OUT of all the people I have conversed with who is either a mother or father, the majority of them believe their children are pretty, beautiful, handsome, intelligent and so on. I firmly believe a parent’s duty is to make their child feel loved, special and instill in them a sense of self-worth. Rarely do I hear a parent say their child is not attractive or is not smart. I actually know a mother though who praises one child over the child’s sibling; you should see what the effect of the mother’s negative comments has done to that child, it is so sad. Now for me the words pretty, handsome or beautiful are subjective. Where one person may think a face is beautiful, another individual will think the person’s facial features are just okay. The way my mind is wired, for me to say someone is beautiful they would need to have a good heart (referring to let us say kindness as opposed to plaque) to go along with whatever their visible, physical features may be. WHEN a student gets straight A’s on their report card, most people will say the student is smart. I agree to a point, but for me there is book smart and street smart; the 2 are very different creatures. I cannot tell you how many times I have sat and listened to a parent go on about how their child is so smart. Here again I wonder how they are defining the word “smart.” I remember there was a time during my schooling where a discussion was in the works about getting away from standardized testing scores. Students were so focused on memorizing statistics and facts; it seems they were not using this limited knowledge to paint a bigger picture of things. There is a teacher I know who had a freshman student who did not fit in with the rest of the class. This student already had an acceptance letter to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The teacher had to teach this special student a different way from the rest of the class without making it appear as if the student was not unusual. It was an important distinction, one that gets addressed in this drama. MARY Adler, played by McKenna Grace (Once upon a Time-TV, Amityville: The Awakening), had a gift for numbers. Her special ability would become a battleground in and out of school. Starring Chris Evans (Captain America franchise, Playing it Cool) as Frank Adler, Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, The Shack) as Roberta Taylor and Lindsay Duncan (About Time, Under the Tuscan Sun) as Evelyn; I have to say McKenna’s acting was pretty special. I fell into this story, enjoying the acting and directing. Sure there were scenes to manipulate the viewer and the script was somewhat predictable; but I did not care because the story was relatable for me. My earlier review of the new Smurfs movie talked about being different and things I said there apply to this film festival winner. Feeling different is such a relatable experience for many of us; I certainly have felt it and because of it I understood what the story was trying to do in this picture. Be prepared because including me, there was not a dry eye in the theater. Along with celebrating the things we all have in common, there is nothing wrong with us including our special gifts in the celebration.
FROM my experiences I know every person treats religion differently. I also am aware of the differences between someone who is religious compared to a person who is spiritual. Some years ago I knew a man who went to temple every day to pray. He followed his religion’s customs and traditions fully, handing them down to his children. The interesting thing was after he died his wife stopped following the rituals; not totally but she became more relaxed about the structure shall we say. I know another person who partakes in all the customs of her religion, but her actions are not of a religious person. Just because you attend services and donate money to charity does not automatically make one religious. In other words you have to practice what you preach. This person discriminates against a variety of minorities; I am talking blatantly speaks out against them. I just sit and wonder how they can justify their actions based on how much they talk about their religious participation. THOUGH I understand the circumstances were devastating for the individual I still find it curious when they suddenly become religious. I have experienced this myself on some level at a time when I felt there was no hope of me coming out unscathed. It took place one of the times I was being chased by a group of bullies after school. Hiding behind a couple of garbage cans on the back porch of an apartment building, I could hear them below me. They must have been looking up at the porches of the 4 storied building before running up the stairs to only check on the top floor they could not fully see from the alley. I remember praying to God to keep me hidden from them until they came down the stairway and were long gone. Due to this experience I have gained insight or maybe it is sensitivity to the actions taken by someone experiencing tragedy, like the family in this inspirational fantasy drama. DEEP into depression from a tragic event Mack Phillips, played by Sam Worthington (Clash of the Titans franchise, Avatar), one day received a letter in his box without a postmark. It was from someone he stopped believing in. Based on the bestselling book this fantasy movie also starred Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, The Help) as Papa, Radha Mitchell (Man on Fire, Looking for Grace) as Nan Phillips and Tim McGraw (The Blind Side, Country Strong) as Willie. I appreciated the idea behind this film’s story and felt the cast was certainly capable to bring the story to life. My issue lies with the director; the pacing was slow to the point I felt the story was dragging. Add in the script being stacked in favor of manipulating the viewers’ emotions to shed tears, I did not find this a pleasant movie watching experience. If the story would have been told in a more even handed way, allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions, I feel the film would have been better all around. Sitting next to me through this picture were a couple of friends who are more religious than me. Asking them what they thought, they felt the same way I did about the movie. The story was a sad one that did not give them a sense of comfort due to the poor writing and direction.
