IT WAS ONLY ONE FLASH OF light that caught my attention, but it opened up my eyes to a whole world of beauty. I was walking towards the garage when a millisecond of bright light appeared between 2 ornamental bushes. I was sure I had seen it despite its brief appearance in what appeared to be midair. The plants were a recent addition to my backyard, both seemed to be taking nicely to their parcel of land. I walked over to the bushes to see if there was something I had not noticed before. As I made my way across the lawn a slight breeze of air stirred up and that speck of bright light appeared once again. I walked up and like an apparition there was a large spider web that spanned the space between the 2 plants. It faded in and out depending on the breeze being able to push it into full sunlight. It was exquisite, looking like a fine piece of lace. Not wanting to disturb anything, I carefully stepped closer to get a better look. I had to squat down so the web would be at eye level; cocking my head slightly to view the web in front of a darker background, I saw tiny drops of moisture clinging to several strands of the web. It truly looked like a piece of art or an architect’s dream. UNNOTICED BY ME AT FIRST BECAUSE it was off to the side, closer to one of the bushes, perched a massive hairy looking spider. I stayed still as if I was playing a waiting game with it. There are friends of mine who would have freaked out upon seeing the spider; gratefully, they do not upset me. I look at spiders as the gatekeepers to my house, capturing loads of bugs to prevent them from entering my home. The spider did not move from its spot; only allowing the breezes to swing it slightly in the air, but it never once wavered from its spot. For some reason, I felt the garden had taken on a special allure. Here among the assorted plants and shrubbery there was a feat from one of Nature’s creatures, a latticework of silky luminous strands dotted with diamond chips of raindrops. If the sunlight had not hit the web at the exact time I was walking by, I might not have ever noticed I had a piece of art in my backyard. Part of me wanted to get a spray bottle of water to make more drops appear on the web; however, I decided not to and instead enjoyed the beauty that was in front of me. Part of this experience prepared me for the beauty that was found in this Oscar nominated, film festival winning biography. TIRED OF HIS SURROUNDINGS AND THE PEOPLE around him Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, played by Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse, Aquaman), took the advice of a friend and moved out of Paris to be closer to nature. It was the best move of his life. With Rupert Friend (The Young Victoria, Homeland-TV) as Theo, Oscar Isaac (Star Wars franchise, A Most Violent Year) as Paul Gauguin, Mads Mikkelsen (The Hunt, Doctor Strange) as Priest and Mathieu Amairic (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Doctor Paul Gachet; this dramatic picture contained a stellar performance by Willem. I felt I was privy to the inner workings of van Gogh’s mind. Combined with the beautiful film shots and steady directing, this film’s story unfurled like a long, colorful pennant on a windy day. The whole cast perfectly fit their roles. If there was anything to question it would be the few scenes that dragged a bit; however, the dynamic acting coming out of Willem kept me invested in the story. I almost felt as if I was a visitor at an art gallery.
3 ¼ stars
I WISH I COULD REMEMBER HOW OLD I was when I was able to stay home alone without a babysitter. The funny thing is, I absolutely remember the day when it happened. It was a clear but windy Saturday night. My food treats for the evening were a freshly popped bowl of popcorn, a box of chocolate chip cookies and a cup of chocolate pudding that was covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator. I was so excited to have the run of the house all to myself. No fighting over who would get to watch their TV show on the large television in the living room and no waiting to use the bathroom; I was all set for the evening. The first television show I planned on watching was a comedy. All settled on the couch with my bowl of popcorn and a bolster to recline on, I began watching my TV show. It was only 10 or 15 minutes into the program when I heard a sound coming from the back door. I was afraid to walk into the kitchen to see what it was; so, instead I creeped along the living room wall until I was able to sneak a peak out the window that was closest to the back porch. I did not see anyone there; but I was scared enough to run into the kitchen and wedge one of the kitchen chairs under the doorknob of the back door. I also took out a butcher knife from the kitchen drawer and kept it by my side the rest of the night. THOUGH THAT WAS MY INITIAL INTRODUCTION into becoming a responsible “older” boy, I began to relish my new status within the family. There was a sense of freedom, if you will. I do not mean to infer I was a prisoner or something like that; it was having