IT IS ALL IN THE DELIVERY I discovered. There is something about a dynamic speaker delivering a message to a group. I saw proof of it when I was a reader at a wedding ceremony. Not that I want to brag, but there was a person before me who did a reading that had no feeling to it. More importantly, I did not feel any connection to what the person was saying regarding the couple being married. I looked around the church and saw some of the guests were looking down or whispering to each other. This made me more nervous than I already was since I was to be the next reader to go up to the altar to read a passage. Despite having practiced reading my passage for a couple of weeks, when it was my turn and I stood up, my stomach still trembled with nerves as I made my way to the alter. Once in position at the podium, I looked out at all the guests before taking a deep breath and began to read. I made a point to read slowly and look up at the audience from time to time. My biggest fear was put to rest when I did not fumble mispronouncing any of the words. After the ceremony, people stopped to tell me what a wonderful job I had done. In fact, one guest asked if I would be interested in becoming a reader at her church. The spoken word was alive and well and I felt good about my “performance.” SINCE THAT WEDDING, I HAVE PAID closer attention to speakers I encounter. Whether they are in person or televised, I notice the things they do or not do to engage with their audience. At a convention there was a seller in front of his booth who was talking about the products his company had developed. I happened to be familiar with the products; however, if I hadn’t been, I would not have stopped to listen to this presenter. He was monotone in his delivery, just standing still in one spot. It was a shame because the products were quite good. To make matters worse, this booth was next to another one that had a spokesperson who was dynamic and funny. Too bad their product was limited in its abilities; but you would not know based on all the attendees who were congregated around this booth to listen to the presenter. I could only imagine how the dry speaker next door was feeling with no one paying attention to him. Let us face it, having a spirited person as a spokesperson/leader is what can motivate people to want to be part of the experience they are talking about. There is a clear example of this in this Golden Globe winning, intense biographical drama. AS MORE INDIVIDUALS BECAME ATTRACTED TO what Fred Hampton, played by Daniel Kaluuya (Black Panther, Queen & Slim) was telling them; the more concerned was the FBI. They needed to find someone to get close to Fred and his organization; but who would want to do such a thing? With LaKeith Stanfield (Knives Out, Sorry to Bother You) as Bill O’Neal, Jesse Plemons (The Master, Game Night) as Roy Mitchell, Dominique Fishback (The Hate U Give, The Deuce-TV) as Deborah Johnson and Ashton Sanders (Moonlight, The Equalizer 2) as Jimmy Palmer; this film festival winner grabbed my attention from the beginning and never let go. The entire cast of actors were remarkable in acting out their characters; however, Daniel and LaKeith were the big standouts for me. The script was both powerful and scary at the same time, to the point there were parts of this film that came across as a thriller. Taking the story as it was presented in this film, I could not believe what was being done to Fred Hampton. Not only was this an historical period of time being depicted in this picture; it was being told in a powerful and engaging way that I would soon not forget.
3 2/3 stars
It only took a couple of dates and I knew there was something special going on. There was an easy laughter and a nice flow of bantering between us. I was enjoying the direction both of us were going, into a possible relationship. However, suddenly a detour appeared in the middle of our road; they were being assigned to a work detail that would take them out of state anywhere from 6 to 12 months. We were so new to each other that we decided not to place any pressures on ourselves and to let fate play a hand in this new direction. Not only did we stay in touch by phone after the move, we started up a dialog that was carried out by cards and emails. Being a big fan of greeting cards, I had bought a huge stack of different types of cards and began a process of mailing at least 1 to 2 cards a week. I did not know if it was the cards that sparked our way of communicating, but the cards and emails took on a deeper level of emotional depth. I was allowing myself to be more vulnerable in the things I was writing, while the correspondence I was getting had a new flirty flavor that was intoxicating to me. Though we did not have traditional date nights, we both began to feel a special bond between us. In this dramatic romantic film I loved the way a simple mistake was able to unlock a person’s buried feelings. Nimrat Kaur (One Night with the King, Peddlers) played neglected housewife Ila. Using Mumbai’s lunchbox delivery system every day to send a meal to her husband’s office, one day her prepared meal was accidentally given to office worker Saajan Fernandes, played by Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi, The Amazing Spider-Man). Confused at first, the scrumptious packaged meal was a special treat for Saajan. With the start of a simple thank you note with the containers, a written dialog began between the two strangers. This delicate film festival winning movie carefully layered the story out from scene to scene. I enjoyed the clever way the writers used the character Shaikh, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Kahaani, Gangs of Wasseypur), to play off of Saajan as his new replacement. The pacing tended to be slow at times but I did not mind it. A little more editing could have solved it. This film was such a sweet treat in the way it conveyed its message, showing me how there are no rules when it comes to love. The dialog was in Hindi with English subtitles.
There are those who want a fairy tale ending where the couple live happily ever after. Some people only care to watch topics of a historical nature. Many individuals want to be taken to a completely different world made up of aliens and fanciful creatures. Others seek out movies that will scare and frighten them. That is the beauty of movies; there is enough variety to fulfill everyone’s needs. Now if I tell you this movie was horrifying, I am willing to bet some of you will immediately think there must be some blood or violence involved in this film. There was no such thing, but this dramatic thriller was creepy and disturbing. I think every parent in particular needs to watch this riveting movie. Clive Owen (The Boys Are Back, Killer Elite) and Catherine Keener (Enough Said, Captain Phillips) played Will and Lynn, the parents of 14 year old daughter Annie, played by Liana Liberato (Trespass, Stuck in Love). The parents’ lives disintegrate when they discovered their daughter’s boyfriend was not a student from her school, but someone she met online. Directed by David Schwimmer (Nothing But the Truth, Friends-TV), I thought he did an admirable job for the most part. There was predictability to the story but the acting won me over. Besides the excellent work by the cast members I mentioned, there were solid performances by Viola Davis (Prisoners, Beautiful Creatures) as Gail Friedman and Jason Clarke (Lawless, The Great Gatsby) as Doug Tate. The flashing of text messages on the screen was distracting for me in the beginning, but I began to like the way it moved the story forward. I was already fearful of the internet, but now I am creeped out even more due to the story in this drama. Considering the topic, I felt both the writers and director created a starkly real portrayal. In a way one could look at this film festival winner as a coming of age story and I would not have an issue with it. I just find it sad that things shown in this film are now part of a young child’s life these days. Whether you want happy endings, different realities or history lessons in your movies; this film can provide these things for you. Just not in the way you would have imagined.
3 stars — DVD
Technically it was a working vacation, but it was an experience of extremes for me. In that one time period I went from a climate of 90 degrees down to zero. Having agreed to help a friend move from Phoenix, Arizona to Colorado Springs, Colorado; I flew out to pack up their house and load up the 18 foot moving van they rented. Our first stop was the Grand Canyon. Both of us were so stunned with its beauty that we walked around as much of the canyon as we could in the one day, oblivious we were getting sunburnt from the hot sun. After many ice packs and bottles of aloe vera lotion we reached our destination, despite cruising at 25 mph through the Colorado Rockies. I have to tell you, reaching PIke’s Peak was a thrill for me. The idea that a short time ago I was walking around in a T-shirt and shorts and now I was wearing multiple layers to stay warm was crazy. A high point of the trip was taking the cog rail train to the top of the peak. In the comfort of the rail car I saw amazing landscapes, where ice had frozen and thawed so many times that it formed into razor sharp edges that glistened in the sunlight. Once we reached the top I walked out to the looking point and relished the silence around me, peering at the vastness of the land that laid below me. The cog rail train was the only way we could have ever reached what I considered to be the top of the world. I have no understanding why someone would rather use their hands and feet to climb a mountain. This is why I sat through this documentary wondering why anyone would put themselves through such an ordeal. In the summer of 2008 twenty-two climbers made their way up one of the most dangerous mountains in the world, K2 in the Himalayan mountain range. Only eleven climbers survived the experience. Visually this was a gorgeous movie to watch with some breathtaking scenes, like the one showing K2’s shadow as it spread across the topography. I could see why this film festival winner won for editing, scenes were seamless and that is why I was uncomfortable with this movie. Since I could not tell which footage was real or reenactments using actors, I was uneasy watching the harsher scenes. Listening to the multiple theories and viewpoints being stated by so many people only made me confused. As a result my attention wandered during parts of the film. Adding in my lack of understanding for such an undertaking, I felt as if I was just sitting there and watching a series of beautiful postcards.
In a child’s life there is a short span of time that heralds a final hurrah to their innocent youth. It takes place just before the child begins to understand the rules and customs of their culture and government. My memory of that time is still clear in my mind. It happened in 7th grade when my best friend and I were going out after dinner. His mother wanted to make sure we would be home before curfew. I had never heard the word “curfew” before and asked my friend about it as we left his house. When he told me there was a city law that made it illegal for people under a certain age to be out after a particular time, I was outraged. As soon as I came home I had to ask my parents about it. I was stunned when they confirmed what my friend’s mother had said to us. From that point on I began to understand there would be rules and regulations outside of my home that I would have to adhere to or face the consequences. Remembering those times made watching this dramatic film all the more amazing to me. From a country that had no movie theaters, where the one and only female director had to do everything from the inside of a van away from her male workers; the fact this movie was even made was somewhat of a miracle. It is the first film to come out of Saudi Arabia. Newcomer Waad Mohammed played 10 year old, hightop sneaker wearing, Wadjda. Wanting to beat her friend Abdullah, played by newcomer Abdullrahman Al Gohani, in a race; Wadjda came up with some creative ways to earn money to buy a bicycle. It did not matter to her that women riding bicycles was frowned upon by everyone around her. This film festival winner and official submission for the 2014 Best Foreign Language Film category of the Academy Awards had a gentle, humorous story. I found it fascinating the way writer/director Haifaa Al-Mansour created what life was like for men and women in Saudi Arabia without being judgmental. In addition, it was curious how this was the first film for many of the actors. The only main character listed as an actress was Ahd (The Imperialists are Still Alive), who played Ms. Hussa. Part of the charm of this film was being exposed to a culture that was so foreign to me. Despite the cultural differences, I could relate to Wadjda’s rebellious streak. Arabic with English subtitles.
3 1/4 stars
All the details were double checked, everything was in order for your spectacular trip abroad. Part of your itinerary was having dinner at a famous restaurant; in fact, you had to rent a car to visit the eatery. When the day finally arrived, the weather did not cooperate; it was dreary and damp. The incredible views the restaurant was known for were now shrouded in a gray, misty fog. At least you had the meal to look forward to that food critics had fawned over. Long story short, the food was a disappointment. Leaving the restaurant you decided to take a walk. As you reached an intersection the sound of a small bell tinkling got your attention. A bicyclist, riding with a basket of bread loaves, passed in front of you. He parked alongside a building. The aroma coming off of the freshly baked bread made your taste buds yearn. The small golden crusted loaf you purchased weighed heavy in your hand. As you walked away you took your first bite and the thick forgiving dough filled your mouth with the most wonderful taste. At the same time you took notice of your surroundings and realized there was a gap in the sky where the low hanging sun looked like it separated a venetian blind to peer out. A single ray of sunshine lightened the street you were on. From out of the drabness wooden shutters bursted into color, the cobblestones of the street wet with condensation glistened and the hanging baskets of flowers from windowsills took a last sigh before nightfall. It lasted only a moment but you were at the right place at the right time to see it. I had the exact same feeling after seeing this superb film festival winning movie. After weeks of sitting through several mediocre movies, this film made up for all of my long hours of sitting in a movie theater seat. Brie Larson (The Spectacular Now, 21 Jump Street) and John Gallagher Jr. (Pieces of April, Jonah Hex) played foster care facility employees Grace and Mason. Their daily roller coaster ride of emotions would reveal similarities they shared with the young adults, affecting their own personal relationship. The brilliant filming of this movie made each character real with feelings. I thought the acting was amazing from everyone including Rami Malek (The Master, Larry Crowne) and Kaitlyn Dever (Bad Teacher, J. Edgar) as Nate and Jayden. I was so totally immersed into the story that I forgot the characters were actors. There were several scenes that looked like I was viewing actual news footage, that is how convincing this complete film was for me. This movie represented that perfect moment I have been waiting for all year. A couple of brief scenes showed blood.
Little did I know when I moved into my house there was a future role model living next door, who would alter my journey in life. My neighbor was an elderly woman in her early 80’s, living alone in her house. In summer she would be out in the high heat, mowing her lawn with an old push wheel mower. Autumn would come and she would be up on a ladder by the side of her house, cleaning out the fallen leaves from her gutters. Though I offered to help, she would be out shoveling her sidewalks after every snowstorm in winter. I wanted to be just like her when I grew old. Because of her spry active lifestyle, I altered the way I taught my fitness and yoga classes. The focus changed towards functional movements. I would tell my classes the reason we were doing a certain movement was so we could lift ourselves out of a chair, when we were 80 years old. In his first leading role James Cromwell’s (The Queen, Babe) character Craig Morrison could certainly be considered a role model. Based on a true story, Craig and his wife Irene, played by Genevieve Bujold (Anne of the Thousand Days, Coma), had been happily married for several decades. With Irene beginning to show signs of dementia, Craig decided to build a house that would be more manageable for both of them. Just like his father before him, Craig planned to build the house himself with his own plans; however, there was this little piece of paper called a permit that would challenge him in more ways than he could have ever imagined. James and Genevieve made such a beautiful couple; I was absorbed into their story. The acting was superb as we saw how their daily lives were being affected with her forgetfulness. This was one of those movies that was kept simple because the script was sufficient enough to let the viewer feel the emotional power of its words. I not only enjoyed the beauty of this film festival winner, I appreciated the way this drama reminded me of my dear old neighbor.
3 1/3 stars
Where yesterday’s movie review talked about the internal struggle between the heart and the mind, today’s movie made me think about the external forces one could face regarding love. I find it perplexing when I hear people say, “He comes from a good family” or “You cannot marry someone outside your faith.” What do these things mean? To me being able to say, “I love you,” is one of the most profound statements a human being can say. It supersedes what anyone else has to say on the subject. Looking at relationships historically, marriages were arranged for various reasons. In some cases families were joined for political reasons, while others were done simply to combine farmlands. In this quiet drama the attempt to join two people in marriage was done, in my opinion, for selfish reasons. Yiftach Klein (Policeman, Noodle) played Yochay, the brother-in-law of Shira, played by Hadas Yaron (Out of Sight). When Yochay’s wife (Shira’s sister) died during childbirth; Shira’s mother Rivka, played by Irit Sheleg (Night Terrors, Abba Ganuv III), suggested Shira marry her brother-in-law and become a mother for the new born baby. On one level the story made me uncomfortable; however, when I viewed the movie as a glimpse into a family’s struggle between old world traditions and modern independent thinking, I was able to see it as a historical study. This film festival winner provided a peek into an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community in Tel Aviv Israel. The acting was well done by Hadas and Yiftach, as they used their bodies to convey the enormous pressures being placed on them. However, there was a negative side in focusing on the physical. I wished there had been more verbal interactions between the characters because I found myself getting bored. Gratefully the filming had a stark, sharp look to it. The way Shira’s pale whiteness contrasted with the darkly clothed men around her was interesting to watch. It may be due to my feelings about love being a personal thing, but I found this film to be somewhat sad. It is already hard enough when the heart and mind wrestle over the direction of love; but then adding outside influences creates a bigger challenge. Hebrew with English subtitles.
2 1/2 stars
There is a game a friend of mine likes to play whenever we get together. Wherever we may be, he will point out different people and ask me if I think they are beautiful. I always reply with the same answer that I guess so, but I do not know what they are like on the inside. He will try to force me to make a judgement based on these people’s outside appearance, though I have explained to him that the surface is only a covering for the real person inside. Numerous times I have told him that making a quick judgement on a person’s looks is not what I am about. A beautiful covering over an evil soul is like putting a fresh coat of paint on a dilapidated house. You may love the color of the paint but the falling roof can kill you. This movie based on a true story showed the harsh reality of a person being judged by the color of their skin. Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda, The Secret Life of Bees) played Sandra Laing, a dark skinned girl born to white Afrikaner parents in South Africa during the time of apartheid. With her curly hair and richly colored skin, Sandra fought to find her place despite society’s restrictions. Alice Krige (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Contract) and Sam Neill (Jurrassic Park franchise, The Vow) were wonderful playing Sandra’s parents Alice and Abraham Laing. Sophia did an incredible job of acting and in a way, I could relate to her feeling like an outsider. This film festival winner was a bit hard to watch for me, since I am uncomfortable when I witness prejudice. To see how Sandra and the black inhabitants of the country were treated solely on the color of their skin was distressing. Sandra and her parents truly were brave souls. I think I will suggest to my friend that he watch this amazing movie.
3 1/4 stars — DVD
In my family once we sit ourselves down at the kitchen or dining room table, we are there for the night. None of this retiring to the den or let us go to the basement stuff; we just sit and enjoy our food all the way through dessert. I like to say life is uncertain, eat dessert first. When I was little I realized the seat of power was my mother and her sisters sitting around the kitchen table. All decisions were decided by them as my father and uncles were seated around the television set. Because of my upbringing, I enjoyed this simple, bittersweet movie. Watching the extended family with its love for each other and their dysfunctions brought back memories to me. Sixty year old Slimane Beiji, played by newcomer Habib Boufares, was struggling with his dockyard job at the port of Sete. His hours were reduced to the point he was struggling to make ends meet. One form of payment was his ability to bring fresh fish to his children and ex-wife, who would make the best fish couscous. As Slimane’s family crowded around the table sharing stories and food, he retired to his small room, that he rented nearby. When a plate of food was sent to him, Slimane saw an opportunity to make a dream he had come true. He would open a restaurant. With little resources, Slimane would need to depend on his family to make it happen, plus his ex-wife’s couscous. The majority of the cast were non-actors which made family scenes more believable. I loved the way the intimacy was formed with the close up filming. The family dynamics seemed utterly real as events played out. This multi film festival winner was a touching story that made the heart ache. French and Arabic with English subtitles.
3 stars — DVD