A Single Man

It's 1962. We remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Princess phones, the tail fins on cars, the bouffant hairdos, the outrageous eye makeup and the narrow ties, but not one single gay person. That's because in those days, they were firmly closeted. This means when Colin Firth's character loses his beloved partner of sixteen years in a car wreck, he isn't notified until later, nor is he invited to the funeral (it's for family only) and is forced to mourn in solitude.

Fashion maven Tom Ford has written, produced and directed his first screenplay, based on a short story by Christopher Isherwood. To me, it's a little too stylish, but given the characters and the time period, maybe everything was over the top in those days. Ford certainly has given us a recognizable style and has drawn remarkable performances from the four leads:
  • Colin Firth (our favorite Mr. Darcy in "Pride and Prejudice"), is utterly convincing as a meticulous, witty, warm-hearted college professor. Not since "Apartment Zero" has he so affected me.
  • Matthew Goode is his deceased lover; we can enjoy his company only in flashbacks. UK-born Goode impresses me with his versa- tility. He was an evil American thug in "The Lookout," a silver-spoon-in-the-mouth Brit in "Match Point" and here he is Ameri- can once again, a gay Naval officer.
  • Nicholas Hoult plays one of our hero's students. I was amazed to see that conniving and desperate little guy from one of my favorites, "About a Boy," has now grown taller than Firth!
  • Julianne Moore ("Blindness") is a blowzy neighbor who moved to L.A. from London years ago. A one-time lover and long-time friend, confidante, and drinking buddy, she is the only person who understands our single man's grief.

I found this poignant movie to be unpredictable, very funny at times, and thoroughly captivating. One scene, which involves a potential suicide, features a key aria from the opera La Wally in which the heroine pre- pares to leap to her death. What an excellent choice for background music!

Personally, I'm glad he forgot to take the bread back out of the freezer...

Broken Embraces

Oscar winner Penélope Cruz ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona") brings her star power to Pedro Almodóvar's latest effort. This is, once again, a great pairing of a writer/director and a highly acclaimed actress ("Live Flesh," "Volver," and "All About My Mother"), but in my opinion, the most outstanding performance is one by an actor I have never seen before, Lluis Homar; but that's my fault, he's been working hard since 1978!

Almodóvar is best known for his impressive direction of actresses, and this film is no different. Key roles are performed by:
  • Penélope Cruz (see above) plays a secretary in desperate need for extra cash to help her grievously ill father. She calls a former employer (a madam) and begs for part time work.
  • Lluís Homar plays a scriptwriter/movie director who auditions Cruz for a film role. Even though she isn't very good, he is so smitten with her that he casts her in the lead.
  • Blanca Portillo ("Volver") is an often-honored actress in Europe. Here she plays the director's vitally important assistant, always efficient, always vigilant, always anticipating his every need.
  • Ángela Molina ("Live Flesh") is our heroine's desperate mother, seeking help for her ailing husband.
  • José Luis Gómez ("Goya's Ghosts") is the handsome son of that efficient assistant. He too, assists the director/scriptwriter and is collaborating with him on a script about vampires.

Almodóvar is a terrific director. His movies are accessible, interesting, and competently shot. He tends to lean toward the melodramatic, but I usually forgive him because his movies deserve it (they are in Spanish with English subtitles). You can expect parent/child issues, along with secrets from the past. In other words, issues with universal appeal.


Sherlock Holmes

Robert Downey Jr. ("Tropic Thunder" and "Iron Man") has a face the camera loves. I've thought about this film and it's sorta like a comedy, but not really; sorta like a drama, but not totally; sorta like a romance, but certainly not; and yet I was never bored and furthermore I LIKED the guy! There were many laugh-out-loud moments and the thorny relationship between Sherlock and Dr. Watson (this takes place very early in their acquaintance), had verbal cudgels flying.

Director Guy Richie ("Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels") loves the mayhem of fisticuffs and this film starts with a bare-knuckle brawl in which Holmes seems to be getting the worst of it. Then we are inside his head as he plots his strategy, which we watch in slow motion. When the time comes for him to implement his moves, they happen with blinding speed, but precisely according to plan.

