WHEN THE MIND DESPERATELY WANTS TO do something, it does its best to avoid listening to the body. Images of the task at hand briefly pop up in the brain like bubbles, keeping you distracted from reality. I cannot tell you how many times I have found myself in this situation. Through the past years I have taught a fitness or yoga class, knowing in the back of my mind I might not be able to finish all the way through it. There was the time I was inflicted with a rotator cuff impingement, which in plain language is a pain in my shoulder. I knew there were several yoga poses in class that I would not be able to handle without causing more pain to myself. The only way I was able to get through the class was to do a quick demo of the completed pose and when I had the class join in, I did a modified version that took pressure off my shoulder. To the class, I explained what I was doing, but framed it as an option for those who might be feeling pressure/discomfort in their shoulders. No one had to know I was partially incapacitated, which I know is silly; however, I have it in my brain that I need to always appear 100% healthy to the members in my class. I have this fear that a member might assume any infliction I might have was due to exercising, causing them to stop. I know, it is ridiculous on my part to think of such a thing. ONE OF THE HARDEST CLASSES I HAD to teach was my first cycle class after suffering a bout of E coli. My doctor had recommended I take more time off from work and teaching to recover, but my mind was telling me I needed to get back to work and teaching. The members in my cycle class knew I had been hospitalized; there was no way to pretend I was perfectly fine. Getting onto the cycle bike took more effort than I had ever needed. My thoughts of “will I be able to get through class” were clashing with my brain telling me I had to teach. The music started and off I went into the warm-up phase of our ride. I got through it okay but when I told the class to pick up speed and come off their saddles, I immediately could tell I was going to be out of breath in no time. With sweat building up and my breathing becoming labored, I had to dial down the tension on the bike’s flywheel. Almost every challenge the class and I went through on our ride; I had to modify or simply sit down and take a breather. It was the hardest class I ever taught; but the members were so supportive and appreciative, I felt good for the first time since contracting the E coli. Because of what I had gone through, I understood why the main character in this dramatic sports romance kept going. HAVING PUSHED HIMSELF TO THE LIMITS to get to the level of competition he needed to be at, there was no way a pain in his body was going to stop Tyler, played by Kevin Harrison Jr. (It Comes at Night, Monsters and Men), from playing the sport he loved. He also did not want to disappoint his father. With Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased, Ben is Back) as Luke, Taylor Russell (Escape Room, Lost in Space-TV) as Emily, Sterling K. Brown (The Predator, Black Panther) as Ronald and Alexa Demie (Mid90s, Brigsby Bear) as Alexis; this film festival winner provided an absorbing viewing experience for me. I thought the acting was excellent from the whole cast because with a story we have seen before, they took the words in the script and turned them into something new and fresh. Also, the directing and filming made a difference for me in this movie. There was such authentic meaning ringing out in all the scenes, that I found myself experiencing some of the emotions that were taking place with the characters. This was a moving and emotional experience about family, pain, honesty, grief and forgiveness.
