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Second Chance Review: The Butler

Another film I missed first time around (which pretty much describes all films these days).

From IMDB “As Cecil Gaines serves eight presidents during his tenure as a butler at the White House, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events affect this man’s life, family, and American society.”

081513_ent_butler_640The Butler boasts a star-studded cast of great actors, too many to list here (and actually so many it’s distracting) but must give a nod to Forest Whitaker in the starring role.

This film tries to keep focus on the modern history of civil rights in America, as viewed through the eyes of the main character(s), but while enjoyable in parts, I found the storytelling uneven and the timeline off-balance. I realize in the interest of time, some periods were depicted in great detail and others merely skimmed over, but this pacing was disconcerting to me. There is some historic value – recreations of actual events bring familiarity; however, it’s difficult, perhaps, to recreate historical events for viewers old enough to have experienced them first hand (and who know better). Scenes involving the various presidents are cliched and uninspired. The sub-plot surrounding Gaines’ wife’s (Oprah Winfrey) addiction and pursuit by their friend/neighbor feels forced, although the acting was first rate by all.

The inclusive of so many stars takes away from the story. I found myself marveling at the big names rather than experiencing their roles. (“Gee, why did they pick John Cusack to play Nixon? Hey, is that really Alan Rickman?”) Despite the irony, however, I did love Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan.

This was supposed to be a true story yet I understand a great deal of poetic license was taken. But what else is new? Most film adaptations do.

All in all, not as good a film as I’d expected. Grade:  C.

My Role at Downton Abbey

Today’s writing prompt asked:  “If you had lived hundreds of years ago, what kind of work do you think you would have done? What job would you have wanted to do?”

isobelcrawleyMy first response was to question whether or not I would be restricted what what were probably rules & laws that didn’t favor women in traditionally male roles. This led me to think about the women of Downton Abbey, so I modified my prompt to ask what role I’d play there.

When I think about the females at Downton, I realize that they are clearly divided:  the workers and the ladies. If given the choice, I’d step into the role of Isobel Crawley. She’s a little more independent, a little less Victorian. Interested in science and philanthropy. Unafraid to express her opinion. Friends with the Dowager but rarely snooty. According to Downton’s wikisite, Isobel is “well-educated for someone of her social standing and breeding, and trained as a nurse. She comes from a middle-class background and values family, charity, and education.” Except for the nurse part (which I haven’t done but could) the description fits. But would I marry Lord Merton? Probably not.

“Have you changed your pills?” – Isobel to Violet over Lady Edith’s interest in becoming a journalist.

Were I to find myself working downstairs, I’d likely be Anna or Mrs. Hughes. Anna for her gentle strength, her tolerance and devotion; but I’d have trouble dealing with Lady Mary. Mrs. Hughes for her no-nonsense reason, compassion and Scottish spirit; she reminds me of my late mother-in-law. Plus, she’s the only one who can stand up to Carson and get away with it!

Note:  Isobel is played by the lovely and talented Penelope Wilton, OBE. (The “OBE” stands for Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, a designation she acquired in 2004 for her service to Dramatic Arts.)

 

Second Chance Review: Philomena

PhilomenaPhilomena is a lovely film. When I first saw the trailers for this true story about a mature Irish woman in search of the child was forced to give up while living in a convent as a young girl, I knew I would love the BBC drama. Judi Dench portrays Philomena, a remarkable, if frustrating, protagonist whose sad tale inspires tears more than once throughout the film. In the course of her search, she partners with the recently unemployed journalist Martin Sixsmith, competently played by the film’s writer, Steve Coogan. From a historical aspect, Philomena brings to light some — dare I say sordid? — practices of an Irish Catholic convent during the mid-20th century. I can’t say too much without crossing the “spoiler” line, but the story weaves an intriguing journey through the past as Philomena uncovers clues to her son’s identity and life. A strong, underlying subplot draws attention to the role faith plays in how people respond to life’s unexpected adversities.

While mothers will find Philomena’s tale most poignant and emotional, all viewers will likely marvel at the unusual turn of events that leads to a surprising and bittersweet revelation.

I enjoyed the entire production. The cinematography, music, landscapes, and the talent all combine to make this a worthwhile watch. Grade:  A-

Guest Author: William Blowers on the “Seventh Sense”

Today, Beacon Street welcomes Southern California author William Blowers, who shares a thought-provoking essay on why he–and many of us–write. Enjoy and nod your head!

typewriterWhy do I write, you ask?

Ask me why I breathe, or why I love the beauty of a morning sunrise at the beach and the fresh smell of the mist of cool salt air as waves crash against sand. Writing is a part of me long waiting to be released. It is a seventh sense that operates in reverse, one that enables me to express my innermost feelings to others. Writing is me on paper, my hopes, dreams, fears, and desires laid out in black and white for me and others to touch, taste, see, and hopefully appreciate.

