“A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD”
I’m not sure what else I can say about this phenomenal film that has not already been said. But I’m going to say it anyway.
Once again Tom Hanks knocks it out of the park with his portrayal of the beloved children’s television show host Fred Rogers. The film is not a biopic, per se, but more a film of events based on the true experiences of journalist Tom Junod. Not all the events in the movie happened to Junod. And that’s fine. Those scenes were put there to help make the movie. That’s understandable. What matters are the events in the movie that did happen to Junod. Such as knowing Mr. Rogers, learning from him, overcoming his skepticism of him and becoming his friend.
Through an episode of the classic TV show “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”, the viewers are taken on a journey through Lloyd Vogel’s (played by Matthew Rhys–Lloyd is Tom Junod’s fictional name in the movie) life during the time he met and interviewed Mr. Rogers for Esquire magazine. It was bittersweet to be taken back into the old house, to see the Neighborhood of Make Believe, to see Picture Picture and Trolley and all the puppets. Even the set up from the beginning of the show, depicting the houses and cars, was the same (I understand they painstakingly rebuilt the entire thing just for the movie). And the way they worked it into Lloyd’s story was perfect.
Throughout the film Hanks makes you feel as if you really are just watching Mr. Rogers. And we are because, as Lloyd learns, Mr. Rogers is not acting when he’s on his TV show. He is being Mr. Rogers. Lloyd’s story is an emotional roller-coaster, mainly revolving around his bad feelings about his father and dealing with being a new father himself. Although he feels he is getting nowhere in his interview of Mr. Rogers and oftentimes seems like he’s through talking with the man, he is pulled back to Pittsburgh to meet with the TV icon once again. In the end he makes amends with his father and writes, not what he thought was only going to be a 400 word puff piece, but a 10,000 word, well-crafted article about what he has learned and how a person named Mr. Rogers changed his life.
It’s well known by now that Mr. Rogers was far from perfect. Maryann Plunkett, who plays Fred’s wife Joanne in the movie, reveals that about Fred to Lloyd when she tells him that Mr. Rogers does have a temper. Fred reveals to Lloyd how his oldest son, until only recently, failed to acknowledge him. And we don’t know personally what he may have been like in real life or what it was like to live with him. But what mattered most was how he treated and addressed children and people in general. He made each one feel loved. That is something that some children, even some adults, don’t get from anyone.
Yes, Mr. Rogers may not have been perfect. But he was pretty damn close.
One thing I admire about “Rocketman” is that it’s not a biopic. I love the fact that Elton John himself was behind the making of it. To me that makes it as honest a movie about a still-living legend as you’re going to get.
Taron Egerton plays Elton John in “Rocketman” and if he was concerned about doing the role justice, he can stop worrying. At times during the highly entertaining film one forgets it’s Egerton on the screen and not John himself.
The film takes us from Elton’s oppressed childhood days, into his early musical career and beyond to his flamboyant, charismatic years, complete with the rollicking and emotion-packed tunes he and long-time songwriting partner Bernie Taupin are famous for. Toss in some fine-tuned choreography and the eccentric costumes John is known for and you have a jam-packed, well-done musical collaboration.
For the Elton John fan, it’s a definite film to see. For non-Elton John fans, it’s still a film to see, if not for entertainment purposes, to simply enjoy some of the best music ever created by one of music’s biggest icons.
I recently was able to wipe one item off my bucket list when I made a visit to New York City to experience Christmas in the city.
Our first stop was of course Rockefeller Center and its centerpiece Christmas tree. As glorious as the tree is, for some reason it didn’t seem as majestic as I expected. Maybe the constant swarm of people in the area caused it to lack in ambiance for me. It just didn’t seem as special as I felt it should be.
The interior of Rockefeller just adjacent to the tree is a good place to go in and warm up, get something to eat and use the facilities. Although the NBC Studios and Top of the Rock tours are highlights of Rockefeller, we skipped these. However, we did manage to visit (and purchase items at) the NBC Studios store. The store carries a lot of Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon and SNL items but we were able to find a ton of Friends and Seinfeld stuff as well. I enjoyed pointing out to my daughter the photos of old SNL characters on the walls but I was disappointed in not seeing memorabilia from so many other classic NBC shows, particularly Cheers.
