“The Ides of March”–Beware, Beware!

  Is it possible for any political candidate to win and yet remain true to his or her original values?  Movies about dirty politics such as “Wag the Dog”, “All the President’s Men”, “The Manchurian Candidate”, “Primary Colors”, “Bob Roberts” and “The Candidate” (to name a few) has yet another winner in this category–“The Ides Of March”.  Based upon the Beau Willimon play, Farragut North,  “The Ides of March” explores new ground as well as covering familiar territory about media’s role in politics. (Willimon, by the way, worked on Howard Dean’s campaign for president).

With a star-studded cast, “The Ides of March” focuses on a press secretary, Stephen Meyers (the fabulous Ryan Gosling) as an idealistic media wizard who believes in his boss, Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) currently running in a pivotal Ohio primary for the Democratic presidential nomination.  As the movie opens, Governor Morris is an uncompromising, idealistic liberal who believes he can make a difference. Meyers has obtained his prestigious job due to his friendship with Morris’ seasoned campaign manager, Paul Zara (underplayed subtly by Philip Seymour Hoffman). The  opposing candidate, Senator Pullman, has an equally experienced campaign advisor, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti).  All those who are driving the campaign strategy are pragmatists–cynical and cold-blooded analysts– except for the young Stephen Meyers. Above all, however, Stephen Meyers believes mostly in himself.

Gosling yet again is the touchstone of the film, playing with a ferociousness and intensity we have seen in “Murder by Numbers”, “Lars and the Real Girl”, “Blue Valentine” and “Drive”. In the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the Ohio primary, Steve is obsessively focused on the governor’s campaign victory.   Others do not register on his radar:  the young intern Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), the New York Times journalist (Marisa Tomei), even his boss Paul Zara except when they  can support his move up the ladder. Personal and political ambitions are inextricably intertwined.  Motives are suspicious.  Mistrust and betrayal are inescapable. Concealment reveals to astonishing effect!

The 2012 US presidential campaign is  a year away, and yet many people seem already discouraged and demoralized.  Which raises the salient question about  political reality in the US today– If you’re too principled to play dirty, can you be a winner or is the game stacked against you?  Paul Zara (Hoffman’s character)–in one of my favorite scenes–complains that Democrats are so worried about being accused of not playing fair that they inevitably lose to Republicans, who are not so scrupulous. It’s why the Democrats perpetually have to play catch-up.  They never figure out how to play the game themselves.  Perhaps a bit polemical, the movie’s theme remains the same:  the winner in the campaign game is the one with the biggest advantage–shaping the media and backroom payoffs for personal gain. Those who do not consider politics a blood sport shouldn’t play.

“The Ides of March” is a thoughtful political drama, which may not result in  box office success.  The story is not a narrative of hope.  However, the last shot of the film is well worth the price of a ticket in itself:  brilliant, chilling, and epitomizing editorial self-control.  No other ending could do so much with so little.  A masterpiece of restraint!

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2 Replies to ““The Ides of March”–Beware, Beware!”

  1. Another good review proving the reader with a window into the movie. You do raise an excellent point of people being disillusioned with politicians. Perhaps that is the problem. There are no real politicians out there on the Federal level who know how to get things done for the benefit of the country. The idealist and ideologue only talk and accomplish gridlock. Our country needs someone like Lyndon Johnson, a real politician to get legislation passed for the good of the country.

Moss Landing–Cruising around Santa Cruz

Last weekend, driving back from our daughter’s spectacular wedding at Costanoa Lodge, we stopped in Moss Landing to introduce some relatives to a small, going-back-in-time sort of place along the coastline.  Not the typical, tourist-designed site for buying tchotchkes, Moss Landing retains its quaint, historic fishing village vibe!  Located on Monterey Bay at the mouth of Elkhorn Slough, Moss Landing is one of our local best-kept secrets.

First we went to La Galeria, where there is a Monterey Peninsula College printmakers’ exhibit.  Not so easy to find.  You turn onto the main street (Moss Landing Road) from Highway  1 at “The Whole Enchilada”.  Don’t be fooled and  stop there.  Keep on going a few 100 feet and hidden behind The Haute Enchilada you can find this little surprise of a gallery– very cozy and wood-paneled–with approximately 100 prints, some priced between $75 (unframed) and $120 (framed).  The public reception will be on Saturday, October 22, from 2:00- 5:00 p.m. with food catered by Haute Enchilada (www.hauteenchilada.com).  We first went into the gallery to look at the exhibit, and then had a very tasty lunch at the restaurant in front of La Galeria –Haute Enchilada.  We shared poblano chile soup, tortilla soup, guacamole and chips, pork and chicken enchiladas, fish tacos, taco salad, and a delicious rosemary chicken panini.  Everyone loved sharing their food and enjoyed the sunshine on the patio with chilled local beers as well as Mexican ones.

After lunch and art viewing, there are also other surprises: antiques, a small Shakespeare museum (including a chair made from the wood from Stratford-on-Avon’s theater and nearby church), the exquisite Stella Page Design handbag boutique (designs include Japanese koi, Buddhas, and exotic floral patterns). Moss Landing is also home to MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium’s research facility), and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, the research arm for the California State University system.

We didn’t have time to walk along the pier and look at the boats and the egrets, pelicans, herons  and cormorants who graze and fish everywhere along the water.  Birders would find nearby Elkhorn Slough impossible to ignore, a favorite with naturalists.  Guided tours on kayaks are available on weekends (http://www.elkhornslough.org/visit.htm) and also through the Monterey Bay Aquarium.   But, if you have time either on your way into Santa Cruz to go to one of the First Friday art walks or to Aptos and neighboring beaches, don’t forget to take a glimpse at California’s past and stop for an hour or two in Moss Landing.

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12 Replies to “Moss Landing–Cruising around Santa Cruz”

  1. I enjoyed this blog post Diana! The MPC show at La Galleria is fabulous! Even though I have spent only a little time in Moss Landing, I agree with you that it is worth a stop and taking time to explore. It is sort of hidden from the road, which lends to the old-town, peaceful vibe. There are also some interesting antique shops there. I also recommend stopping at one of the many farm stands in the area/near Castroville, to buy fresh local artichokes!

  2. Your posting ALMOST made me want to come home to be there to enjoy one of my favorite places on the peninsula and be there for the artists reception for the MPC Printmakers.
    Sounds like the wedding celebration continued days after the wedding, too.

