FOUR years attending the same school taught me more about social dynamics than any of my classes. I am not sure this applies to every school; but going into high school I was not prepared for the pecking order that was established for the student body. It could easily have been called a caste system because there were the “haves and have nots.” Within a short time one group that quickly formed were the popular kids. This class was made up of jocks, cheerleaders and anyone who the majority of students deemed beautiful or handsome. From my experience this was the alpha group. STUDENTS with the best grades, who did not qualify for the alpha group, formed their own clan known as the “brainiacs” aka smart students. Now this group used their collective intellect to thwart the jock group as a counterbalance to their top status. This group tended to be more receptive in allowing classmates to join them. If one was not fit for either of these two groups then there was a lower status group known as the “good students.” Though not as high in status, the students in this group never got in trouble, did nothing to standout in an inappropriate way or clash with any of the other groups. Continuing down the food chain so to speak there is the group referred to as the stoners. For anyone displaying behavior associated with drunkenness or high on drugs, this was their group. They did not care about the status of the other groups, barely acknowledged them or did not care at all. There are sub groups and such but down at the bottom were the leftovers in the student body and they were considered the losers. The kids in this group had to be on guard because they could be easy targets for any of the other groups. The toughest part of this caste system was trying not to carry it with you as your time served was ending. ALREADY not feeing connected to her fellow classmates Nadine, played by Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Begin Again), at least had one good friend. However that was not going to be enough considering her brother Darian, played by Blake Jenner (Everybody Wants Some, Glee-TV), was a star football player. This coming of age comedic drama was not like the other films that have been done in this category. With Woody Harrelson (Out of the Furnace, Now You See Me franchise) as Mr. Bruner, Kyra Sedgwick (Gamer, The Closer-TV) as Mona and Hayden Szeto (The Unbidden, Chop Shop-TV) as Erwin; this cast not only performed well together, they appeared authentic in a modern way. My experiences both helped and hindered my involvement into the story. On one hand I understood the dynamics perfectly, but then some of the scenes did not seem real to me only because I had never encountered them when I was in school. There were a couple of times that my disbelief took over which lost the scene for me. However the acting was sharp as was the script; so I was able to get back on track with the story. Having seen this movie only confirmed my belief that high school is not meant for the weak.
They say a picture paints 1,000 words and for the most part it can. However, there are some pictures/photographs that I feel would be a perfect accompaniment to an oral history. Family photos are one example that comes to mind. Whether they are from my family or friends, I have always been curious to hear the stories associated with the pictures. Some of those old sepia toned photos pasted onto hard cardboard, where the people are staring straight ahead with stern faces, can provide some interesting tales. Among my photographs I have sat and wondered what future generations would think about them. There is the photo of a dog’s head lying on a pillow with a blanket pulled up to his chin. They have no idea that in the middle of the night when I would get up to use the bathroom, our dog would jump up onto the bed into my spot and pull the covers up over himself. I would come back to bed and see him looking at me as if he were asking me, “What do you want?” That dog was such a character. BECAUSE I feel family stories are important and need to be shared; I thoroughly enjoyed what was being said in this film festival nominated movie. Taking place in Texas, Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense, Pay it Forward) played Walter, a young boy whose mother Mae, played by Kyra Sedgwick (Gamer, The Closer-TV), planned to drop him off with his eccentric uncles so she could go to school out of state. Uncle Garth and Uncle Hub, played by Michael Caine (Children of Men, Sleuth) and Robert Duvall (The Godfather franchise, Crazy Heart) were 2 of the most unusual men, who told strange stories, Walter had ever seen in his life. This comedic drama had such a pleasant way of letting the stories unfold from scene to scene. There was a sense of homeyness and familiarity that many viewers could identify to their own families. Though some of the roles verged on being cartoon like, I thought the cast’s acting was incredibly good. Michael and Robert were perfect, giving even doses of abruptness and quiet sweetness out of their characters. With the story set in the 1960s, this family film had a different pace and simpleness where some individuals might have a hard time relating to it. I, on the other hand, found such a feeling of comfort and deepening between the characters in this picture that it made me yearn for those family get togethers where the older relatives would share their family histories with the younger generations.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
In a new marketing twist, Hollywood is going from remaking previous movies to converting their religion now. In this suspenseful thriller, the movie studio took the story from the film The Exorcist and changed the religion to the Jewish faith. They could easily have called this movie The Yiddish Exorcist. I do not know if it has to do with society’s short attention span or whether we have become desensitized to violence in general; but, I did not find this movie that suspenseful. It needed a longer build up of tension to achieve true apprehension. With the coming attractions being shown, I was already prepared for some of the scenes, which took away the excitement for me. There were a few scenes that worked well, but I felt it was due to the well honed actors. Divorced parents Clyde and Stephanie, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Losers, Watchmen) and Kyra Sedgwick (Gamer, The Closer-TV) work together to save their youngest daughter Em, played by Natasha Calis (Donovan’s Echo, Sharp as Marbles) from an ancient evil spirit. This was not an original idea, but I really liked the matching up of Jeffrey and Kyra; they added emotional heft to the film’s story. Another plus to the movie was the avoidance of a cliched soundtrack, letting the scenes handle the build up of an impending terror. I gave this scary film a passing grade; however, I hope this is not an example of what we can expect a suspenseful film to be in the future. Personally, it does not matter to me what religion is used; I just hope the movie studios work on what is needed to build up the tension, in what is supposed to be a scary movie. Scenes with blood.
2 1/3 stars