WE WERE PART OF AN ELITE group, though none of us would ever admit to it. I do not know any other way to say this, but we were easy targets. We were always the last ones to be picked for a team in PE class. Because I was overweight, the athletic boys assumed I could not do any of the sports that we played in class. They were half right in some cases; but it was okay, I had no desire to be part of any team. I saw what happened to those who did not meet the jocks’ standards. One of the students in our elite group was picked on in brutal ways. In the locker room it was rare a week went by without him getting his head slammed into a locker door or being tripped in the shower room. One time a group of bullies waited for him to completely disrobe at his locker before grabbing him to hang out the window. To this day, I can still hear him screaming as they dragged him to the open window. I was frozen with fear because I had my own hell, I was going through, with some of these same bullies. Some of the less harsh treatments I endured were being shoved into lockers, punched, slapped with textbooks and stabbed. WHEN I WENT TO SCHOOL OUT of state, I decided to reinvent myself because I never wanted to go through what I did previously in school. I got a handle on my eating habits and started exercising properly, none of the competitive crap that was offered in my past schooling. It took a long time, but I started noticing the difference in my weight loss. By the time I finished up my studies and returned home, I looked quite different. Friends and relatives would get surprised when they saw the “new” me. One Saturday night, I was at a party and bumped into a guy who was part of our elite group from school. Back then he used to get bullied because he was extremely skinny (go figure) with these super long legs and short torso. Because he had not matured the same time as most of the boys in class, he was picked on and called names. Looking at him now as an adult, I was amazed at his transformation. From that gangly, prepubescent looking boy, who always carried a baseball mitt in his backpack; I was looking at a tall handsome man with a warm smile. We were both survivors who got to the other side of what life was meant to be. Having that survivor mentality, I immediately felt a connection to him, just like I did when I saw the musical artist of this documentary perform live in concert. ON THE OUTSIDE NO ONE COULD imagine what life was like for Anna Mae Bullock after she got off the stage. From this musical biography, this Grammy award winner will show you how to live a different life. Written and directed by Daniel Lindsay (Undefeated, LA 92) and T.J. Martin (Undefeated, LA 92), this film featured Angela Bassett (Black Panther, Contact), Oprah (The Color Purple, A Wrinkle in Time) and Kurt Loder (Get Him to the Greek, Airheads) talking about their feelings about Tina Turner. Right from the start, I was glued to this film. Granted I am probably biased, having seen her perform in concert 3 times. Out of all the musical artists’ concerts I have attended, she was the hardest working performer I had ever seen. From watching this thoroughly entertaining film, I can see where she gets her strength. It was obvious to me that this movie was made as a love letter to her fans and a goodbye; there were intimate scenes as well as tough ones. The concert footage was enough for me to want to see this film again. As far as I am concerned, she needs to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a single artist. It would be the perfect topping to an amazing life.
IT IS ALL IN THE DELIVERY I discovered. There is something about a dynamic speaker delivering a message to a group. I saw proof of it when I was a reader at a wedding ceremony. Not that I want to brag, but there was a person before me who did a reading that had no feeling to it. More importantly, I did not feel any connection to what the person was saying regarding the couple being married. I looked around the church and saw some of the guests were looking down or whispering to each other. This made me more nervous than I already was since I was to be the next reader to go up to the altar to read a passage. Despite having practiced reading my passage for a couple of weeks, when it was my turn and I stood up, my stomach still trembled with nerves as I made my way to the alter. Once in position at the podium, I looked out at all the guests before taking a deep breath and began to read. I made a point to read slowly and look up at the audience from time to time. My biggest fear was put to rest when I did not fumble mispronouncing any of the words. After the ceremony, people stopped to tell me what a wonderful job I had done. In fact, one guest asked if I would be interested in becoming a reader at her church. The spoken word was alive and well and I felt good about my “performance.” SINCE THAT WEDDING, I HAVE PAID closer attention to speakers I encounter. Whether they are in person or televised, I notice the things they do or not do to engage with their audience. At a convention there was a seller in front of his booth who was talking about the products his company had developed. I happened to be familiar with the products; however, if I hadn’t been, I would not have stopped to listen to this presenter. He was monotone in