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.
IT WAS OUR PASSION FOR WORKING out that sparked our friendship. Meeting at the house of mutual friends, I knew immediately he was into fitness. My first clue was the food he had on his plate. From all the choices available at the buffet table, he chose the items with the least amount of carbs. Also, he was wearing a light colored T-shirt that was stretched to the max across his chiseled torso and bulging biceps. It was over at the table set up as the bar, where I made a comment about his plate of food. He, in turn, asked where was my plate. When I explained I stop eating 5 hours before going to sleep, I could tell my comment piqued his interest. From there we got into a discussion about health and exercise, sharing our journey into fitness. I shared stories about witnessing the effects brought on by family members’ poor health and how I started questioning the things I was doing that might trigger into action those same poor genes I shared with them from the family gene pool. It turned out we had a similar history that motivated us to take better care of ourselves. Before the evening was over, we both had a good sense of each other and agreed to hang out at some point. FROM THAT RANDOM MEETING AT THAT party, we wound up becoming pretty good workout buddies. When time permitted we would meet at the health club and become each other’s coach and spotter. It must have been 6 or 8 months later when he got the news that would change his life forever. On a routine doctor visit it was discovered he had a serious disease. Because he was so fit, he did not notice the early symptoms. From that point on things changed, as you would expect. He still met me at the gym but not as often; not because he did not want to, but because he was busy getting his house ready to sell. Upon getting the news, he decided he did not want to live and die in a cold climate. Instead, he planned on moving to a warmer city on the west coast. He still kept close to his workout routine but the times did not mesh with my availability. By the time we were in the middle of the autumn season, he had sold most of his furnishings, grew a beard and bought a house. Though he hadn’t finalized the sale of his current house, he wanted to get out and start enjoying the days he had remaining in a warm climate. I was impressed with his matter of fact actions in completely uprooting himself to seek out comfort for his remaining days. I don’t know if I would have the same courage as him or the main character in this dark comedic drama. UPON RECEIVING DIRE NEWS ABOUT HIS HEALTH Richard, played by Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Black Mass) changed the way he was teaching his classes and also the people around him. With Rosemarie DeWitt (Your Sister’s Sister, Rachel Getting Married) as Veronica, Odessa Young (Assassination Nation, The Daughter) as Olivia, Danny Huston (The Aviator, The Constant Gardener) as Peter and Zoey Deutch (Before I Fall, Dirty Grandpa) as Claire; this film festival nominee had a decent cast of actors. Johnny was ok but he did not provide me with something new that I had not seen before. The script had an occasional glimmer of hope, but I felt it lacked in developing the characters. There were several chances for this story to well up into an emotional peak but I felt the writers wanted to play it safe. So instead what was left for the viewer was a repeat of actions and emotions; as if, the writers wanted to not only numb the main character but the audience as well.
I WAS SITTING ON THE COUCH, deep into a mystery novel, when I suddenly felt a puff of air on the back of my neck. In the seconds I needed to alter my thought process back into the real world, that puff of air was replaced with something wet. As I leaned forward to turn around, there on the back of the couch sat my relatives’ cat; I was so into reading my book I had not noticed the cat jumping up onto the couch to get behind me. I chuckled to myself as I settled into my spot to get back to reading my book. The cat had other plans for me. He tentatively placed his paw on my shoulder as if he were testing the temperature of water. The next thing I knew, he got up onto my shoulders; paused for a moment for sniffing and pressing his paws around my upper back before he stretched himself out and plopped himself around the back of my neck. I asked him what he thought he was doing as I smoothed out the fur on the part of his legs, I could see that were hanging down in front. He was such an easy-going character; so, I went back to my reading while the steady drone of purring played in the background. THOUGH I NEVER HAD A DOG OR cat as a pet when I was growing up, I had several relatives who did. This offered me the luxury of playing with them without the cleanup or mess. One relative had two black cats with white diamonds on their chests. They were not related but they certainly looked like a father and son duo. The older one had a nervous personality, where he was always suspicious and skittish. If I came over with a new toy, I would have to leave it out in the open in the middle of the floor and walk away from it. He would wait until I left the room before he would