All is True, Wondrous Cosmic Connections

I’m sure you’ve had this experience: you’re on vacation (or house/dog sitting as I was the last 5 days) and you forgive yourself for binge watching Netflix (or your channel/show of choice). That was me this morning mesmerized by The Rolling Thunder Revue Bob Dylan doc. Ever since husband number two and his thick ‘bible’ of Dylan acoustic music, I’ve had this love/hate relationship with Bob. I guess I sort of assumed he was a deep womanizing (if those two words aren’t too oxymoronic) soul like my then husband, who absolutely idolized him. I got he was an icon, but because I was only 11 when the Rolling Thunder Tour came about, please forgive me, because I didn’t get ‘it’ until this morning with my mouth hanging open seeing Dylan in his prime singing profound songs like Hattie Carrol….holy sh*&! No wonder he got the Nobel Prize! He basically was the Singing Innocence Project (Hurricane)!!!

So how cool was it, that later I go to see All is True, the Shakespeare mid to end life bio pic starring Shakespearean Whisperer Kenneth Branagh (who I’m sorry I’ve added an unnecessary ‘u’ to in previous writings). And let’s face it, Will was the Dylan, before Dylan of playwrights, living a mere 400 years earlier. Unfathomable, right?

I made this connection when in the film All is True, a curious writer approaches William as he attempts to plant a garden, pestering him with ‘how did you do that?’ questions. A similar scene occurs in the doc, with Dylan just trying to wave the people off. True artists, like Shakespeare and Dylan, don’t need, want or even can explain it, it’s just comes out of them, that’s what makes them geniuses.

All is True (written by Ben Elton, described first as comedian on IMDB, his funny bone in this is employed a scant few, but expertly woven times) is much more than homage to a genius. The movie directed and starring Kenneth Branagh is about the man Shakespeare, much like Rolling Thunder is about Dylan. It’s about humans who due to the gift of the time they rose to stardom and their gift of transforming life into art that the public needed and wanted, are more than men, they’re creators with a capital “C”.

Judi Dench plays Shakespeare’s wife and while her understated role is great, the minor character who shines brightly due to range is Kathryn Wilder who plays Shakespeare’s daughter Judith. There’s way too much at stake to say much more, the spoilers in this have more layers than an Amway sales pitch, but suffice to say, Kathryn’s going places if given a chance. Ian McKellen gets a sweet cameo performance as Shakespeare’s sonnet muse, and I’d need to see this again (or like all students do, buy the Cliff Notes) to understand fully their (Branagh and his) witty 1600 speak dialogue. I think I got the ‘drift’, but need to to research further. History Vs. Hollywood hasn’t tackled this project yet, so I was unable to get a quick fix. I DO know McKellen looked a lot like a skinnier cowardly lion with the blond curls and peculiar mustache.

This movie is about finding your true happiness, what constitutes a ‘big’ life vs. little, the purpose of marriage, the reason to be resilient in relationships, pleasing your parents, why it would suck to live in 1600 for men or women, and last but not least, the ignorance of puritanism. A tall order.

And while I can’t give this a 100, as my film buddy Gus Mollasis did (I saw a few scenes as melodramatic add ons), I will give Branagh the rapier’s award for skilled oratory. And Ben Elton for writing a solid, but just shy of perfect, screenplay.

Joanna Hogg, part 2 in my weekend, Archipelago from 2010

I was so intrigued slash mystified by the obscure artsiness of The Souvenir that I had to go back and watch one of Joanna Hogg’s previous films, Archipelago from 2010.

The only major star in the film, Tom Hiddleston, plays Edward, the son of a family on holiday (as the Brits say).

I found several similarities to The Souvenir, reminding me that some directors keep familiarity, and audiences who dig that, like me, respond favourably. Latnhimos, for instance, is known for his repetitive beating soundtracks that drive one to suspenseful insanity.