  3. Nice post, Diana. I’m glad I was there when your group arrived. It IS a nice show in a funky little gallery. I’m sure everyone who takes the opportunity to go there will be pleased. Joanne

  4. I’m so glad you found Moss Landing , it has not become over-commercialized …yet. And the food at the Haute Enchilada is very good. There is a wonderful walking trail across the river, you enter at the beach parking area and can enjoy the wild life and spectacular views.
    Perhaps a photo of the wedding party?

  5. Diana,
    I enjoyed the posting on Moss Landing. The link to the Haute Enchilada is helpful too. It informed me that they serve brunch til 4:oo. Also your info about their patio makes me think that I might head over there for lunch. I get off work early today and It is so lovely out. One of those rare warm days on the Monterey Bay. Thanks.

  6. Hi Diana,
    Enjoyed your little snippit…. Congratulations to Maya & Colin!
    Thanks for your continual support of the MPC Printmakers.
    See you @ the opening reception,

  7. Your writing was good, Diana. I was born here and wasn’t aware of the Moss Landing
    shopping area with places of interest I may go peek now. Judy

  8. Great post, big sis! Michelle and I enjoyed seeing the print show – so many styles and viewpoints. I wish I lived closer so that I could have a second look —and a second enchilada! The food at the Haute Enchilada was very good – that yummy Cal/Mex winning combination. Best part of the day..being with you!

  9. Thanks Diana! Yes, Moss landing is a gem, especially on the 10 days per year that it isn’t socked in with fog!
    Our show looks great. I’m so proud!
    Your readers might like the Sea Harvest for good, fresh fish.

  10. Diana, I enjoyed taking your stroll through Moss Landing… Did you know it was originally called Moss? It was named after some guy that built a wharf. I have enjoyed many a fish taco there,
    and a few kayak runs. Your blurb piqued my interest, so I’m going to head over there this Saturday.
    See you. celeste

  11. I love the easyness with which you flow from politics to art, food, movies and such.
    Your visual descriptions are colorful and tasty!
    You do wet our appetites, to explore and try such venues.
    Thanks for your ongoing informative stories.

Social Networking–A Mixed Bag of Tricks

I received so many public and private comments from readers about my last post on Internet usage (see “The Current Digital Divide”–Instant Gratification Anyone?), that I started to think some more about how social networks have transformed our lives.  People (yours truly included) are spending more and more time on the computer. I set a timer so I don’t spend all day in one never-ending time-suck glued to the computer either web-surfing or social networking.  For discipline’s sake, I look at Facebook only once every other day or so.

I do agree with social network supporters that Facebook, LinkedIn, and a host of more specialized websites not only promote increased communication with friends and family but open new information resources– lesser-known websites, highly specialized associations, and political forums.  Besides the oft-mentioned dangers of exposing the vulnerable to predators and other criminals, or bemoaning the loss of literacy or longer attention spans, there are benefits to using the social networking tools we have available.

One of the most surprising articles I read this summer (Wall Street Journal, “Could Those Hours Online Be Making Kids Nicer?”, August 16, 2011) is a case in point.   Researchers have found that those who have difficulty communicating in person, especially teenagers, are more comfortable interacting via the Internet.  They are not using digital communication to reach out primarily to strangers, but to interact more frequently with those they already know but may feel shy around in face-to-face situations.

The WSJ article implies that empathy and likability increase among young social networkers, even towards those less self-confident and with low self-esteem.  Perhaps more significantly, Internet users are retaining their offline friendships, not replacing them.  Among social outliers, the Internet can increase a  sense of community and belonging.

This made me reflect on how I personally use social networking and email.  I can communicate at off-times–meaning late at night–since I am a night-owl.  That way the early birds can read my email or Facebook while I am still dreaming.  I can send an announcement–for example, a new blog post–to friends and acquaintances with one message, not hundreds. Digital communication also saves me time –a telephone conversation is more fun, video-chatting even more of a blast–but both take much, much longer.  If I am just too frazzled, an email or Facebook message is “better than nothing” and that is fundamentally the motivation behind the less personal means of saying something I really want to say.  Just like snail-mail, before the invention of email, the telephone call has now graduated way up the “food-chain” to having major impact on the receiver of the call as a very personal effort to talk.

However, what if I had trouble expressing myself in person or on the phone?  Would chatting in a chat room be more relaxing, more of my true feelings and opinions, than face-to-face?

Although social networking sites were created to make money, not to improve peoples’ lives, they have changed the landscape of how people relate to each other and there is no going back. Future political and social movements will undoubtedly use these tools to a significant degree difficult to imagine now.  These powerful new technologies are changing  the way we live, but not always in ways that everyone likes.

I am by nature an optimist, believing that the disadvantages of social networking will be filtered out over time and benefits will emerge for users who apply these tools with common sense. But in the early stages of any new technology, the buyer must beware. World-tilting technologies (think automobile, airplanes, telephone, television, computer) do not have predictable and absolute positive or negative effects. Social networking is just such a mixed bag of tricks.


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4 Replies to “Social Networking–A Mixed Bag of Tricks”

  1. Hi, I read the last two blogs about the internet. It really is a mixed bag. Great information at our fingertips, whenever we want it. It is especially good for medical issues. But, it can easily be a big time hole. I spend days not allowing myself to get on e-mail, because of the tendency to hop from one interesting thing to another, and my real life chores do not get done.

  2. ‘never-ending time-suck’ !!! That’s a good one that I will use on my entire family!
    What thought of when I read your first post was that my grandson at 2 1/2 can scroll through his mother’s I Phone and all of her photos…the technology today is his…and he will grow up on it, and everything available now will evolve with him…his generation will create the etiquette (as long as he listens to his Grandmother!)

  3. I noticed since me and Eugene both got I phones, it invades our relationship.
    We need to be attentive of the “time stealing” and set new standards for ethics of behavior.
    That will be the task to be observed if we want our society’s relationship standards to remain intact.

“The Help”– “Telling the Truth Can Be a Revolutionary Act”

Based upon the best-selling 2009 novel by Kathryn Stockett, “The Help” is a vision of a divided America that is consistent, sometimes terrifying, in its insulting, insinuating dehumanization of African Americans. This movie is also easy-to-like –problematic but ultimately winning–and has now earned a huge $154.4 million in box revenues.

