Friday, August 30, 2013

"The Butler"

I just received an email that contained a condemnation of the film "The Butler."  The email was supposedly written by Michael Reagan (Ronald Reagan's son), in which he chastised the movie for being a distortion of the life of Eugene Allen (a real White House butler), in which Ronald Reagan was portrayed as a racist.

In truth, “The Butler” was never supposed to be about ONE butler, but rather a composite—a fact that director Lee Daniels has consistently reiterated.  It also did not portray Ronald Reagan as a racist, but rather as someone sympathetic to the civil rights cause.  This is demonstrated by the film’s assertion that Reagan supported the lead character’s request for equal pay for the African American help.  The movie only implied that Reagan was on the wrong side of the South Africa/apartheid issue, which is true. 

Overall, the movie was about parents, children, and the civil rights movement and how the character of the butler was often on the wrong side of that issue, choosing to run from it rather than facing it head-on.   Although I am white, I remember having similar arguments with my parents, who weren’t always ready to accept the actions of Dr. King, the Freedom Riders, or others who were willing to confront racism, choosing instead the more passive “things will change in time” approach.

If Michael Reagan actually wrote this, he is being reactionary and misguided.  The only president the movie actually skewers is Nixon, and he deserves as much skewering as possible.

Make no mistake, The Butler is a Hollywood movie, but it’s a good one and one that raises some real, solid issues, while putting the times in historical perspective.  As a film, it has its faults in terms of character development and continuity, but the area it best addresses has to do with the public and the presidents slowly coming to grips with what happened to millions of Americans over a 50-year period.  Each of us should see it for himself or herself before making any further judgments.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

2013 Movies I Look Forward to Seeing

People who know my propensity for listing the movies I like are often asking me which movies I look forward to seeing in a given year.  To begin with, I have already enjoyed several movies this year, including (alphabetically) “The Butler,” In a World,” “Side Effects,” “The Way Way Back,” “White House Down,” and “42.”  But, as we all know, many of the movies that may be outstanding have yet to be released.  So, here are the movies I most look forward to seeing during the last four months of 2013.  They are listed alphabetically:

·         “All Is Lost”  This movie about an older man alone on a sinking sailboat may not sound like much, but with 76-year-old Robert Redford in the lead role, it promises to be an Oscar contender.

·         “American Hustle” Since “Flirting With Disaster” in 1996, David O. Russell has made a string of movies that are as good as or better than any other director’s work during that period, including “Three Kings,” “I Heart Huckabees,” “The Fighter,” and “Silver Linings Playbook.”  Here, he’s working with a familiar cast that includes Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Jeremy Renner.  This may be my most highly anticipated film of 2013.

·         “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”  I admit to considerable laughter during the original Anchorman movie, and the same crew is returning for the sequel.  For my money, this was Will Ferrell’s best role, and hopefully, they can repeat the magic.

·         “August: Osage County” This could wind up being the year’s best film, starring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson, Juliet Lewis, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin, Chris Cooper, and many others.  The question mark seems to be director John Wells, who is primarily a TV producer (ER, Southland, Shameless, etc.).  But the original play by Tracy Letts, who also wrote the screenplay, is so good that it should transcend any directorial mishaps.

·         “Captain Phillips”  Seeing Tom Hanks live on Broadway recently in “Lucky Guy” reaffirmed how good an actor he is, given the right material.  This could be that kind of material, and as long as director Paul Greengrass sticks with the type of honest tension that made “United 93” so effective and less with the fast-cutting approach of his two Bourne movies, this one, about the 2009 pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama, could be special.

·         “Gravity” Alfonso Cuaron doesn’t make a lot of films, but “Children of Men” was a great one.  Here, he’s worked with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock on a psychological drama set in space.

·         “Inside Llewyn Davis” The story, about a Bob Dylan-like performer in Greenwich Village, sounds like a small, indie flick, except it is directed by the Cohen brothers and its cast includes Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, and John Goodman.  We shall see.

·         “Jack Ryan” I’ve enjoyed the other movies based around Tom Clancy’s most famous character, so I’m willing to take a flyer on this Kenneth Branagh-directed prequel, starring Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, and Keira Knightley.

·         “Labor Day,” Right up there with David O. Russell is Jason Reitman, whose first four full-length films have been “Thank You For Smoking,” “Juno,” “Up In the Air,” and “Young Adult.” Need I say more?  Here, he’s working with Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet in his most dramatic attempt to date—a home invasion story based on Joyce Maynard’s novel.