his delivery, just standing still in one spot. It was a shame because the products were quite good. To make matters worse, this booth was next to another one that had a spokesperson who was dynamic and funny. Too bad their product was limited in its abilities; but you would not know based on all the attendees who were congregated around this booth to listen to the presenter. I could only imagine how the dry speaker next door was feeling with no one paying attention to him. Let us face it, having a spirited person as a spokesperson/leader is what can motivate people to want to be part of the experience they are talking about. There is a clear example of this in this Golden Globe winning, intense biographical drama. AS MORE INDIVIDUALS BECAME ATTRACTED TO what Fred Hampton, played by Daniel Kaluuya (Black Panther, Queen & Slim) was telling them; the more concerned was the FBI. They needed to find someone to get close to Fred and his organization; but who would want to do such a thing? With LaKeith Stanfield (Knives Out, Sorry to Bother You) as Bill O’Neal, Jesse Plemons (The Master, Game Night) as Roy Mitchell, Dominique Fishback (The Hate U Give, The Deuce-TV) as Deborah Johnson and Ashton Sanders (Moonlight, The Equalizer 2) as Jimmy Palmer; this film festival winner grabbed my attention from the beginning and never let go. The entire cast of actors were remarkable in acting out their characters; however, Daniel and LaKeith were the big standouts for me. The script was both powerful and scary at the same time, to the point there were parts of this film that came across as a thriller. Taking the story as it was presented in this film, I could not believe what was being done to Fred Hampton. Not only was this an historical period of time being depicted in this picture; it was being told in a powerful and engaging way that I would soon not forget.
3 2/3 stars
IT ALL STARTED BECAUSE I LIVED close to one of 2 “hills” in the city. Since the city I grew up in was virtually flat, any rise or fall in the landscape took on added significance. The “hill” near me would probably not register as a hill to most people; but to those of us who lived near this block long incline to the top land mass, we considered it as our “hill.” There was another hill in a suburb near me, but it was originally a waste dump that the town converted into a sled run and park. They buried the trash in the dump, piling it up to a certain height, then covered it with dirt and grass. In winter we would take our sleds there to ride down what we referred to as the trash mountain. The “hill” near my home was formed by glaciers eons ago; at least, that is what I was told. Supposedly, as the planet heated up and the glaciers melted the land that had been churned up was left, settling into what we now called a “hill.” The idea that a glacier had done this was fascinating to me and began my curiosity with history. THINKING WE WOULD LIKE TO LEAVE a baseball trading card and a couple of toy soldiers for someone in the future to find, a friend and I decided we would dig a hole near the “hill” and bury our future artifacts. We found a small park that was a city block away from the southern part of the “hill,” that had a grassy section near its playground. With our toy shovels and pails in hand, we started digging up a spot in the ground. Once we passed the grass line and got into the dirt, we found a mix of twigs, pebbles and pieces of rock. The hole did not need to be to big, only deep enough to be undisturbed for a generation or two. As I was piling the dirt up next to me, something barely caught the outside of my eyesight. I started to carefully brush aside some of the dirt with my hand, until I was able to make out the partial outline of something metal based. It looked like a piece of silver, maybe a part of an earring or a link from a chain of some kind. I showed my friend who took it out of my hand to turn it over and over before he said he thought it might have been part of a key that had rusted off. We were intrigued with the idea that it may be a clue to some kind of buried treasure. We continued our digging but eventually lost our interest once we got hungry for lunch. I wonder what would have happened if we hadn’t stopped? THE UNUSUAL GRASSY MOUNDS THAT WERE part of her land were something that Edith Pretty, played by Carey Mulligan (Mudbound, Suffragette), was convinced were not created by nature. She only needed to find someone who would believe her. With Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, The Constant Gardener) as Basil Brown, Danny Webb (Never Grow Old, Alien 3) as John Grateley, Robert Wilfort (Peterloo, Gavin & Stacey-TV) as Billy Lyons and James Dryden (Ready Player One, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw) as George Spooner; this film festival nominee was a beautifully laid out story based on true events. Carey and Ralph handled their characters with deep care and thoughtfulness. I totally enjoyed the way they interacted. An added bonus for me in this dramatic biography was the historical significance of the events taking place. This was more of a slow and steady paced film that had no need for wide swings in emotion; it was simply touching and beautiful. And here all these years, I thought what I had found with my friend was something of importance.
