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Flash Movie Review: All the Way

HE WALKED OUT ONTO THE STAGE and told us at one time we were his enemy. Well, I was not expecting that as the introduction to my college history class. The lecture hall was full of students; this was one course that was in high demand because of its professor. If I had not read his bio, I would still know what part of the world he came from based on his heavy accent. To tell you the truth it added authenticity to his lectures, I believed. He continued his introduction by explaining how he was forced to enlist in the army, to help in his country’s war against us. Though they ultimately lost the war, he claimed no one learned from it; people are stupid and will repeat history over again. There was dead silence all around as his last words lightly echoed through the hall. Until people stop hating, he proclaimed, they will never learn and help their society advance. He went on to talk about his experiences during the war, giving us insight into his countrymen’s perceptions and interpretations of known events. It was fascinating to me as I listened to a different version of the history I had been taught in school. For the first day of class, this professor was already stretching our minds.      THE TOPICS THIS PROFESSOR DISCUSSED IN his lectures many years ago still rang true for me as I was watching this biographical drama. The subjects that were being discussed back in the 1960s seemed just as current as what is taking place presently around us. I do not know if I can describe it, but it made this historical story resonate within me. History does repeat itself; the arguments that took place decades ago are still an issue today. Everyone has experienced some form of prejudice, I believe. For me, the attacks on me were based on a variety of things from weight to religion to the type of music I listened to, if you can believe that. I consider all of it, whether it is race, origin of birth, or some other aspect of a person; fundamentally hatred. People are afraid to learn; they would rather hang on to their prejudices that were instilled in them. I say instilled because hate is not something we are born with; it is taught to us. Watching this film and seeing what is taking place currently in the world only shows you we still have a lot of work to do.      UNEXPECTANTLY BEING THRUST INTO THE PRESIDENCY, Lyndon B. Johnson, played by Bryan Cranston (The Upside, Last Flag Flying), wanted to do what was right for the country. Unfortunately, there were many senators who did not share his idea of what was right. With Anthony Mackie (The Adjustment Bureau, Captain America franchise) as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Melissa Leo (The Fighter, The Equalizer franchise) as Lady Bird Johnson, Frank Langella (The Box, Robot & Frank) as Senator Richard Russell and Bradley Whitford (The Last Full Measure, Get Out) as Senator Hubert Humphrey; this film festival winner had Bryan giving a tour de force performance as Lyndon. And with Lady Bird by his side, I did not recognize Melissa Leo; she did an amazing job of acting also. So many people think of Lyndon as the Viet Nam president, but he was so much more. I thought the script was excellent as it played a cat and mouse game between several of the government officials. Everyone in the cast was excellent and with the script I felt the writers and cast really brought history to life in this picture. Adapted from the Tony award winning Broadway play, I was thrilled to have been able to watch this piece of history come to life. Now if we can just learn from it.

 

