Posts Tagged ‘Jared Leto’

Movies — “12 Years A Slave”, “Kill Your Darlings”, “About Time” & “Gravity”

For the most part, the weather is getting nicer.  I know we’ll start spending more time outdoors, but there will always be time to rent movies.

I’ve watched a few lately and if you haven’t seen them, I’ll let you know if you should.

“ABOUT TIME”

When I saw the trailer for this British romantic comedy in theaters last year, I knew I would be waiting to see it on DVD.

The time travel movie is about a young man, Tim Lake, (Domhnall Gleeson) that can go back in time and change his life for the better.  He does this to get to know Mary (Rachel McAdams) better.

The $12 million movie was a box office hit bringing in $87 million.

It was directed by Richard Curtis who also directed “Love Actually”.

While a cute movie, “About Time” is no “Love Actually”.

GRADE:  B

“KILL YOUR DARLINGS”

This drama set in the 1940s covers the college life of some of the men that would go on to define the “beat generation”.

It stars Daniel Radcliffe as poet Allen Ginsberg, Ben Foster as William S. Burroughs, and Jack Huston as Jack Kerouac.

When Ginsberg heads off to Columbia University in New York City, he meets the very charming and beautiful blond-haired Lucien Carr, played to perfection by Dane DeHaan.

Carr is anti-establishment, a player, and unstable.  He gets people, young (Ginsberg) and mature (David Kammerer played by “Dexter” star Michael C. Hall), to do his college homework and papers for him.

Without giving too much away, since the movie is called “Kill Your Darlings”, it’s a pretty safe bet that one of the characters dies and the defense in court is shocking.  But, you have to remember that it’s the 1940s.

It was a good movie and Radcliffe’s sex scene in the movie proves that he no longer “Harry Potter”!

 GRADE:  B

“GRAVITY”

This seven-time Academy Award winner grossed more than $715 million at the box office.

From a technical standpoint, it was beautiful and Sandra Bullock turns in a great Oscar-nominated performance.

While enjoyable, outside of the technical achievement, I didn’t find that it had too much substance.  I know I’m probably alone in that assessment.

GRADE:  C

“12 YEARS A SLAVE”

I finally got around to seeing the Best Picture of 2013 and it was definitely worth it.

12 Years A Slave

While the movie covered the darkest period in American human rights history, it was riveting and you couldn’t take your eyes off it.  It was painful knowing that a portion of America thought it was okay to enslave, beat, rape, and treat others with no dignity.  Sadly, some still think that way!

The all-star cast was incredible.  While heartbreaking to watch her as Patsey, Lupita Nyong’o deserved her Oscar.

In another year that didn’t include Jared Leto as Rayon in “Dallas Buyers Club”, Michael Fassbender would have walked away with a gold statuette, too, as sadistic plantation and slave owner Edwin Epps.

GRADE:  A+

All of these movies are available now at Redbox and other movie outlets.

Anthony

Advertisements

Random Friday Thoughts — February 28, 2014

It’s hard to believe that the first two months of 2014 are already behind us.  I sure hope that with March starting this weekend that spring can’t be too far behind.  With that being said, enjoy the snowy weekend.  Here are my random thoughts for this week.

DISGUSTED WITH UGANDA

This past Monday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a controversial law that makes being gay punishable by life in prison.  Before this week, a gay person faced 14 years of jail time.

Uganda President

Museveni had been going back and forth over the issue and just last week he said that gay people were “sick” and needed treatment and not imprisonment.

He added that this is necessary because of the arrogance of Westerners promoting behavior that threatens Ugandans’ “way of life”.

Here’s a reality check for you, President Museveni:  my being gay and open about it does not threaten the “way of life” in your nation (and the other 37 African countries that make it illegal to be gay).  What you should be threatened by is losing the $1.6 billion aid that you received in 2011 from the United States!

UGANDAN AID BEING CUT

In wake of Museveni signing that law, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands were the first three countries to cut aid to the Ugandan government.

Pink News

Pink News, Europe’s largest gay news service, reports that Norway and Denmark will donate money directly to human rights groups now and not the government there.

The news service also reports that the U.K. is making changes.  It will now only send money to multilateral aid agencies and non-governmental organizations in Uganda.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT — ARIZONA

Normally, in this segment, I don’t add commentary.  But, this week, I must.

Wednesday night, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062 that would have allowed individuals and businesses to refuse service based on religion, especially toward the LGBT community.

While I applaud Governor Brewer for vetoing it, in my heart, I feel that she did it because of the money Arizona stood to lose and not because it was the right thing to do.

Today’s “Food For Thought” is for the 17 Senators and the 33 Representatives that voted for the ill-fated and bad SB 1062 in the first place!

Uganda Arizona  ArizonaGay Wedding Cake

“HANNIBAL” RETURNS

The critically acclaimed and ratings challenged NBC series based on the Thomas Harris novel, “Red Dragon”, returns tonight (February 28th).

Hannibal S2

For the 2 million people in the U.S. that were still watching the series for the June finale last year, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) had done his part to drive FBI criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) mad and Will was jailed for murder.

If you didn’t catch this incredibly creepy, gory, and complex series, you’re missing out on great drama and television.

“Entertainment Weekly” and NBC released this two-minute opening teaser for tonight’s premiere.  Let me warn you, it’s awesome and violent.  It also makes you wonder what led up to this scene because once you watch it, you know they will flash back to let you know how this transpired!

“EW” definitely likes the season 2 premiere!

EW Hannibal Review

For the thirteen episodes this season, I really hope that we see much more of Gillian Anderson, who plays Hannibal’s psychotherapist, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier!

Gillian Anderson Hannibal

I can’t get enough of my crush, Gillian Anderson!

BREAKING NEWS…. MORE SNOW THIS WEEKEND

Sick of Winter

Remember, I’m only the messenger.  But, in reality, I’m shooting for 70″ this winter and the all-time record!

This is where we stand right now before any snow falls today, tomorrow, and Sunday in the Quad Cities.

Snow Stats -- Friday Morning

Light snow is on the way later this evening and tonight.  This first wave will be gone by daybreak Saturday.  Accumulations will generally be less than an inch for most of us.  Northern hometowns near the Wisconsin border may see a little more — closer to 2″.

More snow is on the way Saturday afternoon into early Sunday night.

This Weekend

Here is how much snow I’m expecting from Friday evening through Sunday night.  This snow will be falling over a three-day period and not all at once!

Snow This Weekend

‘Tis the season!  Yes, it’s still winter!

SNOW SWIMMING!

Obviously some in Duluth, Minnesota, look at snow differently than we do in the Quad Cities!

Duluth has had about 84″ of snow this winter and there’s still about 29″ on the ground.

Snow?  I didn’t notice snow in the video!

OSCAR WEEKEND 2014

I’ll be staying up past my bedtime Sunday to watch some or all of this year’s Oscars with host Ellen DeGeneres.

While I’ll post my Oscar picks for all 24 categories Sunday morning, including Best Picture, I’ll touch on a few here.

After seeing the incredible performances of Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, both nominated this year, for “August: Osage County”, I wanted them both to win.  Their performances were flawless.

august-osage-county- Julia Roberts Meryl Streep

However, I don’t think either will take home the Oscar.

Although I haven’t seen “Gravity” yet, I don’t want  Sandra Bullock to win, as much as I love her.  Yes, I’m still jaded that she beat Meryl for “The Blind Side”.  Meryl’s Julia Child in “Julie & Julia” was much more deserving.

Cate Blue Jasmine

For Best Actress, Cate Blanchett will win for her devastating and heartbreaking performance in “Blue Jasmine”.

DALLAS-BUYERS-CLUB

I also pick Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey to win for  “Best Supporting Actor” and “Best Actor”, respectively, for  their incredible performances in “Dallas Buyers Club”.

My other 21 winning picks will be revealed Sunday!

“BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD”

Last weekend, we watched two more of the late, great actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s movies, “The Savages” and “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead”.

