“Lizzie Borden Took An Ax”

Lizzie Borden had an axe
She gave her mother 40 whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father 41

Well, not exactly. In total, Lizzie Borden’s father and stepmother, Andrew and Abby Borden, were struck a combined thirty times. The double murder took place on August 4, 1892, in the Borden’s home, in Fall River, Massachusetts. Andrew was found on the couch in the sitting room, and Abby’s body was discovered on the floor of the upstairs master bedroom. According to the historical records of the coroner, each of the Bordens was dead after being struck with the first blow. The rhyme, while morbidly catchy, is also, historically inaccurate when it comes to the murder weapon. The Bordens, were killed with a hatchet, not an axe. Lizzie and the housekeeper were the only people present when the bodies were discovered. That, and the fact that she had a poor relationship with her stepmother, was what led the authorities, shortly after the murders, to make her the prime suspect. The trial which followed, due to the gruesome nature of the crimes that had been committed, attracted national attention.

The television movie “Lizzie Borden Took An Ax” premiered on Lifetime Movie Channel on January 25, 2014. The ninety-one minute film was directed by Nick Gomez, who has primarily worked in television and cable on shows such as “Dexter” and “True Blood,” among many other series. Stephen Kay (General Hospital) wrote the screenplay, which contains a number of omitted historical facts, which is fine. The movie is meant to be viewed as a guilty pleasure, and not a period piece that has to strictly adhere to historical accuracy. Comprised of the genres of crime, drama, mystery and thriller, the movie also features a modern soundtrack.

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Christina Ricci (Sleepy Hollow) portrays Sunday school teacher, turned infamous alleged killer, Lizzie Borden. Ricci presents her character to the viewer as a manipulative and calculating person who likes getting her way. Her polite mannerisms, doe eyed looks, and smiles, mask the vile veneer of her true nature. Andrew Borden (Stephen McHattie) is a wealthy, but frugal man, who makes his family eat stew that has already gone bad, rather than spend the money on fresh food. The film hints that his frugality might not be the worst of his character traits, suggesting that a relationship of incest might have existed between Andrew and Lizzie. Playing Emma Borden is Clea Du Vall (Argo), Lizzie’s older sister, who remains fiercely loyal to her sibling, but at the same time, is conflicted as to her thoughts regarding what truly happened to her father and Abby (Sara Botsford). Billy Campbell (The Killing) takes the role of Andrew Jennings, Lizzie’s lawyer, who is steadfast in his belief that it is inconceivable that a woman could have committed the brutal murders. Prolific character actor Gregg Henry (The Following), who does an excellent job portraying the prosecuting attorney Hosea Knowlton, of course, holds the opposite view. (As an aside, Lizzie Borden had more than just Andrew Jennings representing her at trial. In fact, the lead defense attorney, was the former Governor of Massachusetts, George Robinson, who as it turned out, had appointed to the bench, Justice Justin Dewey, one of the three men who sat in judgment on Lizzie’s case.)


After her parents’ funeral Lizzie is questioned by the prosecuting attorney. At one point, he asks her to bring him a dress that she wore on the day of the murder. The dress is of particular importance, because the original investigating officer, Marshall Hilliard (Shawn Doyle), noticed a small spot on the bottom of the dress that might or might not have been blood. Agreeing to bring the dress in question, she goes outside in the middle of the night, and burns it in the backyard of the house. Afterwards, Lizzie is subsequently placed under arrest, and detained in a women’s prison until her trial. (As an aside, again, as with her legal representation, among numerous other aspects of the case, the dress was actually burned inside the Borden home in the kitchen stove, and Lizzie was not wearing it when the police arrived, she had already changed her clothing.)

The second half of the film primarily concerns itself with Lizzie’s trial and the aftermath. Even though I knew that the jury would find Lizzie not guilty, which I don’t think is a spoiler to anyone who is reading this, I was still entertained. I liked certain stylistic choices Gomez utilized in presenting the story to the viewer, both the murders of the Bordens, which were shown via flashback, and the trial itself. The real Lizzie Borden, even though becoming a wealthy woman after she and Emma inherited their father’s estate, opted to spend the remainder of her life in Fall River. The sisters purchased a new home, where they lived together for twelve years before they had a falling out, for reasons that have never been made known.


Was Lizzie Borden guilty of murder? If she was, why did she commit the crime? Did she want her father’s money, afraid that if he died, his estate would go to Abby? Why did she opt to stay in her home town, where many of the residents held the view that she had gotten away with murder? What was the reason she and Emma had a falling out and never spoke again? Did Emma perhaps learn the truth of what really took place, as the movie speculates she did. The film does not provide the answers to any of those questions, but does give the viewer some entertaining scenarios as to what might have happened.



