BEING CHOSEN AS THE FAVORITE ONE does not necessarily make one’s life easier; the title can come with some pitfalls. At a previous job where I worked, there was an employee who was the favorite of the owner. Everyone at the company knew it. In fact, even if it was your first day you would soon realize this employee had a special relationship with the owner. Here is just one example of how the owner treated this employee differently than the others. During the holidays we used to receive a variety of gifts for the owner. He would always open these packages in his office, bringing out the shipping boxes for us to break down and recycle. I would say on the average he kept 75% of the gifts sent to him; the ones he did not, he would give to this employee right in front of the rest of us. Depending on what the item was, this employee would either leave it sitting on her desk (which used to annoy all of us) or take it out to her car to bring home. Not once did the owner offer a rejected gift to one of us. Now, I did not care whether I got a gift or not; but I, like everyone else around me, felt it was not fair and was certainly not a morale booster. AS TIME PASSED SOME OF THE EMPLOYEES grew resentful of the “favorite” employee. When anyone would bring in a taste treat of food; if they were going around and offering pieces of it as opposed to putting it out in the kitchen, they would bypass this one employee. Actually, they would wait until the person was away from her desk then go around passing out their food items, so as to avoid the favorite one altogether. I could not say for certainty if this type of treatment was proper because as far as I knew it was not this employee’s fault. Now if there was something going on between the two of them, I had no knowledge. Let me say this though, it seemed from time to time she used her favorite role status to her advantage. For example, there was never a problem for her to leave early from work; but for the rest of us, the owner would always resist our requests while trying to make us change the day or the time, so we would not have to leave early. It came to a point where I just stopped thinking about it; it wasn’t worth the energy. And when I say energy this biographical, comedic drama will give you an idea of how much energy it takes to deal with such things. USING HER POSITION AS THE QUEEN’S CONFIDANTE Lady Sarah, played by Rachel Weisz (My Cousin Rachel, Disobedience), enjoyed exerting her power over others. But that show of power could be quite enticing for anyone who wanted some of the same. This film festival winning movie starred Olivia Coleman (The Lobster, Hot Fuzz) as Queen Anne, Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes, Magic in the Moonlight) as Abigail, and James Smith (In the Loop, The Iron Lady) as Godolphin. I was so intrigued with this story that I had to do some research about Queen Anne. It quickly became apparent to me that the writers took a basis of facts and elaborated on it to funny extremes. The three actresses were dynamite with the conniving, the wickedness and humor of the script. As much as I enjoyed this aspect of the movie and its super acting, I felt some scenes were unnecessary. There were several that felt like they were added to give this picture an artistic flair; it only slowed the story down for me. All in all, I cannot say this will be a favorite of mine this Oscar season, but I still had a good time watching it.
NO MATTER WHERE ONE PLACES THE “BAR” there is always someone or something to cause it to be raised. Just look at the evolution of television. We started out with the Riccardo’s from I Love Lucy; they were not allowed to sleep in the same bed, despite being married to each other on the show and in real life. The censors would not approve them being filmed in the same bed. From that point in time there were a few television shows that had partial nudity if it was in the context of a documentary or historical event. The show that comes to mind is the mini-series Roots. Things took a bigger change in the 1990s when the TV shows “NYPD Blues” and “Once and Again” had episodes that contained nudity. For some viewers this was a big shock. Let me also add while this evolution was taking place there was another one going on that pertained to language. Scripts started showing up with slang and curse words in the dialog. I can still remember my shock hearing a TV character uttering a curse word; it took me by surprise even though I was a user of the word. Little did any of us know the explosion of nudity and swear words would be amplified upon the arrival of cable television. HONESTLY, I HAVE NOT GIVEN IT A lot of thought, but I wonder if there might be a connection between this viewing evolution, which by the way has led to reality shows, to blurring the lines between personal and professional lives. The reason why I am bringing it up is from my observations on how people focus their attention on other people’s personal lives. Look at some of the reality shows where people are being filmed 24 hours a day or the dating and swapping partner shows; I have no interest in such things. Two things I learned growing up; first, curse words were just adjectives. Derogatory words about race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality were the “bad” words. Secondly, if no one is being hurt, held against their will or abused; I do not care what they do in their private life. This fascination with people’s personal lives is weird to me. With the aggressiveness of photographers and reporters, there evidently is a market to sell intimate stories about celebrities and such. People judging and making decisions essentially about strangers is a waste of time and money, in my opinion. The reason I have been pondering this is due to today’s biographical drama. As I was watching it, it occurred to me that the events in this film were the beginning of people’s obsession with other people’s personal lives. APPEARING TO BE RIDING A WAVE OF popularity Senator Gary Hart, played by Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman, Eddie the Eagle), had his eyes set on the White House. A simple photograph would cause a detour in his campaign. This film festival winning movie also starred Vera Farmiga (Boundaries, The Commuter) as Lee Hart, J.K. Simmons (I’m Not Here, The Bachelors) as Bill Dixon, Mark O’Brien (Arrival, Bad Times at the El Royale) as Billy Shore and Molly Ephraim (Cricket, Last Man Standing-TV) as Irene Kelly. Set in the 1980s, what I found the most curious was the idea that Gary’s election campaign was the beginning of tabloid journalism. In fact, it was this aspect of the script I found the most interesting. I did not think the script otherwise was well written; it seemed as if events were broken down into cause and effect without much time spent on learning about the characters. I think a political junkie would enjoy this picture more than the average moviegoer. Maybe it is due to my disinterest in a person’s personal life, but I did not find this film very exciting, sordid details and all.
THE WAY MY FRIEND TOLD THE STORY, she was sitting on the sofa watching television when she suddenly heard a loud bang. She muted the TV as she tried to figure out the origin of the sound. Getting up, she walked over to her living room window and saw a couple of neighbors standing by her car. A feeling of dread settled upon her as she walked out the front door to join the small group. As she walked towards her car one of the neighbors told her not to worry; she had caught the whole thing on her phone. My friend told me one of the neighbors was outside when she heard a car driving faster than it should down their street. The car was swerving, nearly going up on the curb a couple of times. The neighbor took out her phone as she moved towards the street and started recording the speeding car in hopes of getting the license plate’s number. As the driver approached they seemed to momentarily lose control and bounced into my friend’s car. The whole thing was caught on video as the driver kept going as if sideswiping a car was a natural thing to do. My friend was stunned; not only by the accident, but by the neighbor going out into the street to capture everything on her phone. BESIDES FEELING SAD FOR MY FRIEND, I had to admire the neighbor who willing went into the street to capture the erratic driver on her phone. With the way the car was going side to side, she was lucky she did not get hurt. That instinct to run towards an incident is admirable. As a matter of fact, in my city the news recently reported on an off-duty police officer who heard gun shots and immediately ran towards them. The same can be said for firemen who race towards danger to put out a fire. I don’t know if that feeling to go towards danger is something that is taught or is instinctive. And let me make the distinction between danger from outside forces as compared to danger that a person encounters due to their passion, examples would be mountain climbing or auto racing. I always knew reporters assigned to areas of conflict would be put into dangerous positions; but I, maybe mistakenly, assumed it wasn’t their choice. My thinking on this has changed now because of this biographical war drama. Never have I encountered a person with such a large capacity for danger; it has totally changed my views on war correspondents. BECAUSE OF HER PASSION TO GIVE A voice to the voiceless, American journalist Marie Colvin, played by Rosamund Pike (Hostiles, Gone Girl), would willingly go to some of the most dangerous places in the world just to get the true story. With Jamie Dornan (Robin Hood, Fifty Shades of Grey franchise) as Paul Conroy, Tom Hollander (In the Loop, Pride & Prejudice) as Sean Ryan, Stanley Tucci (Patient Zero, Spotlight) as Tony Shaw and Faye Marsay (Pride, Darkest Hour) as Kate Richardson; this movie allowed Rosamund to give her best performance. Her acting was incredible throughout the story. As for the story I was stunned by several of the dangerous scenes that Marie placed herself in. Regarding the script, I would have appreciated it more if the writers spent extra time on Marie’s backstory. There came a point where I felt the areas of conflict were included at times for Rosamund to shine; instead of delving deeper into the things that made up Marie. Jamie, by the way, did an excellent job of acting as her photographer. When I left the theater I still did not know all the reasons why Marie did what she did, but I was totally in awe of her.
