ONE OF THE HARDEST THINGS ABOUT teaching fitness/yoga classes is filling in for an absent instructor. Though I never refused unless logistically I could not make the class, there always was apprehension on what I would encounter from the participants. Like going to doctors or hair stylists, people find an instructor they like and stick with them. Walking into a class to find out a substitute is filling in for your favorite instructor usually leads to some level of disappointment. I remember filling in for a fellow yoga instructor and as I was introducing myself, three participants rolled up their mats and walked out. Ten minutes later as we were doing our warmup poses, a member asked me why I was not turning the lights off; evidently the assigned instructor teaches in subdued light. When I told the member I needed light to observe how each person was doing the poses; she made a sour face, uttered what sounded like a “harumph” before gathering her things and stormed out of the room. I totally get how individuals have expectations before they walk into the fitness room; but I must ask what options do they think are available? Either the substitute instructor teaches class, or the class would have to be cancelled; under these circumstances, wouldn’t it be better to deal with a different instructor’s style of yoga instead of no yoga at all? WHEN IT COMES TO INSTRUCTORS OR really anyone who is in a visible position, people are funny about those they like. Where I experienced more of the negative aspects when filling in for another instructor, I have heard from those instructors who have subbed for me. They have experienced the same negative reactions to their presence in my classes. I understand disappointment; when I go to a live theater event and the leading star’s character has a stand-in, I am disappointed, but I am not going to deny myself the experience of seeing the production. Just like those stories one hears about a rabid fan doing things to catch a glimpse of their favorite celebrity, people want what they want as they say. I have read about millionaires who pay exorbitant prices to get a singer to perform at one of their parties. Or what about the individuals who do an outrageous act in the hopes of getting their celebrity crush to notice. I had a member who turned into a stalker, who would pop up at the oddest times to talk and ask me out until I had to file a complaint. As I sat down to watch this action crime comedy, I wondered which way would one of the main characters act, upon meeting their celebrity crush. DOWN ON HIS LUCK AND NEEDING the money was enough incentive for Nick Cage, played by Nicolas Cage (Pig, Between Worlds), to accept the offer to show up at a wealthy man’s estate. If nothing else, it would be a new role for him. With Pedro Pascal (Wonder Woman 1984, The Mandalorian-TV) as Javi Gutierrez, Tiffany Haddish (Like a Boss, Bad Trip) as Vivian, Sharon Horgan (Game Night, Dating Amber) as Olivia and Neil Patrick Harris (The Matrix Resurrections, Gone Girl) as Richard Fink; this movie was a lighthearted, fun experience. What made it so was the pairing of Nicolas with Pedro; they were great together as they played off each other. The idea for the story was novel, where I could appreciate the tongue in cheek flavor of the script. The writers were creative in setting things up for Nic to spoof Nicolas’ old films. Honestly, there is not anything that is a surprise here per se; however, it was just fun to see Nicholas doing such an excellent job parodying himself. As the film ended, I wondered if the movie studio would do another film with the two main leads; I think it would be a hoot.
I KNOW FOR SURE IT WAS before I started kindergarten, but I cannot remember how much younger I was when I saw my very first Oscars telecast. What I do remember was how all the women were so fancy in their long dresses. The other memory is about the Oscar statue; it looked so heavy to me, I wondered how the actors could lift it so easily. Ever since that moment in time, I have seen the Academy Awards telecast each year. Everyone who knows me knows how much I look forward to the telecast. Through the years it became a thing to see every nominated film before the show aired and then soon after the family contest started to see who was best at predicting the winners. I cannot tell you how much I looked forward to this yearly event…. up until now. LIKE SO MANY THINGS THE PAST year, COVID has had an affect on movies. For the first time in my adult life, I have not been able to see all the films nominated in the major categories. With the onslaught of all the different streaming services, it has been a maddening situation for me. The idea of signing on to all these services just to see a few films makes no sense to me; it would cost more than my cable bill, which is already expensive. And I must tell you, I am angry at the Academy’s board of trustees. I feel if movies are such an integral part of society, they could have made the effort to arrange for all the nominated films to be shown for free. Possibly pay the streaming services and studios to air the films under their banner for free or nominal fee over a weekend; I would be happy with this arrangement. But instead for the first time since I was predicting Oscar winners, I will not be doing it this year because I have not seen all the movies in each category. Instead all I can offer is my opinion on which one out of the ones I viewed I liked the best. So, with no further ado, here are my thoughts on this year’s partial crop of Oscar nominated films.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
Amanda Seyfried, Mank
My favorite out of this group would be Glenn Close.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami
Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah
Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
This is a tough one for me because they all had a strong impact on me. I would love to see Sacha win just to hear his acceptance speech, plus he did an amazing job. I think the academy will choose Daniel.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
Each of these 3 deserve the award. Carey made the biggest impact on me, so I will go with that though I think the Academy will pick Viola.
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Gary Oldman, Mank
Chadwick has a lock on this category. I did think Riz did an amazing job with his role and under different circumstances I would pick him.
INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
Another Round – Denmark
Better Days – Hong Kong
I absolutely loved Better Days and it deserves every award it can get.