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“The Imposter”

On June 13, 1994, thirteen year old Nicolas Barclay was handed a few dollars by his mother, Beverly, to buy dinner for himself later that evening. Afterwards, he left his San Antonio, Texas home to go play basketball with his friends. Several hours later, Nicholas called his house asking for a ride. His older brother Jason answered, but refused to wake their mother, who worked nights, and was getting a couple hours of sleep before her shift began. Jason told Nicholas, who was a few miles away from home, that he would have to walk. That was the last time any of his family members heard from him, until three years and four months after his disappearance, or was it?

On the rainy evening of October 7, 1997, in Linares, Spain, the police receive a phone call from a man who claims to be a tourist. He tells the officer on the phone, that he and his wife, have come across someone who appears to be a teenager. The teen is very scared, and has no identification. A few minutes later, the police arrive, and after some coaxing, they get the teen out of the phone booth he is sitting in. He acts frightened, but eventually, agrees to go with the responding officer. The teenager is in actuality Frédéric Bourdin, a twenty-three year old man, a manipulator and con-artist of French-Algerian descent.

Those two incidents set up the remainder of the compelling and fascinating documentary “The Imposter.” The critically acclaimed film premiered on January 23, 2012 at the Sundance Film Festival, where it would be nominated for the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema – Documentary. The director, Bart Layton, would go on to win the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. The ninety-nine minute film is told through a series of interviews, dramatic re-enactments, and home video footage, which slowly pieces everything together for the viewer.

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The real life Bourdin, who speaks throughout the documentary, admits at the start, that he always wanted to be someone else, someone who was accepted. He knew he had to convince the police that they were dealing with a teenager, and not a man his age. Once he is at the police station, they begin asking him routine questions: What is his name? Where does he live? Frédéric purposely doesn’t speak much, because he knows that by not answering, he will be taken to a children’s home, which is exactly what he wants.

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The people at the home treat him in a manner which makes him feel accepted. They let Bourdin know, however, that if he doesn’t identify himself, that they are going to have no choice, but to fingerprint him, as well as take his picture. Fearing prison, he concocts a plan. He tells the social workers that he is an American teenager who ran away from home, and was subsequently abducted. He informs the staff that he is willing to contact his family, but he wants to be the one to do it. Because of the time difference between America and Spain, he asks to be left alone in the records office overnight. Unbelievably, the workers at the home, comply with his request, giving Bourdin access to all sorts of information, that he can use to further aide in his fabrication.

He begins by making a series of phone calls to major metropolitan police stations in America. He feels confident that on the phone, he can convince anyone of anything he wants to. He informs whoever he speaks to, at the various stations, that he has an American kid who has been missing for a few years, but that he doesn’t know who the teen is. The response he receives, is that sadly, because there are such a large number of missing children, they can’t help him without more specific information. One of the people he speaks to at one of the stations gives him the phone number for the Center For Missing and Exploited Children, in Arlington, Virginia. He places a call to the center, repeating the same story. Out of all the missing children, you may be asking yourself, how did he come across the name Nicholas Barclay? The woman on the phone at the center, actually gave it to him. Furthermore, she sends him a fax of a black and white photo of Nicholas. After receiving the fax, Bourdin calls the woman back, and tells her that it is indeed Nicholas, who has been found.

Beverly receives a phone call indicating that her son has been located in Spain. She calls Nicholas’s sister, Carey, who is ecstatic about the news. Carey, in turn, places a phone call to the children’s home. Little does she know she is talking to Bourdin, who pretends to be in a room with Nicholas. He lets her know in a reassuring manner, that her brother is safe now, but that he doesn’t remember much. Apparently, he had been abducted, and suffered abuse at the hands of his kidnappers, who were part of a sex slave ring. Carey thinks she is letting Nicholas, who has refused to come to the phone, know that she loves him and that she is coming to get him. All Bourdin did was hold out the receiver to the empty room. On October, 14th, she will board a plane for Spain.

Entering the documentary is FBI Special Agent Nancy B. Fisher. She informs Carey, that once Nicholas is back on American soil, she will need to conduct an interview with him immediately, to find out exactly what happened. Fisher lets the viewer know, that usually when a child has been missing for such a long length of time, they are most likely dead, or will never be found. Furthermore, she says to find a child in a foreign country, after all that time has passed, is extremely rare. Fisher sends a fax to the United States Embassy in Madrid, Spain, which contains Nicholas’s physical description, which includes three small tattoos, as well as two color photographs. The information is sent to the children’s home. When Bourdin looks at the pictures, he figures the game is up, because he looks absolutely nothing like the missing boy. Nicholas has blonde hair and blue eyes, he is dark haired with brown eyes, and although he speaks English, he speaks it with an accent.

