I HAD NOT NOTICED BUT MY friend was the one who did. We had gotten together for dinner, meeting at the restaurant. After giving his name to the host, he returned, and we settled into a couple of empty chairs in the waiting area. I was not focused on the time since we were busy talking, catching up on the things we had been doing since we last had seen each other. The restaurant was popular so there were a lot of people coming and going. I do not know how long we had been waiting, but my friend motioned to a couple who had been sitting near us, that were now walking to their table. He told me they had walked in after we did. I asked him if he was sure and he said yes. Maybe they had called ahead to make a reservation, I told him. He was not convinced and as we continued with our conversation, he kept looking at the different groups around us, to see who was being called by the host that walked in after he gave his name. When another couple got called my friend pointed out they also had come in after we were seated. The perplexed look on my face told my friend that I was not seeing what he saw; we were being skipped over because he was Black. WHEN HE SAID THIS TO ME, I looked around and noticed there were very few people who were not Caucasian. I normally do not focus on a person’s skin color or ethnic origins since I consider everyone human. The only differential I consider is whether a person is human or animal, nothing else. It does not matter to me if a person is rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, short or tall; for me, it is whether a person is good or bad. So, instead of my friend going up to the host I told him I would go and see what was going on. When the host looked up as I approached him, I asked him how much longer he thought the wait would be, giving him my friend’s name. The host looked at his list and apologized for the wait and said the table was just being cleaned off now and to wait a minute. He was gone for less than a minute and asked me to follow him; I motioned to my friend to join me. Nothing the host did indicated his dislike for my friend; however, I had to wonder if there was something more here that I was not seeing. I want to believe people look beyond a person’s skin color, but I know prejudices have been part of our culture for centuries. This Oscar nominated movie will show you it from a time long gone. HOPES WERE HIGH FOR HENRY McALLAN, played by Jason Clarke (Pet Seminary, Zero Dark Thirty), when he moved his family to Mississippi. What he was not expecting was to share the land with a black family. With Carey Mulligan (The Dig, Promising Young Woman) as Laura McAllan, Mary J. Blige (Black Nativity, The Wiz Live!-TV movie) as Florence Jackson, Rob Morgan (Monsters and Men, Stranger Things-TV) as Hap Jackson and Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island) as Rondel Jackson; this film festival winning war drama had an outstanding cast of actors. I found their acting to be authentic with depth, which made the story come alive. The directing was on point to create multiple levels of intensity and drama, which captured me and drew me into the story. I have not read the book this movie is based on; but I felt the script provided me a complete, well-rounded story. This was a powerful picture that had a couple of violent scenes.
3 ½ stars
FROM MY EXPERIENCES IN SCHOOL, BOYS were more likely to retaliate against someone who did them wrong than the girls. I cannot tell you how many times I heard the phrase, “I will be waiting for you outside after school,” which meant two students would be having a fight after school hours. Sadly, that phrase was directed at me a couple of times. With different grades entering and leaving from specific doors, it was easy to figure out where a person would be leaving the school building. I remember bolting out of class when the ending bell rang and running down the hallway to a different exit door. Once outside, I immediately ran across the street and made my way between two apartment buildings; so, I could cut into the alley behind them and make my way home unseen from the streets. The rest of the school week, I kept an eye out for the student who threatened me. Other students were not as lucky as me. I remember two fights that took place in front of the school; one was fought by two boys until a schoolteacher ran over to break it up and drag them both back to the principal’s office. The other fight had 2 girls whose viciousness surprised me as they slapped, scratched, punched and kicked each other until one of them ran off after her blouse was torn open. THERE WAS ONLY TWO TIMES I can recall, where a female student plotted retribution against a fellow student. The one girl may have been short, but she was tough. She never backed down from anyone, whether it was a girl or a boy. I did not actually see the encounter but was told she cornered a female student in the girl’s bathroom and threatened her with a pocketknife. She felt the girl was flirting with her boyfriend. The other incident happened in my classroom. A female classmate wanted to get back at a boy who called her names. When the male student was not looking, she placed a pack of cigarettes next to the schoolbooks he had piled under his chair. When the teacher was walking in front of her desk, she noticed the cigarette pack on the floor under the student and sent him down to the principal’s office, despite his pleas that the cigarettes were not his. The female student remained silent, looking innocent in her seat. These were the only incidents I could remember from my days back in school. You will see they pale in comparison to what took place in this dramatic Oscar nominated crime thriller. APPEARING TO LACK MOTIVATION AND DESIRE, there was only one thing Cassandra, played by Carey Mulligan (Mudbound, The Dig), had on her mind. It was something she had been thinking about for a long time. With Bo Burnham (The Big Sick, Rough Night) as Ryan, Alison Brie (Sleeping with Other People, The Post) as Madison, Jennifer Coolidge (A Mighty Wind, Like a Boss) as Susan and Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption, Starship Troopers) as Stanley; this film festival winner grabbed my attention early on because of Carey’s performance. She gave life to the character and was riveting in the process. The directing and story were both in synch to deliver a perfectly paced story that took me on a hesitant journey into Cassandra’s world. I will say I felt let down from the ending, finding it a bit too convenient. The idea behind the story was sound and relevant, especially for the times we are presently living in. After watching this movie, I have been sitting and wondering if several or so of the scenes shown in this picture have been happening for a long time or not. This film really makes one think and that is a good thing.
