Live Like a Lion

lion-dvd-cover-40

If you haven’t seen the 2017 film “Lion” yet, stop reading.  Stop reading now. Do not pass go, and do not collect $200. You must make or take time to watch this film. 

“Lion” has a litany of lessons and points and positives that all combine to teach a meaningful, muscular message that will preach for a lifetime. It’s a rags to riches, lost and found, comeback story of redemption that transcends race and creed and color, and yes, religion. God is not the author unfortunate circumstances, but He is the editor.  And God can edit any and every life circumstance for good. 

Rex Reed said that “Heartwarming ‘Lion’ Is the Feel-Good Tearjerker We All Needed.” Amen.  Another review posted on Cinemabravo.com says it all:

“Lion” has a genuine and heartfelt purpose that not all celebrated artsy films have. Lion has emotional depth as deep as the ocean; moving, like its waves; it’ll sway you, but it won’t drown you. The tide of this film’s journey will take you someplace else, making it an experience rather than just another movie to watch. That is more than enough for a film to stand tall.

Director Garth Davis’ biggest achievement is perhaps giving the film a soul as the actors give it a heart. Also, an honorable mention to its sublime cinematography for a visually stunning picture — alluring yet gritty, colorful yet dark — a manifestation of a lost child’s journey towards finding his home: eventful, oftentimes dangerous, but ultimately hopeful.

Lion comes roaring to life from across the screen because it “ fully relies on iconic characters and inspiring storylines about a journey of a person — more so a character study of a man’s heart and soul, tackling every emptiness and every joy. Lion gives such nostalgia to that era of filmmaking that contemporary cinema is often prejudiced of. It is a reminder that the most important element of cinema as art is how it affects and transcends emotions across the screen. Lion does just that without the clichés of a conventional melodrama.

This is one of Nicole Kidman’s best roles because her performance is universal; she epitomizes maternal instinct and unconditional love that radiates even with such limited screen time. Dev Patel’s performance as adult Saroo is the core of this film. You will root and hope for him, until you find yourself clinging to his search for life. Again, another universal performance that isn’t difficult to sympathize with.” Dennis Buckley, https://cinemabravo.com/2017/04/06/movie-review-lion-2017/

Sunny Pawar, an enchanting, lovable boy, plays the lead character at age five, and Dev Patel plays the adult – Saroo. Both have acute, lion-like instincts that enable them to survive and even thrive under the best and worst of circumstances. And so the moral of the story is this: live – and for you athletes, play – like a lion. Because no other animal can endure and forbear the stresses and strains of life like a lion can.

And you can’t beat the theme song either.

Moonlighting In La La Land: A Blunder of Oscar Proportions

faye-dunaway-et-warren-beatty

This one takes the cake. I mean, REALLY?  How does a firm like PricewaterhouseCoopers manage to muff this one? And then how do you not READ what the dag gum card says? I mean the entire card, since you weren’t sure everything was kosher? And THEN, how do you, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, not take responsibility for the mishap and come on stage immediately and publicly apologize to the winners and — sorry La La Land – the losers – and to your audience? How do you not make an overt effort to clean up the mess? 

It’s called responsibility. It’s called accountability. It’s called taking ownership and showing leadership and bearing the burden of righting a wrong, regardless of how embarrassing it is. We’ve all been there, and we all know that a wrong un-righted will sink the ship. 

There’s plenty of blame to go around on this one. Let’s just hope that when we find ourselves in such a pickle, we don’t point fingers and pin blame, but we readily admit our participation in the predicament, and graciously, but not boorishly, acknowledge our part of the poop and apologize. In theological terms is called asking for forgiveness. Isn’t that what we as believers are supposed to do? 

Here is one spot on spin from a reporter at AZcentral.com: 

“The wildest screw-up in Oscar’s history couldn’t have been more metaphorically momentous for African-Americans who last year shamed the Academy’s lack of diversity. 

The crazy finale turned the entertainment world upside down when “La La Land,” which had mostly white leading actors, mistakenly received Best Picture. It turned out that “Moonlight,” with mostly black actors, had won. 

