HER EYES WERE FOLLOWING ME AS I started to walk away. I could never forget those eyes and where I saw them. Her smile was quiet as if she was almost embarrassed to let it out. There was another woman I recall from the same place who was perfectly sculpted with marbled skin and hair swept to the back of her head. She also had no arms. Many years ago I was fortunate enough to visit the Louvre museum in Paris. The building alone impressed me before I even stepped foot inside. After years of only seeing them as pictures in magazines or films, I could not believe I was standing in front of the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. You know how you form an image of something in your mind on how it might look in reality? Well I had an image for each of them and when I stood in front of them I realized what I had in my mind paled in comparison to seeing the actual painting and sculpture. Mona Lisa’s eyes were fascinating because they seemed to follow you going to the left or right side of her. They simply looked alive is all I can say. SITUATED IN THE HEART OF the city I live close by to is an art museum that some say is a world class museum. I have been a visitor to it numerous times throughout my life. The collection is extensive and varied with art pieces from the masters like Monet, Picasso, Hopper and Rembrandt. To see these artists’ works close up gives me an enormous amount of pleasure. When I look at a painting I not only study the brushstrokes, shading and choice of colors; I also envision the period of time it depicts. Besides paintings and sculpted pieces this museum has a space devoted to miniature rooms; I am talking rooms that are only as big as a shoebox. The detail in each room is remarkable and each room represents a different period of time, going back centuries. When I am looking at them I feel as if I am getting a glimpse of history. Now just imagine if some of the paintings were able to come to life and talk about themselves, one could get a real dose of the past. Well that is what I experienced when I watched this animated, biographical crime film that was nominated for an Oscar award. POSTMAN JOSEPH ROULIN, voiced by Chris O’Dowd (Molly’s Game, St. Vincent), was determined to get the deceased artist Vincent van Gogh’s returned last letter to his brother Theo. With no forwarding address Joseph assigned the task of finding Theo to Armand, voiced by Douglas Booth (Noah, Jupiter Ascending). Armand would start his search at the town where Vincent had died. His arrival would unveil clues to what really happened to Vincent. This film festival winner was visually one of the most incredible movie watching experiences I have had in a long time. The entire film was hand painted by over 100 artists. Taking inspiration from Vincent’s works, it literally looked like the characters came to life. The result of this process created a pictorial feast, seriously. The shading and illumination in this picture amazed me; I cannot even fathom how the artists did it. Not too familiar with Vincent’s life story, I did not know what was true or false. Honestly it did not matter to me because I enjoyed the way the story allowed each character to spin their thoughts about the situation. After I finished watching this DVD I felt as if I had been touring an art museum and all I wanted to do was learn more about Vincent van Gogh.
3 ½ stars — DVD
THERE ARE SO MANY ADJECTIVES to accompany the feelings of love. Each qualifying word describes a different level or intensity to one’s love. There is deep love, crazy love, stupid love, unexpected love and mad love to name a few. I still remember this couple’s story on how they met. There was a famous nightclub in the city. Not being a drinker he never ventured into the club; in fact, despite all the hoopla about the place it held very little interest for him. It had been a long time since he was in a relationship and he was starting to feel lonely as his group of friends were starting to partner up and become couples. So one evening he was driving home from work and decided if there was a parking space in front of the nightclub he would park and go inside. Well as you may have guessed a spot opened up when a car pulled out of its parking spot just as he was driving up to the club. He parked his car, walked inside and searched for the restrooms. Making his way through the crowd of people he accidently bumped into someone who was also looking for a restroom. When each of them came back out they struck up a conversation. He offered to buy a drink so they made their way to a table. From that 1st drink and conversation they became bonded, each felt sparks and they have been together now over 30 years. I GUESS YOU COULD SAY they had instant love. Though I have not experienced that immediate rush of emotions, where I want to spend the rest of my life with that individual right away, I have seen it happen with other people. Love has such a strong influence on one’s actions and thoughts. Don’t you love when the person you fall in love with takes up a permanent residence in your mind and heart? By them being there any and all trials and tribulations of the day seem manageable, if not easier to handle. Knowing there is someone who supports you, accepts you with unconditional love creates a powerful connection where one might even feel invincible. I have seen where someone was so in love that it affected their common sense; however, I have never seen anything on the scale of danger that the main character in this romantic thriller was willing to do. FOR PALESTINIAN OMAR, PLAYED BY Adam Bakri (Slam, Ali and Nino), to pay a visit to Nadia, played by Leem Lubany (Rock the Kasbah, From A to B), he would have to scale a border wall. That action alone could get him killed. This Oscar nominated, film festival winning movie also starred Waleed Zvaiter (London Has Fallen, 20th Century Women) as Agent Rami, Samer Bisharat (The State-TV, The Looming Tower-TV) as Amjad and Eyad Hourani (Rattle the Cage, Medinah-TV) as Tarek. The cast was excellent which made the scenes with tension more intense. There was a chase scene where I realized I was holding my breath. The story was unbelievable and the script allowed the viewer to experience a variety of emotions. I prefer not to get into the political aspects of this picture, but it was hard to watch some of the scenes. At time riveting, at time tender; this foreign film displayed the strength of a person’s love that could not get broken. Arabic and Hebrew were spoken with English subtitles.
