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
I REMEMBER A DATE I WENT ON years ago, where at the end of it I asked how they felt about our time together. The answer I got was a complete shock to me. I was told that I was standoffish and appeared unemotional. Not that I was fishing for a compliment, but this was not the type of answer I ever expected. I thought I came across as relaxed and easy going, with a touch of self-deprecating humor. It seemed as if we were on two different dates. Inside my mind I quickly did a replay of our conversation and the topics we discussed. I was able to get a couple of laughs out of some of the things I said, and I know I was paying attention because I did ask questions to further explain things or get a better sense how they felt about the subject we were discussing. Usually at the end of a date I would ask the person if they would be interested in getting together again; regarding this date, I knew there would be no point to ask such a question. My feelings had gotten bruised a bit; I wasn’t going to take a chance of them getting hurt more. I did, however, thank them for their honesty even though I just felt confused about the whole evening. ON THE WAY HOME AND FOR the rest of the weekend I mulled over that date. Calling friends for feedback and input, I really wanted to see if I was missing something. It turned into a thought-provoking time for me. After all the discussions and going through memories, I realized that I did indeed keep a tough façade around me. My friends pointed out that when I am around unfamiliar people I become more reserved, observing everyone with little talking. Once I get comfortable then I begin to relax around strangers and can start to joke and carry on a conversation. I wondered why I was cautious around strangers, but I soon found my answer after delving deeper inside of myself. Having always felt like an outsider, never fitting into a specific group, I was perceived as being odd or just different. As some of you may know, being different in school can be a disadvantage and at my school I was definitely at a disadvantage. When I got teased and picked on for being different, I started to learn to put up a hard front. I was going to show “them” that they could not get the best of me; so, I shut down. I buried my feelings to show I could not get hurt. The main character in this dramatic comedy would certainly understand. NOTHING WAS MORE IMPORTANT TO KATE, played by Taylor Schilling (The Lucky One, Orange is the New Black-TV), than her job. Even when her brother desperately needed her to watch her niece Maddie, played by Bryn Vale (Red Band Society-TV), for one night. With Kate McKinnon (The Spy Who Dumped Me, Rough Night) as Jill, Brian Tyree Henry (Widows, If Beale Street Could Talk) as Pete and Matt Walsh (Into the Storm, Veep-TV) as Dan; this film festival nominated movie’s story was one that had been done before. However, I will say the script offered an edgier version of that story. The cast worked well together, and I was impressed with the performances from Taylor and Bryn. The idea of not fitting in really stood out for me and I had to give credit to the writers for carrying that message through the story. Though I could tell how the story would play out, it did not take away my focus from watching this humorous picture. Also, it felt good to sit in a theater with other viewers who felt the same way as we all chuckled at the same things.
2 ½ stars
THERE ARE TWO SCENARIOS WHEN I am in a car that scare me. One is driving in a desolate area and the other is driving during frigid, icy conditions. I was vacationing in both South and North Dakota one summer. The landscape was startling beautiful; I was based in Sioux Falls, SD. My plans were set to drive up and visit sites in North Dakota. Once on the road out of the city I could not get over how far I could see down the road. Literally, the road went all the way to the horizon. That was the cool part; however, what soon made me uncomfortable was the lack of civilization. I was the only car on the road; there were no buildings, gas stations or rest stops even. My mind was brewing with fear as I wondered what would happen if the car broke down and I could not get any cell phone service. All around me were these magnificent monoliths of stone and rock, looking like bulked up defenders frozen in time. The further I drove away from Sioux Falls the more anxious I became. Out of fear I drove faster, figuring the quicker I could get to ND the less chance of getting stuck somewhere. It may not make sense, but I significantly cut down my travel time by going 102 miles per hour. AS FOR DRIVING IN WINTERY WEATHER, I actually do fine in snow; however, when I have to be out late at night when there is less activity, my fear is something could happen, and I will be stuck somewhere without any help. Because I am hyper-sensitive to the cold I worry I could freeze to death (I know, so dramatic) or lose my outer extremities to frostbite. My hands go numb when I am shoveling the sidewalk around my house; think about what if my car skids on ice and into a tree? Without help around or far away, I could get into a serious situation. This is the reason why I always keep a flashlight, a couple of blankets, a large bag of cat litter and water in the car. My body already gets a reaction whenever I first get into a car that has been sitting out in the cold; so, you can imagine what would happen to me if I was stuck for hours in a dead car. In the scheme of things, I know there are many other predicaments that are far worse; for example, the one that took place in this film festival nominated dramatic adventure. THE CHOICES LOOKED BLEAK FOR OVERGARD, played by Mads Mikkelsen (The Hunt, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story); either stay within the confines of his crashed airplane or venture across the frozen tundra in the hopes of finding help. Neither decision would be a sure bet. With Maria Thelma Smaradottir (Black’s Game, Fangar-TV mini-series) as the young woman, this movie was tough to watch at times. Most of the story was told through visuals since there was maybe a dozen or so words spoken. However, it was those visuals that kept the viewers’ attention. Mads was quite good in the role and I must tell you, there were times where it was painful to watch him; that was the level of intensity that got generated with the directing. I will admit there were times where I felt it was enough already; I would lose interest from time to time. Then there were other times where I cringed in my seat. It took work to sit through this picture and the ending did not satisfy me as much as I would have liked, but I enjoyed this film and only hope I never find myself in the same predicament out in the cold.