We generally know how an intricate Sherlock Holmes plot will unfold, so let's focus on the actors:
  • Jude Law ("The Holiday") is Dr. Watson, frustrated at every turn by Holmes as our good doctor attempts to marry the girl of his dreams and divorce himself from Holmes' byzantine life.
  • Kelly Reilly ("Me and Orson Welles") is that self-same girl of Watson's dreams.
  • Rachel McAdams ("Red Eye") is lovely and enigmatic as Irene Adler, The One Who Keeps Getting Away from our hero.
  • Mark Strong ("The Young Victoria") is the not-quite-dead villain. What is that link with Moriarty? Hmmm... Mr. Strong is fast becoming one of the most ubiquitous actors in Britain.
  • Eddie Marsen ("Little Dorrit") is Inspector Lestrade, reluctantly dependant on Holmes' brilliant deductive powers.

The production values are excellent and the dark, dank London streets are authentic and ominous. Expect plenty of humor, pay close attention to the plot, admire Richey's skill as a filmmaker and have a good time... I know I did.

It's Complicated

What's complicated? Marriage? Divorce? Life? All of the above!

When Nancy Meyers ("The Holiday" and "What Women Want") writes or directs a film, it will probably be a chick flick, quite often for the old hens (women of a certain age) who can spot a piker a mile off and want to see him get his comeuppance. You will see a loyal flock of gal pals clucking over our heroine and enjoying generous servings of wine, and you will wince at all the insecurities and awkwardness of mature dating. Yeah, it looks REALLY complicated!

In case you don't believe me, take a gander at Meryl Streep ("Mamma Mia!" and "Doubt") whose character has spent the last ten years trying to un-complicate her life after her husband, fearlessly played by Alec Baldwin ("30 Rock" and "My Sister's Keeper"), abandoned their 20-year marriage for a much younger woman. They run into each other at a hotel where they both happen to be staying for their son's college graduation, and all the old bells start to chime. We can see his charm and want her to cut loose and have some fun, even though we can't forget his track record with fidelity....

You will root for her architect, played by Steve Martin ("Father of the Bride" and "The Pink Panther") as he tentatively approaches a wary Streep; and John Krasinski ("Away We Go" and "Leatherheads") who almost steals the show as Streep and Baldwin's ultra-confused future son-in-law. We enjoyed many laugh-out-loud moments, mostly at the expense of Alec Baldwin's character, which he played for all they were worth! Kudos to him!

These are basically good people, warts and all, picking their way through the detritus of maturity. Not as young as they would like, not as old as they fear. Personally, I liked Streep's underwear: No Victoria's Secret here... More like real people!

The Young Victoria

Emily Blunt ("The Devil Wears Prada") is the young Victoria. When we first meet her she is being browbeaten by her mother's advisor to sign a paper which will grant her mother authority to act as Regent when King William dies. Victoria knows the king wants her to inherit his throne, so she refuses. As things turn out, she is barely 18 when she becomes Queen of England. Of course, there is plotting and conniving enough to satisfy any History buff, but to me, the pleasure was watching the cream of British cinema take their turns in the spotlight.
  • Miranda Richardson ("The Lost Prince") is Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent, completely under the sway of John Conroy, her advisor.
  • Mark Strong ("Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day") is that dastardly advisor who wants to continue to advise Victoria's mother if she becomes Regent, thus he would rule England.
  • Jim Broadbent ("Moulin Rouge!") is King William, childless and dyspeptic.
  • Rupert Friend ("Cheri") is Prince Albert dispatched from Saxe- Coburg to spy on the throne; he is ill-prepared for the task, he doesn't even know how to dance!
  • Paul Bettany ("Inkheart") is Lord Melbourne who steps in and advises the young queen, right down to a list of Ladies in Waiting.
  • Michael Maloney ("Me and Mrs. Jones") is Sir Robert Peel, the first elected official to cross Victoria after her coronation...to his regret.

This is a competently filmed history with a few technical glitches, which surprised us, but all in all, it is a painless way to learn a bit of history. Of course, some of it has been tweaked just a tad, but it IS, after all, a movie!


Why did I feel so let down? I suppose it was because I had such high expectations from director Rob Marshall ("Chicago"), that I was expec- ting more razzle dazzle instead of a middle-aged man's fantasy about half a dozen gorgeous young women chasing him while he wrestles with the demons of creativity (he writes and directs Italian films). This is not an upbeat movie, and in my opinion, there is no vicarious thrill in wit- nessing writer's block. Plus, the cad keeps promising his wife he will be faithful, but....

