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Movies

Father Knows Best

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The film Blood Father is an interesting take on a dad protecting his daughter in her time of need. Blood Father is a taught, well acted, funny, ironic, somewhat bloody, and nicely paced thriller that takes 88 minutes start to finish.

Blood Father does not feel particularly original, but it also does not feel lamely derivative.  Why?  Blood Father is straight-shooter (literally) created by professionals who chose to make an independent feature.  Blood Father is written by Peter Craig (The Hunger Games Mockingjay 1&2, The Town) and Andrea Berloff (World Trade Center, Straight Outta Compton) and directed by Jean-Fancois Richet (Assault on Precinct 13, Mesrine).  They know how to make films of this genre and send you home feeling you easily got your money’s worth.

Blood Father stars Mel Gibson (Mad Max, The Bounty, Forever Young, Lethal Weapon), Erin Moriarty (The Kings of Summer, True Detective, Captain Fantastic) and William H. Macy (The Cooler, Shameless).

Given Gibson’s off screen issues (the list is long and offends many) and his relationship with the Hollywood establishment (the list is equally as long and offends as many) Gibson could be characterized as persona non grata when it comes to major production releases.  So Blood Father is not a major Hollywood film.  However, this does not mean Gibson is no longer a capable actor (or Producer for that matter).  Quite to the contrary, Gibson is superb in Blood Father.  Link is an ex-convict, recovering alcoholic, living on the very edge of the grid of society who is estranged from his daughter and is simply trying to lay low and get to the next day on earth without incident.  This role is square in Gibson’s wheel-house.  Gibson as Link is clearly a character, but does not play the role as a chariacture.  Moriarty as Link’s daughter Lydia is highly convincing.  The script and Moriarty’s performance afford you the opportunity to completely dislike, give a second chance and then cheer for Lydia – all with good reason.  Gibson is often even better (in his role) when he has a partner as a sometime foil.  Blood Father and Moriarty fit the bill.

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia

Because Blood Father is not a Major Hollywood release the Producers also made a deal with DirectTV/OnDemand to be purchased during its theatrical release.

Gibson narrates Blood Father in similar style as Payback (1999).

The Gibson produced Get The Gringo (2012) was one of my favorites of the year.

Forever Young is the highly watchable film co-starring Jamie – Lee Curtis, directed by Steve Miner, and written by JJ Abrams that showcases the other type of character Gibson plays to perfection – happy-go-lucky.

Movies

Steady at the Helm – Sully and the Number 35

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As a film Director Clint Eastwood chooses to be steady and follow conventional paths.  This approach has served him (as a Director) and us (as viewers) well. As an Actor Tom Hanks knows how to play the common-man under duress who ultimately possesses uncommon stamina, staying power and heroic traits.  Combine these two with the story of Chesley Sullenberger and you end up with a film almost all movie goers would say is engaging.

Sully includes a forced water-landing – not a crash according to Sullenberger – in its storyline, but the focus of the film lies elsewhere.  Screenwriter Tom Kormanicki (Prefect Stranger, Resistance) using the book Highest Duty by Sullenberger and the late Jeffrey Zazlow (60 Minutes), centers on the people and events associated with Sully before and after the crash. Kormanicki’s script creates a narrative and voice that is as steady as Eastwood’s directing and Hanks acting.  Sully presents second guessing and challenges to overcome – prior to and after the crash – both internal and external.  These aspects make for the creative drama in Sully.  Some you will expect to see revealed, others you might find surprising.  The result is a film that feels human.

Eastwood’s Directorial treatments as it relates to the female character have never been his strength.  Historically women are either weak and needy or wicked and conniving in almost all Eastwood directed films and it shows again in Sully. The terrific actress Laura Linney is portrayed as a monochromatic needy plot device.  This role and performance feel perfunctory in nature and almost plug and play in execution.

The record books show the air-event took 202 seconds from lift-off to forced landing and the rescue took 24 minutes.  There are 35 seconds of which will prove crucial on a number of fronts.  These 35 seconds are played to perfection in terms of movie timing and if you pay close attention depicted correctly to the second.