From Rockefeller we ventured over to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, another stop on my bucket list. Once we managed to squeeze inside among the throngs of people, we were able to sit for a few brief moments of a sermon. I took in the grandiosity of my surroundings and took a few pictures.
To stave off the cold we decided to check out the Museum of Modern Art. Located on 53rd Street, it was a nice respite away from the hustle and bustle of either Broadway or the Rockefeller area. One of the more fascinating things we saw while visiting the museum were some of the works of sculptor Constantin Brancusi. One interesting thing I learned about his works is that he didn’t carve from clay but from wood or stone. Aside from the Brancusi exhibit and brief tour of the museum store, MOMA gave us a nice little reprieve from our travels.
A fun fact: Madison Avenue is the only street in Manhattan where the lights are synchronized. That’s why so many buses travel this route.
IF YOU GO: Plan for a lot of people everywhere you turn. Especially at Christmas and especially in the Rockefeller area. If possible, try to avoid the Rockefeller area after dark. Although it was crowded at ten in the morning, once night fell and the lights were more visible, the crowd was unbearable.
Avoid the people who approach you offering you beads or other do-dads. They want money. Also, if you see people walking around dressed as various characters, don’t try to take their picture or try to have your picture taken with them. They want money also.
Sometimes the best things to see in New York are the people. The Salvation Army bell ringers were probably the best dancers I had seen in a long time. You can’t beat free entertainment.
Take a bus tour to the city. That’s what we did. The inexpensive cost of the trip far outweighs the aggravation of maneuvering around the city, finding a place to park and paying for parking.
Be sure to pick up a souvenir on your way out. One of the best places is the Top of the Rock gift shop located in Rockefeller Center. We chose a very nice tree ornament depicting, what else? The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.
Ocean Beach Park
98 Neptune Ave.
New London, CT 06320
Looking for a great family beach within the New England area? Look no further than Ocean Beach Park, located on the Long Island Sound in New London, CT.
It’s a 50-acre park with much more than just a sandy beach. The water is much warmer there than at most beaches in New England. There’s an Olympic-sized pool, kiddie rides, miniature golf, a banquet hall, gift shop, food shacks and an arcade, as well as lockers and restrooms. Little ones will enjoy the splash pad and playground. There are picnic grounds as well as a nature walk and bird watching. Throughout the summer they host various events such as cruise nights, movie nights and sock hops.
Parking includes admission of up to five guests and ranges from $17.00 on weekdays to $23.00 on weekends. If you go, plan to spend the day. It’s worth it with so much to do, or just sit, relax and enjoy the beach. But get there early. The place tends to fill up by ten o’clock on weekends during the summer.
HEARD AND SEEN IT
Twin River Casino
May 12, 2018
On tour to promote his latest release “The Snake King”, singer, songwriter, author and actor Rick Springfield showed off his chops to a nearly sold out crowd at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, RI Saturday night.
Springfield dazzled the audience in a two-hour set that not only included classics such as “I’ve Done Everything For You”, “Souls” and “Bop Till You Drop”, but also portrayed brief covers such as “867-5309 (Jenny)” and “Wild Thing”, as well as “The VooDoo House”, a song from his latest CD.
Memorable moments included the constant handing-off of flower bouquets to Springfield who would then promptly use them (and destroy them) by strumming them with his guitar and an impromptu bluesy guitar solo. Springfield played up to the audience with an interactive ten minute stint of his hit “Don’t Talk To Strangers”, including participation from two little girls who joined him on stage for a sing-along.
The show concluded with the 1984 smash “Love Somebody”, the lesser-known “Kristina” as well as the highly anticipated 1981 number one Grammy-winning classic “Jessie’s Girl”.
As a performer Rick Springfield will always hold a special place in my heart. His was the first concert I ever attended back in September 1984. I again got to see him in 2004. Saturday night marked fourteen years since I last experienced his energetic and entertaining show. Even at nearly 70 years old Rick Springfield hasn’t changed much, still can rock it and shows no signs of slowing down.
And that’s a good thing.
Museum of the Moving Image
Address: 36-01 35 Avenue (at 37 Street), Astoria, NY 11106
There is a great little museum located in Astoria, NY, just outside the heart of Manhattan.
It’s called the Museum of the Moving Image and it’s dedicated to just that: celebrating the moving image. Mainly movies, and what goes into creating a movie, as well as video games.
