Monthly Archives: February 2016
The telephone loudly pierced the purposeful silence that descended upon the house. It was less than 5 minutes prior to the Oscars telecast, so it was obvious the caller did not know me. Everyone who knows me knows not to call me on Oscar Sunday. I need the day to take care of life’s chores before settling in to watch the show and see how my predictions will fare. With the controversy over this year’s nominations I commend host Chris Rock tackling the subject head-on, with a mixture of humor and seriousness. I felt he found the perfect balance to carry off the monologue. As the show progressed I would have preferred it if Chris expanded beyond this one subject. Yes, there was the Girl Scout cookie moment but it seems ever since Ellen DeGeneres took that selfie shot in the audience, every telecast now has to have some kind of interaction with the audience. The cookie gag was funny for a moment but was not necessary in my opinion.
Though I just heard on the news that this telecast had the lowest television ratings of the past 8 years, I thought the news ticker running across the bottom of the screen listing the people the winners wanted to thank was a good idea; their speeches certainly seemed shorter to me. As far as I could remember this telecast was the closest to end on time compared to recent past shows. My favorite acceptance speeches were given by Leonardo DiCaprio and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, though I wished the music was not playing during Alejandro’s speech like it did not for Leonardo. I also enjoyed the quick informational blurbs that appeared next to the presenters, despite them being a bit small to read at times. Since I am a big fan of music, I was looking forward to the singing of the nominated songs. Lady Gaga did not disappoint; I thought her performance was a highlight of the show and was surprised her song did not get an Oscar. The two presenters that stood out for me were Louis C.K. for Documentary Short Subject and Toy Story’s Woody and Buzz Lightyear for Best Animated Film. Oh and I cannot forget the robots from Star Wars and the Minions.
If you know me you probably realize there would have to be something startling inappropriate or poorly thought out for me to dislike an Oscar telecast. There have been hosts that were quickly forgettable, speeches that dragged on forever and presenters that used the opportunity for personal gain; but I do not care, the bottom line for me has always been the celebration of the movies I love. Ever since I was a little boy, sitting on the floor in front of the TV with my bowl of popcorn, the Oscars has been my favorite show to watch. So with that being said, it is time to close the chapter on this year’s Oscar telecast and begin seeking out what will get the nod for next year’s show.
The majority of the people who asked me if I was paying attention never knew how much attention I was actually devoting to them. I was probably studying their face as they were speaking to me. Looking at the shape of their ears, studying the color of their eyes, listening to the sound of their speech, checking their teeth for any errant food particles, noticing any unusual smells wafting off of them; I was trying to expand and fine-tune my senses. Our five senses, some say six, is something I never took for granted. I thought everyone practiced exercising their senses; it never occurred to me that someone would not be doing it. Growing up I thought the more I used my hearing the farther and clearer it would be able to hear sounds. The idea of hearing a colony of ants on the sidewalk as they systematically moved particles of sand fascinated me to no end; I thought with practice one day I would hear them. Little did I know in the adult world hearing or should I say listening would almost be a lost art form. I have encountered so many people who do not hear what a person is telling them. The same can be said about seeing; haven’t you ever walked down the street with a friend and at some point asked them if they saw that stranger standing at the store window or say bus stop? They did not see anyone and have no idea what you are talking about. I have had this happen to me more times than I can count. There is so much going around us in our daily lives that I cannot imagine not being able to experience even a little of it each day. If you are not totally convinced maybe this beautiful drama will help you. TEN year old Mui, played by relative newcomer Man San Lu, was sent to live with a family who had experienced a tragic loss, to become their servant. Nothing was taken for granted in this household. This film festival winner and Oscar nominated movie had a gentle, quiet story. I say quiet because scenes focused on some of the simplest things but were able to produce exquisite results. With a beautiful music score I thought the script was well done and the actors such as Tran Nu Yenkhe (The Vertical Ray of the Sun, Cyclo) as the adult Mui and relative newcomer Thi Loc Truong as La mere were all totally believable. I enjoyed the way the story moved forward; things were subtly introduced instead of being too overt. In some ways I felt this produced calmness to the story even when there was an issue brewing underneath the surface. In addition, the use of dialog was kept to a minimum. This was the type of picture one could easily sit down to watch and absorb the action with one’s senses. Vietnamese was spoken with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