come out from under a piece of furniture and circle the toy, stopping in his tracks periodically to see if the toy would do something. Slowly he got closer to the toy, always on guard. When he finally got to it, he would take a sniff before swatting it to see what it would do. I could spend hours watching him and his methodical ways. In general, I have always enjoyed watching and playing with cats; that is, until I saw this comedic, family drama film. ONCE A YEAR A GROUP OF CATS come together to see which one will be chosen to start a new life. One of the cats however planned on stacking the deck in his favor. With newcomer Francesca Hayward as Victoria, Idris Elba (The Dark Tower, The Mountain Between Us) as Macavity, Judi Dench (Victoria & Abdul, Philomena) as Old Deuteronomy, Rebel Wilson (How to be Single, Isn’t it Romantic?) as Jennyanydots and Jennifer Hudson (The Secret Life of Bees, Dreamgirls) as Grizabella; I am at a loss for words to describe my experience sitting through this odd movie. Having seen the stage play, the transfer of it to the big screen took away a lot of the magic and wonder of seeing the cats perform both on stage and in the audience. Here, I found the actors looked weird and had no screen presence except for Jennifer Hudson. Her scenes were the best in my opinion. Since there really was never a plot to the story, sitting in the theater listening to one song and another; I would have preferred if I could have watched them as music videos on TV or the internet. Visually this picture was pleasing to see with its fanciful scenes and sets; however, it was not enough to keep me engaged. If you have a choice, I would recommend instead of watching this bizarre experiment you volunteer your time at an animal shelter.
1 ¾ stars
I HEARD THE MOST OUTRAGEOUS STORY recently. It was told during a dinner party. In one of the departments of a mid-sized company there were approximately a dozen co-workers. Besides the usual annoyances and bickering that can take place at work, most of the employees got along with each other. However, there was one employee who strongly disliked one of her co-workers; though, no one in the office could tell. This person felt she was slighted by her co-worker, but those facts were not available. Let me call this person Carol, though that is not her real name. One day Carol’s co-worker came into the office and found a small gift-wrapped package on her desk. There was a note attached that only said, “To someone who makes me happy.” The co-worker, who I will call Deb, was stunned. When she opened the box there was a small scented candle. Deb asked her co-workers if they saw who put the gift on her desk, but no one saw anything. A week went by and another gift with another message signed, “Your secret admirer” showed up. It was a mystery because no one came forward to claim they were the one leaving gifts and cards for Deb. That is because Carol was doing it just to drive Deb crazy and make her think there was someone in the company who liked her. After several weeks of doing this Carol stopped, but never told Deb she was the one leaving gifts as a joke. WHEN I HEARD THIS STORY, I could not believe someone would take the time to do such a thing to annoy one of their fellow workers. If that had been done to me, I would have driven myself crazy trying to find out the mystery and who was behind it. Gratefully, I do not work with such an employee and have to wonder what would motivate someone to do such a thing. The more I thought about that story, it suddenly occurred to me that entire scenario could have easily been a scene out of that old board game where players receive clues to try and figure out the mystery. I remember relatives trying to teach me the game, but I was not catching on to it. The reason being was those family members were experienced in playing the game, so just gave me quick directions before we started playing it. They had to tell me what to do as we were playing it and it only frustrated me more. However, if the scenario had been like the story in this film festival winning movie, I would have quickly gotten into playing it. WHEN THE FAMOUS MYSTERY WRITER HARLAN Thrombey, played by Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World, Beginners), was found dead in his mansion; the only people who had been around him were his family members. It would take a super sleuth to try and figure out this mystery. With Daniel Craig (Logan Lucky, Cowboys & Aliens) as Benoit Blanc, Chris Evans (Gifted, Captain America franchise) as Ransom Drysdale, Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Overdrive) as Marta Cabrera and Jamie Lee Curtis (A Fish Called Wanda, True Lies) as Linda Drysdale; this comedic, crime drama was exciting to view. The script was twisted and funny which allowed the actors to have fun with their characters. I enjoyed the twists and turns as the writer took delight in testing the viewers’ ability to figure out the mystery. Keep in mind, I am not one to try and figure out what will happen; I live in the moment and let the story unfold in front of me. This picture provided great entertainment for me as I tried to look at every detail so I could guess the reason behind the mysterious death.
