Minnesota Seniors Online

About the Critics:

Doug Solem has been in love with movies ever since he first snuck into the Anoka Theater to see Steve McQueen in Bullitt. He goes to at least one new movie every Friday.  He has also been a voice talent for TV and Radio commercials for the past 20 years and is currently represented through the Moore Talent Agency. Click Here For Doug's Voice Demo  He had his first starring role in the local independently produced movie "SEVER" Click Here for information and pictures for "Sever" - a horror film shot throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.  He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Communications.  His favorite directors include the Cohen Brothers and Steven Spielberg.  Favorite actors include Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Brad Pitt, Daniel Day-Lewis and Christian Bale. 


Zala has always enjoyed going to the movies.  As a kid, the only option in the area was the Anoka Theater.  It was during a time when parents could drop you and your friends off to see a movie and get picked up later.  “My earliest movie experience was when I was 4 and my aunt and her high school friends took me to see 101 Dalmatians.  I was so engaged in the movie that during one of the chase scenes a speeding car nearly hit one of the puppies, and my first movie review was to stand up and yell, "Watch out!". The audience broke out laughing.  I have been lucky to have some friends and colleagues who are into making movies and television shows and I enjoy the discussions we have.  Before my retirement, I was the Dean of the Cinema program at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.  It is a great two-year program if you would like to take some courses and develop your own movies!”


Zala's Featured Review 
Lion - Directed by Garth Davis

Imagine being 5 years old and needing to help your family eat and survive near Calcutta, India.  With his older brother Guddu, young Saroo scavenges for anything he can from trains to barter for goods to take home to his mother and sister.  From a one-room shack in a small town, Saroo convinces Guddu that he is strong enough to go out during the night to the train station to see what they can find.  Saroo, however gets tired and Guddu has him stay on a train station bench to sleep while he ventures out alone.  As Saroo wakes up in the night, he calls out for Guddu, makes a mental image of his surroundings noticing the water tower in the train yard, and goes into one of the train cars to sleep.  He awakes to find himself on a train with no passengers traveling thousands of kilometers from his village.  As a lost boy, he does what he can to survive and experiences a new language, other lost children, and a world of questionable adults who require him to rely on his intuition and inner strength.  Eventually, he lands in an orphanage and is adopted by an Australian family.


Saroo grows up “Australian”.  As an adult, he decides to educate himself in the hospitality industry where others are interested in background begin to ask him questions about where he grew up.  This causes him to start thinking about his family and a new journey begins.  His efforts turn to finding his roots with only a handful of clues from his memories as a 5-year old.  With the help of Google Earth, he tries to piece together his train journey focusing on the water tower and village landmarks he remembers as a child.  We witness the mental journey as he struggles to find home and himself.

The movie is based on a true story, adapted from the book “A Long Way Home”.  Director Garth Davis captures the happiness of youth who grow up in a loving family while scraping together an existence. These memories are strong enough to bring Saroo back home to find his birth family while remaining connected to his adopted family.  Saroo as an adult, is played by Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman plays Saroo’s adopted mother.  The cast is strong.  Perhaps the strongest performance comes from young Saroo, Sunny Pawar.  The ability of this young actor pulls you deep into the story from the start.  The relationship between him and his brother Guddu, Abhisheck Bharate, is an amazing story of brothers who love one another.  The cinematography is gripping.  The use of lighting, the motion of the cameras, and the angle of the shots all add to scenes of intensity and calm. 

Saroo, does make it back to find his family and the movie ends with the reunion followed by actual footage of Saroo and his adoptive parents meeting his family and villagers.  The movie is intense as it plays with your emotions of happiness, fear, and sadness.  Lion is justifiably nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture as well as five others.  I wouldn’t miss seeing it and I suggest you bring some tissues, even if they are to give to the people seeing it with you!


Zala's Featured Review
Hidden Figures
Directed by Theodore Melfi

For those of you who didn’t grow up in the Sputnik Generation, Hidden Figures, entertains you with a “based on true events” version of the early NASA space program during the space race which impacted American society in the early 1960s. The part of history we learn about is that this wasn’t all about white males who were astronauts, engineers, and administrative figures at NASA. Hidden Figures focuses on the contributions by Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to turn a dismal set of rocket failures into successful launches and recoveries and concludes with the successful orbiting of the Earth by John Glenn. 

The story is about these women who each contribute greatly as human “computers” and how they use their mathematical skills to the advance the space program. They were needed to check the calculations of engineers, join the ranks of the engineers and find ways not to become obsolete as IBM delivered a mainframe computer to NASA. These real women may or may not have interacted with one another in the way the movie portrays, but it makes for heartwarming story as they try to serve their country. The main characters need to hurdle two barriers – the prevailing attitude of what women could do in the work place and being given opportunities as African Americans. 


The themes in this movie include the value of women in the work place, single-working parents, race relations, and the ability for women of color to advance in both educational institutions and job promotions. The film depicts the struggle of women of color with the attitudes of the day and how they are challenged in dealing with law enforcement, segregation in society and at work, the ability to take courses to advance in white schools. Historically, this story takes place on the cusp of the Civil Rights Movement. A group of “colored” women work in part-time positions and the ability to advance is made difficult even in a federally funded agency. Slowly during the movie, their talents convert the attitudes so they are recognized for their contribution.  You experience the discrimination throughout the movie and rejoice in the growth that is achieved.

This film combines the talents of actors you haven’t seen in the same cast including Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Octavia Spencer, and Kirsten Dunst. They don’t overshadow the other characters who deliver well to make this ensemble cast more about this story and characters than the individuals who portray them. Much of the musical score was written and performed by Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams (Happy). Perhaps the most entertaining part of the score is used effectively when Katherine is forced to leave her work space to run a half mile to get to the Colored Women’s rest room in another building. One of the most dramatic moments is when Katherine is asked why she isn’t always at her desk where her boss (Kevin Costner) can find her. This leads to making bathrooms available to whites and “coloreds”

Director Theodore Melfi, who co-wrote the screenplay based on the book written by Margot Lee Shetterly, captures the warmth of universal themes of families and heroes and the portrayal of the struggles for African Americans living in a society of prejudice. In some ways, we see how far we have come as it points to our own attitudes and in others, it shows how far we need to grow. Perhaps the title itself, Hidden Figures, provides a paradox. Are the hidden figures the math equations that were needed to developed a successful space program, or are the hidden figures the people behind the scenes who don’t receive the credit for their contributions? Answer that for yourself as you see this incredible story!  


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