I NEVER CONSIDERED IT A UNIQUE ability; in fact, I actually did not give it any thought. It wasn’t until a couple of friends asked me how I could recall what everyone at a party was wearing, that I had to stop and think about it. You see I was not alone in having this ability; there were at least a couple of my relatives who could do the same thing. Each of us could walk into a room and immediately see and commit to memory every detail of our surroundings. When my friends tested me after we had gone to a get together at a friend’s house, I not only told them what everyone was wearing but also details of the room we hung out in; such as a small crack in one of the windows, not the one with the broken window shade, and a stain on the carpeting near the front leg of the sofa. They could not believe how much I remembered, telling me in a teasing way that I was a freak. From my perspective, I felt they were just not paying close enough attention to everything around them. I never considered it as a flaw or deficiency; if anything, I felt they simply chose not to devote energy into taking in the details. MAYBE ONE OF THE REASONS I HAVE this ability is because I have always been more of a visual learner than an auditory one. Not that I understood this back when I was a young student; I always was attracted to things that visually stimulated me. I remember this one time where my friends and I were having a discussion on the ramifications of losing or not having one of our senses. We queried each other on what modifications could one do to compensate for the loss. I brought up the point how I noticed when one sense is missing, the others tend to compensate for it. In my experiences, I have witnessed individuals who were blind having a more acute sense of hearing. It was as if the body had compensated for the loss to keep the individual closer to being in balance. Not that I have had any personal experiences with people on the spectrum, but I have seen a non-verbal person with autism play piano like a concert pianist without any formal training. The news reported a few months ago about a young boy who did not express himself emotionally until he saw a famous animated movie. Suddenly, he started to express himself and increased his vocabulary by seeing other movies from the same film studio. The mind is extraordinary as you can see when watching the main character in this dramatic, crime mystery. AFTER WITNESSING THE MURDER OF HIS friend Lionel Essrog, played by Edward Norton (Primal Fear, Keeping the Faith), was determined to find out who killed him. With so few clues no one would be able to do what Lionel had the ability to do. With Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Fast Colour, Beyond the Lights) as Laura Rose, Alec Baldwin (It’s Complicated, Blue Jasmine) as Moses Randolph, Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse, Bad Country) as Paul Randolph and Cherry Jones (The Perfect Storm, Ocean’s Twelve) as Gabby Horowitz; this film festival winner based on the novel of the same name was written and directed by Edward Norton. Set in New York City during the 1950s, I found the story dragged for the first half of the film. Though I thought the acting and filming were excellent, it just seemed as if the story was going nowhere. However, by the second half of the picture, I found myself more engaged and enjoying the snowballing mystery aspect of the story. There was a part of the story that was just as relevant now as it was back then. If the script had been not as long, I think this movie would have been more powerful. Despite this I at least enjoyed watching the stylish scenes and incredible acting skills of Edward.
2 ½ stars
SITTING AT THE TABLE WITH no one to talk to was making me uncomfortable. There were at least a dozen people sitting around the long table, but I did not know any of them. I was supposed to meet a friend at this gathering but after I arrived at the restaurant they texted they were still stuck at work. Since I was already there I tried to make the best of it. The group met once a month at this particular restaurant but throughout the year they planned different cultural events; my friend and I thought it would be something worth checking out. After I was seated and introductions were made all around, it became apparent to me that everyone there knew each other. I was the odd man out. Some of the individuals sitting around asked me a couple of questions like where I was from and what did I do for a living, but afterwards their attention was drawn back to their friends or people they already knew. THOUGH THIS WAS NOT THE type of venue where I would bring something, I should have brought my old standby anyway. There is this little bakery I know that has been open more than 50 years. It is sort of like an old world type of place where they bake a variety of items. One in particular is my favorite and whenever I bring them to a gathering the folks there gather around and talk to me about the item. Light and airy, shaped into curved oblong commas, they have a sprinkling of sugar on top. I know a majority of people would bring a bottle of wine; I prefer bringing baked goods. It is difficult to attend a party where you hardly know any of the guests and I have found this item can break the ice with most people. Personally I quickly withdraw from a party when I see guests have gathered into their own little cliques. It reminds me of the divisions that were in place in high school. And since I am not a drinker, when guests at a party start acting silly from too much alcohol I wrap things up and say my goodbyes. Nothing worse than being at a party with an out of control guest; so I better warn you the guests at the party in this dramatic comedy are one intense group. ON THE NIGHT JANET, PLAYED by Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Four Weddings and a Funeral) throws a dinner party her husband Bill, played by Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner, Secrets & Lies), waits until the guests arrived before making an announcement. This film festival winning movie also starred Patricia Clarkson (The Station Agent, The Green Mile) as April, Emily Mortimer (Match Point, Lars and the Real Girl) as Jinny and Cherry Jones (The Perfect Storm, The Village) as Martha. Hands down Patricia was the star of this film, though the rest of the cast was excellent; she stood out for me. I am sure part of it was due to the acidic script. The direction was fine but as the story unfolded I never quite felt engaged with any of the characters. At one point it just seemed like a lot of chaos was taking place; I found myself wanting to tune out. It was too bad, because I enjoyed the picture being filmed in black and white along with some of the wicked lines in the script. By the time the movie was over I was glad I was not invited to this party.