the option of choice that gave me this feeling of freedom. A small child is told what to do or not do. For example, I remember when I was not allowed to touch the knifes that everyone else was using at the dining room table; my food was cut up for me because I was too young to do if for myself. At some point as I got older, I was able to use a knife to cut my own food. Stuff like this may sound trivial but being able to take actions and make decisions for oneself is a powerful force. This is something I do not take lightly because I know there are places in the world where people do not have the ability to make their own choices. Imagine what life would be like for you if you did not have the freedom of choice. If you wish to see examples, this exquisite, dramatic film festival winner will show you. AFTER HER SISTER’S DEATH HELOISE’s, PLAYED BY Adele Haenel (The Unknown Girl, Love at First Fight), mother pulled her out of the convent to take her sister’s place hopefully in an arranged marriage. With Noemie Merlant (Paper Flags, Heaven Will Wait) as Marianne, Luana Bajrami (School’s Out, Happy Birthday) as Sophie, Valeria Golind (Hot Shots franchise, Escape From L.A.) as La Comtesse and Armande Boulanger (Conviction, Silence du leopard) as L’eleve atelier; this romantic movie was filmed in such a beautiful way that I felt I had been transported back to the 18thcentury on the Island of Brittany. The acting was mesmerizing as Noemie and Adele used their acting skills to tell the story. I especially enjoyed the way the script slowly heated up, giving enough time for each scene to fully set in. The dialog was spoken in French and Italian with English subtitles; I had no difficulty following the story while reading the subtitles. This was a fascinating movie watching experience that depicted a time when women particularly had less freedom to choose. At least, I hope they had less back then, than they do now.
3 ½ stars
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
SHE WAITED UNTIL we were in the car before she broke the news to me. Driving out to the suburbs on a well traveled road, she informed me the person I was in love with was seeing someone else. She realized immediately what she had just said, so she quickly added she did not know if they were sleeping together; all she heard was that they had been spending time together, going out to eat and to the movies. I asked her how long had it been going on and she responded they had only been seeing each other for a few weeks. A few weeks?!?! We had separated only the week before when I was told they needed some time alone; this did not sound like they were going to be alone much. The reason my friend waited until we were in the car before telling me the news was because she knew I could not go “ballistic,” since I needed to focus on the road. In hindsight it was a smart move on her part because I would have gone through the house and destroyed anything that reminded me of us as a couple. YOU MIGHT NOT consider what was done to me as deceitful but I did. Once trust has been established I see no reason why a person would lie in a relationship—unless they were planning a surprise party. Deceitfulness is a deal breaker for me; once a person lies to you how can you ever trust them again? I will say my feelings were badly hurt when my friend broke the news to me; I mean c’mon, how does someone go from one relationship to another in a matter of a couple of weeks? I know I could never do it. Those of my friends who are into Zodiac signs say I am the perfect definition of my sign. Once a person gains my trust they have it for a lifetime…until they do one thing that damages or breaks that trust then I am done with them. I could never trust several of the characters in this film festival nominated drama. MARRIED TO A WEALTHY businessman for the sole purpose of producing an heir became less important for Sophia, played by Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, The Light Between Oceans), when she was introduced to Jan Van Loos, played by Dane DeHaan (Life after Beth, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets); the artist hired to paint a portrait of her and her husband. With Christoph Waltz (The Legend of Tarzan, Carnage) as Cornelis Sandvoort, Judi Dench (Philomena, My Week with Marilyn) as Abbess and Holliday Grainger (The Finest Hours, My Cousin Rachel) as Maria; the cast was well rounded, easily handling each of their roles. Set in Amsterdam during the time tulips first became an important commodity, I found that aspect of the story especially intriguing. The sets and scenes were beautiful and easily transported me back centuries to that specific time. Unfortunately I found the script lacking in originality; to me this story reminded me of a Shakespeare tragedy. In addition there was one character that acted out of character based on what had happened to them; It did not make sense to me or at least it was not fully explained why they were back. Along with many dull spots in the script this movie was a perfect example of looks being deceiving.