IF THE CLICHÉ “OPPOSITES ATTRACT” IS TRUE then why do I see less of it happening? With so much arguing taking place between people and countries around the world, it disproves this statement. I know this cliché’s origins started in science, but mankind has used it regarding personal relationships. It might be more complicated than that; I prefer to think two people are better suited and satisfied in a relationship when they have a good understanding of their differences. There was a couple I knew who displayed opposite emotions. The wife was quick to get angry and upset about things, while her husband was laid back and went with the flow. They rarely argued because they understood how each other reacted to things, avoiding the pitfall of trying to change one another. When his wife would get into one of her fits over something, he would let her blow off steam before he would place his hand on her and say something soothing such as, “Don’t worry, it will be okay.” or “What can I do to help?” The fact that they understood each other created a stronger bond between them, in my opinion. FROM WHAT I HAVE EXPERIENCED IN my life there is something I never understood. It seems to me many people shy away from those that are different from themselves. They may interact, but it is strictly on a surface level. The thing I do not understand is where was it decided that different equals something wrong or bad? As a person who used to not express himself fully, I may be at the other end of the spectrum now; most people who know me well can tell how I am feeling at any given time. The reason for this is because I believe communication is the key; as far as I know mind readers are a rarity, so if you want someone to know something you need to express it to them. I had a friend who, unbeknownst to me, had a hard time keeping up with me whenever we were out walking somewhere. I never knew it was an issue because he never said anything about it. Not until one day he finally yelled at me, telling me I walked too fast for him. I asked him why he just did not say something in the beginning instead of holding it in all this time until he wound up shouting at me. You know, people would learn so much about each other if they would simply talk to one another. This comedic drama based on a true story can show you how it is done. OUT OF WORK FOR TWO MONTHS nightclub bouncer Tony Lip, played by Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic, Eastern Promises), was recommended for a position to be a driver for a doctor. Tony was shocked when he discovered the doctor was a black man who was not even a medical doctor. There was no doubt in his mind that there would be problems. With Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Free State of Jones) as Dr. Don Shirley, Linda Cardellini (Brokeback Mountain, Scooby-Doo) as Dolores, Dimiter D. Marinov (Act of Valor, The Americans-TV) as Oleg and Mike Hatton (Vigilante Diaries, Shot the Hero) as George; this movie was one of the best road trips I have taken this year. Set in the 1960s, the sets and costumes perfectly matched each other as they set up the space for Viggo and Mahershala to really dig deep into their roles. The script with its mixture of humor and drama made this trip pleasurable for me, even during the tougher scenes. If the script’s intentions were to manipulate the viewer I was not paying any attention to it because the message here was beautifully told. I left the theater feeling good, filled with excitement to express my feelings to you.
THE YOUNG MAN WAS SHARING HIS STORY with the audience on national television. In his words he was expressing how hard it was for him to get to this point, where he made it onto the dance show. He grew up in a tough neighborhood that had its share of crimes. Many of his classmates were already dealing drugs or doing other illegal activities; all he wanted to do was dance. He said he had been picked on and beaten up because of it. When the host asked what his parents thought about his dancing the young man said his Dad wanted a son who liked playing sports. I felt sad for this talented guy who struggled to do what he loved to do. His story reminded me of this couple I knew who had a little girl. The girl preferred playing with trucks and cars instead of her dolls. The parents were not exactly distraught, but you could tell they were concerned their daughter preferred “boy toys” instead of “girl toys.” Oh, and they were upset that the little girl hated wearing dresses. She would cry every time her parents would try to get her to wear a dress. FROM THE TWO STORIES I JUST SHARED with you, can you find a common theme between the two? I will give you a minute to think about it. Ok time is up; let me tell you what I see. The young man and little girl did not have any issue with what they liked; the man loved to dance, and the girl preferred playing with trucks. The people around each of them had an issue with it. Hearing the man talk about his father wishing he was into sports bothered me. I feel a parent’s job is to love their child unconditionally; to nurture them to grow into kind, respectable, responsible adults. The father, I believe, is taking