·         “Machete Kills” For pure, gory action fun, there have been few better movies than Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete” (2010).  This is the sequel, still starring Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, and Michelle Rodriguez, but in this case, instead of Robert DeNiro, Steven Segal, and Don Johnson, the supporting cast includes Mel Gibson, Antonio Banderas, Lady Gaga, Charlie Sheen, Cuba Gooding, Edward James Olmos, Sofia Vergara, and Venessa Hudgens (among others).

·         “The Monuments Men” This sounds like a classic WWII action flick, but it’s directed by George Clooney and stars Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, and Cate Blanchett among others.

·         “Riddick” David Twohy directed Vin Diesel in the previous two Riddick movies—“Pitch Black" (2000) and “The Chronicles of Riddick” (2004).  The first was a brilliant piece of horror/sci-fi/action and the second was an overblown piece of crap.  In interviews, Twohy has admitted both and wants to get back to the level of suspense that made “Pitch Black” so special.

·         “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” I loved the original film version of this Thurber story, which starred the amazing Danny Kaye, so I’m both excited and worried about Ben Stiller’s remake.

·         “The Wolf of Wall Street”  In this movie, Martin Scorsese turns his attention from gangsters to investment bankers in the early 1990s.  With a great cast, headed by Leonardo DiCaprio, it could be another “Goodfellas.”

·         “12 Years a Slave” With movies like “Hunger” and “Shame,” British director Steve McQueen is quickly establishing himself as an expert in films in which psychological discomfort is a primary factor.  Here, he again gets to direct Michael Fassbender, this time with Chiwetel Ejiofor finally getting a well-deserved lead role.
Other movies on my “interested in seeing” list include (alphabetically) “The Counselor,” “Diana,” “Don Jon,” “Ender’s Game,” “The Family,” “The Fifth Estate,” “Grace of Monaco,” “Her,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “Last Vegas,” “Nebraska,” “Oldboy,” “Out of the Furnace,” “Philomena,” “Prisoners,” “Runner Runner,” "Rush," ”Saving Mr. Banks,” “Thor: The Dark World,” and “Touchy Feely.”

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Best Workout Songs

A few months ago, Joni and I joined a fitness club, and we’ve been working out regularly.  In doing so, we have both learned the value of a good workout song—one that combines a driving beat, a strong bass track, and interesting and/or enjoyable lyrics.
Toward that end, I’ve put together a Workout playlist that includes my Top 50 as well as another 150+ songs that also meet the criteria.  They range in release dates from 1961 until this week, and in styles including Pop, Hip Hop, Dance, Electronic, Alternative, and Rock.  I will occasionally update this list as I add new songs to my list.  Feel free to print this out and/or direct other people to this blog.
They are listed alphabetically by artist, and some of the songs contain lyrics that may not be suited for all audiences.
The Top 50:

“Rolling In the Deep” by Adele

“Too Close” by Alex Clare

“Lost In Stereo (Cobra Starship Suave Suarez Remix)” by All Time Low

“Let the Games Begin” by Anarbor

“Nothin’ On You” by B.o.B. with Bruno Mars

“White Wedding (Part 1)” by Billy Idol

“Girl All the Bad Guys Want” by Bowling for Soup

“Tonight I’m Getting Over You (Remix)” by Carly Rae Jepsen with Nicki Minaj

“Lady Marmalade” by Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya & P!nk

“Snakes On a Plane (Bring It)” by Cobra Starship, The Academy Is..., Gym Class Heroes, The Sounds, and The All-American Rejects

“Viva la Vida” by Coldplay

“Hands Down” by Dashboard Confessional

“Really Don’t Care” by Demi Lovato with Cher Lloyd

“Pump It Up” by Elvis Costello

“A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” by Fergie, Q-Tip & GoonRock

“Jesus Of Suburbia” by Green Day

“Never Say Goodbye” by Hardwell & Dyro with Bright Lights

“I Love It” by Icona Pop with Charli XCX

“Tightrope” by Janelle Monáe with Big Boi

“Walking On Sunshine” by Katrina & The Waves

“Firework” by Katy Perry

“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson

“Somebody Told Me” by The Killers

“Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO with Lauren Bennett & GoonRock

“Yell Fire” by Michael Franti & Spearhead

“I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” by My Chemical Romance

“Casual Sex” by My Darkest Days

“L.G. FUAD” by Motion City Soundtrack

“Closer” by Ne-Yo

“Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men

“Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” by The Offspring

“Here It Goes Again” by Ok Go

“Troublemaker” by Olly Murs with Flo Rida

“Good Time” by Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen

“Still Into You” by Paramore

“Take a Walk” by Passion Pit

“Hit Me with Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar

“This City” by Patrick Stump

“Hanuman” by Rodrigo y Gabriela & C.U.B.A.