3 ½ stars 

Flash Movie Review: The Breadwinner

THIS WAS THE WAY I WOULD WATER my relative’s lawn. First, I would do battle with the reptilian garden hose that was coiled up onto the side of their house. Grabbing at its brass, pointy head I would pull it while walking backwards down the length of the house, until I made it to the front yard. From this point I would drop the green coils of its body on the ground while I continued to pull at the rest of its body; I needed enough length to get around the front bushes and out into the center of the lawn. Once this was done, I would attach the muzzle a/k/a oscillating sprinkler to its head and place it down on the lawn. Running back to the side of the house to the snake’s lair, I would find the water handle it was guarding and turn it on. I was already dressed in my bathing suit; so, I was ready to do battle with the spray of venom the snake was unleashing across the lawn. I would run and jump thru the wall of water the sprinkler was spraying up into the air as its head moved from side to side. My goal was to plant my feet firmly on each side of the wagging head then use my hands to push down the spewing venom water, until the palms of my hands could cover the sprinkler’s mad head. Once my hands reached the head, I knew I had won because of the gurgling sounds and the water pooling out into a puddle on the lawn. This was the way I helped water the lawns.      GROWING UP IN AN APARTMENT BUILDING, the only time I could help water and cut a lawn was when we were visiting a relative’s house. I was thrilled to play with the water hose, sprinkler and lawn mower whenever I was at one of my relative’s houses. With the lawn mower, I would plot out the path I would take, always based on some geometric or symmetrical pattern. Outline the lawn into a square that kept getting smaller as I got closer to the center or make diagonal stripes across the grass; these were just a couple of patterns I would make with the lawn mower. This was my way of helping a relative. Some of my friends had to help with things that were not nearly as fun. I had one friend who had to wash and wax the family car every other week; another friend had to keep the front and back yards clean after the family dog had been outside. I sympathized with them whenever they complained about their job. As I have been sitting and thinking about the work my friends and I had to do to help our families, it pales in comparison to what the young girl had to do in this animated, family drama.      AFTER HER FATHER WAS ARRESTED THE ONLY thing Parvenu, voiced by Saara Chaudry (Let’s Go Luna!-TV, Holly Hobbie-TV), could do to help the family was the one thing that could get her killed. And that was to go outside of the house alone. With Soma Chhaya (Poltergeist, Degrassi: Next Class-TV) voicing Shauzia, Noorin Gulamgaus (RoboCop, A Simple Favor) voicing Idrees/Sulayman, Laara Sadiq (The Invisible, Eight Below) voicing Fattema/Old Woman and Ali Badshah (Shazam!, Aladdin and the Death Lamp-TV movie) voicing Nurullah/Talib security man; this film festival winner was not a children’s film. This was an intense, at times riveting, story. Though I appreciated the animation, it was the script that sold me on this movie. Set in a Taliban controlled Afghanistan in the early 2000s, the scenes were a mix of harsh reality, fantasy and family life. I cannot recall a recent animated film that displayed such power from the spoken word. I try to avoid making comparisons, but I do not know how any child could still complain about their household chores after seeing this remarkable picture.

 

3 ½ stars  

Flash Movie Review: Da 5 Bloods

IT WAS NOT UNTIL I CAUGHT his sideways glance back at us that I realized we needed to stop talking separately. I understood because I had been in his position myself and knew what it felt like. Early on, I did not realize when two people are together in a relationship, they learn to talk to each other in a certain shorthanded type of way, that only they understand. They also can get a sense through their partner’s body language; people refer to this as non-verbal visual cues. I remember walking with their new significant other as mine was walking behind to catch up with their old flame. To me it sounded like they were conversing with sentence fragments; little snippets of phrases and idioms that made little sense to me. They would laugh at what I heard to be random bits; but to hear them, one would think they were a couple of comedians sharing their comedy routines with each other. I cannot say I was feeling hurt per se, however, I did feel as if I was being left out from being part of their clique. As I said, the first time this happened to me I was uncomfortable. But as I gained experience being in that role and with maturity, I stopped feeling threatened and instead, learned to respect it for what it was: 2 exes’ catching up in the way only they knew how to communicate with each other.      WHETHER IT IS TWO OR A DOZEN people who have spent a significant time together, it is understandable they form a special bond between themselves. The bond becomes so strong that a long expanse of time filled with absence barely shaves off a layer from the top surface of the connection. I remember going back to an elementary school class reunion and despite having had no contact with many of my classmates for decades, all of us immediately fell into that comfortable spot of familiarity and belonging. It was as if I had just been with them a short time ago as my memories burst into my awareness like a school of swimming dolphin coming up for air at the same time; I would see someone new walk into the room and I immediately recognized them and recalled the interactions we had together when we were back in such and such grade. Any of the petty issues that any of us were carrying about a bad experience shared got washed away from the excitement of being back together as one cohesive body of students who survived the formative years of elementary school. That special bond between people was something that resonated with me when I watched the group of friends in this dramatic war adventure film.      RETURNING TO VIET NAM AFTER MANY YEARS, four military Vets were determined to complete their mission to retrieve their buddy’s remains and a stack of gold that was left behind. The bonds between them would serve them well as they went back into the jungle. With Delroy Lindo (Malcom X, Get Shorty) as Paul, Jonathan Majors (White Boy Rick, Captive State) as David, Clarke Peters (John Wick, Marley & Me) as Otis, Norm Lewis (Winter’s Tale, Sex and the City 2) as Eddie and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Cedar Rapids, BlackKklansman) as Melvin; the story in this movie was loaded up with several topical themes. The acting was excellent to the point I believed the 4 Viet Nam vet characters really fought together in the war. Granted I have no personal experience about being in the military during the Viet Nam war, but I found the script authentic enough for it to be believable. There were times where I felt some preaching was taking place, but it did not distract me enough to care about it. There were several scenes with blood and violence. One other positive thing about watching this movie was it reminded me how good pictures can provide viewers with things to think about afterwards.

