Gone Girl — Book 4, Movie 6

Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was published in 2012 and sold 8.5 million copies (and counting) and spent 92 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Flynn had previously published Sharp Objects and Dark Places.

When the 2014 movie arrived, it had a $38 million opening weekend.

I’m going to surprise you. I wasn’t crazy about either.

I excitedly bought the book as soon as it came out and heard later it would be a movie. However, it turned out to be one of those books. I put it down and read another book, then returned to it briefly, then put it down and read another book, then returned to finish it, almost as an obligation. It was covered with dust.

Unlike the movie, the book travels back and forth between Amy Dunne’s diary entries and Nick Dunne’s reporting of the bizarre events that are happening.

On their fifth anniversary, Amy disappears. Nick gets a call from a neighbor about trouble at the house and walks into a crime scene. No body, just a messed up living room. The police arrive, and he starts his lies. He’s nonetheless seen as the good guy. Amy’s pretty psycho. However, you can go back and forth looking for a hero. Or a villain.

Nick and Amy (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike) had lost their New York magazine jobs and moved to Carthage, Missouri, Nick’s hometown. Nick bought The Bar with his twin sister, Margo (possibly the only sane person in the story), from Amy’s trust fund. Amy sat around hating Carthage, Missouri.

We continue with Amy’s escape travels and Nick’s increasing trouble with the police, quickly assuming he’s murdered his wife.

I found the book slow-moving and talky. It did have ups and downs – who’s right and who’s wrong? Additionally, there is a whodunit factor, but the excitement happens in the middle (See? You have to want to get there). And we know who dun it.

The movie didn’t travel back and forth but gave a confusing look at Nick, with all his lying, and Amy, who doesn’t know what she wants or where she wants it. There were some changes to the book, which I’m not going to spoil, and there has been a real dustup about a new ending – a whole new “third act,” which Gillian Flynn has defended.

You’ll see some glowing reviews. You might have read glowing reviews of the book two years ago. I’m not glowing.

Here’s your chance – comment and yell at me. Or agree. I want to know what the other 8.5 million readers and $38 million ticket holders thought.

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History — Chapters Two to Seven

Chapter Two of Ken Burns’s documentary continues with Teddy Roosevelt, rough-rider, protector of national parks,and  builder of the Panama Canal, among other accomplishments, but one line by the narrator was strange: Theodore Roosevelt liked war. He was quoted: “No triumph of peace is as great as the supreme triumph of war.”

We continue to more detail on Franklin Roosevelt. He had a privileged childhood with a doting mother, and all his life he admired his fifth cousin, the president. He followed exactly in his career footsteps as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York, and President of the United States.

We meet Eleanor, favorite niece of Teddy, to whom FDR proposed marriage in 1903. She was 19, and he was 22. They married two years later, with TR giving the bride away. They complemented each other with their individual strengths, but they didn’t have the warmest of marriages. A major struggle occurred in 1921 when Franklin contracted polio at age 39. He refused to show weakness, and the press cooperated (as they never would today) with his demand never to be photographed in a wheelchair.

His strength was also tested by a worldwide depression with an astounding 24 percent of Americans out of work. The New Deal created the “alphabet programs:” the CWA, AAA, CCC, NRA (National Recovery Administration), FDIC, HOLCP, PWA AND TVA, among others.

FDR was in office for over 12 years, the only president to be elected to four terms. Starting in 1941, the U.S. abandoned its policy of isolationism from World War II with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, leading the U.S. into World War II. Those 12 years represented arguably the most awful period in the 20th century.

After FDR’s death in 1945, Eleanor came into her own. She went down into coal mines, fought for women’s rights, and traveled incessantly. She was instrumental in the creation of the United Nations and the fight for civil rights.

Although the documentary creator Ken Burns has been called predictable, The Roosevelts really represented seven small documentaries. They’re being repeated on PBS, but to watch the complete series, go to http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/the-roosevelts/watch-videos/

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History

This seven-part documentary follows the lives and careers of Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. It is the twenty-fifth documentary by Ken Burns and is narrated by Peter Coyote (who always seems to be the narrator for Burns’s features). Each episode is two hours long.

Theodore Roosevelt was a sickly child, dangerously afflicted with asthma, and there was a time in his infancy when doctors told his parents he may not survive. By his teens, he followed his adored father’s advice and engaged in weightlifting and boxing. He continued to fight health problems and become the “tough guy” among other sportsmen. But he had a considerate side. During a bear-hunting trip, the group captured a cub whom Roosevelt refused to kill, calling the other hunters’ behavior “unsportsmanlike.” That’s why we call the stuffed toy a teddy bear.

Graduating magna cum laude from Harvard, he entered Columbia Law School. However, the law was not his goal. He later became the youngest representative of the New York State Assembly. Tragically, his mother and his wife died on the same day, and in his crippling grief he traveled to the Dakota Territory as a cowboy and rancher for two years.

Roosevelt returned to politics in 1886 and remarried. His lifelong fascination with the Navy led to the position of U.S. Navy assistant secretary under President William McKinley. He later left the post to join the Spanish-American War, organizing the Rough Riders, famously taking San Juan Hill. Seen as a war hero, he was elected governor of New York in 1898.

Roosevelt was more progressive than many Republicans, and to put him aside, they nominated him for the Vice Presidency on McKinley’s ticket for re-election. (The Vice Presidency was considered “where politicians go to die.”) In 1901 McKinley was assassinated, making Roosevelt, 42, the youngest President in history. (The episode goes into much more detail about Roosevelt’s presidency. PBS is repeating it several times. You can also see it on PBS.com.)

In 1905 he walked his favorite niece and goddaughter, Eleanor, down the aisle as she married Franklin D. Roosevelt (her fifth cousin once removed). This first episode simply touches on Franklin and Eleanor. There are six more to come.