Both were amazing and I highly recommend them for different reasons.

“Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead” was released in 2007 and was director’s Sidney Lumet’s last movie before his death in 2011.

before_the_devil_knows_youre_dead

The $18 million dollar crime drama barely made its money back at the theaters ($25 million), but it was highly entertaining and it kept you guessing as to how it would end.

Hoffman played Andy, a finance executive at a New York City real estate firm, who was embezzling money from the company to help support his drug use.  In a scary case of real-life deja vu, it was hard watching Hoffman shooting up drugs.

He devises a plan with his brother Hank (Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke) to knock off a small mom & pop jewelry store, which would net them about $120,000.  As you can guess, things don’t go as planned.

The movie also stars Oscar winner Marisa Tomei and five-time Academy Award nominee Albert Finney.

I have a warning and a spoiler about the movie:  I’ll never get the image of Hoffman’s naked butt, while having sex with his wife, in the opening scene out of my mind — ever!!!!

GRADE:  B+

“THE SAVAGES”

We also watched Hoffman’s 2011 family dramedy, “The Savages”, which earned co-star Laura Linney an Oscar nomination.  The movie was also nominated for Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Tamara Jenkins.

E25SavagesB

Hoffman and Linney star as a couple of single New Yorkers, who have to come up with a plan to take care of their estranged elderly father suffering from dementia in Arizona.

While the subject matter is heavy at times, it’s also heartwarming and funny.  I’m a huge fan of Laura Linney, so it was a pleasure seeing her in the movie.

The movie was produced by Academy Award winner Alexander Payne, who’s up for an Oscar this year for directing “Nebraska”.

GRADE:  B

With these two movies, I’ve now seen ten Hoffman movies:  “Twister” (1996), “Boogie Nights” (1997 — his Scotty J. was heartbreaking), “Happiness” (1998 — a sad, creepy performance in an amazing movie that made you want to shower after watching it), “Magnolia” (1999), “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999), “Red Dragon” (2002 — slimy, sleazy, but unforgettable as Freddy Lounds), “Doubt” (2008 — touching and worthy of the Oscar nomination), and “The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire” (2013).

PICK HIT

“Take Me Home” by the dance band, Cash Cash, featuring vocals from Bebe Rexha is my pick hit of the week.

While the song has already reached the Top Ten in Australia and on the Billboard Dance chart, it only reached #64 on the Hot 100.

However, it’s one of the 20 most played songs right now on Top 40 radio stations in the  U.S.

It’s still a great song to get your weekend off to a fun start.

“MICHAEL TOLLIVER LIVES”

I’m almost done with Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of The City” nine-book series.  Over the past week, I read books seven and eight, “Michael Tolliver Lives” and “Mary Ann in Autumn”, respectively.

If you’re familiar with the series, Michael Tolliver (“Mouse”) is one of the original tenants of Mrs. Madrigal’s 28 Barbary Lane.

Michael Tolliver Lives

It’s now 2005, almost thirty years since the first book.  Michael is no longer a youngster from Orlando, Florida, living in San Francisco’s Castro.  He’s now married to a younger man about 20 years his junior.  It’s a very happy union.

The bleakness from the sixth book in the series, “Sure of You”, is gone, even when we learn of an original “Tales” character’s death to cancer and the death of a loved one closer to Michael.

Also, the book is told in first person from Michael, which is a departure from the third person story telling of the previous six books.

“Michael Tolliver Lives” is one of my favorite books of the “Tales” series.

At the end of “Michael Tolliver Lives”, Mary Ann Singleton, now a married woman on the East Coast, returned briefly to visit an elderly friend that may not recover from a stroke.

Mary Ann

In “Mary Ann in Autumn”, it’s a couple of years later and Mary Ann and “Mouse” are back together again in San Francisco almost thirty years after they first met in 1970s.

A couple of secrets brings Mary Ann back to cry on Michael’s shoulder.  All of the years and the tears of twenty years apart are forgotten when they examine their friendship and what they’ve been missing.  It brought me so much joy to see them together poking fun at each other and pushing each other’s buttons as they head toward their golden years — both are in their late fifties and early sixties now!

And, boy, does Maupin have a few shockers up his sleeve that go all the way back to the original “Tales” book.

As much as I loved “Michael Tolliver Lives”, “Mary Ann In Autumn” is my new favorite after the first book.

“I’M A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY”

One of my favorite songs as a kid was “Harper Valley P.T.A.” by Texan Jeannie C. Riley.

Jeannie C. Riley

I used to play the record over and over as a 4-year-old.  I played it so much that my older step-sister too the record away from me and broke it!

The song went on to sell six million copies and it became the first song by a woman to top both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard Country charts at the same time.   That was in 1968.  The next time that would happen would be in 1981 with “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton.

From 1968-1972, Jeannie C. Riley would score 14 hits on the country charts.  Of those, six would reach the Top Ten.  “Harper Valley P.T.A.” was her first and only #1 hit.

Later in the 1970s, Riley would become a “born again Christian” and she briefly distanced herself from the sexy and risque song, but she never stopped performing it.

THAT’S IT FOR THIS WEEK

That’s enough random thoughts for one blog.  I have no plans this weekend and I just might take advantage of the freshly fallen snow and go sledding with Gretel.  It’ll take me back to December 2010 when Ray, Gretel, Miss ABBA, and I took advantage of the winter wonderland.

Sledding December 2010

Ray Gretel ABBA December 2010

Anthony

Random Friday Thoughts — January 17, 2014

I definitely look forward to my weekends and I start counting down to them when I walk into the door at work at 2 a.m. on Mondays!

I hope you have a great weekend and that you have some fun or relaxing things to do.  My plans are to watch movies, go out to lunch Saturday, and attend the Red Ribbon Dinner, which is a local AIDS fundraiser, Saturday night.

Thank you for checking out my random thoughts this week.

THRILL KILL ON AUCTION

I know there are people who go into grocery stores or seafood restaurants and choose their lobster dinner from a tank of live crustaceans.

Lobster Tank

I would never do that since I don’t want to look at my dinner eye-to-eye.  However, I can understand that more (sorry, lobster) than going to a charity auction and bidding hundreds of thousands of dollars to stalk and kill an endangered animal for fun.

This past weekend, in Texas, at the Dallas Safari Club’s fundraiser, the winning bidder paid $350,000 to hunt down and execute an endangered African black rhino in the African nation of Namibia.

Black Rhino

The executive director of the club, Ben Carter, claims that the money from the auction will actually go toward protecting the species.

Carter adds that the doomed rhino “is old, male and non-breeding” and it would likely be targeted for execution because it’s “becoming aggressive and threatening other wildlife.”

rhino-hunt-auction

Protestors are not buying that and see the thrill kill as sadistic and I agree.

However, I disagree with “death threats” that are allegedly being made against Carter, his family, and the Safari Club.  One of them states, “For every rhino you kill, we will kill a member of the club.”

In the 1960s, there were about 70,000 black rhinos in the wild and now there about 5,000.

“BORN ROUND”

I just finished reading my second book of 2014 and well on my way of surpassing the four that I read last year.  I’ve been wanting to read “Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater” by Frank Bruni for some time now.

Born Round

The book traces Bruni’s New York upbringing in a close-knit large Italian family where the women loved to cook and made it an art.

Describing all of the delicacies his mother, grandmother, and aunts created, it was like reading a “food porn” book.

The main focus of the book was that while Frank was a swimmer and athletic, he was compulsive when it came to food.

He was always fighting being overweight with one fad diet after another.  This lead to periods of fasting, binge eating and bulimia, and ballooning up to 268 pounds before he finally took charge of his life and took exercise seriously to responsibly lose the weight .

Frank Bruni Born Round

Once he slimmed down and became fit, Bruni became a restaurant critic for the New York Times.

