Friday, December 5, 2014

Finally! Herbert Hoover: My Review

I should thank my trip to Japan for accomplishing the one task I seemed to have been unable to complete myself - finishing my Herbert Hoover biography. I think I became lax when I realized I was not going to make my original presidential deadline. Alas, I am finally finished and able to review review review!

Again I plucked from the American President Series for our 31st president. I know some rather large volumes of biographies are in my future and hoping to get through it quickly, knew that the President Series tend to streamline the information. Written by William E Leuchtenburg, the biography covers everything from Hoover's childhood, time as food czar and life post presidency.

The Good
I appreciated the amount of time dedicated to Hoover's pre-presidential years. Before this biography the one main thing I could remember about Hoover was that he was president during the Great Depression and it was widely accepted that he did nothing to help turn the tides. What I didn't know (or perhaps forgot) was that before becoming president, Hoover helped feed the hungry during World War I overseas. He had wonderful administrative skills and could raise money like no other.

The Not So Good
Knowing that this book is meant to be a succinct biography and not an all encompassing review of the man's life, I would still rather have seen more than one chapter dedicated to Hoover's time as president. Yes, I know that he was a one term president. Yes, I know that time was spent during the collapse of our financial system and the beginning of the Great Depression. BUT I am sure there is more that could be told. But to be fair, Leuchtenburg did try to focus most of his chapter on Hoover's policies surrounding the Great Depression, rather than how the Great Depression revolved around Hoover.

Overall Grade
Everything I was hoping and expecting. I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of information on Hoover pre-presidency and would suggest it for anyone looking to know  little bit more about our 31st president. Overall grade? B+

Next up: Franklin D Roosevelt!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sea of Women

I try to stick to pretty basic topics on this old blog of mine and hopefully my next post will not be considered too political or opinionated, but it is something that I have noticed and has made me happy and I wanted to give props where they were due.

I have started to watch more and more television as of late - finding some great series and having quite a few binge worthy afternoons. Because of this, I have noticed a trend in television that I am pretty excited about - more and more shows focus on women. And not just a "wife" or "mother" situation, but working women who have their own plot lines, careers and families. When I was growing up, there were not too many shows that had the good balance of being about a woman in a career (plenty of the women had "jobs" but very few had a career) and having a family life - it was usually one or the other. Or worse, the mom/wife was just the supporting role. I grew up with shows like Coach, Cheers, Roseanne, Married with Children and Home Improvement - almost all of those shows focused on the men and their jobs, with the women playing a supporting role and having no active life outside of the life of her husband. Roseanne was a great, female centered comedy, but even she only ever had "jobs" - never really a career; and when she finally did become a business owner, the business focused on her "motherly" experience as cooking for her family. This is not to slam Roseanne (or any other show for that matter) since it is still one of my favorites. But when I was growing up women either had the family or the career, not both (remember Designing Women?). 

If you look at the television landscape, a lot of that has changed - from The Good Wife to Madame Secretary and even Grey's Anatomy more and more focus is given to women in careers who also have a family life. Even better, more and more television is focused on the world of women in powerful positions (Scandal, State of Affairs, The Blacklist). I am happy to see the change in television - even if some of the shows are soap opera-ish and have crazy plot lines (hello Scandal). As a woman it is nice to see my demographic adequately and equally represented in the media. Fewer are the ding bat, bimbo roles or the mother only roles; it's now as diverse as women. And that makes me smile.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Controversial Biography

If you have read this blog for a while, you know I am a big Aaliyah fan. I always say she was like my Madonna - someone I looked up to greatly and was very sad when her life was cut so short. I have been waiting for a film of her life for a long time and was really excited when I heard that Lifetime was finally giving the public what we wanted. Then the drama started.

First, the family announced they did not support the movie and would not release Aaliyah's music collection for the movie. Okay, I thought - I know her music and if done well, the movie could do well without including shots of her singing on stage or in the studio. Then word got out that the movie would include the controversial relationship between her and R. Kelly and I tempered my expectations. Adding to the that the fact that Wendy Williams was a producer - someone who is obsessed with drama and exploiting it to increase her ratings - and I was a little scared what might come of the movie.

I saw Williams in an airplane in September and told her that the movie better be tasteful and honor Aaliyah's memory. She said it would - she lied.

