Category Archives: Movies and TV


The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars

Carol and I went to the movies!  We don’t do that a lot; we usually watch them at home.  This one, however, drew me to the theater and I drug Carol along.  “The Fault in our Stars”‘ is a romance and story about cancer and dying young.  I rate movies by how much I find myself thinking about them.  I am still thinking about this one days later.


It has a fine story, good directing and photography, and a great cast.  Shailene Woodley has the main role.  A reviewer said she is as lovely as a June day, and the woman can act.  The other cast members are good, but they are playing backup.


Two teens with cancer meet at a support group, and they fall in love.  The power of the movie is in exploring how a terminal illness forces one to explore meaning, pain, death, and love in an intensely personal way.  Gus and Hazel are bright and funny as they confront the tragedy in their young lives.


The movie is a tearjerker, a sick flick, sentimental, and somewhat too right.  With that, it is honest, fun, sad, and lovely.  If you can’t get to the theater, put it in your queue.  I doubt if I will read the book.


The movie has more significance for me because I lost my mother to cancer when I was a junior in high school.  She was stricken with ovarian cancer at menopause.  Initially diagnosed as an ulcer because of her abdominal pain, our family doctor missed the cancer because he was dealing with a paranoid psychosis.


By the time my parents realized what was wrong and sought out the best cancer doctor in Grand Junction, it was too late.  Given the state of cancer treatment in the 1950’s, it was probably too late anyway.  The standard routine ensued, surgery, radiation, some primitive chemotherapy, and over a year of debility, pain, and wasting.


My family did not deal with cancer as well as Gus, Hazel, and their families.  Our strategy was denial.  Just act like nothing is wrong.  The elephant is rotting in the corner of the room, but ignore it.  I would come home from school, go into the bedroom where she lay wasting away, give a upbeat account of my day, and stay away.


It took well over a year for her to die.  The day she died, my father called me out of an assembly at school.  I had to walk from the front of the auditorium to the exit with everyone’s eyes on me.  I went numb.  I stayed numb.  No conversations about anything.  The only genuine expression of sympathetic came from the football coach.  I am so grateful for what he said, more than fifty years later.


I floundered.  I listened to jazz, Tchaikovsky’s Sixth, and read existentialists.  I flunked trigonometry my senior year, explored religion (didn’t work), flunked out of the University of Colorado, tried Mesa College, drank a lot, and joined the Army.  Time does heal, and the Army gave me some sense of purpose while I grew up.


I didn’t deal with the loss of my mother until I saw “Brian’s Song” in 1971.  Watching that movie, about Brian Piccolo and his great friend Gayle Sayers, the floodgates opened up.  I did not cry when my mother died, I was shut down emotionally.  Years later, I cried.  What a release.  I mourned her loss for the first time.  The lesson: deal with the feelings when it is happening.  The more painful the feelings are the more important it is.  Talk about it.  That is what happened in “The Fault in our Stars”.  It did not happen in my life and I paid for it for years.

Miscellany for February 17, 2014

Carol and I watched Amazing Grace last night.  It is one of the best movies I have seen in some time.  It is about William Wilberforce, who campaigned against slavery in the English Parliament for many years in the late 18th century.  A fine period piece, something the Brits do well.

I have trouble with a lot of Hollywood movies these days.  They seem to aim at a mass audience with little respect for the intelligence of the viewer.   The result can be a fun two hours, but I tend to forget them in about two days.

We do watch television, but not the usual fare with the exception of Downton Abbey, which is now popular here.  We watch both Sherlock Holmes series; Sherlock, from the Brits, and Elementary, set in New York.  Both are fun to watch, and have different takes on the original.

There are two mystery series we enjoy, also from the UK, and set in Oxford.  Inspector Morse, set in the early 1990s, and Inspector Lewis, set in the present.  Both are engaging, with fine views of medieval Oxford University.  Both shows depict Oxford academia as somewhat medieval as well.

Morse is an intellectual policeman who did not quite graduate from Oxford, while Lewis is a working class Geordie from Newcastle.  The contrast makes for good character development.  In the older series, Lewis is Chief Inspector Morse’s sergeant in the Morse series. In the Lewis series, Lewis is the Inspector with intellectual Sergeant Hathaway (Cambridge) as his assistant.

What is so good about the two shows is the connection to Oxford cultural life, green England, rain, interesting characters, and good stories.  A strange quirk is that with Morse, almost all the murderers are women.  What is that about?

Some books to mention are the Chet and Bernie mysteries by Spencer Quinn.  Bernie is the detective; Chet is the dog, who tells the stories from his perspective.  Good mysteries and Chet is quite the dog.  Chet is funny, and you will find yourself laughing out loud and often.  The same jokes tend to run from one book to the others, and I laugh every time.

Another book I recommend is Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides, a biography of Kit Carson. It is a well-done book about one of the most interesting Americans of the nineteenth century west.  John Carson, a ranger at Bent’s Old Fort and Kit’s great-grandson, does not like the book, so it is probably pretty accurate.  Kit did everything, went everywhere, and was something of a ruthless killer.  Sides tells the bad of old Kit with the good.