For five years (2004-2009), he would eat out seven nights a week.  On some of those nights, he would have two or three dinners at some of the most talked about and higher class restaurants in New York.  Those meals consisted of multiple appetizers, entrees, and desserts, and some of the feasts would consists of 20 courses or more!

The book also covers his relationships and during the period of his heaviest weight, the lack of having a boyfriend.

These days, Bruni still works for the Times and he looks amazing.

GRADE:  A-

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Sweet DreamsButt DialBakery

OSCAR NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED

While the next few entries are Oscar-related, there are other topics in this blog, so keep reading.

“American Hustle” and “”Gravity” lead this year’s Oscar race with 10 nominations each.  “12 Years a Slave” picked up 9 nominations.

Oscar-Nominations-2014

I accurately predicted that all four main actors in “American Hustle” would get nominated.  I also picked Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts to get acting nominations.  I correctly thought that “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and Oprah Winfrey would be snubbed, along with Robert Redford for “All Is Lost”.

“AUGUST:  OSAGE COUNTY”

My apologies go out to Amy Adams (five time Oscar nominee with no wins, so far) and Jennifer Lawrence (three Oscar nominations and one win, so far).  Both blew me away in “American Hustle”.

I was pledging my support for them to win until yesterday when I saw “August:  Osage County” with fellow Best Actress nominee Meryl Streep and Best Supporting Actress nominee Julia Roberts.

august_osage_county

Watching this downer of a movie, I can fully understand how Streep picked up her 18th nomination (three wins, so far) and Roberts got her fourth nomination (one win for “Erin Brockovich”).

The material in this movie adapted from the Tracy Letts’ play is heavy:  suicide, oral cancer, infidelity, incest, and inappropriate sexual misconduct with a minor.  However, the acting was incredible.  In addition to Oscar nominees Streep and Roberts, it also stars past Oscar nominees and winners, Sam Shepard, Chris Cooper, Juliette Lewis, and Abigail Breslin.

You have to see this movie!  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and most of all, you’ll want to scream, “Eat the fish, bitch”!  (If you haven’t seen the movie, that’s dialogue from a pivotal scene.)

GRADE:  A

CONGRATULATIONS MATTHEW & JARED

I’m happy that Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto were nominated for Oscars after both won much-deserved acting awards at last weekend’s Golden Globes for their incredible performances in the AIDS-themed, “Dallas Buyers Club”.

DALLAS-BUYERS-CLUB

I’ve blogged about the incredible movie many times and it was #3 favorite movie of 2013.  It’s also nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

Just in case you haven’t seen the trailer, here it is.

“LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER”

While I was hoping for Oprah Winfrey to get an Academy Award nomination for “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”, once I saw the movie a couple of days ago, she had only one scene that screamed Oscar.

When this $30 million movie came out late last summer (it grossed $167.5 million), I wanted to go see in the theaters.  But, I waited for it to arrive on DVD and I’m glad I did.

Lee-Daniels-The-Butler

The movie covers the life of Cecil Gaines, an African-American, who left the South as a cotton picker and then worked 34 years as a butler in the White House under eight presidents.

Oscar winner Forest Whitaker (“The Last King of Scotland”) gives an solid performance as Cecil and Academy Award-nominee Oprah Winfrey (“The Color Purple”) is amazing as Cecil’s boozy wife, Gloria.

While the movie is intense at the beginning on the cotton field where Cecil worked as a child with his parents, the rest of the movie over the next two hours moved along like a “best of” countdown of historical events and the presidents that handled them during Gaines’ year of working at the White House.

The most moving scenes were of disgusts at how white people treated black people and the whites that supported their fight for civil rights back in the 1960s.

And, as a final note, Jane Fonda was an incredible Nancy Reagan.

Jane Fonda Nancy Reagan

When the movie was in theaters, the controversies surrounded Fonda, a liberal playing one of the most beloved conservative first wives in history, and Fonda’s days that go back to the Vietnam when she was referred to as “Hanoi Jane”.  There was even a movie theater in Kentucky that refused to the play “The Butler” because of Fonda. (Go figure!  I can say that because I’m from there.)

GRADE:  B-

HOLY F*#K SCORSESE

Martin Scorsese’s latest, “The Wolf of Wall Street”, received major Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Director, Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), and Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill).  While the movie isn’t exactly setting box office records, it does hold one motion picture record.

The Wolf of Wall Street

The $100 million dollar movie about excess is also excessive on the use of the f-word.

There are 506 uses of the f-word or variations of it.  That easily beats out Spike Lee’s 1999 thriller, “Summer of Sam” with 435 f-bombs.

Only a documentary called “F*ck”, which is about the f-word, is higher in count at 857 times.

F Documentary

Scorsese also has two other movies in the top twenty on the list:  “Casino” at 422 and “Goodfellas” with 300.

And, I thought I used the word a lot!  Either it’s a popular word (my theory) or Hollywood writers are not very creative.  No comment about the number of remakes and sequels when it comes to creativity!

SO FAR, SO GOOD

We’re now halfway through the month of January and I’m happy to report that Ray and I are doing well on our healthy eating and exercise regiment to shed those 15-20 unwanted pounds.

And, we’re treating ourselves one cheat brunch or buffet each week including this one last Sunday with unlimited mimosas and a piece of cheesecake that I decorated myself!

Cheesecake

During my first week of being healthy, I lost 3.2 pounds!  It’s taken a lot of self-control of cutting back on wine and vodka (and food), making fun, tempting salads and veggies, and walking a lot on the treadmill.  At least, I’m getting some reading done!

INTERESTING TIDBITS

Better Homes & Gardens (July 2013):  The average American will walk 35,000 miles in a lifetime and will watch nine years of television!

Watching TV

And, speaking of television, I only watch three network shows, “The Following”, “Hannibal”, and “Under The Dome”, and one of them returns this weekend.

“THE FOLLOWING” SEASON 2 PREMIERE

I guess I’ll be tired Monday morning at work because the second season of “The Following” kicks off this Sunday night (January 19) after the football game on Fox.

The Following S 2

“I’M A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY”

Growing up in Kentucky, I was raised on country music from our AM radio station, WNGO, 1320 AM in Mayfield.

One of my favorite songs as a kid was the first hit from the St. Louis, Missouri, father-daughter duo, The Kendalls, Royce and Jeannie.

“Heaven’s Just A Sin Away” not only became the Kendalls first hit in 1977, it also became the biggest hit of their career topping the country chart for four weeks and reaching #69 on the Billboard Hot 100.

TheKendalls

It also won the 1978 Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal by a Duo or Group.

From 1977 to 1985, the Kendalls scored 22 hits on the Billboard Country chart.  Of those, 11 reached the Top Ten, and three topped the charts:  “Heaven;s Just A Sin Away”, “Sweet Desire” in 1978, and “Thank God For the Radio” in 1984, which Alan Jackson also recorded for his 1994 album, “Who I Am”.

Royce Kendall died of stroke in 1998 at the age of 62.  Jeannie still occasionally records music and tours.

THAT’S IT FOR NOW

Have a great weekend and thank you for checking out my blog.  It was nice sleeping in.  I was just dreaming that we moved to a different house and that Gretel and I got to meet international superstar DJ, Avicii.

So, at the last minute, I’m including his current Top 40 American hit, “Hey Brother”, the follow-up to the top five smash, “Wake Me Up”.

Anthony

Random Friday Thoughts — December 6, 2013

Happy Friday everyone.  I hope you’re having a great week and that you’re looking forward to the weekend.  Here are my random Friday thoughts.

GREETINGS FROM “MUSIC CITY USA”!

When we left the Quad Cities Wednesday, it was 47° and we drove seven hours to Grand Rivers, Kentucky, to check out the Christmas lights and have dinner at my favorite restaurant, Patti’s 1880’s and the temperature there was 72°.