The written word has been described as being mightier than the sword. Only now in my later years as that part of me bubbles to the surface in an endless stream of imagination and wit, or, God forbid, a babble of meaningless drivel, am I able to appreciate the meaning of those words.

For me, writing is more than an expression of the inner self, the telling of a good story, or the song of a good rhyme. It is a lubricant for my brain, loosening and freeing parts that have been corroded with ingrained motive and prejudice. It allows thoughts to morph into words, and beauty to be perceived through my ears and eyes as I listen to and read the work of others.

As writers we come from all walks of life, and bring to the page differing life experiences—drama, humor, fear, tragedy and joy. We are male and female, old and young, liberal and conservative, black and white. But through our words we connect at a level that is blind to difference and one that finds unity and intrigue in the appreciation of our mutual love of written expression.

Whether we be the lyricist, the poet, the novelist, the playwright, or the historian, when we sit in groups and share and critique, we experience a bond that few can know or even understand. Who else but writers can get excited over clever rhyme structure, or will struggle to create the ideal sonnet written in perfect iambic pentameter? Are others willing to take three unrelated words and create a cohesive story around them? Can the non-writer appreciate the power of something as simple as an em dash, in fact, would they even know what it is, or care for that matter?

And who else sits at their word processor at 4:00 on a Sunday morning writing something like this.

I consider myself blessed with this gift of the written word. To be among others who share this passion is a privilege that few understand. Despite those times when one word refuses to follow another, when I question if I am a foreigner in a land of giants, when I read and hear others’ incredible work that makes mine appear to be little more than childish scribbles, I refuse to give in to that inner demon that says quit.

It is said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Well—I guess I enjoy being in the asylum.

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william-blowers-headshotWilliam Blowers (Bill) is a retired businessman, entrepreneur and the author of an upcoming historical novel, The Vendetta That Sank Titanic, due out this year from Morgan James Publishing. In the creation of this novel, fictional as well has historical characters interact in a tale of what might have been. Could the Titanic disaster have been planned, the ultimate act of revenge by a brilliant but psychotic mind? Why did Titanic sink? Keep up with Bill at his website and watch for news about the release of this much anticipated book! I know I can’t wait. Essay is reprinted with permission from William L. Blowers.

Free For All

No, not that kind of free-for-all. This is me, finally designating the first book in the Beacon Point Romance series as… FREE. Yes, friends, I did it. And it didn’t even hurt. So beginning today, Ever & Always is free-free-FREE at Amazon, iTunes, B&N, Coffee Time Romance, All Romance EBooks, Kobo and who knows where else! Before I knew it, other ebook promo sites were already posting about it. Exciting times, these. Will those downloading it for free like it well enough to pay for the other books in the set? Post good reviews? Time will tell….

 

Blank white book w/path

EBook free everywhere!

 

She’s been betrayed. More than once.
He’s been on the wrong path, ready for a change.
Hooking up should be easy, right?
Wrong.

Maddie’s got a boatload of baggage and a history full of emotional landmines. Can Jack solve the mystery of her past, overcome the specter of a dead lover and still come out the hero?

From the Bottom of My Heart

imagesClosing out 2014:

Thanks and Gratitude Part 1

I often think about gratitude without voicing it. I wish I’d taken time to even jot down those people who somehow made life easier for me this year. Generous, kind individuals here and there. Last Wednesday, for example, I was having a pretty terrible day due to some equally unkind individuals in a local imaging center. I went into CVS to pick up a few items, and the checker made a point of unloading my small basket for me. Huh? She didn’t know about my bad day. And it wasn’t just because it was Christmas Eve. She just didn’t want me to have to do it, for whatever reason. Thank you, CVS Checker!

To the Woman at Facey Medical, Radiology records who rushed a CD of my 2013 study last week. Thank you!! You didn’t have to do that, but you did.

The Guy at Valencia Acura who fixed all my tires on the spot without an appointment; you made my day.

The Waiter at TGI Friday’s in New York City, who somehow just knew I’d love a Cotton Candy Martini. You’re the bomb, bud.

To Quyen at The Nail Forum – you’re the best gel manicurist around. Wish I could afford for you to live with my nails; thank you for taking the time to do it right.

Oh! The librarians at Old Town Newhall LibraryMarie Risis and Erin Christmas – and Robin Clough at The Senior Center – thank you for your hospitality! I hope to return for more book fun in 2015.

All the Vets at Santa Clarita Animal Hospital, for your loving and compassionate treatment of Melie, Sandie & Dolce.

Pat News, for taking care of me off and on for almost twenty years.

My Circle of Hope and SCF Education Foundation families: you guys are the best! And to everyone who has supported these wonderful causes this year, applause and humble thanks.

Stay tuned… More to follow…