EVERY STEP A DECEASED FAMILY MEMBER has taken during their lifetime has led to you. I have thought about this from time to time, usually when I learned something new about a relative. When I found out a portion of my family members decided to immigrate to Canada during the war instead of the United States, I wondered what my life would have been like if I had grown up in Canada. Growing up I might have seen a few of the Canadian relatives when I was very young, but I do not have any memories of them. If they were still alive, I would ask them why they chose to go north instead of following the rest of the relatives who came to America. Was there a disagreement or dislike that pushed them to break away, is something I always wanted to know? Or better yet, what would my life have been like if my relatives had never moved from their home? I think about the number of labels one can gain in one’s lifetime; from daughter or son to brother or sister to husband or wife to cousin to aunt or uncle to grandparent and so on. Each of us has a role in the family tree. IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS, I do not think my family tree is much different from anyone else’s family. As far as I know there is nothing too dramatic or outrageous like other families I have heard about. There is a friend of mine who had never met an uncle because the man, in his late 20’s, fell to his death. At that point this uncle’s portion of the family tree ceased to grow. I have another friend who in high school found out she had 2 step brothers living in another state. It turns out her father had a 2nd family no one knew about; including my friend’s mother, the wife. It wasn’t until college that my friend had her first contact with these 2 boys and was stunned to see how much they looked like her (their) Dad. Because of those 2 boys she became a sister, a cousin, a niece and eventually an aunt; all of that simply from this occurrence, though however tragic it was for her and her mother. Newton’s laws of motion could be used to let every family member know, for every action there is an equal reaction; the examples of this can be found in this dramatic romance movie. COLLEGE SWEETHEARTS ABBY AND WILL, played by Olivia Wilde (The Words, The Lazarus Effect) and Oscar Isaac (Star Wars franchise, Annihilation), find themselves on a path that has lasting effects on those before and after them. Written and directed by Dan Fogelman (This is Us-TV, Danny Collins), this multigenerational story had a fine cast such as Mandy Patinkin (Wonder, Homeland-TV) as Irwin, Olivia Cooke (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, The Signal) as Dylan and Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In, The Mask of Zorro) as Mr. Saccione. Where the episodic telling of a story works in Dan’s television show, I found it annoying for this film. There was a heavy-handedness that made for many syrupy actions and scenes; I felt like I was being told how to feel, very manipulative. It was as if scenes were purposely done to get the audience to tear up. Boredom set in quickly for me and it was not until the last third of the film where my interest finally piqued. I liked the idea of the story and had to wonder how things would have played out if there was a different writer. As I left the theater I thought how much my life would change by me having sat in the theater at this particular time and day.
1 ¾ stars
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
SACRIFICE may be too strong of a word; I prefer saying compromise. Maybe I feel this way because when I was younger the only time I would be aware of the word and its meaning was in stories and movies. A sacrifice involved killing, either human or animal. Just look at the film King Kong where the villagers make an offering to Kong. So when it comes to relationships I tend to avoid saying sacrifice; though if they made me mad enough—just kidding. For me compromising is an essential part of being in a relationship. There have been several couples I have known where one person was so needy, they were never satisfied with the amount of changes their significant other had gone through to please them. More times than not resentment filters into the relationship and from there everything quickly goes downhill. This of course can turn out completely different when one participant has low self-esteem. FROM a recent relationship I experienced some of this firsthand. We were still in the early stages where everything was great and exciting. A couple of times I was questioned about my teaching schedule; I took it as a sign of interest. After a couple of months we had a talk about finding places in our schedules where we could spend more time together. I offered a couple of options where I could fit in some of my chores during the week to free up more open time on the weekend. This seemed a doable solution so life went on as we became more attached to each other. It was around the 6-7 month mark when I was asked if I could join them for some function. My schedule did not allow it and they seemed to understand. Sure enough a few weeks went by before they started an argument and threw this back at me. It turns out they resented me teaching at night; something I was doing way before we had met. From my point of view they wanted me to make the sacrifice and stop teaching; I think you can guess what happened—I still am teaching classes. ARTISTS Noriko and Ushio Shinohara would have to give up something to make their relationship work, but would it be fair? Written and directed by Zachary Heinzerling (Hugh the Hunter, P.O.V-TV) this film festival winning documentary was nominated for an Oscar. Spanning their 40 year marriage I enjoyed seeing how the creativity came out of these 2 artists along with their artistic son Alex. It was fascinating to see how emotions play such an important role in an artist’s life. Ushio is known as the boxing artist and I could easily see where some of his work was therapeutic. The things he made using cardboard were incredible. However Noriko’s story was the stronger one for me because one could really see the progression she made throughout the years of their marriage. Another aspect I enjoyed about this film was the use of animation with some of Noriko’s artwork. I, like many others I am sure, have heard how artists suffer for their art. Now I do not want to say there was suffering on display here; but it was interesting to see what people do for the sake of their art. Whether one thinks there was sacrifice or compromise in the Shinohara’s relationship does not matter; what does is how it all fits together. Parts of the movie were spoken in Japanese with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars — DVD