Lights at Patti'sAnthony's Dinner

That’s my dinner.  It’s called “Ella Mae’s Chicken”:  freshly grilled asparagus over grilled chicken breast topped with black forest ham and sautéed mushrooms covered in homemade cheese sauce.  This was after appetizers of homemade cheese sticks and a blossoming onion and before we ate dessert!

On Thursday, we drove the final two hours to Nashville, Tennessee, dropping my sister off in Clarksville, about an hour northwest of Nashville, so she could spend the weekend with her kids and two granddaughters.

REBA EXHIBIT

Our first stop in Nashville before checking into the Opryland Hotel was a visit to the Reba McEntire exhibit, “All The Women I Am”, at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Anthony Reba

These are various “Fancy” performance dresses.

Reba Fancy Dresses

IT LOOKS LIKE CHRISTMAS AT OUR HOTEL

Opryland Hotel

THE ROCKETTES’

Last night, we saw the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes”.  The sets were incredible and the dancing was festive and fun.  Sadly, no pictures were allowed!

REST OF THE WEEKEND PLANS

Tonight, in a major ice storm, we’ll see “Lorrie Morgan’s Enchanted Christmas & Dinner Show”.  Tomorrow, it’s a lunch cruise on the Cumberland River on the General Jackson and tomorrow night, Opry at the Ryman, with Vince Gill, Kathy Mattea, Chris Carmack (who plays Will Lexington on ABC’s “Nashville”) and many others.

Chris Carmack

SINGER BECOMES BIG TIME SONG WRITER

Shane McAnally

25-year-old Texan Shane McAnally was signed to Curb Records and released his first single, “Say Anything” in 1999, which peaked at #41.  The follow-up single, “Are Your Eyes Still Blue” was his only Top 40 country hit, peaking at #31.

I loved both of those songs and I was probably one of the few people who took a chance on the newcomer and bought his debut and only album. After that, Shane dropped off the radar and moved to West Hollywood, California, and started bartending and performing as “Shane Mack”.

Shane Mack

In California, Shane was able to be openly gay.  Since he started living his life openly, he married his partner of six years, Michael Baum, in September 2012, and the couple welcomed a daughter and a son in December of last year.

I was pleasantly surprised this fall to see “Entertainment Weekly” give Shane the much overdue recognition that he deserves.

Shane returned to Nashville in a big way in 2008 as a co-writer of LeAnn Womack’s Top 15 hit, “Last Call”.  Since then, he has written #1 songs for Kenny Chesney, Jake Owens, The Band Perry, Lady Antebellum, and Miranda Lambert.  He also penned three songs for Reba McEntire’s 2010 album, “All The Women I Am” album.

Music Review Kacey Musgraves

And, this year, he co-produced my favorite country album 0f 2013, the #1 “Same Trailer Different Park” by Kacey Musgraves.

Shane, I wish you, Michael, and your children much happiness in 2014 and here’s to continued success in country music.  I hope to hear more of your singing in the future, too.

MEANWHILE, NOT SO GOOD TENNESSEE NEWS

While we’re having a good time in Nashville, a recent report from “24/7 Wall Street” doesn’t paint a rosy picture of Tennessee, ranking it as “the most dangerous state” in the United States.

It’s followed by Nevada, Alaska, New Mexico, South Carolina, Delaware, Louisiana, Florida, Maryland, and Oklahoma!

Tennessee Violent Crimes

The site ranks Tennessee #1 for aggravated assaults and in the top ten for murders and robbery.  In 2012, there were 388 murders, which is up for the second straight year.

Across the nation, Memphis ranks fifth and Nashville is at #18 for violent crimes.

Take this ranking and the information from “24/7 Wall Street” with a grain of salt, since the “Crime in Chicago” website reported 537 murders in the “Windy City” in 2012.  (As of December 1st, the site reports there have been 422 murders in Chicago in 2013.)

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Ice Hole Deer  squirrelSnow's a comin'

ICE STORM SOUTH, SNOW IN THE QUAD CITIES

Two rounds of ice will be heavily glazing the Nashville, Tennessee, area tonight and, again, Saturday night.  It’s going to get scary down here.  Meanwhile, on Sunday, several inches of snow are expected in the Quad Cities.  It looks like, at least, two inches are likely.

I’ll have more on this tomorrow to keep you ahead of the snow in Illinois and Iowa.

FRESH VENDING MACHINE SALAD

I know it’s easy to grab fast food or something out a vending machine when you’re working and eat it at your desk.  However, if you had the option, would you choose a fresh salad from a vending machine for a healthy alternative?

That is the option for people living or working near the Loop in Chicago near Clark and Lake.

Farmers Fridge Chicago

Farmer’s Fridge has installed its first vending machine salad, fruits, and vegetables prepared fresh daily and packaged in recyclable plastic jar.

The $8 salads are available at 10 a.m. and come in seven varieties including North Napa, Mediterranean, Crunchy Thai, The Cheater, and three other flavors.  The dressings include lemon tahini, spicy soy peanut, red wine vinaigrette, and four other flavors.

ISRAELIS TAKE A STAND AGAINST RUSSIA

As you know from reading my blog, I’ve been very outspoken against Russia’s homophobic laws and the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which are two months away.  There’s now a new Israeli campaign speaking out about the bloodshed and violence against the LGBT community in Russia.

Red Flag

“Red Flag”, similar to the American NOH8 campaign, was started by David and Jonathan, the publisher of the international lifestyle magazine, “F.O.D.”, for the Tel-Aviv gay man community.

Actors, singers, activists, drag queens, and the LGBT community were encouraged to take part in the photo shoot wearing Russian army uniforms with blood coming out of their mouths to bring attention to the violence brought against Russian and Ukrainian LGBT people.

Red Flag2

Organizers say, “Russia 2013 is a death trap for the LGBT community. This discriminating law is backed up with aggressive enforcement by the army and the police. Arresting activists in the LGBT community or any person suspected of being involved in “propaganda” has become a normal routine. This law refers to tourists from out-of-state and even athletes participating in the winter Olympics.”

PICK HIT

Earlier in the blog, I profiled Shane McAnally and mentioned that he co-produced Kacey Musgraves’ debut album.

He also co-wrote nine of the album’s twelve songs, including the first three singles:  “Merry Go Round” (#14), “Blowin’ Smoke” (#31 peak), and her current single, “Follow Your Arrow”,which is at #28.

“Follow Your Arrow” is witty and poignant.  Here’s a sample of the lyrics:  “You’re damned if you do/and you’re damned if you don’t/so you might as well do whatever you want, so make lots of noise/kiss lots of boys/kiss lots of girls/if that’s something you’re into”

Cheers, Kacey & Shane!

DALLAS BUYER’S CLUB

“And, the Academy Award for Best Actor Matthew McConaughey for “Dallas Buyers Club”.

Dallas Buyers Club

The movie is based on a true story.  Ron Woodruff was a homophobic, hard-living, good ol’ Texas boy who loved his liquor, drugs, and women.  In 1986, he was diagnosed with AIDS and told that he had 30 days to live.

He tried to get on the AZT trials that were being rushed onto the market to fight the AIDS pandemic.  Since he was denied that opportunity, Woodruff started buying it on the black market.  When he almost died, he came up with a plan to smuggle medications out of Mexico to try to stay alive.  Since Ron couldn’t sell the drugs, he started a membership only “buyers club” to distribute the Food & Drug Administration-unapproved medication.

DALLAS-BUYERS-CLUB

McConaughey, who plays Woodruff, lost about 50 pounds for the role and his co-star, Jared Leto, who plays transgender AIDS patient, Rayon, who befriends Woodruff, lost about 40 pounds for the role.

Both actors were electrifying and sold the story.  After initially gasping at McConaughey’s first appearance in the movie, I was sold for the next two hours that both actors were HIV-positive people fighting for their lives, while the government dragged its feet.

If you lived through the 1980s and saw friends getting sick and dying, you saw those friends in Ron and Rayon.  If you know people who have become HIV-positive in the past decade, where with medication, healthier living, diet, and exercise, it’s become a manageable disease, there’s a sense of relief that AIDS is no longer a certain death sentence.

