“What Are We Seeing?”

Baseball has not been my favorite sport since my boys gave up Little League. When our freinds called to ask Peggy and me to the movies we accepted without knowing what the film title or story was. Spending time with our friends seemed a heck of a lot more important to me than knowing. As I walked up to the ticket counter, I asked, “what are we seeing?”

“Moneyball,” came the reply.

“Okay, two seniors for Moneyball please.” I went into shock when the little lady behind the counter asked for fifteen bucks. We normally go to show on the week days to get a reduced rate of five bucks apiece. I learned something new that day,  don’t go to see a movie on the weekend.

Peggy and I still didn’t know what the movie was about. Our friends just said they heard it was good. We sat in a center seat in the middle of a row half way to the top. There were about six other people in the show with us.

We soon learned that Moneyball was a story about baseball. A true story about the mechanics of running a team on a very low-budget.

The story begins with the last out of the last game of the world series. The Oakland A’s need to score the men on base to win. They don’t. The A’s choked and lost the world series to the New York Yankees.

During the winter the Yankees recruit three of the A’s star players, which leaves the A’s lifeless. The General Manager Billy Beane goes to the owner to ask for money to buy some good players to replace those who left. The owner tells Billie to find a way to run a winning team on a shoestring budget.

The rest of the movie told the true story of how Billy accomplished the task, and in so doing showed major league baseball that winning doesn’t take big money. How did he do it? Well you will have to see the movie to find out, but I can tell you the story won’t bore you. The story is fascinating, well told, and well acted. Brad Pitt was Billy Beane and he played the part so well I believed he was the real General Manager of the team.

If Brad Pitt doesn’t get nominated for this film along with his co-star Jonah Hill who played his assistant, it will be a surprise to me. Maybe I’m just easy to impress.

Go see this great film on any day Monday through Friday and see it for $2.50 per person less than I did.

Five stars * * * * *

Following Up With the Movie Version

Last night I followed through on a promise I made to myself about the book “East of Eden.”  I watched the movie to see how accurately Hollywood followed Steinbeck’s work. My grade is a B+. The movie followed the book story quite well. Except for eliminating a central character Lee, adding too much strength to the Sheriff, and changing the ending to shorten the film, the movie told the story well.

The original work is six hundred pages long. I wondered where the movie would start while I was reading. When I finished, I surmised that the script could only cover the last two hundred pages, and that is exactly what happened.

I remember seeing coming attractions for the film which touted James Dean as a powerful new actor. It’s taken  me over fifty years to finally watch the film. James Dean was magnificent in the role of Caleb Trask, a moody young kid who needed answers about his life. His twin brother (not identical) seemed to have it all together, but in the end, the moody kid endures life, and survives the answers he uncovers. His brother, could not deal with the same answers, and loses it He joins the army to fight WWI and dies in action.

I give this film five stars, although a little late. If you haven’t seen it yet, find a copy in the library or rent one and watch. You won’t be sorry.

During the movie I set a new goal, i.e. why not read Dean’s biography, and watch all of his films? The DVD I borrowed from the library came with a second disk, it had Dean’s biography. I enjoyed it as much as I did the film. Dean only made three films before he died, and now I’ve seen two of them. I saw “Rebel without a Cause,” a couple of times. The last film is “Giant.”

The only pleasure missing from this viewing was the company of my grand-daughter Dana. I know we would have had a great time discussing the story and the characters. Oh well.

Unknown Kept Us Guessing

New Liam Neeson movie: spelling is Unknown

Grandma Peggy convinced me to go to the movies last week. We didn’t have a particular film to see, but we reviewed the list and chose one. She is into mystery stories, so we picked “Unknown.”

Liam Neeson stars in the lead role. We like him, so we went for it. The story starts out very slow, but rapidly turns into an action movie. Neeson’s character lands in Berlin to attend a conference of bio-technology experts. He is one of the presenters. He leaves his briefcase containing his passport and presentation at the airport. He discovers it missing as he arrives at the hotel.  He is tired and not thinking clearly, so he immediately takes another taxi back to the airport to retrieve the missing case without telling his wife he is going back.  Who would do that?  He gets the taxi to take a short cut and winds up crashing into a river. Neeson hits his head in the crash as the taxi sinks.

