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Oscar Awards Show 2021

THERE IS NOTHING LIKE SEEING A musical act performing live at a concert. This may sound corny, but the experience produces a natural high in me. Granted I always start out with a little anxiety about the commuting aspect; however, once I am safely in my seat, I am plugged in to experience everything the musical artist(s) brings to the stage. Let me see if I can describe to you the feeling of being at an arena sized concert. Imagine 15-20,000 fans converging into a stadium; every single person is there for one sole purpose, to hear and show their love/adoration for the performer(s). Everyone is in a good mood, smiling and nodding at each other as if they share a special secret. While walking the halls to find your seats, random music can be heard echoing from the arena; a constant thumping bass sound pulsates through the air. There are some fans dressed up to look like part of the band or artist’s entourage; the more flamboyant the act, the wilder are the costumes. As I walk to my seat, my only wish for the moment is that a tall person or one dressed in an elaborate outfit is not sitting in front of me, obstructing my view. As more people are settling into their seats, the feelings of anticipation are being elevated to a point where the space around everyone is buzzing with excitement. That bass sound that has been thumping is resonating in each person’s chest as if synching everyone to a common beat. And then suddenly the music stops, and the place goes dark. Everyone in unison begins to cheer loudly.      THE WEEKS AND MONTHS LEADING UP to this moment were worth the wait. I just need to hear the first couple of notes to announce the start of what I am sure will be a familiar song, one of many that I have been singing in the car since I got the tickets to this show. A set of spotlights slowly wake up to reveal a spot on the stage where 4 strangers are standing. I have never seen them before in my life! An announcer introduces them, and they start to play their instruments. They are the warm-up act. Nowhere in the advertisements or my tickets did it say anything about a warm-up act. Where is the group I paid to see? The built-up feelings that were about to burst out of my body suddenly deflated like a flat tire, after slamming into a deep pothole. It almost felt like I could not catch my breath because I was in such shock. Right at this single moment I am flooded with the feeling of disappointment and this feeling is exactly how I felt about the Oscars and the awards show this year.      THE TRANSFORMATION OF UNION STATION FOR the show was beautifully handled. I thought the place looked like an old-fashioned supper club. The outside reception area was equally beautiful in my opinion. I do have to say it was odd for me to see a gathering without masks, where people were hugging each other; it almost felt like a time pre-COVID. There was glamour but due to restrictions, the pre-show scenes seemed like individual segments that were more unconnected than usual. For the fact I could not see all the nominated films, I came into this without my usual excitement and joy. The Oscars telecast has always been my Super Bowl and High Holiday wrapped together. When presenters were talking about a film that I had not seen, it felt so foreign to me as if they were talking a different language. Right from the first acceptance speech, I so badly wished they had a live orchestra to drown out the winner who overstayed their welcome. There were some exceptions but for the most part the acceptance speeches rambled on and on; it was painful. The exception for me was Yuh-Jung Youn, best supporting actress, due to a couple of her comments. Though she was long in her speech, I appreciated her saying, “All the nominees, five nominees, we were the winner for different movies. We played different roles—so we cannot compete against each other. Tonight, I’m here, I just have a little bit more luck. I think, maybe. I’m luckier than you…”      WHEN TYLER PERRY ACCEPTED HIS HUMANITARIAN award, I especially appreciated the part of his speech when he said to “refuse blanket judgement” and “refuse hate.” I wish I could do that when it came to Questlove as the DJ; I did not care for most of his musical selections. The music did nothing to try and elevate the mood amongst the guests. Now granted I know there are way more important things to focus on than the Oscars. I simply wanted to be taken away for a couple of hours to a world of glamour and stars, checking my predictions against the winning choices, before I had to settle back down into the real world. Sadly, this show did not provide me with any of these things, except for way too many commercial breaks. I was still mad that the Academy had enough money to give swag bags worth, I heard, up to $200,000.00. Why couldn’t the Academy take all that money to pay for a weekend of nominated films to be shown free across all viewing platforms? Not everyone buys every streaming service to view the nominated films. Don’t you think it would be in the best interests for actors and the Academy if they offered something for their dedicated fans?!?!      OUT OF THE ENTIRE BROADCAST, I thought the most egregious error was the change in the order of awards for the end. Usually the last 3 awards are for actress, actor and picture as the last. The very end is seeing all the people associated with the winning picture up on stage, happy and excited for their film. But because I believe the Academy was expecting Chadwick Boseman to win best actor, they changed the order so that category would be last. Well it certainly did not work out the way they thought it would because Anthony Hopkins won, and he was not even there. So, the presenter awkwardly accepts the award in his honor and tells everyone to have a good night; that is the end of the show. What an utter mess and shame on the Academy. I read today that the broadcast this year had the fewest viewers ever and I perfectly understand why. I honestly do not know where my comfort level will be to go back to a theater; I am more in a wait and see mode. However, if Sunday’s broadcast represents the future of how the show will be done, I may have to take more of an attitude like Yuh-Jung Youn, it is just luck; so, why pay attention to what gets nominated.     

