MAYBE BEING BORN IN AN APARTMENT building is the reason why I acknowledge neighbors when I see them. I have lived in buildings and houses; each offers a different living experience. With a house, I always made sure that any loud music/noise ended by 9 pm. There were times I would get home late on a winter night and I would not use the snowblower to shovel the sidewalks, because I did not want to disturb any neighbors. It was important to me to be a good neighbor, so I never complained about a dog barking non-stop in the neighbor’s backyard or my neighbor’s child shooting baskets at 6:30 in the morning. Honestly, I was fortunate to have reasonable and good neighbors. It was not unusual for a neighbor to come over and help when they saw me attempting to do a home repair outside. Likewise, I would help a neighbor carry groceries or heavy objects from their vehicle whenever I saw them. When I moved from an apartment to a house, I made it a point to maintain friendly, or at least cordial, relations with my neighbors. We were going to be living next door to each other, so why would I want to cause something that would turn the relationship acrimonious. LIVING IN A CONDO BUILDING, I have found I have more frequent contact with neighbors than when living in a house. Having several apartments on one floor, one is bound to bump into a neighbor in the hallway. Add in an elevator and there rarely is a day I would not see anyone. Now here is the funny thing; when someone would get on the elevator I always either say hello or acknowledge them with a nod of my head. We live in the same building and though they may be a stranger to me, I feel it is the kind thing to do. It always surprises me when I meet a neighbor who either does not make eye contact or says nothing in return when I acknowledge them. It is not like I get offended by it; I just find it odd. There are some neighbors who will make small talk and there are others who just say a quick hi and go about their business. This may sound weird, but I sometimes wonder what a neighbor would do if they came upon me in some kind of physical distress. Would they quickly walk away because they do not want to be involved or would they try to help? I would rather they be like the neighbors in this dramatic, Academy Award winning movie. EXPERIENCING MULTIPLE LOSSES AFTER THE GREAT recession, the only thing Fern, played by Frances McDormand (Moonrise Kingdom, Burn After Reading), had available was her phone and a van. Between the two she would find a place unlike the place she had come from. With newcomer Gay DeForest as Gay, newcomer Patricia Grier as Patty, newcomer Linda May as Linda and David Strathairn (Fast Color, Godzilla: King of the Monsters) as Dave, this film festival winner was a gentle piece of work. The direction was excellent though I have to say the pacing bordered close to being too slow for me. The acting from Francis was a study on how one could convey emotions without talking and she was powerful in the role. One of the big surprises for me were the newcomers who were not actors but the actual people portraying their lives. The story was a curious one and I appreciated the way it was filmed; the scenery was beautiful. I do have to say if I had seen this before I did my Oscar favorites, I honestly would not have picked Frances as best actress, not that she was bad by any means. My focus is first and foremost the entertainment value and I think the slowness and quiet dragged me down a bit. However, I still feel this rightfully deserved to be included with the nominees this past year.
3 ¼ stars
Those I call friend join me on a life long journey. We walk side by side down a long and winding road, where we discover amazing sights along the way. Sometimes they have to push me up a hill of doubt; other times, I have to pull them through a thicket of low self-esteem. Either way we take this journey together without any judgements, only unconditional love. Though every step is precious, there is an extra comfort when we share the high and the low points along our way. This comedic drama reinforced the deep affection I have for my friends. After recently reviewing special effect laden blockbusters, it was peaceful just to sit and focus on the art of acting. Recently widowed Arvilla Holden, played by Jessica Lange (The Vow, Big Fish), was distressed further when her stepdaughter demanded her father’s ashes be given to her, to be buried next to his first wife. Not wanting Arvilla to take the trip alone; her two friends Margene Cunningham and Carol Brimm, played by Kathy Bates (Titanic, Midnight in Paris) and Joan Allen (Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, Death Race), decided to join her. The trip would take the three women to unexpected places. For me the story was a generic blueprint; it had no embellishments or surprises to set it apart from similar stories done before. I wished the writers would have done a stronger story line because it really was not fair to the actresses. The acting power of Jessica, Kathy, Joan and Christine Baranski (Mamma Mia, The Good Wife-TV), as the stepdaughter Francine Holden Packard, deserved a better script. There was sweet, gentle moments throughout the film, along with chuckles provided for the most part by Kathy Bates’ character. An added bonus for me was the beautiful scenery the trio stopped at during their journey. This was not a great movie by any means; however, I simply enjoyed the underlying theme of friends being there for each other.
2 1/4 stars — DVD
Imagine taking a trip to 25 countries on 5 continents, seeing natural wonders to questionable man made structures, without the intrusion of the Transportation Security Administration and no need of a passport. All of this can be done from the comfort of your seat in your favorite movie theater. Five years in the making and 20 years since his incredible film Baraka; director Ron Fricke brought another absolutely gorgeous movie to the big screen. There was no dialog as the audience was transported to sights most of us will never see in our lifetime. And what I would like to think of as a gentle slap to the digital world, this movie was shot in 70 mm film. The results were massive and impressive to me. Where some movies depend on their musical score to distract from the lack of acting or story, the original music used in this great film was the ideal accompaniment; the perfect blend of spices to the visual stew of images that welled up before our eyes. Do you think I liked this movie? I loved this movie! The word samsara is sanskrit for “continuous flow.” Think of it as birth, life, death and rebirth. What I got out of seeing this movie was how ancient cultures/structures have been reincarnated over and over again. What is that saying that goes “Everything old becomes new again,” or something like it? I found it fascinating the way scenes from opposite spectrums were paired up to show, in essence, their similarities. This was truly a remarkable film. Walking out of the theater, I looked at the buildings around me in a different way; wondering where in a past time were these structures born before.
What would you do if you could travel back in time? Would you change anything from your past? I think I would have altered my eating habits at an earlier age. Or at least buy some Apple stock when it was only $10.00 a share. The question of time travel was quickly addressed in this charming, funny movie. At a local magazine’s staff meeting, one of the writers read a classified ad that was seeking an individual to be a companion in time traveling. Curious to find the writer of the ad, three staff members were sent out on an assignment to get to the bottom of this mysterious story. In a brilliant deadpan performance, Aubrey Plaza (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Damsels in Distress) played Darius, the reporter who was to make 1st contact with the author of the classified ad, aka the time traveler. A total surprise for me was seeing Mark Duplass (Your Sister’s Sister, Hannah Takes the Stairs) as the secretive Kenneth, inventor of the time machine. The reason for my surprise was seeing Mark again after just reviewing his other new picture this week, My Sister’s Sister. I have never seen the same actor debut in two movies that came out on the same day. As in my previous review of his other movie, Mark was just as excellent in this role. There was more to this engaging movie than just the possibility of time traveling. The interesting characters were also dealing with loss, longing, hope and the challenges associated with taking a leap of faith.