Having already tried to run away, and having been caught a short while later, Bourdin is desperate. He figures when Carey gets there and takes one look at him, that he will be carted off to prison. He does everything he can to make himself look more like the missing Barclay child. He dyes his hair blonde, gets a girl at the children’s home, who does tattoos, to draw the same three Tattoos Nicholas has, onto his body, and tries to dress in clothing more befitting of a teenager.

Incredibly, when Carey arrives, even though she notices differences about her brother, she states emphatically to the authorities that Bourdin is Nicholas. There is still one problem facing Frédéric, the judge in the case, who has to be convinced he is the missing Barclay child, is not convinced. She insists on interviewing Carey and Nicholas separately. Bourdin’s final test, is to identify people in five photographs, he gets the first four correct, and even though he has the wrong answer for the fifth one, by that time, he has already persuaded the judge that he is Nicholas. Little did the judge know, that only a short time prior to the interview, while visiting with Nicholas, Carey had shown him all of the same pictures, and had identified the people in each of them. After the interview is concluded, Bourdin has a passport photo taken, and is documented as an American citizen. The next day, he and Carey fly to Texas. The combination of Special Agent Fisher’s strong suspicions that something is not right, and the actions she takes, combined with the questions being asked, and investigation conducted, by a private investigator, Charlie Parker, make this already interesting documentary, even more captivating. (As an aside, Bourdin is the only person in American history to have assumed the identity of a missing child.)

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A viewer doesn’t need to ask how Bourdin got away with his crime. He offers up every detail of how he managed to keep his deception going for as long as he could. Some questions that a viewer might have at the conclusion of the film, are as follows: Why might Nicholas’s family be so eager to accept a person into their home, who obviously wasn’t their son and sibling? Had the grief of Nicholas’s disappearance caused them such an overwhelming amount of anguish, that no matter who Carey met in Spain, she would have said it was her brother? Do some of the family members perhaps have ulterior motives for being so accepting of the stranger? If so, why, and what are they? While the documentary was both interesting and entertaining, the sad truth is, that Nicholas Barclay, alive or dead, has twenty years later, never been found. I hope for the sake of those who truly love him, that one day, the truth of what happened to him is discovered, and closure is granted.
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Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon – To Catch a Thief (1955) – RobbinsRealm


I would very much like to thank, Rob of Movierob and Zoe of The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger, for hosting an awesome, Alfred Hitchcock Blogothon. If you’re not already a follower of either of those blogs, you need to immediately change that. Rob offers concise film reviews, which give a reader all of the pertinent information someone could possibly want in determining whether or not a particular film is for them. Zoe’s blog covers not only a diverse array of films, that span past and present, and represent a multitude of genres, but she also covers television series, as well as literature. In addition, if you’re a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, a number of wordpress.com blogger’s participated in the blogothon, covering films that spanned the entire career of the master of suspense, and are well worth taking the time to read.

Originally posted on :


For our 42nd review of the Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon, here’s a review of To Catch a Thief written by Jonathan of RobbinsRealm. If you don’t already follow his site, I strongly suggest that you go there to find some great movie reviews.

Thanks for joining in Jonathan!

to catch a thief

“Grant and Kelly Star in Hitchcock’s Gem – To Catch a Thief”

Jewels stolen in multiple burglaries during the night, women screaming when they wake in the morning to the realization that they have been robbed, and a black cat making its way across different rooftops. Those are the scenes which serve as the catalyst for director Alfred Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief.” The entertaining, well paced, witty and stylish film, premiered on August 3, 1955, in Los Angeles, California. The movie was not only another entry into Hitchcock’s illustrious body of work, but marked the return of two time Oscar nominated…

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“Robin Williams Inspirational In Dead Poets Society”

On Monday, August 11, 2014, shortly before noon, comedian and actor, Robin Williams, was found by EMT’s – unconscious and not breathing – at his home in Tiburon, California. Several minutes later, the sixty-three year old, who had imparted so much joy to the world over the years, was pronounced dead. According to the Marin County Sheriff’s Department, he had tragically ended his own life by suicide from asphyxia. A short time later, William’s publicist, Mara Buxbaum, stated that the performer had been battling severe depression.

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Robin McLaurin Williams was born on July 21, 1951 in Chicago Illinois, and raised in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, before moving with his family to San Francisco when he was sixteen. There are many different career paths Williams could’ve chosen. For instance, he could have decided to enter politics like his great grandfather, Anselm J. McLaurin, who was both a former Governor of, as well as United States Senator from, the State of Mississippi. Williams did briefly entertain the thought of making politics his life’s work. He studied political science at Claremont Men’s College, but in the end, thankfully, entertaining the masses had a more magnetic pull on him, so he enrolled in the College of Marin to study theater. A short while later, he won a scholarship to attend Julliard in New York City.

