Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Review of "Frank and Jessie," starring Rob Lowe and Bill Paxton, DVD version

Review of
Frank and Jessie, starring Rob Lowe and Bill Paxton, DVD version

Four out of five stars
 There is a great deal of poetic license about the outlaw gang led by Jesse and Frank James in this movie. Born out of the defeat of the south in the American Civil War, the members of the James gang were initially considered heroes by those that were sympathetic to the southern cause. Their exploits were thought of as a victorious continuation of the war and even people that were not favorable to the Confederacy were thrilled to read of their exploits and considered them folk heroes.
 While the performances of the lead players are good, they are sometimes not strong and at times the action is skewed in favor of the James gang. They shoot very straight while their opponents do not. There are tender moments when the James brothers are family men with their wives and children.
 Allen Pinkerton is portrayed as a devious, unprincipled man whose primary goal is to preserve his reputation as well as that of his agency. An unusual point is when there is an outdoor dance party and the blacks are portrayed as partying right along with the whites and not as servants. That is an unusual scene for former soldiers on the side of the Confederacy.
 This is not a great western movie, but it is a good one. There are allusions to their folk hero status but not enough. The movie would have been stronger if there had been more frames devoted to how the James gang was favorably depicted in the press and by the public.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Review of "The Magnetic Leader: How Irresistible Leaders Attract Employees, Customers and Profits," by Roberta Chinsky Matuson

Review of
The Magnetic Leader: How Irresistible Leaders Attract Employees, Customers and Profits, by Roberta Chinsky Matuson ISBN 9781629561653

Five out of five stars
 The analogy in the title is quite appropriate, some leaders are so good at the craft that they attract and retain the best people. From this, their organization is successful, whether it is a non-profit whose purpose is to do good works to a company whose purpose is to make money. In both cases, the key to raving success is to provide outstanding customer service, a reality that is unfortunately not as universally known as it should be.
One significant problem with modern management is the often lack of understanding of the total cost of replacing a quality employee. It is a number that every manager should keep on a sign in plain view so that they are reminded every single day. Some managers believe that people are completely interchangeable, much like a simple spare part. If one fails (leaves) then you simply shop for and purchase another. Matuson understands this very well.
 Matuson is also completely right when she describes how simply throwing money and perks at current and potential employees does little more than create the organizational equivalent of a sugar/caffeine high. When the initial buzz wears off, there must be some genuine substance in the factors that keep the employee present and engaged. The jobs where a person is hired and stays for decades are now only a small percentage of the work force, the average tenure at a job in the modern world is between 4 and 5 years.
 Conservatism can at times be a virtue, but in the modern business world it is often a death sentence for the organization. The command hierarchy in organizations is now a liability and the executive that is unable to be flexible and adaptable in the treatment of employees will experience a lot of employee churn and loss of revenue.
 Matuson describes several ways in which an executive can charge up their work force and make their organization a leader in their field. Unfortunately, fear of failure and the new, often disguised as being prudent, will in most cases cause her advice to be overwhelmed by the “Not the way we do things here” mentality.

Review of "Doubt," a movie starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman

Review of
Doubt, a movie starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, DVD version

Five out of five stars
 Given the archaic internal phone system in the school as well as other temporal clues such as the nun uniforms, this story takes place well before the major scandal in the Catholic Church involving sexually deviant priests. Therefore, in some ways, the rigid Sister Aloysius (Streep) is ahead of her time. However, in everything else she is opposed to all basic changes that are being proposed and implemented by the popular Father Flynn (Hoffman). Given her rigid and authoritarian nature in her role as principal of the Saint Nicholas Church School, Sister Aloysius is feared and despised by the student body.
 Totally convinced that she is right, Sister Aloysius embarks on a campaign of accusing Father Flynn of having inappropriate contact with a troubled boy. He is the only black student on campus and so is being singled out for ridicule, Father Flynn is simply showing some basic kindness to the boy. The goal of Sister Aloysius is to simply create enough doubt in the minds of others in order to destroy his reputation. To do this, she thinks nothing of engaging in lying and wild embellishments.
 Although she wears the symbols of her devotion and took vows to do good, Sister Aloysius is the very demonstration of evil in female clothing. Streep plays the role superbly, all ice except for a few moments of vulnerability. Hoffman also plays his role very well, but the performance that does most to exploit the ambiguity of the movie is that of Amy Adams. She plays a nun that is a history teacher at the school and was the first person to raise a question about Father Flynn. She gets a very significant lesson in how actions have consequences, but by then it is too late to undo the damage she has done.