3 2/3 stars
ALL I KNEW ABOUT HIM WAS he had not been feeling well for some time. He was more of an acquaintance to me than a friend; however, we had friends in common. I had seen him enough times to form an impression about him; he was a jokester/comedian type of guy. It appeared to me he enjoyed shocking people by making shocking comments and telling outrageous stories about himself. Whenever we were at a gathering together, I always knew exactly where he was located by the amount of laughter I would hear. Up until hearing about him not feeling well, he worked on being the center of attention at every party. I, nor anyone else I knew, never heard what news he received about his health; but I had to assume it was not good news because of the change in his behavior. From being a talker and comedian, he shied away from the limelight suddenly. When I would see him at a party, he was nothing like he used to be. Instead of telling jokes and stories, he could be found sitting somewhere having a quiet conversation with one or two people. The other thing I noticed was the way he started taking things to the extreme. In other words, if he had the opportunity to drink, he would drink to excess. If drugs were available, he would be the one who did not care how much of it he ingested. I HAVE KNOWN SEVERAL PEOPLE WHO upon receiving bad news about their health acted in a similar way; but I also have seen others who acted in an opposite way. There was a woman I knew who did nothing different than what she did before hearing about her illness. She went on with her life as if the information was non-essential as commenting on the weather. I have wondered at times what would I do if I suddenly received bad news about my health. A couple of years ago when I contracted E Coli, the doctors were doing tests and zeroing on an internal organ that had a suspicious look to it on X-ray. I remember telling everyone in my inner circle the news along with explicit instructions never to ask me about it. When I got updated, I would notify them; but up until that point I did not want to discuss or think about it. Gratefully, everything worked out fine; but I must tell you, there was one point where I thought I was going to give up and not care about anything. Something like what happened to the main character in this romantic, dramatic comedy. NO MATTER WHAT SHE DID IT seemed as if every decision went wrong for Kate, played by Emilia Clarke (Me Before You, Game of Thrones-TV). She did not care because she really should not have been alive. With Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians, A Simple Favor) as Tom, Emma Thompson (Late Night, Saving Mr. Banks) as Petra, Boris Isakovic (White White World, Absolute Hundred) as Ivan and Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Crazy Rich Asians) as Santa; the cast helped elevate the formulaic story. I thought Emilia did a wonderful job because I did not see her once as her character from Game of Thrones. Also, I felt she and Henry worked well together. If you have seen an ad for this movie you probably are aware the soundtrack is filled with George Michael songs. Some of them worked in the story, but others felt out of place for me. The story, for the most part, was predictable; but I did not mind. This was an easy film to watch and whether the execution of it was a bit stale, it still was touching and enjoyable.
2 ½ stars
MAYBE HE THOUGHT HE WAS ENTITLED to his extra benefits, but no one else thought so. He was the head of one of the company’s divisions. When I was first introduced to him, I found him to be a friendly, easy going type fellow. With the position I had at the company, I had to communicate with him from time to time. He was helpful to a point. The reason I say “to a point” is because I soon discovered the information he gave me was not always accurate. Or let me say the information he was giving me was his version of it. When I would follow up with the customer, their version of events did not match. I would find myself in an awkward position of having to go back and forth between the customer and the head of the division; it would drive me crazy. As time passed it became harder to get a hold of this employee. I did not know if he was out of the office on a business call or if he was ill; he never turned on the out of office feature on his email or update his voice message to alert people he was away. It was frustrating for me because I could not complete my work until I got more information out of him. HIS ABSENCES WERE GETTING NOTICED BY more employees. The work he was supposed to do, he started delegating out to his staff to handle. I only found this out after he left the company, but he was turning in receipts for reimbursement that were purchases for his private use, not for the company. It was obvious to me he was taking advantage of the company. In a five-day work week, he would be in the office only 3 days. He always had an excuse that he was visiting a customer or not feeling well; but to keep this up on a weekly basis took some nerve, I have to say. It wasn’t like employees were given an unlimited amount of sick days; everyone in the company was