HER EYES WERE FOLLOWING ME AS I started to walk away. I could never forget those eyes and where I saw them. Her smile was quiet as if she was almost embarrassed to let it out. There was another woman I recall from the same place who was perfectly sculpted with marbled skin and hair swept to the back of her head. She also had no arms. Many years ago I was fortunate enough to visit the Louvre museum in Paris. The building alone impressed me before I even stepped foot inside. After years of only seeing them as pictures in magazines or films, I could not believe I was standing in front of the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. You know how you form an image of something in your mind on how it might look in reality? Well I had an image for each of them and when I stood in front of them I realized what I had in my mind paled in comparison to seeing the actual painting and sculpture. Mona Lisa’s eyes were fascinating because they seemed to follow you going to the left or right side of her. They simply looked alive is all I can say. SITUATED IN THE HEART OF the city I live close by to is an art museum that some say is a world class museum. I have been a visitor to it numerous times throughout my life. The collection is extensive and varied with art pieces from the masters like Monet, Picasso, Hopper and Rembrandt. To see these artists’ works close up gives me an enormous amount of pleasure. When I look at a painting I not only study the brushstrokes, shading and choice of colors; I also envision the period of time it depicts. Besides paintings and sculpted pieces this museum has a space devoted to miniature rooms; I am talking rooms that are only as big as a shoebox. The detail in each room is remarkable and each room represents a different period of time, going back centuries. When I am looking at them I feel as if I am getting a glimpse of history. Now just imagine if some of the paintings were able to come to life and talk about themselves, one could get a real dose of the past. Well that is what I experienced when I watched this animated, biographical crime film that was nominated for an Oscar award. POSTMAN JOSEPH ROULIN, voiced by Chris O’Dowd (Molly’s Game, St. Vincent), was determined to get the deceased artist Vincent van Gogh’s returned last letter to his brother Theo. With no forwarding address Joseph assigned the task of finding Theo to Armand, voiced by Douglas Booth (Noah, Jupiter Ascending). Armand would start his search at the town where Vincent had died. His arrival would unveil clues to what really happened to Vincent. This film festival winner was visually one of the most incredible movie watching experiences I have had in a long time. The entire film was hand painted by over 100 artists. Taking inspiration from Vincent’s works, it literally looked like the characters came to life. The result of this process created a pictorial feast, seriously. The shading and illumination in this picture amazed me; I cannot even fathom how the artists did it. Not too familiar with Vincent’s life story, I did not know what was true or false. Honestly it did not matter to me because I enjoyed the way the story allowed each character to spin their thoughts about the situation. After I finished watching this DVD I felt as if I had been touring an art museum and all I wanted to do was learn more about Vincent van Gogh.
3 ½ stars — DVD
From the news to lyrics of a song one eventually comes across the saying: The good die young. There is some truth in those words. Not that I want to get into a political debate here; but when one hears about a person guilty of a crime who died or will be dying, the sympathy is slightly different for them than an innocent individual. Hearing recently about innocent children being killed by stray bullets or just yesterday about the mother who was allegedly murdered and stuffed into a suitcase by her daughter, one’s heart has to go out for these people whose lives were taken away from them. Under those types of circumstances you feel it in the pit of your stomach. I will be the first to admit that I tend not to be sympathetic towards a person who makes the conscience choice to take the life away from another individual. I vividly recall the trial where a friend of mine was picked to be part of the jury, where a mother hung her 2 year old son out the dining room window until he died. She was found guilty for reasons of insanity. HOWEVER, in this dramatic movie the killer appeared to be totally rational. During confession a man sat and explained why he was going to kill the priest listening to him, Father James who was played by Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter franchise, Troy). After explaining his reasons, the announced killer told the priest he had 7 days to get his affairs in order. In this film festival winning picture Brendan was utterly outstanding in his role. Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh (The Guard, Ned Kelly), I found the script to be intelligent and mature. The pacing was well suited for this story, building a slow steady tension to the very end. I felt the camera work beautifully displayed the gorgeous landscapes, besides creating memorable images throughout the film. Everyone in the cast from Kelly Reilly (Flight, Heaven is for Real) as Fiona Lavelle to Chris O’Dowd (Cuban Fury, Bridesmaids) as Jack Brennan did their part to push this movie to excellence. The reason why this story worked for many reasons was due to the fact that the audience was immediately told the circumstances. With this knowledge I could not imagine someone not feeling sadness and dread on a deep level; it really was a brilliant idea from John Michael McDonagh. This film made a strong connection to the audience and the only thing it was guilty of was tugging at our hearts. A couple of scenes had blood in them.