My Octopus Teacher
Though I thoroughly engaged with Crip Camp, My Octopus Teacher is my favorite.
Judas and the Black Messiah
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7
My choice goes to The Trial of the Chicago 7
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Over the Moon
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
The one that took me away is Over the Moon
Judas and the Black Messiah
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Out of the ones I was able to view, I would give it to The Trial of the Chicago 7
So, there you have it; I am sad I haven’t seen all the nominees and have not been in a movie theater for one year. However, putting things into perspective, at least I am here and able to see some films. The most important thing is that we all get through this time and get to our new normal. Be well and stay safe, that is my wish for you. Thank you.
RARELY DO YOU SEE THE NEWS report on what takes place after a child’s sporting event has ended. If you are like me, you probably have seen a kid’s baseball or soccer or football game at some point in your life. I attended a relative’s son’s game. My biggest concern was the weather because it was an especially cold day and the idea of sitting outside on uncomfortable, metal bleachers was not cutting it for me; however, I agreed to go see the game anyway. When I arrived at the playing field, I found my relative and we went to claim a spot on the bleachers. The game started soon after. There was nothing exciting about the plays, but I cheered during the appropriate times. I noticed by the sidelines several adults who were bundled up walking up and down the field based on where the teams were playing. It didn’t take me long to figure out these guys were fathers of some of the players. The reason I knew was due to their behavior; they had no qualms about voicing their opinions, yelling at the referees or screaming at their own kids. I could not believe what I was hearing. To me, they sounded like an angry mob; for heaven’s sake, it was just a kid’s football game. Their children, I thought, must have been horrified by the vocal outbursts. The referees tried curtailing the Dads’ behaviors, but it only had a short-term effect before the Dads would go back to yelling. THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE WAS MAKING ME more uncomfortable than I was presently. After the game ended (it seemed like an eternity), we waited for my relative’s son. We stood off to the side of the bleachers on a path that led to the parking spots. Standing there, I was able to hear snippets of conversations from the passing people. One Dad was walking with his player son right by me. I could see the Dad was not happy based on the faces he was making as he was belittling his child. Calling his son names, telling him he was no good and a variety of other negative comments; I was disgusted by the man’s ignorance on what he really was doing to his son. The poor kid looked brokenhearted, his head hanging down, only able to stare at the ground. I wanted to shout at the father but refrained myself. What did the Dad hope to accomplish with all his yelling? I asked myself the same question as I was watching this powerful dramatic film. EX-RODEO CLOWN AND FELON JAMES LORT, played by Shia LaBeouf (The Peanut Butter Falcon, Fury), would do anything to make his son a star; even if it might hurt him. With Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird, Boy Erased) as Otis (22), Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place, Wonder) as Otis (12), Byron Bowers (The Chi-TV, The Eric Andre Show-TV) as Percy and Laura San Giacomo (Pretty Woman, Just Shoot Me!) as Dr. Moreno; Shia wrote the screenplay, for this film, that was based on his life experiences. I felt this was one of Shia’s best performances and I believe it had an affect on Lucas and Noah; they were just as good. If even half of the scenes in this movie were true; Shia had one torturous childhood. Sitting through this picture was like being in therapy due to the roller coaster display of intense emotions. There were times I wondered how Otis even made it to adulthood, based on the amount of pressure that was being placed on him. For several years I lost interest in Shia due to his erratic behavior that was making the news. However, after seeing what he did with the script and acting in this movie, I have a whole new appreciation for him and his acting ability.
3 ½ stars
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.
There is something magical when the lights dim and the audience settles into momentary silence. The heavy curtain purrs as it takes flight and there standing before you is a scene that wakens into life. I love the experience of live theater (such an odd term that suggests there is dead theater) with actors claiming their parcels of stage land. My close friend, who was a theater major, has the most fascinating stories about theater life; I love listening to them whenever the subject comes up. Finding this treasure of a film was sweet, since I backed away from it when I saw Zac Efron’s (The Lucky One, 17 Again) name attached to it. But gratefully the story captured my attention by combining two of my favorite things: movies and theater. Zac played Richard Samuels, a boy who skipped a school day to venture into the heart of New York City and the lights of Broadway. As a 17 year old Mr. Efron was okay for this role, even with his somewhat thin acting abilities. I will cut him some slack here; since he, along with the majority of the cast, had to go up against a tour de force performance by Christian McKay (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Mr. Nice) as Orson Welles. I was riveted to my flat screen by Mr. McKay’s performance. The movie was set in the 1930’s when young Orson was opening up his Mercury Theater, with a modern version of Julius Caesar. There are thousands of stories about Mr. Welles’ ego and character; they all got played out with Christian’s amazing acting. He dominated every scene, every line, every actor; he even looked like the real Orson. Everyone was a pawn to this bombastic man, even Zac’s character who was hired on the spot to be in the opening night production. I will say Claire Danes (Stardust, Temple Grandin) did an admirable job playing Orson’s ambitious assistant, Sonja Jones. This was an excellent movie to watch; that combined my love of theater and movies into one decent production.
2 3/4 stars — DVD