Skeeter (played competently by Emma Stone), a young white journalism major who has recently graduated from the University of Mississippi, has returned home to Jackson to find that Constantine (Cicely Tyson), who raised her, no longer works for her mother. As Skeeter tries to find out what happened to Constantine, she begins to see the reality of life in Jackson for the black residents who are a vital part of the white community’s quality of life. Aibileen (impeccably portrayed by Viola Davis), the heroine of the movie, tells her life to Skeeter who secretly interviews her at night.  Slowly other maids bravely come forth, at great personal risk,  to tell their stories of the  same suffering, the same humiliating circumstances on the cusp of the civil rights revolution.

Irony is often heavy handed.  For example, the Junior League’s fund-raising for the sake of “the Poor Starving Children of Africa” while treating the poor African-Americans of Jackson as if they were subhuman.  Minnie, another black maid, is defiantly humorous.   Played by Octavia Spencer who seems to be paying tribute to the maids portrayed in the 1930’s and 1940’s by notable African-American actresses with few options in theater or cinema, her bravura performance  adds a much-needed comic element.

The cycle of racism spins in too-familiar patterns.  The white babies the black maids raise become the housewives who insult them.  Only Skeeter is motivated to change things for those who have cared for her and her peers. One other young white woman in town, Celia (again, a superb Jessica Chastain of “The Debt” and “The Tree of Life”), seems to see the ugly truth underpinning the superficial beauty of the town.

The extraordinary actress, Viola Davis (from “Doubt”, and the Tony award-winning “Fences”) infuses Aibileen with a dignity and warmth that fully reveals an exceptionally strong female character in spite of some of the caricature that her role could have conveyed.  “The Help” belongs to her. Even when the story drifts to the white women from hell –the Junior League Ole Miss debutantes epitomized by Miss Hilly (fiercely played by Bryce Dallas Howard), Davis’s performance lingers in the viewer’s mind, with  tough, wrenchingly vulnerable scenes with a pudgy, insecure little white girl at risk of irreparable damage. Another story is also a subtext, however.  Inside all these different homes, black and white, women with hearts and souls tended to the urgent matters of everyday life, like the care and feeding of children, and the seeking of approval from their husbands.  The white women are no happier than the black women, only meaner and more frightened by the impending change they can feel subliminally. No one voices their frustration with their circumstances except, in the end, the help.

This movie could have devolved into a cartoon of good vs. evil, but the actresses refuse to demean their characters by mocking them in such shorthand.  Only Miss Hilly and Elizabeth, the two most strident racists among the socialites, are virtually one-dimensional.  But these actresses find every possible nuance to show their neurotic tendencies, their fear of social ostracism and save their performances from being caricatures.

The era evoked in  “The Help” is not even fifty years ago but presents us with the painful recognition of the best and the worst of US race relations.

Update: For an additional article (November 9) about “The Help” which I wrote, go to the website www.womensmemoirs.com.


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7 Replies to ““The Help”– “Telling the Truth Can Be a Revolutionary Act””

  1. nice work here Diana — I haven’t seen it (yet, don’t get to see ‘movies’ these days), maybe some day. . . . I wonder if you’ve seen Money Ball — lots of talk up here in the Bay Area (on Sports Talk radio, at least) about how it presents Art Howe (the A’s manager), not at all accurately, it seems. . . .

  2. It was a chore to sit through 146 minutes of an apolitical movie about the civil rights movement.
    It was another feel good story about black and white America, and it seemed inefficient…
    The whites were either a crusader or bigots. Davis and Spencer gave the only performances of real people. Also, I felt I was being emotionally manipulated during the second half.
    The score could have been worlds better… after all, this was the 60s!

  3. I’m afraid I agree with Celeste, above. This movie which is so very popular is really a cliche. It affirms the idea for the people who are watching that, somehow, because they are watching it, they do not and would not behave like the characters portrayed. That makes everyone feel good, black and white. It’s a feel-good film that makes the whole black/white issue trite and no longer a problem. After all, it says, this happened “then” and “there” and we are not involved. All the people characterized are one-dimensionals. No character development here. Hence, we only watch. We cannot get involved because we don’t believe the actors are real people.

    1. I side with Joanne and Celeste, even though I haven’t seen the film!

      However, I expected a glib Hollywood treatment of the film based on my reading of the book—which was, in my opinion, an opportunistic fraud, badly written and with particularly poor management of dialect and differentiation of characters. I’d love to hear what black American women from that time and place would think of the book—if any bothered to read it. Its “feel-good, heartwarming” treatment of the subject did a disservice to the topic—where does a white woman get off writing about black domestics’ inner lives, anyway? I’m waiting for the backlash reviews once the film is seen widely enough that we get black America’s viewpoint.

  4. I found the film, “The Help”, oddly comforting and reminiscent of my summers living with my grandmother in the South. While it seems difficult to conceive for many distantly familiar with the hot topics of the time, many African Americans did not participate in the Civil Rights movement. The movie speaks to a time that resonated with the treatment of maids, as many women in my family were despite many of their educational backgrounds, during my childhood of 80’s-90’s. One could argue the treatment still abounds today, as numerous families in this country have maids, first-generation immigrants who do not hold the required documentation for working and living in the U.S. and prefer employing “under the table” – yet do not support immigrant rights, despite the fact the children of these families are being raised by these women. This can be seen as the same ideology held by the housewives’ (subtly by the husbands) but in different form as seen in Skeeter’s protest of the firing of Constantine in “The Help”. Commenting on the audacity of a white woman writing about African American women is mute. Shakespeare wrote on the love professed by a woman. Scholars often write about cultures and ethnicities not theirs. One does not need to be of a group in order to tell a story when compassion and the recognition of (in)justice is applied. Voice may be translated. There is this notion within society that when a film or TV show featuring groups that are and have been historically discriminated against and reside in an oppressive system, all society ills must be addressed. I recommend watching “Mississippi Burning” or Spike Lee’s “X”. People of color (a term I have yet to understand how it became accepted) have lives that are outside the daily acknowledgement that life is/has been a struggle. One must not forget that this is set in Mississippi, miscegenation laws were only officially repealed in 1997, where white women attended college to find a husband, which was spoken of in jest in the film. The South was a world, even now in some areas, where towns are divided along white side of town and black side of town, so for the maids to constantly save face was a fact of life that could otherwise end in a beating if not death. “The Help” is one film that deserves a chance; a chance to address poorly stitched wounds that still weep in this country; a chance to open a dialogue without the shock-to-the-system method used by many films addressing this era; and finally a chance for people like myself with deep roots in the South and in African American values to see a strong character depicted in the role of maids and nannies.