It wasn’t just the screw-up that stunned (us all). The moment embodied the #OscarSoWhite shaming campaign last year against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The uncomfortable faces of white entertainers handing over the figurine to African-Africans was simply surreal.” Well said, even though everyone seemed to give the La La Land cast kudos for handing over the Oscar, and handling the awkward moment, graciously. 

Anyway, here’s what happened at the Oscars last night when the envelope for Best Picture was opened (as reported by thedailybeast.com and the inquisitor.com) in case you missed the play by play and the blow by blow: 

“Everybody is talking about that awkward moment at Oscar 2017 now. It’s being discussed above all the glory associated with winning the prestigious trophy. Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, two Hollywood legends by their own merit, became the center of attraction for being responsible for the mix-up.”

To be sure, while Beatty opened and held the card, it was Faye Dunaway who actually announced that it was La La Land that won the Best Picture award.

“When the entire team went to the stage to celebrate the occasion at the Oscars, it was producer Adele Romanski who realized there was a mistake. He declared it was the Moonlight team that should come to the stage.” (http/:/www.inquisitr.com)

 “Beatty lost no opportunity to hammer home his case, telling DailyMail.com’s long time showbiz reporter Baz Bamigboye: “People thought I was being dramatic but I wasn’t. There was something wrong. I showed it to Faye and she said La La Land.” 

Hours after the blunder, accounting firm PwC, which collates votes and administers the awards, issued a statement saying: “We sincerely apologize to Moonlight, La La Land, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture. 

The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. 

“We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred. We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.” According to reports, Beatty’s wife Annette Bening phoned him as he was entering the ball and suggested he head home but the iconic actor refused, saying once again that he had done nothing wrong. 

According to USA Today, one of the accountants from PwC realized Beatty had been given the wrong envelope within seconds. The accountant jumped up, saying: “He took the wrong envelope!”  Oopps. Too Late? Or was it?

“Hidden Figures:” UNSUNG HEROES

hidden_figures_poster_1

In just about every game, especially every “big” game, and every game of consequence, there is a player that turns into a hero in an instant. This player turned hero does not plan on it, but he or she ends up doing the unthinkable: they make the play of the game. The coach may not even know their full name; the other players don’t associate with them that much if at all; and most fans don’t even know they’re on the team. But this hero in hiding is about to go public. This hero may not be a starter or a star, but this average Joe will make a play, a game saving tackle, a field goal in overtime, a pick-six interception for a touchdown, a three pointer at the buzzer, or a walk-off home run, that wins the game and seals the victory.

The Film “Hidden Figures” is a must see. If you have not seen this film, stop reading – stop reading right now — and go and see this inspiring, stirring and stimulating historical narrative. There are outstanding, Oscar worthy performances in this Oscar worthy film that should be seen and appreciated by all. “Hidden Figures” is up for three Academy Awards at the Oscars Sunday night.

HIDDEN FIGURES is the incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe)—brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race, and galvanized the world. The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.

Read more: http://www.denofgeek.com/uk/movies/hidden-figures/43036/hidden-figures-new-character-posters-trailer#ixzz4Zpam0Jq0

The movie, based on the book by Hampton native Margot Lee Shetterly, details the lives of three black women working at Hampton’s NASA Langley during the space race — in the height of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and ’60s. All three women have been hidden to many of us who did not know that African American women played a vital role in the space race. They did complex math calculations for NASA, and were called “computers” long before the term was applied to machines.

Shetterly’s book proposal was sent to 16 publishers. There were enough “nos,” that she submitted her research to a Ph. D program at the University of Virginia. She was accepted into the program about the same time she received an offer from publishing group William Morrow and Company.

In 2014, the same year her book received an offer, Shetterly’s proposal for the story was auctioned off to Levantine Films. Before Shetterly even had finished writing the book, she got a call from Donna Gigliotti, an Academy Award-winning producer. Gigliotti has producing credits for films including “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Shakespeare in Love.” She was hooked by Shetterly’s 55-page proposal.

“I was attracted to ‘Hidden Figures’ because it is an untold story; it’s authentic,” Gigliotti wrote to the Daily Press in September via email. “Also it has strong women characters at its center — all my movies share that quality.”

