AFTER LISTENING TO THEM WHINE ABOUT how hard it is to be separated so long from their significant other, I had to remind them I had been in a long-distance relationship for a couple of years. They were complaining about the 6 months out of state assignment their partner was on for work. I wanted to be supportive, I truly did; but all I was hearing was a list of complaints about their needs not being met. It was only 6 months and I knew the high costs made it prohibitive to travel often; but they were in a committed relationship. Shouldn’t those in such a relationship be able to “weather the storm” of being apart I wondered? In my past relationship we were only able to be together once a month after they were promoted to a position at their corporate headquarters, that was out of state. They could not turn down the offer and I would not have wanted them to do it; we chose to be together while we were figuring out what made the most sense. My friend knew their partner traveled for work. Granted it usually involved being away 3 to 5 days at a time, nothing more until this current work detail. Tell me if I am wrong, but I had to wonder just how committed were they to their love relationship? COMMITMENT TAKES WORK AND IT TAKES strength; don’t kid yourself if you do not think so. I knew a married couple who spent more time apart than together because one of them took a teaching job in a foreign country. They realized for the short term it would be challenging, but they had a goal; with this job they would be able to retire years earlier than expected. The money from the teaching job would allow them to both retire young enough to enjoy sharing their lives together. I am not saying this would work for everyone; but I will say it shows a strong commitment to each other. This couple was able to see each other 3 times a year. Their children were grown and out of the house, which I assume made this arrangement easier for them. Within my circle of friends and acquaintances, I have seen individuals who cannot handle adversity in their relationships. If something tough happens they are too quick to end everything and move on. I try not to judge them; I understand everyone handles things differently. Now that I have watched this Oscar winner, I should just suggest they watch this movie to see how some people deal with commitment. HAVING RECENTLY MET, THERE WAS LITTLE time for Inman, played by Jude Law (The Nest, The Grand Budapest Hotel), and Ada Monroe, played by Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased, Bombshell), to get to know each other because the country was falling into a civil war. With Renee Zellweger (Judy, My One and Only) as Ruby Thewes, Eileen Atkins (Robin Hood, Gosford Park) as Maddy and Brendan Gleeson (The Guard, Calvary) as Stobrod Thewes; this film festival winning adventure drama was beautifully filmed and exquisitely acted. The outdoor scenes were wonderful to look at. Renee was amazing in her role and for me, she was the most believable. Much of the film consisted of a slower pace; sometimes more than I thought necessary. However, I did not lose interest as the script provided enough change in emotions to keep things moving. I can only assume the book must be powerful as this film had a variety of ways to look at the story. Also, I never gave enough thought to those left behind during wartime and I felt the writers did an especially good job in showing viewers the reality of the times. With a running time of 2 ½ hours, it does take one to commit to watching this film; but I feel it would be worth it.
3 ¼ stars
THE SERVING PLATTER LOOKED LIKE IT HAD an old roadmap embedded into it. All roads led to a happy memory. At the bottom of a china hutch, I found wrapped in an ancient dishtowel a large oval serving plate. I remembered it from when I was a little boy. It had gold filigree outlining the rim and center of it. Tracing the gold was a thin dusty rose-colored line; in the center, there was a bouquet of flowers of which some were of the same rose color. The roadmap I referred to was created from years of use, especially due to the washing of it. Fine ghost like crooked lines, crisscrossing all across the plate; gave the appearance of abandoned roads. I can remember sitting down for dinner at family gatherings where this platter would hold the main part of the meal. There were times it held brisket of beef or roasted chicken or slices of turkey during the Thanksgiving holiday. When I was really young I could not hold it up by myself as it was being passed around the dining room table; the relative next to me would have to hold it or sometimes even place the food on my plate after I pointed out to them which pieces. THOSE FAMILY DINNERS WERE A SOURCE OF immense joy to me. Getting together with my cousins was always a highlight. The conversations around the table were usually lively and animated. Relatives would be laughing all the time, even when they were in the middle of a heated discussion. I can still remember that time where a relative brought a gelatin-molded dessert (gelatin mixed with other food items like nuts or fruit set into a mold) to the table. When it was unmolded it plopped on the plate and slid off onto the table. This