Flash Movie Review: 12 Monkeys

AS I STOOD WAITING FOR THE elevator a woman walked into the apartment building lobby, took one look at me and said I looked creepy. I said, “Excuse me?” She said the mask I was wearing made me look creepy; she did not like it at all. Her response surprised me because throughout the day I was getting favorable comments on my mask. Even at the stores I had been in, there were several shoppers who stopped me to say they thought my face mask was hysterical. I agreed with them. The mask was new, and it had the lower half of a movie character’s face on it; so, when I was wearing it, it looked like it was a continuation of my face without the goatee. The mouth was open slightly to show a couple of crooked teeth. I didn’t think many people would recognize the actor’s face from the classic movie he starred in, but I did not care; I just wanted to have fun with the mask. I told the woman, who was not wearing a mask, I was surprised by her response because I had been getting compliments on the mask all day. She said she was a psychotherapist and that some of her patients looked just like my mask. I wondered what her patients would think of her description for them.      WHEN THE ELEVATOR ARRIVED, I REFUSED to ride with her because she wasn’t wearing a mask. She told me it was not mandatory to wear a mask in the building. I told her I knew that but felt it was important to wear a mask to protect my health as well as any person around me. She wanted to start an argument I thought because she asked me to show her proof. I explained to her I was not a doctor or scientist; but if there was any way I could help to stop the spread of this virus that has killed so many people, I was willing to wear a mask to see if it indeed makes a difference. I couldn’t resist one last comment just before the elevator doors closed; I asked her what the other residents of the building thought of her resistance to wear a mask around them. With her gone, I started thinking about future generations and what they will say about the way we handled the pandemic. Also, what about the amount of people who have died; I wondered how their loss would alter the path to our future. Would future scientists try to do what those in this science fiction thriller tried to do?         WITH THE HOPE OF BEING GRANTED parole Cole, played by Bruce Willis (Motherless Brooklyn, Die Hard franchise) agreed to be sent back in time, to find out how a man-made virus spread and wiped out most of Earth’s population. With Madeleine Stowe (The Last of the Mohicans, Short Cuts) as Kathryn Railly, Brad Pitt (The Big Short, Ad Astra) as Jeffrey Goines, Jon Seda (Bullet to the Head, Chicago P.D.-TV) as Jose and Joey Perillo (Rachel Getting Married, The Manchurian Candidate) as Detective Franki; this film festival winner was a kaleidoscope of visual creativity. Almost every scene had something to attract the eye to while the actors cut through the story. There were times where I lost touch with the story and I believe it was because there were multiple story lines. I think the whole film was purposefully done in an over the top type of way; but if there had been a narrower focus on the main story, I feel this picture would have had more of a trippy intensity. Nonetheless, it was a wild ride of entertainment filled with mystery, thrills and drama; all from the safety of my living room.