  5. Hi Diana:

    Great movie review. I’ve now been to see “The Help” twice. Remember, I’m the one who says that she never sees a movie twice. My business partner, Kendra Bonnett, is staying with us for a month of work and we go out for little bits of fun. Hence my second viewing of “The Help.”

    While I respect the perspective of some of your commenters, I do see the movie a little differently. For me, “The Help” tells a story that has not been told before. Many people, especially the younger generation, don’t know what it was like in the south for African Americans during the Civil Rights movement (and before, of course). This is the story of a young white woman who is sensitized to the unfair and unkind treatment of maids in white households.

    Perhaps the next narrative will be a memoir in the voice of an African American main character. But for now “The Help”, not a first-person narrative about a black woman’s experience, is still a bridge between the outsider and insider and raises an awareness of what life may have been like in pre-civil rights America. To the degree that “The Help” bridges the gap between differences, it connects one person’s experience with the reader’s and triggers the affect of memoir.

    As you can see, I look at both fiction and non-fiction in terms of how it relates to memoir writing.

“The Debt”–Did We See the Same Movie?

In this remake of a popular 2007 Israeli movie, the genre label “espionage thriller” is an understatement.   The movie opens in 1997, as shocking news reaches retired Mossad agents Rachel and Stefan (married to each other but now divorced.)  Then “The Debt” moves quickly and chillingly between the 1960’s and 1997, in search for the Surgeon of Birkenau, a doppelganger for Mengele, the infamous Nazi general who masterminded the medical butchery of the Holocaust.

Helen Mirren, playing the courageous Mossad operative Rachel Singer, appears in 1997 for a book-signing celebrating her Mossad exploits retold by  her daughter Sara, who has eulogized her mother in a biography that recounts the heroic capture and slaying of Dieter Vogel,  Surgeon of Birkenau.  This is no typical role for Mirren but she is stunning as the sixty-something action hero in this testosterone-drenched gritty film.  That alone makes this film a groundbreaking example for future roles for actresses of Mirren’s stature and caliber.

The story requires two sets of actors–three actors in their twenties who play the youthful Mossad agents of the 1960’s and the three who play the same agents in their sixties almost thirty years later (1997).  Sam Worthington (as young David) and Marton Csokas (as young Stefan), share an apartment with Rachel as well as romantic inclinations. Jessica Chastain (as young Rachel) is particularly outstanding since the majority of the film holds together centered on Rachel’s heroism.

It is true that the past leads to the present, and each flashback brings new interpretations of events, but regardless of the mixed and negative reviews some of you may read, the mystery behind the Mossad agents and Vogel are clearly laid out. In 1966, three Mossad agents – Stephan (Marton Csokas), David (Sam Worthington), and Rachel (Jessica Chastain) – are brought together in East Berlin for a secret mission: capture Nazi war criminal Vogel (Jesper Christensen), the “Butcher of Birkenau,” and deliver him to Israel for public trial. Nearly 30 years later, these three gather once again to go back into the field after decades of retirement.

The gynecological scenes with the venomous Vogel in which Rachel has her legs in stirrups on the examination table are chilling.  They recall the fear of dentists that “Marathon Man” evoked or the terror of getting into a shower that “Psycho” elicited, but with much more subtlety. In a sneering scene that will be imprinted on the viewer’s brain for a very, very long time, two of the most horrific, unforgivable sentences ever uttered in a movie ring out cruelly from Vogel’s vicious mouth. These excruciating scenes are followed by others. Rachel spoon-feeding the bound Vogel is nausea-inducing in intensity and cunning.   These scenes are not for the faint of heart!

The ending is brilliant, if panned by some critics (not all).  I thought the plot surprised at every turn, keeping me guessing until the very end. What critics could find lame about this movie’s ending  flies in the face of reason to me.  I have not seen a movie about the Holocaust as riveting as this one except for “Sophie’s Choice”,  “Schindler’s List”, and “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” but “The Debt” can’t be categorized in the same genre as these movies either.  “The Debt” is also much more than an espionage thriller like “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”.

I can’t believe critics who panned this movie saw the same film I did!  [Warning:  this movie can snap and stretch the nerves of the viewer.]

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4 Replies to ““The Debt”–Did We See the Same Movie?”

  1. Everything you have said about this movie is what I would have said if I could write as well as you.
    I too was rivited during the last scenes that kept coming up with surprises – the camera work was what made it all work so well. Since I didn’t get any movie reviews before the movie I didn’t know that this movie was panned.

  2. I haven’t seen the remake of the Debt but did see the Israeli version and it was fabulous…After reading your review I shall have to see it and soon…I would urge people to also see the Israeli version and Wonder why the Israelis felt the need to bring those bastards to a trial instead of just killing them…Perhaps the Israelis have now learned the futile lessons of bringing killers back for trials and adopted the tactic of using Hit squads…cheaper, safer and the same result…

  3. Well, you’ve certainly made me want to see the movie. But I don’t think I can bear it all alone. I’ll have to pick up someone to go with me.

“The Fighter”–A Knockout

The 2010 blockbuster and critics’ darling, “The Fighter”, won Academy Awards for best supporting actor (an astounding Christian Bale) and best supporting actress (the masterful Melissa Leo).  However, I hate boxing movies, especially the tawdry “doormat turned boxing champion” variety we have seen in movies like “Rocky”.  This movie, however, is more in the genre of “Raging Bull” or “Million Dollar Baby”, movies in which “boxing” is a metaphor for the volatility of punches that life can throw to anyone, especially the underdog.

This time around the story is about Irish American Micky Ward, an actual boxing hero in working-class Boston during the 1990’s.  Mark Wahlberg, who both directs and plays the role of Micky Ward, has said he was inspired by the local fighter and determined to tell his story on the silver screen.  And the story is a remarkable one.

There are actually two stories in one:  Micky’s story as the welterweight boxer who dreams of  the championship, and the story of his half-brother, Dicky Eklund (spellbindingly played by Christian Bale),  who  could have been a champion but checked out of the competition because of  a fierce drug habit that none of his family can deal with.

