Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cliffhanger Fatigue

As we get set to shelve 2012 blame the lazy Mayan elves and their gullible jolly boss for your new Chia Pet or Clapper. But blame the pending coal in your shrinking bank balance on Boehner and the tone deaf GOP Congressional brigade.

If the Fiscal Follies extend into 2013, the shrill show will get real old, real fast. It's time for the people stand up. Obama won re-election, guys. Get your job done already. Or maybe let's talk about freezing Congressional salaries and overhauling your bennies before you even think about touching so-called "lock box" entitlements.

If that doesn't bring it home for the House nothing--short of being tossed out of office--will.

Here's to a most merry and lucky 2013!

Drive safe. Play nice Think peace.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Two Hitchcocks

Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar. I thought, after all the Awards' Season popcorn dust settled the master of suspense would achieve a little posthumous payback in the guise of Anthony Hopkins' recognition. But the two time Oscar winner, who plays Hitch with honey-glazed ham homage in the uneven, but ultimately delicious "Hitchcock," has so far been shut out of the biggies ( Globes, SAGs).

Helen Mirren, who glams up Hitchcock's long suffering wife and creative collaborator Alma Reville, has so far, fetched all the glory with a slew of noms. And, in many ways, the film is a tribute to Alma's contributions to the classic film making operation. The film, which focuses on the Hitchcocks' relationship during the making of "Psycho" meanders a bit, particularly when it shows Hitch in imaginary counseling sessions with Ed Gein( Norman Bates' real-life inspiration) as therapist. Still it's a compelling, witty, often generous portrait of both Hitchcock and his wife. And, dare I say, far more entertaining than the much ballyhooed, Oscar-bound "Lincoln."

But Hitch may still get his due this season. Toby Jones, the diminutive British actor, rode the balcony a few years ago when his turn as Truman Capote took a back seat to Phillip Seymour Hoffman's portrait largely because "Capote" came out a year before the lighter "Infamous" ( now a cult fave; if you haven't seen it, it's a must add for your DVD list) hit the big screen. This year, Jones, who stars as Hitch in the smaller and far creepier "The Girl," HBO's brilliant but very dark exploration into Hitchcock's psyche as seen through his obsession with Tippi Hedren during the making of "The Birds," has scored noms from both the Globes and Screen Actors' Guild.

And if that's not enough Hitchcock, A&E is set to run a series called "Bates Motel" billed as a prequel to "Psycho." The master of suspense would surely find all this renewed fascination very fascinating.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Carole King's Crown

Music has always had the power to heal, to soothe, to bring people together. So, after last week's devastating news, I am happy to celebrate some truly good news about an inspired and inspiring artist.

Carole King will be the 2013 recipient the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. She will be the first woman to enjoy the much deserved and lauded recognition, and only the third composer, following behind the pioneering Pauls, Simon and McCartney respectively.

When I was nine, ten years old, I couldn't resist the lure of my older sister's record collection. The Beatles, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Jim Croce, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Patti Smith, all held my passport to the mysterious and forbidden teenage world. I'd find out about Elton John, Blondie, The Ramones, Talking Heads, The Smiths, and Elvis Costello a bit later on during my precocious adventures in Marconi's box.

But Carole King's "Tapestry" album was one of my sister's perennials. The earth moved us through that seminal album over and over. Long before I truly understood the heartbreaking pathos behind 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? and "It's Too Late." the yearning in "Way Over Yonder" or "So Far Away."

The irony of "Smackwater Jack's" jaunty tune eluded my innocent imagination, and for obvious reasons, now grips my psyche at this writing.

It would be a while before I learned about King's first fame as a (very) young Brill Building scribe, penning hits for a slew of groups from The Shirelles to The Monkees.

Carole King's music has become indelibly etched into the pop cultural landscape. The celebration of her musical canon will give us another chance to revel in its powers.

Bravo, Carole King! And congratulations.

Drive Safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Call For Action & Compassion

The tragic Sandy Hook Elementary massacre has broken America's national heart. The loss of 28 people, 20 of them innocent six and seven year old children, is an unimaginable loss. Add the festive patina of the December Holiday season and we have a perfect storm of paralyzing emotions.

