FOR BEING SUCH A SMALL WORD “loss” packs a massive amount of emotion inside of itself. Some time ago, I lost a pair of sunglasses and was both sad and annoyed from it. I also have lost a loved one and was so upset I did not leave the house for several days; the loss felt like I had a massive boulder perched on my back that was trying to keep me pinned to the ground. When I was heavily dieting and lost several pounds, I was beyond elated and felt like I was floating on air. This is why I say “loss” has such a wide amount of emotions attached to it. I also know every single person reacts differently when they experience loss. I knew a woman who lost their husband to a disease and I swear, you would never know she was a grieving widow. She acted the same as she did when he was alive, cheery and upbeat. I did notice however she always kept herself busy. Either meeting relatives and friends for lunch or going shopping or working on puzzles at home, she never allowed herself time to relax because she was afraid her mind would dwell on her significant loss. There is no right or wrong way to handle the sense of loss; everyone is different. ONE OF MY EARLIEST ENCOUNTERS WITH loss was when I lost my first wristwatch. I received it as a birthday gift when I was in elementary school. It had a superhero on the face of it and the plastic band looked like metal; I thought it was the coolest thing. After spending a day with friends, coming home for dinner, I realized it was no longer on my wrist. I wanted to go out at night and retrace my steps with the hope of finding it. My parents would not let me; so, in the morning I tried finding it to no avail. At the time it was one of the most traumatic things that happened to me. It was many years later when I experienced one of the heaviest losses of my life. It was one of the hardest times of my life; one moment I was with the love of my life and the next minute they were gone. It was awful; hard to comprehend and process to the point where I felt like I was not functioning anymore in the real world. Friends and family tried to help but I was not at a place where I could accept their kindness. It was that time of my life where I fully understood how loss can deplete a person of all their dreams and hopes. Because of it, I became better equipped to be empathetic towards others who suffered a loss. I wish I could have helped the couple in this comedic drama. SUFFERING WITH GRIEF A MARRIED COUPLE take different paths on how to deal with it. One of them wants to kill a bird. With Melissa McCarthy (Thunder Force, The Kitchen) as Lilly Maynard, Chris O’Dowd (Molly’s Game, The Program) as Jack Maynard, Kevin Kline (Ricki and the Flash, No Strings Attached) as Dr. Larry Fine, Timothy Olyphant (Snowden, A Perfect Getaway) as Travis Delp and Daveed Diggs (Hamilton, Wonder) as Ben; this film was carried by Melissa, Chris and Kevin for the most part. Besides having incredible comedic timing, Melissa has the ability to be convincing when she is in a serious role. The script was poorly done in my opinion because the characters did not feel like they were fully developed, along with several scenes feeling forced to try and tug at our heartstrings. Nonetheless, I was engaged throughout the story; even when it would drag at times. Due to the acting, after I was done watching I did not feel like I lost time that I would never be able to get back.
2 ¼ stars
UNTIL I STARTED BELIEVING THERE WAS a reason for everything, I found myself getting stuck in place many times over. Imagine being in a relationship, thinking all is good, then suddenly you get blindsided and you are alone. At that point you have a choice; either feel sorry for yourself and wallow in self-pity or reflect on your actions that led up to the moment, to see if you are following some kind of unconscious pattern or fear. There was a time where I had the same experience being repeated in my relationships. At first, I would only focus on my feelings of hurt and anger. Until I started looking at common traits between the relationships and believing there was a reason this was happening to me, did I start to understand what had happened. A change took place and I found myself reacting differently to dates and relationships. With this new awareness, I found myself being able to also see the patterns my friends were getting into in their relationships. There were many times when friends would tell me about something their date said or did where I would tell them not to take it personally; their date was playing out some pattern of their own making that had nothing to do with them. ONE FRIEND IN PARTICULAR KEPT REPEATING the same pattern of behavior that caused her not to succeed in her places of employment. She wanted to do something specific that she felt she was best qualified to do. The issue was with each job, she did not take full ownership of her responsibilities. The result was she never got promoted. She would become resentful, letting it build up until she quit and looked for a new place of employment. This pattern was repeated several times and with each job she became more hardened and inflexible. I understood she