Dicky’s story dominates during the first half of “The Fighter”.  Balding, skeletal, and nearly toothless, Dicky brags incessantly of his championship fighting, particularly against Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978, and dreams of a comeback while training Micky for upcoming fights in the bowels of the boxing league. Dicky’s self-deception is so profound — and so impervious to reality — that he fails to recognize who he really has become.  Christian Bale justifiably won the best supporting actor’s role for his scene-stealing performance.   The impeccable supporting cast includes Melissa Leo as the heartbreaking, shrewish mother and Amy Adams as Dicky’s feisty girlfriend.  Without Mark Wahlberg’s  understated acting, which  is the foundation for Christian Bale’s, the latter would have seemed over-the-top or  overreaching.

The story in the second half of the film now shifts to Micky’s ordeal as he slugs his way to the top, in spite of his dysfunctional family and his mother’s lack of interest in his success.  Melissa Leo plays the mother with a wickedness in which the unrecognized damage she has done to her younger son creeps into her face with horror and unflinching sorrow as she finally realizes what she has done to him (and to Dicky). It’s like viewing the scene of an accident.

“The Fighter” appeals to the viewer on several levels.  It is a boxing film, but doesn’t need to be.  It is a film that taps into the narcissistic archetypal mother whose impact on her children is grotesque.  And most of all, it is a story of choices we all face–some at the expense of those we love–in order to move on to another stage in life.  The everyman underdog’s desperation sometimes requires stripping delusions of what family can and cannot do for you. We can understand why both his mother and half-brother imprison Micky and why he can’t turn his back on his brother. “What passion doesn’t blind, it opens the eyes and mind.”  For Micky that isn’t possible until his girlfriend (played in an elusively simple way by the talented Amy Adams) reveals the true dynamics of his family.

The film is not without its shortcomings, but I think all boxing films are prey to these flaws, even while telling a story based on fact. For one, the scenes of the family clan that includes seven young sisters to Micky and Dicky, do not integrate well and sometimes verge on the melodramatic and unbelievable, truth or not.   Still, every scene between the two brothers is riveting and hints at the exculpatory. The love that they feel for each other, even when they realize its destructive nature, is palpable and desolate.  The not-so-simple lesson they both learn is that, even if you run away from your family, they are always with you.


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3 Replies to ““The Fighter”–A Knockout”

  1. This was a well crafted movie about triumph over adversity, about a working class hero who defies the odds for one shot at glory. Wahlberg’s non-performance, next to Bale’s who was the loudest caricature in their family tree, was brilliant. You reminded me of the moment of mother’s recognition of her wrong-doing and that moment was indeed like witnessing the scene of an accident. Boxing films are never easy to watch, it’s such a brutal demanding sport; but in comparison this film was flintier and more complex than Rocky and it would not get the final knock-out to Raging Bull nor Million Dollar Baby, however this film is one I could watch again and again.

    (Why is it that all these dysfunctional families are working class, Irish Catholic from Boston? Perhaps grist for a later discussion. :-))

Lolo Restaurant–What’s not to like?

  A few weeks ago we dined at a very small Mexican/Spanish fusion restaurant–Lolo (3234 22nd Street, San Francisco)– that had an innovative menu of succulent morsels, aka tapas, that even foodies like us could find nothing to criticize.  This tiny, dark restaurant with cramped tables seating no more than 45 people had friendly service and a quirky, humorous decor–one wall is filled with hanging spoons.

The key for us whenever we order a lot of small plates–appetizers, soups and salads–is to test the chef’s skills.  So, a tapas restaurant is our idea of culinary nirvana!  Lolo’s is a study in transformations! Nothing on the menu is what it seemed–a pleasant surprise to say the very least!

We had about eight different dishes for the four of us. Although tapas are small plates, sometimes it isn’t easy to share a particular menu item four ways.  So, we asked and our waiter guided us in the right direction every time without fail.

We began with a fabulous salad of roasted beets with a dollop of feta mousse and pickled rings of red onions.  We followed that with a double order of ground lamb sliders, double order of crab tostadas with chorizo, leeks, and aioli with avocado puree,  tuna tacon–seared tuna, shellfish aioli, avocado, and roasted tomatillo sauce, and an extraordinary, thinly sliced octopus tiradito–chili flakes, sea salt, and aioli –that tasted like a slightly spicy ceviche.

Our final courses were the heaviest:  double orders of gorditas– blue corn masa pockets filled with braised short ribs, roasted three chile sauce, and pickled onions–and carnitas–shredded pork shoulder with organic blue corn tortillas and roasted tomatillo sauce with guacamole and pickled onions

To top off this fabulous feast we ordered two plates of “taco tropical”, spice-dusted panko-crusted fried shrimp in a jicama, sliced paper-thin instead of a tortilla.  The jicama is marinated in lime juice overnight to make it pliable for bending like a tortilla.  For us this dish is the star turn on the menu, although not highlighted as such.  Go to Lolo’s website —www.lolosf.com— under the “Videos” tab to see the YouTube clip revealing the creation of  this dish and the testimonial by the chef from Specchio who is so addicted to this taco tropical that he visits Lolo every week for his fix!  We probably would not have ordered this dish, if I hadn’t seen it being made on YouTube.  Don’t deprive yourself of this treat–calling this “comfort food” does not do the dish justice!

A word of advice–this restaurant is a sleeper but hardly a secret  to  locals in the know.  Without a reservation, you’ll have to wait.  And, you shouldn’t linger…after all, others are waiting patiently to experience the same mouth-watering delights!

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Picasso–Multiple Images of the Master

Opening on June 11 and closing on October 9, the deYoung Museum in San Francisco continues to host an exhibition of more than 100 masterpieces of  Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) from Paris’s world-renowned Musée National Picasso. The Bay Area exhibition is made possible only because of the Musée’s temporary closing for extensive remodeling.  I have seen the collection in Paris, of which there are more than 5000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and collages, an almost overwhelming experience.   About two percent of that collection is now on view at the deYoung, demonstrating some but not all of the wide range of artistic styles and forms that Picasso mastered.  Missing are some of my personal favorites:  linocuts, woodcuts, and ceramics.  But the exhibit has much to offer.

