Another year of movies is in the books and it’s time (for me at least) to look back and admit my love of film.
In fact, this year more than any in recent memory was an important one for trying to find solace at the movies, especially in light of the grim, ridiculous circus that is our modern day Washington.
Anyway, 2017 was a strange year for movies. I didn’t see as many as a year ago and most that I really enjoyed came late in the year.
Still, I did love a lot about the movies I saw in 2017 so here is my attempt to list them in the order that they provided viewing pleasure.
Again, I don’t claim to be an expert, just a lover of movies and I’m writing this in advance of the Oscars (really I am) just to get my list on the record. These movies moved me, they entertained, made me laugh, made me think.
Is one better than another? Not really. They just reflect my tastes and my penchant for putting things in lists. So here, with apologies to “Phantom Thread,” which I did not see, is my Top 20 films of the year.
Wait, a quick note. Other films I did not see included the movies of the “Thor,” “Captain America,” “Fantastic Four” and “Batman vs. Anybody With Super Powers,” genre. I didn’t see any of them except “Wonder Woman” because, for the most part, they give me a headache and, following my doctor’s orders, I steered clear of them.
Oh yeah, and I didn’t see “It” either. Maybe next time. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the list and let me know what you think.
- “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Zany, violent and disturbing, yet hilarious and thoroughly entertaining. Great performances by all in a somewhat ensemble cast, performances that left me wanting more, or certainly a resolution to the story.)
- “Dunkirk” (I don’t care if the film was historically inaccurate in places, it was just terrific entertainment. Fast-paced and breath-taking, I was thoroughly swept up in the vignettes surrounding the near horrific catastrophe that happened on the French coast in 1940. Sure, they could have done a better job of representing the flotilla of ships, boats, schooners and skiffs that made it across the English Channel to rescue the trapped soldiers, but that’s okay. I can live with that. I loved the movie.)
- “Call Me By Your Name” (Beautiful and steamy. Elegant and smart. I liked it more than I thought I would, especially the story, the backdrop and the great performances by Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer. Poignant and powerful.)
- “Wind River” (A haunting film that was as powerful as it was sad. One that stayed with me for days. Terrific performances by Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen).
- “Thank You For Your Service” (Gritty and raw. And yes sad. Great performances. Nothing like the book by David Finkel (which is also terrific) but that doesn’t matter. What matters is a staggering look at what life is like for many who fight our wars and then return home to try to resume their lives. Hurrah for Miles Teller and Beulah Koale!)
- “Victoria and Abdul” (You can’t go wrong with Judi Dench, who is superb in this British biographical comedy-drama. Ali Fazal is also terrific. Entertaining, funny and, in the end, heart-breaking. Another side of the history of those crazy Brits)
- “The Darkest Hour” (Powerful and amazing performance by Gary Oldman, who portrays Winston Churchill. Slow in spots but an incredibly fascinating look at a British hero who arose in his country’s time of need.)
- “I, Tonya” (Oh so hilarious look at the whole Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan debacle as told through the eyes of Tonya, her goofy-scary boyfriend, Tonya’s loving mom and police and court records. Margot Robbie and Allison Janney steal the show.
- “Molly’s Game” (Yes, I loved this one and will go to my grave believing that Jessica Chastain was robbed by not getting an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress. Chastain steals the show (in her best Jessica Rabbit imitation) with her beauty, her narration and her insight.)
- “Lady Bird” (Could have been ranked higher but I felt like I’d seen this story before. Still, fabulous performances by Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metalf. Great movie, great direction by Greta Gerwig.)
- “The Greatest Showman” (Big and bold, great music and great performances. Never dull. Thoroughly entertaining. I found myself smiling throughout.)
- “The Shape of Water” (I liked it but I didn’t love it. Magical and beautiful, a great story and terrific direction by Guillermo del Toro. Still, a bit far-fetched (for me). An entertaining and enchanting fish story.)
- “Get Out” (Great little bizarre horror story that left me wondering if it was comedy, horror or drama. Still a very good movie.)
- “The Post” (I liked this one but, again, didn’t love it. “Spotlight” is a much better film. Still, you can’t go wrong with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. Important story told well.)
- “All the Money in the World” (Surprisingly good film when considering the 11th-hour changes made to rid the movie of Kevin Spacey. Great performance by stand-in Christopher Plummer. Does not answer the question: When is enough enough?)
