May 25, 2015

Movie Review: I'll See You in my Dreams ****1/2

Blythe Danner is luminous in I'll See You In My Dreams. Sam Elliott, whatever his age, and the two of them have wonderful on-screen chemistry.
If there weren't times when two characters are together and no one says anything (even though there's so much to say), I would give this film five stars. But in the scheme of things it wasn't a deal-breaker so I give it four and a half.
There's so much to like about I'll See You In My Dreams; great performances, engaging characters, and a story that moved me so much that, if I hadn't been in public, I would have just wept uncontrollably.
4-1/2 stars out of 5 for I'll See You In My Dreams.

May 18, 2015

Dear Applicant...

June is almost here. That means lots of high school and college kids are looking for a job,  alongside the experienced people who are searching for new opportunities. It's tough out there, but there are some things you can do to assure your application is read.
For the past five years I've been doing employee acquisition for one of my clients. It's not something I set out to do but it turns out I have a knack for it - to date they've hired twelve candidates I've found for them. So, with that experience under my belt I'm sharing a little of what I've learned.
Much of this is common sense but you'd be surprised at the lack of that out there.

• Create a resume that’s easy to read, concise (bullet points are always helpful) and professional-looking. Avoid large blocks of run-on text. I will not read them.

• Put your resume in a professional format. If you can’t use Word, have your eight-year-old to do it for you. And do not put pictures and/or graphics on your resume.

• Don’t list photocopying as a skill on your resume.

• Do not put three phone numbers on your resume. Unless you are Barack Obama or George Clooney I’m not going to chase you down. Give me one number to call and make sure you check it for messages.

• In your cover letter, omit the phrase, “I am excited about your position…,”particularly when you’re over 25. Your excitement is of no interest to me.

• If the ad says send a cover letter, send a friggin' cover letter.

• If you’re looking for an opportunity in a field outside of your experience, write a kick-ass cover letter. It’s your only chance to sell yourself into a phone interview.

• If your only experience is as a fitness instructor, do not send in your resume for the position of Director of Logistics.

• If your only experience is as a painter at Locker Land, do not send in your resume for the position of Director of Marketing.

• When you're going on an interview dress as if you care. Even if you’re interviewing for cashier at the Stop ‘n Go, wear business attire, meaning a jacket and tie for men and a suit or dress for women.

• If you’re looking for a job, clear your damn voice mailbox. If I call you and get a message that says your “mailbox is full, please call again later,” you can be assured I will not be calling again later.

And then, when you get the interview:

• Don’t bring Starbucks with you to the interview.

• Don’t chew gum during the interview.

• Don’t put your cell phone on the desk and look at it every few minutes during the interview.

May 9, 2015

To My Children for Mother's Day, from Your Un-Mother

Mother's Day is right around the corner, which always makes me a little wistful for the children I never had.
If you'd asked me when I was young how my life would go I'd have said I would get married and
have a bunch of kids and be president of the PTA.
I had no plans beyond that, no plans for college - I grew up in the 50s and 60s so that wasn't a given back then, especially for girls - I had no plans for a career. Oh, I had dreams; I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to be an artist, but mostly I wanted to be Gidget and ride into the sunset (on a surfboard) with Moondoggie and live happily ever after.
But life rarely turns out the way we expect.
Wedding #1
I was married the first time in 1971 and we made a conscious decision not to have children - very avant garde for that time. People were only beginning to realize they had a choice. We were cool, on the cutting edge. Really, though, it was more his decision than mine. He said, "We have such a great life, why would we want to change it? If we have kids we won't be able to do any of the things we want to do."
"Right," I said, wrapped up in being cool and in awe of this sophisticated, handsome older man (he was 27, I was 21) who had, amazingly, fallen in love with me, the kid from Toledo, and now he was my husband.
"Yes, dear," I said.
Wedding #2
I was married the second time in 1981. By then I desperately wanted children. He didn't, so much, but he went along with the program. But I never got pregnant. We went to fertility experts, we did various treatments, but nothing ever happened.
That was a sad and difficult time in my life - I was in my early 30s and it seemed all around me people were popping out babies like pop tarts. It was so easy for everyone else. Want a baby? Poof! There it is. Just not for me.
I was married the third time in 2001. By then I was too old to have children.
So, Mother's Day comes around and I don't get any Mother's Day cards. Because I'm not a mom.
I'm sorry to have missed that. But if things didn't turn out how I planned they turned out in delightful ways I could never have predicted and I consider myself a very lucky girl, living a fabulous life.
For Mother's Day then, I am 'borrowing' children and creating my own family.
I have three kids: my oldest is Brad (son of Irene and Harv). I just love him. He is smart and handsome and sensitive and loving, and now he's a husband and father and when I see him with his wife and kids I just smile. Sometimes you have a connection with people who, even though you don't see them very often, that connection transcends the distance. Brad is one of those people.
My second child is Sara (daughter of Judi). If I had a daughter she would be exactly like Sara. Actually, I think Sara really is my daughter - we're both strong, independent women, we both love travel and culture and new adventures. Mostly, I just love how smart and sensitive Sara is; how self-assured, articulate and insightful she is. Sara is wonderful!
My youngest child is Alison (daughter of Debby and Joe), and she is simply delightful! She's smart and gorgeous and has the most brilliant smile. I love her views on life. And she's an amazing writer, so she must be my child, right?! Except she's so much wiser than I was at her age.
I've known Alison her whole life but didn't see her very often over the years. And then she grew up and went to college and now there's social media and so I've gotten to know her better in this virtual (but very real) way.
So, I'm celebrating Mother's Day in my own way. I may not be a real mom but I can be a virtual one. Which is certainly cheaper.

