Movie Review: Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Yes, I would, Fred.)

Touching. Timely. Inspiring. Infuriating.

I, like millions of other children from my generation, grew up watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Living just 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, I watched it on his home station, WQED – PBS Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

His gentle demeanor, memorable opening song, iconic sweater, simple puppets, and the ever-cool red trolley are indelible parts of my childhood. I enjoyed the show, but soon out-grew it, and never really thought of its overall impact until I watched the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” from film-maker Morgan Neville.

If you haven’t seen it, please go. I’ll briefly put my thoughts on the movie in relationship to the four words above.

2017-06-21 15.08.41

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood Display @ Heinz Museum, Pittsburgh, PA  – Photo by MWS

Touching. There are many touching moments in this film. Fred Rogers had the ability to reach the hearts of those he spoke to – and not only children. One of the most remarkable parts of the film is watching the many interviewees listen to a short clip of Fred telling people to think for one minute about a person who made a difference in their lives. Of course, Fred framed the scenario in such a lovely way, that every single one of the interviewees teared up. He encouraged them to slow down, think, remember, and cherish those people who made them who they are. Some answered ‘Mom’ others a relative or friend, one said ‘Fred.’  All of them were unmasked in a beautiful way by Fred’s amazing ability to speak to the soul of an individual. It was a perfect scene.

Timely. In this day and age of everything being hyper-politicized, Fred’s message of love and acceptance to the children he had passion for is such a tremendous message. One, albeit, lost daily on the TV airwaves. Just a quick perusal of TV channels this Sunday evening made this all the more real. The plethora of choices available were dearth of heart, meaning, sincerity, and substance – all of which Fred displayed in abundance, not only on his show but as a person in real life. Be like Fred, everyone. It should be a motto on a t-shirt.

Inspiring. As an educator, I walked away from the movie truly inspired. The way he spoke to children, the way he listened to children, the way he advocated for children, and the way he educated children has, I believe, never been matched. He tackled difficult topics with care and heart (here’s that word again). Topics like war, assassination, divorce, racism, acceptance, disabilities, etc… while the rest of TV land droned on in a flashy drivel void of meaning or substance. Watching this movie made me want to be a better teacher.

Infuriating. I was not upset at Fred at all. How could I be? Well, it seems that some people can be upset at just about anyone. If you can find fault in the public discourse and actions of one Fred Rogers, you’d probably would have lined up in glee to watch the decapitation of the Apostle Paul.  Seriously, what is wrong with people? Some pundits have blamed Mr. Rogers’ philosophy of telling children that they are good and lovable and worthy of love as a message which has poisoned a whole generation by making a bunch of spoiled, entitled brats who feel they don’t need to work for anything because Fred Rogers told them that they are special. If I can be frank, what kind of idiot analysis is that?  If you have a problem with telling every child that they are unique and special and lovable, then you have a problem. In fact, the philosophy of Fred Rogers is, in my view, one of the keys that the world desperately needs if we are ever going to bridge the divides which have pulled us apart.

Thank you, Morgan Neville, for bringing this touching and timely reminder of what decency and civility really is. I wish someone would bring it back to children’s television.

This is a film I highly recommend.

Advertisements

Midwest Book Review Weighs in on “A Man Too Old …”

The venerable Midwest Book Review published a review of A Man Too Old for a Place Too Far in their online book review magazine “Small Press Bookwatch” in April 2018.

They categorized A Man Too Old under the Fantasy/SciFi heading and had this to say about it:

“Critique: A unique, entertaining, and deftly crafted novel by an author with a genuine gift for imaginative and engaging storytelling, “A Man Too Old for a Place Too Far” is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that “A Man Too Old for a Place Too Far” is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).”

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
A Man Too Old for a Place Too Far
Mark W. Sasse
CreateSpace
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781979948289, $13.99, PB, 322pp, http://www.amazon.com
If you haven’t read it yet, you can order your copy HERE!

“A Man Too Old” Gets Another Great Review!

