THE SERVING PLATTER LOOKED LIKE IT HAD an old roadmap embedded into it. All roads led to a happy memory. At the bottom of a china hutch, I found wrapped in an ancient dishtowel a large oval serving plate. I remembered it from when I was a little boy. It had gold filigree outlining the rim and center of it. Tracing the gold was a thin dusty rose-colored line; in the center, there was a bouquet of flowers of which some were of the same rose color. The roadmap I referred to was created from years of use, especially due to the washing of it. Fine ghost like crooked lines, crisscrossing all across the plate; gave the appearance of abandoned roads. I can remember sitting down for dinner at family gatherings where this platter would hold the main part of the meal. There were times it held brisket of beef or roasted chicken or slices of turkey during the Thanksgiving holiday. When I was really young I could not hold it up by myself as it was being passed around the dining room table; the relative next to me would have to hold it or sometimes even place the food on my plate after I pointed out to them which pieces. THOSE FAMILY DINNERS WERE A SOURCE OF immense joy to me. Getting together with my cousins was always a highlight. The conversations around the table were usually lively and animated. Relatives would be laughing all the time, even when they were in the middle of a heated discussion. I can still remember that time where a relative brought a gelatin-molded dessert (gelatin mixed with other food items like nuts or fruit set into a mold) to the table. When it was unmolded it plopped on the plate and slid off onto the table. This dinner platter is something I will always associate with good food. Especially during holidays, I do not remember one time where the platter was not being used for serving. As a former large person, the food certainly was the catalyst for me having a good time among my relatives. It was during these gatherings where I really learned what it meant to have and be part of a family. Beside myself I know others must have gained valuable memories at these meals and I am sure the dinner platter played a part in them. So now, my dilemma is what to do with this decades old dinner platter. How could I possibly part with it? I would feel the same way if I were the main character in this dramatic, film festival winning comedy. WHEN THE READING OF HER GRANDFATHER’S will took place, the last thing Cynthia, played by Jillian Bell (Rough Night, Office Christmas Party) expected to get was an old sword. What in the world would she do with such a thing? With Marc Maron (Almost Famous, Glow-TV) as Mel, Jon Bass (Molly’s Game, Loving) as Nathaniel, Michaela Watkins (The Back-Up Plan, Thanks for Sharing) as Mary and Dan Bakkedahl (The Heat, Veep-TV) as Kingpin, this was an odd film for me. The script came across in such a way that it appeared as if the cast was doing improvisation. I will say each actor did a good job of portraying a wacky/kooky type of character. Some of the dialog had witty comments and comebacks. There was a loose feel to the scenes, which made the satire stand out more. As for the story it was farfetched and at times the absurdity of it bored me. And as the story wound down, I felt the ending lost momentum and did a quick job to finish things up. This was a strange picture that at times looked amateurish and goofy, but then at times had quick biting repartee.
THOUGH IT HAS BEEN SEVERAL YEARS since I taught that class, I still think about it often. I go over in mind what I would have done differently if I could repeat the class over. It was the last part of my yoga class, where we go into a relaxed position with guided visualization. I had turned the lights off; there was only a faint glow coming from the displays of the few electronic devices in the room. Halfway through our relaxation period, a member coughed a couple of times then burped. Though I could not see faces I could tell the noise had come from a female member. While I was still guiding the class through a visualization, I quietly walked towards the woman. Before I reached her, I saw another woman had rolled over to face her, to see if she was okay. As I came up to them the other woman said her mother was not feeling well, pointing to the burping woman. Before I could say anything, the ill sounding woman started making sounds as if she was about to vomit. I ran to get a garbage can as the daughter helped her mother to a sitting position. When I returned with the garbage can the daughter told me her mother had eaten dinner just before she came to class. I still wish to this day that I would have mentioned something about eating during my introduction at the beginning of the class. MY YEARNING TO REVISIT AN EVENT in the past used to be based solely on guilt. There was the aerobic charity event where I lead a packed basketball court of people through a workout. I had to wear what I thought was a goofy outfit promoting the event. Looking back, I now realize my movements were a tad too complicated for the novice exerciser. I remember seeing guests getting lost with my directions. Where guilt used to drive my actions, I can now look back at the things I have done and consider them a learning experience. I know some people never look back at their history, but I cannot do such a thing. For me, the ability to look back at a past event is a teaching experience. A friend of mine never takes the time to study their past; as a result, they keep making the same mistakes over and over. I mentioned guilt used to be my motivator; however, I believe there are individuals whose motivation is their desire to receive approval. It could be from a parent, a teacher or even best friend; for some reason they may not have enough confidence to appreciate the things they can do. I wonder if this was what was going on with the main character in this dramatic sports film? ACCEPTING THE OFFER TO TEACH THE school’s losing basketball team would provide Jack Cunningham, played by Ben Affleck (The Accountant, Gone Girl), an opportunity to revisit his past. It was a past he was running away from, however. With Janina Gavankar (Blindspotting, True Blood-TV) as Angela, Michaela Watkins (Brittany Runs a Marathon, The Back-Up Plan) as Beth, Hayes MacArthur (Life as We Know It, She’s Out of My League) as Eric and Da’Vinchi (All American-TV, Grown-ish-TV) as Devon Childress; most of the attention was given to Ben. I will say he was excellent in this role; though, I did wonder how close did this character mirror his own life. The story and the script were easily predictable which took some of the drama out for me. I did find the basketball scenes funny, especially the ones involving Jack interacting with the team’s spiritual advisor. There will not be any surprises here, I do not think, for the viewer. Luckily, Ben’s skill at playing this type of flawed character is his forte, in my opinion. What connected me further was my experiences with dwelling in the past.
