Movie Review: 56 Up


Title: 56 Up
Release Date:
14 May 2012
Director:
Michael Apted
Production Co:
ITV Studios
Country:
United Kingdom
Language:
English
Genre:
Documentary
Rating:  *****

Seven years ago, my wife and watched a box set of the first 6 movies in the Up Series, then went to a local art moviehouse to see the then current release 49 Up.  In about a week of binge-watching we became acquainted with the lives of 14 individuals from England who since they were seven years old have had their lives documented every seven years.  We’ve been eager to catch up with these participants and finally were able to watch the most recent installment.

The original tv special in 1964 was almost socialist in its approach, attempting to define how the rigid British class system is ingrained in children at the age of 7.  Since then, it’s become more of a humanist document of the life of the everyman and everywoman.  Each film seems to have an overarching theme depending on the age – such as education, love and marriage, work, children, aging, parents dying, etc.  56 Up seems to find the participants in a reflective mode, looking back over their lives and their participation in the experiment.

One problem with this film is that so much footage has accrued from the previous seven documentaries that the interviews do not seem as rich this time around as they have been earlier in the series.  This is a problems that’s only going to get worse and new movies are made.  One of my favorite parts is when two participants Suzy and Nick are interviewed together.  I had not really seen a connection between the two before, and what really made it fascinating is when they asked one another questions.  I hope they try this again with some other participants in the next film.

As a viewer, I’ve grown very attached to the participants in the Up Series.  It is good to see that despite some of them encountering difficulties with the Great Recession and austerity, that overall they seem to be successful and happy in their own ways.  I do worry about them getting older, and maybe some of them not surviving for future films, but once again will eagerly wait for 63 Up.

 

Photopost: A Tale of Two Ballparks


My son Peter and I were fortunate enough to take in two Boston Red Sox games in the same week. The first was a home game at Fenway Park versus the White Sox. For the second game, we ventured into enemy territory to see Red Sox take on the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

I’ve been to Fenway Park dozens of times in the 15 years I’ve lived in Boston and my son and I have been using 4-game Sox packs the past two seasons.  I don’t have much to add to what I’ve written before other than to say that Fenway Park is a great place to see a ballgame, the improvements in fan amenities the past decade have really improved the experience, and I love going to games with my son.

This was our first visit to the third iteration of Yankee Stadium.  Growing up in Connecticut, I attended several Yankees games in the 1976-2008 version of Yankee Stadium as a child as well as one college football game between Boston University and Grambling State.  I made my last visit to Yankee Stadium II in 2006.  Despite the history that came with the building due to the Yankees many successes, I never thought it lived up to its reputation as a great ballpark.  It was kind of gloomy and felt like a 60’s/70’s concrete doughnut squashed in an urban shell.

I’m happy to report that  Yankee Stadium III is an improvement on its predecessor.  We took the D train to 161 St, and exited right outside Gate 6.  There were several lines open so we swiftly made our way inside.  We entered a long concourse with a high ceiling that felt like an airport terminal or railway station.  While the Stadium has escaped corporate naming, the corporate presence was strong here (and throughout the ballpark) with large neon signs for the Hard Rock Cafe and other amenities.  There was also a large screen and news ticker showing Yankees highlights on repeat and reminiscent of Times Square.  The whole feeling was definitely to remind you that you were in the land of the Yankees now and playing with the big boys.

To access our seats on the Grandstand Level, we had to walk up a long, looping concrete ramp.  This was one of the least appealing parts of the stadium.  At least the ramps at Shea Stadium were exposed to fresh air and sunshine with views of the Manhattan skyline.  The Yankees museum could be entered from this ramp but the line was quite long so we didn’t take it in.  The concourse on the Grandstand/Terrace level was much nicer with lots of sunlight and views of the field and lined with the usual concessions and souvenir shops.  The only one we availed ourselves to was Carvel for an ice cream cone (Peter passed on getting the ice cream in the helmet).