As the days, weeks, months pass, we'll also have an opportunity for reflection and action. Mostly action. President Obama eloquently called for "meaningful action," and now is his time to finally make good on that promise. We must ban all assault weapons. And do it as swiftly as possible. Obama has no re-election to worry about, no more need to cower to the power of the NRA. The public must put pressure on the President and Congress. Petitions are floating through the social media matrix. Sign one. Or six. Call your reps. Join the Brady Organization or other like-minded gun control groups.

Beyond that, we must examine the value of mental health services. Long the neglected step-child of the medical community, and often eschewed by insurance plans, psychiatric treatment must be included in insurance coverage. Mental health professionals educators, parents, neighbors, we must all reach out to those at risk. Let's be clear: not all "bright but troubled loners" are human tinderboxes. But we must listen and look for signs of isolation and alienation. Reach out before it's too late.

Love, prayers and compassion for all affected by gun violence. Compassion, too, for all who feel isolated, alienated and abandoned. There is a help out here. There is a positive place for you in this world. Please reach out for that helping hand. It will embrace you.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Whine Country, U.S.A.

Sour grapes make the best whine! Mitt Romney, in his campaign autopsy phone tour to donors attributes Obama's victory to giving away stuff. You know goodies like health care, immigration reform and college loans. Different from the big time bennies like 13 % ( or lower) tax rates, shelters and off-shore incentives Romney and his ilk in the one percent have been feasting on for decades. Repubs,who are hoping to revive the GOP brand, essentially threw what was left of the Romney legacy under the big old limo out of town. Still, running mate Paul Ryan, dumb-founded over the big loss, clings to the notion that the campaign didn't "lose on issues." instead, the Wisconsin wonk insists, Obama's win was thanks to "the urban turn-out." Translation: dang, that voter suppression thing didn't turn out so well. Meanwhile, doing his part to sully the grand old pouters even more, John McCain is busy trying to whip the tragedy in Benghazi into a scandal beyond Watergate proportion. He's so hellbent on sticking it to Obama ( by way of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice) that he actually missed a briefing on the incident so he could kvetch about it on TV. Then he complained about scheduling snafus. Whine on, boys. Whine on. We'll just drink it all in. Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace. aba

Friday, October 26, 2012

Barack The Vote

Have you heard the one where Obama squeaks into a second term with an
Electoral College victory, but Romney wins the popular vote? That poli sci-fi scenario has been bandied about by the chattering class for a while. But I've always dismissed it. I mean how could that be? How could the worst presidential candidate in modern history, and one so clearly unpopular even among his own party, this political hologram, the love child of Thurston Howell III and Monty Hall, walk off with more votes than the man who consistently leads him by double digits in affability and values?

Ah, but now I see how a cynical nexus of voter suppression (you bet they're still trying to steal Ohio!) and apathy could trigger such a depressing event,. Okay, sure, I'd rather wind up on the winning end of such a deal  than  repeat 2000, where Al Gore won the popular vote and W. was handed keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in a neat little box filled with hanging chads by the Supremes.

So, yeah, we'll take an Obama victory any way we can get it. But to loosen the Beltway's legislative gridlock and avoid the patina of illegitimacy the fright wing has been dying to bestow upon his presidency, Obama needs something akin to a mandate. And here's where we all come in. It will all come down to turn-out.So no matter where you live, you have to vote. Even those of us residing in the deepest of deep blue states: New York, California, Illinois, Oregon, Vermont, we have to get off our duffs and out the door. Every single vote counts.

I know we feel slighted, because the antiquated Electoral College hands sway to a few chosen states. This year it looks like Ohio, and probably Virginia and Florida and maybe Colorado will play heavily into the finale. But if every vote counted equally more people would vote and Obama would win. Maybe even by a landslide.

Alright, maybe not a landslide. Sure, I know a lot of progressives are disappointed in Obama. That hope and change seems like a lot of hype now. Okay, so the  guy isn't exactly Superman. But let's be fair: he 's started to dig us out from under that flaming pile of reckless rubbish he found on the doorstep of the White House back in January 2009. We may have a long way to go, but we're moving in a positive direction.And why anyone would  want to revert to the tried and tired policies that nearly brought this country to her knees boggles my mind.

