HE HAD BEEN PLACED IN REMEDIAL classes through most of his education years. Both teachers and students assumed he was “slow,” though many of the students used a derogatory description to describe him. His grades were poor and yet, he was never given extra help by his teachers or counselors. It did not matter to me because he was my friend. Our initial connection was our mutual love of music. Both of us constantly kept up with current music and took turns buying new songs and albums to share with each other. As for him lacking “book smarts,” he made up for it in practical knowledge. To say he was handy would be an understatement; if something was not working, such as an electronic device or piece of equipment, he usually could figure out and solve the problem. I was envious of his abilities. Besides music his other love was building things. Whether he was helping his family rehab a kitchen or bedroom; for his age, his handiness skills were impressive. Now, if you were to have a conversation with him you would realize there was a communication issue going on with him. He knew what words he wanted to use but could not pronounce them properly. Sometimes he would substitute a wrong word into his conversation because it sounded like the word he was trying to say. Thinking of him now, I must wonder if he might have been dyslexic. DUE TO THAT FRIENDSHIP I REALIZED how many people are quick to judge someone just based of their looks and/or actions. Whenever we went to a restaurant or store, the employees would always look to me to handle the bill or to have a conversation. He would ask a question and the employee would answer it while looking at me as if he was a child or simply did not exist. He was not the only friend I had that people were quick to judge. I had a friend who was over 6 feet tall and had a strong presence about himself. Upon meeting him, people tended to be intimidated his looks; he looked like a “tough guy” with his leather jacket and army boots. What people never took the time with was to get to know him; they would interact with him only for the briefest of moments. He was a super sweet guy who was kind and thoughtful. We would spend hours deep in metaphysical conversations. I realize due to the friendships I have, whenever I get together and go out with friends, I usually look at the people around us to see what kind of reaction they are having to us. Some of these reactions are like the ones I saw in this biographical, dramatic thriller. MOVING TO AMERICA FROM FRANCE TO further her acting career, young actress Jean Seberg, played by Kristen Stewart (Underwater, Personal Shopper), assumed she would expand her fan base. She did not expect that would also include the FBI. With Yvan Attal (Munich, Rush Hour 3) as Romain Gary, Jack O’Connell (Unbroken, Tulip Fever) as Jack Solomon, newcomer Gabriel Sky as Diego Gary and Margaret Qualley (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, The Leftovers-TV) as Linette Solomon; this picture’s story was inspired by true events. I was not familiar with Jean and her career, so I do not know how much I saw in this movie rang true. I guess it did not matter because I thought the script was basic and static. Kristen was good in the role; but I really could not tell you much about her character or for that fact, anyone else’s. Based on the issues that were going on here in the late 1960s, I felt the writers had a wealth of opportunities to create a powerful, dramatic piece. Sadly, like the actress’ career, this story went nowhere.
1 ¾ stars
THE ACT OF HAVING A DISCUSSION seems to have become a lost art. So much of the news I have seen contains arguments and violence instead of rational and calm discussions of one’s differences. A recent news report covered a fight that happened in a subway between a passenger and street musician. The details of their argument were not listed; however, whatever it was I cannot believe it was something so intense that it caused the two people to resort to physically fighting each other; one using a pocketknife and the other their guitar. The fight took place on a train platform in the middle of the day with passengers walking right by them. I cannot even imagine something like that taking place, but it did. The news reports I find the most tragic are the ones where an argument took place between family members, where one member out of anger kills the other family member. Without being too graphic, in the past few months I have read reports about a son stabbing his mother to death, a father shooting his son and a brother running over his older brother with the family car, just to name a few. The world is becoming scarier and scarier. IT TOOK ME A LONG TIME TO learn how to have an argument without attaching emotions to it. For years I thought the way to win an argument was to have a louder voice than your opponent. If you added profanity to the conversation it would help your cause. For years, I would take anyone’s disagreement with me as a personal affront and immediately go on the attack against them. I did not hold anything back except one thing; I never turned the fight into a physical altercation. My evolution into staying calm and respectful started with a close friend who was a facilitator of a “self-help” organization. She taught me how to keep the negativity