WE WERE SITTING IN A CIRCLE with each of us prepared to read what we had wrote the past week. There was one student in the writing group who consistently wrote violent action into his stories. If he mentioned a car crash he could not just leave it at that, letting the listener use their imagination. He had to describe in detail every broken bone, laceration or bloody death associated with the crash, fight, murder or accident. The rest of us in class had a difficult time paying attention to his stories because the scenes he created were uncomfortable to hear spoken. There was another student who already had a book published about his time in the military during a major conflict. His stories continued the same theme; there was always a military presence in his stories. When it was my turn to read, I had my typed pages neatly stacked on my lap; so, it was easy for me to handle the length of time we were allowed to talk. After reading my story out loud a fellow student said my writing style was similar to Vladimir Nabokov. I was stunned; mainly because he was one of my top favorite writers, along with Charles Dickens, Yukio Mishima and Herman Melville. WHAT AN HONOR FOR A PEER to say such a thing to me. I would never compare myself to Nabokov, but I must tell you I was flying high the rest of the day. It started me thinking about the times I compared someone I knew to a famous or well-known celebrity. To the best of my recollection I only did it when it would be compliment. I mean really, how rude would it be to tell a friend they are acting just like so and so, who did a similar thing that got them arrested. Think about all the times sportscasters compare an athlete to a former one; it really must be an honor for an athlete to hear such a thing I would imagine. There is that proverb that states: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” For the most part I would agree with this, but I do have an issue with it when someone is doing it without putting in any effort or thought. There was an employee I taught with who never took the time to learn the reasons and mechanics behind weight training. All they wanted to do was go to other instructors’ classes and see what exercises they were doing. Once memorized this person would do the same ones in their classes. I did not think that was right, just as I thought the author in this film festival nominated biography was not right for what she did. WHEN HER CELEBRITY BIOGRAPHIES FELL OUT of favor the only way author Lee Israel, played by Melissa McCarty (Life of the Party, The Boss) thought she could earn money was to add her words to the letters of famous deceased celebrities. It turned into a lucrative business. With Richard E. Grant (Penelope, Gosford Park) as Jack Hock, Dolly Wells (45 Years, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Anna and Jane Curtin (I Love You, Man; Third Rock from the Sun-TV) as Marjorie; this comedic crime film was based on Lee Israel’s memoir. The story came alive due to Melissa and Richard; they were so good together and I must say this was a smart move for Melissa after her recent dreadful movie, The Happytime Murders. She was wonderful in this role, assisted by the beautiful direction and script. The story slowly unfolded as Lee sinks to a desperate state and yet, she remains a somewhat sympathetic character. I really enjoyed watching this unbelievable story and might not be far out on a limb to say Melissa may earn a nomination this award season.
3 ½ stars
THE talk I was hearing from people was this place had things “to die for” throughout the store. I decided I would check it out since the place covered one of my favorite food categories: desserts. Walking into the bakery with its fancy, carved wooden doors with stained glass panes; I immediately fell into a swoon from the overwhelming smell of baked goods. From a piping hot smell as if the ovens were exhaling cinnamon breaths to the aroma of roasted nuts wafting in the air like a low morning fog; there was too much for my eyes and nostrils to take in with one pass. The prospects looked mighty good that I had entered into a little slice of heaven. To my left was a glass case with three shelves filled with loaves of bread. Not your standard fare, these loaves had a variety of different looks to them. Some were a rich dark brown with shiny crusts while others had various seeds, nuts and fruit pieces covering their tops looking like those photos of rough terrain one would see in a friend’s photos from a national park. AS for the cakes they literally looked like works of art. There was a cocoa frosted cake that had an abstract design made out of candy coated chocolate pieces across each side. On the top were white and chocolate ribbons that had depth to them so they looked like knotted twine. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement, especially when I came upon an entire case filled with cookies; the perfect food item in my opinion. No mess, no crumbs, no evidence of them ever being missed. After 30 minutes I made my selections and walked out of the bakery, laden with packages. Once home everything was set for me to experience these exquisite morsels of bliss. The first cookie I tried had an interesting taste; the 2nd one I tried had an unexpected flavor I did not find enjoyable. Moving on to a mini-cake I took a slice and bit into it. It was good but nothing special. My heart was sinking as my disappointment was rising. LONG divorced from her husband Susan Morrow, played by Amy Adams (Arrival, Big Eyes), was surprised to receive a copy of his new book that was dedicated to her. The story would turn into a disturbing read for Susan. This film festival winning dramatic thriller also starred Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, Southpaw) as Tony Hastings/Edward Sheffield and Michael Shannon (Elvis & Nixon, Midnight Special) as Bobby Andes. The three of them were perfect in their roles. Written and directed by designer and creative director Tom Ford (A Single Man), the look of this film was picture perfect. Everything was in its place and each scene looked complete with style. The script was a story within a story where I found myself more attracted to the book’s story. There was more strength in it compared to Susan’s current life; In other words I felt more life coming out of them. This film was certainly a polished piece of work that just needed a little more work below the surface.
2 ¾ stars
If Omar Razaghi, played by Omar Metwally (Rendition, Munich), rang my doorbell; I would not answer the door. To tell you the truth, unless I am expecting someone, I never answer the front door. In this intriguing movie, Mr Razaghi traveled all the way to Uruguay without giving any prior notice. Having received a grant to write an autobiography of Latin American author Jules Gund, doctoral student Omar was hoping to get approval from the deceased author’s family. Showing up unannounced at the author’s estate, Omar was met by the resistant widow Caroline, played by Laura Linney (The Savages, Mystic River). Besides her, living at the house was what Omar believed was Jules’ mistress Arden Langdon, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg (Melancholia, I’m Not There). The third person Omar had to convince was the author’s gay brother Adam, played by Anthony Hopkins (Thor, Hannibal). But as the student, Omar learned more than what he expected. The cast played well off of each other, each putting in a strong performance. Laura Linney stood out for me playing the bitter wife. Her steely stare could easily send a shiver down one’s spine. Beautifully filmed, this drama played out like a slow steamy day, perfect for one’s emotions to brew and steep.
2 2/3 stars — DVD