MAYBE BEING BORN IN AN APARTMENT building is the reason why I acknowledge neighbors when I see them. I have lived in buildings and houses; each offers a different living experience. With a house, I always made sure that any loud music/noise ended by 9 pm. There were times I would get home late on a winter night and I would not use the snowblower to shovel the sidewalks, because I did not want to disturb any neighbors. It was important to me to be a good neighbor, so I never complained about a dog barking non-stop in the neighbor’s backyard or my neighbor’s child shooting baskets at 6:30 in the morning. Honestly, I was fortunate to have reasonable and good neighbors. It was not unusual for a neighbor to come over and help when they saw me attempting to do a home repair outside. Likewise, I would help a neighbor carry groceries or heavy objects from their vehicle whenever I saw them. When I moved from an apartment to a house, I made it a point to maintain friendly, or at least cordial, relations with my neighbors. We were going to be living next door to each other, so why would I want to cause something that would turn the relationship acrimonious. LIVING IN A CONDO BUILDING, I have found I have more frequent contact with neighbors than when living in a house. Having several apartments on one floor, one is bound to bump into a neighbor in the hallway. Add in an elevator and there rarely is a day I would not see anyone. Now here is the funny thing; when someone would get on the elevator I always either say hello or acknowledge them with a nod of my head. We live in the same building and though they may be a stranger to me, I feel it is the kind thing to do. It always surprises me when I meet a neighbor who either does not make eye contact or says nothing in return when I acknowledge them. It is not like I get offended by it; I just find it odd. There are some neighbors who will make small talk and there are others who just say a quick hi and go about their business. This may sound weird, but I sometimes wonder what a neighbor would do if they came upon me in some kind of physical distress. Would they quickly walk away because they do not want to be involved or would they try to help? I would rather they be like the neighbors in this dramatic, Academy Award winning movie. EXPERIENCING MULTIPLE LOSSES AFTER THE GREAT recession, the only thing Fern, played by Frances McDormand (Moonrise Kingdom, Burn After Reading), had available was her phone and a van. Between the two she would find a place unlike the place she had come from. With newcomer Gay DeForest as Gay, newcomer Patricia Grier as Patty, newcomer Linda May as Linda and David Strathairn (Fast Color, Godzilla: King of the Monsters) as Dave, this film festival winner was a gentle piece of work. The direction was excellent though I have to say the pacing bordered close to being too slow for me. The acting from Francis was a study on how one could convey emotions without talking and she was powerful in the role. One of the big surprises for me were the newcomers who were not actors but the actual people portraying their lives. The story was a curious one and I appreciated the way it was filmed; the scenery was beautiful. I do have to say if I had seen this before I did my Oscar favorites, I honestly would not have picked Frances as best actress, not that she was bad by any means. My focus is first and foremost the entertainment value and I think the slowness and quiet dragged me down a bit. However, I still feel this rightfully deserved to be included with the nominees this past year.
3 ¼ stars
THERE IS NOTHING LIKE SEEING A musical act performing live at a concert. This may sound corny, but the experience produces a natural high in me. Granted I always start out with a little anxiety about the commuting aspect; however, once I am safely in my seat, I am plugged in to experience everything the musical artist(s) brings to the stage. Let me see if I can describe to you the feeling of being at an arena sized concert. Imagine 15-20,000 fans converging into a stadium; every single person is there for one sole purpose, to hear and show their love/adoration for the performer(s). Everyone is in a good mood, smiling and nodding at each other as if they share a special secret. While walking the halls to find your seats, random music can be heard echoing from the arena; a constant thumping bass sound pulsates through the air. There are some fans dressed up to look like part of the band or artist’s entourage; the more flamboyant the act, the wilder are the costumes. As I walk to my seat, my only wish for the moment is that a tall person or one dressed in an elaborate outfit is not sitting in front of me, obstructing my view. As more people are settling into their seats, the feelings of anticipation are being elevated to a point where the space around everyone is buzzing with excitement. That bass sound that has been thumping