AFTER LISTENING TO THEM WHINE ABOUT how hard it is to be separated so long from their significant other, I had to remind them I had been in a long-distance relationship for a couple of years. They were complaining about the 6 months out of state assignment their partner was on for work. I wanted to be supportive, I truly did; but all I was hearing was a list of complaints about their needs not being met. It was only 6 months and I knew the high costs made it prohibitive to travel often; but they were in a committed relationship. Shouldn’t those in such a relationship be able to “weather the storm” of being apart I wondered? In my past relationship we were only able to be together once a month after they were promoted to a position at their corporate headquarters, that was out of state. They could not turn down the offer and I would not have wanted them to do it; we chose to be together while we were figuring out what made the most sense. My friend knew their partner traveled for work. Granted it usually involved being away 3 to 5 days at a time, nothing more until this current work detail. Tell me if I am wrong, but I had to wonder just how committed were they to their love relationship? COMMITMENT TAKES WORK AND IT TAKES strength; don’t kid yourself if you do not think so. I knew a married couple who spent more time apart than together because one of them took a teaching job in a foreign country. They realized for the short term it would be challenging, but they had a goal; with this job they would be able to retire years earlier than expected. The money from the teaching job would allow them to both retire young enough to enjoy sharing their lives together. I am not saying this would work for everyone; but I will say it shows a strong commitment to each other. This couple was able to see each other 3 times a year. Their children were grown and out of the house, which I assume made this arrangement easier for them. Within my circle of friends and acquaintances, I have seen individuals who cannot handle adversity in their relationships. If something tough happens they are too quick to end everything and move on. I try not to judge them; I understand everyone handles things differently. Now that I have watched this Oscar winner, I should just suggest they watch this movie to see how some people deal with commitment. HAVING RECENTLY MET, THERE WAS LITTLE time for Inman, played by Jude Law (The Nest, The Grand Budapest Hotel), and Ada Monroe, played by Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased, Bombshell), to get to know each other because the country was falling into a civil war. With Renee Zellweger (Judy, My One and Only) as Ruby Thewes, Eileen Atkins (Robin Hood, Gosford Park) as Maddy and Brendan Gleeson (The Guard, Calvary) as Stobrod Thewes; this film festival winning adventure drama was beautifully filmed and exquisitely acted. The outdoor scenes were wonderful to look at. Renee was amazing in her role and for me, she was the most believable. Much of the film consisted of a slower pace; sometimes more than I thought necessary. However, I did not lose interest as the script provided enough change in emotions to keep things moving. I can only assume the book must be powerful as this film had a variety of ways to look at the story. Also, I never gave enough thought to those left behind during wartime and I felt the writers did an especially good job in showing viewers the reality of the times. With a running time of 2 ½ hours, it does take one to commit to watching this film; but I feel it would be worth it.
3 ¼ stars
I MAY NOT REMEMBER A PERSON’S name, but I am good with remembering faces; yet, I had a hard time recognizing this man who was talking to me in the music store. He called out my name as he walked up to me. I am not attaching any judgment here, simply describing what I saw coming down the aisle. This man had, if I understand the phrase correctly, long dishwater blonde hair that looked oily. It cascaded in waves down the sides of his head. Perched halfway down his nose was a pair of wire rimmed glasses that had lenses that looked smudged and dirty to me. He was wearing an oversized, beige canvas jacket that had frayed edges and a couple of discolored spots on it. The jeans he was wearing were extremely faded and were so worn at the knees that you could see the white threading crisscrossing in the fabric. His shoes were so dirty it looked to me as if he had been trudging through a long road of mud. As I watched his face get nearer to me, I tried placing where I had seen it before. There was something familiar about it; I had a feeling that I must have known him from a long time ago. WE WERE FACE TO FACE WHEN he asked me how I was doing. I said fine but he must have seen the bewildered look on my face because he told me his name. As soon as I heard it, memories of him flooded into my mind. I did know him because we went to school together. So, you will better understand, let me tell you about him. He wasn’t a jock, did not play sports, but he was always trim. His hair back then was a lighter shade of blonde and was thick and cut short. I don’t remember him ever wearing glasses back then; maybe he only used them when he was studying at home. Many of the students in his class considered him a Brainiac; though, he never flaunted his high intelligence, at least he did not around me. A lot of us thought he would become a scientist or philosopher. I remember him always having a paperback book in his hand. So, you can sort of get the idea how shocked I was to see such a different version of him. As we were conversing, I kept wondering what had happened to him that caused such a drastic change in appearance and mannerisms. I think I found the answer while watching this Academy Awards and film festival winner. WITH HIS NEW GOVERNMENT POSITION ROBERT Wakefield, played by Michael Douglas (Behind the Candelabra, Ant-Man franchise), did not realize the impact his new mission would have on his family. With Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects, 21 Grams) as Javier Rodriguez, Don Cheadle (The Guard, Traitor) as Montel Gordon, Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago, The Mask of Zorro franchise) as Helena Ayala and Miguel Ferrer (RoboCop, Crossing Jordan-TV) as Eduardo Ruiz; this dramatic crime thriller took me a short time to separate and connect all the characters among its three story lines. The large cast was full of top notch acting that ran the gambit of emotions. Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven franchise, Magic Mike), I felt he did a masterful job of keeping the stories moving forward and blending in easily with each other. There were several intense scenes with blood, yet I did not find the violence was in excess. Once I found the rhythm of this picture, I was totally in and lost the concept of time; things kept happening and changing without me losing track once. I especially enjoyed the way the subject was broken down so each story line could focus on a particular aspect of it. Watching this film, I could not help wondering if my assumptions about my old classmate were closer to truth than I first thought.
