THE time has come to put all of your worries aside, forget the chores, make your favorite food dishes and do something special for yourself. It is that time of year, after twelve months of movie watching, where I can relax and stretch myself out on the sofa to experience the blessed event—the Oscars telecast. My menu is set, all I have to do is pick-up the ingredients this weekend. I will be eating dinner early; the reason being it is not healthy to eat something then go lie down. It is bad for one’s digestion. I have declined all invitations to be part of an Oscar party since those attending tend not to devote all their attention to the show compared to me. Talking can only be tolerated during the commercial breaks. If everyone is settled in and there are no questions, let the show begin. I have listed below those nominees I think should win compared to those I think will win. Have a joyous night of fun and laughter everyone. So without further adieu, good luck to everyone and let the show begin.
SHOULD WIN: WILL WIN:
Hidden Figures La La Land
Natalie Portman Emma Stone
Casey Affleck Denzel Washington
Best Supporting Actress:
Viola Davis Viola Davis
Best Supporting Actor:
Mahershala Ali Jeff Bridges
Barry Jenkins Damien Chazelle
Best Original Screenplay:
Manchester by the Sea La La Land
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Hidden Figures Moonlight
Silence La La Land
Best Animated Feature:
Kubo and the Two Strings Zootopia
Best Original Song:
How Far I’ll Go City of Stars
FOR a brief moment that “look,” which I was familiar with, ran across the man’s face. He was standing in the checkout aisle next to mine. The only way I can describe that “look” is to say it was a cross between contempt and total disgust. Physically the eyes narrow, the muscles of the face slip down to the lower half of the head and the lips seal together in a straight line except for the hint of a curl at one end of the lips. I knew immediately why the man was making that face; it was because of the couple standing in front of me. They were an interracial couple. The look on that man’s face is the same type of look I have been given at various times. Once at the airport where I was sitting with a friend waiting to board our flight, he fell asleep and was leaning over onto my shoulder. A couple who was walking by looked down at me and made that look, uttering a sound of disgust. Another time I was doing volunteer work where we would work in pairs to canvass the neighborhood. I was paired with a woman from a different race than mine. You would not believe there were several people who answered their door, took a look at us and immediately made that face, besides only talking to me; they would ignore her more times than not. It was pathetic, appalling and many other adjectives. WHENEVER I encounter this type of prejudice, I simply want to ask the “offended” person how that person you show disgust towards affects your own life. Why should it even matter to them if the couple is of the same gender or from different races; I honestly cannot understand why anyone would make a judgment about another person based on such things. It is sad that these personal issues are even being addressed. Now that I have seen this film based on a true story, I am even more astonished at the lunacy of people’s prejudices. RUTH Williams and Seretse Khama, played by Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Pride & Prejudice) and David Oyelowo (Selma, Queen of Katwe), fell in love and eventually wanted to get married. Their marriage would have consequences for Seretse’s country of birth, where he was a prince. This film festival nominated dramatic romance was a wonderful film to watch. With Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Alistair Canning and Tom Felton (Harry Potter franchise, Risen) as Rufus Lancaster, the cast was well rounded and performed beautifully. I especially enjoyed David and Rosamund in their roles. Set in London initially during the 1940s, the scenes rolled in a gentle type of way that only accentuated the well written script. I have to tell you the events that took place in this biographical story stunned me; not that there was a sudden surprise moment, but the turn of events taking place on the worldwide stage solely due to a person’s skin color just blew me away. Those of you who know me know how much I enjoy seeing photos of the actual people the actors portrayed; this movie did not disappoint me. Nothing about this film disappointed me except seeing the narrow-mindedness of some people.