 

3 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: October Sky

IT WAS A DOG AND A FALCON that steered me towards wanting to be an animal doctor. The dog was a relative’s pet and she was the first animal adopted into my extended family. She was a sweetheart who was always happy to see me. Anytime I was visiting my relative, I would always take the dog out for walks. She had a red colored ball that she absolutely loved to fetch, that I would spend nearly all my time throwing for her. This may sound odd; but whenever I was with her, I felt at peace. Yes, I know how that must sound but I was at my calmest when I was with her. She was the origin for my love of animals. I also think the comfort I had around her made me more receptive when it came to other animals. One of my summer camp counselors was a falconer. One day he brought a falcon with him. Where some kids were hesitant and shied away from the falcon, I only wanted to get closer and pet him. When he spread his wings out to their full length, I thought for a moment I was in the wild. He looked magnificent while perched on my counselor’s arm, wings wide and head turning to look at all of us kids.      THOSE TWO ANIMALS STARTED MY JOURNEY in studying to be a veterinarian. Though I did not get to the finish line, I never lost my love of animals. When I transitioned to a different major I wondered what would have happened if I had never encountered my relative’s dog or the falcon; one single event in time and a whole life can get steered down a particular path that had not been in your conscious prior. I remember a man I used to work with in a warehouse who wanted to be a fashion designer. Seeing his mother create her own outfits started him down his path. From having her teach him how to sew, to going to fashion school to getting a job at a fabric wholesaler where I met him; everyday he would come to work wearing something he had sewn himself. With row upon row filled with bolts of fabric, he felt he was working in heaven. I asked him once if there was anything else, he had wanted to be when he was growing up and he said yes. But after seeing what his mother could do with a needle and thread, he was hooked (pun intended). I admired his determination, just as I admired the determination of the main character in this biographical, dramatic family film.      GROWING UP IN A COAL MINING town meant there were only 2 choices high school students had waiting for them by the time they graduated; either earn an athletic scholarship to go to college or work in the coal mines. For Homer Hickam, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger, Donnie Darko), those choices were waiting for him until he looked up into the sky and saw something that no one had ever seen before. With Chris Cooper (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Adaptation) as John Hickam, Laura Dern (Marriage Story, Little Women) as Miss Riley, Chris Owen (The Mist, American Pie franchise) as Quentin and William Lee Scott (The Butterfly Effect, Pearl Harbor) as Roy Lee; this film festival winner based on a true story had an inspiring story that was wonderfully told through its script. Even at such an early age, Jake already was displaying his formidable acting skills. The whole cast was terrific and with the story set in the 1950s, there was an overall good homey feeling throughout this movie. Despite the predictability that was built into the story, I found this entertaining picture touching and inspirational. It also proved it only takes one event to change one’s life.

 