It soon had a screenwriter, Allison Schroder, who received an Oscar nomination for adapted screenplay along with the film’s director, Theodore Melfi. The script was delivered in May 2015 and casting began a month later. Taraji P. Henson (Katherine Johnson), Octavia Spencer (Dorothy Vaughan) and Janelle Monae (Mary Jackson) were brought on as leads.” Jonathan Black, Contact Reporter, joblack@dailypress.com

The three women portrayed in “Hidden Figures” are what we call in in sports “unsung heroines.”

hidden-figures-poster-2

David was a “sung” hero. He defeated the giant Goliath with a sling and a stone. In so doing he defeated giant Goliath and the archrival Philistine army and won the victory for Israel. The eighth son of Jesse went on to be the sweet psalmist of Israel and the apple of God’s eye. After David’s unlikely but stirring victory, the women sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). While there are many others like David, there are many more unsung heroes whose songs have yet to be sung.

Just like the women in “Hidden Figures,” the woman at the well was an unsung hero. The Samaritan woman from the town of Sychar was the first evangelist. But first she was a “only” woman, and a Samaritan woman at that. When the disciples returned from buying food in town, they were surprised to find Jesus talking with “a woman”.

Jesus came so that we would all be one big happy family. But before He came the status of women was, at best, the least of all. And it was a common fact that the Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. Worst still, this woman had a checkered past. She had been married five times, she was living with a man that was not her husband, and she went to the well alone in the heat of the day. No friends, no lasting companionship, no true loving relationships. Yet she is the first one to whom Christ revealed himself to outside of his inner circle. Heaven arranged for her to meet the True Prophet, the prophesied One, and the Savior of the World.

God has a way of choosing and using unlikely, unassuming underdogs to achieve his purposes. This teaches us that God is not looking for superstars, standouts, “phenoms”, or number one draft picks who are full of themselves. God is looking for those like this woman who met Jesus at the well, an unlikely, unsung heroine whose name we don’t even know. God is looking for those who like the woman of Samaria are thirsty for living water. God is looking for those who don’t mind leaving their water pots, for those who will run and tell the very people who may despise and disdain them that they have found the Christ.

She was the lone witness and a “hidden figure” that caused many of the Samaritans to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. And God is still looking for heroes and heroines whose songs have yet to be sung.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-Lkry-newtab&hsimp=yhs-newtab&hspart=Lkry&p=Hidden+figures+you+tube+movie+trailer#id=34&vid=3c7ff4296914be4780720654d9799f29&action=view

 

Cool Runnings Says, “Finish!”

cool-runnins

Cool Runnings is the true rags to sports riches story about the humble hubris of the human spirit.  When a Jamaican sprinter is disqualified from the Olympic Games, he enlists the help of a dishonored coach to start the first Jamaican Bobsled Team.  And the irony is that they finished, but not first or even in the middle of the pack. The team’s borrowed bobsled broke going down the track and they had to carry it on their shoulders across the finish line. But they finished nonetheless. 

According to Roger Ebert, “it’s not a bad movie. In fact, it’s surprisingly entertaining, with a nice sweetness in place of the manic determination of the average sports picture. The actors playing the bobsledders have a nice comic charm, especially Doug E. Doug as a high-energy guy named Sanka Coffie. And John Candy has a couple of stirring speeches that he somehow delivers as if every word were not recycled from other films. If you like underdog movies, you might like this one.”

And here’s some more inspiration from some sports and entertainment greats:

Sports do not build character. They reveal it.
John Wooden

The mark of great sportsmen is not how good they are at their best, but how good they are their worst.
Martina Navratilova

Sports is the toy department of human life.
Howard Cosell

Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.
Michael Jordan

Without self-discipline, success is impossible, period.
Lou Holtz

Most football teams are temperamental. That’s 90% temper and 10% mental.
Doug Plank

A winner never whines.
Paul Brown

I wouldn’t ever set out to hurt anyone deliberately unless it was, you know, important -like a league game or something.
Dick Butkus

The reason women don’t play football is because eleven of them would never wear the same outfit in public.
Phyllis Diller

My All American

my-all-american2

Freddie Steinmark, an underdog on the gridiron, faces the toughest challenge of his life after leading his team to a championship season.