out of a discussion by using the word “I” instead of “you.” This may sound trite, but it made a world of difference for me. That change allowed me to stop coming across as the accuser; instead, I started talking about how I felt based on the actions of my opponent. There was no need for name calling or raising my voice any longer; I simply expressed how I was feeling, and it caused the other person to lose their defenses because they were no longer under attack by me. I now can appreciate a “good” argument which explains why I enjoyed watching the two main characters in this biographical, comedic drama. DESPITE THEIR POSITIONS WITHIN THE CATHOLIC church, the differences between Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bergoglio, played by Anthony Hopkins (Thor franchise, Hitchcock) and Jonathan Pryce (The Wife, G. I. Joe franchise), could have a monumental effect on the direction of the church and its followers. The two men would struggle as they had to confront their pasts. With Juan Minujin (Focus, An Unexpected Love-TV movie) as a younger Jorge Bergoglio, Cristina Banegas (Clandestine Childhood, Killer Women-TV) as Lisabetta and Sidney Cole (Felicia’s Journey, Common People) as Cardinal Turkson; this film festival winner succeeded due to the acting skills of Anthony and Jonathan. They were so convincing to me that I started to forget they were actors. I know the movie was inspired by true events, but I wondered how much of what I was watching was true. Though, since this event happened in my lifetime there was the curiosity factor that played to this film’s advantage. The jumping back and forth in time was disruptive and may have contributed to the slowness I experienced at times. Still, I found the subject interesting and I appreciated watching two people having a discussion.
WHILE I WAS WAITING FOR MY interview with the fitness director, the little voice in my head was telling me I was an idiot. I was sitting in the lobby watching staff and members passing through the lobby. The voice in my head was telling me to leave because I did not look like any of the staff. Where the employees were fit and trim, I was what you would consider soft and pudgy. I did not have any muscles prominently displayed on my frame, my gut looked more like a jello mold instead of a washboard and I had a full beard. Now granted, no one knew I had lost a considerable amount of weight and actually had strong legs compared to my body; but I was not confident I could get a job teaching fitness classes. In my mind, I pictured a place with people who came in all different sizes; for my short time sitting in the lobby, everyone looked thin and buff. Because I had seen some of the members walking by with full makeup on their faces, I assumed everyone at this particular club was more interested in their looks than their health. This was in direct opposite to my way of thinking; I wanted to teach classes that were both fun and heart healthy. IT WAS DURING THE AUDITION PART OF my interview when I realized the interviewer understood what I was doing because she had a smile on her face. I was incorporating strength and dance like moves into a routine I created to go in synch with the music I brought to accompany me. While I was moving the whole time, I kept up a light banter of jokes and social comments as if I was talking to an entire studio filled with members. I was hired that day with my first-class taking place the very next day. That first week of teaching classes turned into an eye-opening experience for me. I soon realized there were indeed members who were only interested in their looks; they would be dressed in the latest fashions for aerobic clothing. There were some male members who spent hours lifting weights with no regard to doing any cardio work for their heart. The bigger their muscles got the less flexible they became. Now I do not want you to think I am judging any of these individuals I have been describing; I am only making observations. Within the first few weeks I concluded that there were a multitude of reasons why someone joins a fitness center and my job was to simply give them a safe and good workout. I was grateful that the interviewer was someone who did not judge me on my looks. Sadly, I cannot say the same for the main characters in this drama based on real events. AFTER PUTTING UP WITH A TOXIC environment at work, one woman decides to take a stand and reveal what she has been hiding for many years. She only hoped her actions would cause a change. With Charlize Theron (Long Shot, Atomic Blonde) as Megyn Kelly, Nicole Kidman (The Goldfinch, Boy Erased) as Gretchen Carlson, Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, The Legend of Tarzan) as Kayla Pospisil, John Lithgow (Pet Sematary, Love is Strange) as Roger Ailes and Allison Janney (I, Tonya; Hairspray) as Susan Estrich; this biographical drama rang true due to the acting of the cast. Charlize, Nicole and Margot were such a force that I was drawn into the story that focused on Roger and Fox News. At times I felt the story was playing out like a mystery thriller; I enjoyed watching it. Whether the script took some liberties or not with the story I cannot say; however, I was still stunned by the discrimination and sexual harassment that I saw taking place at the news network.
