Looking for a Summer Read?

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Many of you know that each year readers of MillersTime succumb to my pleading and endless reminders to send in the titles of books they’ve most enjoyed reading in the past year, not necessarily new books, just ones that have been their favorite reads of the year.

If you are looking for something to read as the summer moves into August, click on the link below, and I’ll bet you can find some good reads.

The Books Most Enjoyed by “MillersTime” Readers in 2013

PS – I’m also taking this opportunity to remind you that I will again seek your favorites come December, 2014. So be warned.

Finally, if you have a particular book you have read recently that you would like to suggest now (and not wait until the end of the year), please put the title and perhaps a one or two sentence reason in the Comment section. You could also send me an email with the title, etc., and I can add it to the Comment section.

“Boyhood” – One of the Year’s Best Films?

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Boyhood ****

The reviews of the new, independent film Boyhood have been almost exclusively positive, and, in most instances, the film has been acclaimed as one of the year’s best movies.

Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post, a reviewer with whom I find I frequently agree, concludes, “As a film that dares to honor small moments and the life they add up to, Boyhood isn’t just a masterpiece. It’s a miracle.”

NPR‘s Bob Mondello writes, “The picture is so unassuming and understated as it wends its way through a dozen years in the life of this family — in all our lives, really — that you’re likely to be surprised at how invested you feel — how proud and conflicted — when Mason finally stands on the brink of adulthood.”

Andrew O ‘Hehir, Salon.com: “There isn’t anything else quite like Boyhood in the history of cinema, although that wouldn’t matter one-fifth as much if it weren’t a moving and memorable viewing experience in the end.”

And NYTimes critic Manohla Dargis says, “Radical in its conceit, familiar in its everyday details, Boyhood exists at the juncture of classical cinema and the modern art film without being slavishly indebted to either tradition. It’s a model of cinematic realism, and its pleasures are obvious yet mysterious. Even after seeing the film three times, I haven’t fully figured out why it has maintained such a hold on me, and why I’m eager to see it again. There are many reasons to love movies, from the stories they tell, to the beautiful characters who live and die for us. And yet the story in Boyhood is blissfully simple: A child grows up. This, along with the modesty of its physical production — its humble rooms, quiet moments, ordinary lives — can obscure Mr. Linklater’s (writer/director) ambitions and the greatness of his achievement.”

For me, Yes and No.

Richard Linklater’s idea and use of the same actors and actresses over a 12-year period to tell the story of a family and particularly of a five-year old boy’s journey to 18 is new and makes for wonderful, seamless film making. Before your eyes, Mason (Ellar Coltrane) changes, matures, and traverses the hurdles his family and life put before him.

It is quite an achievement to choose someone at the age of five who is able to so wonderfully play the role of Mason for the next 12 years. And so too with many of the other actors and actresses (Patricia Arquette as the mom, Ethan Hawk as the dad, and Lorelei Linklater as the sister Samantha).

Where I found myself less enthusiastic than the reviewers above about Boyhood is in the story itself. Nothing remarkable happens in the two hours and forty-five minutes of the film. For some, that is one of the charms of the film. For me, I found myself wanting to be more challenged and engaged by the 12-year journey.

At dinner following the film, Ellen and I had a difficult time coming up with what we thought Linklater was telling us. Perhaps he was simply presenting a largely unremarkable story in a new way. If that was his purpose, he did it well.

Perhaps the hype about the movie ahead of seeing it was a spoiler in some ways. Had we just stumbled across this independent film, as we seem to do with many others, we might have felt differently about it. That may not be fair to Linklater, to his own long journey to make the film and to his wonderful cast.

So we were glad we saw it.

But, for us, it wasn’t a “miracle,” a “masterpiece,” or as “memorable” as we were led to believe it would be. Nor did we think it was the “best film of the year.”

“Life Itself” – The Documentary and The Memoir

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Life Itself ****1/2

Often, a movie, particularly a documentary, sends me to the book upon which the film is based.

And usually, almost always, I find the written work better than the film version.

In fact, I don’t think I can name more than a handful of films that I found superior to the written ‘version.’

The current documentary, Life Itself, about the life and ultimately the death of Pulitzer Prize (1975) winning film critic (Chicago Sun-Times) Roger Ebert, is one of the instances in which I’d choose the film over the memoir.

