May 30th, 2005

little review

Poem for Monday

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Quick report on very full but highly enjoyable day. Despite being on vacation I got up early to go to church with my in-laws, because St. Matthew Lutheran of Hanover has the seventh largest organ in the world, had a local-born renowned soprano singing with the choir and has stained glass windows that rival some of the ones we saw in England (being Jewish, church for me is all about the beauty and pageantry; apaulled stayed home with the kids). We came back for brunch and so I could rush through writing two articles, then drove to Harrisburg, where we went to Wildwood Lake Sanctuary to see the many waterfowl and wetlands plants (photos below).

We had dinner at a Chinese buffet and then went to the sneak preview of Cinderella Man which we all enjoyed enormously for a variety of reasons -- my father-in-law because he grew up reading about Jim Braddock, my mother-in-law because she liked the Depression recreation, my kids because they thought the boxing was exciting (*cringe*) and were charmed by Braddock's relationship with his kids, and me mostly because Russell Crowe was fantastic, though there was a lot else to enjoy as well: the cinematography was excellent, Renee Zellwegger was quite good despite having some dialogue nearly as bad as Natalie Portman's in Revenge of the Sith -- I must beg again, can't ANYONE write dialogue for women for shit in Hollywood? I am thinking that I actually must like Renee, because I've managed not to despise her despite the kind of material she's had to work with in the films in which I've seen her.

But back to Russell -- he managed to sound convincingly like he was from New Joisey for most of the film, he underplayed emotional scenes that would have been intolerable if he came on any stronger given the boo-hoo dialogue, and he looked amazing -- I don't mean hot-amazing as boxing muscles and bruises don't do a thing for me, but his physical presence in the ring and in schlub clothes in the dock scenes was equally intense. It's hard for me to watch boxing even when I know how the matches will end, and in this case I not only knew the results but the injuries to expect -- still, I couldn't look away. The supporting cast was all good, the preview was sold out and the audience applauded at the end...big mix, quite a few women in singles and pairs who growled and snarled their way to the front of the line even though we were there more than an hour before the show because they were NOT going to be deprived of their Russell by ANYONE, a few couples, a number of people over 50, pretty equal numbers of men and women apart from the ones who made it clear from their conversation that they were there to see the star more than the story.

Like Seabiscuit, Cinderella Man reminded me of The Natural, and of Seabiscuit itself, only with far more of an emphasis on hard work and commitment rather than fate and myth which I rather appreciated. It was a tough time to be an American, and Braddock talked about how it was easier facing people trying to smack you down in the ring where at least you could see who your adversaries were...fairly predictable but nicely done, which I'd say about most Ron Howard movies. Look, I love sports movies (Field of Dreams is one of my all time favorites despite the Costner factor), I love historical biopics, I love Russell...the things going for this movie were far greater than the things I was likely to hold against it, boxing or no boxing.

There were Cinderella Man pictures in three sections of the Sunday Washington Post and in USA Weekend which my in-laws get with The Evening Sun, which had a delectable Christian Bale on the cover. Also, I finished Lost in a Good Book and started The Well of Lost Plots on the drive, and saw numerous groundhogs and rabbits before we left, along the drive and in the front yard when we got back (well, just the bunnies that late). Monday the kids are angling for miniature golf and we are angling for the state park, so we shall see who comes on more strongly in the morning...happy Memorial Day.

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