This is the film version of the Broadway musical version of the Italian film "8 1/2"...got that so far? On Broadway it featured Antonio Banderas ("Zorro") in the lead. In this film musical we get two-time Academy Award winner Daniel Day Lewis ("There Will Be Blood") taking his first shot at singing and dancing. He does just fine...

We are treated to the considerable talents of:
  • Dame Judi Dench ("Shakespeare in Love") as his perennial movie costume designer and confidante
  • The indestructible Sophia Loren ("Two Women") as his madre bella
  • Penelope Cruz ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona") is a revelation as his needy mistress
  • Nicole Kidman ("The Hours") as his bemused muse
  • Marion Cotillard ("La Vie En Rose") as his no-longer-resigned wife
  • Kate Hudson ("Almost Famous") as a sexually aggressive journalist
  • Fergie (of the band "The Black-Eyed Peas") as a cherished childhood memory: his first prostitute.

With the first five actresses, I listed a movie for which she won an Academy Award; the next, Kate Hudson, was nominated but didn't win. In my opinion, with this kind of talent, had they been given better material, we would have had a sure-fire winner. As it was... eh...

None of the songs were memorable and we certainly did NOT leave the theater humming any of them. ...and I was sooo ready to love this film... (Although a week later I DID find myself singing "Be Italian...")


Uncle Nino

When I watch a DVD I always check out the extras. This 2003 movie included an interview with Joe Montegna and his daughter Gina. He takes on the issue of the artistic merits of this project, head on! He says some people call it "Sappy." Then he adds, "I LOVE Sappy." This movie played in some midwestern cities for a year or more, so it seems to me that a lot of folks must like "Sappy!"

Joe Montegna ("Starter Wife") is the ambitious husband and father to a mildly dysfunctional family reluctantly moved into a new neighborhood. Anne Archer ("Fatal Attraction" - it was her kids' bunny that was boiled!) is his patient wife and the mother of his two children. His daughter Gina plays his movie daughter Gina, BOTH of whom really want a puppy, much to the chagrin of both the real-life dad and the movie dad.

When Uncle Nino unexpectedly shows up from Italy, they are thrown into a tailspin because his eccentric and Old-World attitudes create quite a clash in their upscale neighborhood. Uncle Nino is played by Pierrino Mascarino ("Broken Glass") who does a delicate balancing act between being a little too naïve and a little too cunning.

We see standard teenage rebellion, issues with the Homeowners' Association in their suburban enclave, and seemingly unreasonable demands on an ambitious would-be executive in this heartwarming, family-oriented film. You know... sappy stuff we can all relate to...

My thanks to the JayFlix person who recommended this sweet little film.

Gloomy Sunday

JayFlix folks strike again! "Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod" (1999) was recommended about a week ago and I quickly checked out the DVD from the Seattle library. According to the cover notes, the plot centers around a song, recorded by Billie Holliday among others, which, according to legend, had fateful effects on listeners.

We meet László, a restaurateur in Budapest in the thirties. László is played by Joachim Król who grows on you as the story proceeds. His lover is a waitress in his establishment; Ilona is played by the lovely Erika Marozsán. László hires a pianist to add a touch of elegance to his thriving business; the appealing András is played by Stefano Dionisi.

This story quickly evolves into a congenial menage a trois with all three participants at first hesitantly, then whole-heartedly, committed. The relationships are loving, respectful and a little wry; the men agree that having part of Ilona is better than having none at all. She is relieved that she doesn't have to choose. The pianist writes a song for her, Gloomy Sunday, which soon becomes an international hit. Even though he receives royalties, he continues to play at their restaurant.

Things quickly change when Nazi Germany gains traction in Europe. A young German who had rashly proposed marriage to Ilona years earlier, returns as a Nazi officer.

This film is involving, heartwarming, and a treat to the eye. All three leads are extremely busy Europeans: Król was born in Germany, Marozsán in Hungary, and Dionisi in Italy. The Nazi officer is played by Ben Becker ("The Harmonists" which I highly recommend!), who also has an extensive résumé.

Gloomy Sunday is requested throughout the movie: "Please play the song. You know, the famous one," makes you think of As Time Goes By from "Casablanca."