is resonating in each person’s chest as if synching everyone to a common beat. And then suddenly the music stops, and the place goes dark. Everyone in unison begins to cheer loudly. THE WEEKS AND MONTHS LEADING UP to this moment were worth the wait. I just need to hear the first couple of notes to announce the start of what I am sure will be a familiar song, one of many that I have been singing in the car since I got the tickets to this show. A set of spotlights slowly wake up to reveal a spot on the stage where 4 strangers are standing. I have never seen them before in my life! An announcer introduces them, and they start to play their instruments. They are the warm-up act. Nowhere in the advertisements or my tickets did it say anything about a warm-up act. Where is the group I paid to see? The built-up feelings that were about to burst out of my body suddenly deflated like a flat tire, after slamming into a deep pothole. It almost felt like I could not catch my breath because I was in such shock. Right at this single moment I am flooded with the feeling of disappointment and this feeling is exactly how I felt about the Oscars and the awards show this year. THE TRANSFORMATION OF UNION STATION FOR the show was beautifully handled. I thought the place looked like an old-fashioned supper club. The outside reception area was equally beautiful in my opinion. I do have to say it was odd for me to see a gathering without masks, where people were hugging each other; it almost felt like a time pre-COVID. There was glamour but due to restrictions, the pre-show scenes seemed like individual segments that were more unconnected than usual. For the fact I could not see all the nominated films, I came into this without my usual excitement and joy. The Oscars telecast has always been my Super Bowl and High Holiday wrapped together. When presenters were talking about a film that I had not seen, it felt so foreign to me as if they were talking a different language. Right from the first acceptance speech, I so badly wished they had a live orchestra to drown out the winner who overstayed their welcome. There were some exceptions but for the most part the acceptance speeches rambled on and on; it was painful. The exception for me was Yuh-Jung Youn, best supporting actress, due to a couple of her comments. Though she was long in her speech, I appreciated her saying, “All the nominees, five nominees, we were the winner for different movies. We played different roles—so we cannot compete against each other. Tonight, I’m here, I just have a little bit more luck. I think, maybe. I’m luckier than you…” WHEN TYLER PERRY ACCEPTED HIS HUMANITARIAN award, I especially appreciated the part of his speech when he said to “refuse blanket judgement” and “refuse hate.” I wish I could do that when it came to Questlove as the DJ; I did not care for most of his musical selections. The music did nothing to try and elevate the mood amongst the guests. Now granted I know there are way more important things to focus on than the Oscars. I simply wanted to be taken away for a couple of hours to a world of glamour and stars, checking my predictions against the winning choices, before I had to settle back down into the real world. Sadly, this show did not provide me with any of these things, except for way too many commercial breaks. I was still mad that the Academy had enough money to give swag bags worth, I heard, up to $200,000.00. Why couldn’t the Academy take all that money to pay for a weekend of nominated films to be shown free across all viewing platforms? Not everyone buys every streaming service to view the nominated films. Don’t you think it would be in the best interests for actors and the Academy if they offered something for their dedicated fans?!?! OUT OF THE ENTIRE BROADCAST, I thought the most egregious error was the change in the order of awards for the end. Usually the last 3 awards are for actress, actor and picture as the last. The very end is seeing all the people associated with the winning picture up on stage, happy and excited for their film. But because I believe the Academy was expecting Chadwick Boseman to win best actor, they changed the order so that category would be last. Well it certainly did not work out the way they thought it would because Anthony Hopkins won, and he was not even there. So, the presenter awkwardly accepts the award in his honor and tells everyone to have a good night; that is the end of the show. What an utter mess and shame on the Academy. I read today that the broadcast this year had the fewest viewers ever and I perfectly understand why. I honestly do not know where my comfort level will be to go back to a theater; I am more in a wait and see mode. However, if Sunday’s broadcast represents the future of how the show will be done, I may have to take more of an attitude like Yuh-Jung Youn, it is just luck; so, why pay attention to what gets nominated.