3 ½ stars
RARELY DO YOU SEE THE NEWS report on what takes place after a child’s sporting event has ended. If you are like me, you probably have seen a kid’s baseball or soccer or football game at some point in your life. I attended a relative’s son’s game. My biggest concern was the weather because it was an especially cold day and the idea of sitting outside on uncomfortable, metal bleachers was not cutting it for me; however, I agreed to go see the game anyway. When I arrived at the playing field, I found my relative and we went to claim a spot on the bleachers. The game started soon after. There was nothing exciting about the plays, but I cheered during the appropriate times. I noticed by the sidelines several adults who were bundled up walking up and down the field based on where the teams were playing. It didn’t take me long to figure out these guys were fathers of some of the players. The reason I knew was due to their behavior; they had no qualms about voicing their opinions, yelling at the referees or screaming at their own kids. I could not believe what I was hearing. To me, they sounded like an angry mob; for heaven’s sake, it was just a kid’s football game. Their children, I thought, must have been horrified by the vocal outbursts. The referees tried curtailing the Dads’ behaviors, but it only had a short-term effect before the Dads would go back to yelling. THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE WAS MAKING ME more uncomfortable than I was presently. After the game ended (it seemed like an eternity), we waited for my relative’s son. We stood off to the side of the bleachers on a path that led to the parking spots. Standing there, I was able to hear snippets of conversations from the passing people. One Dad was walking with his player son right by me. I could see the Dad was not happy based on the faces he was making as he was belittling his child. Calling his son names, telling him he was no good and a variety of other negative comments; I was disgusted by the man’s ignorance on what he really was doing to his son. The poor kid looked brokenhearted, his head hanging down, only able to stare at the ground. I wanted to shout at the father but refrained myself. What did the Dad hope to accomplish with all his yelling? I asked myself the same question as I was watching this powerful dramatic film. EX-RODEO CLOWN AND FELON JAMES LORT, played by Shia LaBeouf (The Peanut Butter Falcon, Fury), would do anything to make his son a star; even if it might hurt him. With Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird, Boy Erased) as Otis (22), Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place, Wonder) as Otis (12), Byron Bowers (The Chi-TV, The Eric Andre Show-TV) as Percy and Laura San Giacomo (Pretty Woman, Just Shoot Me!) as Dr. Moreno; Shia wrote the screenplay, for this film, that was based on his life experiences. I felt this was one of Shia’s best performances and I believe it had an affect on Lucas and Noah; they were just as good. If even half of the scenes in this movie were true; Shia had one torturous childhood. Sitting through this picture was like being in therapy due to the roller coaster display of intense emotions. There were times I wondered how Otis even made it to adulthood, based on the amount of pressure that was being placed on him. For several years I lost interest in Shia due to his erratic behavior that was making the news. However, after seeing what he did with the script and acting in this movie, I have a whole new appreciation for him and his acting ability.
3 ½ stars
AT WHAT POINT DOES YOUR TOLERANCE for disruptive behavior end? I can go for a while depending on the situation, but then I am done. Let me give you an example: there was a friend of mine who enjoyed going to the movies with me. I thought I did as well until she started talking during the film. Once or twice I am okay with, especially if they did not hear a line of dialog; but, asking questions and talking during the show is totally unacceptable in my world. She would ask me things like, “What do you think will happen?” or “I do not think that dress looks good on her.” Really?!?! This is a reason to open your mouth and talk during a movie? I thought not responding would stop the talking, but that was not the case. She kept up the chatter even after I pointblank asked her to stop it. Because she was a good friend, I had a dilemma on my hands. Do I stop going to the movies with her or find a different option? My solution was simple (at least I thought so); I told her she was more than welcome to join me, but she could not sit next to me because of the talking. She tried by sitting a few seats away from me, but after a couple of times she lost interest in going with me and I was okay with it. THOUGH I AM STILL FRIENDS WITH that person there is someone else whose friendship I chose to end. We knew each other for several years. Since I was the only one with a car, a lot of our time together was down in their area. In those years they only ventured up towards me a few times, using public transportation or a car share. Everything was fine between us, always having a good time together. Then one time I asked if they wanted to see a theatrical production at a theater that was located near me; they agreed to see it. I checked on ticket availability and called them back later in the week. We decided on seats and I said I would go pick them up. They asked again the name of the theater and when I told them they asked if it was located up by me. Saying yes, they said they were not going to go “all the way” up there just to see a play. I realized right then this was a friendship of convenience on their part; it was okay for me to go down to them, but to come up to me was too hard? Since this was not the 1st time, I made the hard decision. Granted, not as hard as the decisions made in this dramatic movie. HOLLY BURNS, PLAYED BY JULIA ROBERTS (Wonder, Secret in Their Eyes), had everything set to celebrate the holidays. But then her son Ben, played by Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased, Manchester by the Sea), unexpectedly showed up from rehab. This film festival winner also starred Courtney B. Vance (Space Cowboys, Office Christmas Party) as Neal, Kathryn Newton (Blockers; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) as Ivy and Rachel Bay Jones (God Friended Me-TV) as Beth Conyers. This film stayed alive because of the wonderful acting done by Julia and Lucas. Their chemistry together blazed across the screen. There seems to have been a few recent films that have dealt with addiction, which put this story at a disadvantage. There was not something to set this script much apart from the others that were done, except for allowing the actors to wring out as much feelings and emotions as they could, and they did. Nonetheless, this picture kept me engaged with its tough choices.