AMONG the employees he was the “go to” guy, for almost anything you needed. Not for work related issues, it was for almost anything you were looking for personally. You see, it always seemed as if he knew someone; or if he did not, he knew someone who knew someone who could handle any of our requests. If you needed a new sidewalk, he knew someone in the cement industry; if you were looking for a new car, his cousin’s brother-in-law sold cars. I cannot recall ever hearing him declining someone’s request; this guy always had some type of connection to get any of us help. Now I cannot honestly say every person he recommended did the best job, because many times I heard employees describe the work done as fine or adequate; but with the promise of getting the work at a cheaper price, I guess one could say you get what you pay for as the saying goes. When I needed new windows in my basement I used this employee’s connections. I did not think doing glass block windows would be too hard, but I did have to call them back to fix the caulk job on a couple of windows. HAVING been employed for many years I learned a long time ago it is not what you know but who you know. In my personal life I know a couple of people who have friends in the entertainment industry. They are part of an association that allows them to attend some of the award shows. Since one of my dreams is to attend the Oscar awards telecast, I would have no issue seeking them out. Granted I wish they were friends of mine instead of being friends of a friend. When I have had the good fortune to attend a special screening of a new film, I always try to stay afterwards during the Q & A session with cast members and the director. If there is an opportunity to give any of them my business card, you better believe I will do it; however, I don’t come anywhere near the skills of this dramatic movie’s main character. ALWAYS coming close but never being a party to the big power brokers Norman Oppenheimer, played by Richard Gere (Arbitrage, Primal Fear), begins to realize something is happening when a politician he had met in the past drops his name. This one connection could change Norman’s life. This film festival nominee also starred Michael Sheen (Passengers, Kingdom of Heaven) as Philip Cohen, Lior Ashkenazi (Later Marriage, Footnote) as Eshel, Charlotte Gainsbourg (Melancholia, 3 Hearts) as Alex and Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast, Criminal Activities) as Bill Kavish. The script to this story allowed Richard to shine; he was excellent in the role. The movie for the most part was dialog driven. At first I felt the story was going to become a drag; but the more I saw of Richard’s character, the more involved I became. It was surprising to see this film was also tagged a thriller besides being a drama. Maybe in the loosest of terms was it thrilling; for the most part I took it to be a believable telling of those in power. Not having connections to any powerful bigwigs, I enjoyed getting an up close seat to this party.
There were some toys that were just begging me to take them apart. Toys that did amazing things to my young mind back then warranted me either unscrewing screws, twisting off parts or simply breaking pieces apart until I could see what was inside. The downside to this was I would not have the toy to play with anymore. It is funny now as an adult there are some things I do not want to know anything about how they work. Getting into an elevator, all I care about is when I press the floor number the elevator car takes me there with no incident. I do not need to know if the car is rising due to air pressure, counterweights or pulleys; all I care about is I do not get stuck between floors and make the local news. While on vacation I had to take a gondola lift to reach my destination. There was no reason for me to look at the cable wires strung above or the little wheeled contraption that the gondola was hanging from. As I stepped into the car with the other passengers I looked down at the floor until we started moving. Once we rose above the visitor’s center I peered out the large windows that enclosed us to see the slope of the mountain slowly pass us by. All I was interested in was taking pictures until we arrived at the top; I did not want to know about the mechanics that got us there. Just writing about that experience still creeps me out, though I did get some fantastic shots with my camera. For the same reasons I just described there is no way I want to hear about all the mechanics involved in getting the airplane I am on up into the air and to my destination. If you are already nervous about flying then this film will not calm your nerves. WHEN a flock of birds destroyed both engines of the plane he was flying Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, played by Tom Hanks (Bridge of Spies, Captain Phillips), had little time to follow the flight manual; he had to rely on his instincts. Based on the true story this biographical drama was led by Tom who was exceptional in the role. Along with Aaron Eckhart (Olympus Has Fallen, The Dark Knight) as Jeff Skiles and Laura Linney (Mr. Holmes, The Fifth Estate) as Lorraine Sullenberger; this film was directed by Clint Eastwood (Trouble with the Curve, Gran Torino). I have to say Clint did a great job with taking the story and recreating it on screen. For the most part the script was fine; I am sure it was a big asset having Sully’s conversations to build on. However, there were parts of the story where I had wished the writers would have gone deeper. It seemed as if some scenes were assigned to convey a quick reference before moving forward. On the scheme of things this was not a major fault because it did not take the entertainment value away from the movie watching experience. Let us face it; this was an incredible story about a true hero and the ordeal he had to endure even after the flight. Make sure you stay for the beginning of the credits.
