The Post: Highly Watchable Today and In The Future

Steven Spielberg’s The Post is a highly watchable film.  It is an efficient Political Thriller with a superb script, cast, staging, and direction.  My guess is that like most of the recent Spielberg films, The Post will not win the Academy Award for Best Picture, but over time I will watch it the most of any of the nominees.  Bridge of Spies (2015) is a great example.  Spielberg’s films since 2000 are nothing if not rich and complete in their presentation and they stand the test of time.

The subject and themes in The Post are as relevant today as when they occurred.  The Post presents issues before the people and the nation not in a sanctimonious partisan hack way, but as a legitimate challenge to who we are and what we represent.

A deep and talented cast, beginning with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks The Post delivers with few if any weak links.

I strongly suggest you watch The Post, then All The Presidents Men, followed by Mark Felt (and or read The Pentagon Papers, All The Presidents Men and The FBI Pyramid).

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia and Notes

As many of you know I was an executive of a large Media Syndicate (Universal Press) and owned another (Asterisk).  While it should not be construed as I was of importance, I was acquainted in some fashion with many of the people involved in the story (so were the janitorial staff).

Meg Greenfield was a terrific Editorial Page Editor, writer, and a Pulitzer Prize Winner.  I was fortunate to be in her presence on a number of occasions.

I was lucky enough to meet Kathryn Graham and Ben Bradlee while with Universal Press and Asterisk.

I met Ben Bagdikian while he as at U.C. Berkley in the 1980’s.

The Shape of Water – Everything and Nothing All At Once

As The Shape of Water begins its 2 hour and three minute journey into your brain, I suggest you draw no conclusions about what is being presented until you have had some time to think about what you have just seen.

So while in the theater – go with the movie.  In the end you will be rewarded.  Why?

Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, An Education, Layer Cake) is a joy to watch and embrace as the heroine who over comes the odds and stands above all others.  Hawkins performance is reason alone to see the film.

The Shape of Water is set in the 1960’s with many of the characters representing segments of the population (handicapped, devoted scientist, sexual persuasion, color of skin, Creature from the Lagoon) that had demonstrably more difficult challenges then than now.  Not to say it is easy for these segments today, but they could be arbitrarily kicked to the curb in the early 1960’s.  These characters are played by today’s most prominent film actors; Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, and Michael Stuhlbarg.  Each of these three actors are, more often than not, a material reason as to why you like a movie.  They are good in The Shape of Water.

Then there are the bad guys.  Michael Shannon (Elvis & Nixon, Premium Rush, Take Shelter)  and Nick Searcy (Cast Away, The Fugitive, Moneyball) get to be really bad and they succeed in being believable.

So The Shape of Water while being almost arthouse in nature, staffed with the best of character actors in the industry is rather enjoyable to watch on the big screen.

Notes and Worthless Trivia from Jeff

Sally Hawkins in her roles in Layer Cake and Blue Jasmine is as good as it gets.  Both films are superb and Hawkins is a good reason as to why.

Michael Stuhlbarg co-stars in three films nominated for The Academy Ward for Best Picture in 2018:  The Shape of Water, The Post, and Call Me By Your Name.  Stuhlbarg was nothing short of brilliant in the lead role in A Serious Man.  Very cool to see this happen!

Warren Miller Public and Private – Always a Friend

 

My sometimes business associate, and at all times friend by the name Warren Miller passed on a week ago.  I waited a week to start this Post. Rarely can you find yourself associated with a true Icon with a lasting legacy.  And in these times, one who does not prove to have clay feet (e.g., a complete jerk or subject to some horrific scandal that brings tarnish and shame).  Warren Miller was a story teller extraordinaire who just happened to make ski films and shape an industry like few if any others. Warren Miller was a story teller extraordinaire who also could use the medium of photography, written word, and illustration as a means of expression.

Warren Miller’s public exploits are well documented and the obituaries provide the highlights.  And while I could use this space to reminisce and provide detail of our collaborations and relationship; Newspaper Syndication, Computerizing Warren Miller Entertainment, countless ski trips, weddings, birthdays, vacations, Christmas etc, I think I will use it to discuss the private Warren Miller.