THE YOUNG MAN WAS SHARING HIS STORY with the audience on national television. In his words he was expressing how hard it was for him to get to this point, where he made it onto the dance show. He grew up in a tough neighborhood that had its share of crimes. Many of his classmates were already dealing drugs or doing other illegal activities; all he wanted to do was dance. He said he had been picked on and beaten up because of it. When the host asked what his parents thought about his dancing the young man said his Dad wanted a son who liked playing sports. I felt sad for this talented guy who struggled to do what he loved to do. His story reminded me of this couple I knew who had a little girl. The girl preferred playing with trucks and cars instead of her dolls. The parents were not exactly distraught, but you could tell they were concerned their daughter preferred “boy toys” instead of “girl toys.” Oh, and they were upset that the little girl hated wearing dresses. She would cry every time her parents would try to get her to wear a dress. FROM THE TWO STORIES I JUST SHARED with you, can you find a common theme between the two? I will give you a minute to think about it. Ok time is up; let me tell you what I see. The young man and little girl did not have any issue with what they liked; the man loved to dance, and the girl preferred playing with trucks. The people around each of them had an issue with it. Hearing the man talk about his father wishing he was into sports bothered me. I feel a parent’s job is to love their child unconditionally; to nurture them to grow into kind, respectable, responsible adults. The father, I believe, is taking his prejudices and applying them to his son. Maybe I am assuming, but what I took away from the young man’s story was his Dad and neighborhood kids thought less of him, or maybe thought he was not masculine enough, because he was a dancer. The same can be applied to the parents of the little girl. They had a problem with their daughter not playing with toys associated in the past with a girl and not dressing the part. What a child is or chooses to do is not necessarily a reflection on their parents. It is similar to the parents in this heartbreaking, dramatic movie. WHEN NANCY AND MARSHALL EAMONS, played by Nicole Kidman (The Beguiled, Lion) and Russell Crowe (The Nice Guys, The Water Diviner) discover their son is gay, the only thing they feel will solve the “problem” is to enroll their son Jared, played by Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea, Lady Bird), into a program that will convert him to a heterosexual. Jared agreed to participate; he wanted to please his parents. Based on a true story, this film was written and directed by Joel Edgerton (Loving, It Comes at Night) who also starred as Victor Sykes. Most of you know I find Nicole to be a gifted actress and for the time she was on screen, she was dynamite. For the small body of work Lucas has done already, he too is a gifted actor. The script based on the biography was well written, despite a couple of areas that could have used more explanation. As for the topic, I looked on in disbelief that anyone would even consider such a preposterous idea about conversion therapy. But looking underneath the surface, the lack of acceptance upon finding out about their son was sad to see. This was a powerful and thought provoking picture.
