The Weekend That Was!

Last weekend my husband and I flew out to Salt Lake City, Utah for our friends’ wedding. Initially, I really didn’t think there’d be much to see or do in Utah since I am one of those New Yorkers, who feel like NYC is the epicenter of the World, so I really wasn’t expecting much but farmland and wide, open spaces in Utah, but we were in for a big surprise.

Our first observation after we collected our rental car and drove to our hotel was that it was a Thursday afternoon and there was zero traffic on the highways, like none. Where was everyone in the middle of the day? At work, perhaps. New Yorkers work too but there is always unjustified traffic to fight and curse at on any given day or night in NYC. Always! We were pleasantly surprised by the lack of traffic in Salt Lake City, we arrived on Thursday and left on Monday, drove everywhere, and not once did we encounter any traffic; and get this? We even visited downtown, Salt Lake City, twice, and both times we effortlessly found parking.

As we drove to our hotel we were struck by the gorgeous mountains that served as the backdrop to the city. We observed “white stuff” on the peak of the mountains and we wondered could that possibly be snow? I mean it is the end of June, the first official day of Summer was upon us that couldn’t possibly be snow; but sure enough, it was.

A few days later we had the opportunity to take a drive up one of those mountains and experience the beauty of Summer snow-capped mountains live and in living color. Oh, what a sight that was! Absolutely picturesque!

Bold Mountain, Utah – Both these pictures were taken on June 22, 2019.

Utah is apparently known for its snow. I later read that Utah has the best snow on Earth because it has the perfect balance of wetness and fluffiness. Who knew?! I also learned that Utah gets an average of 18 snowstorms per year, averaging 551 inches, thus it takes forever and a day for the snow to melt from the peak of the mountains, hence the beautiful snow-capped mountains in June, which may very well last all the way into July. It was indeed a sight to behold!

The only thing I knew about Utah, prior to my visit, was that they were the home of the religious sect called the Mormons and that some (not all) Mormons practiced polygamy, which I find intriguing.

We did a bit of sightseeing tour of the Mormon Temple, which was pretty impressive. The architecture of the Temple was intricate and stunning. The erection of the Salt Lake City Temple began in 1846 and took 40 years to complete. I couldn’t help thinking that these masons and builders were way ahead of their time in the construction of such an architectural masterpiece. The pictures below do not do justice to the beauty of the Temple.

On the Temple property, there were also bold, elaborate sculptures that depicted the story of Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith, the founder, and creator of the Mormon Church, and who it has been said, was anointed by the Apostles Peter, James, and John to carry on the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Mormons, or members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, as they preferred to be called these days are a friendly bunch, who will eagerly give you a tour of their Temple while providing a synopsis of the teachings of their doctrines. I was even gifted with a copy of The Book of Mormon, which I actually plan to read someday.

Greg, my husband, and I quickly learned that when in Utah, one must hike. Utah is known for its’ parks, canyons and its’ epic mountainous trails so when we were invited on a hike, which we were told comprised of an “easy trail” we jumped at the opportunity.

Oh my gosh! The trail was not an “easy” one, it consisted of nothing but uphill climbs, and as fit as I think I am, especially since I have been working out consistently all my life, I quickly realized, only 10 minutes into the hike, that no amount of time spent in the gym could have prepared me for this real mountain hike. I was breathless and damn near dying just a fraction of a mile in.

Since the trail had been described as “easy”, I was expecting some flat paths coupled with climbs, not just uphill, treacherous climbs. I am not ashamed to admit that I quit the 4.8 miles, 4,141 feet ascent to the peak of the mountain, after only going a mile up. As the air got thinner, I found myself out of breath and petrified of falling and hitting my head on one of the rocks. I shamelessly threw in the gauntlet and told my husband to continue without me, and while I waited for him to return, I surveyed the beauty around me, took out my phone and took endless pictures of the Bell Canyon Trail, especially since I would never see this place again, because I know without a shadow of a doubt that I will never embark on an uphill mountain hike ever again in this lifetime.

