WHO WILL REMEMBER THE MEMORIES WHEN the keepers of the memories are gone? I think about this from time to time. At a recent get together I started thinking about it again as the people in attendance were going over old, family photographs. There were several photos of people whose identities were unknown to the people at the party. These strangers, one had to assume, were related somehow to the family; but there was no one left from the previous generation who could help identify these strangers. I sat and wondered how many generations would have to pass before all the people in the photographs turned into unknown beings. As the gathering continued, I recalled from when I was little a neighbor who had lost many relatives due to war. She was a survivor herself. In fact, the first time I ever saw a tattoo was the one on her arm. It was a series of numbers and I remember asking her what the numbers meant. Looking back, she explained as best she could without frightening me how she was given the tattoo when she was in a concentration camp. Being so young I had not reached an age where I could comprehend the words, she was telling me; yet, though she is long gone I have not forgotten what she had said to me. NOW THERE ARE TIMES WHERE I wished I was privy to a person’s memories, especially when they have a historic factor. I knew several Viet Nam veterans, but that is all I knew about them. They never talked about their time away, what they did or what they saw; it was a subject one realized quickly they never wanted to talk about to anyone. I remember a friend’s family where one of the siblings was a soldier in Viet Nam. The family’s mailbox became their only connection to their son and brother. I was over at their house when a letter had arrived from overseas. The family huddled close together as a parent carefully opened the envelope and took out the onion skin piece of paper. Seeing the joy in their faces is something I have never forgotten. Being curious all these years, I had the privilege of talking to a Viet Nam veteran recently and asked him if the norm was not to talk about one’s experiences during the war. He explained the possible reasons for someone not wanting to talk about it, then generously shared his story. I carry his memory with me as I do now of the heroic act that took place in this dramatic, war film. THOUGH WILLIAM PITSENBARGER, PLAYED BY JEREMY Irvine (War Horse, The Railway Man), had the opportunity to save himself from the heat of a battle, he chose to remain behind and help save his fellow soldiers. Those who were saved wanted to make sure William was never forgotten. This film’s story was inspired by true events and I must tell you I was surprised with some of the things I saw in this picture. With Samuel L. Jackson (Shaft, Jackie Brown) as Takoda, Sebastian Stan (Captain America franchise; I, Tonya) as Scott Huffman, Diane Ladd (Joy, Chinatown) as Alice Pitsenberger and Christopher Plummer (The Man Who Invented Christmas, Knives Out) as Frank Pitsenberger; I thought the cast was excellent. Seeing the older actors display their gift of acting made the characters come alive for me. I found the story unbelievable to the point it started playing out like a mystery. The issue I had, however, was with the directing and the script. Instead of coming across like one continuous emotional journey, the scenes felt like snippets of events which damaged the build up of emotional depth. I would start to connect to a character but then the scene would jump and sever that feeling. The story I felt was important enough that it needed more time to blend scenes together and tighten up the script. Essentially, this film lacked drama for me. Now maybe those who have gone through the war will have a different feeling, which I would certainly understand. Still, I am glad this story came to light and now I know and remember it.
2 ½ stars
NO MATTER HOW HARD WE TRY, there is going to be times in life where we must deal with stuff (some people would use a stronger word) thrown our way. They may be anywhere between simple annoyances to heavy issues. Presently I am dealing with a continuous annoyance. Every time the temperature outside has a wide swing the tire pressure light goes on in my car. I never know if it is just a loss of air from the temperature, debris in the road or the start of an actual flat tire. I am stuck always going to an auto dealer to have the tires checked out. It is stuff like this that will drive me crazy because I do not have an outlet to release my frustrations. What I would like to do is kick my tires or bang on my dashboard when the tire light goes on; but that is not going to make anything better. However, I have been using my feelings as fuel to come up with an alternative that will give me piece of mind. My idea now is to buy a tire pressure gauge and one of those small air compressors; so, I can even out the air pressure in all my tires and get the tire gauge light to turn off, as long as there is not a flat tire. WHEN DEALING WITH HARD OR HEAVY situations, some individuals may not be fully equipped to handle the pressure. I believe it is better to submerge into your feelings than trying to ignore them. Letting yourself experience these emotions I find can be therapeutic, if not cathartic. In my past I have taken tragedy and taken all the feelings associated with it and wrapped it tightly around me to the point where I was nearly comatose. But during that time there was a part of my brain working on ways to learn and hopefully grow from the experience. Now there are some people who may experience a traumatic event and totally withdraw from reality. The pain is too much for them to handle so they find ways to avoid it. I hope I do not come across as judgmental but that is not something I could maintain. Sure, I can escape by taking a mental vacation for a while; but I am not the type of person who would try to fill the void I was experiencing with a substitute that could harm me. As I said, everyone handles trauma differently and this film festival winning action, crime drama will show you one of those ways. AFTER MANY YEARS A CASE DETECTIVE Erin Bell, played by Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased, The Upside), thought she had left behind resurfaced, stirring up strong emotions inside of her. To deal with the present she would have to revisit her past. This movie also starred Toby Kebbell (Fantastic Four, Dead Man’s Shoes) as Silas, Tatiana Maslany (Stronger, Orphan Black-TV) as Petra, Scoot McNairy (Argo, Monsters) as Ethan and Sebastian Stan (I, Tonya; Captain America franchise) as Chris. This was an unusual role for Nicole. Being a big fan of her work, I thought she would have been outstanding in the role. However, I never found her believable as the older version of her character; the entire time I was aware it was Nicole Kidman playing a role. The scenes that jumped into the past seemed more interesting to me, but I disliked the going back and forth in time throughout the film. This lead it to be not a very entertaining film for me. I found the script slow moving and at times dull. After the movie ended I took my disappointment and funneled it into a grocery store trip to buy myself a treat.
