THE CANDLE WAS BURNING BRIGHTLY WHEN I went to sleep, and it was still burning when I got up in the morning. I did not know at first the significance of this candle that looked like it was formed inside a drinking glass. All I knew was that it would appear only a handful of times throughout the year. The wax in the glass was always white and by the time the flame extinguished itself, the rim of the glass would have a ring of black stuff around it. Though I never saw it, I believe the used candle was disposed of because I never saw them in the house the rest of the year, in a cupboard or pantry. I never touched the candle for it usually was placed on a counter or sometimes right on top of the stove between the 2 sets of burners. Only when I got older did I find out those candles were lit once a year for a deceased relative as a remembrance. It was a custom/ritual that was handed down from generation to generation; I never found out how long exactly it had been taking place in the family. It also was not the only custom/ritual, I discovered, that had been performed in our home. AS MY CIRCLE OF FRIENDS AND family expanded, I learned there were many families that had their own customs/rituals. I remember attending a wedding where it was custom for the groom to ride in on a white horse, decorated in colorful yarns and jewels. Another custom involved the wedding party; the groomsmen would have to lift a groomsman from the other family. It was fascinating to see young and old men trying to lift each other; usually in a bearhug, but sometimes over the shoulder or in outstretched arms as if they were newlyweds about to walk over the threshold of their new home. Through the years, I have known several individuals who would give up a certain type of food for a short time. I enjoy learning about other people’s customs because I feel it gives me an opportunity to not only get a glimpse of their history but also their heritage. Besides customs/rituals based on religious beliefs, I have known a variety of people who have a custom or tradition that is unique to their family. Though I am not adventuresome when it comes to trying different foods, I enjoy learning about the types of food a family eats that are directly related to the region of the world their family came from. Learning about the customs/rituals and region of the main character was one of the charms that motivated me to watch this film festival winner. TRAVELING TO THE UNITED STATES FOR a medical opinion meant Scotsman Rory MacNeil, played by Brian Cox (The Autopsy of Jane Doe, X2: X-Men United), would see the life his estranged son Ian, played by JJ Field (Third Star, Captain America: The First Avenger), was living in San Francisco. Rory already had an opinion formed before he even arrived. With Thora Birch (Hocus Pocus, Patriot Games) as Emily, Rosanna Arquette (The Whole Nine Yards, Desperately Seeking Susan) as Claudia and Treat Williams (The Hideout, Deep Rising) as Frank Barron; this drama went beyond its script thanks to Brian’s performance. I found myself becoming involved with Brian’s character due to the acting skills of Brian. If not for that, this film would not have kept my interest throughout because the script was predictable. Gratefully it had at least a deeper level of emotion to it. Because I am a fan of traveling and seeing other places, I especially enjoyed the outdoor scenes. If this had been currently playing in the theaters, I don’t think I would have liked it as much as I did in the comfort of my own home. And, I felt as if I was on a private tour with this Scottish man Rory.
2 ¾ stars
I feverishly was trying to keep up with my notes while the speaker was discussing the kinesiology behind their choreographic routines. The workshop was packed with fitness participants; I had no idea this would have been such a popular course. However, I soon realized why when I glanced at the person’s notebook next to me; she was drawing a portrait of the presenter. I was stunned; not because it was actually a good likeness, but because she appeared to be in her middle 20s. Didn’t this kind of thing go on back during our school years I wondered to myself? I could still remember back in school how easy it was to spot someone who had a crush on someone else. If they could not engage their intended target in conversation, they would always be close by to watch the movements of their heart’s attraction. When there was an age difference or more exactly a grade difference I always found it odd that it was okay if the male was in a higher grade, but not the female. I had a friend who had dated an older girl but he never talked about it, only if he was asked questions directly. Now keep in mind back then dating meant going out to eat, see a movie, sitting together during lunch period, hanging out in groups; all depending on what grade one was in. I do not recall hearing about such events like what I saw in this dramatic romance. ARTISTICALLY inclined teenager Minnie, played by Bel Powley (Side by Side, M.I. High-TV), had a crush on Monroe, played by Alexander Skarsgard (The East, What Maisie Knew). He was already dating her mother Charlotte, played by Kristen Wiig (Welcome to Me, The Skeleton Twins). Set in the 1970s in San Francisco, this film festival winning movie used animation in a creative way to bring some of Minnie’s thoughts to life. I thought the cast was exceptionally good; however, if I go by my standards regarding the entertainment value of a film, then I did not find this picture very entertaining. For me it came down to the subject matter, I was not comfortable with it. I do believe the story portrayed certain realness and I know I do not have the right to place my values on other people; but I just felt scenes were being regurgitated to drive a point home. There were parts of the picture that were nicely done and actually the script was well written, even if some of it was predictable to me. What I have always said about a movie is if it moves you, whether in a positive or negative way, then it has done its job. I was moved but I did not experience a lot of entertainment value with this film.
2 1/2 stars
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
In the Latin community, so I have been told, the males need to be machismo, manly. I do not buy that, but I am aware that there is a strong focus on being a family. We can all assume that when a child is brought into this world, whatever their parents’ backgrounds, they will love their child unconditionally. If only that were really true. I have witnessed the horror of a child being kicked out of the house by their parents, because they announced they were gay. These parents only loved him as long as they believed he was straight. What made this situation worse was how the parents had nothing to do with him from that day on…until they found out years later how successful their son had become in the business world. Then all of a sudden they tried re-establishing a relationship with him. For these reasons, I was intrigued when I saw the trailer for this movie. In the mission district of San Francisco lived Che Rivera, played by Benjamin Bratt (Miss Congeniality, Law & Order-TV). He was an ex-con, recovering alcoholic and a single dad. Respected by some, feared by others; Che’s world spun out of control when he discovered his son Jes, played by Jeremy Ray Valdez (Constantine, All She Can), was gay. Though this story can and has played out in many ways, I felt having the setting take place in a hyper masculine, Hispanic neighborhood gave the conflicts more intensity. Benjamin and Jeremy did a wonderful job of acting, in spite of several undeveloped scenes. Even if I had never known about my friend’s parents, I would have still found this dramatic film to be a truthful story. In my world, love is either an all or nothing proposition.
2 3/4 stars — DVD