April 26, 2015

Movie Review: The Age of Adeline **

The Age of Adeline begins with a voice-over giving us a pseudo-scientific explanation for why Adeline hasn't aged in 80 years. The explanation is laughable, but all during this this time we are watching Blake Lively on screen and she is luminous (I mean, really...LOOK AT HER) so you think, "Okay, I can buy this - it's a fairy tale." And it would be great if you only had to watch the lovely Ms. Lively, but you also have to listen to her breathy voice and watch her lack of emotion/personality.
Yes, she's beautiful, but at some point you want more than that, and her haughtiness and superior attitude wears thin.
And how did she afford that apartment on the salary of a librarian? Oh, wait...there's a scene from many years earlier where she buys Xerox stock before it's Xerox.
And the dialogue...oh my god.
"Tell me something I can hold on to and never let go," she tells her love interest.
"Let go," he says.
Harrison Ford's character tells his son the reason she left him: "She's not capable of ...change," and then the music swells dramatically.
Good performances by Ford and Ellen Burstyn, and especially Michiel Huisman, who plays the love interest. He's really cute...AND has personality. But what does he see in her? Well, she wears spiffy clothes and has great hair. Too bad there's no chemistry between them.
Some people clapped when it ended but I wasn't sure if it was because they really liked it or because they were glad it was over.
Two out of five stars for The Age of Adeline.

April 24, 2015

Can't Cook? Yes...You Can, I Promise!

If you think you can't cook I've got great news: YOU CAN!
Don't even think of this as cooking - it's just throwing things in a slow-cooker. Only three ingredients (THREE!) and you can make a rock-star meal.
If you don't have a slow-cooker get one now. It's the only kitchen gadget you need.
This is the one I have: Best $60 you'll ever spend (I'm not getting commission on this, although I should). You can even find one cheaper on eBay.
And Hamilton Beach is awesome - I had mine for 6 or 7 years and it was doing something funky...I can't even remember what, but I called HB to see what to do and they just sent me a new one, no questions asked. Free.
Anyway, back to your rock-star meal:
Here's what a pork butt looks
like - not mine, cuz I forgot to
take a 'before' picture - but close
Get a 3 lb. (more or less - more is always better) pork butt. If you don't know what that is, just go to the store, go to the meat counter and ask the meat counter person. I got one yesterday on sale for $1.69 a pound. I know...crazy cheap, right?
Then go to the spice aisle and pick up some kind of rub. Yes, it'll just say 'rub' on it and it has a combination of yummy spices in it (or you can make your own - here's a link to how to do that). And then get a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Barbecue Sauce, or any other barbeque sauce that you like (there's no such thing as bad barbeque sauce).
Then, when you get home, sprinkle that rub all over that pork butt, on all sides, and rub it in (it is a rub, after all) and then plop that big hunk of meat into your slow cooker.
Then pour most of that bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's in the bottom of the pot all around the pork. Then put on the lid (this has taken you about three minutes), set it on high for 4 hours and go watch a few episodes of Game of Thrones, and in about 3 hours your house will smell like a Texas barbecue.
When you smell that, walk to the slow-cooker (you will be salivating, but that's okay), and turn the meat over so it gets that barbecue goodness all over it. It's going to fall apart when you try to do that but that's okay. That's the point.
You don't have to let it go another hour, and you may not be able to, but the longer it cooks the better it gets.
After 4 hours, take the lid off and pull the butt apart, which means get some tongs and touch it - it will melt like butter into pieces. And then just stick your fork in there and eat. Or get a plate.
Oh. My. God.
You're welcome.

