Movie Review: The Hotel New Hampshire (1984)


Title: The Hotel New Hampshire
Release Date: March 9, 1984
Director: Tony Richardson
Production Company: Filmline Productions | The Producers’ Circle | Woodfall Film Productions | Yellowbill Productions Limited
Summary/Review:

Sorrow floats, too.

When I was in my early teens my mom told my sister and I about this weird movie she saw on tv about this eccentric family who have a flatulent dog named Sorrow who dies and then keeps popping up in taxidermied form. Eventually we watched it together and it turned out to be even weirder than imagined. In retrospect it’s strange that I watched this movie at such a young age.  You could put content warnings on this movie for rape, suicide, incest, anti-gay violence, terrorism and more, and yet it’s played for (dark) comedy.  I don’t think these things went over my head so much as they didn’t hit me as hard as watching it as an adult. In fact, the quirky transgressiveness of the movie appealed to me and for a time it was among my all-time favorites, and I also became fond of the John Irving book its based on.  It’s been a long time since I watched or read either, though.

The movie is about a family of oddball characters called the Berrys overall several years when they suffer several tragedies and strange events.  While it’s an ensemble piece, two of the five Berry children, John (Rob Lowe) and Franny (Jodie Foster), are the main characters.  Their father Win (Beau Bridges) is a dreamer who wants to recapture the happiest days of his youth by owning and operating a hotel. Over the course of the film, the Berry family run two hotels: first in an abandoned school in New Hampshire and later at a rundown hotel in Vienna. The stacked cast also includes Paul McCrane, Jennifer Dundas, Wilford Brimley, Seth Green, Matthew Modine, Wallace Shawn, Amanda Plummer, Dorsey Wright, and Nastassja Kinski as Susie the Bear.

The movie remains very entertaining.  However, while in the 80s it felt like it was pushing boundaries of how controversial topics are treated, now it just feels like it has a lot of shock for shock value.  Also as an adaptation of a very long novel, it tries too hard to tell the entire story so that as a viewer you kind of get whiplash moving from seeing only the highlights of various different plot threads.  The movie still has a lot of charms and some great acting performances, but it feels like an opportunity was lost to make something much better.

Rating: ***

2020 Election Challenge: Governors


Gubernatorial elections never get the attention of Presidential elections, but the day-to-day life of most people is affected more by what goes on in state government than at the Federal level.  In recent decades, right-wing and corporate interests have targeted state governments to consolidate power for their agenda.

If you live in one of the 11 states where a gubernatorial election is taking place it is important that you vote for the Democratic candidate, mobilize your friends and families to vote, and volunteer and donate to their campaigns.  If you don’t live in one of these states, adopt one or more states to target with your donations and volunteering.

Likely Democratic Victories

Two Democratic governors are ahead in the polls for their reelection, but don’t rest on these laurels, VOTE!

Washington: Jay Inslee (incumbent)

Delaware: John Carney (incumbent)

Competitive Races

These elections are a toss-up.  If you are limited on time or money, target these races for volunteering and donations.

North Carolina:  Roy Cooper (incumbent)

Montana: Mike Cooney

Missouri: Nicole Galloway

New Hampshire: Dan Feltes

Longshots

The Republican candidates are ahead in the polls in these states, but getting out the non-voters can still turn around these elections.  Especially in progressive Vermont, c’mon!  Even West Virginia has a progressive streak.

Vermont: David Zuckerman

Indiana: Woody Myers

North Dakota: Shelley Lenz

West Virginia: Ben Salango

Utah: Chris Peterson

 

Movie Review: On Golden Pond (1981) #atozchallenge


I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge by watching and reviewing some of my favorite movies of all time that I haven’t watched in a long time. This post contains SPOILERS!

Title: On Golden Pond 
Release Date: December 4, 1981
Director: Mark Rydell
Production Company: ITC Entertainment | Associated Film Distribution
Synopsis:

An elderly couple, Ethel (Katharine Hepburn) and Norman Thayer (Henry Fonda) return to their summer home in New Hampshire. The curmudgeonly Norman is disoriented by memory loss and frequently talks about his imminent death. Their estranged daughter, Chelsea (Jane Fonda) comes to visit with her new fiance Bill (Dabney Coleman) and his son Billy (Doug McKeon). They have some tense moments, but Ethel and Norman agree to let Billy stay with them while Chelsea and Bill visit Europe for a month.

Not surprisingly, 13-year-old Billy is not thrilled to be stuck with a pair of elderly strangers.  But over time Norman and Billy bond over fishing. They also suffer a boat crash while pursuing the giant trout Walter in a giant cove.  Chelsea returns and is initially resentful that Norman has bonded with Billy in a way he never did with her, but seeing a different side of her father also provides an opening for them to reconcile. The movie concludes with Norman having a heart scare as they pack up to leave.  Ethel recognizes their mortality for the first time and they express their love and devotion.

When Did I First See This Movie?:

This was one of those movies that was on tv a lot when I was a kid.  I remember it being treated as a “serious, grown-up” movie and being surprised when I watched it and found out how funny it is.

What Did I Remember?:

I remembered the basic outline of the movie, and major incidents like the boat crash, but for the most part I watched this movie afresh.

What Did I Forget?:

One of the biggest things I forgot is that Dabney Coleman is in this movie.  It’s kind of hilarious that I’m posting back-to-back movies starring Jane Fonda and Dabney Coleman. And this is a rare movie where Coleman is not playing “the man we love to hate” although his nice guy character has a jerky edge when he threatens to send Billy back to his mother.