You'll love the twist at the end.



Wow! Those Marines sure are tough to kill!

James Cameron ("Titanic" and "The Abyss") spent hundreds of millions of dollars on this project and in my opinion it's worth every penny! It has a solid serviceable story with a beginning, a middle and an end. It has LOTS of blowie uppie stuff. It has two worthy adversaries... both of them Marines. It takes place on an other-worldly planet that is meticulously realized: with fantastic flora and fauna; populated by blue-hued human- oids (yup, excellent CGI) with their own language and mythology. It has plenty of humor (the first time our hero has to wear a thong...you'll laugh). And it has a sweet romance... boy meets girl...you know....

The 3-D is so good that I automatically took a casual swipe at a pesky gnat that flew within my periphery, and the dust motes in the air are simply a realistic touch, no issue is made of them. In addition, I felt pangs of acrophobia as the characters ran atop a high tree branch or inched along a cliff's edge.

The terrific cast includes:

  • Sam Worthington, who impressed me in "Terminator Salvation" (which was actually made after "Avatar," as this film has been over 10 years in the making). British born, Australian bred, he makes my socks roll up and down. He always starts slow then wins me over when it counts. Watch this guy!
  • Sigourney Weaver ("Snow Cake") is the queen of high-class Sci Fi (note the "Alien" franchise).
  • Zoë Saldana is a blue humanoid, so you don't get to see her wonderful face. Just remember Uhura in 2009's "Star Trek."
  • Stephen Lang ("Men Who Stare at Goats") provides the leavening for the dough. Just as Othello would be just another disgruntled Moor without a cunning Iago, our hero would be just another paraplegic Marine without this kickass opponent!
  • Michelle Rodriguez ("Fast & Furious") is there when you need a tough chick on your side...

I'm sure you'll be fascinated by the tiny jellyfish-type floatie things that pulsate through the air, but do NOT drink too many liquids before entering the theater, as this thing lasts over 2.5 hours and there is no dull interval where I can suggest a visit to the litter box. Time will fly, but not if you drink too many liquids!

Notes: 1) An avatar is an alter ego adopted by an on-line gamer, an image that embodies his/her philosophy and/or desired physical attributes. 2) Be sure to suspend disbelief as soon as you buy your ticket!


Did You Hear About the Morgans?

A sophisticated, successful (and separated), New York couple, played by Hugh Grant ("American Dreamz") and Sarah Jessica Parker ("Sex and the City") witness a murder and must go into the witness protection program. Of course, to get a real fish-out-of-water effect, they are shipped to Wyoming.

This lackluster outing for all involved is predictable, mildly amusing, and harmless. We see a few familiar faces:
  • Mary Steenburgen ("The Proposal") as the sharpshooting distaff side of a team assigned to protect our protagonists
  • Sam Elliott ("Up in the Air") as the other half of that team
  • Wilford Brimley ("The Road Home") the local sheriff in that cornpone hick town in Wyoming.

A couple of grievances:

  • Parker's character is just this side of annoying and naturally is the one who betrays their location to the killer (is that a spoiler?).
  • No one on the set knew the first thing about milking a cow.

Oh well....

An Education

Based on Lynn Barber's memoir, this coming-of-age story is about an educated high-school student and how she got that way.

We are in 1960s London and watch a gifted girl meet a man almost twice her age who reassures her that he means no harm, disarms her parents with his charm and introduces her to his exciting friends, played by Dominic Cooper ("The History Boys") and Rosamund Pike ("Pride and Prejudice" 2005) who seem to have no money worries, live well, have LOTS of fun and go anywhere they want! By the way, Miss Pike plays the dimmest bulb in the box; I have NEVER seen her play a dumb blonde before and she nails it!

Clearly, our heroine's boring life no longer has any appeal and she launches herself on her own education. What she learns and how she learns it are the central issues of this film. It is excellently cast, with the lead played by Carrie Mulligan ("Public Enemies") and her appealing swain played by Peter Sarsgaard ("Jarhead").

Her parents are perfect, with the always excellent Alfred Molina ("Under- taking Betty") as her gullible father, and Cara Seymour ("Adaptation") as her complacent mother. This is before the women's movement, so they are understandably bewildered by their daughter's view that college shouldn't simply be a place for a girl to find a successful husband and settle down. She wants to go to Paris, speak French and smoke French cigarettes!

