WITHIN OUR DAILY LIVES there may be times where you experience something annoying. The stubbing of a toe, the occasional splinter or the dreaded paper cut; in the scheme of things I would consider these events irritating, nothing life threatening. For me getting stopped at a railroad crossing for a freight train or an ill informed employee waiting on me at a store are big irritants. I know I should not devote energy to negative feelings but it is hard to overcome years of acting this way. It used to be if something irritated me I would allow it to leech out into other feelings, being ticked off while walking around with a dark cloud over my head. I can still remember seeing other people experiencing something annoying and not letting it bother them; you might know, letting it roll off their back. Oh no, that used to not be an option for me. THE REASON I AM mentioning this is because a friend of mine just told me about the type of week they recently had and I noticed something interesting. All within one week his refrigerator broke, the microwave oven he ordered was delivered in the wrong size, his dentist told him he would need a root canal, the home laptop computer crashed and he got stuck in his winter jacket when the zipper broke up by his neck. What I found interesting was his reaction to all of these things; he was only slightly annoyed, laughing off the jacket incident as comical. Separately I sort of can see where each of these things might not illicit s strong negative reaction since they all were completely out of his control. While he was telling me all of this I realized I was getting anxious and annoyed for him. What was that about?! Having multiple annoying occurrences evidently affects me even if they have nothing to do with me. I know it is a process that will take time, to learn about letting go of this “small stuff;” however, when it comes to this drama written and directed by Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine, Café Society) I simply am not capable yet of not being annoyed. WITH MONEY BEING TIGHT and her son randomly starting fires all over the place it took Ginny, played by Kate Winslet (The Mountain Between Us, The Dressmaker), everything she had to keep things together. The surprise visit of her husband’s daughter Carolina, played by Juno Temple (Killer Joe, Maleficent), who was wanted by the mob could be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Including Jim Belushi (Red Heat, According to Jim-TV) as Humpty and Justin Timberlake (The Social Network, Runner Runner) as Mickey, I thought this was Jim’s best performances. His character seemed the most real to me; everyone else seemed more like a caricature. Visually I enjoyed this film with its story being set in Coney Island, but the script was so similar to other stories that I have seen in other movies. For me the story dragged at times and maybe her character was supposed to be irritating but I have to tell you I did not care for Kate’s role; she was annoying to me. Overall I felt this picture was stale; it did not offer anything new as far as I could see. Maybe tomorrow I will get a handle on not allowing myself to get irritated, but for right now this film annoyed me.
1 ¾ stars
PACKING up my homemade treats, looking over my predictions with the list of winners, using eyes that were strained and tired from staring at the television screen for hours; I was ready to go to bed. Another year is now in the record books for a lot of reasons. Of course the biggest surprise was the mixup for the last category, best picture. Reading and hearing about the different theories on the how and why it happened did not provide me with answers to a couple of simple questions. Assuming Warren Beatty has all of his mental faculties, I just do not understand why he did not say he had the wrong card. It was obvious to me he was flustered, looking back to the side stage and around; he did not know what to do. Of all things then why would he throw Faye Dunaway under the bus. He could have whispered in her ear to see if she agreed, but since the surveys said La La Land was going to win, Faye possibly saw that on the card first instead of Emma Stone’s name when he showed her. The two of them knew they were giving out the best picture award, wouldn’t seeing Emma Stone’s name on the card be the first clue something was wrong and it would be perfectly okay to say so? This is just my opinion.
THE opening was refreshing to me. Since host Jimmy Kimmel is not a song and dance type of comedian like Billy Crystal, I liked the way Justin Timberlake sang his Oscar nominated song which loosened up the audience. Because of this, I felt the crowd gave off less of “aren’t we great, idolize us” vibe and more of an earthiness if you will. In fact, I thought Jimmy did a wonderful job in being down to earth. He avoided the mean spiritedness that some jokes could have taken on while he kept things moving on. The candy drop and the busload of tourists were my favorite segments, though the Matt Damon feud thing was more outrageous on the big stage. My favorite part was when Jimmy was conducting the orchestra to drown out Matt during his presentation.