While at Julliard, Williams studied under, Academy Award and Golden Globe winning actor, John Houseman (Three Days of the Condor). The veteran actor informed Williams that he was wasting his time, and should immediately set out to make a name for himself in stand-up comedy. Before graduating, Williams left Julliard and moved back home to San Francisco, where he worked a series of dead end jobs, while waiting for his big break.

After performing in various nightclubs, such as “The Improv” and “The Comedy Store,” he eventually got to audition for producer, Garry Marshall (Laverne & Shirley). Marshall hired him for a guest appearance on the television show “Happy Days,” as the character of ‘Mork from Ork, in the 1978 episode “My Favorite Orkan.” The popularity of the character, an eccentric alien, who travels to earth to study both the planet and human beings, led Williams to co-star with Pam Dawber (My Sister Sam), in the show “Mork & Mindy,” which ran on ABC television from 1978-1982. (As an aside, in addition to “Happy Days,” and “Mork & Mindy,” Williams played the character of Mork in the pilot episode of the short lived television show “Out of the Blue.”)

Robin Williams in 1978

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According to IMDB, Williams compiled one hundred and four acting credits during the course of his career, garnering four Academy Award nominations, and one Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for “Good Will Hunting.” In addition, he won the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2005 Golden Globes. Prior to that, he had won an impressive five Golden Globes: for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion -Picture Comedy / Musical for “Mrs. Doubtfire;” a special Award for the vocal work he did as the Genie in the animated Disney film “Aladdin;” Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy / Musical for “The Fisher King;” Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy / Musical for “Good Morning, Vietnam,” and Best TV Actor – Musical / Comedy for Mork & Mindy (1980). Williams was also the recipient of two Primetime Emmys in 1987 for “Carol, Carl, Whoopi and Robin,” and in 1988 for “ABC Presents: A Royal Gala.”

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“Dead Poets Society,” one of my favorite films starring Robin Williams, was directed by BAFTA winner, Peter Weir (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World). The film was written by Tom Schulman, who would win the Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. Originally premiering in Canada on June 2, 1989, the film was a box office success; budgeted for well under twenty million dollars, it would go on to earn close to one-hundred million. The movie which is 128 minutes in length, won two BAFTA’S for Best Film and Best Original Score.

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The year 1959. The setting, Vermont. It is the start of a new school year at the exclusive, Welton Academy, a male preparatory school. A small group of students enter an assembly hall, carrying banners that extol the four pillars of the school – tradition, honor, discipline and excellence – words which the entire student body will stand in unison and recite a moment later. Amongst the faculty, most of whom come off as very stern and serious, there is one teacher that seems out of place.

Intelligent, quick witted, English teacher, John Keating (Williams) has passion when it comes to poetry, but he has an even greater love for life. He believes in seizing the day, something which he often entertainingly imparts to his students, most of whom are enthralled with his teaching methods. In fact, he starts his very first class, by having the students leave the room and follow him out into the hallway. “O Captain! My Captain!” Keating says aloud, and then asks the students if any of them knows where that line comes from? None of them answer, so Keating informs them that it is a poem by Walt Whitman about President Abraham Lincoln. He lets his students know, that in his class, they can call him Mr. Keating, or if they are more daring, O Captain! My captain!


While out in the hallway, where photos of previous graduating classes are located, Keating asks his students to look at the pictures. He wants them to see how the men in the photos are not that much different than themselves. He wants his students to realize that just like them, those young men thought they were invincible. They were boys, who at the time had their whole lives ahead of them to make a difference in the world, but that sadly, each and every one of them, is now six feet under. Keating asks his class: Did those former students achieve what they wanted to in life? Will they, his current students, live by the Latin adage ‘Carpe Diem,’ and seize the day, or as one of Keating’s favorite poets, Henry David Thoreau writes in regard to most men, “will they lead lives of quiet desperation.”

The film mainly focuses on four key students, who take Mr. Keating’s lessons to heart. Robert Sean Leonard (House M.D.) portrays Neil Perry. He is an overachiever, who secretly yearns to be an actor, but whose father, played by Kurtwood Smith (That ’70s Show), wants to hear none of it. Mr. Perry has a single minded purpose for Neil, which includes his son graduating from Welton, going to Harvard, and becoming a doctor. After Neil earns his medical degree, he can do whatever he wishes with his time, but as he lets Neil know, he has made far too many sacrifices for his son to fall short of achieving the goal; besides, he reminds Neil how much the young man’s becoming a doctor means to the boy’s mother. In the role of Todd Anderson is three time Oscar nominee, Ethan Hawke (Training Day). He is a new student to Welton, and his character is that of an introvert, at least at the start. There is the romantic, Knox Overstreet, played by Emmy nominated actor, Josh Charles (The Good Wife), who falls in love at first sight with Alexandra Power’s character of Chris, who is the girlfriend of the school jock. Lastly, Gale Hansen’s (The Finest Hour) Charlie Dalton is the troublemaker of the class.

