In 2008, historian Tony Judt was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” Judt used the time he had left to write a memoir, The Memory Chalet. The book tells the story of Judt’s family, his travels, and his love for America. I found the story of how Judt met his second wife, a ballerina, very touching. This slim volume holds plenty of wit and wisdom. Despite his failing health, Judt continued to be productive. Like Roger Ebert, Judt’s courage in the face of disaster is inspiring. GRADE: A
I have no special insights on the Oscars which seem to me to be very political. That being said, here’s who I think will win tonight:
BEST ACTOR: Colin Firth
BEST ACTRESS: Natalie Portman
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Hailee Steinfeld
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christian Bale
BEST DIRECTOR: Tom Hooper
BEST PICTURE: The King’s Speech
Oscar the Grouch’s picks are below.
Susan Guy, a Domino’s pizza delivery driver in Memphis, delivered pizzas to an elderly customer, Jean Wilson, who for every day for three years called in a pizza order. When Jean Wilson didn’t order her daily pizza for three days, Susan Guy went to her customer’s house. When no one answered her repeated knocking on the door, Guy called 911. The police broke down the door and found Jean Wilson had fallen and had been trapped on the floor for three days. Guy suspected something was wrong because her own mother had twice fallen and been stuck on the floor. Jean Wilson is in the hospital and expected to recover fully. It’s people like Susan Guy, who take the time to care and check on elderly people living alone, who deserve our praise and admiration.
Others many have other preferences, but I consider Tom Baker the best Doctor Who. For those of you not familiar with the British TV series, Doctor Who is a Time Lord who can move through Time in a device that looks like a phone booth (remember them?). Doctor Who defended Earth from a series of intergalactic threats. Doctor Who–The Scripts covers Tom Baker’s first year as The Doctor. The scripts from all 20 episodes are included here. If you have any interest in TV scripts and the difference between what shows up on the screen and what’s on paper, this book will fascinate you. And, of course, if you’re a Doctor Who fan, Doctor Who–The Scripts, Tom Baker [1974-1975] needs to be part of your book collection.
LIVE FOREVER is a newly released 3-CD set of Bob Marley and The Wailers’ last concert. Marley had collapsed while jogging in New York City when he was performing at Madison Square Garden as part of the Uprising Tour. Marley was advised to cancel his Pittsburgh concert, but he didn’t want to disappoint his fans so he went ahead and performed. Bob Marley died a few months later. This Pittsburgh concert was originally not intended for general release. It was taped at the sound board so Marley and The Wailers could have a record of this night from their tour. The Deluxe ten-page booklet contains information on the Pittsburgh concert and photos of Marley and the band. If you’re a Bob Marley and The Wailers fan, this is a must-buy.
1 Greetings 0:31
2 Natural Mystic 4:40
3 Positive Vibration 4:47
4 Burnin’ Lootin’ 3:35
5 Them Belly Full 3:47
6 The Heathen 4:25
7 Running Away 2:50
8 Crazy Baldhead 5:02
9 War/No More Trouble 6:03
10 Zimbabwe 3:39
11 Zion Train 3:50
12 No Woman No Cry 6:05
1 Jamming 4:31
2 Exodus 7:01
3 Redemption Song 4:07
4 Coming in from the Cold 3:37
5 Could You Be Loved 7:40
6 Is This Love 3:37
7 Work 4:15
8 Get Up Stand Up 6:38
This marvelous set retails for $125. After Scott Cupp reviewed it last Friday I went to AMAZON and could not believe my eyes! AMAZON had the set listed for $28.55! Amazing! So a couple clicks later, I had it ordered. It arrived today and I can’t put it down! Gahan Wilson is a genius. Sadly, someone at AMAZON realized their mistake because now Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons is going to cost you $58.77 (Barnes & Noble want $103.20 for this set). It’s still a bargain. Buy this slipcased 3-volume set before they’re gone forever. Somehow, I don’t think Gahan Wilson’s cartoons will look as good on a Kindle.
Filmmakers Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, imbedded with the Second Platoon, document the besieged soliders who dubbed their stronghold Outpost Restrepo in honor of their fallen comrade PFC Juan Restrepo. Restrepo is the story of the U. S. military operations in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, an al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold. Throughout this documentary, the footage from the Korengal Valley shows some of the fiercest fighting I’ve ever seen. I kept thinking, “What are Junger and Hetherington doing as these bullets are flying around them?” What they were doing is showing the futility of that operation and the human cost of warfare. GRADE: A
If you put Alfred Hitchcock and Philip K. Dick in a blender, the result would be something like Unknown. Liam Neeson plays a biochemist about to present a paper at a conference in Berlin. But he almost dies in an automobile accident and ends up in a coma. When Neeson wakes up four days later, he has trouble remembering his past. His doctor is puzzled because Neeson has no identification on him. When Neeson confronts his wife (played by January Jones) she doesn’t recognize him. In desperation, Neeson turns to an elderly private investigator (a former East German spy) to help him sort things out. Unknown features some of the best car chases I’ve seen in years. All in all, Unknown managed to hold my interest even when the plot twists tested the limits of credibility. GRADE: B+
Kelly Ripa read It’s a Book to Regis Philbin on LIVE WITH REGIS & KELLY (which immediately made the book a best seller on the NY TIMES CHILDREN’S BOOKS list). Diane had to read the book herself and took It’s a Book out of our public library. Then, of course, I had to read it. It’s basically the story of a monkey who tries to explain what a book is to a techie jackass. “Do you need a password?” the jackass asks. “No,” replies the monkey. Sadly, we might be going through this scenario with our grandkids in a few years. It’s a Book doesn’t have a Kindle version. Yet. GRADE: A
Ben Affleck plays a cocky, smirky marketing manager for major corporation. One day, he shows up at work after playing a terrific round of golf and finds out he’s been laid off. Over 6,000 other employees of the corporation have been laid off, too. Affleck drives his Porsche home to his million dollar house to tell his wife he’s lost his job. Initially, Affleck remains optimistic. He thinks he’ll just rebound and find a similar job. But that doesn’t happen. Affleck’s severance checks run out, his home is foreclosed, and his Porsche is repossessed. Affleck, his wife, teenage son, and young daughter move into Affleck’s parent’s house. Affleck swallows his pride and asks his brother-in-law, a building contractor, for a job. The scenes of Affleck putting up drywall and making cement are ironic and sad at the same time. Once a six-figure earning executive, Affleck learns what hard labor is all about. Tommy Lee Jones plays a maverick VP, Chris Cooper plays a 60-ish executive trying to hold on to his job in order to pay his daughter’s tuition at Brown University. Kevin Costner is convincing as Affleck’s acerbic brother-in-law. This talented cast present a portrait of the American workplace that is all too real. GRADE: B+