Friday, February 14, 2014

A Valentine for Inglewood Place

What a trip it was watching all the Facebook "look back" videos this past couple of weeks, reminiscing about all of life's events that we share online. Nostalgia seems to be taking up more and more space in my brain—did you see the Beatles tribute on TV? Amazing, right? As we age, there is inevitably lots to look back on.

Today the Rogers family is saying goodbye to a home where so many memories were made. We close on the sale of our old house in Appleton, and though we love the "dream home" in Neenah that we built two years ago, saying goodbye to Inglewood Place brings with it a flood of emotion.

"Inglewood Place" Artist: Nancy Newcomb, Lake Geneva, Wis.

It was the home where, in 2000, the MMD* and his two beautiful daughters moved, and it was where they were living when I met them in 2002. (His home decor and housekeeping skills remain part of the attraction.) Four years later, we celebrated our marriage with family and friends on the backyard deck, and that same space hosted high school graduation parties in 2008 and 2009. In between, countless gaggles of squealing girls ruled the house and the neighborhood and soon young men joined the chaos. Inglewood Place was where we spent summer holidays on lawn chairs with the neighbors, lighting fireworks, grilling hamburgers and hot dogs, and sitting around the fire pit drinking beer and swapping stories. (They truly are the best neighbors ever!) Inglewood Place was where we said goodbye to our beloved "Mac-the-Amazing-Wonder-Dog", it was Yogi's new home as a 10-week-old pup, and it was where the MMD loved me and was my rock through surgery, chemo and radiation.

Lately, I've cursed Inglewood Place more than a few times as we've battled the snow and ice, shovels in hand, with the sad realization that no one's living there.

For all of us, for Inglewood Place and our family, it's time to move on, time to look forward, time for a new family to meet those terrific neighbors, to plan their own parties and to begin making their own memories in a home that we still love.

I'm told it's just a building; wood, vinyl, cement, plaster, shingles. It doesn't have a heart or soul, and I'm not supposed to care about buildings. But I do.

*Shorthand for "Man of My Dreams"

Happy Valentine’s Day

Reminds me of a Beatles song ...

There are places I remember all my life
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

All these places have their moments
Of lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living

In my life I loved them all

And with all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these mem'ries lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new

And I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I loved you more

And I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before,
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I loved you more
In my life I loved you more

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

February Best Picture Hustle, Part 1

A decade ago, the man of my dreams (MMD) and I decided to fill the gap between the Super Bowl and Spring Training with a different kind of sport—a mad dash to see each of the movies nominated for the Best Picture Oscar®. With only five nominees in the early years, the game was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend four weeks worth of cold, snowy Wisconsin weekends. Since 2009, as many as 10 films have been nominated, and it’s now a race that begins in mid-January, as soon the nominations are announced, or whenever the Packers have been eliminated from the playoffs.
So the Mr. & Mrs. Rogers sprint to see this year’s nine nominees is well underway. And in 2014 I’m adding a quick, personal take on each film, in hopes of attracting you and others to our game.
These are all really good movies and missing even one would be a shame.

AMERICAN HUSTLE takes us into a world of con-men, crooked politics, the mob, and, though it’s fiction, the late 70s story of an FBI sting operation that became known as ABSCAM. It’s hilarious with heart, and we’re pretty much mesmerized by Irving and Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence) a small-time con-man and his unbalanced wife, not to mention Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), Irving’s sexy partner in crime, and lowly FBI Agent Richie DeMaso (Bradley Cooper) who will do whatever it takes—anything— to make a big-time bust.

The actors in American Hustle are unforgettable and the story so ridiculous that those of us who lived through the late 70s and early 80s will surely cringe at the truth.

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is a ripped-from-the-headlines true story of a U.S. cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009. You may remember the story of the Maersk Alabama and of Richard Phillips who was lauded as a hero for saving the crew and his ship. The movie brings to life the gripping details and survival truths that were glossed over or ignored by journalists: the pirates led by Muse (Barkhad Abdi) who had little choice but to capture and ransom the ship and its crew or face brutal warlords demanding allegiance in exchange for their lives, an unarmed Maersk crew at the mercy of international maritime protocols which underestimated the risks posed by the pirates, and the military rescuers with orders to sacrifice Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks), the crew and the ship if the pirates succeed in bringing their captives to Somalia.

It’s a thrilling, breath-holding collision that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. (It’s available on DVD and Time Warner’s Movies On Demand.)

DALLAS BUYER'S CLUB is another true story that takes us back to 1985 when the AIDS epidemic was relatively new in the U.S., a time when there was no hope of surviving an AIDS diagnosis. Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey), a fast-living, bull-riding Texan, is in disbelief when he learns he has contracted the virus and has only 30 days to live. Woodruff’s transformation—both emotional and physical—takes him first to Mexico in search of experimental treatments not available in the U.S., then to a scheme to become rich selling the unapproved treatments to other desperate AIDS patients back home, and ultimately to a courtroom where he fights for the right to use any treatment available—approved or not—when certain death is the alternative.

McConaughey’s memorable performance leaves no trace of the superficial “Sexiest Man Alive” tag, and Jared Leto’s turn as the captivating transgender activist Rayon is as compelling, pure and important a portrayal as I’ve seen.

NEBRASKA is a movie about which people may disagree. The story is set entirely in rural America between Billings, Montana, and Lincoln, Nebraska, and I'm betting that people from our urban American coastlines may not appreciate Nebraska (the movie, not the state) as I did. I flat-out loved it.

It’s the simple story of Woody Grant (Bruce Dern), an elderly Montanan who is determined to get himself to Lincoln where he will collect on a million-dollar sweepstakes payout that he is told he has won. Along the 700 mile journey we meet Woody's wife, his sons and other family members and friends with idiosyncrasies that are oddly familiar (if you’re from the Midwest.) The small towns, the Main Streets, the cars and bars will all resonate, too, in this elegantly told story.

Of these first four movies, Nebraska is my favorite. Many will disagree with that selection, and that’s more than OK with me.  There isn’t a single movie here that wasn’t worth twice the price of admission.

There’s still time to see most of the nine nominees on the big screen—many theaters are bringing them back because they are nominated—and having seen them makes the Oscar night telecast a new sport unto itself. How many of the awards can we accurately predict?

You don't agree? Leave your own review in the comments section below and stay tuned for part 2: Gravity, Philomena, Her, 12 Years a Slave, and The Wolf of Wall Street.