Weekly Roundup Episode 27: The Smietana Family Reunion
Welcome to another edition of Weekly Roundup! In 2009-2018, my family held an annual family reunion every single year in my hometown of Buffalo, NY. All members of the Smietana family would all gather together from all places. Whether it be those from my hometown, those from Florida, those from Texas/Germany wherever my military veteran cousin would be stationed in, or be from Las Vegas. The numbers of members attending this reunion would change each and every year, due to the fact somebody has a significant other, or has a child... It was kind of cool to watch family members, flourish into becoming a parent or being with someone to help grow the reunion.
The first two years were held at Darien Lake Amusement Park, as the rest of the years were held at Ellicottville resort. The first year at Darien Lake t’was memorable due to the fact it was completely dedicated in my Uncle Eddie’s honor. Not only did we wear Darien Lake T-Shirts, but we wore a button with a picture of our Uncle, stating a phrase he would often say. Of course Ellicottville was a home-run as it was enjoyable for both adults and kids. Darien Lake is fun for a few rides, problem was the food was what you expect out of an amusement park, plus was ridiculously expensive. Especially when all kids want to do is play carnival games, trying to win prizes they would soon toss in the trash within the next couple weeks. Ellicottville you have pools, golf, fine dining, clubs, zip lining, hiking, nature, and a fun little coaster ride... It’s nice.
One year I didn’t attend my reunion due to a personal matter... The Beyoncé Concert. Now look I get the criticism I gotten from my family members, but this was the MUST see concert event of the entire summer, the Mrs. Carter tour. Back in February of that year, I tried buying tickets in marketing class and it sold out within a few minutes. I appreciate that my family honors our reunion to a high degree, but there was no way I was missing this show, they’ll be a reunion next year but there will not be another Mrs. Carter show. I was fortunate enough to cop a ticket off Craigslist for a reasonable price, nice gentlemen. Honestly: No Regrets, The Best Concert I’ve Ever Experienced Hands Down. This was when Beyoncé was at her prime in her career, performed all the classics, crowd was electric... It was so much fun man.
One thing I want to acknowledge is the fact there would be no family reunion, without my Aunt Penny. My Aunt Penny the way she organized this gathering year in and year out, took a lot of time and effort to arrange this event each and every year. She literally put her heart and soul into this reunion, so much hard work, love, and care that it’s hard to imagine how one can make this all happen on her own. Sometimes she doesn’t get the credit she deserves, as I do want to acknowledge how grateful and appreciative I am, for all she’s done over the many years she’s organized our reunion. Hoping my Aunt Penny and the rest of the Leones are in good spirits.
During the last year of my family reunion, I told my family I wasn’t going anymore. I prefer visiting my family in small groups, rather than being involved large groups as I’m more comfortable in a settle setting. What’s funny is since I wanted to no longer go anymore, they stopped continuing the family reunion... Da Don indeed has the power. For what’s it worth: The Family Reunion certainly brought me some fond memories, as they’ll always be cherished over the course of time. I wish my family a great amount of love, as well as I hope they’re in good spirits during this time, God Bless them all so dearly! Alrighty let’s talk about some new films!
Bull Grade: B+
Bull is a well written story about one whom dedicates their life to Bull riding, the hardship of having no parental figures around, friendship, and growing up in the less fortunate side of the South. Our main character Abe (Rob Morgan) has devoted his life to Bull riding, it’s his deer passion as he loves being out guiding the bulls away from the arena. However Abe is dealing with a medical problem, as his doctor insists he takes a breather for awhile, however Abe refuses towards the love of the sport and as well as income too. I enjoyed just how much Abe has a passion for this sport, though I feel sorry for him because he’s definitely burned out due to his age and injuries, but how he carries himself through the pain was honestly inspiring.
Kris (Amber Havard) gets acquainted with Abe simply by trespassing his home, as she throws an underage drinking party with her friends, as Kris has to make up for it by doing chores for Abe. Kris takes upon a liking for Bull Riding over the course of time with Abe, as we not only adore their friendship, but also are happy Kris partakes in something good for her well being. I enjoyed the chemistry between this unlikely friendship, even though it is a cliche we’ve seen time and time before, it’s still done well and not appear so flashy. The character Kris brings on about discussion regarding how children turn on to bad paths while growing up. Kris is currently growing up without a father figure, while also her mother is in jail, as only her grandmother takes care of her. A child going on about without their parents is hard on any child, the feeling of abandonment which is shown in the third act really takes a heavy toll on a child. Especially when a child is not raised in good fortunate, which is why Kris takes a liking of drinking and selling drugs, as she serves a pack mule for drug dealers. My heart was getting crushed for this character, though she may make stupid mistakes, I feel she can’t help it because she wasn’t necessarily raised correctly as she has to learn on her own without any reliable influences. That’s why you hope her friendship with Abe sticks, though he may not be a picture perfect role model, as least he’s offering a lifestyle that’s a whole lot better than the route she’s partaking in.
I didn’t necessarily care about how the film concludes within the last five to eight minutes. There was a metaphoric meaning with Abe, as I guess it can be refer to him living and dying by Bull riding, however felt completely random. How things end between Kris and her drug dealer was honestly strange and unrealistic. Still this is a well made film, as I did really enjoyed it.
Overall, Bull is a pretty good film. I recommend checking this one out on HULU, I highly suggest making this a double feature with Chloe Zhao’s 2018 film The Rider.
Anelka: Misunderstood Grade: C+
I don’t enjoy watching soccer other than the World Cup, but I do enjoy playing soccer with my friends. I was actually supposed to watch a comedy, but was in the mood for another documentary after partaking Audrie and Daisy, solid documentary film by the way. Here we have Anelka: Misunderstood, a documentary about a soccer player in France.
