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 alter 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
FOUR MONTHS AFTER MY IDENTITY HAD been stolen, I received a notice from the government that my fraud claim was confirmed, and I was not responsible for any losses. It has been a long four months with me contacting different agencies, freezing my credit report and filing a police report. It all started when I received a notice from unemployment that I had been approved to receive benefits; a debit card was enclosed that I was supposed to activate to receive funds. I knew it was a scam since I was currently employed. Due to the pandemic, I had a harder time getting things accomplished to protect myself. There were the multiple calls to the Social Security Administration, where I had to wait on hold until their phone system would tell me no agents were available and to try back later. Once I finally was able to speak to a representative, I could not get an answer to my questions, like why they are dunning me for 4 payments they claim they sent to me. I asked them where were they sending it; if it was to that debit card I did not activate, why couldn’t they just pull the funds back? Still, I could not get a clear answer and was told I should just hold on to all the paperwork that was sent to me. MY ORDEAL, THOUGH IT WAS A hassle, was manageable for me. However, I did wonder how I would have handled it if I was older. It is weird how it just happens; that sense of vulnerability that enters our consciousness as we get older. When I was younger, I gave little thought to walking in the snow and ice during winter; now, I am hyper aware of where I am stepping on an icy wet pavement. Will I become easily confused in my senior years? Will I be an easy target for scammers? These are things I think about now. They had a news report recently of a senior citizen in a nursing home who was milked out of her savings to the tune of $500,000.00. She was befriended by an employee at the nursing home who would have her sign withdrawal slips for small amounts of money from her savings account. Over time the small amounts added up and left the woman very little to live on. It was heartbreaking to see and confirmed my fears that the elderly can be such easy targets. If I get to a point where I might become easily confused, I hope I would know to find an advocate for me, someone who would watch out for my best interests. If you care to see an example of what could happen, then watch this dark comedy, crime thriller. MARLA GRAYSON, PLAYED BY ROSAMUND PIKE (A Private War, Gone Girl), had a good thing going of being a legal guardian for those who could not take care of themselves. That is until she became the guardian to someone who had a couple of secrets of her own. With Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones-TV, X-men: Days of Future Past) as Roman Lunyov, Eiza Gonzalez (Baby Driver, Paradise Hills) as Fran, Dianne Wiest (Hannah and her Sisters, Darling Companion) as Jennifer Peterson and Chris Messina (Away We Go, Ruby Sparks) as Dean Ericson; this Golden Globe nominated movie had an interesting premise. I felt the writers could have gone in a variety of ways to make their point. However, the way they chose I found horrible. I thought the script was mean spirited and ignorant. The only thing that kept me watching this film was the performances by Rosamund, Peter and Dianne. They were excellent; but I do not know how they kept this picture going, because there was no moral compass in the story and there really was no character that elicited any sympathy from me. If it wasn’t for the acting, I would have given this film a lower rating of stars.