THE PROFESSOR WROTE A NOTE NEXT to the grade on my term paper. She wrote, “I had no idea you were paying attention in this classroom. Please come see me after class.” I was both amused and hesitant because I wondered what she wanted to talk about. When class was over, I hung around until the other students had left then went up to the professor. Any concerns I had were alleviated by her chuckling. Since I received an “A” on my paper, she told me she was pleasantly surprised but wanted to know why I never participated in any of the class discussions. I told her talking made me nervous, that I was better at communicating my thoughts through the written word. She accepted what I said but encouraged me to participate with the other students because she liked the way I looked at problems, based on what I had written in my term paper. I made her laugh when I told her that my mind takes its time to process information before I can talk about it. Pushing my luck, I said some people talk without thinking and it is a distraction for me. “Aren’t there times where you just sit there and wonder where the student got their thoughts on a subject,” I asked her. All she offered was some students were more excitable which led them to speak out first before thinking everything through; I agreed with her and that was the extent of our conversation. ONE OF THE THINGS I LEARNED from that professor was how the order of words one puts to paper can alter perceptions. Along with that there was the aspect of style; the way the person puts their voice down into their written words. I saw firsthand how easily style is conveyed through written words. A student who sat next to me received back his term paper and it had gotten a grade of “F.” I did not want to appear nosy so I tried to read the professors comments out of the corner of my eye. The professor wrote “not your writing” next to the grade and below that she had highlighted parts of paragraphs with side comments I could not make out. The student must have seen me trying to read the comments because he acknowledged me and said he had misunderstood the instructions; he had copied passages from a book into his term paper. Now he did not tell me; but I assumed he copied the passages word for word, which I had to say was not the best decision. Not that I am an expert, but from the things I heard him read in class, I knew anything he found in a book was not the same as him telling a story. He loved to draw out a point with the use of humor or shock; most textbooks I had read didn’t often have those two elements in its writing. In my opinion he would have been better to employ the use of a term paper writer; I saw their advertisements in the school paper. They would not write the paper; they simply directed the student towards writing a better paper. It is not so dissimilar to what took place in this biographical comedic drama. DESPITE A BROKEN LEG THERE WAS only a short amount of time to write the screenplay for Hollywood’s latest wondered. What wasn’t helping Herman Mankiewicz, played by Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour, The Courier), was his love of alcohol. With Amanda Seyfried (The Last Word, Mean Girls) as Marion Davies, Lily Collins (Tolkien, Mirror Mirror) as Rita Alexander, Tom Pelphrey (Hostage, Iron Fist-TV) as Joe Mankiewicz and Arliss Howard (The Time Traveler’s Wife, Full Metal Jacket) as Louis B. Mayer; this film festival winner had the extra burden of viewers’ anticipation due to the subject matter of Orson Welles and his movie. Visually I thought this film was gorgeous, both in look and style. Ultimately, the big seller in this picture was Gary Oldman’s performance. Whether the script was close to the true events, I do not know; however, I enjoyed the behind the scene aspect, nonetheless. However, as the story was playing out, I was getting less engaged with it. It seemed as if there were pieces of this film that blended well, but then others came across disjointed. There is no doubt in my mind that the whole process of creating what some say is the best movie of all time had to be an amazing experience; I only wished this movie had gotten the same amount of attention.