Hogg, I’ve discovered, is a fan of the wide open sky, something that I connect to living on the 6th floor of my condo, with windows that are a tad high to see the actual skyline yet open to the clouds, akin to what you see on a plane (though not as high, OBVIOUSLY). She also does not mind making you sit and ponder, leaving lulls of awkwardness that remind one of past moments when silence can lead to skin crawling madness. Other interesting shots she leans toward are people on phones and from the two I’ve seen, people climbing: in The Souvenir a shot that stayed in my head is Jack, the uncaring beau, callously far ahead at the top of steep stairs leading to the Venice Opera, while Honor Swinton Byrne tries to catch up in a very long and complicated gown. In Archipelago, the family hikes up a hill, the older sister claiming possible injury, only to be feigning so that she may gain on lead on her brother (the aforementioned Hiddleston).

Amy Lloyd also stands out as the family’s personal cook, whose chemistry with Hiddleston is something palpable and yet annoying to the women of the family.

Definitely worth a freebie watch on Amazon Prime, especially on a rather gray, but fortunately rare, Sarasota afternoon.

There’s really no madness in Archipelago, except for the Satre-like ‘hell is other people’. We’ve all experienced being cooped up with family and when moods take over, watch out. We’ve also all been in situations longing for another person to arrive to break up the monotony. Here, the wife and mother, played by Kate Fahy, longs for her husband to arrive to help her socialize with her own children.

This morning I chose the A24 Podcast where Scorsese and Hogg are interviewed and I stopped it realizing Marty was going to speak to his first experience with Hogg’s work. I stopped it earlier, knowing I was going to watch. Now having finished the film (my homework), have given myself permission to listen. Marty says the same thing I felt, that he was drawn into the film despite its quiet milieu.

Say No to Pharmaceuticals, A Different Kind of Post

I decided to write my medical story after deciding to be a human guinea pig. Why not document my results in hopes of helping others?

First, a short intro: When I chose to retire after 30 years as an educator and counselor for NYSUT, I sacrificed my 100% retirement and went two years without a salary (I started at 21 and hence couldn’t collect even my smaller percentage until I hit 55). I chose wisely though. I couldn’t take another harsh New York State winter, nor the equally cold public living in that God forsaken area.

Suffice to say, from 2016 to 2018, I gladly scrimped here in Florida, worked two jobs, and am proud to say in July of 2017, I worked 33 days straight. The upside, I was warm and healthy. That last word is key; I avoided doctors and dentists for two years, saving co-pays fortunately except for one nasty sinus infection. That’s right, no check ups, annual visits, with the exception of 6 month dermatologist skin checks having had surface melanoma and basal cell while in Upstate New York.

Once my pension kicked in, I decided to be more ‘mature’ and responsible and begin the gamut of physicals. I knew from my last gynecologist appointment in New York, by my long term and caring physician William Harvey that I had osteopenia (the precursor to osteoporosis). His take on this condition was; start weightlifting everyday and increase your calcium intake. He also said that any bone density medication should be saved until the last 10 years of life, due to possible side effects. I took his advice.

Now four years later, I decided I should probably have a bone scan done again. I gladly and happily walked the 2 and a half miles to the doctor as I love to be outside (and got rid of my car living in a walkable and bus commutable city). Again, not bragging, just tell you how healthy I am.

I did not think about this until later, again being the ‘good girl’ and going to my appointments, that having a combo mammogram and bone scan appointment (which I was talked into since they were in the same building) might be a bit of a radiation overload. But again, I trust (-ED, past tense now) medical professionals and had no averse effects from any previous mammo or bone scan, so what the hey.

In the P.A.’s office afterward, a beautiful and articulate woman came in with an equally pretty intern. I mention these descriptors only because if one is going to direct a drug advertisement, it’s much better to have a good looking spokesperson. In the moment however, I was merely impressed by her smooth and professional demeanor. The P.A. detailed that I now had full on osteoporosis and that one of my discs was at a negative 2.8.

