Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What My Mother Told Me: A Mother's Day Tribute From Her Baby Boomer Daughter


I have spent a lot of Mother's Days alone with Hubby, since I live far from my children.  Likewise, my mother spent many a Mother's Day by herself because her children did not live nearby.
Isn't it strange, the older we get, the better our parents seem?  Wasn't it Mark Twain who said "My father was an amazing man.  The older I got, the smarter he got."
The irony is that now that I am in the latter part of my life, I sure wish my parents were still here.

I can't make it up to my mother now for all of those Mother's Days she spent without her children, but I can spend some time thinking about her, which I do every day.

And when I think of her, I can't help but be reminded of her whole repertoire of sayings that I certainly didn't appreciate at the time, but upon reflection, she knew what she was talking about.

"Stand up straight!"

She had probably just said that as I went off to the first day of school junior year.  Or I might have this expression because my Dad is taking my picture once again on the first day of school (we did this on every first day of school...thanks, Dad)

We lived about two blocks from the high school and she would yell "Stand up straight, Rosellen!" as I slouched off to school.  How humiliating.

"Smile, Rosellen."

Telling me to stand up straight was usually said in tandem with "Smile, Rosellen," which could also explain my expression in said picture. I hated her saying that to me, so that would then lead me to sigh and her to say, "Stop sighing." I hated her saying that too. At the time, I was certain I knew way more than she did, and if she would only recognize that fact, we would get along much better.

However, I have since learned that my Mother was right.  If you stand up straight and suck in your gut, you will look at least five pounds thinner, and I see now, of course, that I look much better when I smile.  The sighing part is still something I need to work on. 

But what is with that awful haircut in that picture? You can tell my Dad cut my bangs. 

"Don't borrow trouble."

This was her 1950's equivalent of "Don't worry, be happy."  Not a lot of talk about worries or feelings in my family.

But trying to stay positive is probably good advice.

"Only crazy people talk to themselves."

I think this was something she said when she was talking to herself.

"Don't worry about me.  You worry about yourself."

I can remember her saying this specifically as I dragged her up a particularly steep hill in San Francisco, where I lived right after graduating from college.  She would have been 62 at the time. 

"How are you doing, Mom? You OK back there?" I asked as I walked way ahead of her, leaving her in the dust, as I usually did, to which she replied, "You don't worry about me, you worry about yourself."

She prided herself in being able to keep up.  But she disliked it that I walked way ahead of her.  I don't really like it either when my kids do it.

However, I have since adopted her retort.

"Get your hair out of your face." 

It being the 60's and all, of course I had to have long hair.  She hated long hair, especially on brides and when wearing formal attire.  If I wanted that prom dress, I had to put the hair up.  If she had had her way, I would have been wearing my hair like this all of the time.

Do you know how many hours sitting in a salon, hair pins and ratting that went into getting my hair up like that?

"Watch him like a hawk!"

When I had my son, she said that all of the time.  I think it had something to do with her own mother telling her a child could drown in a bucket of water.  I never quite understood that story or her mother telling her such a thing, but in general my mother was a worrier.

Then it became "Watch her like a hawk!"

But again, good advice when you have little children running around.

And I did.  I was a Mama Hawk.

"You get what you pay for."

Both of my parents believed in this mantra.  They were middle class folks, but they always bought the best.  Whether it was a piece of furniture, a hat, clothes, they always went for quality. That's where my expensive taste comes from.  Sorry, Hubby.

I know, politically incorrect animal fur and bird feathers, but you get the idea.


"It's made of all good things...sugar, flour, butter..."

When I would ask my mother what was in something, she would outline the ingredients because she knew.  She made everything from scratch.  TV dinners were considered a real treat in my family because we ate frozen food so rarely.  TV dinners were new-fangled.

Sugar, flour, butter, those things were not politically incorrect in my mother's day, probably because those things were not so easy to get during the depression and the war.  And I would guess, they didn't contain as many strange ingredients as foods do today, though I must say, I used to eat an awful lot of maraschino cherries in that lovely (now banned) red dye.

"There is a reason rich people are rich.  They are tight with their money and save their pennies.  That's why they are rich."

Probably true.

But as I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, there is a saying that those who are tight with money are often tight with their love. 