Michelle James posted her review of A Man Too Old for a Place Too Far, and it’s a great one! Here’s a short excerpt:

Michelle writes, “This story is well fleshed out with notes of magical realism, suspense, and history.  For me, this is a perfect combination.”

Please head over to her fantastic website and check out the full review – and her thoughts on other books! Michelle James’ Review

Remember, A Man Too Old for a Place Too Far is only part one of the brand new Forgotten Child Trilogy.  Book two is scheduled for a June release, so if you haven’t read book one yet, here’s your chance. It’s available on Kindle and in paperback.

Available on Amazon

Free Shipping Worldwide with The Book Depository

mantoooldfullcoverfinal

NEW REVIEW of “A MAN TOO OLD…” by THE BOOK CHICK!

Marica from THE BOOK CHICK posted a great review of book 1 of my new trilogy A Man Too Old for a Place Too Far. 

Here’s an excerpt of what she had to say. Please check out the full review at the link below from THE BOOK CHICK.

“I was a little skeptical when I started the book but now I’m happy that I gave it a shot. I’m pleasantly surprised with the book and its story and Sasses unique way of writing. It was refreshing and new …”

“It is an intriguing story and Mr Sasse do (sic) not give the readers much to figure out how it all fits together until the end. The language is easy to read and understand and the book keeps the same flow through and through. All the characters are great and keeps evolving deeper in the story and the whole book just captivates you …”

Check out the full review at THE BOOK CHICK!

AMAZON:  Ebook & Paperback HERE!

The BOOK DEPOSITORY: Paperback with FREE SHIPPING WORLDWIDE

 

 

REVIEW: ANASTASIA on BROADWAY

VENUE: Broadhurst Theater, 42nd Street, Manhattan

Open Run, Tickets starting at $109 (certain shows cheaper)

BOTTOM LINE: The newly opened Anastasia on Broadway is a top-notch, classical style musical. Memorable music, soaring performances, and spectacular effects make this a must-see production. So don’t delay!

The Production: Anastasia makes innovative use of video to create a seamless and often times breath-taking effects. From the beautiful scrim which opened the play, to the majestic pillars which provided the visual structure of the various scenes, to the back LCD panels which created terrific visual effects, the production is tight, and moves the story along at a beautiful pacing.

The Story: I was curious how the plot-lines would incorporate both the Ingrid Bergman movie and the hit 1997 animation film, and I was pleasantly surprised that the plot moved away from the mystical elements of the animated film. No magical Rasputin putting a curse on anyone. The story played up the realistic drama of the Bolshevik Revolution and the aftermath of the new Russia. The villain, played by Max von Essen, was not a crazed lunatic set on revenge against the Romanovs but a loyal guard of the new Soviet order, who simply wanted to see the communist utopia come to fruition – and that meant that any Romanov sighting had to be dealt with brute force. As the young Anya, who has no memory of her past, is set to try to convince the Dowager Empress that she is indeed the lone surviving member of the Romanov monarchy, the loyal Soviet agent makes his way to Paris to put an end to the nonsense once and for all. With this high danger in the background of the story, the focus remains on Dmitry and his sidekick Vlad as they work to convince Anya that she is indeed Anastasia, so the two con men can receive a sizeable reward offered by the Dowager. But as Vlad remarks as Dmitry and Anya are prepping for the con, “they never should have danced” because that leads to the romantic undertones of the story, setting up a conflict between the con man Dmitry who is confronted with the choice of reward money or love.

The Performances: Christy Altomare and Derek Klena give spectacular performances as Anya and Dimitri, but it’s truly the most experienced actors on stage, John Bolton as Vlad and Caroline O’Connor as Countess Lily, who steal the show with comedic and unabashedly joyful performances that brought the house to its feet during curtain call. Mary Beth Peil also plays the Dowager Empress flawlessly. I always enjoyed her sense of command in her role as Jackie on the long-running TV show “The Good Wife,” and she brings the same solemn and solid form to the role of the Dowager. I must also add that another highlight was the short piece from Swan Lake performed as Anya and Dmitry try to get access to the Dowager while attending the theatre. The director rightfully treated the Swan Lake moments seriously, creating a beautiful interlude to the story as the audience was mesmerized by the talented ballet performers.