2 ¾ stars
NOT AS EXTREME AS DOCTOR JEKYLL and Mr. Hyde, but I was seeing a completely different side to my friend when I paid a visit to him at his office. He was a sweet and kind individual whose personality leaned more towards the passive side. Easy going, who let others make all the decisions; he was most uncomfortable when confronted with conflict. I knew he had a managerial position at his company, but I had no idea how high he was in the pecking order. When I arrived at his company a security guard had to check me in and call my friend’s office. A secretary was dispatched to escort me to his office. Who was this person I was visiting? Arriving at his office or to describe it better, his suite of offices; I was stunned to see him in such a setting. I would have never guessed he would be sitting in what appeared to be an authoritative position. While there he had to take a couple of phone calls and receive several visits from various employees under his jurisdiction. His staff was in the hundreds I found out; this was something I simply could not comprehend. He could not voice an opinion on what restaurant we should go to for a dinner, but he was sitting here acting powerful and decisive. It was such a dichotomy, like I was seeing two different people. I HAVE HAD THE GOOD FORTUNE to see Tina Turner perform not once, but three times in concert. Her concerts rank in the top three of my favorite performances. One of the reasons why is because she sang live which is quite important to me. Going to see a musical artist lip synch their songs in concert is a waste of money for me; I could stay home and listen to their albums. Another reason I loved her concerts is because she was exciting to watch on stage. The only way I can describe it is by saying she was like a predator stalking the stage. She would cover the entire stage, whether alone or with her backup dancers. Clocking in well over 2 hours, the only time she was off stage was to change her outfit; but then she was right back at center stage, always in high heeled shoes. You knew she was pouring everything she had into her performances because I am not exaggerating when I tell you at the end of the show, she was drenched with sweat. From where I was seated, I could see it dripping off her face; she was a musical beast. How in the world did she cover up the life she was leading when she was not on stage? This dramatic musical biography will explain it. ON STAGE SHE WAS TINA TURNER, but offstage she was Anna Mae Bullock and she was having a rough time. With Angela Bassett (Black Panther, Strange Days) as Tina Turner, Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix franchise, Contagion) as Ike Turner, RaeVen Kelly (A Time to Kill, Preacher’s Kid) as young Anna Mae, Jennifer Lewis (The Preacher’s Wife, Think Like a Man franchise) as Zelma Bullock and Phyllis Yvonne Stickney (Malcolm X, New Jack City) as Alline Bullock; I can emphatically say Angela was Tina in this film festival winner. She was incredible with her acting skills in portraying Tina. Not to be outdone, I must hand it to Laurence because he was equally amazing in the way he portrayed Ike. Just like Tina, both actors commanded the viewers attention as they delivered the script in their own special way. The story is unbelievable; however, the script could have been tweaked a bit to let the cast dig deeper into their characters. If you are a fan of their music, then you will especially enjoy watching the musical scenes of classic songs. What a life Tina has led and with the concerts I have seen of hers, I can add the watching of this film as a special treat.
3 ½ stars
NOT ONLY WAS IT INFORMATIVE, IT was also a fun lecture. I know, how many times do you get to have a good time while sitting through a lecture? In this case, it really was an enjoyable time; all because of the lecturer. I was attending a fitness convention and was lucky enough to get a space in the lecture before it became filled. The lecturer was well known in the industry and I had heard his lectures were in high demand. Anyone I spoke with who had attended one of his lectures, raved about him. Everything they said about him I found true while sitting through his lecture. He talked about addictive personalities and how to spot them in our classes. Despite the serious topic, he had a special way of injecting humor; and for lack of a better word, his lust for life, into his talking points. At times, he was giving out so much good information that I had a hard time keeping up with it in my notes. Included in the lecture was a workshop where he led us in some specific exercises related to the topic. I have to say he was a dynamic instructor who used an abundance of visual and audio cues in his instructions. And just like he injected his type of humor into his lecture, he doubled the amount in his workshop. By the time the session was over it was hard not to be a believer in his philosophy. THE FOLLOWING DAY I WAS SITTING in the hotel’s coffee shop when that same presenter walked in. As he came near me, I caught his eye and nodded my head. He nodded back and came over. I told him how much I enjoyed his lecture the day before and offered him a seat, if he cared to join me. Sitting down, we started talking about our experiences at the convention; I was curious to hear things from a presenter’s point of view. A waitress came over to see if he wanted to order something and without looking at the menu, he ordered a couple of desserts. To say I was surprised would have been an understatement. Here he had just