“Smooth” by Santana & Rob Thomas

“Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira with Wyclef Jean

“The Pit” by Silversun Pickups

“Next Year” by Two Door Cinema Club

“Beautiful Day” by U2

“Anna Sun” by Walk the Moon

“Glad You Came” by The Wanted

“Friday Is Forever” by We The Kings

“Clarity [Tiesto Remix]” by Zedd with Foxes

“You’re Gonna Love This” by 3OH!3

Other Great Workout Songs

“Miss Murder” by AFI

“Girl On Fire [Inferno Version]” by Alicia Keys with Nicki Minaj

“Dirty Little Secret” by The All-American Rejects

“Coolin' in the Streets” by Andra Day with Ziggy Marley

“Crazy Beautiful” by Andy Grammer

“Gimme Shelter” by Angelique Kidjo with Joss Stone

“Everything’s Magic” by Angels and Airwaves

“What You Own” by Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal (from “Rent”)

“Freeway of Love” by Aretha Franklin

“Be My Man” by Asa

“Love Me When You Leave” by Aubrey O’Day

“Odds Are” by Barenaked Ladies

“Flaws” by Bastille

“I Love You...Te Quiero” by Belinda with Pitbull

“Best Thing I Never Had” by Beyoncé

“(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes

“You May Be Right” by Billy Joel

“Let’s Get It Started (Spike Mix)” by The Black Eyed Peas

“Footloose” by Blake Shelton

“Ghost On the Dance Floor” by Blink 182

“Ratchet” by Bloc Party

“Girl All the Bad Guys Want” by Bowling for Soup

“Little Numbers” by BOY

“Born To Run” by Bruce Springsteen

“Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars

“Short Skirt/Long Jacket” by Cake

“Sweet Nothing” by Calvin Harris with Florence Welch

“Kangaroo Court” by Capital Cities

“Bye Bye Love” by The Cars

“Everytime We Touch” by Cascada

“Take Me Home” by Cash Cash with Bebe Rexha

“Devil Is a Lady” by The Chain Gang of 1974

“Time Has Come Today” by The Chambers Brothers

“Love Sex Magic” by Ciara with Justin Timberlake

“Feelin’ Good” by Christina Grimmie

“She Plays Up to You” by Clairy Browne & The Bangin’ Rackettes

“Inner Ninja” by Classified with David Myles

“Brighter Than the Sun” by Colbie Caillat

“Dreaming of You” by The Coral

“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper

“Dancing In the Streets” by David Bowie & Mick Jagger

“Play Hard” by David Guetta with Ne-Yo & Akon

“Titanium” by David Guetta & Sia

“Rhythm Of The Night” by DeBarge

“Let’s Hear It For The Boy” by Deniece Williams

“To Win Your Love” by Dominique Pruitt

“The Enemy Inside” by Dream Theater

“A Ton of Love” by Editors

“Next to Me” by Emeli Sandé

“Bring Me To Life” by Evanescence

“My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark (Light Em Up) [2 Chainz Remix]” by Fall Out Boy

“Young Love” by Felix Cartal with Koko Laroo

“Shake It Out” by Florence + the Machine

“Nice to Meet You” by Forever the Sickest Kids

“Right Action” by Franz Ferdinand

“Skeleton” by The Front Bottoms

“Some Nights” by Fun.

