I WENT FOR A HAIRCUT AND left with a lesson on world religion. It was time to get a haircut and when I walked into the establishment, I noticed my usual stylist was not there. Since I was in desperate need of a haircut, I remained and sat with this new person. When I explained I was getting my hair cut for a special occasion, it led to a discussion about each of our heritages. She spoke of the hardship she had leaving the country of her birth for her daughters’ sakes. There was no opportunity for them to grow and become self-sufficient if she had remained there. Instead, she emigrated to the United States and worked hard to provide for her daughters; one became a doctor and the other a lawyer. Everyday, she said, she was grateful for having the strength to have made that hard decision to leave her country. From the things she spoke about, I could tell she had had issues with people in her country who were in positions of power, who were extremists. I shared with her a family member’s story about their childhood, where they would be hidden in a forest anytime military guards came around the town. The guards were sent out periodically to hunt for male children of a different religion, to kill them. It was up to the parents to not only get their children well hidden in the woods, but to then remember where they hid them after the guards left. AS OUR CONVERSATION CONTINUED, I TOLD her of my uncomfortableness with anyone who was extreme. Whether they were religious, political, conservative or liberal; I was never comfortable around individuals who had such extreme mindsets. She made an interesting observation about the atmosphere presently around our country; that it felt like to her as if a faction of citizens were trying to create a fascist state. And it bothered her when people in government made decisions based on their religion instead of thinking about the country filled with people of many faiths. I thought that was both a powerful and insightful statement on her part. We discussed how religion played a part in past world events. I mentioned how turned off I get when a person talks and acts as if their religion was the only true/right one. That is why I get offended when someone tries to convert me to a different religion. In my opinion, all religions have a place at the table; who is anyone to judge someone’s religious beliefs? Keep in mind all of this is taking place over the sound of her electric clippers going around my head. The interesting part to all of this is the fact that after my haircut, I went and saw this engrossing, Oscar nominated drama. A GROUP OF WOMEN LIVING IN a small religious community come together to decide if they should stay or leave after they find out how they received the marks on their bodies and their miraculous births. With Rooney Mara (Nightmare Alley, A Ghost Story) as Ona, Claire Foy (The Girl in the Spider’s Web, The Crown-TV) as Salome, Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, The Lost Daughter) as Mariche, Frances McDormand (The French Dispatch, Nomadland) as Scarface Janz and Judith Ivey (A Life Less Ordinary, Flags of Our Father) as Agata; this powerful story had the perfect cast to tell it. The whole cast was magnificent; they were like a dream team for actors. The story posed many questions and opinions on current topics, but in a non-confrontational way. I would have appreciated seeing more development in how the characters got to their current place; but in the scheme of things, their performances and discussions were riveting enough to keep me engaged. It almost felt as if the writers wanted to make sure they got their points across first before working on each character. This is the type of movie that generates curiosity in the viewer and stays in their mind for a time afterwards.
3 ½ stars
IF I HAD NOT SEEN IT with my own eyes, I would not have believed it. I felt like I was watching the animal sidekicks of an evil, animated character. I was over at a friend’s house, who has five cats as pets. They are outdoor cats according to him. All of them are tabbies who are lean and muscular, at least in my opinion. Anytime I have been at my friend’s place, the cats have always been friendly towards me. This time my friend was telling me he had to take one of the cats to the veterinarian for some health issue. We visited until it was time for him to get ready. He had gone into the coat closet and pulled out a pet carrier. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a couple of cats sit up from their reclined positions, staring at the carrier. My friend started to walk over to one of those two cats. As he got closer to her, she let out this sound like a yelp. I do not know where the other three cats were, but they bolted in and joined the other cat to surround the cat my friend was nearing. It was surreal as they hissed and meowed at my friend, all the time keeping a tight circle around that one tabby. My friend turned his head towards me and said this happens each time he must remove one cat out of the pack. NONE OF MY PAST EXPERIENCES WITH cats ever included this scenario. I have seen cats hiss and cry, but that level of protection towards another cat is something I had never seen. Granted, I do not have any other friends or family who have five