. God (as only Shatner could write it). Explosions. Rock monsters. Stirring score. Epic. However, Paramount Pictures, perhaps correctly sensing disaster, continually cut the budget for the movie. Out went rock monsters. Goodbye to stunning explosions. Farewell harrowing conclusion. Hello, poorly received movie.

Flash forward 28 years (and minor spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 follow here). A fun and exciting movie (so… different than Star Trek V) concludes in a showdown with… a god-being who is realized as a bearded old man. He is one with the planet on which he lives (um, he is the planet). During his battle with the Guardians of the Galaxy, the villain throws rock formations at the team. His eyes crackle with electricity. He wants his essence carried across the galaxy. He is defeated in an unlikely manner as the adorable Baby Groot is able to activate an explosive device that ends him.

The battle is epic. Star Lord vs. Ego. Explosions. Rock Formations. Very cool rock and roll score. Marvel Studios, knowing it had a hit on its hands, poured money into the movie and the conclusion shows it was money well spent. Hello well received movie.

Here’s the question: is the conclusion of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 James Gunn’s homage to Star Trek V? Does he redeem that movie by staging a conclusion that William Shatner must have loved?

I don’t actually know, but I like the theory!

god trek v

The god-being of Star Trek V.

 

ego guardians

The god-being of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

 

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Link’n’Blogs – 6.2.17 – Wonder Woman for WOMEN (It’s Okay, Guys)


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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as thought provoking as I have.

If you haven’t heard about the “outrage” surrounding the all women showings of Wonder Woman, you really should. And some men really, really need to have a broader perspective (in my opinion)… Click the picture below for details.

Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl

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Wonder Woman – A Movie Review


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Wonder Woman Poster

 

 

Epic. Beautiful. Compelling. Inspiring.

Surely there are more adjectives with which to describe the cinematic triumph that is Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, but we will begin with these.

Wonder Woman is truly an epic movie with roots going back far further than the character’s 75 year publishing history. The origin story told here in succinct and touching fashion, connects Diana of Themyscira to a centuries long tradition of Greek gods and goddesses, to an island that truly looks like paradise and to the Amazons whose dichotomy of love and war is brilliantly realized. Diana’s story unfolds as we encounter her at three critical stages of her life and learn that the life she believes she is leading may not actually be the life she actually is leading. Brilliant actors led by Connie Neilson as Hippolyta, Diana’s mother and queen of the Amazons, and Robin Wright as Antiope, Hippolyta’s second-in-command and Diana’s guardian, populate Themyscria, the Paradise Island of Diana’s birth. Please, American cinema, give us more strong women characters like these. Confident, fully developed and realized, capable and compassionate, the Amazons are exactly the kind of wise and peaceful people from which Wonder Woman would come. These are not women to be trifled with or to underestimate. These are warrior woman who have retreated from a world too infused with violence.

The epic nature of this movie begins here, in this first act which plays so wonderfully it is over before the audience realizes how terrific it is, and that tone is set for all that is to come. There is something special going on in this movie. Something larger than summer popcorn fare.

Into that reality falls Chris Pine’s Captain Steve Trevor. Pine is best known as Captain Kirk from the rebooted Star Trek movie, but there is no vestige of his Kirk performance here. Pine is terrific and serves as something of the lens through which the audience encounters Wonder Woman. Our understanding of who she is grows along with his own. Trevor’s reaction is one part awe, one part incredulity as he learns who this beautiful Wonder Woman is. The relationship that develops between them is believable and touching, much like the movie itself.

Beautiful is the correct adjective to describe Gal Gadot and her portrayal of Wonder Woman. Yes, the Israeli super model turned actress is gorgeous (and the movie easily and confidently has some fun with this reality as opposed to ignoring it – bravo Patty Jenkins!) but the character is beautiful both inside and out. Gadot was the best reviewed thing in Batman V Superman and she commands this movie.

Her Diana is intelligent, gracious, strong and confident. She is the epitome of power. She is driven by kindness. She is enchanting and wise. Gadot’s performance is so spot-on that is it impossible to imagine anyone else playing the character. Think of how well Robert Downey, jr embodies Iron Man or Johnny Depp Jack Sparrow. That is the type of mastery Gadot effortlessly exhibits in the role.

It is a good thing Gadot is as good as she is because the supporting actors of the piece, Lucy Davis, Danny Huston and David Thelwis to name three, are very strong here as is Elena Ayana as Doctor Maru. Davis’ Etta Candy is great fun and Ayana’s Maru is tragically drawn. Thelwis and Huston tower over the proceedings whenever they are on screen. They lend it the epicness the piece deserves.

The three act, three location structure of the film is something of a call-back to Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie (Krypton, Kansas, Metropolis and Themyscira, London, Germany) and the design serves the movie well. One scene in particular is a moving homage to Superman: The Movie that is sure to delight whether audiences note the resonance or not. Wonder Woman also owes something else to the 1978 movie – it owes its spirit.

Wonder Woman is just as compelling as Superman and more propulsive. The movie is ever moving forward to a goal, just like its main character. Diana knows her mission and sets out to accomplish it. The film does, too and Jenkins spends just enough time on each scene and in each location to keep the movie tight. Wonder Woman is the type of motion picture that audiences are going to want to see again.

As a character, Wonder Woman was initially created as an inspiration for young women to give them a character with whom they could connect much like young men had Superman and Batman. Throughout her history (and famously during the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1970s), Wonder Woman has been correctly co-opted as inspiration to women of all ages. More recently, she has been cast as an inspiration for peace. Amazingly, this movie honors all of those instincts in a conclusion that is perfect for this particular superhero movie and would be wholly out of place in any other. It is an inspiring ending to a moving  and inspiring film.

Wonder Woman is a movie that wears its metaphorical heart on its sleeve because it understands it must. It wears its heart on its sleeve because it understands its main character. It wears its heart on its sleeve because it understands it is okay to mean something even in a summer, superhero movie.

Wonder Woman stands for something important. It knows it can be an important film. It has a message to share. It does not shy away from the soul of its main character.

And it is all the better for those choices.

It is, from direction to star to execution, all but perfect. It is wonderful and I am eager to see it again.

WONDER WOMAN receives an unreserved FIVE GOLDEN LASSOS out of a possible FIVE.

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