After the first class, Keating has most definitely peaked his students’ curiosity. Knowing that he is an alumnus of the school, they find his class yearbook. After having a chuckle at his picture, their curiosity is further piqued by something that is written under his photo. It is about him being a member of a club known as ‘The Dead Poets Society.’ When the students confront Keating about the club, he lets them know that the ‘Dead Poets’ were dedicated to sucking the marrow out of life. The group would meet at an old Indian cave, located on the school grounds, and take turns reading poets such as Thoreau, Shelly and Whitman. The members of the club considered themselves romantics, and they didn’t just read poetry, they breathed a passion into the words they recited. Part of what Williams’ character tries to teach his students, is that they have to break free from conformity and what is expected of them, in order to embrace their inner passion. In essence, they must find their inner voice, so it will let each one of them know what will make their individual lives worth living. He stresses that maintaining one’s own beliefs is not easy, but they must each trust in themselves that they are making the right choices. It doesn’t matter if what they want to do is unpopular, or viewed as odd, just because it defies everything that the rigidness of conformity represents.


A book is left on Neil’s desk called “Five Centuries of Verse.” When Neil opens the book, he sees Mr. Keating’s name in the top right hand corner; underneath is a hand written message that reads: To Be Read At The Opening of DPS Meetings. The traditional message that opens all club meetings is a message from Thoreau. That night, under the cover of darkness, a select group of students sneak off through the woods to the cave. While there, they take turns reading and telling stories. Unfortunately, one of the members of the newly formed ‘Dead Poets’ puts an article about their activities in the school newspaper. The article, coupled with the tragic suicide of one of Welton’s most promising students, has the administration in an uproar. In order to get to the bottom of things, the powers that be, are not above, not only using threats, but the vile method of corporal punishment that was both permitted and quite acceptable during the time period in which the film takes place.

What will happen to the members of the ‘Dead Poets Society,’ now that one of their own is dead? Will Mr. Keating ultimately be held responsible for the young man’s death? Do his teaching methods conflict too much with the way things have always been done at Welton? Does he get fired because of it? I know the movie is far from new, and a great many of you out there who are reading this already know the answers to those questions. For the benefit of those, who have yet to discover this gem of Robin Williams’ career, I will refrain from providing the answers to those questions.

The personal information I provided on Robin Williams was meant just to provide some basic background on the extraordinarily talented individual that he was. Had I discussed, at length, any number of the other worthy films he performed in, his work on behalf of the homeless, comedic stage performances, or mentioned numerous other facts, such as that he spoke French fluently, this blog would have had to have become a series, instead of a single entry. Williams, who was married three times, is survived by a daughter, Zelda and two sons, Zachary and Cody. Additionally, he is survived by his half-brother, Todd Williams. May he rest in peace. In closing, I am including the full Walt Whitman poem “O Captain! My Captain!” as a tribute to this very talented genius, at this very sad time.

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up–for you the flag is flung–for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths–for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.



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“Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the 86 Mets”

“I always thought about writing a book for a long time, but the question was what I wanted my book to be…I didn’t want it to be a baseball play-by-play. I wanted the book to have some meaning, a purpose, a direction for people to be inspired and entertained. I wanted them to leave with some insight. That’s what I wanted my life to be, and I wanted my life to come across through the book.” 

Mookie Wilson

I was young, and I do mean very young, when I got to witness the baseball team I cheer for, and more often than not, die hard with, win the 1986 World Series. I know that the 1969 Mets are dubbed the ‘Miracle Mets,’ but that was long before I was born, so to me, I will always consider the ’86 Mets, the team that staged the most improbable of comebacks, the miracle makers. While I have seen the team make it to the World Series one more time, in 2000, I have yet to see them win the whole thing again. Reading books by integral members of the Mets power-house, that dominated the National League by winning 108 games during that epic season, as well as watching old VHS tapes, and newly re-mastered DVD’s, is all I have left, other than my memories.

With that said, I recently sat down to read “Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the ’86 Mets,” the two-hundred and eighty-eight page book, which was released by Berkley Publishing in hardcover on April 29, 2014. Co-written with Eric Sherman (Steve Blass: A Pirate for Life), the book is a candid portrayal, which chronicles Wilson’s life from his humble beginnings in South Carolina, his importance in World Series history, his current role as not only a club ambassador for the Mets organization, but also his strong involvement in his church as a minister, and everything in-between. The book also features a brief forward by another fan favorite, Keith Hernandez, who is currently a member of the Mets television broadcasting team.