cats; but even then, I do not know if it makes a difference if a cat is an indoor or outdoor one. I have loved cats all my life; I can sit and watch them play for hours. There is one friend of mine who uses a laser pointer to get his cat to exercise. This cat will follow the red point of light all over the floor, the couch or chairs, even try to go up the wall to catch it. I have relatives who had one of the most docile cats I had ever known. This cat, I think, was part human because he knew when you were available to play with him or when you were sad, to come over and sit by you. I could lift him up and drape him around the back of my neck, where he would stay perfectly content while purring deeply in my ears. Like dogs, I think cats have distinct personalities. The artist in this biographical drama believes the same thing as I do. TAKING IN A STRAY CAT DID more for Louis Wain’s, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog, The Courier) career than almost anything else. Some would say it was an obsession; others would say it would be his legacy. With Claire Foy (The Crown-TV, The Girl in the Spider’s Web) as Emily Richardson-Wain, Andrea Riseborough (The Grudge, The Death of Stalin) as Caroline Wain, Toby Jones (A Boy Called Christmas, The Mist) as Sir William Ingram and Sharon Rooney (Dumbo, Zapped-TV) as Josephine Wain; this film based on true events shined a little brighter due to Benedict and Claire. The mix of whimsical and serious scenes made for some variety, though some areas of the story could have used a deeper dive into them. I had never heard of Louis Wain, but I believe I have seen some of his work. The story itself appeared to have a lot of things to explore; I am not sure the script did it justice. However, from a historical and dramatic aspect, I stayed involved with the characters. And the cats were quite cute to boot.
FROM THE CLASSES I ATTENDED AND the personal stories that were shared with me, I would have thought after all this time I would have a better understanding about the parent/child relationship. Even to this day I still can be surprised by the things I see and hear regarding children and their parents. There is a mother I know who was told by her daughter that the only way she could see her grandchildren would be if she goes into therapy. That is all I know but I can assume something intense happened between the daughter and her mother. There is a father I know who has many prejudices; essentially, he doesn’t like anyone. His daughter is the complete opposite, gratefully. It has come to the point where the daughter tries to avoid social functions with her Dad because she knows he will be offending someone before the evening is over. This is the thing that fascinates me; where the daughter turns out to be a complete opposite to her father, there are other children who turn into their parent(s). How does that happen? I know a man who has the same prejudices as his deceased father; it makes me wonder what type of environment the boy was raised in. As I have said before, no one is born being a racist, sexist or prejudiced; it is something that gets taught. NOW WHEN IT COMES TO BULLYING and abuse, studies have shown a majority of those who act these out were themselves victims to it. I believe it because I have seen it happen. There was a kid in my neighborhood who was a bully; he took pleasure in tormenting other kids. It turns out his dad picked on him, hitting or slapping him besides calling him names. Of course, it doesn’t excuse the son’s behavior and I am guessing the father was abused or bullied when he was a kid. When I was in college one of my classes spent time looking at ways to stop this vicious cycle of abusers creating more abusers. Think about it; parents are supposed to be the protectors of their children. It seems to me when something is off, the home environment becomes a breeding ground for the unhealthy behavior to flourish and be handed down generation to generation. I find it awful and sad. There was a time in school where I felt every human being needed to go into therapy; to help them understand themselves and become of sound mind and body. This certainly would apply to the sisters in this dramatic, crime thriller. HAVING A REPUTATION FOR BEING A BRILLIANT computer hacker; how then was Lisbeth Salander, played by Claire Foy (First Man, Unsane), set up so easily? It would have to be from someone she knew. With Beau Gadsdon (The Crown-TV, Rogue One: A Stars Wars Story) as young Lisbeth, Sverrir Gudnason (A Serious Game, Borg vs McEnroe) as Mikael Blomkvist, Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You, Selma) as Ed Needham and Sylvia Hoeks (Blade Runner 2049, The Best Offer) as Camilla Salander; this movie was mostly all about the action. I thought Claire did a fine job in the role, but it did not stretch her due to the weak script. By the end of the story I found the script to be silly and a letdown. There were a few exciting scenes; but I found most of the acting one dimensional, without much focus to it. While watching some scenes I thought it was odd that Lisbeth could be easily followed considering she was such a computer “genius.” If the producers plan to churn out this level of work, then we need an intervention to make them stop.
