I CRINGED WHEN I SAW WHAT I pulled out of the dresser drawer. It was a pair of compression shorts that I used to wear years ago for teaching aerobics. Holding them up arm’s length away, I could not believe there was a time, I not only wore them, but would willingly wear them in public. They were made of a Lycra spandex blend and were black with a pinstripe of red that went down the outer thighs. How did I ever think they were good looking, especially on me I wondered? At the time, it seemed like everyone was wearing these types of shorts; I just wanted to fit in with the crowd. It is funny how over time my original memory of me teaching in those shorts morphed from a happy memory to an uncomfortable one. That is the thing about memories, though the event itself doesn’t change our perceptions do. I can still see my younger self standing on stage in the aerobic studio in those shorts, leading the class through the different movements. During that time, I had the ability to eat whatever I wanted without worrying about gaining weight; how I miss those times! Teaching multiple classes, being on a strict regimen of weightlifting; it was a dream come true not having to worry about the consequences for eating a bowl of ice cream or several cookies at once. MANY OF MY MEMORIES USED TO haunt me. The ones pertaining to my high school years really had a control over me that I could not shake. For years the weight of them prevented me from reaching out and exploring my potential. I do not really look at memories in terms of good or bad; they each are a part of me, but I now choose how to react to them. From the dark times in high school I changed those memories from being demons to motivational spokespeople. I can honestly say part of the reason I lost weight was due to those past high school memories. No more being the victim, I worked to recreate and embrace myself. For those of you who have been long time readers of my reviews, you can see I have an abundance of memories that well up when I am watching a movie. What may have started out as a bad memory is now only a cracked brick among the many that are part of the life path I am walking on. Memories provide us the opportunity to be inspired or creative or reflective; they do not have to weigh us down for an eternity. See for yourself by watching this dramatic, film festival winner. IN FAILING HEALTH WITH TALK OF a retrospective on his previous film work; writer and director Salvador Mallo, played by Antonio Banderas (Dolittle, The Laundromat), looks back on the life that led him to the place he was at presently. With Asier Etxeandia (The Bridge, Velvet-TV) as Alberto Crespo, Leonardo Sbaraglia (The Silence of the Sky, Wasp Network) as Federico Delgado, Nora Navas (Black Bread, We All Want What’s Best for Her) as Mercedes and Penelope Cruz (Loving Pablo, The Counselor) as Jacinta; this was a beautifully filmed movie. The acting was excellent with Antonio doing some of his best work. The story jumps back and forth in time; at first it threw me, but I quickly found the rhythm of it. It was refreshing to experience a thoughtful and well-written script; the issues that came up were handled with a direct, clear vision. I have to say the scenes with Penelope were some of the most gorgeous pieces of story telling I have seen in a long time. This was the type of film viewing experience where one is given the opportunity to reflect on their own life. Spanish was spoken with English subtitles.
3 ½ stars
FROM THE VARIOUS JOBS I HAVE DONE, I have learned a couple of “truths” about people. The first one is: If an individual does not have passion about what they are doing, then they will never get far in life. The second one: If a person does not have even the smallest of a stubborn streak or maybe I should call it a sense of commitment, they could easily be swayed down a different life path. I have worked with several individuals who were schooled in what became their profession. For example, taking accounting classes towards being an accountant or studying art and interior design to be a decorator/designer. There was one accountant I knew who had the title but was not detail-oriented; I thought it was important to be particular and exact when working with numbers. This individual did not have passion for the work he was doing. Because he did not care, he would make mistakes from time to time. There was a meeting called to go over a group of accounts, I recall; where he came in late despite the fact, he was supposed to be the one who was going to update all the participants at this meeting. He was finally let go (new terminology for getting fired). A WOMAN I USED TO WORK WITH had an inspirational story. She was a single mother with 2 small children. During her entire upbringing she always had an attraction to helping people. At a young age she would tell everyone, when they asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she wanted to be a nurse. She told me there were some individuals who complimented her on her response by encouraging her to pursue her dreams; however, relatives and close friends of the family told her it was not a realistic goal because her parents did not have the means to put her through college. They would encourage her to finish high school then immediately get a job to do her part in supporting the family. She heeded their