Lives of love and beauty – Melanie

melanie

Melanie Layer: daughter, sister, coach, joie de vive incarnate

I think I have been in the same room with Melanie maybe twice in the few years that I have known her, and yet, despite knowing almost nothing about her (e.g., her history), I feel like I have known her my entire life. She is light, love, laughter, enthusiasm, passion, spirit, joy and every other positive experience rolled into an individual, and it seems like her greatest happiness in life comes from helping others find that in themselves.

Melanie has this knack for seeing the amazing in people she meets, whether she’s known them for years or mere seconds, and without ever coming across as intrusive, cuts past the bullshit in which we bury ourselves to praise and cultivate the beauty that lies within us all. No matter how you feel walking into an interaction with Melanie, even if a completely passive interaction, you walk out 12 feet taller and in the firm belief that you can accomplish anything.

Thanks, Melanie, for embracing my dreams and passions as your own, and for filling my life (and social media streams) with light and laughter.

 

See also: MLI Coaching

Cheadle reaches Miles Ahead – a review

MrsMiracle_DVD_Sleeve

I don’t know much about jazz other than to say that almost everyone who has ever been considered a giant in the genre spent a lot of time facing very dark demons; demons so dark as to put rock & rollers to shame. Such was the case with Miles Davis.

In a quadruple-threat performance as writer, director, producer and star, Don Cheadle has created an interesting film that touches on a brief period in the jazz icon’s life through a never-ending series of timeline jumps that takes a little bit to get into.

The main plot of Miles Ahead revolves around a Rolling Stone reporter Dave Braden (Ewan McGregor) looking to get a glimpse into Miles Davis, who five years earlier, went into seclusion to nurse his drug addiction and failing muse. Desperate for a story, Braden inadvertently allows a scheming manager of another jazz performer to steal a tape of Miles’ comeback music, sending Braden and Davis on a chase caper worthy of the Scooby Doo gang.

Interspersed throughout this caper, Cheadle and his co-writer Steven Baigelman weave flashbacks of Davis’s relationship with dancer Francis Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi). Through whispered voices, they seem to suggest Davis might have suffered mental illness, and they show the musician’s slide into drug addiction through pain medication taken for a degenerative hip disorder.

cheadle-mcgregor

As a director, it seems Miles Ahead is Cheadle’s attempt at creating jazz in a visual form.

Scenes bounce back and forth. Visions flit through Davis’s mind. There is almost an ad lib feel to the performances as the actors seem to react rather than perform. And yet, once the piece gets moving, it feels whole.

That said, this is but the briefest of songs in a larger repertoire that was Davis’s life, and in many ways, I wanted to understand better what was behind the great artist’s fall from grace. As such, the movie feels very light despite its heavy subject matter and in several scenes, degenerates to slapstick cops-and-robbers. As biopics go, this is not Ray or Ali.

The choppiness of the scenes and lightness of plot also means that we never really get a good sense of most of the characters or the actors’ performances.

McGregor’s Braden doesn’t act, so much as mug from scene to scene, reacting to the antics of Cheadle’s Davis and the chaos that swirls around him. In fact, the one decision he does make—trying to steal the tapes himself—is a colossal failure and about the last decision he makes.

cheadle-wife

Similarly, Corinealdi’s Taylor largely remains a mystery to the audience. A creative spirit in her own right when she first meets Davis, she quickly falls into the role of cheated-upon wife who struggles to cope with a brilliant husband who is rapidly falling apart. The arguments could easily have been lifted from Ray, and for all I know, were lifted from Get On Up, the James Brown biopic also penned by Baigelman.

For his part, Cheadle eats up the screen with his portrayal of Davis at two very different times in his life. There were times when I almost couldn’t tell you that this was the same actor in each role.

The Davis of the 1960s is Cheadle as we know him; a cool customer who possesses the room in which he stands. The fallen Davis of the 1970s, however, is an entirely different creature, prone to lash out rather than control with a stare. And full marks to the make-up team for the physical transformation into the older Davis.

two-cheadles

This movie won’t be for everyone, and in fact, I have no idea who it is for.

There isn’t enough music for the jazz fans. Not enough character depth for the serious drama fans. And it feels too dated for those interested in amusing drug-laced comedies.

And yet, it works.

And for a budget of less than half-a-million, why wouldn’t Cheadle at least try?

I’m glad he did.

See also:

Miles Ahead (Angelica Jade Bastien)

Ode to a Jazz Giant (The Guardian)

Miles Ahead (Rolling Stone)

Inferno(t) – a review

inferno-2016-film-movie

In a follow-up to The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, Tom Hanks returns as famed symbologist Robert Langdon, the only man capable of solving the great riddles of today with clues left by our medieval artists and thinkers. In this case, it is the location of bioengineered microbes designed by mad billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster)—think Elon Musk with microscopes instead of rocket ships—to eradicate 95% of the world’s population.

And as the adventure starts, it appears that Langdon may be involved more directly in this mystery than even he thought possible. Along the way, he battles officials from the World Health Organization (WHO), zealous followers of the billionaire and the crafty dealings of a security firm.

As a fan of the previous two movies and puzzle-focused stories in general, I was looking forward to this latest installment. Hanks was back. Ron Howard was back as director. And Dan Brown, the novelist on whose books the movies are based, never tells a boring story.

Unfortunately, this latest venture simply does not live up to the mysteries developed in its predecessors. Simply put, the puzzle is missing and the action is merely serviceable.

