The IMITATION GAME – A brief review and the social question “IS THIS HOW WE TREAT OUR ACHIEVERS?”

benedict

SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT
(only because I want to discuss the ending, and that’s not possible without giving some things away)

Director: Morten Tyldum
Writers: Andrew Hodges (book) Graham Moore (screenplay)
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kiera Knightley
114 minutes run time
Black Bear Pictures, Bristol Automotive
Historical picture based on past events around World War II and Alan Turing’s work.

The Germans began World War II and then got off to a great start with it because they had a code system that was so very solid, so very unbreakable, that they could do anything, anytime, anywhere, just by sending their messages done in this code – and that code was called ENIGMA.

Bring out the British. They knew about Enigma. They knew it would require so much to break it. Their action: get together the best British minds and have them break the code. They hire exactly that, including a very socially inept Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), who ends up leading the group. His first act: to fire a few of the original people and hiring some of his own, one of them being the only female of the group, Joan Clark (Kiera Knightley).

Through some hard work, the group eventually does crack Enigma. Alan Turing’s social ‘quirks’ however, get in the way, and that affects the rest of the story. More on that later.

Mr. Cumberbatch captures the personality of Alan Turing in full force – the unawareness of his social ineptitude, his genius, his solid grasp on thinking out of the box … and his logical mind. He certainly deserved his nomination for the Oscar.

Kiera Knightley offered a very nice job on her character as Joan Clarke, the off-the-rack girl who has the mind and the smarts to compete with the big boys. Being female, her role is held back by the standards of the time, where women are capable of being merely secretaries, where intelligent women don’t exist – at least not on the same level of Alan Turing and his group. She, too, deserved her Oscar nomination.

Now, if you have read this far, you know enough to decide if you want to go see the movie or not. STOP if you don’t want to know some more info about the movie . . . THIS MEANS YOU

SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT

And so here it is. Throughout the movie, we learn in stages that Alan Turing is homosexual. And yes, I know that the proper word these days is “gay”, but I choose to use the word that is historically correct for the time period of the movie.

Now here’s the thing – in the story, we see Alan Turing picking up another guy at a bar. . . an adult guy. Not a kid, not in any ‘perverted’ way, he just tries to pick up the guy. There are other allusions throughout the movie, but this is the clearest instance. Joan also is aware of Alan’s sexuality, and she, as his fiancé (I will let you see the movie to see how such a thing works out) doesn’t care at all about that fact.
However, once the project is over, Enigma cracked and managed in such a way to shorten the war, the team of brains is dismissed, and we finally see Alan Turing in the early 1950s. Joan, now married to someone else, has come by for a visit. It is here that we find out that Alan Turing has been found guilty in a court of law of “indecency”. His sentence was his choice of either two years in prison or to take a drug that would chemically castrate him. He chose the latter, which gave him some serious side effects, not the least of which was tremors – the worst, though we are not necessarily told that it was a side effect – was that he killed himself a few years later.

And that brings me to the social question from the title of this blog. IS THIS HOW WE TREAT OUR ACHIEVERS? Not only Alan Turing, but seems that our society has developed a real taste for shooting down people who have achieved.

It doesn’t matter where the achievements are. We have torn down musicians, actors, journalists, politicians, athletes – you name it.

And the crimes have ranged from some pretty horrid circumstances including abuse, murder, robbery, alcoholism, exploitation of others – – – you name it.  There have also been some pretty petty things that we’ve used to tear down these achievers.

Certainly some have been guilty and deserved to be dropped a peg or two or twenty. Some haven’t. That’s where I put Mr. Turing.

It’s just that we are getting into this habit much too quickly – and THE IMITATION GAME is a reflection of that tendency.

So let’s try to keep perspective when we assess our achievers. Let’s be more discriminating about their failings, and be appreciative of their successes.

And hey, that wouldn’t be a bad thing for all of us to keep in mind when it comes to each other as well.

Week 9 – The Oscars Award Show 2015

oscars-2015-actors-actresses

Sunday night found me taking notes through the Oscar ceremony.  Four pages of notes.  Now to cut them down to much less.