3 ½ stars
THE CARDBOARD BOX SITTING ON A SHELF in my basement said it was some coffee brand; I do not drink coffee. When I took the box down, I could see a layer of dust that almost looked like gauze fabric was covering the lid. Placing it on the floor, I opened the box and saw crumpled newspaper packed inside. This told me whatever was in this box had come from somewhere else. I began pulling the clumps of newspaper out, but not before looking for a date listed on the paper. The paper was decades old which explained its yellowish hue and fragile state of decomposition. Something deep down in the box reflected a spark of reflected light coming from the bare lightbulb that was hanging down from the ceiling above me. I reached inside, dug my way down, and touched something that was cold and smooth. What in the world had been residing in my basement all these years I wondered? My hand was able to engulf nearly all of the object, but something attached to the surface was blocking my thumb and finger from touching each other. As I pulled this thing out of the box, bunches of crumpled newspaper tumbled to the basement floor like expired carnations. Lifting it up to my face, to be bathed in the glow of the single lightbulb, I held in my hand a silver creamer. MEMORIES INSIDE OF ME AWAKENED FROM their long slumber. This silver creamer with the black Bakelite handle was from the Art Deco era and I remember it only being used when guests were in the house. I put the creamer down on the ground and returned my hand back into the box because I knew the creamer always had a companion. And sure enough, I found the sugar container that was identical to the creamer except it had 2 handles. The times were so different when this set was sitting out on the dining room table. It was a different era where married couples formed couples club; a once a month get together, where the men played cards and the woman played games using small ceramic tiles. The term “coffee and” was popular; it meant coffee and some kind of dessert item(s) would be served during the evening. The tablecloth was set out; the coffee was brewed and stored in a big fancy percolator; platters of cookies, doughnuts or sweet rolls were placed around the table; and the required frosted cake presided over all the desserts from its lofty pedestal cake stand. There were even ashtrays available that were always accompanied by a book of matches. It was a different era and time, just like it was in this dramatic Academy Award winning film. DIRECTOR BERNIE DODD, PLAYED BY WILLIAM Holden (Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17), had always admired the work of Frank Elgin, played by Bing Crosby (High Society, Going My Way). Bernie was determined to get Frank to star in his play, but he would have to contend with Frank’s protective wife. With Grace Kelly (Rear Window, To Catch a Thief) as Georgie Elgin, Anthony Ross (The Gunfighter, Suspense-TV) as Philip Cook and Gene Reynolds (Boys Town, Andy Hardy’s Private Secretary) as Larry; this film festival winner came out of a different film era. Personally, I loved the feeling of traveling back in time to experience a Hollywood classic with its famous actors and abundant musical soundtrack. The acting was excellent but did come over a bit outdated or maybe I should say with over the top expressions with little subtlety. I did not mind this over dramatic flair because it was so fascinating watching the actors tell the story that threw the viewer a couple of curveballs. Images of old Hollywood with actors who were bigger than life; I felt as if I had visited a bygone era by watching this memorable movie.
3 ½ stars
WELL ANOTHER OSCAR SEASON will close with this weekend’s awards show. It has been an interesting past year for movies. There have been a couple of breakout stars and some major flops. Looking at my reviews the past year, there seems to have been fewer outstanding films in my opinion. I believe only 1 or 2 movies received my top 4 star rating. To tell you the truth overall it has been a tough slog to sit through so many pictures that were poorly made. I did however discover 3 new things at the theater. First, I love the one remodeled theater out of 18 at the movie complex near my house. With oversized, soft reclining seats that vibrate to the soundtrack and a dynamite sound system; it made watching a blockbuster film more enjoyable. Second, I discovered a decked out theater with great sound and picture quality along with reclining seats does not make a poorly made film any better. And lastly I discovered I hate, yes hate, sitting in a theater that allows people to order food and have it brought in so they can eat a meal while watching the movie. It is so annoying to sit there and try to pay attention to the picture while a group of people next to you are chomping down on their food. And don’t get me started with the ones that eat with their mouths open!