HAVING A STRONG INTEREST IN HISTORY, I have always had an awareness about being a part of it. Now, I know each of us has a history and a place in other people’s history; however, there is a part of me that wants to be associated with something that makes history for being the first. For example, like the person who created post-it notes or the one who came up with that new shade of blue. I prefer to be known for something positive. Years ago, I was a participant in a charity’s inaugural fundraising event that took place on a cruise boat. I was with a group of bachelors that were to be auctioned off. Each of us had our own dinner package included; mine was a dinner at an Italian restaurant followed with a concert at an outdoor venue. We did promotions for the event, such as holding meet and greets at different locations in the city and being on a float in a parade. The press was kind to us, though I have to say I was surprised when I saw a picture of myself in one of the local newspapers. It was a fun time and we raised a substantial amount of money for the charity. LOOKING AT OTHER THINGS I HAVE DONE, something that never occurred to me was the historical significance of my movie review site. I did not realize that these reviews will be available for my family’s future generations. All I have that connects me to past generations are photographs and old silent film clips. The idea that some relative of mine in the year 2099 can learn about me from reading my reviews blows my mind. I think about this more as I am growing older. I would think the same for the passengers, I recently saw on the news, who took part in the longest non-stop plane ride; imagine what they will be telling their descendants. Or sadly, the tourists involved with the volcano eruption in New Zealand; that now becomes a part of their history. I think about the members I have had in my classes who have come up to me to express the difference I have made in their lives. Here I thought I was doing a job; but it turns out I was doing something more. Seeing the change that takes place in the members’ lives is one of my biggest pleasures when it comes to teaching class. As I said earlier, we all have a history that affects others; that is certainly the case with the main character in this biographical, crime drama. AT THE TIME HE WAS FOLLOWING orders; but Mafia hitman Frank Sheehan’s, played by Robert De Niro (Mean Streets, Joker), dependability and loyalty made him a part of this country’s history. With Al Pacino (The Godfather franchise, Dick Tracy) as Jimmy Hoffa, Joe Pesci (Raging Bull, My Cousin Vinny) as Russell Bufalino, Harvey Keitel (Bad Lieutenant, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Angelo Bruno and Ray Romano (The Big Sick, Everybody Loves Raymond-TV) as Bill Bufalino; no one could ask for a better cast when it came to acting out these characters. The story was fascinating to me; especially because, I was familiar with some of the names that were being mentioned in the movie. The directing and filming of this picture was beautifully done; however, I felt there were parts that dragged on too long. The script caused these slow spots in places where I had to wait for the actors to move on. And truthfully, I felt there was a difference in watching this movie on a small screen instead of at the theater. Overall, I still enjoyed the film; but I wonder how much of it was based on truth. Because if it was indeed true, then Frank Sheeran definitely has a place in history.
