Showing 31 - 40 of 70 annotations contributed by Nixon, Lois LaCivita
As this highly original and provocative film once again demonstrates, John Sayles is not a traditional storyteller. Audiences are caught in the detective story focusing at one level on murders and abuses committed more than 20 years ago; but the filmmaker guides their attention to the survivors, the current and very ordinary folks inhabiting the small border town where secrets are closely kept.
Imagine a blank canvas on which seemingly unrelated splotches of paint appear; then imagine those splotches as members of various ethnic groups inhabiting Frontera on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. First, we have custodial white men who hang around the local coffee shop or fish on previously-owned Indian land transformed recently, and with some controversy, into a lake by the construction of a dam. Then we have Mercedes Cruz (Miriam Colon), a successful business woman and council member who curiously shows little compassion for "wetbacks" and those relapsing into the Spanish language. Her daughter, Pilar (Elizabeth Peña), of whom she is a constant critic, is a school teacher and single mother of two teenagers, a figure whose importance will increase as the composition develops.
Also, there is Otis Payne (Ron Canada), the African-American owner of the town’s black bar, a refuge for that minority group; and there is his estranged son, a rigid and unyielding colonel at the nearby base. Finally and less developed, are the Indians whose land has been claimed by the town’s ruling forces.
As fragments from the past and present provide dimension and meaning, increasingly the disparate colors are transformed into a representational form with clear connecting lines. Shapes and textures gradually become familiar and palpable. Within the context of good and evil, narrative lines blur and thicken. With tantalizing flashbacks, past and present fuse, allowing puzzle pieces to fit together; then engaged audience members realize that the narrative threads have twisted to expose unimagined patterns of sacrifice and love.
This film, like Nair’s earlier films (Salaam Bombay!, Mississippi Masala) presents serious social issues for viewers to consider, but the story this time, is set in a happier context. As the title reveals, a wedding is central. Monsoon is added to account for two kinds of turbulence: the weather on the day of the wedding and discomforting family factors such as pedophilia, secret trysts, and class distinctions. For the Punjabi Verma family, it is Father of the Bride with the universal tension, stress, and chaos associated with such happy events, but also with distressing twists that are sorted out or washed away symbolically by the monsoon’s arrival.
Summary:Except for her canary and cat, Martha (Sheila Florance) lives alone in an apartment containing fragments and memorabilia of the past which speak to a rich and complex life comprised of various relationships and wartime horrors. Many of the fragments are further referenced in flashback scenes. Three current relationships--with her caretaker, her son, and her dependent and declining neighbor, Billy (Norman Kaye)--are central to this moment in time and provide an illuminating portrayal of Martha’s struggle for independence and undiminished zest for life. While her kind caretaker, Anna (Gosia Dobrowolska), respects the old woman’s fierce need for autonomy, her son, concerned about her frailty and safety, is intent on relocation to a nursing home where she can be supervised. Martha, on the other hand, provides gentle and kind care for Billy, who has been abandoned by his family; during the night, when he is unable to find the bathroom, Martha provides gentle and unobtrusive assistance. Martha’s strength comes from character and spirit, remarkable traits which leave an indelible impression about our tendencies to conventionalize aging.
Miss Rosie is homeless, a street person surrounded by her foul-smelling possessions. She is not a stranger to the narrator, who has thought long and hard about her present circumstances and how she might have been long ago before she became a familiar sight in the neighborhood. Now reduced to rags, this "wet brown bag of a woman," says the narrator, once was "the best looking gal in Georgia." The narrator "stand[s] up" for her through her "destruction."
When we meet Frankie "Starlight," (Corbin Walker) he has become, suddenly, an acclaimed writer, and the center of Ireland’s literary circle. In frequently interrupted flashbacks viewers become acquainted with the memoirs in his best-selling book. Much of this story, his story, is about Bernadette (Anne Parillaud), Frankie’s remarkable mother, her life prior to his birth, and the life that they would share until her death.
Bernadette’s story begins in France in the days before the D-Day invasion. She and her family live on the Normandy coast of occupied France where they suffer wartime abuses and atrocities imposed by Nazi soldiers. Just prior to D-Day, Bernadette and her teen-age friends discover an unusual metal object on the dunes. When the object explodes, only Bernadette survives. Shortly thereafter, and minutes before the D-Day attack, her father is brutally executed by the soldiers with all villagers, including Bernadette, bearing witness. Not surprisingly, these two traumatic events leave her damaged and scarred.
Bernadette escapes to Ireland on an American troop ship where she becomes pregnant with Frankie. The remainder of the story concerns her loving and supportive relationship with her child, a dwarf. Other characters include two of Bernadette’s lovers sensitively played by Gabriel Byrne and, later, Matt Dillon. Their relationships with her and her young son bring bizarre twists to an already unusual story. Set in France, Ireland, Texas, and back to Ireland.
Losing Julia is narrated by Patrick Delaney, age 81, a World War I veteran, who lives, somewhat independently, in Great Oaks, an assisted living facility. Still able to go into town to get new clothes, books, etc. and enchanted with the kindness and loveliness of Sarah and other female staff members, the well-educated and quick-witted protagonist offers a fresh perspective on "institutional" care.