Neeson wakes up in the hospital with a huge loss of memory. He does remember his wife though, and begins to search for her. He actually finds her in Berlin, a very European city, and she denies knowing him. What the?

The story gets even more complicated and mysterious from there. It includes some wild car chases in Mercedes Taxi Cabs and a bunch of people who chase him for reasons unknown.

The end of the movie has a wild and  twisted conclusion. It left Grandma Peggy wondering what the heck it was all about, and she is a connoiseur of mystery stories.

I give this one four stars instead of my usual five. Why? There were too many preposterous situations that were outside of reality. The car chase scenes for one, him not letting his wife know where he was going while in a totally strange city and leaving her alone, her denying his acquaintance, it goes on, and on. It boggled my mind, but entertained me at the same time.

A Snowy Day in the Movie House

West facade of Buckingham Palace, seen from th...

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, I tried something new. I bought a movie ticket online. The temptation was too great. I had to do it. How lazy can one get? Grandma Peggy and I reviewed the list of films showing in our favorite movie house and chose one to see. There are several good ones, and we chose The King’s Speech. We had flashbacks of the last time we went to the movies, and the film we wanted was sold out. This time it would be different, I would buy the ticket online and be assured of a seat.

Before I review the story, I’ll review the online purchase. Being a senior, I chose the Senior five dollar ticket. I clicked “Buy Ticket,” and learned that there was a dollar fifty cent convenience charge for the transaction. I went for it anyway. Then I printed the confirmation to learn that when I showed up, I would have to present the confirmation at a special window, and to bring my credit card with me. I will escape the long line at the ticket counter, I thought to myself. It is worth the extra money Like a jerk, I bought into the process. The weather was mild, and gray, but right after I printed the confirmation it began to snow.

We went about our morning and the snow fell harder. Grandma Peggy says, “we don’t have to go to the show in this bad weather, we can go tomorrow.”

“Oh yes we do,” I answered, “I have twelve bucks invested in non-refundable tickets.”

So we drove through a blinding snowfall to the movie. There was no one at the ticket window when I showed my confirmation. They gave me two tickets and we entered a ghost theater: we had the entire place to ourselves.

The King’s Speech was produced in England. The actors are all British and foreign to me. The story  is a little known piece of history about the man who ascended to the throne when his brother abdicated to  marry the love of his life. The man is the current Queen Elizabeth’s father. He was known as George the VI even though his name was Albert.

When I first read the synopsis of the film, I thought how boring is this going to be. It’s all about a guy with a speech impediment. The whole thing will be dialogue without action. I was correct, but it was not in the least bit boring. In fact, we were rivited to the seat. I don’t even recall any background music. The silence gave the story some character, and it made it easy for my state of the art electronic amplified ears to pick up the dialogue.

The staging was fabulous. The director made me feel like I was living in nineteen thirty four England. There is one scene where the elecution teacher enters Buckingham Palace by the servants entrance and they pass through a room that was lined with gas masks. In another scene the main character is asked who brought him up. He replied “a nanny.” Then proceeded to explain that the nanny  pinched him hard every day just as she took him for the viewing before his parents. That line stuck with me, as did the image of the gas masks.

The actors looked like the characters. I can still remember  seeing photos of Edward, the brother who abdicated, and his wife Wallace Simpson in newspaper articles. The queen mother is the spitting image of the Queen Elizabeth’s mother. The only one whom I didn’t recognize is the central character, her  father.

During one outdoor scene the King and his teacher walk through the park in front of the Palace. It is shrouded in fog. The picture is surreal. I recognized that garden from a visit I made to that park twenty years ago.  It is beautiful, even in a heavy fog when everything is gray.

Another landmark, I recognized is Westminster Abbey. There are scenes in the Abbey with the Archbishop. The Archbishop is a classic example of British snobbery and distaste for  the  commoner. It reminded me of  the attitude that prevails within our own society today within our Liberal Left political contingent.

The story ended too quickly, and we were left wanting to know more about this fascinating King. We were left with questions about the remainder of his life. I will have read  a book about his life to learn more.

It is easy to understand why this film has twelve nominations for the Academy Award. It is a strong contender.

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