1 ¾ stars
DURING MY SPACE EXPLORATIONS I DISCOVERED planets far from earth that were inhabited by peaceful beings. The inhabitants of one planet did not walk; they were able to float above the ground effortlessly. Everyone was dressed in a similar fashion with a long, flowing robe-like outer coating that refracted light to form a non-stop palette of colors. I considered their heads to be egg shaped with large dark eyes and no hair. Because they were a peaceful race, there were a couple of other species from other planets that wanted to conquer them. Due to this threat the peaceful ones, as I called them, had to build up their defenses. I was in charge of the space ships that in actuality were different writing pens I collected; however, they were able to shoot out death rays from the tips. The pocket clip part of the pen is where the captain and their crew flew the ship, so I addressed my warnings to that part of the pen. I could spend hours flying my pens through the house as they took on evil forces, defending their home planet. Sometimes I had to fly through space dust or debris which was the mist from a can of air freshener. IT WAS NOT UNTIL MY HIGHER LEARNING days that I paid more attention to space. Oh and of course Star Trek and Star Wars pushed me into that direction. To this day I enjoy science fiction/fantasy movies and books. I feel a certain connection to them because they have always presented a different reality to the dark one I was experiencing at times. Within science fiction stories it seemed as if a planet was being threatened, all the inhabitants would come together to defeat the threat. There was something about having diverse beings coming together that I found attractive. At the time, I did not realize it was what I was wishing for in my reality. Feeling like an outsider or just different growing up, the idea of an all accepting society fascinated me. I think that is why when I was a kid fantasizing about space I always had planets filled with peaceful beings. Add in the story lines from Star Trek and I was sure there was a safe haven somewhere in space. It is funny that a few of my friends to this day can tell when I am spacing out and the reasons for it. None of my fantasies however had the type of intensity that I saw in this dramatic, biographical space film. IN A RACE WITH THE SOVIET Union to achieve glory in space, the United States embarked on a radical idea that had never been done before. It would take a certain type of person to be a part of what could become an event of historical proportions. This film festival nominated movie starred Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049, La La Land) as Neil Armstrong, Claire Foy (Breathe, Unsane) as Janet Armstrong, Jason Clarke (Everest, The Man with the Iron Heart) as Edward Higgins White, Kyle Chandler (Manchester by the Sea, Argo) as Deke Slayton and Pablo Schreiber (13 Hours, Den of Thieves) as Jim Lovell. The beauty of this film was the way the director allowed scenes to tell the story without dialog; some of the film shots were beautiful. Now add in the acting skills, especially form Ryan and Claire, and I for the most part was taken away by the story. There have been a variety of space films but for some reason I found the intensity of this one to be tangible. Everything felt authentic and real. Though my imagination made traveling to space an easy process, I got on board for this historical event, space story.
3 1/2 stars
MAGIC ACTS AND PRODUCT DEMONSTRATERS used to be the only things that amazed me when I was small. I would always become mesmerized by magicians performing things my eyes and brain could not believe. Making animals appear or disappear, cutting assistants in half or shooting flames out of extended hands; all of it was a total fantasy for me. As for those product demonstrators, I still can recall standing at the head of a small crowd of people gathered around a table as a man was talking about an amazing product that would prevent eyeglasses from steaming up. He would extend his hand out and slightly up just above his head while holding a pair of glasses and spray the lenses with this mysterious stuff. Next he would hold the glasses over what looked like a vaporizer that was spewing out steam. Miraculously the lenses never fogged up. It was pure magic to me. Anytime I was at a store and heard one of these demonstrators talking, I would make a beeline to them and wiggle my way to the head of the crowd of shoppers to watch the next magical feat being performed. MY AMAZEMENT OF THINGS HAS expanded as much as I have aged. Every day it seems I hear or see something that stops me in disbelief. I cannot recall a time where so many things happening around the world literally stun me. Gratefully not everything is of a horrific nature; there are some acts that are life changers and I mean that in a good way. Just imagine what it must have been like when the first microwave oven came into existence or when we had the first moon landing. I am sure it had to be a “heady” experience for many people. Sadly it seems to me currently the scale is tipping to the negative side more and more. An