If you can't imagine voting for Romney, a man who flips and flops with such alacrity he must suffer from chronic vertigo, than you can't just stay home. Or cast a protest vote for Roseanne Barr. Or Gary Johnson. Remember how that Ralph Nadar for reform business went in 2000? Only the truly cynical or naive can sit this one out. There is a huge difference between Obama and Romney. We simply can't trust a man who consistently airbrushes history, runs from his own record and then embraces it, often within the same day. There's a reason--beyond the commonwealth's electoral blue hue--Romney is losing in Massachusetts by 20 plus points. He wasn't nearly as good a governor as his propaganda suggests. His landmark health care legislation--the model for the national reform he so desperately promises to repeal--was largely crafted by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. And his mythic "reaching across the aisle' has been debunked by those who lived and worked in Massachusetts during his tenure. It essentially came down to vetoes and running Republicans against Democrats. He never considering running for a second term because he knew he'd never win one.

So pretend your vote really means something. Especially if you care about a future with a thriving middle class, health care reform, education,equal pay for equal work, reproductive rights, gay rights,  medicare, social security, the environment, energy,world peace. Oh, and the trajectory of the Supreme Court for the next generation or two, which, by the way, will most certainly inform all the aforementioned.

I know you don't want what Mitt's hiding behind Door Number 3.If it was anything other than an ill-tempered chicken and a year's supply of Rice-A-Roni  he wouldn't so evasive. It's, as Obama calls it, a "sketchy deal," one that will surely continue big time bennies for the wealthiest, while the 47% Mitt so clearly disdains and the rest of us in the middle continue to bear the burden. Wait until he repeals Obamacare and your pre-existing condition once again bars you from insurance and your college grad kid gets tossed off your plan and your parents have to shell out more for prescriptions.

Wait until Ruth Bader Ginsburg retires and Robert Bork handpicks the next Supreme Court Justice.

So, yeah,  your vote for Obama matters. It really matters. No matter where you live.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Elephant Wrung

Even true blue libs must have a scintilla of compassion for Andrea Saul. Mitt Romney's beleaguered press secretary has tirelessly cleaned up after the candidate's gaffes,. missteps and whoppers. Add to the mix an embarrassing assortment of fright wing buffoons dragging on slick Mitt's coat tails and the gal's got to be exhausted. Aiken, Ryan, Mourdock, oh my! Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace. And VOTE!! aba

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Channel Cruiser: HBO's 'NewsRoom' Needs Time To Grow

Keith Olbermann may have left the building but his bombastic spirit reverberates through "The Newsroom." The much ballyhooed Aaron Sorkin drama finally arrived last Sunday on HBO. Whet5her propelled by the less than stellar reviews or high hopes for the show's future, The premium cable channel is now offering the first episode free on a variety of outlets including the HBO website, YouTube and Daily Motion through July 23.
I'm watching the show in real time with you, so my thoughts here reflect only the first episode. In a nutshell: it soars and falls on Sorkin's talents. His signature quick fire dialogue is here, but so are his self-indulgent polemic monologues. When he is on the mark, few TV writers ( or for t5hat matter playwrights or screenwriters) can match the fluid musicality of his dialogue. But when he sinks, he sinks with a Titanic thud. It's too soon, frankly, to say if "The Newsroom" will survive the latter, but it's not smooth sailing. The show clearly aims to explore the media, and most specifically cable news, in much the same way Sorkin's brilliant multi Emmy award winning "The West Wing" treated presidential politics. The story revolves around Will Mcavoy an ill-tempered cable host who implodes on a college panel, takes a hiatus and returns to find his middle of the road show "News Night" revamped with his ex-lover at the helm as executive producer. Elements fraught with simmering drama, right? And there are glimpses of interesting characters and intrigue--professional, social and oh, so personal--to come. The cast is solid, though everyone from Jeff Daniels as Mcavoy to Sam Waterston as his boss plays everything at such a fever pitch, there's little time to decompress between scenes. Emily Mortimer as the ex-love interest turned producer, so far, offers the most nuanced performance. There's also a cadre of young upstarts who, for now, remain largely undeveloped ( though there are some potentially awkward romantic triangles dangling among the crowded news room's cubicles.) It should be noted that the re-formatted show's first show focuses on the BP oil spill, an indication that real news stories ( albeit old news) will ooze into "The Newsroom," the way many real issues seeped into "The West Wing." While it's a mixed bag, there is much to recommend giving "The Newsroom" at least another episode or two before signing off. cable news junkies and fans of Sorkin, in particular,may be among the harshest critics, but if we stick around, we may also see the biggest pay out. Some things do actually get better over time. And are ever sweeter for the patience. So Stay tuned. I know I will.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Losing Levon

Godspeed. Levon. It's been a rough week for music lovers. We mourn the passing of legendary TV pioneer Dick Clark and now the loss of The Band's spiritual drummer and singer Levon Helm.

