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.
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.
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
Surely, a film with the poorest of screenplays and direction can be overcome and saved by a male cast of Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kostner, Gary Oldmann, and Ryan Reynolds and bookend by Gal Godot and Antje Traue as the female leads. Surely!
Well… no they cannot and don’t call me Shirley.
Criminal is as bad a (professionally funded mainstream) movie as has been put into distribution in recent memory. The title of the film is highly appropriate but for unintended reasons – for what it forces the viewer to endure. There is almost nothing in Criminal that is worthy of our time and dollars – except the child. And we should all feel bad for little Lara DeCaro as she will have to live the rest of her life knowing people can tie her back to acting in this film.
Another title for this film could have been Bad Derivative. Criminal utilizes (to new lows) the lamest components from the worst of the poorly produced Hollywood Knockoff films. For example, the good ole’ Operation Room: it is filled with 6.47 million high definition screens and the same number of staff who are led every view minutes by Gary Oldman’s character walking in and shouting “Okay people listen up.” As you have come to expect, the 6.47 million high definition screens and staff are able to track everything real-time – I mean everything. I swear that on one of the screens The Bad Guy is throwing out the Opening Day pitch for The Chicago Cubs before returning to his secret lair. Oh, wait a moment, I have to stand corrected. The screens and the trackers always seem to miss things of actual importance – not because the technology and people fail – but because of the huge gap in the plot that is so obvious it can be seen from outer-space.
Have you ever had an expectation for an event, and despite best laid plans the result is simply not of which you had hoped?
I could list all of mine, but that would entail about 58 volumes of narrative. In this case it involves my friend, partner, associate and son – Kyle.
Kyle proposes that we climb/skin on skis to the top and then ski down from the peak overlooking Headquarters Canyon and the Wood River River Valley just north of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area main offices He suggests that due to the recent warm weather we make the attempt on Saturday morning just after sunrise, ascend while the snow is firm and then descend to the valley floor on a bed of soft corn-like snow as the day warms. A perfect plan if ever there has been one.
Headquarters Peak – Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho
Will Mother Nature abide and follow the directive?
As the sun rises on Saturday morning the temperature at the trailhead is 23 degrees. A weather system producing snow and somewhat cooler temperatures predicted to pass-through the night before is delayed and is starting to materialize as we begin our ascent. The contrasting colors and light are pretty cool. Although the avalanche danger is pretty low we bring and check all aspects (beacon, snow measurement, shovel, breathing apparatus, probes and SPOT) The trip is projected to entail 2,672 vertical feet of gain in 1.70 miles. Off we go and right on schedule.
About 10 minutes in my AT bindings are malfunctioning. Without intention they are moving from unlocked to locked mode. This forces me to take my ski off and reset the binding each time. This task on a steep slope and with heavy pack (that includes avalanche and camera gear) is less than fun. After about the fifth time in the first 30 minutes it is time to establish a fix. First we try a gerry-rigged approach – think Three Stooges. Before we even test the method, Kyle and I determine it will fail. We both I identify and discuss a possible new solution. It works and will so for the remainder of the uphill part of the trip.
Although about 3-6 hours late, the weather front makes its full appearance. The implication is the slope is very icy and the skins on our skis are not holding in the steeper terrain. At about 6,900 feet elevation Kyle looks at me and says something to the effect – I know I am all about the uphill, but was hoping for a lot better than this!
Both of us have shared a treasure trove of great back-country experiences; many where every aspect of the trip falls perfectly into place. However, it starting to look like this is not one of them.
At 7,200 feet elevation a fairly steep section is encountered and will ensue for good period of time. The icy terrain exacerbates the situation. We both agree it is time to put on our crampons. Hey that is the ticket! The steepest portions require us to side-step up the mountain. However, both of us determine there is nowhere near the need to move to boot-pack mode (skis in pack and climb on all fours with crampons).
At 8,000 feet elevation the pitch of the ascent starts to become very straight forward. However, the weather front is producing material snowfall and near zero visibility conditions. We climb for another 750 vertical feet in this setting. Kyle and I both agree that we do not feel the situation is particularly dangerous – just not much fun. We both agree that we can comfortably head back down the we came up – keeping the skins and crampons on until we reach the valley floor.
We climb for another 100 vertical and I have determined I have made a mistake and it will turn out to be a big one if a correction is not made. Although I am about to turn 59 (June) I regularly make these kinds of ascents (with heavy pack) without the need for a full break. Despite being super close to the top (100-200 vertical feet) – I need a full break. Kyle and I agree to stop for 5-10 minutes; get water and share some food. Wow… what a difference.
Kyle starts back up first and within a couple of minutes establishes the summit – which has a 5-10 foot cornice top. He locates a level spot about 10-15 yards to its right. Kyle reaches the level spot and confirms success.
As we sit at the top, the visibility has not improved. We agree to sit and rest for a few minutes and see if the weather conditions improve. And as if on queue, the clouds start to part. The peaks around us and the Wood River Valley make an appearance. Snow flurries continue for about 10 minutes, but it is obvious the storm is breaking up – for a while at-least.
