THE HIGH NOISE LEVEL IN THE ROOM came from people either uncreating merchandise, setting up displays or cleaning; yet, in the middle of this din was one quiet individual intently working on display signs. She was sitting on the floor with her legs spread far enough apart to accommodate the poster boards and markers she had in front of her on the floor. Being a yoga instructor, I was impressed by her flexibility and ability to bend forward from the waist until she could rest her torso flat on the floor. Despite the activity in the room my focus was drawn to her. The way she colored in her letters on the board and the designs she created along the outer edges attracted by eye. I did not know her since I was a new employee, but I could see she was well liked and respected. As the weeks progressed, I began to get more insight into her role at the company. She had a gentle presence and spoke softly; but when she talked to anyone her eye contact was direct and sincere as if that person was the only individual that mattered to her. Through the weeks I got to know her and became quite impressed with the way she could handle both shoppers’ and employees’ issues; she made each person feel important. That ability was a skill/gift that I hoped I could master from her example. SOME PEOPLE BELIEVE THEIR WORDS ARE the most important, while others feel it is their actions. I lean more towards action just because of the things that happened to me based on somebody’s words. When a person expresses their love for you but then has an affair a/k/a cheats behind your back, what is more important their words or their actions? Or, when a friend expresses how happy they are for you calling them but abruptly ends your call every time they get a 2ndcall; what do you believe is more truthful, the words or actions? With both these examples I would say the actions are more telling of the truth. However, I have experienced situations where unbeknownst to me my words had an impact on a person. There was a couple of members in my class who listened to my story about how I came to terms with my weight and was able to finally shed it, who then started changing their lifestyle to get healthier. In my experiences, a person whose words and actions weigh equally in importance is a rare breed. One of the main characters in this biographical drama based on a true story possesses such a gift. FEELING THE ASSIGNMENT TO GO INTERVIEW Fred Rogers, played by Tom Hanks (Bridge of Spies, The Circle), in Pittsburgh was beneath his skills; journalist Lloyd Vogel, played by Matthew Rhys (The Post, The Americans-TV), was not only forced to meet the man who played Mr. Rogers on television; but he would have to face someone even more important. With Chris Cooper (The Company Men, Adaptation) as Jerry Vogel, Susan Kelechi Watson (Blackout, This is Us-TV) as Andrea Vogel and Maryann Plunkett (True Story, Blue Valentine) as Joanne Rogers; this film surprised me in the way the focus of the story was more on Lloyd Vogel. Though Mr. Rogers almost felt secondary to me, I appreciated the way the writers showed how Fred Rogers’ words affected those around him. The script unfolded in a quiet methodical way with only the occasional flare-up of intense drama. The entire cast was excellent which may be attributed to Tom’s amazing performance. Not only was I enamored by Fred Rogers’ actions in this picture, I was equally amazed with his choice of words. For the times we presently live in, this movie was a beautiful reminder of how people can act towards one another.
3 ¼ stars
THERE WAS SOMETHING SAFE, NURTURING and comfortable about growing up in an apartment building. I never felt like I was missing out on anything by not living in a single-family home. My earliest memories contain the assortment of wonderful neighbors who lived in our building. Before I could even walk I learned how to crawl down 2 flights of stairs to one neighbor who always welcomed me into their home and gave me cookies. I know, you must be thinking I was trained like Pavlov’s dog for those cookies; but honestly, I was not. When I grew older no one had to teach me to open doors for people carrying in groceries or packages; all of us in the building did it to help each other. We lived on the top floor so I got to use the landing of the wrap around staircase as my personal playroom. The same could be said for our back porch; I was always outside on it either playing or reading a book. In fact, I had a little table and chairs set out on the porch; so, you could say I had my own personal, outdoor deck. FROM ONE NEIGHBOR OF OURS I learned important history lessons about war and concentration camps. She was a survivor who shared her story with me whenever I would ask her a question. Her son was one of the musicians in the building. While he would practice playing his accordion, there was another neighbor who played the drums; add that to my piano lessons and we covered a variety of musical genres. I would love coming home and hear the music playing as I walked up the flights of stairs, accompanied by an assortment of cooking smells that wafted through the hallway at various times. There was never a need to worry about running out of something, like a food ingredient or toilet paper, because everyone in the building was willing to borrow from each other. Something that I feel that was truly valuable for me was learning at an early age how to conduct myself in public. Everyone was polite and friendly which was a wonderful example to show me how to interact with people. It was a time before texting so we each had face to face conversations and I learned how to listen. I cannot say that is an attribute that everyone has in them these days. Living in an apartment building was wonderful training on how to deal with people. Everyone worked at finding amicable solutions to any issues that would arise. We were our own special neighborhood inside of our apartment building. FROM OSCAR WINNING DIRECTOR Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom, The Music of Strangers), this film festival winning documentary showed me a neighborhood that had similarities to my childhood home, but I did not know existed. Debuting on television in Pittsburgh 1967, it soon became a national broadcast. I have never seen the show so my enthusiasm about this film may be more than someone who was familiar with Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. What struck me about Fred Rogers was his gentle kindness and progressive thinking. I was amazed at the quiet way he would make a relevant statement about an event taking place in the world. Learning about the history of the show along with the personal information about his actual and television family, it was quite apparent there was a genuine love and affection for each other. Here you have people from all walks of life who worked together in a civil and respectful way. I must tell you if Fred was alive and wanted to run for office, I would vote for him based on having seen this movie; what a wonderful picture about a beautiful human being.