To watch the trailer for this movie is to assume that the riddle of this story is wrapped up in Dante’s Divine Comedy, source of our Western vision of Hell. And, for about two minutes, it is.

michelino_danteandhispoem

Dante couldn’t have predicted this new level of Hell

But unlike the earlier movies where clue was found buried in clue, each one linking together in an almost mystical way and tapping into the deep-seated paranoia of conspiracy freaks like me, here it was merely a token gesture. Dante’s masterpiece and the elements that followed it felt completely contrived, mere window decoration for the modern mystery that wasn’t much of a mystery.

And even the characters surrounding Langdon were largely throw-away, none showing the intricate twists and turns that kept you guessing throughout the earlier movies. In almost all cases, the functions of the characters were obvious from the outset (to explain more would be to serve spoilers).

hanks-jones

Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones spend a lot of time sight-seeing

And I think screenwriter David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Mission:Impossible, War of the Worlds, Angels & Demons) suspected as much as he littered the screen with small red herrings that suggested insights to the characters but never amounted to anything afterward.

One character, in fact, who appears vital from the story perspective effectively disappears from the story completely, factoring in no way into the ending of the story despite being involved in the precipitating events.

In the absence of medieval puzzles and ambiguously motivated characters, we are left with a barely passable action film that trots its merry way across the Mediterranean to the pretty unspectacular climax. Even the summary denouement is uninteresting and a bit saccharine.

1271033 - THE WALK

Entire screenplay written on back of Dante’s head

This is not a terrible movie, but I’m not sure I would even recommend it as an entry point to the Dan Brown pantheon, instead recommending you stick solely to the other two.

For me, Inferno never really got beyond a cold ember.

See also:

Tom Hanks returns as Robert Langdon in Inferno (Associated Press)

Say hello to the 10th circle of Hell (The Guardian)

A devil of a time making sense (Wall Street Journal)

October Surprises — Blog Woman!!! – Life Uncategorized

He knows he’s always been loved Held by an eternal ribbon of energy, binding lifetimes after lifetime Until madness strikes, darkening, once again, all revelation Hope became obscured by landmines of poisoned frivolities Silly id dreams; a dance mix of Oedipus, Tantalus, Aristippus… Every step an intriguing claim of elevation, all baseless; mocking Divinity’s design The guileless taken unawares that […]

via October Surprises — Blog Woman!!! – Life Uncategorized

Be aware of the dangers of having Canadian friends

Who knew the Toronto Marlies had such reach

Ned's Blog

imageI have several good blogger friends who are Canadians. I realize that many of you are now slowly shaking your head with that “I told you so” expression.

But I really try not to judge people or their cultures, no matter how strange or foreign they seem to me.

For the record, I have friends from southern California, too.

But let’s get back to Canada, where my friend and humour (see how I spelled that?) blogger Randall Willis resides. In Toronto, Ontario actually. I’d give you his exact address but it resembles the coordinates for a Space Shuttle landing. I’m not sure why Canadians use all those numbers and letters, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the metric system. All I know is it would take me longer to put the address into my car’s GPS system than it would to drive aimlessly until I found him by…

View original post 506 more words

Spring never officially started until I got a handshake from Shiloh

Every once in a while, an extraordinary person enters your life, someone who somehow manages to touch a spot in your soul and who simply by existing, makes you want to be a better person.
My friend, Ned Hickson, just lost such a special person—the victim of a hit-and-run—and is feeling the loss quite heavily.
To the outside world, Shiloh was just a kid who Ned knew, someone from his town. No one special. Not part of Ned’s family.
And yet to hear Ned speak of this fellow is to understand both the impact this young man had on Ned’s world and the anguish Ned feels in the sudden tragic loss. If you have a moment, read Ned’s words and learn about Shiloh.
And whether you have a moment or not, make one today, reclaim some time in your day to think about the Shiloh’s you have met in your life. If you still know them, contact them and say hello…that’s all.
And if they are no longer around, for whatever reason, think on how they impacted your life and see if there isn’t someway that you can’t become a Shiloh to others.
We need all the Shiloh’s we can get.

Ned's Blog

This is the only thing I will be posting today, in tribute to a wonderful young man who was tragically taken from the world early this morning. After this, I will be shutting down my devices for the day and avoiding my social media sites. But before I did, I wanted to share my thoughts with you about a young man named Shiloh Sundstrom…

imageThe four years I covered Shiloh Sundstrom during his time as a Mapleton High School athlete remain among my favorites in my 16 years at Siuslaw News.

Not because he was a particularly extraordinary athlete. But because he was most definitely an extraordinary person.

The kind that makes you feel good just to be near him because he not only carried positive energy and warmth with him, but shared it with everyone he came into contact with.

Even after Shiloh graduated and moved on to Oregon…

View original post 300 more words

Screenwriters should learn from Shakespeare: Language governs the action

I might have gone with another play, but I like the message. Something aspirational for every writer.

Screenwriter On Location

There is no doubt that William Shakespeare’s Hamlet continues to be one of the most intriguing and highly analyzed plays ever written, and the protagonist Hamlet is arguably one of the greatest dramatic characters ever created. From the moment this disconsolate prince enters the scene the audience/reader is made acutely aware of his conflicted soul. This tragic hero is a walking dichotomy that provokes every sort of human emotion, and th-2

sets the stage for the revengeful plot to be carried out. Shakespeare uses the power of language to not only control the plot, but also to establish the storyline, reveal Hamlet’s varied complex character flaws, control fate, establish irony, and to govern the action of the play. Shakespeare brilliantly uses this character to hold the weight of the play with his dialogue, and reveal a vivid display of universal conflict within humanity.

Hamlet’s distress over his fathers death, his…

View original post 825 more words