The public Warren Miller could make everyone; from the living-in-a-bubble-elite to the ski-bum pinching pennies to survive feel warm, welcome, and connected to him and his tales.  It is a skill few possess.  The private Warren Miller was a somber and sincere person who knew first-hand that any true success, and happiness were best earned through hard-work, could prove to be fleeting, and should not be taken for granted.  The public Warren Miller could accept and be part of the life and scene associated with people who owned private jets and islands.  The private Warren Miller was more comfortable traveling with a trailer attached to the the back of his car, and eating home-made sandwiches to save some money that might be needed later, and seated amongst the commoners. The public Warren Miller was reliable and at-the-ready each fall for his adoring followers; like clockwork. The private Warren Miller kept his feelings and friends close-to-the-vest.  The private Warren Miller could discuss life in general and his life in particular with free flowing ease with his close friends.  Sometimes it could come across as maudlin but it was honest.  The private Warren Miller was a good listener and observer.  He could respond to your dilemma with context and provide an insightful point of view; even if it involved Warren discussing one of his failings and what he did to over come it.

A girl\lady\tornado named Laurie entered Warren Miller’s life in the 1980’s.  Warren attempted to grab the tornado. Laurie likely added 50 and took away 30 years to Warren’s life expectancy (for a net +20).  An elegant tom-boy, Laurie, in my opinion, was the best thing since sliced bread to happen to my friend.  And because I am a guy who grew up without a sister, Laurie also proved to be my little-big sister.  Warren and Laurie married and it proved to be a colorful, passionate, intense, and an ever-lasting one. One of the private Warren Miller’s best jokes; “Lewis and Clark had Sacagawea, I’ve got Sacalaurie!”

The public Warren Miller could accept having his show homes on Orcas Island and The Yellowstone Club appear in magazines and feature stories.  The private Warren Miller was at his very proudest meeting me at the front door of his interim Orcas Island house converted from a garage by his own two hands (for the most part).  The beauty of the Warren and Laurie braintrust is they could envision something even when the path to the final result started with them on opposite ends, presented enormous road-blocks, and ups, and downs.

The public and private Warren Miller loved to espouse and promote that each person should search for their own freedom in all aspects of their life.  The private Warren Miller possessed an almost unending appetite for the next new thing.  Because of his mental and physical gifts coupled with dogged determination, Warren could quickly become competent in his new subject of interest.  The result?  New material for new stories to be told.

The Door Opens with Smooth and Lasting Effect – The Music of Bryan Lubeck

 

 

When one door closes another opens. The first five words of an observation coined by the great inventor Alexander Graham Bell are well known and often used.  However, they may be the least important of Bell’s observation.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

How does that statement apply to you?  I would like to claim I have never focused too long on the closed door – but that would be an untrue.

In 2017 one door closed for me; my mom’s passing (at 93 years young). The burial of my mom’s ashes next to my father’s at the family church in Naples, Florida with all four of her boys present – brought me a sense of closure and peace.

The door that has opened – ever so slightly – is a reconnection with my nephew Bryan.  Bryan is the son of my oldest brother Dave.  To my pleasant surprise Bryan and his son Rhett attended mom’s burial.  Since the burial Bryan, and I have corresponded.  The doors cracks open a bit more.

Bryan is a popular musician on the Chicago Jazz scene (music, lyrics, vocals, and guitar).  And if you tune into the Water Colors channel on Sirius XM (66) you have likely heard his music.  This past Christmas, Bryan’s works from We Three Strings (2014) were played extensively on Water Colors.  There is good reason – his renditions of classic Christmas songs are inspiring, beautifully arranged, engineered, and played.  Bryan’s latest album (Sparks) was released last August (2017). Bryan’s Tuscan Sun (2012) spent 14 weeks in the Top 20 Adult Contemporary Jazz Chart.  Tuscan Sun is a superb body of work.  Brian’s arrangements highlighted by his Spanish Guitar are most certainly smooth.  However the songs have an organically intimate feel with wonderfully placed levels of calm and cheer.