The movie should have been titled "R. Kelly - The Early Years" since more than half of the two hour movie focused on Aaliyah's collaboration with R. Kelly and their controversial relationship. Aside from the fact that both parties have denied the relationship - Aaliyah had three major studio albums and worked on two major films. Why would you spend over an hour on one part of her life? And a part of her life that has remained undiscussed and shrouded in a lot of controversy. Yes I have seen the marriage license, but even if they did have a relationship her life was so much more than the time she spent with him. 

Also everything I have ever read about Aaliyah has been about how sweet and unassuming she was. She was all about her family and remaining humble. Shipp's portrayal was in direct contradiction to these statements. Shipp played Aaliyah like a spoiled brat, telling her family at one point that she hates them (coincidentally telling them this after they broke up her marriage to R. Kelly). Now I know that no one is perfect and that Aaliyah at some point was a teenager, but Shipp's portrayal just seemed to be so out of character. 

Lastly, the movie was just done poorly. If you do not have the rights to a subject's main musical pieces and you are making a biography of a singer, you are better left to just not include any of the music at all and focus more on her life off the stage. Unfortunately this is not what happened and what was left was a jumbled mess of a drama filled lifetime movie.

I would still love to one day see a major motion picture dedicated to Aaliyah's life - not the rumors or the drama of her life - but her actual life. Supported by the friends and family that knew her best. 

Sorry Lifetime - you failed. Big time.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gone Girl: My Review

I am a little late to the party in terms of the review, but believe me - I was there for Gone Girl's opening weekend over a month ago. I burned through the book in about a week and even though I detested how it ended, I was still really excited to see how the book would be translated into film. It did not disappoint!

For the five of you who haven't heard - Gone Girl is based on a novel of the same name by author Gillian Flynn. The story dissects the marriage of Nick and Amy Dunne, a seemingly perfect couple until Amy goes missing on their fifth wedding anniversary. As you soon find out, nothing is ever as it appears and you are quickly sucked up into a world of mystery and drama that only the secrets of a marriage can provide. The movie does the novel justice - as it should, having been written by the author herself - and hooks you in just as quickly as the novel.

The Good:
Ben Affleck was a very believable Nick Dunne and he did an amazing job playing the awkward husband who doesn't quite know how to act as his wife is missing. But the acclaim really does belong to Rosamund Pike's portrayal of Amy Dunne. Right on point is the best way I can describe it without giving too much away. And them together as a married couple - priceless. 

The Not So Good:
It wasn't long enough?! Honestly other than the ending - which is not really changed from the novel, despite the rumors to the contrary - I loved everything about the movie and the novel. It was very well done - true to the book, yet made to work for the purposes of a movie. 

Overall Grade:
If you loved the novel, you are going to love the movie. Any changes that were made were minor and done to better the story, not take away from it. Affleck and Pike were perfect choices for their roles and I can't wait until the movie comes out on video. My grade? A-.

Have you seen Gone Girl? What did you think?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Godzilla: My Review

I remember reading about Godzilla before it came out and really liking the trailers that I saw online and on television. But somehow I never got to the theater to see what it was all about. Maybe because I am not that into science fiction? Who knows. But when the movie came out on DVD, I decided to give it a whirl and the hubs and I watched it over the weekend. I have to say - I was pleasantly surprised.

I have to preface this review by first admitting I know nothing of the Godzilla lore, history or enemies. I was first introduced to Godzilla in 1997 when Matthew Broderick played some sort of scientist. I didn't think that movie was terrible, but from what I remember true Godzilla fans hated it. That being said, I think this movie is worth a shot. I didn't read much about the story before watching this movie and I am glad I didn't. It allowed me to be surprised and really get into the story that I don't think I would have otherwise. I am not going to say much about the story - just in case you have managed to stay away from any plot points or story lines.

The Good:
The monster. Let's be honest, we do not really care about the people in the story, right?! I mean the writers did a decent job in trying to make you care about the different lives involved, but my main thrill was watching the beast on screen. The monster - when he makes his appearance - definitely has a retro look. He looks like the monster that your parents/grand parents know and remember. The graphics are top notch and really bring the movie to a whole different level. And the movie kept moving - even though it was two hours, I didn't feel like the story needed to end. 

The Not So Good:
As someone who was very ignorant about the history of the movie, I found myself confused. I definitely think this was a movie made with the fans in mind - which is a great thing - but as someone who is not really a "fan" I was confused for about twenty minutes in the film until my husband explained a little bit of cinematic history for me. It is a very minor critique, but one none the less.