May your journeys to the next realm be peaceful and the next destination as joyous.

Drive safe. Play nice. think peace.


Friday, March 30, 2012

GOP Campaign Songs: The Gingrich Edition

Newt apparently got his walking papers from from Sheldon Adelson earlier this week. The billionaire-who had been bankrolling the ill-fated run-- says the Gingrich campaign is "at the end of the line." Still running on the fumes of his bloated ego, the Newtster is now selling photos of himself with "fans" for 50 bucks a pop! Pathetic is an understatement.

Next stop: the Moon!

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

The 'Unshakably Extreme' Mitt Romney

Think I'll shake up my investment portfolio and buy stock in Etch-Sketch!

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

GOP Family Planning

Loretta Lynn's controversial country classic--which was banned from the radio for a while back in the early '70's--speaks volumes to the Republicans' ridiculous retro ride.

Can you hear us now, Santorum? Limbaugh? Romney's Etch-A-Sketch?

You better start listening. We aren't going away, And we vote!

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

McCain's Hail Mary Wins For HBO

Maybe there was too much hype over “Game Change.” The film, based on the McCain-Palin portion of the political-gossip bestseller by John Heilemann,and Mark Halperin, is unlikely to change your mind about Sarah Palin. If you’re a Palinite you’ll probably follow your leader the former VP candidate herself and eschew the movie altogether. If you’re a critic, your disdain will only be reinforced. Because as good as the acting is–and it will most certainly garner star Julianne Moore a slew of awards– very few new insights emerge.

We already knew Palin was the McCain campaign’s Hail Mary pass. Down in the polls and with seemingly nothing to lose they plucked the new Alaska governor out of obscurity, thrusting her onto the national stage with limited vetting. What comes next plays out in predictable fashion. We already know the story and the outcome.

So why bother watching “Game Change?” The acting. Yeah, it’s that good. As is the make-up artistry. Moore is the main attraction, of course, nailing everything from Palin’s voice, mannerisms and mood and shading her performance with a depth and empathy that transcends Tina Fey’s brilliant satire. She does, in fact, generate sympathy and ire as we watch Palin swat away interview and debate prep advice and nearly spiral out of control as the rigors of the relentless campaign and media spotlight take their toll.

Woody Harrelson, as Steve Schmidt, the senior advisor most responsible for the Palin pick, is also formidable. And the oft under-rated Ed Harris offers another magnificent turn a John McCain.

Beyond that, you may discover a better understanding of the high-stakes, often cynical machinations of presidential campaigns. But I’d suggest the purely fictional “The Ides of March” is a far more compelling film, with unexpected twists and turns, and lessons that may have greater resonance.

While it’s a good film, I wonder how much more powerful “Game Change” might have been if it were made five or ten years down the road. With time’s fermentation and the lens of perspective, this episode in American political history will surely provide a far more intriguing and potent lesson. Something future filmmakers are apt to explore.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Glorious Grammys: Triumph Over Tragedy

Still reeling from Saturday's death of iconic pop diva Whitney Houston, the recording community proved music is the best medicine by delivering an evening filled with glorious tributes and memorable performances at the 54 annual Grammy Awards Sunday.

The ageless Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band kicked off the festivities with their latest raucous social anthem, "We Take Care of Our Own." Then emcee LL Cool J set just the right notes by leading a prayer for Houston and proclaiming the healing virtues of music. "This night is about something truly universal and healing," he said."This night is about music."

Throughout the show, presenters and winners mentioned Houston. And a beautiful tribute to Houston came later as Jennifer Hudson sang a moving, cathartic rendition of her idol's classic, "I Will Always Love You." Doubt there was a a dry eye in the audience or any of the millions of houses watching ob TV.

