In Tune with June!

It’s very unusual for me to be laughing out loud in a movie theater and I credit it not only to the amazing Meryl Streep but also to an actor, comedian, and musician known for his role as Howard Wolowitz on “The Big Bang Theory,” a smash hit sitcom. Does that ring a bell? He’s a megastar to millennials but in the film “Florence Foster Jenkins” he plays Cosmé McMoon, the accompanist to a music-loving socialite (Ms. Streep). It was a happy meeting. “I just think he fell from heaven.” As a loyal pianist he accompanies Florence in her happy musical massacres. In the comedy-drama film Simon Helberg plays McMoon as a walking, giggling, exclamation mark, a cartoon made fresh. With his fabulously expressive face wobbling atop a skinny frame he’s a virtuoso scene stealer. “Florence” is an ethical triangle as well as easy entertainment. Meryl Streep, considered the best actress of her generation, nominated for an Academy Award an astonishing nineteen times and winning it three times, plays the opera singer known for her painful lack of singing skills. The voice she hears in her head is beautiful but to everyone else it is quite excruciating. It’s gloriously, spectacularly, irredeemably out of tune. We laugh at her yet we like her. As Florence’s husband, Hugh Grant has finally found his ideal role playing an anxious and adoring love for his wife. So there’s a touching love story as well as a message about the human spirit. By the way, Simon Helberg can really play the piano including Chopin, Mozart and jazz. And here’s an amazing fact: Meryl Streep has had only one husband plus four children, unheard-of in the world of Hollywood. Their marriage is markedly stable.

A couple of years ago when I was looking for a program to watch on television I came across a film portraying several days in the life of the Beatles. I enjoyed the antics of the four and was encouraged to read Philip Norman’s biography of the mega-celebrities. The question is: is it possible to get too much of the Beatles? My answer is: Nah! So now there is Ron Howard’s new documentary “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years.” If you were not yet born when John, Paul, George, and Ringo took the world by storm you might enjoy this simply to see a study of full force fame. It was insane making women scream and faint (although now that I think of it, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley did too). This documentary concentrates on the years through August 1966 when the Beatles stopped touring after a run that left thousands of screaming fans with sore throats. Ron Howard has some rarely seen or heard material in his film. Even though we are drowning in Beatlemania a mysterious question remains – how they did what they did. Of the four, I easily admit that my favorite was the cute one – Paul McCartney. His is a magnitude of melodic gifts plus a genius for melody with a broader musical gift of composition. McCartney has these gifts in absurd abundance. Before he was twenty he had written three standard songs: “I’ll Follow the Sun,” “When I’m Sixty-four,” and “Michelle.” Years ago one critic said, “Paul McCartney is by far the most interesting of the Beatles and certainly the musical genius of the group.” McCartney has been famous since 1963. Now, at 73, he’s handled the madness of such fame about as well as anyone has. Among today’s musicians, and anyone who knows him, he has the reputation of being an unusually decent man. Ron Howard’s documentary is hard to watch without smiling.

“Alicia Keyes roils social media.” That’s what the New York Times said. What did the 35-year-old pop star do to get that headline? The answer is very simple: she appeared in a no-make-up mode several times. Frankly the multi-talented gal can easily still look beautiful without makeup. As I watched her on television I didn’t really care if the actress, pianist, record producer, singer and songwriter was in the no-make-up mode or not. She not only looked fine but sounded fine also. Throughout her career she has won numerous awards and has sold over 3 million albums and 30 million singles world-wide. She even won a place on a “100 Sexiest Artists” list. Keyes has said that she is comfortable with her bi-racial heritage: her father is African-American and her mother is of Italian, Scottish, and Irish descent. As a result Keyes feels able to “relate to different cultures.” Throughout her childhood the talented gal was sent to music and dance classes, studied classical piano from age seven, playing composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin. She began writing songs at the age of fourteen. Her level of musicianship includes the ability not only to be part of hip-hop but also to go way beyond that. She collaborated with Christina Aguilera for her album ”Stripped” on a song titled “Impossible” which Keyes wrote, co-produced, and provided background vocals. The gal’s musical career covers R&B, soul, jazz, and hip-hop using her voice and several of the instruments she plays. They include piano, cello, synthesizer, guitar, and drums. In her latest, she wrote the theme song for “Queen of Katwe.” When she went without makeup or styling she felt liberated. What she’s trying to do is raise pop-consciousness talking about female authenticity. Bobbi Brown, the makeup artist turned cosmetic mogul who built a company, said “Personally I like to have a little concealer.” Me, too!

All I need to start my day is a good cup of strong, black coffee and a good TV news program analyzing what happened while I was sleeping. It’s not the usual station where I found myself constantly bombarded and upset by the local happenings. I’m referring to, unfortunately, all the crime stories in our area. That’s what made me turn to MSNBC. It seems that much fierce debate and intelligent conversation happens about the political and cultural zeitgeist earlier in the day. Named “Morning Joe,” the prime-time program is hosted by former Florida congressman Joe Scarborough. Perhaps he was selected because he appears to put his country before his party. He works hard and succeeds in monitoring the top news with an in-depth analysis of the day’s biggest stories. Fortunately for the viewer he had the good sense to pick as his co-host Mika Brzezinski, the author of three best-selling books in addition to writing a monthly column about career confidence and empowerment. A native of New York City, Brzezinski is the daughter of foreign policy expert and former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. He often appears on the program to give an in-depth analysis of the day’s biggest story. “Morning Joe” seems to attract those who can offer a nuanced and unique look at the political happenings in our country. If you enjoy a rich cup of coffee early in the morning try “Morning Joe.” Called the Firebrands, they speak the truth as they see it. Fierce debate and intelligent conversation never hurt. Perhaps one needs that to start the day.

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