HE HAD BEEN PLACED IN REMEDIAL classes through most of his education years. Both teachers and students assumed he was “slow,” though many of the students used a derogatory description to describe him. His grades were poor and yet, he was never given extra help by his teachers or counselors. It did not matter to me because he was my friend. Our initial connection was our mutual love of music. Both of us constantly kept up with current music and took turns buying new songs and albums to share with each other. As for him lacking “book smarts,” he made up for it in practical knowledge. To say he was handy would be an understatement; if something was not working, such as an electronic device or piece of equipment, he usually could figure out and solve the problem. I was envious of his abilities. Besides music his other love was building things. Whether he was helping his family rehab a kitchen or bedroom; for his age, his handiness skills were impressive. Now, if you were to have a conversation with him you would realize there was a communication issue going on with him. He knew what words he wanted to use but could not pronounce them properly. Sometimes he would substitute a wrong word into his conversation because it sounded like the word he was trying to say. Thinking of him now, I must wonder if he might have been dyslexic. DUE TO THAT FRIENDSHIP I REALIZED how many people are quick to judge someone just based of their looks and/or actions. Whenever we went to a restaurant or store, the employees would always look to me to handle the bill or to have a conversation. He would ask a question and the employee would answer it while looking at me as if he was a child or simply did not exist. He was not the only friend I had that people were quick to judge. I had a friend who was over 6 feet tall and had a strong presence about himself. Upon meeting him, people tended to be intimidated his looks; he looked like a “tough guy” with his leather jacket and army boots. What people never took the time with was to get to know him; they would interact with him only for the briefest of moments. He was a super sweet guy who was kind and thoughtful. We would spend hours deep in metaphysical conversations. I realize due to the friendships I have, whenever I get together and go out with friends, I usually look at the people around us to see what kind of reaction they are having to us. Some of these reactions are like the ones I saw in this biographical, dramatic thriller. MOVING TO AMERICA FROM FRANCE TO further her acting career, young actress Jean Seberg, played by Kristen Stewart (Underwater, Personal Shopper), assumed she would expand her fan base. She did not expect that would also include the FBI. With Yvan Attal (Munich, Rush Hour 3) as Romain Gary, Jack O’Connell (Unbroken, Tulip Fever) as Jack Solomon, newcomer Gabriel Sky as Diego Gary and Margaret Qualley (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, The Leftovers-TV) as Linette Solomon; this picture’s story was inspired by true events. I was not familiar with Jean and her career, so I do not know how much I saw in this movie rang true. I guess it did not matter because I thought the script was basic and static. Kristen was good in the role; but I really could not tell you much about her character or for that fact, anyone else’s. Based on the issues that were going on here in the late 1960s, I felt the writers had a wealth of opportunities to create a powerful, dramatic piece. Sadly, like the actress’ career, this story went nowhere.
1 ¾ stars
EVERYTHING I SAW AND LEARNED LED me to believe dogs and cats were mortal enemies. From cartoons to movies, as far as I knew if the 2 of them saw each other they would fight until one got hurt or worse. As a kid everyone I knew who had pets always had only one species if there were multiple pets in the household. If a family had a cat they would only get another cat as a pet; the same held true with dog lovers. I had a parakeet; so, I would never have considered getting a cat, because in my mind cats ate birds. Do you remember Tweety and Sylvester? I rest my case; this is where I learned never to mix a cat and a bird. Then there was Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. Since coyotes looked like dogs, I assumed dogs were not fond of birds either. I doubt I was the only one who thought this way; I am sure many kids around the same time were thinking the same thing about never mixing different species together. The same holds true for some of the movies I saw as a child where I would see a dog chasing a cat. NOW GRANTED THERE ARE ANIMALS WHO eat other animals for food. I remember seeing a movie that showed a lion going after a herd of wildebeests. It was obvious to me the wildebeests were afraid of the big cat. I translated that as hate. Did the wildebeests instinctively know from birth to fear the big cats or was it something they learned I wondered. I realized at an early age that humans do not come into the world knowing how to hate; they had to be taught on how to do it. I am not talking about hating a specific vegetable or fruit; I am referring