Beyond The Lights – A Movie Review

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“Beyond the Lights” was beyond predictable. I have to admit that I was very ambivalent about going to see the film and figured that if I didn’t make to the cinema it I would always be able to catch it on cable.

A fan of the film posted on Facebook that it made him/her believe in love again. Whoa. Really? That’s not what I got from the film. Maybe because I’ve seen the story a couple of times before. This one gave a glimpse into the life of a popular (fictional) musical celebrity, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who is on the cusp of even greater fame.

Unfortunately, we see that some of that notoriety comes with its own baggage, not the least of which is being marketed like a commodity, where even though you’re the boss you’re really not the one in charge.  

The little girl who made the rounds – at her mother’s insistence – and paid her dues at numerous talent contests eventually makes it big with her “momager” in tow. Fueled by her mother’s insistence that second place is never good enough, she aims to please her and everybody else at her own expense.

Her cry for help as she tries to jump off a balcony goes unheard by her mother, and the only one who “sees” her and her obvious pain is the police officer who happened to be standing in for the one who was appointed to provide security outside her hotel room. 

Officer Katz, played by Nate Parker had the body of an Adonis but he lost me whenever he had to say his lines. He spent the entire movie looking so intense that my stress level was up by the time the credits rolled. Even when he delivered a memorable line (even though I can’t remember it), it just didn’t come off as natural. 

The pop star wasn’t the only one who was overly influenced by a parent. The “hero” policeman was starting to position himself for a run in politics because his father thought it was the natural progression after his stint on the police force. Unfortunately, his association with a singer known for performing in various states of undress would not a good First Lady make.

Luckily for him, she finds herself, which includes telling the truth about why she was hanging from the hotel balcony that night. Coming into her own meant divesting herself of all the props that we think being a celebrity requires – extra hair and nails included. 

And as she was able to sing her own songs, get help for her issues, find the man of her dreams and be her natural self, we can assume that she eventually finds true happiness.  

Sweet – and predictable.


Second Chances

I knew this day was coming.

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I had already realized that nobody sits their children down in the living room anymore, signaling to them that something important is about to go down when the parent is ready to have “the talk”.

These days, the opportunities are numerous for a parent to be able to start the conversation about the facts of life – and the sooner the better. Despite knowing this however, I completely missed my chance to do so. That’s probably because when the occasion presented itself, it caught me a little off-guard.

My son, in his Social Studies class was discussing the different types of families and the problems that some of them can experience. We’d gone through some of the problems, solutions and the agencies or organizations that could help, for some homework questions.

When the test came, and I was reviewing the results, I saw that he had mentioned teenage pregnancy as one of the issues that young people can face. I guess he got that from the discussion in class, because it was the first time I was hearing about it.

He was asked to suggest a solution that would prevent teenage pregnancy, and his answer to that age-old concern was – well let’s just say it’s something that involved sports. And I blurted out that the best way I could see that teenage pregnancy could be avoided was to not have sex in the first place.


This was not exactly how I figured I would be having my first talk with my children about sex. Or maybe it was a tailor-made opportunity. However, I lobbed it back.

But not before my daughter asked me whether I had ever had sex. And I answered that “I had kids didn’t I?”

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What should have followed was talk about penises and procreation, budding breasts and boys, and the fact that some things are a natural part of life, but that they shouldn’t take place before a certain time in life, that certain actions can limit your choices in life, and that I want to give them all the information to make proper decisions in life.

Instead, my son made a mental correction and we moved on to the next question.

And I breathed a sigh of relief, determined to be ready when my second chance came around.

What’s Your Story? – A Movie Review

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The “Book of Life” is dark – literally and figuratively. Well, it is at first. The heavy subject matter didn’t seem to lend itself to a children’s movie, but the vibrant colours associated with Mexican culture disguised the fact that this movie was basically about a wager between two spirits who rule two “lands” of the dead.

I was about ten minutes into the movie before I realized what was wrong. I thought there might have been a problem with low voltage in the theatre, but when I saw my daughter wiping her 3D glasses, I realized that it wasn’t just me who thought that things were a little overcast.

The movie is based on the Mexican celebration of “Day of the Dead”, which takes place every year at the end of October or the beginning of November. It is a day when people remember their loved ones who have gone on before them, so they build altars to them in their homes, clean and visit their graves, sometimes leaving their favourite items.

Visiting and cleaning graves (usually around Easter time) is a practice that I grew up with and which probably took place more in our village cemeteries than in the main cemetery on the outskirts of town. The movie probably got it right when they showed figments of the dead standing right next to their burial places, watching their devoted loved ones hard at work.

Here’s my only problem with the movie. I understand the main premise that we should never forget the ones who pass away because when we do, it’s as if they never existed. And which one of us wants to be forgotten? But the only thing resembling hell (or someplace to get one’s just due) in the movie, was The Land of the Forgotten which as previously mentioned, you ended up in if your people didn’t think about you anymore.