The museum’s main exhibit is called Behind the Screen and it takes the visitor behind the scenes of movie making, from the history of movie making to the production of movies.
However, our main reason for visiting the Museum of the Moving Image was to experience the Jim Henson Exhibition.
This exhibit is dedicated to the legacy of Muppets creator Jim Henson. Visitors are exposed to various audio and video segments featuring parts of Jim’s life, from his early years right up to the time of his death and even beyond.
Segments include early commercials featuring some of Jim’s less familiar early puppets (a very early Rowlf and Kermit are one of them), “Time Piece”, a short film written, produced and starting Henson, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1966, clips from Henson’s appearance on “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson”, as well as memorable video clips from “Sesame Street”. Some of the artifacts on display are notes from the “Muppet Show” days, storyboards and scripts. You can even view parts of the films “The Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth”.
Among the 500 artifacts, 47 are puppets, ranging in characters from “Sesame Street”, “The Muppet Show” and “Fraggle Rock”.
MISC INFO: There is a cafe on the first floor of the museum which sells a small selection of sandwiches and treats. There is also a small gift shop. It may not look like much at first, but when looking around, you may find some real gems. We found a rare vinyl “Fraggle Rock” album, one of only 500 printed.
IF YOU GO: as anywhere in or around New York City, parking is at a premium. There is a parking garage nearby the museum but on our day visiting, it was full at 10:00 a.m. Fortunately there was another parking lot about five blocks away, not full. There is a lot of residential parking in this area so meters are hard to come by as well.
“Hold On” – Alan Frew
Originally released in 1994
I initially wrote a review for this album in 2003. That was the first time I had heard this man’s solo work.
In 2013 I was told by the singer/songwriter of this album that “The review you did on HOLD ON was one of the most articulate and well thought out discussions of a CD I have ever read and I still feel that way today AND never changed that opinion even during ‘whatever we call it’ was going in between your camp and mine”. To me that’s a lot to live up to so I hope I do this review of the album, in the year of its 25th anniversary, justice.
There is something about “Hold On” that keeps pulling me back. Years can pass without listening to it; then I’ll revisit it and it’s like hearing an old friend from long ago. I don’t know if it’s because of some fond memories I have from the time when I first discovered Frew had a solo career, the emotion-packed, well written tunes, or both.
I can still remember how I felt the first time I heard the CD: inspired. To me “Healing Hands” will always be a rocking anthem, “So Blind” will remain a touching song and the title track is still a wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve melody that will never grow old.
“Hold On” remains a well-done debut solo effort, rounded out with tracks such as “It Always Feels The Same”, the dark “Cloud 9”, moving songs “Learning To Fly” and “I Wonder Why” and ending with the beautiful ballad “Falling At Your Feet”. It’s an over-all feel good album, even 25 years later.
I don’t know what I wrote about “Hold On” back in 2003, but my feelings about the album endure. No wonder I keep coming back for a listen now and then.
“Diamond Sun” – Glass Tiger
Originally released April 13, 1988
How do you know a band has advanced artistically? When their sophomore album musically supersedes their freshman album. To me that was the case for Glass Tiger’s 1988 album Diamond Sun.
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the album’s release. With that here is a brief reflection on what I feel is still a great piece of ear-pleasing culture.
Growing up this album was a staple in my cassette deck because by 1988 I couldn’t get my hands on a vinyl copy. Whether it be on cassette, vinyl or CD, the title track has a resonating sound that remains with you long after listening. The song is memorable and the chorus makes it a great sing-a-long in concert.
Having charted at number 31 on Billboard, I’ve always felt the single “I’m Still Searching” did not get the attention it should have in the United States. With its hard rock sound, sassy lyrics and flashy video shot at Toronto’s Casa Loma, it’s my favorite from the album. I can understand why it peaked at number two on the Canadian charts.
Other standouts for me from Diamond Sun are “My Song”, with its Celtic feel, much in thanks to the Chieftains, the moving rock ballad “(Watching) Worlds Crumble”, the poetic and prophetic “This Island Earth” and lyrical “Far Away From Here”.
Although Diamond Sun deserved so much more attention from America than it received, thirty years later the Canadian certified double platinum album remains an enjoyable classic on both sides of the border.