 

The opening number was a visual feast – Neil Patrick Harris was fine, but it was the video clips that made it an interesting moment.  And hey, for once, I even liked something that Jack Black did.  NPH I’m sure had a big part in producing this, and kudos also for some good technical ideas on this fun opening numbers.

 

But let’s hit the show.  Songs first.  First off, throw out ‘Lost Stars; and the Lego tune.  Pretty ordinary at best.  Maybe add ‘Grateful; to that as well.  I was hoping there would be more to the Glenn Campbell song ‘I’m Not Gonna Miss You’, but it unfortunately wasn’t all that outstanding.  That leaves ‘Glory’ as the best — and indeed it was.  The right song won the Oscar.  My own lack of understanding still fails to grasp why a segment of ‘Glory’ included rap music.  I do not understand it.  It added nothing to nor detracted from the performance.

 

And then Jennifer Hudson did the song following the Memorial sequence.  She’s wonderful, but the song just added unnecessary time to the show.

 

Musically, though, I was truly surprised with Lady Gaga’s SOUND OF MUSIC set.  I was ready for her to rip off her skirt and pull off one of her gimmicks – and much to my delight, she did not.  She showed some pretty incredible pipes for Broadway show tunes – she sang so very well with Tony Bennett a few weeks ago on the Grammies – I hope we hear more of this kind of music from her rather than the gimmick laden gumwah we’ve seen in the past.

 

Style?  How about style next.  So many beautiful people — gowns, dresses, cleavage, tuxedos, hair styles – all very Hollywood and classy.

 

Except Jared Leto.  Try again, buddy.  You looked out of place in the past few awards shows.  Get over it all, please.  The 60s are over.

 

The awards for the technical and artsy things had one thing in common – blabber blabber blabber blabber (cue the orchestra) blabber blabber blabber.  This is part of the reason that the show was long – too long.  Particularly, the lady with the black dress made out of fuzzy balls and then yammered too much.  Not being a well-versed on the aspects of the areas of these awards, I have to say I’m sure the decisions were all solid ones.

 

The lifetime achievement awards were too long – and I would have liked to have seen more of Mr. Belafonte – especially clips of his early years.

 

That was a cute bit between IMINUTZI GARDANZ and Flidy BUTSRUCKER.  (Idina Menzel and John Travolta…..).

 

True royalty of the night showed up when Julie Andrews came out after Lady Gaga’s segment. . . and appropriately gave out the Oscar for best score.

 

And that was a good speech from the president of the Academy.  The whole SONY thing had died out some; her words may rekindle interest in the matter.

 

I always appreciate the MEMORIAL segment – I am surprised by a few names, but wow, it was a tough year.  Robin Williams left us too soon, and there is a good deal of thanks for all those who had been around so long – such as Mickey Rooney.  I’m glad we pay tribute to those who have come before.

 

And now on to the ‘big’ awards.

 

I have to see WHIPLASH.  Having been a music teacher, I know how it feels to lead kids as they build their musical skills.   However, I didn’t have the insistent angry passion that we saw in the clips of the movie.  JK Simmons acted the beans out of the part, and delivered a very nice acceptance speech… yes thank all your parents and talk to them.  I might add that it would be a good idea to thank your teachers, too.

 

I do wish to see BOYHOOD as well.  Patricia Arquette’s speech was totally correct in all she said – just out of time.  It just seemed out-of-place to deliver an activist type speech for a topic that hasn’t had a lot of news coverage lately.  At the same time, maybe it will get the ball rolling – or maybe I missed something that came out of the movie that moved her to this speech.

 

Best director – the Birdman guy – good enough for me.  Again, I have not seen it where I am – and I suspect this one won’t come to my town, being as surreal as it is.

 

Same thing for Boyhood.  I bet we don’t get it here, so we’ll have to red box it or something.

 

Wilma and I did see IMITATION GAMES, and therefore understood perfectly what screenwriter Graham Moore was talking about.  No spoiler here – we liked the movie and recommend it.

 

GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL was a royal delightful fun show.  Wes Anderson’s style takes some adapting – yet, it is an entertaining style that we don’t see enough of.