Our seats offered a commanding view of the field with only the left field corner obscured by the seat deck in front of us.  (This would become relevant in the game when Ichiro made a catch against the wall of a drive by David Ortiz).  The centerfield scoreboard is big and informative.  There is a secondary scoreboard behind homeplate but I was surprised that there was only advertising along the baseline.  The out-of-town scoreboard was not visible from our location.  The corporate feel was strong during the game with lots of advertisements on all the scoreboards.  Strikeouts by  Yankees pitchers were sponsored by an appliance store and walks by Yankees batters were brought to you by a brand of whisky.

Our seating area was well-populated with Red Sox fans giving us a feeling of safety in numbers.  The rivalry among fans was good-natured on this day.  Several times Red Sox fans started chanting “Lets Go Red Sox!” only to get booed by Yankees fans.  Then one guy would chant “Lets Go Yankees!” and no one else would join in.  The top of the stadium is encircled by pennant flags for every team in Major League Baseball arranged by division in the order of the standings.  Appropriately, we sat directly beneath the flag that read “BOSTON”.

The game was enjoyable, with the teams duking out to a 13-9 finale in favor of the Red Sox.   Boston took a big lead early and then New York chipped away at that lead to make the game more competitive.  Definitely not a pitcher’s duel, or a short game, but a fun one.  We left after the game and it was actually pretty easy to get to the subway, and then board a “baseball special” train which has a poetic ring to it, like something out of a W.P. Kinsella story.

Yankee Stadium proved to be an adequate place to see a game.   Like Citi Field, it is somewhat corporatized and soulless, and a city like New York should do much better for its ballparks. They don’t compare well with ballparks in San Francisco, Baltimore, or San Diego that incorporate aspects of their cities and surroundings into the stadium.  It seems like they got the idea to copy the retro-ballpark style without doing anything to make it uniquely New York.  Perhaps they just need to be lived-in a bit longer and will accrue some charm with age?

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Photopost: New York City


Ch-ch-ch-ch-cheerio!
A tugboat chugs under Brooklyn Bridge

I spent the first week of September with my 5 y.o. son Peter and my mother (later joined by my wife and daughter for the last weekend). Three generations of family explored the City which has rich family history.  My mother grew up in the Bronx and I grew up in the Connecticut suburbs and now we got to share a lot of our favorite places with Peter.  But there were also new discoveries.  Through Airbnb, we stayed in an apartment in Inwood, the neighborhood at the very northern tip of Manhattan.  Inwood is vibrant and friendly with a great park and easy connections to the rest of the city on the 1 and A trains.

Sssssssssalute.
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge
  • Day 1 – We visited the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn, ate lunch at a deli in Brooklyn Heights, played on the spectacular playground on Brooklyn Bridge Parks’s Pier 6, and then sailed up the East River on a ferry to Midtown.
  • Day 2 – Went to the the Bronx Zoo.  We stayed all day.
  • Day 3 – Walked along the Hudson River to visit the Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge.  Read the book and attracted a crowd of toddlers. Spent the rest of the day at Central Park where we: ate ice cream, ate hot dogs, played on the swings, took a nap, played catch, rode the carousel, and sailed a model boat on the Conservatory Water (Peter got very good at controlling the wind powered boat).
  • Day 4 – Visited the USS Intrepid Sea/Air/Space Museum, the highlight of which was getting up close and personal with the space shuttle Enterprise.
  • Day 5 – Ate brunch at Kitchenette Uptown in Morningside Heights, took Peter to Yankee Stadium to see the Red Sox play the Yankees (Red Sox won), and ate supper at the wonderful dog-themed pub Fred’s.
Ahoy, captain!
Sailing a model boat on the Conservatory Water.

I’ve made a web album of my favorite photos from the trip, in addition to the ones featured in this post.

Take the A Train!
The view out the back of the A train.