3 ¼ stars
IF THE FRY PAN WAS ON the stove, I knew I was going to get a delicious meal. It was a large pan that not only covered the entire burner below it but expanded past into the next burner’s territory. With a long metal handle that had a rubber grip around the end, I loved watching the food cooking in it. One of my favorite things to cook in it was a grilled cheese sandwich. Watching the bread, the thicker the better, go from a whitish color to a golden brown made my mouth water. I always hoped the cheese would ooze out from underneath the top slice to coat the toasty crust. When it would happen, I would spend the first minute of the meal peeling the cheese off the edges with my teeth. Though I liked the soft melted cheese in the middle of the sandwich, I enjoyed the crisp cheesy edges just as much. What I have not told you yet is the best part when it came to making this sandwich; it was when my relative would grab the handle of the fry pan and with a flick of their wrist flip the sandwich into the air to cook the other slice of bread. ANOTHER FAVORITE MEAL OF MINE THAT WAS made in this fry pan was scrambled or over hard eggs. I liked my scrambled eggs dry, where they would become firm enough to form soft yellow pillow shaped forms. For some reason this would remind me of a building block set I used to play with when I was younger. The part I liked about the over hard eggs was watching the eggs turn into a thin white disc with two yellow eyeballs. Sometimes I was given permission to lift the fry pan off the burner slightly to swirl the eggs around. It always amazed me how the eggs never stuck to the pan; they looked like they were skating across the pan’s surface. I remember hearing my relative telling someone how much they loved this pan because nothing would stick to it, making cleanup so much easier. Compared to the pans in my house, this pan looked different. Depending on what was being cooked in the pans at home, they would have to sit in the sink for a while to soak after use. This was done to make the stuck food particles come off easier from the pan’s metal surface. I did not understand why we did not have the same type of pan as my relatives. After seeing this biographical drama, I think I understand. ONLY BECAUSE THE FARMER WAS A neighbor of his grandmother, did Robert Bilott, played by Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers franchise, The Kids are All Right) agree to help solve the mystery of the farmer’s dying cattle. It was a decision that would change Robert’s life. With Anne Hathaway (Ocean’s Eight, Colossal) as Sarah Bilott, William Jackson Harper (Paterson, The Good Place-TV) as James Ross, Tim Robbins (Thanks for Sharing, Mystic River) as Tom Terp and Bill Pullman (The Equalizer franchise, Independence Day franchise) as Harry Dietzler; this story based on true events played like a mystery. The acting was excellent from everyone and the director did a wonderful job of layering the story from scene to scene. As for the story, it was horrifying to me; I had no idea there was more to it than what I had assumed. If what was shown was true, then I certainly had the right to be as outraged as I was while watching this film. I cannot imagine anyone sitting through this movie and not wondering if they got through unscathed. My first thought was wondering if those favorite meals I had eaten harmed me in any way.
3 ½ stars
THE HIGH NOISE LEVEL IN THE ROOM came from people either uncreating merchandise, setting up displays or cleaning; yet, in the middle of this din was one quiet individual intently working on display signs. She was sitting on the floor with her legs spread far enough apart to accommodate the poster boards and markers she had in front of her on the floor. Being a yoga instructor, I was impressed by her flexibility and ability to bend forward from the waist until she could rest her torso flat on the floor. Despite the activity in the room my focus was drawn to her. The way she colored in her letters on the board and the designs she created along the outer edges attracted by eye. I did not know her since I was a new employee, but I could see she was well liked and respected. As the weeks progressed, I began to get more insight into her role at the company. She had a gentle presence and spoke softly; but when she talked to anyone her eye contact was direct and sincere as if that person was the only individual that mattered to her. Through the weeks I got to know her and became quite impressed with the way she could handle both shoppers’ and employees’ issues; she made each person feel important. That ability was a skill/gift that I hoped I could master from her example. SOME PEOPLE BELIEVE THEIR WORDS ARE the most important, while others feel it is their actions. I lean more towards action just because of the things that happened to me based on somebody’s words. When a person expresses their love for you but then has an affair a/k/a cheats behind your back, what is more important their words or their actions? Or, when a friend expresses how happy they are for you calling them but abruptly ends your call every time they get a 2ndcall; what do you believe is more truthful, the words or actions? With both these examples I would say the actions are more telling of the truth. However, I have experienced situations where unbeknownst to me my words had an impact on a person. There was a couple of members in my class who listened to my story about how I came to terms with my weight and was able to finally shed it, who then started changing their lifestyle to get healthier. In my experiences, a person whose words and actions weigh equally in importance is a rare breed. One of the main characters in this biographical drama based on a true story possesses such a gift. FEELING THE ASSIGNMENT TO GO INTERVIEW Fred Rogers, played by Tom Hanks (Bridge of Spies, The Circle), in Pittsburgh was beneath his skills; journalist Lloyd Vogel, played by Matthew Rhys (The Post, The Americans-TV), was not only forced to meet the man who played Mr. Rogers on television; but he would have to face someone even more important. With Chris Cooper (The Company Men, Adaptation) as Jerry Vogel, Susan Kelechi Watson (Blackout, This is Us-TV) as Andrea Vogel and Maryann Plunkett (True Story, Blue Valentine) as Joanne Rogers; this film surprised me in the way the focus of the story was more on Lloyd Vogel. Though Mr. Rogers almost felt secondary to me, I appreciated the way the writers showed how Fred Rogers’ words affected those around him. The script unfolded in a quiet methodical way with only the occasional flare-up of intense drama. The entire cast was excellent which may be attributed to Tom’s amazing performance. Not only was I enamored by Fred Rogers’ actions in this picture, I was equally amazed with his choice of words. For the times we presently live in, this movie was a beautiful reminder of how people can act towards one another.