Herbie Hancock’s Memoir

If you’re too young or never heard of Herbie Hancock (shown here with Morgan Freeman at the UN International Jazz Day), you should get to know this giant in jazz. He has written a memoir, Herbie Hancock: Possibilities with author Lisa Dickey, to be released on October 28. The title evokes his 2005 album of the same name — his forty-fifth. In addition to winning 14 Grammy Awards since 1984, he won an Academy Award in 1986 for the soundtrack to Round Midnight. His 2007 tribute album River: The Joni Letters won the 2008 Grammy Award for Album of the Year, only the second jazz album ever to win the award. In 2013 he received the Kennedy Center Honors Award.

According to Jazz Times, currently Hancock serves as Creative Chair for Jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and as Institute Chairman of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. He is also a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. He was named the 2014 Norton Professor Of Poetry at Harvard University, and conducted a lecture series, “The Ethics Of Jazz,” as part of the Charles Eliot Norton Lecture Series in February for a period of six weeks.

Hancock never studied jazz. His early education was in classical music, starting at the age of seven. At eleven he played Mozart with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. When he fell in love with jazz, he made an extraordinary name for himself, part of the Miles Davis Quintet, and worked with Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, The Headhunters, V.S.O.P., Jaco Pastorius and Joni Mitchell.

In 2010 Hancock released The Imagine Project. He appears on the fifth Flying Lotus album, You’re Dead, to be released in October.

Upcoming Fall Movies

Yes, we’re sad that summer’s over, but some of the new films opening in September, October and November might make you want to go to the movies.

THE EQUALIZER, September 26

It used to be a 1980’s TV show. Now it’s on the screen starring Denzel Washington as a former soldier going after Russian mobsters. Directed by Antoine Fuqua. They worked together on Training Day. Another Oscar for Denzel?

GONE GIRL, October 3

It’s based on Gillian Flynn’s bestseller. (I read it. It was good but not great. Still, I’m eager to see the story on screen.) The film is adapted and directed by David Fincher. Ben Affleck stars as the devastated husband whose wife (Rosamund Pike) is missing. Or did he have something to do with it?

THE JUDGE, October 10

When was the last time we saw Robert Duvall and Robert Downey, Jr.? Duvall is a retired judge. Downey is his lawyer son who’s called on to defend him on a murder charge. It’s directed by David Dobkin, who did Wedding Crashers. Quite a departure.

BIRDMAN, October 17

You remember Michael Keaton, right? Do you? He stars as an actor who’s made a big change from superhero to Broadway. It comes from a Raymond Carver short story and is directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, who brought us 21 Grams and Babel. It’s his first comedy.


Please. I have no words.


Jennifer Lawrence returns as Katniss, and Philip Seymour Hoffman reprises his role as Plutarch. Based on the popularity of the Hunger Games franchise and one of Hoffman’s last four 2014 films, get there early for a good seat.


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Did You Agree With The Emmy Awards?

emmyThe 2014 Primetime Emmy Awards were presented on Monday, August 25, only the second time they were shown on a Sunday. The Emmys traditionally air on the last Sunday before the TV season begins. This year, that would be Sunday, September 21, and four networks take turns airing the show. The reason is – football. Apparently the Emmys took a back seat to NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

The big winner of the night was Breaking Bad. It was a fervent farewell for the series, which will enter the Guinness World Records 2014 for the highest-rated TV show of all time. Breaking Bad won Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor (Bryan Cranston), Outstanding Supporting Actor (Aaron Paul), Outstanding Supporting Actress (Anna Gunn), and Outstanding Writing (Moira Walley-Beckett). It’s amazing that the show didn’t go past five seasons.

Modern Family won for Outstanding Comedy Series for the fifth consecutive time, unthreatened by Orange Is The New Black or Louie (who is hard to beat). But Louis C.K. did win Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. Ty Burrell from Modern Family won Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series.

Once again, Jim Parsons won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for The Big Bang Theory. In his speech, he said, “There’s no accounting for taste.” Allison Janney won two Emmys — Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Mom and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for Masters of Sex. She exclaimed that this was “number six!” In that business, I don’t blame her.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series was Julianna Margulies for The Good Wife. Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series was Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Veep.

Did you applaud your favorites? Were you angry about some snubs? Check out the complete list.

The World’s Greatest Inventors

When you think of inventors, Thomas Edison immediately comes to mind. Edison invented the phonograph, motion picture camera, light bulb and fluoroscope, to name a few. It has been said that the persistent Edison had far more failures than successes.

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, called the “harmonic telegraph.” Interestingly, Bell was a teacher for the deaf. Henry Ford invented the automobile and put the world on the road. Ford started as an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit. He introduced the Model T in 1908. Ten years later, the drivers behind the wheel of a Model T were one out of two. Ford introduced the assembly line in 1913, forever changing automobile manufacturing.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak invented the personal computer. No, it was not Bill Gates. The first PC was the Apple 1. It had great success until IBM made one of their own. Apple then invented the Macintosh. Mac lovers wouldn’t trade it in for anything.

Do you love peanut butter? Thank George Washington Carver, who found many uses for peanuts, including ink, milk, and soap. He was the first to show farmers the importance of peanuts.

Benjamin Franklin was a statesman and was instrumental in the emergence of the United States. He also discovered electricity, invented the Franklin stove and even bifocal glasses — in the 18th century! George Eastman invented photo film, Elisha Graves Otis invented the elevator brake, and the Wright Brothers invented the airplane.

So when you’ve made your travel plans online, there’s plenty of light for you to find an elevator to reach your plane, you put on your bifocals to see the departure times, you have your camera with you for the trip, you’re served peanuts on the plane, and you call on arrival, you know the people to thank.