GARDENS of PROBUS: Tom’s garden, unique !

DSC_0684Tom Skinner tends a different garden than most gardeners. They grow flowers and shrubbery, bushes and trees. Tom tends a more spiritual garden, developing hearts, minds and souls.

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Tom is a bachelor, by fate, a widower, who lost his wife not long ago. One way he finds comfort and solace now is through his children and his grandchildren who visit and sit with him in his garden. There he gives them his love and caring to helping them to grow in his very special human garden.

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Anyone would find comfort in Tom’s backyard garden: a place of refuge, of escape, an oasis of calm, peace and tranquillity. Tom’s family finds comfort here too as he nurtures them and supports them there. As well, Tom’s friends enjoy the garden for the same comforting reasons.

Tom has tended to his family garden for the many years, more so over the past couple of years since his wife passed away. He is a gentle man, one of optimism and positive outlook, maybe becoming more that way as the need was thrust upon him by his recent loss. His backyard is a place of escape for his family, a place where his children and his grandchildren come to find comfort by bonding with him and with each other.

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Tom’s other garden is a reality too with its corners of comfort, seating areas where family members sit together blending hearts, souls, sorrow and love in communal comforting.

DSC_0699 DSC_0690With three and four year old grandchildren and very young children of his own, teens, Tom continues to consolidate and nurture the familial bonds as all of the family deald with the grieving. He does this with modesty and humility, gently comforting every family member. They are fortunate to have such a patriarch with such a ‘special green thumb,’ aware of the need to strengthen their family bonds so challenged by the loss of someone so close.

Tom has two backyard gardens: the natural one has flowers, bushes, shrubbery, pines and even live bunnies and the family one which has grieving youngsters looking for reassurance and comfort at his supportive hands.

DSC_0686Almost like the flowers that eventually wilt away, the pain of loss wanes but it never disappears completely, so Tom continues his dedication of time in comforting his family around him. His garden has pockets of respite, of calm, of escape, escape from the trials and tribulations as experienced by all of us in this world. It is a garden that is far more than flowers and greenery; it is a spiritual resurrection, a soul’s resuscitation and it isn’t the garden that brings the comfort, it’s the gardener. His garden soil helps mend broken hearts.

DSC_0702More beautiful gardens cannot be planted; visiting Tom’s is relief, for the heart and the soul.

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REVIEWS...movies: Amercian Hustle

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AMERICAN HUSTLE

Cast:

Irv – Christian Bale

Richard – Bradley Cooper

Syd/Edith- Amy Adams

Carmine Polito- Jeremy Renner

Rosalyn – Jennifer Lawrence

This is not a comedy, rather it is a drama about a life-long hustler who is about to engage in the biggest con of his entire life.

The acting – super, particularly Christian Bale who adds sparkle to the screen every time he appears. He has the pizzazz, the je ne sais quois which real stars possess, that hidden talent with its inherent charisma, its tingle, its twinkle. He lights up the screen everytime he appears. You cannot help but admire this man’s talent. He makes every scene believable and magnetic.

Irv, Bale’s character, has been developing himself as a con artist from his days a child when he would “assist” his father in the window replacement business. You can guess what his role was. He grew, developed into new fields so that finally as an adult he was into art, forgery, bank certificates and financial scams, small time but very successful.

Sydney, Adam’s character, enters Irv’s life and he falls for her, hook line and sinker, even though he is a married man with a stepson whom he loves tremendously. Sydney adapts herself into a British socialite, along with the prerequisite British accent, fashion drapery, and cosmetic makeover. She had no trouble winning over as a fan and supporter based on her looks and sound, but something got lost in the translation. Adams portrayal was erratic in magnetism. At times she attracted, too often she failed to do so. I think she gave her best into the role, but somehow it didn’t seem to be enough. Sad, for in looks alone, she was a 10.

Finally, Bradley Cooper portrays an FBI agent, Richard DiMaso, who is seeking a significant bump in his career. Cooper tries too hard. He really needs to channel some of Bale’s subdued style in order to be more successful in the role he portrays in this movie. His relationship with his immediate superior, Stoddard Thorsen, played by Louis C.K., has many comedic scenes it, especially the ongoing gag about the ice fishing which never saw a clear resolution in my books. I lost the humour in that one even with its outcome. Eventually, Richard creates an immense con scheme which entails Irv conning the mayor of the Bronx, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). There are so many nets being cast on the waters, it becomes a challenge to follow the plot: entrapment of congressman, revelation of political corruption, enlistment of the mob in metropolitan development schemes, marital discord and infidelity, and so much more.

One is hard pressed to keep things straight but doing so is rewarding in of itself, as one feels as if they are a part of the tangled mess. You sympathize with the mayor. You fear the Mafioso, played by Robert De Niro with an ambiguous menacing vs comedic portrayal. He is fun to watch, another talented and consummate actor.