3 stars  

Flash Movie Review: Ad Astra

THE WORDS THAT NEVER GET SPOKEN to a loved one will remain inside of you always. They become part of your inner dialog, emerging periodically to your consciousness like buried treasure, whenever you think of that person who is no longer in your life. A friend of mine experienced such a thing when his brother one night took off, never to be heard from again. My friend told me there was a big fight between his brother and their parents; he never told me what the argument was about, nor did I ask. In the heat of the fight, the brother said at some point he did not want to be around his parents anymore. I remember my friend telling me he was shocked by that comment. A few days later the brother packed up his clothing and left in the middle of the night. My friend was devastated when he woke up the following morning. There was no note left behind; the brother did not send a message or word to his brother to let him know he was okay. I could see the pain across my friend’s face. I tried to comfort him, suggesting the brother might reach out to him once he arrived at his destination and settled down. He never called.      BESIDES THIS FRIEND I ONLY KNEW a couple of other households that experienced a family loss. With each one, the family member I knew suffered a long grieving period due to not saying goodbye. Because I was at a young age, I could not grasp the scope of such pain. The only way I could relate to it took place several years later when I had experienced breakups from a couple of long-term relationships. Physical death was not a factor, but I still felt the pain of loss. In one relationship I was left without closure; they simply said they could “not do this anymore” and decided to leave. My loss was accentuated by the sudden stoppage of our blended routines. I never realized how prickly routines could be when you try doing them yourself. They are a constant reminder of how your life used to be. Now, I can see if you were the one to end the relationship then those past routines would be the fuel that pushes you to your new life; it makes sense to me. However, not getting the opportunity to have a say in the demise of a relationship can have a profound effect upon one’s psyche. The main character in this dramatic, science fiction mystery can show you.      WITH EARTH EXPERIENCING UNEXPLAINED POWER SURGES, the little evidence that could be found led to a past space mission that ceased communications. The astronaut chosen to investigate the mystery was the son of the captain from the lost mission. With Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, By the Sea) as Roy McBride, Tommy Lee Jones (The Homesman, Shock and Awe) as H. Clifford McBride, Ruth Negga (Loving, World War Z) as Helen Lantos, Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games franchise, The Leisure Seeker) as Thomas Pruitt and Kimberly Elisa (Death Wish, The Manchurian Candidate) as Lorraine Deavers; watching this film felt like I was privy to a psychological study. The script and the directing kept a deliberate, methodical slow pace. Because I was involved with psychology in college, I found this movie interesting. However, I am not sure many other viewers would feel the same. Visually the picture was beautiful, and Brad’s performance was outstanding. Overall, I enjoyed learning the story in the movie but there were times I felt it dragged along. I may still be thinking about this film, but I feel complete in having told you what I thought about this outer space, adventure movie.

 

2 ¾ stars

Flash Movie Review: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

SHE THOUGHT SHE WAS SUGGESTING SOME new concept to me, but I knew better. I was sure if I had been in the room before her she would have turned around and walked out after seeing me. She had done it before. I never said a word to anyone, but I felt she was rejecting me because to her I was old. When I walked into the classroom I saw some familiar faces who were participants in my yoga class; but then, I saw this one member was already seated on the floor on her yoga mat. I announced I was subbing for their instructor. This woman said nothing until after I went over what we would be doing in class that day. As I started to sit on the floor to begin our warmup poses, the woman asked if I could shut the lights off because the other instructor does it. This other instructor, by the way, was much younger than me; she only recently started teaching yoga. And in her class, she would shut the lights off, turn on a couple of battery-operated votive candles and play chimes periodically. When I told her, I would do it towards the end after observing how everyone was moving in class, she made one of those sounds associated with disgust, picked up her mat and walked out.      TECHNICALLY, THIS MEMBER NEVER SAW ME teach class; she had to be rejecting me based on my appearance, it seemed to me. Though I can understand someone having reservations about trying a different instructor, I would not use appearance as a reason to reject a person. I have taught with other instructors who do not stereotypically look like a fitness person. They were not buff and had extra weight on their body; however, they taught a tough class. From my years of teaching fitness, I can put people into two separate groups: those that work out to look good and those who work out to feel good. Some members are predominately focused on their appearance; they are not interested in understanding how exercise is to be used for one’s quality of life. They think the more they sweat the better they will be and that is rarely the case. This group of people would be more likely to reject me simply because I have gray hair. I guess it goes with the territory, where people get judged either all or partially on their looks. Some lines of work can be tougher than others; that is why I understood what the main character was going through in this comedic drama.      DURING THE LATE 60’S, HOLLYWOOD WAS going through changes: changes that would have a deep affect on actor Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio (The Great Gatsby, Titanic) and his stunt double Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt (Fury, Mr. & Mrs. Smith). It did not help that a new, young actress was living next door. With Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, The Legend of Tarzan) as Sharon Tate, Austin Butler (The Dead Don’t Die, The Carrie Diaries-TV) as Tex and Al Pacino (Danny Collins, Dick Tracy) as Marvin Schwarzs; this film took a while to kick in for me. Clocking in at 2 hours and 39 minutes, there was nothing one could say negative about the acting. Leonardo, Brad and Margot were wonderful through the entire story. I enjoyed seeing the movie making scenes as they were only one aspect of the story. The script had a couple of main stories that slowly blended in together. With multiple cameo roles and a great soundtrack; I loved watching this film and felt time went by quickly once I got into the story. There were a couple of violent bloody scenes and there was a quick extra scene during the credits.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Allied