With the right side of my brain reigning over the left one I have always gravitated to creative achievements. I guess you could say I hold them at a higher status then other accomplishments one does in their life. It has always fascinated me how people express themselves in a creative way, whatever the medium or method may be. One year I bought a ticket package to a dance series, from ballet to modern. To see not only the dancers moving to the music but to watch how the choreography was created to blend with the sounds was amazing to me. Regarding the dancers, I knew what type of dedication they had to have to manage such control over their bodies. Just from what I have experienced by teaching aerobics I know I only covered a sliver of the energy that dancers produce in their craft. The same can be said for any of the artists who have their work on display somewhere. Some of the graffiti I have seen on walls has been wild; in fact, there was a town I visited where they encouraged graffiti artists to create work on the back of buildings in a block long alley. It really was an amazing spectacle. From my own experiences I know creative outlets can be the exit ramps for our emotions to come out from being buried inside of us. Whether it is doing origami or gardening to song writing or pottery making; anything that gives us a vehicle to express ourselves is a positive attribute in my opinion. WITH only a pen and a guitar country western singer Hank Williams, played by Tom Hiddleston (Thor franchise, Crimson Peak), was able to create songs that told real stories. I have had no exposure to Hank’s music so I was curious about this biographical drama. Another thing I wanted to see was how this British actor would handle a southern American accent in his speech and with his singing voice; I knew the film studio wanted him to sing Hank’s songs. I have to tell you he was excellent in the role along with Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla, Oldboy) as his wife Audrey. The strongest part to this music movie was the acting; even the supporting cast of Cherry Jones (The Village, The Perfect Storm) as Lillie Williams and Bradley Whitford (Saving Mr. Banks, The West Wing-TV) as Fred Rose was quite good. The biggest issue I had concerned the script. I felt I never understood what drove these characters. There were parts of the picture that ran slow which produced unevenness to the story telling. Actually I thought if the writers would have devoted more back story to the songs I would have enjoyed this film more; even exploring the mother/son relationship would have helped me stay more attuned to what was going on up on screen. There is no denying Hank Williams was a gifted and creative artist; I only had wished his story would have been conveyed in a more creative movie.
2 ½ stars
Before I was born my mother was pregnant with a baby girl. I found out when I asked her why my two brothers were so much older than me. She told me about the miscarriage she had before me. I spent my youth imagining what life would have been like if I had a sister. There was a small part of me that always wondered if I would have even been conceived if that baby girl had been born. My mother would tell me numerous times that I was the only one planned. She talked about the nervousness she had all through her pregnancy with me up until I was delivered. Except for that one time, my mother never talked about that lost baby girl. There is such a special bond between a mother and her child; I cannot imagine how the loss changed my mother’s life. The relationship between a mother and child was explored in this stirring drama. Annette Bening (Ruby Sparks, Being Julia) played Karen, a single woman who had given up her baby for adoption over 30 years earlier. Naomi Watts (The Impossible, Eastern Promises) played Elizabeth, the grown up version of that baby. Kerry Washington (Django Unchained, Ray) was a married woman who could not conceive a baby. Each woman’s life was drastically altered by their circumstances. Not only was the acting outstanding from these three women, but everyone else was just as good. There was Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained, The Avengers) as grieving lawyer Paul and Jimmy Smits (The Jane Austen Book Club, Star Wars franchise) as Karen’s co-worker Paco. Each of the three stories was carefully crafted and directed, allowing for a continuous flow of feelings to permeate each scene. This movie provided a touching study on the effects a child can have on one’s life. If I had a sister, I wonder what she would have thought about this wonderful film.
3 1/4 stars — DVD