3 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: Spelling the Dream

FROM AN EARLY AGE, I WAS ENTHRALLED with the written word. I was one of those kids who was a regular at our public library. Where most people would check out one to 4 books at a time, my usual batch of books totaled eight to twelve. However, during the summer months, I was known to check out 20 books at time, using a wagon to transport them home. One of my babysitters was an avid reader who started teaching me words that I was not being taught in school. Taking out the lettered tiles from a boxed game, we would turn all of them face down then mix them up. Next, we would split the tiles between us and turn them face up. The object of this made-up game was to create as many words as you could with the tiles picked. Obviously, she could have easily out listed me each time; but she always kept herself in check, along with helping me with my tiles. It did not occur to me until much later that she did not want me to ever feel defeated. When I made as many words as I could, she would move my remaining tiles into unfamiliar words for me. We would then get a dictionary to look up each word. This game was one of my favorite ones to play.      AS I WAS LEARNING ALL OF THESE new words, I had one semester where I had a teacher who was a horrible speller. At first, I thought they were joking and trying to test the students, but it was not the case. They were simply bad when it came to spelling; it was a good thing they were not teaching us English or literature. The irony of it was right after that class I had a class where the teacher was constantly telling us the origin for many of the words, he spoke to us. None of us really cared it turned out; though, I still have a memory that the word candelabra comes from a Latin term that literally means candle tree and the word hippopotamus comes from the Greek word for water horse. In the classroom there was a massive dictionary that the teacher kept at the side of the room on a ledge. Whenever a student did not understand or mispronounce a word, the teacher would have them walk over to the dictionary to look it up. Obviously, this was not enough preparation if any of us wanted to enter a spelling contest and especially if we wanted to go up against the students in this amazing documentary.      THE NATIONAL SPELLING BEE HAS BEEN around since the 1920s, but since the 1990s the contest has been dominated by one group of Americans. What was their secret? This film festival winning picture was written by first timer Chris Weller and director Sam Rega (League of Millions, Miami Noir: The Arthur E. Teele Story). With appearances by Sanjay Gupta (Anderson Cooper 360-TV, Monday Mornings-TV) and Hari Kondabolu (All About Steve, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell-TV) among others, I was impressed by this movie. Since I have never sat and watched the telecast of the contest, I was surprised by the competitiveness and intensity that was on display. There was a mix of older and younger students that added levity and insight to their passion or maybe I should say desire. When I started watching this documentary, I thought I was going to witness parents who were dominating and strict, with only one thing on their mind—the contest. There were a couple of scenes that felt a bit repetitive; but overall the kids’ stories were so engaging and entertaining that I found myself getting anxious whenever a contest was in progress. This was a cinematic treat that provided me sustenance; I better look up the word sustenance, to make sure I am using it properly.

 

3 ½ stars      

Flash Movie Review: Conspiracy

THOUGH I INITIATED THE CONVERSATION, I now was trying to gracefully remove myself from it. I had been selling raffle tickets at a charity event and was on my hour dinner break. Standing over by the buffet table that nearly stretched out the length of the ballroom, a gentleman next to me commented on one of the platters of food. We both agreed it might taste good but it looked nasty. A man behind be seconded our comments. As we made our way down the table we started up a light conversation between the three of us. It turned out the 2 men were doctors. With my background in fitness, I thought I could hold my own in the conversation. However, when they started delving into different maladies and surgeries; I not only had nothing to contribute, but I did not even want to hear what they were saying. They were talking in detail about unusual surgeries they had performed, life threatening situations where time was of the essence. The ease of their dialog, to the point of almost being bantering, surprised me while at the same time giving me the heebie-jeebies. I was hearing such details about body organs, unusual tumors, spurting blood; I quickly lost my appetite. If you didn’t know the conversation you would have thought they were talking about a sporting event; they were so nonchalant about it.      I MAY HAVE FOUND THEIR CONVERSATION icky but I am sure this type of thing is commonplace for so many people. If you take the emotion out of the conversation and are conversing with a like minded individual(s), then whatever the topic is being discussed might not be startling or out of the ordinary. I guess if I was having a conversation with other yoga instructors about poses and practices, to the layman it might sound odd/bizarre to that person. When I am in such a position the thing that surprises me is the juxtaposition between the average dialog and the amazing topic. There is just something about it that can both amuse or horrify me. I am reminded of a CPR class I attended that was being led by a paramedic; his stories about his work were incredible to listen to yet he was so blasé about it. Just because this was recently in the news, I am also reminded of our past primary election where one of the candidates was a Holocaust denier. His matter of fact manner when discussing such a thing was mind blowing to me. The memory of him was in the back of my mind as I sat and watched this unbelievable, biographical drama.      DURING WORLD WAR II HITLER’S TOP LIEUTENANTS convened in a remote place to discuss how to proceed on Hitler’s final solution. The meeting for all appearances looked like a lively dinner party. This film festival winning movie based on true events starred Kenneth Branagh (Murder on the Orient Express, My Week with Marilyn) as Reinhard Heydrich, Stanley Tucci (Night Hunter, Spotlight) as Adolf Eichmann, Barnaby Kay (Red Tails, The Man Who Knew too Little) as Rudolf Lange, Peter Sullivan (The Limehouse Golem, The Bill-TV) as S.S. Col Eberhard “Karl” Schongartin and Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, A Single Man) as Dr. Wilhelm Stuckart. Seeing such a young cast of actors was my first surprise; my second was the horror I was witnessing in their conversations. Most of the film takes place in one room, but do not think you will get claustrophobic; the acting was stellar and the script was intense. These were two things that kept me glued to the screen. At times, I felt I was attending a history lesson and at other times I felt I was a “fly on the wall” listening to such world altering conversations. This film seemed like a classic to me.