SITTING in the waiting room there was a woman near me who was feverishly knitting. I could not tell what she was making but I was fascinated with the dexterity of her fingers; they looked like spider legs that were spinning silk into a massive web. Normally I would not have paid much attention to her since I know many people who take their knitting with to work on pieces when they have free time. There was something different about her though; her pace I can only say was caffeinated. However I noticed one of her legs was deliberately shaking up and down, like a mini pneumatic power jack. This is something I do when I have excess energy but I also know people do it when they are nervous or anxious. To tell you the truth she did not look relaxed at all; there was an intensity about the way she sat in her chair and there were no clues on her face telling me she was relaxed. I do not know maybe knitting was her therapy; it was a valid point. HOWEVER a person deals with stress is their business; I give them credit for finding an outlet to eliminate it as best as they can from their body and mind. When I had access to a piano it was my “go to” place whenever I was troubled or under stress. Creating music was a soothing experience where I could get lost and forget the reality I was experiencing. I would assume almost every person has some outlet that provides them a peaceful place. For some it may be participating in or watching sports programs, others may take long walks. Teaching yoga these past years has provided me another outlet where I can experience calmness. That is the key when it comes to disconnecting the mind from a stressful situation; one has to focus on the thing they love and stick with it. It is because of that I found myself intently following the story in this film festival winning movie based on a true story. MAUD Lewis, played by Sally Hawkins (A Brilliant Young Mind, Blue Jasmine), loved to paint. No matter what anyone thought or did to her, her painting brought her comfort. No one thought much of her work except one person. This biographical romantic drama had a pure beautiful story. With Ethan Hawke (The Magnificent Seven, Training Day) as Everett Lewis, Kari Matchett (Civic Duty, Cypher) as Sandra, Gabrielle Rose (A Dog’s Purpose, The Sweet Hereafter) as Aunt Ida and Zachary Bennett (Hacker, Jack) as Charles Dowley; the acting between Sally and Ethan has to be seen to be believed. Sally was incredible and deserves to be nominated for a film award. I never heard of Maud Lewis but I absolutely enjoyed the arc to this film’s story. The depth and the transformations displayed by the characters kept me engaged throughout the picture. Set in Nova Scotia, I thought the natural beauty of the landscapes created wonderful opportunities for the filming process. Simple scenes were still able to convey emotions clearly. I did wish the writers had provided a little more background information for Maud and Everett, particularly Everett because I was not sure what was motivating his emotions in the early parts of the story. However this was a mild concern. The human character is amazing and seeing what a person can create out of troubling situations is a beautiful feat.
At some point the two individuals decide to spend their lives with each other and the weaving begins. Like craftsmen their lives intermingle into a finely woven mesh, similar to a fishing net. The two cast their net out into the sea of hope and dreams, letting the currents spread it wide to capture good fortune. Their net will remain strong through any type of storm; the only thing that could create a hole is doubt. If either person discovers they cannot love unconditionally then the net of their life begins to unravel, parts splitting off and traveling to darker depths. I have always believed a relationship will last when both parties accept their significant other completely. There have been so many times where I have seen someone falling in love who thinks they are in love, but is more in love with the idea of falling in love. Sure they may be fond of the person they are dating, but somewhere inside of them they have this little checklist displaying the things that are “wrong.” There is this friend of mine who for some reason enjoys testing me on my definition of beauty. They will point to a stranger and ask me if I think they are beautiful. I know they want an answer based on the looks of the person, but I keep saying I cannot tell if they are beautiful until I know what is inside of them. Sure there may be surface features that are attractive but it can be so fleeting; the character, the personality, the morals, the compatibility of a person would be some of the elements that are more important to me. Maybe it is easier to simply say their soul. FILLING in as a model for his artist wife Gerda, played by Alicia Vikander (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Ex Machina); Danish artist Einar Wegener, played by Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, My Week with Marilyn), donned the clothing that was picked out and suddenly felt more like himself than he ever did before. This film festival winning biographical drama was based on a true story. It was brilliantly brought to life by Eddie and Alicia; their acting was amazing to see. The depth of their emotions was authentic and convincing to me; I easily see an Oscar nomination for both of them. Even the supporting cast, such a Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone, The Drop) as Hans Axgil and Amber Heard (Pineapple Express, Zombieland) as Ulla, was a good compliment to the two main stars. Set during the early 1920s in Copenhagen, the sets and outdoor shots were ideal. The story was captivating and interesting almost to the end; however, the last part of the film fell apart for me. I felt the script let the cast down. In addition, there were a few scenes that did not register as true compared to other ones. This incredible story explored the meaning of love and the cast delivered it.