been talking about addictive personalities yesterday and now he was having 2 desserts for lunch? A little warning flag popped up in my mind. We continued with our conversation, but I noticed he was talking at the same rapid-fire rate as he had done during his lecture. I assumed on a one to one basis he would have toned himself down. Something was starting to feel odd about him. When the waitress brought over his desserts, I knew something was not right because he tore thru the desserts like they were his first meal in a week. By the time he left, I was convinced he was either addicted to sugar or he was high on something; it made no sense based on everything he said during his lecture. Here people were flocking to his classes to receive his words of wisdom, yet not knowing trouble was bubbling up behind it. BY WRITING ONE SONG, AUSTRALIAN BORN Helen Reddy, played by Tilda Cobham-Hervey (Hotel Mumbai, One Eyed Girl), became the voice of a feminist movement. Little did anyone know what was happening behind that voice. With Evan Peters (X-Men franchise, American Horror Story-TV) as Jeff Wald, Chris Parnell (Anchorman franchise, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) as Artie Mogull, Danielle Macdonald (Bird Box, Dumplin’) as Lillian Roxon and Matty Cardarople (Jurassic World, Stranger Things-TV) as Roy Meyer; this film festival winner revealed a surprising side to the life of Helen Reddy, at least surprising to me. To present that side, I thought Tilda did an admirable job playing the iconic singer in this musical biography. With the amount of drama and turmoil around Helen’s life, the script needed to be a powerful statement. Unfortunately, that was not the case. There was enough drama to spring from and create some riveting scenes, but the writing fell flat. There was a level of predictability that I expected, but not the amount that was happening here. Gratefully, I was enjoying the musical performances enough to prevent me from becoming bored. If everything that was being shown in this film was true for Helen, then she was even stronger than any of us believed her to be.
2 ¾ stars
MOST PEOPLE LOOK AT ME WITH a curious eye when I tell them that I had a female friend in school who was one of my protectors. We were in the same grade, but she was older because she had flunked a grade. She was taller than the other girls in class and was further along in the maturing process. What stood out to me was the fact she was the first student I knew who smoked cigarettes and swore. Several boys in class enjoyed hanging around her because of these 2 facts, though I am sure it also had to do with her being more developed than any of the other girls. I knew for a fact that she was tough after seeing her in a fight on the school’s playground; she pummeled a girl in the face and stomach until the girl ran away crying. Though we did not have much in common, we were friends because I think she was fond of my sense of humor. I could always make her laugh. When we were together the kids who would pick on me would stay away. Not because she could beat all of them up, but because they knew she had an older boyfriend who was tough. More than likely that was the reason why I was safe with her as a friend. THERE WAS ANOTHER STUDENT IN MY grade who had the role of being my protector, but I never knew it. I honestly cannot recall him ever getting into a fistfight. He did not have to because there wasn’t any boy who would challenge him. The reason for it was because he had the body of an elite athlete, having started young with exercising and working out with weights. Where you could see the different muscles on his body, most of the other boys could only put on display a young bicep. When it came to gym class and picking teams, he was one of the first boys to be picked for a team. There was nothing he could not do when it came to a sport or physical test. We were neighbors so we had a friendship outside of school. I did not realize it at the time that he was a protector; the two of us would just hang out together or in a larger group. The added bonus by having him as a friend was knowing his older brother who was just as physically fit; so, I was spared from most teasing or bullying from the older classmates. Since I had these protectors, I could easily identify with the main characters in this biographical, crime drama. WRONGLY ACCUSED AND CONVICTED OF A crime resulted in Henri “Papillon” Charier, played by Charlie Hunnam (Children of Men, Pacific Rim), being sent to Devil’s Island. No one escaped from there, but Henri had an idea. With Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, The Master) as Louis Dega, Christopher Fairbank (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Fifth Element) as Jean Castili), Eve Hewson (Bridge of Spies, Robin Hood) as Nennete and Damijan Oklopdzic (Lockout, Everly) as Doorman; this adventure drama based on a true story was a remake of the original movie done in 1973. The acting is what provided me with the most interest. I thought Charlie and Rami worked well together. There were several tough scenes to watch but overall, I thought the filming and cinematography were excellent. What brought down this picture was the script; it was repetitive and did not have enough variety of emotional levels. By the end of the movie, I was left with a feeling of wanting as if I was not fully satisfied with the events. The story is incredible, and I cannot imagine what life must have really been like on that island; I had enough to deal with during my school years.