AFTER seeing and experiencing it with my own eyes, I understand the reasons why one should not make any major changes in one’s life during an upheaval. The big life changers one could experience are divorce/breakup, relocation or job loss. I had a job for some years at a company that went through a downsizing and my position was eliminated. One of the first things I thought I needed to do was put my house up for sale. Luckily a friend talked me out of it. Eventually I did find a new job and was grateful I had listened to my friend.   THERE is a friend of mine who tended to make rash decisions in her life. After being with her boyfriend for several years they broke up; she took it very hard. I made myself available, being her support during the difficult time. Well imagine my shock when she told me in a relative short time she had met someone. I thought maybe this would be a distraction for her to pick herself up and move on; however, within several weeks she comes to tell me she is getting married. Carefully I chose my words to her and asked a few questions about her reasons and such, but nothing deterred her pending nuptials. You might have figured out by now where this story is going. The wedding was lovely, small and intimate with lots of flowers everywhere. But just as flowers have a short lifespan so did this marriage. After 3 or 4 years they got divorced and from the stories she told me I was surprised the relationship did not end sooner. So you see when it comes to big lifetime events, I feel they need to sit out and ripen like a beautiful piece of fruit to yield the strongest taste.   ASSIGNED to a secret mission in North Africa intelligence officer Max Vatan and French resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour, played by Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, World War Z) and Marion Cotilard (The Immigrant, Inception), had to pose as a married couple for the plan to succeed. They did not realize emotions could rise during wartime. This action drama drew me early into its story. With Jared Harris (Lincoln, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) as Frank Heslop, I thought the acting was good; though it became obvious Marion was the best out of the group. The buildup of action was well done by director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future franchise, Flight). As for the sets, scenery and costumes; they were picture perfect, adding a beautiful style to the romantic aspects of the film. Unfortunately by the midway point the story started to fizzle out. I felt the picture needed more intense drama. Part of this I believe fell on Brad and Marion; there was some chemistry between them but I felt for this story they needed to smolder and burn brightly. Together they were more like two candles instead of a blazing fire. As the last half of the movie played out I found my mind started to wander which is never a good sign. I had to think about the rating I would give to this film since I liked the first part better than the second and I never want to make a rash decision.

 