3 1/3 stars
SCANDALOUS is what it was when students discovered the English teacher was dating the PE teacher. The news spread through the student body faster than a 4th of July firecracker going off. There were 2 big reasons why this relationship was perceived as scandalous. The first one was the idea of teachers dating. Keep in mind for a young elementary student a teacher, at least back during my time, was an authority figure. When they told us something, we followed their instructions without any back talk. Teachers had a high place in the parental hierarchy; none of the students ever looked at their teachers as regular human beings. As I write this I know it must sound weird but I remember my teachers being kind, crazy, tough, cold and gentle; they ruled the room not with an iron fist but with a purpose. The idea that a teacher would have a social life was odd. None of us ever saw our teachers out and about in the neighborhood; in fact, the only time we would not see them in school was on a field trip. So the shocked students not only had to process a teacher was dating but two teachers and they were dating each other—unimaginable. THE other big reason this news about our 2 teachers was eye popping was the fact they were not of the same race. It was a different time back then simply because there were not many examples of mixed race relationships. If a child has not been exposed to different possibilities, then seeing one of the options in the flesh can be startling to say the least. I can still remember hearing some students questioning what color the children would be if the two teachers ever got married. You can imagine how this dating news changed many students’ perceptions about teachers. I do not know if it would be correct to say this but all of a sudden teachers were no longer considered infallible; not that they were doing anything wrong, just living their lives. If you think anything I have said was shocking then you might not be prepared for what happens between teachers in this comedy. AFTER being fired from his teaching position because fellow teacher Andy Campbell, played by Charlie Day (Pacific Rim, Horrible Bosses franchise), snitched on him to the school’s principle; Strickland, played by Ice Cube (Ride Along franchise, 21 Jump Street franchise) challenged Andy to a knockout fist fight in the playground after school. The students were already taking bets. This film was painful to watch because I have a hard time watching bullies picking on people. I did not mind Charlie’s performance though after a while the delivery of his lines became annoying. His character had some truth in him that I wished the writers would have explored; but the goal of this script was to get some cheap, easy laughs. On one level one could say the script was creating a commentary on our public school system, however the thought was not expanded. I know the current school experience is totally different to when I was in school, but a good portion of this movie’s actions were farfetched. The best part for me was the blooper reel at the beginning of the credits.
1 ¾ stars
WALKING among the ancient relics in the midst of reproductions was exciting. The museum had opened an exhibit devoted to the achievements of ancient man. As I started to walk around the displays I came up to glass cases that had several items in each one. According to the printed cards next to each item these objects were all tools that must have been used eons ago. To tell you the truth except for the obvious hammer and chisel devices I would not know these things were tools. I wondered how the archeologists and scientists figured it out. Among the cases there were blueprints displayed on large easels that stood alongside each case. The plans were modern but they depicted the schematics to ancient structures that historians believed would have been built using some of these same tools that were in the cases. I may be a pessimist but how did they really know? At least I could see the blueprints and corresponding tools would make a good story for the visitors. IN another part of the exhibit there were computer monitors set up to provide visual mini tours of some famous structures. I gravitated towards these monitors and stopped at the first one which was focused on a famous temple in Cambodia. I knew about the temple only because a friend of mine had traveled to it and shared his photographs with me. Listening to the film’s narrator I heard a variety of statements being made about the uses or purposes to several portions of the temple’s structure. How could one really know that a platform jutting out from a side entryway was used for sacrifices I wondered? Maybe it was used as a balcony or it was a portion of a bridge that had fallen apart; who could really say with certainty what something was from so long ago? Call me a skeptic but I tend to need more proof before I will accept someone’s version of an ancient item’s purpose. Maybe this is why I had a hard time believing this action adventure film. MERCENARIES William and Tovar, played by Matt Damon (The Martian, Promised Land) and Pedro Pascal (The Adjustment Bureau, Game of Thrones-TV), were traveling through China in search of a black powder that was rumored to be a powerful weapon. Their search would lead them to something scarier than the powder. Directed by Yimou Zhang (House of Flying Daggers, Hero), this was the largest production to be filmed entirely in China. I will say this expansive fantasy picture had some wonderful visual scenes. Women warriors swinging off of the Great Wall of China looked like a cross between a ballet company and Cirque du Soleil; it was beautiful to watch. Also starring Tian Jing (Special ID, The Warring States) as Commander Lin Mae and William Dafoe (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Platoon) as Ballard, I found the story to be silly and the script to be even sillier. The idea of fending off “alien” creatures was an odd concept, but if that is the idea I would have reluctantly been okay with it if the script was written better. I was periodically bored and the CGI effects did not help the situation. Except for a couple of well choreographed fight scenes I actually enjoyed the craziness of the Great Wall’s defenses. Who knows, maybe there is actual proof somewhere that the wall used to do these things.