2 ½ stars
I WAS TAKEN ABACK BY HER harsh response to my comment. She said I was a horrible human being for saying such a thing. My only response was telling her time would change her mind. We were talking about an elderly relative who had to be moved into a nursing home; she was delving into Alzheimer’s disease/dementia. Part of our conversation had to do with the nursing home and some of its residents. There was always a medicinal, almost sour, odor that filled the hallways of the home. In the main dining room during a meal, there would be a mix of people eating together. For example, there was a woman who always came dressed up for dinner. Due to a stroke, she was not able to communicate verbally; she was only able to say one word which she repeated over and over. It appeared to me that she was not cognizant of her lack of verbal skills based on how often she would get angry at the residents sitting next to her, for not understanding what she was saying. There were several times where staff members had to remove her from the dining room because she was getting physically abusive. Another individual in the dining room was a man who had to be wheeled in then hand fed by an employee. As far as I could tell there was no reactions of any kind coming from this person; it seemed to me there was little brain function. THE REASON WHY I MENTIONED A couple of the nursing home residents was my hope you would not judge me harshly when I tell you what I said to my relative that got her so angry. We were talking about the nursing home and my relative mentioned that this one was one of the better facilities she had visited before moving our relative into it. When I heard this, I told her that our relative would be better off dead then living out her life with no memories in such a place. At this point our relative did not know the people visiting her, had to wear an adult sized diaper and could not communicate. You should have seen my relative’s reaction when I made this comment; you would have thought I said I was going to break into the nursing home and suffocate our relative with a pillow. As word spread, other relatives had a similar reaction to me; but I did not retract my statement. I stuck to my belief as our relative’s well-being slowly descended into non-existence. Seeing what the main character was going through in this biographical romantic drama, reminded me how tough it is to stick to one’s beliefs when one is in the minority. TENDING TO HIS FARM AND FAMILY was all Franz Jagmrstatter, played by August Diehl (Inglourious Basterds, Love in Thoughts), was interested in doing. His fellow townspeople did not think the same way as he did when troops began to arrive in town. With Valerie Pachner (The Ground Beneath my Feet, Bad Luck) as Fani Jagerstatter, Maria Simon (Portrait of a Married Couple, Good Bye Lenin!), as Resie Schwaninger, Karin Neuhauser (In the Fade, Emma’s Bliss) as Rosalia Jagerstatter and Tobias Moretti (The German Lesson, Brothers of the Wind) as Fr. Furthauer; this film written and directed by Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life, The New World) lasted 2 hours and 54 minutes. This was way too long to sit and watch this picture, despite the beautiful and lush scenes. I have experienced the same feelings seeing Terrence’s other movies; they go on and on with random scenes of water, sky, space as a way to move the audience. The fact is I was interested in the story, enjoyed the outdoor scenes and appreciated the acting; but when things get stretched out, I lose interest in the point the writer/director was trying to make. Those who enjoy Terrence’s work will enjoy this film and if I am in the minority so be it; I needed the film to end much earlier than it did.