I wasn’t flabbergasted by the diagnosis, but the minus disc measurement did freak me out. My first question was: I run 3 and a half miles every day on pavement, should I stop, already envisioning my spine breaking in half as I ran merrily parallel to Lido Beach. Her response was immediate, “Oh no, keep going, just don’t fall down.” Ooooo.kkkkkk.

Funny enough I had fallen a year previous, stupidly yacking on my cell phone, while going too briskly over uneven bricks and literally almost did a face plant. Points of body to brick contact were right knee, right wrist, right bottom lip. I credit a full body blow to not allowing anyone area to take the full brunt. But surely, had my bones been decrepit that would have been the time to crack.

The P.A. continued her smooth talk by telling me a host of different medications I could begin immediately along with a carrot of, if you try this monthly med first and it doesn’t work, insurance will cover a miracle once a year infusion. This insight now only in hindsight: In other words, be the trial and error with pills and if we don’t kill you with that, we have another more successful* torture chamber down the road.

The one ominous thing she had said was, ‘what ever you do, don’t take this and lay down after’. This was a funny statement to me, as I get up, run my 3 and a half and then it’s off to the races of life. I can’t remember the last time I laid down before it was bed or sexy time….but still the way she said it seemed quite odd.

A mixture of fear and shock had me waiting at Publix to get my Boniva, which she wanted me to start immediately, even though she had also given me a script for blood work to check my para thyroid after my explaining that not only do I get a daily does of vitamin d, I eat 95 of my calcium intake in one sitting every day inhaling frozen yogurt by the pint.

Once home, deciding at the last minute not to invest in meds until the blood work was back, I sat down to research. A host of articles came up about jaw deterioration being a serious side effect of Boniva. I kept searching hoping there would be as many successful posts, though only a scant few were found.

Since we now have patient portals, I decided to write my concern to the P.A. as she had said to feel free to reach out with any questions. So I did ask about the jaw fear, which she had glazed over during our visit. I was also anxious since I had lock jaw as a toddler and had no idea if I have some unknown weakness due to that.

She responded that the chances of me having a jaw problem side effect were the equivalent of getting struck by lightening. I filed this in the back of my mind and decided still to hold off on meds until after my blood test.

Then, approximately 18 to 24 hours after my bone scan, I felt strange. First it was fatigue after running, which I don’t feel especially since the day prior I had swam to take pressure off my feet. Then other symptoms sprang up: hip, back pain, hoarseness, bloody nose, front teeth ached, and fatigue: none of which occurred after any previous exams. I went to be that night wondering if I could have been over exposed to radiation. Did they calibrate the machine for light weights like me?

I woke up at 2:30 feeling like I couldn’t breathe that well. I called an upstairs neighbor telling him I may need a ride to E.R. but was going to call the P.A.’s office on call person and just ask some questions. A mid wife was the on call provider and reassured me it was highly unlikely and that I should be fine. I went through my next day again feeling overheated. I had bought tickets for my dad and I to go on a trolley tour and knew I couldn’t back out since they were non-refundable and it was his last week in Florida before going North for the summer.

Meanwhile I continued my internet research and found this on Harvard Medical School:”Radiation Risk from Medical Devices”:
The actual radiation exposure depends on many things, including the device itself, the duration of the scan, your size, and the sensitivity of the tissue being targeted.

I received a curt message back from the P.A. on the portal when I stated my concern that it could not possibly be related and that I should consult my General Practitioner for further help. She also quipped that she “couldn’t make me take any medication.” Suddenly the pretty articulate woman had lost her bed side manner having to answer pesky questions.

Being resilient, I dug in more, doing two days worth of research in search of possible supplements that could be tried before doing medication. One promising doctor had seen success with a daily does of the following: strontium, boron, vitamin K, melatonin, vitamin d, calcium and Omega 3’s. I have been religiously taking these ever since daily. (I already take lycopene -for skin, turmeric-anti-infammatory, Vitex-homeopathic hormone help).

