Wednesday Book Review ~ Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

LILYTed—a gay, single, struggling writer is stuck: unable to open himself up to intimacy except through the steadfast companionship of Lily, his elderly dachshund. When Lily’s health is compromised, Ted vows to save her by any means necessary. By turns hilarious and poignant, an adventure with spins into magic realism and beautifully evoked truths of loss and longing, Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.

I have to be honest. I’m supposed to read this book for my book club. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. The premise snagged me. I won’t lie. A guy and his dog. Yep. I’m a dog person. Okay, I’m a critter person. I’m the one who swears at the movie when the people live but the dog/cat/ferret/etc dies. I knew what would happen. Spoiler alert…yeah, there’s a very tissue-worthy moment at the end. Like super tissue-worthy.

But to tell you how I feel about the book…it’s complicated. I liked it. Okay, I liked parts of it. The connection between Ted and Lily was a riot. How she talked… In! All! Exclamation! Points! is very much how Dachshunds bark, so effectively how they talk. I loved that part. How she was his support was good, too. If you’ve ever had a connection with a dog, you know they aren’t just pets. They’re family. So I got and loved that part.

But there were points I kinda wasn’t impressed. The whole portion with the octopus was a little hard to handle. Once I understood, then I understood, but it took a bit. Then there was his tendency to drown his sorrows in pills and booze. Hey. We’ve all been there. Done things we wouldn’t normally do. That made Ted real, but I guess I expected something different. Maybe more….arguing. More fighting. Maybe I lost it in the metaphor of the octopus.

Either way, the book was good, but I’m not sure I can read it again. The bit at the end where I mentioned the tissues was a tad too real for me. Having put an animal down not long ago, this made those memories rawer. So if that’s a trigger for you, then read the book, but be warned. If you’re looking for a sweet, sappy ending, you might be surprised.

I’d buy this one and keep it, but I’m not sure I can handle reading it again right now. See what you think. You might be pleasantly surprised…after tissues.

Monday Movie Rundown ~ Doctor Strange

Monday Movie Rundown BannerI’m all about the Marvel Universe. There isn’t a movie, short feature and bonus clip. When I saw there would be a movie about Doctor Strange, I had to see it. Now, I have to admit, I’m not up on the comic books. Never claimed to be. I like the comics, but I was never a comic book reader. So when I watch the movies, I go by what the studio gives me for a story line.

So onto the movie. Talk about color and texture! The whole movie is a kaleidoscope of color and it works. I didn’t like Steven Strange to begin with. The guy is a jerk. But as a character should, he grows. I liked seeing the change from being a brilliant neurosurgeon to not being able to use his hands. No, I didn’t want him to get hurt, but I liked how it forced him to be more. I enjoyed the way the filmmaker showed his neurotic desire to fix himself. Tilda Swinton is just about the only actress I can think of who can be female, yet asexual at the same time. She was fantastic.

I also liked Rachel McAdams’ character. How she kept up with Strange and even when she had to move on, she still believed in him. What I liked best was her ability to stand on her own–she didn’t need him. She was a brilliant doctor in her own right. Kudos.

If you want the next piece in the Marvel universe and a fascinating story (No, I’m not giving too many spoilers), then this is the movie for you.

Movie Review ~ The Edge of Seventeen #moviereview #movie #review

Monday Movie Rundown BannerWouldn’t it help if I had the review posted? I think so. Chuckle. I’ve tried to catch a few of the newer movies lately and this week, I watched The Edge of Seventeen.

If you haven’t caught this flick, then you might want to. In the same vein as the John Hughes movies, this one is intelligent, while still being teenish.

Let’s face it. Growing up is hard. Puberty is harder. Some of us flow right through it and others…it’s like a series of potholes with bald tires.

Nadine feels invisible. Who hasn’t when they were in high school? Her older brother is the jock. Popular and handsome, he can do no wrong. Then there’s her best friend. Krista is the only one who understands Nadine. Then Brother and Best Friend merge.

I’ve been in Nadine’s situation. I wasn’t exactly popular during my teen years. I had a quirky sense of style and doing things. My friends seemed to keep pairing off with guys while I was the perpetual fifth wheel. In this respect, Nadine was very real to me.

There are twists and turns for Nadine which are great and believable. I won’t spoil it, but this is a movie worth sticking it out. Nadine’s growth is pretty cool.