- “The Florida Project” (Gritty and unhappy tale of life in the “projects” in Florida following a scamming mom and her daughter, who doesn’t have a chance in the world. Sad and disturbing. Willem Dafoe is up for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. He’s the only person I like in the film.)
- “The Big Sick” (Thoroughly entertaining, quirky and hilarious. Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan are superb. Cultures clash in a major way.)
- “Logan Lucky” (Also could have been ranked higher. A surprisingly fun and entertaining romp that inhabits the NASCAR culture without being too condescending. Still, hilarious and wonderful performances.)
- “Columbus” (A quiet little film about architecture and conflicted emotions. Still, captivating and intriguing. Set in Columbus, Ind., a city known for its significant modernist buildings. I did not know that.)
- “The Man Who Invented Christmas” (A story about Charles Dickens and his struggles to find the voice and inspiration to create “A Christmas Carol.” Fascinating and fun.
The Cordell Pool will get another slide this spring thanks to the generosity of local veterans.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1108 of Richmond wrote a check recently for $9,800 to buy a drop slide for the Richmond Parks and Recreation Department. A drop slide, as I understand it, is one that is short and squat, compared to its hulking, twisty-turny cousin, but is able to shoot users out into the water for a short but more hair-raising thrill ride.
It has been on park officials’ wish list for some time.
“It’s just a small slide but will bring a little more excitement for teens and tweens at the pool,” said parks superintendent Denise Retz. “We could not be more thrilled by the VFW’s investment not only in the municipal pool but in the children and families of our community.
“This donation is a clear indication that Post 1108 wants to help make our city great. This is a great group of leaders in our community,” she said.
VFW commander Ron Weadick said community support “is one of our core objectives.”
“Community service and community support, those are both important concepts to us,” Weadick said. “That’s what we remain committed to.”
VFW service officer Steve Brassfield helped guide the donation through the VFW membership.
“It’s about youth and it always will be,” Brassfield said. “We like what Denise is doing in the parks and we support that. We need these improvements at the pool. With this donation, we’re putting money into the community. That’s our goal. That’s what we do.”
Park staff will install the new slide before opening day, scheduled for May 27, in the pool’s deep end.
“This slide has been a dream for our department for several years and without the VFW it would not be a reality,” Retz said.
But the pool is in need of additional support. The big slide needs re-coating and the pool needs new life guard chairs and umbrellas. Additional painting projects abound.
“If anyone is looking to help us with our additional improvements, please contact me at the park office,” Retz said. Call her at (765) 983-7276.
Retz said the pool averaged about 350 daily users in 2016.
Veterans caring for veterans has always been veterans helping their community.
Three years ago, when members of Kirk-Little Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1108 learned that the local Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) office in Richmond could no longer operate a food pantry for veterans at its local medical office, they quickly stepped in.
Volunteers at the post on South Eighth Street in Richmond set up a fund to donate $400 worth of food each month to Richmond’s Salvation Army, earmarked for veterans and their families, but also available for anyone in need.
Jerry Maule, a VFW member who serves on the Salvation Army Advisory Board, hoisted the project on his shoulders and became buyer and supplier.
“It’s a community support type project,” said Maule. “We do it for veterans but we know that others can also use it as well.”
Maule and his wife Norma buy with an eye on protein. Last week, Maule learned that jars of peanut butter were on sale at a local supermarket and swooped in to buy a couple of boxes.
“I make that money stretch as far as I can,” he said.
Each month over the last three years, he has brought a pickup load of food to the Salvation Army food pantry.
“It allows us to help. If someone is in need they can come and get food,” Maule said.
Captain Thomas Brockway and his wife Cynthia are pastors and co-administrators at the Salvation Army. Thomas Brockway said the VFW donation has allowed his agency to stretch dollars to meet a need that has continued to grow in the community.
“Donations like this are always very important and are appreciated,” Brockway said. “It helps us with our mission to support families and help them get stabilized so they can live a normal life.”
“When people come to us for help we want to be ready. Donations like this help make that happen,” Brockway said. “We also hope that donations like this will encourage other groups and individuals to step up and help us.”
The Salvation Army, at 707 S. A St. in Richmond, hosts a food pantry from 9 to 11:30 a.m. every Tuesday and offers a hot meal every Friday from 11 to 11:50 a.m. The agency also gives out personal care items from its soap pantry.
A dozen community agencies, including the VA, refer those in need, including veterans, to the Salvation Army.
“The VFW has been very generous and supportive and that, for us, is huge,” Brockway said.