2 ¼ stars
PACKING up my homemade treats, looking over my predictions with the list of winners, using eyes that were strained and tired from staring at the television screen for hours; I was ready to go to bed. Another year is now in the record books for a lot of reasons. Of course the biggest surprise was the mixup for the last category, best picture. Reading and hearing about the different theories on the how and why it happened did not provide me with answers to a couple of simple questions. Assuming Warren Beatty has all of his mental faculties, I just do not understand why he did not say he had the wrong card. It was obvious to me he was flustered, looking back to the side stage and around; he did not know what to do. Of all things then why would he throw Faye Dunaway under the bus. He could have whispered in her ear to see if she agreed, but since the surveys said La La Land was going to win, Faye possibly saw that on the card first instead of Emma Stone’s name when he showed her. The two of them knew they were giving out the best picture award, wouldn’t seeing Emma Stone’s name on the card be the first clue something was wrong and it would be perfectly okay to say so? This is just my opinion.
THE opening was refreshing to me. Since host Jimmy Kimmel is not a song and dance type of comedian like Billy Crystal, I liked the way Justin Timberlake sang his Oscar nominated song which loosened up the audience. Because of this, I felt the crowd gave off less of “aren’t we great, idolize us” vibe and more of an earthiness if you will. In fact, I thought Jimmy did a wonderful job in being down to earth. He avoided the mean spiritedness that some jokes could have taken on while he kept things moving on. The candy drop and the busload of tourists were my favorite segments, though the Matt Damon feud thing was more outrageous on the big stage. My favorite part was when Jimmy was conducting the orchestra to drown out Matt during his presentation.
MAYBE it is me but I thought the speeches were shorter this year and surprisingly were more personal when politics was brought into them. My favorite speeches of the night came from Viola Davis and the reading of writer and director Asghar Farhadi’s acceptance speech. Viola was so passionate and sincere, I loved how she talked about actors taking on the lives for those who no longer can speak. I laughed at Jimmy’s comment that she would be nominated for an Emmy with her speech. As for Asghar’s speech, I had just seen his winning film The Salesman the afternoon prior to the show and appreciated his thoughtfulness and heartfelt words. Gael Garcia Bernal was one of the presenters that touched the perfect balance of personal without the hate. Speaking of presenters I felt Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae were lovely while on stage as they brought out Katherine G. Johnson, the NASA mathematician that Taraji portrayed on screen. It was such a touching moment.
EVEN with the long telecast, as I reclined across my sofa my desire to be a seat filler was just as strong today as it has been all the past years. Just once I want to be part of the red carpet pre show activities, the ceremony and just be able to walk around and soak up the whole atmosphere of the event. With that said it has been a year of ups and downs with movies. I feel I saw more poorly done films than wonderful ones; but I would not trade a minute of it since I still love the whole movie watching experience and the ability to write down my thoughts to share with you. So tomorrow we will start all over for the new Oscar year in search of that 4 star picture. I look forward to another year talking and commenting on the movies with you. Thank you for all of your support, I deeply appreciate it.
