THERE WAS NO WAY YOU WOULD not notice him if he was within your eyesight. Even if you were in a crowded store, you still would have picked him out in the crowd. I know because I used to work with him. We worked at the same company; he and I both had desks set up in the back of the warehouse. I did customer service and he was involved with shipping and receiving. My first day on the job, I remember it clearly, he was sitting at his desk wearing black and white patterned slacks with a matching vest. Not to be judgmental, but I did think the attire was a bit much; if nothing else, I knew wearing white in a warehouse setting was never a good idea. Everyday he wore what I considered to be elaborate outfits; I had never seen such clothing hanging on a rack at any store. It turned out he wanted to be a fashion designer. At least that explained the clothing he wore; all his outfits were made by him. After a while, there was nothing that he wore that surprised me. Sometimes he included a big hat with his outfits; the hats would have either big feathers or different charms sticking out of the hat band. The one thing I did not know until much later was the fact he was a functioning alcoholic. BECAUSE I AM NOT A DRINKER, I have little experience or patience with those who drink to excess. I have only been drunk twice in my life; my first time was in college when I turned 18 years old and the other was when I was 24 years old on a date that lasted late into the night. After that, I vowed I would never drink again except for the occasional toast or the tasting of a drink. With my decision, I also took on the role of being everyone’s designated driver whenever I was out with friends. It was amusing to sit back and take in the changes people would go through after they had started drinking alcohol. There were some folk who felt it was their job to make me take a drink. They had decided I could not have a good time unless I had a few drinks inside of me. Others would find or think they found some hidden new courage inside of themselves, where they would act out by performing different stunts that I thought were not safe. One person I remember broke a bathroom urinal off the wall. I never understood the connection between creativity and courage with the amount of alcohol consumed; this is why I found the story in this Oscar nominated film captivating. FOUR HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS DECIDE TO experiment with the consumption of alcohol to see how it expands their teaching abilities. Evidently, they did not realize how it would affect their lives outside of the school as well. With Mads Mikkelsen (Doctor Strange, At Eternity’s Gate) as Martin, Thomas Bo Larsen (The Hunt, The Celebration) as Tommy, Magnus Millang (Heavy Load, The Command) as Nikolaj, Lars Ranthe (The Hunt, Adam’s Apples) as Peter and Maria Bonnevie (The 13thWarrior, Insomnia) as Anika; this comedic, film festival winning drama provided an interesting premise in its story. I appreciated the way the writers presented a midlife crisis scenario without making a judgment. The acting was excellent, and I thoroughly enjoyed the way Mads disappeared into his role. He was the main focus for me. And without giving away anything, I loved the ending to this movie. As for the topic of alcohol consumption based on the study they talked about in the story, I do not know if it is a real study or not. If not, then it was a brilliant way to introduce the story to the viewers. Danish and Swedish was spoken through the film with English subtitles.
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
THOUGH IT HAS BEEN SEVERAL YEARS since I taught that class, I still think about it often. I go over in mind what I would have done differently if I could repeat the class over. It was the last part of my yoga class, where we go into a relaxed position with guided visualization. I had turned the lights off; there was only a faint glow coming from the displays of the few electronic devices in the room. Halfway through our relaxation period, a member coughed a couple of times then burped. Though I could not see faces I could tell the noise had come from a female member. While I was still guiding the class through a visualization, I quietly walked towards the woman. Before I reached her, I saw another woman had rolled over to face her, to see if she was okay. As I came up to them the other woman said her mother was not feeling well, pointing to the burping woman. Before I could say anything, the ill sounding woman started making sounds as if she was about to vomit. I ran to get a garbage can as the daughter helped her mother to a sitting position. When I returned with the garbage can the daughter told me her mother had eaten dinner just before she came to class. I still wish to this day that I would have mentioned something about eating during my introduction at the beginning of the class. MY YEARNING TO REVISIT AN EVENT in the past used to be based solely on guilt. There was the aerobic charity event where I lead a packed basketball court of people through a workout. I had to wear what I thought was a goofy outfit promoting the event. Looking back, I now realize my movements were a tad too complicated for the novice exerciser. I remember seeing guests getting lost with my directions. Where guilt used to drive my actions, I can now look back at the things I have done and consider them a learning experience. I know some people never look back at their history, but I cannot do such a thing. For me, the ability to look back at a past event is a teaching experience. A friend of mine never takes the time to study their past; as a result, they keep making the same mistakes over and over. I mentioned guilt used to be my motivator; however, I believe there are individuals whose motivation is their desire to receive approval. It could be from a parent, a teacher or even best friend; for some reason they may not have enough confidence to appreciate the things they can do. I wonder if this was what was going on with the main character in this dramatic sports film? ACCEPTING THE OFFER TO TEACH THE school’s losing basketball team would provide Jack Cunningham, played by Ben Affleck (The Accountant, Gone Girl), an opportunity to revisit his past. It was a past he was running away from, however. With Janina Gavankar (Blindspotting, True Blood-TV) as Angela, Michaela Watkins (Brittany Runs a Marathon, The Back-Up Plan) as Beth, Hayes MacArthur (Life as We Know It, She’s Out of My League) as Eric and Da’Vinchi (All American-TV, Grown-ish-TV) as Devon Childress; most of the attention was given to Ben. I will say he was excellent in this role; though, I did wonder how close did this character mirror his own life. The story and the script were easily predictable which took some of the drama out for me. I did find the basketball scenes funny, especially the ones involving Jack interacting with the team’s spiritual advisor. There will not be any surprises here, I do not think, for the viewer. Luckily, Ben’s skill at playing this type of flawed character is his forte, in my opinion. What connected me further was my experiences with dwelling in the past.
