OVER THE YEARS THE derogatory words/terms I have heard directed towards me and to people around me has grown. The majority of them was from years ago before people became politically correct; so please excuse me for I do not mean to offend anyone and I will refrain from the more offensive words. I am aware some people grew up never hearing any of these words around them. Also, I know some people’s lists are longer than others. Keep in mind space is limited here so here is just a fraction of the words I heard uttered, yelled, hissed, spoken, threatened, teased, whispered and said around me: freak, fat, rabbit face, spas, turd, hippo, 4 eyes, sissy, booger nose, slob, toad, fag, slime, acid breath, pubic head, elephant man, bird brain, troll, gargantuan, gargoyle, gimp, whore, tubby, butt face; I think you get the point and I did not even use the slanderous ones that have to do with race, ethnicity or religion. REMEMBERING THE PEOPLE WHO uttered these words and hearing what is being said these days across all social media, news reports and random conversations; I find it all sad and horrific. I have to wonder if the adults who carry a prejudice have always had it. Was the prejudice handed down from their parents or some relative; did something happen to them physically that turned them against a particular minority? This is what I am most curious about; where did this hatred towards differences come from? Even if you think “hatred” is too strong of a word then use “dislike” instead. I do not understand why people look at differences as if they are wrong. As a young child I can see where one might be shy or fearful upon seeing something different about someone. I can still remember a conversation I had with a new boy on the block whose family came from a foreign country. The way it was explained to me was saying that family was born in a different part of the world where everyone there was born with certain physical features needed for that area. I may not have understood all of it at the time, but whatever fears I had were alleviated quickly. When I was watching this film festival winning drama I was reminded how tough life can be if you are perceived as different. AFTER BEING HOME SCHOOLED for several years Auggie, played by Jacob Tremblay (Room, The Book of Henry), was going to attend his first school. His mother Isabel, played by Julia Roberts (Mother’s Day, Eat Pray Love), thought the time was right; she just hoped the kids would be nice to her son who preferred to wear an astronaut’s helmet. Based on the bestselling book the cast also included Owen Wilson (No Escape, Are You Here) as Nate, Izabela Vidovic (Homefront, The Fosters-TV) as Via and Noah Jupe (Suburbicon, The Night Manager-TV) as Jack Will. The actors did a beautiful job with the well written script. I felt the scenes were authentic and the characters were believable. For the few films I have seen Jacob in I have to say he will have a long career; he really is something special to watch on screen. As for the story it could easily have turned into a syrupy heartstring pull, but I think the director did his best to stay close to the border of it. Despite the chances one will tear up during this film, I feel the story is important enough for every child and adult to see.
3 ½ stars
A good way to feel the heartbeat of a city is to take a ride on its commuter train. It is an easy way to not only see the city but to watch how its citizens mingle throughout the city’s arteries. When I used to take public transportation to work I would find myself getting lost into the brief visual vignettes all around me. There were the train’s adult babies who would quickly be lulled to sleep by the swaying of the train car as it rolled down the tracks. Among the passengers there was the group that always had a hardcover or paperback book to read, while another group used their electronic devices. The thing I liked to do was look out the windows. From my train car I could watch a parade taking place that had citizens carrying a long paper dragon down a street in a neighborhood with a large population of Asian Americans. In another part of the city I could see people sitting outside at a café having an afternoon coffee with shopping bags lying at their feet like trusted pets. After a few times on the same route I would know which train stops some of the passengers would get off at; business attired people would step out in the downtown area of the city and passengers with book bags or textbooks in their laps would get off at one of two stops that was close to a city college. For a different type of experience taking the train at night brings in a more intimate experience; at least it does for me. Apartment buildings would reveal a grid of lit windows where each one told a different story. With one blink of the eye I could see someone cooking up a storm of a meal or two people studiously peering down at a table full of jigsaw pieces. Each day would be a different scene and you would never know what you could witness. CATCHING the same train everyday Rachel, played by Emily Blunt (Into the Woods, Sicario), would come up with an internal story for the people she would see. But what if a person was not following her script? This mystery thriller based on the bestselling book also included Haley Bennett (The Magnificent Seven, The Equalizer) as Megan and Justin Theroux (American Psycho, Wanderlust) as Tom. Since I did not read the book I was confused for the 1st half of the movie, though Emily was excellent as Rachel. The issue for me was the script. I did not care for the scenes jumping back and forth in time along with several scenes that did not come across as authentic. All this did for me was to slow the pace down of telling the story. It was not until the last half of the picture where things picked up and it started to actually be a mystery thriller for me. An interesting side note; when I mentioned this to one of my classes 5 out of 6 people who read the book said they did not like it and felt the same about the book as I did about the film. Too bad the train ride I took did not reveal much excitement for me.