3 ¼ stars
IT WAS NOT THE RIDES THAT interested me at carnivals and local amusement parts; it was the games of chance. When I was younger, I would save up my allowance for these games. I was convinced I could win prizes and boy did I love looking at all the prizes. There was a game where I would have to throw rubber rings at a table full of empty bottles and try to get the ring to land on the bottle’s neck. Each toss I would see my ring bounce from one bottle to the next while I secretly wished for it to land on a bottle instead of dropping down between them. The prizes, big fluffy stuffed animals, were on a shelf that went around the top of the entire booth. There was another game that was or like a game called Skeeball, where one had to roll a ball down a lane that curved up at the end to propel the ball hopefully into one of the holes on the backboard. Each hole was labelled with a number; the higher the number the bigger the prize. With every roll of the ball I would make adjustments, hoping I would get the ball into the center hole to receive the biggest prize. OUT OF ALL THE GAMES AT A carnival, one of my favorites was the slot car racing one. It was because I had my very own race car model. There was a model store in the neighborhood where me and a cousin would race our cars on the elaborate race track that was set up in the middle of the store. Unfortunately, I could not use my race car at the carnival games (imagine that); however, it did not matter because I loved racing cars. I cannot tell you how much money I spent at those games and rarely did I ever win a race. Seeing the winner of the race receive a cool prize from off the shelf would only make me more determined to play the race again. My cousin was the same way because we felt with all of our experience there was no reason why we could not crush the competition. Thinking back on it I would hate to think how much money I spent on those games; little did I know they were designed to thwart the participant from winning. However, once I saw what I could win I did not think about how much I was spending to get that prize. The same was true for the head of the Ford Motor company in this biographical, dramatic action film. AFTER HEARING THE DISPARAGING COMMENTS THE chairman of Ferrari made about his company Henry Ford II, played by Tracy Letts (Lady Bird, The Post), was determined to build a car that would beat Ferrari’s car at France’s Le Mans race. It did not matter how much it would cost him. With Matt Damon (The Martian, The Departed) as Carroll Shelby, Christian Bale (Vice, The Big Shot) as Ken Miles, Jon Bernthal (The Accountant, The Wolf of Wall Street) as Lee Iacocca and Caitriona Balfe (Escape Plan, Outlander-TV) as Mollie Miles; this was an exciting film to watch. I am not fond of watching car races, but I would see this picture again. The acting was outstanding, matching the well-done script that captured the 1960s perfectly. I found the racing scenes thrilling and felt at times I was sitting in the race cars. For being such a long movie, I rarely noticed the time going by because the script and action kept me engaged with the story. Whether the story was accurate in this movie, it did not matter because I found it to be a logical progression of events and feelings. Compared to the money I used to spend at those carnival games, buying a ticket to see this film made me feel like a winner.