So my question to you is… has a door closed in your life in the past year and have you found another to open?

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia:

Bryan’s work is available on the main consumer sites such as Amazon.

You can go to Bryan’s website for listen as well: Bryan Lubeck

In high-school and college I was a fan of the burgeoning Contemporary Jazz scene.  I could not get enough of George Benson, Earl Klugh, Dave Grusin, Bob James, Michael Franks, Lee Ritenour, Emir Deodata, John Tropea, Grover Washington, Eric Gale, and David Sanborn.

Earl Klugh played solo guitar at the wedding of one of my dad’s staff in the 1970’s.

Smooth Jazz and its urbane coffee-house compliant sound took charge in the 1980’s with the seemingly unending play of Kenny G.  While Kenny G.’s popularity and success cannot be argued, his music simply does not connect much with me.  For me the sound of Acoustic Alchemy and in particular Nick Webb’s Spanish Guitar makes my heart sing.  While Webb died of cancer in 1998 and Acoustic Alchemy lives on in another iteration, I listen to one of 20 of Webb’s works almost every day.  While each artist is unique, when I listen to Bryan’s work I am reminded of Webb and the wonderful sound of the Spanish Guitar.

Snow Returns to The Valley

January has brought The Valley snow.  In enough quantity that the City of Ketchum is back to performing one its principle tasks – removing snow overnight – such that the picturesque town – has The Elephants Perch looking in picture perfect form just before the sun rises.

In enough quantity that snow wraps the Barns that welcome traveller’s heading into Sun Valley from Ketchum.

In enough quantity that north of town Decker Peak in the Sawtooths is decked out in the white stuff.

In enough quantity that I’m going to stop taking pictures and typing and take a ski tour from the cabin into the Iron Creek and back for a little exercise.

Get Out – If Only It Was Easy

In most relationships – business or personal – there comes a time when the person in which you have been involved decides it is time for you to meet the parties for which they are associated or tied.  In business it may mean meeting the boss. When dating, it usually means meeting the parents. Invariably if your relationship is to continue these meetings require at least minimal discussion on straightforward and touchy subjects; morals, positions on topics of the day, race, religion, and sexual orientation. At best this experience is full of angst.  At worst the experience proves to be a nightmare.

Jordan Peele’s clever film Get Out projects all the elements of such an event and more.  Get Out provides comedy, drama, horror, and thriller scenes in taught fashion.  Peele (Key and Peele, The Daily Show, MAD T.V.) sets up the viewer to be the observer\participant in Get Out.  Get Out deliberately telegraphs foreshadowing on foreshadowing – so as to convince you that you know where this story is going and are simply along for the ride.  Sometimes you are right and sometimes you are wrong.  Regardless, the trip is fun viewing.

Get Out stars Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario) and Allison Williams (Girls) as the handsome couple in love.  Both are superb in their roles and Peele’s dialog for both cements their believability.  The parents are played by Katherine Keener (Capote, 40 year-old Virgin, Out of Sight) and Bradley Whitford (West Wing).  There casting is smart because both are the same age and logically could be parents of a women in her late 20’s.  Keener and Whitford have a history of being able to play supporting actors who’s roles are key to the success of the production.  In Get Out they both succeed.

Get Out deliberately leverages off of tried and true filmmaking techniques and provides it in a fresh and enjoyable package.

 

Star Wars – The Last Jedi: Worth Every Moment of Your Time

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi is all about action, adventure and fantasy on multiple levels with multiple developing story-lines.  This installment of the series includes content that could easily have been stretched into four separate films.  In short, The Last Jedi attempts to cover a great deal of ground and does so with success.

If I were to evaluate Star Wars: Episode VIII on an economic analysis basis it is the: JHL Price Performance Winner of 2017 for Best In Class Initial Viewing Action, Adventure and Fantasy*.