2 ½ stars    

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Big Short

My first piggy bank started out its life as a jar of chocolate syrup. With a lid that had a plastic bear’s head on top with a coin slot in back, once the syrup was gone and the jar washed I would save any money I would get inside of it. I had a total of 6 banks before I got a new type of bank; a metal rocket ship with a spring loaded docking port. Putting a coin on the catapult device, all I had to do was press the red launch button and the coin would be jettisoned into a slot just behind the rocket ship’s pilot cabin. As I got older all my change found its way to an actual bank with friendly tellers. I grew up in a time when banks were staffed by local residents; it was a place you could trust to hold your money and if lucky earn a little interest on those funds. As one bank started buying another bank which would then buy another bank, the small local banks became satellite locations for large nationwide banks. Some of the employees were replaced and though the new ones were friendly, it was a scripted friendliness as their goal was to sell you one of the bank’s new financial products. So they were not as personal as I remembered, but I still trusted them. It was not until later in life when I refinanced my place that I lost all trust with the banking institutions. And the fact that this happened around  the same time as the story in this biographical film only made me angry all over again.    FUND manager Dr. Michael Burry, played by Christian Bale (The Flowers of War, Public Enemies), discovered something that no one else realized about the housing market. The banks thought he was crazy. Based on Michael Lewis’ (The Blind Side, Moneyball) best seller, this comedic film festival winning drama had such a great cast that included Ryan Gosling (Gangster Squad, Half Nelson) as Jared Vennett and Steve Carell (Freeheld, Foxcatcher) as Mark Blum. I have a new appreciation for Steve’s dramatic acting abilities. The script was laced with numerous funny moments as three stories were running parallel to each other. What I found to be a brilliant stroke of genius was the way the writers used plain talking speech in a humorous setting to explain some of the business products and practices discussed in this film. In fact, I learned more from this excellent movie than numerous articles and publications I have read about the economy. Now before you say you get bored when people start talking about business, let me tell you this film kept things interesting, moving along with the help of the film editor and director; there was not a dull moment. However, there is a chance you may get angry after you see what took place in this well done picture.

 

3 1/2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Fury

Actions reveal more about a person than their words. There are some individuals who use their words as a way to accentuate the meaning of their actions. Throughout my life I have been reminded over and over that actions speak louder than words. Some people are quick to say things they think someone wants to hear as a way to avoid being an active participant with that person. I have noticed however that actions can quickly bond people together. Spending one’s elementary school years with the same classmates connects them in a special way that can remain for a lifetime. When events are of an extreme nature, they have the power to connect people in such a rapid way that solidifies their relationship on a high level. This makes all of the participants act as one unified force. An easy example of this would be any sports team. Having grown up around veterans from every war since world war II, it is quite apparent they have a unique and special bond that is not found among civilians.    ALLIED forces were making their final push through the European landscape in April 1945. Army sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier, played by Brad Pitt (World War Z, Fight Club), and his tank crew had orders to secure and defend a crucial crossroad against the advancing Nazi troops. If they could not successfully carry out their mission, there was a chance the allied forces would suffer a major defeat in their campaign. This action war film was one of the most intense movies I have sat through in a long time. There will be some of you that will not be able to take the assault on their eyes from the intense violence and blood in some of the scenes. Putting that aside, this drama from writer/director David Ayer (End of Watch, Training Day) was so well done; I found myself holding my breath several times out of anxiousness. Brad and the actors who made up his tank crew, Shia LaBeouf (Transformers franchise, Lawless) as Boyd “Bible” Swan, Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson franchise, 3:10 to Yuma) who was the biggest standout as Norman Ellison, Michael Pena (End of Watch, American Hustle) as Trini “Gordo” Garcia and Jon Bernthal (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Ghost) as Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis were all so good that I totally took them to be soldiers. If there was any fault to this film I felt some of the violence was overdone. Granted I have never been involved with armed conflict but it started to feel excessive, whereas I would have preferred learning more about each solider. That being said, prepare yourself for battle if you are going to see this intense film.

 

3 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Counselor

The word “enough” has a different meaning today than it did when I was growing up. Back then the word meant: as much or as many as required; like when I was asked if I had enough to eat. It related more to a personal level. I have always said if I won the lottery there would be little change in my personal possessions. There would be no multiple car purchases or living in a mansion. One of the benefits I could see would be for me to no longer worry how I was paying for something. That would be a nice aspect I wish to experience someday. These days I find the word “enough” is being used more as a comparison to someone else. For example, they have more than I do, I do not have enough. Greed seems to have taken on a more extreme persona in society today. When the news reports on prominent people getting caught for illegal activity, in their desire to acquire even more wealth, I have to wonder what is wrong that they cannot be satisfied with what they have already. An extreme example of this is the premise for this dramatic crime film. Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave, A Dangerous Method) played a wealthy counselor who decided to acquire more wealth via drug trafficking. When the deal did not go as planned, the counselor learned there were consequences to the decisions he made. Based on the book by Cormac McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men), the script was Cormac’s attempt at being a screenwriter. This was a poor decision because the script was horrendous. I thought the dialog was bizarre while multiple scenes made no sense. Even with a cast that included Javier Barden (Skyfall, No Country for Old Men) as Reiner, Penelope Cruz (To Rome With Love, Volver) as Laura and Cameron Diaz (Bad Teacher, My Sister’s Keeper) as Malkina; there was no way they could save this film from its bloody boredom. I found it interesting that a film about greed may have been green lighted by individuals who wanted to score again, on par with the fortunes reaped from their previous film No Country for Old Men. It was a greedy ploy that did not pay off. There were scenes with blood and violence.