Overall Grade:
I thought the movie was very well done and I am kind of surprised it wasn't a bigger hit. It was serious, but fun; based in reality yet tons of great CGI shots. Perhaps the marketing could have been redone because I think it should have done a lot better than it did at the box office. My grade? B+.

Have you seen Godzilla? What did you think?

Monday, November 3, 2014

... Hello?

It's been a while since I have logged into the 'ol blogger. I have still been reading my favorites, but have just not had the motivation to write any posts of my own. Let's see what's been going on since the last time I wrote..

I went to New York to watch Derek Jeter's final game at Yankee Stadium.

It was amazing, emotional and stressful all at once. I hope to do a post about the whole trip in the future but I think I am still mourning the fact that my favorite player won't be back next year.

I helped my friends run their very first half marathon, while completing my tenth.


To say this race was tiny would still not adequately describe just how small this race was. It was a Marathon/Half Marathon/10k Combo and I think maybe 100 runners were there. It.was.SMALL. And  hard - the last five miles were all hills. Gross!

And I got to see some movies including Gone Girl and Godzilla. Hopefully I will get to some reviews soon.

Happy November, everyone! What have you been up to? 

... Till next time!

Monday, September 29, 2014

End of an Era

**Author's Note: I wrote this while waiting for my flight home on Saturday morning. Even after watching Derek Jeter's last at bat, I am still pretty raw with emotion.**

I still can't believe it.

I'm sitting in the airport waiting to board my flight home, two days after Jeter topped off his career at yankee stadium in only the way jeter could. The entire game was one of anticipation- what spectacular play was he going to make? How was Girardi going to top the send off he have Mo? How was this game going to end? And how was Jeter going to be pulled?

I spent most of the game on the verge of tears. I was simultaneously happy and sad. Happy that I got to watch the greatest player of my generation play at home one final time and so very sad that it was going to end. The game flew by in what seemed like a blink of an eye. Before I knew it, the Yanks were up 5-3 and it looked like of Girardi was going to pull Jeter, it was going to be in the 9th. Then - Dave Robertson happened.

As a yankee fan it has been an adjustment to not having the greatest closer in baseball as your goodnight man. Robertson is good, don't get me wrong, but he is no Rivera. I know it's an unfair comparison, but unfortunately for him, it's one he is going to have to get used to if he wants to stay in pinstripes. Robertson allowed two homers and suddenly the game was tied and there was the real possibility that the send off we were all waiting for was going to be soured by a devastating loss. Sending into the 9th, fans all around we're saying "jete's gonna get the walk off." Jeter was due up third but with the way the season had been going, there was no way in hell he was going to get that fairy tale ending- or would he?

Pirela struck first, scoring a single and Girardi switched him out for a pinch runner in Antoan Richardson. After a bunt by Gardner to get into scoring position - it was time.
The stadium was roaring Jeter chants all night - everything from thank you captain, thank you Jeter and thank you Derek to your simple Der-ek Je-ter. But as he came to bat all forty thousand plus were on their feet and from the top of our lungs were screaming his name. We wished so much for him to get the big hit, the big win and have a moment on top. First pitch- and in true Jeter style- he smacked it between first and second and grabbed himself an RBI walk off single.

It was right there that the dams burst and tears flooded my eyes. I couldn't help myself. This player had been the most consistent thing in my life for 15+ years. He inspired me; he enriched my life and love of baseball. He was the perfect role model and I couldn't believe it was all over. I screamed at the top of my lungs and cheered until my voice disappeared. Then I looked at the screen to my right and saw them. The core four - Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Petite and Bernie Williams. Flanked by Joe Torre and Gerald Williams and even though I didn't think it was possible, I cried even harder. It was perfect. Jeter didn't see them right away, which made it all the better.

He kept his composure through the post game interview and thanked the fans and the fans responded with the ultimate response- throwing their caps onto the field in the ultimate cap tip. As Jeter did one final lap and stopped at his position at short stop I was flooded with all the memories- the flip, the dive, Mr. November, Mr. 3,000.... It was a beautiful moment and one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

People always asked me what I would do if Jeter were traded or when he retired. Would I still be a yankee fan. The answer is yes - I am still a yankee fan. I will always be a yankee fan. But a bit of my heart died on that field as I watched the end of an era. I am so, so fortunate to be a Jeter fan. He is the best baseball can ask for and has been more frequently more than it deserved.

I guess really there is only one thing left to say - thank you captain. Thank you.