There were also wonderful tributes to the late Etta James from Bonnie Raitt and Alicia Keyes and a lifetime achievement event celebrating country legend Glenn Campbell, who had announced his struggles with Alzheimer's last June, with The Band Perry, Blake Shelton and the Rhinestone Cowboy himself that was a living and singing testimony to those aforementioned healing powers.

The much heralded Beach Boys 50th anniversary performance with Maroon 5 and Foster the People was a tad lackluster, though got points for sentimentality as it was the first time in decades that the original core 'Boys,' including maestro Brian Wilson performed together. Unfortunately the lasting animosity between Wilson and Mike Love showed as the two appeared to have anything but the "Good Vibrations" they sang about.

As for the actual awards, there were no upsets. As predicted, Adele swept the major honors of Song, Record and Album of the year for her lost-love epic "21" and its pulsating single "Rolling in the Deep." She picked up her final two awards after making her first public performance ( a resounding success) in months after being sidelined for throat surgery. Her total of six Grammys matched Beyonce for most ever by a female act.

"This record is inspired by something that is really normal and everyone's been through it - just a rubbish relationship," she said. "It's gone on to do things that I can't tell you how I feel about them. It's been the most life-changing year."

The Foo Fighters won five Grammys for music that singer Dave Grohl said was made in his garage, and ceremony no-show Kanye West nabbed four. Indie rockers Bon Iver won best new artist.

Fans surely enjoyed the usually unusual fashion hits and misses. Decide for yourself which category to place Fergie's bright orange hot mess of a dress, Bicki Minaj's Red Riding Hood get-up and Lady Gaga's netting.

Speaking of Minaj, one of the oddest moments was her bizarre "exorcism, " ending with her levitating above the stage.

The ageless Paul McCartney sang a jazzy new song from his album of standards, then wrapped up the evening, joined by Springsteen, Grohl, Tom Petty and Joe Walsh on a truly fab performance of the Beatles' "Abbey Road" closing medley.

The music lives on. And on. Healing, indeed.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Close to Perfection

In almost any other year, Glenn Close would easily walk off with the Best Actress Oscar for her brilliant, fragile performance in the heartbreakingly beautiful "Albert Nobbs." But with Meryl Streep and Viola Davis in the high profile mix, it's doubtful Close's sixth nomination will finally garner her the well-deserved statuette. Let's hope the nomination is enough to get more people to see this lovely little film.

Close plays Albert Nobbs, a shy waiter at a once high-tone 19th-century Dublin hotel. The gender-bending role itself is usual a good Academy Award bet ( think Hillary Swank's "Boys Don't Cry" or Felicity Huffman in "TransAmerica). But neither the performance or the film feels gimmicky. The earnest character portrait is infused with such quiet. but potent emotion. Close--with cropped orange hair--doesn't exactly look like a man. But she doesn't look like a woman either. She looks, as one of the hotel patrons says, "Like the strangest little man." If they only knew.

Indeed, it's that strangeness that draws you in. Why is Albert, who was born a woman, living her life as a man? The answer isn't as simple as the cruel economics of the era. While it's true unmarried women had few options, that's not the whole story. There's a tragic story--one I'll let you discover as the film unfolds--that underscores Albert's furtive little life, one always shrouded in fear of exposure.

Albert seems content to all but fade into the Victorian wallpaper. Until he meets a brash house painter Hubert Page, played by the magnificent Janet McTeer ( also Oscar nominated as Best Supporting Actress) Hubert, too, was born a woman, but left her husband and made a similar choice to live as a man. The only difference: Hubert lives in domestic bliss with his "wife," a sweet dressmaker.

This revelation opens dormant desires in Albert. The savings he's squirreled
away might be used to purchase a tobacco shop; a wild-eyed maid might make a nice wife. We watch Albert tentatively venture into the world with new hope.

Close has kept this project, based on a short story by George Moore, published in 1918, close to her heart for decades. She originally starred in an off-Broadway production and has been trying to get a version up on the screen for years ( she also co-wrote the screenplay and song). And that intimacy and obvious affection for Albert is evident. In other hands, the character could come off mawkish, a sentimental wax work. But director Rodrigo Garcia guides his star in a deeply felt inner journey.