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia

Traditionally if Eastwood skimps or lacks focus to detail on anything in a film – it is location and production values. This is not to say, Eastwood is Ed Wood Plan Nine from Outer-Space bad – but he aint’ the industry’s visionary and leader on this front. However, Sully is a pleasant surprise in this respect.  The aircraft, crash and rescue scenes in Sully are pretty compelling.

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The Cockpit scene in Plane Nine from Outer-Space uses the exact same shower-curtain my brother Roger had in his apartment while in college.

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My brother Dave says turn over the salad plate and coffee cup of 1950’s everyday china and you have the invasion scene in Plan Nine from Outer-Space.

I tip my hat to Clint on the 35 second thing.  Yet, I love films that have timed detonations or time/space sequences where in supposedly real-time film action the event takes longer (or shorter) than the countdown period or logical distance.  In other words the 10 minute countdown takes 45 minutes in supposedly real-time action on film or the one-mile run takes 11 seconds.  The record setter for creative license on this front?  The Fast & Furious 6.

I believe, the otherwise fabulous and over-the-top 13 minute and four second Russian Transport Airplane takeoff on the runway scene sets the industry standard.  The longest paved runway in the world is in China (3.4 miles in length) and the takeoff scene is not set at the runway in China.  However if you do the math, the runway in the film is almost 29 miles in length.  Talk about government project overruns?

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Backcountry Off Trail, Photography

The 21 Lake Tour – 56 Hours Off Trail and 28,000 Vertical Feet

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Jeff Lubeck paddles on Warbonnet Lake.

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21 Lakes Route. Inset the Sawtooth Wilderness. Map © EB Phillips – all rights reserved. Overlay Jeff Lubeck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Redfish Lake drainage in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) situated between the towns of Stanley, and Ketchum Idaho is a geologic masterpiece.  No doubt about it.

Most people call the south end of the lake and the first few miles of the trail on Redfish Lake Creek Shangri-la. Buttressed by Elephants Perch on the south and Braxon Peak on the north it is easy to understand the claim.

For the vast majority of day hikers – Flatrock Junction – the 3.75 mile one-way trip from the south end of the lake on the Redfish Creek trail is the farthest travel distance.  It is a wonderful thing to experience.

For the hearty hiker an additional leg – up the steep but exceptionally well constructed trail – to Alpine Lake and on to the Baron Divide encompassing 6.5 miles one-way – is worth every single ounce of energy.  The journey is memorable.

For the over-night trail oriented back-packer a superb trip is 18 mile round-trip to and from Cramer Lakes.  Complete this trip and you can look locals in the eye with a gentle nod of acknowledgment.

But Wait There is More…

However, these trips are is simply the start of the treasure to be found and enjoyed in this region of the Sawtooths.

For me and my regular teammates Chris and Sara Lundy of Sawtooth Mountain Guides we establish an additional level of adventure and fun is to be had by venturing off-trail and cross-country to the south and west of the aforementioned trail-bound trips.

This adventure takes 61 hours – of which only four hours and 7.5 miles will be be on-trail. It encompass 21 lakes, climbing three high elevation passes, covering three drainages and summiting Reward Peak. As an added part of the adventure the team floats on the three highest lakes in a Alpaca Raft.

The 21 Lake Tour represents the ninth photo-shoot the team has performed together over the past few years. The photo-shoot takes place from Thursday August 25th through Sunday August 29th. The photo-shoot starts and ends at the wonderful Redfish Lake Lodge.

The challenges on this photo-shoot are many. On the first day the smoke from the Pioneer Fire greets the team late in the day at Verita Pass (9,600) which requires crossing over a mile of large boulders at a steep angle from the Baron Creek drainage to the Warbonnet Lake Overlook followed by a 700 vertical foot descent on unstable scree to the lake.

On the afternoon of the 2nd day smoke greets the team as it reaches the Cony Lake and Cony Peak area. We confirm smoke at high elevation is not much fun.

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Sunrise from Cony Lake – Copyright Jeffrey H. Lubeck MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

On the afternoon of the third day, the last 189 vertical feet to the top of Reward pass requires the teammates to follow each other in lock-step one step at a time on terrain that is best described as sand blasted to a fine grain with little to no foot grip.

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Lake Kathryn (near) and Redfish Lake (distance) from the summit of Reward Peak. Copyright – Jeffrey H. Lubeck MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

Each of the challenges mentioned above make for a colorful narrative but are easily outweighed in enjoyment by a factor of 100x given the remarkable beauty of the region with virtually no evidence of human impact. And truth be told – the challenges are not really all that tough in the first place.