I BELIEVE EVERYONE HAS A BREAKING point; the only difference is each person has it set at a different threshold. Some years ago, there was an employee at the company I worked at who was a jovial man. Friendly to everyone, always a smile on his face; for all intents and purposes, he was an ideal employee. Let me add, he had been employed at the company for several years. I never heard the details of what caused him to reach his breaking point; only that it was a “bad” scene. He got into an argument with another employee. If the two men had a history of confrontations, I was not privy to the information. However, the fight turned heated as the 2 men raised their voices and started yelling obscenities at each other. I do not know how long this went on; but at some point, the jovial employee picked up a large monkey wrench and chased the other employee around their work area. Another employee intervened by tackling the employee and wrestling him to the ground, while grabbing the monkey wrench and twisting it out of his hand. As you may have guessed he was fired that day. When news spread throughout the company, employees were stunned; no one ever imagined he could get so angry or try to cause bodily harm to another person. REMEMBERING THAT EMPLOYEE REMINDED ME OF my younger days when my breaking point was set at a lower threshold. I was always quick to use my anger to solve disturbing situations. If I felt someone slighted me, I would immediately go on the attack. Gratefully I never ventured into the use of physical harm; however, I would verbally abuse them by using every swear word I knew. If that did not satisfy me, I would plot out covert ways I could get back at them. I am too embarrassed to tell you about a few of the things I did in my past; let me just say I am not proud of those actions. What I can tell you is I am no longer that individual. These days, my breaking point resides on a higher level. The reason may be a variety of things, from becoming more mature to exploring avenues of self-help. Regardless, having a stronger sense of self has allowed me to make better and more rational decisions. Though I am still capable of letting my anger come out full force, I have not encountered a situation that called for it. Certainly nothing near what the main character endured in this dramatic, historical biography. IF IT MEANT DYING THEN THE slave Minty, played by Cynthia Erivo (Widows, Bad Times at the El Royale), was at peace with it if it meant there was a chance, she could be free of her master. Chances were not in her favor. With Leslie Odom Jr (Red Tails, Murder on the Orient Express) as William Still, Joe Alwyn (The Favourite, Mary Queen of Scots) as Gideon Brodess, Clarke Peters (John Wick, Marley & Me) as Ben Ross and Vanessa Bell Calloway (Daylight, Lakeview Terrace) as Rit Rose; this movie based on a true story had the perfect actor playing the role of Minty/Harriet. Cynthia’s acting was memorable just as her voice was when her character would sing a few bars in several scenes. The story was incredible and unimaginable. For most of the time my eyes were glued to the screen; however, when the script went off into a religious fantasy mode it lost me a bit. I thought those scenes were over dramatic and thick. If they had been toned down and made to be more of a realistic conversation, I would have put more stock in them. Still, I was engaged throughout the story. On a sad/poignant note, the news today is reporting about a fast food restaurant where the staff asked a black family to change their seats because a white customer did not want them seated next to him. I cannot stop wondering if we will ever see a change.
THOSE MOMENTS WHEN I REALIZE I AM witnessing something historic are moments I never forget. My only wish is I want to see more positive events than the negative ones. I do not want to be a witness to the worst nightclub massacre or synagogue shooting or largest mass grave or biggest wildfire destruction. Instead, I want to see something that benefits the planet and its people. Think back to a time when something was introduced to the world that forever changed the way we were living. I still have a landline phone, but I remember when cellular phones were available to the public; it was an extraordinary experience. The idea of being able to talk to someone without being tethered to a wall was mind blowing. Right now, we are witnessing something becoming historic and that is driverless vehicles. Prior to seeing them in the news, my only experience was seeing them in science fiction movies and television shows. As a kid I had the toy car model of KITT; do you know what TV show KITT starred in? Something I just discovered is a wearable device that dials 911 if it detects the wearer has fallen. A fellow employee told me they had tripped and fell to the ground. They laid still for a moment to catch their breath and calm down. Within that time their watch alerted emergency assistance and paramedics were sent out to them. IF MEMORY SERVES ME CORRECTLY DIDN’T a well-known amusement park have to update their futuristic exhibit because it had become outdated? Having been created decades ago, some of the items depicted became products we are using presently. I look at the things in my house and I can tell you when and where I was when I acquired them. From hi-tech to mementoes, a memory is attached to each item. What I really would love to know is how the inventor/creator came up with the idea for it. Even hearing from the individual who created the pet rock or chia pet is someone I would enjoy talking with. I consider myself more creative than scientific and yet, the things I imagine have never produced tangible results. And that is okay because I know I will still experience new and exciting things in life. If you are like me, by looking at things we use in our daily lives and wonder what it must have been like when they first appeared, then you will enjoy watching this historical, dramatic biography based on a true story. A BATTLE OF WITS AND IDEAS reach an epic peak when three visionary men see what the future would be like if light could be accessible to all. With Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, Star Trek into Darkness) as Thomas Edison, Tom Holland (Spider-Man franchise, In the Heart of the Sea) as Samuel Insull, Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water, Take Shelter) as George Westinghouse, Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies, X-Men franchise) as Nikola Tesla and Matthew Macfadyen (Pride & Prejudice, The Three Musketeers) as J.P. Morgan; I enjoyed the historical aspect of this story, whether it was accurate or not. Seeing these historical men brought to life by the fine acting of the cast was a treat for me. As the story unfolded, I realized something was missing; a spark, a shock, a connection. The script did not provide the drama I thought was needed for this story. It was as if the scenes were in stasis; there was no difference emotionally from one to the other. I did however enjoy the sets and cinematography. With the discovery of electricity as a focal point, I would have thought the movie studio would have demanded more work be done to make this film shine.