By the viewing time standard of today (i.e., lack of attention span or unwillingness to sit still for any extended-period of time) Episode VIII’s run time of 162 minutes (2.5+ hours) could be deemed as excessive or long in the tooth. Not So – at least for me.  The opening, closing, and development of existing story-lines is rather superb in The Last Jedi.  Writer\Director Rian Johnson and Film Editor Bob Ducsay deserve a great deal of the credit.  Both worked together on the quirky (and highly enjoyable) Looper.

In Episode VIII the old and new characters have life and vibrancy alike.  The movie score from John Williams feels to have found a new hop in its step.  If there is any disappointment it would be that Carrie Fisher’s last performance is muted if not stale, and Laura Dern and her role feel completely out of place.  Dern and her role feel as if it was lifted at the last second from the cutting floor of The Hunger Games.

Any slight disappointment with the Last Jedi is easily snuffed out by a terrific performance by Mark Hamill and the perfect placement of comic relief.  Hamill is nothing short of superb in this film and some sight gags remain etched in my brain!

Ultimately, Star Wars: Episode VIII is as good an installment as any made previously.

*JD Power and Associates and their B.S. and easily obtained (via $$$) “Product Quality Awards” have nothing on me!

Lady Bird – Small Life and the Bigger Picture

Greta Gerwig’s film Lady Bird is a masterpiece.  Gerwig (Frances Ha, Mistress America) provides us an insight into life and a part of ourselves few films endeavor let alone accomplish.

Lady Bird stars Saoirse Ronan (Atonement – AAN, Hanna, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Brooklyn – AAN) as a high-school senior experiencing all that comes with this time of life.  Instead of being a programmatic re-tread of Hollywood story-line(s) and character(s) presented in out sized and or and overly simplistic form, Lady Bird feels real from start-to-finish.  Ronan – as almost always – is perfect in the role.

Better than any film in recent memory, Lady Bird shows us youth, age, inexperience, experience, warmth, cold, sincerity, insincerity, happiness, sadness, the ability to communicate feelings, and the lack thereof, the lack of appreciation and (ultimately) appreciation.

Laurie Metcalf (Mom’s voice in Toy Story movies, The Big Bang Theory, Roseanne) and Tracy Letts (U.S. Marshals, The Big Short, Elvis & Nixon) are Lady Bird’s parents. Lucas Hedges (Manchester By the Sea – AAN, Moonrise Kingdom), Beanie Feldstein (Orange is the New Black),  Timothée Chalamet (Interstellar) and Odeya Rush (Goosebumps) are Lady’s Birds circle of friends.  Each of these six characters have roles that are rich and well developed.  The actors prove to be more than capable in the role. Some with a level of true brilliance.

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia and Notes:

If you have not seen Atonement (AAN Best Film 2007) do so.  All five films nominated in 2007 (Atonement, No Country for Old Men, Michael Clayton, Juno, There Will Be Blood) were worthy of the statue.  Atonement, Michael Clayton and No Country for Old Men are in the Lubeck film library and watched repeatedly.

Gerwig is a strong actor. She is great at appearing to be completely self-centered with a total lack of self awareness.  However her writing and directing skills may win the day.

The personality of Hedges character in Lady Bird is a 180 degree turn from that in Manchester By the Sea – a performance for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.  He is so convincing in both – uncanny.

Detroit

Detroit is finely crafted and quality film.  It covers a tough subject: 1967 Detroit Riots, Algiers Hotel incident, racism and hatred.

The team of Kathy Bigelow and Mark Bolan (Hurt Locker 6 AA 9 AAN, Zero Dark Thirty 1 AA 4 AAN) utilize the same approach and style for Detroit as they did with their Academy Award Winners – real time, almost documentary type feel, with little to no grandstanding for a specific agenda.

Unfortunately Detroit does not offer an arms-length view to separate us emotionally from the issue at-hand. Detroit is not set in a distant country with a highly foreign culture.  Detroit does not provide a common enemy that is greatly despised.  Detroit is here – the U.S.  Detroit presents with blunt force the implication and fallout from and lack of overcoming our country’s original sin – Slavery, Black Slavery and its ensuing racism.