April 19, 2015

Catching up on Movie Reviews - Three ****1/2 Films

Too many movies, too little time. Here's what I've seen in the past few weeks:

Danny Collins****1/2
I've grown up with Al Pacino so when I see him on screen now he seems so familiar, as if her were part of my family, that it makes me nostalgic. Weird, I know.
So, I'd be hard-pressed not to love anything he's in. But even if I didn't feel that way I think I'd still love Danny Collins, the story of an aged rock star who learns that John Lennon wrote him a letter when he was a young, rising star. Oh my god. How would you feel if your idol wrote to you and you never knew it? How would his life have been different?
So many wonderful relationships in this film. Bobby Carnivale is his estranged son. I love him. Jennifer Garner plays his daughter-in-law. I love her. Annette Bening is the love interest. I lover her.
I I love this film.
Four and a half stars out of five for Danny Collins.

While We're Young****1/2
Great performances in this film. Ben Stiller has never been one of my favorites, but as he gets older, and chooses less goofy roles, I have to admit he's an excellent actor.
This is an engaging story of Josh (Ben Stiller) who's fast approaching middle-age and who has never lived up to  expectations - his own or those of others.
He's a documentarian, and has been working on his latest film for a decade. His wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts), is supportive but their marriage is on the ho-hum side. Her father is a famous documentary filmmaker, amping up the stakes for Josh, adding to his angst, setting a bar he's sure not to reach.
They meet a young couple who energize them and their marriage, but all isn't as it seems.
Interesting character studies. Engaging film.
Four and a half out of five stars for While We're Young.

Woman in Gold****1/2
Michael Phillips, the movie critic of the Chicago Tribune begins his review of Woman in Gold this way:
In "Woman in Gold," a paint-by-numbers account of a gorgeous Klimt and its tortured history of ownership, there's really no other word for what Helen Mirren is doing in certain reaction shots, out of subtle interpretive desperation: mugging. She's mugging. She is a sublimely talented performer, and this is material with fascinating implications, and I doubt there's a moviegoer in the world who doesn't like Helen Mirren. But even the best actors need a director to tell them to tone it down.
He gives this film two out of four stars.
I couldn't disagree more.
There's a little whimsy in Mirren's performance but I see it as the character's personality, and it's not over-done. Who knows if she was really like that (this is based on a true story) but the humor adds an element of lightness to an otherwise difficult story with the holocaust at its core.
Woman in Gold is the story of Maria Altmann (Helen Mirrin) who escaped Austria in 1945 and who now wants to retrieve artwork that was seized from her family by the Nazis, particularly a piece with great sentimental value, Klimt's iconic painting of her aunt, which was considered the Mona Lisa of Austria.
The story flashes back to her childhood and then adulthood as the Nazis occupy Austria, and those are heart-wrnching segments.
Ryan Reynolds is Randy Schoenberg, the attorney who helps her in her fight for justice (Michael Phillips doesn't like his performance either) who is sweet and appealing as her champion and the chemistry between them feels authentic.
I loved Woman in Gold and give it four and a half out of five stars. Go see it and let me know if you agree with me or Michael Phillips.