The bowl we originally intend to ski sit directly below our skis. Kyle suggests we change our gear into downhill mode and seize the moment. We do.
Before we leave, I decide I need to get a shot with the snow flurries and breaking sun. Of course the lens cap escapes me and rolls away. Luckily the cap stays above the ridgeline. Kyle skis down to the cap and reclaims it. I take the shot just as he lifts his head.
As we start down the sun comes out in full force – with the clouds becoming puffy pillows on the horizon. The fall line is long and at a superb pitch. I secure my heavy pack and off the cornice I go. The snow condition for the first quarter of the descent is quite good. The middle half of the descent provides the snow condition we desire – soft corn-like that is perfect to ski on a warming day. During the last quarter of the descent the snow becomes heavier. We navigate carefully through the trees just above the valley floor down the the bottom. What a run!
Kyle and I head back to the Jeep, take off and secure our gear. Our next destination – The Sawtooth Brewery in Ketchum to replenish our body’s with the appropriate fluids and a full (not partial) burger with all the trappings.
Kyle Lubeck, Lens Cap at the top of Headquarters Peak, The Sawtooth Recreation Area, Idaho
Many times people and organizations penalize others to the point of breaking (or even worse) solely because they have position power and want to use it (e.g., do so because I say so, and I am the boss of you). Often it is utilized regardless of whether they have (or do not have) expert power (e.g., do so because it will be appreciated by our customers and only requires a little extra effort by all of us including you and me).
The film Trumbo and its storyline could be described as one about the about the application of expert power taken by one party ultimately overcoming the position power used by another – displaying many of the positive and negatives consequences for all parties involved during the telling.
If hard and fast, black and white positions on politics and history, and their implications are put to the side for about two hours – Trumbo proves to be an exceptionally entertaining movie that also provides a masterful performance by its lead – Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo. While outwitting his adversary’s (and even himself) Trumbo the man uncovers there is black, white and all kinds of shades of gray to life.
Mentioning the Cohen Brothers (Blood Simple, Fargo, No Country for Old Men) and their film work usually generates one of three responses; I hate it/them, I do not understand it/them. I love it/them.
My opinion of the Cohen Brothers is the last of the three with occasional consideration for including the second statement. However, if you do not like the work of Cohen Brothers, their new film Hail Caesar will not change your mind.
Hail Caesar is a comedy that is pin point accurate in its depiction of people or the subject it is spoofing. Hail Caesar is goofy but not goof-ball. It is a movie that is clever, smart and funny, but does not generate continuous laugh-out loud guffaws.
The beauty of most Cohen Brother films is that they feel like a presentation being made by someone or some team of people with expert knowledge and first hand experience on the subject matter who happen to include wonderful sight gags and funny lines.
Many of the Cohen Brothers Reparatory Theatre Players join the fun in Hail Caesar (John Brolin, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand) as well as newcomers who are presently movie industry top-billing actors (Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johannson, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill). All perform their roles to the level you would expect. Alden Ehrenteich (Blue Jasmine) as Hobie Doyle is superb.
The Cohen Brothers Reparatory Theatre A Team on the production side also signed up for Hail Caesar; Tim Bevan – Producer, Cater Burwell – Music, Roger Deakins – Cinematography, Nancy Haigh – Set Decoration and Mary Zophres – Costumes). The work from this list of people is reason enough for me to go see a film.
The trip to the top of McDonald Peak (10,089 ft.) in the Sawtooth Range is a 3,200 vertical foot ascent all in snow. McDonald sits between Alturas and Pettit Lakes and look directly across the valley at Horton Peak of the White Cloud Mountain Range. The round-trip effort of 24+ hours includes a dawn photo-shoot followed with a sunrise ski off the summit back down to the valley floor. The trip involves an overnight just below the summit and then an ascent to the peak starting about 90 minutes before daylight. Chris Lundy and I make the effort without our normal third partner Sara Lundy. Sara is unavailable to make the trip. The initial implication of being sans Sara is two-people carry the weight normally distributed between three. Our packs weigh 50+ pounds each. Luckily, one of Sara’s big skills – route finding – is not as necessary as the route to the top follows a straight line up the spine of the mountain.
Many times we find our plans being conservative in terms of time estimates. This will not be one of those trips as the above average snowfall and heavy pack eliminate any chance for a quick trip to the top. Our plan has us spending the night in small protected area about 700 feet below the summit. The location Chris suggests is superb. As is the norm we build a spot for our sleeping tent as well as a Mid. The Mid acts as a cover over a living area that is separate for the sleeping area. Separating sleeping and living areas improves the quality of winter camping 3,456% or some similar percentage. The technique of creating a winter camping living area is to dig out spots for seating (a bench) and cooking (top) and eating (top) followed by the Mid being placed as a cover for protection. The result? Think of a sunken living room with high ceilings in a home.