his prejudices and applying them to his son. Maybe I am assuming, but what I took away from the young man’s story was his Dad and neighborhood kids thought less of him, or maybe thought he was not masculine enough, because he was a dancer. The same can be applied to the parents of the little girl. They had a problem with their daughter not playing with toys associated in the past with a girl and not dressing the part. What a child is or chooses to do is not necessarily a reflection on their parents. It is similar to the parents in this heartbreaking, dramatic movie. WHEN NANCY AND MARSHALL EAMONS, played by Nicole Kidman (The Beguiled, Lion) and Russell Crowe (The Nice Guys, The Water Diviner) discover their son is gay, the only thing they feel will solve the “problem” is to enroll their son Jared, played by Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea, Lady Bird), into a program that will convert him to a heterosexual. Jared agreed to participate; he wanted to please his parents. Based on a true story, this film was written and directed by Joel Edgerton (Loving, It Comes at Night) who also starred as Victor Sykes. Most of you know I find Nicole to be a gifted actress and for the time she was on screen, she was dynamite. For the small body of work Lucas has done already, he too is a gifted actor. The script based on the biography was well written, despite a couple of areas that could have used more explanation. As for the topic, I looked on in disbelief that anyone would even consider such a preposterous idea about conversion therapy. But looking underneath the surface, the lack of acceptance upon finding out about their son was sad to see. This was a powerful and thought provoking picture.
3 ½ stars
THOUGH THE CLERGYMAN TOLD ME HIS tragic story years ago, it all came back to me as I was watching this emotional film. I was friends with this clergyman, not a person who attended his church. I do not recall how we wound up talking about this individual, but our conversation was about relationships. Let me first say I have not had much exposure to individuals with addictions. Sure, I have some friends who drink in excess from time to time, but they tend to only get that way at a celebration event or weekend party and not on a consistent basis. The clergyman started telling me about a couple he knew, never divulging how or where he knew them. They were together for something like 15+ years, both employed with no children. At some point in time the husband started experiencing mood swings. At first, they were not so dramatic; but as time went on, they became more intense. The husband was losing weight and he was away from home for longer periods of time. I am not sure if the wife tried to find out what was going on, but the outcome was so sad. It turned out the husband was addicted to drugs. Not only did he wipe out their savings account, he lost their house. WHEN THE CLERGYMAN TOLD ME THIS story I could not believe such a thing could happen. On the one hand I wondered how the wife did not know bills and past due notices were being ignored; but then on the other hand, if his responsibilities were the financial dealings, how could the husband let things get so out of hand. You see, I did not know addictions could be that debilitating. I did not, nor do I still know, how dangerous addictions can be. Granted, my exposure to this type of disease pretty much revolves seeing it on the big screen, but still I do have an inkling. Since it has not touched me personally, I feel I have this buffer zone around me that isolates me from experiencing the horrors of addiction. For me, I have always looked at addiction as being a tool to fill a void in one’s life. Something is lacking so the person focuses on trying to fill an emotional need. Drugs and alcohol are the first 2 things that come to mind, but I guess almost anything done in excess can be considered an addiction. This dramatic movie based on a true story allows you to experience the tragedy caused by addiction without being a part of it. NEVER IN HIS WILDEST DREAMS DID David Sheff, played by Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes, The Big Short), ever think the beautiful boy he raised would wind up being someone he no longer understood. This dramatic biographical film also starred Timothee Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name, Lady Bird) as Nic Sheff, Maura Tierney (Insomnia, Forces of Nature) as Karen Barbour, Amy Ryan (Escape Plan, Gone Baby Gone) as Vicki Sheff and Jack Dylan Grazer (It; Me, Myself and I-TV) as young Nic Sheff. The best part of this picture was the acting, hands down. Steve and Timothee were exquisite together as father and son. Timothee’s acting in particular is something special to watch. His transformation throughout this story was mesmerizing. Not that any of the other actors were slouches; they all did a fine job here. My only complaint was I felt for the topic the emotions on display could have been rawer. There was a slight repetitiveness to the script that came across without much variance. Still I could not look away at what I was seeing on the big screen. Truly a command performance of a brutal addiction.