April 17, 2015

What I Wish I Knew

1979. I was 30 years old, living in Los Angeles in a tiny apartment just north of the Sunset Strip, which sounds so fabulous but actually wasn’t. My first divorce was already under my belt (there will be two more over the years) and then I got fired from my job. Oh well. I’d had enough of that job anyway and enough of Los Angeles. And enough of the boss I’d slept with.
I’m sure that wasn’t the reason I was fired but regardless, sexual harassment hadn’t been invented yet so it never occurred to me to file a lawsuit. So I filed for unemployment instead. And anyway it’s not as if it hadn’t been consensual.
That boss was pretty cute.
So, when I told my dad back in Toledo that I’d gotten fired he said, “Oh, don’t say you were fired. Just say you were laid off.”
Yeah, I thought, laid being the operative word here.  
“Whatever,” I said.
I didn’t think anything would be served by telling him what a slut his little girl was.
“So I’m sick of L.A.,” I told him.
“Are you coming home?” he asked hopefully.
“No, I’m moving to Chicago.”
“Chicago. Why Chicago?”
I didn’t tell him it was because I was still reeling from that divorce and that I was miserable; that my promiscuity hadn’t assuage my loneliness; that I needed a fresh start in a new place. I didn’t let my dad into my life back then. He’d think he could fix me with his wisdom, which at that time I didn’t find all that wise. I needed him to believe I was strong and capable.
“Just seems like a good place,” I said. “The movers are coming in two weeks. And then I’ll drive across the country.”
 “You’re not doing that alone, are you?” he asked.  “I’ll fly out and drive with you.”
Oh no you won’t, I thought. My dad was not my friend at that time in my life, and I couldn’t think of anything I would rather do less than be captive in a car for 30 hours with my father. That was a torture I couldn’t imagine.
What the hell would we talk about?
So I said, “No, you don’t have to do that.”
“I know I don’t have to. I want to. I’ve always wanted to drive across country. It’ll be fun.”
Fun? With my dad? No way.
“No,” I said, “Karin’s gonna do it with me.” Even though I hadn’t asked Karin. Hadn’t even thought about it.
“Oh,” he said, and I could hear the disappointment in his voice.
Was my relationship with my father so different from a lot of girls? Probably not. Mine was a common journey, I think; I adored him when I was little, he was my hero. And then I got to those awful teenage years. What the hell happens then? I don’t know, but I had no use for him, and that phase lasted longer than I’d like to admit – well past my 30s.
He didn’t understand me, he didn’t approve of me, he thought he knew what was best for me. I hated that, and I had no desire to try to understand it. I didn’t know then that when he tried to fix me it was because it pained him so to see me unhappy.
1999. I was 50 years old, still living in Chicago, my second divorce under my belt. But I was happy, had a good job, a sweet little bungalow in Jefferson Park. And I didn’t sleep with my boss.
My dad was nearly 89 then but still vital and healthy, still in Toledo, and I went to visit him every month because at some point I had come out on the other side of those hormones and my dad had magically turned back into my hero; my biggest fan, my greatest supporter. I felt something from him that I’ve never felt from another human being; unconditional love. It’s hard to compete with that. I’m sure those three ex-husbands would agree. 
When I lived in L.A., instead of writing letters, my dad and I recorded tapes and sent them to each other, little cassette tapes – remember those (probably half of you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about)?
I still have some of those recordings and the sound of his voice never fails to bring me a sense of peace, and fill me with warmth. On one of the tapes he sent me he was concerned about a trip I was taking; I was traveling alone and he didn’t like that. He said, “I worry about you, it’s my job, you’re my daughter. My favorite daughter.” I had that tape transferred to a CD, and labeled it I’m the Favorite Daughter, and someday when my sister really pisses me off I’m going to play that for her and say, “See? Dad did like me best.”
Anyway, so I was in Toledo on one of my monthly trips, visiting my dad and one morning when I got to his apartment I found him still sitting on the bed even though it was late morning. He was agitated, which wasn’t like him at all. He said some men had come in during the night and had written all over the walls.
“Look at the mess they made,” he said, pointing up near the ceiling, in the corners of the room.
“Where, Dad?” I said and he became impatient with me.
“There! Look!”
Oh my god, I thought, he’s had a stroke.
“Daddy,” I said gently,fear running through me. “There’s no writing up there.”
He looked at me, puzzled. “But I see it. Don’t you see it?”
“I think something’s wrong,” I said. “I need to take you to the emergency room.”
“Well, okay, honey,” he said. “If you think that’s best.”
I got him checked in and waited by his side for the doctor. He sat on a gurney
facing a long pale-green hallway and we watched medical personnel moving about. Suddenly my dad laughed delightedly and said, “Oh, look at him go!”
I looked.
“Who, Dad?”
“That little boy on the tricycle,” he said, pointing at nothing. “Don’t you see him?”
I took his hand and ran my finger over his silky skin, and played connect the dots with the age spots there.
“Daddy,” I said. His hair was perfectly white; thin and silky. “Do you know how much I love you?”
He smiled, and his blue eyes glistened. He studied me for a moment; his face serene, happy. He said, “However much that is, honey, I love you a hundred times more.”
My father died not long after that, shortly after his 90th birthday. I know I was lucky to have had him for so long and mostly so healthy, but I couldn’t fathom a world without him in it.
I wish I’d known when I was thirty how much I’d miss him. I wish I’d known back then how many questions there still were to ask him, how much there was to talk about.
I wish I’d let him come out and drive across the country with me. I can’t think of anything I
would rather do more than be captive in a car for 30 hours with my father.