MAYBE it is me but I thought the speeches were shorter this year and surprisingly were more personal when politics was brought into them. My favorite speeches of the night came from Viola Davis and the reading of writer and director Asghar Farhadi’s acceptance speech. Viola was so passionate and sincere, I loved how she talked about actors taking on the lives for those who no longer can speak. I laughed at Jimmy’s comment that she would be nominated for an Emmy with her speech. As for Asghar’s speech, I had just seen his winning film The Salesman the afternoon prior to the show and appreciated his thoughtfulness and heartfelt words. Gael Garcia Bernal was one of the presenters that touched the perfect balance of personal without the hate. Speaking of presenters I felt Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae were lovely while on stage as they brought out Katherine G. Johnson, the NASA mathematician that Taraji portrayed on screen. It was such a touching moment.
EVEN with the long telecast, as I reclined across my sofa my desire to be a seat filler was just as strong today as it has been all the past years. Just once I want to be part of the red carpet pre show activities, the ceremony and just be able to walk around and soak up the whole atmosphere of the event. With that said it has been a year of ups and downs with movies. I feel I saw more poorly done films than wonderful ones; but I would not trade a minute of it since I still love the whole movie watching experience and the ability to write down my thoughts to share with you. So tomorrow we will start all over for the new Oscar year in search of that 4 star picture. I look forward to another year talking and commenting on the movies with you. Thank you for all of your support, I deeply appreciate it.
IT is quite easy to be pessimistic when one has experienced many disappointments. I have mentioned in the past I refer to myself as a defensive pessimist. The first time I heard this term was in one of my psychology classes. The term fit me like a custom-made suit. Through classroom discussions I learned some new things about myself. I would not be labeled a “downer,” but I never was one to look on the bright side of a situation. This I found out was a good thing because me and people with a similar mindset prepare for the worst in a situation, but are quicker to adapt then those who stay positive. I will give you an example of something that happened to me this week. MY furnace had to be replaced immediately. The HVAC company offered a 36 month payment plan, interest free. Who would not want to take advantage of this offer? However, as I was filling out the online application I noticed the issuing bank was the same bank I had a horrible time with when I refinanced my mortgage. Just to give you a reference point this bank had my mortgage and my application to refinance it was declined one time because no one at the bank checked off the prefix Mr. So now as I continued the application process a part of my brain was already planning for the worst. I was coming up with a couple of backup plans if the bank was going to hassle me again. Sure enough the bank responded to my application by only giving me a $900.00 credit limit. I will spare you the foul language; only telling you my FICA score is 834-840. I called the bank with no fear because I had my options but in 15 minutes they increased my credit limit to $9500.00. If this did not happen I would still be able to keep my appointment for the new furnace; could an optimist make the needed adjustments? Something to ponder as you watch this colorful, animated adventure film. WHEN one of the townsfolk was kidnapped optimist Poppy, voiced by Anna Kendrick (The Accountant, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates), was positive she could save her fellow troll. It only meant working with the pessimist Branch, voiced by Justin Timberlake (Friends with Benefits, Runner Runner). This film festival winning comedy had a fun soundtrack to accompany the kaleidoscopic scenes. Though the movie was geared towards children, adults could find things they would like about the story. For me the idea of working together resonated strongly in the script. The story was basic, offering very little in originality; I felt as if the purpose of the movie was to make troll dolls popular again. With that being said let me tell you the things that kept my interest through this picture were the use of sarcasm, the dancing, song selection and the color palette. What you see in the trailer is pretty much what you get in the film. I try my best not to go into a movie theater with expectations, but I have to say this film was easy fun. There was a brief extra scene during the credits.
2 ¾ stars
Two days prior to watching this movie I had to complete an advanced abuse prevention training for one of the health facilities. The subjects I reviewed did not surprise me; it was remembering things I witnessed during my school years and how they would be so unacceptable now. How many of you remember a teacher keeping a student after class or having a pupil sitting alone with an instructor in a room for detention. According to the training module I read it is no longer acceptable, unless there is easy visibility for other individuals to see the teacher and student. I can go down a list of my teachers and find many who would be considered violators now, besides being inappropriate back then. There was one teacher who periodically would be drunk in class; his face turning bright red as he slurred his words. There was another teacher who was living with one of their former students. Oh and how could I forget the teacher who would throw a ball at their students’ heads to get their attention? If you combine all of my teachers together as one, I am not sure they would be the worst teacher ever compared to the bad teacher in this comedy. Cameron Diaz (Gangs of New York, There’s Something About Mary) played Elizabeth Halsey; who after being dumped by her wealthy fiance was forced to teach at a middle school. Her motivation had nothing to do with the students; instead it was how quickly she could get money to pay for her breast augmentation procedure. I enjoyed Cameron in this role and thought she was outrageous, doing a decent job. The other teachers were too much like cartoon characters, such as Lucy Punch (Hot Fuzz, Stand Up Guys) as Amy Squirrel and Phyllis Smith (Butter, The Office-TV) as Lynn Davies. Surprisingly I thought Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Muppets) was not used enough as PE instructor Russell Gettis and Justin Timberlake’s (In Time, Runner Runner) character was just weird. This award winning movie was crude in parts, but there were a couple of chuckle worthy scenes. I did not find the ending satisfying with the change that took place. Overall watching this film would be a harmless activity, unlike having to be a student at this school.