Much of Patrick’s story, however, concerns Daniel, a war-time buddy, and other soldiers in his embattled unit prior to and during the hellacious Battle of Verdun. Several soldiers are carefully and memorably drawn by the stories they tell about life at home and their aspirations. Daniel stands out as Patrick’s closest friend in the trenches, a young man who is courageous, rational, fearful, and in love with Julia.
Like his peers, Patrick listens to Daniel’s lyrical recollection of the woman others can only imagine. Patrick realizes that he has fallen in love with Julia’s image. Most of the men, including Daniel, are killed brutally in one of the war’s most savage battles. When Patrick’s post-war efforts to find the elusive Julia fail, he marries, works as an accountant, and has two children. Like the war, Julia remains, however, a constant shadow throughout his life.
When a war monument is constructed ten years later on the site of the last atrocious battle, Patrick, his wife, his toddler son, and his sister-in-law journey to Paris. With his family happily detained in Paris, Patrick goes to Verdun alone for the monument’s unveiling ceremonies with many other veterans and grieving family members. It is here that Julia appears and the two become lovers during the time at Verdun and then for a short time in Paris.
The story, non-sequential in its presentation, weaves the various elements of aging, memory, war, love, and loss together for readers to untangle and follow.
After an argument with his wife, Dunn’s narrator considers differences between his instinctive male response to differences, and reliance on words. She always "argues beyond winning," "skewering him into silence." Next day she has forgotten her words, while he remembers each one wondering "if recovering from them is possible."
As a boy in the schoolyard he learned to argue with his fists, while she and her girlfriends [were] "learning other lessons." He, like other boys/men, didn’t use and is unable to perceive that her words, however wrong, derive from "much hurt and love." So what’s going on here? He is silent, resentful, feeling a need to strike or punch. She, on the other hand says to excess what she feels, using words, the skills she learned as a girl.
This poem by physician-poet Mukand transforms what might be unobserved and ordinary into the visible and extraordinary. A frail old woman with a disease of "no cure," probably cancer, is in the waiting room at a hospital or clinic. The narrator, whom we suspect is the second character, as well, a medical student, spins with delicacy a thoughtfully real and imaginative description of the waiting patient.
Readers see her "blue gauze scarf," "her gnarled, polished walking stick," and her pained body, but are provided with, additionally, an imaginary account of the effects of the disease on the woman as she struggles with pain through her final months. When the student enters the waiting room, the woman extends her "brittle" hand, then pulls from her black bag a sealed envelope. When instructed to open it, the student finds a fifty-dollar bill "to help with school." Caught by surprise, he smiles, but leaves the bill in her palm: "It lies in her palm like a / handful of earth picked up, raised / to the sky / as an offering to the spring wind."
Elsa Walsh profiles three women of extraordinary achievement: Meredith Vieira, "60 Minutes" television correspondent; Rachel Worby, conductor for the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra; and Alison Estabrook, chief of breast surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. Even though the women represent remarkable levels of success, the in-depth portrayals reveal enormous personal costs to each of the individuals. Their separate efforts to balance professional and personal goals often lead to irreconcilable conflicts and then to questions about burdens placed upon women who refuse to follow imposed expectations and blueprints.
Readers will sympathize with Meredith Vieira’s struggle to overcome high-risk pregnancies and retain her highly visible and highly paid position on the CBS news team. The measures established to prevent previous miscarriages and accommodate her medical needs eventually lead to friction and discord among co-workers and staff. As the following anecdote demonstrates, Meredith refuses to separate her roles as journalist and mother. When the baby is born and salary negotiations begin, Meredith brings her infant son to the Tavern on the Green lunch meeting so that she can nurse the baby on demand. The executives are flabbergasted by her behavior and by her announcement that she intends to become pregnant again.
Rachel Worby’s story concerns the tensions between an artist’s work, milieu, and spirit and those associated with the widowed Governor of West Virginia, the man she agrees to marry. Both are accomplished, he is rich, and the love between them is healthy and strong.
Nevertheless, the worlds they occupy impose divisive expectations. She does not conform to the assumed role of Governor’s wife; it is both difficult and impossible to regulate her bombastic and vivacious personality and style.
The final story centers on Alison Estabrook as she struggles to become the chief of breast surgery in a professional world seemingly intent on placing unacceptable barriers in her way. Readers will anguish over this infuriating account of suppression by a patriarchal system.
Frears presents a stark portrayal of London’s underbelly, a place where everything is for sale--at a price. It is a world in which most people tend to ignore or overlook: prostitution, illegal immigrants struggling to survive, illegal activities, humiliating circumstances, and most centrally, black market organ transplantation. "We are the people you don’t see." Information age technologies mix with greed and desperation to depict an engrossing and sordid narrative about real-life events occurring in places beyond the ordinary purview. This modern day thriller brings audiences to the edge of their seats as they witness harrowing and very believable accounts of marginalized members of society deprived of basic human dignities.
The story is complex but two characters dominate, a doctor from Nigeria (Chiwetel Ejiofor) now reduced by harsh circumstances to several menial jobs including taxi driving and hotel clerking, and an illegal chambermaid from Turkey (Audrey Tautou) whom he befriends and assists. She lives in constant danger of humiliation, exposure, deportation. Their paths cross in a hotel where both work, where "johns" are served by prostitutes, and where illegal and sloppy surgical procedures are employed to harvest kidneys from desperate donors.