3 ½ stars — DVD
FOR YOUR INFORMATION IT TAKES a large amount of discipline to stay in control. Or is it a lot of control to stay disciplined? When it comes to me, in certain areas, I have an incredible amount of discipline. Some of the things I have heard said about me are, “iron willed,” “determined,” “obsessed” and “fanatical” when it comes to my rule of not eating anything 5 hours before I go to sleep. I would say no matter where I am or what I am doing, I will not eat a morsel of food if it is close to my bed time. In the last 20 years I can count on one hand the times I broke this rule and it was for reasons outside of my control. Keeping stoic with my mouth shut is one of the ways I maintain control over my weight; it has worked for me my entire adult life. NOW THE FUNNY THING ABOUT control is it is very much a singular function. Rarely does one allow another controlling person to share their domain. Let us face it, there are some people who thrive on making all the decisions and there are others who do not want that responsibility. I used to be the one who always had and shared an opinion. If someone wanted to do such and such, I had no issue letting them know I was in agreement or disagreement. If I disagreed then I would tout my reasons why and try to persuade them to agree to my decision. I know this may sound a bit twisted and you know I would not disagree with you. As I grow older I have let go, or maybe I should say I have lost some of that intensity to the point I am comfortable sharing my spot with another individual who is disciplined in a similar vein. It can work just take a look at the musicians Hall and Oates or the designers Dolce & Gabbana. Oh wait maybe it doesn’t work if you take a look at what happened to Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. This elegantly filmed, Oscar nominated romantic drama will give you a chance to see what being in control can do. REYNOLDS WOODCOCK, PLAYED BY Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln, Gangs of New York), was the guiding force to the success of his dressmaking business, House of Woodcock. From his chance meeting with Alma, played by Vicky Krieps (Hanna, The Colony), she would become an inspiration for his work. Alma had an opinion about it. This film festival winning movie also starred Lesley Manville (Another Year, Topsy-Turvy) as Cyril and newcomer Sue Clark as Biddy. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will be Blood, Boogie Nights), Daniel has said this will be his last film. If it is true then he is leaving on a high note; his along with the rest of the cast were simply perfection with their acting skills. The details in the script and the sets all fit together to form a complete puzzle. I will say the story was different to the point I left the theater with mixed emotions. For me the story was not what kept my interest in this picture, it was the emotions and nuances of the characters. Also with the story being set in London during the 1950s, the style of fashion played a part in what I referred to as the details of the sets. Kudos to Paul Thomas Anderson for his control of the story and direction and I have to tip my hat to Daniel for his discipline on picking the best movies for him to star in; I will try to control myself over the loss of not seeing him play in another film.