2 1/4 stars — DVD
Hope is such a funny thing. In some circumstances it is the life preserver that keeps you afloat during the rough choppy waters of doubt and fear. When one has to wait for test results, hope is there to carry them through the days. There are times though where hope drives us crazy as if it greased the wheels of one’s reasoning, making them skid across the roads of reality and sanity. Checking one’s email account for an email or voice messages for that one call, hoping the person you just met keeps their promise to contact you for a date, as you refuse to make any plans yet for the weekend. This would be the wicked side of hope. The dictionary defines hope as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. It says nothing about it helping or hindering us. In this latest dramatic film from the writing and directing team of Ethan and Joel Coen (The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men) hope was the only thing musician Llewyn Davis, played by Oscar Isaac (Robin Hood, Drive), had as he tried to make it in the New York folk scene back in the 1960’s. This Golden Globe nominated black and white movie was meticulously filmed down to each detail. The set pieces and scenes had the Coen Brothers’ special way of evoking emotions out of both the characters and viewers. I do not believe everyone will be familiar with the Fred Harvey rest stop oasis, but it was priceless to see one of them in a scene. If I am not mistaken they were in only one state in America where they spanned across the highway. Besides the outstanding acting from Oscar, I thought the acting was equally well done by Carey Mulligan (An Education, The Great Gatsby) as Jean and John Goodman (Argo, Roseanne-TV) as Roland Turner. In fact, I think John is one of the best character actors working in movies today. As for the story I enjoyed most of it, though I felt at times it was meandering about, leaving uncertain conclusions. The ending left me a little cold. I am not sure this film festival winning movie will please everyone. Music lovers will certainly enjoy this musical movie; at least I hope so.
3 1/3 stars
Each of us one way or another has in some type of form gambled. Not necessary with money, but based on choices we made on a daily basis. Everyday I drive to work I have to take a gamble on which route will get me to the office the quickest. If I choose the highway there may be a backup of cars that would delay me. Taking side streets will take longer but if traffic is flowing I could get there earlier; it is a calculated gamble I have to take each day. How many of us have had to lift something that was extra heavy? There is a risk that some of us may injure our backs; isn’t that taking a gamble? I have very little experience when it comes to gambling with money; never understood the attraction of it. However, I certainly have no problem watching other people play with their money. In this dramatic thriller the gambling was done entirely online. Justin Timberlake (Friends with Benefits, The Social Network) played Princeton student Richie Furst. Discovering he was cheated out of his tuition money on an online gambling site, Richie decided to take his proof to the site’s headquarters in Costa Rica and confront millionaire owner Ivan Block, played by Ben Affleck (Argo, The Company Men). Impressed with Richie’s moxie, Ivan made him an enticing offer. The story had all the elements to make an exciting film, even if none of them were original. I could have dealt with the cliches and obvious setups if the acting stood out. Unfortunately, it did not nor helped this crime film. Part of it may be due to the direction, but Justin could not carry the story as a lead character. As long as Ben was doing gentler scenes he was okay, but his intense scenes fell flat. Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace, Unfinished Song) as Rebecca Shafran was forgettable, lacking any chemistry with her co-stars. Anthony Mackie (The Adjustment Bureau, Real Steel) as Agent Shavers was wasted on his stereotypical character. There was nothing new being offered in this movie; parts dragged for me. As I mentioned in the beginning, all of us have gambled in some way and that holds true for the movie studio that made this film. It took a risk and lost I am afraid. There were a couple of brief scenes with blood in them.
1 3/4 stars