This movie definitely offers someone to root for and you become deeply involved in her life lessons. My thanks to the JayFlix gal who suggested this to me!


Me and Orson Welles

Hmmm... A show biz film about show business. How could I resist? Of course this fictionalized episode from the storied life of the legendary Orson Welles is one of those "What if..." type projects, but it portrays people who actually participated in Mercury Theatre's ground-breaking 1937 production of "Caesar." (Not Shakespeare's classic Julius Caesar with which we are all familiar, but instead a truncated and much-modified version as envisioned by the Boy Wonder himself!)

We see:
  • Orson Welles, played by Christian McKay ("Abraham's Point") who is a Welles impressionist, not a Welles impersonator.
  • John Housemen, played by Eddie Marsan ("The Illusionist") who shows us the endless patience it took to work with Welles.
  • George Courlouris, played by Ben Chaplin ("Stage Beauty"), as he shakily tackles the challenging role of Mark Antony.
  • Muriel Brassler, played by Kelly Reilly ("Mrs. Henderson Presents"), who worries that her Portia will be upstaged by Welles' Brutus.
  • Joseph Cotton, played by James Tupper (LOTS of TV), who is Publius in this legendary production.
  • Gretta Adler, a fictitious character played by Zoe Kazan ("It's Complicated"), a young woman whose goal is to publish an article in the New Yorker magazine.
  • Sonja Jones, probably fictitious, ambitious and worldly as played by Claire Danes ("Shopgirl"), she helps our hero (see below) learn about the big, bad city.
  • Richard Samuels, another probable fiction, played by Zac Efron ("17 Again"), a high school student who samples life upon the wicked stage.

I spent most of my time trying to identify who each actor portrays, as the topic of the Mercury is a fascinating one for a person who loves theatre. The story itself seems to be a vehicle for Efron, although all the actors do a commendable job. I could only pity anyone who had the honor/ horror of working with Welles...



It takes leather balls to play rugby. Leather rugby balls are the same shape as the ones used in American football, but other than having goalposts, that seems to be the only similarity. Rugby players use no helmets or padding, and part of the game consists of thousands of pounds of heaving manpower straining against each other in a giant mound of flesh on the field. To say that I don't understand rugby is a gross understatement. It is said that soccer is a gentlemen's game played by hooligans, and rugby is a hooligan's game played by gentle- men. Soccer was popular with blacks in Apartheid South Africa, while rugby was equally popular with whites.

When Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa, he realized he needed something that could knit two disparate populations into one country, unified by a common goal. He dreamt of doing just that if South Africa could win the 1995 World Cup Championship Rugby match. The captain of the national rugby team, played by Matt Damon ("The Informant!" and the "Bourne" franchise), is stunned to realize that Mandela expects his mediocre Springboks to go all the way.

"Invictus" means invincible or unconquered, which, by the way, is a terrific title for a sports movie, and this one leaves no cliché behind. You know, the "slender hope against overwhelming odds," "the little guy against Goliath," and "Let's win this one for the Gipper!" (well... for Mandela... but you get the idea). And clichés become clichés because they WORK!

Many, many years ago when Nelson Mandela first met Morgan Freeman ("The Dark Knight"), he said, "You should play me in a movie some day." Years of friendship followed, during which Freeman paid close attention to Mandela's delivery, walk, speech and mannerisms. When he had a script that met with approval, Freeman took it to Clint Eastwood ("Gran Torino") who signed on instantly.

This is a big movie that doesn't neglect small details: Mandela's dream of integration started with his own staff. The bristling animosity that con- fronts him is realistic and the gradual easing of tensions is a pleasure to watch. Eastwood and Freeman found a worthwhile topic and made the most of it. Thanks, guys!

The Princess and the Frog

So there I sat, in a theater teeming with rugrats, and not a sound was heard but the dialog and music the Disney WANTED us to hear! Those kids' eyes never left the screen. And there were some tiny tots, too! This is one of the first hand-drawn Disney features in decades: No Pixar, no CGI, no motion capture...What a concept!