IT DROVE ME CRAZY HOW SHE could idolize such a person. Because of it, I had a hard time trusting her. She was his administrative assistant, so I could cut her some slack for being loyal. However, he was such a self-centered individual who only cared about himself to the point where he inflicted harm on the company, we were all working for, that I could not respect him or her. How did she not see this, I always wondered? He would have her place orders for his accounts before he even had a confirmation from the customer; there were several times the customers did not place their orders and we wound up getting stuck with the product and having to pay for it. I found his behavior appalling because with each order placed, he would get a commission; it did not make a difference if we got paid for the order or not. I was positive she had to know or at least figure out that some of his orders were bogus. The worst thing he would do was place an order to ship out but redirected it to a different account that was not credit worthy, claiming he had the wrong account number. Sometimes we could get the order back; but a lot of times we would have to use a collection agency to retrieve the item or payment. IN MY DEALINGS WITH HIM THERE were times I 100% knew what he was telling me was not true. No matter what I would say to him he always had an answer ready, with many of them putting the blame on some other employee. I would then check with the other employee to verify the facts and more times than not the employee had no idea what I was talking about. This would turn into a vicious cycle of he said/she said on his part, to the point where I would become confused and frustrated. I could not understand how upper management could allow such behavior to continue that was damaging to the company. And that is the thing I had the hardest time understanding; why would an employee allow harm to take place against their employer? Besides the financial hit, there was the matter of the company’s reputation being harmed. Imagine a customer getting an invoice for something they did not order; wouldn’t you question that company’s operations and motives? I know I would and would feel less trust towards such a company. Trust is an invaluable asset that a company should never allow an employee to damage. It was unbelievable what was being done to trust in this dramatic, political thriller. INGRID JESTER, PLAYED BY FRANCES McDORMAND (North Country, Moonrise Kingdom), could not understand why her fellow activist went for a drive through Belfast without telling her. For that reason, she refused to leave until she found out what happened to him. With Brian Cox (Remember Me, Troy) as Kerrigan, Brad Dourif (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Lord of the Rings franchise) as Paul Sullivan, Bernard Archard (Krull, The Day of the Jackal) as Sir Robert Neil and John Benfield (The Best Offer, Speed Racer) as Maxwell; this film festival winner had a documentary feel to it at times; that is how good the acting was from the cast. The story was intense, and I thought the pacing was for the majority close on the mark. For me, I felt the script did not go deep enough with the suspense and emotions. There were moments where it seemed as if the scenes were void of dramatic depth. I noticed this especially with Francis’ character. The twists and turns that took place in the script kept me invested in what was taking place and I was to some degree experiencing a level of anger due to what the main characters were experiencing.
2 ¾ stars
I DO NOT UNDERSTAND why I should pay to have a cable repair person come out to replace the defective cable box the cable company shipped me. Customer service told me they could send me a new box and I could install it, saving the cost of a service call. If I had dropped, kicked or broken the box I would better understand the fee structure; however, they installed the box and after several weeks the box started to freeze up periodically. I would have to unplug it and count to ten before plugging it back in so it would reset itself. It is so annoying especially when it freezes up and does not record the programs I scheduled. It is annoyances like this that can drive me crazy. Even when I had my recent medical episode all I wanted medical staff to do was their job and follow through on their promises. IMAGINE TALKING TO THE nurse about your test results and she says she will call the test facility for more information per my request. She tells me she will call me the next day. After not hearing from her most of the next day I contact her late in the afternoon only for her to hear my voice and say she had my file right on her desk and she forgot to call the facility. I sit there and listen to her rattle off all the things she had to do during the day, less the one thing she promised to do for me. Are you kidding me? I do not know about you but if I do not do my job or at least follow through with what I tell someone it reflects on my performance review. How is it that I and my fellow employees are held accountable for our job duties but I see more and more workers’ lack of care or concern for their job responsibilities not being addressed by their employers? It can be so frustrating which is why I could totally sympathize with the grieving mother in this dark dramatic comedy. MONTHS HAVE GONE BY without any inkling of the police finding Mildred’s, played by Frances McDormand (Promised Land, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), daughter’s killer. Fed up Mildred decides to let everyone know what she thinks about the investigation. This film festival winning crime movie also starred Woody Harrelson (War for the Planet of the Apes, LBJ) as Chief of Police William Willoughby, Sam Rockwell (Seven Psychopaths, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) as Officer Dixon, Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird, Manchester by the Sea) as Robbie and Abbie Cornish (Geostorm, Sucker Punch) as Anne. Hands down Frances deserves a nomination this Oscar season for her unbelievable acting in this role. I know it is a cliché but she was a force of nature; I could not take my eyes off of her. She must have relished the twisted script with all the opportunities to embellish her character. I enjoyed the rest of the cast almost as much but felt Abbie’s role was minor. The one complaint I had about the script was the story arc for Officer Dixon; his development from the 1st to 2nd half of the film did not ring true to me. Honestly I felt the last part of the script quickly tidied up the events and the viewers were left somewhat hanging. Despite these few issues I still was swept up into Mildred’s plight and to tell you the truth, secretly wished I could act out like her whenever I encounter someone not doing their job.