The morning ascent involves using skins on our skis for the first 300 vertical feet. The remaining 400 vertical feet up to the ridge and summit involves a boot pack – in effect skis placed your back and climbing in your ski boots. The route to the top is highly variable. It involves post-holing in deep snow on all fours, rock scrambling, walking uphill on a windblown cornice and recovering from sinking into snow that is waist deep. Arriving 15 minutes ahead of schedule our effort is rewarded with a fascinating small stream of dark clouds, reds, oranges. and pinks.
As dawn begins I look east and south and can make out four mountain ranges and their highest peaks. My son Kyle and I summited each of them in 2012. Castle Peak (11,815 ft.) the highest in the White Cloud Mountain Range is a big black blob as dawn light starts more to the south. As the light increases, I can make out the route Kyle and I took to its summit. Hyndman Peak (12,009 ft.) and the Pioneer Mountain Range make themselves most apparent first. They are located farther east and south, sitting – in this view – between the White Cloud Mountain Range and the Boulder Mountain Range. Next up I can identify Ryan Peak (11,714 ft.) the tallest in the Boulder Mountain Range. However the most prominent piece of rock is Galena Peak (11,115 ft). Chris and I plan on summiting and skiing down Galena Peak later this month. To the south is the Smoky Mountain Range and its tallest peak Saviers (10,440 ft). All of the rock is bathed in a pinkish orange. Saviers evokes fond memories for me as Kyle and I climbed four named peaks in one day (Lower Titus, Titus, Bromaghin and Saviers) in the month of October in the best fall weather possible just a few days before a heavy snowfall. Behind me are the Sawtooths (the fifth range) and in full view is Snowyside Peak. The mountains are bathed in pink. I can see all the way to the Rakers. I am certain the Rakers are waving hello to me, saying thanks for the visit last August.
The wind at the summit of McDonald is strong and constant. The temperature feels much colder than the projections from the weather service. With shots in-hand Chris and I descend from the summit. The top portions of the ski are wind encrusted snow. Luckily the lower half of the bowl provides wonderful soft snow down to the campground. After breakfast and a short nap we break camp. Except for about 200 vertical feet of heavy crud, the 2,400 vertical foot trip down is almost all a smooth powdery ski in trees or side traverse to the valley floor.
David Maraniss (When Pride Still Mattered) demonstrates again why he is one of America’s best at researching and providing the narrative for a story.
His book Once in A Great City is a story about America and its greatest industrial city and their associations and direct connections from the vantage point of 1963. Once in A Great City is a highly compelling read providing unvarnished insight into the power brokers and people of influence in the era. In 1963 America and Detroit appear to be on the top of their game; WWII is in the past, and Vietnam and Race Race Riots are yet to be front and center.
The why associated with the what has been, and is to become for America and Detroit are made clear and obvious in this book.
Jeff’s worthless trivia and notes
Having grown up in Detroit the book was highly entertaining and brought back to the surface many memories.
My Dad and I were extremely close. I was five moving to six years of age during the period described in the book.
Because of my Dad’s position and his desire to share his time and interests with me; I would eventually meet, and as I got older come to know many many people discussed in the book . The names start with a reference to Mark Beltaire (Town Crier Columnist for the Detroit Free Press). The Beltaire family was a critical component of my early life. Why? In my early childhood, the Lubeck’s and Beltaire’s gathered, exchanged, and opened gifts on Christmas Eve and therefore my first present to open each year was from them!
The Editorial Braintrust (aka names on the Masthead) of the Detroit News in 1963. The News was the largest Evening and 3rd Largest Sunday newspaper in America. My Dad has just been promoted to the #2 editorial position (Associate Editor) by Martin Hayden (Editor). R.E. would serve in that position for 17 years.
One of the great benefits of a batch of early season snowstorms is that skiing peaks and ridgelines with significant vertical could be had merely by walking out of the house. In some cases this means literally (i.e., Lubeck Ridge 1,200 vertical) or figuratively as in drive the car for a mile or so, park and start up. (e.g., Timber Gulch Ridge 1,000 vertical or Greenhorn Gulch 1,800 vertical).
Kyle and I are venturing off trail with skins on the AT skis. Because Kyle has such good instincts about rout and pace, these trips are most enjoyable.
Lubeck Ridge is fun because of being at the top at sunset and then skiing down back to the house – or at least the our friends – the Weatherall’s house and then walk home. An added bonus is that a fog layer moves is we start down down. Luckily we have headlamps on for the decent. Kyle and I made it home just in time to watch the MSU Spartans basketball game.
A more significant effort is the 6.5 hour journey through Timber Gulch to the top of Greenhorn – with our descent encompassing the entire Greenhorn Gulch ridgeline and then tree skiing down into Golden Eagle.
It is also been established that a Mountain Lion and her cubs are in the immediate area. Kyle tells me that if there is a direct encounter, he does not have to out ski momma lion – just me!
Sunrise on Greenhorn from the backyard on the Lubeck home the following morning. Look closely and you can see our tracks across the entire ridgeline before dropping into the trees.