ONE’S former days of glory either chain the individual to the past or can springboard them forward through the future. I have experienced this with a particular style of aerobics I used to teach in my classes. Years after I was no longer doing the class, members would still come up to me to talk about the class, wishing it would come back on the schedule. This particular class took a lot of preparation to teach and provided a lot of fun for me and the members. I possibly could have gone a few more years teaching this particular class; however, I knew with the advancement I was achieving at my day job I would not be able to devote the proper amount of time to keep that class going at the level it needed. Now I have seen at some clubs where instructors find a niche and excel in it, but after a couple of years they devote less time to keep it fresh and fun. It is as if they use their success to coast through their other classes. THIS is not unique to the fitness world; wasn’t it just recently I heard about a well known singer, who was successful early in her career, having a poor performance involving lip synching her own song? It is similar to some of those old musical acts that used to perform in huge stadiums during their heyday but presently perform at a small hotel nightclub or local festival. Now I am not saying they should not make a living; but if they are using nostalgia to draw a crowd because they cannot perform as well as before, I have a hard time justifying spending money to see them. Why would I want to hear a singer who can no longer carry the tune to their own song? Maybe it is just me but sitting and dwelling on one’s past successes in my opinion doesn’t allow the person to live in the present; I saw it taking place in this powerful drama. TROY Maxson, played by Denzel Washington (Safe House, Man on Fire), knew he would have been a great baseball player if he had been given the chance. His frustrations not only had an effect on him but the people around him. Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play written by August Wilson (The Piano Lesson, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone), this film festival winner was directed by Denzel and filmed in a way to match the stage version which Denzel and Viola Davis (Suicide Squad, Doubt) as Rose Maxson performed on Broadway. With Jovan Adepo (The Leftovers-TV) as Cory Maxson and Stephen Henderson (Manchester by the Sea, Tower Heist) as Jim Bono; the acting was outstanding overall; but for me, Viola was beyond amazing. She will be nominated for an Oscar and could easily get it for this performance. The story set in Pittsburgh during the 1950s did a beautiful job of depicting the attitudes of the times and set the viewer up for a couple of surprises. Even at times where I thought the pacing of the story slowed, the acting was so intense that I barely acknowledged this minor negative for me. This is a film to see especially if you enjoy catching the movies that will be nominated this awards season.
3 ½ stars
It still can have disastrous effects and doesn’t make things better, but at least there were no ill intentions associated with it. As part of my banter during my classes I do public service announcements, a portion of it is listing any product recalls. There have been some that were not due to human error; for example, a bad circuit board installed into a motor vehicle or a food item that did not receive all of its ingredients due to a glitch during the automated manufacturing process. I understand things can happen. The issue I have is when individuals willingly keep the status quo though they know it could be dangerous for the consumer. Listen to these product recalls I have previously announced in class: a paper lantern that could catch on fire because the votive candle holders were too close to the lamp’s sides or how about the children’s swing set where the seats hung too low, causing kids to scrape their legs on the ground when swinging. You are telling me no one bothered to inspect the product before selling it? It has been drummed into all of our heads that time is money; no one wants to spend a lot of time on something if it affects the bottom line. I find it sad and miss the old days (listen to me) when people cared about their products and even other people. This is why I was so taken aback by this drama. FORENSIC neuropathologist Dr. Bennett Omalu, played by Will Smith (I Am Legend, Hancock), worked at the coroner’s office in Pittsburgh. When the corpse of one of the Pittsburgh Steeler’s star football players arrived, Dr. Omalu could not understand why such a relatively young person had suffered such ailments and was now dead. It was a mystery he was determined to solve. This film festival winning sports film played partially like a thriller. Based on a true story I have to give credit to Will Smith. The character Will portrayed was such a gentle, down to earth man that one just wanted to root for him. Maybe the accent was weak but Will made this role one of his best performances I have ever seen. With Alec Baldwin (The Departed, 30 Rock-TV) as Dr. Julian Bailes and Albert Brooks (Drive, Defending Your Life) as Dr. Cyril Wecht, the supporting cast did a fine job with their characters even though they were not written with much depth to them. There were a couple of scenes that felt forced, where the writers wanted to inject an element of suspense; they were only a distraction for me. On the other hand I will say as the pieces of this mystery were being discovered there was one particular scene that was powerful and put everything into place for me. After seeing this picture I honestly cannot imagine a parent, who has children playing in some type of sports activity, not questioning their decision to allow their children’s participation.