The much-publicized switch where that magic kiss, which is supposed to convert the ugly frog into a handsome prince but in this case actually converts the princess into an ugly frog, works amazingly well! Having two frogs as the main characters was not a stretch for those kids and the rest of us happily concurred.

Set in Jazz Age New Orleans (Woodrow Wilson has just been elected President), we follow a loving African American family: he's a laborer, she's a domestic for a wealthy family. They encourage their little girl to dream big dreams but to understand the vital role that hard work plays, as well. The daughter of Mama's wealthy employer provides the comic character of the ditzy blonde, while a cast of supporting characters range from a firefly to an alligator.

Randy Newman composed the nimble sound track, with vocals provided by a number of suitable singers. The voice actors are highly capable, as well. Fireflies provide moments of beauty, while a nasty villain provides some scary bits: just enough to excite the kids, but not enough to traumatize them.

I won't go into the stellar list of individuals who provided the huge cast of voices, but suffice it to say, it is STELLAR! (Oprah, anyone?) This movie should be enormously popular and become yet another standard bearer for Disney.


Up in the Air

Remember when they used to say how sad it was that George Clooney just couldn't seem to make the transition from TV's "ER" to the big screen? No matter how hard he tried, he just wasn't cut out to be a movie star. Well, who has the last laugh now?

This delightful and unpredictable film works on many levels. George Clooney ("Burn After Reading" and the "Ocean's" franchise) is a corporate downsizing expert. He flies from city to city as a hired gun who works for a company which specializes in dismissing employees for employers who don't want to do it themselves. The company he works for is headed by Jason Bateman ("Juno" and "Extract") who sees today's terrible economy as a gold mine for his sort of business and they have refined their routine to a science based on phony compassion. Clooney's character only spends forty days or so a year in his one-bedroom Omaha apartment, the rest of the time he's in the air, in airports, in airport hotels, or in the process of firing people.

Some of the best segments of this film are the taped interviews with people as they confront the shock of unemployment. We recognize some of the faces, but they look and act like the real deal. Special credit should be given to screenwriters Jason Reitman ("Thank You for Smoking") and Sheldon Turner ("The Longest Yard" 2005), as they have incor- porated the angst of a contemporary issue with a "ships-that-pass-in-the-night" romance, and even work in a winter wedding. I read later that Reitman actually used recently fired people for some of these interviews.

The aforementioned romance is...are you ready for this?...age appropriate! Vera Farmiga ("The Departed") is the free spirit who charms Clooney in various layovers (sorry...) around the country. Anna Kendrick ("New Moon") is the ink's-still-wet freshly minted college graduate who brings an academic vision of how to streamline their company. When accused of being romantically interested in Clooney's character, she scoffs, "He's OLD!" You'll love the look on Clooney's face when he overhears THAT! Be ready for generous bits of humor and clever dialog.

I guess if I came away with any lesson, it would be that old one: "Be careful what you wish for."

Everybody's Fine

This so-so dramedy features a capable group of professionals who know their business. The film is amusing but not hilarious, sad but not maudlin, sweet but not saccharine and is content with being a peek into an ordinary family with ordinary ups and downs. A remake of the far superior Italian film "Stanno Tutti Bene," you'll see no car chases, no sweaty bodies and no blowie uppie stuff.

In this cast we see:
  • Robert De Niro ("Stardust") as a recent widower who discovers he really doesn't know his adult kids. He applied PVC coating to a million miles of telephone wire before he retired and, as a result, his health has been impaired. Telephones and telephone wire are an ever-present element in this film.
  • Drew Barrymore ("Whip It") as a daughter with more than one secret, although her mother knew everything from their many phone calls before she died.
  • Sam Rockwell ("Moon") as a son who is NOT an orchestra con- ductor, despite his father's impression that he is. In my opinion, Rockwell is a vastly underrated actor and I hope to see lots more of him.
  • Kate Beckensale ("Whiteout") as a daughter who is a partner in a successful ad agency who has a picture-postcard life...or maybe not...
  • Then there is the missing son, the one who had become an artist. He doesn't return his calls and we see those ubiquitous phone wires humming with calls back and forth between his three sib- lings as they discuss his latest plight and how much they should tell their dad.

I liked the sound track that featured Perry Como of all people, and the many panoramic shots of America as De Niro tries to surprise his various offspring after each one cancelled his/her attendance at a family reunion.