1 7/8 stars
EVERYWHERE I LOOKED I WAS SEEING someone I had seen on videos or television. Though the general population may not have recognized them, I certainly did because I wanted to be one of them. My assignment was manning the entrance to the hospitality suite, where guest presenters could come to relax or grab something to eat. I had to check the ID badges of everyone coming in; though honestly, I wasn’t expecting anyone crashing the suite since it was not near the convention hall. When I could, I would help the volunteer staff keep the food tables filled and clean. For the most part everyone who walked in was pleasant; they at least acknowledged me when I greeted them. Of course, there were always a few negative people or “stuck up” ones that moved right past without a glance or nod towards me. And that was ok; I understood that after being up on stage or in the middle of a crowd, one needs to decompress with some down time. Just from the little that I did in the field, I knew the amount of energy it took to get people motivated and interested in what I was trying to achieve. I was perfectly fine to be in the background and simply observe them while they were in the suite. ONE OF THE INTERESTING THINGS I discovered early on was how some of the presenters preferred being alone in the suite. There were some who moved a chair away from others to sit and look at their electronic devices. Others would spend their time going from one presenter to another as they came in and out of the rooms. As a fan, I enjoyed seeing how they all interacted amongst themselves. To me it looked like a few were collaborating on a project together. One presenter, who I was familiar with, was a lawyer who was instrumental in changing the safety protocols in the industry. She was sought out by many and I only wished I could hear what they were talking about. There was another presenter who was a researcher who I saw multiple times on different videos. He was well respected and known for debunking many false claims that others were trying to promote. Looking at the amount of talent and knowledge in the room, I had to wonder what each could create from a chance meeting, that would have a lasting affect on the profession. It was exciting to see, just as it was for me watching this film festival winning and Golden Globe nominated drama. AFTER A STUNNING WIN IN THE boxing ring, the night’s celebration for Cassius Clay, played by Eli Goree (Race, Godzilla), was waiting for him at a motel room with a small group of friends. With Kingsley Ben-Adir (Peaky Blinders-TV, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) as Malcom X, Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta Compton, Hidden Figures) as Jim Brown, Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton, Red Tails) as Sam Cooke and Lance Reddick (John Wick franchise, White House Down) as Kareem X; the story in this film was brilliant. Having 4 people, accomplished in their fields, dealing with the prejudices of the times in the 60s was near genius. I thought the acting was tremendous as the actors formed a bond that was real and believable. And as a bonus for me was having Leslie Odom Jr.’s character sing. The direction of this movie kept things on an even playing field; I never lost interest as the night progressed. After I was done watching this picture, I had to confirm that this was not an actual event because it seemed so natural, as if the writers were simply retelling a historic event. This was a well-done film that felt as current now as it was back then.
3 ½ stars
FOR A LONG TIME, I ATTRIBUTED my ability for seeing little details to Sherlock Holmes and the Hardy Boys. Having read the books and seen the movies that they were in, I began to pride myself with the way I observed people and places. A friend and I used to pretend we were detectives who had to follow individuals in the neighborhood, who we suspected of being criminals. I remember following a woman with a shopping cart into the grocery store, who I believed to be a foreign spy; she was shopping for essentials for herself and her co-conspirators back at their hideout. As she was walking up and down the aisles, I kept track of what she was putting into her shopping cart. I waited until she was paying for her groceries at the checkout line before I left and joined my partner across the street. We waited until she came out then followed her back to her hideout. While we were tagging behind her, I updated my friend on the items she had purchased at the store. I pointed out the reason for all the canned goods was because they were planning to be here for an extended time to work on a huge operation that would cause considerable damage to our city. We decided we had better keep her under surveillance for the near future. AFTER I HAD GROWN OUT OF my detective phase, I stopped focusing on getting every detail of a situation. It faded into the background, or at least I thought it did. Never giving it any thought, I seemed to have the ability to retain full images of things I observed. It wasn’t something that made me think I was doing anything different from anyone else. It wasn’t until a friend asked me one day how I could remember what everyone wore at a party that took place a couple of months ago. We were talking about a mutual friend and I asked him if he remembered they had attended a social function we were at. When my friend could not recall their presence, I told him what the person was wearing and where they were seated. I thought everyone could recall such things, but my friend told me it was not true. A short time later, I discovered not everyone has the ability to see the finer details when they are looking at something. Some individuals take in the “big picture” while others laser focus on certain elements; I have seen it time and again. Whether a person can train themselves in acquiring the skill, I do not know; but I know having that ability was an asset for the main character in this dramatic crime thriller. DRAWN INTO AN UNSOLVED MURDER CASE, Deputy Sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon, played by Denzel Washington (The Equalizer franchise, The Book of Eli), began to experience déjà vu. Will his past interfere with the present? With Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, Papillon) as Jim Baxter, Jared Leto (Suicide Squad, Dallas Buyers Club) as Albert Sparma, Chris Bauer (A Dog’s Way Home, True Blood-TV) as Detective Sal Rizoli and Michael Hyatt (Nightcrawler, Like Crazy) as Flo Dunigan; this Golden Globe nominee had all the fixings of a good old detective story. With its cast, I was expecting some top notch acting and was rewarded by Jared’s and Rami’s performances. As for Denzel, I was sadly disappointed with his acting; it felt like he was on automatic, doing a repeat of former characters from his past movies. Putting the acting aside, the script had the glimmer of hope in the beginning but then spiraled down to a massive failure. There were a couple of parts that made no sense whatsoever. This poorly thought out script and story turned this movie into a mediocre addition to the murder mystery genre. If only everyone involved with the production of this film had Denzel’s character’s ability to pay attention to the fine details, it then might have been a worthwhile viewing.