HIS attendance was perfect; he never missed a day of work. The quality of his work was outstanding and it showed in his yearly performance review because he never received a below average mark in any of the performance categories. However, he never received an above average mark either; but, he did not complain about it, grateful he had a job. The travel time for him was long; it required 2 buses and a train to get to the office. The company had over 200 employees but he could not call one of them a friend. Some individuals would only talk to him if they had to for business; he was used to the blank or condescending looks he would get for nearly every action he took. SHE was in love and it did not even take her long to realize it. They had met at a coffee shop one afternoon. Over their drinks they did not strictly make small talk; they ventured into deeper subjects and it was apparent there was a unique kindness being shared between them. Over the next several weeks a mutual fondness grew between them. Each was starting to think they found the right one they wanted to be with for the rest of their life. With the blossoming love they shared they became more affectionate with each other. Simple things like holding hands at the movies or a quick kiss on the cheek, actions everyone in love has done from time to time. When they were affectionate they did not realize people around them would stop what they were doing to watch the happy couple. The look on these strangers’ faces was usually a grimace, a look of disgust. Nothing the happy couple did was inappropriate but it did not matter, there was another reason. And the reason could be found in the color of a person’s skin. LOSING the space race to the Russians was not acceptable; it would take effort from every single person at NASA to get astronaut John Glenn up into space. But if you were not the right color, you did not count to some people. Based on a true story this is a must see drama. Starring Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Empire-TV) as Katherine G. Johnson, Octavia Spencer (The Help, Snowpiercer) as Dorothy Vaughan, recording artist Janelle Monae (Moonlight) as Mary Jackson and Kevin Costner (Black or White, Draft Day) as Al Harrison; this film festival winning movie was unbelievable. Let me start with the story; what an amazing achievement during a time period that most of us had never known about while history was being made in getting a rocket into space. The acting was wonderful from everyone; even minor characters fit right in without missing a beat of the story. As a movie viewing experience I had a great time clapping and cheering with the audience during a few scenes. Knowing how the story was going to end, since it is a part of US history, did not take away from the enjoyment in watching the amazing feats being achieved by the people in this movie. The space program has come so far from blasting John Glenn into space; now if only we could elevate our thinking about judging a person on their abilities instead of their color.
GOING to someone’s house to share a meal and celebrate a holiday should be an easy thing to do, you would think. Normally you would not be expected to shop for ingredients that the cook needs to prepare the meal, vacuum or clean their whole house; however, you might bring a dish to share or assist in the cleaning process afterwards. All in all it is a relative easy experience. One big factor that could change everything is whether you enjoy the company you will be with for the celebration. Imagine how you would feel if you knew several of the guests there annoy you. THERE was a sense of dread that weighed you down as you pulled up to their house. The hosts were lovely people, sweet and very accommodating to their guests. So their culinary experiments never turn out good; usually there is a total bland taste to the food or at the other extreme, a pungent foul flavor that makes the food barely edible. An easy fix has been to eat something before you show up at their place then eat lightly (and carefully), saying you are not very hungry. At the party the host’s cousin shows up bringing their untrained dog unannounced. The dog is jumping on everyone until it smells the food, then it takes constant monitoring from the guests to make sure this dog does not stand up at the table to grab some food. Another guest that is familiar to you is the man who tells inappropriate jokes at the dining room table. He usually has some prejudiced or sexual comment accompanying his humor. Then there is the narcissist who grabs your attention and will not let you go as they talk on and on about what they recently bought, how much they spent and their recent dating exploits; you see why there is a sense of dread every time you show up to one of these parties. A similar sense of dread welled up in me as I was watching this comedy sequel. STILL drunk and obnoxious Willie Soke, played by Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade, Our Brand is Crisis), could not resist doing another job with the man who tried to kill him. This crime dramedy also starred Kathy Bates (Titanic, American Horror Story-TV) as Sunny Soke, Tony Cox (Oz the Great and Powerful, The Hustle) as Marcus and Christina Hendricks (Life as We Know it, Mad Men-TV) as Diane Hastings. The biggest shock for me was seeing Octavia Spencer (The Help, Fruitvale Station) doing a cameo as Opal and that is all I will say about it. The script for this movie was very basic; the jokes were easy to spot and for the most part were crude. I was quickly bored by the story; not that I am offended by the humor, I just found it uncreative. There may have been a couple of times I chuckled if I remember correctly. If you were a fan of the first film you may have a better time sitting through this sequel. For me the novelty of the first one was not part of this picture. I just had to trudge through to the very end so I could review it.
