Month: February 2014

Quest for the Best (Picture) Final Edition

In this final installment of thoughts from our unqualified but enthusiastic movie reviewer about the 2014 Best Picture nominees, I’ll provide thoughts about why each of the six pictures I saw could, should, or won’t win the Best Picture award. In alphabetical order… American Hustle – Great ensemble acting.  Any of the four principals would deserve an award.  And yes, I love anything that Jennifer Lawrence is in. Amy Adams is pretty amazing as well. But the story line doesn’t hang together for me. (When I read this NY Times article on David O. Howard’s filmmaking style, I realized why.) While American Hustle is one of the favorites, I think there are several better movies in the running this year. Gravity – After seeing this movie on the plane earlier this week, the Tina Fey line at the Golden Globes about the lengths George Clooney will go in order not to date any female his own age finally made sense!  Seriously, this is a terrific movie.  Clooney is Clooney. (These days, he appears to just …

Quest for the Best (Picture) Update

In our quest to see all the Best Picture nominees before the March 2nd Academy Awards show, Candice and I find ourselves well behind our pace of recent years.  We’re going to blame it all on February.  Have I mentioned that I really hate February? Why does this month even exist? But enough with the excuses…we’ve now seen four of the nine nominees.  I wrote earlier about the first two, so let’s focus on the most recent films we’ve seen.  Both were very satisfying. Philomena stars the incomparable Judi Dench who – as Philomena Lee – undertakes a search for a son she was forced to give up for adoption some fifty years earlier by the nuns of an Irish convent.  This is a deeply moving true story, that is lovingly filmed.  Steve Coogan, as the journalist Martin Sixsmith who uncovers Philomena’s story, interacts very effectively with Dench on the screen.  I won’t spoil it for those who have not seen the movie, but this is one I strongly recommend.  Philomena is a terrific movie. …

10 Reasons Super Bowl 48 Will Be My Last…

…or how I came to the decision to stop watching NFL football. Long before Super Bowl 48 came to an end and Seahawk fans were dancing in the streets of Seattle, the realization that pro football had lost any fascination for me – and, in fact, was beginning to feel like a really bad choice for how to spend 3 – 9 hours on approximately 20 fall and winter Sundays – had begun to sink in.  But being away from the games for a few weeks and with some time to think, I’ve come to the conclusion that not watching pro football is a great change to make for my Next Third of life. Football has always been a distant second to my real love of baseball.  I still subscribe to Tom Boswell’s Why Baseball is So Much Better Than Football philosophy.  (Reason #63: The baseball Hall of Fame is in Cooperstown, N.Y., beside James Fenimore Cooper’s Lake Glimmerglass; the football Hall of Fame is in Canton, Ohio, beside the freeway.)  But I’ve always watched football …

Claire Lynch Band at Home at IMT

Monday evening’s Institute of Musical Traditions show at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church had the feeling of a “living room concert” as founder and emcee David Eisner put it. The Claire Lynch Band – in what has become an annual tradition – put on a  musically adventurous yet still familiar and engaging show for a full house of family and appreciative fans. The 2 1/2 hour concert had all the elements of a Claire Lynch show:  great singing by Claire and the band, sick guitar work from Matt Wingate, jazzy fiddle from Bryan McDowell, and lots of fantastic bass from the incomparable Mark Schatz. There were a number of swing tunes, which fit Claire’s voice to a T, tossed in with the bluegrass and folk.  While performing songs from her most recent CD, the first-rate Dear Sister, Claire also reached back into her catalog, especially including tunes from the Watcha Gonna Do CD from 2009.  The Mockingbird’s Voice and Barbed Wire Boys were two standouts among many. There’s so much to like in Claire’s work these …

Quest for the Best (Picture), Year III

Yes, we’re at it again.  As has been the case the past two years, Candice and I are out to see all of the Best Picture nominees (or as many as possible) before the Academy Awards show.  We began this new tradition two years ago after we became empty nesters, and I have to say it  has raised my stock as a husband. One of my major failings in life before I came up with this brilliant idea was not making an effort to go to the movies. What can I say… However, we got a late start this year.  (Once again, the “sure things” we went to see early in the year – I’m looking at you Lee Daniels’ The Butler – didn’t make the final cut of the Academy.) So here it is February 1st – with the awards show just weeks away, and we’ve only seen two.  However, I’m pretty sure we’ve seen the winner. If there is any justice in the world, 12 Years a Slave will win in a rout.  …

Happy Birthday, Del McCoury

Happy 75th Birthday to Del McCoury, one of the finest voices in traditional bluegrass music. A winner of the National Heritage Fellowship lifetime achievement award and a member of the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame, McCoury – at 75-years young – doesn’t rest on his laurels.  Just last Sunday the Del McCoury Band won a Grammy for The Streets of Baltimore and he continues to find new avenues to showcase his talent and new collaborators for his music. Vince Gill has said “I’d rather hear Del McCoury sing ‘Are You Teasing Me’ than just about anything.” It just so happens there’s a terrific “early morning” video version of a very casual Del McCoury Band performing Are You Teasing Me? posted by radio station WNCW.  For a group that generally appears on stage in the traditional suits and ties of the classic days of bluegrass, it is kind of fun seeing the McCoury boys in shorts (with Rob in flip-flops) and Del in his jeans. Are You Teasing Me? Me, I’d rather hear Del sing 1952 …

Now THIS is a Cool Retirement Gift

The stick-in-the-muds who write headlines for the Washington Post may have thought that this customized baseball card for retiring Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke wasn’t up to his accomplishments (see I saved the economy and all I got was this custom baseball card), but die-hard Nats fans – of which Bernanke is one – realize that this beats a gold watch any day! What true fan wouldn’t want to see themselves immortalized in that one medium that tells how good you really were…the baseball card.  I loved the career stats on Bernanke’s card: 2002:  First drafted from the Ivy League 2006:  Signed offer as Chairman 2008-2009:  MVP for most four-letter acronyms created 2009:  Named Time magazine Person of the Year 2010:  Inked new deal as Chairman Plus he had 79 Congressional testimonies and 226 speeches given in his “career.” Now, if you feel you need something more than a baseball card to capture Bernanke’s contribution to saving our economy (which – it should be noted – came with a great deal of help from the …