3 ½ 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.
I WAS INTRODUCED TO THEM AT a restaurant, while waiting to be seated. We were meeting for dinner and a friend had invited this couple to join us. They were friendly and I immediately liked the wife’s sense of humor. It wasn’t too long before the host sat us at a table; I was sitting directly across from the couple. Over the course of the evening the wife’s husband was telling us about their plans to move out of state. He said he had to first sell a boat he had in drydock. Once he could get the boat sold, he told us he needed to buy some type of machine to print up T-shirts. I thought he might be talking about screen printing T-shirts; but why was he not saying it, I wondered. Because I am naturally curious, I asked them why they needed to move to make T-shirts and he said it would lower their expenses. From there he started telling me about the other plans he was working on. Throughout our conversation or more accurately, his talking and my listening, I could not get a read on his wife. She looked like she was listening, nodding her head at some of the things he was saying; but she did not look excited or thrilled or even happy about all the plans that were in the works for them. AFTER WE PAID THE BILL AND said our goodbyes, I asked my friend when we were alone if she was sad about her friends moving out of state. She said she was said to see the wife go but was fine with the husband leaving. I asked her why and she told me she was angry at the husband because all his plans/dreams were burning through all their money. This latest plan was taking place with the help of their 401K retirement money. She told me that is why the wife, who was her friend, was still working. It turns out the husband had all these crazy schemes cooked up to make a quick buck, but they always failed. That boat he was trying to sell was bought with the idea of him doing private boat cruises despite the fact he has never sailed in his life. She told me the boat has never been in the water. I was now getting an understanding of the wife’s actions during our dinner. Asking my friend why the wife went along with these crazy plans, she told me the husband would go and do all this stuff without asking her first. If I was in that type of situation, I would have kicked them out of the house which is why I understood what was taking place between the married couple in this film festival winning movie. AFTER BEING LAID OFF OF WORK from the golf course, the jobs available to Jerry Brinson, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain, Nocturnal Animals), were slim. That is until he came up with the idea of battling the encroaching forest fire. With Ed Oxenbould (The Visit, Better Watch Out) as Joe Brinson, Carey Mulligan (An Education, Never Let Me Go) as Jeanette Brinson, Travis W. Bruyer (The Beast, Useless) as Forester and Bill Camp (Joker, 12 Years a Slave) as Warren Miller; this drama showcased a well-blended cast of actors. Ed and Carey must be seen to be believed; that is how good their acting was in this story. I thought the directing was delicate and thoughtful because everything felt intimate to me. It took a while before the script grabbed my attention; but once everything started to fall in place, I was hooked on the story. There was nothing that seemed out of place or phony. I felt I was a witness to a family’s reality instead of their dream.