The pieces, arranged chronologically, are presented in nine galleries covering every period of his career. Celestina (1904), from the artist’s Blue Period, is perhaps his most somber (certainly his most depressing) work:  a portrait of a one-eyed prostitute modeled after an actual madam in Barcelona.  The missing eye looks more like a dense cataract and the gender of the figure is ambiguous.  Other more familiar paintings and sculptures are displayed:  Portrait of Dora Maar (1937), six Surrealist bronze heads of the artist’s mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter; the bronze Goat (1950); the six life-size bronze Bathers (1956); and the late self-portrait The Matador (1970).   One painting that fascinated me the most, however, is less known:  Massacre in Korea (1951), inspired by Goya, is a painting protesting the US involvement in the Korean War.  It reminded me of Jose Orozco’s furious murals depicting the Spanish invasion of Mexico.  US military personnel are shown in Darth Vader-like helmets with the Korean people reminiscent in style and emotion of Orozco’s Mexican villagers.  His bronze sculptures of individual men and women standing in rows are haunting.  The famous “Head of a Bull”, a minimalist sculpture of a bicycle seat with handlebars, has been made a focal point in Gallery 7.

Not to be missed is the complimentary guide for the show.   Co-written by the Seattle Art Museum and the deYoung,  this brilliant analysis of the painted feelings of Picasso is a study of his  infatuation with each of his lovers.  We learn how each of Picasso’s lovers transformed his artful composition of the woman’s figure. His early Cubist years were with mistress Fernande Olivier, his surrealist period with lover Marie-Therese Walter, his political transformation during the Spanish Civil War inspired by Dora Maar and his last two decades of playful experimentation and ceramics were with Jacqueline Roque.

Each of his artistic periods shifted dramatically in accordance with the lover muse with whom he was enthralled.  I can now imagine the rejuvenation of his art–from periods of seriousness (Blue), voluptuousness (Rose, Expressionist, Cubist), political courage (Surrealism), and playfulness through the eyes of Picasso as lover.  Picasso always claimed his erotic life was the stimulus for his creativity and expressiveness.  “Painting is just another way of keeping a diary”, is famously quoted but looking at Picasso’s portraits of his lovers tells all.

Go to http://deyoung.famsf.org/deyoung/exhibitions/picasso-masterpieces-mus-e-national-picasso-paris for more information.  Three other San Francisco exhibits are also Picasso-related–“Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stores” at the Contemoporary Jewish Museum (closing September 6) www.thecjm.org,  “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant Garde” at the San Francisco MOMA (closing September 6) www.sfmoma.org, “Picasso’s Ceramics” at the Legion of Honor in the Bowles Porcelain Gallery (closing December 1), www.legionofhonor.org.




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5 Replies to “Picasso–Multiple Images of the Master”

  1. Diana: We took the train from Portland up to Seattle so that we could see the Picasso Exhibit. It was an amazing exhibit. You’ve described it beautifully. Even though only a select number of pieces are in the exhibit, I think that helps to sharpen our understanding of an artist as we don’t get lost in the maze of “so many.”

  2. Diana: I’ve been thinking about taking Andromeda to see the rare exhibit for a while. After reading your beautiful summary, I can’t wait to take her to see the art pieces.

  3. Diana!
    Thanks for sharing…I haven’t seen the Massacre of Korea painting yet! I had no idea about this piece and find personal interest since my parents are from there. I am definitely going to check it out in the next few weeks :).

  4. I wish your blog had been posted before my daughter and I visited the exhibit! However, we were both fascinated to see so many “non-famous” works of Picasso’s that really demonstrate his evolution as an artist (and a lover, as you so adroitly express). I also appreciated how the museum projected Picasso quotes in each room. Brilliant exhibit!

  5. Thanks for the great summary! I will be going to see this tomorrow night and will look for the guide you mentioned about his lovers’ influences.

Perbacco Ristorante– “Good Times”

On our visit to San Francisco last weekend we decided to dine at Perbacco ristorante and bar, specialists in Northern Italian cuisine with a focus on the luxurious and lush regional cooking of Piedmont. Loosely translated from the Italian as something like “wow” or “good times”, Perbacco did not disappoint. We had a sumptuous food extravaganza of traditional dishes presented stylishly with perfection in seasonings and freshness of ingredients.

The space is large and elegant, a perfect choice for any special occasion or just a treat. For us it was our anniversary and we wanted an unusual menu. Perbacco’s menu changes daily–just what we wanted to challenge our palates. As major foodies who take lots and lots of photos of food wherever we vacation, we are not easy to please.

We ordered a lot of food. Our first appetizer was a pesce crudo (the Italian equivalent of sushi)–an Australian hiramasa (Japanese word for the yellowtail kingfish) on paper-thin slices of peach with a charred padron pepper sauce drizzled over it. The second appetizer was vitello tonnato: slow-roasted veal tenderloin with a lemon/albacore tuna sauce on a bed of capers and arugula. Both were works of edible art, delectable with every bite, created from produce, fish, and meats which themselves are natural wonders.

For our main course, we decided to share three unusual pastas: fusilli pepati, agnoli di coniglio and tajarin. Fusilli pepati is hand-rolled seven-pepper duck-egg pasta (like tagliatelli) with duck liver infused with the slightest hint of dark cherry. Agnoli di coniglio is a triangle-shaped pasta (like large tortellini but with the texture of ravioli), stuffed with roasted rabbit in a wine sauce. And last but not least was the tajarin, handcut tagliatelli in a pork sugo with porcini mushrooms. All three pastas were presented on a special plate subdivided into discrete sections. Because the pastas are quite filling, we shared an heirloom tomato salad with charred Tropea onions, basil, anise hyssop, and ricotta. An extremely generous salad to share–a feast of purple/green, red, yellow, green, and orange tomatoes. I think the only color missing was blue!

The New York Times columnist Mark Bittman also seems to be a huge fan of chef Steffan Terje’s pastas, calling the tajarin’s sauce ” the kind of sauce you sop up greedily and dream about later.”

This five-year old restaurant was still packed at 9:30 p.m. on a Thursday night, when we were about halfway through our dinner. The crowd is primarily young but diners were of every age in the spectrum.

We are definitely going back to this sensational Italian restaurant, 2011 recipient of the Birra Moretti Best Authentic Italian Restaurant in North America. Reserve a table, enjoy a fine bottle of wine–we loved the orange (yes, orange) 2009 Catarrato, a very dry Sicilian wine by Girgis. The imagination of the chef and the friendliness of the wait staff make this dining experience a delectable and sensuous delight!

Perbacco is located at 230 California Street (415) 955-0663. For more information, go to their website at http://www.perbaccosf.com and read about the owners at http://www.sfgate.com.

Absolutely heavenly!! If you think I am exaggerating, check out “Pasta Porn: 101 0f America’s Most Delicious Noodle Dishes” at http://newyork.grubstreet.com.