 

Does anyone else besides me think that Liam Neeson looks totally Finnish?

 

And so also on our list is THEORY OF EVERYTHING.  I sure admire Mr. Redmayne did a fine job, and I want to see it.  The movie may have been through town when we were out-of-town over Christmas.  His speech surely was truly sincere and humble.  I hope he’s not a one hit wonder and that we see more of him.

 

Julianne Moore is another we need to see.  Her speech is so Hollywood, but yet so very ‘love my husband and family’.

 

Sean Penn gave us BIRDMAN as best movie.  Can someone explain to me why it had to be Sean Penn?  I didn’t understand that at all.

 

And so, one more year done – a pretty good show, but it was too long.  Neil can host again.  That would be just fine with me.

WEEK 8 – Saturday Night Live: The 40th Anniversary Show in Review

Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary

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I watched it all, yes I did – from the Timberlake/Fallon opening to the final good night from Steve Martin. I enjoy the show, but let me say this: it was a microcosm of the history of the show itself. There were some highlights and some rather lowlights. Overall, I give the show a ‘pretty good’.

The big moments? I already mentioned the opening, which was clever. I don’t know how much time they used, but Justin T and Jimmy F must have hit every single catchphrase ever in the show. I would say It was no more than 4 minutes, but it was a big way to start the show.

My heart also leaped when Dan Aykroyd and Lorraine Newman redid BASSOMATIC. Sure, they’re older, but the energy and humor was there just like it was so many years ago.

The Jeopardy sketch was certainly definitive of all the game show sketches over the years. Bringing back the usual group of contestants was great – my favorite was Norm MacDonald as Bert Reynolds. Kudos for the creative categories that a loud ‘Sean Connery’ to make his lewd comments.

All the hosts together? Totally great! I did, however, miss the presence of Candace Bergen. She should have been out there with them.

Can you think of anyone more appropriate to introduce the political humor segment than Jack Nicholson? Nope, neither can I. All the bits were there – Chevy Chase’s falling Ford, Dan Aykroyd talking down the druggie as Carter, and everyone doing one of the Bushes.

I can’t pick what bit was the best, but you sure have to put Tina Fay/Amy Poehler/Jane Curtin doing the Weekend Update right up there . . . and Melissa McCarthy as Chris Farley as Chris Farley’s motivational speaker and Emma Stone as (God Bless her) Roseanne Rosanna Danna. It proves the younger gang appreciated the classic routines.

Jane Curtin brought home the segment with my biggest laugh of the night when she said, “I used to be the only blond reporting the news. Now there’s a whole network dedicated to that.” And then they flashed the FOX NEWS logo …. It is to laugh!

And then the singers . . . introduced by Martin Short (who sadly didn’t do Ed Grimley) and Maya Rudolf as Beyonce, we saw them all. A short bit of Buckwheat (loss of points to Eddie Murphy for not doing it himself, even though he was in the house . . .) Joe Piscopo as Frank Sinatra, Dana Carvey lauding his Broccoli song, Bill Murray and the piano work of Paul Schaeffer doing the sleazy lounge singer, and Steve Martin King Tutting for a few measures – and then the Blues Brothers – sadly, no John, but fun to see anyway.

Mike Myers and Dana Carvey brought us back to Wayne Campbell’s basement, and God bless ‘em, they hit it! Funny list about SNL — but you know, I would have done one less Kanje West joke and maybe made one of the top slots as listing a thank you to the audience and viewers over the years.

Mildly good was the tribute to New York as sung by the sweet Alicia Keys. More about her later.

The tribute to those who have gone on came a little late in the show for my taste. I would have liked to have seen it earlier – and there should have been a few more clips of what Gilda Radner and John Belushi brought us – they were founding members of the show – we deserved to see more of what they brought that allowed the other cast members who came along to do what they did.

But like I said, there were some pretty lame bits. The worst was the ‘song’ by Adam Sandler and friend. It was pointless and unenjoyable to me.

Close to almost as bad was the CALIFORNIANS skit. I don’t care that it had Taylor Swift and Betty White in it. It was not funny, and for SNL, that’s a crime of a felonious nature.