Even after so many years I still find myself being stunned by what was said during that conversation. There was a group of people at a party talking about their school years. One of them mentioned they still remembered the year when girls were finally allowed to wear pants to school. I just sat there in disbelief. Why in the world couldn’t girls wear such an everyday item of clothing? On top of it, this was a public school. I can understand if private schools require uniforms but I could not think of any reason why in a place of learning there should be such discrimination. Maybe it is due to my experiences growing up but I honestly never understood this division between women and men. I always felt whoever had the soundest mind and heart would always be the best candidate for any situation. Unfortunately I realize not everyone shares such thinking. Here is an example; when some people hear my primary doctor is a woman they ask my why I would go to a female doctor. I just say because she is good. Maybe it has something to do with the way I was raised; I am aware we live in a more puritanical country. Though I do not understand this divide, I have studied enough history to realize there have been many people who had to dominate others to feel good about themselves. This historical movie is just one example of what was taking place around the world. HAVING spent her entire life working in a laundry Maud Watts, played by Carey Mulligan (Far From the Madding Crowd, An Education), never learned to stand up for herself. That started to change once she met Violet Miller, played by Anne-Marie Duff (Nowhere Boy, Before I Go to Sleep). This film festival winner’s strength was due to the cast. Besides Carey being amazing in this role, there was Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech, Alice in Wonderland) as Edith Ellyn and Brendan Gleeson (Calvary, The Guards) as Inspector Arthur Steed. Inspired by true events the story may not be an easy watch for some viewers. I am simply referring to the injustices that had to be endured during that time period. The sets and costumes added value to this dramatic film, but I was not a big fan of the direction. I felt there was not enough time devoted to character development, besides feeling some scenes were given too much dramatic flair. It seemed as if the goal was to make the viewers cry instead of telling a good story about the feminist movement in England. Nonetheless the acting was super, though Meryl Streep fans will be disappointed that her role was more of a cameo. For me this story seemed like it happened a long, long time ago. However, based on our entire history this really wasn’t that long ago and I am aware it is still happening today.
Is it possible reality TV is killing romance? Though I have never seen any of the shows that deal with bachelors, wife swapping or housewives; I am aware of them simply when their antics make the news or at least what the major news outlets consider newsworthy. It seems to me that the formation of these relationships are portrayed to show either a financial gain or notoriety. From the little snippets I have heard about these television shows I have to wonder how love played a part in their relationships and marriages. With everyday people, I have noticed there are some who get together for many reasons that do not have anything to do with love. Some of the things I have heard were things like: He has a good credit rating, they know how to drink, she is a good cook or their family is wealthy. To me love is waking up with that person who makes your heart beat faster; who may have sour breath that instead of smelling like road kill it reminds you of the lovely dinner you two shared the night before, as your feet were intertwined under the table. Throughout history I know there were marriages arranged to combine lands or solidify power between families; it did not matter if the prospective bride and groom did not love each other. There was not the option for either one to refuse the offer. This is the very reason why I was immediately attracted to the main character in this movie. BEING the sole inheritor of her uncle’s estate Bathsheba Everdene, played by Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby, Drive), attracted 3 men who could not have been more different from each other if they had tried. However Bathsheba did not need a man to complete herself. This dramatic film based on Thomas Hardy’s (Tess of the D’Urbervilles, The Greenwood Tree) novel was steeped in old world sensibilities but with a fresh feel that the cast brought to the screen. I find Carey to be a classic, intelligent actress who can do almost anything and here she was perfect. Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone, The Drop) as Gabriel Oak, Michael Sheen (Midnight in Paris, Kingdom of Heaven) as William Boldwood and Tom Sturridge (Pirate Radio, On the Road) as Sergeant Francis Troy were a wonderful compliment to Carey. I enjoyed the sets and outdoor scenes with there wide expanses; the whole film had a well-done masterly look that was refreshing to me. There were a few parts where I felt I was missing something as if the writers had to cut parts out to move the story along. Maybe they would have been clearer if the book had been read first. This refreshing film about love and relationships could easily be relatable with current times.