JUST AS YESTERDAY’S REVIEW talked about love, so does today’s in a slightly different vein. I have seen among my friends and family members who were in love their ability to disregard or disconnect themselves from common sense. A friend of mine was in a toxic relationship; she did not know it at the time, but it was obvious to her friends. She had been telling us these stories about her significant other that bordered on being outlandish—to those who could think rationally. I was told the reason this guy was not working a steady job was because he had gotten a huge inheritance. My question to her was why he borrowed money from her time to time. The response given was his funds weren’t always liquid; in other words, he was waiting for a CD to mature or a dividend payment to arrive. I hear you; I wasn’t buying it either. One day we all happened to be together when he mentioned something about his stocks. I asked him a couple of questions and discovered he was lying; his so called stock dividend payment was coming from a company I knew did not pay dividends. HERE IS THE THING THOUGH, when someone is deeply in love they may not want to hear comments from friends or choose not to believe them anyway. Being in love doesn’t always mean one will remain rational. I have learned not to offer an opinion unless I am directly asked; even then I do my best to offer my comments without any judgments. As I mentioned in my previous review love is a powerful emotion; there is no way I am going to go up against that force. Besides love having the ability to cloud one’s judgment, it can also put a person in danger. If I think about it the dangerous aspects may come about from that disconnect I mentioned earlier; but regardless, there is a reason you have heard the term, “acts of passion,” in criminal cases. Gratefully I have not encountered anyone committing such an extreme thing, though I have known some people to put themselves in harm’s way due to love. Right from the start I was nervous for the main character in this Oscar nominated, dramatic romance. LOVE HAD A HOLD on Omar, played by Adam Bakri (Slam, Ali and Nino). To visit Nadia, played by Leem Lubany (Rock the Kasbah, From A to B), he had to scale an Israeli built border wall. The baker was willing to take the risk but how long could his luck hold out? This film festival winning thriller also starred Waleed Zuaiter (The Men Who Stare at Goats, London Has Fallen) as Agent Rami, Samer Bisharat (The Aquatic Effect, The State-TV) as Amjad and Eyad Hourani (Rattle the Cage, Medinah-TV) as Tarek. Being set in the occupied territories already added an element of tension to the story, besides the characters’ actions. I was pulled into this film quickly due to the conflicts presented in the script; there were the physical conflicts between the Israelis and Palestinians along with the conflicts of love. With landscapes unfamiliar to me, I felt I was transported into the characters’ city which only enhanced the excellent acting I had already noticed by the actors. I liked the way the director kept the story moving without delving into the political aspects too much. For myself I had to watch this DVD without judging the reality of the story. Keeping that in mind this was an intense story about love. Arabic and Hebrew were spoken with English subtitles.
3 ½ stars — DVD
WHEN A TELEVISION PROGRAM shows graphic scenes of blood, violence or medical procedures I have to avert my eyes. If the setting is make believe then I can handle seeing it; but if it is real or depicted accurately I have a hard time viewing it. Because of this I had to stop watching a particular TV series set in a hospital; the patients’ injuries and the doctors operating were all too real. This may sound weird but the sight of blood does not actually disturb me; it is the open wounds or peeling back body tissue to reveal internal organs that gross me out. Seeing the body broken or damaged is more upsetting to me than just looking at a pool of blood on the floor. Unlike me I have a friend who cannot even look at a bloodspot, for it will cause them to have nightmares. Whether it is an open wound or a drop of blood from a finger prick, they will be haunted by it. I AM USED TO people being squeamish about body functions and injuries, but I do not understand those people who actively seek out such scenes. You may have experienced them for they are the ones who purposely slow down at car accidents to catch a glimpse of the destruction and/or injuries. This infuriates me; for the life of me I do not understand why someone wants to stop and stare at such scenes. Please keep in mind I am not referring to the drivers who slow down for safety reasons; I am talking about the ones who are clear to drive, some in the lanes furthest from the accident, but creep along either staring or snapping photos. Who and why would one want to show pictures of such things? I think I have told you in a previous review about a couple I knew who would listen to the news and if possible would try to drive to the location of an accident just to see what happened. Sorry but this makes no sense to me; it wasn’t like they wanted to offer any help. You have no idea how relieved I was that this Oscar nominated and film festival winning documentary came up with a novel way to tell its story. DURING THE YEARS BETWEEN 1975 and 1979 Cambodia suffered at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Writer and director Rithy Panh (The Land of the Wandering Souls, Paper Cannot Wrap Ember) found a way to tell his story. Narrated by Randal Douc (The Sea Wall, Le Chemin) and Jean-Baptiste Phou (White Soldier, FLA), the use and combination of clay figures and archival footage were both creative and brilliant. I realize some viewers may balk at watching a film with clay figures, but I have to tell you it made this story just as real as if they used actual actors. Doing it this way gave the movie a twinge of unearthliness but yet still told what I felt was an accurate story. I do not know if I could have sat all the way through watching the atrocities that were being done. Though this time period took place over 35 years ago I still felt it was relevant. This is just my opinion but it still seems to happen; when one group of people take over with claims of prosperity and growth, it is only meant for them.