The segment on the home movies sure didn’t do much to benefit the show . . . but then again, I still am trying to figure out why Louis CK is whoever he is. It was good to see, however, Deep Thoughts and Mr. Bill.

The “ATHLETIC” segment? More Ditka, please, and less of the stuff they did show.

In the not so bad category was Jerry Seinfeld fielding questions from the audience, where we saw some faces that were good to see again. Eddie Murphy, introduced by Chris Rock, was okay, but I sure wish he had participated more. Robert DeNiro put a nice cherry on his bit by pointing out that SNL is so old that it was actually watched on TV when TV was TV.

And then the music guests – what a fine selection of those who helped make SNL what it was, starting with Paul Simon. He may be getting old-looking, but he still brings his words to life not only as songs but as poetry.

Paul McCartney, too, is getting older, but hey, they still is an icon of the era when SNL first started – and is still such an influence on the musical world.

Miley Cyrus represented the more recent years of SNL. Doing the Paul Simon song FIFTY WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR LOVER was just another indication of the relationship between Paul Simon and SNL. Unfortunately, this 22-year-old sounded like a 43-year-old smoker. Geez, girl, take it easy.

And like I said, I was going to bring up Alicia Keys. Oh, would it have been her voice we heard instead of Kanje West. Mr. West at best was miscast on the show. He should have stayed home. Heck, the producers shouldn’t have approached him in the first place.

So at 10:30 when I turned the TV off, I came away entertained, full of fond memories of some of the finest comedic bits on TV ever, and just tarnished a bit by some of the not so good stuff that appeared here.

Will there be a fiftieth? Let’s find out and keep watching.

WEEK 7 – The Lynch Attitude, The Grammy Awards, and Boston

Marshawn-Lynch-Candy-Testing-Machine jackie-bradley-jr-getty Kanye-2

 

Marshawn Lynch and Kanje West and the guy from the Red Sox

The attitude continues as we have others who are gladly carrying on the soul of Marshawn Lynch and his ever so kind attitude towards the fans that he displayed at the past Super Bowl events. Now it seems there’s some little scrubbini rookie for the Boston Red Sox who says he’s going to “Go Marshawn Lynch” on the Boston press. This little scrubbini, one Jackie Bradley, batted a whole .198 last year and struck out in about 1/3 of his at-bats. He has been quoted as saying, “I’m going to go all Marshawn Lynch this year. I just focus on me. I have to do what I’ve got to do. I don’t even talk about it to anybody.”

Well, how nice for him. May he hit .199 this next year.

And not to limit the Lynch attitude to sports, let’s look in on the pleasant heart of Kanye West. Yet again, he has appointed himself as the judge and jury of anything Beyoncé. He took it upon himself to let the world know that Sam Smith did not deserve his award.

Mr. West, you know what? You may be a good to better than good performer, but you sure have a way of being rude to your fellow performers. You are the Marshawn Lynch of the music world.

First-Look-at-Tony-Bennett-Lady-Gaga-Cheek-to-Cheek-LIVE

And while we’re on the Grammy Awards …

I didn’t care about the winners. Those who judged followed that part of the musical industry a whole lot better than I did. But the show? I didn’t watch the whole thing, but I truly enjoyed some of the moments – Katy Perry in her white dress in front of the silhouette was a very nice piece of work. Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga were a great duet – we could use more of that from Lady Gaga – she had the pipes for it, so maybe she should just get rid of the gimmicks and sing.

Let Madonna take a walk, and take her gimmicks and costuming and staging with her. I miss the performers who just take the microphone and sit and sing… Bring back performances like Bette Midler used to do …and can STILL do …

boston skyline

Boston and its snow

I know your pain, Boston. Last winter found me beat into the ground with the snow we had last year. Last winter truly womped my attitude, just ask my wife. I don’t blame the Bostonians at all for their frustration.

But, as Linus would tell Charlie Brown, be of good cheer. You will make it through this. We saw an amazing community called Boston rise up and unite in the bombings of the Boston Marathon a while back. A bunch of snow is nothing compared to that. Go get it, Boston.