 

3 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: Echo in the Canyon

EXCEPT FOR A COUPLE OF PARTICIPANTS WHO came with a friend none of us knew each other as we sat in the room, waiting for the instructor. The class each of us signed up for was a pottery class at the local community center. I was interested in pottery after seeing a potter at an art fair use a potter’s wheel to make a bowl. Watching him take a lump of clay, throw it onto the wheel and with some water and wooden utensils turn it into a beautiful etched bowl; it was mesmerizing to me, as it seemed to be pure magic. The instructor walked into the room and introduced himself to us. After explaining what he planned on us achieving, he asked us to come up and get some clay to work on for the day. With a quick succession of instructions and encouragement, the instructor asked us to talk to each other and left us to explore the possibilities with our clay. Before we turned on our potter’s wheels a member in the class asked what people were thinking of making with their clay. I planned on doing a bowl, but I was surprised by all the different comments. The creative ideas some of the participants expressed were fueling the conversations as we began our projects. It wasn’t until after the potter’s wheels were on and everyone’s lump of clay were halfway towards completion that I realized how exciting it was to be sitting in a room with engaged and creative “artists.”      THE CREATIVITY THAT CAME OUT OF THAT classroom could be seen by the variety of objects that each of us made and designed. I surprised myself by how quick I adapted to the environment. Almost all of the time, I need time to process a situation. As you can imagine being spontaneous is not something I do often, or maybe ever. When I have attended aerobic workshops, I always have a fear the presenter is going to ask us to break up into smaller groups and create an exercise routine. I am horrible in these types of scenarios. Now granted, I am aware and can feel the excitement participants experience while working together to create a routine to present in the workshop; I, on the other hand, experience an undercurrent of dread as I feel I am put on the spot to come up with something to share with the rest of the group. I do see the merits of working together to hash out ideas and there have been times where I do contribute once I feel more comfortable; however, I prefer sitting back and think over the variety of possibilities that begin to pop up into my head. This is why I totally understood what the musical artists were experiencing in this musical documentary.      DURING THE 1960S, A GROUP OF MUSICIANS found an area in Los Angeles that not only allowed but also encouraged them to take creative license with the music they were creating; it was called Laurel Canyon. This film festival winning movie had a variety of interviews and performances by Fiona Apple, Ringo Star, the Byrds, the Beach Boys, Eric Clapton, and The Mamas and the Papas. This film’s journey was “hosted” by Jakob Dylan who also performed. I did not mind him being the interviewer, but wished he had asked more questions of the musical artists instead of simply nodding his head. I enjoyed watching and listening to this documentary because of the historical significance and the personal stories being told. At times, I felt I was being taught a history lesson as I listened to the artists explain their connection and influences to the creation of a particular song; it was so cool. For music lovers in particular, this would be a worthwhile viewing experience. It reminded me of my younger days in winter when I would sing to myself “California Dreamin’” to stay warm.