What Freddie Steinmark (Finn Wittrock) wants most in the world is to play football. Although he is deemed too small by the usual athletic standards, his father trains him hard. Freddie brings a fight to the game that ultimately gets him noticed–by none other than legendary University of Texas coach Darrell Royal (Aaron Eckhart).

My All American (2015) is the true story of Freddie Steinmark, a “Rudy” type character who was only 5’9″ and 155 pounds, making him physically smaller than most of his teammates. Coach Royal admired Steinmark’s unwavering grit and determination, and decided to give him a shot.

my-all-american

Freddie was awarded a scholarship and a chance to play for the Longhorns. Freddie sets off to Austin with his loving high school sweetheart, Linda (Sarah Bolger), determined to make the team. Alongside his old teammate Bobby Mitchell (Rett Terrell) and new pal James Street (Juston Street), Freddie is put through the paces of a grueling practice schedule. The boys’ camaraderie off the field translates into solid playing on it, and they rise up the depth charts, giving the Longhorns a real chance to improve upon their mediocre record.

But just when they’re reveling in the success of the season, Freddie suffers an injury that leads to a shocking diagnosis and the biggest challenge he will ever face. From the writer of Hoosiers (1986) and Rudy (1993), MY ALL AMERICAN tells the true story of a boy who became a hero and what it truly means to have the heart of a champion.

One interesting fact about Freddie’s story that is captured in the film was that both President Richard Nixon and Texas Congressman George Herbert Walker Bush were on hand at Razorback Stadium for the celebrated December 6, 1969 showdown between the University of Texas Longhorns and the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. Freddie Steinmark, who would have his leg amputated six days later, played through the pain and helped his team come back from a 14-0 deficit after three quarters to win 15-14. The much talked about game was dubbed the “Game of the Century.” -DenverPost.com

my-all-american-with-nixon

So, if you need a dose of inspiration on the eve of this football season, turn no further that My All American.

It’s worth the watch.

Win Win

 

Win Win

I love sports movies. We all do, right? I mean, in a sports film, you have gripping drama, lighthearted humor, and sometimes there’s a love interest to boot. Sports and film go hand in hand because in most, redemption rings and rolls and rises throughout and the hero or heroine almost always comes out a winner, or is a winner of sorts, in the end. And so I’m proud to be an amateur sports film critic. I’ll let you know when I go pro. 

I’ve seen lots of sports films, but not all of them. There’s a boatload of sports movies out there, and I try to stick to the good ones and stay away from the bad ones. Well, I’m happy to report that I just stumbled across another little gem of a sports flic called “Win Win,” starring Paul Giamatti.

In “Win Win,” on the verge of bankruptcy, a struggling lawyer who volunteers as a high school wrestling coach skims money from the estate of an elderly client, but when the client’s teenage grandson, a gifted wrestler, comes to town, his chicanery comes back to haunt him as the teen comes into his life.

“Win Win” is solidly redemptive. It’s a film that purports this proverb: “Life is full of rules, now meet the exceptions.” It’s a story of redemption and reconciliation and restoration all rolled up into one funny, fanciful, feature that is all at once crass and complex, cute and caring and convicting and convincing. Yes it has language, but it also gives you a lift, and who doesn’t need a lift every now and again!

In sports films, you not only get a stellar story, but you sometimes stumble across actors that put in prize performances as well. Take Paul Giamatti. In “Win Win,” Giamatti  gives us a steady, footstompin, feel good finish which was surprisingly unworthy of note by other critics. In another role, he was the boxing manager for James Braddock, played by Russell Crowe, in the 2005 film “Cinderella Man.” His portrayal of a slick, sly deal maker was outstanding. Giamatti was rewarded for his solid performance with a nomination for Best Supporting Actor (an Oscar he should have won).