LOOKING AT THE SPREADSHEET OF THEIR family tree, I noticed it was quite full. Their family tree showed generation after generation going back hundreds of years. If I would have mine done it would have a few gaps in it. With my deceased relatives who immigrated from basically three countries, I am aware of the ones who grew old here in the states. However, the ones who remained behind are only known to me by faded photographs lying in a drawer. None of my relatives were smiling in the photos. How I wish I knew more about them and the life they had growing up. There were a few photos of my relatives dressed in bulky winter coats with fur trimmed collars and elaborate embroidery down the front, engulfing the buttons and buttonholes. One of the photographs had three family members standing side by side with a small pony behind them. How I wanted to know what the story was about the pony; was it their pet? Were they at a farm or a zoo? What if they had survived and made the trip to the states, settling down and starting a family? I always thought about the relatives I would never have because of relatives dying before having children. A group of my relatives had died during the wars. I HAVE VERY FEW FAMILY MEMENTOS or keepsakes that were handed down to me. There are only 2 items that came from overseas, a small engraved silver wine cup and a gold coin. The cup’s story told to me was it only had been used during special family occasions. More than likely it would have held some type of wine. As for the gold coin, I never heard a story about it except how old it was, and some family members believe it belonged to a great, great, great relative of mine. All these deceased relatives can be traced down to me, yet I do not have any of their history. I so want to know what they did, what they ate, what they wanted in their lifetime. Imagine if I knew some of their stories and was able to trace them back to some type of historical event; wouldn’t that be awesome? Seeing the Eiffel Tower being erected, or the Winter Palace being built; I would so enjoy knowing the history of that time that cannot be found in any textbook. If you want to see history come alive and maybe spark a thought inside of you then watch this amazing documentary. WISHING TO FEEL A DEEPER CONNECTION to his deceased relative, director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings franchise, King Kong) and his team poured over thousands of decaying World War I film clips from Britain’s Imperial War Museum, hoping to bring some of them back to life in a way that had never been done before. Simply stated, this historical war film was extraordinary. I have seen movies and film clips about World War I, but I have never seen actual footage that looked so natural. Usually actual footage that old has scratches and light distortions; but, the path Peter painstakingly took created a sense of dialog and a sense of the times. The story to this film is the minor aspect of it; pretty much everyone has some familiarity to World War I. However, to see this actual footage enhanced to such a high level made me feel like I was seeing something brand new. Peter introduced this documentary and encouraged the audience to stay after the credits to listen and watch him explain some of the things they did to create this visual masterpiece. I highly recommend you stay afterwards to see what people did to keep this portion of history alive.
3 ¼ stars
DOES THE FLAME FROM AN EXPENSIVE stove cook your food better than a flame from a cheap one? I have been wondering this since I had the opportunity to cook on a high-tech cooktop range. The knob lights up red when you turn a burner on, after emitting 3-4 clicks; I know it is a safety type of feature, but I am not sure what is clicking. This range and double ovens are something I have seen in real estate listings of high-end properties. I don’t know how, but I get a weekly email of places up for sale in the metropolitan area. Most of them are super luxurious; properties I have only seen in a movie or on the news. As I look through the photo gallery of rooms I am always struck by the amount of money it must have cost to furnish each room. Floors made of exotic woods, countertops of a vibrant mineral, light fixtures that dazzle the eyes; the places look like modern palaces. Some homes have so many rooms, I swear a person could easily get lost in them. And do you know what my biggest question is about these properties? Why does a person need so much? PERSONAL WEALTH HAS BECOME SUCH A status symbol for society. When a person is rich, most people consider that individual successful. I do not feel that way. Just because a person makes a large amount of money doesn’t mean they are rich with kindness, compassion or love for example. Being a people watcher, I am always surprised when I see how children and adults treat their personal items. Kids abusing expensive electronic devices by throwing them on the floor or spilling stuff on them; I would not give them to a child until they were responsible enough to use it. There seems to be this obsession of acquiring the latest and greatest things, besides making ourselves look younger and more beautiful. I look at people who have had plastic surgery to make themselves appear younger and all I see is a face vacuum sealed onto a skull; they can barely move their lips and forget about being able to show emotion on their faces. Why does someone think lips plumped out to look like two pieces of sushi on their face is desirable? I think part of it is due to what is being marketed and advertised these days. This documentary delves into this obsession with wealth that seems prevalent throughout society. WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY LAUREN GREENFIELD (The Queen of Versailles, Thin), this film festival nominee had an ambitious goal of showing us a multitude of examples regarding the theme of this movie. I have enjoyed Lauren’s previous works. She shows things to viewers; allowing them to make up their own minds, without being preachy. There were some startling scenes throughout this film that kept me engaged with the story line, but I found the message did not resonate as much. Using her own life as part of the story bogged down the flow of ideas; yet, I felt the topic was totally spot on as Lauren tackled wealth, status and fame. These three led into categories of plastic surgery and porn. Maybe if she would have cut back a bit to focus more on one of them, this picture would have been more direct. Though I never lost interest in this documentary, there was a part of me that felt nonplussed. Maybe because I am not monetarily wealthy or care about status and fame made me feel this way; but I will say, there was enough in this picture worth viewing.
2 ¼ stars — DVD
IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS, THEY may seem insignificant on your life’s journey; but they can have a lasting impact that changes your course. Looking at my evolution for loving animals, there was one breed of dog I did not like. I remember what happened that day, recalling the exact streets I was bicycling on. On a side street, I was riding my bike in a relative’s neighborhood. Suddenly a dog bolted out of a yard; I heard the barking first before seeing where it was coming from. This dog was heading straight to me and from my first glance the dog did not look friendly. I pedaled that bicycle faster than I had ever before as I raced down the street towards the intersection. Because I was afraid of what the dog could do to me, I did not stop as I swerved into the cross street which was a main thoroughfare. A car nearly hit me as the driver laid on his horn while dodging around me. I did not stop pedaling for blocks until I no longer heard the dog barking. That one incident stayed with me for years; I stayed away from that particular dog breed. It was not until college before I became comfortable around that breed, due to some of the classes I was enrolled in. THERE ARE SO MANY EXAMPLES OF little occurrences having a profound effect on one’s self; just off the top of my head I can recall several. From the name calling I endured when I was a kid, I believe I have an extra sensitivity towards the underdog. A person I knew would never eat fried food because when they were a child they accidentally were splattered with hot cooking oil. There was a friend of a friend I knew who would not wear any clothing that had a turtleneck or simply tight collar; she had a choking episode when she was a child and that constricted feeling was something she never forgot. I am sure you have come across this when you hear about a celebrity’s childhood; where they experienced something that planted the seed to create, let us say, the musical artist or inventor that they had become. This is one of the reasons I am always saying, there are no accidents; there is a reason for everything.” Everything I just told you here came about from my viewing of this dramatic, musical, film festival nominated movie. SUFFERING A HORRIFIC TRAGEDY IN SCHOOL put Celeste on a different life path, with the help of her sister. Starring Natalie Portman (Annihilation, Black Swan) as Celeste, Jude Law (Black Sea, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald) as the Manager, Raffey Cassidy (Dark Shadows, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) as young Celeste/Albertine, Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty, A Quiet Passion) as Josie the publicist and Christopher Abbot (It Comes at Night, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) as the journalist; this picture started out with a powerful impact. Because of it I was expecting a different type of movie from what appeared on screen. Natalie gave an excellent performance, but it was not enough to hold my interest due to the confusing script. It seemed as if there were several story lines that could have easily taken charge; but none did, resulting in boredom for me. I did find the music interesting which helped me get through this picture. Honestly, I found this film overly self-indulgent. I could see some of the points the writers/director were trying to make but I did not find my viewing experience entertaining. Maybe somewhere down the road it will hit me that I have discovered or have been acting a certain way because I saw this film. For now, I could have waited a while before paying to see this picture.