“Not Over You” by Gavin DeGraw

“Blue Dahlia” by The Gaslight Anthem

“Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” by Gloria Estefan

“I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor

“Lawrence Takes Over” by Go Kart Mozart

“Rebel Beat” by The Goo Goo Dolls

“Get a Job” by Gossip

“The Wire” by Haim

“Introduced Species” by Hands Like Houses

“Spark” by Hawthorne Heights

“Barracuda” by Heart

“The Chosen Ones” by Hearts and Hands

“It’s Only Natural” by The Higher

“Ready for the Floor” by Hot Chip

“Middle of Nowhere” by Hot Hot Heat

“Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League

“All Night” by Icona Pop

“It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons

“Just Do You” by India.Arie

“What a Feeling” by Irene Cara

“I’m Shakin’” by Jack White

“Edge of Something” by Jamie Cullum

“Dance Apocalyptic” by Janelle Monáe

“The Other Side” by Jason Derulo

“Sweet Janine” by Jeffrey Gaines

“No One Compares” by Jessica Sanchez with Prince Royce

“Reggae Music” by Jimmy Cliff

“Pain” by Jimmy Eat World

“I Love Rock ‘N Roll” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

“Can’t Let You Go” by Joe Bonamassa & Beth Hart

“Made To Love” by John Legend

“Wild Night” by John Mellencamp & Me’shell Ndegéocello

“Love Me Again” by John Newman

“Somehow” by Joss Stone

“Take Back the Night” by Justin Timberlake

“Last Chance” by Kaskade & Project 46

“The Way We Are” by Kate Boy

“I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry

“Take It Off” by Ke$ha

“Gone” by Kelly Rowland with Wiz Khalifa

“Bang Bang” by K’naan with Adam Levine

“Celebration” by Kool & The Gang

“Suddenly I See” by KT Tunstall

“Wow” by Kylie Minogue

“Bulletproof” by La Roux

“Applause” by Lady GaGa

“Born This Way” by Lady GaGa

“Girl Like Me” by Ladyhawke

“Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” by LCD Soundsystem

“Satisfy You” by Leon & Mary Russell

“Soundtrack of My Life” by Less Than Jake

“Vivir Mi Vida” by Marc Anthony

“Harder to Breathe” by Maroon 5

“Disease” by Matchbox Twenty

“We Will Walk” by Matisyahu

“Forever” by Matt Hires

“Her Favorite Song (Oliver Remix)” by Mayer Hawthorne

“Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson

“Live Your Life” by MIKA

“What Do They Know?” by Mindless Self Indulgence

“Bad Parts” by Mixtapes

“Think of You” by MS MR

“Superstar” by Murray Head (from “Jesus Christ Superstar”)

“Liquid State” by Muse

“Saturday Night” by Natalia Kills

“Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield

“Fame” by Naturi Naughton (from “Fame”—2009 movie)

“All Downhill from Here” by New Found Glory

“Give Me Hope” by New Politics

“Best Song Ever” by One Direction

“If I Lose Myself” by OneRepublic

“Hey Ya!” by Outkast

“Hey Anna” by Owl City

“This Is Gospel” by Panic! At the Disco

“Meant To Be” by Parachute

“Hunny Girl” by Pepper

“Gone, Gone, Gone” by Phillip Phillips

“Hate (I Really Don’t Like You)” by Plain White T’s

“Hold Yourself Up” by The Polyphonic Spree

“Purple Yellow Red and Blue (Passion Pit Remix)” by Portugal, The Man

“Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service

“When Doves Cry” by Prince

“We Will Rock You” by Queen

“Cry Your Eyes Out” by Queen V

“I Sat By the Ocean” by Queens of the Stone Age

“Hit The Road Jack” by Ray Charles

“Face Down” by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

“Born to Rise” by Redlight King

“You’ve Got Time” by Regina Spektor

“That’s My Jam” by Relient K with Owl City

“Disturbia” by Rihanna

“I Remember You” by Rilo Kiley

“Re-Education (Through Labor)” by Rise Against

“Lonely No More” by Rob Thomas

“You’re Gonna Get What’s Coming” by Robert Palmer

“Brand New Wayo” by Robert Randolph & The Family Band with Carlos Santana

“Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke with T.I. & Pharrell

“Indestructible” by Robyn

“Free” by Rudimental with Emeli Sandé

“Impossible” by Ryan Star

“Brave” by Sara Bareilles

“Partners in Crime” by Set It Off with Ash Costello

“There's No Going Back” by Sick Puppies

“Back From the Dead” by Skylar Grey with Big Sean & Travis Barker

“Another Star” by Stevie Wonder

“Tap Out” by The Strokes

“Too Much Time on My Hands” by Styx

“Can You Feel It” by Sublime with Rome and Wiz Khalifa

“Dynamite” by Taio Cruz

“A Decade Under The Influence” by Taking Back Sunday

“Now That You’re Gone” by Tanya Lacey with Lady Leshurr

“I Knew You Were Trouble” by Taylor Swift

“Part of Me” by Tedeschi Trucks Band

“Black Spartacus Heart Attack Machine” by Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman

“Drive By” by Train

“Rough Water” by Travie McCoy with Jason Mraz

“Yeah!” by Usher with Lil’ Jon & Ludacris

“Teenage Icon” by The Vaccines

“Diane Young” by Vampire Weekend

“Domino” by Van Morrison

“Last Call” by Wallpaper.

“We Are All On Drugs” by Weezer

“Temporary” by White Rabbits

“I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston

“It’s a New Day” by

“Our Perfect Disease” by The Wombats

“Echo Park” by Ximena Sariñana

“Roundabout” by Yes

“Stay the Night” by Zedd with Hayley Williams

“365 Days” by ZZ Ward

“We Own It (Fast & Furious)” by 2 Chainz & Wiz Khalifa