respectful not to abuse this benefit except evidently him. Based on the things I was seeing and hearing, I felt he was taking advantage of the company. I did not know what his reasons were for acting like that, but I became uncomfortable around him. Whatever he thought about the company, the fact remained they were providing him with a good salary and if his actions could cause harm to the company, then that could have an affect on my salary. It is uncomfortable for me to see anyone or anything being taken advantage of which will explain my discomfort while watching this comedic, dramatic crime story. WHEN THE CLIENTELE OF A STRIP CLUB stopped coming after the market crash, a group of the club’s exotic dancers agreed to form a partnership that would drum up business for themselves. Inspired by true events, this film starred Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians, Sound of My Voice) as Destiny, Jennifer Lopez (Second Act, Maid in Manhattan) as Ramona, Julia Stiles (Save the Last Dance, Silver Linings Playbook) as Elizabeth, Keke Palmer (Joyful Noise, Brotherly Love) as Mercedes and Lili Reinhart (The Kings of Summer, Miss Stevens) as Annabelle. The reason to watch this film would be to see the performances by Jennifer and Constance; they really went deep into their characters. I understand Jennifer did some of the actual dancing, but I thought the film editing of her movements was razor sharp. This story was a familiar one; however, there were a few surprises in the script to make it more unique. The female empowerment aspect was obvious, but that did not stop my feelings of uncomfortableness at a few of the scenes. And as a bonus the soundtrack was fun.
2 ½ stars
MISERY LOVES COMPANY EVEN WHEN ONE does not know they are miserable. There was a small group of us friends who got together often to go restaurant hopping. Yes, you heard correctly; we would go from one restaurant to another to another. Some people go bar hopping; but for me, alcohol was never my thing. I would rather chow down on food and snacks. The group of us would start the night at one restaurant, where we would have our main meal. After sitting and talking over tea/coffee after the meal, we would leave and go to a restaurant that made great French fries. I would have a whole plate of them with a soft drink. From there, we would drive around for a while deciding where we wanted to go next. One of my friends was fond of this pancake house, so we would usually wind up there to split a couple of orders of pancakes. I have to say they were always good. To end the evening, we would go to one of my favorite places; it was an old diner where they made these dynamite milkshakes. There was nothing better than ending a night out with friends by having one of these milkshakes. My choice was always the chocolate one. IT FINALLY TOOK AN EXPANDING WAISTLINE to make me confront the reality of what I was doing to myself. I had been stuffing my feelings of self-worth by stuffing my face. I hated myself and realized I was the only one who could change it. I still went out with my friends; but instead of digging into the food at every location, I would just order another cup of tea or something small that would have fewer damaging effects on my body. Exercise became a focus for me, so I started introducing cardio into my daily routines. My friends noticed my physical appearance was slowly changing. They were supportive for the most part; however, I could sense something was going on when I would join them on a restaurant run. I could go into my theories about it; but instead, let me just say I got a sense they were feeling uncomfortable having me sitting with them with my cup of tea, while they were devouring large quantities of food. I understood it because I would probably feel the same way. Eventually, I attended our restaurant runs less and less. Some friends would stay in contact with me, others not so much. I just knew I had to make a change in my life; the same way the main character, in this film festival winner, had to do in her life. AS HER FRIENDS’ LIVES CONTINUED TO grow Brittany, played by Jillian Bell (Rough Night, Office Christmas Party), knew she would have to make a change. However, going to a doctor to score some prescription drugs may not have been the best choice when the doctor refused, telling her she was overweight. With Michaela Watkins (The Back-Up Plan, In a World…) as Catherine, Alice Lee (Wish Upon, Sierra Burgess is a Loser) as Gretchen, Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, Tag) as Demetrius and Utkarsh Ambudkar (Pitch Perfect, Barbershop: The Next Cut) as Jern; this comedic drama was made better by Jillian Bell. She was wonderful in her role, authentically coming across as real and vulnerable. There have been similar stories done before; however, I found this script had more of a raw element to it which only drew me more into the story. Of course, with being able to relate to some of Jillian’s issues, I felt a solid connection to this picture. My guess would be more viewers than not would find something to relate to in this movie. By picking this film to go see, you would be making a healthier choice.