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
THOUGH SHE APPEARED TO BE AN OLDER woman, I would never ask her age. She had been taking my yoga class for several weeks, bringing her own yoga mat and a bottle of water. Maybe I am stereotyping; but she had long gray hair pulled back into a ponytail that trailed halfway down her back, looking like a former hippie. Every week while I lead the class into warming up poses I provide a little distraction by listing celebrity birthdays for the week. One of the reasons I do this is to break the ice with any new participants who have that “new kid on the block” mentality, coming to class for the 1st time. I will ask the class if they know so-and-so, wait if anyone guesses what the celebrity did to make he/she famous, then reveal their age. So, this one week after I went through my list of celebrity birthdays, the older woman piped up it was also her birthday. I and the rest of the class wished her well. She then said she was happy to say she was 82 years old. I knew she was an older individual but honestly, I would never have guessed that was her age. She told us she loves yoga and has been doing it for decades; what an inspiration. I WAS JUST AS FORTUNATE IN the work world to have met people like that woman in my yoga class. They loved their job, so they stayed employed way past their retirement age. At one of the companies I worked at, the owner came to work every day. He was always busy and kept this up way into his 90’s. There certainly is some truth in finding something you love or are passionate about to feel successful. I had a relative who would always say they were not going to work, they were going to play because they enjoyed what they did at their job. You know how some people are married to their work; where all they think and talk about is their job? Well they do not necessarily love what they do; they have formed an identity for themselves based on their occupation. The individuals I have referred to each have their identity in tack; they just want to continue what they do because they love it. I feel this way about doing my movie reviews and hope I can continue doing them for a long time because they bring me such joy. The same thing can be said about the main character in today’s comedic, crime drama. FORREST TUCKER, PLAYED BY ROBERT REDFORD (The Natural, Truth); was good at what he did, besides getting immense joy out of it. The only downside was the consequences would be steep if he had a misstep. With Casey Affleck (A Ghost Story, The Finest Hours) as John Hurt, Sissy Spacek (The Help, Coal Miner’s Daughter) as Jewel, Danny Glover (Proud Mary, Back in the Day) as Teddy and Tom Waits (Seven Psychopaths, Down by Law) as Waller; this film festival nominee was based on a true story and what a story! Rumor has it this will be Robert’s last acting role. If it is he at least can end his chapter on a high note with this role. It was such a treat to watch him and Sissy, two seasoned actors, play off each other. The story started out slow for me but continued building itself up to a point where I was enjoying watching the mixture of emotions that took place on screen. It was obvious Robert was having a good time doing this character since it came across fully. I must give everyone who worked on this film credit; this will sound cheesy but if there was any labor involved in the making of this picture it was a labor of love.
IF YOU ARE LIKE ME AS I believe many of you are in this respect, you don’t like spending your money on something that winds up not giving you satisfaction. I cannot tell you how many times I have read a glowing restaurant review, gone to the place and wound up disliking what I ordered. In this type of scenario, I am more disappointed than upset and willing to give them another try if everything else about the place was a positive experience. What annoys me to no end is buying some product that does not perform as advertised. Several years ago, I bought a bookcase I saw in a catalog. I knew I would have to assemble it, but I was willing to do it since it was exactly the style I wanted to get. When the box came I was surprised that it was not as heavy as I had expected it to be. Taking out the pieces to put together, I discovered the wood used was extremely light in weight, either some type of pressed board or plywood. As I was tightening one of the screws, it made a split in the wood I had to glue back together. To say I was upset would be an understatement. WHAT I FIND MORE TROUBLING IS the number of items being made today that are of a poorer quality. It is as if everyone is making disposable products that are not built to last. A friend of mine bought air filters; when he unpacked and tried to install them into his humidifier they did not fit. Somehow the dimensions were off rendering them useless. Another friend of mine bought a coffee table from a furniture store. The first time they delivered the table it had a crack in it. The 2ndtable they delivered had a stain on the marble and get this, customer service told her that it was just the natural colorization of the marble. They were not going to take the coffee table back until she threatened to get the Better Business Bureau involved, can you believe it?!?! With everything going up in price, it goes without saying, each of us expects to get something for our money. Even at the grocery store, I use the store’s app that is supposed to automatically discount certain items when they get scanned at the checkout counter. More times than not it doesn’t discount the item; I then must go to customer service to have them refund me the difference. I should have done the same thing and asked for a refund at the movie theater, when I saw this action, crime comedy film. WHEN PERSONAL EMAIL ACCOUNTS ARE GETTING hacked and exposed for all to see, the townsfolk band together to look for the culprit. They wanted to administer their own version of justice. This film festival nominated movie starred Odessa Young (Looking for Grace, The Daughter) as Lily, Hari Nef (Mapplethorpe, Transparent-TV) as Bex, Suki Waterhouse (Insurgent, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Sarah, Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls, For Colored Girls) as Nance and newcomer Abra as Em. On some level I believe I understood what the writers were trying to do with this story. I could see where they were making a statement about mob mentality, obsessions, electronic dependence and a generation’s culture; but, the presentation in this film was excruciating to watch. Maybe this was a dark, comedic satire but because I lost interest as the story unfolded I did not care. There was blood and violence that turned me off further. I saw some advertisements that mentioned this film is in the same vein as Heathers and The Purge; I wish I could purge my memory of this picture and get my money back.
1 ½ stars