1 ½ stars
Those who had the larger sized box of crayons were the cool kids. If I remember correctly the largest size was the 128 count box; I mostly had the 32 count, though one year I did get as a gift the 64 size. With double the number of crayons the possibilities to me seemed endless. Since I had so many crayons I felt I had to use every single one, so my drawings took on a more colorful palette. I started making trees different colors, sometimes making their leaves multi-colored. There were times they looked like large chocolate ice cream cones topped with candy sprinkles. When I started giving extra colors to people I remember a couple of students telling me I could not do it. We would argue back and forth with them saying they were not human and me telling them they were still humans. The people I drew had two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth. Now these arguments had nothing to do with racial prejudices; those students were following the norm and expecting everyone to do the same. I just did not care what the skin color was nor give it any importance. It is something I have and continue to carry into my adult life which is why I thought this film had an important message. AFTER his wife was killed in a car accident Elliot Anderson, played by Kevin Costner (Draft Day, Man of Steel), was left alone to raise his granddaughter Eloise, played by Jillian Estell (So This is Christmas). That was until Eloise’s paternal grandmother Rowena Jeffers, played by Octavia Spencer (Get on Up, Snowpiercer), decided she should get full custody of her granddaughter. This film festival winning drama had two good things going for it, Kevin and Octavia. The two were not only good in their individual scenes, they really were fired up for their mutual scenes. That is not to say the other actors in this movie, like Anthony Mackie (Runner Runner, Captain America: The Winter Soldier), were bad; they were all decent. Acting aside, the story was the most important part to this picture. Its message was something that needs to be repeated over and over. I felt the 1st half of the movie did a good job to tell the story, but then the writers started to complicate the message. It seemed as if scenes were being designed to manipulate the viewer just to add emotional value. I found it to be predictable, with a layer of syrupy sentiments that made me almost groan. With that being said I do believe most viewers would still appreciate the story/message of this film more than the execution of it.
2 3/4 stars
I am curious to know where it first began how the mindset of one being wealthy equated to being better than someone else. From various news and media sources I have seen, I definitely can see being rich does not mean one has good taste. When I see some of these celebrities in their massive estate mansions, I have to wonder do they really need all of that space and stuff. Seriously, how many bathrooms does one need in their house? Enough for a party of 25 being able to all go to the bathroom at the very same time with no waiting? My first experience where I saw a wealthy person exerting their so called power over another individual was with a distant family member. Because they were successful in business, aka making lots of money, they began telling other family members what they should be doing to get ahead in life. Though I was young at the time I was offended by the way they would talk down to people, treating them like they were ignorant just because they were not as rich. Success and wealth are not terms I necessarily use to denote financial status. A person who has close and long relationships with family and friends is a wealthy person to me. POWER came to those who were wealthy in this futuristic science fiction film. After an experiment failed to reverse global warming, mankind was virtually wiped off the planet. Only a small group continued to survive in a self-contained train that continuously circled the globe. Even though the passengers all suffered under the same horrific experiment, inside the train there still were divisions of class. And with class power was soon to follow. This film festival winning thriller gave me a fantastic ride. With Chris Evans (The Avengers, Captain America franchise) as Curtis, Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive, Moonrise Kingdom) as Mason and Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station, The Help) as Tanya; the cast was well represented with abundant talent and star power; yet, I did not see any advertisements for this action movie. The story was interesting and easy to follow even with its surprise turns. I thought the look of the film was perfect in the way the viewer became a witness to the contrasts within the train. It was interesting how the few special effects were not very good; but it was okay, since this film was predominately story driven. What a pleasant surprise to watch a science fiction movie, having no prior awareness of it, that had a feasible story and was wildly entertaining. It really had a power over me and I was fine with it.