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From Beth Miller to Elizabeth Tilis

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A quick way to see a few pictures taken by John Cooper (altF photographer) is to click on this preview. (Be patient as it takes a minute or so to load).

If that’s not enough, and of course it’s not, then you can spend up to 11 minutes and 23 seconds and get a better sense of the June 21st wedding.

Enjoy.

We sure did.

Two Very Different Films

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Chef ****

I was skeptical about this film before we saw it, but it was much more enjoyable than I expected.

It’s the story of a Los Angeles chef for whom everything seems to be going wrong, his control (lack) of his kitchen, his marriage (separation/divorce), and his parenting (not enough time for his son).

When Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) ends up in a ‘fight’ with his boss (restaurant owner played by Dustin Hoffman) and with LA food critic (Robert Downey, Jr.), his career hits bottom, which, of course, sets up the film and his journey to regain all that he has lost.

‘Reduced’ to following the advice of his former wife (Sofia Verganes), and urged on by his girlfriend (Scarlett Johansson), Casper refurbishes an old food truck and sets out on a cross country journey to rediscover himself.

Sounds cheesy (sorry), I know.

But somehow the film works.

It’s light, humorous, and largely hits the right notes.

In fact, there’s good music to accompany Casper, a touching relationship with his son (well acted by young Emjay Anthony), and lots of good shots for those who enjoy the world of cooking and food.

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Korengal_08 Korengal ***

When I read that about this film, I suspected I was going to be enthralled.

Not so much.

One of the better documentaries I had seen about the war in Afghanistan, and war in general, was Restropo, (briefly reviewed in 2011 on MillersTime). That film told the story of a platoon of US soldiers and their 15-month deployment in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. Without commentary, you simply followed the action and inaction and the words and silences from the soldiers as faced an enemy that was nearby but that was not really seen. It was a view of that war that has remained with me.

In Korengal, the same director (Sebastian Junger) presents the same valley and the same men, along with interviews he recorded after the soldiers left the Korengal. Again, Junger lets the camera tell the story. The focus this time is largely on the effect the same action and inaction had on each of them personally.

Perhaps I was expecting too much, but I left the theater wondering if there was really much new in this second film.

If you haven’t seen Restropo, that is the more powerful and more informative documentary. Korengal adds a bit, but not much.

Summer Read(s)

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If you’re looking for a book or two to add to your summer book bag and travels, and if you enjoy thrillers/mysteries/crime/detective/whodunit stories, Robert Galbraith, who is actually J.K. Rowling, has a new one just out.

Yes. That J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter lady.

If you missed it, Rowling has turned her pen (computer?) to detective stories, and The Silkworm is the second in a series (reported to number seven). I reviewed her first one, Cuckoo’s Calling, earlier on MillersTime and wrote:

It’s good.

Maybe not as good as an Agatha Christy mystery, but if you’re looking for something along the line of a Steig Larsson book, you’ll probably like it, tho it’s not quite as good as Larsson’s first one, The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo.

The Silkworm is perhaps a bit better than Cuckoo’s Nest, but then when one races through one of these page turners, I’m not sure it’s about good literature, but more about entertainment.

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Why Las Vegas?

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The most frequently asked question of Ellen and myself this wedding weekend: “Why was it happening in Vegas?”

Just as we’ve been clueless about a number of decisions in Beth’s (Elizabeth since ’98) life, we can only surmise.

So, I decided to ask MillersTime readers to use your knowledge of Beth and/or Brandt (as well as your imaginations) to list some possible reasons they chose Las Vegas as the site of their wedding.

To start you off, here are a few possibilities Ellen and I could think might have been in their minds:

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GrandPapa Wants to Know

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Eli arranging1. Grandson Eli starts the Memory game with me. (He likes to go first. And to make up the rules too.)

 

E winning, hands up2. Eli, legitimately, crushes me in the first game.

 

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3. In game two, Eli (barely) loses. Has minor ‘meltdown’ (formerly referred to as a ‘tantrum’).

(OK. The pictures aren’t as good as Ellen takes. But you get the point.)

My question is about winning and losing.

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“The Case Against 8″

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The Case Against 8 ****1/2

We didn’t know much about this documentary when we went to see it last night. We were just looking for a film that we’d enjoy.

When we left the theater, we felt as if we had hit the jackpot.

Not only were we totally absorbed by the almost two hour film, we happened to attend the night the two directors, Ben Cotner and Ryan White, and two of the four plaintiffs, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, were present and answered audience questions about the film and about themselves.