Not only is Giamatti an actor, but his dad, A. Bartlett Giamatti, was a college president. Of Yale. YALE! And if that wasn’t enough, Dad Giamatti was the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. The Commissioner of MLB! If that’s not sports pedigree, I don’t know what is. And to top it all off, I just learned that Paul and I share a birthday – June 6. He’s surprisingly younger than me, but I’m proud to share my birthday with this sports and acting icon.

http://www.fandango.com/movie-trailer/winwin-trailer/140586

So if you have nothing else to do, or you’re snowbound somewhere along the East Coast the weekend of January 22nd during this the blizzard of 2016, check out Win Win. You’ll be glad you did.

Concussions: Football’s Faux Pas

nflyoung
San Francisco 49’ers quarterback Steve Young lies motionless on field after suffering a concussion against the Arizona Cardinals in 1999. He never played again. (AP/Scott Troyanos)

Concussions are the faux pas of football. Injuries are bad enough, but concussions are even worse. Brain damage from repeated poundings on the football field leave retired players to deal with depression, dementia and even the dirge of death. Big men are reduced to helplessness because of concussions and what we now call CTE: Chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

CTE was discovered by neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu and is the subject of the film “Concussion” starring Will Smith.  It’s a must see.  

Concussion_poster

Speaking of concussions, one coach said that “having watched football for a very long time I have to agree that the helmet is designed more like a weapon and less like a protective device.”  Another coach said this: “the hit didn’t look that bad.” He had seen his star defensive player withstand far worse. But still, there Chris Beranger was, laying on the turf after colliding with a teammate near the goal line.

“Discombobulated,” is the description that Sean McDonnell, coach of the University of New Hampshire’s football team, uses when describing players in these moments. “He wanted to play still, and we said, ‘No, you can’t.” That was the last down Beranger, who had suffered a concussion, would play. “The effects kept lingering and linger and lingering,” said. McDonnell.

Helmets are necessary but some say they also provide a myth of protection. The idea has roots in years of scientific research, even in the mythology of football itself. Called risk compensation or risk homeostasis, it’s a theory that holds that protections can actually increase reckless behavior.

In 2009, Pope Bennedict XVI traveled into the heart of Cameroon — and the African AIDs epidemic — and proclaimed condoms “increases the problem” of HIV transmission. The backlash was immediate and absolute. The Washington Post even reprinted a cartoon that depicted the Pope lauding Africans dying of disease: “Blessed are the sick, for they have not used condoms.”

But some social scientists — who disagreed with his politics — said the pontiff may have been referring to risk compensation. “When people think they’re made safe by using condoms at least some of the time, they actually engage in riskier sex,” Harvard researcher Edward C. Green wrote in an editorial in the Post. The same, some research has shown, goes for skiing with a helmet. One study, which analyzed more than 700 skiers and was published in Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, said “helmet use is one of the factors influencing risk-taking on the slopes” for men younger than 35.

Erik Swartz, a University of New Hampshire professor of kinesiology, spent years on the sidelines of football games as an athletic trainer. He understood the sport inside and out. Swartz said “it was the thing that scared me the most,” he said. “The implications if you messed it up and didn’t do [the treatment] right. It could mean they’re a quadriplegic. It could mean death. Everything is on the line.”

Every football season, he said, there came a moment when he had to rush onto the field in fear a player had sustained a catastrophic injury. The helmet, Swartz realized, had convinced players they were safer than they were.

So Swartz started looking into the football helmet, analyzing its trajectory from novelty to cultural behemoth. By the 1950s, the helmet morphed from padded leather to polymer equipped with a mask. Around that time, convinced this new technology had ameliorated the risk of head injury, coaches started counseling a new technique: lead with the head. Another tackling style, called “spearing” — a lunging tackle that leads with the helmet’s crown — soon rose in prominence. These evolutions precipitated a surge in catastrophic injuries. In the late 1960s, more than 20 players died every year of brain injuries, before league rules prohibited that style.

According to Professor Swartz, the fundamental cause of concussions is behavior. And so Swartz is advocating the simple act of removing the helmet during training drills in order to train players to tackle with greater caution. The idea is to heighten their instinct to protect their heads, then hope that caution would carry over into real games when they wore their helmets, thereby diminishing the chance of a concussion.

Sounds like a great idea.