Because the story is so well documented, virtually all of the main characters are portrayals of the real person – not a composite character for dramatic effect. Therefore Detroit presents the actual people involved in the situation – and in Bigelow and Bolan style – with little bias.  These people are good, bad, innocent, guilty, mischief makers, thieves, prostitutes, racists, poorly trained and ill equipped to deal with the problem, who look the other way, are out of their element and in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Detroit as in life has people who are innocent and will die. People who are jokesters who will pay for their joke with their life. People who do not understand a ruse and kill an innocent person.

Because Detroit follows a straight timeline, the story does not get better as time passes – it only gets worse.  There is no feel good ending or silver lining to the story.  In fact, the end (the court ruling by a jury) is perhaps most blunt of blunt objects.

The easy thing would be to avoid watching Detroit because of its serious nature, tough to swallow realism, and bluntness.  I suggest just the opposite.  As each moment passes, I am glad I watched this film and that Bigelow and Bolan had the resolve to make it.

Notes and Worthless Trivia from Jeff:

The sets and costumes in Detroit feel astonishingly accurate.  As many of you know, I am picky about this subject in films.  So yes, they did miss-spell Livernois Ave. in one scene and an outside scene did not hide a cellphone tower but that is about it.  Detroit felt like Detroit in 1967.  Quite an accomplishment.  Now if I could only go to the GULF and Sunoco gas stations and pay $25 cents a gallon or by some beer at the Oxford Beverage Drive Through on Mack Ave.

The Holiday Season is Upon Us. How do you celebrate?

 

On the Cusp of Winter on the River of No Return near the cabin (Salmon River, Stanley Idaho).

Goat Creek Meadow at the cabin starts to collect the white stuff.

Goat Creek at the cabin starts to freeze over.

It is December (at least on the Julian Calendar).  And that means holiday season moves into full-force.  How do you celebrate them?  Do they make you happy or excited or do you get stressed out or depressed?

For me, it feels that in the last 25-30 years commercialism of major holiday’s has intensified extraordinarily and the recognition\celebration of the actual event(s) have become highly politicized and muted so as to offend no-one and everyone at the same time.  Was this our goal for the land of the free?

Personally, I want for me (and you) the have the ability to recognize and celebrate holiday’s and events of which we find important.  This should not give us the right to shove the event down everyone’s throat, but at the same time we should not be forced to dilute it to the point of non-recognition.  For me it is Christmas Time and decorating a Christmas Tree with ornaments that allow me to recognize and enjoy (if only for a few days) all that life has provided.  Today it feels as if they have become [insert politically correct title] Time and [insert generic like non offensive term] Tree.

I am not a conspiracy theorist.  So I do not believe anyone (for who we can lay blame) has stole our holiday’s from us. So let’s not blame the government or some group foreign to the concept.  If they have been stolen?  Then it is us who has let that happen and it is us who can get them back.

I also like to be aware and respectful of the holiday’s of others – for which I do not specifically celebrate.  For example: Hanukkah

For 2017, Hanukkah celebration started yesterday (December 13th) and ends on the 20th.  For a a bit of background: Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the liberation of Jerusalem from the occupation of Antiochus IV, king of the Seleucid Empire in 165 BCE. There are many traditions surrounding the holiday, including gift giving, eating fried foods, listening to music and playing with dreidels.  A Dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with hebrew letters used for games.

Over the next week, National, Independence, and or Reconciliation type days are celebrated in: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Qatar and one of my favorite places: Anguilla. Note: I own and fly the flag of Anguilla.

So if you want to celebrate?  Celebrate and send me an email about what you celebrate, why, and how?  Educate me, I would like to learn something new.

For 2017, I am going to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  I am going to decorate my Christmas Tree and cheer for my Michigan State Spartan sports teams; Go Green!

Multinational holiday’s in December [here].

Calendar of holidays in December [here].