3 1/4 stars
Music provides the means to describe one’s life with a different set of adjectives. Songs are the milestone markers during the journey. I cannot remember a time where I did not have music in my life. Anytime I hear Beethoven’s 5th Symphony I am transported back to the time I was 4 years old and taken to my 1st outdoor concert, where we sat on long brown painted benches in the cool autumn air. How many of us hear a particular song that squeezes a small tear out of our heart, reminding us of a love long gone? There are so many songs in the jukebox of my mind that bring a specific date in time to the forefront of my thoughts. I cannot imagine there being a person who does not experience an emotion or feeling when they hear music. Besides the personal aspects of music there is another side that becomes political. Throughout history songs have been used to define significant moments; such as a protest, a battle, a rally or even defining a generation. One of the things I love most about musicians is the fact they can be classically trained or simply be born with the gift of music. GODFATHER of Soul was the label given to the man in this biographical film and aptly so, for his raw talent was something that came with him when he was born into this world. Chadwick Boseman (Draft Day, 42) portrayed the iconic performer James Brown. This dramatic musical movie covered James from a childhood of extreme poverty through the time where he was called the “Hardest Working Man in Show Business.” The cast included Viola Davis (Ender’s Game, Prisoners) as his mother Susie Brown, Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station, The Help) as Aunt Honey, Nelsan Ellis (Secretariat, True Blood-TV) as Bobby Byrd and Dan Aykroyd (Trading Places, Behind the Candelabra-TV) as his manager Ben Bart. All of them were strong with their characters; they needed to be since Chadwick was outstanding as the sweating, fleet-footed James Brown. Familiar with a good portion of James’ life, this film tried to cover the different aspects of it but skimmed over the darkest chapters. The main issue with this film was the way the story jumped around chronologically. I felt I never got the chance to absorb the full effect of what I was watching on the screen. With things jumping back and forth, the film started to feel like a series of quick vignettes. Since I am fond of music, the musical numbers were outstanding in this picture or maybe I should say groovy. Whether or not one is a fan of James’ music; the fact remains this man was monumental in paving the way for future generations to get their groove on.
2 3/4 stars
The guards go after the one that is not bloody. This was told to a friend of mine, who was doing one on one work with a prison inmate. The prisoner was told if he got into a fight he should not fight back, for the guards assume the non-bloody combatant was the instigator. I was surprised to hear the guards would act on assumptions before facts; but then, I realized so many people make assumptions solely based on a person’s looks. In grade school when teams had to be formed during gym, I was usually one of the last ones to be picked. I was large and uncomfortable with my size. However, during a game of Bombardment my classmates discovered I could throw a fast accurate ball. For all future games I suddenly was picked much earlier to be on someone’s team. Even today I am sensitive about people who make assumptions. In the scheme of things my experiences were trivial compared to the events in this powerful movie, based on a true story. Twenty-two year old Oscar Grant with his girlfriend Sophina, played by Michael B. Jordan (Red Tails, Chronicle) and Melonie Diaz (Be Kind Rewind, Raising Victor Vargas), decided to take the train into the city to celebrate New Year’s Eve with their friends. It was a ride that would shake up the California Bay Area community. Not knowing anything about this story, I do not know how accurate it was with its portrayal of the events that took place. From a movie standpoint, I thought the acting was raw and real. Michael and Octavia Spencer (The Help, Seven Pounds), who played his character’s mother Wanda, were incredible. Kevin Durand (Real Steel, I Am Number Four) as Officer Caruso was so good he scared me. The hand held filming with its shakiness did not work for me except in the scenes on the train. Overall I thought the story was well presented except for a few parts that seemed unnecessary, like the dog scene. This Sundance and Cannes Film Festival winner could be used as a case study on the effects perceptions and assumptions have on society. There were a couple of brief scenes where blood was shown.
3 1/4 stars
In social situations where my answer to drink requests was water; more times than not, I was asked if I had an issue with alcohol. I explained to the person that no, I did not like the taste of it; preferring to use calories on a chocolate chip cookie. As a child I remember being horrified as I saw relatives acting out from being drunk. Inevitably an argument would ensue making everyone around uncomfortable. It usually was not a pleasant situation when the drunk person’s date or spouse was not in a similar inebriated state. This comedic drama gave a straight forward, unapologetic look at the challenges encountered when one person in a relationship attempts to make a change. Kate and Charlie Hannah, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad-TV, The Last House on the Left) had the best times together when alcohol was involved. From backyard games to night time drunken bicycle rides, life was a constant high. But after hungover Kate vomited in front of her 1st grade students, those good times seemed less fun. What could replace her’s and Charlie’s favorite activity? The story was well thought out in this compelling film. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul were not only believable in their raw performances; they brought a subtle darkness to the characters. I was moved to the point where I felt a twinge of anxiety, similar to what I felt as a kid. The remaining cast for the most part were secondary; I thought Octavia Spencer (The Help, Seven Pounds) as Kate’s mentor Jenny could have been a stronger character. With an outstanding performance from Mary Elizabeth, this movie transcended from a story about two heavy drinkers to a keen observation on the choices one makes in life.