2 ¼ stars
It may still be evolving but at one time the word peculiar had a narrow definition. If someone did not fit in and what I mean by that is look or act the same, they were considered different. Being labeled different was like getting a life term in prison. The mentality back then was not so dissimilar to a science fiction television show where there was an alien species that tried to assimilate human beings into their world where there were no independent thoughts or actions; every being was part of a central collective and all looked the same. This is how it could feel to someone who was considered odd. There was a school near my house where all the students were issued a standard uniform; each one of them had to wear the drab colored clothing. At the time I thought it would be horrible to be told to wear the same thing every day. But I did not realize that dressing in clothes one prefers could set the person up for ridicule. I could see how everyone wearing the same outfit would eliminate a person picking on a fellow student for wearing something different. Now I grant you the issue of clothing only scratches the surface on how people react to someone who is not the same as them. I am sure we all have seen stories in the news about incidents where being different causes a conflict. What I would like to know is when and how did differences among us became a negative trait? I have always wondered if it was due to the level of education, fear or maybe something that gets taught for the wrong reasons. We hear more and more about diversity and I believe the entire planet is just one big melting pot for everything living on it. There is room for everyone. DISCOVERING information to a mystery Jake, played by Asa Butterfield (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Hugo) is lead to a special place filled with unusual beings. Based on the bestselling book series this adventure fantasy had a wonderful look to it. Starring Eva Green (Dark Shadows, 300: Rise of an Empire) as Miss Alma LeFay Peregrine, Samuel L. Jackson (The Legend of Tarzan, Big Game) as Barron and Ella Purnell (Wildlike, Never Let Me Go) as Emma Bloom; the acting was a bit off for me. Where I thought Eva was perfect in her role with the look and movement, I thought Samuel was doing what has become his standard role now in most of his movies. Sure he does it well but how many times do we need to see the same style of character? This dramatic film started out slow for me; I found the script dull at first. Halfway through the story things starting to pick up and I began to enjoy this picture. I am guessing the book has to be better. As for the special effects, some of them were gleefully fun but others were just so-so. As a side note the majority of the audience at my viewing was young adolescents. I enjoyed the message of this story regarding our differences; I only wished it was carried through the whole film which could have been a more exciting experience for me.
2 1/3 stars
Begin with several words, string them together and let a story take you away. Let me show you what I mean. I will start with the words room, curtains, breath, light, skin and airplane. Here is the first beginning to the story: The curtains’ shadows looked like they were reaching out to me as I entered into the room. The light behind them blazed in a crimson red; I could feel the heat on my skin. This was my first time here and the air smelled rancid. It was stifling to the point where I felt I was entering into the mouth of an ogre with bad breath. Suddenly the room shook with a roar as if an airplane had just skimmed the roof above me. Maybe what I just wrote was the beginning of a horror story. Same words, but in a different order; let me see what I will get: The curtains gently rippled as a warm breeze passed them into my room. I was stretched out on the sofa, careful not to disturb the creases where the love of my life had sat minutes ago before they had to leave. Their breath still felt like it was lingering around the skin at the back of my neck. Our light conversation had gone into deeper waters with positive results. I agreed to make airplane reservations to fly out and meet their family for the first time. Now this story sounds romantic, doesn’t it? That is the beauty about stories; they can take us to an infinite amount of places. I love the way a story can take me away from my reality and place me into a whole different world. Some people read to learn, others read to escape; it does not make a difference because I feel just the act of reading provides the essential nutrients for the mind to grow. AMOS OZ, played by newcomer Amir Tessler, was always ready to hear a new story until he felt he was living in some of them. With Natalie Portman (Jane Got a Gun, Black Swan) as Fania Oz, Makram Khoury (Munich, The Physician) as Halawant and Ohad Knoller (The Bubble, Munich) as Israel Zarchi; this film festival nominated dramatic biography was based on the bestseller by Amos Oz. Written and directed by Natalie, the story had a darkness to it as it took place during Israel’s formative years. I could see there was something to the story but I don’t think the screenplay conveyed it. There were some good scenes and I could see Natalie had a good eye for directing, but I did not find this picture entertaining. Despite the acting being good, the story telling interesting and the dynamics between the characters having depth; I was not always into the story. Granted I would not consider the subject upbeat but I think if the script was in different hands the results might have been different. Not that I am knocking Natalie’s 1st directorial effort, but maybe she should have focused only on that instead of the screenplay too. There certainly was a story here; I just did not feel satisfied watching it. Hebrew was spoken with English subtitles.