Only Yesterday @ The Ross

Taeko in the safflower fields

Taeko in the safflower fields

If you are over 5 ft tall and 12 years of age, you may have considered or even taken part in a summer’s activity called detasseling. No frolicking on the the beach or riding the tea cups at Disneyland or touring, say, Universal studios for you. It’s off to a farm in Nebraska or in Iowa to learn the value of work in the cornfields underneath a sweltering July sun!

Meet Taeko, the main character in Academy Award nominated Isao Takahata’s animated film Only Yesterday. Taeko, a 27-year-old unmarried young woman from Tokyo is going on vacation. Rather than a trip abroad, Taeko determines to pick one of humanity’s oldest crops: fields of safflowers. This trek is not the first of her rural adventures; the vacation before, she harvested rice. Despite warnings from friends that she is not getting any younger and needs to settle down, Taeko, packs her bags and travels by train to meet and work with her second family in the countryside.

Taeko w/ Friends (5th grade Taeko upper right)

Taeko w/ Friends (5th grade Taeko upper right)

What is fascinating about Takahata’s Only Yesterday, is the feature of a universal conundrum: how to make peace with the past. Specifically, how to reconcile pain and humiliation that happened to you and that which you caused other people.

Each of us has a desire to reach into the past … to reconstruct it … to look all pretty, neat, and clean. Do not be fooled: The Past? It is a powerful phenomenon, and Takahata strongly suggests some aspects of yesteryear will follow you around as would an abandoned child until you attend to it. In her attention to only yesterday, Taeko contemplates exactly what her fifth-grade self is telling her to do.

Taeko sad over math grades

Taeko sad over math grades

Bring your Kleenex because you will be surprised how Taeko develops her own wings—right there on a colorful safflower farm.

Made 25 years ago in the legendary Studio Ghibli, Only Yesterday is making its film debut here in North America. Daisy Ridley of Star Wars fame voices the adult Taeko and Allison Fernandez dubs Taeko in the 5th-grade.

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Only Yesterday plays through May 5th at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

Also showing through May 5th at the Ross are City of Gold, Hello My Name is Doris, and Miles Ahead.

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Miles Ahead @ The Ross

Don Cheadle as Miles Davis

Don Cheadle as Miles Davis

How can yours truly do justice to Miles Ahead, Don Cheadle’s directorial debut in the biopic of the late musician extraordinaire Miles Davis? I honestly do not know if I can pull it off.

Miles Ahead–this film … it is deep; like waaay d e e eeeep; like real down in the ocean deep. The film required two screenings just to get the breadth and scope of Cheadle’s project. He co-wrote and stars in Miles Ahead, and the film is a very rich narrative full of improvisation. If film was jazz, Miles Ahead would be it. Genius. Cheadle handles the iconic Jazz superstar with such care that we see the man—the human being—behind the music. There is no ‘I was born in narrative’; non-existent, too, is the story behind Davis’s interest in his instrument and the genre of Jazz itself.

Ewan McGregor plays Dave Brill, a journalist with Rolling Stone magazine, intent on interviewing Davis in hopes of getting the musician’s comeback story. The film is set in the late 1970s when Miles seemingly has run his course in the Jazz world. He is weary-worn, if not emotionally and artistically spent. He looks unwell and, more significant, out of sync with himself. It is obvious that a facture has occurred between him, his instrument, his music. As a result, he sets himself up in exile in his own Upper West Side apartment. His friend? cocaine, and Dave Brill arranges a drug score from a student drug dealer at Columbia University. A kind of joy ride on the Miles Davis highway of life ensues, as journalist and musician duck & dodge wicked music producers and managers after Cheadle retrieves a tape stolen from his home by one of them.

In all of his darkness, there is love. Davis’s first wife Francis, played with courage and power by Emayatzy Corinealdi, haunts him.

Miles Ahead is a daring project, and Cheadle lands where he wants to be with his subject: a story about a man … an artist who has lost his artistic center but not knowing how to go about finding out what is the matter.

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Miles Ahead plays through May 5th at The Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

Also The Messenger, Su Rynard’s exploration of our deep seated connection to birds, plays through April 28 at The Ross.

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