First, the film.

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What the Hell Is Going on in Washington?

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The title of this section of MillersTime is The Outer Loop, referring to the outer loop of the Washington Beltway.

It’s meant to be a forum I use to comment, on occasion, about what is happening in our nation’s capital as well as beyond it. It is also a place where I can link to articles, ideas, and thoughts about issues other than baseball, family and friends, or escapes and pleasures.

Friends often ask Ellen or myself to explain what’s happening in Washington, as if our living inside the Beltway might give us some understanding of just what’s going on here or what is going to happen.

When you’re deeply lost in the trees, it’s certainly hard to know what the forest really looks like.

Note the surprise this week by virtually everyone within the Beltway of the upset of Majority Leader Eric Cantor by a college professor in the VA 7th District primary.

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A Special ‘Voice’ Writes a ‘Memoir’

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What bothers most critics about my work is the goofiness. One reviewer said I need to make up my mind if I want to be funny or serious. My response is that I will make up my mind when God does, because life is a commingling of the sacred and the profane, good and evil. To try and separate them is a fallacy.

-Tom Robbins

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I suspect that not many readers of MillersTime are Tom Robbins’ fans (author of Another Roadside Attraction, 1971, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, 1976, Still Life with Woodpecker, 1980, Jitterbug Perfume, 1984, Skinny Legs and All, 1990, B is for Beer, 2009 and a collection of essays, reviews and short stories, Wild Ducks Flying Backwards, 2005).

And to be truthful, I can’t say as I can recall which of those I read and which ones I read about or never actually read. (My memory, never one of my strengths, is beginning to falter a bit.)

But what I always loved about Robbins’ writing was his voice, a voice so distinctive and so different from most writers that I have trouble naming writers so gifted. Two that do come to mind are Dylan Thomas and Junot Diaz (Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao, 2007 and, particularly, This Is How You Lose Her, 2012).

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“I Am ONE !”

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noname.best cakeOur family tends to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, weddings (one of those coming up soon) and other good occasions for about a week for each one. And so Saturday started the week of celebration for Ryan Orgad’s first birthday. The actual day is Thursday, but we always get these things started early.

Mostly, I’ll let Ellen’s pictures below tell Sunday’s story, but there is one piece I want to add:

Before Annie was born, Ellen and I were talking about what our hopes were for our first born. I remember saying, “I hope he/she has a wonderful smile.” If you’ve followed Annie these three plus decades, you know that indeed happened.

But so did something else. Annie married Edan Orgad who has his own wonderful smile. And then they had three kids in five years, each of them came with a wonderful smile too.

Enjoy the photos:

noname.family.best R smiling Continue reading »

Traitor or Patriot?

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In a previous post, No Place to Hide, I wrote about my reaction to listening to a talk by Glenn Greenwald and reading his recently released book on Edward Snowden, on the revelations from the disclosures of NSA documents and on Greenwald’s assessment of what has occurred.

In comments and emails, some of you immediately praised Greenwald and Snowden, some of you said the MillersTime post gave you pause for thinking and/or reevaluating, and some questioned the damage that they felt both Snowden and Greenwald had done to our country.

Hopefully, some of you in all three groups will have time to read Greenwald’s book for yourselves. (If you do, please add a Comment on MillersTime or send me your thoughts by email.)

Today’s post is a link to a lengthy interview done by NBC’s Brian Williams with Snowden. It gives you a chance to see, hear and perhaps evaluate this 29-year-old for yourself.

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Who Is Elizabeth Warren?

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I’m a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. For nearly all my life I would have said I’m a teacher, but I guess I really can’t say that anymore. Now I have to introduce myself as a United States senator, tho I still feel a small jolt of surprise whenever I say that.

This is my story, and it’s a story born of gratitude.

Elizabeth Warren

A few weeks ago I went with Ellen and some friends to see and hear Elizabeth Warren talk about her just published book A Fighting Chance.

Over the last few days I took the time to read that book, the tenth one she’s written.

In her appearance, Elizabeth (Betsy as her friends apparently call her) was mostly speaking to the choir. The audience didn’t need too much introduction to this new political face. Some had known her for years, some had been her students, some had worked with her, some had worked for her campaign in Massachusetts, and some had been won over by what they had learned of her in the last year or so.

I fit into that last category.

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