1 7/8 stars
ONE CAN NOT HELP BUT FEEL special as they walk into the building. The heavy glass doors with the gold trim are the first clue that one is about to enter a place that cannot be considered ordinary. The vestibule has a sturdy tiled floor; the low ceiling is held up by walls covered in deeply colored damask fabric. The material is framed in portions with an intricately carved plaster, painted in gold to match the trim of the doors. Entering the main lobby is not so dissimilar from walking into a grand hall of a European palace. Marble floors replacing the tile in front, there are huge crystal chandeliers that are longer in height than width. They look like oblong, translucent candy wrapped with intricately patterned, colored wrappers with the ends twisted shut. There are matching grand staircases both front and back with red velvet covered steps and oversized, limestone balustrades. One can only imagine they are used by royalty. Spaced equally between the two staircases are doors that all lead into an amphitheater. Undulating rows of seats perched on a sloping floor descend to a stage where a red colored curtain blocks everyone from seeing anything behind it. Only when the lights dim does the curtain rise to reveal the actors who were waiting behind it. THERE IS A FEELING OF INCLUSION when one goes to see live theater. You could be sitting in the middle of a packed auditorium of strangers but feel as if the actors are bringing you into their story. I am a huge fan of seeing staged shows; there is something about seeing actors in the flesh compared to the big screen. Actors on stage have no chance for a retake; whatever happens they must be prepared to “go on with the show.” Seeing their emotions on display adds authenticity to the performance that I find connects me in a different way from actors in movies. Neither one is better than the other; it is simply a different form of communication. As you know I can get lost into a movie where I feel I am part of the movie; this is part of what I need to give a film a 4-star rating. At a play or musical the actors have more time to form relationships that carry them through the entire production. It connects them on a deeper level than acting in movies where they can do take after take of one scene. When I saw today’s film I felt I was at the theater watching a live performance. WITH A BABY ON THE WAY Tish Rivers’, (played by relative newcomer KiKi Layne), joy was short-lived when the baby’s father Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt, played by Stephan James (Race, Across the Line), was arrested for a crime he did not do. This Golden Globe and film festival winning romantic, crime drama also starred Regina King (Ray, Enemy of the State) as Sharon Rivers, Colman Domingo (Selma, Lincoln) as Joseph Rivers and Michael Beach (Aquaman, Soul Food) as Frank Hunt. Based on James Baldwin’s novel, this film slowly unfolded to reveal a real-life portrayal of two families in Harlem. The acting was outstanding from every actor; I especially enjoyed the chemistry that KiKi and Stephan poured into their roles for each other. With a beautiful soundtrack and thoughtful cinematography, this was another achievement for writer and director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, Medicine for Melancholy). Scenes seemed to be grouped into a series of acts, where I felt I was watching entire and complete feelings between the characters. I honestly believed everything I was seeing was totally real. There is nothing more I need to say, except this picture was a perfect conduit between film and theater.