1 ¾ stars
CHANGE seems so much easier after one experiences a loss. If my use of the word “change” causes anxiety in you then let me substitute the word with “evolve.” I knew this guy who was a friend of a friend; we would travel in the same circle of friends. He always talked about his relationship, how they never lasted long. Being curious I asked him if he knew why that kept happening to him. After a moment he listed off his good attributes. I then asked if there was something all of his dates had in common. Taking a long minute he finally said they were all young. When I asked him what the average age was among them he told me the age difference was 20-25 years between him and them. From that little bit of information I realized or maybe I should say assumed he was attracted and focused on the person’s age instead of the whole person. After a casual but insightful conversation, I finally had to suggest that maybe it was time for him to look beyond one trait since none of the relationships he had lasted very long. From where I stood I felt if this guy would not expand his horizons in the dating world he would continue to get the same results. LET me be the first one to say “change” is not easy, at least for me. I find comfort in routines. However, I have become more comfortable the older I get with evolving. I know if I had not changed from my previous behavior I would continue to attract people who did not put the same value on trustworthiness that I did. You want to talk about a painful lesson; imagine setting the groundwork to a long term relationship together where one day it all falls apart. Now I used to always blame the other person but I started to take a hard look at myself and see where I could have contributed to our demise. This is something that one of the main characters in this romantic sequel was experiencing. BEGINNING with her new job everything was falling into place for Anastasia Steele, played by Dakota Johnson (How to Be Single, Black Mass). She had her dream job, a nice apartment and a sense of peace. That is until a former boyfriend showed up offering to make some changes. Starring Jamie Dornan (Anthropoid, Marie Antoinette) as Christian Grey, Eric Johnson (Legends of the Fall, The Knick-TV) as Jack Hyde and Marcia Gay Harden (Into the Wild, Miller’s Crossing) as Grace Trevelyan Grey; I can only assume this film was following the 2nd book in the series. This picture had some things in common with the previous one; there was still no chemistry between Dakota and Jamie, though at least they did not have the same intense dislike for each other like they had before. The script was just as manipulative, even more so here. There were times the audience around me was laughing at some of the cheesy dialog. If they had a pop up window of a trumpet blaring, it would not have been as blatant as the way the writers foretold a character’s actions. There was less kinkiness in this installment but still there simply was no passion, nor were there any scenes that delved beyond the surface. An extra scene appeared in the middle of the credits; now excuse me I need to go wash my hands.
1 ¾ stars
FINALLY the day arrived where she no longer would need to get up early for work. She had worked in the education field all her life, in various positions from teacher to vice principal. After her discussions with her accountant she decided it was okay to retire and devote the rest of her years to herself. Some of the things she wanted to do was travel and take up painting; she had dreamed of these two things for a long time. The first few days of the school week felt odd to her. She felt something was wrong since she was home, sitting in her recliner, instead of being with her class. The feeling soon receded as she started getting into the joys of retired life. Her finances had been set up to live a good life, not a lavish one, where she could enjoy a couple of treats once in a while. However, there was no way for her to have known at the next condominium board meeting the officers agreed to charge the owners a special assessment to replace all the windows, balconies and repair the swimming pool. The cost to each owner would be close to the mid five figure range; this would drastically alter her retirement plans to the point she would need to go back to work to pay for the assessment. She became resentful and angry about it. FALLING into a state of anger or resentment has always been easy for me. Recently I had to get a new hot water heater and furnace because the old ones broke down and could not be repaired. It all came so sudden for me when it was discovered my house was filling up with carbon monoxide. When all was said and done I realized I should be grateful that I was not killed by the gas; however, I immediately became angry and resentful. The reason for feeling this way was because of the impact this purchase would have on my finances. The funds set aside to pay off my house earlier would have to be transferred to pay off the heating equipment. On an intellectual level I knew this was silly, equipment breaks down; it is not a purposeful act. That did not stop me but at least I did not get extreme about it like the retired hit man in this crime thriller. SETTLING into retirement John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves (47 Ronin, The Matrix franchise), received a visitor at his home who needed a job done. Refusing to help the gentleman would have consequences. This action sequel took the feel of the first film and amped up the intensity and action. With Riccardo Scamarcio (Burnt, Loose Cannons) as Santino D’Antonio and Common (Selma, Just Wright) as Cassian, the fight scenes were unbelievable and bloody violent. They were well choreographed and looked real. An example was the way John Wick constantly had to reload his weapon. Keanu wore his role perfectly, basic dialog with a touch of sarcasm. In fact the whole script had a no nonsense approach with slight humorous moments. Essentially this film festival nominee was a revenge story; it did not pretend to be anything else. I would like to refer to this as an “escape” film to just sit back and enjoy, but I am afraid John Wick would still find me.