I’ve decided I may never have another bone scan after gradually feeling better and reading horror stories about how bad radiation exposure is for you (and not to mention known for bone depletion!!!). Same with mammograms. Not. Doing. It. Again. If I feel a lump, I’ll go. Ditto for colonoscopy, if and when there’s a problem, I’ll go.

So follow me as I continue to run everyday, continue my supplement regimen and let’s see how long my bones hold up….naturally. If it works, we’ll know. And if it doesn’t we’ll know that, too. I plan on doing 6 month posts on this issue (or sooner if anything wild happens). I’ve been on the supplements almost two months and do feel stronger (yet realize it could be psychosomatic).

And now one p.s. I told a co-worker (15 years older) of my experience, and she indeed was given the ‘miracle’ annual infusion* once and suddenly had jaw problems taking a year of dentists appointments to overcome. Guess lightning strikes more often, eh?

More than just ‘The Souvenir’

‘The Souvenir’ written and directed by Joanna Hogg is an artsy pot boiler for which one needs to fasten a seat belt. The occasionally muffled dialogue forces you to lean forward and work to fathom its depths.

But depths there are; how someone can be duped into enabling a partner, how closely tied are immigration and class struggle, how much does a writer have to personally relate to his/her screenplay, and the age old question. ‘what is art?’.

Akin to walking down a corridor with a sudden recognition of your own reflection, I caught myself judging the main character’s foolish enabling, until the reflection shown its ugly head and said, ‘remember 2000 to 2006?’. I also thought our society’s unfortunate resurgence of hateful religions, anti-semitism and homophobes lends itself to sticking with a a dysfunctional partner due to an ‘any port in a storm’ mentality.

Hogg, along with the tremendous acting of Tilda Swinton and her daughter Honor Swinton Byrne, take a two hour time period to let these marinate with, at times, obscure cinematography and quiet lulls. Probably beloved to fine arts majors most, winning Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema should be the only sign needed to know rewards will be reaped from this meditative film.

The Last Play at Shea, 2010

The google age has shamed us into thinking we need to know all, all the time, which I thought I did about The Last Play at Shea. I swear I looked at one point to renting this, being very interested, and it was ‘unavail’ as they say in the Valley, “What valley?” you ask. Google it!

Anyway, I looked again suffering from post NYC trip depression and angels sang. There it was, on Amazon Prime for $2.99. So I watched and got goose bumps. Anytime you marry great music, poignant bio AND sports, well that’s the holy trinity right there.

Even if you’re not a Mets fan, and let’s face it, they’ve had some doozies as far as slump years (but to a Bills and Sabres fan, they’ve had a cake walk), you’ll still love this love homage to the ‘dump’. But as Dwight Gooden said, “it may be a dump, but it’s our dump.”

And that’s also why I love Billy Joel. He’s worked his fanny off his entire life, lost some serious cash to shady characters, but keeps getting up, picking himself up, and moving on forward. That’s what life is all about my friends.

The man has so many hit songs, some of which I hadn’t heard in years: Captain Jack, Still Rock and Roll to Me, You May Be Right I May Be Crazy…in fact at Sarasota Airport on Monday, no less, I smiled ear to ear to “Get it Right the First Time”. So just to hear snippets of all of those wonders did my soul good.

Another highlight is the first post 9/11 game when Piazza’s home run gave symbolic hope back to the city. For Beatles fans, you’ll rejoice in seeing the 1965 concert footage as well as McCartney waxing poetic. Seeing Lennon circa 1965 in uncontrollable laughter at the sheer insanity of the screaming girls will bring a smile to anyone’s face.

So, as if Amazon needs me to throw them a bone (they could throw one back, don’t ya think?), get this doc for a midweek upper. In fact, if you rent this because of me, tell Amazon, would ya? I tried when I first started this blog to monetize with Amazon ads, but they dumped me for not selling. And I’ve had enough rejection for awhile, got it?

Photograph, a Little Fuzzy Around the Edges

Ritesh Batra wrote and directed “Photograph” and with a great premise and earnest cast, the film almost hits the quality of his previous gem “The Lunch Box”.