3 ¼ stars
HOW IRONIC, WE WERE HAVING THIS conversation over dinner. Friends for years, we had gotten together to catch up with each other; it had been some time since we had last seen each other. During our meal the conversation had turned to the topic of how busy everyone seemed, including us. I was talking about my schedule and how I was booking dates a couple of months ahead already, to get together with friends and family. My friend did not understand why I was having a challenging time in getting together with people. I explained I enjoyed getting together with people over a meal; but after a couple of times meeting in restaurants, I like to plan some type of activity we can both experience. It does not have to be anything elaborate like a boat cruise or indoor sky diving; it can be as simple as going bowling or to a movie. For me, doing something together adds fiber to the relationship. Let’s face it, how many of us will remember a meal we had from a year or so ago? Ok, well maybe I would; but food is not a reliable memory maker. Seeing a museum exhibit that moves both of you or a play that you thought was fantastic or even horrendous, would stay longer in your memory I believe. THESE SHARED EXPERIENCES PROVIDE ME WITH A deeper emotional connection and understanding to my friends and family members. Being together and witnessing feelings in “real time” is better to me than having someone sitting and telling me about it. The exhilaration of being at a concert, sporting event or discovering a new place on a walking tour; are things that will stay with me. Another option is taking a trip together. They say you really get to know about a person when you take travel with them and I am telling you, it is absolutely true! Granted, this may not always be a positive thing; but you would certainly know more than you did if you hadn’t taken a trip together. One of the fun aspects of sharing an event together is hearing about it years later. Seeing your memory through someone else’s eyes is a fascinating learning experience. You might be surprised to find out something you did not know before. I am not only talking about the activity; it could also be about yourself. Either way, if you want to take a visual trip and see for yourself then watch this film festival winning, comedic drama adventure. IT WAS NOT ENOUGH FOR ZAK, played by newcomer Zack Gottsagen, to only see his idol on television. He needed to escape the nursing home where he lived and go find his favorite wrestler, the Salt Water Redneck, played by Thomas Haden Church (Sideways, Easy A). This movie was a treat. Playing out like a modern Mark Twain story, the filming of it was beautiful. Enough time was given to the scenes to allow the viewer to settle into them. With Shia LaBeouf (Fury, American Honey) as Tyler, Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, The Social Network) as Eleanor and John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone, The Sessions) as Duncan; the acting was outstanding. Shia was such a force on the screen that I was surprised by it. Though I have not been a big fan of Dakota in the past, she was wonderful in this role. Thanks to the direction and script, watching this film was like reading a novel. I felt like I was experiencing things at my speed, allowing me to get the most I could out of the scenes. An original story with a lead actor representing a group that has less exposure on screen; I wish I would have taken someone with me when I went to see this exquisite film.
3 ½ stars
INSTEAD OF REHASHING MY STORY ABOUT the school teacher who told me I would amount to nothing if I decided to become a writer, let me tell you about a friend’s son. When the boy was little, he loved playing with all kinds of building block type toys. He could sit and play by himself for hours with these toys. As he got older the simple building blocks were replaced with more complicated toys; toys that gave him more options in the way he could connect pieces together. He would build these elaborate structures. Some were recognizable as being a castle or a bridge; but others were more freeform and creative. During the latter part of elementary school and beginning of high school, the father began hoping his son would join the family business. Though the son had never shown an inclination to be involved in the business, the father persisted in steering his son into following in his father’s footsteps. This created a wedge between the father and son. From the first set of building blocks the son had received when he was young, all he wanted to do was to build things. He was inclined to go into the field of architecture or construction. The father could not understand why his son wanted to venture into such work when a successful career was right there waiting for him at the family business. WHAT THE FATHER DID NOT UNDERSTAND was the fact that his son had zero passion for the type of work his father did. And I believe that is the key when it comes to deciding what a person wants to do in life. Without passion a person becomes more like a robot, lifeless and unemotional. They just go through the motions at their job, but really do not care about it. I have worked with several individuals who had mentally checked out from the job. They were at the company simply to collect