So it appears that even if you weren’t the best specimen of humanity but your relatives still bore you in mind, you could be up there in perpetual Mardi Gras. Which, might I add in the movie, looked a whole lot livelier than where we are now? It seemed to just be one big party – it was much more colourful, everyone seemed to get along really well, and there was food galore.

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So when Manolo, voiced by Diego Luna ends up in The Land of the Remembered after being twice-bitten by a snake, he is able to see his mother and his other relatives who got there before him. All of them. Even the ones who “killed the bull” and the one who wouldn’t stop singing. But I understand him wanting to go back on the other side of the curtain to be with Maria (Zoe Saldana), since he never got his chance to write his story with her.

That’s pretty much the take-away from the movie. There were many other side stories including bravery, trickery and friendship – but since everything we do forms a part of the story that is our life, we should probably choose carefully what we put into the narrative. All our stories won’t be best-sellers, but hopefully they’ll make for some good reading.


Desperately Seeking Attention

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When my children were younger, they did what all children do, which is follow their parent (usually the mother) to the bathroom when she has to leave something in there, but they usually don’t.

Now that they’re a little older they’ve graduated from that and moved on to – well they haven’t really moved on. They still seem to gravitate to the bathroom, choosing that particular time to make their requests.

It’s when I’m stepping into the bathroom that’s seen as the ideal time to talk to me about nothing in particular, or to get permission to have the piece of cheese in the fridge that’s calling her name, or deciding that it’s the perfect time to inform me that she has been wronged by her sibling, who didn’t say “sorry”, so she requires me to have a chat with the offender so that she can satisfy herself that a beating will ensue.

It’s when I shut the door that’s seen as the perfect time to ask where his father is even though we came home without him, or to run an idea by me, or to negotiate what he’d like to get for Christmas, or to ask for permission to watch TV or deciding that it’s the perfect time to inform me that he has been wronged by his sibling, who didn’t say “sorry”, so he requires me to have a chat with the offender so that he can satisfy himself that a beating will ensue.

Emergencies like these, as well as others that occur when I’m on the phone happen all the time. So I have to inform about the proper definition of an “emergency”, and warn that unless the house is burning down, except they hear an explosion or save for someone trying to get through the front door without knocking, I’ll need for them to wait until I finish my business – wherever that presently is.

Camping outside the bathroom door, or mouthing their query while I talk on the phone has not gone down well with me, but I think they’re hopeful that I’ll give them what they want just to get them to go away. They don’t realize that I’m counting the number of times I have to repeat what’s already been said and deducting it from their college fund. At the rate they’re going it doesn’t look as if they’ll be going anywhere.

Lately, any conversation between me and my husband is seen as the opportune time for showing us the newest drawing or telling us a joke that’s been running since I was a child. Even a recent episode of their favourite show with dialogue included just must be shared when both of us are seen to be speaking in earnest.

Whatever happened to children being seen and adults not being disturbed?

Holding It In

My daughter has never seen a bathroom that she didn’t like – to enter.

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When I say bathroom, I really mean a restroom. The public ones that I only use at the really-must have-to-go-if-I-don’t-want-to-end-up-embarrassing-myself times. Which happens a lot lately because I just can’t see the point of holding it in anymore. Back in the day, I used to be able to delay the inevitable for hours at a time, leaving my husband to wonder how I managed to do it. I told him that I acquired that useful skill by refusing to get up at three in the morning.

My daughter doesn’t feel the need to hold on to things either, so nothing can stop her from wanting to use the restroom when we visit the supermarket, the shoe store, restaurants, churches, government offices, the drug store, and every conceivable place where she (rightly) deduces that a bathroom should be provided for potential customers or the general public. I’m convinced she wants to go in just to have a look around.

That can be the only explanation, because even though she’s given a chance to empty her bladder before we leave home, she still finds something that she wants to leave in the ladies’ room of wherever it is that we’re going. And my foolish query about why she didn’t do it when she had a chance is met by a look of incredulity when she answers that she “didn’t need to do it then”.

I know one mother who made sure that she trained her daughters to suppress their desire to visit any bathroom other than their own. It’s a matter of pride for her, but I never got around to telling my daughter about all the dangers that lurk in the places that other people visit.

So because of her insistence on visiting the powder room of every place she’s ever been (and dragging me along with her), I suppose the least I can do is teach her the little details – such as the acrobatic skills that will be required when she’s faced with the items found in every bathroom, beginning with that most dubious of surfaces – the public toilet seat.

I remember being in a cubicle and noticing a public service message on the back of the door. I thought the placement was kind of odd, but I suppose they were hoping to provide me with some reading material while I waited – except that there was no way I would be sitting down to do it.

Sometimes fear is a great motivator, but I don’t want my daughter to be one of those people who can’t leave the cubicle she’s in because she doesn’t want to touch the door handle when she needs to get out. So I’ll remind her that toilet paper is also good for opening the door, and for pulling triple duty because when she’s ready for flushing, she can put it on the toilet handle too.

I hope she’ll be inclined to do some gymnastics, because faucets are another hurdle to be overcome. Only God can help her if it’s an old-fashioned model that she’ll have to grasp in order to turn it on. But since elbows are good for pushing, I’ll give her permission to ignore the soap if it requires pressing the dispenser- but she should really be able to do that since she’s still young and reasonably flexible. After that she can move on over to those hand dryers known more for blasting noise than air.