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3 Replies to “Perbacco Ristorante– “Good Times””

  1. Sounds wonderful, but where are all the pictures you said you like to take of delicious food? I’m a very visual pewrson – I sometimes will eat with my eyes, especially when someone that writes as well as you serves such a delicious meal – just reading about it is not as satisfying as seeing photos!

  2. Both your comments about the museum exhibits and the ristorante were excellent. I surely will try the latter and I enjoyed the former some weeks ago. Maybe I’ll go up there again soon.
    By the way, I also saw the exhibit of the total Picasso work at the Grand Palais in Paris soon after his death and France’s inheritance of those many works. I found that exhibit extremely tiring, but this one was very agreeable. Nice Blog. Joanne

“The Fall” — A Mind-Bending Marvel

The visual splendor and breathtaking imagination of “The Fall” made me actually dream of some of the scenes, an experience I rarely have. Reality and fantasy blur into a magical realism that so dazzles the eyes, it suggests a psychedelic otherworldly, perhaps drug-induced journey. This movie is a magical, mystery tour–“The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen” meets “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”.

“The Fall” (2008) is two movies in one–and I don’t mean the story within a story that grounds the mind-blowing imagery. I mean the visual story: the sumptuous fantasy world of 1920’s Los Angeles. Filmed in Fiji, Bali, Brazil, India, South Africa, and thirteen other countries, I could have viewed this movie on “mute” and still have loved it! Captivating scenes of a butterfly-shaped island; a warrior shot so full of arrows he falls backwards on them like a bed of nails; an Escher-like staircase to nowhere; costumes with lotus-shaped headdresses and fan-shaped veils; russet-colored mountains with Crest-toothpaste aquamarine skies I thought were colorized; faces that melt into the mountainside, with faint, lingering shadows of eyes.

Genius for the understatement works its magic from the opening scene and continues through close-ups of a little girl’s hands, her vulnerability and innocence revealed by soft, seemingly boneless fingers. Footage of a massive elephant swimming in the ocean, with the cameramen shooting from underneath causes cognitive dissonance. The elephant had to be “animatronic”, not a living, breathing mastodon-sized pachyderm. But I was so wrong. Astounding, mind-boggling scenes trick both the eye and the mind.

But there is also an epic story to tell. Languishing in a hospital, stuntman Roy Walker (played by newcomer Lee Pace) is grievously injured from jumping off a bridge onto a horse far below. Not only is his body broken, but also his heart. To entertain the little girl Alexandra (the unforgettable Catinca Untaru, a six-year old with a soft whisper of a Romanian accent), Roy tells a fantastical tale of heroes, warriors, and a princess in scenes conjuring “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights”. However, his ulterior motive is not to entertain a little girl in a body cast, but to coax her to steal morphine so he can “sleep”. A free-fall feast for the eyes, Roy’s drug-induced stupor is recreated by the stunning imagery of the tale-within-the-tale. Alexandra’s imagination becomes the catalyst for Roy’s story, and her purity and innocence ultimately overpower him. Roy is her perfect storyteller, she is his perfect listener, and together they imagine a new world–one of beauty and art…and heal.

Catinca Untaru is the heart and soul of this movie! She is so natural as the wide-eyed innocent child, I thought her dialogue was unscripted. Only the out-takes convinced me otherwise. Colin Watkinson, the cinematographer, in some sense shares the director role with Tarsem Singh because his portraits of art in motion are a parallel universe as addicting as the morphine that Roy craves. “The Fall” is, above all, visual storytelling. Without Wilkinson’s evocative visual effects, the narrative would not have flourished.

Unfortunately, due to delayed and poor distribution, “The Fall” did not reach the wider audience it deserves. With less than $4 million worldwide in gross receipts, this is a gross injustice! Treat yourself to this cinematic work of art and relish in its marvel and splendor!

View the trailer

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6 Replies to ““The Fall” — A Mind-Bending Marvel”

  1. Ok Diana,

    I try not to blog on more than two glasses of vino…safe so far.
    I loved the movie and your review. My son & niece have seen the movie numerous times, and I was lucky enough to see the movie twice in the theater. The Fall is great on the “big screen”. I actually own it now, also. I have to disagree with you about watching it on mute, because I was so impressed with the sound! Sometimes I find myself overlooking the sound in movies, but this one made me aware of how much it adds to the movie. I read a review awhile back about the little girl’s acting not being realistic…hogwash! Having six children, I couldn’t believe how “unscripted” she was, totally authentic.
    This was a very beautiful movie that I’ll be watching many more times.

  2. I’m so glad you enjoyed this movie, it is one of my favorites. There are passages in the film which need no narrative or characters, they are simply art in motion…a man gliding through water…the mazes you mentioned…you know I am a visually oriented person and I am transported when I see such beauty!
    Now you must find Ori Gersht, a photographer who is showing at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art…that is all I will say about that!

  3. I can’t wait to order this movie for my very visual, right-brained daughter! It’ll be so much fun for me, Ms. left-brained Virgo, to watch it with her, in her new little San Diego cottage. Thank you , Diana, for giving us what I know will be a memorable evening together!

“Blue Valentine” –Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

This critically acclaimed Sundance 2010 darling features Michelle Williams (in an Oscar-nominated performance) and Ryan Gosling in a Generation X’s portrait of a marriage from hell reminiscent of Tennessee Williams’ classic, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and John Cassavetes’ “A Woman Under the Influence”.

Blue Valentine’s story is simple and straightforward. A young nurse, Cindy Heller (Williams) lives with an abusive father, an adrift mother, and cares for her ailing grandmother. She has endured a violent relationship with a high school boyfriend and has given up her dream to become a doctor. She meets Dean (Gosling) at her grandmother’s assisted living center and they end up rushing into marriage, knowing next to nothing about each other. They are both excruciatingly wounded and searching for an escape. Soon after her young daughter, Frankie, is born, they begin to lose their way.

From the opening scene in which Dean plays with spilled oatmeal, licking it off the kitchen table with his five-year old daughter, we are acutely aware that he is stunted…not quite an adult, but a playmate that his daughter adores. Tellingly, he is siding with his child at the expense of the mother who has wearily thrown together a breakfast for them. With flashbacks between the romantic years and the desperate ones, “Blue Valentine” takes us on a journey of their rapidly accelerating heartbreak.

Not altogether a misfit, Dean is a young high school dropout, working for a New York City moving company and later as a house painter. He is a kind, keen observer, especially toward the elderly and the beloved family dog. Dean’s also a drunk. He tries to make a living, but mostly enjoys being with Cindy and their daughter, his only meaningful goals in life. But he gets it so wrong!

