SOON AFTER WE BECAME FRIENDS IN 1stor 2ndgrade, we became best friends. I lived on the northwest corner of a square, city block and he lived on the southeast one; we would use the alley to go to each other’s house. He had an uncle who was some type of farmer; so, every summer he would always bring over a grocery bag of his uncle’s fruit to our house each weekend. We would go through the bag picking out the ripest fruit to eat right away before putting the bag in the refrigerator. All through elementary school we remained the best of friends. During that time, we were there for each other during a parent’s health scare, the surprise birth of his baby sister and the rise of bullying as we advanced in school. By the time we graduated and started high school we were sure nothing would change between us. With the school population tripling between elementary and high school, besides going from a small school to a block long building, we assumed we would still see each other through the school’s hallways. As it turned out that was not the case and as time went on, we started drifting apart. Our circle of friends was expanding and diversifying on top of it. I WENT OUT OF STATE FOR college and that was the last time I saw my friend; we lost touch with each other. Fast forward now 20 years, where I am living down in the city in my own place. There was a store in my neighborhood that I had read about in the newspaper; they carried “funky” retro stuff. I decided to check it out one Saturday and walked down to it. The newspapers were right because the store was cool looking with a variety of items from different eras. As I was gazing down into one of the glass display cases a staff worker came up to me, to see if I needed any help. When I lifted my head up to reply I was stunned. The man standing across the case from me was my best friend from elementary school. He recognized me immediately as we both started laughing. He asked what I was doing there; I asked him the same thing. It turned out he was the owner. While we were talking, I noticed something odd; he was talking with a British accent. Listening to the scope of his business dealings, he was heavily involved in the entertainment business. He went by one name, deciding his last name sounded suddenly “to ethnic.” I found all of this bizarre, to say the least. AFTER THAT STORE VISIT, WE STAYED in touch sporadically. I felt like I was talking to a different person whenever I would see him. He had turned himself into this persona with the one name to make an impression with the Hollywood people he was dealing with now. His business expanded so much he had to acquire multiple warehouses to store his burgeoning inventory. He became the “go to person” whenever Hollywood studios needed specific styled props and costumes. His lifestyle became fast paced and crazy to match the people he was now hobnobbing with, from coast to coast. I had bumped into him at a play one day and knew immediately he was high on drugs. His speech was slurred, his eyes were halfway shut, and he kept swaying from side to side. That was the last time I saw him until I read his obituary in the paper. DESPITE BEING UNINSURABLE AND BROKE LEGENDARY performer Judy Garland, played by Renee Zellweger (Chicago, My One and Only), flew to London in 1968 for several sold-out concerts. This biographical drama also starred Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, The Tempest) as Rosalyn Wilder, Finn Wittrock (Unbroken, American Horror Story-TV) as Mickey Deans, Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist, Hercules) as Sidney Luft and Michael Gambon (Harry Potter franchise, Quartet) as Bernard Delft. Whether the story was accurate in this film did not matter to me because ultimately it was all about Renee’s performance. Not once did I think it was Renee acting; she was utterly convincing in the role. Doing her own singing, I had to give her credit because I knew it was not going to be easy; however, she did an incredible job. Her mannerisms, her posture, her gestures; all of them were Judy. As for the story, many viewers already know it; so, let me just say, it is sad. However, don’t let that stop you from seeing this film because I believe you will be hearing Renee’s name this upcoming awards season.
WHEN ONE IS BORN into a majority that person’s awareness of the issues facing someone who was born into a minority may be skewed. The news this week reported on a former sports coach who made comments to the effect that he has not been aware of any racial oppression for the past several decades. Rather startling wouldn’t you say considering the multitude of events that are being shown by the news agencies. I tried to find some rationale to this person’s comments and the only thing I can come up with is maybe they do not read or watch the news; or another possibility may be the coach lives in a gated community where all the residents are the same. I honestly cannot come up with any valid reason for a person to make those types of comments. TWIN GIRLS WERE BORN to a mixed race married couple. One girl was fair skinned where one would think she was Caucasian. The other twin was extremely dark skinned to the point a person would assume she was black. I remember the 2 girls had a hard time in college of all places. The light skinned twin was treated completely different than her sister; it upset them and their parents tremendously. My awareness regarding this issue really came to the forefront when I was with friends or dates whose skin did not match mine. It was subtle at times; for example at restaurants there were times I noticed people, who were seated after us, getting waited on before us. There were some workers in the service industry who acted differently when interacting with my friend or date. I was appalled by such actions. How and why in the world would someone treat another person differently solely based on their looks? Whether it was skin color, appearance or religious attire; I had a hard time processing this type of prejudice. Since I am just an average person my experiences would not be considered newsworthy; imagine though what it must have been like for someone of royalty. You will find out when you see this film festival winning, dramatic movie based on a true event. NO ONE IN THE ROYAL court could understand why Queen Victoria, played by Judi Dench (Skyfall, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel franchise), took a liking to the lowly Indian servant Abdul Karim, played by Ali Fazal (3 Idiots, Furious 7). In fact they would not tolerate it. The reason this historical biography worked was due to Judi Dench. There is something about her that immediately grabs the viewer and brings them into her character. With Tim Pigott-Smith (Gangs of New York, Alice in Wonderland) as Sir Henry Ponsonby, Eddie Izzard (Absolutely Anything, Hannibal-TV) as Bertie the Prince of Wales and Michael Gambon (Harry Potter franchise, Sleepy Hollow) as Lord Salisbury; the cast was well rounded, but still Judi and Abdul were the main focus. My enjoyment of this film was based on the history of the story; the message about tolerance and acceptance easily could be applied today. There were however some scenes that did not ring as true as the others. I would have preferred more depth into the Queen’s relationship with Abdul, along with more dramatic intensity for the rest of the cast. Maybe my slight disappointment was due to the writers falling into comedic flair at times instead of giving me a meatier, more compelling story. I will say I wish there were more people today who had Queen Victoria’s beliefs.
2 ¾ stars
Growing old is like watching a balloon expand with each breath, never knowing when that one breath will cause the balloon to pop. As my friends and I age, the subject of how we may need assistance in our old age comes up more often. It is particularly important to those of us who are single; we wonder what will happen to us. An idea we have kicked around is buying an apartment building, where we can all live. It would allow us privacy but we would always have someone close by if help was needed. In a similar situation this sweet movie was about a home for retired musicians. Idyllic days filled with music and singing, building up to the annual charity concert celebration, received a surprise interruption. It was the arrival of new resident opera diva Jean Horton, played by Maggie Smith (Harry Potter franchise, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). Her appearance was even a bigger surprise to her former husband and resident Reginald Paget, played by Tom Courtenay (The Golden Compass, Billy Liar). With the heavy weight of clashing egos, could the show survive and still be a success? For his directorial debut, Dustin Hoffman (Last Chance Harvey, Finding Neverland) did an admirable job in telling this safe, predictable story. I think Dustin’s job was made much easier by his impressive cast. Besides Maggie and Tom, there was Billy Connelly (Mrs. Brown, The Debt Collector) playing the flirtatious Wilf Bond, Pauline Collins (Albert Nobbs, Shirley Valentine) as the forgetful Cissy Robson and MIchael Gambon (Harry Potter franchise, The King’s Speech) as concert director Cedric Livingston. From the film’s entire cast there was a true sense of history behind the characters, that was proven at the start of the ending credits. An easy and enjoyable movie to watch. A thought came to me as I left the movie theater: When I take my last breath, I only hope it comes at the end of a movie’s credits.