example that just came to mind is company advertisements that, for whatever reason, wind up having a racist or derogatory message. I believe it was the past week there was an alcohol commercial that looked as if it was making a prejudicial statement about races. Seeing an act of violence like commercial or religious buildings being blown up with innocent people inside just makes me stare at the news, trying to comprehend how such a thing could even be thought up; it simply boggles my mind. Many times I say to myself, “Did that just happen?” This same question crossed the mind of the main character in this horror thriller. FINDING HERSELF COMMITTED TO A mental institution Sawyer Valentini, played by Claire Foy (Breathe, The Crown-TV), could not tell at times if she was facing her biggest fear. Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike, Erin Brockovich), this movie also starred Jay Pharoah (Ride Along, Get a Job) as Nate Hoffman, Joshua Leonard (If I Stay, The Blair Witch Project) as David Strine, Amy Irving (Carrie, Traffic) as Angela Valentini and Juno Temple (Wonder Wheel, Killer Joe) as Violet. This viewing was somewhat unusual for me. The movie was filmed with the use of an IPhone which made some of the camera shots interesting. I thought Claire was convincing and it was good to see Amy Irving. My issue with this picture has to do with the script. There were several intense scenes within the story, but then all of a sudden everything would go flat. I found myself losing interest because during the film it felt like scenes were being repeated. It was not until close to the end where I got back into the story, though I did not like the way the movie ended. I was amazed this picture was done on an IPhone; too bad it wasn’t better.
GOING THROUGH LIFE FEELING invincible, if you can pull it off, must be an incredible experience. Looking at people who dedicate a good portion of their time to working out and exercising, makes me curious as to what their motivation might be. I think if the fitness centers where I teach only had a young clientele, I would not have been able to experience the bigger picture when it comes to health. To this day I admire those people who are advanced in age, who might have limited physical capacity and yet I see them working out at the club consistently. There are even some members who need a cane or walker, but they still come and push themselves to get a complete workout. Seeing an elderly person hunched over, dependent on their walker, shuffling their way around the running track is nothing short of glorious to me. I AM NOWHERE NEAR thinking I am an invincible being; on the contrary, my recent medical scare showed me how vulnerable I actually am. The whole experience showed me a new side to life; I have a deeper appreciation for anyone who struggles with an ailment, yet keeps moving on. From what I have seen, I have determined the mind plays a crucial part in how a person handles their affliction. Having a positive attitude makes a world of difference, yet it is something I still have a hard time with because I am wired to seek out the negative thoughts first. There is a friend of mine who needed surgery; an operation that would leave them incapacitated for several weeks. If it was me I would have asked the doctor to keep me sedated or put me in a comatose state. My friend had the most positive of attitudes and came out of surgery beautifully; keeping their positivity going, they even reduced their rehabilitation time. I do not know if I can train myself to be as optimistic as they were with their surgery. Maybe I could find someone similar to the main character’s wife in this film based on a true story. ROBIN CAVENDISH, PLAYED BY Andrew Garfield (Silence, 99 Homes), only saw a body that did not work anymore. His wife Diana, played by Claire Foy (Season of the Witch, The Crown-TV), saw something else. This film festival nominated, romantic drama was filmed in such a way to bring out the beauty of the story. Andrew and Claire were perfectly matched with their acting skills and chemistry. I would not be surprised if Andrew is nominated again for an Oscar, he was that good. Along with Tom Hollander (About Time, Pirates of the Caribbean franchise) as Bloggs and David Blacker, Hugh Bonneville (The Monuments Men, Downton Abbey-TV) as Teddy Hall and Ed Speleers (Alice Through the Looking Glass, Downton Abbey-TV) as Colin Campbell; the whole cast did a wonderful job in bringing life and joy into this unbelievable story. Now I will say the script was a bit predictable but I did not care because I could not get over Andrew’s acting and the fact that I was learning something about a true life changing event. The mixture of humor into the script, which I believe was part of the Cavendishs’ makeup, kept the story from sinking into a maudlin state. It would have been interesting to get more of the characters’ thoughts and feelings out onto the script but the writers I can only assume wanted to keep things on the lighter side. I try to avoid doing any type of health comparisons; but after seeing this film, I have a whole new appreciation for having a positive outlook.