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Book Review: Hit By Pitch by Molly Lawless


Author: Molly Lawless
Title: Hit By Pitch
Publication Info:  Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., 2012.
ISBN: 9780786446094

Summary/Review: 

I was fortunate enough to receive a free copy of this work through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.

This graphic novel tells the true life story of the only baseball player to die from an injury on the field, Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians, who was beaned in the head by a pitch from the New York Yankees’ Carl Mays in a 1920 ballgame in New York’s Polo Ground.  Lawless finds some common history among the two men both born in Kentucky in the same year building up their parallel stories leading to the fateful fastball in a similar fashion to Hardy’s “Convergence of the Twain.”  Chapman is charismatic and popular with his teammates and fans while Mays is an outsider who is not well-liked setting up the perfect hero and villain scenario.  Yet, Lawless makes sure to give Mays his fair due.  Lawless details the incident and its aftermath with grim and fascinating details.  For example, did you know that Mays and Yankees’ first baseman Wally Pipp fielded the ball that bounced off Chapman’s head thinking that it was a bunt?  This is a great work of baseball history as well as the graphic arts.

Rating: ****

Recommended BooksThe Glory of Their Times : The Story of Baseball Told By the Men Who Played It by Lawrence S. Ritter, The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. by Robert Coover, and Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel.

Book Review: Honus & Me by Dan Gutman


Author:  Dan Gutman
Title:  Honus & Me
Publication Info: HarperCollins (1999)
ISBN: 0380788780

Summary/Review: This is another baseball ebook I borrowed from the library to read to my son that I ended up liking more than he did.  The story is the first in a series in which a boy named Joey discovers he can use baseball cards to travel through time and meet famed players.  In this case, it’s Pittsburgh great Honus Wagner who takes Joey to the 1909 World Series and even gets him in the game.  It’s a great fantasy which touches on issues of integrity and honesty.  Wagner comes across just a bit too perfect, but then again all accounts have him as a great guy.   A good read for kids who like sports from around the ages 7 to 11.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Rivals by Tim Green


Author: Tim Green
Title: Rivals
Publication Info: HarperCollins (2011)
ISBN: 0061626945

Summary/Review:  I downloaded this ebook from the library because my five-year old wanted me to read him a story about baseball.  He ended up not liking it due to the protagonists doing things they shouldn’t do, but I think an older child around 8 to 12 would really enjoy it.  The story is about the great 12 y.o. baseball player Josh, his goofy sidekick Benji, and their friend Jaden (who is a reporter) discovering corruption at a baseball tournament in Cooperstown that may possibly lead to a former star baseball player-turned-actor who has a son in the tournament.  The in-game action scenes are great and the mystery has some interesting twists.  Overall it’s formulaic, but I think this is an enjoyable story for kids about sports, fairplay, and friendship.  It’s part of a series of books called Baseball Great.

Rating: ***

Beer Review: Pretty Things/Yeastie Boys Our Turn, Your Turn


Beer:  Our Turn, Your Turn
Brewer:  Pretty Things / Yeastie Boys collaboration
Source: 22 oz bottle
Rating:  *** (7.5 of 10)
Comments:  Our Turn, Your Turn and as the world turns, a collaboration of the Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project of Somerville, MA and the Yeastie Boys of New Zealand.  The beer is a hazy, straw color with lots of fizz.  Aromas and flavors seem to be heavily influenced by the Linden flower, a type of tea that gives the beer strong earthy and floral accents.  The hoppiness packs a wallop, and I generally don’t like the bitterness of hoppy beers, but this one is good enough to make an exception.  All in all, an imaginative and exceptional beer.

Song of the Week: “Go” by Valley Lodge


A friend of mine shared “Go” by Valley Lodge, a nice bit of power pop you can dance to.  I heard “Tenderness” by General Public meets mid-90’s Yo La Tengo.  Another friend heard “Push” by The Cure.  Either way it is its own song.  Enjoy!

 

 

What are you listening to this week?  Let me know in the comments and maybe it will be my Song of the Week!