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If the bathroom door is open, she’ll be in the clear. Otherwise, she’ll have to keep her just-washed hands up in front of her and back out of the door like a surgeon who’s just scrubbed for an operation, as she makes her way back into the (germ free) world again.

I had resolved to ask my daughter what exactly her fascination was, because I think that when you’ve seen one bathroom you’ve really seen them all. But once while out dining, my husband came back to the table after having visited the restroom at the establishment. As he took his seat he said to me excitedly, “You should see the bathroom”.

Which told me that apparently, all lavatories are not the same.

This Girl Gone Crazy – A Movie Review

The local saying, “See me and live with me” takes on new meaning in the movie “Gone Girl”.

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Usually meaning that it’s after you move in with somebody that you get to see the true person – in this movie, it was after she “went missing”, that the husband (played by Ben Affeck), saw who he had really been sleeping with. He was no innocent by any means, and he deserves his own set of blows – a couple of them for stupidity alone, but luckily he knew her well enough to know which weakness he could exploit.

Most relationships aren’t perfect, but you have to really not like the person you’re living with to want to frame them for your murder which (at first) you have every intention of carrying out by yourself. But as the wife (played by Rosamund Pike), later realizes – him in jail, and her at the bottom of the river meant that she wouldn’t actually get to enjoy the fruits of her labour.

Labour that included taking the time to painstakingly write several journal entries, partly burn the book, hide it in an oven and write a cryptic clue to lead someone to it. Work that meant befriending someone who she ordinarily wouldn’t give the time of day to, revealing to that person her innermost secrets knowing that they would be revealed to others when the time was exactly right.

Who wants to spend an inordinate amount of time and money online to purchase items that you neither want nor need, but must have in order to make the point about somebody else’s unhealthy spending habits? Who would actually want to drive that compact car she bought in her attempt to get away from it all while trying not to stand out? Which woman do you know wants to deliberately put on weight unless she doesn’t want unwarranted attention?

But you have to like how she thinks on her feet. When the people in the motel steal her money, she has to find a way to live without it. An old boyfriend who still holds a torch for her is the perfect resource – and when it turns out that he’s made a success of his life, well, that makes it even better.

When the CCTV system that monitors all movements in and out of his house means that she won’t be able to claim an intruder got in to kill him, she decides to use the cameras to her advantage and pretend that she can’t get out.

In the end, the husband saw what she was and still decided to live with her. My movie mates thinks this means that a sequel is in the works, because surely he must have something else up his sleeve.

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Now I don’t like calling people names, like “fooley”, because even someone like that can see that she (still) has something up hers.





Selfish or Self-Sacrifice?

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I recently heard a story about a local woman who was diagnosed with an illness which would eventually take her life. If what schoolchildren say is true, despite this diagnosis, she chose to become pregnant (or carry the baby to term), and at the time of writing this, is close to giving birth.

Some rumours make more sense to the person telling the story than to the person who’s listening, so I took the story with a liberal amount of salt.

Since I don’t like to be seen as judgmental, I tried to put myself in her shoes and determine whether the choice she made would have really been in her best interest or that of the child’s. Most women want to procreate, so I was hoping that this woman wasn’t marking “having a baby” off her bucket list – because carrying a child isn’t quite in the same league as wanting to take that trip to Turkey before you die.

It is awesome to be a mother, but what happens when you’re no longer here? Of course, since none of us is promised tomorrow, one could argue that any of us could very well leave our children motherless through no fault of our own. But therein lies the difference. If we knew that we wouldn’t be around to love and care for the child, would that be considered a tad selfish on our part?

Recently I read a post by fellow blogger, Dani, who writes at bloomingspiders, where she highlighted the story of an American woman who found out about her terminal illness after she had conceived, but who chose to carry the baby as close as possible, to term. By doing so, it meant that she missed out on arresting the spread of the disease because she refused the chemotherapy treatments that were necessary to do so.

The new mother, who had a legitimate reason for ending her pregnancy declined to do it because she saw it as ending a perfectly healthy life to sustain one that wasn’t. She will have at most a year to live, and I’m sure she’ll use the remaining time she has to bond with the child who will probably not remember her.

It’s likely that she will take lots of pictures and leave video montages for her daughter because of this. But the most vivid memory that will be left with the child is the fact that her mother made such a big sacrifice in order for her to be here. Should it matter that this woman will be leaving a 6 year old son behind as well? And a fiancée, with whom I believe she wanted to have this child?

Not being there for any of them probably doesn’t make any sense to most of us. If I was to guess, this woman probably looked at the odds of her long term survival and stacked it up next to that of her unborn child, and figured that she’d prefer to live without regret – for however long she had left.

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If my local tale is true, both situations will have the same outcome – so should it matter when each knew of her own physical condition? If both women see giving life to another as the ultimate and best goal, it’s obviously worth it to them – even though they won’t be a part of it.