3 ½ stars
I always assumed as we got older we would have fewer things to frighten us. It seems that is not the case, we just trade them in for other ones. These days I hear individuals say they are afraid of growing old or scared to drive at night. I can relate to the growing old one; I still have so many things I want to do that I may not be able to do as well when I get older. Is it proper to say an older person’s fears are more rational than a child’s? I do not think so because I believe a child just has less exposure to the ways of the world compared to a seasoned adult. Recently I was using public transportation and saw a mother trying to get their little boy into the train car from the station. He was crying and screaming it turned out because he was afraid of the sliding doors that opened by themselves. I could understand it if the child had never seen this before; he may have been scared the doors would close on him. I can remember the first time I encountered an escalator; it looked like a scaly snake slithering uphill. My fear was compounded by the warnings about sleeves getting stuck in the rolling arm rails and shoelaces in the moving steps. After seeing other people walking onto the escalator first and with a little coaxing, I finally stepped on one of the moving platforms and rode up to the top. Of course, once I was done I had to go back and do it again because it was so much fun. Fear has a way of holding us back from discovering something new. CIRCUMSTANCES would force young Arlo, voiced by Raymond Ochoa (A Christmas Carol, Pair of Knights-TV), to conquer his fears; they had to if he ever wanted to see his family again. This animated adventure had an interesting idea for a story; what if dinosaurs never became extinct? The writers could have taken this in so many ways, but ultimately I feel it became a secondary theme to them. Instead this story, geared towards children, was pretty much standard fare. It did not offer any surprises for me. However, visually this picture was one of the most beautiful and realistic looking CGI created films I have ever seen. I kept catching myself focusing on the landscapes, trying to figure out if they were actually real. Since I have seen enough of these types of films, this one was strictly straightforward minus the humor. In fact, I was sure one scene showed the main characters eating something that produced hallucinations; I wondered how parents would explain this to their children. For a Pixar studio movie this one was lacking for me. Hopefully this was an anomaly so I won’t become afraid of seeing any of their future films.
2 3/4 stars
I resent it when I am treated like a number or statistic by a large corporation. What happened where the corporate world felt it was not important to offer a personal touch when dealing with customers? At least that has been my experience. This point was driven home by the bank that had my mortgage. When I decided to refinance with them, I never imagined I would spend the following 6 months in corporate hell. From denying my application due to a mistake they made, to giving me three different dollar amounts I would need at closing; the only way I could get someone to listen to me was to show up at one of the bank’s branches and let my dark side out, making a scene. This is not my usual modus operandi but I felt no respect from them. The premise for this movie was set up in a somewhat similar way: large energy company pitted against a small town. Matt Damon (We Bought a Zoo, The Adjustment Bureau) played Steve Butler, the company’s representative whose job was to buy up the drilling rights from the town’s homeowners. Joining him was his partner Sue Thomason, played beautifully by Frances McDormand (Almost Famous, Moonrise Kingdom). What the energy company expected to be an easy job was met with resistance from science teacher Frank Yates, played by Hal Holbrook (Lincoln, Into the Wild) and environmentalist Dustin Noble, played by John Krasinski (It’s Complicated, Big Miracle). With Matt and John having written the screenplay, I was hoping for a deeper developed story that provided more insight to both sides. Instead this movie was only a generic version of the proverbial David and Goliath story. The character of Alice, played by Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married, Your Sister’s Sister), rang false to me and changed the dynamics of the story, leading it to a poor ending. This film could have been better if they went with an edgier story; which would have made for a serious, dramatic movie.
2 1/3 stars
What a flashback I got while watching this animated movie. No, not that type of flashback; I am talking about when I went to see the circus with my aunt and cousins when I was a little boy. This film was just as fun but without the animal smells. As the third installment of this franchise, this one was the best one. The assortment of vibrant colors reaching across the screen was just beautiful. Starting where the 2nd movie left off, the furry friends were still in Africa. Feeling homesick for New York City, the group of animals hatched up a plan to get back home. Among the usual cast there was Alex the lion, voiced by Ben Stiller (Tropic Thunder, Tower Heist); Marty the zebra, voiced by Chris Rock (Head of State, Down to Earth) and Melman the giraffe, voiced by David Schwimmer (Friends-TV, Six Days Seven Nights). Once the group arrived in Monte Carlo, the action went into high gear. New character Captain Chantel DuBois, voiced by Frances McDormand (Moonrise Kingdom, Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day), was determined to capture Alex so she could mount his head on her trophy wall. I enjoyed the humor that was appropriate for young children, along with having fun lines written with the adult in mind. A madcap chase ensued as the animals traveled across Europe with Captain DuBois hot on their tails. Filled with excitement, laughs and thrills; this wonderful movie had everything to please a young child and a grown-up who was a kid at heart.
3 1/4 stars