There was a lot of love in my family.

 "If you read, you will never be lonely."

My mother wasn't what I would call a sophisticated reader, but she was a reader.  Her reading habits leaned more toward  "Book of the Month Club" and the "Reader's Digest Condensed Books."

I remember my mother taking me to the great big library in our town for the story times, and I had a library card from a young age. 

 I'm the one in the middle in the white dress. 

(Remember when articles about children going to the library was newsworthy enough to make the newspaper?  Me neither).

The Hackley Public Library in Muskegon, Michigan is an imposing three story structure built in 1888 with funds from Charles Hackley, a lumber baron.  He gave so much money to the town that we celebrated Hackley Day where we only had to go to school for a half day to hear about how great he was.

The library was recently part of a "Most Beautiful Library" contest.

I spent many nights in that library and sitting under those stained glass windows.

My mother was a child of Swedish immigrants and the only one in her large family to finish high school.  She valued education highly and taking me to the library probably planted the seed that would give me and her granddaughter our most challenging and rewarding careers as librarians.

So, Mom, you might not have thought I heard what you told me all those years ago when I was growing up, but I did.

And I hear you still.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom, wherever you are,
and to all you Moms out there!

What are your memories
growing up with your Mom? 

See you Friday for

"Must-See Musical Biopics"

Thanks for reading!

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Must See Biopics and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new film "The Other Woman," DVDs "The Invisible Woman" and "Holy Ghost People," highlight a new celeb bio and feature a "Restaurant of the Week"]

But first....

What is a biopic?

It's a biographical film, and since biographies are my favorite literary genre, it stands to reason I would really like biopics as well.  And I do.

There are so many outstanding biopics that I should probably say these are some of my favorites, but either way they are "must see's."

These are films that really stood out to me for my own particular (and sometimes, perculiar) reasons.

Note:  I have not included any of the great "musical" biopics on this list.  If I had, this list would have been way too long so, lucky for you!  Next Friday, I will list the "Must See" musical biopics.

So here is a list of what I consider the "Must See"  biopics:

1.  Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

This is the story of the notorious Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, who robbed banks throughout the Central U.S. during the Depression.

Yes, this is a romanticized view of the pair, but it features Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway at their most beautiful and stylish. Directed by Arthur Penn, he combined French New Wave techniques, shifting between comedy and horror to create a modern version of this iconic story.

I didn't go see this movie until years after its release, because I had heard the ending was so violent.  It is to a certain extent, but nothing like the gruesome fare we see today.

This film was groundbreaking, almost a "rock" version of history and appealed to the younger generation.

Why it's a Must See: The "ballet" of violence at the end, when Bonnie and Clyde meet their demise, is shocking and beautiful at the same time.  I have never forgotten the look they give each other right before they are blasted all to hell.  It's one of those moments.

2. Serpico (1973)

The screen adaptation of Peter Maas' bestseller about Frank Serpico of the NYPD who went undercover to expose crime and corruption.

Directed by Sydney Lumet, this film followed on the heels of Al Pacino's role in "The Godfather" and cemented stardom for him. 

Why it's a Must See:  Al Pacino.  He won an Oscar for Best Actor for this role and his place in the firmament of stars was assured.  This is back when he was a major heartthrob and before overacting overcame him.

3. Star 80 (1983)

Directed by Bob Fosse, this film was based on the sad, true story of Playmate of the Year, Dorothy Stratton, her jealous husband and the adult sex industry that so often preys on innocent young women.

Mariel Hemingway was not a natural choice for this role.  Before this she had played the young object of Woody Allen's desire in "Manhattan" and an athlete in "Personal Best" and was more tomboy than sex object.  Hemingway got breast implants just so she could play Dorothy Stratton.  Now that's commitment to her art.

Eric Roberts (Julia's brother) was a revelation in this film, and it should have made him a star. However, though he has continued to work, leading man roles have eluded him. The nature of his role here, that of a slimy, jealous user, probably didn't help nor his arrests and drug use in real life, but he has continued to be a fixture in Hollywood, albeit with supporting roles.  But I am worried about him now since he just appeared on "Celebrity Wife Swap (and of course, I was watching!)."

Why it's a Must See:  Eric Roberts' award-winning performance (his character was cringeworthy) and Mariel Hemingway's boob job.