Movies

A Story Rich in Irony about Lean Men in Lean Times: Hell or High Water

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The setting, characters and storyline for Hell or High Water directed by David MacKenzie (Starred Up) and written by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) make for a otherwise superb film.  It is a film where the viewer can easily become attached to good guys and bad guys.  Who is ultimately to be viewed as the good and bad is left to the viewer.  Regardless, the viewer understands the position and plight for all involved.

The magic of Hell or High Water is the richness by which every character’s role is presented – small or large.  Each seems to possess and reveal life’s contradictions.  Be it a bank teller who speaks her mind, a waitress who challenges the law, a lawyer helping ensure a plan is executed to perfection and completed with an exclamation point, or a lawman pretending to be an old-coot racist when his heart is really 180 degrees the other way.

In present day West Texas, the have-nots look tired from the day at-hand and life in general. While the have-nots of West Texas are not overtly complaining about their apparent hopelessness they do look to be trying to figure out how to tread-water until their time on earth runs out.

Toby Howard (Chris Pine) is one of the have-nots.  He too has wasted away into something of which he is not necessarily proud.  By nature Toby is a gentle person and considerate of others. He has never committed a crime or is a violent person. However, Toby cannot find steady work, is divorced, behind in child-support payments and about to lose his family’s property via a reverse-mortgage scam given his mother’s recent passing – for which he was her care-giver.  Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) is Toby’s older brother.  Tanner stands in about the same spot, but arrived at it through violence and prison time.

Toby has asked his brother to assist him in a plan to square things for his children.  Toby has carefully thought this plan through and Tanner – who will do anything for his brother – knows exactly how to execute it.

The execution of the plan forces the introduction of Texas Rangers into the storyline. Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) are the team to apprehend the perpetrators.  This case is Hamilton’s last gig, and he wants to finish his career on a good note.

Thus begins the cat and mouse game between the Texas Rangers and the Howard Brothers.  Hell or High Water executes on all cylinders through to competition.  There is no Hollywood ending in Hell or High Water. Simply one that is very interesting.

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia

The look of the Cowboy and Cow Poke.

In the middle of last century, Hollywood’s version of Cowboys and Cow Pokes from the Old West feature men who are shorter and prettier than the women. Alan Ladd in Shane (1953) Montgomery Cliff in Red River (1948) best come to mind.  Terrific actors, damn handsome, and wearing the best cowboy outfit the Costume Department can produce. A few decades later, Hollywood’s version of present day Cowboys and Cow Pokes were taller, buff, full bodied and often shirtless – think Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.  Chris Pine as Toby Howard is lean, really lean and scruffy.  If you did not know otherwise you would think he was from West Texas.

Location, Location, Location.

Although set in West Texas, principle filming for Hell or High Water was in eastern New Mexico – Clovis, Portales, and Tucumcari.  I have spent a fare amount of time in this region.  The TV Series of the 1950’s Rawhide used similar locations.

Hike

Dropping into Born Lakes For A Visit

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One of the Born Lakes with Lonesome Peak in the background.

A hike to Fourth of July and Washington Lakes in the White Cloud Mountains is a relatively short and easy excursion.  It is only 1.75 miles to Fourth of July Lake from the trailhead with minimal elevation gain – a great hike for those that want to wean into trekking in the area.  Beyond and above these lakes lies Antz Basin and Born Lakes – situated in the newly designated Boulder-White Cloud Wilderness Area.  The Born Lakes are just a tick short of 4 miles from the trailhead.  The ascent from Fourth of July Lake junction (9,360 ft.) to the ridge-line (9,970 ft) is short and moderately strenuous.  The trail-bed is of high quality.  The descent into Antz Basin and Born Lakes is shorter and steeper – dropping 587 vertical feet rather quickly. Once in the basin it is a level trip to the lakes.  On this day clouds would gather in increasing levels of darkness but no measurable rain would occur and occasionally the sun would break through for dramatic effect.

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Antz Basin, Born Lakes and the headwaters of Warm Springs Creek in the Boulder White Cloud Wilderness – from the near the ridge-line at 9,970 feet elevation.