The lawyer in me wanted to visit the Courthouses downtown, Salt Lake City in order to observe the daily proceedings and to get a sense of the type of cases being heard, but my husband wasn’t having it. He told me in no uncertain terms he wasn’t at all interested in “that stuff” so I had to settle for a visit to the Capitol Building instead, where the legislators and lawmakers conducted their business. We didn’t get to go inside, which of course I wanted to do, but our time was limited, so we settled for a tour of the grounds and some snapshots instead.

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On our second night in Utah, we went to a party on the Park City hip strip. We were late and as we parked the rental, as such we didn’t properly observe the parking instructions because we were too busy trying to get inside and rejoicing at how close a parking spot we found to the party’s venue.

At the end of the party, we returned to our car to find a parking ticket. We hadn’t realized that we should have walked to the end of the block and feed the meter. As we contemplated the expense of the parking ticket, especially since we were used to the astronomical parking violation fines of good ole New York City, we realized that we were being let off with a “warning”. The great city of Park City, Utah, decided not to charge us for our violation but instead waived the fine with a notice that read “Don’t worry this one is on us”. Incredible!!!! Can you believe it?! I think it was that moment that we fell in love with Utah!

Our mini vacay to Utah was one of the best getaways we’ve had. We enjoyed the warmth and friendliness of the people, the overall beauty of the State and how very clean the place was. It was hard to find a stray piece of paper on the ground anywhere.

It was interesting and fun learning the facts and history of Utah, enlighting myself about what made them special and even finding out that Butch Cassidy is a real person from Utah. Did you know that? I didn’t!

Who remembers the classic Paul Newman movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? I thought it was just a fictional portrayal of outlaws and bank robberies. It took visiting Utah to learn that Butch Cassidy was a real-life person born and bred in the great state of Utah, and may even arguably be the most famous Utahn to date. Then again everyone knows of Marie and Donny Osmond, and apparently, they are from Utah too, I didn’t know that. Did you?

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My Oscar Favorites

Anyone else excited about the upcoming Oscars on Sunday evening? No! Only me? 😁 I often listen silently when I hear acquaintances say that they have never seen any or have only seen one or two of the films nominated for the Oscars because invariably by the time the Oscar nominations roll around I have seen every single film nominated and am usually able to predict which films will be nominated for the coveted award as soon as I leave the movie theatre, or even while watching the movie, as was the case when I saw Rami Malek in his stellar portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, the movie about the rise of the British rock band Queen.

I was so blown away by Malek’s performance that before I even left the movie theatre I texted my friend, Carmen, who is a big fan of Queen and told her that not only should Malek be nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his iconic performance at the Oscars this year but that he should also win.

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That’s Malek on the left, during my favorite scene in the movie, and the legendary Mercury on the right.

I had never even heard of the actor Rami Malek before watching Bohemian Rhapsody but I grew intrigued after seeing the film and did a little research. I watched a few YouTube videos of him being interviewed and his general presence is so endearing. What a humble and grateful guy. His humility alone makes me want him to win Best Actor.

Admittedly, the Best Actor race is pretty tough this year. Among them we have the likes of Christian Bale, who did an amazing portrayal of Vice President Dick Cheney in Vice and the always immaculate, absolutely gorgeous Bradley Cooper, who plays an unkempt, washed-up Country singer suffering from alcohol addiction in A Star is Born.

Cooper himself has been nominated for the Best Actor Oscar a total of 4 times (including this year’s nomination) and to date has never won. He is also the first actor to be nominated 3 years in a row, with a nomination in 2013 for Silver Linings Playbook (among my top 5 favorite movies ever), in 2014 for American Hustle and again in 2015 for American Sniper. I wouldn’t be upset if Malek lost to Cooper since Cooper, who is an incredibly brilliant actor, has gone home empty-handed so many times, but my money is on Malek.