Week 6 – Here’s Orv

Week 6 – Here’s Orv

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(photo:  Orv and I together at his last Christmas with us.  This is my favorite pic I have with him.  He died 5 weeks later.)

Two years ago this week, my father-in-law Orv died after facing a long, arduous battle with cancer.  He was one day short of his 83rd birthday.

 

Orv was born Feb. 5, 1930 in extreme northeastern North Dakota, near the small town of Cavalier.  He grew up there, attended business college in Fargo, and married his wife Elaine.  They lived in Moorhead where they became the parents of 3 daughters; the first one is my wife Wilma.

 

Orv worked for the General Motors Acceptance Corporation in that area for several years, transferring to Merrillville, Indiana in 1968, where he worked until he retired in 1984.  After a few years of retirement, Orv and Elaine moved to Greenfield, Indiana.  Elaine still lives there.

 

I didn’t meet Orv until 1982, when Wilma and I flew down to Merrillville to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family.  This was the first of many visits to Indiana that eventually included trips into Chicago for White Sox baseball games,  to the museums, and to other interesting spots in that part of northwestern Indiana.

 

Orv and I grew to respect and enjoy each other.  On visits to Minnesota, he and I would be found on the lake, seeking walleyes and whatever else would bite – and such excursions included (at first) fishing from my canoe in the backwaters of Gilbert Lake, and then in my little 14 ft. boat.  We covered many different lakes – and many conversations as we floated along.

 

Often we engaged in golf – sometimes at the courses here when he and Elaine came for a visit – other times down in his neck of the woods.  Neither of us were any more than duffers, but we had a good time.

 

We often vacationed with Orv and Elaine – sometimes in Minnesota, sometimes in Florida.  They traveled a great deal in their trailer, so it was common for them to set up their trailer at a small resort near our home, where we would spend time with them.

 

Orv was good with tools.  He could repair cars, he could build cabinets, and he could do general repairs around the house.  When we moved into our present house (1989) he was instrumental in finishing off our deck – boards, screen, structural improvements, and the like…. He built child-sized desks for our kids.  He often fixed something that was beyond my aptitude – and those efforts were highly appreciated.

 

And there was Orv the husband and father.  I grew up with a father who was dedicated to his family – and one of the few men who matched my dad in this area was Orv.  He adored his wife.  He loved his three daughters.  He put them first over all.  Every step he took in his life was made with the benefit of his ladies in mind.

 

He enjoyed a good joke that came out of a joyful sense of humor – he could kid, and he could take a ribbing right on back.

 

I was the first son-in-law to come along.  I was accepted as his daughter’s suitor and then as husband.  He kidded me when it was called for, he treated me with respect and honor at the proper times.  I was proud to be the first son-in-law, and I enjoy rubbing it in to the two other sons-in-law that I’m first, but I am honored to have shared Orv with those other two fine gentlemen who married into the family.

 

And as a grandfather to my two children, I could not have asked for any better.  He played with my son and daughter.  He brought them gifts, he read to them, he visited with them as they grew into adulthood.  He was generous in so many ways to them (and to me, for that matter.)

 

So this is my tribute to the man who in effect served as my second father.  Thank you, Orv.  You are missed.

 

119 d bass heidi  069 d on the picnic table

PHOTOS: Orv with my daughter after a good day of fishing.  My son Steven on Orv’s lap during a campsite stay on Lake Edward.

 

 

 

 

Marshawn Lynch, Meet Ernie Banks. Learn from him.

banks baseball card     NFL: Seattle Seahawks-Minicamp

This week, Baseball Hall-of-Famer Ernie Banks died at the age of 83. He played for the Chicago Cubs for his entire career.

This week, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch very reluctantly appeared at an event as part of the Super Bowl in Arizona. He responded to every question with, “I am here so that I don’t get fined.”

Let’s review.

BANKS: 19 years, over 500 home runs, first played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues. He spent two years in the army. In 1953, he became the first African-American on the Chicago Cubs team, where he stayed the rest of his career. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first year of eligibility. He was highly regarded as “Mr. Cub”, serving as an unofficial ambassador for the Cubs and for the city of Chicago. Ernie Banks earned nearly $700,000 over his entire 19 year career.

