A tale of two reviews, by Kenny Florian

A good friend of mine had been urging me to watch

“The Crash

Reel” for weeks. I’m a documentary buff and being

retired, I have a whole list of documentaries to catch up on.

Finally, I decided to sit down on the couch on a slow weekday

afternoon and push “The Crash Reel” to the front of the

line.

The film details the life and career of pro snowboarder Kevin

Pearce. From a young age, Kevin was a daredevil and fearless

competitor. The “The Crash Reel” documents his childhood all

the way up to his rivalry with superstar snowboarder, Shaun White.

Kevin has an infectious passion for snowboarding and it’s his

work ethic, fearlessness and talent that vaults him to the very top

of the sport. He has a wonderful support system in his family and

is also driven by his group of snowboarding buddies he calls

“Frends”–because they believe there is no

“I” in “friends”.

src="https://scontent-a-lax.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn2/1396056_677450652279121_64130568_n.jpg"

width="640" />

The documentary makes a shift from badass snowboarding clips and

hilarious scenes to a horrific snowboarding accident suffered by

Kevin as he was preparing for the 2010 Winter Olympics. We then get

to see Kevin and his family as they battle back to normalcy. There

are countless poignant moments in this film as we hear from other

family members, fellow competitors and Kevin himself as he deals

with the reality of his traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Striking cinematography along with some well-chosen music are

witnessed throughout the film. Beautiful moments between Kevin and

his family show what true love is all about. The film also explores

the dangers of extreme sports–like skiing and snowboarding–and

attempts to define the line between suicidal and pushing the limits

of your sport.

src="https://scontent-a-lax.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/554187_674057262618460_2031381670_n.jpg"

width="640" />

After finishing “The Crash Reel”, I remember just

taking a big, deep breath and going for a long walk to simply

contemplate life and take it all in. It allowed me to be thankful

for my health and for all of the loved ones in my life. It allowed

me to love the world that much more and inspired me on many levels.

I want to thank my friend Raina for encouraging me to watch this

documentary and want to thank the amazing Pearce family and others

in this film for sharing their stories and truly making a

difference in making us aware about the dangers of extreme

competition and TBI. Have the tissue box ready and be prepared to

be transformed for the better.

***

Over the weekend, I decided to hit the movie theatre and check

out

target="_blank">“12 Years A Slave”, which is an

adaptation of the 1853 autobiography of the same title by Solomon

Northup. The film is directed by Steve McQueen and written by John

Ridley. Chiwetel Ejiofor brilliantly stars as Solomon Northup.

In 1841, Solomon Northup (Ejiofor) is a free black man living

with his wife and children in Saratoga Springs, New York. Solomon

is a talented violinist and is lured into a lucrative touring

opportunity by two men (Scoot McNairy and Taran Killam). Solomon

goes out to dinner with these two shady men and is then drugged. He

awakens to find himself kidnapped and chained to the floor where he

will eventually be transported to work on plantations in

Louisiana.

src="http://d97a3ad6c1b09e180027-5c35be6f174b10f62347680d094e609a.r46.cf2.rackcdn.com/banner-12-years-a-slave-film.jpg"

width="640" />

From the moment Northrup wakes up in chains until to the very

end of the film, virtually every scene hits you like a well-placed

knee to the gut. One hanging scene in particular has stayed with me

and is one of the most powerful I have ever witnessed on film. The

realness of the movie is brought to life through superb costume

design and sets, beautiful cinematography and brilliant acting.

It is a violent film but a necessary one that shows the

brutality and reality of how slavery was in the American South. A

good film has a way of putting the viewer into the shoes of the

protagonist and the film certainly accomplishes this due to the

palpable performance of Ejiofor. The abusive plantation owner,

Edwin Epps, is played by Michael Fassbender. I’d put

Fassbender’s performance right up there with Daniel Day

Lewis’ “Daniel Plainview” from the movie

“There Will be Blood”. While I wasn’t a big fan

of Brad Pitt’s acting in the film, other performances stood

out like those from Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Garret

Dillahunt, and Paul Giamatti.

src="http://d97a3ad6c1b09e180027-5c35be6f174b10f62347680d094e609a.r46.cf2.rackcdn.com/cache/72/d1/72d1048156980175d061e3f86fd8b3e1.jpg"

width="640" />

You should be sure that this isn’t one of those

“feel good” movies but it is a must-see nonetheless.

This film describes a shameful part of our nation’s history

and we must learn from our past if we want to avoid future

mistakes. It also helps us to understand the present day racial

tension that exists in our country. We still live in a crazy world

and I believe the world needs more empathy today than ever.

Sometimes you need films like this to help people to understand

what it was like beyond just reading and learning about it in a

text book—films like “Schindler’s List” and

“Saving Private Ryan”. Whether people want to admit it

or not, slavery helped shape this country. To understand the United

States, you need to understand what slavery was and “12 Years

A Slave” gives us a powerful reminder that true morals and

human decency should always prevail above any law that our

government deems as worthy.

I can’t recommend these two films enough. They truly

inspired and enlightened me in very different ways. I believe it is

our responsibility as human beings to educate ourselves and to

understand the challenges that we as humans face. We must continue

to battle fear and help create a world that is filled with

empathy.