2 ½ stars
I WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF PICKING out songs for a playlist to give to a close friend. There was one song I remembered from a movie I saw many, many years ago. The song has always stuck with me, though I never knew the title. Searching online I sought out the movie first to see if I could get a list of its song titles. I remembered an older woman in the film sang the song as she stood still in place. It did not take me too long to find the song I remembered and see its title. Once I had it, I typed the title into my computer’s search engine to see what would come up. Little did I realize this was a popular song, because the choice of artists who sang this song went on for pages. Besides having a list of artists, there were also music videos of artists performing the song. I found myself going from one video to another to see what the musical artist would do with the song. It was interesting to hear the multitude of variations; every artist was trying to put their own spin on the song. I was enjoying this musical journey despite it causing me confusion in not being able to decide which performance I wanted to include in my playlist. TIME WAS SLIPPING AWAY AND I was no closer to completing my project. I had no idea how many renditions of the song I had seen or heard; but somewhere in the list of artists I saw this name that I had heard, but I had never heard her perform. I clicked on the link and out of my computer speakers came this rich, earthy, passionate voice. At times it delved into the alto range but would veer right into a tenor level; I think her voice would be considered a contralto. Her voice captivated me because I could not recall hearing a female voice with such a strong lower register. It was as if I was listening to this song for the very first time; it was something fresh and new as the notes hung in the air around me like Spanish moss. Who was this woman who could take a song from the past, from a film musical, and make me feel as if our hearts were beating in synch? As soon as the song ended, I replayed it several times. And once I had my fill, I sought out other songs this musical artist performed. Having this as my introduction, there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to learn more about Nina Simone. WITH PLANS ON BECOMING A CLASSICALLY trained concert pianist, one night performing at a nightclub would change the course of Eunice Kathleen Waymon’s life. Directed by Liz Garbus (Girlhood, Bobby Fischer Against the World), this film festival winning documentary delved into the life of Nina Simone. With archival footage, interviews and performances; I found myself yearning for more musical performances as the movie went on. This biography touched on many aspects of Nina’s life, from childhood to adulthood to political activism; all of it was interesting, but part of me wished there would have been more details offered in the non-musical scenes. The interviews with her daughter, I found to be telling. I read somewhere the daughter was upset about a film that came out about her mother, so she got involved in the creation of this documentary. I am glad she did because not having any knowledge per se of Nina’s life, this film was a beautiful way to learn about her. And I have that playlist I made for a friend to thank.
HE WAS SUCH AN UNASSUMING INDIVIDUAL that I did not know he was the owner of the company. A fellow employee pointed him out to me one day; I thought they were playing a joke on me because I did not believe it. The owner was casually dressed in nondescript clothing. In other words, there were no fancy labels or names on anything, nor did he wear anything around his neck or wrist like a gold chain or expensive watch. Basically, there was nothing about this man’s appearance that defined his achievements. The product the company was selling was something he had invented. I thought that alone would have been enough reason for him to put on airs or display a sense of importance around the offices, but it was not. He acted like one of the employees of the company. When I think about it, the only time one would wonder what his position was in the company was during the holidays. He would receive a variety of thank you gifts from vendors; things like boxes of fruit, assorted cookies or other food-based products. Instead of keeping them for himself he was always opening the packages and placing them in the company kitchen for people to take for themselves. AS MUCH AS THE OWNER WAS humble, there was one company salesman who had ego for days. Every day he was dressed in a suit, whether he had customer appointments of not. That alone would not have been a big deal; but he wore quite a few expensive accessories. I had counted at least 6 expensive watches he switched up every day, besides thick gold jewelry pieces on his other wrist. Whether you asked him for his opinion or not, he was the type of person who would always tell you what you should do. Even things that were just common sense, he had to make a point of telling you what was the “right” way to do it; at least right according to him. If a customer came into the offices, they usually assumed he was the owner based on his mannerisms and speech. He was full of himself as they say; I did my best to have only minimal interaction with him. From that job to all the others I have had I have learned those who “crow” the loudest usually know the least. Those who do not brag, or showoff tend to be the most knowledgeable. This certainly applies to the main character in this biographical film festival winning movie. HAVING PRACTICED A LIFESTYLE OF NON-CONFRONTATION became a conflict for Ip Man, played by Donnie Yen (Rouge One: A Star Wars Story, Seven Swords) when Japanese forces invaded and took over his town. With resources scarce, he would have to find a way to survive. With Simon Yam (Election, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life) as Quan, Lynn Xiong (Hotel Deluxe, My Sassy Girl 2) as Cheung, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi (The Handsome Suit, Railroad Tigers) as Miura and Siu-Wong Fan (Future X-Cops, Flying Swords of Dragon) as Jin; this action drama surprised me. For the genre it is in, this film’s focus was on the story and I found it interesting. It felt to me like a partial history lesson with its inclusion of the Japanese invasion of China back in the 1930s. The action scenes were beautifully choreographed, even when a bit of humor was interjected in some of them. It was unexpected to see a martial arts movie that was so story driven; I was drawn into the plight of Ip Man and his family. Also, the fact that this character was based on a true person (who in real life had Bruce Lee as a student) made this picture that more enjoyable. Seeing photos of the actual man at the end was an added treat. Cantonese, Mandarin and Japanese was spoken with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars