EVERY TIME I SAW THEM I would always wonder why they wanted to be with each other. From what I saw, they were not nice to each other. Actually, I think it had more to do about respect; they did not have respect for each other. Whenever we were together in a social setting, they would inevitably get into an argument with each other. And they were nasty about it. It is one thing to argue in a rational and respectful way over an issue; but, they would call each other names and do something that is one of my pet peeves: bringing up something from the past that was never discussed at that time. You may have encountered this yourself when somebody would say, “Remember when you did such and such,” and you have no idea what they are talking about because they never brought it to your attention back then. I cannot tell you how much this annoys me. If I do something that unintentionally offends, upsets or bothers someone; I want them to tell me right then and let us talk about it. To bring it up months later, where I get blindsided, is something I find to be manipulative. IT IS POSSIBLE THESE TWO INDIVIDUALS love each other; they just don’t like each other. Or, another possibility is they are both co-dependent with one another. I was in a relationship with someone who was manipulative and passive aggressive; two traits that are not fun to deal with, I am here to tell you. Until you catch on to them, you might find yourself doing things you normally would not have considered prior to them. Gratefully, I eventually caught on and ended the relationship; it simply was not a healthy union. However, I have seen other people in similar situations who remain in non-healthy relationships. I am not one to judge, but I do wonder what pleasure they get from their partner that keeps them locked in such a union. There was a couple I knew years ago who on the surface were toxic. They would yell, argue and manipulate each other on a constant basis; however, there were times where they were affectionate with each other. It was so weird to me. How could you have this explosive battle with someone and in the next minute be flirtatious and cutesy? I still remember hearing one of them threaten that they were going to leave the marriage all the time. Maybe this is one of the downsides to love; it can cause havoc in one’s life. It certainly influenced the couple in this dramatic, musical romance. THERE WAS SUCH A STRONG PASSIONATE connection between Zulu and Wiktor, played by Joanna Kulig (The Innocents, The Crime-TV) and Tomasz Kot (Gods, Bikini Blue) and that was exactly the problem with their relationship. This film festival winning, and Oscar nominated movie from Poland was beautifully filmed. Shot in black and white, I felt doing it this way was more effective in presenting a precise no-frills story. Even the script did not have any excessive dialog, which ultimately kept the story going forward. Taking place during the 1950s in communist Poland, the settings and costumes were perfect for the settings. With Borys Szyc (The Mole, Symmetry) as Kaczmarek, Agata Kulesza (Ida, These Daughters of Mine) as Irena and Cedric Kahn (Up for Love, Miss and the Doctor) as Michel; I felt everyone was connected to the story, putting on a wonderful show of acting. Now there were times where I felt the story dragged; particularly when the scene presented a similar situation I felt I had seen previously. However, it was not enough to make me feel like I was having a love/hate relationship with this film. Polish and French were spoken with English subtitles.
THOUGH HER EYES WERE COVERED WITH OVERSIZED sunglasses, the sun was reflected in each lens to make it look like she had stars in her eyes. I stared at the photograph for some time, wondering if the photographer realized that when they captured the image. Hanging next to this photograph was one that depicted something completely different. It was done in black and white and at first glance I thought it was a photo of a closed toilet seat. The camera had shot it from the front at eye level to the seat. I assumed the photographer was attracted to the dark splotches on the seat’s rims; personally, I thought it looked nasty. As I read the information card next to the photograph it turned out the subject of the photo was actually a small bunch of ripe bananas, done in closeup. I was surprised and had to look back at the photo hanging on the wall. Now that I knew what it was I could make out the three bananas stacked on each other; what a hoot! In photography I have always gotten a kick out of taking photos of ordinary things in such a way as to play with the viewer’s perceptions of it, turning the subject into something extraordinary. AS I WALKED AROUND THE GALLERY I saw some gorgeous photographs. When the subject was human, I spent more time in front of it wondering why the person was photographed; what was their back story? One photo had an elderly woman sitting on a park bench. She was knitting a scarf while wearing it. The finished end was draped around her neck then rolled down her chest to her hands that held two large knitting needles. The needles looked like they were pointing to one spot. I wondered why the woman was sitting outside with her knitting; was she waiting for someone, did she like sitting outdoors because of the lighting and temperature? Did the photographer even know her, I wondered? Usually I have seen people knitting in waiting rooms; this photo piqued my curiosity. There were other photographs that showed individuals in a variety of emotional states. Coming out of one of the photos was an anguished looking woman who looked like her skin was melting; she looked deflated and sad. I came up with a few scenarios that all ended in some type of tragedy. But isn’t that what art is supposed to do; make one think and react to its content? That is exactly what was taking place in this film festival winning drama; the subject’s story came to life right before my eyes. CLEO, PLAYED BY NEWCOMER YALTA APARICIO, was the maid for a middle-class family that had some issues behind its façade. Set in Mexico City during the 1970s, this movie also starred Marina de Tavira (The Skies-TV; Love, Pain and Vice Versa) as Sra. Sofia, newcomer Diego Cortina Autrey as Tono, newcomer Carlos Peralta as Paco and newcomer Jorge Antonio Guerrero as Fermin. Directed and written by Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity, Children of Men), this film was visually stunning. Shot in black and white, Alfonso took his time with each scene. There was always something else going on besides the main subject in the scenes, filling up each frame with feelings and emotions. The story essentially was basic; there was very little action to speak of until the last half of the film. In fact, I found the script somewhat slow at times and felt Alfonso was spending too much time on some shots. For newcomers I was surprised to see how well the cast did with the script. I only wished there was more to the story. This was one of the most beautifully filmed pictures I have ever seen; however, I found out the back story of some subjects may not always be so exciting.
3 ½ stars
COMPASSION AND COMPENTENCY GO HAND in hand in making a person a well rounded employee. Where it used to be the norm for me, now when I experience someone displaying these attributes it is more of a surprise. I know, isn’t this a sad state of affairs? There was a time where I could walk up to a salesperson and ask where something was located and they would walk me to the item. Now they barely leave their place and tell me the item “is over there.” Over there?! Where is there? This is what makes up part of the workforce. If you think that is bad, I used to work at a company that had an actual human being answering the switchboard. The only problem was she tended to be high on drugs most of the time. She would wear these large, owlish glasses with tinted lenses so it was hard to see her eyes clearly; but she would drop acid at her desk, smoke a joint on her break or pop pills during her lunch. If she did not like the way a person was talking to her on the phone she would disconnect them. And would you believe she lasted a couple of years at the job?!?!? AS FAR AS I CAN tell no one should ever talk down to another person. I find it to be so rude. Here you are asking someone to explain something to you and they are talking to you like you are a little child. Or I love when you discover something for yourself and there is someone there who lets you know they already knew about it or feign shock that you did not know such a basic thing; some people just do not think about what they are saying. I had a friend tell me about a doctor who after getting the results of a biopsy told the patient she would need to have her breast removed. Cut and dry, there was no discussion or asking if there were any options; he simply told her to make arrangements for surgery and left the exam room. I found the doctor’s behavior absolutely heartless and would have immediately sought out a 2nd opinion and a new doctor. How hard would it have been to show a little compassion for the patient? I guess this is one of the reasons why I enjoyed watching this drama—a doctor who showed compassion. AS PUNISHMENT FOR WANTING TO leave Barbara, played by Nina Hoss (A Most Wanted Man, Phoenix), was reassigned to a rural hospital in the country of East Germany. Under constant watch she was not convinced her boss Andre, played by Ronald Zehrfeld (The People vs. Fritz Bauer, In the Face of Crime-TV), was just another spy to report on her. This film festival winning foreign movie also starred Rainer Bock (The White Ribbon, Wonder Woman) as Klaus Schutz and Christina Hecke (Collide, Pink) as the intern Schulze. Set in the 1980s I found this story an interesting character study; Nina’s acting was quiet yet powerful. Despite the harsh atmosphere of the settings or maybe a better description would be dreary, I found the story kept my interest by the way the characters interacted; especially with this authoritarian overview while doctors are trying to heal their patients. It was an interesting mix. As for the action all of it was of the low key type; the word I would use would be smoldering. This was pretty much a simple, straight forward, compassionate movie.
3 stars — DVD
THERE ARE SO MANY ADJECTIVES to accompany the feelings of love. Each qualifying word describes a different level or intensity to one’s love. There is deep love, crazy love, stupid love, unexpected love and mad love to name a few. I still remember this couple’s story on how they met. There was a famous nightclub in the city. Not being a drinker he never ventured into the club; in fact, despite all the hoopla about the place it held very little interest for him. It had been a long time since he was in a relationship and he was starting to feel lonely as his group of friends were starting to partner up and become couples. So one evening he was driving home from work and decided if there was a parking space in front of the nightclub he would park and go inside. Well as you may have guessed a spot opened up when a car pulled out of its parking spot just as he was driving up to the club. He parked his car, walked inside and searched for the restrooms. Making his way through the crowd of people he accidently bumped into someone who was also looking for a restroom. When each of them came back out they struck up a conversation. He offered to buy a drink so they made their way to a table. From that 1st drink and conversation they became bonded, each felt sparks and they have been together now over 30 years. I GUESS YOU COULD SAY they had instant love. Though I have not experienced that immediate rush of emotions, where I want to spend the rest of my life with that individual right away, I have seen it happen with other people. Love has such a strong influence on one’s actions and thoughts. Don’t you love when the person you fall in love with takes up a permanent residence in your mind and heart? By them being there any and all trials and tribulations of the day seem manageable, if not easier to handle. Knowing there is someone who supports you, accepts you with unconditional love creates a powerful connection where one might even feel invincible. I have seen where someone was so in love that it affected their common sense; however, I have never seen anything on the scale of danger that the main character in this romantic thriller was willing to do. FOR PALESTINIAN OMAR, PLAYED BY Adam Bakri (Slam, Ali and Nino), to pay a visit to Nadia, played by Leem Lubany (Rock the Kasbah, From A to B), he would have to scale a border wall. That action alone could get him killed. This Oscar nominated, film festival winning movie also starred Waleed Zvaiter (London Has Fallen, 20th Century Women) as Agent Rami, Samer Bisharat (The State-TV, The Looming Tower-TV) as Amjad and Eyad Hourani (Rattle the Cage, Medinah-TV) as Tarek. The cast was excellent which made the scenes with tension more intense. There was a chase scene where I realized I was holding my breath. The story was unbelievable and the script allowed the viewer to experience a variety of emotions. I prefer not to get into the political aspects of this picture, but it was hard to watch some of the scenes. At time riveting, at time tender; this foreign film displayed the strength of a person’s love that could not get broken. Arabic and Hebrew were spoken with English subtitles.
3 ½ stars — DVD
JUST AS YESTERDAY’S REVIEW talked about love, so does today’s in a slightly different vein. I have seen among my friends and family members who were in love their ability to disregard or disconnect themselves from common sense. A friend of mine was in a toxic relationship; she did not know it at the time, but it was obvious to her friends. She had been telling us these stories about her significant other that bordered on being outlandish—to those who could think rationally. I was told the reason this guy was not working a steady job was because he had gotten a huge inheritance. My question to her was why he borrowed money from her time to time. The response given was his funds weren’t always liquid; in other words, he was waiting for a CD to mature or a dividend payment to arrive. I hear you; I wasn’t buying it either. One day we all happened to be together when he mentioned something about his stocks. I asked him a couple of questions and discovered he was lying; his so called stock dividend payment was coming from a company I knew did not pay dividends. HERE IS THE THING THOUGH, when someone is deeply in love they may not want to hear comments from friends or choose not to believe them anyway. Being in love doesn’t always mean one will remain rational. I have learned not to offer an opinion unless I am directly asked; even then I do my best to offer my comments without any judgments. As I mentioned in my previous review love is a powerful emotion; there is no way I am going to go up against that force. Besides love having the ability to cloud one’s judgment, it can also put a person in danger. If I think about it the dangerous aspects may come about from that disconnect I mentioned earlier; but regardless, there is a reason you have heard the term, “acts of passion,” in criminal cases. Gratefully I have not encountered anyone committing such an extreme thing, though I have known some people to put themselves in harm’s way due to love. Right from the start I was nervous for the main character in this Oscar nominated, dramatic romance. LOVE HAD A HOLD on Omar, played by Adam Bakri (Slam, Ali and Nino). To visit Nadia, played by Leem Lubany (Rock the Kasbah, From A to B), he had to scale an Israeli built border wall. The baker was willing to take the risk but how long could his luck hold out? This film festival winning thriller also starred Waleed Zuaiter (The Men Who Stare at Goats, London Has Fallen) as Agent Rami, Samer Bisharat (The Aquatic Effect, The State-TV) as Amjad and Eyad Hourani (Rattle the Cage, Medinah-TV) as Tarek. Being set in the occupied territories already added an element of tension to the story, besides the characters’ actions. I was pulled into this film quickly due to the conflicts presented in the script; there were the physical conflicts between the Israelis and Palestinians along with the conflicts of love. With landscapes unfamiliar to me, I felt I was transported into the characters’ city which only enhanced the excellent acting I had already noticed by the actors. I liked the way the director kept the story moving without delving into the political aspects too much. For myself I had to watch this DVD without judging the reality of the story. Keeping that in mind this was an intense story about love. Arabic and Hebrew were spoken with English subtitles.
3 ½ stars — DVD
THE GUESTS I was hosting were curious to see the city’s diverse neighborhoods. I put the afternoon aside to take them on a driving tour. After explaining how the city streets were based on a grid system, making it difficult to get lost as long as one could see a street address, we drove off to our 1st neighborhood. It so happens this was the area where I grew up. Driving around I explained the significance of several buildings, pointed out artifacts of interest and shared some of my personal history along the way. When I explained how I could walk to the main shopping district from my house without using any of the streets, they urged me to show them. I pointed out the several buildings’ gangways and alleys I traversed to make my way to the grocery store. There was no need to explain to them that this was one of my safe routes when I was a kid. AFTER SPENDING THE day showing them several neighborhoods I had some down time, letting my mind drift back to the spots that meant something to me. It is funny how as one grows older things that were important become less so. Memories that were crystal clear and vibrant now look dull as if every recall of them had buffed the layers away. There was the neighborhood’s casual restaurant where my friends and I would sit for a couple of hours to solve what we thought were such urgent matters. All of them seemed so insignificant now through aged eyes. One of the neighborhoods I drove my guests through had a two storied nightclub where I had dreams of being hired as a dancer. If I straighten up now too fast from tying my shoelaces I get lightheaded; how did time go by so fast? Having seen my old public library brought back a flood of emotions for it was one of my safe havens. It was there that I could nestle into one of the alcoves with a stack of books in front of me as cover. How I used to dream about what my life would become only to see it now from much further down the road, as I strolled along my path of scattered memories. SPENDING YEARS PARTYING with the upper echelon of society journalist Jeb Gambardella, played by Toni Servillo (The Girl by the Lake, The Consequences of Love), pretty much knew or knew about everyone. But at this stage of his life did he really want to know them? This Oscar and film festival winning drama also starred Carlo Verdone (Me, Them and Lara; Fun is Beautiful) as Romano, Sabrina Ferilli (Forever Young, 3 Women) as Ramona and Carlo Bucci Rosso (The New Monsters Today, Il Divo) as Lello Cava. Set in Italy, it was beautiful watching this movie. Not just the outdoor scenes but even the indoor ones each offered something for the viewer. As I began this DVD I did not connect immediately to the story; however, there was something about the way the film was shot that drew me in. I found it especially interesting that I perceived all the actors to be friends, which was due to how well they all blended together in the story. There was some confusion on my part whether the story was being told in chronological order or not, but it did not distract me too much. I will say I thought the film ran too long; the script could have used some editing. In a way this was an interesting study of the aging process. Italian was spoken with English subtitles.
3 stars — DVD
“THAT IS THE way it has always been done,” is a response that I have had a love/hate relationship with for a majority of my life. On one hand I am of the mindset “if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.” In other words if things are working fine then do not make any changes. Having lived this way for a long period of time, I am challenged when it comes to making changes. Since I am not a spontaneous type of person, you can imagine how stressful it is for me when my routine is altered. But on the other hand, there have been times in my adult life where I survived a change and found out it made an improvement. One example would be changing from using multiple charge cards for making various purchases to only using one card; I saved time by only having to pay one bill a month instead of several. So I am aware some change is good. AN AREA WHERE change comes slowly is religion. Not that I am an expert by any means but I have seen where some traditions have been updated. I am referring to both the religion I was born into along with other ones I have been exposed to via friends and family. There are some traditions that I admit seem odd to me. Maybe in a different time they made sense but to my sensibilities they appear to have little relevance to the current world. I remember a time where only males led a service; the first time I saw a female do it, I recall how some in the congregation were, shall we say, uncomfortable. Personally I did not think it was a big deal since I always felt everyone had the right to communicate to a higher power the way they saw fit. I do not believe one person has an inside track to their God’s ear. It can be a struggle for some people; it was obvious in this dramatic film festival winning movie. LIVING IN AN ultra-orthodox community in Brooklyn widower Menashe, played by newcomer Menashe Lustig, was being told he could not raise his son Fischel, played by Yoel Falkowitz (The Hudson Tribes), without a mother. Menashe wanted to prove them wrong. With newcomers Ruben Niborski, Meyer Schwartz and Yael Weisshaus, this picture at times seemed more like a documentary than a fictional story. The emotions portrayed by the cast came across as real, with several touching scenes throughout the movie. Some viewers may be totally unfamiliar with what is being portrayed on screen; I do not think it will have an impact on following the story. Speaking of the story, I found this one interesting as it touched on religious beliefs, parenting, family and childrearing. I could see it easily becoming a topic of conversation for viewers afterward. My issue with the script was the lack of dramatic variance. It felt like the scenes remained in a certain pocket of intensity. At one point I was losing interest because it seemed as if the same scenario was repeating itself. Because I enjoy getting exposed to different religious traditions, I still had a curiosity about the unfolding story. Yiddish was spoken with English subtitles.
2 ¾ stars
THE HONEYMOON phase is a real thing in a burgeoning relationship. However it can be quite deceptive for the individuals. I have seen many couples during this period who were bubbly and giddy in love, freely participating in public displays of affection. To the outsider they appeared perfectly in synch and for all intents and purposes they might have been. But it is here where that deception comes into play. With the couple exploring their love connection they might begin to feel that they could be together forever…and they just might succeed. But when 2 people never go past this faze to their real daily world, any slight obstacle can trip them up with drastic consequences. They were so focused on the happy, joyful, loving experiences they never took the time to really learn about each other. Even if some individuals are conscious about the different phases to a relationship they may fear showing their faults or quirks to their partner in love. RELATIONSHIPS take work sometimes; it would be great if everything was simple and easy but most people are complicated. From my past experiences I have learned to express my feelings more and not hide my quirks so far in the future hopes. The reason being I need a person to love me for who I am, instead of them focusing on the good stuff and thinking the difficult things will disappear or worse yet that they can change them in me. Going into a relationship with the idea you can change someone is the quickest way to kill the relationship. I mentioned in an earlier review about being with someone who resented me teaching fitness at night, but there have been others who thought they could change me to suit their needs. I will say it helps if a person will talk about their needs instead of going into a relationship under the pretense the person they are in love with will figure it out. I may not be an expert in the relationship department but I do know a relationship needs communication and respect. Feel free to take a gander at this Oscar nominated romantic drama to see what I mean. DISSIMILAR backgrounds and beliefs were not a concern for Elise and Didier, played by Veerle Baetens (The Ardennes, Code 37-TV) and Johan Heldenbergh (The Zookeeper’s Wife, The Brand New Testament), when they first met. Their love of bluegrass music and physical attraction to each other was a good start to begin a relationship. They were setting themselves up for a fall when their lives took an unexpected turn. This film festival winning musical movie also starred Nell Cattrysse (Labyrinthus, Het Vonnis) as Maybelle and Geert Van Rampelberg (The Treatment, The Memory of a Killer) as William. I thought the acting was excellent because to me Didier and Elise came across as a real couple. The script surprised me and I will tell you why. Normally I am not a fan of a story jumping back and forth in time; but in this case, it worked to break up the intensity of the situation with the musical numbers and home life scenes. There was honesty in the script, where I felt myself getting drawn into the lives of these people. As I stated earlier relationships are not always easy. Flemish and Dutch were spoken with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars – DVD
THERE are some hugs that linger just a little too long that are loaded with hidden meaning. In one of the more uncomfortable positions I have experienced in my fitness career, there was a member who tried to cross the line with me from casual to personal. She was an enthusiastic participate in my classes, since she started seeing the changes her body was making both muscularly and aerobically. After class she would hang behind to talk to me as I was gathering my gear together. Honestly, there were no red flags I could detect since her behavior was no different than many of the other members. The fitness center was offering a 10 week class on massages which I mentioned in my beginning announcements. Someone asked in class if I was planning to attend and I said yes. At the first class this member was there and worked her way to be next to me so she could be my training partner. Long story short, after a few classes where we started working on each other she followed me out afterwards one time and wrapped her arms around me. She said she was glad we were training partners and with her arms still around me she looked up and I could tell she was coming in for a kiss. I put a stop to it. EVER since that time I have always been keenly aware of any shift in members’ actions that come close to crossing that professional line. Away from the fitness center I have been an observer to a variety of situations that have involved my friends and family. You have heard the phrase, “I’ve got your back” haven’t you? In my circle of friends we each feel comfortable having another set of eyes on us to see things from a different angle. There have been times where a friend cannot tell if a person they have only recently started dating is really interested or not. Or maybe one of us points out the person they think is a friend really wants something more. There have been incidents where something innocent looking really has a different meaning or I will say intention. If you have time for a story then this romantic comedy will show you what I mean. THINKING a goodnight kiss was an appropriate ending for their time together Gabriel, played by Michael Cohen (It Begins with the End, Them), was willing to listen to Emile’s, played by Julie Gayet (My Best Friend, Chaos and Desire), story about what happens when a kiss is given. With Virginia Ledoyen (The Beach; Farewell, My Queen) as Judith, Emmanuel Mouret (The Art of Love, Change of Address) as Nicolas and Stefano Accorsi (Saturn in Opposition, The Son’s Room) as Claudio; the script had a story within a story. It was easy to follow and I enjoyed how both stories had this give and take feeling as if they were in synch. The thing that attracted me the most was the concepts and thoughts the script evoked in me. One could easily have a discussion afterwards on their feelings about what they saw in this DVD. I will say there were a couple of scenes that seemed forced, ringing false for me. In addition I was able to figure out the ending which is something I do not do that often. This was a simple, easy movie to view that had some depth to it. French was spoken with English subtitles.
2 ½ stars — DVD
ACCORDING to the dictionary the word chivalry is defined as, “an honorable and polite way of behaving especially toward women.” Believe it or not I remember a time when men would open a door for a woman or give up their seat on a bus or train for them. I can see where maybe some people would be slightly offended if they perceived the action as being dominant or chauvinistic. Personally I do not care if it is a man or woman; I think if the person is elderly it would just be a common courtesy. However, things changed the past few decades; I rarely see anyone giving up a seat on the bus, even if the person is holding heavy packages or a woman is pregnant. I am used to it now but I initially was surprised when I opened a door for a woman and was given a suspicious look. It was not the type of reaction I would have expected, figuring a quick thank you would have been the response. After several times getting similar reactions, it dawned on me that these women may have not experienced a stranger doing a kind gesture for them. What does that say about our society I thought? THOUGH I have seen the same type of scene in the movies, I remember being out at a club with friends and a man mistakenly thought a woman at the bar was single. He walked up to her and started talking; I could not hear him over the music blaring over the loudspeakers. At one point I did see the woman shake her head side to side which I took as her way of saying, “No.” I do not know what the man said but walking up behind him another man tapped him on the shoulder. It turned out the 2nd man was the woman’s boyfriend. Before you could stir the ice in your drink, the two men got into a shoving match and both had to be kicked out by one of the club’s bouncers. I thought the whole scene was intense until I watched this dramatic thriller. UNAWARE the former tenant of the apartment they were now living in used to entertain gentlemen callers; married actors Rana and Emad Etesami’s lives, played by Taraneh Alidoosti (About Elly, Beautiful City) and Shahab Hosseini (About Elly, A Separation), were drastically changed when one of the gentleman callers showed up at their apartment one night. This Oscar winning film from writer and director Asghar Farad (A Separation, The Past) was consistent with his other movies. A well thought out story about human emotions, told in a simple way. I enjoyed the story within story idea with the use of Arthur Miller’s play, “Death of a Salesman.” The acting was excellent and I will tell you why. These actors were in films I had previously seen by the same director and it did not register with me because the performances were so different in this foreign film. Another reason why I enjoyed this movie was because of my curiosity of other cultures; seeing how the average person exists in their own environment fascinates me. If I had seen this film before the Oscars telecast I too would have picked it for best foreign movie. Persian was spoken with English subtitles.
3 ½ stars