ACTIONS speak louder than words. Sometimes they do more than just speak louder. There are some people who do things with little fanfare, but their actions have a profound effect on many. Recently on the news I saw there was an anonymous donor who provided enough funds to rebuild a charitable organization’s offices after they were damaged by a tornado. Another news source reported on a patient who needed a kidney transplant. A donor had stepped forward after hearing the patient’s story. This donor had no connections to the individual, but after hearing the patient’s story he said he felt it was the right thing to do. He did not want any compensation or recognition for his healthy kidney, nor did he want any fuss. Of course the news sources jumped at the chance to bring a “feel good” story to the public. During these current times I find it refreshing to find individuals doing good deeds without the need to broadcast or brag about them to the world. LOOKING towards the opposite end of the spectrum, there are individuals who have no idea their actions can have a negative impact on people. How many of us have experienced at work where one worker does something shady or let me say “against policy” that causes the company to install a new procedure that affects all the workers? I was employed at a company where the owner was carrying on an affair with a woman who was not his wife. Luckily I did not get sucked into the drama, but several employees were put in an uncomfortable spot when the wife would call looking for her husband. The employees were put in an awkward place because they had no choice but to lie to the wife if they wanted to keep their job. You might be thinking the affair would not last long and you would be partially correct. Some did not last long but there was always some other woman waiting in the wings. I so wanted to tell the owner to take a look around and see how his actions were affecting his employees. Too bad he did not have the insight that the main character found in this fantasy comedy. GLORIA’S, played by Anne Hathaway (The Intern, Rachael Getting Married), constant drinking was having an effect on her boyfriend Tim, played by Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast, The Guest). She could not see what her actions were doing to him, let alone to people nowhere near her. This film festival winning movie’s story was quite unusual. It started out slow or more to the point confusing to me; however, once I felt I understood what Gloria’s drinking represented I was able to sit back and enjoy this quirky film. Anne did a wonderful job of acting with her character and the bonus was watching her play against Jason Sudeikis (Masterminds, Mother’s Day) as Oscar. He was amazing in his ability to switch back and forth between comedy and seriousness. I honestly do not see this picture going into wide release because I would not consider it a mainstream movie. However the story really had a way of pulling in the viewer; one only needed to suspend reality and watch how actions speak louder than words at times.
Growing up in a state where 21 years of age was the legal limit for buying alcoholic beverages, my friends had a better appreciation of me going to college out of state. The reason being the university was in a state where 18 was the legal drinking age. You would have thought I would have taken advantage of the situation, but it only took one time of me getting drunk that ended my drinking with visiting friends. The dumbest thing I did was skip breakfast and lunch the day after because I was hung over. Those who know me know I never miss a meal. What I do not understand is when I was drunk that one time I did not have the desire to take off my clothes in public or dance on top of cars. Why then would I care to watch someone else act out in a drunken state? So I could review this movie for you. Known for writing The Hangover and Wedding Crashers, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore chose to make their directorial debut with this story. Straight A college student Jeff Chang, played by Justin Chon (Twilight franchise, Hang Loose) had one of the most important meetings of his life set up the morning after his 21st birthday. His father Dr. Chang, played by Francois Chau (Lost-TV, Rescue Dawn) would be picking him up promptly, first thing in the morning. Unplanned was the surprise visit from Jeff’s two best friends Miller and Casey, played by Miles Teller (Rabbit Hole, Project X) and Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect, Taking Woodstock). Pleading with Jeff to let them take him out for one drink, Miller and Casey promised they would bring him right back. I do not have to say anything else; that is how predictable the story was in this sordid film. Honestly, there was nothing creative except for a couple of stupid stunts as the trio went on a drinking binge. Maybe I did not get the memo on what was required to view this movie–a six pack of beer, not that I am encouraging anyone to drink. My advice is to save your money and go rent the movie Animal House instead.
1 2/3 stars
In social situations where my answer to drink requests was water; more times than not, I was asked if I had an issue with alcohol. I explained to the person that no, I did not like the taste of it; preferring to use calories on a chocolate chip cookie. As a child I remember being horrified as I saw relatives acting out from being drunk. Inevitably an argument would ensue making everyone around uncomfortable. It usually was not a pleasant situation when the drunk person’s date or spouse was not in a similar inebriated state. This comedic drama gave a straight forward, unapologetic look at the challenges encountered when one person in a relationship attempts to make a change. Kate and Charlie Hannah, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad-TV, The Last House on the Left) had the best times together when alcohol was involved. From backyard games to night time drunken bicycle rides, life was a constant high. But after hungover Kate vomited in front of her 1st grade students, those good times seemed less fun. What could replace her’s and Charlie’s favorite activity? The story was well thought out in this compelling film. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul were not only believable in their raw performances; they brought a subtle darkness to the characters. I was moved to the point where I felt a twinge of anxiety, similar to what I felt as a kid. The remaining cast for the most part were secondary; I thought Octavia Spencer (The Help, Seven Pounds) as Kate’s mentor Jenny could have been a stronger character. With an outstanding performance from Mary Elizabeth, this movie transcended from a story about two heavy drinkers to a keen observation on the choices one makes in life.