The other 2 Best Actor nominees are Willem Dafoe, who was fantastic, I mean really fantastic playing the tormented and troubled painter Vincent Van Gough in At Eternity’s Gate and Viggo Mortensen, whose most famous roles were in The Lord of the Rings and Captain Fantastic (another movie I loved), where he was also nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Lady Gaga has been bestowed with the honor of a nomination for Best Actress for her leading role alongside Cooper for A Star is Born. There is no doubt that there was undeniable chemistry between Gaga and Cooper in the movie, but steamy love scenes and impeccable vocals are not enough for her to take home the coveted Best Actress statue this Sunday. Don’t get me wrong, I love Gaga, she is an incredibly talented musician and she played the hell out of Ally, her character in the movie, but compared to the other ladies she is up against in the Best Actress category I honestly don’t think her role was the best performance.

I would like to see either Glenn Close, who is nominated for her role in The Wife, which I reviewed in a past blog post you can read it here Let’s Go to the Movies! or Olivia Colman, who is nominated for her role as the eccentric Queen Anne, who was the Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1702 to 1714, for her role in The Favourtie.

Both actresses, Close and Colman, gave stellar performances in their respective movies, but if I had to pick just one I would go with Close since I have been a fan since she tormented the duplicitous and unfaithful Michael Douglas back in 1987’s Fatal Attraction. Close was a force to reckon with then and now 30 plus years later she’s still a force to reckon with. She is an accomplished actress, who has been nominated for an Oscar 7 times but still hasn’t taken home the coveted statue. If Lady Gaga gets an Oscar before Glenn Close I would not be pleased.

Glenn Close and Lady Gaga at The 2019 Critics’ Choice Awards, where they both won the Best Actress award. It was a tie.

Olivia Coleman, despite being an accomplished actress herself is pretty new to me. Further research has shown that she’s a British actress that came on the scene in 2000 with her most well-known role being that of the more mature Queen Elizabeth II in Season 3 of the popular Netflix series The Crown.

The other contenders for Best Actress are the newcomer, Yalitza Aparicio for Roma and the very funny and popular Melissa McCarthy. McCarthy has been nominated a few times and has won an Emmy for her role as Molly in the CBS hit sitcom Mike and Molly but this is only her second Oscar nomination, her first being for Supporting Actress back in 2012 for her laugh out loud, hilarious role in Bridesmaids, another one of my faves. McCarthy is nominated this year for her work in Can You Ever Forgive Me? A very gripping tale, the true story of Lee Israel, a reclusive, bestselling novelist who had to resort to illegal activities just to pay her rent when she was no longer able to get published. An excellent biographical film, which I truly enjoyed.

Richard E. Grant, McCarthy’s co-star in Can You Ever Forgive Me, is up for Best Supporting Actor. I like Richard E. Grant from his days of playing Simon in Downton Abby and I thought his performance as a lying yet endearing copycat and imitator in Can You Ever Forgive Me? is worthy of the Oscar nomination he has received, but I would like to see Mahershala Ali win for his role as the pompous, classical pianist Don Shirley in Green Book.

Mahershala Ali, who first came to my attention as Remi in the Netflix series House of Cards, has been on the rise ever since and was the Oscar winner just 2 years ago for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Moonlight. I am hoping he does it again and delivers one of his insightful, very appreciative thank you speeches.

Sam Rockwell, who currently holds the most recently awarded Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, is nominated again this year for his portrayal of George Bush Jr. in the movie Vice. If he wins this year then he would be the second actor in the history of the awards ceremony to win consecutive Oscars for Best Supporting Actor. The only other actor to have done so was Jason Robards, remember him?

The 2 other contenders for Best Supporting Actor is Adam Driver from HBO’s Girls fame, who is nominated for his performance in BlacKkKlansman and Sam Elliot for A Star Is Born.

I am disappointed that Driver’s fellow co-star in BlacKkKlansman, John David Washington, son of Denzel Washington, did not pick up a nomination for his brilliant leading role in the movie. I thought for sure he would have been nominated for lead actor.

For Best Supporting Actress the contenders are Amy Adams, who gave a masterly performance as Lynn Cheney in Vice. I am a huge fan of Adams and was rooting for her the other 6 times she was nominated for an Oscar, especially for her nominations for Doubt and American Hustle but this year I am going with my girl, Regina King, for her candid Mama Bear performance in If Beale Street Could Talk. Loved the book, liked the movie, loved Regina King in the movie.