As I walked into the conference room I saw most of the seats were filled with participants. There was energy in the air; the only way I could describe it was nervous anticipation. This was going to be a workshop with active participation. Most of the people I saw as I looked for a seat were talking and laughing; it seemed as if a lot of participants knew each other. At the edge of one of the many rows of lined up chairs sat an older man. Upon first glance he looked like he was sitting on a deserted island because no one else sat around him. In his lap was the same course materials everyone else had received. It struck me as odd that all the seats around him were empty. I decided to take one of the seats behind him and settled in as I pulled out my paperwork from my messenger bag. While I looked for this workshop’s outline I was able to hear the conversation from a small group seated a couple of seats down from me. Out of the corner of my eye I quickly realized their comments were about the older man. I do not think he realized their conversation was about him or if he did, there was no reaction on his part. It surprised and saddened me that anyone would question a person’s desire to learn something new. Just because he was older and did not “look” like the average participant was no reason to make fun of him. If you are wondering, I did walk over to them to express my feelings. No one has the right to squash another person’s dreams. INSPIRED by true events Michael “Eddie” Edwards, played by Taron Egerton (Legend, Kingsman: The Secret Service), always wanted to be an Olympian since he was a little boy. No amount of bruises, broken bones or taunts would stop the strongest muscle in his body, his heart. This film festival winning comedic drama had a ready-made, feel good story. With Hugh Jackman (X-Men franchise, Pan) as Bronson Peary and Christopher Walken (Jersey Boys, The Deer Hunter) as Warren Sharp I did not recognize Taron at first. His acting made for a believable and lovable character. I enjoy an underdog type of story and only had wished the script was not so comical. It took away the authenticity of the characters in my opinion and the soundtrack did not provide any help either. There was a predictability to the script that did not allow for much character development. At one point it seemed as if I was just watching one sight gag after another; I was missing the drama to the story. I think what saved this film was indeed the incredible story and that is why I think the writers did not invest as much as they could in developing the story. Besides c’mon, who does not like to root for the underdog?
2 1/2 stars
The first thing I quickly noticed was how tiny the doors were to all of the houses. It was my first trip to the area of Salem, Massachusetts after having just visited a historic area that was recreated to show how pilgrims lived when they settled in America. As I walked around the town of Salem I imagined humans must have been shorter back then based on the size of the doorways. I wondered how they would react to seeing the sizes of us currently. If you have never seen Salem it is a picturesque town, filled with detailed wooden houses and hearty foliage. For such a pretty place I tried envisioning what it must have been like here during the witch hunts. Though we studied the time period in school, I was always curious how the townsfolk described, even defined, someone they felt was a witch. Was it a person who did not have faith, who did not act in the same ways of others or maybe had a different diet? Throughout history there have been incidences where certain groups of people have been persecuted; it could have easily been based on their looks, besides other factors that have already been recorded in history. It must have been terrifying not only for the accused but for the citizens whenever someone was accused of being a witch. Especially at that time when there was less knowledge about the world, just imagine an eclipse or earthquake taking place and everyone panics, looking for a culprit. I know presently there are individuals who say they are witches; for all I know I may have met one or two of them in my life. If I did know for certain then they were nothing like what was found in this suspenseful mystery, horror film. HAVING agreed to leave the town and settle in a remote wooded area William and Katherine, played by Ralph Ineson (Harry Potter franchise, Kingsman: The Secret Service) and Kate Dickie (Prometheus, Red Road), felt they found the perfect place to raise their children. It was soon after settling that one of their children went missing. This film festival winning movie had an interesting stark style to it. Scenes were carefully framed as the story took the viewers along. I was taken in by the suspense, appreciating the way the script did not employ the usual scare tactics or gruesome shots filled with blood and violence. The direction was good though I will tell you the pacing tended to be methodically slow. This allowed time for the sense of dread to weigh heavier on the characters and I have to say the viewers. Set in New England during the 1630s I had a hard time with the speech; it was Old English and softly spoken. At times it sounded to me like a character was mumbling. This was not your usual horror fare; there were no jump out of your seat moments. But there was a style and simple story that worked well together in creating the ideal atmosphere for this type of genre.