3 ½ stars
I remember the first time I went to their house. It was nighttime during the winter so it took me some time to get to their place out away from the city. After greeting me at the door they excused themselves for a second to finish up before we were going out for dinner. Standing in the front hallway I looked to see what was around me. There was a darkened room to my left; it had to be a living room or something since there was no doorway. I stood at the edge of the room because I did not want to appear too nosy but quickly jumped back. Something was staring at me. As my eyes started to adjust to the darkness I was wrong, there was a bunch of people looking at me. I was in such shock I had not heard the footsteps on the staircase as they came back downstairs to stand behind me. “You must be looking at my collection,” they said. I told them I was trying to figure out what was staring at me. They walked over to the light switch on the wall and when the room burst into light, what I saw staring at me were porcelain dolls that had been placed all around the room. There were a couple of child sized dolls seated in chairs, smaller ones were placed on bookshelves and in china cabinets. Adult sized ones were hanging up on the walls, posed in different positions. I was speechless; the only time I had seen so many dolls in one place was at a toy store. My next thought was how long did it take to dust all of them? I am not one to judge; it does not matter to me what a person collects. However, I enjoy and want to hear the motivation and reasons why a person collects certain things. LIVING modestly on his postal clerk and her librarian salaries, Dorothy and Herb managed to create what would become a world famous collection. This film festival winning documentary was not only astounding to watch, it was charming to see the lives of this elderly couple. Directed by Megumi Sasaki I was never bored watching this DVD. The variety of interviews, the commentary from Herb and Dorothy, the meetings, their apartment; all of these components put together formed an entertaining movie. Now here is the thing, the works this couple collected are things that I do not usually gravitate towards; they get lost on me. However, I can appreciate their importance and actually learned a few things from some of the commentary segments offered up in the film. Also, I was amused at the juxtaposition between this nondescript elderly couple and the body of work they amassed. One of the messages I took away after seeing this movie was one does not have to limit themselves to fulfill their passion.
3 stars — DVD
I am used to friends and family picking up and moving out of state for either a job opportunity or retirement. As for me I would be willing to do it only on a part-time basis, specifically during wintertime. I never had the courage to even think about this until the past several years as the winter months have been harder on me; but who knows if I will ever get to a point where I could afford to do such a thing. What I find to be more courageous are those individuals and families who emigrate to a different country, especially the ones who hope to become business owners one day. I have known people who were willing to work seven days a week, doing whatever needed to be done, to try and make a go of their new business. Depending on where it is located can add an extra level of difficulty when it involves local or federal government agencies. In fact, I just heard a story from a member from one of my classes who is trying to build a new building. The restrictions and requirements to get and keep a building permit is truly a nightmare. ON the verge of expanding his business Abel Morales, played by Oscar Isaac (Inside Lleywn Davis, Body of Lies), was desperately trying to keep things afloat while trying to find out who was stealing from his company. With all of his finances tied up in the business he was taking these acts of crime personally. This film festival winning crime drama had everything going for it. Written and directed by J.C. Chandor (Margin Call, All is Lost), the movie perfectly balanced the emotional scenes with brilliant film work. One of the main reasons why this worked so well was due to the cast and what a group of actors were chosen. Besides Oscar’s performance which was wonderful, there was Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, The Help) who played his wife Anna, David Oyelowo (Selma, Interstellar) as Lawrence and Albert Brooks (Defending Your Life, Drive) as Andrew Walsh. All of them were amazing to watch; but let me add, Jessica was electric in this role. She was so good that I have to say I think this was her best performance to date. Set in New York during the early 1980s, the whole look of the picture was right on. This action movie was the complete package that was beautifully done with the right amount of emotional investment; I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. There were a couple of scenes where blood and violence was shown.