THERE ARE PEOPLE WE ENCOUNTER WHOSE footsteps leave an impression on our life’s path. These individuals strike us in various ways; by their energy, intellect, passion, athleticism and heart for example. The memory they leave after they are gone can be stored inside of us for years without ever being detected. Then suddenly that person reappears, possibly in a different capacity, and that memory pops into our consciousness. Our brain gets flooded with the images retained during the years; we completely understand now why they left an impression on us. This is something I have experienced through my life. I mentioned in an earlier review about a classmate of mine who wrote stories about his time in the war. Several years had passed after being in that class and there he was on the cover of a magazine for winning a prestigious literary award. There was a television interview of him and he pretty much looked the same with his large, piercing blue eyes with eyelids that looked heavy to blink. After that interview he showed up in multiple newspaper and magazine articles. I remember smiling to myself as I remembered our time in class, listening to his war stories and the toll they took on him. THERE IS ANOTHER PERSON I SAW who immediately made a big impression on me and his name was Freddie Mercury. I cannot remember the details on how I got to the concert where this relatively new group called Queen was playing. It was after their 1st or 2nd album I think. What I still remember besides the band members was how my ears were ringing due to the loudness of the sound. Right from the opening song, Freddie had everyone’s attention. All he had to do was say either “stand up” or “clap like this…” once and the entire crowd would do as they were told. He had a magnetism that nearly forced you to keep your eyes riveted onto him. His body movements were dramatic and theatrical. Then there was his voice; he could always be heard no matter how loud the band played. John Deacon barely moved from his spot while Brian May’s guitar playing was featured from time to time throughout the performance. I remember the sounds he would make with his guitar were notes I could not recall hearing before. I knew right then that they were a unique band and Freddie was someone I had never seen before or would see again. You can imagine how curious I was to see this biographical, dramatic movie. CREATING A SOUND LIKE NONE OTHER before them, the four guys who made up the band Queen would leave a lasting impression on the musical scene; both for their skills and personal lives. With Rami Malek (Short Term 12, Mr. Robot-TV) as Freddie Mercury, Gwilym Lee (The Tourist, Midsomer Murders-TV) as Brian May, Ben Hardy (Only the Brave, X-Men: Apocalypse) as Roger Taylor and Joseph Mazzello (The Social Network, The Cure) as John Deacon; this musical film focused mostly on the life story of Freddie. If you never had the chance to see Queen perform then you will enjoy this picture more than those of you who were fortunate enough to see them. I thought the script was too sanitized; offering only a taste of what the band members, I believe, went through in their time together. Rami did a decent job, but the fake teeth looked odd on him. The lip synching was okay, but I just felt the script and direction needed more punch because I found myself getting slightly bored. Again, I must state those who never saw Queen perform might enjoy this movie more, though we were only given a brief taste of their songs.
2 1/2 stars
IS A PERSON JUST BEING GOOD to you enough to have a relationship with them? I have always had a curiosity about the things that are important to a person seeking and being in a love relationship. One of the things that piqued my curiosity was seeing news reporters interviewing the love interest of a person who had recently committed a crime or was in an altercation. Hearing the girlfriend say her boyfriend has always been good to her after he had just been accused of bludgeoning a man to death was the oddest thing to me. Let us say it was true, that he was kind and respectful of her; is that all one needs to fall in love? There seems to be more similar examples currently than I can recall years ago. A husband is stunned when he finds out his wife has been embezzling money from her place of employment for years. Behind the husband and reporter, parked in the driveway of the couple’s house, was a brand new expensive car. I find it all bizarre; how can someone only focus on certain aspects of an individual and base their affection solely on those features? I know I cannot do it. IN MY WORLD ACTIONS HAVE AS much importance as words; in other words, it is not just what a person says that will cement my feelings towards them. I think anyone can say anything and I have been in relationships where the person said things they knew would pull at my heart strings. And the words did; however, there were things they did that did not earn my trust. I had friends who had warned me, but you know how that goes; unless they are in your shoes, you feel your friends are not able to see the whole picture. It is funny because I have been in their place where I expressed my