One can gain added insight when re-visting a book or movie. There have been times where I have seen the same film more than once because I either enjoyed it immensely or felt I may have missed something the first time. Regarding books I have done the same thing; more than likely because I felt I had a relationship like a friendship and I wanted to visit with them again. When it is of my choosing the experience is always pleasant. Now when someone else is involved in telling a story again, it may not always be a good thing. Think about your schooling where you may have studied the same topic multiple times. Depending on the instructor the repeated story could be a boring experience for you. On the other hand it can also sound fresh and exciting with a skilled storytelling teacher. In my circle of friends and acquaintances there have been times where I have heard the same story being told several times due to a different mix of friends being together, where some had not yet heard the latest news. Not to be rude but there are some people who are not the best in telling a story; they get stuck on tiny details that have no real bearing on the outcome. Things like a stranger’s name or which corner of an intersection; these are minor details that will not enhance the listening experience. The same thing can happen when a movie studio decides to redo a previous film or story. Depending on the script, a film’s story can appear new and fresh or dull and boring. ROMAN military tribune Clavius, played by Joseph Fiennes (Enemy at the Gate, Shakespeare in Love), and his second in command Lucius, played by Tom Felton (Harry Potter franchise, Belle), were assigned the task of finding the stolen corpse of Yeshua, played by Cliff Curtis (Training Day, Three Kings), before his followers proclaim Yeshua was resurrected from the dead. This adventure drama will be a familiar story for many viewers. I thought the script had a good idea to tell this story through the eyes of one Roman soldier. It made this retelling a bit different for me. I thought Joseph’s acting and screen presence were an asset to this movie. Though I appreciated hearing this well known story from a different perspective, I though the script could have been better. I do not know if this will make sense but the entire picture had a discounted feel to it. The scenes, the acting and the sets did not go to any extremes; in other words, everything seemed minimal as if no one was totally invested in the project, nor much money either. There were a few times where I felt the story even dragged; I found myself getting bored several times. The idea behind this production was novel to me, but the outcome did nothing to excite me.
If it was in the textbook then it had to be true; this is what I grew up believing. I was convinced newspapers and books only contained the truth. In fact it was not until college before I learned I was wrong. In classes we learned newspaper editors could put their personal slant on a story, giving it a whole different meaning. Book publishers may have wanted to only publish the truth, but there could have been outside circumstances like government agencies that did not want the truth to come out. I remember a history class where the instructor showed the class the difference between 2 history books, one printed in the US and the other from a foreign country. The professor read about a specific wartime battle out of both books. It was startling to me because according to the US book American forces won the battle, but per the other book they lost the fight. How was that possible I wondered as I sat in my seat in total disbelief. As far as I knew history was like a science class, it dealt in exact facts; there was no margin of error or acceptable fabrication. So there I sat re-evaluating my entire belief system in what history meant to me. One of the aspects I soon realized about history that could not change was its ability to teach humans to become better by showing them where they came from. I do not mean logistically but by recording mankind’s transgressions and feats. I could show you no better example than the true story depicted in this sports drama. Germany’s 1936 Olympics was supposed to show the world that Adolf Hitler’s creation of an Arian nation was going to be the best in the world. American athlete Jesse Owens, played by Stephan James (Selma, Home Again), wanted the chance to prove them wrong. With a cast that included Jason Sudeikis (We’re the Millers, Sleeping with Other People) as Larry Snyder, Shanice Banton (Degrassi: The Next Generation, A Day Late and a Dollar Short-TV movie) as Ruth Solomon and Jeremy Irons (Margin Call, Dead Ringers) as Avery Brundage; the story was a remarkable one. Stephan James was wonderful in the role as Jesse; there was no denying this was an incredible story that is just as relevant today. This just makes it harder to say the script did not live up to this American hero. I found most of the script let its drama come from the historical events without going deeper into the characters; the scenes appeared almost cut and dried, nothing extra to offer. However even with everything I have said, I still was entertained watching this biographical picture. Just seeing such a humble man from humble beginnings reach the world stage and remain true to himself was beyond refreshing. I would say it is a feel good story but if I do I feel it does not acknowledge what Jesse continued to experience after the Olympics. Nothing could change the fact that this was an important chapter in our history.