I felt this film reminisces to sports documentaries, featured on ESPN’s 30 for 30, only it just wasn’t interesting enough to be in their catalog. The level of interest with Anelka came when he was involved with France. Whether it be leaving the country behind so he can continue playing pro level soccer at a young age, France unwilling to allow him to play for the World Cup team, and especially in the grand finale. When the film’s focus is not on France, it’s just less interesting. This is a very basic documentary, that doesn’t really have a whole lot to tell, other than showcasing a career of a talented Soccer player. Even in the end when Anelka says, “I wouldn’t recommend this path, but it’s my path” just felt extremely corny after all the events partaking. Other than the grand finale, Anelka’s life isn’t all that bad really at all. The man got to live out his dream, making a lot of money, and having a loving family of his own... Most people would kill for this life, even if there is criticism and minor struggles that come along with it, that was a ridiculous line to end your film with.
Overall, Anelka: Misunderstood is an average film. I guess I would recommend this film if you got literally nothing else to do with your day, otherwise just partake in a 30 for 30 film on ESPN instead.
Black is King Grade: C
Speaking of Beyoncé: Black is King is the newest Visual Album from Beyoncé, inspired by The Lion King (2020)... Hard to imagine anyone being “inspired” by that garbage film. As a fan of Beyoncé’s music key word “fan” not “stan”, I was looking forward to some new tracks, despite her new music not being as good as her old tunes.
Visually this film is stunning to look at, there are so many incredible shots in this film that looks amazing. Whether it be the kodak 4 by 4 aspect ratio shots, the shots in which feels reminiscent to the throwback 70’s music video days, and especially the nature shots... Just a lovely display, which is not much of a surprise considering her last visual film Lemonade. Surprising enough the soundtrack in this film surprised me, there’s a solid handful of good tunes in this film. Few highlights include Find Your Way, Mood 4 Eva, Water, and Brown Skin Girl. I was surprised considering the fact Beyoncé’s music has fell off recently, so I was happy to see some solid tunes out of her once again. Is the music flawless in this film?! Oh no, there are a few songs that were eh. I honestly don’t like Beyoncé usage of autotune, as I prefer her natural vocals, as they sound much better. Beyoncé’s attempt of Reggae and Rapping were on and off for me, some other songs in which didn’t consist Beyoncé were just ok.
Substance wise I found Black is King to be it’s Achilles Heel. One can say this film moral meaning is the cycle of life is a series of moments, that repeats itself again and again. However when you have Beyoncé narrating in the background... It doesn’t quite correlate to what is going on in this film. There basically is no story in this film, it’s just a series of music videos if we’re completely honest. If one were to judge on a story alone, from a story standpoint it’s extremely out of focus. It’s suppose to be following this young lad, in which I heard countless of times on an advertisement while listening to music on SoundCloud so don’t correct me. Yet the films attention keeps it’s eyes on mainly Beyoncé, so you don’t really follow the boys’ journey of life. This sort of thing hasn’t been much of a problem in the past because her previous visual albums, are focused on Beyoncé alone, that’s how it’s always been.
As Beyoncé takes on a challenge, in which her visual album is not suppose to be focused on her, but focused on someone else... You can see clearly she failed immensely on this challenge at hand. This maybe Beyoncé’s project, however this story at hand is not focused on Beyoncé at all, as her ego gets in the way making this a convoluted mess. The formula of this film can get extremely repetitive, to the point where you’re getting bored as you check how much time you have left, which I checked a couple times. At least the film gave us some nice tunes and lovely visuals, just wish there was more to it than just a series of music videos.
Overall, Black is King was just ok. I guess this is fine for a one time watch if you enjoy Beyoncé music, if you want to watch a great visual album, I suggest Paul Thomas Anderson’s Anima featuring music from Thom Yorke on Netflix, it’s only fifteen minutes.
Miss Juneteenth Grade: B
Miss Juneteenth is simply a tale, regarding a former Miss Juneteenth winner Turquoise Jones (Nicole Beharie) wanting to recapture the past for her own daughter Kai (Alexis Chikaeze). This film is cute. You understand Turquoise’s strict parenting, as she wants her daughter to go onto a better path than she did, as the high hopes this organization had for her fell a tad short as she doesn’t have a high end career like the other former winners. Could be due to the fact Turquoise had Kai when she was young, so her hopes and aspirations had to be put on hold, which is why Turquoise doesn’t trust Kai home alone while she’s working, as Kai is interested in a boy herself. Her parenting may sound ridiculous as Kai is fifteen years old for crying out loud, but regarding Turquoise’s past, one can understand.
Regarding the holiday and celebration, the film gives us valuable information, as we learn the significance of the holiday so that’s good to know. Regarding the moral message it’s best to move forward with your own future, rather than chase after your past. All the time and money Turquoise spends on this pageant, in which Kai doesn’t even want to do it in the first place, she could instead focus on bettering her own future, as she could let Kai decide what’s best for her. Nothing wrong with strict parenting, but one thing you never want to do is treat your child like they’re in a cage, regarding their own potential and purpose in life.
The third act felt underwhelming. I found the pageant itself to be extremely disappointing, as the talent portion shown was tremendously awful. At least Kai’s act was ok, I can’t say the same for the contestants before her. As the third act finally gave me food coverage of this bar Turquoise works at, it also makes me question how this place makes any business? The food coverage was certainly underwhelming, I’m a fan of BBQ and the BBQ shown here looked mediocre at best. At least the message was delivered in the third act, however I wanted the film to go out with a BANG. For what it is... It’s cute.
Overall, Miss Juneteenth was a good film. I recommend checking this one out, can be found on Kanopy. -Mitch Smietana