4. An Angel at My Table (1990)

Based on writer Janet Frame's three autobiographies, To the Is-Land (1982), An Angel at My Table (1984), and The Envoy from Mirror City (1984), this New Zealand film explores Frame's life and her struggle with mental illness.

This film established director Jane Campion's career.  Her next film was "The Piano," for which she won an Oscar for Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Director.

Why it's a Must See:  It's a fascinating story and to see why Campion broke out as one of our premiere women directors.

5. Mommy Dearest (1981)

Film version of the book by the same name where Christina Crawford describes her horrific childhood at the hands of her adoptive mother, actress Joan Crawford.

C'mon, people.  Whatever you think of this story or this film, you have to admit it was certainly a tour de force for Faye Dunaway and she chewed that scenery!

Crawford's book was the first of the Bad Mommy tell-alls. There are many who disagreed with the book, but whether it was all true or not, this makes for a great, campy film. 

I once went to a Halloween party as Joan Crawford.  I wore a 40's style evening gown with a wire hanger hanging from the front of it.

Why it's a Must See:  "No MORE WIRE HANGERS!"  You have to see it. Priceless.


6. Raging Bull (1980)

Biopic of boxer Jake LaMotta's life (based on his book of the same name).

How can you go wrong?  Robert DeNiro as LaMotta, directed by Martin Scorsese, adapted by Paul Schrader with a then unknown actor, Joe Pesci.

Why it's a Must See: This is arguably DeNiro's greatest performance.


7. Capote (2005)

Focuses on the part of Capote's life when he was writing "In Cold Blood" and the unlikely friendship he formed with the murderers of the Clutter Family.

Reading "In Cold Blood" and seeing the movie, (I don't think Robert Blake ever got over playing killer, Perry Smith) changed my life.  It scared the crap out of me, but it also introduced me to wonderful non-fiction writing.

This film does a great job of depicting the times, what Capote went through to write this book, and how his friendship with killers Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, who were put to death, changed him.  Philip Seymour Hoffman was able to play Capote straight, without caricature, and for that he was awarded an Oscar.

Why it's a Must See: Sadly, Philip Seymour Hoffman's last bravura performance for which he won a Best Actor Academy Award.

8. Lincoln (2012)

Lincoln struggles with the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves.

Why it's a Must See: Daniel Day Lewis doesn't just act Lincoln, he is Lincoln, right down to the sound of his voice.  Another Academy Award winning performance.  What can't this guy do?

9. Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004)

This film captures the comic genius and personal torment that was Peter Sellers.

The all-star cast includes Geoffrey Rush as Sellers, with Emily Watson as his first wife Anne Howe, Charlize Theron as his second wife Britt Ekland, John Lithgow as Blake Edwards, and Stanley Tucci as Stanley Kubrick.

There are few actors and comic films that make me laugh out loud, but he was just really funny.  Two of my favorite films of all time are "The Party (1968)" and "I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968)."

Why it's a Must See:  So you don't forget what a great talent Peter Sellers was. 

10. Hotel Rwanda (2004)

Account of how hotelier Paul Rusesabagina attempted to help save victims of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.

Why it's a Must See:  Absolutely riveting and frightening depiction of that horrible time.


11. The Social Network (2010)

How we ended up with Facebook.

Does a much better job of telling the story of the rise of Steve Jobs than the film "Jobs."

Why it's a Must See:  It's just a damn good film.

12. Monster (2003)

Aileen Wuornos, a  prostitute, was also a serial killer, killing six men as she trolled up and down the highways of Florida in the late 1980's and early 1990's. She justified her actions by saying the men were trying to rape her.  She was executed in Florida in 2002.  This is her story.

There are not very many women serial killers, if any, so this makes for an interesting true crime story.

This also shows what beautiful actresses will do to be taken seriously.  Unpleasant character.  Unpleasant looking character.  Unpleasant story.

Why it's a Must See:  Did Charlize deserve an Oscar for this?
What are your "Must See" biopics?

***In Theatres Now***
A wife and two of her husband's mistresses (they didn't know he was married) team up to seek revenge on the cheating scumbag of a husband.
This story has been done many times before - think "The First Wives Club (1996)" and "She-Devil (1989)" - and it's been done better.