IT WAS THE FIRST time I was invited to such an event and it would be my last. I was invited to an ice skating birthday party many years ago. The party was being held at an indoor ice skating rink that had a party room that my friend’s parents decorated with balloons and signs. I had never gone ice skating before so I was excited to try it out. After lacing up the skates, on wobbly legs I made my way to the rink, grabbing any solid object for balance on my way. Stepping on the ice I remained at the side with my hand on the short wall that surrounded the rink. I had seen ice skaters on TV and thought it was easy to stand on a thin steel blade but I was wrong. Every time I let go of the wall and tried to skate I fell down. I do not think I ever made it around the rink once without my skates slipping out from underneath me, either falling face first on the ice or on my backside. THOUGH THERE WAS STILL time to skate before we were having cake, I got off the ice and sat on a bench where there was carpeting. I would not say I was sad, maybe frustrated; since there were people on the ice who made it look effortless. There were a few individuals who would skate face forward then suddenly do a hop so they could skate going backwards. I still remember one girl who was given a wide space around her because she was doing these incredible fast spins, where she simply looked like a blur or did spinning jumps in the air that captivated me. These few people almost looked like the skaters I would watch at the Olympics and other ice skating competitions. Sitting there looking at my discarded skates, I wondered if it was possible to get a second blade on each boot. I just felt if I had more blades to balance on I could make my way around the rink. And do you know what the funny part is to this story? I remember seeing Tonya Harding on television when she did something that no other female skater had done before and no one I saw at that rink was like her. FROM A YOUNG AGE Tonya, played by Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, The Wolf of Wall Street), stood out from the other ice skaters; her mother LaVona Golden, played by Allison Janney (Hairspray, The Hours), stood out even more. Based on true events this film festival winning, biographical drama has to be seen to be believed. Allison was totally outrageous in the role and I see award nominations piling up for her. Margot was a perfect fit for this character; it was a smart choice on her part that will make her even more bankable as they say. With Sebastian Stan (Captain America franchise, The Covenant) as Jeff Gillooly, Paul Walter Hauser (Kingdom-TV, Super Troopers 2) as Shawn and Julianne Nicholson (Black Mass, August: Osage County) as Diane Rawlinson; I cannot remember how long it has been since I sat in a movie theater laughing out loud. The script beautifully blended outrageous moments with tragic undertones. The story when it happened was so bizarre to begin with, I enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes stuff in this movie even if it was not true. One thing I knew for certain was the judgmental views officials had about Tonya. No matter which way one chooses to view Tonya in this picture, the fact remains she did something astounding. You will have to decide what it was she did.
3 ½ stars
There are some individuals who have been fortunate to extend beyond their 15 minutes of fame, though not always for the best reasons. I not only believe everyone should get their 15 minutes but I feel many people do not even realize they already used part of their time. A person who performs an act of kindness, such as giving up their seat in a crowded train car to someone else or helping an individual with directions to a particular spot, achieve a bit of that fame in someone’s eyes. Before I say what I am going to say next, I want to first state that I feel everyone has the right to work as long as they are able and have the desire. However, I have seen some people who may be better off if they had stopped at an earlier time, especially when it comes to celebrities. There have been film stars who wind up hawking a company’s products or go on the lecture circuit and I am okay with these career changes. But when I see a celebrity trying to maintain their past “glory” by turning themselves into a caricature of their former self just to make a dollar or stay in the public eye, I have to wonder if they really need the attention and money. Since I have been reviewing movies I have seen some actors, even Oscar nominated ones that were doing work that was absolutely beneath them. Did they really need the money? When I was an extra on a movie set there was an actor in the cast that some of us were surprised he agreed to be in the film; it was a silly role for him. He was such a jerk during the filming, one had to wonder if he always acted that way or was he upset that he had to do this type of work now. It is similar to the main character in this dramatic comedy. TO receive an inheritance bronze medal winner Hope, played by Melissa Rauch (Are You Here, The Big Bang Theory-TV), had to coach an up and coming gymnast; a job she felt was beneath her. This film festival nominee had a story that was relatable to viewers; who hasn’t done work they did not like? I could say it for my experience with this picture because I had to sit through this movie listening to crude, offensive remarks in a ridiculous story. With Sebastian Stan (The Martian, Black Swan) as Lance and Gary Cole (In the Line of Fire, Pineapple Express) as Stan, I sat in my seat trying to figure out what attracted the movie studio to okay this film project. The humor was not funny to me except for maybe a couple of instances and if this truly wanted to be a satire I did not see it as such. This may have been partially a story about extending one’s fame but the outcome in my opinion deserves to take back some of that used time.
1 ½ stars