Of Manatees and Movies

It was a week for birds, manatees, and several very good films.


My sister Ann is more of a nature person than I am. She and Paul visited us this past week and they both enjoyed seeing the shore birds from our lanai.  Lots of great white egrets, white and a few brown pelicans, gulls, a few herons, and even a flyby of three roseate spoonbills.  Of course, after they left, I got to watch three spoonbills up close, foraging for fish in the low tidal mud!

My sister also wished to see a manatee or two, so we drove up to Apollo Beach and the Manatee Viewing Center, near Tampa and adjacent to the Big Bend power station.  Manatees, also called sea cows, are large marine mammals related to elephants.  In the winter, manatees seek out warmer waters and the water around this power plant attracts them in droves!  We probably saw at least a hundred lolling in the water and surfacing every few minutes for air.  They looked brown, some with algae on their backs, and are somewhat bullet shaped, rounded and with very small heads and prominent nostrils.  They are quite an impressive sight.  The viewing center includes a boardwalk nature trail through shrubs and grassland and a 50-foot viewing tower.  

Another day we took our guests to the South Florida Museum to check out their manatees. The museum is part of a network of facilities that provide care for injured manatees. Critical care is done in Tampa and three other locations.  This museum provides intermediate care and rehabilitation before the manatees are ready to be released back to the wild.  Manatees are most often injured by boat strikes and there were three on view, one weighing only several hundred pounds.  The goal is to get them to 700 pounds at least before they leave; they are released near where they were rescued so that they can learn which warm waters to return to the following winter.  We heard a presentation while the manatees, here appearing more gray in color, were feeding which was fun to see.  Among them, these three manatees devour 200 pounds of lettuce a day!


Lady Bird.  You might pair this film with Call Me by Your Name as both feature teenagers grappling with questions of identity and seeking love.  Call Me limits itself to focusing on the intense relationship Elio (Timothee Chalamet) has with Oliver, a visiting older student, while Lady Bird tracks Christine’s (aka Lady Bird’s) senior year, her desperate desire to escape from dull Sacramento, her longing to go far away to college, her battles with her strong-willed and occasionally abrasive mother, and her sexual explorations.

It’s a very fine film and Saoirse Ronan gives a marvelous performance at this girl from the wrong side of the tracks who wants more from life.  Chalamet is also here as one of her boyfriends.

Darkest Hour.  This is a totally absorbing film about Churchill’s early days as prime minister and deciding how Britain will deal with Hitler and his expanding empire.  It’s about leadership, party politics, and the events surrounding Dunkirk.  I felt as if I was really there at that time.  Gary Oldman is superb as the stubborn, irascible, inappropriate, but often brilliant (and right) Winston.  Kristin Scott Thomas is his understanding, bemused, and sometimes frustrated wife, Clemmie.  Highly recommended!

All the Money in the World.  I’ve just seen this film and now want to Google the Getty family and find out how much of it was fiction and how much fact.  Teenage Paul Getty was kidnapped in 1973; his divorced mother implores his grandfather, J. Paul Getty, to pay his ransom money.   Although he was the favorite grandson, grandfather Getty is adamant in his refusal to offer the money.  Christopher Plummer, recruited on short notice after Kevin Spacey was booted out of the role, gives a bravura performance while Michelle Williams is young Paul’s self-proclaimed “ordinary” mother.  The film is too long and slow at the beginning, but I’d see it just for Plummer.

Note:  All photos ©JWFarrington (some rights reserved).



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