GRADE:  A

CHRISTMAS PICK HIT

I just added “A Mary Christmas” by Mary J. Blige and “Christmas, With Love” by British singer Leona Lewis to my holiday collection this week.

Leona Lewis  Christmas With Love

Leona’s fourth album and her first Christmas colelction featured seven classics and three new songs, including the first single, “One More Sleep”.

Many of you probably remember Leona from her debut #1 single in 2008, “Bleeding Love” and its followup, “Better In Time”.

“SHELTER”

While I love “Dexter”, “The Walking Dead” and “American Horror Story”, love stories are at the top of my list, too.  “Pretty Woman” (1990), “Latter Days” (2003), “Shelter” (2007), “Weekend” (2011), and “Out in the Dark” (2012) are the ones that I can watch over and over and over.

Shane Mack (Shane McAnally) performed five songs on the “Shelter” soundtrack and since I’m in Nashville and I’m a strong advocate for being out and proud, here’s another one from Shane.

ENJOY YOUR WEEKEND

Have a fantastic weekend and I appreciate you checking out my random thoughts this week.  Let me know what you think.

Bundle up if you live across the eastern part of the country.  It’s going to be cold.

Anthony

World AIDS Day

Sadly, there are more than 1.1 million people in the United States that are HIV-positive and what’s scary is that 18% don’t even know that they are infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus infection), which can lead to AIDS.  That’s almost one-in-five people who don’t know they are HIV-positive!

Today, December 1, 2013, marks the 25th anniversary of “World AIDS Day”, which was started in 1988 to raise awareness to the spread of HIV and the AIDS pandemic.

world aids day

Here’s some sobering numbers for you:  AIDS is still a problem, even if it’s now treatable.  There were still 15,529 deaths in the U.S. from AIDS in the U.S. in 2010.

us-statistics-1

White gay and bisexual men are the groups with the highest new infection rates and black gay and bisexual men follow right behind.

THE BLACK AIDS INSTITUTE ANNOUNCE NEW TV CAMPAIGN

However, here’s something that needs to be addressed and people need to wake up.  While African-Americans make up 12% of the U.S. population, they account for 44% of new HIV cases in 2010/living with HIV.  And, Hispanics account for 16% of the U.S. population, but make up 21% of the new HIV cases/people living with HIV.

We’ve come a long way in the past 32 years, but we have a long way to go.

Flashback to the spring and early summer of 1981.  Doctors in New York and California started noticing that some of their young, gay patients were coming in with weakened immune systems and were developing pneumonia and cancer.

NYT

“The New York Times” published one of the first articles on this new disease that didn’t even have a name and was incorrectly labeled “GRID” (gay-related immune deficiency) in 1982.  It was changed to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) once doctors realized that it didn’t only affect gay men.

The early 1980s was a scary time because there was so much that doctors didn’t know about this “gay cancer”, as it was also called.  This led to fear and many misconceptions about who or how people could catch it.

Princess Diana

Ryan White Pic

Ryan White, an Indiana hemophiliac, contracted AIDS from a contaminated blood transfusion and he was diagnosed with the disease shortly after his 13th birthday during a partial-lung removal procedure.

His school refused to let him come back and the family was subjected to threats and a bullet was even fired into their living room forcing the family to leave Kokomo, Indiana.

Ryan White

Ryan died in April 1990 at the age of 18.

Jerry Falwell

Before Ryan White was diagnosed with AIDS in late 1984, Reverend Jerry Falwell in the summer of 1983 called AIDS, the “gay plague”.  He also made other ignorant and hateful comments about AIDS and gay people.

Falwell

Sept 1986, Ken Died 3 Days Later

In the early-and-mid-1980s, a diagnosis of AIDS was an almost certain death sentence.  Outside of large metropolitan cities, many in America still thought it was a strictly a disease that affected gay men.

Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell

In retrospective, that doesn’t seem illogical because President Ronald Reagan didn’t even mention AIDS publicly until 1987, six years after he began his presidency and AIDS went public!

corbis_rm_photo_of_ACT_UP_protest_banner

While the President chose to or just remained silent on the topic, the nation’s started talking in the summer of 1985 when one of America’s biggest movie stars of the 1950s and 1960s startled the world when he admitted that he had AIDS.

Roy Scherer, Jr., who was born outside of Chicago, moved to Los Angeles in 1946 to become an actor after serving in the U.S. Navy in Philippines during World War II.  His name was changed to Rock Hudson and he became a matinée idol and made several romantic-comedies, including a few with his dear friend, actress Doris Day.

Doris Day Rock Hudson

Hudson was a heartthrob — a tall drink of water at 6’5″ — and the magazines loved him.

Rock Hudson 1951

However, rumors that he was gay dogged him.  When “Confidential” magazine threatened to out him in 1955, he got married that same year and then divorced in 1958.

In 1956, Hudson was nominated for an Oscar for his role in “Giant” that also starred Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean.  He worked steadily in movies and television through 1985 and his last role was on “Dynasty” as Daniel Reece, the love interest of Linda Evan’s character, Krystle Carrington.

Rock Hudson Dynasty

While Hudson’s character was killed off in the spring of 1985, the gasp that could be heard around the world came months later, in July.  Hudson appeared in a promo to promote his friend, Doris Day’s new television show.

Doris Day Rock Hudson 1985

The actor appeared thin and unhealthy.  He spoke incoherently during the press event.  This led to widespread speculation about his health.  Days later he collapsed at a hotel in Paris, France, and his publicist, Dale Olson, denied that Hudson had AIDS and that he was suffering from inoperable liver cancer.

Four days later, on July 25, 1985, Olson admitted that Hudson had AIDS and that he had been diagnosed one year earlier and had been flying to Paris for treatments.

People Headline

Hollywood freaked out over this revelation, including some on the set of “Dynasty”.  However, it’s been reported that Linda Evans was not one of those people even though they shared intimate love scenes together.

At the time, some erroneously thought that you could contract AIDS through kissing.  YOU CANNOT GET AIDS FROM KISSING!  This is a perfect time for the facts about HIV and AIDS.

HIV HIV Prevention

On October 2, 1985, Rock Hudson died at home in his sleep in Beverly Hills, California.  He was 59.

Rock Hudson 1950s

Shortly before he died, Hudson sent a telegram to Commitment to Life, a Hollywood AIDS benefit, saying “I am not happy that I am sick. I am not happy that I have AIDS. But if that is helping others, I can at least know that my own misfortune has had some positive worth.”

Comedian Joan Rivers added, “Two years ago, when I hosted a benefit for AIDS, I couldn’t get one major star to turn out. … Rock’s admission is a horrendous way to bring AIDS to the attention of the American public, but by doing so, Rock, in his life, has helped millions in the process. What Rock has done takes true courage.”  And, actress Morgan Fairchild said that “Rock Hudson’s death gave AIDS a face.”

HOLLYWOOD EDUCATING AMERICA THROUGH MOVIES

While health officials worked tirelessly in the 1980s and 1990s to educate the public about HIV/AIDS, activists staged protests at government offices to work harder to fund research and to find a cure.

Slowly, Hollywood came around and “An Early Frost” on NBC in November 1985 was the first movie to address AIDS.

An Early Frost

34 million people tuned to see Aidan Quinn as a Chicago lawyer, who not only became ill with AIDS, but he also had to tell his parents (Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands) that he was gay.  The movie earned 14 Emmy nominations, winning three.

While it was the most watched show of the night beating out football and “Cagney & Lacey”, NBC lost $500,000 in commercial revenue because some clients were scared away by the subject matter.

Here are some other incredible Hollywood movies and television movies or series that excel at telling the HIV/AIDS story.

“Longtime Companion” (1989) is one of my all-time favorite movies.