2 ½ stars
SOON AFTER WE BECAME FRIENDS IN 1stor 2ndgrade, we became best friends. I lived on the northwest corner of a square, city block and he lived on the southeast one; we would use the alley to go to each other’s house. He had an uncle who was some type of farmer; so, every summer he would always bring over a grocery bag of his uncle’s fruit to our house each weekend. We would go through the bag picking out the ripest fruit to eat right away before putting the bag in the refrigerator. All through elementary school we remained the best of friends. During that time, we were there for each other during a parent’s health scare, the surprise birth of his baby sister and the rise of bullying as we advanced in school. By the time we graduated and started high school we were sure nothing would change between us. With the school population tripling between elementary and high school, besides going from a small school to a block long building, we assumed we would still see each other through the school’s hallways. As it turned out that was not the case and as time went on, we started drifting apart. Our circle of friends was expanding and diversifying on top of it. I WENT OUT OF STATE FOR college and that was the last time I saw my friend; we lost touch with each other. Fast forward now 20 years, where I am living down in the city in my own place. There was a store in my neighborhood that I had read about in the newspaper; they carried “funky” retro stuff. I decided to check it out one Saturday and walked down to it. The newspapers were right because the store was cool looking with a variety of items from different eras. As I was gazing down into one of the glass display cases a staff worker came up to me, to see if I needed any help. When I lifted my head up to reply I was stunned. The man standing across the case from me was my best friend from elementary school. He recognized me immediately as we both started laughing. He asked what I was doing there; I asked him the same thing. It turned out he was the owner. While we were talking, I noticed something odd; he was talking with a British accent. Listening to the scope of his business dealings, he was heavily involved in the entertainment business. He went by one name, deciding his last name sounded suddenly “to ethnic.” I found all of this bizarre, to say the least. AFTER THAT STORE VISIT, WE STAYED in touch sporadically. I felt like I was talking to a different person whenever I would see him. He had turned himself into this persona with the one name to make an impression with the Hollywood people he was dealing with now. His business expanded so much he had to acquire multiple warehouses to store his burgeoning inventory. He became the “go to person” whenever Hollywood studios needed specific styled props and costumes. His lifestyle became fast paced and crazy to match the people he was now hobnobbing with, from coast to coast. I had bumped into him at a play one day and knew immediately he was high on drugs. His speech was slurred, his eyes were halfway shut, and he kept swaying from side to side. That was the last time I saw him until I read his obituary in the paper. DESPITE BEING UNINSURABLE AND BROKE LEGENDARY performer Judy Garland, played by Renee Zellweger (Chicago, My One and Only), flew to London in 1968 for several sold-out concerts. This biographical drama also starred Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, The Tempest) as Rosalyn Wilder, Finn Wittrock (Unbroken, American Horror Story-TV) as Mickey Deans, Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist, Hercules) as Sidney Luft and Michael Gambon (Harry Potter franchise, Quartet) as Bernard Delft. Whether the story was accurate in this film did not matter to me because ultimately it was all about Renee’s performance. Not once did I think it was Renee acting; she was utterly convincing in the role. Doing her own singing, I had to give her credit because I knew it was not going to be easy; however, she did an incredible job. Her mannerisms, her posture, her gestures; all of them were Judy. As for the story, many viewers already know it; so, let me just say, it is sad. However, don’t let that stop you from seeing this film because I believe you will be hearing Renee’s name this upcoming awards season.