The film is fascinating, the supporting players including McTeer, Brendan Fraser, Mia Wasikowska and Brenda Fricker all add color to what could be seen as a drab little story. But it is ultimately Close's performance that makes the film so captivating. A performance like this is so rare in its power and raw, emotionally beauty, it almost defies description. You simply have to watch Close's eyes and you'll see Albert's misery, longing, kindness all wrapped up in a single glance.

There's a grander takeaway, too. "Albert Nobbs," isn't just a sad and complicated story about one person searching for acceptance and normalcy. It's also a study in human nature and humanity. Most of the characters--the rich patrons and the servants--are all pretending to be something they're not. Sound like someone you know? We all hide behind social masks sometimes. To get past the mask, to dig deeper, taking in the real person, gifts, warts, and all, therein lie the true thrill and honor of knowing another human being.

Speaking of honors, I hope Glenn Close is proud of that Oscar nomination. And award yourself the honor of watching "Albert Nobbs."

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.

And pass the popcorn,


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Streep's 'Iron Lady' Golden; Oscar Bound?

It’s been thirty years, but Meryl Streep may have to make room for that elusive third Oscar. With Tuesday’s announcement of the Academy Award nominations, the heralded actress’ brilliant portrayal of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady” (already a Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice winner) is the front runner for the coveted statuette. But with the most impressive roster of Best Actress nominees in recent years, her win is not a slam dunk. Streep’s stiffest rival will likely be her “Doubt” co-star Viola Davis who delivered a heartachingly beautiful performance in the far more popular film “The Help.” And Davis–who was nominated as Supporting Actress for her role in “Doubt” ( and received a Golden Globe shout-out from Streep) has yet to score Oscar gold, something the Academy likes to spread around. An unlikely groundswell of support could also garner Glenn Close her first Oscar for the poignant, but little seen “Albert Nobbs,” a film the actress has been trying to get made for over fifteen years.

Check out the Oscar site for a complete list of nominations. I’ll have more on surprises and snubs in all the categories, as well as predictions, later.

But for now, let’s delve into “The Iron Lady,” and the case for Streep. Phyllida Lloyd’s film is more a character study ( and a complex and compassionate one) than a history lesson. Lloyd aims for the personal over the political. And she’s received some flack for that, mostly from British critics and historians.

Some are perturbed by the release itself. Unlike many biopics, the subject is still alive. At 86, Baroness Thatcher, the woman once simultaneously reviled and revered, for her decades’ long steely leadership, has become a recluse, isolated by growing dementia. The current British Prime Minister David Cameron recently denounced the timing of the film, saying it was “insensitive” and could have waited “for another day.”

But for those of us interested in a powerful and elegant character portrait, there is little to disappoint. And the British film community is certainly forgiving; she just won the British Academy Award. And for good reason. Streep conquers the role of Thatcher, capturing her nuances with the actress’s uncanny, signature perfection. She doesn’t engage in a mere impersonation, but embodies Thatcher’s very essence. It’s not just the coiffed hair, the carriage and the characteristic tone of voice. It’s the the agility Streep demonstrates as she seamlessly dips in and out Thatcher’s razor-sharp persona to an ailing, aged woman recounting her hey day that is so astounding and mesmerizing.

The film opens with Thatcher as an octogenarian, her once “blotting paper memory,” evaporating in the wake of of a series of strokes. She’s seen cracking an egg for her husband, Denis who has died, but still appears, engaging in very lively discussions.

Streep’s Thatcher slips in and out of consequential scenes, hinting at her remarkable rise to glory, but not dwelling on it.Still, there is enough politics to put Thatcher’s life in context and give viewers unfamiliar with her impressive tenure ( 1979-1990; the longest in modern history) more than enough political substance to hold onto. The war over the Falkland Islands forms the crux of her rise to success, as Thatcher fiercely stands up to Parliament’s “Old Boy’s Club.” We also see her political kinship with President Reagan and witness her downfall as the bitter battle with the unions propels her anguished exit from No. 10 Downing Street.

At heart, though, Lloyd’s “The Iron Lady” strives to unveil the woman behind the steely iron facade.