While it was the first wide-release theatrical movie to address AIDS,  it only earned $4.6 million at the box office.  It stars Campbell Scott, Mary-Louise Parker, and Bruce Davison, who earned a Best Supporting Oscar nomination.

It follows a group of New York City friends from the 1981 beginning of the AIDS pandemic and shows how they learned to live, fight, and die from the disease.

Longtime Companion

“And The Band Played On”, a 1993 HBO movie, is probably the best historical movie for you to learn about the history of AIDS without it sounding like a boring history lesson.  The Emmy Award winning movie (it won three out of its 14 nominations) stars Matthew Modine, Alan Alda, Lily Tomlin, Richard Gere, and Phil Collins.

And, the book was written by Randy Shilts, who was born in Davenport, Iowa.

And-the-Band-Played-On

In 1993, “Philadelphia” became the most profitable AIDS movie in Hollywood history earning $206.7 million (almost $77 million of that was from the U.S.).

Tom Hanks won an Oscar playing a closeted lawyer at a big law firm, who is given the company’s biggest case only to have them fire him when a partner sees a lesion on his forehead and he is hospitalized.  He hires a homophobic, personal injury lawyer played by Denzel Washington.

Philadelphia

Another touching small theatrical movie, “The Cure”, tells the story of Dexter, a Midwestern boy who befriends his latch-key neighbor, Erik, who’s a little older.  Initially, Erik is afraid of Dexter and his disease.  But, the boys form a close friendship when they decide to travel down the Mississippi River to New Orleans to find a rumored cure for AIDS.

The Cure

Not all AIDS-related movie are dramas.  “Jeffrey”, a 1995 film by funny man Paul Rudnick, made about $3.5 million at the box office and stars Steven Weber and Michael T. Weiss.

Weber is Jeffrey, a New York City man who is scared of catching AIDS, so he gives up sex and then he meets Steve, the man of his dreams only to find out that Steve is HIV-positive.

The movie features an all-star cast including Patrick Stewart, Olympia Dukakis, Sigourney Weaver, Nathan Lane, Christine Baranski, and Kathy Najimy.

Jeffrey

The play, “Angels in America” blasted onto HBO in 2003 with a cast that included Al Pacino, Meryl Streep (playing four characters), Emma Thompson, Jeffrey Wright (also playing four characters), Mary-Louise Parker and Patrick Wilson.  The almost six-hour series earned 21 Emmy nominations and 11 wins, including acting awards for Pacino, Streep, Parker, and Wright.

Angels in America

And, in 2014, Ryan Murphy, the man behind the award-winning series, “American Horror Story” and “Glee”, will be directing the Larry Kramer-penned, Tony Award-winning play, “The Normal Heart”.

TheNormalHeart

The HBO movie stars Julia Roberts, Mark Ruffalo, Jim Parsons. Matt Bomer, and Taylor Kitsch, and focuses on the AIDS crisis in New York City in the early-1980s.

For those of you that don’t know him, Larry Kramer is and was one of the biggest health advocates in the history of HIV/AIDS and helped start the protest organization, ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), in early 1987.

“AND, THE ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST ACTOR SHOULD GO TO…”

dallas_buyers_club

Matthew McConaughey for “Dallas Buyers Club”!

The movie is based on a true story.  Ron Woodruff was a homophobic, hard-living, good ol’ Texas boy who loved his liquor, drugs, and women.  In 1986, he was diagnosed with AIDS and told that he had 30 days to live.

He tried to get on the AZT trials that were being rushed onto the market to fight the AIDS pandemic.  Since he was denied that opportunity, Woodruff started buying it on the black market.  When he almost died, he came up with a plan to smuggle medications out of Mexico to try to stay alive.  Since Ron couldn’t sell the drugs, he started a membership only “buyers club” to distribute the Food & Drug Administration-unapproved medication.

DALLAS-BUYERS-CLUB

McConaughey, who plays Woodruff, lost about 50 pounds for the role and his co-star, Jared Leto, who plays transgender AIDS patient, Rayon, who befriends Woodruff, lost about 40 pounds for the role.

Both actors were electrifying and sold the story.  After initially gasping at McConaughey’s first appearance in the movie, I was sold for the next two hours that both actors were HIV-positive people fighting for their lives, while the government dragged its feet.

If you lived through the 1980s and saw friends getting sick and dying, you saw those friends in Ron and Rayon.  If you know people who have become HIV-positive in the past decade, where with medication, healthier living, diet, and exercise, it’s become a manageable disease, there’s a sense of relief that AIDS is no longer a certain death sentence.

GRADE:  A

MUSICIAN LEND A VOICE, TOO

Madonna, George Michael, Cyndi Lauper, the Pet Shop Boys, and many other musicians have recorded songs about HIV and AIDS and losing friends or lovers to the disease.

In 1986, Elton John was joined by Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder on “That’s What Friends Are For”.  That Grammy Award-winning song reached #1 and raised over $3 million dollars for the American Foundation for AIDS Research, a nonprofit organization founded by some leading AIDS specialist and actress Elizabeth Taylor.

Six years later, Elton John founded the nonprofit organization, the Elton John AIDS Foundation.  His 1992 hit, “The Last Song”, about a father and son reuniting before the son died of AIDS, was the first of Elton’s American singles to benefit his AIDS foundation.

While pop music embraced the fight against HIV/AIDS and lent a voice, it took the biggest name in country music almost twenty years ago to release a song that was controversial in that musical genre to put a heterosexual face to AIDS.

Reba She Thinks His Name Was John

Typically, summer radio is filled with bubbly, fun songs.  However, in 1994, Reba McEntire serviced “She Thinks His Name Was John” to country radio as the second single from “Read My Mind”.   The song tells the story of a woman, who is dying alone of AIDS after an alcohol-fueled one night stand a few years earlier.

The song only reached #14 on the Billboard County charts.  But, it opened eyes in a genre that was used to drinking songs, but not one with the horrors of a disease that affected a large number of gay men.

While things are changing, there’s still a long way to go in the fight against HIV and AIDS.  And, we still need to educate people.

Annie Lennox

Back in 2010, Annie Lennon of the Eurythimics wore a “HIV Positive” shirt on “Idol Gives Back”.  This prompted many to think that she was ill.

She replied, “I can tell you the good news is actually I am not. However, many people are. In fact, 22 million in sub-Saharan Africa are currently HIV positive.  And I am wearing this in solidarity with them because it’s very hard when you are HIV positive to be open about your status and to be able to tell your family and your friends.”

Annie Lennox

Red Ribbon

You may not see many people these days wearing red ribbons to raise awareness, but more people than ever are getting infected with HIV.  Last year, around the world, 2.3 million people were newly affected!

hiv_013

Since 1981, more than 636,000 people have died from AIDS in the United States.  If those numbers don’t wake you up, try these:

AmFAR Stats

On this “World AIDS Day”, remember those who have lost the battle with AIDS.  Whether you know it or not, I can almost guarantee that you know someone who is HIV-positive or that you will in the future.

STOP AIDS

Abstaining from sex is what some tell you to do.  That works.  However, if you’re going to be sexually active, protect yourself.  Use condoms!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that “Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.”

HIV and AIDS are preventable.  Be safe.  It’s not just a slogan!

Anthony

Ready for Popcorn & These Fall Movies

Fall is here and I’m ready to spend the shorter and cooler days with a hot bucket of movie popcorn sitting in a dark theater or all comfy on my couch with home-popped popcorn.

Here are the motion pictures that have piqued my interest as we head into that season.  No, not winter, but Oscar-bait season.

The movies that I want to see in the theater will have trailers and the ones that I’ll likely see, but I’ll wait for the DVD release will have just movie posters.

“C.O.G.”

My first selection is already playing at select theaters across the country and I doubt that it’ll play in the Quad Cities.  So, I’ll be waiting for the DVD release on November 19, 2013 and I’ll buy it to add to my collection.

C.O.G.