The only drawback that I noticed was a quick and somewhat forced ending. The theme of love was underplayed as was Dmitry’s conflict of refusing the reward and leaving when he thinks love is over.

Anastasia – a worthy Broadway addition. Go see it!

Movie Review: Dunkirk

I mean, really. Who am I question the artistic decisions of Christopher Nolan?

“Dunkirk” is Nolan’s self-penned, produced, and directed rendition of the English evacuation from Dunkirk in the early parts of World War II. I use the word rendition rather than story on purpose, because Nolan has chosen to strip away the human elements of the story, the typical sentimentality which brings patriotic and nostalgic folks to tears, in order to provide a more sterile and emotionally distant film to show what happened.

The show is, of course, impressive. The cinematography is breathtaking and many intense scenes of peril and struggle as the British and French tried to hold off the Germans’ advance before the small private English boats get upwards of 35,000 soldiers to safety in England.

The script follows the happenings of several individuals: a private boat hired on the English side to go to Dunkirk and retrieve some men, a couple of privates on Dunkirk who take their chances by trying anything they can to get on a ship for the homeland. The fighter pilots who battle the Germans in the air as they try to protect their countrymen on the sea and beach below.

But what Nolan doesn’t do is tell us who they are. We don’t know their stories. We don’t know about their loved ones at home. We don’t what they’ve been through. We are simply given a tableau of action that describes their ordeal of Dunkirk. For this reason, some moviegoers will not enjoy this film. It may seem confusing at times and distant, lacking real human connection.

But this is, obviously, how Christopher Nolan wanted it to be, and he achieved his goal in grand ways. Anyone who watches the movie understands what happened at Dunkirk. What we don’t see is the heart and human stories that we experience in other war movies such as “Hacksaw Ridge.”

My son said that he wished he knew it was going to be like this before he went to see it because it would have helped. I agree. “Dunkirk” is a good historical film produced by one of the film masters of our generation. It’s just not the kind of film which will grip your soul. If you know that ahead of time, I think you’ll appreciate the movie even more.

Shakespeare Demystified: MacBeth

I had the opportunity to see “MacBeth” performed in the accessible and always enjoyable stylings of the KL Shakespeare Players’ Series Shakespeare Demystified. This troupe brings Shakespeare to life for the modern audience by engaging the viewers by interspersing backstory and context into the original language of the Bard. It’s a terrific way to make these plays enjoyable and accessible to a modern audience who may not be too fond of the archaic and enigmatic ways of Shakespeare verse. I’ve seen many of their shows over the years including last year’s The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, and my favorite The Merry Wives of Windsor. Once again, the troupe did not disappoint. They gave a spirited and engaging performance with minimal props and lighting changes. They did include wonderful live sound effects courtesy a troupe member on the bongo drum adding some wonderful sensory rhythms and effects to the experience.

The show began a little “thick” and slow as we tried to figure out who this MacBeth character was. Was he a hero as they tried to portray him? His heroic nature seemed a little overshadowed in this production, most likely because of time, making him seem less a tragic figure and more a villain, or perhaps a pawn of his evil wife.

But all of this mattered not because of the terrific chemistry between actors and the high energy performances which demanded justice for MacBeth’s treachery. And yes, he received it.

I’m a big fan of seeing Shakespeare live, and the KL Shakespeare Players’ once again provided a gripping and thrilling evening of theatre which I cannot recommend enough. They put a lot of work into this production, so at least you can do is spare a little of your cash for a great night of entertainment.

The run at penangpac finished yesterday, but they head to Kuala Lumpur to be featured at KLPAC so do make your way to support this superb show!

2017-04-28 20.33.512017-04-28 21.24.182017-04-28 21.25.562017-04-28 21.40.24