Cindy is trying to keep their family on more firm ground financially. She’s still attractive to other men and Dean can’t contain his jealousy. In the hope of rekindling their sexual life, Dean brings Cindy to a motel with a kitschy, pseudo-sci-fi decor, but there is no intimacy. Their marriage has collapsed in on itself and the sting in their relationship is visceral.

A previous scene, in which Gosling sings “You Always Hurt the One You Love” and Williams dances, foreshadows the wrenching pain to come. Bravely, they both struggle to keep their relationship together in spite of their own best interests. While Dean desperately desires to hold on to his family, his only keystone, he doesn’t know how and neither does Cindy.

Marriages are difficult, precarious, and stressful, and each has its own rhythms and secrets. Not even a deep knowledge of each other can guarantee a long and happy marriage. “Blue Valentine” sometimes succeeds in taking us to this far more honest – and less comfortable – place. One partner’s “best” may simply not be “good enough”.

The wounded and defensive natures of both main characters are powerfully portrayed: Gosling, when his anger is unleashed,–the self-protecting male fighting for what is “his”,–and Williams for the abandonment of her dreams. But these performances do not save this film. Even though their relationship feels real, the story needed to be more specific.

“Blue Valentine” ultimately misses the mark for not revealing both Cindy and Dean’s background. What happened to them in their pre-adulthood years? Why does neither of them have a safety net? These are two young people, tattered and torn, lunging for love as if they were gasping for air. I wanted to know why.

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4 Replies to ““Blue Valentine” –Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”

  1. Blue Valentine takes us down relationship road, full of sweet and bitter moments…
    The characters strengths, weaknesses and dreams exposed within the context of a relationship and pressures of life…As our number one film reviewer states, it left us wanting for more… Having said that, I would recommend people see it…

  2. Diana, I very much liked your review. Though I didn’t see it and probably would not.
    The premise of pre-marriage and post-marriage emotions just didn’t entice me enough…
    Now “The rise of the Planet of the Apes” is a different story. 🙂

  3. Well, Diana, your review was far better than the movie. I watched it with my 87 year old mother who said it was dumb and the worst movie she has ever seen. (had to laugh at that)

    Most times I find myself siding with the women in movies similar to this one, but not this time. I was first bothered by Cindy’s lack of interest in making her daughter’s breakfast. Then she continued to show an emotional disconnect to everything.

    It’s slow moving and rather disconnected … kinda like “Cindy”.

  4. Hi Diana,
    I’m a friend of Sharon’s and watched “Blue Valentine” with her and her 87 year old Mother. It had to be one of the most “Unfulfilling” movies I’ve ever seen – dragged on and suddenly, just when you’re
    waiting for a little excitement (and I don’t mean the sexual kind – saw enough of that..LOL) POOF! It ended! Left us looking at each other and wanting to sing….”Is that all there is…..” LOL….

Bridal Shower Anyone?–Do you know what a “laminated list” is?

We hosted a bridal shower last weekend for our daughter Maya and 20 of her young friends. Bridal showers aren’t what they used to be…dreary events with most of your mother’s friends, not yours. They might not be the equivalent of a bachelorette party for wildness, but I learned new vocabulary, which I am not likely to forget!

On a beautifully warm but overcast day, for a mid-afternoon lunch on the deck, we prepared a whole salmon two different ways: one with a spicy paprika rub, one half grilled with cucumber slices. Grilled squid with a spicy sriracha-laced dipping sauce and sardines with horseradish sauce were two of many appetizers. A recipe theme for the shower centered on the seven deadly sins (for those of you who don’t know–they are gluttony, greed, sloth, envy, lust, pride and wrath–but the last has no place on such a happy occasion.) Each of Maya’s friends received a cookbook of the recipes, “Sinfully Delicious Recipes” to take home as a party favor.

After present-opening, playing the usual games of “how well do you know your fiancé” complete with accompanying video of the fiancé answering the same questions, the question rose about the “laminated list”. We went around the room: “How many are on your laminated list?” I can play along too. When it came to my turn, I smiled: “One hundred”.

Maya’s face fell, shocked, utterly disgusted. “Ew, how gross”, she sighed as she walked away to get another cupcake on the cupcake tower one of her bridesmaids had brought. All her friends had said “four” or “five”. I was thinking of “The One Hundred Foods You Should Eat at SF Restaurants Before You Die”, a list I swore I saw on our daughter’s refrigerator door, neatly attached with a sushi magnet. Boy, was I wrong!

This is what I found out about the meaning of “Laminated List”. I learned that a laminated list, sometimes called a freebie list, is a short list –usually no more than five–of celebrities (actors, athletes, definitely NOT friends) who are so attractive that your fiancé, partner, or significant other would give you a “hall pass” if the opportunity arose to have sex with them. The origin for the concept appeared on the hugely popular TV series “Friends”, which we all watched religiously back in the day…but I had completely forgotten about Ross, Rachel, and Chandler’s conversation about their lists. For those of you curious to watch the episode from Netflix, I googled and found out it is in season 3, “The One with Frank Jr.” Ross decides to laminate his list so it is unchangeable and then attaches it to his refrigerator door. (At least I got that part right!) Hmm, how many would I put on my list?

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6 Replies to “Bridal Shower Anyone?–Do you know what a “laminated list” is?”

  1. You had John and me curious about the “laminated list”, so I had to read your blog ASAP. You certainly got a lol from me as I read “I can play along, too” – although I had no idea what a laminated list was, I knew you had gotten yourself in trouble, especially with Maya’s comment, “Ew, how gross,” was revealed. Actually, I can’t imagine why it would be gross – at our age, being able to imagine having that many “partners” is quite a feat!
    Once again, you have made me laugh out loud. “You are the BEST!”

  2. You West Coasters are so hip! I’m not sure anyone in Milwaukee has a true laminated list, unless it involves their favorite beer, cheese, or Packers player! Given all the movies you’ve seen, Diana, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if your list approached 100…and I loved your shower menu…5 stars!

  3. Why only 100…
    Are we so limited in our fantasies?
    We guess that is the difference between the 60s generation
    and the alphabet generations… E & E

  4. You throw a damn good shower Diana, and I think we can all agree that Maya’s #1 choice for her Laminated List is truely worthy – John Hamm, you are my #1 too.