IN COLLEGE, I BECAME A FRIEND and confidant to my lab partner in our freshman year. We both had a similar sense of humor and shared the same interests, one of them being we were both from out of state. Early into the semester she told me she had a boyfriend back home which was fine with me, since I was not looking to date someone for the time being. I was more concerned with keeping up with my heavy course load. I asked her if it was hard being away from him and she said, “Not at all.” Well, that was not the response I was expecting; so, I decided to question her further. It turned out both of their parents introduced them to each other. She found him controlling but her parents approved of him because he was of the same religion. Before I could stop myself, I asked if they would still approve of him if he was verbally or heaven forbid physically abusive to her? She replied, “More than likely they would still approve of him.” I could not believe it. What was wrong with her folks, I wondered. Before I could comment further, she told me she was seeing someone else prior, but because he had a different religion, her parents would not allow him to come over to their house. I did not say this, but I was thinking how sad that situation must have been. TO ME, ONE OF THE MOST powerful things a human being can do is to love someone. To feel it, acknowledge it and express it is a monumental moment in a person’s life. What I cannot understand are those individuals who wish to suppress that emotion/feeling in other people because it does not fit into their beliefs. The amount of time, energy and money being devoted in denying groups of people from expressing their love, for themselves and for someone else, is both horrifying and appalling. I would like to ask these people who protest and shout at marginalized groups, “How does their life infringe upon yours?” If a person loves someone of the same sex, what difference does it make to the person who opposes it? Or if a woman chooses to end her pregnancy, what right is it for a stranger to tell her she cannot do it? I have a hard time hearing and seeing this type of hatred; I cannot think what else to call it. A person realizing, they were born in the wrong body is a decision only they can decide, no one else. The toll it takes on these individuals who simply want to express their love for themselves or for another is exorbitant. You can see it for yourself in this film festival winning romantic drama. DURING THE HEIGHT OF THE COLD war, a Soviet soldier finds himself becoming attracted to a new charismatic, confident pilot. With the KGB on high alert, any move out of order could be met with the severest of punishments. With Tom Prior (The Theory of Everything, Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Sergey Serebrennikov, Oleg Zagorodnii (Who Are You-TV, Oboroten v Pogonakh) as Roman Matvejev, Diana Pozharskaya (Zhara, The Counted-TV) as Luisa, newcomer Jake Henderson as Volodja and Nicholas Woodeson (Skyfall, The Man Who Knew Too Little) as Colonel Kuznetsov; this movie based on a true story was filmed beautifully. I thought the script was bit heavy handed on the emotions despite my feeling that it had glossed over the roughness of the environment. Regardless, it was a touching story that conveyed the dangers present during the 1970s in the Soviet Union. I thought the two main stars did a good job of conveying their emotions, along with a mix of dread. I was able to sense the pressure they were under. This is just me; but because the story is based in the Soviet Union’s air force, I did have a small sense of disbelief while watching this film. What they had to deal with just to be able to express their love.
2 ¾ stars
THE PHRASE “TOO MANY COOKS SPOIL the broth” came to mind as I sat there listening to everyone’s opinion. I was a volunteer at a citywide event and wound up being placed into the set up crew’s group; we were responsible for preparing the ballroom for guests, decorating and preparing the auction tables. Thirty minutes had passed already and we still did not have a game plan in place. I felt frustrated as I observed several individuals vie to become the leader of our group. It was obvious, at least to me; no one would back down and allow one of them to take charge. It was a shame because time was ticking away before the doors would open for the event. After remaining in my seat for a few more minutes I had heard enough; I got up and started carrying the items for the auction over to several tables set up in the corners of the room. I heard someone yell out to me but I did not acknowledge them until I came back to the group. They wanted to know what I was doing so I simply said putting things out so we do not look like (fill in the blank). I made my point and it was strong enough to knock some sense into those leader wannabes. IT FLOORS ME ON HOW many people proclaim themselves to be generous, a people’s person; who want to do the best for everyone, yet think of themselves first. I have seen it happen in so many places besides what I mentioned above. From companies to non-profit organizations to government, you will always find someone who cares more about how they are being perceived instead of doing the right thing. I have to say when it comes to government officials I am the most offended by their actions. These individuals are for the most part elected into their positions and yet they come in with their own personal agenda. The phrase about putting their “stamp of approval” on an issue tells me they want to take credit for everything and agree with it. To me a good politician is one who can approve something they are not a fan of, but realize it is the correct procedure. In my city we are dealing with a politician who put his relatives on the payroll though they are not necessarily qualified. Who benefits from it? Trust me you will be asking yourself many times that question as you watch this satirical, film festival winning comedy. UPON THE DEATH OF DICTATOR Joseph Stalin, the members of his cabinet were free to explore their deepest desires. It would be a battle of wits to see who would climb to the top and take over the Soviet Union. With Steve Buscemi (Norman, 30 Rock-TV) as Nikita Khrushchev, Simon Russell Beale (Into the Woods, Penny Dreadful-TV) as Laurenti Beria, Jeffrey Tambor (The Accountant, Arrested Development-TV) as Georgy Malenkov and Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Hitman) as Maria Veniaminovna Yudina; this movie produced smiles and laugh out loud results. The acting was formidable from the cast, especially Steve and Simon. I do not know how much of the story was based in truth but I have to tell you everything I watched seemed plausible, even when scenes were close to buffoonery. The sets had an authentic look that added a layer of excitement, while the script was filled with fun one-liners that one needed to pay attention to as they flew by. Who knew in the middle of such dismal times one could find humor among the events.
3 ½ stars
Pride means you have a respect for yourself, a sense of happiness when you know you have done something good. There is another form of pride known as false pride. I find this version to be showy or more of a facade. The term “keep up appearances” comes to mind. Some years ago I taught aerobics in a small aerobic studio. The space had this old dark carpeting for the fitness floor and I had to stand on a makeshift wooden stage that was no more than 6 feet wide. We were situated above a clothing store on a busy commercial street. It was my job to be welcoming and upbeat even if there was no hot water or air conditioning. I could deal with stuff like that; however, I had a hard time working for someone who claimed to be a fitness professional but would use illegal drugs in their office. It was such a contradiction; all of the profits were going to their drug habit. I needed the job so I kept quiet, only coming in to teach my classes then leave quickly. After a while the situation began to weigh me further down; it was hard to put on this false front of a gung-ho, cheerful instructor knowing that there may not be enough money to cover my paycheck. Luckily I was able to find another job and resigned from the place. At least I was able to do it, but what about those individuals who have no choice? THERE are no murderers in paradise; at least that was what people were led to believe during the 1950s in the Soviet Union. But after Leo Demidov, played by Tom Hardy (Inception, Lawless), had to read the death notice to his close friend about his son; Leo knew something was not right. This dramatic thriller had a stellar class that really made this picture. Along with Tom there was Noomi Rapace (The Drop, Prometheus) as Raisa Demidov, Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight franchise, Harry Potter franchise) as General Mikhail Nesterov and Joel Kinnaman (Run All Night, RoboCop) as Vasili. This film had an oppressive darkness hanging down on it thanks to the cinematography and sets. I enjoyed all of this so much which makes me sad to say the script was the weak link. The story was ponderous with a few slow passages. As I sat through this movie I felt like there were all these cool puzzle pieces but they were not all fitting together. It seemed to me that there were too many story lines which made this film longer than it needed to be. All I can say is this film had a good front but once you got into it you realized it was not as good as it looked. Brief scenes of violence and blood.
2 1/4 stars