The mayor, Polito, hopes to revitalize his city with the development of a major casino operation but the scam lying behind his hopes begs to differ with the plan. Eveything fails at the story’s end, or does it. Irv comes back with the resolution which places him into a new life with Syd and his stepson while the others from his wife to the mayor all receive their just desserts.

In all, this is a captivating movie with Bales magnificently pulling all the strings and doing it in one direction, his favour. Bales does a masterful job. In the hands of a less capable actor, the movie would have come up as a dud. Bale makes it into a fascinating tour de force.

It won’t work as family entertainment because the plot demands more than sporadic attention.

A worthwhile watch, for sure.

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REVIEWS...movies: Gran Torino

2014-07-19_16h33_54I have always been a fan of Clint Eastwood. Though he is more than just an actor, one should not label him solely as such, nor try to peg him as that is what he does best.

He has been a producer, actor, composer and director over the past number of years and seems to excel at every role. A very talented man. But I have learned that many actors in Hollywood are far from being one dimensional talents. Just when you think they are great actors, watch enough TV talk shows, and you will soon discover these are multi-talented people. They write, they act, they compose and often, they can sing and dance too. Eastwood may not be able to sing and dance but he excels in every other creative area, and amazingly well at that.

In Gran Torino, he plays the role of Walt Kowalski, a recently widowed retired auto worker and troubled veteran of the Korean veteran. He is a grumpy old man, a racist, a bigot and extremely biased in thinking his is the only correct way of thinking in the world. The story begins with two things happening simultaneously: his wife of many decades dies and Hmong (Thai) immigrants move into the house next door.

The story develops along line connected to both events. As a recent widower with an adult son and grandchildren, one story line reveals that his relationship with the new neighbours impacts on his own polarized and aloof relationship with his own family. He has little use for his own son who he sees as a ‘deserter’ to the good American system when he becomes a foreign car salesman while Kowalski has been a Ford auto worker his whole working life. In fact, he helped assemble his pride and joy, sheltered and treasured in his garage behind his house, a mint condition, 1972 Ford Gran Torino.

The young Hmong boy next door tries to steal the car. Gang members try to abuse the young boys sister. Kowalski interacts more and more with the entire multitudinous Hmong family and as he does his own values and views about the world around him begin to evolve.

The climax of the movie depicts Kowalski as a much more caring, intelligent and principled man than we first are led to believe. The sacrifice he makes to end the movie is horrendous and redeeming for the many prejudiced and angry things he did in his life. His wife would have been proud had she seen it; his son and family did see it and are justifiably proud of  him.

Eastwood’s movies often end sadly. This one is no different.

At times, some of the scenes of the movie last longer than they should and occasionally the acting is stilted and jagged. However, the story is based on a universal theme, on values and principles which also are universal and enduring. You cannot help but cheer for Kowalski and admire Eastwood’s portrayal of the character.

A good movie in every sense, plot, theme, story development and even the outcome. Any caring and sensitive person cannot help but find this movie to be entertaining and endearing.

A very watchable movie for the whole family! (Some scenes of violence.)

Watch for my upcoming reviews: REDS 2, American Hustle, and Due Date

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REVIEWS...books: The Confession by John Grisham

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John Grisham’s novels are almost always “solid” reads, invariably dealing with the legal profession in some way: lawyers, judges, and court room drama.

The Confession fits his mould. The story is about a young black man, a recent high school graduate, who has been accused of killing a white cheerleader from the same secondary school. No body has been found. Evidence against him is circumstantial at best, completely untrue at worst. Still, his confession, gotten by dubious means, is used as the chief means for finding him guilty. He is condemned to death and the state of Texas is carries out its death penalty responsibilities with unrelenting earnestness.

Our “criminal” claims his innocence to the very day of his scheduled execution. His lawyer, a bit of a dedicated powder keg, passionate about all his cases, believes his client completely and dedicates himself and his entire legal office to proving the innocence of the accused youth.

The story has a number of third parties clearly connected with the case and devoted to proving the accused’s innocence. The evidence of the young man’s innocence grows as the story unfolds and it becomes a suspenseful race against the clock, the scheduled hour of execution, and against the Texas judicial system, with judges, detectives, prosecutors and even the state governor steadfastly clinging to the believe that capital punishment is completely justifiable and that this youth is guilty.

Grisham writes a good story. His mechanics are flawless. His plot development is suspenseful and crisp. His book  is a fast, exciting read which everyone seems to enjoy and rates highly as seen by its best seller status.

You can’t go wrong with this Grisham novel and you will become an advocate against the use of capital punishment once you finish reading it.

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