2 3/4 stars
Five people are lined up waiting for the starting bell. When it goes off they race as fast as they can to the finish line. It seems as if the race was over just as fast as when it started. Under these circumstances I agree on naming one of the contestants the”winner.” The person was the fastest human on the planet. You see all five people ran their hearts out to get to the finish line first; but they were timed, so one came in first, the next one second and so on. Truthfully I have no issue with this type of contest because it seems more like physics to me. The Oscars on the other hand are different; how does one judge art? It is that time of year that everyone (that is right I am pointing my finger at you) is all abuzz about who will get an Oscar award. I do not know what methods other people use to decide who deserves the award (notice we no longer use the words win or winner, example: …and the Oscar goes to ___), but this is how I choose the acting roles: the actor who is the most convincing and totally becomes the character, where I no longer see them as “so and so” portraying a character, they are the character; they get my vote. My bottom line for how I choose in the other categories is how much did that nominee or aspect contribute to the entire film watching experience and teleport me from my theater seat into the picture and story.
With no further ado I present to you my choices on who I would like to see get the Oscar award and who will probably receive it.
MY PICKS THEIR PICKS
SPOTLIGHT THE BIG SHORT
ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ INARRITU ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ INARRITU
LEONARDO DICAPRIO LEONARDO DICAPRIO
BRIE LARSON CHARLOTTE RAMPLING
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
SYLVESTER STALLONE MARK RYLANCE
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
ALICIA VIKANDER KATE WINSLET
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
THE BIG SHORT THE MARTIAN
BEST FOREIGN FILM: (I DID NOT SEE ALL THE NOMINEES)
SON OF SAUL
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: (I DID NOT SEE ALL THE NOMINEES)
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:
THE HATEFUL EIGHT THE HATEFUL EIGHT
As the past Oscar season is about to come to a close, I want to wish all of you an Oscar day filled with unexpected joy, happy surprises and as always good health. Thank you for joining me on this journey to discover that elusive 4 star movie.
Let the show begin!
Do you ever look at a situation and start analyzing it from different angles? I am so guilty of this which is referred to as “over thinking a situation.” I received such a great piece of advice from a former boss who constantly reminded me not to over think the problem; the answer did not have to be that complicated. I know I do this but do you ever ask someone their advice but do not heed it until you have asked one or several more individuals? Sometimes you have gone through so many people that when you finally act upon the situation and it works, you share your excitement with that first person you sought advice from and they get annoyed because they told you the same thing weeks ago. The reason I get multiple opinions is so I can learn something new because I know some of my reasoning, oh alright, a good portion of it comes out of the right side of my brain; it is more creative than it needs to be at times. There is the proverb: necessity is the mother of invention; I just may go a little further with my creativity in solving a problem. I feel it is important to have one’s creative side working alongside the scientific one because creativity can spawn new ideas. Imagine how an off the wall idea can wind up being beneficial to all of us, just look at the creation of sticky notes. I know I could use some work on finding the balance between over thinking and adding too much creative license to a problem. However when the balance is met and the solution turns out to be easily solved, it is a wonderful thing. As I sat through this documentary I was continuously amazed at the simple solutions. MICHAEL Moore (Roger & Me, Bowling for Columbine) went on a mission. He would travel around the globe to seek out solutions he could take back to solve our country’s problems. First thing I must say to you is do not let the title of this film festival winner influence your decision on whether you will see it. I had no idea what this film was about and since the word “invade” was in the title I thought the subject had something to do with warfare. I could not have been more wrong. This documentary was more of a lighter fare compared to Michal’s recent films. It was so entertaining that the audience applauded at the end. What Michael did was go to different countries to see how they solved an issue that was still a struggle for the United States. I am sure there was creative editing involved and manipulative scenes but the bottom line here is this movie made you think. You were able to laugh at some of the solutions. Just notice the French schoolchildren’s reactions to seeing what the average American student eats for lunch. This was a great idea for a movie.