dinner platter is something I will always associate with good food. Especially during holidays, I do not remember one time where the platter was not being used for serving. As a former large person, the food certainly was the catalyst for me having a good time among my relatives. It was during these gatherings where I really learned what it meant to have and be part of a family. Beside myself I know others must have gained valuable memories at these meals and I am sure the dinner platter played a part in them. So now, my dilemma is what to do with this decades old dinner platter. How could I possibly part with it? I would feel the same way if I were the main character in this dramatic, film festival winning comedy. WHEN THE READING OF HER GRANDFATHER’S will took place, the last thing Cynthia, played by Jillian Bell (Rough Night, Office Christmas Party) expected to get was an old sword. What in the world would she do with such a thing? With Marc Maron (Almost Famous, Glow-TV) as Mel, Jon Bass (Molly’s Game, Loving) as Nathaniel, Michaela Watkins (The Back-Up Plan, Thanks for Sharing) as Mary and Dan Bakkedahl (The Heat, Veep-TV) as Kingpin, this was an odd film for me. The script came across in such a way that it appeared as if the cast was doing improvisation. I will say each actor did a good job of portraying a wacky/kooky type of character. Some of the dialog had witty comments and comebacks. There was a loose feel to the scenes, which made the satire stand out more. As for the story it was farfetched and at times the absurdity of it bored me. And as the story wound down, I felt the ending lost momentum and did a quick job to finish things up. This was a strange picture that at times looked amateurish and goofy, but then at times had quick biting repartee.
WHENEVER there was a fight that involved females, they would attract the biggest crowds. There is a term I have heard associated to these types of fights called “catfight.” As a young kid I never understood why other children would yell out this word and immediately others would scurry over to watch 2 girls battle it out. I remember a couple of these fights breaking out in the school hallways and was stunned at the viciousness on display. There was scratching, kicking, hair pulling and smacking, besides tearing of clothing. One particular fight involved a shorter girl who had transferred into our school. She actually stunned and frightened many students when she got involved into a fight with another girl. The reason being she was landing full-fledged hard punches like a boxer. Her opponent dropped to the floor in no time. STRENGTH is not something that is exclusive to the male species. I am sure I have mentioned in previous reviews my female relatives who were in the military; one was a sergeant who could nearly squeeze the blood out of your hand when she shook it. It just makes me wonder how and why stereotypes get formed. You know the ones like females are the weaker sex or are more emotional or always go to the restroom in pairs; why are such things a topic of conversation? There have been numerous times feats of strength have been reported on the news or shown on television specials. I remember from years ago a small child being trapped underneath a car and its mother pushing the vehicle off her child. Just recently in the newspaper there was an article about a father who saved his child from flood waters without the use of anything except his super human strength against the rushing water. Whether one is male or female, a parent or not; I feel when times call for it anyone will do whatever they can to survive. See for yourself in this film festival winning drama. SECLUDED in their boarding school in Virginia the lives of the student body were disrupted when injured soldier Corporal McBurney, played by Colin Farrell (The Lobster, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), was discovered on their property. Besides being injured he was also a northerner. Written and directed by Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette), this civil war story was utterly beautiful to watch. The scenes were full of atmosphere where I was feeling the emotions of the cast which included Nicole Kidman (Lion, Secret in Their Eyes) as Miss Martha, Kirsten Dunst (Hidden Figures, Upside Down) as Edwina and Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon, 20th Century Women) as Alicia. The acting was outstanding especially from Nicole; there is no denying when she is on screen she commands one’s attention. I know this story was done before; but what I enjoyed about this version was the fact it was coming from the women’s point of view. The story was a fascinating one for me because of the women being southerners and Colin’s character was from the north. Everything appeared to hit the mark until I got deeper into the film. Based on the scenes I actually felt there needed to be more intensity coming out of the characters. With that type of cast they could have easily delved further down and made a bigger impact. I still enjoyed watching this picture, loving how some of the scenes were set up visually. One thing for sure after seeing this movie, one cannot assume someone is weaker than another.