concerns about friends’ love interests. There was one person who was a user, who only cared about himself. Yes, he would do these sweet things for my friend that made her heart swell; but he had no empathy and was a cheapskate. If the opportunity came up where she asked me for my opinion I would tell her exactly what I thought. The one thing I would not do is tell her what she “should” do; I knew she would have to figure out what worked for her. Also, I remained respectful around him. My motto is, “I do not have to accept anything, but need to respect it.” And when it comes to this biographical crime film, no truer words have been spoken. If not, one could find themselves getting killed. DESPITE BEING COLOMBIA’S MOST NOTORIOUS DRUG LORD there was something about Pablo Escobar, played by Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) that made journalist and anchorwoman Virginia Vallejo, played by Penelope Cruz (The Counselor, Vicky Cristina Barcelona), fall in love with him. It wasn’t long before everyone knew. This film festival winning action movie also starred Peter Sarsgaard (Jackie, The Magnificent Seven) as Shepherd, Julieth Restrepo (At the End of the Spectra, Moria) as Maria Victoria Henao and Oscar Jaenada (The Shallows, Cantinflas) as Santoro. It goes without saying that Javier and Penelope were a perfect match since they are married to each other. I enjoyed the two of them in this story and picked up a couple of things I did not know about Escobar. However, the script was too superficial; I would have preferred if the writers went deeper into the characters. Instead there were scenes of blood and violence which were expected, but I felt there had to be more to this story than what was shown.
DURING MY SPACE EXPLORATIONS I DISCOVERED planets far from earth that were inhabited by peaceful beings. The inhabitants of one planet did not walk; they were able to float above the ground effortlessly. Everyone was dressed in a similar fashion with a long, flowing robe-like outer coating that refracted light to form a non-stop palette of colors. I considered their heads to be egg shaped with large dark eyes and no hair. Because they were a peaceful race, there were a couple of other species from other planets that wanted to conquer them. Due to this threat the peaceful ones, as I called them, had to build up their defenses. I was in charge of the space ships that in actuality were different writing pens I collected; however, they were able to shoot out death rays from the tips. The pocket clip part of the pen is where the captain and their crew flew the ship, so I addressed my warnings to that part of the pen. I could spend hours flying my pens through the house as they took on evil forces, defending their home planet. Sometimes I had to fly through space dust or debris which was the mist from a can of air freshener. IT WAS NOT UNTIL MY HIGHER LEARNING days that I paid more attention to space. Oh and of course Star Trek and Star Wars pushed me into that direction. To this day I enjoy science fiction/fantasy movies and books. I feel a certain connection to them because they have always presented a different reality to the dark one I was experiencing at times. Within science fiction stories it seemed as if a planet was being threatened, all the inhabitants would come together to defeat the threat. There was something about having diverse beings coming together that I found attractive. At the time, I did not realize it was what I was wishing for in my reality. Feeling like an outsider or just different growing up, the idea of an all accepting society fascinated me. I think that is why when I was a kid fantasizing about space I always had planets filled with peaceful beings. Add in the story lines from Star Trek and I was sure there was a safe haven somewhere in space. It is funny that a few of my friends to this day can tell when I am spacing out and the reasons for it. None of my fantasies however had the type of intensity that I saw in this dramatic, biographical space film. IN A RACE WITH THE SOVIET Union to achieve glory in space, the United States embarked on a radical idea that had never been done before. It would take a certain type of person to be a part of what could become an event of historical proportions. This film festival nominated movie starred Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049, La La Land) as Neil Armstrong, Claire Foy (Breathe, Unsane) as Janet Armstrong, Jason Clarke (Everest, The Man with the Iron Heart) as Edward Higgins White, Kyle Chandler (Manchester by the Sea, Argo) as Deke Slayton and Pablo Schreiber (13 Hours, Den of Thieves) as Jim Lovell. The beauty of this film was the way the director allowed scenes to tell the story without dialog; some of the film shots were beautiful. Now add in the acting skills, especially form Ryan and Claire, and I for the most part was taken away by the story. There have been a variety of space films but for some reason I found the intensity of this one to be tangible. Everything felt authentic and real. Though my imagination made traveling to space an easy process, I got on board for this historical event, space story.
3 1/2 stars