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Former professional baseball player, Mookie Wilson, will never be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The outfielder was never a batting champion, homerun champion, MVP (Most Valuable Player), and even though he was fleet of foot, he did not become Major League Baseball’s all time stolen base champion, during his tenure in the big leagues – September 2, 1980 to October 6, 1991. What the consummate professional was, however, and continues to be to this day, to New York Mets fans of a certain age, is one of, if not, the most beloved player in franchise history.

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William Hayward Wilson was born on February 9, 1956 in Bamberg, South Carolina. Life was not easy for Wilson as a child growing up as an African American in the racially divided south. His father, James, a hardworking sharecropper, only made twenty-five dollars a week, and had a large family to support on the meager amount of funds. Wilson often had to miss school, in order to help his father and other siblings work the farmland, so there would be food for dinner that evening. In fact, he didn’t play organized baseball until he was in high school. His playing days might have ended right then and there, if not for the intervention of a local judge who thought there was something special about Mookie and his abilities. Eventually, Wilson impressed more than just the judge, when scouts came to watch him play. Initially, he was offered a scholarship to South Carolina State, but ironically the school eliminated its baseball program, prior to his arrival. Not the type of person to easily give up, after a stint at Spartanburg Methodist College, Mookie transferred to the University of South Carolina, becoming the first African American in the school’s history to play on a sports team.

During the amateur draft in 1977, Wilson was drafted by the Mets in the 2nd round. He signed a contract for a little over $20,000 dollars, pocket change for professional ball players by today’s standards. At the time, the Mets were perennial losers, always playing second class citizens to the older and mystique filled New York Yankees organization. Mookie was determined to play hard, no matter how poorly the majority of the team performed, or underperformed for that matter.

“I was accustomed to winning. I had won in every league I’d been in… When you celebrate because you didn’t lose 100 ballgames, that’s not good. Some of the players couldn’t care less about winning. When you get comfortable at losing and there’s no threat to your job, there’s not much incentive. You come to the ballpark, you play nine innings, you lose and you don’t see anybody coming up to remove you from your job. That may be overstating it a little bit, but that’s the way I saw it. Winning was not a priority. They wanted to win, but maybe they didn’t know how.”

The first chapter of the book, deals with the often discussed, Game Six of the ’86 World Series, or more importantly, the 10th inning, when a slow rolling ground ball Mookie hit, after a ten pitch at bat, went through Boston Red Sox’s first baseman Bill Buckner’s legs. Had the ball not made its way past Buckner, the game would have remained tied, and considering the Red Sox had a 3-2 game lead in the series, had they gone on to win in extra innings, they would have been crowned world champions. The chapter is written in an interesting way; Wilson and Sherman don’t bog the reader down with insignificant details. Mookie doesn’t shy away from admitting, that even had Bill Buckner, a man he has since become good friends with, played the ball cleanly, he still would have beat him to first, and Mets third baseman Ray Knight would have scored the winning run. Wilson recounts how Buckner was playing injured, and that in order to make the play he had to play the ball laterally away from the bag. (As an aside, the ball Wilson hit, last sold at auction back in 2012 for $400,000).

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One thing that bother’s Wilson was his firing from the Mets coaching staff following the 2011 season, which was the first for current Mets manager, Terry Collins. Collins, who picked Wilson for his staff, has told Mookie that he had nothing to do with his firing. What bothers Wilson the most is not the fact that he was let go by the organization, but to his way of thinking, he was never given a satisfactory reason as to why. He also is quite clear in his feelings regarding team management, and the fact that he feels they really don’t care about his concerns.

“I feel that I deserve to hear just some words to justify the actions of an organization that I have honored and promoted every day of my nearly thirty-year existence in it…I don’t care about not having a job. If they fire me because they have a better replacement, that’s fine. But when no information is given as to why a move is made, it’s much worse than getting an explanation I might disagree with. They just dictated my career as a player and a coach and it wasn’t right.”

In addition, to his firing, Wilson speaks on how he felt the Mets were headed in the completely wrong direction at the time, in terms of how the ball club was being constructed.

“I felt like I was watching the deterioration of the Mets organization. They seemed to have no identity. My concern was that the character of the players they were looking for superseded the talent they brought to the table. Character on a team is important, but you’ve got to have the horses to win.”

Wilson also discusses his views on the careers of Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry. He blames Mets management from the 1980s, for the way the two gifted, young superstars were basically given carte blanche to do whatever they wanted, as long as they performed on the field. Their constant imbibing of alcohol and cocaine abuse, which sadly, led to habit forming addictions for both men, Wilson feels, greatly impacted both player’s chances to be first ballot hall of famers. Mookie also feels personal remorse for not being able to help the two young all-stars lead a better lifestyle.