“People need a hand up,” said Steve Brassfield, VFW veterans service officer. “Maybe the electric bill is higher than normal this month or the car has broken down. It’s just simple humanity that all.”
The VFW supports multiple community groups and projects with a heavy emphasis on youth.
“We try to help where we can. That’s what we do,” Brassfield said. “But we are definitely focused on youth.”
When asked the question, what’s ahead for the Richmond Parks and Recreation Department, superintendent Denise Retz shakes here head and smiles.
“We’re gonna do it. We’re going to make this happen. We’re rocking and rollin,’” she said.
But future is cloudy, filled with twists and turns. Lots of issues and challenges await and money is short. Still the public, those for whom the parks are created and maintained, are standing at the ready to use a park system they expect to shine. They know what the parks could be, what they should be.
Many wonder, Can we get there?
Full disclosure here, I am finishing my first year on the park board and in January I was elected president.
Now, I am a pretty smart guy and I use the parks just like everybody else. But I don’t have all the answers, just a willingness to serve and a concern about my community.
I have seen positive things during my first year on the board. Retz continually talks of projects accomplished in 2016 (75 if memory serves), a sterling staff, partnerships with street and sanitation workers and partnerships throughout the community.
More is needed.
I did a quick (totally unscientific) survey of 10 Richmondites about what the parks need and the No. 1 response was “keep the parks mowed, playground and other park facilities repaired and keep them free of trash.”
“Keep them safe.”
I think that can happen.
But bigger projects, at McBride Stadium, Cordell Pool, the senior center, may take time.
Mayor Dave Snow is on board. He knows what he wants and also knows the realities.
“Our parks are there, as I look into 2017, to serve a function and that is to provide a communal space for our city, and to provide an outlet for recreation, to stage events and to be a meeting space,” he said.
“So they need to be in a condition and to be programmed and kept up. There needs to be a maintenance plan in place so they are always ready for the community to use them as they see fit.”
That’s pretty simple. Accomplishing it will be the challenge.
The Richmond Common Council has done its part, approving $249,000 additionally in this year’s $2.43 million budget for things like equipment, contractual services, better pay for seasonal workers, utility payments and eliminating dead trees.
So where do we go from here?
Retz recently asked park board members to list their goals for the coming year.
Former board president, Mike Foley, who is the longest serving board member, wants a review of all the parks “to learn the positives and negatives about each. If a negative (exists) then what is needed to make it into a positive.”
“We spend a lot of time on Glen Miller, which is correct, but with a total of 19 parks… I think we need to know what we get from all of them,” he said.
Clay Miller, who serves as the non-voting member representing common council, said “all playground equipment should be repaired in good condition.”
“Broken equipment or equipment in disarray or that looks bad is disinviting to the customers we desire…” he said.
Board member Tiauna Washington also wants a review of all parks and is organizing her Hibberd students to do a year-long survey of all city parks.
“They didn’t know we had so many parks,” Washington said.
Board member Cathryn Dickman called for “increasing the public’s sense of safety and park accessibility.”
“Driving through the park in the evening, the area is especially dark, particularly the north portion of the park,” she said.
Dickman also recommended a community survey to identify what the community feels is attractive about the parks and what would increase usage.
Foley also wants to “develop a plan to get the (Middlefork) Reservoir into a positive cash flow.
“We have put up with it being a (drain on city finances) for too long. If we can’t reverse that then we need to look at what decisions need to be made,” he said.
For me, I’d like to see a survey of work needed at McBride Stadium so we can begin to tackle the small repairs and improvements and also put in place a plan for future (read larger) repairs. I’d also like to see us develop a plan to expand the use of McBride as a way to create additional revenue flow.
We also need to develop a larger volunteer and donor base to help with projects at the ballpark. Spring is just around the corner and small projects remain for willing hands. Also pockets, deep and not-so-deep, are needed to support the park.
We also need a tree plan in place to remove the dead trees from all parks, especially Glen Miller.
I believe 2016 was a good year. Projects were tackled and completed. Glen Miller received some needed attention as did Springwood and Clear Creek. The Dream Court in Clear Creek remains one of the biggest pluses in a year of catch up.
The senior center has a new gym floor and hot water in the bathrooms, something absent for at least five years. The Glen Miller tennis courts have a fresh surface and the hulking white barn near the courts, long a home to stray cats and raccoons (gee, they’re cute, as long as you can stand the stench and don’t want to use the space) is no more.
Springwood is looking better yet with a long way to go to be the safe, usable space it needs to be.
