The Movie Diary

Finding beauty in the struggle

By Dom Cioffi

My son has been playing and taking drum lessons for quite some time. This percussion adventure started prior to Christmas a little over two years ago when his cousin agreed to forego a drum kit that was collecting dust in the corner.

I loaded the kit into my truck and brought it to a music store where a clerk completely refurbished it with new heads and cymbals. By the time I got it cleaned up and under the tree for Christmas morning, it looked like a brand new set.

Soon afterwards, we found a teacher who was willing to come to our house for lessons. Each Monday night at 7:30 p.m. my son’s drum teacher pulls up in his red Fiat, talks music with me for five minutes, then pushes my son through an intense half hour lesson.

These lessons have molded him into a solid drummer, but the practice sessions became more work than fun. That’s when we looked into a local School of Rock franchise where my young John Bonham could play with other kids his age and ability level.

The School of Rock franchise is set up to teach young musicians to play as a band. They learn musical theory, train in technical aspects on a multitude of instruments, rehearse songs, plan for live performances, and then ultimately present the material they’ve worked on.

In a word, it’s awesome.

My son has thrived in this environment and has found such joy not only in the camaraderie of a band unit, but also with the thrill of performing live on a real stage in front of a large audience.

I’ve been playing guitar since college and I can tell you that I’m incredibly jealous. I would have given anything to have had this opportunity as a youngster.

My son just finished his latest three-month session, which featured the music of Tom Petty. For 90 days, the kids worked on 12 or so classic Petty tunes. This means I’ve been listening to my son pound on the drums nightly to “The Waiting,” “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” and “I Won’t Back Down,” among others.

This session, however, he expressed interest in trying out another instrument. I knew guitar would be too tough to handle, but the bass seemed like a reasonable choice. He agreed, so I went to the music store and found him a solid beginner bass that he could practice with.

Unfortunately, the idea of playing the bass sounded a lot better than the actual execution of the project. As the days passed, my son’s interest in the bass waned considerably. This coincided with his complete lack of practicing.

We had several talks about this and how it would affect the other players on the songs he was assigned to. Night after night I reminded him that it wouldn’t be much fun getting up on stage to play a song that you weren’t prepared for.

Like any normal teenager, he yessed me to death, but I still didn’t see much effort being put into his song assignments. And then the end of last week arrived and I sensed a change in his demeanor. Suddenly he had his bass in his hand much more often and seemed preoccupied with the upcoming show.

My wife and I both knew what was happening: the show was Sunday and he wasn’t prepared, and the pressure for the first time in his young life was starting to get to him. In some ways, I actually enjoyed watching him panic – a solid lesson if he bothered to reflect on it.

The Sunday show came and went without any issues, but he was visibly tweaked before going on and a hot mess when it was over. Later, we talked about his approach and how it affected things and he agreed that maybe next time he would handle things differently.

This week’s film, “Roma,” features another equally impressionable young woman who also must face some intense circumstances in order to grow as a person.

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón (“Gravity, “Children of Men”), “Roma” could become the first foreign language film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

I can’t say enough about this film and director. Scene after scene had me in awe of his artistry with a movie camera. Combine that with a story delivered with such grace and subtlety and a leading actress who has no business being as good as she was and you have what I believe is the year’s most moving film.

Don’t let the monochromatic filming or subtitles keep you from seeing this picture. It is an amazing piece of art and a lesson in how beautiful the medium can be.

A triumphant “A” for “Roma.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at

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