The standout performance for me was Woody Harrelson. I’m used to him as Woody on Cheers, so to see him in this role…it wasn’t a stretch, but I like how he–like many of the other characters–prove they are more than anyone believes them to be.

If you’re looking for a movie with teen angst, laughs and a few tears, then this might be the movie for you. Recommended.

Book Review ~ The Star Machine by Jeanine Basinger #oldhollywood #review

STARFrom one of our leading film authorities, a rich, penetrating, amusing plum pudding of a book about the golden age of movies, full of Hollywood lore, anecdotes, and analysis.

Jeanine Basinger gives us an immensely entertaining look into the “star machine,” examining how, at the height of the studio system, from the 1930s to the 1950s, the studios worked to manufacture star actors and actresses. With revelatory insights and delightful asides, she shows us how the machine worked when it worked, how it failed when it didn’t, and how irrelevant it could sometimes be. She gives us the “human factor,” case studies focusing on big stars groomed into the system: the “awesomely beautiful” (and disillusioned) Tyrone Power; the seductive, disobedient Lana Turner; and a dazzling cast of others—Loretta Young, Errol Flynn, Irene Dunne, Deanna Durbin. She anatomizes their careers, showing how their fame happened, and what happened to them as a result. (Both Lana Turner and Errol Flynn, for instance, were involved in notorious court cases.) In her trenchantly observed conclusion, she explains what has become of the star machine and why the studios’ practice of “making” stars is no longer relevant.

Deeply engrossing, full of energy, wit, and wisdom, The Star Machine is destined to become an invaluable part of the film canon.

I’ve said before that I love old Hollywood stories. Love them. This one was no different. When I saw the title, The Star Machine, I knew I had to learn more. Why? I’ve always been fascinated with the means by which the studios created the stars. Why did some actresses make it and others withered? Why did some actors only get to play certain parts while others were allowed to branch out? This book answers those questions and more.

I particularly liked the parts on Norma Shearer, Tyrone Power and Jean Arthur. Since these are three of my favorite players in Hollywood, it was fitting. I also enjoyed the portion on Lana Turner.

Shearer was seen as only becoming popular because she played loose women, then because she married the head of the production department. But there was a lot more to her. The production code screwed her over. Irving Thalberg, her head honcho husband, was the love of her life. She did a lot for Hollywood and was willing to fade into private life, rather than to keep making pictures when she knew she was past her prime.

Jean Arthur has always fascinated me. She’s smart and not exactly the usual in Hollywood. From her husky, quirky voice to her no-nonsense attitude, she was an unintended star. She bucked the system often. I loved how the author focused not so much on her being difficult (read: she knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to take it), but her desire to do her own thing.

Power, the poor man, was blessed and cursed with beauty. Now, it might seem like that’s a silly thing to look at as a curse. He’s gorgeous and the author points out how he was lit in his pictures more than his female co-stars. More often than not, Power was seen as the star vehicle because the brass knew he could get people in seats at the theater. Make him handsome-r and the women will come. But he wasn’t allowed to branch out of the swashbuckling handsome star until after he came back from World War 2. When he was a tad more weathered, he was allowed to be more than arm candy. Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to enjoy his newfound gravitas.

If you want a book that’s got lots of information, but doesn’t seem like you’re just reading facts, then this is a book for you. If you want to learn a little more about old Hollywood and get to know the inside scoop on the stars, then this is the book you want. If you’re interested in how the studios built people up, only to tear them down…then what are you waiting for?

Monday Binge-Worthy TV ~ Soap! #television #billycrystal #soap #soapopera

Monday Movie Rundown BannerI thought this week instead of the movie rundown, I’d switch over to the small screen for a week. I’ve never been very good at binge watching, but there are some shows that have to be binged. I’ll pepper a few more in from time to time, but the first binge-worthy show is Soap!

I love soap operas. Even though they’re over the top and somewhat silly at times, that’s what makes them fun. How far out can the story line go? How far fetched? Then there’s the concept of going from the plausible to the completely impossible.

Soap! manages to encapsulate all the fun of the soap operas, while keeping the sheer impossibility and improbability. The characters are funny, have moments of intelligence and not so much, but they’ve always got heart.

I think my favorite characters are Mary and Jodie. For all of her insecurities and foibles, Mary Campbell never stops trying. She overcame alcoholism, had an alien baby…oh and has a step-son with a doll. She never loses her sense of humor or realism. Then there’s Jodie. I loved him, too. He’s trying to find his place. He’s gay, but his heart leads him in different directions. Oh, and he becomes a father.