Freeman Park now has new lighting, a shelter, grill area and swing set, thanks to a partnership with the city’s Latino community.
In fact, it’s that partnership and ones like it, that give us encouragement moving ahead.
The Dream Court would not be the dream it is without a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Wayne County and the citizens that brought that national program here.
Last year when citizens saw the condition of McBride Stadium (some angered by what they considered neglect and disdain), they also saw a chance to help. They painted, fixed up, cleaned up. They made a difference.
Others, like the Republican Women of Wayne, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Richmond Lions Club, neighborhood groups, RHS, Earlham and Seton, stepped forward to do what they could. The Wayne County Foundation and local donors helped. They always help.
We need that grassroots effort to grow.
Did they solve all our parks’ problems? Of course not. But they made the effort. Any solution can only be found in a community effort.
Snow is also exploring a plan to limit through vehicular traffic in Glen Miller Park.
“I love Glen Miller Park and Glen Miller was created to be vehicular friendly. Now I think it’s time to transition to be more pedestrian friendly,” he said.
What that means should become apparent in the months ahead.
But nothing will be easy.
— Work at McBride renovating the locker rooms, work on the field and fixing a light tower that fell earlier this year;
— Making the greenhouse more sustainable, partnering with groups like Sprout of Control, Cope Environmental Center and Reid Hospital;
— Work with Richmond Power & Light on construction of the solar canopy atop the new structure to be built at Elstro Plaza;
— Construction of a pocket park between Joy Ann Bakery and Chase Bank to tie into Elstro Plaza.
But bigger projects remain, like anticipated work at Cordell Pool, increasing programming at Glen Miller and all other parks, improvements to the Clear Creek horseshoe courts and assisting the Society for Preservation and Use of Resources with the planning and paving of Riverside Trail.
One project that Retz has begun is a partnership with Earlham College sustainability seniors to build a “sensory park” for toddlers and children with autism and developmental delays in Clear Creek Park.
“It’s an exciting project,” she says. “Their goal is to have the project substantially completed by their graduation in May.”
All the work lies ahead.
“We’ve accomplished a lot in the past year,” says Retz, who is just now completing her first year as parks superintendent. “But we obviously have a lot to do. We have concentrated on beautification and safety and I think we are seeing the benefits.
“People are doing more in the parks. We’re seeing that. And people are asking how they can help. We’ll need that,” she says. “There are a lot of exciting things to come.
“But remember, I’m only as good as the people around me,” she said. “I can’t do it all by myself but I can lead and try to find ways to get things done.”
We’ll need all of that and more.
What are your thoughts? What else needs to be done to improve Richmond parks?
The year 2016 was a good but maybe not great year in film and since I love movies I thought I’d take this opportunity to list my favorite films of the past year.
Okay, so I’m no movie expert. I wouldn’t know a key grip if one were siting next to me.
But I do enjoy the movie experience, what they mean to me and how they move me. So, between Richmond and Dayton I try to see as may as I can each year. I have to say, 2016 was a strange year in which there were not a lot of great movies until late in the year.
So, after a mediocre spring and summer movie season, the year ended on a tremendous high note with a glut of great movies. That was both good and bad since it was difficult to see all the best movies by the end of the year.
And (again) since I’m no expert I base this list on sight, sound and emotion; movies that moved me, made me think, made me laugh, entertained me, opened my eyes. I ‘m especially drawn to the ones that haunted me and stayed with me for days after a viewing.
So with apologies to movies like “Jackie,” “Silence,” “Loving,” “Lion” and “Birth of a Nation,” none of which I saw, here is the list of my faves.
Again, I base these movies on what they meant to me.
1. Manchester by the Sea (Gritty yet so powerful, so sad, so haunting. Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges are superb, as is Michelle Williams in a smaller role. Just the best.)
2. La Land Land (Just loved it. It made me smile throughout. Grand performances and there is something I love about Emma Stone.)
3. Moonlight. (Another great film. Troubling and sad yet tender and beautiful. Moving and unsettling with extraordinary performances by a relatively unknown cast.)
4. Sing Street (Terrific film from the Irish. So fun, so entertaining. A great rental if you’re looking.)
5. Fences (Great performances, powerfully sad. Had such a raw an authentic feel. Who doesn’t love Denzel Washington and Viola Davis?)
6. City of Gold (Fascinating look at the food, geography and culture of Los Angeles as told through the eyes of LA Times food writer Jonathan Gold. Great film, so interesting, a must see.)