 

1 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: World War Z

Evolution may not be working in our favor after all. So many times I have heard, the only thing that will still be around centuries from now will be insects–cockroaches in particular. With an increased threat coming from newly discovered super bacteria and aggressive diseases, one has to wonder how safe mankind will be on this planet. I have already taken precautions by not letting anyone use my pen or telephone and I avoid all salad bars and buffets. Now according to this movie there is an even bigger threat to all of us. In one of the better suspenseful openings I have seen in an action movie, I was swept up into the drama of this story. Brad Pitt (Killing Them Softly, Moneyball) played United Nations investigator Gerry Lane. About to take a road trip with his wife Karin, played by Mirelle Enos (Gangster Squad, The Killing-TV), and their two children; Gerry would have to abandon them when Assistant Secretary General Thierry Umutoni, played by Fana Mokoena (Hotel Rwanda, Safe House), requested Gerry’s help in tracking down the source of the zombie attack on Philadelphia. Brad was very good playing a stoic, older action figure persona in this adventure film. The other stand out for me was Daniella Kertesz (Loving Anna-TV, Ha-Emet Ha’Eroma-TV) as Segen, the soldier assigned to protect Gerry. In the beginning of the movie, I found the special effects incredible as this constant tidal wave of zombies came across the movie screen. The surprise was how the director kept up the tension and suspense without the need of blood and gore, to scare the audience. Unfortunately, a film cannot sustain itself without a solid story and here was the wink link. I never really understood what Gerry had done for the United Nations that led him to be their “go to” man. The world aspect of this story was great, but there was no depth; it started to become one chase scene after another, after another. I heard the book was quite different then this movie. Also, the ending had to be re-written and reshot. It appeared as a lead-in for a sequel. The use of scientific logic in this film was a brilliant idea…and a scary one at the same time. There were a couple of brief scenes with blood.

 

2 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Babel

As more devices are being made available for people to communicate with each other, the world is truly becoming smaller. I make it a point to learn a few words of greetings in different languages, so I can start a conversation with people from different backgrounds. It could be for a new member in one of my classes or recently, a sweet museum employee from Poland who shared her comments about one of my movie reviews. There seems to be more opportunities to connect with people around the world, discovering we are not so dissimilar. In this dramatic movie that spans four countries, the separate stories told have a common thread. Brad Pitt (Burn After Reading, Moneyball) as Richard Jones and his wife Susan, played by Cate Blanchett (The Lord of the Rings franchise, I’m Not There), were vacationing in Morocco as a way to reconnect to each other. Their plans were altered by a single bullet. In a separate story deaf Japanese teenager Chieko Wataya, played by Rinko Kikuchi (The Brothers Bloom, Norwegian Wood), was desperate for an emotional connection to her distant father Yasujiro, played by Koji Yakusho (Shall We Dance, The Eel). With two additional story lines, this movie did a beautiful job in revealing the themes of family and communication. I found each story had enough depth to stand alone as the actors did a touching performance with their characters. For having had such different stories the direction was done extremely well, avoiding the common confusion of multiple stories; I had no problem following them. By the end of this multi Oscar nominated film I was surprised and satisfied. Communication is the base where all relationships are born; listening is the glue that keeps them together. English subtitles when needed and scenes of violence and blood.

 

3 stars –DVD

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