MISERY LOVES COMPANY EVEN WHEN ONE does not know they are miserable. There was a small group of us friends who got together often to go restaurant hopping. Yes, you heard correctly; we would go from one restaurant to another to another. Some people go bar hopping; but for me, alcohol was never my thing. I would rather chow down on food and snacks. The group of us would start the night at one restaurant, where we would have our main meal. After sitting and talking over tea/coffee after the meal, we would leave and go to a restaurant that made great French fries. I would have a whole plate of them with a soft drink. From there, we would drive around for a while deciding where we wanted to go next. One of my friends was fond of this pancake house, so we would usually wind up there to split a couple of orders of pancakes. I have to say they were always good. To end the evening, we would go to one of my favorite places; it was an old diner where they made these dynamite milkshakes. There was nothing better than ending a night out with friends by having one of these milkshakes. My choice was always the chocolate one. IT FINALLY TOOK AN EXPANDING WAISTLINE to make me confront the reality of what I was doing to myself. I had been stuffing my feelings of self-worth by stuffing my face. I hated myself and realized I was the only one who could change it. I still went out with my friends; but instead of digging into the food at every location, I would just order another cup of tea or something small that would have fewer damaging effects on my body. Exercise became a focus for me, so I started introducing cardio into my daily routines. My friends noticed my physical appearance was slowly changing. They were supportive for the most part; however, I could sense something was going on when I would join them on a restaurant run. I could go into my theories about it; but instead, let me just say I got a sense they were feeling uncomfortable having me sitting with them with my cup of tea, while they were devouring large quantities of food. I understood it because I would probably feel the same way. Eventually, I attended our restaurant runs less and less. Some friends would stay in contact with me, others not so much. I just knew I had to make a change in my life; the same way the main character, in this film festival winner, had to do in her life. AS HER FRIENDS’ LIVES CONTINUED TO grow Brittany, played by Jillian Bell (Rough Night, Office Christmas Party), knew she would have to make a change. However, going to a doctor to score some prescription drugs may not have been the best choice when the doctor refused, telling her she was overweight. With Michaela Watkins (The Back-Up Plan, In a World…) as Catherine, Alice Lee (Wish Upon, Sierra Burgess is a Loser) as Gretchen, Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, Tag) as Demetrius and Utkarsh Ambudkar (Pitch Perfect, Barbershop: The Next Cut) as Jern; this comedic drama was made better by Jillian Bell. She was wonderful in her role, authentically coming across as real and vulnerable. There have been similar stories done before; however, I found this script had more of a raw element to it which only drew me more into the story. Of course, with being able to relate to some of Jillian’s issues, I felt a solid connection to this picture. My guess would be more viewers than not would find something to relate to in this movie. By picking this film to go see, you would be making a healthier choice.
3 ¼ stars
I was stunned the first time I heard my recorded voice; it did not sound anything like me. One of my friends received a tape recorder when we were in 7th grade. Sitting in his room we played around with the device, recording a variety of sounds we made with anything we could get our hands on. After listening to the different noises we created, we recorded each other talking. I could not understand why his voice sounded the same yet mine sounded like it came from a different human being. It was not until college that I finally got comfortable listening to my own voice. With all the discussion groups I had to attend in conjunction with my class lectures, I learned to slow my speech down and enunciate each word. Even with these changes I never found my voice to be anything special; nothing like the announcers’ voices on television or in movies. Though a good voice is needed for promotions or reporting the news, I bet many of us do not give a second thought to the person who is speaking. It is for that very reason I found this quirky comedy worked on so many levels. The idea to do a film about the never seen players in the voice-over world was something different and fresh. All the credit had to go to Lake Bell (Black Rock, No Strings Attached). She wrote, directed and starred as Carol in this Sundance Film Festival winning movie. Making a meager living as a vocal coach, Carol wanted to break into the tightly knit good old boys club of voice-over announcers. Her challenge would not be easy since her father Sam, played by Fred Melamed (The Dictator, A Serious Man), was one of the top voices in the country. Though the story started out slow for me, I found myself being drawn into Carol’s world. The script was filled with satirical humor, drama and romance; similar to many other movies that were done before. However, it felt new and real due to Lake’s skewed observations on relationships. Michaela Watkins (Wanderlust, The Back-Up Plan) and Rob Corddry (Warm Bodies, What Happens in Vegas) as Carol’s sister Dani and her husband Moe were wonderful. I enjoyed how each story line was treated with respect. This being Lake’s debut as a writer and director of a film, she certainly made a point to make herself be heard; I for one was listening.
3 1/4 stars