As dementia begins to set in, we are given glimpses into Thatcher’s relationship with her husband, played by the wonderful Jim Broadbent ( who handled similar duty opposite Judi Dench in the lovely Iris Murdoch bio-pic “Iris“)and her children, Carol (Olivia Colman), who helps care for her, and Mark, who lives in South Africa and whom the audience never sees.

As she goes about packing up Denis’ belongings for charity, the elderly former Tory leader is swept back to the time when she was a young woman – the daughter of a grocer, and an ambitious Oxford grad with evolving political aspirations. We also get charming peaks at her courtship with young Denis Thatcher and their marriage during tumultuous times.

I know purists have quibbles with the timing, accuracy, even the style. But, Lloyd has turned out an artful and entertaining movie, one that offers great personal insight into a fascinating woman. And while I can’t guarantee Streep will take home her first Oscar since the “Sophie’s Choice” win in 1982, her fierce and nuanced performance is bound to get your vote.

The 84 annual Academy Awards will air live on ABC on Sunday, February 26.

Drive safe. Play nice. pass the popcorn.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Silence is Golden... May be Named Oscar, too!

Sunday’s Golden Globe hat trick should send more folks to see “The Artist.” It’s not just the accolades–for Best Picture, Actor and score– but the exuberance the winners exuded. That very quality is at the heart of this unlikely commercial success.

Okay, it is mostly silent, in black and white and foreign, But Michel Hazanavicius “The Artist” is an elegant fanciful valentine to the movies. And while I can’t guarantee anything, I’m guessing, like mine, your heart will dance.

Set in Hollywood’s tender age,between 1927-1933, “The Artist” is about Hollywood’s transition from silent movies to talkies. It focuses on the relationship between the handsome, narcissistic George Valentin (the charming and oh, so expressive Jean Dujardin), a beloved movie star, and Peppy Miller (the lovely Bérénice Bejo),a young actress on a quest for stardom. The opening sequence takes place at the premiere of George’s latest adventure film, in which he appears with his scene stealing Jack Russell terrier and outrages his co-star as he takes a self-centered bow before greeting a gaggle of adoring fans on the sidewalk outside the theatre.

George and Peppy have a fleeting meet cute scene that will become significant later. She lands a small role in one of his films. They dance, fall in love and part before uttering their love. Just like in an old romantic movie.

Then sound crashes Hollywood’s party and the movie business is transformed. George confronts the crisis in a surrealistic comic sequence that follows him as he hears objects around him making noises. Passing girls chatter, a feather falls with a mighty explosion, but George remains silent, and, as he perceives himself, unspeakable. Like Chaplin he decides to buck the trend and continue making silent films, writing, directing and even financing his own work.

Hazanavicius borrows unapologetically from “A Star is Born,” showing George’s career in free fall and Peppy’s glamorous ascent. Vintage movie buffs will recognize glimpses of the ill-fated romance between silent film god John Gilbert and Greta Garbo, as well as homages to Douglas Fairbanks, Gene Kelly, and scenes from “Citizen Kane, ” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “ and "Vertigo”

Dujardin and Bejo deliver witty and wonderful performances, evocative of classic Hollywood romances. And James Cromwell, as George’s devoted chauffeur, and John Goodman as a gruff studio boss, add delightful support. Uggy, who plays George’s Jack Russell, and almost walked off with a Golden Globe himself, joins the ranks of Rin Tin Tin and Asta as classic canine companions.

An instant classic, “The Artist” will certainly make noise at the Oscars, too. But by then, you’ll know what the commotion is all about. Really, go see it. It’s apt to delight you more than any other movie in recent memory.

Drive safe. Play nice. Pass the popcorn.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spell This! Criminal Sentence

A NYC high school teacher just got an F for forgery — and spelling.

Mona Lisa Tello was busted after she allegedly submitted a fake jury duty letter rife with a slew of misspellings to get out of class for two weeks.

Tello spelled “trial” as “trail,” wrote “sited” instead of “cited,” and “manger” instead of “manager."

Guess she's still got a lot to learn. And she'll have plenty of time to learn it. Tello agreed to retire on January 15. But she may get to do some spelling exercises behind bars. She's facing prosecution on fraud charges.

Go to the back of the class!

Drive safe. play nice. think peace.