I am not sure if the word is “refreshed” or “encouraged” when it comes to how I feel when I see an act of kindness. There are many incidents where I see or experience rudeness, meanness or hatefulness; so when I see someone doing an act of kindness it really stands out for me. Even with horrific news that gets reported these days, sometimes an act of kindness comes out in the middle of it. Recently I heard about a person who was dealing with a life threatening disease. Before they went into the hospital for surgery they were comforting their significant other, telling them everything would be okay. I was touched by such a selfless act. Of course if the person had always been kind, it would not be a surprise. However, it would be a bigger surprise if the person who did the act of kindness was not considered a nice person. There was an employee I used to work with who was so miserable that you would get a sour taste in your mouth if you were just near them. They never engaged in a friendly conversation; heck, they barely made eye contact with you if you had to talk business with them. Imagine the shock all the employees felt when there was an article in the local papers about this particular employee’s generous contributions made to a shelter. None of us could believe it. I guess one could say never judge a book by its cover; but I have to tell you, when situations like this come up it does give me hope. MORTICIAN John Miller, played by Christian Bale (The Dark Knight franchise, The Fighter), arrived in the city of Nanking, China just as Japanese forces staged an invasion. His main task now would be to stay alive. This historical drama was a Golden Globe nominee and film festival winner. I was familiar with the story, having seen it in documentaries; books and news articles. The invasion was brutal; in turn, there were several tough scenes in this film. Christian did a very good job of acting, as did Ni Ni (Back in Time, Up in the Wind) as Yu Mo and relative newcomer Xinyi Zhang as Shu. Maybe it was challenging to tell this story in a way that would keep the viewer’s interest, but I found it disjointed. It would go from torturous scenes to poignant ones. I was disappointed because the cinematography at times was stunning; though I must say I felt some of the scenes used too much blood if you know what I mean. On any level I think this would have been a challenging story to transform onto film; however, it was obvious there was much thought put into this one. Despite its shortcomings I was surprised by the turn of events in this war film that had its own sense of hope. There were multiple scenes where Mandarin and Japanese were spoken with English subtitles.
2 1/3 stars — DVD
The change is so minuscule you would not even be aware of its importance. Years later you may look back and remember it, realizing it was a warning for the oncoming seismic shift about to take place. For some the process is slow and drawn out; the occasional forgetfulness does not seem to be a big deal. Who has not forgotten where they put their house keys or forgotten a word now and then? But later on it becomes more frequent; think of it as a change from autumn to winter. Picture a majestic wide tree with a multitude of branches that curl and twist outward, filled with a thick abundance of leaves. Slowly the rich dark green of the leaves starts to fade, becoming less vibrant. The leaves that had been stretching wide like the palms of many hands were all beginning to close into gnarled fists. Memory drips out of the mind, falling away on a current of air like shriveled leaves; until the tree is laid bare. You may think the person is trapped inside their body but that is not the case; they are no longer there. You only have a living picture of who they were and even that begins to shut down due to the lack of electrical pulses from the expired brain. This is what can happen when someone has Alzheimer’s disease. JULIANNE Moore (Non-Stop, What Maisie Knew) played linguistics Professor Alice Howland. As an author and expert in her field, how was it possible that she was beginning to forget her words? This film festival winning drama’s success was all due to Julianne Moore. She was remarkable in this role, playing a middle-aged woman with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. There was one scene in particular where she was looking at her younger self and it amazed me how different she made the two images look on screen. I can understand now why she won the Golden Globe award. Some of the other actors in this film were Alec Baldwin (Beetlejuice, 30 Rock-TV) as John Howland, Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns, Blue Crush) as Anna Howland-Jones and Kristen Stewart (Twilight franchise, On the Road) as Lydia Howland. Everyone did a good job of acting; however I really did not get Kristen. It seems like she is doing the same thing in every movie; I have not seen her display any emotional variety with any of the characters she has played. Due to Julianne’s dominant performance, this drama has an effect on the viewer. Not to be funny here, but it seems as if I am paying more attention now when I forget something.
3 1/3 stars