Regina King happily accepting her Golden Globe earlier this year for her role in “If Beale Street Could Talk”.

I have been a fan of King since her days on the TV sitcom 227 and later on when she played the annoying next-door neighbor in the hit movies Boyz in the Hood and again in Friday. King has been cleaning up on the awards circuit this year bringing home both the Golden Globe and the Critics’ Choice Awards for her Beale Street role, here’s hoping she does it again on Sunday night at the Oscars.

The other nominees for Best Supporting Actress are Marina de Tavira, whom I have never heard of but liked her acting in Roma and Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz both of whom played alongside Olivia Colman in the historical period piece, The Favourite. Stone and Weisz are extremely talented actresses in their own right, Stone has been nominated for an Oscar 3 times already and has won once, for her role in La La Land, a movie I thoroughly hated. I like Stone though and think she should have been nominated last year when she played the role of tennis great Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes. While Weisz won an Oscar for her 2005 supporting role in The Constant Gardener, a movie I still haven’t seen.

There are 8 movies nominated for Best Picture this year, all of them very good films, despite being very different from each other. This year we have our first superhero film nominated for Best Picture, it was the highest grossing film of 2018 and perhaps the most popular film of 2018. I loved Black Panther, saw it in the movie theater not once, not twice but three times. In as much black pride as I was filled with watching Black Panther I don’t think it deserves to win Best Picture, simply because it’s a movie about make-believe and fantasy in general.

BlacKkKlansman, the true to life story of a black man who was able to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan is the movie that deserves the Best Picture award. Brilliantly acted, well written, with some laugh out loud funny lines, and relatable experiences permeate the entire plot of this must-see film. Spike Lee, who is one of the producers and the director of BlacKkKlansman, has been in the movie-making industry for decades and this is his first nomination from the Academy. It would be a joy to watch him take home both the Best Picture and Best Director statutes on Sunday night, if not both, then one or the other.

Spike Lee is nominated for his first Oscar this year.

My other favorite to win Best Picture is The Favourtie. Period pieces are some of my favorite films and this was a remarkable movie. This film had 3 powerhouse actresses, Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz sharing equal screen time playing off of each other in a very dramatic story filled with unbelievable twists and turns, which made The Favourite a very entertaining film. It’s up for Best Director as well and leads this year’s Oscars with 10 nominations alongside Roma, that also has an equal 10.

The other Best Picture nods are A Star Is Born, which in my opinion shouldn’t win since it lacks originality. This is the 4th time A Star Is Born has been made. I enjoyed the movie but enough already. We also have Vice, which is an excellent political drama. It’s very one-sided in its liberalistic story-telling but a good movie nonetheless. Bohemian Rhapsody, Green Book and Roma round out the Best Picture list, of which Roma has also been nominated for Best Director.

Roma, a Netflix movie, was the last of the nominated films that I watched. It’s a subtitled Spanish film done entirely in black and white, with excellent cinematography. It tells the story of Cleo, a Mexican maid (the role is played by Yalitza Aparicio, nominated for Best Actress), and the trauma she endears in 1970s Mexico City. The story also parallels the life of her white employee played by Marina de Tavira, who is nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

Roma, which is directed by Oscar-winning Alfonso Cuaron, has been doing well on the awards circuit this year and I wouldn’t be surprised if they also cleaned up at the Oscars. Despite being a decent film it’s not my favorite to win in any category. The Academy has been known to blaze its own trail and not necessarily follow the choices of the Golden Globes, The Critics Choice or even the SAG awards. Let’s hope this rings true for this year as well as it relates to Roma.

The movie-junkie in me is excited for Sunday night and I can’t wait to see who this year’s winners will be. Let’s hope I won’t be as disappointed as I was last year when, as my friend so eloquently puts it “the movie about the strange fish in the water” won for Best Picture. She was referring to the Shape of Water. Oh, what a stupid movie that was!