to being taught that something or someone is no good, inferior, is bad. I learned about prejudice outside of the classroom, where some kids would make fun of me because I was not the same religion as them. There was a student in class who was quite vocal about his hatreds. He would bully those kids who did not fit into his beliefs. It was awful the way he would make fun of certain students, using their features as examples of what was wrong with them. I had thick curly/kinky hair when I was in school and he took great delight in calling me racist, horrible names. He did not have to be that way, but that is how he was taught. If only there had been someone who could have shown and taught him a different way; someone like the activist in this biographical, dramatic film. WHEN HER DAUGHTER’S SCHOOL CAUGHT ON fire and burned, civil rights activist Ann Atwater, played by Taraji P. Henson (Proud Mary, What Men Want), was determined to find another school for her daughter and the other students to attend. There were people in the community who hated her idea. With Sam Rockwell (Vice, Mr. Right) as C.P. Ellis, Babou Ceesay (Free Fire, Eye in the Sky) as Bill Riddick, Wes Bentley (American Beauty, The Hunger Games) as Floyd Kelly and Anne Heche (Wag the Dog, Six Days Seven Nights) as Mary Ellis; this historical story set in Durham, NC during the 1970s was brought to life by Taraji and Sam. They were dynamite in their roles to the point where I believed who they were portraying. The story was incredible and full of poignant moments that the writers could have taken and made them stand out. I wish they had done that because this historical event deserved a powerful script instead of the sanitized one in this picture. However, it did capture and keep my attention while showing a dramatic time that was brought on by hatred.
2 ½ stars
THE TWO COUSINS WERE spending the afternoon together. The basement of the house was their domain. Medium dark, wood paneled walls with thick industrial carpeting on the floor would hopefully contain the noise the two boys would make; at least that is what the other relatives were hoping. One cousin turned on his music player while the other one was looking over the stack of games that had been shoved into a bookcase. Agreeing on one board game, they spread the game pieces onto the floor. After fighting over the same game piece to represent each one’s team and getting the rest of the pieces in place on the game board, the visiting cousin asked if there was anything to eat. They walked upstairs into the kitchen; one boy went to the refrigerator, the other to the pantry. Out of all the different foods in the pantry the young boy chose a loaf of white bread. THROUGHOUT THE GAME WHILE one boy had long finished his food, the other cousin continued to work on the loaf of bread. He would take a slice of bread, fold it in half and eat only the inside white bread part first; this way, he would just have the square outline left made entirely of crust to savor last. As the game continued the loaf of bread kept decreasing in length. Slice after slice would eventually disappear into his mouth with him giving little thought to it, except for the comfort he felt while eating it. By the end of the game the entire loaf was gone. The other cousin laughed when he saw the empty bread bag. He kept saying, “An entire loaf of bread, you ate an entire loaf of bread.” The other boy sheepishly asked his cousin not to tell his mother about it. The boy agreed and told his cousin they would have to hide the bag. Back into the kitchen they went to look for something to hide the bread packaging. Inside the garbage can was a greasy paper bag from a fast food restaurant; it was the perfect place to shove the bag in. Ever since that day the one cousin would always bring up that loaf of bread when the two got together; as the two aged it seemed that was going to be the only thing the other cousin would remember about him. The same could easily be said for the president and his war in this biographical drama. WITH THE NATION IN shock from the assassination of John F. Kennedy, played by Jeffrey Donovan (Hitch, Burn Notice-TV); Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson, played by Woody Harrelson (Lost in London, War for the Planet of the Apes), found himself thrown into a divided White House. With Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight, The Moment), as Lady Bird Johnson, and Michael Stahl-David (In Your Eyes, Cloverfield) as Robert F. Kennedy; this film starts with the time period just prior to the Kennedy election. Woody did his best as Lyndon to the point he overshadowed everyone else. Granted Lyndon was a colorful character but what I found missing in this story was the nitty gritty parts; everything seemed even keeled. I felt there could have been more intensity and tension because pretty much throughout the picture I was not totally convinced with the action in the scenes. The historical aspect was what attracted me and I am sure, like many other people, I only knew Lyndon as the war president. He actually did much more to be remembered by.