Lonesome Peak towers above the lakes to the north and east.  Lonesome lake sits just below the peak and is the last in the magnificent chain of 12 that start with Frog Lake.  The USFS staff says that about four people or less reach Lonesome Lake in any given year with even fewer attempting the Class 3 rock scramble to the summit.  Linda and I are in this small group of people.

Linda and I started the trip alone. However we came upon a gentleman who was part of what would ultimately become a team of volunteers from the Idaho Trails Association that planned on improving the trail in the basin over the next week.  The gentleman’s name is Steve Weston; who is also known as the In The Wild Chef.  Steve’s role was to rehab the trail and also prepare gourmet meals.  Steve’s book [In The Wild Chef: Recipes from Base Camp to Summit] has sold almost 60,000 copies.  We left Steve with the task of having to make Swedish Meatballs (from scratch) for 10 people.  Eight pack mules had already freighted in a good portion of the outfitting.  The 2nd set of mules were about an hour behind with the remainder of gear lead by Executive Director Jeff Halligan and another lead.

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Steve Weston & Linda Lubeck

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Top of the Ridge and Wilderness Border

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Off the top of the ridge and into the basin. Can you spot Linda Lubeck anywhere in this photo? Where is Linda Lubeck?

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Passing by on the way to the lake. Shae dog (off camera) greets the mules and horses.

 

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First pack on its way.

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Jeff Halligan with his horse and the 2nd pack.

Born Lakes Hike

The route

Events, Wildfire

Fire Near The Cabin in Stanley

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The Dry Creek Fire west of Stanley, Idaho as it crosses State Highway 21 – © Copyright Jeffrey H. Lubeck

While driving from our house in the Wood River Valley to our cabin in the Sawtooth Valley I noticed a large plume of smoke appear near the cabin. As I approached Stanley the plume of smoke got bigger and darker.  Angle and distance can always prove to be deceiving but the fire looked to be extremely close to where we live. As I turned left onto state highway 21 in Stanley a state trooper zoomed past me towards the fire.  I followed the patrol car directly.

The fire now looked to be only a couple of drainages from our cabin.  The patrol car – with me right behind – came upon the fire.  US Forest Service staff were running away from the fire towards patrol car.  It was a wild few minutes.  Our stopping point was a road that leads to my friend Gary O’Malley’s home.  Gary soon approached with everything he could collect from his home as the fire was moving swiftly in his direction.

The next few minutes, hours and days would prove to be hectic.  The story as it appears in the Idaho Mountain Express is located [here].

Reads

A Boost from Government or Other Institutions? I don’t need no stinking government or other institutions, I need dignity and freedom to create Betterment!!!

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So you think jobs creation by government, closely held capital available for investment, the grace of benevolent institutions or a single person who states they will serve you well is what makes the world a great place?  No so says Deidre Nansen McCloskey the conservative economist – a key person in the Milton Freeman Chicago School of Economics way of thinking – in her book Bourgeois Equality.

You can read the 650 pages of text and 137 pages of notes in the third installment by McCloskey in this line of thinking – like I did.  However, the bottom-line is that McCloskey proffers that if people are afforded basic human dignity (which has been the norm since 1840-ish) their insatiable appetite to better things (i.e., Betterment) is what has led to a 30-100 times improvement in quality of life.  It is the desire to improve (i.e., quicker, better, faster) that has allowed us to live a life with a remarkable standard of living (and also to take virtually everything that is part of our daily life for granted).

McCloskey is bold and brash. She is willing to critique (often harshly) the hypothesis posited by every well known economist and theorist.  I would pat McCloskey on the back but her hand is already there.  None-the-less Bourgeois Equality is great reading for a geek like me.

My only question for McCloskey?  Then why haven’t the Cub won the World Series since 1906?

 

Movies

All The Way – Or Very Close To It

All The Way

All the Way – Home Box Office’s version of the Tony Award winning stage play – is a rewarding watch.

Starring Bryan Cranston (AAN Trumbo, Argo) Written by Robert Schenkkan (from his play) and Directed by Jay Roach (Trumbo, Meet The Parents, Austin Powers) All The Way tells the story of the 36th President of the United States; Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) during his years as Chief Commander.