 

3 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

I WISH I COULD REMEMBER HOW OLD I was when I was able to stay home alone without a babysitter. The funny thing is, I absolutely remember the day when it happened. It was a clear but windy Saturday night. My food treats for the evening were a freshly popped bowl of popcorn, a box of chocolate chip cookies and a cup of chocolate pudding that was covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator. I was so excited to have the run of the house all to myself. No fighting over who would get to watch their TV show on the large television in the living room and no waiting to use the bathroom; I was all set for the evening. The first television show I planned on watching was a comedy. All settled on the couch with my bowl of popcorn and a bolster to recline on, I began watching my TV show. It was only 10 or 15 minutes into the program when I heard a sound coming from the back door. I was afraid to walk into the kitchen to see what it was; so, instead I creeped along the living room wall until I was able to sneak a peak out the window that was closest to the back porch. I did not see anyone there; but I was scared enough to run into the kitchen and wedge one of the kitchen chairs under the doorknob of the back door. I also took out a butcher knife from the kitchen drawer and kept it by my side the rest of the night.      THOUGH THAT WAS MY INITIAL INTRODUCTION into becoming a responsible “older” boy, I began to relish my new status within the family. There was a sense of freedom, if you will. I do not mean to infer I was a prisoner or something like that; it was having the option of choice that gave me this feeling of freedom. A small child is told what to do or not do. For example, I remember when I was not allowed to touch the knifes that everyone else was using at the dining room table; my food was cut up for me because I was too young to do if for myself. At some point as I got older, I was able to use a knife to cut my own food. Stuff like this may sound trivial but being able to take actions and make decisions for oneself is a powerful force. This is something I do not take lightly because I know there are places in the world where people do not have the ability to make their own choices. Imagine what life would be like for you if you did not have the freedom of choice. If you wish to see examples, this exquisite, dramatic film festival winner will show you.      AFTER HER SISTER’S DEATH HELOISE’s, PLAYED BY Adele Haenel (The Unknown Girl, Love at First Fight), mother pulled her out of the convent to take her sister’s place hopefully in an arranged marriage. With Noemie Merlant (Paper Flags, Heaven Will Wait) as Marianne, Luana Bajrami (School’s Out, Happy Birthday) as Sophie, Valeria Golind (Hot Shots franchise, Escape From L.A.) as La Comtesse and Armande Boulanger (Conviction, Silence du leopard) as L’eleve atelier; this romantic movie was filmed in such a beautiful way that I felt I had been transported back to the 18thcentury on the Island of Brittany. The acting was mesmerizing as Noemie and Adele used their acting skills to tell the story. I especially enjoyed the way the script slowly heated up, giving enough time for each scene to fully set in. The dialog was spoken in French and Italian with English subtitles; I had no difficulty following the story while reading the subtitles. This was a fascinating movie watching experience that depicted a time when women particularly had less freedom to choose. At least, I hope they had less back then, than they do now.

 

3 ½ stars    

Flash Movie Review: Pain and Glory

I CRINGED WHEN I SAW WHAT I pulled out of the dresser drawer. It was a pair of compression shorts that I used to wear years ago for teaching aerobics. Holding them up arm’s length away, I could not believe there was a time, I not only wore them, but would willingly wear them in public. They were made of a Lycra spandex blend and were black with a pinstripe of red that went down the outer thighs. How did I ever think they were good looking, especially on me I wondered? At the time, it seemed like everyone was wearing these types of shorts; I just wanted to fit in with the crowd. It is funny how over time my original memory of me teaching in those shorts morphed from a happy memory to an uncomfortable one. That is the thing about memories, though the event itself doesn’t change our perceptions do. I can still see my younger self standing on stage in the aerobic studio in those shorts, leading the class through the different movements. During that time, I had the ability to eat whatever I wanted without worrying about gaining weight; how I miss those times! Teaching multiple classes, being on a strict regimen of weightlifting; it was a dream come true not having to worry about the consequences for eating a bowl of ice cream or several cookies at once.      MANY OF MY MEMORIES USED TO haunt me. The ones pertaining to my high school years really had a control over me that I could not shake. For years the weight of them prevented me from reaching out and exploring my potential. I do not really look at memories in terms of good or bad; they each are a part of me, but I now choose how to react to them. From the dark times in high school I changed those memories from being demons to motivational spokespeople. I can honestly say part of the reason I lost weight was due to those past high school memories. No more being the victim, I worked to recreate and embrace myself. For those of you who have been long time readers of my reviews, you can see I have an abundance of memories that well up when I am watching a movie. What may have started out as a bad memory is now only a cracked brick among the many that are part of the life path I am walking on. Memories provide us the opportunity to be inspired or creative or reflective; they do not have to weigh us down for an eternity. See for yourself by watching this dramatic, film festival winner.      IN FAILING HEALTH WITH TALK OF a retrospective on his previous film work; writer and director Salvador Mallo, played by Antonio Banderas (Dolittle, The Laundromat), looks back on the life that led him to the place he was at presently. With Asier Etxeandia (The Bridge, Velvet-TV) as Alberto Crespo, Leonardo Sbaraglia (The Silence of the Sky, Wasp Network) as Federico Delgado, Nora Navas (Black Bread, We All Want What’s Best for Her) as Mercedes and Penelope Cruz (Loving Pablo, The Counselor) as Jacinta; this was a beautifully filmed movie. The acting was excellent with Antonio doing some of his best work. The story jumps back and forth in time; at first it threw me, but I quickly found the rhythm of it. It was refreshing to experience a thoughtful and well-written script; the issues that came up were handled with a direct, clear vision. I have to say the scenes with Penelope were some of the most gorgeous pieces of story telling I have seen in a long time. This was the type of film viewing experience where one is given the opportunity to reflect on their own life. Spanish was spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 ½ stars     