It’s one thing to leave a movie open ended (which this one does), it’s another to leave an important loose end. I have to wonder how this happens with major projects…it’s like baking the perfect cake and frosting all of it except for a bald circle on the top. As one of my favorite Fred Willard mockumentary quotes goes, “What Happened?” (featured image)

At any rate, I still enjoyed Photograph, a luxurious Indian cultural bath of arranged marriages, familial pressures and communal joys in Mumbai. While I wouldn’t want to live a life that restricted, not only spatially, but relationship-wise, there is a simplicity and acceptance that this culture embraces. Let’s face facts: America is not only spoiled rotten with choice, but also probably more dimwitted due to the same multitude of distractions.

Another endearing cultural component is respect for elders and the Grandmother character is well drawn and well acted by Farrukh Jaffar. The principal romantic leads (Sanya Malhorta and award winning Nawazuddin Siddiqui) were also believable with their awkward romantic timidity. I was reminded of half a romance I had (I was sure I liked him, but will never know if it was vice versa) in the mid-eighties with a Scottish Social Studies teacher. Perhaps another story left better by mystery.

One beautiful theme from the film involved how precious photographs are to us and how many times, a photo image can capture us at our very best, even better than we are in our everyday lives.

Booksmart: A Goody-Two Shoes Rebellion

Booksmart was a whip smart story of two goody two shoes who realize on the brink of high school graduation that they have been too sheltered to experience love, lust and uninhibited joy.

Olivia Wilde may have directed Booksmart, but four horsewomen of comedy: Fogel, Halpern, Haskins and Silberman wrote the screenplay.

The story was a girls’ version of Super Bad, and worked for 95% of the time. There were just a few lagging moments that could have easily been excised.

The jam packed talented cast and snappy dialogue made the movie. This ensemble had more humor than an entire season of any recent SNL group. Bravo to the two leads: Kaitlyn Dever (who could be Conan O’Brien’s daughter in looks and deadpan facial expressions) and Beanie Feldstein (a more refined version of Aidy Bryant).

Veteran actors Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte were perfect as the nerdy parents, Jason Sedeikis terrific as the ‘dude’ like Principal and Jessica Williams was excellent as the ‘hot for teacher’ teacher. Mike O’Brien was tremendous as the pizza delivery guy and a face I hadn’t seen in awhile, a long lost SNL cast member.

The fellow graduates who really stood out (each one owning their role in a glorious way) were: Skyler Gisondo, Billie Lourd (who reminded me of a young Kate Hudson), Noah Galvin, Austin Crute all deserve future comedy movie roles STAT. Being great at math (eye roll), that’s nine great minor characters.

While not quite riveting enough to say I’d see it again, I laughed out loud several times, adored the music soundtrack and walked out refreshed. I’ve decided movies are not only a real life cleanse, but also an unlocking device to past memories. High school in this case, which for me, especially Graduation Night, was a tremendous high in many respects.

And now for your listening pleasure, here’s a link to Baker & Mollasis at the Movies where I discuss Booksmart s’more:)

The Majestic, An Oldie but a Sweetie

Hard to believe 2001 was almost 20 years ago, my son was an innocent 8 years old, yet shielding him from our country’s rapid ageing after 9/11 seemed impossible.
In line with 2001’s innocence, and subsequent loss of, I watched a movie from December of that year, The Majestic, at the suggestion of my movie genius pal, Gus Mollasis.

Gus had mentioned the movie a few weeks ago on our first podcast (Baker & Mollasis At the Movies on and after his good natured openmindendness on hearing my defense of the deadpan history historical reenactment film “Wild Nights with Emily”, he was due his day (movie) in court (so to speak).

And court there was in The Majestic, this time a 1950’s Red Scare court room scene which unfortunately took the air out of not only the bubble gum bobby socked Americans, but also the romantic and sentimental thrust of the film. Romance with a capital R since the movie beautifully captured not just romance for the opposite sex, but our lust for films and real old time, sit up straight none-of-this-darn-sqeaky-recliner-b.s. movie theaters.