3 ½ stars
THERE WAS NOTING GREATER TO HAVE in school than an older friend. To make friends with someone from a higher grade was one of the ultimate achievements in a student’s accomplishments. Some of you might not be aware of it; but having an older friend would immediately give a boost to one’s self-esteem. Let us face it, hanging out with older kids was a cool thing to do. I remember going to a party with my friends where there were older students from our school. At one point I was standing with a small group of students. An older one standing next to me took out a carton of cigarettes and after taking one out offered me a cigarette; I had never smoked one, so I took it. Also, I wanted to look cool and be accepted by the older kids. I put the cigarette up to my mouth, trying to remember how movie stars did it. As soon as I lit the tip and inhaled; I let out a violent cough, spitting the cigarette out of my mouth and onto the floor. So much for looking like a cool kid. And from that point in time, I never smoked another cigarette again. IN MY SOPHMORE YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL, I volunteered to help the music department during one of my study periods. I was assigned to the band room where many of the band’s instruments were stored. Whether it was some kind of divine intervention or just luck, it did not matter to me; because there were several older students who always hung out in the room when I was there. Our love of music provided a quick connection between all of us. Having taken piano lessons for several years, besides being exposed early in life to several different genres of music; I had a level of knowledge that not only matched the other students, but in some cases surpassed them. It was an incredible feeling for me to be accepted by these older students. I learned the ins and outs of the upperclassmen’s courses, besides getting inside knowledge on the national testing I would be participating in. Walking through the hallways during the breaks between class periods and having one of them acknowledge my presence was a real high for me. Looking back at those times the only thing that was missing was having an older student as my bodyguard; like the one in that movie, “My Bodyguard,” (not to be confused with “The Bodyguard”). Due to the experiences I just shared with you, I could identify with what the main character was searching for in this comedic drama. IT TOOK A LOT OF COURAGE FOR Stevie, played by Sunny Suljic (The House with a Clock in its Walls, The Killing of a Sacred Deer), to step into the skate shop; but the older boys were doing some incredible things. This movie also starred Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Inherent Vice) as Dabney, Lucas Hedges (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Lady Bird) as Ian, newcomer Na-kel Smith as Ray and newcomer Gio Galicia as Ruben. Written and directed by Jonah Hill (Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far; War Dogs), this writing and directorial debut by him was a good first step forward. I found the story authentic; in a way it had a documentary vibe to it. For first time actors which was most of the cast, Jonah was able to get real life performances out of them. Some of the dialog seemed repetitive for me however. Despite that, I felt connected to the emotions of the script with the help of the interesting film angles Jonah employed. This was a solid, good start for Jonah about a real thing.
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
FOR many people only fond memories resurface when they travel back to their old neighborhood. The discount store that had the best penny candies, the shoe store with the jovial shoe clerk who told the best stories, the house where one’s best friend lived; there could be many places that bring a smile to one’s face. But not everyone may have a similar experience when they go back home. There are some people who tentatively traverse the streets that are fraught with landmines of dark emotions. RECENTLY I had to travel back to my old neighborhood, the place where I grew up. The street I lived on looked the same except several houses on the block were painted in different colors. The tree in the alley next to my home, where I would climb up to hide, was no longer there; it was replaced with recently poured concrete to add parking spaces. My secret place to hide at school was in one of its parking lots; it was still there. I would wait inside until I felt everyone in the school had gone home for the day, before venturing out from it. Driving east I passed a place that was a few houses down from a relative’s place. That spot nearby was where one time I did not get to their home in time before being attacked. I continued on until the street ended at the beach. Here is where I started developing my creative side, building elaborate sand castles and forts. Alas, some of them were meant to fall once the tide came in. No matter which way one looks at it, each neighborhood has its share of good and bad memories. RETURNING home due to the death of his brother Joe, played by Kyle Chandler (The Wolf of Wall Street, Zero Dark Thirty); Lee Chandler, played by Casey Affleck (Out of the Furnace, The Finest Hours), was stunned to find out he was made the guardian of Joe’s son Patrick, played by Lucas Hedges (Moonrise Kingdom, Kill the Messenger). There was a problem, Lee did not want to move back home. This film festival winning drama had some of the best acting I have seen this year. Casey, Lucas and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Blue Valentine) as Randi Chandler were so good together that my heart ached. The atmosphere for this movie was one of sadness and depression; however, the script was smartly written to allow Patrick to act like a typical high school boy. I enjoyed the scenery of the east coast and never felt the camera work was intrusive. There were a couple of spots where I found the story deflated a bit, but seriously the acting in this picture could get a few nominations this awards season. Let me reiterate this was not a happy story; but it was a moving experience, especially the way the story unfolded. Even if the distance is far, it would be worth your time to travel over to the neighborhood in this winning film.
3 2/3 stars