3 ½ stars — DVD
THE HONEYMOON phase is a real thing in a burgeoning relationship. However it can be quite deceptive for the individuals. I have seen many couples during this period who were bubbly and giddy in love, freely participating in public displays of affection. To the outsider they appeared perfectly in synch and for all intents and purposes they might have been. But it is here where that deception comes into play. With the couple exploring their love connection they might begin to feel that they could be together forever…and they just might succeed. But when 2 people never go past this faze to their real daily world, any slight obstacle can trip them up with drastic consequences. They were so focused on the happy, joyful, loving experiences they never took the time to really learn about each other. Even if some individuals are conscious about the different phases to a relationship they may fear showing their faults or quirks to their partner in love. RELATIONSHIPS take work sometimes; it would be great if everything was simple and easy but most people are complicated. From my past experiences I have learned to express my feelings more and not hide my quirks so far in the future hopes. The reason being I need a person to love me for who I am, instead of them focusing on the good stuff and thinking the difficult things will disappear or worse yet that they can change them in me. Going into a relationship with the idea you can change someone is the quickest way to kill the relationship. I mentioned in an earlier review about being with someone who resented me teaching fitness at night, but there have been others who thought they could change me to suit their needs. I will say it helps if a person will talk about their needs instead of going into a relationship under the pretense the person they are in love with will figure it out. I may not be an expert in the relationship department but I do know a relationship needs communication and respect. Feel free to take a gander at this Oscar nominated romantic drama to see what I mean. DISSIMILAR backgrounds and beliefs were not a concern for Elise and Didier, played by Veerle Baetens (The Ardennes, Code 37-TV) and Johan Heldenbergh (The Zookeeper’s Wife, The Brand New Testament), when they first met. Their love of bluegrass music and physical attraction to each other was a good start to begin a relationship. They were setting themselves up for a fall when their lives took an unexpected turn. This film festival winning musical movie also starred Nell Cattrysse (Labyrinthus, Het Vonnis) as Maybelle and Geert Van Rampelberg (The Treatment, The Memory of a Killer) as William. I thought the acting was excellent because to me Didier and Elise came across as a real couple. The script surprised me and I will tell you why. Normally I am not a fan of a story jumping back and forth in time; but in this case, it worked to break up the intensity of the situation with the musical numbers and home life scenes. There was honesty in the script, where I felt myself getting drawn into the lives of these people. As I stated earlier relationships are not always easy. Flemish and Dutch were spoken with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars – DVD
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
RARELY did I ever pass by the gleaming glass ball, filled with chewy delights. Since I always made sure I had change in my pocket before I would go, it was a given I would stop in front of the gumball machine. There were six colors used for the gumballs: blue, red, yellow, green, orange and purple. Here is the thing though; out of the colors I only wanted a red or blue colored gumball. Since I could not choose which gumball would get deposited into the metal cup hanging below the metal slide that came out of the machine’s lower jaw, I would keep depositing coins into the machine until I got one of the 2 colors. Sometimes I would have depleted all the coins in my pocket and still not get the “right” gumball. In my young mind I assumed each colored gumball tasted different based on its color. I had no desire for the green or yellow ones and the others just did not appeal to me. It wasn’t until a friend of mine bought me a gumball because I had no change and told me to at least try the purple colored one that came out of the machine. It was then that I discovered all the gumballs tasted the same; I was making a judgment solely on the outside color. GRATEFULLY a lesson like that was a good start in becoming aware that there is more behind the surface of people and things. An example I have used before is, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Recently a friend was telling me about the injustice taking place in their department. They were in the middle of hiring new people and one of the employees on the hiring committee mentioned they should hire a particular person because of the candidate’s skin color. I immediately assumed everyone on the committee would be shocked like I was by such an offensive statement. Instead imagine how stunned I was when my friend told me that was not the case; only a couple of the people on the committee offered a disparaging look in response to the ridiculous statement, nothing was said by anyone. This reminded me that just because I may not see discrimination does not mean it does not happen. I think that is why this Oscar nominated documentary is an important film. BASED on an unfinished manuscript by author James Baldwin (Where the Heart Is), the words in this movie are just as current now as when they were first spoken. Directed by Raoul Peck (Sometimes in April, Lumumba), this film festival winning movie was narrated by Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight, The Legend of Tarzan). I enjoyed the way the director pieced together archival clips of James speaking and debating at different venues. His manuscript was going to be a narrative piece about the assassinations of his three friends Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers; though the piece was written years ago the discussions in this movie were just as relevant today. A well done film like this one is worth a look and would be a good reminder that society still has a long way to go to with focusing on the things that lie below the surfaces of people.