Hope is such a funny thing. In some circumstances it is the life preserver that keeps you afloat during the rough choppy waters of doubt and fear. When one has to wait for test results, hope is there to carry them through the days. There are times though where hope drives us crazy as if it greased the wheels of one’s reasoning, making them skid across the roads of reality and sanity. Checking one’s email account for an email or voice messages for that one call, hoping the person you just met keeps their promise to contact you for a date, as you refuse to make any plans yet for the weekend. This would be the wicked side of hope. The dictionary defines hope as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. It says nothing about it helping or hindering us. In this latest dramatic film from the writing and directing team of Ethan and Joel Coen (The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men) hope was the only thing musician Llewyn Davis, played by Oscar Isaac (Robin Hood, Drive), had as he tried to make it in the New York folk scene back in the 1960’s. This Golden Globe nominated black and white movie was meticulously filmed down to each detail. The set pieces and scenes had the Coen Brothers’ special way of evoking emotions out of both the characters and viewers. I do not believe everyone will be familiar with the Fred Harvey rest stop oasis, but it was priceless to see one of them in a scene. If I am not mistaken they were in only one state in America where they spanned across the highway. Besides the outstanding acting from Oscar, I thought the acting was equally well done by Carey Mulligan (An Education, The Great Gatsby) as Jean and John Goodman (Argo, Roseanne-TV) as Roland Turner. In fact, I think John is one of the best character actors working in movies today. As for the story I enjoyed most of it, though I felt at times it was meandering about, leaving uncertain conclusions. The ending left me a little cold. I am not sure this film festival winning movie will please everyone. Music lovers will certainly enjoy this musical movie; at least I hope so.
3 1/3 stars
The haves and have nots, the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, the upper class exploiting the lower class, wealthy husbands and their mistresses; any of these topics can be found in today’s headlines. They also are part of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, The Great Gatsby. Brought to the big screen by director/writer Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, Australia), we saw the lavish surroundings where the wealthy play; oblivious to those of lesser means. The marketing of this movie has been intense, showing glimpses of spectacular parties, classic cars, mansions; all accompanied by a heavy hip hop beat. Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception, Django Unchained) played Jay Gatsby, a mysterious wealthy man whose life had been motivated by his love for one particular woman. Carey Mulligan (Drive, Shame) was Daisy Buchanan, a wealthy socialite married to the unfaithful Tom Buchanan, played by Joel Edgerton (Warrior, The Odd Life of Timothy Green). Set up as the narrator of this story was midwesterner Nick Carraway, played by Tobey Maguire (Spiderman franchise, Brothers). I enjoyed the performances from each actor; they did their best with what was written for them. The costumes and sets were brilliantly reproduced to reflect the era of 1920’s Long Island, New York. With such detail given to the look of this film, I found the choice of music to be a distraction. At a particular scene I glanced down at my watch to make a mental note of the time. It was approximately 50 minutes into the story before I started caring about any of the characters. I found the 1st half of the film to be bloated as it lumbered along. The last half of the movie contained most of the drama, almost force feeding it to the audience. The heavy handed way the story was told made it sag under its own excessiveness. This extravagant film could have benefitted from an austerity program. A couple of brief scenes with blood.
2 1/2 stars
To dwell on the unfairness of life is akin to worrying about a house you built on quicksand. Though my house is not built directly on quicksand, it certainly is on the edge. Think of it as coastal property. I try not to judge my life based on other people’s success. For example, if I cannot afford to buy a ticket to a charity fundraiser I will apply to be a volunteer. I may be asked to work the reception desk or silent auction table, which is fine for me. But when asked to sell raffle tickets I become anxious. It amazes me how uncivil some people can be when being asked if they want to buy a ticket. You would have thought I was asking for their first born. I have been talked down to, pushed aside and yelled at to stop bothering them. How can I not wonder if these same individuals would treat me the same if I was a paying guest and not a volunteer. In the scheme of things I know I should let this type of thing roll off of me, but it is hard. What snaps me out from letting myself wallow in a funk is to remember I have my health. It is not like I am battling the deadly disease that the charity is raising funds to combat. Based on the book by Kazuo Ishiguro, this dramatic movie posed questions for me regarding morality and mortality. Set in an English boarding school, three residents grew up only to discover the truth about why they were born. Carey Mulligan (Drive, An Education), Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man, A Social Network) and Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina, A Dangerous Method) played the adult friends Kathy, Tommy and Ruth. Each of them did a beautiful job with their acting, bringing their characters to life with emotional depth. With a perfect musical accompaniment to the intelligent filming, I did not mind the slower passages of the story. This was not a happy movie; the sadness hung in the air like a heavy mist. I have a feeling people watching this film will either love it or dislike it. Either way the experience will not come close to the lives of the three main characters in this melancholy movie.
3 1/4 stars — DVD