I loved the beginning of the film and thought the opening twenty minutes were very suspenseful, Jim Carrey’s crash scene done very well, the foreshadowing of the coat shut in his convertible door the crash, his rush down the river, his head cracking into the base of a bridge. I was reminded of Gordy Hoffman’s Blue Cat Screenwriting advice: you have to make your main character really suffer!

I also loved the idea that movies have so much power for us and that seeing them on the big screen, in a theater community is a powerful experience. I was even excited enough to fantasize about twenty years from now when maybe, just maybe the trend will swing back, where we’ll grow tired of the one million ways you can watch a movie and go back to the old communal theaters, just like The Majestic.

As far as acting the true stand out here is Jim Carrey even with the likes of who really stands out even with the likes of Martin Landau and Hal Holbrook. Just as the masses have become marginalized by movie venue choices, Jim has gotten lost in choice, too, both personal and professional. He’s definitely caught the politico-fever as evidenced by his mad as a hatter tweets and art work. I’d love him to go back to the likes of “Man on the Moon” or my favorite “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” because he truly seemed to have that Jimmy Stewart sincerity. And look at the director, Frank Darabont, now reduced (in my mind) to zombie products.

And while Martin Landau has always been tremendous, yet his character is so syrupy, as is the film. But in 2001, we were still open to, and in need of, some big sugar. Now, we just need to get back to open, instead of shut in with our tiny little screens. Someday…

Rocketman: ‘Hall’ of Fame Movie

My ‘Hall’ of Fame title works a double shift, denoting a multilayered touching film with the screenwriter’s name; Lee ‘Hall’ of War Horse and Billy Elliot fame. And while there’ll be plenty of ‘was this as good as Bohemian Rhapsody’ comparisons, I’ll be the first to say, ‘hell yeh’. AND, while no one is going to do what Rami Malek did with both face and dancing gyrations to Freddie Mercury, I think Hall’s screenplay has the story depth to make it a truly equally great biopic.

Besides both Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman were virtually directed by the same guy, Dexter Fletcher, the hired gun after Bryan Singer’s Me, Too demise in the former film.

The only shenanigns in this flick were those of despondent Sir Elton, bent on self-destruct after years of both neglect and abuse by his horrible parents and a lover whose best descriptor might be sadistic d-bag. Is that too crude?

See Rocketman and I promise you’ll feel enough rage against this trio of twits to utter at least one profanity. But isn’t that what a tremendous movie is suppose to do? (Nod ‘yes’).

I certainly can’t be the only one who wanted to reach through the screen in Love and Mercy to strangle Paul Giamatti for slapping the hamburger out of poor Jon Cusack’s hand (aka Brian Wilson). That’s exactly how good the acting and writing is in Rocketman. Kudos to Bryce Dallas Howard for being such a great shrew of a mum.

Taron Egerton is a perfect Elton, capturing his tortured soul who, like most abused people, try again and again to get the love they need, but as the song says that I’m bopping to (hadn’t heard Honky Cat in so long until tonight’s movie), Elton trying to get love from those pathetic blokes was ‘like tryin’ to get whiskey from a bottle of wi-ine’. And speaking of lyrics, Jamie Bell believably played a sensitive, but wiser, Bernie Taupin.

The movie did a marathon effort of fitting in his biggest hits, appropriately situated to help tell Elton’s story. And stay through the credits to see the split screen of Elton’s iconic costumes and signature sunglasses.

I’d love to tell you my favorite scene, but then I’d be breaking my no spoiler promise. Here’s a hint though, it contains Matthew Illesley who plays the young Elton (Reginald). I predict Matthew is the next (About a Boy) Nicholas Hoult, meaning he’s destined for a successful acting career.

As you can tell, I was moved to the very end, skipping merrily out of CineBistro Siesta Key to “I’m Still Standing”. And I’ll be going back for a second helping and it won’t even take a “long long time”.