The comedy, “C.O.G.”, is the first-ever screen adaptation of the work of writer David Sedaris.  It stars Jonathan Groff (“Glee”), Denis O’ Hare (“American Horror Story”), and Troian Bellisario (“Pretty Little Liars”).

WAITING FOR THE DVD RELEASE

As much as I love Lady Gaga and “Modern Family” seductress Sofia Vergara, I’ll wait to see “Machete Kills” (release date:  10/11) on DVD, just in case it’s so bad I’m only out $1.20 at Redbox.

Machete-Kills-Lady-GagaMACHETE KILLS

The latest thriller starring Academy Award winner Tom Hanks, “Captain Phillips” (release date:  10/11) is based on a true story of Somali Pirates taking over the “Maersk Alabama” in 2009.  The film, which is already getting Oscar buzz, is directed by Paul Greengrass (“United 93”).

Captain Phillips

And, as much as I love Julianne Moore and Chloe Grace Moretz, I’ll be waiting to watch the remake of the Stephen King classic, “Carrie” (release date:  10/18) at home on DVD.

The new version is directed by Kimberly Peirce, who was behind the incredible “Boys Don’t Cry” in 1999.  That movie earned Hillary Swank her first Oscar, as Brandon Teena, a murdered transgender man.

Carrie

Here are the movies that I’m marking my calendar to see in theaters.

“KILL YOUR DARLINGS”

Now that “Dexter” has ended its eight season run on Showtime, I have to get my Michael C. Hall fix somewhere.

Kill Your Darlings

I get that in “Kill Your Darlings” (limited release:  10/16), which also stars Daniel Radcliffe (“Harry Potter”) and Dane DeHaan (“Chronicle”).

It’s based on the murder of David Kammerer (Hall) by Lucien Carr (DeHaan) in 1944.  It also brings the great beat generation poets Allen Ginsberg (Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster) together.

“12 YEARS A SLAVE”

12 Years A Slave

The star of “12 Years A Slave” (release date:  10/18) that is getting heavy Oscar buzz is Chiwetel Ejifor.

He plays a free black man who was sold into slavery after he was lured away from his home in Saratoga Springs, New York in 1841.  He was forced to work on a Louisiana plantation for 12 years before his release.

The movie also stars sexy Michael Fassbender as an evil plantation owner, along with Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Alfre Woodard, Sarah Paulson, Paul Giamatti, and Quvenzhane Wallis.

“DALLAS BUYERS CLUB”

Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are garnering the best reviews of their acting career for their upcoming drama, “Dallas Buyers Club” (release date:  11/1), which is based on a true story.

Dallas Buyers Club

McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, a drug using, womanizing, homophobic man who was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1986 and given only thirty days to live.  It tells the story of how he began smuggling non-toxic, alternative medicines from all over the world, thus forming the “Dallas Buyers Club”.

For his part, McConaughey lost around 40-50 pounds and his co-star, Leto lost 30-40 pounds to play Rayon, an HIV-positive transgendered woman, who became business partners with Woodroof.

This isn’t the first time that Leto has significantly altered his body for a part.  Check out this photo of him playing Mark David Chapman, the man who murdered John Lennon in December 1980.

Jared Leto - Mark David Chapman

In that movie, “Chapter 27” from 2007, Leto gained 67 pounds!  And, it’s disgusting how he did it.  He would drink microwaved ice cream by the pints that was mixed with olive oil and soy sauce every night!

I expect that both McConaughey and Leto will get several nominations in this upcoming awards season!

“THE HUNGER GAMES:  CATCHING FIRE”

There isn’t much I have to say about the second installment of Katniss Everdeen fighting for her life in “The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire” (release date:  11/22).

The Hunger Games Catching Fire

Gretel has read all three books and she’s excited to see this one.

“AMERICAN HUSTLE”

American Hustle

This movie (limited release 12/13; wide release 12/25) has the “Midas Touch”.

It’s directed by David O. Russell, who was nominated for a Best Director Oscar for “Silver Linings Playbook” last year.  That movie earned “American Hustle” star Jennifer Lawrence an Academy Award and a nomination for her co-stars Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro, who are both back in this film.

It also stars Oscar winner Christian Bale (“The Fighter) and four-time Academy Award nominee Amy Adams, who was also in Russell’s “The Fighter” in 2010, which earned him another directing Oscar nomination!

“AUGUST:  OSAGE COUNTY”

This black comedy-drama (release date:  12/25) has Oscar written all over it.

august_osage_county

It stars Oscar’s favorite Meryl Streep as a woman with oral cancer that develops an addiction to drugs and Oscar winner Julia Roberts as her daughter.

So, I have my movie rewards card ready to sit in the dark, stare up at the big screen, and stuff myself with popcorn and Coke Zero.  Now, you know what movies excite me this fall and Oscar season.

And, the Oscar goes to….

Anthony

Random Friday Thoughts — September 6

The weekend is almost here, but it’s going to be a short one for me since I work Sunday evening.  However, I’m going to make the most of it.  We’re having a yard sale with the rest of the neighborhood today and tomorrow and we’ve already decided that the money we make will go toward Las Vegas in the spring of 2014!

Riverfront Pops

Saturday night, we’re going to the Riverfront Pops concert at LeClaire Park in Davenport, Iowa, featuring the music of Michael Jackson and then fireworks!  As you can see from this picture, it was the music of ABBA last year!

ABBA Riverfront Pops

Have a great weekend and make the most of it.  I hope you enjoy my random thoughts this week.  If so, let me know.  If not, let me know why.

SAD STATE OF AFFAIRS IN ARIZONA

No, I’m not talking about Governor Jan Brewer this time, but that, too, is a sad state of affairs!

This is about Daniel Hernandez, Jr., the intern who helped save then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ life by applying first-aid assistance in the January 2011 deadly shooting rampage near Tucson, Arizona, where six people died and twenty others were hurt.

Tucson-shooting-vitims-007

Later that year, Hernandez was elected to the Sunnyside Unified School District, which covers southern Tucson and adjacent areas in Pima County.  Now, he and three other board members (out of five) are facing a recall campaign.

However, for Hernandez, it’s more personal and it’s a smear campaign.

Hernandez Slam

Seriously, he’s being attacked because he’s gay!  And, that means he’s not a “real man”???  People in that school district need to wake up and smell the orange juice.  Did the country not learn anything from Anita Bryant and John Briggs’ anti-gay discrimination from the 1970s?

Hernandez has the support from Gabby from this Tweet she sent out.

Gabrielle Giffords

Good luck, Daniel!

If you want to read more about those idiots (Bryant & Briggs), here’s my blog from last October about their 1970s hatred:  https://anthonypeoples.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/sour-orange-juice-fruit-pies/

ILLINOIS HOUSE, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

To the Illinois House, it’s time for you to move forward and make marriage equality a reality in the “Land of Lincoln”.

By doing so, Illinois would join 13 other states, the District of Columbia, seven counties in New Mexico (next week), and five Native American tribes in the United States that offer same-sex marriage.

Here in Illinois, the Senate approved a marriage equality bill in early 2013, but it stalled in the House this past May before it adjourned.  Proponents say they were just a few votes shy.

Politicians no longer can use the excuse that the general public does not support marriage equality.  More people than ever are saying “yes” to equality and in last November’s election, voters in Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota said “yes” to marriage equality.  And, this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court did away with parts of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Supporters are ready this time.  The American Civil Liberties Union has hired former state Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady, who supports marriage equality, to lobby Republicans.

Illinois Unites For Marriage

And, “Illinois Unites for Marriage” put together that amazing video from the Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago to reach out to the city’s black community, which has people like Reverend James Meeks condemning marriage equality.  Meeks says, “Men should not be marrying men, and women should not be marrying women.  God does not support homosexuality, and neither do I.”

forum-CST-1215-11.JPG

Illinois, it’s time to make marriage available for all in the state.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Losing WeightRetiringRain

MIDWESTERN DROUGHT INTENSIFIES

I really wish I could make the clouds cry over the Quad Cities without being a bully.  It’s now been 32 days since we saw measurable rain in the Quad Cities.  This is now the 5th longest period without rainfall, officially, at the Quad City International Airport in Moline, Illinois.