What Makes This Movie Great?:

Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda, two of Hollywod’s 20th century greatest stars, act the hell out of this movie.  It’s amazing that not only had they never appeared in a movie together before On Golden Pond, but they never even met before they started filming.  It’s a rare Hollywood film that provides a nuanced depiction of elderly people as well as such an honest story about family struggles.  You get the sense that some real-life Fonda family drama is occurring in the scenes between Henry and Jane. Plus the scenery, filmed at Squam Lake in New Hampshire, is absolutely gorgeous!

What Doesn’t Hold Up?:

For all the accolades On Golden Pond received in 1981, it doesn’t appear on greatest films lists.  I feared that its sentimentality would come across as cheezy, but I feel that I liked this movie even more than I did as a child.  The last time I watched this movie I was younger than Billy, and now I’m older than Chelsea, so there’s something to be said for the perspective of age.  I’ll have to watch it again when I’m Norman’s age.

Is It a Classic?:

Yes, a definite classic, and apparently something of a hidden gem.

Rating: *****

Five more all-time favorite movies starting with O:

  1. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
  2. Office Space (1999)
  3. On the Waterfront (1954)
  4. Orlando (1993)
  5. Outside Providence (1999)

What is your favorite movie starting with O?  What is your guess for my P movie (Hint: this movie was shot on a low-budget with a tv film crew)? Let me know in the comments!

Podcasts of the Week Ending May 11


More or Less :: Avengers: Should We Reverse the Snap?

The economic impact of losing half the earth’s population, and possible negative impact of restoring 4 billion lost souls.

Memory Palace :: This Story Climbed Mount Washington

The history of Mt. Washington’s Cog Railway and early tourism potential.

Radiolab :: Dinopacolypse Redux

How did the dinosaurs die, and more to the point, how quickly did the dinosaurs die after the earth was hit by an asteroid?  Newly discovered evidence is updating the theory of what happened and when in surprising ways.

30 for 30 Podcasts :: Back Pass

Building on the US Women’s National Team’s success at drawing crowds to the 1999 Women’s World Cup, a new professional soccer league was born.  WUSA folded after three seasons, but this documentary shows that the league was far more sucessful than we’ve been lead to believe.


Running tally of Podcast of the Week appearances:

Photopost: White Mountain Weekend


My wonderful family gifted me a weekend at a cabin in the White Mountains near Jackson, New Hampshire to celebrate my 45th birthday.  In addition to some cozy time in a cabin by a stream in a wintry wonderland, we went to Jackson Cross Country to do some snowshoeing (with our lovely guide, Rob) and rode the Santaland Express on the Conway Scenic Railroad.  It was absolutely sunny and gorgeous on Saturday for snowshoeing and rainy and miserable for our rail trip, which is ideal compared to the opposite.

Here are some of my scenic photos:

 

 

Beer Review: Throwback Seasonal Spicy Bohemian


Beer: Spicy Bohemian
Brewer: Throwback Brewery
Source: Draft
Rating: *** (7.5 of 10)
Comments: A straw-yellow, cloudy body, a thin head, and the scent of mellow malts offer no warning of what’s to come.  This beer is SPICY!!! hot with jalapeno goodness.  This is the Tabasco sauce of beer!  Good stuff, and more than a novelty.  It pairs well with food.

Book Review: Up : a mother and daughter’s peakbagging adventure by Patricia Ellis Herr


Author: Patricia Ellis Herr
TitleUp : a mother and daughter’s peakbagging adventure
Publication Info: New York : Broadway Paperbacks, c2012.
Summary/Review:

This book is the author’s story of taking up hiking with her 5-year-old daughter Alex and deciding to hike to the top of all 48 4000-foot peaks in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Herr relates some of her early mistakes and some unexpected dangers (a sudden thunderstorm on an exposed peak or a violent bird on a trail).  On and off the trail, Herr must face the judgment of others who think that Alex is too young to be participating in White Mountain Hikes. But she also receives a lot of support, including from a kilted hiker who goes by the name MadRiver, who becomes their greatest ally despite claiming not to like children. Alex troops onwards and upwards and in less than two years becomes one of the youngest people to ever summit all 48 peaks (although Herr is never specific about whether Alex is the actual youngest).  The message is that anyone can do it, although in my most cynical moments reading this book I’d have to append that anyone can do it if they’re prosperous enough to home school, buy a second home in New Hampshire, and acquire thousands of dollars of hiking gear and clothing (the author is positively steeped in privilege and doesn’t seem to be aware of it).  That being said, the heart of this book is the story of a mother and a daughter enjoying themselves outdoors in one of my favorite places, and the blessings of experiencing things through young eyes.

Recommended booksGrandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery, The Appalachian Trail Reader by David Emblidge, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King
Rating: **1/2

Beer Reviews: Smuttynose Hayseed


BeerSmuttynose Hayseed
BrewerSmuttynose Brewing Company
Source: 12 oz. bottle
Rating: ** (6.7 of 10)
Comments: This beer is a trip to the farm in a bottle.  The beer pours out golden with a matrix of tiny bubbles.  The aroma is sweet timothy and the flavor is a subtle blend of grass and pepper.  There’s minimal lacing on the glass and a light mouthfeel.

Beer Review: Smuttynose Vunderbar!


BeerSmuttynose Vunderbar
Brewer: Smuttynose Brewing Company
Source: 12 oz. bottle
Rating: *** (7 of 10)
Comments: Vunderbar! pours out a cloudy straw color with a lot of bubbly carbonation and a thin but solid head.  Both the bubbles and head persisted even after quaffing a lot of the beer.  The aroma is grassy with a hint of spice.  The flavor is grainy with a nice balance and a bit of spice, the classic pilsner flavor.  The taste was consistent through the emptying glass.  This is a beer I could easily drink a lot of.  Watch out for it on a warm summer’s evening!