3 ¼ stars
WHENEVER I see it being done I always stop to watch. Not only is it an art but a beautiful and skillful manipulation of a basic element. The only times I get to see a potter in action has been at art fairs or galleries. To witness the moist hands dance across the spinning mound of clay centered on their potter’s wheel is fascinating to me. The clay looks at times like it is growing into a living plant reaching maturity; at other times, it may look like an architectural geometric structure. If you ever get the chance to watch the process I highly recommend it. There is another reason why I am attracted to this process and it has to do with control. On a certain level I can easily relate to the potter because they are in total charge of the entire creation. They do not have to depend on anyone; it is simply them and their clay. Whatever way their creation comes out, it is solely do to them. On the one hand you could say that may not always be the best way because if the object is a disaster then the potter is completely at fault. I would willingly accept that fate instead of depending on someone to help complete the vision I foresaw for the mound of clay. BEING in control has always been a part of my mental makeup, since as long as I can remember. Without turning this into a therapy session let me say that after experiencing multiple disappointments I became trained on how not to depend or need anything from anyone. Maybe I had high standards or low self-esteem, but it has always been hard for me to ask someone for help. To let go of being in control for me represents a fear somehow that I am weak or not good enough. Like I said I do not want to delve into my psyche but I do have to say I discovered I have something in common with Batman and it is not the cool gadgets. GOTHAM city could be on the brink of disaster if the Joker, voiced by Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover franchise, The Campaign), goes through with his dastardly plan. If Batman, voiced by Will Arnett (When in Rome, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise), wants to save his beloved city he may have to do something he has never done before—ask for help. This animated action adventure film was just as creative as the original Lego movie. With Michael Cera (Youth in Revolt, Arrested Development-TV) voicing Robin, Rosario Dawson (Top Five, Sin City franchise) voicing Barbara Gordon and Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash, Harry Potter franchise) voicing Alfred Pennyworth; all the characters were fun to watch and especially hear since the dialog had a fun edge to it. This film festival winner would appeal to kids and adults in my opinion. The references made for the adult viewers will not register with kids but it won’t take away from the movie watching experience. I also enjoyed the way the writers brought in a life lesson moment; it was touching and did not feel out of place. So now that I discovered I have something in common with Batman, I wonder if I should start working on my outfit.
3 ¼ stars
RARELY did I ever pass by the gleaming glass ball, filled with chewy delights. Since I always made sure I had change in my pocket before I would go, it was a given I would stop in front of the gumball machine. There were six colors used for the gumballs: blue, red, yellow, green, orange and purple. Here is the thing though; out of the colors I only wanted a red or blue colored gumball. Since I could not choose which gumball would get deposited into the metal cup hanging below the metal slide that came out of the machine’s lower jaw, I would keep depositing coins into the machine until I got one of the 2 colors. Sometimes I would have depleted all the coins in my pocket and still not get the “right” gumball. In my young mind I assumed each colored gumball tasted different based on its color. I had no desire for the green or yellow ones and the others just did not appeal to me. It wasn’t until a friend of mine bought me a gumball because I had no change and told me to at least try the purple colored one that came out of the machine. It was then that I discovered all the gumballs tasted the same; I was making a judgment solely on the outside color. GRATEFULLY a lesson like that was a good start in becoming aware that there is more behind the surface of people and things. An example I have used before is, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Recently a friend was telling me about the injustice taking place in their department. They were in the middle of hiring new people and one of the employees on the hiring committee mentioned they should hire a particular person because of the candidate’s skin color. I immediately assumed everyone on the committee would be shocked like I was by such an offensive statement. Instead imagine how stunned I was when my friend told me that was not the case; only a couple of the people on the committee offered a disparaging look in response to the ridiculous statement, nothing was said by anyone. This reminded me that just because I may not see discrimination does not mean it does not happen. I think that is why this Oscar nominated documentary is an important film. BASED on an unfinished manuscript by author James Baldwin (Where the Heart Is), the words in this movie are just as current now as when they were first spoken. Directed by Raoul Peck (Sometimes in April, Lumumba), this film festival winning movie was narrated by Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight, The Legend of Tarzan). I enjoyed the way the director pieced together archival clips of James speaking and debating at different venues. His manuscript was going to be a narrative piece about the assassinations of his three friends Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers; though the piece was written years ago the discussions in this movie were just as relevant today. A well done film like this one is worth a look and would be a good reminder that society still has a long way to go to with focusing on the things that lie below the surfaces of people.