wanted to do something different, but it did not make sense to me to be miserable in the meantime. It is like when I walk up to a store’s customer service counter and am met by a surly employee who is not helpful. I just want to say to the employee if they are so unhappy then quit. Being miserable and feeling bad will not get one to the place where they want to be; at least that is my way of thinking. Sure, it is easy to become cynical and disillusioned, but this is why I feel there are no accidents. Be present, be available and believe in purpose because once you do, you will have an easier go in achieving your dreams. I firmly believer this and think the main character in this comedy comes to understand this concept. DESPITE THE CONTINUAL REJECTION NOTICES JESSICA James, played by Jessica Williams (Booksmart, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald), still believed she could be a playwright. She just needed to convince people of it. With Chris O’Dowd (The Sapphires, Love After Love) as Boone, LaKeith Stanfield (Knives Out, The Photograph) as Damon, Noel Wells (Mr. Roosevelt, Master of None-TV) as Tasha and Zabryna Guevara (Marley & Me, X-Men: Days of Future Past) as Mrs. Phillips; this film festival nominee at first glance appeared to be a typical rom-com movie. However, the casting of Jessica and Chris turned this story into something new and fresh; I thoroughly enjoyed these 2 actors’ performances. The interactions between them was fun to watch, which made this viewing easier to sit through for me. The script had its predictable parts at times, but again due to the writing and delivery of the dialog, I did not mind how the story was playing out. The added benefit in seeing this picture was seeing a little of my old self make an appearance; gratefully only a short appearance.
2 ½ stars
I WAS RECENTLY TOLD ABOUT A man who came home one day to find a note left by his wife on the kitchen table. Written on the piece of paper were the words, “I can’t do this anymore.” That is all that she had written. He looked around the room and everything seemed to be in its place. After checking the rooms on the first floor of their house he nervously walked upstairs to the bedrooms. Each one was empty; he could not understand what was going on. The only clue that was provided to him was the closet door in their bedroom was ajar. He walked over to it and saw some of her clothes were hanging up, but there were a lot of empty hangers on the clothes rack. She must have left he thought, so he walked out of the bedroom to check the utility closet where they kept their luggage stored and saw a piece was missing. His mind simply went numb; he had no idea why his wife suddenly picked up and left him. He tried calling her cell phone, but a recorded message said it was now an invalid number. This was just crazy he thought; there was no sign or even discussions about being unhappy in their 22 years of marriage. He had no idea how he was going to tell his two adult children that their mother had disappeared. THE STORY I JUST TOLD YOU actually took place and in case you were wondering the wife eventually did call her husband to apologize for leaving him that way. However, she did want a divorce. When this story was told to me I could not believe someone who had been married for all those years could do such a thing to their spouse. There is nothing worse than not getting an explanation for someone’s actions. What I was curious about was why the wife waited so many years to make a change. I did not think she just suddenly became unhappy in the relationship, right? Wouldn’t you have thought if she was unhappy she would talk to her husband or at least a therapist at some point, instead of staying married for all those years? There was a term a professor of mine used to use in my college sociology class; it was “holy deadlock.” It meant the couple stayed together for financial or religious reasons as an example despite not wanting to be in the relationship. This dramatic comedy can show you an example of it. WHAT STARTED OUT AS AN EMAIL became the catalyst for what Annie, played by Rose Byrne (Peter Rabbit, This is Where I Leave You), had been missing for a long time. This film festival nominee also starred Ethan Hawke (First Reformed, Maudie) as Tucker Crowe, Chris O’Dowd (Molly’s Game, The Program) as Duncan, Jimmy O. Yang (Crazy Rich Asians, Patriots Day) as Elliot and Azhy Robertson (Furlough, The Americans-TV) as Jackson. What set this romantic comedy apart from others I have seen was the script. The usual silly jokes and stereotypical situations were not included; the writers let the actors play in the real world. I thought the acting between Rose an Ethan was honest and real, a bit magical in fact. Add in Chris’ great sense of timing and facial expressions and the three of them were wonderful to watch. Now there were some parts of the movie that dragged slightly for me, along with a couple of scenes that seems uncompleted; however, it was a pleasure to witness people dealing with what life had to give them. This movie spoke to me and I appreciated it.
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