There has been major hype about this film.  Cameron Diaz has been on every talk show you can imagine, and I have come to feel that when that happens, the movie isn't very good. This is the case here.
I am fond of rom-coms and movies that feature women, especially women with adult friendships.  However, this is less "rom" and even less "com (i.e. comedy)" and the women shouldn't be annoying.
Leslie Mann plays Katie, the wife, Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton as the mistresses.  Katie has to be the most annoying character since Kristin Wiig's Gilly on Saturday Night Live. I almost sympathized with the husband and understood why he cheated.
I expected more of Mann, since she is married to Judd Apetow, and I have liked some of the things they have done together, such as "The 40-year-old Virgin."
As scorned woman myself, I find some satisfaction and catharsis in films where cheater husbands get their due, but here the story itself is pretty far-fetched and devolves into slapstick, of which I am not fond.
However, this could be the break-out movie role for Danish actor, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays the scumbag husband, and he does it handsomely and believably. Fans of "Game of Thrones" will recognize him as Jaime Lannister.
Rosy the Reviewer says...didn't pass the Rosy test for comedy.  I didn't laugh.  The best things about this film were Cameron Diaz's clothes.  Save your money, but if you are still dying to see this one, wait for the DVD.

You Might Have Missed
And Some You Should Be Glad You Did
(I see the bad ones so you don't have to)

Who knew Charles Dickens was such a rock star? 

He wrote, he starred in plays, he did speaking engagements, he had affairs.  This guy was all over the place and then he met a young woman - who was not his wife!  Horrors!

Ralph Fiennes is another of those great actors who is believable in any role.  He can go from Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter films to a romantic hero in "The English Patient" to this recreation of Dickens' later years (Ralph is also another one of those actors I want to kiss).  And Felicity Jones as "the invisible woman" is wonderful.  She deserves more recognition.  She is in the new Spider-Man film (Spider-Man 2), so perhaps she will break out.
Rosy the Reviewer says...Depicts a Charles Dickens that is surprising.  If you like historical dramas, this is a good one.

Holy Ghost People (2013)

Charlotte is looking for her sister who has gotten involved with a cult of snake worshipers.

I love movies about cults, especially snake worshipers.  What can I say?

There is no one in this movie you have ever heard of and most of it appears to be shot with a handheld camera, but it was fun.
 Rosy the Reviewer says...This is about as "B-Movie" as it gets, but it was strangely entertaining.

***Book of the Week***
Coreyography, a memoir by Corey Feldman (2014)

Memoir of another child star who could not resist the perks and dangers of fame.

Corey, who?  Well, there was a time when Corey Feldman was all over the place starring in "Stand by Me" and "The Lost Boys."  Corey Haim was his best friend and starred with him in several films.  The two of them became known as "The Two Coreys." Then it all went to hell...for both of them.  Feldman came out of it; Corey Haim did not.

Feldman shares his book with memories of Haim who could not beat his drug addiction and died young.

I particularly remember Feldman from Season 1 of the TV show "The Surreal Life," (what reality show have I not seen?), and he did not come off well (he acted like an arrogant ass), so some of this book is an apology for not just his drug use, but for his bad career choices and "bad editing."

Rosy the Reviewer says...Despite this story being told by many a "fallen" child star, this is a fast, riveting read that celebrity bio mavens will enjoy.

***Restaurant of the Week***

In the space that used to house Thoa's Restaurant and Lounge, this latest Jason Stratton restaurant (he already has the popular Spinasse and Artusi) focuses on Spanish cuisine.

With recent Top Chef contestant Carrie Mashaney at the helm, you can expect well prepared food, beautifully presented.

My only complaints would be the space itself, which just cannot seem to make good use of the view, and the value for money.
Rosy the Reviewer says...delicious, but expensive, food in a strange waterfront space.  You must try the Arroz con leche (Rice pudding with passion fruit, white chocolate, hibiscus and pistachio) and the house made potato chips.

That's it for this week.
See you Tuesday for

"What My Mother Told Me"

Thanks for reading!

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Note:  Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database).
If I reviewed a movie, you can now find my reviews there too.
Find the page for the movie, click on "Explore More" on the right side panel and then scroll down to "External Reviews."  Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."