Dry Days

That photo, showing how dry it is, was taken by my friend, Cindy Farmer, near Kewanee, Illinois, about 30 minutes from the Quad Cities.

It’s hard to believe that we had more than 20″ of rain back in April, May, and June, and now we’re seeing a “moderate” to “severe” drought.

Let’s all do a rain dance or pretend that we’re Lizzie Cooper and call the Rainman.

Tanya Tucker, who I idolized as a kid, hit #1 in 1975  with that song, “Lizzie and the Rainman”.  It was her eighth Top 40 country hit and her fourth to hit #1.  It also peaked at #37 on the Billboard Hot 100, her first, and only, crossover hit.

CONGRATULATIONS LANCE & MICHAEL

Former ‘N Sync band member, Lance Bass, is now engaged.

Lance Bass - Michael Turchin

The 34-year-old proposed to his boyfriend, Michael Turchin, in New Orleans.

Lance says, “New Orleans is my favorite city in the world, it really is. I’ve been coming here my whole life.  I was born just across the border here (in Laurel, Mississippi). …I got down on one knee and I proposed, right in front of Jackson Square, my favorite place.  I was pretty nervous.”

Of course, Michael said, “yes”.

The two have been seeing each other since December 2011.

Congratulations Lance and Michael!

Lance’s former band, ‘N Sync, had many hits.  “Tearin’ Up My Heart” is from 1997 and it was their second release, a Top Ten radio airplay hit.

TWO MOVIES TO CHECK OUT

Last weekend, in our quest not to binge watch season three of “The Walking Dead”, we rented three movie.  All three were enjoyable, but I highly recommend two of them.

Amour

“Amour” took home the Academy Award this year for Best Foreign Language Film and was up for three other Oscars including Best Actress (Emmanuelle Riva), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director.

It tells the story of an aging married couple that has to deal with the onset of failing health and memory and not wanting to resort to life in a nursing home or a hospice.  Both Riva and her on-screen husband, Jean-Louis Trintignant won Cesar Awards, the French equivalent to the American Oscar, for their performances.

GRADE:  A

“Olympus Has Fallen”

This terrorists take over the White House movie came out a couple of months before Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx’s very, very similar movie, “White House Down”.  While I enjoyed Channing in his white tank top and his movie, “Olympus” was far more superior in its story line and acting.

olympus-has-fallen

“Olympus Has Fallen” stars Gerard Butler, Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo, Oscar nominee Angela Bassett, Golden Globe winner Dylan McDermott, and Golden Globe nominees Aaron Eckhart and Ashley Judd.

Since it was directed by Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”), you know it’s a very violent movie.  But, it’s also very entertaining and definitely worth seeing.

GRADE:  B+

The third movie we watched was “Mud” starring Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon (in a much smaller role).

mud

The movie is about love and redemption.  It also focuses on the bond between McConaughey’s  on-the run criminal character and 14-year-old Ellis, an Arkansas boy helping “Mud” get back with the woman he loves.

GRADE:  B-

While enjoyable in “Mud”, I’m more impressed with McConaughey’s recent performances in “The Paperboy”, “Killer Joe”, and “Magic Mike”.  However, it’s his upcoming role in “Dallas Buyers Club” that has people really take him serious as an actor and there’s pre-season buzz that he could get his first Oscar nomination!

dallas_buyers_club

In the movie, out November 1, 2013, McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, a homophobic, straight man from Texas who is diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and is told that he has 30 days to live.  He begins smuggling alternative medication into the U.S. from Mexico.  For the role, McConaughey reportedly lost 40 pounds.

Jared Leto

“Dallas Buyers Club” also stars Jared Leto as a HIV-positive transgendered woman, Rayon, and Jennifer Garner as Ron’s doctor.

FUTURE PICK HIT

26-year-old Scottish singer Emeli Sande is releasing her second single, “My Kind Of Love”, here in America next week.

This is the follow-up to “Next To Me”, which was a Top 20 radio airplay song here in the States.  It also hit #1 on the Billboard Dance Club chart and reached the Top Ten on the Adult Contemporary and R&B/Hip-Hop charts.

YOU HAVE TO GET THIS ALBUM!

“Our Version of Events” has already produced three #1 songs in the U.K. and spent seven weeks at the top of the albums charts there.  It was also the best-selling album of 2012 in the U.K.

Emeli Sande

Sadly, Emeli and the album have not made it big in the United States and that’s a shame.  While the first single, “Next To You” was a modest radio hit here, it topped the charts in Ireland and Scotland and reached the Top 5 in Finland, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, and the U.K.

If you love Adele and Beyonce, you’ll love this album.  It’s one of my favorites that I bought this year.

The album kicks off with the fun, upbeat “Heaven” followed by the new single, “My Kind of Love”, which has a catchy hook and sounds like a hit that Beyonce wishes she had recorded.

If you like more upbeat songs, you’ll love “Daddy” featuring Naughty Boy and “Next To Me”.

If slower songs really grab your attention, you’ll love “Suitcase” and “Breaking The Law”, both amazing songs with aching vocals.

But, my favorite song on the album is “Clown”, which reached the Top Ten in a few countries across Europe.

“Our Version of Events” is an album you need to add to your collection!  It spent 63 consecutive weeks in the Top Ten on the U.K. charts breaking the record established by the Beatles almost 50 years ago when “Please Please Me” stayed in the Top Ten for 62 straight weeks.

GRADE:  B+

STOP FIGHTING, YOU’RE BOTH PRETTY

The “Boy” is in a feud with the boys of One Direction and their fans, which is scarier.

Boy George One Direction

Recently, at the BRIT Awards, Boy George asked the boy band for an autograph for his niece and Harry obliged,  but Liam Payne didn’t.  Boy George, always the one to speak his mind, got One Direction’s fans riled up.   He said, “”Top marks to Harry Styles for stopping for a picture with my niece and Bollox’s to Liam and the disrespectful wanker of a minder!”

Liam Boy George

But, Liam didn’t take it lying down.

He fired back in a Tweet, “@BoyGeorge now now boy lets not tell porkies. Firstly thanks for getting my name wrong three times secondly then asking me where is liam?…awkward. Then when you finally got it right saying you wanted Niall instead.  If you would have asked me for a picture i would have stopped bro i just did what you said and pointed niall out for you so u just keep wearing ur strange hats and enjoy yourself my little Georgie pie… It’s still not cool you just look weird.”

Boy told the “Daily Star” that the band is not as straight as their fans think, “The odds are one of One Direction must be gay.  I think everyone is a bit bisexual deep down, so the odds are they are probably all bisexual. They’re rock stars so it’s what you’d expect, isn’t it? I’d be disappointed if they weren’t. Tattoos don’t make you butch. Look at me.”

And, then the One Direction fans started in on Boy George.  He claims, “One tweeted me saying:  ‘My mum says you’re a horrible old has-been.’ I tweeted back saying: ‘Your mum’s probably an old, fat ugly b***h.'”

George adds,  “I was having such a laugh, fighting with One Dir­ection’s fans all night. I did say some vile things, I had too much sugar. But I really enjoyed it.”

Nothing like a little Twitter Twitting!

One Direction hit #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 this summer with “Best Song Ever” and it’s currently of the 20 most played songs on pop radio.

PEEPS’ ’80s FRIDAY FLASHBACK

From 1982 through 1986, Boy George and Culture Club scored ten Top 40 hits in America.

Their first six singles reached the Top Ten.  Of those, only “Karma Chameleon” reached #1 (in 1984).  Their introduction in America was “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me”, which spent three weeks at #2 in the spring of 1983.

Nothing makes me feel better than listening to 1980s music and boy bands and I featured two today!  Enjoy your weekend and stay cool!

Anthony