For the late 1970s, this is pretty advanced stuff. Yes there are the quintessential horrible jokes and the comments that would never get past the censors these days, but if you take the show in the context of its time, it’s a riot. I loved every moment. The only thing I wish? There would’ve been more episodes!!

 

 

Book Review ~ Celebrity Feuds!: The Cattiest Rows, Spats, and Tiffs Ever Recorded by Boze Hadleigh

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FEUD

Celebrity Feuds! dishes the dirt with in-depth stories of every word uttered, letter written, or fist swung from the cantankerous stars’ first calamitous encounters to their deathbed declarations. Exposing the shocking tactics of the most bitter rivals in the entertainment industry and the vindictive, unseen ire of our favorite stars, this book reveals Hollywood with all its claws bared.

I love reading books about arguments. Why? Because I’m not the one arguing. Heh, heh. That said, this one was a tad of an eye-opener. I knew about some of the feuds, but not all. I’d heard all about the Bette Davis-Joan Crawford one. Who hasn’t? There’s even a television series about it. But like the TV show, this isn’t the last word on their disagreement. They didn’t hate each other, but didn’t love each other, either. It was still neat to read about it. Then there was the series of disagreements between Shirley MacLaine and Warren Beatty. Hey, siblings fight, too.

This isn’t the most informative book. There are spots that are rather glossed over, but if you want an afternoon read about many people in Old Hollywood, then this is a good bet. If you’re wanting to know more than surface stuff about the players, then keep looking.

The Purple Diaries: Mary Astor and the Most Sensational Hollywood Scandal of the 1930s by Joseph Egan

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DIARIESOne of Hollywood s first scandals was nearly its last.
1936 looked like it would be a great year for the movie industry. With the economy picking up after the Great Depression, Americans everywhere were sitting in the dark watching the stars and few stars shined as brightly as one of America’s most enduring screen favorites, Mary Astor.

But Astor’s story wasn’t a happy one. She was born poor, and at the first sign that she could earn money, her parents grabbed the reins and the checks. Widowed at twenty-four, Mary Astor was looking for stability when she met and wed Dr. Franklyn Thorpe. But the marriage was rocky from the start; both were unfaithful, but they did not divorce until after Mary Astor gave birth to little Marylyn Thorpe.

What followed was a custody battle that pushed The Spanish Civil War and Hitler’s 1936 Olympic Games off of the front pages all over America. Astor and Thorpe were both ruthless in their fight to gain custody of their daughter, but Thorpe held a trump card: the diaries that Mary Astor had been keeping for years. In these diaries, Astor detailed her own affairs as well as the myriad dalliances of some of Hollywood’s biggest names. The studio heads, longtime controllers of public perception, were desperate to keep such juicy details from leaking.

With the complete support of the Astor family, including unlimited access to the photographs and memorabilia of Mary Astor’s estate, The Purples Diaries is a look at Hollywood s Golden Age as it has never been seen before, as Egan spins a wildly absorbing yarn about a scandal that threatened to bring down the dream factory known as Hollywood.

I never knew the lengths to which Mary Astor had to fight in order to gain custody of her daughter. If nothing else, this book put into perspective just how crazy the press can be and certainly was back in the 1930s when this story took place.

Mary Astor was a lot stronger than she looked. I remember her from the Maltese Falcon, but not many other films. Seeing her as a human, not just a star, like she’s portrayed in this book was a real eye-opener. She wanted what was best for her daughter. I commend her for that.

Gravy, though, the amount of publicity for the proceedings and how much the press fixated on Astor being a single parent. To modern ears and eyes, this seems silly, but back in the day it was scandalous. I can’t imagine the stress, struggle and strain she went through.

The author had a way with words, drawing me right into the story. Of course, I had to know what would happen. The photos only tell half of the story and I needed to know if the little girl ended up with her mother or father.

One thing this book put into perspective for me was the struggle to find the right parent and for the parents to behave in order to gain custody. Having never been through such a fight, I never realized just how much of a play it can be.

If you’re looking for a book that’s long on story and has heart, despite the courtroom antics, then this might be the one for you. If you love old Hollywood and want a better understanding of the stars at the time or the real struggles they went through, then this might hit the mark.