a paycheck; they had no concern for the health of the company as long as it did not affect their paycheck. Those individuals lacked passion in my opinion. As I watched my friend and his son play this tug of war game about coming into the family business, I knew the son would never abide by his father’s wishes. The reason being, I saw how passionate the son was when it came to building things. Those early building blocks when he was a baby planted the seed that let his passion flourish through the years. A similar situation can be found in this musical, comedic drama. NOT FEELING CONNECTED TO HIS SURROUNDINGS British teenager Javed, played by Viveik Kalra (Beecham House-TV, Next of Kin-TV Mini-Series), found someone who understood how he felt; it was the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. Inspired by a true story, this film festival winner also starred Kulvinder Ghir (Bend it Like Beckham, Still Open All Hours-TV) as Malik, Meera Ganatra (Three Dots and a Dash, PREmature-TV Mini-Series) as Noor, Raron Phagura (Doctor Who-TV, Him-TV Mini-Series) as Roops and Dean-Charles Chapman (Game of Thrones-TV, The Commuter) as Matt. Set in the 1980s, the story was familiar to me, having seen it done in other films. The movie started out slow, but I soon was drawn into this picture due to the charms of the cast. There was a sweetness to the script that felt right to me. I also appreciated the underlying story involving the dynamics of Javed’s family within the surrounding area. And of course, there was Springsteen’s music. Though I am familiar with Bruce’s music, I do not own any of his albums. However, I was surprised how well his songs worked within the story. The combination made for an enjoyable viewing experience. To take a familiar story and tweak it enough to make it feel fresh takes true passion. I could totally relate.
A SINGLE NICKNAME CAN PROVIDE A PERSON with unlimited joyfulness. It also can stab you, leaving a noticeable scar on your psyche. I have been the recipient to a multitude of nicknames. Within my family I have a nickname that was given to me at a young age. Only family members refer to me with this nickname. At school I had other nicknames that were ugly; ugly in the sense they sprung from a place of hatred. Anytime I heard one of these nicknames I would mentally hunker down, doing my best to tune out the sounds around me. I wasn’t the only one who was bestowed a nasty nickname. There was one boy who was bestowed with the moniker, Booger Nose. He was called this name for a few years at least. There was another boy who had a Germanic last name, sounding like something large and overbearing. It did not help that the boy was overweight with large features and thick glasses. He received a nickname that was a twist on his last name, making it sound like grizzly bear. It was not a far leap to see the name was picked to match his girth, especially when you would hear the way the boys said it. THE NICKNAMES THAT PIQUE MY EARS are the ones that are not recognizable words. I know someone who is referred to as Deeb by their significant other. The name was a combination of two English words, but you would not be aware of them just by this one name. The words were picked to describe a feeling between the couple; something they only share with each other. There is another person I know who has the nickname T-Dub. It is a combination of a couple of sounds in their name. These types of made up words are terms of endearment between two people; though, others may use the words as a sign of familiarity. I happen to remember every nickname given to me, even though several of them have not been uttered in decades. Some of the people who come up with these nicknames may not realize the damage they are inflicting on the individual. A few of you may remember how I rarely ever utter the “F” word pertaining to overweightness. I have heard that word and its variations enough in my younger days to last a lifetime. With my sensitivity to nicknames, I was immediately struck with the one the main character was given in this film festival nominated movie. WITH SO MANY PEOPLE AROUND HER focused on her weight Willowdean, played by Danielle MacDonald (Every Secret Thing, Patti Cake$), decided to enter a beauty pageant to make a political statement. And the pageant happened to be run by her mother Rosie, played by Jennifer Aniston (Cake, We’re the Millers), a former beauty pageant winner. This comedic, musical drama also starred Odeya Rush (Lady Bird, The Giver) as Ellen, Maddie Baillio (Hairspray Live-TV movie) as Millie and Bex Taylor-Klaus (The Last Witch Hunter, Arrow-TV) as Hannah. Though the story has been done before in various ways, I thoroughly enjoyed the execution of it in this movie. Danielle was wonderful in her role, to the point I could relate to parts of her character. Make no mistake, the message the writers were conveying came across fully without being preachy. Now granted the story hit close to home for me, but I feel I am being objective here. I enjoyed the cast and felt they interacted well together. Part of the reason fell on the director; I thought the subtleness in several scenes was the perfect touch to accentuate the story and message. Willowdean’s nickname is one that I think I will remember for a long time.
3 stars — DVD