3 1/3 stars
It felt like I was taking a walk through history. They were giving me a tour of their home, pointing out numerous artifacts. I say artifacts because there was pottery, paintings, tapestries, along with dinnerware items such as bowls and spoons. All of it quite old and displayed everywhere. It was fascinating to me because I knew this person was able to trace their family back to the time of the Spanish Inquisition which started around the late 1400s. Think about that for a second; this homeowner knew about their family members for the past half a dozen centuries; it literally boggled my mind. My tour of the house was almost done but the best was being saved for last. We walked into a room that appeared to be part library, part den. Two walls of the room had rows of bookcases lined across, each filled with hardcover books. At the juncture where the two sides would have met there was an opening or let me say a small alcove. It wasn’t big enough for someone to freely walk into; however, it had enough space for this ornately carved wooden pedestal. As I was directed to it I was told it contained the family’s most precious item. Sealed in a glass box was an extremely old book. It was his great, great, great (I don’t remember how many times they said great) grandfather’s prayer book. This small plain looking book had been handed down from generation to generation. I stared at it imagining how many relatives must have held this book before it was sealed up. As they were telling me about the book’s history there was a twinge of sadness to their voice. I soon found out they were the last of their family; there was no one left to take possession of this treasured item at their death. SOMEWHERE deep in the Amazon was a sacred plant with healing powers. Two scientists would devote their lives to find this elusive miracle. It possibly could take their life. Starring newcomer Nilbio Torres as young Karamakate, newcomer Antonio Bolivar as old Karamakate, Jan Bijvoet (The Broken Circle Breakdown, Borgman) as Theo and Brionne Davis (Avenged, Gentleman Explorers) as Evan; this Oscar nominated and film festival winning adventure biography had a lush, beautiful look that was shot in black and white. For those familiar with the works of Werner Herzog, this film had a similar vibe to it. The original story took me a short time to understand due to the two separate story lines; but afterwards, I enjoyed the way the parallel stories created the world these characters lived in. You could tell the camera work was carefully thought out because there were shots that lingered for the perfect amount of time to convey the feelings. Even some of the camera angles were so well placed to add an extra sense of curiosity for the viewer that I almost wished English was spoken so I would not have to read any subtitles. But I want to say the subtitles in this drama were easy to read and I did not feel like I missed anything. I only hope this will not be the director’s last film. Spanish, Portuguese, Aboriginal and German were spoken with English subtitles.
3 ½ stars — DVD
It may have only been a snippet of a conversation or a brief moment seeing someone in the middle of an activity, but it was all you needed to make an assumption. With all the ways humans now can communicate with each other, I feel we lost the most important part: face to face. For me face to face provides the adjectives or better yet the emotions, the intentions to a person’s conversations. However, there is a pitfall embedded in this way of communicating. Have you noticed how people tend to believe someone if they talk louder or give an impassioned speech? I abhor talking or mentioning politics, but I have only recently noticed that after politicians debate or give speeches, the news services provide a fact check on the politicians’ claims. It is amazing to me how many falsehoods these news sources reveal. The scary part about this is how some people do not care if things are true or not, they just want to be part of a group or majority. I still remember a fight that took place after school hours. One of the combatants had spread a rumor about the other; so there was a small crowd circling the two fighters, cheering and yelling. They believed the rumor was true. It looked like a school of piranha for the scene turned into a feeding frenzy, where bystanders were adding punches and kicks when the opportunity presented itself. You know it only takes one person to plant a seed of an idea into people’s minds before that group mentality mindset takes over to motivate individuals to become joiners. As adults we should know better, but what if that seed came out of a child’s mouth? STRUGGLING to get back on his feet after a bitter divorce Lucas, played by Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, Hannibal-TV), had a steady teaching job and was fighting for equal visitation rights for his son Marcus, played by relative newcomer Lasse Fogelstrom. Plans changed when the principal of the school heard what one of the students named Klara, played by newcomer Annika Wedderkopp, said about Lucas. This Oscar nominated and film festival winning movie was an intense, thought provoking drama. With Thomas Bo Larsen (The Celebration, Pusher) playing Theo as part of the cast, the acting was outstanding. The actors were so good that they kept me glued to the TV screen, tensely wondering what was going to happen next. I can see why this picture was nominated for best foreign movie by the academy. Even the newcomers of the cast were just as convincing as the adults in this story. I have been a fan of Mads for some time and after you see him in this role I believe you will feel the same way. After the movie was over I stayed seated, going over the story in my head. Do not be surprised if you too mull over the story in your head. Danish was spoken with English subtitles.
4 stars — DVD