3 1/2 stars
They are two of the most powerful words one could ever utter in their entire life. Each word represents a profound, deep commitment from an individual; neither should ever be taken lightly. One word is love, the other one is sorry. Though I use both words cautiously, each one represents a deep core value that is permanently embedded inside of my being. The reason I do not freely use these words is because I want them to retain their specialness, so when I say either of them to a person, they know they are getting the true fullness of my heart and soul without any conditions. There is another word that carries almost as much weight as the word love; however, I do not feel it is as strong. The word is hate. It certainly can strike a person as deeply as the word love, but from my experiences I feel it takes less effort to be hateful than loving. Hate to me means one closes themselves off from experiencing feelings, like an old item that one would store up in an attic. A person hates something so they may walk away from it, never allowing themself to explore and see if they can look at it through a different set of eyes. For me love is a full-time commitment that one nourishes, allowing it to continually flourish. TOGETHER nearly 40 years Ben and George, played by John Lithgow (Leap Year, Cliffhanger) and Alfred Molina (An Education, Chocolat), decided to get married. Their celebrating with friends and family did not last long once George’s employer heard about the union; they terminated him. Forced to find cheaper housing the couple would have to live apart after living together for the majority of their adult life. The story in this drama was straight forward without embellishing the situation for dramatic purposes. The acting by John and Alfred was outstanding; in fact, along with Marisa Tomei (Parental Guidance, The Wrestler) as Kate and Charlie Tahan (Blue Jasmine, Charlie St. Cloud) as Joey, the acting was the major force of this movie. What dragged this movie down was the ponderous script. I felt the additional story lines took away from what was the heart of the story. The directing was of no help because there were times where the film seemed to drag a bit for me. With a story that could have been plucked out from current news, this dramatic picture handled the subject matter honestly and with sensitivity. Believing love is one of the most powerful acts a person can commit, it was the underlying theme in bringing this story to life.
2 3/4 stars
It does not take much to have a mundane type of day turn into a happy-go-lucky day. I am not talking about planned events where one is only waiting for the approval before undertaking a new position or some other such thing. I am talking about those things that happen in our daily life that are unexpected and surprise us. For me it can be pulling into a city parking space where there still is available time left on the meter. Opening the game ticket that was handed to me by the waitress and discovering I won a free dessert was enough to turn the rest of my day into a euphoric glow of joy, filled with bright skies and double rainbows. Oh wait maybe that was my sugar high talking now. No matter, these little surprises bring forth a dollop of fun to our lives. For Tommy Uva and Rosie, played by Michael Pitt (Seven Psychopaths, Funny Games) and Nina Arianda (Midnight in Paris, Tower Heist), one small surprise was not only going to make their day, it was going to change their lives. Following the trial of a major crime boss, the couple came up with a plan on how to rob Mafia managed social clubs. It would take some finesse to stay ahead of the FBI and the Mafia for this couple from Queens, New York. The first thing I have to tell you is this film was my surprise for the day. I did not see any advertisements or trailers for it, nor even knew the premise to the story. This picture was a hidden gem; I thought it was good entertainment. Now if that was not enough, to find out this movie was based on a true story blew my mind. I mean the audacity of coming up with the plan, the execution of it and the high stakes; I had to replay film scenes over in my mind afterwards, once I found out there was some truth to the story. Michael and NIna were adorable playing the loving couple; one could not resist the charm they brought to their characters. Andy Garcia (The Untouchables, City Island) who played crime boss Big Al had an easy time making his character work on screen. Ray Romano (The Grand, Everybody Loves Raymond-TV) as news reporter Jerry Cardozo was the weak link just because I did not see much difference in this character compared to Ray playing Ray Barone, minus the humor. There were some parts of the movie that slowed down for me, but not enough to take away my interest in the story. I have to tell you after seeing this film I not only had a good day but a good rest of the week.
A life lived without an honest acknowledgement of one’s history is like living in a 3 walled house; eventually, the weight of reality will come crashing down. I know for I have seen it happen. When a person runs away from their life’s history, taking on a new identity, the facade never lasts long. There was someone I dated a long time ago that never talked about their childhood, parents, or even hobbies. It soon became apparent that my interests were becoming their interests. I saw how they were molding themselves to my way of living and found it unsettling. Essentially they were creating a life for themselves that was dependent on me. The problem they ran into was when there was an issue or crisis, they were ill equipped to handle it; they would implode. The relationship soon ended as I found out later they started a brand new, different life. In a powerful Oscar worthy performance Cate Blanchett (The Lord of the Rings franchise, The Aviator) played wealthy socialite Jasmine, a woman whose life crumbled apart upon the arrest of her crooked businessman husband Hal, played by Alec Baldwin (The Departed, It’s Complicated). With everything lost, Jasmine left New York for San Francisco to stay with her working class sister Ginger, played by Sally Hawkins (Made in Dagenham, Happy-Go-Lucky). Writer and director Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris, Match Point) has a knack for picking an ideal cast and letting them shine with their craft. Everyone in this drama was outstanding. Cate’s over the top brilliant performance was as perfect as it could be; she will be a front runner for the award races this year. I have never seen a poor performance from Sally and she was made to play Ginger. Besides the surprisingly excellent acting by Bobby Cannavale (Win Win, Parker) as Ginger’s boyfriend Chili; do not faint when I tell you comedian Andrew Dice Clay (Pretty in Pink, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane) as Ginger’s ex-husband Augie was living real in his role. I thought the switching of scenes from current to past events would be annoying; but instead, it gave them more intensity. There may not have been a lot of laughs but Woody’s script had a wonderful rhythm to it. This was a fascinating story about the lives people try to create for themselves.
3 1/2 stars