One of the bonuses for being in my career positions is being able to communicate with people from every continent except Antarctica. My fascination with other countries and cultures dates back many years. What I have learned is everyone shares the same basic concerns and joys of life, albeit in varying degrees. For me the physical differences associated with one’s race just tell me where their ancestors were born; otherwise, they mean nothing to me just like the color of one’s eyes. Walking through my local grocery store is like taking a free global trip without the jet lag. Down one aisle I will find products from Asia, followed by items from the southern part of North America down to South America. I enjoy watching the shoppers peruse the shelves and sometimes I even ask them about a product I am curious to try. Here is a little known fact about me; very few people in my circles know I go up to help people who appear to be lost or attempting to figure out where something is located. In the old days it was obvious when they were holding a map. Doing this is a great way to learn something new in my opinion. All of this makes up my world; the differences and commonalities between all of us. As generations move up the age ladder my concern is our history gets less important or even forgotten. An example would be a generation several times removed from the generation that experienced an event of genocide. I believe we need to know our history if we are going to grow as civilized humans. To me a major asset is hearing about an event from a person who experienced it. After that person is gone we are left with visual history such as actual places, video/film and historical documents. This is why I feel movies like this one have a place in our knowledge of our past. CONFEDERATE soldier Newton Knight, played by Matthew McConaughey (The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club), came to the realization he could no longer be a part of the corrupt things he saw taking place. Based on a true story this biographical dramatic film kept my attention due to its story; in fact, I felt the story was the best part of the movie. With Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond the Lights, Concussion) as Rachel, Keri Russell (August Rush, The Americans-TV) as Serena and Mahershala Ali (The Hunger Games franchise, The Place Beyond the Pines) as Moses; the acting was solid though oddly I was not as impressed with Matthew as I have been in the past. Parts of the script were well focused and intense; however, the story line that involved a time in the future was a distraction for me. I think if the writers stayed in the one time period this picture would have had more impact. It was obvious what they were trying to convey but I would have preferred if the writers waited and made a sequel that dealt with that particular subject. Despite the tough and bloody scenes in this movie the story is a lesson about our history.
2 ¾ stars
Memories are the bridle that tether us to a place of hope, where we dream of the way things used to be. You may know such a place; I know I do. It is here where one hangs on to the relationship they are in, even though it may no longer be healthy. We desperately hold on to those old memories; hoping for change while not strong enough to leave. I can remember wishing that person I knew to be inside of them would come back out and replace the stranger standing before me. I wanted to believe my sheer determination could make everything all right again. Alas, it was a sad and painful lesson for me. I saw a similar pain move across the face of Laurel Sommersby in this dramatic movie. Played by Jodie Foster (Panic Room, Inside Man), I had forgotten how good of an actress Jodie can be. The story was an Americanized version of the award winning film, “The Return of Martin Guerre.” For this movie, the story was set in the south right after the civil war had ended. Laurel with the help of Orin Meecham, played by Bill Pullman (Independence Day, While You Were Sleeping), was settling into a life without her husband who was presumed dead, getting a handle on the family farm. A couple of years had passed when unbelievably her husband John Robert aka Jack was spotted making his way home to her. But this man who went off to fight in the war was not that same man who returned home. Richard Gere (Arbitrage, Amelia) perfectly blended his character John Robert with Jodie as his wife Laurel. Though there were dull moments in the movie, Jodie and Richard were able to draw me into their romance. The addition of James Earl Jones (Finder’s Fee, A Family Thing) playing Judge Barry Conrad Issacs was great; even though I thought his character was not realistic for the times. I enjoyed the acting more than I liked the story. This movie made me realize how easy it is to understand how the sheer will of hopeful dreams and memories can motivate a person to hold on.
2 1/2 stars — DVD
The reality shows aired on television are certainly not reality to me. This movie was a sobering dose of reality, with such a spirit of life; all I can say is that I was in awe. You may not be familiar with the lost boys of Sudan, who walked thousands of miles in search of a safe haven, due to the civil war raging in their country. Their plight was horrific as they had to avoid the northern aggressors during the day and lions at night. For some of them, the only life they had ever known was living in refugee camps. This documentary showed the journey of a few boys out of a group who were able to migrate to the United States. Imagine for a moment what it must have felt like to leave not only your family and friends, but your country. I’m stressed just when I have had to move to a new house, talk about getting a reality check. How does one explain a light switch to someone who has no knowledge of electricity? I loved the scene where the friends were introduced to a grocery store and offered a frosted, sprinkled doughnut. Looking at it, they were not sure if it was food. The phrase “food for thought” came to mind here. What I really appreciated from watching this illuminating movie was the way the director not only showed their life in America, but also showed a little bit of our lives through these boys’ eyes.
3 1/2 stars — DVD