In addition to the topics I have briefly touched upon, the book goes into detail about the marathon Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, that to a man, each member of the Mets knew they had to win. None of them wanted to have to face pitcher Mike Scott of the Houston Astros in a Game 7, because baseball history might have turned out differently if they had. Wilson also speaks about his playing time for the Toronto Blue Jays, as well as his life after baseball; the various jobs he has had, and his pursuit of his degree in divinity. “Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the ’86 Mets,” is a story that can be read by anyone who likes to learn about the lives of well-known professional athletes; and the well written, interesting book is a must read for New York Mets fans, both those fans who watched Wilson during his playing days, and younger fans who are interested in team history.

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“The Conspiracy”

Conspiracy theories are nothing new, but thanks to technological advancements and the ability to use social media to reach countless people, they are more prevalent in society than ever before. The internet, however, is not the only place for individuals to exchange theories, photographs, evidence and seek out information. Books, magazines, and television shows, such as “Unsealed Conspiracy Files” which can be found on Netflix instant streaming, also add fuel to the conspiratorial fervor. While I do find some of them interesting, by and large, I tend to disbelieve the great majority of conspiracy theories, with the exception of the JFK assassination. I have read a number of articles and books, as well as watched numerous television specials and documentaries on the subject. That is the one conspiracy that I admit I am fascinated by. I sat down recently to watch the movie “The Conspiracy” on Netflix, and while it didn’t have anything to do with the assassination of President Kennedy, it most certainly held my interest.

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Written and directed by Christopher MacBride (Sleep Lab), “The Conspiracy” originally premiered on September 21, 2012 at the “Austin Fantastic Fest.” Two documentary filmmakers, Aaron (Aaron Poole) and Jim (James Gilbert), set out to make a movie, not about a particular conspiracy theory, but about a man, Terrance (Alan C. Peterson), who makes it his life’s work to expose the validity of the conspiracies. He is someone who takes to the street with a megaphone and spouts off his beliefs in the direction of office buildings and to pedestrians passing by. The walls of his apartment are covered with literally hundreds of newspaper clippings, anything that he deems of a suspicious nature that is being done, especially by the government. He also frequents internet chat rooms where he interacts with like minded individuals.

The filmmakers lucked onto Terrance thanks to someone who sent them a video of him. What mainly interested Aaron and Jim, was not so much what Terrance was saying, but all of the comments of support he received from people who were agreeing with him. After several recording sessions with Terrance, the filmmakers don’t hear from him for a month. Finally, they go to his apartment, but according to the landlady she hasn’t seen him. Aaron and Jim bag up his newspaper clippings before they leave.

Aaron sets about picking up where Terrance left off. He wants to know what the man was working on. Jim, on the other hand, is skeptical and now that their subject is no longer available for filming, wants to abandon the project. The confliction in Jim is evident: Part of him feels that people like Terrance waste their lives chasing down endless leads about secret organizations vying for global domination. He also states, however, that if people like Terrance are correct, and a select few individuals are really in charge of everything, then they have always been in control and they always will be.

Eventually, through a tireless effort on Aaron’s part, he comes across what he thinks to be a pattern in Terrance’s work. A series of dates, that all take place the day before important historical events occur. After punching the dates into the computer, Aaron comes across an article written by Mark Tucker (Bruce Clayton), about an organization called the Tarsus Club. The dates, in and of themselves, were interesting to him, but when he learns that the Tarsus Club has met on those dates, he becomes even more convinced that there is some sort of conspiracy that involves the club, whose members are among the wealthiest and most politically prominent.

Jim agrees to help Aaron look into Tarsus. They post things on-line, asking people to contact them with any and all information they have on the organization, but all they come up with are dead ends. The only piece that has been written on the club was the one by Marc Tucker, who is seemingly nowhere to be found; that is, until one day, when he contacts the filmmakers. He agrees to speak to them, as long as his face is blurred out, and provided they take down everything they have posted pertaining to Tarsus.

I liked how MacBride incorporated real news footage, as well as speeches by politicians, which helped to give the film a more authentic feel. According to an interview I read, that the director gave, his work on researching the various conspiracy theories took him longer to do than the actual writing of the script. I thought it was clever on MacBride’s part to synthesize a number of other conspiracy theories pertaining to secret, powerful organizations, whose membership is comprised of the most elite members of society, and creating his own faux club for the film.

What information does Marc Tucker give to Aaron and Jim? Is it substantial enough that they will want to continue investigating the Tarsus Club? Will they discover the truth behind the club’s real purpose for existence? What will happen to them if they do? Those questions and more will be answered if you take the less than ninety minutes it requires to watch this interesting and effectively done film.