All The Way overcomes – for the most part – two major constraints.  The ground that needs or could be covered in a Biopic and all of the characters and story lines are from an age that print media, radio, and television existed and presented to the public.  All The Way succeeds by focusing on the battleground of politics and civil rights.  All The Way succeeds because Cranston’s performance as LBJ is uncanny.  Whereas Cranston’s 2015 Academy Award Nominated performance as Dalton Trumbo felt like a wonderful caricature of the real man, he feels to be the real LBJ in All The Way.

If All The Way falls short in any manner it is that it portrays some major historical characters essentially as prop pieces in areas where in real life they were a key or principle character. For example, Anthony Mackie as Reverend Martin Luther King is good in his role. However the screenplay, while not inaccurate, is not forthcoming about King’s leading role in civil rights or the relationship and interaction between the two men.  This is a small complaint, as with any Biopic the center of the universe is the main character and the story is about them.

All The Way is highly worthy of your time.

Movies

Money Monster – Not Quite Either

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A movie with George Clooney and Julia Roberts as the principle actors is certain to please on some basic front.  Clooney and Roberts star in Money Monster and they deliver with a natural chemistry that would be expected given they have been friends outside of work for 15 years, and have worked together successfully on four films (Oceans series and Confessions of A Dangerous Mind).

Combine Clooney, Roberts and an interesting premise and you have Money Monster in a nutshell.  Move past 30 minutes of viewing and Money Monster – while not failing – starts to move from being categorized as a clever film with a good cast to an okay film with a good cast.

Roberts and Clooney are spot on in good roles – highly believable. Jack O’Connell (Unbroken) playing the bad-guy and victim is additive to the good performance in a good role status for Money Monster.

As for the rest of Money Monster; good actors playing pretty typical roles working with a substandard script. You will easily recognize Dominic West (Hannibal Rising, 300, 28 Days), Caitriona Balfe (Super 8, Outlander), Giancarlo Esposito (Fresh, The Usual Suspects) and Christopher Denham (Argo, Shutter Island).  These are good actors. Unfortunately their actions and lines feel as if screenwriters used something such as AutoPilotScript for the the iPhone to complete the remainder of the screenplay.

Money Monster is not certain money or a monster film.  However it is a decent feature film, and if you have a scheduled date night or the extra time will be worth a trip to the movie theater.

Stage

What to do when the Opportunity Presents Itself: Lean and Hungry

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Is there an opportunity being presented?  If so, should it be acted upon?  And if acted upon, what will be the implication?

Roger Lubeck’s One Act Play – Lean and Hungry – currently showing at the Sixth Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa, California is a Tac sharp offering. The combination of dialog, staging and acting successfully draw the viewer right into the the middle of the situation.

A man (Rusty Thompson as He) and a woman (Crystal Carpenter as She) who are connected through a third-party (the woman’s boyfriend) have shared a week of interaction together with the boyfriend away on travel.  Lean and Hungry has us join the interaction on the night before the boyfriend’s return.  He and She are attempting to establish answers to the first two questions.  The combination of natural dialog, body language and eye movement makes Lean and Hungry an engaging if not totally engrossing endeavor.

He and She work each other and the situation as if they are seasoned politicians or professional boxers – saying things that can easily be interpreted as meaning something or nothing at all.

While watching Leaning and Hungry I wanted to blurt out a number of things to He and She as expert advise.  Phrases such as “you two are playing with fire”, “there is Trouble in River City get out while you are alive”, “stop right now this is going to end badly”, “go for it right now and who cares about the boyfriend I bet he is a jerk.”

While He and She are circling around the first two questions (through some obviously good direction from Beulah Vega), I occasionally move to and from thoughts about answers to the third question.  It was exciting and exhausting just like Lean and Hungry.  And then just as in life – poof – all gone.  Wait… what did they really decide to do? Was that real or just in my mind?

Lean and Hungry leaves the answers to the three questions up to the viewer and their imagination or does it?  Perfect!

Lean and Hungry

Roger C. Lubeck, Author

Sleeping Bag, Matt

Crystal Carpenter, She

Rusty Thompson, He

Director, Beulah Vega

Festival Director, Lennie Dean

Executive Artistic Director, Craig Miller

Executive Director, Jared Sakren

Redwood Writers Play Contest Chair, Linda Loveland Reid