advice by getting a job, where I met her; however, she took night classes at the local college. Though it took her more than 4 years to get enough classes to graduate, she did and was able to enroll into nursing school. If I remember correctly, it took her something like 10 years to reach her goal; but when she did, she was so excited and thrilled to finally do what she always wanted to do. Her strength was an inspiration; it was like the strength of one of the main characters in this dramatic romance. WHILE THEIR FATHER WAS AWAY AT WAR, four sisters and their mother found ways to pursue their passions while maintaining the household. Their dreams may not have been the same, but their passion was similar in strength. With Saoirse Ronan (Mary Queen of Scots, Brooklyn) as Jo March, Emma Watson (Beauty and the Beast, The Circle) as Meg March, Florence Pugh (Fighting with my Family, Midsommar) as Amy March, Laura Dern (Cold Pursuit, Marriage Story) as Marmee March and Timothee Chalamet (Lady Bird, Beautiful Boy) as Theodore “Laurie” Laurence; this fresh version of the classic story was powered by the acting skills of the cast. The actors playing the sisters were outstanding together, playing as one cohesive unit. I did have trouble with the jumping back and forth in time periods to the point it was a distraction for me in the beginning. However, after some time everything fell into place and I enjoyed watching the story. I thought the directing and writing were wonderful as the scenes came across in a thoughtful, beautiful way upon the screen. This was a surprise for me because I came in feeling like I was going to see the same thing I have seen in other versions of the story. I could not have been more wrong as the writer/director Greta Gerwig (Mistress America, Lady Bird) showed me what can happen when one has passion towards a project; in this case, the classic story of Little Women.
3 ½ stars
I DO NOT KNOW HOW IT happens, but I almost consider it a strange phenomenon that takes place between two people in a love relationship. Prior to forming their union, each of them was an independent adult with their own livelihood and own place to live. What takes place does not happen quickly but over time, where one of them takes on the identity of the other. In my experiences I have noticed more women doing it instead of men. I have been told that people in a long-term relationship start to look like each other, but I am not referring to this. What I have discovered is the wife or husband starts to lose the ability to have thoughts independent from their spouse. There is a woman I know who did this very exact thing. Prior to getting married she was not a prejudicial person or at least I thought not. She married a man who I knew had prejudices and in time she took on the same prejudices. Her speech changed where she started to quote her husband most of the time as a response to any conversation she was part of; it was the weirdest thing to me. It was as if her brain stopped functioning and she became a parrot, I am sad to say. THERE IS THAT SAYING ABOUT “OPPOSITES attract” and there is some truth to it. Personally, I believe a thriving relationship needs both similarities and diversity. I simply do not understand how a person relinquishes the things that are part of their make-up and live in the shadow of their partner. Think about the cliché “Behind every man is a strong woman.” This is true, but I wish to add it can also be reversed where the strong one is the man. I know a couple where the wife is in the forefront while the husband takes care of things in the background. Since I have a strong personality I have always been most comfortable with someone who is similar. I will never forget this one relationship I had to end because they started to take on my likes/dislikes and preferences; let me tell you it was freaky. All I am saying is I find it odd when this phenomenon or maybe I should say personality trait takes place with one person in a relationship. If you want to see a fascinating example, then feel free to watch this film festival nominated drama. HAVING SUPPORTED HER HUSBAND’S CAREER her whole life Joan Cattleman, played by Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction, Albert Nobbs), was on the verge of seeing his ultimate success, becoming a recipient of the Nobel Prize. The event would offer more than prize money to them. With Jonathan Pryce (Tomorrow Never Dies, Glengarry Glen Ross) as Joe Castleman, Christian Slater (True Romance, Mr. Robot-TV) as Nathaniel Bone, Max Irons (The Host, Woman in Gold) as David Castleman and Elizabeth McGovern (Once Upon a Time in America, Downton Abbey-TV) as Elaine Mozell; this movie’s strength was all due to the acting between Glenn and Jonathan. They were so good together that it made up for the porous script. I enjoyed the story but found some events taking place without much backstory. They were great for drama but almost seemed out of the blue. If it wasn’t for the acting I may have had a different experience watching this picture. Glenn had such penetrating screen presence there were times I felt I was feeling her smolder. Oh, and I will say I found the ending a bit too convenient. But despite my complaints I still stayed engaged all the way to the end of the story, even though I never had such an experience in my relationships.