3 1/2 stars
During the first week of school each of the students were given a list of extracurricular activities they could join. There was the football and baseball teams among other sports activities. Though one of my aunts felt I should try out for football because I was heavy, I had little interest in it. The first group I considered was band since I could play the piano; but I never saw a piano out on the football field. The only choice was a xylophone strapped to my frame. I nixed that idea, imagining I would have looked like a carnival clown walking across the field. It was a good thing I did not sign up because during the school year I noticed students in band seemed to get picked on more frequently than other kids. I joined the school’s newspaper and yearbook staffs. During that first year I discovered there was a pecking order based on what group or team a student was in. No one from the major sports teams was ever bullied. When it came to band or to the chess group, there was a good chance they would get their books knocked out of their hands or be shoved out of the way while walking down the hallway. Can you imagine a kid who stops participating in something because they would be picked on for it. Think about Andy Warhol or Steven Spielberg as kids, getting picked on for what they were passionate about and deciding they would never paint or make a movie again. It would be so sad for them and a loss for us. See what happens to poor Bruce Garrett, played by Nick Frost (The World’s End, Paul), when his love for salsa dancing was literally beaten out of him in this comedy film. On the way to the junior championships contest, young Bruce was attacked by a group of boys. Never making it to the event, Bruce vowed he would never dance again. Fast forward 30 years to see how that decision changed his life. Nick did a beautiful job as the lovable unmotivated Bruce. Chris O’Dowd (The Sapphires, Bridesmaids) as his co-worker Drew and Rashida Jones (The Social Network, Celeste & Jesse Forever) as their American boss Julia were just as good with their characters. I found parts of the film funny even while there was a sad undertone that filtered through the predictable story. The script seemed so smart with the dialog but the scenarios were at times boring to me. I believe it was due to several unsurprising and inconceivable actions. Based on an idea from Nick, I hope he does not get discouraged by the reviews coming out for this movie.
2 1/4 stars
Since the euphoric high several weeks ago from the Oscar telecast, the caliber of movies that have been released has continued to sink week after week. My times spent at the movie theaters have dragged out due to boredom. There are moments I have sat staring at the movie mess splashing on the screen and thought if I at least had my checkbook, I could balance it. I am annoyed that movie studios do not spread out their quality films through the entire year instead of stacking them up on holidays. After several long weeks I finally saw a movie that surprised and excited me. Inspired by a true story, four aboriginal girls hoped to form a singing group that would lead them to a better life. Set in an Australian town in the late 1960’s; sisters Gail, Julie and Cynthia, played by Deborah Mailman (Rabbit-Proof Fence, The Book of Revelation), Jessica Mauboy (Bran Nue Dae) and relative newcomer Miranda Tapsell, entered a singing contest despite the all Caucasian audience. MC/talent scout Dave Lovelace, played by Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, This is 40), recognized the girls’ talent and began a business relationship that would take the girls overseas to entertain the U.S. troops in Viet Nam. The sisters with their cousin Kay, played by relative newcomer Shari Sebbens, would have to grow up fast as the world around them could quickly end with a single explosion. This film festival winner touched on heavy topics such as prejudice, war and death; but maintained a light coverage, keeping the focus on the girls. I thought Chris did a wonderful job with his character, carrying the majority of amusing lines. An important aspect of this movie was the awesome soulful soundtrack headed by Jessica Mauboy’s killer vocals. Numerous times I found myself tapping my feet to the musical beats. What a great story that superseded any acting quibbles I may have had or the stretching of the truth. I was able to leave the theater with a smile on my face and Motown tunes in my head. A couple of brief scenes with blood.
3 1/2 stars