What is old eventually becomes new again, is a saying that has been repeated over and over. Some of you may relate to this especially when you see advertisements for the latest clothing styles; the clothes were in fashion before when you were growing up. Take a look at bell bottom pants; they come into fashion for a couple of years then they go out before they come back in. I hate to admit this but I still have clothing stored away that I used to wear years ago, some even back from high school. After my weight loss I still kept them as a backup. Though I have seen some of that old clothing return into vogue, manufacturers in conjunction with marketers bring back some of these items but tweak them just enough to make it look fresh and new. If you remember that soft drink fiasco, not everything new makes it instantly better. Just let me tell you about winter gloves as an example. Years ago gloves were usually fleece lined or had some type of down inside of them. All of a sudden new products came out that claimed to be just as warm as these natural fibers but take up less space, they were thinner. I do not know about you, but I do not find gloves with this thin insulating material to be that warm for my hands. Give me good wool lined or duck down filled gloves and I will be able to tackle any harsh winter day. Now let me say I do believe there is no reason to fix something if it is not broken, so I am never the first one to jump on the latest updated version of something from the past; it turns out this is wise advice. WHEN celebrities were being killed off while striking a signature pose created by Derek Zoolander and Hansel, played by Ben Stiller (While We’re young, The Watch) and Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris, No Escape), the two former models were brought out of retirement to try and help track down the killers. This comedy sequel tipped its hand when the trailers came out for it; they were the best parts of this movie. With Will Ferrell (Daddy’s Home, Get Hard) as Mugatu and Kristen Wiig (The Martian, Welcome to Me) as Alexanya Atoz, all the characters had a chance to do something funny. I kept waiting for it but it never happened; the script went all over the place, it was a mess. Now I have to tell you I did not think the original movie was anything special, but compared to this sequel it moved up on my favorability rating scale. There were more cameos in this film than there were jokes. As I sat through this picture I had to wonder who thought doing a sequel would be a good concept. The only thing this movie did for me was prove not everything updated and made fresh was a good idea.
1 1/2 stars
The rules for dating as far as I can tell are constantly changing. I use to wish for a handbook to make the process easier. From my experiences I feel the underlying reason for all of the confusion these days is mistrust. It seems as if very few people take another person at face value. There was a time where most dates did not have an issue getting picked up at their home. I do not know if it is partially because of the internet or all the different crime shows on television, but a majority of people prefer meeting at some type of public establishment. Now I actually agree with this logic; I’m all for meeting someone out publicly for the 1st time. Here is the thing though; even after a couple of dates I noticed some individuals balk at the suggestion of being picked up at their home or coming over to mine. There have been times when I’ve offered such an arrangement but sensed their uneasiness at the suggestion. I get the sense they feel I have an ulterior motive in offering such a thing. It is just weird to me; but I never force the issue. Now there is something else that I find perplexing; maybe you have noticed it yourself. Those friends that go from being single to being in a relationship quickly become outdated on the latest dating rules; it is as if their set of rules expired over night. You can query them, asking them how they knew their date was the right one; but to no avail, everyone has a different answer. When you think about it, it is amazing how people wind up being in a loving relationship. If you do not believe me just take a look at the women in this comedic romance. Alice, Robin and Meg; played by Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey, Black Mass), Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect franchise, Bridesmaids) and Leslie Mann (The Other Woman, This is 40); each had different reasons for dating. It only became more confusing when love was introduced into it. Based on the best seller, the cast also included Anders Holm (The Intern, The Interview) as Tom and Jake Lacy (Carol, Obvious Child) as Ken. Though I have not read the book, I did get the idea the story was meant to shine a light on the dating world from a feminine perspective. I thought Leslie and Rebel were better when it came to acting skills. Honestly though, I did not think this movie did anything different; I was constantly getting bored with the story. In fact, the trailer for this film showed the best parts; throughout the movie I never connected to any of the characters. Now here is the funny thing, I could see where the story could have taken a bigger risk and delve deeper into the characters but the script was not geared to do it. After seeing this film I am just as confused about dating and love as I was before.
1 3/4 stars