3 1/3 stars
ONCE you typecast a person you essentially are telling them they cannot evolve. Look at the examples we have seen in the celebrity world. Child performers can have a solid career playing a limited range of roles that suit their current personas; however, when they reach puberty and start exerting their independence a majority of viewers/followers turn on them. There are 2 musical artists I can think of immediately who acted out outrageously to break the mold they were boxed into by fans’ perceptions. I can understand how some of us do not want to see our celebrities grow up; but it is a natural part of life. Heck I get it since I still think of myself as a younger version of who I used to be. Asking my friends and family I am sure they will say I certainly do not act my age; however here is a question for you, who decided how we are supposed to act based on our birth age? My philosophy has always been, “young at heart, young in mind.” WHEN I first started out teaching fitness I soon saw signs that I was being typecast in a certain way. From some of the remarks I would get to comments I said in class I realized members assumed I only studied PE courses and was teaching full time. The first time I told someone my educational background I remember how stunned they were that I had studied in the fields of animal science and photography. Even to this day it is not unusual for someone in my yoga class to be surprised when they hear I am a credit manager. The majority of the time the first response to me is, “You are so nice; how are you a credit manager?” I guess there is a stereotype associated with being a credit manager. Speaking of stereotypes and typecasting I am concerned the main actor in this comedy is trying to break the typecast of him being a great actor. HAVING been a famous former TV star Jackie Burke, played by Robert De Niro (Dirty Grandpa, Casino) had a hard time convincing the public he was something more than just his television character. No matter how outrageous he would get his fans wanted the old TV character. This film festival winner had an amazing cast that included Leslie Mann (The Other Woman, Knocked Up) as Harmony Schiltz, Harvey Keitel (The Piano, Reservoir Dogs) as Mac Schiltz, Danny DeVito (When in Rome, L.A. Confidential) as Jimmy Berkowitz and Patti LuPone (Parker, Driving Miss Daisy) as Florence Berkowitz. The story may not have been anything special; but with such a cast, if the script had been a whole lot better then maybe this would have been a decent movie. As it turned out this picture was bad. Put aside the foul language, there was so little that seemed realistic that I was bored through most of the film besides being embarrassed for all the actors. Nothing got developed story wise, the script was a series of skits in my opinion. It would not be fair for me to say but with Robert’s recent film choices he is in a downward spiral. Having seen this and his film Dirty Grandpa makes me think he wants to break some mold he feels he has been placed in.
1 ½ stars
DRAWN eyes come to life with a spot of white properly placed close to the center of the eyeball. I learned this in an art class years ago. It worked for the eyes in the portrait I had drawn because they became vibrant with vitality. That one little artistic, creative trick spurred me to always look into a person’s eyes to see if they were really alive inside. I could give you a multitude of examples about how a person conveys much about themselves through their eyes but I do not want to bore you all day. Let me just say I have seen enough confirmations to trust what I see in a person’s eyes. From the hard times I had during my school years I still can remember some of my attackers’ eyes. This may sound like a cliché but each one had darkness in their eyes mixed, with what may surprise you, fear. There may have been other emotions but they paled in comparison to these two even when they were laughing or sneering at me. THOUGH it is harder to see, if you look carefully into people’s eyes in photographs, social media postings or on news channels you sometimes can still get a sense of that person from their eyes. Even individuals arrested and broadcasted on the news for a hideous crime usually have something in common regarding the look of their eyes; there is a certain dullness that blurs the line between the pupil and iris. I am sure you have heard the saying “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” To me this is certainly true and I would even extend it to one’s pets. I knew a dog that had some of the most expressive eyes I had ever seen; it felt as if they were actually talking to you. Eyes are truly a wonder but I have to ask you, do you think you can figure out the terrorist in this crime thriller? TIMES Square was the target for this young, female suicide bomber, played by Luisa Williams (To Each his Own Cinema). All she had to do was get prepared for it. This film festival winning dramatic thriller written and directed by Julia Loktev (The Loneliest Planet, Moment of Impact) was interesting because a majority of the scenes were focused on the bomber’s face. Without saying too much, I found this technique fascinating because the viewer was not able to figure out the bomber’s motivation. In essence it made the movie more intense for me. With Josh Philip Weinstein (One Life to Live-TV, Mars Attacks!) as the commander, Gareth Saxe (Public Enemies) as the organizer and Annemarie Lawless (Hackers, We are What we are) as the bomb maker’s assistant; at times I caught myself wondering if this picture was a documentary. The area where this film became a letdown was towards the end; I would have appreciated more explanation or better yet just closure. I felt the story was cut off. As for the script there was some filler used because several scenes seemed redundant which led to boredom for me. I may have had a hard time reading the young woman’s eyes but I can tell you it did not distract from the chilling authenticity of the movie.
2 ½ stars — DVD