He experienced some marital problems through his life.

LYNCH: Grew up in Oakland and played football for UC/Berkeley. Drafted 12th in the first round of the 2006 draft by Buffalo. He played there a few years and did a fine job in many ways. Went to Seattle in 2010. He is known by the nickname “Beast Mode”. When drafted, he signed a contract for 18 million dollars, and he hadn’t yet run a single play on the professional football field. Side Note: That one contract is 25 times more than Ernie Banks made in his whole career.

He has faced misdemeanor hit-and-run charges and a DUI.

Both men did some work with charity.

But here’s my point.

Ernie Banks rose through the strife of those racial years in baseball. He became known as the smiling, productive shortstop and first baseman for the Cubs. He was warm to his teammates and the fans. When asked about the weather on a certain summer, he commented on how nice the weather was, finishing with his famous, “It’s so nice, let’s play two”.

How’s that for an attitude?

And then I take you to the recent Super Bowl event, where I’ve already pointed out Marshawn Lynch’s activity in it. He does little to appreciate the fans with this kind of demeanor. Not surprisingly, his reluctance in such situations is well-known and is expected as standard procedure for him.

How’s that for an attitude?

Dear Mr. Lynch.

Remember that as a professional athlete, you got there on the shoulders of the likes of Ernie Banks.
Start acting like it.

Concert Review: PIANO TRIOS by Three Lakes Area Music Festival Musicians

Tscott-lykins-4  mary jo g   Jonathan.Magness

The Lakes Area Music Festival, now approaching its seventh summer, has expanded itself with a winter series of concerts. Last night at the Lutheran Church of the Cross, the talents of three of those musicians rang throughout the church to an audience of 185 patrons.

On the surface, the program of two different piano trios is hard-core classical music as one can get. Piano trios? A piano, a violin, and a cello? For a whole 75 minutes? Well, yes, maybe on the surface, but the music was hardly stuffy or boring at all. No, not at all.

The first trio, Piano Trio no. 2 in E Minor, written by Dmitri Shostakovich, contained a drive and a twentieth century air about it that was intense, strong, and energetic. Crisp and percussive when it needed to be, flowing and graceful in other places, not to mention the playful moments. One didn’t have to watch the musicians to realize they were leaning forward in their chairs with concentration and total involvement in the piece.

The second, Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, was more than expected as well. When I think of Mendelssohn’s music, I think of a few piano pieces I played in my piano lesson days – in other words, pretty ordinary and common as it fits into the classical music world.

Color me wrong again. More of the performers and their drive. More of the energy and pluck of the first piece. Perhaps more melodic in some ways than the first piece, but not quite as intense. The conclusion of the piece, a full oncoming rush of notes from all three performers, built to the final notes with a sprint to the end that exhilarated the audience.

The three performers are all accomplished. Pianist Mary Jo Gothman who has appeared often for the music festival, came to us from the Minnesota Opera, where she also works as a vocal coach. Violinist Jonathan Magness, who has appeared in the Lakes Area Music Festival every year since its beginning, is a member of the Minnesota Orchestra, where he is presently acting principal second violin. Cellist Scott Lykins is a Brainerd native, a graduate of Eastman School of Music, and the founder of the music festival, where he serves as both executive director and artistic director.

The three created a night of elevated musical pleasure for a good audience. Not to worry, there are more to come.

Saturday, April 4 at Sherwood Forest – A NIGHT IN PARIS with soprano Maria Jette, pianist Greg DeTurck, violinist Mayla Moffet and more from Scott Lykins. The 2015 summer season programming will be announced at this concert. This is one of the few festival events that requires a ticket – which will be available March 1 on the festival website at http://www.lakesareamusic.org. The concert will also be performed on April 2 at the Women’s Club in Minneapolis.

Sunday, April 19 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Brainerd, – BEETHOVEN’S SEPTET
This is the final concert of the first winter season of the festival, featuring many members of the Minnesota Orchestra.

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