7. Hacksaw Ridge (Rugged and brutal but a great story, great performances and great direction. Haunting yet inspirational)
8. Indignation (Terrific film based on the Phillip Roth book. Fascinating, puzzling but memorable.)
9. Allied (Loved it. Great period piece. Great performances.)
10. Weiner (Great stuff. Wonderful inside look at the collapse of a politician. Left me scratching my head.)
11. Dark Horse (2015) (Such a good movie, had to include it in this year’s list. Real people and a great underdog story.)
12. Patriot’s Day (Another powerful and moving film. Emotional and draining. So well done.)
13. Sully (Tom Hanks continues to amaze, aided by solid support from Aaron Eckhart. Understated movie that packs power.)
14. Rogue One (Gritty and interesting. Not a slave to pyrotechnics and goofy characters. I liked it more than I thought I would.)
15. Hell or High Water (Crazy, offbeat, but I really liked it. Terrific performances by Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges.)
16. Hidden Figures (Incredible story told well. Terrific performances. Jim Crow, the space race and math all in one movie. Wow!)
17. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (All right, so I got sucked in by the sorta journalistic look at life in war torn Afghanistan. But there are laughs and Tina Fey delivers.)
18. Money Monster (Good but not great story, a bit contrived but good Clooney performance.)
19. Don’t Think Twice (Good film, not great. A few laughs but not as many as you would guess in a film about a comedy troupe.)
20. Fantastic Beasts & Where You Find Them (Crazy entertaining film but not necessarily my cup of tea.)
How was your movie-viewing year? Tell me what you think.
The Whitewater Valley Pro Bono Commission had a banner year in 2016.
Okay, so “banner year” is not a good way to describe the two-person office on the third floor of the Richmond Municipal Building. Last year they were busy. Extremely busy.
That’s because the need for their services continues to grow in Wayne County. Pro bono offers free legal help for county residents in civil matters. In 2015, the office and its roughly 12 volunteer attorneys received just short of 700 applications for help.
This year that number topped 794, 672 of which were from clients needing help with family law issues, things like divorce, custody, support, visitation and to a lesser extent guardianship.
Who are their clients?
“A lot of our clients are the working poor, people working two or three part-time jobs or a full-time minimum wage job,” said executive director Shane Edington. “They are people trying to keep a roof over their head, put food on the table and keep a car running. They don’t have a lot of extra income for legal situations.”
“And of course many are children. They are at the heart of what we do. They are the most vulnerable segment of our society,” he said.
About 20 percent of the applicants are people also struggling with addiction.
“You might have a case where dad is in jail for drugs and mom is battling addiction, and grandma and grandpa are raising the kids. Many of our cases involve drugs and addiction. We spend a lot of our time dealing with parents who are not able to care for their kids because of addiction.”
Right or wrong, it’s a sign of the times in Wayne County.
Edington said that the commission’s No. 1 goal this year is to recruit more volunteer attorneys. He said he’s had 10 applications for help in the first 11 days of this year.
“The need is growing. We clearly have to recruit more help,” he said. “My goal is to meet with every single attorney in Wayne County to see if they are able to help.”
Currently, attorneys like board vice president A.J. Sickman, Amy Noe, Don Simkin, Cory Bell, Abby Rohmiller, Adam Forrest, Bruce Metzger and others have volunteered their time for pro bono cases.
In 2015, the commission also began offering free legal help with mortgage foreclosure defense to residents in Wayne, Union and Randolph counties.
Pro bono will host a free “meet with an attorney” night from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday (Jan. 16) in the Bard Room at Morrisson-Reeves Library. Residents can get a 20-minute free legal consultation with a local attorney that night.
The commission operates on a $65,000 per year budget, all of which comes from fund-raising and grants, including from the Wayne County Foundation. Other support has come from the United Way of the Whitewater Valley, the Indiana State Bar Foundation, the Doxpop Donor Advised Fund and the Chase Bank Settlement Agreement.
The commission receives no government funding and is a 501 (c) (3) and donations are tax deductible.
Fund-raising is done through an annual 5K race and golf outing during the summer and an awards luncheon in December.
Anyone wishing to donate can do so by mailing a check to the Wayne County Pro Bono Commission, 50 N. Fifth St., Richmond, IN 47374 or by dropping off a contribution at the office on the third floor of the Richmond Municipal Building from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
Donors can also go to the commission’s website and click on the “Pay-Pal” link. For information, call (765) 983-78353.