So let us put all of that aside, get settled into our happy place and enjoy the Academy Awards show. I have all of my favorite snacks ready (to be eaten during the commercials) and have the weekend off from teaching, so I can focus on getting all of my chores done before the telecast. Without further ado let me present to you my choices for what I think should and will win in each category listed.
MY CHOICE TO WIN WHAT WILL WIN
The Shape of Water The Shape of Water
Gary Oldman Gary Oldman
Sally Hawkins Frances McDormand
Sam Rockwell Sam Rockwell
Allison Janney Allison Janney
Guillermo del Toro Guillermo del Toro
Loving Vincent Coco
Call Me by Your Name Call Me by Your Name
Get Out The Shape of Water
Dunkirk Blade Runner 2049
This is Me Remember Me
Phantom Thread Beauty and the Beast
Baby Driver Star Wars: The Last Jedi
THERE YOU HAVE IT, my picks for the Oscars. May each and every one of you enjoy the show and may each day after be an Oscar worthy day for you. Thank you for your support, comments, likes and suggestions; I appreciate it deeply and also you allowing me to nurture my passion for movies.
There once was a little boy who was not very little. A majority of the people around him all looked the same which made him more self-concsious about his size. Not finding many places to fit in, to be like one of the others around him, he found a safe place in a palace. It looked like a palace to him with stained glass windows, smooth white colored brick walls, aged statues and a massive awning filled with colored lights perched above sets of pure glass doors with brass oversized handles. He not only felt safe inside but found a whole different world to the one he was living in. The first spot he would stop at once inside was the glass cases that were pieced together like a kid’s fort. Walking around he saw more types of candy than he had ever seen before. From there he would walk through a set of polished black doors that opened into a huge auditorium filled with row upon row of red velvet seats. He spent as much time as he could in this place because he discovered different worlds and experienced things he only saw in his imagination. Every week there would be a new movie that proved to him there were all types of people from all different places. He laughed, he cried, he yearned, he wished; and most importantly discovered he was okay just the way he was. FROM that point in time he has paid his respects to the magic of movies by watching the Oscar telecast every year. This year the show started out on a high note with the host Neil Patrick Harris doing what he does best, being a song and dance man. With the special effects around him that placed him into classic movie clips, things took a fun turn with Anna Kendrick and Jack Black. As the evening progressed Neil had more misses than hits as a host. The schtick with Octavia Spencer got old fast, though I give him points for honoring the film Birdman by walking out on stage in his underwear. One of my favorite moments was Lady Gaga’s tribute to the 50th anniversary of the movie The Sound of Music. Having seen her in concert where she sang live, she already had extra points in my book. Using a higher register of voice without losing her power; she did the movie proud. And if that was not enough to have Julie Andrews walk on stage was perfect for me. I wanted Mary Poppins to come to my house when I was a kid. For the best song from the movie Selma I thought the staging, the message and the vocals all contributed to the power a song has not only in a movie but in our hearts. THIS year the speeches took on a more personal aspect. The one everyone is talking about and deservedly so was the one given by Graham Moore for best adapted screenplay for The Imitation Game. Coming from the heart, his speech was the most inspiring in my opinion. Julianne Moore and Patricia Arquette both had strong speeches delivered in two distinctly different styles, yet each had potency in their words. Reese Witherspoon may not have given an acceptance speech but her #askhermore campaign is a wonderful idea. I understand all the designers are expecting shout outs for their handy work with the gowns the actresses are wearing, but is that all people want to hear about? Reese’s idea is for journalists to start asking more questions besides, “Who are you wearing?” OVERALL I am pleased with who received the Oscar award. To tell you the truth on one level I find it odd to place movies into a race with each other. My thing has always been if a movie can move you then it did its job. Just like there has to be someone who graduates at the top of their class and others from the bottom, some movies are phenomenal and others are awful. No matter what movie I am seeing, to this day there is a certain comfort and safety that comes over me when I sit down in a movie theater seat. So with the Oscars now given out the past year of movies has come to a close. May the new year of films stir something in our hearts and give us something to talk about.
As the final days up to the Oscar telecast turn like the last pages of an engaging, voluminous novel; I look back at the past year with a sense of joyful pride. There have been some amazing movies that lingered with me like a comfortable old sweater on a cool day. I have also seen a variety of dreadful films that weighed me down to the point where I felt my seat was swallowing me up alive. No matter which type of film it may have been, what has heightened my movie watching experience has been my ability to share these films with each of you. Thank you for your likes, opinions and sharing your personal stories. Now if I can only get asked to be a seat filler at the Oscar telecast, my life would be complete. So, before the biggest holiday of the year takes place this Sunday; here are my picks for what I feel deserve the Oscar.
Best Picture: Argo
Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz
Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway
Best Director: David O. Russell
Best Animated Feature: Wreck-It Ralph
Best Foreign Language Film: Amour
To everyone I wish you an Oscar night filled with fun and excitement, before we all get a good night’s sleep to begin a new year in search of that perfect 4 star movie. Happy Oscar Day!