No matter how hard one tries to plan things out, life is always the ultimate decider. Take it from someone who does his best to plan everything to the minute (people can set their watches by me); life has a way of saying, “Not so fast there, here is something you can deal with first.” As I get older I am finally learning to let go and as they say, “Go with the flow.” This reminds me of a woman I knew who was married with 2 children. I met her husband only once or twice, but really did not know much about him since she rarely talked about him. They had been married for years and were quite settled as they were heading towards their senior years. According to her it came out of nowhere; her husband filed for divorce. She told me he did not want to be with her anymore; there was no other reason given for his decision. She was devastated by it. Here she thought she had most of her life planned out with her husband and now, as she would constantly say, she was alone. I told her that was not true; besides her children and friends, she may want to look at her situation as a place where she could redefine herself. Of course, I waited awhile before I expressed these thoughts at a time where I thought she would be more receptive to hearing them. And do you want to know something? She branched out and started trying new activities and meet up groups, where she eventually met someone who was as passionate as she was about dancing. They started going together to see ballet performances and enrolled in several dance classes; it was such a hoot to hear about this from her. She was happier than she had ever been before. Isn’t it funny how your version of life may not be what is in store for you? MAGGIE, played by Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha, Mistress America), had everything planned out it to become a single parent. That is until she met John, played by Ethan Hawke (Born to be Blue, Good Kill). This film festival nominated comedic drama had a wonderful cast of actors. Along with Greta and Ethan there was Julianne Moore (Seventh Son, Still Alice) as Georgette and Bill Hader (They Came Together, Trainwreck) as Tony; each one made their role memorable, but I have to say Greta was incredible. I found this romantic story to be intelligent and quirky at the same time. It had adult conversation coming from messed up people, making them more real to me. There were a few scenes that I felt did not work, besides one story line that seemed odd to me. It is not easy to blend comedy and drama but the script pulled it off; the humor was more of an amusement level than a laugh out loud one. For me this film simply felt like a slice of life, where I could just sit and watch someone else’s drama without feeling like I needed to participate and be supportive.
It was chosen because of the way it caught your eye. Perfectly sculpted with a dimple at the top and one on the bottom, its skin looked as if a skilled craftsman had polished it to a fine high gleam. As you brought it up to your face you caught a faint, sweet aroma just seconds before you bit into the beautiful apple. Anticipating the juicy flavor of the fruit to flood your mouth, suddenly a sharp bitterness cut through and stabbed your taste buds. You glanced down as the receding apple came back into view and there, just below its gorgeous surface, was half of a cancerous, dark brown mass. Horrified you spat out the partially pulverized putrid pus. How far removed was this scenario to an experience you may have had when you discovered a person’s true nature; where on the surface everything looked wonderful but you soon see below their ugliness? We could sit here for days if I were to share with you some of the experiences I had in my personal life. However, since this is a movie review site let me tell you my feelings about those celebrities who reveal their real colors. I have mentioned before there are a couple of movie stars that are persona non grata in my family; we will not see any of their films. When I discover an actor has done something offensive it saddens me. I am not comfortable buying a movie ticket to their films because I feel, by purchasing that ticket, I am condoning their behavior and that is not the case. You would think recognition, money and adulation would be enough to be a respectful human being. WRITER Philip Lewis Friedman, played by Jason Schwartzman (The Darjeeling Express, Saving Mr. Banks), was anxiously waiting for the publication of his 2nd novel. Self-centered, obnoxious and just plain rude; his publishers would have a challenging time selling copies of his new book. This film festival winning drama had a crack team of actors for its cast. Besides Jason there was Elizabeth Moss (The One I Love, Mad Men-TV) as Ashley Kane, Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Tomorrow Never Dies) as Mike Zimmerman and Krysten Ritter (Confessions of a Shopaholic, She’s Out of My League) as Melanie Zimmerman. The acting on the whole was wonderful. With a smartly sometimes humorously written script, I appreciated the way the characters evolved throughout the story. The issue I had with this movie was the way things played out. I felt the writer did not know what else he could do so he ended it. Perhaps you will find something more than I did. Outside of that this film provided an in-depth peek into the lives of some real characters.