Flash Movie Review: Marriage Story

THE FIRST TIME I ENCOUNTERED SOMEONE affected by a divorce was a boy in 5th grade. He and his mother had recently moved to the neighborhood after her divorce. If someone had asked me if I noticed anything different because this boy’s parents were divorced, I would have said not one thing. His mother worked which was no different than many of the other mothers who had a job outside the home. I do not recall any time when this classmate could not attend a school function or activity due to a missing parent or affordability; he was like any other student. It was not until 7th grade before there was another student who had parents that were divorced. Now during this time there were kids in school who had one out of both parents who had to be away from home for extended periods of time, either for work or the military. There would be times when the parent remaining at home would get help from a family member or neighbor; but it was not like that would make any kind of difference. The only time where it would ever make a difference, if you even want to call it that, was when there was a gender specific event like a father/daughter dance or a field trip where parents were needed to chaperone. So, an uncle or older cousin would fill in for the dance and some relative would handle being a chaperone; it was easily workable.      HAVING HAD SUCH EXPERIENCES WHILE GROWING UP, made the realization there was another option couples employed when they no longer wanted to be together much more difficult for me to rationalize. In fact, even today when I hear someone say they are staying together for the kids’ sake, I have to cringe. In my experiences I have not once seen where that option does anyone any good. I knew a family where the parents were doing this and all it accomplished was their kids having to go into therapy to deal with the craziness, they wound up experiencing, during what was a toxic environment. One parent started using the kids to deliver messages to their spouse; besides, trying to sway the kids’ opinion about the other parent into negative thoughts. It was sad to see the manipulation that was taking place in that household. Even worse was when I heard through a second party that one parent told one of their children, they were the cause for the breakdown in their marriage. To me that was criminal to say to a child. Because of my experiences; I intently watched this comedic, dramatic romance to see what was happening with the couple’s marriage.      MARRIAGE REQUIRES AN ABILITY IN BEING able to give and take; it appeared Charlie and Nicole, played by Adam Driver (Star Wars franchise, The Dead Don’t Die) and Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit, Lost in Translation), thought they were good at it. With Laura Dern (Certain Women, J.T. Leroy) as Nora Fanshaw, Alan Alda (Bridge of Spies, The Four Seasons) as Bert Spitz and Julie Hagerty (A Master Builder, Airplane franchise) as Sandra; this film festival winner’s cast was brilliant. I enjoyed each actor and the words they spoke. The story may appear to have a theme that is common to many other films; however, this script came across fresh and new to me. Adam and Scarlett were so good that I thought their characters were actual, real people. The dialog was authentic which only added to the realness of the characters. If I have any criticism, I think some viewers might find the beginning of the story sedated. Like a marriage, it can take a little work to get into it; but once you are, it can turn into a valuable lesson.

 

3 ½ stars

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