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“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Quirky characters, vibrant colors, an intricate prison escape and quick witted dialogue, are several of the things that are featured in the film “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” The movie premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival on February 6, 2014. The one hundred minute film was directed by three time Oscar nominee, Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums). Inspired by the writing of Stefan Zweig (Letter from an Unknown Woman), Anderson wrote the screenplay for the comedy based on a story he co-wrote with Hugo Guinness (Fantastic Mr. Fox).

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The highly entertaining film begins with a series of flashbacks, initially narrated by Golden Globe winner, Tom Wilkinson (John Adams). The older Wilkinson reflects back on his younger self, who is played by Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes). Law’s character is spending some time in a sparsely populated hotel known as The Grand Budapest. He speaks to the fact that most of the guests who are there, primarily keep to themselves. One day, he spots a man who he has not seen before. He asks the concierge of the hotel, M. Jean (Jason Schwartzman) who the man is. The person turns out to be Mr. Zero Moustafa, former hotel lobby boy, and current owner of the hotel, which is located in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka. He is portrayed by Academy Award and Golden Globe winning actor. F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus). A short time later, the two men have a chance encounter. Law’s character asks Mr. Moustafa how he came to own the hotel, a story which Zero tells him, he will relay to him in full, over dinner. (As an aside, the name Zubrowka was taken from a Polish vodka).

After the two men sit down to dinner, Zero begins telling his story. The younger version of Zero (Tony Revolori) begins life as a lobby boy at the opulent hotel. At first, he goes unnoticed by the legendary concierge, M. Gustave H., played by BAFTA winning actor, Ralph Fiennes (Schindler’s List). Gustave is a poetry quoting, fastidious, gregarious individual, who never forgets a face, and it would seem, he is one of the main reasons people came to stay at the hotel. Once Gustave discovers Zero, he takes him under his wing, and begins to tutor him in what goes into becoming an effective lobby boy. What starts out as a professional relationship, will soon turn into a deep and abiding friendship. (As an aside, Wes Anderson originally wanted Johnny Depp (Donnie Brasco) to play the role of Gustave.)

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Gustave, according to Zero, can be smelled prior to entering a room, and long after he has left; this is due to his dousing himself in a perfume called ‘L’Air de Panache.’ Additionally, he has romantic dalliances with the older, blonde haired, wealthy female clientele of the hotel. One woman in particular, the eighty-four year old, Madame D., acted by Oscar winner, Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton), is almost unrecognizable, due to very effective makeup. She has a deep affection and love for Gustave. Her subsequent murder, shortly after she leaves the hotel, will be the catalyst that sets in motion the events that transpire during the remainder of the movie.

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At the reading of Madame D’s will, the character of Deputy Kovacs, portrayed by Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park), informs the assemblage that Gustave has been bequeathed a valuable painting known as ‘Boy with Apple.’ This does not sit well with Madame D’s greedy, foul mouthed son, Dmitri, played by Oscar winner, Adrien Brody (The Pianist), nor his sinister henchman, Willem Dafoe’s character, Jopling, who has some scary looking teeth.

Gustave is framed for the murder of Madame D. and sent to jail. This is thanks to Dmitri producing a witness, Serge X (Mathieu Amalric), who claims Gustave was the last person who was with Madame D. before she was murdered. It is now up to Zero to assist him from the outside, not only with clearing his name, but in a daring prison escape, orchestrated by Harvey Keitel’s (Reservoir Dogs) character, Ludwig, and the inmates who share his cell. Zero, who has fallen in love, since becoming a member of the hotel staff, gets the assistance of his fiancée, Agatha. Portrayed by Saoirse Ronan (Hanna), her character is an exceptionally talented baker, who has a birthmark on her face, which, as is pointed out to the viewer, is in the shape of the country of Mexico. Working for Mendl’s bakery, she places digging tools inside of pastries, which are then sent to Gustave at the prison. The film, from that moment forward, becomes a wild ride, as Gustave with Zero’s help, attempts to clear his name. To write more about the specific details of the plot, I feel, would spoil the enjoyment for those of you who have not yet seen the film.

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The movie is visually stunning, thanks to the cinematography of Robert D. Yeoman (Bridesmaids). The score by Alexandre Desplat (Argo), also deserves mention, as it helps to effortlessly compliment the action on the screen. Traversing three different time periods, the film utilizes a very large cast, several of whom I haven’t even mentioned in this blog. One of those actors is Bill Murray (Moonrise Kingdom), who has a limited amount of screen time, as M. Ivan, Gustave’s fellow concierge and friend. This is the seventh time that he and Wes Anderson have collaborated on a film together. Overall, it is a very enjoyable movie that should appeal to a wide audience.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel - 64th Berlin Film Festival

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