2 2/3 stars
They live in my head and do everything I tell them to do. Some of them may have started out as real people like my very 1st friend who lived in the same apartment building where I was born. We were preschool age, but I still remember when we shared a box of colored dog biscuits, thinking they were just extra hard cookies. Over the years that memory was manipulated to fit into a story I was working on for college. I have many fictional characters that reside in my mind, ready to be employed for an article, a story or even just a mental exercise to keep my imagination active. This is the life of a writer or at least of me. Having a dominant right sided brain, my life has always traveled along the perimeter between reality and fantasy. It was a world I was always attracted to because of its ability to be both a crowded and lonely place at the same time. The world inside a writer’s mind can be as present and alive as our daily lives. Liam Neeson (Non-Stop, The Grey) played Michael, an author who traveled to Paris to work on a new book and be with his mistress Anna, played by Olivia Wilde (Rush, In Time). During the same time there were two other stories taking place in this romantic drama. In New York City Julia and Rick, played by Mila Kunis (Black Swan, Ted) and James Franco (This is the End, Palo Alto), were in a bitter custody battle after their son was injured. The third story took place in Rome where Adrien Brody (King Kong, The Pianist) was Scott, a businessman of knockoff designer wear who got involved with a troubled woman who was desperately trying to get her daughter back before being forced into prostitution. The acting was alive and engaging in all three stories, though I found the Mila and James story the strongest. With attractive settings the overall look to this film was pleasing to me; however, it only went so far before the weight of the lumbering script dulled the viewing experience. Written and directed by Paul Haggis (Crash, In the Valley of Elah) I found the stories repetitive. It really felt like the drama went to a certain level and remained there with no variance. I was able to follow all three stories as their scenes switched back and forth between them and figured out relatively early what was going to happen. By the end of the film I did not feel completely satisfied. The concept of peering into a writer’s mind was an excellent idea; in my mind, I would have done a major rewrite of the script.
Words can provide us things like comfort, excitement, hope and tenderness. In written form we absorb the word’s meaning, allowing it to color a thought or infuse intensity into our feelings. We hear words and the sender’s inflection assists in molding the words to our heart and mind. As adults we have the skills to be resilient when words get lobbed over with the intent to hurt us. I knew this person who always tried to establish himself as the smarter person in every one of his conversations. Personally I felt he was extremely book smart but had little common sense. His favorite thing to do when having a discussion with anybody was to answer their talking points with “And your point is?” I always found it offensive. Now notice if he would have said, “I do not understand what you mean,” it would have taken on a kinder, respectful approach. There were individuals who would not let his comments bother them, they had a solid confidence that was honed by years of experience. However, a child may not be capable because their identity has not been fully formed. There are people who have skewed expectations when it comes to children and you will see an ugly example in this dramatic movie. Ryan Reynolds (Smokin’ Aces, The Proposal) played successful author Michael Taylor . An upcoming family celebration was forcing Michael to go home and visit his parents Lisa and Charles Taylor, played by Julia Roberts (Notting Hill, Closer) and Willem Dafoe (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Hunter). Though Michael was looking forward to seeing his mother, he would prefer avoiding his father who always seemed to be disappointed in him. This movie had 2 sides of the story that flipped back and forth. The side I found better was the one with Michael as a child. I wished the writers would have made the whole movie about this time period. The part that dealt with the adult Michael was okay but I felt a stark difference between the two. Granted the cast was excellent, including Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves, The Book Thief) as Jane Lawrence, but their portion of the script was weak compared to their formidable acting skills. Overall I remained interested in the entire story and noticed I was getting a fearful reaction from Willem Dafoe’s character. It really is something when I can sit here today and still remember all those words that scarred me as a young boy.
2 1/4 stars — DVD
What are the keywords or qualities you use to describe what you want in a perfect mate? Ones I have heard from different friends have been funny, sweet and smart. But I have also heard people say they are looking for someone blonde or tall, with facial hair or without. My keywords have been trust, humorous, kind, along with the ability to say a sentence that begins with the words “I feel.” Imagine if you could simply order your perfect mate; think of all the time that could be saved through the dating process. This was the idea behind this movie’s story. Calvin Weir-Fields, played by Paul Dano (There Will be Blood, Being Flynn), was a famous writer being plagued with writer’s block. Not until a mysterious woman appeared in his dreams, did Calvin finally have his muse and the stuck words inside came out, flooding his anxious typewriter paper. As a writer, I know the characters inside of me feel completely real. In Calvin’s case, the special woman from his dreams called Ruby Sparks, played by Zoe Kazan (It’s Complicated, Me and Orson Welles), actually came to life. Real life couple Paul and Zoe were ideal for their characters; they should be since Zoe was also the writer of the screenplay. I loved the way the characters grew through the film, giving the audience several things to think about regarding relationships. The supporting cast was solid, adding humorous spots throughout the story. Because I enjoyed this movie, I forgave it for the predictable ending. This was an interesting movie that was not only fun to watch, but made me think about what was really important to have in a relationship.